Current Affairs Analysis

20th & 21st October 2017 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

India tops list of pollution-linked deaths: Lancet Study What is Logistics Data Bank (LDB)? Cash-free campuses; Committee on artificial intelligence; What is Artificial intelligence? Kanger valley rock gecko; IBSA Trust Fund; IBSA Dialogue Forum; INDRA 2017; NASA’s Dawn mission; etc.
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
October 21, 2017


Polity & Governance

  • All major ports to get LDB services: official sources
  • Centre pushes for cash-free campuses

Government Schemes & Policies

  • Govt sets up expert group for suggestions on artificial intelligence policy

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • At 2.5 million, India tops list of pollution-linked deaths: Study
  • New species of large gecko discovered from Eastern Ghats

Bilateral & International Relations

  • India, Brazil, South Africa sign IBSA Trust Fund agreement

Defence & Security Issues

  • First Ever Tri-Services India-Russia War Exercise – Indra

Science & Technology

  • NASA extends Dawn mission at dwarf planet Ceres

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Polity & Governance

All major ports to get LDB services: official sources

The Logistics Data Bank’s (LDB) services will soon be extended to all major ports in India.

iastoppers Logistics Data Bank

  • Discussions between the Government and the Indian Ports Association (IPA) in this regard have begun.

What is Logistics Data Bank (LDB)?

The LDB project was unveiled in July 2016 as an important ‘ease of doing business’ initiative to boost the country’s foreign trade and bring about greater transparency.


  • The LDB project’s objective is to ensure greater efficiency in the country’s logistics sector through the use of information technology.
  • It helps reduce the overall lead time of container movement, besides bringing down transaction costs that consignees and shippers incur.

Implementing body:

  • The project is implemented through a Special Purpose Vehicle called Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation Logistics Data Services Ltd. (DLDSL) — jointly (50:50) owned by the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) Trust and Japanese IT services major NEC Corporation.
  • The DLDSL so far provides “container tracking services to around 70% of the container traffic in India.

Services offered by LDB:

  • The LDB project covers “the entire movement through rail or road till the Inland Container Depot and Container Freight Station.
  • The service integrates information available with the agencies across the supply chain to provide detailed, real-time information within a single window
  • The LDB project also provides other services such as ‘congestion and bottleneck analysis’ as well as ‘performance bench-marking’ that aids the users to pinpoint supply chain inefficiencies, and in turn help improve the system.
  • As part of the LDB project, each container is attached to a Radio Frequency Identification Tag (RFID) tag and tracked through RFID readers. This, in turn, helps importers and exporters to track their goods in transit.
  • So far, about 4.93 million containers (2.34 million import containers and 2.59 million export containers) have been tagged and de-tagged under the project.
  • Until now, the LDB project covered only the country’s western logistics corridor.

About IPA:

  • The Indian Ports Association (IPA) is the apex body for India’s major ports under the shipping ministry’s supervisory control.
[Ref: The Hindu]


Centre pushes for cash-free campuses

The Ministry of Human Resource Development aims to make financial transactions completely digital in all higher education institutions.


  • The higher education regulators — University Grants Commission (UGC) and All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) — are also being taken on board to help facilitate the transition.

Key facts:

  • The move will bring within the digital ambit all such institutions — public and private — including Central and State universities, IITs, NITs, business schools, etc.,
  • Eventually, the Centre aims to fully digitise all campus processes — including admissions, assistance, assessments, result declaration, admission, etc. — with all these processes going on an integrated IT platform.
  • All in-house transactions, including in-campus canteens, would be made through the BHIM app.

About Vittiya Saksharta Abhiyan (VISAKA):


  • The Centre had launched the Vittiya Saksharta Abhiyan (VISAKA), meaning financial literacy campaign, for digital financial literacy early in 2017, enrolling lakhs of volunteers from among students to train families in their neighbourhood to conduct financial transactions digitally through the BHIM app.
  • They were also asked to go to major markets, talk to shopkeepers, vendors and merchants’ associations to help shift to digital transactions.
  • As many as 2000 higher education institutions were also made digital as part of this initiative.
[Ref: The Hindu]


Government Schemes & Policies

Govt sets up expert group for suggestions on artificial intelligence policy

The Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeITY) has set up an internal expert committee to advise the government on a policy on artificial intelligence (AI).


  • The expert committee will advise the IT ministry on the most apt technologies for India as government’s main focus is to reduce cyber-attacks with AI.
  • Its recommendations will be used to frame the policy.

Seven-point strategy

The government recently had drawn up a seven-point strategy that would form the framework for India’s strategic plan to use AI.

  • The strategy includes developing methods for human machine interactions; creating a competent workforce in line with AI and R&D needs, ensuring safety and security of AI systems; understanding and addressing the ethical, legal and societal implications of AI, measuring and evaluating AI technologies through standards and benchmarks, among others.

Need for a policy on AI:

  • The artificial intelligence market is estimated to touch $153 billion in 2020 and expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (cagr) of 45.4% from 2016 to 2022.
  • It is also widely seen as major challenge in generation of employment as many companies are likely to depend more on it to cut down on human resources.
  • Globally too, there is a growing interest in artificial intelligence. In 2016, White House had initiated work on Preparing for the future of artificial intelligence; in UK, the House of Commons committee on S&T had looked at robotics and artificial intelligence while in 2017, State Council of China had started work on next generation artificial intelligence development plan.

What is Artificial intelligence?

  • Artificial intelligence is branch of computer science concerned with making computers behave like humans.
  • In contrast to normal hardware and software, AI enables a machine to perceive and respond to its changing environment.
[Ref: The Hindu]


Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

At 2.5 million, India tops list of pollution-linked deaths: Study

According to new study published in medical journal The Lancet, India has topped list of countries with pollution-related deaths in 2015, with 2.51 million people dying prematurely in the country that year due to diseases linked to air, water and other forms of pollution.


Highlights of the study:

India pollution Lancet Study iastoppers


  • Globally, air pollution was biggest contributor linked to 6.5 million deaths in 2015, ahead of water pollution (1.8 million) and workplace-related pollution (0.8 million).
  • Most of the pollution-related deaths — 92%— were reported in low and middle income countries, and in rapidly industrialising nations such as India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Madagascar and Kenya.
  • China, with 1.8 million pollution-linked deaths in 2015, followed India. Most of these deaths were due to non-communicable diseases caused by pollution, such as heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

India 10 pollution-linked deaths Lancet Study iastoppers


  • India accounted for about 28% of an estimated 9 million pollution-linked deaths worldwide in 2015 and topped list of deaths linked to polluted air (1.81 million) and water (0.64 million).
  • Of the 2.51 million deaths in India, 1.81 were related to air pollution, 0.64 million to water pollution, 0.17 million to occupational exposure and 95,000 linked to lead pollution.

India pollution-linked deaths Lancet Study iastoppers

On pollution:

  • The Lancet study concluded that pollution is now largest environmental cause of disease and death globally — three times more those from HIV-AIDS, TB and malaria put together.
  • It also found that pollution from outdoor and indoor air, water and soil contamination, and chemical pollutants was one of largest risk factors leading to premature death.


  • The study is part of a two-year project that involved more than 40 international health and environmental authors, and the secretariat of the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution.
  • The aim of the Lancet Commission is to raise global awareness on pollution, end neglect of pollution-related diseases, and mobilise resources and political will to effectively confront pollution.
[Ref: Indian Express, Times of India]


New species of large gecko discovered from Eastern Ghats

Researchers have discovered new species of gecko at Chhattisgarh’s Kanger Ghati National Park in Eastern Ghats.

Kanger valley rock gecko iastoppers

  • Its common name is the Kanger valley rock gecko.
  • Its scientific name is Hemidactylus kangerensis, named after the valley where it was discovered.

About Kanger valley rock gecko:

  • Kanger valley rock gecko is fairly large and can grow to over eight inches long.
  • It has distinct black-bordered beige bands from its neck to its tail tip and specific scales on its thighs.
  • It differs from other gecko species in a distinct banded patterns and number of pore less scales separating femoral pores on the thigh.
  • It is also found in Jagdalpur and Sukma districts in Chhattisgarh and in Khamman in Telangana, which are part of Eastern Ghats.
  • The discovery of new gecko species highlights need for dedicated surveys across Eastern Ghats, where biodiversity has not been quantified too well and need for protection from various anthropogenic pressures.
[Ref: The Hindu]


Bilateral & International Relations

India, Brazil, South Africa sign IBSA Trust Fund agreement

India, Brazil and South Africa (IBSA) signed the IBSA Trust Fund Agreement that seeks to fight poverty in developing countries.


  • The agreement was signed at the 8th IBSA trilateral Ministerial Commission Meeting in Durban, South Africa.

About IBSA Trust Fund:

  • The IBSA Trust Fund brings together the three emerging economies of India, Brazil and South Africa to combat poverty in other developing countries.
  • Each country contributes USD 1 million annually to this fund which is managed by the UN Development Programmes (UNDP) Special Unit for South-South Cooperation.

About IBSA:

iastopper IBSA Dialogue Forum

  • IBSA is a trilateral developmental initiative amongst the governments of India, Brazil and South Africa to promote, inter-alia, South-South cooperation and exchange.
  • The historic meeting held in 2003 witnessed the launch of the IBSA Dialogue Forum (with IBSA as acronym), that was formalized through the adoption of the landmark “Brasilia Declaration”.

About IBSA Dialogue Forum:

  • The IBSA (India, Brazil and South Africa) Dialogue Forum is an international tripartite grouping for promoting international cooperation among these countries.
  • It represents three important poles for galvanizing South-South cooperation and greater understanding between three important continents of the developing world namely, Africa, Asia and South America.
  • The forum provides the three countries with a platform to engage in discussions for cooperation in the field of agriculture, trade, culture, and defence among others.

Objectives of IBSA Dialogue Forum:

The main objectives of the IBSA Dialogue Forum include the following:

  • To promote the trilateral exchange of information, international best practices, technologies and skills, as well as to complement each others’ competitive strengths into collective synergies.
  • To promote cooperation in a broad range of areas, namely agriculture, climate change, culture, defence, education, energy, health, information society, science and technology, social development, trade and investment, tourism and transport.
  • To promote South-South dialogue, cooperation and common positions on issues of international importance
  • To promote trade and investment opportunities among the three regions of which they are a part.
  • To promote international poverty alleviation and social development programmes.
[Ref: Business Standard]


Defence & Security Issues

First Ever Tri-Services India-Russia War Exercise – Indra

India and Russia have begun their first mega tri-services war game- INDRA 2017 involving their armies, navies and air forces with an aim to boost their operational coordination.


About INDRA 2017:

  • It is overall 10th edition of INDRA exercise and India’s first bilateral military exercise with any country involving all three services.
  • The Indian contingent includes nearly 450 personnel while the Russian side is being represented by around 1,000 troops in the 10-day exercise Indra.
  • The Indian Army, Navy and Air Force have been holding bilateral exercises separately with their Russian counterparts but it is for the first time that the two countries are carrying out a tri-services exercise.


  • INDRA exercise, the joint tri-service exercise will be a demonstration of the increasing commitment of both nations to address common challenges across the full spectrum of operations.
  • The first ever tri-service exercise between the two countries reflects the vibrancy of the continued Indo-Russian strategic partnership.
  • The exercise will further strengthen the relationship between the two defence forces.
  • With the rich operational experience of Russian and Indian armies in counter insurgency operations, both sides will gain immensely from each other to further develop their capabilities.
[Ref: The Hindu]


Science & Technology

NASA extends Dawn mission at dwarf planet Ceres

NASA has authorized a second extension of the Dawn mission at Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

NASA’s Dawn mission iastoppers

  • During this extension, the spacecraft will descend to lower altitudes than ever before at the dwarf planet, which it has been orbiting since March 2015.
  • The spacecraft will continue at Ceres for the remainder of its science investigation and will remain in a stable orbit indefinitely after its hydrazine fuel runs out.

Key facts:

  • A priority of the second Ceres mission extension is collecting data with Dawn’s gamma ray and neutron spectrometer, which measures the number and energy of gamma rays and neutrons.
  • This information is important for understanding the composition of Ceres’ uppermost layer and how much ice it contains.
  • The spacecraft also will take visible-light images of Ceres’ surface geology with its camera, as well as measurements of Ceres’ mineralogy with its visible and infrared mapping spectrometer.
  • The extended mission at Ceres additionally allows Dawn to be in orbit while the dwarf planet goes through perihelion, its closest approach to the Sun, which will occur in April 2018.
  • At closer proximity to the Sun, more ice on Ceres’ surface may turn to water vapor, which may in turn contribute to the weak transient atmosphere detected by the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory before Dawn’s arrival.

About NASA’s Dawn mission

Dawn mission iastoppers

  • NASA’s Dawn mission will study the asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres, celestial bodies believed to have accreted early in the history of the solar system.
  • The mission will characterize the early solar system and the processes that dominated its formation.
  • Dawn is the only mission ever to orbit two extra-terrestrial targets.
  • It orbited giant asteroid Vesta for 14 months from 2011 to 2012, then continued on to Ceres, where it has been in orbit since March 2015.
  • Dawn completed its prime mission in June 2016, and its first extension was also approved that year.
[Ref: Economic Times]


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