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Scientists to test land for LIGO

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: LIGO

Mains level: Particulars and importance of the proposed LIGO


News

Testing Suitability of Indian site

  1. The Environment Ministry has allowed scientists to test the suitability of land in Maharashtra’s Hingoli district to host the India wing of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) project.
  2. The project is piloted by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Department of Science and Technology (DST) and is expected to be ready by 2025.
  3. This is a key step to establishing the one-of-its-kind astronomical observatory.

What does it include?

  1. The project involves constructing a network of L-shaped arms, each four kilometers long, which can detect even the faintest ripples from cosmic explosions millions of light years away.
  2. The discovery of gravitational waves earned three U.S. scientists the Nobel for physics in 2017. The scientists were closely involved with LIGO.
  3. However the construction of such a large, sensitive device — there are only three of its kind in the world — requires an extremely flat surface.
  4. The LIGO-India consortium, made up of physicists from several institutes, had submitted a proposal to “prospect” 121 hectares of forest land in Dudhala village, Hingoli.
  5. For the LIGO project, it is to check if the land can be made perfectly level at a reasonable cost.
  6. The project is in the process of acquiring necessary land some of it is private and some barren forest land.

Network of detectors

  1. The LIGO project operates three gravitational-wave (GW) detectors.
  2. Two are at Hanford in the State of Washington, north-western USA, and one is at Livingston in Louisiana, south-eastern USA.
  3. The proposed LIGO-India project aims to move one Advanced LIGO detector from Hanford to India.
  4. The LIGO-India project is an international collaboration between the LIGO Laboratory and three lead institutions in the LIGO-India consortium:
  • Institute of Plasma Research, Gandhinagar
  • IUCAA, Pune
  • Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology, Indore
  1. The LIGO lab would provide the complete design and all the key detector components.
  2. Indian scientists would provide the infrastructure to install the detector and it would be operated jointly by LIGO-India and the LIGO-Lab.

Back2Basics

Gravitational waves

  1. Gravitational waves are distortions or ‘ripples’ in the fabric of space-time caused by some of the most violent and energetic processes in the Universe.
  2. These ripples would travel at the speed of light through the Universe, carrying with them information about their cataclysmic origins, as well as invaluable clues to the nature of gravity itself.
  3. Any object with mass that accelerates (which in science means changes position at a variable rate, and includes spinning and orbiting objects) produces gravitational waves, including humans and cars and airplanes etc.
  4. But the gravitational waves made by us here on Earth are much too small to detect
  5. The strongest gravitational waves are produced by catastrophic events such as colliding black holes, the collapse of stellar cores (supernovae), coalescing neutron stars or white dwarf stars, the slightly wobbly rotation of neutron stars that are not perfect spheres, and the remnants of gravitational radiation created by the birth of the Universe itself.
  6. The LIGO is a large-scale experiment and observatory to detect cosmic gravitational waves and to develop gravitational-wave observations as an astronomical tool.
Gravitational Wave Observations

Coloured stickers to indicate nature of fuel

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Colour Codes for fuels, Green number Plate, Amicus Curae

Mains level: Read the attached story


News

Context

The Supreme Court accepted the Centre’s proposal to use hologram-based coloured stickers on vehicles, plying in the Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR), to indicate the nature of the fuel used.

Colour Codes

  1. The Hologram-based sticker of light-blue colour will be used for petrol and CNG-run vehicles while similar sticker of orange colour will be used for diesel-driven vehicles.
  2. The court asked the ministry to implement the use of the coloured stickers by September 30.
  3. The top court also asked Additional Solicitor General to consider having green number plates for electric and hybrid vehicles.

Amicus Curiae to the Court

  1. An amicus curiae (literally, “friend of the court”; plural, amici curiae) is someone, who is not a party to a case and may or may not have been solicited by a party.
  2. It is he/she who assists a court by offering information, expertise, or insight that has a bearing on the issues in the case; and is typically presented in the form of a brief.
  3. Advocate Aparajita Singh, assisting the court as amicus curiae in the air pollution matter, had earlier suggested the use of colour-coded stickers to identify the nature of fuel being used in the vehicle.
  4. The advocate made the suggestion when the court was hearing a petition on air pollution in the region.

Odisha to showcase its biodiversity

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspectives, the following things are important

Prelims Level: Bhitarkanika National Park

Mains Level: Read the attached story.


News

Setting up world-class interpretation centre

  1. The Odisha government is setting up a world-class interpretation centre at Dangamal near Bhitarkanika National Park to showcase its efforts in protecting crocodiles and preserving its rich mangrove diversity.
  2. The project, which has been approved under the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project, will be taken up at an estimated cost of ₹3 crore.
  3. It is planned to develop the centre both as a tourist attraction and a place for students to learn about the environment.

Mangroves as Bio-shield

  1. In 1999 when coastal Odisha was battered by Super Cyclone, the rich mangrove forests had then acted as a bio-shield.
  2. There was very little impact of the cyclone in the mangrove-forested regions.
  3. In fact, Kalibhanjdia Island spread over 8.5 square km, a place in Bhitarkanika, has attracted the attention of foreign scientists as its possesses 70% of the total mangrove species of the world.

Back2Basics

Bhitarkanika National Park

  1. Bhitarkanika National Park is a national park located in Kendrapara district of Odisha in eastern India.
  2. It spreads over 672 km2 and is surrounded by the Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary.
  3. It was designated as national park on 16 September 1998 and as a Ramsar site on 19 August 2002.
  4. Gahirmatha Beach and Marine Sanctuary lies to the east, and separates swamp region cover with canopy of mangroves from the Bay of Bengal.
  5. The national park is home to saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), Indian python, King cobra, black ibis, darters and many other species of flora and fauna.
  6. It hosts a large number of mangrove species, and is the second largest mangrove ecosystem in India.
  7. The national park and wildlife sanctuary is inundated by the rivers Brahmani, Baitarani, Dhamra, Pathsala.
  8. Bhitarkanika, one of the State’s finest biodiversity hotspots, receives close to one lakh visitors every year.

Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM):

  1. Integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) or Integrated coastal management (ICM) is a process for the management of the coast using an integrated approach, regarding all aspects of the coastal zone, including geographical and political boundaries, in an attempt to achieve sustainability.
  2. It is a World Bank assisted project.
  3. The ICZM plan involves identification of infrastructure requirements and livelihood improvement means in coastal districts. Conservation of mangroves is among the components.
  4. The national component of the project includes mapping of the country’s coastline and demarcation of the hazard line.
  5. It is being implemented by the Department of Forests and Environment with assistance from the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
  6. The National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM), Chennai, will provide scientific and technical inputs.

[pib] International Conference on Recent Advances in Food Processing Technology (iCRAFPT)

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Indian Economy | Food processing and related industries in India- scope and significance, location, upstream and downstream requirements, supply chain management.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: iCRAFPT, IIFPT

Mains level: Food processing industries in India

News

iCRAFPT

International Conference on Recent Advances in Food Processing Technology (iCRAFPT) got underway today at Indian Institute of Food Processing Technology, Thanjavur in Tamilnadu.

Food processing sector in India

  1. The unorganised segment dominates in numbers (about 25, 00,000 in 2015-16) of small enterprises and workers, but the organised segment (about 40,000) dominates in terms of value of the output and investment.
  2. The percentage share of the organised/registered food processors is hardly 1.5 percent of the total food processors.
  3. India’s export basket of food produces contains 75% of the fresh F&V and unprocessed item and only 25% of processed products.

Implementing 2 Tier Technology

  1. The first tier technology should target the unorganized sector who can be encouraged to concentrate on primary processing and provide strong supply link to the high-end secondary and tertiary processing.
  2. The second tier should deal with sophistication of secondary and tertiary processing of high value products and enable industry to compete and stand up shoulder to shoulder with world food processing industries.

About Indian Institute of Food Processing Technology (IIFPT)

  1. IIFPT is a premier national Institute working under the administrative control of Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI), Government of India functioning from its headquarters in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu.
  2. The mandate of the Institute at its inception was to seek solutions for preserving high moisture paddy because the paddy harvest season in Southern India coincided with the tail end of the South West monsoon.
  3. The Institute was later upgraded as a national laboratory with the name Paddy Processing Research Centre (PPRC) in 1972.
  4. At the time of up-gradation the mandates of the Institute were also changed and the scientists in the Institute focused their research in identifying technologies for post harvest procession and preservation of paddy.
  5. The institute has been organizing an International Conference on Recent Advances in Food Processing Technology (iCRAFPT) during 17th to 19th August 2018 with the theme of Doubling farmers’ income through food processing.
Food Processing Industry: Issues and Developments

[op-ed snap] How WHO’s Essential Diagnostics List Can Spur Innovation, Quality Assurance

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: WHO EDL

Mains level: Diagnostic research in India & other low-income countries and its impacts on health as well as economy


Context

WHO’s initiative for essential drug listing

  1. Lack of access to diagnostic services, incorrect diagnosis and late diagnosis often leading to wrong treatment, serious health complications, higher health cost and risk of spread of infectious diseases has prompted World Health Organisation to come out with a significant first ever Essential Diagnostics List (EDL) on May 15 this year
  2. EDL, developed by 19 experts with global representation, aims to serve as a reference for countries to either develop or update their list of essential diagnostics
  3. The EDL is aimed at bringing some parity in a world where half the population does not have access to essential health care services, where the Sustainable Development Goals have the tall task of achieving universal health coverage by 2030

Concern areas in diagnostics

There are broadly three areas of concern in diagnostics – access, quality and implementation

  1. Access issues include lack of laboratories, personnel, distance to the laboratory, high cost, lack of appropriate diagnostic test etc
  2. Quality issues which hinder implementation of many diagnostic tools in LMIC include poor quality of tests, trying environmental conditions like extreme temperatures, high humidity and maintenance of equipment (instruments) among others
  • Lopsided research and development is another issue in diagnostics
  1. For example, research in diagnostics continues to languish way behind than that in drugs and vaccines
  2. Diagnostics development is targeted mainly at high-income countries and there is a dire need to boost R&D in diagnostics in countries like India

Positive externalities of diagnostics

A sound diagnostics regime has many positive externalities

  • Checking rampant antibiotic use, accreditation to ensure quality
  • Establishing a sound supply chain
  • Creating laboratory infrastructure
  • Ushering technological advancement
  • Making more and exorbitant tests affordable
  • Building necessary human resources
  • Addressing existing information asymmetry

How can EDL help?

  1. There are a few innovations in diagnostics such as portable laboratories, smartphone-enabled microscopes, AI-led breast cancer screening tool which have shown promise in low cost, easy access diagnostics
  2. The EDL can now help channel such innovations to diagnostics
  3. Low and middle-income countries (LMIC), facing the double burden of communicable and non-communicable disease which limits their economic and human development could find EDL handy in moving away from the largely prevalent syndromic treatment by ushering innovation and better quality control practices

Way Forward

  1. It is in India’s interest to align itself with the WHO EDL to create the necessary innovative ecosystem and build capacity to fill the numerous gaps that currently exist in the country’s diagnostics
Pharma Sector – Drug Pricing, NPPA, FDC, Generics, etc.

[pib] India proposes UNs FAO to declare an upcoming year as “International Year of Millets”

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Importance of Millets, FAO

Mains level: Agronomics of Millets


News

Context

  1. The Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare has written to the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) and proposed the declaration of an upcoming year as “International Year of Millets”.
  2. India is celebrating 2018 as the National Year of Millets and is promoting cultivation by amending cropping pattern of areas which are especially susceptible to climate change.
  3. The Ministry has requested the inclusion of this proposal in the agenda of the 26th session of the Committee on Agriculture (COAG) meeting, scheduled in October 2018 in Rome.

Why Millets?

  1. Millets are highly nutritious and useful in various lifestyle diseases, enhancing resilience and risk management in face of climate change especially for small and marginal farmers.
  2. The government recently increased the MSP of millets by more than 50 per cent of cost of production which is an important component of efforts to achieve the national commitment of doubling farmers’ income by 2022.

Importance of Millets

  1. Millet is a common term to categorize small-seeded grasses that are often termed nutri-cereals or dryland-cereals, and includes sorghum, pearl millet, ragi, small millet, foxtail millet, proso millet, barnyard millet, kodo millet and other millets.
  2. An important staple cereal crop for millions of small holder dryland farmers across sub-saharan Africa and Asia, millets offer nutrition, resilience, income and livelihood for farmers even in difficult times.
  3. They have multiple untapped uses such as food, feed, fodder, biofuels and brewing.
  4. Photo-insensitive & resilient to climate change, millets are hardy, resilient crops that have a low carbon and water footprint, can withstand high temperatures and grow on poor soils with little or no external inputs.
  5. In times of climate change they are often the last crop standing and, thus, are a good risk management strategy for resource-poor marginal farmers.
Agricultural Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

[op-ed snap] The human factor

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Achievements of Indians in science & technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Gaganyaan (Human mission to space)

Mains level: India’s plan to send a human mission to space & related details


Context

Manned space mission of India

  1. The prime minister, in his Independence Day address, set a deadline to a project conceived over a decade ago, to put an Indian astronaut into orbit
  2. It is an ambitious target establishing India’s living presence in the firmament
  3. Fortunately, some of the key technology elements are already in place

Capabilities developed

  1. The problem of weight is the fundamental challenge since a crewed module weights two or three times more than the comsat and remote sensing payloads that ISRO usually launches
  2. The GSLV Mk-III or LVM-3 launch vehicle is capable of propelling a crewed module into orbit
  3. Future launches will be used to fine-tune the cryogenic engines
  4. Re-entry, a delicate operation that ISRO has limited experience in, since its payloads typically remain in space, was tested in a GSLV Mk-III flight in 2014
  5. On July 5, a simulated crew escape system for launch failures was also successfully tested
  6. India has an Institute of Aerospace Medicine in Bengaluru

Further efforts required

  1. The only hardware which remains untested is the crew capsule, suitable for keeping two or three astronauts in good health for over a week
  2. Elements include systems to maintain the environment, provide food and process waste, and deal with emergencies
  3. The most important element remains neglected: The human factor
  4. An astronaut training centre was scheduled to be set up by 2012 in Bengaluru, but it appears that the first batch of astronauts will have to be trained overseas
  5. It would take years to accustom them to life in zero gravity, which has impacts on myriad behaviour, from moving around to even eating and drinking

Gains from the human mission in space

  1. Human spaceflight no longer signals national prestige, as it did during the Cold War
  2. The project would bump up the entire space industry, forcing it to meet challenges beyond the low-cost launch of payloads
  3. Certain missions are better performed by humans than by robots
  4. These remain far in the future, but the development of human capabilities in space would prime the industry well in advance
  5. The technical knowledge generated in the process would be of use much later, in ways that may not be obvious today
ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[op-ed snap] No child left behind

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to poverty & hunger

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Poshan abhiyaan, Global Hunger Index (GHI), Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), mid-day meals (MDM), Public Distribution System (PDS),

Mains level: Persistent malnutrition among children in India & solutions to this problem


Context

Poor nutrition among children in India

  1. 25% of India’s children less than 5 years old are still malnourished
  2. NFHS-4 in 2015-16 (the latest available information), to the Global Nutrition Report 2016 and the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2017, which ranks India at 100 out of 119 countries all confirm low nutrition among children in India
  3. Among children less than 5 years, wasting (low weight for height), continues to be 21% in the 2017 index — it was 20% in 1992
  4. 190.7 million people in India sleep hungry every night, and over half of adolescent girls and women are anaemic

Proposed measures

  1. The recently announced flagship program of the Ministry of Women and Child Development will be anchored through the National Nutrition Mission (NNM), or Poshan Abhiyaan
  2. NITI Aayog has worked on a National Nutrition Strategy (NNS), isolated the 100 most backward districts for stunting and prioritised those for interventions
  3. The National Nutrition Strategy (NNS) has set very ambitious targets for 2022 and the Poshan Abhiyaan has also specified three-year targets to reduce stunting, under-nutrition and low birth weight by 2% each year, and to reduce anaemia by 3% each year

What is required to curb malnutrition

  1. Altering the fundamentals of poor nutrition requires multiple and sustained interventions over a period of time — increased availability and accessibility of nutritious food, potable water, hygiene and sanitation, primary health care, etc
  2. The challenge for India is to simultaneously address insufficient and poor diets, inadequate hygiene and sanitation and better management of disease and infections

Approach that can be followed

  • Adequately re-engineer the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), mid-day meals (MDM) and Public Distribution System (PDS) for greater effectiveness
  1. This is an ideal initiative for public-private partnerships as the strength of good private sector companies is in creating and designing frameworks, structures, processes and metrics for action, implementation and tracking
  2. Involving the best nutritionists to work with local communities on calorie and nutrition dense supplementary foods, using easily available local ingredients that are within the ICDS and MDM budget guidelines
  3. Products produced by self-help groups could easily be anchored by the relevant private sector and development agencies, working with State governments, and considered a corporate social responsibility initiative
  4. The key advantages of this disaggregated supply model are that it engages local communities, generates employment and ensures minimal leakage as it works with and inside the community
  5. This will also ensure that space and other constraints of lack of hygiene at Anganwadi Centres do not become impediments in the supply of nutritious food
  • To mandate and scale staple food fortification comprising edible oil, wheat, rice and dairy products, in addition to salt
  1. There is persuasive evidence from several countries of the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of large-scale staple food fortification to address “hidden hunger” or micro-nutrient deficiencies
  2. The success of micro-nutrient fortified food is that it does not entail a change in behaviour
  3. A case in point is the mandate of July and August 2017 to use fortified oil, salt and wheat flour in the ICDS and MDM by the Ministries of Women and Child Development and Human Resource Development, respectively
  • Multiple campaigns designed to inform, communicate and educate on nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive behaviours
  1. These behaviours include breastfeeding, diet diversity, hand-washing, de-worming, safe drinking water, hygiene and sanitation
  2. Nutrition has to be “marketed” and made interesting, engaging, simple and personally relevant
  3. Nutrition is complex, and therefore its delivery must be simplified through greater awareness and actions

Way Forward

  1. Unless economic growth improves social and human development, it cannot be sustained
  2. Equally, economic growth itself is impeded by low levels of productivity in an under-nourished and malnourished population
  3. Exploring new models to address the structural and systemic issues on a priority basis, learning from what has worked or not, and single-minded focus on implementation will be critical to delivering better nutritional outcomes and meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, to which India is a signatory
Hunger and Nutrition Issues – GHI, GNI, etc.

[op-ed snap] Can regional trade agreements boost India’s exports?

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: RCEP, WTO

Mains level: The problem with multilateral agreements and what India needs to do to gain most from them


Context

Demand for India to join multilateral agreements

  1. As the World Trade Organization (WTO) comes under mounting attack from the Trump-led US administration, there is a clamour in India to negotiate regional trade agreements with peer countries
  2. It is perceived that this will boost exports and insulate India’s trade from the uncertainties of the global trading system

Are multilateral agreements really beneficial for India?

  1. An analysis of trade agreements suggests that India has often failed to gain from such agreements
  2. This could explain why Indian policymakers have become cautious about pursuing new trade agreements in recent years

History of trade agreements

  1. The rise of regional trade agreements (RTAs) globally coincided with the end of the Uruguay round of WTO talks in the mid-1990s
  2. Their growth has often been explained as a result of slow progress in multilateral negotiations
  3. RTAs include both preferential trade agreements and free trade agreements (FTAs)

Criticism of RTAs

  1. RTAs face criticism for being detrimental to the spirit of multilateral free trade
  2. This is because countries that are not part of a regional agreement find themselves at a disadvantage
  3. This is especially true in an era of rising protectionism and uncertainty

Solution: Trade blocs

  1. It is possible to address such issues to some extent by creating mega-trading blocs
  2. One such bloc being negotiated is the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), consisting of China, India, Japan, south-east Asian nations, Australia and New Zealand

Scope for India

  1. There might be scope for India to increase its trade with the Asia-Pacific region, given that its level of integration with the region is relatively low
  2. But India has remained ambivalent about the RCEP, with officials expressing concern that it might actually harm India

The reason behind India’s concerns

  1. India’s existing agreements with South Korea, Japan and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) are often deemed to have benefited the partner countries at India’s expense
  2. India has not been able to sufficiently leverage these agreements to increase its presence in the markets of its partners
  3. The import-export ratio with these countries deteriorated in the years following the implementation of the trade agreements
  4. Even as partner countries have benefited, Indian exports to these regions have remained lacklustre

The actual reason for fewer gains from RTAs

  1. India’s inability to gain market share in these regions may be partly explained by its lack of competitiveness in exports
  2. India has various structural bottlenecks hurting its exports

Way Forward

  1. The focus needs to be on where India can promote its exports
  2. India needs to be careful in weighing each trade deal on its own merit
Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)

[op-ed snap] A Law Past Its Sell-by Date

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act

Mains level: Changes required in abortion law in India in order to make abortions safe as well as improve health of women


Context

Abortion law in India

  1. Abortion has been legal in India under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act since 1971 when it was hailed as one of the more progressive laws in the world
  2. According to the Act, abortion can be provided at the discretion of a medical provider under certain conditions
  3. Though the Act was liberal for its time, it has limitations that pose barriers to women and girls seeking legal abortions

Objectives of the law

  1. To control the population resulting from unintended pregnancies (which even today are to the tune of 48 per cent)
  2. To reduce the increasing maternal mortality and morbidity due to illegal, unsafe abortions

What are the barriers in the law?

  1. Currently, the Act allows abortion up to 20 weeks
  2. When it comes to foetal abnormalities and pregnancies resulting from rape, this limit is proving to be a hurdle for both the woman and the provider
  3. Women seeking an abortion after the legal gestation limit (a phenomenon that is fairly common due to later detection of abnormalities in the foetus or shame and stigma associated with rape), often have no option but to appeal to the courts and run from pillar to post for permission to terminate the pregnancy

What does this lead to?

  1. Many women, when denied legal abortions, turn to unqualified providers or adopt unsafe methods of termination
  2. According to a study published in The Lancet recently, 15.6 million abortions took place in India in 2015 out of which about 11.5 million took place outside health facilities
  3. Estimates based on the Sample Registration System (SRS) 2001-03, indicate that unsafe abortions account for 8 per cent of maternal deaths in India

Amendments returned back

  1. In 2014, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare recognised these barriers and proposed certain amendments to the Act
  2. It proposed various changes key amongst which were increasing the gestation limit from 20 to 24 weeks for rape survivors and other vulnerable women and removing the gestation limit in the case of foetal abnormalities
  3. In 2017, these amendments were returned to the ministry with the mandate to strengthen the implementation of the MTP Act as it stands

Way Forward

  1. We are living in times when abortion is at the centre of global conversations on reproductive health and rights
  2. Adopting and implementing the amendments will take us a few steps closer towards ensuring that all girls and women have access to safe abortion services
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Caspian Sea breakthrough treaty set to boost oil, pipeline plans

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Caspian Sea Bordering States

Mains level: Changing dynamics of Caspian neighbouring states


News

Consensus over Caspian Sea

  1. Five Caspian Sea states (Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan) reached a breakthrough agreement on sovereign rights to the sea.
  2. This paved the way for new oil and gas extraction and pipelines after more than two decades of disputes.
  3. The treaty ends a spat over whether the Caspian is a sea or a lake, granting it special legal status and clarifying the maritime boundaries of each surrounding country.
  4. The five members have tried to define the Caspian Sea’s legal status since the collapse of the Soviet Union, in order to divide up the waters and its natural resources for new drilling and pipelines.
  5. It also allows each to lay pipelines offshore with consent only from the neighbouring states affected, rather than from all Caspian Sea nations.

Huge energy reserves

  1. The territorial disputes have prevented the exploration of at least 20 billion barrels of oil and more than 240 trillion cubic feet of gas, the US Energy Information Administration estimated in 2013.
  2. The new agreement states that the development of seabed reserves will be regulated by separate deals between Caspian nations, in line with international law.
  3. This essentially cements the current situation, since countries such as Kazakhstan and Russia already have bilateral accords on joint projects

Connecting to Europe

  1. The five Caspian Sea nations already develop offshore oil and gas reserves that are located near enough to the coast not to be disputed.
  2. Projects in the northernmost waters Kazakhstan’s giant Kashagan field and Russia’s Filanovsky and Korchagin deposits are seen as sources of future oil-output growth for the countries.
  3. The treaty will also remove a legal barrier to building a trans-Caspian gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Europe.
  4. While the European Union and Azerbaijan have supported the long-planned pipeline project, which could ease Russia’s grip on the EU’s gas market, the Kremlin has opposed it, citing environmental concerns and legalities.

Outstanding Issues

  1. Iran shares smallest boundary with Caspian Sea hence is the least gainer.
  2. It highlighted the issue of the distribution rights of seabed oil and gas deposits over the undiscovered fields.
Foreign Policy Watch- India-Central Asia

India releases additional funds for Nepal’s Postal Highway

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Postal Highway Project

Mains level:  India-Nepal Bilateral Relationship


News

Context

  1. The Government has released additional NPR 470 million for the Postal Highway being constructed in Southern Plains of Nepal.
  2. The amount has been released to maintain fund liquidity for the ongoing construction of 14 road packages under Postal Highway Project.

Postal Highway Project

  1. Postal Highway also called Hulaki Rajmarg runs across the Terai region of Nepal, from Bhadrapur in the east to Dodhara in the west, cutting across the entire width of the country.
  2. Since 1950, the Government of India has been supporting infrastructure development of Nepal.
  3. India has provided financial assistance for construction of various highways, roads, bridges, airports, etc as part of its multi-sectoral and multi-dimensional India-Nepal Economic Cooperation Programme.
  4. With this payment, a total of NPR 2.35 billion stands released to the Government of Nepal out of the total grant assistance of NPR 8.00 billion committed by the Government of India.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

FSSAI unveils initiative to collect, convert used cooking oil into biofuel

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: RUCO

Mains level: Harnessing edible oils for biofuel production


News

Repurpose Used Cooking Oil (RUCO)

  1. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) launched RUCO (Repurpose Used Cooking Oil), an initiative that will enable collection and conversion of used cooking oil to bio-diesel.
  2. The initiative has been launched nearly a month after the food safety regulator notified standards for used cooking oil.
  3. FSSAI may also look at introducing regulations to ensure that companies that use large quantities of cooking oil hand it over to registered collecting agencies to convert it into biofuel.
  4. Under this initiative, 64 companies at 101 locations have been identified to enable collection of used cooking oil.
  5. For instance: McDonald’s has already started converting used cooking oil to biodiesel from 100 outlets in Mumbai and Pune.

Cooking Oil can be harnessed as biofuel

  1. The regulator believes India has the potential to recover 220 crore litres of used cooking oil for the production of biodiesel by 2022 through a co-ordinate action.
  2. While biodiesel produced from used cooking oil is currently very small, but a robust ecosystem for conversion and collection is rapidly growing in India and will soon reach a sizable scale.
  3. FSSAI wants businesses using more than 100 litres of oil for frying, to maintain a stock register and ensure that UCO is handed over to only registered collecting agencies.
  4. According to FSSAI regulations, the maximum permissible limits for Total Polar Compounds (TPC) have been set at 25 per cent, beyond which the cooking oil is unsafe for consumption.

Collaborating with private players

  1. FSSAI is also working in partnership with Biodiesel Association of India and the food industry to ensure effective compliance of used cooking oil regulations.
  2. It is also going to publish guidance documents, tips for consumers and posters in this regard.
  3. It is also conducting several awareness campaigns through its e-channels.
  4. FSSAI has additionally launched a micro-site to monitor the progress of the collection and conversion of used cooking oil into biodiesel.
Biofuel Policy

NPCI launches UPI 2.0 with overdraft facility

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: UPI 2.0

Mains level: Measures for facilitating cashless transactions.


News

Unified Payments Interface (UPI) 2.0

  1. National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) has upgraded unified payments interface (UPI) with enhanced security features and overdraft facilities.
  2. In addition to current and savings accounts, customers can link their overdraft account to UPI.
  3. The UPI mandate could be used in a scenario where money is to be transferred later by providing commitment at present.

Back2Basics

National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI)

  1. NPCI is the umbrella organisation for all retail payment systems in India which aims to allow all Indian citizens to have unrestricted access to e-payment services.
  2. Founded in 2008, NPCI is a not-for-profit organisation registered under section 8 of the Companies Act 2013.
  3. The organisation is owned by a consortium of major banks, and has been promoted by the country’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India.
  4. Its recent work of developing Unified Payments Interface aims to move India to a cashless society with only digital transactions.
  5. It has successfully completed the development of a domestic card payment network called RuPay, reducing the dependency on international card schemes.
  6. The RuPay card is now accepted at all the ATMs, Point-of-Sale terminals and most of the online merchants in the country.
  7. UPI is a path breaking innovation that is unprecedented globally. Its high volume, low cost and highly scalable architecture built on an open source platform is key to India’s transformation to a digital payment economy.
  8. The first version of UPI was launched on April 11, 2016 and in the last two years the platform has emerged as a popular choice among users for sending and receiving money.
Cashless Society – Digital Payments, Demonetization, etc.

[pib] Appellate Tribunal for Electricity (APTEL)

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Indian Polity | Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: APTEL

Mains level:  Read the attached story


News

Context

Justice Manjula Chellur took Oath as Chairperson, Appellate Tribunal for Electricity, Ministry of Power.

Appellate Tribunal for Electricity (APTEL)

  1. On 10th June, 2003, the Electricity Act was notified by the Govt. of India.
  2. A/c to this act, Appellate Tribunal for Electricity has been established by Central Government for those who are not satisfied with the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission order or with a state.
  3. The Tribunal has the authority to overrule or amend that order, just like the Income-Tax tribunal or the Central Administrative Tribunal.
  4. The tribunal has to be approached within 45 days of the aggrieved person from getting the order.
  5. The Act extends to the whole of India except the state of Jammu & Kashmir.
Judiciary Institutional Issues

Explained: How to send an Indian into space?

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Gaganyaan

Mains level: India’s aspiration for a manned mission in Space


News

Gaganyaan 2022

  1. With PM’s announcement that an Indian astronaut would go into space by 2022, ISRO has finally got a definitive timeline for a project it has been working on for the last 15 years.
  2. In 2004 the manned space mission was first endorsed by the ISRO Policy Planning Committee.
  3. There was lack of clarity on when exactly the mission would be launched, although the target initially in discussion was 2015.

Defining a manned-Mission

  1. A manned space mission is very different from all other missions that ISRO has so far completed.
  2. In terms of complexity and ambition, even the missions to the Moon (Chandrayaan) and Mars (Mangalyaan) are nowhere in comparison.
  3. For a manned mission, the key distinguishing capabilities that ISRO has had to develop include the ability to bring the spacecraft back to Earth after flight, and to build a spacecraft in which astronauts can live in Earth-like conditions in space.
  4. Over the years, ISRO has successfully tested many of the technologies that are required, but many others are still to be developed and tested.

The rocket: GSLV Mk-III

  1. One of the most important requirements is the development of a launch vehicle that can carry heavy payloads into space.
  2. The spacecraft carrying human beings, called crew module, is likely to weigh in excess of 5 to 6 tonnes.
  3. ISRO successfully tested GSLV Mk-III, now called LVM-3 (Launch Vehicle Mark-3).
  4. It successfully launched the first developmental flight of LVM-3, which carried the GSAT-19 satellite into space.
  5. The LVM-3 is the declared launch vehicle for taking the manned crew module into space as it will help for sending up heavier and heavier payloads.

Reentry & recovery tech

  1. The satellites normally launched by ISRO, like those for communication or remote sensing, are meant to remain in space, even when their life is over.
  2. Any manned spacecraft, however, needs to come back. This involves mastering of the highly complicated and dangerous reentry and recovery ability.
  3. While reentering Earth’s atmosphere, the spacecraft needs to withstand very high temperatures, in excess of several thousand degrees, which is created due to friction.
  4. Also, the spacecraft needs to reenter the atmosphere at a very precise speed and angle, and even the slightest deviation could end in disaster.
  5. The first successful experimental flight of GSLV Mk-III also involved the successful testing of an experimental crew module that came back to Earth after being taken to an altitude of 126 km into space.
  6. Called the Crew module Atmospheric Reentry Experiment (CARE), the spacecraft reentered the atmosphere at about 80 km altitude and landed in the sea near the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Crew Escape System

  1. This is a crucial safety technology, involving an emergency escape mechanism for the astronauts in case of a faulty launch.
  2. The mechanism ensures the crew module gets an advance warning of anything going wrong with the rocket, and pulls it away to a safe distance, after which it can be landed either on sea or on land with the help of attached parachutes.
  3. ISRO has completed the first successful flight of the crew escape system (the recent Pad Abort Test).

Life support

  1. The Environmental Control & Life Support System (ECLSS) is meant to ensure that conditions inside the crew module are suitable for humans to live comfortably.
  2. The inside of the crew module is a twin-walled sealed structure that will recreate Earth-like conditions for the astronauts.
  3. It would be designed to carry two or three astronauts.
  4. The ECLSS maintains a steady cabin pressure and air composition, removes carbon dioxide and other harmful gases, controls temperature and humidity, and manages parameters like fire detection and suppression, food and water management, and emergency support.
  5. While the layout and design of the ECLSS has been finalised, its many individual components and systems are in the process of being tested.
  6. The design and configuration of the inside of the crew module have also been finalised. Ground testing will have to be followed by tests in the space orbit while simulating zero gravity and deep vacuum.

Astronaut training

  1. While ISRO still plans to set up a permanent facility, the selected candidates for the first manned mission will most likely train at a foreign facility.
  2. Candidates will need to train for at least two years in living in zero gravity and dealing with a variety of unexpected experiences of living in space.
  3. Some training would also be imparted at the Institute of Aerospace Medicine of the Indian Air Force at Bengaluru.
ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Super-insulating gel could help build Mars habitats

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Aerogel and its properties

Mains level: Utility of Aerogel can revolutionize insulation from heat, which is a major concern for space missions.


News

Aerogel

  1. Scientists at University of Colorado at Boulder have developed a transparent heat-resistant gel using beer waste that may one day be used to build greenhouse-like habitats for human colonised on Mars.
  2. It is made up of common plant sugar cellulose and is a thin, flexible film that is roughly 100 times lighter than glass.
  3. The gel is transparent and so resistant to heat that you could put a strip of it on your hand and a fire on top without feeling a thing.

90% made up of air

  1. Aerogels are at least 90 per cent gas by weight, but their defining feature is air.
  2. Their thin films are made up of crisscrossing patterns of solid material that trap air inside billions of tiny pores, similar to the bubbles in bubble wrap.
  3. This trapping capacity makes them such good insulators.

Utility of Aerogel

  1. Transparency is an enabling feature hence it can be used in windows for extraterrestrial habitats. A peel-and-stick film could simply be attached to home windows.
  2. Its thermally-insulating nature helps protecting from big oscillations in temperature in Space.
  3. The group’s gel is also cheaper to produce because it comes from beer waste.
  4. It can be developed for many other applications, including smart clothes, for insulating cars and protecting firefighters.

Odisha launches health scheme for 70 lakh families

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Scheme

Mains level:  Non-compliance of states to AB-NHPM


News

Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana

  1. Odisha CM launched Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana, a health for all scheme, on the occasion of the 72nd Independence Day.
  2. The scheme provides health assurance coverage to 70 lakh families, covering more than 70% of the State’s population
  3. It may be recalled that the Odisha government had rejected the National Health Protection Scheme as it covered much lesser number of people in Odisha by adopting the 2011 census.
  4. The State government went ahead with its own scheme with coverage of up to ₹5 lakh per year per family. The amount is ₹7 lakh per family with women members.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Verdict of Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal Comes

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Functions & responsibilities of the Union & the States, issues & challenges pertaining to the federal structure

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Verdict on Water Sharing

Mains level: River water disputes in India


News

Award of the Tribunal

  1. The Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal which has been hearing the tussle over sharing of the Mahadayi or Mandovi river between Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra, delivered its final verdict.
  2. Ending a 50-year-old dispute, the tribunal allowed Karnataka access to 13.4 tmc of water for its consumptive use (5.4 tmc) and power generation (8.02 tmc).
  3. The share of Goa was pegged at 24 tmc with the Tribunal allowing it for the state’s municipal water needs, irrigation water requirements and industrial water demands.
  4. Maharashtra got the lowest share of 1.33 tmc for meeting its in-basin needs with respect to five projects.
  5. The tribunal also directed the Centre to set up the Mahadayi Water Management Authority to implement its report and final decision.

Quick recap of the issue

  1. The Mahadayi river basin drains an area of 2032 square kilometres of which 375 square km lies in Karnataka, 77 sq km in Maharashtra and the remaining in Goa.
  2. It originates in the Belagavi district of Karnataka, briefly passes through Maharashtra and flows through Goa (where its known as Mandovi), and drains to the Arabian Sea
  3. Since the eighties, Karnataka has been was contemplating linking of Mahadayi with Malaprabha river, a tributary of Krishna
  4. In 2002, Karnataka gave the idea a shape in the form of the Kalasa-Bhanduri project
  5. Goa strongly opposed it as Mahadayi is one of the two rivers the State is dependent on and thus Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal was set up in 2010

Back2Basics

Interstate River Water Disputes Act

  1. The Interstate River Water Disputes Act, 1956 (IRWD Act) is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted under Article 262 of Constitution of India.
  2. It sets basis to resolve the water disputes that would arise in the use, control and distribution of an interstate river or river valley.
  3. Article 262 of the Indian Constitution provides a role for the Central government in adjudicating conflicts surrounding inter-state rivers that arise among the state/regional governments.
  4. River waters use / harnessing is included in states jurisdiction (entry 17 of state list, Schedule 7 of Indian Constitution).
  5. However, union government can make laws on regulation and development of inter-State rivers and river valleys when expedient in the public interest (entry 56 of union list, Schedule 7 of Indian Constitution).
  6. When public interest is served, President may also establish an interstate council as per Article 263 to inquire and recommend on the dispute that has arisen between the states of India.
  7. This act is confined to states of India and not applicable to union territories.
  8. Any river water sharing treaty made with other countries has to be ratified by the Parliament per Article 253 and all the riparian states of India per Article 252 to make the treaty constitutionally valid.

Tribunals under IRWD Act

  1. Whenever the riparian states are not able to reach amicable agreements on their own in sharing of an interstate river waters, Section 4 of IRWD Act provides dispute resolution process in the form of Tribunal.
  2. As per Section 5.2 of the Act, the tribunal shall not only adjudicate but also investigate the matters referred to it by the central government and forward a report setting out the facts with its decisions.
  3. Under Section 6A of this Act, central government may frame a scheme or schemes to give effect to the decision of a tribunal. Each scheme has provision to establish an authority for implementation of a tribunal verdict.
  4. When a tribunal verdict, after formally gazetted by the union government shall be complied by the union government as the tribunal verdict is equal to Supreme Court verdict.
Kaveri River Water Dispute

India fares poor on Global Liveability

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Urbanization, their problems & remedies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Economist Intelligence Unit, Global Liveability Ranking

Mains level: Measures undertaken to improve living conditions in Indian cities


News

Global Liveability Index

  1. The rankings of 140 global cities, based on their living conditions were released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).
  2. The EIU is part of UK magazine The Economist and provides forecasting and advisory services through research and analysis.
  3. The index assigns cities scores on five broad parameters — stability, healthcare, culture/environment, education, and infrastructure using 30 indicators.

India fares poor in Liveability

  1. India has fared poorly on the Global Liveability Index, 2018, with Delhi ranking 112 and Mumbai five places behind at 117.
  2. Delhi has outperformed Mumbai on education, healthcare and infrastructure, while faring marginally better on culture/environment. The only parameter in which Mumbai fares better than Delhi is stability.
  3. The weakest area for Delhi is its instability due to the high prevalence of petty and violent crimes, and a high risk of terrorism and civil unrest.
  4. It also achieves the lowest possible ranking for public transport, an indicator within infrastructure.
  5. Mumbai fares low in the infrastructure category as it is let down by poor roads and public transport and lack of water provision and quality housing.

Why makes India fare poor?

  1. Even newly-developed areas (in Indian cities) are poorly served by public transport, suffer from congestion and pollution, and have inadequate water.
  2. While private health and education are acceptable in both Mumbai and Delhi, the level and quality of public provision is well below the global average.
  3. High levels of corruption and social and religious restrictions also reduce liveability markedly in both cities.

Contrasting with Indian Study

  1. The EIU report is in contrast with the MoHUA’s recent Ease of Living Index for 111 Indian cities that was released wherein Mumbai ranked at number 3, far ahead of New Delhi at a low 65th rank.
  2. While much of the parameters and data sources are different for the two reports, New Delhi is far behind Mumbai on parameters such as health, education and physical infrastructure.
  3. EIU, which was involved in developing the methodology to measure city GDP for the Indian government’s Ease of Living report, had nothing to do with the ranking process itself.

Other Highlights of the ranking

  1. As per their ranking, the liveability factor of these two Indian cities is the same as Mexico City, Jeddah, Ho Chi Minh City and Jakarta.
  2. Austria’s capital Vienna has been ranked as the best city to live in, displacing Australian city of Melbourne, which had held the record for seven consecutive years.
  3. Syrian capital of Damascus continues to be ranked at the bottom of 140 cities despite the report noting that it has witnessed.
  4. Dhaka in Bangladesh is the second worst with Pakistan’s capital Karachi ranked as the fourth worst.
Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.