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Current Affairs 27 & 28 December 2020 for UPSC Exam

Contents

  1. India’s Neighborhood First Policy: Challenges in 2020
  2. Nanomicelles: Using nanoparticles for cancer treatment
  3. 1 lakh new connections added daily under JJM
  4. Tiger conservation body NTCA on Satkosia Tiger Reserve
  5. Portulaca laljii: New species of Sun Rose

INDIA’S NEIGHBORHOOD FIRST POLICY: CHALLENGES IN 2020

Context:

India’s relationship with China in the year 2020 was marked with a trifecta of challenges:

  1. The COVID-19 pandemic,
  2. The growing competition for influence in South Asia,
  3. Aggressive actions at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (India’s neighbors, Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Introduction to India’s COVID-19 Challenge
  2. How has India helped tackle the regional COVID-19 Challenge?
  3. China’s extension of help and influence
  4. Did the military standoff impact regional ties?
  5. How has India dealt with a three-pronged challenge?

Introduction to India’s COVID-19 Challenge

  • The COVID-19 pandemic that originated in China has led to one of the biggest health challenges, causing heavy economic damage in South Asia.
  • India ranks second after the United States in terms of number of cases, and the worst-hit economy among G20 nations.
  • But India is also one of the best poised nations to aid recovery efforts in the region, given its status as one of the world’s leading producers of pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines.

How has India helped tackle the regional COVID-19 Challenge?

  • In 2020, India Prime Minister held a special virtual summit of eight SAARC nations and proposed a COVID-19 package, for which India provided about half of the $20 million funding for relief.
  • India’s ‘Vande Bharat’ mission flew home nationals from neighbouring countries, along with lakhs of Indians who had been stranded during the lockdown.
  • India’s military ran a series of missions to SAARC countries and the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) with supplies of food and medicines.
  • Under ‘Mission Sagar’ the Government of India ran an outreach program, providing Food Items, COVID related Medicines including HCQ Tablets and Special Ayurvedic Medicines with Medical Assistance Teams to countries like Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles, Madagascar and Comoros.
  • India has provided financial assistance of $250 million to the Maldives to help it mitigate the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • In view of the humanitarian aspects of the pandemic, the Government of India rescinded its ban on the export of malaria drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), which was being used in countries such as the U.S. as a possible line of treatment for COVID-19, hence, licensing our export of paracetamol and HCQ in appropriate quantities to all our neighboring countries who are dependent on our capabilities.
  • WHO Country Office in India reiterate that conducting research on new medications or vaccines during a pandemic was essential

China’s extension of help and influence

  • China had stepped up efforts to extend its influence in the South Asian region through COVID-19 relief – by holding meetings with different groups of SAARC countries, including one with Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal, and another with Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to coordinate relief efforts.
  • China also promised to provide the Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine to them when it is available.
  • China also shipped relief to South Asia, sending out PPE suits and other medical equipment.

Debt trap

  • Given that all SAARC countries except India and Bhutan are part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and owe different amounts of debts to Chinese banks, Beijing stepped in to provide partial debt waivers to the Maldives and Sri Lanka.
  • China also extended a massive $1.4-billion Line of Credit to Pakistan.

How does China’s Deb trap diplomacy work?

  • When these developing nations (which are primarily low- or middle-income countries) that China extends massive loans to, are unable to keep up with the repayments, Beijing gets a chance to demand concessions or advantages in exchange for debt relief.
  • Sri Lanka, for instance, was forced to hand over control of the Hambantota port project to China for 99 years, after it found itself under massive debt owed to Beijing. This allowed China control over a key port positioned at the doorstep of its regional rival India, and a strategic foothold along a key commercial and military waterway.
  • Similarly, in exchange for relief, China constructed its first military base in Djibouti.
  • Angola is replaying multibillion-dollar debt to China with crude oil, creating major problems for its economy.

Did the military standoff impact regional ties?

  • China doubled down on territorial claims and its transgressions along its borders with South Asia: from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh, PLA soldiers amassed along various sectors of the LAC, leading to violent clashes.
  • The deaths of 20 Indian soldiers at the Galwan valley was the first such casualty in 45 years.
  • China also laid claim to Bhutan’s Sakteng natural reserves and pushed along the boundary lines with Nepal, all of which changed India’s strategic calculations along its Himalayan frontiers.
  • With the possibility of Chinese influence, India and Nepal saw their worst tensions in decades over the construction of a road to Lipulekh, leading to Nepal amending its constitution and map to claim Indian territory.
  • A new defence pact this year between China and Pakistan vis-à-vis a sharp rise in ceasefire violations along the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan to the highest levels since 2003, has made it clear that India must factor in among its military challenges at the LAC the possibility of a two-front war.

How has India dealt with a three-pronged challenge?

The government’s response to the challenges has been to assert its Neighborhood First and SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) strategies as foreign policy priorities. Apart from the COVID-19 relief and neighborhood visits India has also upped its game on infrastructure delivery, particularly for regional connectivity.

Such steps taken by India include:

  1. Completing railway lines to Bangladesh and Nepal,
  2. Riverine projects, ferry service to the Maldives,
  3. Identifying other services to Sri Lanka and IOR islands,
  4. Considering debt waiver requests from its neighbors.

Steps taken regarding involvement of Other Countries

  • Unlike in the past, India has also become more flexible about the entry of other powers to help counter China’s influence in the region.
  • India recently welcomed the U.S.’s new military dialogue with the Maldives.
  • America’s Millennium Challenge Corporation’s (MCC) projects in Afghanistan, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh are also finding more space.
  • As part of its Indo-Pacific policy, India is also encouraging its Quad partners — the U.S., Japan and Australia — to collaborate on security and infrastructure initiatives in the neighborhood, along with promoting forays by other partners like the U.K., France and Germany in the region.
  • It is also significant that despite considerable security challenges from China, India has not sought to elicit support from its neighbors, which might have put them in a difficult position.

-Source: The Hindu


NANOMICELLES: USING NANOPARTICLES FOR CANCER TREATMENT

Context:

A team of scientists have created a nanomicelle that can be used to deliver a drug named docetaxel, which is commonly used to treat various cancers including breast, colon and lung cancer.

Relevance:

GS-III: Science and Technology (Nanotechnology and applications)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are Nanomicelles?
  2. How do Nanomicelles help in delivering the Cancer drug?
  3. Other uses of Nanomicelles
  4. Advantages and disadvantages of nanomicelles
  5. Use of nanotechnology in Healthcare
  6. Nano-Science and Technology Mission (NSTM)

What are Nanomicelles?

  • Similar to Nanoshells and Nanovesicles, Nanomicelles are extremely small structures and have been noted as an emerging platform in targeted therapy.
  • Nanomicelles are globe-like structures with a hydrophilic outer shell and a hydrophobic interior. This dual property makes them a perfect carrier for delivering drug molecules.
  • Nanomicelles are typically spherical, but can sometimes take other shapes, such as cylinders and ellipsoids.
  • The small size and shape of nanomicelles is only possible due to the molecular geometry of the particle.
  • The shapes formed also depend on the ionic strength, surfactant concentration, and pH strength of the solutions they are placed in.

How do Nanomicelles help in delivering the Cancer drug?

  • The nanomicelles are less than 100nm in size and are stable at room temperature.
  • Once injected intravenously these nanomicelles can easily escape the circulation and enter the solid tumours where the blood vessels are found to be leaky. These leaky blood vessels are absent in the healthy organs.

Significance

  • The team tested the effectiveness of the nanomicelles in a mice breast tumour model and was found to help in tumour regression.
  • Its toxicity was compared with the currently used FDA approved formulation and found to be less toxic.
  • Similar promising results were seen when tested in higher model organisms including rats, rabbits and rhesus monkeys.

Other uses of Nanomicelles

  • Micelles are used primarily as solutions for membrane proteins.
  • Empirical evidences also show that nanomicelles could be used as therapeutic interventions involving protein and peptide delivery.
  • Researches on bioengineering have found the use of nanomicelles as a smart and efficient drug-delivery system.

Advantages and disadvantages of nanomicelles

  • The primary advantage of nanomicelles is its core-shell structure.
  • The hydrophobic contents within the nanomicelle shell facilitates the solubilization of hydrophobic drugs in water.
  • At the same time, the hydrophilic shell itself acts as a protection for the drug.

Other advantages of nanomicelles are

  1. Their quality as an efficient pharmaceutical content because of their low toxicity,
  2. Ability to minimize drug degradation,
  3. Ability to permeate tissues easily for drug delivery,
  4. Lower adverse drug side effects.

Use of Nanotechnology in healthcare

  • Nanochips to check plaque in arteries and detect heartattacks
  • Nanocarriers for eye surgery, chemotherapy etc.
  • Nanoparticles for drug delivery to the brain for therapeutic treatment of neurological disorders.
  • Nanosponges are polymer nanoparticles coated with a red blood cell membrane, and can be used for absorbing toxins and removing them from the bloodstream.
  • Nanopores are used in making DNA sequencing more efficient.

 Click Here to read more about Nano Mission / Nano-Science & Technology Mission (NSTM)

-Source: The Hindu


1 LAKH NEW CONNECTIONS ADDED DAILY UNDER JJM

Context:

Since its launch in 2019, the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) has achieved 32.3% coverage of tap connections in rural India.

Relevance:

GS-II: Governance, Social Justice (Government Interventions, Social Justice)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Highlights of JJM’s Achievements
  2. About the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM)

Highlights of JJM’s Achievements

  • In almost a year, despite COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown as well as restrictions, more than 3 crore households have been provided with tap water connections
  • Every year, more than 3 crore households are to be given tap water connections, and now almost 1 lakh new tap-water connections are getting added on daily basis.

About the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM)

  • Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM), a central government initiative under the Ministry of Jal Shakti, aims to ensure access of piped water for every household in India.
  • National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) was restructured and subsumed into Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) – to provide Functional Household Tap Water (FHTC) to every rural household with service level at the rate of 55 lpcd i.e., Har Ghar Nal Se Jal (HGNSJ) by 2024.
  • JJM focuses on integrated demand and supply-side management of water at the local level.
  • The Mission is based on a community approach to water and includes extensive Information, Education and Communication as a key component of the mission.
  • Creation of local infrastructure for source sustainability measures as mandatory elements, like rainwater harvesting, groundwater recharge and management of household wastewater for reuse, would be undertaken in convergence with other government programmes/schemes.
  • The fund sharing pattern between the Centre and states is 90:10 for Himalayan and North-Eastern States, 50:50 for other states, and 100% for Union Territories.

Institutional Arrangement for JJM

  1. National Jal Jeevan Mission (NJJM) at the Central level
  2. State Water and Sanitation Mission (SWSM) at the State level
  3. District Water and Sanitation Mission (DWSM) at the District level
  4. Village Water Sanitation Committee (VWSC) at Village level

Every village will prepare a Village Action Plan (VAP) which will have three components:

  1. Water source & its maintenance
  2. Water supply and
  3. Greywater (domestic wastewater) management.

Other Expected Outcomes of JJM

  • Source sustainability for Jal Jeevan Mission in the project area with active participation of local communities.
  • Contribute towards the goal of doubling the farmers’ income.
  • Promote participatory ground water management. Improved water use efficiency on a mass scale and improved cropping pattern;
  • Promote efficient and equitable use of ground water resources and behavioral change at the community level.

-Source: The Hindu


TIGER CONSERVATION BODY NTCA ON SATKOSIA TIGER RESERVE

Context:

  • The National Tiger Conservation Authority has asked Odisha chief wildlife warden to submit a status report on the adverse impact of tourism on Satkosia Tiger Reserve.
  • The NTCA’s letter to the Odisha government also comes in the backdrop of a failed exercise to repopulate the dwindling tiger population of Satkosia, Odisha’s second tiger reserve after Similipal.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Conservation of Biodiversity and Environment)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Adverse effects of Ecotourism in Satkosia Tiger reserve
  2. Satkosia Tiger Reserve

Adverse effects of Ecotourism in Satkosia Tiger reserve

  • The Mahanadi river bed within the tiger reserve is used for basking and nesting by turtles and crocodiles. Birds like Indian Skimmers, terns and Pratincoles use it for nesting and feeding. Setting up of tents and allowing tourists to stay on river beds impacts such wildlife and affects their ecological needs, including basking which is vital for metabolism of cold-blooded creatures.
  • Bonfires at night also affect nocturnal wildlife, disorients their vision thereby impacting their ability to feed and move about freely.

Satkosia Tiger Reserve

  • Satkosia Tiger Reserve is a tiger reserve located in the Angul district of Odisha
  • It is located where the Mahanadi River passes through a gorge in the Eastern Ghats mountains.
  • The tiger reserve is located in the Eastern Highlands moist deciduous forests ecoregion.
  • The major plant communities are mixed deciduous forests including Sal (Shorea robusta), and riverine forest.
  • Mammals found include the leopard, indian wild dog or the (dhole), wild boars, striped hyena, sloth bear, leopard cat and the jungle cat.
  • Satkosia Gorge Wildlife Sanctuary was created in 1976, following which Saktosia Tiger Reserve was designated in 2007.
  • The Satkosia Tiger reserve comprises the Satkosia Gorge Wildlife Sanctuary and the adjacent Baisipalli Wildlife Sanctuary.
Satkosia Gorge 
Satkosiaz 
orge 
Location in Odisha

-Source: Hindustan Times


PORTULACA LALJII: NEW SPECIES OF SUN ROSE

Context:

Botanists have discovered a new species of wild Sun Rose from the Eastern Ghats in India – named Portulaca laljii.

Relevance:

Prelims

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Portulaca laljii

About Portulaca laljii

  • Portulaca laljii has unique features such as a tuberous root, no hair in its leaf axils, a reddish-pink flower, prolate-shaped fruits, and copper brown seeds without lustre.
  • Portulaca laljii has been named to honour the contribution of Lal Ji Singh, an eminent botanist of the Botanical Survey of India.
  • The species has been placed under the ‘Data Deficient’ category of the IUCN List of Threatened Species because very little information is available about the population of the species.
  • The plants belonging genus Portulaca are classified in the category Sun Rose because they flower in bright sunshine.

-Source: The Hindu

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