Issues related to Health & Education
- National Nutrition Week 2017
- FarmerZone: The future of agriculture
- India, China petition WTO against trade-distorting farm subsidies
- Business & Climate Summit 2017
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Workshop on implementation of Emergency Action Plan for Dams held
Bilateral & International Relations
- EU, India agrees to enhance counter-terrorism cooperation
- India, Switzerland sign two MoUs on Railways
Science & Technology
- ISRO’s IRNSS 1H satellite launch fails
- World’s biggest and powerful X-ray laser gun unveilded
Key Facts for Prelims
- Rajaswa Gyan Sangam – 2017
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Issues related to Health & Education
National Nutrition Week 2017
The National Nutrition Week will be observed throughout the country from 1st to 7th September.
- The theme of the National Nutrition Week for 2017 is “Optimal Infant & Young Child Feeding Practices: Better Child Health”.
- The basic objective of this annual event is to intensify awareness generation on the importance of nutrition for health which has an impact on development, productivity, economic growth and ultimately National development.
- During this week, the Food and Nutrition Board of Ministry of Women & Child Development will coordinate with concerned Department of the State/UT Governments, National Institutions, NGOs and organize State/UT Level Workshops, Orientation Training of Fields Functionaries, Awareness Generation Camps, Community meetings during the week on the specified theme.
- Large numbers of State, district and village level activities are being organized during this week.
- One day workshops will be held to sensitize and for capacity building of State/Districts Level officers on importance of nutrition for better health.
Right Nutrition: Significance
- Nutrition is an issue of survival, health and development for current and succeeding generations.
- Child born underweight have impaired immune function and increased risk of diseases such as diabetes and heart diseases in their later life.
- Malnourished children tend to have lower IQ and impaired cognitive ability, thus affecting their school performance and then productivity in their later life.
- It has to be realized that the nutritional health and all age groups represent say National Economic Asset. Therefore, improving the nutritional status of the population is imperative for National Development.
What are the concerns?
- Undernutrition in young children continues to be a major public health problem in India.
- The NFHS4 has not shown an encouraging improvement in the nutritional status, especially among women and children.
- As per NFHS-4 the level of underweight has decreased by 6.8% and is stunting by 9.6%.
- Level of anaemia has decreased by 11% as compared to NNHS-3 figures.
What need to be done?
- Malnutrition is not to be viewed merely as an offshoot of poverty having adverse effects on health and development of individuals but as a national problem that results in loss of productivity and economic backwardness.
- Time has come to create a moment so as to improve nutrition at the individual level.
- Thus, series of convergent and well coordinated actions in different sectors are required to be undertaken in the mission mode approach to address this big network problem of malnutrition.
FarmerZone: The future of agriculture
The Union Ministry of Science and Technology is planning to create FarmerZone, a collective open-source data platform for smart agriculture by using biological research and data to improve lives of small and marginal farmers.
- It was announced by Department of Biotechnology (DBT) at recently convened Smart Agriculture Conclave in New Delhi.
- The objective of conclave was to set stage for “FarmerZone”.
- It was organised by DBT in partnership with UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Research Councils UK (RCUK) India.
About FarmerZone platform
- FarmerZone envisioned by the DBT aligns with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for effective decision-making in agriculture by integrating science, technology, innovation and farm ecosystem.
- This platform aims to cater all needs of farmer from dealing with climate change, weather predictions and soil, water and seed requirements.
- It will connect farmers and scientists, government officials, economists and representatives from global companies who work in the big-data and e-commerce space to bring about technology-based localised agri-solutions.
- This platform will work to collect relevant quality data related to agriculture into the cloud and also develop sites to help link with farmers and evolve PPP based enterprises for data delivery.
India, China petition WTO against trade-distorting farm subsidies
India and China jointly submitted a proposal to the World Trade Organization (WTO) calling for the elimination – by developed countries – of the most trade-distorting form of farm subsidies known as Aggregate Measurement of Support (AMS), or ‘Amber Box’ support.
What is AMS or ‘Amber Box’ support?
- The WTO divides subsidies into amber, blue and green box subsidies.
- Amber box are trade-distorting subsidies, blue box are subsidies with restrictions designed to reduce distortion and green box subsidies are non-trade distorting subsidies.
- Direct cash transfers, coupons and subsidies that do not impact production are not considered trade-distorting subsidies and categorised as green box.
What’s the issue?
- India and China have raised objections over developed countries, including the US, the EU and Canada, that have been consistently providing trade-distorting subsidies to their farmers at levels much higher than the ceiling applicable to developing countries.
- The subsidies by the developed countries amount to about USD 160 billion. On the other hand, countries like India provide a subsistence amount of about USD 260 per farmer annually.
- Most of the developing countries, including India and China, do not have AMS entitlements.
- Besides, developed members of the WTO have access to huge amount of AMS beyond their de minimis — the minimal amount of domestic support that are allowed even though they distort trade up to 5% of the value of production for developed countries, 10% for developing. In contrast, most developing members have access only to de minimis resulting in a major asymmetry in the rules on agricultural trade.
Why this proposal is significant?
- It is an important proposal by India and China in view of the ongoing negotiations for the ministerial conference of the WTO to be held in Buenos Aires in December.
- India and China believe that elimination of this support should be the starting point of reforms rather than seeking reduction of subsidies by developing countries.
Business & Climate Summit 2017
Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) is organizing the third edition of Business & Climate Summit.
About Business & Climate Summit 2017:
The Business & Climate Summit is the leading annual forum for businesses, investors and policymakers on climate action.
- It is where business and governments come together to agree on a roadmap for reaching net zero emissions over the next half century.
- It demonstrates how low carbon strategies are good for business and good for growth – and builds the partnerships needed to scale up and accelerate the low carbon transition.
- The underlying theme of BCS is that the businesses hold the key to meeting global carbon reduction targets; and collaboration between business and government is critical to success.
- The Business & Climate Summit would be attended by Ministers, Senior Government Officials, Business Leaders, International Agencies, Banks & Financial Institutions, Senior Business Executives and Media from different parts of the world.
Objectives of the BCS 2017:
- Express business belief that accelerated reduction in GHG emissions to limit global warming to +2°C maximum is compatible with the pursuit of human, social and economic development, and their commitment to engage in this direction.
- Increase awareness of international policy makers about the wealth of solutions developed by companies and the conditions for deployment of these solutions.
- Debate and present the priority policies required to allow the accelerated deployment of these solutions in the world and ensure that climate change is taken into account in all policy decisions
- Showcase business leadership in addressing climate change, highlight how businesses can provide solutions to help governments achieve climate change objectives.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Workshop on implementation of Emergency Action Plan for Dams held
With the purpose of increasing awareness about dam safety measures in the country and finalisation of Emergency Action Plan (EAP) a stakeholders consultation Workshop was recently organised by Tamil Nadu Water Resources Department in collaboration with Central Water Commission.
- Need for the preparation of EAP for each dam and involvement of all agencies in ensuring effective relief and rescue operations was highlighted during the meeting.
- Delegates representing the stakeholders involved with relief and rescue operations and representatives from National Disaster Management Authority, State Disaster Management Authority, India Meteorological Department, State Health, Fire, Police, Revenue and Road Departments and Railways participated in the Workshop.
- India ranks third globally with 5254 large dams in operation and 447 large dams under construction.
- About 4% of these large dams (209) are over 100 years old and about 17% (876 dams) are more than 50 years old.
- Many of these dams are facing varying degrees of inadequacies in meeting the current standards of dam health and safety due to various reasons.
- The Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation has taken on board selected premier academic and research institutes, for capacity building in the areas of dam safety through World Bank assisted Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project (DRIP).
The Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR), Government of India, with assistance from the World Bank, is implementing the Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project (DRIP).
- DRIP is a project involving 9 implementing agencies (IAs) across seven states of India (Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Uttarakhand, and Jharkhand) and targets rehabilitation of about 225 dam projects across the country.
- The Project is also facilitating the institutional strengthening of the implementing agencies for sustainable dam safety initiatives.
- The project will also promote new technologies and improve Institutional capacities for dam safety evaluation and implementation at the Central and State levels and in some identified premier academic and research institutes of the country.
- The Central Dam Safety Organisation of Central Water Commission, assisted by a Consulting firm, is coordinating and supervising the Project implementation.
- The preparation of Emergency Action Plan (EAP) for all DRIP dams is one of the important activities under DRIP. This document defines clear roles for all concern agencies as well as Standard Operating Protocols during various stage of exigencies, as well as contains all technical details about the flood waves moving downstream affecting the downstream habitation.
The project development objectives of DRIP are:
- To improve the safety and performance of selected existing dams and associated appurtenances in a sustainable manner, and
- To strengthen the dam safety institutional setup in participating states as well as at central level.
- Even though our dams are quite safe, in the rare event of a dam failure, extensive damage to property, environment and sometimes loss of life occurs. Managing the exigencies caused by a failure of a dam requires coordinated efforts of all national and States agencies.
Bilateral & International Relations
EU, India agrees to enhance counter-terrorism cooperation
During the 10th India-European Union Counter Terrorism Dialogue, India and the European Union agreed to strengthen cooperation between their security and intelligence agencies to combat the threat of terrorism and check terror financing.
- The two sides deliberated extensively on combating terror financing and challenges posed by radicalisation and violent extremism.
- The next India-European Union Counter Terrorism Dialogue will take place in Brussels in 2018.
Highlights of the 10th Dialogue:
- Both sides strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and underscored need for deepening cooperation to combat terrorism in long term, sustained and comprehensive manner.
- They also exchanged views and assessments on prevailing terrorist threats in their respective regions including state-sponsored, cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan-Pakistan region.
- The also held discussions regarding current challenges posed by various terrorist entities, radicalisation and violent extremism, foreign terrorist fighters and combating financing of terrorism.
- They agreed to strengthen institutional linkages by establishing point of contact between Indian agencies and their EU counterparts including Europol for closer interaction and cooperation in field of counter-terrorism.
- Both sides also agreed to identify relevant training programmes for capacity building of individuals on both sides working in sphere of countering terrorism and violent extremism.
- They also emphasised prospects for deepening counter-terrorism cooperation under the UN and Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
India, Switzerland sign two MoUs on Railways
India and Switzerland signed two Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) in the field of Railways.
- The first MoU is between Ministry of Railways and Federal Department of the Environment, Transport and Communications of the Swiss Confederation for technical cooperation in Rail Sector.
- The second MoU is between Konkan Railway Corporation Limited (KRCL) and Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich.
Swiss ’tilting trains’
- Under the signed MoUs, India will collaborate with Switzerland for developing trains which will tilt on approaching a bend, just like a motorbike on a winding road.
- Such trains are now operational in 11 countries — Italy, Portugal, Slovenia, Finland, Russia, the Czech Republic, the UK, Switzerland, China, Germany and Romania.
How the tilting trains work?
- The tilting trains work as a train rounds a curve at speed it cause objects to slide about.
- While it makes seated passengers feel squashed by the armrest, standing passengers tend to lose their balance. The design of the tilting trains counteract this.
- During a curve to the left, the train tilts to the left and vice versa.
Science & Technology
ISRO’s IRNSS 1H satellite launch fails
The Indian Space Research Organisation received a setback, when the launch of the much-anticipated IRNSS-1H failed.
Why it failed?
- The mission was unsuccessful as the heat shields did not separate and therefore the satellite could not launch.
- For the first time, the private sector has been actively involved in assembling and testing of a satellite unlike earlier where its role was limited to supplying components.
About IRNSS 1H:
- The IRNSS-1H was a back-up navigation satellite, being sent to space to back up and replace the functions of India’s first navigation satellite IRNSS-1A (launched in July 2013) as its three rubidium atomic clocks on board had stopped functioning.
- IRNSS-1H was India’s first satellite actively built by consortium of private firms led by Bengaluru-based Alpha Design Technologies.
- The consortium had completed 25% development work of IRNSS-1H, under the guidance of ISRO scientists.
Implications of this failure:
- The IRNSS-1H launch was crucial, as atomic clocks help maintain Indian Standard Time, which is set by the National Physical Laboratory. Atomic clocks are known to have an error of one second in a million years. The failure of this launch suggests that the NPL will have to continue to rely on GPS for the maintenance of its available atomic clocks.
What is an atomic clock?
- It is an extremely accurate type of clock regulated by the vibrations of an atomic or molecular system.
- Its principle of operation is not based on nuclear physics, but rather on atomic physics.
- It uses the microwave signal that electrons in atoms emit when they change energy levels.
- The accuracy of an atomic clock depends on two factors, temperature of the sample atoms and frequency and intrinsic width of the electronic transition (higher frequencies and narrow lines increase the precision).
- NavIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation), also known as the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), is similar to the GPS (Global Positioning System) of US, Glonass of Russia and Galileo of Europe as well as China’s Beidou.
- Starting in July 2013, ISRO had launched all the seven navigation satellites of the IRNSS by April 2016. Each satellite has a life span of 10 years.
- IRNSS is said to be the “Indian GPS” that will give accurate real-time positioning and timing services over India and the region around it extending to 1,500km. Thus, NAVIC’s reach is regional.
- Applications of IRNSS include terrestrial, aerial and marine Navigation, disaster management, vehicle tracking and fleet management, integration with mobile phones, precise timing, mapping and geodetic data capture, terrestrial navigation aid for hikers and travellers, and visual and voice navigation for drivers.
World’s biggest and powerful X-ray laser gun unveilded
The biggest X-ray laser gun on earth named, European X-ray Free Electron Laser (XFEL), will begin operating in September 2017.
About European XFEL:
- The European x-ray free electron laser (European XFEL) is an X-ray research laser facility.
- It is housed in underground tunnels inside a 3.4km-long facility at the DESY accelerator centre in Germany.
- Eleven countries are involved in the European XFEL.
- It produces X-rays through the acceleration of electrons, the so-called synchrotron radiation.
- There are currently only five X-ray lasers in the world. The European XFEL is the largest and most powerful of the group.
- The machine works by creating synchrotron radiation in X-ray range, emitting electrons that are accelerated to close to the speed of light. Then, a powerful linear accelerator helps create the laser light, which is a billion times brighter than conventional synchrotron light sources.
- According to researchers, XFEL will create the fastest and most powerful laser pulses on the planet. This will help many biological, chemical, and physical experiments. For example, it could aid the study of biomolecules, leading to better, more effective disease treatments.
- It also could create more research into chemical processes and their catalysts, shedding light on new ways to help protect the environment.
- The X-rays can be used to make pictures and films of the nanocosmos at atomic resolution – such as of biomolecules, from which better understandings of the basis of illnesses or the development of new therapies could be developed.
- It will also provide us with the most detailed images of the molecular structure of new materials and drugs and novel live recordings of biochemical reactions.
- The facility will enable research into chemical processes and catalytic techniques, with the goal of improving their efficiency or making them more environmentally friendly; materials research; or the investigation of conditions similar to the interior of planets.
Key Facts for Prelims
Rajaswa Gyan Sangam – 2017
- The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) and the Central Board of Excise & Customs (CBEC) have been holding a joint Conference of the two Boards under the umbrella of “Rajaswa Gyan Sangam”.
- The objective of the Conference is to enable a two-way communication between the policy-makers and the senior officers in the field offices with a view to increase revenue collection and facilitate effective implementation of law and policies in key result areas.
- The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) and the Central Board of Excise & Customs (CBEC) have been holding annual Conferences of senior officers for a number of years.
- In 2016, the first time joint Conference of the two Boards was held under the umbrella of ‘Rajaswa Gyan Sangam’, which was inaugurated by the Hon’ble Prime Minister.
- The Rajaswa Gyan Sangam, 2017 will be attended by the senior officers of CBDT and CBEC. For the first time ever, senior officers of the Finance Department of the States and Union Territories will also be attending the event.