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17 April Current Affairs

Indo-Pacific division

In News:

India has set up an Indo-Pacific division in the foreign office.

Details:

The division will integrate the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), Asean region and the Quad to the Indo-Pacific table.

Significance:

MEA’s territorial divisions are crucial for policy making, so the creation of an Indo-Pacific division is a big step by the government. The new division is intended to give a coherent architecture to the policy, which was articulated by PM Narendra Modi at the Shangri-La Dialogue in 2018.

Why is Indo- Pacific region significant for India?

India is planning to put greater energy to the IORA because the heart of its Indo-Pacific policy is rooted in the Indian Ocean. This integrates the blue economy part of the Indian policy with the security part.

In its Indo-Pacific diplomacy, India has repeatedly placed Asean at the centre of its policy. Asean by itself does not actually speak as a united entity, particularly when confronted by China’s overwhelming presence, for, while Asean is wary of China, it is equally wary of the US and its allies, preferring to keep the Asean region outside great power politics. It is this that India wants to address and engage with. Singapore, Vietnam and now Indonesia are key partners in the region for India. This will also involve the Quad and taking this new grouping to the region.

What constitutes Indo- Pacific region and why a cooperation among countries is necessary?

Countries falling in the direct hinterland of the vast Indian and Pacific oceanic expanse are termed ‘Indo-Pacific countries’. It is a multipolar region, contributing more than half of the world’s GDP and population. The motivation for a larger bloc always comes from the sheer size, resources it owns, and, the scope and size of the economies of scale that it can generate. This is, in fact, a region in which several Asian powers are once again rising, especially in geo- economic terms.

An encouraging attribute of the Indo-Pacific construct is that it is driven by a host of developing countries and LDCs (least developed countries) and some important developed countries such as Japan, US and Australia. It is, thus, a near-perfect case of a multipolarity, which not only motivates greater South-South cooperation but also promotes North-South cooperation.

It has several important regional trading blocs, many of which have implemented free trade agreements (FTAs) in goods and services and some of which have even been elevated to the Customs Union.

The attributes of the Indo-Pacific are also highly appealing. The region comprises at least 38 countries that share 44 percent of world surface area and 65 per cent of world population, and account for 62 per cent of world–GDP and 46 per cent of the world’s merchandise trade.

Challenges:

Indo-Pacific has all ingredients to generate regional trade and investment opportunities, thereby benefitting the people of the region. However, the region is highly heterogeneous in terms of economic size and level of development, with significant differences in security establishments and resources. It also faces complex challenges in terms of economy, security and the environment.

Need of the hour:

The maintenance of peace, stability and security in, upon and over the seas; unimpeded lawful commerce; freedom of navigation and overflight and other internationally lawful uses of the oceanic and air space; and the protection and preservation of marine resources, as well as a sustainable and responsible fishery–framework, are all critical towards building a regional consensus on maritime security and cooperation in Indo-Pacific.

What is the Shangri-La Dialogue?

The dialogue also called as IISS Asia Security Summit was launched in 2002 by British think tank the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the Singaporean government. This annual dialogue brings together defence ministers and military chiefs from 28 Asia-Pacific countries to talk about security in the region. It gets its name from the location of the meeting, the Shangri-La hotel in Singapore.

Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) programme

In News:

The Union Cabinet has approved the ongoing Phase 4 of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) programme.

Details:

The total fund requirement for the GSLV Continuation Programme is Rs 2729.13 crores including the cost of five GSLV vehicles, essential facility augmentation, programme management and launch campaign.

The programme and its significance:

The GSLV Programme – Phase 4 will enable the launch of 2 tonne class of satellites for Geo-imaging, Navigation, Data Relay Communication and Space Sciences into the Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO).

Under the GSLV Continuation Programme, five GSLV flights have been planned during the period 2021-2024.

The GSLV Continuation Programme – Phase 4 will meet the launch requirement of satellites for providing critical Satellite Navigation Services and Data Relay Communication for supporting the Indian Human spaceflight programme ‘Gaganyaan’ and the next interplanetary mission to Mars.

Overall significance:

It will help sustain the self-reliance in the launching of similar satellites for national requirements including next generation navigation satellites, data relay communication satellites and interplanetary missions.

What is Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV)?

GSLV is a 49 m tall three stage vehicle with the first stage comprising a solid booster with four liquid strap-on motors, each weighing 40 ton. The second stage is a liquid engine and the third stage is the indigenously built Cryogenic Upper Stage (CUS) which uses 15 ton of cryogenic propellants such as Liquid Hydrogen (LH2) as fuel and Liquid Oxygen (LOX) as Oxidiser.

With the recent successful launch of GSLV-F11 on December 19, 2018, GSLV has successfully placed 10 national satellites.

Assam Rifles

In News:

The Delhi High Court has sought the response from the Cabinet Committee on Security on a plea seeking directions to remove the dual control of Assam Rifles and bring it under the Ministry of Defence.

Key facts:

Assam Rifles which is also referred to as the Sentinels of North East is the oldest paramilitary force of India.

The administrative control of Assam Rifles lies with the Home Ministry, while the operational control is with the Defence Ministry.

What’s the issue now?

A plea filed in the court alleges the dual control as the violation of the rights of the troopers of Assam Rifles. The plea challenges the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961 saying that it places Assam Rifles under the head ‘Police’, which is arbitrary, unreasonable and violates the rights of Assam Rifles ex-servicemen guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution.

What’s the demand now?

The petition argues since the objective and functions of Assam Rifles were that of military and paramilitary force, its categorisation as a police force was arbitrary, unreasonable and in violation of the rights of its personnel. The petition seeks a grant of pay, allowances, pension (including arrears) and ex-servicemen facilities to Assam Rifles personnel at par with the Indian Army.

Source: The Hindu

NASA’s Kepler Space telescope

In News:

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, TESS, has discovered its first Earth-sized exoplanet. The planet, named HD 21749c, is the smallest world outside our solar system that TESS has identified yet.

Details:

The new planet orbits the star HD 21749 — a very nearby star, just 52 light years from Earth. The star also hosts a second planet — HD 21749b — a warm “sub-Neptune” with a longer, 36-day orbit.

Background:

While this is the first Earth-sized planet discovered by TESS, other Earth-sized exoplanets have been discovered in the past, mainly by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, a since-retired telescope that monitored more than 530,000 stars. In the end, the Kepler mission detected 2,662 planets, many of which were Earth-sized, and a handful of those were deemed to be within their star’s habitable zone — where a balance of conditions could be suitable for hosting 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.

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

World Haemophilia Day

In News:

April 17 is World Haemophilia Day.

Details:

Haemophilia is a medical condition, mostly inherited, in which the ability of blood to clot is severely reduced, so that even a minor injury can cause severe bleeding.

Why men are more vulnerable?

Because of the genetics involved in the way the sex of a child is determined, men are more vulnerable to haemophilia than women.

Haemophilia is caused by a defect in the X chromosome. If a girl is born with one defective X chromosome, her other X chromosome can compensate for it. In such a case, she is a carrier of haemophilia but will not suffer from the condition herself. Only if both her X chromosomes are defective will she suffer from haemophilia herself. On the other hand, if a boy is born with a defective X chromosome, he does not have the second X chromosome to compensate for it, and will suffer from haemophilia. That is the reason haemophilia is more common among men.

Worldwide spread:

It is a rare disorder worldwide — one type, called Haemophilia A, occurs in about 1 in 5,000 births, while Haemophilia B is even rarer at about 1 in about 20,000 births. A vast number of cases, however, are believed to go unreported, particularly in India.

According to the World Federation of Haemophilia’s Annual Global Survey 2017, released in October 2018, there were over 1.96 lakh persons living with haemophilia across the world in 2017. In the country-wise data, India emerges with the highest count at nearly 19,000.

Treatments for haemophilia:

There’s no cure for haemophilia, but treatment usually allows a person with the condition to enjoy a good quality of life. Genetically engineered clotting factor medicines are used to prevent and treat prolonged bleeding. These medicines are given as an injection.

In milder cases, injections are usually only given in response to prolonged bleeding. More severe cases are treated with regular injections to prevent bleeding.

Source: IE

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft

In News:

Data from NASA’s Cassini-Huygens spacecraft reveal new information about the lakes on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.

Details:

The small liquid lakes in Titan’s northern hemisphere are more than 100 meters deep, perched atop plateaus and filled with methane. They also appear to be seasonal. And the bodies of liquid on one side of the northern hemisphere are completely different than those on the other side.

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.

The spacecraft was launched on October 15, 1997. This was the first landing ever accomplished in the outer Solar System.

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.

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

World’s first 3D printed vascularised engineered heart

In News:

Researchers from Tel Aviv University, Israel have made world’s first 3D printed vascularised engineered heart.

Details:

Researchers managed to produce an entire heart, complete with cells, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers. It was made using a patient’s own tissues and biological materials.

Need:

Cardiovascular disease is the world’s leading cause of death, according to the World Health Organization, and transplants are currently the only option available for patients in the worst cases. But the number of donors is limited and many die while waiting.

When they do benefit, they can fall victim to their bodies rejecting the transplant — a problem the researchers are seeking to overcome. Using the patient’s own tissue could eliminate the risk of an implant provoking an immune response and being rejected.

Sidhmukh Nohar Project

The SC is hearing the issue of diversion of Beas water for Sidhmukh Nohar Project in Rajasthan. The issues framed by the apex court for discussion consisted of whether the state of Rajasthan is entitled to carry 0.17 million acre-feet (MAF) (MAF) (ex-Nangal) Beas diverted water through BML for Sidhmukh Nohar Project in accordance with various agreements between the partner states and Government of India.

Sidhmukh and Nohar project is constructed to utilise the share of Rajasthan in Ravi Beas surplus water over and above pre-partition used to the extent of 0.47 MAF from the existing Bhakra Main line canal which is re-modelled in Punjab to accommodate the increased flows.

Great Indian Bustards (GIB)

There are 150 Great Indian Bustards (GIB) in Rajasthan’s Desert National Park (DNP), as per a survey.

The bird is a critically endangered species listed in the International Union for conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List.

It is also found in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

The DNP, spread over Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Barmer and Bikaner districts, however remains its main habitat.

It is listed in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection)Act, 1972 and in the CMS Convention and in Appendix I of CITES.

It has also been identified as one of the species for the recovery programme under the Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India.

Project Great Indian Bustard — state of Rajasthan — identifying and fencing off bustard breeding grounds in existing protected areas as well as provide secure breeding enclosures in areas outside protected areas.

Protected areas: Desert National Park Sanctuary — Rajasthan, Rollapadu Wildlife Sanctuary – Andhra Pradesh and Karera Wildlife Sanctuary– Madhya Pradesh.

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