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20201229 Current Affairs and Editorial
(FOR PRELIMS & MAINS OF UPSC CSE)

 Financial grants distributed to Namghars

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-I – Culture & GS-II – Policies and Interventions

In news

  • The Union Home Minister distributed financial grants to 8,000 Namghars under the Assam Darshan programme.

Important value additions 

  • Namghars are traditional Vaisnavite monasteries of Assam.

  • Namghars (literally meaning Prayer House) are places for congregational worship associated with the entire Assamese community and the Ekasarana sect of Hinduism, in particular, that is native to Assam.

  • Besides forming the primary structure used for worship, they also function as meeting houses and theatres for dramatic performances (bhaona).

  • The Namghar, also called the kirtanghar, is also the central structure in the Sattras (monasteries of the Ekasarana religion) where the other buildings are positioned around it.

Namghars were introduced in Assam by the Vaishnavite saints Damodaradeva, Madhavadeva and Sankaradeva for Assamese people where they can culture and practice naam (devotional songs) and Bhakti of God (devotion).

 

Government introduces mandatory physical verification of business premises for GST registration

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – GST; Taxation

In news

  • The government has introduced mandatory physical verification of business premises for the purposes of obtaining GST registration.

Key takeaways 

  • The move is aimed at controlling the menace of GST fake invoice frauds.

  • Recommended by:GST Council’s law committee.

  • Separately, a new rule has been introduced by the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs that mandates businesses with monthly turnover of over ₹50 lakh to pay at least 1% of their GST liability in cash instead of using input tax credits to discharge their entire liability.

  • The validity of e-way bills has also been changed, doubling the distance to be covered for each day of validity, effective January 1.

  • Till now, an e-way bill for transporting goods under GST allowed transporters to cover 100 km in one day.

  • Now, that distance for each day of validity has been increased to 200 km.

Related articles:

  • GST compensation

  • Global energy companies demand Natural Gas under GST regime:

CAG report on GST:

 BBX11: A gene that facilitates in the greening of plants

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Sci & tech

In news

  • Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) have identified a gene that facilitates in the greening of plants.

  • This gene plays a crucial role in regulating the levels of protochlorophyllide which is an intermediate in the biosynthesis of the green pigment chlorophyll.

Key takeaways 

  • IISER scientists have identified the gene ‘BBX11′.

  • The study was recently published in the British journal New Phytologist.

  • The synthesis of chlorophyll in plants is a lengthy, multi-step process.

  • When a seedling emerges from under the soil it must quickly synthesise chlorophyll to start supporting its own growth.

  • In order to facilitate quick synthesis of chlorophyll, plants make a precursor of chlorophyll called ‘protochlorophyllide’ in the dark, which glows red when blue light is shone on the plant.

  • As soon as the plant comes out into the light from under the soil, light-dependent enzymes convert protochlorophyllide to chlorophyll.

  • The amount of protochlorophyllide synthesised needs to be proportional to the number of enzymes available to convert them to chlorophyll.

If there is excess of free protochlorophyllide, then exposure to light converts it into molecules that cause ‘photobleaching’

Scientists find first possible radio signal from a planet beyond our solar system

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Sci & tech

In news

  • An international team of scientists has collected the first possible radio signal from a planet beyond our solar system, emanating from an exoplanet system about 51 light-years away.

Key takeaways 

  • Using the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR), a radio telescope in the Netherlands, the researchers uncovered emission bursts from the Tau Bootes star-system hosting a so-called hot Jupiter, a gaseous giant planet that is very close to its own sun.

  • Tau Bootes is an F-type main-sequence star approximately 51 light-years away in the constellation of Bootes.

  • It is a binary star system, with the secondary star being a red dwarf.

  • If confirmed through follow-up observations, this radio detection opens up a new window on exoplanets and provides a novel way to examine alien worlds that are tens of light-years away.

Coronavirus variant circulating in the UK defined by many mutations

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Sci & tech

In news

The coronavirus variant circulating in the UK is defined by many mutations.

Key takeaways 

  • A mutation means an alteration in genetic material.

  • In an RNA virus such as SARS-CoV-2, proteins are made of a sequence of amino acids.

  • Such a virus contains some 30,000 ‘base pairs’, which are like bricks placed next to each other to form a structure.

  • An alteration in this base can be a mutation, effectively changing the shape and behaviour of the virus.

  • In the UK variant, one mutation has made the virus more likely to bind with human proteins called receptors. This is called N501Y.

N501Y

  • In simple words, the amino acid represented by the letter N, and present at position 501 in the coronavirus genetic structure, has been replaced in that position with another amino acid, represented by Y.

  • The position where this alteration has taken place is in the spike protein’s receptor-binding domain.

  • Therefore, the mutation has increased the binding affinity of the coronavirus.

  • The mutated virus reportedly accounts for 60% of recent infections in London.

Do you know? 

  • According the WHO, other than N501Y, mutations that “may influence the transmissibility of the virus in humans” are P681H and HV 69/70.

  • P681H: This mutation has occurred in the amino acid present at 681. The amino acid P has been replaced with H.

  • HV 69/70: This mutation is the result of a deletion of amino acids at positions 69 and 70.

  • These positions are again in the spike protein of the virus.

  • This deletion has been observed in France and South Africa as well.

1000-yrs Old Monpa Handmade Paper Industry brought alive in AP

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Policies and Interventions

In news

  • The 1000-year old heritage art – the Monpa Handmade Paper of Arunachal Pradesh – which was driven to the extinction has been revived with the committed efforts of  Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC).

Key takeaways 

  • The art of making Monpa handmade paper originated over 1000 years ago.

  • This handmade paper was a major source of livelihood for the locals.

  • However, the handmade paper industry almost disappeared in the last 100 years.

  • Recently, KVIC commissioned a Monpa handmade paper making unit in Tawang which aims at reviving the art and engaging the local youths with this art professionally and earn.

  • The Monpa handmade paper, will be made from the bark of a local tree called Shugu Sheng, which has medicinal values too. Hence availability of raw material will not be a problem.

Do you know? 

  • The fine-textured handmade paper, which is called Mon Shugu in the local dialect, is integral to the vibrant culture of the local tribes in Tawang.

  • The paper has great historic and religious significance as it is the paper used for writing Buddhist scriptures and hymns in monasteries.

  • Apart from handmade paper, Tawang is known for two other local crafts – handmade pottery and handmade furniture – that are also getting extinct with passage of time.

  • It was announced that within six months, plans will be rolled out for revival of these two local arts

Important value additions 

The Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) 

  • It is a statutory body formed in April 1957 (as per an RTI) by the Government of India, under the Act of Parliament, ‘Khadi and Village Industries Commission Act of 1956’.

  • It is an apex organisation under the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.

  • Vision– To plan, promote, facilitate, organise and assist in the establishment and development of khadi and village industries in the rural areas in coordination with other agencies engaged in rural development wherever necessary.

  • In April 1957, it took over the work of former All India Khadi and Village Industries Board.

  • Head office: Mumbai

Six zonal offices: Delhi, Bhopal, Bangalore, Kolkata, Mumbai and Guwahati.

Indian Army to request waiver to take Kamov-226T Utility Helicopters

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III –Defence and Security

In news

  • The Indian Army is going to approach the Defence Ministry for a waiver to take the Kamov-226T (Ka-226T) utility helicopters with Russia.

Key takeaways 

  • In 2015, India and Russia concluded an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) for 200 Ka-226T helicopters estimated to cost over USD 1 billion.

  • The Kamov-226T is meant to replace Cheetah and Chetak fleets of the Indian Army and the Air Force.

  • The Ka-226T is a design of Russia’s famed Kamov design bureau.

  • 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.

  • The Ka-226T uses coaxial rotors which is especially advantageous in high-altitude environments.

  • The Ka-226T also has a unique, detachable ‘mission’ compartment which allows the helicopter to be adapted for different roles such as surveillance and cargo delivery.

Issues with the Old Fleet of Helicopters

  • About 75% of the Army’s fleet of Cheetah and Chetak helicopters is over 30 years old which need urgent replacements.

  • Operational capability has been impacted due to deficiencies and non-availability of replacement.

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