19 December Current Affairs
December 19, 2018
21 December Current Affairs
December 21, 2018
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20 December Current Affairs

Commemorative Postage Stamp on Rajkumar Shukla

In News:

The government recently released a Commemorative Postage Stamp on Rajkumar Shukla.

Background:

Department of Posts has been paying a tribute to eminent personalities who have made a significant contribution to public life especially freedom fighters. With this stamp, the Department has released 43 issues in the current calendar year.

Who was Rajkumar Shukla?

In drawing the attention of Mahatma Gandhi to the plight of peasants suffering under an oppressive system established by European indigo planters in Champaran, Bihar, Rajkumar Shukla made a seminal contribution culminating in the launch of the Champaran Satyagraha in 1917 by Mahatma Gandhi.

About the Champaran Satyagraha:

It was undertaken in the erstwhile undivided Champaran district in northern Bihar. Mahatma Gandhi went there in April, 1917 on learning about the abuses suffered by the cultivators of the district, forced into growing indigo by British planters/estate owners.

Gandhi was so thoroughly persuaded by Rajkumar Shukla, an indigo cultivator from Champaran that he decided to investigate into the matter.

Gandhi’s method of inquiry at Champaran was based on surveys by the volunteers. The respondents who willingly gave statements should sign the papers or give thumb impressions.

For those unwilling to participate, the reasons must be recorded by the volunteers. The principal volunteers in this survey were mostly lawyers like Babu Rajendra Prasad, Dharnidhar Prasad, Gorakh Prasad, Ramnawami Prasad, Sambhusaran and Anugraha Narain Sinha.

Outcomes:

In June 1917, the British administration declared the formation of a formal inquiry committee with Gandhi aboard. The Government accepted almost all its recommendations. The principal recommendation accepted was complete abolition of Tinkathia system. It was a major blow to the British planters who became resentful. But they could not prevent the passage of Champaran Agrarian Act in Bihar & Orissa Legislative Council on March 4, 1918.

It was in Champaran that Gandhi first met J. B. Kripalani and Rajendra Prasad; and it was through his work in Champaran that Gandhi attracted the attention (and admiration) of Vallabhbhai Patel and Mahadev Desai.

Source: The Hindu

Goa Liberation Day

In News:

Goa recently celebrated the 57th Liberation Day. On this day, Goa attained independence from the 450-years of Portuguese rule.

About Operation Vijay:

Portuguese were the first ones to colonize parts of India and were the last to leave. The Portuguese invaded Goa in the year 1510.

Operation Vijay began on December 17, 1961, when the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru ordered the invasion. With a force of almost 30,000, the Indian attack overpowered the ill-prepared Portuguese 3,000 member army. With minimal blood shed, the attack was successful and was carried forward to retrieve the other Portuguese-controlled areas, Daman and Diu.

At this point on December 18, the Portuguese Governor General Vassalo da Silva gave up control of the Union Territory of Goa, Daman and Diu. Three days after the attack began, Goa finally became a part of India.

Referendum and Statehood:

The Goa Opinion Poll was a referendum held in the state of Goa, India, on 16 January 1967, to decide the future of the Union Territory of Goa, Daman and Diu within the Indian Union. Although popularly called an opinion poll, it was in fact, a referendum, as the results of the poll were binding on the government of India. The referendum offered the people of Goa a choice between continuing as a union territory or merging with the state of Maharashtra. It is the only referendum to have been held in independent India. The people of Goa voted against the merger and Goa continued to be a union territory. Subsequently, in 1987, Goa became a full-fledged state within the Indian Union.

Source: The Hindu

Winter solstice 2018

In News:

This year the Winter Solstice on December 21st.

Details:

The winter solstice happens every year when the Sun reaches its most southerly declination of -23.5 degrees. In other words, it is when the North Pole is tilted farthest away from the Sun, delivering the fewest hours of sunlight of the year.

The Sun is directly overhead of the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere during the December solstice and is closer to the horizon than at any other time in the year.

The day after the winter solstice marks the beginning of lengthening days, leading up to the summer solstice in June.

In the Southern Hemisphere, the opposite is true. Dawn comes early, and dusk comes late. The sun is high and the shortest noontime shadow of the year happens there. In the Southern Hemisphere, people will experience their longest day and shortest night.

Does the winter solstice always occur on December 21st?

While it more often than not falls on December 21st, the exact time of the solstice varies each year. In the Northern hemisphere the winter solstice is the shortest day of the year, because it is tilted away from the sun, and receives the least amount of sunlight on that day.

However, the earliest sunset does not occur on the solstice, because of the slight discrepancy between ‘solar time’ and the clocks we use.

The shortest day of the year often falls on December 21st, but the modern calendar of 365 days a year – with an extra day every four years – does not correspond exactly to the solar year of 365.2422 days.

The solstice can happen on December 20, 21, 22 or 23, though December 20 or 23 solstices are rare. The last December 23 solstice was in 1903 and will not happen again until 2303.

What does ‘solstice’ mean?

The term ‘solstice’ derives from the Latin word ‘solstitium’, meaning ‘Sun standing still’. On this day the Sun seems to stand still at the Tropic of Capricorn and then reverses its direction as it reaches its southernmost position as seen from the Earth. Some prefer the more teutonic term ‘sunturn’ to describe the event.

Source: ToI

The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty

In News:

Russia has confirmed that the United States of America has decided to cancel the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty signed between Russian and the USA in 1987. The USA had already announced the withdrawal decision from the INF treaty in October 2018.

Details:

The United States first alleged in its July 2014 Compliance Report that Russia is in violation of its INF Treaty obligations “not to possess, produce, or flight-test” a ground-launched cruise missile having a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers or “to possess or produce launchers of such missiles.”

Subsequent State Department assessments in 2015, 2016, and 2017 repeated these allegations. Russia denies that it is in violation of the agreement. On December 8, 2017, the Trump administration released a strategy to counter alleged Russian violations of the Treaty.

About the Intermediate- Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty:

The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty required the United States and the Soviet Union to eliminate and permanently forswear all of their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.

The treaty marked the first time the superpowers had agreed to reduce their nuclear arsenals, eliminate an entire category of nuclear weapons, and utilize extensive on-site inspections for verification. As a result of the INF Treaty, the United States and the Soviet Union destroyed a total of 2,692 short-, medium-, and intermediate-range missiles by the treaty’s implementation deadline of June 1, 1991.

Despite its name, the INF Treaty covers all types of ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles — whether their payload is conventional or nuclear. Moscow and Washington are prohibited from deploying these missiles anywhere in the world, not just in Europe. However, the treaty applies only to ground-launched systems. Both sides are free to deploy air- and sea-launched missiles within the 500-to-5,500-kilometer range.

What are the diplomatic implications of withdrawal?

Withdrawal is likely to be controversial with U.S. allies in NATO, further splitting the alliance at a difficult time for transatlantic relations. Many Western European NATO states favor retaining the INF, in conjunction with previous U.S. policy designed to push Moscow back into compliance. This raises concerns that divisions within NATO may worsen when the United States officially withdraws from the INF.

Trump’s move is also likely to undermine the 2010 New START treaty governing U.S. and Russian long-range nuclear systems. The INF Treaty’s demise will undercut New START by reopening questions on the relationship between intermediate and strategic systems that have been resolved for 30 years by the elimination of ground-based, intermediate-range missiles.

Source: The Hindu

New peace agreement on Yemen

In News:

Yemen’s warring parties have agreed to an immediate ceasefire in the Red Sea port of Hodeidah in a potential breakthrough at the end of a week of peace talks in Sweden.

Details:

The agreement includes the future deployment of UN-supervised neutral forces and the establishment of humanitarian corridors. Troops from both sides will withdraw from the entire Hodeidah area within a maximum of 21 days in a process overseen by a UN-chaired committee.

What next?

A political framework for Yemen will be discussed in a next round of meetings, scheduled for late January. If implemented on the ground, the deal would represent a breakthrough because the port is the gateway for the bulk of humanitarian aid coming into the country, and has been the subject of intense fighting. Ceasefires have also been agreed at two other ports, Salif and Ras Issa.

What triggered the truce?

The ceasefire between Yemen’s Houthi rebels and forces loyal to President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi in the port city of Hodeida came into existence on December 18. The agreement was reached in UN-mediated talks held in Stockholm earlier this month. At the time of the negotiations, the city was almost in the hands of the Saudi-led coalition. The coalition had blockaded the port, the main conduit for humanitarian aid to enter Yemen, for months, and the fighters, mostly UAE soldiers, were battling the rebels.

But Saudi Arabia came under increased global pressure to stop fighting in Yemen after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside its consulate in Istanbul triggered a global outcry. The spotlight on Yemen and its deteriorating humanitarian situation has been so strong after the Khashoggi affair that even the U.S., which supports Riyadh in the war, cut down its involvement by ending refuelling of coalition aircraft. With the UN also pushing for talks, the Yemeni government backed by Saudi Arabia gave the green light for talks.

How bad is Yemen’s humanitarian situation?

Since the Saudi intervention in 2015, at least 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen, according to the WHO. The widespread damage caused to infrastructure by the coalition airstrikes and lack of supplies of food and medicines due to the blockade have pushed Yemen into a humanitarian catastrophe. About 12 million people are at the risk of starvation if aid doesn’t reach them fast. The country has also seen a massive cholera outbreak. A child dies every 10 minutes in Yemen from preventable causes, says UNICEF.

Why is Saudi Arabia in Yemen?

Saudi Arabia interfered in Yemen after the Shia Houthi rebels captured Sana’a, the capital city, and the internationally recognised government of President Hadi moved to the country’s south. The Saudis accuse Iran of bankrolling the Houthis and “destabilising” the Arabian Peninsula.

The Saudi plan was to expel the Houthis from Sana’a and restore the authority of the government. But almost four years since they launched the attack, the Houthis still control Sana’a and much of the north of Yemen. They also fire short-range missiles across the border into Saudi Arabia, which has become a major security concern for Riyadh.

Source: The Hindu

GSAT-7A

In News:

ISRO has launched military communication satellite GSAT-7A. GSAT-7A was succesfully injected into its orbit by GSLV-F11 that was launched from Sriharikota.

About GSAT-7A:

GSAT-7A has been placed in the geostationary orbit and this communication satellite is expected to help the IAF to interlink different ground radar stations, airbases and AWACS (Airborne Warning And Control System) aircraft. The idea is to improve the IAF’s network-centric warfare capabilities.

It is an advanced communication satellite with a Gregorian Antenna and many other new technologies.

It is the heaviest satellite being launched by GSLV with an indigenously developed cryogenic stage.

The GSAT-7A is expected to have the Ku-band transponders and two deployable solar arrays onboard.

It is the 39th Indian communication satellite of ISRO to provide services to the users in Ku-band over the Indian region.

The GSAT-7A is also expected to be a big push for drone operations as it will help the Navy reduce the reliance on on-ground control stations and take satellite-control of military unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) which should help boost the range and endurance of the UAVs.

The satellite, being dubbed as ‘angry bird’ by some, is likely to enhance the range of communication and also aid in aircraft to aircraft communication.

In addition to GSAT-7A, the IAF would also be getting the GSAT-7C in a few years, to boost the network-centric operations.

Background- GSAT 7 series:

The GSAT 7 series was launched in 2013 as a dedicated communications satellite for the Indian Navy, which made the Navy completely independent of relying on foreign satellites for its blue water capabilities, thanks to GSAT 7 having a 2,000 nautical mile footprint. This helps in providing real-time inputs to Indian warships, submarines and maritime aircraft.

GSLV:

The GSLV is ISRO’s fourth generation launch vehicle that has three stages. The four liquid strap-ons and a solid rocket motor at the core constitute the first stage. The second stage is equipped with a high thrust engine that uses liquid fuel.

The cryogenic upper stage forms the third and final stage of the vehicle. The GSLV-F11 was the seventh flight carrying indigenously developed cryogenic upper stage.

Source: The Hindu

NASA’s 1st flight to moon, Apollo 8, marks 50th anniversary

In News:

NASA’s Apollo 8 mission completes its 50th anniversary this year.

About the Apollo 8 Mission:

Apollo 8, the second manned spaceflight mission in the United States Apollo space program, was launched on December 21, 1968, and became the first manned spacecraft to leave low Earth orbit, reach the Moon, orbit it, and safely return.

The three-astronaut crew—Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders—became the first humans to travel beyond low Earth orbit, see Earth as a whole planet, and enter the gravity well of another celestial body. They were also the first humans to orbit another celestial body, see the far side of the Moon, witness and photograph an “Earthrise”, escape the gravity of another celestial body (the Moon), and reenter Earth’s gravitational well.

Source: The Hindu

MoU with Maruti Suzuki

In News:

Ministry of Rural Development Signs MoU with Maruti Suzuki India Ltd for Training Rural Youth for Skill Development Under Deendayal upadhyaya grameen kaushalya yojana (Ddu-Gky)

Details:

Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY) is the flagship placement linked skill-training programme under the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD).

There are several challenges that are preventing India’s rural poor from competing such as the lack of formal education and employability skills. DDU-GKY bridges this gap by funding training projects with an emphasis on placement, retention, career progression and foreign placement.

The mission of the flagship scheme of MoRD is to ensure rural poor youth are skilled in market relevant trades and job-relevant competencies.

Champion Employers policy:

The Champion Employers are the industry leaders who have the potential to provide training and captive employment to the DDU-GKY candidates.

The policy seeks a strategic alignment of objectives of DDU-GKY with the HR strategy of organizations, which have a large potential to absorb trained manpower.

Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY):

The Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) announced the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY) Antyodaya Diwas, on 25th September 2014.

DDU-GKY is a part of the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM), tasked with the dual objectives of adding diversity to the incomes of rural poor families and cater to the career aspirations of rural youth.

DDU-GKY is uniquely focused on rural youth between the ages of 15 and 35 years from poor families. As a part of the Skill India campaign, it plays an instrumental role in supporting the social and economic programs of the government like the Make in India, Digital India, Smart Cities and Start-Up India, Stand-Up India campaigns.

Source: PIB

Pralay

  • It is a newly developed surface-to-surface tactical missile.
  • The trial of the missile was recently deferred by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) due to the cyclone Phethai.
  • It is a derivative of Prithvi Defence Vehicle (PDV) exo-atmospheric interceptor which can destroy enemy weapons at high altitudes.
  • It has a payload of 1 tonne and it has the capacity to strike targets 350 km away.
  • It can travel up to 500 km if the payload is halved.
  • It is propelled by solid-fuel rocket.
  • It can fly faster than the conventional missiles in its class and can evade ballistic missile defence system.
  • It will be launched from its own canister-based transport erector launcher.

Surrogacy Regulation Bill

  • Surrogacy is an arrangement, often supported by a legal agreement, whereby a woman agrees to become pregnant and give birth to a child for another person, who are or will ultimately become the parent(s) of the newborn child.
  • Lok Sabha has recently passed the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016.
  • It allows surrogacy for couples that cannot have children.
  • The bill prohibits commercial surrogacy and allows altruistic surrogacy to Indian married couple who cannot bear children.
  • Commercial surrogacy generally refers to any surrogacy arrangement in which the surrogate mother is compensated for her services beyond reimbursement of medical expenses.
  • Altruitstic surrogacy refers to an arrangement in which a woman volunteers to carry a pregnancy for intended parents without receiving any monetary compensation in return.

Water in Asteroids

  • Japanese scientists have detected evidence of water in 17 asteroids for the first-time using data from the infrared satellite AKARI.
  • This discovery will contribute to understanding of the distribution of water in our solar system, the evolution of asteroids, and the origin of water on Earth.
  • Previous studies have suggested that other celestial bodies in our solar system have, or used to have, water in some form.
  • Asteroids are considered to be one of the candidates that brought water to Earth.
  • Researchers found that water is retained in asteroids as hydrated minerals, which were produced by chemical reactions of water and anhydrous rocks that occurred inside the asteroids.
  • Hydrated minerals are stable even above the sublimation temperature of water ice.

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