Daily Current Affairs - 18-03-2021

A team of Scientists from Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research have found a method that mimic the Photosynthesis which is the natural process of reducing the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Highlights

The artificial photosynthesis method was developed in order to capture excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This method harnesses the solar energy and converts the captured carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide (CO). The Carbon monoxide in turn can be used as a fuel for the internal combustion engines. In the process, the team of scientists are conducting the same process as in the natural photosynthesis but using the simple nanostructures.

About Artificial Photosynthesis System

The team of Scientists has designed and fabricated the integrated catalytic system which is based on the metal-organic framework (MOF-808). The system comprises of a photosensitizer. The photosensitizer can harness the solar power and the catalytic centre. This in turn reduces the CO2.

About Photosensitizer

The photosensitizer is the molecules which absorb light and transfer electron from incident light to a nearby molecule. It is chemically called “ruthenium bipyridyl complex ([Ru(bpy)2Cl2])”. It also comprises of a catalytic part called rhenium carbonyl complex ([Re(CO)5Cl]). Both of the molecular entities lie in the close proximity and are confined to a nano-space of the porous metal-organic framework system. This helps in absorbing the CO2 at room temperature. The catalyst has the capability to oxidize the water in order to produce oxygen. This photocatalytic assembly is when assessed to reduce the CO2 under direct sunlight under a water medium, it produces CO.

The Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari, has introduced the Vehicle Scrapping Policy on March 18, 2021 in the Lok Sabha which will come into effect from April 1, 2021. It was first announced by Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her Union Budget Speech 2021-2022 on February 1, 2021.

Highlights

The Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways highlighted that; 51 lakhs of the light motor vehicles which are 20 years old and more will be scrapped under this policy.  He further stated that, 34 lakhs of light motor vehicles are older than 15 years while around 51 lakhs of light motor vehicles are older than 20 years. According to him, 17 lakh medium & heavy commercial vehicles are older than 15 years.

About Vehicle Scrapping Policy

The Union Minister highlighted that this scrapping policy will bring the transformational changes in automobile sector by reducing the vehicular emission of pollutants. The policy was introduced with the aim of creating an ecosystem to phase out the unfit, old and polluting vehicles. Under the policy, personal vehicles will have to undergo the fitness tests at the automated centres after 20 years. On the other hand, the commercial vehicles will have to undergo the fitness test after 15 years. If the vehicles failed to pass the fitness test for three times, the owner would not be able to drive it on the road.

Significance of the policy

The policy will help to encourage the environment-friendly, fuel-efficient vehicles. Thus, it will reduce the vehicular pollution and oil import bill. It will also improve the road safety. With the implementation of the new vehicles, recyclable materials such as steel, plastic and copper can be reused. Thus, the overall vehicle cost will be reduced. Once the old vehicles are scrapped, sale of the new vehicles will boost which will provide boost to the automobile industry of the country. It will also boost the fuel efficiency of the vehicles and would attract the investments.

A survey titled as “Embracing Digital: Is covid-19 the catalyst for lasting change?” was conducted by the EY and Imperial College London’s institute for Global Health Innovations. As per the survey, India has witnessed the highest the adoption of the digital technologies by the health & human services in during the time when covid-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of digital solutions.

Key Findings of the Survey

The survey was conducted on more than 2000 global HHS Professionals in India, Australia, United Arab Emirates, Italy, the United States and the United Kingdom. From India, 359 respondents took part in the survey. The survey highlights that, the use of digital technologies and data solutions has increased since the outbreak of covid-19 pandemic. During the survey it was found that, 74% of the respondents across India reported that digital technologies and data solutions have increased the productivity of the staff. Further, 75% of the respondents reported that digital solutions are effective in delivering the better outcomes for patients and other service users.

Phone and Video Consultations

The survey highlights that; phone and video consultations have observed the greatest uptake across all the technology solutions. The phone consultations are being offered by 81% of HHS organizations which stood at 39 % before the covid-19 pandemic. On the other hand, the video consultations are available from 71% of organizations witnessed the increase from 22%. In India, the phone consultations increased from 48 % to 86% while the video consultations have increased from 33 % to 83%. The survey also finds that, 92% public sector organizations in India preferred the digital tools for self-help while 89 % preferred online self-assessment tools instead of phone consultation and video consultation.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development is celebrating the Poshan Pakhwada from March 16 to March 31, 2021.  The Department of Women & Child Development or the Social Welfare Department will be the nodal department to look after the Poshan Pakhwada across the states and Union Territories.

Poshan Pakhwada 2021

The key focus areas of the Pakhwada are to address the nutritional challenges using the Food Forestry and to organize the Poshan Panchayats. Under it, the National Medicinal Plants Board (NMPB) working under the Ministry of AYUSH, will distribute 4 samplings of the nutritional rich plants to each of the Anganwadi Centers. This will cater to the nutritional challenges.  The distribution will be done under the supervision of the local panchayat and DM or DC. The ministry will also be organizing the awareness campaign on the topics including the malnutrition prevalence and its consequences, food forestry, Poshan Vatika, identification of SAM children and its management.

Poshan Abhiyaan

The Poshan Abhiyaan was launched on March 8, 2018 by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. The mission seeks to improve the nutritional outcomes in the holistic manner. The mission also ensures that people participate on a wider manner. It also brings about the behavioral change at the individual and community level so as to achieve the desired goals of the mission.

Poshan Maah

The Poshan Maah was observed in the month of September 2020. During this nutrition-centric Jan Andolan based celebrations the momentum to set-up Poshan Vatika gained the pace. Following this, around 10.87 lakhs plantation drives were organized in the form of Kitchen Garden. This was organized at the Anganwadi level. During this period, AYUSH based interventions also helped in disseminating the knowledge on nutritional practices.

Russian scientists have launched one of the biggest underwater space telescopes of the world on March 13, 2021. This underwater space telescope was deployed deep into universe from pristine waters of Lake Baikal.

About Deep Underwater Telescope

The deep underwater telescope was under construction since the year 2015. The telescope has been designed to observe the smallest known particles called neutrinos. The telescope has been named as “Baikal-GVD”. It was submerged to the depth of 750-1300 meters across the four kilometres from the shore of Lake Baikal. The floating observatory comprises of strings along with the spherical glass and the attached stainless-steel modules.

Purpose of the telescope

The Baikal telescope will rival Ice Cube which is a giant neutrino observatory under the Antarctic ice at the US research station located at the South Pole.

Lake Baikal

It is a rift lake located in the southern Siberia, Russia. The lake is located between the Irkutsk Oblast in the northwest and Buryat Republic in the southeast. It is the largest freshwater lake by volume across the world. It comprises of 22 to 23% of the fresh surface water of World. The lake comprises of more water than all the North American Great Lakes combined. The lake is also the World’s deepest lake with the maximum depth of 1,642 m. It is also the oldest lake of the world. With respect to the surface area, it is the seventh-largest lake across the world. The lake is home to several species of plants and animals. The region located to the east of Lake Baikal is also called as the Transbaikalia or Transbaikal. Lake Baikal has been designated as the World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the year 1996.

The Spring Equinox is also known as “Vernal Equinox”. In the year 2021, it will fall on March 20, 2021. It will technically be occurring at 9.37 in the morning.

Highlights

March 20 is the most common date for the Spring Equinox. However, it can occur on any date between 19 to 21 March.  March 20 is considered as the first day of the spring as per the astronomical calculation of the seasons. The date is based on the two equinoxes and solstices. The astronomical spring will end on June 21, 2021 which is called as the summer solstice.

Background

The Equinoxes have got their name from the Latin word for the equal night. It marks the two points in a year when equator is the closest part of Earth to sun. In the vernal equinox, the northern and southern hemispheres will share the sunlight equally. It means that the planet gets 12 hours of daylight and darkness during those days. This is also complicated by the Earth’s atmosphere affecting the way the sunlight is seen through. The northern or the southern hemisphere points more towards the sun which in turn brings the warmer temperatures of spring and summer for the six months in each year.

About Vernal Equinox

The Vernal Equinox is also known as the Northward equinox. In the common year, the computed time slippage time is about 5 hours 49 minutes later compared to the previous year. On the other hand, it is about 18 hours 11 minutes in a leap year earlier compared to the previous year. To balance the increases in the common years against the losses of leap years, the calendar date of March equinox drifts in between the 19th March and 21st March.  In astronomy, the March equinox is considered as the zero point of the sidereal time. It is also considered as a reference for calendars and celebrations in several human cultures and religions.

The World Bank has approved USD 200 million in order to help Bangladesh. This amount will be used to provide support and services to low-income urban youths who have been impacted by COVID 19 pandemic and the migrants who lost their jobs or had to return to the country involuntarily amid the covid-19 pandemic.

About RAISE project

The World Bank has come up with the Recovery and Advancement of Informal Sector Employment (RAISE) project. This project aims to benefit around 1.75 lakh poor urban youth by apprenticeship programme, training, micro & self-employment support, and counselling. This project will help around 2 lakh migrants who returned to Bangladesh to reintegrate in domestic labour migrate. It will also help them to prepare for re-migration. Under the project, they will get the cash grants and counselling services on the basis of their needs and aspirations. The project will be benefiting the migrants as well as the urban informal sector to overcome the structural barriers and to gain employment. To provide the support and services, 32 district welfare centres will be set up across Bangladesh. The concessional lending will be provided by the World Bank’s’ International Development Association (IDA) over a 30-year term with the grace period of 5 years.

International Development Association (IDA)

It is an international financial institution. The institution offers the concessional loans and grants to poorest developing countries across the world. IDA is a member of World Bank Group. It is headquartered in Washington D.C. in United States. IDA was set up in the year 1960. The organisation complements the existing International Bank of Reconstruction and Development. It lends the developing countries which are suffering from the lowest gross national income.

The Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) member countries have accepted the “Sinatra Doctrine” as a counter to the increasing China’s aggressiveness to undermine the unity of the European Union through the divide and rule policy.

Highlights

The Sinatra Doctrine will be based on two pillars:

  1. Continuing cooperation with China with respect to address the global challenges like covid-19, climate change & regional conflicts and
  2. Strengthening the strategic sovereignty of European Union by protecting the technological sectors of its economy.

Background

Chinese policy to undermine the European unity was fuelled by leveraging the regional platform in order to get the political favours in the exchange for economic benefits. However, the credit-based offer of China in a neo-colonial fashion was ill-suited for CEE members of EU. Further, the Chinese investments in 12 EU member states which were participating in “17+1 initiative” was approximately 8.6 billion euros in the year 2010 to 2019. On the other hand, the Chinese investment in Finland for the same period was 12 billion euros and in Netherlands it was 10.2 billion euros. Thus, this mismatch between the economic promises and outcome by the Beijing, made the CEE members to adopt the Sinatra doctrine.

About Sinatra Doctrine

This doctrine was the name which the Soviet government of Mikhail Gorbachev used to describe their policy to allow the neighbouring Warsaw Pact states to determine their internal affairs. The name was taken from the song “My Way” which was popularized by Frank Sinatra. The implementation of the doctrine was part of doctrine of new political thinking by Gorbachev.

17+1 initiative

The 17+1 initiative is also known as the “Cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries”. It is an initiative by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The initiative promotes the business and investment relations between China and 17 countries of CEE.

CEE countries

The Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) member countries include- Bosnia, Albania, Herzegovina, Croatia, Bulgaria, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Poland, Slovakia, Serbia and Slovenia.

The European Commission, on March 17, 2021,  has proposed for a Covid-19 certificate called “Digital Green Certificate” covering the details regarding the Covid-19 vaccination, testing and recovery.

Highlights

This decision was taken in order to reopen the European Union (EU) for travel in a safe, sustainable and predictable manner. The Covid-19 certificate is an approach by European Union to issue, verify and accept the certificates so as to facilitate a free movement within the European Union. This legislative proposal was put forward on the basis of strict respect for non-discrimination and the fundamental rights of the citizens of European Union. The commission would also allow the possibility to extend the compatible certificates which have been issued in other countries.

When it will be implemented?

The European Commission has proposed to define and implement the technical framework for the covid-19 certificate at the European Union level by mid-June 2021. It was proposed so that security and interoperability is property checked. The commission would also be looking towards the full compliance with the personal data protection and its safeguards.

About the Digital Green Certificate

This certificate will cover three types of certificates namely, test certificates (NAAT or RT-PCR test or a rapid antigen test), vaccination certificates, and certificates for persons who already recovered from COVID-19 infection. It will be issued in a digital format and well as on paper. Both the format of certificate will comprise of a QR code which will provide key information and a digital signature so as to ensure that the certificate is authentic. A gateway and support Member States will be established to develop software using which the authorities will verify all certificate signatures across the EU. The personal data of the certificate holders will neither pass through the gateway nor will be retained by verifying Member State. The certificates would be issued free of charge in official language or language of the issuing member states as well as in English.

The Ministry of External Affairs of India has informed that Italy has signed a framework agreement with India on March 17, 2021 to join the International Solar Alliance (ISA).

Highlights

The Italian Republic signed the framework agreement of ISA following the amendment made to the framework agreement of ISA which came in to effect on January 8, 2021. This amendment had opened the membership in the Solar Alliance to all the members of the United Nations. The ISA Framework Agreement was signed by Ambassador of Italy, Vincenzo De Luca.

Background

The Foreign Secretary of India, Harsh Vardhan Shringla had met the Ambassador of Italy, Vincenzo De Luca on March 17, 2021. During the meeting, Indian secretary welcomed the accession of Italy to the International Solar Alliance. During the meeting, both the sides also discussed the G20 Presidency of Italy which Italy is currently holding. Both the countries also discussed the vaccine maitri initiative. Under the vaccine maitri initiative, India is using the vaccine production and delivery capacity to export the covid-19 vaccine to other countries so as to fight the pandemic induced crisis.

About International Solar Alliance (ISA)

ISA is a treaty-based intergovernmental alliance comprising of 121 countries. The establishment of the alliance was initiated by India. Most of the member countries are the sunshine countries. These countries are located either completely or partly in between Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. However, the countries falling outside the tropics can also join the alliance and avail all the benefits which are available to the members except the voting rights. ISA works with the objective of working for the efficient consumption of the solar energy to reduce the dependency on the fossil fuels. This initiative was first proposed Narendra Modi in November 2015 at the Wembley Stadium, London. During the address, the Indian Prime Minister had referred the sunshine countries as Suryaputra meaning Sons of the Sun.

Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-National Institute of Oceanography (CSIR-NIO), Goa, has launched the “TraceBioMe Project” in order to map the genetic diversity of organisms.

About TraceBioMe Project

This project is supported the CSIR. It would also help in mapping the effect of micronutrients apart from tracing the metals deposited on them in the Indian Ocean. It will also forecast the extensive sampling of water, planktons, sediments and several organisms in different parts of Indian Ocean. This in turn will help in studying the presence of different types of organisms, trace metals and micronutrients found therein. The project would be using the modern state-of-the-art molecular techniques and the classical techniques to map the genetic diversity. In the first phase of the project, microscopic organisms will be investigated.

How this project would be carried?

The project would be carried for 90-day. The expedition will be done onboard the research vessel RV Sindhu Sadhana. To do the expedition, 30 scientists would take off from the Visakhapatnam and the expedition would be completed in two-legs by the end of May, 2021. They will be covering over 9,000 nautical miles from Visakhapatnam to Goa. Scientists will identify and characterise the genes and proteins present in the ocean so as to understand the cellular-level operations of organisms in the ocean. To carry the study, they will be utilising the emerging biomedical techniques like proteomics and genomics.

Significance of the project

The data generated through this project would help in achieving the SDG 14 goals. The SDG 14 aims to conserve and sustainably use the resources of oceans, seas and marine.

Proteomics

Proteomics is a large-scale study of proteins which are the key part of the living organisms. Proteome is the entire set of proteins which is produced or modified by the organism or system. These Proteins act like a catalyst for biogeochemical reaction which the organisms undergo in ocean. Thus, through the proteomics, the biogeochemistry of the organisms under varying ocean conditions can be studied which in turn will help in understanding the cellular biochemistry. It will also help in understanding the response of ocean towards the increasing pollution, climate change and nutrient stress.

The Sixth India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) Women’s Forum meeting was organised on March 16, 2021 in virtual mode. The meeting was led by the Ministry of Women and Child Development of the Government of India.

Key Highlights

The virtual meeting was participated by the Ministers and officials who are responsible for Women Affairs of IBSA Countries. The meeting started with the welcome and opening Remarks by Secretary of the Women & Child Development. The Inaugural Address for the meeting was delivered by the Chair of 6th IBSA Women’s Forum, Smriti Zubin Irani. She highlighted that, how the year 2020 witnessed that rights of women & girls are gaining prominence more urgently than before.

About IBSA Meeting

During the virtual meeting, the forum discussed the issues which has contributed in transforming the lives of women. They highlighted the initiatives, policies and best practices which the country initiated for the gender inclusive economy to transform and eliminate the gender-based discrimination & violence against women. This in turn will help in understanding the each other’s systems and programmes. Based on the understanding, the country would be able to create a strategic roadmap in order to promote the gender equality agenda to achieve the sustainable development goals.

India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA)

IBSA is a unique Trilateral Cooperation Forum brining India, Brazil and South Africa together. These countries are the three large democracies and major economies located in different continents. The countries are developing, pluralistic, multi-ethnic, multicultural, multilingual and multi-religious. The forum is committed towards the inclusive sustainable development for the well-being of the citizens. The principles, norms and values of the Forum are participatory democracy, Rule of Law, Strengthening multilateralism and respect for human rights. The forum also makes efforts towards South-South cooperation apart from the conventional areas of exchange of experts and training.

The Union Health Minister, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, has been appointed as the chairman of “Stop TB Partnership Board” on March 18, 2021. This appointment was made to recognise his outstanding contribution towards the movement of eradicating Tuberculosis (TB) from India by 2025. He will be serving the global body for a three-year term from July 2021.

Stop TB Partnership

It is an international body which is having the power to align the nations to fight against TB. The body observes the participation of a wide range of constituencies which provides credibility to this body. With the participation of several constituencies, the body gets a broad range of medical, social and financial expertise which is required to defeat TB. The body works with the vision of a “TB-free world”.

Background

Stop TB Partnership was established in 2000. The body has been mandated to eliminate Tuberculosis as a public health problem. The organization was established after the meeting of First Session of Ad Hoc Committee on Tuberculosis Epidemic which was held in London in 1998. The organisation called for collaborative action from ministerial delegations through the Amsterdam Declaration. The ministerial delegations were to be participate from the 20 countries which is having the highest burden of TB. The body has 1500 partner organizations including the international, non-governmental and governmental organizations. It is based at Geneva, Switzerland.

India’s commitment against TB

India has committed to eliminating TB by 2025. India’s deadline is five years ahead of global deadline of 2030. The Government has also out forward the National Strategic Plan for TB Elimination for the year 2017-2025. It highlights the ambitious agenda and targets of ending TB Strategy.