07 th August, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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‘NASA Curiosity Rover’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: NASA’s Curiosity rover is celebrating its sixth anniversary on Mars which is currently experiencing a global storm.
About the rover
- Curiosity, which landed on Mars in 2012, was designed to assess whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbes. In other words, its mission is to determine the planet’s “habitability.”
- Most of NASA’s spacecraft are studying the dust storm from above. But the Curiosity rover has a unique perspective: the nuclear-powered science machine is largely immune to the darkened skies, allowing it to collect science from within the beige veil enveloping the planet.
‘Lithium rich star’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: Chinese astronomers have discovered the most lithium-rich giant star ever known, which could shed new light on the evolution of the universe.
About the discovery
- With 3,000 times more lithium than a normal star, it was found in the direction of Ophiuchus, on the north side of the galactic disk, at a distance of 4,500 light years from Earth
- The star has a mass almost 1.5 times our sun.
- Lithium is considered one of the three elements synthesized in the Big Bang, together with hydrogen and helium. The abundance of the three elements was regarded as the strongest evidence of the Big Bang.
- The evolution of lithium has been a key subject in the research of the evolution of the universe and stars. However, giant stars rich in lithium are very rare, with only a few found over the past three decades. This makes their study remarkably challenging
‘USA-Iran ties’ (GS2: Effects of policies of developed countries on developing countries)
Issue: The Trump administration moved to restore some U.S. sanctions on Iran and reaffirmed plans to impose tougher penalties on the country’s oil sales in November, as President Hassan Rouhani comes under increasing economic and political pressure to address the crisis.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Monday restricting purchases of dollar banknotes by Iran, preventing the government from trading gold and other precious metals and blocking the nation from selling or acquiring various industrial metals. The measures, which take effect from today, also target the auto industry, and will ban imports of Persian carpets and pistachios to the U.S.
Impact on India
These sanctions will make it difficult for India to do business with Iran. Considering Iran’s strategic and economic importance for India, India would like to ask for a special waiver for itself from these sanctions in upcoming talks with USA
‘Insurance for farmers’ (GS3: Indian Agriculture)
Issue: The Telangana government on Monday launched Rs.5 lakh insurance programme for farmers in the state, touted to be the first of its kind, under which their families will get the amount irrespective of whether the death is natural or accidental.
About the scheme
The scheme is limited to farmers aged between 18 and 60 years. The Rythu Bandhu Life Insurance Bonds (as the scheme is called), which is expected to benefit 2.8 million farmers (out of 5.8 million), will cover only land owners who received monetary assistance of Rs.4000 from the state government to bear farming costs under the “Rythu Bandhu” programme
However, tenant farmers, who have been demanding to be added under the scheme ever since it was introduced, have been left out of it. The insurance amount in case of death or accident will be given to a farmer’s family in 10 days itself
The scheme is continuous, as eligible farmers will be added and those who become ineligible (after crossing 60 years) will be removed from it
‘Global summit for Andaman and Nicobar, Lakshadweep islands’ (GS2: Government policies for development in various sectors)
Issue: India is set to invite global investors for a wide-ranging social and infrastructure development programme in the strategically important islands of Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep.
Significance of this decision
The decision by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration is significant as Andaman and Nicobar Islands are of maritime importance to India with its potential for trade and surveillance. It is also a vital military base housing the country’s only tri-service command.
One of the key projects planned is a transshipment terminal at Campbell Bay at Great Nicobar, the largest of the Nicobar Islands. Campbell Bay is 90km away from Malacca Strait, the principal sea route between the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean.
China, which is dependent on Malacca Strait to ship oil from West Asia, is pursuing an alternative route under its controversial China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project that India is opposed to as it passes through parts of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Straits of Malacca is a narrow, 550 mi (890 km) stretch of water between the Malay Peninsula (Peninsular Malaysia) and the Indonesian island of Sumatra. It is named after the Malacca Sultanate that ruled over the archipelago between 1400 and 1511.
From an economic and strategic perspective, the Strait of Malacca is one of the most important shipping lanes in the world.
The strait is the main shipping channel between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, linking major Asian economies such as India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, China, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea. Over 94,000 vessels pass through the strait each year (2008) making it the busiest strait in the world, carrying about 25% of the world’s traded goods, including oil, Chinese manufactured products, coal, palm oil and Indonesian coffee. About a quarter of all oil carried by sea passes through the Strait, mainly from Persian Gulf suppliers to Asian markets.
‘The Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill 2017’ (GS2: Union Legislature)
Issue: A key bill to provide constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) secured Parliament’s approval today with the Rajya Sabha approving the measure that will give the panel full powers to safeguard the rights and interests of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs).
About the bill
The bill was passed after the House repealed the National Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1993. The NCBC, a statutory body created in 1993, was given limited powers – only to recommend to the government inclusion or exclusion of a community in the central list of OBCs. Also, the power to hear complaints of the OBCs and protect their interests remained with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes.
The bill seeks to bring the NCBC on par with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes.
‘Government e- Marketplace’ (GS2: Transparency)
Issue: As an initiative to improve transparency in procurement, Government has set up Government e- Marketplace as a 100% Government owned company registered under the Companies Act, 2013 for providing online platform for procurement of common use goods and services by government organizations.
About the initiative
Government e- Marketplace (GeM) is an online platform for government users which was launched on 9th August, 2016. It leverages technology to enhance transparency, efficiency and speed in public procurement. It provides the tools of e-bidding, reverse e-auction and demand aggregation to facilitate the government users, achieve the best value of their money. It is paperless, cashless and contactless platform giving end to end solution.
‘Maitree 2018’ (GS2: Bilateral ties)
Issue: Exercise Maitree is a joint military exercise between Indian Army and Royal Thai Army which will be conducted from 06 to 19 August 2018 in Thailand
About the joint exercise
It is a platoon level exercise which comprises of infantry component. The opening ceremony started with familiarization of organisation and display of weapons & equipment of both armies.
The exercise will emphasize to hone the tactical and technical skills in joint counter insurgency and counter terrorist operations in rural and urban scenario under UN mandate
‘Measures to Tackle Dust pollution (GS3: Environmental pollution)
Issue: The Government has taken several steps to address air pollution
Measures undertaken include:
- National Ambient Air Quality Standards
- setting up of monitoring network for assessment of ambient air quality
- Introduction of cleaner / alternate fuels like gaseous fuel (CNG, LPG etc.)
- Ethanol blending
- Launching of National Air Quality index
- Universalization of BS-IV from 2017
- Leapfrogging from BS-IV to BS-VI fuel standards by 1st April, 2020
- notifications regarding ‘Mandatory Implementation of Dust Mitigation Measures for Construction and Demolition Activities requiring Environmental clearance’
- promotion of public transport network
- “Deployment and Evaluation of air purification units (for traffic junction pollution abatement) in Delhi” to National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) to install Wind Augmentation and Air Purifying Unit (WAYU) devices at 7 traffic intersections have been sanctioned to tackle dust pollution.
The government has formulated National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) as a long-term time bound national level strategy to tackle the increasing air pollution problem across the country in comprehensive manner. The overall objective is to augment and evolve effective ambient air quality monitoring network across the country, besides ensuring comprehensive management plan for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution. The NCAP focuses on collaborative and participatory approach comprising all sources of pollution and coordination between relevant Central Ministries, State Governments, local bodies and other stakeholders
‘Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA)’ (GS2: Issue related to Education)
Issue: NITI Aayog has identified 117 districts as ‘Aspirational Districts’. These districts have been selected on the basis of composite index which includes published data of deprivation enumerated under Socio-Economic Caste Census, Health &Nutrition, Education and Basic Infrastructure.
Under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA), central assistance is provided for opening of new Model Degree Colleges(MDCs) in ‘Aspirational Districts’ identified by NITI Aayog and in un-served & underserved districts in North Eastern and Himalayan States.
Ministry of Human Resource Development is implementing this programme
‘ISHAN VIKAS AND ISHAN UDAY scheme’ (GS2: Issues related to Education)
Issue: Ishan Vikas and Ishan Uday schemes are being implemented for the students of North Eastern region.
About the schemes
Ishan Vikas is coordinated by IIT, Guwahati and under the programme, selected school children from North Eastern States are brought in close contact with the Indian Institute of Technology (IITs), Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISERs) and National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) during the vacation period to motivate them to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics and to facilitate internship opportunities for the engineering college students in various institutes of national importance.
Ishan Uday Scholarship Scheme is administered by University Grants Commission (UGC). Under the scheme, scholarship is provided to the economically backward students from the North East Region for pursuing general degree courses, technical and professional degree courses
‘Adventure Tourism’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The Ministry of Tourism has recognised ‘Adventure Tourism’ as a ‘Niche Tourism’ product to promote India as a 365 days’ destination and attract tourists with specific interest.
It has also been decided to promote 2018 as the ‘Year of Indian Adventure’. Apart from the above, Adventure Tourism is regularly highlighted for promotion as part of the Incredible India Campaign in the print, electronic, online and outdoor media in India and abroad as well as at the various travel trade exhibitions overseas.
Indian Adventure Tourism Guidelines (Version 2.0) – 2018
The Ministry of Tourism along with the Adventure Tour Operators Association of India (ATOAI) has launched the “Indian Adventure Tourism Guidelines (Version 2.0) – 2018” on ‘Safety and Quality Norms for Adventure Tourism in India’. The guidelines list the basic minimum standards for adventure tourism and cover the land, air and water-based activities.
‘VIGYAN PRASAR’ (GS3: Achievements of Indians in Science and Technology)
Issue: Vigyan Prasar, under the guidance of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) has launched India Science (indiascience.in), an Internet-based science channel, to showcase the developments in science and technology, particularly from research institutions and laboratories based in India.
About the initiative
The bilingual channel (Hindi and English) will offer scheduled programming as well as video-on-demand facility. According to the India Science website, it will cover the “entire landscape” of science and technology including engineering, health and medicine, natural science, environment and wildlife, agriculture among others. It will have documentaries, discussion, demonstrations/experiment shows and quizzes.
‘Hypersonic Aircraft’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: China on Monday announced that it has successfully tested its first cutting-edge hypersonic aircraft which could carry nuclear warheads and penetrate any current generation anti-missile defence systems.
About the aircraft
- The Xingkong-2 or Starry Sky-2, was launched in a target range located in Northwest China
- Launched in a rocket, China’s waverider was released in the air after about 10 minutes. It flew independently, made large-angle turning maneuvers, and landed in the targeted area as planned
- The flight vehicle reached 30 kms in altitude at Mach 5.5-6
- Waverider is a flight vehicle that flies in the atmosphere and uses shockwaves generated by its own hypersonic flight with the air to glide at high speed
The current generation of anti-missile defence systems is mainly designed to intercept cruise and ballistic missiles, which are either slower or easier to predict, making them possible to intercept. But the trajectory of a waverider is relatively unpredictable in the glide and it flies so fast that it poses an extreme challenge to current anti-missile defense systems
What is hypersonic?
In aerodynamics, a hypersonic speed is one that is highly supersonic. Since the 1970s, the term has generally referred to speeds of Mach 5 and above.