Table of Contents
Daily Current Affairs for Government Exams:
Today Current Affairs: 17th June 2020 for UPSC IAS exams, State PSC exams, SSC CGL, State SSC, RRB, Railways, Banking Exam & IBPS, etc
- .Parliamentary law against pre-natal sex determination and sex selection
- .SIPRI Yearbook 2020:
- Assessment of Climate Change over the Indian Region:
- India joins Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI) as a founding member
- Gateway lunar orbiting outpost. :
- Other important current affairs
1.Parliamentary law against pre-natal sex determination and sex selection:
The Supreme Court has asked the government to explain its decision to suspend crucial rules of a parliamentary law against pre-natal sex determination and sex selection till June end, amid the COVID-19 national lockdown. However, the Court has refused to put on hold the notification.
- On April 4, a notification was issued by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare which put on hold the implementation of certain rules of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex-Selection Rules) of 1996 till June 30, 2020.
- The government’s notification suspends rules 8, 9(8), and 18A(6) of the PCPNDT Act.
- This move was widely criticised for its future consequences and possibility of spike in sex-selective abortions in the country.
- In the absence of the rules, many fear that it could lead to undocumented misuse by clinic owners as well as parents.
The suspension of Clause 9(8) is of particular concern.
- The Rule reads: “Rule 9(8): Every Genetic Counselling Centre, Genetic Laboratory, Genetic Clinic, Ultrasound Clinic and Imaging Centre shall send a complete report in respect of all pre-conception or pregnancy related procedures/techniques/tests conducted by them in respect of each month by 5th day of the following month to the concerned Appropriate Authority.”
- Since the medical facilities come under essential services and thus are exempted from the lockdown if the clinic is open and conducting tests it should be duty-bound to keep a register of such tests and suspension of the rule could lead to illegal procedures.
About the PCPNDT Act:
- It was enacted in response to the decline in Sex ratio in India, which deteriorated from 972 in 1901 to 927 in 1991.
- The main purpose of enacting the act is to ban the use of sex selection techniques before or after conception and prevent the misuse of prenatal diagnostic technique for sex selective abortion.
- Offences under this act include conducting or helping in the conduct of prenatal diagnostic technique in the unregistered units, sex selection on a man or woman, conducting PND test for any purpose other than the one mentioned in the act, sale, distribution, supply, renting etc. of any ultra sound machine or any other equipment capable of detecting sex of the foetus.
- The Act mandates compulsory registration of all diagnostic laboratories, all genetic counselling centres, genetic laboratories, genetic clinics and ultrasound clinics.
- The act was amended in 2003 to improve the regulation of the technology used in sex selection.
- The Act was amended to bring the technique of pre conception sex selection and ultrasound technique within the ambit of the act.
2.SIPRI Yearbook 2020:
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) launched the findings of SIPRI Yearbook 2020, which assesses the current state of armaments, disarmament and international security.
- The nine nuclear-armed states—the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea—together possessed 13,400 nuclear weapons at the start of 2020, a decrease from the 13 865 nuclear weapons at the beginning of 2019.
- Despite an overall decrease in the number of nuclear warheads in 2019, all nuclear weapon-possessing states continue to modernize their nuclear arsenals.
- With 6,375 and 5,800 warheads, Russia and the United States together possess more than 90% of global nuclear weapons.
- China and Pakistan possess more nuclear weapons than India. It pegs the number of nuclear warheads in the Chinese arsenal at 320, while the nuclear forces of Pakistan and India are estimated to have 160 and 150 weapons, respectively. In 2019, India had 130-140 warheads.
- China is developing a nuclear triad for the first time, made up of new land- and sea-based missiles and nuclear-capable aircraft.
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI):
- Location: SIPRI is an international institute based in Stockholm, Sweden.
- Established in: 1966.
- Purpose: It is dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament. It provides data, analysis and recommendations, based on open sources, to policymakers, researchers, media and the interested public
3. Assessment of Climate Change over the Indian Region:
Recently, the first Assessment of Climate Change over the Indian Region has been published by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES).
- It is India’s first-ever national forecast on the impact of global warming on the subcontinent in the coming century.
- These projections, based on a climate forecasting model developed at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, will be part of the next report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), expected to be ready in 2022.
- This is a significant step for climate science and policy in India because existing projections are put in the context of historical trends in land and ocean temperatures, monsoon rainfall, floods, droughts and Himalayan warming and glacier loss.
- In a worst-case scenario, average surface air temperatures over India could rise by up to 4.4°C by the end of the century as compared to the period between 1976 and 2005.
- The worst-case scenario is defined by the Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 8.5 that calculates a radiative forcing of 8.5 watt per square meter due to the rising greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the atmosphere.
- The latest global climate change assessments indicate a rise in worldwide average surface air temperatures by 5°C by the end of the century if human activities keep emitting GHGs at the current rate.
- The global average temperature in the last century has gone up by 1.1°C, according to the latest estimates by the IPCC.
- Another significant highlight of the assessment is the projected variability in the rainfall, especially during the monsoon season which brings 70% of the rainfall received by India and is one of the primary drivers of its rural agrarian economy.
- Monsoon rainfall could change by an average of 14% by 2100 that could go as high as 22.5%. It is not mentioned if this change will be an increase or a decrease but still represents variability.
4. India joins Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI) as a founding member:
India joins Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI) as a founding member to support the responsible and human-centric development and use of AI.
- It is an international and multi-stakeholder initiative to guide the responsible development and use of AI, grounded in human rights, inclusion, diversity, innovation, and economic growth.
- This is also a first initiative of its type.
- GPAI will be supported by a Secretariat, to be hosted by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris, as well as by two Centers of Expertise- one each in Montreal and Paris.
- Founding members: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Slovenia, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and the European Union.
- It will bridge the gap between theory and practice on AI by supporting cutting-edge research and applied activities on AI-related priorities.
- In collaboration with partners and international organizations, GPAI will bring together leading experts from industry, civil society, governments, and academia to collaborate to promote responsible evolution of AI.
- It will also evolve methodologies to show how AI can be leveraged to better respond to the present global crisis around COVID-19.
- By joining GPAI as a founding member, India will actively participate in the global development of Artificial Intelligence, leveraging upon its experience around the use of digital technologies for inclusive growth.
- Artificial intelligence is the branch of computer science concerned with making computers behave like humans. AI refers to the ability of machines to perform cognitive tasks like thinking, perceiving, learning, problem-solving, and decision making.
5.Gateway lunar orbiting outpost. :
- NASA recently finalized the contract for the initial crew module of the agency’s Gateway lunar orbiting outpost. The contract, which is worth $187 million has been awarded to Orbital Science Corporation of Dulles, Virginia, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Northrop Grumman Space.
- NASA has issued this contract to design the habitation and logistics (HALO) support for the Gateway, which is a part of NASA’s Artemis program that aims to send the first woman and the next man to the Moon by 2024.
- Essentially, the Gateway is a small spaceship that will orbit the Moon, meant for astronaut missions to the Moon and later, for expeditions to Mars.
- It will act as a temporary office and living quarters for astronauts distanced at about 250,000 miles from Earth. The spaceship will have living quarters, laboratories for science and research, and docking ports for visiting spacecraft.
- Further, astronauts will use the Gateway at least once per year and not stay around the year as they do on the International Space Station (ISS). Compared to the ISS, the Gateway is much smaller, while the ISS is about the size of a six-bedroom house.
- NASA has targeted the completion of the Gateway for 2026, while work on the spaceship is already underway. By 2022, NASA plans to ready the power and propulsion for the spaceship, which will be launched on a partner-provided commercial rocket.
Other important current affairs:
1. The traditional art of ‘talamaddale’, a variant of Yakshagana theatre, too has gone virtual in times of COVID-19.
- A performance was streamed live on social media on June 13. Tala-Maddale is an ancient form of performance dialogue or debate performance popular in the Karavali and Malnad regions of Karnataka and Kerala.
- The plot and content of the conversation are drawn from popular mythology but the performance mainly consists of an impromptu debate between characters involving sarcasm, puns, philosophy positions, and humor.
2. Scientists administering the World Health Organisation’s RECOVERY trial have reported that dexamethasone reduced Covid-19 deaths in severe patients.
- Dexamethasone is a cheap and widely available steroid drug.
- The drug was given either orally or through an IV (intravenous).
- After 28 days, it had reduced deaths by 35% in patients who needed treatment with breathing machines and by 20% in those only needing supplemental oxygen.
- The drug is not helpful for less ill patients and for those who do not need respiratory support.
- According to the estimates, this drug can prevent one death for every eight patients treated while on breathing machines and one for every 25 patients on extra oxygen alone.
3. First-ever distribution of assistive aids & devices to divyangjan through virtual platform under ADIP Scheme of M/O Social Justice & Empowerment in Firozpur, Punjab.
- This is the first camp being organized by the ALIMCO under DEPwD after opening of lockdown with the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) approved by the Government of India.
- About the ADIP Scheme- the Assistance to Disabled persons for purchasing/fitting of aids/appliances (ADIP) scheme:
- Being implemented by the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment.
- Objective: to assist the needy disabled persons in procuring durable, sophisticated and scientifically manufactured, modern, standard aids and appliances that can promote their physical, social and psychological rehabilitation, by reducing the effects of disabilities and enhance their economic potential.
- The scheme is implemented through implementing agencies such as NGOs, National Institutes under the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, and ALIMCO (a PSU that manufactures artificial limbs).
4. World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought is being observed on June 17, 2020 with the theme “Food. Feed. Fibre. – the links between consumption and land.”
- The day is observed every year on June 17.
- The objective of the day: To promote public awareness of international efforts to combat desertification.
- This day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly resolution in 1995, after the day when United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification was drafted.
- 2020 Theme: Food. Feed.Fibre. – the links between consumption and land
- This year’s observance is focused on changing public attitudes to the leading driver of land degradation: humanity’s relentless production and consumption.
5. India has set up its first mobile testing laboratory in a bid to meet the growing demand to conduct coronavirus disease (COVID-19) tests.
- The mobile laboratory, with on-site Elisa, RtPCR & Bio-chem analyzers, was created within eight days by a team from Andhra Pradesh MedTech Zone Limited.
- The laboratory can be deployed at remote and inaccessible areas in the country, where there is no such facility.
- The laboratory belongs to the biosafety level 2 (BSL-II) category.
- BSLs are ranked from one to four and are categorized on the basis of the organisms that the researchers are dealing with.
- The organisms include viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites, etc. SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19, belongs to the BSL-II category.
- BSL-I is considered to be the least hazardous, while BSL-IV poses the maximum safety risk. Each level builds on the previous category, adding more layers of constraints and barriers.
6. Sweden has officially closed among the world’s longest police investigations, into the assassination of its former Prime Minister Olof Palme.
- Sven Olof Joachim Palme (1927 – 1986) was a Swedish politician who led the Swedish Social Democratic Party from 1969 until his assassination in 1986.
- He served as Prime Minister of Sweden twice, heading a Privy Council Government from 1969 to 1976 and a cabinet government from 1982 until his death.
- He was posthumously awarded the Jawaharlal Nehru Peace Prize in 1987.
7. According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the land use change, which prepares the ground for zoonoses like Covid-19, should be reversed.
- Land-use change promotes zoonoses like Covid-19 as the interaction and physical distance between animals and humans get closer.
- Land Use Change:: Land-use change is a process that transforms the natural landscape by direct human-induced land use such as settlements, commercial and economic uses, and forestry activities.
- It impacts the overall environment in terms of greenhouse gas emission, land degradation, and climate change.
- Land-use change can be a factor in CO2 (carbon dioxide) atmospheric concentration and is thus a contributor to global climate change.
- It represents almost 25% of total global emissions.
- According to the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), over 70% of all-natural, ice-free land in the world is affected by human use.
- This could further rise to 90% by 2050.
- According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, by 2050, over 500 million hectare area of new agricultural land will be needed to meet the global food demand.
8. Recently, the Jal Shakti Ministry has announced that the laborers returning to their home states due to covid-19, will be deployed for the Jal Jeevan Mission.
- The Jal Jeevan Mission aims for providing piped drinking water to all rural households by 2024.
The Jal Shakti Ministry is the nodal ministry for the implementation of the scheme.
- The Jal Shakti Ministry has directed various States that returning labor, especially those working in the construction sector (skilled, unskilled, and semi-skilled), may be deployed to expedite the completion of works under the scheme.
- It is an arrangement that could provide employment to currently unemployed workers.
- The mission is being used as a way to ameliorate some of the effects of the mass migration of inter-State workers back to their home States in the wake of the COVID -19 pandemic.
9. The Kerala Government has started a virtual class initiative called ‘First Bell’.
- The virtual classes for state school students are being organised so that education is imparted amid Covid-19 crisis.
- Classes are being streamed on a free, public-run television channel available on cable networks, direct-to-home services and over the internet.
- The government is using the KITE VICTERS channel.
- Further, almost all villages in Kerala have at least one common centre, be it anganwadi, a reading room or sports club, for the education department to set up a classroom.
10. Indian Gas Exchange (IGX) is the first nationwide online delivery-based gas trading platform.
- IGX will be a delivery-based trading platform for the delivery of Natural gas.
Incorporated as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the IEX – India’s energy market platform.
- The platform is fully automated with a web-based interface to provide seamless trading experience to the customers.
- The IGX 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 re-gasified and sold to buyers through the exchange, removing the requirement for buyers and sellers to find each other.
- The exchange also allows much shorter contracts – for delivery on the next day, and up to a month – while ordinarily contracts for natural gas supply are as long as six months to a year.
- It is a pesticide that is widely used in agriculture, residential landscaping, public recreation areas, and in public health pest control programs such as mosquito eradication.
- HIL India Ltd. supplies 25 MT Malathion 95% ULV Insecticides to Iran for Locust Control Programme.
- As per the reports of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the hopper stage population of the locust is building up in the Sistan-Baluchistan Region of Iran, which shall migrate to India in the coming months leading to further crop devastation.
- The government of India has taken an initiative to counter the locust menace at its breeding ground itself and approached Iran for coordinated efforts.
12. A new species of fish has been discovered in Arunachal Pradesh. The fish species is named as Schizothorax sikusirumensis.
- The fish species belongs to the genus Schizothorax.
- The name of this fish species has been derived from the name of the rivers where it was found. This fish was collected from the junction of River Siku and Sirum near the Gakang area under Mebo circle of East Siang District.
- The fish inhabits the waterlogged area of torrential river drainage.