Current Affairs Analysis

6th & 7th August 2017 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

National Handloom Day; Handloom sector in India; Trade Facilitation Action Plan (2017-20); WTO-Trade Facilitation Agreement; Two new species of Cycas; Framework for a Code of Conduct in The South China Sea; South China Sea code of conduct; World’s First Nuclear Attack on Hiroshima; Low-cost, sensitive CO sensor; Carbon Monoxide; Stratosphere; WASP-121b exoplanet; A New Drug Delivery Platform Using Nanoparticles; etc.
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
August 07, 2017


Government Schemes & Policies

  • National Handloom Day

Issues related to Health & Education

  • After SC order, focus on chemicals in firecrackers


  • Govt formulates National Trade Facilitation Action Plan (2017-20) to implement TFA
  • Subsidise rail losses: PMO

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Two new species of Cycas found

Bilateral & International Relations

  • ASEAN and China adopt framework for crafting code on South China Sea
  • Japan marks 72 years since Hiroshima atomic bomb

Science & Technology

  • Low-cost, sensitive CO sensor from IISc
  • Hot exoplanet with glowing water atmosphere found
  • IIT Delhi researchers offer new tool in fight against cancer

For IASToppers’ Current Affairs Analysis Archive, Click Here

Government Schemes & Policies

National Handloom Day

The National Handloom Day is being observed every year on 7 August to honour the handloom weavers in the country.


  • This year it was third edition of the National Handloom Day after it was instituted in 2015.


  • The Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi launched the first National Handloom Day on 7th August 2015.
  • National Handloom Day was launched with the objective to generate awareness about the importance of handloom industry and its contribution to the socioeconomic development of the country in general and to promote handlooms, increase income of weavers and enhance their pride in particular.

Why August 7?


  • The date August 7 has been chosen due to its special significance in India’s freedom struggle.
  • It was on this day in 1905 that the Swadeshi Movement was formally launched, at a massive meeting in the Calcutta Town hall.
  • The movement involved revival of domestic products and production processes.

Handloom sector in India:


  • India exports about 95% of hand-woven fabric in the world.
  • In India itself, handweaving covers one of the largest sectors in Indian economy and it provides employment to about 43 lakh weavers.
  • It is time to encourage citizens to use more of handloom products because a certain increase of 5% in the consumption would help the handloom market and revenue grow by over 33%.
[Ref: PIB]


Issues related to Health & Education

After SC order, focus on chemicals in firecrackers

The Supreme Court ban on the use of antimony, lithium, mercury, arsenic and lead in the manufacture of firecrackers to prevent air pollution has turned the focus on what chemicals are used to produce spectacular visual effects and noise.


  • The Tamil Nadu Fireworks and Amorces Manufacturers’ Association, which produces most of the fireworks in the country, says none of the specific products banned by the court are used.

What’s the issue?

  • The Supreme Court, in its order, had directed that no firecrackers manufactured by the respondents shall contain the chemicals. The banned chemicals include antimony, lithium, mercury, arsenic and lead in any form whatsoever.
  • The court entrusted the Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organisation (PESO) with the responsibility of ensuring compliance particularly in Sivakasi. (Over 90% of cracker production is done in Sivakasi.)
  • However, cracker manufacturers in Sivakasi, who denied using the banned chemicals, said the sound and light show is produced by chemicals such as sulphur, aluminium powder and charcoal (used as fuel), besides potassium nitrate and barium nitrate (as oxidising agents).

Key facts about the banned chemicals:


  • Antimony sulphides are used in the production of the heads of safety matches, military ammunition, explosives and fireworks.
  • The elemental antimony metal does not affect human and environmental health. Inhalation of antimony trioxide (and similar poorly soluble sulphides of antimony) is considered harmful and suspected of causing cancer.


  • A mercury compound called “Mercury(II) fulminate” is a primary explosive.
  • It is extremely sensitive to friction, heat and shock and is mainly used as a trigger for other explosives in percussion caps and blasting caps.


  • Arsenic is generally non-combustible. But certain compounds of arsenic are highly explosive and figure on the health hazard lists of several countries and thinktanks.
  • Arsine, for instance, is a flammable, pyrophoric, and highly toxic gas while being one of the simplest compounds of arsenic.
  • Arsine is used as an agent in chemical warfare, thus several countries have regulations on its use owing to its highly inflammable nature.


  • The most common primary explosives are lead azide and lead styphnate, compounds of lead found in most heavy grade explosives.
  • Due to its explosive nature, lead azide is used in most detonators to initiate big explosions.
  • Lead styphnate is also an explosive used as a component in primer and detonator mixtures for less sensitive secondary explosives


  • A highly volatile element, lithium is flammable, and it is potentially explosive when exposed to air and especially to water, though less so than other alkali metals.

What gives colour to the firecrackers?


  • Red: Strontium salts (Nitrates, carbonates and sulphates of strontium)
  • Orange: Calcium salts (Carbonates, chlorides and sulphates of calcium)
  • Yellow: Sodium salts (Nitrates and oxalates of sodium)
  • Green: Barium salts (Nitrates, carbonates, chlorides and chlorates of barium)
  • Blue: Copper salts (Carbonates and oxides of copper)
  • Purple: A combination of copper and strontium compounds
  • White: The burning of metals like magnesium, aluminium and titanium)
[Ref: The Hindu]



Govt formulates National Trade Facilitation Action Plan (2017-20) to implement TFA

Indian government has formulated National Trade Facilitation Action Plan (2017-20), a detailed action plan with timelines for smooth implementation of WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA).

ias toppers National Trade Facilitation Action Plan


  • Members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) including India have ratified TFA, which aims at easing customs procedures, expediting goods movement, release and clearance of consignments.
  • For the implementation of the pact, Indian government had last year set up Cabinet Secretary-headed National Committee on Trade Facilitation (NCTF).

Salient Features of Trade Facilitation Action Plan (2017-20):

  • Implementation of the plan, which also includes suggestions of the private sector, has been divided into short term (0-6 months), medium term (6-18 months) and long term (18-36 months).
  • The short-term action plan includes augmentation of storage infrastructure for perishable goods and clearance of such goods within 12 hours of landing for import and 8 hours for export.
  • The plan for medium term includes updation of all regulatory information available on the internet on a single window portal; to put in place adequate bio-security measures for livestock imports and publication of all fees on a single window website.
  • Specific responsibilities have been given to all regulatory agencies like Customs, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), Drug Controller, Plant Quarantine, Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), etc and ministries like textiles and environment to be completed in a time-bound manner.
  • Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) and the commerce ministry would also work on streamlining policy for e-commerce which includes cutting documentation requirements and providing single submissions.

About WTO-Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA):


  • The TFA is the World Trade Organization’s first-ever multilateral accord that seeks to simplify and thereby expedite the movement, release and clearance of goods across borders.
  • Full implementation of TFA is likely to reduce the time needed to import goods by over a day and a half and to export goods by almost two days.
  • TFA is also expected to help new firms export for the first time.
  • Moreover, once the TFA is fully implemented, number of new products exported from developing countries is expected to increase by as much as 20 per cent, with least developed countries (LDCs) likely to see an increase of up to 35 per cent.
[Ref: Economic Times]


Subsidise rail losses: PMO

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has directed the Ministry of Finance to fund the losses incurred by the Indian Railways in operating non-profitable trains on strategic lines and backward areas.

ias toppers Indian Railways fund

Implications of this direction:

  • The directive ends a tussle that began following the merger of the Railway and Union Budgets, as the Ministry of Finance had discontinued the practice of providing an annual subsidy to the Railways.

What’s the issue?

  • Every year, the Ministry of Finance reimburses the Indian Railways operational losses incurred on six strategic lines and railway lines in hilly, coastal and backward areas.
  • However, following the Budget merger, the Ministry of Finance argued that since the ‘capital-at-charge’ of the Railways, which represents the total investment made by the central government in the Railways, would be wiped-off, the subsidy payment in the form of reimbursement of losses on strategic lines and other concessions will be discontinued.

Why such loses should be funded?

The losses on operating strategic lines accounts for a small fraction of the estimated over ₹34,000 crore borne by the Railways towards social service obligation.

  • Therefore, the decision comes as a relief for the Railways which feels that the social service obligation borne by it in running non-profitable lines of national and strategic importance should be funded by the Central government.
  • Besides, the Standing Committee on Railways and the Estimates Committee, in their reports, have also recommended that the Railways should get back the money invested in loss-making lines of national importance.
[Ref: The Hindu]


Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Two new species of Cycas found

Research conducted on a tree found in the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden in West Bengal has revealed two new species of Cycas to the world.


  • The tree had, for years, been a puzzle to botanists and scientists.
  • This discovery takes the number of Cycas species found in the country to 14.

Key facts:

  • Initial studies on the lone Cycas pschannae tree revealed that it was Cycas, a gymnosperm.
  • Further research based on its anatomical and morphological characters led to the discovery of new species of Cycas pschannae and later Cycas dharmrajii in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • Cycas dharmrajii is characterised by the abnormal branching habit of its giant trunk and its swollen base.
  • The sporophylls of Cycas pschannae are characterised by the presence of two lateral horn-like structures. Sporophylls are spore-bearing leaf-like female sex organ of the plant.

About the Cycas:

  • Cycas are one of the most ancient plants whose fossils date to the Jurassic period and are often referred to as “living fossils”.
  • They have evolved on the earth as the first seeded plants and they grow very slowly, adding only a few centimetres every year. Nearly 65% of Cycas are threatened.
  • There are over 100 species of Cycas found across the globe.
[Ref: The Hindu]


Bilateral & International Relations

ASEAN and China adopt framework for crafting code on South China Sea

Foreign ministers of Southeast Asia and China adopted a negotiating framework for a code of conduct in the South China Sea.

ias toppers South China Sea code of conduct

  • They hailed the move as progress but critics seen it as tactic to buy China time to consolidate its maritime power.

About the framework:

  • The framework seeks to advance a 2002 Declaration of Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea, which has mostly been ignored by claimant states, particularly China, which has built seven manmade islands in disputed waters, three of which are equipped with runways, surface-to-air missiles and radars.

What is the South China Sea code of conduct, and why does it matter?

  • All parties say the framework is only an outline for how the code will be established but critics say the failure to outline as an initial objective the need to make the code legally binding and enforceable, or have a dispute resolution mechanism, raises doubts about how effective the pact will be.
  • Signing China up to a legally binding and enforceable code for the strategic waterway has long been a goal for claimant members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean), some of which have sparred for years over what they see as China’s disregard for their sovereign rights and its blocking of fishermen and energy exploration efforts.
  • Beijing insists its activities are for defence purposes, in areas it considers its waters. Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam and the Philippines, however, all claim some or all of the South China Sea and its myriad shoals, reefs and islands.

To know about the South China Sea Dispute, read IASToppers’ Slide Notes here

[Ref: Economic Times]


Japan marks 72 years since Hiroshima atomic bomb

Japan, on August 6th, marked 72 years since the world’s first nuclear attack on Hiroshima, with the nation’s traditional contradictions over atomic weapons again coming into focus.


What was the incident?

  • Japan suffered two nuclear attacks at the end of the World War II by the United States — in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and in Nagasaki three days later.
  • The bombings claimed the lives of 140,000 people in Hiroshima and 74,000 people in Nagasaki.
  • Some died immediately while others succumbed to injuries or radiation-related illnesses weeks, months and years later.
  • Japan announced its surrender in World War II on August 15, 1945.

ias toppers Japan_map_hiroshima_nagasaki


  • Many in Japan feel the attacks amount to war crimes and atrocities because they targeted civilians and due to the unprecedented destructive nature of the weapons.
  • But many Americans believe they hastened the end of a bloody conflict, and ultimately saved lives, thus justifying the bombings.
  • Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima in May last year, paying moving tribute to victims of the devastating bomb.
[Ref: The Hindu]


Science & Technology

Low-cost, sensitive CO sensor from IISc

Indian Institute of Science researchers have developed a highly sensitive nanometre-scale carbon monoxide sensor by employing an innovative fabrication technique.

ias toppers CO nano-sensors

Significance of this research:

  • This device is also easy to scale for mass production.
  • Nanostructure-based gas sensors are very promising in their performance due their high surface-to-volume ratio.
  • The existing techniques to create honeycomb nanostructures using photolithography and e-beam lithography are expensive and time-consuming. The proposed technique can potentially reduce the cost by more than 50%.

Potential applications:

  • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has a vision of deploying such sensors in large scale for pollution monitoring in large cities like Delhi and Bengaluru. Such sensors can help in real time mapping of pollution hot-spots in a city.

About Carbon Monoxide:

ias toppers carbon-monoxide-poisoning-

  • Carbon Monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas.
  • It is harmful when inhaled in large amounts.
  • Breathing high concentration of Carbon Monoxide reduces the amount of oxygen that can be transported in the blood stream to critical organs like the heart and brain.
  • The greatest source of Carbon Monoxide is internal combustions (IC) engines of cars, trucks and other vehicles or machinery that burn fossil fuels.

ias toppers Carbon Monoxide-sources

[Ref: The Hindu]


Hot exoplanet with glowing water atmosphere found

Astronomer’s using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have found that exoplanet WASP-121b which provides strongest evidence about existence of a stratosphere on it along with glowing water molecules.

ias toppers WASP-121b

About the discovery:

  • Astronomers studied WASP-121b with both the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes to learn more about the planet and analyze how the planet’s brightness changed at different wavelengths of light.
  • The researchers compare the water molecules to fireworks, whose colors come from chemicals emitting light. These water molecules were giving off radiation in the form of infrared light, which humans can’t see. But Hubble could.
  • Hubble detected the glowing water molecules in the atmosphere, implying that the upper layers were hotter than the lower layers, to indicate a stratosphere.


  • This result is exciting because it shows that a common trait of most of the atmospheres in our solar system — a warm stratosphere — also can be found in exoplanet atmospheres

About the stratosphere:

ias toppers atmosphere

  • The stratosphere is a layer of atmosphere where temperature increases at higher altitudes.
  • On Earth, ozone in our stratosphere captures UV radiation from the sun, warming that layer.
  • Elsewhere in our solar system, methane warms the stratospheres of Jupiter and Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.
  • But detecting these layers around exoplanets has been tricky.

ias toppers stratosphere_diagram_big

About WASP-121b exoplanet:

  • The WASP-121b exoplanet is gas giant commonly referred to as a ‘hot Jupiter’.
  • It has 1.2 times greater mass and 1.9 times greater radius than Jupiter.
  • It is located approximately 900 light years from Earth. It orbits around its host star every 1.3 days in very close proximity.
[Ref: The Hindu]


IIT Delhi researchers offer new tool in fight against cancer

An all-women team of researchers from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi has developed a new drug delivery platform using nanoparticles.

ias toppers drug delivery platform


  • The nanotechnology-based drug delivery system has ability to boost the efficacy of antibiotics at the cellular level and improve chances of recovery from cancer-related bacterial infections.

Need for a new drug delivery platform:

  • In traditional drug delivery system, if the bacterial infection in cancer remains untreated, it can infect the host even after the cancer cells are killed by chemotherapy.
  • Similarly, antibiotics used in most conventional therapeutics has several issues such as improper biodistribution, lack of target specificity, poor water solubility and loss of efficacy over time due to the emergence of drug resistance in pathogenic bacteria.
  • Moreover, 50% of these antibodies prescribed to humans are either not needed or not effectively utilised as prescribed.
[Ref: Indian Express]


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