Daily Current Affairs and MCQs for UPSC - October 16, 2020 (The Hindu, Economic Times, PIB)

Operation Green provides 50 pc subsidy on transportation of eligible crops including storage

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Food processing and related industries in India- scope and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain management.


Context

  • Union Minister Nitin Gadkari thanked the Ministry of Food Processing and Ministry of Railways for directly providing subsidised rate of 50 per cent in freight for transportation of perishable surplus agriculture produce like Oranges and Vegetables by Railway.
  • Operation Green is being implemented as part of Atmanirbhar Abhiyan under the ageis of Union Ministry of Food Processing.

Objective

  • Under this scheme, 50 per cent subsidy is given to the farmers for transporting the surplus produce of agricultural commodities like oranges and vegetables to the markets by rail.
  • 50 per cent subsidy is also given for cold chain storage of agricultural commodities. 
  • However, in order to get this subsidy, farmers have to attach self-certified documents online on ‘Sampada’ portal of the Ministry of Food Processing.

Highlights

  • The subsidy for the transport should be given to the farmers at the time of registration itself for rail transport.
  • Mr Gadkari's suggestion was taken up by the Ministry of Railways and the Union Ministry of Food Processing Industries and a 50 per cent concession has been accepted in the railway transport of eligible agricultural produce.
  • This step will enable farmers to register for railway transport at subsidized rates for agricultural produce. Mr. Gadkari, in a tweet, thanked both the ministries for their cooperation regarding subsidised railway freight rates.
  • He said due to this step, more farmers could avail this facility; it would provide better ticket fares to the railways and increase its profits.
  • Meanwhile, the decision to transport oranges from Nagpur to Bangladesh by rail has already been taken by Central Railway on the initiative of Union Minister Gadkari.
  • The oranges will soon be transported by Nagpur Railway network.

Source: AIR News.

AZD7442: A cocktail of antibodies to fight Covid-19

Focus: GS2.

Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources, issues relating to poverty and hunger.


Context

  • Swedish-British drug giant AstraZeneca recently said it was moving an antibody combination developed for Covid-19 treatment into late-stage human trials.
  • The firm has also received around $486 million from the US governmentfor the development and supply of this combination.

Background

  • AZD7442, a similar class of the drug cocktailused to treat US President Donald Trump recently, is a combination of two long-acting monoclonal antibodies (LAAB).
  • AstraZeneca developed it using its proprietary technology with the aim of preventing Covid-19 infection for a long duration.

Highlights

  • LAABs mimic natural antibodies, and a combination of LAABs could be “complementary” to vaccines as a prophylactic agent, according to AstraZeneca. This means it could either be used on people for whom a vaccine may not be appropriate or it could be given as added protection for those at high-risk, it said.
  • The first phase of human trials for this combination started in August to assess aspects like the safety and tolerability of the combination in healthy individuals.
  • In the next few weeks, AZD7442 will advance into phase 3 clinical trials in more than 6,000 participants at sites in and outside the US.
  • One trial will evaluate its safety and efficacy to prevent infection for up to 12 months, in approximately 5,000 participants.
  • The combination is also being tested for use as a prophylactic and pre-emptive treatment in approximately 1,100 participants.
  • AstraZeneca is planning additional trials to evaluate it in approximately 4,000 patients for Covid-19 treatment.

Source: The Hindu.

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Why Mars is the brightest this month?

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.


Context

  • Due to an event referred to as “opposition”, which takes place every two years and two months, Mars will outshine Jupiter, becoming the third brightest object (moon and Venus are first and second, respectively) in the night sky during the month of October.
  • This year, while Mars’ closest approach to Earth was on October 6, the opposition will happen on October 13, which will give the planet its “biggest, apparent size of the 2020s”, according to NASA.

Background

  • Mars’s next close approach will happen on December 8, 2022, when the planet will be 62.07 km away from the Earth.
  • Even so, the closest approach does not mean that Mars will appear to be the same size as that of the moon.

Highlights

  • Opposition is the event when the sun, Earth and an outer planet (Mars in this case) are lined up, with the Earth in the middle.
  • The time of opposition is the point when the outer planet is typically also at its closest distance to the Earth for a given year, and because it is close, the planet appears brighter in the sky.
  • An opposition can occur anywhere along Mars’ orbit, but when it happens when the planet is also closest to the sun, it is also particularly close to the Earth.
  • Earth and Mars orbit the sun at different distances (Mars is farther apart from the sun than Earth and therefore takes longer to complete one lap around the sun).
  • In fact, opposition can happen only for planets that are farther away from the sun than the Earth.
  • In case of Mars, roughly every two years, the Earth passes between sun and Mars, this is when the three are arranged in a straight line.
  • Further, as the Earth and Mars orbit the sun, there comes a point when they are on the opposite sides of it, and hence very far apart.
  • At its farthest, Mars is about 400 million km from the Earth.

Source: AIR News.

Germany decries Turkey’s actions in eastern Mediterranean

Focus: GS2.

Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.


Context

  • Germany’s foreign minister criticized Turkey for “unilateral steps” in the eastern Mediterranean that are undercutting efforts to de-escalate tensions with Greece and Cyprus over sea boundaries and drilling rights.
  • Heiko Maas said that it’s now up to Turkey to create the conditions “without further provocations” that will allow negotiations to move forward.

Background

Maas said any attempt by a Turkish survey ship to begin prospecting for hydrocarbons in disputed waters, including an area just off the secluded Greek island of Kastellorizo, would strike a “serious blow” to efforts at easing tensions and improving ties between the European Union and Turkey.

About the exercise

  • Germany’s top diplomat also decried Turkey’s move to open the beachfront of Famagusta’s fenced-off suburb of Varosha in divided Cyprus’ breakaway Turkish Cypriot north as a “completely unnecessary and provocative step.”
  • Varosha remained off-limits and in Turkish military control after its Greek Cypriot residents fled before advancing troops in 1974 when Turkey invaded and sliced the island along ethnic lines after a coup by supporters of union with Greece.
  • Cyprus is an EU member, but only its southern Greek Cypriot part — seat of the internationally recognized government — enjoys full benefits.
  • Germany holds the rotating EU presidency and Maas warned against hasty reactions motivated by anger, saying that the bloc must act in its members’ best interests and that disputes should only be resolved through direct dialogue.
  • Ankara’s redeployment of the Oruc Reis survey vessel for new energy exploration around Kastellorizo has reignited tensions over sea boundaries between Greek islands, Cyprus and Turkey’s southern coast.
  • Those tensions had flared up over the summer, prompting a military build-up, bellicose rhetoric and fears of a confrontation between the two NATO members and historic regional rivals.
  • Ankara says it redeployed the ship because Greece chose to hold military drills in the Aegean Sea on a Turkish national holiday.

Source: Business Standard.

India’s economy to contract by 10.3% this fiscal, says IMF

Focus: GS3.

Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.


Context

  • India’s economy is expected to contract 10.3% in the current fiscal year as the country and the world reel from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
  • Global output is projected to shrink 4.4% in 2020, the IMF said in its World Economic Outlook October 2020 report titled, “A Long and Difficult Ascent”.

Background

  • The projection for India is a downgrade of 5.8 percentage points from its June forecast.
  • India is expected to rebound in the fiscal year beginning in April 2021 with 8.8% growth — an upgrade of 2.8 percentage points relative to the June update.
  • “Revisions to the forecast are particularly large for India, where GDP contracted much more severely than expected in the second quarter,” the IMF said.

Highlights

  • Consumer prices in India are expected to grow at 4.9% this year and by 3.7% in the next fiscal.
  • The current account balance is projected to grow by 0.3% this year and -0.9% next year.
  • For the world as a whole, the 2020 growth projection has been revised upwards by 0.8 percentage points relative to June — the result of a less dire second quarter and signs of a stronger recovery in the third quarter, partly offset by downgrades in certain developing countries and emerging economies (except China).
  • The recovery in 2021 is projected to be at 5.2%, lower than the June 2020 projections.

Source: Hindustan Times.

Cabinet approves  Special Package for UT of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh under the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana - National Rural Livelihoods Mission

Focus: GS2.

Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.


Context

The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi has approved a Special Package worth Rs. 520 crore in the UTs of J&K and Ladakh for a period of five years till FY 2023-24 and ensure funding of DeendayalAntyodaya Yojana - National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM) in the UTs of Jammu and Kashmir & Ladakh on a demand driven basis without linking allocation with poverty ratio during this extended period.

Background

  • This will ensure sufficient funds under the Mission, as per need to the UTs and is also in line with Government of India's aim to universalize all centrally sponsored beneficiary-oriented schemes in the UTs of J&K and Ladakh in a time bound manner.
  • This is based on the outcomes of the evaluation pointing to potential of the Mission to improve the quality of life of rural households and women's empowerment and given the changed circumstances in the UTs of J&K and Ladakh.

About the yojana

  • DeendayalAntyodaya Yojana - National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM) is a centrally sponsored programme that aims at eliminating rural poverty through promotion of multiple livelihoods for the rural poor households across the country.
  • The launch of DAY-NRLM in June 2011 to address rural poverty marks a paradigm shift in poverty alleviation programmes. 
  • DAY-NRLM seeks to reach out to all rural poor households, estimated at about 10 crore households, and impact their livelihoods through universal social mobilization by inter alia organizing one-woman member from each rural poor household into Self Help Groups (SHGs), their training and capacity building, facilitating their micro-livelihoods plans, and enabling them to implement their livelihoods plans through accessing financial resources from their own institutions and the banks.
  • The Mission involves working with the community institutions through community professionals in the spirit of self-help.
  • This is the unique proposition of DAY-NRLM and that is how it is different from the previous poverty eradication programmes.
  • The other distinguishing features of the programme is that it is implemented in a Mission mode by special purpose vehicles (autonomous state societies) with dedicated implementation support units at the national, state, district and block levels, using professional human resources in order to provide continuous and long-term handholding support to each rural poor family.

Source: PIB.

Nitin Gadkari to initiate simultaneous blasting for Zojila Tunnel in J&K, Ladakh

Focus: GS3.                                 

Topic: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.


Context

  • Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari will initiate simultaneous blasting for Zojila Tunnel in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
  • The tunnel will provide all-weather connectivity between Srinagar valley and Leh on NH-1 and will bring about an all-round economic and socio-cultural integration of Jammu and Kashmir. 

Background

  • It involves construction of a 14.15-kilometre long tunnel at an altitude of about three thousand metres under Zojila pass on NH-1 connecting Srinagar and Leh through Dras and Kargil.
  • The Ministry said that it is one of the most dangerous stretch in the world to drive a vehicle and this project is also geo-strategically sensitive.

Highlights

  • Though the ZojiLa Tunnel project was approved in 2013 at a cost of nine thousand 240 crore rupees, attempts to award the contract failed four times. An attempt by the incumbent government in 2017 was also in vain.
  • After two years of foundation stone by PM Narendra Modi, an Expert Committee in consultation with all the stakeholders has come out with a workable project by reducing the cost to four thousand 430 crore rupees, by half of the original estimate.
  • Megha Engineering & Infrastructure Limited (MEIL) was awarded with the contract of construction of ZojiLa Tunnel between Baltal and Minamarg within six years and nearly 19-KM approach roads on both sides in two and half years.

Source: AIR News.

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Test your Knowledge

  1. Which of the following statement(s) is/are correct about International Solar Alliance:
  • The ISA is an initiative that was launched by the Prime Minister of India and the President of France on 30 November 2015 at Paris, France on the side-lines of the COP-21.
  • The primary objective of the alliance is to work for efficient consumption of solar energy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
  • The alliance is a treaty-based inter-governmental organization.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

      A. 1 and 2 only
      B. 2 and 3 only
      C. 1 and 3 only
      D. AOTA

Solution: D

  1. MACS-6478 is a variety of:

      A. Rice
      B. Wheat
      C. Barley
      D. Jute

Solution: B

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