Category Archives: SciTech

About: AstroSat Mission, It’s Features, Objective and Payload

About: AstroSat Mission

  • AstroSat is the first dedicated Indian astronomy mission aimed at studying celestial sources in X-ray, optical and UV spectral bands simultaneously.
  • It was launched in 2015 into a 650 km orbit.
  • AstroSat is also India’s first multi-wavelength satellite which has five unique X-ray and ultraviolet telescopes working in tandem.

Features:

  • The payloads of AstroSat cover the energy bands of-
    • Ultraviolet (Near and Far)
    • Limited optical
    • X-ray regime (0.3 keV to 100keV)
  • One of the unique features of AstroSat mission is that it enables the simultaneous multi-wavelength observations of various astronomical objects with a single satellite.

Management of AstroSat

  • The spacecraft control centre at Mission Operations Complex (MOX) of ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC), Bengaluru manages the satellite during its entire mission life.
  • The science data gathered by five payloads of AstroSat are telemetered to the ground station at MOX.
  • The data is then processed, archived and distributed by Indian Space Science Data Centre (ISSDC) near Bengaluru.

Mission Objectives

  • The scientific objectives of AstroSat mission are-
    • To understand high energy processes in binary star systems containing neutron stars and black holes;
    • Estimate magnetic fields of neutron stars;
    • Study star birth regions and high energy processes in star systems lying beyond our galaxy;
    • Detect new briefly bright X-ray sources in the sky;
    • Perform a limited deep field survey of the Universe in the Ultraviolet region.

Payloads of AstroSat

  • Ultra Violet Imaging Telescope (UVIT)
    • Its purpose is to image the sky simultaneously in  three wavelengths, one covering the far UV band (130 – 180 nm) and the second sensitive in near UV (200 – 300nm) and Visible (320 – 550 nm) bands.
    • The detector in each channel is a photon counting device.
  • Soft X-ray Telescope (SXT)
    • It is a focusing X-ray telescope with an X-ray CCD imaging camera.
    • This will work primarily in photon counting mode, recording the position, time and energy of every detected photon in the energy range 0.3-8 keV.
  • Large Area X-ray Proportional Counters (LAXPC)
    • Its main purpose is to record variation of total intensity of sources within its 1-degree field of view, with high time resolution and moderate spectral resolution over a large spectral band from 3 to 80 keV.
    • This payload is non-imaging.
  • Cadmium-Zinc-Telluride Imager (CZTI)
    • It is a hard X-ray coded mask camera working in the band 10-100 keV.
    • It has better spectral resolution than the LAXPC and a coarse imaging capability by the coded mask.
  • Scanning Sky Monitor (SSM):
    • It is for detection of new X-ray transients and monitoring of known X-ray sources in 2.5 – 10 keV region.

About 3D Printing

Govt readies 3D printing policy for local firms to join new global market

In News

  • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) will soon come up with a policy aimed at promoting 3D printing on an industrial scale.

Objectives of the policy

  • The policy will help to develop an ecosystem for design, development and deployment of 3D printing in the country.
  • It will look to encourage market leaders to establish global bases for 3D manufacturing in India. It will also discourage imports of printed material for domestic requirements.
  • The policy will also help domestic companies to overcome technical and economic barriers so that they can build supportive facilities for world leaders in the technology, such as the US and China.

About 3D Printing

  • Three-dimensional (3-D) printing is an additive manufacturing process that creates a physical object from a digital design.
  • The term 3D printing can refer to a variety of processes in which material is deposited, joined or solidified under computer control to create a three-dimensional object.
  • The process works by laying down thin layers of material in the form of liquid or powdered plastic, metal or cement, and then fusing (join) the layers together.

Types of 3D Printing

Material extrusion

  • Process where a filament of solid thermoplastic material is melted and deposited, cooling and solidifying, forming a solid object.
  • There is only one type under it: Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), also called as Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF).

Vat Polymerization

  • This process is based on a tank containing photopolymer resin that hardens with exposure to ultraviolet radiation.
  • photopolymer or light-activated resin is a polymer that changes its properties when exposed to light.
  • There are two types under it: Stereolithography (SLA) that use a point laser and Direct Light Processing (DLP) uses a projector.

Power Bed Fusion (Polymers)

  • It is a process where a thermal energy source selectively leads to fusion between the dust particles within a construction area to create a solid object.

Powder Bed Fusion (Metals)

  • Process that uses a thermal source to induce the fusion between metal powder particles (layer by layer).
  • There are different versions of this technology, using different energy sources:
    • Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) or Selective Laser Melting (SLM) uses lasers;
    • Electron Beam Melting (EBM) uses electron beams.

Material Jetting

  • Drops of material are selectively deposited on a building plate and harden when exposed to light.
  • It includes two types:
    • Material Jetting (MJ) that works in a similar way to a standard inkjet printer but instead of printing a single layer of ink, several layers are created to create a solid part.
    • Drop on Demand (DOD) where a pair of ink jets are used – one with the printing material and another with the support material (which is usually soluble).

Advantages of 3D printing

  • 3D printing offers a significant advantage over traditional fabrication, as it does not require expensive tools used in milling processes.
  • Another key advantage is the ability to produce very complex shapes or geometries that would be otherwise impossible to construct by hand.
  • Moreover, it leads to less generation of waste.

Disadvantages of 3D printing

  • The disadvantages of 3D printing include low production rates, less precision and surface polish than parts manufactured by machines.
  • Only a limited range of materials can be processed in 3D printing and there are severe limitations on the size of parts that can be made inexpensively and without distortion.

Applications of 3D printing

  • 3D printing has applications in the auto and motor spare part industry, such as engines, interior and exterior parts of luxury vehicles, turbine blades etc.
  • It is already being used in the aircraft industry. The U.S. and Israeli air forces have used 3-D printers to manufacture spare parts.
  • It can be used in consumer electronics, printed circuit boards, clothing, toys and jewellery as well.
  • In the fashion world, Nike, Adidas are using 3-D printing to create prototypes (models) of their shoes.
  • In medical sciences, 3-D printing is being used to customize implants. In the future, organs and body parts may be created using 3D printing techniques.
  • The use of 3-D printing accelerates the process of manufacturing and enables manufacturers to make custom hearing aids.
  • In the construction industry, companies around the world are using 3-D printing to build homes. Using layers of concrete, homes can be built in 48 hours.

Global market of 3D printing

  • The global market for 3D printing is expected to reach $ 34.8 billion by 2024 and is growing at an annual growth rate of 23.2 per cent.
  • Asia leads the world in 3D printing, and about 50 per cent of its market is held by China, followed by Japan at 30 per cent, and South Korea 10 per cent.
  • However, globally, the US remains the leader, with more than 35 per cent market share.
  • At present, India is at the research and development stage and the technology in India has not yet evolved for strategic industrial integration in sectors like aerospace, which require high accuracy.

 Science & Tech

Q. “Artificial intelligence is going to change every industry, but we have to understand its limits”. In light of this, discuss the benefits and challenges associated with AI in Indian context.

Model Answer

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the ability of machines to learn and reason through analogy, analyze, interpret information, recognize speech, visual perception and take decisions. In other words, AI is application of human intelligence by the machines.

Benefits of AI

  • Contribution to Economy: The NITI Aayog estimates that AI could potentially give 15% boost to the gross value added (GVA) for the economy by 2035, adding $957 billion to India’s $6397 billion-dollar GVA projected for that year.
  • Access To Affordable Healthcare: The application of AI could increase access to and affordability of quality healthcare. India, with its acute shortage of specialist doctors in rural areas, could benefit greatly from such a tool.
  • Benefits In Agriculture: It can enhance farmer’s income, increase productivity and reduce wastage when used in agriculture. For instance, in agriculture, Microsoft, in collaboration with ICRISAT, has developed an AI-enabled sowing app that sends advisories to farmers on the best date to sow, soil-test based fertilizer application, manure application, seed treatment, optimal sowing depth, etc. In 2017, 3,000 farmers in Andhra and Karnataka used the app, resulting in a 10-30% increase in kharif yields across crops.
  • Benefit in Education: In areas of education, AI can improve access and quality of education. For ex- to tackle school dropout, the AP government has partnered with Microsoft to keep track of data relating to student’s demographic details, past and current academic performance, teacher skills to identify those likely to drop out.
  • Benefit In Infrastructure And Transportation Sector: The AI can also help in improving connectivity and safer modes of transportation when put to infrastructure and transportation sectors.
  • Manufacturing Sector: Robots are being used for manufacturing since a long time now, however, more advanced exponential technologies have emerged such as additive manufacturing (3D Printing), which with the help of AI can revolutionize the entire manufacturing supply chain ecosystem.
  • Legal Sector: Automation can lead to faster resolution of already pending cases by reducing the time taken while analyzing cases thus better use of time and more efficient processes.

Challenges In AI

The Aayog identified barriers that need to be surmounted to achieve success in the use of AI. These include lack of expertise, absence of enabling data ecosystem, high resource cost and low awareness, privacy and security issues, and absence of collaborative approach to adoption and application of AI.

  • Lack of AI Expertise: India hardly has any AI expertise today. As only around 4% of Indian AI professionals are trained in emerging technologies such as deep learning.
  • Lack Of Adequate Data: AI takes reams of historical data as input, identifies the relationships among data elements, and makes predictions. Unfortunately, India has sparse data in many sectors.
  • Lack Of Funding And Deadline: It is one of the major challenges faced by the AI sector in India.
  • Unemployment: Other major concerns is the possibility of human beings losing out on employment opportunities due to machines’ ability to perform the same tasks more efficiently. Automation has already rendered a huge number of people jobless all around the world. 
  • Challenge In Form Of Regulations: Another major concern is about difficulties in regulation of machines in the human society. For ex- how can the self-driven cars that crash be held accountable for their actions? 

Conclusion

To truly harness AI’s transformative potential, India must address its lack of expertise in AI research. With a billion-plus people populating the unique-ID system Aadhaar and the India Stack of digitally enabled offerings built on top of Aadhaar, the country has a platform for growth unlike any other in the world. It can in principle catalyze innovative applications, nurture an entrepreneurial ecosystem and generate a massive amount of data that can train algorithms and help develop more intelligence. The technology can address long-standing societal and human development problems of the kind that abound in India. 

In brief: Internet travel

In brief: Internet travel

Client-Server Architecture

  • Internet is often defined as a network of networks of computers.
  • Computer connected to the Internet communicate with each other for data exchange under the Client-Server Architecture.
  • IllustrationWhen you are accessing a mail on Gmail, your computer is a client that wants to access data, information, and other services present on a variety of servers.

 

Data travel: Internet backbone

  • The data exchange often occurs across countries and across continents in the globalised world.
  • The physical infrastructure facilitating data transmission is also referred to as the Internet backbone.
    • In simple words, if internet is thought to work like a transportation system, the internet backbone is the highway which carries maximum amount of traffic on the Internet across continents.
  • This is made possible through:
    • Wired mediums – made up of twisted-pair cables, coaxial cables and fiber-optic cables.
    • Wireless mediums – like radio transmission through satellite communication.

 

 

In focus: Undersea fiber-optic cables

  • Undersea fiber-optic cables make up the bulk of internet backbone propelling around 95-99% of data traffic on the internet around the world.
  • There are about 300 fiber-optic cable systems covering around 12 lakh km of undersea fiber-optic cables making up the world’s internet.
  • In the early days, most of the undersea cable projects were undertaken by telecom companies.
  • Today, increasingly the undersea cable projects are being undertaken by content providers like Facebook, Google, and Amazon.
  • In India, there are 18 under-sea cable systems situated in Mumbai, Chennai, Cochin, Tuticorin and Trivandrum.

 

Fiber-optic technology (see figure below)

  • The core of a fiber-optic cable consists of hundreds of thin strands of glass called optical fiber.
  • Optical fiber basically uses light to transmit data.
  • The principle used in transmitting light-propelled data is total internal reflection.
  • Each strand of optical fiber is as thin as a human hair.
  • Each optical fiber strand has a protective coating (to protect it from water) and an insulating glass cladding.

 

 

Undersea optical fiber

  • The undersea optical fiber is laid deep below the surface of water.
  • They transmit data at the rate of 80 Tbps (terabytes per second)

 

Advantages of undersea fiber-optics

  • Optical fibers are the fastest medium of data transmission.
  • As they are undersea, they are less susceptible to noise during transmission
  • They are far cheaper than satellite data transmission.

 

Conclusion

  • With new inter-driven technologies like AI, IoT, 5G etc. coming up, undersea cables will remain the mainstay of internet due to faster transmission rates.

 

Note: Detailed coverage is made keeping in view the importance of fiber-optics technology in prelims (concept-based questions) and mains.

Section : Science & Tech

World AIDS Day: HIV still a threat, but rate of spread is down

Headline : World AIDS Day: HIV still a threat, but rate of spread is down

Details :

Context:

  • Since 1988, December 1 every year is observed as World AIDS day.

About: HIV-AIDS

  • Once contracted, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) has the potential to attack the body’s immune cells called CD4 (which help the body to respond to infection).
  • After HIV attacks the CD4 cells, it starts replicating itself and destroys them, weakening the body’s immune system making it more prone to certain “opportunistic infections” that take advantage of the weak immune system. This susceptibility worsens if the syndrome progresses.
  • AIDS or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome applies to the advanced stages of the infection caused by the HIV. Typically, the time between HIV transmission and AIDS diagnosis is 10-15 years, although it may occur sooner.
  • Without treatment, HIV can progress and, eventually, it will develop into AIDS in the vast majority of cases.
  • The virus progresses in the absence of antiretroviral therapy (ART) – a drug therapy that slows or prevents the virus from developing.

HIV transmission:

  • Sexual transmission — it can happen when there is contact with infected sexual fluids (rectal, genital, or oral mucous membranes). This can happen while having sex without a condom, including vaginal, oral, and anal sex, or sharing sex toys with someone who is HIV-positive.
  • Perinatal transmission — a mother can transmit HIV to her child during childbirth, pregnancy, and also through breastfeeding.
  • Blood transmission — the risk of transmitting HIV through blood transfusion is extremely low in developed countries, thanks to meticulous screening and precautions. However, among people who inject drugs, sharing and reusing syringes contaminated with HIV-infected blood is extremely hazardous.

Treatment:

  • As of now, there is no cure for HIV.
  • It can be managed by the administration of antiretroviral (ART) drugs that stop the virus from replicating itself. This means that, most people infected with HIV who use ART, do not develop AIDS.
  • In 2018, 62 percent of the adults and 54 percent of the children living with HIV were receiving life-long ART.

Improved control of HIV infections:

  • Through national and international efforts, between 2000 and 2018, new HIV infections fell by 37 percent.
  • HIV related deaths fell by 45 percent, with over 13.6 million lives saved due to ART.

Prevalence of HIV

  • Worldwide:
    • According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there were about 37.9 million affected by HIV by the end of 2018 and 1.7 million were newly infected by it in the same year.
    • In 2018, 770,000 people died of HIV related causes and 500,000 new cases and deaths are expected by 2020.
  • In India:
    • As per NACO’s 14th India-HIV Estimations, 2017, Total number of People Living with HIV in India is 21.4 lakh with about 0.22% adult population (15-49 years) suffering from the disease.
    • Nearly 88 thousand people were newly infected with HIV in 2017.
    • Maharashtra has the highest prevalence of people living with HIV, with 15 per cent of the cases, followed by Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana and Tamil Nadu.

India’s efforts to reduce AIDS

  • In  1986, the first known case of HIV was diagnosed and by  1987 , about 135 more cases came to light.
  • Soon after the first cases emerged in 1986, the  Government of India  established the National AIDS Committee within the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
  • To control the spread of the virus, the Indian government set up the National AIDS Control Programme in 1987 to co-ordinate national responses such as blood screening and health education.
  • In 1992, the government set up the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) to oversee policies and prevention and control programmes relating to HIV and AIDS and the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) for HIV prevention.
  • In 2009 India established a “National HIV and AIDS Policy and the World of Work“, which sought to end discrimination against workers on the basis of their real or perceived HIV status.
  • Government passed the HIV and AIDS act in 2017 to provide for the prevention and control of the spread of HIV and AIDS and for the protection of human rights of persons affected by the said virus and syndrome and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
  • Prevention and Care, Support & Treatment (CST) form the two key pillars of all HIV/AIDS control efforts in India.

About National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO):

  • NACO was established in 1992 as a division of India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare .
  • It is the nodal organisation for formulation of policy and implementation of programs for prevention and control of HIV/AIDS in India.
  • NACO also undertakes HIV estimations biennially(every 2 year) in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and  National Institute of Medical Statistics (NIMS).
  • The first round of HIV estimation in India was done in 1998, while the last round was done in 2017.

National AIDS Control Programme:

  • The National AIDS Control Programme (NACP), launched in 1992, is being implemented as a comprehensive programme for prevention and control of HIV/AIDS in India.
  • It is a 100% centrally sponsored scheme.
  • Launched in 1992, it was followed by NACP-II in 1999, NACP-III in 2007 and NACP-IV in 2012 (which was later extended from April 2017 to March 2020)
  • NACP-I (1992):
    • Objective: Slowing down the spread of HIV infections so as to reduce morbidity, mortality and impact of AIDS in the country.
    • National AIDS Control Board (NACB) was constituted and an autonomous National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) was set up to implement the project.
    • Focus areas:
      • Awareness generation
    • Setting up surveillance system for monitoring HIV epidemic
      • Measures to ensure access to safe blood
    • Preventive services for high risk group populations.
  • NACP-II (1999):
    • Two key objectives of NACP II:
      • to reduce the spread of HIV infection in India
      • to increase India’s capacity to respond to HIV/AIDS on a long-term basis.
  • NACP- III (2007):
    • Goal: Halting and Reversing the Epidemic over its five-year period.
  • NACP-IV (2012):
    • Aim:  To accelerate the process of reversal and further strengthen the epidemic response in India through a cautious and well defined integration process.
    • Objective:
      • Achieving the seventy five percent (75%) reduction in new HIV infections
  • 90-90-90 strategy
    • It refers to the UNAIDS’ ambitious treatment target to help end the AIDS epidemic.
    • It targets that 90% of those who are HIV positive in the country know their status and that 90% of those who know their status are on treatment and 90% of those who are on treatment experience effective viral load suppression).
    • NACO is even trying to achieve 95-95-95 in this regard.
  • Elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis and elimination of discrimination and stigmatization of people living with HIV
  • The programme has succeeded in reducing the estimated number of annual new HIV infections in adults by 57% during the last decade through scaled up prevention activities.
Section : Social Issues

Patent challenge mounted against J&J’s attempt to extend monopoly on high-priced anti-TB drug

Headline : Patent challenge mounted against J&J’s attempt to extend monopoly on high-priced anti-TB drug

Details :

The News

  • Two TB patients have filed a petition challenging Johnson & Johnson’s application for extension of patent for Bedaquiline, the anti-TB drug.

Background

  • Drug-resistant TB:
    • The bacteria causing TB have developed Multi-Drug Resistance and Extreme-Drug Resistance even to the most powerful anti-TB drugs, Isoniazid and Rifampicin.
    • About 1.47 lakh people in India suffer from multi drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB).
  • Bedaquiline drug for treatment is too expensive:
    • The WHO has recommended Bedaquiline as a new-generation drug for Multi-drug resistant TB patients.
    • However, Bedaquiline is extremely expensive about $400 pe patient per regimen and thus unaffordable to majority of patients in India.
    • At present, a mere 2% of over the patients suffering from MDR-TB in India are currently getting Bedaquiline.
    • India is getting about 10,000 free courses of Bedaquiline under the US-AID programme, but this number is too low.

India needs to make generics when the patent expires:

  • Thus in order to meet the ambitious goal of ending TB by 2025, India needs make new-gen drugs like Bedaquiline accessible to its vulnerable population.
  • This requires compulsory licensing of Bedaquine in order to be able to make generic version of the drug which will be more accessible and affordable.

J&J looking to extend the duration of its patent:

  • Johnson&Johnson company currently holds the patent rights over the basic molecule of Bedaquiline till 2023.
  • The company has sought an extension of patent rights or secondary patent on the fumarate salt of Bedaquiline drug for 4 more years from 2023 to 2027.

Secondary Patent and Evergreening: A brief

  • In order to protect the patent rights of a pharma company over a drug, primary patent is issued.
  • Primary patent is issued over the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) of a drug usually of 20 years. 
  • During the 20 years, the drug is usually expensive as an incentive to the research efforts of the company holding the patent rights.
  • At the end of 20 years, generic versions of the drug are allowed to be manufactured and thus the prices of the drug come down.
  • As a strategy to continue getting profits keeping the price of the drug high, the pharma companies adopt strategies called secondary patents or evergreening.
  • Secondary patents are usually sought for derivatives and variants of the API, a new formulation, a dosage regimen, or a new method of administering the medicine.
  • This strategy of extending the patent rights beyond the 20 year period by seeking secondary patents even before the expiry of primary patent is called ‘Evergreening’.
  • Section 3(d) of the Indian Patents Act provides an effective defence against secondary patents misuse and thus evergreening in India.
  • According to Section 3(d) in order to be eligible for secondary patent, the drug must demonstrate significant improvement in therapeutic efficacy and not just change in formulation of the drug. 

Section : Science & Tech

Just 2km from landing on Moon, Vikram goes silent

Headline : Just 2km from landing on Moon, Vikram goes silent 

Details :

In News

  • The Vikram lander of the Chandrayaan-2 failed to make a smooth soft-landing on moon, as it was unable to bring down its speed to the required level.

About: Chandrayaan-2

  • The Chandrayaan-2 Mission was launched in July, 2019 to attempt landing near the little-explored south pole of the Moon.
  • The mission was to focus on the lunar surface, searching for water and minerals and measuring moonquakes, etc.

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Parts of the Spacecraft:

  • The spacecraft used in the mission has three distinct parts: an orbiter, a lander and a rover.
  • The orbiter, which weighs 2,379kg (5,244lb) and has a mission life of a year, will take images of the lunar surface.
  • The lander (named Vikram) weighs about half as much, and carries within its belly a 27kg Moon rover with instruments to analyse the lunar soil.
  • The rover (called Pragyan – wisdom in Sanskrit) was designed to travel up to a half a kilometre from the lander and send data and images back to Earth for analysis.

Mission Vehicle

  • The mission vehicle was a GSLV Mk-III rocket.
  • GSLV (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle) rockets can carry heavier payloads and travel deeper into space, and it was used as Chandrayaan-2 was heavy, with a total mass close to 4,000 kg.
  • It is powered by a core liquid engine, has two solid boosters that are used to provide the massive thrust required during liftoff, and a cryogenic engine in the upper stage.

Landing site

  • Though not exactly at the South Pole, the landing site was as far as any spacecraft has gone in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • NASA’s human landings about 50 years back, have been mostly near the Lunar Equator.
  • In contrast, Chandrayaan-2’s landing site was close to permanently shadowed craters near the South Pole that might store water ice.

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Background

  • Till date, only three countries — Russia, the US and China—have successfully soft-landed on the Moon.
  • India was attempting to soft-land a probe on Moon for the first time. It has earlier carried out an orbiter mission, Chandrayaan-1, around Moon in 2008.
  • The Chandrayaan-2 Mission was launched in July, 2019 to attempt landing near the little-explored south pole of the Moon.
  • In August 2019, the spacecraft slid precisely into its planned orbit around the moon.
  • In early September, 2019, the landing module (the Vikram lander with the Pragyan rover inside it) separated from the orbiter and entered an orbit of moon.

News Summary:

  • India’s attempt to create a history by becoming the first nation to land close to the south pole of the Moon has declared failed, after contact with lander Vikram was lost.
  • To decelerate after starting its descent, the lander continuously fired its four thrusters in the direction of its movement and the ‘rough braking phase’ of the lander went smoothly for 10 minutes. The lander’s descent was as planned and normal performance was observed up to an altitude of 2.1 km.
  • Subsequently, the communication from lander to ground stations was lost. No signal from the lander can mean that a communication glitch, a possible power issue with the rover, but can also mean that the rover did not survive the landing.
  • However, the Orbiter which ferried lander Vikram and rover Pragyan to the Moon’s orbit remains functional.
  • The mission life of the Orbiter is one year. The Orbiter payloads will conduct remote-sensing observations from a 100 km orbit.

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Successful Chandrayaan-2 would have furthered human efforts at bulding Lunar Bases

Rationale of a Lunar base

  • Humans live in narrow ranges of temperature, pressure, humidity, radiation levels and other attributes. Such an environment can be replicated in a habitation module, which can be possible on the Moon and Mars.
  • The idea is to build a mini-city on the Moon or a Lunar base with houses (or habitation modules) where humans live, with support infrastructure like a power generation grid, communication network and vehicles for surface mobility.
  • Moon is preferred over Mars for a permanent base, because Mars is about 1000 times further away compared to the Moon. This leads to a long round trip of at least 1 year from Earth to Mars while the journey to the Moon can be traversed in 3 days through a powerful launch vehicle.

Conditions for Lunar Colonization

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  • In order to rationalize costs, two fundamental human needs, water and oxygen, need to be available from lunar materials.
  • Further, a fundamental logistics requirement, rocket fuel, needs to be extracted and produced on the Moon.
  • Transporting water, oxygen or rocket fuel from Earth would exponentially increase costs to untenable levels.
  • Thus, availability of water on the moon is critical as it can provide for all three needs.

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Chandrayaan-2’s importance in finding water

  • Chandrayaan-2 would have provided information related to location of water ice deposits in permanently shadowed craters on the Moon.
  • Specifically, the location and extent of water ice deposits, would have helped further robotics missions and technology development efforts to effectively extract, transport and store the water.

Section : Science & Tech

Technology: Indian space industry, SSLV, NSIL, Antrix, Indian space industry, Commercial Space Industry, ISRO and Private Sector

Headline : ISRO’s new commercial arm gets first booking for launch

Details :

In News

  • NEWSPACE INDIA Limited (NSIL), the newly created second commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation, recently got its first contract.
  • A private US space services provider, Spaceflight, has booked ISRO’s Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV), which is yet to be tested, for launching a spacecraft.
  • Spaceflight has had nine launches in the past with ISRO involving over 100 spacecraft on the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).

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About: SSLV

  • ISRO’s Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) was originally scheduled to have its first development flight in July, 2019 but the flight has been pushed to the end of the year.
  • It is suited for launching multiple microsatellites at a time and supports multiple orbital drop-offs.
  • The SSLV can carry satellites weighing up to 500 kg to low earth orbit while the PSLV can launch satellites weighing in the range of 1,000 kg.
  • It is the smallest vehicle at 110-tonne mass at ISRO and takes only 72 hours to integrate, unlike the 70 days taken now for a launch vehicle.
  • Further, only six people will be required to do the job, instead of 60 people. This leads to the entire job being done in a very short time.
  • The cost of the vehicle is only around Rs 30 crore which is one tenth of a PSLV.
  • About 15 to 20 SSLVs would be required every year to meet the national demand alone.

About: NSIL

  • NSIL was incorporated in March 2019 under the administrative control of Department of Space (DOS).
  • The aim of NSIL is to use research and development carried out by ISRO over the years for commercial purposes through Indian industry partners.
  • It will mass produce and manufacture the SSLV and the more powerful PSLV with the private sector in India through technology transfers.
  • It will be involved in marketing spin-off technologies and products/services, both in India and abroad, and in any other subject which the government deems fit.
  • It will deal with capacity building of local industry for space manufacturing.

About: Antrix

  • Antrix is the first commercial arm of ISRO incorporated in 1992.
  • It is under the administrative control of Department of Space (DOS). 
  • It promotes and commercially markets the products and services emanating from the Indian Space Programme. 
  • The current business activities of Antrix include:
    • Provisioning of communication satellite transponders to various users
    • Providing launch services for customer satellites
    • Marketing of data from Indian and foreign remote sensing satellites
    • Building and marketing of satellites as well as satellite sub-systems
    • Establishing ground infrastructure for space applications
    • Mission support services for satellites

Indian space industry

  • The Indian space programme is one of the world’s fastest growing programmes.
  • Ever since India sent a spacecraft to Mars in 2014, India has India has become one of the top-ranking space-faring nations which include the US, Europe, Russia, China and Japan.
  • The space sector in India can broadly be categorized into upstream and downstream industries.
  • Upstream industries include manufacturing of satellites, their parts and subsystems, and launch vehicles.
  • Downstream industries include satellite-based services, such as satellite TV, communications, imagery etc.
  • India is moving towards increasing its capacity and capabilities of using space technology not only for societal applications but also to support commercial space activities and pursue diplomatic and security objectives.

Indian Private sector participation

  • India has a large Small-Medium-Enterprises (SMEs) base that caters within the traditional space agency-driven model.
  • However, there is a stark gap in the capacity builtup in the private industry where the industry is mostly involved as tier-2/3 based vendors
  • Presently there is no single industry vendor who has the capacity to deliver end-to-end systems.
  • This creates bottleneck effects in the possible expansion of industry to the global supply chain, especially from an export perspective.
  • ISRO’s opportunities for smaller players in the space sector are very restricted compared to larger national space programs, stifling the growth of private enterprise in the process.

Commercial Space Industry

  • The value of the global space industry is estimated to be $350 billion and is likely to exceed $550 billion by 2025.
  • A revolution is also under way in the small satellite market. Globally, 17,000 small satellites are expected to be launched between now and 2030.
  • Despite ISRO’s impressive capabilities, India’s share is estimated at $7 billion (just 2% of the global market).
  • It covers broadband and Direct-to-Home television (accounting for two-thirds of the share), satellite imagery and navigation.

How ISRO can benefit commercially

Launch multiple satellites

  • Many private companies are developing satellites that they need for their operations, but most cannot afford to launch these independently.
  • So they need to take help of missions from agencies like Isro that have launch facilities.
  • ISRO’s ability to launch multiple satellites in a single mission has improved its standing significantly in the global market.

Cost

  • The need for launches is growing exponentially worldwide.
  • New companies are planning to launch entire commercial constellations [groups] of satellites, where a single company might need to launch between 24 to 648 satellites.
  • The cost factor, remains a significant aspect of India’s space program.
  • ISRO has a proven track record in launching small satellites with the success of the PSLV.
  • The development of the SSLV will give India a further boost in this segment. SSLV will offer an even more cost-effective option than the existing PSLV.

Frequency

  • Another thing that makes India an attractive proposition is the frequency of its launches and its ability to meet deadlines.
  • So far it has been able to meet the time requirements of all the customers

Heavy Satellites

  • India has been launching heavy satellites on its Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) but so far it has only been used for domestic satellites.
  • In recent months, there have been queries from foreign companies for launches on the GSLV.
  • If India can successfully start taking more heavy satellites to space, it could significantly improve its position in a market that’s worth billions of dollars.

Section : Science & Tech

Malaria: About National Framework for Malaria Elimination (NFME), National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme,

Headline : Malaria may get ‘dangerous’ tag, but there’s nothing to worry about

Details :

In News

  • Malaria may soon be re-categorised as a ‘dangerous disease’ like tuberculosis, plague, small pox or leprosy in the capital.
  • The re-categorisation is taking place not because the disease has acquired an epidemic proportion or a new dangerous strain has been found.
  • The intention is to improve the screening mechanism to eradicate the disease completely from the city.

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Incidence

  • Delhi reported just 201 cases of malaria in 2014, which rose to 359 in 2015, 454 in 2016 and 577 in 2017.
  • Last year, 473 cases were reported while the count at the onset of this monsoon was around 83.

Sources

  • Peri-domestic containers — vase, flower pots, bird pots, tins, tyres and water fountains — account for the largest chunk of the mosquito breeding sites (38%).
  • Domestic water storage containers — drums, buckets, jerry cans etc — come second at 33%.
  • Desert coolers, used in Delhi in large numbers, and overhead tanks come at the third and fourth spots, respectively.

Current mechanism

  • At present, the corporations only get the data related to the mosquito-borne diseases from 36 hospitals under the sentinel scheme.
  • As malaria is not considered risky, most cases do not get reported.
  • Doctors give medicines for four-five days, which cures the symptoms but traces of the parasite stay in the liver.
  • However, a full 14-day radical treatment has to be followed for its complete removal from the system.

Impact

  • Post this step, it will become obligatory for all medical practitioners, clinics and private hospitals to report and give information about all patients arriving at their facilities.
  • The obligatory reportage will improve mapping of malaria cases and discourage incomplete treatment, which leads to development of resistance against drugs

Mechanisms to deal with Malaria in the country

Background

  • In 1953, the Government of India launched the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) with a focus on indoor residual spraying of DDT. Within five years, the program helped to dramatically reduce the annual incidence of malaria.
  • Encouraged by this, a more ambitious National Malaria Eradication Programme (NMEP) was launched in 1958. This further reduced the number of malaria cases and eliminated deaths from the disease.
  • However, after 1967, resistance to insecticides and the parasite’s growing resistance to antimalarial drugs, led to a resurgence of the disease countrywide.

National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme

  • In 2003, malaria control was integrated with other vector borne diseases under the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP).
  • It is concerned with prevention and control of vector borne diseases namely Malaria, Filariasis, Kala-azar, Dengue and Japanese Encephalitis (JE).

Common Strategy

  • The 5 diseases were brought under a common umbrella as they share common control strategies such as
    • Chemical controls (e.g. indoor residual spraying),
    • Environmental management,
    • Biological control (e.g. larvivorous fish), and
    • Personal protection strategies (e.g. insecticide treated bed-nets).

Implementation

  • The Directorate of NVBDCP is the nodal agency for programme implementation in respect of prevention and control of these vector borne diseases.
  • The Directorate provides technical assistance and support in terms of cash and commodity to the various states/UTs.
  • The programme implementation is the responsibility of the states/UTs.

National Framework for Malaria Elimination (NFME)

  • The National Framework for Malaria Elimination (NFME) in India 2016–2030 has been developed in close collaboration with officials from NVBDCP, experts from the Indian Council of Medical Research, WHO and representatives from civil society institutions, professional bodies and partners.
  • All states/UTs have been grouped into one of four categories. It will serve as a guide for states and UTs for planning malaria elimination.
  • Based on their malaria burden, specific objectives have been established for each of these categories and a mix of interventions will be implemented in each of them.
  • It will be implemented by the Directorate of National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP).

Goals

  • Eliminate malaria (zero indigenous cases) throughout the entire country by 2030.
  • Maintain malaria–free status in areas where malaria transmission has been interrupted and prevent re-introduction of malaria.

Objectives

  • Eliminate malaria from all 26 low (Category 1) and moderate (Category 2) transmission states/union territories (UTs) by 2022.
  • Reduce the incidence of malaria to less than 1 case per 1000 population per year in all states and UTs and their districts by 2024.
  • Interrupt indigenous transmission of malaria throughout the entire country, including all high transmission states and union territories (UTs) (Category 3) by 2027.
  • Prevent the re-establishment of local transmission of malaria in areas where it has been eliminated and maintain national malaria-free status by 2030 and beyond.

Section : Science & Tech

China, Russia, France share satellite data on Assam floods,UN-SPIDER, International Charter Space and Major Disasters

Headline : China, Russia, France share satellite data on Assam floods

Details :

In News:

  • The above-average rainfall has led to floods in Assam, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, with Assam being the hardest hit.
  • India has acquired satellite imagery related to floods from eight international space agencies, due to its membership of the International Charter Space and Major Disasters.

Note: There is apprehension about further floods, after Bhutan released excess water from Kuricchu Hydropower reservoirs which could lead to rise in water level in seven districts in Assam.

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About UN-SPIDER

  • United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response (UN-SPIDER) was established in 2006 under the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), which is the United Nations office responsible for international cooperation in the peaceful use of outer space.
  • It develops solution to address the limited access developing countries have to specialized technologies that can be essential in the management of disasters and the reducing of disaster risks.
  • It facilitates the use of space based disaster management and emergency response technologies.
  • The International Charter Space and Major Disasters has been set up under the UN-SPIDER.

 

About International Charter Space and Major Disasters

  • The International Charter Space and Major Disasters is a non-binding charter which provides for the charitable and humanitarian retasked acquisition of and transmission of space satellite data to relief organizations in the event of major disasters.
  • It was initiated by the European Space Agency and the French space agency CNES after the UNISPACE III conference held in Vienna, Austria in 1999 and it officially came into operation in 2000.
  • Since 2000, when the Charter came into operation there have been about 600 activations and data from 61 satellites have helped with disaster operations in 125 countries.
  • Every member agency has committed certain resources to support the provisions of the Charter and is therefore helping to mitigate the effects of disaster on human life and property.

How the Charter works?

  • Whenever there is a natural disaster, any of the member countries can send a ‘request’ to activate the Charter.
  • The Charter seeks the information pertaining to disaster- hit area available with all the 33 member space agencies
  • By combining earth observation assets from different space agencies, the charter allows resources and expertise to be coordinated for rapid response to major disaster situations
  • ISRO has also provided information to other Space Agencies in response to requests under the charter.

 

News Summary:

  • The National Remote Sensing Center (NRSC) represents the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) as a member of the charter..
  • Due to the heavy floods in India, the Charter was activated on July 17 by NRSC.
  • Under the Charter, so far data has been received from 8 countries, including USGS, CNES, ESA, ROSCOSMOS, Chinese National Space Agency (CNSA) and 3 others.
  • ISRO’s CARTOSAT satellites too got the Indian space agency its own images.

Note: In 2018 also, India had activated the Charter after Kerala was inundated by floods.

 

Use satellites for Disaster Management

  • The data from earth observation and meteorological satellites in conjunction with ground based information, and services derived from communication & navigation satellites are being used towards Disaster Management Support.

Data Obtained

  • From meteorological satellites: For cyclone tracking, intensity & landfall predictions and forecasting of extreme weather events
  • From earth observation satellites: For monitoring disaster events and assessing the damages
  • The communication satellites: Help to establish emergency communication in remote and inaccessible areas
  • Navigation satellites: For providing location based services

CARTOSAT:

  • The Cartosat satellites are a series of Indian earth observation satellites built and operated by the ISRO, as part of Indian Remote Sensing Program.
  • The Cartosat-2 series satellites, placed in a sun synchronous orbit, provide high resolution images of earth’s surface.
  • The images obtained from these satellites are useful in variety of applications requiring high resolution images, which include cartography, infrastructure planning, natural resources management, disaster management.
  • The National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) of ISRO has the mandate to develop the technologies for effective use of remote sensing and GIS based information services for disaster mitigation, relief and management at local/state/central level.
Section : Science & Tech

How will India contribute to LIGO?

Headline : How will India contribute to LIGO?

Details :

Context:

  • LIGO India project is coming up in Maharashtra, near Aundha in Hingoli district.
  • This article explain about the LIGO projects across the world, their significance and India’s part in the global LIGO project.

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Background

  • In September 2015, LIGO’s US detectors made the first discovery of gravitational waves travelling outwards from a point 1.3 billion light years away from the earth.
  • At this point, two massive black holes with masses 29 and 36 times that of the sun had merged to give off gravitational wave disturbances. This discovery led to the confirmation of Einsteins’ prediction and launched a new way of studying the Universe.
    • Black holes are exotic objects that have immense gravitational pull and they trap even the fastest object in the world, which is light.
  • When objects with such an immense gravity merge, the disturbance is felt by the very fabric of space time and travels outward from the merger, Thus, gravitational waves have been described as “ripples in the fabric of space time”.

 

LIGO

  • LIGO stands for Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory. It consists of a pair of huge interferometers, each having two arms which are 4 km long.
  • LIGO, unlike usual telescopes, does not “see” the incoming ripples in spacetime because gravitational waves are not a part of electromagnetic spectrum or light.
  • They are not light waves but a different phenomenon altogether — a stretching of spacetime due to immense gravity.

Detection of gravitational waves:

  • Remarkable precision is needed to detect a signal as faint as a gravitational wave, and the two LIGO detectors work as one unit to ensure this.
  • This requires weeding out noise very carefully, for when such a faint signal is being detected, even a slight human presence near the detector could derail the experiment by drowning out the signal.
  • A single LIGO detector cannot confidently detect this disturbance on its own and at least two detectors are needed. This is because the signal is so weak that even a random noise could give out a signal that can mislead one into thinking a genuine gravitational wave has been detected.
  • It is because two detectors detect the faint signal in coincidence that leads to the certainty of it being read as a genuine reading and not noise.

 

Other LIGO detectors

  • Following the 2015 detection, which later won the Physics Nobel (2017), the two LIGO detectors detected seven such binary black hole merger events before they were joined by the European Virgo detector in 2017. The two facilities have now detected 10 events.
  • The Japanese detector, KAGRA, or Kamioka Gravitational-wave Detector, is expected to join the international network soon.
  • In the meantime, in a collaboration with LIGO, a gravitational wave detector is being set up in India.
  • The LIGO India project is expected to join the international network in a first science run in 2025.

 

Sources of Gravitational Waves

  • Mergers of black holes or neutron stars, rapidly rotating neutron stars, supernova explosions and the remnants of the disturbance caused by the formation of the universe and the Big Bang, are the strongest sources.
  • There can be many other sources, but these are likely to be too weak to detect.

Significance of Gravitational Waves

  • The data collected by LIGO, may have far-reaching effects on many areas of physics including gravitation, relativity, astrophysics, cosmology, particle physics, and nuclear physics.
  • It has opened a completely new window with which scientists are starting to probe hitherto unexplored phenomena such as the formation of black holes, exploding neutron stars and witnessing the birth of the Universe.
  • It enriches multi-messenger astronomy complementing the conventional means of observing and studying the Universe with telescopes using light.
  • As more detectors would be in place, the study would also offer a new way to map out the universe, using gravitational-wave astronomy. Perhaps one day with highly accurate detection facilities, signatures of gravitational waves bouncing off celestial objects will help in detecting and mapping them.

 

LIGO India

  • LIGO India will come up in Maharashtra, near Aundha in Hingoli district. The observatory will cost 12.6 billion rupees (US$177 million) and is scheduled for completion in 2024.
  • Like the LIGO detectors, the one at LIGO India will also have two arms of 4 km length. But while there are similarities there will be differences too.
  • Being an ultra-high precision large-scale apparatus, LIGO India is expected to show a unique “temperament” determined by the local site characteristics.
  • The LIGO Laboratory — which is operated by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge — will provide the hardware for a complete LIGO interferometer in India, technical data on its design, as well as training and assistance with installation and commissioning for the supporting infrastructure.
  • India will provide the site, the vacuum system and other infrastructure required to house and operate the interferometer — as well as all labour, materials and supplies for installation.

Agencies involved

  • The LIGO-India project will be built by by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India, with a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the National Science Foundation (NSF), USA, signed in 2016, along with several national and international research and academic institutions.

Significance of LIGO India

  • It will dramatically increase the sensitivity with which gravitational events will be detected.
  • It will allow accurate calculation of sizes of black holes.
  • Help to better understand the Universe’s rate of expansion.
  • Detection of gravitational waves: With the current number of detectors in the world, there is huge uncertainty in determining where in the sky the disturbance came from. Observations from a new detector in a far-off position will help locate the source of the gravitational waves five to ten times more accurately than current efforts allow.
  • Development of Astronomy: India is conventionally strong in theoretical astronomy. It will help Indian astronomers partner with the global community and bring new insights into this vibrant area.
  • Careers in Science: Presence of such a world-leading facility in India will inspire and attract generations of students to pursue challenging careers in science, technology and innovation.
Section : Science & Tech

Ban or regulate? Editorial 29th Jul’19 TheHindu

Headline : Ban or regulate? Editorial 29th Jul’19 TheHindu

Details :

Use of Cryptocurrencies  at this moment in a bit shady:

  • Bitcoin, the most prominent among cryptocurrencies, has fluctuated wildly in value, even over short periods of time.
  • As per some analysts, for now, “speculation remains Bitcoin’s primary use case”.
  • Its use in illegal online marketplaces that deal with drugs and child pornography is well-documented.
  • There have been cases of consumers being defrauded, including in India.

World is cautious about the cryptocurrencies:

  • Governments and economic regulators across the world are wary of private cryptocurrencies.
  • As they need neither a central issuing authority nor a central validating agency for transactions, these currencies can exist and thrive outside the realm of authority and regulation.
  • They are even deemed a threat to the official currency and monetary system.

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Few takers for cryptocurrencies in Indian government:

  • Indian policymakers and administrators have time and again made clear their distaste for cryptocurrencies.
  • In his Budget speech in 2018, Finance Minister said the government doesn’t consider them legal tender.
  • The Reserve Bank of India has repeatedly warned the public of the risks associated with dealing with cryptocurrencies.

Recommendation to ban all private cryptocurrencies:

  • An inter-ministerial committee recently recommended that India should ban all private cryptocurrencies, that is, Bitcoin and others like it.
  • The committee even drafted a law that mandates a fine and imprisonment of up to 10 years for the offences of mining, generating, holding, selling, dealing in, transferring, disposing of, or issuing cryptocurrencies.
  • The decision hardly comes as a surprise, considering they have little backing in Indian government.
  • Their existence owed almost entirely to advanced encryption technologies.
  • Committee in favour of Central bank-issued cryptocurrency:
    • The committee while recommending ban on private cryptocurrencies has advocated a central bank-issued cryptocurrency.

 

Is banning the most effective way to deal with cryptocurrencies?

  • The question then is whether banning cryptocurrencies is the most effective way to respond.
  • The inter-ministerial committee believing in ban, and recommended it.
  • China, which India has taken a cue from, has gone for an outright ban.

But it cites countries which haven’t actually banned them:

  • Six of the seven jurisdictions that the committee’s report cites have not banned cryptocurrencies outright.
  • They are regulating them, not banning them:
    • Many of them, including Canada, Thailand, Russia and Japan, seem to be moving on the path of regulation, so that transactions are within the purview of anti-money laundering and prevention of terror laws.

Banning could be ineffective as private traders can use overseas platforms:

  • Owing to the network-based nature of cryptocurrencies, after banning domestic crypto exchanges, many traders turned to overseas platforms to continue participating in crypto transactions.
  • Even in China, trading in cryptocurrencies is now low but not non-existent.

 

Regulation rather than ban could be considered:

  • It is not clear from the report on why an outright ban is a superior choice to regulation, especially in a field driven by fast-paced technological innovations.
  • There should be more debate before government brings in any law to ban the cryptocurrencies, than regulate them.

 

Importance:

GS Paper III: Economy

Section : Editorial Analysis

Everything about Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C

Headline : Hepatitis B and C major killers, but few know it

Details :

In News:

  • On the World Hepatitis Day, the Union health minister pledged to join a campaign initiated by the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS) to create awareness about the disease.

Context of the topic:

  • In India, more people are dying of Hepatitis B and C than HIV, malaria and dengue combined and yet the awareness about the disease remains low.

 

In Focus: Hepatitis

What is Hepatitis?

  • Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver.
  • The condition can be self-limiting or can progress to fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis or liver cancer.
  • Hepatitis viruses are the most common cause of hepatitis in the world but other infections, toxic substances (e.g. alcohol, certain drugs), and autoimmune diseases can also cause hepatitis.

Note: Autoimmune hepatitis is a disease that occurs when your body makes antibodies against your liver tissue.

Types of Viral Hepatitis

  • Viral infections of the liver that are classified as hepatitis include hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E.
  • A different virus is responsible for each type of virally transmitted hepatitis.
  • These 5 types are of greatest concern because of the burden of illness and death they cause and the potential for outbreaks and epidemic spread.
  • In particular, types B and C are the most common cause of liver cirrhosis and cancer.

Causes:

  • Hepatitis A and E are typically caused by ingestion of contaminated food or water.
  • Hepatitis B, C and D usually occur as a result of parenteral contact with infected body fluids.
    • Common modes of transmission for these viruses include receipt of contaminated blood or blood products, invasive medical procedures using contaminated equipment and for hepatitis B transmission from mother to baby at birth, from family member to child, and also by sexual contact.

Hepatitis A

  • Hepatitis A infections are in many cases mild, with most people making a full recovery and remaining immune from further Hepatitis A Virus (HAV) infections. However, HAV infections can also be severe and life threatening.
  • Most people in areas of the world with poor sanitation have been infected with this virus.
  • Transmission of the Virus:
    • Through consumption of contaminated water or food.
    • Certain sex practices can also spread Hepatitis A Virus (HAV).
  • Vaccination availability:
    • Safe and effective vaccines are available to prevent HAV.

Hepatitis B

  • Hepatitis B is a viral infection caused by Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease.
  • According to WHO, in 2015, 257 million people suffered from Hepatitis B infection (defined as Hepatitis B surface antigen positive).
  • Infections in India: India harbours 10-15% of the entire pool of Hepatitis B virus carriers in the world and 15-25% of these patients are likely to suffer from cirrhosis, scarring of the liver and liver cancer and likely to die prematurely.
  • Transmission of the Virus:
    • Exposure to infective blood, semen, and other body fluids.
    • From infected mother to infant at the time of birth or from family member to infant in early childhood.
  • Vaccination availability:
    • Safe and effective vaccines are available to prevent HBV.
    • All infants should get a shot as soon as possible after birth, preferably within 24 hours. It, however, can be taken at any age

Hepatitis C

  • Transmission of the Virus (HCV) :
    • Through unsafe injection practices
    • Transfusion of unscreened blood and its products
    • Sexual practices that lead to exposure of blood of an infected individual
  • Vaccination availability:
    • There is no preventive vaccine for Hepatitis C, which is a major cause of liver cancer.

Hepatitis D

  • Transmission of the Virus:
    • The Hepatitis D Virus (HDV) infections occur only in those who are infected with HBV.
    • The dual infection of HDV and HBV can result in a more serious disease and worse outcome.
  • Vaccination availability:
    • Hepatitis B vaccines provide protection from HDV infection.

Hepatitis E

  • Hepatitis E Virus is a common cause of hepatitis outbreaks in developing parts of the world and is increasingly recognized as an important cause of disease in developed countries
  • Transmission of the Virus:
    • Consumption of contaminated water or food.
  • Vaccination availability:
    • Safe and effective vaccines to prevent HEV infection have been developed but are not widely available.

Hepatitis B and C: Major Risks

  • According to the global hepatitis  report,  2017  Hepatitis B and C, the two main types of the five different hepatitis infections (A,B,C,D,E), are responsible for 96% of overall viral hepatitis related mortality.

 

About National Viral Hepatitis Control Program

  • The National Viral Hepatitis Control Program has been launched by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, on the occasion of the World Hepatitis Day, 28th July 2018.
  • It is an integrated initiative for the prevention and control of viral hepatitis in India to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.3 which aims to ending viral hepatitis by 2030.
  • This is a comprehensive plan covering the entire gamut from Hepatitis A, B, C, D & E, and the whole range from prevention, detection and treatment to mapping treatment outcomes.

Aim

  • Combat hepatitis and achieve country wide elimination of Hepatitis C by 2030
  • Achieve significant reduction in the infected population, morbidity and mortality associated with Hepatitis B and C i.e. Cirrhosis and Hepato-cellular carcinoma (liver cancer)
  • Reduce the risk, morbidity and mortality due to Hepatitis A and E.

Key Objectives:

  • Enhance community awareness on hepatitis and lay stress on preventive measures among general population especially high-risk groups and in hotspots.
  • Provide early diagnosis and management of viral hepatitis at all levels of healthcare
  • Develop standard diagnostic and treatment protocols for management of viral hepatitis and its complications.
  • Strengthen the existing infrastructure facilitiescapacity building of existing human resources and raise additional human resources, where required, for providing comprehensive services for management of viral hepatitis and its complications in all districts of the country.
  • Develop linkages with the existing National programs towards awareness, prevention, diagnosis and treatment for viral hepatitis.
  • Develop a web-based “Viral Hepatitis Information and Management System” to maintain a registry of persons affected with viral hepatitis and its sequelae.

Components:

  • Preventive component
    • Awareness generation & behaviour change communication
    • Immunization of Hepatitis B (birth dose, high risk groups, health care workers)
    • Safety of blood and blood products
    • Injection safety, safe socio-cultural practices
    • Safe drinking water, hygiene and sanitary toilets
  • Diagnosis and Treatment
  • Monitoring and Evaluation, Surveillance and Research
  • Training and Capacity Building

 

Way ahead:

  • To make the programme successful and to ensure all persons suffering from Hepatitis B and C get treatment, there is need of more funds.
  • However, with the recent reductions in the costs of diagnosing and treating viral hepatitis, countries can scale up investments in eliminating the disease.
  • Also, mass campaigns are needed to create awareness about its vaccination.

 

Section : Social Issues

SciTech – Current Affairs

Bubble boy syndrome #

It is also called severe combined immunodeficiency, it is a rare genetic disorder that results in a defective immune system in baby boys.
How is it caused?
It results from a genetic defect in the X-Chromosome and therefore called X-linked SCID
The defective X-chromosome lacks in the gene that forms the immune system.
The absence of gene prevents the bone marrow from producing healthy stem cells that form the immune system.
Since the baby is born with extremely weak immune system, it is protected from infectious germs by enclosing it in a sterile environment like a plastic pod (a bubble)
Further since it affects almost only baby boys; it is called as bubble boy syndrome.
The bubble baby boys with SCID die within 1 or 2 years in the absence of treatment.

X-linked genetic disorders in males #
X-linked genetic disorders mostly affect males. (eg. Haemophilia)
They are caused by a gene alteration on the X chromosome.
Males have XY chromosomes and Females have XX chromosomes.
Since males have only one X chromosome, if they have a gene alteration on their X chromosome they will develop the condition.
Since females have a second unaltered copy of the gene on their other X chromosome to compensate for an altered gene they do not develop the condition.
However a female who has a gene alteration on one of her X chromosomes is said to be a carrier for the X-linked genetic disorders.

Global Genome sequencing projects: Human Genome Project #

An international project to decode the 3 billion base pairs in the human genome, completed in 2003.
Key results
It discovered that the number of genes in human genetic material is around 20,000 to 25,000.
Further the amount of DNA an organism carries is not related to the organism’s complexity.
Also there is no relationship between the number of genes an organism has and its complexity.
UK was the 1st to launch a whole genome sequencing project called Genomics England
Australia is working on the 100,000 Genomes Project.
GenomeAsia100K is a genome sequencing project representing populations from South and South-East Asia including 50000 Indians.
Japan and China also have started their own genome sequencing projects.

In Brief :about PSLV-C45, It’s features and Multiple orbit launch

Headline : Explained: What makes PSLV-C45 special

Details :

In News:

  • ISRO has successfully launched the PSLV-C45 ferrying satellites to multiple orbits in a single launch.

 

About PSLV-C45

  • PSLV-C45 mission involved launching of following satellites in 3 different orbits
  1. EMISAT – 749 km
  2. 28 foreign satellites – 504 km
  3. Experimental satellites – 485 km

 

Unique features of PSLV-C45

The PSLV-C45 launch is unique in following ways

  1. PSLV-QL variant
  • It was used for the 1st time
  • PSLV-QL has 4 strap-on motors to provide additional thrust at various stages of the rocket travel.
  1. 3- Orbits in single launch
  • This is the 1st time ISRO launched satellites in 3 different orbits
  1. PS-4 as orbital platform
  • In a normal scenario, the last stage of a PSLV rocket PS-4, after releasing the primary satellite in space becomes dead and categorized as space debris.
  • In PSLV-C45, the PS-4 stage moved to a lower orbit at around 458 km to establish an orbital platform.
  • This orbital platform is then used to house experimental satellites
  1. Multiple-firing of 4th stage
  • In order to inject satellites into multiple orbits, for the 1st time the 4th stage engine was fired twice.
  • Normally engines used to fire only once.

 

In brief: Multiple orbit launch

  • In the 1st step PSLV C-45 placed EMISAT to the 748 km sun-synchronous polar orbit.
  • Then it made one complete revolution around Earth pole to pole.
  • It lowered itself into an 504 km orbit, injected the 28 international customer satellites,
  • Made another round of Earth, pole to pole and attained a lower orbit of 485 km, where the fourth stage of the rocket will act as orbital platform for experimental satellites.
  • The 4th stage engines fired twice in order to achieve the additional revolution around the earth.
  • The PS-4 stage experimental satellites include
  • ARIS satellite of Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology to study the structure and composition of ionosphere.
  • Automatic Identification System (AIS) for Maritime satellite applications
  • Amateur radio applications satellite
Section : Science & Tech

Everything about EMISAT: Electronic Intelligence Satellite, PSLV-C45 Mission

Headline : PSLV to launch military’s eye in the sky

Details :

The News

  • ISRO will launch India’s first electronic intelligence satellite, EMISAT onboard PSLV-C45.

 

PSLV-C45 Mission

  • PSLV-C45 mission, for the first time, will launch satellites in 3 different orbits
  1. EMISAT, electronic intelligence satellite in the low earth orbit, 749 km above the surface of the earth.
  2. 28 foreign satellites in the lower orbit of 504 km for USA, Lithuania, Spain and Switzerland.
  3. The PSLV PS-4, the 4th stage of the rocket, will be launched as orbital platform at a height of 485 km to provide a microgravity environment for research organisations and academic institutes to perform experiments. for the following experimental satellites:
    • ARIS (Advanced Retarding Potential Analyzer for Ionospheric Studies) satellite of Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology to study the structure and composition of ionosphere
    • Automatic Identification System (AIS) for Maritime satellite applications from ISRO
    • Amateur radio applications satellite ARPS (Automatic Packet Repeating System) from AMSAT (Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation) India
  • Besides, PSLV-C45 is the first mission that is using the QL variant of PSLV rocket launcher to launch satellites in 3 different orbits.

 

About EMISAT

  • EMISAT is an electronic intelligence satellite based on ISRO’s Indian Mini Satellite -2 (IMS-2) bus platform.
  • The 435-kg EMISAT was developed under project KAUTILYA of Defence Electronics Research Laboratory of DRDO.
  • It is basically designed to intercept signals from enemy radars in order to develop effective jamming techniques to counter the enemy radar.
  • It will be launched in a highly elliptical orbit to maximize the dwell time over specific signal recording area.

 

Significance

  • Satellite-based electronic intelligence will augment the armed forces to counter radars.
  • Electronic Intelligence basically involves interception of signals from radars.
  • Once the signal is intercepted, the ELINT system collects data related to radar signals including its bandwidth, intensity, location from where it is emitted etc creating what is called a RF signature. (Radio frequency)
  • Once the RF signature is created it can be used for locating and identifying the radar in subsequent encounters.
  • It can also help in developing appropriate jamming techniques to counter the enemy radar.
Section : Science & Tech

Everything about Commercial Surrogacy

Lok Sabha Passes Bill Banning Commercial Surrogacy

Details :

The News

  • The Lok Sabha has passed the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2016 that seeks to put a blanket ban on commercial surrogacy and regulate altruistic surrogacy in India.
  • The bill was cleared by the Union cabinet in March 2018 after the recommendations of a Parliamentary Standing Committee constituted in 2017 for the purpose.
  • Commercial surrogacy has been legal in India since 2002 as a result of which India has emerged as a surrogacy hub of the world.

Surrogacy: A Backgrounder

  • Surrogacy is a practice where a woman gives birth to a child for an eligible couple and agrees to hand over the child after the birth to them.
  • Altruistic surrogacy involves a surrogacy arrangement where the monetary reward only involves medical expenses and insurance coverage for the surrogate mother.
  • Commercial surrogacy includes a monetary benefit or reward (in cash or kind) that exceeds basic medical expenses and insurance for the surrogate mother.

Need for Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill

  • With no law governing surrogacy, India has emerged as a surrogacy hub for couples from different countries.
  • Growing number of unethical practices.
  • Exploitation of surrogate mothers
  • Abandonment of children born out of surrogacy.

Major Objectives of Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill

  • To regulate surrogacy services in the country
  • To provide altruistic ethical surrogacy to the needy infertile Indian couples and
  • To prohibit commercial surrogacy including sale and purchase of human embryo and gametes.
  • This is done in order to prevent commercialization of surrogacy and consequent exploitation of surrogate mothers in India.
  • The bill also aims to protect rights of children born out of surrogacy

Main Provisions of the Bill

  • It puts a blanket ban on commercial surrogacy with penal provisions of jail term of up to 10 years and fine of up to ₹10 lakh.
  • According to the bill, an Indian infertile couple, married for five years or more, can go in for ‘altruistic surrogacy’.
  • Women within the age group of 23 years to 50 years and men aged between 26 and 55 years will be eligible to go in for surrogacy.
  • Further the couple shall possess a certificate from doctor stating that they are medically unfit to produce a child.
  • The bill permits only ‘close relatives’ to be surrogate mothers.
  • A woman can be a surrogate only once in her lifetime.
  • The surrogate mother will not be paid any compensation except medical expenses and insurance.
  • The bill covers 18-month care expenses and insurance cover for the surrogate mother.
  • Altruistic surrogacy can be availed only by a defined mother and family.
  • It won’t be permitted for live-in partners, single parents or Homosexuals.
  • Only Indian citizens are entitled to avail surrogacy.
  • Foreigners, NRIs and PIOs are not allowed to commission surrogacy in the country.
  • Besides, couples who already have children will not be allowed to opt for surrogacy.
  • The bill also provides for constitution of The National Surrogacy board and State Surrogacy board which shall be the policy making and regulating bodies.

Some Lacuna

  • In the aftermath of recent decriminalization of Section 377, same- sex couples should have been considered.
  • Further the bill does not define who is a close relative.
Section : Social Issues

Prelims Program: National Innovations on Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA)

Headline : Prelims Program: National Innovations on Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA)

Details :

 Climate change: Problems faced in India

  • Climate Change, caused by the increased concentration of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere, has emerged as the most prominent global environmental problem.
  • Most of the countries including India are facing the problems of rising temperature, melting of glaciers, rising of sea-level leading to inundation of the coastal areas, changes in precipitation patterns leading to increased risk of recurrent droughts and devastating floods, threats to biodiversity, an expansion of pest and a number of potential challenges for public health (IPCC, 2007).
  • This is likely to threaten the food security and livelihoods of millions of people in India. Several areas have been recognized as being predominantly risk prone to the impacts of climate change.
  • Among these are the most productive coastal areas, Indo-Gangetic plains (IGP) and the frequently drought and flood prone regions of the country. To ensure the food security of the country, the resilience of Indian agriculture to climatic variability and climate change needs to be enhanced.

 

About National Innovations on Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA) 

  • The Government, through Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), initiated a network project on ‘National Innovations on Climate Resilient Agriculture’ (NICRA).

 

Goals of NICRA:

  • To enhance resilience of Indian agriculture through Strategic Research on adaptation and mitigation (covering crops, livestock, fisheries and natural resource management)
  • Technology Demonstration
  • Capacity Building
  • Sponsored/Competitive Grant Projects

 

Aim of NICRA

  • To make Indian agriculture resilient to climate change through development and application of adaptation and mitigation technologies.

 

Objectives

  • Phenotyping, physiological evaluation and genetic improvement of irrigated crops (rice, wheat, chickpea) for heat and drought stresses.
  • Monitoring of GHG emissions through flux towers/field measurement in irrigated rice-wheat production system in the IGP (New Delhi) and rice-rice system in south-east peninsula (Aduthurai).
  • Adaptation and mitigation through improved crop management, enhanced water productivity and nutrient use efficiency; and carbon and nutrient budgeting in rice-wheat system.
  • Strengthening real-time data capture on crop health through Satellite Data Reception System and integrate the output to agro-advisories.
  • Integrated crop modelling for wheat and rice for impact assessment and indentifying adaptation strategies at regional level for near and long-term downscaled scenario.
  • Technology demonstration on farmers fields and capacity building

 

Statistics:

  • Realizing that the climate change is likely to have major impacts on agriculture, the Government through Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has assessed the impact of climate change on Indian agriculture under different scenarios using crop simulation models.
  • The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has conducted climate change impact analysis on crop yields through various centres in different parts of the country using crop simulation models (INFO-CROP and HAD CM3) for 2020, 2050 and 2080.
  • The results indicate variability in temperature and rainfall pattern with significant impacts on crop yields.
  • These studies projected reduction in yields of irrigated rice by about 4% in 2020, 7% in 2050 and 10% in 2080.
  • Rainfed rice yields are likely to be reduced by 6% in 2020, but in 2050 and 2080 they are projected to decrease only marginally (<2.5%).
  • Climate change is projected to reduce timely-sown irrigated wheat production by about 6% in 2020.
  • In case of late sown wheat, however, the projected reductions are to the extent of 18, 23 and 25 percent in 2020, 2050 and 2080 respectively.
  • Yields of irrigated kharif maize may decrease by about 18% in 2020 and 2050 and about 23% in 2080 due to climate change.
  • Rainfed sorghum yields are projected to decline marginally (2.5%) in 2020 scenario and by about 8% in 2050.
Section : Miscellaneous

About: Uranium

About: Uranium

  • Uranium is composed mainly of two isotopes – U-235 and U-238.
    • Uranium-235 and U-238 are chemically identical, but differ in their physical properties, notably their mass.
    • The nucleus of the U-235 atom contains 92 protons and 143 neutrons, giving an atomic mass of 235 units.
    • The U-238 nucleus also has 92 protons but has 146 neutrons – three more than U-235 – and therefore has a mass of 238 units.
  • Natural uranium contains 99.3% U-238 isotope and 0.7% U-235 isotope.
  • U-238 isotope is not fissile i.e. it cannot start a nuclear reaction and sustain it.
  • On the other hand, the U-235 isotope is useful for nuclear power reactors, as well as for nuclear weapons.
    • A nuclear power plant requires uranium with 3-4% U-235, known as Low-enriched uranium (LEU) or reactor-grade uranium
    • A nuclear weapon needs uranium with 90% U-235, known as Highly-enriched uranium (HEU).

About: Uranium Enrichment:

  • As nuclear reactors and weapons need higher percent of fissile U-235 isotope, it is attained through Uranium Enrichment.
  • For this, Isotope separation is used, which is a physical process to concentrate (‘enrich’) one isotope relative to others.
  • The difference in mass between U-235 and U-238 allows the isotopes to be separated and makes it possible to increase or “enrich” the percentage of U-235.
  • Typical methods for enrichment include: gaseous diffusion, electromagnetic separation, aerodynamic processes, laser enrichment and centrifuge separation.

National Policy on Software Product 2019

National Policy on Software Product 2019

  • National Policy on Software Product 2019 is a basic roadmap for formulation of initiatives, schemes and other measures for the development of software products sector in India

 

Funding

  • It involves an initial outlay of Rs.1500 crore for various schemes till 2025.
  • Software Product Development Fund: of Rs 5000 crore with contribution from private sector to promote emerging technologies such as Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, Big Data and robotics.
  • Research & Innovation fund

 

Five Main Missions

  • Increase share in global software products market
    • Create Indian Software products Industry of $ 70-80 billion at a Compounded Annual Growth Rate of 40% by 2025.
    • Increase India’s share in global software product market by ten times.
  • Develop Software Product Eco-system
    • Nurturing of 10,000 technology start-ups in software product industry, including 1,000 in tier-II and tier-III towns.
    • Cluster-based innovation driven ecosystem by developing 20 sectoral and strategically located software product development clusters
  • Employment Generation
    • It aims create direct & indirect employment for 3.5 million people by 2025.
  • Talent Pool Creation
    • Skilling of 10 lakh IT professionals.
    • Developing 10,000 leadership professionals.
  • National Software Products Mission
    • Aimed at monitoring and evaluating scheme & programmes with participation from Government, Academia and Industry.

 

Impact

  • Boost export income
  • Create employment and entrepreneurial opportunities
  • Leverage opportunities available under the Digital India Programme leading inclusive and sustainable growth.
Section : Science & Tech

India will launch electronic intelligence satellite Emisat on April 1

India will launch electronic intelligence satellite Emisat on April 1

Details :

News Summary

  • ISRO will soon launch EMISAT, an electronic intelligence satellite on board PSLV (PSLV-C45).
  • EMISAT will be launched into low earth orbit at the height of 749 km above the surface of the earth.

 

In focus: EMISAT

  • EMISAT is an electronic intelligence satellite developed by ISRO and DRDO.
  • The 435-kg EMISAT was developed under project KAUTILYA of Defence Electronics Research Laboratory of DRDO.
  • It is basically designed to intercept signals from enemy radars in order to develop effective jamming techniques to counter the enemy radar.
  • Satellite-based electronic intelligence will augment the armed forces to counter radars.
  • It will be launched in a highly elliptical orbit to maximize the dwell time over specific signal recording area.

 

 

In brief: Electronic intelligence (ELINT)

  • Electronic Intelligence basically involves interception of signals from radars.
  • Once the signal is intercepted, the ELINT system collects data related to radar signals including its bandwidth, intensity, location from where it is emitted etc creating what is called a RF signature. (Radio frequency)
  • Once the RF signature is created it can be used for locating and identifying the radar in subsequent encounters.
  • It can also help in developing appropriate jamming techniques to counter the radar.
Section : Science & Tech

What is Trachoma?

• It is a chronic infective eye disease caused by infection with the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis which is transmitted through contact with eye and nose discharge of infected people, particularly young children who are most vulnerable to the infection.

• It is also spread by flies which come in contact with the infected person and is most common under poor environment, low personal hygiene and inadequate access to water.

• It is one of the causes of the avoidable blindness and one of the 18 Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD).

• During 1950s, India was a hyperendemic to Trachoma. About 50%-80% children from North-west India were affected by it.

Discuss the applications of biotechnology in the agriculture and allied sectors.

Approach

Introduce by mentioning the need for biotechnology in agriculture and allied sectors

Explain how biotechnology can be used in agriculture and allied sectors.

Conclude appropriately.

Model Answer :

Agriculture along with its allied sectors is the largest source of livelihood in India. Biotechnology can be instrumental in improving productivity and modernising these sectors. The National Biotechnology Development Strategy 2015-2020 has a special focus on the agriculture and the allied sectors.

The applications of biotechnology are manifold in this regard:

Crop farming:

oProductivity of the crops is enhanced using genomics information and interfaces with wide hybridisation, molecular mapping, etc.

oCrops can be made less input intensive and less prone to biotic and abiotic stresses.

oNutritional value of the crops can also be enhanced.

Animal Rearing:

oThe health and productivity of Livestock and Poultry can be enhanced.

oBiotechnology can ensure good breeding and reproductive technologies.

oDisease resistance in indigenous stocks e.g. cattle, chicken, buffalo, sheep pigs etc. is being enhanced.

oFeed and fodder enrichment can be done by enhancing its nutritional value.

Aquaculture:

oMicro-diets being developed for larviculture, which is used as food for fish stock.

oEnrichment of aqua-feed with microbial enzymes which is cost effective at the same time.

oEnsuring the health of the aquaculture environment and of the aquatic animals

oDNA marker technology is being used in various species for trait characterisation related to growth, disease resistance and salinity tolerance and could be exploited for enhancing productivity

Medicinal and Aromatic Plants:

oBiotechnology helps in understanding the mechanism of action of medicinal plant based drugs, understanding the biosynthesis pathways for commercial application, botanical pesticides & insecticides and studies on genetic diversity.

oGenomic resources on medicinal and aromatic plants can be generated to enhance the content of the therapeutically important products.

oMedicinal and aromatic plants based products can be developed for human and animal healthcare.

There are a number of more applications of the biotechnology in the agriculture and the allied sectors which can significantly contribute towards the goal of doubling the farmers’ income in near future. The need to the hour is efficiently leveraging the present technology and adequately investing for innovative research in this area.

Everything about Chandrayaan-2

• Chandrayaan-2, the lunar mission, will be launched in April this year.

• Under this mission ISRO for the first time will attempt to land a rover on the Moon’s south pole.

• In Chandrayaan-1 mission, ISRO has spotted water on the moon.

• Chandrayaan-2 is a further extension of the project as it also involves landing a rover on the moon.

Chandrayaan-2

• It is India’s second mission to the Moon.

• It is developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

• The mission is planned to be launched to the Moon by a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk III (GSLV III).

• It is a totally indigenous mission comprising of an Orbiter, Lander and Rover.

The Orbiter:

• The Orbiter would orbit around the moon and perform the objectives of remote sensing the moon.

• The payloads on the Orbiter will collect scientific information on lunar topography, mineralogy, elemental abundance, lunar exosphere and signatures of hydroxyl and water-ice.

The Lander:

• After reaching the 100 km lunar orbit, the Lander housing the Rover will separate from the Orbiter.

• After a controlled descent, the Lander will soft land on the lunar surface at a specified site and deploy a Rover.

The Rover:

• The six-wheeled Rover will be made to land near the yet-unexplored south pole of the Moon. It is a very tricky area with rocks formed a million years ago. This could possibly help us understand the origin of universe.

• Most of the lunar missions in the past have explored the area around the equator of the moon.

• It will move around the landing site in semi-autonomous mode as decided by the ground commands.

• The instruments on the rover will observe the lunar surface and send back data, which will be useful for analysis of the lunar soil.

Quiz- Q16. Epidermis on the aerial parts of the plant often secretes a waxy layer to protect against:

Q16. Epidermis on the aerial parts of the plant often secretes a waxy layer to protect against:

A. Loss of water

B. Mechanical injury

C. Invasion by parasitic fungi

D. All of the above

Answer: D

Exp: The outermost layer of cells is known as epidermis. The epidermis is usually made of a single layer of cells. In some plants living in very dry habitats, the epidermis may be thicker since protection against water loss is critical. The entire surface of a plant has this outer covering of epidermis. It protects all the parts of the plant. Epidermal cells on the aerial parts of the plant often secrete a waxy, water-resistant layer on their outer surface. This aids in protection against loss of water, mechanical injury and invasion by parasitic fungi. Since it has a protective role to play cells of epidermal tissue form a continuous layer without intercellular spaces. Most epidermal cells are relatively flat. Often their outer and side walls are thicker than the inner wall. We can observe small pores here and there in the epidermis of the leaf. These pores are called stomata. Stomata are enclosed by two kidney-shaped cells called guard cells. They are necessary for exchanging gases with the atmosphere. Transpiration (loss of water in the form of water vapour) also takes place through stomata.

Artificial Intelligence and it’s application

Artificial Intelligence

• It is a term coined in 1956 by John McCarthy at the Dartmouth conference, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

• It is an area of computer science that emphasises on the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans.

• Some of the activities which computers with artificial intelligence are designed, include: Speech recognition, Learning, Planning and Problem solving.

• It has become an essential part of the technology industry.

Applications of AI

Vision systems

• Artificial Intelligence is used to try and interpret and understand an image.

• It is used in industries, military purposes and satellite photo interpretation.

Manufacturing sector

• Robots are used in manufacturing industries. More advanced exponential technologies have emerged such as additive manufacturing (3D Printing) which with the help of AI can revolutionise the entire manufacturing supply chain ecosystem.

Everything about World Malaria Report 2017 by WHO

The global figures

• The report shows that there were 5 million more malaria cases in 2016 than in 2015.

• The estimated global tally of malaria deaths reached 445,000 in 2016 compared to 446,000 the previous year.

• The African Region continues to bear an estimated 90% of all malaria cases and deaths worldwide.

• About 80% of the deaths were accounted for by 15 countries, namely India and 14 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

India specific findings

• India accounts for 6% of global malaria cases and 7% of the total deaths are caused by it.

• The WHO figures also suggest that India is unlikely to reduce its case burden beyond 40% by 2020.

Limitations

• Maldives, Sri Lanka and Kyrgyzstan achieved malaria-free status in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

Major impediments in eliminating malaria front in India are:

1.Weak surveillance system: India and Nigeria were able to detect only 8% and 16% of cases respectively by using their detection system.

• These two are major contributors to the global burden of malaria.

2. Resistance to chloroquine: In India, cases of plasmodium vivax were also traced.

• It is the milder cousin of the p. Falciparum.

• This can be due be resistance to chloroquine which is the first line treatment to p. vivax infections.

3. Low funding and resistance: Due to low funding per person at risk and resistance to certain frontline insecticides, India is only expected to achieve a 20%-40% reduction.

Target 2020

• WHO Global Technical Strategy for Malaria has called for reductions of at least 40% in malaria cases incidence and mortality rates by the year 2020.

Problem in achieving the target

• According to the latest malaria report, the world is not on track to reach these critical milestones.

• A major problem is insufficient funding at both domestic and international levels.

• Around US$ 2.7 billion was invested in malaria control and elimination efforts globally in 2016.

• This is well below to meet the targets of WHO global malaria strategy.

• This results in major gaps in coverage of insecticide-treated nets, medicines and other life-saving tools.

Controlling malaria

• In most malaria-affected countries, the most common and effective ways to prevent malarial infection are the followings:

1 Sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net (ITN)

2 Spraying the inside walls of homes with insecticides

3 Artemisinin-based combination therapies are the most effective in controlling malarial cases

A wake-up call

• World is at the crossroads in the response to malaria.

• WHO is hoping that this report will serve as a wake-up call for the global health communities. Meeting the global malaria targets will only be possible through greater investment and expanded coverage of core tools that prevent, diagnose and treat malaria.

• Robust financing for the research and development of new tools is equally critical.

Everything about Brahmos

Brahmos:

• It is a medium-range ramjet supersonic cruise missile that can be launched from submarine, ships, aircraft or land.

• It is a joint venture between the Russia’s NPO Mashinostroeyenia and India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation.

• It has derived its name from the names of two rivers, the Brahmaputra of India and the Moskva of Russia.

Speed:

• It travels at the speed of Mach 2.8 to 3.0.

• The missile is first propelled by a solid propellant booster engine that takes it to supersonic speeds.

• After it separates, the missile is accelerated further to around three times the speed of sound (mach 3) in the cruise phase with a liquid ramjet.

Range:

• It has a flight range upto 290 Km.

• Recently, the range variants were upgraded from 290 km to 450 km after India joined the Missile Technology Control Regime.

Fire and Forget:

• It operates on ‘Fire and Forget Principle’, adopting varieties of flights on its way to the target.

• It takes a variety of trajectories while in flight and is equipped with advanced guidance technology.

• Its stealth features also give it a low radar signature.

Air-launched cruise missile (ALCM):

• It is a cruise missile that is launched from a military aircraft.

• Its current versions are typically standoff weapons which are used to attack predetermined land targets with conventional, nuclear or thermonuclear payloads.

SU-30 MKI:

• It is a twin-jet multirole air superiority fighter jet.

• It was developed by Russia’s Sukhoi and built under licence by India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for the Indian Air Force.

• It is a heavy, all-weather, long-range fighter jet.

• It has a maximum speed of 2 Mach with a single in flight range of 3,000 Km.

• It can carry a payload of 8,000 Kg upto a maximum altitude of 17 Km.

• Till date, Brahmos ALCM is the heaviest weapon to be deployed on the Su-30 MKI.

Completes cruise missile triad:

• The land and sea variants of Brahmos are already operational with the Indian Army and the Navy.

• The successful maiden test firing will significantly bolster the IAF’s air combat operations capability from stand-off ranges.

• The armed forces now have a multi-platform, multi-mission cruise missile that can be launched from land, sea and air.

• This completes the tactical cruise missile triad for India which is a world record.

Biofilms

Biofilms:

  • A biofilm is an assemblage of microbial cells that is irreversibly associated (not removed by gentle rinsing) with a surface and enclosed in a matrix of primarily polysaccharide material.
  • Van Leeuwenhoek, using his simple microscopes, first observed microorganisms on tooth surfaces and can be credited with the discovery of microbial biofilms.
  • Microorganisms that form biofilms include bacteria, fungi and protists.
  • Noncellular materials such as mineral crystals, corrosion particles, clay or silt particles, or blood components, depending on the environment in which the biofilm has developed, may also be found in the biofilm matrix.

Can form on many types of surfaces:

  • Biofilms may form on a wide variety of surfaces, including living tissues, indwelling medical devices (devices in the body like catheters, heart valves), industrial or potable water system piping, or natural aquatic systems.
  • As they attach to each other and to the surfaces, they are capable to act as barriers to antibiotics.

Biofilms Formation:

  • Biofilm formation begins when free-floating microorganisms such as bacteria come in contact with an appropriate surface and begin to put down roots.
  • This first step of attachment occurs when the microorganisms produce a gooey substance known as an extracellular polymeric substance (EPS).
  • An EPS is a network of sugars, proteins and nucleic acids (such as DNA).
  • It enables the microorganisms in a biofilm to stick together.
  • Attachment is followed by a period of growth.
  • Further layers of microorganisms and EPS build upon the first layers.

Solar storms:

Solar storms:

It could refer to the following:

  • Coronal mass ejection: Corona, the outer solar atmosphere, is structured by strong magnetic fields. Where these fields are closed, often above sunspot groups, the confined solar atmosphere can suddenly and violently release bubbles of gas and magnetic fields called coronal mass ejections.
  • Solar flares: These are intense burst of radiations coming from the release of magnetic energy associated with sun spots.
  • (Sun spots: These are the dark areas on the solar surface, contain strong magnetic fields that are constantly shifting. They are as large as the Earth. Sunspots form and dissipate over periods of days or weeks.)

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Relationship of solar storms to magnetic shifts on Earth:

  • The solar storms contain large amounts of charged particles and radiation.
  • When they hit the Earth’s upper atmosphere, they produce the spectacular displays of the polar lights over the Arctic.
  • This is the region with the most geomagnetic disruption on Earth.
  • This way, the original magnetic field of the Earth gets distorted and this results in magnetic shifts.
  • The most powerful storms can also damage communications systems and satellites.
  • They can also impact the navigating abilities of birds and bees.

How will NSG membership help India? 

How will NSG membership help India? 

Clean energy push:

  • India is a growing country with massive energy needs.
  • It has set for itself an ambitious goal of sourcing 40% of its power from non-fossil sources and here is where nuclear energy comes into play.
  • India will need latest technology and NSG membership will come in handy.
  • Though it got a one-time NSG waiver in 2008, the country needs constant access to global markets and a stable trading framework.
  • Being a member of the NSG will also mean that India will have far greater access to uranium than it does currently under its 2008 agreement with the US. For example, Namibia is the fourth-largest producer of uranium and it agreed to sell the nuclear fuel to India in 2009.
  • However, that hasn’t happened, as Namibia has since cited a 2009 African version of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Pelindaba Treaty, which essentially controls the supply of uranium from Africa to the rest of the world.
  • If India joins the NSG, such reservations from Namibia are expected to melt away.

It helps domestic firms:

  • A place on the nuclear trading table will help Indian companies such as the Walchandnar Industries Limited (WIL) and L&T to expand business.
  • India has a robust indigenous nuclear industry that worked mostly in isolation as international sanctions were slapped every time a nuclear test was conducted.
  • An NSG membership will make these companies comply with international norms and make it easier for them to ply their trade abroad.

Make in India:

  • New Delhi and Moscow have announced a plan to build reactors in India to sell them to other countries, a move expected to give a push to the Modi government’s Make in India initiative.
  • It will not only generate jobs but also help in technology development.
  • As an NSG member, India will be better placed to implement the initiative.

End of the nuclear winter:

  • One of the objectives of the 2008 nuclear deal was that the US would help India get into export-control regimes such as the NSG, the MTCR (missile technology control regime), Australia Group and Wassenar Arrangement.
  • As a member of these groupings, India will have access to defence, space and nuclear technologies.
  • The MTCR is done, of the remaining, the NSG is most crucial.
  • Admission to the MTCR will open the way for India to buy high-end missile technology and surveillance drones such as Predator.

Hyperloop

Hyperloop:

  • It is a system where magnetically levitating capsules are sent at high speeds through low-pressure tubes.
  • It was entrepreneur Elon Musk who came up with the idea for a hyperloop.
  • The Hyperloop project is being pegged as a mode of transport different from rail, mainly due to following reasons:
    • It is said to be two-to-three times faster than the fastest high-speed rail, and in India, it would be possible for the pods (like cabins) to reach the peak speed of 1,100 km per hour on certain routes.
    • Hyperloop departures could happen with a low frequency of a pod every 20 seconds.
    • Hyperloop is estimated to have a smaller civil engineering footprint, with no direct emissions or noise

Evetything about Organic Farming

Organic Farming

  • Organic farming is a combination of tradition, innovation and science.
  • It is a production system that relies on the use of natural inputs that are suitable to local environment, rather than using synthetic chemicals with adverse effects.
  • In the transition from conventional to organic farming, synthetic chemical fertilizers are replaced with natural inputs and bio-materials like organic manures, neem cake, cow dung, and chemical pesticides are replaced with neem oil and bio- pesticides.

 Types of Orgnaic Manures:

  • Farm yard manure                              -  Crop Residues
  • Green manure                                   - Bio-fertilisers
  • Vermi-compost

Benefits of Organic Farming:

  • Inputs for organic farming are cheaper and yields fetch premium price on crops leading to higher returns to the farmer.
  • Improvement in soil health and fertility.
  • Promotes efficient use of water resources and decreases water pollution.
  • Beneficial to the environment: Decrease in GHGs like nitrous oxide as there is no use of chemical fertilizers.
  • Organic food is free of toxic materials that otherwise make way to the food chain.

Constrains of Organic Farming:

  • Lack of technical support: Organic farming needs dedicated guidance for implementation.
  • Decrease in income (initially): For farmers the activity is less profitable initially due to decrease in yields during conversion period.
  • Lack about market information: Organic farmers are dependent on urban markets & export markets and accessing such markets requires contracts with large companies. The small organic farmer are unable to reach those who are paying more for organic products.
  • Questions on the safety of organic food: The organics industry is young and not well-regulated in India. The farmers lack knowledge about the products that are not to be used in farms. For example farmers often use farmyard manure which may contain toxic chemicals and heavy metals. This can compromise the quality of food and may have an adverse impact on the health of consumers.

 Solutions:

  • Encouragement for organic farming should be supported by financial incentives during the first three years and assurance of a better market for the produce.
  • Collective farming: There is a need to organize farmers in a way that they can enter into contracts and demand a fair price from global companies.
  • Providing ease in obtaining organic certification.
  • Instead of going “full organic” in one go ,farmers can be educated about eco-friendly food that will allow the use of limited agrochemicals within safe levels.

Neutrino and Indian Neutrino Observatory

Neutrino

  • Very similar to electrons
  • Second most abundant particles after photon
  • Don’t carry any charge
  • Are not massless
  • Neutrinos are miniscule particles created in nuclear reactions, such as in the birth and death of sun and the stars, or in nuclear power plants.
  • Neutrinos interact with matter via the weak force. The weakness of this force gives neutrinos the property that matter is almost trans- parent to them.
  • Since they rarely interact, these neutrinos pass through the Sun, and even the Earth, unhindered. There are many other natural sources of neutrinos including exploding stars (supernovae), relic neutrinos, natural radioactivity, and cosmic ray interactions in the atmosphere of the Earth.

 

Indian Neutrino Observatory (INO) project 

INO, a proposed, underground observatory in Tamil Nadu to detect ephemeral particles called neutrinos — had been cleared by the Union government in 2015, after several years of deliberations, but has been stalled for over a year due to protests by activist groups, concerned over its environmental impact.

GM mosquitoes

  • To suppress wild female Aedes aegypti mosquito populations that cause dengue, chikungunya and Zika were launched in Maharashtra’s Jalna district.
  • The technology uses genetically modified male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that carry a dominant lethal gene. When male GM mosquitoes mate with wild female mosquitoes the lethal gene is passed on to offspring. The lethal gene in the offspring kills the larvae before they reach adulthood.
  • male mosquitoes do not bite humans, the release of GM males will not increase the risk of dengue, chikungunya and Zika.
  • Vector control using A. aegypti infected with the bacterium Wolbachia is achieved by using the life-shortening bacteria strain in both male and female mosquitoes
  • As Wolbachia is maternally inherited, the bacteria are anyway passed on to offspring. Dengue, Zika or chikunguya viruses cannot replicate when mosquitoes have Wolbachia . Unlike the RIDL technology, a feature of Wolbachia is that it is self-sustaining, making it a low-cost intervention.

Measles and Rubella

Measles 

  • Measles  is a deadly disease and one of the important causes of death in children.
  • It is highly contagious and spreads through coughing and sneezing of an infected person. Measles can make a child vulnerable to life threatening complications such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and brain infection.
  • Globally, in 2015, measles killed an estimated 1, 34,200 children—mostly under-5 years. In India, it killed an estimated 49,200 children.

Rubella

  • Rubella  is generally a mild infection, but has serious consequences if infection occurs in pregnant women, causing congenital rubella syndrome (CRS), which is a cause of public health concern.
  • CRS is characterized by congenital anomalies in the foetus and newborns affecting the eyes (glaucoma, cataract), ears (hearing loss), brain (microcephaly, mental retardation) and heart defects, causing a huge socio-economic burden on the families in particular and society in general.

What is Human embryo?

What is Human embryo?

  • An embryo is an early stage of development of a multicellular diploid eukaryotic organism.
  • In general, in organisms that reproduce sexually, an embryo develops from a zygote, the single cell resulting from the fertilization of the female egg cell by the male sperm cell.
  • The zygote possesses half the DNA of each of its two parents.
  • Human embryogenesis is the process of cell division and cellular differentiation of the embryo that occurs during the early stages of development.
  • In biological terms, human development entails growth from a one celled zygote to an adult human being.
  • Fertilisation occurs when the sperm cell successfully enters and fuses with an egg cell (ovum).
  • The genetic material of the sperm and egg then combine to form a single cell called a zygote and the germinal stage of prenatal development commences.
  • Embryogenesis covers the first eight weeks of development and at the beginning of the ninth week the embryo is termed a fetus.
  • Human embryology is the study of this development during the first eight weeks after fertilisation.
  • The normal period of gestation (pregnancy) is nine months or 38 weeks.