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Discuss the successes and failures of Green Revolution.

Approach

  • Introduce with the green revolution
  • Enumerate the success achieved by green revolution like self-sufficiency, productivity etc.
  • Point out the failures of Green revolution like inequalities, degradation of environment etc.
  • Conclude with the way forward

Model Answer

The draught of 1966 also made it inevitable to develop new technique of agriculture to increase the production and make India self-sufficient in food grains. So, the HYVs (High Yielding Varieties) of seeds for wheat (from Mexico) and rice (from Philippines) were introduced in 1966-67. Coupled with use of chemical fertilization and better irrigation, these techniques were employed on full scale in Punjab & Haryana. This initiative was known as Green Revolution (GR) because of which surprising levels of productivity were achieved.

Successes of Green Revolution

  • Self-sufficiency: India witnessed a growth of 250% in food-grain production since the introduction of Green Revolution making India self-sufficient in food grains.
  • Productivity: Due to HYV seeds, chemical fertilisers, irrigation and mechanisation of agriculture, per hectare productivity of all crops e.g. wheat, rice, cotton, gram, maize and bajra has increased.
  • Employment: GR generated employment opportunities in diverse sectors where activities were created as a result of multiple cropping and mechanisation of farming. It helped to stimulate the non-farm economy that generated newer employment in various services such as milling, marketing, warehousing etc.
  • Industrial Development: Industries manufacturing agricultural tools like tractors, diesel engines, combines, threshers and pumping sets have been on a growth path since the GR.

Failures of Green Revolution

  • Regional Imbalance: The states in which GR was introduced became prosperous while the other regions, specially drought prone areas, were left behind. Irrigation coverage was optimum in IADP covered areas while other areas, which direly needed irrigation, were not adequately covered. Similarly, fertilizer availability, credit availability, technology availability etc were high in these areas.
  • Class Disparity: The benefits of GR were primarily reaped by the rich farmers as they had large land area, high amount of funds to invest in buying fertilizers, machines, HYV seeds etc. Majority of farmers on the other hand had small land holdings, less funds to invest; hence they could not be benefited much from GR. In this way, GR further widened the gap between the rich and the poor farmers.
  • Crop Disparity: Green revolution was primarily beneficial for wheat production and to some extent rice production. However, the crops like pulses, oilseeds, coarse cereals (jowar, bajra) continued to have low production.
  • Degraded Soil: Soil quality has degraded due to repetitive kind of cropping pattern, excessive exploitation of the land, lack of a suitable crop combination etc.
  • Fall In Water Table: The new HYV seeds required comparatively very high amount of water for irrigation, which resulted in lowering of water table. E.g. 5 tonnes of water needed to produce 1 kg of rice.
  • Environmental Degradation:The excessive and uncontrolled use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides have degraded the environment by increasing pollution levels in land, water and air. E.g., eutrophication due to agriculture runoff.
  • Toxicity in Food Chain: Unbridled use of chemical pesticides and weedicides and their industrial production combined together had resulted in biomagnification and bioaccumulation of toxic elements in the whole food chain.

The above issues acted as an eye-opener and agri-scientists & policymakers are attempting to reap the benefits from the alternatives like organic farming, second green revolution, rainbow revolution etc.

About: Cairn dispute, Retrospective taxation , The Permanent Court of Arbitration

Cairn wins arbitration ruling against India in tax dispute

In News

  • The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague has ruled that the Indian government was wrong in applying retrospective tax on Cairn Energy Plc.
  • This is the second ruling against the Indian government at international tribunals over the retrospective tax issue in three months.
  • In September, 2020, a separate international arbitration tribunal had ruled against India’s decision to levy (impose) retrospective taxes on Vodafone Group.

About: Retrospective taxation

  • Retrospective taxation allows a country to pass a rule on taxing certain products, items or services, and deals, and charge companies for dealings before the date on which the law is passed.
  • Countries use this provision to correct any shortcomings in their taxation policies that may have allowed companies to take advantage of such shortcomings.
  • Apart from India, many countries including the US, the UK, the Netherlands, Canada, Belgium, Australia and Italy have retrospectively taxed companies, which had taken the benefit of shortcomings in the previous law.

About: Arbitration

  • Arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), in which a dispute is submitted, to one or more arbitrators who make a decision on the dispute.
  • In choosing arbitration, the parties opt for a private dispute resolution procedure instead of going to court. Arbitration is used instead of going to a court because it is often quicker and not as expensive.
  • It is often used for the resolution of commercial disputes, particularly in the context of international commercial transactions.

News Summary:

Details of the Cairn dispute:

  • In 2006-07, as a part of internal rearrangement, Cairn UK transferred shares of Cairn India Holdings to Cairn India.
  • The Income Tax authorities claimed that Cairn UK had made capital gains through the transfer of shares and demanded tax of Rs 24,500 crore for the same.
    • capital gains tax (CGT) is a tax on the profit from the sale of an asset. The most common capital gains are realized from the sale of stocks, bonds, precious metals, real estate, and property.

  • Due to different interpretations of capital gains, the company refused to pay the tax, and cases were filed at the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) and the High Court.
  • While Cairn had lost the case at ITAT, a case on the valuation of capital gains is still pending before the Delhi High court.
  • Later, in 2011, Cairn Energy sold majority of its India business, Cairn India, to mining company Vedanta.
  • Cairn UK was however not allowed to sell a minor stake of about 10 per cent by the income tax authorities. Authorities had also siezed Cairn India shares as well as dividends that the company paid to its parent UK firm.

Ruling by the The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA):

  • In its judgment, the PCA said the Cairn tax issue was not just a tax related issue but an investment related dispute, and therefore comes under the jurisdiction of the international arbitration court.
  • The three-member tribunal, ruled that India’s claim of past taxes over the 2006-07 internal reorganisation of Cairn’s India business was not a valid demand.
  • It ruled that the Indian government’s retrospective demand violated the guarantee of fair and equitable treatment under the UK-India Bilateral Investment Treaty.
  • The judgment has asked the Indian government to pay $1.2 billion (roughly Rs 8,800 crore) to Cairn Energy Plc, plus interest and cost of arbitration.
  • It also said that India must not make any more attempts to recover the alleged tax liability or any interest and or penalties.

Future Outlook

  • While the order does not contain a provision for challenge or appeal, the government said it would study the arbitration award and take a decision on the further course of action, including legal remedies.
  • India has recently challenged the Vodafone verdict in Singapore. The government believes taxation is not covered under investment protection treaties and the law on taxation is a sovereign right of the country.
  • According to experts, if India does not pay Cairn the above mentioned amount, Cairn can use the arbitration award to approach courts to seize any overseas property owned by India to recover the money.

About: The Permanent Court of Arbitration

  • The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) is an intergovernmental organization located in The Hague, Netherlands.
  • It was established by the Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes, concluded at The Hague in 1899 during the first Hague Peace Conference.
  • It is not a court in the traditional sense, but provides services of arbitral tribunal to resolve disputes that arise out of international agreements between member states, international organizations or private parties.
  • The cases cover a range of legal issues involving territorial and maritime boundaries, sovereignty, human rights, international investment, and international and regional trade.

About: Nature Index (Artificial Intelligence), Nature research, Nature Index 2020 Artificial Intelligence

In News

  • The Nature Index 2020 Artificial Intelligence was recently released by ‘Nature Research’.

About: Nature Research

  • Nature Research is a division of the international scientific publishing company Springer Nature that publishes academic journals, magazines, online databases, and services in science and medicine.
  • Nature Research’s flagship publication is Nature, a weekly multidisciplinary journal first published in 1869.
  • Nature, an international journal, publishes high quality research in all fields of science and technology. It also provides authoritative and insightful news and interpretation of current and upcoming trends affecting science, scientists and the wider public.

About: Nature Index (Artificial Intelligence)

  • The Nature Index is a database of author affiliation information, tracking contributions of authors (of research) to research articles published in 82 high-quality natural-science journals.
  • The Index provides counts of article publication at the institutional and national level and is an indicator of global high-quality research output and collaboration of various institutions and nations.
  • The Artificial Intelligence supplement explores artificial intelligence (AI), one of the most rapidly advancing and controversial topics in scientific research.
  • The articles tracked for Nature Index 2020 Artificial Intelligence supplement are primarily related to the application of AI to research in the broad fields of chemistry, the physical sciences, life sciences, and Earth and environmental sciences.

Nature Index metrics:

  • The Nature Index uses Count and Share to track research output.
  • Count: A country/territory or an institution is given a Count of 1 for each article that has at least one author from that country/territory or institution.
  • Share: To obtain a country’s or an institution’s contribution to an article, and to ensure they are not counted more than once, the Index uses Share. It is a fractional count that takes into account the share of authorship on each article.
    • For instance, if an article has 10 authors, that means that each author (and the institution/country she represents) receives a Share of 0.1

Significance:

  • Users of the Nature Index are those with an interest in the origin of high-quality scientific research from around the world.
  • It helps them to track the amount of high quality research taking place across the world and gives them an idea on which countries/research organisations performing the best.
  • It also provides institutions an easy means to highlight some of their best scientific research.

Nature Index 2020 Artificial Intelligence

Highlights:

  • The United States has historically been the leader in AI-related research output, accumulating the highest number of publications over the past two decades.
  • Between 2015 and 2019, in terms of global output for AI research, the US was the leader, with the UK, Germany and China in second, third and fourth place, respectively.
  • In each year from 2016 to 2019, China produced more AI-related papers than any other nation. Over this period, China’s output of AI-related research increased by just over 120%, whereas output in the US increased by almost 70%.
  • In 2019, India has been the third most productive country in AI research, with over 23,000 papers. On the overall AI Index, it is at the 20th position in a list dominated by European countries.

Lack of diversity in AI:

  • AI’s influence continues to grow, but there is lack of diversity of researchers in the field. As of 2019, fewer than 14% of AI research authors were women.
  • Researchers in East Asia, Europe and North America authored 86% of papers published in 2018 and researchers in regions including Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, north Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia represented the remaining 14%.
  • In the United States in 2020, only 1.7% of technical roles at Facebook were held by Black people.
  • Due to this lack of diversity, the world will miss the perspectives that could shape the solutions to the current and future challenges.
  • Thus, it is important to create structures that will support long-term, positive changes.

 Science & Tech

About: The Zomi tribe, Sixth schedule, Powers under the Sixth Schedule, Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC)

Manipur’s Zomi people push for BTC-like council

In News

  • The Zomi Council, representing nine Zomi tribes, has renewed its demand for the creation of Zoland Territorial Council (ZTC) under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

About: The Zomi tribe

  • Zomi council is an apex body of the Zomi tribes which include Gante, Kom, Mate, Paite, Simte, Tedim Chin, Thangkhal, Zou and Vaiphei.
  • Zomi identify themselves as descendants of the Zo, the Tibeto-Burman people that speak Chin-Kuki language group.
  • They are scattered in Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur and Assam. The Zomi population is over 2 lakhs in Churachandpur district (of Manipur) alone.

Background

  • The creation of ZTC was desired by majority tribes represented by the tripartite Suspension of Operation (SoO) agreements over the years between the Centre, the Manipur government and 25 extremist groups belonging to the Kuki-Zomi groups.
  • While 17 of these groups formed the Kuki National Organisation (KNO), eight came together as the United People’s Front (UPF).
    • The SoO agreement was first signed by the underground Zomi Revolutionary Army (ZRA) in 2005 and the other groups joined in later.

  • The KNO and UPF had demanded the creation of an autonomous hill state within Manipur 2010.
  • Later in 2017, the demand evolved into a self-administered zone similar to the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) in Assam.

About: Sixth schedule

  • The Sixth Schedule consists of provisions for the administration of tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. 
  • It seeks to safeguard the rights of tribal population in these states through the formation of Autonomous District Councils (ADC). The ADCs have varying degrees of autonomy.
  • Along with ADCs, the Sixth Schedule also provides for separate Regional Councils for each area constituted as an autonomous region. In case one District Council area has more than one kind of tribe a Regional Council is created.
  • In all, there are 10 areas in the Northeast that are registered as autonomous districts – three in Assam, Meghalaya and Mizoram and one in Tripura.
  • Each autonomous district and regional council consists of not more than 30 members, of which four are nominated by the governor and the rest via elections. All of them remain in power for a term of five years.

Powers under the Sixth Schedule:

  • The ADCs are empowered with civil and judicial powers and can constitute village courts within their jurisdiction to hear trial of cases involving the tribes.
  • The councils are also empowered to make legislative laws on matters like land, forests, fisheries, social security, entertainment, public health, etc. with due approval from the governor.
  • The roles of the central and state governments are restricted from the territorial jurisdiction of these autonomous regions.
  • Also, Acts passed by Parliament and state legislatures may or may not be levied in these regions unless the President and the governor gives her or his approval.

About: Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC)

  • The Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) is an autonomous district council (ADC) for the Bodoland Territorial Region in Assam.
  • The BTC has been given greater autonomy to frame laws in comparison to other District Councils.
  • Unlike the other ADCs with limit of 30 members, BTC can constitute up to 46 members out of which 40 are elected.
  • The Bodoland Territorial Council can make laws on 39 additional subjects such as culture, education, health and agriculture, labour and employment, land and revenue among others.

News Summary:

  • The tribals in Manipur have also been demanding the extension of Sixth Schedule provisions (currently only extended to Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram) to their state for many decades.
  • There are talks ongoing between the Manipur government and the Kuki umbrella groups for the creation of Kukiland Territorial Council.
  • Now, the nine Zomi tribes are also raising the demand for the creation of Zoland Territorial Council (ZTC).

Reasons for the demand of ZTC:

  • The tribes in Manipur do not get the benefits of the provisions of Sixth Schedule.
  • Due to this, the Zomi tribe representatives say they have lagged behind in terms of socio-socio-economic and political development.
  • Thus, the Zomi Council demand a ZTC similar to the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) of Assam, as it has additional powers.

 Polity & Governance

About Silicosis

About Silicosis

  • Silicosis is a fatal respiratory illness caused by inhaling fine silica dust through prolonged exposure in sandstone mines and quarries.
  • Silica is a highly common, crystal-like mineral found in sand, rock, and quartz.
  • Silica can have deadly consequences for people who work with stone, concrete, glass, or other forms of rock.
  • Any level of silica exposure can result in silicosis. There are three types of silicosis:
    • Acute: Acute silicosis forms a few weeks or months after high levels of silica exposure. This condition progresses rapidly.
    • Accelerated: Accelerated silicosis comes on five to 10 years after exposure.
    • Chronic: Chronic silicosis occurs 10 years or more after silica exposure. Even low exposure levels can cause chronic silicosis.
  • Silica dust particles act as tiny blades on the lungs.
  • These particles create small cuts that can scar the lung tissue when inhaled through the nose or mouth. Scarred lungs do not open and close as well, making breathing more difficult.
  • Silica is called as a “carcinogen.” This means that silica can cause cancer, including lung cancer.

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Preventing silicosis

  • Workers can wear special masks called respirators to keep from inhaling silica. These masks may be marked for “abrasive blasting” use.
  • Water sprays and wet cutting methods reduce the risk of silica exposure.
  • Workplaces should meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards.
  • This includes proper ventilation.
  • Employers can monitor air quality at worksites to ensure that there’s no excess silica in the air.
  • Employers must report all diagnosed incidents of silicosis.
  • Workers should eat, drink, and smoke away from dust that may contain silica.
  • They should also wash their hands before doing any of these activities to clear their hands of any dust.

Read more

About: Coastal radar chain network

In News

  • In order to expand the coastal radar chain network, efforts are in advanced stages to set up coastal radar stations in Maldives, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Thailand.
  • Similar proposals are being developed for some more countries.

About: Coastal radar chain network

  • After the 2008 Mumbai attacks in which terrorists used a fishing boat to enter the city, the government decided to set up a chain of static sensors to improve coastal surveillance and keep track of boats entering Indian territorial waters.
  • Under Phase-I of the coastal radar chain network, 46 coastal radar stations have been set up across the country’s coastline.
  • Under the ongoing Phase-II of the project, 38 static radar stations and four mobile radar stations are being set up by the Coast Guard.
  • The information received from the various stations and sensors is collated at the Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC).
  • The data is used by the Navy for real-time monitoring of the sea for threats and overall maritime domain awareness.
  • Radar stations of the network in other Other Indian Ocean countries:
    • India is also setting up similar radar stations in friendly Indian Ocean littoral nations, which are integrated into India’s own radar network.
      • A littoral nation is a country with land territory adjacent to a particular maritime area.

    • Mauritius, Seychelles and Sri Lanka have already been integrated into the India’s coastal radar chain network.

Measures for maritime data exchange:

  • As part of information exchange regarding traffic on the high seas, the Navy has been authorised by the government to conclude white shipping agreements with 36 countries and three multilateral constructs.
  • So far, agreements have been concluded with 22 countries and one multilateral construct. Of these, 17 agreements and the one multilateral construct have been operationalised.
  • International Liaison Officers (ILO) from France, Japan and the U.S. have already joined Navy’s Information Fusion Centre for the Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR). Three more International Liaison Officers (ILO) are expected to join soon.

About: Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC)

  • IMAC, based in Gurgaon, was established in 2014, and is the nodal centre for maritime security information collation and distribution.
  • It is jointly operated by the Navy and Coast Guard.

IMAC’s Functions:

  • IMAC’s task is to facilitate exchange of maritime security information among various national stakeholders, and develop a common operational picture.
  • IMAC focuses on ships passing through the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). At its headquarters, officers can look at all ships that transmit signals to an Automatic Identification System (AIS) when passing through IOR.
  • It can look at information including route, destination, nationality and ownership for each vessel.
  • It can also check if a vessel has changed its identity, or if it has been involved in law-enforcement issues in other countries.
  • It is important to note that IMAC tracks only non-military or commercial ships, known as white shipping. Military ships, are tracked by the Directorate of Naval Operations, as this is on a classified (secret) network.

About: IFC-IOR

  • The Navy’s Information Fusion Centre for the Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) was inaugurated in 2018, within the premises of IMAC, to promote Maritime Domain Awareness.
  • It is the single point centre linking all coastal radar chain networks along the 7,500 km Indian coastline. It tracks and monitors 75,000 – 1.5 lakh shipping vessels in real time round the clock.
  • It interacts with the maritime community and has already built linkages with various countries and multinational and maritime security centres.

 Defence & Security

Meteorites

Study of Mukundpura Meteorite
  • It is a carbonaceous meteorite (these are the meteorites which contain carbon compounds, including organic ones and water).
  • It is one of the most primitive type of meteorite.
  • It is a rare type of meteorite as carbonaceous meteorites constitute only 3%-5% of all meteorites which fall on the Earth.
  • It contains grains of calcium and iron which date to a time before the sun came into existence.
  • It contains the evidence of having the water-bearing minerals.
  • The meteorite is believed to have the most pristine primordial matter recovered from space, which might carry important clues to the origin of early life.
Study of Natun Balijan Meteorite
  • It fell in the flood plains of Lohit River.
  • It has been classified as an ordinary chondrite.
Meteorites
  • These are the chunks of rock and metal from asteroids and other planetary bodies that survive their journey through the atmosphere and fall to the ground.
  • Most meteorites found on Earth are pebble size but some are larger than a building.
  • Early Earth experienced many large meteorite impacts that caused extensive destruction.
  • These may resemble Earth rocks, but these usually have a burned exterior.
  • This fusion crust is formed as the meteorite is melted by friction as it passes through the atmosphere.
  • These mostly originate from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
Types of meteorites
  • There are three major types of meteorites:
    • Irons
    • Stones
    • Stony-irons
  • Although the majority of meteorites that fall to Earth are stony, most of the meteorites that are discovered long after they fall are irons.
  • Iron meteorites are heavy objects and are easier to distinguish from Earth rocks than stony meteorites.
  • Meteorites also fall on other solar system bodies.
Geological Survey of India (GSI)
  • It was established in 1851.
  • Its headquarters are at Kolkata.
  • It is a government organisation of India with its office attached to the Ministry of Mines for conducting geological surveys and studies.
  • Its main functions are to create and update national geo-scientific information and mineral resource assessment.
  • These objectives are achieved through ground surveys, air-borne and marine surveys, mineral prospecting and investigations and multi-disciplinary geo-scientific techniques.
Section : Science & Tech

About: Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System (ATAGS)

  • Built by DRDO and partners, India’s ATAGS is a 155 mm/52 calibre towed howitzer artillery gun.
    • Artillery is a class of heavy military ranged weapons (like modern day canons) built to launch munitions far beyond the range and power of normal firearms.
  • The new version has a 48-km strike range, higher than the 35-40 km range of other artillery gun systems in this category.
  • Range tests of this ATAGS system have been going on from 2017.

Development of indigenous ATAGS:

  • The development of ATAGS was started in 2013 as a part of artillery modernisation programme for Indian Army.
  • It is being jointly developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the private sector.
  • The DRDO’s Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE) has partnered with Kalyani Group, Tata Power and Ordnance Factory Board etc for the development of ATAGS.

Advanced features of ATAGS:

  • It is configured with all-electric drive for the first time in the world to ensure maintenance free and reliable operation over a longer period of time.
  • It has advanced features like high mobility, advanced communication system, automatic command and control system with night firing capability in direct fire mode etc.
  • It has a five round magazine, compared to the standard three round magazines in similar foreign systems.

Background:

  • The Indian Army has not inducted any new artillery gun since the Bofors (155 mm howitzer) in the 1980s.
  • The Army has an estimated requirement is of about 1,800 artillery guns, including the regular and advanced systems.
  • It has also been inducting some 155 mm Dhanush artillery guns (an indigenously upgraded variant of the Bofors gun).
  • It has also been inducting some new artillery guns and equipment, including K9 Vajra (South Korean and Indian companies’ collaboration) and M777 howitzers (from the US).
  • It is also in the final stages to procure 400 Athos towed gun systems for Rs 5,147 crore from Israeli firm Elbit Systems.
  • While India has range-tested the ATAGS, the user-trials got delayed after the barrel of one of the guns burst (due to defective ammunition as per DRDO) during test-firing at the Pokhran field firing range in Rajasthan.

News Summary:

  • The Army will soon begin testing an indigenously-developed ATAGS artillery system.
  • It will first undergo “winter user trials” by the Army in Sikkim in January-February.
  • That will be followed by the “mobility trials” and then the “summer trials” in May-June.

Way ahead:

  • DRDO claims that this system is the best in its class in the world with a record-breaking strike range of 48 km.
  • If the big gun successfully passes the army trials, DRDO says this advanced system can fulfil the Army’s full requirement of 1500-1800 artillery guns.
  • In such a scenario, the Army will not need to import such guns from Israel or other countries.

What is Winter Solstice, which made December 21st the shortest day of the year?

In News:

  • December 21st is the day of Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere, and it is the shortest day (day with the shortest day-time) of the year.
  • This year, the day-time of December 21st in Delhi was approximately 10 hours 19 minutes long.

About: Winter and Summer Solstices

  • The winter solstice, hiemal solstice or hibernal solstice occurs when one of the Earth’s poles has its maximum tilt away from the Sun.
  • Winter Solstice coincides with the shortest day and longest night of the year.
  • The summer Solstice coincides, on the other hand, with the longest day and the shortest night of the year.
  • The situation in the two hemispheres is always reversed.
  • In the Northern Hemisphere, the Winter Solstice occurs on December 21st. The same day in the Southern Hemisphere is known as the summer solstice.
  • Likewise, six months later, June 21st will be known as the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. The same day in the Southern Hemisphere will be known as the Winter Solstice.
  • The Solstices along with their counterparts, the Equinoxes (Equal day and equal night), are used to define ‘seasons’ on a planet.

Reasons for its occurrence:

  • The duration of sunlight received varies on different days throughout the year as well as location on Earth’s surface because of various factors like:
    • Earth’s axis of rotation (tilted at an angle of 23.5° to its orbital plane)
    • Earth’s spin
    • Earth’s elliptical or slightly oval shaped orbit around the Sun

  • This tilt in the axis of rotation drives our planet’s seasons as Northern and Southern Hemisphere get unequal amounts of Sunlight over the course of the year.
  • From March to September, the Northern Hemisphere is tilted more towards the Sun, driving its spring and summer.
  • From September, the Northern Hemisphere is tilted away, so this results in the autumn and winter.
  • The situation is likewise reversed in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • On two days-which is known as the Solstices- Earth’s axis is tilted most closely towards the Sun.
  • The hemisphere tilted most towards the Sun sees the Summer Solstice and experiences the longest day.
  • The hemisphere tilted away sees the Winter Solstice and experiences the longest night.

Cultural Significance of Winter Solstice:

  • In Vedic tradition, the northern movement of Earth on the celestial sphere is implicitly acknowledged in the Surya Siddhanta, which outlines the Uttarayana.
  • Uttarayana is the period between Makar Sankranti and Karka Sankranti and Winter Solstice is the first day of Uttarayana.
  • Many cultures around the world celebrate the Winter Solstice in their own ways.
  • Many monuments have been built globally to align with the phenomena, like the Stonehenge of England.

About: Equinoxes

  • Equinoxes are the two days in a year when the Sun is exactly above the Equator.
  • The days and nights in this case are equal.
  • The vernal equinox or the spring equinox on March 21 marks the beginning of the spring in Northern hemisphere and the Autumnal equinox falls at September 23, marking the arrival of the autumn season.

The reverse is true for the Southern hemisphere. Science & Tech

About: Khudiram Bose

  • Khudiram Bose was born in 1889, in a small village in Medinipur district of West Bengal.
  • He is one of the youngest revolutionaries of the Indian freedom struggle.
  • Khudiram Bose is highly regarded in Bengal for his fearless spirit, and his ultimate sacrifice for the cause. However, his legacy has remained largely limited to Bengal.
  • Now, the Union Home Minister paid homage to him saying, “Khudiram Bose belongs to all of India and not just West Bengal.”

Early revolutionary activities:

  • Khudiram Bose was drawn towards revolutionary activism in his adolescence after attending a series of lectures by Sri Aurbindo Ghose and Sister Nivedita, when they visited Midnapore in early 1900s.
  • He actively participated in protests against the partition of Bengal in 1905.
  • At 15 years of age, he joined the Anushilan Samiti.
  • Anushilan Samiti was a revolutionary organization in Bengal that existed for the first three decades of twentieth century.
  • It believed in militant nationalism.
  • It was established by Pramathanath Mitra in 1902 and headed by Sri Aurbindo Ghose and his younger brother Barindra Kumar Ghose.
  • He was arrested for distributing booklets and other literature, to local people, against the British colonial rulers.

Kingsford and trials of Jugantar editors:

  • Jugantar Patrika was a Bengali revolutionary newspaper founded in 1906 in Calcutta by Barindra Kumar Ghosh, Abhinash Bhattacharya and Bhupendranath Dutt.
  • It served as the propaganda organ for the revolutionary organisation Anushilan Samiti.
  • It faced prosecution a number of times by the British Indian government for publishing “seditious articles”.
  • Bhupendranath Dutt was arrested in 1907 for publication of articles “inciting violence against the Government of India”.
  • Chief Magistrate Douglas Kingsford of the Presidency Court of Alipore, who versaw the trials of Bhupendranath Dutta and other editors of Jugantar, sentenced them to rigorous imprisonment. He becomes infamous for passing harsh and cruel sentences on young revolutionaries.

Assassination attempt on Kingsford:

  • Young revolutionaries like Hemchandra Kanungo and Barindra Kumar Ghosh, who learnt bomb-making techniques, chose Douglas Kingsford as their target.
  • Meanwhile, Kingsford was transferred by the government to Muzaffarpur in Bihar.
  • In 1908, Prafulla Chaki and Khudiram Bose went to Muzaffarpur with a bomb provided to him by Hemchandra.
  • Chaki and Bose threw the bomb on what they believed were the carriage carrying Kingsford and his wife but mistakenly threw it on another carriage killing the wife and daughter of a British Barrister.

Hanging of Khudiram Bose:

  • After the attack, Khudiram and Prafulla managed to escape.
  • But Khudiram Bose was soon captured at a railway station called Waini, which was later renamed Khudiram Bose Pusa Station in his honour.
  • Prafulla Chaki killed himself before he could be arrested.
  • On July 13, 1908, Khudiram Bose was sentenced to death after a historic trial, and was executed on August 11, 1908.
  • Reports in newspapers of those times said that he went to the gallows with a smile and the Bhagavad Gita in his hand.
  • The streets of Calcutta erupted in large protests after his execution.

About: Sri Aurobindo Ghose

  • Sri Aurobindo Ghose (1872-1950) was a revolutionary leader of Indian Freedom struggle.
  • He helped establish the Anushilan Samiti of Calcutta in 1992.
  • He started an English newspaper called in Bande Mataram and contributed articles in the magazine Jugantar.
  • In 1908, he was arrested in connection with the Alipore Conspiracy Case or Alipore Bomb Case.
  • In his later life, he turned into a spiritual Guru and established his ashram in Puducherry, where he died.

About: Sister Nivedita

  • Margaret Noble was an Irish social activist.
  • She became a disciple of Swami Vivekananda, and followed him to India. Swami Vivekananda gave her the name Nivedita (meaning “Dedicated to God”) when he initiated her into the vow of Brahmacharya.
  • She also took part in the Indian freedom struggle, and was a close associate of Sri Aurobindo Ghose.

What is cloning?

Sach-Gaurav

  • It is born to a Murrah buffalo.
  • Its birth weight is 54.2 kg and it has a normal physiological parameters and blood profile.
  • The genotype of the calf was confirmed by microsatellite analysis (parentage verification) and chromosome analysis.

 

What is cloning?

  • The term cloning describes a number of different processes that can be used to produce genetically identical copies of a biological entity.
  • The copied material, which has the same genetic makeup as the original, is referred to as a clone.
  • Researchers have cloned a wide range of biological materials, including genes, cells, tissues and entire organisms, such as a sheep, cow, etc.

 

Natural clones

  • Clones can also occur naturally.
  • In nature, some plants and single-celled organisms, such as bacteria, produce genetically identical offspring through a process called asexual reproduction.
  • In asexual reproduction, a new individual is generated from a copy of a single cell from the parent organism.
  • Natural clones, also known as identical twins, occur in humans and other mammals.
  • These twins are produced when a fertilized egg splits, creating two or more embryos that carry almost identical DNA.
  • Identical twins have nearly the same genetic makeup as each other, but they are genetically different from either parent.

 

Artificial clone

There are three different types of artificial cloning:

  1. Gene cloning: It produces copies of genes or segments of DNA.
  2. Reproductive cloning: It produces copies of whole animals.
  3. Therapeutic cloning: It produces embryonic stem cells for experiments aimed at creating tissues to replace injured or diseased tissues.

 

Animal cloning

  • In animal cloning, complete animal is produced from somatic cells of an animal.
  • A somatic cell is any cell in the body other than sperm and egg, the two types of reproductive cells.

 

How are animals cloned?

  • In reproductive cloning, researchers remove a mature somatic cell, such as a skin cell, from an animal that they wish to copy.
  • They then transfer the DNA of the donor animal’s somatic cell into an egg cell, or oocyte, that has had its own DNA-containing nucleus removed.
  • Researchers can add the DNA from the somatic cell to the empty egg by two different methods:
  • In the first method, researchers remove the DNA-containing nucleus of the somatic cell with a needle and inject it into the empty egg.
  • In the second method, researchers use an electrical current to fuse the entire somatic cell with the empty egg.
  • In both processes, the egg is allowed to develop into an early-stage embryo in the test-tube and then is implanted into the womb of an adult female animal.
  • Ultimately, the adult female gives birth to an animal that has the same genetic makeup as the animal that donated the somatic cell.
  • This young animal is referred to as a clone.
  • Reproductive cloning may require the use of a surrogate mother to allow the development of cloned embryo, as was the case for the most famous cloned organism, Dolly the sheep.

 

Benefit of animal cloning

  • Animal cloning can be an excellent reproductive tool for conservation and multiplication of selected superior animals of buffalo breeds.

 

Section : Science & Tech

About Typhoid (Enteric Fever)

About Typhoid (Enteric Fever)

  • Typhoid Fever is a gastrointestinal infection caused by Salmonella enterica typhi
  • It is transmitted from person to person through the fecal-oral route where an infected or asymptomatic individual with poor hand or body hygiene passes the infection to another person when handling food and water.
  • The bacteria multiply in the intestinal tract and can spread to the bloodstream. ), which infects humans due to contaminated food and beverages from sewage and other infected humans.
  • Symptoms usually develop one to two weeks after exposure and include high fever, malaise, headache, constipation or diarrhoea, rose-colored spots on the chest, and enlarged spleen and liver.
  • Healthy carrier state may follow acute illness.
  • International Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) estimates that in 2016, there were approximately 12 million cases of typhoid fever resulting in around 130,000 deaths.
  • Drug-resistant “superbug” strains of S. Typhi have been reported from several countries in Africa and South Asia, including India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.
  • Typhoid is hugely underdiagnosed and most people are not given appropriate treatment, leading to antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

 

Typbar TCV

  • Typbar TCV is the first typhoid vaccine clinically proven to be administered to children from 6 months of age to adults.
  • It will confer long-term protection against typhoid fever.
  • With WHO-SAGE recommendation countries could introduce the vaccine into their immunisation programmes.
  • The vaccine can be used in infants between 6 and 23 months of age and catch up vaccinations can be given to children between 2 and 15 years of age.
  • The WHO prequalification of Typbar TCV marks an important milestone in the global effort to rid the world of typhoid fever and improve health for some of the most vulnerable populations in the world
Section : Social Issues

Background: Working of Antibiotics

Background: Working of Antibiotics

What are Antibiotics?

  • Antibiotics are drugs that fight infections caused by bacteria.
  • In order to be effective, it has to be selectively toxic to only target bacteria which are harmful.
  • Antibiotics work in the following 2 ways
  • Killing the bacteria
  • Inhibiting the ability of bacteria to grow and multiply
  • In order to understand the different targets a brief on bacterial cell is given below.

 

Bacterial cell

  • A bacteria is a prokaryotic organism (no well-defined nucleus)
  • The bacterial cell consists of :
    • A plasma membrane which encloses the cell components.
    • The cytoplasm is the jelly-like fluid that fills the inside of the cell.
  • The DNA of bacteria is present in bacterial chromosome in the cytoplasm (see figure)
  • Ribosomes are little granular bodies where proteins are made taking cue from the the DNA.
  • Further, they reproduce through a process of binary fission through which the genetic information is carried forward.

Mechanism of Antibiotics

  • Antibiotics work through many mechanisms that disrupt the structure and/or function of the bacteria.
  • The structure or the function which the antibiotics target are called drug-delivery target.
  • There are a number of drug-delivery targets in the bacterial cell namely
  • Cell Wall
  • Ribosome where protein synthesis occur
  • Inhibit the DNA synthesis in order to stop it from transferring the resistant gene to other bacteria
  • Inhibition of metabolism by introducing other non-harmful microbes to compete for nutrition

 

 

Antibiotic resistance: The hurdle 

  • The problem with antibiotics is that the bacteria have developed resistance to certain antibiotics, and thus can no longer be used to control or kill the bacteria.
  • Different mechanisms bacteria have adopted to resist antibiotics include
  • Some bacteria pump an antibiotic out of their cells as fast as it enters.
  • Some have proteins that bind to the antibiotic molecule and block its lethal effect.
  • Some have enzymes that break down the antibiotic molecules.
  • Penicillin hits the machinery that creates the cell wall.

 

In focus: Discovery of enzyme

  • The new enzyme discovered helps in breaking cell walls of bacteria and hence, offers a potential for a new drug delivery target.
  • This enzyme has been found to regulate the growth of the cell wall.
  • Since the cell wall is fundamental for bacterial growth and division, it can be targeted in order to arrest the growth and multiplication of bacteria.
  • As a result, it paves the way for new wave antibiotics.
Section : Science & Tech

About Oxytocin

About Oxytocin

  • The hormone released by the pituitary gland is responsible for human bonding activities such as sex, childbirth and breastfeeding.

 

 

Misuse of oxytocin

  • The hormone injection is misused to increase the size of vegetables and fruits.
  • In the dairy industry, livestock are often injected with the hormone to spur the release of milk, which when reaches humans cause medical problems such as nausea, early puberty and foetal damage.
  • The drug is misused among trafficked children to accelerate puberty among girls.

 

India has taken several steps to curb the use of oxytocin:

Restriction on manufacturing:

  • In 2014 a notification was issued under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, restricting the bulk manufacturing of oxytocin drug only to the manufacturers licensed under the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945.
  • In 2017 severe restrictions were put down on factories not meeting manufacturing standards.
  • Now the private manufacturers will be “slowly phased out”.

Restrictions on sale:

  • In 2014, India halted retail sales of oxytocin. However, illegal sales have increased.
  • Bulk sale of the drug is disallowed and Oxytocin injection is limited to single sealed blister-packs.
  • Now the sale is limited to registered government hospitals and clinics.
  • A bar code system is used on all forms of the drug to ensure tracking and prevent abuse.
Section : Science & Tech

Kartarpur corridor

Headline : Kartarpur corridor

Background

  • The Kartarpur Sahib corridor was first proposed in 1999 when Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee took a bus ride to Lahore, as a long-standing demand from the Sikh community for easy access to the revered shrine across the border where Guru Nanak spent the last 18 years of his life.
  • In August this year, during the swearing-in ceremony of the Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pakistan’s Army Chief had told visiting Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu that Pakistan hoped to build the corridor.
  • Within a week of Sidhu’s return, the government also moved a resolution in the Punjab Assembly, adopted unanimously, seeking an uninterrupted corridor from Dera Baba Nanak to Kartarpur Sahib.
  • However, the union government had criticised the move, and rejected the Pakistan offer.
  • In September, there were further acrimonious exchanges over the announcement and an abrupt cancellation of talks between the Foreign Ministers Sushma Swaraj and Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
  • However, despite the cancellation of talks and the public disavowal of the corridor offer, both sides have been in contact over the issue for the past few months.
  • Now, both the governments have exchanged letters, committing to build the required infrastructure for Kartarpur corridor.

 

Current status

  • Pilgrimages between India and Pakistan are governed by the 1974 Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines, which includes a list of shrines in Pakistan and India open for visitors from the other country, and for which visas are required.
  • The Kartarpur Corridor, which will provide visa-free access from India to the shrine located 2 km inside Pakistan in Narowal when it becomes ready on both sides within a few months, may need a separate treaty.

 

Highlights of the news

  • A cabinet meeting in Delhi proposed building a passage for the pilgrims accessible 365 days and 24 hours.
  • The government of India urged the government of Pakistan to recognise the sentiments of the Sikh community to develop a corridor with suitable facilities in its territory to facilitate easier access and smooth passage of Indian pilgrims throughout the year.
  • India and Pakistan exchanged letters committing to build the required infrastructure for kartarpur corridor, allowing them to mark the 550th Birth Anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev in November 2019.
  • Officials from India and Pakistan will meet soon to discuss the logistics of the corridor and point of border crossing where the roads which pilgrims will traverse on the Indian side from Dera Guru Nanak Dev in Gurdaspur district directly to the border and from the Pakistani side of the border directly to Kartarpur Darbar Sahib Gurudwara.
  • Pakistan’s government informed that the Prime Minister Imran Khan will lay the foundation stone for the corridor on the Pakistani side on November 28.
  • The Indian cabinet also decided that preparations for the 550th anniversary of the founder of the Sikh faith will be overseen by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, which will include the setting up of a “centre for interfaith studies” in Amritsar, University Chairs in U.K. and Canada for the study of Guru Nanak, and a railway train connecting holy sites for the community.

 

Impact of the move

  • The Indian Cabinet endorsement of Pakistan’s proposition on Kartarpur Sahib Corridor will reduce the harassment and burden of pilgrims significantly.
  • For now, it is too early to say if the Kartarpur Corridor will lead to an all-round thaw in relations between the two countries.
  • It could also lead to people on both sides of Punjab demanding other people-to-people initiatives.

 

About GurdwaraDarbar Sahib at Kartarpur

  • The gurdwara at Kartarpur stands at the site of the final resting place of the first Sikh Guru, just across the border from Dera Baba Nanak in Gurdaspur district.
  • The gurdwara in Kartarpur stands on the bank of the Ravi, about 120 km northeast of Lahore.
  • It was here that Guru Nanak assembled a Sikh community and lived for 18 years until his death in 1539.
  • The shrine is visible from the Indian side, as Pakistani authorities generally trim the elephant grass that would otherwise obstruct the view.
  • Indian Sikhs gather in large numbers for darshan from the Indian side, and binoculars are installed at Gurdwara Dera Baba Nanak.

 

 

About Kartarpur corridor

  • Kartarpur Corridor is a proposed border-corridor (border gate) between India and Pakistan connecting the Sikh Holy shrine of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib to the holy shrine of Kartarpur Sahib (also referred to as KartarpurGurdwara) states of Punjab in Indiaand Pakistan.
    The main goal of this proposed corridor is to facilitate the crossing of religious devotees to visit the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur, located in Narowal District, Pakistan, 120 km from Lahorebut only three kilometres from the Indian side of the border.
    The historical Kartarpur Gurudwara also known as Darbar Sahib Kartarpur is situated on the banks of river Ravi and is considered to be the first gurdwara ever built.
  • The length of the corridor is about 4 km, 2 km on either side of the international border.

 

About Guru Nanak Dev

  • Guru Nanak is the founder of Sikhism and the first of the Sikh Gurus.
  • He was born in Punjab India (modern day Pakistan) and gave spiritual teachings based on the universal divinity of creation.
  • He taught his followers to concentrate on spiritual practices which would enable them to transform their egotism into selflessness.
  • Nanak was born in Nankana Sahib near Lahore in Modern day Pakistan in Hindu family.
  • Although he had a deep interest in religion, he also had a rebellious streak, not always accepting religious dogma.
  • Nanak taught that God was beyond religious dogma and external definition.
  • During his lifetime, Guru Nanak attracted followers from many religious traditions.
  • He taught his followers three basic religious principles.
    • Selflessness – sharing with others, and giving to those who are less fortunate. But, also a selflessness of attitude – avoiding the pitfalls of egoism, pride and jealousy.
    • Earning an honest living – living without deceit, exploitation or fraud.
    • NaamJapna – Meditating on God’s name and repeating a mantra. Through the repetition of God’s name, Nanak taught that a follower could free himself from selfish tendencies and cultivate happiness. However, Nanak taught it was not just enough to repeat a mantra mechanically, but with selflessness and real zeal.
  • A day after appointing his successor, Nanak died on 22 September 1539 in Kartarpur, aged 70.
Section : Miscellaneous

About Quantum computers

About Quantum computers

  • In 1950s quantity of information for the first time were expressed in terms of the number of “bits”.
  • The bits, the 0s and 1s of binary code, are the basis of all conventional computing to store information.
  • 0s and 1s are represented in the form of electric charges.
  • In ordinary computers, charge is stored, and it flows through switches.
  • Every computation consists of changing the stored charge by regulating the flow of electric current to represent different information.
  • But in a quantum computer, the idea is fundamentally different.
  • All manipulations are done with the electron wave rather than with the current (charge).
  • Quantum computers take advantage of the fact that the particles (such as electrons) can be in different orbits simultaneously.
  • As a result, a very large number of computations can be carried out simultaneously using very simple circuits, and much less energy.
  • Each electron can, in principle, carry many bits of information called quantum bits, or qubits for short.

 

 

 

Applications

  • Quantum computers promise to run calculations far beyond the reach of any conventional supercomputer.
  • They might revolutionize the discovery of new materials by making it possible to simulate the behavior of matter down to the atomic level.
  • They could upend cryptography and security by cracking otherwise invincible codes.
  • There is even hope they will supercharge artificial intelligence by crunching through data more efficiently.

 

India and quantum computers

  • In September 2017, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) announced its plan to fund a project to develop quantum computers.
  • The DST’s Mission-Mode scheme, called Quantum Science and Technology (QuST), will fund research for the development and demonstration of quantum computers, quantum communication and cryptography, besides demonstration of quantum teleportation.
  • Further ISRO, in collaboration with Raman Research Institute, has initiated a mega project called Quantum Experiments Using Satellite Technology (QUEST) for developing technologies in quantum computing.
  • In May 2017, Chinese scientists successfully built the world’s first quantum computing machine that is 24,000 times faster than its international counterparts.
  • Earlier in 2016 China had successfully launched the world’s first quantum satellite called Micius.
  • Using Micius, Chinese researchers at the Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS) project, were able to transmit secret messages from space to Earth at a further distance than ever before.
Section : Science & Tech

Higher Education: ‘Destination India’ for foreign students Editorial 16th Nov’20 FinancialExpress

Not many overseas students are studying in India:

  • The higher education sector in India remains inwardly oriented, that is, most of the students in Indian colleges and universities are Indians.
  • India has not been able to attract many foreign students in Indian higher education institutions.

Statistics on overseas students in India for higher education:

  • Out of over 53 lakh students in the world studying overseas (outside their countries), only a little over 45,000 students studied in India in 2018, as per the ministry of education.
  • A majority of these were from neighbouring or low-income countries, mainly comprising Nepal (24%), Afghanistan (9.6%), Bhutan (4.3%), Bangladesh (3.5%), Sri Lanka (2.7%), apart from Nigeria (4%), Iran (3.4%), Yemen (3.2%) as well as United States (3.1%).

China has more than ten times the overseas students than India:

  • On the other hand, China’s ministry of education reported nearly 5 lakh foreign students studying in the country.
  • They were mainly from South Korea (10.2%), Thailand (5.8%), Pakistan (5.6%), India (4.7%), the US (4.2%), Russia (3.9%), Indonesia (3%), Laos (2.9%) and Japan (2.8%).
  • China receives a large number of students, over 25,800 for doctoral research and 85,000 for post-graduate education.
    • In contrast, India receives merely 1,560 students for doctoral research, 4451 for post-graduate and merely 1,430 students for medical education.

Even many Indians are studying in China:

  • India is the fourth-largest country sending students to China, with over 23,000 students enrolled in Chinese higher education institutions (over 21,000 are enrolled for medical degrees).
    • Over 45 of China’s medical colleges are approved to impart medical education in English to foreign students.

Reasons:

  • China has made commendable efforts to induce academic rigour and quality to put its educational courses and degrees on a par with international standards.
  • As a result, a large number of degrees awarded to international students in China are recognised in many countries.
    • For instance, China’s medical degrees offered to Indian students are recognised by the Medical Council of India.
  • Moreover, China has made its higher and technical education highly cost competitive.
    • For instance, the average total cost to complete a six-year medical degree in China works out to about Rs 20-30 lakh.
    • In contrast, Indian private medical colleges charge exorbitant fees, despite the sub-standard quality of education and research.

Change in the times of Covid:

  • However, Covid-19 has changed things.
  • While Covid-19 has impacted trade and economy worldwide, it is also expected to impact the cross-border flow of many other things, including cross-border education and recruitment.
    • For instance, many countries are likely to be cautious in their recruitments and cross-border exchange with China.
    • Recently, the American International Recruitment Council (AIRC) cautioned recruiters against recruiting students from China.

India can benefit from this if it makes efforts in the right direction:

  • Such unforeseen circumstances in the post-COVID world could significantly transform the cross-border flow of students for higher education.
  • This could benefit countries which are prepared to capitalise upon such emerging opportunities.

New Education Policy 2020 will provide the boost in this regard:

  • India’s ambitious New Education Policy 2020 holds promise in this regard.
  • The new policy aims to open up India’s highly constrained education system with a number of unprecedented steps such as:
    • Flexibility of choice of subjects
    • Multi-disciplinary and integrated learning
    • Flexibility of exit at any stage of graduation with some certificate, diploma, degree or advance degree
    • Accumulation of credits that could be used later
  • Moreover, it also paves the way for attracting top foreign universities into India and promote Indian universities and institutes to venture into foreign terrain.

Way ahead – India can become a major destination for overseas students:

  • India can still become a major player in cross-border education in the post-Covid world.
  • It shall require a strong commitment on the part of all the stakeholders, including the government, entrepreneurs, academics etc. to uphold highest standards of academics and integrity, in order to realise India’s unexplored potential in higher education.
  • With the right measures, India can again become a global hub in education, and regain its ancient glory as the centre of knowledge.

Importance:

GS Paper II: Social Issues Editorial Analysis

In focus: Ultima Thule

In focus: Ultima Thule

Introduction

  • Ultima Thule is a small rocky and icy trans-Neptunian planetesimal in the Kuiper belt about 30 km in radius.
    • Planetesimal is one of many small solid celestial bodies thought to have existed at an early stage in the development of the solar system
  • Ultima Thule belongs to a class of Kuiper belt objects called the “cold classicals”.
  • Ultima Thule is a contact binary made up of 2 differently shaped lobes.
  • One is a large, strangely flat lobe nicknamed “Ultima
  • The other is a smaller, somewhat rounder lobe named “Thule“.

 

Composition

  • Data from New Horizons suggests evidence of methanol, water ice, and organic molecules on Ultima Thule.

 

Surface features

Pictures of Ultima Thule highlight

  • Bright spots and patches
  • Hills and troughs
  • Craters and pits
  • An impact crater, 8-kilometer-wide, nicknamed Maryland crater.

 

Significance

  • Since it is an ancient relic, the discoveries will help in better understanding of solar system formation.

 

 

In brief: Kuiper Belt Objects and New Horizons Mission

  • Kuiper belt extends from about 30 to 50 AU (Astronomical Unit, 1 AU= distance between Sun and Earth) from the Sun.
  • When the solar system was young, a large number of icy planetesimals formed in the region beyond Jupiter.
  • The gravitational forces of the massive Jovian planets pushed most of these planetesimals beyond Neptune’s orbit, concentrating them into a belt centered on the plane of the ecliptic called as Kuiper Belt.
  • The objects in the Kuiper Belt are called trans-Neptunian objects or Kuiper Belt Objects.
  • The objects within the Kuiper Belt form the most primitive objects from the beginning of the formation of the solar system.
  • Besides, most of the comets also have their origin in Kuiper belt.
  • Thus, Kuiper Belt is a laboratory for studying well-preserved primitive material from the planet formation era 4.5 billion years ago.

 

 

New Horizon 

  • New Horizons is NASA’s space mission to Pluto and Kuiper Belt Objects.
  • New Horizons has revolutionized our understanding of most remote members of the solar system.
  • Launched in 2006, it went past Pluto and Charon in 2015.
  • It is also the first mission to explore the solar system’s “third zone,” the region beyond the giant planets called the Kuiper Belt.

 

Section : Science & Tech
 0 Com

About: India’s agricultural exports

About: India’s agricultural exports

  • Agricultural exports are extremely important as the exports help farmers/producers/exporters to take advantage of wider international market and increase their income.
  • Exports have also resulted in increased production in agriculture sector by increasing area coverage and productivity.
  • Giant strides have been made in agri export since independence.
  • In 1950-51, India’s agri export was about Rs. 149 crores which has risen to the level of Rs. 2.53 lakh crores in 2019-20.
  • The agricultural exports as a percentage of India’s agricultural GDP has increased from 9.4 % in 2017-18 to 9.9 % in 2018-19.
  • The agricultural imports as a percentage of India’s agricultural GDP has declined from 5.7 % in 2017-18 to 4.9 % in 2018-19.
  • The above data indicates exportable surplus and decreased dependence on import of agricultural products in India.
  • In 2019-20, India exported agricultural and allied products worth Rs 2.5 lakh crore against imports of Rs 1.5 lakh crore.

News Summary:

  • In the first 6 months of this financial year, from April to September 2020, India’s agricultural exports grew 4.6% year-on-year in dollar terms.
    • This comes even as the country’s overall merchandise exports for the same period have registered a 21.2% annual decline.
  • Exports of farm goods from India during April-September were at $18.1 billion, 4.6% higher than the $17.3 billion for the first half of 2019-20.
  • While the farm exports have grown, imports declined by 15%.
  • As a result, the overall agri-trade surplus has widened from $ 6.1 billion in April-September 2019 to $8.6 billion in April-September 2020.

Rice on top:

  • Rice is the agriculture commodity which performed the best.
  • The value of rice shipment increased by well over a third to $4.1 billion in April-September 2020.
  • The growth has come more from the non-basmati rather than basmati segment.
  • Total exports this fiscal are expected to surpass the previous record of 12.7 million tonnes (worth $7.8 billion) achieved in 2017-18.
  • Rice destinations:
  • India exports basmati rice largely to the West Asian countries (Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Yemen), besides the US and UK.
  • The destinations for non-basmati rice are mainly West Africa (Benin, Nigeria, Togo, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Guinea and Senegal), East Africa (Somalia and Djibouti), UAE and Nepal.

Sugar:

  • Sugar is another agri-commodity that is on course to post all-time-high exports in 2020-21.
  • Indian sugar mills have already exported $1.4 billion in April-September 2020.
  • In comparision, the whole of fiscal year 2019-20 saw sugar exports worth about $2 billion.

Cotton:

  • Another commodity whose exports have done well this year, and the prospects also look good, is cotton.
  • In the 2019-20 season (October-September), India exported 50 lakh bales of cotton, compared to 42 lakh bales in the preceding year.
  • For 2020-21 season, the projections for cotton trade show exports hitting 70 lakh bales — the highest since 117 lakh bales in 2013-14.

Economics

About: Earth observation satellites

About: Earth observation satellites

  • Earth observation satellites are used for land and forest mapping and monitoring, mapping of resources like water or minerals or fishes, weather and climate observations, soil assessment and geospatial contour mapping.
  • Data from Earth-observation satellites are in great demand, both from government agencies, which need it for planning and infrastructure development, as well as private companies looking to execute infrastructure and other projects.

About: EOS-01

  • The EOS-01, is an earth observation satellite intended for applications in agriculture, forestry and disaster management support.
  • EOS-01 is a Radar Imaging Satellite (RISAT), which was originally named RISAT-2BR2. It will work together with RISAT-2B and RISAT-2BR1 launched last year. Radar imaging satellites are a type of earth observation satellites.

New naming system for earth observation satellites:

  • With EOS-01, ISRO is moving to a new naming system for its earth observation satellites which till now have been named thematically, according to the purpose they are meant for.
  • For example, the Cartosat series of satellites were meant to provide data for land topography and mapping, while the Oceansat satellites were meant for observations over sea.
  • Some INSAT-series, Resourcesat series, GISAT, Scatsat, and some more are all earth observation satellites, named differently for the jobs they are assigned to do, or the different instruments that they use to do their jobs.

About: Radar imaging

  • Radar is a detection system that uses radio waves to determine the range, angle, or velocity of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, weather and terrain (land).
  • An advantage of radar imaging is that it is not affected by weather, cloud or fog, or the lack of sunlight. It can produce high-quality images in all conditions and at all times.
  • Depending on the wavelength of the electromagnetic radiation used by the radar, different properties on land can be captured in the image.
  • For example, a low wavelength signal can capture tree cover or vegetation, while a higher wavelength signal can penetrate even dense tree cover to look at land under the tree cover.

What is CrispR?

What is CrispR?

  • CRISPR stands for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats”.
  • It is a method of DNA editing more efficient than ones available.
  • CRISPR uses an enzyme called Cas9 to cut strands of DNA at precisely targeted locations.
  • This allows one to insert new genetic material into the gap.
  • CRISPR promises to revolutionize gene editing in organisms, by modifying inherited genes to spread a trait throughout a population.
  • CrispR is a replica of the natural process when a virus infects a bacterium.
    • When a virus gets in to bacterial cell wall, it becomes integrated into the bacteria’s genome.
    • From there, the viral DNA will replicate and become translated/transcribed into proteins which will eventually form a newly synthesized virus.
    • In order to defend against viral infection, bacterium evolved the CRISPR/Cas9 system adaptive immune system.
    • Within this system, ‘bacterial’ CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) spacer sequences are transcribed into RNA which guides a Cas9 endonuclease to matching regions of ‘viral’ DNA within the hosts’ genome.
    • The Cas9 endonuclease then unwinds the host cell DNA and cleaves/removes the infectious viral DNA from the bacterium.

How do Genes work?

  • Every cell in an organism contains all of the information needed to manufacture every protein in its body.
  • The genes in strands of DNA are a storehouse of information, an instruction book.
  • The genes that an organism carries for a particular trait is its genotype and the physical manifestation of the instructions are the organism’s phenotype.
  • Further a gene (a sequence of bases in a section of DNA) affect the phenotype in two main steps.
  • Transcription, in which a copy of a gene’s base sequence is made, and
  • Translation, in which that copy is used to direct the production of a protein.
  • In transcription, the gene’s base sequence or code is copied into a middleman molecule called messenger RNA (mRNA).
  • In translation, the mRNA moves out of the nucleus and into the cytoplasm of the cell, where the messages encoded in the mRNA molecules are used to build proteins.
Section : Science & Tech

About Kalpana Lajmi

About Kalpana Lajmi

  • Kalpana Lajmi was a critically acclaimed filmmaker who focused on social issues concerning women.
  • She was one of the earliest feminist filmmakers in Indian cinema.
  • Her body of work covered issues ranging from patriarchy, sexuality and gender, domestic violence to transgender and prostitution.

Noted works

  • Lajmi debuted in the film industry in 1977 as an assistant director under renowned film maker Shyam Benegal in the film “Bhumika: The Role”.
  • Her earlier films were based on stories from books of feminist Bengali authors Maitreyi Devi and Mahashweta Devi.
  • Her first feature film was Ek Pal (1986), based on a short story by Maitreyi Devi with strong female characters.
  • She is best remembered for Rudaali (1993), her second film, based on the work of Mahashweta Devi.
    • Rudaali was primarily based on a group of women in Rajasthan who are better known as professional weepers or mourners.
    • Rudaali explored issue of gender and patriarchy in the broader context of class and caste divides.
  • Works on Gender and Sexuality
    • Darmiyaan in 1997 was the first film that focused on issue of transgender through the construction of eunuch named ‘Immi’.
    • Daman(2001) focused on the issue of domestic abuse and marital rape.
    • In Chingari(2006), Lajmi explored the subject of prostitution and power play of the priestly class. It was based on Hazarika’s novel “The Prostitute and the Postman”.
  • Lajmi also authored a biography ‘Bhupen Hazarika: As I Knew Him’.
Section : Miscellaneous

About: Bulk drugs or APIs

What is a bulk drug park and why Himachal wants one

In News

  • Himachal Pradesh (HP) is one of the states trying to get an allotment of a bulk drug park under the central government bulk drug park scheme.
  • The HP government has identified around 1,400 acres in Una district and sent a proposal to the Centre.
  • Several other states including Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Telangana have expressed interest in the scheme, and are likely to send their respective proposals.

About: Bulk drugs or APIs

  • A bulk drug, also called an active pharmaceutical ingredient (API), is the key ingredient of a drug or medicine, which produces the required therapeutic effects in the body.
  • For example, paracetamol is a bulk drug, which acts against pain. It is mixed with binding agents or solvents to prepare the finished pharmaceutical product, i.e. a paracetamol tablet, capsule or syrup, which is consumed by the patient.

Key Starting Material and Drug Intermediates:

  • APIs are prepared from multiple reactions involving chemicals and solvents.
  • The primary chemical or the basic raw material which undergoes reactions to form an API is called the Key Starting Material (KSM).
  • Chemical compounds formed during the intermediate stages during these reactions are called Drug Intermediates (DIs).

Reasons for launching the Bulk Drug Parks

  • India has one of the largest pharmaceutical industries in the world (third largest by volume) but this industry depends on other countries, particularly China, for importing APIs, DIs and KSMs.
  • This year, operations of drug manufacturers in India have suffered due to disruption in imports.
  • In January, factories in China were shut down when China went into a lockdown, and later, international supply chains were affected due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • The border conflict between India and China, further worsened the situation.
  • All these factors pushed the Indian government to announce a scheme for the promotion of bulk drug parks in the country.

Scheme for Promotion of Bulk Drug Parks

Objective of the scheme:

  • The objective of the scheme is to set up bulk drug parks in the country to reduce the manufacturing cost of bulk drugs and make India self-reliant in bulk drugs.
  • To help industry meet the standards of environment at a reduced cost through innovative methods of common waste management system.

Details of the scheme:

  • Under the scheme, a one-time grant-in-aid will be provided for creation of common infrastructure facilities in selected Bulk Drug Park proposed by a State Government.
  • A bulk drug park will have a contiguous (continuous) area of land with common infrastructure facilities for the exclusive manufacture of APIs, DIs or KSMs, and also a common waste management system.
  • Three bulk drug parks will be supported under the scheme, with the total financial outlay of Rs. 3000 Crore. Maximum grant-in-aid for one bulk drug park will be limited to Rs 1000 crore.
  • The grant-in-aid will be 70 per cent of the cost of the common facilities but in the case of Himachal Pradesh and other hill states, it will be 90 per cent.
  • The duration of the Scheme is from FY 2020-2021 to FY 2024-2025.

Selection process of the bulk drug parks:

  • A state can only propose one site, which is not less than a thousand acres in area, or not less than 700 acres in the case of hill states.
  • The proposals should contain the estimated cost, feasibility studies, environmental risk assessment etc.
  • A project management agency, nominated by the department of pharmaceuticals, will examine these proposals and make recommendations to a scheme steering committee, which will then approve the proposals.

News Summary:

  • Himachal Pradesh (HP) is one of the states trying to get an allotment of a bulk drug park under a central government scheme announced earlier this year, for the promotion of bulk drug parks.
  • The HP government has identified around 1,400 acres in Una district and sent a proposal to the Centre.
  • Several other states including Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Telangana have expressed interest in the scheme, and are likely to send their respective proposals.

Advantages in Himachal Pradesh

  • According to the Himachal Pradesh government, the state already has Asia’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturing hub, (the Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh industrial belt) and the state produces around half of India’s total drugs.
  • Power and water tariffs in the state are very low and the state also has an industrial gas pipeline.

Economics

About: Indo-Pacific

  • In recent years, the term ‘Indo-Pacific’ has become widely resonant in the geo-strategic discourse.
  • Geographically, the Indo-Pacific refers to the Indian and the Pacific Oceans between the east coast of Africa and the American west coast and their several littoral countries.
  • However, there are slight differences in what various countries perceive as the geographical spread of “Asia-Pacific”.
    • While a 2017 US National Security Strategy document described the Indo-Pacific as the region from the “west coast of India to the west coast of the United States”, India looks at it as a wider region, which extends all the way to West Asia and and the east coast of Africa.
  • It is both a strategic as well as an economic concept that includes important sea-lines of communication that connect the two oceans. Since it is primarily a maritime space, the Indo-Pacific is associated with maritime security and cooperation.
  • Strategically, the term ‘Indo-Pacific’ highlights the importance of the “Indian Ocean” in which India and ASEAN would play a greater role in the regional affairs.
    • This is a shift away from the Asia-Pacific concept that was prominent earlier, with China’s centrality and India sidelines.

News Summary:

3 visits, 1 theme:

  • In US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to all three countries viz. Sri Lanka, Maldives and Indonesia, the message from US was that China is a lawless country and does not respect international rules.
  • It further claimed that China makes claims on territories that fall within the boundaries of other nations, and that the US will work to prevent that.

Sri Lanka’s visit:

  • China has a strong presence in Sri Lanka, where it has control of the Hambantota port.
  • It is also making a terminal at the Colombo port, a new city off the Colombo seafront and is involved in various other infrastructure projects.
  • In his visit to Sri Lanka, the Secretary of State claimed that China acts like a predator by trapping countries in debt traps, but the US works with countries as a friend and a partner.
    • Debt traps are situations which make it difficult or impossible for the borrower to repay the loan, including through high interest rates.

  • However, the Sri Lankan President did not agree with America’s claims that Sri Lanka was caught in a debt trap with China and claimed that China had provided crucial assistance to Sri Lanka in the last 10 years.
  • He further shared that Sri Lanka’s foreign policy was not aligned with any specific country and welcomed more American investment.

Visit to Maldives:

  • In the Maldives, which signed a framework defence and security agreement with the US in September, Mr. Pompeo repeated that China operates in a lawless and threatening manner with other countries.
  • Since 2018, when Ibrahim Solih became President of Maldives, the country has dropped its earlier shift towards China, and its foreign policy now focusses on other ties that have existed since a long time, which includes India.
  • India, which had prevented a US-Maldives defence treaty back in 2013, welcomed the new agreement and said that the treaty was aligned with India’s interests and regional stability.

Visit to Indonesia:

  • In Indonesia, America appreciated both Indonesia and ASEAN for their strong leadership and for rejecting the unlawful claims by China in the South China Sea (SCS).
    • Jakarta in Indonesia is the headquarters of ASEAN.

  • China and ASEAN nations are hoping to complete negotiations for Code of Conduct (CoC) in the SCS by 2021, but there are fears that China might use its influence to suit its own interests.

Highlights from the Indian visit

  • With India engaged in a military conflict with China, India is moving into a closer relationship with the US and has increased engagement with US in the Indo Pacific region.
  • In reference to China, the two sides stressed their commitment for a rules-based international order and to maintain a free, open, inclusive, peaceful, and prosperous Indo-Pacific.
  • Signalling that China’s dominant behaviour in Asia works against India’s interests and aspirations, India shared that a multi-polar world must have a multi-polar Asia as its basis.
  • At the meeting both the countries also recognised the important role of people-to-people linkages in strengthening the overall bilateral relationship and economic ties.
  • India is also looking to work with US for increasing predictability in the visa regime and to minimise the inconvenience faced by those in the US or those who need to travel to the country for genuine reasons.

International Relations

About Stem Cells

About Stem Cells

  • The most basic unit of any organism is a cell.
  • It is the smallest unit of life that can function independently and perform all the necessary functions of life.
  • Cells develop to form tissues which inturn develop to form organs.
  • Further broadly speaking, cells are of two types, differentiated and undifferentiated.
  • Differentiated cells are the building blocks of tissues and organs and are specialised to from that tissue or organ.
  • Undifferentiated cells are those that have the potential to deleop into many different types of cells like those in muscles, kidney, liver etc.
  • Stem cells are basically these undifferentiated, primitive cells.
  • Further Stem cells are of two types, Embryonic and Adult/Somatic stem cells.

Difference between Embryonic and Adult/Somatic stem cells

  • Embryonic stem cells are derived from embryos.
  • They are totipotent in that they can be differentiated into most of the cell types.
  • They can produce a clone of the entire organism.
  • Somatic stem cells or adult stem cells are undifferentiated cells present in differentiated cells in a tissue or organ.
  • They help in repair and maintenance of specific tissue or organ where they are present.

Induced Pluripotent Stem cells (iPS cells) and their significance

  • iPS are adult stem cells, like in umbilical cord cells or bone marrow cells, that can be induced to show properties of stem cells.
  • They are mostly use in therapeutic cloning to treat degenerative diseases like diabetes, Parkinson’s, Alzhiemers etc.
  • They are created by stimulating mature, already specialised cells back into a juvenile state without the need for an embryo.
  • These can be derived from the patient themselves, making them less likely to be rejected.
  • The cells can be transformed into a range of different types of cells, and their use is a key sector of medical research.
  • Further owing to ethical issues embryonic cells are banned in countries such as Ireland and in Latin America.
  • Therefore use of iPS cells in therapeutic cloning is rather significant.

Significance of stem cell therapies

  • Currently available therapies for Parkinson’s disease treat symptoms without slowing or halting the disease progression.
  • On the other hand, the new research aims to actively reverse the disease.
Section : Science & Tech

About Snakebite envenoming

About Snakebite envenoming

  • Snakebite envenoming is a potentially life-threatening disease that typically results from the injection of a mixture of different toxins (“venom”) following the bite of a venomous snake.
  • Envenoming can also be caused by venom being sprayed into a person’s eyes by certain species of snakes that have the ability to spit venom as a defence measure.
  • Not all snakebites result in envenoming: some snakes are non-venomous and venomous snakes do not always inject venom during a bite.

 

Few Important facts regarding morbidity, disability and mortality due to snakebite envenoming

  • The recently released Global Burden of Disease 2016 study was more conservative and estimated there was a total of 79000 deaths caused by venomous animals in 2016, with an uncertainty range of 56800 to 89400.
  • An estimated 400000 people a year face permanent disabilities, including blindness, extensive scarring and contractures, restricted mobility and amputation following snakebite envenoming.
  • Of the 1,00,000 people who die globally every year from snakebite, one of the world’s most neglected tropical diseases (NTD), at least 46,000 are in India.
  • Snakebite envenoming affects people in predominantly poor, rural communities in tropical and subtropical countries throughout the world.
  • There is a large body of literature demonstrating a strong association between low socioeconomic status or poverty and a high incidence of, and mortality due to, snakebite envenoming.
  • Rural hunter–gatherers, agricultural workers, working children (10–14 years of age), families living in poorly constructed housing, and people with limited access to education and health care are all particularly vulnerable.
  • The prevalence of snakebite envenoming is inversely proportional to the level of country income: the prevalence is highest in low-and middle-income countries, and lowest in high-income countries.
  • Snakebite envenoming has a multitude of consequences for the individuals affected and their families. In many cases it pushes poor people further into poverty by virtue of high treatment costs, loss of income and enforced borrowing.

 

Why the WHO resolution important for India?

  • In 2017-18, 1.96 lakh cases of snakebites were recorded, with West Bengal, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu reporting the biggest numbers.
  • Of the 300-odd species of snakes found in India, 52 are venomous, but all their poisons are different.
  • In India, which was a signatory to the resolution, some 50,000 die every year; however, the WHO fears this estimate may be just 10% of the actual burden.
  • Of the 1,00,000 people who die globally every year from snakebite, one of the world’s most neglected tropical diseases (NTD), at least 46,000 are in India.
  • The high case burden, poorly trained doctors, and lack of anti-snake venom (ASV) makers hobble India’s battle against snakebites.
  • India has been consistently recognised as one of the countries with highest mortality rate from snakebites, largely because of poor access to healthcare.

 

Recent steps taken by India in this direction

  • In the wake of the WHO resolution, India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare will soon start a process of consultation, and issue advisories to States on management and treatment of snakebite victims.
  • The process will begin after the team that has gone to WHO returns.
  • The onus of tackling the problem rests with the States, who have to procure the anti-snake venom vials depending on their individual requirements.
  • Health Ministry has framed guidelines to be followed by all State health institutions to tackle and deal with the serious concern about deaths due to snakebites.
  • National Snakebite Management Protocol is also in place.
  • The protocol was framed by the DGHS with technical support from the WHO’s country office in India.
  • Also in June 2018, Maharashtra approved the setting up of a National Venom Research Centre, and asked the Centre to aid the public sector Haffkine Institute in its work on snake species and poisons.
Section : Science & Tech

What do you mean by Non-performing asset (NPA). Enumerate the major factors behind accumulation of non-performing assets in the Indian banking sector in recent years.

Approach

  • Introduce with NPAs
  • Explain various factors causing NPAs.
  • Suggest way forward to deal with NPA

Model Answer 

A non performing asset (NPA) is a loan or advance for which the principal or interest payment remained overdue for a period of 90 days. The higher is the amount of non-performing assets (NPAs), the weaker will be the bank’s revenue stream.

In its Financial Stability Report for July 2020, the RBI highlighted that the gross NPA ratio fell from 9.3 percent in September 2019 to 8.5 percent by March 2020. However, the central bank said the GNPA ratio of the country’s scheduled commercial banks (SCBs) may increase from 8.5 % in March 2020 to 12.5 %by the same period next year, under the baseline scenario.

Factors Behind Accumulation of NPAs In the Indian Banking Sector in Recent Years:

  1. Historical Reason: The historical origins can be traced to the nationalization of banks in 1969. It opened a window for bank lending on political behest, patronage, and rent-seeking.
  2. Public sector banks themselves are also responsible: Their lending was and is sometimes inept and sometimes corrupt. For one, banks simply did not have the capabilities to assess credit risk in investment lending. For another, banks were caught in a maturity mismatch, because they borrowed short from depositors but had to lend long to investors. The other reasons for rising NPAs are: Weakening of credit underwriting criteria, debt restructuring, poor governance of PSBs etc.
  3. Credit Boom: Part of the reason lies in the extraordinary credit boom that the country witnessed since 2003-04. Credit expansion was phenomenal, with average annual growth rate at 18.69 % while nominal GDP growth rates were 12.62. Credit booms are generally succeeded by stress in the banking system.
  4. Slowing Economic Growth and Global Crisis: The profits of most of the corporates dwindled due to slowdown in GDP growth due to covid, impact of Court judgments on mining, power and steel sectors, delay in environmental clearances, and slump in global trade. This has affected their ability to pay back loans and is the most important reason behind increase in NPAs of public sector banks.
  5. The wait and watch approach of banks have been often blamed as the reason for rising NPAs as banks allow deteriorating asset class to go from bad to worse in the hope of revival and often offered restructuring option to corporates.
  6. Willful Defaults: Recently there have also been frauds of high magnitude that have contributed to rising NPAs. As of December 2018, over 11,000 companies had willfully defaulted on amounts worth over Rs 1.61 lakh crore.

Way forward

Various steps have been taken to tackle the issue of NPAs. Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) has become a powerful tool for the banks to recover NPAs and has seen some good early success and it should be maintained. Steps have been taken to expedite and enable efficient resolution of NPAs of PSBs through Mission Indradhanush, Project Sashakt, consolidation of banks etc. Yet, corrective action is possible and necessary such as:

  1. PSB Governance: The entire process of improving the governance in PSBs, already set in motion, needs to be hastened. The recently constituted Bank Board Bureau is a step in this direction, but its independence from govt influence cannot be assumed. Its autonomy will have to be established.
  2. Credit Risk Management: Proper credit appraisal of the project, creditworthiness of clients and their skill and experience should be carried out. It is essential that public sector commercial banks acquire the capabilities to assess credit risk in investment lending. The establishment of a National Development Bank with a mandate for, and expertise in, longer-term investment lending would also serve a valuable purpose. Effective Management Information System (MIS) needs to be implemented to monitor early warning signals about the projects.
  3. Stricter NPA Recovery: The government needs to amend the laws and give more powers to banks to recover NPAs.
  4. Asset Reconstruction Company: There’s a need to set up an ARC or an Asset Management Company to fast track resolution of stressed assets of PSBs.
  5. Sector-specific Intervention: Power, Steel etc are few sectors that has high NPAs, which could reduce with regulatory clearances, better growth and recovery. To reduce the quantum of NPAs in steel, power and shipping sectors, select successful PSUs should take over the management of stressed projects in their respective sectors, in coordination with the lender banks.

What is an e-cigarette?

What is an e-cigarette?

  • E-cigarette is a battery-powered device which vaporizes a liquid solution containing water, flavorings, propylene glycol and vegetable glycerol.
  • E-cigarette are also called electronics nicotine delivery  system (ENDS)
  • They are considered as a healthier smoking alternative as they do not contain carbon monoxide or tar.

 

Arguments in favour of the ban

  • According to the ministry, e-cigarettes contain nicotine, an addictive ingredient which has serious health-related ramifications.
  • Nicotine addiction through e-cigarettes may lead to its consumer to try conventional tobacco products and hence is a gateway product.
  • Further the government says e-liquids in e-cigarette contain nicotine in, propylene glycol and various flavours that are carcinogens.
  • According to a study published in Indian Journal of Medical Paediatric Oncology, 2015 following are the ill-effects of nicotine addiction:
    • Increased risk of cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal disorders
    • Decreased immune response
    • Negatively impacts reproductive health
    • Affects the cell proliferation
    • Oxidative stress
    • Apoptosis
    • DNA mutation leading to cancer
    • Proliferation of tumours and metastasis
    • Causes resistance to chemo and radiotherapeutic agents

 

WHO on e-cigarettes

  • WHO has urged the governments to regulate all Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) products.
  • According to WHO, there is no definitive proof that e-cigarettes help cut down smoking.
  • Nicotine exposure could harm brain development in both children and fetuses.

  

 

Arguments against the ban

  • According to The Council for Harm Reduced Alternatives (CHRA) ban on e-cigarette would deprive smokers of safer choices.
  • According to CHRA and AVI, e-cigarettes help people kick the habit and are thus harm-reducing in communicable diseases.
  • Further e-cigarettes are better alternative given the low success rate of gums and patches.
  • Some experts have argued the effects of nicotine addiction could be as benign as caffeine.
  • Some have highlighted potential benefits of nicotine in treating ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease and Schizophrenia.
  • They argue that people smoke for the nicotine but die from the tar.
  • Use of e-cigarettes in the U.S., E.U. and the U.K. has yielded positive results.

 

Laws regulating ENDS in India

  • The states have banned e-cigarette under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and the Poisons Act, 1919.
  • Under Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) the Union government can regulate tobacco products.
  • According to the act it can prohibit any item which imitates cigarettes
  • Thus Union government could affect a ban on e-cigarettes under the COTPA though doesn’t have a specific provision to ban.
Section : Social Issues

About Zika virus

About Zika virus

  • Zika belongs to a group of viruses called the flaviviruses, which includes dengue, West Nile and yellow fever.
  • Zika virus infect and replicate inside the cells of several species, including humans, monkeys, and mosquitoes.

 

History of Zika

  • Zika was first isolated from a monkey in the Zika forest of Uganda in 1947.
  • The first human case was reported in 1954.
  • In 2007, the first documented outbreak of Zika took place, on Yap Island in Micronesia.
  • In 2013 and 2014, another Zika outbreak occurred, in French Polynesia and the surrounding islands.
  • Brazil reported a major outbreak of the disease in 2015 where more than 4000 cases were detected.
  • Currently there is no vaccine to prevent infection.

 

Transmission

  • The primary mode of Zika transmission is through mosquitoes in the genus Aedes which bite during the day.
  • When a mosquito sucks blood from a person infected with Zika, the virus can infect the cells of the mosquito.
  • Mosquito’s infection develops in a period of about 1 and ½ weeks.
  • When it bites another human, the viral particles can be transmitted to the human, who may contract Zika.
  • Other modes of transmission include
    • Pregnant woman who contracts Zika transmitting the virus to her growing fetus.
    • Sexual contact or through blood transfusions from a Zika-infected donor.

 

Symptoms

  • Typical symptoms may include rash, fever, conjunctivitis (irritation of the eyes), and joint pain.
  • Pregnant women and their unborn fetuses are at higher risk for harmful effects from Zika.
  • There is a link between Zika infection during pregnancy and a condition called microcephaly in newborns.
  • Microcephaly may involve neurological problems or developmental delays.
  • In some rare cases, it may be linked with Guillain-Barré syndrome.
  • Guillain-Barré syndrome is an autoimmune condition that causes paralysis, which is usually temporary.

 

Zika in India

  • In India, the Zika virus was first found in Pune 65 years ago.
  • In 2017 three cases infected with mosquito-borne Zika virus were detected in Ahmedabad.
  • India has not witnessed a major outbreak.
  • However India provides fertile climate for the aedes egypti mosquito to grow and multiply.
  • Thus there is the potential of an outbreak situation in the country.

 

Section : Science & Tech

Personality: Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Headline : Personality: Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Details :

About Atal Bihari Vajpayee

  • Atal Bihari Vajpayee was an Indian politician who thrice served as the Prime Minister of India, first for a term of 13 days in 1996, for a period of eleven months from 1998 to 1999, and then for a full term from 1999 to 2004.
  • He was a member of the Indian Parliament for over four decades, having been elected to the Lok Sabha ten times, and twice to the Rajya Sabha.
  • He served as the Member of Parliament for Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh until 2009 when he retired from active politics due to health concerns.
  • Vajpayee was among the founding members of the erstwhile Bharatiya Jana Sangh which he also headed from 1968 to 1972.
  • He was the Minister of External Affairs in the cabinet of Prime Minister Morarji Desai.
  • When the Janata government collapsed, Vajpayee restructured the Jana Sangh into the Bharatiya Janata Party in 1980.
  • He was the first Indian prime minister who was not a member of the Indian National Congress party to have served a full five-year term in office.
  • During his second term as prime minister, Vajpayee ordered nuclear tests in May 1998 in a strategic masterstroke to blunt Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions.
  • He followed this up with peace overtures to Pakistan, riding on the first direct bus from India to Pakistan in February 1999.
  • He was the first politician to speak in Hindi in U.N. assembly, thus highlighting our language at international level.
  • A Padma Vibhushan awardee, he is also a recipient of India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, which was conferred on him in 2015.
  • The government declared in 2014 that Vajpayee’s birthday, 25 December, would be marked as Good Governance Day.
  • He died on 16 August 2018 due to age related illness.
  • A memorial will be built, though its location is not yet decided.
Section : Miscellaneous

Basics: Black holes in theory

Basics: Black holes in theory

General theory of relativity and Black holes

  • Einstein completely revolutionized the idea of space and time in his general theory of relativity.
  • Accordingly, space and time is not something that is static, monotonous and unchanging as imagined in Newtonian physics.
  • The general theory of relativity describes gravity entirely in terms of the geometry of both space and time.
  • If large amount of matter is concentrated in a small volume, general theory of relativity predicted the presence of a a black hole.
  • The matter in the black hole is so greatly compressed that it violently warps space and time.

 

How are Black holes formed?

  • In the last stages of its life cycle, a dying star contracts under its own gravity to become either a white dwarf or a neutron star or a black hole depending on its mass.
  • If the mass of the star is less than 1.4 mass of the sun, it contracts into a white dwarf.
  • If the mass of the star is more than 1.4 times the mass of the sun it contacts into a neutron star.
  • If the mass of the star is more than 2 to 3 times the mass of the sun it contracts into a black hole.

 

What are Black holes?

  • As the star’s matter becomes compressed to enormous densities, the strength of gravity at the surface of the rapidly contracting star also increases dramatically.
  • According to the general theory of relativity, this massive gravity has a profound effect on the spacetime immediately surrounding the star.
  • The space surrounding the black hole becomes so highly curved that it closes on itself (See figure).
  • Photons (light packets) flying outward at an angle from the star’s surface arc back inward, thus light cannot escape from it.
  • Ordinary matter that has much lesser speeds than light also disappears in the gravity well.
  • Thu,s an object from which neither matter nor electromagnetic radiation can escape is called a black hole

 

 

 

In focus: Capturing Black holes

  • Observing black holes are difficult because light cannot escape from inside the black hole.
  • The only way to observe black holes are the effects of a black hole’s powerful gravity on surrounding matter and spacetime.
  • One key to detecting black holes is to search for the radiation emitted by material as it falls into a hole.

 

Structure of the black hole

The structure of black hole includes

  • Gravity wellThe dark hole inside which nothing can be seen.
  • Event horizonEvent horizon can be thought of as a ‘surface’ of a black hole.
    • Any matter surrounding the black hole collapses within the event horizon to completely disappear in the black hole.
    • Because this surface is like a horizon beyond which we cannot see any events, it is called event horizon.
    • At the event horizon, the escape velocity for any matter equals speed of light.
    • Therefore in the picture, one can see photons orbiting the black hole.

 

 

A brief analysis of the picture

  • Photon sphereThe orbiting photons in the event horizon make up for the light ring around the black hole in the picture.
  • X-Ray burstsFurther the disk of matter in the event horizon which is falling into the hole emits regular bursts of X-rays every few seconds.
  • Radio-burstsOccasionally the matter in the event horizon emits bursts of radio waves.
  • Relativistic JetsFurther from these accretion disks also emerge hot glowing relativistic jets that are formed by strong electric and magnetic fields.
  • Singularity or Gravity wellThe dark hole inside which nothing can be seen.

 

 

In brief: Event Horizon Telescope

  • Event Horizon Telescope is a network of 8 radio telescopes located in Hawaii, Arizona, Chile, Mexico and Spain, and at the South Pole.
  • It is synchronized in such a way in effect they form a radio telescope of the size of the earth itself.
  • The EHT has generated petabytes of data including images in the radio and X-Ray frequencies.
  • These data have been processed by super computer to arrive at the image that is released.

 

 

 

Section : Science & Tech

What is Piezoelectricity?

What is Piezoelectricity?

  • ‘Piezo’ meaning to press or to squeeze.
  • Piezoelectric property essentially is based on the interplay between mechanical and electrical features of a material.
  • Bonds that keep materials together are electrons and these electrons are the basis for electricity.
  • Therefore there exists a connection between material mechanics and material electronics. Changing one will impact the other.
  • Piezoelectricity is the generation of electric charges in certain solid materials in response to applied mechanical stress — such as the body’s motion, wind and water flow, or sound vibration.
  • With mechanical stress–electricity interactions, sensors can be made that catch mechanical vibrations and transform those to an electrical signal.
  • Further piezoelectric effect is completely reversible, which means when stress is applied, electricity is generated and when electricity is applied, stress is generated.
  • Materials that show these properties include Quartz, topaz, human and animal bone tissue, fibres, different proteins etc.

 

 

Spider-silk as a Piezoelectric Nano fibre

  • There are many materials in nature which have piezoelectric properties.
  • Spider silk is a fibre secreted by spiders.
  • Spider silk is the strongest natually-occurring fiber known with tensile strength comparable to that of high-grade steel.
  • The nanogenerator harvests electricity out of spider silk.
  • When pressure is applied, it leads to changes in the molecular structure of the material, making it capable of harvesting mechanical/biomechanical energy into green electricity.
  • The nanogenerator is prepared by spraying water on spider silk and wrapping it around the pacemaker.
  • Every time the heart beats, it will create external pressure on the spider silk, making it generate energy.
  • While the pacemaker will keep the heart ticking, the heartbeat will in turn keep the pacemaker going.
  • This makes spider-silk a self-powered, piezoelectric nanogenerator that can harvest green energy from various mechanical and biomechanical motions.

 

Why spider-silk in pacemaker?

  • There are various ceramic or metal-oxide-based piezoelectric materials.
  • But due to their brittleness and toxic nature, these materials have limitations for application inside the human body.
  • Spider silk, however, is both biocompatible and biodegradable and is therefore perfect for being used inside the body.

 

Potential uses of Spider-silk nanofibres

  • The spider-silk-based flexible nanogenerator is extremely sensitive to even minute pressure generated from body motions.
  • This includes even the very small pressure arising from arterial pulse (signals arising out of small strains), throat movement during coughing, speaking, and drinking.
  • This shows its potentiality in healthcare-monitoring applications.
  • Its sensitiveness could also be used to monitor robotic applications.
  • It can also for harvesting green energy and even for large-scale industrial applications.
  • Devices made of these materials have the added advantage of size.
  • Therefore it can externally be used for small electronic devices such as mobile phones, watches and calculators etc.

 

Section : Science & Tech

Telemedicine: A backgrounder

Telemedicine: A backgrounder

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) defines Telemedicine as- The delivery of healthcare services, where distance is a critical factor, by all healthcare professionals using information and communication technologies for the exchange of valid information for diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease and injuries, research and evaluation and for the continuing education of healthcare providers, all in the interests of advancing the health of individuals and their communities.
  • The Telemedicine system consists of an interface between hardware, software and a communication channel.
  • The hardware consists of a computer, printer, scanner, videoconferencing equipment etc.
  • The software enables the acquisition of patient information (images, reports, films etc.).
  • The communication channel enables the connectivity whereby two locations can connect to each other like satellite communication.

 

 

Advatages of telemedicine

  • Easy access to remote areas
  • Using telemedicine in peripheral health set-ups can significantly reduce the time and costs of patient transportation
  • Monitoring home care and ambulatory monitoring
  • Improves communications between health providers separated by distance
  • Critical care monitoring where it is not possible to transfer the patient
  • Continuing medical education and clinical research
  • A tool for public awareness
  • A tool for disaster management
  • Second opinion and complex interpretations
  • The greatest hope for use of telemedicine technology is that it can bring the expertise to medical practices once telecommunication has been established.
  • Disease surveillance and program tracking
  • It provides an opportunity for standardization and equity in provision of healthcare.

 

 

Telemedicine in India

  • In India, telemedicine programs are actively supported by, Department of Information Technology (DIT), Indian Space Research Organization and other private organizations.
  • The telemedicine software system has also been developed by the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing, C-DAC which supports Tele-Cardiology, Tele-Radiology and Tele-Pathology etc.
  • It uses ISDN, VSAT, POTS and is used to connect the three premier Medical Institutes of the country (viz. All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (SGPGIMS), Lucknow and Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh). In the past three years, ISRO’s telemedicine network has expanded to connect 45 remote and rural hospitals and 15 superspecialty hospitals.
  • ‘HEALTHSAT,’ a dedicated communication satellite for healthcare in the country on the lines of ‘Edusat” has been envisaged for launch in the future.

 

 

 

Section : Science & Tech

In Focus: E-Courts in India

In Focus: E-Courts in India

  • The Indian judiciary comprises of nearly 15,000 courts situated in approximately 2,500 court complexes throughout the country.
  • The e-Courts project was conceptualized on the basis of the “National Policy and Action Plan for Implementation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the Indian Judiciary – 2005”submitted by e-Committee, Supreme Court of India with a vision to transform the Indian Judiciary by ICT enablement of Courts.

Features of the E-Courts Project:

  • The e-courts project is about creating an ICT enabled ecosystem, to enable courts to make justice delivery system affordable and cost-effective.
  • In an e-court, the entire work is executed digitally, wherein, the information that is shared and generated is stored as a database and synched to a particular software.
  • This software can be accessed by litigants, judges and advocates.

Advantages of the Project:

  • The primary intention of e-courts is to make the justice delivery system affordable, transparent, speedy and accountable by limiting the paper filings.
  • This would be beneficial for both improving the court processes and rendering citizen-centric services.
  • E-courts are aimed to make legal processes easier and more user friendly.

E-Courts Mission Mode Project (MMP):

  • The e-Courts Mission Mode Project, is a Pan-India Project, monitored and funded by Department of Justice, Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India for the District Courts (and also subordinate courts eventually) across the country.
  • The MMP aims to develop, deliver, install, and implement automated decision-making and decision-support systems in 700 courts across Delhi, Bombay, Kolkata and Chennai; 900 courts across 29 State/ Union Territory capitals; and 13,000 district and subordinate courts across the Nation.
  • Objectives of the Project:
  • To develop, install & implement decision support systems in courts.
  • To assist judicial administration in reducing the pendency of cases.
  • To help judicial administration in streamlining their day-to-day activities.
  • To provide judges with easy access to legal and judicial databases.
  • Advantages of the Project:
  • Citizen-centric services- E-courts are a step to provide efficient & time-bound citizen centric services delivery as detailed in e-Court Project Litigant’s Charter.
  • Increased transparency- Automation of the processes can ensure transparency in accessibility of information to its stakeholders.
  • Enhanced judicial productivity- The project will increase judicial productivity both qualitatively & quantitatively, to make the justice delivery system affordable, accessible, cost effective, predictable, reliable and transparent.

About The National Plan of Action for Children (NPAC), 2016

About The National Plan of Action for Children (NPAC), 2016

  • The National Plan of Action for Children, 2016 is based on the principles embedded in the National Policy for Children 2013.
  • It seeks to ensure convergence of ongoing programmes and initiation of new programmes so as to focus on pre-determined objectives through well-defined strategies and activities and achieve certain level of outcome.
  • The NPAC 2016 takes into account the current priorities for children in India.
  • It provides a road-map that links the Policy objectives to actionable programmes and strategies and identifies indicators for monitoring the progress.
  • The rights of the children are categorized under four Key Priority Areas in the National Policy for Children 2013.
  • In alignment with the NPC 2013, the NPAC 2016 has the following objectives:

 

Key Priority Areas of NPC 2013 Corresponding Objectives of NPAC 2016
Survival, Health and Nutrition Ensure equitable access to comprehensive and essential preventive, promotive, curative and rehabilitative health care of the highest standard, for all children before, during and after birth, and throughout the period of their growth and development.
Education and Development Secure the right of every child to learning, knowledge, (including Skill Development) education, and development opportunity, with due regard for special needs, through access, provision and promotion of required environment, information, infrastructure, services and support for the development of the child’s fullest potential.
Protection Create a caring, protective and safe environment for all children, to reduce their vulnerability in all situations and to keep them safe at all places, especially public spaces.
Participation Enable children to be actively involved in their own development and in all matters concerning and affecting them.

 

Section : Social Issues

Explained: The 67 acres in Ayodhya

Headline : Explained: The 67 acres in Ayodhya

Details :

The news

  • The central government is seeking to return “excess/superfluous land” from the 67.703 acres it acquired in Ayodhya in 1993 to the original owners.
  • To this end, it has moved to the Supreme Court asking to allow the return of land.

 

Background

  • After the demolition of Babri Masjid, the central government passed Acquisition of Certain Areas of Ayodhya Act, 1993 under which the government acquired 67.703 acres of land.
  • The plinth area of the structure demolished in 1992 was only on a 0.313 acre plot (which was within the disputed premises of 2.77 acre).
  • The government also acquired 67.390 acre of “non-disputed” acquired land around the disputed land.
  • 42 acres of the acquired 67 acres of land belongs to Ram Janmbhoomi Vyas.
  • The land acquisition was challenged in the Court but the SC in the M Ismail Faruqui Vs Union of India case in 1994, gave the following rulings:
    • It upheld the Constitutional validity of the land acquisition act.
    • It established that the disputed area is limited to just 0.313 acres where the disputed structure stood before its demolition.
    • It also held that the area acquired in excess of 0.313 acres disputed land shall be reverted back to its original owners once the case is disposed of.
    • It also gave the government the right to determine the extent of the “extra land required around the disputed property” for the winning side to enjoy their rights.
  • After the Faruqui ruling, the Ram Janmbhoomi Nyas had requested the government in 1996 to return the excess land but the government refused to accept the request as the suits related to disputed area were pending with the Allahabad High Court.
  • Further, in 2003, the Supreme Court in Mohd Aslam alias Bhure’s case held that the status quo has to be maintained till the Allahabad High Court disposes of the case.
  • The Allahabad High Court delivered its judgment in 2010, in which it divided the disputed 2.77 acres of land, equally among the Nirmohi Akhara, the Sunni Central Wakf Board, UP, and Ramlalla Virajman.

 

 

News Summary

  • Now, the Centre has moved the Supreme Court seeking permission to return the excess land of the 67.703 acres acquired to its original owners.
  • The Centre’s application is based on the contention that appeals in the Supreme Court is confined to the 0.313 cares disputed land only and hence, the excessive land shall be returned to the original owners.
  • The government expressed willingness to determine the extent of extra land required to ensure enjoyment of full rights by the successful party in the case, as was ruled in 1994 Faruqui case.
  • However, the government cannot take this step because of the 2003 judgement of the Supreme Court that ordered to maintain the status quo till the case is finally disposed of.
  • Hence, with current move, the Centre has sought the modification of the Supreme Court’s order in 2003.

 

Note to students: There is no need to remember the information here for the exam. This is added as potentially useful for Personality Test and for general awareness.

Section : Miscellaneous

What are the differences between electric and hybrid vehicles?

What are the differences between electric and hybrid vehicles?

  • The key difference between hybrid and all-EVs is in the sources of fuel and locomotion available to them.

Hybrid vehicle:

  • Hybrid vehicles have two sources available to them— a battery that powers an electric motor and a fuel tank that powers a normal petrol engine.
  • Once the battery is depleted, the hybrid car switches over to the petrol engine, which then functions like any other normal car engine.

 

Electric vehicle (EV):

  • An all-EV does not have this advantage. Once its battery is depleted, it has no backup source of fuel.
  • However, electric cars have the benefit of larger batteries since they do not have to share space with a petrol engine or fuel tank.
  • So, typically, an EV can travel a much longer distance than a hybrid car running on its battery.

 

How do you refuel them?

Hybrid vehicle:

  • A normal plug-in hybrid vehicle can be refuelled by plugging the car into a wall socket or a charging point, and refilling the petrol tank.
  • However, there are some hybrid variants that can recharge the electric battery through a technology called regenerative braking, where the vehicle converts the force of the car when it breaks into electrical energy.
  • In these models, only the fuel tank needs to be filled.

 

Electric vehicle:

  • All EVs need to be charged from a charging point. Charging time depends on the size of the battery and the source of electricity.
  • A DC charging point can fully charge a car battery in a fraction of the time taken using an AC charging point, which is 6-8 hours.

 

Taxation difference:

  • The main difference is in their tax treatment under the Goods and Services Tax. While EVs are taxed at 12%, hybrid vehicles are taxed on par with the luxury vehicles at 28% plus 15% cess.

 

Improvement in battery life:

  • Typically, the battery can power the electric motor for only about 60-70 km, but there are constant improvements being made in the efficiency and capacity of lithium-ion batteries.
  • And so, this is expected to improve as more carmakers choose to roll out hybrid or electric variants.
Section : Science & Tech

Emerging Vitamin D defiency in India

Emerging Vitamin D defiency in India

  • It used to be a routine in India to massage infants and then give them a sunbath.
  • But changing lifestyles over the years have almost put an end to this practice and children now spend most of their time indoors.
  • This has led to the emergence of vitamin D deficiency as a major problem among infants.

 

Vitamin D synthesis

  • Vitamin D is synthesised in the skin when the sun’s ultraviolet rays convert a molecule, 7-Dehydrocholesterol, on the skin into an inactive form of the vitamin.
  • This enters the blood circulation and is converted to its active form in the liver and kidney.

 

The Study

  • A study in New Delhi suggests an estimate for the minimum time infants need to be exposed to sunlight every day to acquire sufficient levels of vitamin D in their body.
  • The study found that an exposure of as low as about 30 minutes per week with about 40% of the child’s body exposed to sunlight can help achieve adequate vitamin D status at six months of age.
  • The study concluded that this small intervention can help improve levels of vitamin D in infants without the need for supplements or formula feed.

 

Need for Vitamin D

 

A matter of concern

  • Several studies over the years have shown that more than 50% of the Indian population is vitamin D-deficient.
  • This is a matter of concern especially for infants because vitamin D is important for calcium absorption, normal growth and development, and maintenance of bone health and hair follicles.
  • Insufficient levels of the vitamin cause lethargy, irritability, and a predisposition towards infections.
  • Extreme deficiency can causes rickets, which results in a malformation of the (leg) bones.
Section : Social Issues

In Focus: Protection of Children from Sexual OffencesPOSCO Act 2012

In Focus: Protection of Children from Sexual OffencesPOSCO Act 2012:

  • The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act or the POCSO Act was enacted in 2012 to provide a robust legal framework for the protection of children from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography, while safeguarding the interests of children at every stage of the judicial process.
  • The Act defines a child as any person below eighteen years of age, and regards the best interests and welfare of the child as matter of paramount importance at every stage, to ensure the healthy physical, emotional, intellectual and social development of the child.
  • The act is gender neutral.

POCSO (Amendment) Act 2019:

  • The amendments cover 21 kinds of sexual crimes that come under the definition of aggravated penetrative sexual assault against children.
  • The definition of ‘sexual assault’ has now been expanded to include administration of hormones to children to make them appear more sexually mature for the sake of commercial sexual exploitation.
  • The POCSO amendments also make punitive measures more stringent in cases of child pornography.
  • The amendment has also added an additional category of sexual assault of children who are victims of calamities or natural disasters which now is liable for maximum term of life sentence or death penalty.
  • Increase in punishment:
    • Increase in the minimum punishment from seven to ten years for ‘penetrative sexual assault’ of 16-17 year olds
    • Increase in the minimum punishment to 20 years for ‘penetrative sexual assault’ of child below the age of 16 years
    • The maximum term of life imprisonment in such cases has been retained.

  • The act also provides for death penalty for aggravated sexual assault. This includes
    • Cases of child rape by police, armed forces, relatives, public servants or management of remand/protection homes and healthcare personnel
    • Sexual assault using weapons
    • Rape of children with mental/physical disabilities
    • Children harmed in sexual organs, impregnated etc.

POCSO Rules, 2020:

  • The Union government has notified the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Rules, 2020 which enables implementation of 2019 amendments to the Act.
  • The rules for the first time defined child pornography and provided for crackdown for possession of pornographic material involving children.
  • Significant additions in the new rules
    • Zero-tolerance to violence against children:
      • The rules specify that state governments must formulate a child protection policy based on the principle of zero-tolerance to violence against children.
      • The policy shall be adopted by all institutions, organisations, or any other agency working with children.

    • Compensation to the victim child:
      • It empowers the Special Court to pass an order for interim compensation to meet the needs of the child for relief or rehabilitation at any stage after registration of the First Information Report (FIR).
      • The State Government shall pay the compensation ordered by the Special Court within 30 days of receipt of such order.

    • It makes accountable those platforms on which child pornography is circulated.

  • Create widespread awareness
    • Imparting age-appropriate child rights education:
      • The state government will have to prepare age-appropriate educational material and curriculum for children, informing them about various aspects of personal safety, including measures to protect their physical and virtual identity.

    • Mandatory police verification of staff in schools and care homes:
      • Any institution housing children or coming in regular contact with children including schools, crèches any other facility must ensure a police verification and background check of every staff member on periodic basis.


News Summary:

  • As per the NCRB’s “Crime in India” 2019 report, crimes against children increased by 4.5 per cent in 2019 as compared to 2018.
  • In its report, NCRB stated that as many as 1.5 lakh crimes against children were reported in 2019 in the country.
    • Out of this, 31% cases of crimes against children were registered under the POCSO Act.
    • 47% were related to kidnapping and abduction

  • This amounts to an 18.9% rise in cases filed under the POCSO over this period.
  • Cases filed under Pocso Act have steadily grown over the years, indicating better enforcement of the amendments in Pocso Act by addition of certain grounds for the cases to be registered under the Act.

States with most crime against children:

  • Maharashtra accounted for 13.2% of the total crimes against children reported in 2019, followed by Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh whose share was 12.8% each.
  • Delhi had the second highest rate of crime against children (cases per lakh population) at 139.

BASICS: Changes in Employee Provident Fund (EPF)

Headline : BASICS: Changes in Employee Provident Fund (EPF)

Details :

The Employee Provident Fund (EPF) is undergoing many changes. So will the changes enhance the utility of EPF or handicap subscribers?

 

About Employees’ Provident Fund and Employees’ Pension Scheme:

  • EPF (Employees’ Provident Fund Scheme 1952) and EPS (Employees’ Pension Scheme 1995) are two different retirement saving schemes under Employees’ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952, that are meant for salaried employees.
  • Employees are automatically enrolled into the EPS scheme only if they are members of the EPF scheme.

 

What is Employees’ Provident Fund?

  • The Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) is a savings tool for the workforce.
  • It is a scheme managed under the Employees’ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952, by the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO), Ministry of Labour & Employment, Government of India.
  • Under the EPF scheme, an employee has to pay a certain percentage from his pay and an equal amount is contributed by the employer.
  • The employee gets a lump sum amount (which includes his own and employer’s contributions) with interest upon retirement or two months after switching jobs.

What is Employees’ Pension Scheme?

  • An employee contributes 12 per cent of his basic salary directly towards EPF.
  • The employee does not contribute directly towards EPS.
  • Of the employer’s share of 12 per cent, 8.33 per cent is diverted towards the EPS, with a cap of Rs 1,250 (earlier Rs 541) a month.
  • When the employee switches jobs, the EPF gets transferred to the new employer, but not the EPS.
  • When the employee switches jobs, the EPS contributions stay with the EPFO.
  • The employee has the option to either withdraw the EPS amount or carry it forward to the next job.

 

Highlights of changes and its implication

Curbs on withdrawal:

  • Earlier: A few years ago, the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) had ruled that partial early withdrawal would only be permitted on occasions like a child’s marriage, higher education, making a downpayment for a house etc.
  • Now: The EPFO has now ruled that members can withdraw 75% of the corpus after a month of termination of service, and after two months they can withdraw the remaining 25% and go for final settlement.
  • Implication: Financial planners say restrictions on withdrawals will ensure that retirement is not compromised.

 

Hike in equity exposure:

  • Earlier: The EPF generated returns entirely from investments in fixed income instruments. Three years ago, the EPF entered the stock market, deploying a nominal 5% of the incremental corpus in equity exchange traded funds (ETF). Equity exposure has since been hiked to 15% of the incremental corpus.
  • Now: In future, subscribers may be given the option to deploy a higher portion of their EPF contributions into equities.
  • Implication: The option to hike equity allocation can help in retirement as it will help subscribers fetch a higher return on their corpus. However, some experts feel increasing exposure to equities is not a good idea as the volatility in equity returns will lead to fluctuations in yearly returns from the EPF.

 

Unitisation of Provident Fund balance: 

  • Changes: With changes in the accounting policy for the portion of EPF invested in equities, the corpus parked in ETF will soon be credited to subscribers’ accounts in the form of units. These units can be redeemed when the subscriber exits the fund.
  • Meanwhile, earnings on the debt portion will continue to be paid as interest. Accordingly, each subscriber will have two account heads under EPF—fixed income and equity.
  • Once the unitisation of PF balance is implemented, the value of every subscriber’s equity holdings will be marked to market. Additionally, the subscriber would get the option to defer withdrawal of the equity investment for up to three years.
  • Some financial planners say unitisation will usher in greater transparency. However, others say this will shift the onus of risk onto subscribers. Besides, regular visibility of the performance of the equity portion may push subscribers into making hasty decisions.

 

Changes to Employee Pension Scheme:

  • The Employee Pension Scheme, which runs parallel to the EPF, is also likely to see some changes.
  • Presently:
    • At present, employees earning up to ₹15,000 a month are eligible for a minimum guaranteed pension of ₹1,000 per month after retirement. All members become eligible for pension after 10 years of contribution to EPS.
    • While employees contribute 12% of the basic pay to EPF, the employer has to make a matching contribution, divided into two parts: 8.33% of the basic pay is directed towards EPS—subject to a cap of ₹15,000—and the remaining 3.67% is parked in EPF.
  • Proposed changes: The labour ministry may enhance the wage ceiling from ₹15,000 to ₹21,000. The retirement body is also considering doubling the minimum monthly pension for EPS subscribers to ₹2,000.

 

Higher pay, more contribution:

  • The EPF may also be indirectly impacted by possible tweaks in the structuring of employee’s salary.
  • According to reports, the government wants to cap allowances to employees at 50% of the basic pay. If basic income is raised, it would result in higher contribution towards EPF, apart from other social security schemes.

 

Dealing with a revamped EPF:

  • The EPFO has tried to simplify the subscriber’s interaction with the retirement body by offering services online. The introduction of the Universal Account Number or UAN is set to reduce complications during withdrawals and linking multiple PF balances.
  • With its tax benefits, the EPF has an advantage over other savings vehicles. Apart from the income tax deduction allowed on employer’s contribution to the EPF, the interest income is tax free. The interest rate, at 8.55%, continues to be several notches higher than comparable government instruments.
  • Subscribers can count on the EPF to offer competitive interest rates in the future. However, the introduction and hike in equity exposure along with the planned unitisation of the equity component pose some risks.

 

 

 

 

Section : Economics

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

About: LIC, GIC Re and New India

  • Life Insurance Corporation of Indiais an Indian state-owned insurance group and investment corporation owned by the Government of India.
  • LIC is the largest life insurance company in India.
  • GIC Re is the largest reinsurance company or insurer’s insurer.
  • New India which is the largest general insurance company in the country.
  • Government has plans to list the shares of LIC (India’s largest financial entity with assets of Rs 32 lakh crore) on the stock exchanges through an initial public offering (IPO) next year.
  • GIC Re and New India are already listed on the exchanges.

In Focus: Domestic Systemically Important Insurers (D-SIIs)

Parameters for indentifying D-SIIs:

  • IRDAI constituted a committee last year to identify the domestic systemically important insurers.
  • The constitution of the committee came in the backdrop of the International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS) asking all member countries to have a regulatory framework to deal with Domestic-SIIs.
  • IRDAI developed a methodology for identification and supervision of D-SIIs based on the parameters-
    • The size of operations in terms of total revenue, including premium underwritten and the value of assets under management
    • Global activities across more than one jurisdiction
    • Lack of substitutability of their products and/or operations
    • Interconnectedness through counterparty exposure and macro-economic exposure

  • The Authority would identify D-SIIs on an annual basis and disclose the names of these insurers for public information.

Domestic Systemically Important Insurers (D-SIIs):

  • It refers to insurers of such size, market importance and domestic and global inter connectedness whose distress or failure would cause a significant dislocation in the domestic financial system.
  • The failure of D-SIIs has the potential to cause significant disruption to the essential services they provide to the policyholders and, in turn, to the overall economic activity of the country.
  • Therefore, the continued functioning of D-SIIs is critical for the uninterrupted availability of insurance services to the national economy.
  • D-SIIs are perceived as insurers that are ‘too big or too important to fail.
  • This perception and the perceived expectation of government support may amplify risk taking, reduce market discipline, create competitive distortions, and increase the possibility of distress in future.
  • These considerations require that D-SIIs should be subjected to additional regulatory measures to deal with the systemic risks and moral hazard issues.

Enhanced Monitoring Mechanism by IRDAI:

  • As per IRDAI, Domestic Systemically Important Insurers will require enhanced regulatory supervision and a higher level of corporate governance.
  • The three public sector insurers have been asked to raise the level of corporate governance as well as identify all relevant risk and promote a sound risk management culture.

About: IRDAI

  • The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India(IRDAI) is an autonomous, statutory body tasked with regulating and promoting the insurance and re-insurance industries in India. 
  • It was constituted by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority Act, 1999 (an Act of Parliament passed by the Government of India).
  • Its major objectives include-
    • To protect the interest of and secure fair treatment to policyholders;
    • To bring about speedy and orderly growth of the insurance industry for benefit of users and to provide long term funds for accelerating growth of economy.

Domestic Systemically Important Banks

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had last year named State Bank of India (SBI), ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank as Domestic Systemically Important Banks (D-SIBs), which in other words mean banks that are too big to fail.
  • As per the RBI norms, these banks will have to set aside more capital for their continued operation.

About V.S. Naipaul

About V.S. Naipaul

  • Sir VidiadharSurajprasad Naipaul, also known as Sir Vidia Naipaul or Sir V. S. Naipaulwas, was born Trinidad, where his paternal grandfather had emigrated from India in the 1880s as an indentured servant to work on the sugar plantations.
  • He went to Oxford University on a scholarship and lived the rest of his life in England, where he forged one of the most illustrious literary careers of the last half century.
  • His notable works include A House for Mr Biswas, In a Free State, A Bend in the River and The Enigma of Arrival.
  • Notable awards include Booker Prize in 1971 and Nobel Prize in Literature in 2001.
  • He documented the migrations of peoples, the unravelling of the British Empire, the ironies of exile and the clash between belief and unbelief in more than a dozen novels and as many works of non-fiction.

 

Mr. Naipaul and India

  • His triology of works on India include An Area of Darkness, India: A Wounded Civilisation and India: A Million Mutinies Now.
  • Naipaul’s novel, A Bend in the River (1979), centres on an Indian from East Africa in an unnamed, newly independent African nation.
  • Half a Life (2001) is a novel about an Indian immigrant to England and then Africa. He becomes “half a person,” as Naipaul has said, “living a borrowed life.”

 

Nobel prize

  • He was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 2001. The committee said Sir Vidia had “united perceptive narrative and incorruptible scrutiny in works that compel us to see the presence of suppressed histories”.

 

His philosophy

  • Naipaul was a staunch defender of Western civilisation.
  • His guiding philosophy was universalism.
  • Naipaul was confident that what he called “Our Universal Civilisation” would prevail.
Section : Miscellaneous

Farm bills are seen by farmers to deliver freedom to private capital Editorial 27th Sep’20 FinancialExpress

Farm bills passed by the Parliament:

  • Three bills with huge impact on Indian agriculture, including two farm bills and one concerning the stocking of agriculture produce, were passed by the Parliament.
  • These are:
    • The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 (FPTC)
    • The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 (FAPAFS)
    • The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 (ECA)

One of the primary aims of the Bills is to free farmers from APMCs:

  • Most farmers would agree that the functioning of the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) mandis is inefficient, opaque, politicised and often controlled by cartels.
  • The government says that the Bills will usher in historic reforms, and will free the farmers from the exploitative APMC mandis and from the middlemen who charge commission from trade in these mandis.

Government says the new reforms were necessary as all efforts to reform APMCs failed:

  • The union governments have been trying for many years to reform APMCs.
  • Three different model APMC acts have been proposed by previous governments (in 2003, 2007, and 2013) and in 2017 by the current government.
  • The proposals were acted upon in different forms by state governments.
  • Some states have enacted reforms allowing for establishment of private markets, while some have enabled direct purchase of agricultural produce from agriculturists by processor/bulk buyer/bulk retailer/exporter.
  • However, none of them resulted in any meaningful reforms of APMCs.

Protests happening against the Bills:

  • While there is praise from some circles to these bills, farmer protests were witnessed in the agrarian states like Punjab and Haryana which supply bulk of the government’s MSP procurement. 

Some farmers are in favour of mandis:

  • Those farmers who are protesting against the bills want the primacy of the mandis in agricultural trade restored primarily because they see APMC mandis as essential part of the agricultural trading ecosystem.
  • While they have some issues with the functioning and administration of mandis, they also share a symbiotic relationship with the middlemen and the mandis extending beyond matters of transaction in agricultural produce.
  • For instance, the middlemen are also a source of information, inputs, and sometimes credit without collateral.

Some are angered at how the bills have been pushed by the centre on states and farmers:

  • There is also anger against the bills over the manner in which the bills were thrust upon the farming community.
  • Protesters say that neither the farmers’ organisations, nor the state governments have been consulted. 
  • Critics say the current reforms completely bypass the state governments and weaken their ability to regulate agricultural markets even though it is a state subject.

Some critics say bypassing APMCs will create unregulated trade:

  • Unlike earlier measures where the focus was on reforming the APMC mandis while allowing for greater private market access and participation, the current FTPC bill bypasses the APMC altogether.
  • This creates a separate structure of trading. Critics say that the absence of regulation and exemption from mandi fees creates a dual market structure.
  • They say this is not only inefficient but will also encourage unregulated trade which could be detrimental to providing market access to farmers for better price discovery and assured prices.

Some fear the takeover of farming by private sector:

  • Some critics say that the FTPC Bill is not about delivering on the promise of freedom to farmers but freedom to private capital to purchase agricultural produce at cheaper prices and without any regulation or oversight by the government.
  • There are fears that this could eventually lead to shifting of trade from regulated APMC mandis to private markets without any commitment to investment in infrastructure and regulation from government.
  • With unequal and differentiated terms of engagement, the APMCs could first decline and soon disappear.
  • These fears are compounded by the contract farming bill and amendments in the essential commodities act.

There are fears in some states that MSP regime could end:

  • With declining public investment in agriculture (in real terms) and rising input costs and declining subsidy, farmers in some states with high government procurement fear the loss of state support in the form of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) regime.
    • Note: MSP based procurement did not benefit the majority of farmers and only a few states like Punjab and Haryana contributed to the procurement operations of the FCI. Even in those states, its effectiveness was only in two crops, wheat and paddy.
  • These states are calling for a commitment from the government on maintaining state support to the agricultural sector, especially regarding MSP.

Meanwhile, government policies towards international agri trade remain haphazard:

  • Even while enacting these reforms and promising greater freedom to farmers, the government has banned the export of onions and reduced, increased and again reduced import duty on masur in a matter of three months.
  • This shows that while the government promises to free agriculture trade in India, there is still a long way to go in having a predictable regime for international agriculture trade.

Conclusion:

  • The last three years have seen a collapse in prices of major agricultural products.
  • Amidst the economic slowdown, it remains to be seen whether the government’s promise of a bumper increase in agricultural prices through the free market regime being brought in through these bills succeeds.

Importance:

GS Paper III: Indian Economy

Agri reforms: Where did the APMCs go wrong? Editorial 26th Sep’20 FinancialExpress

Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs) were brought in to ensure fair prices for farmers:

  • Pre-APMC days in Indai were dominated by price misinformation and arbitrage (quick purchase and sell with middlemen making profits).
  • APMCs were created in the early 1960s to ensure price discovery and fair transactions.
  • They were designed to create infrastructure for auctions and storage out of the cess paid by the buyers and not by the taxpayers.
  • Many APMCs (mandis) used the funds to create rural marketing infrastructure.
  • It was designed as a democratic, decentralised system with physical auctions as the basis of price discovery and licencing of traders as a way to ensure payment.

But later vested interests too over the APMC Mandis:

  • Over time, the system, designed with good intentions, deteriorated and vested interests took over.
  • For example, even an organisation like NAFED (National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation) found it almost impossible to obtain trader’s licence in Azadpur Mandi.
  • Another example is of how apples from Himachal, which already paid cess on goods in Himachal, are being subjected to a high and unreasonable cess in the Delhi mandi.
  • Similar examples can be cited from across India.

Key stakeholders responsible for decline of APMCs:

The state governments:

  • The state governments started looking at APMC cess as a source of extra revenue, which can be used at their discretion since this amount was not part of the budget.
  • It remained in the bank accounts of the Mandi Board and was used for ‘discretionary’ development spending (there was no MPLADS in those days) mostly under the chief minister’s orders.  
  • Cess raised unreasonably:
    • Since this was ‘revenue’, state governments could not resist the temptation of increasing the cess to unsustainable levels.
    • Cess which was initially 0.5% or 1% cess went up effectively to 5% or more.
    • In states where FCI did most of the procurement, the burden of high cess was borne by the FCI and, by implication, the Government of India.
  • Cesses were imposed indiscriminately on goods not even produced in the state: 
    • Most APMCs devised new ways of increasing revenue by expanding the schedule of commodities, without considering whether these were produced in their state or not.
      • For example, AMPCs in Bihar were imposing cess on milk powder.
    • Most APMCs have a list of more than 100 commodities. Azadpur Mandi in Dlehi had a list of 198 items on the last count, including butter and honey.
  • Government nominees on APMC boards: 
    • As the APMC Mandis began being treated as sources of revenue, the state governments were also filling these boards with government nominees.
    • Further, there was appointment of administrators superseding the boards, and farmers lost their voice.

The traders and commission agents:

  • Licensing of traders in APMCs was to protect farmers:
    • Legal provisions for licencing of traders to operate in the market yards were meant to ensure prompt payments to farmers.
    • The insistence on correct weighment and transparency in auctions were in the best interests of price discovery.
    • The law also stipulated that prices be displayed prominently in the market yard.
  • But traders and commission agents started acting in corrupt manner to hurt farmers’ interests:
    • Over a period of time, traders and commission agents formed coteries and took ‘effective’ control of the management.
    • New licences were deliberately delayed or declined to protect the vested interests of entrenched traders.
    • Price discovery and display of prices became disfunctional.
    • The managements made arrangements with the traders and the powerful ‘commission agents’, leaving the farmers in the lurch.
    • Only in case of the Minimum Support Price (MSP), farmers got decent prices as there was no price discovery. However, the traders kept their interests intact by increasing their commissions, which burdened the FCI.

With traders and governments in collusion, no APMC reforms were allowed to take off:

  • The ‘mutual benefit’ arrangement between traders and governments ensured that all efforts to reform APMCs failed.
  • There were many committees, model acts or advisories and requests from the Union government during the last twenty years calling for APMC reforms.
  • To a large extent, they need to take the blame for the current situation, where new central farm bills were necessitated to enable better price discover for farmers.

FPTC Bill to overcome barriers created by APMCs:

  • The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (promotion and facilitation) Bill 2020 seeks to give farmers and traders enjoy the freedom of choice relating to sale and purchase of farmers’ produce.
  • It seeks to facilitate remunerative prices through competitive alternative trading channels to promote efficient, transparent and barrier-free inter-State and intra-State trade and commerce of farmers’ produce outside physical premises of markets or deemed markets notified under various State agricultural produce market (APMC) laws.
  • FPTC Bill has been hailed as a game-changer creating new opportunities for farmers. Farmers are yet to be convinced.
  • It will bring the  virtual monopoly of APMCs to an end.

How to reinvent APMCs to keep them relevant:

  • In spite of all their failures, APMCs will continue to remain relevant not just for the infrastructure, but for price discovery and payment processes, however, imperfect.
  • However, they need to reinvent themselves to serve farmers.
  • Change the law to make them farmers’ organisations:
    • At least two-thirds of the members of the board/committee should be elected farmers/ Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs), reducing the government nominees to two.
    • The board /committee should be allowed to appoint the chief executive from the open market.
    • By law, the scope for frequent government interventions must be ended and all cadre-based government-controlled employees must be removed.
    • The board should function like a well managed co-operative.
  • Allow farmers to sell in any market yard:
    • The states must amend the APMC acts to remove ‘geographical’ constraints for all farmers by allowing farmers to sell in any market yard of their choice.
  • End separate licenses for each market:
    • States must remove the condition of a separate licence for each market.
    • One licence can be made valid for the entire state, and it can be made hassle-free and online.
  • Reduce cesses:
    • The cess must be reduced to 1% or less.
    • Mandis can collect service charges, if required, for facilities provided.
  • End commission agents:
    • The coterie of ‘commission agents’ must be removed, with the buyer or the farmer paying service charges if they use their services.
  • Invest in market yards: 
    • There must be substantial investment in the market yard premises, to create modern storage & cold chain facilities, state of the art auction halls, fintech, hygiene, etc, to make the market yards modern and efficient.
  • Prioritize the provision of ‘farm services’ to support farmers 
  • There is a need to drastically reduce the APMC schedule of commodities to a bare minimum.

Importance:

GS Paper III: Indian Economy

About: Ballistic missiles

About: Ballistic missiles

  • A ballistic missile is a missile with a high, arching trajectory (path in the form of an arc), which is initially powered and guided, but falls under gravity on to its target.
  • Thus these weapons are not guided for the entire duration of their flight and most of the flight is unpowered.
  • These weapons are in a distinct category from cruise missiles, which are guided in a powered flight.

In Focus: Prithvi missile

  • Prithvi is a surface-to-surface short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
  • It was developed under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP) and is deployed by India’s Strategic Forces Command.
  • Developed as a battlefield missile, Prithvi can carry a nuclear warhead in its role as a tactical nuclear weapon.

Prithvi I

  • Prithvi I is a single-stage liquid-fuelled surface-to-surface ballistic missile. It has a maximum warhead carrying capability of 1,000 kg, with a range of 150 km.
  • This class of Prithvi missile was inducted into the Indian Army in 1994.

Prithvi II

  • Prithvi II is also a single-stage liquid-fuelled missile. It is capable of carrying 500 to 1,000 kg of warheads, with an extended range of 350 km.
  • The state-of-the-art missile uses an advanced inertial guidance system, that helps to manoeuvre (guide) its trajectory, to hit its target.
  • It has been inducted into India’s Strategic Forces Command in 2003.

Prithvi III

  • Prithvi III is a two-stage surface-to-surface missile, with a solid fuelled first stage and liquid fuelled second stage.
  • The missile can carry a 1,000 kg warhead to a distance of 350 km and a 500 kg warhead to a distance of 600 km and a 250 kg warhead up to a distance of 750 km.

About: Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP)

  • India launched the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program in 1983 to achieve self-sufficiency in the development and production of a wide range of missiles.
  • The main agencies responsible for development of this programme were Defence Research Development Organization (DRDO) and Ordnance Factories.
  • IGMDP has developed five missiles and their variants: Prithvi, Agni, Akash, Trishul, and Nag.
  • The DRDO formally announced the successful completion of IGMDP in 2008.

About: Strategic Forces Command (SFC)

  • The Strategic Forces Command (SFC), also called as the Strategic Nuclear Command, forms part of India’s Nuclear Command Authority (NCA).
  • Created in 2003, it is responsible for the management and administration of the country’s tactical and strategic nuclear weapons stockpile.
  • The SFC exercises complete command and control over nuclear assets, and creates plans as needed to fulfill the required tasks.
  • It is the responsibility of the Strategic Forces Command to operationalize the directives of the NCA.

About: Nuclear Command Authority

  • The Nuclear Command Authority of India is the authority responsible for command, control and operational decisions regarding India’s nuclear weapons programme.

To Return To Steady Growth Editorial 25th Sep’20 TimesofIndia

To Return To Steady Growth Editorial 25th Sep’20 TimesofIndia

Economic downturn due to Covid-19:

  • The GDP of India fell by 23.9% in April-June quarter of 2020 relative to that in the same quarter in 2019, according to recent government estimates.
  • The decline is comparable to countries in which economic activity had been similarly severely impacted during the quarter due to Covid-19.
  • For instance, the United Kingdom saw its GDP shrink by 21.7%, Spain by 22.1% and Italy by 17.7%.
  • Less severely impacted Germany saw its GDP decline by 11.7%.

Varied impact across sectors in India:

  • Worst impact:
    • GDP decline in India was concentrated in sectors that bore the brunt of the lockdown.
    • Thus, construction fell by 50.3%; trade, hotels, transport and communication by 47%; and manufacturing by 39.3%.
  • No impact:
    • Agriculture, which had been largely unaffected by the lockdown, could grow at its approximate trend rate of 3.4%.
  • Low impact:
    • Likewise, financial, real estate and professional services, which can be substantially provided online, declined a modest 5.3%.

Demand shock was expected due to lockdowns:

  • The lockdown had administered an unprecedented shock to both demand and supply.
  • The dominant view at the time was that the demand shock would overwhelm the supply shock.
  • This lead to the vast majority of analysts to recommend a large fiscal stimulus (to restore demand in the economy). However, the government chose a modest fiscal stimulus.

However, Supply shocks turned to be dominant:

  • The sectoral pattern of GDP growth during April-June clearly points to the dominance of supply shock.
  • High inflation rates of 7.2% in April, 6.3% in May and 6.1% in June reinforce this conclusion.

Government’s decision on slow stimulus was thus vindicated:

  • As the supply shock dominated the demand shock, the decision by the government to go easy on fiscal stimulus (large stimulus would have been the right decision for demand shock) the is thus vindicated.

What needs to be done now?

  • As the economy gradually returns to its pre-Covid-19 level on its way to 7% plus growth trajectory, both monetary authority (RBI) and fiscal authority (government) need to support it.

What monetary authority (RBI) needs to do:

  • Making credit cheaper and easily available:
    • RBI should tilt towards the side of supporting aggregate demand rather than using its tools to push inflation down.
    • Rising supply of output would help lower inflation in any case.
    • But even if not, it is critical for the central bank not to thwart recovery by making credit more expensive and thus clamping down on investment demand.
  • Prevent rupee from appreciating:
    • It is also critical that RBI prevents rupee from appreciating in response to strong inflows of foreign capital.
    • Increased monetary easing by developed countries in the wake of Covid-19 has led to huge capital flows to emerging markets, especially India.
    • The result has been an appreciation of the rupee.
    • In the coming months, foreign capital inflows are likely to continue at a fast pace and it is critical for RBI not to let them force further appreciation of the rupee.
    • As workers continue to return to work and economic activity picks up, India will need to recapture its share in the world markets for which a competitive exchange rate is critical.

What fiscal authority (government) needs to do:

  • Boost public spending:
    • With regards to fiscal policy, due to Covid-19 related uncertainty, private consumption demand is expected to remain low in the foreseeable future.
    • At this point, any income transfers run the risk of translating into savings rather than extra private consumption.
    • Therefore, the safer bet for fiscal policy is to work its way through a boost to public spending.
  • Spend on infrastructure could give the best results:
    • With regards to public spending to boost recovery, this is a good time for the government to significantly expand its spending on infrastructure.
    • To do this speedily, it will be best to work on cutting red tape and removing bottlenecks facing projects already underway.
    • One major advantage of infrastructure spending is that this is a labour-intensive activity.
    • Therefore, it would create jobs and in turn partially restore the confidence of households as consumers.
    • It may also help catalyse private investment demand in construction related activities.
  • Bank recapitalisation:
    • During 2014-17, India hesitated and delayed recapitalisation of banks on an adequate scale.
      • Consequently, the GDP growth in 2019-20 witnessed its sharpest decline since the global financial crisis.
    • As the economy travels towards normalcy, the country must not repeat this mistake. The government must move decisively to recapitalise the banks pre-emptively.
    • While restructuring of loans will delay bankruptcies, it is a foregone conclusion that when payments on restructured loans become due, defaults will accelerate and the banks’ non-performing assets would grow.
    • If India is to avoid the recurrence of credit collapse it experienced in 2016-17, it must act now.

Increase in expenditure will increase debt:

  • Even before any additional expenditure on infrastructure, fiscal deficit in 2020-21 is predicted to rise to 13% of GDP, which would raise debt-to-GDP ratio to 85%.
  • Increased debt in turn would bring significantly larger interest payments in future years, which will further limit the government’s ability to spend on education, health and defence.

Sale of PSUs and monetisation of public assets can fund the expenditure without increasing debt:

  • A partial way out of this fiscal problem is the sale of public sector enterprises and monetisation of public assets such as roads, bridges, ports, airports and transmission lines.
  • Such a policy will not only get the government much needed revenue but also lead to public enterprises and public assets performing considerably more efficiently in private hands.

Importance:

GS Paper III: Indian Economy

About Kofi Annan: Personal Life

About Kofi Annan: Personal Life

  • Kofi Atta Annan was born on April 8, 1938, in the city of Kumasi in what was then Gold Coast and which, in 1957, became Ghana, the first African state to achieve independence from British colonialism.
  • After a spell at the elite Mfantsipim boarding school founded by Methodists, he went on to higher education as an economist in Ghana, at Macalester College in St. Paul, in Geneva, and at the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

 

Career

  • His first appointment with a United Nations agency was in 1962, at the World Health Organization in Geneva.
  • Annan returned briefly to Ghana to promote tourism and worked in Ethiopia with the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa before returning to the health organization’s European headquarters.
  • In New York, he worked in senior human resources and budgetary positions until, in the early 1990s, the secretary general at the time, Boutros BoutrosGhali of Egypt, appointed him first as deputy and then as head of peacekeeping operations.
  • The appointment plunged Mr. Annan into a maelstrom of conflicts in which United Nations forces were deployed.
  • During the Rwanda genocide in 1994, he refused the permission to raid an arms cache that was believed to be used in massacres.
  • On behalf of the United Nations, he acknowledged this failure and expressed his deep remorse.
  • In Bosnia, too, the United Nations was accused of being overcautious.
  • Critics said it had been restricted by a mandate, approved by the Security Council, for the establishment of so-called safe havens under United Nations protection that proved, in Srebrenica, to be illusory.
  • European powers opposed airstrikes to halt the advancing Bosnian Serbs, who overran Srebrenica despite the presence of peacekeeping troops from the Netherlands.
  • Later, Mr. Annan seemed to adopt a tougher line, approving the NATO bombing campaign that forced Serbia to the negotiating table to sign the 1995 Dayton peace accords.
  • With Washington pressing for the ouster of Mr. Boutros Ghali, Mr. Annan took office as secretary general with American approval on Jan. 1, 1997.
  • He became the seventh secretary general of the United Nations, projecting himself and his organization as the world’s conscience and moral arbiter despite bloody debacles that stained his record as a peacekeeper.
  • The desire to burnish his legacy seemed to motivate Mr. Annan long after Ban Ki-moon replaced him as secretary general, and he set up a nonprofit foundation to promote higher standards of global governance.
  • In 2008, he headed a commission of eminent Africans that persuaded rival factions in Kenya to reconcile a year after more than 1,000 people were killed during and after disputed elections.
  • In February 2012, Mr. Annan was appointed as the joint envoy of the Arab League and the United Nations to seek a settlement in Syria as civil war there tightened its grip.
  • But he resigned in frustration that August, citing the intransigence of both sides in a conflict that had convulsed and reshaped the region and claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

 

Achievements

  • Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001, Mr. Annan was the first black African to head the United Nations, doing so for two successive five-year terms beginning in 1997 — a decade of turmoil that challenged that sprawling body and redefined its place in a changing world.
  • Annan was the first secretary general to be chosen from among the international civil servants who make up the organization’s bureaucracy.
  • Annan was credited with revitalizing the United Nations’ institutions, shaping what he called a new “norm of humanitarian intervention,”particularly in places where there was no peace for traditional peacekeepers to keep.
  • He was lauded for persuading Washington to unblock arrears that had been withheld because of the profound misgivings about the United Nations voiced by American conservatives.
  • In 1998, Mr. Annan traveled to Baghdad to negotiate directly with Saddam Hussein over the status of United Nations weapons inspections, winning a temporary respite in the long battle of wills with the West.

 

A charismatic personality

  • Despite the serial setbacks, Mr. Annan commanded the world stage with ease in his impeccably tailored suits, goatee and slight, graceful physique.
  • He seemed to radiate an aura of probity and authority.
  • In addition to his charm, of which there is plenty, there is the authority that comes from experience.
  • Few people have spent so much time around negotiating tables with thugs, warlords and dictators.
  • He has made himself the world’s emissary to the dark side.

 

Some flaws

  • While his admirers praised his courtly, charismatic and measured approach, Mr. Annan was hamstrung by the inherent flaw of his position as what many people called a “secular pope” — a figure of moral authority bereft of the means other than persuasion to enforce the high standards he articulated.
  • In assessing his broader record, moreover, many critics singled out Mr. Annan’s personal role as head of the United Nations peacekeeping operations from 1993 to 1997 — a period that saw the killing of 18 American service personnel in Somalia in October 1993, the deaths of more than 800,000 Rwandans in the genocide of 1994, and the massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims by Bosnian Serb forces at Srebrenica in 1995.
  • In Rwanda and Bosnia, United Nations forces drawn from across the organization’s member states were outgunned and showed little resolve.
  • In both cases, troops from Europe were quick to abandon their missions.
  • And in both cases, Mr. Annan was accused of failing to safeguard those who had looked to United Nations soldiers for protection.

 

Section : Miscellaneous

Should India have two time zones?

Headline : Should India have two time zones?

Details :

Why in news?

  • Over the years, various citizens and political leaders have debated whether India should have two separate time zones. Now, a proposal for two time zones has come from India’s national timekeeper itself.
  • Scientists at the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research’s National Physical Laboratory (CSIR-NPL), which maintains Indian Standard Time, have published a research article describing the necessity of two time zones, with the new one an hour ahead of the existing time zone.
  • The demand is based on the huge difference in daylight times between the country’s longitudinal extremes, and the costs associated with following the same time zone.

 

How time is maintained?

  • If lines of longitude are drawn exactly a degree apart, they will divide the Earth into 360 zones.
  • Because the Earth spins 360° in 24 hours, a longitudinal distance of 15° represents a time separation of 1 hour, and 1° represents 4 minutes.
  • Theoretically, the time zone followed by any place should relate to its longitudinal distance from any other place.
  • Political boundaries, mean that time zones are often demarcated by bent lines rather than straight lines of longitude. This is “legal time”, as defined by a country’s law.
  • The geographic “zero line” runs through Greenwich, London. It identifies GMT, now known as Universal Coordinated Time (UTC), which is maintained by the Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in France.
  • Indian Standard Time, maintained by CSIR-NPL, is based on a line of longitude that runs through Mirzapur in UP.
  • At 82°33’E, the line is 82.5° east of Greenwich, or 5.5 hours (5 hours 30 minutes) ahead of UCT.
  • While India follows one IST, the United States follows several time zones across its breadth.

 

 

The debate in India

  • India extends from 68°7’E to 97°25’E, with the spread of 29° representing almost two hours from the geographic perspective.
  • This has led to the argument that early sunrise in the easternmost parts (the Northeast) causes the loss of many daylight hours by the time offices or educational institutions open, and that early sunset, for its part, leads to higher consumption of electricity.
  • In March, in reply to a question in Parliament, the government said it has not taken any decision on separate time zones.
  • A committee set up in 2002 did not recommend two time zones because of the complexities involved.
  • It had cited the same committee’s findings in the Gauhati High Court, which last year dismissed a public interest litigation seeking a direction to the Centre to have a separate time zone for the Northeast.

 

 

 

Arguments against the idea

  • Those arguing against the idea, cite impracticability — particularly the risk of railway accidents, given the need to reset times at every crossing from one time zone into another.

 

The new findings

  • The research paper proposes to call the two time zones IST-I (UTC + 5.30 h) and IST-II (UTC + 6.30 h).
  • The article identifies where the two time zones be demarcated from each other i.e. at the “chicken neck” that connects the Northeast to the rest of India, an area that is spatially narrow and reduces the possibility of railway accidents.
  • The proposed line of demarcation is at 89°52’E, the narrow border between Assam and West Bengal.
  • States west of the line would continue to follow IST (to be called IST-I).
  • States east of the line (Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Arunanchal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Andaman & Nicobar Islands) would follow IST-II.
  • The article puts a figure to the country’s potential savings in energy consumption — 20 million kWh a year, if it does follow two time zones.
  • They also analysed the importance of synchronising office hours as well as biological activities to sunrise and sunset timings.
  • While the article asserts that CSIR-NPL already has the technical expertise to duplicate its existing facility, it also acknowledges that the move would require legislative sanction.
Section : Miscellaneous

In focus: Blast disease in rice

In focus: Blast disease in rice

Introduction

  • Blast disease is a fungal disease that infests rice severely threatening food security worldwide.
  • In India, blast disease is epidemics occurred 7 times between 1980 and 1987 in AP, HP, Haryana and TN.

Details

  • Blast disease in rice is caused by fungus Magnaporthe oryzae which is one of the top 10 fungal plant pathogens in the world.
  • It can infest rice plant in every stage of growth right from seedling including leaves, roots, nodes, panicles etc.

Disease Management

  • Use of fungicides
  • Fertilizer management
  • Planting at a time when pathogens are dormant
  • Breeding programme employing disease resistant cultivars

Challenge

  • The pathogen Magnaporthe oryzae has adaptability to various environmental conditions and therefore widespread.
  • Managing the disease with fungicides is expensive and also has side effects on human health and environment.
  • The pathogen is extremely virulent posing a constant challenge to disease resistant varieties.

Solution

  • In this regard, identifying new spectrum of genes responsible for development of disease resistance in the rice genome is necessary.
  • This work was undertaken by ICAR-NRRI.
  • Once the disease resistant genes are mapped, the rice germplasms dominant in the identified disease resistant genes can be used in breeding programmes.

 

 

In brief: National Gene Bank

  • National Gene Bank was established in 1997 under National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR).
  • National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources primarily deals with crop improvement and diversification in India by maintaining and augmenting genetic diversity.
  • Its activities include germplasm exploration, exchange and conservation and plant quarantine.
  • In this direction, National Gene Bank was established as safe repository to conserve the seeds of crop germplasm.

 

 

In brief: National Rice Research Institute, Cuttack

Introduction

  • NRRI is the successor of Central Institute for Rice Research in India.
  • The Central Institute for Rice Research was established to arrest sever food shortage that occurred in the aftermath of the Great Bengal Famine.
  • It is under the Crop Science Division of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).

Functions

  • Primarily providing research support for stabilizing rice productivity in India.
  • To collect, evaluate and conserve rice germplasm.
  • Integrated pest, disease and nutrient management.
  • Maintain a database of features of rice and rice-based cropping systems in India.
Section : Science & Tech

Who was Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis or ‘PCM’?

Headline : Who was Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis or ‘PCM’?

Details :

About P C Mahalanobis

Early life:

  • P.C. Mahalanobis was born in Calcutta on June 29, 1893.
  • He was educated at the Brahmo Boys School, founded by Raja Ram Mohan Roy and went on to receive a B.Sc in Physics from Presidency College, Kolkata.
  • After completing his majors in Physics from Presidency College in Calcutta in 1912, Mahalabonis joined the University of London the following year.

 

Anthropometry:

  • He introduced to the concepts of anthropometry (the study of measurements and proportions of the human body) and anthropological data through Biometrika, a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
  • From here, he developed a keen interest in statistics and its utility to problems in meteorology and anthropology.

 

Founder of the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI):

  • As Mahalabonis had many colleagues who were interested in statistics, an informal group formed in the Statistical Laboratory located in his room in Presidency College.
  • After calling a meeting with few of his colleagues, Mahalabonis established the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) and formally registered it on April 28, 1932.
  • The ISI, under Mahalanobis, would go on to do some of the most spectacular large-scale survey and data analyses including assessing the impact of the 1942-43 Bengal famine, tabulating the 1941 census, surveys on rural indebtedness, velocity of circulation of rupee coins, traffic flow, crop yield estimation etc.
  • The institute founded the journal ‘Sankhya: the Indian Journal of Statistics’.

 

Mahalabonis Distance (MD):

  • Mahalabonis Distance (MD) is a multi-dimensional generalisation of the idea of measuring how many standard deviations away is point P from the mean of a distribution D.
  • Apart from MD, which measures distance relative to the centroid – a base or central point which can be thought of as an overall mean for multivariate data.
  • The most common use for the Mahalanobis distance is to find multivariate outliers, which indicates unusual combinations of two or more variables.

 

Contribution to sample survey:

  • Mahalabonis’ important contributions involved large-scale sample surveys.
  • He introduced the concept of pilot surveys and advocated the utility of sampling methods.

 

Mahalanobis model:

  • Mahalanobis played a key role in formulating the Second Five-Year Plan, which is synonymous with the ‘Mahalanobis model’, also known as the Feldman-Mahalanobis Model.
  • The basic idea of the model said that in order to increase domestic consumption, there needed to be an investment in the production of capital goods.
  • He emphasized on the importance of industrialization and also corrected previous census methodology errors.

 

Honors:

  • Mahalabonis was deeply interested in cultural pursuits and was awarded one of the highest civilian awards, the Padma Vibhushan from the Government of India for his contribution to science.
  • In 2006, named June 29 as National Statistics Day in honour of Mahalanobis.
  • Mahalabonis died on June 28, 1972, a day before his seventy-ninth birthday.

 

 

Section : Miscellaneous

About: Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT)

About: Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT)

  • AIT was first propounded by Max Muller.
  • According to this model, the Indo-Aryans migrated into India rather than invaded it, which nevertheless had the same effect on the indigenous peoples: their subjugation and the imposition of Indo-Aryan religion (Hinduism) and culture.
  • So far, it’s been the bedrock upon which Indian history has been written. Its central thesis has three main components:
  • India’s original inhabitants were “dark-skinned” Dravidians, who built a peaceful, highly developed, urban civilization in western India and present-day Pakistan, referred to as the Harappan or Indus Valley Civilization (IVC).
  • India was invaded and conquered from the West by a nomadic people called the Indo-Aryans around 1500 BCE. Various different homelands were suggested for these ‘Aryans’ / Indo-Europeans: central Asia, Scandinavia, North Germany, Hungary and Ukraine. They destroyed the indigenous Dravidian civilization, subjugated the natives, and forced them to migrate to India’s South.
  • The Indo-Aryans were white-skinned and spoke Vedic Sanskrit, and composed the Vedas, and imposed Indo-Aryan religion (Hinduism) and culture.

AIT has been countered in various ways:

  • The opposing view is that the Indo-Aryan people and their languages originated in the Indian subcontinent and that the Indus valley civilization (Sindhu-Sarasvati civilization) was the Vedic civilization, not a Dravidian civilization as claimed in the AIT.
  • The renowned archaeologist Professor B. B. Lal asserts that there is no evidence for warfare or invasion, and that the theory of Aryan migration too is a myth. The Harappan civilization along the now-defunct Sarasvati river gradually deurbanized due to declining monsoons, rather than collapsed abruptly.
  • Critics of AIT note that Sarasvati river is extensively mentioned in the Rig Veda, and is referred to as “greatest of rivers”. This falsifies the AIT account that the Rig Veda was composed after a purported Aryan invasion/migration circa 1,500 BCE, and indicates that it was composed closer to 5,000 BCE when the river was last in its prime.
  • Professor Lal gives extensive archaeological evidence that many of the traditions and customs prevalent in the Sindhu-Sarasvati civilization continue to exist in modern India, like Yoga, use of sindur, namaste greeting etc. and thus it refutes the AIT theory that the Sindhu-Sarasvati civilization was destroyed and supplanted with a “foreign” Hindu culture and civilization.
  • Some genetic studies have demonstrated the absence of any significant outside genetic influence in India for the past 10,000 – 15,000 years.

 

News Summary:

  • Two DNA studies on ancient remains were released.
  • Study 1: One of the studies examined DNA samples extracted from 4,500-year-old skeletal remains of a woman found in Rakhigarhi, the IVC site in Haryana. The study conclusively points to the following facts:
    • There is no evidence of large-scale migration of any kind in the Harappan civilisation to corroborate the Aryan invasion.
    • The study also says the people of Harappan civilisation are the ancestors of the most of the population of South Asia.
    • Most importantly, Harappan people are the same as Vedic people. The researchers said there was archaeological and genetic data to buttress their claims, including the one about Vedic culture being developed by the indigenous people.
  • Study 2: The other study, the largest ever study of ancient human DNA, analyses the genomes of 523 ancient individuals spanning the last 8,000 years, mostly from central Asia and northernmost South Asia.
    • The study showed that there was no central Asian Steppe ancestry among the Harappans, indicating that the Steppe pastoralists migrated to India after the decline of the Harappan civilisation.
    • The indigenous people migrated from the north to south India between 1800 BC and 1600 BC, likely following the collapse of the Indus Valley Civilisation. This was nearly 100 years before Arabians and central Asian Steppe population arrived in India.
    • The study suggests that farming was indigenous to India contradicting an earlier belief that it was brought to the region through migrations from Iran.
    • As the Harappans traded with Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Persian Gulf and almost all across South Asia, there was bound to be movement of people resulting in a mixed genetic history.
    • India had a heterogeneous population right from the beginning of settled life.
Section : History & Culture

In Cave 16: the Kailasa temple

Headline : In Cave 16: the Kailasa temple

Details :

Introduction

  • Kailasa temple in cave 16 of Ellora is one of the largest rock-cut temples in the world.

 

Story behind the temple

  • According to a legend cited in the 10th century book Katha Kalpa Taru, sometime in the 8th century, the queen of the Rashtrakuta ruler Elu made a vow that she would not eat till a magnificent temple was built to Lord Shiva, and she saw its amlaka (finial).
  • The king invited many architects, but none of them was able to fulfil this vow.
  • Finally, an architect named Kokasa from Paithan completed the task in no time.

 

Construction of the temple

  • The construction of the temple began during the rule of the Rashtrakuta king, Dantidurga (735-757 AD).
  • A group of skilled artisans cut and carved the vertical face of the basalt rock of a hill in Elapura, known today as Ellora, near Aurangabad.
  • Unlike the Buddhists who made carvings inside the rock to construct cave temples, this group cut the rock internally and externally, with precision, to build a monolithic rock temple.
  • The result is that the magnificent Kailasa temple is one of the largest rock-cut temples in the world.
  • Major work on the temple was done by King Dantidurga’s successor, Krishna I (757-773 AD), although work continued under many successive kings for more than a century.

 

 

History of the temple

  • The Kailasa or Kailasanatha temple is one of the largest rock-cutancient Hindu temples located in Ellora, Maharashtra, India.
  • It is considered one of the most remarkable cave temples in India because of its size, architecture and sculptural treatment.
  • The Kailasanatha temple (Cave 16) is one of the 32 cave temples and monasteries known collectively as the Ellora Caves.
  • Its construction is generally attributed to the 8th century Rashtrakutaking Krishna I in 756-773 CE.
  • The temple architecture shows traces of Pallavaand Chalukya styles

 

Features of cave 16

  • At the entrance there is a huge rock screen with carvings and a two-level doorway with eaves on top.
  • A door on the lower level leads into the double-storey gopuram, which has exquisitely carved sculptures on the walls.
  • Goddesses Ganga and Yamuna flank the entrance gateway.
  • The gopuram at the lower level leads to the portico.
  • On the either side of the portico are the north and south courts with life-size elephants and a victory pillar framing the Kailasa.
  • There are five subsidiary shrines around the main temple in the circumambulatory path that runs along the side of the hill.
  • This includes a shrine dedicated to river goddesses Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati, and a yajna-shala (hall of sacrifice).
  • However, the main temple is the most impressive.
  • The elephants and lions that form the high plinth of the main temple signify Rashtrakuta power and prosperity.
  • Rock steps in the left court lead up to the top where Nandi and a 36-column mandap with a Shiv ling are located.
  • There are many beautiful carvings: of Durga, Mahishasuramardini, Gajalakshmi seated in a lotus pool, Shiva as Ardhanari and Virbhadra, Ravana shaking the Kailash parvat , and the Mahabharata and Ramayana panels.

 

Features of the main kailasa temple

  • Apart from the gopura , the main temple has a sabha griha ( hall), vestibules and a Nandi mandap which leads to the garba griha (sanctum) with the Shiv linga, all of which are profusely carved and with Dravidian shikharas (towers).
  • A bridge connects the Nandi mandap to the gopuram.
  • The stiff climb up the hill was made worthwhile by the loveliness of the lotus on the roof of the sanctum.
  • The lotus is crowned by a finial with four mythical lions, each facing one cardinal direction.

 

About the Ellora caves

  • Ellora, located in the Aurangabad districtof Maharashtra, India, is one of the largest rock-cut monastery-temple cave complexes in the world.
  • It is a UNESCOWorld Heritage Site, featuring Buddhist, Hindu and Jain monuments, and artwork, dating from the 600-1000 CE period.
  • There are 32 caves in Ellora, numbered according to their age.
  • Temples 1 to 12 in the southern side are the Buddhist caves.
  • Temples 13 to 29 are the Hindu caves, and in the northern side are the Jain temples.
  • All of the Ellora monuments were built during Hindu dynasties such as the Rashtrakuta dynasty, which constructed part of the Hindu & Buddhist caves, and the Yadava dynasty, which constructed a number of the Jain caves.
  • Funding for the construction of the monuments was provided by royals, traders and the wealthy of the region.
Section : History & Culture

How govt regulates religious pilgrimages?

Headline : How govt regulates religious pilgrimages?

Details :

Amarnath Yatra:

About Amarnath cave:

  • Amarnath cave is a Hindu shrine located in Jammu and Kashmir, India.
  • The cave is situated at an altitude of 3,888 m (12,756 ft), about 141 km from Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The peak pilgrimage occurs when the iced stalagmite Shiv lingam reaches the apex of its waxing phase through the summer months.

 

 

Regulation of the AmarnathYatra:

  • Before 2000, there wasn’t much government intervention in the yatra. A heavy downpour in 1996 resulted in the death of about 250 yatris.
  • Subsequently, the Nitish Sengupta Committee was set up to enquire into the deaths. After it was decided that the government should intervene, the J&K Shri Amarnath Ji Shrine Act 2000 was passed that provided for the setting up of a board to manage the yatra.
  • The Act states that the 10-member board is to be headed by the governor of J&K if he is a Hindu. A non-Hindu governor is supposed to nominate an eminent Hindu from the state to head the board, which also has government officials on deputation as its members.

 

Haj pilgrimage:

About Haj yatra:

  • The Hajj is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, the holiest city for Muslims, and a mandatory religious duty for Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime.
  • It is one of the five pillars of Islam, alongside Shahadah, Salat, Zakat and Sawm.

 

Regulation of the Haj pilgrimage:

  • The Haj pilgrimage works on a quota basis.
    • Saudi authorities usually allocate 1,000 places for every million Muslim persons per country.
    • As a result, the overwhelming majority of Haj berths go to Indonesia, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.
  • The Haj Committee of India regulates the state-wise quota based on the state’s Muslim population.
  • Until last year, Haj was subsidised by the Centre with discounts on Air India flights and other forms of assistance provided. From this year, the subsidy has been discontinued.

 

 

Kailash Mansarovar Yatra:

  • According to Hinduism, Shiva resided at the summit of a mountain named Kailasa, where he sat in a state of meditation along with his wife Parvati. He is believed to be the founder of Yoga and so is named as “Adi-Yogi”.
  • Mount Kailash is a 6,638 m (21,778 ft) high peak in the Kailash Range, which forms part of Transhimalaya in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China.
  • The mountain is located near Lake Manasarovar and Lake Rakshastal, close to the source of some of the longest Asian rivers: the Indus, Sutlej, Brahmaputra, and Karnali also known as Ghaghara (a tributary of the Ganges) in India.
  • Mount Kailash is considered to be sacred in four religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Bön and Jainism.

 

 

Regulation of the KailashMansarovarYatra:

  • For this yatra, two routes are open, one Lipulekh Pass route (at the border of Uttarakhand and Tibet) and second is the Nathu La route (at the border between Sikkim and Tibet).
  • The pilgrims’ list is finalised in a computerised draw. Government appoints liaison officers for each batch to coordinate with Indian and Chinese authorities. The Indo-Tibetan Border Police provides security, medical assistance to the yatris.

 

Subsidise the Kailash Mansoravar and Amarnath yatras:

  • According to a parliamentary question, government of India does not extend any direct monetary subsidy to individual pilgrims for the Amarnath and Kailash Manasarovar yatras.
  • But the foreign ministry assists, on a self-financing basis, pilgrims for the Kailash Manasarovar Yatra by providing facilities like transportation, accommodation, food, medical tests, guides, etc.
  • News reports also state that the Kailash Mansoravar yatra is subsidised by some state governments.

 

 

 

Section : Miscellaneous

In focus: Superconductivity at room temperature

In focus: Superconductivity at room temperature

Basic concepts

  • ResistanceMaterials that conduct electricity well are called conductors. Eg: Metals.
    • Resistance is an electrical quantity that measures how the device or material reduces the electric current flow through it. The resistance is measured in units of ohms (Ω).
  • SuperconductorsSuperconductors are conductors that have zero resistancee. they don’t impede electricity at all.

 

Superconductors at present

  • All known superconductors have the zero resistance property only at extremely low temperature and/or extremely high pressure.
  • Right now, the highest temperature superconductor works at a temperature of about 150 K, equal to -123 C.
  • To achieve superconductivity, these materials immersed in liquid helium that boils at a temperature of 4 Kelvin i.e. -273 degree Celsius.

Challenge

  • The conductors that are generally used for transporting energy are copper and aluminum wires.
  • The problem with these conductors is that much of the energy that is transported is wasted because of inherent resistance in these wires.
  • Thus, wires made of superconductors which have zero-resistance would revolutionize the way energy is transported as energy-loss is minimum.
  • However, since superconductivity is achieved at very low temperatures, they are not being used in wires.
  • Besides, at such low temperatures, metal becomes extremely brittle and cannot be made into wires.

The breakthrough: Superconductivity at room temperature

  • The researchers at IISC have achieved superconductivity in silver nanoparticles embedded in a gold matrix at room temperature.
  • The gold-silver nano-material used exhibited superconductivity at a temperature below 13°C which can go up to 70°C.

Significance

  • The achievement of superconductivity at room temperature is a breakthrough in physics as it can reduce energy loss significantly.
  • Reducing energy-loss can also be significant in achieving the Paris goal of 1.5° rise in the temperature.
Section : Science & Tech

Ranjit Singh: Personal Life

Ranjit Singh: Personal Life

  • Ranjit Singh was born in 1780 in Gujranwala, now in Pakistan.
  • He honoured men of reputed sanctity and enabled them to practise an enlarged charity. He attributed every success to the favour of God. He styled himself and his people collectively the Khalsa.
  • The maharaja was known for his just and secular rule; both Hindus and Muslims were given powerful positions in his darbar.
  • The Sikhs take pride in him for he turned Harimandir Sahib at Amritsar into the Golden Temple by covering it with gold.

 

Ranjit Singh: His Rule and Legacy

  • At that time, Punjab was ruled by powerful chieftains who had divided the territory into Misls. Ranjit Singh overthrew the warring Misls and established a unified Sikh empire after he conquered Lahore in 1799.
  • He built up a big and powerful empire which extended not only from the Sutlej to Indus but also to trans- Indus regions like Dera Ismail Khan and Dera Gazi Khan.
  • Territorial Extent: Ranjit Singh’s trans-regional empire spread over several states. His empire included the former Mughal provinces of Lahore and Multan besides part of Kabul and the entire Peshawar. The boundaries of his state went up to Ladakh — Zorawar Singh, a general from Jammu, had conquered Ladakh in Ranjit Singh’s name — in the northeast, Khyber pass in the northwest, and up to Panjnad in the south where the five rivers of Punjab fell into the Indus.
  • He was given the title Lion of Punjab (Sher-e-Punjab) because he stemmed the tide of Afghan invaders in Lahore, which remained his capital until his death.
  • His general Hari Singh Nalwa built the Fort of Jamrud at the mouth of the Khyber Pass, the route the foreign rulers took to invade India.
  • At the time of his death, he was the only sovereign leader left in India, all others having come under the control of the East India Company in some way or the other.

 

Ranjit Singh And His Administration

The pivot of the whole structure of government was the Maharaja. However, the civil and military business of the government was arranged into twelve departments.

  • Military administration:
  • Ranjit Sing combined the strong points of the traditional Khalsa army with western advances in warfare to raise Asia’s most powerful indigenous army of that time.
  • He also employed a large number of European officers, especially French, to train his troops.
  • Ranjit Singh’s army was a match for the one raised by the East India Company. During the Battle of Chillianwala, the second of the Anglo-Sikh wars that followed Ranjit Singh’s death, the British suffered the maximum casualties of officers in their entire history in India.

 

  • Financial administration:
  • Originally Ranjit Sing had fixed money assessment for every village, but gradually the system had been subverted.
  • According to the sikh system, the government share was half of the gross produce.
  • However there was no uniform rate of land revenue for the whole kingdom. Different methods of assessment prevailed in each State.

 

  • Civil administration:
  • There were no special officers for the dispensation of civil and criminal justice.
  • There was no written law.
  • The Maharaja made extensive tours and heard appeals and levied fines in almost all cases.

 

 

 

 

 

Section : History & Culture

About Bogibeel Bridge

About Bogibeel Bridge

  • The Bogibeel double-deck bridge is a rail-road bridge across Brahmaputra River connecting Dibrugarh in Assam and Dehmaji in Assam.
  • The 4.94 km long bridge is the longest rail-road bridge in India.
  • The longest road bridge on Brahmaputra is the 9.15 km Dhola-Sadiya Bridge.
  • The double-deck bridge will have a three-lane road in the upper deck and a 74 km two-line railway track in the lower deck.
  • The 3-lane road will be connected to the NH37 on the south bank of the Brahmaputra and to the NH52 on the north bank.
  • Further Bogibeel rail-road bridge is the fourth being built on Brahmaputra, the other three being :
    • Pandu Saraighat
    • Kolia-Bjumuraguri
    • Naranarayan Setu at Jogighopa

 

Significance

  • Boost to development of North-eastern region
    • The Bridge will provide rail and road connectivity between the lesser developed districts of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
    • It will provide direct access to the districts of Upper Assam from the rest of the country through the North bank.
    • Connectivity to Arunachal Pradesh will give a fillip to the tourist industry.
  • Connectivity to Arunachal Pradesh
    • Currently a cargo from Dibrugarh in the north-eastern corner of Assam takes over a 600 km detour merely to cross the Brahmaputra via Guwahati.
    • With this bridge, the journey will be less than 100 km.
    • Besides this will solve the problems associated with ferry services namely
    • Ferry services are often disrupted during monsoon between May-October.
    • Further ferry services are not suitable for heavy cargo
  • Strategic significance
    • The project will give a major boost to defence logistics along the border with China.
    • India and China share a nearly 4,000 km border and a considerable portion of the border lies in Arunachal Pradesh.
    • It will solve the logistical issues face by the armed forces stationed at the China border to get supplies from Tezpur.
    • Besides the bridge will also ramp up the movement of troops of armed forces in Arunachal Pradesh cutting down the distance to the border with China by 10 hours.
    • Other important projects to boost logistics along the border in Arunachal Pradesh include:
      • Trans-Arunachal highway on the north bank of the Brahmaputra
      • Road and rail links over the Brahmaputra and its major tributaries such as the Dibang, Lohit, Subansiri and Kameng.
Section : Miscellaneous

Giving MSMEs the right push Editorial 13th Sep’20 FinancialExpress

Giving MSMEs the right push Editorial 13th Sep’20 FinancialExpress

Importance of MSME sector:

  • The MSME sector contributes approximately 40% to the GDP and generates employment for 114 million Indians, comprising about 93% of the total labour force of the country.

This sector under severe stress:

  • Over the last few years, economic distress has hurt the sector on several counts, and this has only gotten exacerbated by the Covid pandemic.
  • All India Manufacturers Organisation (AIMO) suggests that 35% MSME businesses are now beyond recovery.
  • The sector is staring at massive unemployment, which will only to worsen the unemployment problem in the country.

Package for MSMEs under Atmanirbhar Bharat:

  • The government revealed its commitment to revive the MSME sector in its Rs 20,000 crore economic stimulus package for Atmanirbhar India, including a Rs 10,000 crore fund to finance equity infusion.
    • The objective of the Rs 10,000 crore Fund of Funds scheme is to help MSMEs with growth potential at a time when they are facing severe shortage of equity and low revenues. 
  • The government also has Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS) for the MSME sector impacted by the economic slowdown triggered by COVID-19.
    • However, credit guarantee has a limited appeal as only 15% of the credit requirement is fulfilled through formal financial channels.

But this itself is not enough:

  • A major problem with the MSME sector is that 86% of the enterprises are unregistered, while 71% of the workers have no contracts.
  • Therefore, opening new lines of credit may not be adequate to revive the sector.
  • It was noticed that the sanctioned loans are not being availed and utilised by enterprises in the absence of strong demand and consumption.

Need to create an enabling environment for MSMEs:

  • The UK Sinha-led expert committee on MSME in 2019 highlighted the need to create an enabling environment for MSMEs.
  • It proposed several long-term solutions to ensure financial sustainability.
  • However, a holistic MSME policy rests on the ability to overcome some historical barriers.  

This needs help to overcome historical issues in the MSME sector:

  • Timely payments for their goods and services:
  • The inability to receive timely payments in return for the goods and services, and slim profit margin is a nagging issue for the sector.
  • An urgent solution is the payment of dues.
  • More loan cannot resolve the limited working capital problem as it would unnecessarily increase the debt burden, which, in turn, would put pressure on the already thin profit margins.
  • Need a mechanism for this:
    • A new regime could be brought, with options such as:
      • Discounting for early clearance of dues by their principals or
      • All supplies being made against advance payments or
      • Creating a hold in the bank which gets released right after receipt of supply from the MSME supplier
    • Only an incentive-based mechanism will work.
  • Lower cost of capital:
    • The average cost of capital is still high, at around 13%, compared to agriculture.
    • It is challenging to generate reasonable returns in the near future to pay back loans, and it could takes years for demand to fully pick up.
    • To help MSMEs avail capital at sub-5% rates, lending institutions must reduce transaction costs.
  • Improve competitiveness:
    • Historically, a lack of internal competitiveness in the industry has reduced the urgency for innovation within the sector, despite the ‘Make in India’ and ‘Startup India’ campaigns.
    • This requires support to reorient production lines and investments in R&D.
  • Creating a global market:
    • The sector has been unable to channelise a global market for products and services.
    • Further, the current crisis has drastically contracted export-led growth opportunities as importing nations adopt a protectionist policy.
    • With the global demand at an all-time low, consumers are not compelled to make non-essential purchases.
    • As per a survey, about 97% of MSME respondents expect to be affected as the business is focused on essential goods.
    • Leverage e-commerce channels:
      • A sustained push through e-commerce channels can enhance the scope of domestic goods and services with low transaction and intermediation cost.
      • It will also help eliminate the middleman and reduce cost of doing business, an important factor in the survival of small businesses.

Conclusion:

  • India now has the opportunity to leverage its technological prowess in enhancing the competitive advantage that we already have in the export of IT/ITes products and services.
  • With new business paradigms evolving with the rise of IT, AI and communication-based businesses, MSME’s should be encouraged to harness this through the right kind of policy push.
  • The government must adopt a comprehensive approach to revamp the MSME ecosystem.

Importance:

GS Paper III: Indian Economy

About Soras

Background:About Soras

  • The Saoras inhabit the remote ranges flanking the great Bansadhara river in southern Odisha.
  • The Saora people are a jungle tribe with a shamanic culture.
    • A shaman, usually a woman, serves as an intermediary between the two worlds [of the living and the dead].
    • One by one the spirits speak through her mouth and communicate with the people of the community.
  • They are primarily an agricultural community, with some practicing shifting cultivation.

Saora paintings

  • Tribal paintings are like prayers that become part of the offerings made to Gods, ancestors and spirits.
  • Themes of these paintings emphasize on nature, the great outdoors and also on the cycle of ploughing, sowing & harvesting.
  • The ritualistic pictographs are drawn on the inner walls of their mud dwellings called ‘Ittlans.’
  • A Saora painting is called Iditaland the person who creates it is known as the iditalmar who draws to instructions from the shaman to appease Saora ancestors and deities that may have caused diseases faced by the community.
  • Some frequently featured motifs include Labasum (the Earth God), Jodisum (the village deity), Manduasum (the Sun God) and Jananglosum (the wind deity).
  • Distinct paintings are drawn with different occasions between birth and death in mind.

More such efforts:

  • Similar efforts are on to add value to the Dongria Kondh shawl, Dokra relics, bamboo and paddy handicrafts, the tribal jewellery of Nilagiri, Koraput’s workmanship in iron, and the beed jewellery of the Bonda tribals.
Section : History & Culture

Demonetisation and Farmers

What is demonetisation?

  • Demonetisation is a situation where the Central Bank of the country (Reserve Bank in India) withdraws the old currency notes of certain denomination as an official mode of payment. Notes of a particular denomination cease to be legal tender.
  • In other words, the notes lose their value as a currency
  • On November 8, 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the biggest-ever demonetisation exercise in India.
  • Currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denomination were withdrawn from public use. It was said that these notes accounted for 86 per cent of the currency in circulation at that time.

Why did the government do it?

  • The demonetisation move was to tackle black money and corruption; to curb fake currency and terror funding; and to make India a cash-free economy.
  • Black money is the unaccountable income hoarded by people – that is, income for which they have not paid tax.

How demonetisation affected famers?

  • Cash-based economy: India’s 263 million farmers live mostly in the cash economy. The agrarian economy of India is primarily cash-based and village-based.
  • Sale decreased: Farmers are also suffered a cash-crunch due to demonetisation, as many have crops lying around, but with buyers whatsoever. Failure to get a  reasonable  price  on their produce,  pushed  many  farmers under massive debts, burdened by interests.
  • Digital illiteracy: Farmers tend to be unable to avail digital services as such they tend to be digitally illiterate.
  • Fruit and vegetable were badly hit: They need cash on daily basis to purchase inputs like pesticides, fertilizers and hired labour for harvest and also to transport and sell at urban centres. Lack of cash with farmers leading to less-than optimal use of inputs resulted in lower yields, reduced sales, higher wastage and lower price realization.
  • Lack of Banks and ATMs in APMC markets: Most of the APMC markets (more than 50%) in the rural areas don’t have banks and also ATMs. Even though, some markets had ATMs, they are not working, if they are working cash was unavailable. Non-accessibility to ATMs was serious problem faced by farmers for their daily transactions.
  • Timing of the demonetisation: Demonetisation came at a time when farmers were engaged in either selling their Kharif crops or sowing the Rabi crops. Both these operations needed huge amounts of cash, which demonetisation removed from the market.
  • Exploitation by local moneylenders: Furthermore, when banks failed to exchange the farmers’ old notes or give them loans, local moneylenders exploited the situation by charging inhumanly high-interest rates.

Note:

  • Even the National Seeds Corporation (NSC) failed to sell nearly 1.38 lakh quintals of wheat seeds because of the cash crunch.
  • The sale failed to pick up even after the government, subsequently, allowed the use of old currency notes of ₹500 and ₹1,000 for wheat seed sales.

In focus: Hayabusa 2 Mission

In focus: Hayabusa 2 Mission

Introduction

  • Hayabusa 2 is the successor of Hayabusa mission of Japan to study the origin and evolution of our solar system.
  • Hayabusa mission was launched in 2003 to study the features of asteroid ‘Itokawa’.
  • Hayabus 2 mission was launched in 2014 and reached its destination, asteroid ‘Ryugu’ in 2018.

 

About the mission

  • Hayabusa 2 mission involves multiple sub-missions including orbitor mission, small carry-on impactor mission, rover mission etc to collect and study samples from the asteroid.
  • Missions to study surface feature
  • June 2018- Minerva Landers
    • The first sub-mission involved deployment of 2 surface-landers, MINERVA-II, onto the surface of ‘Ryugu’.
    • The landers were to take pictures and measure the asteroid’s temperature.
  • October 2018- MASCOT Lander
    • Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) lander was deployed to study the surface of the asteroid by sharing wide-angle images.
  • Probe beneath the surface
    • February 2019-Hayabusa 2 touches down on the asteroid ‘Ryugu’.
    • Now it has successfully shot a small carry-on impactor made of copper.
  • July 2019
    • In July 2019 Hayabusa 2 will release set of rovers onto the asteroid
  • November 2019
    • It will bring back the samples collected for analysis on Earth.

 

Small carry-on impactor SCI mission

  • Under the SCI mission, Hayabusa 2 spacecraft shot a copper projectile packed with explosives onto the asteroid.
  • The impactor exploded from a height of 3.5 metres above the surface creating a crater on the surface of ‘Ryugu’.
  • Hayabusa 2 will collect the sample dust created from the explosion and later bring in back to earth.
  • Besides, it will also send picture of the blast to earth.

 

Significance of the Mission

  • The mission will collect samples from underground that have not been exposed to the sun or cosmic radiation.
  • Thus, it is crucial to determine the history of the asteroid and our planet.
  • Studying the samples from ‘Ryugu’ will reveal the make-up of early planets including earth.

 

About Ryugu

  • Ryugu is a near-earth carbonaceous asteroid about 300 million kilometers from Earth.
  • The diameter of Ryugu is about 900m-1km.
  • It constitutes primitive material of the solar system since it is a relic from the formation of our solar system,

 

In brief: Asteroids

  • Asteroids are rocky objects within the orbit of Jupiter, most of which orbit the sun in the same direction as the planets.
  • Asteroids are also called minor planets.
  • The largest asteroid, Ceres, has a diameter of about 900 km.
  • The next largest Vesta is about 500 km in diameter.
  • Asteroids orbit the Sun at distances of 2 to 3.5 AU (1 Astronomical Unit = 150 million kilometers, distance between earth and sun).
  • This region of the solar system between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter is called the asteroid belt.
  • The early solar system is thought to have been filled with planetesimals, most of which were incorporated into the planets.
  • The leftover objects that missed out on becoming a planet make up the present-day asteroids.
Section : Science & Tech

In Brief: Venus and its exploration

In Brief: Venus and its exploration

About Venus

  • Introduction
    • Venus has a solid surface by virtue of being one of the 3 inner planets besides Mercury and Earth.
    • It is nearly the same size of the earth.
  • Atmosphere
    • The atmosphere of Venus is composed of 95% carbon dioxide and thus high greenhouse effect.
    • Sulfur compounds make up about 0.015% due to volcanic eruptions.
    • This sulfur compounds make for the thick and hot Sulfuric acid clouds that envelop Venus.
  • Surface
    • About 80% of the surface of Venus is composed of flat plains of volcanic origin.
  • Unusual Motion
    • Unusual thing about Venus is that its rotation period is longer than its orbital period. (Rotation on its own axis – 243 days, Orbital period around the sun – 224.7 days)
    • Besides it is the only planet which has retrograde rotation, meaning it spins in the direction opposite to the direction in which it orbits the Sun. (Sun would rise in west and set in east on Venus)
  • No magnetic field
    • Due to slow rotation of Venus it has no global magnetic field. (earth’s magnetic field is due to rotation of iron core)

 

 

Exploration of Venus

NASA’s Mariner 2

  • 1st flyby of Venus in 1962
  • Detected radiation intensity to conclude that surface temperature of Venus was more than 400°C.

 

Venera Landers of Soviet Union

10 successful landers to Venus including the following important ones are:

  • 1970 – Venera 7 lander of Soviet Union
    • The Venera 7 was a lander mission to Venus of Soviet Union.
    • It survived a descent through the Venusian atmosphere
    • It transmitted data for a few seconds directly from the planet’s surface.
    • Venera 7 finally conformed the surface temperature to be at 460°C
  • 1980s Venera 13 lander
    • Confirmed that Venus’s surface is made of material from volcanic activity successfully on the surface of Venus
  • 2026- Venera D
    • Orbiter and lander of Russia’s Roscosmos.

 

NASA’s Magellan

  • NASA’s Orbiter mission in 1990s that used radio altimeter to determine the topography of Venus.

 

Venus Express by ESA

  • Orbiter mission of European Space Agency launched in 2005

 

Mission Venus – ISRO

  • ISRO has confirmed orbiter mission to Venus in 2023.
Section : Science & Tech

What are Non-Banking Financial Company- Factors (NBFC-Factors)?

What are Non-Banking Financial Company- Factors (NBFC-Factors)?

  • NBFC factors are companies that receive invoices by selling companies at discount prices.
  • An NBFC-Factoring company needs to have a minimum Net Owned Fund of Rs. 5 Crore with the financial assets in the factoring business constituting, at least, 75 percent of its total assets.
  • It also should have income derived from the factoring business more than 75 percent of its gross income.

NBFCs in India

  • NBFCs in India include not just finance companies, but also a wider group of companies that are engaged in investment, insurance, chit fund, nidhi, merchant banking, stock broking, alternative investments etc. as their principal business.
  • NBFCs being financial intermediaries are supposed to play a supplementary role to banks.
  • NBFCs, especially those catering to the urban and rural poor (including the micro-finance institutions (NBFC-MFIs) and asset finance companies) have a complementary role in the financial inclusion agenda of the country.
  • Further, some of the big NBFCs( infrastructure finance companies) are engaged in lending exclusively to the infrastructure sector, and some are into factoring business, thereby giving a fillip to the growth and development of various sectors.
  • In short, NBFCs bring diversity to the financial sector.
  • NBFCs have been slowly moving into the space of commercial banking.
  • When banks slowed down their lending business in the wake of huge bad loans, NBFCs continued to grow at a higher pace.
  • As of March 2018, there were 11,402 NBFCs registered with the RBI, of which 156 were deposit accepting NBFCs (NBFCs-D), and 249 systemically important non-deposit accepting NBFCs (NBFCs-ND-SI).
  • The aggregate balance sheet size of the NBFC sector as of March 2018 was Rs 22.1 lakh crore.
  • There was deceleration in share capital growth of NBFCs in 2017-18 whereas borrowings grew at 19.1%.

What’s the fund source of NBFCs?

  • NBFCs were the largest net borrowers of funds from the financial system, with gross payables (loans) of around Rs 717,000 crore and gross receivables of around Rs 419,000 crore in March 2018.
  • A breakup of gross payables indicates that the highest funds were received from banks (44%), followed by mutual funds (33%) and insurance companies (19%).
  • HFCs were the second largest borrowers with gross payables of around Rs 528,400 crore and gross receivables of only Rs 31,200 crore.

What is the crisis in the NBFC sector?

  • Several corporates, mutual funds and insurance companies had invested in short-term instruments such as commercial papers (CPs) and non-convertible debentures (NCDs) of the IL&FS group that has been defaulting on payments since August.
  • This has stoked fears that many of them could have funds stuck in IL&FS debt instruments which, in turn could lead to a liquidity crunch in their own backyard.
  • Liquidity conditions had tightened, with a deficit of Rs 1.37 lakh crore on October 22, 2018, though this has has declined since.
  • There are rising fears that the funding cost for NBFCs will zoom and result in a sharp decline in their margins.

What is the main reason for the crisis?

  • Banks did slow down lending to NBFCs, virtually closing a major resource avenue for NBFCs and housing finance companies (HFCs).
  • The fundamental issue, however, is an asset-liability mismatch in the operations of NBFCs like IL&FS.
  • Which means that these firms borrow funds from the market ( say for 3 or 5 years) and lend for longer tenures (example:10 to 15 years).
  • In a scenario where interest rates are rising, this hurt the NBFCs as their margins came under pressure and sourcing of funds became tough.
  • Defaults will keep potential investors away from the debt instruments of HFCs and NBFCs.
  • On top of this, sharp losses in NBFC stocks triggered a vicious cycle as losses in leveraged positions led to selling in other stocks, which in turn fuelled further losses in markets.

Steps taken by RBI in past to deal with such issues?

  • What the RBI offered in 2008-09 was a special repo window for banks to lend to NBFCs, mutual funds and housing finance companies after the global financial crisis.
  • In July 2013, too, the RBI opened a three-day special liquidity window of Rs 25,000 crore for banks to meet the cash requirements of debt mutual funds facing redemption pressures after bond prices fell leading to lower Net Asset Values.

Why RBI is not willing to inject funds now?

  • There was a complaint from some quarters that the RBI was slow in stepping in and injecting funds.
  • The government and industry pushed for a special window to meet the fund requirements of the NBFC sector.
  • The RBI refused, on the ground that once a special window or dispensation to provide liquidity is opened, the RBI will have to provide liquidity to all companies approaching it for funds.
  • The rationale is that there is adequate liquidity available for the sector through normal channels, and the RBI won’t be able to assess the asset quality of NBFCs to distinguish between those that deserve funds and those that do not.
  • RBI also expressed concerns that this could lead to similar demands from other sectors, too, creating new problems for the regulator.

Where do NBFCs go from here?

  • The reversal in liquidity implies funding for NBFCs may remain tight.
  • The recent adverse sentiment in the bond market could mean even higher borrowing costs. They are likely to see lower growth/margins ahead.
  • On the other hand, the RBI is likely to tighten the guidelines for HFCs and NBFCs, bringing them almost on par with commercial banks in terms of regulation.
  • After the 2008 financial crisis, the RBI has prescribed tighter prudential norms for NBFCs.
  • The minimum tier-I capital requirement was raised to 10% from 7% in a phased manner by the end of March 2017. Asset classification norms were revised from 180 days to 90 days in a phased manner by the end of March 2018, in line with that of banks.
  • According to analysts, NBFCs are facing a liquidity squeeze and not a new credit shock.
  • While the government has announced bailout of IL&FS, reflecting its intent to prevent escalation of the crisis, the RBI is expected to neutralise the liquidity squeeze but an easy money period is unlikely to come back in a hurry.
Section : Economics

Jaipur: India’s first planned city

Jaipur: India’s first planned city

  • The fortified city of Jaipur in Rajasthan was founded in 1727 by Sawai Jai Singh II.
  • It is also one of the first planned cities in India.
  • The chief architect Vidyadhar Bhattacharya designed and built the city on the concepts of ‘shilp shastra’ and ‘vastu shastra’.
  • The walled city is roughly divided into nine rectangular sectors with straight roads intersecting only at right angles.
  • The city is a confluence of the ancient Indian tradition of Vastu, medieval Mughal luxury and distinct idiom of Rajput chivalry.
  • A massive wall encircles the city and nine city gates provide access from various directions. The city took four years to build and was completed in 1727.
  • The streets feature continuous colonnaded businesses that intersect in the centre, creating large public squares called ‘chaupars’.
  • Markets, stalls, residences and temples built along the main streets have uniform facades.

 

World Heritage Site

  • World Heritage Sites are cultural and/or natural sites considered to be of ‘Outstanding Universal Value’, which have been inscribed on the World Heritage List by the World Heritage Committee.
  • These places or buildings are thought to:
    • have special importance for everyone
    • represent unique, or the most significant or best, examples of the world’s cultural and/or natural heritage
  • World Heritage status is a high accolade that brings with it responsibilities and international scrutiny.

Criteria for assessing Outstanding Universal Value

It is a site that should

  1. represent a masterpiece of human creative genius
  2. exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design
  3. bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared
  4. be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates significant stage(s) in human history
  5. be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change
  6. be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (The Committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria)
  7. contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance
  8. be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features
  9. be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals
  10. contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.

 

About UNESCO

  • The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) seeks to protect and preserve World Heritage sites through the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

World Heritage Convention

  • It is the convention concerning the protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.
  • This international treaty was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO in 1972.
  • It is based on the premise that certain places on Earth are of outstanding universal value and should therefore form part of the common heritage of humankind.

World Heritage listing process

  • The nomination of a site is listed by the respective government of a country.
  • The site should satisfy at least one of the ten criteria of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) for World Heritage nomination.
  • The World Heritage Committee assesses nominated places against set criteria and makes the final decision as to the places that are included on the World Heritage List.

Significance for a site to be inscribed on the World Heritage List

  • The resulting prestige often helps raise awareness among citizens and governments for heritage preservation.
  • Greater awareness leads to a general rise in the level of the protection and conservation given to heritage properties.
  • A country may also receive financial assistance and expert advice from the World Heritage Committee to support activities for the preservation of its sites.

 

India

Cultural Sites of India

  • Ajanta Caves (1983) of Maharashtra
  • Ellora Caves (1983) of Maharashtra
  • Agra Fort (1983) of Uttar Pradesh
  • Taj Mahal (1983) of Uttar Pradesh
  • Sun Temple, Konarak (1984) of Odisha
  • Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram (1984) of Tamil Nadu
  • Churches and Convents of Goa (1986) of Goa
  • Group of Temples, Khajuraho (1986) of Madhya Pradesh
  • Group of Monuments at Hampi (1986) of Karnataka
  • Group of Monuments, FatehpurSikri (1986) of Uttar Pradesh
  • Group of Temples, Pattadakal (1987) of Karnataka
  • Elephanta Caves ( 1987) of Maharashtra
  • Great Living Chola temples at Thanjavur, Gangaikondacholapuram and Darasuram (1987 & 2004) of Tamil Nadu
  • Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi (1989) of Madhya Pradesh
  • Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi (1993) of  Delhi
  • Qutb Minar Complex, Delhi (1993) of Delhi
  • Mountain Railway of India ( Darjeeling,1999) of West Bengal,
  • Mahabodhi Temple, Bodhgaya (2002) of Bihar
  • Prehistoric Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka (2003) of Madhya Pradesh
  • Champaner-Pavagarh Archaeological Park (2004) of Gujarat
  • Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus) (2004) of Maharashtra
  • Nilgiri (2005) of Tamil Nadu
  • Red Fort Complex, Delhi (2007) of Delhi
  • Kalka-Shimla(2008) of Himachal Pradesh
  • Jantar Mantar, Jaipur (2010) of Rajasthan
  • Hill Forts of Rajasthan (Chittaurgarh, Kumbhalgarh, Jaisalmer and Ranthambhore, Amber and Gagron Forts) (2013)
  • Rani ki Vav (2014) of Gujarat
  • Nalanda Mahavihara (Nalanda University) (2016) of Bihar
  • Capitol Complex (2016) of Chandigarh
  • Historic City of Ahmadabad (2017)
  • Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai (2018)
  • Jaipur City, Rajasthan (2019)

Natural Sites of India                                                                            

  • Kaziranga National Park (1985): Assam
  • Manas Wild Life Sanctuary (1985): Assam
  • Keoladeo National Park (1985): Rajasthan
  • Sunderban National Park (1987): West Bengal
  • Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks (1988, 2005): Uttarakhand
  • Western Ghats (2012): Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra,Tamil Nadu
  • Great Himalayan National Park (2014): Himachal Pradesh

Mixed Site

  • Khangchendzonga National Park (KNP) (2016) of Sikkim

Important World Heritage Sites of the World

  • Machu Picchu, Peru
  • Pyramids, Egypt
  • Bagan, Myanmar
  • Angkor Wat, Cambodia
  • Great Wall of China
  • Roman Colosseum, Italy
  • Acropolis, Greece
  • Stonehenge, England
  • Borobudur, Indonesia
  • Mesa Verde, USA
  • Terracotta Army, China
  • Petra, Jordan
  • Mayan Ruins of Tikal, Guatemala
  • Lascaux and Lascaux II, France
  • Chichen Itza, Mexico

 

Section : History & Culture

Headline : How jails pay and deduct prisoners’ wages

Headline : How jails pay and deduct prisoners’ wages

Background

  • In 1998, the Supreme Court asked all states to devise a mechanism so that victims of the offence could be compensated (State of Gujarat & Anr vs Gujarat High Court).
  • Prisons in various states made their own rules, with the amount of compensation varying from state to state.
  • Then in 2008, the CrPC was amended with a new Section, 357A, which stipulated that every state should prepare a scheme for compensating crime victims and their dependents.
  • In the case in Delhi High Court, petitioner Katyayini argued that the Delhi government had made separate provisions for compensation after both the Supreme Court order as well as the CrPC amendment.
  • After the 1998 order, Delhi Prisons Rules were amended in 2006 with Rule 39A allowing for 25% of prisoners’ wages to be deducted and deposited in a Victim Welfare Fund.
  • The government told the court that over Rs 15 crore, collected since 2006 from wages of prisoners for the fund, has been lying unutilised.
  • Then after the CrPC amendment, the state government notified the Delhi Victims’ Compensation Scheme in 2011, replaced with the Delhi Victims’ Compensation Scheme, 2015. In view of the later scheme, the petitioners argued, the significance of deducting wages for compensation was lost.

About payments to Prisoners

  • Convicted prisoners get paid for doing work inside the jail, which can be voluntarily or part of their punishment.
  • These wages are fixed on the basis of their classification i.e. skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled and the rate are revised periodically.
  • Remuneration and wages differ from one state to another.
    • As per 2015 prison statistics released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in 2017, Puducherry provided the highest wages — Rs 180, Rs 160 and Rs 150 per day to skilled convicts, semi-skilled convicts and unskilled convicts respectively.
    • This was followed by Delhi’s Tihar, which gave Rs 171, Rs 138 and Rs 107 respectively. Next were Bihar (Rs 156, Rs 112, Rs 103) and Rajasthan (Rs 150, nil and Rs 130).
    • At the lower end are Manipur and Mizoram, which paid convicts as little as Rs 12 to Rs 15 per day.
    • West Bengal paid Rs 35 (skilled convicts), Rs 30 (semi-skilled) and Rs 26 (unskilled), while Chhattisgarh paid Rs 30 (skilled) and Rs 26 (unskilled), which was about half as much as the wages paid by Madhya Pradesh at Rs 55 (skilled) and Rs 50 (unskilled).
Section : Social Issues

About Autonomous Vehicles

About Autonomous Vehicles

  • Autonomous vehicles are mostly light motor vehicles like cars with highest level of automation.
  • They can drive without a human driver and thus called self-driving cars.

 

Basic architecture of Autonomous vehiclesSense-plan-act architecture

Sense

  • Sensors
    • In order to sense the environment, they use a network of sensors including cameras, radars, infrared, Lidar (light detection and ranging) etc.
  • Navigation
    • Further a combination of GPS and inertial navigation system is used to know the position of the self-driving car and any object around it. (obstacles)
  • Communication systems
    • The autonomous cars basically use vehicle to vehicle technology/ vehicle to infrastructure technology to communicate with the objects in the environment like traffic light, parking sign, a railway crossing or other sign boards.

Plan

  • AI-based data processing
    • Once the sensors and other communication systems collects the data, the vehicles use AI-based processing of the data to make sense of it. (perceive the data)
  • Control
    • Once AI-based processing of data is done, the electronic control systems tell the car whether to slow down, speed up, stop etc.

Act

  • Actuators
    • Actuators are electro-mechanical systems that run the car.
    • The decisions of the controllers are translated into actions with the help of actuators.

 

Challenges

  • Reliability
    • The autonomous vehicles are effective in certain driving conditions but fail in many. (Eg. Snow covered roads, heavy traffic roads, narrow roads)
  • Infrastructure migration
    • Vehicle to infrastructure technology is important for communication with objects like traffic signal, parking lots, sign boards etc.
    • As a result the infrastructure in the environment has to be upgraded which is both cost and time intensive.
  • Safety
    • The failure of any system in the sense-plan-act architecture may lead to accidents affecting the public safety.
  • Acceptance
    • Self-driving cars are still at the nascent stage and thus has no societal and consumer acceptance
  • Legal and regulatory standards
    • Before we migrate into autonomous vehicles, stric legal and regulatory standards should be place.
    • Designing appropriate legislations is a challenge given the complexity of systems used in these cars.
  • Privacy and litigation risks
Section : Science & Tech

In focus: Moonquakes

In focus: Moonquakes

  • Moon is a one-plate world unlike a number of plates (major and minor) on earth.
  • Further since moon also has no atmosphere, it was believed to be a dead world geologically.

 

 

Origin of Moonquakes

  • The moon’s upper mantle is much more rigid and less fluid than the interior of the Earth as shown in the figure.
  • As a result there is no evidence for plate tectonics on the lunar surface.
  • However the seismometers placed by Apollo Mission detected about 3000 moonquakes every year.
  • Since there are no plate motions the question was ‘What causes moonquakes?’
  • The natural explanation was that the Earth’s tidal forces deform the solid body of the Moon triggering moonquakes.
  • As a result it was seen that moonquakes were recorded predominantly at perigee when moon is nearest the Earth.

 

Results of new study

  • Observation
    • The new study found that six of the quakes happened when the moon was at its apogee, farthest point from the Earth in its orbit.
  • Conclusion
    • Earth’s tidal influence is not the only reason for moonquakes.
    • The moon is gradually shrinking and has shrinked by about 50 meters in over millions of years.
    • The shrinking of moon has caused its surface to wrinkle (imagine a grape that wrinkle on shrinking)
    • Since the moons crust is brittle it breaks thus forming ‘thrust faults’ at breaking points as shown in the figure.
    • According to data these faults are still active and likely producing moonquakes. Thus it can be concluded that moon is continuing shrink.

 

Significance

  • It is for the 1st time we have evidence to show that moon is not geologically dead as it was believed.
  • It has active tectonic activity though very feeble compared to earth’s plate tectonics.
  • The surface features revealing the fault lines and resultant landforms like cliffs and boulder show the target of future missions.
  • However since the mass of the moon is not changing it is unlikely that it will have any effect on the tides on earth.
Section : Science & Tech

Historical period 

Prehistoric period 

  • It is known as the period before history i.e. it is the time period before the emergence of writing.
  • The prehistoric period is divided into three ages:
  1. Stone age
  2. Bronze age
  3. Iron age

 

  • In India, the prehistoric period is divided into:
  1. Paleolithic (Old Stone Age)
  2. Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age)
  3. Neolithic (New Stone Age)
  4. Metal Age

 

Palaeolithic Age

  • This age was developed in the Pleistocene period.
  • The term Palaeolithic is derived from the Greek word meaning ‘ old stone’.
  • Palaeolithic men lead a savage life, using stone weapon for hunting. There was no agriculture, people use to hunt animal and gather edible plants and tubers.
  • There was no family life, people use to live in caves or wander in jungle.
  • Palaeolithic age has been divided into three phases on the basis of the nature of stone tools made by human beings
  1. Lower Palaeolithic – tools included were hand axes, cleavers, choppers.
  2. Middle Palaeolithic – tools largely included flakes.
  3. Upper Palaeolithic – tools included were burns and scrapers.

 

Mesolithic Age

  • This age was developed in the Holocene period.
  • This period witnessed a rise in temperature and the climate became warm and dry, which in turn affected human life and brought about changes in flora and fauna.
  • The beginning of the art of making clay pot is significant development of Mesolithic age.
  • The man was hunting and gathering food and domesticated dog.
  • In this period bones were used as tools and the use of bones along the stone marked the biggest change in the life of man from Palaeolithic period to Mesolithic period.
  • The technology of producing tools also underwent a change, now small stone tools were being used.
  • The Mesolithic man started using special kind of weapons known as microliths or pygmy tools made of jasper chalk or bloodstone.
  • The main tools included blade, core, point, scrapper, burin, chopper.

 

Neolithic Age

  • This is the age when people instead of depending entirely on resources of nature, they started producing their own food by cultivating cereals and started domesticating some species of animals.
  • Domestication of plants and animals led to emergence of village communities based on sedentary life.
  • The beginning of this stage of culture in India is revealed by a new types of stone tools called Neolithic tools or the tools of Neolithic age. The term Neolithic is derived from Greek word meaning ‘new stone’
  • The tools of Neolithic age were well shaped, sharp and polished and therefore more effective as compared to earlier period.

 

Chacolithic or metal age

  • At the end of the Neolithic Period, use of metals like copper along with stone started.
  • In this way, it is named as Chalcolithic which means the stone-copper phase.
  • Smelting of metal ore and creation of metal artefacts is the important development during this period.
  • Cultures during Chalcolithic phase grew in river valleys.
  • Probably, Gold was discovered earliest but it was used for ornaments only.
  • Some of the important sites of this phase are in:
  • Rajasthan
  • Maharashtra
  • West Bengal
  • Bihar
  • MP
  • Farming communities settled along the river valleys of Godavari, Krishna, Tungabhadra, Pennar and Kaveri in South India.
  • Black and red pottery is the most popular among the different types of pottery, used by the Chalcolithic people.
  • People generally lived in thatched houses as they were not acquainted with burnt bricks.

 

Iron age

  • Iron age follows the Chalcolithic age.
  • There is a frequent reference of iron in the Vedas.
  • Megaliths of this age are spread across the Indian subcontinent.
  • Bulk of them are found in peninsular India, concentrated in the states of Maharashtra (mainly in Vidarbha), Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

 

 

 

Section : History & Culture

In focus: Blockchain technology

In focus: Blockchain technology

Definition

  • In simple words, blockchain is an information sharing platform where multiple authorities cooperate, coordinate and collaborate in a decision making process.
  • Blockchain is a decentralized and distributed database on a peer-peer network which works on the basis of a consensus mechanism involving every node (computer) on the network.

Understanding blockchain with an example

  • A block in a blockchain is a record of transactions.
  • In the figure, suppose A wants to send money to B, the transaction is recorded in a block, say block 1.
  • The transaction is say shared in a peer-peer network.
  • Once the transaction is recorded in block 1, it is represented as a ‘hash key’ in the network.
  • A ‘hash key’ can be simply thought of as a secret code for a transaction. (say a 252-bit alpha-numeric)
  • Now everyone in the network can see the hash key representing the transaction that A has sent money to B.
  • However, note that everyone in the network cannot see the transaction itself.
  • Now any change in the transaction information will immediately change the ‘hash key’ associated with the transaction and that is reflected in the network.
  • So everyone in the network gets to know someone is changing the details of the transaction and thus one may not be able to tamper with the transaction.
  • If one has to change the transaction everyone in the network has to validate and verify the transaction.

 

Key features of blockchain

Going from above example the following are the key features of blockchain

  • Distributed ledger
    • Blockchain is a peer-to-peer distributed network that records a public history of transactions without actually recording identities of the parties or the transaction details.
  • Immutable
    • Since any change or error or tampering of the transaction data is reflected, the transaction is immutable.
  • Enforces trust
    • Since it is a decentralized database, it removes the need for a 3rd party intermediary to enforce trust (like a bank).
    • This is because everyone in the network plays a role in validation and verification of the transaction.
  • Cost-effective and time-saving
    • Since blockchain is a distributed database, it does not need intermediaries thereby reducing cost of transaction.
    • For instance, compare it with a payment through credit card where a number of parties including payment gateway, banks and processing networks are needed to ensure a transaction which involves a certain cost and time.

 

Applications of blockchain

Blockchain technology can be used anywhere where there is a need to enforce trust between unknown parties transacting.

  • Crypto Currency
    • Blockchain technology formed the platform behind the crypto currency, bitcoin.
    • It can also help central banks come out with virtual currency removing corruption altogether.
  • Smart Contracts
    • technology is effective in executing a contract.
  • Land title registrations
    • Eg: It is used in ‘land registrations’ where the transaction involving exchange of titles is recorded.
    • Since it is immutable it can remove the risk of fraud.
  • Trade settlements
  • Insurance claims processing
  • Agriculture
    • Blockchains can be effectively used in agriculture to remove intermediaries thereby ensuring fair price to farmer and low cost to consumer.
    • Eg: The blockchain-based coffee e-marketplace to be implemented by Ministry of commerce will integrate farmers with markets removing the intermediaries and associated cost.
  • Supply chain management in retail business
    • Blockchain technology is all set to revolutionize retail business models by:
      • Empowering every actor in the supply chain
      • Real time monitoring of stocks across supply chain
      • Enforcement of contracts between actors
  • Infrastructure projects
    • can be effective in real time monitoring of the infrastructure projects and thus elicit timely actions.

Note: The list is not exhaustive. Blockchain technology will have many more applications in healthcare, smart city projects, banking, food industry etc.

 

Section : Science & Tech

In focus: EMISAT

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 role did Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel play in the Dandi march of 1930?

Headline : What role did Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel play in the Dandi march of 1930?

Details :

Context of the topic:

  • On the occasion of the 89th anniversary of the Dandi March, tributes have also been paid to the contributions made by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel to the movement.

 

 

About Dandi March

  • Dandi March or Salt Satyagraha was a non-violent means of protest led by Mahatma Gandhi, which began on 12th March 1930 and ended on April 6th, 1930.
  • Mahatma Gandhi along with his followers walked from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi near coastal Surat to protest against the repressive salt tax imposed by the colonial government.
  • The march covering the distance of 390 km worked as a catalyst for India’s struggle for Independence.
  • The Salt March began with around 80 people, but as more and more people joined in for the 390 km-long journey, it grew into a strong force of 50,000 people.
  • Upon reaching the seashore in Dandi, Mahatma Gandhi broke the law by producing salt (which was illegal under the colonial laws).

Circumstances leading to Dandi March

  • During that time, the British had prohibited Indians from collecting or selling salt.
  • Indians were also forced to buy the salt from the British, who not only exercised monopoly over its manufacture and sale but also levied a heavy salt tax.
  • The Salt March was a collective beginning of a mass resistance movement against the British tyranny.

 

 

Role of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in the Dandi march

  • Sardar Patel played a significant role in mobilising people for the Dandi march.
  • Initially, Sardar Patel was not sure about the impact of salt as a satyagrahic weapon. But once the decision was taken, he not only plunged into the preparations but, gave the campaign its first propulsion.
  • The Sardar toured the area to determine the best route to the salt-laden coast and planned the route for the Dandi March.
  • He also alerted the peasantry, already ‘trained’ by the Bardoli satyagraha, for the coming campaign.

Arrest of Patel before Satyagraha

  • As Patel went about mobilising people for the march, he was arrested at village Raas on March 7, five days before the march was scheduled.
  • He was sentenced to three months imprisonment and lodged at Sabarmati jail in Ahmedabad.
  • The news of Patel’s arrest shook the entire population of Gujarat who rose up in protest against the government and in turn joined the Satyagraha.

 

 

Aftermath of Dandi March

  • The Salt March got national and international recognition and shook the British with its non-violent nature.
  • It got massive press coverage and drew the world’s attention towards the Indian Independence Movement.
  • This turned into a mass civil disobedience movement throughout India as millions broke salt laws by either making salt or buying ‘illegal’ salt.

 

Section : History & Culture

In Brief: Features of the moon

In Brief: Features of the moon

The distinctive features of moon when observed from a telescope or even naked eye are:

  • Impact craters
    • Lunar craters, large and small, are the result of the bombardment of meteorites on the lunar surface.
    • That is why they are called impact craters
  • Light-coloured highlands
    • Most of the lunar surface constitutes light-coloured highlands.
    • About 85% of lunar surface is light-coloured highlands.
  • Dark-coloured Maria
    • The large dark areas on the lunar surface are called maria (singular form-mare for “sea” in Latin) (see figure below)
    • These dark coloured features are the remains of huge lava flows which have solidified to give it a distinctive dark color.

Other Features

  • No Atmosphere
    • Moon is too small to have an atmosphere.
    • Its surface gravity is so low, (only about 1/6th of that of Earth), that any gas molecules easily escape into space.
  • No global magnetic field
    • Moon has no global magnetic field because it lacks in substantial amounts of moving molten material in its interior. (Earth’s magnetic field is due to moving iron core)
    • However Moon does have weak magnetic fields in certain pockets when the rocks solidified billions of years ago.

 

 

In-Focus: Lunar Swirls

  • Besides, lunar surface also has another distinctive feature called lunar swirls.
  • They look like bright, snaky clouds swirled over the surface of the moon. (See figure)
  • Imagine it to look like cream swirled in a cup of coffee.

 

 

Origin of lunar swirls

  • It is seen that the location of lunar swirls coincide with the location of localized magnetic fields on moon’s surface.
  • The localized magnetic fields on the lunar surface are due to magma ejected during volcanic eruptions.
  • The localized magnetic fields deflect particles from the solar wind and cause some parts of the lunar surface to weather more slowly.
  • This has resulted in bright-and-dark patterns swirling the lunar surface.
  • In summary, the localized magnetic fields act like ‘sunscreen’ to regolith on the lunar surface.

 

ARTEMIS mission

  • The ARTEMIS mission is NASA’s mission to study effects of solar wind from a lunar orbit.
  • ARTEMIS it deployed primarily to observe Moon’s interaction with the solar wind.

 

Basics: Solar Wind

  • Sun’s powerful gravitational attraction keeps most of the gases of the photosphere, chromosphere, and corona from escaping.
  • Corona is the outermost region of the Sun’s atmosphere.
  • Due to high temperature of corona, its atoms and ions are moving at very high speeds (about a million kilometers per hour).
  • As a result, some of the coronal gas escape is called the solar wind.
  • The solar wind is composed of electrons and nuclei of hydrogen and helium.
  • Each second the Sun ejects about a million tons of material into the solar wind.
  • Solar winds engulf the entire solar system including Pluto.

Interaction of solar wind and magnetic field

  • Earth is protected from solar winds due to its global magnetic field that acts as a shield.
  • The aurora seen at far northern or southern latitudes on Earth are produced when electrons and ions from the solar wind enter our upper atmosphere.
  • On lunar surface the localized magnetic fields interact with solar winds to give rise to distinctive lunar swirls.
Section : Science & Tech

About: Mauritius Oil Spill

About: Mauritius Oil Spill

  • Cause
    • In July, a Japanese ship ran aground and got stuck on a coral reef off Maurtius coast.
    • The ship was carrying about 3,800 tons of Very Low Sulphur Fuel Oil and 200 tons of diesel oil. Most of the oil from the vessel has been pumped out.
    • But, in August, the ship began leaking oil resulting in an oil spill of over 1,000 tonnes into the Indian Ocean lagoon.
    • So far, about 460 tons of oil has been manually recovered from the sea and coast.
    • In the middle of August, the ship also broke apart.

  • Concerns
    • Rather than the size of the oil spill, it was the area where it happened which was a cause for concern.
    • The accident had taken place near two environmentally protected marine ecosystems and the Blue Bay Marine Park Reserve which is a wetland of international importance.

In Focus: Oil Spills

Definition & Causes of Oil Spill

  • Contamination of seawater due to an oil pour, as a result of an accident or human error, is termed an oil spill. 
  • Major causes of oil spills include-
    • Offshore drilling and production operations
    • Oil spills or leaks from ships or tankers- Over time, the production of petroleum products rose significantly which has resulted in massive transportation and associated oil spills. Oil accounts for over half the tonnage of all sea cargo.
    • Routine maintenance of ships 
    • Land drainage and waste disposal- For example, from the improper disposal of used motor oil.
    • Natural seepage from the seafloor

  • The number of oil spills has been increasing with the increasing rate of oil transportation, ageing of oil tankers, as well as an increase in the size of oil tankers.
  • While massive and catastrophic spills receive most of the attention, smaller and chronic ones occur on a regular basis as the number of sea vessels getting commuting has increased phenomenally with increase in global trade.

Examples of Oil Spills

  • Some of the world’s largest oil spills include-
  • The Persian Gulf War oil spill of 1991- The Iraqi forces quit their invasion of Kuwait. After that, for blocking the forces from the United States, the Iraqi forces left the oil pipelines and wells of oil open and set it to fire. In this more than 380 million gallons of oil was poured into the northern Persian Gulf by Iraq’s forces. The fire was so massive that it continued unabated for four months.
  • The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico- It is also considered to be among the largest known accidental oil spills in history. Starting April 20, 2010, over 4 million barrels of oil flowed over a period of 87 days into the Gulf of Mexico.

Impact of Oil Spills

  • Impact on Marine Life
    • Oil spills affect marine life by exposing them to harsh elements and destroying their sources of food and habitat.
    • Further, both birds and mammals can die from hypothermia as a result oil spills. For instance, oil destroys the insulating ability of fur-bearing mammals, such as sea otters.
    • It also decreases the water repellency of birds’ feathers, without which they lose their ability to repel cold water. Without the ability to repel water and insulate from the cold water, birds and mammals will die from hypothermia.
    • Juvenile sea turtles can also become trapped in oil and mistake it for food.
    • Dolphins and whales can inhale oil, which can affect lungs, immune function and reproduction.
    • Many birds and animals also ingest oil when they try to clean themselves, which can poison them.
    • When exposed to oil, adult fish may experience reduced growth, enlarged livers, changes in heart and respiration rates, fin erosion, and reproduction impairment.

  • Impact on Public Health
    • Public health impacts include illnesses caused by toxic fumes or by eating contaminated fish or shellfish.
    • There are also other less obvious public health impacts including losses and disruptions of commercial and recreational fisheries, seaweed harvesting and loss of revenues due to forgone tourism.

Prevention of Oil Spills

  • To prevent oil spills the responsibility lies with the industries for abiding by the regulations and governments for putting in place adequate rules to prevent their occurrence.
  • Integration of preventive measures in an industrial process, operation, or product should be a part of the cost of daily operations.
  • To prevent oil spill on ships, they should be equipped with all required precautionary measures and the crew on the ship should be accustomed to oil spill safety drill prior to the voyage. These safety measures will help in catering accidents which break-in during the voyage without any prior warning.

Clean-Up of Oil Spills

  • Oil Containment Booms
    • Oil Booms are the most common and popular equipment used in oil clean-up. These are also called “Containment Booms” which encloses the oil to a smaller area and not let it spread further.
    • This method is employed when the area of spill is comparatively smaller and where wave velocity is constant because fluctuating tides make it difficult for an oil boom to perform clean-up properly.

  • Skimming
    • Skimming involves removing oil from the sea surface before it is able to reach the sensitive areas along the coastline.
    • Once the oil is bounded by oil booms it can be extracted or skimmed easily with the help of skimmers or oil scoops.
    • These are the mechanical equipment which works on the same principle as a vacuum cleaner.
    • It sucks all the oil which is spread over the confined surface of the water in oil booms.

  • Sorbents
    • The materials which can adsorb or absorb the liquid are termed as sorbents.
    • It is an easy process of oil cleanup.
    • Most common sort of sorbents are peat moss, vermiculite (straw) and hay. These are highly useful for the small spills with the highest efficiency.

  • In-Situ Burning
    • In this method, the floating oil is set to fire by igniting it safely.
    • It is the most proficient method of oil clean-up as it can efficiently remove 98% of total spilt oil.
    • However, this method is not eco-friendly as it releases toxic gases from the burning of oils to the environment.

  • Release of Chemical Dispersants
    • When oil cannot be confined with booms then chemical disintegration of oil is done using dispersants.
    • After disintegration, the surface area of oil molecules increases and it becomes easier for them to form a bond with water.
    • This will take the bonded molecules deeper in water and make them available for microbes which degrade them later on.
    • Releasing chemical dispersants helps break down oil into smaller droplets, making it easier for microbes to consume, and further break it down into less harmful compounds.

In Focus: Israel and the Gulf Region

In Focus: Israel and the Gulf Region

  • It’s a landmark agreement given that the UAE is only the third Arab country and the first in the Gulf region to establish diplomatic relations with Israel.
  • With the exception of Jordan and Egypt, Israel does not have diplomatic relations with Gulf Arab states owing to its long-standing conflict with Palestinians.
  • Israel had signed peace agreements with Egypt in 1979 and with Jordan in 1994.
  • However, despite the absence of official diplomatic relations, Israel has been engaging with its neighbours with regard to issues like trade.

History of Arab-Israeli Relations

  • Arab-Israeli ties have historically been conflict-ridden.
  • 1948 War
    • Arab countries, including Egypt, Transjordan, Syria and Iraq, fought their first war with Israel in 1948 after the formation of the state of Israel was announced.
    • The war ended with Israel capturing more territories (including West Jerusalem) than what the UN Partition Plan originally proposed for a Jewish state.

  • More Wars
    • After that, Israel and Arab states fought three more major wars — the 1956 Suez conflict, the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
    • After the 1967 war, Israel captured the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip from Egypt, East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan and the Golan Heights from Syria.
    • This lead Arab countries to declare their famous three ‘NOs’ — no peace with Israel, no talks with Israel and no recognition of Israel”.

  • Peace Treaty between Israel and Egypt in 1979
    • After the death of Egypt President Gamal Abdel Nasser, his successor Anwar Sadat started making plans to get Sinai back from Israel.
    • His efforts, coupled with American pressure on Israel, led to the Camp David Accords of 1978.
    • In 1979, Israel and Egypt concluded their peace treaty, as part of which Israel withdrew from Sinai in return for Egyptian recognition.

  • Peace Treaty between Israel and Jordan in 1994
    • In 1988, after an initial agreement reached between the two countries collapsed, Jordan abandoned its claims to the West Bank and said it would accept a deal between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel.
    • The Oslo Accords, under which the PLO recognised Israel and was allowed to form the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Gaza, created the based for an Israel-Jordan deal.
    • The enmity between the two countries came to an end in July 1994 with the Washington Declaration by Jordan’s King Hussein and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin under the watch of U.S. President Bill Clinton.
    • Thus, in 1994, Jordan became the second Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel.

Background: The Road to Israel-UAE Agreement

  • The old enmity between Arab countries and Israel has dissipated over the years.
  • The Sunni Arab kingdoms in the Gulf region such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE had developed backroom contacts with Israel over the past several years.
  • Convergence of Interests
    • One of the major factors that brought them closer has been their shared antipathy towards Iran.
    • Both these blocs were wary of U.S. President Barack Obama’s Iran outreach.
    • Further, this is an election year in the U.S. and if a Democratic President comes to power and restores the Iran deal, both the Israeli and the Arab blocs in West Asia would come under pressure to live with an empowered Iran in what President Obama called “cold peace”.
    • A formal agreement and enhanced security and economic ties make the Arab and Israeli sides better prepared to face such a situation.
    • So there is a convergence of interests for the UAE, Israel and the U.S. to come together in the region.

  • Political Scenario in the USA
    • With the US presidential elections around the corner, Trump may consider this agreement to be a foreign policy success.
    • Even if the UAE-Israel agreement does not bring Israel-Palestine peace, the new equations that it will give rise to and the isolation of Iran, are already being heralded in the US as an achievement.

  • With all these dynamics playing out, the two blocs of West Asia, Israel and UAE, which are both American allies have been brought together under Trump’s Presidency.
  • US has arranged backroom conferences and secret talks between Israel, Saudi Arabia, UAE and several other countries in 2019.
  • These meetings laid the foundations for the agreement.

News Summary:

  • Israel and the UAE have agreed to the full normalization of relations between their two countries.

Significance of the Agreement

  • Implications for Geo-Politics of West Asia
    • The peace agreement is significant as it has the potential to change the geopolitics of West Asia and beyond.
    • It is strongly expected that other Arab states will follow the suit and establish their diplomatic ties with Israel which would open a new chapter in Arab-Israel ties.
    • If this happens, it would bring all Sunni nations in the region in an anti-Iran alliance with Israel that they have secretly wished for all these years.
    • The Saudi bloc, consisting of Egypt, the UAE, Bahrain and others, see their interests being aligned with that of the U.S. and Israel.

  • Implications for Palestine’s Cause
    • Arab countries have signalled that they are ready to live with Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
    • Now, Turkey and Iran emerge as the strongest supporters of the Palestinians in the Muslim world.

  • Implications for South Asia
    • In South Asia, it will put Pakistan in a bind.
    • Despite thinking about establishing diplomatic ties with Israel for nearly two decades, Pakistan never did it plunge for fear of a domestic backlash.
    • Pakistan is unlikely to be seen as joining an Arab alliance that has effectively abandoned another “Islamic” cause dear to Pakistan, that of Palestine.

Global Reactions

  • Many countries including the European powers and India have welcomed it.
  • India’s Reaction
    • India has welcomed the normalisation of ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), calling them both “key strategic partners”.
    • For India, it will also mean continuing to walk a balance on West Asian politics and watch its ties with Iran more closely.
    • New Delhi would also continue to push for a two-state solution as part of a negotiated settlement between Israel and Palestine and it reaffirmed its “traditional support” for the Palestinian cause.

  • Palestine’s Reaction
    • President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority which seeks a two-state solution, lashed out against the deal as a “betrayal” by the UAE.
    • For the Palestinians, the Israeli commitment that it will not pursue its plan to annex the West Bank, is an empty concession – the deal does not address the Palestinian demand for statehood. 

  • Along with Palestine’s leaders, Turkey and Iran have also lashed out at the UAE.

In brief: In-vitro fertilization and frozen embryos

In brief: In-vitro fertilization and frozen embryos

Basics

  • In case of sexual reproduction, the beginning of development of an offspring is fertilization of male and female gametes into zygote (a fertilized egg or embryo).
  • The zygote (embryo) is then implanted into the uterus where it develops into full-fledged organism in various stages.
  • From the day of fertilization (union of male and female gamete) up till 8 weeks the undeveloped zygote is called embryo.

Infertility

  • Infertility may occur due to various reasons
    • Insufficient production of sperm for zygote formation
    • Insufficient production of oocyte
    • Failure to implant embryo into uterus

In-vitro fertilization

  • One way of assisted reproductive technology is IVF
    • In in-vitro fertilization, the fertilization of egg occurs externally outside the body.
    • The externally developed fertilized zygote or embryo is then implanted inside the uterus for full-fledged development into human.

 

In focus: Smuggling of frozen embryos

What are frozen embryos?

  • The embryos so developed in-vitro are sometimes frozen and stored for future use.
  • The embryos are generally stored in liquid nitrogen or nitrogen vapour at a temperature below -190°C.

 

Reasons for storing embryos

  • Some couples store embryos for conceiving at a later date. (Implanting in the uterus)
  • In-vitro fertilization is done choosing desirable gametes. (say a male European gamete)
  • Patients with terminal illness like cancer may store gametes or even embryos before they undergo a radiation therapy.
  • Couples may store frozen embryos to continue in-vitro fertilization in countries where IVF procedures are cheaper and cost effective like in India.
  • Further some couples may choose to store frozen embryos in order to continue the IVF procedure in countries where commercial surrogacy is allowed.

 

Import of frozen embryos

  • India has emerged as the surrogacy hub of the world since 2002.
  • There has been rampant misuse of frozen embryos leading to illegal surrogacy in India because of the low cost of IVF procedure here.
  • Until 2015, import of frozen embryos or gametes was allowed in India subject to a ‘No Objection Certificate’ from Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

 

Law governing import of embryos in India

  • In order to stop this practice, commercial surrogacy was banned in India when the parliament passed the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill 2016 recently.
  • Further import of human embryo is “prohibited” except for research purposes from 2015.

 

Why Primary Agriculture Credit Society needs to be propped up Editorial 14th Aug’20 HindustanTimes

Why Primary Agriculture Credit Society needs to be propped up Editorial 14th Aug’20 HindustanTimes

Rural credit cooperatives:

  • Just about two decades ago, credit cooperatives covered 69% of the rural credit outlets and their share in rural credit was 45% of the total rural credit in the country.
  • They had a lion’s share of 57% in providing short-term credit for purchase of inputs.

PACS:

  • A Primary Agricultural Credit Society (PACS) is the first building block of the century-old cooperative banking system of India.
  • Each PACS was designed to be a village-level credit society into which the farmers brought in share capital, deposits and provided loans to each other.
  • It has features like elected members, one- member-one-vote, transparency, ground-level reach, ease of operations, speed, human connect etc.

Decline of credit cooperatives:

  • Today, credit cooperatives have lost their significance, with their share in rural credit being just 12.26% in FY19.
  • This continued slide, and the ideas to get them back on track, are being researched within NABARD and RBI.

PACS have important role in agri-marketing reforms:

  • The recent amendments in agriculture marketing acts are an effort towards opening up the market for the Indian farmer.
  • These amendments reinforce the role PACS can play in bringing farmer communities closer to credit, inputs, market and value addition.

Agriculture Infrastructure Fund (AIF) launched:

  • The Indian Prime minister recently inaugurated the Rs 1 lakh crore Agriculture Infrastructure Fund (AIF).
  • The fund is aimed to provide a medium to long term debt financing facility for investment in viable projects for post-harvest management infrastructure and community farming assets through interest subvention and financial support.
  • Under the AIF scheme, banks and financial institutions will provide loans to Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS), farmers, Marketing Cooperative Societies, FPOs, SHGs etc.

PACS have an important role in scheme’s success:

  • While inaugurating the AIF, the PM interacted with members of PACS.
  • PACS have an important role to play to bring the objectives behind the AIF closer to farmers.
  • The AIF, set up for establishing decentralised farm gate infrastructure, holds huge as India currently loses 15% of its food grains due to poor post-harvest management (PHM) facilities and lack of farm-gate storage.

To be effective, PACS must turn into multi-service centres (MSCs):

  • For the PACS to really make a difference, they will need to first transition from being just a credit society to a multi-service centre (MSC).
  • They must turn into a one-stop shop for both goods and services.
  • The recent decision by NABARD to develop 35,000 PACS into MSCs in mission-mode is a step in this direction.

How this will help:

  • The initiative will enable PACS to support farmers in post-harvest marketing activities and provide ancillary services to its members like:
    • creation of storage and processing facilities
    • custom hiring centers
    • collective purchase of inputs
  • This intervention will help in structuring these services in a sustained and scalable manner, covering a much larger number of PACS.
  • This will also help in increasing non-fund based income of the PACS.
  • On the sidelines, a PACS can also play a major role by integrating its warehouse with physical and financial supply chain of agro-commodities in the upcoming Gramin Agriculture Markets (GrAMs) or large warehouses in private sector.

PACS can do this by using the AIF scheme:

  • PACS have historically struggled with challenges of financial viability and shortage of qualified human resources.
  • A separate line of credit has been set up under AIF by reserving concessional refinance of Rs 5,000 crore at 3% during FY21.
  • PACS will get term-loans at 4%,which, with interest subvention under AIF, will come down to just 1%.
  • Other grants would also be made available to the cooperative banks for capacity building, project management expenses and ICT initiatives, all of which will finally impact the PACS.

Conclusion:

  • No commercial bank branch can even come close to providing the kind of services a PACS can, and that itself shows just why PACS need to be propped up.
  • Overall, the short-term cooperative credit eco-system with over 15,000 branches and over 95,000 PACS and which took a hundred years to evolve, deserves help to succeed.
  • Helping them turn into multi-service societies may just as well be the last chance we have of giving them this chance.

Importance:

About Kambala

About Kambala

  • Kambala is the traditional buffalo slush track race Buffalo Race held annually in coastal Karnataka.
  • The Kambala season lasts from November to March.
  • About 150 kambalas are held in Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and neighbouring Kasaragod (Kerala) districts in the season between November and March. This area is called Tulunadu (Land of Tulu Language).
  • A pair of buffaloes is tied to the plough and one person anchors it.
  • There are two parallel muddy tracks, on which two competing pairs of buffaloes run. Fastest team wins.

 

Belief

  • According to one belief, Kambala is a festival that originated in the farming community of Karnataka around 800 years back.
  • The festival is dedicated to Kadri’s Lord Manjunatha, an incarnation of Lord Shiva.
  • It is believed to be celebrated to please the Gods for a good harvest.
  • It is a form of recreational sport for the farming community and also another belief is that it is considered as the Sport of the royal (landlord) Family.

 

What is the controversy?

  • This age-old tradition of buffalo race is a cause of concern for animal lovers and animal activists.
  • Animal rights activists have opposed the sport saying that tying the noses of the buffaloes with a rope and using a whip amounts to cruelty.
  • The celebration of Kambala was stopped in Karnataka based on an order of Supreme Court that was actually meant for the game of jallikkatu, a bull taming sport in Tamil Nadu.
  • The order did not mention Kambala.
Section : History & Culture

Background: ASAT Test

Background: ASAT Test

  • On March 27, India became the 4th country after US, China, Russia, to test the Anti-Satellite missile capability under Mission Shakti.
  • The ASAT test demonstrated India’s capability to destroy a satellite in the low earth orbit using a missile.

 

India’s position on weaponisation of outer space

  • Principle
    • India in principle opposes the weaponsiation of space.
  • Party to Outer Space Treaty
    • India became a party to Outer Space Treaty, 1967 when it ratified the agreement in 1982
    • While Outer Space Treaty advocates the peaceful use of outer space, it does not prevent arms race in space.
  • PAROS
    • India has been pushing for an international binding agreement to prevent arms race in space.
    • The Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) is a UN resolution that bans weaponisation of space.
    • However it is yet to see the light of the day due to opposition from US and Israel.
  • UNGA 69/33
    • UNGA resolution 69/32 deals with the ‘No First Placement of Weapons on Outer Space’.
    • India supports UNGA 69/32 but sees it only as an interim measure.
  • PPWT
    • China and Russia have presented a draft treaty on “prevention of the placement of weapons in outer space, and the prevention of the threat or use of force in outer space” (PPWT).
    • India has welcomed the treaty.
  • India’s response to Chinese ASAT test in 2007
    • India had responded to Chinese ASAT test in 2007 reiterating that such tests undermine the process of arriving at a longstanding international consensus on peaceful uses of outer space.

 

Justification of ASAT Test

  • Despite the aforesaid position of India on weaponisation of Outer Space and its peaceful use, India conducted the ASAT test for the following reasons.

 

Deterrence to Emerging space threat

  • India’s space assets under the INSAT, IRS, IRNSS systems are significant for socio-economic development of the country.
  • China has developed counter-space capabilities in response to US’s efforts.
  • Thus ASAT test signifying the embryonic counter-space capability of India is a necessity to protect the space assets we have thus acting as a deterrent to any threat to them.

 

Absence of binding international agreement

  • The logjam over PAROS and PPWT treaties has necessitated India to build a deterrent.
  • The absence of a binding international agreement over weaponisation of space necessitated building of counter-space capability lest it will lead to lopsided balance of power.
  • This view is shared by France which stands against destabilized arms race in space and peaceful use of outer space.

Note: In an earlier article we have comprehensively covered ASAT test under Mission Shakti.

https://edgelms.vajiramandravi.com/current-affairs/successful-anti-satellite-missile-test-puts-india-in-elite-club/5c9c840d4c455757fc37561d/

Section : Science & Tech

What are Mutual Funds? What is the Total Expense Ratio (TER)?

What are Mutual Funds?

  • A mutual fund is an investment vehicle made up of a pool of money collected from many investors for the purpose of investing in securities such as stocks, bonds, money market instruments and other assets.
  • Mutual funds are operated by professional money managers, who allocate the fund’s investments and attempt to produce capital gains and/or income for the fund’s investors.
  • Mutual Funds are regulated by SEBI.

What is the Total Expense Ratio (TER)?

  • The total expense ratio (TER) is a measure of the total costs associated with managing and operating an investment fund, such as a mutual fund.
  • These costs consist primarily of management fees and additional expenses, such as trading fees, legal fees, auditor fees and other operational expenses.
  • For example, if a fund charges 2% as the TER, and the fund produces a gross profit (return) of 15% in a given year, the investor would get 13% – which is the gross profit minus the TER – in their hands.
  • Therefore, TER is an important number to focus on since it has a direct impact on their returns.
  • It is calculated by dividing the total annual cost by the fund’s average assets over that year, and is expressed as a percentage.

What is an ‘Assets Under Management – AUM’?

  • Assets under management (AUM) is the total market value of assets that an investment company or financial institution manages on behalf of investors.
  • Assets under management definitions and formulas vary by company.
  • Some financial institutions include bank deposits, mutual funds and cash in their calculations. Others limit it to funds under discretionary management, where the investor assigns responsibility to the company.

 

What was the issue?

  • It has been argued that while the MF industry has benefited in terms of growth in revenues from the rise in AUM, the benefits had not been passed on adequately to investors, even as their expenditure on managing the fund rose marginally.

Solution- TER Rationalisation

  • The Sebi Board took note of the benefits of the proposal with respect to sharing of economies of scale, lowering the cost for mutual fund investors, bringing in transparency in appropriation of expenses, and reducing mis-selling and churning.

What are the changes made by SEBI now to TER?

  • SEBI has, across the board, lowered the TER that a fund house can charge its investors.
  • The reduction is higher for larger funds and lower for smaller funds — larger and smaller being a measure of how much money a fund manages.
  • The reduction has been anywhere between 0.01% to 0.44%.
  • For very small funds, SEBI has actually increased the allowable expense ratio a little.
  • However, in general, mutual fund investors should see a marginal reduction in the fee they were paying, which would mean they would see an increase in the returns they were getting.
  • Also, SEBI has specified the expense ratio for funds larger than the largest funds today, in anticipation of market growth.

How investor will benefit?

  • Investors can save up to 80-90 basis points in charges, every year, on their AUM.
    • For example, the SBI Bluechip Fund (AUM over Rs 20,000 crore) has a TER of 2.35%.
    • Under the new rules, the TER will come down to 1.4% (plus the additional TER on account of inflows from B-15 cities), and thus the investor will save between 80 and 90 basis points.
    • An investment of Rs 1 lakh in the scheme, growing at, say, 10% for 20 years with a TER of 2.35%, would have grown to a corpus of Rs 4.18 lakh; the same investment with a TER of 1.5% would grow into a corpus of Rs 4.99 lakh.

How the changes will affect mutual fund houses?

  • For mutual fund companies, there will definitely be a loss of revenue, as there will be for other participants in the industry, such as individual financial advisors and distributors.
  • The magnitude of the impact will be known only after we find out how the AMCs deal with the situation – in terms of, how much of the reduction they are passing on to the distributors and how much they are taking on in their own balance sheets.
Section : Economics

What is PETN?

What is PETN?

  • It is a highly explosive organic compound belonging to the chemical family same as of nitroglycerin and nitrocellulose.

 

Origin of PETN

  • PETN was first prepared and patented in 1894 by the explosives manufacturer Rheinisch-Westfalische Sprengstoff in Germany.
  • It was introduced as a commercial explosive after World War I.

 

How does it operate?

  • PETN does not go on its own and is stable, safe to handle
  • The explosive needs a secondary detonating mechanism to produce heat or a shockwave, which can detonate the explosive.

 

Potency

  • It is a sensitive compound and is easily detonated by an appropriate mechanical shock and is one of the most powerful explosive materials known.

 

Usage

  • The deadly explosive is valued in both military and civilian applications for its shattering force and efficiency.
  • Mixed with the extremely powerful compound RDX in an appropriate solvent, PETN forms a plastic explosive mixture known as Semtex.

 

Versatile weapon

  • PETN is a valued weapon in terrorist bombings, because of:
  1. Its explosive power.
  2. Its ability to be moulded and fitted into unusual packages.
  3. It cannot be easily detected because of its colourless crystals.
  4. Difficulty of detecting the organic compound with X-ray and other conventional equipment.
  5. It can be kept hidden in a sealed container or an electrical equipment and can easily surpass security checks.
Section : Science & Tech

In Focus: Sub Mission on Agricultural Mechanization

In Focus: Sub Mission on Agricultural Mechanization

  • The Sub-Mission on Agricultural Mechanisation (SMAM) was introduced in April 2014 with an aim to have inclusive growth of farm mechanisation to boost productivity.
  • The scheme is implemented in all the states, to promote the usage of farm mechanization and increase the ratio of farm power to cultivable unit area up to 2.5 kW/ha.

Significance of Agricultural Mechanisation

  • It helps in increasing production through timely farm operations and cut in operations by ensuring better management of inputs.

Mission Objectives

  • The objectives of the Scheme are-
    • Increasing the reach of farm mechanization to small and marginal farmers and to the regions where availability of farm power is low.
    • Promoting ‘Custom Hiring Centres’ to offset the adverse economies of scale arising due to small landholding and high cost of individual ownership.
    • Creating hubs for hi-tech & high value farm equipments.
    • Creating awareness among stakeholders through demonstration and capacity building activities.
    • Ensuring performance testing and certification at designated testing centers located all over the country.

Mission Strategy

  • To achieve the above objectives, the Mission will adopt the following strategies:
    • Conduct performance testing for various farm machineries and equipments at the four Farm Machinery Training and Testing Institutes (FMTTIs), designated State Agricultural Universities (SAUs) and ICAR institutions.
    • Promote farm mechanization among stakeholders by way of onfield and off-field training and demonstrations.
    • Provide financial assistance to farmers for procurement of farm machinery and implements.
    • Establish custom hiring centres of location and crop specific farm machinery and implements.
    • Provide financial assistance to small and marginal farmers for hiring machinery and implements in low mechanized regions.

Mission Components

  1. Promotion and Strengthening of Agricultural Mechanization through Training, Testing and Demonstration
    • Aims to ensure performance testing of agricultural machinery and equipment, capacity building of farmers and end users and promoting farm mechanization through demonstrations.

  2. Demonstration, Training and Distribution of Post Harvest Technology and Management (PHTM)
    • Aims at popularizing technology for primary processing, value addition, low cost scientific storage/transport and the crop by-product management through demonstrations, capacity building of farmers and end users. Provides financial assistance for establishing PHT units.

  3. Financial Assistance for Procurement of Agriculture Machinery and Equipment
    • Promotes ownership of various agricultural machinery & equipments as per norms of assistance.

  4. Establish Farm Machinery Banks for Custom Hiring
    • Provides suitable financial assistance to establish Farm Machinery Banks for Custom Hiring for appropriate locations and crops.

  5. Establish Hi-Tech, High Productive Equipment Hub for Custom Hiring
    • Provides financial assistance to set up hi-tech machinery hubs for high value crops like sugarcane, cotton etc.

  6. Promotion of Farm Mechanization in Selected Villages
    • Provides financial assistance to promote appropriate technologies and to set up Farm Machinery Banks in identified villages in the states.

  7. Financial Assistance for Promotion of Mechanized Operations/hectare Carried out Through Custom Hiring Centres
    • Provides financial assistance on per hectare basis to the beneficiaries hiring machinery/equipments from custom hiring centres in low mechanized areas.

  8. Promotion of Farm Machinery and Equipment in North-Eastern Region
    • Extends financial assistance to beneficiaries in high-potential but low mechanised states of north-east.

Funding Provisions

  • SMAM will have Central Sector Schemes under component No.1 & 2 (given above) in which Government of India contributes 100%.
  • It will be a Centrally Sponsored Schemes are covered under component No. 3 to 8 (given above) including Administrative and Flexi funds in which Government of India contributes 60% and states contribute 40% except North eastern states and Himalayan regions states where it is 90 %(Central Share) and 10% (State Share). For Union Territories, it is 100% centre share.

About Indus Water Treaty

About Indus Water Treaty

  • It is the treaty between the Government of India and the Government of Pakistan with twin objectives-
  • Water sharing of river Indus and its tributaries between the upper riparian India and lower riparian Pakistan.
  • Optimum utilisation of the waters of the Indus system of rivers.
  • It was signed under the arbitration of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (which is now World Bank) in Pakistan in 1960.
  • The Indus Waters Treaty is one of the most liberal water distribution agreements between the two countries as it gives India 20% of the water from the Indus River System and the rest 80% to Pakistan.

Rivers Covered under the Treaty

  • The treaty covers the water distribution and sharing rights of-
  • Three Eastern Riversof Ravi, Beas and Sutlej and their tributaries
  • Three Western Riversof Indus, Jhelum and Chenab and their tributaries

Major Provisions of the Treaty

  • Water Sharing
    • Under this treaty, India got control exclusive over all the waters of the eastern rivers of Beas, Ravi and Sutlej.
    • Pakistan got control over the waters of the western rivers of Indus, Chenab and Jhelum except for except for specified domestic, non-consumptive and agricultural use permitted to India.
    • This implies that-
      • All the waters of the three eastern rivers, averaging around 33 million acre-feet (MAF), were allocated to India for exclusive use.
      • The waters of the western rivers averaging to around 135 MAF were allocated to Pakistan except for ‘specified domestic, non-consumptive and agricultural use permitted to India,’ according to the treaty.
      • India has also been given the right to generate hydroelectricity through the run of the river (RoR) projects on the western rivers which, subject to specific criteria for design and operation, is unrestricted.


  • Permanent Indus Commission
    • A Permanent Indus Commission was set up by the United Nations for resolving any disputes that may arise in water sharing, with a mechanism for arbitration to resolve conflicts amicably.
    • As per the Treaty, both India and Pakistan have created a permanent post of Commissioner for Indus Waters which together constitutes the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC).
    • It is also entrusted with the implementation of the Treaty.
    • The water commissioners of Pakistan and India are required to meet twice a year and arrange technical visits to projects’ sites and critical river head works.

  • Information Exchange
    • Both sides are required to exchange information related to river flows observed by them, not later than three months of their observation.
    • They also exchange specified information on agricultural use every year and the quantum of water being used under the treaty.
    • India is also under obligation to supply information of its storage and hydroelectric projects as specified.

Major Issues of IWT

  • In 2016, Pakistan had approached the World Bank raising concerns of India’s Kishenganga and Ratle hydroelectric power projects being constructed in Jammu & Kashmir region. India then requested for neutral experts to inspect the plants. The World Bank permitted India to proceed with the projects.
  • India also expresses its objection to Pakistan’s Left Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD) project which passes through the Rann of Kutch in India’s Gujarat. The lower riparian state is in India and hence it needs to be given all details. There is also the danger of flooding in the state of Gujarat.
  • The Indian government has decided some years back to review the suspension of Tulbul project. The project got suspended in 1987 after Pakistan’s objection.
  • Post Uri attacks on India, Indian Prime Minister Modi remarked that blood and water cannot flow simultaneously which was an indication that India can rethink the provision of the IWT.
  • India does not use its entire share of water it is entitled to as per the provisions of the IWT. About 2 million acre feet (MAF) of water from the River Ravi flows into Pakistan unutilised by India. However, GOI is taking slew of measures for that.
  • After Pulwama attacks in 2019, the Indian government decided that all water flowing into Pakistan from the three eastern rivers, will be diverted to Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan for different uses.

India’s Utilization of Eastern Rivers

  • To utilise the waters of the Eastern rivers which have been allocated to India for exclusive use, India has constructed-
    • Bhakra Dam on Satluj
    • Pong and Pandoh Dam on Beas
    • Thein (Ranjitsagar) on Ravi

  • These storage works, together with other works like Beas-Sutlej Link, Madhopur-Beas Link, and Indira Gandhi Nahar Project have helped India utilise nearly the entire share (95 per cent) of the eastern river waters.
  • However, about two MAF of water annually from Ravi is reported to be still flowing unutilised to Pakistan.
  • To stop the flow of these waters, the Centre is currently taking steps like-
    • Resumption of construction of Shahpurkandi project
    • Construction of Ujh multipurpose project
    • Second Ravi-Beas link below Ujh

In focus: Clean Meat

In focus: Clean Meat

Introduction

  • Clean meat or synthetic meat or lab-grown meat is a term used for transgenic meat prepared ex-vivo in the laboratory.
  • The stem cells taken out of the body of the animals are cultured in a petri dish giving rise to cell-based cultured meat.

Advantages

  • Equivalent
    • Clean meat is equivalent to its conventional counterpart in terms of nutrition, taste, smell and texture.
  • Animal welfare
    • Because of the difference in production technique, clean meat can end animal slaughter and thus ensure animal welfare.
  • Reduces carbon foot print
    • Clean meat requires far less resources compared to animal rearing including land, water, fodder etc and thus reducing carbon footprint.
  • Fight anti-biotic resistance
    • Clean meat can completely ward of rampant use of anti-biotics used in animal rearing and thus help fight antibiotic resistance.
  • Fortification of food
    • Lab-cultured meat can further be genetically modified to augment its nutritional content and thus help in food fortification.
  • Waste management
    • Clean meat eliminates the need for waste management that is a major area of concern in slaughter houses.
  • Food security
    • Clean meat is potential solution for nutritional security of population.
  • Fight Climate change
    • By significantly reducing methane emissions in animal rearing, clean meat can alleviate climate change to some extent.
  • Sustainable food systems
    • By creating a source for affordable proteins, clean meat holds potential for sustainable food system.
Section : Science & Tech

About Girija Devi and Thumri

About Girija Devi

  • She was an eminent Indian classical vocalist representing the Benaras gharana.
  • She was proficient singer of different genres of Hindustani vocal music like Khyal, Thumri, Dadra, Chaiti and Kajari.
  • She is known as the ‘Queen of Thumri’.

 

Awards

  • She was a genius in her sphere of Indian classical vocal rendition.
  • She had been felicitated with the Padma Shree (1972), Padma Bhushan (1989) and Padma Vibhushan (2016), which are among the highest civilian awards of India.
  • The Tansen award named after Tansen (one of the nine gems in the court of Emperor Akhbar) was also conferred to her.

 

Thumri

  • It is a Hindustani classical music.

 

Origin

  • It originated in the Eastern part of Uttar Pradesh, mainly Lucknow and Benares, around 18th century AD.
  • It was believed to be first patronised in the court of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah of Lucknow.
  • It was developed by the famous musician Sadiq Ali Shah.

 

Influence

  • It is believed to have influenced by Hori, Kajri and Dadra popular in Eastern Uttar Pradesh.
  • Some people consider that an older musical presentation called ‘chalika'(described in the Harivansha), to be the precursor of Thumri.

 

Theme

  • It is a romantic and erotic style of signing.
  • The song composition is based on the romantic-devotional literature inspired by the bhakti movement.
  • The text is usually derived from the Radha-Krishna theme and is of primary importance.

 

Style of singing

  • The songs are usually sung in slower tempo, giving more importance to the lyrics with short alaps.
  • They are composed in lighter ragas and have simpler talas.
  • It is primarily a vocal style of romance music written from the perspective of the woman and sung in a literary dialect of Hindi called Braj Bhasha.
  • The songs are generally written in Braj Bhasha, Khari Boli and Urdu.

 

Instruments

  • A Thumri recital typically consists of one or two male/female vocalists accompanied by sarangi and/or harmonium, tanpura and tabla.

 

Gharanas

  • There are three main gharanas of Thumri:
  1. Benaras
  2. Lucknow
  3. Patiala

 

Eminent personalities

  • Qadar Piya, Sanad Piya, Lallan Piya, Kenwar Shyam, Nawaj Wajid Ali Shah are well known Thumri singers of the Lucknow Gharana.
  • Rasoolan Bai, Siddeshwari Devi and Girja Devi are exponents of the Benaras style of Thumri.
  • Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan was one of the most famous singer who belonged to the Patiala gharana.
Section : History & Culture

In brief: Meteorites

In brief: Meteorites

Introduction

  • Meteoroids are chunks of rocks in space just like asteroids. (only difference is size)
  • When these meteoroids strikes the earth’s atmosphere, they appear are flash of light called meteor.
  • In its travel to earth it the meteor survives it is called as meteorite.
  • Thus meteorites are inter-planetary rocks that have been formed elsewhere in the solar system but have reached the earth.

Significance of Meteorites

  • Since the meteorites have note undergone the geological processes on earth or any other planet, they are said to be pristine objects formed at the beginning of solar system.
  • Thus Meteorites are significant in revealing the origin and evolution of Solar System.
  • This is done by studying the elements they contain.

Basics

Origin of elements

  • Any star including our own sun basically survives on the fusion reaction in its core.
  • Different elements we see in nature are formed by different processes.
  • In our Sun, hydrogen atoms are undergoing fusion reaction to form helium at extremely high temperatures.
  • In massive stars (1000 times bigger than sun), the heaviest element formed due to fusion reaction is Iron.
  • Note: The maximum temperatures that can be achieved in the core of the star is only enough to make iron.
  • Elements heavier than Iron are formed are formed in various other events such as
  • Super nova explosion
  • This is because due to high pressure of explosion leads to higher temperatures making fusion of heavier elements possible
  • Solar flares
  • These are high energy pulses released by sun’s corona.
  • The solar flares are violent eruptions of sun that occur at intense magnetic fields at the corona. (called sunspots)
  • A solar flare can have as much energy as 100 trillion nuclear bombs.
  • Such high energy can result in fusion of heavier elements.

The study of Efremovka Meteorite

  • The meteorite found in Efremovka is known to be the one of the most pristine meteorites formed during early stages of solar system.
  • The early elements formed during solar flare eruptions during early ages of sun (about 5 lakh years old) are calcium and aluminium.
  • The study shows how meteorites ended up containing beryllium-10.
  • Beryllium-10 is known to form due to fission of oxygen or carbon.
  • The study of the Efremovka meteorite has revealed how beryllium-9 decayed into beryllium-7 which in turn fused to form beryllium-10 in the meateorite.

Conclusion

  • So far this was believed that beryllium-10 formed only during a supernova event.
  • Now the study has confirmed that the Solar flares of early sun had so much energy that it fused lighter elements into heavier ones
Section : Science & Tech

Why Soyabean is key to MP

Headline : Why Soyabean is key to MP

Details :

The Topic

  • Significance of Soyabean for Madhya Pradesh has been explained.

 

History of Soyabean in India

  • Malwa is India’s Midwest US and Indore its Chicago and that’s only because of soyabean.
  • Soyabean in India has an American connection.
  • The leguminous oilseed was hardly grown in the country till the mid-sixties.
  • The first yellow-seeded soyabean varieties were introduced by University of Illinois scientists, who conducted field trials at the Jawaharlal Nehru Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya (JNKVV) in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh.
  • Many of these varieties — with names such as Bragg, Improved Pelican, Clark 63, Lee and Hardee — were released for direct cultivation.
  • By 1975-76, the all-India area under soyabean had touched around 90,000 hectares but the revolution took place only after that.
  • The strains imported from US Midwest had a maturity period of 115-120 days from seed to grain.
  • In 1994, JNKVV released an indigenously bred variety, JS 335 and later JS 9560 and JS 2034.

 

Story of Soyabeancrop in Madhya Pradesh

  • The plateau region of western MP — covering the districts of Dewas, Indore, Dhar, Ujjain, Jhabua, Ratlam, Mandasur, Neemuch, Shajapur and Rajgarh — traditionally grew only a single un-irrigated crop of wheat or chana (chickpea) during the rabi winter season.
  • Farmers mostly kept their lands fallow during the kharif monsoon season.
  • The reason was the monsoon’s unpredictability: Even if the rains arrived on time, it could be followed by long dry spells.
  • Sometimes, it rained so much that the fields would get waterlogged, damaging the standing crop.
  • The best option, then, was to allow the soil to retain water from the monsoon rain and take a rabi crop using this residual moisture.
  • The change came with the advent of tube-wells in the mid-seventies.
  • The Malwa plateau is made up of hard basaltic rocks of the Deccan Trap.
  • Since these had aquifers with unutilised groundwater in many places, it was possible to drill tube-wells and grow irrigated wheat.
  • Farmers also now felt no need to conserve rainwater during monsoon.
  • They could, instead, raise a kharif crop on this previously fallow land and that kharif crop was soyabean.

Reasons for selection of Soyabean by MP

  • It could tolerate water-logging for 2-3 days and survive dry spells for over three weeks without much yield loss.
  • Being a legume, its root nodules harboured atmospheric nitrogen-fixing bacteria.
  • When harvested, it left behind 40-45 kg of nitrogen per hectare — equivalent to nearly two 50-kg urea bags — for the succeeding crop.
  • Soyabean’s main advantage, though, was duration.
  • The indigenously bred variety, JS 335 not only matured in just 95-100 days, but yielded 25-30 quintals per hectare, which was 5-10 quintals more.
  • The crop duration fell further to 80-90 days with varieties like JS 9560 and JS 2034.
  • It could grow well in the Malwaregion’s black cotton soil and didn’t require much effort; farmers simply had to prepare the field, sow the seeds, do some basic intercultural and weeding operations, and harvest after three months.
  • Farmers were assured of a minimum yield even under waterlogged or drought conditions.
  • The relative hardiness and shorter maturity — at least 10-15 days less than jowar (sorghum) or maize — made soyabean the ideal kharif crop.

 

Facts regarding Soyabean production in India and MP’s share in it

  • By 1979-80, the country’s soyabean area had reached 0.5 million hectares.
  • It rose further to 2.25 mh in 1989-90 and 6 mh towards the end of the century, with MP accounting for 70 per cent.
  • Within MP, soyabean cultivation spread to other districts as well, especially in the neighbouring Vindhya plateau (Sehore, Raisen, Bhopal, Vidisha, Sagar and Guna) and the Narmadapuram division (Harda, Hoshangabad and Betul).
  • Even in 2017, Malwa’s share in MP’s 5 mh (out of India’s 10.2 mh) was well over 50 per cent.
  • Soyabean-wheat became the dominant crop cycle in this region, just as for the US Midwest or paddy-wheat in the case of Punjab and Haryana.

Significance of soyabean for Madhya Pradesh

  • In Malwa, soyabean’srelevance even shaped electoral outcomes, which may be compared to sugarcane in western Uttar Pradesh.
  • Soyabean had only 18-20 per cent oil content, as against 40-45 per cent in mustard or groundnut.
  • The real potential lay in the balance 80-82 per cent de-oiled cake and extractions, also called meal.
  • The protein-rich meal could be exported out, especially to South-East/East Asia where it was used as an ingredient for animal feed.
  • Soon the businessman spotted an export market for Indian soya-meal andstarted setting up solvent extraction plants for processing soyabean.
  • The real boom in Soyabean production in Madhya Pradesh happened only from the mid-2000s, which was when Shivraj Singh Chouhan also took over as MP Chief Minister.
  • Between 2002-03 and 2013-14, the value of soya-meal shipments from India soared from just over Rs 1,360 crore to almost Rs 14,500 crore.
  • As the fortunes of the industry rose, realisations from oil, too, went up — so did that of soyabean growers in Malwa and the neighbouring regions of MP.
  • During this period, the average price of soyabean in Indore market climbed from Rs 1,353 to Rs 3,667 per quintal.
  • All these factors provided political mileage for two consequent terms to the running Shivraj Singh Chauhan’s government.

 

Issues with soyabean and collapse of its boom

  • The Soyabean boom collapsed after 2013-14, along with a crash in global agri-commodity prices.
  • The period since then, coinciding with Chouhan’s third term, has seen soya-meal exports plunge to Rs 1,900 crore in 2015-16, before recovering somewhat in the following years.
  • Soyabeanrealisations have also fallen to Rs 2,900-3,000 per quintal levels.
  • The problem is not just economic, but also ecological.
  • The soyabean-wheat crop cycle has led to groundwater overexploitation, more so in Malwa.
  • The initial digging of bore-wells was a success, but now you need to dig deeper and deeper, as the top aquifers have been exhausted.
  • Moreover, soyabean itself has over the years become prone to pest and disease attack.
  • Yellow mosaic virus was once a problem confined to Northwest India but today, it has come even to soyabean in Central India and we saw it particularly in 2015.
  • There are also fungal diseases such as collar rot, rhizoctonia root rot and pod blight.
  • The pests that are increasingly causing crop damage include white fly (carrier of yellow mosaic virus), stem fly (whose larva feeds on the inner part of the stem, making it hollow), girdle beetle and tobacco caterpillar.
  • The main reason for pest and disease susceptibility is the absence of crop rotation and growing the same variety year after year.

 

Impact on politics

  • The collapse of soyabean boom could play out a major role in decision in the current Assembly elections.
  • It has to be seen if the ruling BJP could win the Malwa region as was in 2013.
  • However, the role of a crop grown in five mh in MP certainly cannot be ignored.

 

Way forward

  • Crop rotation: It would help manage organic soil fertility and also help avoid or reduce problems with soil-borne diseases and some soil-dwelling insects.
  • Herbicide/pesticide resistant crops: It would enable farmers to use certain herbicides that will kill weeds without harming their crop.
  • Appropriate support price: It could reduce the stress of farmers due to loss occurred to them.
Section : Economics

In Focus: NASA’s Mars Mission with Perseverance rover

Part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach:

  • The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of America’s larger Moon to Mars exploration approach that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.
  • NASA is planning to send the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024.
  • Thereafter, NASA will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028 through NASA’s Artemis program.

In Focus: NASA’s Mars Mission with Perseverance rover

  • By February 2021, the Perseverance rover is expected on land on Mars in Jezero Crater.
  • The 2,260-pound, 10-feet long rover is the biggest and heaviest robotic Mars rover NASA has ever built.

Mission:

  • The Perseverance rover’s astrobiology mission is to:
    • Explore the diverse geology of its landing site, Jezero Crater  
    • Seek out signs of past microscopic life on Mars
      • Jezero Crater is the perfect place to search for signs of ancient life.

    • Demonstrate key technologies that will help us prepare for future robotic and human exploration.

HelicopterIngenuity:

  • Perseverance is also carrying a small helicopter named Ingenuity.
  • If successful, Ingenuity will be the first aircraft to fly in a controlled way on another planet.
  • A technology demonstrator, Ingenuity’s goal is a pure flight test – it carries no science instruments.
  • Over 30 sols (31 Earth days), the helicopter will attempt up to five powered, controlled flights.
  • The data acquired during these flight tests will help the next generation of Mars helicopters provide an aerial dimension to Mars explorations – potentially scouting for rovers and human crews, transporting small payloads, or investigating difficult-to-reach destinations.

MOXIE instrument to make Oxygen:

  • The MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment) instrument will attempt to demonstrate a technology that converts carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere into oxygen.
  • It could lead to future versions of MOXIE technology that become staples on Mars missions, generating oxygen that could be used by astronauts as rocket propellant and for breathing.
  • The ability to do so will be a critical consideration in planning human landings and bases on Mars.

Other Mars rovers of NASA:

  • Perseverance is NASA’s 5th rover to Mars.
  • The previous rovers were named Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity.
    • Sojourner finished its mission in 1997.  
    • Spirit was active from 2004 to 2010.
    • Opportunity’s mission was declared complete in February 2019 after 15 years of work when NASA lost contact with the vehicle.
      • Note: Spirit and Opportunity were launched on the same NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission launched in 2003 and landed on Mars in 2004.

    • Curiosity continues to explore the planet. 

In Focus: Smog @UpscExpress

In Focus: Smog

  • Very simply, smogis a type of air pollution that reduces visibility.
  • The term “smog” was first used in the early 1900s to describe a mix of smoke and fog, when smoke came from burning of fossil fuels like coal in thermal power plants.

Sulphurous Smog

  • It is also called “London smog”.
  • It results from a high concentration of sulphur oxidesin the air and is caused by the use of sulphur-bearing fossil fuels, particularly coal.
  • This type of smog is aggravated by dampness and a high concentration of suspended particulate matter in the air.

Photochemical Smog

  • Another type of smog is photochemical smog.
  • Photochemical smog is produced when sunlight reacts with nitrogen oxides (NOX) and at least one volatile organic compound (VOC) in the atmosphere.
  • Nitrogen oxides come from car exhaust, coal power plants, and factory emissions.
  • VOCs are released from gasoline, paints, and many cleaning solvents.
  • When sunlight hits VOCs and NOX, they form a combination of airborne particles and ground-level ozone which is called as smog.
  • Impact of Photochemical Smog:
    • The photochemical smog causes a light brownish coloration of the atmosphere, reduced visibility, plantdamage, irritation of the eyes, and respiratory distress. 
    • Ozone in the lower levels of troposphere can damage lung tissue, and it is especially dangerous to people with respiratory illnesses like asthma.
    • It can also cause itchy, burning eyes.
    • Smog is unhealthy to humans and animals, and it can kill plants.
    • It makes the sky brown or gray and reduces visibility.

In Focus: Smog Towers

  • A smog tower is a structure designed to work as a large-scale air purifier.
  • Smog towers are fitted with multiple layers of filters which trap fine dust particles suspended in the air as it passes through them.
  • Air is drawn through fans installed at the top of the tower, passed through filters, and then released near the ground.

Examples of Smog Towers:

  • Smog towers have been experimented with in recent years in cities of Netherlands, China, South Korea and Poland.
  • First Smog Tower of World
    • The first such tower was erected in 2015, in Rotterdam, Netherlands, created by Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde.
    • It is a 7 metre-high ‘smog free tower’ which can filter 30,000 cubic metres of air per hour around it.

  • Smog Towers of China
    • Beijing has a smog tower.
    • Smog tower of Xian- The University of Minnesota has helped design a 100-metre high permanent smog tower in the Chinese city of Xian. This tower was completed in 2017, and is said to be the world’s biggest air purifier.

  • Delhi’s Smog Tower at Lajpat Nagar
    • The first ‘smog tower’ was installed at Lajpat Nagar Central Market of Delhi
    • It became operational in January 2020.
    • This smog tower has a height of around 20 ft.
    • It is estimated to purify the air within a circumference area of almost 500 meters to 750 meters. The purifier aims at treating 2,50,000 to 6,00000 cubic meter air per day and release fresh air in return.

About: Delhi’s Pollution Problem

  • Delhi and its suburbs have ranked among the most polluted cities in the world frequently since 2014, when the WHO declared Delhi the most polluted city in the world.
  • Pollution levels in Delhi increase dramatically during winter- on some days to nearly 10 times above the limits prescribed by WHO, posing a serious risk to vulnerable and also healthy populations.
  • However, an assessment by the CPCB shows that Delhi’s air quality has been improving every year since 2016, even as it remains above acceptable limits, as a result of the pollution control measures being taken
  • Causes of Air Pollution in Delhi
    • Delhi’s air pollution is largely because sources of emissions from construction work, industrial and vehicular pollution in and around the city.
    • The situation is aggravated at the start of winter by smoke from stubble-burning in northwestern states, coupled with unfavourable meteorological conditions, such as calm winds, low temperatures, and fewer sunny days.

  • Measures Taken for Mitigating Air Pollution in Delhi
    • Persuading farmers in Punjab and Haryana to use mechanical alternatives to stubble-burning.
    • Closure of thermal power stations in Delhi.
    • Making industries use piped natural gas, in addition to control measures taken under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) when pollution levels spike.

Effectiveness of Smog Towers

  • Experts have claimed that the smog towers in Delhi would create “clean air zones” in the city.
  • An estimate made of their impact on air quality shows a tower would reduce 50% of the particulate matter load in an area of 1 kilometre in the direction of the wind, as well as 200 metres each along the sides of the tower and against the direction of the wind.
  • Delhi’s Environment Department is of the view these smog towers may not be useful for the whole city, but they can be useful in creating ‘clean air area’ zones in different parts of the city.
  • Another expert panel set up by the Centre’s Department of Science and Technology had estimated that 213 smog towers may be required across the whole city of Delhi.

When Indira banked on socialism

Headline : When Indira banked on socialism

Details :

In News

  • It’s now 50 years since the Indian government nationalized the 14 biggest commercial lenders on 20 July, 1969.

 

News Summary:

  • The Indian financial sector underwent a massive shift 50 years ago, when the government nationalized the 14 biggest commercial lenders.
  • The official history of the Reserve Bank of India describes bank nationalization as the single-most important economic policy decision taken by any Indian government after 1947.
  • The banks that were nationalised included Allahabad Bank, Bank of Baroda, Bank of India, Bank of Maharashtra, Central Bank of India, Canara Bank, Dena Bank, Indian Bank, Indian Overseas Bank, Punjab National Bank, Syndicate Bank, UCO Bank, Union Bank and United Bank of India.
  • Thereafter, in 1980, six more banks that were nationalised included Punjab and Sind Bank, Vijaya Bank, Oriental Bank of India, Corporate Bank, Andhra Bank and New Bank of India.
  • It was an outcome of the pursuance of the socialist doctrine which advocated public ownership of the ‘commanding heights’. What started off initially as public sector enterprises in the manufacturing sector was expanded to include banks which were the facilitators of finance for growth.

 

Events leading up to the nationalisation of banks:

  • Nationalization is the process of transforming private assets into public assets by bringing them under the public ownership of a national government or state.
  • Collapse of private banks:
    • The idea of nationalising banks had been around for much of the 1960s as private banks collapsed at an alarming rate.
    • More than 360 banks had failed between 1947 and 1955 — the rate of collapse was 40 banks a year. The trend continued through the 1950s and the first half of 1960s. Banks were failing largely due to speculative financial activities.
    • The collapse of banks were causing distress among people, who were losing their hard-earned money in the absence of a strong government support and legislative protection to their money.
  • Bank consolidation:
    • This had forced Morarji Desai, the then finance minister, to launch a massive bank consolidation drive. It brought down the number of banks from 328 in 1960 to 68 in 1965.

Bank Nationalisation process:

  • Opposing the idea led by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of nationalisation of banks, the finance minister, Morarji Desai, a known advocate of promoting private enterprise, to quit.
  • Nationalisation was confined to the 14 largest Indian-owned banks, categorised as “major” by the RBI. These were banks with a deposit base of over Rs 50 crore, which between them accounted for 85% of bank deposits.
  • The nationalisation was challenged in the Supreme Court, which struck it down in February, 1970 on the grounds that it was discriminatory.
  • But the government overrode the SC order by bringing in a new ordinance four days later, that was subsequently replaced by the Banking Companies (Acquisition and Transfer of Undertakings ) Act, 1970.

 

Reasons for Nationalisation

Finance Growth

  • As finance was the means to bring about growth, it was felt that this important segment had to be under the purview of the government which was also running the Five Year Plan in parallel for achieving certain socialist goals relating to growth and development.

Expansion of credit

  • To ensure that credit was available to the rural sector and high priority areas like agriculture, small industry, exports, special castes, something the private banks had failed to provide.
  • Between 1951 and 1968, industry’s share in bank loans had nearly doubled to 68%. During the period, agriculture received just around 2% of bank credit. Given that this was also the time when the Green Revolution was being pushed, it was indeed a key factor.
  • There was a feeling that these banks worked as monopolies and controlled the flow of credit. Hence, just like how the Monopolistic and Restrictive Trade Practice (MRTP) was used to curb the undue growth of private enterprises, nationalisation was to eradicate the same and make it more egalitarian.

Curb Regional Disparities

  • There were stark regional disparities in terms of uneven growth which had to be addressed. This was done even in the industrial sphere, where concessions were given for setting up enterprises in backward areas.
  • As an extension bank nationalisation intended to ensure the spread of banking to all states and regions and bring about balanced economic development.

Job creation

  • Expanding on bank branch network across the country, the system would also generate jobs as more manpower would be required. Hence, there would be an impetus to job creation.

 

 

Impact

Positives

Welfare Measures

  • Several programmes of the government have been driven by the PSBs by virtue of their ownership pattern.
  • For instance, the Jan Dhan programme of the government which aims at giving a basic bank account to all has been engineered and fulfilled by the PSBs as private banks do not find it attractive enough.
  • Assistance for constructing toilets under Swachh Bharat programme, Crop insurance schemes were implemented through banks.
  • Direct transfer benefit scheme meant people got subsidy benefits directly in their bank accounts.
  • All of this was possible as public sector banks enjoyed government protection for 45 years.

Expansion

  • The nationalisation was a major step which helped expand banking. Bank nationalisation helped take banking to newer areas and rural areas.
  • The public sector bank (PSB) system is still dominant and accounts for two-third of the total deposits and credit in the system
  • In July 1969, at the time of nationalisation of banks, there were just 8,262 bank branches in the country. At the end of June 2018, state- owned banks alone had built a network of branches or a franchise of over 90,000 (over 29,000 in rural areas) and over 1.45 lakh ATMs while private banks had 28,805 branches.

Infra development:

  • On the economic front too, there was a substantial contribution made by these banks to the growth of infrastructure in the country.

Savings:

  • Gross domestic savings almost doubled as a percentage of national income in the 1970s.
  • It led to formalisation of credit and product offerings

 

Negatives

Political and Administrative Inference

  • Many public sector banks badly suffered due to the political interference. It was seen in arranging loan meals. It ultimately resulted in huge non-performing assets (NPA) of these banks and inefficiency.
  • Today, even after a quarter century of liberalization, state-controlled banks still control 70% of the sector’s assets. As a consequence, credit is weak, the private sector is stunted and India has to endure periodic banking crises and bailouts at taxpayer expense.

Underlending

  • Banks, once nationalized, became risk-averse and hidebound, rarely lending to new firms.
  • Under-lending became chronic; manufacturers found themselves severely short of credit.
  • Bank officials did not have to care about finding and evaluating profitable firms. Instead they lent to those companies selected, for whatever reason, by their political bosses.

Reduced efficiency

  • Banking was not done on a professional and ethical grounds. It resulted into lower efficiency and poor profitability of banks.
  • In fact it converted many of the banking institutions in the loss making entities. The reasons were lethargic working, lack of accountability, lack of profit motive, political interference.

Complex rate structure

  • Credit planning also meant that the interest rate structure became incredibly complex. There were different rates of interest for different types of loans. The Indian central bank eventually ended up managing hundreds of interest rates.

Lost Decade

  • Bank nationalization was the pivot of a broader political economy strategy followed in the 1970s—a decade when economic growth barely outpaced population growth. Average incomes stagnated and it was a lost decade for India.

Misguided Economic Philosophy

  • What has remained unaltered in the last 50 years despite economic reforms is the political philosophy and belief echoed on banking — a commercial enterprise driven by a larger social purpose and political considerations.
  • It is on this that there has been a strong political consensus across successive governments irrespective of ideology, oblivious of the fact that the fundamental obligation of banks is to depositors.
Section : Economics

About GRAPES-3

About GRAPES-3

  • The Gamma Ray Astronomy PeV EnergieS phase-3 experiment is located at TIFR’s Cosmic Ray Laboratory in Ooty in Tamil Nadu.
  • It is a collaboration of the Indian Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, the Japanese Osaka City University and the Japanese Nagoya Women’s University.
  • GRAPES-3 (Gamma Ray Astronomy PeV EnergieS phase-3) is designed to study cosmic rays with an array of air shower detectors and a large area muon detector.
  • It aims to probe acceleration of cosmic rays in the four astrophysical settings.
  • The experiment had earlier detected the effect of a solar storm that hit the earth in June 2015.
  • The muon telescope has been successfully used to study acceleration of muons during large thunderstorm events.
  • GRAPES-3 also has an important role in understanding the propagation of storms from the L1 point (Lagrange point) to its impact on the Earth.

Note: Lagrange Points are positions in space where the gravitational forces of a two body system like the Sun and the Earth produce enhanced regions of attraction and repulsion.

 

How potential of thundercloud was measured using GRAPES-3?

  • Clouds have negative charges along their lower side and positive charges on top and can be several kilometres thick. However, thunderstorms last only for about 15-20 minutes, which makes it difficult to calculate the potential of thundercloud.
  • Muons and other particles are produced when cosmic rays bombard air particles surrounding the earth.
  • The muons produced can have positive or negative charge.
    • When a positively charged muon falls through a cloud, it loses energy. If its energy falls below 1 giga electron volt (GeV), which is the threshold of detection of the GRAPES-3 muon telescope, it goes undetected.
    • When a negatively charged muon falls through a cloud, it gains energy and gets detected.
  • Since there are more positive than negative muons produced in nature, the two effects don’t cancel out, and a net change in intensity is detected.
  • The researchers monitored the profiles of the clouds using four ground-based electric field monitors.
  • Only the cloud that crossed on December 1, 2014, had a profile that was simple enough to simulate.
  • Using a computer simulation and the observed muon intensity variations, the researchers worked out the relationship with the electric potential of the cloud.
  • They calculated that the potential of the cloud they were studying was approximately 1.3 GV, which no one has ever measured potential, size and height of a thundercloud simultaneously.

 

Way ahead

  • This method in future can be used to understand the terrestrial gamma ray bursts (huge flashes of light that accompany lightnings).
  • Learning about the properties of thunderclouds can be useful in navigation of aircraft and preventing short circuits. This serendipitous discovery might provide the means to making headway in this direction.

 

 

Section : Science & Tech
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In brief: Ancient monuments in India

In brief: Ancient monuments in India

What is Ancient monument?

  • Ancient Monument means any structure, erection or monument, or any tumulus or place of interment, or any cave, rock-sculpture, inscription or monolith which is of historical, archaeological or artistic interest and which has been in existence for not less than 100 years.
  • It includes
  • Remains of an ancient monument
  • Site of an ancient monument
  • Such portion of land adjoining the site of an ancient monument as may be required for fencing or covering in or otherwise preserving such monument
  • The means of access to, and convenient inspection of, an ancient monument

 

Protecting Ancient Monuments

  • Ancient monuments in India are protected by Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.
  • The Archeological Survey of India is the body entrusted with the responsibility of declaring and protecting ancient monuments in the country.
  • Currently, there are 3693 protected ancient monuments in India.
  • The states with highest number of ancient monuments include UP (745), Karnataka (506) and TN (413)

 

Latest addition

  • In December 2018, ASI declared the following 6 new sites as monuments of national importance
  1. Old High Court Building – Nagpur
  2. Haveli of Agha Khan – Agra
  3. Hathi Khana – Agra
  4. Neemrana Baori – Rajasthan’s Alwar district
  5. Group of Temples at Ranipur Jharail – Odisha’s Bolangir district
  6. Vishnu Temple – Pithoragarh district, Uttarkhand

 

 

In brief: Archaeological Survey of India

  • The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is an attached office under Ministry of Culture.
  • It is the premier organization for the archaeological researches and protection of cultural heritage of India.
  • The Archaeological Survey of India was established as a distinct department in 1871.
  • Alexander Cunningham was the first Director General of ASI.

Functions of ASI

  • Conducting archaeological explorations and excavations
  • Maintenance, conservation and protection of ancient monuments, archaeological sites and their remains
  • Implementation of Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 and Antiquities and Art Treasure Act, 1972
  • Epigraphical and numismatic (coins) studies
  • Training in Archaeology

About Ocean Energy

About Ocean Energy:

  • Oceans cover 70 percent of the earth’s surface and represent an enormous amount of energy in the form of wave, tidal, marine current and thermal gradient.
  • Deployment of ocean energy is currently limited but the sector has the potential to grow, fuelling economic growth, reduction of carbon footprint and creating jobs not only along the coasts but also inland along its supply chains.

Technologies exploring Ocean Energy:

  • Tidal Energy
    • Tidal energy is any form of renewable energy in which tidal action in the oceans is converted to electric power.
    • The tidal cycle occurs every 12 hours due to the gravitational force of the moon.
    • The difference in water height from low tide and high tide is potential energy.
    • Tidal water can be captured in a barrage across an estuary during high tide and forced through a hydro-turbine during low tide.
    • Examples: The Gulf of Cambay and the Gulf of Kutch in Gujarat on the west coast have the locations in the country where potential exists.
  • Identified Potential of Tidal Energy : 12455 MW, with potential locations identified at Khambat & Kutch regions, and large backwaters, where barrage technology could be used.

Limitations:

  • Tidal energy is considered as an intermittent source of energy, as it can only provide electricity when the tide surges, which happen about approximately 12 hours per day on average.
  • Tidal energy facilities need to be constructed close to land, which is also the place where technological solutions that come with them are being worked on.
  • The capital cost for tidal energy power plants is very high due to high civil construction and high power purchase tariff.
  • To capture sufficient power from the tidal energy potential, the height of high tide must be at least five meters (16 feet) greater than low tide.

 

  • Wave Energy
    • Wave power converts the periodic up-and-down movement of the oceans waves into electricity by placing equipment on the surface of the oceans that captures the energy produced by the wave movement and converts this mechanical energy into electrical power.
    • Wave energy is generated by the movement of a device either floating on the surface of the ocean or moored to the ocean floor.
    • Different techniques for converting wave energy to electric includes:
    • Wave conversion devices that float on the surface have joints hinged together that bend with the waves. This kinetic energy pumps fluid through turbines and creates electric power.
    • Stationary wave energy conversion devices use pressure fluctuations produced in long tubes from the waves swelling up and down. This bobbing motion drives a turbine when critical pressure is reached.
      • Other stationary platforms capture water from waves on their platforms. This water is allowed to runoff through narrow pipes that flow through a typical hydraulic turbine.
    • Identified Potential of Wave Energy in India along the country’s coast: about 40,000 MW .This energy is however less intensive than what is available in more northern and southern latitudes.

Limitations:

  • Wave energy conversion devices are location dependent requiring suitable sites were the waves are consistently strong.
  • Intermittent power generation as the waves come in intervals and does not generate power during calm periods.
  • Offshore wave energy devices can be a threat to navigation that cannot see or detect them by radar.
  • High power distribution costs to send the generated power from offshore devices to the land using long underwater cables.
  • They must be able to withstand forces of nature resulting in high capital, construction and maintenance costs.
  • Visual impact of wave energy conversion devices on the shoreline and offshore floating buoys or platforms is also not good, which may impact tourism.

 

  • Ocean Current Energy
    • Ocean current energy can be harnessed using underwater turbines, also known as tidal turbines, to generate power.

Limitations:

  • It is location specific as it need Ocean current velocity to be fast, large and stable ocean current.
  • Equipment and suspensions corrosion caused by seawater.
  • The extremely high cost of installing and maintaining underwater turbines.
  • Opposition from trawler fishermen, who claim that the turbines compete with their fishing areas.

 

  • Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC)
    • Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) is a process that can produce electricity by using the temperature difference between deep cold ocean water and warm tropical surface waters. A temperature difference of only 20°C can yield usable energy.
    • OTEC plants pump large quantities of deep cold seawater and surface seawater to run a power cycle and produce electricity.

Types of OTEC technologies:

  1. a) Open Cycle: In the open cycle system, the warm surface water is pressurized in a vacuum chamber and converted to steam to run the turbine. The steam is then condensed using cold ocean water from lower depths.
  2. b) Closed cycle: In the closed cycle method, a working fluid, such as ammonia, is pumped through a heat exchanger and vaporized. This vaporized steam runs a turbine. The cold water found at the depths of the ocean condenses the vapor back to a fluid where it returns to the heat exchanger.
  • Potential in India : OTEC has a theoretical potential of 180,000 MW in India , “subject to suitable technological evolution

Limitations:

  • Capital investment is very high.
  • Due to small temperature difference in between the surface water and deep water, conversion efficiency is very low about 3-4%.
  • Low efficiency of these plants coupled with high capital cost and maintenance cost makes them uneconomical for small plants.

 

Present Status of Ocean Energy technologies in India:

  • As on date, India does not have any installed ocean energy capacit.
  • Most types of technologies are currently at pre-research and development (R&D) or demonstration stage or the initial stage of commercialisation.
  • Basic R&D is being looked after by the ministry of earth sciences (National Institute of Ocean Technology, Chennai).
  • The MNRE intends to support demonstration projects of proven technologies and as approved by expert committee constituted by the MNRE.

 

News  Summary:

  • The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has clarified that energy produced using various forms of ocean energy such as tidal, wave, ocean thermal energy conversion among others shall be considered as renewable energy .

Significance of the move:

  • Various forms of Ocean energy shall be eligible for meeting the non-solar Renewable Purchase Obligations (RPO)

What is a Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO)?

  • RPO is a mechanism by which the State Electricity Regulatory Commissions are obliged to purchase a certain percentage of power from renewable energy sources.
  • RPO is being implemented throughout the country to create demand for renewable energy.
  • RPO is of two categories
    • Non Solar
    • Solar
  • The proportion is fixed by state power regulators.

Renewable Energy Certification (REC)

  • RECs are aimed at addressing the mismatch of renewable energy resources in the States and their RPO requirements
  • The discoms can also buy renewable energy certificates in lieu of mandated clean energy supplies, from the developers or renewable power generators.
  • In line with RPOs there are two categories of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) – Solar & Non-Solar.
  • Solar RECs include both PV and CSP technologies.
  • Non-solar RECs include renewable energy technologies such as biomass, wind, biofuel, cogeneration & small hydro and now also includes Ocean energy technologies.

 

Section : Economics

Explained: What ails the existing microcredit model

Headline : Explained: What ails the existing microcredit model

Details :

In News

  • Studies suggest that the existing systems of microcredit have a limited impact on the long-term wellbeing of the recipients.

 

About: Microcredit

  • Microcredit refers to the granting of very small loans to impoverished borrowers.

Rationale

  • Loans given as microcredit are often given to people who may lack collateral, credit history, or a steady source of income.
  • The core idea is that a small loan will provide access to the larger economy to people who live outside the mainstream economy.
  • It has an aim of enabling the borrowers to use that capital to become self-employed and strengthen their businesses.

Terms

  • Microcredit agreements generally do not require any sort of collateral.
  • At times it may not even involve a written agreement, as many recipients of microcredit are often illiterate.
  • When borrowers demonstrate success in paying their loans on time, they become eligible for loans of even larger amounts.

Applications

  • Conventionally, microcredit has been used mainly for entrepreneurs to begin production and attain self-sufficiency.
  • However, there are other, mostly unexplored paths for the utilisation of microcredit for poverty alleviation and productivity-boosting measure, like:
  • Supplement rural labourers
  • Small microcredit loans can allow rural labourers to migrate to urban areas to find work during the lean season (when there is no work on farms).
  • Those who migrated temporarily during the lean season experienced increased spending in both food and non-food areas, and increased their calories consumed.
  • Address climate shocks
  • It can also be used to reduce the effects of shocks like floods and drought.
  • It can provide people with a form of insurance that both increases production before the shock and provides a safety net after.

Example

  • An example of a microcredit institution is the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, founded in 1976 by Mohammed Yunus. It is a pioneering institution in the realm of micro finance.
  • The bank has 8.4 million followers, 97% of whom are women, and the bank has repayment success rates between 95 to 98 percent.

 

About: Microfinance

  • Microcredit falls under the larger umbrella of microfinance.
  • Microfinance activities usually target low-income individuals, with the goal of helping them to become self-sufficient.
  • Hence, microfinance activities have an aim of poverty alleviation as well.

News Summary:

  • Microcredit has emerged as a tool for ensuring the welfare of the most impoverished in society, and boosting development alongside.
  • However, some studies claim that certain flaws in microcredit transactions has led to limited benefits, and access to microcredit made very little difference to changing the lifestyles of borrowers.
  • As per a study, indicators like Household business profits, business expenditures, consumption, consumer durables spending etc. saw only a 5% impact when microcredit was available.

Repayment schedules main reason for low impact of microcredit:

  • To lower the risk of defaulting, microcredit lenders demand an initial repayment that is almost immediate.
  • After that, borrowers are required to follow an inflexible weekly schedule for repayments.
  • Due to this, borrowers are unable to use loans on investments that may take some time for benefits to be fully realised.
  • Hence, they are forced to use the loans on short term investments that only boost production to an extent, and the overall growth of their income remains small.

 

Findings of various studies on improving impact of microcredit

Initial grace period:

  • According to a study, borrowers who received an initial grace period were more likely to have started a new business.
  • Such borrowers also reported higher profits and household incomes.
  • However, there was also an increased rate of defaulting in this group.

Monthly repayment:

  • When borrowers switched from a weekly repayment schedule to a monthly one, there was an increase in incomes without the increased rate of defaulting.
  • Under a monthly repayment schedule, borrowers scored 45% lower on the Financial Stress Index.
  • Increases in income were more than double when compared to the borrowers under a weekly repayment schedule.

Mitigation of credit risk:

  • The barriers to assessing credit risk can be mitigated by using community information.
  • Communities can be an accurate source of information about credit risk for microcredit institutions.
  • However, the implementation of such processes would require the elimination of bias and incentivising accurate information.
Section : Economics

About Wolbachia

About Wolbachia

  • Wolbachiaare naturally occurring bacteria found in 60% of all insect species.
  • It is also the most common reproductive parasite in the biosphere.
  • However, it is not found in the Aedes aegypti mosquito.
  • The World Mosquito Program has also shown that when introduced into the Aedes aegyptimosquito, Wolbachia can help to reduce the transmission of  viruses to people
  • Wolbachiais safe for humans, animals and the environment.

How does Wolbachia work?

  • Wolbachia boosts the natural immune system of the mosquito making it harder for the mosquito to support the Zika, dengue or chikungunya infection.
  • Wolbachiaalso works by competing against viruses for key molecules like cholesterol.
  • Both the viruses and Wolbachianeed cholesterol to survive inside the mosquito. When Wolbachia is present, it consumes these molecules and makes it harder for the viruses to grow.

Wolbachia method

  • Under the method, the researchers released male and female Aedes aegyptimosquitoes with Wolbachia over a number of weeks.
  • These mosquitoes then breed with the wild mosquito population.
  • Over time, the percentage of mosquitoes carrying Wolbachia grows until it remains high without the need for further releases.

 

How Wolbachia increases in insect populations

Impact on India

  • Being a tropical country, India is prone to disease carrying mosquitoes.
  • In 2017, there were 1.9 lakh dengue cases and 325 deaths in India.
  • Until July 2018, there have been 15,000 cases and 38 deaths.
  • Under the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, this approach is being tested in India.
  • However, field testing is still years away as this approach needs to be tested in large cities.
  • Further, large-scale trials in Brazil, Colombia and Indonesia have shown that wolbachia is self-sustaining at high levels and there has not been local dengue transmission.
  • Thus, expediting the implementation of this new bio-control approach can considerably reduce the virus-carrying mosquitoes in India.
Section : Science & Tech

HIV and AIDS: in brief

HIV and AIDS: in brief

  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the immune system, our body’s natural defence against illness.
  • If HIV is left untreated, a person’s immune system will get weaker and weaker until it can no longer fight off life-threatening infections and diseases.
  • Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a set of symptoms and illnesses that happen at the final stage of HIV infection, if left untreated.

 

How the HIV attacks the immune system?

  • After a person is infected with HIV, the virus attaches itself to the body’s immune cells in the hopes of producing more virus particles.
  • In the acute stages of infection, the virus destroys a lot of immune cells and produces many virus particles, leading the immune systeminto overdrive in trying and warding off infection.
  • Later, the virus enters into a period of clinical latency, this time the virus is active but reproduces minimally.
  • In the last stage of infection, AIDS, the number of immune cells drops well below the normal level.
  • The body’s immune system is left critically damaged, leaving the person susceptible to illness.

 

About CCR5-delta 32 mutation

  • CCR5-delta 32 is a genetic mutation responsible for HIV resistance, which hampers HIV’s ability to infiltrate immune cells.
  • CCR5 co-receptor is present outside the cells and acts like a door that allows HIV entrance into the cell.
  • The CCR5-delta 32 mutation acts like a door lock which prevents HIV from entering into the cell.
  • About 1% of people who are descendents from Northern Europeans, are homozygous carriers of the mutated gene (they inherited a copy from both of their parents). Thus, they are immune to HIV infection.
  • Since the CCR5-delta 32 is tied primarily to the Eurasia region, the mutation has not been found in Africans, East Asians etc.

 

Way ahead:

  • These successful cases marks critical moments in the search for an HIV cure and give hope that scientists will one day be able to cure AIDS.

 

Section : Science & Tech

About: Pied Cuckoo

About: Pied Cuckoo

  • Different Names
    • Scientific Name- Clamator jacobinus
    • The genus ‘Clamator’ literally translates to being a shouter, a bird which is quite vocal. The word ‘jacobinus’ relates to pied birds.
    • These birds are also called as Chatak locally in India or pied crested cuckoo and Jacobin Cuckoo.

  • It is a bird with black and white plumage (pied) with a fancy crest on the head.

  • Distribution
    • The species is distributed south of the Sahara in Africa and south of the Himalayas in India.
    • It is also found in Sri Lanka and parts of Myanmar.


  • Populations in India
    • There are two populations of the Pied Cuckoo in India.
    • One is a resident in the southern part of the country. They are not migratory in nature. 
    • The other, makes its way to North and Central India from Africa by crossing the Arabian Sea, along with the monsoon winds.
    • Though, it is believed that the pied cuckoos that come to the Himalayan foothills are from Africa, this has never been ascertained through collected data.
    • Pied cuckoos have high site fidelity, that is, they come back to the same location year after year.
    • However, it is not known from which exact part of Africa they come from.

  • Arrival in Summers
    • The pied cuckoo is one of the few species that come to India in the summer.
    • Most other migratory species come in winter from colder places like Mongolia, Siberia, northeastern China, Kazakhstan etc.

  • Habitat
    • The bird is primarily arboreal, which means that it mostly lives on trees but often forages for food in low bushes, and sometimes even on the ground.
    • As it is arboreal nature, its habitat includes forests, well-wooded areas and also bushes in semi-arid regions.

  • Role in Food Webs
    • These birds are primarily insectivores and feed on grasshoppers, beetles and are also often seen feeding on fruits and berries from trees.
    • The species, like all cuckoos, is a brood parasite.
      • It lays its eggs in nests that belong to other birds, preferring similar-sized birds like babblers and bulbuls, as their ‘hosts’.
      • The hosts are often distracted by male cuckoos, and the females quickly lay their similar-sized and coloured eggs into the hosts’ nests.
      • The hosts then take care of the eggs and the chicks that hatch from them, as their own.
      • The parasitic chicks are fed by the hosts and then leave the host parents once they are ready to be on their own.


Pied Cuckoos & Indian Monsoons

  • The arrival of the pied cuckoos in the Himalayan foothills has traditionally been seen as heralding the onset of the monsoon.
  • Indian farmers have traditionally relied on the arrival of the pied cuckoo as a signal to sow seeds, as they know that the monsoon will be upon them soon.
  • This signal is never wrong, because the pied cuckoo arrives in India riding the monsoon wind.
  • Gathering information about the migratory route of the pied cuckoo can be invaluable for research on “climatic variations” taking place in the world, especially since the species has such a close association with the monsoon.

Pied Cuckoo & Climate Change

  • Studying Pied Cuckoo will also give information on the monsoon, changes in the monsoon and monsoon winds, erratic rainfall, seasonal fluctuations, water vapour pressure, etc
  • Climatic regimes are governed by temperature and wind and water currents, or the conveyor belts that they result in.
  • Extreme weather events take place when there are disruptions in these conveyor belts. The movement of a species such as the pied cuckoo, can indicate any such disruptions.

About WII & IIRS

  • Wildlife Institute of India (WII) is Dehradun-based organization under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
  • It is India’s apex institute for the study of wildlife science.
  • Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (IIRS) is also in Dehradun and is a constituent unit of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). 

Some Basic Concepts of Economy

Some Basic Concepts

What is Gross Value Added (GVA)?

  • It is a measure of total output and income in the economy.
  • It provides the rupee value for the amount of goods and services produced in an economy after deducting the cost of inputs and raw materials that have gone into the production of those goods and services.
  • It also gives sector-specific picture like what is the growth in an area, industry or sector of an economy.
  • At the macro level, from national accounting perspective, it is the sum of a country’s GDP and net of subsidies and taxes in the economy.
  • When measured from the production side, it is a balancing item of the national accounts.

What is Gross Domestic Product (GDP)?

  • It gives the economic output from the consumers’ side.
  • It is the sum of private consumption, gross investment in the economy, government investment, government spending and net foreign trade (difference between exports and imports).

What is the difference between the two?

  • While GVA gives a picture of the state of economic activity from the producers’ side or supply side, the GDP gives the picture from the consumers’ side or demand perspective.
  • Both measures need not match because of the difference in treatment of net taxes.

Why did policy makers decide to also give weight to GVA?

  • A sector-wise breakdown provided by the GVA measure can better help the policymakers to decide which sectors need incentives/stimulus or vice versa.
  • Some consider GVA as a better gauge of the economy because a sharp increase in the output, only due to higher tax collections which could be on account of better compliance or coverage, may distort the real output situation.

Which of the two measures is considered more appropriate gauge of the economy?

  • A sector-wise breakdown provided by the GVA measure helps policymakers decide which sectors need incentives or stimulus and accordingly formulate sector specific policies.
  • But GDP is a key measure when it comes to making cross-country analysis and comparing the incomes of different economies.
Section : Economics

What is Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR)? About Basel Norms

What is Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR)?

  • Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) is the ratio of a bank’s capital in relation to its risk weighted assets and current liabilities.
  • It is decided by central banks and bank regulators to prevent commercial banks from taking excess leverage and becoming insolvent in the process.
  • It is measured as:

Capital Adequacy Ratio = (Tier I + Tier II + Tier III (Capital funds)) /Risk weighted assets

  • The risk weighted assets take into account credit risk, market risk and operational risk.
  • The Basel III norms stipulated a capital to risk weighted assets of 8%.
  • However, as per RBI norms, Indian scheduled commercial banks are required to maintain a CAR of 9% while Indian public sector banks are emphasized to maintain a CAR of 12%.

 

About Basel Norms

  • Basel is a city in Switzerland which is also the headquarters of Bureau of International Settlement (BIS).
  • BIS fosters co-operation among central banks with a common goal of financial stability and common standards of banking regulations.
  • Basel guidelines refer to broad supervisory standards formulated by this group of central banks- called the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS).
  • The set of agreement by the BCBS, which mainly focuses on risks to banks and the financial system are called Basel accord.
  • The purpose of the accord is to ensure that financial institutions have enough capital on account to meet obligations and absorb unexpected losses.
  • India has accepted Basel accords for the banking system.
  • The Basel Committee makes these norms but the committee’s decisions have no legal force.
  • The Committee formulates supervisory standards and guidelines and recommends statements of best practice in the expectation that individual national authorities will implement them.
  • In this way, the Committee encourages convergence towards common standards and monitors their implementation, but without attempting detailed harmonisation of member countries’ supervisory approaches.

 

Reasons for high capital requirement: RBI

  • According to RBI, prudential capital regulations aim to enable banks to sustain unexpected losses without defaulting on its obligations, especially deposits, by maintaining adequate levels of bank capital.
  • Further, higher levels of capital increases the skin in the game for shareholders, thus potentially leading to better credit appraisal and screening.
  • Banks in India remain one of the most under-provisioned ones, though there has been an improvement in this regard in the last few quarters. As the equity component in a bank goes up, the leverage goes down, and make banks safer.
  • The current levels of provisions maintained by banks may not be enough to cover the expected losses, so there is a need to build adequate buffers to absorb the expected losses.
  • To make sure that the banking system is resilient enough to support higher credit growth going forward, it should have higher capital levels
  • Higher capital requirement leads to lower credit growth is ‘mathematically correct’ but cited data to show credit growth in the economy is in line with nominal GDP growth. High levels of credit growth due to ‘supply push’ have resulted in high corporate leverage and consequent NPAs in the banking system.
  • RBI also clarified on the ‘oft repeated view’ that public sector banks need not be subject to prudential capital regulations as they are owned by the sovereign.
  • Any slackening of the prudential norms may result in a reset of their credibility/standing in the international markets. Such a reset could increase the cost and ease of doing business for their clientele and their clientele may need to migrate to other banks which are compliant with Basel standards.

 

Section : Economics

Rudreswara (Ramappa) temple

About the Temple

  • Rudreswara (Ramappa) temple at Palampet near Warangal, got its name Ramappa because of its chief sculptor Ramappa.
  • It’s probably the only temple in the country to be known by the name of its sculptor.
  • The medieval Deccan Ramappa Temple which dates back to 1213 AD, was built by the patronage of the Kakatiya ruler Kakati Ganapathi Deva under the authority of his Chief Commander Rudra Samani.
  • Features of the temple
    • The Ramappa temple is a Shivalaya, crowned with a shikharam and surrounded by pradakshinapatha sits a 6 feet high star shaped platform.
    • The temple is built on a valley and it rests on bricks that are scientifically shown to float in water.
    • It has intricate carvings adorning the walls, pillars and ceilings unique to the time of Kakatiyan sculptors and empire.
    • The hall in front of the sanctum has numerous carved pillars that have been positioned to create an effect that combines light and space in a unique way.
    • The sculptural work of dance postures in the temple appear like a record of dances of the region in stone and was of great inspiration for the famous work ‘NrityaRatnavali’, by Jayapa Senani.
    • The postures pertaining to BharataNatya, Shrunga, Bharunga, Rathi, Perini Nritya , are engraved on the pillars.
    • The ‘Nagini’ and other eleven devanarthakis arranged as supporting beams on both sides of each entrance define the highly refined aesthetic sense of Kakatiya
    • The desi (local) varieties of dances such as Perini, Prenkana, SuddaNartana, Dandarasak, Sivapriya, Chindu and Kolata are some dance forms in the sculptural art of the temple.
  • This temple is described as the “brightest star in the galaxy of medieval temples of the Deccan” a repository of Kakatiyan creative genius.
  • The Ramappa temple is a best example of the love for art, music and dance as patronized by Kakatiyas.

 

 

About UNESCO World Heritage site

  • A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area which is selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
  • To be selected, a World Heritage Site must be an already classified landmark, unique in some respect as a geographically and historically identifiable place having special cultural or physical significance (such as an ancient ruin or historical structure, building, city, complex, desert, forest, island, lake, monument, mountain, or wilderness area.
  • It may signify a remarkable accomplishment of humanity, and serve as evidence of our intellectual history on the planet.
Section : History & Culture
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