Issues related to Health & Education
- YUKTI 2.0 platform for Higher Education Institutes
- End to End Paperless Exports under Turant Customs
- Financing for Compressed Bio-Gas plants to be brought under PSL
- Purchasing Power Parities and the size of Indian Economy
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Why scientists want to map the ocean floor?
- Highest recorded temperature in the Arctic circle
Bilateral & International Relations
- US extended ban on H1-B visas
Defence & Security Issues
- Importance of Pangong Tso and why its fingers are sought after?
- Variankunnathu Kunjahammed Haji
Science & Technology
- Detection of ﬂuorine in hot Extreme Helium Stars
Key Facts for Prelims
- Government e-Marketplace
- Shyama Prasad Mukherjee
- Kutchi New Year
- Beidou Navigation Satellite System
- Lone Wolf Attack
- Mount Merapi
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Issues related to Health & Education
YUKTI 2.0 platform for Higher Education Institutes
Union Minister of Human Resource Development virtually launched YUKTI 2.0 platform for Higher Education Institutes in New Delhi recently.
- The YUKTI (Young India combating COVID with Knowledge, Technology and Innovation) web portal on 11 April, 2020.
- YUKTI 2.0 is logical extension of earlier version of ‘YUKTI’, an initiative of MHRD, to identify ideas relevant in COVID pandemic.
- The initiative will help to systematically assimilate technologies having commercial potential and information related to incubated startups in our higher education institutions.
- Through this portal, MHRD will ensure that students, teachers and researchers in higher educational institutions are getting appropriate support to meet the requirements needed to advance their technologies and innovations.
- The students, faculty members, startups and other stakeholders of higher education institutions can register on the YUKTI portal and share their technologies and innovations.
- The database will provide a clear picture of the state of the innovation ecosystem of our higher educational institutions.
- This will also help the government to identify bottlenecks and formulate appropriate policies to strengthen the innovation ecosystem in the country.
- The portal will work towards promoting innovations and entrepreneurship culture in our higher education system and involving youth in nation building.
Need for the platform:
- To support student entrepreneurs keen on pursuing their startups along with academics.
- To emerge as Market place for connecting innovators with investors, so that innovative technologies can be taken forward for commercialization.
End to End Paperless Exports under Turant Customs
Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs has unveiled a Secure QR coded Shipping Bill that would be electronically sent to exporters after the Customs allows export.
- To leverage technology to make the Customs clearance process more transparent and faster and mega reform for the ease of doing business.
- The Secure QR coded Shipping Bill eliminates the requirement of the exporters having to approach the Customs officers for proof of export.
- It makes the end to end Customs export process fully electronic, from the filing of the Shipping Bill to the final order to allow export.
- The electronic transmission of the Shipping Bill would do away with the present requirement to take paper printout of these documents thereby promoting Green Customs.
- It is a step for fulfilling commitment to a Faceless, Paperless, and Contactless Customs under the umbrella of its Turant Customs programme.
- These reforms are based on enhanced use of digital technology to reduce the time and costs for the importers, exporters and other stakeholders.
- They are expected to improve India’s ranking in the World Bank’s Trading Across Borders parameter of its Doing Business Report.
Turant Customs programme:
- Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs has launched its flagship programme Turant Customs at Bengaluru and Chennai recently.
- Importers will now get their goods cleared from Customs after a faceless assessment is done remotely by the Customs officers located outside the port of import.
- Turant Customs will benefit the importers by eliminating routine interface with the Customs officers and providing uniformity in assessment across the country.
- The start of Turant Customs at Bengaluru and Chennai will be the first phase of the All India roll out which would get completed by 31st December 2020.
Financing for Compressed Bio-Gas plants to be brought under PSL
The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has stated that the financing for Compressed Bio-Gas plants to be brought under Priority Sector Lending.
- The Government is in the process of including Compressed Bio-Gas under Priority Sector Lending.
- Initiative will help in providing environment friendly gaseous fuel from natural sources and provide ease in the financing of CBG Plants.
- The Central Financial Assistance or Subsidy for setting up CBG plants has been extended to 2020-21 to promote new projects.
- Bio-manure, an important by-product of CBG Plants, is also in the process of being included in Fertilizer Control Order 1985.
- This will make it easier to market and provide an opportunity for organic farming across the country as the 5000 CBG Plants are expected to produce 50 MMT Bio-manure.
- The ‘SATAT’ (Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation) scheme on CBG was launched in October 2018.
- It is aimed at promoting Compressed Bio-Gas (CBG) as an alternative, green transport fuel for efficient management of biomass and organic waste.
- The CBG produced under SATAT can be sold to automobiles as clean fuel, and to domestic, industrial and commercial consumers which are using LPG and other fuels.
- It envisages targeting production of 15 MMT of CBG from 5000 plants by 2023.
- Oil Marketing Companies have been offered long term pricing on CBG to make projects bankable and have agreed to execute long term agreements on CBG.
- Harnessing biofuels to generate alternative energy, including Compressed Biogas or CBG, ethanol, 2G ethanol, and biodiesel will help achieve our PM Modi’s vision of reducing import dependence of oil and ensuring sustainable energy future in the country.
- The Government of India has been promoting Biofuels including CBG to increase the green-energy mix, reduce import dependence, create employment especially in semi-urban & rural areas and reduce pollution.
- Usage of CBG shall assist in achieving climate change goals of India as per the Paris Agreement 2015.
- This shall also be in line with schemes of Government of India like Swachh Bharat, Atma Nirbhar Bharat and Make in India.
- Biogas is a renewable, as well as a clean, source of energy.
- The gas generated through bio-digestion is non-polluting and it reduces greenhouse emissions.
- After purification, it is compressed and called CBG, which has pure methane content of over 95%.
- Compressed Bio-Gas is exactly similar to the commercially available natural gas in its composition and energy potential.
- With calorific value (~52,000 KJ/kg) and other properties similar to CNG, Compressed Bio-Gas can be used as an alternative, renewable automotive fuel.
Purchasing Power Parities and the size of Indian Economy
The World Bank has released new Purchasing Power Parities for reference year 2017, under International Comparison Program, that adjust for differences in the cost of living across economies of the World. Globally 176 economies participated in 2017 cycle of ICP.
Purchasing Power Parity:
- Purchasing power parity is a popular metric used by macroeconomic analysts that compares different countries’ currencies through a basket of goods approach.
- PPP allows for economists to compare economic productivity and standards of living between countries.
- PPP thus makes it easy to understand and interpret the data of each country.
International Comparison Program:
- The International Comparison Program is the largest worldwide data-collection initiative, under the guidance of UN Statistical Commission.
- It has the goal of producing Purchasing Power Parities which are vital for converting measures of economic activities to be comparable across economies.
- Along with the PPPs, the ICP also produces Price Level Indices and other regionally comparable aggregates of GDP expenditure.
- The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation is National Implementing Agency (NIA) for India, which has the responsibility of planning, coordinating and implementing national ICP activities.
Status of India:
- India is the third largest economy, accounted for 6.7 % of global Gross Domestic Product in terms of PPPs as against China (16.4%) and United States (16.3%).
- India is also third largest economy in terms of its PPP-based share in global Actual Individual Consumption and Global Gross Capital Formation.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Why scientists want to map the ocean floor?
An international collaboration of researchers has finished mapping nearly one-fifth of the world’s ocean floor recently.
Study of the ocean floor:
- Bathymetry — the measurement of the shape and depth of the ocean floor, is instrumental in understanding several natural phenomena, including ocean circulation, tides, and biological hotspots.
- It also provides key inputs for navigation, forecasting tsunamis, exploration for oil and gas projects, building offshore wind turbines, fishing resources, and for laying cables and pipelines.
- The maps would ensure a better understanding of climate change, since floor features including canyons and underwater volcanoes influence phenomena such as the vertical mixing of ocean water, and ocean currents.
- Climate change has impacted the flow of these currents, and more knowledge about them would help scientists create models forecasting the future behaviour of the climate, including sea-level rise.
- A map of the entire global ocean floor would also help further achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal to conserve and sustainably use oceans, seas and marine resources.
The Seabed 2030 Project:
- The global initiative is a collaboration between Japan’s non-profit Nippon Foundation and the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans.
- As per its website, GEBCO is the only intergovernmental organisation with a mandate to map the entire ocean floor.
- The Project was launched at the United Nations Ocean Conference in 2017.
- It coordinates and oversees the sourcing and compilation of bathymetric data from different parts of the world’s ocean through its five centres into the freely-available GEBCO Grid.
- The Seabed 2030 Project, however, aims to obtain higher quality information that has a minimum resolution of 100 m at all spots, using equipment such as deep-water hull-mounted sonar systems, and more advanced options such as Underwater Vehicles.
World Hydrography Day:
- The International Hydrographic Organization and its international members celebrate World Hydrography Day every year on June 21.
- It is observed to increase awareness about the safe navigation and protection of the marine environment.
Highest recorded temperature in the Arctic circle
Verkhoyansk, a town in Siberia, has recorded the highest temperature in the Arctic circle in the last 140 years at 38 degrees Celsius.
- The recorded temperature at 38 degrees is around 18°C higher than the normal temperature for this time of the year for the place.
- The town is in the Guinness book of world records for the largest temperature range it experiences — from some -67 °C to some 37°C.
- This new record has an imprint of global warming and the impact of such warming can be witnessed even here in India.
- The new high shows temperature swings may be increasing.
- This is consistent with the consequences of the decrease in the Arctic Sea ice cover and reduction in ice thickness.
- The Arctic region is warming at twice the rate as the rest of the world because of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.
- The increased rate of warming is due to a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification in which the melting ice hastens the process of warming by exposing areas that are not good at reflecting back heat into the atmosphere.
- The Arctic region has experienced repeated heat waves in the past few months, with Siberia recording average temperatures of 10°C more than normal in May 2020.
- The impacts of a warming Arctic are not limited to the region but can be felt even in India.
- Ex: western disturbances respond to the pressure variations associated with the jet stream swings.
- The western disturbances are extra-tropical storms that originate in the Mediterranean and travel to India on the sub-tropical jet stream.
- They cause rainfall in north west, northern and north eastern India during the winter and spring months and snowfall in the high altitude regions.
- This year, they were particularly active and caused heavy rainfall in March, April and May over northern and north western India.
- These rains, moisture and the vegetation they produced was partly responsible for the early locust attacks in Rajasthan this year which spread as far east as Chhattisgarh for the first time in decades.
Bilateral & International Relations
US extended ban on H1-B visas
The US administration said that it was extending the 60-day ban on immigration and non-immigrant worker visas till the end of 2020.
What is the issue?
- The popular work visas of US including H-1B and H-2B, and certain categories of H-4, J, and L visas shall remain suspended until December 31.
- The move is to protect domestic workers who had been impacted due to a contraction in the economy in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
What are H-1B, H-2B, L and other work visas?
- To fill a vacuum of highly-skilled low-cost employees in IT and other related domains, the US administration issues a certain number of visas each year which allows companies from outside the US to send employees to work on client sites.
- H-1B: To work in a specialty occupation. Requires a higher education degree of its equivalent. Includes fashion models of distinguished merit and ability and government-to-government research and development, or co-production projects administered by the Department of Defence.
- The US government has a cap of 85,000 total H-1B visas for each year.
- Apart from the H-1B visas, the US government also issues L1 visas which allows companies to transfer highly skilled workers to US for a period of up to seven years.
- H-2B visas allow food and agricultural workers to seek employment in the US.
Why did the US suspend non-immigrant worker visas?
- The H-1 visa scheme was started in 1952.
- A large number of graduates willing to work at low costs in the US, a win-win situation for both the employer and the employee.
- US President Trump had repeatedly said that the low-cost workers were hampering the economy and by undercutting the job undercutting jobs of citizens.
- Those who do not have a valid non-immigrant visa as of June 23, and are outside of the US, will not be allowed to enter the country until December 31.
- H-1B, H-2B, J and L visa holders, and their spouse or children already present in the US shall not be impacted by the new worker visa ban.
[Ref: Indian Express]
Defence & Security Issues
Importance of Pangong Tso and why its fingers are sought after?
The Pangong Tso is the site of eye-to-eye confrontation between Indian and Chinese troops, following a scuffle in early May.
- Though current theatre of military tension also includes Galwan Valley, Demchok and Daulat Beg Oldie, the focus of the India-China border dispute is likely to be on Pangong Tso.
- Pangong means conclave in Ladakhi and Tso means a lake in Tibetan language
- The Pangong Lake is about 135 km long, situated at over 14,000 feet.
- The Line of Actual Control (LAC) – the line that separates Indian and Chinese troops since 1962– generally runs along the land and through the waters of Pangong Tso.
- Both sides have marked their areas announcing which side belongs to which country — in English, Hindi and Mandarin.
- India controls about 45 km stretch of the Pangong Tso and China the rest.
Current site of confrontation:
- The current site of confrontation is spurs extended out of Chang Chenmo, an eastern extension of the Karakoram Range.
- These spurs are called fingers and there are eight of them in contention here.
- India and China have different understanding of where the LAC passes through.
- India has maintained that the LAC passes through Finger 8, which has been the site of the final military post of China.
- India has been patrolling the area – mostly on foot because of the nature of the terrain – up to Finger 8.
- But Indian forces have not had active control beyond Finger 4.
- China, says the LAC passes through Finger 2.
- It has been patrolling up to Finger 4– mostly in light vehicles, and at times up to Finger 2.
- The confrontation that took place in May happened at Finger 5.
- And, the current theatre of eye-to-eye confrontation is Finger 2, where the bloodshed happened recently.
- Traditionally, China has been staking claim up to Finger 4, which is where Chinese troops had made advances in 2017 during the Doklam standoff.
- It was Finger 4 where China demolished a permanent structure it had built in 2014-15 after the Indian side strongly objected to such construction.
- The demolition by China underlined mutual understanding that it was on the Indian side of the territorial control.
- However, the latest Chinese move is part of its long-term strategy to gain greater control of the area.
- Pangong Tso is strategically crucial as it is very close to Chusul Valley, which was one of the battlefronts between India and China during the 1962 war.
- China appears to keep India constricted in the region by taking strategic advantage of looking over the Chusul Valley, which it can do if it advances along Pangong Tso.
- China does not want India to boost its infrastructure anywhere near the LAC.
- China fears it threatens its occupation of Aksai Chin and Lhasa-Kashgar highway.
- Any threat to this highway also stall Chinese rather imperialist plans in Pakistan-occupied territories in Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir, and beyond in Pakistan.
- The current impulses seem to be guided by India’s construction of 255 km Daulat Beg Oldie-Darbuk-Shayok road.
- It extends up to the base of the Karakoram Pass, which is the last military post.
Daulat Beg Oldie:
- Daulat Beg Oldie is the highest airfield in the world. This road, when complete, will reduce the travel time from Leh to Daulat Beg Oldie from two days to six hours.
- India has speeden up its construction of the road which became the reason for fresh face-off along the LAC.
[Ref: India Today]
Variankunnathu Kunjahammed Haji
A row has erupted in Kerala over a movie project based on the life of Variankunnathu Kunjahammed Haji.
Who is Haji?
- Variankunnathu Kunjahammed Haji was a leader of the 1921 Malabar rebellion who was executed by the British regime.
- A section in Kerala hail Haji as a leader who laid down his life for the nation fighting British colonialism.
- Hindu rightwing groups claim he was a leader of fanatics who targeted Hindus in Eranadu and Valluvanadu taluks in south Malabar in 1921.
- Left historians in the state have argued that the Malabar rebellion should be seen as a peasant struggle against the Hindu feudal landlords in the region.
- But the matter is still being debated in Kerala society on the nature of rebellion– whether it is an anti-colonial movement that took a communal turn or merely an action by religious fanatics.
Malabar/Moplah Rebellion of 1921:
- The Moplahs are a band of fanatic Muslims who have descended from the Arabs who settled in the Malabar Coast in about the 8th or 9th century A.D.
- The Mopla revolt refers to the British-Muslim and Hindu-Muslim conflict in Kerala that occurred in 1921.
- Hike in revenue demand and reduction of field size, coupled with the oppression of officials, resulted in widespread peasant unrest among the Moplahs of Malabar.
- The Moplahs were organised by the Congress and the Khilafat supporters during the Non-cooperation Movement.
- The leaders of the Khilafat and Non-cooperation Movement like Gandhi, Shaukat Ali and Maulana Azad addressed Moplah meetings.
- After the arrest of national leaders, the leadership passed into the hands of local Mappila leaders.
Reason for the failure:
- The arrest of respected priest leader, Ali Musaliar, sparked off large-scale riots and things turned worse in 1921.
- Initially, the targets were the symbols of British authority: courts, police stations, treasuries and offices and unpopular landlords (who were mostly Hindus).
- But soon the movement which started as an anti-government and anti-landlord affair acquired communal colour.
- The Hindu-Muslim differences distanced the Congress and the Moplahs from each other.
- The communalization of the rebellion completed the isolation of the Mopla from the Khilafat and Non-Cooperation Movement.
- By December 1921, all the resistance had come to a stop.
- The year 2021 will be the 100th-year anniversary of the Malabar uprising.
Science & Technology
Detection of ﬂuorine in hot Extreme Helium Stars
A study by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics detected the presence of singly ionised ﬂuorine for the first time in the atmospheres of hot Extreme Helium Stars.
- It suggests that the main formation of these objects involves a merger of a carbon-oxygen (CO) and a Helium (He) white dwarf.
Extreme Helium Star:
- An extreme helium star or EHe is a low-mass supergiant that is almost devoid of hydrogen, the most common chemical element of the universe.
- There are 21 of them detected so far in our galaxy.
- The origin and evolution of these Hydrogen deficient objects is full of mystery.
- Their severe chemical peculiarities challenge the theory of well-accepted stellar evolution as the observed chemical composition of these stars do not match with that predicted for low mass evolved stars.
- The Stars like our sun fuse hydrogen in their cores into helium.
- White dwarfs are stars that have burned up all of the hydrogen they once used as nuclear fuel.
- Fusion in a star’s core produces heat and outward pressure, but this pressure is kept in balance by the inward push of gravity generated by a star’s mass.
- When the hydrogen used as fuel vanishes, and fusion slows, gravity causes the star to collapse in on itself.
- The smaller stars—those up to eight times as massive as our own sun—typically become white dwarfs when they reach the end of their long evolutions.
- They are incredibly dense and typically have a radius just .01 times that of our own sun, but their mass is about the same.
Key Fact for Prelims
- Union government has made it mandatory for all sellers on the Government e-Marketplace (GeM) to list the Country of Origin while registering new products.
- GeM is a 100% Government owned Company set up as the National Public Procurement Portal for procurement of goods and services required by Central and State Government organizations.
- It provides an online solution for procurement of goods and services for all Central Government and State Government Ministries, Departments, Public Sector Enterprises (PSEs), local bodies and autonomous organisations.
Shyama Prasad Mukherjee
- Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was a politician, and lawyer who is known for being the founder of the organisation Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the predecessor of the present ruling party in India, the Bharatiya Janata Party.
- At the age of 33, he was offered the post of the Vice-Chancellor of the Calcutta University, the youngest person yet to hold that title.
- Mukherjee demanded the partition of Bengal in 1946 to prevent the inclusion of its Hindu-majority areas in a Muslim-dominated East Pakistan.
- In 1951, he founded the Bharatiya Jana Sangh after consultation with MS Golwalkar of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, with the objective of culturally uniting all the Hindus.
Kutchi New Year
- Kutchi New Year is celebrated on the second day of Ashadh, known as Ashadhi bij.
- Ashadhi bij is an auspicious day for farming communities in North India especially Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and some other places.
- This is small festival celebrated to predict the monsoon.
- During Ashadhi Bij, farmers check the moisture in the atmosphere to help predict which crop would be the best one in coming monsoon.
- This is to note that on Ashadi Beej day, Rath Yatra is celebrated all over the world.
- The Puri Jagannath Rathyatra and Ahmedabad Rathyatra are the two very famous Rathyatra events in India.
Beidou Navigation Satellite System
- China launched the final satellite in its Beidou constellation on board Long March-3 rocket.
- The third satellite of the Beidou Navigation Satellite System promises to provide global coverage for timing and navigation, offering an alternative to Russia’s GLONASS and the European Galileo systems, as well as America’s GPS.
- The first version of Beidou, meaning Big Dipper, was decommissioned in 2012.
Lone wolf attack
- The term lone wolf is used by US law enforcement agencies and the media to refer to individuals undertaking violent acts of terrorism outside a command structure.
- Lone wolf attacks, in which extremist individuals translate their beliefs into violent actions, are hard to detect and prevent.
- Indonesia’s Mount Merapi has erupted twice recently.
- Mount Merapi is an active stratovolcano located on the border between Central Java and Yogyakarta provinces, Indonesia.
- It is the most active volcano in Indonesia and has erupted regularly since 1548.
- It is situated at a subduction zone, where the Indo-Australian Plate is subducting under the Sunda Plate.
- It is one of at least 129 active volcanoes in Indonesia, part of the volcano is located in the Southeastern part of the Pacific Ring of Fire.