Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

Technology can be leveraged to enhance security and prosperity for all. But what’s the vision of government in this regard? Read on to know more

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

Indian Antarctic Bill Introduced in Lok Sabha


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Antarctic Treaty

Mains level : Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022

The government has introduced the ‘Antarctica Bill, 2022’ in the Lok Sabha that envisages regulating visits and activities to Antarctica as well potential disputes that may arise among those present on the continent.

Indian Antarctic Bill, 2022

Aims and objectives:

  • To provide for national measures to protect the Antarctic environment and associated ecosystems and to give effect to the Antarctic Treaty
  • To provide a harmonious policy framework for India’s Antarctic activities through a well-established legal mechanism
  • Facilitate activities of the Indian Antarctic programme, including management of Antarctic tourism and sustainable development of fisheries
  • To prohibit Indian expedition to Antarctica or carrying of certain activities in Antarctica without a permit or the written authorisation of another party to the protocol
  • To provide for inspection in India by an officer designated by the Central government as an Inspector and to constitute an inspection team to carry out inspections in Antarctica

Key feature: Committee on Antarctic governance

  • It will empower the government to establish a committee on Antarctic governance and environmental protection to monitor, implement and ensure compliance with the relevant international laws, emissions standards and rules of protection.
  • The panel is to be headed by the secretary of the Ministry of Earth Sciences, as ex officio chairperson.
  • Among other roles, he has also been the vice-president of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research of the International Science Council since 2018.
  • The committee will have ten members from various ministries, departments and organizations of the Union government, plus two experts on the Antarctic environment or other relevant areas.

About Antarctica Treaty

  • Antarctica has a geographical area of 14 million sq. km and has had no indigenous population (i.e. “Antarcticans” don’t exist).
  • However, a few thousand people reside there, in some 40 research stations spread across the continent, throughout the year.
  • In 1959, 12 countries – Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, the USSR, the UK and the US signed the ‘Antarctic Treaty’.
  • Their aim was to prevent the continent from being militarised and to establish it as a centre of peaceful activities.
  • Later, more countries, including India, have become party to the treaty, and today it counts more than 54 members.
  • The treaty requires each party to take appropriate measures within its competence, including the adoption of laws and regulations, administrative actions and enforcement measures, to ensure compliance with the protocol.
  • Countries also signed the ‘Protocol on Environmental Protection’ to the Antarctic Treaty in 1991, which designates Antarctica as a “natural reserve, devoted to peace and science”.

Need for the Antarctic Legislation

  • The growing presence of Indian scientists in Antarctica and the commitment to Antarctic research and protection prompted the government to adopt domestic legislation consistent with its obligations as a member of the Antarctic Treaty system.
  • These laws will enable India’s courts to deal with disputes or crimes committed in parts of Antarctica, and help build credibility vis-à-vis India’s participation.

India at the Poles

  • India maintains two research stations on the continent: ‘Maitri’ (commissioned in 1989) at Schirmacher Hills and ‘Bharati’ (2012) at Larsemann Hills.
  • It has also launched 41 scientific expeditions every year thus far.
  • Together with the ‘Himadri’ station in Svalbard, above the Arctic circle, India is among an elite group of countries with multiple research in the polar regions.


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Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

[pib] Petascale Supercomputer “PARAM Ganga” established at IIT Roorkee


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Param Ganga, Petaflops

Mains level : National Supercomputing Mission

The National Supercomputing Mission (NSM) has now deployed “PARAM Ganga”, a supercomputer at IIT Roorkee, with a supercomputing capacity of 1.66 Petaflops.

What is a Supercomputer?

  • A supercomputer is a computer with a high level of performance as compared to a general-purpose computer.
  • The performance of a supercomputer is commonly measured in floating-point operations per second (FLOPS) instead of million instructions per second (MIPS).
  • Since 2017, there are supercomputers which can perform over a hundred quadrillion FLOPS (peta FLOPS).
  • Since November 2017, all of the world’s fastest 500 supercomputers run Linux-based operating systems.


  • PARAM Ganga is designed and commissioned by C-DAC under Phase 2 of the build approach of the NSM.
  • It is based on a heterogeneous and hybrid configuration of Intel Xeon Cascade lake processors, and NVIDIA Tesla V100.
  • There are 312 (CPU+GPU+HM) nodes with a total peak computing capacity of 1.67 (CPU+GPU+HM) PFLOPS performance.
  • The cluster consists of compute nodes connected with the Mellanox (HDR) InfiniBand interconnect network.
  • The system uses the Lustre parallel file system and operating system is CentOS 7.x.

Back2Basics: National Supercomputing Mission (NSM)

  • NSM is a proposed plan by GoI to create a cluster of seventy supercomputers connecting various academic and research institutions across India.
  • In April 2015 the government approved the NSM with a total outlay of Rs.4500 crore for a period of 7 years.
  • The mission was set up to provide the country with supercomputing infrastructure to meet the increasing computational demands of academia, researchers, MSMEs, and startups by creating the capability design, manufacturing, of supercomputers indigenously in India.
  • Currently there are four supercomputers from India in Top 500 list of supercomputers in the world.

Aims and objectives

  • The target of the mission was set to establish a network of supercomputers ranging from a few Tera Flops (TF) to Hundreds of Tera Flops (TF) and three systems with greater than or equal to 3 Peta Flops (PF) in academic and research institutions of National importance across the country by 2022.
  • This network of Supercomputers envisaging a total of 15-20 PF was approved in 2015 and was later revised to a total of 45 PF (45000 TFs), a jump of 6 times more compute power within the same cost and capable of solving large and complex computational problems.

When did India initiate its efforts to build supercomputers?

  • India’s supercomputer program was initiated in the late 1980s, when the United States ceased the export of a Cray Supercomputer due to technology embargos.
  • This resulted in India setting up C-DAC in 1988, which in 1991, unveiled the prototype of PARAM 800, benchmarked at 5 Gflops. This supercomputer was the second-fastest in the world at that time.
  • Since June 2018, the USA’s Summit is the fastest supercomputer in the world, taking away this position from China.
  • As of January 2018, Pratyush and Mihir are the fastest supercomputers in India with a maximum speed of Peta Flops.

What are the phases of the National Supercomputing Mission?

Phase I:

  • In the first phase of the NSM, parts of the supercomputers are imported and assembled in India.
  • A total of 6 supercomputers are to be installed in this phase.
  • The first supercomputer that was assembled indigenously is called Param Shivay. It was installed in IIT (BHU) located in Varanasi.
  • Similar systems, Param Shakti (IIT Kharagpur) and Param Brahma (IISER, Pune) were also later installed within the country.
  • The rest will be installed at IIT Kanpur, IIT Hyderabad and Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Advanced Studies (JNIAS).

Phase II:

  • The supercomputers that are installed so far are about 60% indigenous.
  • The 11 systems that are going to be installed in the next phase will have processors designed by the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) and will have a cumulative capacity of 10 petaflops.
  • These new systems are to be constructed more cost-effectively than the previous ones.
  • One of the 11 proposed supercomputers will be installed
  • at C-DAC exclusively for small and medium enterprises so that they can train employees as well as work on supercomputers at a very low cost.

Phase III:

  • The third phase aims to build fully indigenous supercomputers.
  • The government had also approved a project to develop a cryogenic cooling system that rapidly dispels the heat generated by a computing chip. This will be jointly built together by IIT-Bombay and C-DAC.


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Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

Mission Samudrayan: India’s First and Unique Manned Ocean


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mission Samudrayan

Mains level : Deep Ocean Mission

Union Minister of Earth Sciences has launched India’s First Manned Ocean Mission Samudrayan at Chennai.

Mission Samudrayan

  • The Samudrayan project has been undertaken by the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT).
  • It will be a part of the Rs 6,000 crore Deep Ocean Mission.
  • It is designed to carry 3 persons in 2.1meter diameter Titanium Alloy Personnel Sphere with an operational endurance of 12hrs and systems to support emergency endurance up to 96hrs.
  • It could work at a depth between 1000 and 5500 meters.


  • Samudrayan shall facilitate carrying out deep ocean exploration of the non-living resources such as polymetallic manganese nodules, gas hydrates, hydro-thermal sulphides and cobalt crusts.
  • The mission would carry out subsea activities such as high-resolution bathymetry, biodiversity assessment, geo-scientific observation, search activities, salvage operation and engineering support.

Focus areas of the Project

  • Ocean climate change advisory services
  • Underwater vehicles
  • Underwater robotics-related technologies
  • Deep-sea mining: Exploitation of polymetallic nodules

Components of the mission

Some of the critical subsystems of the manned submersibles are:

  • Development of Titanium Alloy Personnel Sphere, Human support and safety system in enclosed space, low density buoyancy modules, Ballast and Trim System
  • Pressure compensated batteries and propulsion system, control and communication systems and Launching and Recovery System.

Progress till date

  • The preliminary design of the manned submersible MATSYA 6000 is completed.
  • Sea trials of 500 metre rated shallow water version of the manned submersible are expected to take place in the last quarter of 2022 and the MATSYA 6000.
  • The deep-water manned submersible will be ready for trials by the second quarter of 2024.

Why need such mission?

  • This manned submersible mission provides a feel of direct physical presence for researchers and has better intervention capability.
  • With the advancing subsea technologies, the recent Fendouzhe manned submersible developed by China in 2020 has touched ~11000m water depths.
  • With Samudrayan, India joins the elite club of nations such as USA, Russia, Japan, France and China to have such underwater vehicles for carrying out subsea activities.

Back2Basics: India and International Seabed Authority (ISA)

  • The ISA, an autonomous international organization established under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, allots the ‘area’ for deep-sea mining.
  • India was the first country to receive the status of a ‘Pioneer Investor’ in 1987 and was given an area of about 1.5 lakh sqkm in the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) for nodule exploration.
  • In 2002, India signed a contract with the ISA, and after a complete resource analysis of the seabed, India surrendered 50%, and the country retained an area of 75,000 sqkm.
  • Further studies have helped narrow the mining area to 18,000 sqkm, the ‘First Generation Mine-site’.


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Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

[pib] Revamped National Gene Bank


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Gene Bank

Mains level : Not Much

The Union Agriculture Minister has inaugurated the world’s second-largest refurbished gene bank at the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources.

National Gene Bank

  • The National Gene Bank was established in the year 1996 to preserve the seeds of Plant Genetic Resources (PGR) for future generations.
  • It has the capacity to preserve about one million germplasm in the form of seeds.
  • Presently it is protecting 4.52 lakh accessions, of which 2.7 lakh are Indian germplasm and the rest have been imported from other countries.
  • National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources is meeting the need of in-situ and ex-situ germplasm conservation through Delhi Headquarters and 10 regional stations in the country.

Key facilities provided

  • The NGB has four kinds of facilities to cater to long-term as well as medium-term conservation namely:
  1. Seed Gene bank (- 18°C),
  2. Cryo gene bank (-170°C to -196°C),
  3. In-vitro Gene bank (25°C), and
  4. Field Gene bank
  • It stores different crop groups such as cereals, millets, medicinal and aromatic plants, and narcotics, etc.

What is the latest update?

  • This is the world’s second-largest gene bank located in the national capital.
  • It has the capacity to preserve about one million germplasm in the form of seeds.
  • Presently, it is protecting 4.52 lakh accessions, of which 2.7 lakh are Indian germplasm and the rest have been imported from other countries.

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Also read:

Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

[pib] What are PRIDE Guidelines?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Biotech-PRIDE

Mains level : Not Much

The Union Ministry for Science & Technology has released “Biotech-PRIDE (Promotion of Research and Innovation through Data Exchange) Guidelines” developed by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT).


  • These guidelines aim at providing a well-defined framework and guiding principle to facilitate and enable sharing and exchange of biological knowledge, information and data.
  • They will facilitate this and enable the exchange of information to promote research and innovation in different research groups across the country.
  • They will be implemented through the Indian Biological Data Centre (IBDC) at Regional Centre for Biotechnology supported by the Department of Biotechnology.

Creating a national repository: Bio-Grid

  • Other existing datasets/ data centres will be bridged to this IBDC which will be called Bio-Grid.
  • This Bio-Grid will be a National Repository for biological knowledge, information and data.
  • It will be responsible for enabling its exchange, developing measures for safety, standards and quality for datasets and establishing detailed modalities for accessing data.

 Why need such guidelines?

  • India ranks number 4 amongst the top 20 countries contributing biological databases.
  • The Government invests a large number of public funds for biosciences to gain deep insights into intricate biological mechanisms and other processes and for translation.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

60 Years of Antarctic Treaty


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Antarctic Treaty

Mains level : Significance of Antarctic Treaty in geopolitics

The 1959 Antarctic Treaty (wef 1961) recently celebrated its 60th anniversary.

Antarctic Treaty

  • The Antarctic Treaty and related agreements are collectively known as the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS).
  • It regulates international relations with respect to Antarctica, Earth’s only continent without a native human population.
  • For the purposes of the treaty system, Antarctica is defined as all of the land and ice shelves south of 60°S latitude.
  • The treaty entered into force in 1961 and currently has 54 parties.
  • The treaty sets aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, establishes freedom of scientific investigation, and bans military activity on the continent.
  • The treaty was the first arms control agreement established during the Cold War.
  • India is a signatory of this treaty since 1983.

Why is it significant?

  • Negotiated during the middle of the Cold War by 12 countries with Antarctic interests, it remains the only example of a single treaty that governs a whole continent.
  • It is also the foundation of a rules-based international order for a continent without a permanent population.

Key provisions

  • The treaty is remarkably short and contains only 14 articles.
  • Principal provisions include promoting the freedom of scientific research, the use of the continent only for peaceful purposes, and the prohibition of military activities, nuclear tests and the disposal of radioactive waste.

What the treaty says about territorial claims

  • The most important provision of the treaty is Article IV, which effectively seeks to neutralise territorial sovereignty in Antarctica.
  • For the Antarctic territorial claimants, this meant a limit was placed on making any new claim or enlargement of an existing claim.
  • Likewise, no formal recognition was given to any of the seven territorial claims on the continent, by Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom.
  • Russia, the United States and China — signatories with significant Antarctic interests who have not formally made territorial claims — are also bound by the limitations of Article IV.
  • And one sector of Antarctica is not subject to the claim of any country, which effectively makes it the last unclaimed land on earth.
  • The treaty also put a freeze on any disputes between claimants over their territories on the continent.

How the treaty has expanded

  • Though the compact has held for 60 years, there have been tensions from time to time.
  • Argentina and the UK, for instance, have overlapping claims to territory on the continent.
  • When combined with their ongoing dispute over the nearby Falkland (Malvinas) Islands, their Antarctic relationship remains frosty.
  • Membership of the treaty has grown in the intervening years, with 54 signatories today.

Where to from here?

  • While the Antarctic Treaty has been able to successfully respond to a range of challenges, circumstances are radically different in the 2020s compared to the 1950s.
  • Antarctica is much more accessible, partly due to technology but also climate change.
  • More countries now have substantive interests in the continent than the original 12.
  • Some global resources are becoming scarce, especially oil.

Answer this PYQ:

Q.The term ‘IndARC’, sometimes seen in the news, is the name of:

(a) An indigenously developed radar system inducted into Indian Defence

(b) India’s satellite to provide services to the countries of Indian Ocean Rim

(c) A scientific establishment set up by India in Antarctic region

(d) India’s underwater observatory to scientifically study the Arctic region

Back2Basics: Indian Antarctic Program

  • The Indian Antarctic Program is a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional program under the control of the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research, Ministry of Earth Sciences.
  • It was initiated in 1981 with the first Indian expedition to Antarctica.
  • The program gained global acceptance with India’s signing of the Antarctic Treaty and subsequent construction of the Dakshin Gangotri Antarctic research base in 1983 superseded by the Maitri base from 1989.
  • The newest base commissioned in 2012 is Bharati, constructed out of 134 shipping containers.

Various missions

In 1981 the Indian flag unfurled for the first time in Antarctica, marking the start of Southern Ocean expeditions under the environmental protocol of the Antarctic Treaty (1959).

(1) Dakshin Gangotri

The first permanent settlement was built in 1983 and named Dakshin Gangotri. In 1989 it was excavated and is being used again as supply base and transit camp. It was decommissioned in the year 1990 after half of it got buried under the ice.

(2) Maitri

The second permanent settlement, Maitri, was put up in 1989 on the Schirmacher Oasis and has been conducting experiments in geology, geography and medicine. India built this station close to a freshwater lake around Maitri known as Lake Priyadarshini.

(3) Bharati

Located beside Larsmann Hill at 69°S, 76°E, Bharati is established in 2015.  This newest research station for oceanographic research will collect evidence of continental breakup to reveal the 120-million-year-old ancient history of the Indian subcontinent.

(4) India Post Office in Antarctica

It was established in the year 1984 during the third Indian expedition to Antarctica. It was located at Dakshin Gangotri. This post office was indeed situated in a stunning location and it was more than just a post office. An interesting fact about this place is that as many as 10,000 letters were posted and canceled in this post office in total in the first year of its establishment.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

India to launch Deep Ocean Mission


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Deep Ocean Mission

Mains level : Various aspects of DOM

The Union Cabinet has approved the long-pending Deep Ocean Mission since 2018.

Deep Ocean Mission (DOM)

  • Nodal Agency: Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES)
  • The mission proposes to explore the deep ocean similar to the space exploration started by ISRO.
  • Underwater robotics and ‘manned’ submersibles are key components of the Mission which will help India harness various living and non-living (water, mineral and energy) resources from the seabed and deep water.
  • The tasks that will be undertaken over this period include deep-sea mining, survey, energy exploration and offshore-based desalination.
  • These technological developments are funded under an umbrella scheme of the government – called Ocean Services, Technology, Observations, Resources Modelling and Science (O-SMART).

Six major components

(1) Development of Technologies for Deep Sea Mining, and Manned Submersible:

  • A manned submersible will be developed to carry three people to a depth of 6000 metres in the ocean with suite of scientific sensors and tools.
  • Only a very few countries have acquired this capability.
  • An Integrated Mining System will be also developed for mining Polymetallic Nodules from 6000 m depth in the central Indian Ocean.

(2) Development of Ocean Climate Change Advisory Services:

  • A suite of observations and models will be developed to understand and provide future projections of important climate variables on seasonal to decadal time scales under this proof of concept component.
  • This component will support the Blue Economy priority area of coastal tourism.

(3) Technological innovations for exploration and conservation of deep-sea biodiversity:

  • Bio-prospecting of deep-sea flora and fauna including microbes and studies on sustainable utilization of deep-sea bio-resources will be the main focus.
  • This component will support the Blue Economy priority area of Marine Fisheries and allied services.

(4) Deep Ocean Survey and Exploration:

  • The primary objective of this component is to explore and identify potential sites of multi-metal Hydrothermal Sulphides mineralization along the Indian Ocean mid-oceanic ridges.
  • This component will additionally support the Blue Economy priority area of deep-sea exploration of ocean resources.

(5) Energy and freshwater from the Ocean:

  • Studies and detailed engineering design for offshore Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) powered desalination plant are envisaged in this proof of concept proposal.
  • This component will support the Blue Economy priority area of offshore energy development.

(6) Advanced Marine Station for Ocean Biology:

  • This component is aimed at the development of human capacity and enterprise in ocean biology and engineering.
  • This component will translate research into the industrial application and product development through on-site business incubator facilities.
  • This component will support the Blue Economy priority area of Marine Biology, Blue trade and Blue manufacturing.

Why need such a mission?

  • Oceans, which cover 70 per cent of the globe, remain a key part of our life. About 95 percent of the Deep Ocean remains unexplored.
  • For India, with its three sides surrounded by the oceans and around 30 per cent of the country’s population living in coastal areas.
  • The ocean is a major economic factor supporting fisheries and aquaculture, tourism, livelihoods and blue trade.
  • Oceans are also a storehouse of food, energy, minerals, medicines, modulator of weather and climate and underpin life on Earth.

Pre-requisites to this mission

  • India has been allotted a site of 75,000 square kilometres in the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) by the UN International Sea Bed Authority for the exploitation of polymetallic nodules (PMN).

Hunt for PMNs

  • These are rocks scattered on the seabed containing iron, manganese, nickel and cobalt.
  • Being able to lay hands on a fraction of that reserve can meet the energy requirement of India for the next 100 years.
  • It has been estimated that 380 million metric tonnes of polymetallic nodules are available at the bottom of the seas in the Central Indian Ocean.
  • India’s Exclusive Economic Zone spreads over 2.2 million square kilometers.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

[pib] Sub-Mission on Agricultural Mechanization (SMAM)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sub-Mission on Agricultural Mechanization (SMAM)

Mains level : Need for Agricultural Mechanization

To empower the farmers through the Sub-Mission on Agricultural Mechanization (SMAM) scheme, the government has released funds for various activities of Farm Mechanization.

Sub-Mission on Agricultural Mechanization (SMAM)

  • The Agri ministry has launched this mission in 2014-15 with the objectives of increasing the reach of farm mechanization to small and marginal farmers and to the regions & difficult areas where farm power availability is low.
  • Under this scheme, it has been proposed to established Village Level farm Machinery Bank (VLFMB), Custom Hiring Centres (CHC) and High Tech Hubs (HTH) in order to facilitate easy availability of farm implements and machinery for hire by farmers.

Why need such a scheme?

  • Agricultural Mechanization plays a vital role in optimizing the use of land, water energy resources, manpower and other inputs like seeds, fertilizers, pesticides etc to maximize the productivity of the available cultivable area and make agriculture a more profitable and attractive profession for rural youth.
  • It is one of the key drivers for the sustainable development of the agriculture sector.
  • Sustainable Agriculture mechanization growth will require appropriate and precision agricultural machinery adequately supported by the latest technology.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

[pib] National AI Portal INDIAai


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : INDIAai

Mains level : AI promotion moves by the government

The ‘National AI Portal (’, celebrated its first anniversary on May 28, 2021.

National AI Portal

  • INDIAai is the National AI Portal of India – a central hub for everything AI in India and beyond.
  • A joint initiative of MeitY, NeGD and NASSCOM, the website aims to be the trusted content powerhouse in the backdrop of India’s journey to global prominence in Artificial Intelligence.
  • It serves as a central hub for AI related news, learning, articles, events and activities etc., in India and beyond.
  • It has been set up to prepare the nation for an AI future.
  • It is the single central knowledge hub on artificial intelligence and allied fields for aspiring entrepreneurs, students, professionals, academics, and everyone else.
  • The portal focuses on creating and nurturing a unified AI ecosystem for driving excellence and leadership in India’s AI journey, to foster economic growth and improve lives through it.


Artificial intelligence (AI) is a wide-ranging branch of computer science concerned with building smart machines capable of performing tasks that typically require human intelligence. AI is an interdisciplinary science with multiple approaches, but advancements in machine learning and deep learning are creating a paradigm shift in virtually every sector of the tech industry.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

Genome Mapping of the Indian Ocean


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Genome Mapping

Mains level : India's deep ocean mission

A team of scientists and researchers from the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) onboard its research vessel Sindhu Sadhana will work on a research project to reveal the internal working of the body of the ocean at a cellular level.

Genome Mapping of the Indian Ocean

  • The first-of-its-kind research project in the country is aimed at understanding the biochemistry and the response of the ocean to climate change, nutrient stress and increasing pollution.
  • The researchers will collect samples from various stretches of the ocean at an average depth of about 5 km.
  • Just like gene mapping is carried out on blood samples collected from humans, the scientists will map these in the bacteria, microbes found in the ocean.
  • The mapping of the Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and Ribonucleic acid (RNA) will show the nutrients present in them, and also those lacking in different parts of the ocean.

Objectives of the mission

  • This project will help scientists understand the internal working of the ecosystem of the Indian Ocean.
  • The research will enable scientists to identify the factors controlling the changes in RNA, DNA in the oceans, and various stressors impacting them.
  • The ocean has several micronutrients like nitrates, sulphates and silicates, minerals like iron ore and zinc, and trace metals like cadmium or copper.
  • The genome mapping will show the presence of which these microbes have adapted to, in addition to their reaction to atmospheric carbon dioxide.
  • This will help in identifying which part of the ocean has a greater concentration of which mineral or element.
  • Scientists will then use these as tracers to tackle the causative factors for excess or lack of a certain mineral or element and suggest possible solutions for their mitigation.
  • In addition, the large pool of RNA, DNA library of the oceans will be utilized for using the Indian Ocean for human benefit in the future.

Studying the interactions of trace metals

  • Trace metals are the metals subset of trace elements; that is, metals normally present in small but measurable amounts in animal and plant cells.
  • Trace metals like cadmium or copper are supplied to oceans via continental run-offs, atmospheric deposition, hydrothermal activities and continental shelf interaction.
  • They are essential for ocean productivity for having a holistic understanding of nutrient cycling and productivity of the oceans.
  • Isotopic forms of trace metals can be utilized to track the movement of water masses responsible for ocean circulation and as tools to study the biological, geochemical and ecosystem processes and food web analyses.

Also read

Explained:  India’s Deep Ocean Mission

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

Govt liberalized Geospatial Data Policy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Geospatial data

Mains level : Benefits of the liberalized scheme

In sweeping changes to the country’s mapping policy, the government has announced liberalisation of norms governing the acquisition and production of geospatial data.

Q.What do you mean by Geo-Spatial Data? What are its economic and strategic significance?

What is the news?

  • The Ministry of Science and Technology has released new guidelines for the Geo-spatial sector in India.
  • It deregulated the existing protocol and liberalizes the sector to a more competitive field.

What is a Geo-Spatial Data?

  • Geospatial data is data about objects, events, or phenomena that have a location on the surface of the earth.
  • The location may be static in the short-term, like the location of a road, an earthquake event, malnutrition among children, or dynamic like a moving vehicle or pedestrian, the spread of an infectious disease.
  • Geospatial data combines location information, attribute information, and often also temporal information or the time at which the location and attributes exist.
  • Geo-spatial data usually involves information of public interest such as roads, localities, rail lines, water bodies, and public amenities.
  • The past decade has seen an increase in the use of geospatial data in daily life with various apps such as food delivery apps like Swiggy or Zomato, e-commerce like Amazon or even weather apps.

What is the present policy on geospatial data?

  • There are strict restrictions on the collection, storage, use, sale, dissemination of geo-spatial data and mapping under the current regime.
  • The policy had not been renewed in decades and has been driven by internal as well as external security concerns.
  • Private companies need to navigate a system of permissions from different departments of the government as well as the defence and Home Ministries, to be able to collect, create or disseminate geospatial data.

Why has the government deregulated geospatial data?

  • This system of acquiring licenses or permission, and the red tape involved, can take months, delaying projects, especially those that are in mission mode – for both Indian companies as well as government agencies.
  • The deregulation eliminates the requirement of permissions as well as scrutiny, even for security concerns.
  • Indian companies now can self-attest, conforming to government guidelines without actually having to be monitored by a government agency- these guidelines, therefore, place a great deal of trust in Indian entities.
  • There is also a huge lack of data in the country which impedes planning for infrastructure, development and businesses which are data-based.
  • The mapping of the entire country that too with high accuracy, by the Indian government alone could take decades.
  • The government, therefore, felt an urgent need to incentivise the geospatial sector for Indian companies and increased investment from private players in the sector.
  • Large amounts of geospatial data are also available on global platforms, which makes the regulation of data that is freely available in other countries, untenable.

What next?

  • While for decades, geospatial data has been a priority for strategic reasons and for internal and external security concerns.
  • This priority has seen a shift in the past 15 years – geospatial data has now become imperative for the government in planning for infrastructure, development, social development as well as the economy.
  • More and more sectors such as agriculture, environment protection, power, water, transportation, communication, health (tracking of diseases, patients, hospitals etc) are relying heavily on this data.
  • There has also been a global push for open access to geospatial as it affects the lives of ordinary citizens.

Expected impacts

  • By liberalizing the system, the government will ensure more players in the field, the competitiveness of Indian companies in the global market, and more accurate data available to both the government to formulate plans and administer, but also for individual Indians.
  • Startups and businesses can now also use this data in setting up their concerns, especially in the sector of e-commerce or geospatial based apps – which in turn will increase employment in these sectors.
  • Indian companies will be able to develop indigenous apps, for example, an Indian version of Google maps.
  • There is also likely to be an increase in public-private partnerships with the opening of this sector with data collection companies working with the Indian government on various sectoral projects.
  • The government also expects an increase in investment in the geospatial sector by companies, and also an increase in export of data to foreign companies and countries, which in turn will boost the economy.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

National Mission on Quantum Technology and Applications (NM-QTA)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Quantum Technology

Mains level : NM-QTA

The detailed project report for a National Mission on Quantum Technology and Applications (NM-QTA) has been drawn out and finalised.

Q.Discuss various applications of quantum technology for strategic and economic development.

Story so far

  • In last year’s budget session, it was proposed that ₹8,000 crores be set aside to develop quantum science and technology.
  • The detailed project report is now ready and in the next couple of months, this mission might get approval.
  • Recognising the importance of quantum technology, the Department of Science and Technology has also initiated a programme called QuEST to explore the possibilities and engage with the researchers.

About NM-QTA

  • The mission will function under the Department of Science & Technology (DST).
  • It will be able to address the ever-increasing technological requirements of society and take into account the international technology trends.
  • The mission will help prepare next-generation skilled manpower, boost translational research and also encourage entrepreneurship and start-up ecosystem development.

Why need such a mission?

  • Quantum technologies are rapidly developing globally with hugely disruptive potential.
  • The range of quantum technologies is expected to be one of the major technology disruptions that will change the entire paradigm of computation, communication and encryption.
  • It is perceived that the countries who achieve an edge in this emerging field will have a greater advantage in garnering multifold economic growth and dominant leadership role.
  • It has become imperative both for government and industries to be prepared to develop these emerging and disruptive changes.
  • It will establish standards to be applied to all research and help stimulate a pipeline to support research and applications well into the future.

Recent applications

  • Recently, DRDO has successfully demonstrated communication between its two labs using Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) technology.
  • In June 2020, China demonstrated quantum communication technology using the satellite Micius, by conducting a secret conference between two ground stations about 1,120 km apart.
  • They used the satellite not to transmit the entire communication, but to simultaneously send a pair of secret keys to the two ground stations.
  • Other potential applications include secure communication, fast computers that established quantum supremacy, sensors and quantum-inspired devices.

Back2Basics: Quantum Technology

  • Quantum Technology is based on the principles of quantum theory, which explains the nature of energy and matter on the atomic and subatomic level.
  • It concerns the control and manipulation of quantum systems, with the goal of achieving information processing beyond the limits of the classical world.
  • Its principles will be used for engineering solutions to extremely complex problems in computing, communications, sensing, chemistry, cryptography, imaging and mechanics.
  • This key ability makes quantum computers extremely powerful compared to conventional computers when solving certain kinds of problems like finding prime factors of large numbers and searching for large databases.

What is Quantum Mechanics?

  • It is a fundamental theory in physics which describes nature at the smallest – including atomic and subatomic – scales.
  • At the scale of atoms and electrons, many of the equations of classical mechanics, which describe how things move at everyday sizes and speeds, cease to be useful.
  • In classical mechanics, objects exist in a specific place at a specific time.
  • However, in quantum mechanics, objects instead exist in a haze of probability; they have a certain chance of being at point A, another chance of being at point B and so on.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

Science Technology and Innovation Policy (STIP), 2020


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : STIP 2020

Mains level : india's endeavours in STI

The Department of Science and Technology has published the draft National Science Technology and Innovation Policy and has invited suggestions from the public.

Q.The STIP, 2020 contains radical and progressive proposals that could be game-changers for not just the scientific research community, but also for the way ordinary Indians interact with Science. Discuss.

STIP, 2020

Aim: To identify and address the strengths and weaknesses of the Indian STI ecosystem to catalyse socio-economic development of the country and also make the Indian STI ecosystem globally competitive.

The philosophy behind

  • Unlike previous STI policies which were largely top-driven in the formulation, this policy follows core principles of being decentralized, evidence-informed, bottom-up, experts-driven, and inclusive.
  • It aims to be dynamic, with a robust policy governance mechanism that includes periodic review, evaluation, feedback, adaptation and, most importantly, a timely exit strategy for policy instruments.
  • The STIP will be guided by the vision of positioning India among the top three scientific superpowers in the decade to come; to attract, nurture, strengthen, and retain critical human capital through a people-centric STI ecosystem

The Open Science Framework

Open Science fosters more equitable participation in science through-

  • Increased access to research output;
  • Greater transparency and accountability in research; inclusiveness;
  • Better resource utilization through minimal restrictions on reuse of research output and infrastructure and
  • Ensuring a constant exchange of knowledge between the producers and users of knowledge

Inclusion principles

  • The STIP proposes that at least 30 per cent representation be ensured for women in all decision-making bodies, as well as “spousal benefits” are provided to partners of scientists belonging to the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Among the proposals in the policy is the removal of bars on married couples being employed in the same department or laboratory.
  • As of now, married couples are not posted in the same department, leading to cases of loss of employment or forced transfers when colleagues decide to get married.
  • The policy says that for age-related cut-offs in matters relating to the selection, promotion, awards or grants, the “academic age” and not the biological age would be considered.

Funding improvements

  • At 0.6% of GDP, India’s gross domestic expenditure on R&D (GERD) is quite low compared to other major economies that have a GERD-to-GDP ratio of 1.5% to 3%.
  • This can be attributed to inadequate private sector investment (less than 40%) in R&D activities in India; in technologically advanced countries, the private sector contributes close to 70% of GERD.
  • STIP has made some major recommendations in this regard, such as the expansion of the STI funding landscape at the central and state levels.
  • It has enhanced incentivisation mechanisms for leveraging the private sector’s R&D participation through boosting financial support and fiscal incentives for industry.

Other key Proposals

  • STIP will lead to the establishment of a National STI Observatory that will act as a central repository for all kinds of data related to and generated from the STI ecosystem.
  • The “One nation, one subscription” policy to establish a system whereby all researchers in India can access research published in top international journals for no cost.
  • All data used in and generated from public-funded research will be available to everyone (larger scientific community and public) under FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable) terms.
  • Collaborative Research Centres (CRCs) will be established, that bring together industries, MSMEs, startups, R&D institutions and HEIs with the government.
  • Industry clusters will be encouraged and incentivized wherever necessary, to engage in collaborative R&D.
  • Opportunities for foreign MNCs to invest in the country’s STI landscape will be strengthened and made more accessible.
  • It proposes lateral entry of scientists up to 25 per cent of scientists in related ministries.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

[pib] 40th Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica (ISEA)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : India's polar mission

Mains level : Climate change impact on cryosphere

40th Indian Scientific Expedition is set to depart for Antarctica from Mormugao Port, Goa.

Try this question:

Q.How does the cryosphere affect global climate? (150W, CSM 2018)

Indian mission on the Antarctic

  • The Indian Antarctic Program is a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional program under the control of the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research, Ministry of Earth Sciences.
  • It was initiated in 1981 with the first Indian expedition to Antarctica.
  • The program gained global acceptance with India’s signing of the Antarctic Treaty and subsequent construction of the Dakshin Gangotri Antarctic research base in 1983, superseded by the Maitri base from 1990.
  • The newest base commissioned in 2015 is Bharati, constructed out of 134 shipping containers.

Its significance

  • This 40th expedition is procuring fuel from India after about 22 years. Till the last expedition, fuel was being obtained from outside the country.
  • Indian Oil Co. Ltd. has supplied aviation fuel, Jet A1 in bulk and packed form to a non-aviation customer and is delivered to an ocean-going vessel for the first time.

Why need such a mission?

  • Polar Regions are crucially important in answering key questions about global climate change.
  • It contributes towards the global sea-level rise, the background aerosol properties, variability in the sea ice cover and phenomena like Antarctic haze and ozone concentrations.
  • Attempts to address some of these issues are helping in mitigating several important problems concerning human life and well-being.

Back2Basics: India’s polar missions

  • The first Indian expedition to Antarctica sailed from Goa on December 6, 1981, and reached the shores of this polar continent on January 9, 1982.
  • India has two stations in the polar continent of Antarctica – Maitri and Bharati, which are being operated under NCPOR, Ministry of Earth Sciences.

Indian mission on the Arctic

  • Himadri Station is India’s first Arctic research station located at Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Norway. It is located at the International Arctic Research base, Ny-Ålesund.
  • It was inaugurated on the 1st of July, 2008 by the Minister of Earth Sciences. It is followed by IndARC.
  • The United States Geological Survey estimates that 22% of the world’s oil and natural gas could be located beneath the Arctic.
  • ONGC Videsh has signed joint-venture with Russia for oil exploration there.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

‘Digital Ocean’: the Digital Platform for Ocean Data Management


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Digital Ocean platform

Mains level : India's deep ocean mission

The Ministry of Earth Sciences has inaugurated the web-based application “Digital Ocean” developed by INCOIS.

Digital Ocean

  • Digital Ocean is a first of its kind digital platform for Ocean Data Management.
  • The platform will be promoted as a platform for capacity building on Ocean Data Management for all Indian Ocean Rim countries.
  • It would help share ocean knowledge about the ocean with a wide range of users including research institutions, operational agencies, strategic users, the academic community, and the maritime industry and policymakers.
  • It also provides free access to information to the general public and the common man.
  • It will play a central role in the sustainable management of our oceans and expanding ‘Blue Economy’ initiatives.

Its’ features

  • It includes a set of applications developed to organize and present heterogeneous oceanographic data by adopting rapid advancements in geospatial technology.
  • It facilitates:
  1. Online interactive web-based environment for data integration,
  2. 3D and 4D (3D in space with time animation) data visualization,
  3. Data analysis to assess the evolution of oceanographic features,
  4. Data fusion and multi-format download of disparate data from multiple sources viz., in-situ, remote sensing, and model data, all of which is rendered on a georeferenced 3D Ocean.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

[pib] Knowledge Resource Centre Network (KRCNet)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : KRCNet

Mains level : Not Much

The Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) has planned to develop a World-Class Knowledge Resource Centre Network (KRCNet).

Note the salient features of the KRCNet. UPSC may puzzle you asking which of these is/are not a feature of KRCNet.

KRCNet Portal

  • KRCs will be connected with each other and integrated into the KRCNet portal.
  • It will be a single point entry to the intellectual world of the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES).
  • The resources and services of the MoES system will be accessible 24X7 through a one-point dynamic, updated and integrated on this portal.

Salient features of the KRCNet:

  • Establish a Total Quality Management (TQM) system by securing ISO certification for documenting MoES knowledge resources, its maintenance, easy retrieval and dissemination.
  • Collect, collate, analyze, index, store and disseminate the intellectual resources, products and project outputs available in MoES headquarter and its institutes.
  • Develop and maintain an up-to-date meta-data of the print & digital resources available in MoES headquarter and MoES institutes, including MoES services.
  • Provide 24X7 accesses to the subscribed knowledge contents through the KRCNet portal.
  • Application of information-analytical tools & techniques like bibliometrics, scientometrics, big-data analytics, social media analytics etc., for policy formulation, report preparation and information dissemination.
  • Periodically organize training workshops to popularize the usage of electronic journals, databases, digital products, data analytics etc.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

‘Accelerate Vigyan’ Scheme


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ‘Accelerate Vigyan’ Scheme

Mains level : Research facilitation schemes in India

To provide a single platform for research internships, capacity building programs and workshops across the country, the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) has launched a new scheme called ‘Accelerate Vigyan’ (AV).

Note the following things about the ‘Accelerate Vigyan’ Scheme:

1) Implementing agency/ Nodal Ministry

2) Primary objective

3) Target beneficiaries

4) Its components

‘Accelerate Vigyan’ Scheme

  • Accelerate Vigyan (AV) strives to provide a big push to high-end scientific research and prepare scientific manpower which can venture into research careers and knowledge-based economy.
  • The primary objective of this scheme is to give more thrust on encouraging high-end scientific research and preparing scientific manpower, which can lead to research careers and knowledge-based economy.
  • AV will initiate and strengthen mechanisms of identifying research potential, mentoring, training and hands-on workshop on a national scale.
  • The aim is to expand the research base in the country, with three broad goals – consolidation / aggregation of all scientific training programs, initiating High-end Orientation Workshops and creating opportunities for Research Internships.

Components of AV


  • It is an attempt to boost research and development in the country by enabling and grooming potential PG/PhD students by means of developing their research skills in selected areas across different disciplines or fields.
  • It has two components: High-End Workshops (‘KARYASHALA’) and Research Internships (‘VRITIKA’).
  • This is especially important for those researchers who have limited opportunities to access such learning capacities/facilities/infrastructure.


  • Mission ‘SAMOOHAN’ marks the beginning of Accelerate Vigyan.
  • It aims to encourage, aggregate and consolidate all scientific interactions in the country under one common roof.
  • It has been sub-divided into ‘SAYONJIKA’ and ‘SANGOSHTI’.
  • SAYONJIKA is an open-ended program to catalogue the capacity building activities in science and technology supported by all government funding agencies in the country.
  • SANGOSHTI is a pre-existing program of SERB.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

[pib] Certification of ‘Quantum Entanglement’


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Quantum Entanglement (QE)

Mains level : Quantum mechanics and its applications

Indian scientists have developed a novel protocol to find out whether a pair of electrons are in an entangled state so that they can be safely used as resources for facilitating quantum information processing tasks.

Trending in news this year is the Quantum Technology, (As it used to be until last year were- the Internet of Things (IoT) CSP 2019, Artificial Intelligence (AI) etc.)

Must read all this news in a loop:

National Mission on QC

Quantum Coin

Quantum Supremacy

What is Quantum Entanglement (QE)?

  • QE is the name given to a special connection between pairs or groups of quantum systems, or any objects described by quantum mechanics.
  • It is one of the biggest parts of quantum mechanics that makes it hard to understand in terms of the everyday world.
  • When we look at particles, we usually say that each particle has its own quantum state. Sometimes, two particles can act on one another and become an entangled system.
  • When a pair or group of particles can only be described by the quantum state for the system, and not by individual quantum states, we say the particles are “entangled”.

Going bit technical here-

  • It is the physical phenomenon that occurs when a pair or group of particles is generated; interact, in a way such that the quantum state of each particle of the pair or group cannot be described independently of the state of the others.
  • Entangled states are key resources to facilitate many quantum information processing tasks and quantum cryptographic protocols.

Why decode the Entanglement?

  • Entanglement is fragile and is easily lost during the transit of photons through the environment.
  • Hence it is extremely important to know whether a pair of photons are entangled, in order to use them as a resource.
  • Verification of entanglement requires the use of measurement devices, but such devices may be hacked or compromised.

How to secure QE?

  • Device-independent self-testing (DIST) is a method that can be used in order to overcome such a possibility.
  • This method enables the verification of entanglement in an unknown quantum state of two photons without having direct access to the state, or complete trust in the measurement devices.
  • The theory relies on the application of the quantum uncertainty principle while implementing full device independence is a difficult task.

Back2Basics: Quantum Mechanics

  • Quantum mechanics (QM) is a fundamental theory in physics which describes nature at the smallest scales of energy levels of atoms and subatomic particles.
  • It is the body of scientific laws that describe the wacky behaviour of photons, electrons and the other particles that make up the universe.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

International Day of Light and its significance


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : LASER, LIDAR

Mains level : NA

The UN marks the International Day of Light (IDL) — an annual initiative held globally to raise awareness on the critical role played by light-based technologies in everyday life.

The IDL as mentioned in the news creates no scope for a possible prelim question, but the purpose behind its celebration does.  i.e. LASER technology. LIDAR is the latest development in the LASER technology. UPSC may puzzle you here by asking the working principle of LIDAR.

International Day of Light (IDL)

  • The IDL is administered from the International Basic Science Programme (IBSP) of UNESCO, and its Secretariat is located at the Abdus Salam International Centre of Theoretical Physics (ICTP) at Trieste, Italy.
  • The IDL highlights the contribution of such technologies in various avenues such as science, technology, art, and culture, thus helping achieve the UNESCO goals of education, equality, and peace.
  • The day selected, May 16, marks the anniversary of the first successful operation of the LASER in 1960 by physicist and engineer Theodore Maiman.
  • The LASER is a perfect example of how a scientific discovery can yield revolutionary benefits to society in communications, healthcare and many other fields.

Why is the IDL celebrated?

  • In 2015, to raise global awareness of the achievements of light science and its applications, the UN observed the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies 2015 (IYL 2015).
  • The event helped establish links and collaborations between decision-makers, industry leaders, scientists, artists, social businesses, NGOs, and the public at large.
  • Following the success of IYL 2015, Ghana, Mexico, New Zealand and Russia placed a resolution before the UNESCO Executive Board supporting the idea of an International Day of Light.
  • It was adopted on September 19, 2016, at the Board’s 200th session at the UNESCO HQ in Paris, France.
  • The Board decision was endorsed by the UNESCO General Conference at its 39th session on November 7, 2017, and the first IDL was held on May 16, 2018.

Back2Basics: LASER

  • A laser is a device that emits light through a process of optical amplification based on the stimulated emission of electromagnetic radiation.
  • It is an acronym for “light amplification by the stimulated emission of radiation.
  • The laser stimulates atoms or molecules to emit light at particular wavelengths and amplifies that light, typically producing a very narrow beam of radiation.
  • The emission generally covers an extremely limited range of visible, infrared, or ultraviolet wavelengths.
  • Many different types of lasers have been developed, with highly varied characteristics.
  • A laser is widely used in industrial cutting, surgical removal of tissues etc.
  • LIDAR is the most famous application of LASERs.

LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging)

  • It is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges (variable distances) to the Earth.
  • It bounces pulsed laser light off the ground, revealing contours hidden by dense foliage.
  • These light pulses—combined with other data recorded by the airborne system— generate precise, three-dimensional information about the shape of the Earth and its surface characteristics.
  • LIDAR systems allow scientists and mapping professionals to examine both natural and manmade environments with accuracy, precision, and flexibility.
  • A LIDAR instrument principally consists of a laser, a scanner, and a specialized GPS receiver.
  • Airplanes and helicopters are the most commonly used platforms for acquiring LIDAR data over broad areas.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

[pib] Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIIT) Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IIIT Amendment Act

Mains level : Not Much

Lok Sabha passed the IIIT Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

About IIIT Act

  • IIITs are envisaged to promote higher education and research in the field of Information Technology.
  • The IIT Act of 2014 and IIIT (Public-Private Partnership) Act, 2017 are the unique initiatives of the govt. to impart knowledge in the field of IT to provide solutions to the challenges faced by the country.
  • Every Institute shall be open to all persons irrespective of gender, caste, creed, disability, domicile, ethnicity and social or economic background.

What are the proposed Amendments?

  • Introduction of the Amendment 2020 will amend the principal acts of 2014 and 2017.
  • It will grant statutory status to five IIIT in PPP mode in Gujarat (Surat), Madhya Pradesh (Bhopal), Bihar (Bhagalpur), Tripura (Agartala), and Karnataka (Raichur).
  • It would declare them as Institutions of National Importance along with already existing 15 IIIT under the 2017 Act.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

A different fight-back


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 3- Using technology to deal with epidemics.


Coronavirus crisis is an opportunity for India to build on domestic technological capabilities in artificial intelligence, big data analytics, life sciences and health technology in the private sector.

How a small tech company flagged Covid-19 outbreak?

  • What does it do? A small tech company in Canada — BlueDot — was among first outside China to spot a new epidemic spreading out from Wuhan last December.
    • BlueDot, founded in Canada by a medical scientist of South Asian origin, Kamran Khan, tracks the origin and transmission of infectious diseases around the world.
  • How could they detect the outbreak in China?  BlueDot did this by sifting through massive volumes of news reports and blogs by individuals, including health professionals flowing out of China.
    • Data analytics and medical expertise combined: BlueDot combines “public health and medical expertise with advanced data analytics to build solutions that track, contextualise, and anticipate infectious disease risks”.
    • Use of AI: BlueDot is one of the many technology firms leveraging artificial intelligence for business and policy purposes.
    • Many governments are reaching out to tech companies to cope with the corona crisis.
    • The state government of California has just hired BlueDot to help it deal with the challenge.

The growing role of technology in dealing with coronavirus

  • Across the world, policymakers see a growing role for technology in identification, tracking, and treating the coronavirus.
  • Alibaba and Tencent’s help in China: In China, the Communist Party roped in big tech companies like Alibaba and Tencent in the battle against the virus.
  • Silicon valley’s help in the US: In the US, President Donald Trump has set aside his well-known distaste for Democrat-leaning Silicon Valley to tackle what he now calls a war-like emergency.
  • India will need all the science and technology it can get hold of in overcoming the crisis that is bound to escalate by the day.
  • An opportunity to do good: For the small tech startups in related areas, this is a moment to shine. For the large tech companies, this is a huge opportunity to deploy their immense capabilities to resolve the specific problems posed by the spread of the coronavirus.
    • In rising to the occasion, they could fend off a lot of the recent negative criticism of their business practices and demonstrate that their commitment to “doing good” is not just empty rhetoric.
  • A good business proposition: “Doing good” is also a sensible business proposition at this time.
    • As governments desperately seek solutions to the crisis, the tech startups and established companies leverage the moment to scale up many technologies, develop new uses and markets.

How countries used technology to deal with the outbreak

  • How China used technology? In China, as the government moved decisively after the delayed initial response, it turned to-
    • the well-established mass surveillance system based on facial recognition technologies,
    • sensing technologies to identify those with fever in public places and
    • data from mobile phone companies to trace the people who might be infected, and limit the spread of the disease.
  • China also developed a Health Code that uses data analytics to-
    • identify and assess the risk of every individual in a targeted zone based on travel history and time spent in infected places.
    • The individuals are assigned a colour code (red, yellow, or green) which they can access via popular apps to know if they ought to be quarantined or allowed in public.
  • How Korea used technology? Many Asian democracies like South Korea have also turned to AI tools to contain the spread of the disease.
  • How the US used technology? As it copes with the rapid spread of the coronavirus, the US had no option but to use surveillance to contain it.
    • Partners in dealing with outbreak: Unsurprisingly, the big tech companies in the US, based on collecting and monetising massive amounts of data from individuals, have inevitably become partners for Washington.
    • But the relationship between the government, corporations and individual citizens in the US is governed by a welter of laws.
    • There is mounting pressure now to tweak these laws to manage the corona crisis.
    • The US is also liberalising the regulations on the access to, and use of, patients’ health records.

Growing collaboration between science and the state

  • The race between China and the US: Overarching these arguments is a race between the US and China to find new vaccines for the coronavirus.
    • And, more broadly, for the mastery of new scientific capabilities — from artificial intelligence to health technologies.
    • The competition, in turn, is promoting a more intensive alliance between science and the state in both nations.
  • Collaboration could accelerate the technological capabilities: The collaboration between science and the state during past crises led to a dramatic acceleration of technological capabilities.
    • World War precedents: During the Second World War, science and the state got together to move nuclear physics from the lab to the battlefield.
    • Cold War precedent: The Cold War between America and Russia promoted the development of space technology, microelectronics, communications and computing.
  • Role of private entities: What marks out the current technological race between the US and China is the role of private and non-governmental entities.
    • That might well be the missing link in India’s effort to beat the coronavirus.


  • Opportunity for India: The current crisis, however, is also an opportunity for India to build on the existing domestic technological capabilities in the areas of artificial intelligence, big data analytics, life sciences, health technology in the private sector.
  • India needs stronger private sector in science: In India, the state has dominated the development of science and its organisation. That was of great value in the early decades after Independence.
    • Today, what Delhi needs is a stronger private sector in science and greater synergy with it in dealing with challenges like the corona crisis.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

[pib] Sophisticated Analytical & Technical Help Institutes (SATHI) Scheme


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SATHI Scheme

Mains level : Read the attached story

The Department of Science & Technology has launched a unique scheme called “Sophisticated Analytical & Technical Help Institutes(SATHI)”.


  • SATHI aims to address the need for building shared, professionally managed and strong S&T infrastructure in the country which is readily accessible to academia, start-ups, manufacturing, industry and R&D labs etc.
  • These Centres are expected to house major analytical instruments to provide common services of high-end analytical testing, thus avoiding duplication and reduced dependency on foreign sources.
  • These would be operated with a transparent, open access policy.
  • DST has already set up three such centres in the country, one each at IIT Kharagpur, IIT Delhi and BHU.

Objectives of the Scheme

  • SATHI will address the problems of accessibility, maintenance, redundancy and duplication of expensive equipment in the institutions.
  • This will also foster a strong culture of collaboration between institutions and across disciplines to take advantage of developments, innovations and expertise in diverse areas.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

[pib] National Mission on Quantum Technologies & Applications


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NM-QTA

Mains level : Quantum technology

The Finance Minister in budget 2020 has announced a National Mission on Quantum Technologies & Applications (NM-QTA).

What is Quantum Technology?

  • Quantum Technology is based on the principles of quantum theory, which explains the nature of energy and matter on the atomic and subatomic level.
  • It concerns the control and manipulation of quantum systems, with the goal of achieving information processing beyond the limits of the classical world.
  • Its principles will be used for engineering solutions to extremely complex problems in computing, communications, sensing, chemistry, cryptography, imaging and mechanics.
  • This key ability makes quantum computers extremely powerful compared to conventional computers when solving certain kinds of problems like finding prime factors of large numbers and searching large databases.

What is Quantum Mechanics?

  • It is a fundamental theory in physics which describes nature at the smallest – including atomic and subatomic – scales.
  • At the scale of atoms and electrons, many of the equations of classical mechanics, which describe how things move at everyday sizes and speeds, cease to be useful.
  • In classical mechanics, objects exist in a specific place at a specific time.
  • However, in quantum mechanics, objects instead exist in a haze of probability; they have a certain chance of being at point A, another chance of being at point B and so on.

About NM-QTA

  • The mission will function under the Department of Science & Technology (DST).
  • It will be able address the ever increasing technological requirements of the society, and take into account the international technology trends.
  • The mission will help prepare next generation skilled manpower, boost translational research and also encourage entrepreneurship and start-up ecosystem development.

Why such mission?

  • Quantum technologies are rapidly developing globally with a huge disruptive potential.
  • The range of quantum technologies is expected to be one of the major technology disruptions that will change entire paradigm of computation, communication and encryption.
  • It is perceived that the countries who achieve an edge in this emerging field will have a greater advantage in garnering multifold economic growth and dominant leadership role.
  • It has become imperative both for government and industries to be prepared to develop these emerging and disruptive changes.
  • It will establish standards to be applied to all research and help stimulate a pipeline to support research and applications well into the future.

Also read:

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

[op-ed snap] Here’s looking at you


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 3- Facial recognition technique and issues associated with it.


Face recognition technology calls for a more comprehensive domestic framework that promotes the use of new technologies for the public good as well as imposes necessary constraints against their abuse.

Debate on finding the balance between regulation and promotion

  • Google calls for partial ban: TheGoogle CEO’s recent support for a temporary ban on facial recognition technologies seems uncharacteristic.
    • It is not often that companies developing a technology call for its ban.
    • Their interest is in promoting the use of technology, not proscribing it.
    • Not every one of the leading tech companies agrees with Google on facial recognition.
  • Microsoft against the ban: Microsoft has questioned the idea of a ban. Calling facial recognition a “young technology”, it said “it will get better.
    • To get better the technology has to be used: The only way to make it better is actually to continue developing it.
    • And the only way to continue developing it actually is to have more people using it.
  • IBM’s precision regulation: IBM has taken a step forward in developing the policies for the use of technology by setting up a “lab”.
    • The lab will generate actionable ideas for policymakers to manage the emergence of new technologies like facial recognition that are shaping our digital future.
    • Precision regulation vs. complete ban: The idea is to develop “precision regulation” rather than enforce “blunt” instruments like the ban.
  • The EU’s plans for temporary ban: The debate on finding the right balance between regulation and promotion of emerging technologies comes in the wake of leaked plans of the EU to issue a temporary ban.
    • The ban could be up to five years.
    • Ban on use in public places only: The proposed ban is not a comprehensive one and will be applicable to the use of facial recognition in public spaces.
  • India’s own plans for law enforcement agencies: The intensifying global debate also coincides with India’s own plans to roll out a massive project on deploying facial recognition technologies, essentially for law enforcement.
    • The international discourse provides the context for developing a broad and effective Indian policy framework for the use of facial recognition.

Background of the backlash against the tech companies

  • Techlash: Well before the EU had begun to discuss a temporary ban on facial recognition, there has been a “techlash” against the companies.
    • The companies faced backlash because they have so dramatically altered our lives in the last few years.
  • The idea of “digital is different”: For nearly two decades, the idea that “digital is different” and does not need public oversight had triumphed in most capitals of the world.
  • Problems with regulations: The main argument was that regulation constrains technological innovation and retards progress.
  • AI and Big data:  The urge to regulate has triggered widespread concerns about the dangers of digitalisation, especially the use of big data and AI by private companies as well as governments.

Major concerns against facial recognition

  • Surveillance capitalism and surveillance state: The companies were seen as monetising the data generated by the widespread use of digital platforms like Google and Facebook.
    • Surveillance state:  China became the prime example of states using data and information to exercise ever more control over its citizens.
  • Accuracy: At the other end are concerns that facial recognition is not entirely accurate and could lead to punitive actions against innocent people.
  • Racial bias misogyny: There is also a concern in the US that the algorithms behind facial recognition carry the baggage of racism and misogyny.
  • Concerns in India: It also remains a fact that the Indian state has always been tempted to empower itself against its citizens in the name of collective security.
    • It has also tended to weaponise information against political opponents and dissidents.

Potential Advantages

  • In the control of crime.
  • Better border controls and countering terrorism.
  • Aid the Police: In India, a severely under-policed nation, facial recognition surely offers many benefits.


The foreign office must reclaim India’s place in the international discourse on AI and facial recognition and develop a productive alignment between India’s national interests and the development of new digital norms.


Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

[op-ed snap] Art of science diplomacy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CDRI-Coalition For Disaster Resilient Infrastructure.

Mains level : Bilateral, regional and global groupings involving India and/or affecting India's interests.


Some of the most pressing issues and developmental challenges facing nations in contemporary times have a scientific and technological dimension. Science and Technology (S&T)-led innovation offers an opportunity to address these multifaceted challenges, which are now global in nature.

Role of S&T in national and international obligations:

  • S&T today has a national obligation.
  • For a diverse country such as India, S&T is expected to empower the common citizen, making his/her life easier and also being inclusive, which is a national obligation.
  • It has to also meet the international obligation of a responsible country.
  • Importance of S&T innovation in achieving the 2030 Agenda for UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)- points towards new opportunities for cross border collaboration.
  • Science diplomacy, thus, is a crucial policy dimension.
  • India has launched several global initiatives.

Global Innovation and Technology Alliance (GITA):

  • It was launched by India a few years ago.
  • GITA has provided an enabling platform for frontline techno-economic alliances.
  • It is an industry-led collaboration, with the government as an equal partner.
  • It is aimed at supporting the last phase of technology-based high-end, affordable product development — which can connect to both global and domestic markets.
  • Under GITA, enterprises from India are tying up with their counterparts from partner countries.
  • Partnering countries include Canada, Finland, Italy, Sweden, Spain, and the UK.

 International Solar Alliance (ISA):

  • It has more than 79 sunshine countries as signatories and nearly 121 prospective countries as partners.
  • The vision and mission of the ISA are to provide a dedicated platform for cooperation among solar resource-rich countries.
  • ISA can make a contribution to increasing the use of solar energy in meeting the energy needs of member countries in a safe, affordable, equitable and sustainable manner.

Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI):

  • It was recently announced at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York.
  • CDRI is an international partnership piloted by India in consultation with 35 countries.
  • CDRI will support developed and developing nations in their efforts to build climate and disaster-resilient infrastructure.
  • It will provide member countries with technical support and capacity development, research and knowledge management, and advocacy and partnerships.
  • It is aimed at risk identification and assessment, urban risk and planning, and disaster risk management.
  • In the next two-three years, the coalition aims to have three types of impact.
  • First-impact on country’s policy framework, second-on infrastructure investments, third-reduction in economic losses from climate-related events and natural disasters.
  • Through this coalition, we can mitigate the fallouts of earthquakes, tsunami, floods.


  • No nation alone has the capacity, infrastructure, and human resources to address the massive challenges that the earth and mankind face, threatening our very existence. It is inevitable, therefore, that science, technology, and innovation should increasingly become an intrinsic diplomatic tool for India.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

Private: [oped of the day] History, technology and the shackles of the present


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : SnT policy in India


The government’s ambitious push for electric vehicles (EVs) rings a bell for the historian of science and technology.

Technology governance

  • After many decades, India is witnessing the fraternisation of high technology and authoritarian governance.
  • Technologies – The government has championed EV, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and sundry technologies into acronyms.
  • Governance – It has clipped Internet access to towns and villages when confronted with non-violent protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019.

In the past

  • In 1976, as India sank deep into Emergency, a group of scientists decided to ponder the future of technology in the country.
  • Lost opportunity – While the Indira Gandhi government built a surveillance state, Silicon Valley saw the birth of “public-key cryptography”, used in modern-day encryption.
  • India had regressed into the darkest chapter of its political history, just as the world began to use technology to preserve human rights.

Batting for electric vehicles

  • NCST – The National Committee on Science and Technology (NCST) mandate is to “study the outlook for India in 2000 A.D”. The group was set up in 1973 and took seven years to submit their report.
  • “Futurology” is the use of computer models for forecasting scenarios — became fashionable after the Club of Rome published its “Limits to Growth” report in 1972.
  • The report painted a doomsday scenario of acute food and water scarcity in 2000. 
  • Sci-Fi – This period also witnessed the “new wave” of science fiction, set in dystopic lands and featuring post-apocalyptic visions. 
  • New dystopia is unfolding in India’s present — while the civil liberties of Indians were cast aside, the government was busy discussing EVs and self-driving cars.
  • The Committee on Futurology analysed long-term projections for many sectors, including transportation. 
  • Transport sector – This sector’s problems were two-fold. There were just not enough vehicles for the larger public in India. India had only 1,00,000 buses on its roads. However, the number of cars and jeeps totaled nearly 750,000.
  • The wealthy and powerful elite enjoyed vastly better mobility than the majority of the population.

The shadow of the oil crisis

  • Price rise – Rising fuel prices presented the second problem. It was in the context of the oil crisis of 1973, brought on by a crude embargo imposed by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
  • Renewable alternatives – The committee argued India was better served in the long run by developing renewable alternatives to petrol.
  • Li-ion batteries – Western laboratories had begun exploring the development of lithium-ion batteries, critical to EVs.
  • The work of John B. Goodenough, Akira Yoshino, and M. Stanley Whittingham — who were jointly awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of these batteries — was catalysed by the oil crisis of the 1970s.
  • NCST mention – The NCST mentions that it is imperative that some concentrated R&D is performed in the area of high energy-high power batteries.
  • The Committee even predicted EVs and self-driving cars – “adaptive, automobile autopilots” would be commercially available from the early 1980s.

Much politicking

  • Several autocratic regimes have tread down the same path, using technology as a totem to rally disaffected populations. 
  • While the NCST made grand claims about the future, the government was clamping down on technology in the present. 
  • Indira Gandhi’s government viewed computers with suspicion and discouraged PSUs from adopting them. 
  • The Futurology Committee’s view too was jaundiced by the Emergency. Not all technologies were “neutral” and useful to society, it declared. Doordarshan had become an instrument of state propaganda. 
  • Small scale tech – The government championed “appropriate technologies” that were small-scale — solar cookers and mechanised bullock carts. It did little to boost productivity. 

Change started

  • Computers – Indians were still beginning to embrace machines. As C.R. Subramanian has noted, the import of computers tripled during the Emergency. 
  • Automobiles – The number of automobiles plying on Indian roads in the 1980s increased by 400% over the previous decade.
  • The doubt against big technology by the government in the minds of citizens did little to not improve prospects for scientific breakthroughs.
  • If Indians had the political agency to form their own views of technology, India may have had a shot at developing EVs. 
  • One cannot aspire to a ‘Digital India’ if technologies are wantonly used for mass surveillance, or cut off altogether when faced with non-violent, democratic protests.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

[pib] Shodh Shuddhi


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Shodh Shuddhi

Mains level : Promoting skillful research in India

Shodh Shuddhi

  • The union Ministry of HRD has launched the Plagiarism Detention Software (PDS) “Shodh Shuddhi”.
  • This service is being implemented by Information and Library Network (INFLIBNET), an Inter University Centre (IUC) of UGC.
  • PDS will significantly help to improve the quality of research outcome by ensuring the originality of ideas and publication of the research scholars.
  • Initially, about 1000 Universities/ Institutions (Central Universities; Centrally Funded Technical Institutions (CFTIs); State Public Universities; Deemed Universities; Private Universities; Inter University Centre (IUCs) & Institutes of National Importance are being provided with this service.

What is Plagiarism?

  • Plagiarism is the “wrongful appropriation” and “stealing and publication” of another author’s “language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions” and the representation of them as one’s own original work.
  • Plagiarism is considered academic dishonesty and a breach of journalistic ethics.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

[pib] Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR)

Mains level : Not Much

Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR)

  • International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) is supposed to be a unique identity of a mobile phone device.
  • IMEI number being programmable, some miscreants do reprogram the IMEI number, which results in cloning of IMEI causing multiple phone devices with same IMEI number.
  • As on date, there are many cases of cloned/duplicated IMEI handsets in the network.
  • If such IMEI is blocked, a large number of mobile phones will get blocked being handsets with same IMEI causing inconvenience to many genuine customers.
  • Thus, there is a need to eliminate duplicate/fake IMEI mobile phones from the network.
  • Accordingly, a project called Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR) system has been undertaken by the DoT for addressing security, theft and other concerns including reprogramming of mobile handsets.

Objectives of the project

  • Blocking of lost/stolen mobile phones across mobile networks thus discouraging theft of mobile phones
  • Facilitate in tracing of such reported lost/stolen mobile phones
  • Prevention of mobile devices with duplicate and fake IMEIs in the network
  • Curtail the use of counterfeit mobile devices
  • Reduced health risks to the users with the control of use of counterfeit mobile phones
  • Improved QoS and reduced call drops with reduction in use of counterfeit mobile devices

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

[pib] Rashtriya Avishkar Abhiyan


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Rashtriya Avishkar Abhiyan

Mains level : Not Much

  • Rashtriya Avishkar Abhiyan is running successfully to motivate children to learn Science, Maths and Technology through observation and experimentation confirmed HRD Minister.

Rashtriya Aavishkar Abhiyan (RAA)

  • Rashtriya Avishkar Abhiyan is a unique concept developed by the Ministry of HRD that aims to inculcate a spirit of inquiry, creativity and love for Science and Mathematics in school children.
  • It was launched on 9th July, 2015 by Late Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Former President of India.
  • It is a convergent framework across School Education and Higher Education to motivate children of the age group from 6-18 years in learning Science, Mathematics and Technology.
  • It focuses on learning through observation, experimentation, inference drawing, model building, etc. both through inside and outside classroom activities and processes.
  • It seeks to create curiosity, excitement and spirit of innovation and exploration amongst school children.
  • It encourages higher education institutions to become Mentoring Institutions and assist secondary and elementary schools in the study of Science and Mathematics.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes



From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Superconductivity

Mains level : Superconductors and their future uses

  • Researchers from IISc Bengaluru have confirmed that the material they tested exhibits major properties of superconductivity at ambient temperature and pressure.


  • Superconductivity is a phenomenon of exactly zero electrical resistance and expulsion of magnetic flux fields occurring in certain materials, called superconductors, when cooled below a characteristic critical temperature.
  • A material is said to be a superconductor if it conducts electricity with zero resistance to the flow of electrons.
  • Until now, scientists have been able to make materials superconduct only at temperature much below zero degree C and hence making practical utility very difficult.
  • They help build very high efficiency devices leading to huge energy savings.

Silver embedded gold matrix

  • The material that exhibited superconductivity is in the form of nanosized films and pellets made of silver nanoparticles embedded in a gold matrix.
  • Interestingly, silver and gold independently do not exhibit superconductivity.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

[pib] Redefined units of measurement of kilogram, Kelvin, mole and ampere


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Units and Measurements

Mains level : Read the attached story

  • The General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM) at BIPM held on 16 November 2018 has unanimously adopted the resolution to redefine four of the seven base units.
  • These included kilogram (SI unit of weight), Kelvin (SI unit of temperature), mole (SI unit of amount of substance), and ampere (SI unit of current).
  • The new SI is being implemented worldwide from 20th May 2019 i.e. the World Metrology Day.

Global standards of Kg

  • The global standards for measurement are set by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM), of which India became a member in 1957.
  • At BIPM in Sèvres, near Paris, stands a cylinder of platinum-iridium locked in a jar.
  • Since 1889, the kilogram has been defined as the mass of this cylinder, called Le Grand K, or International Prototype Kilogram (IPK).
  • In India, CSIR-NPL maintains the National Prototype Kilogram (NPK-57), which is calibrated with IPK.

Redifining Kg

  • The IPK was the last physical artifact used to define any of the fundamental units.
  • IPK would put on a little extra mass when tiny dust particles settled on it; when cleaned, it would shed some of its original mass.
  • Scientists have long stressed that the fundamental units should be defined in terms of natural constants.
  • On November 16, 2018 representatives of 60 countries agreed that the kilogram should be defined in terms of the Planck constant.
  • The Planck constant is a quantity that relates a light particle’s energy to its frequency.
  • Using a machine called a Kibble balance, in which the weight of a test mass is offset by an electromagnetic force, the value of the Planck constant was fixed, the kilogram was redefined.

How was this achieved?

  • The new definition for kilogram fits in with the modern definitions for the units of time (second) and distances (metre).
  • Today, the second is defined as the time it takes for a certain amount of energy to be released as radiation from atoms of Caesium-133.
  • By its modern definition, a metre is the distance travelled by light in vacuum in 1/299,792,458 of a second (which is already defined).
  • This is where the Planck constant comes in.
  • It has been measured precisely at 6.626069… × 10^(-34) kilograms per second per square metre.
  • With the second and the metre already defined, a very precise definition for the kilogram

Benefits of recalibration

  • What was 1 kg earlier is still 1 kg today. An updated kilogram doesn’t mean that weights everywhere will be thrown off balance.
  • All that has changed is the definition, for the sake of accuracy.
  • A mass measured as 1 kg earlier would have meant 1 kg, plus or minus 15-20 micrograms.
  • Using the new definition, a mass measured as 1 kg will mean 1 kg, plus or minus 1 or 2 nanograms.

About World Metrology Day

  • The World Metrology Day (WMD) is celebrated annually on this very day as the Metre Convention was signed by representatives of seventeen nations on May 20, 1875.
  • The Convention set the framework for global collaboration in the science of measurement and in its industrial, commercial and societal applications.

Assist this newscard with:


[pib] World’s standard definition of kilogram now redefined

How much is a kilogram? Here comes a new way to measure it

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

Project MANAV: Human Atlas Initiative


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Project MANAV

Mains level : MANAV: Human Atlas Initiative

  • For the first time, Indian scientists will be mapping every single tissue of the human body to have deeper understanding of the roles of tissues and cells linked to various diseases.
  • Department of Biotechnology (DBT) launched MANAV: Human Atlas Initiative towards improving knowledge on human physiology.

MANAV: Human Atlas Initiative

  • It is a project funded by DBT, which aims at creating a database network of all tissues in the human body from the available scientific literature.
  • It is a project that involves scientific skill development for annotation, science outreach along with handling big data.
  • It will involve gaining better biological insights through physiological and molecular mapping, develop disease models through predictive computing and have a holistic analysis and finally drug discovery.
  • The student community, who will be the backbone on assimilating the information, will be trained and imparted with skills to perform annotation and curation of information that will ultimately form the online network.
  • DBT has invested funds shared between two institutions in Pune – National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS) and Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research (IISER), Pune.
  • Besides, Persistent Systems Limited has co-funded the project and is developing the platform.

Who can participate in this project?

  • The project can be signed up by students who are in their final year graduation and above.
  • Students from the fields of biochemistry, biotechnology, microbiology, botany, zoology, bioinformatics, health sciences, systems biologists, pharmacologists and data sciences can associate with this project.
  • Even participants having a science background but not necessarily involved in active scientific research can be part of this network.
  • The MANAV team has encouraged colleges and universities to register as teams and work in this project.
  • Initially, DBT will accommodate colleges that operate the DBT Star College scheme to register for this Human Atlas programme. There is no restriction on the time period set for student participation.

How has the project been designed?

  • Once registered, the student groups will be assigned research papers or literature to be read in a time-bound manner.
  • They will be given training to perform annotation and curation activities using the specialised tools developed for this project.
  • Student groups, led by either by the HoDs or any senior researcher at the colleges, will be evaluated from time to time and their annotations will be reviewed by the trainer scientists, hailing from NCCS, IISER and other senior scientists from the team.
  • Presently, there are workshops organised to impart training to the teacher community who can then lead the student groups for this project.
  • Students will be issued certificates for their contributions based on the levels of expertise attained in annotation and for their acquired skills.
  • Initially, the project will focus on curating information revolving skin tissues.

Utility of the project

  • The aim of the project remains to understand and capture the human physiology in two stages – in a normal stage and while in a disease stage.
  • Such a database on individual tissues, once ready, can come handy in tracing the causes of a disease, understanding specific pathways and ultimately decode the body’s disease stage linked to tissues and cells.
  • The teams will also study any potent elements or molecules that have never been used in the form of drugs, to target the specific cells or tissues.


  • So far, researchers and students have had little or no expertise in reading scientific literature and develop or build further information on the same.
  • This platform will impart key skills to the student community to read classified scientific literature, in this case, on individual tissue-basis, and perform annotation and curation.
  • Since all the information generated will pass through multiple levels of reviews, it will be an Atlas or a reliable collection on human body tissues.
  • This collated data can be useful for both future researchers and parallelly, to the clinicians and drug developers, who finally handle human bodies in disease conditions.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

Genetic Study on people of Lakshadweep Islands


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Lakshadweep Islands

Mains level : Read the attached story

Genetic studies in Lakshadweep

  • Genetic studies on the people of the Lakshadweep archipelago was done by a team of CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), for the first time.
  • It has have shown that a majority of human ancestry in Lakshadweep is largely derived from South Asia with minor influences from East and West Eurasia.
  • And, there was no evidence of early human migration through the Lakshadweep islands.

Findings of the study

  • The islands are located between Africa and southwestern part of India.
  • Through our earlier studies we know that early human migration from Africa to Andaman and Australia happened through western coast of India.
  • So it was presumed that Lakshadweep Islands might have played a major role in early human migration and expected the presence of genetic signatures of ancient people, such as Andamanese and Australian aboriginals.
  • The study of major islands of Agatti, Andorth, Bitra, Chetlat, Kadmat, Kalpeni, Kiltan and Minicoy of Lakshadweep and demonstrated a close genetic link of Lakshadweep islanders with people from Maldives, Sri Lanka and India.

Why study Lakshadweep?

  • Lakshadweep is an archipelago of 36 islands, scattered over approximately 78,000 square km of the Arabian Sea, 200-440 kms off the south-western coast of India, with a population of approximately 65,000.
  • However, the genetic composition of the first human settlement of this archipelago is not clear.
  • The islands were known to sailors since ancient times and historical documents say that the spread of Buddhism to these islands happened during 6th century B.C. and Islam was spread by in 661 A.D. by Arabians.
  • Cholas ruled the islands in 11th century, Portuguese in 16th century, Ali Rajahs in 17th, Tipu Sultan in 18th before the British Raj of 19th century.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

IIT Bombay’s bacteria preferentially degrade aromatic compounds


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bamboo Rice

Mains level : Bioremediation

  • Using a unique strain of bacterium isolated from soil contaminated with petroleum products, IIT Bombay researchers selectively removed from the environment toxic pollutants.

Pseudomonas Putida CSV86

  • The bacteria helped selectively remove pollutants such aas aromatic pollutants such as benzoate (sodium benzoate is used as a food preservative), benzyl alcohol and naphthalene.
  • The strain can degrade aromatics and organic acids simultaneously.

What makes this bacterium so special?

  • The unique feature of the bacterial strain is its preference for aromatic compounds and organic acid as a food source even when glucose is available.
  • Since breaking down aromatic compounds is difficult, bacteria generally prefer simple carbon sources such as glucose for obtaining energy.
  • Even the bacteria that are known to degrade aromatic compounds tend to first prefer glucose and other simple carbon sources for energy and feed on aromatic compounds only when glucose gets exhausted.
  • Even when both benzoate and glucose were available, the bacteria first utilized benzoate, and only when it was exhausted did it start feeding on glucose.
  • This gives an advantage to remove the pollutants with priority even in the presence of simple carbon source from the contaminated site.


  • The bacterial strain is a very good candidate for bioremediation or waste-water treatment.
  • We can increase the metabolic diversity and capacity by genetically engineering the strain.
  • The team hopes to engineer the strain so it can be directly applied to the soil to preferentially degrade aromatic pesticides.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

IIT Madras converts petroleum waste toluene into useful product


From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Toluene

Mains level: Not much


What is Toluene?

  • Toluene is one of the petrochemical wastes that get released without treatment from industries such as refineries, paint, textile, paper and rubber.
  • It is a colorless, water-insoluble liquid with the smell associated with paint thinners.
  • Toluene has been reported to cause serious health problems to aquatic life, and studies point that it has genotoxic and carcinogenic effects on human beings.

Converting Toluene into Benzene

  • Using platinum nanocatalyst, a team of researchers at the IIT-M has successfully converted petroleum waste-product toluene into benzoic acid.
  • Toluene when oxidised gets converted into benzoic acid.
  • Benzoic acid is used as a food preservative (E210) and medicine for fungal/bacterial infection.
  • Toluene is converted into benzoic acid through selective and controlled oxidation in the presence of a catalyst — binaphthyl-stabilised platinum nanoparticles (Pt-BNP).
  • Also, a green oxidant (70% aqueous tert-butyl hydroperoxide or TBHP) is used for converting toluene into benzoic acid.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

Humans can detect the earth’s magnetic fields


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Magneto-reception in Human beings

Mains level: Not Much


  • Now a team of researchers has shown that humans do indeed unconsciously respond to the changes in the earth’s magnetic fields.
  • Scientists have long known that turtles, birds, honeybees and even bacteria can sense the earth’s magnetic field and use them for navigation.

Magneto-reception in Human Beings

  • Magneto-reception has hardly been tested in humans and many studies have been inconclusive.
  • The researchers wrapped with electrical coils, which helped simulate the earth’s natural magnetic field.
  • The participants were connected to an EEG set-up and their brain activity was monitored.
  • In the one-hour session, for a few minutes, the magnetic field around the chamber was shifted. They noticed that during this period, the alpha power of the brain began to drop.
  • When a human brain is unengaged, the alpha power is high.
  • When something catches its attention, consciously or unconsciously, its alpha power drops.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

[pib] India’s first indigenous semiconductor chips for 4G/LTE and 5G NR modems


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Semiconductor chips mentioned in the newscard

Mains level: Not Much


  • A Bengaluru based company SIGNALCHIP has fabricated high performance and cost-efficient semiconductor chips.
  • These would enable high-speed wireless communication.

Four chips designed by SIGNALCHIP

  1. SCBM3412: a single chip 4G/LTE modem including the baseband and transceiver sections in a single device
  2. SCBM3404: a single chip 4X4 LTE baseband modem
  3. SCRF3402: a 2X2 transceiver for LTE
  4. SCRF4502: a 2X2 transceiver for 5G NR standards


  • The RF sections cover all LTE/5G-NR bands upto 6 GHz.
  • These chips also support positioning using India’s own satellite navigation system, NAVIC.
  • The combined multi-standard system-on-chip (SoC) can serve as a base station chipset for a wide range of form factors from low-cost indoor small cells to high performance base stations.
  • Through the IPs created for devices, the company now has the potential to design products for multiple related fields.


  • Currently, in India, all devices and infrastructure, whether imported or domestically manufactured, use imported silicon chips.
  • Silicon chip design is a very challenging activity requiring high-cost R&D, deep knowhow and mastery of multiple complex domains.
  • Hence, this technology is not available in most countries.


  • Data Security is the paramount concern in the World today and India cannot remain secure in terms of data, unless it manufactures its own chips.
  • India is just breaking into the elite club of the world and this will have huge implications for India’s data security and data sovereignty, besides the positive economic implications.
  • At present only 8 companies and a few countries can design and build semiconductor chips.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

Andhra to adopt district cooling in govt. buildings


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: District Cooling

Mains level: Optimization of energy use for govt. buildings


  • AP govt. is going to lay the foundation stone of India’s biggest district cooling system in Amaravati.
  • District cooling was first set up in India at Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT).
  • The first phase of this system, with a capacity of 10,000 RTs, has been operational since April 2015.

What is District Cooling?

  1. District cooling means the centralized production and distribution of cooling energy.
  2. Chilled water is delivered via an underground insulated pipeline to office, industrial and residential buildings to cool the indoor air of the buildings within a district.
  3. Specially designed units in each building then use this water to lower the temperature of air passing through the building’s air conditioning system.
  4. The output of one cooling plant is enough to meet the cooling-energy demand of dozens of buildings.
  5. District cooling can be run on electricity or natural gas, and can use either regular water or seawater.

Details of the AP Project

  1. UAE-based company has entered into a 30-year concession with Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority (APCRDA) to build, own, operate and transfer India’s first district cooling system in Amaravati.
  2. The agreement is for a contracted cooling capacity of 20,000 refrigeration tons (RTs).
  3. The district cooling system will cater to the state’s assembly, high court, secretariat and other government buildings currently being constructed, for which cooling services will start in early 2021.
  4. Touted as a highly efficient, cost-effective form of air conditioning, district cooling uses only 50 per cent of primary energy consumption for cooling urban buildings thereby reducing carbon emissions.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

Periodic Table completes 150 years


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of the Periodic Table

Mains level: Not Much


  • The International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements was launched on January 29, 2019, at the headquarters of UNESCO in Paris.
  • The UNESCO stated that the events and activities will be held throughout the year in order to mark 150 years of the formation of the periodic table.
  • Dmitri Mendeleev was the man who published the periodic table for the first time in 1869.

The modern Periodic Table

  1. The periodic table is an arrangement of all the elements known to man in accordance with their increasing atomic number and recurring chemical properties.
  2. They are assorted in a tabular arrangement wherein a row is a period and a column is a group.
  3. Until 1863, the world was aware of only 56 known elements.
  4. The rate of scientific progress was such that every year, a new element was being discovered.
  5. It was during this time that Mendeleev came up with the idea of the Periodic Table.
  6. He published the Periodic Table in his book– The Relation between the Properties and Atomic Weights of the Elements.
  7. Mendeleev said that he arrived at the idea in his dream, where he saw all chemical elements falling into place on a table according to their chemical properties.
  8. Mendeleev had found a definitive pattern following which, each element could be placed according to their atomic weight.
  9. He had also predicted the qualities of the ‘missing’ (yet to be discovered) elements and gave them Sanskrit names.

Its Evolution

  1. The noble gases including helium (He), neon (Ne), argon (Ar), krypton (Kr), xenon (Xe), and radon (Rn) were added to the table between 1895 and 1901.
  2. Likewise, additions have been made to the periodic table as new elements have been discovered in the last hundred years
  3. In 1914, English physicist Henry Gwyn-Jeffries Moseley found out that each atomic nucleus can be assigned a number, according to the number of protons in that atom.
  4. This changed the way the periodic table worked. The table was redesigned according to the atomic number of elements rather than their atomic weight
  5. Rare-earth elements, including the elements in the Lanthanide series, were included in the atomic table in the late 19th century.

About the UNESCO event

  1. The year 2019 was declared as the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements (IYPT 2019) at the 74th Plenary Meeting.
  2. The event will highlight the importance of periodic table in various science disciplines.
  3. Scientists and representatives of the private sector will came together for the event.

Aim of the International Year of Periodic Table of Chemical Elements

  1. The fundamental motto of IYPT 2019 is to recognize the importance of periodic table of chemical elements as one of the most important and influential achievements in modern science.
  2. The periodic table reflects the essence of all basic science disciplines like- physics, biology and chemistry.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

Project Cosmic Microwave Background-Bharat


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Achievement of Indians in science & technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CMB

Mains level: CMB-Bharat will be path breaking project along with various ongoing projects such as LIGO etc.


  • CMB stands for Cosmic Microwave Background, and the scientific space project CMB-Bharat has been presented as a proposal to ISRO and is under consideration.
  • In the workshop, project CMB-Bharat, which could help us listen to the faintest murmurs of the early universe, was discussed.


  1. CMB-Bharat is a proposal for comprehensive next generation Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) mission in international collaboration with major Indian contribution.
  2. This referred to quantum gravitational waves, which are different from what LIGO detectors had observed that were classical in nature.

What CMB actually means?

  1. The cosmic microwave background (CMB) is thought to be leftover radiation from the Big Bang, or the time when the universe began.
  2. As the theory goes, when the universe was born it underwent a rapid inflation and expansion.
  3. The universe is still expanding today, and the expansion rate appears different depending on where you look.
  4. The CMB represents the heat left over from the Big Bang.
  5. We can’t see the CMB with your naked eye, but it is everywhere in the universe.
  6. It is invisible to humans because it is so cold, just 2.725 degrees above absolute zero (minus 459.67 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 273.15 degrees Celsius.)
  7. This means its radiation is most visible in the microwave part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Way Forward

  1. CMB-Bharat mission presents an unique opportunity for India to take the lead on prized quests in fundamental science in a field that has proved to be a spectacular success.
  2. However there are no active proposals for a comprehensive next generation CMB space mission at this time.

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

DD Science and India Science channels launched


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Developments & their applications and effects in everyday life

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: DD Science and DD India

Mains level: National Science channel for India and its implications


  • Two new science communication platforms DD Science and India Science were launched by Minister for Science and Technology.

DD Science

  1. DD Science is a joint initiative of Vigyan Prasar, an autonomous organisation under the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and public broadcaster, Doordarshan.
  2. It is a one-hour slot on Doordarshan National channel, which will be telecast from Monday to Saturday from 5 pm to 6 pm.
  3. DD Science service would be in Hindi in the beginning and efforts would be made to gradually expand its scope to have the programme telecast in other Indian languages as well.

India Science

  1. India Science is an Internet-based science Over-The-Top (OTT) TV channel.
  2. This 24×7 video platform is dedicated to science & technology knowledge dissemination, with a strong commitment to spreading scientific awareness.
  3. It will be available on all internet-enabled devices.
  4. It offers live, scheduled play and video-on-demand science programming.

Aims and Objectives

  1. The two channels will have science-based documentaries, studio-based discussions, virtual walkthroughs of scientific institutions, interviews and short films and will be free to access.
  2. The new initiatives are expected to be the first step in creating a national science channel for India.
  3. It would help people understand the benefits of science and integrate it in their daily lives.

About Vigyan Prasar

  1. Vigyan Prasar (VP) is an autonomous organization under the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India.
  2. The principal objective of VP is to serve India’s science popularization agenda.
  3. This is achieved through several strategically important two – way stakeholder specific approaches to communicate about principles and practice of science and technology and implications for development and quality of life.
  4. It publishes a magazine “Dream 2047”.

Technology Vision 2035 – Putting science to Use

The Prime Minister unveiled the ‘Technology Vision Document 2035’ while inaugurating the 103rd Indian Science Congress on  January 3,  2016. Let’s take a glance at it

<The document is dedicated to late Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, former President of India.>


What is Technology Vision 2035?

  • The document foresees the technologies required for fulfilling the needs of India 2035
  • This is a vision of where India and its citizens should be in 2035 and how technology should help achieve this
  • Twelve Sectoral Technology roadmaps are being prepared by the Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council, (TIFAC)

Which are the 12 sectors?

  • Education
  • Medical Sciences & Healthcare
  • Food and Agriculture
  • Water
  • Energy
  • Environment
  • Habitat
  • Transportation
  • Infrastructure
  • Manufacturing
  • Materials
  • Information and Communication Technology

The prime aim of the vision document

  • To ensure the security of every Indian, enhancing their prosperity and identity
  • This is stated in the document as “Our Aspiration” or “Vision Statement” in all languages of the 8th Schedule of the Constitution
  • The Vision document also identifies 12 prerogatives – (six for meeting individual needs and six for collective needs) that should be available to each and every Indian


How technologies could map to assure prerogatives?

  • Those are readily deployable
  • Those that needs to be moved from Lab to Field
  • Those that require targeted Research
  • Those that are still in Imagination

What type of technologies are expected in future?

  • Technologies could come about as a result of curiosity driven or paradigm – shattering ‘Blue-sky’ Research like Internet of Things, Wearable Technology, Synthetic Biology, Brain computer Interface, Bioprinting and regenerative medicine
  • Precision agriculture and robotic farming, vertical farming, interactive foods, autonomous vehicles, Bioluminescence, 3D printing of buildings, earthquake prediction, weather modification technologies, green mining etc <Here, UPSC has great scope to ask questions, as we know 3D printing technology was asked in 2013 Mains >

What is Bioluminescence?

Bioluminescent creatures are found throughout marine habitats, from the ocean surface to the deep sea floor.
Bioluminescent creatures are found throughout marine habitats, from the ocean surface to the deep sea floor.

  • Bioluminescence is the production and emission of light by a living organism
  • The light emitted by a bioluminescent organism is produced by energy released from chemical reactions occurring inside (or ejected by) the organism

What are the challenges in the field of Technology?

  • Guaranteeing nutritional security and eliminating female and child anaemia
  • Ensuring universal eco-friendly waste management
  • Taking the railway to Leh and Tawang
  • Understanding national climate patterns and adapting to them
  • Ensuring location independent electoral and financial empowerment

Then! Are there any ways to overcome these challenges?

Technology Leadership – niche technologies in which we have core competencies, skilled manpower, infrastructure and a traditional knowledge base; eg. Nuclear Energy, Space Science.

Technology Independence – strategic technologies that we would have to develop on our own as they may not be obtainable from elsewhere eg. Defence sector

Technology Innovation – linking disparate technologies together or making a breakthrough in one technology and applying it to another. eg., solar cells patterned on chlorophyll based synthetic pathway are a potent future source of renewable energy

Technology Adoption – obtain technologies from elsewhere, modify them according to local needs and reduce dependence on other sources eg., foreign collaboration in the sectors of rainwater harvesting, agri-biotech, desalination, energy efficient buildings.

Technology Constraints – areas where technology is threatening and problematic i.e. having a negative social or environmental impact because of serious legal and ethical issues eg., Genetically Modified(GM) Crops.

Which 3 key activities were identified as a part of the ‘Call to Action’?

  • Knowledge creation It says India cannot afford not to be in the forefront of the knowledge revolution, either applied or pure
  • Ecosystem design for innovation and development
  • Technology deployment by launching certain national missions involving specific targets, defined timelines requiring only a few carefully defined identified players


Source - PIB Features | Pic - Vision 2035
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