Sarat Chandra IAS Academy

Current Affairs of 18th October -2020


1)Grand Challenges Annual Meeting 2020:

Context: Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi will deliver the keynote address at the inaugural function of Grand Challenges Annual Meeting 2020

  • The Grand Challenges Annual Meeting, for the last 15 years, has fostered international innovation collaborations to address the biggest challenges in health and development.
  • The Grand Challenges Annual Meeting 2020 will convene virtually from 19th-21st October, bringing together policymakers and scientific leaders, calling for deepened scientific collaborations in solving global health problems, with great emphasis on COVID-19 with an “India for the World” framing.
  • World leaders, eminent scientists and researchers from across the globe will join this annual meeting to discuss key priorities for accelerating progress across the Sustainable Development Goals in the post-pandemic world and elaborate on addressing the challenges to manage COVID-19.
  • Approximately 1600 people from 40 countries will participate in this Annual meeting.
  • The Grand Challenges Annual Meeting 2020 will be co-hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Department of Biotechnology,

Ministry of Science & Technology, Government of India, the Indian Council of Medical Research and NITI Aayog, along with the Grand Challenges Canada, the United States Agency for International Development and Wellcome.

  • Grand Challenges India was set up as a partnership of the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2012 Grand Challenges India works across a range of health and developmental priorities ranging from agriculture, nutrition, sanitation, maternal and child health to infectious diseases.


2) Buldhana Pattern of water conservation gets national recognition:

Context: NITI Aayog formulating National Policy on water conversation under ‘Buldhana Pattern’

  • Union Minister Shri Nitin Gadkari has said that Maharashtra’s ‘Buldhana Pattern’ of water conservation’ has won national recognition and the NITI Aayog is in the process of formulating National Policy on water conversation based on it.
  • Synchronisation of national highway construction and water conservation was achieved for the first time in Buldhana district, by using soil from the water bodies, nallas and rivers.
  • This consequently led to the increase in capacity of water storage across the water-bodies in Buldana district and it came to be known as ‘Buldhana Pattern’.
  • With this activity in Maharashtra, 225 lakh cubic metre of soil was used in National Highway construction and the resultant widening / deepening resulted in increase of water storage capacity with no cost to state government\
  • Through Agro-Vision – an agriculture convention held in Nagpur every year, Gadkari has appealed to adopt the cost efficient ‘Buldhana pattern’ of road-construction nation-wide, especially in the regions which are facing problem of water scarcity.
  • The Minister, in his letter, also informed about ‘Tamswada Pattern’ of water conservation project taken up in Nagpur and Wardha district in which rain water harvesting, conservation and groundwater recharge works were done in order to increase the water storage capacity of natural water bodies situated in these two districts of Eastern Vidarbha.
  • ‘Tamswada pattern’ was being implemented in 60 villages Nagpur and Wardha district while the work already completed in 40 villages.
  • Taking a note of recurring crisis of floods being faced by Mumbai, which results into heavy loss of property and life, requested Maharashtra government to take initiative for preparations of the Detailed Project Report (DPR) for formation of the State Water Grid, on the lines of National Power Grid or the Highway Grid, to address the issue of excess water diversion into water deficient regions.
  • Creation of State Water Grid and adopting water Conservations works under ‘Buldana Pattern’ will increase the agriculture production and bring prosperity in farmer’s economic life in Vidarbha.


3) India’s population worry:

Context: Recently, there has been discussion in the media on India’s population future prompted by release of the Sample Registration System (SRS) Statistical Report (2018) and global population projections made by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), US.

  • Fertility has been declining in India for some time now. SRS report estimated the Total Fertility Rate (TFR), the number of children a mother would have at the current pattern of fertility during her lifetime, as 2.2 in the year 2018.
  • Fertility is likely to continue to decline and it is estimated that replacement TFR of 2.1 would soon be, if not already, reached for India as a whole.
  • As fertility declines, so does the population growth rate. This report estimated the natural annual population growth rate to be 1.38 per cent in 2018.
  • With India’s estimated population of 137 crore, this means that net 1.9 crore persons would have been added that year.
  • A comparison of 2011 and 2018 SRS statistical reports shows that TFR declined from 2.4 to 2.2 during this period.


  • Fertility declined in all major states.
  • In 2011, 10 states had a fertility rate below the replacement rate.
  • This increased to 14 states (including two new newly carved states — Telangana and Uttarakhand). The annual natural population growth rate also declined from 1.47 to 1.38 per cent during this period.
  • Many people believe that the population would stabilize or begin to reduce in a few years once replacement fertility is reached.
  • This is not so because of the population momentum effect, a result of more people entering the reproductive age group of 15-49 years due to the past high-level of fertility.
  • For instance, the replacement fertility level was reached in Kerala around 1990, but its annual population growth rate was 0.7 per cent in 2018, nearly 30 years later.
  • The UN Population Division has estimated that India’s population would possibly peak at 161 crore around 2061 at the medium-fertility variant, and will be lower by about 10 per cent at the low fertility variant.
  • The six states with higher than national fertility rate (and their TFR) in 2018 are Bihar (3.2), Uttar Pradesh (2.9) Madhya Pradesh (2.7), Rajasthan (2.5), Jharkhand (2.5) and Chhattisgarh (2.4)
  • Fertility largely depends upon social setting and programme strength.

Female Education

  • Female education is a key indicator for social setting.
  • Broadly, higher the female education level, lower the fertility.
  • For instance, illiterate women in the reproductive age group of 15-49 years have higher fertility than literate women in almost all states.
  • The percentage of illiterate women in the reproductive age group declined from 31.5 in 2011 to 13.0 per cent in 2018 as the cohort of older women with high illiteracy exited and younger women with a high proportion of them literate entered this age group.
  • The percentage of illiterate women in this age group was higher than 15 per cent in all the high-fertility states, which comprise nearly 40 per cent of India’s population.
  • As the literacy of women in the reproductive age group is improving rapidly, we can be sanguine about continued fertility reduction.
  • Programme strength is indicated by the unmet need for contraception, which has several components.
  • The most important of them is the proportion of married women who are neither pregnant nor amenorrhoeic and do not desire a child in the next two years or ever but are not practising contraception.
  • The National Family Health Survey (2015-16) provides us estimates for the unmet need at 12.9 per cent and contraceptive prevalence of 53.5 per cent for India.
  • Together, this puts the total demand for contraception at 66.4 per cent.
  • Bihar, with the highest fertility rate, also has the highest unmet need at 21.1 per cent and the lowest contraceptive prevalence rate of 24.1 per cent among all the major states.
  • Although female education levels are improving in Bihar, fertility for women with any education level is higher in 2018 compared to 2011.
  • The programme is somewhat stronger in UP as unmet need is 18 per cent and contraceptive prevalence is 45.5 per cent.
  • Strangely, fertility among women with Class 10 or higher education in UP is greater in 2018 compared to 2011.
  • Programmes in these two states need to respond to this. Programme’s ability to reach younger people and provide them with good quality reproductive health education and services needs to be urgently strengthened in these states.

Sex Ratio:

  • The most troubling statistics in the report are for sex ratio at birth.
  • Biologically normal sex ratio at birth is 1,050 males to 1,000 females or 950 females to 1,000 males.
  • The SRS reports show that sex ratio at birth in India, measured as the number of females per 1,000 males, declined marginally from 906 in 2011 to 899 in 2018.
  • There is considerable son preference in all states, except possibly in Kerala and Chhattisgarh.
  • The UNFPA State of World Population 2020 estimated the sex ratio at birth in India as 910, lower than all the countries in the world except China.
  • This is a cause for concern because this adverse ratio results in a gross imbalance in the number of men and women and its inevitable impact on marriage systems as well as other harms to women.
  • Thus, much more attention is needed on this issue.
  • Increasing female education and economic prosperity help to improve the ratio.
  • It is hoped that a balanced sex ratio at birth could be realised over time, although this does not seem to be happening during the period 2011-18.
  • In view of the complexity of son preference resulting in gender-biased sex selection, government actions need to be supplemented by improving women’s status in the society.
  • In conclusion, there is an urgent need to reach young people both for reproductive health education and services as well as to cultivate gender equity norms.
  • This could reduce the effect of population momentum and accelerate progress towards reaching a more normal sex-ratio at birth. India’s population future depends on it.


4) Milky Way:

Context: In a vital discovery which may help understand the mystery behind declining star formation activity in the Milky Way, a team of astronomers from the Pune-based National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA-TIFR) and Raman Research Institute (RRI) in Bengaluru have used the upgraded Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) to measure the atomic hydrogen content of galaxies seen as they were eight billion years ago when the universe was young.

  • Galaxies in the universe are made up mostly of gas and stars, with gas being converted into stars during the life of a galaxy.
  • Understanding galaxies requires us to determine how the amounts of both gas and stars change with time.
  • Astronomers have long known that galaxies formed stars at a higher rate when the universe was young than they do today.
  • The star formation activity in galaxies peaked about 8-10 billion years ago and has been declining steadily till today

Cause of the decline:

  • Cause of this decline was unknown as there had been no information regarding the amount of atomic hydrogen gas — the primary fuel for star formation — in galaxies in these early times.
  • We have, for the first time, measured the atomic hydrogen gas content of star forming galaxies about 8 billion years ago, using the upgraded GMRT.
  • Given the intense star formation in these early galaxies, their atomic gas would be consumed by star formation in just one or two billion years.
  • And, if the galaxies could not acquire more gas, their star formation activity would decline, and finally cease adding that the observed decline in star formation activity could thus be explained by the exhaustion of the atomic hydrogen.
  • Unlike stars which emit light strongly at optical wavelengths, the atomic hydrogen signal lies in the radio wavelengths, at a wavelength of 21 cm, and can only be detected with radio telescopes.
  • Unfortunately, this 21 cm signal is intrinsically very weak, and difficult to detect from distant individual galaxies even with powerful telescopes like the upgraded GMRT.
  • To overcome this limitation, the team used a technique called “stacking” to combine the 21 cm signals of nearly 8,000 galaxies that had earlier been identified with the help of optical telescopes.
  • This method measures the average gas content of these galaxies.”
  • Studying the distant universe through the 21 cm signal has remained an important research area in astronomy, and one of the key science goals of the GMRT.
  •  The big jump in sensitivity was due to the upgrade of the GMRT in 2017. “
  • The new wide band receivers and electronics allowed us to use 10 times more galaxies [8,000 galaxies were observed in the study] in the stacking analysis, giving sufficient sensitivity to detect the weak average 21 cm signal.


5) Ministers of Justice Summit of SCO:

Context: The Seventh Meeting of Ministers of Justice of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Member States was hosted by Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister of Law & Justice, Communication and Electronics & Information Technology.

  • The minister highlighted the initiatives taken by the Indian Government for providing affordable and easy access to justice for all.
  • As part of activities of Justice Ministers’ Forum, the Minister urged SCO Member States to promote exchange of ideas, best practices and experiences in identified areas.
  • SCO Member States also discussed the importance of promoting alternative dispute resolution mechanism.

Initiatives that India took

Pro Bono Legal Services

  • This was launched in order to provide free legal aid to marginalized sections of the society.

Tele-Law services initiated

  • This initiative was launched in 2017. Under this initiative legal aid is provided to the poor people through video conferences.

E-Courts project and Virtual Courts

  • Under this, During COVID19 pandemic, over 25 Lakh hearings took place through video conference at various courts of India.
  • The Supreme Court alone disposed of nine thousand virtual hearings.

Features of Joint Statement

  • To strengthen the implementation of the Agreement on Cooperation between the Ministries of Justice.
  • To work for the implementation of the Action Plans of the working groups of experts on forensic activities and legal services.
  • To organise exchange programs for representatives of the ministries in order to study the best practices of dispute resolution.
  • To discuss the parties’ positions on the issues of mutual legal assistance and development of legal services.
  •  To develop cooperation with the ministries of justice of the SCO observer and partner states.
  • To develop an online platform for the exchange of legal information.

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