CURRENT AFFAIRS JUNE 2020

ONLINE DISPUTE RESOLUTION

  • Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) is form of Alternative dispute redressal mechanism (ADR) that uses negotiation, mediation and arbitration techniques to resolve disputes with help of the Internet and ICT.
  • ODR uses technology and employ data management tools to ensure predictability, consistency, transparency and efficiency of the judicial process.
  • Models under ODR:

o            Opt-in model, in which option of going into mediation is voluntary.

o            Opt-out model, under which it is mandatory to enter into mediation for at least one session, and then the parties have the liberty to opt out if they feel so.

  • ODR focuses on

o            Dispute resolution: Resolving disputes that reach the courts through open, efficient, transparent process.

o            Dispute containment and avoidance: Facilitate and ensure through ODR that a problem does not reach the stage of a dispute thus ensures a problem does not become a dispute.

  • ODR is more suited to complaints that are of low value, high volume and occurring between users with access to internet.

ODR across the world

  • E- commerce companies in US began ODR in early 2000 and country court mandates ODR as first step.
  • In European Union it is mandatory to all online traders to provide link to EU’s ODR platform.
  • In England tax incentives are provided for cases with mediation under ODR.

E-DIPLOMACY

  • The first ever India Australia virtual summit in the wake of COVID-19 crisis has brought the concept of e-diplomacy to limelight.
  • Globally, many nations have taken to e diplomacy routes to keep the momentum of foreign relations going, amid COVID-19.
  • Other recent summits like Extraordinary virtual G20 Leaders’ Summit, SAARC virtual summit, Non-Aligned Movement Summit have been held virtually.

About e diplomacy

  • E diplomacy is the use of internet and communication technologies by nations to define and establish diplomatic goals and objectives and to efficiently carry out the functions of diplomats.
  • These functions include representation and promotion of the home nation, establishing both bilateral and multilateral relations, consular services and social engagement.
  • Advantages:

o            Continuum of diplomacy and physical safety in extra-ordinary situations: In times of crisis like the ongoing Pandemic, e-diplomacy mitigates the physical contact between leaders and ensures their safety along with progressing diplomatic talks.

o            Economically prudent: This also saves huge amounts of national money by omitting costly travels and lavish events.

o            Efficient time utilization: Reduced travel time also allows the diplomats to invest more time in policy making and better engagement strategies.

o            Much of foreign ministry’s energy goes into organizing visits, but the follow-up has always been hard. Virtual diplomacy makes high-level engagement less burdensome.

INDIA’S ENERGY COOPERATION WITH NEIGHBOURING COUNTRIES

Recently India and Bhutan signed a pact for first joint venture hydropower project.

o            The 600 MW Kholongchhu project is part of four projects agreed in 2008, other three being Bunakha, Wangchhu and Chamkharchhu.

o            It is a 50:50 Joint Venture between Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam, Himachal Pradesh PSU and Bhutanese Druk Green Power Corporation.

o            Guidelines for Import/ Export (Cross Border) of Electricity- 2018 issued by the Ministry of Power facilitates import/ export of electricity between India and neighbouring countries.

India’s Energy cooperation with neighbouring countries

  • India-Bhutan: Both countries signed, India and Bhutan framework agreement on hydropower development and trade, in 2006 to develop 10,000 MW of hydropower by 2020.

o            Key projects include, Tala hydropower project (1,020 MW) and Dorjilung hydropower project (1,125 MW) (trilateral cooperation between Bhutan, India and Bangladesh).

  • India-Nepal Electricity trade: Both signed Power Trade Agreement in 2014 that commits both countries to buy and sell electricity during times of shortages.

o            There are 22 cross border power exchange facilities operational between two.

o            Mahakali Treaty was signed in 1996 for development of Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project.

  • India – Bangladesh Electricity trade

o            MoU was signed in 2010 between two for bilateral Co-operation in the areas of Power and establishment of grid connectivity.

o            India currently supplies about 1,200 MW power to Bangladesh, to be increased to over 2,500 MW by 2021.

  • India-Myanmar: Currently, Interconnection transmission line from Moreh (Manipur) to Tamu (Myanmar) transports electricity from India to Myanmar.

Multilateral initiatives in South Asia for energy cooperation

  • South Asia Regional Initiative for Energy Integration (SARI/EI) was launched in 2000 to promote energy security through increased trade, investment and access to clean sources of power and fuel.

o            It covers 8 countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, The Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

  • SAARC Framework Agreement for Energy Cooperation (Electricity) was signed by all Member States of SAARC in 2014 to facilitate integrated operation of regional grid across SAARC.
  • South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) Operational Plan 2016-2025 identifies Energy as one of the four-priority sectors for partnership among SASEC members (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, and Sri Lanka).

INDIA ELECTED NON-PERMANENT MEMBER OF UN SECURITY COUNCIL (UNSC)

India has been elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for a two-year term.

  • India, the only endorsed candidate from the Asia-Pacific States, won 184 votes out of the 192 ballots cast in the elections. India’s two-year term as the non-permanent member of the UNSC would begin from January 1, 2021.
  • It will be India’s 8th term as non-permanent member at the UNSC.
  • Along with India, Ireland, Mexico and Norway also won the Security Council elections for the non-permanent membership.

SUSPENSION OF INSOLVENCY AND BANKRUPTCY CODE (IBC)

  • Recently, an ordinance was approved to amend the IBC so as to provide relief for corporates as the pandemic and subsequent lockdown had significantly impacted economic activities.

About the ordinance

  • Section 10A has been introduced thereby suspending Sections 7, 9 and 10 of the IBC.

o            It states that no application shall ever be filed for initiation of corporate insolvency resolution process of a corporate debtor for any default arising on or after 25th March, 2020 for a period of six months which could be extended up to a year.

o            While sections 7 and 9 provide for initiation of insolvency proceedings by financial creditors and operational creditors, respectively, section 10 is for initiation of insolvency resolution proceedings by a corporate applicant.

Rationale of the move

  • Economic stress because of COVID-19: Industries are grappling with supply chain breakdown, slowdown in demand, unavailability of labour and inability to complete contracts.

Some important features of IBC

  • Covers: all individuals, companies, Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs) and partnership firms.
  • Adjudicating authority: National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) for companies and and Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT) for individuals and partnership firms.
  • The insolvency resolution process can be initiated by any of the stakeholders of the firm: firm/ debtors/ creditors/ employees.
  • If the adjudicating authority accepts, an Insolvency resolution professional or IP is appointed.
  • The power of the management and the board of the firm is transferred to the committee of creditors (CoC) which comprises of all financial creditors of the corporate debtor.

BANKING REGULATION (AMENDMENT) ORDINANCE 2020

President recently promulgated the Banking Regulation (Amendment) Ordinance 2020.

  • The Ordinance seeks to amend the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 (Act), which regulates the functioning of banks and provides details on various aspects such as licensing, management, and operations of banks.
  • It aims to bring all the Urban Cooperative Banks (UCB) and Multi State Cooperative Banks under the direct supervision of Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

BILATERAL INVESTMENT TREATY (BIT)

  • As India attempts to attract investments, there have been calls to review India’s model Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) 2016.

About Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT)

  • Bilateral investment treaties (BITs) are treaties between two countries aimed at protecting investments made by investors of both countries.
  • These treaties impose conditions on the regulatory behaviour of the host state and limit interference with the rights of the foreign investor.
  • Some of these conditions include

o            Restricting host state from expropriating (take property from owner) investments, barring for public interest with adequate compensation

o            Imposing obligations on host states to accord Fair and Equitable Treatment (FET) to foreign investment.

o            Allowing for transfer of funds subject to conditions given in the treaty

India and BITs

  • India started signing BITs in early 1990s and signed the first BIT with the United Kingdom (UK) in 1994, since then India has signed BITs with 84 countries.
  • BITs have been one the major drivers of FDI inflows into India. Total FDI to India has increased from $4,029 million in 2000-2001 to $43,478 in 2016-17.
  • However, a penalty awarded by an Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) tribunal in the White Industries case in 2011, and subsequent ISDS notices served against India in a wide variety of cases involving regulatory measures led to a review of the BITs.
  • Thus, India adopted new model BIT in 2016, moving somewhat to a protectionist approach concerning foreign investments. This model BIT is to serve as a framework for the renegotiation of India’s BITs worldwide.
  • Since its adoption, India has unilaterally terminated 66-odd BITs between 2016 and 2019. Since then, India has signed just three treaties, none of which is in force yet.

International Centre for Settlement of Disputes (ICSID)

  • ICSID is the world’s leading institution devoted to international investment dispute settlement.
  • ICSID was established in 1966 by the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes for legal dispute resolution and conciliation between international investors.
  • ICSID convention is ratified by 155 countries. India is not a party to the ICSID convention.

Current scenario of investment in India

  • India ranked among the top 10 for FDI in 2019 and has rank 63 in World Bank’s ‘Ease of Doing Business 2020, still the foreign investment has remained at 2 per cent of GDP.
  • FDI-equity inflows to India during 2019- 20 were $49.9 billion, substantially lower than the annual flow of remittances of $83 billion in the same period.

COMMERCIAL COAL MINING

Recently, government launched auction process of 41 coal blocks for commercial mining under ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’.

  • India has the world’s fourth largest coal reserve and is second largest producer after China, still India stands as second largest coal importer.
  • To ensure energy security through assured coal supply, address poor working conditions etc., coal mining was nationalised in 1973 by Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, 1973.
  • So, private sector firms were only allowed to mine coal for use in their captive (own) use, e.g. cement, steel, power and aluminium plants etc.
  • However, in 2014, Supreme Court cancelled 204 coal mines/blocks which were allocated between 1993-2014, on the grounds of C&AG report, alleging loss of 1.85 lakh crore to Government.
  • Later the government brought in the Coal Mines (Special provisions) (CMSP) Act of 2015 to allocate coal blocks through auction.
  • Prior to the enactment CMSP Act, coal mines were never given out through bidding. Companies used to apply for coal blocks and rights were given to them after scrutiny by an inter-ministerial committee.
  • Recently, government came with the Mineral Laws (Amendment) Act, 2020 which amends the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 (MMDR Act) and the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015, under which current auction process is launched.

INDIAN GAS EXCHANGE (IGX)

India’s first gas exchange — the Indian Gas Exchange (IGX) — was launched recently as wholly owned subsidiary of Indian Energy Exchange.

  • It is a digital trading platform that will allow buyers and sellers of natural gas to trade both in the spot market and in the forward market for imported natural gas across three hubs —Dahej and Hazira in Gujarat, and Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh.
  • Imported Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) will be regassified and sold to buyers through the exchange, removing the requirement for buyers and sellers to find each other.

Indian Energy Exchange (IEX)

  • It is the first and largest energy exchange in India providing a nationwide, automated trading platform for physical delivery of electricity, Renewable Energy Certificates and Energy Saving Certificates.
  • It is regulated by the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC).
  • IEX is one of the two power exchanges in India. (Other being Power Exchange India Ltd (PXIL)).

“LONE WOLF” ATTACKS

Recently, a lone wolf attack was carried out by an individual in London.

  • These attacks involve threat or use of violence by a single perpetrator (or a small cell).
  • A lone wolf acts without any direct support of any other group or other individual in the planning, preparation and execution of the attack.
  • Though lone wolf prefers to act totally alone, his or her radicalization to action maybe spurred by violent media images, incendiary books, manifestos, and fatwas.
  • Ranging from threatening and intimidating people to indiscriminate shootings, vehicle ramming, stabbing and suicide bombings, lone wolf terror attacks have become a grave threat.

FINANCIAL ACTION TASK FORCE

  • Pakistan is likely to remain on the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for failing to comply with its deadline to prosecute and penalise terrorist financing in the country.

About Financial Action Task Force (FATF)

  • The FATF is the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog. The intergovernmental body sets international standards that aim to prevent these illegal activities and the harm they cause to society.
  • It currently comprises 37 member countries (including India) and 2 regional organizations-European Commission and Gulf Co-operation Council.
  • It was established in July 1989 by a Group of Seven (G-7) Summit in Paris, initially to examine and develop measures to combat money laundering.

CLIMATE CHANGE AND ITS IMPACT ON INDIAN REGION

Ministry of Earth Sciences’ (MoES) released a report titled ‘Assessment of Climate Change over the Indian Region’.

  • It is a first ever attempt to document and assess climate change in different parts of India.
  • The report highlights the observed and projected changes in various climatic dimensions over the Indian region, their impacts and various policy actions to deal with the regional climate change.
  • Average temperature has risen by around 0.7°C during 1901–2018.
  • Causes: The surface air temperature changes over India are attributed mostly by greenhouse gases and partially offset by other anthropogenic forcing including aerosols and land use land cover change.
  • As compared to 1976-2005 period, by the end of 21st century, it is projected that:

o temperature may rise by approximately 4.4°C.

o frequency of summer heat waves over India may be 3 to 4 times higher

  • Summer monsoon rainfall has declined by 6%, over India between 1951-2015 especially in the densely populated Indo-Gangetic plains and the Western Ghats.
  • The frequency of localized heavy rain occurrences as well as dry spells has significantly increased.
  • Causes: Global-scale anthropogenic forcing such as GHGs as well as regional-scale forcing such as aerosols and land-use/ land-cover changes i.e. increasing urbanisation.
  • The area affected by drought has also increased by 1.3% per decade during 1951–2016. Areas over central India, southwest coast, southern peninsula and north-eastern India have experienced more than 2 droughts per decade, on average, during this period
  • Causes: Overall decrease of seasonal summer monsoon rainfall during the last 6–7 decades
  • The Hindukush Himalayas (HKH) (largest area of permanent ice cover outside the North and South Poles, also known as the ‘Third Pole’) experienced a declining trend in snowfall and also retreat of glaciers in recent decades.
  • However, parts of the high-elevation Karakoram Himalayas have, in contrast, experienced increased wintertime precipitation in association with enhanced amplitude variations of synoptic western disturbances.

NATURAL BARRIERS TO NATURAL DISASTERS

West Bengal launched a project to plant 5 crore mangrove trees in cyclone-hit Sundarbans.

  • Powerful cyclone Amphan that struck India and Bangladesh last month passed through the vast mangrove forests of the Sundarban delta. It resulted into destruction of 1,600 square kilometre of the 4,200 square km mangrove forest.
  • Hence the present plantation drive aims to finish the project in a month. Mangroves as natural barrier to Cyclones
  • There is growing evidence that mangroves and other natural barriers are critical components in the overall resilience of coastal areas to threats posed by tsunamis, cyclones, and other natural disasters.
  • Mangrove wetlands, which are found along sheltered tropical and subtropical shores and estuaries, are particularly valuable in minimizing damage to property and loss of human life by acting as a barrier against tropical storms, such as typhoons, cyclones, hurricanes, and tsunamis.

o            The Sunderbans with its thick mangrove forest acts like a shield. The mangroves do not just help to reduce the wind speed drastically when the storm moves through the delta but even help to break the waves and the storm surge triggered.

Natural Barriers to Disasters (Bio-Shields)

  • There are indirect and direct linkages between ecosystems and disasters. Ecosystem-based approaches can be effective tools in reducing disaster and climate risks and one of the few approaches to reduce all three components of the risk equation:

o            buffering and mitigating hazard impacts

o            reducing vulnerability by providing ecosystem services to reduce vulnerability

o            reducing exposure when natural infrastructure is established in highly exposed areas.

ONE SUN ONE WORLD ONE GRID

  • The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has recently issued a request for proposal (RfP) for developing a long-term vision, implementation plan, road map, and institutional framework for its One Sun One World One Grid (OSOWOG) program.

About OSOWOG

  • The idea for OSOWOG was for the first time pitched by Indian Prime Minister in 2018 during the first General Assembly of International Solar Alliance (ISA).
  • Through the OSOWOG initiative India plans build a global ecosystem of interconnected renewable energy resources that are seamlessly shared for mutual benefits and global sustainability.
  • The vision behind the OSOWOG is “The Sun Never Sets” and is a constant at some geographical location, globally, at any given point of time. Hence solar energy can be utilized through interconnected transmission. The global grid plan may also leverage the ISA.
  • The interconnected grid is envisioned with India at the fulcrum and two broad zones viz.

o            far East which would include countries like Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, Lao, Cambodia etc. and

o            far West which would cover the Middle East and the African Region.

International Solar Alliance (ISA)

  • The ISA is a treaty-based inter-governmental organisation for solar-resource-rich countries (which lie either completely or partly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn) to address their special energy needs.
  • The ISA was announced by Indian Prime Minister of India and then President of Parties (COP-21) in Paris, France.
  • It is headquartered in Gurgaon, India.
  • It has 67 member countries which have signed and ratified the ISA Framework Agreement.

SEABED 2030 PROJECT

  • Recently, researchers under Seabed 2030 project had finished mapping nearly one-fifth of the world’s ocean floor.

About Seabed 2030 Project

  • It is a collaborative project between the Nippon Foundation of Japan and the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO).
  • It aims to bring together all available bathymetric data to produce the definitive map of the world ocean floor by 2030 and make it available to all.

o            Bathymetry is the measurement of the shape and depth of the ocean floor.

  • It was launched at United Nations Ocean Conference in 2017.
  • It is aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources.

INDIA’S FIRST LICHEN PARK

  • Uttarakhand forest department has developed the country’s first lichen park in Munsiyari, Uttarakhand.
  • The park has been developed with an aim to conserve, protect, and cultivate lichens and to create awareness among locals regarding their importance.
  • More than 20,000 species of lichens are found in the world and India has around 2,714 of them. Uttarakhand is home to more than 600 species of lichens.

About Lichens

  • Lichen is a composite organism that emerges from algae or cyanobacteria living among the filaments of the fungi, living in a symbiotic relationship.
  • Whereas algae normally grow only in aquatic or extremely moist environments, lichens can potentially be found on almost any surface (especially rocks) or as epiphytes (meaning that they grow on other plants).
  • In local parlance, these are called “jhula” or “pathar ke phool”
  • Lichens are slow growing and can live for centuries.

DRUG ABUSE IN INDIA

  • In India, ‘Nasha Mukt Bharat: Annual Action Plan (2020-21) for 272 Most Affected Districts’ was e-launched by Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment on the occasion of “International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking” (June 26).

What is Drug Abuse?

  • Drug abuse or substance abuse refers to the use of certain chemicals for the purpose of creating pleasurable effects on the brain.
  • Substances of abuse include alcohol, opiates, cocaine, amphetamines, hallucinogens, prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse.

Causes of Drug abuse

  • Geographical location: o India is the link country between the two major opium producing regions of the world, namely -the “Golden Triangle” and the “Golden Crescent”.

o            Also, the coastal states are susceptible to maritime drug trafficking due to their exposure to trafficking routes across the Indian Ocean. BIMSTEC region due to its close proximity to China (leading country in the Pharma sector) is very vulnerable to the diversion and trafficking in Pharmaceutical Drugs.

  • Socio-economic factors: Family history of addiction, unemployment, changing cultural values and dwindling supportive bonds, peer pressure, glorification by media.
  • Biological Factors: Pre-existing psychiatric or personality disorder, or a medical disorder.
  • Psychological Factors: Low self-esteem (Anomie), Poor stress management, Social rebelliousness, Childhood loss or trauma.
  • Weak law enforcement and regulatory controls:

o            Implementation of laws such as Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 by the states has been tardy.

o            Developments in technology such as use of darknet for drug trafficking and inadequately trained staff.

o            Many times, illicitly produced opium for Pharmaceutical sector is diverted to illicit channels in India.

NATIONAL INSTITUTIONAL RANKING FRAMEWORK (NIRF)

  • Recently, “India Rankings 2020” under National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) was released by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). About NIRF “India Rankings 2020”
  • The NIRF was launched by the MHRD in 2015.
  • This framework outlines a methodology to rank institutions across the country on a yearly basis under 10 categories- Overall, University, Engineering, Management, Pharmacy, College, Medical, Law, Architecture and Dental (newly added in 2020)

  • Parameters: The ranking framework evaluates institutions on five broad generic groups of parameters

o            Teaching, Learning & Resources: It includes sub-parameters such as Student Strength (including Doctoral Students), Faculty-student ratio, Financial Resources and their Utilisation etc.

o            Research and Professional Practice: It reflects quality and quantity of Publications, IPR and Patents Published and Granted by the institution etc.

o            Graduation Outcomes: of University Examinations and Number of Ph.D. Students Graduating.

o            Outreach and Inclusivity: It measures regional diversity, gender equity, accessibility for Physically Challenged Students, enrollment of economically and socially challenged students, perception ranking etc.

o            Peer Perception: among Academic Peers and Employers.

PLASMA BANK

In a first in India, Delhi government has launched a plasma bank for treating covid19 patients.

About Plasma Bank

  • The facility is to be set up at the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS), and will be made available to government and private hospitals.
  • Plasma Bank functions like a blood bank, and has been created specifically for those who are suffering from COVID-19, and have been advised for plasma therapy by doctors.
  • Idea is to extract and store plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 and give it to someone suffering from the disease.
  • Delhi has been using Convalescent Plasma Therapy, an experimental treatment that doctors are using for people with severe coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

About Plasma

  • Plasma is the liquid portion of blood “yellowish” in color.
  • About 55% of blood is plasma, and the remaining 45% are red blood cells (RBC), white blood cells (WBC) and platelets that are suspended in the plasma.
  • Plasma serves four important functions in body

o            Helps maintain blood pressure and volume.

o            Supply critical proteins for blood clotting and immunity.

o            Carries electrolytes such as sodium and potassium to our muscles.

o            Helps to maintain a proper pH balance in the body, which supports cell function.

JOINT LUNAR POLAR EXPLORATION MISSION

Recently, details of Joint Lunar Polar Exploration (LPE) mission were released by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

Details of the Mission

  • It was conceptualized as joint mission between JAXA and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in 2017 which aims to put a lander and a rover on the Moon’s surface.
  • As per details shared by JAXA, it will be launched after 2023.
  • The mission would last for about six months and will target a constantly sunlit region near the Moon’s South Pole.
  • JAXA would be building the overall landing module and rover and ISRO would develop lander system.

FIFTH STATE OF MATTER

  • NASA Scientists recently observed the fifth state of matter in space for the first time as part of Bose Einstein Condensates (BEC) Experiments aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

About fifth state of matter

  • The existence of Bose Einstein Condensate, also known as the fifth state of matter was predicted by Albert Einstein and Indian mathematician Satyendra Nath Bose in early 1920s.

o            Solids, liquids, gases and plasma are the other four states of matter.

  • BEC is a supercooled gas that no longer behaves as individual atoms and particles, but rather an entity in a single quantum state.
  • BECs are formed when atoms of certain elements are cooled to near absolute zero (0 Kelvin, minus 273.15 Celsius).
  • When they reach that temperature, the atoms become a single entity with quantum properties, wherein each particle also functions as a wave of matter.

About Plasma – Fourth state of matter

  • Plasma is like a gas, but comprised of positive ions and free electrons with little or no overall electric charge.
  • Because of presence of charged ions, plasma is highly electrically conductive and responds strongly to magnetic and electric fields (unlike gas).
  • Plasmas have no fixed shape or volume, and are less dense than solids or liquids.
  • Plasma is the most common state of matter in the Universe comprising more than 99% of our visible universe.
  • Plasma occurs naturally in sun, the core of stars, quasars, Xray beam emitting pulsars and supernovas.
  • On Earth, plasma naturally occurs in flames, lightening and the auroras.
  • Plasmas can be formed by heating a gas to high temperatures, as, when heated, the atoms in the gas either gain or lose electrons (ionization).

MALABAR REBELLION

  • The year 2021 will be the 100th-year anniversary of the Malabar uprising. About Malabar rebellion
  • The Malabar rebellion, also known popularly as the Moplah rebellion, was an armed revolt staged by the Mappila Muslims of Kerala against the British authorities and their Hindu landlords in 1921.
  • The six-month-long rebellion is often perceived to be one of the first cases of nationalist uprisings in Southern India.
  • It occurred within the broader spectrum of the Khilafat/Non-cooperation movement led by Mahatma Gandhi.
  • Moplahs/Mappilas were the Muslim tenants (kanamdars) and cultivators (verumpattamdars) inhabiting the Malabar region where most of the landlords (janmi or jenmies) were upper caste Hindus.

KUSHINAGAR

The Union Cabinet has recently given its approval for declaration of Kushinagar Airport in Uttar Pradesh as an International Airport.

About Kushinagar

  • Kushinagar is one of the important Buddhist Pilgrimages sites and is also a part of the Buddhist Circuit as Lord Buddha attained Mahaparinirvana here.

o            Mahaparinirvana in Buddhism refers to the ultimate state of Nirvana (everlasting, highest peace and happiness) entered by an awakened being at the moment of physical death.

  • Prominent archaeological sites in the city are the Mahaparinirvana Stupa and temple (the latter houses a stunning 1,500-year-old reclining Buddha) and the Muktabandhan Stupa (representing the Buddha’s cremation site).
  • The site of Kushinagar was first identified by Sir Alexander Cunningham in 1877, the first Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India.
  • Other important Buddhist sites are:

o            Lumbini- Buddha’s Birthplace.

o            Bodh Gaya- where Buddha attained Enlightenment.

o            Sarnath- where Buddha gave his first sermon after attaining Enlightenment.

o            Kapilvastu- where Buddha grew up as a child.

o            Kaushambi- where Buddha delivered many sermons.

o            Sankisa-Lord Buddha is believed to have descended here after giving sermon to his mother in heaven.

o            Sravasti- where Buddha showed his divine prowess to impress upon the non-believers and delivered important sermons.

STRATEGIC SECTOR

  • Under Atmanirbhar Bharat package, a new Public Sector Enterprise (PSE) policy has been announced with plans to privatise PSEs, except the ones functioning in certain strategic sectors.
  • Under the proposed policy government will come up with list of strategic sectors.
  • Currently, following areas are categorised as strategic PSEs:

o            Arms & Ammunition and the allied items of defence equipment, defence air-crafts and warships.

o            Atomic Energy (except areas related to operation of nuclear power and applications of radiation and radio-isotopes to agriculture, medicine and non-strategic industries).

o            Railways transport.

  • All other CPSEs are considered as non-strategic.

OIL SPILL IN RUSSIA’S ARCTIC REGION

  • Permafrost thawing is recognised as principal reason that led to recent 20,000-tonne oil leak at an Arctic region power plant in Russia.

o            Plant is built entirely on permafrost, whose weakening over the years due to climate change caused the pillars supporting a fuel tank to sink.

About Permafrost

  • Permafrost is a ground that remains completely frozen at 0°C or below for at least two years.
  • It is composed of rock, soil and sediments held together by ice and are believed to have formed during glacial periods dating several millennia.
  • Every 1°C rise in temperature can degrade up to 39 lakh km2 of Permafrost due to thawing.

SUKHNA LAKE DECLARED AS WETLAND

  • Chandigarh Wetlands Authority issued a notification for the declaration of Sukhna Lake as a wetland under Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rule 2017 (Wetland Rules).

o            Sukhna Lake is a man-made lake in Chandigarh built-in 1958. It is situated at foothills of Shivalik Hills and was designed to collect runoff water from the Hills.

o            Earlier, the lake was also declared a living entity/legal person.

  • List of wetlands in India is developed based on wetlands definition of the Ramsar Convention (ratified by India).

o            It defines wetlands as ‘areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which, at low tides, does not exceed six meters.

GAIRSAIN

  • Uttrakhand governor gave assent to make Gairsain as Uttarakhand’s summer capital.
  • Gairsain, a tehsil in Chamoli district, lay between both the Kumaon and Garhwal regions and hence is convenient for people of both Garhwal and Kumaon divisions to access.
  • It is located nearly 270 km from Dehradun, the existing capital.

GOLD NANOPARTICLES (GNPS)

  • National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research and the Goa University has successfully synthesized GNPs using psychrotolerant Antarctic bacteria.
  • Nanoparticles (NP) are defined as particles that range in size from 1 to 100 nm at least in one dimension.
  • NPs have a high surface-to-volume ratio that enables them to possess unexpected optical, physical and chemical properties.
  • GNP’s biocompatibility, high surface area, stability, and non-toxicity make them suitable for various applications in therapeutic use including detection and diagnosis of diseases, bio-labelling, and targeted drug delivery.