- Ethiopia vows to replace Tigray Govt
- India, Italy Virtual summit
- National Cancer Awareness Day
- NCPI nod to WhatsApp’s payments service
- Iran seeks equipment for Chabahar rail project
- Brown carbon ‘tarballs’ in Himalayan atmosphere
- Dumping by Vietnam hits Indian pepper
- Skeleton of Neolithic period offers clues
ETHIOPIA VOWS TO REPLACE TIGRAY GOVT
Focus: Prelims – Geography
Why in news?
- Ethiopian lawmakers voted to replace the current government of the federal state of Tigray, after the Army launched air strikes to destroy military assets in the region in a worsening internal conflict.
- Ethiopia is on the brink of a civil war after Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that he had ordered troops to counter an allegedly violent attack by armed forces in the country’s northern Tigray region.
- The domestic conflict in Ethiopia comes after several smaller conflicts that have been festering for months that could now spiral and impact the Horn of Africa region at large.
- The structure of Ethiopia’s federal system allows the country’s ten regions significant autonomy.
- These regions also have their own parliaments, their own security forces, and the right to a referendum for independent rule.
- Tigray region is wealthier than other parts of the country, and more importantly, has a well-trained army.
Why has conflict started in Tigray?
- Conflict between Tigray authorities and the federal government can be traced to when Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018.
- Observers say the conflict escalated in September 2020, when Tigray held local elections in insubordination of the Ethiopian federal government.
- These elections were considered “illegal” by the federal government, further leading to conflict with Tigray authorities.
- Hence, in many ways, this conflict is really the result of a battle between two different political ideologies for supremacy and control in the country.
- Ethiopia is a Landlocked Country on the Horn of Africa. (Most Populous Landlocked Country in the World)
- It shares borders with Eritrea to the north, Djibouti to the northeast, Somalia to the east, Kenya to the south, South Sudan to the west and Sudan to the northwest.
- Its capital and largest city is Addis Ababa.
- The East African Rift that splits the country into the African and Somali tectonic plates passes through Ethiopia.
- Ethiopian national identity is grounded in the historic and contemporary roles of Christianity and Islam, and the independence of Ethiopia from foreign rule, stemming from the various ancient Ethiopian kingdoms of antiquity.
- Some of the oldest skeletal evidence for anatomically modern humans has been found in Ethiopia. It is widely considered as the region from which modern humans first set out for the Middle East and places beyond.
- Ethiopia and Eritrea use the ancient Ge’ez script, which is one of the oldest alphabets still in use in the world.
- The nation is a land of natural contrasts, with its vast fertile west, its forests and its numerous rivers, and the world’s hottest settlement of Dallol in its north.
-Source: The Hindu
INDIA, ITALY VIRTUAL SUMMIT
Focus: GS-II International Relations
Why in news?
India and Italy are set to sign about a dozen agreements in areas ranging from trade and investment to infrastructure when Indian Prime Minister and his Italian counterpart hold a virtual summit.
- Around a dozen agreements and MoUs covering areas such as trade, investment, infrastructure, environment, fisheries, media and filmmaking, are expected to be signed at the summit.
- The two sides will explore the possibility of increasing Italian investments in India and enhancing defence cooperation and manufacturing under the Make in India initiative.
- Both countries are keen to firmly put behind the 2012 killing of two Indian crew members of a fishing boat off the coast of Kerala by Italian marines.
- India sees Italy, the third largest EU economy after Brexit with robust manufacturing, technological and design capabilities, as a strong partner for the Make in India and Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) initiatives.
Action Plan for an enhanced Partnership between India and Italy (2020-2024)
- Agreement to coordinate closely at multilateral fora especially G-20, Italy will assume the Presidency of G-20 in December 2021 followed by India in 2022.
- Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Cassa Depositi Prestiti (CDP), an Italian investment bank and National Infrastructure Investment Fund (NIIF) to promote innovative financial schemes capable of supporting bilateral investments.
- Welcoming the progress made under India-Italy Science and Technology Cooperation and the India-Italy Executive Programme of Cooperation.
- Pledging to strengthen cooperation in the fight against terrorism and transnational crime both at a bilateral level and in multilateral fora and also agreed to hold the next meeting of the ‘India-Italy Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism’ to further advance cooperation, exchange of expertise and capacity building in 2021.
- India and Italy acknowledging the potential of new international organisations such as the Coalition on Disaster Resilient Infrastructures (CDRI) and the International Solar Alliance (ISA).
- Reaffirming their commitment to the implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Paris Agreement and their respective nationally determined contributions (NDCs).
- India–Italy relations are characterized by warmth and friendship.
- Relations between India and Italy date back to ancient times with works from authors such as Diodorus Siculus’ Library of History, Arrian’s Indika, and Pliny the Elder’s Natural History make references to India.
- Caches of Roman coins have been discovered across the Indian peninsula, and evidence indicates the existence of permanent settlements of Roman merchants in South India.
- The discovery of an Indian ivory statuette in the ruins of Pompeii confirms that goods were traded both ways.
Relations in Recent Times
- Bilateral trade between India and Italy grew by 12 times in the 2 decades between 1991 and 2011, from EUR 708 million to EUR 8.5 billion.
- By 2012 Italy had an accumulated investment of 9% of the total European Union FDI in India.
- Italy accounted for 2.3% of India’s total investment in the European Union.
-Source: Hindustan Times
NATIONAL CANCER AWARENESS DAY
Focus: GS-III Science and Technology
- Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally.
- Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of a group of cells in the body.
- It happens when the body’s normal control mechanism stops working. The old cells do not die and grow out of control, forming new, abnormal cells.
- Cancer may occur anywhere in the body if not detected at the right time and it can increase the risk of death.
India’s Fight against Cancer
- National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke (NPCDCS) is being implemented under National Health Mission (NHM) for up-to the district level activities.
- Under the ambit of Ayushman Bharat, Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY) is being implemented to reduce the financial burden for poor and vulnerable groups arising out of catastrophic hospital episodes and to provide access to quality health services.
- National Cancer Grid (NCG) is a network of major cancer centers, research institutes, patient groups and charitable institutions across India with the mandate of establishing uniform standards of patient care for prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer, providing specialized training and education in oncology (study of cancer) and facilitating collaborative basic, translational and clinical research in cancer. It was formed in August 2012.
- National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) had launched a Pilot on Trade Margin Rationalization for 42 anti-cancer drugs in 2020 as a step towards making healthcare more affordable for the suffering patients. This led to reduction in prices of drugs.
National Cancer Awareness Day 2020
- To raise the awareness of cancer and encourage its prevention National Cancer Awareness Day is observed every year on November 7.
- The day coincides with the birth anniversary of scientist Marie Curie (Marie Skłodowska Curie), winner of the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics.
-Source: India Today
NCPI NOD TO WHATSAPP’S PAYMENTS SERVICE
Focus: GS-III Indian Economy
Why in news?
The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) finally allowed Facebook-owned messaging platform WhatsApp to roll out its payments service in the country in a “graded” manner.
- The announcement by NPCI came just minutes after the organisation made a crucial change to its regulations concerning the use of the Unified Payments Interface (UPI).
- The change puts a limit on single third parties such as WhatsApp or its rivals Google Pay and Walmart’s PhonePe where they can only handle 30 per cent of overall UPI transaction volumes.
- The NPCI runs the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) used for real-time payments between peers or at merchants’ end while making purchases.
- The UPI channel has rapidly grown to become India’s most favoured mode of digital transactions since its launch in terms of volumes.
- Placing a cap on how much transaction volumes such companies can use will help in de-risking the entire set-up, according to the NPCI.
- The payments agency added that such a measure was an essential one since UPI, which surpassed two billion transactions a month in October, continues to grow.
Unified Payments Interface (UPI)
- Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is a system that powers multiple bank accounts into a single mobile application (of any participating bank), merging several banking features, seamless fund routing & merchant payments into one hood.
- Advantages of UPI Includes – Immediate money transfer through mobile device round the clock 24*7 and 365 days.
- UPI Enables Single mobile application for accessing different bank accounts with Single Click 2 Factor Authentication – Aligned with the Regulatory guidelines yet provides for a very strong feature of seamless single click payment.
- It also features Virtual address of the customer for Pull & Push providing for incremental security with the customer not required to enter the details such as Card no, Account number; IFSC etc.
National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI)
- NPCI is an umbrella organisation for all retail payments systems in India.
- It was set up with the guidance and support of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Indian Banks’ Association (IBA).
NPCI’s Objectives are:
- To consolidate and integrate the existing multiple systems into a nation-wide uniform and standard business process for all retail payment systems.
- To facilitate an affordable payment mechanism to benefit the common man across the country and propel financial inclusion.
-Source: Indian Express
IRAN SEEKS EQUIPMENT FOR CHABAHAR RAIL PROJECT
Focus: GS-II International Relations
Why in news?
India is not a part of the Chabahar-Zahedan railway at present (As of November 2020), but as Iran begins the second phase of the Chabahar Rail project, Tehran hopes New Delhi will help it procure equipment to run the rail line from the Chabahar port to the Afghan border.
According to a senior Iranian diplomat, Iran’s Port and Maritime Organisation (PMO) recently conveyed to India a request for cranes, tracks, switches and signalling equipment, as well as locomotives that it has had difficulty in procuring them directly due to the U.S.-imposed sanctions.
Iran has also asked to activate a $150 million credit line that had been offered by India during Iranian’s visit to Delhi in 2018 to pay for the purchases.
According to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), IRCON completed the site inspection and feasibility report, and had been waiting for the Iranian side to appoint a nodal authority.
- This port is Located on the Gulf of Oman and is the only oceanic port of the country.
- With this, India can bypass Pakistan in transporting goods to Afghanistan.
- It will also boost India’s access to Iran, the key gateway to the International North-South Transport Corridor that has sea, rail and road routes between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia.
- It also helps India counter Chinese presence in the Arabian Seawhich China is trying to ensure by helping Pakistan develop the Gwadar port. Gwadar port is less than 400 km from Chabahar by road and 100 km by sea.
- With Chabahar port being developed and operated by India, Iran also becomes a military ally to India. Chabahar could be used in case China decides to flex its navy muscles by stationing ships in Gwadar port to reckon its upper hand in the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Middle East.
- Trade benefits: With Chabahar port becoming functional, there will be a significant boost in the import of iron ore, sugar and rice to India. The import cost of oil to India will also see a considerable decline. India has already increased its crude purchase from Iran since the West imposed ban on Iran was lifted.
- From a diplomatic perspective, Chabahar port could be used as a point from where humanitarian operations could be coordinated.
-Source: The Hindu
BROWN CARBON ‘TARBALLS’ IN HIMALAYAN ATMOSPHERE
Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology
Why in news?
- A recent study has found that nearly 28 per cent of particles collected from the air samples from a research station in the Himalaya-Tibetan Plateau were tarballs.
- The percentage of the tarballs increased on days of higher levels of pollution and could contribute to hastening of glacial melt and global warming, the study said.
- The data revealed that a dense array of active fire spots — corresponding to large-scale wheat-residue burning on the Indo-Gangetic Plain — occurred along the pathways of air masses that reached the Himalayan research station during sampling.
- Air mass trajectories, satellite detection, and Weather Research and Forecasting model coupled to Chemistry simulations indicated that the tarballs were emitted from biomass burning in the Indo-Gangetic Plain.
- The researchers concluded that tarballs from long-range transport can be an important factor in the climatic effect and would correspond to a substantial influence on glacial melting in the Himalaya region.
What are Brown Carbon ‘Tarballs’?
- Tarballs are small light-absorbing, carbonaceous particles formed due to burning of biomass or fossil fuels that deposit on snow and ice.
- They are formed from brown carbon, emitted during the burning of fossil fuels.
- The median sizes of externally mixed tarballs and internally mixed tarballs were 213 and 348 nanometre respectively.
- Primary brown carbon (BrC) co-emitted with black carbon (BC) from biomass burning is an important light-absorbing carbonaceous aerosol.
- The black carbon from the Indo-Gangetic Plain can reach the Himalaya region and influence glacial melting and climatic change.
-Source: Down to Earth
SKELETON OF NEOLITHIC PERIOD OFFERS CLUES
Focus: GS-I History
Why in news?
German researchers are piecing together the life of a prehistoric woman who died more than 5,000 years ago in the Neolithic period, after her skeleton was found.
“Lady of Bietikow”
- The “Lady of Bietikow,” as she has been named, was found near a village of the same name in northeastern Germany’s Uckermark region.
- Investigations have shown that she was between 30 and 45 years old and died more than 5,000 years ago, which means that she lived during the same period as Oetzi the Iceman.
Significance of this discovery
- It was during the Neolithic period that humans first introduced grains into their diet, since they could be stored more easily than meat and could also be used as a means of payment.
- However, this led to a deterioration in people’s general health. This can be seen in the state of the Lady of Bietikow’s teeth, which are severely eroded and missing completely in some places.
- This allows us to draw conclusions about her diet: it was probably very rich in fibre, very hard. There are certain grains that cause the teeth to wear out easily.
- The Neolithic age, also known as the “New Stone Age”, the final division of the Stone Age, began about 12,000 years ago when the first developments of farming appeared in the Epipalaeolithic Near East, and later in other parts of the world.
- The Neolithic division lasted (in that part of the world) until the transitional period of the Chalcolithic from about 6,500 years ago (4500 BC), marked by the development of metallurgy, leading up to the Bronze Age and Iron Age.
- In Northern Europe, the Neolithic lasted until about 1700 BC, while in China it extended until 1200 BC.
- Other parts of the world (including Oceania and the northern regions of the Americas) remained broadly in the Neolithic stage of development until European contact.
- The Neolithic comprises a progression of behavioral and cultural characteristics and changes, including the use of wild and domestic crops and of domesticated animals.
-Source: The Hindu