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Question and Answer
Q. 493. Indian giant squirrel
The Indian giant squirrel, or Malabar giant squirrel, is a large tree squirrel species native to India. It is a large-bodied diurnal, arboreal, and mainly herbivorous squirrel found in South Asia.
The Indian giant squirrel is an upper-canopy dwelling species, which rarely leaves the trees, and requires tall profusely branched trees for the construction of nests. The Giant Squirrel is mostly active in the early hours of the morning and in the evening, resting in the midday. They are typically solitary animals that only come together for breeding. The species is believed to play a substantial role in shaping the ecosystem of its habitat by engaging in seed dispersal.
The species is endemic to deciduous, mixed deciduous, and moist evergreen forests of peninsular India, reaching as far north as the Satpura hill range of Madhya Pradesh (approx. 22° N).
The Indian Giant Squirrel lives alone or in pairs. They build large globular nests of twigs and leaves, placing them on thinner branches where large predators can't get to them. These nests become conspicuous in deciduous forests during the dry season. An individual may build several nests in a small area of forest which are used as sleeping quarters, with one being used as a nursery.
Captive breeding of the Malayan giant squirrel has shown positive results. In Canara, the Indian Giant Squirrel has been spotted with young ones recently.
Q. 492. New gateway to South-East Asia
Jogighopa is set to become India’s gateway to South-East Asia as well as the rest of the North-East. The road ministry is gearing up to develop a multimodal logistics park (MMLP) there with road, rail, waterways and air transport facilities. Jogighopa is a small town located on the banks of the Brahmaputra River in the Bongaigaon district in the state of Assam.
The development includes railway sidings, container terminals, warehousing, non-cargo processing, a truck terminal, common facilities, support infrastructure and equipment.
A special purpose vehicle, backed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), will be created to execute the project.
Under the project, all four types of transportation—road, rail, air and waterways—will be available.
The current transit corridors from mainland India to the North-East region pass through an area known as the “Chicken’s Neck”—a narrow tract of land in India between the borders with Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. Since it is close to these borders and cannot be expanded, the North-East region requires an alternative route for providing connectivity to the rest of India—a route with adequate expansion potential. The Indo-Bangladesh road route, along with the National Waterways-2 , provides such an option. Significance
Setting Jogighopa as India’s gateway to South-East Asia comes at a time when India’s neighbours are gearing up for trade. For example, Bangladesh’s development of the Khulna-Dhaka-Sylhet Economic Corridor and the Banglabandha-Dhaka-Chittagong-Cox’s Bazar Economic Corridor—to promote industrial development in the region. These initiatives are expected to drive freight movement in the region and facilitate trade between India and Bangladesh, and between Bangladesh and Bhutan through India. The decision is also significant because of the sustained “Act East” policy of the government.
Q. 491. Biodegradable plastics
Biodegradable plastics can be plant- or oil-based. The plant-based variety are known as bioplastics and are derived from raw materials such as corn and potato starch, so manufacturers claim they are sustainable as well as biodegradable. Oil-based plastics are typically derived from non-renewable sources such as crude oil, and are processed using energy-intensive and environmentally hazardous techniques. Degradable plastics break down relatively quickly under specific environmental conditions – photodegradable plastics degrade when exposed to light and biodegradable plastics can be decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms.
Plastic materials are made up of long chains of molecules and the molecular weight of a plastic gives an indication of the length of its chains. Plastic is a potential food source for microbes because it is organic (contains carbon atoms) and the shorter the chains, the more easily digestible the plastic is. For example, polythene is biodegradable as long as it has a molecular weight of less than 500. In some cases, additives are used to enhance the biodegradation of a plastic, and some types work by breaking up the plastic’s chains. Additives can be introduced in different amounts so that biodegradation begins after the required shelf life and at a controlled rate.
When biodegradable plastics are buried in landfill, there is a limited supply of oxygen and water so they break down anaerobically, releasing methane. Oxo-biodegradable plastics seem to offer an advantage in this regard because they break down without releasing methane. However, as their name suggests, their requirement for oxygen to enable the degradation process to occur means it will not break down if buried. The degradation consists of two steps – first an oxidisation process takes place under the action of heat or light, which reduces the molecular weight of the plastic. Then microbes break down the plastic further. A plastic material, such as polythene, can be made oxo-biodegradable by the addition of salts of transition elements such as cobalt or iron, which are referred to as the pro-oxidants.
Two problems with the breakdown of biodegradable plastics are that the process can take a long time and the remaining solid products, while existing in very small and often invisible fragments, are sometimes toxic. This is where compostable plastics (sometimes confused with biodegradable plastics) differ, because for plastics to be termed compostable they must break down in a timely manner and leave no toxic residue. The resulting compost supports plant growth, but it can contain inorganic materials, so differs from garden compost. The time compostable plastics take to break down must be similar to that taken by other compostable materials, such as plant waste, but the process normally requires an industrial composting facility due to the need for much higher temperatures than those in a domestic composter.
Q. 490. India Health Fund
The India Health Fund (IHF), an initiative by Tata Trusts in collaboration with The Global Fund, is inviting applications from organizations and individuals for innovations and technologies designed to combat tuberculosis and malaria – two diseases that account for over 423,000 deaths and around 1.5 million confirmed cases respectively on an annual basis in India. India contributes to 26% of the global TB burden and 68% of all malaria cases in the Southeast Asia region. The IHF aims to support new products and strategies that impact the entire lifecycle of TB and malaria, from prevention to post-cure recovery.
The Government of India has set a target of eliminating tuberculosis by 2025 and malaria by 2030. The IHF was launched in 2016 with the mission of addressing these key health challenges in the country as a private-sector engine to support new products and strategies.
Q. 489. World Water Day
World Water Day is an annual observance day on 22 March to highlight the importance of freshwater. It is also used to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. The first World Water Day, designated by the United Nations, was commemorated in 1993. 2018 marks the 25th anniversary of World Water Day. This year’s theme of World Water Day is ‘Nature for Water’ and exploring nature-based solutions (NBS) to the water challenges that we are currently facing.
Previous themes for the years 2015 to 2017 were "Water and Sustainable Development", "Water and Jobs'" and "Why waste water?" (which included aspects of wastewater and reuse). The focus on universal access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is in line with the targets of Sustainable Development Goal 6.
The UN World Water Development Report is released each year around World Water Day.
Q. 488. Ashgabat Agreement
India recently joined the Ashgabat Agreement. Ashgabat Agreement was instituted in April 2011 to establish an international multimodal transport and transit corridor between Central Asia and the Persian Gulf. The Agreement was first signed by Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Oman and Qatar on 25 April 2011. While Qatar subsequently withdrew from the agreement in 2013, Kazakhstan and Pakistan joined the grouping in 2016. The Ashgabat Agreement came into force in April 2016. Its objective is to enhance connectivity within the Eurasian region and synchronize it with other regional transport corridors, including the International North–South Transport Corridor (INSTC).
Among other things, the regional transport grouping is considering measures to create a "green" corridor for vehicles to reduce the time spent at railway checkpoints for replacing wheel sets, create favourable conditions and effective schemes for storing and handling cargo, and use of berths of sea ports. In order to increase the attractiveness of the routes as well as the volume of transit cargo, the group has also considered the issue of having a unified tariff for transit goods by rail.
India’s entry into Ashgabat Agreement comes a month after the inauguration of the first phase of the Shahid Beheshti terminal at Chabahar port on December 3, 2017. India had financed the terminal to the tune of $85 million. With the commissioning a greater prospect now opens up for enlarging both the operational and practical scope of Chabahar to become a vital gateway and the shortest land route to Central Asia.
Connecting to Afghanistan via Chabahar has been essential for India. The route has already sent shipments of wheat to Afghanistan through Chabahar port. Afghanistan has already shifted 80 per cent of its cargo traffic from Pakistan’s Karachi port to Iran’s Bandar Abbas and Chabahar ports. More Afghan trade is expected to eventually shift to the Chabahar Port and will drastically reduce Afghanistan’s dependency on Pakistan for transit of Afghan goods.
Ashgabat Agreement would enable India to utilise the existing transport and transit corridor to facilitate trade and commercial interactions with the Eurasian region. Further, this would synchronise with India’s efforts to implement the INSTC for enhanced connectivity.
In general, joining the Ashgabat Agreement would make it easier for India to reach out to Central Asia which houses strategic and high-value minerals including uranium, copper, titanium, ferroalloys, yellow phosphorus, iron ore, rolled metal, propane, butane, zinc, coking coal, etc.
India has also signed a bilateral agreement with Tajikistan in 2015 to enhance connectivity. Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are already members of the INSTC. India’s participation in Eurasian connectivity projects through the Ashgabat Agreement will serve to address the integration process under the EAEU and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in more viable ways.
Q. 487. 'Ombudsman Scheme' for non-banking financial companies (NBFC)
'Ombudsman Scheme' for non-banking financial companies (NBFC)
The RBI has launched 'Ombudsman Scheme' for non-banking financial companies (NBFC) for redressal of complaints against them.
The scheme will provide a cost-free and expeditious complaint redressal mechanism relating to deficiency in the services by NBFCs covered under the Scheme.
The offices of the NBFC ombudsmen will function at four metro centres -- Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi. They will handle complaints of customers in the respective zones.
The Scheme will cover all deposit-taking NBFCs. Based on the experience gained, the RBI would extend the scheme to cover NBFCs having asset size of Rs 100 crore and above with customer interface.
The Scheme provides for an Appellate mechanism.
NBFC Ombudsman does not charge any fee for filing and resolving customers' complaints.
Q. 486. Social security system
Social security system
The labour ministry has proposed a comprehensive social security system to provide retirement, health, oldage, disability, unemployment and maternity benefits to 50 crore workers in the country.
The plan is to implement the scheme in three phases over 10 years, after which the government hopes to make it universal. The scheme will be implemented in four tiers with the government wholly financing the cost for people below the poverty line.
The scheme will be largely funded from the Building and Construction Worker Cess and funds allocated to other scattered schemes through the National Stabilisation Fund set up for the purpose.
Its implementation would be regulated and monitored by an overarching regulatory body called the National Social Security Council to be chaired by the prime minister with finance minister, health minister and chief ministers of all states along with workers and employers as its members. The 50 crore beneficiaries will be classified into four tiers.
The first phase of the scheme will cost Rs 18,500 crore. The first phase will see all workers getting the bare minimum, which includes health security and retirement benefits. The second phase will see unemployment benefits being added to it while in the third phase, other welfare measures can be added.
The first tier will comprise destitute and people below poverty line who cannot contribute for their security and hence the cost will be entirely borne by the government under tax-based schemes.
Workers in the unorganised sector who have some contributory power but are not self-sufficient may be covered under the subsidised schemes in the second tier.
The third tier of beneficiaries will include those who either by themselves or jointly with their employers can make adequate contribution to the schemes, so as to be self-sufficient while the fourth tier will comprise comparatively affluent people who can make their own provisions for meeting the contingencies or risks as they rise.
India's total workforce stands at around 500 million. A little over 10% of this is in the organised sector, where workers enjoy social security of some sort under EPFO and ESIC. But a major portion of the total workforce is still in the unorganised sector, where workers do not often get even the minimum wage and lack any kind of social security cover.
Workers employed in the organised sector along with the employee contribute around 25% of the basic salary towards the provident fund and another 6% for insurance, taking the total contribution to more than 30%, which manages for the medical, provident fund and pension benefits for the employee.
Q. 485. Rustom 2
Rustom 2 or TAPAS-BH-201 is a medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), designed to carry out surveillance and reconnaissance roles for the Indain Armed Forces. It is capable of carrying different combination of payloads including synthetic aperture radar, electronic intelligence systems and situational awareness systems. The UAV has an endurance of 24 hours and is similar to the American predator series of drones.
The DRDO Rustom is a Medium Altitude Long Endurance unmanned air vehicle (UAV) being developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation for the three services, Indian Army, Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force of the Indian Armed Forces. There will be three variants of the Rustom UAV.
Rustom-I: Tactical UAV with endurance of 12 hours (based on NAL's LCRA which was inspired by Burt Rutan's Long-EZ)
Rustom-H: Larger UAV with flight endurance of over 24 hours (completely different design from Rustom-1), higher range and service ceiling than Rustom-1.
Rustom-II: An unmanned combat air vehicle based on Rustom-H model. It is often compared with Predator drones by Indian scientists and media.
Q. 484. Olive Ridley Turtle
About Olive Ridley Turtle
The Olive Ridley turtles are the smallest and most abundant of all sea turtles found in the world, inhabiting warm waters of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans. These turtles, along with their cousin the Kemps Ridley turtle, are best known for their unique mass nesting called Arribada, where thousands of females come together on the same beach to lay eggs. Though found in abundance, their numbers have been declining over the past few years, and the species is recognized as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red list. Turtle turnaround
An initiative driven by fishing communities in Odisha has not only given the Olive Ridley turtles a new lease of life, but has also halted the construction of ports in the nesting areas.
The turtle nesting at Astaranga, Puri is significant as turtle deaths have occurred with alarming regularity in Odisha.
Though the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary has traditionally been the most preferred nesting site for turtles, the nesting at Astaranga has opened new vistas to secure Olive Ridley numbers.
The record nesting of turtle eggs at Astaranga is due to the efforts of Green Light Rural Association (GLRA), a non-profit based in Astaranga, which has also managed to stall a state government move to acquire land for proposed ports in the fragile nesting area.
The Green Light Rural Association (GLRA) efforts
GLRA’s activities are focused in the region around the mouth of the river Devi, which is a distributary of the Mahanadi.
1994: they undertook a rigorous seven-month-long tour to various nesting sites to monitor turtle nesting and documented the various factors that were leading to turtle deaths.
2002: GLRA started a project called “Turtle Friends” to identify strategic sites and fishing communities along the coastline.
2007: GLRA started a programme to control the stray dog population in the Devi mass nesting area with the help of the Blue Cross of Hyderabad and the Odisha government’s department of animal husbandry, as stray dogs often consume turtle eggs from the nesting sites.
2009-10: GLRA built an artificial reef with the help of fishing communities and funding support from the Orissa Marine Resources Conservation Consortium. This artificial reef of concrete blocks stopped net fishing and helped create new fishing areas.
GLRA apprised forest officials of a new phenomenon affecting turtles visiting the area. Fisher folk used massive artificial illumination for shrimp seedling harvesting. The zero mesh nets also prevented turtles from climbing ashore for nesting. Strong illumination drove away the turtles since they are highly sensitive to light.
GLRA members are also worried about the ports being planned along Odisha’s coastline. Conservationists say that even minor ports, such as the proposed Astaranga Port, which was announced by the state government in 2010, could endanger turtle nesting.
Q. 483. Revised classification for diabetes
Scientists have revised classification for diabetes. There are five distinct types of diabetes that can occur in adulthood, rather than the two currently recognised.
Diabetes mellitus (DM), commonly referred to as diabetes, is a group of metabolic disorders in which there are high blood sugar levels over a prolonged period. Symptoms of high blood sugar include frequent urination, increased thirst, and increased hunger. If left untreated, diabetes can cause many complications.
Diabetes occurs due to either the pancreas not producing enough insulin or the cells of the body not responding properly to the insulin produced.
The results showed the patients could be separated into five distinct clusters.
Cluster 1 - severe autoimmune diabetes is broadly the same as the classical type 1 - it hit people when they were young, seemingly healthy and an immune disease left them unable to produce insulin
Cluster 2 - severe insulin-deficient diabetes patients initially looked very similar to those in cluster 1 - they were young, had a healthy weight and struggled to make insulin, but the immune system was not at fault
Cluster 3 - severe insulin-resistant diabetes patients were generally overweight and making insulin but their body was no longer responding to it
Cluster 4 - mild obesity-related diabetes was mainly seen in people who were very overweight but metabolically much closer to normal than those in cluster 3
Cluster 5 - mild age-related diabetes patients developed symptoms when they were significantly older than in other groups and their disease tended to be milder
Q. 482. Two-tier security for Aadhaar data
Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has rolled out a new two-tier security process that will come into effect from June 1.
It is aimed at eliminating the need to share and store Aadhaar numbers. The UIDAI has introduced the concept of a virtual ID, which an Aadhaar holder can use in lieu of his/her Aadhaar number at the time of authentication, besides sharing of ‘limited KYC’ with certain agencies.
A Virtual ID (VID) will be a temporary 16-digit random number mapped with the Aadhaar number. There can only be one active and valid VID for an Aadhaar number at any given time and it will not be possible to derive the Aadhaar number from VID.
The VID authentication will be similar to using Aadhaar numbers. However, since a VID is temporary, agencies will not be able to use it for de-duplication.
Only the Aadhaar holder will be able to generate a VID and no other entity, including authentication user agencies (AUAs), can do it on their behalf.
Q. 481. Artificial leaf
Scientists at CSIR have developed an artificial leaf that absorbs sunlight to generate hydrogen fuel from water. The invention may provide clean energy for powering eco-friendly cars in the future. It is an ultra-thin wireless device that mimics plant leaves to produce energy using water and sunlight. The device is of an area of 23 square centimetres and could produce 6 litres of hydrogen fuel per hour.
Hydrogen burning gives energy and water as a side product. This underscores its importance and relevance to the present day world. India is blessed with plenty of sunlight through the year that is not exploited significantly to produce energy or hydrogen.
The device consists of semiconductors stacked in a manner to simulate the natural leaf system. When visible light strikes the semiconductors, electrons move in one direction, producing electric current. The current almost instantaneously splits water into hydrogen which makes it the main by product.
At present, hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels by steam reforming and in this process emits a large amount of carbon di-oxide (CO2) – a green house gas that promotes global warming. In not so distant future cars fuelled by hydrogen generated from the artificial leaf process could start running on the roads.
In the recent past, automakers have been offering cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells. To improve the light-absorbing efficiency of the artificial leaf gold nanoparticles, titanium dioxide and quantum dots were used. Quantum dots are semiconductor crystals of nanometre dimensions with properties that depend on the size of the dots. When exposed to sunlight for 25 hours, the device retained its efficiency. The cell does not need any external voltage and performs better than existing solar cells, he said.
The Union Health Ministry has recently announced the launch of LaQshya, a programme aimed at improving quality of care in labour room and maternity operation theatre.
LaQshya is expected to improve the quality of care that is being provided to the pregnant mother in the Labour Room and Maternity Operation Theatres, thereby preventing the undesirable adverse outcomes associated with childbirth. This initiative will be implemented in Government Medical Colleges (MCs) besides District Hospitals (DHs), and high delivery load Sub- District Hospitals (SDHs) and Community Health Centres (CHCs). The initiative plans to conduct quality certification of labour rooms and also incentivize facilities achieving the targets outlined. The goal of this initiative is to reduce preventable maternal and new-born mortality, morbidity and stillbirths associated with the care around delivery in Labour room and Maternity OT and ensure respectful maternity care.
India has improved maternal survival as Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) reduced from 301 maternal deaths in 2001-03 to 167 in 2011-13, an impressive decline of 45% in a decade.
Q. 479. Modernisation of Police Forces
The Union Cabinet has given its approval for implementation of umbrella scheme of "Modernisation of Police Forces (MPF)" for years 2017-18 to 2019-20. The financial outlay for the scheme over the three year’s period is Rs.25,060 crore, out of which the Central Government share will be Rs.18,636 crore and the States’ share will be Rs.6,424 crore.
Special provision has been made under the Scheme for internal security, law and order, women security, availability of modern weapons, mobility of police forces, logistics support, hiring of helicopters, upgradation of police wireless, National Satellite Network, CCTNS project, E-prison project etc.
Under the umbrella scheme, central budget outlay of Rs.10,132 crore has been earmarked for internal security related expenditure for Jammu & Kashmir, North Eastern States and left wing extremism affected States.
Scheme of Special Central Assistance (SCA) for 35 worst LWE affected districts has been introduced with an outlay of Rs.3,000 crore to tackle the issue of underdevelopment in these district.
An outlay of Rs.100 crore has been earmarked in the North Eastern States for police infrastructure upgradation, training institutes, investigation facilities etc.
Implementation of this scheme would bolster the Government's ability to address challenges faced in different theatres such as areas affected by LWE, Jammu and Kashmir and North East effectively and undertake development interventions which will catalyze in improving the quality of life in these areas and help combat these challenges effectively at the same time.
Police Stations will be integrated to set up a national data base of crime and criminals’ records. It will be linked with other pillars of criminal justice system such as ‘prisons, forensic science laboratories and prosecution offices.
The umbrella scheme also provides for setting up of a State-of Art forensic science laboratory in Amravati, Andhra Pradesh and upgradation of Sardar Patel Global Centre for Security, Counter Terrorism and Anti Insurgency in Jaipur and Gujarat Forensic Science University in Gandhi Nagar.
The umbrella scheme, "Modernisation of Police Forces (MPF)" will go a long way to boost the capability and efficiency of Central and State Police Forces by modernizing them.
Why is it necessary to resolve child custody disputes as early as possible? Discuss what steps have been taken at the international level to solve such disputes.
Child custody disputes sometimes erupt when a marriage dissolves. It creates challenging and disruptive environments for children.
This disruption is magnified when parents cannot agree on living arrangements, especially if one parent takes unilateral action and removes children from their country of residence, often in violation of that country’s laws.
Families may find themselves in legal disputes in multiple countries, resulting in significant financial and emotional tolls. These legal battles can drag on for years, leaving children in limbo and potentially harming their development.
However, a global consensus has emerged to address this problem. Ninety-eight countries have recognised that despite different laws and norms, there is a minimum requirement of commitment in the best interests of children. Hague Convention
Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a vital international instrument that works to protect children from the harmful effects of international parental child abduction. According to the consensus, families agree to follow the laws and respect court decisions in their country of residenceas more families elect to live in a foreign country. One of the defining features of the convention is that, disputes are resolved within months and not years, allowing parents and children to move on with their lives. The Convention offers multiple safeguards to ensure that the rights of all parties are protected.
It prevents parents from unilaterally removing children.
The Convention encourages all parties to seek mutually acceptable child custody arrangements in accordance with the laws of the country they are living in.
If a parent unilaterally removes the child to another country, the Hague Convention sets forth a process to resolve the issue.
The Convention does not resolve the custody dispute; it simply stipulates that the courts where the family has been living are in the best position to make child custody decisions.
Children are not automatically returned to the left-behind parent. If a court orders children to be returned to their home country, it is then up to the courts there to decide on custody, in the best interests of the children.
Joining the Convention can force abuse victims to return to their abusers. However, Article 13 of the Convention allows courts to decide not to return abducted children if the return would expose them to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place them in an intolerable situation.
Q. 478. Campaign to promote Geographical Indications
The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce and Industry, has launched a social media campaign (#LetsTalkIP) to promote Indian Geographical Indications (GIs). It is an ongoing movement initiated by Cell for IPR Promotions & Management (CIPAM) under the aegis of DIPP to make more people aware about the importance of Intellectual Property Rights. Geographical Indications (GIs)
A Geographical Indication or a GI is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin.
GI is an assurance of quality and distinctiveness which is essentially attributable to its origin in that defined geographical locality. It’s an area of strength and optimism for India, whereby the GI tag has accorded protection to a number of hand-made and manufactured products, especially in the informal sector.
Darjeeling Tea, Mahabaleshwar Strawberry, Blue Pottery of Jaipur, Banarasi Sarees and Tirupati Laddus are some of the GIs.
GIs are of utmost importance to the country as they are an integral part of India’s rich culture and collective intellectual heritage. The promotion of GIs will augment the Government’s ‘Make in India’ campaign.
Certain GI products can benefit the rural economy in remote areas, by supplementing the incomes of artisans, farmers, weavers and craftsmen. Our rural artisans possess unique skills and knowledge of traditional practices and methods, passed down from generation to generation, which need to be protected and promoted.
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