1. Kerala’s captive jumbos get genhetic IDs
DNA profiling may be a contentious issue among humans, but for Kerala’s captive elephants, it’s a done deal. In a first for India, every one of Kerala’s captive elephants now has a unique DNA-based genetic ID. M. Radhakrishna Pillai, Director, Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB), which was given the task of DNA fingerprinting the elephants, handed over the DNA database, prototypes of Unique Identification Cards, and a study report to the Forest Department’s Chief Wildlife Warden P.C. Kesavan on Tuesday.
Captive elephants are those that have been captured from the wild and used by humans. The Forest Department provided blood samples of captive elephants from across the State to the RGCB for DNA fingerprinting. The method is a forensic technique that makes it possible to identify individuals — people or animals — based on unique DNA characteristics called micro-satellites (DNA portions that occur repeatedly), much like fingerprints.
To conduct DNA fingerprinting, the RGCB’s teams at the Regional Facility for DNA Fingerprinting (RFDF) in Thiruvananthapuram first removed duplicate samples after cross-verification and then isolated DNA from the samples. After tests, 11 micro-satellite markers (which help isolate specific micro-satellites) and one sex marker (for gender ID) were selected, said E.V. Soniya, head of the DNA Fingerprinting Unit at the RGCB. The database covers all 519 captive elephants. “This database is now accessible to the Forest Department,” she said. The RGCB also developed a protocol to DNA fingerprint elephants using dung and tusk samples, which could help solve wildlife crimes, including poaching and illegal trade.
2. Ansari back in India after six years
Hamid Nehal Ansari, an Indian national in the custody of Pakistani authorities, was repatriated on Tuesday. He was united with his family at the Wagah-Attari border crossing where his mother and peace activists welcomed him.
The return of Mr. Ansari, who had been missing in Pakistan since 2012, took place after he completed a three-year prison term. He had reportedly entered Pakistan through the Northwest of the country to meet a woman he befriended on social media
3. Gujarat waives power tariff
A day after the new governments in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh announced farm loan waivers, the Gujarat government on Tuesday announced a ₹650-crore waiver of power tariff for 6.22 lakh households in rural areas of the State. Power companies had snapped supply because of theft and non-payment of dues.
4. NGT raps Ministry over groundwater notification
The National Green Tribunal on Tuesday rapped the Union Water Resources Ministry over its notification pertaining to groundwater extraction.
A Bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel came down heavily on the Ministry and said that the notification, issued on December 12, was against “national interest”.
In the notification, the Ministry had said that industries extracting groundwater and those that use the same for packaged drinking water, would need to apply for a no-objection certificate from the government. However, the agriculture sector will be exempt from the fees, the notification had said.
The Ministry informed the Bench that a Water Conservation Fee has also been introduced in the revised guidelines.
5. IAF shows its mastery in ‘airlift’
In an evaluation of the rapid airlift capability of the Indian Air Force at times of war and natural disasters, the Western Air Command (WAC) airlifted a record 463 tonnes of load from Chandigarh to airfields and drop-zones in the Ladakh region in a single wave on Tuesday.
This was accomplished with a fleet of 16 fixed-wing transport aircraft, including the heavy-lift C-17 Globemaster and Il-76 and the medium-lift An-32. “All aircraft were loaded, and took off from the Chandigarh airbase early in the morning. The entire wave was accomplished in little less than six hours,” the IAF said in a statement.
The WAC is entrusted with the air maintenance of India’s northern region, and under normal circumstances, it airlifts close to 3000 tonnes of load a month.
6. Centre drafts child protection policy
A code of conduct for employees of all organisations and a declaration signed by them agreeing to ensure the safety of children are some of the provisions included in the Centre’s draft national child protection policy, prepared on the prodding of the Supreme Court in the wake of the Muzaffarpur shelter abuse case.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development has placed the draft policy on its website and invited comments from stakeholders until January 4. This will be the first policy dedicated to the protection of children, an area that until now was only a part of the broader National Child Policy, 2013.
The Supreme Court had earlier directed the CBI to investigate allegations involving 17 shelter homes for children, destitute women, beggars and senior citizens in Bihar following the case of sexual abuse of more than 30 girls in a shelter home in Muzaffarpur in the State. The Supreme Court had also asked the Centre to consider framing a national policy on protection of children.
As per the draft, the policy will apply to “all institutions, and organisations (including corporate and media houses), government or private sector”.
The draft policy recommends that all organisations must have a code of conduct based on “zero tolerance of child abuse and exploitation”. It requires organisations to lay down that employees don’t use language or behaviour that is “inappropriate, harassing, abusive, sexually provocative, demeaning or culturally inappropriate”.
Institutions should also designate a staff member to ensure that procedures are in place to ensure the protection of children as well as to report any abuse. Any individual who suspects physical, sexual or emotional abuse must report it to the helpline number 1098, police or a child welfare committee.
Unlike the National Child Policy, 2013, the latest document doesn’t talk about children who may need special protection: including those affected by migration, communal or sectarian violence, children forced into begging or in conflict with the law, and those infected with HIV/AIDS. It also doesn’t talk about the role of the State for ensuring the protection of child rights or addressing local grievances.
7. Evening train after 137 years
The iconic Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) has a first since its birth 137 years ago – an evening daily toy train service hauled by a steam engine.
But the evening narrow-gauge train, introduced on Monday for tourists, does not go the whole hog.
Instead of the 88 km between New Jalpaiguri at 113.8 metres above mean sea level to Darjeeling at 2075.6 metres, the train will cover 18 km between Siliguri Junction and Rongtong at the 427.9 metres.
“The train leaves Siliguri at 3 p.m. to reach Rongtong at 4.20 p.m. with a 10-minute stop at Sukna station. The train returns from Rongtong after a 25-minute halt for refreshment and engine reversal,” Pranav Jyoti Sharma, spokesperson of Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR), said.
8. The Katowice consensus does not adequately reflect the challenge to limit global warming
The UN Climate Conference held in Katowice, Poland, has moved ahead with the implementation of the Paris Agreement through a rule book, reflecting strong support among citizens of all countries for urgent action to avert dangerous climate change. Public pressure has prevailed over scepticism, although the outcome does not adequately reflect the short window available to make deep greenhouse gas emissions cuts. Yet, the Paris Agreement, endorsed by 195 countries under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), has a long road ahead before carbon emissions can be pegged at levels flagged by scientists. Recently, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in a special report, issued a stark warning on man-made emissions. It said that to cap the rise in global average temperature over pre-industrial levels at 1.5°C, a 45% reduction in emissions over 2010 levels must be made by 2030. This is a challenge for all big economies, including India, which is among the top five emitters of carbon dioxide. In the Indian context, it highlights the need for action on several fronts: scaling up solar and wind power in line with the goal of reaching 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022, steadily reducing reliance on coal, shifting substantially to electric mobility and adopting green industrial processes. Taxing luxury emissions and using the dividend to give the poor energy access has to be the policy target, building on international green climate funding linkages.
At Katowice, Indian negotiators put forth legitimate concerns on the likely social impact of the new rules that will operationalise the Paris Agreement in 2020. After all, at an estimated 1.2 tonnes of CO2 per capita, India emits far below the global average of 4.2 tonnes. Yet, cumulative emissions determine the impact on climate, and India’s emissions grew at an estimated 6.3% in 2018. The prospect of increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and sea level rise in a warming world affecting small island states allows little room for complacency. The task now is to achieve a paradigm shift that will slow down the addition of new sources of carbon emissions. As a party to the global climate compact, India has to systematically assess its emissions and measure mitigation actions for reporting to the UNFCCC at stock-taking meetings. This is an opportunity to bring major sectors such as energy production, building, agriculture and transport on board, and make changes to regulations that favour environment-friendly alternatives. China has taken the lead in advancing electric mobility, while individual States and cities are ahead of national governments, as in the U.S., in reducing their carbon footprint. A clean-up in India will help meet emissions commitments and remove the blanket of air pollution that is suffocating entire cities.
9. Overperception bias
Also known as the sexual overperception bias, this refers to the tendency among people to overestimate the level of sexual interest that others have in them. It is believed that men are more likely to overestimate the interest level of women. On the other hand, women are said to underestimate men’s interest level. This is attributed to the fact that the evolutionary cost of underestimation is relatively high for men when compared to women. The overperception bias is considered to be a corollary of the sexual underperception bias which refers to the tendency among people, mostly women, to underestimate the interest level of people of the opposite sex.
10. ‘T.N. consent not needed for grant of ToR for new Mullaperiyar dam’
The Centre has informed the Rajya Sabha that prior consent from the Tamil Nadu government is “not required” for the collection of baseline data for the preparation of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the Kerala government’s proposal to build a new dam at Mullaperiyar.
In response to a query from DMK MP Kanimozhi in the Upper House, Union Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Mahesh Sharma stated that the ministry had granted the Terms of Reference (ToR) for the construction of a new Mullaperiyar dam on November 14, 2018.
The grant of ToR was as per the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006, and a subsequent amendment in 2009, along with the conditions for preparation of the EIA/EMP report, he stated.
A condition had been stipulated in the ToR letter, he said. It states: “As per the ruling of the Supreme Court, in its judgment dated May 7, 2014, liberty has been granted to the parties to apply to the court if they are unable to arrive at some amicable solution regarding the new dam.
11. Vajpayee’s portrait to be unveiled in Parliament
A life-size portrait of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee will be unveiled at the historic Central Hall of Parliament during the ongoing winter session of Parliament.
Though an official date has not been announced, it could take place on December 25, the former Prime Minister’s birth anniversary that the Modi government celebrates as Good Governance Day.
The proposal to honour Vajpayee’s legacy was moved by Home Minister Rajnath Singh in the presence of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and senior BJP leader Satyanarayan Jatiya. The Portraits Committee of the Lok Sabha, at a meeting chaired by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, unanimously agreed to the proposal.
Leaders in the committee include Deputy Speaker M. Thambidurai, Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, Trinamool Congress’s Sudeep Bandopadhya, Biju Janata Dal’s Bartuhari Mahtab, Jitender Reddy of the TRS and Anant Geete of the Shiv Sena.
12. Interim CBI chief is Additional Director
M. Nageswara Rao, the interim Central Bureau of Investigation Director, was on Tuesday made the Additional Director with the approval of the Appointments Committee of Cabinet. According to an order issued by the Department of Personnel and Training, the appointment has been made till his approved tenure with the CBI or till further orders, whichever is earlier.
13. Rajapaksa named leader of Opposition
Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was on Tuesday named the Leader of Opposition in the Sri Lankan Parliament, but rival lawmakers contested his eligibility to hold the position.
The Speaker has said that he would consider the objections and give a ruling on Friday.
14. U.S. military to have a ‘Space Command’
U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday ordered the creation of “Space Command”, a new organisational structure within the Pentagon that will have overall control of military space operations.
The command will be separate from Mr. Trump’s goal to build an entirely new branch of the military called “Space Force,” which has not received approval from Congress.
“I direct the establishment, consistent with United States law, of United States Space Command as a functional Unified Combatant Command,” Mr. Trump said in a memo to Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.
Speaking at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida’s Cape Canaveral, Vice-President Mike Pence said Space Command would integrate space capabilities across all branches of the military.
15. Likhitha posts wins
Likhitha Kalava won both her singles and doubles first round matches in the $15,000 ITF women’s tennis tournament in Djibouti. Likhitha beat Suqing Peng of Singapore 7-5, 6-2 in singles. She and Emmanuelle Girard of France made the doubles quarterfinals.
The results: $15,000 ITF men, Islamabad: Singles (first round): Chandril Sood bt Vladimir Polyakov (Rus) 0-6, 6-2, 7-5; Hamidreza Nadaf (Iri) bt Lakshit Sood 6-1, 6-2.
Doubles (pre-quarterfinals): Anton Chekhov (Rus) & Kai Wehnelt (Ger) bt Chandril & Lakshit 6-2, 6-4.
$15,000 ITF men, Gabode, Djibouti: Singles (first round): Likhitha Kalava bt Suqing Peng (Sgp) 7-5, 6-2.
Doubles (pre-quarterfinals): Emmanuelle Girard (Fra) & Likhitha bt Sarah Pang (Sgp) & Dan Ni Wang (Chn) 6-4, 6-4.
16. Film on menstruation, set in rural India, joins Oscar race
Period. End of Sentence, a the short film about women in India fighting against the deeply rooted stigma of menstruation, has made it to the Oscar shortlist in the Documentary Short Subject category.
Directed by award-winning Iranian-American filmmaker Rayka Zehtabchi, the film is created by The Pad Project, an organisation established by an inspired group of students at the Oakwood School in Los Angeles and their teacher, Melissa Berton.
The executive producer of the film is Guneet Monga.
The 26-minute film follows girls and women in Hapur in northern India and their experience with the installation of a pad machine in their village.
The film also delves upon Mr. Muruganantham’s invention of an easy-to-operate machine that makes low-cost sanitary napkins using supplies that are readily available in India.
Mr. Muruganantham, whose story inspired the Bollywood feature film Pad Man, brings his machines to these small towns, helping train women to operate them and in turn sell the supplies at very affordable prices to other women in their area. The women retain the profits, effectively creating a sustainable women-run micro-business that protects both their health and their future.
India’s entry for the Foreign Language Film Category, Village Rockstars is out of the Oscar race.
17. Most-distant solar system object observed
Scientists have discovered the most-distant body ever observed in our solar system — located over 100 times farther than Earth is from the Sun. The new object has been nicknamed “Farout”.
- NationalGreen Tribunal (NGT)
- NortheastFrontier Railway (NFR)
- NationalHuman Rights Commission (NHRC)
19. Things to Remember:
Madhya Pradesh CM – Kamal Nath
20. Improve your Vocabulary:
Meaning – Prod (someone) gently with one’s elbow in order to attract attention
Example – ‘people were nudging each other and pointing at me’
Synonyms – poke, elbow, dig, prod, jog, jab, butt
Meaning 1.1 – Touch or push (something) gently or gradually.
Example – ‘the canoe nudged a bank of reeds’
Synonyms -touch, bump, bump against, push, push against, run into