Daily Current Affairs

12 August Current Affairs – Daily News



‘Uber for tractors’: Government to launch app to aid farmers #GS2 #Governance


A laser-guided land leveller harnesses technology to accurately flatten a field in a fraction of the time used by a traditional oxen-powered scraper.


Farmers save precious groundwater and increase productivity by 10 to 15%.


Such hitech levellers cost at least ₹3 lakh, way beyond the reach of the average small farmer. But a new app that’s being described as “Uber for tractors” offers a solution.


There are now more than 38,000 custom hiring centres (CHCs) across the country, which rent out 2.5 lakh pieces of farm equipment every year. By the end of the month, we plan to launch a new mobile app to efficiently connect farmers with these CHCs, just like Uber connects you to cabs.”


The CHC app is already open for registrations by the farmers, societies and entrepreneurs who run these centres. So far, almost 26,800 CHCs have registered to offer more than one lakh pieces of equipment for hire.


Once the app is officially launched, farmers who wish to hire equipment can register using their names, addresses and mobile numbers, and then punch in their requirements.


Rating system


Feedback from both the CHC and the farmers contributes to a rating system, allowing customers to make informed decisions.


The Ministry’s app will also create an invaluable database for policy-makers, who can track the use and cost of equipment.


The system would also help to track the usage of new technology that the government wants to promote, such as the Happy Seeder that aims to prevent stubble burning that causes air pollution, or solar dryers that can help farmers process and preserve their produce.


They have already done very successful demo runs in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab,” said the official.






Kerala rains live updates: Death toll tops 70; nearly 2.5 lakh in relief camps #GS3 #Environment



The death toll in rain-related incidents in the State rose to 72 on August 11, even as most central and north Kerala districts reported diminished rainfall after four days of torrential downpour.
























Till August 11, 2,47,219 people (77,688 families) have been evacuated to 1,639 relief camps across the State. Kozhikode, Malappuram, Thrissur and Wayanad districts account for majority of the camps; 58 people are still missing — 50 in Malappuram, seven in Wayanad and one person in Kottayam, the government said in a 7 p.m. update. In all, 286 houses have been destroyed and 2,966 houses damaged.


The IMD has issued orange alerts indicating the likelihood of isolated heavy rainfall in Idukki, Malappuram, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Kannur and Kasargod for August 12.






Mettur dam inflow likely to touch 2.4 lakh cusecs #GS2 #Governance


With the inflow into the Mettur dam expected to rise to 2.4 lakh cusecs, the Central Water Commission (CWC) on Sunday advised the officials concerned to take precautionary measures to ensure the safety of people living in the downstream areas.


The flow into Mettur dam on Sunday crossed 1 lakh cusecs.


In a press release, the CWC said the combined discharge of approximately 1.5 lakh cusecs of water from the Krishnaraja Sagar (KRS) and Kabini dams in Karnataka would reach Mettur by Sunday night and the inflow is expected to touch 2.4 lakh cusecs on Monday evening.


According to officials, 1.7 lakhs cusecs of water from the KRS and 50,000 cusecs from the Kabini dam was released on Sunday evening, taking the combined release to 2.2 lakh cusecs of water.



At 8 p.m. the inflow at Hogenakkal was 1.80 lakh cusecs and 1,25,000 cusecs at the Mettur dam. The level in the Mettur dam was 73.6 ft, against its full capacity of 120 ft.


The stored capacity of water in the dam was 35,873 mcft. The outflow from the dam was maintained at 1000 cusecs. Revenue officials said that they are monitoring the situation and taking necessary precautionary measures.


Officials said that police personnel have been deployed at coracle points in Mettur and people were prevented from fishing or venturing into the waters. Police issued warnings to villages in the area regarding the rising water level.


Three teams of 38 personnel who have undergone disaster management training are in a ready state in case of an emergency.


In Hogenakkal, tourists have been banned from entering the falls area. According to officials, nearly 50 persons of various departments are involved in taking preventive measures in Dharmapuri. Officials said residents are being evacuated from low-lying areas and warnings being issued asking the public to move to safer places.


In Dharmapuri, Minister for Higher Education K.P. Anabazhagan and District Collector S. Malarvizhi reviewed the precautionary measures taken at Hogenekkal and nearby areas.


As many as 12,000 turned up at the Mettur dam park to witness the increasing level of water in the dam.






DRDO focus on stealth weapons, drones #GS3 #Defence


Directed energy weapons or DEWs are among the next bunch of military technologies that the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is working on, Organisation Chairman G. Satheesh Reddy said on Sunday.


Laser-based or microwave-based high-power DEWs can quietly disable enemy drones or missiles temporarily or permanently without leaving physical debris.


In contrast, the ASAT or anti-satellite missile that the DRDO tested on March 27, killed an orbiting Indian target satellite and left hundreds of small pieces as debris for a few months.


The world is moving towards them. In the country too, we are doing a lot of experiments. We have been working in this area for the past three to four years to develop 10-kW and 20-kW [weapons],” he said.


Hyderabad hub



The DRDO’s Hyderabad-based lab, Centre for High Energy Systems and Sciences (CHESS) is the node for all related activities.


Dr. Reddy said technology planning for the military should start at least 10-20 years in advance. “If we also have to be a technology leader we need to lay our futuristic technologies roadmap clearly, put a good amount of resources into it and also work towards those technologies.


Otherwise we will remain just technology followers,” he said, delivering the 12th annual Air Chief Marshal L.M. Katre memorial lecture.


The talk was organised by the Air Force Association Karnataka in honour of the former air chief who also was the chairman of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).


Apart from its current fighter plane projects — the LCA and advanced medium combat aircraft or AMCA — India would look at pilotless hardware such combat drones or UCAVs (unmanned combat air vehicles), as well as swarm drones that fly in tandem for surveillance, attack or intelligence gathering. Any UCAV programme could also use the Kaveri as its engine.






J&K on top of Jaishankar’s China agenda #GS2 #IR


External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has arrived in Beijing to prepare for the second informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, apart from familiarising his hosts about New Delhi’s decision to revoke special status for Jammu and Kashmir.


The Chinese Foreign Ministry had taken exception to India’s decision to create Ladakh as a separate Union Territory, saying the decision could alter the status quo along the China-India border.


Referring to Ladakh, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said on Tuesday the Indian side had “continued to damage China’s territorial sovereignty by unilaterally modifying the form of domestic law”. She pointed out that this practice is “unacceptable” and will not have any effect.


On Article 370


On the revocation of Article 370, the Chinese position has been shifting. On Tuesday, Ms. Hua counseled the “parties concerned” to “exercise restraint and act with caution, especially to avoid actions that unilaterally change the status quo and exacerbate the tension”.


She stressed that China was “seriously concerned” about the situation in Kashmir, but, without making any reference to the United Nations, proposed that India and Pakistan should resolve relevant disputes through dialogue and consultation and safeguard regional peace and stability”.


However, the Chinese stance shifted after Thursday’s “urgent” visit of Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to Beijing.



Following talks, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi opened the door for UN intervention, apart from proposing that the “bilateral agreement” — a veiled reference to the 1972 Shimla accord — should be the template for resolving the Kashmir issue.


Mr. Wang stressed that the Kashmir issue “should be properly and peacefully resolved based on the UN charter, relevant UN Security Council resolutions and bilateral agreement,” according to a Chinese Foreign Ministry readout.


After concluding his visit to China, Mr. Qureshi told a press conference in Islamabad that he shared Pakistan’s intent to take the latest situation in Kashmir to the United Nations Security Council.


It is unlikely that the Indian side will not raise the “internationalisation” of the Kashmir issue through the UN route during Mr. Jaishankar’s talks in Beijing.


Varanasi summit


While the focus of this mechanism is on people-to-people exchanges and culture, all topics of India-China ties, including detailing of the Varanasi summit between Prime Minister Modi and President Xi, will be covered, except for trade and commerce, highly placed sources told The Hindu.






‘New reservoir in Mundka to provide water to 14 villages’ #GS3 #Environment


Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday inaugurated a 165 lakh litre-capacity underground reservoir,


and a booster station at Mundka Assembly constituency.


The government said that the total cost of the project was ₹65 crore and that it would benefit 5.36 lakh residents of 14 villages and 27 unauthorised colonies.






‘Science needs to be communicated aggressively among people #GS3 #SnT


Chandrima Shaha, 66, is set to be the first woman president of the Indian National Science Academy (INSA) beginning January 2020.


“The academies [India has three major science academies] have been doing it.


Earlier this year, the INSA condemned statements by Nageswara Rao, former Vice-Chancellor, Andhra University who, at the Indian Science Congress in Jalandhar this January, claimed that the Kauravas were the products of stem-cell technology.



Ms. Shaha was formerly the Director of the National Institute of Immunology, Delhi and graduated with a Master’s degree from the University of Calcutta and completed her doctoral research in 1980 from the Indian Institute of Chemical Biology.


Women comprise less than 10% of the fellowships of India’s science academies but Ms. Shaha is against quotas for women. “The critical mass of good women candidates is still low.


While there are several more young women scientists today who are good and deserving, we cannot dilute [academic and research] standards just to accommodate more women. India has several opportunities for women scientists perhaps more than several countries.


Ms. Shaha, who’s never married, said fewer family commitments allowed her to focus more time on science than several women colleagues and contemporaries, “It’s challenging to multi-task as a scientist, which is a demanding job, and maintain a family. For her post doctoral work, she went to the University of Kansas Medical Centre (1980-1982).




As a biologist, Ms. Shaha has focussed on apoptosis, or programmed cell death. Her laboratory uses the uni-cellular leishmania parasite as a model to understand the conditions under which cells respond to their environment and kill themselves, if need be.


Runaway cell growth is characteristic to cancer, some autoimmune diseases and neurogenerative disorders and understanding cell death, the genes involved, the mechanism in action opens clues to new therapy and treatment.






4000-year-old mummy at Indian Museum in Kolkata moderately stable, says expert #GS3 #SnT


An Egyptian expert who inspected the mummy kept at the Indian Museum here has described the state of preservation of the cartonnage as ‘moderately stable’ but covered with dust.


(Cartonnage refers to an ancient Egyptian mummy case made of layers of linen or papyrus glued together).


The details about the preservation of the 4000-year-old mummy and one of the most prized possessions of the museum have been accessed on the basis of a report prepared by Rania Ahmed, an international expert in conservation of mummies.


Ms. Ahmed had visited the museum in 2018, and in her report she has pointed out areas of loss, crumble, distortion in the cartonnage and recommended treatment options.


Indian Museum director Rajesh Purohit, confirmed the visit and inspection of the mummy by Ms.


Ahmed and added that the museum has been taking extra care of the mummy.


The director said the deposit of dust is owing to hundreds of years of exposure and now the box containing the exhibit has been made air-tight.


As per the expert overly moist conditions can lead to growth of fungi on protein materials like human remains, and alternatively low-humidity conditions can potentially cause protein materials to crack.


The recommendations involve keeping the relative humidity between 35% to 55% with minimal fluctuations. When this correspondent visited the Egyptian gallery where the mummy has been kept earlier this week, the relative humidity of chamber where the mummy is being kept,” he said.


The director said the deposit of dust is owing to hundreds of years of exposure and now the box containing the exhibit has been made air-tight.


As per the expert overly moist conditions can lead to growth of fungi on protein materials like human remains, and alternatively low-humidity conditions can potentially cause protein materials to crack.


The recommendations involve keeping the relative humidity between 35% to 55% with minimal fluctuations. When this correspondent visited the Egyptian gallery where the mummy has been kept earlier this week, the relative humidity recorded in a thermo hygrometer was 50%.


The museum authorities have also kept silica gel crystal in the sealed glass casket to control the relative humidity of the mummy. The report has also pointed to some damage in the cartonnage layer where the colors have begun to fall and disappear.


The director said the room where the mummy is on display is being kept at low light conditions as the expert has suggested that light should be around 50 Lux.


Measurements of the mummy were taken during the inspection and the where the length of the mummy is about 162.5 cm and with the coffin 198.5 cm. The name of the mummy, dynasty is not known but the specimen sex has been ascertained to be male.


The mask which lay over the face has been removed and laid on the chest. This mummy is probably about 4,000 years old,” the report by the expert states.


Ms Ahmed has also suggested a number of tests such as biological investigation to determine the fungal, bacteria and insect infection of the mummy, and tests to know medium and elements of used in colors used in cartonnage &coffin.


There is an interesting story of how the mummy reportedly from the “tombs of the kings at Gourvah” (in Egypt) reached Kolkata via Mumbai in the early 1880s.


According to the digital records of the Asiatic Society of Bengal (Vol III, dated 1834) it was a gift to the Asiatic Society, which founded the museum, from a British officer in the same year.



Mr. Purohit said, citing the records, that it took almost close to five decades after Lieutenant Archbold’s letter for the mummy to find mention in the Indian Museum’s catalogue of 1883.


Interestingly, Lieutenant Archbold could not carry the mummy on the ship that he was on as the ‘Mahommedan seamen’ did not allow it.






ISRO’s new commercial arm gets first booking for launch #GS3 #SnT


NEWSPACE INDIA Limited (NSIL), the newly created second commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation, has bagged its first contract.


A private US space services provider has booked ISRO’s Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV), which is yet to be tested, for launching a spacecraft.


The US provider, Spaceflight, announced on August 8 that it has clinched a deal with NSIL for using the second developmental flight of the under-development SSLV rocket to launch a spacecraft for an “undisclosed US-based satellite constellation customer”.


SSLV is perfectly suited for launching multiple microsatellites at a time and supports multiple orbital drop-offs.






Connecting Mumbai to the Elephanta Caves: Final clearance for India’s longest ropeway over sea project to be issued soon #GS3 #SnT


India’s longest ropeway project — connecting Mumbai with the Elephanta Caves — will soon clear the final hurdle.


Pitted as the country’s first and longest ropeway project over the sea, the initiative is to be executed by the Mumbai Port Trust, under the Ministry of Shipping.


The Elephanta caves, located on the Elephanta Islands, off Mumbai, was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1987, due to which clearance will have to be taken from Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), besides the Indian Navy, Coast Guard and the Ministry of Environment.


While all other clearances had already been obtained, the clearance from ASI (which functions under the Ministry of Culture) is yet to be received.



Sources said that post the meeting, the required approval, under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, is likely to come in soon, as “both the ministries have discussed all the details regarding the project”.


Even as ASI officials refused to comment on the issue, the organisation had earlier shot down a proposal to create a helipad at the site, thwarting the scope for heli-tourism in the area.


Once the final approval comes in, construction work on the Rs 700-crore project is scheduled to start by year-end. The project will take around 42 months to complete.


The 14-minute ride by 30-seater cable cars will give a major boost to tourism, said sources in the tourism ministry.


It also involves the installation of 8-11 towers mid-sea, each 50-150 metres tall. Discussions and planning for the project — similar to ones in countries like France, Singapore, and China — have been on for several years now, but the PPP project was finalised in 2018.


The caves see an annual footfall of nearly seven lakh visitors and are one of the must-visit places around Mumbai. Presently, it takes around an hour for the 10-km cruise from Mumbai and vice versa.


The 8-km ropeway will begin from Sewri in Mumbai’s east coast and end at Raigad district’s Elephanta Island.


The tentative fare is expected to be around Rs 500 for the journey both ways for Indians and Rs 1,000 for foreign tourists. The ropeway will also offer a view of mudflats on the east coast and the mangroves.


According to the project report prepared by the Mumbai Port Trust(MbPT), it expects around Rs 378 crore as annual turnover. The report reads: “We envisage the turnover to be in the region of Rs 378 crore.






How a district in Rajasthan shot to the top of ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ chart #GS2 #Governance


Within a year of the launch of the central government’s flagship Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (BBBP) scheme, Nagaur has become one of the country’s 10 best performing districts in the awareness generation and outreach activities category under the scheme.


These districts are being felicitated by the central government.


For the Saathins, workers and supervisors, mostly women from rural households, who are a part of the long chain of 2,715 Anganwadi centres across the district overseen by the state’s Women and Child



Development department, this feat has come as a validation of their work, which they often have to do under difficult circumstances.


Initiatives such as the ‘Chuppi Todo Abhiyaan’ (Break the Silence) helped us to spread awareness about menstrual hygiene.


Another initiative that has contributed towards building the new narrative is the celebration of the birth of girl children by the district administration.


Women who have chosen to undergo sterilisation after giving birth to one or two girls are also felicitated in public programmes. This has helped a lot towards changing the conception of people,” says Nagaur district collector Dinesh Kumar Yadav.






Coming, digital push to Gram Panchayats #GS2 #Governance


The Union government has decided to roll out its People’s Plan Campaign, also known as “Sabki Yojana


Sabka Vikas”, that aims to draw up a development plan for each Gram Panchayat (GP) in the country and place it on a website where anyone can see the status of the government’s flagship schemes such as Swachh Bharat Mission, Pradhan Mantri Sadak Gram Yojana, and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, etc.


After consultations with the representatives of 16 key ministries, the Union government, on July 23, decided to start this campaign in September. Between October 2 and December 31 last year, the government had conducted a similar exercise in 2.48 lakh GPs across the country.


The process of creating Gram Panchayat Development Plans (GPDPs) requires each GP being scored on an array of 48 indicators covering various aspects such as health and sanitation, education, agriculture, housing, roads, drinking water, electrification, poverty alleviation programmes, social welfare etc.


After each GP is scored out of 100 — with 30 marks for infrastructure, 30 marks for human development, and 40 marks for economic activity — the GPs will be ranked.


The data on the 48 indicators would come from Census 2011 (for physical infrastructure), Socio-


Economic Caste Census 2011 (for Household-level deprivation data), and fresh survey starting


September that will be carried out by local facilitators.


The score for each GP will reflect the local needs and priorities. For instance, for a drought-prone area, water conservation would be accorded the highest priority. Within this ranking, households suffering the worst deprivations would be prioritised further.


This entire ranking exercise is meant to identify the gaps at the GP level, make an assessment of where it stands, and accordingly plan the interventions, “ said a government official.



Over the last one year, several GPs have improved vastly on many indicators while some have slipped. Last year’s data suggest that a majority of the GPs scored between 41 per cent and 50 per cent on a scale of 100, showing glaring deficiencies.


Merely 0.1 per cent and 0.6 per cent GPs fell in the high 91-100 and 81-90 score respectively. A comparison of the performance among the larger states shows that Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh, in that order, were the top scorers, while GPs in Jharkhand were at the bottom of the pile followed by Assam, Bihar, and Madhya Pradesh.


A study of 100 randomly chosen GPs by National Institute of Rural Development has shown that several reported improvements while others have slipped down over the past year. A fresh survey is, therefore, significant.











































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