Goods and Services Tax (GST)

Natural gas to come under GST


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GST

Mains level : Changes in taxation after GST regime

Officials have indicated that the government is considering bringing natural gas under the ambit of the GST regime.

Try this question from CSP 2018:

Q.Consider the following items:

  1. Cereal grains hulled
  2. Chicken eggs cooked
  3. Fish processed and canned
  4. Newspapers containing advertising material

Which of the above items is/are exempt under GST (Goods and Services Tax)?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1, 2 and 4 only

(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

Why such demands?

  • Global energy MNCs have called on the government to bring natural gas under the GST regime.
  • Currently petrol, diesel, aviation turbine fuel, natural gas and crude oil fall outside India’s Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime.

Why is it important to bring natural gas under the GST regime?

  • Bringing natural gas under the GST would lead to a reduction in the cascading impact of taxes on industries such as power and steel, which used natural gas as an input.
  • This would do away with the central excise duty and different value-added taxes imposed by states.
  • This would lead to an increase in the adoption of natural gas in line with the government’s stated goal to increase the share of natural gas in the country’s energy basket from 6.3% to 15%.

Back2Basics: GST

  • GST launched in India on 1 July 2017 is a comprehensive indirect tax for the entire country.
  • It is charged at the time of supply and depends on the destination of consumption.
  • For instance, if a good is manufactured in state A but consumed in state B, then the revenue generated through GST collection is credited to the state of consumption (state B) and not to the state of production (state A).

Must read:

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Room Temperature Superconductivity


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Superconductivity

Mains level : Not Much

A study has shown that a new material superconducts at 15 degrees Celsius but at extremely high pressure.

In India, we often get to hear about the transmission losses in DISCOMS. Such losses can be zeroed with the application of superconducting cables (which is practically impossible unless we find a normal working one). The phenomena, superconductivity, however, is not new to us, UPSC may end up asking some tricky statements in the prelims regarding it.

What is Superconductivity?

  • A superconductor is a material, such as a pure metal like aluminium or lead, that when cooled to ultra-low temperatures allows electricity to move through it with absolutely zero resistance.
  • Kamerlingh Onnes was the first scientist who figured out exactly how superconductor works in 1911.
  • Simply put, superconductivity occurs when two electrons bind together at low temperatures.
  • They form the building block of superconductors, the Cooper pair.
  • This holds true even for a potential superconductor like lead when it is above a certain temperature.

What is the new material?

  • A new material composed of carbon, hydrogen and sulphur superconducts at 15 degrees Celsius.
  • However, it needs ultrahigh pressure of about 2 million atmospheres to achieve this transition, putting off any thoughts of application to the future.
  • The pressure they needed was 267 Gigapascals (GPa), or 2.6 million atmospheres.
  • The pressure at the centre of the Earth is 360 GPa, so it is 75% of the pressure at the centre of the Earth.

What are Superconductors?

  • Superconductors are materials that address this problem by allowing energy to flow efficiently through them without generating unwanted heat.
  • They have great potential and many cost-effective applications.
  • They operate magnetically levitated trains, generate magnetic fields for MRI machines and recently have been used to build quantum computers, though a fully operating one does not yet exist.

Issues with superconductors

  • They have an essential problem when it comes to other practical applications: They operate at ultra-low temperatures.
  • There are no room-temperature superconductors. That “room-temperature” part is what scientists have been working on for more than a century.
  • The amount of energy needed to cool a material down to its superconducting state is too expensive for daily applications.

Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Dairy production in the Indus Valley Civilization


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IVC

Mains level : Dairy production in IVC

A new study has shown that dairy products were being produced by the Harappans as far back as 2500 BCE.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Which one of the following is not a Harappan site?

(a) Chanhudaro

(b) Kot Diji

(c) Sohgaura

(d) Desalpur

Dairy production in IVC

  • By analysing residues on ancient pots, researchers show the earliest direct evidence of dairy product processing, thus throwing fresh light on the rural economy of the civilization.
  • The studies were carried out on 59 shards of pottery from Kotada Bhadli, a small archaeological site in present-day Gujarat.

How did they find it?

  • The team used molecular analysis techniques to study the residues from ancient pottery.
  • Pots are porous. The pot preserves the molecules of food such as fats and proteins. Using techniques like C16 and C18 analysis we can identify the source of lipids.
  • Traces were seen in cooking vessels indicating that milk may have been boiled and consumed.

Significant outcome of the study

  • The study has found residues in a bowl showing that either heated milk or curd could have been served.
  • There are also remains of a perforated vessel, and similar vessels were used in Europe to make cheese.
  • The Harappans did not just use dairy for their household.
  • The large herd indicates that milk was produced in surplus so that it could be exchanged and there could have been some kind of trade between settlements.
  • This could have given rise to an industrial level of dairy exploitation.

Air Pollution

What is Yellow Dust?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Yellow dust

Mains level : Air pollution

North Korean authorities have urged citizens to remain indoors to avoid contact with a mysterious cloud of ‘yellow dust’ blowing in from China, which they have warned could bring Covid-19 with it.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Consider the following

  1. Birds
  2. Dustblowing
  3. Rain
  4. Windblowing

Which of the above spread plant diseases?

(a) 1 and 3 only

(b) 3 and 4 only

(c) 1, 2 and 4 only

(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

What is yellow dust?

  • Yellow dust is actually sand from deserts in China and Mongolia that high-speed surface winds carry into both North and South Korea during specific periods every year.
  • The sand particles tend to mix with other toxic substances such as industrial pollutants, as a result of which the ‘yellow dust’ is known to cause a number of respiratory ailments.
  • Usually, when the dust reaches unhealthy levels in the atmosphere, authorities urge people to remain indoors and limit physical activity, particularly heavy exercise and sport.
  • Sometimes, when the concentration of yellow dust in the atmosphere crosses around 800 micrograms/cubic meter, schools are shut and outdoor events cancelled in the affected areas.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Action Plan for Vulture Conservation 2020-2025


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Vultures

Mains level : Not Much

Uttar Pradesh, Tripura, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu will get a vulture conservation and breeding centre each, according to the Action Plan for Vulture Conservation 2020-2025.

Action Plan for Vulture Conservation

  • The action plan was approved by the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) October 5, 2020. An earlier one was formulated in 2006 for three years.
  • The new plan has laid out strategies and actions to stem the decline in vulture population, especially of the three Gyps species:
  1. Oriental white-backed vulture (Gyps bengalensis)
  2. Slender-billed vulture (Gyps tenuirostris)
  3. Long-billed vulture (Gyps indicus)

Note: These three vulture species were listed by  IUCN, in 2000 as ‘Critically  Endangered’,  which is the highest category of endangerment.

  • This would be done through both ex-situ and in-situ conservation.
  • The plan has also suggested that new veterinary non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) be tested on vultures before their commercial release. NSAIDS often poisons cattle whose carcasses the birds pray on.

Highlights of the new plan

  • A system to automatically remove a drug from veterinary use if it is found to be toxic to vultures, with the help of the Drugs Controller General of India.
  • Conservation breeding of red-Headed vultures and Egyptian vultures and the establishment at least one vulture-safe zone in each state for the conservation of the remnant populations in that state.
  • Coordinated nation-wide vulture counting, involving forest departments, the Bombay Natural History Society, research institutes, non-profits and members of the public.
  • A database on emerging threats to vulture conservation, including collision and electrocution, unintentional poisoning, etc.

Why protect vultures?

  • Vultures are often overlooked and perceived as lowly scavengers, but they play a crucial role in the environments in which they live.
  • The scavenging lifestyle that gives them a bad reputation is, in fact, that makes them so important for the environment, nature and society.
  • Vultures, also known as nature’s cleanup crew, do the dirty work of cleaning up after death, helping to keep ecosystems healthy as they act as natural carcass recyclers.

International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx lands on Asteroid Bennu


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Asteroids, Bennu

Mains level : NASA's feat of landing on an asteroid

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft briefly touched asteroid Bennu, from where it is meant to collect samples of dust and pebbles and deliver them back to Earth in 2023.

The OSIRIS-REx mission

  • OSIRIS-REx stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer. This is NASA’s first mission meant to return a sample from the ancient asteroid.
  • The mission is essentially a seven-year-long voyage and will conclude when at least 60 grams of samples are delivered back to the Earth.
  • As per NASA, the mission promises to bring the largest amount of extraterrestrial material back to our planet since the Apollo era.
  • The mission was launched in 2016, it reached its target in 2018 and since then, the spacecraft has been trying to match the velocity of the asteroid using small rocket thrusters to rendezvous it.
  • This week, the spacecraft’s robotic arm called the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM), made an attempt to “TAG” the asteroid and collected a sample.

About Bennu

  • Bennu is a B-type asteroid, implying that it contains significant amounts of carbon and various other minerals.
  • It was discovered by a team from the NASA-funded Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research team in 1999.
  • Because of its high carbon content, the asteroid reflects about four per cent of the light that hits it, which is very low when compared with a planet like Venus, which reflects about 65 per cent of the light. Earth reflects about 30 per cent.
  • Around 20-40 per cent of Bennu’s interior is empty space and scientists believe that it was formed in the first 10 million years of the solar system’s formation, implying that it is roughly 4.5 billion years old.

Why are scientists studying asteroid Bennu?

  • Bennu is an asteroid about as tall as the Empire State Building and located at a distance of about 200 million miles away from the Earth.
  • Scientists study asteroids to look for information about the formation and history of planets and the sun since asteroids were formed at the same time as other objects in the solar system.
  • Another reason for tracking them is to look for asteroids that might be potentially hazardous. It is also relatively close to the Earth.
  • It is for these reasons that scientists are interested in gathering information about this particular asteroid.
  • Significantly, Bennu hasn’t undergone drastic changes since its formation over billions of years ago and therefore it contains chemicals and rocks dating back to the birth of the solar system.

How do chemicals and rocks offer scientists clues about the solar system?

  • Because of Bennu’s age, it is likely to contain material that contains molecules that were present when life first formed on Earth, where life forms are based on carbon atom chains.
  • Even so organic material like the kind scientists hope to find in a sample from Bennu doesn’t necessarily always come from biology.
  • It would, though, further scientists’ search to uncover the role asteroids rich in organics played in catalyzing life on Earth.

Back2Basics: Asteroid

  • Asteroids are rocky objects that orbit the Sun, much smaller than planets. They are also called minor planets.
  • According to NASA, 994,383 is the count of known asteroids, the remnants from the formation of the solar system over 4.6 billion years ago.
  • Asteroids are divided into three classes. First, those found in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, which is estimated to contain somewhere between 1.1-1.9 million asteroids.
  • The second group is that of Trojans, which are asteroids that share an orbit with a larger planet.
  • The third classification is Near-Earth Asteroids (NEA), which have orbits that pass close by the Earth. Those that cross the Earth’s orbit are called Earth-crossers.
  • More than 10,000 such asteroids are known, out of which over 1,400 are classified as potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs).

Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

Discovering the Tubarial Glands


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Tubarial glands

Mains level : Not Much

Researchers from the Netherlands have discovered a new location of salivary glands.

Try this PYQ:

Q.With references to the scientific progress of ancient India, which of the statements given below are correct?

  1. Different kinds of specialized surgical instruments were in common use by 1st century AD.
  2. Transplant of internal organs in the human body had begun by the beginning of 3rd century AD.
  3. The concept of sine of an angle was known in 5th century AD.
  4. The concept of cyclic quadrilaterals was known in 7th century AD.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 3 and 4 only

(c) 1, 3 and 4 only

(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4

Tubarial Glands

  • The salivary gland system in the human body has three paired major glands and over 1,000 minor glands that are spread throughout the mucosa.
  • These glands produce saliva necessary for swallowing, digestion, tasting, mastication and dental hygiene.
  • When researchers were studying scans from about 100 people, they found a bilateral structure at the back of the nasopharynx and these glands had characteristics of salivary glands.
  • Researchers have proposed the name “tubarial glands” for their discovery.
  • The researchers believe that these glands would qualify as the fourth pair of major salivary glands.
  • The proposed name is based on their anatomical location; the other three glands are called parotid, submandibular and sublingual.

Why are these glands being discovered only now?

  • The location of these glands is at a poorly accessible anatomical location under the base of the skull, which is an area that can only be visualized using nasal endoscopy.
  • Further, conventional imaging techniques such as a CT scan, MRI and ultrasound have not allowed the visualization of these glands.
  • For the scans done on the 100 patients, a new type of scan called the PSMA PET/CT scan was used, which was able to provide the high sensitivity and specificity required to detect these glands.

What is the purpose of these glands?

  • So far, researchers suspect that the physiological function of the glands is to moisten and lubricate the nasopharynx and the oropharynx.
  • However, this interpretation needs to be confirmed with additional research.

Significance of this discovery

  • The discovery is potentially good news for some cancer patients with head and neck cancers.
  • Patients with head and neck cancers and tumours in the tongue or the throat are treated with radiation therapy that can damage the new salivary glands, whose location was not previously known.
  • Oncologists will be able to circumvent these areas and protect them from the side effects of radiation which can lead to complications such as trouble speaking, swallowing and speaking.
  • Some patients may even face an increased risk of caries and oral infections that can significantly impact their life.

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Medicinal plants in news


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Plants mentioned in the newscard

Mains level : NA

This newscard is an excerpt from the original article published in DownToEarth.

Explained below are the medicinal properties of 10 valuable plants known to boost natural immunity:

(1) Abrusprecatorius (Indian liquorice, Ratti)

  • The bright red ovoid seeds with a black spot weigh 1/10th of a gram, and were hence used as weighing unit called ‘Ratti’ in ancient India by goldsmiths.
  • Its seeds are said to have immune-modulating properties.

(2) Artemisia scoparia (Redstem Wormwood)

  • These plants have excellent clinical anti-malarial properties due to the presence of artemisinin.
  • They possess potent anti-inflammatory properties and help regulate both innate and adaptive immunity.

(3) Azadirachtaindica (Neem)

  • It is a well-known tree used in various systems of traditional medicine since time immemorial. In Sanskrit, it is known as Arishtha, which means ‘reliever of sicknesses’.
  • Neem bark is known to have strong immunostimulant Neem oil has been shown to possess activity by selectively activating cell-mediated immune mechanisms.

(4) Boerhaviadiffusa (Punarnava)

  • In Ayurveda, Punarnava is included in the category of rasayana herbs that possess anti-ageing properties. It helps prevent diseases.
  • This means they increase resistance by providing hepatoprotection (the ability of a substance to prevent damage to the liver) and immune-modulation.

(5) Cardaminehirsuta (Hairy Bitter Cress)

  • The plants contain vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, beta carotene, antioxidants and sulfur-containing compounds that boost immunity.

(6) Clerodendrumphlomidis (Sage Glory Bower, Arni, Agnimantha)

  • It is an essential medicinal plant that is also mentioned in texts since the Vedic period. It is known to boost the immune system, purify the blood and cure urinary tract infection.
  • The decoction made from the whole plant is useful in improving strength and immunity following a bout of fever or other ailments.

(7) Phyllanthus tenellus (Mascarene Island leaf-flower)

  • It is an annual herb commonly found near wetlands, ditches, wet places, edges of drains and disturbed places. It is known for immune-modulatory properties.
  • Physalis peruviana (Cape Gooseberry, Rasbhari) (Family: Solanaceae): It is used in traditional folk medicines as an immunomodulatory drug. It is rich in vitamin C and helps enhance body immunity.

(8) Portulaca oleracea (Purslane)

  • Purslane has been used in folk medicine since ancient times and is included in the World Health Organization’s list of most widely used medicinal plants.
  • The leaves of the plant are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which is important in preventing heart attacks and strengthening the immune system.

(9) Withaniasomnifera (Indian Winter Cherry, Indian Ginseng, Aswagandha)

  • Ashwagandha is an important ancient herb and has been used in the indigenous medical system for over 3,000 years.
  • It is considered to be one of the best rejuvenating agents in Ayurveda that helps to maintain proper nourishment of the tissues. It possesses antioxidant, mind-boosting and immune-enhancing properties.

Now try this PYQ:

Q.Consider the following statements:

  1. The Taxus tree is naturally found in the Himalayas
  2. The Taxus tree is listed in the Red Data Book.
  3. A drug called “taxol” is obtained from Taxus tree is effective against Parkinson’s disease

Which of the above statements is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 1 and 2 only

(c) 2 and 3 only

(d) 3 only

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Species in news: Lion-tailed Macaque


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Shravathi river, Macaque

Mains level : Not Much

The Union government allowed a geotechnical investigation that involved drilling of 12 boreholes inside Sharavathi Valley Lion-tailed Macaque Sanctuary in the Western Ghats in Karnataka.

Try this PYQ:

Which one of the following groups of animals belongs to the category of endangered species?

(a) Great Indian Bustard, Musk Deer, Red Panda, Asiatic Wild Ass

(b) Kashmir Stag, Cheetah, Blue Bull, Great Indian Bustard.

(c) Snow Leopard, Swamp Deer, Rhesus Monkey, Saras (Crane)

(d) Lion Tailed Macaque, Blue Bull, Hanuman Langur, Cheetah

About Lion-tailed Macaque

  • Endemic to rainforests of the Western Ghats, the Lion-tailed Macaque (Macaca Silenus) is an Endangered species, according to IUCN assessment.
  • It is listed in Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
  • It is a Schedule 1 species under WPA, 1972 and thereby, accorded the highest protection under the Indian law.
  • Their total (global) population is 2,500 mature individuals.

Why in news?

  • Sharavathi is likely one of the most exploited rivers.
  • It flows for mere 132 km, but four major power projects on it produce 40 per cent of all hydroelectric power in Karnataka.
  • Yet, in an attempt to squeeze more power from the river flowing through the Western Ghats, a new pumped hydro-storage project has been proposed.
  • This will only intensify the cumulative adverse impact of previous projects on the biodiversity of the Sharavathi valley.
  • In particular, the impacts on the iconic Lion-tailed Macaque are likely to be huge.

Indian Navy Updates

Malabar Naval Exercise


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Countries participating in exerciese

Mains level : Paper 3- Defence exercises

Upping the ante against China amid the ongoing LAC confrontations, Australia has formally accepted India’s invite for the upcoming Malabar Exercise.

About Ex. Malabar

  • Exercise Malabar is a trilateral naval exercise involving the United States, Japan and India as permanent partners.
  • Originally begun in 1992 as a bilateral exercise between India and the United States, Japan became a permanent partner in 2015.
  • Past non-permanent participants are Australia and Singapore.
  • The annual Malabar series began in 1992 and includes diverse activities, ranging from fighter combat operations from aircraft carriers through Maritime Interdiction Operations Exercises.

Significance of Australia’s inclusion

  • Earlier, India had concerns that it would give the appearance of a “quadrilateral military alliance” aimed at China.
  • Now both look forward to the cooperation in the ‘Indo-Pacific’ and the strengthening of defence ties.
  • This has led to a convergence of mutual interest in many areas for a better understanding of regional and global issues.
  • Both are expected to conclude the long-pending Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) as part of measures to elevate the strategic partnership.

Civil Aviation Sector – CA Policy 2016, UDAN, Open Skies, etc.

India’s First Seaplane Project


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Seaplanes

Mains level : Seaplane connectivity in India

The first of the five seaplane services in Gujarat, connecting Sabarmati River in Ahmedabad to the Statue of Unity in Kevadia in Narmada district, will be inaugurated on October 31

India’s first seaplane

  • A seaplane is a fixed-winged aeroplane designed for taking off and landing on water. It offers the public the speed of an aeroplane with the utility of a boat.
  • The first seaplane project of the country is part of a directive of the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation.
  • As per the directive, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) requested state governments of Gujarat, Assam, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and the administration of Andaman & Nicobar to propose potential locations for setting up water aerodromes to boost the tourism sector.

Where will the seaplane connect?

  • In Kevadia, the proposed Terminal will be spread over 0.51 acres in the premises of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd., located in the Panchmuli lake (Dyke 3) of the Sardar Sarovar Dam at Limdi village.
  • It is approximately 90 km from Vadodara, 150 km from Surat and 200 km from Ahmedabad — with an aerial distance of 74.6km from Vadodara airport.

What impact will it have on the environment?

  • The water aerodrome is not a listed project/activity in the Schedule to the Environmental Impact Assessment Notification, 2006 and its amendments.
  • However, the activities proposed under the water aerodrome project may have a similar type of impact as that of an airport.
  • There has to be a bathymetric and hydrographic survey by Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI).
  • During seaplane operations, there will be turbulence created in the water while takeoff and landing of seaplanes. This will lead to more operation process i.e. mixing of oxygen in the water.
  • This will have a positive impact on the aquatic ecosystem near seaplane operations increasing oxygen content and decreasing carbon content in this system.

Festivals, Dances, Theatre, Literature, Art in News

Thanjavur Art Plates


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GI tags in news

Mains level : Not Much

The makers of the Thanjavur Art Plate, with its roots in a craft that dates back to the Marathas of the 1800s, are banding together for its cultural and commercial rejuvenation.

Must read:

All time GI tags in news

Thanjavur Art Plates

  • The Thanjavur Art Plate is an artefact which is exclusively made in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India.
  • It is a circular plate made as a gift item. It is a handicraft consisting of metals such as silver, bronze, and copper embossed with figures of gods and goddesses at its centre.
  • Patronised by Maratha ruler Serfoji II (1777-1832), Thanjavur Kalai craftsmen were kept busy with orders for royal gifts, mostly decorative salvers, jewel boxes and vessels like water pots and ewers.
  • In its contemporary version, the craft has been commercially reinterpreted as ‘Thanjavur kalai thattu’ or Thanjavur Art Plate, a ceremonial platter made with silver, copper and brass layers in three stages.
  • The base is plated with alternate copper and silver panels, a bigger embossed silver motif on the central section, and the setting of globular jigna or sequins in the secondary relief.
  • It was given a Geographical Indications (GI) tag in 2007, as a proof of its long heritage.

Back2Basics: Geographical Indications in India

  • A Geographical Indication is used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin.
  • Such a name conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness which is essentially attributable to its origin in that defined geographical locality.
  • This tag is valid for a period of 10 years following which it can be renewed.
  • Recently the Union Minister of Commerce and Industry has launched the logo and tagline for the Geographical Indications (GI) of India.
  • The first product to get a GI tag in India was the Darjeeling tea in 2004.
  • The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 (GI Act) is a sui generis Act for the protection of GI in India.
  • India, as a member of the WTO, enacted the Act to comply with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights.
  • Geographical Indications protection is granted through the TRIPS Agreement.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Places in news: Mullaperiyar Dam


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mullaperiyar Dam

Mains level : Not Much

The Mullaperiyar dam has recently turned 125.

Try this PYQ:

Q. What is common to the places known as Aliyar, Isapur and Kangsabati?

(a) Recently discovered uranium deposits

(b) Tropical rain forests

(c) Underground cave systems

(d) Water reservoirs

Mullaperiyar Dam

  • It is a masonry gravity dam on the Periyar River in the Indian state of Kerala.
  • It is located 881 m above mean sea level, on the Cardamom Hills of the Western Ghats in Thekkady, Idukki District of Kerala.
  • It was constructed between 1887 and 1895 by John Pennycuick and also reached in an agreement to divert water eastwards to the Madras Presidency area (present-day Tamil Nadu).
  • Pennycuick is widely worshipped as a hero by farmers in the four districts of southern Tamil Nadu, where water from the dam meets the drinking water needs and irrigates thousands of hectares.

Why is the dam special?

  • The dam was constructed surmounting many odds, with malaria and thick jungles taking a toll on workers. It was a huge challenge before him to construct the dam and divert the river course.
  • Pennycuick sowed the seeds of river interlinking to bring barren and rain-starved areas under cultivation.
  • To fund dam construction, gold ornaments were donated by Chettiar families and farmers in Cumbom valley also gave their meagre savings to Pennycuick.
  • Pennycuick even sold his ancestral property in Britain and spent the amount for completing the works of the dam when the expenses exceeded the allotted funds.
  • The British government endowed him with the ‘Companion of Star of India’, a high civilian honour. He died on March 9, 1911, at Frimley in Britain.

Capital Markets: Challenges and Developments

What are Hybrid Funds?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Hybrid funds

Mains level : Not Much

This newscard is an excerpt from an originally FAQ published in TH.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Which of the following is issued by registered foreign portfolio investors to overseas investors who want to be part of the Indian stock market without registering themselves directly?

(a) Certificate of Deposit

(b) Commercial Paper

(c) Promissory Note

(d) Participatory Note

Hybrid Fund

  • A hybrid fund is one that invests in both equity and bonds. So, such funds ought to help investors with their asset allocation decision.
  • This refers to how you allocate your annual savings between equity and bond investments.
  • Suppose you are unsure of the proportion of equity and bond investments to have in your portfolio.
  • By investing in a hybrid fund, you could outsource your asset allocation decision to the manager of the fund, so the argument goes.
  • The issue is that each goal you pursue requires different asset allocation. For instance, the asset allocation for your child’s education portfolio must be different from your retirement portfolio.
  • Hybrid funds cannot consider your individual goal requirement as it is a collective investment vehicle.

Tax efficiency of the fund

  • Based on current tax laws, a hybrid fund that holds 65% or more in equity is considered as an equity fund.
  • So, if you redeem your units in such hybrid funds after a holding period of more than 12 months, you have to pay long-term capital gains tax of 10%.
  • If a hybrid fund holds less than 65% in equity, you have to pay 20% capital gains tax with indexation if you sell your units after a holding period of more than 36 months.

Back2Basics: Stocks vs. Bonds vs. Equity

  • A stock represents a collection of shares in a company which is entitled to receive a fixed amount of dividend at the end of the relevant financial year which are mostly called Equity of the company.
  • Bonds term is associated with debt raised by the company from outsiders which carry a fixed ratio of return each year and can be earned as they are generally for a fixed period of time.
  • Bonds are actually loans that are secured by a specific physical asset.
  • It highlights the amount of debt taken with a promise to pay the principal amount in the future and periodically offering them the yields at a pre-decided percentage.
  • Equity is ownership of assets that may have debts or other liabilities attached to them. Equity is measured for accounting purposes by subtracting liabilities from the value of an asset.

Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports

What are ‘Chapter Proceedings’ by Police?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Chapter Proceedings

Mains level : Law and order maintenance

The Mumbai police last week began “chapter proceedings” against the Editor-in-Chief of a news channel.

Can you relate the philosophy behind chapter proceedings and preventive detention?

What exactly are “chapter proceedings”?

  • Chapter proceedings are preventive actions taken by the police if they fear that a particular person is likely to create trouble and disrupt the peace in society.
  • These proceedings are unlike punitive action taken in case of an FIR with an intention to punish.
  • Here, the police can issue notices under sections of the Code of Criminal Procedure to ensure that the person is aware that creating nuisance could result in action against him.

What are the sections using which these notices are served?

  • Generally, a notice is issued to a person under section 111 of the CrPC whereby he is asked to present himself before the Executive Magistrate – an ACP-rank officer in a Commissionerate of a Dy. the collector in rural areas – who has issued the notice.
  • The person has to explain why he should not be made to sign a bond of good behaviour.
  • If the Executive Magistrate is not satisfied with the answer, the person is asked to sign a bond of good behaviour and produce sureties vouching for his/her good behaviour.
  • A fine amount is also decided – in accordance with the crime and the person’s financial capability – which the person would have to pay if he violates the conditions set in the bond.

Legal immunities against such proceedings

  • On receiving the notice under section 111, a person can appeal the notice before the courts.
  • In fact, in the past, courts have come down strongly against chapter proceedings in some cases.

Port Infrastructure and Shipping Industry – Sagarmala Project, SDC, CEZ, etc.

National Authority of Ship Recycling (NASR)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Authority of Ship Recycling (NASR)

Mains level : Not Much

The Central government has notified the Director-General of Shipping as the national authority for recycling of ships under the Recycling of Ships Act, 2019.

The ‘Hong Kong Convention’ is the odd man out here. Read more about the convention at:

[pib] Hong Kong International Convention for Safe Recycling of Ships 2009

About NASR

  • The national authority of ship recycling will be set up in Gandhinagar, Gujarat.
  • The location of the office will benefit the ship recycling yard owners situated in Alang, Gujarat which is home to the largest ship recycling industry in the world.
  • DG Shipping is authorized to administer, supervise and monitor all activities relating to ship recycling in the country.
  • DG Shipping will oversee the sustainable development of the ship recycling industry, monitoring the compliance to environment-friendly norms and safety and health measures for the stakeholders.
  • DG Shipping will be the final authority for the various approvals required by the ship-recycling yard owners and state governments.

Recycling of Ships Act, 2019

  • Under the Ship Recycling Act, 2019, India has acceded to the ‘Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships’.
  • This was adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
  • DG Shipping is a representative of India in the IMO and all the conventions of IMO are being enforced by DG Shipping.

Gravitational Wave Observations

New Shephard Rocket System


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Karman Line, New Sphephard

Mains level : Micro-gravity experimentation

New Shephard, a rocket system meant to take tourists to space successfully completed its seventh test launch.

Note the features of the Karman Line. It is a new terminolgy in our recent space vocab.

What is New Shephard?

  • New Shephard has been named after astronaut Alan Shephard, the first American to go to space, and offers flights to space over 100 km above the Earth and accommodation for payloads.
  • Essentially, it is a rocket system that has been designed to take astronauts and research payloads past the Karman line – the internationally recognised boundary of space.
  • The idea is to provide easier and more cost-effective access to space meant for purposes such as academic research, corporate technology development and entrepreneurial ventures among others.
  • It is built by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s Space Company called Blue Origin.
  • In 2018, Blue Origin was one of the ten companies selected by NASA to conduct studies and advance technologies to collect process and use space-based resources for missions to the Moon and Mars.

How does it work?

  • The rocket system consists of two parts, the cabin or capsule and the rocket or the booster.
  • The cabin can accommodate experiments from small mini payloads up to 100 kg.
  • The cabin is designed for six people and sits atop a 60-feet tall rocket and separates from it before crossing the Karman line, after which both vehicles fall back to the Earth.
  • The system is a fully reusable, vertical takeoff and vertical landing space vehicle that accelerates for about 2.5 minutes before the engine cuts off.
  • After separating from the booster, the capsule free falls in space, while the booster performs an autonomously controlled vertical landing back to Earth.
  • The capsule, on the other hand, lands back with the help of parachutes.

Back2Basics: Karman line

  • The Karman line is an attempt to define a boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space.
  • The line is named after Theodore von Kármán (1881–1963), a Hungarian American engineer and physicist, who was active primarily in aeronautics and astronautics.
  • He was the first person to calculate the altitude at which the atmosphere becomes too thin to support aeronautical flight and arrived at 83.6 km (51.9 miles) himself.

Locating the line

  • The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) defines Karman Line as the altitude of 100 kilometres (62 miles; 330,000 feet) above Earth’s mean sea level.
  • However, other organizations do not use this definition. There is no international law defining the edge of space, and therefore the limit of national airspace.
  • For instance, the US Air Force and NASA define the limit to be 50 miles (80 km) above sea level.
  • The line is approximately at the turbopause, above which atmospheric gases are not well-mixed.

International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Mars ‘Opposition’ Event


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Opposition event

Mains level : Not Much

Due to an event referred to as “opposition”, which takes place every two years and two months, Mars will shine the brightest.

Try this question from CSP 2017:

Q.Which region of Mars has a densely packed river deposit indicating this planet had water 3.5 billion years ago?

(a) Aeolis Dorsa (b) Tharsis (c) Olympus Mons (d) Hellas

What is the Opposition Event?

  • ‘Opposition’ is the event when the sun, Earth and an outer planet (Mars in this case) are lined up, with the Earth in the middle.
  • The time of opposition is the point when the outer planet is typically also at its closest distance to the Earth for a given year, and because it is close, the planet appears brighter in the sky.
  • An opposition can occur anywhere along Mars’ orbit, but when it happens when the planet is also closest to the sun, it is also particularly close to the Earth.
  • It will outshine Jupiter, becoming the third brightest object (moon and Venus are first and second, respectively) in the night sky during the month of October.

When does opposition happen?

  • Earth and Mars orbit the sun at different distances (Mars is farther apart from the sun than Earth and therefore takes longer to complete one lap around the sun).
  • In fact, the opposition can happen only for planets that are farther away from the sun than the Earth.
  • In the case of Mars, roughly every two years, the Earth passes between sun and Mars, this is when the three are arranged in a straight line.
  • Further, as the Earth and Mars orbit the sun, there comes a point when they are on the opposite sides of it, and hence very far apart. At its farthest, Mars is about 400 million km from the Earth.
  • In case of opposition, however, Mars and Sun are on directly opposite sides of the Earth. In other words, the Earth, sun and Mars all lie in a straight line, with the Earth in the middle.

Logic behind the name

  • As per NASA, from an individual’s perspective on the Earth, Mars rises in the east and after staying up all night, it sets in the west just as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.
  • Because from the perspective on Earth, the sun and Mars appear to be on the opposite sides of the sky, Mars is said to be in “opposition”.
  • Essentially, the opposition is a reference to “opposing the sun” in the sky.

Digital India Initiatives

National Supercomputing Mission (NSM)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NSM, Supercomputing

Mains level : National Supercomputing Mission

The Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) has launched the second phase of the ambitious National Supercomputing Mission (NSM).

Tap to read more about National Supercomputing Mission (NSM):

[pib] National Supercomputing Mission (NSM)

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 increased 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 the 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.

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 (petaFLOPS).
  • Since November 2017, all of the world’s fastest 500 supercomputers run Linux-based operating systems.

Why do we need supercomputers?

  • Tackle problems: Developed and almost-developed countries have begun ensuring high investments in supercomputers to boost their economies and tackle new social problems.
  • These high-performance computers can simulate the real world, by processing massive amounts of data, making cars and planes safer, and more fuel-efficient and environment-friendly.
  • They also aid in the extraction of new sources of oil and gas, development of alternative energy sources, and advancement in medical sciences.
  • Disaster Management: Supercomputers have also helped weather forecasters to accurately predict severe storms, enable better mitigation planning and warning systems.
  • They are also used by financial services, manufacturing and internet companies and infrastructure systems like water-supply networks, energy grids, and transportation.
  • Future applications of artificial intelligence (AI) also depend on supercomputing.
  • Due to the potential of this technology, countries like the US, China, France, Germany, Japan, and Russia have created national-level supercomputing strategies and are investing substantially in these programmes.

When did India initiate its efforts to build supercomputers?

  • India’s supercomputer programme 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.

Indian Ocean Power Competition

Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Greater Male Connectivity Project

Mains level : India-Maldives Relations

Following up on India’s announcement of a $500 million package to the Maldives, the Exim Bank of India and the Maldives’s Ministry of Finance signed an agreement for $400 million in Male.

Try this question from 2014:

Q.Which one of the following pairs of islands is separated from each other by the ‘Ten Degree Channel’?

(a) Andaman and Nicobar

(b) Nicobar and Sumatra

(c) Maldives and Lakshadweep

(d) Sumatra and Java

Greater Male Connectivity Project

  • The GMCP consists of a number of bridges and causeways to connect Male to Villingili, Thilafushi and Gulhifahu islands that span 6.7 km.
  • It would ease much of the pressure of the main capital island of Male for commercial and residential purposes.
  • When completed, the project would render the Chinese built Sinamale Friendship bridge connecting Male to two other islands, thus far the most visible infrastructure project in the islands.
  • At present, India-assisted projects in the region include water and sewerage projects on 34 islands, reclamation project for the Addl island, a port on Gulhifalhu, airport redevelopment at Hanimadhoo, and a hospital and a cricket stadium in Hulhumale.