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Hindu Notes from General Studies-01

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West Bengal tribals battling food scarcity: study

News

  • A survey report has identified “food scarcity in varying degrees” in about 31% of tribal households in West Bengal.

Findings

  • The study titled ‘An Inquiry into the world of the Adivasis of West Bengal’, was conducted in 1,000 tribal households to ascertain living conditions, health and education.
  • West Bengal is home to a over five million tribals, with 6% of the India’s tribal population of 100 million. But in many areas, tribals of the State are “far behind” in terms of human development. One area, which has been a matter of contention in recent months after the death of seven tribals in a span of 15 days in November, is scarcity of food.
  • The preliminary survey report claimed that “nearly one third [31%] of the surveyed households” reportedly faced “food scarcity in varying degrees” in the past year.
  • Degradation of forest and environmental degradation are cited as two more reasons for “reduced availability of natural nutrients” resulting in early deaths.
  • The report indicated that the number of deaths reported to have occurred in the surveyed households, in the year preceding the survey, “was 52, among which 48 [92%] were premature deaths” and only four were due to old age.
  • According to the Census of 2011, while WPR is 39% and 49% in Bengal and India, respectively, “the corresponding figures for Adivasis were 49% and 47%,” indicating the participation of more children.
  • However, a higher rate of work participation has not contributed to a better living standard, indicated the survey, which followed a “mixed-method approach” combining quantitative and qualitative data. In the area of health and education, too, tribal communities are far behind the rest of State’s population.
  • Moreover, 44% of households do not have access to toilets and nearly two-thirds of the households had no drainage system, the report noted.

Hindu Notes from General Studies-02

Cabinet approves 10% reservation for economically backward, beyond the 50% limit

News

  • The Union Cabinet approved a Constitution Amendment Bill to provide 10% reservation to economically backward sections in the general category.
  • The Bill will also cover those from the Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist and other minority communities. The quota will be over and above the existing 50% reservation to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes (OBC).

Beyond News

  • The decision that comes ahead of the general elections in April-May, was taken at a meeting.
  • The specific details of the Bill were not available as there was no official word from the government after the Cabinet meeting. A press briefing scheduled for the evening was cancelled.
  • The reservation is for those castes who presently do not avail reservation in any category.
  • According to the 2011 census, the population of the country was 1.21 billion.
  • The population of the Scheduled Castes was 201.4 million and that of the Scheduled Tribes stood at 104.3 million.

U.S., China hold crucial talks to ease trade war

News

  • Delegates from the US and China  began the crucial face-to-face negotiations here to ease a bitter trade war between the world’s two largest economies amid growing concerns about China’s slowing economy and its impact on American businesses.

Beyond News

  • The US and China have been locked in an escalating trade spat since early 2018, raising import tariffs on each other’s goods.
  • Last year, US President Donald Trump imposed tariff hikes of up to 25 % on $250 billion of Chinese goods. The move prompted China to increase tariffs on $110 billion of US goods.
  • Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to halt any further tariff increases for 90 days beginning January 1.
  • Deputy US trade representative Jeffrey Gerrish is leading the US delegation at the two-day talks with Chinese vice-ministerial counterparts.
  • China is facing the daunting task of presenting a credible plan to meet Trump’s demands to cut down the $375 billion trade deficit.
  • Ahead of the talks, China softened its stand by offering a mix of concessions by resuming purchases of US soybeans, suspended punitive tariffs on imports of US cars and toned down its Made in China 2025 hi-tech policy.
  • It has also proposed clear bans on forced technology transfer in new draft foreign investment legislation.
  • Both sides have set March 1 as the deadline to defuse trade tensions.
  • The protracted trade war between the top two economies of the world is seen by many as a battle for global leadership.
  • Chinese economy grew at 6.5 % in the third quarter posting slowest growth since 2009 as it grappled with the intensifying trade war with US and the mounting local governments debt which rose to $2.58 trillion.
  • On the contrary, the US economy on a path of recovery grew at an annual rate of 3.4 % in the third quarter and unemployment is stated to be at a five-decade low.

Defence manufacturing rules eased

News

  • The government issued a notification last week simplifying the the process for approval of manufacturing of a range of defence and aerospace equipment and components by private industry, by bringing them under the licensing authority of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP).

Beyond News

  • The notification was issued as a press note by the DIPP, which is under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
  • Items are listed in three categories defence aircraft, warships of all kinds, and allied items of defence equipment.
  • The most significant aspect is that warships of all kinds, surface and sub-surface, have been included in the listing.
  • This notification, which supersedes DIPP’s earlier press note of June 2014 on this issue, segregates defence items in two categories covered by two different Acts the Industries (Development and Regulation) Act, 1951, and the Arms Act, 1959.
  • This move is also expected to help foreign Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) looking for partnerships with the private sector. The Defence Ministry has formulated an ambitious Strategic Partnership (SP) model under the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), covering four specific areas to promote role of private sector in defence manufacturing.
  • However, progress on finalising the projects under the SP model has been slow.
  • The ASSOCHAM statement said the creation of a strong supply chain is critical.

Hindu Notes from General Studies-03

Nepal writes to RBI to declare banned new Indian currency notes legal

News

  • Nepal has asked the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to declare newly circulated Indian currency notes of denominations higher than Rs. 100 legal tender in the country.
  • The Nepal Rastra Bank, the country’s central monetary authority, wrote a letter on Friday to the RBI, asking it to make Rs. 200, Rs. 500 and Rs. 2,000 legal tender in Nepal.

NASA’s Juno probe captures volcanic plumes on Jupiter’s moon Io

News

  • NASA’s solar-powered Juno spacecraft has beamed back new images of volcanic plume on Jupiter’s moon Io, captured during the mission’s 17th flyby of the gas giant.

Beyond News

  • During winter solstice, four of Juno’s cameras captured images of the Jovian moon Io, the most volcanic body in our solar system.
  • JunoCam, the Stellar Reference Unit (SRU), the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) and the Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVS) observed Io for over an hour, providing a glimpse of the moon’s polar regions as well as evidence of an active eruption.
  • The images show the moon half-illuminated with a bright spot seen just beyond the terminator, the day-night boundary.
  • After Io had passed into the darkness of total eclipse behind Jupiter, sunlight reflecting off nearby moon Europa helped to illuminate Io and its plume.
  • The images can lead to new insights into the gas giant’s interactions with its five moons, causing phenomena such as Io’s volcanic activity or freezing of the moon’s atmosphere during eclipse. IANS

Scientists unearth Asia’s first fossil Dioscorea yam leaf

News

  • A quaint fossilised leaf is one of the most recent finds throwing light on India’s past. The leaf fossil is the first of Dioscoreayams from Asia and hints at a Gondwanan origin to these plants, claim scientists.

Findings

  • When scientists were leading a dig in the Eocene-era (38-56 million years ago) Gurha lignite mine in Bikaner in western Rajasthan, they obtained two well-preserved fossils of large leaves.
  • The team identified it as a species of Dioscorea,a kind of yam that grows as a herbaceous vine in the humid tropics of India and other countries.
  • They also used the morphological features of the leaves venation and leaf shape to rule out other plants that look very similar to it. When they compared it to the other Dioscorea fossils obtained from Europe, Africa and America, they found it to be very distinct.
  • The team named their new find Dioscorea eocenicus:the first ever Dioscorea fossil recorded from Asia. Currently, species of Dioscorea in India are found in the humid, tropical forests of the country.
  • Based on this, the team infer that such tropical forests must have flourished in this part of Rajasthan during early Eocene. Other fossil plants observed in the mine also suggest this historical climate in the area, which is now dry and consists of desert vegetation.

Navy’s new air base in north of Port Blair

News

  • The Indian Navy will commission a new airbase 100 miles north of Port Blairin the strategically located Andaman and Nicobar islands.

Beyond News

  • This will be India’s fourth air base and the third naval air facility in the archipelago, which are more closer to Southeast Asia than to the Indian mainland, overlooking key sea lanes of communication and strategic choke points.
  • The base will initially operate choppers and Dornier short-range surveillance aircraft.
  • The naval air station near Diglipur port is being converted into a full-fledged base and would extend India’s foot print over the East Asian region. For instance, Myanmar and Thailand are about 500 km away from INS Kohassa.
  • It will initially have a runway of about 3000 metres which will in phases be extended to 9000 metres to support all kinds of aircraft including fighter jets.
  • As part of the upgrade, the base will feature staging facilities, fuel dump and maintenance and repair facilities and a complement of personnel would be positioned there.
  • The Navy currently operates air strips at Port Blair and INS Baaz at Campbell Bay, while the Air Force has a base in Car Nicobar.
  • With increased contestation in the region and in an effort to keep an eye on movements, India has considerably upgraded military infrastructure and facilities and deployed long range assets to monitor the region including the Malacca Strait. The islands also houses India’s only tri-service command.
  • The base can also act as an alternate runway to Port Blair for civilian traffic in case of emergencies.

Dark matter can be moved around: study

News

  • In a first, scientists have found evidence that the mysterious dark matter believed to make up most of the mass of the universe can be heated up and moved around, as a result of star formation in galaxies.

Findings

  • The findings, provide the first observational evidence for the effect known as ‘dark matter heating’, offering clues as to what makes up dark matter.
  • Scientists set out to hunt for evidence for dark matter at the centres of nearby dwarf galaxies.
  • Dwarf galaxies are small, faint galaxies that are typically found orbiting larger galaxies like our own Milky Way. They may hold clues that could help us to better understand the nature of dark matter.
  • Dark matter is thought to make up most of the mass of the universe. However since it does not interact with light in the same way as normal matter, it can only be observed through its gravitational effects.
  • The key to studying it may however lie in how stars are formed in these galaxies.
  • When stars form, strong winds can push gas and dust away from the heart of the galaxy. As a result, the galaxy’s centre has less mass, which affects how much gravity is felt by the remaining dark matter.
  • With less gravitational attraction, the dark matter gains energy and migrates away from the centre, an effect called ‘dark matter heating’
  • The team of astrophysicists measured the amount of dark matter at the centres of 16 dwarf galaxies with very different star formation histories.
  • Scientists found that galaxies that stopped forming stars long ago had higher dark matter densities at their centres than those that are still forming stars today. This supports the theory that the older galaxies had less dark matter heating.
  • The findings provide a new constraint on dark matter models: dark matter must be able to form dwarf galaxies that exhibit a range of central densities, and those densities must relate to the amount of star formation.
  • The team hopes to expand on this work by measuring the central dark matter density in a larger sample of dwarfs, pushing to even fainter galaxies, and testing a wider range of dark matter models.

Govt. banks rationalising foreign units

News

  • Public sector banks are in the process of closing or rationalising about 69 overseas operations in the next few months as part of their capital conservation exercise.

Beyond News

  • Planned rationalisation of operations and examination of a total of 216 overseas operations of the public sector banks (PSBs) was undertaken last year.
  • Following the review, 35 overseas operations were closed while 69 are under process or being considered for rationalisation.
  • Unviable foreign operations are being shut while multiple branches in same cities or nearby places are being rationalised with a view to achieve efficiency.
  • State Bank of India (SBI) has the largest number of overseas branches (52) followed by Bank of Baroda (50) and Bank of India (29).
  • The State-owned banks have the largest number of branches in the U.K. (32) followed by Hong Kong and the UAE (13 each) and Singapore (12).
  • As many as 41 branches were in losses in 2016-17. The country’s largest lender SBI led the pack with nine of its overseas branches in the red. It was followed by Bank of India and Bank of Baroda with eight and seven branches, respectively.
  • According to the banking sector agenda, approved at the PSB Manthan November 2017, banks have to undertake rationalisation of overseas operations for cost efficiencies and synergies in overseas markets, based on competitive strength and viability, and a differentiated banking strategy to leverage bank’s competitive advantage, which may include branch network rationalisation for a strong regional connect.
  • All PSBs such as Allahabad Bank, Bank of Baroda, Bank of India, Canara Bank, IDBI Bank, Indian Overseas Bank, Punjab National Bank, State Bank of India, and Union Bank of India that have foreign branches have jointly taken the initiative to prepare a note in mutual consultation for rationalisation of their foreign branches.

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