Current Affairs for SSC CGL Exams - 4 February 2018
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
And establishment of Eklavya schools for scheduled tribes population
could include a sizeable number of scheduled tribe populations of the tea
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
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.
::SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY::
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
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
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
The results of the latest study, therefore, become all the more
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
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
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
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
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
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
The team aims to unravel how insects find their food and what stimulates