Current Affairs The Hindu 2018
1. After PMO intervention, NITI Aayog approves the supplementary nutrition guidelines
Latest Current Affairs The Hindu,
The NITI Aayog has approved the supplementary nutrition guidelines, prepared by the Ministry for Women and Child Development, bypassing Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi following intervention by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), according to a person familiar with the development.
The PMO had stepped in to end a more than yearlong stand-off between Ms. Gandhi and the Ministry’s officials in the wake of sharp differences over the proposed norms.
2. Aero India expo to remain in Bengaluru
The 12th edition of Aero India will be held in Bengaluru from February 20-24, 2019, the Defence Ministry announced on Saturday, ending confusion over a possible change of date and venue.
“This five-day event will combine a major trade exhibition for the aerospace and defence industries with public air shows… the show will also see participation by think-tanks from across the world,” the Ministry statement said. [Current affairs The Hindu]
Officials had earlier said that there was much deliberation within the Ministry on shifting the biennial air show to Bakshi Ka Talab near Lucknow and to hold it in November. Current Affairs The Hindu- Article.
3. India awaits longest road-rail bridge
Sited about 17 km downstream of Dibrugarh town, the bridge will facilitate road and rail connectivity between the north and south banks of the Brahmaputra in the eastern part of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
The Brahmaputra was till 1962 the only river in India that had not been bridged along its entire length either for road or railway, according to a 1988 book co-authored by former railwayman and IIT Madras teacher S. Ponnuswamy.
The river, more than 10 km wide in several stretches, now awaits the completion of its fourth and easternmost span — the country’s longest road-rail bridge at 4.94 km — that India’s defence forces and residents of the eastern half of the Northeast have been demanding for almost five decades.
While former Prime Minister H. D. Deve Gowda laid the foundation stone for the Bogibeel bridge in January 1997, work started only in April 2002, when Atal Bihari Vajpayee inaugurated the construction.
The protracted delay has resulted in the project’s cost increasing more than threefold to ₹5,800 crore, from the initial estimate of ₹1,767 crore.
At present, troops moving between Dhemaji and Dibrugarh — districts on opposite banks — have to travel more than 600 km via the 3.015 km Kaliabhomora bridge, west of Bogibeel.
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4. Tilonia’s ‘solar mamas’ are glowing
A group of 45 women from 10 countries, ‘solar mamas’ who learnt the skills needed for the fabrication of solar panels, lights and photovoltaic circuits in a six-month-long training programme, were felicitated at a ‘graduation ceremony’ at the Barefoot College here on Saturday. Diplomats from five countries attended the event.
Agents of change
Having developed the potential to become agents of change in their respective countries, the ‘solar mamas’ successfully completed an in-house solar engineering programme. They are a part of the 20th batch of students at the extraordinary school in the Tilonia village of Rajasthan’s Ajmer district, which has helped turn rural wisdom into a fountainhead for development.
The Barefoot College, established four decades ago, empowers marginalised women by training them to become solar engineers, artisans, dentists, broadcasters and doctors for their own villages.
The institution has so far trained over 15,000 women in various skills.
Training in solar energy applications is the Barefoot College’s latest initiative. It was launched in 2005 and is now supported by the Ministry of External Affairs. It caters to two groups of women — from India, and from Latin America, other parts of Asia, the Pacific Islands, and African countries.
New Zealand High Commissioner Joanna Kempkers praised the Barefoot College’s training for mostly illiterate and semi-literate rural women.
Diplomats Shaida Mohammed Abdali from Afghanistan, Baraka Haran Luvanda from Tanzania, Marie Leontine Razana Drasoa from Madagascar and Yogesh Punja from Fiji were among those who attended the ceremony.
5. Sushma cancels visit to Syria
India on Saturday cancelled the scheduled visit of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to Syria, where she was expected to participate in the biggest industrial fair aimed at reconstruction of the war-ravaged country. The visit was in line with India’s stated objective of helping the country which has been a traditional friend of India.
“External Affairs Minister’s visit to Syria has been deferred due to the prevailing situation in that country. Fresh dates will be decided in mutual consultation with the Syrian side,” a spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs said.
6. Nepal to skip BIMSTEC military drill in India
The Nepal Army has withdrawn from the first BIMSTEC military exercise to be held in India following a political row in the country over the participation in the event, a media report said on Saturday.
Prime Minister K.P. Oli asked the national defence force not to participate in the drill, compelling the Nepal Army leadership to rollback its earlier decision to take part in the first-ever military exercise of the regional grouping initiated by India. The decision was taken just a day before the Army squad was set to travel to Pune, where the drill will commence on Monday, the Kathmandu Post reported.
The move came after strong criticism from different quarters, including influential leaders of the ruling Nepal Communist Party.
The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) comprises Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal.
7. LEMOA already fully operational
The India-U.S. foundational agreement for mutual logistics support, the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), has been fully operationalised over the past few months, official sources said.
Earlier this week, India concluded the third foundational agreement, Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), which is meant for secure encrypted communications.
Exchange of SOPs
“We had to inform them [U.S.] our standard operating procedures (SOPs). They had already done it. Now we can say LEMOA is fully operational,” an official said.
The SOP document was shared with the U.S. two months ago.
India had concluded the LEMOA in August 2016 in a culmination of a decade of negotiations between the two countries.
The pact gives both countries access to designated military facilities on either side for the purpose of refuelling and replenishment in primarily four areas — port calls, joint exercises, training and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
The SOPs include designating the points of contact for the U.S. military to work with, and set up, a common account for payments.
With COMCASA, India has signed three of the four foundational or enabling agreements with the U.S. meant to improve interoperability between the militaries and allow transfer of high-end military platforms.
The first one, the General Security Of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), which is for information safety, was signed in 2002.
COMCASA, which was signed at the 2+2 dialogue on Thursday, is an India-specific version of the Communication and Information on Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA).
The last one remaining is the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA).
8. INSA cuts funds for awardees
Citing “continued limitations posed by the budgetary provisions from the Department of Science and Technology (DST)” the New Delhi-based Indian National Science Academy (INSA) has decided to “dispense with” facilities given to researchers who had won the Young Scientist Award given by the Academy.
In a September 4, 2018, letter addressed to all awardees post 2014-2015, President of INSA Ajay Sood stated that the INSA council had decided to dispense with the three-year, annual research grant of ₹5 lakhs. The awardees will also no longer be eligible to participate in an international conference/workshop, and those who are not employed, will not get interim fellowship for three years, the letter says. The changes are being implemented with “immediate effect”, the letter adds.
“The awardee within five years of receipt of the Award will be considered for a visit abroad with full support for presenting research work at conferences, and/or participating in collaborative/training research projects, wherever possible,” the letter sent to an awardee reads. This is the reason why the letter mentions all awardees post 2014-2015.
Since 1974, the Young Scientist award is given annually to researchers in “recognition of notable contributions to any branch of science or technology”.
9. Is outbreak of fever a worry in Kerala?
Public health officials had warned of the likelihood of outbreak of infectious diseases in the aftermath of the Kerala floods, and the State is battling a disease called leptospirosis, commonly known as ‘rat fever.’ Officials have confirmed 143 cases, with six deaths in the first four days of September.
What is leptospirosis?
Leptospirosis is a zoonotic, or animal-borne, disease, caused by the bacteria of the genus Leptospira. It is largely found in animals, and occasionally surfaces in humans. It is most commonly spread through water contaminated by urine from infected animals, but contaminated food or soil can also act as vehicles for the disease. The key carriers are rodents, livestock and dogs, and that is why it is also known as ‘rat fever.’ Men — according to government guidelines — suffer more frequently from leptospirosis than women because of greater occupational exposure to infected animals and contaminated environment. Leptospiral infections occur more frequently in the 20-45 age group and it rarely happens in children. Much like dengue, it can manifest itself as no more than a mild flu and progress to a severe form that can cause kidney damage, liver failure, respiratory distress, meningitis, and even death. About 90% of leptospirosis cases manifest mild symptoms and the fatality rate can go as high as 15%, according to the Health Ministry. The authorities in Kerala have clinically confirmed 891 cases and 41 deaths this year.
How seriously is it taken?
The Health Ministry has a protocol called the ‘Programme for Prevention and Control of Leptospirosis’ since 2015. Because leptospirosis manifested several symptoms similar to dengue, malaria and jaundice, it was frequently “overlooked” and therefore it has advised the States to use blood test and serology to identify cases. It also has a detailed procedure for lab technicians to take body fluids samples for testing.
10. Ranjan Gogoi tough judge from Assam
Where is he from?
One of five siblings — his elder brother is Air Marshall Anjan Kumar Gogoi (retired) — Justice Gogoi was born on November 18, 1954, in an illustrious family in eastern Assam’s Dibrugarh. He went to the town’s Don Bosco School before studying history at St. Stephen’s College in Delhi. He followed in his father’s footsteps by pursuing law and joining the Bar in 1978. Colleagues in the Gauhati High Court, where he mainly practised, recall him as a soft-spoken, reserved person, who commanded respect. Current Affairs The Hindu.
What are his major cases?
Along with Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman, Justice Gogoi has been monitoring the National Register of Citizens exercise in Assam. In 2016, he became the first to issue a contempt notice to a former SC judge — Markandey Katju — for “an attack on the judges and not the judgment” in the Soumya rape and murder case. His other cases include the Aarushi murder and dismissal of a petition for a probe into the attacks on former Jawaharlal Nehru University Student Union leader Kanhaiya Kumar. But Justice Gogoi hit the headlines in January this year when he, along with three other judges, veered from convention by airing issues they had with Chief Justice of India Misra’s allocation of cases. The perceived ‘differences’ have been put to rest with Justice Gogoi being recommended for the top post.
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11. Debate on Uniform Civil Code
Article 44 of the Directive Principles in the Constitution says the “State shall endeavour to provide for its citizens a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) throughout the territory of India.” The objective of this endeavour should be to address the discrimination against vulnerable groups and harmonise diverse cultural practices. The stand taken by B.R. Ambedkar in the Constituent Assembly debates has survived the years. Dr. Ambedkar had said a UCC is desirable but for the moment should remain voluntary.
The Law Commission of India notes that the tracts of the Constituent Assembly debates reveal a lack of consensus on what a potential uniform civil code would entail. While many thought the UCC would coexist alongside the personal law systems, others thought that it was to replace the personal law.
The debate on the UCC is centred on the argument to replace individual personal customs and practices of marriage, divorce, adoption and successions with a common code. Those in favour of one code argue that it will end discrimination in religions. Detractors contend that it will rob the nation of its religious diversity and violate the fundamental right to practise religion enshrined in Article 25 of the Constitution. In fact, they hold that a state action to introduce the UCC is against the quintessence of democracy. The secular state is, after all, an enabler of rights rather than an inhibitor in sensitive matters of religion and personal laws.
In the Shah Bano case, the court lamented that Article 44 remained a “dead letter.” Chances are that it may continue to remain so. In its consultation paper last week, the Law Commission chose codification of personal laws over the UCC as a way to end discrimination within religions. Codification of various practices and customs would make them ‘law’ under Article 13 of the Constitution. Any ‘law’ that comes under Article 13 should be consistent with the fundamental rights, the Law Commission has reasoned. This would protect the plurality of religions, too, and may be the way forward for the near future. In fact, the Law Commission has suggested in no uncertain terms that the UCC is “neither necessary nor desirable at this stage in the country.” It said a unified nation does not necessarily need to have “uniformity.”
12. Aptamer inhibits TB bacteria entry into cells
By using a small single-stranded DNA molecule (DNA aptamer) that specifically binds to a single protein (HupB) present in TB bacteria, researchers have been able to achieve 40-55% reduction in the bacteria’s ability to enter into human cells and infect them. Besides facilitating entry into host cells, HupB also helps the TB bacteria survive various stresses encountered inside host cells.
The HupB protein was discovered in late 1990s by Prof. H. Krishna Prasad, formerly with AIIMS, while looking at specific TB bacterial antigens that induced immune response in humans. He found the protein was associated with the DNA of the bacteria (Tubercle and Lung Disease journal).
“HupB is an essential protein of TB bacteria and so an attractive drug target,” says Prof. Jaya Sivaswami Tyagi from the Department of Biotechnology at AIIMS and one of the corresponding authors of a paper published a few days ago in the journal Molecular Therapy – Nucleic Acid.
A vital protein
“The TB bacteria use a number of proteins to enter host cells. But their entry into host cells is inhibited 40-55% when the HupB protein alone is inhibited. This shows how vital the HupB protein is in modulating the bacterial entry into host cells,” says Priya Kalra from the Department of Biotechnology at AIIMS and first author of the paper. But will the inhibition to enter host cells be greater if both the aptamers are used simultaneously? “Ideally, both the aptamers can be used. But no study was done to determine this. We speculate that the cocktail will have a complementary effect. But it is hard to say by how much the invasiveness will be reduced when the aptamers are used together,” says Kalra.
Using the HupB protein alone, the researchers tested the ability of the aptamers to inhibit DNA binding. At 75%, the HupB-4T aptamer showed greater DNA binding inhibition than the HupB-13T aptamer (25%). Inhibition of DNA binding will make the bacteria vulnerable to stress inside the host cells, leading to death. Current Affair The Hindu 2018.
13. IISER Bhopal develops organic solar cell using vitamin B12 derivative
Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Bhopal have developed cheaper and more flexible organic solar cells using a synthetic derivative of vitamin B12.
An organic solar cell is made up of acceptor and donor materials. The donor absorbs light from solar radiation and the harvested energy is passed to the electrodes with the help of the acceptor. In the present study, published in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, the researchers synthesised the donor using an artificial aromatic chemical (corrole) which has a similar structure to the corrin ring in vitamin B12. The artificially synthesised corrole (Cor-BODIPY) absorbs light much like porphyrin in natural chlorophyll.
The organic cells developed by the team showed three absorption bands between 400-650 nm — whole visible range of the solar spectrum — with a maximum absorption at 420 nm. The ability to turn the light absorbed to electricity (power conversion efficiency) was 2.5%.
14. Phantom limbs
Phantom limb pain happens to people who have had limb amputations. They continue to feel the presence of the amputated part, and especially, pain in that area. Though the effect has been known for a long time, it is poorly understood. Now, based on a treatment that uses machine learning and augmented reality, a researcher from Sweden has a hypothesis regarding the effect. The proposal is that neural circuitry, after an amputation loses its primary role and becomes entangled with other neural networks which are responsible for pain perception. The coincidental firing of these neurons with the ones involved in pain perception is what, according to him, causes the pain.
15. Colour of poppies
A recent study opens the secret of Californian poppies’ brilliant colour. The petal surface has tiny microscopic ridges that act as prisms. When light falls on these, it is focused on carotenoid granules lying at the bottom of cells. Also, light from certain angles is reflected back, giving the silky glow.
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Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS)
MSP – Minimum Support Prices
Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA)
Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA)
Indian National Science Academy (INSA)
18. Things to Remember:
Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal
President of Syria – Bashar Al Assad
Prime Minister of Nepal – K.P. Oli
Human Resource Development Minister – Prakash Javadekar
19. Improve your Vocabulary:
Meaning – Express sharp disapproval or criticism of (someone) because of their behaviour or actions.
Example – ‘she had rebuked him for drinking too much’
Synonyms: reprimand, reproach, scold, admonish, reprove, remonstrate with, chastise, chide, upbraid, berate, take to task, pull up, castigate, lambaste, read someone the riot act, give someone a piece of one’s mind, haul over the coals, criticize, censure
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