The HINDU Notes – 09th April


🌐 Delhi, Dhaka agree on 22 deals

  • Stepping up cooperation in the fields of connectivity, energy and defence, India extended lines of credit worth $5 billion to Bangladesh after a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, as the two countries exchanged 22 agreements on 8 April 2017.

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi and the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Ms. Sheikh Hasina witnessing the exchange of MoUs between India and Bangladesh, at Hyderabad House, in New Delhi on April 08, 2017.

  • The LoC would be used to build 17 projects including port upgradation work in Mongla, Chittagong and Paira ports.
  • “The two Prime Ministers emphasised the advantages of sub-regional cooperation in the areas of power, water resources, trade, transit and connectivity for mutual benefit.
  • In this context, they noted the progress made by the Joint Working Groups on Sub-Regional Cooperation between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) on Water Resources Management and Power/Hydropower and on Trade, Transit and Connectivity,” the joint statement issued at the end of bilateral discussion stated.
  • A major aspect of the visit has been the defence component which includes an MoU on defence framework, and a $500 million Line of Credit for defence procurement for the Bangladesh military forces.
  • Bilateral technology cooperation also was boosted by the commitment to support civil nuclear research between two sides.
  • “the leaders welcomed the signing of the inter-Governmental Agreement for cooperation in the field of Civil Nuclear Energy and other agreements related to nuclear cooperation,” the joint statement stated.

🌐 Vulnerable tribes: lost in a classification trap

  • A recent Anthropological Survey of India (AnSI) publication has brought to the fore startling revelations about the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) in the country including the fact that no base line surveys have been conducted among more than half of such groups.
  • “Our findings revealed shocking facts, of the 75 PVTGs, base line surveys exists for about 40 groups, even after declaring them as PVTGs,” states the publication: The Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups of India — Privileges and Predicaments.

  • Base line surveys are done to precisely identify the PVTG families, their habitat and socio-economic status, so that development initiatives are implemented for these communities, based on the facts and figures.
  • The publication emphasises State governments must urgently conduct such surveys to arrive at accurate demographic and socio-economic figures of the PVTGs.
  • Among the 75 listed PVTG’s the highest number are found in Odisha (13). All the four tribal groups in Andamans, and one in Nicobar Islands, are recognised as PVTGs.
  • The book points out that the PVTG list requires revising and refinement to avoid overlapping and repetition.
  • For instance, the list contains synonyms of the same group such as the Mankidia and the Birhor in Odisha, both of which refer to the same group.

  • Some of the PVTGs are distributed in more than one State. The Birhor are recognised as a PVTG in four States, while 10 other group are PVTG in two States, namely the Sahariya, Kurumba, Koraga, Korwa, JenuKuruba, Kattunayakan, Katkari/ Kathodi, Kharia, Kolam, and Lodha.
  • Thus, the number of the PVTGs at the national level would be 63, the book states.
  • “There is an urgent need to come up with the exact number of PVTGs. This would do away with overlapping names and go a long way in having a clear idea about the tribes and implementing welfare schemes directed at the communities,” Dr. Suresh Patil,
  • For example, the Lanjia Saora are recognized as a PVTG across Odisha but the micro-projects are established only in two blocks while the rest of the LanjiaSaora are treated as Scheduled Tribes (STs).
  • There is a huge variation in the number of PVTGs ranging from a few individuals as in case of Great Andamanese, Onge andSentinelese and about a little more than a thousand people as in the case of Toda of Nilgiris.

  • Although PVTGs are slowly witnessing decadal increase in their population, quite a few still face stagnation such as the Birhor in central India.
  • Some are declining like the Onge and Andamanese.
  • Smallest population size among the PVTGs are the Senteneles (as per the last contact effort on March 9, 2005, groups of 32 and 13 persons were sighted at different places). They still shy away from others.
  • The Great Andamanese (57 persons) and the Onge (107 persons in 2012 as per Andaman Adim Janjati Vikas Samiti) are the dwindling populations.
  • On the other end, the Saharia of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are the largest among the PVTGs with a population more than four lakhs.

Particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG)

  • It is a government of India classification created with the purpose of enabling improvement in the conditions of certain communities with particularly low development indices.
  • The Dhebar Commission (1960-1961) stated that within Scheduled Tribes there existed an inequality in the rate of development.
  • During the fourth Five Year Plan a sub-category was created within Scheduled Tribes to identify groups that considered to be at a lower level of development.
  • This sub-category was named “Primitive tribal group“.
  • The features of such a group include a pre-agricultural system of existence, that is practice of hunting and gathering, zero or negative population growth, extremely low level of literacy in comparison with other tribal groups.
  • Groups that satisfied any one of the criterion were considered as PTG.
  • These communities were identified on the basis of recommendations made by the respective state governments.
  • Total 75 groups are identified as PTG. The 75th group recognised as PTG was the Maram in Manipur in 1993-94.
  • No new group was declared as PTG on the basis of the 2001 census
  • In 2006 the government of India proposed to rename “Primitive tribal group” as Particularly vulnerable tribal group“.


🌐 An elephantine census after 5 years

  • Volunteers and wildlife activists will fan out in May across forests and other habitats to count the actual number of wild elephants in the country.
  • The All-India Synchronised Asian Elephant Population Estimation, will be carried out simultaneously in the southern States from May 16 to 19, and earlier in eastern States, after a five-year gap.
  • In the previous counting exercise in 2012, the estimated population of wild elephants reported by the Environment Ministry was between 29,391 and 30,711, compared to 27,657 and 27,682 in 2007, the data range indicating the lower and upper bounds.
  • The exercise involves estimating the elephant numbers through various methods — including direct sample block counts and indirect or line transect dung counts — and the data is used to arrive at a reliable estimate of the actual population range.
  • In Karnataka, an important range State, 32 forest divisions have elephant populations or sightings of the species.
  • However, most are in the notified Mysore Elephant Reserve (MER), made up of forests from Bhadra in Chikkamagaluru to Nagarahole-Bandipur BRT Wildlife Sanctuary belt, besides Bannerghatta, spread over an area of nearly 11,000 sq. km.

🌐 Labour participation rate of women in India visibly low, says World Bank study

  • Despite high growth rate during the economic reform period, five economists of the World Bank have found that women’s ability to access job opportunities in the new economy has been “precarious.”

  • India’s female labour force participation (FLFP) rate has remained visibly low and the International Labour Organisation ranks India’s FLFP rate at 121 out of 131 countries in 2013, one of the lowest in the world.
  • India had the lowest FLFP rate in South Asia, with the exception of Pakistan.
  • Globally, only parts of the Arab world held a lower FLFP rates than India.
  • In 2013, FLFP per cent for India was 27% against China’s 63.9%, and it was 56.3% in the U.S., 79.9% in Nepal, 57.4% in Bangladesh, 35.1% in Sri Lanka, 24.6% in Pakistan, 23.3% in the Arab world, and 50.8 % in the European Union.

🌐 India, Mongolia ‘cross swords’ 

  • On 8 April 2017, even as Dalai Lama was in Tawang, the Indian Army made public the joint exercise, named Nomadic Elephant with Mongolia way at Vairengte in Mizoram.
  • Vairengte in Mizoram houses the elite Counter-Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School of the Indian Army.
  • It said the exercise was aimed at training the troops in counter insurgency & counter terrorism operations under the United Nations mandate.
  • The timing of the exercise may be a mere coincidence, but assumes significance given last December China mounted economic sanctions on Mongolia after it refused to cancel the visit of Dalai Lama to the Buddhist majority country.
  • India-Mongolia relations have been on an upswing in recent years, with the latter turning to New Delhi in December 2016 for help after China hiked transit tariffs on Mongolian trucks, as part of its action to protest Dalai Lama’s visit to Mongolia.
  • “We are aware of the difficult budgetary situation that Mongolia is facing due to various factors including high cost of servicing of debt raised by them in the past,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said in New Delhi on December.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Mongolia in May 2015 had extended a credit line of $1 billion to Mongolia.
  • The India-Mongolian bilateral ties have been growing against the backdrop of the communist country’s growing influence, and New Delhi’s efforts to find a balance.
  • The Indo-Mongolian military exercise is taking place just about 800 kilometers away from Tawang—second highest seat of Tibetan Buddhism and home to a historic monastery—where Dalai Lama on 8 April 2017 said his followers, and not China, will decide the future of his office.
  • On China’s insistence that the next Dalai Lama be born in China, he said his followers will decide whether the tradition continues or not, or if his successor should be a woman. “Let China first come clear on its theory on rebirth,” he said.

🌐 The lowdown on sharing of Teesta waters

  • Sharing the waters of the Teesta river, which originates in the Himalayas and flows through Sikkim and West Bengal to merge with the Brahmaputra in Assam and ( Jamuna in Bangladesh), is perhaps the most contentious issue between two friendly neighbours, India and Bangladesh.
  • Bangladesh has sought an “equitable” distribution of Teesta waters from India, on the lines of the Ganga Water Treaty of 1996, but to no avail.
  • West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee — is yet to endorse the deal. Her objection is connected to “global warming.” Many of the glaciers on the Teesta basin have retreated, says Strategic Foresight Group, a Mumbai-based thinktank.
  • Ms. Banerjee cannot be sidestepped as water is a State subject.
  • “Estimates suggested that the Teesta river has a mean annual flow of approximately 60 billion cubic metre (BCM). A significant amount of this water flows during the wet season, between June and September. The importance of the flow and the seasonal variation of this river is felt during the lean season (from October to April/May) as the average flow is about 500 million cubic metre (MCM) per month. Consequently,there are floods during monsoons and droughts during the dry periods,” the 2013 report said.
  • The West Bengal Chief Minister opposed an arrangement in 2011, by which India would get 42.5% and Bangladesh 37.5% of the water during the lean season, and the plan was shelved.
  • The answer, according to leading Bangladeshi hydrologist and architect of Ganga Water Treaty Ainun Nishat, is embedded in theconstruction of giant artificial reservoirs, where the monsoon water can be stored for the lean season.
  • The reservoirs need to be built in India as the country has some mountain-induced sites favourable to hosting dams with reservoirs, unlike Bangladesh.

🌐 IISc designs a novel graphene electrical conductor

  • Researchers from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru have been able to experimentally produce a new type of electrical conductor that was theoretically predicted nearly 20 years ago.

  • They successfully produced graphene that is single or a few-layers thick to conduct current along one particular edge — the zigzag edge.
  • The zigzag edge of graphene layer has a unique property: It allows flow of charge without any resistance at room temperature and above.
  • A few-layers-thick graphene that conducts current along one edge does not experience any resistance and so can lead to realising power-efficient electronics and quantum information transfer, even at room temperature.

  • Many groups over the world have been trying to access these edges since the emergence of graphene in 2004, but have been largely unsuccessful because when current flows through graphene, it flows through both the edge as well as the bulk.
  • “We succeeded in this endeavour by creating the bulk part of graphene extremely narrow (less than 10 nanometre thick), and hence highly resistive, thus forcing the current to flow through the edge alone,” he says.

🌐 IIT Bombay uses mango leaves to make fluorescent graphene quantum dots

  • Using mango leaves to synthesise fluorescent graphene quantum dots (nanocrystals of semiconductor material),researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay have been able to produce cheap probes for bioimaging and for intracellular temperature sensing.

  • Unlike the currently used dyes, quantum dots synthesised from mango leaves are biocompatible, have excellent photostability and show no cellular toxicity.

🌐 Large asteroid to buzz past Earth on April 19: NASA

  • A relatively large near-Earth asteroid, 2014 JO25, will fly safely past our planet on April 19 at a distance of about 1.8 million kilometres — over four times the distance from Earth to the Moon, NASA said.

At 3:40 a.m. Central Time on April 19, asteroid 2014 JO25 will be located in front of the constellation Draco the Dragon, as seen here. Illustration by Eddie Irizarry using Stellarium.

  • Although there is no possibility for the asteroid to collide with Earth, this will be a very close approach for an asteroid of this size.
  • The asteroid is roughly 650 meters in size, and that its surface is about twice as reflective as that of the Moon.
  • Also on April 19, the comet PanSTARRS (C/2015 ER61) will make its closest approach to Earth, at a very safe distance of 175 million kilometres, NASA said.

🌐 What is subduction?

  • Subduction is a geological process that takes place at convergent boundaries of tectonic plates where one plate moves under another and is forced or sinks due to gravity into the mantle. Regions where this process occurs are known as subduction zones.
  • Subduction zones occur all around the edge of the Pacific Ocean, offshore of the United States, Canada, Alaska, Russia, Japan and Indonesia.

  • These zones are responsible for the world’s biggest earthquakes, the most powerful tsunamis and some of the most explosive volcanic eruptions.
  • Looking at the ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’ reveals the link between subduction zones and volcanoes.
  • Subduction is responsible for forming the volcanic arcs that are home to some of earth’s most dramatic geological events.

🌐 Sri Lanka, India to develop Trincomalee oil tank farm

  • India and Sri Lanka have, in principle, agreed to jointly operate the World War-era oil storage facility in Trincomalee, the strategically advantaged port town located on the island’s east coast.

  • Both the nations are hoping to firm up the deal before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s scheduled second official visit to the island in early May.
  • Indian Oil Corporation subsidiary Lanka IOC, engaged in bunkering operations, runs 15 out of the 99 storage tanks in the lower oil tank farm in Trincomalee.
  • The proposed joint venture pertains to the remaining 84 tanks in the upper farm, but Sri Lanka would retain 10 of those for use by the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation and most of the tanks – built by the British during the World War years – are in good condition.

🌐 Protein that boosts vaccine efficacy found

  • Researchers have discovered a protein that could help make vaccinations more effective and also provide protection from other diseases such as cancer.
  • The researchers purified a protein found on the exterior of bacteria (neisseria meningidis) and used it as an accessory to provide a better vaccination response.
  • Typically, vaccines can either increase the amount of antibody production or they can stimulate cells (called cytotoxic T cells) to directly kill the offending agent.
  • The protein, called PorB, is unique as it can do both, the researchers said.
  •  “This study has wide implications as it could not only be used to help the body identify and fight off bacterial infections, but it could also potentially help the body use its own machinery to fight off other diseases like cancer, HIV, and influenza before they have a chance to establish within the body,” said a corresponding author.
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