Current Affairs Analysis

25th July 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

India-Russia Joint Technology Assessment and Accelerated Commercialization Programme; Siddi community; Panchayat funds to be audited online; AuditOnline; Kumhar Sashaktikaran Yojana; National Bee Board (NBB); National Beekeeping and Honey Mission (NBHM); Seaweed outperform Remdesivir; Currency swap; Central Water Commission (CWC); SCO Digital Meet; Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCORadio-frequency identification (RFID); World’s first electrified rail tunnel;etc.
By IASToppers
July 25, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • First legislature representative for Siddi community
  • Panchayat funds to be audited online

Government Schemes & Policies

  • Distribution of electric potter wheels to artisans
  • Honey Testing Lab inaugurated in Gujarat

Issues related to Health & Education

  • Extracts from seaweed outperform Remdesivir

Economy

  • RBI signs $400 mn currency swap facility for Sri Lanka

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • India’s reservoirs have 155% more water than last year

Bilateral & International Relations

  • SCO Health Minister’s Digital Meet
  • India-Russia Joint Technology Assessment and Accelerated Commercialization Programme

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Radio-frequency identification
  • World’s first electrified rail tunnel

For IASToppers Current Affairs Analysis Archive, Click Here

Polity & Governance

First legislature representative for Siddi community

The state government in Karnataka has nominated Shantaram Budna Siddi as a Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) recently.

Major Highlights:

  • With the nomination, the backward Siddi community has got its first representative in the State legislature.
  • Shantaram is the first graduate from the Siddi community, has been working among tribal communities in the State for the past three decades.
  • There are around 50,000 Siddis, descendants of African people, in Karnataka.
  • Considering their low numbers, the Siddis have never managed to get a political representative elected directly.
  • They have been racially discriminated in the past and have historically not been part of mainstream society.

Siddi Community:

  • Siddi Tribe in Karnataka mainly lives in Dharwad, Belagavi and Uttar Kannada districts.
  • Classified under the list of Scheduled Tribes by the union government in 2003.
  • The economically and socially backwards community is included in Centre’s list of Particularly Vulnerable Trial Groups (PVTGs).
  • They were dependent on hunting and gathering traditionally, but at present, their main source of livelihood is labour and agriculture.
  • Believed to be of African origin as they clearly show the Negroid racial strain in their physical features.
  • Records show that Africans came to India as soldiers and as slaves.
  • Many of these slaves were freed in the 18th century and it is speculated that they found their way to the jungles in today’s north-west Karnataka.
[Ref: The Hindu; Frontline]

Panchayat funds to be audited online

The Ministry of Panchayati Raj has decided to conduct an online audit of 20% of the estimated 2.5 lakh gram panchayats across in India for the financial year 2019-20.

Major Highlights:

  • There will be an online audit of 20 % of the estimated 2.5 lakh gram panchayats (GPs) across the country for the financial year 2019-20.
  • The audit will be scaled up to cover all Panchayats across the country in the next financial year 2020-21.
  • The exercise will be conducted through AuditOnline, an application developed by the Ministry is a bid to ensure accountability in the utilisation of funds at the ground level.
  • About 50,000 panchayats can be taken up for online audit during the current year.
  • Their books of accounts for 2019-20 will be audited with a focus on how they used Finance Commission (FC) grants.

Significance:

  • The online audit will ease access to records, can be monitored at district, state and Centre level.
  • Uploading photos of work done and geo-tagging projects will also allow for physical inspection.
  • Online audit, with the option of physical verification, officials said, assumes greater relevance given the pandemic and the lockdown.
  • Anonline audit can be monitored at all level: district-state-Centre.

AuditOnline:

  • AuditOnline is an open-source application developed as part of Panchayat Enterprise Suite (PES) under e-panchayat Mission Mode Project (MMP) initiated by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Government Schemes & Policies

Distribution of electric potter wheels to artisans

Union Home Minister distributed 100 electric potter wheels recently under KVIC’s Kumhar Sashaktikaran Yojana.

Aim:

  • To strengthen the marginalized potters’ community by incorporating technology to improve productivity.
  • To revive the traditional art of pottery.

Major Highlights:

  • The 100 electric potter wheels were distributed to 100 trained artisans under the Kumhar Sashaktikaran Yojana of the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC).
  • This will make their lives easier and also increase their production capacity.
  • Arrangements will be provided for selling of their products, including a tie-up with the Railways and proper marketing channels.

Kumhar Sashaktikaran Yojana:

  • Kumbhar Sashaktikaran Program is an initiative of the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) for the empowerment of potters community in the remotest of locations in the country.
  • The program reaches out to the potters in U.P., M.P., Maharashtra, J&K, Haryana, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Assam, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Telangana and Bihar.

Benefits provided:

This program provides the following support to potters:

  • Training for advanced pottery products.
  • Latest, new technology pottery equipment like electric Chaak.
  • Market linkages and visibility through KVIC exhibitions.

Impact:

  • The average income of potters under the Kumhar Sashaktikaran Yojana has gone up from nearly Rs 3,000 per month to nearly Rs 12,000 per month.
[Ref: PIB]

Honey Testing Lab inaugurated in Gujarat

Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare inaugurated the World Class State of Art Honey Testing Laboratory in Anand, Gujarat with support of National Bee Board.

Major Highlights:

  • The Lab was established by National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) in Anand with support of National Bee Board.
  • It has all the facilities based on the parameters notified by FSSAI and the test methods/protocols developed, have been accredited by National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL).
  • Honey is being adulterated with high fructose corn syrup or rice, tapioca, sugarcane and beet syrup that are cheaper and resemble honey in physico-chemical properties.
  • Honey Testing Laboratory will help in quality production of honey and its export to other countries.

National Bee Board:

  • The National Bee Board is registered as a society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 in 2000 by Small Farmers’ Agri-Business Consortium (SFAC).

        Objectives:

  • The overall development of Beekeeping by promoting Scientific Beekeeping in India to increase the productivity of crops through pollination.
  • Increase the Honey production for increasing the income of the Beekeepers/ Farmers.

National Bee Keeping and Honey Mission:

  • National Beekeeping and Honey Mission is a Central Sector Scheme (100% funded by Central Govt.).
  • It is aimed at overall promotion & development of scientific beekeeping and production of quality honey & other beehive products.
  • National Bee Board under the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare, will be a National Level Nodal Agency for implementation of activities.

Objectives:

  • Growth of the beekeeping industry for income & employment generation
  • Providing livelihood support to farm and non-farm households
  • Empowerment of Women through Beekeeping
  • Setting up of Integrated Beekeeping Development Centres (IBDCs)/ Centres of Excellence (CoEs) on Beekeeping.

Sub-schemes:

NBHM will have following sub-schemes/ three Mini Missions:

  1. Mini Mission-I: Under this, the thrust will be given on production & productivity improvement of various crops through pollination assisted by adoption of scientific beekeeping;
  2. Mini Mission-II: It will concentrate on post-harvest management of beekeeping/ beehive products including collection, processing, storage, marketing, value addition.
  3. Mini Mission-III: It will concentrate on Research & Technology generation for different Regions/ States/ Agro-Climatic and Socio-Economic conditions.

Key Facts:

  • India is among the world’s top five honey producers.
  • Compared to 2005-06 honey production has risen by 242% and exports shot by 265%.
  • The government is promoting Beekeeping as part of its aim to double farmers’ income by 2024.
  • Government has allocated Rs. 500 crore towards Beekeeping under the Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan.
[Ref: PIB; AIR]

Issues related to Health & Education

Extracts from seaweed outperform Remdesivir

  • In a study in mammalian cells, an extract from edible seaweeds was found to outperform Remdesivir in effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2 (Corona virus).

Major Highlights:

  • The new research tested antiviral activity in three variants of heparin (Common blood thinner) and two extracts (RPI-27 and RPI-28) from seaweed.
  • With each compound, the researchers performed a dose-response study on mammalian cells.
  • They compared a value called EC50 (a lower value signals a more potent compound).
  • RPI-27 yielded an EC50 value of about 83 nanomolar, while a similar previous test of remdesivir on the same mammalian cells yielded an EC50 of 770 nanomolar (RPI-27 was, therefore, more potent).
  • Heparin yielded an EC50 2.1 micromolar or about one-third as active as Remdesivir.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Economy

RBI signs $400 mn currency swap facility for Sri Lanka

The Reserve Bank of India has agreed to a $400 million currency swap facility for Sri Lanka till November 2022.

Major Highlights:

  • Sri Lanka owes $960 million to India.
  • Currency swaps are used to obtain foreign currency loans at a better interest rate than could be got by borrowing directly in a foreign market.
  • The RBI’s action follows a recent bilateral technical discussion on rescheduling Colombo’s outstanding debt repayment to India.

What is a currency swap?

  • It is a transaction in which two parties exchange an equivalent amount of money with each other but in different currencies.
  • Currency swaps are often offsetting loans, and the two sides often pay each other interest on amounts exchanged.
  • The purpose is to avoid exposure to exchange-rate risk, to speculate on currency moves, or to reduce the cost of borrowing in a foreign currency.

 [Ref: The Hindu]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

India’s reservoirs have 155% more water than last year

Storage in several of the country’s reservoirs has steadily increased as there is 155 % more water than in 2019.

Major Highlights:

  • There is 119 % more than average storage in the dams at present than in the past 10 years.
  • Data from the Central Water Commission says that live storage available in the reservoirs was at 66.372 billion cubic metres (BCM) or 39 % of total live storage capacity.
  • The central region — including Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh — had the highest live storage (45 per cent) in terms of the capacity of its 19 reservoirs.

Concerns:

  • It is crucial for dam authorities in these states to be vigilant and carefully manage the release of water from the dams and follow the rule curve religiously.
  • The rule curve — is an international practice of dam operation — must be followed by dam management authorities.
  • Any lapse may lead to dam-induced floods, of which there are several instances in the country.
  • The rule curve mentions measures to regulate when and how dams should be filled and emptied.
  • It ensures they are full only towards the end of the monsoon and curbing chances of floods in downstream areas.

Central Water Commission:

  • It is a premier Technical Organization of India in the field of Water Resources.
  • It is presently functioning as an attached office of the Ministry of Jal Shakti, Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Government of India.
  • The work of the Commission is divided among 3 wings: Designs and Research Wing (D&R), Water Planning and Projects Wing (WP&P) and River Management Wing (RM).
  • CWC is headed by a Chairman, with the status of an ex-officio Secretary to the Government of India.

Functions:

  • With the consultation of the concerned State Governments, it initiates, coordinates the schemes for control, conservation and utilization of water resources throughout the country.
  • The schemes are for purpose of Flood Control, Irrigation, Navigation, Drinking Water Supply and Water Power Development.
  • It also undertakes the investigations, construction and execution of any such schemes as required.
[Ref: Down To Earth]

Bilateral & International Relations

SCO Health Minister’s Digital Meet

The Minister of Health and Family Welfare of India digitally participated in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Health Minister’s Digital Meet recently.

Major Highlights:

  • The key topic of discussion was the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
  • India has so far reported 1.25 million cases and more than 30,000 deaths due to COVID.
  • India has one of the world’s lowest infection and death rate at 864 cases per million and less than 21 deaths per million of the population.
  • The recovery rate stands at 63.45% whereas the mortality at 2.3%.
  • It was pointed out that there is no institutional mechanism within SCO to discuss cooperation in Traditional Medicine.
  • It has the potential to fulfil the WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014-2023 and also reinforce the effective implementation of the Joint Statement on cooperation in combating epidemics signed at the Qingdao Summit in 2018.
  • He proposed the setting up of a new Sub Group on Traditional Medicine under the existing institutional meetings of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Health Ministers.

Shanghai Cooperation Organization:

  • SCO is a Eurasian political, economic, and security alliance founded in 2001 in Shanghai, China by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
  • These countries, except for Uzbekistan, had been members of the Shanghai Five, founded in 1996.
  • After the inclusion of Uzbekistan in 2001, the members renamed the organisation to SCO.

Members:

  • It has eight members: China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan.
  • India had an observer status for the past 10 years in SCO.
  • India was accepted along with Pakistan as full members of SCO in 2017.
  • SCO has Afghanistan, Iran, Mongolia and Belarus as observers.
  • It has established relations with the United Nations, where it is an observer in:

General Assembly, European Union, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

Objectives:

  • Strengthen relations among member states.
  • Promote cooperation in political affairs, economics and trade, scientific-technical, cultural, educational spheres, energy, transportation, tourism, and environmental protection.
  • Safeguard regional peace, security, and stability.
  • Create a democratic, equitable international political and economic order.

Key Facts:

  • SCO represents 40 % of the global population, 20 % of global GDP and 22% of the global geographical area.
  • It is seen as a counter to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).
  • Headquarter – Beijing, China.
[Ref: PIB]

India-Russia Joint Technology Assessment and Accelerated Commercialization Programme

Department of Science and Technology (DST) has launched the India-Russia Joint Technology Assessment and Accelerated Commercialization Programme.

Major Highlights:

  • DST has launched it in partnership with Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and  Foundation for Assistance to Small Innovative Enterprises (FASIE) of the Russian Federation.
  • Implementing agency: FICCI will implement the program in India.
  • It will connect Indian, and Russian Science & Technology (S&T) led SMEs and Start-ups for joint R&D for technology development and cross-country technology adaptation.
  • Funding: It will fund up to INR 15 Crores to ten Indian SMEs/Start-ups by DST and FASIE will provide similar funding to the Russian projects.

Focus Areas:

  • It will run through two annual cycles with up to five projects to be funded under each cycle.
  • Projects are being sought on leading S&T focus areas including (but not limited to):
    • IT & ICT (including AI, AR, VR),
    • Medicine & Pharmaceuticals,
    • Renewable Energy,
    • Aerospace,
    • Alternative Technologies,
    • Environment,
    • Biotechnologies,
    • Robotics and Drones.
  • It will provide access to partial public funding for jointly selected projects with the participation of at least one start-up/SME from India and one from Russia.
  • It is accepting applications under two broad categories: Joint Partnership Projects and Technology Transfer/Adaptation.
[Ref: PIB]

Key Facts for Prelims

Radio-frequency identification

Indian Railways is on a mission to RFID Tag (Radio-frequency identification) all wagons by December 2022.

Major Highlights:

  • The Railways will complete this process of fitting radio-frequency identification tags (RFID) in all the wagons by December 2022.
  • These tags will be used for tracking all wagons. Using RFID devices will be easier for the railways to know the exact position of all the wagons, locomotives and coaches.
  • With the introduction of RFID, the issue of shortage of wagons, locomotives and coaches is expected to be addressed more transparently and expeditiously.

Mechanism:

  • The RFID tag will be fitted in the rolling stock, and trackside readers will be installed at stations.
  • Key points will be installed along the tracks to read the tag from a distance of about two meters and transmit the wagon identity over a network to a central computer.
  • In this way, each moving wagon can be identified and its movement tracked.

What is Radio-frequency identification?

  • RFID is a form of wireless communication that incorporates the use of electromagnetic or electrostatic coupling in the radio frequency portion of the electromagnetic spectrum to uniquely identify an object, animal or person.
  • Simply, it is the use of radio waves to read and capture information stored on a tag attached to an object.
  • A tag can be read from up to several feet away and does not need to be within direct line-of-sight of the reader to be tracked.
[Ref: PIB]

World’s first electrified rail tunnel

The world’s first electrified double-stack container tunnel has been cut through the Aravallis on the railway’s Western Dedicated Freight Corridor near Haryana’s Sohna.

 Major Highlights:

  • The 1-km-long tunnel has been made with a plan to ply electric goods train with double-stack containers through it in the next 12 months.
  • Engineers had to blast through 2,500 to 500 million-years-old proterozoic rocks to build the electrified double-stack container tunnel.
  • Once operational, a double-stack container goods train will be able to run at a speed of more than 100 kmph in this tunnel.
  • It connects Mewat and Gurgaon districts of Haryana and negotiates a steep gradient on the uphill and downhill slope of the Aravalli range.
  • The Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Limited (DFCCIL) is the implementing agency of the project.
[Ref: India TV]