Polity & Governance
- Appointment letters to be made mandatory soon
- India among top 3 regions in corruption-linked fraud
Environment & Ecology
- Darjeeling gets snow leopard from UK, another from France soon
- A station in Himalayas to study climate change
- India joins Missile Technology Control Regime
- Putin deepens special ties with China through 30 pacts
Defence & Security Issues
- Fighter jet Su-30 flies with BrahMos missile for first time
Art & Culture
- 300th Shaheedi Samagam of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Ji
Science & Technology
- Start-up, telecom officials spar over cloud telephony service
- Radiation processing of honey ensures microbial safety
- New technology to detect gravitational waves better
Polity & Governance
Appointment letters to be made mandatory soon
The Centre will soon make it mandatory for companies with more than ten workers to give appointment letters to employees at the time of joining — a move that would benefit millions of workers in the informal sector.
- A proposal to make appointment letters mandatory is part of the draft labour code on working conditions finalised by the Union Labour and Employment Ministry.
Need of the move:
An absence of legislation on the issue makes it difficult for workers, including those who are employed informally or via contractors in the organised sector, to establish proof of employment and gives companies room to violate labour laws and not ensure any social security benefits for such employees.
- There are many instances where workers involved in accidents are removed by the company as there is no evidence of employment.
- Workers often do not want the statutory benefits to be deducted from their salary in order to enhance their take-home pay.
- To avoid getting into the trap of administrative hassles of filing compliance, employers also avoid handing out a formal letter to workers.
- Appointment letter is the only authoritative proof that a person is employed and all the statutory benefits including Employees’ State Insurance, provident fund are passed on to her or him.
- Companies in the manufacturing, construction, plantation, mining and a few other sectors will have to issue a letter of appointment within days of hiring, even if this involves contractual or migrant short-term workers.
India among top 3 regions in corruption-linked fraud
The Global Fraud Report 2015-16 by risk mitigation consultancy Kroll, with the aid of the Economist Intelligence Unit, has found that the perceived prevalence of fraud in India is the third-highest among all countries and regions surveyed across six continents.
- Only Colombia (83%) and Sub-Saharan Africa (84%) surpass India.
- The India-centric data in the report shows that the highest incidence of fraud as reported by Indian companies is due to what the report terms ‘corruption and bribery’.
- An overwhelming 80% of companies polled in India said they had been victims of fraud in 2015-16, up from 69% in 2013-14.
- The report’s authors observed that while the incidence of fraud was on the rise globally, a combination of a lack of preventive measures at Indian companies and a poor legal system had resulted in 92% of the respondents saying they had witnessed an increase in exposure to fraud.
Environment & Ecology
Darjeeling gets snow leopard from UK, another from France soon
Darjeeling zoo, left with eight female and a lone male snow leopard, has now got a male big cat from England while another from France will arrive later this year for breeding conservation programme.
- Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park (PNHZP) in the hill station of Darjeeling runs a specialized conservation breeding programme for snow leopards, an endangered species whose survival is challenged by poaching and habitat loss.
About Snow leopards:
- Snow leopards live in the mountainous regions of central and southern Asia.
- In India, their geographical range encompasses a large part of the western Himalayas including the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh in the eastern Himalayas.
- Snow leopards inhabit alpine and subalpine zones at elevations from 3,000 to 4,500 m or higher in the Himalayas.
- Snow leopards prefer steep, rugged terrains with rocky outcrops and ravines. This type of habitat provides good cover and clear view to help them sneak up on their prey.
- The snow leopard is listed as Endangered on the IUCN-World Conservation Union’s Red List of the Threatened Species.
- In addition, the snow leopard, like all big cats, is listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), which makes trading of animal body parts (i.e., fur, bones and meat) illegal in signatory countries.
The snow leopard is the National Heritage Animal of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
About ‘Project Snow Leopard’:
- In 2009, the Indian government launched ‘Project Snow Leopard’ to safeguard and conserve India’s unique natural heritage of high-altitude wildlife populations and their habitats by promoting conservation through participatory policies and actions.
- The project aims at promoting a knowledge-based and adaptive conservation framework that fully involves the local communities, who share the snow leopard’s range, in conservation efforts.
About Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park:
Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park (also called the Darjeeling Zoo) is a situated in the town of Darjeeling in the Indian state of West Bengal.
- The Zoological Park falls under the category of small zoos as per Central Zoo Authority’s classification but is the largest high altitude zoo in India.
- It specializes in breeding animals adapted to alpine conditions, and has successful captive breeding programs for the snow leopard, the critically endangered Himalayan wolf and the red panda.
- The park is named after Padmaja Naidu, daughter of Sarojini Naidu.
- The zoo serves as the central hub for Central Zoo Authority of India’s red panda program and is a member of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
A station in Himalayas to study climate change
Glaciologists are studying Himalayan glaciers to understand the impacts of climate change in the polar climate and its connection to the Indian monsoon.
- A team of glaciologists from the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research, Goa, led by Paramanand Sharma, has already scaled over 4,500 metre to set up a research station on the Himalaya.
- The scientists will be looking into various aspects of climate change and the present status and future stability of glaciers from the Himalayas.
- Scientists will be undertaking an integrated study on the health and fate of benchmark glaciers from the Chandra basin (part of the Indus river basin) in Lahaul-Spiti valley, Himachal Pradesh, Western Himalaya.
- The newly established station would be one of the few high-altitude research facilities in the Himalayas that would help the scientists to study the region throughout the year.
India joins Missile Technology Control Regime
In its first entry into any multilateral export control regime, India has been given full membership of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).
- India now becomes the 35th member of the MTCR.
- China, which along with half dozen other countries stonewalled India’s bid to become a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), is not a member of the MTCR.
What does India gain?
- As a new member India will be entitled to “full participation” in organisational activities including the October 2016 plenary of the regime which will take place in South Korea.
- Entry to MTCR will allow India to sell the BrahMos missiles, which it manufactures jointly with Russia, to countries like Vietnam that have shown an interest in purchasing these.
- India had firmed up its claim to MTCR by joining The Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (HCoC) earlier this summer.
- Apart from NSG and MTCR, India has also been trying to join export control regimes like the Australia Group and Wassenaar Arrangement. These regimes regulate trade in conventional, nuclear, biological and chemicals weapons and technologies.
- The US has consistently supported India’s entry into all these groups after the India-US nuclear deal. Of the MTCR members, only Italy was opposed to India’s entry to the group.
- But it dropped its objections after the two Italian marines, accused of killing two fishermen off the Kerala coast in 2012, were allowed to return to Italy from India.
The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) is a multilateral export control regime.
- It is an informal and voluntary partnership among 35 countries (now 36 countries) to prevent the proliferation of missile and unmanned aerial vehicle technology.
- Established in April 1987 by the G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Great Britain, and the United States), the voluntary MTCR aims to limit the spread of ballistic missiles and other unmanned delivery systems that could be used for chemical, biological, and nuclear attacks.
- MTCR aims at restricting the proliferation of missiles, complete rocket systems, unmanned air vehicles and related technology for those systems capable of carrying a 500 kilogramme payload for at least 300 kilometres, as well as systems intended for the delivery of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Putin deepens special ties with China through 30 pacts
China and Russia have signed over 30 agreements, that ranged from the areas of food and energy security to military.
- The move is aimed at cementing the strategic core of a relationship that apprehends Washington’s growing military presence in their backyards.
- The agreements have been signed during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s whirlwind visit to Beijing.
- The agreements covered joint development of a long-range civilian aircraft.
- The two countries are also developing a heavy-lift helicopter based on Chinese specifications.
- The two leaders signed a joint statement on strengthening global strategic stability and another on promoting the development of cyber-space.
- Analysts say that the fear of the growing presence of NATO forces on Russia’s borders, and the ‘Pivot to Asia’ doctrine of the Obama administration, as well as tensions in the South China Sea, are providing the cement for closer Russia-China ties.
Defence & Security Issues
Fighter jet Su-30 flies with BrahMos missile for first time
The country’s military scientists test-flew the heavy BrahMos supersonic cruise missile for the first time using a modified Air Force Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter as the air platform.
- It was for the first time in the world that such a heavyweight missile was integrated on a fighter aircraft.
- With the successful integration of BrahMos, Su-30 MKI aircraft has become a lethal weapon delivery platform for the Air Force. Around 40 of these aircraft are expected to be modified.
- Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd manufactures the Su-30s.
Art & Culture
300th Shaheedi Samagam of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Ji
The 300th Shaheedi Samagam of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Ji (1670 – 1716) observed at Sri Fatehgarh Sahib.
About Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Ji:
- Banda Singh Bahadur, also known as Banda Bahudar, Lachman Das and Madho Das, was a Sikh military commander.
- Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Ji, founder of First Sovereign Khalsa Raj, played a significant role for welfare and emancipation of Gaon, Garib and Kisan (Villages, Poor and Farmers) in India.
- He gave proprietary rights to the tillers for the first time.
- A poem was written by Shri Rabindra Nath Tagore regarding the historic role played by Baba Banda Singh Bahadur and his sacrifices.
Science & Technology
Start-up, telecom officials spar over cloud telephony service
In its recent order, India’s telecommunications department has directed telecom operators to stop the cloud telephony services of the Gurgaon-based firm- ‘Knowlarity’.
- The company offers a technology to replace expensive communication hardware system with an affordable cloud-based telephony solution for small and large businesses.
What is Cloud Telephony?
- Cloud telephony refers specifically to voice services and more specifically the replacement of conventional business telephone equipment, such as a Private branch exchange (PBX), with third-party VoIP service.
- Cloud telephony services have been predominantly used for business processes, such as advertising, e-commerce, human resources, and payments processing. Services include distributed call centers and economical teleworking.
- Cloud Telephony offers many advantages over traditional on-premise telephony applications. Traditional on-premise telephony applications typically consisted of PBX, IVR and lot of wires through MDF (Main Distribution Frame).
- For a small or medium-sized business, the capital investment to set up VoIP infrastructure in-house could be too high compared to the potential return, but cloud telephony could offer the same services on a lower-cost subscription basis.
- The cloud telephony provider is also an expert in the technology, whereas a small business is unlikely to have an employee with the same level of expertise, or cannot justify the expense of a full-time telecommunication infrastructure position.
- Cloud telephony systems require an internet connection to access files so if a connection is slow or fails then it will affect productivity. Many small business owners still find this fact troubling as the halt to operations can be detrimental.
- Cloud technology still must exist on physical servers, and the physical location of those servers is important under many nation’s laws.
Radiation processing of honey ensures microbial safety
Various researches show that although to many scientists, honey is an excellent food supplement, it is not suitable for any therapeutic purpose, as bacteria may contaminate wounds.
- Besides being a complex mixture of carbohydrates, honey contains a number of minor constituents and minerals.
- Clostiridium botulinum is one of the few bacterial risks from honey consumption.
- In the United States, a survey showed that 10% of honeys contain botulism spores supporting a link between honey consumption and infant botulism. Infant botulism is very rare and can occur in babies under one year of age, most of whom make a full recovery.
- Microbial spores may produce entero-toxins responsible for various diseases including stomach disorders.
- In South Africa, importers can market honey only after irradiating it to ensure microbial safety. Thermal processing of honey inactivates yeasts that may cause undesirable fermentation in honey.
- Researchers found that heat treatment of honey may produce a complex chemical, which may cause toxic and mutagenic effects. Extreme heat treatment only can inactivate spores of microbes; however, it destroys quality attributes of honey.
- Heating may also lead to over darkening of honey. Consumers do not accept such dark honey
- Indian researchers have also shown that a 15 kGy dose of gamma radiation was sufficient for complete microbial decontamination of honey including spores, thus ensuring its microbial safety without affecting the quality attributes (Gray -Gy-is a unit of radiation dose; the radiation energy absorbed in a GY is equal to one Joule per kg)
Benefits of honey:
- The imbalance between reactive oxygen species (ROS) produced in normal metabolism of oxygen and antioxidants cause oxidative stress in organisms. ROS may cause mutations in DNA, which may lead to induction of cancer. Scientists have found that “dietary antioxidants from health protective functional foods like honey have ability to inhibit some of these deleterious effects”.
- Scientists also found that some of the major components of honey contribute to its diverse functional properties such as antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-mutagenic, antitumor, and anti-inflammatory activities.
- Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) scientists demonstrated the health protective properties of honey in terms of anti-mutagenicity, and antioxidant capacity including in vitro radio-protective activities.
- The scientists found anti-cancer property in phenolic extracts of honey by assaying anti-proliferative property in different cancer cell-lines (myeloid leukaemia, breast and lung cancer).
New technology to detect gravitational waves better
Researchers have developed a new technology that aims to make the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) even more sensitive to gravitational waves.
- The team of scientists report on improvements to what is called a squeezed vacuum source.
- Although not part of the original Advanced LIGO design, injecting the new squeezed vacuum source into the LIGO detector could help double its sensitivity.
- This will allow detection of gravitational waves that are far weaker or that originate from farther away than is possible now.