PRESS INFORMATION BUREAU (PIB) IAS UPSC – 1st March to 6th March – 2021

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  • March 10, 2021
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States exhibiting surge in Daily New COVID cases and High Active Caseload urged to Return to Fundamentals of “Test, Track and Treat”

(Topic: Government policies to fight COVID-19)

States were specifically asked to:

  • Continue with the effective strategy of ‘Test Track & Treat’ that had yielded rich dividends at the height of the pandemic.
  • Improve overall testing in districts reporting reduction in testing
  • Increase share of RT-PCR tests in districts dependent on high levels of antigen testing.
  • Refocus on surveillance and stringent containment of those areas in selected districts which are seeing cluster of cases.
  • Carry out an average close contact tracing of minimum of 20 persons per positive case.
  • Focus on clinical management in districts reporting higher deaths.
  • Actuate their health infrastructure to provide effective clinical management to all the patients as a surge in cases also affects the case fatality rate in those districts.
  • Accelerate vaccination for priority population groups in districts reporting higher cases.
  • Make optimal use of the available vaccine doses and focus on critical districts.
  • To collaborate with the private hospitals to open up vaccination time-table for a minimum of 15 days and maximum of 28 days at a time.
  • Promote COVID-appropriate behaviour through communication and enforcement.

Stress was laid on prompt isolation and on medical supervision of those active cases presently in home isolation for early identification of progressive deterioration of the disease. The States were also asked actively watch out for super-spreading events and share their best practices in breaking the chain of transmission.

Cabinet approves 

Memorandum of Understanding between India and France on Renewable Energy Cooperation: The objective of the MoU is to establish the basis for promotion of bilateral cooperation in the field of new and renewable energy on the basis of mutual benefit, equality and reciprocity.  It covers technologies relating to solar, wind, hydrogen and biomass energy.

The MoU entails:

  • Exchange and training of scientific and technical personnel;
  • Exchange of scientific and technological information and data;
  • Organization of workshops and seminars; transfer of equipment, know-how and technology;
  • Development of joint research and technological projects

This MoU will help in the development of technological know-how in the field of Renewable Energy and thereby aid the process of attaining the ambitious target of 450 GW of installed Renewable Energy capacity by 2030.

Memorandum of Understanding between India and Fiji for cooperation in the field of Agriculture and Allied Sectors: The MoU between India and Fiji provides for cooperation in the following areas:

  • Exchange of research personnel, scientific experts, specialists, and technical trainees;
  • Enhancement and transfer of technology;
  • Development of infrastructure for agriculture development;
  • Development of human resources through training of officers and farmers by conducting seminars and workshops;
  • Promotion of joint ventures between private sectors of both countries;
  • Promotion of investment in marketing and value addition/downstream processing of agricultural commodities;
  • Promote capacity development in all areas of agriculture;
  • Promotion of direct trade of agriculture products through market access;
  • Joint planning and development of research proposals and execution of research projects and programmes;
  • Establishment of Indo – Fiji Working Group for dealing phytosanitary issues, and any other form of cooperation which will be mutually agreed by the Parties.

Under the MoU, a Joint Working Group (JWG) will be constituted to set down procedures and plan and recommend programs of cooperation towards achieving its aims through the Executing agencies of the two countries. The JWG will hold its meeting alternately in India and Fiji once in every two year.

India and Norway agree to conduct marine spatial planning in Lakshadweep and Puducherry

(Topic: India and its relations with Norway)

India and Norway have agreed to jointly work in the area of marine spatial planning in the oceanic space for the next five years. In this regard, the first project steering committee meeting with representatives from both the countries was successfully conducted virtually recently, after which the two countries have charted out a plan to ensure that human activities at sea take place in an efficient, safe, and sustainable manner in areas such as energy, transportation, fisheries, aquaculture, tourism etc. across  multiple sectors. This is a part of the Indo-Norway Integrated Ocean Initiative under the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two countries in 2019. 

Lakshadweep and Puducherry have been identified as pilot sites for the project. 

The two countries have decided to extend support for sustainable ocean resources utilisation to advance economic and social development in coastal areas. The initiative known as Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) will be implemented by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) through National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR) for India. In its primary phase, NCCR will develop a marine spatial planning framework for Puducherry and Lakshadweep. These sites have been chosen for the pilot project in view of their setups with unique opportunities for multiple sectors (such as industries, fisheries, and tourism) to flourish. The Government of India’s initial investments for undertaking the studies and planning are estimated to be around INR 8-10 crores per annum. In the future, marine spatial planning framework of these two environmentally critical areas can be replicated to other coastal regions of the country. Notably, the World Bank and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) have expressed interest in supporting MoES in conducting MSP, a societal-beneficial initiative for India’s coastal regions.

The MSP initiative will be implemented by MoES and the Norwegian Environment Agency through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway. Earlier, NCCR had developed coastal management plans for Chennai, Goa, and Gulf of Kachchh which proved very successful. Now, the MSP initiative will aid development of multiple economic sectors and stakeholders in greater number of coastal areas of the country.

The Government of India’s vision of New India by 2030 highlights blue economy as one of the ten core dimensions of growth. MSP is globally identified as a tool for sustainable andintegrated ocean management. It is a noted area for work in India’s (draft) Blue Economic Policy being developed by MoES.

India – Sweden Virtual Summit

(Topic: India and its relations with Sweden)

India expressed solidarity with the people of Sweden in the wake of the violent attack on 3rd March and prayed for early recov-ery of the injured.

Both the leaders underlined that the longstanding close relations between India and Sweden were based on shared values of democracy, rule of law, pluralism, equality, freedom of speech, and respect for human rights. They reaffirmed their strong commitment to work for multilateral-ism, rules-based international order, counter terrorism and peace and se-curity. They also acknowledged the growing salience of India’s partnership with the European Union and EU countries.

The two leaders reviewed the extensive ongoing engagement between India and Sweden, and expressed satisfaction at the implementation of the Joint Action Plan and Joint Innovation Partnership agreed during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Sweden in 2018. They explored avenues of further diversifying the themes under the rubric of these partnerships.

Sweden is joining the International Solar Alliance (ISA). The leaders also noted the growing membership of the India-Sweden joint initiative – the Leadership Group on Indus-try Transition (LeadIT) that was launched during the UN Climate Action Summit in September 2019 in New York.

The two leaders also discussed the Covid-19 situation including the vaccination drive and stressed the need for vaccine equity by providing urgent and affordable access to vaccines across all nations.


Indigenously designed and developed ‘Made in India’ spectrograph

(Topic: Indian economy)

Indian Scientists have indigenously designed and developed a low-cost optical spectrograph that can locate sources of faint light from distant quasars and galaxies in a very young universe, regions around supermassive black-holes around the galaxies, and cosmic explosions.

Such spectroscopes were so far imported from abroad involved high costs. The ‘Made in India’ optical spectrograph named as Aries-Devasthal Faint Object Spectrograph & Camera (ADFOSC), indigenously designed and developed by Aryabhatta Research Institute of observational sciences (ARIES), Nainital, an autonomous institute of Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India, is about 2.5 times less costly compared to the imported ones and can locate sources of light with a photon-rate as low as about 1 photon per second.

The spectroscope, the largest of its kind among the existing astronomical spectrographs in the country, has been successfully commissioned on the 3.6-m Devasthal Optical Telescope (DOT), the largest in the country and in Asia, near Nainital Uttarakhand.

  • This instrument, a backbone of the 3.6-m DOT for observations of extremely faint celestial sources, uses a complex arrangement of several lenses made of special glasses, polished to better than 5-nanometer smoothness to produce sharp images of the celestial sky. 
  • Photons coming from distant celestial sources, collected by the telescope, are sorted into different colors by the spectrograph and are finally converted into electronic recordable signals using an in-house developed Charge-Coupled Device (CCD) camera cooled to an extremely low temperature of -120 0C. The total cost of this instrument is nearly Rs. 4 Crore.

FDI in India

(Topic: Indian economy)

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is a major driver of economic growth and an important source of non-debt finance for the economic development of India. It has been the endeavor of the Government to put in place an enabling and investor friendly FDI policy. The intent all this while has been to make the FDI policy more investor friendly and remove the policy bottlenecks that have been hindering the investment inflows into the country. The steps taken in this direction during the last six and a half years have borne fruit, as is evident from the ever-increasing volumes of FDI inflows being received into the country. Continuing on the path of FDI liberalization and simplification, Government has carried out FDI reforms across various sectors.

Measures taken by the Government on the fronts of FDI policy reforms, investment facilitation and ease of doing business have resulted in increased FDI inflows into the country. The following trends in India’s Foreign Direct Investment are an endorsement of its status as a preferred investment destination amongst global investors:

  • India has attracted total FDI inflow of US$ 67.54 billion during April to December 2020. It is the highest ever for the first ninth months of a financial year and 22% higher as compared to the first ninth months of 2019-20 (US$ 55.14 billion).
  • FDI equity inflow grew by 40% in the first 9 months of F.Y. 2020-21 (US$ 51.47 billion) compared to the year ago period (US$ 36.77 billion).
  • FDI inflow increased by 37% in 3rd Quarter of 2020-21 (US$ 26.16 billion) compared to 3rd quarter of 2019-20 (US$ 19.09 billion).
  • FDI inflow showed positive growth of 24% in the month of December, 2020 (US$ 9.22 billion) compared to December, 2019 (US$ 7.46 billion)

DRDO conducts successful flight test of Solid Fuel Ducted Ramjet

(Topic: Defence)

  • Successful demonstration of Solid Fuel based Ducted Ramjet technology has provided DRDO with a technological advantage which will enable it to develop long range air-to-air missiles. At present, such technology is available only with a handful of countries in the world. 
  • During the test, air launch scenario was simulated using a booster motor. Subsequently, the nozzle-less booster accelerated it to the required Mach number for Ramjet operation.
  • The performance of the missile was monitored using the data captured by Electro Optical, Radar and Telemetry instruments deployed by ITR and confirmed successful demonstration of the mission objectives.

Scientists develop high-resolution platform to detect the effect of prolonged alcohol exposure on Red Blood Cells

(Topic: Science and Technology)

Scientists have custom-made a platform to detect the effect of prolonged alcohol exposure on Red Blood Cells (RBC) through high-resolution measurements of their size. The high-resolution platform that shows the reduction in size of RBCs on alcohol exposure can be tuned for a point-of-care screening of multiple conditions that alter the size and count of RBCs in blood.

Although it is known that alcohol affects RBCs, the exact physiological changes are very subtle and difficult to measure. In order to overcome this challenge, scientists from Raman Research Institute (RRI), have developed custom-made electro-fluidic platform that can detect the change by measuring the cell size in enhanced resolution.

The device made in RRI relies on the resistive pulse sensing principle

  • The team first developed techniques for making tiny micron (1/1000th of a millimetre) sized holes or micro-pores at the tip of a glass capillary with careful fabrication, flame polishing, and image verification. 
  • Cells passing through the pore created very tiny electrical pulses, which give direct and most sensitive information of cell count and volume. 
  • These results may also be used to explain the lack of oxygen-carrying capability of RBC under alcohol exposure leading to blurred vision, muscular in coordination, and altered mental states from alcohol abuse.

Prelims oriented News

National Science Day: 1st March

World Wildlife Day: 3rd March

Chabahar Day: 4th March

First export consignments of ‘red rice’ from Assam to the USA flagged off: Iron rich ‘red rice’ is grown in Brahmaputra valley of Assam, without the use of any chemical fertilizer. The rice variety is referred as ‘Bao-dhaan’, which is an integral part of the Assamese food.

The Nag River Pollution Abatement Project: The project , approved under the National River Conservation Plan, will be implemented by the National River Conservation Directorate, NRCD. It will reduce the pollution level in terms of untreated sewage, flowing solid waste and other impurities flowing into the Nag river and its tributaries.

The tribals of Jawadhu Hills: Situated in the Tiruvannamalai district of Tamil Nadu, Jawadhu hills is an extension of the Eastern Ghats. 

  • The Malayali tribal people constitute 92.60% of the total population in this block and their mainstay is through the non-timber forest produce and a variety of trees grown on this patta land such as tamarind, jackfruit, coconut, lemon and plantain and gooseberry.
  • The Jawathu Hills producer company has been formed with an aim to improve the quality of life and social status of tribals involved. This is an example of how the Van Dhan tribal start-up has been successful in improving the livelihoods and incomes of the tribal people across the country.

India’s first Grade- Separated Urban Expressway: Dwarka Expressway

  • Being constructed under the Bharatmala Project
  • The first instance of a project where Tree Plantation of approximately 12,000 trees has been undertaken, keeping protection of the environment in view
  • Will have longest (3.6 kilometre) and widest (8 lane) Urban Road Tunnel in India
  • The project’s road network will also comprise of four levels, i.e., tunnel / underpass, at-grade road, elevated flyover and flyover above flyover.
  • There will be a fully automated tolling system with 22 lanes toll plaza. 
  • The entire project will be equipped with Intelligent Transportation System (ITS). 
  • The project has a total estimated consumption of two lakh MT of steel, which is 30 times of that of the Eiffel Tower. The total estimated consumption of 20 lakh Cum of Concrete is six times of the Burj Khalifa building.

World Hearing Day: 3rd March

  • World Report on Hearing by WHO
  • 2% of India’s population, mainly children, suffer from the condition of Otitis Media, other problems like hearing loss due to high noise levels at workplaces and on the roads, hearing loss due to the use of ototoxic medicines and chemicals, the dangers of loud music and unsafe listening topeople’s hearing health (with over 750 million smart phone users in India).
  • The study showed that the disabling hearing loss affected 2.9% of the population and was noted to effect communication, education and work. The rural population had a far greater prevalence of hearing loss.The prevalence of total hearing loss, unilateral &bilateral was found to be as high as 9.93%.The geriatric population accounted for 40.5% of all hearing loss and 72.4% of all disabling hearing loss. The study also made a major contribution in identifying the risk factors associated with Sensory Neural Hearing Loss (SNHL): Smokeless Tobacco consumption, Heavy smoking, Leisure and work-related noise, and also excessive Residential Noise, are all noted as risk factors associated with SNHL.
  • India’s National Programme for Prevention and Control of Deafness to the audiencethat targets 6% of the population who havedisabling hearing loss and require interventions. The program (launched in 2006) focuses on preventing hearing loss, especially that which is caused by ear infections and noise; early identification of deaf babies and hard of hearing persons; timely provision of suitable interventions and services like medicines, surgery, hearing devices and rehabilitation. More than 30 thousand free-of-cost ENT surgeries and around 24 thousand hearing aids were provided under the program in the year 2019-20.
  • The government plans to further strengthen our work on ear and hearing care based on the recommendations of the report:
    • By improving services at community and primary levels through training of health workers for task sharing, in line with the strategies outlined in the report.
    • Expanding access to affordable hearing technologies for all those in need.
    • Using the power of Information Technology (IT) to raise awareness among our youth on safe listening as a means of hearing loss prevention.

India Telecom 2021- a platform for convergence of technologies and business exchange

  • India Telecom 2021 is a platform for convergence of technologies and business exchange. This mega event has become ‘a must attend’ mega event for Telecom and IT Stakeholders as it encapsulates strategies and learning that transcend the two most important present day industries having potential of unlocking huge demand of ICT services across multiple domains. 
  • TEPC (Telecom Equipment Export Promotion Council) has organized India Telecom 2021’ under Market Access Initiative Scheme (MAI) of Department of Commerce, Government of India and with support of Department of Telecommunications & Ministry of External Affairs. 
  • This event is of great significance to Indian exporters and has a very high impact. India is a fast-growing telecom market fueled by data growth. This local demand is a driver of domestic telecom companies to create innovative, high-quality products and solutions that can serve the needs of both India and emerging markets across the globe. In addition to offering state of the art telecom products and services, Indian companies are open to partner and provide skill development and training to our overseas buyers.
  • About TEPC: TEPC has been set up by the Ministry of Commerce & Industry and Ministry of Communications, Government of India to promote and develop of Export of Telecom Equipment and Services. The council undertakes several activities aimed at exports promotion such as Commissioning of Studies to find potential markets, holding of National/International Seminars and facilitating participation of exporters in various overseas exhibitions. The council also disseminates trade related data to its members. The council makes various recommendations to the Government for making necessary changes in various policies and procedures for promotion of Exports and Services.

MoRTH releases Rating mechanism for National Highways: The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has released the ratings for 18,668 km of completed 4/6 lane NH stretches covering 343 toll plazas. This has been done by NHAI under MoRTH, which has taken initiative to improve its accountability towards road users, who pay user fee for use of developed National Highways. This initiative has been taken as per vision of improving the quality of public services. The fundamental objective of highway rating is “Minimum time with maximum safety in stress free environment” from highway users’ perspective.

  • Each toll plaza of highway is judged based on three major criteria viz. Efficiency, Safety and and User Services. These criteria are further divided into a total of 39 parameters which include average speed, road condition, facility for public like VUP/ PUP/ FOB, service road, delay at toll plaza, accidents, incident response time, wayside amenities, general cleanliness, etc. 
  • The Ministry has also begun real-time monitoring of toll plazas across the country. It is a simple help to improve traffic congestion problem at toll plazas/ city roads/highways by using central monitoring system along with bundle of analytics and quick decision-making outputs. This is eventually likely to facilitate saving the Commute Time, Improve Customer Experience, Save Fuel Wastage Cost and Reduce Carbon Footprint. It uses several technologies like Satellite Imagery, GIS, Remote Sensing along with a proprietary algorithm to remotely monitor the congestion status of the roads.

First anniversary of the Central Sector Scheme on “Formation & Promotion of 10,000 Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs)”

  • Inaugurated professional training programmes designed and developed for CEOs, Board of Directors, Accountants of FPOs
  • There are well-defined training structures in the scheme and the institutions like Bankers Institute of Rural Development (BIRD), Lucknow and Laxmanrao Inamdar National Academy for Co-operative Research & Development (LINAC), Gurugram have been chosen as the lead training institutes for capacity development & training of FPOs. Training & skill development modules have been developed to further strengthen FPOs.
  • More than 2200 FPOs produce clusters have been allocated for the formation of FPOs in the current year, of which 100 FPOs for specialized Organic produce, 100 FPOs from Oilseeds & 50 commodity-specific FPOs with value chain development will be formed. In addition to SFAC, NABARD & NCDC, 06 more implementing agencies have been approved for the formation and promotion of FPOs.
  • FPOs will be provided financial assistance up to Rs 18.00 lakh per FPO for a period of 03 years. In addition to this, provision has been made for matching equity grant up to Rs. 2,000 per farmer member of FPO with a limit of Rs. 15.00 lakh per FPO and a credit guarantee facility up to Rs. 2 crores of project loan per FPO from the eligible lending institution to ensure institutional credit accessibility to FPOs.
  • This formation of 10,000 FPOs scheme will promote the selling of farmers produce from the farm gate of farmers thereby enhanced farmers’ income. This will shorten the supply chain and accordingly marketing cost will get reduced resulting in better income for farmers. It will accelerate more investment in marketing and value addition infrastructure near to farm gate creating more employment opportunities for rural youth.

MoHUA Launches Field Assessment of Swachh Survekshan 2021: The sixth edition of the annual cleanliness survey conducted by the Government of India

The Swachh Survekshan framework is redesigned innovatively every year, to ensure that the process becomes more robust. Keeping in mind the Ministry’s efforts towards ensuring sustainability of the sanitation value chain, the SS 2021 indicators focus on parameters pertaining to wastewater treatment and reuse along with faecal sludge. Similarly, the crucial issues of legacy waste management and remediation of landfills have also been brought to the fore in this edition of Survekshan.

Since its launch in 2014, Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (SBM-U) has made significant progress in the area of both sanitation and solid waste management. 4360 Urban ULBs have been declared ODF, 2158 cities certified ODF+ and 551 cities certified ODF++.  Moreover, 66 lakhs individual household toilets and over 6 lakhs community/ public toilets have been constructed/ or are under construction. Additionally, nearly 60,000 toilets across 2900+ cities have been made live on Google Maps. In the area of solid waste management, 97% of wards have 100% door-to door collection while 68% of the total waste generated is being processed. A total of six cities have been certified as 5 Star, 86 as 3 star and 65 as 1 star under the Star Rating Protocol for Garbage Free Cities.

The second phase of SBM-U for a period of 5 years (2021-26) has recently been announced in the union budget of 2021. The next phase of the Mission will focus extensively on aspects of sustainable sanitation including faecal sludge and wastewater management, along with holistic solid waste management with a focus on curbing and ultimately eliminating the use of single-use plastic (SUP), reducing air pollution through effective  management of construction & demolition waste, and reducing soil pollution through remediation of legacy dumpsites.

Atal Innovation Mission Partners with MathWorks to strengthen the Deep-tech startup ecosystem of India

  • MathWorks- The developer of mathematical computing software for scientists and engineers
  • Under this partnership, startups supported by AIM, will get access to steps of the art MathWorks tools (including MATLAB and Simulink), engineering support, online trainings, access to MATLAB community, and opportunities for developing awareness of the startup products through their domestic and global reach. The benefits are aimed at fostering innovation and accelerating product development at these early-stage companies.

Cultivation and processing of aromatic plants doubles incomes of farmers in Himachal

  • Farmers in the Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh, keen for new livelihood options to supplement  their income from traditional crops like maize, paddy, and wheat, have found a new lease of life.
  • Cultivation of aromatic plants has given them additional income. They have extracted essential oil from the improved variety of wild marigold (Tagetes minuta) that has been introduced, and the profit from wild marigold oil has doubled the income of farmers as compared to traditional maize, wheat and paddy crops.

In another initiative, farmers have improved pollination by adopting mud hive beekeeping technology which has enhanced apple production resulting in an increase in the income of apple growers 1.25 times.

Mud Hive Technology is a combination of wall hive & wooden hive technology, with a habitat like wall hive. It has inbuilt provision for putting frames inside the mud hive and more favorable conditions, especially temperature for bees throughout the year as compared to wooden hives.

  • The technology has brought about better colony growth & less swarming as compared to earlier used wooden boxes because of the favourable conditions they created. Introduction of indigenous bees, which can survive better in the apple growing areas, to replace the Italian bees through this technology has helped increase the average productivity of apple orchards by around 25 percent. 
  • In existing mud hives, provisions for easy cleaning inside mud hive were introduced by putting aluminium sheets at the base of mud hive. 
  • This sheet is sealed with cow dung paste and can be removed for cleaning without opening the mud hive. 
  • The rooftop of mud hive was also made up of stone slate, which gives better protection and maintains favourable temperature inside mud hive. 
  • The technology has also helped in the extraction of honey in hygienic manner using honey extractors as in wooden boxes and introduced better management practices, such as feeding, inspection, union, and division of colonies as compared to traditional wall hives.

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