A) Science and Technology, Defence, Space
M dwarfs and potentially habitable extra-planet search (PIB)
- Context: Scientists have established some empirical relationships for finding the fundamental parameters of M dwarf stars that could identify them as potentially habitable.
- M dwarfs are the tiniest of the stars that have masses ranging from about 8 percent to about 50 percent of the Sun’s mass.
- More than 70% of all stars in our Galaxy are M dwarfs(also known as red dwarfs), dominating the stellar populations by number.
- For long, scientists have considered them unlikely host of habitable planets.
- As per new evidence that the chances of the occurrence of planetary systems, especially Earth-like planets orbiting in ‘habitable zones’, increases with decreasing stellar mass and radius, M dwarfs are becoming attractive targets for potentially habitable extra-planet searches due to their proximity, small size, and low mass.
- NASA’s Kepler space telescope (which operated between 2009 and 2018) and Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS (which started operations in 2018), have surveyed many red dwarf stars for possible Earth-like planets.
- NASA’s Kepler mission suggests that M dwarfs are swarming with rocky planets, making the characterization of these low-mass stars crucial.
- The determination of stellar parameters in M dwarfs have been a challenging task as these M dwarfs are smaller, cooler, and fainter than Sun-like stars.
- Red dwarfs are small, low-surface temperature, Main Sequence stars with a spectral type of K or M.
- It is their low temperature which dictates their red appearance.
- Their small diameter (typically a few tenths that of the Sun) means that they are also faint. Because they are so small and have such low mass, they evolve slowly with estimated Main Sequence lifetimes of 100 billion years.
- This long lifetime means that there are many red dwarfs. Indeed, they are amongst the most common type of star. An example of a red dwarf is Proxima Centauri, the nearest-known star to the Sun.
Explained: Which antibodies give immunity? (IE)
- Context: It is sometimes thought that everyone who is infected with a disease-causing virus, and recovers, becomes immune to the disease, because they build antibodies against it. But that is not the case.
- While the creation of antibodies is necessary for the recovery process, it does not guarantee immunity against a future attack from the same virus.
- Immunity comes from what are known as “neutralizing” or “protective” antibodies.
- Neutralising antibodies, like other antibodies that are created to fight the disease, are nothing but proteins.
- These are a small subset of the disease-specific antibodies that are generated once an infection has occurred.
- The neutralizing antibodies become special because they have the ability to thwart the entry of the same virus inside human bodies in the future.
- The other antibodies help in fighting off the virus once the infection has already happened.
Is immunity permanent?
- The longevity of the immunity against disease depends on a variety of factors, including the quantity of neutralizing antibodies generated by a patient.
- Those with a high quantity of neutralizing antibodies (or specific protein molecules) could be expected to remain immune to the disease for a longer time.
- This is because neutralizing antibodies, as also other antibodies, decrease with time. The rate of decline varies in different diseases and individuals.
What about vaccine-induced immunity?
- The level of immunity generated by a vaccine is usually expected to be longer and better.
- That is because the vaccine is designed to trigger a strong immune response with a high fraction of neutralizing antibodies.
Kleos Scouting Mission (TH)
- Kleos Space S.A. is a Luxembourg-based space-powered Radio Frequency Reconnaissance (RF) data-as-a-service (DaaS) company based in Luxembourg.
- Kleos Space aims to guard borders, protect assets and save lives by delivering global activity-based intelligence and geolocation as a service.
- The first Kleos Space satellite system, known as Kleos Scouting Mission (KSM), will deliver commercially available data and perform as a technology demonstration. KSM will be the keystone for a later global high capacity constellation.
- The Scouting Mission will deliver targeted daily services with the full constellation delivering near-real-time global observation.
- Recently, four satellites of the Mission were launched on the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) PSLV-C49 Mission in November 2020 under a commercial arrangement with NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), a Government of India company under the Department of Space.
B) Schemes, Policies, Initiatives, Awards and Social Issues
4.Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana – Gramin (PMAY-G) (PIB)
- Context: The Rural Housing Scheme, Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana – Gramin (PMAY-G) was launched by the Prime Minister of India on 20th November 2016 at Agra, Uttar Pradesh.
- To commemorate the launch of PMAY-G, which aims to provide “Housing for All” by 2022, it was decided to celebrate 20th November every year as “Awaas Diwas”.
- Also called “Housing for All”
- Launched in November, 2016 by Ministry of Rural Development.
- It aims to to provide an environmentally safe and secure pucca house, with basic amenities, to all houseless householders and those households living in kutcha and dilapidated house, in rural areas by 2022.
- The program envisages the completion of 2.95 crore PMAY-G houses with all basic amenities by the year 2022.
- In the 1st phase of the scheme i.e. from 2016-17 to 2018-19, a target for construction of 1 crore pucca houses were set.
- In the 2nd phase of the scheme starting from 2019-20 to 2021-22, the target of construction of the remaining 1.95 crore houses has been set.
- The scheme provides minimum governmental support of nearly Rs. 1.5 lakh to Rs. 1.6 lakh per unit household.
- The cost of unit assistance is to be shared between Central and State Government in the ratio 60:40 in plain areas and 90:10 for North Eastern and the Himalayan States.
- There is also a provision of Bank loans upto Rs. 70,000/-, if the beneficiary so desires.
- The minimum size of the house has been increased to 25 sq.mt (from 20sq.mt) with a hygienic cooking space.
- The beneficiary is entitled to 90-95 person day of unskilled labour from MGNREGS.
- Towards better quality of construction, setting up of a Nation Technical Support Agency (NTSA) at the national level is envisaged.
- The houses are disaster-resilient and are suitable to the local geo-climatic conditions.
- Homes will have cooking area, toilet, LPG connection, electricity connection and water supply through convergence with other schemes, and beneficiaries can plan their homes as per their need.
- There are negligible inclusion errors of ineligible beneficiaries due to three stage selection filters-
- (I) use of SECC 2011 data,
- (II) validation by Gram Sabha, and
- (III) Geo-tagging with photos of existing house of the beneficiary using space technology.
- PMAY-G is a major step forward in bringing together Skill India, Digital India, Make In India, IT/DBT Aadhaar platform and Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY).
- The programme provides for skilling 5 lakh Rural Masons by 2019.
- The programme uses ICT and space technology to further confirm correct selection of beneficiaries and progress of work.
- The entire payments are through IT/DBT mode with Aadhaar linked Bank accounts, to ensure complete transparency and accountability.
- The programme implementation is to be monitored not only electronically, but also through community participation (Social Audit), Member of Parliament (DISHA Committee), Central and State Government officials, National Level Monitors etc.
Convergence with various government programs
- PMAY-G also addresses the basic needs of households through convergence with various government programmes.
- The poor not only get a home but also get up to 90-95 days of work under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).
- Their homes are also provided electricity connection under the existing Ministry of Power schemes and LPG connection under Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Scheme besides the households’ toilet under Swachh Bharat Mission / MGNREGS and tap connection under Jal Jeeval Mission.
- Efforts have also been made to provide livelihood development and diversification opportunities to 1.82 crore rural households, under Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Rural Livelihood Mission (DAY-NRLM).
Unnat Bharat Abhiyan (UBA) (PIB)
- Context: Union Education Minister held a review meeting regarding the progress of Unnat Bharat Abhiyan Scheme (UBA) through video conferencing.
- The main objectives of Unnat Bharat Abhiyan (UBA), under the Ministry of Education/Human Resource Development, are as under:
- To engage the faculty and students of Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) in identifying development issues in rural areas and finding sustainable solutions for the same.
- Identify & select existing innovative technologies, enable customization of technologies, or devise implementation method for innovative solutions, as required by the people.
- To allow HEIs to contribute to devising systems for smooth implementation of various Government programs.
- Unnat Bharat Abhiyan 2.0 is the upgraded version of Unnat Bharat Abhiyan 1.0.
- The scheme is extended to all educational institutes; however, under Unnat Bharat Abhiyan 2.0 Participating institutes are selected based on the fulfillment of certain criteria.
- Currently, under the scheme UBA, 13072 villages have been adopted by 2474 Institutes (Note: The figures need not to be remembered).
Naturopathy- a future-oriented health-care system (PIB)
- Context: Naturopathy Day is observed every year in the country on 18th November, the day on which Mahatma Gandhi become a Life Member of the Nature Cure Foundation Trust and signed the deed.
- Gandhiji is considered the founding figure of Naturopathy in India, as it was largely through his efforts that this practice which originated in Europe became popular in India.
What is Naturopathy?
- Naturopathy is a system of health care which promotes the body’s own self-healing mechanism.
- It uses natural therapies such as Nutrition, Herbal Medicine, Acupuncture, Homeopathy, Hydrotherapy, Physical manipulations, Hydrotherapy, Fasting, Exercise and other modalities, in accordance with Naturopathic Principles.
- Following principles are kept in mind when a Naturopath takes a case, develops and offers treatment plans and maintenance support for long-term good health.
- The Healing Power of Nature
- The body can heal itself, given the right condition and treatment. There is a ‘Vital Force’ which is stimulated to promote health.
- Treat the Cause, not a symptom
- Identify the underlying cause of illness rather than eliminating (suppressing) symptoms.
- Treat the Whole Person
- Recognise a patient’s uniqueness by taking into account individual physical, mental, genetic, environmental, social and other factors.
- Prevention is preferable to cure
- Prevention is preferable to cure in order to keep the Vital Force at its optimum at all times.
- Naturopathy has been part of Germany for centuries. Many of the principles and philosophies of naturopathy originated in Germany and Europe in the 16th and 17th century.
- The original naturopaths – prior to 1900s – from around the world, were trained by European doctors using hydrotherapy, herbal medicine and other traditional forms of healing.
- European countries consider naturopathy as a system of healthcare that has evolved by incorporating the traditional medicine of each country with the naturopathic principles, theories, modalities and traditions that have been codified in North America.
- Naturopathic practitioners use many different treatment approaches. Examples include:
- Dietary and lifestyle changes
- Stress reduction
- Herbs and other dietary supplements
- Manipulative therapies
- Exercise therapy
- Practitioner-guided detoxification
- Psychotherapy and counseling.
C) Agriculture, Geography, Environment and Biodiversity
7.Measures to ensure 20% Ethanol blending target (PIB)
- In the normal sugar season, about 320 LMT of sugar is produced against domestic consumption of 260 LMT.
- This 60 LMT of surplus sugar which remains unsold, blocks funds of sugar mills to the tune of about Rs. 19,000 crore every year thereby affecting liquidity positions of sugar mills resulting in accumulation of cane price arrears of farmers.
- To deal with surplus stocks of sugar, sugar-mills are being encouraged by the Government to export sugar, for which Government has been extending financial assistance.
- However, India being a developing country can export sugar by extending financial assistance for marketing and transport only up to year 2023 as per WTO arrangements.
- So, as a long term solution to deal with surplus sugar, to improve the sustainability of sugar industry and to ensure timely payment of cane dues to farmers, the Government has been encouraging diversion of excess sugarcane & sugar to ethanol for supplying to Oil Marketing Companies for blending with petrol.
- This would not only reduce import dependency on crude oil, promote ethanol as a fuel which is indigenous & non-polluting, but will also enhance income of sugarcane farmers.
- Earlier, the Government had fixed a target of 10% blending of fuel grade ethanol with petrol by 2022 and 20% blending by 2030 but now Government is preparing a plan to prepone achievement of 20% blending target.
- Government is encouraging sugar mills, distilleries and entrepreneurs to set up new distilleries and to expand their existing distillation capacities and is also extending financial assistance by way of interest subvention for 5 years at 6% maximum rate of interest against the loans availed by sugar mills/ distilleries from banks for setting up their projects.
- However, as the blending targets cannot be achieved only by diverting sugarcane / sugar to ethanol therefore, Government is also encouraging distilleries to produce ethanol from other feed stocks like grains, etc. for which the present distillation capacity is not sufficient.
- Therefore, concerted efforts are being made by Govt. to enhance ethanol distillation capacity in the country by 720 crore litre for producing ethanol from 1st Generation (1G) feed stocks like sugarcane, molasses, grains, sugar beet, sweet sorghum etc.
- With use of other feedstocks, ethanol can be produced in non-sugarcane states also and this will help in distributed ethanol production in the country.
- In view of surplus of availability of rice in the country, Government is making efforts for production of ethanol from surplus rice with FCI to supply to Oil Marketing Companies to mix with petrol in Ethanol Supply Year 2020-21 (December-November).
- Efforts are also being made to produce ethanol from maize in states which have sufficient production of maize.
Ethanol Blended Petrol Programme
- EBP programme was launched in January, 2003.
- EBP Programme is being implemented by the Government of India:
- to promote the use of alternative and environment friendly fuels;
- to reduce import dependency for energy requirements;
- to provide necessary boost to the agriculture sector; and
- to reduce the Under-recovery of Public Sector Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs).
- Ethanol blending first found mention in the Auto fuel policy of 2003.
- At present, EBP programme is being implemented in about 21 states and 4 UTs.
- Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) can sell ethanol blended petrol with percentage of ethanol up to 10% in as many States as possible.
- The National Policy on Biofuels, 2018, aims to increase the percentage of ethanol in petrol and diesel. Currently, it is at nearly 2% in petrol, while in diesel, biofuel is less than 0.1%. An indicative target of 20% of ethanol in petrol and 5% of biodiesel in diesel is proposed by 2030.
- Ethanol is a colourless volatile flammable liquid which is produced by the natural fermentation of sugars.
- Ethanol fuel is ethyl alcohol, the same type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, used as fuel.
- Vehicles do not need any modifications to use blended fuel, which typically is 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline.
- Ethanol itself burns cleaner and burns more completely than petrol it is blended into.
- In India, ethanol is mainly derived by sugarcane molasses, which is a by-product in the conversion of sugar cane juice to sugar by fermentation process.
- In general, ethanol is produced from biomass mostly via a fermentation process using glucose which can be derived from sugars (sugar cane, sugar beet and molasses), starch (corn, wheat, grains) or cellulose (forest products) as raw materials. In this form, it is renewable.
- The creation of ethanol via fermentation separates the base glucose molecules into both ethanol and carbon dioxide molecules.
- Synthetic ethanol can also be produced from non-renewable sources like coal and gas.
- Since ethanol is produced from plants that harness the power of the sun, ethanol is also considered as renewable fuel.
- Ethanol begins its life as carbon stored in biomass; this is converted to ethanol, which is burnt as fuel that emits water and carbon dioxide. Photosynthesis converts the carbon back into biomass, to be used in the next cycle of ethanol production.
- As the ethanol molecule contains oxygen, it allows the engine to more completely combust the fuel, resulting in fewer emissions and thereby reducing the occurrence of environmental pollution.
- Ethanol also improves the engine’s efficiency by using less fuel.
- An oxygenated fuel that contains 35% oxygen, ethanol reduces nitrogen oxide emissions from combustion. It also helps reduce carbon monoxide emissions, particulate matter and sulphur-di-oxide.
Problems in the promotion of ethanol:
- There are reportedly significant transaction barriers which impede smooth supplies of ethanol for blending.
- In several States, State not only imposes levy on molasses but also regulates the movement of non-levy molasses.
- Inter-state movement of ethanol requires No-Objection-Certificates (NOCs) from the State Excise Authorities along with permits from dispatching and receiving States.
- Most States impose “Export/Import” duties on ethanol leaving and entering their boundaries.
- Hence, in order to improve the availability of ethanol, the Union Government has fixed ethanol price based on distance, which has encouraged movement of ethanol to longer distances, including States lacking distilleries.
- Further, ethanol produced from other non-food feedstocks besides molasses, like cellulosic and ligno-cellulosic materials including petrochemical route, has also been allowed to be procured subject to meeting the relevant Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) specifications.
Impact on vehicle fuel economy
- In general, vehicle fuel economy may decrease by about 3% when using E10 (10% ethanol blended fuel) relative to gasoline that does not contain fuel ethanol as the energy content of ethanol is about 33% less than pure gasoline.
National Policy on Biofuels
- The Policy categorises biofuels as “Basic Biofuels” and “Advanced Biofuels.”
- Basic Biofuels – First Generation (1G) bioethanol & biodiesel.
- Advanced Biofuels – Second Generation (2G) ethanol, Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to drop-in fuels, Third Generation (3G) biofuels, bio-CNG, Compressed Bio-Gas etc.
- The policy expands the scope of raw material for ethanol production by allowing use of:
- sugarcane juice,
- sugar containing materials like sugar beet, sweet sorghum,
- starch containing materials like corn, cassava,
- damaged food grains like wheat, broken rice, rotten potatoes that are unfit for human consumption.
- The policy allows use of surplus food grains for production of ethanol for blending with petrol with the approval of National Biofuel Coordination Committee to be chaired by the Prime Minister.
- The policy promotes Advanced Biofuels by:
- providing a viability gap funding scheme for second-generation ethanol Bio refineries of Rs.5000 crore in 6 years;
- additional tax incentives;
- higher purchase price as compared to first generation biofuels.
- The Policy encourages setting up of supply chain mechanisms for biodiesel production from non-edible oilseeds, Used Cooking Oil, and short gestation crops.
- Municipal solid waste has also been addressed with policy, with the option of converting it into drop-in fuels.
- A fuel that is completely interchangeable and compatible with a particular conventional (typically petroleum-derived) fuel.
- A perfect drop-in fuel does not require adaptation of the fuel distribution network or the vehicle or equipment engine fuel systems, and can be used “as is” in vehicles and engines that currently operate on that particular fuel.
- Some alternative fuels may become “drop-in” only after blending with conventional fuel to a certain prescribed proportion.
Different Generations of Biofuels:
- Biofuel is any fuel that is derived from biomass—that is, plant or algae or animal waste.
- Since such feedstock material can be replenished readily, biofuel is considered to be a source of renewable energy, unlike fossil fuels such as petroleum, coal, and natural gas.
- First-generation biofuel: They are produced from food crops.
- Second-generation biofuel: They are derived from low-value biomass that possesses a high cellulose content, including wood chips, crop residues, and municipal waste.
- Third-generation biofuel: They are obtained by the use of algae and cyanobacteria.
- Some estimates state that algae and cyanobacteria could yield between 10 and 100 times more fuel per unit area than second-generation biofuels.
- Fourth-generation biofuel: Fourth-generation technology combines genetically optimized feedstocks, which are designed to capture large amounts of carbon, with genomically synthesized microbes, which are made to efficiently make fuels.
- Key to the process is the capture and sequestration of CO2, a process that renders fourth-generation biofuels a carbon negative source of fuel.
- Plant-based biofuels in principle make little net contribution to global warming and climate change; the carbon dioxide (a major greenhouse gas) that enters the air during combustion will have been removed from the air earlier as growing plants engage in photosynthesis. Such a material is said to be “carbon neutral.”
- Energy output: Biofuels have a lower energy output than traditional fuels and therefore require greater quantities to be consumed in order to produce the same energy level.
- Methanol — or methyl alcohol — is a dangerous alcohol that can be fatal if swallowed; it is most commonly used in paint remover.
- Methanol gets made from coal and costs only Rs 22 per litre as against the prevailing price of about Rs 80 per litre for petrol.
- In cases of ‘hooch’ tragedy, toxicity often comes from drinking methanol, which results in blindness, tissue damage or death.
- The Government has decided that India’s 1st 2G ethanol bio-refinery would be set up at Bhatinda.
India’s first methanol cooking fuel debuts in Assam
- Assam Petrochemicals Limited (APL), India’s first public sector producer of methanol and formalin from natural gas as feedstock, has started a pilot project promoted by NITI Aayog.
- Under this project, coal, petroleum and natural gas will be converted to pollution-free methanol to be used as fuel for cooking and transportation so that LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) consumption is reduced.
- About 80% of LPG consumed in India is imported.
- But India is the first country where the focus is on replacing LPG.
- Methanol can be a major market in India, besides helping us reduce oil imports by 20%
- In terms of heat value, a 14 kg LPG cylinder is equivalent to about 20 kg of methanol but methanol works out 30% cheaper.
- Assam Petrochemicals Limited (APL) is also planning to produce methanol from biomass, municipal waste and flare gas from refineries and oil wells.
- Methanol is not only a clean fuel, it is light and can be easily carried to hilly areas.
D) Science and Technology
8.Explained: Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) (IE)
Context: India became the fourth country in the world to have its independent regional navigation satellite system recognized by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) as a part of the World Wide Radio Navigation System (WWRNS).
- The navigation system can now replace GPS in the Indian Ocean waters upto 1500 km from the Indian boundary.
- Merchant vessels in Indian waters can now use the “modern and more accurate” system as an alternative navigation module and Overdependence on one system (GPS) is removed.
What is the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS)?
- Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) is also called as NavIC (Operational name)
- IRNSS, the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (NavIC) is an ISRO initiative to design and develop an independent satellite-based navigation system of India.
- It is designed to provide accurate Position, Navigation and Timing services of objects or persons to users on ground, sea and air in India as well as the region extending up to 1500 km from indian boundary, which is its primary service area.
- An Extended Service Area lies between primary service area and area enclosed by the rectangle from Latitude 30 deg South to 50 deg North, Longitude 30 deg East to 130 deg East.
- It will provide two types of services, namely, Standard Positioning Service (SPS) which is provided to all the users and Restricted Service (RS), which is an encrypted service provided only to the authorised users (military).
- The System is expected to provide a position accuracy of better than 15-20 m in the primary service area.
- The space segment consists of the IRNSS constellation of eight satellites (the minimum satellite requirement is four satellites), plus a provision for some stand-by satellites as well in case some satellites dysfunction.
- The system is based on the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) satellites that are used for navigation.
- At least three satellites are located in suitable orbital slots in the geostationary orbit and at least four are located in geosynchronous orbits.
- All the satellites will be visible at all times in the Indian region.
What does the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) recognition of the IRNSS mean?
- The IMO is the United Nations’ specialized agency responsible for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine and atmospheric pollution by ships.
- IMO recognized the IRNSS as a component of the World-wide Radio Navigation System (WWRNS), with this recognition the Indian navigation system is similarly placed as GPS, most commonly used by marine shipping vessels across the world or the Russian Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS).
- After the US, Russia and China that have their own navigation systems, India has become the fourth country to have its independent regional navigation system.
- Unlike GPS, however, IRNSS is a regional and not a global navigation system.
Who can make use of the IRNSS?
- The system will be open to all including security agencies.
- All merchant vessels including small fishing vessels are authorised to use the system. Vessels that have transponders installed in them will be tracked by satellite navigation showing accurate position in the Indian Ocean region.
Some applications of IRNSS are:
- Terrestrial, Aerial and Marine Navigation
- Disaster Management
- Vehicle tracking and fleet management
- Integration with mobile phones
- Precise Timing (as for ATMs and power grids)
- Mapping and Geodetic data capture
- Terrestrial navigation aid for hikers and travellers
- Visual and voice navigation for drivers
Navigational Systems around the globe
- GPS (Global Positioning System): US
- Glonass: Russia
- Galileo: Europe
- Beidou: China
- Japan: QZSS
- Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) or NavIC: India
- These are highly accurate clocks that measure time in terms of vibrations in certain atoms (e.g. rubidium).
- Each of the NaVIC satellites has three atomic clocks.
- These clocks are important to provide precise locational data.
International Maritime Organization
- IMO – the International Maritime Organization – is the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for:
- the safety and security of shipping and;
- the prevention of marine pollution by ships.
- It is also involved in legal matters, including liability and compensation issues and the facilitation of international maritime traffic.
- IMO’s governing body is the Assembly which is made up of all the Member States and meets normally once every two years.
- The IMO slogan sums up its objectives: Safe, secure and efficient shipping on clean oceans.
- Only a country can become a Member of IMO. IMO currently has 172 Member States.
- Its role is to create a level playing-field so that ship operators cannot address their financial issues by simply cutting corners and compromising on safety, security and environmental performance.
- IMO measures cover all aspects of international shipping – including ship design, construction, equipment, manning, operation and disposal – to ensure that this vital sector for remains safe, environmentally sound, energy-efficient and secure.
- Most UN member states that are not members of IMO are landlocked countries.
- Nauru is one of only three UN-recognized nations with a sea border that is not a member of the International Maritime Organization (the others are the Federated States of Micronesia and Niue).
E) International Relations
9.G20 Financial Ministers Meeting (TH)
- Context: Highlighting the Debt Service Suspension Initiative as an important outcome under the G20, this meeting declared G20 Action Plan as the mainstay of the G20’s economic response and shared that it not only coordinates our immediate response, but also guides our long-term recovery efforts. They also updated G20 Action Plan to support the global economy through Covid-19.
Updated global action plan includes:
- Extending the Debt Service Suspension Initiative to June 2021 to help developing countries finance their coronavirus response and recovery programmes
- Agreement in principle to a historic Common Framework for Future Debt Treatments to provide debt restructuring to vulnerable countries on a case by case basis – bringing together G20 and Paris Club official creditors for the first time
- Supporting the World Bank Group’s initiatives to make available $16 billion of fast track financing for developing countries’ access to COVID-19 tools, with the aim of supporting equitable and affordable access for all
G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI)
- The main goal of the DSSI is to allow poor countries to concentrate their resources on fighting the pandemic and safeguarding the lives and livelihoods of millions of the most vulnerable people.
- Borrowers therefore commit to use freed-up resources to increase social, health, or economic spending in response to the crisis.
- Beneficiaries also commit to disclose all public sector financial commitments (involving debt and debt-like instruments).
- The IMF and the World Bank are supporting the implementation of the DSSI—by monitoring spending, enhancing public debt transparency, and ensuring prudent borrowing.
- In April, the World Bank’s Development Committee and the G20 Finance Ministers endorsed the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) in response to a call by the World Bank and the IMF to grant debt-service suspension to the poorest countries to help them manage the severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- COVID-19 has triggered the deepest global recession since World War II.
- Debt-service suspension with broad and equitable participation is urgently needed to allow low-income countries to concentrate their resources on fighting the pandemic.
Which countries would the G-20 debt service suspension apply to?
- Eligible countries would include all IDA (International Development Association) countries and all least developed-countries (as defined by the United Nations) that are current on debt service to the IMF and the World Bank.
How much do highly-indebted countries owe in bilateral debt?
- Preliminary estimates suggest that official bilateral debt service payments alone in these countries total almost $14 billion in 2020, including interest and amortization payments.
- Less than $4 billion of this is owed to Paris Club members, so it will be critical to have broad and equitable participation of all official bilateral creditors to make a difference.
- The Paris Club is an informal group of official creditors whose role is to find coordinated and sustainable solutions to the payment difficulties experienced by debtor countries.
- As debtor countries undertake reforms to stabilize and restore their macroeconomic and financial situation, Paris Club creditors provide an appropriate debt treatment.
- There are 22 permanent members of the Paris Club, and other official bilateral creditors may participate. Paris Club permanent members are: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Norway, Russian Federation, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America.
- (INDIA and CHINA are not its members)
How can a debtor country have its debt treated by the Paris Club?
- Paris Club creditors provide debt treatments to debtor countries, which is debt relief by postponement or in the form of rescheduling or reduction in debt service obligations during a defined period (flow treatment) or as of a set date (stock treatment).
- It provides debt restructuring only to debtor countries that need debt relief and that have implemented and are committed to implementing the reforms necessary to restore their economic and financial situation. (This means in practice that the country must have a current program with the IMF supported by a conditional arrangement.)
- Group of 20 (G20) is an international body created in 1999 that provides a forum for strategic economic communication between industrialized and developing countries.
- The G20 originated as a response to the economic crises of the late 1990s.
- It expanded on the work of the Group of Seven (G7) by including countries that previously had been left out of the global discussion.
- G7: Canada, U.S., U.K., Italy, France, Germany and Japan – the seven largest advanced economies.
- Earlier it was G-8 when Russia was suspended from it because of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, a part of Ukraine.
- Its membership comprises 19 countries (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and the European Union (EU).
- The countries are represented by finance ministers and central bank governors, while the EU is represented by the European Central Bank and a rotating council presidency.
- The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund also participate.
- Meetings are held annually, and each summit meeting is hosted and chaired by a different member.
- In addition, emergency summit meetings may be called.
- The issues that have been addressed by the group include terrorism, economic circumstances, corruption, tax transparency, economic inequality, renewable energy, and sustainable development.
10.Safaimitra Suraksha Challenge (PIB)
- The Challenge, launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs on the occasion of World Toilet Day (19 November), is aimed at preventing ‘hazardous cleaning’ of sewers and septic tanks and promote their mechanized cleaning.
- It involves at least 243 cities to mechanize all sewer and septic tank cleaning operations by 30th April 2021, and to work towards preventing any deaths from hazardous entry.
- India joined the G20 Troika, a three-member country committee chaired by current G20 summit presidency (Saudi Arabia), the 2021 presidency of Italy and India, the future summit Presidency when it hosts the meetings in 2022.
2020 Booker Prize
- Scottish author Douglas Stuart was awarded the 2020 Booker Prize for his acclaimed debut novel Shuggie Bain, set in his home city of Glasgow.
- The novel is about a working-class family in the 1980s was inspired by his own childhood.