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Current Affairs – 20 March 2021

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Current Affairs (20th March 2021)

Diatom test


  • In the alleged murder case of Mansukh Hiran, owner of the vehicle found with explosives outside the home of Mukesh Ambani, the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) have relied on a forensic test known as diatom tests.

What it means?

  • Diagnosis of death by drowning is difficult in forensic pathology; the mere recovery of a body from a water body does not necessarily imply that the death was due to drowning.
  • This where the diatom test comes in: it is an important one among a number of tests that have been developed to confirm if the cause of death in such cases was indeed drowning.
  • A diatom is a kind of algae found in almost every aquatic environment, including fresh and marine waters, soils and, in fact, almost anywhere moist. A diatom test, therefore, entails finding if there are diatoms in the body recovered.

The science

  • If a person is alive when he or she enters the water, diatoms will enter the lungs when he or she inhales water while drowning. These diatoms then get carried to various parts of the body, including the brain, kidneys, lungs and bone marrow by blood circulation.
  • If the person is dead when thrown into the water, there is no circulation and therefore no transport of diatoms to the organs.


Water scarcity


  • More than 450 million, or one in five children, worldwide resided in areas of high or extremely high water vulnerability, according to a new report released by the UNICEF.
  • The new report is part of UNICEF’s ‘Water security for all’ initiative that identifies areas where physical water scarcity risks overlap with poor water service levels.


  • Eastern and southern Africa had the highest proportion of children living in such areas. More than half of children (58 per cent) here face difficulty accessing sufficient water every day.
  • Other affected regions were West and Central Africa (31 per cent), South Asia (25 per cent) and West Asia (23 per cent).
  • More than 155 million children in South Asia lived in areas with high or even extremely high water vulnerability.
  • The document identified 37 hot-spot countries where children faced especially dire circumstances in terms of absolute numbers, the proportions of children affected and where global resources, support and urgent action had to be mobilised.
  • Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Sudan, Tanzania and Yemen were especailly vulnerable.


  • Rapid population growth, urbanisation, climate change and extreme weather events were compounding water stress and reducing available quantities of safe water.
  • Decades of misuse, poor management, over-extraction of groundwater and contamination of freshwater supplies had exacerbated water stress.
  • UNICEF had set an ambitious goal to ensure every child had access to climate-resilient water services by 2025 and by 2030, for all children to have access to a safe and affordable water supply and to live in water secure communities.


Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill


  • Lok Sabha has passed the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill 2021.


  • The Bill seeks to amend the Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act 1957 and provide for removal of distinction between captive and merchant mines.
  • The Bill empowers the Central Government to issue directions regarding composition and utilization of funds maintained by the District Mineral Foundation.
  • The Bill provides that captive mines other than atomic minerals may sell up to 50 per cent of their annual mineral production in the open market after meeting their own needs.
  • It has been brought to reform the mining sector in the country. The country has large reserves of several minerals but only 45 per cent were tapped so far which have resulted in dependence on imports.
  • Bill empowers the central government to specify a time period for completion of the auction process in consultation with the state government.


  • It will increase the production level of minerals, generate employment, increase revenues and ensure private participation in the exploration and mining activities.
  • More than 55 lakh employment will be generated in the country with the implementation of these reforms.
  • The amended bill will attract Foreign Direct Investment and technologies in the mining sector.
  • The Bill is an attempt to open up the mines for the big companies which will focus on profit rather than the holistic development of mining areas.


Anti-Tank Guided Missiles


  • Ministry of Defence signed a contract with Bharat Dynamics Limited for supply of four thousand 960 MILAN-2T Anti-Tank Guided Missiles to Indian Army.


  • The Defence Public Sector Undertaking will supply the missiles at a cost of one thousand 188 crore rupees. It is a repeat order of contract, which was signed with Bharat Dynamics Limited on 8th March, 2016.
  • The Milan-2T is a Tandem Warhead Anti-Tank Guided Missile with a range of one thousand 850 metres.
  • These missiles can be fired from ground as well as vehicle-based launchers. They can be deployed in Anti-Tank Role for both offensive and defensive tasks.
  • It is produced by Bharat Dynamics Limited under license from MBDA Missile Systems, France.
  • Induction is planned to be completed in three years which will enhance the operational preparedness of the Armed Forces.
  • This project will further boost the ‘Make in India’ initiative of the Government. It is also a big opportunity for the defence industry to showcase its capability.




  • The second edition of Indo-Uzbekistan Joint Field Training Exercise, EXERCISE DUSTLIK-II


  • In the joint exercise which began on 10th of March 2021, training was focused on Counter Insurgency, Counter-Terrorism operations in urban scenario as well as sharing of expertise on Skills at Arms.
  • The exercise also provided an opportunity to troops of both Armies to foster everlasting professional and social bonding.
  • After intense military training, the joint exercise concluded with both Armies exhibiting their combat power and dominance over the terrorist groups during the Validation Exercise.


COVID-19 disruptions have killed children in South Asia


  • Disruption in healthcare services may have contributed to 228,000 additional deaths of children under five years in 2020, according to United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) recent report titled Direct and Indirect Effects of Covid-19 Pandemic and Response in South Asia.
  • The Report examined the effect of government strategies on healthcare, social services, including schools and the economy.


  • These disruptions ranged from nutrition benefits to immunisation and rising food insecurity due to the COVID-19 restrictions.
  • The analysis focused on South Asia’s six most populous countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. These are home to some 1.8 billion people.
  • There was an 80 per cent drop in the number of young children treated for severe malnutrition in Nepal and Bangladesh in 2020 compared to that in 2019.
  • The number of children immunised in India and Pakistan dropped by 35 per cent and 65 per cent respectively.
  • Child mortality rose 15.4 per cent in India, followed by Bangladesh (13 per cent). Increase in maternal deaths was the sharpest in Sri Lanka (21.5 per cent), followed by Pakistan’s 21.3 per cent.
  • It estimated that some 3.5 million additional unwanted pregnancies, including 400,000 among teenagers, happened in 2020 due to poor or no access to contraception.
  • Nearly 89,434 additional stillbirths were anticipated as a result of reduced coverage of essential services across the whole of South Asia.
  • The largest increase in the number of stillbirths may have been in India (60,179, 10 per cent increase from 2019), followed by Pakistan (39,752, 11 per cent increase) and Bangladesh (5,502, 3 per cent increase).
  • The number of maternal deaths was expected to increase in 2020 across the region, with the highest number of deaths anticipated in India (7,750, 18 per cent increase) and Pakistan (2,069, 21 per cent increase).
  • Child and maternal mortality was expected to increase 14 per cent and 16 per cent in South Asia.
  • An interruption to health services also affected those suffering from other diseases; an additional 5,943 adolescents, who couldn’t get treated for tuberculosis, malaria, typhoid and HIV / AIDS, died in 2020.
  • The increase in the number of deaths was the largest due to typhoid (2,243), followed by malaria (1,965). India was expected to be hit the hardest with an additional 3,412 adolescent deaths, followed by Pakistan (1,629) and Bangladesh (836).


  • Prioritisation of services for pregnant women, adolescents and children; strengthening food systems to ensure a resilient supply of nutritious and affordable foods; and delivery of immunisations and ensuring adequate personal protective equipment supply.
  • Improving coverage of quality-based nutrition, health and other outreach services as well as strengthening nutrition support programmes for vulnerable children.
  • All countries, including those in South Asia need to continue, and even increase investment in health systems and poverty alleviation.

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