Current Affairs for NDA, CDS, AFCAT, Airforce X&Y Groups – News Analysis from THE HINDU (December 23, 2018)
1. Bogibeel Bridge
Bogibeel bridge is a combined road and rail bridge over the Brahmaputra river in the north eastern Indian state of Assam between Dhemaji district and Dibrugarh district.
The 4.94-km-long structure, India’s longest rail-cum-road bridge across the Brahmaputra is India’s first fully-welded bridge, which will protect it from harsh weather.
The 4.94-km-long structure, India’s longest rail-cum-road bridge across the Brahmaputra, will help the Indian armed forces move men and material to Arunachal Pradesh in a faster manner. It will also benefit the Indian Railways, as it will help reduce the distance between Assam and Arunachal Pradesh by 600 km.
The design of the ₹4,857 crore bridge is such that, unlike a normal steel bridge, it did not require the use of a single nut or bolt. Bolts and rivets that are normally used in a steel bridge require periodic replacement due to shear failure over traffic loads.
It is set to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 25.
2. Govt. eyeing quick fix for farm sector
The defeat in the Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh has made the government go back to the drawing board over the issue of rural distress, and some measures to bolster incomes in the countryside may be announced by the end of the winter session of Parliament.
While the problems plaguing the agriculture sector are long-standing and need long-term solutions, there is a realisation that rural incomes need to be bolstered.
3. Kamal Nath likely to form Cabinet on December 25
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath is likely to form his new Cabinet on December 25, a Congress leader said on Saturday.
Mr. Nath was camping in Delhi and has almost received a green signal from the party high command, the leader added. The names of the new Ministers might be announced on December 25.
The Congress veteran was sworn in as CM on December 17, six days after the Congress pulled a narrow victory over the BJP which ruled the State for 15 years since 2003. According to the party insiders, one or two Independent MLAs might get a berth in the new Cabinet. Though the Congress emerged as the single largest party in the 230-member Assembly, it failed to cross the halfway mark on its own and sought support of the BSP and SP which have won two and one seat each.
4. Gurugram centre to monitor IOR
Consolidating the regional efforts with friendly nations to keep the global commons “open and accessible for all,” India on Saturday inaugurated an Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) which will work closely with countries in the region and will be manned by the Indian Navy.
“The need for IFC-IOR stems from importance of the IOR for world trade and security. All stakeholders are equal in this maritime security and safety milestone,” Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said at the inauguration.
The IFC has been established at the Navy’s Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) at Gurugram, the single point centre interlinking all the coastal radar chains to generate a seamless real-time picture of the nearly 7,500-km long coastline.
The IFC aims to bring various countries in the region and pool in best practices to jointly monitor the vast IOR which is increasingly becoming the theatre of contention between great powers apart from an increase in natural disasters and trans-national threats like piracy, terrorism and trafficking.
According to Navy officials, “all countries — about 21 — that have already signed White Shipping Information Exchange agreements with us are IFC partners and can post International Liaison Officers (ILOs) at the centre.” At least 10 countries, including the U.S., France, Italy and Japan, have expressed interest in posting their officers. “It is for equals, it is for partners,” Ms. Sitharaman stated.
The centre will be tracking and monitoring 75,000 to 1.5 lakh shipping traffic in the IOR in real time, round-the-clock.
5. In Meghalaya, flouting the ban on mining
An ‘underground economy’ has for long been known to fuel Meghalaya’s politics. It has taken the collapse of a coal mine and – in all probability – the death of at least 15 miners for the reality of illegal mining to hit hard.
The accident on December 13, when the miners struck an aquifer leading to the flooding of a 370-foot mine, was the first after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned unscientific ‘rat-hole mining’ in the State on April 17, 2014.
Where is the mine?
The mine, about 130 km from the capital Shillong, is at Ksan near the river Lytein in the Saipung area of East Jaintia Hills, one of eight mining districts of the State.
The site is 48 km from where rights and anti-mining activist Agnes Kharshiing was assaulted a month ago for her campaign against illegal mining. East Jaintia Hills has a major share of an estimated coal reserve of 576 million tonnes in the State, which also has substantial deposits of limestone and other minerals. Much of the coal sent out of Meghalaya before the NGT ban was from this district. An assessment by a committee, constituted by the NGT, recorded the highest amount of extracted coal — 3.7 million tonnes of a total 6.5 million tonnes — in the State in September 2014.
What prompted the NGT ban?
The NGT ban, retained in 2015, followed a petition filed by the All Dimasa Students’ Union in Assam. The union had cited a study by O.P. Singh of the North Eastern Hill University that said mining in the coal belts and coal stockpiles in the Jaintia Hills areas were polluting rivers and streams flowing down to Assam’s Dima Hasao district, killing aquatic life and rendering the water unfit for drinking or irrigation. Apart from the ecological impact, the NGT observed that “there is umpteen number of cases where by virtue of rat-hole mining, during the rainy season, water flooded into the mining areas resulting in the death of many.” The trigger for the ban was the case of 15 miners trapped fatally inside a flooded mine in the South Garo Hills in July 2012. In between, a Shillong-based NGO filed a public interest litigation petition against illegal coal mining, claiming the rat-hole mines employed 70,000 child labourers. The government later said only 222 children were found working in the mines.
What is rat-hole mining?
Coal mining in Meghalaya, financed by businessmen from outside, took off commercially in the 1980s. Since much of the State’s land is community-owned, it was easy for the moneyed locals to purchase land and employ non-tribal labourers to burrow for maximum profit. Rat-hole mining, involving digging of tunnels 3-4 feet high, was the most preferred to strike at narrow coal seams deeper inside the hills.
The less dangerous of two methods of digging tunnels is side-cutting on the slopes. The other method entails digging a rectangular pit vertically to a depth of up to 400 metres. Rat-hole-sized tunnels are dug horizontally wherever the coal seams are found for the workers to crawl in and out. The NGT found these techniques unscientific and unsafe for workers.
6. Sikkim’s highest forest zone could get denser
The cold climes on high-altitude mountain tops make it usually difficult for trees to grow above the timberline (the last canopy forests on the mountains). Though global warming is changing this in many of the world’s high mountains and causing timberlines to move upward, the eastern Himalaya may be an exception, find scientists. The zone of uppermost canopy forests here are unlikely to shift upwards but will get denser, suggests a study in PLOS ONE.
Timberlines, the uppermost limit of canopy forests that gradually gives way to the treeline (beyond which trees do not grow) are limited by climate: factors including low temperatures and high winds on mountain tops prevent woody tree growth higher up. Timberlines, therefore, serve as indicators of climate change. To find out if a similar pattern exists in the eastern Himalaya, scientists from institutes including Sikkim’s G. B. Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment and Sustainable Development studied the composition and regeneration of woody trees in the timberline ecotone (transition zone) between the timberline and treeline, of Khangchendzonga National Park.
Across nine contiguous sites in the Park, the team studied tree composition in this ecotone which lay between 3,787 and 3,989 metres above sea level. Among the 20 woody tree species they recorded here, the Bhutan fir Abies densa, the woolly rhododendron Rhododendron lanatum and the small-leaf rowan Sorbus microphylla dominated the vegetation. Environmental factors such as elevation, slope and humus played a role in this species composition. The density of trees in the timberline ecotone was significantly higher than that of its western Himalayan counterparts.
7. Revealing dark matter
Astronomers now have a revolutionary, more accurate way to “see” dark matter in galactic clusters. They use the fact that individual stars stripped from their galaxies have a distribution that reflects that of dark matter in those regions.
8. An operative needle that sees
Scientists in Australia have created an inter-operative needle that can visualise brain blood vessels in live human patients with high sensitivity and specificity. Their goal is to reduce the risk of fatal haemorrhaging during neurosurgery. The study is reportedly the first use of an optical coherence tomography needle probe in human brains in vivo. Needle biopsies of the brain are commonly used for diagnosing brain tumours, but they are risky because they can lead to intracerebral haemorrhaging if a blood vessel is hit while the brain is being probed for tissue. Existing intra-operative technologies, such as inter-operative MRI, do provide real-time information during surgery; however, these techniques are expensive and usually impractical. The new needle combines a commercial biopsy needle with a tiny optical coherence tomography camera to build a tool that allows for differentiation between blood flow and tissues in real time. The researchers found the needle could detect at-risk blood vessels with 91.2% sensitivity and 97.7% specificity. Details of the device have been published in the journal Science Advances.
9. What is the hedonistic treadmill?
Also known as the hedonistic adaptation, it refers to people’s tendency to return to a stable state of happiness in the aftermath of a major positive or negative event. This also implies that accumulation of material prosperity, beyond a point, brings about no greater increase in happiness. Recently, researchers have found that the ‘joy of giving’ fades away much slower than the ‘joy of receiving’. Why this is so is as yet unclear. An explanation is that when people focus on an outcome, such as getting paid, they can easily compare outcomes which diminishes their sensitivity to each experience. When people focus on an action, such as donating to a charity, they may focus less on comparison and instead experience each act of giving as a unique happiness-inducing event.
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11. Pay up or lose rights to host 2023 WC, ICC tells BCCI
In a major blow to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the International Cricket Council (ICC) on Saturday asked the board to either pay $23 million by the end of this year as compensation for the tax deductions incurred in hosting the 2016 World T20 or end up losing the World Cup 2023 rights.
During the ICC board meeting in Singapore in October, it was decided that the BCCI would have to compensate for the tax deductions that the ICC faced as India hosted the 2016 World T20, after no exemption in taxes was given by either the State or the Central Government.
The ICC also mulled deducting the amount from the revenue share for the ongoing financial year from BCCI’s coffers if they failed to comply with the demands.
As per reports, the BCCI has asked the ICC to share the minutes of the meeting where they had promised to get them a tax waiver.
But the ICC, they said, haven’t shared the same as of yet.
According to reports, while former president N. Srinivasan was at the helm of BCCI, he did not promise the ICC any compensation for tax deductions if they fail to receive a waiver from the government.
India is slated to host the 2021 Champions Trophy and the 2023 World Cup.
12. B.V.P. Rao is Archery association president
The panel headed by B.V.P. Rao won the key positions in the election of the Archery Association of India here on Saturday.
The election was held under the supervision of former Chief Election Commissioner S. Y. Quraishi. The secretary’s post went to Maha Singh and D. K. Vidyarthi was elected the new treasurer.
On his election, Rao said, “We have ended the V.K. Malhotra era. I will focus on the management of the sport which suffered a lot in the last several years. I will see to it that we conduct all national events on time and offer better conditions for the archers.”
Rao promised good facilities to the archers. “The archers will receive quality training, equipment support and competition exposure. We will also develop plans to nurture talent by working in close co-ordination with various agencies,” Rao added.
Office-bearers: President: B.V.P. Rao; Sr Vice-president: Sunil Sharma; Vice-president: Rajendar Singh Tomar, Purnima Mahato; Secretary: Maha Singh; Treasurer: DK Vidyarthi; Joint-secretaries: Manoj Kumar, Dhul Chand Damor; Executive members: V. Lalzawmliana and Kh. Bheigyabati Chanu, Bansaralin Dhar.
Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)
Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC)
14. Things to Remember:
President of Archery association: B.V.P. Rao
15. Improve your Vocabulary:
Meaning 1 – Showing a willingness to take surprisingly bold risks
Example – ‘a series of audacious takeovers’
Synonyms – bold, daring, fearless, intrepid, brave, unafraid, unflinching, courageous, valiant, valorous, heroic, dashing, plucky, daredevil, devil-may-care, death-or-glory, reckless, wild, madcap
Meaning 2 – Showing an impudent lack of respect.
Example – ‘he made an audacious remark’
Synonyms – impudent, impertinent, insolent, presumptuous, forward, cheeky, irreverent, discourteous, disrespectful, insubordinate, ill-mannered, bad-mannered, unmannerly, mannerless, rude, crude, brazen, brazen-faced, brash, shameless, pert, defiant, bold, bold as brass, outrageous, shocking, out of line