Current Affairs for SSC CGL Exams - 4 February 2018

SSC CGL Current Affairs

Current Affairs for SSC CGL Exams - 4 February 2018


Northeastern states very important for India’s growth: Modi

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India’s growth depends on how fast the eight-State northeast grows.
  • Addressing potential investors and industry captains at an international event, Advantage Assam, Mr. Modi said the northeast was destined to take the centre stage of the Centre’s Act East Policy, which aims at taking India’s trade and cultural ties with eastern neighbours and the ASEAN bloc to greater heights.
  • Connectivity is key to developing the region, the reason why the government has adopted the motto of “transformation by transportation” to change the face of the northeast, Mr. Modi said.
  • “The mindset that nothing can change in India has changed, and this is showing in the speed of work such as expansion of road and railway network,” the Prime Minister said.
  • The Centre has sanctioned Rs. 47,000 crore for 115 new railway lines and Rs. 90,000 for rural roads and National Highway projects in the region, he pointed out.
  • Mr. Modi also made it clear that the future of the northeast lies in its trade and cultural ties with the ASEAN, a group of countries with whom India has enjoyed thousands of years of relationship.
  • “Formal India-ASEAN ties may be 25 years old, but our association has been there for ages. So have been our ties with Bangladesh and Bhutan,” the Prime Minister said.

Satellite phone for fishermen

  • When cyclone Ockhi was churning the sea last December, the fishermen in their boats had no means to communicate with the world or figure out their exact location.
  • It now appears that some good may well come from the tropical storm.
  • The cyclone has speeded up the process of getting a reliable mode of communication on board the fishing crafts, an alternative to the mobile phone, which only has coverage up to 12 nautical miles (one nautical mile equals 2 km).
  • The solution most fishermen prefer is a satellite phone.
  • Tamil Nadu Fisheries Minister D. Jayakumar, who recently witnessed a demonstration of a satellite phone from BSNL, said they were mulling various options, including Medium Frequency-High Frequency radio (costing upwards of Rs. 3 lakh) and satellite phones.
  • In the wake of the cyclone, members of various fishermen associations have been demanding some kind of communication equipment aboard fishing craft.
  • The initial cost would be around Rs. 1.35 lakh, after which an annual payment was necessary for the SIM card.
  • Sources in the Fisheries Department explained that anyone using wireless equipment for communication required a licence from the Wireless Planning Commission.

Tibetan refugees regulations eased to travel and study abroad

  • In a move aimed at discouraging Tibetans from applying for Indian passports, the Centre has eased the regulations for Tibetan refugees who wish to travel and study abroad.
  • Travel regulations are also being simplified for relatives of Tibetans living in foreign countries to help them make visits.
  • According to the Home Ministry, there are approximately 1.10 lakh Tibetan refugees who live either in 45 settlements spread in different parts of the country or in places outside.
  • In 2017, the Delhi High Court ruled that Tibetans born in India between 1950 and 1987 were eligible for Indian passports.
  • The court ruling came on a petition filed by a journalist, LobsangWangyal. Following this, the Regional Passport Office in Himachal Pradesh received a large number of applications from Tibetans for Indian passports.
  • The same year, the Ministry of External Affairs also notified rules that Tibetans seeking an Indian passport would need to surrender the “Registration Certificates” issued to them.
  • They have to leave the settlements and forfeit the privileges and benefits from the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) — the Tibetan government-in-exile headquartered at McLeodganj in Himachal Pradesh.
  • The rules were being changed for the first time since the Tibetan refugees began pouring into India in the wake of the flight of the Dalai Lama from Tibet in 1959.
  • The government had then decided to give them asylum as well as assistance towards temporary settlement.
  • Tibetans who wish to travel abroad are issued an Identity Certificate (IC) in place of a passport and a Registration Certificate (RC) to allow their stay in India.
  • In 2015, the NDA government for the first time sanctioned a scheme of providing grant-in-aid of Rs. 40 crore to the Dalai Lama’s Central Tibetan Relief Committee (CTRC) for five years.
  • The Centre has released Rs. 16 crore in the past two years to meet the administrative and social welfare activity expenses of 36 Tibetan settlement offices in different States.
  • As per the present norms, foreigners who intend to visit Tibetan settlements and camps should seek prior permission of the Home Ministry and procure Protected Area Permit (PAP) as per the provision of Section 3 of the Foreigners Act, 1946 (31 of 1946).


Male administration vs Supreme court of Maldives

  • The Maldives Supreme Court overturned the conviction of nine opposition leaders, including the exiled former President, Mohamed Nasheed.
  • The Male administration is yet to release them, raising domestic and international concern over the delay.
  • The authorities indefinitely postponed Monday’s Parliament session, citing “security reasons”.
  • The government dismissed the acting police commissioner from the post, a day after it sacked the police commissioner, following a tweet from the Maldives police saying it would uphold the Supreme Court ruling.
  • The Joint Opposition, including the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) led by Mr. Nasheed, has expressed concern over President Abdulla Yameen’s “refusal” to abide by the ruling.
  • “We are deeply fearful that the government’s refusal to implement the Supreme Court order could escalate unrest and incite violence across the country,” it said in a statement.
  • The government has maintained that it needed to “vet and clarify the order”.
  • After the ruling, India, the U.S. and the EU, among others, have urged the government to respect the order and ensure that democracy and rule of law prevail.
  • Top UN officials and human rights watchdogs are also putting pressure on Male to comply with the order.
  • The UN Secretary-General even offered to facilitate all-party talks to find a solution to the “political stalemate” in the Maldives.
  • Following inaction for two days, countries, including the U.K., have issued travel advisories warning visitors of possible violence in Male, given the mounting frustration among people awaiting government action.

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National Health Scheme can benefit Tea industry

  • There is some scope for the tea industry to cheer through the many social sector schemes announced in the Union Budget, according to officials.
  • This despite the fact there were no industry-specific announcements in the Budget and its pleas on various issues had gone unheeded.
  • There is also a hope of benefits accruing through the lowering of corporate tax rates for MSMEs with a turnover of up to Rs. 250 crore.
  • The organised tea industry in India feels burdened by the social costs that it has to bear through legal frameworks like the Plantation Labour Act.
  • Which mandates it to provide the plantation workers facilities towards medical care, housing, subsidised rations and water supply.
  • Industry pegs this to be at about 10% of its production cost.
  • It is now having some cause for cheer in the National Health Protection Scheme announced in the Budget.
  • The scheme envisages providing a health insurance cover of Rs. 5 lakh per ‘poor’ family. This would include secondary and tertiary health care. The scheme is expected to benefit 50 crore people.
  • Similarly, the extension of the Swachh Bharat campaign to construct two crore toilets.
  • And establishment of Eklavya schools for scheduled tribes population could include a sizeable number of scheduled tribe populations of the tea Industry .
  • However on AMRUT scheme, the tea industry felt that a similar initiative on augmenting water supply in rural sector would have benefited the tea gardens, which are predominantly located in rural areas and exist in difficult terrain.
  • Sources at the Tea Board were, however, of the view that often industry made it difficult for inclusion of its workers in government schemes by failing to create an enabling atmosphere for dovetailing government schemes with its own.
  • As for the West Bengal Budget, the industry is already relieved over the exemption granted in respect of agricultural income tax .
  • Industry said this exemption was being given by the State Government on a year-to-year basis for the last few years.
  • The industry pays a total of 12 paise per kg of tea on these two counts.
  • The government’s thrust on farm sector could be utilised.
  • The tea industry had sought support for tackling climate change besides seeking customs duty relief.
  • Strangely, neither the State government nor the Centre made any mention of the Darjeeling tea industry in their annual financial statements although the industry suffered major losses during last year’s separatist agitation.


Link established between Akt and AMPK proteins in cancer metastasis

  • Researchers at Bengaluru’s Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have uncovered a novel molecular mechanism by which cancer cells survive during the time they are in circulation after detaching from the primary cancer site.
  • And before they could attach to the extracellular matrix at a different site and restart cell division, thus causing cancer metastasis.
  • In the process identified two potential drug targets to prevent metastasis.
  • The results were published in the journal Cancer Research.
  • The protein Akt is required for cell growth and proliferation while AMPK is needed for growth suppression.
  • The study based on breast cancer cells has refuted the 20-year-old dogma that Akt is vital for the survival of circulating cancer cells.
  • They have established that there is a role-reversal of Akt and AMPK proteins in breast cancer progression.
  • No link between Akt and AMPK proteins in cancer metastasis was known till now.
  • The results of the latest study, therefore, become all the more important.
  • The AMPK-mediated inhibition of Akt is through increased levels of a phosphatase (PHLPP2), which removes the phosphate group from Akt.
  • They used mouse models to support our findings from cancer cell lines.
  • Since there are no chemicals available to inhibit PHLPP2, we used a RNA interference strategy to reduce PHLPP2 levels.
  • This resulted in impairment of the metastatic potential of cancer cells.
  • Their work focuses mainly on breast cancer cells as the first observation of AMPK-Akt crosstalk was made in these cells in our laboratory.

Sun-basking patterns of pythons altered due to tourists

  • It is something they really need to do, but these rock pythons aren't soaking up the sun like they should.
  • Scientists find that tourists in Rajasthan are venturing close to these cold-blooded reptiles and altering their sun-basking behaviour by forcing them to retreat to their burrows often.
  • This could affect their physiology and lower breeding rates in a region home to the highest number of rock pythons in India.
  • Snakes and other cold-blooded animals have to regulate their body temperatures behaviourally, by living in burrows or basking in the Sun.
  • To study how Indian rock pythons adapt to extreme weather conditions in Keoladeo National Park (where temperatures range between 0.5 and 50 degrees Celsius), scientists at the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON) and Manipal University (MU) monitored up to 47 burrows for three years (2013-2016).
  • Each burrow housed up to three pythons; in their paper published in Global Ecology and Conservation, the team estimate the python population in the 29-sq-km Park to be around 80.
  • To monitor the snakes’ basking patterns, the scientists installed camera traps at six burrows from October 2015 to May 2016.
  • The pythons were most active during February; they usually emerged out of their burrows between 9 and 10 a.m. and retreated between 5 and 6 p.m, basking continuously for 4-5 hours a day with their mean basking time peaking at noon.
  • To check if the Park’s high tourist inflow affects the pythons’ basking patterns, the team also installed one camera trap each near a disturbed, semi-disturbed and undisturbed burrow (classified based on tourist footfall).
  • With the cameras deployed across 182 days, the team finds that pythons in undisturbed burrows basked for an average of 60 minutes per day.
  • In disturbed burrows, however, pythons retreated just after noon and spent only around 36 minutes basking.
  • Tourists repeatedly approached specific burrows to less than 10 metres, forcing pythons to retreat and emerge more frequently.

VR to study insects

  • At Shannon Olsson’s lab at National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Bengaluru, the emphasis is to get into the mind of insects to study how they perceive various stimuli even though they have brains the size of pinheads.
  • And one way they plan to do this is by building up a virtual reality system that is guided by the study subjects – the insects themselves!
  • The insect being studied, in this case the apple fly, is tethered to a holder by means of a very fine string so that it cannot move away.
  • The only thing it can do is flutter its wings and “tend” to move in some direction.
  • This insect is placed at the centre of a semi-circular assembly of monitors on which a landscape is shown.
  • The virtual landscape may contain a meadow, trees with various fruit on them, the sky, shrubs etc.
  • In addition, through tiny perforations, wind can be blown on the fly to simulate the breeze. This may come mixed with various volatiles (smells) of fruit, grass etc.
  • Two cameras observe the reactions of the insect and feed this into the computer that discerns the trajectory, or intended direction of motion, of the insect.
  • Accordingly, the computer adjusts the landscape shown on the monitors.
  • So that if the fly tries to move towards a tree, that portion zooms and the rest shrink, so that it appears to the fly as if it has gone close to the tree.
  • It reacts to this and the cameras feed this back into the computer which once again adjusts the landscape and so it goes.
  • The question the researchers are trying to understand by building this experiment is – how can an insect differentiate between various stimuli it sees, hears and smells.
  • For instance, what makes the insect drift towards a particular flower or fruit?
  • This system was built and calibrated over the past two years by Pavan Kumar Kaushik of NCBS for his dissertation work.
  • The graphical interface was built in Germany and inputs for the design came from collaborators in the U.K.
  • Calibration was performed by directly testing the insect itself.
  • The success of this instrument lies in our chosen system — nearly 50 years of research on the behaviour and ecology of the apple fly have provided with a large body of knowledge about how they behave in the natural world.
  • The team aims to unravel how insects find their food and what stimulates their movements.

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