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May 2020

Coronavirus – Health and Governance Issues

Law to deal with pandemics


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NDMA 2005, Epidemics Act 1897

Mains level : Paper 2- Laws invoked for dealing with pandemic.

India lacks specific legislation to deal with pandemics like COVID. While NDMA 2005 and Epidemic Diseases Act 1897 has been invoked to deal with the present situation, both acts lack specific provision in dealing with the pandemics. Here we can take lessons from UK’s Coronavirus Act and Singapore’s regulations to create a well-drafted Indian COVID 19 law.

Which acts were used for enforcing lockdown?

  • The home ministry issued directions to State governments and district authorities under the Disaster Management Act of 2005.
  • Under the Act, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) was set up under the Prime Minister, and the National Executive Committee (NEC) was chaired by the Home Secretary.
  • The State governments and authorities exercised powers under the Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897 to issue further directions.
  • District authorities such as the Commissioner of Police have consequently issued orders to impose Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code in public places.

Issues with the laws used for lockdown

  • The invoking of the Disaster Management Act has allowed the Union government to communicate seamlessly with the States.
  • But serious questions remain whether the Act was originally intended to or is sufficiently capable of addressing the threat of a pandemic.
  • The use of the archaic Epidemic Diseases Act reveals the lack of requisite diligence and responsiveness of government authorities in providing novel and innovative policy solutions to address a 21st-century problem.
  • Another serious problem is that any violation of the orders passed would be prosecutable under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code.
  • But section 188 of IPC is a very ineffective and broad provision dealing with disobedience of an order issued by a public servant.

The UK and Singapore’s laws to deal with the pandemic

  • U.K’s Coronavirus Act, 2020: It deals with issues including emergency registration of healthcare professionals, temporary closure of educational institutions, audio-visual facilities for criminal proceedings, powers to restrict gatherings, and financial assistance to industry.
  • Singapore’s Infectious Diseases Regulations, 2020: These regulations provides for the issuance of stay orders which can send ‘at-risk individuals’ to a government-specified accommodation facility.
  • Both U.K.’s and Singapore’s laws set out unambiguous conditions and legally binding obligations.
  • As such, under Singaporean law, the violators may be penalised up to $10,000 or face six months imprisonment or both.
  • In contrast, Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code has a fine amount of ₹200 to ₹1,000 or imprisonment of one to six months.
  • Even then, proceedings under Section 188 can only be initiated by private complaint and not through a First Information Report.
  • As such, offences arising out of these guidelines and orders have a weak basis in terms of criminal jurisdiction thereby weakening the objectives of the lockdown.

Problems in the government’s approach

  • The Union government showed no inclination towards drafting or enacting COVID-19-specific legislation that could address all the issues pre-emptively.
  • There has been little clarity on a road map to economic recovery.
  • A consolidated, pro-active policy approach is absent.
  • In fact, there has been ad hoc and reactive rule-making, as seen in the way migrant workers have been treated.
  • This has also exposed the lack of coordination between the Union and State governments.

Consider the question, “Unlike many countries which legislated specific acts to deal with Covid-19 pandemic, India was already equipped with acts which enabled it to deal with the pandemic. Describe the acts and their provisions used to deal with the pandemic. What were the issues  with these provisions?”


In past instances, the Union government has not shied away from promulgating ordinances. These circumstances call out for legislative leadership, to assist and empower States to overcome COVID-19 and to revive their economic, education and public health sectors.

Back2Basics: National Disaster Management Act 2005

  • On 23 December 2005, the Government of India enacted the Disaster Management Act.
  • The act envisaged the creation of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), headed by the Prime Minister.
  • The act also provides for State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMAs) headed by respective Chief Ministers.
  • NDMA and SDMAs spearhead and implement a holistic and integrated approach to Disaster Management in India.
  • The NDMA was formally constituted on 27thSeptember 2006, in accordance with the Disaster Management Act, 2005 with Prime Minister as its Chairperson and nine other members, and one such member to be designated as Vice-Chairperson.
  • According to the Disaster Management Act, 2005 a disaster is defined as-
  • A catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area, arising from natural or manmade causes, or by accident or negligence which results in substantial loss of life or human suffering or damage to, and destruction of, property, or damage to, or degradation of, environment, and is of such a nature or magnitude as to be beyond the coping capacity of the community of the affected area.
  • The MHA has defined a disaster as an “extreme disruption of the functioning of a society that causes widespread human, material, or environmental losses that exceed the ability of the affected society to cope with its own resources.

Epidemic Diseases Act  1897

  • The Epidemic Diseases Act is routinely enforced across the country for dealing with outbreaks of diseases such as swine flu, dengue, and cholera.
  • The colonial government introduced the Act to tackle the epidemic of bubonic plague that had spread in the erstwhile Bombay Presidency in the 1890s.
  • Using powers conferred by the Act, colonies authorities would search suspected plague cases in homes and among passengers, with forcible segregations, evacuations, and demolitions of infected places.
  • Historians have criticised the Act for its potential for abuse.
  • In 1897, the year the law was enforced, Lokmanya Tilak was punished with 18 months’ rigorous imprisonment after his newspapers Kesari and Mahratta admonished imperial authorities for their handling of the plague epidemic.

Provisions of the 1897 Epidemic Diseases Act

  • The Act is one of the shortest Acts in India, comprising just four sections. It aims to provide for the better prevention of the spread of Dangerous Epidemic Diseases.
  • The then Governor-General of colonial India had conferred special powers upon the local authorities to implement the measures necessary for the control of epidemics.
  • Although, the act does define or give a description of a “dangerous epidemic disease”.

Its various sections can be summarized as under

  • The first section describes all the title and extent, the second part explains all the special powers given to the state government and centre to take special measures and regulations to contain the spread of disease.
  • The second section has a special subsection 2A empowers the central government to take steps to prevent the spread of an epidemic, especially allowing the government to inspect any ship arriving or leaving any post and the power to detain any person intending to sail or arriving in the country.
  • The third section describes the penalties for violating the regulations in accordance with Section 188 of the IPC. Section 3 states, “Six months’ imprisonment or 1,000 rupees fine or both could be charged out to the person who disobeys this Act.”
  • The fourth and the last section deals with legal protection to implementing officers acting under the Act.

Judicial Reforms

Judiciary’s tryst with technology


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- Adoption of technology by judiciary in its functioning.

COVID pandemic has been changing many aspects of our life and forcing us to innovate or embrace the novel changes. The judiciary is not immune to this change. This article advocates for the adoption and popularization of online court. But there were several attempts at the adoption of technology in the working of courts even before the pandemic. Time has now come to its adoption on a wider scale.

Three types of courts in our justice delivery system

  • First, conventional courts located in court complexes where judges, lawyers and litigants are physically present.
  • Second, online courts where the judge is physically present in the courtroom but the lawyer or litigant is not.
  • This is the present arrangement, except that now the courtroom is the residential office of the judge, due to the lockdown.
  • Third, virtual courts where there is no judge, lawyer or litigant and a computer takes a decision based on the inputs of the litigant.

Pilot project with Tihar Jail

  • The pilot was for dealing with routine remand cases of prisoners.
  • The procedure postulated prisoners being produced in court, not physically but through video conferencing (VC), hence an online court.
  • The pilot project started tentatively with some hiccups but proved to be a success.
  • Now several courts have adopted the online process with varying degrees of commitment.

District courts and High Courts’ adoption of online route

  • A few district judges have taken a step forward and recorded the statement of parties in cases of divorce by mutual consent.
  • As of now, several such cases, including those involving NRIs, are dealt with through VC in online courts.
  • Punjab and Haryana judges have gone even further ahead. The online courts record the expert evidence of doctors from PGIMER through VC.
  • This has freed the doctors from time-consuming trips to the courts and has resulted in savings of several crores for the exchequer.
  • A determined and concerted effort is necessary to popularise online courts at the district level.
  • Some high court judges in Delhi and Punjab and Haryana have completely dispensed with paper.
  • In these high courts, everything is on a soft copy, through e-Filing and scanned documents.
  • Lawyers and judges have made necessary adjustments to the new regime and the cases are conveniently heard and decided in “paperless courts”.
  • A few other high courts initiated similar steps, but have yet to institutionalise “paperless courts”.

What are the problems?

  • Unfamiliarity with the medium of communication is the major issue. Judges are simply not used to consciously facing a camera generally and in particular while hearing a case.
  • Similarly, lawyers find it difficult to comfortably argue while seated.
  • Body language, facial expressions, the tone and tenor, both of the judge and the lawyer, make for important signals and clues which cannot be captured in VC.
  • Some technical problems in conducting online hearings have also surfaced. The bandwidth is not adequate or stable enough.
  • The picture sometimes breaks or gets frozen and the voice often cracks.
  • Consultations are also a problem. Lawyers occasionally need to consult their client or the instructing advocate; judges also need to consult each other during a hearing.
  • Attention needs to be paid to these real-time issues otherwise lawyers will harbour misgivings about a fair hearing.
  • The chairman of the Bar Council of India has voiced a concern that 90 per cent of the lawyers are not computer literate or tech-savvy.

eCourts Project: A virtual court

  • A virtual court is a unique contribution of the eCourts Project.
  • A pilot virtual court was launched in August 2018 in Delhi for traffic offences and it has been a great success.
  • Virtual courts have been successfully tried out in Delhi, Haryana, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.
  • A virtual court is a simple programme through which a person can find out if a challan has been issued to him or her through a search facility.
  • If a challan has been issued, the details are available online and the person may plead guilty or not guilty.
  • On a guilty plea, the minimum fine is imposed and on a not-guilty plea, the case is electronically transferred to the traffic court for trial.
  • At the end of the day, a judge reviews the cases and disposes of them electronically depending on the option exercised.
  • One judge is all it takes to manage the virtual court for Delhi or an entire state.
  • With the launch of virtual courts, the daily footfalls to the courts have drastically reduced and thousands have pleaded guilty and paid the fine electronically.

Potential of the virtual courts

  • The virtual court system has the potential of being upscaled and other petty offences attracting a fine such as delayed payments of local taxes or compoundable offences can also be dealt with by virtual courts.
  • This will ease the burden on conventional courts and therefore must be strongly encouraged.

Consider the question- “Covid-19 pandemic has been forcing judiciary for faster adoption of technology. Discuss the issues and advantages of the adoption of technology such as video conferencing by the judiciary”


Post lockdown, justice delivery will certainly undergo a transformation. And judges, lawyers and litigants will need to adapt to the new normal. Several countries and courts have made adjustments not only for the period of the pandemic or lockdown but also for the future. We should certainly not be left behind but must also make a roadmap to meet the challenge.

Defence Sector – DPP, Missions, Schemes, Security Forces, etc.

Transforming the Military


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 3- Transforming military

The COVID blaze caused economic disruption and now even the military is feeling the heat. The military is grappling with multiple issues like freezing of fresh capital acquisition and delay in procurement. But this could also be considered as an opportunity to transform the Indian military. 4 areas where this transformation could start are discussed in this article. Read to know more.

The difference in approaches to security

  • Pakistan’s approach: Pakistan stagnates in an existential-threat-based and India-centric approach to national security.
  • What is China’s approach? China’s expansive global strategy and unbridled capability-based development surge have overcome the dangers of direct competition with the US.
  • It has closed the gap through an “indirect approach to international security”.
  • This indirect approach looks at building on strengths in areas such as cyberspace, non-contact warfare, economic and diplomatic coercion.

So, what should be India’s approach to security?

  • Strategic guidelines for India’s must shift from a threat-based methodology to a multi-disciplinary capability.
  • An outcome-based orientation to fit with the nation’s power aspirations.

4 most critical means to kick-start the transformation:

1. Creation of indigenous defence capability

  • Doing this without brushing away the short and medium-term requirement of selective imports will be the key to a calibrated march to self-sufficiency.

2. Leadership

  • India’s military leadership is very hierarchical and sequential in its approach.
  • However, this same leadership has superb operational skills and possesses a quick understanding of technology, tactics, techniques and procedures.
  • Consequently, strategic leaders need to be identified and their transition towards becoming more than mere executors of operational plans and campaigns needs to be enabled.
  • Multi-disciplinary thinking, lateral assimilation and a world-view are among the specific skill-sets that need to be nurtured.

3. Training and Education

  • Training and education form the next two silos in the process of transformation.
  • The US example: Several military officers at the colonel level — fresh out of war colleges and the university environment where they spend a year of education (not training) — are posted at the Pentagon and NATO HQ.
  • Here, they work alongside civilians, politicians, lawmakers, not forgetting their own joint leadership.
  • In such an environment, it is not difficult to mark, train and recognise talent in ways that go beyond the mere rank structure.
  • It is high time India goes down that road because even though economic globalisation may be on hold for a while post-COVID-19, there is going to be a flattening of the world from a security perspective.
  • There will be common threats that would need to be fought jointly by nations.
  • The three pre-requisites in these silos will be an amalgam of 1)service-centric and joint operations expertise, 2) operational acumen in a global environment, and 3) broad-based education that develops intellectual capital.
  • Training in the Indian military is top-notch and needs a little tweaking to help officers and men understand the rules of engagement in a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) world.
  • It is diversified education at all levels of leadership that is a weak area.

4. Jointness and integration

  • Finally, the silo of jointness and integration without losing identities and compromising competencies is an outcome that needs to be chased down with focus and determination.

Consider the question based on the issues discussed in the article “Strategic guidelines for India’s security managers must shift from a threat-based methodology to a multi-disciplinary capability and outcome-based orientation to fit with the nation’s power aspirations. Based on some expert committee reports, discuss the ways which the Indian military follow to achieve the transformation to satisfy the nation’s power aspirations.”


Some difficulties caused to the military due to COVID pandemic should be considered as an opportunity. It should be an opportunity to evolve a transformational culture in the Indian military. This should be based on clear political guidelines driven by existing and futuristic capabilities, expected strategic outcomes and anticipated strategic challenges.


History- Important places, persons in news

Attack on Pearl Harbor (1941)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : World History: Pearl Harbor Attack and its aftermath

US President Mr Trump has said the COVID-19 pandemic is a worse “attack” on the U.S. than either Pearl Harbor or 9/11.

Practice Question :

Discuss how the world order changed post Pearl Harbour attack with context to the US hegemony in Asia-Pacific.

Attack on Pearl Harbor

  • The December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbour was among the most significant moments of the World War II.
  • It signalled the official entry of the US into the hostilities, which eventually led to the dropping of nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
  • Significantly, in December 2016, Shinzo Abe became the first sitting Japanese Prime Minister to visit Pearl Harbour.

What led up to the attack on Pearl Harbour?

  • Before Japan attacked Pearl Harbour in 1941, relations between the US and Japan were already worsening.
  • In 1910, Japan annexed Korea and, in 1937, it invaded China, sending alarm bells ringing in the US and other Western powers about Japan’s manifest expansionist agenda.
  • Between December 1937 and January 1938, an episode which is referred to as the “Nanking Massacre” or the “Rape of Nanking”, occurred — Japanese soldiers killed and raped Chinese civilians and combatants.
  • Japanese historians estimate that anywhere between tens of thousands and 200,000 Chinese were killed.
  • The US was against Japan’s aggression in China, and imposed economic sanctions and trade embargoes after its invasion.

Immediate causes

  • Japan was reliant on imports for oil and other natural resources — this was one of the reasons why it invaded China and later French Indo-China (present-day Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia).
  • The intention was to take control of the major Chinese ports to have access to resources such as iron, rubber, tin, and most importantly, oil.
  • In July 1941, the US ceased exporting oil to Japan.
  • Negotiations between the two countries ended with the “Hull Note”, the final proposal delivered to Japan by the US. Essentially, the US wanted Japan to withdraw from China without any conditions.
  • Ultimately, the negotiations did not lead to any concrete results, following which Japan set its task for Pearl Harbour in the last week of November 1941.
  • Japan considered the attack to be a preventive measure against the US interfering with Japan’s plans to carry out military operations in some parts of Southeast Asia.

What happened at Pearl Harbour?

  • About 7.55 am on December 7, 1941, about 180 aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked the US Naval base at Pearl Harbour on the island of Oahu in Hawaii.
  • The bombing killed over 2,300 Americans and destroyed the battleships USS Arizona and USS Oklahoma.
  • Roughly 160 aircraft were destroyed, and 150 were damaged.

Impact on the US

  • In the short term, the American naval presence in the Pacific was severely weakened.
  • However, the Japanese had largely ignored the harbour’s infrastructure, and many of the damaged ships were repaired on-site and returned to duty.
  • American opinion immediately shifted to favouring war with Japan, a course that would conclude with Japan’s unconditional surrender less than four years later.

Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

Vizag Gas Leak: What is Styrene Gas?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Styrene gas, Various acts governing hazardous chemicals

Mains level : Loopholes in handling of Hazardous chemicals in India

A gas leak has claimed at least 11 lives and affected thousands of residents in five villages in Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh.  The source of the leak was a styrene plant owned by South Korean electronics giant LG.

Practice question:

Despite a robust policy framework governing the hazardous chemicals in India, the recent gas leakage incident in Vizag highlights India’s unaddressed vulnerability to chemical disasters. Criticallly comment.

Vizag gas lead: What is styrene?

  • It is a flammable liquid that is used in the manufacturing of polystyrene plastics, fibreglass, rubber, and latex.
  • Styrene is also found in vehicle exhaust, cigarette smoke, and in natural foods like fruits and vegetables.
  • According to The Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemicals Rules, 1989, styrene is classified as a toxic and hazardous chemical.

What happens when exposed to styrene?

  • A short-term exposure to the substance can result in respiratory problems, irritation in the eyes, irritation in the mucous membrane, and gastrointestinal issues.
  • And long-term exposure could drastically affect the central nervous system and lead to other related problems like peripheral neuropathy.
  • It is, likely, a carcinogenic substance that can react with oxygen in the air to mutate into styrene dioxide, a substance that is more lethal.
  • However, there is no sufficient evidence despite several epidemiology studies indicating there may be an association between styrene exposure and an increased risk of leukaemia and lymphoma.

What are the symptoms?

  • Symptoms include headache, hearing loss, fatigue, weakness, difficulty in concentrating etc.
  • Animal studies have reported effects on the nervous system, liver, kidney, and eye and nasal irritation from inhalation exposure to styrene.

How bad is the situation in Visakhapatnam?

  • It is yet unclear whether the deaths are due to direct exposure to styrene gas or one of its byproducts.
  • However, hundreds of people including many children were admitted to hospitals.
  • The cases are high as the gas leak was only detected at 3 am in the morning, meaning several crucial hours have been lost till safety precautions were taken.
  • More fatally, the gas was leaked while people were fast asleep.

What caused the leak?

  • Styrene monomer was used at the manufacturing plant to produce expandable plastics.
  • The storage requirement of styrene monomer strictly mentions that it has to be below 17 degrees Celsius.
  • There was a temporary and partial shutdown of the plant because of the nationwide lockdown.
  • The leak occurred as a result of styrene gas not being kept at the appropriate temperature.
  • This caused a pressure build-up in the storage chamber that contained styrene and caused the valve to break, resulting in the gas leakage.

Is it under control?

  • The leak has been plugged and NDRF teams moved into the five affected villages and have started opening the houses to find out if anyone was stranded inside.
  • The Covid-19 preparedness helped a lot as dozens of ambulances with oxygen cylinders and ventilators were readily available.
  • The spread of the gas depends on wind speeds. So far it is estimated that areas within a five-kilometre radius have been affected.

What are the guidelines on the storage of hazardous chemicals in plants?

After the Bhopal disaster, much legislation was enacted starting from the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 to the Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991. They are-

Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 Omnibus act, which gives sweeping powers to Central government to take all measures to protect the environment
Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986 Set discharge and product standards – source standards for restricting pollution; product standards for manufactured goods and ambient air and water standards – for regulating quality of life and environmental protection
Hazardous Waste (Management Handling and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 1989 Industry required to identify major accident hazards, take preventive measures and submit a report to the designated authorities
Manufacture, Storage And Import Of Hazardous Chemicals Rules, 1989 Importer must furnish complete product safety information to the competent authority and must transport imported chemicals in accordance with the amended rules.
Chemical Accidents (Emergency, Planning, Preparedness and Response) Rules, 1996 Centre is required to constitute a central crisis group for management of chemical accidents; set up quick response mechanism termed as the crisis alert system. Each state is required to set up a crisis group and report on its work.
Factories Amendment Act, 1987 Provision to regulate siting of hazardous units; safety of workers and nearby residents and mandates for on-site emergency plans and disaster control measures
Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991 Imposes a no-fault liability on the owner of hazardous substance and requires the owner to compensate victims of accident irrespective of any neglect or default. For this, the owner is required to take out an insurance policy covering potential liability from any accident.


Animal Husbandry, Dairy & Fisheries Sector – Pashudhan Sanjivani, E- Pashudhan Haat, etc

What is African Swine Fever (ASF)?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : African Swine Fever

Mains level : Not Much

  • Amid the coronavirus pandemic, another disease outbreak is affecting thousands of animals in Assam.
  • Since February, over 2,900 pigs have died in the state due to African Swine Fever (ASF), which does not affect humans but can be catastrophic for pigs.
  • This is the first time that an ASF outbreak has been reported in India.

As Flu is nowadays a lot in news, keep a tab on them for prelims. Be it the Swine Flue, African Swine Fever or even H5N1.

African Swine Fever (ASF)

  • ASF is a severe viral disease that affects wild and domestic pigs typically resulting in an acute hemorrhagic fever.
  • The disease has a case fatality rate (CFR) of about 100 per cent.
  • Its routes of transmission include direct contact with an infected or wild pig (alive or dead), indirect contact through ingestion of contaminated material such as food waste, feed or garbage or through biological vectors such as ticks.
  • The disease is characterized by the sudden deaths of pigs.
  • Other manifestations of the disease include high fever, depression, anorexia, loss of appetite, hemorrhages in the skin, vomiting and diarrhoea among others.

How did the current outbreak start?

  • As per the latest update issued by FAO, the current outbreak of ASF has affected China, Mongolia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Republic of Korea and Indonesia among others.
  • In China, the first ASF outbreak was confirmed in August 2018 and since then more than 1 million pigs have been culled in the country.
  • ASF came into India through Tibet into Arunachal Pradesh and then into Assam, the state with the highest population of pigs in the country.

How is ASF different from swine flu?

  • Swine influenza or swine flu is a respiratory disease of pigs, which is caused by type A influenza virus that regularly causes outbreaks of influenza in pig populations.
  • While the swine flu causing virus leads to a high number of infections in pig herds, the disease is not as fatal and causes few deaths. Specific swine influenza vaccines are available for pigs.
  • The swine flu viruses are spread among pigs through close contact and through contaminated objects moving between infected and uninfected pigs.
  • Symptoms include fever, depression, coughing, discharge from the nose and eyes, eye redness or inflammation.

Vaccines availability

  • As of now, there is no approved vaccine, which is also a reason why animals are culled to prevent the spread of infection.
  • It is important that determination of ASF is made through laboratory testing and it is differentiated from Classical Swine Fever (CSF), whose signs may be similar to ASF, but is caused by a different virus for which a vaccine exists.
  • Even so, while ASF is lethal, it is less infectious than other animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease.

What is the impact ASF will have on pig farmers?

  • Pig farmers in Assam describe the outbreak as a “double whammy” since the COVID-19 lockdown was already impacting sales negatively.
  • The outbreak has ruined the prospect of the Northeastern states as a hub for the export of pork products.

International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Luhman 16A: A binary brown-dwarf system


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Luhman 16A, Binary star system

Mains level : Not Much

A group of international astrophysicists have identified cloud bands on the surface of Luhman 16A, one of a pair of binary brown dwarfs in the Vela constellation.

Space terminology has gained importance in prelims. The Luhman 16A coupled with few more examples of space concepts like binary star and dwarf star are discussed in this newscard.

Luhman 16A

  • Luhman 16 is a binary star system, the third closest system to the Sun after Alpha Centauri and Barnard’s star.
  • At a distance of about 6.5 light-years from the Sun, this pair of brown dwarfs referred to as Luhman 16A and Luhman 16B orbit each other, casting a dim light.
  • Brown dwarfs are also called failed stars because their masses are intermediate to the largest planets and the smallest main sequence stars.
  • Their masses being too small, they are unable to sustain fusion of their hydrogen to produce energy.
  • It is believed that some of the more massive brown dwarfs fuse deuterium or lithium and glow faintly.

The cloud band over Luhman

  • The group, by using the Very Large Telescope at European Southern Observatory, Chile, found that Luhman 16A had band-like clouds in its atmosphere, whereas the same was not true of Luhman 16B.
  • Many astronomers detected polarization of brown dwarfs.
  • But what is special in the newest study of Luhman 16 is that the researchers have found the actual structure of the clouds — that they form bands over one of the pair.
  • Understanding the cloud system over a brown dwarf can shed light on the pressure, temperature and climate on the surface of the celestial body.

Why it has made into a headline?

  • The researchers have used an idea put forth nearly two decades ago by Indian astrophysicist Sujan Sengupta, who works at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bengaluru.
  • Sengupta had propounded the light emitted by a cloudy brown dwarf, or reflected off an extrasolar planet, will be polarized.
  • He then suggested that a polarimetric technique could serve as a potential tool to probe the environment of these objects.

Back2Basics: Binary Star System

  • A binary star is a star system consisting of two stars orbiting around their common barycenter.
  • Systems of two or more stars are called multiple star systems.
  • These systems, especially when more distant, often appear to the unaided eye as a single point of light, and are then revealed as multiple by other means.
  • Binary star systems are very important in astrophysics because calculations of their orbits allow the masses of their component stars to be directly determined.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

[pib] Seasonal rapid advancement of Surging Glaciers in Karakoram Range


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Glaciers mentioned in the newscard

Mains level : Glacial surges and their impacts

Indian researchers have found a seasonal advancement in 220 surge-type glaciers in the Karakoram Range of Ladakh.

Points to note:

1) Open you map and revise the glaciers of Himalayan region.

2) Glacial landforms as Geographic phenomenon.

What are Glacial Surges?

Click here to see the animated view

  • Glacial surges are short-lived events where a glacier can advance substantially, moving at velocities up to 100 times faster than normal.
  • Until recently, most glaciologists believed that a glacier’s physical characteristics, such as its thickness and shape, and the properties of the terrain it sits on determining whether it can surge.
  • Now, it is proved to believe an external factor also plays a major role: water from precipitation and melting.
  • Pooling on the surface, it can infiltrate the glacier through crevasses and reach its base, warming, lubricating, and, ultimately, releasing the ice.

Why surging in the Karakoram is a concern?

  • The behaviour of these glaciers, which represent 40% of the total glaciated area of the Karakoram, goes against the normal trend.
  • Surging of glaciers is potentially catastrophic as it can lead to the destruction of villages, roads and bridges.
  • It can also advance across a river valley and form the ice-dammed lake.
  • These lakes can form catastrophic outburst floods.
  • Therefore, monitoring of glacier surges, ice-dammed lake formation, and drainage is of paramount importance.

Which are these glaciers?

  • The scientists focused on the Shispare and Muchuhar glaciers, former tributaries of the once larger Hasanabad Glacier situated in Hunza Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan.

Significance of the study

  • The Surge-type glaciers oscillate between brief (months to years) rapid flow and lengthy (tens to hundreds of years) slow flow or stagnation, which are called the ‘active’ (or ‘surge’) and ‘quiescent’ phases, respectively.
  • This unsteady glacier flow makes it difficult to accurately assess individual glacier mass balances using in-situ observations.
  • The study will help to understand the diversity of glacial behaviour and help make accurate assessments of individual glacier mass balances for disaster planning and management.

Policy Wise: India’s Power Sector

[pib] Data on Energy Savings


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various schemes mentioned in the newscard

Mains level : Energy saving and its significance in carbon emissions reduction

The Union Ministry of Power has released a Report on “Impact of energy efficiency measures for the year 2018-19”.

Things to note:

1) UJALA Scheme

2) PAT Scheme

3) Standards & Labeling Programme

Possible mains question:

Q. Discuss the role of Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) in “institutionalizing” energy efficiency services in India.

About the report

  • This report was prepared by an Expert agency PWC Ltd, who was engaged by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE).
  • The objective of this study is to evaluate the performance and impact of all the key energy efficiency programmes in India, in terms of total energy saved and the related reduction in CO2 emissions.

Data on energy savings

  • With our energy efficiency initiatives, we have already reduced the energy intensity of our economy by 20% compared to 2005 levels. This includes both the Supply Side and Demand Side sectors of the economy.
  • The implementation of various energy efficiency schemes has led to total electricity savings to the tune of 113.16 Billion Units in 2018-19, which is 9.39% of the net electricity consumption.
  • Energy savings (electrical + thermal), achieved in the energy-consuming sectors is to the tune of 16.54 Mtoe, which is 2.84% of the net total energy consumption in 2018-19.
  • Overall this has translated into savings worth INR 89,122 crores against last year’s savings of INR 53,627 crore.
  • These efforts have also contributed to reducing 151.74 Million Tonnes of CO2 emissions, whereas last year this number was 108 MTCO2.

(Note: Mtoe= million Tonne of Oil Equivalent)

What led to this significant savings?

  • The study has identified the following major programmes, viz. Perform, Achieve and Trade Scheme, Standards &Labelling Programme, UJALA Programme, Municipal Demand Side Management Programme, etc.
  • There is huge capacity still for bringing efficiencies especially in MSME sector and a Housing sector that has now been taken up.

About the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE)

  • The Bureau of Energy Efficiency is an agency under the Ministry of Power created in March 2002 under the provisions of the nation’s 2001 Energy Conservation Act.
  • Its function is to develop programs which will increase the conservation and efficient use of energy in India.
  • The mission of BEE is to “institutionalize” energy efficiency services, enable delivery mechanisms in the country and provide leadership to energy efficiency in all sectors of the country.


1) PAT Scheme

  • Perform Achieve and Trade (PAT) scheme is a flagship programme of the Bureau of Energy Efficiency under the National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency (NMEEE).
  • NMEEE is one of the eight national missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) launched in the year 2008.
  • The scheme aims to reduce specific energy consumption in energy-intensive industries through certification of excess energy saving which can be traded.
  • It refers to the calculation of Specific Energy Consumption (SEC) in the baseline year and projected SEC in the target year covering different forms of net energy going into the boundary of the designated consumers’ plant and the products leaving it over a particular cycle.
  • Those eight Energy Intensive Sectors included are Chlor-alkali, Pulp & Paper, Textile, Aluminum, and Thermal Power plants, Fertilizer, Iron & Steel and Cement.

2) Standards & Labeling Programme

  • It is one of the major thrust areas of BEE.
  • A key objective of this scheme is to provide the consumer with an informed choice about the energy-saving and thereby the cost-saving potential of the relevant marketed product.
  • The scheme targets display of energy performance labels on high energy end-use equipment & appliances and lay down minimum energy performance standards.

3) UJALA Scheme

  • Launched in 2015, the Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All (UJALA), in a short span of time, has emerged as the world’s largest domestic lighting programme.
  • The main objective is to promote efficient lighting, enhance awareness on using efficient equipment which reduces electricity bills and helps preserve the environment.
  • The Electricity Distribution Company and Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) a public sector body of the Ministry of Power is implementing the programme.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[pib] Energy-efficient Photodetector for Security Application


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Photodetectors and their applications

Mains level : NA

Indian scientists have fabricated an economical and energy-efficient wafer-scale photodetector using gold – silicon interface, for security applications.

A basic question on the working principle of Photodetectors can be asked in the Prelims.

What are Photodetectors?

  • Photodetectors, also called photosensors, are sensors of light or other electromagnetic radiation.
  • A photodetector has a p–n (positive-negative) junction that converts light photons into the current.
  • The absorbed photons make electron-hole pairs in the depletion region.
  • Photodiodes and phototransistors are a few examples of photodetectors. Solar cells convert some of the light energy absorbed into electrical energy.
  • The material cost and the intricate fabrication processes involved in realizing high-performance detectors make them unaffordable for day to day applications.


  • Photodetectors are the heart of any optoelectronic circuit that can detect light.
  • They are employed for a wide variety of applications ranging from controlling automatic lighting in supermarkets to detecting radiation from the outer galaxy as well as security-related applications.
  • They range from simple devices that automatically open supermarket doors, to receivers on the TV remote controls.

What did Indian researchers achieve?

  • The scientists have fabricated gold (Au) – silicon (Si) interface, which showed high sensitivity towards light demonstrating the photodetection action.
  • The Au–Si interface was brought about by galvanic deposition, a technique for electroplating of metals, wherein water-based solutions (electrolytes) are used, which contain the metals to be deposited as ions.
  • In addition, a nanostructured Au film also was deposited on top of p-type silicide (having an excess of positive charges), which acts as a charge collector.


  • Being a solution-based technique, the method is highly economical and enabled large-area fabrication without compromising the detector response.
  • The process is quick, taking only minutes to fabricate a detector of any arbitrary area and exhibited a rapid response of 40 microseconds.
  • This photodetector displayed long-term environmental stability.
  • The Indian invention provides a simple and cost-effective solution-based fabrication method for high-performance photodetector.
  • It could help detect weak scattered light as an indication of unwanted activity.