Daily Current Affairs for 26th Sep 2023

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Philippines removes China’s barrier in disputed shoal

Why in news?

  • The Philippine coast guard said it has complied with a presidential order to remove a floating barrier placed by China’s coast guard to prevent Filipino fishing boats from entering a lagoon in a disputed shoal in the South China Sea.

About Philippines’ stance

  •  Philippine officials condemned the installation of the 300-metre-long barrier at the entrance to the lagoon at Scarborough Shoal as a violation of international law and their Southeast Asian nation’s sovereignty.
  • The Philippine coast guard’s report that it has removed the barrier underscores intensifying Philippine efforts to fight China’s increasingly aggressive actions, against many odds, in one of the world’s most hotly contested waters.
  • The Philippine coast guard said that it has successfully removed the floating barrier in a “special operation” in compliance with the order of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. It did not provide other details like if the entire barrier was removed and when, and how Chinese coast guard ships, which have closely guarded the shoal for years, reacted.

Chinese threats

  • Chinese coast guard vessels laid the rope and net barrier, held up by buoys, last week as a Philippine government fisheries vessel approached and more than 50 Philippine fishing boats swarmed outside the shoal.
  • In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the shoal and its adjacent waters are “China’s inherent territory,” where Beijing “has indisputable sovereignty.”

South China Sea conflict

  • It’s the latest flare-up in long-simmering territorial disputes in the busy and resource-rich waterway, most of which is claimed by China.
  • The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan are involved with China in the conflicts, which have long been regarded as a potential Asian flashpoint and a delicate fault line in the U.S.-China rivalry in the region.



Dr Mansukh Mandaviya to launch National Policy on Research and Development and Innovation in Pharma-MedTech Sector

Why in news?

  • Dr. Mansukh Mandaviya, Union Minister of Chemicals and Fertilisers and Minister of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India launched the National Policy on Research and Development and Innovation in Pharma-MedTech Sector in India and Scheme for promotion of Research and Innovation in Pharma MedTech Sector (PRIP).

Significance of the Initiative

  • The National Policy on Research and Development in the Pharma-MedTech Sector in India can potentially help in growing the sector to USD 120-130 Billion over the next decade, increasing its contribution to the GDP by about 100 basis points.
  • The policy aims to encourage R&D in pharmaceuticals, including traditional medicines & phytopharmaceuticals and medical devices.
  • The policy acknowledged the need for greater emphasis on encouraging R&D, through indigenously developed cutting-edge products and technologies upon three focus areas, namely, strengthening the regulatory framework, incentivising investments in innovation and creating a facilitatory ecosystem for Innovation.
  • It aims to highlight the India’s drug and pharmaceutical export trend, India’s category wise export share, the preamble, need for the policy, its objectives, focus areas of the objectives and monitoring and evaluation mechanism.
  • The event saw active participation from other dignitaries, including policymakers, experts from the healthcare sector along with representative from academia, think tanks, industry and media.


Scientists have rediscovered a species of small holly tree in Brazil

Why in news?

  • In a momentous revelation, scientists have encountered a species of diminutive holly tree in Brazil that had remained hidden for almost two centuries.

Details about the species

  • The tree, scientifically referred to as ‘Ilex sapiiformis’ or the Pernambuco holly, was believed to have vanished from sight until a recent expedition in the urban city of Igarassu, Pernambuco state, brought it back to light.
  • The Pernambuco Holly, also known as the Pernambuco holly, was listed among the “top 25 most sought-after lost species” by Re:wild, a conservation organization.
  • This list includes species that have eluded scientific observation for a minimum of a decade, with many presumed extinct for much longer periods.

Rediscovery and Identification

  • This endeavor to rediscover vanished species is part of a global initiative launched by Re:wild and experts from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • An expedition team dedicated six days to exploring the Igarassu region, where the tree was last documented, with the aim of locating this species.
  • The team successfully identified four distinct Pernambuco Holly trees by recognizing their petite white blossoms.
  • Despite the urban development in Igarassu over the years, the area was once cloaked in dense tropical forests.
  • Conservationists and experts consider this rediscovery to be an exceptional and momentous discovery.

Conservation and Breeding Initiative

  • The research team’s next goal is to initiate a breeding program for the Pernambuco Holly.
  • The mission remains ongoing, as the team intends to conduct additional searches in collaboration with local partners to locate more individuals of this species.
  • The ultimate objective is to safeguard the forests where the Pernambuco Holly was uncovered and establish a captive breeding program to ensure the tree’s survival.



OSIRIS-REx Mission: Scooped largest asteroid sample

Why in the news?

Recently, OSIRIS-REx has successfully returned with the largest asteroid sample ever collected to Earth.

  • It was only the third asteroid sample, and by far the biggest, ever returned to Earth for analysis, following two similar missions by Japan’s space agency ending in 2010 and 2020.

About the OSIRIS-REx mission

  • OSIRIS-REx was the NASA’s mission which was launched in September 2016 and reached Bennu, a small carbon-rich asteroid discovered in 1999, in 2018.
  • The spacecraft spent nearly two years orbiting the asteroid before venturing close enough to snatch a sample of the loose surface material with its robotic arm on October 20, 2020.
  • The spacecraft departed Bennu in May 2021 for a 19 billion km cruise back to Earth, including two orbits around the sun.
  • The Bennu sample has been estimated at 250 grams, far surpassing the 5 grams cared back from Ryugu in 2020 or the tiny specimen delivered from asteroid Itokawa in 2010.

Why the Bennu asteroid was chosen?

  • The space rock, Bennu Asteroid is classified as a “near-Earth object” because it passes relatively close to our planet every six years, though the odds of an impact are considered remote.
  • Apparently made up of a loose collection of rocks, like a rubble pile, Bennu measures just 500 meters across, making it tiny compared with the Chicxulub asteroid that struck Earth some 66 million years ago, wiping out the dinosaurs.

Significance of the mission:

  • Scientists estimate the capsule holds at least a cup of rubble from the carbon-rich asteroid known as Bennu, but won’t know for sure until the container is opened.
  • Some spilled and floated away when the spacecraft scooped up too much and rocks jammed the container’s lid during collection three years ago.
  • Japan, the only other country to bring back asteroid samples, gathered about a teaspoon in a pair of asteroid missions.
  • The pebbles and dust delivered represent the biggest haul from beyond the moon.
  • Preserved building blocks from the dawn of our solar system 4.5 billion years ago, the samples will help scientists better understand how Earth and life formed.


  • This is a significant scientific achievement, as it will provide scientists with valuable insights into the origins and evolution of our solar system and may even shed light on the possibility of life beyond Earth.



Kaobal Gali-Mushkoh Valley

Why in news?

Recently, the Kaobal Gali-Mushkoh Valley region has become famous among tourists.

  • It was once a battleground during the Kargil War between India and Pakistan in 1999. However, thanks to the enduring ceasefire between the two countries, the region is now welcoming tourists.
  • Rivers: The main rivers in the Kaobal Gali-Mushkoh Valley region are the Kishanganga River and the Drass River.
  • Flora and Fauna: The region is home to a variety of flora and fauna, including the snow leopard, the brown bear, and the musk deer.
  • Ethinic Groups: The region is inhabited by a number of ethnic groups, including the Gujjars, the Bakarwals, and the Kashmiris.

The government has invested in developing infrastructure, such as roads and tourist facilities, in the region. The local people have also played their role by opening up their homes and businesses to tourists.



Parliament Standing Committee on Education

Why in news?

Recently, the Parliament Standing Committee on Education tabled a report on the implementation of the National Education Policy (NEP), 2020 in Higher Education.

  • The panel headed by MP Vivek Thakur, met representatives of various State governments, Union Ministries, higher education institutions, and other stakeholders to prepare the report.

Key findings of the report:

  • 70% of the 1,043 universities functioning in the country are under the State Act.
  • 94% of students are in State or private institutions with just 6% of students in Central higher educational institutions.

Key issues discussed in the report:

  • Rigid separation of disciplines.
  • Limited access to higher education in socio-economically disadvantaged areas and Lack of higher education institutions (HEIs) that teach in local languages.
  • The limited number of faculty and Lack of institutional autonomy.
  • Lesser emphasis on research and an Ineffective regulatory system.
  • The Committee expressed concerns about the implementation of the multiple entry multiple exit (MEME) system, noting the potential challenges in predicting student enrollment and exit, and maintaining the pupil-teacher ratio.

Recommendations of the Committee:

  • The panel said that by 2030, every district in the country should have at least one multidisciplinary Higher Education Institution (HEI).
  • The Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education, including vocational education, should be increased from 26.3% in 2018 to 50% by 2035.
  • Earmarking suitable funds for the education of Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs)
  • Setting clear targets for higher Gross Enrolment Ratio for SEDGs.
  • Enhancing gender balance in admissions to HEIs.
  • Improving the effectiveness and impact of the Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) in funding HEIs
  • Making admission processes and curriculum more inclusive.
  • Increasing employability potential of higher education programmes.
  • Developing more degree courses taught in regional languages and bilingually.

Overall, the Parliament panel’s report on the implementation of the NEP 2020 in higher education is a comprehensive and insightful document that highlights the key challenges and opportunities in the sector. The report’s recommendations are likely to guide the Government of India and the State Governments in their efforts to implement the NEP effectively and achieve its ambitious goals.



RBI Circular for more transparency under SARFAESI Act

Why in news?

Recently, the RBI has asked banks and NBFCs to display information regarding borrowers whose secured assets have been taken into possession under the SARFAESI Act on their websites.

About the RBI Circular:

  • This is a part of a move towards greater transparency.
  • The information has to be displayed in a prescribed format and the first such list has to be displayed within six months from the date of the circular.
  • The list has to be updated on a monthly basis.

What is the SARFAESI Act?

  • The Securitization and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 (SARFAESI Act) is a legislation that allows banks and other financial institutions to recover bad loans effectively.
  • It is a remedial legislation that was enacted to address the problem of non-performing assets (NPAs) in the Indian banking system.
  • The law is applicable throughout the country and covers all assets, movable or immovable, promised as security to the lender.

How does the SARFAESI Act work?

  • The SARFAESI Act empowers banks and financial institutions to take possession of secured assets, such as land, buildings, and machinery, if the borrower defaults on the loan. The bank can then sell the asset to recover the debt.
  • The SARFAESI Act also allows banks to appoint a receiver to manage the asset on their behalf.

Do You Know?

  • In 2020, the Supreme Court upheld the 2013 amendments to the SARFAESI Act, which expanded the Act’s scope to include cooperative banks.


Overall, the RBI’s move to require banks and NBFCs to display information regarding borrowers whose secured assets have been taken into possession under the SARFAESI Act is a positive step for both borrowers and the banking and NBFC sector.

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