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[op-ed snap] Ready to reveal secrets from the right side of the moon

Mains Paper 3 : Achievements Of Indians In S&T |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Chandrayaan 2


CONTEXT

On 7 September, when the Vikram Lander ejects the Pragyan Rover to roll out and analyse the lunar terrain, India is the world’s first country to land on the moon’s highly uneven south pole. 

Background

    • It is labeled as “India’s Sputnik moment”, for its big leap forward for Indian science.
    • Such missions require decades of scientific effort, government planning, and adequate allocation of resources.

Importance of the event

    • It shows the ability to orbit a solar-system object.
    • It shall demonstrate the capability to land on the surface and carry out scientifically valuable exploratory missions around landing points through robotic rovers.
    • Data from the eight scientific payloads would make precise measurements of the chemical and mineral composition of the moon, map the topography of the lunar surface to intensify a search for the presence of hydroxyl and water molecules.
    • Exploring the south pole area will significantly improve our understanding of the moon as it contains an undisturbed historical record of the inner solar system environment.

Background of Chandrayaan

  • India had conducted an exhaustive study over 1999 to 2003 to chart out its future space missions. 
  • The study led to the decision of India’s first moon mission, Chandrayaan-1.
  • The decision was influenced by two factors: 
      • satellite-building and launch vehicle capabilities of ISRO and the interest of India’s scientific community
      • opportunity to upgrade our technological capabilities in areas such as control, guidance and navigation, deep-space communications, and other fields
  • Chandrayaan-1 satisfactorily fulfilled its mission objectives.
      • It discovered the possible existence of water in the exosphere and on the surface as well as sub-surface of the moon
      • mapped the mineralogical and chemical properties of the lunar regolith, atmosphere and ionosphere
      • studied aspects of solar radiation interaction with the moon

Indian space mission today

    • India’s launch vehicle program has matured; As of 2018, India had launched 237 satellites for 28 different countries.
    • Using these technologies, India has also built a series of sophisticated satellites for applications such as remote sensing, communication, broadcasting and navigation and for scientific missions
    • In this background, Chandrayaan 2, involving far higher level of technology, more detailed scientific measurements and increase in complexity was approved.

What it holds for the future

    • India hopes to play its rightful role in such future ventures which could be mostly international
    • The use of the moon as a take-off point to reach other locations in the solar system is also recognized as an attractive strategy
    • The preliminary experience gained from Chandrayaan 2 could be very valuable from technical and scientific points of view.
    • Near-Earth orbital missions, geosynchronous missions, near-Earth human spaceflight missions, robotic lunar and planetary exploration involving many solar system objects will be well within India’s reach in the next decade
    • The mission is a boost for India to conceive even more complex undertakings to nearby and distant planets and other bodies of the solar system like Gaganyaan.

Challenges remain

    • The allocation of resources to research and development in India is the lowest among BRICS nations. In 2014-15, India spent only about 0.69% of GDP on R&D, while Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa spent 1.24%, 1.19%, 2.05%, and 0.75%, respectively.
    • Also, the level of spending on R&D as a fraction of GDP has remained stagnant for the past two decades.

CONCLUSION

The success of the Chandrayaan 2 mission should draw the attention of our policymakers to increase the country’s level of support to science.

 

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[op-ed snap] It’s time officers renewed their commitment to the nation, not the govt of the day

Mains : Ethics | Paper 4 |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Civil Services - need for reforms


CONTEXT

We often hear questions on the integrity of civil services, organisations such as the Enforcement Directorate and the CBI and the intentions of taxmen when they do some tasks as part of their job.

Background

There is a belief that the country’s “rusted steel frame” poses a challenge. But not many concrete measures to offer that can strengthen and refurbish it. 

Civil services training 

  • The training academies in Mussoorie, Hyderabad, Nagpur, Baroda, Shimla, etc. are state-of-the-art and well-equipped to enhance the skills of trainees.
  • These institutes impart training in subjects specific to the job profile of each service.
  • But what about the spirit of the civil services? What about “the impartiality and incorruptibility of administration”, that Sardar Patel expected? 
  • The backbone to withstand the pressures of expediency, politicians, media, and mobs is withering.

Role models who fought alone

  • A commissioner of police who, when asked not to oppose the bail of a film star who was the son of a Mumbai politician, refused to comply, politely but firmly.
  • A young IAS officer refused to write the interview marks of candidates in pencil — so the politicians on the board could “manipulate” them later.
  • A tax officer refused to open a closed file to “teach a lesson to an unfriendly” business house.

Challenges

  • These actions are known only to a few.
  • There are awards for innovation and achieving targets, but none for awarding an officer for standing by the principles she is supposed to be true to.
  • Case studies have been developed for performance, but none exist for those who abide by their commitment to a just and equitable society and dare to differ with “orders from the top”.

Problems

  • Encroachment of the sphere of work of civil servants by self-serving politicians of all political parties. 
  • Civil servants have been slow in the delivery of services and tardy in the implementation of policies. 
  • Many civil servants have become corrupt.
  • Services lost their speed of delivery and idealism in the 1960s. 
  • The relevance of civil services remains limited, post-liberalisation.

Civil Services for the common man

  • Common man still sees a lot of hope in the civil services. 
  • His dream is to have his child join them for the prestige and power that the services seem to carry. 
  • To him, the services represent a very important tool to establish an equitable society through which he hopes to better his life and the future of his children. 
  • He does not think of “using” the services for his selfish ends but for the common good.

What civil servants have to do

  • Spread the culture of performance and accountability and punish the corrupt. 
  • Resist undue pressures from different players, and concentrate on the delivery of services to the poor.

Justice Khanna – a case study

  • Justice H R Khanna remains the most remembered for his principled stand against Emergency. 
  • Very few have heard of the other four judges. 
  • Though his judgment blew him away from the coveted chair of the Chief Justice of India, about 50 law graduates wrote about him for his refusal to toe the line of the selfish political leadership of the time.

CONCLUSION

We need the likes of Justice Khanna to motivate the civil services to take a principled stand.

Corruption Challenges – Lokpal, POCA, etc

[op-ed snap] Putting the pedal to the metal

Mains Paper 3 : Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways Etc. |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Auto Industry slowdown


CONTEXT

The automobile industry is cyclical. It is also a lead indicator for economic growth. And it has been experiencing signs of a slowdown. The decline began in the last quarter of the calendar year 2018 and intensified with the passage of every month in 2019.

Background

  • Though the industry goes through cycles of ups and downs the current slowdown is something to worry about seriously.
  • The current downturn is like nothing that the industry has seen in a long, time in terms of depth, scale, and character.

The uniqueness of current slowdown

  • Every segment of the auto industry, beginning from two-wheelers to passenger cars, light commercial vehicles and heavy commercial vehicles, and even tractors, has been hit. 
  • A natural, cyclical downturn has been amplified by reforms with good intentions.
  • The policy on electric vehicles has only intensified and prolonged slowdown. 

Commercial vehicles – Revision in axle-load norms

  • In 2018, the government revised axle-load norms (for the first time since 1983) for cargo carriers by between 12% and 25%. It was aimed to legalize overloading and help reduce freight costs for both consignors and consignees.
  • By applying the higher cargo rules to all trucks on the roads, government raised existing carrying capacity and forced per-tonne freight rates down. 
  • This occurred at a time when carrying capacity was increasing due to the introduction of GST. 

BS-VI

  • Vehicle manufacturer’s practice of clogging the pipeline by over-producing vehicles without care for demand, and dumping them on dealers to sell became a painful issue now.
  • Because of the approaching deadline for the transition to BS-VI norms from April 1, 2020, dealers are saddled with the inventory of BS-IV vehicles that they need to clear out before the deadline. 
  • Manufacturers are unable to plan their production schedules for BS-VI vehicles. 

Model fatigue

In the case of cars, it appears to be one of model fatigue. Between Maruti and Hyundai, the two big players that account for two-thirds of the industry, there have been hardly any exciting new launches in the last year. 

Way ahead

The government should reduce GST on automobiles from 28% to 18% as per the demand of the industry, but not for all vehicles. This should only be for BS-IV vehicles with manufacturers and dealers.

Industrial Sector Updates – Industrial Policy, Ease of Doing Business, etc.

Explained: Mapping lightning across India

Mains Paper 3 : Disaster Management |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the report

Mains level : Lightening mapping and its benefit



News

  • For the first time, a report has mapped lightning strikes across the country, and the lives they have claimed.

About the report

  • It has been prepared by Climate Resilient Observing Systems Promotion Council (CROPC), a non-profit organisation that works closely with India Meteorological Department (IMD).

What has the report found?

  • Lightning strikes have caused at least 1,311 deaths in the four-month period between April and July this year, according to a first-of-its-kind report on lightning incidents in India.
  • UP accounted for 224 of these deaths, followed by Bihar (170), Odisha (129) and Jharkhand (118).
  • It counted 65.55 lakh lightning strikes in India during this four-month period, of which 23.53 lakh (36 per cent) happened to be cloud-to-ground lightning, the kind that reaches the Earth.
  • The other 41.04 lakh (64 per cent) were in-cloud lightning, which remains confined to the clouds in which it was formed.
  • Odisha recorded over 9 lakh incidents of lightning (both kinds), the maximum for any state but fewer deaths than Uttar Pradesh, which had 3.2 lakh incidents.

Why are these findings important?

  • The report is part of an effort to create a database that can help develop an early warning system for lightning, spread awareness, and prevent deaths.
  • Between 2,000 and 2,500 people are estimated as killed every year in lightning strikes in the country.
  • It is possible to predict, 30-40 minutes in advance, when a lightning strike heads towards Earth.
  • The prediction is made possible through study and monitoring of the in-cloud lightning strikes.
  • Timely dissemination of this information can save several lives.
  • After carrying out a pilot project in 16 states, the IMD has begun providing lightning forecasts and warnings through mobile text messages from this year.
  • However, this is not yet available in all regions, and there isn’t enough awareness as yet on the kinds of action that need to be taken after an alert.

Back2Basics

Lightening

  • Lightning is a very rapid and massive discharge of electricity in the atmosphere. Some of it is directed towards the Earth.
  • It is a result of the difference in electrical charge between the top and bottom of a cloud.
  • The lightning-generating clouds are typically about 10-12 km in height, with their base about 1-2 km from the Earth’s surface. The temperatures at the top range from -35°C to -45°C.

Mechanism of formation

  • As water vapour moves upwards in the cloud, it condenses into water due to decreasing temperatures.
  • A huge amount of heat is generated in the process, pushing the water molecules further up. As they move to temperatures below zero, droplets change into small ice crystals.
  • As they continue upwards, they gather mass, until they become so heavy that they start descending. It leads to a system where smaller ice crystals move upwards while larger ones come down.
  • The resulting collisions trigger release of electrons, in a process very similar to the generation of electric sparks. The moving free electrons cause more collisions and more electrons; a chain reaction is formed.
  • The process results in a situation in which the top layer of the cloud gets positively charged while the middle layer is negatively charged.
  • The electrical potential difference between the two layers is huge, of the order of billions of volts. In little time, a huge current, of the order of lakhs to millions of amperes, starts to flow between the layers.
  • It produces heat, leading to the heating of the air column between the two layers of cloud. It is because of this heat that the air column looks red during lightning.
  • The heated air column expands and produces shock waves that result in thunder sounds.

How does it strike Earth?

  • The Earth is a good conductor of electricity. While electrically neutral, it is relatively positively charged compared to the middle layer of the cloud.
  • As a result, an estimated 20-25 per cent of the current flow gets directed towards the Earth. It is this current flow that results in damage to life and property.
  • Lightning has a greater probability of striking raised objects on the ground, such as trees or buildings.
  • Once they are sufficiently near the ground, about 80-100 m from the surface, they even tend to redirect their course to hit the taller objects.
  • This is because travelling through air, which is a bad conductor of electricity, the electrons try to find a better conductor and also the shortest route to the relatively positively charged Earth’s surface.
  • Thousands of thunderstorms occur over India every year. One thunderstorm can involve more than 100 lightning strikes.
Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

Eastern Economic Forum

Mains Paper 2 : Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and agreements involving India |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : EEF

Mains level : Act Far East Policy of India



News

  • The Plenary Session of the 5th Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) was recently held in Vladivostok, Russia.

Eastern Economic Forum (EEF)

  • According to its website, the EEF was established by a decree of the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, in 2015.
  • It aimed for supporting the economic development of Russia’s Far East, and to expand international cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • The ongoing EEF Summit at the Far Eastern Federal University is the fifth in its history.
  • Among the participants in the Summit are India, Malaysia, Japan, Australia, and South Korea.
  • The Summits have roundtable conferences, panel sessions, business breakfasts, besides business dialogues and bilateral talks and agreements.

Achievements of EEF

  • In the last five years, as many as 17 different countries have invested in the Far East, according to the EEF website.
  • These include regional and global heavyweights like China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and Vietnam.
  • As a result, 20 advanced special economic zones and five free ports have been put in place.
  • A total of 1,780 new investment projects, worth over 3.8 trillion rubles, and 230 new enterprises have become functional, the EEF website says.

India’s engagement with Russia

  • Indian firms have invested over $7 billion in taking stake in Russian oil and gas fields.
  • India ventured into Russia when its flagship overseas firm ONGC Videsh in 2001 acquired a 20 per cent stake in Sakhalin-1 oil and gas field in Far East Russia.
  • OVL later bought Imperial Energy, which has fields in Siberia, as also stakes in Vankor oilfield in eastern Siberia.
  • IOC and its partners have picked up 29.9 per cent stake in a separate Taas-Yuryakh oilfield in East Siberia.
  • Russian oil firm Rosneft in 2017 bought Essar Oil, which operates in Vadinar oil refinery in Gujarat and some 5,500 petrol pumps, for USD 12.9 billion.
  • Going beyond the bonhomie and historical ties, India is also a key customer of the Russian arms industry.
  • In March, India entered into a joint venture with Russia to manufacture the legendary Kalashnikov assault rifles in India.
  • In 2018, Russia sold the S-400 advanced air defence system to India.
  • India is interested in expanding the level of trade between the two countries. An area of special interest for India is the exploration of hydrocarbon reserves along the coast of Russia’s Far East.

India’s interest in the EEF

  • PM Modi has described the EEF as a “historic opportunity” to give new impetus to the cooperation between India and Russia.
  • He has said that the relationship between the two countries has “special chemistry, special ease”, even pointing out that Siberian cranes migrate to “my home state Gujarat”.

Extending to Act Far East Policy

  • The PM recalled that India was the first country in the world to open a consulate in Vladivostok, and underlined the age and depth of the country’s relations with the Far East.
  • Engaging closely with East Asia was in line with India’s policy goal of “Act East”.
  • PM also unveiled the “Act Far East” policy to boost India’s engagement with Russia’s Far East region.
  • This will also give a new dimension to our economic diplomacy.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Sea route from Chennai to Vladivostok

Mains Paper 2 : Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and agreements involving India |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the sea route

Mains level : India-Russia bilateral relations



News

  • During PM’s visit to Vladivostok this week, a MoI was signed to open a full-fledged maritime route between Russia’s eastern port city and Chennai on India’s eastern seaboard.

Vladivostok

  • In Russian, Vladivostok is ‘Ruler of the East’.
  • Located on the Golden Horn Bay north of North Korea and a short distance from Russia’s border with China, it is the largest port on Russia’s Pacific coast, and home to the Pacific Fleet of the Russian Navy.
  • It is the eastern railhead of the legendary Trans Siberian Railway, which connects the far east of Russia to the capital Moscow, and further west to the countries of Europe.
  • At Vladivostok’s massive port, shipping and commercial fishing are the main commercial activities.
  • Automobiles are a major item of import at the port, from where they are often transported further inland.

To Chennai, by sea

  • An ocean liner travelling from Vladivostok to Chennai would sail southward on the Sea of Japan past the Korean peninsula, Taiwan and the Philippines in the South China Sea, past Singapore and through the Strait of Malacca.
  • It will emerge into the Bay of Bengal and then cut across through the Andaman and Nicobar archipelago to Chennai.

Time and distance

  • This sea route covers a distance of approximately 5,600 nautical miles, or about 10,300 km.
  • A large container ship travelling at the normal cruising speed of 20-25 knots, or 37-46 km/hour, should be able to cover the distance in 10-12 days.
  • At suboptimal “slow steaming” speeds of 18-20 knots (33-37 km/hour), at which long-distance vessels sometimes travel to in order to save fuel, it might take slightly longer — 12-13 days.

Trade and strategy

  • India is building nuclear power plants with Russia’s collaboration in Kudankulam on the sea coast in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli district.
  • The opening of a sea route is likely to help in the project.
  • Even otherwise, a vibrant sea route will help in the upscaling of trade relations between the two nations.
  • It will also increase India’s presence in the Indo-Pacific, and especially the South China Sea, a deeply contested patch of the ocean that Beijing considers its stomping ground.

Significance of the route

  • Opening of this route between Chennai and Vladivostok assumes significance because it ensures there will be connectivity between the two major ports.
  • It will give impetus to the cooperation between India and the Russian Far East.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Russia

Travel and Tourism Competitive Index 2019

Mains Paper 3 : Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways Etc. |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the Index

Mains level : Development of Tourism in India



News

  • A report released by the World Economic Forum (WEF) ranking the travel & tourism competitiveness of 140 economies was recently released.

About the Index

  • Published biennially by WEF, Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report and Index benchmarks the Travel & Tourism (T&T) competitiveness of 140 economies.
  • The study scored countries on four indicators — enabling environment; travel and tourism policy and enabling conditions; infrastructure; natural and cultural rankings.
  • The four broad indicators looked at 14 variables, which were further subdivided into 90 indicators such as property rights, efficiency of the legal framework, quality of electricity supply, female labour force participation, visa requirements and the number of World Heritage cultural sites.

India’s progress

  • The biennial report shows that India has made the greatest improvement since 2017 among the top 25 per cent of the countries that were previously ranked.
  • Overall, India is ranked 34, up six places from 2017.
  • India’s highest improvement was in enabling environment, by 10 places to 98.
  • The least improvement is in infrastructure as well as in natural and cultural rankings, by just three places each, but India’s rank was already high in the latter.

Global scene

  • Spain, France, Germany, Japan and the United States are the world’s most travel-ready nations.
  • Japan remains Asia’s most competitive travel and tourism economy, ranking 4th globally.
  • China is the largest travel and tourism economy in Asia-Pacific and 13th most competitive globally.
Tourism Sector

Institution of Eminence Scheme

Mains Paper 2 : Government Scheme/Policies |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the scheme

Mains level : Outreach of the scheme


News

Status granted to new institutions

  • The HRD Ministry has awarded the status of Institute of Eminence to the IIT-Madras, the IIT-Kharagpur, Delhi University, Benares Hindu University and the University of Hyderabad.
  • Four private universities — the Vellore Institute of Technology, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, Jamia Hamdard University and the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology — were issued Letters of Intent to grant them the status.
  • The new greenfield Bharti Institute, a project of Satya Bharti Foundation, has also been issued the letter.

Significance

  • These institutions will not be subject to UGC inspections, and are free to set their own courses and curriculum, fee structure and merit-based admission systems.
  • Each university will be required to sign a MoU with the Ministry, laying out its plan to achieve the objective of becoming a world-class institution.
  • They will have complete academic, administrative and financial autonomy.
  • The public institutions on the list will then be eligible for a government grant of ₹1,000 crore.

Back2Basics

Institutions of Eminence scheme

  • This scheme under the Union HRD ministry aims to project Indian institutes to global recognition.
  • The selected institutes will enjoy complete academic and administrative autonomy.
  • Only higher education institutions currently placed in the top 500 of global rankings or top 50 of the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) are eligible to apply for the eminence tag.
  • The private Institutions of Eminence can also come up as greenfield ventures provided the sponsoring organisation submits a convincing perspective plan for 15 years.

What will be the benefit for such institutions?

  1. It will ensure complete autonomy to the selected institutions and facilitate them to grow more rapidly
  2. They will get more opportunity to scale up their operations with more skills and quality improvement so that they become World Class Institutions in the field of education
  3. To achieve the top world ranking, these Institutions shall be provided with
  • greater autonomy  to admit foreign students up to 30% of admitted students
  • to recruit foreign faculty up to 25% of faculty strength; to offer online courses up to 20% of its programmes
  • to enter into academic collaboration with top 500 in the world ranking Institutions without permission of UGC
  • free to fix and charge fees from foreign students without restriction
  • the flexibility of course structure in terms of number of credit hours and years to take a degree
  • complete flexibility in fixing of curriculum and syllabus
Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

[pib] Exercise TSENTR 2019

Mains Paper 3 : Various Security Forces, Agencies & Their Mandates |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Exercise TSENTR 2019

Mains level : Significance of the exercise


News

Exercise TSENTR 2019

  • It is part of the annual series of large scale exercises that form part of the Russian Armed Forces’ annual training cycle.
  • The series rotates through the four main Russian operational strategic commands.
  • These annual exercises have slowly began taking an international character, with Belarus participating in ZAPAD-2017 and China and Mongolia participating in VOSTOK-2018.
  • This year, invitations for participation have been extended to nine other countries.
  • Apart from host Russia, military contingents from China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan will also take part in this mega event.

 Aim of the exercise

  • The exercise aims at evolving drills of the participating armies and practicing them in the fight against the scourge of international terrorism thereby ensuring military security in the strategic central Asian region.
  • It will focus on evaluating the level of troop preparedness, the acquisition of the required skills and raising the level of inter- operability and demonstrate the readiness of the participating armies.
Indian Army Updates