Why in News?
  • German pharma company Bayer is facing thousands of lawsuits over one of its products. A Reuters report said 42,700 plaintiffs in the US are blaming Bayer’s herbicides for their cancer, up from 18,400 plaintiffs in July this year.
  • The herbicides are based on a compound called glyphosate.
  • First developed in 1970, glyphosate is scientifically N-(phosphonomethyl) glycine under the IUPAC system of nomenclature.
  • It is applied to the leaves of plants to kill weeds. It is widely used in India, too.
  • According to a 2016 bulletin published by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the weedkiller in India goes by various brand names, including Roundup, Glycel, and Brake.
  • Describing the herbicide’s reach in the country, it says, “Glyphosate was highly accepted by the tea planters in the past two decades. It has a very good market size in the tea sector of West Bengal and Assam.
  • Presently, the consumption of glyphosate is highest in Maharashtra as it is becoming a key herbicide in sugarcane, maize and many fruit crops including mango, banana, grapes, pomegranate and citrus.”
  • In 2015, the Word Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer published a study that found glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans”.

2.Olive Ridley Turtles

Why in News?
  • The Odisha forest department has banned fishing between November 1, 2019-May 31, 2020, in the state’s Gahiramatha marine sanctuary to protect Olive Ridley turtles.
About Olive Ridley:
  • It is best known for their unique mass nesting called Arribada, where thousands of females come together on the same beach each year to lay eggs.
  • It is included in Vulnerable category by the IUCN Red list because they nest in a very small number of places, and thus, any disturbance to even one nest beach could have huge repercussions on the entire population.
  • They are found along both- eastern and western coasts of India.
  • Two other major nesting sites in Odisha are – coast along Gahirmatha beach (the largest mass nesting site) and the mouth of the Debi river.
  • Trading in products of Olive Ridley is banned under CITES.
  • The species is also a protected animal under Schedule 1 of India’s Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

3.India International Science Festival (IISF) 2019

Why in News?
  • The four-day science festival is being organized in Kolkata from November 5 to November 8, 2019.
About IISF 2019:
  • India International Science Festival (IISF) 2019, an annual event organised jointly by science and technology related Ministries and Departments of the Government of India and Vijnana Bharati (Vibha), is being held in Kolkata this year.
  • This is the fifth edition since its inception in 2015 and will take place during November 5th – 8th, 2019.
  • IISF-2019 is a festival to celebrate the achievements of India’s scientific and technological advancements with students, innovators, craftsmen, farmers, scientists and technocrats from India and abroad.
  • Thus, the theme for this year’s festival is RISEN India – Research, Innovation, and Science Empowering the Nation.
  • The prime objective of the festival is to instill scientific temper among the masses, showcase India’s contribution in the field of S&T over the years and encourage translation of its benefits to people.
  • It aims to build a strategy for inclusive advancement of Science and Technology.

4.National Research Institute of Unani Medicine for Skin Disorders

  • AYUSH Minister has inaugurated National Research Institute of Unani Medicine for Skin Disorders (NRIUMSD)
  • National Research Institute of Unani Medicine for Skin Disorders (NRIUMSD) has been upgraded from Central Research Institute of Unani Medicine (CRIUM) at AG Colony Road, Erragadda, Hyderabad.

5.Indian Railways expands e-office system

Why in News?
  • The Indian Railways has adopted e-office system to make its work paperless, efficient, transparent and expeditious.
  • It has also created 50000+ users in 58 establishments of Indian Railways which have adopted paperless work culture and also trained all the executives to handle the platform.
  • The phase-I of NIC e-office suite has been completed ahead of time by RailTel under an MoU with Indian Railways in March 2019 with a mandate to complete the work by March 2020.
  • Absolute transparency as anything once written on the file is archived.
  • Monitoring mechanism to check as to where the files are held up, which would enable quick disposal of files and systematic, timely monitoring of pending files.
  • e-Office foster’s paper-less culture which will not only save operational cost but also reduce the carbon footprint.
  • With the above advantages, Indian Railways will be changing the work culture for providing better services to the public.

6.Relaxed Norms may Boost Tea Tourism

Why in News?
  • The West Bengal government has allowed the tea industry to use 15% of land in a tea garden for other economic activities, including Tea Tourism and Horticulture.
  • In 2015, the West Bengal Government had amended relevant schedules of the West Bengal Estates Acquisition Act to allow tea estates to use leasehold land for horticulture, medicinal plant farming, dairy farms and micro hydel project besides tea tourism projects. However, this had capped the relaxation to certain fixed proportions for various uses at 20 acres.
  • The West Bengal government recently allowed the tea industry to use 15% of land in a tea garden for other economic activities, including tea tourism and horticulture. However, it bars housing projects.
  • Under the new rules the cap has been increased to 150 hectares. By not allowing housing activities, the government has communicated its resolve not to disturb the present ecosystem.
  • The tea industry has been plagued by rising costs of production and stagnant prices. In this scenario, many gardens have begun incurring losses. The Indian Tea is facing competition from other major producers like China and Sri Lanka.
  • Productivity and quality too have been an issue, especially in view of the ageing bushes, which many estate owners have failed to rejuvenate, leading to low yields and poor quality.
  • In this backdrop the present rules provide scope for diversification of farmer’s income.
  • The move may induce garden owners to promote tourism, horticulture projects and other allied economic activities. There are other profitable crops cultivable in West Bengal and the government’s initiative would allow it on a commercial scale.
  • The tea industry in West Bengal is witnessing a major boost to employment with the State government’s relaxation of norms for use of leasehold land in a tea garden. This will help avoid rural urban migration issue and allow for balanced development of all the regions.

7.8th Indo German Energy Forum (IGEF) 2019

Why in News?
  • The 8th meeting of the Indo – German Energy Forum concluded in New Delhi.
Indo-German Energy Forum (IGEF):
  • The Indo-German Energy Forum (IGEF) provides a dialogue platform for high-level policy makers, financial institutions, industry and research organizations to deepen and enhance the bilateral cooperation for the energy transition in Germany and India.
  • Since its establishment in 2006, the Indo-German Energy Forum has successfully intensified Indo-German Cooperation in the areas of energy security, energy efficiency and renewable energies, investment in energy projects as well as collaborative research and development.
  • The high-level steering committee, also called “Forum”, provides a platform for high-level policy makers and representatives from industry, associations, financial institutions and research organizations from both countries.
  • The IGEF agenda is essentially defined by four Subgroups which convene on a regular basis and bring together experts from industry, research institutions and state authorities on a working level in India and Germany:
    • Subgroup I on Enhancement of Power Plants
    • Subgroup II on Renewable Energies
    • Subgroup III on Energy Efficiency
    • Subgroup IV on Green Energy Corridors
  • In the 8th Indo German Energy Forum (IGEF) 2019, both the sides finalized the roadmap for future collaboration between the two countries which, inter-alia, includes
    • Flexibilisation of existing coal fired power plants
    • Promoting niche markets for Solar Energy,
    • Promotion of energy efficiency in buildings through ECBC, building materials and credit lines for financing corresponding measures and RE evacuation through state-of-the-art intra-state.
    • Inter-state transmission grid infrastructure.
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