Current Affair – May 28, 2021

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CURRENT AFFAIRS

Bangladesh-Sri Lanka Currency Swap

  • Bangladesh Bank, Bangladesh’s central bank, has in principle approved a $200 million currency swap agreement with Sri Lanka. It will help Colombo tide over its foreign exchange crisis.
  • Sri Lanka, staring at an external debt repayment schedule of $4.05 million this year, is in urgent need of foreign exchange. Its own foreign exchange reserves in March year stood at $4 million.
  • The two sides have to formalise an agreement to operationalise the facility approved by Bangladesh Bank.

What is a currency swap?

  • In this context, a currency swap is effectively a loan that Bangladesh will give to Sri Lanka in dollars, with an agreement that the debt will be repaid with interest in Sri Lankan rupees.
  • For Sri Lanka, this is cheaper than borrowing from the market, and a lifeline as is it struggles to maintain adequate forex reserves even as repayment of its external debts looms. The period of the currency swap will be specified in the agreement.

Isn’t it unusual for Bangladesh to do this?

  • Bangladesh has not been viewed so far as a provider of financial assistance to other countries. It has been among the most impoverished countries of the world, and still receives billions of dollars in financial aid. But over the last two decades, its economy has pulled itself up and in 2020, was the fastest growing in South Asia.
  • Bangladesh’s economy grew by 5.2% in 2020, and is expected to grow by 6.8% in 2021. The country has managed to pull millions out of poverty. Its per capita income just overtook India’s.
  • This may be the first time that Bangladesh is extending a helping hand to another country.
  • Bangladesh’s forex reserves in May were a healthy $45 billion. In 2020, despite fears that the pandemic would hit remittances, Bangladeshis living abroad sent over $21 billion. It is also the first time that Sri Lanka is borrowing from a SAARC country other than India.

What about last year’s credit swap facility that India gave Sri Lanka?

  • Last July, the Reserve Bank of India did extend a $400 million credit swap facility to Sri Lanka, which Central Bank of Sri Lanka settled in February. The arrangement was not extended.
  • RBI has a framework under which it can offer credit swap facilities to SAARC countries within an overall corpus of $2 billion. The SAARC currency swap facility came into operation in November 2012 with the aim of providing to smaller countries in the region “a backstop line of funding for short-term foreign exchange liquidity requirements or balance of payment crisis till longer term arrangements are made”.
  • The presumption was that only India, as the regional group’s largest economy, could do this. The Bangladesh-Sri Lanka arrangement shows that is no longer valid.
Source: Indian Express

Thomas Hickey’s painting of three women

  • A 19th century portrait of three women from Mysore has been going viral as “one of the most important scientific pictures in the history of medicine in India”.

·  With women from the Wadiyar dynasty as its protagonists, the canvas was commissioned to promote participation in the smallpox vaccination programme.

Who are the three women?

  • Believed to be painted in 1805 by Irish-born artist Thomas Hickey, the oil on canvas was initially thought to be portraits of “dancing girls or courtesans”.

· In the 1990s it was pointed out that the painting was of historic significance and depicted one of the first vaccine drives in India, with bejewelled women from the Wadiyar dynasty posing for Hickey.

  • The youngest woman, on the right, has been identified as Devajammani, the younger queen of King Krishnaraja Wadiyar III. She has her hand on her left arm, suggesting she has been vaccinated against smallpox, which had led to numerous deaths in India over the years.
  • On the left, meanwhile, is the older queen, who has pigmentation around her mouth, which could possibly be a sign of surviving smallpox, probably through variolation, which would often lead to a mild infection that resulted in lasting immunity.
  • According to a catalogue note that accompanied the canvas’s 2007 sale at Sotheby’s, the woman in the middle is one of the king’s sisters.

How and when did the smallpox vaccine reach India?

  • The smallpox vaccine, discovered by Edward Jenner in 1796, was the first successful vaccine to be developed.
  • On June 14, 1802, Anna Dusthall, an Anglo-Indian toddler, was the first person in India to be successfully vaccinated against the virus that relied on the cowpox virus, “a mild cousin of smallpox” to trigger immunity.
Source: Indian Express

Discovery of New cricket species

  • Jayanti has become the twelfth species of cricket identified under the genus Arachnomimus Saussure, 1897.
  • Found in the Kurra caves of Chhattisgarh in April 2021 by a team of zoologists headed by Dr Ranjana Jaiswara of the Zoology Department of Panjab University, Chandigarh, the new subgenus was named Jayanti after Professor Jayant Biswas, one of the leading cave explorers in the country, who assisted the team. The new find has been published in the reputed journal Zootaxa this month.

What is Arachnomimus Saussure, 1897?

  • Arachnomimus is the genus name given by Swiss Entomologist Henri Louis Frédéric de Saussure in 1878 to crickets that resembled spiders.
  • The word Arachnomimus is derived from two Ancient Greek words — ἀράχνη (arákhnē, means “spider”) and μῖμος (mîmos, means “imitator, actor”). This is apt because crickets of this group are commonly called spider crickets because of their smaller body size and long legs.

How is the newly discovered subgenus different?

  • The newly discovered subgenus, Indimimus, is different from the two subgenera, Arachnomimus and Euarachnomimus, because of the male genitalia structure.
  • Insects have a lock-and-key model genitalia structure which is unique to each subgenus. Genus and subgenus are taxonomic levels created by taxonomists to classify organisms.
  • A genus is represented by a set of diagnostic characters. Certain variations in characters compel taxonomists to divide the genus into subgenus and document the variation.

Why is the discovery significant?

  • Crickets are noticeable for their loud calls, especially at night. Male crickets produce this sound by rubbing their wings against each other to attract females. The females listen to these calls using ears located on their legs and approach the males for mating and reproduction.

·  Interestingly, males of the new Jayanti subgenus cannot produce sound and their females don’t have ears.

  • The crickets were found on the walls of the Kurra caves which don’t have light inside. They may be communicating by beating their abdomen or any other body part on the cave walls. Vibrational communication is one of the softest but fastest modes of signal transmission.

·  Further studies on their skills of vibrational communication may help in designing hearing aids for human which can capture quietest signals and amplify to an audible hearing range.

Could there be more subgenus waiting to be discovered?

  • With the discovery of Jayanti from India, the genus Arachnomimus is now known from 12 species.
  • Distribution of these species is very wide, ranging from Brazil to Malaysia. In India, the diversity of spider crickets is still unexplore
  • GiveIndia is home to four biodiversity hotspots, and all the hotspots have unexplored caves, there is significant scope for many more discoveries.
Source: Indian Express

New technology for High pressure compressors (HPC)

  • Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has established the near isothermal forging technology to produce all the five stages of high-pressure compressors (HPC) discs out of difficult-to-deform titanium alloy using its unique 2000 MT isothermal forge press.
  • DMRL developed this forging technology by integrating various science and knowledge-based tools. The methodology adopted by DMRL is generic in nature and can be tuned to develop other similar aero engine components.

Significance

  • The technology has been developed by Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL), a premier metallurgical laboratory of DRDO at Hyderabad.

· This is a crucial technology for establishing self-reliance in aero engine technology.

  • With this development, India has joined the league of limited global engine developers to have the manufacturing capabilities of such critical aero engine components.
Source: PIB

Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS)

  • Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury wrote to Speaker Om Birla to restart the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS). He said it is critical to have access to the fund because of the second COVID•19 wave and the devastation caused by cyclone Yaas.

Government of India in the event of struggle against Covid-19 had suspended MPLADS funds for two years (2020 and 2021) and directed these funds to be transferred to the Consolidated Fund of India

About MPLADS

  • It was announced in December 1993 and initially came under the control of the Ministry of Rural Development.
  • In October 1994, the scheme was transferred to the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.

It is a Central Sector Scheme

Objective of the scheme

  • Enable MPs to recommend works of developmental nature with emphasis on the creation of durable community assets based on the locally felt needs to be taken up in their Constituencies.

·  Lok Sabha Members can recommend works within their constituencies and elected Members of Rajya Sabha can recommend works within the State they are elected from.

  • Nominated Members of both the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha can recommend works anywhere in the country.
  • Create durable assets of national priorities- primary education, public health, sanitation and roads etc.

·  The annual MPLADS fund entitlement per MP constituency is Rs. 5 crore.

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