Current Affairs

29 November, 2021

International

Dr S Jaishankar to attend 20th Summit of SCO Council of Heads of Government

Dr. S. Jaishankar, Union Minister of External Affairs represented India at the 20th Summit of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Council of Heads of Government (CHG) was held on 25th November 2021 in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan under the Chairmanship of Kazakhstan The SCO CHG meeting is held annually and focuses on the trade and economic agenda of the Organization and to approve its annual budget. The summit is held annually, with a focus on the trade and economic agenda of the Organization and to approve its annual budget.

SCO was founded in 2001 by the Presidents of Russia, China, the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan at a summit held in Shanghai, China
India and Pakistan became SCO’s permanent members in 2017.

WHO Designates New COVID-19 Strain, Named ‘Omicron’, as Variants of Concern

World Health Organisation (WHO) has designated the new, fast-spreading coronavirus variant, B.1.1.529, which was detected in South Africa named “Omicron” after a letter in the Greek alphabet, as ‘Variant of Concern(VOC)’.
Note:
Currently designated VOCs are, Alpha (B.1.1.7), Beta (B.1.351), Gamma (P.1), Delta (B.1.617.2), and Omicron (B.1.1.529).
Background:
i.Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution(TAG-VE), formally called the Virus Evolution Working Group reviews the data on the covid-19 variant, B.1.1.529.
ii.The TAG-VE has advised the WHO to designate Omicron as VOC, based on the evidence presented indicative of a detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology.
About Omicron (B.1.1.529):
i.B.1.1.529 variant was first reported from South Africa on 24th November 2021 and the first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on 9 November 2021.
ii.The variant announced by scientists in South Africa has also been detected in Belgium, Israel, Botswana, Denmark and Hong Kong.
Diagnostics:
Current SARS-CoV-2 PCR diagnostics can detect this variant and several labs have reported that for one widely used PCR Test, 1 of 3 target genes is not detected, this is called S gene dropout or S gene target failure and this test is used as the marker of this variant.

Vice President Venkaiah Naidu Addressed the Retreat Session of the 2-day 13th ASEM Summit

The Vice President, M. Venkaiah Naidu, led the Indian delegation and addressed the Retreat Session of the two-day 13th Asia–Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit. The summit was held on November 25 and 26, 2021, in virtual format, from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, themed on ‘Strengthening Multilateralism for Shared Growth’. The Vice President had made interventions in the Plenary Session of the Summit. He mentioned India’s contribution in the fight against COVID-19. The summit is hosted by Cambodia as it is the current chair of the group. The ASEM agenda for 2021 Prioritises issues related to strengthening multilateralism, post-pandemic socio-economic recovery and development and other regional and global issues of common interest and concern.

About Ministry of External Affairs (MEA):
Union Minister – Subrahmanyam Jaishankar (Constituency – Gujarat)
Minister of State – VMuraleedharan (Constituency – Maharashtra), Meenakashi Lekhi (Constituency – New Delhi, NCT of Delhi), Rajkumar Ranjan Singh (Constituency -Inner Manipur, Manipur)

National

IGSTC launches ‘WISER’ – 1st of its kind Programme for Women in R&D field

Indo-German Science and Technology Centre (IGSTC) has launched the 1st of its kind program – Women’s Involvement in Science and Engineering Research (WISER) programme, for encouraging women researchers participation in joint Research and Development (R&D) projects. The program was launched in the presence of Dr. Tessy Thomas, DRDO (India), Dr. Muthayya Vanitha, ISRO (India) & Dr. Nisha Mehndiratta, DST (India) along with Dr. Nicola Marsden, University of Applied Sciences Heilbronn & Petra Lucht, Technical University Berlin (Germany).

Features:
i.WISER is the first-of-its-kind programme that enables gender equality and women’s participation in Science and Technology and offers 20 scholarship awards per year. IGSTC supports the awardees with a maximum of 39 Lakh from the Indian side and EUR 48000 from Germany side.

ii.It supports women scientists holding regular or long term research positions in academia or research institutes or industries through lateral entry.
iii.This initiative will be in addition to the ongoing flagship 2+2 programme of India with Germany.
About IGSTC:
i.IGSTC was established in 2010, with Headquarters at Gurugram, Haryana as a joint initiative by India’s Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), government of Germany.
ii.IGSTC fosters innovation through the Indo-German R&D network including industrial research partnership in Public-Private Partnership (PPP) mode.
About Department of Science and Technology (DST)
Secretary – M. Ravichandran
Established – 1971
Headquarters – New Delhi, Delhi

Govt Constitutes 5-member Panel for timely Completion of Central Vista Projects

The union government formed a five-member Central Vista Oversight Committee, which was headed by former Finance Secretary Ratan P Watal, to ensure faster delivery of projects being executed under the Central Vista redevelopment plan.

Committee members:
Deputy CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) P K Tiwari, former director of L&T (Larsen and Toubro) Shailendar Roy, IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) Delhi professor Mausam and others.
Companies involved:
Kamladityya Construction Pvt Ltd- constructing the vice-president enclave
L&T Limited- given tender for the construction and maintenance of the first three buildings of the Common Central Secretariat under the Central Vista redevelopment project.
Tata Projects Limited- constructing a new parliament building.
Shapoorji Pallonji and Company Limited– the work for redevelopment work of the Central Vista Avenue from the Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate.
About the Design: Parliament House building was designed by both Lutyens and Baker. Rashtrapati Bhavan was designed by Edwin Lutyens.
The Secretariat which includes both north and south blocks was designed by Herbert Baker.

NITI Aayog’s 1st National MPI 2021: Kerala has Lowest Poverty while Bihar has Highest

i.NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog released its first ‘National Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) 2021-Baseline report’ in which Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh (UP) ranked as the poorest state in India.ii.On the other hand Kerala has lowest poverty across India (0.71%), followed by Goa (3.76%), Sikkim (3.82%), Tamil Nadu (4.89%) and Punjab (5.59%).iii.This index is also India’s first ever national MPI measure based on the reference period of 2015-16 of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS).
About NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog:
Establishment– January 1, 2015
Headquarters– New Delhi, Delhi
CEO– Amitabh Kant

Economy

Indian Oil, BPCL & HPCL Launches Model Retail Outlet Scheme

Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) launched the Model Retail Outlet Scheme and a Digital Customer Feedback Program named Darpan@petrolpump. The scheme was inaugurated by Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas & Housing and Urban Affairs.

Aim – To enhance service standards to serve around 6 Crores consumers everyday and to benchmark Retail Outlet standards for ensuring standardized customer facilities.
Awards:
Top performers will be awarded the ‘Shresth’ and ‘Uttam’ given by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas and the ‘Rajya Sarv Pratham’ awards by the respective Oil Companies.
About Indian Oil
Chairman – Shrikant Madhav Vaidya
Headquarters – Mumbai, Maharashtra
About Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL)
Chairman & Managing Director – Mukesh Kumar Surana
Headquarters – Mumbai, Maharashtra
About Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL)
Chairman & Managing Director – Arun Kumar Singh
Headquarters – Mumbai, Maharashtra

AMTRON Signs MoU to set up cyber intelligence centre of excellence

Assam Electronics Development Corporation Limited (AMTRON) has signed a tripartite MOU with Mastercard Asia/Pacific Pte Ltd. and I-Sec Security Services Pvt. Ltd for setting up a strategic cyber intelligence centre of excellence (COE) at Tech City, Guwahati. The occasion was presided over by Chairman, AMTRON, R.N. Kalita; Division President, South Asia and Country Corporate Officer, Nikhil Sahni; MD, I-Sec, Amita Singh and MD, AMTRON, M.K. Yadava.

Significance:
i.The cybersecurity threats have been steadily increasing and become a concern for all Government organisations, financial institutions or business bodies.
ii.The Cyber COE provides intelligence services to the Government of India, state governments within India, Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) within India, and corporations within India against cyber security threats.
iii.This step strengthens the National Cyber Defence Mechanism that improves overall security services and increases vigilance on any cyber threats or frauds.
iv.The Master Card supports AMTRON with relevant training and knowledge for the Cyber COE.
About Mastercard
Executive Chairman – Ajay Banga
CEO – Michael Miebach
Headquarters – New York, United States.
About AMTRON
Chairman – Ramendra Narayan Kalita
Established – 1984 (1st software launch- 1989)

RBI Accepted 21 out of 33 Recommendations of the IWG on Private Banks

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has accepted 21 out of 33 recommendations of the Internal Working Group (IWG) that was set up by RBI to review extant ownership guidelines and corporate structure for Indian private sector banks.

Background: On June 12, 2020, RBI has set up a 5-member IWG headed by the Central Board Director OF RBI, Prasanna Kumar (PK) Mohanty. RBI has accepted the IWG’s suggestion to increase the cap on promoters’ paid-up voting equity share capital of the bank to 26 percent from the current 15 percent. The initial paid-up voting equity share capital/ net worth required to set up a new universal bank was increased to Rs 1000 crore (from present Rs 500 crore); for new Small Finance Bank (SFBs) was increased to Rs 300 crore (from present Rs 200 crore); for UCBs (Urban Co-operative Banks) transiting to SFBs was increased to Rs 150 crore (from present Rs 100 crore). RBI has discarded the recommendation of allowing Payments Bank (PB) that is intending to convert into SFBs to a track record of 3 years of experience as PB. RBI continues to retain the 5-year conversion cap for payments banks wishing to be an SFB.

About Reserve Bank of India (RBI):
Establishment – April 1, 1935
Headquarters – Mumbai, Maharashtra
Governor – Shaktikanta Das
Deputy Governors – Mahesh Kumar Jain, Michael Debabrata Patra, M. Rajeshwar Rao, T. Rabi Sankar

Exim Bank commits $100 million loan for Covid vaccines in FY22

The Export-Import Bank of India (Exim Bank) committed loans of $100 million for domestic manufacturers of Covid-19 vaccines or related products in FY22 to seven companies, of which two are from Hyderabad (Telangana). The bank is also targeting financing of $7 billion of project exports over the next five years through the funds received from the central government in the National Export Insurance Account (NEIA).

Sports

Alexander Zverev beats Daniil Medvedev to win ATP Finals title

In Tennis, Alexander Zverev of Germany beat World No.2 Daniil Medvedev of Russia, 6-4, 6-4, in the men’s singles finals to clinch the 2021 ATP Finals title, held at Turin in Italy. This is Zverev’s second Nitto ATP Finals title, after winning the first in 2018. Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut of France clinched the men’s double title by defeating Rajeev Ram of the US and Joe Salisbury of the UK.

Miscellaneous

In a First, Meghalaya Launches Drone AquilaX2 to Deliver Medicines

Meghalaya launched a pilot of India’s 1st Medicine Delivery via e-VTOL (Virtual take off and landing ) Drone AquilaX2. The drone delivers medicines to remote primary health centers (PHC). The drone was launched in the West Khasi Hills district, 25 km away from the district headquarter.

About Meghalaya
Governor – Satya Pal Malik
National Parks – Balphakram National Park, Nokrek Ridge National Park
Wildlife Sanctuaries – Baghmara Pitcher Plant Wildlife Sanctuary, Nongkhyllem Wildlife Sanctuary, Siju Wildlife Sanctuary, Narpuh Wildlife Sanctuary

DBT-NBRC, Haryana Developed SWADESH, World’s 1st Multimodal Brain Imaging Data & Analytics

Dr Jitendra Singh, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for the Ministry of Science and Technology has inaugurated the SWADESH, the world’s 1st Multimodal Brain Imaging Data and Analytics. Project SWADESH was developed by the Department of Biotechnology– National Brain Research Centre (DBT-NBRC), a deemed university for brain research, Haryana.

About SWADESH:
i.SWADESH is a unique brain initiative, which focuses on certified neuroimaging, neurochemical, neuropsychological data and analytics that are made accessible to researchers for managing brain disorders.
ii.This is the first large scale multimodal neuroimaging database designed for the Indian population with big-data architecture and analytics for various disease categories under one platform.
Aim:
To strengthen Alzheimer’s disease (AD) research and to assist the scientific community to come up with promising treatments.
Framework:
SWADESH is a comprehensive platform for multimodal neuroimaging data, quality control and data analytics.

Features:
i.The project SWADESH proposes a big-data architecture that can manage and analyze 6 modules (neurodegenerative, neuropsychiatric, neurodevelopmental, COVID-19-related disorders, other disorders, and healthy subjects.).
ii.The project is supported by JAVA-based workflow environments and Python and it is backed by a dedicated storage system, it provides quality control, data analysis reports, and data backups.
iii.This facilitates the integration of multi-site data and collaborative research across the globe.
iv.At present SWADESH has data of 500 AD and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) patients, 70 Parkinson’s disease (PD) patients, 600 healthy old individuals and 800 healthy young individuals in the control group.
Clinical research tools developed through SWADESH:
DBT-NBRC has developed several clinical research tools developed through SWADESH which includes, GAURI, NINS-STAT, KALPANA, PRATEEK, Stimulus Timing Integrated Module (STIM), BHARAT.
About National Brain Research Centre (NBRC):
National Brain Research Centre (NBRC) is an autonomous institute funded by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) under the Ministry of Science and Technology.
It is the only institute in India dedicated to neuroscience research and education.
Director-in-Charge– Pravat Kumar Mandal
Location– Gurugram, Haryana.

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Daily Current Affairs | 20th January 2022

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