Current Affairs Analysis

22nd August 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Turkey Byzantine church; National Strategy for Financial Education 2020-25; Harit Path App; Harit Bharat Sankalp; Kala Azar; Portal for Registration and Renewal of Jewellers; Hallmarking; Bureau of Indian Standards; Science and Technology Indicators 2018; India-Bangladesh Teesta river issue; Teesta river; India-Bangladesh relations; Pakistan & Saudi Arabia drifting apart; Saudi-Pakistan tension; Dragonfly festival; Thumbimahotsavam 2020; National Sports Awards 2020; Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award; Arjun award; Dronacharya award; Supercapacitor electrodes from waste; Namath Basai; Location of Mali; etc.
By IASToppers
August 22, 2020

Contents

Government Schemes & Policies

  • National Strategy for Financial Education
  • Harit Path App

Issues related to Health & Education

  • Oral nanomedicine for Kala-Azar

Economy

  • Portal for Registration and Renewal of Jewellers
  • Private firms employ more women in R&D

Bilateral & International Relations

  • India-Bangladesh Teesta river issue
  • Why long-time allies Pakistan & Saudi Arabia are drifting apart?

Art & Culture

  • Kerala to host dragonfly festival
  • Turkey converters Byzantine church into mosque

Key Facts for Prelims

  • National Sports Awards 2020
  • Supercapacitor electrodes from waste
  • Namath Basai
  • Location of Mali

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Government Schemes & Policies

National Strategy for Financial Education

The Reserve Bank of India has released the National Strategy for Financial Education 2020-25.

Major Highlights:

  • NSFE: 2020-25 has recommended adoption of a ‘5 C’ – Content, Capacity, Community, Communication and Collaboration – approach to achieve financial well-being of all Indians.
  • It is put together by National Centre for Financial Education (NCFE) in consultation with Reserve Bank of India, Securities and Exchange Board of India, Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India and Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority.

Recommendations:

  • Financial literacy content for school children (including curriculum and co-scholastic), teachers, young adults, women, new entrants at workplace/ entrepreneurs (MSMEs), senior citizens, persons with disabilities, illiterate people, etc.
  • Capacity development of various intermediaries, who can be involved in providing financial literacy, and development of a ‘Code of Conduct’ for financial education providers.
  • Community-led approaches for disseminating financial literacy in a sustainable manner.
  • Communication approach, use of technology, mass media channels for dissemination of financial education messages.
  • Integrating financial education in the school curriculum, various professional and vocational courses (undertaken by the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship) through their Sector Skilling Missions and B.Ed./M.Ed. programmes.

NSFE strategic objectives:

  • To inculcate financial literacy concepts through financial education, to make it an important life skill.
  • To encourage active savings behaviour and participation in financial markets to meet financial goals and objectives.
  • To develop credit discipline and encourage availing of credit from formal financial institutions as per requirement.
  • To improve usage of digital financial services in a safe and secure manner.
  • Risk Management through relevant and suitable insurance cover and plan for old age and retirement through coverage of suitable pension products.
  • To disseminate knowledge about rights, duties and avenues for grievance redressal.
[Ref: The Hindu Businessline]

Harit Path App

The National Highways Authority of India has developed a mobile App called Harit Path recently.

Aim:

  • To monitor location, growth, species details, maintenance activities, targets and achievements for each and every plant under all plantation projects.

Harit Path App:

  • The app will monitor the plantations through geo-tagging and web-based GIS enabled monitoring tools.
  • It emphasizes on strict monitoring of plantation and transplantation of trees.
  • The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways suggested that specialised persons/agencies should be hired for plantation of trees along the highways.
  • It plans to involve NGOs, Self-help groups and Horticulture and Forest department for the purpose.
  • This will be done to achieve the goal of 100% plantation on highways upto March 2022.
  • The photographs along with data of the plants captured using Harit Path App shall be uploaded every 3 months on NHAI’s AI powered Big Data Analytics platform – Data Lake. 

Harit Bharat Sankalp:

  • To commemorate 25 years of its service, NHAI has recently undertaken Harit Bharat Sankalp.
  • It is a nation-wide plantation drive is in line with its commitment to promote environment protection and sustainability.
  • Under this initiative, NHAI planted over 25 lakh plants in 25 days along the stretches of the National Highways between 21st July to 15th August 2020.
  • The drive takes total cumulative number of plantations done during the current year to 35.22 lakh.
[Ref: PIB]

Issues related to Health & Education

Oral nanomedicine for Kala-Azar

Scientists from the Institute of Nano Science & Technology Mohali have developed an oral nanomedicine for Kala-Azar.

Major Highlights:

  • Kala- Azar is one of the most neglected tropical diseases.
  • The oral nanomedicine is manufactured with the help of surface-modified solid lipid nanoparticles based combinational cargo system for combating the disease.
  • The solid lipid nanoparticles (SLNs) can help enhance the oral uptake of the therapeutic agent by retaining a solubilized state of the drug in the Gastrointestinal Tract.
  • The oral therapeutics is expected to help in the control and its elimination.

Kala Azar:

  • Visceral leishmaniasis or kala-azar is a slow progressing Neglected Tropical Disease caused by a protozoan parasite of genus Leishmania.
  • It is a zoonotic infection transmitted by the sand fly, a blood-sucking pest, found in moist (humid) mud and sand and close to livestock.
  • The parasite primarily infects the reticuloendothelial system and may be found in abundance in bone marrow, spleen and liver.
  • Signs and symptoms: Fever, weight loss, fatigue, anaemia, and substantial swelling of liver and spleen.

Occurrence:

  • It is the second-largest parasitic killer in the world after Malaria.
  • Mainly affects poor people in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and associated with malnutrition, population displacement, poor housing, weak immune system and lack of resources.
  • Around 95 % of which is reported from Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Nepal, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan.
  • It is treatable and requires a medical diagnosis.
  • If untreated, the fatality rate in developing countries can be as high as 100%.
[Ref: PIB]

Economy

Portal for Registration and Renewal of Jewellers

The Ministry for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution launched online system of Registration and Renewal of Jewellers and for recognition and renewal of Assaying and Hallmarking Centres.

Purpose:

  • These online modules will bring about ease of doing business for both jewellers and entrepreneurs who have established Assaying and Hallmarking Centres.
  • Hallmarking of precious metals will be mandatory from 1st June 2021.
  • The online system of audit will facilitate expeditious disposal of complaints regarding malpractices in the Hallmarking of jewellery items.

What is hallmarking?

  • Hallmarking is the accurate determination and official recording of proportionate content of precious metal in precious metal articles.
  • Hallmarks are thus official marks used in many countries as a guarantee of purity or fineness of precious metal articles.
  • Objective: To protect public against adulteration and obligate manufacturers to maintain legal standards of fineness.
  • Registration is granted to the jewellers by BIS under Hallmarking Scheme.
  • The BIS certified jewellers can get their jewellery hallmarked from any of the BIS recognized Assaying and Hallmarking Centres.

Bureau of Indian Standards:

  • BIS is established as the National Standards Body of India under the BIS Act, 2016.
  • It is under the aegis of Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution.
  • Objective: Harmonious development of activities of Standardisation, marking and quality certification of goods.
  • The standards and certification scheme support various public policies especially in areas of providing safe reliable quality goods; minimizing health hazards to consumers; promoting exports and imports substitute; control over proliferation of varieties etc. through standardization, certification and testing.
[Ref: PIB; BIS]

Private firms employ more women in R&D

As per Science and Technology Indicators (STI), 2018, Private firms employ more women in R&D than govt. funded.

Major Highlights:

  • India’s private sector research companies employ a larger proportion of women in core research and development activities than government-funded major scientific agencies.
  • Of the 20,351 women employed in private R&D companies, 15,011 — or about three in fourwere involved in R&D activities and rest in auxiliary or administrative activities.
  • However, of the 23,008 women in major govt. scientific agencies, fewer than half — or 10,138 — were in the R&D activities category.

Inference:

  • Private sector companies had a greater commitment to ensuring that women scientists were fairly represented in recruitment, promotions and appraisal processes.
  • The drop in number of women between doctoral and professional stages can be due to Social pressure on women to have a family, seen as incompatible with a professional career.
  • Patriarchal attitudes in hiring practices exist, which discriminate against women.

Science and Technology Indicators (STI), 2018:

  • Science and Technology Indicators (STI), 2018, a periodic compendium of the state of scientific research in India.
  • The STI is prepared by a division of Department of Science Technology, National Science and Technology Management Information System.
  • It is based on data provided by a range of scientific establishments across the country.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Bilateral & International Relations

India-Bangladesh Teesta river issue

Bangladesh is discussing an almost $1 billion loan from China for a comprehensive management and restoration project on the Teesta river.

  • The project is aimed at managing the river basin efficiently, controlling floods, and tackling water crisis in summers.

Teesta River Dispute:

  • Teesta river is a major source of irrigation to the paddy growing greater Rangpur region of Bangladesh.
  • Bangladesh has sought an equitable distribution of Teesta waters, on the lines of Ganga Water Treaty of 1996.
  • In 2011 an arrangement was finalized, which awarded India 42.5% water, Bangladesh 37.5% while remaining 20% would flow unhindered in order to maintain a minimum water flow of the river.
  • This agreement could not be executed too due to opposition from Chief Minister of West Bengal (as water is the state subject).
  • PM Modi visited Dhaka in June 2015 and assured fair solution on the Teesta through cooperation between central and state governments.
  • However, the Teesta issue remains unresolved.

Teesta River:

  • The Teesta river originates at Tso Lamo, Sikkim, Himalayas.
  • It flows through two Indian States, Sikkim and West Bengal and through West Bengal enters the Rangpur division in Bangladesh.
  • It is the fourth largest among 54 rivers shared by India and Bangladesh.
  • In India, it flows through major cities of Rangpo, Kalimpong, Jalpaiguri and Mekhliganj.
  • The flow of the Teesta is greatest during the summer (June to September), when monsoon rains are the heaviest and glaciers supply abundant meltwater.
  • The Teesta is joined by the river Rangpo Chu at Rangpo settlement (which is the entrance to East-Sikkim) and then it forms a boundary between Sikkim and West Bengal.
  • The main tributary of river Teesta, the Rangit river meets it just before the Teesta bridge.
  • The river has two concrete bridges – the Teesta bridge and the Coronation bridge.

India’s relationship with Bangladesh:

  • India has robust relationship with Dhaka, carefully cultivated since 2008, after the advent of Sheikh Hasina government.
  • India has benefited from its security ties with Bangladesh, which has helped the Indian government maintain peace in the eastern and Northeast states.
  • Bangladesh is India’s biggest trade partner in South Asia.
  • India’s exports to Bangladesh in 2018-19 stood at $9.21 billion, and imports at $1.04 billion.
  • India grants 15 to 20 lakh visas every year to Bangladesh nationals for medical treatment, tourism, work, and just entertainment.

Major irritants in relationship:

  • Proposed countrywide National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) passed in December 2019.
  • Bangladesh has expressed reservations about CAA.
  • Delay in the implementation of projects in Bangladesh and the river water issues.

Relations between Bangladesh and China:

  • China is the biggest trading partner of Bangladesh and is the foremost source of imports.
  • In 2019, the trade between the two countries was $18 billion.
  • China has declared zero duty on 97% of imports from Bangladesh.
  • India has provided developmental assistance worth $10 billion whereas China has promised around $30 billion worth of financial assistance to Bangladesh.
  • China is the biggest arms supplier to Bangladesh.
  • India has become more sensitive to Chinese defence inroads into Bangladesh.

Way ahead:

  • The Teesta project is important and urgent from India’s point of view, it will be difficult to address it before the West Bengal elections due next year.
  • India needs to address the standing issues in a time-bound manner.
  • Else, the latent anti-India sentiment in Bangladesh — revived after India’s CAA -NRC push — threatens to damage Dhaka-New Delhi ties.

 [Ref: Indian Express]

Why long-time allies Pakistan & Saudi Arabia are drifting apart?

The rift between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia over Jammu and Kashmir is out in the open.

  • A delegation led by Pakistan Army Chief visited Saudi Arabia, but were denied a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Saudi-Pakistan ties:

  • The relationship between the two countries was most prominent during the 1971 war between India and Pakistan.
  • After the war, Saudi Arabia consistently supported the call for the return of Pakistan’s prisoners of war and for dropping the Dacca (Dhaka) Trial against 195 of them.
  • After the war, Saudi Arabia gave loans to Pakistan enabling it to buy arms worth about $1 million by 1977, including F-16s and Harpoon missiles from the US.
  • Over the last two decades, Saudi Arabia has provided oil on deferred payments to Pakistan whenever it ran into economic difficulty.
  • Saudi funding of madrasas has led to their mushrooming, giving rise to religious extremism.
  • In 1990, Pakistan sent its ground forces to defend Saudi Arabia against Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.

Alignment over Kashmir:

  • The alignment over Kashmir at Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) crystallised since 1990, when insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir began.
  • After India revoked Article 370 in Kashmir, Pakistan lobbied with the OIC for its condemnation of India’s move.
  • To Pakistan’s surprise, Saudi Arabia and the UAE issued statements that werenot critical of New Delhi.

The Saudi perspective:

  • Saudi Arabia’s change in position has been a gradual process under Crown Prince MBS.
  • MBS seeks to diversify from its heavily oil-dependent economy, and sees India as a valuable partner in the region.
  • From Saudi Arabia to the UAE, India has worked on diplomatic levers through high-level visits and dangled opportunities for investment and business.
  • Saudi Arabia is India’s fourth largest trade partner (after China, US and Japan) and a major source of energy, and a major source of LPG for India.
  • India imports around 18% of its crude oil requirement from the Kingdom.

Saudi-Pakistan tension:

  • In 2015, Pakistan’s Parliament decided not to support the Saudi military effort to restore an internationally recognised government in Yemen.
  • In February 2019, after Pulwama terror attack, Saudi Arabia and the UAE pulled their weight to get Wing Commander Abhinandan released, apart from the US.
  • Pakistan’s accusation that Saudi Arabia has failed to deliver on the Kashmir angered Saudi Arabia.
  • Riyadh demanded the return of the $3 billion loan from Pakistan and refused to sell oil to Islamabad on deferred payment.
  • Saudi Arabia is angered that Pakistan has been trying to pander to Turkey and Malaysia.
  • Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seen as trying to position himself as the new leader of Muslim world, challenging Saudi Arabia’s long-held position.

 [Ref: Indian Express]

Art & Culture

Kerala to host dragonfly festival

Kerala is preparing to host the first-ever State Dragonfly Festival- Thumbimahotsavam 2020.

Thumbimahotsavam 2020:

  • This is part of a National dragonfly festival being organised by the WWF India, Bombay Natural History Society & Indian Dragonfly Society.
  • It is celebrated in association with the National Biodiversity Board, United Nations Environment Programme, United Nations Development Programme and IUCN – Centre for Environment Conservation.
  • Official Mascot: Pantalu.

Activities involved:

  • A training will be organised to get more people trained on dragonflies to act as resource persons for upcoming events.
  • This will be followed by a series of webinars from September targeting the public, especially children and youth.
  • Webinars will also be organised for specific target groups such as zoology teachers, district coordinators and members of biodiversity management committees, Forest Department etc.
  • A dragonfly backyard watch has been announced to enhance participation of people and improve their observation skills.

Dragonfly:

  • Dragonflies belong to the order Odonata and are ecologically important insects of freshwater habitats.
  • The Western Ghats are home to about 196 species of odonates, more than 40% of which are endemic to the region.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Turkey converters Byzantine church into mosque

The Turkish government formally converted a former Byzantine church into a mosque recently.

Byzantine church:

  • Istanbul’s Church of St. Saviour in Chora was handed to Turkey’s religious authority, which would open up the structure for Muslim prayers.
  • The church is famed for its elaborate mosaics and frescoes and dates to the 4th century.
  • It had been converted to a mosque by Ottomans in 1453 and later operated as a museum since 1945.
  • The new order restored it to a mosque.

Significance:

  • The decision to transform Chora back into a mosque is to consolidate the conservative and religious support base of Erdogan’s ruling party.
  • The popularity of the party is sagging amid an economic downturn.
[Ref: Euronews]

Key Facts for Prelims

National Sports Awards 2020

The Indian Sports Ministry recently announced list of athletes to be conferred with the National Sports Awards 2020.

Notable sports awards are:

1. Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award:

  • India’s highest sporting honour launched in 1991-92.
  • Given to the best sportspersons across all the sport disciplines.
  • Khel Ratna translate to Sports Gem.
  • Khel Ratna winners for 2020: Cricketer Rohit Sharma, wrestler Vinesh Phogat, Paralympic gold-winner Mariyappan Thangavelu, TT player Manika Batra, and women’s hockey team captain Rani Rampal.

2. Arjuna Award:

  • Instituted in 1961.
  • Given to best sportsperson in each sport every year.
  • Named after Arjuna, the famous archer in epic Mahabharata.

3. Dronacharya Award:

  • Instituted in 1985.
  • Honours eminent coaches for excellence in sports coaching.
  • Named after Dronacharya, Guru of Arjuna, in epic Mahabharata.

4. Tenzing Norgay Adventure Award:

  • Instituted in 1993.
  • Given to individuals excelling in adventure activities on land, sea and air.
  • Named after Tenzing Norgay, (one of the first two persons to reach summit of Mount Everest in 1953 along with Edmund Hillary).

5. Dhyan Chand Award:

  • Instituted in 2002.
  • Highest award for lifetime achievement in sports and games.
  • Named after the legendary Indian hockey player Dhyan Chand.

6. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (MAKA) Award:

  • Given for the best performance in sports amongst the Universities.
  • Named after first Education Minister of India, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad.
  • Instituted in 1956-57.
[Ref: PIB]

Supercapacitor electrodes from waste

  • The Scientists at International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy & New Materials (ARCI), have utilised Tamarind seeds and cotton waste to make low-cost supercapacitors for energy storage.
  • They have converted waste materials into highly porous carbon fibres by activation process.
  • Thenthese porous carbon fibres are utilised to make high-performance supercapacitor electrodes.
  • It can pave way towards affordable electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles which bank on supercapacitors for their application in braking systems and start-stop cycles.
  • Supercapacitors are high-capacity capacitors that store electrical charge or electrochemical energy.

Namath Basai

  • Namath Basai (our language) is the Kerala state government’s unique programme of teaching tribal children in their mother tongue.
  • The programme, implemented by the Samagra Shiksha Kerala (SSK), has succeeded in retaining hundreds of tribal children in their online classes by making them feel at home with the language of instruction.
  • The SSK has distributed around 50 laptops for Namath Basai and pre-recorded classes are offered through a YouTube channel.

Location of Mali

  • The Republic of Mali is a landlocked country in West Africa.
  • Mali is the eighth-largest country in Africa, with an area of over 1,240,000 sq. km.
  • Capital: Bamako.
  • Its North borders reach into middle of Sahara Desert, while southern part (where majority of inhabitants live), features Niger and Senegal rivers.
  • The country’s economy centers on agriculture and mining.
  • There has been a military coup in Mali recently led by National Committee for Salvation of the People, which comprise highly ranked military personnel among others.
  • The coup led to arrest and resignation of Mali’s President Ibrahim Keita.
  • The citizens were dissatisfied by corruption, economic stagnation and security crisis.
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