23, February 2017

1.Cabinet approves signing of Air Services Agreement between India and Greece
Source : PIB

Union Cabinet has approved the signing of Air Services Agreement (ASA) between India and Greece.

  • The Agreement has the potential to spur greater trade, investment, tourism and cultural exchange between the two countries bringing it in tune with the developments in the civil aviation sector.
  • It will provide enabling environment for enhanced and seamless connectivity while providing commercial opportunities to the carriers of both the sides ensuring greater safety and security.

The essential features of the ASA are as follows:

  • Both countries shall be entitled to designate one or more airline.
  • The designated airlines of either country shall have the right to establish offices in the territory of the other country for the promotion end sale of air services.
  • The designated airlines of the two countries shall have fair and equal opportunity to operate the agreed services on specified routes.
  • The designated Airline of each party can enter into cooperative marketing arrangements with the designated carriers of same party, other party and third country,

As per the Route Schedule, the Indian carriers can operate to Athens, Thessaloniki, HerakIion and any 3 points to be specified later in Greece from points in India, whereas the carriers of Hellenic Republic can establish direct operation to 6 metros viz. New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Chennal. Any points shall be available as intermediate and beyond point for the designated carriers of India as well as the designated carriers of Greece.

At present there is no ASA between India and Greece. The agreement is as per latest International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)

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2.Cyber Swachhta Kendra – Botnet Cleaning and Malware Analysis Centre
Source : PIB

Extending the ‘Swachh Bharat’ campaign to the cyber world, the Minister of Electronics and Information Technology, launched the Cyber Swachhta Kendra–Botnet Cleaning and Malware Analysis Centre for analysis of malware and botnets that affect networks and systems.

This is a part of MeitY’s Digital India initiative aimed at creating a secure cyber space by detecting botnet infections in India and to notify, enable cleaning and securing systems of end-users to prevent further infections. The centre is operated by the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In).

What is the need for Cyber Swachhta Kendra ?

  • With the growth in digitalization and proliferation of broadband and mobile internet, security of end users’ systems is vital for enhancing their trust in ICT and online transactions.
  • User information from the computer and the mobile devices can be compromised if systems get affected with Bots.
  • Users therefore need to practice a rigid cyber hygiene regimen to prevent malware infections on their systems and to ensure security of their systems through suitable anti-malware tools.
  • The Cyber Swachhta Kendra will provide free tools for detection and removal of malicious programmes.

The end-user can log on to the Cyber Swachhta Kendra Portal (www.cyberswachhtakendra.gov.in) and clean their systems using the free cleaning tools. Users can also educate themselves about the various cyber threats and get information on the security tips in order to secure their computers, mobiles and prevent infections in their systems.

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3.There’s poison in the air
Source : The Hindu

The numbers, the latest available and updated in blocks of 4 years have been sourced from 680 pollution-monitoring stations spread over 300 cities across the country, measure levels of particulate matter (PM 10), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and Sulphur dioxide (SO2) .

Observations based on CPCB data:

  • Breach of annual particulate matter limit: 94 cities spanning States from Andhra Pradesh to Jammu and Kashmir and Assam to Gujarat breached the annual, particulate matter limit of 60 micro-gram per cubic meter.
  • Transgression of NO2 levels: Delhi, Badlapur, Pune and Ulhasnagar in Maharashtra; and Kolkata additionally transgressed the NO2 levels.
  • Lack of monitoring capability: While cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Pune measure PM2.5 levels, most lack the sensors required to gauge the presence of these minute particles that are considered more toxic than the more-commonly measured PM 10.

Backdrop:

The numbers come on the back of international research reports attributing about a million deaths in India to air pollution.

Key directives to tackle PM pollution:

Key directives by the Centre to the States to control particulate matter pollution include

  • Promoting public transport
  • Improving fuel quality
  • Fuel efficiency standards
  • Banning burning of leaves, biomass and municipal solid waste

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4.7 Earth like planets spotted
Source : The Hindu

Scientists have spotted seven Earth-sized planets, with mass similar to Earth, orbiting around a dwarf star the size of Jupiter, just 39 light years from the Sun- TRAPPIST-1.The planets’ temperature is low enough to make possible the presence of liquid water on their surface.

Background: In May last year, scientists found three planets passing in front of TRAPPIST-1, the dwarf star.Based on further monitoring of the star from the ground and space, scientists have found four more ‘exo-planets’ orbiting TRAPPIST-1.

Habitable zone of star: This is the first time so many Earth-like planets have been found around a star. The star is low-mass and small.

Orbital periods: The four newly discovered planets orbit around the star every 4.04 days, 6.06 days, 8.1 days and 12.3 days respectively; the orbital period of two of the three planets discovered last year is 1.51 days and 2.42 days respectively.

  • Five planets have sizes similar to that of the Earth, while the remaining two are intermediate in size — between Mars and Earth
  • Based on the mass estimates, the six inner planets may have a rocky composition
  • The sixth planet has low density suggesting a volatile rich composition
  • The volatile content could be either ice layer and/or atmosphere

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5.Exoplanets
Source : The Hindu

NASA’s new findings on exoplanets in TRAPPIST-1 system

  • Exoplanets are planets that orbit stars other than our sun.

When was the first exoplanet discovered?

  • The first exoplanet, 51 Pegasi b, was discovered in 1995 by Michael Mayor and Didier Queloz.

How many exoplanets have been identified till now?

  • According to NASA there are 3449 confirmed exoplanets from among 4,669 candidates in 2,577 solar systems
  • Among the confirmed ones there are 1,264 Ice Giants (a giant planet composed mainly of elements such as oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur), 1,043 Gas Giants (planets mostly composed of gases such as hydrogen and helium), 781 Super-earths (planets larger than Earth, but smaller than Uranus or Neptune), 348 terrestrial exoplanets (aka rocky planets, they are composed of silicate rocks or metals) and 13 are yet to be classified

Which is the latest entrant into the exoplanet league?

  • In May last year, scientists found three planets passing in front of TRAPPIST-1, the dwarf star
  • Based on further monitoring of the star from the ground and space, scientists have found four more ‘exo-planets’ orbiting TRAPPIST-1

Do these exoplanets support life?

  • The search for exoplanets is also the search for alien life and habitable spaces beyond our star system
  • NASA’s Kepler and K2 missions have identified several such candidates
  • To be considered habitable, exoplanets must orbit within a distance of their stars in which liquid water can exist on the planet’s surface, receiving about as much sunlight as Earth. This distance is called the “Goldilocks” zone

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6.TRAI told to review tariff plans
Source : The Hindu

Mobile phone operators have been facing severe headwinds since Reliance Jio started services.

Following a decline in revenue of the telecom sector for two quarters in a row, the Telecom Commission has asked the sectoral regulator TRAI to “review” mobile tariff plans offered by telecom operators, including promotional offers

  • The Telecom Commission, which is the highest decision making body in the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), has also asked the regulator to ensure proper implementation of its 2002 and 2008 amendments to the Telecom Tariff Orders, 1999

Backdrop

The move can be seen in the light of the falling revenues of the other telecom operators ever since introduction of Reliance Jio, which has been offering free voice and data services to consumers since September last year under two different plans

  • It should be noted that Centre earns revenue from the telecom operators through spectrum usage and license fees among others and recent events have impacted their capacity to meet their commitment towards spectrum charges and instalments

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7.Maintain law, order on SYL canal issue: SC
Source : The Hindu

The Supreme Court has stood firm by its decision to construct the Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal and urged the neighboring States to maintain law and order at any cost

Bench concerned:

SC bench raised concern about violence after reports that the Indian National Lok Dal, Haryana’s main opposition party, had asked its workers to gather on 23rd Feb 17 at Ambala and march inside Punjab to start digging the SYL canal

Punjab’s stance:

Punjab maintains that Punjab Termination of Water Agreement Act of 2004 was still in force.

  • SC verdict only an opinion: It argued that a recent Supreme Court verdict that declared the 2004 Act as unconstitutional was only an opinion given by the court on a presidential reference and not a verdict as such to be complied as law

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8.Roche can’t hang on to breast cancer drug: HC

The Delhi High Court hearing pleas of Roche and other pharma firms such as Biocon on the issue of marketing and sale of generic drugs biosimilar to the Swiss company’s Trastuzumab.

HC: It told Swiss pharma major Roche that it “cannot hang on to” breast cancer drug Trastuzumab, innovated by it, for the rest of its life after having enjoyed the fruits of its patent.

Roche: Argued that Biocon, Mylan and Reliance cannot term their medicine merely Trastuzumab and ought to call it Biocon’s Trastuzumab or Mylan’s Trastuzumab.

This is because these companies have not followed the entire protocol of tests and studies, as was done by it.

Biosimilars: To this, the Bench said the advantage of biosimilarity was that it was an abbreviated process and companies like Biocon and Mylan need not go through the entire “rigmarole” as was done by Roche.

About Biosimilars:

  • Also known as follow-on biologic or subsequent entry biologic.
  • It is a biologic medical product which is almost an identical copy of an original product that is manufactured by a different company.
  • Biosimilars are officially approved versions of original “innovator” products, and can be manufactured when the original product’s patent expires.
  • Reference to the innovator product is an integral component of the approval.

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9.Location norms soon for waste treatment plants
Source : The Hindu

A draft law proposed by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on waste-to-energy  plants. Soon, waste-to-energy plants will be allowed to come up within 20-100 metres of residential areas

Currently:

  • The Union Environment Ministry and Urban Development Ministry guidelines have no defined limits on the minimum distance separating such plants from residential areas.
  • Only specifications for landfills — that they be least 500 m. away from “habitable zones” — exist.

This is the first time that waste processing plants will have to adhere to defined limits by creating a buffer zone separating the boundaries of the waste processing facility and public zones

New CPCB guidelines: Future plants ought to follow a model of ‘decentralisation’

Decentralisation: meaning that rather than a city’s waste being carted to a few large landfills or waste-conversion plants, there should be more units disaggregated and employing optimal technology to convert the waste into fuel or electricity

Land: Given that land in cities was frequently unavailable and prone to disputes, the new law allows plants to determine their locations based on their processing capacity

  1. Thus plants processing up to 50 tonnes of waster per day only need maintain a 30 m buffer zone while those dealing with more than 100 tonnes require a 100 m boundary
  2. Where land was scarce and appropriate processing technologies existed, a plant could even come within 20 m of a residential, commercial or construction facility

About CPCB:

  • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), statutory organisation, was constituted in September, 1974 under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974. Further, CPCB was entrusted with the powers and functions under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
  • It serves as a field formation and also provides technical services to the Ministry of Environment and Forests of the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
  • Principal functions of the CPCB, as spelt out in the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 are

                         (i) to promote cleanliness of streams and wells in different areas of the States by prevention, control and abatement of water pollution

(ii) to improve the quality of air and to prevent, control or abate air pollution in the country.

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10.Centre doubles solar park capacity to 40,000 MW
Source : The Hindu

The Cabinet has approved the doubling of solar park capacity to 40,000 MW, which will entail an additional 50 solar parks to be set up at a cost to the government of Rs 8,100 crore.

While most of the additional 50 solar parks, to be commissioned by 2019-20, will be 50 MW of capacity, the Centre is also considering smaller parks in Himalayan and other hilly states where contiguous land is difficult to acquire .

The total capacity when operational will generate 64 billion units of electricity per year which will lead to abatement of around 55 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year over its life cycle.

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