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Question and Answer :: SRIRAM'S IAS

Civil Services Exam Preparation

 Q. 386. FoSCoRIS
Opps! Answer will be view on 21/11/2017.
 Q. 385. National Certification System for Tissue Culture Raised Plants
National Certification System for Tissue Culture Raised Plants
Government of India established the “National Certification System for Tissue Culture Raised Plants (NCS-TCP)” authorizing Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & Technology as the Certification Agency for ensuring production and distribution of quality tissue culture planting materials.
The purpose of National Certification System for Tissue Culture Raised Plants (NCS-TCP) is to ensure production and distribution of quality tissue culture planting materials. NCS-TCP is a unique quality management system, first of its kind in the world which ensures recognition of Tissue Culture Production Facility for the production of quality planting material and certification of end products.
With increasing demand for agricultural, forestry, plantation and horticulture crops, the demand for high quality, high yielding, disease free planting stock has been increased significantly over the last two decades. Conventional propagation method which includes sowing of seeds, propagation by cutting, layering etc suffers from the inherent limitations in the number that can be produced, non-uniformity of quality and incidence of diseases. Plant Tissue Culture has emerged as an important biotechnology and commercially viable tool to multiply elite varieties of high quality, disease free and high yielding plants rapidly in the laboratory irrespective of the season of the year. In India the tissue culture Industry is growing at a rate of 15% per annum.
Plant tissue culture is a collection of techniques used to maintain or grow plant cells, tissues or organs under sterile conditions on a nutrient culture medium of known composition. Plant tissue culture is widely used to produce clones of a plant in a method known as micro-propagation. Different techniques in plant tissue culture may offer certain advantages over traditional methods of propagation, including:
  • The production of exact copies of plants that produce particularly good flowers, fruits, or have other desirable traits.
  • To quickly produce mature plants.
  • The production of multiples of plants in the absence of seeds or necessary pollinators to produce seeds.
  • The regeneration of whole plants from plant cells that have been genetically modified.
  • The production of plants in sterile containers that allows them to be moved with greatly reduced chances of transmitting diseases, pests, and pathogens.
  • The production of plants from seeds that otherwise have very low chances of germinating and growing, i.e.: orchids and Nepenthes.
  • To clear particular plants of viral and other infections and to quickly multiply these plants as 'cleaned stock' for horticulture and agriculture.
Plant tissue culture relies on the fact that many plant cells have the ability to regenerate a whole plant (totipotency). Single cells, plant cells without cell walls (protoplasts), pieces of leaves, stems or roots can often be used to generate a new plant on culture media given the required nutrients and plant hormones.
 Q. 384. BHUVAN
BHUVAN is a platform developed by the ISRO. It is a well known national geo-portal, which is being widely, used by the Government, public, NGOs and Academia. Bhuvan is developed with a clear focus of addressing Indian requirements of satellite Images and theme-oriented services to enable planning, monitoring and evaluation of stakeholder’s activities in governance and development. Bhuvan provides nation-wide seamless image base, thematic datasets for many natural resources, transport network, Digital Surface Model, hydrologic base from basin to watershed. Bhuvan services include visualisation of remote sensing data (India-centric), free satellite data download, geophysical products, host of thematic services and customised application tools for Government data collaboration and enabling G-governance. It also renders near real-time data and information support towards management of natural disasters in the country.

  • Some of the basic statistics of Bhuvan usage indicates that the portal is gaining importance in the country. In less than 6 years of its existence, it has more than 70,000 registered users; 800 GB of data is transacted per month and it witnesses 60 Million hits per month. About 4.6 lakh satellite data products, including derived products, have been downloaded by users. 
  • The customised application tools and datasets are being used by more than 30 Central Ministries and about 20 State Governments in various sectors, which include, land & water resources, agriculture, forestry, watershed, urban & infrastructure development, environment, de-centralised planning, asset geo-tagging & mapping, including monitoring of G-governance programmes.
BHUVAN Vs Google Earth
  • Bhuvan is designed, developed, deployed and managed by a small team of scientists within ISRO. It primarily focuses on societal-benefits and is not a commercial venture. On the contrary, Google Earth is a commercial enterprise with a large investment & large resource base an
  • d makes a huge business through advertisements and products.
  • Google has a definite business model (in positioning & maintaining very high resolution satellite images) that is directly dealt with satellite operators/ services providers. The business model that is being operated is not in the public domain.
  • Google Earth does provide very high to high resolution remote sensing data (World-wide) for visualisation with advanced value added services, but does not provide India specific seamless multi-thematic GIS data sets, free satellite data downloads and customised application tools for government data collaboration.
Thus, Bhuvan and Google Earth are two different platforms developed for different purposes and objectives. 
 Q. 383. Geographical Indications tag
Banganapalle mangoes of Andhra Pradesh and Tulapanji rice of West Bengal are among the seven commodities that have been granted Geographical Indications this fiscal year by the Indian patent office. The other five products which have received this tag this year include Pochampally Ikat of Telangana; Gobindobhog Rice of West Bengal; Durgi Stone Carvings and Etikoppaka Toys of Andhra Pradesh; and Chakshesang Shawl of Nagaland.

A Geographical Indication (GI) is primarily an agricultural, natural or a manufactured product (handicrafts and industrial goods) originating from a definite geographical territory. Typically, such a name conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness. Award of GI tag gives protection to the producer of those genuine products, which commands premium pricing in the domestic and international markets. Once the GI protection is granted, no other producer can misuse the name to market similar products. It also provides comfort to customers about the authenticity of that product.

A geographical indication (GI) is a name or sign used on certain products which corresponds to a specific geographical location or origin (e.g. a town, region, or country). India, as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), enacted the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 has come into force with effect from 15 September 2003. GIs have been defined under Article 22(1) of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights(TRIPS) Agreement as: "Indications which identify a good as originating in the territory of a member, or a region or a locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographic origin."
 Q. 382. The Ninth Gorkha Rifles
The Ninth Gorkha Rifles is a Gorkha regiment of the Indian Army comprising Gurkha soldiers of Nepalese origin. The regiment was initially formed by the British in 1817, and was one of the Gurkha regiments transferred to the Indian Army after independence as part of the tripartite agreement in 1947. This Gorkha regiment mainly recruits soldiers who come from the Chhetri (Kshatriya) and Thakuri clans of Nepal. Domiciled Indian Gorkhas are also taken, and they form about 20 percent of the regiment's total strength. The Ninth Gorkha Rifles is one of the seven Gorkha regiments of the Indian Army.
Recently, the Ninth Gorkha Rifles, commemorated it’s 200 years of selfless service and sacrifice to the Nation with Bicentenary Celebrations held from 08 to 11 November 2017 at 39 Gorkha Training Centre, Varanasi Cantonment.
 Q. 381. All India Institute of Ayurveda (AIIA)
The government has setup an All India Institute of Ayurveda (AIIA). The institute has been set up along the lines of AIIMS. The AIIA aims to bring synergy between the traditional wisdom of Ayurveda and modern diagnostic tools and technology. AIIA has gained a wide national and International recognition. It has started working to facilitate quality patient care, research and bridging the gaps in the scientific information about quality, safety and efficacy of Ayurveda products and developing benchmarks of Ayurvedic education, research and healthcare.

The Ministry of AYUSH has asked all the State Governments, State AYUSH Directorates, all Ayurveda colleges/ teaching institutions, AYUSH/Health Universities, Associations of Ayurveda Practitioners, Ayurveda Drug Industries and all supporters/ well-wishers and stakeholders of Ayurveda in India and abroad to observe the Ayurveda Day on 17th October, 2017 for this year and undertake various activities like organizing Public lectures,  Seminars, Exhibition, Radio Talks etc.  as a part of Ayurveda Day celebrations.
 Q. 380. SMOG
Smog is a type of air pollutant. The word "smog" derives its origin from smoke and fog. It refers to smoky fog, its opacity, and odour. This kind of visible air pollution is composed of nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides, ozone, smoke or particulates among others (less visible pollutants include carbon monoxide, CFCs and radioactive sources). Human-made smog is derived from coal emissions, vehicular emissions, industrial emissions, forest and agricultural fires and photochemical reactions of these emissions.

Modern smog is a type of air pollution derived from vehicular emission from internal combustion engines and industrial fumes that react in the atmosphere with sunlight to form secondary pollutants that also combine with the primary emissions to form photochemical smog. In cities such as Delhi, smog severity is often aggravated by stubble burning in neighbouring agricultural areas. It is usually highly toxic to humans and can cause severe sickness, shortened life or death.

Coal fires, used to heat individual buildings or in a power-producing plant, can emit significant clouds of smoke that contributes to smog. London, in particular, was notorious up through the mid-20th century for its coal-caused smog. Air pollution of this type is still a problem in areas that generate significant smoke from burning coal.

Transportation emissions
Traffic emissions – such as from trucks, buses, and automobiles – also contribute. Airborne by-products from vehicle exhaust systems cause air pollution and are a major ingredient in the creation of smog in some large cities. The major culprits from transportation sources are carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NO and NOx), volatile organic compounds, sulphur dioxide, and hydrocarbons. (Hydrocarbons are the main components of petroleum fuels such as gasoline and diesel fuel.) These molecules react with sunlight, heat, ammonia, moisture, and other compounds to form the noxious vapors, ground level ozone, and particles that comprise smog.

Natural causes
An erupting volcano can also emit high levels of sulphur dioxide along with a large quantity of particulate matter; two key components to the creation of smog. However, the smog created as a result of a volcanic eruption is often known as vog to distinguish it as a natural occurrence.

Photochemical smog
Photochemical smog is the chemical reaction of sunlight, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds in the atmosphere, which leaves airborne particles and ground-level ozone. This noxious mixture of air pollutants may include the following:
  • Aldehydes
  • Nitrogen oxides, particularly nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide
  • Peroxy acetyl nitrates
  • Tropospheric ozone
  • Volatile organic compounds
Primary and Secondary pollutants
A primary pollutant is an air pollutant emitted directly from a source. A secondary pollutant is not directly emitted as such, but forms when other pollutants (primary pollutants) react in the atmosphere. Examples of a secondary pollutant include ozone, which is formed when hydrocarbons (HC) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) combine in the presence of sunlight; nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which is formed as nitric oxide (NO) combines with oxygen in the air; and acid rain, which is formed when sulfur dioxide or nitrogen oxides react with water. All of these harsh chemicals are usually highly reactive and oxidizing. Photochemical smog is therefore considered to be a problem of modern industrialization. It is present in all modern cities, but it is more common in cities with sunny, warm, dry climates and a large number of motor vehicles. Because it travels with the wind, it can affect sparsely populated areas as well.
 Q. 379. Thirty Metre Telescope
Thirty Metre Telescope
TMT is an international project being funded by scientific organisations of Canada, China, India, Japan and USA. In India the responsibility for the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project is of the Department of Science & Technology (DST) and the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE). TMT has become the source of controversy over its planned location on Mauna Kea in the US state of Hawaii. Construction of the TMT on land which is sacred to Native Hawaiian culture has stirred the pot in recent times.

For choosing the site for the TMT, a site suitability analysis was done. The criteria for site suitability for the TMT were water vapour in the atmosphere, atmospheric turbulence and number of cloud-free nights in a year; infrastructure and logistics. While Mauna Kea, Hawaii is the preferred choice for the TMT project, given the large investments that have already been made and committed, the project is also looking at alternate sites both in the northern and southern hemispheres. Hanle, Ladakh is one of the sites being evaluated for hosting the telescope. Hanle being the protected area in the state of J&K, the project requires clearances from State and Central agencies such as environmental, defence, external affairs and home affairs.

TMT will enable scientists to study fainter objects far away from us in the Universe, which gives information about early stages of evolution of the Universe. Also, it will give us finer details of not-so-far-away objects like undiscovered planets and other objects in the Solar System and planets around other stars. TMT being the largest optical and infrared telescope in the northern hemisphere will enable several discoveries which will surely inspire future generations. Project will also provide state-of-the-art high end technologies to the country, which would benefit a number of industries and R&D centers in the country. 
 Q. 378. SHe-Box
SHe-Box Online Complaint Management is a system for working women to lodge complaints of sexual harassment at workplace. The system has been launched by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD). The SHe-Box is meant to ensure the effective implementation of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act (the SH Act), 2013.

The SHe-Box portal offers the facility of making online complaints of sexual harassment at workplace to all women employees in the country including government and private employees. Those who have already filed a written complaint with the concerned Internal Complaint Committee (ICC) or Local Complaint Committee (LCC) constituted under the SH Act are also eligible to file their complaint through this portal.

SHe-Box portal is an effort to provide speedier remedy to women facing sexual harassment at workplace. Once a complaint is submitted to the portal, it will be directly sent to the ICC/LCC of the concerned employer. Through this portal, WCD as well as complainant can monitor the progress of inquiry conducted by the ICC/LCC. This is a proactive step taken by MWCD in the wake of the worldwide social media campaign #MeToo, where women have related their experience of facing sexual harassment and abuse.
 Q. 377. Madhyamik and Uchchtar Shiksha Kosh
The Union Cabinet has approved the creation of a nonlapsable pool for secondary and higher education known as Madhyamik and Uchchtar Shiksha Kosh. All proceeds from the ‘Secondary and Higher Education Cess’ will be credited to this pool. The Cess is an additional cess of 1% levied on central taxes. It will be managed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

The pool will be primarily used for the following purposes:
1. Secondary education: schemes including: (i) Rashtriya Madhyamik Shlksha Abhiyan Scheme; (ii) National Means-Cum-Merit Scholarship Scheme; and (iii) National Scheme for Incentives to Girls for Secondary Education.

2. Higher education: schemes including: (i) interest subsidy and contribution for guarantee funds; (ii) Rashtriya Uchchtar Shiksha Abhiyaan; and (iii) the National Mission on Teachers and Training. 
 Q. 376. Contract Farming
Contract farming can be defined as agricultural production carried out according to an agreement between a buyer and farmers, which establishes conditions for the production and marketing of a farm product or products. Typically, the farmer agrees to provide agreed quantities of a specific agricultural product. These should meet the quality standards of the purchaser and be supplied at the time determined by the purchaser. In turn, the buyer commits to purchase the product and, in some cases, to support production through, for example, the supply of farm inputs, land preparation and the provision of technical advice.

Advantages: Producer/farmer
  • Makes small scale farming competitive - small farmers can access technology, credit, marketing channels and information while lowering transaction costs
  • Assured market for their produce at their doorsteps, reducing marketing and transaction costs
  • It reduces the risk of production, price and marketing costs.
  • Contract farming can open up new markets which would otherwise be unavailable to small farmers.
  • It also ensures higher production of better quality, financial support in cash and /or kind and technical guidance to the farmers.
  • In case of agri-processing level, it ensures consistent supply of agricultural produce with quality, at right time and lesser cost.
Advantages: Agri-based firms
  • Optimally utilize their installed capacity, infrastructure and manpower, and respond to food safety and quality concerns of the consumers.
  • Make direct private investment in agricultural activities.
  • The price fixation is done by the negotiation between the producers and firms.
  • The farmers enter into contract production with an assured price under term and conditions.
  • Contract farming arrangements are biased in favor of firms or large farmers, while exploiting the poor bargaining power of small farmers.
  • Problems faced by growers like undue quality cut on produce by firms, delayed deliveries at the factory, delayed payments, low price and pest attack on the contract crop which raised the cost of production.
  • Contracting agreements are often verbal or informal in nature, and even written contracts often do not provide the legal protection in India that may be observed in other countries. Lack of enforceability of contractual provisions can result in breach of contracts by either party.
  • Adverse gender effects - Women have less access to contract farming than men.
Policy Support
Agricultural marketing is regulated by the States’ Agricultural Produce Marketing Regulation (APMR) Acts. In order to regulate and develop practice of contract farming, Government has been actively advocating to the States/ Union Territories (UTs) to reform their agri marketing laws to provide a system of registration of contract farming sponsors, recording of their agreements and proper dispute settlement mechanism for orderly promotion of contract farming in the country.
So far, 21 States (Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Punjab (separate Act), Rajasthan, Sikkim, Telangana, Tripura and Uttarakhand) have amended their Agricultural Produce Marketing Regulation (APMR) Acts to provide for contract farming and of them, only 13 States (Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan and Telangana) have notified the rules to implement the provision.
NABARD’s Initiatives in contact farming
NABARD has developed a special refinance package for contract farming arrangements (within and outside AEZs) aimed at promoting increased production of commercial crops and creation of marketing avenues for the farmers. The various initiatives undertaken by NABARD in this direction are:
  • Special Refinance package for financing farmers for contract farming in AEZs
  • 100% refinance to disbursements made by CBs, SCBs, RRBs and select SCARDBs (having net NPA less than 5%)
  • Term facility for repayments (3 years)
  • Fixation of higher scale of finance for crops under contract farming.
  • Extension of refinance scheme for financing farmers for contract farming in AEZs to contract farming outside AEZs besides coverage of medicinal and aromatic plants.
  • Extension of Refinance scheme for contract farming under Automatic Refinance Facility.
Way Forward
  • The project must not result in farmers’ overspecialization in certain crops to the detriment of building resilience and contributing to local food security;
  • It should promote sustainable farming practices and not promote reliance on chemicals or expensive seeds, or lead to excessive debts;
  • The arrangement should lead to higher incomes for farmers than they would otherwise earn, and compared to alternative models
  • It should substantially include women farmers and promote their rights;
  • Contract Farming must promote the land rights of farmers
 Q. 375. Bharat Mala Project
Bharatmala Project is the second largest highways construction project in the country since National Highway Development Project (NHDP). Bharatmala aims to improve connectivity particularly on economic corridors, border areas and far flung areas. It also aims to ensure quicker movement of cargo and boost exports.

The project is expected to create nearly 100 million man days of jobs during the road construction and subsequently 22 million jobs as a result of the increased economic activity across the country. The construction funding of the project includes debt funds, budgetary allocation, private investment, toll operator transfer model etc.
Bharatmala includes:
  • Economic corridors of around 9,000 km,
  • Inter-corridor and feeder routes of around 6,000 km,
  • Roads under the National Corridors Efficiency Program of 5,000 km,
  • Border and international connectivity roads of around 2,000 km,
  • Coastal and port connectivity roads of around 2,000 km,
  • Expressways of around 800 km and 10,000 km of NHDP roads.
Bharatmala project will start in Gujarat and Rajasthan, followed by Punjab and subsequently traversing the Himalayan belt through Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, parts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur (next to the Indo-Burmese border) and then to Mizoram. Northeastern states have been given special focus in the project. Also, international trade is an integrative key aspect of the project. The main agencies tasked with the construction are the National Highways Authority of India, National Highway and Industrial Development Corporation and state public works departments.
 Q. 374. Doing Business Report, 2018
The World Bank has released the Doing Business (DB) Report for the year 2018. India has been ranked 100 among 190 countries as assessed by the Doing Business Team of the World Bank. India has leapt 30 ranks over its rank of 130 in the Doing Business Report 2017.

The DB Report is an assessment of 190 economies and covers 10 indicators which span the lifecycle of a business. India has improved its rank in 6 out of 10 indicators and has moved closer to international best practices. The credit for this significant improvement is credited to the idea of “Reform, Perform, Transform”, wherein a strong leadership has provided the political will to carry out comprehensive and complex reforms, supported by a bureaucracy committed to perform. The Government has undertaken an extensive exercise of stakeholder consultations, identification of user needs, government process re-engineering to match Government rules and procedures with user expectations and streamlined them to create a more conducive business environment. An extensive exercise is also undertaken to increase awareness among users about reforms to ensure extensive use of newly created systems.

India as a top improver, with an improvement of 30 ranks compared to last year’s report, the highest jump in rank of any country in the DB Report, 2018. India is the only country in South Asia and BRICS economies to feature among most improved economies of the DB Report this year.
 Q. 373. Saubhagya Scheme
Saubhagya Scheme
Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana –“Saubhagya” aims to ensure electrification of all willing households in the country in rural as well as urban areas. The beneficiaries for free electricity connections would be identified using Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) 2011 data. However, un-electrified households not covered under the SECC data would also be provided electricity connections under the scheme on payment of Rs. 500 which shall be recovered by DISCOMs in 10 instalments through electricity bill.
The scheme aims to achieve the following:
  • Environmental upgradation by substitution of Kerosene for lighting purposes
  • Improvement education services
  • Better health services
  • Enhanced connectivity through radio, television, mobiles, etc.
  • Increased economic activities and jobs
  • Improved quality of life especially for women
The Rural Electrification Corporation Limited (REC) will be the nodal agency for the operationalization of the scheme throughout the country.
 Q. 372. World's First Malaria Vaccine: Trial in three African nations
  • The first-ever vaccine against malaria will be trialled across three African nations next year.
  • It is hoped that the vaccine could help save tens of thousands of lives by preventing children from contracting the disease, which still kills an estimated 429,000 people every year.
  • Global efforts in the last 15 years cut the malaria death toll by 62 percent between 2000 and 2015.
  • Combined with existing malaria interventions, such a vaccine would have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives in Africa.
RTS,S or Mosquirix
  • The injectable vaccine, called RTS,S or Mosquirix, was developed by British drug maker GlaxoSmithKline to protect children from the deadliest form of malaria in Africa.
  • The first countries to get the RTS,S vaccine will be Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi, and will involve over 750,000 children aged between five and 17 months old.
  • While the vaccine has achieved some success in tightly controlled laboratory experiments, researchers are unsure whether this will translate into effective control in the real world, which is why they are only running the pilot in three countries to begin with. 
  • If the vaccine is administered, and the full treatment completed, it has been found to prevent up to four in 10 cases of the disease.
Why Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi?
  • The WHO said, Malawi, Kenya and Ghana were chosen for the pilot due to several factors, including having high rates of malaria as well as good malaria programmes, wide use of bed-nets, and well-functioning immunisation programmes.
  • Each country will decide for itself which region will be used in the pilot schemes, but it is expected that they will prioritize those that currently have the highest rates of malaria.
It is hoped the information gathered from the pilot will inform later decisions about whether or not it is feasible to roll the vaccine out on a larger scale to more countries ravaged by the disease.
 Q. 371. Bharat Mala Project
Bharatmala Project is the second largest highways construction project in the country since National Highway Development Project (NHDP). Bharatmala aims to improve connectivity particularly on economic corridors, border areas and far flung areas. It also aims to ensure quicker movement of cargo and boost exports.

The project is expected to create nearly 100 million man days of jobs during the road construction and subsequently 22 million jobs as a result of the increased economic activity across the country. The construction funding of the project includes debt funds, budgetary allocation, private investment, toll operator transfer model etc.
Bharatmala includes:
  • Economic corridors of around 9,000 km,
  • Inter-corridor and feeder routes of around 6,000 km,
  • Roads under the National Corridors Efficiency Program of 5,000 km,
  • Border and international connectivity roads of around 2,000 km,
  • Coastal and port connectivity roads of around 2,000 km,
  • Expressways of around 800 km and 10,000 km of NHDP roads.
Bharatmala project will start in Gujarat and Rajasthan, followed by Punjab and subsequently traversing the Himalayan belt through Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, parts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur (next to the Indo-Burmese border) and then to Mizoram. Northeastern states have been given special focus in the project. Also, international trade is an integrative key aspect of the project. The main agencies tasked with the construction are the National Highways Authority of India, National Highway and Industrial Development Corporation and state public works departments.
 Q. 370. Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine: 2017
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine: 2017
Three Americans have won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine on Monday for their discoveries about the body's daily rhythms.  Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young won the 9-million-kronor ($1.1 million) prize for isolating a gene that controls the body’s normal daily biological rhythm.

The discovery has opened up new fields of research and raised awareness about the importance of getting proper sleep. Circadian rhythms adapt the workings of the body to different phases of the day, influencing sleep, behaviour, hormone levels, body temperature and metabolism. Circadian dysfunction has been linked to sleep disorders, as well as depression, bipolar disorder, cognitive function, memory formation and some neurological diseases.

During their research they were able to peek inside the biological clock and elucidate its inner workings. The discovery has raised awareness of the importance of a proper sleep hygiene. During his previous research, Mr. Young had isolated the “period gene” in fruit flies. Mr. Hall and Mr. Rosbash found that a protein encoded by the gene accumulated during the night and degraded during daytime. A decade later, Mr. Young discovered another "clock gene." The paradigm-shifting discoveries established key mechanisms for the biological clock.

Significance of the discovery
Our wellbeing is affected when there is a temporary mismatch between our external environment and this internal biological clock, for example when we travel across several time zones and experience 'jet lag,'. There are also indications that chronic misalignment between our lifestyle and the rhythm dictated by our inner time keeper is associated with increased risk for various diseases. The misalignment may be associated with diseases, including cancer and degenerative neurological conditions.
 Q. 369. Project leopard
Rajasthan forest department is going to launch India’s first ever Project leopard. The department has identified three wildlife sanctuaries for the pilot project to protect leopard and its habitats.  The project will start at the three sanctuaries at a cost of Rs 21 crore on an experimental basis. The pilot project will be implemented at Jaisamand Sanctuary (Udaipur), Kumbhalgarh Sanctuary-Raoli Todgarh Sanctuary (stretch of Aravalli Hills extended from Ajmer to Udaipur), and Jhalana Aamagarh Conservation Reserve (Jaipur).

The project is aimed at conserving the endangered animal by improving its prey base and mitigating conflicts with humans and controlling poaching. According to wildlife census of 2015, in Rajasthan there are only 434 leopards. Leopard is an endangered species under schedule one of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The project borrows its basic features from the Project Tiger launched by the Centre in 1973.
 Q. 368. Conjoined twins
A pair of conjoined twins from Odisha have been successfully separated by doctors. The feat was achieved in a marathon surgery at the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS).

The surgery presented a peculiar challenge because babies were attached at the skull. This condition is called carniopagus conjoining. The twin shared brain tissue, nerves and major blood vessels. The operation lasted 16 hours and involved 40 surgeons and specialists. It is the first case of craniopagus twins being separated in the country. The chances of their survival were 10-15%, which is the same as the global average.

Fifty-nine such craniopagus surgeries have been performed worldwide. Separation surgeries for two other sets of craniopagus twins – one from Hyderabad and another from Patna were planned in India in the past, but abandoned because the risks were too high.

Conjoined twins are identical twins joined in utero. An extremely rare phenomenon, the occurrence is estimated to range from 1 in 49,000 births to 1 in 189,000 births, with a somewhat higher incidence in Southeast Asia and Africa. Approximately half are stillborn, and an additional one-third die within 24 hours. Most live births are female, with a ratio of 3:1.

Two contradicting theories exist to explain the origins of conjoined twins. The more generally accepted theory is fission, in which the fertilized egg splits partially. The other theory, no longer believed to be the basis of conjoined twinning, is fusion, in which a fertilized egg completely separates, but stem cells (which search for similar cells) find like-stem cells on the other twin and fuse the twins together. Conjoined twins share a single common chorion, placenta, and amniotic sac, although these characteristics are not exclusive to conjoined twins as there are some monozygotic but non-conjoined twins who also share these structures in utero. Craniopagus twins are conjoined twins that are fused at the cranium. Additionally, conjoined twins are genetically identical and always share the same sex. 
 Q. 367. Polymetallic Nodules
What are Polymetallic nodules?
  • Polymetallic nodules are potato shaped containing multiple metals like copper, nickel, cobalt, manganese, iron, lead, zinc, aluminium, etc. Of these, cobalt, copper and nickel are of much importance and in great demand. These three metals of strategic needs are fast depleting from the face of the earth. Hence a world-wide search is on for the potato-shaped nodules.
Exploration contract
  • Government of India had signed a 15 year contract with International Seabed Authority (ISA) for exploration of polymetallic nodules from Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) in 2002.  This right to explore polymetallic nodules from seabed has been extended by five years. These rights are over 75000 sq. km of area in international waters.
  • The area has been allocated by International Seabed Authority for developmental activities for polymetallic nodules.
  • The estimated polymetallic nodule resource potential of the area is 380 million tonnes, containing 4.7 million tonnes of nickel, 4.29 million tonnes of copper and 0.55 million tonnes of cobalt and 92.59 million tonnes of manganese.
  • India is the first country to have received the status of a pioneer investor.  It was allocated an exclusive area in Central Indian Ocean Basin by United Nations (UN) for exploration and utilization of nodules.
  • India is one among the top  eight countries/ contractors implementing a long–term programme on exploration and utilization of Polymetallic Nodules. The project is being carried out under the oversight of Ministry of Earth Sciences.
  • The project includes survey and exploration, environmental studies, technology development in mining and extractive metallurgy.
  • Environmental studies for mining of deep-sea polymetallic nodules have been carried out to evaluate the possible impacts of mining on deep-sea environment.
  • A remotely operable in-situ soil testing equipment has been deployed for obtaining detailed geotechnical properties of the mining area.
International Seabed Authority (ISA)
International Seabed Authority (ISA) is a UN body set up to regulate the exploration and exploitation of marine non-living resources of oceans in international waters. In 2016 India was re-elected as a member of Council of ISA.

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