22nd February, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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International Mother Language Day 2018 (Facts that could be asked for prelims)
On the occasion of International Mother Language Day 2018, representatives of 22 native languages from across the country passed ‘Bengaluru resolutions’, urging the Union government to include all native languages of the country in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution. The participants, who included academicians and linguists, also demanded equal status for all scheduled official languages.
The Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India lists the official languages of the Republic of India. At the time when the Constitution was enacted, inclusion in this list meant that the language was entitled to representation on the Official Languages Commission, and that the language would be one of the bases that would be drawn upon to enrich Hindi, the official language of the Union. The list has since, however, acquired further significance. The Government of India is now under an obligation to take measures for the development of these languages, such that “they grow rapidly in richness and become effective means of communicating modern knowledge”. In addition, a candidate appearing in an examination conducted for public service is entitled to use any of these languages as the medium in which he or she answers the paper.
Per Articles 344(1) and 351 of the Indian Constitution, the eighth schedule includes the recognition of the 22 languages
‘Olive Ridley Turtles’ (GS3: Conservation of Environment)
Issue: More than 3,100 female olive ridley turtles came out of the sea to the sandy beach of the Rushikulya rookery coast in Ganjam district of Odisha on Tuesday night for mass nesting. The Rushikulya coast is considered to be a major nesting site in the world and lakhs of olive ridleys come here every year to lay eggs.
Olive Ridley Turtle
The olive ridley sea turtle also known as the Pacific ridley sea turtle is a medium-sized species of sea turtle found in warm and tropical waters, primarily in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. They can also be found in warm waters of Atlantic Ocean
Olive ridley turtles are best known for their behavior of synchronized nesting in mass numbers, termed arribadas. Interestingly, females return to the very same beach from where they first hatched, to lay their eggs. They lay their eggs in conical nests about one and a half feet deep which they laboriously dig with their hind flippers. In the Indian Ocean, the majority of olive ridleys nest in two or three large groups near Gahirmatha in Odisha. The coast of Odisha in India is the largest mass nesting site for the olive ridley, followed by the coasts of Mexico and Costa Rica
The olive ridley is classified as Vulnerable according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), and is listed in Appendix I of CITES. These listings were largely responsible for halting the large scale commercial exploitation and trade of olive ridley skins. The Convention on Migratory Species and the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles have also provided olive ridleys with protection, leading to increased conservation and management for this marine turtle. National listings for this species range from Endangered to Threatened, yet enforcing these sanctions on a global scale has been unsuccessful for the most part.
Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary is a marine wildlife sanctuary located in Odisha and is a very popular tourist attraction of Odisha in India. It extends from Dhamra River mouth in the north to Brahmani river mouth in the south. It is very famous for its nesting beach for olive ridley sea turtles. It is the one of world’s most important nesting beach for turtles.
SARAS (GS3: Indigenization of Technology)
Issue: The indigenous light transport aircraft (LTA) SARAS on Wednesday completed the second of the proposed 20 test flights. It is designed and developed by National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL)
‘Syrian Civil War’ (GS2: International Relations)
Issue: The barbaric campaign of airstrikes and bombardments launched by government forces in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus, have killed at least 270 people in three days
It was here that chemical weapons were first used in 2013, killing hundreds of people.
Note: Question on this issue would primarily focus on the geographical location of Syria, the effects of such a prolonged civil war, for example: refugee crisis. It will also be prudent to know the treaty against the use of chemical weapons treaty
What is Chemical Weapons?
The term chemical weapon is applied to any toxic chemical or its precursor that can cause death, injury, temporary incapacitation or sensory irritation through its chemical action. Munitions or other delivery devices designed to deliver chemical weapons, whether filled or unfilled, are also considered weapons themselves.
The toxic chemicals that have been used as chemical weapons, or have been developed for use as chemical weapons, can be categorised as choking, blister, blood, or nerve agents. The most well known agents are as follows: choking agents—chlorine and phosgene, blister agents (or vesicants)—mustard and lewisite, blood agents—hydrogen cyanide, nerve agents—sarin, soman, VX.
Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is the implementing body of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which entered into force in 1997. As of today OPCW has 192 Member States, who are working together to achieve a world free of chemical weapons.
The OPCW Member States represent about 98% of the global population and landmass, as well as 98% of the worldwide chemical industry. India is also a member of this organization
The Australia Group is a multilateral export control regime (MECR) and an informal group of countries (now joined by the European Commission) established in 1985 (after the use of chemical weapons by Iraq in 1984) to help member countries to identify those exports which need to be controlled so as not to contribute to the spread of chemical and biological weapons.
The group, initially consisting of 15 members, held its first meeting in Brussels, Belgium, in September 1989. With the incorporation of India on January 19, 2018, it now has 43 members, including Australia, the European Commission, all 28 member states of the European Union, Ukraine, and Argentina. The name comes from Australia’s initiative to create the group. Australia manages the secretariat.
The initial members of the group had different assessments of which chemical precursors should be subject to export control. Later adherents initially had no such controls. Today, members of the group maintain export controls on a uniform list of 54 compounds, including several that are not prohibited for export under the Chemical Weapons Convention, but can be used in the manufacture of chemical weapons. Delegations representing the members meet every year in Paris, France. India is also a member of this group
Geography of Syria
Syria is located in Southwestern Asia, north of the Arabian Peninsula, at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. It is bordered by Turkey to the north, Lebanon and Israel to the west and southwest, Iraq to the east, and Jordan to the south. It consists of mountain ranges in the west and a steep area inland. In the east is the Syrian Desert and in the south is the Jabal al-Druze Range. The former is bisected by the Euphrates valley. A dam built in 1973 on the Euphrates created a reservoir named Lake Assad, the largest lake in Syria.
Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: This system was misused by a group of Individual to dupe Punjab National Bank (PNB) for 11,500 Crore
What is SWIFT?
It is a messaging network that connects banks and other financial institutions across the world. A bank that is part of SWIFT can use the system to convey credit instruments called letters of undertaking (LoUs) to other banks located overseas. A LoU is simply a request made to another bank in the SWIFT network to loan money to a client. The bank that issues the LoU essentially guarantees the bank that receives the LoU request that it stands by the creditworthiness of the borrower. That is, in case of a default, the bank that issued the LoU stands liable to compensate the bank that made the loan to the borrower.
PNB alleges that employees at one of its branches in Mumbai issued fraudulent LoUs that were not authorised by its management. This allegedly allowed Mr. Modi’s companies to obtain loans from the overseas branches of various Indian banks.
SWIFT has been misused by miscreants on a number of occasions. In 2016, there was a cyber-heist of $81 million from Bangladesh’s central bank. Russia’s central bank recently reported that $6 million was stolen from a Russian bank last year by exploiting the SWIFT system. Even the Reserve Bank of India stated this week that it had privately warned Indian banks about the prospect of misuse of SWIFT at least three times since August 2016.
‘Falcon heavy’ (GS3: Science and Technology)
Issue: On February 7, U.S. tech and automobiles billionaire Elon Musk made history when the Falcon Heavy, the world’s most powerful rocket, was successfully launched by SpaceX
Information on Falcon Heavy
Falcon Heavy is a partially reusable super heavy-lift launch vehicle designed and manufactured by SpaceX. It is derived from the Falcon 9 vehicle and consists of a strengthened Falcon 9 first stage as a central core with two additional first stages as strap-on boosters.
SpaceX conducted Falcon Heavy’s maiden launch on February 6, 2018. The rocket carried a Tesla Roadster belonging to SpaceX founder Elon Musk as a dummy payload
The 230-ft-tall rocket with 2,500 tonnes of thrust, the equivalent of 18 Boeing 747 aircraft at full throttle, blasted into space with the capability of carrying as much as 64 tonnes of payload to low Earth orbit. This translates to doubling the maximum payload carrying capacity from 30 tonnes using the Delta IV Heavy. In comparison, the Indian Space Research Organization’s GSLV Mark-III, the rocket with maximum payload carrying capacity, can hoist only about 10 tonnes payload to low Earth orbit.
‘Blockchain Technology’ (GS3: Science and Technology)
Issue: The adoption of blockchain by India’s banks could help avert frauds such as the one at Punjab National Bank as the disaggregated and transparent nature of the technology, which updates information across all users simultaneously, would have ensured that various officials would have instantly been alerted to the creation of the letters of undertaking (LoUs), according to bankers and blockchain specialists.
SBI was convinced of blockchain’s utility, especially its potential to improve internal fraud monitoring, and had already implemented it in its reconciliation systems and in several cross-country payment gateway
What is Blockchain Technology?
The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.
Picture a spreadsheet that is duplicated thousands of times across a network of computers. Then imagine that this network is designed to regularly update this spreadsheet and you have a basic understanding of the blockchain.
Information held on a blockchain exists as a shared — and continually reconciled — database. This is a way of using the network that has obvious benefits. The blockchain database isn’t stored in any single location, meaning the records it keeps are truly public and easily verifiable. No centralized version of this information exists for a hacker to corrupt. Hosted by millions of computers simultaneously, its data is accessible to anyone on the internet.
‘Oil and Natural Gas Corp’ (GS3: Infrastructure: Energy)
Issue: Oil and Natural Gas Corp. is set to hire international oil service giants for the first time to boost output from domestic oil fields in response to a government push to increase local supplies and cut expensive imports.
Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC) is an Indian multinational oil and gas company headquartered in Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India. It is a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) of the Government of India, under the administrative control of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas. It is India’s largest oil and gas exploration and production company. It produces around 77% of India’s crude oil (equivalent to around 30% of the country’s total demand) and around 62% of its natural gas
In a government survey for fiscal year 2016-17, it was ranked as the largest profit making PSU in India. It is ranked 1st among the Top 250 Global Energy Companies by Platts.
Oil and Natural gas availability in India
India had about 750 million metric tonne of proven oil reserves as of April 2014, or 5.62 billion barrels as per EIA estimate for 2009, which is the second-largest amount in the Asia-Pacific region behind China. Most of India’s crude oil reserves are located on the western coast (Mumbai High) and in the northeastern parts of the country, although considerable undeveloped reserves are also located in the offshore Bay of Bengal and in the state of Rajasthan.
As per the Ministry of Petroleum, Government of India, India has 1,437 billion cubic metres (50.7×1012 cu ft) of confirmed natural gas reserves as of April 2010. A huge mass of India’s natural gas production comes from the western offshore regions, particularly the Mumbai High complex. The onshore fields in Assam, Tripura, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Gujarat states are also major producers of natural gas. It is also found in Krishna-Godavari Basin
Electronic National Agriculture Market (eNAM) (GS3: E-technology in the aid of farmer)
Issue: The government unveiled mobile payment facility BHIM, and other features in regional languages as well to boost farmer participation in the programme
National Agriculture Market
National Agriculture Market (NAM) is a pan-India electronic trading portal which networks the existing APMC mandis to create a unified national market for agricultural commodities.
The NAM Portal provides a single window service for all APMC related information and services. This includes commodity arrivals & prices, buy & sell trade offers, provision to respond to trade offers, among other services. While material flow (agriculture produce) continue to happen through mandis, an online market reduces transaction costs and information asymmetry.
‘Touch the sky with glory (Facts that can be asked for prelims)
Avani Chaturvedi, 24, has become the first Indian woman to fly a fighter jet solo.
She flew a Mig-21 Bison for 30 minutes
‘India-Israel cooperation’ (GS2: Bilateral Relations)
Issue: A Centre for Agriculture, with collaboration of Israeli expertise, is going to be inaugurated in Mizoram on 7th March this year. This will be the first such centre in the North East region of India that is being established with Israeli collaboration.
This centre is exclusively for processing of citrus fruits.
‘Transparency International’ (Facts that can be asked for prelims)
India has been ranked worse than China and Bhutan in terms of corruption perception. In the Corruption Perception Index for 2017, India was ranked at the 81st place with a score of 40.
Among the neighbouring countries, Pakistan was ranked at the 117th place with a score of 32, Bangladesh at 143th (score of 28), Myanmar at 130th (score 30) and Sri Lanka 91st (score 38). Bhutan has the best score of 67 among Indias neighbours and has been placed high on the index at the 26th place. China also fared better than India with a rank of 77 and score of 41. The best performing region is Western Europe with an average score of 66. The worst performing regions are Sub-Saharan Africa (average score 32) and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (average score 34)
‘Vaping’ (GS3: Issues related to Health)
Issue: It has come to light that e-cigarette vapours contain a significant amount of toxic metals, which can be dangerous.
Chronic inhalation of these metals has been linked to lung, liver, immune, cardiovascular and brain damage, and even cancers.
What is E-Cigarette?
An electronic cigarette or e–cigarette is a handheld electronic device that tries to create the feeling of tobacco smoking. It works by heating a liquid to generate an aerosol, commonly called a “vapor” that the user inhales. Using e-cigarettes is sometimes called vaping. The liquid in the e-cigarette, called e-liquid, is usually made of nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerine, and flavorings. Not all e-liquids contain nicotine
It has been found recently that E-Cigarette pose a greater risk to health than earlier thought