Current Affair – June 15, 2021

Nuclear Arsenal expansion by India, China and Pakistan – SIPRI Yearbook

  • Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Year Book 2021 has been released recently.
  • Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) is a Swedish think tank.

What does it say?

  • China is in the middle of a significant modernisation and expansion of its nuclear weapon inventory, and India and Pakistan also appear to be expanding their nuclear arsenals.
  • The overall number of warheads in global military stockpiles now appears to be increasing, a worrisome sign that the declining trend that has characterised global nuclear arsenals since the end of the Cold War has stalled.

·  India possessed an estimated 156 nuclear war heads at the start of 2021, compared with 150 at the start of last year, while Pakistan had 165 warheads, up from 160 in 2020. China’s nuclear arsenal consisted of 350 warheads, up from 320 at the start of 2020.

  • The nine nuclear armed states — the U.S., Russia, the U.K., France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea — together possessed an estimated 13,080 nuclear weapons at the start of 2021. Russia and the U.S. together possessed over 90% of global nuclear weapons.

IISS report – ‘Nuclear Deterrence and Stability in South Asia: Perceptions and Realities’

  • A report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), London said that chance played an important ameliorative role in the India Pakistan crisis of February 2019 and the two countries “risk stumbling into using their nuclear weapons through miscalculation or misinterpretation in a future crisis.”
  • India and Pakistan are seeking new technologies and capabilities that dangerously undermine each other’s defence under the nuclear threshold,”.
  • It said China’s evolving profile as a nuclear weapons state was compounding India’s security challenges.
Source: The Hindu


Various organisations initiated a Twitter campaign demanding official language status to Tulu in Karnataka and Kerala and received an overwhelming response.

Who all speak Tulu in India now and what is its history?

  • Tulu is a Dravidian language spoken mainly in two coastal districts Dakshina Kannada and Udupi of Karnataka and Kasaragod district of Kerala.
Robert Caldwell (1814-1891), in his book, A Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian or South-Indian Family of Languages, called Tulu “one of the most highly developed languages of the Dravidian family”  

People who speak Tulu are confined to the above-mentioned regions of Karnataka and Kerala, informally known as Tulu Nadu.

  • As per the 2011 Census report, there are 18,46,427 Tulu-speaking people in India. Some scholars suggest Tulu is among the earliest Dravidian languages with a history of 2000 years.

What is the demand by Tulu speakers?

The Tulu speakers, mainly in Karnataka and Kerala, have been requesting the governments to give it official language status and include it in the eighth schedule to the Constitution.

The demand for separate statehood for Tulu Nadu

Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Bodo,Urdu,,Santhali, Maithili and Dogri are the 22 languages presently in the eighth schedule to the Constitution  

The political party ‘Tuluvere Pashas’, which got recognition from the Election Commission of India in February 2021 under section 29A of Representation of the People Act 1951, has given wings to the political aspirations of the Tulu-speaking people.

Tulu art, culture and cinema

  • Tulu has a rich oral literature tradition with folk-song forms like paddana, and traditional folk theatre yakshagana. Tulu also has an active tradition of cinema with around 5 to 7 Tulu language movies produced a year.
  • Tulu films are being screened every day in Mangaluru and Udupi in at least one theatre.
Source: Indian Express

Pine Island Glacier of Antarctica

  • A study by Washington University and British Antarctic Survey analysed satellite images from January 2015 to March 2020. For most of the first two years, the satellites took high-resolution images every 12 days.
  • The study was recently published in the open access journal Science Advances.

Findings of the study

  • The ice shelves of Pine Island Glacier are breaking apart rapidly and may collapse faster than previously projected.
  • The recent changes in the ice shelf were not caused by processes directly related to ocean melting.
  • From 2017 to 2020, a large iceberg on the edge of the ice shelf collapsed and glaciers accelerated. The ice shelf lost about one-fifth of its area in this period, as captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellites, operated by the European Space Agency on behalf of the European Union. The glacier’s surface also sped up by 12% in this time.
  • A large crack in the centre of the ice shelf caused a sudden snap.
  • The recent changes in speed are not due to melt-driven thinning; instead they’re due to the loss of the outer part of the ice shelf. The glacier’s speedup is not catastrophic at this point. But if the rest of that ice shelf breaks up and goes away then this glacier could speed up quite a lot.

About Pine Island Glacier

  • Pine Island Glacier is one of the largest ice streams in Antarctica. It contains approximately 180 trillion tonnes of ice,

melting of which could result in 0.5 meters or 1.6 feet of global sea level rise.

  • It is Antarctica’s largest contributor to sea-level rise, causing about one-sixth of a millimeter increase to the sea-level each year or about two-thirds of an inch per century. Several studies have shown that past speedups were due to melt- driven thinning, concentrated near the grounding line.
  • Pine Island Glacier has a large ice shelf, which supports the glacier. Recent speedups due to edge weakening may shorten the timeline for the Pine Island Glacier to finally collapse into the ocean
Source: Down-to-earth

FSSAI recognises new precision iodine value analyser

CSIR: Council of Scientific and Industrial ResearchCSIO: Central Scientific Instruments Organisation  

In one of its initiatives to encourage the manufacturing industry in India, CSIR-CSIO has developed and transferred the technology of Precision Iodine Value Analyzer (PIVA). It is an

instrument for the measurement of the degree of instauration (iodine value) in vegetable oils.

  • This indigenous food testing equipment was recognized by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) on World Food Safety Day June 7, 2021.

Significance of PIVA

  • Iodine value is conventionally determined using manual titration and a few analytical instruments based on automated titration. However, these methods take a longer time to analyze, are costly and use toxic chemicals.
  • Researchers at CSIR-CSIO developed a rapid analysis technique that takes just three minutes to carry out the same analysis. The cost of analysis per sample saw a drastic reduction too.
The World Food Safety Day is celebrated worldwide to draw attention that food is not only an agricultural or trade commodity but also a public health issue and hence, food safety has to be seen as an essential public health function.  

The technology had been transferred to Comfax Systems, a Chandigarh-based start-up. The technology has applications in oil extraction units, quality control and assurance labs, food

regulatory authorities, soaps and cosmetics, bakeries, meat industry, paint industry, biodiesel analysis, and charcoal industry

  • The technology is also useful in determining adulteration in edible oils and fats.

·   Currently, PIVA has been calibrated and tested for coconut, sunflower, mustard, palm, rice bran, soyabean, groundnut, olive oil and ghee. This new development is a part of the ongoing effort to strengthen the food testing capabilities by introducing quick and advanced food testing kits.

  • PIVA is the newest addition to the approved kits / equipment approved by FSSAI for rapid food testing.
Source: Down-to-earth

Mustard oil blending

  • Mustard oil need not to be blended with anything else in India now from June 8, 2021.
  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India had decided this on March 31. This would end the practice to add other edible oil (like from palms, rice bran, etc) to mustard oil.
  • This is a good news for mustard farmers whose fortunes were adversely hit as up to a fifth of mustard oil volume could earlier be blends of other oils.

But why did India start the practice in the first place? And how has it affected consumer health?The dropsy epidemic

·  The Union health ministry had allowed blending in edible vegetable oil in a notification in 1990.

  • In 1998, Delhi and other north Indian states witnessed the dropsy epidemic — a disease that caused swelling in the body due to the build-up of fluid in tissues.
  • Researchers believed consumption of mustard oil caused the disease.
  • The then government declared it an epidemic due to the alleged deaths and hospitalisation in the North Indian states. It started a campaign against the consumption of the oil.

·   South Indian states didn’t report any cases of dropsy for the people there largely consume groundnut or coconut oil.   Several studies have found mustard oil unsafe for consumption.

  • Many scientists and doctors advised to not consume mustard oil during the epidemic. It was widely used in India during that time. It still is. People started attributing diabetes, heart-related diseases, etc to its consumption. Refined oil, however, is now considered the reason behind the same.
  • Meanwhile, the sales of mustard oil dropped drastically. Rumours of widespread adulteration became prevalent. Experts started advocating for packed mustard oil.

·  The epidemic led eventually impacted the sales of mustard oil. In the last two decades, many other kinds of oils, especially refined oil, have capitalised on the void.

The 1990 decision

  • Experts claimed that the blending of mustard oil was not only dangerous to health, but also adversely impacted mustard farming. Some groups have also flagged the blending of refined oil.
  • Following the Union health ministry 1990 notification allowing for the blending of edible vegetable oil, the FSSAI rolled out regulations in the regard in 2006.
  • Producers and other companies involved in blending were regularised through the Agriculture Produce (Grading and Marking) Act (AGMARK). It also made it mandatory to write the kind of oil used for blending over the packet.

Has blending led to dependence over the import of oil?

  • The processing industry took advantage of blending. Cheap palm oil would be blended up to 80% in mustard oil some time.

·   As a result, profits of mustard farmers dried up, which discouraged them from cultivating the crop.

  • This could be one of the reasons behind India’s increasing dependency on oil import over the last two decades. In 1990- 91, India was self-reliant in mustard oil production and produced 98% of oil needed.
  • In the last 25 years, one major worry regarding mustard oil production was that the agricultural land for it hasn’t increased.
  • The new policies have not been effective, and farmers producing it are not supported either. The Union government, too, has many a time supported the import of palm oil. At one point, it even reduced the import duty to zero.
  • But the import duty has increased again in the last few years. Farmers have adopted new technology and are getting minimum support price over oil. This has helped them increase their profits.
  • Per unit production has reached average 1.5 tonnes. The agricultural land area for cultivation of mustard, however, hasn’t increased much. In the last 10 years, compound annual growth has been negative 2%.

·   Non-blended mustard oil was introduced in the market from June 8. The price is pegged between Rs 150-160. The decision to stop its blending offers a ray of hope to farmers as well.

Source: Down-to-earth

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