31st December 2020

Export of Akash Missile

Recently, the Union Cabinet has approved the export of Akash Missile System and creates a Committee for faster Approval of Exports.

  • It is a Short Range Surface to Air Missile system to protect vulnerable areas and vulnerable points from air attacks.
  • Akash Weapon System can simultaneously engage Multiple Targets in Group Mode or Autonomous Mode.
  • AKASH Weapon Systems has been inducted and is operational with the Indian Air Force (IAF) as well as the Indian Army (IA).
  • It is India’s first indigenously designed missile system and can target fighter jets, cruise missiles, drones and other aerial assets.
  • It is developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and produced by Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL).

Key Highlights

  • The export version of Akash will be different from the weapon system currently deployed by the Indian armed forces.
  • The committee will authorise the export of major indigenous platforms to various countries, apart from exploring various options including the government-to-government route to sell military hardware abroad.
  • The Government of India intends to focus on exporting high value defence platforms to achieve a target of 5 Billion USD of defence export and improve strategic relations with friendly foreign countries.
  • The export of Akash missile will also enhance India’s stature in the global market as a weapons exporter.


India and Bhutan on Peaceful Use of Outer Space
Recently, Union Cabinet approved Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Government of the Republic of India and the Royal Government of Bhutan on Cooperation in the peaceful users of outer space.

  • India and Bhutan have been discussing on establishing formal space cooperation.
  • The template for Inter-Governmental MoU for Space cooperation was shared with Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in 2017 for further taking up with Bhutan.
  • In November 2020, the MoU was signed between the leaders of India and Bhutan.

Key Highlights

  • The MoU shall enable India and Bhutan to pursue cooperation in potential interest areas such as:
    • Remote sensing of the earth;
    • Satellite communication and satellite-based navigation;
    • Space science and planetary exploration;
    • Use of spacecraft and space systems and ground system; and
    • Application of space technology
  • The MoU would lead to concluding specific Implementing Arrangement on specific areas of cooperation and setting up of Joint Working Group
    • The working group will aim to work out the plan of action including the time-frame and the means of implementing this MoU.
  • The MoU would lead to develop a joint activity in the field of application of space technologies for the benefit of humanity.



Recently, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Navy have conducted the successful maiden test trial of ‘SAHAYAK-NG’.

  • It is India’s first indigenously designed and developed Air Dropped Container.
  • It aims to enhance Indian Navy’s operational logistics capabilities and provide critical engineering stores to ships which are deployed more than 2000 km from the coast.
  • SAHAYAK-NG is an advanced version of SAHAYAK Mk I.
  • It reduces the requirement of ships to come close to the coast to collect spares and stores.
  • The newly developed GPS aided air dropped container is having the capability to carry a payload that weighs upto 50 kg and can be dropped from heavy aircraft.

Proxima Centauri

Recently, the astronomers running the world’s largest initiative to look for alien life have picked up an “intriguing” radio wave emission from the direction of Proxima Centauri.

  • Astronomers at the $100 million Breakthrough Listen project regularly spot blasts of radio waves using two powerful telescopes i.e. the Parkes Observatory in Australia or the Green Bank Observatory in the US.
  • The beam picked up from the direction of Proxima Centauri which has been named BLC1 or Breakthrough Listen Candidate 1, has two interesting characteristics:
    • First, its signal frequency is 982 MHz which is a narrow-band value that is not transmitted by human-made spacecraft or satellites.
    • Second, the apparent shift in this frequency is reportedly consistent with the movement of the planet.
  • It raises the possibility that the emission could be an alien “technosignature”, meaning something which provides evidence of alien technology.

Proxima Centauri

  • It is the closest star to Sun.
  • Proxima Centauri is 4.2 light-years away from the Sun which is considered a close distance in cosmic terms.
  • Its mass is about an eighth of the Sun’s, and it is too dim to be seen with the naked eye from Earth.
  • Proxima b, lies in Proxima Centauri’s “Goldilocks zone”, is one of the two planets that revolve around the star.
    • Goldilocks zone is the area around a star where it is not too hot and not too cold for liquid water to exist on the surface of surrounding planets.
  • Proxima Centauri b is a super Earth exoplanet that orbits an M-type star.


Anaemic Population in India

Recently, the National Family Health Survey 2019-20 has found out that Indian women and children are overwhelmingly anaemic.

  • In Phase I of the National Family Health Survey (NHFS), result factsheets have been released for 22 states and UTs.
  • Anaemia testing during the survey was done among children aged 6 to 59 months and among women and men aged 15 to 49 years of age.
  • In a majority of the surveyed states and UTs, more than half the children and women were found to be anaemic.
  • The proportion of anaemic children and women is comparatively lower in Lakshadweep, Kerala, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland.
    • It is higher in Ladakh, Gujarat, J&K, and West Bengal, among others.
  • The condition of anaemia is having a lower-than-normal number of red blood cells or quantity of hemoglobin.
  • It can make one feel tired, cold, dizzy, and irritable and short of breath, among other symptoms.
  • A diet which does not contain enough iron, folic acid or vitamin B12 is a common cause of anaemia.
  • Some other conditions that may lead to anaemia include pregnancy, heavy periods, blood disorders or cancer, inherited disorders and infectious diseases.

Reasons for High Anaemia Population in India

  • The iron-deficiency and vitamin B12-deficiency anaemia are the two common types of anaemia in India.
  • Among women, iron deficiency prevalence is higher than men due to menstrual iron losses and the high iron demands of a growing foetus during pregnancies.
  • The lack of millets in the diet due to overdependence on rice and wheat, insufficient consumption of green and leafy vegetables, and dominance of packaged and processed foods which are low in nutrition could be the reasons behind the high prevalence of anaemia in India.
  • The anaemia levels in India have consistently remained high in the post-independence period and not dropped significantly during this period.


Eco-sensitive Zone in Narmada district

Recently, the tribal communities have been protesting against the Centre’s notification classifying 121 villages around the Shoolpaneshwar Wildlife Sanctuary in Narmada district as eco-sensitive zones.

Reasons for tribal communities protesting against the notification

  • As per the provisions of the notification, land falling in the eco-sensitive zone cannot be transferred for non-agricultural use, for commercial, industrial or residential purposes.
    • The land falling in the eco-sensitive zone includes land belonging to the forest department, horticulture department, that used for agricultural use and plots reserved for parks.
    • Any land that needs to be transferred can be done so only after approval from the state government.
  • The process has been initiated to include the state government as the co-owner of the land in the 121 villages.
  • The notification, combined with the formation of the Statue of Unity Area Development and Tourism Governance Authority, has increased administrative needs owing to the booming tourism, has left tribals in a state of mistrust and fear.
  • The tribals feel the simultaneous implementation of the two government decisions could dilute the “power” vested with villagers under the Panchayat (Extension of Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996.

Shoolpaneshwar Wildlife Sanctuary

  • It is located in the Narmada district of Gujarat.
  • It is located in the western Satpura Range south of the Narmada River.
  • The sanctuary was first declared a protected area in 1982.
  • It was called the ‘Dumkhal Sanctuary’ and was created especially for the protection of sloth bears.
  • It shares a common boundary with Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia (INSACOG)

Recently, the government has launched the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia (INSACOG).

  • It comprises of 10 labs namely DBT-NIBMG Kalyani, DBT-ILS Bhubaneswar, ICMR-NIV Pune, DBT-NCCS Pune, CSIR-CCMB Hyderabad, DBT-CDFD Hyderabad, DBT-InSTEM/ NCBS Bengaluru, NIMHANS Bengaluru, CSIR-IGIB Delhi, and NCDC Delhi.
  • The aim of the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium is to monitor the genomic variations in the SARS-CoV-2 on a regular basis through a multi-laboratory network.
  • The consortium will ascertain the status of new variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the country.
    • It will also establish sentinel surveillance for early detection of genomic variants with public health implication, and determine the genomic variants in the unusual events/trends.
  • The INSACOG will have a high level Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee which will provide guidance and oversight to the consortium especially for policy matters.
  • The INSACOG will monitor the genomic variations on a regular basis through the multi-laboratory network.
  • The DBT-NIBMG as the Coordinating Unit of Genome Sequencing Consortium and will closely work with a Nodal Unit of National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on activities like SOPs, data annotation, data analysis, data release etc.


Link between Mediterranean diet and South Asia

Recently, the researchers have found evidence of foods from South Asia, including bananas, sesame and turmeric, going back to at least the second millennium BCE.

Key Highlights

  • The new finding shows the Levant, the eastern Mediterranean region which includes present-day Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Palestine and Turkey, had been trading with South Asia.
  • The South Asia region was the region where bananas, sesame and turmeric were widely cultivated, as early as 3,500-4000 years ago.
  • The findings force us to rethink the complexity and intensity of Indo-Mediterranean trade during the Bronze Age as well as the degree of globalisation in early Eastern Mediterranean cuisine.
  • The study implies that the development of certain crucial elements of modern Levantine cuisine, such as the sesame seed paste known as tahini and ras el-hanout, a spice mix that includes turmeric, can be traced back to this early period.
  • The archaeological evidence drawn from ancient skeletons suggests that bananas had become popular enough in the region that they were accessible to the common people.

Evidence of Mediterranean diet and South Asia

  • The evidence on which the study is based comes from the dental calculus i.e. tooth tartar or calcified dental plaque which was drawn from the teeth of 14 skulls.
  • Dental calculus has been found to trap a lot of evidence, from DNA to food molecules to bacteria, and helps shed light on a number of different things.


PM Street Vendor’s AtmaNirbhar Nidhi (PM SVANidhi) Scheme

Recently, the PM Street Vendor’s AtmaNirbhar Nidhi (PM SVANidhi) scheme has received 31,64,367 applications from across the country.

Need for PM SVANidhi Scheme

  • The COVID-19 pandemic and the nationwide lockdown left daily wage workers and street vendors out of work.
  • The scheme aims at aiding the vendors at getting back on their feet financially.
  • In the long term, it aims at establishing a credit score for the vendors as well as creating a digital record of their socio-economic status, so that they can avail the Central government schemes later.

Key Features of PM SVANidhi Scheme

  • It is a micro-credit facility that provides street vendors a collateral-free loan of Rs 10,000 with low rates of interest for a period of one year.
  • The scheme attempts to formalise the informal sector of the economy and provide them safety nets and a means of availing loans in the future.
  • All the states and union territories, except for Sikkim, are taking part in the scheme.

Eligibility under PM SVANidhi Scheme

  • All vendors who have been vending from or before March 24, 2020 and with a certificate of vending can avail the loan.
  • As per the Street Vendors Act of 2014, the Town Vending Committees issue a certificate of vending after a survey has been conducted of all the vendors.
  • As per the scheme, the urban local bodies shall provide a Letter of Recommendation for every vendor who wishes to avail the loan.

Challenges in implementing PM SVANidhi Scheme

  • The states across the country have unevenly implemented the Street Vendors Act of 2014, which necessitates a survey of the vendors to provide them with a certificate of vending. 
  • Delhi has not yet conducted a city-wide survey of vendors as per the rules notified by the Delhi government in 2016 and it led to lack of a certificate of vending.
  • The mobile numbers of various vendors were not linked with their Aadhaar cards.
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