Currents Affairs & GK – Jul 13, 2017

General Studies-I
Changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and ice-caps)
6,000 Antarctic iceberg splits

One of the biggest icebergs ever recorded has just broken away from Antarctica. The giant block is estimated to cover an area of roughly 6,000 sq. km. in a region known as the Larsen C Ice Shelf. The development of a large crack in Larsen’s ice had been there for over a decade. The rift’s propagation had accelerated since 2014, making an imminent calving ever more likely.
The more than 200 metre-thick tabular berg will not move very far or very fast in the short term. Currents and winds might eventually push it north of the Antarctic where it could become a hazard to shipping.
The new Larsen berg is probably in the top 10 biggest ever recorded. The largest observed in the satellite era was called B-15. It came away from the Ross Ice Shelf in 2000 and measured some 11,000 sq. km. Six years later, fragments of this super-berg still persisted and passed by New Zealand.
In 1956, it was reported that a U.S. Navy icebreaker had encountered an object of roughly 32,000 sq. km. That is bigger than Belgium. But there were no satellites at the time to verify the observation.
It has been known also for the Larsen C Ice Shelf itself to spawn bigger bergs. An object measuring some 9,000 sq. km came away in 1986. Many of Larsen’s progeny can get wound up in a gyre in the Weddell sea or can be despatched north on currents into the Southern Ocean, and even into the South Atlantic.
The Larsen C shelf is a mass of floating ice formed by glaciers that have flowed down off the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula into the ocean. Larsen C is now at its smallest extent since the end of the last ice age some 11,700 years ago, and about 10 other shelves further to the north along the Peninsula have either collapsed or greatly retreated in recent decades.
The two nearby smaller shelves, Larsen A and Larsen B, disintegrated around the turn of the century; and a warming climate very probably had a role in their demise.

General Studies-II
e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential

PRAGATI (Pro-Active Governance And Timely Implementation)

PRAGATI is an ICT-based unique integrating and interactive platform. The multi-purpose and multi-modal platform is aimed at addressing common man’s grievances, and simultaneously monitoring and reviewing important programmes and projects of the Government of India as well as projects flagged by State Governments.
The PRAGATI platform uniquely bundles three latest technologies: Digital data management, video-conferencing and geo-spatial technology.
It is a three-tier system (PMO, Union Government Secretaries, and Chief Secretaries of the States) and also offers a unique combination in the direction of cooperative federalism since it brings on one stage the Secretaries of Government of India and the Chief Secretaries of the States. With this, the Prime Minister is able to discuss the issues with the concerned Central and State officials with full information and latest visuals of the ground level situation. Such an effort has never been made in India. It is also an innovative project in e-governance and good governance.

Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate

Cabinet approves establishment of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), South Asia Regional Center (ISARC)

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister has approved the establishment of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), South Asia Regional Center (ISARC) at campus of National Seed Research and Training Center (NSRTC) in Varanasi.
Under the proposal, a Centre of Excellence in Rice Value Addition (CERVA) will be set up in Varanasi. This will include a modern and sophisticated laboratory with capacity to determine quality and status of heavy metals in grain and straw. The Centre will also undertake capacity building exercises for stakeholders across the rice value chain.
This Center will be the first international Center in the eastern India and it will play a major role in harnessing and sustaining rice production in the region. It is expected to be a boon for food production and skill development in the eastern India and similar ecologies in other South Asian and African countries.
The Centre will help in utilizing the rich biodiversity of India to develop special rice varieties. This will help India to achieve higher per hectare yields and improved nutritional contents. India’s food and nutritional security issues will also be addressed. The Centre will support in adopting value chain based production system in the country. This will reduce wastage, add value and generate higher income for the farmers. The farmers in Eastern India will benefit in particular, besides those in South Asian and African countries.
ISARC will operate under the governance of the IRRI Board of Trustees who will appoint an appropriate IRRI staff member as Director. A Coordination Committee will be headed by Director General, IRRI as Chair and Secretary, Government of India, Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare (DACFW) as Co-Chair. The other members of Coordination Committee are Deputy Director General (Crop Sciences), ICAR; Director, NSRTC; IRRI representative in India, representative of Government of UP and representatives of Governments of Nepal & Bangladesh and Private Sector.
For setting up of the Centre, A Memorandum of Agreement, will be signed between DAC&FW and IRRI, Philippines.

International Rice Research Institute
The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is an international agricultural research and training organization with headquarters in Los Baños, Laguna in the Philippines. IRRI is known for its work in developing rice varieties that contributed to the Green Revolution in the 1960s which preempted the famine in Asia.
The Institute, established in 1960 aims to reduce poverty and hunger, improve the health of rice farmers and consumers, and ensure environmental sustainability of rice farming. It advances its mission through collaborative research, partnerships, and the strengthening of the national agricultural research and extension systems of the countries IRRI works in.
IRRI is one of 15 agricultural research centers in the world that form the CGIAR Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers, a global partnership of organizations engaged in research on food security. It is also the largest non-profit agricultural research center in Asia.

Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India

Cabinet approves MoU between India and Palestine on cooperation in the field of Health and Medicine

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Palestine on cooperation in the field of Health and Medicine. The MoU covers the following areas of cooperation: –
i) Capacity building of health staff; ii) Prevention and control of communicable diseases;iii) Physiotherapy and rehabilitation; iv) Drugs, pharmaceuticals and Medical Equipments

Cabinet approves Joint Declaration of Intent (JDI) between India and Germany on cooperation in the field of Health

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for signing a Joint Declaration of Intent (JDI) between India and Germany on cooperation in the field of Health. The JDI covers the following areas of cooperation :-
a) postgraduate education;b) training of medical personnel;c) pharmaceuticals and pharmacoeconomics; andd) health economics

Cabinet approves Joint Interpretative Notes on the Agreement between India and Bangladesh for Promotion and Protection of Investments 

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for the Joint Interpretative Notes (JIN) on the Agreement between India and Bangladesh for the Promotion and Protection of Investments.
The JIN would impart clarity to the interpretation of the existing Agreement between India and Bangladesh for the Promotion and Protection of Investments (BIPA). The JIN includes interpretative notes to be jointly adopted for many clauses, including, the definition of investor, definition of investment, exclusion of taxation measures, Fair and Equitable Treatment (FET), National Treatment (NT) and Most Favoured Nation (MFN) treatment, expropriation, essential security interests and Settlement of Disputes between an Investor-and a Contracting Party.
Joint Interpretative Statements in general play an important supplementary role in strengthening the investment treaty regime. With increasing Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) disputes, issuance of such statements is likely to have strong persuasive value before tribunals. Such pro-active approach by States can foster a more predictable and coherent reading of treaty terms by arbitration tribunals.

Cabinet approves SASEC Road Connectivity Investment Program – Tranche 2

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for upgradation and widening of 65 kms of Imphal-Moreh Section of NH-39 in Manipur at a cost of Rs. 1630.29 crores under SASEC Road Connectivity Investment Program (SRCIP).
The project is being developed with Asian Development Bank’s loan assistance under the South Asian Sub-Regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) Road Connectivity Investment Program which aims at upgradation of road infrastructure in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and India (BBIN) in order to improve the regional connectivity among BBIN nations. The project corridor is also a part of the Asian Highway No. 01 (AH01) and acts as India’s Gateway to the East. Thus trade, commerce and tourism in the region will get a boost.

The SASEC Road Connectivity Investment Program (SRCIP) will improve road connectivity and efficiency of the international trade corridor, by expanding about 500km of roads in the North Bengal and Northeastern Region (NB-NER) of India. The project area under SRCIP is a key strategic thoroughfare integrating South and South East Asia, bordering Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar and Nepal. It will enable efficient and safe transport within India and regionally with other South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) member countries. Ultimately, SRCIP will pave the way from India and other South Asian countries to Myanmar, and further afield to other member countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC):

The South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) Program, set up in 2001, brings together Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka in a project-based partnership to promote regional prosperity by improving cross-border connectivity, boosting trade among member countries, and strengthening regional economic cooperation.[1] Since 2001, SASEC countries have implemented 46[2] regional projects worth over $9 billion in the energy, transport, trade facilitation, economic corridor development, and information and communications technology (ICT) sectors. The Manila, Philippines-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) serves as the Secretariat for the SASEC member countries.

Asian Development Bank
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is a regional development bank established on 19 December 1966, which is headquartered in Mandaluyong, Metro Manila, Philippines, to promote social and economic development in Asia. The bank admits the members of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), and non-regional developed countries. ADB now has 67 members, of which 48 are from within Asia and the Pacific and 19 outside. The ADB was modeled closely on the World Bank, and has a similar weighted voting system where votes are distributed in proportion with members’ capital subscriptions. As of 31 December 2016, Japan and United States hold the largest proportion of shares at 15.607%. China holds 6.444%, India holds 6.331%, and Australia holds 5.786%. ADB is an official United Nations Observer.

Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors
National Strategic Plan for Malaria Elimination (2017-22) launched

The Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare launched the “National Strategic Plan for Malaria Elimination (2017-22)”. The Strategic Plan gives year wise elimination targets in various parts of the country depending upon the endemicity of malaria in the next 5 years and aims to eliminate malaria by 2027.
The National Framework for Malaria Elimination (NFME) launched last year, outlined India’s commitment for eliminating malaria by 2030.
The strategies involve strengthening malaria surveillance, establishing a mechanism for early detection and prevention of outbreaks of malaria, promoting the prevention of malaria by the use of Long Lasting Impregnated Nets (LLINs), effective indoor residual spray and augmenting the manpower and capacities for effective implementation for the next five years.
It is an important step in the direction of global efforts for elimination of malaria in various countries. One child dies of malaria every two minutes and the burden is the heaviest in the African region. India has the third highest malaria burden in the world.

Sagar Mala project

Sagar Mala project is a strategic and customer-oriented initiative of the Government of India to modernize India’s Ports so that port-led development can be augmented and coastlines can be developed to contribute in India’s growth. It looks towards “transforming the existing Ports into modern world class Ports and integrate the development of the Ports, the Industrial clusters and hinterland and efficient evacuation systems through road, rail, inland and coastal waterways resulting in Ports becoming the drivers of economic activity in coastal areas.

General Studies-III
Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers

Bitcoin trade may come under SEBI

The government is considering the introduction of a regulatory regime for virtual or crypto currencies, such as Bitcoin, that would enable the levy of the Goods and Services Tax on their sale. Their trading may be brought under the oversight of the stock market regulator, Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).
The idea is to treat such currency in a manner similar to gold sold digitally, so that it can be traded on registered exchanges in a bid to promote a formal tax base, while keeping a tab on their use for illegal activities such as money laundering, terror funding and drug trafficking.

Cryptocurrency is a form of digital money that is designed to be secure and, in many cases, anonymous. It is a currency associated with the internet that uses cryptography, the process of converting legible information into an almost uncrackable code, to track purchases and transfers.
Cryptography was born out of the need for secure communication in the Second World War. It has evolved in the digital era with elements of mathematical theory and computer science to become a way to secure communications, information and money online.
It is not owned or controlled by any institution – governments or private. The first cryptocurrency was bitcoin, which was created in 2009 and is still the best known. There has been a proliferation of cryptocurrencies in the past decade and there are now more than 900 available on the internet. Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Litecoin are some of the popular ones. Currently, they are neither illegal nor legal in India.

How do cryptocurrencies work? 

Cryptocurrencies use decentralised technology to let users make secure payments and store money without the need to use their name or go through a bank. They run on a distributed public ledger called blockchain, which is a record of all transactions updated and held by currency holders.

How much are they worth?

One bitcoin today is worth as much as 60 grams of gold. The market cap for all crypto-currencies has just crossed $100 billion, with most of the increase coming in the past few months. On April 1, 2017, the total market cap was just over $25 billion, representing a 300% rise in just over 60 days.
Bitcoins were in the news recently when during the two global cyber ransomware attacks — WannaCry and Petya — attackers sought about $300 in bitcoin as ransom. Crypto-currency can also be used for a lot of legal activities depending of which retailers accept such currency.

NASA’s Juno probe flies past Jupiter’s Great Red Spot

NASA’s solar-powered Juno spacecraft has successfully completed the closest flyby of Jupiter’s iconic Great Red Spot – a massive storm that has been raging on giant planet for over 350 years. All of Juno’s science instruments and the spacecraft’s JunoCam were operating during the flyby, collecting data that are beamed back to Earth.
For generations people from all over the world have marvelled over the Great Red Spot. The Great Red Spot is a 16,000-kilometre-wide storm that has been monitored since 1830 and has possibly existed for more than 350 years. In modern times, the Great Red Spot has appeared to be shrinking.
During these flybys, Juno is probing beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter and studying its auroras to learn more about the planet’s origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere. Early science results from NASA’s Juno mission portray the largest planet in our solar system as a turbulent world, with an intriguingly complex interior structure, energetic polar aurora, and huge polar cyclones.
Astronomers also believe a greater understanding of the Great Red Spot may yield clues to the structure, mechanics and formation of Jupiter as a whole.
The churning cyclone ranks as the largest known storm in the solar system, measuring about 16,000 km in diameter with winds clocked at hundreds of kilometres an hour around its outer edges. It appears as a deep, red orb surrounded by layers of pale yellow, orange and white. Once wide enough to swallow three Earth-sized planets, the famed Jovian weather system has been shrinking for the past 100 years and may eventually disappear altogether.