Bills/Act/LawsDOMRExplainedGovt. SchemesHistorical Sites in NewsIOCRMains Onlyop-ed of the dayop-ed snapPIBPlaces in newsPrelims OnlyPriority 1SC JudgementsSpecies in NewsStates in News
May 2020

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

R&D: Path to self-reliant India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Mains level : Paper 3- Importance of innovation for self-reliance.

What does it take to be self-reliant? (Hint: R&D!) This is the question this article tries to answer.  After independence, we had a good start in R&D. But what went wrong? What was the role played by globalisation? Did the globalisation deliver on its promise of technology transfer? And finally, what lies on the way forward for India? This article answers all such question.

What went wrong: historical perspective

  • India chose the path of self-reliance in state-run heavy industries and strategic sectors after independence.
  • In the decades following independence, this choice of self-reliance had placed India ahead of most developing countries.
  • In the 1970s and 80s, however, India did not modernise these industries to climb higher up the technological ladder.
  • The private sector, which had backed the state-run core sector approach in its Bombay Plan, stayed content with near-monopoly conditions in non-core sectors in a protected market.
  • Little effort was made to modernise light industries or develop contemporary consumer products.
  • India’s industrial ecosystem was thus characterised by low productivity, poor quality and low technology, and was globally uncompetitive.

What did India lose in the ‘lost decades’?

  • India completely missed out on the ‘third industrial revolution’.
  • Third industrial revolution comprised electronic goods, microprocessors, personal computers, mobile phones and decentralised manufacturing and global value chains during the so-called lost decade(s).
  • Today, India is the world’s second-largest smartphone market.
  • However, it does not make any of these phones itself.
  • India manufactures only a small fraction of solar photovoltaic cells and modules currently used, with ambitious future targets.

What happened to ‘self-reliance’ after India embraced globalisation?

  • At the turn of the millennium, when India embarked on liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation.
  • So, the very concept of self-reliance was rubbished.
  • This happened in the belief that it was like reinventing the things already invented and wasting money on it.
  • And when advanced technologies could simply be bought from anywhere at lower costs. 
  • Two related ideas have prevailed since then, and neither delivered the desired results.

So, what are these two basic ideas?

1. Unsuitability of PSUs in the globalised world

  • The first idea was that public sector undertakings (PSUs) are, by definition, inefficient and sluggish for the competitive globalised scenario.
  • No effort was made to engender either real autonomy or a transition to new technological directions.
  • Instead, PSUs with capability and scale were undermined or abandoned, along with many nascent research and development (R&D) efforts, for instance, in photovoltaics, semiconductors and advanced materials.

So, what was the result of this attitude towards PSUs?

  • The private sector displayed little interest in these heavy industries and showed no appetite for technology upgradation.
  • With entry of foreign corporations, most Indian private companies retreated into technology imports or collaborations.
  • Even today, most R&D in India is conducted by PSUs.
  • And much of the smaller but rising proportion of private sector R&D is by foreign corporations in information technology and biotechnology/pharma.
  • Conclusion: Given the disinclination of most of the private sector towards R&D and high-tech manufacturing, significant government reinvestment in PSUs and R&D is essential for self-reliance.

2. Foreign companies were expected to bring new technologies in India

  • The second idea was that inviting foreign direct investment and manufacturing by foreign majors would bring new technologies into India’s industrial ecosystem.
  • This was thought to obviate the need for indigenous efforts towards self-reliance.

So, what happened on the ground?

  • But mere setting up of manufacturing facilities in India is no guarantee of absorption of technologies.
  • There is no evidence from any sector that this has taken place or has even been attempted.
  • The fact is, foreign majors jealously guard commercially significant or strategic technologies in off-shore manufacturing bases.
  • Conclusion: The key problem of self-reliance is therefore neither external finance nor domestic off-shore manufacturing, but resolute indigenous endeavour including R&D.

Let’s look at experience of other Asian countries towards self-reliance

Three models emerge from Asian countries.

1. Focus on technology and industries

  •  Japan’s post-war success, was seen as a template by some countries to follow.
  • These include countries like South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong
  • These countries took huge technological and industrial strides in the 1970s and 80s.
  • South Korea emerged as a global powerhouse in manufacturing, but also in indigenously developed technologies.
  • Taiwan developed technologies and manufacturing capacities in robotics and micro-processors.
  • While Singapore and Hong Kong adapted advanced technologies in niche areas.
  • These self-reliant capabilities were enabled, among other factors, by planned state investments in R&D including basic research (3-5% of GDP), technology and policy support to private corporations, infrastructure and, importantly, education and skill development (4-6% of GDP).

2. Focus on off-shore manufacturing and not on self-reliance

  • Countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam have focused on off-shore manufacturing lower down the value chain and without the thrust on self-reliance.
  • This is useful for job creation but is an unsuitable model for a country of India’s size and aspirations.

3. China: Transition from low-end manufacturing to dominant role in supply chains

  • China is, of course, unique in scale and in its determination to become a superpower not just geopolitically but also in self-reliant S&T and industrial capability.
  • China advanced purposefully from low-end mass manufacturing to a dominant role in global supply chains.
  • It has now decided on shifting to advanced manufacturing.
  • It has set itself a target of becoming a world leader by 2035 in 5G, supercomputing, Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous vehicles, biotech/pharma and other technologies of the ‘fourth industrial revolution’.

Way forward for India

  • India may well have missed the bus in many of technologies in which the U.S., Europe and China have established perhaps insurmountable leads.
  • Yet, self-reliant capabilities in electric and fuel cell vehicles, electricity storage systems, solar cells and modules, aircraft including UAVs, AI, robotics and automation, biotech/pharma and others are well within reach.
  • Large-scale concerted endeavours would, however, be required, since self-reliance will not happen by itself.
  • State-funded R&D, including in basic research, by PSUs and research institutions and universities needs to be scaled-up significantly, well above the dismal 1% of GDP currently.
  • Upgraded and reoriented PSUs would also be crucial given their distinctive place in the ecosystem.
  • Private sector delivery-oriented R&D could also be supported, linked to meaningful participation in manufacturing at appropriate levels of the supply chain.
  • India’s meagre public expenditure on education needs to be substantially ramped up including in skill development.

Consider the question “The path to the self-reliance of any country goes through robust capabilities in the R&D. Comment”


Self-reliance would need a paradigm shift in our approach toward many things. First and foremost is the R&D. Potential of the PSUs has to be tapped to their fullest in the realms of R&D. The second area of focus should be education. These two areas are the key to achieve self-reliance and should be the focus of policymakers.

Back2Basics: Bombay Plan

  • The Bombay plan was a set of proposal of a small group of influential business leaders in Bombay for the development of the post-independence economy of India.
  • This plan was published in two parts or volume- first in 1944 and second in 1945.
  • The prime objectives of the plan were to achieve a balanced economy and to raise the standard of living of the masses of the population rapidly by doubling the present per capita income within a period of 15 years from the time the plan goes into operation.


Food Procurement and Distribution – PDS & NFSA, Shanta Kumar Committee, FCI restructuring, Buffer stock, etc.

Applying the lessons learned from GST to One Nation One Ration Card (ON-ORC)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GSTN

Mains level : Paper 3- Challenges ON-ORC could face and how the GST could offer valuable lesson for ON-ORC

Never before we felt the necessity of portable benefit schemes as we did in the wake of the pandemic. Portable ration card could have mitigated the suffering of migrant workers to some extent. But it was not to be. This article examines the challenges in implementing the idea of ON-ORC and offers the solution to these challenges by drawing on the lessons learned from GST. At the same time, the shortcoming of GST can also be avoided in the ON-ORC.

What is One Ration Card (ON-ORC)?

  • In the present system, a ration cardholder can buy foodgrains only from an Fair   Price Shop that has been assigned to her in the locality in which she lives.
  • However, this will change once the ONORC system becomes operational nationally.
  • Under the ONORC system, the beneficiary will be able to buy subsidised foodgrains from any FPS across the country.
  • The new system, based on a technological solution, will identify a beneficiary through biometric authentication on electronic Point of Sale (ePoS) devices installed at the FPSs.
  • This would enable that person to purchase the number of foodgrains to which she is entitled under the NFSA.

Portable welfare benefit and attempts so far to achieve it

  •  The idea of portable welfare benefits means a citizen should be able to access welfare benefits irrespective of where she is in the country.
  • In the case of food rations, the idea was first mooted under the UPA government by a Nandan Nilekani-led task force in 2011.
  • The current government had committed to a national rollout of One Nation, One Ration Card (ON-ORC) by June 2020, and had initiated pilots in 12 states.

Progress on intra-state and inter-state portability

  • While intra-state portability of benefits has seen good initial uptake, inter-state portability has lagged.
  • The finance minister has now announced the deadline of March 2021 to roll out ON-ORC.

So, to ensure a smooth rollout, let’s review the challenges thus far

1) The fiscal implications:

  • ON-ORC will affect how the financial burden is shared between states.

2) The larger issues of federalism and inter-state coordination:

  • Many states are not convinced about a “one size fits all” regime because i) they have customised the PDS through higher subsidies, ii) higher entitlement limits, and iii) supply of additional items.

3) The technology aspect:

  • ON-ORC requires a complex technology backbone that brings over 750 million beneficiaries, 5,33,000 ration shops and 54 million tonnes of food-grain annually on a single platform.

How the lessons learned from GST can be applied to deal with the above 3 challenges?

1. Fiscal challenge

  • Just like with ON-ORC, fiscal concerns had troubled GST from the start.
  • States like Tamil Nadu and Gujarat that are “net exporters” were concerned they would lose out on tax revenues to “net consumer” states like UP and Bihar.
  • Finally, the Centre had to step in and provide guaranteed compensation for lost tax revenues for the first five years.
  • The Centre could provide a similar assurance to “net inbound migration” states such as Maharashtra and Kerala that any additional costs on account of migrants will be covered by it for the five years.

2. We could have a National council for ON-ORC

  • GST also saw similar challenges with broader issues of inter-state coordination.
  • In a noteworthy example of cooperative federalism, the central government created a GST council consisting of the finance ministers of the central and state governments to address these issues.
  • The government could consider a similar national council for ON-ORC.
  • To be effective, this council should meet regularly, have specific decision-making authority, and should operate in a problem-solving mode based on consensus building.

3. Technological aspect: PDS Network

  • GST is supported by a sophisticated tech backbone, housed by the GST Network (GSTN), an entity jointly owned by the Centre and states.
  • A similar system would be needed for ON-ORC.
  • The Nilekani-led task force recommended setting up of a PDS network (PDSN).
  • PDSN would track the movement of rations, register beneficiaries, issue ration cards, handle grievances and generate analytics.
  • Since food rations are a crucial lifeline for millions, such a platform should incorporate principles such as inclusion, privacy, security, transparency, and accountability.
  • The IM-PDS portal provides a good starting point.

Also, there are certain shortcomings in GST which we could avoid in ON-ORC

We should learn from the shortcomings and challenges of the GST rollout. For example:

1) Delay in GST refunds led to cash-flow issues.

  • Similar delays in receiving food rations could be catastrophic.
  • Therefore, ON-ORC should create, publish and adhere to time-bound processes.
  • The time-bound processes could be in the form of right to public services legislation that have been adopted by 15 states, and rapid grievance redress mechanisms.

2)  Increase in compliance burden for MSMEs, especially for those who had to digitise overnight.

  • Similar challenges could arise in ON-ORC.
  • PDS dealers will need to be brought on board, and not assumed to be compliant.
  • Citizens will need to be shielded from the inevitable teething issues by keeping the system lenient at first.
  • This can be done by providing different ways of authenticating oneself and publicising a helpline widely.

Consider the question “One Nation-One Ration Card(ON-ORC) could solve many problems faced by the beneficiaries when they move across the country. Examine the challenges the ON-ORC could face. Suggest ways to deal with these challenges.”


If done well, ON-ORC could lay the foundation of a truly national and portable benefits system that includes other welfare programmes like LPG subsidy and social pensions. It is an opportunity to provide a reliable social protection backbone to migrants, who are the backbone of our economy.

Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

Online education must supplement, not replace, physical sites of learning


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MOOCs

Mains level : Paper 2- Is online learning a substitute for the traditional educational institutions?

Left with no choice, many education institutions turned to online mode. But could that be a new normal? This article analyses the indispensable role of online education. However, online education cannot be a substitute for traditional education institutes. WHY? Read the article to know about the vital role of traditional educational institutions…

Online education (OE): Supplement not the substitute

  • The incredible synergy unleashed by information and communications technology (ICT) is the best thing to have happened to education since the printing press.
  • Indeed, higher education today is unthinkable without some form of the computer and some mode of digitised data transmission.
  • OE can use content and methods that are hard to include in the normal curriculum.
  • OE can put pressure on lazy or incompetent teachers.
  • OE can provide hands-on experience in many technical fields where simulations are possible.
  • And OE can, of course, be a powerful accessory for affluent students able to afford expensive aids.
  • As products of this revolution, online methods of teaching and learning deserve our highest praise — but only when cast in their proper role.
  • This proper role is to supplement, support and amplify the techniques of face-to-face education.
  • The moment they are proposed as a substitute for the physical sites of learning we have long known — brick-and-cement schools, colleges, and universities — online modes must be resolutely resisted.

So, what are the vested interests involved?

  • Resistance to OE is often dismissed as the self-serving response of vested interests, notably obstructive, technophobic teachers unwilling to upgrade their skills.
  • But these are not the only vested interests involved.
  • Authoritarian administrators are attracted by the centralised control and scaling-at-will that OE offers.
  • Educational entrepreneurs have been trying to harvest the billions promised by massive open online courses (MOOCs) — think of Udacity, Coursera, or EdX.
  • Pundits are now predicting post-pandemic tie-ups between ICT giants like Google and Amazon and premium education brands like Harvard and Oxford that will launch a new era of vertically-integrated hybrid OE platforms.

Is OE a viable alternative to traditional educational institutions (TEI) for the typical Indian student?

  • No one with access to an elite TEI chooses OE.
  • Instead, we know that OE always loses in best-to-best comparisons.
  • Favourable impressions about OE are created mostly by comparing the best of OE with average or worse TEIs.

But is it true that the best OE is better than the average college or university?

  • OE claims that neither the campus nor face-to-face interaction are integral to education.
  • Since the comparative evaluation of virtual versus face-to-face pedagogic interaction needs more space, the campus question is considered here.
  • How does the typical student’s home compare with a typical TEI campus?
  • Census 2011 tells us that 71 per cent of households with three or more members have dwellings with two rooms or less.
  • According to National Sample Survey data for 2017-18, only 42 per cent of urban and 15 per cent of rural households had internet access.
  • Only 34 per cent of urban and 11 per cent of rural persons had used the internet in the past 30 days.
  • It is true that many TEIs (both public and private) have substandard infrastructure.
  • But these data suggest that the majority (roughly two-thirds) of students are likely to be worse off at home compared to any campus.
  • The impact of smartphone capabilities and stability of net connectivity on OE pedagogy also needs to be examined.

Importance of college as a social space

  • It is as a social rather than physical space that the college or university campus plays a critical role.
  • Public educational institutions play a vital role as exemplary sites of social inclusion and relative equality.
  • In Indian conditions, this role is arguably even more important than the scholastic role.
  • The public educational institution is still the only space where people of all genders, classes, castes, and communities can meet without one group being forced to bow to others.
  • Whatever its impact on academics, this is critical learning for life.
  • Women students, in particular, will be much worse off if confined to their homes by OE.

Consider the question- “Covid-19 pandemic forced many educational institute to explore the online more of education. And this also brought to the fore the potential of the online mode of education. In light of this, examine the issues with substituting the online mode of education for the traditional educational mode.”


Though an indispensable supplement for traditional education, there are certain aspects of education and a social life that online learning cannot substitute. So, the government should not divert its attention from the traditional educational institution and look at online education as its substitute.

Global Geological And Climatic Events

What is South Atlantic Anomaly?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Van Allen Radiation Belt, South Atlantic Anomaly

Mains level : South Atlantic Anomaly and its impact

New data obtained by the European Space Agency (ESA) Swarm satellites has revealed the existence of a mysterious anomaly weakening the Earth’s magnetic field. Termed as ‘South Atlantic Anomaly’, it extends all the way from South America to southwest Africa.

The term ‘South Atlantic Anomaly’ at its first sight looks similar to any climate/oceanic current related phenomena. But it’s not! This is where you can end up losing 2.66 marks in the prelims!

What is South Atlantic Anomaly (SAA)?

  • The SAA is referred to the behaviour of Earth’s Geo-Magnetic field in an area between Africa and South America.
  • The SAA is an area where the Earth’s inner Van Allen radiation belt comes closest to the Earth’s surface, dipping down to an altitude of 200 kilometres.
  • This leads to an increased flux of energetic particles in this region and exposes orbiting satellites to higher-than-usual levels of radiation.
  • The effect is caused by the non-concentricity of the Earth and its magnetic dipole.
  • The SAA is the near-Earth region where the Earth’s magnetic field is weakest relative to an idealized Earth-centered dipole field.

Weakening of the magnetic field

  • Over the last 200 years, the magnetic field has lost around 9% of its strength on a global average.
  • A large and rapid shrink has been observed in the SAA region over the past 50 years just as the area itself has grown and moved westward.
  • The weakening of the magnetic field is also causing technical difficulties for the satellites and spacecraft orbiting the planet.
  • The study conducted between 1970 and 2020, said that the magnetic field weakened considerably in a large region stretching from Africa to South America, known as the ‘SAA’.
  • This area has grown and moved westward at a rate of around 20 km per year.

Its impact

  • The magnetic shield has an important role to play in keeping unwanted radiation away as well as helping determine the location of magnetic poles.
  • Even though unlike global warming or any weather change, this anomaly doesn’t directly impact human lives, it could actually bring on a change in the way we access technology.
  • The reversal and apparent shift, which could keep extending could actually impact satellite and telecommunication system, which means that some of the internet and mobile phone functioning which depend on satellite signals can possibly get disrupted.
  • It could also affect the mapping and navigation systems in smartphones.
  • The weakening of earth’s magnetic field could also impact migratory movement.
  • Birds, animals- all those who migrate with the change in season depend on the earth’s mapping to move about can find it a little difficult.
  • This is only a possibility, but we don’t know the extent of the damage till now.

About the Van Allen Radiation Belt

  • A Van Allen radiation belt is a zone of energetic charged particles, most of which originate from the solar wind, that are captured by and held around a planet by that planet’s magnetic field.
  • The belts are located in the inner region of Earth’s magnetosphere. The belts trap energetic electrons and protons.
  • Earth has two such belts and sometimes others may be temporarily created.
  • Most of the particles that form the belts are thought to come from solar wind and other particles by cosmic rays.
  • By trapping the solar wind, the magnetic field deflects those energetic particles and protects the atmosphere from destruction.

Also read:

Shifting north magnetic pole forces urgent navigation fix

Back2Basics: Swarm  Constellation

  • Swarm is a European Space Agency (ESA) mission to study the Earth’s magnetic field.
  • It is ESA’s first constellation of satellites for Earth observation.
  • The Swarm constellation consists of three satellites (Alpha, Bravo and Charlie) placed in two different polar orbits, two flying side by side at an altitude of 450 km and a third at an altitude of 530 km.

International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

China’s Mars Mission: Tianwen-1


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various missions mentioned in the newscard

Mains level : Quest for Mars and its possibility to host life

China’s space program is now slated to achieve a new milestone. In July, the country will launch its first Mars mission, the ‘Tianwen-1’, which is expected to land on the Red Planet’s surface in the first quarter of 2021.

UPSC may ask an MCQ asking: Which of the following is/are the space missions related to Mars? It may throw up 4-5 options (which we all get confused at after few months) like Cassini , InSight , Messanger, Voyager etc.

Tianwen-1 Mission

  • The mission is named after the ancient Chinese poem ‘Questions to Heaven’, the Tianwen-1.
  • It is an all-in-one orbiter; lander and rover will search the Martian surface for water, ice, investigate soil characteristics, and study the atmosphere, among completing other objectives.
  • It will carry 13 payloads (seven orbiters and six rovers) that will explore the planet.
  • It will be the first to place ground-penetrating radar on the Martian surface, which will be able to study local geology, as well as rock, ice, and dirt distribution.
  • China’s previous ‘Yinghuo-1’ Mars mission, which had piggybacked on a Russian spacecraft, had failed after it could not leave the Earth’s orbit and disintegrated over the Pacific Ocean in 2012.

Why all are curious about Mars exploration?

  • After the Moon, the most number of space missions in the Solar System has been to Mars.
  • Despite being starkly different in many ways, the Red Planet has several Earth-like features– such as clouds, polar ice caps, canyons, volcanoes, and seasonal weather patterns.
  • For ages, scientists have wondered whether Mars can support life.
  • In the past few years, Mars missions have been able to discover the possible presence of liquid water on the planet, either in the subsurface today or at some point in its past.
  • This has made space explorers more curious about whether the planet can sustain life.
  • Newer NASA missions have since transitioned from their earlier strategy of “Follow the Water” to “Seek Signs of Life”.

Back2Basics: Various missions on Mars

  • The USSR in 1971 became the first country to carry out a Mars landing– its ‘Mars 3’ lander being able to transmit data for 20 seconds from the Martian surface before failing.
  • The country made it’s second and Mars landing two years later in 1973.
  • The second country to reach Mars’s surface, the US, holds the record for the most number of Mars landings.
  • Since 1976, it has achieved 8 successful Mars landings, the latest being the ‘InSight’ in 2019 (launched in 2018).
  • India and the European Space Agency have been able to place their spacecraft in Mars’s orbit.
  • India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) or ‘Mangalyaan’ was able to do so in September 2014, almost a year after its launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Andhra Pradesh.
  • The Chinese mission now is expected to take off around the same time when NASA is launching its own Mars mission– the ambitious ‘Perseverance’ which aims to collect Martian samples and bring them back.

Right To Privacy

Aarogya Setu app is now open source


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : AarogyaSetu App

Mains level : Privacy concerns with AarogyaSetu App

Amid concerns over privacy of data being collected by its COVID-19 contact tracing app, the union government has open-sourced the Aarogya Setu app.

Right to Privacy is an important topic for GS. The Aarogya Setu app which has a lot more to offer is under the radar due to the underlying vacuum of Privacy Law in India. To tackle this, the government has launched a bug bounty programme (a sort of hackathon).

About  AarogyaSetu App

  • The App enables people to assess themselves the risk of their catching the Corona Virus infection.
  • It is designed to keep track of other AarogyaSetu users that a person came in contact with and alert him or her if any of the contacts tests positive for COVID-19.
  • It achieves this using the phone’s Bluetooth and GPS capabilities.
  • Once installed in a smartphone through an easy and user-friendly process, the app detects other devices with AarogyaSetu installed that come in the proximity of that phone.
  • The app can then calculate the risk of infection based on sophisticated parameters if any of these contacts have tested positive.
  • The personal data collected by the App is encrypted using state-of-the-art technology and stays secure on the phone until it is needed for facilitating medical intervention.

Issues with the app

  • The AarogyaSetu app faces the same issue as every other contact tracing technology that has come up during the pandemic period — it is people dependent.
  • It needs widespread usage and self-reporting to be effective.
  • Given that any number of total users will be a subset of smartphone owners in India, and there are bound to be variations in the levels of self-reporting, the efficacy is not bulletproof.
  • The terms of use of the app also say as much, distancing the government from any failure on the part of the app incorrectly identifying COVID-19 patients.

1) Privacy concerns

  • First of all, the app exists in the privacy law vacuum that is India.
  • With no legislation that spells out in detail how the online privacy of Indians is to be protected, AarogyaSetu users have little choice but to accept the privacy policy provided by the government.
  • The policy goes into some detail on where and how long the data will be retained, but it leaves the language around who will have access to it vague.
  • As per the policy persons carrying out medical and administrative interventions necessary in relation to COVID-19” will have access to the data.
  • This suggests interdepartmental exchanges of people’s personal information and is more excessive than countries like Singapore and even Israel.

2) Technical issue

  • Beyond the legal loopholes, there are technical loopholes as well.
  • The unique digital identity in AarogyaSetu is a static number, which increases the probability of identity breaches.
  • The abundance of data collected is also potentially problematic.
  • AarogyaSetu uses both Bluetooth as well as GPS reference points, which could be seen as overkill whereas other apps such as TraceTogether make do with Bluetooth.

3) Other issues

  • Experts emphasise that automated contact tracing is not a panacea.
  • They caution against an over-reliance on technology where a competent human-in-the-loop system with sufficient capacity exists.

Back2Basics: What is Open Source?

  • The term open source refers to something people can modify and share because its design is publicly accessible.
  • The term originated in the context of software development to designate a specific approach to creating computer programs.
  • Today, however, “open source” designates a broader set of values—what we call “the open source way.”
  • Open source projects, products, or initiatives embrace and celebrate principles of open exchange, collaborative participation, rapid prototyping, transparency, meritocracy, and community-oriented development.

The source code

  • “Source code” is the part of the software that most computer users don’t ever see; it’s the code computer programmers can manipulate to change how a piece of software—a “program” or “application”—works.
  • Programmers who have access to a computer program’s source code can improve that program by adding features to it or fixing parts that don’t always work correctly.

What is Open Source Software?

  • At the simplest level, open-source programming is merely writing code that other people can freely use and modify.
  • Open source is a term that originally referred to open source software (OSS).
  • OSS is a code that is designed to be publicly accessible—anyone can see, modify, and distribute the code as they see fit.
  • An open-source development model is a process used by an open-source community project to develop open-source software.
  • The software is then released under an open-source license, so anyone can view or modify the source code.

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Cicadas


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Cicadas

Mains level : NA

A brood of periodical cicadas, noisy insects that breed underground for as long as 13-17 years are expected to emerge into some states of the US this year.

A stand-alone species being mentioned in the news for the first time may find their way into the prelims. Make special note here.

What are Cicadas?

  • Cicadas are insects that spend most of their lives underground and emerge from the soil mainly to mate.
  • Once out of the ground, their life span is fairly short, somewhere between two-four weeks.
  • At present, there are about 15 active broods of these cicadas as some have gone extinct.
  • The insects are found in America’s as well as New Zealand and Australia.
  • The name 13 and 17 year refers to the number of years that cicada nymphs take to reach adulthood.
  • It is not clear why their development period is so long, researchers suspect that it may be linked to avoiding predators above the soil.

How are the fed?

  • During this time underground the nymphs feed on sap from plant roots.
  • After this developmental period, the cicada nymphs construct a “cicada hut” and burrow their way out from the soil and climb onto any nearby tree or vegetation.

Festivals, Dances, Theatre, Literature, Art in News

Festivals in news: Kheer Bhawani Mela


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kheer Bhawani Mela

Mains level : NA

In the UT of Jammu and Kashmir, the Annual Kheer Bhawani Mela in Tulmulla village of Ganderbal district has been cancelled by its religious trust.

Match the pair based question can be asked from festivals as such. Recently, the following festivals were in the news: Ambubachi Mela, Thrisoor Puram, Meru Jatara, Nagoba Jatara etc.

Try this:

Q. Consider the following pairs:

Traditions                                            Communities

1. Chaliha Sahib Festival              —          Sindhis

2. Nanda Raj Jaat Yatra                —          Gonds

3. Wari-Warkari                               —          Santhals

Which of the pairs given above is/are correctly matched ? (CSP 2017)

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) None of the above

Kheer Bhawani Mela

  • The festival witnesses lakhs of Hindu pilgrims from across the country largely the Kashmiri Pandit Community, who throngs the famous Ragyna Devi Temple which is popularly known as “Mata Kheer Bhawani”.
  • The festival falls on the auspicious day of “Zeshta Ashtami”.
  • The term kheer refers to rice pudding that is offered in the spring to propitiate the Goddess, which became part of the name of the temple.
  • The devotees have been asked to cooperate with the authorities and perform the worship of the Goddess at their homes only.
  • However, the holy rituals and Aarti of the Deity will be conducted as per the tradition which will be shared with the devotees via social media.


  • Kheer Bhawani Mela is one of the biggest religious functions of Kashmiri Pandit Community.
  • It is believed and rather has been seen that the colour of the water in the spring around the Kheer Bhawani Temple changes its colour with the change in the circumstances of the Kashmir valley.

Tourism Sector

Char Dham Project


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Char Dham Project

Mains level : Not Much

The Chamba Tunnel constructed by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) under Chardham Project was recently inaugurated.

Make a note of all projects and circuits under Swadesh Darshan and PRASHAD Scheme.

What is the Char Dham Project?

  • The Char Dham project consists of widening and repairing 889-kilometres of national highways leading to revered shrines of Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri.
  • It is a proposed two-lane expresses National Highway with a minimum width of 10 metres in the state of Uttarakhand.
  • The project includes 900 km national highways will connect whole of Uttarakhand state.

Chamba Tunnel

  • The Chamba tunnel is 440 m long and is a Horseshoe type tunnel with 10-metre carriageway width and 5.5m vertical clearance.
  • The BRO achieved this major milestone by digging up a 440 m long Tunnel below the busy Chamba town on Rishikesh-Dharasu road Highway (NH 94).

Back2Basics: Border Roads Organisation (BRO)

  • The BRO develops and maintains road networks in India’s border areas and friendly neighbouring countries and functions under the Ministry of Defence.
  • It is entrusted for construction of Roads, Bridges, Tunnels, Causeways, Helipads and Airfields along the borders.
  • Officers from the Border Roads Engineering Service (BRES) and personnel from the General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) form the parent cadre of the Border Roads Organisation.
  • It is also staffed by officers and troops drawn from the Indian Army’s Corps of Engineers on extra regimental employment.
  • The BRO operates and maintains over 32,885 kilometres of roads and about 12,200 meters of permanent bridges in the country.