Any Questions? info@beandbyias.com /+91 9958826967, 9958294810

For registration call @ 9958294810 or mail at info@beandbyias.com | LAW OPTIONAL fresh batch starting from 19th July 2021 |

Daily Category  (Technology)

TRIPS Waiver - Intellectual property waiver for Covid-19 vaccine

Context:

  • The United States will pursue negotiations at WTO to waive intellectual property for Covid-19 vaccines. This can allow large-scale production in middle-income countries, but there are arguments against the move.

Call from the Global South to Rich Countries: Don't block the TRIPS waiver  proposal – PHM-NA

USA Support for Waiver of IPR for Corona Vaccine at WTO:

  • Extraordinary circumstances: The United States announced support for waiving intellectual property protection for Covid-19 vaccines, saying extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures.

  • Text-based negotiations: United States Trade Representative said the US will pursue “text-based negotiations” on the waiver at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

  • Text-based negotiations involve negotiators exchanging texts with their preferred wording and then thrashing out a consensus on the working — a fairly long-drawn affair.

  • Consensus-based nature: Negotiations are expected in a mix of virtual and in-person meetings. They “will take time given the consensus-based nature of the institution and the complexity of the issues involved”.

  • All 164 WTO members must agree on the draft, and any one member can veto it. The European Union, which had earlier opposed the waiver, has now stated its intent to discuss the US-backed proposal.

Proposal from India and South Africa:

Support grows for India over patents | Hindustan Times

  • TRIPS Waiver: In October 2020, India and South Africa had asked the WTO to waive certain conditions of the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement.

  • It could impede timely access to affordable medical products to combat Covid-19.

  • The countries had asked the TRIPS Council to recommend, “as early as possible”, a waiver on the implementation, application and enforcement of four sections in the second part of the agreement.

  • These sections — 1, 4, 5, and 7 — pertain to copyright and related rights, industrial designs, patents, and the protection of undisclosed information.

  • The proposal had said that developing countries “especially”, may face institutional and legal difficulties when using flexibilities available in the TRIPS Agreement.

Intellectual property waiver for Covid-19 vaccines:

  • Production of Covid vaccines: The IP waiver might open up space for production of Covid vaccines with emergency use authorisations (EUA) — such as those developed by Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Novavax, Johnson & Johnson and Bharat Biotech — on a larger scale in middle-income countries.

  • Technology transfer agreements: Currently, most production is currently concentrated in high-income countries.

    • Production by middle-income countries has been happening through licensing or technology transfer agreements.

  • Time taking Process: Ramping up production capacities will be a lengthy process — a reason being cited by pharmaceutical companies against the move.

  • Most analysts expect this to take at least a few months; it is likely the agreement will be targeted by the WTO’s next ministerial conference in end-November.

  • Indian Proposal: The US support for an IP waiver stems from a proposal by India and South Africa in the WTO last year.

  • That proposal had, however, called for a waiver on all Covid interventions, including testing diagnostics and novel therapeutics.

  • Countries including Canada, South Korea, and Bangladesh have shown interest in making Covid vaccines if they can get a patent waiver.

Challenges for the IP waiver for Vaccine:

  • Pfizer and AstraZeneca had opposed the proposed waiver — saying eliminating IP protections would “undermine the global response to the pandemic”, including the ongoing efforts to tackle new variants.

  • Public confidence in vaccine: It could also create confusion that could potentially undermine public confidence in vaccine safety and create a barrier to information sharing.

  • No speed up to production: And, “most importantly, eliminating protections would not speed up production.”

  • Bill Gates has expressed reservations against tweaking IP rules and sharing Covid-19 vaccine technologies.

    • The thing that’s holding things back, in this case, is not intellectual property.

    • It’s not like there’s some idle vaccine factory, with regulatory approval, that makes magically safe vaccines.

  • Capacity of Developing Nation: The argument that these countries do not have the capacity to speedily produce vaccines goes against earlier moves towards a patents regime for generic drugs.

    • Experts said the same reasoning can be used now for the production of vaccines.

    • “They will question the capacity and quality.

    • But a number of companies from different countries have said they are ready to produce, and quality can always be assessed.

  • Process patenting: Between 1972 and 2005, India had adopted process patenting rather than product patenting, and built up a huge generic industry.

  • If western companies are interested in contracting Indian companies for manufacturing their vaccines in India, then how can they say you do not have the quality to produce on your own?

Patents and IP rights:

  • A patent represents a powerful intellectual property right, and is an exclusive monopoly granted by a government to an inventor for a limited, pre-specified time.

  • It provides an enforceable legal right to prevent others from copying the invention.

  • Patents can be either process patents or product patents.

  • Product patent: It ensures that the rights to the final product is protected, and anyone other than the patent holder can be restrained from manufacturing it during a specified period, even if they were to use a different process.

  • Process patent: It enables any person other than the patent holder to manufacture the patented product by modifying certain processes in the manufacturing exercise.

  • India moved from product patenting to process patenting in the 1970s, which enabled India to become a significant producer of generic drugs at global scale.

    • It allowed companies like Cipla to provide Africa with anti-HIV drugs in the 1990s.

  • TRIPS Agreement: But due to obligations arising out of the TRIPS Agreement, India had to amend the Patents Act in 2005, and switch to a product patents regime across the pharma, chemicals, and biotech sectors.

Other roadblocks to scaling up Vaccine production:

  • The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA) has pointed to other “real challenges” in scaling up production and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.

  • These include

    • Trade barriers,

    • Bottlenecks in supply chains,

    • Scarcity of raw materials and ingredients in the supply chain, and

    • Unwillingness of rich countries to share doses with poorer nations.

  • Scarcity of raw materials: It has been a growing issue for ramping up production; several manufacturers have been relying on specific suppliers, and alternatives are limited.

  • Exports Block of critical raw materials: Also, countries like the US had blocked exports of critical raw materials used in the production of some Covid-19 vaccines using regulations like the American Defence Production Act.

Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement

  • It is an international agreement on intellectual property rights.

  • It introduced global minimum standards for protecting and enforcing nearly all forms of intellectual property rights (IPR), including those for patents.

  • The Agreement covers most forms of intellectual property including

    • Patents,

    • Copyright,

    • Trademarks,

    • Geographical indications,

    • Industrial designs,

    • Trade secrets, &

    • Exclusionary rights over new plant varieties.

  • It came into force in 1995.

  • Binding: On World Trade Organization (WTO) members

WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION

  • Trade body: WTO is the only international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations.

  • Foundation: It came into being in 1995.

  • Successor of GATT: it is the successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade

  • (GATT).

  • HQ: Geneva

  • Members: 164, India is a founding member of WTO.

  • Function: To ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely as possible

  • Consensus Decision Making: All decisions in the WTO are taken by consensus

  • among all member countries.

  • WTO's dispute settlement: To Settle trade disputes between member Nations

Source: Indian Express

Advanced Biodigester Mk-II Technology

CONTEXT:

DRDO inks MoU with MAHA-METRO for implementation of Advanced Biodigester Mk-II Technology in Metro Rail Network.

DRDO will render technical support for the implementation of its advanced biodigester Mk-II technology for the treatment of human waste (night soil) in the metro rail network.

Maharashtra Metro And DRDO Sign MoU For Using Biodigester Mk-II Technology  For Treatment Of Human Waste On Metro Rail Network - Punekar News

NEWS IN DETAILS:

DRDO will install its eco-friendly bio-digester units across the facilities operated by Maharashtra Metro Rail Corporation (MAHA–METRO).

Experts see this project will prove to be helpful in conserving water and protecting the environment.

Biodigesters in Indian Railways: Notably, Indian Railways has already installed about 2.40 lakh biodigesters in its fleet of passenger coaches.

  • Now for MAHA-METRO, the technology has been revamped and further improved in a bid to save the water and space.

MK-II Biodigester for houseboats in Dal Lake: A customized version of this MK-II Biodigester, suitable for treating human waste generated from houseboats in Dal Lake was successfully demonstrated by the DRDO to J&K Administration.

  • J& has initiated the process to procure 100 units of Mk-II Biodigesters for civil habitats around the Dal Lake so as to minimize water pollution.

This technology was primarily developed for the armed forces in high altitude Himalayan regions, including Leh-Ladakh and Siachen glacier.

Upgraded Technology:

  • This technology is upgraded through improvements in
    • Bio-degradation efficiency,
    • Design modification and
    • Addition of secondary treatment module.
  • The new reactor is designed to provide more path length with increased biological reaction time, thereby enhancing the biodegradation efficiency of the system.

BIO-DIGESTER:

  • Bio-digester is an indigenous, green, cost-effective and non-sewered sanitation technology.
  • The biodigester technology degrades and converts human waste into usable water and gases.
  • The generated gas is used for cooking and water for irrigation purposes. This is done in an eco-friendly manner.
  • The biodigester technology involves bacteria that feed upon fecal matter.
  • The bacteria through anaerobic process will degrade the fecal matter. During the process water and methane gas are released.
  • It has already been installed in 2.40 lakh passenger coaches of Indian Railways.
  • It has been revamped now, and further improved for MAHA-METRO, to save the water and space.

Source: PIB

Pneumosil, India’s First Indigenous Vaccine Against Pneumococcal Disease

Context:

  • Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) unveiled India’s first indigenously developed pneumococcal vaccine on Monday. The world’s largest vaccine manufacturer by doses.
  • SII is also the maker of Covishield, the Indian version of the AstraZeneca-Oxford coronavirus vaccine.

Background:

Serum introduces affordable pneumonia vaccine to world

SII’s pneumococcal vaccine, Pneumosil, was developed spanning over a decade through a collaboration with

  • Health organisation PATH and
  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The vaccine was launched by Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan.

Pneumosil:

  • The vaccine targets the pneumococcal bacterium, which causes serious life-threatening diseases such as
  1. Pneumonia
  2. Meningitis and
  3. Sepsis.
  • The pneumococcal vaccine PNEUMOSIL is a conjugate vaccine to help produce stronger immune response to a weak antigen.
  • Pneumococcal vaccination is a method of preventing a specific type of lung infection (pneumonia) that is caused by the pneumococcus (Streptococcus pneumonia) bacterium.
  • In 2017, pneumococcal conjugate vaccine was included in the under India’s Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP).
  • The unique feature is its composition which is specially tailored to the serotype of the bacterium, penumoniae, in India and other regions of the world.
  • Based on the trials, Pneumosil was licensed by the Drugs Controller General (India) in July 2020.

Significance:

  • This is a significant milestone for the country’s public healthcare which will ensure that children are protected better against pneumococcal disease with an effective vaccine.
  • Serum Institute’s vaccines are used in 170 countries and every third child in the world is immunised with one of its vaccines.
  • Serum’s first indigenous PCV will be available in the market at an affordable price in
    • Single dose (vial and prefilled syringe) and
    • Multidose (vial) presentations.
  • The vaccine also makes SII the world’s third supplier of PCVs under the pneumococcal Advance Market Commitment, and the first developing country vaccine manufacturer to access the global PCV market.
  • Pneumococcal disease is a significant contributor under-five mortality rate worldwide. It is estimated to cause nearly four lakh deaths in children under five years of age each year worldwide.

Pneumococcal disease:

Pneumococcal disease is an infection caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae or pneumococcus.

Invasive pneumococcal disease is a life-threatening condition that is fatal in 10 percent of cases. Older people and those with underlying medical conditions have a higher risk than others of serious complications.

There are two main types of pneumococcal disease (with non-invasive being the less serious)

  1. Non-invasive and
  2. invasive

Source: Indian Express

Kamov-226T: Utility Helicopters

Context:

  • The Indian Army is going to approach the Defence Ministry for a waiver to take the Kamov-226T (Ka-226T) utility helicopters with Russia.
  • The Kamov-226T is meant to replace the ageing and obsolete Cheetah and Chetak fleets of the Indian Army and the Air Force.

Key Points

About Kamov-226T helicopter:

  • Design: The Ka-226T is a design of Russia's famed Kamov design bureau.
  • Assembling: A joint venture India Russia Helicopters Limited (IRHL) has been set up between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Russian Helicopters (RH) which will assemble the helicopters in India.

Payload Capacity:

  • It is a light helicopter, with a maximum take-off weight of over 3.5 tonnes and can carry a payload of up to 1 tonne.

Special Features:

  • The Ka-226T uses coaxial rotors, that is, it has two sets of rotors mounted one on top of the other and typically no tail rotor.
    • Coaxial rotors give a helicopter improvements in lift and payload capacity over conventional choppers.
    • This is especially advantageous in high-altitude environments where an aircraft's performance at take-off tends to diminish due to the lower air density.
  • The Ka-226T also has a unique, detachable 'mission' compartment instead of a conventional cabin.
    • This allows the helicopter to be adapted for different roles such as surveillance and cargo delivery.
  • Requirement of Helicopters in Indian Army: There is a requirement of around 400 such helicopters in the army.

Source: The Hindu

India mulls E20 fuel to cut vehicular emissions

Context: -

The government on Friday proposed the adoption of E20 fuel a blend of 20% of ethanol and gasoline as an automobile fuel in order to reduce vehicular emissions.

Important points to ponder: -

  • The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has published a draft notification and invited comments from the public for adoption of the fuel.
  • The current permissible level of blending is 10% of ethanol though India reached only 5.6% of blending in 2019.
  • Facilitation for the development of E20-compliant vehicles.
  • It will help in reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons, etc.
  • It will help reduce the oil import bill, thereby saving foreign exchange.
  • It will be boosting energy security.

Vehicle compatibility

  • Compatibility of vehicles with the percentage of ethanol in the blend would be defined by the vehicle manufacturer.
  • Percentage of ethanol have to be displayed on the vehicle with a sticker.

Facts & Figures: -

  • India is the second-largest producer of sugar after Brazil in the world and sugar production during the last few years has remained 24-26 million tons.
  • A surplus sugar stock with a stronger financial incentive to convert excess sugar to ethanol should help the oil marketing companies procure upwards of 2.4 billion litres in 2019.

Bio-ethanol blend in India

  • 1G bioethanol plants utilise sugarcane juice and molasses, byproducts in the production of sugar, as raw material.
  • 2G plants utilise surplus biomass and agricultural waste to produce bioethanol.
  • Sugar mills, which are the key domestic suppliers of bio-ethanol to OMCs, were only able to supply 1.9 billion litres of bio-ethanol to OMCs equating to 57.6 per cent of the total demand of 3.3 billion litres.

Hurdles in meeting the demand

  • Lack of infrastructure: Many sugar mills are best placed to produce bioethanol do not have the financial stability to invest in biofuel plants.
  • Lack of raw materials: Presently there is no mechanism for depots where farmers could drop their agricultural waste.
  • Rigid pricing mechanism: Sugars mills have to pay high prices for sugarcane set by the government even when there have been supplying gluts.

About Ethanol

  • It is an anhydrous ethyl alcohol having chemical formula of C2H5OH, can be produced from sugarcane, maize, wheat, etc which are having high starch content.
  • In India, ethanol is mainly produced from sugarcane molasses by fermentation process.
  • Ethanol can be mixed with gasoline to form different blends.
  • As the ethanol molecule contains oxygen, it allows the engine to more completely combust the fuel, resulting in fewer emissions and thereby reducing the occurrence of environmental pollution.
  • Ethanol is produced from plants that harness the power of the sun; ethanol is also considered as renewable fuel.

Source: The Hindu

ISRO launches satellite for communications

Context :-

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) successfully placed into a transfer orbit India’s 42nd communications satellite, CMS-01  (formerly GSAT-12R), carried on board the PSLV-C50, from Satish Dhawan Space Centre.

Details of the project: -

  • The 44-metre-high four-staged engine, PSLV-C50, is the 22nd flight of PSLV in 'XL' configuration (with six strap-on motors hugging the first stage).
  • The satellite will be taken up and positioned in the geosynchronous stationary orbit.
  • It is designed to provide services in Extended-C Band of the frequency spectrum.
  • It will include the Indian mainland, Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep Islands.
  • The CMS-01 will be a replacement for GSAT-12 and will have a mission life of seven years.

PSLV:-

  • PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) is an indigenously-developed expendable launch system of the ISRO (Indian Space Research Organization).
  • It comes in the category of medium-lift launchers with a reach up to various orbits, including the Geo Synchronous Transfer Orbit, Lower Earth Orbit, and Polar Sun Synchronous Orbit.
  • PSLV has a four-stage system comprising a combination of solid and liquid-fuelled rocket stages.
  1. The first stage at the very bottom is solid fuelled having six strap-on solid rocket boosters wrapped around it.
  2. Second stage is liquid fuelled.
  3. The third stage has a solid fuelled rocket motor
  4.  At the fourth stage, the launcher uses a liquid propellant to boost in the outer space.

The flagship launcher has a payload capacity of 1,050 kg for launching into the Geo Synchronous Transfer Orbit and 1,600 kg for the Polar Sun Synchronous Orbit.

About ISRO’s PSLV :

  • It has variants with two and four strap-on motors, larger PSLV-XL and the Core Alone variant, without any strap-on motors.
  • The choice of rocket to be used for a mission depends on the satellite's weight and the orbit in which it is to be positioned.

Source: The Hindu

India International Science Festival-2020

Context:

According to the Union Minister of Science & Technology, the organisation of India International Science Festival-2020 signifies the indomitable spirit of nurturing and celebrating scientific temperament amongst all the stakeholders of Science, Technology and Innovation.

India International Science Festival-2020:

  • It is organised by the Defence Institute of High Altitude Research (DIHAR) of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
  • Theme: Science for Self-Reliant India and Global Welfare.
  • The IISF is aimed at bringing people together from the remotest corners of the country in a single click and thereby helping in fulfilling the objectives of organising IISF.
  • Objective: To bring more than 10,000 researchers, scientists and experts from different subjects to discuss their research findings and exchange innovative ideas on the identified research themes.

India International Science Festival:

  • It was launched in 2015 as a celebration to promote Science and Technology and demonstrate how science could lead India towards a developed nation.
  • The Ministry of Science & Technology and Ministry of Earth Sciences in association with Vijnana Bharati (VIBHA) has created a unique platform of India International Science Festival which intends to inspire curiosity and make learning more rewarding.
  • The aim is to engage the public with science and celebrate the joy of science and show the ways how science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) provide us with the solutions to improve our lives.

Defence Institute of High Altitude Research (DIHAR):

  • It was established in 1960 which has developed regionally suited agro-animal technologies for the unique terrain and climatic conditions.
  • It is located at Leh at an altitude of 11500 ft has been chosen for the event due to its unique contributions to the region of Ladakh.
  • It is aimed at improving the living conditions of the local population and soldiers through scientific development and also for contributing to military-civil fusion in the strategically located area.
  • DIHAR under the aegis of DRDO endeavours to strengthen food, health and energy security of the troops deployed in the high Himalayas through scientific innovations, transfer of technologies and involvement of the local population.

Source: PIB

India Mobile Congress (IMC) 2020

Context:

Prime Minister of India has recently delivered the inaugural address at the virtual India Mobile Congress (IMC) 2020.

  • Theme: "Inclusive Innovation - Smart, Secure, Sustainable”.

Background:

  • India, the second-most populous country in the world, was projected to pass the United States in the number of smartphone users in 2017.
  • The number of smartphone users in India was estimated to reach over 760 million in 2021, with the number of smartphone users worldwide forecasted to exceed 3.8 billion users in 2021.

Details:

  • The conference told the telecom industry leaders that all stakeholders need to work together to ensure the timely roll-out of 5G technology.
  • It also highlighted to make India a global hub for telecom equipment, design, development, and manufacturing.
  • It aims to align with the Prime Minister’s vision to promote ‘AatmaNirbhar Bharat’, ‘Digital Inclusivity’, and ‘Sustainable development, entrepreneurship & innovation’.
  • It also aims to drive foreign and local investments, encourage R&D in the telecom and emerging technology sectors.

Significance of 5G Technology:

  • Improving accessibility: The improvements in 5G technology can help make life better.
  • Extending the reach of mobile broadband: 5G can power technology well beyond what current mobile technology permits.
  • Improving safety, health, and security: Access to 5G technology promises to improve mission-critical services that affect the safety and security of services.
  • 5G promises to make significant improvements in 3D holograms, virtual reality, and augmented reality because of its speed and bandwidth.

India Mobile Congress:

  • It is the largest digital technology forum in South Asia.
  • It is organized by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and Cellular Operator Association of India (COAI).
  • It has established itself as a leading platform for bringing together the industry, Government, academia, and other ecosystem players, to discuss and display the latest in the technology world.

Source: The Hindu

Havana Syndrome

Context:

A report by the National Academies of Sciences (NAS) has found directed microwave radiation to be the “plausible” cause of the Havana Syndrome.

Havana Syndrome:

  • In 2016, US diplomats and other employees stationed in Havana reported felt ill after hearing strange sounds and experiencing odd physical sensations in their hotel rooms or homes.
  • Symptoms: nausea, severe headaches, fatigue, dizziness, sleep problems, and hearing loss.

Key findings:

  • The NAS report, titled “An assessment of illness in US government employees and their families at overseas embassies” examined four possibilities to explain the symptoms i.e.  Infection, chemicals, psychological factors, and microwave energy.
  • The report concluded that directed pulsed RF energy appears to be the most plausible mechanism in explaining these cases among those that the committee considered.
  • The report mentions that the immediate symptoms that patients reported i.e. sensations of pain and buzzing sound which apparently emanated from a particular direction, or occurred in a specific spot in a room.
  • The report also mentions that the committee cannot rule out other possible mechanisms and considers it likely that a multiplicity of factors explains some cases and the differences between others.
  • The report also warns about the possibility of future episodes and recommends that the State Department establish a response mechanism for similar incidents.

Microwave Weapons:

  • Microwave weapons are supposed to be a type of direct energy weapons, which aim at highly focused energy in the form of sonic, laser, or microwaves, at a target.
  • Microwave weapons used beams of high-frequency electromagnetic radiation to heat the water in a human target’s skin, causing pain and discomfort.
  • Concerns have been raised on whether they can damage the eyes or have a carcinogenic impact in the long term.

Source: Indian Express

LiDAR Technique

Context:

National High-Speed Rail Corporation Limited has decided to adopt the Light Detection and Ranging Survey (LiDAR) technique for the preparation of a Detailed Project Report for the proposed Delhi-Varanasi HSR corridor.

Details:

  • The alignment or ground survey is a crucial activity for any linear infrastructure project as the survey provides accurate details of areas around the alignment.
  • The technique uses a combination of Laser data, GPS data, flight parameters, and actual photographs to give accurate survey data.
  • The aerial LiDAR survey technique, for the first time for any railway project in India, was adopted for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High-Speed Rail Corridor primarily because of its high accuracy.

LiDAR Technique:

  • It is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges (variable distances) to the Earth.
  • The Airplanes and Helicopters are the most commonly used platforms for acquiring lidar data over broad areas.
  • The two types of LiDAR are topographic and bathymetric.
    • Topographic LiDAR typically uses a near-infrared laser to map the land.
    • Bathymetric LiDAR uses water-penetrating green light to also measure seafloor and riverbed elevations.
  • The LiDAR systems allow scientists and mapping professionals to examine both natural and manmade environments with accuracy, precision, and flexibility.
  • It follows a simple principle i.e. throw laser light at an object on the earth's surface and calculate the time it takes to return to the LiDAR source.

Application of LiDAR Technique:

  • It is used to measure the exact depth of the ocean’s surface to locate any object in the case of a maritime accident or for research purposes.
  • It is also used for calculating phytoplankton fluorescence and biomass on the ocean surface.
  • The terrain elevations play a crucial role during the construction of roads, large buildings, and bridges.
  • LiDAR technology has x, y, and z coordinates, which makes it incredibly easy to produce the 3D representation of elevations to ensure that concerned parties can draw necessary conclusions more easily.
  • The applications of LiDAR technology in the agriculture sector include analysis of yield rates, crop scouting, and seed dispersions.

Source: PIB

Hayabusa2 Mission

Context:

Japan’s Hayabusa2 mission is set to return back to Earth carrying with it samples from the one-kilometer wide Ryugu asteroid that orbits the Sun, six-year after it was launched. 

Details: 

  • The mission is similar to NASA’s OSIRIS-REX mission that brought back samples from asteroid Bennu. 
  • According to the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), this is the first time that a probe has visited a celestial body that is under 100 meters in diameter. 

Hayabusa2 Mission:

  • It was launched in 2014 when the spacecraft was sent on a six-year-long voyage to study the asteroid Ryugu and collect samples that it is now bringing back to the Earth. 
  • The spacecraft arrived at the asteroid in mid-2018 after which it deployed two rovers and a small lander onto the surface. 
  • In 2019, the spacecraft fired an impactor into the asteroid’s surface to create an artificial crater with a diameter of a little more than 10 meters, which allowed it to collect the samples. 
  • NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission successfully picks samples from asteroid Bennu, but there is a problem As per NASA, the asteroid is thought to be made up mostly of nickel and iron. 

Significance of studying asteroids:

  • Scientists study asteroids to look for information about the formation and history of planets and the sun since asteroids were formed at the same time as other objects in the solar system.
  • Another reason for tracking them is to look for asteroids that might be potentially hazardous.
  • Scientists are studying Bennu because it hasn’t undergone drastic changes since its formation over billions of years ago and therefore it contains chemicals and rocks dating back to the birth of the solar system. 

Source: Indian Express

Passage Exercise (PASSEX)

Context:

Indian Navy is undertaking a Passage Exercise (PASSEX) with the Russian Federation Navy (RuFN ) in the Eastern Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

Details:

  • The exercise involves the participation of RuFN guided-missile cruiser Varyag, the large anti-submarine ship Admiral Panteleyev and medium ocean tanker Pechenga.
  • Indian Navy is being represented by indigenously constructed guided-missile frigate Shivalik and anti-submarine corvette Kadmatt along with integral helicopters.
  • The exercise is aimed at enhancing interoperability, improving understanding, and imbibing best practices between both the friendly navies.
  • It would involve advanced surface and anti-submarine warfare exercises, weapon firings, seamanship exercises, and helicopter operations.
  • PASSEXs are conducted regularly by the Indian Navy with units of friendly foreign navies, whilst visiting each other’s ports or during a rendezvous at sea.

INS Shivalik:

  • It is a multi-role stealth frigate that has been built by shipyard Mazagaon Docks Limited (MDL) under Project 17.
  • The Atmospheric Control System filters and controls the temperature and humidity of the air coming into the ship at all times, including the air being used by the engines.
  • It has the indigenous Kavach chaff-dispensing system to counter incoming missiles, as also indigenous sonars and antisubmarine warfare systems.

INS Kadmatt:

  • It is the second ship of Project 28 (P28) class Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Corvettes.
  • It is named after one of the large islands amongst the Lakshadweep group of Islands off the west coast of India.
  • INS Kadmatt has a multitude of networks to provide a contemporary and process-oriented System of Systems for optimal functioning of the warship such as:
    • Total Atmospheric Control System (TACS),
    • Integrated Platform Management System (IPMS),
    • Integrated Bridge System (IBS),
    • Battle Damage Control System (BDCS) and
    • Personnel Locator System (PLS)

Source: PIB

UN Removes Cannabis from ‘Most Dangerous Drug’ Category

Context:

United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) has voted to remove cannabis and cannabis resin from the ‘most dangerous drug’ category. The cannabis has been removed from Schedule IV of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

Cannabis:

  • According to the WHO, cannabis is a generic term used to denote the several psychoactive preparations of the plant Cannabis sativa.
    • The major psychoactive constituent in cannabis is Delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
  • The Mexican name marijuana is frequently used in referring to cannabis leaves or other crude plant material in many countries.
  • Most species of cannabis are dioecious plants that can be identified as either male or female.
  • As per The WHO, cannabis is by far the most widely cultivated, trafficked, and abused illicit drug in the world.

Background:

  • The 53-member CND has chosen to affirm a World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation from 2019 to remove cannabis from its ‘most dangerous’ category.
  • In January 2019, the WHO made six recommendations related to the scheduling of cannabis in UN treaties.

India’s stand on Cannabis:

  • India was part of the voting majority, along with the US and most European nations whereas China, Pakistan, and Russia were among those who voted against.
  • In India, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985, illegalizes any mixture with or without any neutral material, of any of the two forms of cannabis i.e. charas and ganja, or any drink prepared from it.
  • India is a signatory of the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances in 1990, the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, and the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971.

International Law on Cannabis:

  • The Vienna-based CND, founded in 1946, is the UN agency mandated to decide on the scope of control of substances by placing them in the schedules of global drug control conventions.
  • Cannabis has been on Schedule IV (the most dangerous category) of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs for as long as the international treaty has existed.
  • Currently, over 50 countries allow medicinal cannabis programs, and its recreational use has been legalized in Canada, Uruguay, and 15 US states.

1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs:

  • It is an international treaty to prohibit the production and supply of specific (nominally narcotic) drugs and of drugs with similar effects except under license for specific purposes.
  • Objective: To limit the possession, use, trade-in, distribution, import, export, manufacture, and production of drugs exclusively for medical and scientific purposes.
  • It combats drug trafficking through international cooperation to deter and discourage drug traffickers.

Source: Indian Express

SCO Young Scientist Conclave

Context:

Minister for Science and Technology, Earth Sciences, Health, and Family Welfare inaugurated the SCO Young Scientist Conclave.

SCO Young Scientist Conclave:

  • The first SCO-Young Scientists Conclave is being held in India in 2020, as an integral part of the SCO Young Scientists Forum (SCO YSF).
  • Objective: To provide a unique opportunity to the youth in their Member States to interact, network, and collaborate with their counterparts to address pertinent challenges in emerging areas of science and technology.
  • The Conclave proposes to bring together the innovative young minds from SCO Member States on to a common platform in virtual mode to discuss issues like ways and means to bring in transformative changes to address the societal challenges.
  • The areas included agriculture and food processing; sustainable energy and energy storage; biotechnology and bioengineering; combating COVID-19 and emerging pandemics through research and innovation; environmental protection and natural resource management.

Eligibility:

  • Young bright academicians/ scientists/ engineers/ technologists/ innovators/ tech entrepreneurial start-up professionals working in the above mentioned thematic areas with age not exceeding 35 years as of 1st November 2020.

Participants:

  • 22 participants were expected to participate at the Conclave from each of the SCO Member States.
    • 15 young scientists - three for each thematic area
    • Five Mentors - one for each thematic area
    • One Head of Delegation-representative of the STI Ministry
    • One liaison officer from each SCO nation

Significance:

  • The conclave facilitates the creation of connectivity and networking among the SCO youth to harness their knowledge for addressing common societal challenges through research and innovation and strengthen the advancement of complementary skills.
  • It helps in the preparation of next-generation scientific leadership in Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI) and future-readiness among Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Professionals.
  • It provides access to large scale research infrastructure and unique analytical facilities.
  • It also creates internship and training opportunities for young researchers.

Source: PIB

Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA)

Context:

The US drug-maker Moderna mentioned that it was applying for emergency use authorization for its Covid-19 vaccine. The decision was taken after Pfizer applied for emergency use authorization for the vaccine it has developed in collaboration with BioNTech.

Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA):

  • Vaccines and medicines, and even diagnostic tests and medical devices, require the approval of a regulatory authority before they can be administered. 
  • The approval for vaccines and medicines is granted after an assessment of their safety and effectiveness, based on data from trials.