1) Transit block imposed by China on Mongolia:

  • Why?
    • which is an overreaction to the religious visit by His Holiness Dalai Lama
  • Mongolia has asked for “clear support” from India against a transport-obstruction imposed by China. It has hiked tariffs on Mongolian trucks passing through Chinese territory.
  • Impact:
    • With winter temperature already around minus-20 degrees, transport obstruction by China is likely to create a humanitarian crisis in Mongolia as these measures will hurt the flow of essential commodities
  • Chinese claim:
    • The erroneous action taken by the Mongolian side on Dalai’s visit hurt the political foundation of China-Mongolia relations and exerted negative impact on the development of bilateral relations. The Chinese side requires the Mongolian side to genuinely respect China’s core interests and major concerns, take effective means to remove the negative impact caused by its erroneous action and bring China-Mongolia relations back to the track of sound and steady growth

2) An Inter-Agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators (IAEG-SDGs), consisting of representatives from 28 countries including India, recently met in Geneva to finalise the categorisation of indicators across the 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

  • The UN Statistical Commission’s 48th session in March 2017 will take it forward.
  • In India, the NITI Aayog and other government agencies are involved in a consultative process to prepare a 15-year vision, a seven-year strategy, and a three-year action plan defining the country’s development trajectory ahead. India has already accepted the SDGs as the guiding framework for this exercise, and how it fares in achieving the targets will determine its global success.
  • Dissatisfied areas in MDGs:
    • Health and nutrition are two areas where India’s achievements have not been quite up to the mark during the previous era of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
  • Indicators:
    • A health SDG index released in September by The Lancet ranked India at 143 among 188 countries.
    • In the Global Hunger Index published by the International Food Policy Research Institute in October, India is ranked 97th among a total of 118 countries, signifying a high level of hunger and undernutrition.
  • Proper indicators are required to identify properly the mode of transitions taking place in India:
    • Epidemiological transition
      • From single burden of communicable diseases to a double burden of both communicable and non-communicable diseases.
    • Nutritional transition
      • Earlier, India was characterised by a high prevalence of undernutrition, but this era has also brought a double burden of undernutrition as well as overnutrition like Overweight and obesity, which contribute to the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases (remember the link)

So, more reliable and frequent data need to be collected and analysed to inform initiatives by the government.The SDG era offers an opportunity to improve India’s data systems.

  • A recent report of the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) identifies gaps and makes four recommendations to improve tracking of health and nutrition targets
    • 1.Need to transform civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) systems in India which are not with comprehensive coverage.
      • Ensuring universal registration of births and deaths by the year 2020, as promised in the “Vision 2020” plan announced in 2014, is a policy imperative
    • 2.Pooling of Central and State samples will enhance the policy relevance of NSS data
      • It should be a high policy priority to conduct a comprehensive assessment of existing surveys with the aim of streamlining a set of health and nutrition indicators to continuously track the national targets.
    • 3.The national Health Management Information System (HMIS), which serves as the backbone for monitoring results of the National Health Mission, needs reform
      • the District Information System for Education (DISE), which seamlessly integrates public and private sectors into a comprehensive management information system, the HMIS needs to be expanded to integrate the vast private healthcare delivery system in order to enhance policy relevance. the HMIS currently captures only 12.7 per cent of the annual estimated infant deaths and 24.8 per cent of the annual estimated maternal deaths in the country
    • 4.setting up of a national forum on health and nutrition statistics in line with the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics of the U.S.
      • This mechanism will comprise of Central government agencies and ministries which currently collect, store, analyse and distribute different sets of health and nutrition data. Its mission should be to foster coordination and collaboration and to enhance consistency in the collection and reporting of health and nutrition data.

3) The idea of a large Asian LNG buyers’ forum

  • It is to negotiate more equitable trade deals and balance the influence of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
    • The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is a permanent, intergovernmental Organization, created at the Baghdad Conference on September 10–14, 1960, by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Right now there are 13 nations nations in it. They are: Five in Africa (Algeria, Angola, Gabon, Libya, Nigeria), Six in middle east (Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE) and two in South America (Ecuador, Venezuela)
  • It is significance in light of the ongoing increase in oil prices resulting in an adverse impact on the Indian exchequer and the government’s commitment to move towards a gas-based economy
  • Today a large number of LNG deals are linked to oil prices. Only geographies with LNG hubs have prices lower than the oil-linked prices. The view is that Asian LNG buyers pay higher rates since there is no LNG hub in Asia and there is no unity among consumers. That is what India is trying to capitalise upon
  • The world needs even greater co-operation among countries on gas technologies such as shale and gas hydrates
  • Critic:
    • cooperation between LNG buyers will not yield any significant results since the market for the gas is already dominated by the buyers.
    • We have seen good days for buyers in the international gas market already and they were able to get good terms

4) Bismuth:

  • New Discover:
    • It is a semi-metal in bulk form becoming a superconductor when the temperature is lowered to 530 microKelvin (about -273 degree C)
    • Unlike other elements in the periodic table, bismuth has unusual phenomenon — while metallic superconductors have one mobile electron per atom, bismuth has only one mobile electron per 100,000 atoms. Since carrier density is so small, people did not believe that bismuth will superconduct
    • The Bardeen-Cooper-Schrieffer (BCS) theory [which explains superconductivity in most low Temperature superconductors] cannot explain the superconductivity seen in bismuth
    • The discovery demands a new theory and a new mechanism to understand superconductivity in bismuth. This discovery provides an alternative path for discovering new superconducting materials which are very different from the conventional superconductors.
  • What are Superconductors?
    • Superconductors are materials that conduct electricity with no resistance

To become superconductors, the element should have mobile electrons, and these electrons should come together to form pairs, known as Cooper pairs


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