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Current Affair Analysis

25th July 2019 Current Affairs Analysis -IASToppers

Lightning: how does it strike?;Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill 2019; Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana; The Code on Wages Bill, 2019; Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP); Generic medicines; Pradhan Mantri Laghu Vyapari Maan-dhan Yojana; National Institute of Miners' Health (NIMH); National Institute of Occupational Health; Colistin; Pocket-sized, glow-in-the-dark shark species; Dracaena cambodiana; 'FASTag lanes'; 'Sonali'; UKEIRI Mobility Programme: Study in India; etc.
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
July 25, 2019

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Cabinet approves amalgamation of NIMH with ICMR-National Institute of Occupational Health

Government Schemes & Policies

  • Centre notifies pension scheme for small traders
  • The Code on Wages Bill, 2019 Introduced in Lok Sabha
  • Generic Medicines Stores
  • Lok Sabha passes anti-terror bill amid Opposition concerns over misuse

Issues related to Health & Education

  • Colistin banned in animal food industry

Economy

  • Government says India lost less than 400 industrial jobs in 2018

Geophysical Phenomena

  • How lightning strikes, and why it kills

Science & Technology

  • All lanes at toll plazas to be ‘FASTag lanes’ from December 1
  • Pocket-sized, glow-in-the-dark shark species discovered by scientists

Key Facts for Prelims

  • UKEIRI Mobility Programme: Study in India
  • India’s first dragon blood-oozing tree
  • ‘Sonali’

For IASToppers Current Affairs Analysis Archive, Click Here

Polity & Governance

Cabinet approves amalgamation of NIMH with ICMR-National Institute of Occupational Health 

The Union Cabinet has approved to dissolve National Institute of Miners’ Health (NIMH)and merge with ICMR-National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH), Ahmedabad, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.

New Code on Wages2 IASToppers

Impact:     

  • The merger of NIMH with NIOH will prove beneficial to both the Institutes in term of enhanced expertise in the field of occupational health besides the efficient management of public money.

Cabinet approves merger amalgamation of NIMH with ICMR- NIOH IASToppers

About National Institute of Miners’ Health (NIMH)

  • NIMH was set up by Government of India in 1990 and registered as a Society under the Karnataka Societies Registration Act, 1960.
  • The registered office of NIMH is located at Karnataka and the Central Laboratory in Nagpur.
  • The Institute conducts applied research in occupational health and hygiene and specializes in providing technical support services to mining and mineral based industry with special reference to metalliferous sector.

About National Institute of Occupational Health

  • National Institute of Occupational Health is a premier public health institute, which was established in 1966 as Occupational Health Research Institute (OHRI) was later renamed as National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH).
  • It has two region centers at Bangalore & Kolkata.
  • The Institute functions as a WHO Collaborative and Reference Centre for Occupational Health.

Objectives:

  • To promote intensive research to evaluate environmental stresses/factors at the workplace.
  • To promote the highest quality of occupational health through fundamental and applied research.
  • To develop control technologies and health programmes through basic and fundamental research and to generate human resources in the field.

Background:

  • The need for research in Occupational Health in India was first appreciated by Indian Research Fund Association (IRFA), the forerunner of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
  • IRFA set up an Industrial Health Advisory Committee (IHAC) under the chairmanship of Col. Bozman in 1945.
  • As per the recommendations of this Committee, in 1947, an Industrial Health Research Unit was created at the All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health, Calcutta.
  • In 1956, the IHAC recommended to the Government of India that priority should be given for the establishment of an Institute of Occupational Health Research during the Second Five Year Plan.
  • As a result, the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH), Ahmedabad was established.
[Ref: PIB, The Hindu]

 

Government Schemes & Policies

Centre notifies pension scheme for small traders

The Centre’s pension scheme for small traders named ‘Pradhan Mantri Laghu Vyapari Maan-dhan Yojana’ 2019 has been notified and is being introduced on a trial basis.

Pension scheme for small retail traders and shopkeepers 1 IASToppers

About the Pradhan Mantri Laghu Vyapari Maan-dhan Yojana:

  • The scheme gives the subscribers ₹3,000 a month after they turn 60, once they have contributed to the scheme every month from the time of enrolment and till that age.
  • The Central Government will make matching contribution (same amount as subscriber contribution) i.e. equal amount as subsidy into subscriber’s pension account every month.
  • For example, an 18-year-old would have to pay ₹55 a month, while a 40-year-old would need to pay ₹200 a month.
  • The scheme is based on self-declaration as no documents are required except bank account and Aadhaar Card.

Eligibility:

Pension scheme for small retail traders and shopkeepers1 IASToppers

  • Small traders between 18 and 40 years of age, having an annual turnover of less than ₹1.5 crore would qualify to apply for the scheme.
  • Applicants should not be covered under the National Pension Scheme, Employees’ State Insurance Scheme and the Employees’ Provident Fund or be an Income Tax assessee.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

The Code on Wages Bill, 2019 Introduced in Lok Sabha

The Minister of State (I/C) for Labour and Employment introduced The Code on Wages Bill, 2019 in Lok Sabha to amend and consolidate the laws relating to wages and bonus and matters connected therewith.

New Code on Wages4 IASToppers

Highlights of Code on Wages 2019:

  • The Code on Wages, 2019 seeks to regulate wage and bonus payments in all employments where any industry, trade, business, or manufacture is carried out. 
  • The Code replaces the following four laws: (i) the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, (ii) the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, (iii) the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965, and (iv) the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.

New Code on Wages3 IASToppers

Coverage

  • The Code will apply to all employees.  The central government will make wage-related decisions for employments such as railways, mines, and oil fields, among others. State governments will make decisions for all other employments.

Floor wage

  • The central government will fix a floor wage, taking into account living standards of workers. Further, it may set different floor wages for different geographical areas. 

Fixing the minimum wage: 

  • The Code prohibits employers from paying wages less than the minimum wages.  Minimum wages will be notified by the central or state governments. 
  • The minimum wages will be reviewed at an interval of not more than five years.  While fixing minimum wages, the central or state governments may take into account factors such as: (i) skill of workers, and (ii) difficulty of work.

Overtime: 

  • The central or state government may fix the number of hours that constitute a normal working day. 
  • In case employees work in excess of a normal working day, they will be entitled to overtime wage which must be at least twice the normal rate of wages.   

Deductions: 

  • Under the Code, an employee’s wages may be deducted on certain grounds including fines, absence from duty etc. which should not exceed 50% of the employee’s total wage.

Determination of bonus: 

  • All employees whose wages do not exceed a specific monthly amount will be entitled to an annual bonus. 
  • The bonus will be at least: (i) 8.33% of his wages, or (ii) Rs 100, whichever is higher. 

Gender discrimination: 

  • The Code prohibits gender discrimination in matters related to wages and recruitment of employees for the same work or work of similar nature. 

Advisory boards: 

  • The central and state governments will constitute advisory boards. One-third of the total members on both the Boards will be women. 
  • The Boards will advise the respective governments on various issues including: (i) fixation of minimum wages, and (ii) increasing employment opportunities for women.

Offences: 

  • The Code specifies penalties for offences committed by an employer, such as (i) paying less than the due wages, or (ii) for contravening any provision of the Code, with the maximum penalty being imprisonment for three months along with a fine of up to one lakh rupees. 

Background:

  • In India, labour is included in the concurrent list which implies that both the central government and state governments can make laws regarding this subject.
  • Currently, there are over 40 state and central laws regulating various aspects of labour such as resolution of industrial disputes, working conditions in factories, and wage and bonus payments.

New Code on Wages1IASToppers

  • The Second National Commission on Labour (2002) had recommended that existing labour laws should be classified into broader groups for easier compliance, such as (i) industrial relations, (ii) wages, (iii) social security, (iv) safety, and (v) welfare and working conditions. This would also allow for uniformity in the coverage of various labour laws that are in force.
  • In this context, the Code on Wages, 2017 was introduced in Lok Sabha in 2017 which seeks to regulate wage and bonus payments in all employments where any industry, trade, business or manufacturing is carried on.

Significance of Code on Wage 2019:

  • It universalizes the provisions of minimum wages and timely payment of wages to all employees irrespective of the sector and wage ceiling.
  • It simplifies the definition of wages.
  • It seeks to increase the legislative protection of minimum wage to 100 per cent of the workforce.
  • At present, many States have multiple minimum wages. The Code fixes the minimum wages by doing away with ‘type of employment’ as a criterion. Rather, the minimum wage will be fixed primarily based on geography and skills.

Key Issues and Analysis:

  • Central government may set a national minimum wage. Further, it may set separate national minimum wages for different states or regions. In this context, two questions arise: (i) the rationale for a national minimum wage, and (ii) whether the central government should set one or multiple national minimum wages.
  • States have to ensure that minimum wages set by them are not lower than the national minimum wage. If existing minimum wages set by states are higher than the national minimum wage, they cannot reduce the minimum wages. This may affect the ability of states to reduce their minimum wages if the national minimum wage is lowered.
  • The time period for revising minimum wages will be set at five years. Currently, state governments have flexibility in revising minimum wages, as long as it is not more than five years. It is unclear why this flexibility has been removed, and five years has been set for revision.
  • The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, prohibits employers from discriminating in wage payments as well as recruitment of employees based on gender. While the Code prohibits gender discrimination on wage-related matters, it does not include provisions regarding discrimination during recruitment.

Criticisms:

  • It de-links the process of fixing the minimum wage from a scientific calorie-based formula and allows the Centre to ‘arbitrarily’ fix the wage.
  • Without the complain of ‘appropriate authority’ as described in bill, no court can take cognisance of any offence under the proposed legislation. The government ignored suggestions of the Standing Committee with regard to strengthening this enforcement mechanism.
  • The use of the term ‘Facilitator’ instead of ‘Inspector’ in the Code restricts the inspection which is the lifeline of enforcement. The word ‘Facilitator’ should be substituted by ‘Inspector’. However, the bill used the term ‘Inspector-cum-facilitator’.
  • The Code lacked consistency in its use of both ‘worker’ and ‘employee’ terms and underlined that since minimum wage is a matter of right for every working person, a common definition of the employee/worker needs to be given in the Code. However, in the Bill retained the definition as it is.
[Ref: PIB, PRS India, The Hindu]

 

Generic Medicines Stores 

Under Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP), more than 5000 dedicated retail outlets selling affordable generic medicines are functional in India.

Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP2 IASToppersPradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP)

Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP 3 IASToppers

  • It was launched by the Department of Pharmaceuticals in November 2008 under the name Jan Aushadi Campaign.
  • Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India (BPPI) is the implementation agency for PMBJP.

Objective:

  • Making quality medicines available at affordable prices for all, particularly the poor and disadvantaged, through exclusive outlets “Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras”, so as to reduce out of pocket expenses in healthcare.

Mission:

  • Create awareness among the public regarding generic medicines.
  • Create demand for generic medicines through medical practitioners.
  • Provide all the commonly used generic medicines covering all the therapeutic groups.
  • Provide all the related health care products too under the scheme.

Key Features of Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras:

  • State Governments or any organization / reputed NGOs / Trusts / Private hospitals / Charitable institutions / Doctors / Unemployed pharmacist/ individual entrepreneurs are eligible to apply for Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras.
  • Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras can be located within Government hospital premises as well as Private hospital premises or anywhere outside.
  • In addition to medicines and surgical items supplied by BPPI, Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras is allowed to sell allied medical products commonly sold in chemist shops.
  • An amount of Rs. 2.5 lakhs are extended to entities establishing Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras in Government hospital premises where space is provided free of cost by Government to operating agency.

What are Generic medicines?

Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP1 IASToppers

  • Medicines are usually available under two names: a generic name and a brand name.
  • Generic medicines are unbranded medicines which are equally safe as that of branded medicines in terms of their therapeutic value. However, there is no definition of generic or branded medicines under the Drugs & Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Rules, 1945 made thereunder.
  • In other words, they are drugs which have the same chemical composition as branded drugs are and sold under their chemical name. For example, Paracetamol, a painkiller, is the generic name for branded drugs like Crocin and Calpol.
  • The prices of generic medicines are much cheaper than their branded equivalent.

How are they regulated in India?

  • Drugs manufactured in the country, irrespective of whether they are generic or branded, are required to comply with the same standards as prescribed in the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Rules, 1945 made thereunder for their quality.

Trend of branded generic drugs:

  • In the USA, when a new drug is launched only the company that holds the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) patent are legally allowed to sell the drug, thus giving them market monopoly.
  • In India, however, there were no patent laws till 2005 which meant that anyone could replicate any drug in India without legal ramifications. This led to the trend of branded generic drugs which has 99.5% of the country’s generic drug share.

What is ‘Branded generics’?

  • In 2005, there was only process patents and product patents. Under process patent, pharmaceutical companies can produce a drug molecule by a different process and market it as a brand of their choice hence there are several brands of the same drug molecule available in the market.
  • They are not brands in true sense, as they are not marketed by the innovator. Hence they are called ‘branded generics’.

Why aren’t generic drugs more popular?

  • Distinct lack of awareness about them.
  • Since they are cheap, people who can afford branded drugs don’t buy them believing them to be of inferior quality.
  • Most of the private doctors never hand out generic drugs because there are no incentives involved from pharma companies.
[Ref: PIB]

 

Lok Sabha passes anti-terror bill amid Opposition concerns over misuse

The Lok Sabha passed the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill 2019, in a move that gives a big push to India’s internal security machinery.

Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019 IASToppers 1

Objective:

  • The objective of the proposed amendments is to facilitate speedy investigation and prosecution of terror offences and designating an individual as terrorist in line with the international practices.

Key Amendments of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill 2019:

  • The Bill amends the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
  • The Act assigns absolute power to the central government, by way of which if the Centre deems an activity as unlawful then it may, by way of an Official Gazette, declare it so.

Who may commit terrorism:

Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019 IASToppers

  • Under the Act, the central government may designate an organisation as a terrorist organisation if it: (i) commits or participates in acts of terrorism, (ii) prepares for terrorism, (iii) promotes terrorism, or (iv) is otherwise involved in terrorism.
  • The act has no provision to designate individual terrorist. Therefore, when a terrorist organization is banned, its members form a new organization.
  • The Bill empowers the government to designate individuals as terrorists on the same grounds.

Approval for seizure of property by National Investigation Agency (NIA):

  • Under the Act, an investigating officer is required to obtain the prior approval of the Director General of Police (DGP) to seize properties that may be connected with terrorism.
  • However, many times terror accused own properties in different states. In such cases, seeking approval of DGPs of different states becomes very difficult and the delay caused by the same may enable the accused to transfer properties.
  • The amendment empowers Director General of NIA to forfeit a property which represents proceeds of terrorism in relation to an investigation being conducted by NIA.

Investigation by NIA:

  • Under the Act, investigation of cases may be conducted by officers of the rank of Deputy Superintendent or Assistant Commissioner of Police or above.
  • Due to the shortages of Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSPs) facing by NIA, the Bill additionally empowers the officers of the NIA, of the rank of Inspector or above, to investigate cases.

Insertion to schedule of treaties:

  • The Act defines terrorist acts to include acts committed within the scope of any of the treaties listed in a schedule to the Act. The Schedule lists nine treaties, including the Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings (1997), and the Convention against Taking of Hostages (1979). 
  • The Bill adds another treaty of International Convention for Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (2005).

Criticisms:

  • The law can be misused by governments in future as there is no processes in place under which misuse cannot happen.
  • The critics asked that if these amendments can stop the terrorist attacks like Pulwama or Pathankot attacks.

Background:

  • The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) was passed in 1967 under the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
  • UAPA is the purified version of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) which was allowed to lapse in 1995 and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) that was repealed in 2004.
  • Eventually amendments were brought in under the successive United Progressive Alliance (UPA) governments in 2004, 2008 and 2013.
[Ref: PIB, Live Mint]

 

Issues related to Health & Education

Colistin banned in animal food industry

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has issued an order prohibiting the manufacture, sale and distribution of colistin and its formulations for food-producing animals, poultry, aqua farming and animal feed supplements.

Colistin banned in animal food industry IASToppers

What is Colistin?

  • Colistin, also known as polymyxin E, is an antibiotic produced by certain strains of the bacteria Paenibacillus polymyxa.
  • It is a valuable, last-resort antibiotic that saves lives in critical care units.
  • It is also used for therapeutic purpose in veterinary.

Need:

  • In recent years, medical professionals have been alarmed by the number of patients who have exhibited resistance to the Colistin. In other words, Colistin is not treating the patients as it is intendent to do.
  • Colistin drug is highly misused in poultry industry as a growth promoter for prophylactic purpose (intended to prevent disease). One of the reason for antibiotic resistance in India is due to unwanted use of Colistin in poultry industry.
  • Moreover, it was brought to the notice of the Central government that the use of the drug Colistin and its formulations for food producing animals, poultry, aqua farming and animal feed supplements is likely to involve risk to human beings.

What is an antibiotic?

  • Antibiotics, also known as antimicrobial drugs, are drugs that fight infections caused by bacteria in both humans and animals.
  • Antibiotics fight these infections either by killing the bacteria or making it difficult for the bacteria to grow and multiply.
  • Antibiotics only treat certain bacterial infections. Antibiotics do not have any effect on viruses.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Economy

Government says India lost less than 400 industrial jobs in 2018

Minister of state for labour and employment told that 386 jobs were lost in the country due to closure of industries.

 

Steps taken by Government for generating employment

  • Encouraging private sector of economy
  • Fast tracking various projects involving substantial investment and increasing public expenditure on schemes such as
  • Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP),
  • Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS),
  • Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY), and
  • Deendayal Antodaya Yojana-National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM)

About Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana

  • The Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) announced the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY) in 2014.
  • It was launched on the occasion on the birth anniversary of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya (25 September).

Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana or DDU-GKY1 IASToppers

  • DDU-GKY is a part of the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM), tasked with the dual objectives of adding diversity to the incomes of rural poor families and cater to the career aspirations of rural youth.
  • It provides funding support for placement linked skilling projects that address the market demand with funding support up to Rs. 1 lakh per person.

Features of Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana:

Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana or DDU-GKY 2 IASToppers

  • Enable Poor and Marginalized to Access Benefits: Demand led skill training at no cost to the rural poor
  • Inclusive Program Design: Mandatory coverage of socially disadvantaged groups (SC/ST 50%; Minority 15%; Women 33%)
  • Shifting Emphasis from Training to Career Progression: Pioneers in providing incentives for job retention, career progression and foreign placements
  • Greater Support for Placed Candidates: Post-placement support, migration support and alumni network
  • Proactive Approach to Build Placement Partnerships: Guaranteed Placement for at least 75% trained candidates
  • Regional Focus: Greater emphasis on projects for poor rural youth in Jammu and Kashmir (HIMAYAT), The North-East region and 27 Left-Wing Extremist (LWE) districts (ROSHINI)
  • Standards-led Delivery: All program activities are subject to Standard Operating Procedures that are not open to interpretation by local inspectors.

Beneficiary Eligibility

  • Rural Youth:15 – 35 Yrs
  • SC/ST/Women/ Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG)/ Persons with Disabilities (PWD): upto 45 Yrs
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Geophysical Phenomena

How lightning strikes, and why it kills

29 people have been killed by lightning over the past 2 days in Bihar.

lightning strikes 2 IASToppers

How common are deaths by lightning?

  • Lightning is the biggest contributor to accidental deaths due to natural causes.
  • It is more common in the urban areas. As a whole, India sees 2,000-2,500 lightning deaths every year on average.
  • Incidents of lightning have been showing an increasing trend over the last 20 years especially near the Himalayan foothills.

Study of Lightning in India

  • Lightning remains among the least studied atmospheric phenomena in the country.
  • Only scientists at the Indian Institute of Tropical Management (IITM) in Pune works full-time on thunderstorms and lightning.
  • Occurrences of lightning are not tracked in India and there is simply not enough data for scientists to work with.
  • Often, safety measures and precautions against lightning strikes do not receive as much attention as other natural disasters such as earthquakes.

What is lightning and how does it strike?

lightning and how IASToppers Currents Affairs Analysis

  • Lightning is a very rapid discharge of electricity in the atmosphere some of which is directed towards the Earth’s surface.
  • The base of these clouds typically lies within 1-2 km of the Earth’s surface, while their top is 12-13 km away. Temperatures towards the top of these clouds are in the range of minus 35 to minus 45 degrees Celsius.
  • As water vapour moves upward in the cloud, the falling temperature causes it to Heat is generated in the process, which pushes the molecules of water further up.
  • As they move to temperatures below zero degrees celsius, the water droplets change into small ice crystals.
  • They continue to move up, gathering mass until they are so heavy that they start to fall to Earth.
  • This leads to a system in which, simultaneously, smaller ice crystals are moving up and bigger crystals are coming down.
  • This results in collisions among waster crystal which triggers the release of electrons, a process that is very similar to the generation of sparks of electricity. As the moving free electrons cause more collisions and more electrons, a chain reaction ensues.
  • This process results in a situation in which the top layer of the cloud gets positively charged, while the middle layer is negatively charged.
  • An enormous amount of heat is produced and this leads to the heating of the air column between the two layers of the cloud. This heat gives the air column a reddish appearance during lightning. As the heated air column expands, it produces shock waves that result in thunder.

How does this current reach the Earth from the cloud?

lightning strikes IASToppers

  • While the Earth is a good conductor of electricity, it is electrically neutral.
  • The majority of lightning happens within the cloud due to the attraction between positive and negative charges.
  • If the surface of the Earth becomes intensely positively charged, then the attraction between negative charges in the base of the cloud and positive charges on the surface of the Earth have the ability to cause cloud to ground lightning.
  • There is a greater probability of lightning striking tall objects such as trees, towers or buildings. This happens because air is a poor conductor of electricity, and electrons that are travelling through air seek both a better conductor and the shortest route to the relatively positively charged Earth’s surface.

How does lightning affect people?

  • People are most commonly struck by what are called ground currents’.
  • The electrical energy from lightening, after hitting a large object (such as a tree) on Earth spreads laterally on the ground for some distance and people in this area receive electrical shocks.
  • It becomes more dangerous if the ground is wet or if there is metal or other conducting material on it.
[Ref: Indian Express]

 

Science & Technology 

All lanes at toll plazas to be ‘FASTag lanes’ from December 1

The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has decided to declare all lanes in all toll fee plazas on national highways across the country as dedicated ‘FASTag lanes’ from 1st of December 2019.

  • The decision has been taken in order to promote faster payment of fees through the digital mode so that vehicles can move through seamlessly, and traffic jams at the toll plazas can be prevented.

What is FASTag?

FASTag is an electronic toll collection system in India, operated by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.

What is FASTag IASToppers

  • FASTag is a simple to use, reloadable tag which enables automatic deduction of toll charges and lets you pass through the toll plaza without stopping for the cash transaction.
  • The tag employs Radio-frequency Identification (RFID) technology and is affixed on the vehicle’s windscreen after the tag account is active.
  • FASTag is a perfect solution for a hassle free trip on national highways.
  • FASTag offers near non-stop movement of vehicles through toll plazas and convenience of cashless payments of toll fee with nationwide inter operable Electronic Toll Collection Services. 
  • FASTag is operational on more than 325 toll plazas on National Highways across the country.

FASTag IASToppers

Benefits of FASTag:

  • Use of FASTag shall increase user convenience from payments without stops at toll plazas thus saving on time, money and fuel. 
  • The online payments shall improve transparency of toll transactions and reduce revenue leakages, thus, improving overall efficiency and commercial competitiveness.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Pocket-sized, glow-in-the-dark shark species discovered by scientists

A pocket-sized shark found was found in the Gulf of Mexico that squirt little glowing clouds into the ocean.

American pocket shark, or Mollisquama mississippiensis IASToppers

About the newly found pocket-sized shark:

  • The newly pocket sized shark has been found from the Gulf of Mexico which glows in the dark.
  • The reason this shark is able to glow in the dark is due to having glands that produce bioluminescent fluid in a little pocket right behind its fins. It also has light-producing organs called photophores dotted all over its body.
  • This shark also has clusters of light-emitting cells dotted on its belly.
  • The pocket shark was first discovered back in 1979 off the Chilean coast, but it then didn’t reappear until 2010 in the central Gulf of Mexico.
  • In the history of fisheries science, only two pocket sharks have ever been reported. Those are previously known pocket shark and the taillight shark which has a similar gland near its tail.
  • The researcher believes that luminescence might conceal the shark from prey or from predators.

Bioluminescence in fish

  • According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), around 90 percent of species living in open water have bioluminescent functions.
  • Bioluminescent uses differ, some work to attract potential mates, others as snares to entrap their prey, and some to warn off toothy predators.
[Ref: Hindustan Times]

 

Key Facts for Prelims

UKEIRI Mobility Programme: Study in India

UKEIRI-Mobility sonali IASToppers

  • It is a new India-UK bilateral pilot scheme launched recently.
  • It aims to support Britain’s universities to collaborate with Indian partners to send UK students to India during their studies.
  • It is an initiative of Universities UK International (UUKI) and British Council India.

 

India’s first dragon blood-oozing tree

Assam has added to India’s botanical wealth a plant that yields a bright red resin used since ancient times as medicine, body oil, varnish, incense and dye.

Dracaena cambodiana IASTopppers

About Dracaena cambodiana

  • Dracaena cambodiana is a dragon tree species. Dracaena is a genus of about 120 species of trees and succulent shrubs.
  • It was found first time in India in the Dongka Sarpo area of West Karbi Anglong district of Assam.
  • In India, the Dracaena genus belonging to the family Asparagaceae is represented by nine species and two varieties in the Himalayan region, the northeast and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. But Dracaena cambodiana is the only true dragon tree species in India.
  • The Dracaena seeds are usually dispersed by birds. But due to the large fruit size, only a few species of birds are able to swallow the fruits, thus limiting the scope of its natural conservation.

Uses of Dracaena cambodiana:

  • It is an important medicinal plant as well as an ornamental tree.
  • Several antifungal and antibacterial compounds, antioxidants, flavonoids, etc., have been extracted from various parts of the plant.
  • It is a major source of dragon’s blood, a precious traditional medicine in China.
  • However, recent overexploitation to meet the increasing demand for dragon’s blood has resulted in rapid depletion of the plant.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

‘Sonali’

  • Scientists in Bangladesh have developed a method to convert Jute fibre into low-cost bio-degradable cellulose sheets named ‘Sonali’ which can be used as wrapping material and carrying bag. 

sonali_bag2 IASToppers

  • The physical qualities of the invented jute fibre and plastic are quite similar.
  • The Eco-friendly jute poly bags made up of Sonali can be used in garments and food packaging work and they are not harmful for human health.
  • Government of Bangladesh has approved huge amount from its climate change fund to help in large-scale production of these bags.

Key facts:

  • Bangladesh is world’s 2nd biggest producer of jute after India.

 

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