A) Indices, Reports, Committees and Organisations
1. Global Innovation & Technology Alliance (GITA) (PIB)
- Context: GITA Foundation Day
- Global Innovation & Technology Alliance (GITA) is a “not–for–profit” Section-8 Public Private Partnership (PPP) company promoted jointly by the Technology Development Board (TDB), Department of Science & Technology (DST), Government of India and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
- The Prime Minister’s Council on Trade & Industry had, in 2010, recommended incorporation of a Government’s arm’s length entity under PPP mode to professionally manage the Government’s funds for providing flexibility to industry for undertaking R&D along with global partners.
- The GITA platform encourages industrial investments in innovative technology solutions by
- Mapping technology gaps,
- Undertaking expert evaluation of technologies available across the globe,
- Facilitating techno–strategic collaborative partnerships appropriate for Indian economy
- Connecting industrial and institutional partners for synergistic matchmaking and
- Providing soft funding for technology development / acquisition / deployment.
- To catalyze India’s recognition as a key innovator and provider of technologies at the global level.
- To inspire Indian industrial community to recognize RD&D (Research Development & Deployment) as a key and sustainable driver for individual and collective business growth.
- To enhance risk appetite of Indian industry for taking up innovative projects by inculcating a culture of RD&D (Research Development & Deployment) and sensitizing the importance of protecting intellectual property.
- To create a vibrant skilled work force to take up research activities and in turn strengthen the RD&D (Research Development & Deployment) ecosystem of India.
- To become an enabler for transfer of world class technologies to India through viable arrangements.
- GITA extends financial support in form of Grant/ Conditional Grant to promote industrial R&D, Innovation, Technology Acquisition and International S & T collaborative efforts.
- Capacity building
- GITA catalyzes innovation and empowers ideas by offering specialized Information, matchmaking, IP protection etc. in the areas of technology design and IPR management.
- Strengthening ecosystem
- GITA is involved in Technical, Financial, Strategic policy research and recommendation to industry, research institution, State & Central Government and offers global networking platforms.
- GITA is mandated to facilitate the implementation of various innovative and revolutionary scientific and technological industrial research and development projects worldwide.
2. National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organization (NOTTO) (PIB)
- Context: The National Organ & Tissue Transplant Organisation (NOTTO), mandated under the Transplantation of Human Organs (Amendment) Act 2011 to carry out activities for promotion of organ donation from deceased persons, putting systems in place for organ donation and transplantation and training the necessary manpower and personnel celebrated the 11thNational Organ Donation Day (27th Nov).
- It is a National level organization set up under Directorate General of Health Services, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
- It has following two divisions:
- National Human Organ and Tissue Removal and Storage Network
- National Biomaterial Centre (National Tissue Bank)
All about Organ Donation
What is an organ?
- An organ is a part of the body that performs a specific function: like Heart, Lungs, Kidney, Liver etc.
What are the Organs that can be donated?
- The organs that can be donated are:
- Liver, Kidney, Pancreas, Heart, Lung, Intestine.
What are the tissues that can be donated?
- The tissues that can be donated are:
- Cornea, Bone, Skin, Heart Valve, blood vessels, nerves and tendon etc.
What are the different types of Organ Donation?
- There are two types of organ donation.
- Living Donor Organ Donation: A person during his life can donate
- one kidney (the other kidney is capable of maintaining the body functions adequately for the donor),
- a portion of pancreas (half of the pancreas is adequate for sustaining pancreatic functions) and
- a part of the liver (the segments of liver will regenerate after a period of time in both recipient and donor).
- Deceased Donor Organ Donation: A person can donate multiple organs and tissues after (brain-stem/cardiac) death.
Is there any age limit for Organ Donation?
- In living donation, person should be above 18 year of age, and for most of the organs deciding factor is the person’s physical condition and not the age.
- In the case of tissues and eyes, age usually does not matter.
- A deceased donor can generally donate the Organs & Tissues with the age limit of:
- Kidneys, liver: up-to 70 years
- Heart, lungs: up-to 50 years
- Pancreas, Intestine: up-to 60-65 years
- Corneas, skin: up-to 100 years
- Heart valves: up-to 50 years
- Bone: up-to 70 years
How does whole body donation differ from organ donation?
- Organ donation for therapeutic purposes is covered under the Transplantation of Human Organs Act (THOA 1994).
- Whole body donation is covered by the Anatomy Act 1984.
- Bodies are not accepted for teaching purposes if organs have been donated or if there has been a post-mortem examination.
- However, if only the corneas are to be donated, a body can be left for research.
How are donated organs matched with patients?
- Blood group is one of the major factors taken into account.
- Organ size of the donor & recipient is also considered.
- For kidneys another important factor is tissue matching which is more complex than blood grouping matching and also takes more time.
- The best results can be achieved if there is a perfect kidney match.
- There is a local, regional and national computerized list of patients waiting for an organ transplant.
- Most of the time, computer will identify the best matched patient for a particular organ and organ is offered to the transplant unit who is treating that patient.
- Also, priority is given to patients who most urgently need a transplant.
- NOTTO operates the waiting list and organ allocation system.
- It works round the clock, every day of the year.
- In case of tissues, matching is usually not required.
What is the protocol for organ distribution?
- The organs would be distributed locally within the State first, and if no match is found, they are then offered regionally, and then nationally, until a recipient is found.
- If no Indian is available, an NRI should be considered.
- The question of an international patient arises only when both Indian and NRI patients decline an organ offer.
B) Science and Technology, Defence, Space
3. Dry Swab direct RT-PCR method for Coronavirus detection (PIB)
- Context: Dry Swab direct RT-PCR method for Coronavirus detection receives ICMR approval.
- More specifically, the Dry Swab-Direct RT-PCR method involves collecting and transporting the nasal swab in dry state (as opposed to using the viral transport medium, VTM) which makes the transportation and handling of the samples easy and less prone to spillage and spread of infection.
- Secondly, the step of RNA isolation from the sample is omitted and involves only simple processing of the sample followed by direct RT-PCR using the kit recommended by ICMR.
- Omitting the step of RNA isolation offers a huge benefit over the conventional method, as the RNA isolation is a major bottleneck in terms of time, cost and trained manpower.
- Given this, with the same resources and no additional cost more samples can be tested and can be easily scaled up at least 2-3 times immediately.
4. RT-LAMP: a new technology for detecting COVID-19 (TH)
- The current method for SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis is the real time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test which detects the presence of viral nucleic acids in nasopharyngeal swab samples.
- But it has certain shortcomings.
- The test requires complex and costly equipment.
- It requires extensive training for potential users.
- As the specificity and sensitivity of the test is about 95%, there is a possibility of false negative results.
- The turnaround time is about 10 hours, so that the result will be available only by the next day.
- In short, the RT-PCR does not have the capacity to keep pace with the increasing demand.
- COVID-19 serology tests are also in use to detect antigens that are associated with the virus infection.
- These tests are easy to use with rapid results, as well as have minimal expenses.
- However, serology immunoassay lacks the necessary accuracy to be a reliable diagnostic test due to its low sensitivity and high false negative/positive rates.
RT-LAMP (Reverse Transcriptase loop-mediated isothermal amplification) technology
- This is a one-step nucleic acid amplification method to multiply specific sequences of RNA of the coronavirus.
- Here, the RNA is first made into cDNA (copy DNA) by the usual reverse transcription. Then, the DNA is amplified by the LAMP technique.
- The LAMP technology has many advantages over RT-PCR technology.
- The RT-PCR test needs different temperatures in one cycle. The temperature of the solution has to be changed from 92 degrees C to 56 degrees C and again to 72 degrees C every two minutes, and this cycle has to be repeated.
- On the other hand, the new RT-LAMP technology is done at 65 degrees C, where the DNA amplification is done at a constant temperature (isothermal), so that expensive thermal cycler is not required.
- Moreover, the quantity of DNA amplified in the LAMP technology is hundred thousand times more than that is taking place in PCR.
- Therefore, the final assay is possible with a simple colour reaction, removing the need for very costly real time PCR machines.
- An equally important advantage of the LAMP technology is that the assay is so fast that results can be obtained within 30 minutes and positive samples are amplified as early as 10 minutes.
- This may be compared with the PCR technique which needs 8–10 hours for completion.
- Yet another advantage of LAMP is that the reagents are to be stored at 4 degree C (ordinary fridge), whereas the PCR-based reagents are to be stored and transported at –20 degrees C, which needs deep freezers that escalate the cost.
- The LAMP technology does not need laborious preparation as in the case of RT-PCR. LAMP is cost effective and does not need complex expensive equipment. Assays can be performed with minimum skill and minimum infrastructure.
- The LAMP technology has been recently validated by the Indian Council of Medical Research with sensitivity 98.7% and specificity 100%. Thus, the LAMP technology is superior to the PCR technology–based COVID-19 kits where specificity is around 95% only.
Sensitivity Vs Specificity
- Sensitivity measures how often a test correctly generates a positive result for people who have the condition that’s being tested for (also known as the “true positive” rate).
- A test that’s highly sensitive will flag almost everyone who has the disease and not generate many false-negative results.
- Example: a test with 90% sensitivity will correctly return a positive result for 90% of people who have the disease, but will return a negative result — a false-negative — for 10% of the people who have the disease and should have tested positive.
- Specificity measures a test’s ability to correctly generate a negative result for people who don’t have the condition that’s being tested for (also known as the “true negative” rate).
- A high-specificity test will correctly rule out almost everyone who doesn’t have the disease and won’t generate many false-positive results.
- Example: a test with 90% specificity will correctly return a negative result for 90% of people who don’t have the disease, but will return a positive result — a false-positive — for 10% of the people who don’t have the disease and should have tested negative.
C) Schemes, Policies, Initiatives, Awards and Social Issues
5. Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT) and GOBAR-DHAN
- Context: SATAT is an initiative aimed at setting up of Compressed Bio-Gas production plants and make it available in the market for use in automotive fuels by inviting Expression of Interest from potential entrepreneurs.
- The initiative was launched in October 2018 by the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas in association with Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) Oil Marketing Companies (OMC) viz. Indian Oil Corporation Ltd., Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd.
- Compressed Bio-Gas (CBG) plants are proposed to be set up mainly through independent entrepreneurs.
- CBG produced at these plants will be transported through cascades of cylinders to the fuel station networks of OMCs for marketing as a green transport fuel alternative.
- The entrepreneurs would be able to separately market the other by-products from these plants, including bio-manure, carbon-dioxide, etc., to enhance returns on investment.
- It is planned to roll out 5,000 Compressed Bio-Gas plants across India by 2025 in a phased manner with a target of 15 MMT per year.
- Indian oil marketing companies are offering to private entrepreneurs assured price and offtake guarantee. The SATAT initiative is in line with the goals of AatmaNirbhar Bharat, Swachh BharatMission and boosting MSME sector.
- Reserve Bank of India has included CBG projects under Priority Sector that will help in getting the loan for CBG plant.
- The National Policy on Biofuels 2018 emphasises active promotion of advanced bio-fuels, including CBG.
- Bio-gas, the most common form of bio-fuel, is a clean form of energy.
- Bio-gas is produced naturally through a process of anaerobic (an environment absent of oxygen) decomposition from waste/bio-mass sources like agriculture residue, cattle dung, sugarcane press mud, kitchen waste, municipal solid waste, sewage treatment plant waste, poultry droppings etc.
- Due to the high content of methane in biogas (typically 50-75%) biogas is flammable, and therefore produces a deep blue flame, and can be used as an energy source.
- One of the biggest advantages of biogas is that it takes a problematic gas (methane) present in decomposing waste, and converts it into a much safer form (carbon dioxide).
- Methane gas has approximately 20 to 30 times the heat-trapping capabilities of carbon dioxide.
- After purification, it is compressed and called CBG, which has pure methane content of over 95%.
- Compressed Bio-Gas is exactly similar to the commercially available natural gas in its composition and energy potential.
- With calorific value (~52,000 KJ/kg) and other properties similar to CNG, Compressed Bio-Gas can be used as an alternative, renewable automotive fuel.
- Given the abundance of biomass in the country, Compressed Bio-Gas has the potential to replace CNG in automotive, industrial and commercial uses in the coming years.
- The potential for Compressed Bio-Gas production from various sources in India is estimated at about 62 million tonnes per annum.
Benefits of the programme
- There are multiple benefits from converting agricultural residue, cattle dung and municipal solid waste into CBG on a commercial scale:
- Responsible waste management, reduction in carbon emissions and pollution;
- Additional revenue source for farmers;
- Boost to entrepreneurship, rural economy and employment;
- Support to national commitments in achieving climate change goals;
- Reduction in import of natural gas and crude oil;
- Boost to the availability of more affordable transport fuels,
- Buffer against crude oil/gas price fluctuations.
- The Department of Drinking Water & Sanitation, Ministry of Jal Shakti, has launched the GOBAR-DHAN (Galvanising Organic Bio-Agro Resources) scheme earlier this year to convert cattle dung and solid waste in farms to CBG and compost.
- The programme will be funded under Solid and Liquid Waste Management (SLWM) component of Swachh Bharat Mission–Gramin(SBM-G) to benefit households in identified villages through Gram Panchayats.
- The objective of the scheme is to increase rural income, rural jobs and to keep villages clean through solid waste management.
- Accordingly, this scheme aims to positively impact the Gram Panchayats with 3Es, which are as following:
- Energy: Self-reliance with respect to energy through utilization of agricultural and animal waste to generate bio-energy through bio-gas plants.
- Empowerment: Engaging rural people, especially women self-help groups in construction, management and day to day operations of biogas plants.
- Employment: Generating jobs among the rural youth and women through collection of waste, transportation to treatment plants, management of treatment plant, sale and distribution of biogas generated, etc.
- The scheme is intended to manage and convert cattle dung and solid waste in farms to compost, bio-slurry, bio-gas and bio-CNG.
6. Cycles4Change Challenge (PIB)
- It is an initiative of the Smart Cities Mission, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, in partnership with Fit India Mission and Swachh Bharat Mission.
- It has been launched to inspire and support Indian cities to quickly implement cycling-friendly initiatives.
- They will be encouraged to create extensive cycling-networks using low-cost methods like pop-up cycle lanes, non-motorised zones and set up community-led cycle rental schemes.
- The Challenge aims to inspire a nation-wide transformation with an ambitious vision of creating over 10,000 kilometres of attractive cycling infrastructure and adding 100 million new cycles to our cities and to make cycles accessible to every citizen.
D) Agriculture, Geography, Environment and Biodiversity
7. New species of gecko found in the Eastern Ghats (TH)
- This is the twelfth species to be discovered outside the Western Ghats
- A new species of lizard, the smallest known Indian gekkonid, has been discovered in the Eastern Ghats.
- Studies show that the species belonged to the genus Cnemaspis.
- The newly discovered dwarf gecko – Cnemaspis avasabinae is the twelfth species to be discovered outside the Western Ghats and also the first species reported from the Velikonda Range in Andhra Pradesh.
- The most interesting find was that the males of the species lacked femoral pores.
- Generally, most variants of lizards have femoral pores in both the sexes, and the secretions from these pores play a role in communication.
- Lacking femoral pores doesn’t mean that a male gecko is not adequately supplied with chemical means of communication.
- It may also be possible that geckos are able to release pheromones to attract or communicate with possible mates, even if there are no pores.
- Pores may be especially useful for lizards that maintain a home range or territory and use them to mark this – to keep away other males even more than to attract females.
8. Is the tropical zone of Earth expanding? (TH)
- The planet Earth is divided into three climate zones: Tropical, Temperate and Frigid.
- The tropical zone extends around the equator from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.
- Now researchers say that this warm temperature zone is expanding further and this may be the reason behind severe droughts and bushfires in Australia and parts of the U.S.
What is causing this expansion?
- Studies have suggested that increasing greenhouse gases, aerosols, decreasing ozone, warming oceans and large-scale ocean currents in both the northern and southern hemispheres may be the factors behind this expansion.
9. The complexities of cyclone forecasting (TH)
- Cyclone Nivar, that originated in the Bay of Bengal and barrelled through Tamil Nadu and brought copious rain in its wake, was the third major cyclone to land on India’s coast this year, besides Amphan and Nisarga.
How are cyclones forecast?
- There is a network of 12 doppler weather radars (DWR) along India’s coast if one were to begin counting from Kolkata and trawl up to Mumbai — there are 27 in all in the country.
- Depending on where a storm is forming, these radars send pulses of radio waves to gauge the size as well as the speed at which water droplets are moving.
- The earlier generation of radars was unable to track such progress in real time, but with DWRs, it is usually possible to detect a potential storm at least four-five days in advance.
- The IMD also collaborates with similar international networks that constantly send warnings and forecasts about changes in the ocean weather.
- The near ubiquity of ocean-buoys that track changes in ocean sea surface temperatures as well as dedicated meteorological satellites improve the odds of early detection.
How difficult was it to track Nivar’s progress?
- Nivar was the second tropical cyclone that formed around India and made landfall.
- Cyclone Gati, which originated in the Arabian Sea and intensified into a ‘very severe cyclonic storm’, made its way towards Africa and made landfall in Somalia on November 22.
- However around then, another system emerged in the Bay of Bengal, that eventually morphed into a cyclonic storm by November 24. The IMD’s initial forecasts said it would at most be a ‘severe cyclonic storm’, but it then upgraded it to the same league as Gati, i.e., a ‘very severe cyclonic storm’.
- The IMD follows a five-stage classification for cyclones, with the lowest a ‘cyclonic storm’ generating wind speeds of 62-87 kmph, and the highest a ‘super cyclonic storm’, generating winds over 222 kmph.
- April-June and October-December are India’s cyclone seasons.
- The arriving monsoon, as well as its retreat, stir up the surrounding seas and generate cyclones.
- Though the Bay of Bengal is three times more likely to generate cyclones, the ones that originate in the Arabian Sea are trickier, as the cyclone, while ostensibly moving away from India’s western coast, can suddenly ‘recurve’ and move back in.
- There are also fewer radars along India’s west coast than the eastern coast, and all these reasons make the Bay of Bengal cyclones more tractable.
- The formation of cyclones is preceded by ‘depressions’, and they are often the first warnings.
- Sea pockets, where cyclones form, are also places that drive schools of fish and lure fisherfolk.
E) International Relations
10. Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) (TH)
- Context: India will host the Heads of Government Council meeting of the eight-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
- It will be the first time that a summit-level meeting will be held under India’s chairmanship, since it gained full membership of the organisation in 2017.
- This summit is held annually at the level of Prime Ministers of SCO and deals primarily with the trade and economic agenda of the organisation.
- The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is a permanent intergovernmental
- The SCO grew out of the Shanghai Five grouping — of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan — which was set up in 1996 to resolve boundary disputes between China and each of the four other members.
- It admitted Uzbekistan in 2001, re-christened itself the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and broadened its agenda to include political, economic and security cooperation.
- In June 2017 in Astana (the capital city of Kazakhstan), India and Pakistan became full members of the Organization.
- The admission of India and Pakistan has expanded the geographical, demographic and economic profile of the SCO, which now has about half the world’s population and a quarter of its GDP.
- The SCO has four observer States: Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia.
- The SCO has six dialogue partners: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey, and Sri Lanka.
- The Heads of State Council (HSC) is the supreme decision-making body in the SCO which meets once a year.
- The organisation has two permanent bodies— the SCO Secretariat based in Beijing and the Executive Committee of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) based in Tashkent.
- The SCO Secretary-General and the Director of the Executive Committee of the SCO RATS are appointed by the Council of Heads of State for a term of three years.
- The SCO’s official languages are Russian and Chinese.
- Shanghai Cooperation Organization sometimes also referred as ‘Eastern NATO’.
- The SCO’s main goals are as follows:
- strengthening mutual trust and neighbourliness among the member states;
- promoting their effective cooperation in politics, trade, the economy, research, technology and culture, as well as in education, energy, transport, tourism, environmental protection, and other areas;
- making joint efforts to maintain and ensure peace, security and stability in the region; and
- moving towards the establishment of a democratic, fair and rational new international political and economic order.
- Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) of the SCO – It coordinates cooperation for security and stability, through intelligence-sharing on criminal and terrorist activities.
- India will host the meeting of Council of Heads of Government in 2020.
- S. and Europe called it the “Anti-NATO” for proposing military cooperation.
- In 2005, the Astana declaration called for SCO countries to work on a “joint SCO response to situations that threaten peace, security and stability in the region”.