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23 June, 2020

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Paper Topics Subject
GS-I Scientists detect ionospheric irregularities Human Geography
Jagannath Rath Yatra Art and Culture
GS-II Right to Information Act,2005
Russia-India-China: RIC
Arms trade treaty
GS-III Decarbonising Transport in India project
PT Pointer Decarbonising Transport project by NITI Aayog
Foldscope could be a better alternative to clinical microscope
Blazars Human Geography
Bum La Pass Human Geography
Sharavathi Monkey Park
Indian Gaur
Malabar Gliding Frog
Minks
Reverse Zoonosis
National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP) Governance
GS-I : Human Geography
Scientists detect ionospheric irregularities

Scientists detect ionospheric irregularities during major space weather events that influence communication & navigation systems

  • The Earth's magnetic field lines are nearly horizontal over magnetic equator due to which equatorial ionosphere is a bed for a variety of plasma instabilities to cause plasma disturbances and plasma irregularities.
  • These plasma irregularities pose severe problems to the communication and navigation systems and interfere with surveillance operations as well as disruption in detection and tracking of aircraft, missiles, and satellites.
  • A multi-instrument based ionospheric study of space weather storms over India by the Scientists from the Indian Institute of Geomagnetism (IIG) an autonomous institute under the Department of Science & Technology (DST) have found that the occurrence of equatorial spread F (ESF) irregularities and GPS scintillations are significantly affected by the geomagnetic storms depending upon the time of the onset of the geomagnetic storm.

Causes of Geomagnetic storms

  • The Equatorial Spread-F (ESF) caused due to the F region plasma irregularities is a complex phenomenon encompassing a wide range of scale sizes of irregularities in electron and ion densities as well as in electric fields.
  • They also produce ionospheric scintillations in VHF and GPS receivers when radio wave traverses through the ionosphere.
  • They have also found that during geomagnetic storms, partial enhancement in pre reversal enhancement (PRE) (an eastward electric field enhancement before turning the westward near the sunset hours in the equatorial ionosphere) in the zonal eastward electric field occurs during post-sunset resulting in around 30% increase in spread F instead of total inhibition during equinox and winter seasons.
  • The PRE is believed to be produced by F region dynamo, where it causes F region of the ionosphere to rise to very high altitude due to sudden increase of the eastward electric field.
  • The study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research showed occurrence of ESF in summer is suppressed by around 75% due to a partial increase in PRE.
  • The researchers observed pre-sunrise height enhancement mostly during winter, which caused ESF to occur at around 50%, followed by equinox and summer.

Importance of studying thermosphere?ionosphere-magnetosphere interactions

  • Understanding the thermosphere?ionosphere-magnetosphere interactions that control the electrodynamics behind dynamical evolution of ionospheric irregularities under disturbed periods like geomagnetic storms is most important in developing and maintaining communication and navigation systems.
  • Accordingly, the electrodynamics under these major space weather events was studied using the chain of a ground-based special type of radar Doppler ionosondes along with GPS Receivers over India for the examination of the equatorial and low latitude ionosphere.
  • The coupling of high latitude electric fields, winds, and traveling ionospheric disturbances (TIDs) on the equatorial and low latitude ionosphere were investigated during three major space weather events that occurred on 17th March, 23 June, and 20 December 2015.
  • These three magnetic storms were strong geomagnetic storms during the complete solar cycle-24 (cycle that the Sun’s magnetic field goes through approximately every 11 years).
  • The scientists observed remarkable increase of virtual height of the ionosphere to as high as 560 km over magnetic equator with vertical drift of 70 m/sec due to strong eastward direct penetration electric field which caused intense Equatorial spread F (ESF) irregularities in ionosondes and L-band scintillations in the GPS receivers across Indian region on 17th March.
  • Besides, the scientists also found that enhanced winds during geomagnetic storms can either add or suppress the existing ion densities to produce either positive or negative stormsthat modify the electrodynamics of the ionosphere, thereby influencing navigation and communication that form a crucial part of our lives.

 

 

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GS-I : Art and Culture
Jagannath Rath Yatra

Jagannath Rath Yatra

  • Ratha Jatra, also called as Chariot Festival, is a Hindu festival associated with Lord Jagannath held at Puri, Odisha.
  • The festival is celebrated on the 2nd day of Shukla Paksha of Ashadh, the third month, according to the traditional Oriya calendar.

  • It is a 9 day-long event and marks the return of Lord Krishna to Vrindavan with his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra to Gundicha Temple via Mausi Maa Temple (maternal aunt's home) near Saradha Bali, Puri.
  • During the festival, the three holy chariots carrying idols of Lord Jagannath, his brother Balaram (Balabhadra) and sister Subhadra are pulled by thousands of devotees from India and abroad.

Jagannath Temple

  • The temple is believed to be constructed in the 12th century by King Anatavarman Chodaganga Deva of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty.
  • Jagannath Puri temple is called ‘Yamanika Tirtha’ where, according to the Hindu beliefs, the power of ‘Yama’, the god of death has been nullified in Puri due to the presence of Lord Jagannath.
  • This temple was called the “White Pagoda” and is a part of Char Dham pilgrimages (Badrinath, Dwaraka, Puri, Rameswaram).
  • There are four gates to the temple- Eastern ‘Singhdwara’ which is the main gate with two crouching lions, Southern ‘Ashwadwara’, Western 'Vyaghra Dwara and Northern ‘Hastidwara’. There is a carving of each form at each gate.
  • In front of the entrance stands the Aruna stambha or sun pillar, which was originally at the Sun Temple in Konark.

The Indo-Aryan style prefers a tower with rounded top and curvilinear outline while the tower of the Southern or Dravidian style is usually in a shape of a rectangular truncated Pyramid.

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GS-II :
Right to Information Act,2005

Right to Information Act,2005

Historical Background

  • The right to information gained power when Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 providing everyone the right to seek, receive, information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
  • The International Covenant on Civil and Political rights 1966 states that everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression, the freedom to seek and impart information and ideas of all kinds.
  • According to Thomas Jefferson Information is the currency of democracy,” and critical to the emergence and development of a vibrant civil society. However, with a view to set out a practical regime for the citizens to secure information as a matter of right, the Indian Parliament enacted the Right to Information Act, 2005.
  • Genesis of RTI law started in 1986, through judgement of Supreme Court in Mr. Kulwal v/s Jaipur Municipal Corporation case, in which it directed that freedom of speech and expression provided under Article 19 of the Constitution clearly implies Right to Information, as without information the freedom of speech and expression cannot be fully used by the citizens.

Objectives of the Act

  • To empower the citizens
  • To promote transparency and accountability
  • To contain corruption and
  • To enhance people’s participation in democratic process.

Reasons for Adoption of Information Act

The factors responsible for adoption of information act are as follows-

  • Corruption and scandals
  • International pressure and activism
  • Modernization and the information society

Features of the Act

  • Section- 2 (f): "Information" means any material in any form, including Records, Documents, Memos, e-mails, Opinions, Advices, Press releases, Circulars, Orders, Logbooks, Contracts, Reports, Papers, Samples, Models, Data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a Public Authority under any other law for the time being in force.
  • Section- 2(j) : "Right to Information" means the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes the right to:
    • Inspection of work, documents, records;
    • Taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records;
    • Taking certified samples of material;
    • Obtaining information in the form of diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts where such information is stored in a computer or in any other device.

What is Public Authority?

"Public authority" means any authority or body or institution of self government established or constituted—

  • by or under the Constitution;
  • by any other law made by Parliament/State Legislature.
  • by notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government, and includes any—
    • body owned, controlled or substantially financed;
    • non-Government organisation substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government.
  • Section 4 of the RTI Act requires suo motu disclosure of information by each public authority. However, such disclosures have remained less than satisfactory.
  • Section 8 (1) mentions exemptions against furnishing information under RTI Act.
  • Section 8 (2) provides for disclosure of information exempted under Official Secrets Act, 1923 if larger public interest is served.
  • The Act also provides for appointment of Information Commissioners at Central and State level. Public authorities have designated some of its officers as Public Information Officer. They are responsible to give information to a person who seeks information under the RTI Act.
  • Time period: In normal course, information to an applicant is to be supplied within 30 days from the receipt of application by the public authority.
    • If information sought concerns the life or liberty of a person, it shall be supplied within 48 hours.
    • In case the application is sent through the Assistant Public Information Officer or it is sent to a wrong public authority, five days shall be added to the period of thirty days or 48 hours, as the case may be.

Importance

  • The RTI Act, 2005 did not create a new bureaucracy for implementing the law. Instead, it tasked and mandated officials in every office to change their attitude and duty from one of secrecy to one of sharing and openness.
    • It carefully and deliberately empowered the Information Commission to be the highest authority in the country with the mandate to order any office in the country to provide information as per the provisions of the Act. And it empowered the Commission to fine any official who did not follow the mandate.
  • Right to information has been seen as the key to strengthening participatory democracy and ushering in people centred governance.
  • Access to information can empower the poor and the weaker sections of society to demand and get information about public policies and actions, thereby leading to their welfare. It showed an early promise by exposing wrongdoings at high places, such as in the organisation of the Commonwealth Games, and the allocation of 2G spectrum and coal blocks.
  • Right to information opens up government’s records to public scrutiny, thereby arming citizens with a vital tool to inform them about what the government does and how effectively, thus making the government more accountable.
  • Improves decision making by public authority by removing unnecessary secrecy.

Challenges

  • Different types of information is sought which has no public interest and sometimes can be used to misuse the law and harass the public authorities. For example-
    • Asking for desperate and voluminous information.
    • To attain publicity by filing RTI
    • RTI filed as vindictive tool to harass or pressurize the public authority
  • Because of the illiteracy and unawareness among the majority of population in the country, the RTI cannot be exercised.
  • Though RTI’s aim is not to create a grievance redressal mechanism, the notices from Information Commissions often spur the public authorities to redress grievances.

RTI vs Legislations for Non Disclosure of Information

  • Some provisions of Indian Evidence Act (Sections 123, 124, and 162) provide to hold the disclosure of documents.
    • Under these provisions, head of department may refuse to provide information on affairs of state and only swearing that it is a state secret will entitle not to disclose the information.
    • In a similar manner no public officer shall be compelled to disclose communications made to him in official confidence.
  • The Atomic Energy Act, 1912 provides that it shall be an offence to disclose information restricted by the Central Government.
  • The Central Civil Services Act provides a government servant not to communicate or part with any official documents except in accordance with a general or special order of government.
  • The Official Secrets Act, 1923 provides that any government official can mark a document as confidential so as to prevent its publication.

RTI vs Right to Privacy

  • Conceptually, RTI and the right to privacy are both complementary as well as in conflict to each other.
  • While RTI increases access to information, the right to privacy protects it instead.
  • At the same time they both function, as citizen rights safeguarding liberty, against state’s overreach.

When the question of harmonising the contradicting rights arises, it should

  • give justice to the larger public interest
  • advance the public morality

RTI vs OSA

The OSA was enacted in 1923 by the British to keep certain kinds of information confidential, including, but not always limited to, information involving the affairs of state, diplomacy, national security, espionage, and other state secrets.

  • Whenever there is a conflict between the two laws, the provisions of the RTI Act override those of the OSA.
  • Section 22 of the RTI Act states that its provisions will have effect notwithstanding anything that is inconsistent with them in the OSA.
  • Similarly, under Section 8(2) of the RTI Act, a public authority may allow access to information covered under the OSA, “if the public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interest”.

RTI and Political Parties

Why activists want political parties to be brought under RTI?

  • To contain corruption
  • Huge donations from corporates which lead to favouritism or crony capitalism
  • Illegal foreign contribution
  • The leader of the opposition is statutorily mandated to be part of the select committees to choose Chairperson for CIC, Lokpal, CBI Director and CVC
  • Various members of the opposition are also part of various parliamentary committees
  • They enjoy multiple benefits like concessional office spaces, free airtime on DD & AIR from govt

Stand of Political Parties

  • PP’s are not public authorities, hence cannot be brought under RTI Act.
  • Disclosed information can be misused.
  • Can disclose financial information under the IT Act.

Recent Amendments

  • The RTI amendment Bill 2013 removes political parties from the ambit of the definition of public authorities and hence from the purview of the RTI Act.
  • The draft provision 2017 which provides for closure of case in case of death of applicant can lead to more attacks on the lives of whistleblowers.
  • The proposed RTI Amendment Act 2018 is aimed at giving the Centre the power to fix the tenures and salaries of state and central information commissioners, which are statutorily protected under the RTI Act. The move will dilute the autonomy and independence of CIC.
  • The Act proposes to replace the fixed 5 year tenure to as much prescribed by government.

Other Issues

  • Information commissioners do not have adequate authorities to enforce the RTI Act.
  • In case of award of compensation to activist by public authority as ordered by commision, compliance cannot be secured.
  • Poor record-keeping practices
  • Lack of adequate infrastructure and staff for running information commissions
  • Dilution of supplementary laws like the whistleblowers protection Act.

 

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GS-II :
Russia-India-China: RIC

Russia-India-China: RIC

GS-Paper-2  IO RIC

Recently, the Ministry of External Affairs has announced that it will participate in the virtual meeting of the Russia-India-China (RIC) grouping scheduled to be held on 23rd June, 2020. It can be noted that the RIC was also a platform for the first meeting between India and China in New Delhi after the end of Doklam standoff.

Special Session: This special session of the RIC has been called by the current Chair- Russia to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the victory in the second world war over Nazism and creation of the United Nations (24th October, 2020). It will also discuss the current situation of the global pandemic and the challenges of global security, financial stability and RIC cooperation in that context.

  • India’s Stand: The Indian decision to go ahead with the ministerial level exchange has created an opening for de-escalation of tension along the Line of Actual Control.
  • China’s Stand: While confirming the participation in the meeting, China has also agreed to control the situation in the border areas.
  • Russia’s Stand: Russia indicated that it would support “constructive dialogue” over the tension in eastern Ladakh as Russia is trusted by both India and China
  • Regional Connectivity:

Regional connectivity projects such as the International North South Transport Corridor involving India, Russia and Iran are expected to figure in the agenda.

      • International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), is multi-modal transportation established in 2000 in St. Petersburg, by Iran, Russia and India for the purpose of promoting transportation cooperation among the Member States.
      • This corridor connects India Ocean and the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea via the Islamic Republic of Iran and then is connected to St. Petersburg and North Europe via the Russian Federation.
  • No Bilateral Issues: However, the focus of the meeting will be on global coronavirus pandemic and no bilateral issues will be discussed.

RIC

  • RIC is a strategic grouping that first took shape in the late 1990s under the leadership of Yevgeny Primakov, a Russian politician as “a counterbalance to the Western alliance.”
  • The group was founded on the basis of ending its subservient foreign policy guided by the USA and renewing old ties with India and fostering the newly discovered friendship with China.
  • Together, the RIC countries occupy over 19% of the global landmass and contribute to over 33% of global GDP.

Relevance of RIC for India

  • Strategic Balance: Along with JAI, India would do well to give RIC the same importance. The groupings like the Quad and the JAI essentially revolve around the Indo Pacific and will confine India to being only a maritime power when it is actually both a maritime and continental power.
  • Forum for Cooperation: Even though India, China and Russia may disagree on a number of security issues in Eurasia, there are areas where their interests converge, like, for instance, on Afghanistan. RIC can ensure stable peace in Afghanistan and by extension, in Central Asia. Regular RIC interactions could also help the three countries identify other issues where they have congruent views like the volatile situation in West Asia.
  • Creation of New Order: Contribute to creating a new economic structure for the world. The US apparently wants to break down the current economic and political order. While the existing structure is not satisfactory, the RIC could offer some suggestions which could be acceptable to the US.
  • Governance over Arctic: With the Northern Sea Route opening up due to climate change, the RIC has a common interest in ensuring that it is not left to the West and Russia alone and that India and China also have major say in rules governing the Arctic route.
  • Other Aspects: They could work together on disaster relief and humanitarian assistance.

Issues

  • India has traditionally avoided taking sides in international politics, especially between the great powers, preferring its traditional nonalignment. However, China’s hostile attitude towards India in recent years is increasingly forcing India to confront.
  • This makes it difficult to see how engagements through platforms such as RIC, are going to alter the basic conflictual nature of relations between India and China.
  • Even though Russia has remained an old friend for India, it is increasingly under stress to follow China’s dictates. E.g. earlier, it openly opposed the Indo-Pacific concept at the Raisina Dialogue.
  • On issues such as Jammu and Kashmir, which China raised at the UN Security Council, Russia preferred taking a middle position, not supporting India’s stand entirely.

Way Forward

India is committed to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity in the border areas and RIC would give the platform for resolution of differences (along the Indo-China Border) through dialogue.

Moreover, the RIC forms the core of both the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the BRICS as greater cooperation between China, India and Russia would lead to strengthening of both SCO and BRICS.

The RIC is a significant multilateral grouping, because it brings together the three largest Eurasian countries which are also incidentally geographically contiguous. RIC, hence provides a worthwhile platform to discuss issues like West Asia, Afghanistan, climate change, terrorism, regional connectivity, tensions on Korean Peninsula, etc.

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GS-II :
Arms trade treaty

Arms trade treaty

GS-Paper-2 IO PT-MAINS

President Donald Trump pulled the US back from an international agreement on the arms trade (signed in 2013 by then-President Barack Obama), telling the National Rifle Association the treaty is “badly misguided.” Trump made the announcement at the NRA’s annual convention, where he vowed to fight for gun rights and implored members of the nation’s largest pro-gun group — struggling to maintain its influence — to rally behind his re-election bid. He would be revoking the United States’ status as a signatory of the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty, which regulates the multibillion-dollar global arms trade in conventional weapons, from small arms to battle tanks, combat aircraft and warships.

Dropping out of the treaty is part of a broader Trump administration overhaul of arms export policies to bolster a domestic industry that already dominates global weapons trade.

Can the numbers speak?

  • According to Amnesty International, more than 500 people die every day from gun violence, 44 percent of all killings globally involve gun violence, and there were over 1 million firearm-related deaths globally between 2012 and 2016.
  • In contrast, military expenditure is on the rise.
  • According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the U.S. continues to be the top global exporter of arms and the 13th global importer (with Saudi Arabia holding the first position), with a total military expenditure in 2018 of $6.5 billion. This is more than 120 times the U.N. budget for the period 2018-2019.

Origin

The roots of what is known today as the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) can be traced back to the late 1980s, when civil society actors and Nobel Peace Prize Laureates voiced their concerns about the unregulated nature of the global arms trade and its impact on human security.

The ATT is part of a larger global effort begun in 1997 by Costa Rican President and 1987 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Óscar Arias. In that year, Arias led a group of Nobel Peace Prize laureates in a meeting in New York to offer the world a code of conduct for the trade in arms.

  • In 2001, the process continued with the adoption of a non-legally binding program of action at the United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms. This program was formally called the “Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects” (PoA).
  • Later put forward in 2003 by a group of Nobel Peace Laureates, the ATT was first addressed in the UN in December 2006 when the General Assembly adopted resolution 61/89 “Towards an Arms Trade Treaty: establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms”.

The lack of an international global framework for the trade in arms was profoundly worrisome given the immense volume of the global trade in conventional arms and its potential effect in the disruption of peace and sustainable development.

The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is a multilateral treaty that regulates the international trade in conventional weapons. Its objectives include:

  • Establish the highest possible common international standards for regulating or improving the regulation of the international trade in conventional arms;
  • Prevent and eradicate the illicit trade in conventional arms and prevent their diversion;

For the purpose of:

  • Contributing to international and regional peace, security and stability;
  • Reducing human suffering;
  • Promoting cooperation, transparency and responsible action by States Parties in the international trade in conventional arms, thereby building confidence among States Parties.”

Other relevant aspects of the treaty to be highlighted are:

  • its scope includes small arms and light weapons;
  • State Parties have the obligation to establish and maintain a national control system to regulate the export of ammunition/munitions
  • the treaty establishes a system to conduct an assessment, including the consideration of possible mitigation measures, before authorizing an export of weapons
  • it includes measures to prevent the diversion of arms
  • It includes a yearly reporting mechanism of authorized or actual exports and imports of conventional arms.

In a nutshell, the ATT sets out global standards to conduct legal and rightful activities in a transparent manner. This, in turn, helps to identify where and how arms are diverted into the illicit market and raises the bar regarding accountability for irresponsible transfers of arms.

It entered into force on 24 December 2014. 101 states have ratified the treaty; 34 states have signed but not ratified it.

Gun activists had denounced the treaty when it was under negotiation as an infringement of civilian firearm ownership, despite the well-enshrined legal principle that says no treaty can override the Constitution or U.S. laws. The treaty is aimed at cracking down on illicit trading in small arms, thereby curbing violence in some of the most troubled corners of the world.

It was the first legally binding treaty to regulate the international trade in conventional arms and was overwhelmingly approved by the 193-member U.N. General Assembly in April 2013.

India’s stand on ATT

India is not in favour of this UN treaty because of the following reasons:

IAEA and OPCW have mechanism to check compliance. But such strong verification mechanism is absent in ATT. Does not explicitly cover drones and grenades. India cannot accept that the Treaty be used as an instrument in the hands of exporting states to take unilateral force majeure measures against importing states parties without consequences.

Treaty speaks about crime and genocide but does not boldly underline the diversion of weapons to terrorist and non-state actors. In past, USA and its allies have armed of rebels in Nicaragua, Syria, Libya, even, Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Treaty is biased: puts higher responsibility on importer country than exporter. Exporting nation can stop arms-ammunition supply, citing reason of poor compliance with the treaty.

India always favoured disarmament and regulations over international trade of weapons. But ATT is neither inclusive nor balanced in nature. Therefore, India has abstained.

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GS-III :
Decarbonising Transport in India project

Decarbonising Transport in India project

GS- PAPER-3 Pollution PT-MAINS

NITI Aayog in collaboration with International Transport Forum will launch the 'Decarbonising Transport in India' project on with the intention to develop a pathway towards a low-carbon transport system for India.

Imp Points

  • India has been a member of ITF, an intergovernmental organisation for transport policy, since 2008. The online event will inform transport and climate stakeholders in India about planned project activities.
  • It will also offer the opportunity to provide inputs regarding India’s transport challenges and how they relate to CO2 reduction ambitions.
  • The discussion will help to focus the project further on India’s specific needs and circumstances. The “Decarbonising Transport in India” project will design a tailor-made transport emissions assessment framework for India.
  • It will provide the government with a detailed understanding of current and future transport activity and the related CO2 emissions as a basis for their decision-making. 
  • The India project is carried out in the wider context of the International Transport Forum’s Decarbonising Transport initiative.

It is part of the Decarbonising Transport in Emerging Economies (DTEE) family of projects, which supports transport decarbonisation across different world regions. India, Argentina, Azerbaijan, and Morocco are current participants. The DTEE is a collaboration between the ITF and the Wuppertal Institute, supported by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.

About International Transport Forum

  • The International Transport Forum (ITF) is an inter-governmental organisation within the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) system.
  • It is the only global body with a mandate for all modes of transport. It acts as a think tank for transport policy issues and organises the annual global summit of transport ministers.
  • The organization brings together 60 member countries with the aim to advance the global transport policy agenda, and ensure that it continues to contribute to sustainable development, prosperity, social inclusion and the protection of human life and well-being.
  • The ITF maintains the International Road Traffic and Accident Database (IRTAD), a comprehensive database of statistics related to road safety.
  • India has been a member of ITF, an intergovernmental organisation for transport policy, since 2008. 
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GS-III :
Decarbonising Transport project by NITI Aayog

Decarbonising Transport: International Project to Develop Pathway to Low-CO2 Mobility for India

  • NITI Aayog in collaboration with International Transport Forum (ITF) will launch the “Decarbonising Transport in India” project on 24 June, with the intention to develop a pathway towards a low-carbon transport system for India.
  • India has been a member of ITF, an intergovernmental organisation for transport policy, since 2008.
  • The online event will inform transport and climate stakeholders in India about planned project activities. It will also offer the opportunity to provide inputs regarding India’s transport challenges and how they relate to CO2 reduction ambitions.
  • The discussion will help to focus the project further on India’s specific needs and circumstances.
  • The “Decarbonising Transport in India” project will design a tailor-made transport emissions assessment framework for India.
  • It will provide the government with a detailed understanding of current and future transport activity and the related CO2 emissions as a basis for their decision-making.
  • It is part of the “Decarbonising Transport in Emerging Economies” (DTEE) family of projects, which supports transport decarbonisation across different world regions. India, Argentina, Azerbaijan, and Morocco are current participants.
  • The DTEE is a collaboration between the ITF and the Wuppertal Institute, supported by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.

About International Transport Forum

  • The International Transport Forum at the OECD is an intergovernmental organisation with 60 member countries.
  • It acts as a  think tank for transport policy and organises the Annual Summit of transport ministers.
  • ITF is the only global body that covers all transport modes.
  • The ITF is administratively integrated with the OECD, yet politically autonomous.
  • The ITF organises global dialogue for better transport.
  • It acts as a platform for discussion and pre-negotiation of policy issues across all transport modes.
  • It analyses trends, share knowledge and promote exchange among transport decision-makers and civil society. The ITF’s Annual Summit is the world’s largest gathering of transport ministers and the leading global platform for dialogue on transport policy.
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GS-III :
Foldscope could be a better alternative to clinical microscope

Foldscope could be a better alternative to clinical microscope

  • Foldscope is an affordable origami-based microscopy device composed of a series of paper clippings.
  • (Origami is the Japanese art of folding paper into decorative shapes and figures)
  • Upon assembly, the device can hold a specimen slide for observation, and this specimen can be viewed via a mobile phone camera attached to it.

Dr. Alka Rao‘s group at the Institute of Microbial Technology (IMTECH), Chandigarh, in collaboration with a team of doctors from a government hospital in Panchkula, Haryana, a private hospital in the National Capital Region (NCR), and a medical college from Imphal, have explored and validated the clinical utility of Foldscope in the diagnosis of diseases using various patient samples.

  • The study evaluated the use of the Foldscope in the clinical diagnosis of oral and urinary tract infections and evaluated its efficacy as a motivational tool for improving oral health among school children in India.
  • The study identifies that Foldscope is particularly convenient to diagnose urinary tract infection (UTI) and monitor kidney stone.
  • Using this tool, one can easily monitor own-kidney stone status at home with a simple glass-slide, a Foldscope and a phone in hand.
  • Such monitoring could perhaps avoid kidney stone reaching a painful state or surgery in recurring cases.
  • Given the ease of operation and low cost, Foldscope may be employed in public healthcare centres for primary diagnosis of oral health and UTI or as personal health monitoring device.
  • To do the assessment, a patient sample like urine is smeared on a transparent glass slide and visualized under a Foldscope mounted on a cell phone.
  • Sample images can be enlarged using the zoom function of the mobile, which can be stored on mobile memory card for later reference/patient records.
  • Foldscope can be assembled using paper clips and mounted on cell phone using coupler and glue drops.
  • The researchers qualitatively compared the Foldscope to a clinical microscope by examining five different types of clinical samples.
  • Of the different types of clinical samples, the Foldscope was effective in detecting infection in dental plaque samples and urine samples.

 

  • Based on the study findings, Foldscope appeared to be capable of visualizing calcium oxalate crystals, which are a major cause of kidney stones.
  • The Foldscope can be used as an in-house diagnostic tool and personal health monitoring tool on a routine basis due to its affordability and zero maintenance cost.

The study findings have been published in the Journal of Microscopy.

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GS-I : Human Geography
Blazars

Study of optical properties of super-massive black-hole can provide clue to emission mechanism from its close vicinity

Context

Through 153 nights, 17 scientists from 9 countries in Europe and Asia including researchers from Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES), Nainital, an autonomous institution of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India took 2263 image frames and observed the changes in a very high energy gamma-ray emitting blazar ‘1ES 0806+524’ using seven optical telescopes in Europe and Asia.

Blazar

  • A blazar is a feeding super-massive black-hole (SMBH) in the heart of a distant galaxy that produces a high-energy jet viewed face-on from Earth. Blazars are one of the most luminous and energetic objects in the known universe with a jet composed of ionized matter traveling at nearly the speed of light directed very nearly towards an observer.
  • Blazars are among one of the most favourite astronomical transient objects because they emit radiation in the complete EM spectrum, and their flux and polarization are highly variable.

Study

  • The team studied in great details 1ES 0806+524’ flux, color, and spectral index variations within a day and long timescales of the blazer and explained the mechanism behind the variations.
  • They explained the large flares as the result of propagation of a shock in the relativistic jet that accelerates electrons to high energies followed by subsequent cooling.
  • According to their study, the small amplitude changes can be understood to arise from small variations in the viewing angle, and hence in the Doppler factor, caused by either wiggling or helical jets or the motion of the most intense emitting region on a roughly helical trajectory within the jet.
  • Variations on intra-day timescales can be explained by the turbulence expected in a relativistic plasma jet according to the study.
  • In this age of multi-wavelength (MW) time-domain astronomy in which the transient astronomical sources are of great interest due to their rapid change in flux and polarization.
  • Simultaneous MW observation of a particular transient source on an extended period of time is important for understanding the emission mechanism in different electromagnetic (EM) bands.
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GS-I : Human Geography
Bum La Pass

Bum La Pass

The Bum La Pass is a mountain pass located at the Indo-China border above 15,200 ft above sea level, it is about 37 km away from Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. The road to Bum La is also a historical route, the People's Liberation Army of China invaded India during the 1962 Sino-Indian War.

In 2006, Bumla pass was re-opened to traders for the first time in 44 years. Traders from both sides of the pass were permitted to enter each other's territories, in addition to postal workers from each country. The area includes route taken by the 14th Dalai Lama when he escaped China and reached India to take refuge.

It is one of the five officially agreed Border Personnel Meeting points between the Indian Army and the People's Liberation Army of China for regular consultations and interactions between the two armies to improve relations.

Other important pass in Arunachal Pradesh are

  • Bodmi La
  • Tulung La
  • Sela La

Border Personnel Meeting points

Border Personnel Meeting points are locations along the disputed Sino-Indian border where the armies of both countries hold ceremonial and practical meetings to resolve border issues and improve relations. While border meetings have been held since the 1990s, the first formal Border Personnel Meeting point was established in 2013.

There are five meeting points, two in the Indian Union Territory of Ladakh, one in Sikkim, and two in Arunachal Pradesh, they are as follows

  • Daulet Beg Oldi - Ladakh 
  • Chushul - Ladakh   
  • Natha La - Sikkim   
  • Bum La - Arunachal Pradesh    
  • Kibithu - Arunachal Pradesh     

International Boundary Lines between India-China

  • Line of Actual Control (LAC) - Line of Actual Control (LAC) is a ceasefire line that separates the Indian-controlled state of Jammu and Kashmir from the Chinese-controlled area known as Aksai Chin.
  • The McMahon Line – It is the demarcation line between Tibet and the North-east region of India proposed by British colonial administrator Henry McMahon at the 1914 Shimla Convention signed between British and Tibetan representatives.
  • It is currently the effective boundary between China and India, although its legal status is disputed by the Chinese government.
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GS-III :
Sharavathi Monkey Park

Sharavathi Monkey Park

Karnataka government has decided to develop a monkey park in Shivamogga district. The monkey park will be established on the uninhabited islands in the Sharavathi backwaters region. The park will be the first such in the state and will be set up on 100 acres of land at the Nagavalli forest in Hosanagara taluk, Shivamogga district.

The proposed 100-acre monkey park will have fruit-bearing trees, water sources, and solar fence will be put up around the area to avoid monkeys venturing outside the park premises. The idea came up following a spike in the cases of monkeys raiding agricultural and plantation crops in Malnad region in recent times and several protests by farmers.  As a solution to the menace, the State government took a decision to establish the park and in the 2020-21 budget, ?6.25 crore was allocated for the purpose.

In Himachal Pradesh, there are state-of-the-art monkey sterilization and rehabilitation centers to address the monkey menace, however it has failed to attain its objective.

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GS-III :
Indian Gaur

Indian Gaur

The Indian Gaur or Bison (Bos gaurus) is the largest and the tallest in the family of wild cattle and is a grazing animal. It is categorized as vulnerable under IUCN Red List, and protected under Wild Life Protection Act, 1972: Schedule I.

It is kept well and protected in some of the famous national parks of India like Nagarhole, Bandipur, Kabini and Masinagudi (Mudumalai). The destruction in the grasslands has led to the decline in availability of food for these animals.

The illegal hunting of the Indian bison is done for their commercial value as well as due to the high demand of gaur meat in the illegal market of India-Nepal border. Recently, the first population estimation exercise of the Indian Gaur (Bison) was carried out in the Nilgiris Forest Division, Tamil Nadu.

World Wide Fund for Nature India assisted the exercise and highlighted that there are estimated 2,000 Indian gaurs across the division.

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GS-III :
Malabar Gliding Frog

Malabar Gliding Frog

Recently, a rare amphibian, Malabar Gliding Frog (Rhacophorus malabaricus) was spotted in Pullad, Kerala. In the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List it is placed in the Least Concern category. The amphibian is endemic to the rainforest of western ghats.

Endemic species are those plants and animals that exist only in one geographical region. It is a green frog with slender body, webbed feet, unusual body positions and very well camouflaged.

Camouflage, also called cryptic coloration, is a defense mechanism or tactic that organisms use to disguise their appearance, usually to blend in with their surroundings. It has a body length of 10 cm, making it one of the largest mossy frogs.

Mossy Frogs, have the skin which is green in colour and resembles moss growing on the rock. As their body is so soft, they can live only in moist forests with streams.

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GS-III :
Minks

Minks

Minks are small semi-aquatic mammals raised for their fur. Mink oil is used in some medical products and cosmetics, as well as to treat, preserve and waterproof leather.

There are two extant species referred to as "mink" - the American mink and the European mink. All European mink have a large white patch on their upper lip, whereas only some American mink have this marking, therefore, any mink without the patch is certainly of the American species.

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GS-III :
Reverse Zoonosis

Reverse Zoonosis

Zoonosis is an infectious disease caused by a pathogen that has jumped from an animal to a human. When the pathogen is transmitted from human to animals, it is known as reverse zoonosis.

The animal infected through the process may in turn re-transmit the infection to humans under some circumstances. Recently novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has begun infecting minks farms in the Netherlands.

It could largely have been transmitted through indirect routes such as through feed or bedding material, infectious droplets or by contaminated dust from the bedding. Literature has shown that the phenomenon of reverse zoonosis can also happen in case of other pathogens such as resistant bacteria. This can add to the greater spread of bacterial infections in animals. It can also involve an increased use of antibiotics to treat or prevent such infections, eventually contributing to another slow pandemic of antimicrobial resistance.

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GS-II : Governance
National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP)

National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP)

  • NIPFP is India’s premier economic think tank - a centre for research in public economics and policies, located in Delhi.
  • It is an autonomous body set up jointly by the Ministry of Finance, the erstwhile Planning Commission, and several state governments.
  • It was founded in 1976 and registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.
  • It undertakes research, policy advocacy and capacity building in areas related to public economics.
  • One of the major mandates of the institute is to assist the Central, State and Local governments in formulating and reforming public policies by providing an analytical base.
  • It receives an annual grant from the Ministry of Finance and various State governments, however it maintains an independent non-government character.
  • It includes the Revenue Secretary, Economic Affairs Secretary and the Chief Economic Advisor from the Union Finance Ministry and representatives from NITI Aayog, RBI and 3 state governments.
  • The usual tenure of a chairman is four years, which can be extended.
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