Daily Current Affairs - 04-06-2021

Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has found three caves in Buddhist Caves Complex in Nasik, Maharashtra.

Highlights

About discovered caves

These caves were discovered on opposite side of the current complex. They are about 70-80 feet above the existing complex and have been carved out of a steep hill. They look like monks’ dwellings and older than the current complex. Two of the caves have shared dwellings while third was perhaps occupied by one monk. All these caves comprise of verandahs and characteristic square stone platform for monks.  They have special arrangements for monks to meditate. Caves also have images of Buddha & Bodhisattvas and sculptures with designs of Indo-Greek architecture.

Background

The Buddhist sculptures and caves are a significant example of “Indian rock-cut architecture” which represent Hinayana tradition of Buddhism.

About Pandavleni caves

Pandavleni caves were earlier called as ‘Trirashmi caves’. These caves are a group of 25 caves, carved out of Tri-Rashmi Hill between 2nd century BC and 6th century AD. Vihara and the Chaitya are the main caves among 25 caves. Complex of the cave was documented in 1823 by Captain James Delamaine. It is an ASI protected site and a famous tourist destination.

Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Hyderabad has developed nano-fibre based oral tablets of Amphotericin B, called as AmB.

Highlights

What are Amphotericin B tablets?

Amphotericin B tablets are nano-fibre based oral medicine that can be used to treat fungal infections which is currently spreading in India post COVID treatment.

Background

Researchers from the Department of Chemical Engineering were studying two years ago about oral nanofibrous AmB and found it effective for Kala Azar. This was the first attempt to fabricate nanofibrous oral tablets of Amphotericin B to cure Kala Azar.

Amphotericin B

It is an antifungal medication used in serious fungal infections and leishmaniasis. It is used to treat mucormycosis, aspergillosis, candidiasis, blastomycosis, cryptococcosis etc.  It is typically given through injection into vein. Common side effects of medication include fever, chills, and headaches besides kidney problems. It is safe in pregnancy as well.

Mucormycosis or black fungus

It is a serious fungal infection affecting people with reduced immunity and inability to fight infections. Symptoms of infection depends on site of the infection in body. It commonly infects sinuses and brain causing runny nose, one-sided facial swelling, pain, headache and fever.

Union government has extended validity period of Teachers Eligibility Test (TET) qualifying certificate from 7 years to lifetime with retrospective effect from 2011.

Key Points

Background

This decision will make changes in guidelines of February 11, 2011 of the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) which provided that, TET would be conducted by state governments and validity of TET Pass certificate was 7 years from date of passing TET.

What is Teachers Eligibility Test (TET)?

TET is an essential qualification for person who seeks appointment as a teacher in schools. Earlier, validity of TET pass certificate was 7 years which has now been extended to lifetime. There is no restriction on number of attempts a person can take this exam to acquire a certificate. TET is conducted by each state separately while, Central TET or CTET is conducted by Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE).

According to TATA Power, Blue-finned Mahseer has moved to “least concern” status which was listed in red list of endangered species of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) earlier.

Highlights

About Mahseer

Mahseer is the common name for generaTor. These fishes are found across Vietnam in north and China in south, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, southern Asia, Indian Peninsula, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. They are commercially important game fish and highly esteemed food fish. They have a high market price and are potential candidate species for aquaculture.

Concerns

Several larger species of Mahseer have suffered severe declines which are now considered threatened because of pollution, overfishing and habitat loss. Concerns are increasing regarding impacts of unregulated release of artificially bred stock of limited number of species.

Characteristics

They inhabit both rivers and lakes. Most of species ascend into rapid streams with rocky bottoms for breeding. They are omnivorous. They eat algae, crustaceans, frogs, insects and other fish. They also eat fruits that fall from trees overhead.

Social Justice and Empowerment Minister, Thaawar chand Gehlot, will launch Senior care Ageing Growth Engine or SAGE project on June 4, 2021.

What is SAGE project?

How start-ups will be selected?

Start-ups will be selected based on their innovative products and services, which they can provide across sectors like housing, health and care centres. They will also be selected based on technological access linked to finances, food & wealth management besides legal guidance.

Who will facilitate the scheme?

Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment will be the facilitator to enable elderly to access products through these identified and verified start-ups.

What was the need of this scheme?

This scheme was required in the light of increasing share of elders. As per a survey, share of elders with respect to total population in percentage term is expected to increase from 7.5 per cent in 2001 to about 12.5 per cent by 2026.

Forensic scientists at Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) have developed an indigenous chip-off technique which will help the investigative agencies in producing credible evidences against criminals in trial courts. This technique will also help in retrieving encrypted data from locked and severely damaged smart cell phones.

Highlights

About Chip-off technique

Chip-off technique is divided in six parts. Firstly, device is opened up using heat and air combination to remove its back & front covers, battery screws etc to retrieve motherboard. NAND flash memory is located on motherboard or circuit board which is physically removed using appropriate heat and chemicals. Then the removed chip is cleaned if necessary and forensic image of chip is taken with the help of imaging software & adapter connecting it to PC. Further analysis is conducted with standard software at laboratory.

Limitations of technique

This technique is not successful on mobile device of higher Android or IOS versions including Apple iphones. Data are extracted from such mobile devices are found in an encrypted condition and methods of decryption are still under development. This technique can be used only if competent court grants permission.

US House of Representatives has reintroduced bipartisan legislation to eliminate per country cap on employment-based green card. This legislation is called as “EAGLE Act” and was introduced to benefit Indian IT professionals who are waiting over decades for green card.

What is EAGLE Act, 2021?

EAGLE Act is called as “Equal Access to Green cards for Legal Employment Act”. It proposes to phase out limit of seven per cent per-country on employment-based immigrant visas. It also seeks to raise seven per cent per-country limit to 15 percent on family-sponsored visas.

How will it help Indians?

Due to existing cap, a person from a large-population country like India with extraordinary qualifications, who could contribute to US economy & create jobs, waits behind person with lesser qualifications from small country. Thus, new legislation will reduce waiting time for Indian professionals.

Background

Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act is predecessor of EAGLE Act. It was passed in House in 116th Congress with a resounding bipartisan vote of 365 to 65.

Indian Migrants to United States

Immigration from India to US started in early 19th century when Indian immigrants started to settle in communities along the West Coast. They originally arrived in small numbers but as new opportunities opened up in middle of 20th century, population grew larger in following decades. As of 2019, more than 2.7 million Indian immigrants reside in United States. Indian immigrants account for l6 percent of U.S. foreign-born population. Thus, they are second largest immigrant group in country after Mexicans.

India launched a global Initiative ‘Mission Innovation CleanTech Exchange’ with the aim of creating a network of incubators in member countries to boost clean energy innovation.

Highlights

Aim of the Mission

Mission was launched with the aim of making clean energy affordable, attractive and accessible for decades and to escalate action towards Paris Agreement & net-zero emissions.

Mission Innovation 2.0

Mission Innovation 2.0 is the Second phase of global initiative, launched along with Paris Agreement at UN climate conference 2015. Member countries are responsible for over 90% of global public investment and collaboration so that, technologies can be provided to overcome toughest global climate challenge.

How technologies are significant in achieving the goal?

Half of global emissions reductions are required to achieve national and global climate targets by 2050, depending on technologies available today. But available technologies are not sufficient, effective and affordable for utilise at large scales such as clean hydrogen, advanced battery storage and zero-emission fuels. Thus, Mission innovation 2.0 will catalyse public-private action & investment through sector-specific missions. It will boost development of clean energy innovation.

UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and Food & Agriculture Organisation of UN (FAO) launched ‘UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration’ report for 2021-2030 and called on nations to meet commitments of restoring 1 billion hectares of land.

Key Findings

Global terrestrial restoration costs

Report estimates Global terrestrial restoration costs, excluding the cost of restoring marine ecosystems, to be USD 200 billion per year by 2030. Every 1 USD invested in restoration can create up to USD 30 in economic benefits.

Which ecosystems require urgent restoration?

Ecosystems like forests, farmlands, forests, grasslands, savannahs, urban areas, mountains, peatlands, freshwaters, and oceans requires urgent restoration.

About UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration

UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030 has called for protection and revival of ecosystems across the world. It aims to stop degradation of ecosystems and restore them to achieve global goals.

HDFC Bank has planned to become carbon neutral by 2031-32. Bank is now looking for reducing its emissions, energy, and water consumption.

How HDFC will turn carbon neutral?

HDFC will continue to incorporate and scale up use of renewable energy in its operations. Under its environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) strategy, bank will also offer loans for green products such as electric vehicles at lower interest rates. It will incorporate ESG scores in its credit decisions. Apart from that, bank is also working on framework of issuing green bonds.

What are the plans?

HDFC has planned to,

  1. Decrease absolute emissions and energy consumed from current level of 315,583 MT CO2 emissions;
  2. Increase rooftop solar capacity in large offices.
  3. Convert 50% of the total sourced electricity to renewable energy.
  4. Create single-use plastic free corporate offices.
  5. Plant 2.5 million trees.
  6. Reduce water consumption by 30%.

Significance

With these efforts, HDFC is supporting India’s commitment in this direction and once the broad strategy is in place, it will introduce new measures.

About HDFC Bank

HDFC Bank Limited, largest private sector bank by assets, is headquartered in Mumbai, Maharashtra. It is also the third largest company by market capitalisation on Indian stock exchanges and thirteenth largest employer in India with 120,000 employees.

Labour and Employment Ministry set up expert group that will provide technical inputs and recommendations on fixation of minimum wages and national floor for minimum wages.

Key Points

About Expert Group on fixation of minimum wages

Expert group has been set for a period of three years. It is chaired by Ajit Mishra who is Director of Institute of Economic Growth. Other members include- Tarika Chakraborty from IIM Calcutta; Anushree Sinha; Vibha Bhalla, Joint Secretary; et-al.

Task of expert group

Expert group will look after International best practices on wages to arrive at any wage rate. They will evolve a scientific criteria and methodology to fix wages.

What does Code on Wages specify?

The Code on Wages, which has not been enforced, provides for setting up of National Floor Level Minimum Wage by Centre which is to be revised every five years. On the other hand, states will fix minimum wages for their regions, that cannot be lower than floor wage. Current floor wage is at Rs 176 per day.

NITI Aayog has submitted names of Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) that will be privatised to Core Group of Secretaries on Disinvestment.

Highlights

Background

Centre’s aim of privatising two public sector banks and one general insurance company was highlighted during Budget 2021-22. Task of identifying government owned banks and insurance company was given to NITI Aayog.

Who decided these names?

Panel comprising of members from NITI Aayog, economic affairs secretary, expenditure secretary, revenue secretary, legal affairs secretary, corporate affairs secretary, Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) secretary and Department of Public Enterprises secretary.

Alternative Mechanism (AM)

Now, these names will go to Alternative Mechanism (AM) for approval after of Core Group of Secretaries, headed by Cabinet Secretary, gives its approval. After AM, final approval will be taken by Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Public Sector Banks (PSBs) in India

PSBs are major banks, where majority stake (50% and more) is held by Union Ministry of Finance or Ministry of Finance of various State governments. Its shares are listed on stock exchanges. Officers working in PSBs are gazetted officers. Central Government got involved in banking business after nationalization of Imperial Bank of India in 1955. 60% stake was taken by Reserve Bank of India and new bank was named “State Bank of India”.

World Bicycle Day (WBD) is observed on June 3 every year with the objective of promoting health benefits of cycling among all age groups.

Aim of WBD

Its primary aim is to draw attention of people towards the fact cycling is a zero-pollution mode of transportation which is good for environment.

Background

United Nations General Assembly had declared June 3 as World Bicycle Day. UN resolution recognises “uniqueness, longevity, and versatility of bicycle, which has been in use for two centuries.”. Campaign to promote UN resolution for World Bicycle Day was led by professor Leszek Siblisk, a social scientist in the United States. Campaign is supported by 56 countries.

Logo of WBD

The logo of WBD is a Blue and White in colour, depicting bicyclists around the globe. Its tagline is #June3WorldBicycleDay. It was designed by Isaac Feld. Accompanying animation was created by Professor John E. Swanson.

Why WBD is celebrated?

The day is celebrated as, World Health Organisation (WHO) says, cycling is a ‘pathway to achieve greater health equity’. Cycling provides a form of transport for poorest urban sector who cannot afford private vehicle. This, WBD is celebrated to recognise the benefits of cycling. Besides transportation, it reduces the risk of stroke, heart disease, certain cancers and diabetes.

China successfully launched its first satellite of a new generation meteorological satellite into planned orbit. This satellite, named as Fengyun-4B (FY-48), will be used for fields of weather analysis, environmental and disaster monitoring.

Fengyun-48

This satellite was launched by Long March-3B rocket from Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Sichuan Province. It is the first of China’s new-generation meteorological satellites which will be used for weather analysis & forecasting, environmental and disaster monitoring.

Significance of new satellite

Fengyun-48 satellite will strengthen observation and response capability of small & medium scale disaster events and provide information security services in sectors including agriculture, meteorological, marine, aviation, and environmental protection. It will also conduct dynamic monitoring and tracking of several disaster elements like cold fronts, floods, droughts and sand storms. It will also improve forecast accuracy of disaster weather like typhoons and storms of China.  It also comprises of a rapid imager which can improve measurement resolution to 250 meters from geostationary orbit and accelerate scan imaging of Earth.

Which areas will it cover?

Observation range of the satellite include Asia, central Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean regions.

NITI Aayog released third edition of Sustainable Development Index for 2020-2021, evaluating progress of states and Union Territories with respect to social, economic and environmental parameters.

Sustainable Development Index 2021

Front Runners

In 2019, 10 states & UTs were categorized as front-runners with score in range 65-99. In 2020-2021, 12 more states & UTs were listed in this category. States like, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Maharashtra, Mizoram, Haryana, Tripura, Lakshadweep, Delhi, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh are states or UTs in this category.

India’s Overall SDG Score

India’s overall SDG (Sustainable Development Goal) score has increased from 60 in 2019 to 66 in 2020-21. This increase is driven by good performance in SDG goal 6 (clean water and sanitation) and SDG goal 7 (affordable and clean energy).

About index of Sustainable Index

This index was first launched in December 2018. It is a primary tool of monitoring progress on SDGs in India. It also fostered competition among states and union territories by ranking them on the basis of global goals. Index was developed in collaboration with United Nations in India to measure progress at National and sub-national level.