Indian Current Affairs | Current Affairs India - April 2012

Nuclear Security Summit Ends Without Clear Targets
The Seoul Nuclear Security Summit ended Tuesday with the leaders of 53 countries unanimously adopting a communiqué that encourages nations to take all possible steps and cooperate to secure vulnerable weapons-grade fissile material by 2014. President Lee Myung-bak, who chaired the summit, told reporters its main achievement was steps to reduce highly enriched uranium and plutonium, which are key to preventing nuclear terrorism. But critics said that in reality no progress has been made in terms of reducing nuclear materials and that the communiqué is no significant improvement over commitments made during the first Nuclear Security Summit in Washington in 2010, where the U.S., Russia and other participating countries agreed to reduce nuclear materials equivalent to 20,000 nuclear weapons and actually lowered materials equivalent to 3,000.
Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) and Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) fuel
Enriched uranium is a kind of uranium in which the percent composition of uranium-235 has been increased through the process of isotope separation. Natural uranium is 99.284% 238U isotope, with 235U only constituting about 0.711% of its weight.Highly enriched uranium (HEU) has a greater than 20% concentration of 235U or 233U. The fissile uranium in nuclear weapons usually contains 85% or more of 235U known as weapon(s)-grade, though for a crude, inefficient weapon 20% is sufficient. The very first uranium bomb, Little Boy dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, used 64 kilograms of 80% enriched uranium. Low-enriched uranium (LEU) has a lower than 20% concentration of 235U. For use in commercial light water reactors (LWR), the most prevalent power reactors in the world, uranium is enriched to 3 to 5% 235U.

Manhattan Project

The Manhattan Project was a research and development program, led by the United States with participation from the United Kingdom and Canada, that produced the first atomic bomb during World War II. The Army component of the project was designated the Manhattan District; "Manhattan" gradually superseded the official codename, "Development of Substitute Materials", for the entire project.

India's First Nuclear Reactor
India's First Nuclear Reactor was Apsara. It was also the first nuclear reactor in Asia. Apsara went critical at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Trombay on August 4, 1956. It heralded the arrival of India's nuclear energy programme. In 2010, the enriched uranium based fuel in the APSARA reactor was placed in a safeguarded facility. APSARA will use indigenous fuel which is not high enriched uranium. Recently India developed an Advanced Heavy Water Reactor based on Low Enriched Uranium and thorium. We are in the process of expanding our nuclear energy generation to 62,000 MWs by 2032. We are taking forward our three stage nuclear programme based on a closed fuel cycle, with new safety features and proliferation-resistant technologies.

Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy
India has close cooperation with the IAEA’s Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT). India has signed tripartite Agreements with IAEA and Sri Lanka and Namibia to donate our indigenously developed Cobalt teletherapy machine (Bhabhatron II) to these two countries as a step towards affordable treatment of Cancer. A similar machine was donated to Vietnam in 2008.

Youth to the EDGE
A Pilot Scheme “Youth to the Edge” was flagged off from Assam to Encourage Adventure Activities in North East Region. North Eastern Region (NER) is identified as one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots for its natural resources as it hosts variety of species, rich tropical rain forests supports and diverse flora and fauna having abundance in mineral wealth, forests and water resources. This region has yet to harness the vast developmental potential of these resources for the benefit of its inhabitants.

27th edition of AAHAR - International fair
Shri Anand Sharma, the union Minister of Commerce, Industry & Textiles inaugurated the 27th edition of AAHAR. Speaking on the occasion Shri Sharma said, “India’s food market is estimated at over US $ 182 billion, accounting for about two third of the total retail market. We are emerging as a major exporter of food grains. We do hope that by 2014 India’s agri/food export will reach 40 billion US $, the Minister added. He informed the gathering that, Basmati Rice is the single largest export product in our agri-export basket and it has an acknowledged brand value in the world. AAHAR offers two independent platforms -- Food India and Hospitality India. Being the biggest food industry exposition in the South-Asian region, AAHAR now has also emerged as an important destination on the itinerary of businesspersons and trade visitors of this sector.

During his speech Minister remarked that, “We have the second largest area of arable land in the world and today India is the world’s second largest producer of food next to only China, ranks 1st in production of milk, accounting for over 15% of global milk production, third in food grains production at 235 million tonnes and fisheries at 7 million tonnes. This is a dramatic transformation in our agrarian economy from being net food importer, has turned to a food surplus economy, Shri Sharma congratulated the Indian agricultural scientist for this remarkable transformation.

Expressing the concerns Minister said, “We are the second largest producer of fruits and vegetables in the world with an annual production of 240 million tonnes, yet the post-harvest losses are unacceptably high, hovering in the range of 35-40%. There are huge weaknesses in the entire food value chain infrastructure in absence of adequate cold chain facilities, storages and transportation facilities. Filling the infrastructure gap requires massive private sector investments.

Demand for Organic Food Items Rising
Government is providing incentives to cultivators of organic food products under the "National Horticulture Mission" (NHM) @ Rs 10,000/- per ha for maximum area of 4 ha per beneficiary, setting up of vermi-compost units, @50% of the cost, subject to a maximum of Rs 30,000/- per beneficiary and organic farming certification  @ Rs. 5.00 lakh for a group of farmers covering an area of 50 ha.

National Council for Senior Citizens
Prime Minister approved the constitution of a National Council for Senior Citizens. The Council would advise the Central and State Governments on issues related to welfare of senior citizens and enhancement of their quality of life with special reference to (a) policies, programmes and legislative measures; (b) promotion of physical and financial security, health and independent and productive living, and (c) awareness generation and community mobilization. The Council would be anchored in the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment.

National Infant Mortality Rate Reduces Further – To 47
As per the latest Sample Registration System (SRS) bulletin, December 2011 released by the Registrar General of India (RGI), it is noted that  Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) has dropped further by  3 points from 50 to 47 infants deaths per 1000 live births during 2010.  The IMR for rural areas has dropped by 4 points from 55 to 51 infant deaths per 1000 live births while the Urban rate now stands at 31 from the previous 34/1000. State of Goa still has the lowest IMR of 10 infant deaths followed by Kerala with 13 infant deaths per 1000 live births. Madhya Pradesh has the highest IMR of 62/1000 followed by UP and Odisha with 61/1000 IMR.

About Organic Food
Organic foods are foods that are produced using methods that do not involve modern synthetic inputs such as synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers, do not contain genetically modified organisms, and are not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives.The weight of the available scientific evidence has not shown a significant difference between organic and more conventionally grown food in terms of safety, nutritional value, or taste.
Several surveys and studies have attempted to examine and compare conventional and organic systems of farming. The general consensus across these surveys is that organic farming is less damaging for the following reasons:
1. Organic farms do not consume or release synthetic pesticides into the environment—some of which have the potential to harm soil, water and local terrestrial and aquatic wildlife.
2. Organic farms are better than conventional farms at sustaining diverse ecosystems, i.e., populations of plants and insects, as well as animals.
3. When calculated per unit area, organic farms use less energy and produce less waste, e.g., waste such as packaging materials for chemicals.   
However, critics of organic farming methods believe that the increased land needed to farm organic food could potentially destroy the rainforests and wipe out many ecosystems. Also Organic products typically cost 10 to 40% more than similar conventionally produced products.