National Current Affairs – UPSC/KAS Exams- 22nd October 2018

U.S. to pull out of Russia missile pact


Topic: International Relations

In news: U.S. President Donald Trump confirmed that the U.S. would pull out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia.

About the Treaty:

  • It is a crucial Cold War-era treaty banning the development, testing and possession of short and medium range ground-launched nuclear missiles with a range of 500-5,000 km.
  • The treaty, signed in 1987, was central to ending the arms race between the two superpowers, and protected America’s NATO allies in Europe from Soviet missile attacks.

Why this move now:

  • The U.S. administration, under former President Barack Obama, raised the issue of Russia testing a ground-launched cruise missile with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2014. The Russians denied the allegations and raised counter-allegations of the U.S. installing missile defence systems in Europe.
  • While the two countries failed to find a resolution using the dispute resolution mechanism in the treaty, the U.S. continued to remain party to the treaty under pressure from its European allies.
  • Now US have came forward with official announcement that it will end the treaty.
  • Many of Trumps European counterparts are not supporting this move.
  • Russia has warned US that the unilateral withdrawal will lead to detrimental actions.


  • Withdrawal will allow the U.S. new weapon options in the Pacific in its efforts to counter China’s growing influence.
  • There are also concerns that the treaty’s end could mark the beginning of a new arms race between the U.S. and Russia.

Source:The Hindu

Saffron marigold is the color of sacrifice


Topic: Miscellaneous

 In news: The ubiquitous marigold will be the symbol of India’s sacrifices when the world marks the centenary of the end of the First World War on November 11.

 Why a Symbol needed?

  • It was felt that there was a strong need for India to have a uniquely Indian symbol that could allow citizens in India, as well as the international diaspora, to acknowledge the valour and sacrifice of the Indian armed forces in the service of the nation, including those who fell in the two world wars.
  • In line with this, the ‘India Remembers’ project initiated by the USI proposed that the marigold flower join the poppy as a uniquely Indian symbol of remembrance.
  • The First World War ended with the signing of the armistice on November 11, 1918. Since then, poppy was adopted as the symbol of remembrance as it grew widely in the Flanders fields in Europe where some of the major battles were fought.
  • In India, the India Gate was built as the focal point to the Remembrance with the names of over 72,000 soldiers inscribed over it.

Why Marigold?

  • The marigold was chosen because it is easily and widely available and also because saffron is often seen as a colour of sacrifice.

The India Remembers project

  • The India Remembers project is a joint endeavour of the USI and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) and a part of the ‘India and the Great War’ Centenary Commemoration project initiated by the USI in 2014 with the support of the Ministry of External Affairs and in close association with the British High Commission.

United Service Institution of India

  • USIA is a national security and defence services think tank based in New Delhi, India. It describes its aim as the “furtherance of interest and knowledge in the art, science and literature of the defence services”. USI operates centres for research in various areas of national security.

Source:The Hindu

EPFO data: Job creation slowed


Topic: Indian Economy

 In news: Job creation in the formal sector slowed down in August, reveals the data with Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO).

 More on the Topic:

  • The data, tabulated as ‘Net Payroll Data’ showed that net addition was around 8.95 lakh in August as against the revised figure of 9.76 lakh in July. The net payroll data is arrived at after subtracting the number of members exited from number of new EPF subscribers and those who rejoined and resubscribed.

About the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation

  • EPFO, is an Organization tasked to assist the Central Board of Trustees, a statutory body formed by the Employees’ Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 and is under the administrative control of the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India.
  • It covers establishments with 20 or more employees.Organisations that employ less than 20 persons each, is also subjected to certain conditions and exemptions. It is a mandatory savings scheme. The pay limit is ₹15,000 per month. Persons drawing pay above ₹15,000 are exempted or can be enrolled with some permission or on voluntary basis. The number of members subscribing to this scheme gives an idea of the level of employment in the formal sector.
  • The schemes cover Indian workers as well as International workers (for countries with which bilateral agreements have been signed. As of now 17 Social Security Agreements are operational). It is one of the largest social security organisations in India in terms of the number of covered beneficiaries and the volume of financial transactions undertaken.[The EPFO’s apex decision making body is the Central Board of Trustees (CBT)
  • Structured data is being released on monthly basis with first data for the month of September 2017. However, not a single month has registered 10 lakh jobs on a net basis which is the informal target for job creation on a monthly basis.

Source:The Hindu

Vizag Fintech Festival


Topic: Indian Economy

IN NEWS: The Port City is all set to become a beehive of activity for domain experts, investors and CEOs of various companies involved in financial technology as the Vizag Fintech Festival, billed as the largest fintech event in the country begins.

More on the Topic:

  • The festival is being organised jointly by Fintech Valley Vizag, in association with Singapore-based SingEx, from October 22 to 26. It will have several brainstorming sessions.
  • The highlight of the festival is the ‘$1 Million Startup Challenge’, an address followed by a brief interaction by world’s first humanoid robot Sophia and a cultural performance by artists from the United States.
  • Earlier, the organisers conducted roadshows in the USA, UK, France, Tel Aviv to promote the event and the roadshows evoked a good response.


The Similipal National Park


Topic: Environment and Ecology

In news: The Similipal National Park in Mayurbhanj district will be reopened from November one after remaining closed for above three months due to monsoon.

 More on the topic:

  • Simlipal National Park is a national park and a tiger reserve in the Mayurbhanj district in the Indian state of Odisha.
  • It is part of the Similipal-Kuldiha-Hadgarh Elephant Reserve popularly known as Mayurbhanj Elephant Reserve, which includes three protected areas ,Similipal Tiger Reserve, Hadgarh Wildlife Sanctuary and Kuldiha Wildlife Sanctuary km2).
  • Simlipal National Park derives its name from the abundance of semul (red silk cotton trees) that bloom here.It is the second largest national park in India
  • Simlipal is home to royal Bengal tigers and elephants.Besides Simlipal is famous for gaurs (Indian bison), chausingha,as well as an orchidarium.

Source:The Hindu

Bacteria to degrade toluene

Topic: Science and Technology

In news: Using bacteria isolated from soil and effluents near an oil refinery, researchers from the University of Delhi and Indian Institute of Technology (BHU), Varanasi, have successfully degraded toluene into less-toxic byproducts.

More on the Topic:

  • Toluene is one of the petrochemical wastes that get released without treatment from industries such as refineries, paint, textile, paper and rubber. Toluene has been reported to cause serious health problems to aquatic life, and studies point that it has genotoxic and carcinogenic effects on human beings.
  • when exposed to toluene, the bacteria changed their morphology to escape toxicity. Electron microscopy studies revealed that the cylindrical cells transformed into an ovoid or spherical structure.
  • The researchers also examined the pathway by which the bacteria were doing the degradation and found it to be general aerobic biodegradation pathway.
  • The bacteria use up this toluene as their carbon source in the presence of oxygen. Though most of the waste degradation studies have involved the use of bacteria that grow in an anaerobic environment, the researchers tried an aerobic one and succeeded.
  • In laboratory conditions, the bacteria were able to degrade these petrochemical wastes in both soil and water samples. More studies are needed to design industrial-scale bioreactors for taking up large-scale degradation of petrochemical waste.

Source:The Hindu

Bullet train plan stalls on land row


Topic: Science and Technology

In news: Unless the National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) implements an urgent time-bound schedule, the Bullet train project is likely to miss its first deadline for acquisition of private plots.

More on the Topic:

  • The Mumbai–Ahmedabad high-speed rail corridor is an under-construction high-speed rail line connecting the cities of Ahmedabad, Gujarat, and India’s economic hub Mumbai, Maharashtra. It will be India’s first high-speed rail line.
  • An MoU was signed by the governments of India and Japan on 12 December 2015. The Ministry of Railways, based on the recommendtion of the NITI Aayog, announced that Shinkansen technology would be adopted for the line, with technology transfer to support the Make in India programme.
  • Japan would also provide staff training. In January 2016, the Ministry of Railways fast tracked the project and set up a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) named the National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited to build and operate the corridor.
  • The company was registered in January 2016 in the name of Indian Railways. The Public sector company is expected to build and also carry out train operations.
  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe laid the foundation stone for the project in Ahmedabad on 14 September 2017.
  • The project is expected to be completed by August 2022, and the bullet train is expected to go on its first run on 15 August 2022 on the occasion of India’s 75th Independence day.

About Bullet Train:

  • High-speed rail is a type of rail transport that operates significantly faster than traditional rail traffic, using an integrated system of specialized rolling stock and dedicated tracks.
  • While there is no single standard that applies worldwide, new lines in excess of 250 kilometres per hour (160 mph) and existing lines in excess of 200 kilometres per hour (120 mph) are widely considered to be high-speed, with some extending the definition to include lower speeds in areas for which these speeds still represent significant improvements.
  • The first such system began operations in Japan in 1964 and was widely known as the bullet train. High-speed trains normally operate on standard gauge tracks of continuously welded rail on grade-separated right-of-way that incorporates a large turning radius in its design.

Water flow eases in Arunachal’s Siang


Topic: Environment And Ecology

In news: Water overflowing from a landslip-induced barrier across the Siang river upstream in China eased within 14 hours. Due to the overflow of the river people residing at the bank of river in Arunachal were at threat.

 More on the Topic:

  • The Tsangpo flows into Arunachal Pradesh as the Siang, which meets two other rivers to form the Brahmaputra downstream in Assam.
  • Beijing had informed New Delhi that the natural overflow from the barrier in Yaluzangbu (Tsangpo) occured and the discharge was 18,000 cubic metres per second. The barrier was formed soon after a landslip at Jiala village in Milin county of the Tibet Autonomous Region of China.
  • Soon after the Central Water Commission issued an alert about the Tsangpo barrier breach and precautionary measures were taken.

Brahmaputra River System:

  • The Brahmaputra River System (3848 km) is one of the longest rivers of the world. It is known as the Yarlung Tsangpo River in Tibet, the Brahmaputra in India, and the Jamuna in Bangladesh.
  • It originates in Himalayan Lake Manasarover in Tibet. It emerges as a turbulent and dynamic river after carving out a deep gorge in the Central Himalayas near Namcha Barwa.
  • The river emerges from the foothills under the name of Siang or Dihang. It enters India west of Sadiya town in Arunachal Pradesh. Flowing southwest, it receives its main left bank tributaries, viz., Dibang or Sikang and Lohit; thereafter, it is known as the Brahmaputra. Among the tributaries Subansiri, Manas, Jiabharali, Pagladiya, Puthimari and Sankosh etc. are snow fed.

Source:The Hindu

Concerns over Sri Lankan projects by India

Topic: India and Neighbourhood

In news: Mr. Narendra Modi has expressed his concern over the implementation of Indo-Sri Lanka joint development projects in accordance with the MoU signed between India and Sri Lanka.

 More on the Topic:

  • The pending projects include an LNG terminal in Kerawalapitiya near Colombo, a 50-100 MW solar power plant in Sampur, an oil tank farm in Trincomalee and a container terminal in the Colombo port. There has been little word on a proposal for India to develop the Palaly airport near Jaffna and the Mattala airport near Hambantota. The preferential trade treaty, Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement, still awaits clearances as it faces opposition from Sri Lankan business chambers.

Source:The Hindu

NCCR develops system to estimate, predict flooding within Chennai

Topic: Science and Technology

In news: National Centre for Coastal Research (NCCR), Chennai, and IITs, got together to build a flood warning system customised for use in Chennai.

More on the Topic:

  • Carrying the acronym C-FLOWS, which stands for Chennai FLOod Warning System, the six-module ensemble can predict flooding due to heavy rainfall, sea-level rise and increase in water levels of the three rivers.
  • The State government shared data such as ward boundaries, population details, infrastructure available across Tamil Nadu, which have been used in the warning system.
  • The topography data was obtained from the Indian Remote Sensing programme.
  • Knowing the elevation at different spots, the system can predict the way the area would flood based on different scenarios that have been simulated. Inputs were taken from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) on forecast and National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF), which gives the prediction for rain 10 days in advance.
  • Similarly, INCOIS gives the hydrodynamic congestion such as storm surge and tide etc. Using this, the system can, two weeks ahead of the event, simulate the scenario. “The system can predict what would happen at the level of individual wards.
  • The last aspect of the system is a decision support system: this is an online GIS query portal which can answer questions on quantum of flooding in specific localities, flood proximity, for example, it can say which roads are inundated and suggest routes for planning relief operations and so on.
  • The team is planning to develop such a system for Mumbai city and Cochin area.

Source: The Hindu

Native shade trees better for carbon storage

Topic: Environment and Ecology

In news:  New study shows that the exotic silver oak may be coffee growers’ preferred shade tree now, but research shows that it affects carbon sequestration and tree diversity in Kodagu’s agroforest systems.

 More on the Topic:

  • Native trees in coffee estates and forests displayed high and comparable carbon stocks (approximately 193 and 222 megagrams (Mg) of carbon (C) per hectare respectively) as well as tree diversity (around 45 tree species).
  • However, the introduction of silver oak negatively impacted both carbon stock and diversity. Predictably, robusta coffee estates with silver oaks had significantly lower tree diversity (nine species) and lower carbon stocks (up to an average of 65 MgC per hectare) than all other land-use systems in both precipitation zones.
  • Hence, the current trend of replacing native shade trees in coffee estates with silver oaks is detrimental for carbon storage and tree diversity, especially in robusta coffee farms. Current policies do play a role in this change, because the exotics can be cut for timber without prior permission.

Source:The Hindu

Dalit voice gets heard with Sujatha Gidla’s Shakti Bhatt win


Topic: Awards and Honours

In news: A New York subway conductor’s story of growing up in a Dalit community in India won the Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize 2018.

 More on the Topic:

  • Fifty-five-year-old Sujatha Gidla’s electrifying debut, Ants Among Elephant: An Untouchable Family And The Making Of Modern India, published by HarperCollins India, beat five other titles in the shortlist to claim the prestigious award.
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