20th August, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
(DOWNLOAD THE PDF AT THE END OF THIS PAGE)
‘Wheat genome project’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: In a major scientific breakthrough, a team of international researchers, including 18 from India decoded the wheat genome, considered insurmountable so far.
Significance of this scientific breakthrough
The information generated will help to identify genes controlling complex agronomic traits such as yield, grain quality, resistance to diseases and pests, as well as tolerance to drought, heat, water logging and salinity.
Cracking of the bread wheat genome will go a long way in developing climate-resilient wheat and help tide over possible impact of climate change on farm output
The availability of high quality reference genome would accelerate the breeding of climate-resilient wheat varieties to feed the ever-increasing world population and help address global food security in the decades to come.
‘Bajrang Punia’(Facts that could be asked in Prelims)
Issue: The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi has congratulated Bajrang Punia on winning Gold in 65 kg freestyle wrestling at Asian Games 2018.
Punia won the gold medal in the 65 kg freestyle wrestling event by beating Japan’s Daichi Takatani 11-8 in the final bout. This is India’s first gold medal of the 2018 Games.
Other medals won include:
- India’s Deepak Kumar produced a late surge to steal a silver in the men’s 10m rifle event at the Asian Games, giving the shooting contingent its second medal here.
- Ravi Kumar, had won a mixed team bronze alongside Apurvi Chandela in shooting event
‘Smart Anti-airfield weapon’ (GS3: Indigenization of Technology)
Issue: Indigenously designed and developed guided bombs Smart Anti Airfield Weapon (SAAW) were successfully flight tested from IAF aircraft at Chandan range.
About the system
The weapon system was integrated with live warhead and has destroyed the targets with high precision. The telemetry and tracking systems captured all the mission events. This weapon is capable of destroying variety of ground targets using precision navigation.
‘HELINA’ (GS3: Indigenization of Technology)
Issue: Indigenously developed Helicopter launched Anti-Tank Guided Missile ‘HELINA’ has been successfully flight tested from Army Helicopter at 1400hrs in the ranges of Pokhran
The ‘HELINA’ weapon system released smoothly from the launch platform has tracked the target all through its course and hit the target with high precision. All the parameters have been monitored by the telemetry stations, tracking systems and the Helicopters.
The Missile is guided by an Infrared Imaging Seeker (IIR) operating in the Lock on Before Launch mode. It is one of the most advanced Anti-Tank Weapons in the world.
‘MAITREE 2018’ (Facts that could be asked in Prelims)
Issue: Exercise Maitree 2018, a two week long platoon level joint military exercise between Indian Army and Royal Thai Army culminated on 19 August 2018.
The exercise began with a cross training period involving familiarization training between two armies to evolve drills and procedures involved in counter insurgency & counter terrorist operations in urban, rural and jungle terrain under UN mandate.
‘Exercise Pitch Black 2018’ (Facts that could be asked in Prelims)
Issue: Ex Pitch Black a biennial multi-national large force employment warfare exercise was hosted by Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) from 24 Jul 18 to 18 Aug 18 in Darwin, Australia.
About this exercise
With participation of 16 nations and more than 140 aircraft, the current edition was the largest Pitch Black ever conducted by Australia. IAF contingent consisted of 145 air-warriors including IAF Commandos team, Garuds, 04 X Su-30 MKI, 01 X C-130 and 01 X C-17 for logistic support for induction and de-induction.
The objectives for the exercise were to foster closer relationship between the participating friendly forces and to promote interoperability through exchange of knowledge and experience. The aim for participating crew and specialist observers was to expose them to op environment in international scenarios
‘Exo-planets’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: Scientists have shown that water is likely to be a major component of those exoplanets (planets orbiting other stars) which are between two to four times the size of Earth.
What are Exoplanets?
An exoplanet is a planet outside our solar system. The first evidence of an exoplanet was noted as early as 1917, but was not recognized as such. However, the first scientific detection of an exoplanet was in 1988, although it was not accepted as an exoplanet until later. The first confirmed detection occurred in 1992. As of 1 August 2018, there are 3,815 confirmed planets in 2,853 systems, with 633 systems having more than one planet
The High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS), since 2004) has discovered about a hundred exoplanets while the Kepler space telescope (since 2009) has found more than two thousand.
The least massive planet known is Draugr (also known as PSR B1257+12 A or PSR B1257+12 b), which is about twice the mass of the Moon. The most massive planet listed on the NASA Exoplanet Archive is HR 2562 b, about 30 times the mass of Jupiter
‘Melting of glaciers’ (GS1: Geophysical phenomenon)
Issue: Scientists have worried for years that rising temperatures will free carbon trapped in frozen soil in the Arctic, accelerating the pace of climate change — but now they believe abrupt thawing below lakes is even more dangerous.
That’s the finding of a new paper published as part of a 10-year NASA collaboration to study how climate change will play out in the icy Arctic region.
Implication of this discovery
When permanently frozen dirt melts, the bacteria trapped inside it become active again, munch through whatever organic material is in reach, and produce carbon dioxide and methane, which are both powerful greenhouse gases
‘Safeguard duty’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: A controversial ruling by the highest court for global trade disputes on 15 August is going to come in handy for the US to justify its unilateral crowbar trade measures slapped on India, China, Canada, the European Union, Mexico and Norway, among others
What is the ruling about?
In a ruling by the World Trade Organization’s highest court for trade disputes, the appellate body (AB), on Thursday, a three-member bench affirmed that claims against Indonesia under the WTO agreement on safeguards should be dismissed on grounds that the duty was not a safeguard measure.
The three parties involved in the dispute—the complainants, Taipei and Vietnam, and the defendant Indonesia—had argued that the duty imposed by Jakarta on iron and steel was a safeguard measure. But the appellate body rejected this consensus position
What is a Safeguard duty?
WTO members are entitled to impose safeguard measures to curb sudden and unforeseen surges in imports that cause “serious injury to a member’s domestic industry”. Members subjected to safeguard duties can challenge them if the safeguard-imposing country fails to follow the conditions set out in the WTO’s agreement on safeguards.
Implication of this ruling on India’s interest
In the proceedings before the judges, India along with China, the EU, Japan, Korea, Australia, Russia, the US, and Ukraine had participated as third parties. India, China, the EU, Korea, and Japan said the measures imposed by Indonesia must be treated as safeguard measures.
The ruling has come as a huge surprise for because the appellate body’s reasoning is flawed and was aimed at helping the US to argue that Section 232 duties on steel and aluminum were acceptable
The US has justified the punitive duties of 20% on steel and 10% on aluminum under Section 232, which deals with national security provisions as “sovereign determinations” that fall under Article 21 of the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) 1994.
The US repeatedly dismissed complaints by India, China, Canada, the EU, Mexico, and Norway that the punitive duties imposed by the Trump administration constituted a “disguised safeguard” measure.
‘Landslide zone mapping’ (GS3: Disaster and disaster management)
Issue: Experts who have specialized in landslip studies, have underlined the urgency of conducting landslide hazard zonation mapping across the district.
Factors that would decide the mapping
Factors like thickness of the soil cover and the stability of the land, by taking into cognizance various factors that cause instability including slope, intensity of rain in an area during a given period of time, drainage etc., and the entire zone is mapped in a grid of 10 by 10 feet.
Based on the output, an area can be classified under the high-risk or the low-risk category for landslips.
The call for landslide hazard zoning assumes significance in the light of the government’s decision to establish temporary shelters for those displaced by floods and landslips in Kodagu.
The district has received a cumulative rainfall of 3,535 mm so far this year as against 1,436.06 mm of rainfall registered during the same period last year.
‘Greece’ (GS2: International news)
Issue: Greece has successfully exited its final, three-year bailout programme, agreed in August 2015 to help it cope with the continued fallout from a debt crisis, the euro zone’s European Stability Mechanism (ESM) rescue fund reported
Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Cyprus, which borrowed from the ESM, were also monitored after the end of their assistance programs.
History of Greece and its economic woes
Since its debt crisis erupted in early 2010, Greece has relied on the biggest bailout in economic history, more than 260 billion euros lent by its euro zone partners and the IMF.
European Commission in July, aims to ensure there will be no backtracking on reforms and the fiscal path agreed with Greece’s lenders.
Under the tight monitoring, officials from European institutions including the ESM will visit Athens every three months for an assessment.
‘Farm households debt’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: More than half the agricultural households in the country have outstanding debt, and their average outstanding debt is almost as high as the average annual income of all agricultural households, according to a recent survey by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD).
Other observations made in the survey
- NABARD found that 52.5% of the agricultural households had an outstanding loan on the date of the survey, and thus were considered indebted
- For non-agricultural households in rural India, that figure was 10 percentage points lower, at only 42.8%.
- The average debt of an indebted agricultural household stood at ₹1,04,602 in comparison to ₹76,731 for indebted non-agricultural households.
- According to the survey, the average annual income of an agricultural household is ₹1.07 lakh. That is barely ₹2,500 more than the average outstanding debt of indebted farm households.
- The survey found that only 10.5% of agricultural households were found to have a valid Kisan Credit Card at the time of the survey. The scheme aims to give farmers credit from the banks with a simplified and flexible single-window procedure. Households who had the card utilized 66% of the sanctioned credit limit
- The biggest reason for taking loans among agricultural households was capital expenditure for agricultural purposes, with a quarter of all loans taken for this purpose.
- While 19% of loans were taken for meeting running expenses for agricultural purposes, another 19% were taken for sundry domestic needs. Loans for housing and medical expenses stood at 11% and 12%, respectively.
- The southern States of Telangana (79%), Andhra Pradesh (77%), and Karnataka (74%) showed the highest levels of indebtedness among agricultural households, followed by Arunachal Pradesh (69%), Manipur (61%), Tamil Nadu (60%), Kerala (56%), and Odisha (54%).
- A sizeable 11.5% households exhibited dependence on local moneylenders and landlords, which exposes them to exploitation by having to pay exorbitant interest. The persons resorting to local moneylenders often include, either the illiterate or extremely poor ones which are not eligible for loans from formal institutions, or the households that do not have social networks that can help them in times of need
NABARD initiatives are aimed at building an empowered and financially inclusive rural India through specific goal oriented departments which can be categorized broadly into three heads: Financial, Developmental and Supervision.
NABARD initiatives have touched millions of rural lives across the country. Several milestone achievements have been India’s achievements as well. The SHG Bank Linkage Project launched by NABARD in 1992 has blossomed into the world’s largest micro finance project. Kisan Credit Card, designed by NABARD has become source of comfort for crores of farmers. NABARD has financed one fifth of India’s total rural infrastructure.
Government of India created the RIDF in NABARD in 1995-96, with an initial corpus of Rs.2000 crore. With the allocation of Rs.28,000 crore for 2018-19 under RIDF XXIV
At present, there are 36 eligible activities under RIDF as approved by GoI. (Annexure I). The eligible activities are classified under three broad categories i.e.
- Agriculture and related sector
- Social sector
- Rural connectivity
A Long Term Irrigation Fund (LTIF) in NABARD with an initial corpus of `20,000 crore for funding and fast tracking the implementation of incomplete major and medium irrigation projects. A Mission has been established in the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation (MoWR, RD & GR) for overall implementation of the scheme. The Long Term Irrigation Fund (LTIF) aims to bridge the resource gap and facilitate completion of these projects during 2016-2020. 23 projects (priority-I) have been identified to be completed by 2016-17, 31 projects (priority –II) have been identified to be completed by 2017-18 and balance 45 projects (priority – III) have been identified to be completed by 2019-20.
‘The Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA)’ (GS3: Indigenization of Technology)
Issue: The Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), India’s next indigenous fighter, is expected to make its first flight by 2032.
About the project
- The AMCA will feature geometric stealth and will initially fly with two GE-414 engines
- There are two major ways of making a military platform stealthier. One is geometric stealth and other is material stealth. In geometric stealth, the shape of the aircraft is designed at such angles so as to deflect away maximum radar waves thereby minimising its radar cross section. In material stealth, radar-absorbing materials are used in making the aircraft which will absorb the radio waves thus reducing the radar footprint. The AMCA will initially be based on geometric stealth
- The plan is to build on the capabilities and expertise developed during the development of the light combat aircraft (LCA) and produce a medium fifth generation fighter aircraft.
- This is India’s only fifth generation aircraft programme following the decision not to go ahead with the fifth generation project with Russia.