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31st July Current Affairs

AERA Amendment Bill, 2021

(GS-III: Economy; Infrastructure)

In News:

The Lok Sabha passed the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (AERA) Amendment Bill, 2021 and seeks to amend the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India Act, 2008.

Background:

The 2008 Act established the Airport Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA).  AERA regulates tariffs and other charges (such as airport development fees) for aeronautical services rendered at major airports in India.

What are the new provisions?

The 2008 Act designates an airport as a major airport if it has annual passenger traffic of at least 35 lakh. As per the Bill, the central government may also designate any airport as a major airport by a notification.

It will allow AERA to regulate tariff and other charges for aeronautical services for not just major airports with annual passenger traffic of more than 35 lakh, but also a group of airports.

Profitable Clubbing: The government will be able to club profitable and non-profitable airports as a combination/package to bidders to make it a viable combination for investment under PPP (Public-Private Partnership) mode.

Need for reforms:

Typically, airports run the risk of becoming a monopoly because cities usually have one civilian airport which controls all aeronautical services in that area.

To ensure that private airport operators do not misuse their monopoly, the need for an independent tariff regulator in the airport sector was felt.

Benefits of the new legislation:

  • Helps in improving and expanding the air connectivity to relatively remote areas expediting the UDAN regional connectivity scheme.
  • Encourages the development of smaller airports.

Arctic Science Ministerial

(GS-II: Important international institutions)

In News:

Information regarding India’s participation in the 3rd Arctic Science Ministerial (ASM3) was recently given in Parliament by the Government.

Details:

It was jointly organised by Iceland and Japan and is the first Ministerial meeting held in Asia.

The theme for this year is ‘Knowledge for a Sustainable Arctic’.

Background:

The first two meetings—ASM1 and ASM2—were held in the USA in 2016 and Germany in 2018, respectively.

The meetings are designed to provide opportunities to various stakeholders to enhance collective understanding of the Arctic region, emphasize and engage in constant monitoring, and strengthen observations.

Need for international collaboration and cooperation in maintaining the Arctic region:

Arctic warming and its ice melt are global concerns as they play a pivotal role in regulating climate, sea levels, and maintaining biodiversity. Moreover, there is growing evidence of connection between the Arctic and the Indian Ocean (which modulates the Indian monsoon).

Hence, improving the understanding of physical processes and quantifying the impact of Arctic ice melt on the Indian summer monsoon is very important.

India and the Arctic:

India’s engagement with the Arctic dates back to 1920 with the signing of the Svalbard Treaty in Paris.

Since July 2008, India has had a permanent research station in the Arctic called Himadri at NyAlesund, Svalbard Area in Norway.

It has also deployed a multi-sensor moored observatory called IndARC in the Kongsfjorden fjord since July 2014.

India’s contributions further in Arctic:

The country would deploy open ocean mooring in the Arctic for long-term monitoring of upper ocean variables and marine meteorological parameters.

The launch of NISER (NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar) satellite mission, in collaboration with the USA, is underway. NISER aims to conduct global measurements of the cause and consequences of land surface changes using advanced radar imaging.

India’s contributions to the Sustained Arctic Observational Network (SAON) are continuing.

Delta variant as contagious as chicken pox

(GS-II: Health)

The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) has revealed that:

The Delta variant of the coronavirus spreads as easily as chickenpox with a transmission rate up to nine times more than the original strain.

Breakthrough cases in vaccinated individuals may be as transmissible as unvaccinated cases.

Infection with the Delta variant produces virus amounts in the airways that are tenfold higher than what is seen in people infected with the Alpha variant, which is also highly contagious.

What is a Virus Variant?

Variants of a virus have one or more mutations that differentiate it from the other variants that are in circulation. While most mutations are deleterious for the virus, some make it easier for the virus to survive.

The SARS-CoV-2 (Corona) virus is evolving fast because of the scale at which it has infected people around the world. High levels of circulation mean it is easier for the virus to change as it is able to replicate faster.

What is a mutation?

A mutation means a change in the genetic sequence of the virus.

In the case of SARS-CoV-2, which is an Ribonucleic acid (RNA) virus, a mutation means a change in the sequence in which its molecules are arranged.

A mutation in an RNA virus often happens when the virus makes a mistake while it is making copies of itself.

What is Delta Variant?

The Delta variant (B.1.617.2) was first detected in India. The variant contains multiple mutations in the spike protein.

Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana

(GS-II: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population)

In News:

The government has said that under the schemes implemented by the Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare (DA&FW) at least 30 percent of the expenditure allocated for agricultural schemes is being incurred for women to bring them into mainstream agriculture. This mainly includes Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana.

About Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana:

It was started in 2011.

The “Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana” (MKSP) is a sub component of the Deendayal Antodaya Yojana-NRLM (DAY-NRLM).

It seeks to improve the present status of women in Agriculture, and to enhance the opportunities available to empower her.

MKSP recognizes the identity of “Mahila” as “Kisan” and strives to build the capacity of women in the domain of agro-ecologically sustainable practices.

Upto 60% (90% for North Eastern States) of the funding support for such projects is provided by the government.

The focus of MKSP is on:

Capacitating smallholders to adopt sustainable climate resilient agro-ecology and eventually create a pool of skilled community professionals.

Need for feminization of agriculture:

Most of the women-headed households are not able to access extension services, farmers support institutions and production assets like seed, water, credit, subsidy etc. As agricultural workers, women are paid lower wage than men.