National Current Affairs – UPSC/KAS Exams- 14th March 2019

Chabahar Port

Topic: International Relations

In News: The first shipment under the United Nations ‘Transports Internationaux Routiers’ (TIR) convention arrived in India from Afghanistan through Iran’s Chabahar Port.

More on the Topic:

  • India had joined the TIR Convention (the United Nations Customs Convention on International Transport of Goods under cover of TIR Carnets) on June 15, 2017.
  • The convention allows goods to be outlined in a TIR carnet and sealed in load compartments.
  • Customs officials verify the carnet and check the seals, with no need for physical checking of the contents, enabling shipments to pass through countries without being opened at borders.
  • Reciprocal recognition of customs controls is at the heart of the Convention. This enables a facilitative and non-intrusive environment for multi-modal transport of goods through several countries.
  • The opening of Chabahar Port for TIR is hugely significant — offering connectivity for landlocked countries, seamless border crossing facilitation and intermodal capabilities.

About Chabahar Port:

  • Iran’s Chabahar port is located on the Gulf of Oman and is the only oceanic port of the country. The port gives access to the energy-rich Persian Gulf nations’ southern coast.
  • The first and foremost significance of the Chabahar port is the fact that India can bypass Pakistan in transporting goods to Afghanistan. Chabahar port will boost India’s access to Iran, the key gateway to the International North-South Transport Corridor that has sea, rail and road routes between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia.
  • With Chabahar port being developed and operated by India, Iran also becomes a military ally to India. Chabahar could be used in case China decides to flex its navy muscles by stationing ships in Gwadar port to reckon its upper hand in the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Middle East.
  • Chabahar port will ensure in the establishment of a politically sustainable connectivity between India and Afghanistan. This will in turn, lead to better economic ties between the two countries.
  • From a diplomatic perspective, Chabahar port could be used as a point from where humanitarian operations could be coordinated.

Model Mains Question: Analyse the strategic importance of Chabahar port to India.

Source: The Hindu

Forex swaps

2

Topic: Economy

In News: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has decided to inject rupee liquidity into the system through long-term foreign exchange buy/sell swap — a first-of-its-kind instrument used for liquidity management.

About Currency Swap

  • A currency swap involves exchanging principal and fixed interest payments on a loan in one currency for principal and fixed interest payments on a similar loan in another currenc
  • Imagine that I am an Indian businessman and I need US $1million for five years. My plan was to borrow from a US bank. But there is a usual problem- that if the rupee’s value falls steeply, my debt burden from this loan will go up in rupee terms. One million Dollars today is equal to Rs 7 crores (at $1 =Rs 70). If rupee value falls to Rs 100/1$, I have to pay Rs 10 crore at maturity.
  • Soon I came to know that there is a US businessman called Robert who need Rs 7 crore. This give me an opportunity. If he and me agrees, I will give him my Rs 7 crore and he will give me $1 million. Both amounts are equal.
  • Here, I should give him an interest rate prevailing at the US markets in dollars (say 6%). Similarly, Mr Robert has to give me the Indian interest rate (say 8%) in rupees. This we will do for five years.
  • At the end of the fifth year, Robert will give me back Rs 7 crores and I will give him back the $1 million. Here, we simply re-exchanged the original principal amounts.
  • This arrangement is called currency swap. There occurred an exchange or swap of principals in terms of two currencies.
  • A currency swap between two parties is the exchange of a notional principal with one another in order to gain exposure to a desired currency.
  • Currency swap is usually done by business firms and sometimes by governments. Mostly they are tailor made arrangements or done to suit for each entities.
  • The main advantage of currency swap is that it reduces foreign exchange risks. Similarly, it reduces interest rate risk also.

Source: The Hindu

First person on Mars may be a woman, says NASA

3

Topic: Science and Technology

In News: According to NASA the first person to set foot on Mars is likely to be a woman.

More on the topic:

  • NASA recently announced that it will have its first all-female spacewalk at the end of the month, when astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch will get to float around in space.
  • NASA is developing the capabilities needed to send humans to an asteroid by 2025 and Mars in the 2030s.
  • Mars is a rich destination for scientific discovery and robotic and human exploration as we expand our presence into the solar system.
  • Its formation and evolution are comparable to Earth, helping us learn more about our own planet’s history and future.
  • Mars had conditions suitable for life in its past. Future exploration could uncover evidence of life, answering one of the fundamental mysteries of the cosmos: Does life exist beyond Earth?
  • A fleet of robotic spacecraft and rovers already are on and around Mars, dramatically increasing our knowledge about the Red Planet and paving the way for future human explorers.
  • The Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover measured radiation on the way to Mars and is sending back radiation data from the surface.
  • This data will help us plan how to protect the astronauts who will explore Mars. Future missions like the Mars 2020 rover, seeking signs of past life, also will demonstrate new technologies that could help astronauts survive on Mars.

Source: The Hindu

Environment damage behind a quarter of premature deaths, diseases: UN report

4

Topic: Environment and Ecology

In News: A quarter of all premature deaths and diseases worldwide are due to manmade pollution and environmental damage, the United Nations said  in a landmark report on the planet’s parlous state.

More On the Topic:

  • Deadly emissions, chemicals polluting drinking water, and the accelerating destruction of ecosystems crucial to the livelihoods of billions of people are driving a worldwide epidemic that hampers the global economy, it warned.
  • The Global Environment Outlook (GEO) — a report six years in the making compiled by 250 scientists from 70 nations — depicts a growing chasm between rich and poor countries as rampant overconsumption, pollution and food waste in the developed world leads to hunger, poverty and disease elsewhere.
  • As greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise amid a preponderance of droughts, floods and superstorms made worse by climbing sea levels, there is a growing political consensus that climate change poses a future risk to billions.
  • But the health impacts of pollution, deforestation and the mechanised food-chain are less well understood.
  • Nor is there any international agreement for the environment close to covering what the 2015 Paris accord does for climate.
  • Poor environmental conditions “cause approximately 25% of global disease and mortality” — around 9 million deaths in 2015 alone.
  • Lacking access to clean drinking supplies, 1.4 million people die each year from preventable diseases such as diarrhoea and parasites linked to pathogen-riddled water and poor sanitation.
  • Chemicals pumped into the seas cause “potentially multi-generational” adverse health effects, and land degradation through mega-farming and deforestation occurs in areas of earth home to 3.2 billion people.
  • The report says air pollution causes 6-7 million early deaths annually.
  • The report called for a root-and-branch detoxification of human behaviour while insisting that the situation is not unassailable.
  • Food waste for instance, which accounts for 9% of global greenhouse gas emissions, could be slashed. The world currently throws away a third of all food produced. In richer nations, 56% goes to waste.
  • It also called for a rapid drawdown in greenhouse gas emissions and pesticide use to improve air and water quality.

Source:The Hindu

Stephen Hawking

5

Topic: Science and Technology

In News: The UK’s Royal Mint unveiled a new commemorative 50 pence coin inspired by the late legendary British physicist Stephen Hawking’s seminal work on black holes.

More on the Topic:

  • Hawking, one of the world’s best-known theoretical physicists who died aged 76 last year, joins the ranks of other eminent scientists such Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin to have a commemorative coin in honour of one of his greatest discoveries that black holes should not be all black.
  • His work, which used a tentative unification of Einstein’s theory of general relativity with quantum mechanics, reported that black holes should not be completely black, instead emitting radiation, meaning they evaporate and eventually disappear.
  • The coin, on sale in silver and gold forms for a price range between 55 and 795 pounds on the Royal Mint’s website, is a nod to Hawking’s research into black holes and his ability to make science accessible for all.
  • The cosmologist and author of ‘A Brief History of Time’ had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease in his 20s and went on to defy all predictions of his life-span as he made numerous discoveries as a wheelchair-bound scientist being able to speak only through a voice synthesiser.

About Black hole:

  • Black holes are objects so dense that not even light can escape their gravity, and since nothing can travel faster than light, nothing can escape from inside a black hole.
  • On the other hand, a black hole exerts the same force on something far away from it as any other object of the same mass would. For example, if our Sun was magically crushed until it was about 1 mile in size, it would become a black hole, but the Earth would remain in its same orbit.

Source: The Hindu

Arecanut gets its first GI tag for ‘Sirsi Supari’

6

Topic: Intellectual Property Rights

In News: For the first time in the arecanut sector, ‘Sirsi Supari’ grown in Uttara Kannada has received the Geographic Indication (GI) tag.

More on the Topic:

  • It is cultivated in Yellapura, Siddapura and Sirsi taluks. Totgars’ Cooperative Sale Society Ltd., Sirsi, is the registered proprietor of the GI.
  • The arecanut grown in these taluks have unique features such as a round and flattened coin shape, particular texture, size, cross-sectional views, taste, etc.
  • These features are not seen in arecanut grown in any other regions. Its average dry weight is 7.5 g and average thickness is 16 mm. This particular variety has a unique taste due to differences in chemical composition.

About Geographical Indecation Tag:

  • A geographical indication (GI) is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin.
  • Geographical indications are typically used for agricultural products, foodstuffs, wine and spirit drinks, handicrafts, and industrial products.

Source: The Hindu

Starry Dwarf frog

7

Topic: Environment and Ecology

In News: A starry dwarf frog, a nocturnal amphibian which sports pale blue spots and brilliant orange thighs has been found in Wayanad district, Kerala.

More on the Topic:

  • A starry dwarf frog, a nocturnal amphibian which sports pale blue spots and brilliant orange thighs has been found in Wayanad district, Kerala.
  • The frog has distinct physical characteristics such as its triangular finger- and toe tips, which closely resembled frogs in South America and Africa.
  • The frog species is named as Astrobatrachus kurichiyana in the honor of Kurichiya tribal community of Kerala.
  • The frog is not only a new species but different enough to be assigned to a new ‘subfamily’.

Source: The Hindu

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