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31st December Current Affairs

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)

(GS-II: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate)

In News:

The RCEP will come into effect on January 1, 2022, marking the formation of the world’s largest free trade zone in terms of trade volume.

What is RCEP?

It is a trade deal between the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

Aims and Objectives of RCEP:

To lower tariffs, open up trade in services and promote investment to help emerging economies catch up with the rest of the world.

To help reduce costs and time for companies by allowing them to export a product anywhere within the bloc without meeting separate requirements for each country.

It also touches on intellectual property, but will not cover environmental protections and labour rights.


RCEP will cover about 30% of global gross domestic product (GDP), worth $26.2 trillion (€23.17 trillion), and nearly a third of the world’s population, some 2.2 billion people.

Under RCEP, around 90% of trade tariffs within the bloc will eventually be eliminated.

RCEP will also set common rules around trade, intellectual property, e-commerce and competition.

Why did India not join?

India withdrew from the RCEP largely because of concerns it would open it up to Chinese goods amid an already wide trade imbalance with China, and the failure of the agreement to adequately open up to services.

Need for India’s presence in RCEP:

India had “a crucial role” to play in helping the region build an inclusive architecture at a time of increasing global instability.

Such trade pacts will also give Indian companies a platform to showcase their strengths across even larger markets.

Besides, Rising U.S.-China tensions were “deeply worrying” for the region with the pandemic resulting in “heightened tension”.

Challenges ahead:

The lack of participation by the United States “allows Beijing to solidify its role as driver of economic growth in the region.”

Economic gains will take a long time to materialize.

While the big Asian economies will enjoy most of the spoils, RCEP may leave smaller countries within ASEAN at a disadvantage, as the trade deal doesn’t cover their major industries.

The least developed countries in Asia ― Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar ― currently benefit from inter-ASEAN trade, which could be “eroded” by RCEP trade.

The smaller ASEAN countries may also lose some of their benefits from trade preference programs that allow them to export tariff-free products outside of ASEAN, including South Korea and Japan.

What is Quantum entanglement?

(GS-III: Science and Technology)

In News:

Scientists have identified the first ”quantum entangled” animal in history-frozen tardigrade, in a recent study.


Frozen tardigrade are microscopic multicellular organisms known to tolerate extreme physiochemical conditions through a latent state of life known as cryptobiosis.


Also known as anabiosis, it is a metabolic state of life entered by an organism in response to adverse environmental conditions such as desiccation, freezing, and oxygen deficiency.

In the cryptobiotic state, all measurable metabolic processes stop, preventing reproduction, development, and repair.

When environmental conditions return to being hospitable, the organism will return to its metabolic state of life as it was prior to the cryptobiosis.

About the study:

The researchers managed the feat by placing frozen tardigrades between two capacitor plates of a superconductor circuit to form a qubit, the quantum equivalent of a bit.

Upon contact, they say, the tardigrade changed the qubit’s frequency.

They then placed this circuit in the vicinity of a second superconductor circuit. Lo and behold, the team observed that the frequency of both qubits and the tardigrade changed in tandem.

Quantum Entanglement:

It is the physical phenomenon that occurs when a pair or group of particles is generated and they interact in such a way that the quantum state of each particle of the pair or group cannot be described independently of the state of the others.

In this quantum mechanical phenomenon, the quantum states of two or more objects have to be described with reference to each other, even though the individual objects may be spatially separated.

This leads to correlations between observable physical properties of the systems.

Albert Einstein dismissed this idea as a ‘spooky action’.


Quantum entanglement is one of the peculiarities of quantum mechanics, which makes phenomena such as quantum teleportation and super-dense coding possible.

Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARIIA)

(GS-II: Issues related to Education)

In News:

Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARIIA) 2021 was released recently.

Atal Innovation Rankings 2021:

ARIIA 2021 classifies participating institutions into two major categories; technical and non-technical. Further, these rankings have been divided into seven sub-categories.


Top 3: This is the third time that IIT Madras has secured the first rank. IIT Bombay and IIT Delhi were placed at the second and third ranks respectively.

Non-technical institutions:

The top central universities under this category include Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), Delhi, and the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Kozhikode.

The rankings have been prepared after evaluating the participating institutions under nine parameters:

Developing an innovative and entrepreneurial mindset through a series of activities.

Teaching and learning: Academic programmes related to innovation and entrepreneurship (I & E) and IPR offered by the HEI.

Dedicated infrastructure and facilities to promote innovation and entrepreneurship at HEI.

Generation of innovations/ ideas with the support of HEI and recognition received.

Ventures established with the support of the HEI and recognitions received.

Angel and VC fund/investment mobilized to support innovation and startups incubated at HEI, Promotion of collaboration for and co-creation of I&E initiatives.

Intellectual Property (IP), generation and commercialization.

Annual budget on promoting and supporting I&E activities: Total expenses towards I&E and IPR support activities, total revenue generated by HEI from incubation services to startups and commercialization of IP and innovations.

Participation of HEI in I&E initiative of MOE.

About ARIIA:

It is an initiative by the Ministry of Education.

Implemented by AICTE and the Ministry’s Innovation Cell.

Objective: To systematically rank all major higher educational institutions and universities in India.


ARIIA ranking will inspire Indian institutions to reorient their mind-set and build ecosystems to encourage high quality research, innovation and entrepreneurship.

More than quantity, ARIIA will focus on quality of innovations and will try to measure the real impact created by these innovations nationally and internationally.

ARIIA rankings will also set tone and direction for institutions for future development for making them globally competitive and in forefront of innovation.

Tiangong Space Station

(GS-III: Awareness in space)

In News:

China, which is growing its presence in space, has complained to the UN detailing two alleged space incidents involving its Tiangong Space Station and two Starlink satellites from Elon Musk-founded aerospace firm, SpaceX.

Why did China approach the UN?

Both the U.S. and China are parties to the Outer Space Treaty, which is formally known as the ‘Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies’.

The multilateral treaty, adopted by the UN General Assembly, provides the basic framework on international space law.

Key provisions and their relevance in this case:

According to article VI of the treaty, nations will be responsible for national space activities whether carried out by governmental or non-governmental entities. That means the U.S. can be held responsible for the activities of the U.S.-based aerospace firm SpaceX founded by Elon Musk.

Article VII states that nations will be liable for damage caused by their space objects, such as satellites.

Article V of the treaty requires parties to immediately inform other parties or the UN Secretary-General of any phenomenon they discover in outer space, “which could constitute a danger to the life or health of astronauts”.

How does the UN help with space issues?

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs was created to service the ad hoc Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

The committee was established in 1958 shortly after the launch of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik-1.

It has been serving as a focal point for international cooperation in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space.

The Outer Space Treaty:

It came into force on October 10, 1967.

The principles embodied in the treaty has facilitated the orderly conduct of activities in outer space.

What’s the concern now?

Space-related conflicts have occurred in the past and will most likely continue to happen in the future as well, considering the growing number of activities in the space, involving different parties.

The International Space Station and China’s space station, Tiangong, which is under construction, operate in the LEO, where much of the space debris can be found.

Besides, there are about 30,000 satellites and other pieces of debris in Earth’s orbit that can reach speeds of nearly 29,000 km/h, raising the possibility of international incidents in the outer space.”

SpaceX’s internet satellite network:

It operates at 550km above the Earth’s surface in LEO, which is increasingly getting crowded. The firm has deployed about 1,900 Starlink satellites.

About China’s Space Station:

The new multi-module Tiangong station is set to be operational for at least 10 years.

The space station will operate in low-Earth orbit at an altitude of 340-450 km above Earth’s surface.

Significance of the space station:

The low orbit space station would be the country’s eye from the sky, providing round the clock bird’s-eye view for its astronauts on the rest of the world.

It shall aid China’s aim to become a major space power by 2030.


China’s space station will be equipped with a robotic-arm over which the US has raised concerns for its possible military applications.

The Concern is that this technology “could be used in a future system for grappling other satellites”.

Other space stations:

The only space station currently in orbit is the International Space Station (ISS). The ISS is backed by the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada.

So far, China has sent two previous space stations into orbit- the Tiangong-1 and Tiangong-2 were trial stations.

India is planning to launch its own space station by 2030.