Current Affairs for SSC CGL Exams - 24 December 2017

SSC CGL Current Affairs

Current Affairs for SSC CGL Exams - 24 December 2017

::National::

Advisory has been issued to all the States to ensure law and order during Christmas

  • Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said on Saturday that an advisory has been issued to all the States to ensure law and order during Christmas in the wake of extremist elements threatening some Christians against celebrating the festival.
  • On December 17, a right-wing group in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh, issued a circular, threatening the management of all city schools against celebrating Christmas. If they do, it will be “at their own risk,” it said.
  • When asked about it, Mr. Singh said an advisory had been issued to all the States. He also conveyed his greetings to the nation on Christmas.
  • “Any festival, whether it is Christmas, Ramzan, Holi or Deepavali, should be celebrated without any problem. Strict action will be taken if anyone tries to create ruckus during the festivals,” he said.
  • He said India is the only country that believes inVasudhaiva Kutumbakam, a philosophy that inculcates an understanding that the whole world is one family. “I believe that all people, irrespective of religion, should celebrate their festivals in their true spirit with full enthusiasm,” he said.

Islamic State and Al Qaeda engaged in competition to promote their propaganda in India

  • Islamic State and Al Qaeda have been engaged in a fierce competition to promote their propaganda in India, an analysis of messages posted on social media platforms suggest.
  • In the past few months, both IS and Al Qaeda in Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) have been posting several provocative messages. Govt is monitoring the content but were particularly concerned with the Al Qaraar media of the Islamic State that has been posting ‘Kashmir’ centric messages.
  • Al Qaraar group released a poster threatening attacks in India. An official said one of the pro-IS channels on the social media platform Telegram reached out to the Ansar Ghazwat-ul Hind (AGuH) group headed by former Hizbul Mujahideen leader Zakir Musa.
  • The official said in the initial stages, Al Qaraar was only advocating in favour of Sharia (set of Islamic religious principles) but now it advocated IS ideology. The development is being watched closely given IS losses in Iraq and Syria.
  • On November 28, the AQIS released a video where its spokesperson Usama Mahmoud called on Muslims in “Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Kashmir” to support the Rohingya in Myanmar and asked them to seek revenge.
  • The AQIS was created by Al Qaeda in August 2014 and was led by an Indian-Asim Umar, who was later identified as Uttar Pradesh resident Sanaul Haq.
  • Intelligence officials strongly suspect that AQIS is being backed by the Pakistan establishment to carry out attacks in India on its pretext.
  • Terrormonitor.org, a non-profit watchdog that tracks the online activities of terror groups said AQIS had re-branded its media approach since it was challenged by the IS.
  • “The AQIS terror outfit has been promoted by official Al-Qaeda media such as Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF) and Al-Qaida affiliate groups like AQAP, AQIM, Al-Shabaab and others. We also see intense competition between Al-Qaeda and Islamic State.”
  • “Both groups want to dominate the jihadist movement globally. Al-Qaeda has re-branded its media approach since IS challenged its global domination,” an official with Terrormonitor.org said.
  • He also said India was the alternative front for Al-Qaeda despite their failure to gain foothold in India and it has been focussing on “propaganda-centric approach.”
  • On November 17, Amaq news agency of the IS posted a message claiming the attack in Zakura area of Kashmir Valley where a J&K police sub-inspector was killed and a militant Mugees Ahmad were killed and a special police officer was injured.
  • It was said to be the first attack carried out by IS in the Kashmir Valley.However, police officials said two other terrorist groups — the Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen and Zakir Musa-backed AGuH had also claimed responsibility for the attack.

IMA issued a good behaviour advisory for the doctors

  • The Indian Medical Association has issued what can be best described as a “good behaviour advisory” for doctors, which comes at a time when physicians are under the scanner for inconsiderate behaviour and are often subjected to physical violence at the hands of patients.
  • IMA president Dr. K.K. Aggarwal said, “Poor, inconsiderate and uncompassionate communication is why most patients sue.”
  • He added that doctors have “no business to be inhuman. We not only need to be scientifically and legally correct but also morally and ethically correct.
  • We are supposed to follow two bioethics principles: non-maleficence (first do not harm) and beneficence (welfare of all). Our main business is compassion. It should be demonstrated in practice as much as felt. A compassionate attitude in practice is more important than the science. ”
  • The Association head added that while empathy refers more generally to the doctors’ ability to take the perspective of and feel the emotions of another person, compassion is when those feelings and thoughts include the desire to help.
  • According to a study done earlier this year, nearly one in every two doctors suffer violence at public hospitals.
  • The survey, done by the Maulana Azad Medical College, covered 169 junior residents and senior residents, working mostly with the LNJP and G.B. Pant hospitals.
  • It noted that verbal abuse (75%) was the most common form of violence, followed by threats (51%) and physical assault (12%). The survey report, published in the National Medical Journal of India, added that doctors who faced the abuse felt angry, frustrated and fearful.

Understanding the farm crisis in India

  • The year 2017 was marked by several farmers’ protests nationwide, with a few turning violent. Last month, in New Delhi, 184 farmer groups came together from Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Telangana to take part in a ‘protest walk.’
  • The agriculture sector is characterised by instability in incomes because of various types of risks involved in production, market and prices. The National Commission of Farmers (2006), chaired by M.S. Swaminathan, had pointed out that something “very serious and terribly wrong is happening in the countryside.”
  • The agriculture growth rates have been unsteady in the recent past. While it was 1.5% in 2012-13, it rose to 5.6% in 2013-14. In 2014-15, the rate dipped to (-) 0.2%, while in 2015-16 it was 0.7%. The provisional estimate puts it at 4.9% in 2016-17. The trend reflects the distress in the agriculture sector.
  • The main reason for farm crises is the rising pressure of population on farming and land assets. Government data show the average farm size in India is small, at 1.15 hectare, and since 1970-71, there has been a steady declining trend in land holdings.
  • The small and marginal land holdings (less than 2 hectares) account for 72% of land holdings, and this predominance of small operational holdings is a major limitation to reaping the benefits of economies of scale. Since small and marginal farmers have little marketable surplus, they are left with low bargaining power and no say over prices.
  • As farmers have been demanding “freedom from debt and remunerative price” through several platforms, they carry on fighting risks in production, weather and disaster, price, credit, market and those in policy.
  • While crop production is always at risk because of pests, diseases, shortage of inputs like seeds and irrigation, which could result in low productivity and declining yield, the lower than remunerative price in the absence of marketing infrastructure and profiteering by middlemen adds to the financial distress of farmers.
  • Also, the predominance of informal sources of credit, mainly through moneylenders, and lack of capital for short term and long term loans have resulted in the absence of stable incomes and profits.
  • Further, it leads to defaults and indebtedness. Uncertain policies and regulations such as those of the Agricultural Produce Market Committee , besides low irrigation coverage, drought, flooding and unseasonal rains, are some other factors that hit farmers hard.
  • Farmers face price uncertainties due to fluctuations in demand and supply owing to bumper or poor crop production and speculation and hoarding by traders.
  • The government’s economic survey for 2016-17 points out that the price risks emanating from an inefficient APMC market are severe for farmers in India since they have very low resilience because of the perishable nature of produce, inability to hold it, hedge in surplus-shortage scenarios or insure against losses.
  • Along with the slowdown in agricultural growth, the costs of farm inputs have increased faster than farm produce prices. The cost of capital too has increased manifold over the years.
  • This turned agriculture into an unprofitable occupation and compelled farmers, especially the small and marginal, to borrow costly money from informal sources of credit, which deepened the crises.
  • While the farming sector has its own set of risks, like any other economic activity, to increase and ensure stable flow of income to farmers it is vital to manage and reduce the risks by analysing, categorising and addressing them.

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::International::

U.S.’s help to Ukraine increases tension with Russia

  • The U.S. announced that it would provide Ukraine with “enhanced defensive capabilities”, a move that could escalate a conflict between government forces and pro-Russian separatists that has claimed more than 10,000 lives since 2014.
  • “The United States has decided to provide Ukraine enhanced defensive capabilities as part of our effort to help Ukraine build its long-term defence capacity, to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to deter further aggression,” a State Department statement said.
  • The total defence package of $47 million includes the sale of 210 anti-tank missiles and 35 launchers. Additional supplies will need to be purchased.
  • The announcement came a day after EU leaders agreed to extend tough economic sanctions against Moscow over its meddling in Ukraine for six months.
  • Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned Russia that the stand-off over Ukraine was the single most important obstacle to warmer ties between the two countries.
  • In its response, Moscow warned that Washington was encouraging “new bloodshed” in eastern Ukraine. The stern Moscow warning came after a new ceasefire deal between Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels went into effect ahead of the New Year and Orthodox Christmas holidays.
  • In a strongly-worded statement, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov accused the United States of “crossing the line” and fomenting the conflict in eastern Ukraine, a region known locally as Donbass.

::Business and Economy::

The government has allowed companies, till March 2018 for MRP display

  • The government has allowed companies, till March 2018, to paste price stickers on unsold packaged products to reflect new MRP post GST, Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said.
  • After the Goods and Services Tax (GST) came into effect from July 1, companies were asked to use stickers on unsold packaged commodities to display new maximum retail price (MRP) till September, which was later extended till December.
  • When rates of about 200 items were cut in mid-November, the Ministry permitted companies to paste additional stickers under the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011.

Ethanol supplies by sugar mills and by ethanol producers will be much more

  • Ethanol supplies by sugar mills and by ethanol producers finalised for the supply period 2017-2018 [December to November] will be 140 crore litres. This is 26% higher than the supply of 111 crore litres in 2015-2016. Ethanol supplies finalised last year were 66.5 crore litres.
  • The Indian Sugar Mills’ Association said following two rounds of negotiations between sugar mills and ethanol manufacturers on the one side, and oil marketing companies (OMCs) on the other, against the first tender invited in November, 140 crore litres of ethanol supplies had been finalised.
  • With this, the country would see blending of up to 4.5% ethanol blending with petrol in 2017-2018. Some more quantities could be supplied by sugar factories/ethanol manufacturers when the next round of tender is opened, possibly in February 2018.
  • The government had earlier made it mandatory for oil marketing firms to ensure that ethanol would make up 10% of the petrol they sold at the retail level.
  • However, that mandate is yet to see light of day, according to sources, due to inadequate supply of ethanol. OMCs would need 313 crore litres to meet the 10% blending target.
  • Ethanol supplies also go to sectors such as alcohol and chemicals. If ethanol supplies increase, it would help reduce the oil import bill for the country.
  • States such as U.P. can meet the targeted 10% ethanol blending because of high sugar production. For other States to meet the mandate, governments should remove all levies on denatured ethanol, the association said.
  • OMCs have offered an ex-distillery rate of Rs. 40.85 for a litre of ethanol. Sugar mills and ethanol manufacturers will get almost Rs. 5,700 crore this year from ethanol sales.

::Science and Tech::

An artificial intelligence-based algorithm developed to check cervical cancer

  • The morphology of healthy and precancerous cervical tissue sites are quite different, and light that gets scattered from these tissues varies accordingly. Yet, it is difficult to discern with naked eyes the subtle differences in the scattered light characteristics of normal and precancerous tissue.
  • Now, an artificial intelligence-based algorithm developed by a team of researchers from Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Kolkata and Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur makes this possible.
  • The algorithm developed by the team not only differentiates normal and precancerous tissue but also makes it possible to tell different stages of progression of the disease within a few minutes and with accuracy exceeding 95%.
  • This becomes possible as the refractive index of the tissue is different in the case of healthy and precancerous cells, and this keeps varying as the disease progresses.
  • “The microstructure of normal tissue is uniform but as disease progresses the tissue microstructure becomes complex and different. Based on this correlation, we created a novel light scattering-based method to identify these unique microstructures for detecting cancer progression,” says Sabyasachi Mukhopadhyay from IISER Kolkata.
  • The change in scattered light as disease progresses is marked by a change in tissue refractive index. The team has quantified the changes in tissue refractive index using a statistical biomarker — multifractal detrended fluctuation analysis (MFDFA).
  • The statistical biomarker has two parameters (Hurst exponent and width of singularity spectrum) that help in quantifying the spectroscopy dataset.
  • While MFDFA provides quantification of light scattered from the tissues, artificial intelligence-based algorithms such as hidden Markov model (HMM) and support vector machine (SVM) help in discriminating the data and classifying healthy and different grades of cancer tissues.
  • The team is expanding the investigations to study in vivo samples for precancer detection. While the accuracy achieved using in vitro samples was over 95%, based on a study of a few in vivo samples the accuracy is over 90%.
  • “Superficial cancers such as oral and cervical cancers can be studied using this technique. And by integrating it with an endoscopic probe that uses optical fibre to deliver white light and surrounding fibres to collect the scattered light we can study cancers inside the body,” says Prof. Ghosh.

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