Current Affairs – September 2020
Rajiv Kumar takes charge as new Election Commissioner
Rajiv Kumar took over as the new Election Commissioner of India on 1 September 2020. An IAS officer of the 1984 batch, he has worked in different ministries at the Central level and in the state cadres of Bihar/Jharkhand over the past 36 years.
Rajiv Kumar retired as the Union Finance Secretary in February 2020. Following this, he was appointed chairman of the Public Enterprises Selection Board in April. Mr. Kumar held this post until he assumed office of the Election Commissioner. He brought about many reforms during his stints in the finance and personnel ministries.
Child mortality rate declined in India between 1990 and 2019: UNICEF report
India has recorded a steep decline in its child mortality rates in the last 30 years. According to the UN report ‘Levels and Trends in Child Mortality’, the under-five mortality in India dropped from 3.4 million in 1990 to 8,24,000 in 2019.
This has been made possible due to India’s ability to fight the root of the problem in the form of premature birth, low birth weight, complications during birth, neonatal sepsis, pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria and vaccination.
The country also witnessed a decrease in neonatal (newborn) mortality between 1990 and 2019 — 1.5 million neonatal deaths in 1990 to 522,000 deaths in 2019.
Further, the probability of dying among children aged 5—14 years declined from 447,000 deaths in 1990 to 136,000 deaths in 2019 and the probability of dying among youth aged 15—24 years dipped from 407,000 deaths to 246,000 deaths between the period under review.
The sex-specific under-five mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births) in India in 1990 stood at 122 males and 131 females and this declined to 34 males and 35 females in 2019.
Shivangi Singh becomes first woman fighter pilot to fly Rafale
Flight Lieutenant Shivangi Singh is all set to make history by becoming the first woman fighter pilot to fly the Rafale aircraft which was formally inducted into the Indian Air Force on 10 September 2020 in the presence of Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. Shivangi is currently undergoing conversion training to operate the new fighter plane at Ambala, Haryana.
Earlier, Shivangi flew the MiG-21 Bison aircraft and was serving at the Rajasthan fighter base. She will soon be joining her colleagues in No. 17 squadron in Ambala, which is also known as Golden Arrows. The Rafale aircraft that Shivangi will be flying was bought by the Indian government from France in a ₹59,000 crore deal.
Women officers to join helicopter stream of Indian Navy for the first time
Sub Lieutenant (S.Lt.) Kumudini Tyagi and S.Lt. Riti Singh are all set to take charge as Observers (Airborne Tacticians) in the helicopter stream of the Indian Navy. They will be the first set of women airborne combatants in India to operate from warships. This is the first time that women will be entering this field of action. Earlier, the participation of women was restricted to flying the fixed-wing aircraft that would take off and land ashore.
Speaking at the ceremony held at INS Garuda, Rear Admiral Antony George, said that this is a landmark occasion because this would pave the way for women to be deployed in the frontline warships of the Indian Navy.
India’s first exclusive private jet terminal inaugurated at Delhi’s international airport
India’s first private jet terminal has been set up at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport. Inaugurated by Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on September 17, the terminal can handle 150 private jets per day. It has 57 parking bays to tackle the same. The terminal has the capacity to handle 50 passengers per hour and is equipped with passenger lounges, food and beverage arrangements and 24/7 concierge services.
The terminal will cater to the demands of the growing percentage of Indian billionaires which is likely to increase to 37% by 2023 according to global real estate consultant Knight Frank. This will also facilitate the commuting of air ambulances, saving a lot of time and lives during emergencies.
Mukesh Ambani tops Hurun India Rich List for 9th consecutive time
The chairman of Reliance Industries, Mukesh Ambani continues to be the richest man in India topping the Hurun India Rich List for the ninth consecutive time with a networth of ₹6,58,400 crore. Although he experienced a dip of 28% in his wealth at the beginning of the pandemic, it was recovered in the next four months. The 85% profit is the result of timely fundraising activities along with strategic investments from Facebook and Google.
Mr Ambani is followed by the Hinduja brothers, Shiv Nadar & family, Gautam Adani & family, Azim Premji, Cyrus S Poonawalla, Radhakishan Damani & family, Uday Kotak, Dilip Shanghvi, Cyrus Pallonji Mistry and Shapoor Pallonji Mistry in the list. Radhakishan Damani, the founder of DMart made his debut in the top 10 of the Hurun India Rich List with ₹87,200 crore.
India ranks 116 in Human Capital Index
World Bank’s Human Capital Index 2020 has placed India at the 116th position. The Human Capital Index is a measure that helps governments of different countries analyse their people’s requirements and provide solutions accordingly. The information is related to the health and education aspect of the people living in 174 countries as of March 2020. According to the analysis, most of the countries showed good progress in increasing the human capital of children in the pre-pandemic time.
The latest report has good news specifically for India. The country’s human capital score has increased to 0.49 from 0.44 in 2018. Despite the increase in numbers, the pandemic has caused a decline in progress especially in the low-income countries. More than a billion children have dropped out of school since the pandemic has stricken the world. In addition to this, the World Bank estimates a 12% drop in employment.
Sumit Nagpal becomes first Indian in 7 years to enter the second round of Grand Slam Singles event
Sumit Nagpal made India proud by becoming the first Indian to enter the second round of a Grand Slam tennis tournament after a gap of seven years. Somdev Devvarman had achieved this feat in 2013 by entering the second round of the Australian, French and U.S. Open tournaments. Nagpal entered the second round after defeating America’s Bradley Klahn in four sets (6-1,6-3,3-6, 6-1).
US Open: Dominic Thiem, Naomi Osaka emerge champions
On 13 September 2020, Dominic Thiem set a new record by becoming the first player in 71 years to win the U.S. Open after losing the first two sets. This win is extra special for Thiem as he won after losing twice consecutively in 2018 and 2019 at the finals in Australian Open and French Open, respectively. Thiem beat Alexander Zverev in a five setter to win the Grand Slam title.
The score of the four-hour match held at the Arthur Ashe Stadium was 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (8/6). Thiem now joins the list of Grand Slam winners that includes Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
The women’s singles title was bagged by three time Grand Slam title winner Naomi Osaka after defeating Victoria Azarenka with a score of 1–6, 6–3, 6–3. At the age of 22 years, Osaka became the youngest player to win three titles since Maria Sharapova won the Australian Open in 2008.
Novak Djokovic, Simona Halep win Italian Open
Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic won his 36th Masters Title in Italian Open on 21 September by beating Diego Schwartzman 7-5, 6-3 in Rome.
Djokovic has won 31 of his 32 matches he played this year to be at the number one spot. He won four trophies from five events in 2020, following title runs at the Australian Open, the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and the Western & Southern Open.
In the women’s category, top seed and world number two Simona Halep won her first Italian Open title after defending champion Karolina Pliskova retired while trailing 6-0, 2-1.
Pliskova, the second seed, was playing with her left thigh bandaged, and required treatment on her lower back and upper leg after the first set which Halep won in just 20 minutes.
Halep has extended her winning streak this season to 14 consecutive victories.
Science & Technology
Indian astronomers discover one of the farthest galaxies
Indian scientists recently discovered one of the farthest galaxies in the universe which was spotted using the Multi Wavelength Space Observatory. The galaxy, which is 9.3 billion light years away from the Earth, is called AUDFs01.
It was discovered by a team of astronomers from India, Switzerland, France, USA, Japan and The Netherlands led by Dr Kanak Saha of the Inter University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA) in Pune. The discovery of AUDFs01 was published in the British journal Nature Astronomy.
The discovery of AUDFs01 is expected to shed light on the end of the cosmic dark age. It is now possible to know when the universe got light although it may be difficult to trace it back to the earliest source of light.
India successfully test fires hypersonic technology demonstration vehicle
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully test fired the indigenously-developed hypersonic technology demonstration vehicle (HSTDV) on 7 September. The vehicle was launched at 11:03 am from the Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam Launch Complex at Wheeler Island off the coast of Odisha.
With the successful demonstration of the hypersonic air-breathing scramjet technology, India has become the fourth country after the US, China and Russia to power missiles that attain a speed of around Mach 6 (six times the speed of sound).
Besides being used as a vehicle for hypersonic long-range cruise missiles, the HSTDV makes use of a dual technology that has multiple civilian applications, such as capability of launching small satellites at a low cost.
Scientists detect potential signs of extraterrestrial life on Venus
According to a study published in Nature Astronomy on 14 September, scientists have found a gas called phosphine on the harshly acidic clouds of Venus. This gives a sign of potential life beyond Earth as this gas is produced by bacteria in an oxygen-deprived environment.
The scientists further informed that they first found signs of phosphine using the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii and later confirmed it using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) radio telescope in Chile.
According to molecular astrophysicist Sousa-Silva from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, ‘This is important because, if it is phosphine, and if it is life, it means that we are not alone. It also means that life itself must be very common, and there must be many other inhabited planets throughout our galaxy.’
‘I can only speculate on what life might survive on Venus, if indeed it is there. No life would be able to survive on the surface of Venus, because it is completely inhospitable, even for biochemistries completely different from ours. But a long time ago, Venus could have had life on its surface, before a runaway greenhouse effect left the majority of the planet completely uninhabitable’, he further added.
DRDO conducts successful flight test of ABHYAS
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully conducted the second flight test of high-speed expendable aerial target (HEAT) Abhyas. The first successful test was done in May 2019. During the test conducted on 22 September at the Interim Test Range at Balasore in Odisha, Abhyas cleared all the parameters that were being evaluated. The vehicle is a drone that will be used as a target for various missile systems. It can also be used as a decoy aircraft, if needed.
The vehicle is programmed for a fully autonomous flight. The check-out of this vehicle is done through a laptop-based ground control station.
World’s largest solar tree set up at Durgapur
The Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute at Durgapur, West Bengal has set up the world’s largest ‘solar tree’ in the city. The solar tree comprises solar panels erected in the shape of a tree to get the maximum advantage of the innovation.
According to the director of the institute, the solar tree has an installed capacity of 11.5 kWp and is capable of generating 12,000-14,000 units of clean and green power. The solar tree is strategically designed in a way that a large part of the device is exposed to the sun while creating the least amount of shadow under it. It is an eco-friendly option that saves 10-12 tonnes of carbon dioxide emission. Each solar tree costs ₹7.2 lakhs.
California adopts the toughest plastic bottle recycle law in the world
The US state of California has adopted a law which makes it compulsory for a high percentage of recycled materials to be used in plastic bottles. According to the new law signed by California Governor Gavin Newsom on 14 September, all plastic bottles covered by the state’s container redemption programme must contain an average of at least 15% post-consumer resin (PCR), starting in 2022. The recycled-content mandate would further rise to 25% in 2025 and 50% in 2030.
Beverage manufacturers who fail to meet the targets will be required to pay a penalty fee of 20 cents for each pound of PCR by which they fall short. The accumulated money will go into a recycling enhancement penalty account and will be spent on recycling, infrastructure, collection and processing of plastic beverage bottles.
This toughest and strongest standards adopted by the state seeks to help develop domestic markets for recycled materials. The move also aims at reducing the dependence on cheap virgin plastics which rely on oil as a measure to transition away from fossil fuels.
PepsiCo pledges to source 100% renewable electricity worldwide
PepsiCo Inc. announced a new target on 21 September to source 100% renewable electricity to power all of its company’s operations globally by 2030 and across its entire franchise and third-party operations by 2040. The transition aims at reducing approximately 2.5 million metric tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2040, equivalent to more than half a million cars off the road for a full year.
In order to achieve this target, PepsiCo is set to employ a diversified portfolio of solutions, including Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) that will support the development of new projects such as solar and wind farms around the world.
At present, PepsiCo procures renewable electricity in 18 countries, nine of which already meet 100% of their electricity demand from renewable sources.
Yoshihide Suga is Japan’s new Prime Minister
Yoshihide Suga of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was elected the Prime Minister of Japan on 16 September. He had won 377 of a total of 534 votes. Suga will succeed Shinzo Abe who announced his resignation last month citing ill health.
Suga previously held the post of Chief Cabinet Secretary, which is likely to be given to Katsunobu Kato. In addition, Abe’s younger brother, Nobuo Kishi, will become the new defence minister, while the current defence minister Taro Kono will take over as the minister for administrative reforms.
Togo appoints first female prime minister
Tomegah Dogbé created history by becoming the first female prime minister of the west African nation of Togo.
The slow pace of economic growth in Togo is expected to gather speed with Dogbe taking charge. Before taking up politics in 2008, Dogbe worked as the director of operations at the United Nations Development Programme. She has also worked as the Chief of Staff to Togo’s President, Faure Gnassingbé and has also served as Minister for Youth and Grassroots Development. Dogbe is popular among the public for her successful reforms in the areas of poverty and youth unemployment.
David Attenborough conferred with Indira Gandhi Peace Prize 2019
Renowned author and natural historian Sir David Attenborough was feted with the Indira Gandhi Peace Prize 2019 in a virtual ceremony held on 7 September. The award was conferred on Sir David for educating and entertaining people over several generations through his films and books and for his contribution towards awakening humankind to preserve and protect the earth’s biodiversity.
While conferring the award upon Attenborough, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, ‘There can be no more deserving recipient of the award at this time when the world is gripped by growing anxiety over the state of our environment and our planet. If anyone who can be described as a living legend in the context of the natural world, it is Sir David. Over seven decades, he has been, if I can put it this way, the human voice of nature.’
The Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development is given to individuals or organisations who work towards international peace and development, ensuring that scientific discoveries are used to expand the scope of freedom and better humanity, and creating new international economic order.
The winner receives a sum of ₹25 lakh along with a citation.
Emmy Awards 2020 winners announced
The 72nd annual Primetime Emmy Awards were announced on 21 September. The awards given to American shows were hosted by Jimmy Kimmel from an empty Los Angeles Staples Center, while the nominees joined through the digital platforms from their homes.
In a first, sitcom Schitt’s Creek set a record for most wins in a single season for a comedy series by winning seven Primetime awards and nine Emmys in the comedy categories followed by the series Succession with five awards. Furthermore, Euphoria’s Zendaya scripted history by becoming the youngest winner for best lead actress in the drama series category.
Here’s the list of winners below:
Outstanding Drama Series: Succession
Outstanding Comedy Series: Schitt’s Creek
Best Actor – Drama: Jeremy Strong, (Succession)
Best Actress – Drama: Zendaya, (Euphoria)
Best Supporting Actor, Drama: Billy Crudup (The Morning Show)
Best Supporting Actress, Drama: Julia Garner (Ozark)
Outstanding Director – Drama: Andrij Parekh, (Succession)
Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series: The Last Dance
Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special: The Apollo