Daily Current Affairs: 26th October 2019: The Hindu+PIB
The following compilation has been made keeping in mind the need of the UPSC IAS exam. Each and every topic which has been included in this compilation is taken from very authentic and relevant source including The Hindu, The Indian Express, Business Standard, Press Information Bureau, etc.
As per the evolving pattern of the UPSC IAS prelims and mains exam each and every topic has been handpicked keeping in mind the syllabus of the exam.
Context: Google has claimed “quantum supremacy” over the most powerful supercomputers in the world by solving a problem considered virtually impossible for normal machines. The feat has been achieved by Google with the help of the company’s state-of-the-art quantum computer, called Sycamore. About the achievement
The quantum computer completed the complex computation in 200 seconds. That same calculation would take even the most powerful supercomputers approximately 10,000 years to finish.
The quantum computer of Google consists of microscopic circuits of superconducting metal that entangle 53 qubits in a complex superposition state.
Although this Google achievement is certainly a feat in the world of quantum computing, the field is still in its infancy and practical quantum computers remain far on the horizon.
What is Quantum Supremacy?
John Preskill, proposed the term in 2012 by professor of theoretical physics at the California Institute of Technology. It describes the point where quantum computers can do things that classical computers cannot.
Quantum supremacy, or “quantum advantage” is the point at which quantum computers can solve problems that are practically unsolvable for “classical” (non-quantum) computers to complete in any reasonable timeframe. It is generally believed that at least 49 qubits are required to cross the quantum supremacy line.
Qubits behave very differently to bits in classical computers. Bits represent either a “1” or a “0”. In contrast, qubits can represent a combination state made up of both “1” and “0” due to the peculiar quantum effects in which properties like particle position, direction, and momentum are not well-defined.
What is Quantum Computer? A quantum computer seeks to exploit the laws that govern the behaviour of atoms and subatomic particles. The defining property of a quantum computer is the ability to turn classical memory states into quantum memory states, and vice-versa which is not possible with present-day computers because they are carefully designed to ensure that the memory never deviates from clearly defined informational states.
Context: The details of IndiGen initiative has been recently announced by the Union Minister of Science and Technology. Key highlights of the Initiative
Under the IndiGen Genome project, the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) has conducted Whole Genome Sequencing of 1,008 Indians from different populations across the country.
The IndiGen initiative was undertaken by CSIR in April 2019, which was implemented by the CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), Delhi and CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad.
This has enabled benchmarking the scalability of genome sequencing and computational analysis at population scale in a defined timeline. The outcomes of the IndiGen will have applications in a number of areas including predictive and preventive medicine with faster and efficient diagnosis of rare genetic diseases.
The major aim of the exercise was twofold:
- To test the possibility of rapidly and reliably scanning several genomes and advising people on health risks that are manifest in their gene.
- To understand the variation and frequency of certain genes that are known to be linked to disease.
This CSIR exercise ties into a larger programme coordinated by the Department of Biotechnology, which plans to scan nearly 20,000 Indian genomes over the next 5 years, in a two-phase exercise, and develop diagnostic tests that can be used to test for cancer. Key Takeaways:
- CSIR was established by the Government of India in September 1942.
- It is mainly funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology, but it operates as an autonomous body through the Societies Registration Act, 1860.
- Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary of DST took additional charge as director general of CSIR, with effect from August 24, 2018.
Key Achievements of CSIR:
It developed India’s first synthetic drug, methaqualone in 1950.
It developed first Indian tractor Swaraj in 1967 completely based on indigenous know-how.
- It achieved the first breakthrough of flowering of Bamboo within weeks as against twenty years in nature.
- It was the first to analyse genetic diversity of the indigenous Andamanese tribes and to establish their origin out of Africa 60,000 years ago.
- It developed the first transgenic Drosophila model for drug screening for cancer in humans.
- It invented, once a week non-steroidal family planning pill Saheli and non-steroidal herbal pill for asthma called Asmon.
- It designed India’s first ever parallel processing computer, Flosolver.
- It rejuvenated India’s one-hundred-year-old refinery at Digboi using the most modern molecular distillation technology.
- Along with TCS, it developed a versatile portable PC-based software ‘Bio-Suite’ for bioinformatics.
- It put forward the design of 14 seater plane ‘SARAS’.
- It established first ever in the world ‘Traditional Knowledge Digital Library’ accessible in five international languages, English, German, French, Japanese and Spanish.
- It successfully challenged the grant of patent in the USA for use of haldi (turmeric) for wound healing and neem as insecticide.
- In 2009, completed the sequencing of the Human Genome.
- In 2011, successfully tested India’s 1st indigenous civilian aircraft, NAL NM5 made in association with National Aerospace Laboratories and Mahindra Aerospace.
New Rules under RTI
Context: Right to Information (Term of Office, Salaries, Allowances and Other Terms and Conditions of Service of Chief Information Commissioner, Information Commissioners and State Information Commissioners) Rules, 2019 was recently notified by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.
Key highlights of the new rule
The new rules have reduced the tenure of Information Commissioners from current 5 years to 3 years.
Further, the new rules give the government the discretion to decide on “conditions of service” for which no express provisions are made in the rules.
The new rules have fixed the salary of the Chief Information Commissioner at Rs. 2.5 lakh and that of an Information Commissioner’s at Rs. 2.25 lakh.
Also as a matter of concern, among the new rules, the government had been given the “power to relax” the provisions of the rules, raising “serious concerns that the government could potentially invoke these powers to determine different tenures for different commissioners at the time of appointment. About Right to Information Right to Information (RTI) is act of the Parliament of India that provides for setting out the practical regime of the right to information for citizens and replaces the erstwhile Freedom of information Act, 2002.
Under the provisions of the Act, any citizen of India may request information from a “public authority” (a body of Government or “instrumentality of State”) which is required to reply expeditiously or within 30 days.
This law was passed by Parliament on 15 June 2005 and came fully into force on 12 October 2005.
In India, the organisation called Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan was instrumental in the passage of RTI Act.
Aruna Roy is the mastermind behind the RTI Act 2005.
RTI is a legal right for every citizen of India. The authorities under RTI Act 2005 are called quasi-judicial authorities.
Information disclosure in India is restricted by the Official Secrets Act 1923 and various other special laws, which the new RTI Act relaxes.
GLOBAL BURDEN OF DISEASE STUDY 2017
Context: The Global Burden of Disease Study 2017 on Pancreatic Cancer was recently published in The Lancet.
Key highlights of the Study
Pancreatic cancer, which is now a growing cause of cancer mortality worldwide was once a rare occurring. From 1,96,000 incidences in 1990, these rose to4,41,000 in 2017.
The higher income countries faces the comparatively higher burden of pancreatic cancer. In both 1990 and 2017, the highest age-standardised death rates due to cancer were recorded in Greenland and Uruguay. On the other hand, the lowest age-standardised death rates were in Bangladesh.
In case of India, the death rate due to pancreatic cancer has increased by over 5 times, from 6,887 in 1990 to 30,426 in 2017, while incidence has increased from 6,824 cases to 29,059. The number of years lost due to ill-health in India were 1,826,77 in 1990 and 7,17,037 in 2017.
On records, Bhutan had the least incidents and deaths in the South Asian region.
According to the study, the reason for low death rates in low-income countries is shorter life-expectancy in low income countries and poor access to diagnostic facilities. What are the key functions of Pancreas?
The pancreas is an organ which is located behind the stomach in the upper left abdomen. It has two major functions:
- An exocrine function that helps in digestion.
- An endocrine function that regulates blood sugar.
The pancreas is an organ of the digestive system and endocrine system of vertebrates. In humans, it is located in the abdomen behind the stomach and functions as a gland.
OPEN GENERAL EXPORT LICENCES (OGELs)
Context: The issuance of two Open General Export Licences (OGELs) for export of certain parts and components and intra-company transfer of technology to select countries has been recently approved by the Defence Minister.
What are OGELs?
The OGEL is a one-time export licence which is to be granted to a company for a specific period which is 2 years initially. Open General Export Licences (OGELs) are pre-published export licences issued by the Export Control Organisation (ECO). They are the most flexible type of strategic export licence, as long as all pre-set conditions can be met. They allow the export of specified controlled items (identified by a ‘control list entry’ heading) to specific destinations.
Key highlights of the approval
Following a demand by the exporters, the Department of Defence Production (DPP) held extensive consultations with various stakeholders and formulated this OGEL policy and submitted for Defence Minister’s approval.
The application for grant of OGEL is to be considered by Department of Defence Production (DPP) on a case-to-case basis.
For acquiring the licences, the applicant is mandatory to have Import-Export certificate.
The items permitted under OGEL includes components of ammunition and fuse setting device without energetic and explosive material, firing control and related warning equipment and related system and body protective items.
It is to be noted that complete aircraft or complete unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and any components specially designed or modified for UAVs are excluded under this licence.
Further, the export of items to a Special Economic Zone is not permitted.
The countries allowed under the OGELs are: Belgium,
Context: Astronomers accidentally discovered the footprints of a monster galaxy in the early universe that has never been seen before.
The scientists have equated these to the mythical Yeti.
These galaxies generally regarded as folklore by the scientific community, just like a cosmic Yeti, given the lack of evidence of their existence, but astronomers in the United States and Australia managed to snap a picture of this cosmic entity for the first time.
The discovery provides a new insights into the first growing steps of some of the biggest galaxies in the universe. According to the estimates of the researchers, the signal came from so far away that it took 12.5 billion years to reach Earth, therefore giving us a view of the universe in its infancy.
According to the researchers, the observed emission is caused by the warm glow of dust particles which are heated by stars forming deep inside a young galaxy. The giant clouds of dust conceal the light of the stars themselves, rendering the galaxy completely invisible.
National Corporate Social Responsibility Awards (NCSRA)
Context: National Corporate Social Responsibility Awards (NCSRA) is planned to be awarded by the President to select companies for their outstanding contribution in area of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
These Awards which have been instituted in 2017 by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, are the highest recongnisation in the domain of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) by the Government of India. The major objective of these awards is to recognize corporate initiatives in the area of CSR to achieve inclusive growth and inclusive and sustainable development. These awards are awarded in following categories:
- Corporate Awards for Excellence in CSR.
- Corporate Awards in CSR in Challenging Circumstances.
- Up to 11 Awards to be given based on contribution to National Priority Schemes so as to motivate corporates to spend in these areas.
What is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)? Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is basically a self-regulating business model which helps a company be socially accountable — to itself, its stakeholders, and the public. By practicing corporate social responsibility, also called corporate citizenship, companies can be conscious of the kind of impact they are having on all aspects of society including economic, social, and environmental. To engage in CSR means that, in the normal course of business, a company is operating in ways that help enhance society and the environment, instead of contributing negatively to them. India is the first country in the world to make corporate social responsibility (CSR) mandatory, following an amendment to the Companies Act, 2013 in April 2014. Businesses can invest their profits in areas such as education, poverty, gender equality, and hunger as part of any CSR compliance. The amendment notified in the Companies Act, 2013 requires companies with a net worth of INR 500 crore (US $70 million) or more, or an annual turnover of INR 1000 crore (US $140 million) or more, or net profit of INR 5 crore (US $699,125) or more, to spend 2% of their average net profits of three years on CSR.
Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rule, 2017
Context: A draft notification for declaring Sukhna Lake as a wetland under the Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rule, 2017 has been issued by the Chandigarh administration. About Sukhna Lake Sukhna Lake in Chandigarh is a reservoir which is located at the foothills (Shivalik hills) of the Himalayas.
This rainfed lake was created in 1958 by Le Corbusier and the Chief Engineer P L Verma by damming the Sukhna Choe, a seasonal stream coming down from the Shivalik Hills. The catchment area of Sukhna Wetland spreading over 10,395 acres as finalised by the Survey of India includes 2,525 acres of Haryana and 684 acres of Punjab. The declaration of Sukhna as a wetland will help preserving the lake and conserving its ecological and biodiversity. A major threat to Sukhna is the discharge of pollutants from neighbouring areas. With this, various activities will be prohibited/regulated/ promoted both in the wetland as well catchment areas. About Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rule, 2017 The Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rule, 2017 notified by the environment ministry, decentralise wetlands management by giving states powers to not only identify and notify wetlands within their jurisdictions but also keep a watch on prohibited activities. It also indirectly widens the ambit of permitted activities by inserting the ‘wise use’ principle, giving powers to state-level wetland authorities to decide what can be allowed in larger interest. The role of Centre under the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017, will be restricted to monitoring its implementation by states/UTs, recommending trans-boundary wetlands for notification and reviewing integrated management of selected wetlands under the Ramsar Convention. When does a Wetland considered internationally important? Following are the nine criteria listed to consider a wetland to be internationally important: Criterion 1: “If it contains a representative, rare, or unique example of a natural or near-natural wetland type found within the appropriate biogeographic region.” Criterion 2: “If it supports vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered species or threatened ecological communities.” Criterion 3: “If it supports populations of plant and/or animal species important for maintaining the biological diversity of a particular biogeographic region.” Criterion 4: “If it supports plant and/or animal species at a critical stage in their life cycles, or provides refuge during adverse conditions.” Criterion 5: “If it regularly supports 20,000 or more waterbirds.” Criterion 6: “If it regularly supports 1% of the individuals in a population of one species or subspecies of waterbird.” Criterion 7: “If it supports a significant proportion of indigenous fish subspecies, species or families, life-history stages, species interactions and/or populations that are representative of wetland benefits and/or values and thereby contributes to global biological diversity.” Criterion 8: “If it is an important source of food for fishes, spawning ground, nursery and/or migration path on which fish stocks, either within the wetland or elsewhere, depend.” Criterion 9: “If it regularly supports 1% of the individuals in a population of one species or subspecies of wetland-dependent non-avian animal species.”