Daily Current Affairs

11 August Current Affairs – Daily News



Certification of seeds to be made mandatory to step up farm output #GS2 #Governance


More than half of all seeds sold in India are not certified by any proper testing agency, and are often of poor quality.


The Centre now hopes to mandate uniform certification by pushing through a replacement to the Seeds Act, 1966, in the winter session of Parliament, and also by barcoding all seeds to ensure their traceability.


This could increase overall agricultural productivity by up to 25%, Agriculture Ministry officials say.


Definition changed


“The existing legislation that was enacted over half a century ago needs to be revised urgently. Technology has changed, farmers’ expectations have changed, even the very definition of what is a seed has changed.


Planting materials such as cuttings, grafting and tissue culture — all that must also be brought under the ambit of the law.


The main aim of the new legislation, which is ready for submission to the Cabinet for approval, is to bring uniformity to the process of quality regulation. The 1966 Act starts with these words: “An Act to provide for regulating the quality of certain seeds for sale…”


The new Bill removes the word “certain”, and aims to regulate the quality of all seeds sold in the country, as well as exported and imported seeds. Currently, about 30% of seeds are what the farmer himself saves from his crop. He may re-plant that or sell it locally.


He explained that of the remaining seeds which are bought and sold commercially, 45% come through the ICAR system and have gone through the mandated certification process.


“The other 55% are sold by private companies, most of which are not certified, but rather what we call ‘truthful label seeds’. That is, they are simply self-certified by the company. We want to remove that category with the new law and mandate certification through a proper lab process for all seeds.


Truthful label seeds can be disastrous from the farmers’ point of view, and should be removed. He has been engaging with the revised seeds legislation since it was originally proposed in 2004.


“The Bill has been pending for so long, but it is important that companies be held accountable for the quality of the seeds they sell, and the claims they make.



If a seed fails at the germination, flowering or seed-setting process, the company which sold it must be held liable and made to provide compensation,” he said.


The new Bill will also raise the stakes by increasing penalties for non-compliance. “Currently, the fine ranges from ₹500 to ₹5,000. We intend to raise that to [a maximum of] ₹5 lakh.


The Centre also hopes to roll out a software to barcode seeds in order to ensure transparency and traceability. “The National Informatics Centre has been collaborating with the Agriculture Ministry for this ₹5 crore project and the first prototype will be ready by the end of the month.


If we can use this to weed out poor quality seeds sold by some fly-by-night operators, it could increase productivity by 20 to 25%. “We are in discussion with state governments to begin rolling out in two to three months.


About 5,000 private seed companies have agreed to come on board if we can assure them that data on their seeds is not shared with their competitors.”


The software system will be able to track seeds through the testing, certification and manufacturing process. By connecting to a dealer licensing system, seeds will be tracked through the distribution process as well.


Once it is all in place in about two years or so, we will even be able to say how much of which seed is sold in which area,” said the senior official.






State-run oil marketing companies to buy biodiesel made from used cooking oil #GS3 #Environment


In a bid to encourage the biofuel sector, Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Saturday announced that the state-run oil marketing companies would procure the entire supply of biodiesel produced from used cooking oil for a three-year period.


The move, announced on World Biofuel Day, means that biodiesel plants using used cooking oil as their raw material will be assured that their entire production will be procured by the oil marketing companies to be blended with normal diesel. The scheme is being launched in 100 cities across the country.


To pay producers


Under the scheme, the OMCs — Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum — will pay biodiesel producers ₹51 per litre in the first year, ₹52.7 per litre in the second, and ₹54.5 per litre in the third year. The oil companies will also bear the cost of transportation and GST for the first year.



The Minister’s announcement comes just a day after the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India’s (FSSAI) has directed Food Safety Commissioners to ensure that Food Business Operators (FBOs), whose consumption of edible oils for frying is more than 50 litres per day, stop reusing the oil more than three times.


Mr. Pradhan also launched a ‘Repurpose Used Cooking Oil (RUCO)’ sticker and a phone app to enable the collection of used cooking oil. Restaurants and hotels interested in supplying used cooking oil can affix the sticker to show availability.


Ministry was working on a four-pronged strategy by promoting ethanol, second-generation ethanol, compressed biogas and biodiesel.


“Ethanol blending in petrol has gone up from 1.5% to about 8% and is likely to touch 10% soon. “The government is planning to allow production of ethanol from surplus foodgrains which now sometimes go waste and also entail expenditure on storage.”


“Biodiesel is low hanging fruit in the scheme of alternate source of energies, and abundant raw material is available for the purpose,” the Minister added. “It is a good waste-to-wealth concept.”


The National Policy on Biofuels 2018, released by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has set a blending target of 20% for ethanol in petrol and of 5% for biodiesel blending in diesel by 2030.


After extending the deadline twice for FBOs consuming more that 50 litres of oil a day for frying to strictly maintain the usage records and stop reusing the oil more than three times, an August 9 order from the FSSAI has directed Food Safety Commissioners to conduct inspections and ensure that the oil does not enter the food chain again.


The order says all FBOs should compulsorily dispose off their used cooking oil to authorised collection agencies or aggregators and lists eight biodiesel manufacturers enrolled with agency so far.


“All FBOs whose consumption of edible oil for frying is more than 50 litres per day will now have to maintain records including date, name of the oil, quantity of oil taken for frying, quantity discarded at the end of the day, date and mode of disposal of the used oil and discarded oil collected by agency. This will be enabled through an app.


“When used multiple times, cooking oil becomes acidic and darkens in colour. This may alter the fatty acid composition of the oil. FSSAI will also ask cooking oil manufacturers to come out with colour charts (either on the product or in a booklet along with the product) that will help people to identify if the oil is fresh or re-used.


A prominent oil manufacturer is already doing this and we plan to ask others also to follow the same concept.



The order on prohibiting reuse of edible oil was initially issued on January 30, 2019, and was directed to be effective from March 1, 2019. Subsequently, another Order was issued on February 28 extending the deadline by three months.


Following the initial Order, food safety officials voiced the several challenges in enforcing it, especially in the absence of a strong ecosystem that can facilitate the registration of biodiesel manufacturers and collection aggregators.


Although Karnataka is the first State to have a Bio Energy Development Board and used cooking oil is being collected from big chain of restaurants by biondiesel manufacturing units, the main issue is regarding the registration of such units and empanellment of re-purposed used cooking oil (RUCO) collecting aggregators.


Without empanellment, many aggregators are finding it difficult to collect used cooking oil from hotel chains. These challenges were discussed at a meeting of top officials from FSSAI in Bengaluru on March 1. Similar concerns were raised by other States.


Following this, FSSAI issued an Order on May 6 requiring bio diesel manufacturers to enrol with FSSAI for collection of used cooking oil from FBOs.






Rains shore up fortunes of reservoirs in Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra in 10 days #GS3 #Environment


The monsoon forecast is for lower intensity rainfall from Sunday, but the very heavy to heavy rain in parts of Gujarat, south Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu in recent days has brought healthy storage to many reservoirs in the southern States.


Idukki in Kerala, Karnataka’s K.R.Sagar and Srisailam in Andhra Pradesh received steady inflows on Saturday.


Four days of heavy rainfall in Wayanad — which sends water to the Kabini dam — and in the Karnataka ghats eased fears of a deficit in the Cauvery. On August 6, storage in four reservoirs along the river was just 37% of capacity, but by Saturday morning, storage had doubled to 75%. The inflow into K.R.S. dam exceeded one lakh cusecs, enough to fill it in less than three days.


4% increase overnight


Idukki, Kerala’s biggest reservoir, improved storage by 4% overnight, touching 34%, which is 503 million cubic metres (MCM) of water against the maximum of 1,460 MCM. Intense rain along the Western Ghats sent big flows into reservoirs on the Krishna.



Almatti and Basava Sagar dams on the Krishna had inflow and outflow exceeding five lakh cusecs, or, 45 thousand million cubic feet (tmc ft) of water daily.


This surpassed the previous high of 4.5 lakh cusecs in 2005 when large parts of north Karnataka were flooded, said G.S. Srinivas Reddy, Director, Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre. “Any rain will lead to increased inflow.


While the two dams have a combined capacity of 145.6 tmc ft, authorities have kept the current storage at 96.94 TMC. Due to the large inflows, some headroom was retained in both dams to avoid flooding. On August 1, authorities lowered storage in the dams by 31.12 tmc ft to absorb excess flows from Maharashtra.


The Godavari and Krishna rivers continued to be in spate in Andhra Pradesh. Water Resources Department officials said the inflow and discharge at Sir Arthur Cotton barrage at Dowleswaram in East Godavari district was 15.30 lakh cusecs in the evening, up from 14,05,320 cusecs before noon.


The Srisailam reservoir on the Krishna was receiving 4,13,479 cusecs at 11 a.m. and the outflow from 10 out of 12 gates was 1,79,546 cusecs aided by flood discharge from Narayanpur dam in Karnataka. Over one lakh cusecs was received at Nagarjuna Sagar in Guntur district and 6,437 cusecs was being discharged.


The Vamsadhara in Srikakulam district and Thotapalli reservoir in neighbouring Vizianagaram were also receiving large inflows: 20,448 cusecs and 11,927 cusecs respectively.


Mettur benefits


In Tamil Nadu, Mettur, a major dam, was receiving good inflow from Karnataka. On Saturday evening, it stood at nearly 75,000 cusecs. This was expected to increase to one lakh cusecs by Sunday. The dam had a storage of 23 TMC against its capacity of 93 TMC.


With steady and heavy inflow, it could realise 8-9 TMC daily and reach its full capacity in 8-9 days, an official said. Besides irrigating Cauvery delta districts, the Mettur surplus is diverted to Veeranam tank, which augments water supply to Chennai.


In western Tamil Nadu, Amaravathy dam in Tirupur district got heavy inflow, recording a level of 70 feet against a full reservoir level of 90 ft.


Smaller dams in Kerala also received notable inflows. Malampuzha in Palakkad recorded an inflow of 6,095.31 cusecs, Kallada 3,678.38 cusecs and Kuttiyadi 16,181.18 cusecs, the Irrigation Department said.


The Pamba reservoir was 35% full on Saturday, with a storage of 15.7 MCM, while Sholayar recorded 64.8 MCM (full level 149.2), Idamalayar 414.1 MCM (1,017.8) and Matupetty, 13.75 MCM (55.2).


In the Narmada system in central India, of 11 dams on the river, gates of only Bargi dam, near Jabalpur, remained open. Of 21 gates, 15 were opened as the water level had touched 421.75 metres, just close to the danger mark of 422.76 metres at 6 p.m.





Bringing home closer to foreigners jailed in India #GS2 #Governance



For many foreign national prisoners (FNP) lodged in jails across India, a common grievance is that many a time their consulate officer don’t come and they have no one to connect them with their family back home.


This state of affair is set to change with the Delhi High Court last month ordering the Ministry of External Affairs and authorities of the Central government to have “speediest communication with the embassy of the respective countries of the foreign inmates who are in jail”.


The High Court gave the order based on a report by advocate Ajay Verma who was appointed to assist the court as an amicus curiae in a public interest litigation initiated last year after receiving a letter from the foreign women inmates narrating their plight.


Mr. Verma, who visited all the jails in the Capital and interacted with all the foreign national inmates, found that 75% of them face struggle in accessing their embassy or consulate concerned after their arrest.


As per his report, there were 378 foreign prisoners, including a few convicts,lodged in Delhi prisons. Out of them about 54 were female prisoners.


Who are FNPs?


FNPs refer to prisoners who do not carry the passport of the country in which they are imprisoned. They are entitled to the basic minimum guarantees as enshrined and carefully set out in the Constitution of India.


As per Prison Statistics of India 2015, there are 6,185 FNPs in India. There are no official data for more recent years.


However, earlier this year, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) published a report titled ‘Strangers to Justice’, in which they tallied the number of FNPs across 22 States and 4 Union Territories to 3,908 based on RTI responses.


Mr. Verma said FNPs by virtue of their peculiar status are to be treated with care and caution to avoid any possible discrimination that they may be subjected to during their time in prison.


The report said most foreign nationals who have been apprehended or detained in Delhi, whether upon having committed an offence or for any other just reason, have often and continue to find themselves at the receiving end of the criminal justice system. They often face a range of difficulties due to differences in language, culture, customs, religion or because of lack of family ties locally and contact with the outside world, it added.


Feel discriminated


Mr. Verma, in his report, stated that 90% of the foreign prisoners who he interacted with conveyed that they faced difficulty in securing bail merely because of their special status or due to “ever-inherent specific concern” that they may be difficult to locate if they jump bail.


The report also mentioned that 40%-50% of the FNP population in jails alleged that Indian prisoners are able to secure bail more easily even if they have committed the same offence.


Mr. Verma said that our legal system does not create distinction between Indian nationals and foreign nationals, especially when it comes to grant of bail. He urged the High Court to frame guidelines to guide the trial courts on this issue. He also requested that in case FNPs are not granted bail their cases may be expedited.


Intimation upon arrest


The CHRI report had stated that only 5.7% of FNPs in India — 222 out of 3,908 — have ever received consular access.


The Model Police Manual, 2016 prepared by the Bureau of Police Research and Development, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) provides that when foreign nationals are arrested on major criminal or civil charges, it is possible that the Foreign Diplomatic/Consular Missions in India may wish to assist the nationals of their countries in regard to their defence before a court of law.


As soon as a foreign national is arrested in a major crime, the fact, with a brief description of the offence should be brought to the notice of the MEA through the State government by the DGP/CP concerned.


Mr. Verma suggested that every police officer across NCT of Delhi must be made aware of the mandatory requirements and the form in which such process would be required to be carried out.


Based upon the request received from inmates, the MEA may request the consulates to visit their nationals to enable themto discharge their duties under Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.


Timely aid


Many FNPs complained that during trial they did not understand the proceedings due to difference in language. In such a situation, Mr. Verma said the FNP concerned is mandatorily provided with a designated certified translator either from their embassy concerned or from the state itself.


This, he said, was necessary to provide the FNP with correct information about the grounds of arrest and knowledge of the entailing process.


Each FNP, just like any other prisoner in India, is entitled to right to communicate with family and friends. Although the jail manuals contain provisions for facilitating contact with family for other prisoners, the same provisions either do not extend to FNPs or are too cumbersome to follow.



After the High Court took cognisance of the issue, now all foreigners are being allowed to make calls once in a week for 10 minutes at their own expenses. Mr. Verma said Indian nationals are allowed to speak five minutes a day.


Following the report, the High Court has requested the authorities to consider as to whether they can permit two calls in a week for 10 minutes each to the foreign inmates launched in jails.






People should be made aware of rights, responsibilities #GS2 #Governance


Besides their rights, people should also be made aware of their responsibilities enshrined in our Constitution so as to make them responsible towards society. Underlining the significance of legal literacy, he said the knowledge about the rights made a difference to the life of an individual.


He advised the students to be aware of their surroundings besides attaining a complete knowledge of their rights. He said the empowerment came with knowledge, so the students should come forward to enlighten the poor.


He said while legal education would help in making people aware about their rights, moral education would inculcate high values among them, bringing down the number of litigations. He said the education of nationalism assumed a special significance as a large number of people had sacrificed their lives for the freedom of the country.


Had the education of nationalism been imparted earlier, it would not have taken 68 years to revoke provisions under Article 370 of the Constitution with regard to Jammu and Kashmir.


Justice Surya Kant of the Supreme Court described legal literacy as a powerful weapon that enabled people take the benefit of the rights enshrined in the Constitution. He said the rights could only be translated into reality if people were made aware of these.


If you are fully aware of their rights and obligations, you would not allow any type of discrimination or injustice with your parents, brothers, sisters or neighbourers, he said.


UP, Delhi and Rajasthan among worst performers in breastfeeding #GS2 #Governance


Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Punjab fare the worst when it comes to the practice


of breastfeeding, according to a report-card released recently by the Union Health Ministry.


The World Health Organisation says that if breastfeeding was scaled up to near-universal levels, lives of about 8,20,000 children could be saved every year.


The ministry report notes that these states have the lowest rate for breastfeeding within one hour of birth, exclusive breast feeding for six months and complementary breastfeeding from six to nine months.


‘Huge burden’


“Inadequate breastfeeding puts a huge burden on our health system and we understand that there is an urgent need to ensure a conducive environment for all mothers to practice breastfeeding at home, outside homes and workplaces,” said Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan.


States that top the report card include Mizoram, Sikkim, Odisha and Manipur


These regions also show good indicators in terms of the other parameters where children are breast fed exclusively for six months etc.


The districts in Uttar Pradesh (the state at the bottom of the list) which fared the worst for breastfeeding within one hour of child birth include Meerut, Bijnor, Shahjahanpur, Gautam Buddha Nagar, Gonda, Etawah and Mahamaya Nagar.


Globally, only 40% infants are exclusively breastfed for the first six months.


“Breastfeeding contributes to the health and well-being of mothers, it helps to space children, reduces the risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer, increases family and national resources, is a secure way of feeding and is safe for the environment. While breastfeeding is a natural act, it is also a learned behavior,’’ says WHO.


Speaking about the importance of breastfeeding and the need to accelerate the popularity of the practice, Dr. Harsh Vardhan said: “Breastfeeding is one of the most cost-effective intervention which addresses both survival and growth of the child.


Studies have highlighted how breastfeeding, if universalised, could prevent diseases and deaths of children and future breast and ovarian cancer in mothers.


Early initiation of breastfeeding within an hour of birth can prevent neonatal mortality; whereas exclusive breastfeeding for six months can reduce under-five deaths significantly.”



He noted that skilled counselling and practical support to women both during the time of birth and later linking them to community workers, are key to promoting breastfeeding.






Low-cost handheld device to help detect bacteria developed #GS3 #SnT


Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology – Guwahati (IIT-G) have developed a low-cost handheld biocompatible sensor that can detect bacteria almost instantaneously — without cell culture and microbiological assays.


The device will enable rapid detection of bacteria, which is important not only in healthcare but also in anti-bioterrorism measures and environmental monitoring applications, lead researchers Parameswar K. Iyer and Siddhartha S. Ghosh said.


“Bacterial infection is a common cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide and despite the development of a range of antibiotics, the challenge continues to lie in detecting and diagnosing bacterial infection early on, ” Prof. Iyer said in a statement issued by IIT-G.


The new device does not require cell culture and microbiological analyses, and it distinguishes between gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria almost immediately, he added.


At present, the detection of bacteria in body fluids is done in laboratories. The cells that are derived from the patient are initially cultured or grown so that enough of the bacterial cells are available for microbiological analysis.


Prof. Iyer said the need to administer emergency treatment fuelled the development of the device, which is faster and easier than conventional methods.






Coastal security set-up on high alert, says Navy #GS3 #Defence


The country’s coastal security set-up is on high alert due to perceived terrorist threats, said the Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral M.S. Pawar, on Saturday when asked about reports of a possible terror threat from the sea by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) following the development in Jammu and Kashmir.


We will deter them, prevent them and defeat them… It is very well known that ‘samudri jihad’ is being practised by Pakistan-based terrorist groups. There is a threat and we are vigilant. We keep our eyes and ears open. We have a coastal security mechanism to prevent that,” the Vice-Admiral said.



He was speaking to the media on the sidelines of the Global Policy Dialogue organised by the Centre for Joint Warfare Studies with other partners.


Army sources had already said that they expected infiltration and ceasefire violations to go up along the Line of Control (LoC) in the coming days following the reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir. An Army source had stated that the Pakistan Army had to do something to show solidarity with the people of Kashmir and so they would “do some action on the LoC”.


On the Navy’s flood relief efforts in Maharashtra, the Vice-Admiral said rescue efforts in Kolhapur had been hampered by incessant rain and the Navy teams had now reached the area via Pune by road and were then airlifted to Kolhapur. Diving teams were airborne in helicopters at least three times but had to come back due to the rain.






Pakistan formally suspends trade with India #GS2 #IR


Pakistan has formally suspended its trade relations with India, in retaliation against New Delhi’s decision to revoke Article 370 that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, the media reported on Saturday.


The federal cabinet headed by Prime Minister Imran Khan endorsed the decisions taken by the National Security Committee and the joint session of parliament, which include suspension of trade ties with India, reports Dawn news.


Two different notifications were issued soon after the cabinet meeting to implement the decision to suspend bilateral trade with India with immediate effect and until further orders.


As per notification SRO928 of 2019, all kind of exports to India have been suspended by amending the Export Policy Order 2016.


Through the other notification – SRO927 – by amending the Import Policy Order 2016, the government has banned import of goods of Indian origin or those imported from it. Earlier, this ban was only limited to imports from Israel.


In February, Pakistan did not reciprocate to the New Delhi decision to withdraw the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to Islamabad in the backdrop of the Pulwama attack.


India had granted the MFN status to Pakistan in 1995. The term means the country which is the recipient of this treatment must receive equal trade advantages by the country granting such treatment


A day later, India slapped 200 per cent import duty on Pakistani goods, Dawn reported.



The restrictions imposed by India in the backdrop of the February 14 Pulwama attack in which 40 CRPF troopers were killed in a suicide bombing claimed by the Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammad, have affected the flow of bilateral trade.


The value of bilateral trade in February was $164 million, which fell to the level of $105 million in June.


Pakistan’s imports have already entered negative growth with almost all countries, except India, as Islamabad mostly imports raw materials from New Delhi.


Maximum share of imports constitutes p-Xylene (an important chemical feedstock), polypropylene (a thermoplastic polymer used in a wide variety of applications), reactive dyes and preparations based thereon, pharmaceuticals and tea, respectively.


Approximately 100 other products are imported from India but these remain less in values in a few millions of dollars.


The bulk of Pakistan’s exports to India include fresh fruits – dates, figs, pineapples, avocados, guavas, mangoes and mangosteens, fresh or dried – cement, the second biggest exportable product, and sesame seeds, the third biggest export to India.


The fourth biggest Pakistan export to India is gypsum.


And the export of almost 100 other products to India is valued at less than $5 million per year.






Cost is key: Chinese space firm revs up for reusable rocket race #GS3 #SnT


Chinese startup LinkSpace on Saturday completed its third test of a reusable rocket in five months, stepping up the pace in the race to develop a technology key to cheap space launches in an expected global boom in satellite deployment.


LinkSpace’s RLV-T5 rocket blasted off in a desert in western Qinghai province. It flew as high as 300 metres before returning to the launchpad on its own after 50 seconds, said CEO Hu Zhenyu.


The Beijing-based company aims to launch its next-generation RLV-T16 next year that will be capable of reaching an altitude of up to 150 kilometres, Mr. Hu said.


The RLV-T5 previously hovered 20 metres and 40 metres above the ground in two tests in March and April respectively.


China envisions constellations of commercial satellites that can offer services ranging from high-speed Internet for aircraft and rural areas to tracking coal shipments and commuter traffic.



Reliable, low-cost and frequent launches will be key, with recoverable or partially recoverable rockets like the Falcon 9 from Elon Musk’s SpaceX one way to eventually affordable satellite deployment missions.


SpaceX has already used recoverable rockets on a number of orbital missions since a historic launch early in 2017, spurring Europe, Russia, Japan and China to speed up their own research into the technology or at least consider studying it.


LinkSpace’s test flight on Saturday came on the heels of a historic delivery of a satellite into orbit last month by privately owned Chinese firm iSpace. Beijing-based iSpace said last week that it was also planning to launch a recoverable rocket, in 2021.


The reusable design of its next-generation rocket could lead to a predicted cost reduction of 70%, iSpace estimated. LinkSpace said it hoped to charge no more than 30 million yuan ($4.25 million) per reusable launch.


That’s a fraction of the $25 million to $30 million needed for a launch on a Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems Pegasus, a commonly used small rocket. The Pegasus is launched from a high-altitude aircraft and is not reusable.






Newly-discovered lake in Nepal likely to become world’s highest #GS3 #Environment


A newly-discovered lake in Nepal is likely to set a new record of being the world’s highest lake replacing Tilicho, which is situated at an altitude of 4,919 metres in the Himalayan nation and currently holding the title.


The Kajin Sara lake in Manang district was discovered about a few months ago by a team of mountaineers, the Himalayan Times reported. It is located at Singarkharka area of Chame rural municipality.


“As per the measurement of the lake taken by the team, it is located at an altitude of 5,200 metres, which is yet to be officially verified. It is estimated to be 1,500-metre-long and 600-metre-wide,” Chame rural municipality Chair Lokendra Ghale was quoted as saying by the report.


“The lake would be the world’s highest lake if its altitude of 5000-plus metres is officially verified,” he said. The Tilicho lake, situated at an altitude of 4,919 metres, is 4 km long, 1.2 km wide and around 200 metres deep.


Centre signs peace pact with Tripura insurgent outfit NLFT #GS2 #Governance


An insurgent group from Tripura on Saturday signed an agreement with the government to “abjure violence” and “join the mainstream”.


The agreement paves the way for surrender of all active cadres of the group.


The insurgent group – National Liberation Front of Twipra led by Sabir Kumar Debbarma (NLFT-SD) – signed a Memorandum of Settlement with the Central and state governments to “abide by the Constitution of India”.


In a statement, the Ministry of Home Affairs said: “NLFT(SD) has agreed to abjure the path of violence, join the mainstream and abide by the Constitution. It has agreed to the surrender of its 88 cadres with their weapons.


The surrendered cadres will be given benefits as per the Surrender-cum-Rehabilitation Scheme, 2018, of the Ministry of Home Affairs. The State Government will help surrendered cadres in housing, recruitment, education etc.”


The Centre, it stated, will consider proposals of the Tripura government on economic development of tribal areas of the state.


The Memorandum of Settlement was signed by MHA Joint Secretary (Northeast) Satyendra Garg; Additional Chief Secretary (Home), Tripura, Kumar Alok; and Sabir Kumar Debbarma and Kajal Debbarma of NLFT(SD).


The NLFT representatives later called on Home Minister Amit Shah at his office in the North Block.


The MHA statement said: “NLFT is banned under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act since 1997 and has been involved in violence, operating from their camps across the international border.


NLFT has been responsible for violent activities including 317 insurgency incidents in which 28 security forces and 62 civilians lost their lives during the period 2005-2015. Peace talks with NLFT were initiated in 2015 and there has been no violence by NLFT since 2016.”






GRSE launches its 5th fast patrol vessel for Indian Coast Guard #GS3 #Defence


Miniratna Category 1 defence PSU and premier warship builder Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE) on Saturday launched the Fifth Fast Patrol Vessel (FPV) for the Indian Coast Guard at Raja Bagan Dockyard Unit of GRSENSE 0.86 %, Kolkata.


This ship, to be commissioned as ICGS Kanaklata Barua, is the last in the series of Five FPVs built by GRSE. The ship is 50m long, 7.5m wide and has a displacement of around 308 tons.



These FPVs are designed for a maximum speed of 34 knots with an endurance of more than 1500 nautical miles and come with an efficient hull form developed in-house and proven after extensive model testing.


The FPV designs are an improvisation on the Inshore Patrol Vessels built by GRSE for the Indian Coast Guard in 2013 and are well suited for patrolling, anti-smuggling, anti-poaching, and rescue operations.


They come fitted with state-of-the-art main engines with advanced control systems and water jet units and an ‘integrated bridge system’ assimilating all communication and navigation systems.


The key armament of a 40/60 gun and improved habitability features with fully air-conditioned modular accommodation for 35 personnel are the other salient features of these ships.


Since inception in 1960, GRSE has developed an array of world-class platforms including frigates, missile corvettes, anti-submarine warfare corvettes and landing craft utility ships for the Indian Navy. It is the only shipyard in the country to have delivered 100 warships.


Today, GRSE is well-positioned to construct large warships harnessing advanced modular shipbuilding technology which is at par with the best in the world. The enhanced shipbuilding capacity enables GRSE to construct 20 ships concurrently.


Apart from shipbuilding and ship repairs, GRSE has also diversified into the engineering business and builds ‘bailey type bridges’, ‘deck machinery for ships’ and ‘diesel engines for marine applications’.


It currently has a strong order book of over Rs 27,500 crore equipping the shipyard with a deep pool of revenue-generating projects.


The shipbuilder has set sail towards a growth trajectory in line with its vision to be a world leader in shipbuilding and the launching of the last Fast Patrol Vessel in the series propels it further towards that goal.






Draft policy on logistics ignores express industry #GS3 #Economy


The draft National Logistics Policy, released by the government earlier this year, has overlooked the role of the express industry (courier and parcel) and air cargo sectors in the multimodal transport mix for faster and cost effective movement of cargo, Express Industry Council of India (EICI) said.


We note that the policy document does not focus on the express industry and air cargo sectors, which are integral parts of the logistics network. The air express has also been overlooked in the multimodal mix even though air is an essential segment of the movement of goods.



He said in developing countries such as India, an efficient air express infrastructure could contribute directly to global competitiveness of the country by ensuring just-in-time deliveries and reducing clearance dwell time.


The government had issued the draft national logistics policy with a target to bring down logistics costs from 13-14% of GDP to 10% “in line with best-in-class global standards.”


The policy also seeks to optimise the current multimodal mix, where road has a share of 60%, while railways account for 31% and waterways 9%, to bring the sector on par with international benchmarks (25-30% share of road, 50-55% share of railways, 20-25% share of waterways).


For the air cargo sector, aviation turbine fuel (ATF) is the single largest component of direct operating cost with a share of 40%. Excise duty and value-added tax, charged by central and State governments on ATF, add another 30-35% to the cost.


Making the matter worse, the GST regime disallows input credit on ATF, increasing the tax burden on express cargo airlines further, EICI said.


The government should permit express cargo airlines to avail input credit of excise duty as was done before the GST regime. ATF should be brought under GST and input credit on GST paid on ATF should be made available to express cargo airlines.






Pakistan move not to impact textile sector #GS3 #Economy


Pakistan’s move to stop import of products from India or of Indian origin is not expected to have much impact on the Indian textile industry.


Pakistan imports mainly yarn and cotton from India. However, in recent years, Indian exporters have slowed down their supply to Pakistan. Between April and June this year, $38 million worth of cotton yarn was exported to Pakistan as against $42 million for the same period last year. The annual yarn exports to Pakistan are about $100 million and it was mostly the low count yarns.


The Indian exporters, who are already facing a drop in cotton yarn exports, will have to look at other markets.


Chairman of the Cotton Association of India Atul Ganatra said India exported only four lakh bales of cotton to Pakistan this year as Indian cotton prices were relatively higher. Pakistan purchased mainly from the U.S. this year. While direct exports to Pakistan (of cotton) has stopped, indirect exports might continue


Tackling poachers across borders #GS3 #Environment


In July 2018, officials of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) seized six pieces of ivory weighing nine kg at Siliguri in West Bengal’s Darjeeling district. Two persons were arrested for smuggling the ivory, which was suspected to have been sourced from an elephant killed in the Budhbare area of Nepal’s Jhapa district a few weeks earlier.


To ascertain the facts, the DRI officials sent the ivory to scientists at the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) in Kolkata in August last.


After intelligence from India about the smuggling was shared with the law enforcement agencies in Nepal and following the Ministry of External Affairs’ intervention, samples from the carcass — a small piece of ivory (about 12 gm) and its flesh — were obtained and handed over to the ZSI.


We concluded that samples collected from India and Nepal were from different elephants,” the researchers wrote in a study titled ‘Resolving the trans-boundary dispute of elephant poaching between India and Nepal’.


The study, published in the Forensic Science International: Synergy journal in July has been co-authored by a representative each from the DRI, India, and the Ministry of Forests and Environment, Nepal.


Over the past few years, several kg of ivory valued worth crores of rupees have been seized by different agencies including the DRI and the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau in north Bengal. The region falls under what is termed the ‘Kanchenjunga Landscape’, an area shared by India, Nepal and Bhutan.


Emphasising on trans-boundary research by India, Nepal and Bhutan for elephant conservation, Mr. Thakur, a wildlife forensic expert, said it was important to “estimate the population size, demographic history and gene flow between elephant populations in the Kanchenjunga Landscape for better management of the species and combating wildlife trade”.


In Nepal we don’t have many elephants,” said Mr. Bhattarai. “It is the elephants from India that migrate to southern and eastern region. We must coordinate with India for conservation of wildlife,” he said.


The paper’s authors have also stressed on compiling a genetic database in the Landscape. “The present study proposes an initiative to have a combined effort by India, Nepal and Bhutan to establish the genetic data to assign the source of the confiscated material and understand the biology of an elephant






Steam-Powered Cubesats Dance in Space as One NASA Spacecraft Commands Its Twin #GS3 #SnT


Using old-fashioned steam power, two cubesats executed the first coordinated maneuver in low-Earth orbit.



The propulsive movement happened after one of the twin spacecraft — with help from the ground — commanded the other to close the 5.5-mile (8.85-kilometer) gap separating the cubesats. Each spacecraft carries fuel tanks filled with water, which thrusters converted to steam to help the cubesats move closer together.


NASA says the maneuver shows the potential for small spacecraft to work together on future missions, even though for this initial demonstration, human operators made the call about when the satellites should move.




Employees would rather lose job to robots than people #GS3 #SnT


Most people find the idea of workers being replaced by robots or software worse than if the jobs are taken over by other workers. But when their own job is at stake, people prefer to be replaced by robots than by another employee, says a study.


Published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, the study aims to analyse how workers react to being replaced by technology. For this, researchers conducted 11 scenarios studies and surveys with over 2,000 persons from several countries in Europe and North America.


“Even when unemployment results from the introduction of new technologies, people still judge it in a social context. It is important to understand these psychological effects when trying to manage the massive changes in the working world to minimize disruptions in society,” he said.


The study shows that most people view it more favourably when workers are replaced by other people than by robots or intelligent software. This preference reverses, however, when it refers to people’s own jobs. When this is the case, the majority of workers find it less upsetting to see their own jobs go to robots than to other employees.


In the long term, however, the same people see machines as more threatening to their future role in the workforce.


The researchers were also able to identify the causes behind these seemingly paradoxical results. They said that people tend to compare themselves less with machines than with other people. Consequently, being replaced by a robot or a software poses less of a threat to their feeling of self-worth.


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