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08 September-08 Current Affairs

Trust status for Bharat Ke Veer

In News:

The government has granted the status of a trust to ‘Bharat Ke Veer’, a private initiative which aids families of paramilitary personnel killed in action. Akshay Kumar and former national badminton champion Pullela Gopichand have been included as trustees.

Support by the government:

  • The initiative has now been formalized into a registered trust for providing a platform for all citizens to contribute and provide assistance to the families of martyred personnel.
  • The public can visit the ‘Bharat Ke Veer’ application and website, and contribute to support the families of jawans who die in the line of duty.
  • Contributions to Bharat Ke Veer have been exempted from Income Tax.

About Bharat ke Veer:

It is a fund-raising initiative by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India on behalf of members of the Indian Armed Forces. It aims to enable willing donors to contribute towards the family of a braveheart who sacrificed his/her life in line of duty. This website is technically supported by National Informatics Centre (NIC) and powered by State Bank of India.

It allows anyone to financially support the bravehearts of his choice or towards the “Bharat Ke Veer” corpus. The amount so donated will be credited to the account of ‘Next of Kin’ of those Central Armed Police Force/Central Para Military Force soldiers. To ensure maximum coverage, a cap of 15 lakh rupees is imposed and the donors would be alerted if the amount exceeds, so that they can choose to divert part of the donation to another braveheart account or to the “Bharat Ke Veer” corpus.

“Bharat Ke Veer” corpus would be managed by a committee made up of eminent persons of repute and senior Government officials, who would decide to disburse the fund equitably to the braveheart’s family on need basis.

Source: PIB

Chabahar Port

In News:

Iran will handover the strategic Chabahar port to an Indian company within a month for operation as per an interim pact.

Details:

Under the agreement signed between India and Iran earlier, India is to equip and operate two berths in Chabahar Port Phase-I with capital investment of $85.21 million and annual revenue expenditure of $22.95 million on a 10-year lease.

Where is Chabahar port?

Iran’s Chabahar port is located on the Gulf of Oman and is the only oceanic port of the country. The port gives access to the energy-rich Persian Gulf nations’ southern coast and India can bypass Pakistan with the Chabahar port becoming functional.

Reasons for Chabahar port are crucial for India:

The first and foremost significance of the Chabahar port is the fact that India can bypass Pakistan in transporting goods to Afghanistan. Chabahar port will boost India’s access to Iran, the key gateway to the International North-South Transport Corridor that has sea, rail and road routes between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia.

Chabahar port will be beneficial to India in countering Chinese presence in the Arabian Sea which China is trying to ensure by helping Pakistan develop the Gwadar port. Gwadar port is less than 400 km from Chabahar by road and 100 km by sea.

With Chabahar port being developed and operated by India, Iran also becomes a military ally to India. Chabahar could be used in case China decides to flex its navy muscles by stationing ships in Gwadar port to reckon its upper hand in the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Middle East.

With Chabahar port becoming functional, there will be a significant boost in the import of iron ore, sugar and rice to India. The import cost of oil to India will also see a considerable decline. India has already increased its crude purchase from Iran since the West imposed ban on Iran was lifted.

Chabahar port will ensure in the establishment of a politically sustainable connectivity between India and Afghanistan. This is will, in turn, lead to better economic ties between the two countries.

From a diplomatic perspective, Chabahar port could be used as a point from where humanitarian operations could be coordinated.

Source: The Hindu

MOVE, the first global mobility summit

In News:

NITI Aayog, in collaboration with various ministries and industry partners, is organising ‘MOVE: Global Mobility Summit’ in New Delhi. It was inaugurated by the Prime Minister of India.

Details:

Aim of the Summit: The summit aims to bring together stakeholders from across the sectors of mobility and transportation to co-create a public interest framework to revolutionize transport. The summit also aims to set the base for a transport system which is safe, clean, shared and connected, affordable, accessible and inclusive.

The summit will deliberate on five themes:

  • Maximising asset utilisation and services.
  • Comprehensive electrification and alternative fuels.
  • Reinventing public transport.
  • Goods transport and logistics.
  • Data analytics and mobility.

Key features of the Summit:

The summit will feature global political leaders from mobility space and will see the participation of over 2200 participants from across the world including government leadership, research organizations, academia, industry leaders, think tanks and civil society organisations.

The conclave will see over 30 global CEOs, 100 state officials, and foreign delegates and 200 Indian CEOs participating in the event.

International representation from embassies and the private sector will include the US, Japan, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, New Zealand, Austria, Germany, and Brazil.

Why Mobility?

Mobility is what keeps the engine of life running. Whether it is personal mobility for work or leisure or mobility of goods across value chains, without the ability to traverse large distances in short time spans, civilization would not be where it is today. In an urbanizing world, mobility is integral to city design, facilitating the evolution of physical space for liveability. Ranging from pedestrian and personal transport to public transit and freight movement, mobility is a crucial piece of the development puzzle and the key to unlocking the potential of India’s economy and people.

Across sectors, public and private expenditure is being invested in effective and efficient transport. The challenge lies in ensuring that these systems meet the needs of their users in a sustainable manner. It must be clean for environmental benefits, shared to maximize asset efficiency, and connected to meet user needs from end-to-end. Affordability of public transit is key for low-income users, and of freight for industry. Accessibility and inclusivity is crucial for remote and differently-abled users across geographies, with the philosophy of leaving no-one behind. Safe, energy-efficient and low-emission systems are necessary for India to meet its international commitments on climate change.

Way ahead:

As mobility is what keeps the engine of life running, it is a key to unlock the potential of India’s economy and people.

Affordability of public transit is crucial for low-income users and of freight for the industry. Accessibility and inclusivity are crucial for remote and differently-abled users across geographies, with the philosophy of leaving no-one behind. Safe, energy-efficient and low-emission systems are necessary for India to meet its international commitments on climate change.

Source: PIB

Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

In News:

UN chief Antonio Guterres recently reiterated his appeal to eight nations, including India and the US, to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, saying the failure to bring it into force undermines global efforts to ensure a world free of atomic weapons.

Background:

Although more than 180 countries have signed the CTBT, and mostly ratified it, the treaty can only enter into force after it is ratified by eight countries with nuclear technology capacity, namely China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and the United States.

What is CTBT?

The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is the Treaty banning all nuclear explosions – everywhere, by everyone. The Treaty was negotiated at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. It opened for signature on 24 September 1996.

Why is the CTBT so important?

The CTBT is the last barrier on the way to develop nuclear weapons.  It curbs the development of new nuclear weapons and the improvement of existing nuclear weapon designs. When the Treaty enters into force it provides a legally binding norm against nuclear testing. The Treaty also helps prevent human suffering and environmental damages caused by nuclear testing.

India and the CTBT:

Since its inception, India has had a number of reservations about the CTBT. While it has stood by its demand for a nuclear weapons-free world, various principled, procedural, political, and security concerns have stood in the way of its support for the CTBT.

India’s principled opposition drew from its emphasis on universal and complete nuclear disarmament in a time-bound manner. India has traditionally believed this to be the end goal with the test ban just being a path to get there. But it did not insist on a complete disarmament clause in 1994, acknowledging that it was a “complex issue.”

Another major concern was Article XIV, the entry-into-force (EIF) clause, which India considered a violation of its right to voluntarily withhold participation in an international treaty. The treaty initially made ratification by states that were to be a part of the the CTBT’s International Monitoring System (IMS) mandatory for the treaty’s EIF.

Need of the hour:

CTBT has an essential role within the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime. More than 20 years since its negotiation, the Treaty has yet to enter into force. Every effort must be made to bring about the immediate entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, CTBT. The failure to bring the treaty into force prevents its full implementation and undermines its permanence in the international security architecture.

Source: The Hindu

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft

In News:

Using data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, scientists have spotted a surprising feature emerging at Saturn’s northern pole as it nears summertime – a warming, high-altitude jet stream with a hexagonal shape.

Key facts:

The vortex is akin to the famous hexagon seen deeper down in Saturn’s clouds. The edges of this newly-found vortex appear to be hexagonal, precisely matching a famous and bizarre hexagonal cloud pattern we see deeper down in Saturn’s atmosphere.

The results suggest that the lower-altitude hexagon may influence what happens above, and that it could be a towering structure hundreds of miles in height.

This warm vortex sits hundreds of miles above the clouds, in the stratosphere.

About Cassini Mission:

Launched in 1997, the Cassini mission — a cooperation between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency — has sent back thousands of stunning images and made numerous discoveries about the ringed planet and its moons.

Cassini–Huygens is an unmanned spacecraft sent to the planet Saturn. Cassini is the fourth space probe to visit Saturn and the first to enter orbit. Its design includes a Saturn orbiter and a lander for the moon Titan. The lander, called Huygens, landed on Titan in 2005. The spacecraft was launched on October 15, 1997. This was the first landing ever accomplished in the outer Solar System.

Objectives of the mission:

  • Determine the three-dimensional structure and dynamic behavior of the rings of Saturn.
  • Determine the composition of the satellite surfaces and the geological history of each object.
  • Determine the nature and origin of the dark material on Iapetus’s leading hemisphere.
  • Measure the three-dimensional structure and dynamic behavior of the magnetosphere.
  • Study the dynamic behavior of Saturn’s atmosphere at cloud level.
  • Study the time variability of Titan’s clouds and hazes.
  • Characterize Titan’s surface on a regional scale.

Source: The Hindu

Kepler space telescope

In News:

NASA’s planet hunting Kepler space telescope — which has led to the discovery of over 2,300 planets so far – has woken up from sleep mode and has restarted its scientific operations. NASA has been closely monitoring the probe since it is expected to run out of fuel soon.

Details:

The Kepler team is planning to collect as much science data as possible in its remaining time and beam it back to Earth before the loss of the fuel-powered thrusters that would make it difficult to aim the spacecraft for data transfer.

Background:

The space telescope, originally launched in March 2009, has had a tumultuous year. The team placed Kepler into hibernation in July, as their new planet-hunter, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), began testing for its own mission. The hibernation-like state was to ensure that the data from Kepler’s 18th mission, stored onboard the spacecraft, would be able to make its way back to Earth.

Accomplishments:

In total, the Kepler mission has confirmed the existence of 2,652 exoplanets and 30 of those exist within the Small Habitable Zone, the area of space surrounding a star where a planet could theoretically support a surface of liquid water (and potentially extraterrestrial life).

About Kepler Mission:

Launched in 2009, the Kepler mission is specifically designed to survey our region of the Milky Way galaxy to discover hundreds of Earth-sized and smaller planets in or near the habitable zone and determine the fraction of the hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy that might have such planets.

About TESS mission:

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is a NASA mission that will look for planets orbiting the brightest stars in Earth’s sky. It was led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with seed funding from Google.

Mission: The mission will monitor at least 200,000 stars for signs of exoplanets, ranging from Earth-sized rocky worlds to huge gas giant planets. TESS, however, will focus on stars that are 30 to 100 times brighter than those Kepler examined. This will help astronomers better understand the structure of solar systems outside of our Earth, and provide insights into how our own solar system formed.

Orbit: TESS will occupy a never-before-used orbit high above Earth. The elliptical orbit, called P/2, is exactly half of the moon’s orbital period; this means that TESS will orbit Earth every 13.7 days. Its closest point to Earth (67,000 miles or 108,000 kilometers) is about triple the distance of geosynchronous orbit, where most communications satellites operate.

It will use transit method to detect exoplanets. It watches distant stars for small dips in brightness, which can indicate that planet has passed in front of them. Repeated dips will indicate planet passing in front of its star. This data has to be validated by repeated observations and verified by scientists.

Source: The Hindu

Eight Avian Species Declared “Extinct” in New Study

In News:

Scientists have declared eight species of birds to be extinct in what are being seen as the first avian extinctions of the 21st century.

Details:

The study was conducted by non-profit “BirdLife International”. It assessed 51 species judged “critically endangered” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) “Red List” by using a new statistical method.

Key facts:

The species gone extinct include Spix’s macaw, the Alagoas foliage-gleaner, the cryptic treehunter, the Pernambuco pygmy-owl, the poo-uli, or black-faced honeycreeper and the glaucous macaw.

Five of these new extinctions have occurred in South America and have been attributed by scientists to deforestation. Four out of the eight species declared extinct belong to Brazil.

About Birdlife International:

BirdLife International (formerly the International Council for Bird Preservation) is a global partnership of conservation organisations that strives to conserve birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, working with people towards sustainability in the use of natural resources. It is the world’s largest partnership of conservation organisations, with over 120 partner organisations.

BirdLife International publishes a quarterly magazine, World Birdwatch, which contains recent news and authoritative articles about birds, their habitats, and their conservation around the world.

BirdLife International is the official Red List authority for birds, for the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs):

The IBAs are “places of international significance for the conservation of birds and other biodiversity” and are “distinct areas amenable to practical conservation action,” according to BirdLife International.

Declaring a site as an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area does not ensure that the site gets legal protection or becomes inaccessible to people. Instead BirdLife International encourages national and State governments to recognise the areas as sites of vital importance for conservation of wildlife and to empower local community-based conservation initiatives.

Source: The Hindu

Bonnethead shark

In News:

It is the first known omnivorous shark species identified by scientists recently.

Key facts:

  • 60% of its diet consists of seagrass. The species graze upon seagrass, in addition to eating bony fish, crabs, snails and shrimp.
  • The bonnethead shark is abundant in the shallow waters of the Western Atlantic, and the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Though small by shark standards, adult females — the larger of the sexes —can still reach an impressive five feet long.
  • Lacking the kind of teeth best suited for mastication, the shark may rely on strong stomach acids to weaken the plants’ cells so the enzymes can have their digestive effects.

Source: PIB

Leptospirosis

  • It is a bacterial disease that affects humans and animals.
  • It is caused by corkscrew-shaped bacteria called Leptospira.
  • In humans, it can lead to kidney damage, meningitis (inflammation of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord), liver failure, respiratory distress, and even death.
  • It’s spread through urine of infected dogs, rodents, and farm animals.

Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)

  • India recently decided to end its boycott of the PISA.
  • PISA was introduced in the year 2000 by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation Development (OECD).
  • It tests the learning levels of 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics and science.
  • The test is carried out every three years.
  • India decided to stay away from PISA on account of its dismal performance in 2009.
  • The “out of context” questions were stated as a reason for the poor show.
  • in 2012 and 2015, when it was placed 72nd among the 74 participating countries.
  • India, subsequently, chose to not participate in the 2012 and 2015 cycle.
  • The HRD Ministry, now, had formally decided to end this boycott.
  • The ministry will negotiate India’s terms of participation in 2021 with OECD.
  • Unlike 2009, when schools in Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh had participated, the Union government will request OECD to administer the test across all schools in Chandigarh in 2021.
  • Chandigarh was selected for three reasons.
  1. Compact area.
  2. To keep number of languages in which the test has to be administered to a minimum and
  3. Chandigarh’s record of performing well in learning assessments.

“Positive Update” on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

  • Dire warnings of reef die-off were given after massive coral bleaching in 2016 and 2017.
  • Recently, Tourism and Events Queensland has issued a “positive update, reporting that some affected areas are showing “substantial signs of recovery.”
  • The Great Barrier Reef is the longest coral reef in the world and the first coral reef ecosystem to be awarded Unesco World Heritage Status.
  • It stretches more than 1,430 miles along Queensland’s spectacular coastline.
  • Coral bleaching occurs when coral experiences stress from heightened water temperatures or poor water quality.
  • In response, the coral ejects a photosynthetic algae called zooxanthellae, which removes the coral’s distinctive color.
  • If the stress conditions persist, the coral will die.
  • But if conditions return to acceptable levels, some coral can reabsorb the substance and recover.
  • Coral bleaching occurs in multiple stages, ranging from the equivalent of a mild sunburn to coral mortality.

 

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