Himalai Celebrating 20th-year celebration, on this eve Himalai extending helping hands to the UPSC-IAS Aspirants of June 2018.

Most important exam oriented Current Affairs Concepts:

1. Agreement on Trade, Commerce, and Transit between India and Bhutan

The bilateral trade relations between India and Bhutan are governed by the Agreement on Trade, Commerce, and Transit between the Government of India and Bhutan. The Agreement provides for a free trade regime between the territories of India and Bhutan. The Agreement also provides for the duty-free transit of Bhutanese merchandise for trade with third countries.

The Agreement was last renewed on 29th July 2006 for a period of ten years. The validity of this Agreement was extended, with effect from 29th July 2016, for a period of one year or till the new agreement comes into force, through the exchange of Diplomatic notes.

The new Agreement on Trade, Commerce and Transit Agreement was signed on 12th November 2016 by the Minister of State (IC), Ministry of Commerce and Industry on behalf of the Government of India during her visit to Bhutan on 11th-13th November 2016. As per its provisions, the new Agreement was to come into force on a mutually decided date. As agreed to by both India and Bhutan, the new Agreement on Trade, Commerce, and Transit between India and Bhutan have come into force with effect from 29th July 2017.

The new Agreement will further strengthen the bilateral trade relations between India and Bhutan.

2. RCEP Meeting

The 19th round of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC) proposed comprehensive regional economic integration agreement amongst the 10-ASEAN countries (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) and its six Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) partners, viz. Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, Korea and India.

During the 19th round, parallel meetings were held by the three main Working Groups on Trade in Goods, Trade in Services and Investment, including their respective Sub-Working Groups. Working Groups in other areas like Intellectual Property, electronic commerce, Legal and Institutional Issues etc. also had their meetings.

During the 19th round, a set of key elements for significant outcomes, envisaged to be achieved by the end of 2017, were agreed. The Meeting also highlighted the need to have balanced discussions to progress negotiation across all areas, and to continue to deliver outcomes.

During the meeting, all RCEP Participating Countries (RPCs) agreed that a good RCEP agreement has immense potential to deliver on new economic opportunities including job creation that is much needed in today’s world of uncertainty. The Meeting expressed shared commitment to work collectively and in a cooperative manner, to progress the negotiations in an accelerated way, and achieve a modern, comprehensive, high-quality and mutually beneficial agreement that addresses and balances the aspirations and sensitivities of participating countries.

3. e-Rashtriya Kisan Agri Mandi (e-RaKAM)

It is a robust e-Market for purchase, sale, price discovery, MSP booking etc. through internet being developed by MSTC. It is an exclusive e-auction platform for Agri Products with its objective for transparent sale transactions and price discovery. It unshackles the potential of Indian farmers who have been trapped in a vicious cycle of middleman and low margin, providing integrated logistics services like warehousing, pest control, first mile and last mile connectivity, even facilitating exports. e-RaKAM centers are spread all over India.

Advantages:

To the Farmers:

More options for selling products and making competitive returns.Will have the facility to consolidate their produce and sell at MSP and beyond.

For buyers, processors, and exporters:

Provide access to the larger market. Buyers will be able to buy from all the above through a centralized portal with standard procedures and pay through e-Payment.

FPOs:

Farm Producing Organisations will have facilities for e-Auctions.

Nodal Agencies:

An organization like Nafed, FCI will be able to e-Procure, e-Book and e-Auction their surplus stores.

For both:

Enable direct participation thereby reducing intermediary cost.Avail integrated logistics services under one roof.

FPOs:

Farm Producing Organisations will have facilities for e-Auctions.

Nodal Agencies:

An organization like Nafed, FCI will be able to e-Procure, e-Book and e-Auction their surplus stores.

4. CRISPR-Cas9

CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing tool, a type of molecular scissors for trimming unwanted parts of the human genome to replace with new stretches of DNA. The genome consists of six billion DNA letters or chemical bases.

CRISPR is like scissors, DNA’s four chemical bases, adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G) and thymine (T). It takes two bases to form base pairs which make up rungs in the spiral DNA ladder, and they follow specific rules – C pairs with G, and T pairs with A.

Single-letter mistakes, called point mutations, can give rise to genetic diseases.

In a paper published in September, researchers at Sun Yat-sen University in China described using that system to correct a faulty gene that causes the blood disorder called beta-thalassemia in human embryos.

5. Indus water treaty

Under Article VIII of the Indus Waters Treaty 1960 between India and Pakistan, both sides appoint a Commissioner for Indus Waters who together constitute the Permanent Indus Commission that is responsible to establish and maintain cooperative arrangements for the implementation of the Treaty. The last meeting (109th Meeting) of the Permanent Indus Commission took place from September 22-25, 2013 in New Delhi.

The Indus Water Treaty is a time tested framework for the sharing of waters of the Indus river system between India and Pakistan and for the most complete and satisfactory utilization of its waters. India has always strictly adhered to both the letter and the spirit of the Indus Waters Treaty.

6. Zika

  • Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus). These mosquitoes bite during the day and night.
  • Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects.
  • There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.
  • Zika (Zee-ka) virus disease is a mosquito-borne viral infection that primarily occurs in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. Most people infected with Zika virus have no signs and symptoms, while others report mild fever, rash and muscle pain. Other signs and symptoms may include a headache, red eyes (conjunctivitis) and a general feeling of discomfort.
  • Zika virus infections during pregnancy have been linked to miscarriage and can cause microcephaly, a potentially fatal congenital brain condition. Zika virus also may cause other neurological disorders such as Guillain-Barre syndrome.
  • Researchers are working on a Zika virus vaccine. For now, the best prevention is to prevent mosquito bites and reduce mosquito habitats.

7. Government e-Marketplace

GeM is a completely paperless, cashless and system driven e-marketplace that enables procurement of common use goods and services with the minimal human interface.

Benefits of GeM to the Government, Sellers and the Indian industry and economy

  1. Transparency: GeM eliminates human interface in vendor registration, order placement, and payment processing, to a great extent. Being an open platform, GeM offers no entry barriers to bonafide suppliers who wish to do business with the Government. At every step, SMS and e-mail notifications are sent to both buyers, his/her head of the organization, paying authorities as well as sellers. Online, cashless and time-bound payment on GeM is facilitated through integration with PFMS and State Bank Multi Option System (SBMOPS); web-services integration is being extended to payment systems of Railways, Defence, major PSUs and State Governments. Seamless processes and online time-bound payment, which is also mandated by the OM issued by Department of Expenditure, has given confidence to the vendors and reduced their ‘administrative’ cost involved in pursuing officers for timely payment.
  2. Efficiency: Direct purchase on GeM can be done in a matter of minutes and the entire process in online, end to end integrated and with online tools for assessing price reasonability. For procurements of higher value, the bidding/RA facility on GeM is among the most transparent and efficient, in comparison to e-procurement systems in vogue within the Government sector. For creating a bid/RA, the buyer does not need to create his/her own technical specifications as they have been standardized on GeM. The bid/RA can be created in a matter of minutes and finalized within a minimum of 7 days. The bid/RA is notified via e-mail and SMS to all the eligible suppliers; new suppliers are also notified once they get themselves registered online on GeM and are determined as ‘eligible’ by the system. GeM bidding/RA, therefore, ensures competition, fair play, speed & efficiency and leads to proper price discovery. The reasonableness of the rates can also be confirmed through online comparison with market price on leading e-Commerce portals. Very soon, GeM will also start getting feeds from various other public procurement portals in order to ensure that the same item has not been procured at a lesser rate by any other Government agency, from the same or a different vendor. The reasonability of price would be further strengthened by way of integration with GSTN and ICEGATE that will enable the buyer to ascertain the price of an item when it exited the factory gate or when it got imported into the country. These would make GeM an extremely powerful tool in the hands of Government organizations to plan and procure.
  3. Secure and safe: GeM is a completely secure platform and all the documents on GeM are e-Signed at various stages by the buyers and sellers. The antecedents of the suppliers are verified online and automatically through MCA21, Aadhar and PAN databases. In addition, SEBI impaneled credit rating agencies are also being used for conducting a third-party assessment of suppliers. This would further strengthen due diligence about the veracity of suppliers wanting to do business on GeM. For high-value bids/RA on GeM, an e-Bank Guarantee is also being introduced.
  4. GeM is a far better system than the existing one which relies more on financial instruments (EMD in case of tenders for large procurements only) to guarantee good conduct by the suppliers. In the existing system, there is zero check on the antecedents of the suppliers for small value procurements (up to Rs 1 lakh) whose cumulative value is huge across the Government organizations. GeM does a 100% online verification of all vendors irrespective of the value of procurement.
  5. Potential to support Make in India: On GeM, the filters for selecting goods which are Preferential Market Access (PMA) compliant and those manufactured by Small Scale Industries(SSI), enables the Government buyers to procure Make in India and SSI goods very easily. Easily accessible MIS also enables the administrators and policy makers to easily and effectively enforce the Government regulations on PMA and SSI sourcing. After the launch of GeM, it has been noticed that several leading computer manufacturers have placed PMA compliant products on GeM.
  6. Savings to the Government: The transparency, efficiency, and ease of use of the GeM portal have resulted in a substantial reduction in prices on GeM, in comparison to the tender, Rate Contract and direct purchase rates. The average prices on GeM are lower by at least 15-20%, and in some cases even up to 56%. GeM is also doing Demand Aggregation for items that are to be procured by various Central/State Government Departments. Demand Aggregation is expected to further drive the prices south, by way of standardization of specifications and economy of scale. Demand aggregation for most of the common use of goods and services is estimated to result in annual savings to the tune of Rs 40,000 Crore per annum. If pursued to its logical conclusion, GeM would eventually emerge as the National Public Procurement Portal, keeping in tune with the Global best practices; most of the OECD countries, like USA, South Korea, UK, Singapore etc, have a single NPPP and as a result annual savings of billions of dollars are made in public procurement, besides giving a fillip to the domestic industry.

8. Juno Mission

Juno’s mission is to measure Jupiter’s composition, gravity field, magnetic field, and polar magnetosphere. It will also search for clues about how the planet formed, including whether it has a rocky core, the amount of water present within the deep atmosphere, mass distribution, and its deep winds, which can reach speeds up to 618 kilometers per hour (384 mph).

Juno is the second spacecraft to orbit Jupiter, after the nuclear powered Galileo orbiter, which orbited from 1995 to 2003. Unlike all earlier spacecraft sent to the outer planets, Juno is powered by solar arrays, commonly used by satellites orbiting Earth and working in the inner Solar System, whereas radioisotope thermoelectric generators are commonly used for missions to the outer Solar System and beyond. For Juno, however, the three largest solar array wings ever deployed on a planetary probe play an integral role in stabilizing the spacecraft as well as generating power.

9. SASEC Road Connectivity Investment Program – Tranche 2

Manipur is a landlocked state with almost 90% of the area under difficult terrain presently has only road transport as a means of mass transport system within the state. Hence the development of the road infrastructure is of paramount importance to improve connectivity and progress of the State and to ensure that the administrative set up reaches the isolated and remote habitats. The project will improve connectivity between Imphal with the eastern part of the state. Based on the existing and projected traffic requirements the NH-39 will be widened to 4 lanes between Lilong village and Wanginj village, while the stretch between Wanging village to Khongkhang will be upgraded to 2 lanes with a paved shoulder.

The project is being developed with ADB’s loan assistance under the South Asian Sub-Regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) Road Connectivity Investment Program which aims at upgradation of road infrastructure in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, and India (BBIN) in order to improve the regional connectivity among BBIN nations. The project corridor is also a part of the Asian Highway No. 01 (AH01) and acts as India’s Gateway to the East. Thus trade, commerce, and tourism in the region will get a boost.

Background

For fulfilling India’s “Look East” Policy and to promote and enhance trade link with South East Asia, the Government of India has notified an Integrated Custom Post (ICP) at Moreh. The development of this project is essential in order to support the increased traffic volume due to coming up of ICP. The workers of Manipur who specialize in creating bamboo and wood-based handicraft items and uniquely designed hand-woven textile items will get a new market among Myanmar’s customers. Small-scale industries such as those making farm implements and tools, stationery, plastic extrusion items, carpentry units, could also develop markets beyond the border.

Besides socio-economic development, the project will also lead to the reduction in average travel time along the project road by nearly 40%. In addition, the new features of road safety namely vehicular underpasses, crash barriers, road signs & markings, service roads for segregation of slow and high moving traffic, truck lay-by, bus-bays etc. will help in greatly reducing accidents. Improved highway and lesser travel time will lead to savings in terms of fuel cost.

The Doppler Weather Radar (DWR)

The Doppler Weather Radar (DWR) provides advance information, enhancing the lead-time so essential for saving lives and property, in the event of natural disaster associated with severe weather. Though the conventional radars are able to track and predict cyclones, the DWR provides detailed information on storm’s internal wind flow and structure. The severity of the weather systems can thus be quantitatively estimated more accurately than ever before and more precise advance warnings can be generated for saving human lives and property. The polarimetric capability of the Radar will significantly improve the accuracy of rainfall estimation leading to accurate and timely flash flood warnings.

The DWR, being the first S-band (operating at 2.7 – 2.9 GHz) dual-polarimetric Doppler Weather Radar can detect Weather phenomenon up to 500 km. This system installed at a place that receives the highest rainfall in Planet Earth shall open up tremendous research opportunities in the areas of monsoon dynamics, Cloud Physics, the impact of orography in precipitation process, precipitation characterization, thunderstorm, and hailstorm genesis

10. EBLM J0555-57Ab

The smallest star yet measured has been discovered by a team of astronomers led by the University of Cambridge. With a size just a sliver larger than that of Saturn, the gravitational pull at its stellar surface is about 300 times stronger than what humans feel on Earth. This star is likely about as small as stars can possibly become, meaning that this is one of the most compact instances of a naturally occurring hydrogen-fusion reactor.

Most planets have sizes between Neptune and Earth. However planets do not emit much light, they only radiate the heat they receive from their star. Exotic objects such as neutron stars and white dwarfs are smaller than most planets and do emit light, but those are bright only because they are cooling down from a hot beginning.

What makes this star, called EBLM J0555-57Ab, particular, is that, despite its diminutive size, it is just massive enough to enable the fusion of hydrogen nuclei into helium. This is the same process that powers the Sun’s luminosity, and that scientists are attempting to replicate as a powerful energy source, here on Earth.

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