Daily Current Affairs

4TH DECEMBER,2020 : MOST POWERFUL DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS CONCEPTS

UPSC PRELIMS+MAINS

A) Indices, Reports, Committees and Organisations

1. Some additional information about Malaria Control

Context: The World malaria report, published annually by WHO, provides a comprehensive update on global and regional malaria data and trends.

Notable Facts relevant for us

HIL (India) has supplied DDT to South Africa for Malaria control program

  • HIL (India) Limited, a PSU under the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers is the sole manufacturer of DDT globally.
  • The company was incorporated in the year 1954 to manufacture and supply DDT to Government of India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for malaria control programme.
  • The Company is also exporting the product to many African countries.
  • DDT is one of the chemicals targeted by the Stockholm Convention
  • Spraying of insecticides inside the human habitants i.e. Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) has proven to be effective mosquito control tool.
  • World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends DDT as one of the efficient IRS chemicals to curb malaria mosquito menace and it is widely used by many Southern African countries and India.

Notifiable Disease

  • The Centre has notified several diseases such as cholera, diphtheria, encephalitis, leprosy, meningitis, pertussis (whooping cough), plague, tuberculosis, AIDS, hepatitis, measles, yellow fever, malaria, dengue, etc.
  • A notifiable disease is any disease that is required by law to be reported to government authorities.

Certification of malaria elimination:

  • Certification of malaria elimination is the official recognition by WHO of a country’s malaria-free status.
  • WHO grants this certification when a country has proven, beyond reasonable doubt, that the chain of local transmission of all human malaria parasites has been interrupted nationwide for at least the past 3 consecutive years.
  • Maldives and Sri Lanka are the two countries in the region which have eliminated malaria.

The Global Fund

  • The Global Fund is a 21st-century partnership organization designed to accelerate the end of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria as epidemics.
  • Founded in 2002, the Global Fund is a partnership between governments, civil society, the private sector and people affected by the diseases.
  • The Global Fund raises and invests nearly US$4 billion a year to support programs run by local experts in countries and communities most in need.
  • The Global Fund does not implement programs on the ground.
  • Global Fund staff, all based in Geneva, Switzerland, come from all professional backgrounds and from more than 100 different countries.
  • Note: Stockholm Convention was covered in 9th Sep file.

B) Science and Technology, Defence, Space

2. Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) (IE)

Context: ASKAP telescope in Australia is creating a ‘Google map’ of the Universe.

  • The Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) is developed and operated by Australia’s national science agency-CSIRO, has mapped over three million galaxies in a record 300 hours during its first all-sky survey.
  • ASKAP surveys are designed to map the structure and evolution of the Universe, which it does by observing galaxies and the hydrogen gas that they contain.
  • Even before the SKA (Square Kilometre Array ) project comes online, a series of demonstrator telescopes and systems known as pathfinders and precursors, are made operational across the world, paving the way for the kinds of technology which the SKA will need.

Analysis

What is ASKAP?

  • ASKAP is a telescope designed over a decade ago and is located North Western Australia near Perth.
  • One of its most important features is its wide field of view, because of which it has been able to take panoramic pictures of the sky in great detail.
  • The telescope uses novel technology developed by CSIRO, which is a kind of a “radio camera” to achieve high survey speeds and consists of 36 dish antennas, which are each 12m in diameter.
  • Essentially, the telescope has been able to map a vast area of the universe, something that
  • would otherwise take close to a decade.
  • For the current survey, it combined over 903 images to form the full map of the sky.

What is the significance of the results?

  • The present Rapid ASKAP Continuum Survey (RACS) taken by the ASKAP telescope is like
  • a “Google map” of the Universe where most of the millions of star-like points are distant
  • galaxies, about a million of which have not been seen before.
  • Mapping the Universe on such a scale enables astronomers to study the formation of stars and how galaxies and their supermassive black holes evolve and interact with each other.

Further, the results of various surveys undertaken using ASKAP are also being used for the development of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project.

Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project

  • The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project is an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope, with eventually over a square kilometre (one million square metres) of collecting area.
  • The SKA will use thousands of dishes and up to a million low-frequency antennas that will enable astronomers to monitor the sky in unprecedented detail and survey the entire sky much faster than any system currently in existence.
  • It will also have the ability to image huge areas of sky in parallel a feat which no survey telescope has ever achieved on this scale with this level of sensitivity. Its unique configuration will make its resolution power exceed the image resolution quality of the Hubble Space Telescope.

Co-hosting

  • Both South Africa’s Karoo region and Western Australia’s Murchison Shire were chosen as co-hosting locations for many scientific and technical reasons namely:
    • Atmosphere above the sites,
    • Radio quietness (absence of any disturbance/interference from other radio waves such as cellphones etc), which comes from being some of the most remote locations on Earth.
  • South Africa’s Karoo will host the core of the high and mid frequency dishes, ultimately extending over the African continent.

  • Australia’s Murchison Shire will host million low-frequency antennas.

SKA members – A global effort

  • Organisations from 14 countries are members of the SKA Organisation – Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
  • This global organisation is managed by the not-for-profit SKA Organisation, who have their headquarters at the Jodrell Bank Observatory, near Manchester in the United Kingdom.

SKA’s key science goals

  • The SKA will be able to conduct transformational science, breaking new ground in astronomical observations.
  • It will test Einstein’s theory of relativity
  • Help us in understanding the vast magnetic fields which permeate the cosmos
  • Detailed observation of how the very first stars and galaxies formed just after the big bang, helping scientists understand the nature of a mysterious force known as dark energy.

3. Honey Adulteration (TH)

  • Context: Honey marketed by prominent brands failed a key test of purity, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has claimed, citing an investigation it conducted on various brands of Indian honey.

Analysis

  • One of the major adulterants was sugar syrup/synthetic sugar syrup which when mixed with honey sourced from apiaries can pass Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) tests for honey purity.
  • Honey is mixed with sugar syrup, and this syrup made from rice and other crops can pass all laboratory tests.
  • Current regulations specify around 18 parameters that honey must comply with for producers to label it ‘pure honey’.
  • Most of the brands failed to clear Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR, that can ascertain the composition of a product at the molecular level) test.
  • NMR tests, while being able to detect additives, were not able to detect the quantity of adulteration.
  • NMR is seen as the gold-standard for testing for adulteration in honey, designed specifically to redflag samples that use modified sugar syrups.
  • The technology, similar to MRI, uses imaging to get a full picture of the honey and its constituents. It is then able to identify both the origin of the honey and its authenticity.
  • The NMR test is not required by Indian law for honey that is being marketed locally but is needed for export.
  • Among the tests employed as per Indian regulations is one to check whether the honey is adulterated with C4 sugar (cane sugar) or C3 sugar (rice sugar).
  • Most samples cleared these tests but failed another test called the Trace Marker for Rice test, to test for rice syrup adulteration.
  • Adulteration of honey is a global problem with several countries, including India, devising regulations and new tests to check it.
  • Adulteration also destroyed the livelihoods of bee-keepers who found it unprofitable to make pure honey because sugar-syrup honey was often available at half the price, according to CSE.
  • The globally accepted definition of honey given by the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO’s) Codex Alimentarius Commission says if honey is adulterated with sugar it is not honey.
  • In December, 2014, FSSAI added antibiotic limits to standards for honey.
  • These limits were brought in as there is growing concern about how bacteria-causing infections in our bodies are becoming resistant to antibiotics.
  • in 2017, FSSAI issued a draft notification with substantial changes in the honey standard for public comments.
  • In this draft notification, the food regulator, for the first time, included tests to detect sugar made from cane, rice, and other crops like beetroot.
  • C4 sugar syrups comes from plants like corn and sugarcane, which use a photosynthetic pathway called C4.
  • This analytical method was developed by scientists to differentiate the “sugar” in honey from the “sugar” that would come from C4 plants. The 2017 draft included this test.
  • But globally adulteration business evolved with the sole objective to beat laboratory tests — this meant replacing the type of sugar that could be used for adulteration.
  • To this end, another category of plants was used, this time that used photosynthetic pathway called C3. These plants are rice or beetroot.

A brief bio of sugar

  • Sucrose, glucose and fructose are all sugars that contain more or less the same calorie per gram.
  • They are differentiated on the basis of their chemical structure and how our bodies digest and metabolise these.
  • Glucose is simple sugar or a monosaccharide — it’s what the body digests fastest. It can be extracted from corn and added to processed foods as dextrose.
  • Fructose is also simple sugar, but it is what is called “fruit sugar” as it is found naturally in fruit, honey, cane and beetroot, to name a few vegetables. It is also easy to digest.
  • Honey has higher fructose, than glucose, but what differentiates it from other “sugars” is that it also has a variety of good enzymes, which break down the sugars — these enzymes come from the plant itself or from the bees.
  • The ratio between fructose and glucose changes based on the origin of the honey — which plant and also if it is multi-floral (many flowers) or mono-floral (one plant/flower). So, one its own, the ratio is not the determinant of adulteration.
  • Note: Each product imported into the country has what is called the harmonised system (HS) code that describes the type of good that is shipped.

C) International Relations

4. Treat sanitation as public good: UN at launch of Sanitation and Hygiene fund (Down to Earth) 

  • Context: The United Nations earlier this month launched the Sanitation and Hygiene Fund (SHF) to provide accelerated funding to countries with the heaviest burden of diseases stemming from lack of sanitation services and have the least ability to respond to them.

Analysis

  • It also aims to raise $2 billion over the next five years for these countries.
  • The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has blown the lid off poor sanitation and hygiene practices. The key to keeping the virus at bay is hand-washing — a facility inaccessible to three billion people across the globe.
  • An estimated four billion people worldwide do not have access to safely managed sanitation services, and until they do, the world cannot meet the goals of inclusive and sustainable development by 2030
  • SHF vision is that of the Sustainable Development Goal 6 target 2, to achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and to end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations.
  • The fund is hosted by the UN Office for Project Services, which provides technical advice and project implementation to the UN and its partners.

Sanitation and Hygiene Fund (SHF)

  • The Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) will cease to exist as of 31 December 2020, when the organization will become the Sanitation and Hygiene Fund (SHF).
  • The Fund will have a new structure and operating model. It is an investment mechanism with an operating model that has been designed to deliver sustainable impact at scale. The Sanitation and Hygiene Fund has four strategic objectives:
  • To scale up household sanitation and hygiene services
  • To address gaps in menstrual health and hygiene while promoting the empowerment of women and girls
  • To increase sustainable water, sanitation, hygiene, and menstrual health and hygiene services in schools and health care facilities; and
  • To support innovation towards safely managed sanitation, hygiene and menstrual health and hygiene

D) Economic Developments: India and World

5. Domestic Systemically Important Banks (D-SIBs) (IE)

Context: NPAs to rise most for India and Thailand, funds infusion is key: Moody’s report.

“Non Performing Loans (NPLs) will rise most for banks in India and Thailand because of the greater shock to their economies and the historically poor performance of certain loan types.

In India its time lay emphasis on Domestic Systemically Important Banks (D-SIBs).

Analysis

  • SBI, ICICI Bank, and HDFC Bank have been identified as Domestic Systemically Important Banks (D-SIBs) by the RBI.
  • The systemically important banks are banks which are tracked more carefully and which are also subject to higher capital requirements under Basel III.
  • The D-SIB framework requires the Reserve Bank to disclose the names of banks designated as D-SIBs starting from 2015 and place these banks in appropriate buckets depending upon their Systemic Importance Scores (SISs).
  • Based on the bucket in which a D-SIB is placed, an additional common equity requirement has to be applied to it.
  • In case a foreign bank having branch presence in India is a Global Systemically Important Bank (G-SIB), it has to maintain additional Common Equity Tier 1 (CET1) capital surcharge in India as applicable to it as a G-SIB, proportionate to its Risk Weighted Assets (RWAs) in India.
  • Further the D-SIB framework requires that “The assessment methodology for assessing the systemic importance of banks and identifying D-SIBs will be reviewed on a regular basis. However, this review will be at least once in three years.”
  • According to the RBI, some banks become systemically important due to their size, cross-jurisdictional activities, complexity and lack of substitute and interconnection.
  • Banks whose assets exceed 2% of GDP are considered part of this group.
  • The RBI stated that should such a bank fail, there would be significant disruption to the essential services they provide to the banking system and the overall economy.
  • D-SIB means that the bank is too big to fail.
  • The too-big-to-fail tag also indicates that in case of distress, the government is expected to support these banks. Due to this perception, these banks enjoy certain advantages in funding.
  • It also means that these banks have a different set of policy measures regarding systemic risks and moral hazard issues.
  • As per the framework, from 2015, every August, the central bank has to disclose names of banks designated as D-SIB.
  • It classifies the banks under five buckets depending on order of importance.
  • ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank are in bucket one while SBI falls in bucket three.
  • Based on the bucket in which a D-SIB is, an additional common equity requirement applies.
  • With bucket three being higher than bucket one, SBI has a higher additional requirement than ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank.
  • All the banks under D-SIB are required to maintain higher share of risk-weighted assets as tier-I equity.
  • The concept of D-SIB emerged after the global financial crisis.
  • Whether your bank is in the D-SIB list or not, your fixed deposits are insured up to Rs 5 lakh under the Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation (DICGC).
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