Current Affairs for AFCAT, NDA, CDS, Airforce X&Y Groups – News Analysis from THE HINDU (January 27, 2019)
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1. Soon, you can see how the Harappans looked
A team led by Prof. Vasant Shinde, Vice-Chancellor, Deccan
College Post-Graduate and Research Institute, Deemed University, Pune, is on
the brink of recreating the faces of a few skeletal remains, dug up during the
excavation of a Harappan site at Haryana’s Rakhigarhi village in Hisar, in
collaboration with South Korean scientists.
Dr. Shinde told The Hindu that his team was recreating the
faces of five skeletal remains and the results would be available within the
next two months, soon after the publication of the paper in a journal after its
review by experts.
The archaeologist, who along with his 25-member team —
comprising experts from different fields — had excavated the site from 2012-16,
said they had dug up cemeteries in a targeted excavation to find about 40 human
However, most of the remains were found to be unfit for
2. Trump ends shutdown
Submitting to mounting pressure, U.S. President Donald Trump
has signed a Bill to reopen the government for three weeks, backing down from
his demand that Congress give him money for his border wall before federal
agencies go back to work.
Standing alone in the Rose Garden on Friday, Mr. Trump said
he would sign the legislation funding shuttered agencies until February 15 and
try again to persuade lawmakers to finance his long-sought wall. The deal he
reached with congressional leaders contains no new money for the wall but ends
the longest shutdown in U.S. history.
First the Senate and then the House swiftly and unanimously
approved the deal. Late Friday, Mr. Trump signed it into law.
The administration asked federal department heads to reopen
offices in a “prompt and orderly manner.”
Mr. Trump’s retreat came on the 35th day of the partial
shutdown as intensifying delays at the airports and another missed pay-day for
hundreds of thousands of federal workers brought new urgency to efforts to
resolve the stand-off.
3. SC to hear plea against changes to pension scheme
The Supreme Court has posted for hearing on February 28 a
petition filed by retirees and members of the Employees Pension Scheme (EPS),
1995, against the government and the Employees Provident Fund Organisation
(EPFO), which administers the scheme.
The petitioners claim that a 2014 amendment and a 2017
circular exclude thousands from receiving their rightful benefits under EPS 95.
The petitions represent the members of the National Confederation of Retirees,
that is about 42,555 former employees from the private and public sector who
are members of EPS 95, and the National Confederation of Officers Association,
which represents 19,118 people working in central public sector organisations.
Most of the latter group are members of EPS 95.
EPFO’s August 28, 2014 amendment had raised the wage ceiling
amount for the scheme to ₹15,000 and amended the option for contribution on
higher salary for existing employees, introducing a cut-off date of September
1, 2014. It also reduced the pensionable salary considerably by averaging 60
months salary instead of 12 months to determine the last drawn salary amount.
According to the petition, the effect of this amendment is
to exclude all new employees who joined after September 2014 from joining the
pension scheme altogether; to exclude serving employees from benefiting from
the option of contributing to the pension scheme on maximum salary; and to deny
the benefit of opting for the scheme to retired employees if they missed the
4. Patients urge adoption of rights charter
The Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (JSA), a national platform working
on health and healthcare services, urged the Ministry of Health to immediately
implement the Charter of Patients’ Rights and ensure the inclusion of the
entire range of patients’ rights without any dilution.
“The adoption of the charter is urgent to ensure that the
many violations of patients’ rights are immediately addressed to stop loss of
health and even lives,” the umbrella group said in a statement.
“If the charter is not adopted before the Lok Sabha
elections, then a large-scale campaign will be taken up by JSA to demand this
as an electoral issue.”
A national consultation was held earlier this week where
they deliberated on patients’ experiences and violations faced by them
especially in private hospitals.
The consultation was organised by SATHI, Pune and Sama
Resource Group for Women and Health,with participation from several patients’
rights groups and health activists from across India including states of
Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi.
A key issue discussed was the Charter of Patient’s Rights
which has been developed by National Human Rights Commission.
5. Modi to visit Madurai today, BJP upbeat
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Madurai in Tamil
Nadu on Sunday has shifted the public’s focus to the BJP as the election season
looms. He will lay the foundation for an AIIMS in the city. BJP State president
Tamilisai Soundararajan said the rally would be a “great show of our strength”.
6. Nari Shakti is Oxford Hindi word of 2018
Oxford dictionaries on Saturday declared Nari Shakti as the
Hindi word for the year 2018. The announcement was made during a session at the
Jaipur Literature Festival at the Diggi Palace here. According to the Oxford
dictionaries, the word has been derived from Sanskrit and is used today to
symbolise women “taking charge of their lives“.
Oxford had named Aadhaar as its Hindi word for the year
7. J&K Guv. revokes zero stamp duty for women
Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik has revoked the
widely welcomed move of the previous government to impose zero stamp duty on
the purchase of property, including land, by women of the State.
Citing the powers conferred by Clause (a) of Section 9 of
the Stamp Act Svt. 1977, the fresh order read: “The government has been
satisfied that revoking the previous order is in public interest.”
In May last year, the State Cabinet, headed by then Chief
Minister Mehbooba Mufti, had issued the order to impose zero stamp duty in a
bid to empower women in J&K. Before that, the stamp duty was 7%.
Ms. Mufti had claimed that women in J&K owned bare
minimum immovable assets even after contributing the maximum to society. “This
incentive will encourage families to register their properties in the name of
their sisters, daughters, wives and mothers,” she had said.
The move was widely hailed by the civil society in J&K
and women rights groups.
8. Pak. team to inspect Chenab basin
A Pakistani delegation will visit the Chenab river basin in
Jammu and Kashmir for inspection from January 28 to 31, as mandated under the
Indus Water Treaty, sources said.
Pakistan’s Indus Commissioner Syed Mohammad Mehar Ali Shah
will arrive in India along with his two advisers, sources said.
“Under the 1960 treaty between India and Pakistan, both
commissioners are mandated to inspect sites and works on both sides of the
Indus basin in a block of five years,” a senior official said.
This tour will be followed by a visit of the Indian Indus
Commissioner to Pakistan.
9. Men, machines and glorious diversity
In a recognition of the role of the Indian National Army
(INA), led by Subhas Chandra Bose, in India’s history, four of its veterans
featured in the parade during the 70th Republic Day celebrations on Saturday.
An all-woman contingent of the Assam Rifles made its debut.
So did the Army’s newly inducted K-9 Vajra and M777 howitzers in the military
display. An Indian Air Force An-32 aircraft powered by biodiesel flew in the
INA veterans Parmanand, Lalti Ram, Hira Singh and Bhagmal,
all aged above 90, rode in open jeeps. Also for the first time was a marching
contingent of the Gurkha Brigade, comprising all seven Gurkha regiments, led by
Captain Abhaysheraz Singh Sandhu.
The K-9 Vajra tracked self-propelled artillery gun from
South Korea and the M777 ultra-light howitzer from the U.S. are the Army’s new
artillery inductions after three decades.
The parade also featured the T-90 Bhishma main battle tank,
infantry combat vehicle BMP-II, surface mine clearing system, transportable
satellite terminal and Akash surface-to-air missile (SAM) system.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)
displayed the medium-range SAM and an Arjun armoured recovery and repair vehicle.
The Navy contingent of 144 sailors was led by Lt. Cdr.
Ambika Sudhakarn and the Navy tableau was titled “Indian Navy — combat ready
force for national security”.
The IAF contingent comprising 144 air warriors led by Flight
Lieutenant Shrikant Sharma was followed by a tableau titled “Indian Air Force —
encouraging indigenisation” showcasing several scaled-down models of indigenous
The parade concluded with a flypast, which saw several
fighter and transport aircraft and helicopters fly in formation. Among them
were three An-32 medium transport aircraft in a ‘Vic’ formation, the lead one
powered by a 10% blend of biodiesel with aviation turbine fuel.
10. 24 years after Mandela, Ramaphosa graces fete
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday joined a
select group of world leaders, including Nelson Mandela, to have graced India’s
Republic Day celebrations .
Mr. Ramaphosa, as the chief guest at the 70th Republic Day
celebrations, watched the colourful parade at the majestic Rajpath along with
President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a host of other
He became the second president from South Africa to grace
the Republic Day celebrations as chief guest after Nelson Mandela attended the
event 24 years ago.
Last year, leaders of all 10 ASEAN countries attended the
celebration. In 2017, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al
Nahyan was the chief guest, while then French President Francois Hollande
graced the occasion the year before.
In 2015, then U.S. president Barack Obama watched the
11. Mauritius PM gets a rare honour
In an unprecedented gesture, India on Saturday accorded the
status of “special guests” to Mauritius Prime Minister P.K. Jugnauth and his
wife, Kobita, at the Republic Day celebrations here, official sources said.
The couple witnessed the unfurling of the national flag by
Maharashtra Governor C.V. Rao, inspection of the ceremonial parade and other
events that were held at the State function in Shivaji Park.
An official said usually India hosted a foreign head of
state or government or royalty as chief guest at the Republic Day function in
12. Britain is at risk of crashing out of EU
At 11 p.m., in 61 days, Britain is set to leave the European
Union and could do so without a deal, effectively rendering all laws governing
its interaction with the union (on trade, travel, pretty much anything) no
longer applicable. Disruption to medical and food supplies and travel aside,
this would — even by the government’s own analysis — be economically disastrous
for Britain, with a growth loss of up to 10.7% over a 15-year period. However,
with no solution in sight and parliamentarians only in agreement on what they
don’t want rather than what they should do, leaving with no deal is now the
default scenario and a very real possibility.
Is May responsible?
Innumerable factors have contributed to this precarious
situation. There has been Theresa May’s intransigence and unwillingness to
explore any idea beyond those she set out last year, involving a common rule
book and free trade zone with the EU, through an end to the free movement of
people that is a central tenet of the EU. While “hard” Brexiteers have
contributed to her resolve — she does not want to be the Conservative Prime
Minister responsible for a massive split in her party — much of the
stubbornness comes from within her, and in particular from her obsession with
curbing immigration. She spent six years as Home Secretary — before taking over
as Prime Minister in 2016 — and was the architect of the “hostile environment”
that has come under much scrutiny in the past year over the wrongful treatment
of Commonwealth migrants who arrived in Britain up to the early 1970s. She has
been adamant Britain must cut net migration to the tens of thousands from the
100s of thousands and has therefore made ending free movement with the EU a red
line for her, rendering solutions such as custom union membership demanded by
other politicians a non-starter.
What about repercussions?
There’s also a sizeable contingent of the Conservative
parliamentary party that is not convinced crashing out is such a big deal. The
likes of Boris Johnson regularly point to the supposed “evidence” like the
preparedness of the Mayor of Calais (the French port) to insist scare tactics
are being deployed, and polling shows there’s enough support for their
perspective within the wider party membership. In a recent poll, 57% of the
Conservative Party members said they would choose a no-deal exit if offered a
choice between that, Ms. May’s original withdrawal deal and remaining in the
EU. Many of them don’t want Ms. May to take no-deal off the table, with one
prominent commentator suggesting that to do would be like walking into a car showroom
and insisting one would not walk out without buying a car.
What happened in Parliament?
Others bear their share of responsibility too, not least
Parliament which, when it allowed her to trigger Article 50 to leave the EU,
didn’t put any constraint on the nature of the deal she could negotiate it.
That’s left Ms. May and her team free to play a game of chicken: essentially
threatening it either her way or a no-deal at all. Labour and other Opposition
parties are persistently seeking a commitment from her to take no-deal off the
table, but the move comes rather too late to be effective.
That’s partly because its looking increasingly questionable
whether the EU would be willing to offer Britain an extension (effectively
delaying Brexit) that might be necessary to avert a no-deal. The EU’s chief
negotiator on Brexit, Michel Barnier, this week warned that simply opposing
no-deal in the House of Commons would not stop it from happening unless a
majority agreed on an alternative agreement. The next significant moment comes
on Tuesday when MPs will vote on Ms. May’s ‘Plan B’ which she outlined after
her withdrawal deal failed to get through Parliament earlier this month.
Amendments have been tabled but hopes that one calling for a second referendum
could succeed have evaporated. Labour continues to refuse to back a second
referendum, insisting a general election is the way ahead. So even though a
majority of parliamentarians may agree that a no-deal Brexit is a terrible
idea, it may not be enough to stop it from happening.
13. CMB-Bharat project: listening to faintest murmurs of early universe
A three-week long programme entitled, ‘Cosmology – The next
decade’, which consisted of a school to train early career researchers and a
workshop for active researchers in the field of cosmology came to a close on 25
January. The workshop was held at ICTS-TIFR, Bengaluru. In the workshop,
project CMB-Bharat, a project to listen to the faintest murmurs of the universe
was mooted. CMB expands into Cosmic Microwave Background. The scientific space
project CMB-Bharat has been presented as a proposal to ISRO and is being
considered by it, said Tarun Souradeep, from IUCAA, Pune. This was one
highlight of the workshop which also saw discussions on the X-ray telescope
eROSITA which is to be launched in June 2019.
“Schools of long duration, where there could be detailed
courses, taught by the leaders in the field of cosmology are rare in our
country. The last such effort was in 2008… Many of those students are now
back as cosmology faculty in India and abroad,” says Subhabrata Majumdar, who
is with the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai (TIFR). “We hope
this school will create the much-needed leaders for Indian cosmology in the
coming decades,” he added, in an email. The programme was organized by
Subhabrata Majumdar, Rishi Khatri from TIFR, Mumbai and Aseem Paranjape from
Tarun Souradeep, who is the lead proposer of CMB-Bharat,
outlined the scope and plan of the project thus: “CMB-Bharat is a proposal for
comprehensive next generation Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) mission in
international collaboration with major Indian contribution. It proposes
‘near-ultimate’ survey polarisation that would exhaust the primordial
information in this ‘gold-mine’ for cosmology.”
The scientific promise of the project was threefold
according to Dr Souradeep. The “ultrahigh-goal” according to him was that the
project would reveal the first clear signature of quantum gravity and
ultra-high-energy-physics in the very early universe. He clarified that this
referred to quantum gravitational waves, which are different from what LIGO
detectors had observed that were classical in nature. The “high” goals lay in
neutrino physics where we could discover more about the neutrino species, their
total mass and mass hierarchy; map all dark matter and most baryons in the
observable universe, he said. The problem of knowing the hierarchy of masses of
the different species of neutrino is a very deep one and being hotly pursued by
many countries. The “legacy,” he said, was to improve probe of cosmological
model by a factor of over 10 million, and to generate rich galactic and
extragalactic astrophysics datasets.
The scientific promise of the project was threefold
according to Dr Souradeep. The “ultrahigh-goal” according to him was that the
project would reveal the first clear signature of quantum gravity and ultra-high-energy-physics
in the very early universe. He clarified that this referred to quantum
gravitational waves, which are different from what LIGO detectors had observed
that were classical in nature. The “high” goals lay in neutrino physics where
we could discover more about the neutrino species, their total mass and mass
hierarchy; map all dark matter and most baryons in the observable universe, he
said. The problem of knowing the hierarchy of masses of the different species
of neutrino is a very deep one and being hotly pursued by many countries. The
“legacy,” he said, was to improve probe of cosmological model by a factor of
over 10 million, and to generate rich galactic and extragalactic astrophysics
14. Warming Arctic
The Canadian Arctic might be experiencing its warmest summer
in the last 115,000 years. Retreating glaciers are revealing landscapes that
have been ice-covered for about 40,000 years, a study finds. Published in
Nature Communications, the study used radiocarbon dating to estimate the age of
plants in the region.
15. Escape from black holes
Though the black hole’s gravity makes it impossible to
escape from it once an object has crossed its event horizon, there are plasma
jets that have been observed to leave at enormous velocity. A recent study
published in Physical Review Letters analyses how this happens. This research
can be used to image black holes.
16. Virus-based therapy to target eye cancer
A cancer-killing, virus-based therapy developed in Spain has
shown some promise against retinoblastoma (which is a tumour of the retina that
affects mainly children) in mouse models and a pilot clinical trial. Although
further work is needed, the therapy lays the groundwork for new treatment
options for the cancer, which is currently treated with disfiguring surgery.
Researchers estimate that retinoblastoma causes 8,000 cases worldwide each
year, a figure that represents 11% of all cancers in children under the age of
one. Most cases result from inactivation of the gene RB1, which normally plays
a critical role as a tumour suppressor. Chemotherapy is the standard-of-care
for retinoblastoma, but intensive rounds of such drugs can damage the retina
and cause long-term vision problems. In some cases, surgery is needed to remove
the eye entirely, an invasive procedure called enucleation, that results in
loss of vision. The alternative treatment, called VCN-01, harnesses a virus
that infects and kills cancer cells harbouring a dysfunctional RB1 pathway. The
study appears in Science Translational Medicine.
17. What is Minimalist Machine Learning?
Mathematicians at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence
Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), U.S., have developed a new
approach to machine learning aimed at experimental imaging data. Rather than
relying on the tens or hundreds of thousands of images used by typical machine
learning methods, this new approach “learns” much more quickly and requires far
fewer images. The technique is formally called the “Mixed-Scale Dense
Convolution Neural Network (MS-D)”. It requires far fewer parameters than
traditional methods, converges quickly, and has the ability to “learn” from a
remarkably small training set. Their approach is already being used to extract
biological structure from cell images, and is poised to provide a major new
computational tool to analyse data across a wide range of research areas.
Book – The Oxford India Gandhi: Essential Writings
Writer – Compiled and edited by Gopalkrishna Gandhi
Description – A grandson sifts through Gandhi’s words and
explains that by remaining a satyagrahi till his last breath, he transcended
Book – The Nonviolent Struggle for Indian Freedom, 1905-19
Writer – David Hardiman
Description – A historian explains how Gandhi finessed the
principle of ahimsa that could be followed by anyone, young or old, man or
Book – A Stranger Truth: Lessons in Love, Leadership and
Courage from India’s Sex Workers
Writer – Ashok Alexander
Description – On the challenges facing AIDS prevention
workers in India
Book – Time Pieces: A Whistle-Stop Tour of Ancient India
Writer – Nayanjot Lahiri
Description – Understanding the past with new stories drawn
from old histories
Book – Insider/ Outsider: Belonging and Unbelonging in
Writer – Edited by Preeti Gill & Samrat
Description – The National Register of Citizens in Assam and
an amendment to the Citizenship Act have reopened old divides between religious
and linguistic communities which have a history of conflict. Academics and
activists try to explain the complex mosaic of multiple ethnicities, languages,
religions and tribes that is the Northeast and why some people are considered
Book – Democracy on the Road: A 25-Year Journey through
Writer – Ruchir Sharma
Description – A global investor and writer offers a portrait
of how India and its democracy work, drawn from his two decades on the road
chasing election campaigns. He and fellow writers talk to farmers, shopkeepers
and CEOs from Rajasthan to Tamil Nadu, and interview leaders from Narendra Modi
to Rahul Gandhi.
Book – From Possession to Freedom: The Journey of
Writer – R. Umamaheswari
Description – The Tamil text, Nilakeci, dated around the 5th
century CE — there is no clarity on the time — is an unusual literary creation.
It retrieves a violent pey (female possessing spirit) of Palanayur,
transforming her into a Jaina philosopher. The writer places the story among
other texts and traditions, giving us a peek into Tamil Jaina literary history.
Book – Business & Politics in India
Writer – Edited by Christophe Jaffrelot & Others
Description – Over the last few decades, politics in India
has moved steadily in a pro-business direction, which has important
implications for both government and citizens. In this volume, scholars of
Indian politics offer an analytical synthesis of the issue. They look at the
nature of business power and its impact on labour, land and urban governance.
Book – We are Displaced
Writer – Malala Yousafzai
Description – After her Nobel Peace Prize, Yousafzai has
spoken out on many things like migration, displacement, war and border
conflicts. Even now when she closes her eyes, she can see the beautiful Swat
Valley where she grew up but hasn’t been able to go back to after the Taliban
attack. She has visited many refugee camps and shares the stories.
19. Vinita claims title
World University champion Vinita Bhardwaj was in
irresistible form as she topped a strong field in winning the gold in women’s
air rifle in the H&N Cup international shooting championship here in
Vinita shot 251.0 in the final and beat the qualification
topper Isabella Straub of Germany by 0.8 point for the gold. Vinita had
qualified in the second place with an impressive 630.1, while Isabella had shot
1.5 point more.
World Championship silver medallist Anjum Moudgil shot 627.8
for the 14th spot, while Shriyanka Sadangi had 627.4 for the 23rd place.
The results: Women’s air rifle: 1. Vinita Bhardwaj 251.0
(630.1); 2. Isabella Straub (Ger) 250.2 (632.6); 3. Alison Weisz (US) 228.9
(629.8); 14. Anjum Moudgil 627.8; 23. Shriyanka Sadangi 627.4.
Women’s air pistol: 1. Olena Kostevych (Ukr) 242.0 (586); 2.
Vitalina Batsarashkina (Rus) 240.6 (579); 3. Heena Sidhu 220.0 (579); 8. P.
Shri Nivetha 115.4 (579).
Women’s air pistol-2: 1. Olena Kostevych (Ukr) 242.5 (584);
2. Vitalina Batsarashkina (Rus) 240.4 (578); 3. Heidi Diethelm (Sui) 220.9
(578); 4. Heena Sidhu 200.1 (579).
Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)
21. Things to Remember:
Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa
Mauritius Prime Minister P.K. Jugnauth
22. Improve your Vocabulary:
Meaning – Unity or agreement of feeling or action,
especially among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a
Example – ‘factory workers voiced solidarity with the
Synonyms – unanimity, unity, like-mindedness, agreement,
accord, harmony, consensus, concord, concurrence, singleness of purpose,
community of interest, mutual support, cooperation, cohesion, team spirit,
camaraderie, esprit de corps
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