January 2019
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ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[pib] ISRO launches Samwad with Students initiativePIBPrelims Only


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: SwS Initiative

Mains level: Outreach of various ISRO’s initiatives


  • As part of the enhanced outreach programme of ISRO, a new platform named “Samwad with Students” (SwS) was launched in Bengaluru.

Samwad with Students (SwS) Initiative

  1. Through the initiative, ISRO aims to constantly engage youngsters across India to capture their scientific temperament.
  2. The new conversation mission will inspire students cutting across schools and colleges.
  3. During the Samwad, the students are briefed about Indian space programme and their benefits to the common man.
  4. The Q&A session was followed on a series of topics ranging from rockets, satellites, Chandrayaan, Gaganyaan and various space applications.
Trade Sector Updates – Falling Exports, TIES, MEIS, Foreign Trade Policy, etc.

[pib] No Agri Export Zones (AEZs) after 2004PIBPrelims Only


Mains Paper 3: 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: AEZs

Mains level: Measures towards doubling farmer’s income and issues associated


AEZs under stress

  1. In all 60 Agri Export Zones (AEZ) were notified by the Government till 2004 – 05.
  2. In December 2004, an internal peer review conducted by Department of Commerce concluded that the notified AEZs had not been able to achieve the intended objectives.
  3. It was decided that there will be no creation of new AEZs, unless there were strong and compelling reasons.
  4. No new AEZs have been set up after 2004.
  5. All the notified AEZs have completed their intended span of 5 years and have been discontinued.

Agri Export Zone (AEZ)

  1. Nodal Agency: Ministry of Commerce
  2. The concept of Agri Export Zone (AEZ) was introduced in 2001, through EXIM Policy 1997-2001.
  3. It aims to take a comprehensive look at a particular produce/product located in a contiguous area for the purpose of developing and sourcing the raw materials, their processing/packaging, leading to final exports.
  4. The concept hinged primarily on convergence of existing Central and State Government schemes to take care of financial interventions required at various stages of value chain; partnership among various stakeholders’ viz. Governments, farmer, processor, exporter etc.; and focus on targeted products and areas to identify required policy interventions.
  5. All these activities did take place in certain respects in the notified Agri Export Zones.
Road and Highway Safety – National Road Safety Policy, Good Samaritans, etc.

[pib] Indian Bridge Management System (IBMS)Prelims Only


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: IBMS

Mains level: Road Infrastructure maintenance in India


  • The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways has inventorized 1,72,517 bridges/structures under Indian Bridge Management System (IBMS).

Indian Bridge Management System (IBMS)

  1. The IBM System has been established to develop the data in digital form, to identify, survey and inventorize the number of bridges and other structures on National Highways.
  2. It crucially aims to identify the distressed bridges which need immediate attention and to sensitize the concerned implementation agency for taking corrective measures such as repair, rehabilitation reconstruction/ new construction etc.

Working of the IBMS

  1. During inventory creation each bridge is assigned a unique identification number or National Identity Number based on the state, RTO zone and whether it is situated on an National Highway, State Highway or is a district road.
  2. Then the precise location of the bridge in terms of latitude-longitude is collected through GPS and based on this, the bridge is assigned a Bridge Location Number.
  3. Thereafter, engineering characteristics like the design, materials, type of bridge, its age, loading, traffic lane, length, width of carriage way etc are collected and are used to assign a Bridge Classification Number to the structure.
  4. These are then used to do a structural rating of the structure on a scale of 0 to 9, and each bridge is assigned a Structural Rating Number.
  5. The rating is done for each component of the structure like integral and non integral deck, superstructure, substructure, bank and channel, structural evaluation, deck geometry, vertical clearance, waterway efficiency etc.
  6. In addition to the structural rating, the bridges are also being assigned Socio-Economic Bridge Rating Number which will decide the importance of the structure in relation to its contribution to daily socio-economic activity of the area in its vicinity.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Japan announces withdrawal from International Whaling CommissionIOCRPrelims Only


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  International Whaling Commission

Mains level: Killing of various animal species in name of culture and international efforts against it


  • Japan announced its withdrawal from the international Whaling Commission (IWC) conservation body on December 26, 2018.


  1. Some countries under the umbrella of scientific research are continuously killing the whales and selling meat and producing whale oil, which has brought various whales under the category of endangered species and are vanishing day by day.
  2. Japan, Iceland and Norway are some of the countries recorded with largest number of commercial whaling.
  3. Japan was an IWC member since 1951.

Reasons for Japan’s Withdrawal

  1. Japan has been practicing commercial whale hunting for past 30 years under a scientific programme, granted as an exception under the IWC ban.
  2. Small-scale whaling is traditional in some parts of Japan, but whale meat was only ever popular in the postwar period.
  3. Japan has used whales not only as a source of protein but also for a variety of other purposes.
  4. Engagement in whaling has been supporting local communities, and thereby developed the life and culture of using whales.


International Whaling Commission (IWC)

  1. The IWC is an Inter-Governmental Organisation set up by the terms of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) signed in Washington, D.C in 1946.
  2. It aims to provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry.
  3. The main duty of the IWC is to keep under review and revise as necessary the measures laid down in the Schedule to the Convention which govern the conduct of whaling throughout the world.
  4. The body is the first piece of International Environmental Legislation established in 1946.
  5. Commercial whaling was banned by the IWC in 1986 after some species were almost driven to extinction.
  6. 89 countries have the membership of in IWC and all the member countries are signatories to this convention.
  7. India is a member state of the IWC.
Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

No new Engineering Colleges from 2020Priority 1


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: Mohan Reddy Committee Recommendations

Mains level: State of technical education in country and measures required to improve it


  • A government committee, headed by IIT-Hyderabad chairman B V R Mohan Reddy has advised the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) to stop setting up new colleges from 2020 and review the creation of new capacity every two years after that.

Mohan Reddy Committee Recommendations

  1. The panel in its report has suggested that no additional seats should be approved in traditional engineering areas such as mechanical, electrical, civil and electronics.
  2. It suggested that institutes should be encouraged to convert current capacity in traditional disciplines to emerging new technologies.
  3. This recommendation has been justified on the ground that current capacity utilization in traditional disciplines is just 40% as opposed to 60% seat occupancy in branches such as computer science, aerospace engineering and mechatronics.
  4. The committee has urged the AICTE to introduce UG engineering programmes exclusively for artificial intelligence, blockchain, robotics, quantum computing, data sciences, cybersecurity and 3D printing and design.
  5. As for approving additional seats in existing institutions, the committee has suggested that the AICTE should only give approvals based on the capacity utilization of concerned institute.

Why such move?

  1. A study in Dec. 2017 has found there were no takers for 51 per cent of the 15.5 lakh B.E/B.Tech seats in 3,291 engineering colleges in 2016-17.
  2. The investigation found glaring gaps in regulation, including alleged corruption; poor infrastructure, labs and faculty; non-existent linkages with industry; and absence of a technical ecosystem to nurture the classroom.
  3. All this, it found, accounted for low employability of graduates.
  4. A few weeks later, the AICTE had announced its decision to reduce the intake in courses with poor admissions by half from the academic year 2018-19, a move aimed at addressing the mismatch.
  5. Following this, the total number of B.Tech and M.Tech seats this year, across all AICTE-approved institutes, dropped by 1.67 lakh – the sharpest fall in five years and almost double of what was witnessed in 2017-18.
ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Centre to introduce Commercial Space Activities BillPriority 1


Mains Paper 3: 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: Space Activities Bill 2017

Mains level: Regulating private space activities in India


  • The Centre is likely to introduce a Bill to commercialise space activities in the budget session this year.

Space Activities Bill 2017

  1. It is a proposed Bill to promote and regulate the space activities of India.
  2. The Bill aims to facilitate the overall growth of space activities in India with higher order participation of public, non-governmental and private sector stakeholders.
  3. The Bill encourages the participation of non-governmental/private sector agencies in space activities in India under the guidance and authorisation of the government through the Department of Space.
  4. As few start-ups in India have shown interest in space activities there is an urgent need for a legal environment for orderly performance and growth of space sector.
  5. It will help the Centre establish a regulatory mechanism through an appropriate body to authorize and license space activities.

Key Propositions of the Bill

  1. The provisions of this Act shall apply to every citizen of India and to all sectors engaged in any space activity in India or outside India
  2. A non-transferable licence shall be provided by the Central Government to any person carrying out commercial space activity
  3. The Central Government will formulate the appropriate mechanism for licencing, eligibility criteria, and fees for licence.
  4. The government will maintain a register of all space objects (any object launched or intended to be launched around the earth) and develop more space activity plans for the country
  5. It will provide professional and technical support for commercial space activity and regulate the procedures for conduct and operation of space activity
  6. It will ensure safety requirements and supervise the conduct of every space activity of India and investigate any incident or accident in connection with the operation of a space activity.
  7. It will share details about the pricing of products created by space activity and technology with any person or any agency in a prescribed manner.
  8. If any person undertakes any commercial space activity without authorisation they shall be punished with imprisonment up to 3 years or fined more than ₹1 crore or both.

Issues with the Bill

  1. The Bill does not address space-based activities separately.
  2. Instead, it tries to cover large swaths of the space value chain in one go.
  3. In fact, the very definition of “space activity” could throw up complications.
  4. The definition puts every space object under its ambit, meaning even hardware that carries GPS receivers could require a license.
  5. The Bill could also affect navigation services provided by companies such as Google Maps, Ola and Uber.

Navigate to this page for additional readings:

[Burning Issue] Draft Space Activity Bill 2017