Today Current Affairs: 11th February 2022 for UPSC IAS exams, State PSC exams, SSC CGL, State SSC, RRB, Railways, Banking Exam & IBPS, etc
Table of Contents
Scientists in the United Kingdom said they have achieved a new milestone in producing nuclear fusion energy, or imitating the way energy is produced in the sun.
- Energy by nuclear fusion is one of mankind’s long standing quests as it promises to be low carbon, safer than how nuclear energy is now produced and, with an efficiency that can technically exceed a 100%.
- A team at the Joint European Torus (JET) facility near Oxford in central England generated 59 megajoules of sustained energy during an experiment in December, more than doubling a 1997 record, the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority said.
- A kilogram of fusion fuel contains about 10 million times as much energy as a kilogram of coal, oil or gas.
- The energy was produced in a machine called a tokamak, a doughnut-shaped apparatus. The JET site is the largest operational one of its kind in the world.
- Deuterium and tritium, which are isotopes of hydrogen, are heated to temperatures 10 times hotter than the centre of the sun to create plasma. This is held in place using superconductor electromagnets as it spins around, fuses and releases tremendous energy as heat.
- The record and scientific data from these crucial experiments are a major boost for the ITER, the larger and more advanced version of the JET.
- The ITER is a fusion research mega-project supported by seven members — China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the U.S. — and based in the south of France.
- It seeks to further demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of fusion energy.
The Government banned the import of drones with immediate effect, except for research and development, defence and security purposes.
- The move aims to promote made-in-India drones, a statement from the Ministry of Civil Aviation said.
- The Directorate General of Foreign Trade of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry notified the Indian Trade Classification (Harmonised System), 2022 effecting the prohibition of drones for import.
- The Ministry of Civil Aviation said that while exceptions were provided for R&D, defence and security, importing drones for these purposes will require “due clearances”. However, import of drone components will not need any approvals.
- Last year, the Ministry notified liberalised drone rules with the aim to encourage R&D and to make India a drone hub.
- The government also approved a production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme for drones and their components with an allocation of ₹120 crore for three financial years.
Data from human trials of India’s first homegrown mRNA vaccine against coronavirus are likely to be presented to authorities for evaluation by the end of the month, and company officials are aiming to roll out the product before April.
- The mRNA vaccine being developed by Pune-based Gennova Biopharmaceuticals is currently in phase 2/3 trials to evaluate the safety, tolerability and immunogenicity of the candidate vaccine in healthy subjects. Around 4,000 volunteers have been recruited for the trial.
- India has so far approved at least six vaccines that can be manufactured locally but only two — Covishield and Covaxin — have been administered to over 99% Indians.
- Globally, mRNA vaccines have been at the vanguard of inoculation programmes in the U.S. and Europe because they exploit recent advances in molecular biotechnology and are said to be quicker to manufacture than older, well-established vaccine design principles.
- A limitation of the mRNA vaccines, or those made by Pfizer and Moderna, was that they were required to be stored in sub-zero conditions — a tough proposition in a country where such a degree of refrigeration is limited in availability.
- However, the prospective Gennova vaccine can be stored in ordinary refrigerators, the makers of Gennova have claimed earlier.
- The mRNA vaccine, can also purportedly be tweaked to be effective against newer variants, but so far, all the vaccines developed — including the prospective Gennova vaccine — have been customised to the original SARS-CoV-2.
Minister of State for Home Affairs, Nityanand Rai told the Rajya Sabha that the government does not use the phrase “urban naxals”, but when it comes to left-wing extremism (LWE), be it in urban areas or any other place, a vigil is kept and strict action is initiated.
- Rai was responding to a question by Bharatiya Janta Party’s (BJP) Rakesh Sinha who said that “Maoism thriving due to extra parliamentary forces and urban naxals who are sitting in universities and under the garb of journalism are breaking the country”. He said that some mainstream political parties were supporting them.
- Rai’s statement on LWE having foreign roots was countered by Communist Party of India’s Binoy Viswam.
- “Unlike right-wing extremism, which has a foreign influence and emanates from Italy and Germany, the LWE has socio-economic roots, it is there due to social deprivation”.
- Rai stated that the geographical spread of the violence had also been reduced and only 46 districts reported LWE-related violence in 2021 as compared to 96 districts in 2010.
- He said the the number of districts contributing approximately 90% of the LWE violence had come down to 25 districts in 2021.
- The reply stated that the incidents of LWE violence had reduced by 77% from an all-time high of 2,258 incidents in 2009 to 509 in 2021.
Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) has carried out coastal vulnerability assessment for entire Indian coast at States level to bring out an Atlas comprising 156 maps on 1:1,00,000 scales to prepare a Coastal Vulnerability Index (CVI).
- From this CVI, it can be delineated that Gujarat’s 124 coastal km is going to get affected or 5.36%, Maharashtra 11 km or 1.22% and then Karnataka & Goa 48 km or 9.54%, Kerala 15 km or 2.39%, Tamil Nadu 65 km or 6.38%, Andhra Pradesh 6 km or 0.55 %, Odisha 37 km or 7.51% West Bengal 49 km or 2.56%, Lakshadweep Islands 1 km or 0.81%, Andaman Islands 24 km or 0.96 km and Nicobar Islands 8 km or 0.97%.
- While the maps determine the coastal risks due to future sea-level rise based on the physical and geological parameters for the Indian coast, the CVI uses the relative risk that physical changes will occur as sea-level rises are quantified based on parameters like: tidal range; wave height; coastal slope; coastal elevation; shoreline change rate; geomorphology; and historical rate of relative sea-level change.
- Coastal vulnerability assessments can be useful information for coastal disaster management and building resilient coastal communities.
- A coastal Multi-Hazard Vulnerability Mapping (MHVM) was also carried out using parameters like sea level change rate, shoreline change rate, high-resolution coastal elevation, extreme water level from tide gauges and their return periods.
- This MHVM mapping was carried for the entire mainland of India on a 1:25000 scale.
- These maps depict the coastal low-lying areas exposed to the coastal inundation.
Last week, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee blocked Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar on Twitter. She said she was “forced” to do so because of his “unethical and unconstitutional” statements and accused him of treating government officials like “his servants”.
- Although envisaged as an apolitical head who must act on the advice of the council of ministers, the Governor enjoys certain powers granted under the Constitution, such as
- giving or withholding assent to a Bill passed by the state legislature, or
- determining the time needed for a party to prove its majority, or
- which party must be called first do so, generally after a hung verdict in an election.
- There are, however, no provisions laid down for the manner in which the Governor and the state must engage publicly when there is a difference of opinion.
- The management of differences has traditionally been guided by respect for each other’s boundaries.
- The Constituent Assembly envisaged governor to be apolitical. But politicians become Governors and then resign to fight elections.
- The CM is answerable to the people. But the Governor is answerable to no one except the Centre.
- There is no provision for impeaching the Governor, who is appointed by the President on the Centre’s advice. While the Governor has 5-year a tenure, he can remain in office only until the pleasure of the President.
- In the Constitution, there are no guidelines for exercise of the Governor’s powers, including for appointing a CM or dissolving the Assembly. There is no limit set for how long a Governor can withhold assent to a Bill.
- From the Administrative Reforms Commission of 1968 to Sarkaria Commission of 1988, several panels have recommended reforms, such as selection of the Governor through a panel comprising the PM, Home Minister, Lok Sabha Speaker and the CM, apart from fixing his tenure for five years.
- Recommendations have also been made for a provision to impeach the Governor by the Assembly.
- No government has implemented any of these recommendations.
SC On Death Penalty:
The Supreme Court (SC) commuted the death sentence of a man, convicted of the rape and murder of a seven-year-old girl, to life imprisonment.
- The judgment may become a significant precedent to the anti-death penalty cause.
- SC commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment, with the rider that he shall not be entitled to “premature release or remission before undergoing actual imprisonment” for a period of 30 years.
- SC advised the trial judges that they should not be swayed in favour of death penalty merely because of the dreadful nature of the crime and its harmful impact on the society. They should equally consider the mitigating factors in favour of life imprisonment.
- SC referred to the evolution of the principles of penology and said that penology had grown to accommodate the philosophy of “preservation of human life”.
- Penology is a sub-component of criminology that deals with the philosophy and practice of various societies in their attempts to repress criminal activities, and satisfy public opinion via an appropriate treatment regime for persons convicted of criminal offences.
- SC noted that that though capital punishment serves as a deterrent and a “response to the society’s call for appropriate punishment in appropriate cases”,
- The principles of penology have “evolved to balance the other obligations of the society, i.e., of preserving the human life, be it of accused, unless termination thereof is inevitable and is to serve the other societal causes and collective conscience of society”.
- Capital punishment, also called the death penalty, is the execution of an offender sentenced to death after conviction by a court of law of a criminal offence. It is the highest penalty awardable to an accused. Generally, it is awarded in extremely severe cases of murder, rapes, treason etc.
- The death penalty is seen as the most suitable punishment and effective deterrent for the worst crimes.
- Those who oppose it, however, see it as inhumane.
- Thus, the morality of the death penalty is debatable and many criminologists and socialists all across the globe, have been long demanding abolition of the death penalty.
What Is The Unitary Digital Identity Framework?
In a bilateral meeting India has agreed to provide a grant to Sri Lanka to implement a ‘Unitary Digital Identity framework’, apparently modelled on the Aadhaar card.
- Both sides also discussed the fishermen’s issue and India provided financial assistance of 2.4 billion USD to Sri Lanka.
- Earlier, India and Sri Lanka agreed to a four-pronged approach to discuss initiatives on food and energy security to help mitigate Sri Lanka’s economic crisis.
- Unitary Digital Identity framework is similar to India’s own Aadhaar and under the proposed Unitary Digital Identity framework, Sri Lanka is expected to introduce a:
- Personal identity verification device based on biometric data
- Digital tool that can represent the identities of individuals in cyberspace and
- Identification of individual identities that can be accurately verified in digital and physical environments by combining the two devices
- This is not the first time that Sri Lanka is attempting to digitise its citizens’ identities. Just a few years ago from 2015 to 2019, the Sri Lankan government mooted a similar Electronic-National Identity Card — or E-NIC —that privacy advocates opposed on grounds that the state would have full access to citizens’ personal data in a central database.
- Government also tried initiating the project as early as 2011. Neither project was implemented.
In the annual Economic Survey, the Department of Economic Affairs said that there is an urgent need for Crop Diversification in view of the severe water stress in areas where paddy, wheat and sugarcane are grown as well as to increase oil seed production and reduce dependency on imports of cooking oil.
- Crop diversification refers to the addition of new crops or cropping systems to agricultural production on a particular farm taking into account the different returns from value-added crops with complementary marketing opportunities.
- Cropping System refers to the crops, crop sequences and management techniques used on a particular agricultural field over a period of years.
- Major cropping systems in India are sequential-cropping, monocropping, intercropping, relay Cropping, mixed-cropping and alley cropping.
- Many farmers also use the mixed crop-livestock system to increase their standards of living and income.
Animal husbandry or Animal Agriculture is the branch of science dealing with the practice of breeding, farming and care of farm animals (livestocks) such as cattle, dogs, sheep and horses by humans for advantages.
- It refers to livestock raising and selective breeding. It is a branch of agriculture.
Elon Musk’s Starlink has lost dozens of satellites that were caught in a geomagnetic storm a day after they were launched.
- The satellites were designed to burn up on reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere, and did not create debris in space.
- However, the loss of 40 satellites — most of a launch batch — in a single solar event has been described as “unheard of” and “huge”.
- Starlink is a SpaceX project to build a broadband network with a cluster of orbiting spacecraft that could eventually number thousands.
- The Starlink satellites carry Hall thrusters, which use electricity and krypton gas to generate an impulse, to manoeuvre in orbit, maintain altitude and guide the spacecraft back into the atmosphere at the end of their mission.
- The Starlink network is one of several ongoing efforts to start beaming data signals from space.
- Solar Storms occur during the release of magnetic energy associated with sunspots (‘dark’ regions on the Sun that are cooler than the surrounding photosphere – the lowest layer of the solar atmosphere), and can last for a few minutes or hours.
- A geomagnetic storm is a major disturbance of Earth’s magnetosphere that occurs when there is a very efficient exchange of energy from the solar wind into the space environment surrounding Earth.
- The magnetosphere shields our home planet from harmful solar and cosmic particle radiation, as well as erosion of the atmosphere by the solar wind – the constant flow of charged particles streaming off the Sun.
- These storms result from variations in the solar wind that produce major changes in the currents, plasmas, and fields in Earth’s magnetosphere.
- The solar wind conditions that are effective for creating geomagnetic storms are sustained (for several to many hours) periods of high-speed solar wind, and most importantly, a southward directed solar wind magnetic field (opposite the direction of Earth’s field) at the dayside of the magnetosphere.
- This condition is effective for transferring energy from the solar wind into Earth’s magnetosphere.
- The largest storms that result from these conditions are associated with solar Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) where a billion tons or so of plasma from the sun, with its embedded magnetic field, arrives at Earth.
- CMEs are large ejections of plasma and magnetic fields that originate from the Sun’s corona (outermost layer).
Accelerate Vigyan Scheme:
The Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), has invited applications under ‘ABHYAAS’, a program of ‘Accelerate Vigyan’ scheme, for summer season.
- SERB is an autonomous body of the Department of Science & Technology (DST), Union Ministry of Science & Technology..
- “Accelerate Vigyan” (AV) strives to provide a big push to high-end scientific research and prepare a scientific workforce, which can venture into research careers and a knowledge-based economy.
- AV aims to expand the research base in the country, with three broad goals — consolidation / aggregation of all scientific training programs, initiating high-end orientation workshops and creating opportunities for training and skill internships.
Accelerate Vigyan Scheme:
- ABHYAAS:It is a program of AV scheme, is an attempt to boost research and development in the country by enabling and grooming potential postgraduate / PhD students by developing dedicated research skills in selected areas / disciplines / fields through its two components — high-end workshops (“KAARYASHALA”) and Training and Skill Internship (“VRITIKA”).
- This is especially important for researchers with limited opportunities to access such learning capacities / facilities / infrastructure.
- SAMMOHAN: It has been sub-divided into SAYONJIKA and SANGOSHTI.
- SAYONJIKA is an open-ended program to catalogue capacity building activities in science and technology supported by all government funding agencies in the country.
- SANGOSHTI is a pre-existing program of SERB for the organisation of workshops.
Atal Tunnel has officially been certified by World Book of Records as the ‘World’s Longest Highway Tunnel above 10,000 Feet’.
- World Book of Records UK, is an organisation that catalogues and verifies extraordinary records across the world with authentic certification.
- It was built by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO).
- The 9.02-km tunnel is the longest highway tunnel in the world above the height of 3,000 metres.
- It cuts through a mountain west of the Rohtang pass and shortens the distance between Solang Valley and Sissu by around 46 km and takes around 15 minutes to cover. Earlier, it would take nearly 4 hours to travel between the two points.
- Rohtang Pass (elevation 3,978 m) is located in the state of Himachal Pradesh.
- It is present on the Pir Panjal Range of Himalayas.
- The Atal tunnel is the first step towards all-year connectivity to Ladakh.
- The tunnel has the potential to link Ladakh to Manali and Chandigarh throughout the year, as it bypasses Rohtang Pass, which is snowed in through the winter months.
- The tunnel provides a strategic advantage to the country’s armed forces by providing year-long connectivity to border areas.
- It will save an entire day for troops and supplies as they move towards forward posts.
- The residents of Ladakh who had to face immense hardship to avail even basic facilities like healthcare and food supplies now are able to reach Manali and connect with the rest of the country using this new tunnel.
- Essential commodities like petrol and vegetable supplies would also likely be available throughout the year.
- The drop in travel time helps many, especially farmers whose precious crops like peas and potatoes will no longer rot in trucks before reaching the market.
- The region has seen an unprecedented increase in the arrival of tourists, and in a little more than a year, the valley and the state have witnessed growth in the socio-economic domains.
MPs Right To Question:
Congress Whip Jairam Ramesh has raised the issue of Cabinet ministers not responding to questions in the Rajya Sabha claiming it to be first such incident in 70 years.
- In both Houses, elected members enjoy the right to seek information from various ministries and departments in the form of starred questions, unstarred questions, short notice questions and questions to private members.
- Usually, MPs’ questions form a long list, which then go through a rigorous process of clearance.
- The admissibility of questions in Rajya Sabha is governed by Rules 47-50 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Council of States.
- Once a question that fulfils the conditions of admissibility is received, the Secretariat sends it to the ministry concerned. Once the facts are received from the ministry, the question is further examined for admissibility.
- A final list of questions is circulated to ministers, on the basis of which they frame their answers.
- STARRED QUESTION: The member desires an oral answer from the minister. Such a question is distinguished by the MP with an asterisk. The answer can also be followed by supplementary questions from members.
- UNSTARRED QUESTION: The MP seeks a written answer, which is deemed to be laid on the table of the House by the concerned minister.
- SHORT NOTICE QUESTION: These are on an urgent matter of public importance, and an oral answer is sought. A notice of less than 10 days is prescribed as the minimum period for asking such a question.
- QUESTION TO PRIVATE MEMBER: A question can be addressed to a private member under Rule 40 of Lok Sabha’s Rules of Procedure, or under Rule 48 of Rajya Sabha’s Rules, provided that the question deals with a subject relating to some Bill, resolution or other matter for which that member is responsible.
Detention Centres For Foreigners:
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) recently informed the Rajya Sabha that it does not maintain a centralised data on the total number of detention centres in the country, as powers have been delegated to the State governments “to make necessary arrangements for detention centres/camps as per their requirement.”
- Detention centres are places designated to keep illegal migrants (people who have entered a country without necessary documents) once they are detected by the authorities till the time their nationality is confirmed and they are deported to the country of their origin.
- Detention centres were set up in Assam after the Union government authorized the state to do so under the provisions of the Foreigners’ Act, 1946 and the Foreigners Order, 1948.
- It replaced the Foreigners Act, 1940 conferring wide powers to deal with all foreigners.
- The act empowered the government to take such steps as are necessary to prevent illegal migrants including the use of force.
- The concept of ‘burden of proof’ lies with the person, and not with the authorities.
- The act originally empowered the government to establish tribunals which would have powers similar to those of a civil court.
- Amendments (2019) to the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964 empowered even district magistrates in all States and Union Territories to set up tribunals to decide whether a person staying illegally in India is a foreigner or not.
- Foreigners’ Tribunals are quasi-judicial bodies established as per the Foreigners’ Tribunal Order, 1964 and the Foreigners’ Act, 1946.
- Composition: Advocates not below the age of 35 years of age with at least 7 years of practice (or) Retired Judicial Officers from the Assam Judicial Service (or) Retired IAS of ACS Officers (not below the rank of Secretary/Addl. Secretary) having experience in quasi-judicial works.
- The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has amended the Foreigners (Tribunals) Order, 1964, and has empowered district magistrates in all States and Union Territories to set up tribunals (quasi-judicial bodies) to decide whether a person staying illegally in India is a foreigner or not.
- Earlier, the powers to constitute tribunals were vested only with the Centre.
UN peacekeepers and troops of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have increased patrols near the site of last week’s deadly raid on internally displaced persons (IDPs) in northeast Ituri province.
- The UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC, known by its French acronym as MONUSCO, recently exchanged fire with members of the Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) militia.
- The clash occurred during an operation to cordon and search in the Uzi area of Ituri province.
- The Savo attack is the latest in a string of devastating raids by CODECO on sites for displaced people in Ituri, where ethnic tensions between the Hema and the Lendu communities have existed for years.
- While decisions about establishing, maintaining or expanding a peacekeeping operation are taken by the Security Council, the financing of UN Peacekeeping operations is the collective responsibility of all UN Member States.
- Every Member State is legally obligated to pay their respective share towards peacekeeping. This is in accordance with the provisions of Article 17 of the Charter of the United Nations.
- The top 5 providers of assessed contributions to United Nations Peacekeeping operations for 2020-2021 are:
- United States.
- United Kingdom.
- United Nations Peacekeeping is a joint effort between the Department of Peace Operations and the Department of Operational Support.
- Every peacekeeping mission is authorized by the Security Council
- UN peacekeepers (often referred to as Blue Berets or Blue Helmets because of their light blue berets or helmets) can include soldiers, police officers, and civilian personnel.
- Peacekeeping forces are contributed by member states on a voluntary basis.
- Civilian staff of peace operations are international civil servants, recruited and deployed by the UN Secretariat.
- UN Peacekeeping is guided by three basic principles:
- Consent of the parties.
- Non-use of force except in self-defence and defence of the mandate.
International Court Of Justice (ICJ):
Uganda has been ordered to pay $325m (£240m) to the Democratic Republic of Congo for its role in the conflict there. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled Uganda had violated international norms as an occupying force between 1998 and 2003. The judges found that Uganda was responsible for the deaths of 10-15,000 people in the eastern Ituri region. Ugandan troops were also found to have looted gold, diamonds and timber.
- Now, Uganda must pay the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) $325 million in reparations related to the brutal conflict between the two nations from 1998 to 2003.
- The DRC initially filed the case with the ICJ in June 1999, citing acts of armed aggression perpetrated by Uganda on its territory “in flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter and of the Charter of the Organization of African Unity.”
- At the height of the war, more than nine African countries were drawn into the fighting.
- The Court ruled in December 2005 that Uganda had to make reparation to the DRC, but the sides could not reach agreement.
- ICJ was established in 1945 by the United Nations charter and started working in April 1946.
- It is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, situated at the Peace Palace in The Hague (Netherlands).
- Unlike the six principal organs of the United Nations, it is the only one not located in New York (USA).
- It settles legal disputes between States and gives advisory opinions in accordance with international law, on legal questions referred to it by authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies.
- The Court is composed of 15 judges, who are elected for terms of office of nine years by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council. These organs vote simultaneously but separately.
- In order to be elected, a candidate must receive an absolute majority of the votes in both bodies.
- In order to ensure a measure of continuity, one third of the Court is elected every three years and Judges are eligible for re-election.
- ICJ is assisted by a Registry, its administrative organ. Its official languages are English and French.
India’s Newest Mammal: White Cheeked Macaque
The Scientists from the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) have found a new mammal species in the country — the White Cheeked Macaque (Macaca leucogenys).
- While the species was first discovered in China in 2015, its existence was not known in India before this.
- It is only now that Indian scientists have discovered its presence in the remote Anjaw district in central Arunachal Pradesh.
- The latest discovery takes India’s mammal count from 437 to 438.
- The White Cheeked Macaque has distinct white cheeks, long and thick hair on the neck and a longer tail than other Macaque species.
- It is the last mammal to have been discovered in Southeast Asia.
- Both the Arunachal macaque as well as the White Cheeked Macaque exist in the same biodiversity hotspot in the eastern Himalayas.
- Along with White-Cheeked Macaques and Arunachal Macaque (Macaca munzala) the other species of Macaques are Assamese Macaque (Macaca assamensis) and Rhesus Macaque (Macaca mulatta) reported from the same landscape.
- The potential threat to all species of macaques in the landscape are due to hunting by locals for consumption and habitat degradation due to urbanisation and infrastructure development.
- This species is not covered by the Wildlife Protection Act of India, because till now it is not known that the species existed in India.