Daily Current Affairs - 20-04-2021

The Union Cabinet recently approved the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Director General of Trade Remedies of India and Trade and Tariff Commission of Bangladesh. The agreement was signed to increase the cooperation in the area of trade remedies. The agreement was signed on March 27, 2021.

Key Highlights

What is Countervailing duties?

The Countervailing Duties, also called CVDs are import tariffs. They are imposed to nullify the adverse effects of subsidies. CVDs are also called anti-subsidy duties.

Suppose a country finds out that a foreign country is subsidising its imports. This will cause harm to domestic suppliers. Thus, the home country can impose duties on such goods to protect its domestic suppliers. These duties are imposed only under World Trade Organisation rules.

What is difference between countervailing duties and anti-dumping duties?

The countervailing duties are imposed on subsidised products on exporting country. On the other hand, anti-dumping duties are imposed on imports that are of low price.

Let us assume that China is exporting silicon wafer to India.

Case 1: Chinese Government provides subsidy to silicon wafer manufacturers. Now when India imposes import duties, then it is called countervailing duties.

Case 2: No subsidies are provided to silicon wafer by Chinese Government. But the exporter is selling at very low prices. In this case, when India imposes duty, it is called anti-dumping duties.

The World Meteorological Organisation recently released the “State of the Global Climate 2020” report.

Key Findings of the Report

Current Scenario

Only 59 countries that represent 54% of global emissions have framed their net-zero targets. Of these only six countries have legislations on net-zero emissions. Seven countries were categorised as “critically insufficient”. The pledges of these countries will lead to four degrees increase in temperatures. This includes US and Russia.

India, Bhutan, Costa Rica and Philippines are compliant with Paris Agreement according to Climate Action Tracker.

About the Report

The World Meteorological Organisation is publishing the report since 1993. The report mainly documents indicators of climate system such as increasing land and ocean temperatures, greenhouse gas concentrations, melting ice, sea-level increase, glacier retreat and extreme weather.

The report also highlights the impacts of climate change on socio-economic development, food security, migration and marine ecosystems.

Way Forward

The Union Minister for Commerce and Industry recently launched the “Start Up India Seed Fund” scheme. The scheme aims to provide financial support to the startups for their prototype development, proof of concept, product trials, market entry.

Startup India Fund Scheme

Disbursement

The funds under the scheme will be disbursed in following ways:

Seed Funds

Seed Funds are those funds that are provided or used during the very beginning of an investment.

Need for Seed Funds

Indian startups are facing capital inadequacy especially in the seed and Proof of Concept development stage. Capital requirement is highly crucial at this stage as it might make or break a situation for startups that possess good business ideas.

Expert Advisory Committee

The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade shall constitute an Expert Advisory Committee to monitor the overall execution of the scheme.

Background

In February 2021, the GoI announced that a SISFS is to be established by April 2021. It is inline with Atma Nirbhar Bharat campaign that was launched in May 2020.

In 2013, Jonh Paul Hodnett, a graduate student unearthed fossil of a shark at Albuquerque, New Mexico. It turns out that, it is a fossil of a new shark species so far not known to man. After seven years of excavation, it has been named as Dragon shark. It is also called Hoffman’s Dragon shark or Godzilla shark.

About Dragon Shark

About the Fossil

The high desert plateaus of New Mexico have also yielded several dinosaur fossils, especially the fossils of Tyrannosaurus. The Tyrannosaurus roamed around before millions of years ago. A recent study says that more than 2.5 billion Tyrannosaurus once existed on the earth.

Name of the shark

Hoffman has named the shark as “Dracopristis hoffmanorum” to honour the New Mexico family that owns the land in the Manzano mountains. The fossil was discovered in this land.

Carboniferous Period

It is a geologic period that lasted from 358.9 million years ago to 298.9 million years ago. It belongs to the late Palaeozoic era. The earth was covered with dense and swampy forest during this period. The period gave rise to large deposits of peat. Peat is a brown deposit that resembles soil. It is formed by partial decomposition of vegetable matter in the wet acidic conditions. The peat transformed into rich coal stores in the North America and Western Europe.

The Government of India recently launched an online portal to procure telecom gears from “trusted sources”. The sources to be listed in the portal are to be identified by the highest cybersecurity offices in the country.

About the Portal

What is beta phase?

Beta phase is one of the phases in the Software release cycle . It is one of the stages of development and maturity of a software.

What is Software Release Cycle?

A software release cycle is the stage of development and maturity of a software. The states are as follows:

Why is the portal being launched in India?

The portal is being launched to protect Indian companies from becoming victims of cyber threats from neighbouring countries, especially China. The cybersecurity threats from China have increased lately. This is one of the man reasons Huawei that had great impact on the rollout of 4G is not expected to make it to the final list.

The Global Forest Watch recently reported that India recorded 82,170 forest fire alerts between April 1, 2021 and April 14, 2021. This is nearly double the number reported during the same period in 2020. The alert was based on the data from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS).

What is VIIRS?

VIIRS is a weather monitoring equipment placed in satellites orbiting the earth. It is basically a sensor, that was designed and manufactured by Raytheon company. It collects imagery and radiometric measurements of atmosphere, land, cryosphere and oceans. The data is collected in visible and infrared bands of electromagnetic spectrum.

VIIRS is placed in Suomi National Polar orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) and NOAA-20 weather satellites.

Objective

The VIIRS is mainly used to monitor and investigate changes and properties in surface vegetation. The combination of MODIS, VIIRS and AVHRR help in assessing impacts of climate change on the earth surface.

MODIS is Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer. AVHRR is Advanced Very High-Resolution Radiometer.

Application

From the combined data of MODIS, AVHRR and VIIRS, two sets of data are generated. They are as follows:

Background

In January 2019, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change launched FAST. FAST will monitor forest fires in India using real time information from VIIRS. FAST is Fire Alert System.

Every year, the World Heritage Day is celebrated on April 18. The day is also called the International Day for Monuments and Sites. This year, the World Heritage Day was celebrated under the following theme

World Heritage Day

ICOSMOS

It is an organisation that was established based on the principles of Venice Charter. The Venice Charter is also called the 1964 International Charter on the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites.

World Heritage Site

For a place to get selected as the World Heritage Site, it should be a classified landmark. That is, the site should be unique in historical and geographic means. Also, it should have cultural significance.

The World Heritage sites are maintained by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee under the World Heritage Programme. The World Heritage Sites are embodied in the international treaty called the Convention concerning the Protection of the world cultural and natural heritage. The treaty was adopted by UNESCO in 1972.

World Heritage Sites in India

There are thirty-eight UNESCO World Heritage sites in India. Of these, seven hold natural importance and thirty hold cultural importance. The Khangchendzonga National Park is classified as “mixed”, that is, it has both cultural and natural importance.

It has been eleven years since the Deepwater Horizon Oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded. The explosion that occurred in the rig on April 20, 2010, killed eleven people.

What is Deepwater Horizon Disaster?

After two days of the explosion, oil continued to spill from the pipe for eighty-seven days. This released 377,514 tonnes of oil into the Gulf. This is considered as the largest marine oil spill in history. According to NASA, the oil spill affected 70,000 square miles of ocean. By 2011, several coastal states such as Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida were contaminated by oil. This is referred to as Deepwater Horizon Disaster.

What caused the disaster?

A surge of natural gas blasted through the concrete core. The core was recently installed to seal the well for later use. The core blasted as it was too weak to withstand the pressure of the gas. The concrete core was weak as the mixture used nitrogen gas to accelerate the curing.

Curing of Concrete

It is a method by which concrete is protected against loss of moisture. It is important to keep the concrete hydrated. This is because curing increases strength of the concrete. Also, it decreases the permeability of hardened concrete.

For most of the concrete structures, the curing period is seven days.

Recent Oil Spills

India and Kyrgyztan recently held a joint Special Force Military Exercise called the “Khanjar”. The exercise was held at Bishek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan.

About the Exercise

India-Kyrgyzstan

In 2015, India and Kyrgyzstan signed four agreements. The agreements focused on boosting defence cooperation. Kyrgyzstan is located in Central Asia. India has been looking for several opportunities to increase its trade in the region lately. The INSTC (International North South Transport Corridor) and Chabahar ports were planned and developed to fulfil India’s interests in central Asia. Developing good relations with Kyrgyzstan is thus important for India.

Terrorist threats

What is Special Force Unit of Indian Military?

The forces that are trained to operate a specific special task are special forces. For instance, Para Special Forces of the Indian Army are trained in various roles such as counter-terrorism, hostage rescue, special reconnaissance, counter-insurgency.

The Garud Commando Force  is a special force that operates under Indian Air Force. The main tasks of this force include counter-terrorism, providing security to IAF assets, hostage rescue.

The Marcos Special Force operates under Indian Navy. They are the Marine Commandos. The force has earned international reputation for its professionalism. The MARCOS was founded in 1987. THE MARCOS frequently conduct maritime operations in Jammu and Kashmir through the Wular lake and Jhelum river. They are trained to operate in all types of environment such as air, sea and land.

The Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy recently released the first tranche of Rs 672 crores under the Jagananna Vidya Deevena Scheme for the year 2021-22. This reimbursed the fees for 10.88 lakh students. So far, a total of Rs 4, 879 crores have been disbursed under the Jagananna Vidya Deevena Scheme.

Jagananna Vidya Deevena Scheme

Other Schemes

Apart from the Jagananna Vidya Deevena Scheme, Andhra Pradesh has also launched Jagananna amma Vodu Scheme. Under the scheme, Rs 15,000 will be provided annually to the poor to help children studying in Class 1 to 12.

Education Policy of Andhra Pradesh

Andhra Pradesh is using two-pronged strategy to improve education in the state. One is by providing financial assistance to mothers of the students. On the other hand, the Andhra Pradesh Government is introducing English as a medium of instruction in government schools.

Way Forward

The second instalment of the scheme is to be released in July 2021 and the third instalment is to be released in December 2021.

The Reserve Bank of India recently set up a committee to study about the Asset Reconstruction Companies (ARC) in the country. The committee will evaluate the role of ARCs in debt resolution and will review their business model.

About the Committee

Need for the Committee

The Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest (SARFAESI) Act was enacted in 2002. The regulatory guidelines for Asset Reconstruction Companies (ARC) were issued under the SARFAESI Act in 2003. Since then the ARCs have grown in size and numbers. However, their potential to resolve stressed assets is yet to be realised completely.

Background

The Reserve Bank of India had announced under its Monetary Policy Committee decisions that it will review the working of ARCs in the country.

What is the issue?

The Asset Reconstruction Companies have been coming forward in the resolution processes under Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code. In reality, this will affect the Public Sector Banks such as SBI. For instance, UV ARC Limited came forward with a resolution plan for Aircel. However, RBI had rejected the plan citing that the plan did not abide by SARFAESI Act. RBI had rejected several such proposals made by ARCs. This has created controversies. Thus, RBI has formed the committee to study about the Asset Reconstruction Companies and their potential role in debt resolution processes.

The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter has successfully become the first aircraft in history to fly in another planet.

Ingenuity Helicopter

Deep Space Network

The Deep Space Network, also called the DSN of NASA is an international array of giant radio antennas. It supports interplanetary space missions. It is operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA.

The DSN is located in three different locations. The locations are spaced at 120 degrees apart in longitude around the world. The antennas of the network are located in Madrid (Spain), Goldstone (California) and Canberra (Australia).

The sites have been chosen in such a way that they permit constant communication between NASA and spacecraft. Also, the sites have been selected in such a way that the next site takes over before previous site sinks below the horizon of the spacecraft.

The Prime Minister recently chaired a high-level meeting with the top doctors of the country. After the meeting, it was decided to liberalize and accelerate the phase three strategy of COVID-19 Vaccination programme in the country.

Strategy of Phase 3 of COVID-19 Vaccination Programme

C0-WIN

It is COVID Vaccine Intelligence Network. Basically, it is a software, a cloud-based IT Platform. It is owned by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. It was earlier used in Pulse Polio administration. It has now been updated for COVID-19. It monitors and tracks vaccine drive in the country.

The Ministry of Railways recently announced that it is to create a Green Corridor to ensure fast movement of Oxygen Express trains. These Oxygen Express trains are to be operated to help the country handle the issue of shortage of oxygen.

What is the plan?

The Indian Railways is to move empty tankers from Boisar and Kalamboli railway stations. They are located near Mumbai. These tankers are to be sent to Jamshedpur, Vizag, Bokaro and Rourkela to load medical oxygen.

Background

Due to the COVID-19 double mutant variant, the number of COVID-19 infections began to increase in the country. With this, India became the second most COVID-19 infected country in the world after USA. And this led to the increase in oxygen demand.

Other GoI measures

The Reporters Without Borders, a not-for-profit body recently published the World Press Freedom Index, 2021. It ranked 180 countries. India ranked 142 in the index. India was at the same position in 2020 as well.

Key Highlights

India in the ranking

India was at rank 133 in 2016 and has been sliding positions since then. Amongst the Indian neighbourhood, Sri Lanka was ranked at 127, Nepal was ranked at 106, Myanmar at 140, Bangladesh at 152 and Pakistan at 145.

What does the report say about India?

Conclusion

The report says that, the main vaccine against disinformation, JOURNALISM, has been completely blocked in 73% of 180 countries.

The Union Minister of Tourism and Culture Shri Prahlad Singh Patel recently inaugurated the first online exhibition of Ramayana.

About the exhibition

Ramayana

Ramayana in one of the major epics of Indian history. It was written by Maharishi Valmiki. It was originally written in Sanskrit. There are several versions of the epic such as Jain versions, Buddhist versions, Sikh versions, Cambodia version, Laos versions, Thailand version, Philippines, Myanmar, etc.

UNESCO on Ramlila

In 2008, UNESCO declared Ramlila as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The Ramlila festivities are particularly popular in Varanasi, Ayodhya, Madhubani, Satna, Almora and in major cities of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar.

Ramlila is now a part of Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia as well. This is mainly because of the Hindu communities that moved to these countries in the 19th and 20th centuries.

UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritages in India

The NortonLifeLock recently released a report titled “2021 Norton cyber–Safety Insights Report”.

Key Findings of the report

Steps taken to spread awareness about Cyber crimes

The Ministry of Energy of Israel recently announced a National Plan to reduce 80% of Greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 as compared to that of 2015.

About the plan

What is the plan?

Outcomes

India and Germany have recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding on “Cities Combating Plastic Entering the Marine Environment”. It is in line with the objective of Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban.

About the MoU

Key Features

Significance

Around 15% to 20% of the plastics entering the oceans are through the riverine system. Of this, 90% are contributed by the ten most polluted rivers in the world. Two of these rivers are located in India. They are the Ganges and Brahmaputra.

Challenges

Current Scenario

The Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) has recently developed a Supplemental Oxygen Delivery System. It is to be used for soldiers posted at extreme high-altitude areas.

About the System

The system was developed by the Defence Bio-Engineering and Electro Medical Laboratory (DEBEL) located in Bengaluru. It operates under DRDO.

The system delivers supplementary oxygen based on the Blood Saturation levels. This will help soldiers from sinking into a state of Hypoxia. Hypoxia is fatal in many cases.

Supplemental Oxygen Delivery System in COVID-19

The system shall also be used to provide medical oxygen to COVID-19 patients. India is now on high demand of medical oxygen with COVID-19 cases increasing at great level. The Government of India is to establish 162 oxygen manufacturing plants that will provide medical oxygen, especially to hospitals in rural. Of these, 100 are to be funded by the PM-CARES fund. Also, India is to import 50,000 tonnes of Oxygen.

What is Hypoxia?

Hypoxia is the state where oxygen reaching the tissues is inadequate. The same condition occurs in COVID-19.

About Supplementary Oxygen Delivery System

Benefits

The oximeter is completely automatic and thus can be deployed in households. This is because, it gives an alarm for lower SpO2 levels.