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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 13th AUGUST 2020

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  • August 13, 2020
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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


‘Mega labs’ to boost COVID-19 testing

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II and III – Govt policies and initiatives; Social/Health issue; Science and Technology 

Context: 

  • Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to develop “mega labs” to ramp up testing for COVID-19 
  • The labs will use repurposing large machines, called Next Generation Sequencing machines (NGS). 

About Next Generation Sequencing machines (NGS) 

  • They are normally used for sequencing human genomes or DNA sequencing.  
  • Next-generation sequencing machines or instruments are as mentioned as DNA microarrays, real-time PCR and DNA chips and reagents.   
  • These machines can substantially detect the presence of the COVID virus even in several instances where the traditional RT­-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) tests fail. 

Do you know? 

  • Next-generation sequencing, also known as high-throughput sequencing, is the term used to describe a number of different modern sequencing technologies including Illumina (Solexa) sequencing, Roche 454 sequencing, Ion torrent: Proton / PGM sequencing, solid sequencing. 

Important Value Additions: 

About Genome sequencing: 

  • Genome sequencing is a process to figure out order of DNA nucleotides or bases in a genome. 
  • This means the order of As, Cs, Gs, and Ts, a unique combination of which makes up an organism’s DNA. 
  • After the genome is sequenced, the data is analysed to understand the genetic information of an entire species. 

Difference between Next Generation Sequencing machines (NGS) and RT­PCR test 

  • RT-­PCR test identifies the SARS­CoV­2 virus by exploring only specific sections, whereas the genome method can read a bigger chunk of virus genome and thereby provide more certainty that the virus in question is indeed the particular coronavirus of interest. 
  • NGS test can also trace the evolutionary history of the virus and track mutations more reliably.  
  • Unlike the RT-­PCR that needs primers and probes — a key hurdle in operationalising such tests on a mass scale early on in the pandemic — the NGS only needs custom reagents.  

Source: The Hindu 


Licencing system for tobacco sellers

Part of: GS Mains II – Social/Health issue; Role of NGOs/Voluntary Groups 

Context: 

  • Voluntary groups working for tobacco control demanded a licencing mechanism for retail tobacco sellers which would restrict the sale of tobacco products and curb their consumption by the youths.  

Do you know? 

  • Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003 regulates the sale of tobacco products.  
  • World No Tobacco Day is observed around the world every year on 31 May.  

Concerns: 

  • Young tobacco users are vulnerable to catching influenza-­like infections and they could expose non-­users to the tobacco products. 
  • Youths are getting addicted to tobacco “faster than ever before” and the projected number of deaths from tobacco far exceeded than those of COVID­19. 

Social change through sports

Part of: GS Mains I – Society; Social change 

Context: (Case study) 

  • Skateparks which were built in some villages in MP helped few skateboarders (children from poor or middle-class families and farmer families) to participate in world championships. 
  • Children find hope in skateboarding to pull their households out of extreme poverty. 
  • Skateboards, shoes and trips to tournaments are crowd­funded. 

Sport heralds social change 

  • The sport is helping challenge caste and gender prejudices in the village.  
  • The sport has accorded identity to tens of children and their families.  

Young skaters must stick to three non-­negotiable rules: ‘No school, no skating’, ‘Everyone is equal’ and ‘Girls first’. 

  • This has improved school attendance.  
  • Boys share their boards with girls during practice hours. 
  • The sport has brought the village’s two communities — tribals and the dominant Yadavs — on the same platform.  
  • Sports create an equitable space. 

Abscisic Acid (ABA)

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains III – Science and Technology; Biology; Agriculture Research 

What is Abscisic Acid? 

  • Humans have glands that secrete hormones at different times to stimulate body processes such as growth, development, and the breaking down of sugars.  
  • Plants also have hormones that stimulate processes that are necessary for them to live.  

Abscisic acid is a plant hormone involved in many developmental plant processes, such as dormancy and environmental stress response.  

Abscisic acid is produced in the roots of the plant as well as the terminal buds at the top of the plant. 

Function of Abscisic Acid 

Abscisic acid is involved in several plant functions.  

  • Plants have openings on the bottom side of their leaves, known as stomata. Stomata take in carbon dioxide and regulate water content. Abscisic acid has been found to function in the closing of these stomata during times when the plant does not require as much carbon dioxide or during times of drought when the plant cannot afford to lose much water through transpiration. 
  • One of the crucial functions of abscisic acid is to inhibit seed germination. Abscisic acid has been found to stop a seed from immediately germinating once it has been placed in the soil. It actually causes the seed to enter a period of dormancy.  
  • This is of great benefit to the plants because most seeds are formed at the end of the growing season, when conditions would not be favorable for a new plant to sprout. The abscisic acid causes the seed to wait until the time when conditions are more favorable to grow. This ensures greater success in the plant’s ability to grow and reproduce successfully. 
  • ABA functions in many plant developmental processes, including seed and bud dormancy, the control of organ size and stomatal closure. It is especially important for plants in the response to environmental stresses, including drought, soil salinity, cold tolerance, freezing tolerance, heat stress and heavy metal ion tolerance. 

Why ABA in news? 

  • IISER Bhopal scientists are studying the critical role of ABA in seed germination, which can lead to crop improvement. 
  • Their study proved that the inhibition of seedling growth by ABA is much stronger in darkness as compared to light conditions. 

Poor access to abortion drugs

Part of: GS Mains II – Social/Women issue; Health issue 

Context: 

According to a study by Foundation for Reproductive Health Services India (FRHSI) 

  • Over­regulation of drugs to curb gender-­biased sex selection has hindered access to safe, legal and cost­-effective abortion. 
  • Five out of six States have been reported to have “overwhelming shortage” of abortion pills or medical abortion drugs.  
  • The only State that seemed to be better was Assam (69.6%). 
  • About 79% of chemists do not stock the drugs to avoid legal issues and excessive documentation requirements. 

Abortion pills or Medical abortion (MA) drugs: 

  • Abortion pills or MA drugs are abortifacients which terminate a pregnancy by expelling an embryo or foetus. 
  • Abortion pills are different from emergency contraceptive pills (ECD). 
  • ECD are taken 72 hours after unprotected sex to prevent an unintended pregnancy. 

Major reason for shortage of drugs: 

  • The primary reason for non-availability of MA drugs seems to be the incorrect understanding that medical abortion combipacks can be used for gender biased sex selection among regulatory officials. 
  • A Medical abortion combipacks is indicated for use only up to nine weeks while an ultrasound can detect the sex of the fetus at 13-14 weeks’ gestation.  

Do you know? 

  • Medical abortion drugs are the most preferred method with 81 % of abortions being administered through them. 
  • Their lack of availability hinders women, who do not wish to opt for surgical abortion methods. 
  • In the midst of the pandemic with restricted movement clinical methods of family planning are not adequately available, there is a dire need to ensure unrestricted access to drugs. 

Endangered Species in news: Hornbills

Part of: GS Prelims and Mains III – Conservation; Endangered species; Protected areas 

Context: 

  • A study based on satellite data has shown a high rate of deforestation in a major hornbill habitat in Arunachal Pradesh. 
  • Satellite data revealed changes in forest cover of the 1,064 sq.km. Papum Reserve Forest (RF) adjoining Pakke Tiger Reserve and part of Assam affected by illegal felling and ethnic conflict. 

Do you know? 

  • Papum RF is a nesting habitat of three species of the large, colorful fruit-eating hornbills: Great, Wreathed and Oriental Pied. 
  • The 862 sq.km. Pakke reserve houses a fourth species, the Rufous-Necked. 

Important value additions: 

Hornbills: 

  • India is home to nine species of hornbills: three of them, the wreathed hornbill (Aceros undulatus), the brown hornbill (Anorrhinus austeni) and the Rufous-necked hornbill (Aceros nipalensis) great hornbill is the state bird of Arunachal Pradesh and Kerala. India also has Narcondam Hornbill, found only on the island of Narcondam. 
  • Hornbill festival celebrated in Nagaland is named after the bird – Hornbill which is the most revered and admired bird for the Nagas. 

Do you know? 

  • Hornbills used to be hunted for their casques — upper beak — and feathers for headgear despite being cultural symbols of some ethnic communities in the northeast, specifically the Nyishi of Arunachal Pradesh 
  • But a 20­ year-­old conservation programme entailing the use of fibre­glass beaks reduced the threat to the birds to a large extent. 

Hornbill species: 

1. Great Hornbill:

  • IUCN Red List: Near threatened. 
  • Largest of all hornbills in India. 
  • Found in a few forest areas in Western Ghats and the forests along Himalayas. 

2. Rufous-necked Hornbill:

  • IUCN Red List: Vulnerable 
  • Has Northern-most extent, ranging from North-eastern India to Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary in West Bengal. 

3. Wreathed Hornbill:

  • IUCN Red List: Least Concern 
  • Found in forests from far North-eastern India. 

4. NarcondamHornbill: 

  • IUCN Red List: Endangered 
  • Endemic to Indian island of Narcondam in Andamans. 
  • Smallest home range out of all species of Asian hornbills. 

5. Malabar Pied Hornbill:

  • IUCN Red List: Near Threatened 
  • Common resident breeder in India and Sri Lanka. 
  • Habitat: Evergreen and moist deciduous forests often near human settlements. 

6. Oriental Pied Hornbill:

  • IUCN Red List: Least Concern 
  • Largest distribution, found in the Indian Subcontinent and throughout Southeast Asia. 
  • Habitat: Subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests. 

7. White-throated Brown Hornbill:

  • IUCN Red List: Near Threatened 
  • Found in forests from North-eastern India. 
  • Common habitat: Namdapha National Park, Changlang District, Arunachal Pradesh. 

8. Malabar Grey Hornbill:

  • IUCN Red List: Least Concern 
  • Common in the Western Ghats and associated hills of southern India. 

9. Indian Grey Hornbill:

  • IUCN Red List: Least Concern 
  • Habitat: Mainly on the plains up to about 2000 feet, foothills of Himalayas southwards, bounded to west by Indus system and to east by Ganges Delta. 

Miscellaneous:

Person in news: Kamala Harris

Part of: GS Mains II – Indian Diaspora 

Why in news? 

  • Kamala Harris has been named running mate of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.  
  • Ms. Harris is the first woman of Indian descent and black woman to be on the presidential ticket of a major political party in the U.S.  
  • The move puts Ms. Harris in a powerful position to lead the Democratic party in the near future and with a shot at the presidency in four to eight years. 

Source: The Hindu 


‘Smart Connect Scheme’

  • Punjab government launched this scheme 
  • It aims to distribute smartphones to students of Class XII in government schools across the State 
  • To boost education, connectivity and empower the poor youth in the present pandemic situation 

International Youth Day

About: 

  • The United Nations General Assembly in 1999 accepted the recommendation of the World Conference of Ministers of Youth to designate August 12 as International Youth Day.  
  • It is celebrated to raise awareness about the challenges and problems faced by the world’s youth at this age.  
  • It focuses on the engagement of youth at the local, national and international levels. 
  • The theme for this year’s International Youth Day is ‘Youth Engagement for Global Action’. 

(MAINS FOCUS)


GOVERNANCE / INTERNATIONAL 

Topic: General Studies 2

  • Indian foreign policy
  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests

A self-reliant foreign policy

Context: Self-reliance is the theme of India’s 74th Independence Day.  

About Self-reliance 

  • Economically: It means production of key goods and services within the country. In other words, the goal is to reduce import dependence of critical commodities, especially in the backdrop of global ‘supply shock’ caused by the pandemic. 
  • Foreign policy: The foreign policy corollary is to sustain the ‘strategic autonomy’ in international affairs i.e. not taking orders from or succumbing to pressure from great powers. It means not becoming subordinate to foreign hegemon. 

India’s advocacy for autonomy (& non-alignment) in making foreign policy choices has remained constant, despite changes in world order over decades. 

  • Bipolar from 1947 to 1991- era of Cold War where world was divided in two camps one headed by USA and other headed by erstwhile USSR 
  • Unipolar from 1991 to 2008 – With disintegration of USSR, USA became the sole super power while China caught up with USA in overall power 
  • Multipolar at present times where there are big powers and several middle powers  

At the same time, India has shown flexibility in Foreign policy 

  • Strategic autonomy has often been adjusted in India’s history as per the changing situations 
  • In moments of crisis, India has reinterpreted freedom and shown flexibility for survival. For example 
  • During the 1962 war with China, the greatest advocate of non-alignment, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, had to appeal to the U.S. for emergency military aid to stave off the Chinese aggression along Indian borders 
  • In the build-up to the 1971 war with Pakistan, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had to enter a Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation with the Soviet Union to ward off both China and the U.S 
  • In Kargil in 1999, India welcomed a direct intervention by the U.S. to force Pakistan to back down 

Do above examples indicate that India abandoned autonomy (or non-alignment)? 

  • In all the above examples, India did not become any less autonomous when geopolitical circumstances compelled it to enter into de facto alliance-like cooperation with major powers.  
  • Rather, India secured its freedom, sovereignty and territorial integrity by manoeuvring the great power equations and playing the realpolitik game. 

Is there a need for India to rethink its approach to Strategic autonomy? 

  • India is at an inflection point with regard to strategic autonomy. China and the U.S. are sliding into a new Cold War, with India’s security and sovereignty being challenged primarily by the former 
  • Non-alignment 2.0 in a threat environment from nuclear neighbour (China) makes little sense, especially when US is looking for partners in region to contain China 
  • Thus, there is strong advocacy for an alliance like partnership with USA 

What are fears associated with India’s close proximity to the U.S.? 

  • Increasing Risk: For India, which values freedom, placing all its eggs in the U.S. basket to counterbalance China would be an error. 
  • Reduced Space for India: It would mean India coming under the pressure of US interests that can cost India its strategic autonomy. 
  • Impacts other interests: Stronger Indo-US alliance can constrict India’s options in other theatres of national interest such as its ties with Iran and Russia  
  • Challenges to Domestic goals: It can also slowdown efforts of improving indigenous defence modernisation (US pressure to buy its weapons in exchange for its support to India to counter China) 

Way Ahead 

  • India should stay as an independent power centre by means of intensified cooperation with middle powers in Asia and around the world. 
  • Diversification is the essence of self-reliance.  
  • A wide basket of strategic partners, including the U.S., with a sharper focus on constraining China, is a viable diplomatic way forward in the current emerging multipolar world order. 

Connecting the dots:

  • Disintegration of USSR – Reasons and impact on India 
  • Interlinkage of Globalisation and Foreign Policy 

SCIENCE & TECH/ INTERNATIONAL/ GOVERNANCE 

Topic: General Studies 2 and 3

  • Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers
  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests 

Shutting the door on Huawei

Context: U.K’s decision to ban the Chinese company Huawei that entails banning its mobile providers from buying new Huawei 5G equipment after 2020 as well as removing all of Huawei’s 5G kit from their networks by 2027 

What is 5G? 

  • 5G is the fifth generation cellular technology that apart from increasing the downloading and uploading speeds (speed of 1 Gbps) over the mobile network, also reduces the latency i.e. the time taken by a network to respond. 
  • It also increases energy efficiency and offers more stable network connections. 
  • 5G is also designed to deliver signals more reliably than earlier cellular networks  
  • 5G will have a wider area in the frequency spectrum (range of frequencies) that will ensure no network congestion. 
  • In addition, it will also ensure connectivity to a full circle i.e. everything is connected to every other thing. 
  • 5G will help facilitate the ecosystem for the Internet of Things (IoT) and to incorporate Artificial Intelligence (AI) in our daily lives and  
  • To get the benefits of 5G, users will have to buy new phones, while carriers will need to install new transmission equipment to offer the faster service. 

 Source: The Hindu 

What made UK to ban Huawei? 

  • It was primarily due to pressure mounted by USA 
  • US views technological progress made by Chinese company as threat to its own dominance in the field of technology & trade 
  • On the grounds of cyber security and data privacy, US had banned Huawei company from its economy in 2019 
  • US also imposed sanctions on Huawei that created uncertainties around Huawei’s supply chain impacting its global business. 
  • The U.S.-China relationship is entering a phase of Cold War 2.0, the Trump administration had made it clear that the U.K.’s “special relationship” with the U.S. will be jeopardised if UK doesn’t ban Huawei. 

What has been the response of China? 

  • China strongly opposed the U.K.’s ban and warned that it would take measures to safeguard the legitimate interests of Chinese companies 

Consequence of UK’s decision 

  • Win for USA: The U.K.’s change of stance is a major diplomatic win for USA as it might also convince fence sitters to make a final decision. 
  • A domino effect: Other countries in Europe will also come under pressure to take similar decisions 
  • France also decided to limit the use of Huawei’s 5G kit by issuing limited term licences. 
  • Germany too is reducing its reliance on Huawei as the mood against China has soured across Europe.  
  • Geopolitical Changes: After years of close relation with the Chinese, the European Union is becoming more explicit than ever in challenging China.  
  • Perception of China: The response of China has made countries to view China as a “systemic rival” that is hell bent on challenging the extant global order  
  • Political Battle: What once looked like a battle which the U.S. was waging on its own has suddenly been joined by a number of other players. The decision on Huawei is not merely a technological or economic decision but a fundamentally political decision for most countries.  

India and Huawei 

  • India had allowed Huawei to participate in 5G trials which could not happen because of the disruptions caused by the pandemic. 
  • Today, India-China ties have altered due to the border crisis and Chinese insensitivity to Indian concerns. 
  • With New Delhi toughening its posture against China, it looks rather unlikely that Huawei would get to participate in the 5G network roll-out in India.  
  • India is signalling that it is willing to bear economic and technological costs on limiting Chinese involvement in critical infrastructure. 

Conclusion 

  • China’s decision to weaponise trade and technology ties might now come back to haunt it as other nations begin to pay back in the same coin 

Connecting the dots:

  • Steering Committee on 5G under the chairmanship of AJ Paulraj  
  • AI – its merits and challenges 

(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)

Note: 

  • Correct answers of today’s questions will be provided in next day’s DNA section. Kindly refer to it and update your answers. 
  • Comments Up-voted by IASbaba are also the “correct answers”.

Q.1)  Terms such as Illumina (Solexa); Roche 454; Ion torrent: Proton / PGM are associated with – 

  1. Different modern sequencing technologies  
  2. Different variants of supercomputers 
  3. Different variants of quantum computers 
  4. Names of exoplanets, the ones that could support alien life 

Q.2) Which of the following commodities are not covered under GST? 

  1. Aviation Fuel 
  2. Alcoholic liquor 
  3. Tobacco and tobacco products 

Select the code from following: 

  1. 1 and 2
  2. 3 only 
  3. 2 and 3 
  4. 1, 2 and 3 

Q.3) World No Tobacco Day is observed around the world every year on –

  1. 31 May 
  2. 31 July
  3. 10 August  
  4. 13 August

Q.4) Which among the following statements is/are correct about Abscisic acid? 

  1. Abscisic acid is a plant hormone involved in many developmental plant processes, such as dormancy and environmental stress response.   
  2. Abscisic acid is not produced in the roots of the plant but only the terminal buds at the top of the plant.

Choose correct answer: 

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only 
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Q.5) Consider the following statements about The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act 

  1. It does not allow abortions above the gestational age of 24 weeks. 
  2. It provides that “the length of pregnancy shall not apply” in a decision to abort a foetus diagnosed with “substantial foetal abnormalities” or if it is “alleged by the pregnant woman to have been caused by rape”. 

Which of the above statements is/are correct? 

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only 
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Q.6) Which of the following states celebrates the famous ‘Hornbill festival’?

  1. Arunachal Pradesh 
  2. Sikkim 
  3. Nagaland 
  4. Andaman and Nicobar 

Q.7) Narcondam Hornbill is found in which of the following? 

  1. Western Ghats 
  2. Andamans 
  3. Lakshadweep 

Select the correct code: 

  1. 1 and 2
  2. 2 only 
  3. 1 and 3 
  4. 1, 2 and 3 

ANSWERS FOR 12th AUG 2020 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE(TYK)

1  A 
2  B 
3  A 
   

Must Read

Criticism of EIA and government’s policies on Environment:

The Hindu

About Tiger Conservation: 

The Hindu

About criticism of Judiciary:

The Indian Express

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