August 2018
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Parker, world’s first mission to Sun lifts off


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: Parker Solar Probe

Mains level: The newscard gives complete information about NASAs solar mission


Parker Solar Probe

  1. NASA launched the Parker Solar Probe – the space agency’s first mission to the sun – that will explore the sun’s atmosphere and its outermost atmosphere, the corona.
  2. The spacecraft is named after 91-year old solar physicist Eugene Parker, 91, who was the first scientist to describe solar wind in 1958.
  3. The probe, about the size of a car, will fly through the Sun’s atmosphere and will come as close as 3.8 million miles to the star’s surface, well within the orbit of Mercury.
  4. It will be more than seven times closer than any spacecraft has come before. The Parker probe is expected to make 24 loops of the Sun over seven years.

What makes its special?

  1. During the journey, the spacecraft will fly by Venus at speeds of 4, 30, 000 mph, the equivalent of flying from New York to Tokyo in one minute.
  2. In order to reach an orbit around the sun, the Parker Solar Probe will take seven flybys of Venus that will essentially give a gravity assist, shrinking its orbit over the course of nearly seven years.
  3. It will have to endure temperatures up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,370 degrees Celsius) and solar radiation intensities 475 times higher than we’re used to here on Earth.

Main objectives of Parker Solar Probe

  1. The mission will attempt to uncover the Sun’s mysteries about its structure and magnetic and electric fields, as well as the energetic particles cruising near and away from Earth’s star.
  2. These events can affect satellites and astronauts as well as the Earth including power grids and radiation exposure on airline flights.
  3. The information will help researchers and scientists solve longstanding mysteries:
  • How the solar wind is accelerated
  • Why the sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona, is so much hotter than the solar surface
  • Explore mechanisms that accelerate and transport energy particles

What part of this mission will ‘touch’ the Sun?

  1. The Solar Probe Cup, dubbed ‘the bravest little instrument’, is a sensor will extend beyond the heat shield to take samples of the Sun’s atmosphere.
  2. The cup will glow red when the probe makes its closest approach to the sun, sampling the solar wind and effectively touching the sun.

Mission to end in 2025

  1. The mission is scheduled to end in June 2025 till it runs out of propellent.
  2. The first data download from the Parker Solar Probe is expected in early December after the probe reaches its first close approach of the sun in November.
  3. In 10 to 20 years, a carbon disk will be floating around the sun in orbit, and it will be around until the end of the solar system.

Europe’s Solar Probe in works

  1. The European Space Agency is also building a similar solar probe.
  2. Solar Orbiter, or SolO is undergoing final assembly and testing in the UK.
  3. It is expected to launch in 2020, arriving at its closest position to the Sun towards the end of Parker’s planned seven years of operations.
  4. SolO will go to within 42 million km of the Sun’s surface. That’s further away than Parker but it will still need an impressive shield.

Aditya-L1’s launch is also near

  1. Aditya-L1 is a spacecraft whose mission is to study the Sun.
  2. It was conceptualised by the Advisory Committee for Space Research in January 2008.
  3. It has been designed and will be built in collaboration between Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and various Indian research organizations.
  4. It will be launched by ISRO around 2019 or 2020.
International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

More banks report tightening of credit standards, shows survey


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: Not Much

Mains level: The newscard discusses measures adopted by banks to reduce NPAs.


Cautioned over NPAs

  1. A survey conducted by FICCI and Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) showed more respondents claiming they had tightened credit standards during January-June 2018, the period in which survey was conducted.
  2. 67% respondents among participating banks have reported tightening of standards, steeply increasing from 28% in the last round of the survey.
  3. A total of 22 public sector, private sector and foreign banks participated in the survey, which is conducted twice a year. These banks together represent 64% of the banking industry, as classified by asset size.
  4. This round has been conducted at a time when NPAs have shot past the Rs. 10-lakh crore marks and continue to rise.

IBC effect

  1. The survey noted that with stressed assets rising, banks have generally adopted a cautious approach in lending, to prevent fresh slippages.
  2. As was the case in the previous round of the survey, 59% of the respondent banks reported a rise in NPAs in the current round of the survey.
  3. Infrastructure, metals and engineering goods were the key sectors reported with the highest NPAs. More than two-thirds of the respondents have cited these as sectors with high NPAs.
  4. At the same time, most participating banks agreed that the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) had made the recovery process faster and improved the recovery position of banks.
  5. To improve the resolution rate, bankers suggested strengthening of the judiciary, enhancing capacity, empowerment of local level government officials, among other suggestions.
  6. They also said that extension of the moratorium beyond 270 days for any reason should not be permitted.
Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code

ISRO set to launch its TV channel


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: Vikram Sarabhai, ISRO TV

Mains level: All missions of the ISRO are important from examination point of view.


Promoting scientific temper

  1. The ISRO is all set for a year-long Vikram Sarabhai centenary celebration starting in August 2019 to honour the visionary scientist and its legendary founding father.
  2. In a few months’ time, it plans to roll out a dedicated ISRO TV channel showcasing space applications, developments and science issues, targeting young viewers and people in remote areas in their language.

Satellite launches now open to public

  1. As it strengthens its public outreach, ISRO will shortly start allowing the public to watch satellite launches from its Sriharikota launch centre.
  2. Selected students of classes 8 to 10 will be the trained at ISRO for a month and taken to various laboratories and centres across the country.

Vikram Sarabhai- the legend

  1. Sarabhai, the architect of the Indian space programme, the first ISRO chief and renowned cosmic ray scientist, was born on August 12, 1919.
  2. ISRO’s tributes to Sarabhai start with naming the first Indian moon landing spacecraft of the Chandrayaan-2 mission ‘Vikram’.
  3. Sarabhai was only 28 when he sowed the seeds of a space agency around the late 1940s and 1950s.


ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Bill to allow proxy voting by NRIs passed by Lok Sabha


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Bill

Mains level:  Importance of overseas Indian voters in Election



  1. A bill to extend the facility of ‘proxy voting’ to overseas Indians, on the lines of service voters, was passed by the Lok Sabha.
  2. Proxy is not a negated word. It is now a legal and defined word.
  3. The Bill was passed by a voice vote in the Lower House, proposes that overseas Indians, who are entitled to vote in India, could now appoint a proxy voter to cast their votes.

Proxy Voting Bill

  1. As of now, overseas Indians were free to cast their votes in the constituencies where they were registered.
  2. The Bill seeks to give them the option of proxy voting, which until now was only available to service personnel.
  3. According to estimates of the Ministry of External Affairs, there are about 10 crore NRIs living in different countries across the world.

Preventing Misuse

  1. While framing the rules, the government will ensure that the system of proxy voting is not misused by anyone.
  2. On the issue of allowing migrant workers to vote without having to travel to their place of residence, Prasad said it was “work in progress our sympathies are with them they should be given the right to vote.” Some members demanded that the facility of postal ballots to be extended to them.
  3. Provision for e-voting has several difficulties in implementing in a large country like India due to security concerns.

Reducing travel expenses

  1. Unofficial data with EC shows that only 10,000 to 12,000 overseas voters have exercised their franchise because they do not want to spend foreign currency to come to India and vote.
  2. The necessary provision of coming to India to cast ballot caused hardship for overseas electors.

Provision related to Spouses of Service Voters

  1. As of now, an army man’s wife is entitled to be enrolled as a service voter, but a woman army officer’s husband is not, according to the provisions in the electoral law.
  2. The bill proposes to replace the term ‘wife’ with ‘spouse’, thus making the provision gender neutral.
  3. Members of the armed forces, central armed police forces, personnel of state police forces posted outside their state and employees of the centre posted outside India are eligible to be enrolled as service voters.

Concerns with the Bill

  1. This facility could be misused by political parties by persuading the proxies appointed by the NRIs.
  2. The foreign missions attempts to elections of India by distributing literature to influence the voting pattern in favour of the ruling party.
  3. There should be e-voting for NRIs to prevent misuse.
  4. As regards migrant workers provisions should be made to allow them to vote at their place of residence.
  5. It could lead to vote to trade.
Electoral Reforms In India

[pib] Central Silk Board Notifies Recently Developed Races of Silk Worm Seed


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Names of breeds mentioned in the newscard and their agro-climatic conditions

Mains level: Promoting Sericulture in India



  1. Central Silk Board (CSB) has notified recently developed races of silkworm seed of mulberry and Vanya silk for increasing the productivity of cocoons and to increase the income of the farmers engaged in sericulture.
  2. Silk worm breeds for specific agro-climatic condition are essential for increasing the productivity of cocoons.

Tropical Tasar Silkworm (BDR-10)

  1. It is a race developed by the CSB has 21% more productivity than the traditional Daba
  2. Farmers can get upto 52 kg cocoons per 100 disease free layings (dfls).
  3. This silkworm breed will help the tribal farmers of Jharkhand, Chattishgarh, Odisha, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Maharastra, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh.

Multivoltine x Bivoltine Mulberry hybrid(PM x FC2)

  1. This race of silkworm can produce 60 kg per 100 Dfls and the race is better than earlier race PM x CSR.
  2. Due to high quality silk and significant egg recovery, this race is suitable for the farmers of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Maharastra.

Eri Silkworm (C2)

  1. This race has been found better than local breed and it can produce 247 numbers of Eri cocoons per 100 Dfls.
  2. This race is suitable for the farmers in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Maharastra, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha, Sikkim, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal.


Central Silk Board

  1. Central Silk Board (CSB) is a Statutory body established in 1948 by an Act of Parliament.
  2. Nodal Agency: Ministry of Textiles, Government of India.
  3. It is engaged in applied research developing new breeds of races of silkworm seed and conducts extensive field trial before commercial use in the field.
Animal Husbandry, Dairy & Fisheries Sector – Pashudhan Sanjivani, E- Pashudhan Haat, etc

[pib] CSIR’s new patented Clot buster, PEGylated Streptokinase set to revolutionize the treatment of Strokes


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: PEGylated Streptokinase

Mains level: Read the attached story.


What is Clot Buster?

A clot buster is used to break-up the clot that causes a blockage or disruption in the flow of blood to the brain and helps restore the blood flow to the area of the brain.

PEGylated Streptokinase

  1. It is a new clot buster developed by at CSIR-Institute of Microbial Technology (CSIR-IMTECH), Chandigarh.
  2. It is all set to revolutionize the treatment of ischemic strokes.
  3. Ischemic stroke is a condition caused by a dysfunction in the supply of blood to the brain due to emboli, thrombus or atherosclerosis occurring in cerebral arteries.
  4. PEGylated Streptokinase, the novel recombinant protein Thrombolytic molecule has been precisely engineered through decades of research for enhanced proteolytic stability.
  5. Its advantages are reduced probability of hemorrhage over current treatment regimens of thrombolytic drugs for acute stroke.

Developed under PPP

  1. CSIR-IMTECH and Epygen Biotech Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, have entered into an agreement for the latter to develop PEGylated Streptokinase for treatment of Ischemic Stroke.
  2. Epygen is the first company in India with exclusive license of this Novel Biological Entity (NBE) thrombolytic protein for ischemic stroke.

Brain Stroke- the second biggest killer

  1. According to the American Stroke Association (ASA), brain strokes are the second leading cause of death in the world with a staggering 15 million people effected.
  2. It is causing 11 million people either die or become permanently disabled.
  3. Surprisingly, the prevalence of stroke is much higher in India than the West and about 87% of all strokes are ischemic strokes.


Council of Scientific and Industrial Research

  1. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research was established by the Government of India in 1942 is an autonomous body that has emerged as the largest research and development organisation in India
  2. It runs thirty-eight laboratories and thirty-nine field stations or extension centres throughout the nation, with a collective staff of over 12,000 scientists and scientific and technical personnel
  3. Although it is mainly funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology, it operates as an autonomous body through the Societies Registration Act, 1860
  4. The research and development activities of CSIR include aerospace engineering, structural engineering, ocean sciences, life sciences, metallurgy, chemicals, mining, food, petroleum, leather, and environmental science.


Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

[op-ed snap] Refocusing on Africa


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: Asia Africa Growth Corridor, African Union, East African Community

Mains level: India’s recent Africa focus and its strategic as well as economic importance


PM’s recent Africa tour

  1. PM Modi recently returned from a tour of Rwanda, Uganda and South Africa
  2. It included a flurry of agreements and a speech at the BRICS Summit in South Africa outlining 10 guiding principles for India’s engagement in Africa
  3. A refocused Africa strategy is emerging which builds on India’s soft power in historical, trade, and cultural links, particularly with eastern Africa — or in the new jargon, the western edge of the Indo-Pacific

Aims of the new strategy

  1. It aims to secure India’s foothold on the continent
  2. Provide secure access to resources
  3. Build markets for Indian goods and services
  4. And support India’s global ambitions
  5. The strategy is also focused on building alliances and differentiating India from China as a development partner

Indian strategy: Development partnership

  1. India’s main tool for implementing this new strategy is an increase in development partnerships
  2. Since it cannot match China’s deep-pocketed infrastructure-focused engagement in Africa, India has tried to differentiate itself by engaging with its diaspora and private sector links to build development partnerships
  3. India has a comparative advantage in English-language training and research
  4. India has also initiated a series of India-Africa forums and is working with Japan on an Asia Africa Growth Corridor

Key players in the new setup

  • The strategy was on display during Modi’s first stop in Rwanda, a country that is considered an increasingly important gateway to Africa and one with which India now has a strategic partnership
  1. Wanting to solidify this strategic relationship, Modi announced India would open a high commission in Rwanda, signed seven MoUs, including in defence, and provided two credit lines of $100 million each for irrigation works and industrial parks
  2. Rwanda is the present chair of the influential African Union, where common positions are adopted by the continent
  3. It is the third-fastest growing economy in Africa
  • Modi’s next stop was in Uganda, which currently chairs the East African Community, a grouping of six countries with a common market and free trade arrangements with other countries
  1. PM Modi, with a large business delegation in tow, addressed a business event, as well as the Indian diaspora, whose number of 50,000 belie their role in nearly two-thirds of the country’s GDP
  2. He addressed the Ugandan parliament, a first by an Indian prime minister
  3. He also extended cooperation on training between Uganda’s military and the Indian Army
  4. A commitment for two credit lines for over $200 million and several capacity-building and training programmes was also made
  • Modi’s final stop in South Africa to attend the 10th BRICS summit drove home India’s strategic engagement
  1. He said India is putting Africa at the top of its priorities and is keen to build partnerships that will liberate its potential rather than constrain its future

Implementation tools under question

  1. While India’s Africa strategy is becoming clearer, questions about the efficacy of tools for implementing it remain
  2. Only four per cent of Indian grants in 2017-18 were committed to Africa
  3. Credit lines to Africa have a 40 per cent disbursement rate
  4. India’s new concessional financing scheme, which subsidises private Indian companies bidding on African infrastructure projects, shows no signs of functioning a year after its announcement

Way Forward

  1. India seeks to implement its new strategic partnership with Africa and convince countries that it can not only commit but also deliver
  2. Focus on efficacy and timely action in terms of delivering promises will help India achieve this goal
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Africa

[op-ed snap] Undoing a legacy of injustice


Mains Paper 2: Governance | mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of these vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Various colonial era provisions still in force and need to remove them for better governance


Delhi HC strikes down the beggar act

  1. Last week, in a remarkable, landmark and long overdue judgment, the Delhi High Court struck it down as inconsistent with the Constitution
  2. In its judgment in Harsh Mander v. Union of India and Karnika Sawhney v. Union of India, Delhi HC held that the Begging Act violated Article 14 (equality before law) and Article 21 (right to life and personal liberty) of the Constitution

Inhuman provisions of the Begging Act

  1. The Begging Act was passed in 1959 by the State of Bombay, and has continued to exist in as many as 20 States and two Union Territories
  2. Begging Act criminalises begging
  3. It gives the police the power to arrest individuals without a warrant
  4. It gives magistrates the power to commit them to a “certified institution” (read: a detention centre) for up to three years on the commission of the first “offence”, and up to 10 years upon the second “offence”
  5. It strips the people of their privacy and dignity by compelling them to allow themselves to be fingerprinted
  6. The Act also authorises the detention of people “dependent” upon the “beggar” (read: family), and the separation of children over the age of five
  7. Certified institutions have absolute power over detainees, including the power of punishment, and the power to exact “manual work”
  8. Disobeying the rules of the institution can land an individual in jail

Less help and more harassment

  1. From its first word to the last, the Begging Act reflects a vicious logic
  2. There is the definition of “begging” which has a pointed reference to “singing, dancing, fortune telling, performing or offering any article for sale”
  3. This makes it clear that the purpose of the Act is not simply to criminalise the act of begging (as commonly understood), but to target groups and communities whose itinerant patterns of life do not fit within mainstream stereotypes of the sedentary, law-abiding citizen with a settled job
  4. The reference to “no visible means of subsistence and wandering about” punishes people for the crime of looking poor
  5. These vague definitions not only give unchecked power to the police to harass citizens but they also reveal the prejudices underlying the law

Transforamtive Constitution

  1. The Delhi High Court order striking down the Begging Act heeds the Constitution’s transformative nature
  2. It marks a crucial step forward in dismantling one of the most vicious and enduring legacies of colonialism
  3. A judgment delivered by the same court more than nine years ago, decriminalised homosexuality (Naz Foundation v. NCT of Delhi)
  4. Both Naz Foundation and Harsh Mander recognise that our Constitution is a transformative Constitution, which seeks to undo legacies of injustice and lift up all individuals and communities to the plane of equal citizenship

Way Forward

  1. It is important to remember one thing: a court can strike down an unconstitutional law, but it cannot reform society
  2. Poverty is a systemic and structural problem
  3. It is now the task of the Legislative Assembly and the government to replace the punitive structure of the (now defunct) Begging Act with a new set of measures that genuinely focusses on the rehabilitation and integration of the most vulnerable and marginalised members of our society
Human Rights Issues

[op-ed snap] BCCI revamp: On Lodha panel recommendations


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Judicial interventions in various regulatory bodies administration and results of these interventions


SC’s final verdict on reforms

  1. The Supreme Court has now extended some concessions to those aggrieved by the rigorous rules of BCCI reforms
  2. This is two years after accepting the Justice R.M. Lodha Committee’s recommendations, which aimed to revamp cricket administration in the country

Cooling off period relaxed

  1. The most significant change concerns the cooling-off period prescribed for office-bearers before they are allowed to contest for a subsequent term
  2. Against the panel’s view that every office-bearer of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, in the national board or in a State association, should have a three-year break after a three-year term, the court has now allowed two three-year terms — that is, a tenure of six years — before the mandatory break kicks in
  3. The logic behind a cooling-off period is that office-bearers should not be given lengthy tenures that enable them to establish personal fiefdoms
  4. The argument against it is that the experience and knowledge that office-bearer gains over three years should not be frittered away, and a second term could help consolidate such learnings
  5. Given that there is a nine-year aggregate limit as well as an age limit of 70 for any office-bearer, this change may not amount to any significant dilution of the core principle that there should be no perpetuation of power centres

One state one vote norm overruled

  1. The Lodha panel had also favoured the ‘one State, one vote’ norm
  2. This meant that an association representing a State alone should be recognised as a voting member of the BCCI, while associations representing a region within a State or entities that do not represent a territory should not have the same vote or status
  3. In this change, the court has accepted the reasoning that associations that had contributed significantly to Indian cricket need not be stripped of their full membership

Way Forward

  1. Judicial intervention has been immensely helpful in making cricket administration more efficient and professional and addressing the credibility deficit of recent times
  2. The changes adopted by the court while finalising a new constitution for the BCCI differ in significant ways from what was proposed by the Lodha committee but are pragmatic in nature and would lead to healthy governance of cricket in India
BCCI Reforms – Lodha Committee, etc.