[Newsbits] 2-9.07.2024: Zorawar Tank, GOLD Satellite, Great Nicobar Project & More

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Maharashtra has won the Best Agriculture State Award for 2024, announced by the 15th Agriculture Leadership Awards Committee chaired by Justice P. Sathasivam. The award ceremony will be held on July 10, 2024, in New Delhi, where Chief Minister Eknath Shinde will receive the award. Maharashtra was recognized for its innovative agricultural initiatives, including the largest bamboo mission covering 21 lakh hectares, a green belt project in Nandurbar district spanning 1.20 lakh acres, and irrigation projects covering 17 lakh hectares. The state’s sustainable development policies focusing on environmental protection and food security were also acknowledged.

The Zorawar tank, developed by DRDO and L&T, is a 25-ton light battle tank designed for high-altitude warfare, particularly in the Ladakh region. Named after General Zorawar Singh, it features amphibious capabilities, a 105mm rifled gun, and modular armor. The tank integrates UAVs and loitering munitions, enhancing its strategic utility. Initial trials began in Hazira, Gujarat, with induction expected by 2027. The Indian Army has placed an initial order for 59 tanks, with plans to acquire a total of 354. The Zorawar tank aims to counter Chinese deployments in Ladakh, offering enhanced mobility and air transportability.

/ Road

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India created 46.7 million jobs in the fiscal year 2023-24, resulting in a 6% employment growth rate and bringing the total number of jobs to 643.3 million. This job growth is set against a backdrop of 8.2% GDP growth in FY24, with a projected 7.2% growth in FY25. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Ministry of Labour provided the employment data, which was extrapolated from 27 industries, covering agriculture, manufacturing, and services. Despite the significant job creation, the Center for Monitoring the Indian Economy (CMIE) reported a 9.2% jobless rate in June 2024, highlighting discrepancies with job creation data. Future employment prospects remain uncertain, with Citibank estimating that 7% GDP growth would yield only 8-9 million jobs, while the federal labour department reported an average of 20 million jobs created annually between 2017-22.

/ Space

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/ Iran

Masoud Pezeshkian, born in Mahabad, is a prominent Iranian cardiac surgeon and reformist politician. He has a mixed Azeri-Kurdish background and pursued medical education in his home province. During the Iran-Iraq War, he served as a doctor on the front lines. Pezeshkian specialized in cardiac surgery and became president of Tabriz University of Medical Sciences. His political career includes roles as governor, Minister of Health, and parliament member. Elected president in 2024, he advocates for ethnic group rights, economic reforms, and reviving the 2015 nuclear deal. Despite personal tragedies and challenges from hardliners, he remains a significant reformist figure in Iran.

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Xenophrys apatani is a newly discovered species of horned frog found in the Talle Wildlife Sanctuary, Arunachal Pradesh, India. Named after the Apatani tribe for their conservation efforts, this frog inhabits subtropical forests and is characterized by small horns and dark brown coloration. The discovery underscores the rich biodiversity of the Eastern Himalayan and Indo-Burma hotspots and emphasizes the importance of rigorous taxonomic studies. The Apatani tribe, residing in the Ziro Valley, are known for their integrated rice-fish farming and cultural festivals like Dree and Myoko.

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/ Infrastructure

The Great Nicobar Project is a ₹75,000 crore mega-infrastructure initiative aimed at developing the southern tip of Great Nicobar Island. Key components include an international container transshipment terminal, a greenfield airport, a gas and solar power plant, and two new coastal cities. Strategically important for defense, logistics, and tourism, the project faces significant criticism due to its potential impact on indigenous communities and the environment. Legal and ethical concerns have been raised, particularly regarding the Shompen and Nicobarese tribes, biodiversity loss, and forest cover reduction. Despite environmental clearances, the project remains contentious, with ongoing legal challenges and calls for suspension.

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/ Europe (UK

Keir Starmer, born in 1962 in London, is a British politician and barrister who has become the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom after leading the Labour Party to a significant victory in the 2024 general election. He grew up in Surrey, attended Reigate Grammar School, and studied law at the University of Leeds and Oxford. Before entering politics, Starmer had a distinguished legal career, focusing on human rights and serving as the Director of Public Prosecutions. As Prime Minister, he faces challenges such as fostering economic growth, strengthening international relations, and addressing domestic issues like healthcare strikes and environmental concerns.

/ Russia

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The Telecom Act 2023 introduces significant changes to optimize and regulate the telecommunications sector in the UK. Effective sections include 6-8, 48, and 59(b), which came into force on June 26. The Act replaces the Indian Telegraph Act 1885 and the Indian Wireless Telegraph Act 1933, aiming to manage and allocate the telecom spectrum efficiently. It allows spectrum surrender, sharing, selling, leasing, and assignment, promoting optimal use and adaptability to new technologies. Section 59(b) amends the TRAI Act 1997, setting new standards for TRAI appointments. The Act empowers the Central Government to enforce rules and monitor compliance, ensuring a comprehensive, efficient, and adaptable telecom system.

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/ Awards & Honors

The Dr. C. Narayana Reddy National Literary Award has been awarded to the renowned Tamil author Sivashankari for her significant contributions to Tamil literature. The award, presented by the Sushila Narayana Reddy Trust, includes a cash prize of ₹5 lakh, a memento, and a shawl. The ceremony will take place on July 29 at Ravindra Bharati in Hyderabad, with Chief Minister A. Revanth Reddy as the chief guest. Sivashankari, known for her extensive literary work addressing social issues, has previously received the prestigious Saraswati Samman. The award honors distinguished contributions to Indian literature and was first given in 2017.

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The Lokpath Mobile App, launched by Madhya Pradesh CM Mohan Yadav, aims to address road issues reported by the public within seven days. Developed by the MP State Electronic Development Corporation Limited, the app allows users to upload photos of road problems, which are then assigned to officers for resolution. The app enhances accountability and transparency, providing updates to complainants. Implementation occurs in two phases: the first covers national and state highways and main district roads, while the second includes other district and rural roads. The initiative is expected to significantly improve the state’s Road Information and Management System, impacting 40,000 kilometers of roads.

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The Global Conclave on Plastics Recycling and Sustainability (GCPRS) will take place at Bharat Mandapam, Pragati Maidan, from July 4–7, 2024. Organized by AIPMA and CPMA, the event aims to address plastic use issues and promote recycling and sustainability. Key themes include sustainable plastic use, waste management, and the use of recycled products. The conclave will foster collaboration between industry leaders and government bodies, including the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. The Indian plastic recycling market, valued at $6.9 billion by 2033, is driven by innovations and business opportunities in recycling technologies and eco-friendly alternatives.

/ Space

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Mercer’s 2024 Cost of Living City rankings reveal that Hong Kong, Singapore, and Zurich are the most expensive cities for expatriates, while Islamabad, Lagos, and Abuja are the least expensive. The analysis evaluated 226 cities globally, using New York City as the baseline. Factors such as exchange rate changes, inflation, and housing costs significantly impact living expenses. Regionally, London, Dubai, and New York City are among the most expensive cities in their respective areas. The rankings highlight the diverse cost-of-living dynamics across different regions and cities worldwide.

/ Bangladesh

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/ Biology

New research from the Garvan Institute has revealed that non-coding regions of DNA, previously considered “junk,” may contain cancer-causing genes. This discovery, published in Nucleic Acids Research, highlights the significance of non-coding DNA, which constitutes 98% of our genome. The study focused on CTCF binding sites, crucial for DNA folding and gene regulation, and found consistent alterations in these sites across various cancers. This suggests potential universal targets for cancer treatment, moving away from mutation-specific approaches. Future research aims to use CRISPR to understand these changes better, potentially leading to early detection markers and new therapies, showcasing AI’s role in medical advancements.

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/ Diseases

CAR-T therapy, or Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell therapy, is a groundbreaking cancer treatment that genetically modifies a patient’s T-cells to target and destroy cancer cells. Approved by the FDA in 2017, it is particularly effective against acute lymphoblastic leukemia and certain non-Hodgkin lymphomas. Despite its success, the FDA has identified 33 cases of secondary cancers among 30,000 patients, leading to a boxed warning. The potential cause is linked to genetic changes and retroviruses used in the therapy. While the risk of secondary cancers is low, the benefits for advanced cancer patients are significant. Ongoing research aims to enhance the safety and broaden the application of CAR-T therapy.

/ World History

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/ Diseases

Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis (PAM) is a rare and deadly brain infection caused by the amoeba Naegleria fowleri, which thrives in warm freshwater. Recently, three people, including a 12-year-old boy, died from PAM in Kerala, India. The amoeba enters the body through the nose and travels to the brain, causing severe damage. Early symptoms include headache, fever, nausea, and vomiting, which quickly progress to more severe symptoms like stiff neck, dizziness, and hallucinations. Diagnosis is challenging due to its rarity and similarity to other illnesses, requiring specific lab tests. Treatment follows CDC guidelines, emphasizing the need for awareness and immediate medical intervention.

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Exercise Maitree 2024, the 13th edition, will be held from July 1 to 15 in Tak Province, Thailand, resuming after a COVID-19 hiatus. This exercise, which began in 2006 as TICAFE and renamed Maitree in 2013, alternates annually between India and Thailand. It aims to enhance military cooperation, focusing on joint skills in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations in jungle and urban environments. Both nations will send 76 personnel each, from India’s Ladakh Scouts and Thailand’s 1st Battalion, 14 Infantry Regiment. Key drills include joint operation centers, intelligence and surveillance centers, and special operations. The exercise also fosters cultural exchange and broader cooperation in disaster relief and peacekeeping.

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The discovery of a Neanderthal child with Down syndrome at the Cova Negra site in Valencia, Spain, highlights the compassionate and complex social structure of Neanderthal societies. Named Tina, the child exhibited symptoms such as hearing loss and dizziness and lived to at least six years old, indicating extensive community care. This finding challenges previous notions that Neanderthal care was only for reciprocating adults, suggesting genuine altruism. The study also underscores the importance of interdisciplinary research methods in paleoanthropology, providing deeper insights into the health and social dynamics of ancient populations.

/ Afghanistan

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China has emerged as the global leader in generative AI patents, filing over 38,000 patents between 2014 and 2023, significantly outpacing the US, which filed 6,276 patents in the same period. Generative AI, which includes advanced algorithms capable of creating new text, images, music, and code, has seen more than 50,000 patent applications in the last decade. This technology is rapidly growing and is expected to transform various industries, including customer service, science, writing, and transportation. Key contributors to this field include Chinese companies like ByteDance and Alibaba, as well as Microsoft through its partnership with OpenAI.

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In July 2024, New Delhi will host the 46th UNESCO World Heritage Committee session at Bharat Mandapam, with PM Narendra Modi inaugurating the event. Over 2,500 delegates from 195 countries will attend. The World Heritage Committee, part of the 1972 UNESCO Convention, ensures compliance, manages the World Heritage Fund, and decides on new site inscriptions. It comprises 21 elected States Parties, including Argentina, Japan, and Kenya. The committee’s roles include heritage site inscriptions, conservation status reviews, and providing financial and knowledge support. India’s hosting underscores its cultural leadership and commitment to heritage protection, with 42 UNESCO sites, including Santiniketan.

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/ Banking

The Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS), managed by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), aims to streamline and secure the payment process for both companies and customers. From July 1, all credit card payments through third-party apps must be routed via BBPS, impacting users of platforms like CRED, PhonePe, Amazon Pay, and Paytm. This move by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) seeks to make credit card payments more regulated and transparent, reducing risks and simplifying monitoring. While twelve major Indian banks are already integrated with BBPS, others like HDFC and Axis Bank are still in the process. Integration challenges include significant investments and changes to existing systems, which may not be immediately profitable.

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/ Korea

North Korea announced the successful test of the Hwasongpho-11 Da-4.5 tactical ballistic missile, capable of carrying a 4.5-ton warhead with a range of 90-500 km. The test aimed to verify flight stability and hit accuracy, but details about the launch and landing sites were not disclosed, and no photos were released. South Korea observed two missile launches, with the second missile failing midair. This led to skepticism about the test’s success, suggesting possible deception by North Korea. Tactical ballistic missiles are short-range weapons used on the battlefield, with historical origins in WWII and modern examples like the MGM-140 ATACMS and Russian Iskander.

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/ Space

The Aditya-L1 mission, India’s first solar study, reached its target halo orbit around the Sun-Earth Lagrangian point L1 on January 6, 2024, after launching on September 2, 2023. The halo orbit, with a 178-day revolution time, crosses the Sun-Earth line and requires balanced orbital motion. The mission faces challenges from solar radiation and gravitational pulls, necessitating station-keeping maneuvers on February 22, June 7, and July 2 to correct deviations. ISRO’s advanced in-house flight dynamics software ensured accurate maneuvers. A visual representation in ISRO’s press release shows the planned and possible deviated orbits, simplifying the mission’s complex 3D dynamics.

/ Public Finance

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/ Diseases

Oran Knowlson, a UK teenager, became the first person to receive a brain implant for epilepsy control, reducing his seizures by 80%. Epilepsy, often causing jerking movements, confusion, and loss of consciousness, can be triggered by head injuries, tumors, or genetic conditions. Standard treatments include anti-seizure drugs, but 30% of patients are resistant. Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), traditionally used for movement disorders, involves an electrical stimulator implanted in the brain. Oran’s innovative treatment involved direct brain implantation, improving seizure control. However, DBS is costly, with the device and surgery totaling around 17 lakh rupees, compared to traditional surgery costing 20,000 to 30,000 rupees.

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/ Polity

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SEBEX 2 is a highly advanced explosive developed by the Indian Navy in collaboration with Solar Industries and Economic Explosives Limited (EEL). It is 2.01 times more powerful than TNT, utilizing High-Melting Explosives (HMX) to significantly enhance the destructive power of various munitions without adding extra weight. This makes SEBEX 2 one of the most powerful non-nuclear explosives globally. The Indian Navy has also certified other innovative explosives like SITBEX 1, a thermobaric explosive, and SIMEX 4, which is safer for handling and storage. These developments mark significant advancements in India’s defense capabilities.

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/ Bangladesh

The India-Bangladesh Defence Industrial Partnership has significantly advanced since Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India in June. A notable outcome is the Bangladesh Navy’s purchase of an 800-ton oceangoing tug made by India’s GRSE, funded by a line of credit. This vessel, capable of towing, rescue, and pollution control, underscores the growing defense collaboration. The partnership extends to broader defense cooperation, including joint military exercises, coordinated maritime patrols, and economic support, such as a $500 million Line of Credit from India. These efforts aim to enhance regional stability and strengthen bilateral ties in South Asia.

/ Diaspora

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/ Species

India has launched the “Fauna of India Checklist Portal,” listing 1,04,561 species, making it the first country to document all its wildlife. The portal, launched in Kolkata on the 109th Foundation Day of the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) by Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav, includes 121 checklists for 36 phyla and details on endemic, endangered, and scheduled species. This initiative aids conservation, scientific research, and policy-making. It positions India as a global leader in biodiversity documentation, with significant programs like “Ek Ped Maa Ke Naam” and the International Big Cat Alliance showcasing its commitment to conservation.

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