Daily Current Affairs - 05-10-2021

Pandora Papers have come to spotlight after millions of documents related to hidden world of offshore wealth got leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism (ICIJ).

About Pandora Papers

These are the 11.9 million leaked papers from 14 companies, in offshore tax havens, comprising of details of ownership of 29,000 offshore companies and trusts from countries like Vietnam, Belize and Singapore. These documents highlight the ownership of assets has been settled in private offshore trusts and investments like cash, shareholding, and real estate properties are held by the offshore entities. In this case, around 380 people of Indian nationality have been named.

Pandora Papers investigation

A global network comprising of reporters, publication houses and International Consortium of Investigative Journalism (ICIJ) took two-year effort to go through 11.9 million leaked documents. About 600 journalists from 150 media outlets are a part of the ongoing investigation. The investigation on papers reveals how people have established a complex multi-layered trust structures for estate planning and are characterised by air-tight secrecy laws. It reveals two-fold objectives being setting up the trusts:

  1. To hide real identities in order to make it impossible for tax authorities to reach them
  2. To safeguard their investments from creditors and law enforcers.

Similar leaks 

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) granted the licence to the Rs 6,000 crore National Asset Reconstruction Company Ltd. (NARCL).

Key Facts

Background

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in Budget 2021-22 had noted that, high level of provisioning of the stressed assets by public sector banks calls to initiate measures to clean up bank books. In that light, she announced to set up as “Asset Reconstruction Company Limited” and “Asset Management Company” to consolidate and take over existing stressed debt. Both was to set up for managing and disposing assets to alternative investment funds.

Proposal for Government’s guarantee

Cabinet had cleared a proposal to provide government guarantee of worth Rs 30,600 crore for security receipts issued by NARCL. NARCL will pay 15% of the agreed value for bad loans in cash while the remaining 85% will be government-guaranteed security receipts. 51% of the value will be owned by PSBs while remaining by private sector lenders.

Stake in NARCL

Recently, SBI, Indian Bank and Union Bank of India picked up 13.27% stake each in the NARCL. Punjab National Bank also acquired about 12% stake.

What is NARCL?

NARCL is a proposed bad bank to take over stressed assets of lenders. Government had planned to create a bad bank to house bad loans of Rs 500 crore and above. It also comprises of an asset reconstruction company (ARC) and an asset management company (AMC) for managing and recovering assets. It was created in collaboration with public and private sector banks.

American Space Agency, NASA, is set to send its “Psyche Mission” to visit a giant asteroid called Psyche, which could be the frozen remains of molten core of a bygone world.

Key points

NASA’s Psyche mission

NASA will send its Psyche Mission in August 2022 launch. This spacecraft will orbit around the asteroid for two years. In two years, it will take pictures, map the surface, and look for evidence of an ancient magnetic field. Aircraft will also study the neutrons and gamma rays coming from the asteroid’s surface in order to determine its elemental composition.

Significance of the mission

This is the first mission to explore an asteroid with a surface comprising of substantial amounts of metal rather than rock or ice. It seeks to understand iron cores, which is an unexplored building block of formation of planet. It also provides first opportunity to examine the interiors of a rocky planet

World Habitat Day was observed on October 4, 2021. This day is an initiative of United Nations.

Highlights

Theme of the day

The World Habitat Day this year was observed under the theme “Accelerating urban action for a carbon-free world”.

History of the day

The decision to observe World Habitat Day annually was taken in 1985 by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). Following the decision, the first World Habitat Day was observed in Nairobi, Kenya in 1986 on the theme “ ‘Shelter is my right’.

Significance of the day

UN habitat honour award

The United Nations Human Settlements Programme, in the year 1989, had introduced the UN-Habitat Scroll of Honour Award in a bid to encourage countries in finding a solution for habitat problems.

European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved the booster doses of Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for people aged 18 and above on October 4, 2021.

Key Facts

European Medicines Agency (EMA)

EMA is an agency of European Union (EU) charged with the evaluation and supervision of medicinal products. It as earlier known as European Medicines Evaluation Agency (EMEA). EMA was set in 1995, with financial support from European Union and pharmaceutical industry.

Pfizer–BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine

It is an mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine developed by BioNTech in collaboration with the American company Pfizer. Pfizer provided its support for clinical trials, logistics, and manufacturing. Vaccine is authorized for use in people aged twelve years and more. It is given by intramuscular injection. Vaccine is composed of nucleoside-modified mRNA which also encodes a mutated form of spike protein of SARS-CoV-2.

Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya launched an initiative on October 4, 2021 to facilitate COVID-19 vaccine delivery using “made in India drones” in the tough & hard-to-reach terrains of Northeast.

Key Facts

Significance of the initiative

This was the first time that a “Make in India’ drone has been used in South Asia for transporting COVID-19 vaccine for an aerial distance of 15 km. This distance was covered in 12-15 mins from Bishnupur district hospital to Loktak lake, Karang island in Manipur. Road distance between both the locations is 26 kms.

Use of drones

Which states are running similar projects?

Currently, drone-based delivery projects are being run in Manipur & Nagaland as well as Andaman & Nicobar Islands to overcome the challenges by deploying Unmanned Aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones in remote areas.

Which institution transferred the drone technology?

ICMR conducted the initial study in association with “Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur” for testing the capacity of drones to transfer and carry vaccines safely. ICMR conducted the study in Manipur, Nagaland and Andaman & Nicobar.

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, inaugurated “[email protected] – New Urban India: Transforming Urban Landscape conference-cum-expo” on October 5, 2021 in Lucknow.

Key facts

Projects launched by PM

Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav programme

Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav Programme comprises several events including the Inauguration of “New Urban India: Transforming Urban Landscape”, a conference and an exhibition on the subject. Programme is being organised at the Indira Gandhi Pratishthan in Lucknow.

Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY)

Under the scheme, 17.3 lakh houses have been sanctioned. So far, 8.8 lakh beneficiaries have been handed over houses.

Conference-cum-Expo

Conference-cum-expo is being organised from October 5 to October 7, 2021 by the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs (MoHUA), as a part of ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’. It is being organised under the theme “transforming the urban landscape” with specific focus on transformative changes brought in Uttar Pradesh. All States & UTs will participate in the event in order to help in experience sharing, direction and commitment for further action. Three exhibitions will be showcased in Conference-cum-Expo:

  1. New Urban India’ exhibition– It will showcase the achievements and future projections of transformative Urban Missions.
  2. Indian Housing Technology Mela (IHTM)– An exhibition on 75 Innovative Construction Technologies under Global Housing Technology Challenge-India (GHTC-India).
  3. An exhibition highlighting the performance of Uttar Pradesh after 2017, under Urban Missions and future projections with the theme “[email protected]: Transforming Urban Landscape in Uttar Pradesh”.

On October 4, 2021, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh felicitated the winners of ‘Dare to Dream 2.0’ Contest organised by Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO).

Highlights

Dare to Dream Contest

Dare to Dream contest was launched by DRDO across India to promote Indian academicians, individuals and start-ups for developing emerging defence and aerospace technologies or systems. Under the contest, DRDO provides technical and financial support to the winners, in a bid to realise their ideas under “Technology Development Fund (TDF) scheme”.

New system developed by DRDO

On the occasion, three indigenously developed products or systems by DRDO were handed over to Armed Forces:

  1. ARINC818 Video Processing and Switching Module: It has been developed for Indian Air Force. The state-of-the-art module comprises of high bandwidth, channel bonding, low latency and easy networking. It was provided for 5thgeneration aircraft development programmes.
  2. Sonar Performance Modelling System: It was developed for the Indian Navy. It is useful for Indian Naval Ships, submarines as well as under water surveillance stations etc.
  3. Bund Blasting Device Mk-II: This device has been developed for Indian Army. It will help in reducing the height of Ditch-cum-Bund obstacles for enhancing mobility of mechanised infantry during wartime.

Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, MK Stalin, launched face recognition software on October 4, 2021 for assisting police officials in their investigation.

Key Points

On which device the software will work?

This software can be installed in computers at the police stations as well as on smartphones of police personnel.

Will it recognise faces through CCTV footage?

According to the report, department has also planned to improve face recognition software in order to compare and identify faces through CCTV footage. This improvement will help in identifying people who were missing or being looked out for, using CCTV footage.

Crime and Criminal Tracking Networks and Systems (CCTNS)

CCTNS is a project by Indian government, launched to create a comprehensive and integrated system for effective policing through e-Governance. It comprises of a nationwide online tracking system, integrating about 14,000 police stations in India. National Crime Records Bureau is the nodal agency of implementing this project.

Chief Minister (CM) of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal, on October 4, 2021 announced winter action plan to combat Air pollution in the state.

Highlights

Winter Pollution in Delhi

The biggest problem that Delhi is going to face in upcoming weeks will be pollution from paddy stubble burning in states like Punjab and Haryana.

Action Plan

  1. Measures to mitigate dust pollution & Garbage burning,
  2. Paddy straw burning & Control using Pusa Bio Decomposer,
  3. Ban on firecrackers,
  4. Installing smog towers,
  5. Monitoring pollution hotspots,
  6. Controlling vehicular pollution,
  7. Effective operations of the green war room and
  8. Green Delhi app etc.

Green Delhi App

Delhi government launched “Green Delhi app” in a bid to enable citizen participation for maintaining vigilance against pollution. About 23,000 complaints have been received on the app, till date. Out of them, government has successfully resolve 93% of the complaints.

Green War Room

Government is also effectively analysing fight against pollution in real time through green war room. It is a program management room, created in collaboration with University of Chicago and GDI Partners. For the operation of room, 50 new Environment Engineers have been recruited.

Pusa Bio Decomposer

Pusa Bio Decomposer helps in quicker stubble decompose and do away the need to set fire to the fields after harvesting crops. Delhi government is in touch with the Centre government to use Pusa Bio Decomposer.

On October 4, 2021, American scientists David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian won the prestigious “2021 Nobel Prize for Medicine”.

Key Facts

About Nobel Prizes

The prestigious Nobel prizes for “science, literature and peace” were created and funded in the name of Swedish dynamite inventor and businessman Alfred Nobel. The prize is awarded since 1901. The Nobel prize for economics was first conferred in 1969. This century-old prize is worth 10 million Swedish crowns.

Who is Ardem Patapoutian?

Ardem Patapoutian was born in 1967 in Lebanon, to Armenian parents.  He moved to Los Angeles in his youth and currently he is a Professor at Scripps Research, La Jolla, California. He has done research at the University of California, San Francisco as well as at California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. He was awarded with The Nobel Prize for finding a cellular mechanism and underlying gene which translates a mechanical force on our skin into an electric nerve signal.

Who is David Julius?

Davis Julius was born in New York. He is a Professor at University of California, San Francisco. He was awarded for his findings on the skin’s sense of temperature on the basis of how certain cells react to capsaicin.

Russia has successfully test-fired Hypersonic missile from a nuclear submarine for the first time on October 4, 2021.

Key Facts

Significance of the missile

Zircon missile has been developed to arm Russian cruisers, frigates and submarines. It is one among several hypersonic missiles being developed in Russia.

About Zircon Missile

The 3M22 Zircon or 3M22 Tsirkon missile is a scramjet powered, anti-ship hypersonic cruise missile. The missile is being testing by Russia, currently. It represents a further development of HELA (Hypersonic Experimental Flying Vehicle) which was developed by NPO Mashinostroyeniya. Prototypes of the Zircon missiles were test-launched in 2012-2013 from a Tu-22M3 bomber in. By April 2017, Zircon had reached a speed of Mach 8 during a flight test.  Zircon was again test-fired on 3 June 2017. In November 2017, Colonel General Viktor Bondarev announced that missile was already in service.

Specifications of Zircon Missile

Zircon Missile have the capability to fly at nine times the speed of sound. It has a range of 1000 kilometres. Missile is believed to be a maneuvering, winged hypersonic cruise missile. The booster stage along with the solid-fuel engines accelerates it to supersonic speeds.  After this stage, a scramjet motor comprising of liquid-fuel accelerates it to hypersonic speeds. It can travel at a speed up to Mach 8 – Mach 9.