Daily Current Affairs : 10th & 11th October 2020

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Accommodative policy
  2. World Food Programme
  3. Anti-radiation missile
  4. Tree Transplantation Policy
  5. India COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health System Strengthening Project
  6. Synedrella Yellow Vein Clearing Virus
  7. Facts for Prelims

1 . Accommodative policy


Context : The Indian central bank on Friday reiterated its resolve to revive growth impulses in the economy and mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic’s worst impacts, by extending its accommodative policy stance for the rest of this year as well as 2021-22, even as it held key policy rates unchanged in the face of high inflation. 

Key announcements made by RBI

Measures Announced to ease Liquidity

  • Three immediate measures were announced to ease liquidity — allowing banks to hold more SLR holdings till maturity for securities purchased in the second half of 2020-21, targeted long-term repo operations for up to ₹1 lakh crore with tenors of up to three years, and open market operations in State Development Loans as a ‘special case’

Policy Stances of RBI

Accommodative Stance

  • Accommodative stance means the central bank is telling the market to expect a rate cut anytime
  • Usually, this policy is adopted when there is slowdown in the economy.

Neutral stance

  • Neutral stance doesn’t have any particular meaning. This means anything can happen anytime means the RBI would have the flexibility to either increase or decrease the policy rates

Tight and Calibrated Tightening stance

  • Tight – It indicates an impending rate hike
  • Calibrated Tightening – RBI would either keep the rates constant or increase the rates.

2 . World Food Programme


Context : Norwegian Nobel Committee on Friday announced the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize to the UN agency World Food Programme (WFP), “for its efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict. The WFP is the 28th organisation awarded the Nobel Peace Prize since its inception in 1901.

What is the WFP?

  • It was established in 1961. Then US President Dwight Eisenhower had suggested the idea of providing food aid through the UN system. Months after it was set up, the WFP faced a humanitarian crisis when more than 12,000 people died in an earthquake in Boein Zahra in northern Iran. The WFP sent tonnes of wheat, sugar and tea. Thereafter, it played an important role in providing food aid in Thailand and Algeria.
  • It launched its first development programme in 1963 for Nubians in Sudan. In the same year, the WFP’s first school meals project – in Togo – was approved. Two years later, WFP became a full-fledged UN programme.
  • The WFP is headquartered in Rome, Italy. It is governed by an Executive Board, which consists of 36 member states. It is headed by an Executive Director, who is appointed jointly by the UN Secretary-General and the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The Executive Director is appointed for fixed five-year terms.

What is the scale of its work?

  • WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency combating hunger. In 2019, it assisted 97 million people – the largest number since 2012 – in 88 countries, says the WFP. The same year, it delivered about 4.4 million tonnes of food, purchased $1.7 billion worth of food from 91 countries, and $762 million worth of goods and services from 156 countries. On any given day, WFP has 5,600 trucks, 30 ships and nearly 100 planes on the move, delivering food and other assistance to those in most need, it says.
  • “Every year, we distribute more than 15 billion rations at an estimated average cost per ration of US$ 0.61. These numbers lie at the roots of WFP’s unparalleled reputation as an emergency responder, one that gets the job done quickly at scale in the most difficult environments,” it says.
  • WFP India said in a statement: “From the rebuilding of post-war South Korea in the late 1960s, through the emergency response after genocides in Cambodia and Rwanda, the long-running conflict in South Sudan and the more recent wars in Yemen and Syria, WFP has been a constant presence for the poor and the destitute, refugees and the dispossessed.”

Why does the world need a food programme?

  • Eradicating hunger is one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2030. The WFP is the UN’s primary agency that works towards this goal. According to the WFP, there are 690 million hungry people around the world and around 60% of them live in countries affected by conflict. The number of hungry people is expected to increase further due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • The WFP estimates suggest that by 2030, nearly half of the global poor will be living in fragile and conflict-affected situations. It says people living in countries with long-running crises are more than twice as likely to be undernourished than people elsewhere (2.5 times as much).

What is WFP’s role in India?

  • The WFP has been working in India since 1963, two years after its establishment. Apart from focusing on reforms in the Targeted Public Distribution System, it provides policy inputs, advocacy and technical assistance for improving access to food.
  • The WFP has proposed some unique initiatives like Automatic Grain Dispensing Machine (Annapurti) and Mobile Storage Units for the effective implementation of TPDS. Annapurti allows beneficiaries to withdraw their foodgrain quota accurately and at a time of their choice. It can dispense two commodities at a speed of 25 kg per 1.3 minutes. It has a storage capacity of 200 kg to 500 kg.
  • According to WFP India, it has completed a pilot on rice fortification used in the government’s Mid-day Meals scheme in Varanasi. Since December 2018, 4,145 tonnes of fortified rice has been produced and fed to 300,000 schoolchildren, it says.
  • Even during the pandemic, WFP India has worked with the central and state governments. For instance, it signed an MoU with the Uttar Pradesh State Rural Livelihood Mission. Under the agreement, WFP will provide technical assistance for setting up supplementary nutrition production units in 18 districts for supply of quality food to about 33 lakh beneficiaries of the Anganwadi scheme (Integrated Child Development Services). It has also prepared a guidance note for the re-opening of schools during the pandemic.

What has the Nobel Committee said while declaring the award?

  • The Norwegian Nobel Committee highlighted the work done by the WFP to eradicate hunger and underlined its role in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.
  • “The coronavirus pandemic has contributed to a strong upsurge in the number of victims of hunger in the world. In countries such as Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan and Burkina Faso, the combination of violent conflict and the pandemic has led to a dramatic rise in the number of people living on the brink of starvation,” the Committee said.
  • “In the face of the pandemic, the World Food Programme has demonstrated an impressive ability to intensify its efforts. As the organisation itself has stated, ‘Until the day we have a medical vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos

3 . Anti-radiation missile Rudram


Context : India’s first indigenous anti-radiation missile, Rudram, developed for the Indian Air Force, was successfully flight-tested from a Sukhoi-30 MKI jet off the east coast

What is an anti-radiation missile?

  • Anti-radiation missiles are designed to detect, track and neutralise the adversary’s radar, communication assets and other radio frequency sources, which are generally part of their air defence systems.
  • Such a missile’s navigation mechanism comprises an inertial navigation system — a computerised mechanism that uses changes in the object’s own position — coupled with GPS, which is satellite-based.
  • For guidance, it has a “passive homing head” — a system that can detect, classify and engage targets (radio frequency sources in this case) over a wide band of frequencies as programmed.
  • Once the Rudram missile locks on the target, it is capable of striking accurately even if the radiation source switches off in between.
  • Missile has an operational range of more than 100 km, based on the launch parameters from the fighter jet

How was Rudram developed?

  • Rudram is an air-to-surface missile, designed and developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). Officials said DRDO initiated development of anti-radiation missiles of this type around eight years ago, and its integration with fighter jets has been a collaborative effort of various DRDO facilities and formations of the IAF and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.
  • The system has been tested from a Sukhoi-30 MKI, it can be adapted for launch from other fighter jets too.
  • Sanskrit name Rudram was given in keeping with tradition, because it includes the letters ARM (the acronym for anti-radiation missile) and the word in Sanskrit describes a “remover of sorrows” (one of its meanings).

How significant are such missiles in aerial warfare?

  • Rudram has been developed for the IAF’s requirement to enhance its Suppression of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD) capability.
  • As one of the many aspects of SEAD tactics, anti-radiation missiles are used mainly in the initial part of air conflict to strike at the air defence assets of the enemy, and also in later parts, leading to higher survivability to a country’s own aircraft.
  • Neutralising or disrupting the operations of the adversary’s early warning radars, command and control systems, surveillance systems that use radio frequencies and give inputs for anti-aircraft weaponry, can be very crucial.
  • Scientists said modern-day warfare is more and more network-centric, which means it comprises elaborate detection, surveillance and communication systems that are integrated with the weapons systems.

4 . Tree Plantation Policy


Context : The Delhi Cabinet approved the ‘Tree Transplantation Policy’ for the preservation of trees in the Capital.

Background

  • The woodland of Delhi is very dense and the trees are old and strong because Delhi is quite an old city but often due to construction and development work trees are cut down
  • Until now the policy entailed planting 10 saplings as a compensatory effort if one tree was supposed to be cut. The tree which was cut could be around 400-500 years old and a symbol of how nature preserved it and nurtured it for so many years and was different from newly planted saplings.
  • Delhi have now passed the tree transplantation policy. Delhi is the first State in the country where this policy has been passed.

Details of the Policy

  • Along with retaining the policy of planting 10 saplings for every one tree that is cut, additionally trees will be transplanted
  • The process involves uprooting a tree from a particular spot, lifting it, and planting it at another spot
  • A minimum of 80% of trees affected by a project, over and above compensatory afforestation of planting of 10 saplings, will be transplanted. Also, a minimum of 80% of the transplanted trees should survive and ensuring this would be the responsibility of the agencies that will take permission.
  • The Delhi government will also form a panel of the agencies that excel in the task of transplantation and whichever department wants trees to be transplanted can approach any agency out of the panel that is being formed. The payment of the agencies will be made only if 80% of the trees continue to survive after a year
  • A dedicated Tree Transplantation Cell will also be formed by the Delhi government and local committees, which will include government officials, citizens, RWAs to monitor the transplanted trees and to certify that the task has been done with due diligence.

5 . India COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health System Strengthening Project


Context : A project financed by Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and World Bank will pump in $1.5 billion over the next four years to help India’s healthcare system tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.

About the Project

  • The “India COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health System Strengthening Project” will involve multiple components that aim to “support the acceleration and scale up of the GOI response” to the virus
  • “The project will involve the construction, expansion, rehabilitation and/or operation of healthcare facilities in response to COVID-19 amongst other activities, such as, procurement of hospital equipment, personal protection equipment (PPE), testing of patients
  • The project has components dealing with emergency Covid-19 response, shoring up the healthcare system and strengthening pandemic research.

6 . Synedrella Yellow Vein Clearing Virus


Context :  A new study with researchers from National Centre of Biological Sciences (NCBS-TIFR), Bengaluru, has discovered a new step in this arms race between the virus called Synedrella Yellow Vein Clearing Virus and the plants it attacks. The virus was isolated by the researchers from a plant named Synedrella nodiflora, and it was able to infect tobacco and tomato plant in their studies.

About the virus

  • This virus is a representative of the Begomovirus family of viruses.
  • Begomoviruses are a large family with about 400 members.
  • They infect economically important plants and are a major reason for crop loss

How Virus attacks the plants and the response from plants

  • The virus first attacks the plant, and the plant has defences that are actually counter-attacks – mechanisms that seek to destroy the virus. In turn, the virus develops a counter-counter-attack by trying to escape being destroyed by the plant’s mechanisms.
  • In the case of the Synedrella Yellow Vein Clearing Virus, it happens this way: When the virus attacks the plant, it produces vein-clearing symptoms which make the plant look beautiful.
  • The fact, however, is that this does not make it better for the plant. It actually makes it difficult for the plant to produce flowers and fruits. “
  • Without BetaC1, a viral protein, the virus will not be able to defeat the host attacks and also will not be able to completely infect the plant, as the virus will not be able to move through the veins of the plant
  • In turn, the plant develops defence mechanisms to destroy the virus. It targets the protein called BetaC1 made by the virus which helps in successful infection and intracellular movement within the plant. Plants degrade BetaC1 protein of virus by tagging this protein with another smaller protein called ubiquitin.
  • In their study, the researchers found that, in response, the virus uses the plant’s machinery to create a small modification of the BetaC1 protein. It adds a tiny protein called SUMO to the betaC1 protein in a process termed SUMOylation. “BetaC1 hijacks the SUMO pathway machinery of the plants and makes itself a substrate for SUMOylation. Essentially, BetaC1 mimics or tricks the host SUMOylation machinery as if it is one of the host plant protein requiring SUMOylation

Importance

  • Viruses very similar to this virus are the biggest threat to crop production throughout world. Apparently, in infected fields, up to 60% of horticultural crops are lost due to begomoviral infection.

7 . Facts for Prelims


Kasthuri Branding & Cott-Ally

  • Union Minister for Textiles unveiled a brand and a logo for Indian cotton
  • The branding — Kasturi Cotton — would initially be applicable to long staple cotton that is grown in India and meets prescribed standards.
  • Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) had developed a mobile application called “Cott-Ally” to provide the latest news on weather conditions, the crop situation and best farm practices.

Animal Discoveries 2019’ and ‘Plant Discoveries 2019

  • ‘Animal Discoveries 2019’ and ‘Plant Discoveries 2019’ are annual publications of Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) and the Botanical Survey of India (BSI)
  • ‘Animal Discoveries 2019’lists 368 faunal species as new to science and 116 species as being spotted for the first time in India. “The publication provides the details about 360 new species, 4 subspecies and 4 fossil species as well as 116 species spotted for the first time in India
  • ‘Plant Discoveries 2019’ lists 180 new plant species and 73 species spotted for the first time in the country.
  • Some of the animal and plant species are a rock-dwelling gecko, Cnemaspis anandani, endemic to the Western Ghats. Sphaerotheca magadha, a burrowing frog discovered in the farm fields of Jharkhand. Enoplotrupes tawangensis, a dung beetle from Tawang. A wild ginger variety, Amomum nagamiense, discovered from the forest behind Kohina Zoo in Nagaland. A wild fern, Pteris subiriana, found not just in Kerala but also Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. India has 544 reasons to cheer with the

National butterfly tag

  • A citizen poll to identify the national butterfly concluded with three species garnering the highest number of votes.
  • Krishna Peacock (Papilio krishna), Indian Jezebel (Delias eucharis), and Orange Oakleaf (Kallima inachus), the frontrunners, have unique features such as ability to camouflage as a dead leaf, exhibit iridescence to stave off predators, and aid farmers in getting rid of pests.
  • While the organisers will submit the list of the top-three to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, the onus is on the Centre to choose one among them to join the ranks of the Bengal Tiger, Indian Peacock, Indian Lotus, banyan tree, and mango as yet another national symbol

Environment – Facts for Prelims

  • Spialia zebra – Butterfly species recently identified in India
  • Atratothemis reelsi  – Dragonfly species recently identified in India
  • Phulwari ki Nal Wildlife Sanctuary – Udaipur
  • Sita Mata Wildlife Sanctuary – Rajasthan
  • Namdapha Tiger Reserve, – Arunachal Padesh
  • Butterfly Research Centre of India – Bhimtal in Uttarakhand.
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