9 PM Current Affairs Brief – October 24th, 2019

Snow Leopard

News:At the session of Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection (GSLEP) programme,as many as 12 range countries have come together to begin a massive exercise to get the global count of Snow leopards.This will be the first ever survey by India to assess the population of Snow leopard.

Facts:

About Snow Leopard:

Features:  

  • Snow leopards (Panthera uncial) belong to the family of cats called Felidae.
  • The snow leopard’s fur is whitish to gray with black spots on head and neck, but larger rosettes on the back, flanks and bushy tail.

Habitat:

  • Snow leopards are found in 12 range countries namely Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.China contains as much as 60% of all snow leopard habitat areas.
  • In India,snow leopards are found in the high altitude areas above the forested areas above 3000m.
  • The states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh constitute snow leopard Habitat range in India.
  • Further,they are also the State animal of Uttarakhand and the National Heritage Animal of Pakistan.

Conservation Status:

  • Snow leopards are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
  • They are also listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES).
  • Government of India has also identified the snow leopard as a flagship species for the high altitude Himalayas.

About Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Programme:

  • Itis a joint initiative of range country governments, international agencies, civil society, and the private sector.
  • Its goal is to secure the long-term survival of the snow leopard in its natural ecosystem.
  • It also seeks to address high-mountain development issues using the conservation of the snow leopard as a flagship.

Peritoneal dialysis

News:Union Health Ministry has released guidelines for establishing peritoneal dialysis services under the Pradhan Mantri National Dialysis Program(PMNDP).

Facts:

What is Dialysis:

  • Dialysis is the process of removing excess water, solutes, and toxins from the blood in people whose kidneys can no longer perform these functions naturally.This is also referred to as renal replacement therapy.

Types of Dialysis:There are two main types of dialysis which are:

Hemodialysis(HD):

  • It is commonly known as blood dialysis.In HD, the blood is filtered through a machine that acts like an artificial kidney and is returned back into the body. 
  • HD needs to be performed in a designated dialysis center. It is usually needed about 3 times per week with each episode talking about 3-4 hours.

Peritoneal dialysis(PD):

  • It is commonly known as water dialysis.In PD, the blood is cleaned without being removed from the body.The abdomen sac (lining) acts as a natural filter. 
  • A solution (mainly made up of salts and sugars) is injected into the abdomen that encourages filtration such that the waste is transferred from the blood to the solution.
  • This process can be done at Home.Hence,it does away with the substantial costs of infrastructure, maintenance and staffing, reduces the demand on the healthcare system and offers patient autonomy.

About Pradhan Mantri National Dialysis Programme: 

  • The Pradhan Mantri National Dialysis Programme was rolled out in 2016 as part of the National Health Mission(NHM) for the provision of free dialysis services to the poor. 
  • The first phase of the programme envisaged setting up centers for hemodialysis.
  • The Guidelines for Pradhan Mantri National Dialysis Programme envisage the provision of dialysis services under NHM in PPP (Public-Private Partnership) model.

Recent Guidelines:

  • The Ministry has requested all States to include proposals for establishing peritoneal dialysis under their respective programme implementation plans.
  • The guidelines also envisage providing training to community health workers to provide support to persons for peritoneal dialysis at home or in primary healthcare settings.
  • This move will instantly benefit the 2 lakh Indians who develop end-stage kidney failure every year in India.

Non Aligned Movement(NAM)

News:Vice-President of India will represent India at the 18th Non Aligned Movement(NAM) summit in Baku,Azerbaijan marking the second time that Indian PM will skip the summit.

Facts:

About NAM:

  • The concept of Non Aligned Movement(NAM) originated in 1955 at the Asia-Africa Bandung Conference held in Indonesia.
  • The NAM was formed after the Second World War by countries that did not seek to formally align themselves with either the United States or the Soviet Union but sought to remain independent or neutral.
  • The first NAM Summit Conference took place in Belgrade,Yugoslavia in 1961.
  • The NAM was created by the heads of Yugoslavia, India, Egypt, Ghana and Indonesia.
  • It consists of 120 members states.There are 17 countries and 10 international organizations that are Observers at NAM.

India and NAM:

  • India has been one of the leaders of the movement since the beginning of NAM.
  • NAM had played an important role during the Cold War years in furthering many of the causes that India advocated like Decolonisation, End to apartheid, Global nuclear disarmament among others.
  • But it could not prevent India-Pakistan and Indo-China wars.During the war, NAM members adopted diplomatic positions that were not favourable towards or supportive of India.

Relevance of NAM:

  • According to the critics, NAM is no longer relevant because of the changed international environment from bi-polar to unipolar and now multi polar.
  • Emergence of new regional groupings like the G20, BRICS which have clearly laid down scope and objective of engagement and outcome overshadows NAM.
  • Most of the NAM countries are facing domestic political, social and economic crisis.

Sindhu Sudarshan

News:Indian Army is going to conduct an exercise codenamed ‘Sindhu Sudarshan’ in Rajasthan from 29 November to 4 December 2019.

Facts:

About the exercise:

  • The aim of the exercise is to evaluate the capability of the Defence forces to strike deep into enemy territory in an integrated air-land battle.
  • The exercise will be conducted by Southern command along with XXI Corps which is also known as the Sudarshan Chakra Corps.
  • The exercise will witness high degree of synergy between the Army and the Air Force,
  • The army will assess the operational efficiency of the Strike Corps to fight in the desert terrain and the Indian Air Force(IAF) to provide intimate support in terms of destruction of targets and air lifting of the troops.
  • Further,the exercise will also see the participation of newly formed Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs) along the Western Front.

Additional Information:

About Integrated Battle groups:

  • IBGs are brigade-sized, agile, self-sufficient combat formations which can swiftly launch strikes against adversary in case of hostilities.
  • Each IBG is tailor-made based on Threat, Terrain and Task and resources will be allotted based on the three Ts.
  • The IBGs are defensive and offensive.The offensive IBGs  are trained to quickly mobilise and make thrust into enemy territory for strikes,
  • On the other hand, the defensive IBGs are trained to hold ground at vulnerable points or where enemy action is expected.
  • Integrated Battle Groups both on the Western and Northern borders have been created for quicker and formidable launch of attack on enemy.

About Southern Command:

  • Southern Command is a formation of the Indian Army since 1895.It has around 40% of the country’s landmass as its area of responsibility. 
  • The Sudarshan Chakra Corps, a strike corps of the Southern Command, is headquartered in Bhopal.
  • The corps has various formations of Armoured, Infantry, Artillery, Air Defence and Engineering among other units.

MeitY Start-up Summit

News:Ministry of Electronics & Information (MeitY) has unveiled a series of new initiatives during the first MeitY Start-up Summit held in New Delhi.

Facts:

About the initiatives:

  • The initiatives include the MeitY Startup Hub (MSH), the Indian Software Product Registry and select Incubation Centres under the TIDE 2.0.

MeitY Startup Hub:

  • It will act as a platform to connect with incubators, accelerators, mentors, and eventually, angel funds and venture capitalists.

Indian Software Product Registry

  • Itwill be a single-window portal for cataloguing all companies and products developed in India with key analytics, category-wise listing and options to port the database to the Government e-Marketplace (GeM) for enhanced market access.

Technology Incubation and Development of Entrepreneurs(TIDE) scheme:

  • TIDE scheme was launched in 2008 and is being implemented by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology.
  • The scheme aims to assist institutions of higher learning to strengthen their Technology Incubation Centers and enable young entrepreneurs to initiate technology startup companies for commercial exploitation of technologies developed by them.
  • The TIDE 2.0 will be aimed at strengthening close to 2,000 technology startups in areas of national concern, by leveraging emerging technologies and empowering 51 incubation centres across the country.

Smallest ozone hole in decades

News:During September and October months of 2019,the ozone hole over the Antarctic has been the smallest observed since 1982.

Facts:

About Ozone:

  • Ozone is made up of three oxygen atoms which occurs naturally in small amounts.It is a part of the stratosphere which extends 10 to 40kms above earth’s surface.
  • Ozone layer acts as a sunscreen by shielding the Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation.
  • On the other hand,close to the surface,ozone created as a byproduct of pollution can trigger health problems such as asthma and bronchitis.
  • Ozone-depleting gases like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), HCFCs, halons, destroy this protective shield and causes the hole in the ozone.
  • Each spring over Antarctica,atmospheric ozone is destroyed by chemical processes.This creates the ozone hole which occurs because of special meteorological and chemical conditions that exist in that region.

Why Ozone hole in Antarctica is shrinking?

  • The presence of abnormal weather patterns in the atmosphere over Antarctica is responsible for shrinkage of the ozone hole.
  • In warmer temperatures like in 2019,fewer polar stratospheric clouds were formed which limited the ozone-depletion process.
  • However,the shrinking of the ozone hole is not a sign of a recovery of atmospheric ozone but the result of the temporary warming of Antarctica.

Khadi and Village Industries Commission(KVIC)

News:Khadi and Village Industries Commission(KVIC) has partnered with the Goa Government to boost employment opportunities in the state.

Facts:

About KVIC:

  • The Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) is a statutory body established under Khadi and Village Industries Commission Act,1956.
  • It is an apex organisation under the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.
  • The KVIC is charged with the planning, promotion, organisation and implementation of programs for the development of Khadi and other village industries in the rural areas in coordination with other agencies engaged in rural development wherever necessary.

Objectives:

  • The social objective of providing employment.
  • The economic objective of producing saleable articles.
  • The wider objective of creating self-reliance amongst the poor and building up of a strong rural community spirit.

Additional information:

About Khadi:

  • Khadi refers to hand-spun and hand-woven cloth.The raw materials may be cotton, silk, or wool, which are spun into threads on a charkha.
  • Khadi was launched in 1920 as a political weapon in the Swadeshi movement of Mahatma Gandhi.

About Village industry:

  • Village industry is any industry that is located within a rural area where the Fixed Capital Investment per Artisan (weaver) does not exceed 1 lakh rupees.
  • The Fixed Capital Investment can be changed by the Government of India whenever it so requires.

Colonel Chewang Rinchen Bridge

News:Defence Minister has inaugurated a bridge named Colonel Chewang Rinchen bridge.

Facts:

About the bridge:

  • The bridge has been named after Col Chewang Rinchen.It stands at 14,650 feet across the Shyok river.
  • The bridge was constructed by the Border Road Organisation (BRO) within a period of just 15 months.
  • The bridge will be a boost to road connectivity.It will connect Durbuk and Daulat Beg Oldie in Eastern Ladakh.It is 45 km east of Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.

About Col Chewang Rinchen:

  • Colonel Chewang Rinchen is India’s youngest ever recipient of the Maha Vir Chakra at the age of 17 in 1952.
  • He was the first to respond to when Lt Col Prithi Singh sought volunteers to defend Ladakh against Pakistani raiders in 1948.
  • He was again awarded Maha Vir Chakra again in 1971 for his heroic act in freeing nine enemy points located in Ladakh’s Partapur sector.

Additional information:

About Shyok river:

  • Shyok River which is called as the The River of Death is a tributary of the Indus River.
  • The river originates from the Rimo Glacier, which is one of the tongues of Siachen Glacier.
  • The tributaries of Shyok river are Chang Chen Mo River, Galwan River, Nubra River and Saltoro River.
  • The river holds several Quaternary period (2.58 million years ago) depositions that help Geologists to learn more about the evolution of the earth.

Intensified Mission Indradhanush 2.0

News:Government of India will be launching the second phase of Intensified Mission Indradhanush 2.0.

Facts:

About Intensified Mission Indradhanush 2.0:

  • The Intensified Mission Indradhanush 2.0 will aim to cover the low immunisation pockets.
  • It will carry out massive immunisation program in 271 districts across the nation and 652 blocks located in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
  • The Mission Indradhanush has increased India’s immunisation coverage significantly to 87% from 67% in 2014.
  • However,official data on India’s immunisation coverage is still 62% given as the National Family Health Survey-4 (2015-16).

About Mission Indradhanush:

  • Mission Indradhanush is a vaccination programme that was launched in the year 2014.
  • It aimed to increase full immunization coverage to cover children up to 2 years and pregnant women.
  • It represents the seven vaccines that were then included in the Universal Immunisation Programme against seven diseases: tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, hepatitis B, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus and measles. 
  • The number has since risen to 12 with the inclusion of vaccines against measles rubella, rotavirus, Haemophilus influenzae type-B and polio.
  • In a select few states and districts, vaccines are also provided against Japanese Encephalitis and pneumococcus.

About Intensified Mission Indradhanush:

  • The Intensified Mission Indradhanush was launched in October 2017.
  • It has aimed to reach each and every child under two years of age and all those pregnant women who have been left uncovered under the routine immunization programme.
  • The special drive has focussed in selected districts and cities to ensure full immunization to more than 90% by December 2018.
  • Further,Special attention was also given to unserved/low coverage pockets in sub-centre and urban slums with migratory population.The focus was also on the urban settlements and cities identified under National Urban Health Mission (NUHM).
  • The Vaccine which were supplied were also tracked using the Electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network and cold chain tracking programme, and distributed using the alternate vaccine delivery mechanism.

Merger of BSNL and MTNL

News:Union Cabinet has approved the revival plan of Bharat Sanchar Nigam limited(BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam limited(MTNL) and in-principle merger of the two.

Facts:

Why this revival plan:

  • BSNL and MTNL are government owned telecommunications company. 
  • MTNL provides telephony services in Delhi and Mumbai, while BSNL is present in the rest of the circles in the country.
  • The revival package was needed as the two PSUs comes are facing financial stress due to stiff competition and reduction in tariffs.
  • The competition in the mobile segment, high employee costs and absence of 4G services has also progressively eroded the competitive strength of BSNL and MTNL.

About the revival plan:The revival plan includes:

  • Merger of BSNL and MTNL
  • administrative allotment of spectrum for 4G services,
  • debt restructuring by raising of bonds with sovereign guarantee extended by the Centre 
  • reducing employee costs through a voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) 
  • monetisation of assets.

Electronic Interlocking System

News:The most advanced Electronic Interlocking System has been installed on the Grand Chord route by the Indian Railways.

Facts:

About Electronic Interlocking system:

  • This new Electronic system has replaced the outdated Mechanical Signalling System at Tundla Junction in UP on the route.
  • The objective of installing the system is to help Indian Railways speed up trains and achieve the objective of reducing the travel time.
  • The new system will reduce the time between Delhi and Howrah to about 12 hours from the existing 17 to 19 hours.

About Grand Chord route:

  • Grand Chord is part of Howrah-Gaya-Delhi line and Howrah Allahabad Mumbai line. 
  • It acts as a link between Sitarampur in West Bengal and Pt. Deen Dayal Upadhyay Junction in Uttar Pradesh(UP). 
  • A lot of important trains pass through this route which connects national capital with eastern region of the country.
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