Insights Daily Current Events, 18 February 2016
Paper 3 Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology.
Govt. clears proposal for gravitational wave detector
In a major boost to Indian science research, the Union cabinet has approved a proposal to establish a state-of-the-art gravitational wave observatory in India in collaboration with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) in the US.
- The “in principle” approval for the LIGO-India project for research on gravitational waves – a discovery that is regarded as the breakthrough of the century – is piloted by the Department of Atomic Energy and Department of Science and Technology (DST).
- Known as the LIGO-India project, it is piloted by Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Department of Science and Technology (DST).
- The LIGO-India project will be jointly coordinated and executed by three Indian research institutions: the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune and Department of Atomic Energy organisations: Institute for Plasma Research (IPR), Gandhinagar and the Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology (RRCAT), Indore.
Significance of this project:
- The project will bring unprecedented opportunities for scientists and engineers to dig deeper into the realm of gravitational wave and take global leadership in this new astronomical frontier.
- The LIGO-India project will also bring considerable opportunities in cutting-edge technology for the Indian industry which will be engaged in the construction of the eight-km long beam tube at ultra-high vacuum on a levelled terrain.
- With its establishment, India will join the global network of gravitational wave detectors.
- Establishing an observatory in India also assumes importance because the further the distance between the observatories, the greater will be the accuracy in locating gravity waves.
Confirming a major prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity, scientists including several of Indian-origin this month observed gravitational waves, or ripples in the fabric of space time, arriving at Earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi had expressed his happiness over the historic detection of gravitational waves and lauded the role of Indian scientists in the project.
- Physicists have concluded that the detected gravitational waves were produced during the final fraction of a second of the merger of two black holes to produce a single, more massive spinning black hole.
- This collision of two black holes had been predicted but never observed.
- The twin LIGO detectors are located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington. The LIGO observatories are funded by the US National Science Foundation (NSF), and were conceived, built and are operated by Caltech and MIT.
- Dubbed as the breakthrough of the century, the international team of scientists believes that the detection of gravitational waves will open an unprecedented new window to the cosmos.
- Gravitational waves carry information about their dramatic origins and about the nature of gravity that cannot be obtained from elsewhere.
Current estimates suggest the project would cost at least Rs. 1,200 crore and the project is still at least eight years away.
sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability.
MP assails order on GI for Basmati rice
Less than a fortnight after the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) permitted the Geographical Indications Registry to proceed with the registration of Geographical Indication (GI) tag for Basmati rice produced in seven states, the losing party, Madhya Pradesh has moved the Madras High Court assailing the order.
In its petition, the Additional Director of Agriculture Department of Madhya Pradesh, submitted that if the IPAB’s order is given effect, it would cause irreparable harm to the State and its 80,000 farmers who cultivate Basmati rice.
- The state submitted that the IPAB had given its order favouring States such as Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh based on the geographical demarcation conducted by the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA).
- Arguing that this exercise per se is unscientific and erroneous, Madhya Pradesh appealed to quash the order and direct the registry to hear the matter anew.
- The petition also contends that the IPAB had included the entire region of certain States as “Basmati growing area”, while actually only specified areas of those States where Basmati rice is grown should have been included.
- In its writ petition, the state of Madhya Pradesh has also claimed that 13 out of its 51 districts has been cultivating Basmati rice and is entitled to receive the GI protection. It also claims that the State currently produces around one million tonnes of Basmati rice in a single paddy season and the order of IPAB would result in immediately altering the status quo to the detriment of the State and its 80,000 Basmati farmers and their families.
In February 2016, the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) had ordered issue of the ‘Geographical Indication’ tag for basmati rice grown in the Indo-Gangetic Plains on the foothills of the Himalayas.
- While granting an order favouring the seven States, the IPAB had also directed the registry to examine afresh the case of Madhya Pradesh to include certain areas of the State as “Basmati growing areas” within six months.
Basmati is special long grain aromatic rice grown in a particular geographical region of the Indian sub-continent. Historically, Basmati was a product of undivided India with a recorded history of over 200 years.
- In 2014-15, India exported 37 lakh MT of Basmati Rice to the world worth Rs. 27,597.87 crore and is the world’s leading exporter of the rice, according to APEDA.
- India exports a major quantity of basmati rice to Saudi Arabia, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Iraq and Kuwait.
What is it?
GI status is an indication that identifies goods as produced from a particular area, which has special quality or reputation attributable to its geographical origin.
GI registration confers:
- Legal protection to the products.
- Prevents unauthorised use of a GI by others.
- Helps consumers get quality products of desired traits.
- Promotes economic prosperity of producers of goods by enhancing demand in national and international markets.
GI registration is essential to get protection in other countries.
sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
WHO Issues $56 Million Plan To Combat Zika Virus
WHO has issued $56 million plan to combat Zika Virus. It says $56 million is needed to combat the Zika virus through June, including fast-tracking vaccines and diagnostics.
- The funds, including $25 million for the WHO itself, would also be used to control the mosquito-borne virus that has now spread to 39 countries and has been linked to birth defects in Brazil, as well as research studies.
Research studies are needed in order to assess:
- Presence of the Zika virus in semen and other body fluids, including pregnancy-related fluids.
- Potential sexual transmission, and mother-to-child transmission.
The WHO declared the Zika outbreak a global public health emergency on Feb 1, noting its association with two neurological disorders, microcephaly in babies and Guillain-Barre syndrome that can cause paralysis.
The WHO expects the funds to come from member states and other donors and said that in the meantime it has tapped a new emergency contingency fund for $2 million to finance its initial operations.
- There is no treatment, but hopes of developing a vaccine against Zika took a small step forward recently as U.S. biotech firm Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc said its experimental shot had induced a robust and durable response in mice. An Indian company too has announced a breakthrough in this regard.
sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: infrastructure-airways.
Airlines lobby for 5/20 rule
The fight between ‘old’ and ‘new’ Indian airlines over the 5/20 rule — which requires that an Indian carrier must be five-year old and have 20 planes in its fleet to go overseas — has now reached the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
- Promoters and top management of Jet Airways, IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir recently met minister of state for PMO, Jitendra Singh, and sought a level-playing field with the foreign and new Airlines which had started operations in India.
What’s the issue?
While, for the already operating domestic airlines, the condition laid down by the Civil Aviation Ministry is to serve for at least five years and own at least 20 aircrafts before applying for rights to fly abroad, the new draft Civil Aviation Policy is said to exempt the new airlines from this obligation which will amount to injustice towards the already operating airlines.
- The ‘old’ airlines want the 5/20 rule to stay while the two new airlines launched by Tata Group in joint ventures with Singapore Airlines (SIA) and AirAsia want this to be abolished.
- Old airlines argue that exempting the new airlines from 5/20 will “amount to injustice towards the already operating airlines”. They said that this was essential to avoid discrimination against them and provide a level-playing field with the foreign and new airlines that have started operations in India.
What is 5/20 rule?
According to the ‘5/20 rule,’ all airlines in India need five years of domestic flying experience and at least 20 aircrafts in its fleet in order to fly abroad. The rule has been a subject of heated debate between domestic airline operators. This was proposed in the new draft civil aviation policy.
sources: the hindu.
Topic: Geography (Prelims)
The centre recently launched ‘Uncover’ project of the Geological Survey of India.
- This state-of-the-art project to be implemented in two selected areas in the country is focused on probing for deep seated/ concealed mineral deposits.
- This programme is also one of the important action points of the draft National Mineral Exploration Policy (NMEP).
Main components of the project:
Characterizing India’s geological cover, investigating lithospheric architecture, resolving 4D geodynamic and metallogenic evolution, and detecting and characterizing the distal footprints of ore deposits, would be the main components of this initiative.
Paper 2 Topic: Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.
Amendment to the Delimitation Act, 2002 and the Representation of the People Act, 1950
The Union Cabinet has given its approval to amend section 11 of the Delimitation Act, 2002 and section 9 of the Representation of the People Act, 1950.
- It will enable Election Commission to carry out limited delimitation of Assembly and Parliamentary Constituencies in the Cooch Behar District of West Bengal consequent upon the exchange of 51 Bangladeshi enclaves and 111 Indian enclaves respectively between India and Bangladesh in July, 2015.
This is in pursuance of the Constitution (One Hundredth Amendment) Act, 2015 and also allows for introduction of a Bill, namely, the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2016 in Parliament.
In a historic pact between India and Bangladesh, 51 Bangladeshi enclaves (Chhitmahals) in Indian Territory and 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh territory were exchanged with effect from 31st July, 2015.
- The move altered the geography and demography of the district of Cooch Behar in West Bengal. With a view to carry out consequential geographic and demographic alterations vis-à-vis the electoral mosaic of the affected areas, the Election Commission requested to amend section 11 of the Delimitation Act, 2002 and section 9 of the Representation of the People Act, 1950 to enable it to carry out limited delimitation of constituencies in the affected areas.
- Since the newly acquired area consequent upon the exchange of territory between India and Bangladesh has become the part of the Indian territory, it is required to make delimitation exercise within the limited constituency area before the ensuing State Assembly elections in West Bengal. Accordingly, the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2016 has been proposed for enactment.
Paper 3 Topic: conservation.
Environment Minister launches envis portal
The Union Environment minister recently launched the Environment Information System (ENVIS) portal.
- Environmental Information System (ENVIS) Portal runs parallel with the Digital India Objective, which works on improving the digital literacy in the environment sector and deliver services digitally all over the country.
- The digitization of valuable data covering the broad spectrum of subjects on environment will serve as an asset in generating feature rich repository of information.
Environmental Information System (ENVIS), a Central Sector Scheme of the Environment Ministry has been implemented since 1982.
- The purpose of the scheme is to integrate country-wide efforts in environmental information collection, collation, storage, retrieval and dissemination through ENVIS websites, which are dedicated to different interesting themes.
- The network presently consists of 69 Centres, of which 29 are hosted by the environment/forest department of State governments/UT Administrations and deal with “State of the environment and related issues”, while 40 Centres are being hosted by environment-related governmental and non-governmental organisations/institutes of professional excellence and have a thematic mandate.
- Major users of ENVIS include Central and State Governments, institutes and individual scientists, researchers, students and agencies carrying out environmental impact assessment of projects, as well as public.
The challenge before ENVIS is to find out new ways to reach out to people and how to popularise science and sustainable practices.