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25 Feb Current Affairs

‘A Future for the World’s Children’ Report

In News:

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and The Lancet medical journal have released ‘A Future for the World’s Children’ report.

Details:

The report calculates the Flourishing Index and Sustainability Index of 180 countries.

India secures 131st rank on a flourishing index that measures the best chance at survival and well-being for children.

Further, India ranked 77th on a sustainability index that takes into account per capita carbon emissions and the ability of children in a nation to live healthy lives.

1) Flourishing Index

(a) Methodology:

Flourishing is the geometric mean of Surviving and Thriving.

The parameter of Surviving considers maternal survival, survival in children younger than 5 years old, suicide, access to maternal and child health services, basic hygiene, sanitation, and lack of extreme poverty.

The parameter of Thriving considers educational achievement, growth and nutrition, reproductive freedom, and protection from violence.

(b) Global Scenario:

Norway leads the table for survival, health, education and nutrition rates – followed by the Republic of Korea and the Netherlands.

The Central African Republic, Chad and Somalia rank at the bottom.

It also mentioned that the world’s survival depended on children being able to flourish, but no country is doing enough to give them a sustainable future.

(c) Marketing of Junk Food:

The Index has linked an aspect of harmful marketing of junk food and sugary beverages with the alarming rise in childhood obesity.

Thus to protect children, it has called for a new global movement driven by and for children.

2) Sustainability Index

(a) Methodology:

The Sustainability Index ranks countries on the basis of excess carbon emissions compared with the 2030 target.

It also states that today’s national conditions for children to survive and thrive must not come at the cost of eroding future global conditions for children’s ability to flourish.

(b) Global Scenario:

The leading countries in the Flourishing Index trail behind in the case of the Sustainability Index, with Norway (156th), the Republic of Korea (166th) and the Netherlands (160th).

Each of the three emits 210 per cent more CO2 per capita than their 2030 target.

The only countries on track in Flourishing as well as in Sustainability Index are Albania, Armenia, Grenada, Jordan, Moldova, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Uruguay and Vietnam.

The lowest emitters are Burundi, Chad and Somalia whereas the U.S, Australia, and Saudi Arabia are among the 10 worst emitters.

Upgradation of Online Chatbot ASKDISHA

In News:

The Indian Railways Catering & Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC) has powered voice-enabled ASKDISHA Chatbot to converse with customers in the Hindi language.

Details:

The customers can now ask queries to ASKDISHA in Hindi by voice as well as text.

IRCTC plans to launch ASKDISHA in more languages along with many other additional features in the near future.

ASKDISHA Chatbot:

It is an Artificial Intelligence-based chatbot which was initially launched in the English language in October 2018.

It is a first-of-its-kind initiative by IRCTC which aims to benefit the users of the ticketing and tourism websites of IRCTC to resolve queries of railway passengers over the internet pertaining to various services offered.

Since its initial launch, passengers seeking help on the reservation of tickets, cancellation, enquiry of refund status, fare, PNR search, train running status, enquiry about retiring rooms and tourism products have been benefited.

Habitable-Zone Planet Finder

In News:

The Habitable-zone Planet Finder (HPF) has confirmed its first planet (exoplanet) called G 9-40b, orbiting a nearby low mass bright M-dwarf star (100 light years from Earth) with an orbital period of 6 Earth-days.

Details:

Earlier, NASA’s Kepler mission had observed a dip in the host star’s light, suggesting that the planet was crossing in front of the star during its orbit. To confirm the HPF was used.

Key Points:

G 9-40b: G 9-40b is amongst the top 20 closest transiting planets known.

Habitable-zone Planet Finder : HPF is an astronomical spectrograph, built by Penn State University scientists, and recently installed on the 10m Hobby-Eberly Telescope at McDonald Observatory (US).

The HPF searches for exoplanets by using the Doppler effect.

A spectrograph is an instrument that splits light into its component wavelengths. Scientists measure the properties of light over a specific portion of the spectrum, and draw conclusions on what is responsible for the trends they observe.

The HPF provides the highest precision measurements of infrared signals from nearby low-mass stars, and astronomers use it to validate the candidate planet by excluding all possibilities of contaminating signals to a very high level of probability.

It is designed to detect and characterise planets in the habitable-zone also known as ‘Goldilocks zone’- the region around the star where a planet could sustain liquid water on its surface.

HPF is currently surveying the nearest low-mass stars, also called M-dwarfs, which are the most common stars in the galaxy – with the goal of discovering exoplanets in our neighborhood.

Doppler Effect:

An increase (or decrease) in the frequency of sound, light, or other waves as the source and observer move towards (or away from) each other.

The effect causes the sudden change in pitch noticeable in a passing siren, as well as the red shift seen by astronomers.

Biodiversity management committees (BMC)

In News:

The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) is set to tell the National Green Tribunal that it created 243,499 biodiversity management committees (BMC) and 95,525 people’s biodiversity registers (PBR) as of January 2020.

Background:

NGT is hearing a case on the full implementation of the Biodiversity Act, 2002.

What are Biodiversity Management Committees (BMC)?

As per the Biological Diversity Act 2002, BMCs are created for “promoting conservation, sustainable use and documentation of biological diversity” by local bodies across the country.

 Composition:

It shall consist of a chair person and not more than six persons nominated by the local body, of whom not less than one third should be women and not less than 18% should belong to the Scheduled Castes/ Scheduled Tribes.

The Chairperson of the Biodiversity Management Committee shall be elected from amongst the members of the committee in a meeting to be chaired by the Chairperson of the local body.

The chairperson of the local body shall have the casting votes in case of a tie.

 Functions:

The main function of the BMC is to prepare People’s Biodiversity Register in consultation with the local people. The Register shall contain comprehensive information on availability and knowledge of local biological resources, their medicinal or any other use or any other.

PM KISAN

In News:

PM-KISAN Scheme completes one year on February 24, 2020.

So far, over 8 crore 46 lakh farmers covered under Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi. Central Government transfers Rs.6,000 in three tranches every year to beneficiaries.

About Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi:

The scheme was started with a view to augment the income of the farmers by providing income support to all landholding farmers’ families across the country, to enable them to take care of expenses related to agriculture and allied activities as well as domestic needs. Under the Scheme an amount of Rs.6000/- per year is transferred in three 4-monthly installments of Rs.2000/- directly into the bank accounts of the farmers, subject to certain exclusion criteria relating to higher income status.

The entire responsibility of identification of beneficiaries rests with the State / UT Governments.

Ambit:

The Scheme initially provided income support to all Small and Marginal Farmers’ families across the country, holding cultivable land upto 2 hectares. Its ambit was later expanded w.e.f. 01.06.2019 to cover all farmer families in the country irrespective of the size of their land holdings.

Exceptions:

Affluent farmers have been excluded from the scheme such as Income Tax payers in last assessment year, professionals like Doctors, Engineers, Lawyers, Chartered Accountants etc and pensioners pensioners drawing at least Rs.10,000/- per month (excluding MTS/Class IV/Group D employees).

Jalyukta shivar

In News:

Maharashtra government has scrapped the Jalyukta Shivar- the flagship water conservation project.

Details:

Launched in December 2014 after Maharashtra experienced consecutive droughts. Aimed at rolling out measures that could potentially mitigate water scarcity in the most drought-prone villages in a systematic manner.

Features:

The project targeted strengthening and streamlining existing water resources like canals, bunds and ponds by arresting maximum run-off rainwater during monsoon.

Tasks to widen and deepen natural water streams and connect them to nearby water storage facilities like earthern or concrete check-dams was proposed.

What necessitated this?

Nearly 52 per cent of the state’s geographical area is prone to drought, either naturally or due to poor rainfall. This includes Marathwada and adjoining areas of Madhya Maharashtra and large parts of Vidarbha.

Was Jalyukta Shivar beneficial?

By January 2019, the scheme had transformed 16,000 drought-prone villages of Maharashtra. The irrigation cover had been increased by 34 lakh hectares. In the process, thereby, increasing the crop yield each year, particularly the kharif crops. Until mid-2019, interventions resulted in stocking of water measuring 24 lakh trillion cubic metre.

Pakke tiger reserve

In News:

Arunachal Pradesh State government is planning to build a 692.7 km highway through the Pakke Tiger Reserve (PTR) in East Kameng district. Named the East-West Industrial Corridor, the highway aims to connect Bhairabhunda in West Kameng district and Manmao in Changlang district along Arunachal Pradesh’s border with Assam.

Key facts:

Pakke Tiger Reserve is also known as Pakhui Tiger Reserve.

This Tiger Reserve has won India Biodiversity Award 2016 in the category of ‘Conservation of threatened species’ for its Hornbill Nest Adoption Programme.

It is bounded by Bhareli or Kameng River in the west and north, and by Pakke River in the east.

Neighbours: Papum Reserve Forest in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam’s Nameri National Park, Doimara Reserve Forest and Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary.

The main perennial streams in the area are the Nameri, Khari and Upper Dikorai. West of Kameng River is Sessa Orchid Sanctuary.

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