Current Affairs Analysis

22nd July 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

ICJ ruling on Qatar; Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Management Act, 2019; Mukhya Mantri Ghar Ghar Ration Yojana; National Financial Reporting Authority; Manodarpan; Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; GFTAM; Net exporter of Chemicals and related products; HIL(India); National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme; Russian origin Weaponry; Metamaterials; Guided wave testing (GWT); 3D Map of the Universe; International Civil Aviation Organisation; Convention on International Civil Aviation; International Court of Justice: Oxford-AstraZeneca; AZD1222; ChAdOx1 nCoV-19; adenovirus; Types of vaccine; NSS 75th Survey; Meaning of Direct Monetisation; Ad hoc Treasury-Bills; Why choose direct monetization over OMOs? Etc.
By IASToppers
July 22, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Latest ICJ ruling for Qatar and its airspace
  • Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Management Act, 2019
  • National Financial Reporting Authority

Government Schemes & Policies

  • Mukhya Mantri Ghar Ghar Ration Yojana
  • Manodarpan

Issues related to Health & Education

  • Oxford-AstraZeneca shot shows progress
  • Over 80% Indians not covered under health insurance: NSSO Survey
  • Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
  • HIL(India)

Economy

  • Centre can fund deficit at lower rates through direct monetisation
  • India net exporter of Chemicals and related products

Defence & Security Issues

  • Russian origin Weaponry

Science & Technology

  • Artificial materials and ultrasound to detect defects in large structures
  • 3D Map of the Universe

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Polity & Governance

Latest ICJ ruling for Qatar and its airspace

More than three years after they imposed a sweeping blockade on Qatar, Saudi Arabia and its allies have received a setback from the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

  • Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates are the members of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Background

  • In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar by shutting off shipping routes and air space, over Qatar’s alleged support for terrorism across the region and its ties with Iran.
  • The 4 countries then issued a 13-point list of demands for Qatar to comply with in order to restore erstwhile relations. Some demands include Qatar closing down news outlets such as Al-Jazeera, sever ties with radical Islamist groups like Muslim Brotherhood, scale down ties with Shia-majority Iran etc.
  • As a result, alleging that its rights of free passage under the 1944 Convention on Civil Aviation were violated, Qatar approached the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
  • At the ICAO, 4 countries argued that only the International Court of Justice (ICJ) should have the authority to settle the dispute, since it went beyond aviation matters.
  • In 2018, the ICAO ruled against the Saudi coalition, holding that it did have jurisdiction to hear the case.
  • The four countries then took the case to the ICJ, which recently backed the ICAO. The ICAO is now expected to deliver its verdict on the air blockade next year.

About International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO):

  • It is a UN specialized agency under UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
  • It was established in 1944 to manage the administration and governance of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention).
  • It is headquartered at Montreal, Canada.
  • It has total 196 member countries including India.
  • It prepares international civil aviation Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) which is used by ICAO Member States to ensure that their local civil aviation operations and regulations conform to global norms.
  • Every year 7 December is celebrated as international civil aviation day by ICAO.

Objectives:

  • Upgrading air navigation to optimize aviation system performance.
  • Foster the development of economically-viable civil aviation system
  • Minimize the adverse environmental effects of civil aviation activities
  • Monitor numerous air transport sector performance metrics.
  • Audits States’ civil aviation oversight capabilities in the areas of safety and security.

Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention)

  • It came into force in 1947 which established the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
  • This Convention supersedes the Convention relating to the Regulation of Aerial Navigation (or Paris Convention) and the Pan American Convention on Commercial Aviation (or Havana Convention).
  • The Convention establishes rules of airspace, aircraft registration and safety, and details the rights of the signatories in relation to air travel.

About International Court of Justice:

  • It is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations (UN).
  • It was established in June 1945 by the Charter of the United Nations and began work in 1946.
  • The Court is located at Hague (Netherlands). Of the six principal organs of the United Nations, it is the only one not located in New York (United States of America).
  • All 193 UN members are automatically parties to the Court’s statute. Non-UN members may also become parties to the Court’s statute.
  • Its judgments have binding force and are without appeal for the parties concerned. Though there is no way ICJ can enforce its decisions. However, United Nations Security Council can compel the states to follow the ICJ’s ruling.
  • The President and Vice-President are elected by the Members of the Court every three years by secret ballot.

Composition:

  • The Court is composed of 15 judges, who are elected for nine years.
  • 15 judges are distributed as per the regions: three from Africa, two from Latin America and Caribbean, three from Asia, five from Western Europe and other states and two from Eastern Europe.

Role of the court:

  • To settle legal disputes submitted to it by States and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorized United Nations organs.
  • It has no jurisdiction to deal with applications from individuals, non-governmental organizations, corporations or any other private entity. It or help them in their dealings with national authorities.
  • ICJ is not a supreme court to which national courts can turn. It is not an appeal court for any international tribunal.

Who nominates the ICJ judge candidates?

  • Every country, party to the UN Charter, designates a group who propose candidates for the office of ICJ judges. This group includes four members/jurists of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, two of whom could be of their nationality. After that, voting in UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council occurs to select judges.

What differentiates the ICJ from the International Criminal Court and the ad hoc international criminal tribunals?

  • ICJ has no jurisdiction to try individuals accused of war crimes or crimes against humanity.
  • This task of hearing proceedings of war crimes is done by national courts, the ad hoc criminal tribunals established by the United Nations (such as the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) to take over residual functions from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and Rwanda (ICTR)).

How does the International Court of Justice differ from other international courts?

  • The ICJ differs from the Court of Justice of the European Union (based in Luxembourg), whose role is to interpret European Community legislation uniformly and also differ from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (in Costa Rica), which deal with allegations of violations of the human rights conventions under which they were set up.
  • The jurisdiction of the ICJ is general and thereby differs from that of specialist international tribunals, such as the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).
[Ref: Indian Express]

Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Management Act, 2019

  • Uttarakhand High Court upholds constitutional validity of Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Management Act. Public interest litigation (PIL) was filed against the state government’s takeover of the Char Dhams and 51 other shrines through the formation of the Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board.
  • The court ruled that the ownership of the temple properties would vest in Char Dham shrines and power of the Board would be confined only to the administration and management of the properties.

About the act:

  • The Act entrusted the management of Char Dham temples to a Board whose Chairman and members are to be nominated by the State Government.  A senior Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officer will be the chief executive officer (CEO) of the board, while the Chief Minister will be its president. It is also proposed that chief priest of the Char Dham temples as well as the area MLA, MP and a representative of the Tehri royal family will be part of the board.
  • The board will bring Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri, Yamunotri and 51 other temples in the hill state under the ambit of the state government and will also result in the dismantling of the existing temple managements such as the Badri-Kedar Temple Committee.
  • The provisions and composition of the Act will be like the Vaishno Devi shrine board and Tirupati Balaji shrine board. 
[Ref: Hindustan Times]

National Financial Reporting Authority

Professor R. Narayanaswamy, Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore has been appointed as the Chair of the Technical Advisory Committee of the National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA).

About NFRA:

  • The NFRA was constituted by the Government of India under provisions of the Companies Act, 2013.
  • Authority shall protect the public interest and the interests of investors, creditors and others associated with the companies or bodies corporate governed under Rule 3 by establishing high-quality standards of accounting and auditing and exercising effective oversight of accounting functions performed by the companies and bodies corporate and auditing functions performed by auditors.

Functions and Duties

  • Recommend accounting and auditing policies and standards to be adopted by companies for approval by the Central Government.
  • Monitor and enforce compliance with accounting standards and auditing standards.
  • Oversee the quality of service of the professions associated with ensuring compliance with such standards and suggest measures for improvement in the quality of service.
  • Perform such other functions and duties as may be necessary or incidental to the aforesaid functions and duties.

Scope:

  • Companies whose securities are listed on any stock exchange in India or outside India.
  • Unlisted public companies having paid-up capital of not less than rupees five hundred crores or having annual turnover of not less than rupees one thousand crores or having, in aggregate, outstanding loans, debentures and deposits of not less than rupees five hundred crores as on the 31st March of immediately preceding financial year.
  • Insurance companies, banking companies, companies engaged in the generation or supply of electricity, companies governed by any special Act for the time being in force or bodies corporate incorporated by an Act in accordance with clauses (b), (c), (d), (e) and (f) of sub-section (4) of section 1 of the Act.
  • Any body corporate or company or person, or any class of bodies corporate or companies or persons, on a reference made to the Authority by the Central Government in the public interest.
  • A body corporate incorporated or registered outside India, which is a subsidiary or associate company of any company or body corporate incorporated or registered in India as referred to in clauses (a) to (d), if the income or net worth of such subsidiary or associate company exceeds twenty per cent. of the consolidated income or consolidated net worth of such company or the body corporate, as the case may be, referred to in clauses (a) to (d).
[Ref: Business Today]

Government Schemes & Policies

Mukhya Mantri Ghar Ghar Ration Yojana

  • The Mukhya Mantri Ghar Ghar Ration Yojana Scheme will be implemented in 6-7 months in Delhi.
  • It will benefit nearly 17 lakh ration cardholders and 72 lakh beneficiaries.
  • Beneficiaries will be given an option of taking ration from shops or getting it delivered to their homes.
  • Wheat grains would be lifted from FCI godowns and taken to grinding shops to be turned into flour. Flour, sugar, rice and other items will be packed and will be delivered to the homes of the people. Flour will be provided under the scheme instead of wheat grains.
[Ref: The Hindu, Times of India]

Manodarpan

The Minister of Union Human Resource Development launched the Manodarpan initiative which seeks to provide psychosocial support to students for their Mental Health and Well-being.

Components:

  • Advisory Guidelines for students, teachers and faculty of School systems and Universities along with families.
  • Web page on the MHRD website, which will carry advisory, practical tips, posters, videos, do`s and don`ts for psychosocial support, FAQs and online query system.
  • National level database and directory of counsellors at School and University level whose services can be offered voluntarily for Tele-Counselling Service on the National Helpline.
  • National Toll-free Helpline by the MHRD for a countrywide outreach to students from school, universities and colleges. This unique helpline shall be manned by a pool of experienced counsellors/ Psychologists and other mental health professionals and will continue beyond the COVID-19 situation.
  • Handbook on Psychosocial Support: Enriching Lifeskills & Wellbeing of Students to be published online. The booklet will include FAQs, Facts & Myths and will also cover ways and means to manage emotional and behavioural concerns (from young children to college youth) during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
  • Interactive Online Chat Platform for contact, counselling and guidance by psychologists and other mental health professionals which will be available for students, teachers, and families during COVID-19 and beyond.
  • Webinars, audio-visual resources including videos, posters, flyers, comics, and short films to be uploaded as additional resource materials on the webpage. Crowdsourcing from students all over the country will be encouraged as peer support.
[Ref: PIB]

Issues related to Health & Education

Oxford-AstraZeneca shot shows progress

Results of early human trials of a Covid-19 vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and drugmaker AstraZeneca have shown promise.

About the vaccine

  • The AZD1222 coronavirus vaccine candidate, formerly known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus (adenovirus) that causes infections in chimpanzees, that has been genetically changed so that it is impossible for it to grow in humans.

How does Covid-19 virus infect?

  • When someone is infected with the Covid-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2), the reason it spreads in the body easily is because of the spikes on its surface. These spikes, known as the ‘spike protein’, allow the virus to penetrate cells and, thereafter, multiply.

How does the Oxford-AstroZeneca vaccine candidate work?

  • The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine tries to create antibodies to fight this spiked surface so that the virus does not even have the chance to penetrate the cells.
  • The vaccine uses a weakened version of a common cold virus (adenovirus) that infects chimpanzees — to carry just the code to make the spike protein.
  • The adenovirus, genetically modified so that it cannot replicate in humans, will enter the cell and release the code to make only the spike protein (called Spike glycoprotein). The body’s immune system is expected to recognise the spike protein as a potentially harmful foreign substance, and starts building antibodies against it.
  • Once immunity is built, the antibodies will attack the real virus if it tries to infect the body.

Benefits

The preliminary results from phase I/II trials of the vaccine showed that the vaccine

  • Was safe and developed protective antibodies within 28 days.
  • Increased the number of T cells — a type of white blood cell that protects the body from pathogens and cancer cells and works to actively destroy infected cells.

Concerns

  • While the results seem promising, it is important to remember this data is from early-stage clinical trials. This data cannot give clarity on questions like how long the antibodies will last in the body.
  • The vaccine also showed mild to moderate adverse reactions, including pain and headaches.
  • The data garnering the most attention is the vaccine’s “dual immune responses” — its ability to produce both an antibody and T-cell response in volunteers. There is some evidence that antibodies may decline over time in recovered Covid patients and that T-cells may be key to durable protection. However, scientists know little about the longevity and protective abilities T-cell.Immune responses measured in the lab don’t always correlate to real-world protection.
  • This vaccine and others have been tested in mostly young and healthy groups so far.

What happens next?

  • Globally, Oxford and AstraZeneca have already begun phase III trials in Brazil.
  • Meanwhile, Serum Institute of India, which has tied up with Oxford and AstraZeneca, plans to make millions of doses of the vaccine over the next three months, after it receives a manufacturing licence. However, Serum will have to conduct phase III trials in India before the vaccine can be launched.

Types of vaccine

  • Inactivated: These are vaccines made by using particles of the Covid-19 virus that were killed, making them unable to infect or replicate. Injecting particular doses of these particles serves to build immunity by helping the body create antibodies against the dead virus.
    • Examples: Wuhan Institute of Biological Products-Sinopharm, Bharat Biotech.
  • Non-replicating viral vector: This is the category the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine belongs to. It uses a weakened, genetically modified version of a different virus to carry the Covid-19 spike protein
  • Protein subunit: This vaccine uses a part of the virus to build an immune response in a targeted fashion. In this case, the part of the virus being targeted would be the spike protein.
  • RNA: Such vaccines use the messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules that tell cells what proteins to build. The mRNA, in this case, is coded to tell the cells to recreate the spike protein. Once it is injected, the cells will use the mRNA’s instructions, creating copies of the spike protein, which in turn is expected to prompt the immune cells to create antibodies to fight it.
    • Moderna, the first firm to begin human trials for a Covid-19 vaccine candidate in collaboration with the US uses mRNA.
  • DNA: These vaccines use genetically engineered DNA molecules that, again, are coded with the antigen against which the immune response is to be built.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Over 80% Indians not covered under health insurance: NSSO Survey

The National Sample Survey (NSS)’s 75th round of survey on household consumption related to health has brought out startling facts on the state of healthcare and morbidity among Indians.

About NSS 75th Survey

  • The survey was conducted from July 2017 to June 2018.
  • It covered over 0.55 million people in both rural and urban areas.
  • The survey, conducted periodically, is done to assess expenditure on health-related activities, access to private and public health facilities and above all, the level of morbidity in the country.
  • The first full-scale NSS health survey was conducted in the 28th round of NSS (1973-74). Since the 1990s there have been four health surveys.

Highlights of the survey

  • 80 % Indians don’t have health expenditure coverage.
  • Among, 85.9 % of rural Indians and 80.9% of urban Indians don’t have any health expenditure coverage.

Concern:

The low insurance coverage is a cause of concern for two reasons:

  • First, more and more people are accessing private healthcare that is relatively more expensive than public facilities;
  • second, to make access to healthcare affordable, the government has been pursuing universal insurance coverage.

Choosing Private/Government hospitals

  •  55% of Indians continue to depend on private healthcare facilities. Only 42 % of the population went to government hospitals.
    • In rural areas, 52 % people went to private hospitals while 46 % opted for government hospitals.
    • In urban areas, only 35 % people opted for government hospitals.
  • Government schemes covered just about 13 % of rural and 9 % of the urban population. The survey didn’t cover the flagship Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana (PMJAY) as it was launched on September 23, 2018.

Average annual Medical expenditure for hospitalisation in:

  • Rural household: Rs 16,676
  • Urban Household: Rs 26,475

Average medical expenditure for hospitalisation in government hospitals in:

  • Rural Areas: Rs 4,290
  • Urban Areas: 4, 837

Average medical expenditure for hospitalisation in private hospitals in:

  • Rural Areas: Rs 27,347
  • Urban Areas: Rs 38,822

Dependence on saving/borrowing

In absence of health insurance coverage and high expenditure, Indians are digging into their savings or borrowings to bear household medical care bills.

  • Rural areas: 80 % households depended on savings to fund medical expenditure while 13 % people borrowed from various sources.
  • Urban areas: 84 % people depended on their savings while 9 % borrowed to pay for medical expenditure.

Average medical expenditure per treated ailment by nature of treatment

Below table gives average expenditure on treatment (non-hospitalisation cases) across different systems of medicine: allopathy, Indian system of medicine (Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and Sowa- RigPa), homeopathy, and yoga-or-naturopathy.

Immunisation of children

  • There is not much difference between children between 0-5 years of age in rural or urban area when it comes to giving any one vaccine.  However, the gap is in average expenditure on immunization. For rural area it is INR 36 while it is INR 251 in urban areas.

 [Ref: Down To earth]

Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

Sex workers, transpersons, gay and bisexual men, drug users and people living with HIV/AIDS have petitioned the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria (GFATM) protesting against being ignored by the government and multilateral agencies in coronavirus (COVID-19) related emergency relief efforts.

Key Points

  • Founded in 2002, the Global Fund is a partnership between governments, civil society, the private sector and people affected by the diseases.
  • Aims to end AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
  • It invests more than $4 billion a year to support programs run by local experts in more than 100 countries.
  • The organization maintains its secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland.
[Ref: The Hindu]

HIL(India)

HIL (India) Limited has supplied Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) to South Africa to support its malaria control programme.

About HIL (India):

  • HIL (India) Limited was formerly known as Hindustan Insecticides Limited (HIL).
  • It is a PSU under the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers The company was incorporated in the year 1954 to manufacture and supply DDT to Government of India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for the malaria control programme.
  • The company has diversified into agro-inputs to meet the requirements of the agriculture sector.
  • HIL (India) is the sole manufacturer of DDT globally.
  • The Company will be supplying DDT 75% WP to Zimbabwe (128 MT) and Zambia (113 MT) in the current FY 2020-21.
  • The shareholding of the Government of India in the company is 100%.

National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme

  • Launched in 2003-04, the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP) is concerned with prevention and control of vector-borne diseases namely Malaria, Filariasis, Kala-azar, Dengue and Japanese Encephalitis (JE).
  • The Directorate of NVBDCP is the nodal agency for implementation. This Directorate provides technical assistance and support in terms of cash and commodity to the various states/UTs.
  • The programme implementation is the responsibility of the states/UTs.
[Ref: PIB]

Economy

Centre can fund deficit at lower rates through direct monetisation

Amid a spike in country’s debt levels and falling revenues, a State Bank of India (SBI) report has recommended direct monetisation as a plausible way of funding the Centre’s deficit at lower rates without increasing inflation.

  • Indonesia’s move to purchase $40 billion in sovereign bonds, as part of a debt monetisation programme, could set a precedent for other emerging markets, including India, to look at this option as a way to raise funds amid Covid-19 pandemic.

Meaning of Direct Monetisation

  • Also known as debt monetisation, it simply means that the RBI directly funds the Central government’s deficit.

What happens when the deficit is monetized?

  • The exercise leads to an increase in total money supply in the system, and hence inflation, as RBI creates fresh money to purchase the bonds.
  • The same bonds are later used to bring down inflation as they are sold in the open market. This helps RBI suck excess money out of the market and rein in rising prices.
  • The need to monetize deficit arises only when the budget shortfall is likely to shoot out of control.

Background

  • Until 1997, the government used to sell securities, such as ad hoc Treasury-Bills (Ad hoc means particular case, thus ad hoc treasury bills are issued to state/semi govt. department and foreign central banks), directly to the RBI, and not to financial market participants.
  • This allowed the government to print equivalent amount of currency to meet its budget deficit.
  • Two agreements were signed between the government and RBI in 1994 and 1997 to completely phase out funding through ad-hoc treasury bills. The rationale was that central governments could fall prey to “print and spend” without any scruples with a central bank monetizing the borrowings. This would flare up inflation in a supply-constrained economy like India.
  • It was decided that the RBI would operate only in the secondary market through the Open market operation (OMO) route.
    • Since the government started borrowing in the open market, interest rates went up which incentivised saving and thereby spurred growth.
  • Later on, The Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act, 2003 was enacted as the final step towards phasing out monetisation of debt. The Act barred Central Government to borrow from the Reserve Bank of India.
  • However, FRBM Act provided an escape clause and said the RBI could subscribe to the primary issue of central government securities in case the government exceeds the fiscal deficit target on “grounds of national security, war, national calamity, collapse of agriculture severely affecting farm output and incomes, structural reforms in the economy with unanticipated fiscal implications, decline in real output growth of a quarter by at least 3 % below its average of the previous 4 quarters”.

Why choose direct monetization over OMOs?

  • In 1997, it was decided that RBI would use the OMO route not so much to support government borrowing but as a liquidity instrument to make balance between policy objectives, inflation and financial stability.
  • OMOs are a monetary policy tool with the RBI in the driver’s seat, deciding on how much liquidity to inject and when.
  • In contrast, monetisation is a way of financing the fiscal deficit with the quantum and timing of money supply determined by the government’s borrowing rather than the RBI’s monetary policy.
    • If RBI is seen as losing control over monetary policy, it will raise concerns about inflation.

Highlights of the report of SBI

  • India’s debt to GDP ratio (shows country’s ability to pay back its debt) has increased gradually from 67.4% of GDP in FY12 to 72.2% of GDP in FY20.
  • Higher level of borrowing this fiscal are likely to increase gross debt further to around Rs 170 lakh crore or 87.6% of GDP. Within this, external debt is estimated to increase to Rs 6.8 lakh crore (3.5% of GDP).
  • While external debt is sustainable given the amount of foreign exchange reserves, domestic debt being internally financed is not a problem.
  • The real challenge is the contraction of economic growth, which can turn interest rate minus growth differential — a key metric watched by agencies to gauge debt sustainability — into positive territory. A negative differential denotes growth is higher than interest rate on government debt.
  • This higher debt amount will also lead to the shifting of the FRBM Act, 2003, target of combined debt to 60 % of the GDP by seven years to FY30.

Suggestion of the report

  • Bringing growth back through direct monetization is more important as compared to fears of rating downgrades resulting just from higher deficit levels. 
[Ref: Indian Express]

India net exporter of Chemicals and related products

India turned a net exporter of chemicals and related products for the first time in at least a decade in FY20, according to the latest Ministry of Commerce and Industries data.

  • The chemical and related products are clubbed together in 15 broad categories.
  • Exports include drug formulations, bulk drugs and drug intermediates, organic chemicals, agrochemicals and fertilisers to $45 billion in FY20.
  • Imports stood at $44.3 billion, down 7.3%. Imports mainly include raw materials consisting of organic chemicals and residual chemicals & allied products stood at $19.7 billion. China alone accounts for 40% of India’s organic chemical imports.
  • India’s pharma exports, the biggest category touched $20.58 billion in FY20, while imports were to the tune of $6.25 billion.  Imports comprised finished drug formulation and APIs, amounting to about $3.5 billion and almost $3 billion, respectively, in FY20.
  • India’s overall goods exports contracted by 5.1% in FY20, while its imports shrank by 7.8%.
[Ref: Financial Express]

Defence & Security Issues

Russian origin Weaponry

  • A Stimson Center working paper shows that 86% of the equipment, weapons and platforms currently in military service in India is of Russian origin.
  • The Navy more than 41%, 66% of IAF’s equipment and 90% of the Army`s equipment is of Russian origin.

Factors:

  • Longstanding defence relationship and there is familiarity with each other’s processes and systems.
  • Dependability.
  • Access to specialised equipment like S-400, nuclear submarines.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Science & Technology

Artificial materials and ultrasound to detect defects in large structures

  • Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras and the University of Nairobi have used metamaterials to improve detection of defects in large structures by guided wave ultrasound. The result was published in AIP Advances, an international peer-reviewed journal.

Metamaterials:

  • Metamaterials are artificially crafted materials with unique internal microstructures that give them properties not found in nature.
  • Potential applications of metamaterials are diverse and include optical filters, medical devices, remote aerospace applications and among others.

Guided wave testing (GWT)

  • Sound waves are sent along the length of the structure rather than into the structure, allowing the waves to travel longer distances.
  • GWT has poorer resolution than conventional ultrasound-based testing due to diffraction limitations.
[Ref: The Hindu, Down to Earth]

3D Map of the Universe

  • An international collaboration of over a hundred astrophysicists has released a map that details over two million galaxies and quasars and eleven billion years of our universe.
  • It is the largest ever 3D map of the universe.
  • The team used the Sloan Digital Sky Survey’s (SDSS) 2.5-metre-wide optical telescope in New Mexico, USA to conduct surveys over 20 years.
  • The map documents the universe as early as when it was only 300,000 years old. Using this map, scientists can measure patterns in the distribution of galaxies.
  • Scientists have long known that the universe is constantly expanding as a result of the Big Bang, but the team behind this map has discovered that it is expanding faster than previously thought.

Additional Information:

Hubble’s Law, named after Edwin Hubble, is the rate we use to determine how fast galaxies are moving away from Earth.

[Ref: Times of India]
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