May 2020

International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Starman Suits in Demo-2 MissionPrelims Only


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Demo 2 Mission

Mains level : Not Much

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight has now been rescheduled for May 31, due to weather conditions. Apart from the test flight itself, what’s getting attention are the spacesuits that the astronauts will wear while travelling in the SpaceX capsule, called Crew Dragon.

Try this question from CSP 2014:

Q. Which of the following pair is/are correctly matched?

Spacecraft Purpose
1. Cassini-Huygens Orbiting the Venus and transmitting data to the Earth
2. Messenger Mapping and investigating the Mercury
3. Voyager 1 and 2 Exploring the outer solar system

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

a) 1 only

b) 2 and 3 only

c) 1 and 3 only

d) 1, 2 and 3

The SpaceX spacesuit

  • The so-called “Starman suits” the astronauts will wear on the Demo-2 mission have been designed by a famous Hollywood costume designer.
  • The SpaceX spacesuits are different from other spacesuits typically worn by astronauts because of their sleek design and are being described as resembling a tuxedo.
  • These spacesuits are meant to be lighter and more flexible, are equipped with touchscreen gloves, have vents that allow astronauts to be cooler while maintaining pressure inside the suit, and have an incorporated helmet and visor.
  • The helmets of these suits are 3D printed with touchscreen-sensitive gloves and the suit is all in one piece, customised for the wearer.

How are launch-and-entry spacesuits different from EMUs?

  • The SpaceX suits are only meant to be worn inside the space shuttle and are not suitable for carrying out spacewalks.
  • Spacesuits for spacewalks, called Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs), are heavier than launch-entry suits (LES) and are already present aboard the ISS.
  • While inside the spacecraft, the atmosphere can be controlled, to explore and work in space, humans require that they take their environment with them because there are atmospheric pressure and no oxygen to sustain life.
  • Such spacesuits – EMUs are worn for spacewalks or extravehicular activities (EVA) conducted outside a space shuttle.
  • These provide astronauts with oxygen supply and protect them against extreme temperatures, radiation and space dust.


Demo-2 Mission by SpaceX

Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

Species in news: Super mushroom “Cordyceps militaris”Prelims OnlySpecies in News


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Cordyceps militaris

Mains level : NA

A university in Assam has developed a fungal powder to help people boost their immunity to disease.

Try this question from CSP 2019:

Q.) Recently, there was a growing awareness in our country about the importance of Himalayan nettle (Girardinia diversifolia) because it is found to be a sustainable source of

(a) anti-malarial drug

(b) bio-diesel

(c) pulp for paper industry

(d) textile fibre

A similar question related to Cordyceps militaris can be asked. UPSC may ask whether it is a Fungi, Algae, a Moss or a Lichen.

Cordyceps militaris

  • The powder is from a parasitic but rare “super mushroom” called Cordyceps militaris.
  • The militaris underwent powdering through lyophilisation or freeze-drying at –80°C.
  • The earth has more than 400 species of Cordyceps, a fungus parasitic on insects as well as other fungi.
  • Often referred to as a super mushroom, Cordyceps known for its anti-ageing, anti-viral, energy and immunity-boosting effect.
  • Natural Cordyceps is hard to get and if dried, costs at least ₹8 lakh per kg.
Posted on | The Hindu
New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Asian KoelPrelims Only


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Asian Koel

Mains level : NA

Asian Koel, the state bird of Puducherry, is now breeding across Delhi-NCR.

For such species, related question, always focus on their habitat, endemic area, IUCN/Wildlife Protection Acr status.

Another caution: Imp birds in the news that are almost “Least Concerned” eg. Amur Falcon (Nagaland), Asian Koel

Asian Koel

IUCN status: Least Concerned

  • The Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopaceus) is a member of the cuckoo order of birds, the Cuculiformes.
  • It is found in the Indian Subcontinent, China, and Southeast Asia.
  • It forms a superspecies with the closely related black-billed koels, Indian cuckoos, and Pacific koels which are sometimes treated as subspecies.
  • The Asian Koel like many of its related cuckoo kin is a brood parasite that lays its eggs in the nests of crows and other hosts, who raise its young.

Key Features

  • Sexual dimorphism is evident, where males are a glossy black with a greenish sheen to their bodies and females are brown with white dots on their wings and heavy streaking on their head and throat.
  • Both sexes have strong long greenish bills and captivating ruby-red eyes.
  • In the bird world, the males are generally more pleasant looking than the females, considering they woo females.
Posted on | The Hindu
New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: CicadasPrelims Only


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Cicadas

Mains level : NA

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

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

What are Cicadas?

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

How are the fed?

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

Festivals in news: Kheer Bhawani MelaPrelims Only


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kheer Bhawani Mela

Mains level : NA

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

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

Try this:

Q. Consider the following pairs:

Traditions                                            Communities

1. Chaliha Sahib Festival              —          Sindhis

2. Nanda Raj Jaat Yatra                —          Gonds

3. Wari-Warkari                               —          Santhals

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

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) None of the above

Kheer Bhawani Mela

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


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

Purandara Dasa and his legacyPrelims Only


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Purandara Dasa

Mains level : Bhakti Saints of South India

The Department of Archaeology, Karnataka has commenced field research work regarding the birthplace of Purandara Dasa who is held as the father figure of Carnatic music.

Recently there was a news on Lord Basaveshwara. Now comes the other popular saint.

Vaishnavism and Shaivism are the two most profound strands of Bhakti Movement in Indian history. Enlist all the Bhakti Saints and their theistic philosophy and teachings. Try to spot the minute differences between them.

Purandara Dasa

  • Purandara Dasa (1484 –1565) was a Haridasa, a renowned composer of Carnatic music, a great devotee of the Supreme Lord Krishna, a Vaishnava poet, a saint and a social reformer.
  • He was a disciple of the Dvaita philosopher-saint Vyasatirtha, and a contemporary of yet another Haridasa, Kanakadasa.
  • He was a composer, singer and one of the chief founding-proponents of South Indian classical music (Carnatic music).
  • In honour of his significant contributions to Carnatic music, he is widely referred to as the Pitamaha (lit. “father” or “grandfather”) of Carnatic music.
  • He is respected as an Avatara (incarnation) of the great sage Narada (a celestial being who is also a singer).

Confusions over his birthplace

  • As ‘Purandara Vithala’ was the pen name of his compositions, it was widely believed that the mystic poet was born in Purandar (near Pune), Maharashtra.
  • However, many in Malnad claimed that he hailed from this region.
  • According to historians, Araga in Malnad was a buzzing commercial centre during the Vijayanagar rule, the period to which the poet belonged to.
  • Prior to his initiation to Haridasa tradition, Purandara Dasa was a rich merchant and was called as Srinivasa Nayaka.

Back2Basics: Bhakti Movement

  • The Bhakti movement refers to the theistic devotional trend that emerged in medieval Hinduism.
  • It originated in eighth-century south India and spread northwards.
  • It swept over east and north India from the 15th century onwards, reaching its zenith between the 15th and 17th century CE.
  • It has traditionally been considered as an influential social reformation in Hinduism and provided an individual-focused alternative path to spirituality regardless of one’s birth or gender
  • The salvation which was previously considered attainable only by men of Brahmin, Kshatriya and Vaishya castes, became available to everyone.
Festivals, Dances, Theatre, Literature, Art in News

Rail adukku pathiram Utensils of Tamil NaduPrelims Only


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Rail adukku pathiram

Mains level : NA

The rail adukku pathiram a traditional set of kitchen utensils in Tamil Nadu has become the gathered attention of all over the past few days.

The traditional ‘rail adukku pathiram’ set of utensils are very unique in itself. However, one must note that it does NOT carry any GI tag and is completely out of use. Still, there is a possibility of it being asked in match the pair type questions asking – Q) Which among the following artefacts from Tamil Nadu carries a GI Tag?

Rail adukku pathiram

  • The rail adukku pathiram consists of 14 vessels of different sizes, neatly placed in a compact manner inside the largest container.
  • The vessels were earlier used by families to carry groceries and cook food during train journeys.
  • These vessels were used to cook food for a mini-wedding. The interesting aspect is the compact size and easy to carry.
  • It has two vessels to cook vegetables, a sippal plate to boil rice, a frying pan, a sombu, a bronze pot to carry water and vessels of varying sizes to cook food.
  • Many in Tamil Nadu had forgotten about the existence of these multi-layered vessels until a video surfaced online recently.
Posted on | The Hindu
History- Important places, persons in news

Person in news: Ramkinkar BaijPrelims Only


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ramkinkar Baij and his artworks

Mains level : Modern artforms in India

Ministry of Culture’s has organised virtual tour titled “Ramkinkar Baij | Journey through silent transformation and expressions” to commemorate his 115th Birth Anniversary.

We can expect a description based question in prelims like-

Q. “In 1925, he made his way to Kala Bhavana, the art school at Santiniketan and was under the guidance of Nandalal Bose. Encouraged by the liberating, intellectual environment of (Tagore’s) Santiniketan, his artistic skills and intellectual horizons blossomed, thus acquiring greater depth and complexity. One of the earliest modernists in Indian art, he assimilated the idioms of the European modern visual language and yet was rooted in his own Indian ethos.”

Who is the imminent personality discussed?

Who was Ramkinkar Baij?

  • Ramkinkar Baij (1906-1980), one of the most seminal artists of modern India, was an iconic sculptor, painter and graphic artist.
  • He was born in Bankura, West Bengal, into a family of little economic and social standing and grew by his sheer determination into one of the most distinguished early modernists of Indian art.
  • In 1925, he made his way to Kala Bhavana, the art school at Santiniketan and was under the guidance of Nandalal Bose.
  • Encouraged by the liberating, intellectual environment of (Tagore’s) Santiniketan, his artistic skills and intellectual horizons blossomed, thus acquiring greater depth and complexity.

His works

  • One of the earliest modernists in Indian art, he assimilated the idioms of the European modern visual language and yet was rooted in his own Indian ethos.
  • His themes were steeped in a deep sense of humanism and an instinctive understanding of the symbiotic relationship between man and nature.
  • Both in his paintings and sculptures, he pushed the limits of experimentation and ventured into the use of new materials.
  • For instance, his use of unconventional material, for the time, such as cement concrete for his monumental public sculptures set a new precedent for art practices.
  • The use of cement, laterite and mortar to model the figures, and the use of a personal style in which modern western and Indian pre-classical sculptural values were brought together was equally radical.

Popular recognition

  • Although his work was passed over for quite a while, gradually it began to get both national and international attention.
  • He was invited to participate in the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles in 1950 and in the Salon de Mai in 1951.
  • In the national honours began to come his way one after the other.
  • In 1970, the Government of India honoured him with the Padma Bhushan for his irrefutable contribution to Indian art.
  • In 1976 he was made a Fellow of the Lalit Kala Akademi.
  • In 1976, he was conferred the honorary Doctoral Degree of ‘Desikottama’ by Visva Bharati, and in 1979 an honorary D. Litt by Rabindra Bharati University.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Africa

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on Nile and Various IssuesPrelims Only


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nile River, GERD

Mains level : Not Much

Africa’s longest river, the Nile, has been at the centre of a decade-long complex dispute involving several countries in the continent who are dependent on the river’s waters. At the forefront of this dispute, however, are Ethiopia and Egypt.

Note: You never know when UPSC might switch map based questions away from the Middle East and SE Asia.

Considering this news, the UPSC may ask a prelim question based on the countries swept by River Nile/ various dams constructed/ landlocked countries in the African continent etc.

Grand Ethiopian Rennaissance Dam (GERD)


  • GERD is a gravity dam on the Blue Nile River in Ethiopia that has been under construction since 2011.
  • At 6.45 gigawatts, the dam will be the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa when completed, as well as the seventh-largest in the world.
  • Once completed, the reservoir could take anywhere between 5 and 15 years to fill with water, depending on hydrologic conditions during the filling period and agreements reached between Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt.

Issues with the Dam

  • While the main waterways of the Nile run through Uganda, South Sudan, Sudan and Egypt, its drainage basin runs through other countries in East Africa, including Ethiopia.
  • Egypt has objected to the construction of this dam and in Sudan has found itself caught in the midst of this conflict.
  • Due to the importance of the Nile as a necessary water source in the region, observers are concerned that this dispute may evolve into a full-fledged conflict between the two nations.
  • The US has stepped in to mediate.

How can this lead to conflict?

  • The mega project may just allow the country to control the river’s waters, and this is essentially what concerns Egypt because it lies downstream.
  • Egypt has objected to these plans and has proposed a longer timeline for the project because it does not want the water level of the Nile to dramatically drop as the reservoir fills with water in the initial stages.
  • For the past four years, triparty talks between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan have been unable to reach agreements. Egypt isn’t alone in its concerns.
  • Sudan is hardly a passive observer caught in the conflict just because of its location.
  • It too believes Ethiopia having control over the river through the dam may affect its own water supplies.

Why does Ethiopia want this dam?

  • Ethiopia believes this dam will generate approximately 6,000 megawatts of electricity when it is done.
  • 65% of Ethiopia’s population suffers due to lack of access to electricity.
  • This dam will reduce those shortages and help the country’s manufacturing industry.
  • The country may also be able to supply electricity to neighbouring nations and earn some revenue in exchange.
  • Neighbouring countries like Kenya, Sudan, Eritrea and South Sudan also suffer from electricity shortages.
  • If Ethiopia sells electricity to these nations, they may also reap benefits.

What is happening now?

  • In the latest developments on this front, Egypt announced that it is willing to resume negotiations with Ethiopia and Sudan concerning the dam.
  • Ethiopia has however proceeded with the first stage of filling the dam saying that it does not need Egypt’s permission to fill the dam.
  • In the letter to the UNSC, Egypt also implied that the dam would cause armed conflict between the two countries.

Back2Basics: River Nile

  • The Nile is a major north-flowing river in northeastern Africa.
  • It is the longest river in Africa and the disputed longest river in the world as the Brazilian government says that the Amazon River is longer than the Nile.
  • The Nile is about 6,650 km long and its drainage basin covers eleven countries: Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Republic of Sudan, and Egypt.
  • In particular, the Nile is the primary water source of Egypt and Sudan.
  • The Nile has two major tributaries – the White Nile and the Blue Nile. The White Nile is considered to be the headwaters and primary stream of the Nile itself.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

[pib] Initiatives launched on International Day of BiodiversityPrelims Only


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Initiaitives mentioned in the newscard

Mains level : Not Much

In a virtual celebration of the International Day for Biological Diversity 2020, Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has launched key initiatives towards conservation of biodiversity.

Possible prelim question:

The ‘Not all Animals Migrate by Choice’ campaign recently seen in news is an initiative by __________.

About the International Day for Biological Diversity

  • This Day is a United Nations-sanctioned international day for the promotion of biodiversity issues.
  • It is currently held on May 22.
  • The year 2020 is also the “Super Year for Biodiversity”, as the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity with 20 global Aichi targets adopted in 2010 ends in 2020.

1) Biodiversity Samrakshan Internship Programme

  • The program proposes to engage 20 students with postgraduate degrees for a period of one year through an open, transparent, online competitive process.
  • It has the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) as a nodal agency.

 2) ‘Not all Animals Migrate by Choice’ campaign

  • It is a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Campaign launched by the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau on Illegal Trafficking of Endangered Species.
  • It aims to curb illegal trade in wildlife which carries the risk of spreading dangerous pandemics.

Back2Basics: Aichi Targets

  • The ‘Aichi Targets’ were adopted by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at its Nagoya conference.
  • The short term plan provides a set of 20 ambitious yet achievable targets, collectively known as the Aichi Targets.
  • The IUCN Species Programme provides advice to Parties, other governments and partners on the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity and it’s Aichi Biodiversity Targets (2011 – 2020) and is also heavily involved in work towards the Target.
Posted on | Custom
Industrial Sector Updates – Industrial Policy, Ease of Doing Business, etc.

What are General Financial Rules (GFR)?Prelims Only


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : General Financial Rules (GFRs)

Mains level : Various moves to boost MSME sector

The union government has notified amendments to General Financial Rules (GFR) to ensure that goods and services valued less than Rs 200 crore are being procured from domestic firms, a move which will benefit MSMEs.

Possible mains question:

Q. Discuss how the nationwide lockdown to control the coronavirus outbreak has led to the resurfacing of inherent bottlenecks in India’s MSME Sector.

What are the General Financial Rules (GFRs)?

  • The GFRs are a compilation of rules and orders of the Government of India to be followed by all while dealing with matters involving public finances.
  • They are instructions that pertain to financial matters.
  • They lay down the general rules applicable to Ministries / Departments, and detailed instructions relating to the procurement of goods.
  • They are issued by the procuring departments broadly in conformity with the general rules while maintaining the flexibility to deal with varied situations.

Also read:

[Burning Issues] Fiscal Push for MSME Sector of India (Part I)

Horticulture, Floriculture, Commercial crops, Bamboo Production – MIDH, NFSM-CC, etc.

In news: International Tea DayIOCRPrelims Only

The ‘International Tea Day’ gets thumbs up from the UN. Tea is the most consumed drink in the world, second only to water.

It would be no surprise to expect a question based on worldwide tea production:

Q. Among the following, which one is the largest exporter of rice in the world in the last five years? (CSP 2019)

(a) China

(b) India

(c) Myanmar

(d) Vietnam

International Tea Day

  • While the UN has been aware of the popularity of the drink, May 21, 2020, became the first time when it recognized and gave an official nod to International Tea Day.
  • The UN General Assembly proclaimed May 21 as International Tea Day.
  • The day is aimed at promoting sustainable production, consumption and trade of tea.
  • As part of the celebrations, key players in tea production come together and make systematic plans for expansion of demand for tea, particularly in tea producing countries where per capita consumption is relatively low.
  • This day also reminds all actors at global, regional and national levels to ensure that the tea sector continues to play a role in reducing extreme poverty, fighting hunger and safeguarding natural resources.


  • Tea is an aromatic beverage commonly prepared by pouring hot or boiling water over cured leaves of the Camellia sinensis, an evergreen shrub native to East Asia.
  • After water, it is the most widely consumed drink in the world.
  • There are many different types of tea; some, like Darjeeling and Chinese greens, have a cooling, slightly bitter, and astringent flavour.
  • Tea has a stimulating effect in humans primarily due to its caffeine content.
  • China is the leading producer of tea in the world. (Ref.)

Its significance

  • In 2018, over 50 lakh tonnes of tea was consumed globally, according to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN.
  • The origin of tea plantations dates back to 5,000 years. Like many cultures, tea enjoys a special space in Indian culture.
  • With more than 100 varieties being consumed in the country, India is among the top four producers of tea.
  • Currently, tea is grown in more than 35 countries and supports 1.3 crore people including smallholder farmers around the globe.

Back2Basics: Tea cultivation in India

  • India is the second producer of tea in the world and second in terms of land devoted to tea growing as well.
  • Much of India’s tea production is concentrated in the areas of Darjeeling, Nilgiri, Dooars, and Assam, which is the single largest tea growing region in the world. The top 5 growing states in India, ranked by production, are:

1) Assam

2) West Bengal

3) Tamil Nadu

4) Kerala

5) Karnataka

Indian Air Force Updates

What is the ‘Sonic Boom’ that rattled Bengaluru city?Prelims Only


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sonic Boom, Mach Number

Mains level : India's missile programme

The ‘loud sound’ heard in Bengaluru a few days back, which puzzled lakhs of city dwellers, was revealed to have emanated from an IAF test flight involving a supersonic profile. The sonic boom was probably heard while the IAF aircraft was decelerating from supersonic to subsonic speed between 36,000 and 40000 feet altitude.


We often get to hear about updates in  India’s missile programme. UPSC may ask a basic physics question asking fundamental differences between various Mach number and its differences.

What is a ‘sonic boom’?

  • Sound travels in the form of waves which are emitted outwards from its source.
  • In air, the speed of these waves depends on a number of factors, such as the temperature of the air and altitude.
  • When an aircraft travels at supersonic speed – meaning faster than sound (>1225 kmph at sea level) – the field of sound waves moves to the back of the craft.
  • A stationary observer thus hears no sound when a supersonic flight approaches since the sound waves are at the rear of the latter.
  • At such speeds, both newly created as well as old waves, are forced into a region at the aircraft’s rear called a ‘Mach cone’, which extends from the craft and intercepts the Earth in a hyperbola-shaped curve, and leaves a trail called the ‘boom carpet’.
  • The loud sound that is heard on the Earth when this happens is called a ‘sonic boom’ (resembles bomb-blast sound).


  • When such aircraft fly at a low altitude, the sonic boom can become intense enough to cause the glass to crack or cause health hazards.
  • Overland supersonic flights have thus been banned in many countries.

Supersonic flights

  • In 1947, the American military pilot Chuck Yeager became the first to breach the sound barrier, flying the Bell X-1 aircraft at 1127 kmph.
  • Since then, many supersonic flights have followed, with advanced designs allowing speeds of over Mach 3, or three times the speed of sound.
  • According to the IAF website, India’s fastest jets include the Sukhoi SU-30 MKI (Mach 2.35) and the Mirage-2000 (Mach 2.3).

Back2Basics: Traverse of sound

  • From a stationary source, such as a television set, sound waves travel outwards in concentric spheres of growing radii.
  • When the source of sound is moving – e.g, a truck– the successive waves in front of the truck get closer together, and the ones behind it spread out.
  • This is also the cause of the Doppler effect– in which bunched waves at the front appear at a higher frequency to a stationary observer, and spread out waves that are behind are observed at a lower frequency.
  • As long as the source of the sound keeps moving slower than the speed of sound itself, this source– say a truck or a plane – remains nested within the sound waves that are travelling in all directions.

Mach number

  • The ratio of the speed of the aircraft to the speed of sound in the gas determines the magnitude of many of the compressibility effects.
  • Because of the importance of this speed ratio, aerodynamicists have designated it with a special parameter called the Mach number in honour of Ernst Mach, a late 19th-century physicist who studied gas dynamics.
  • Subsonic conditions occur for Mach numbers less than one, M < 1.
  • As the speed of the object approaches the speed of sound, the flight Mach number is nearly equal to one, M = 1, and the flow is said to be transonic.
  • Supersonic conditions occur for Mach numbers greater than one, 1 < M < 3.
  • For speeds greater than five times the speed of sound, M > 5, the flow is said to be hypersonic.
  • The Space Shuttle re-enters the atmosphere at high hypersonic speeds, M ~ 25. Under these conditions, the heated air becomes ionized plasma of gas and the spacecraft must be insulated from the high temperatures.
Coronavirus – Disease, Medical Sciences Involved & Preventive Measures

‘Agappe Chitra Magna’ kit for COVID diagnosisPrelims Only


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Agappe Chitra Magna

Mains level : COVID diagnosis and treatment

Agappe Chitra Magna, a magnetic nanoparticles-based RNA extraction kit has been commercially launched.

The peculiarity of the name ‘Agappe Chitra Magna’ creates a possibility of a prelims question. One may confuse it with any sort of Artform.

Agappe Chitra Magna (ACM) Kit

  • The ACM kit is developed by the Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST) and manufactured by Kochi-based Agappe Diagnostics Ltd.,
  • It uses innovative technology for isolating RNA using magnetic nanoparticles to capture the RNA from the patient sample.
  • The magnetic nanoparticles beads bind to the viral RNA and, when exposed to a magnetic field, give a highly purified and concentrated RNA.
  • As the sensitivity of the detection method is dependent on getting an adequate quantity of viral RNA, this innovation enhances the chances of identifying positive cases.
  • The commercial launch of the kit is a major step to make India self-reliant in detecting COVID-19 and can help increase the rate of testing and bring down its costs, a crucial step for combating the pandemic.

Significance of the kit

  • The commercial launch of the kit is a major step to make India self-reliant in detecting COVID-19 and can help increase the rate of testing and bring down its costs, a crucial step for combating the pandemic.
  • The RNA isolation kit will reduce the dependence on imported kits and make COVID testing more cost-effective.
Posted on | The Hindu
Renewable Energy – Wind, Tidal, Geothermal, etc.

Etalin Hydro Electric ProjectPrelims Only


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Biogeographic Zones, Etalin Hydro Electric Project

Mains level : India's border infrastructure

A group of conservationists has written to the Environment Ministry seeking rejection of the approved Etalin Hydro Electric Project in the Dibang Valley district of Arunachal Pradesh.

Make a note of major dams in India along with the rivers, terrain, major Wildlife sanctuaries and national parks incident to these rivers.

Etalin Hydro Electric Project

  • Etalin HEP is a 3097 MW project based on the river Dibang.
  • It is envisaged as a run of the river scheme on rivers Dri and Tangon in the Dibang Valley District of Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Dibang is a tributary of the Brahmaputra River which flows through the states of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam.
  • The project is being executed through the Etalin Hydro Electric Power Company Limited, a JV company of Jindal Power Limited and Hydro Power Development Corporation of Arunachal Pradesh Limited.
  • It is expected to be one of the biggest hydropower projects in India in terms of installed capacity.

Issues with the Project

  • The Project falls under the richest bio-geographical province of the Himalayan zone and would be located at the junction of major biogeographic zones like Palaearctic Zone and Indo-Malayan Zone.
  • It would involve the clearing of 2.7 lakh trees in “subtropical evergreen broad-leaved forest and subtropical rain forests”.
  • Underscoring the inadequacy of the Environment Impact Assessment report on Etalin, the conservationists said observations by wildlife officials were ignored.
  • These include the threat to 25 globally endangered mammal and bird species in the area to be affected.

Back2Basics: Biogeographic Zones

  • A biogeographic realm or ecozone is the broadest biogeographic division of Earth’s land surface, based on distributional patterns of terrestrial organisms.
  • These zones delineate the large areas of the Earth’s surface within which organisms have been evolving in relative isolation over long periods of time.
  • They are separated from one another by geographic features, such as oceans, broad deserts, or high mountain ranges that constitute barriers to migration.
  • Originally, six biogeographic regions were identified: Palearctic (Europe and Asia), Nearctic (North America), Neotropical (Mexico, Central and South America), Ethiopian/Afrotropic (Africa), Oriental/Indo-Malayan (Southeast Asia, Indonesia) and Australian (Australia and New Guinea).
  • Currently, eight are recognised since the addition of Oceania (Polynesia, Fiji and Micronesia) and Antarctica.
Capital Markets: Challenges and Developments

Minimum Public Shareholding (MPS) RequirementPrelims Only


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Minimum Public Shareholding (MPS)

Mains level : Not Much

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has relaxed the 25 per cent minimum public shareholding norm and advised exchanges not to take penal action till August 2020 in case of non-compliance.

A statement based question can be asked about the SEBI in the prelim asking-

If it is a statutory or quasi-judicial body ; Scope of its regulation; Appointment of its chairman etc..

What is a Public Shareholding Company?

  • A Public Shareholding Company is a company whose capital is divided into shares of equal value, which are transferable.
  • Shareholders of a Public Shareholding Company are not liable for the company’s obligations except for the amount of the nominal value of the shares for which they subscribe.

What is MPS requirement?

  • The 25 per cent MPS norms were introduced in 2013, whereby no listed company was permitted to have more than 75 per cent promoter stake.
  • The rules were aimed at improving liquidity and better stock price discovery by making higher float available with public.
  • The average promoter holding in India is among the highest globally.
  • Last year, the government had proposed to increase the minimum public float from the current 25 per cent to 35 per cent. It had met with opposition, forcing the government to drop the plan.

Why ease MPS norms?

  • The Sebi move is aimed at easing such compliance rules amid the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The decision has been taken after receiving requests from listed entities and industry bodies as well as considering the prevailing business and market conditions.
  • As per the norms, exchanges can impose a fine of up to Rs 10,000 on companies for each day of non-compliance with MPS requirements.
  • Besides, exchanges can intimate depositories to freeze the entire shareholding of the promoter and promoter group. This circular will come into force with immediate effect.

Back2Basics: Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI)

  • The SEBI is the regulator of the securities and commodity market in India.
  • It was first established in 1988 as a non-statutory body for regulating the securities market.
  • It became an autonomous body on 12 April 1992 and was accorded statutory powers with the passing of the SEBI Act 1992.
  • SEBI has to be responsive to the needs of three groups, which constitute the market:

1) issuers of securities

2) investors

3) market intermediaries

UDAY Scheme for Discoms

Fiscal support to the power sectorPrelims Only


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : UDAY scheme

Mains level : UDAY scheme, its success and failures

Part of the package announced by Finance Minister was a Rs 90,000-crore liquidity injection into power distribution companies (or discoms).

Practice question:

Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY) has failed to turn around the precarious financial position of state power DISCOMs in India. Discuss.

Fiscal push for DISCOMs

  • The move is aimed at helping the discoms clear their dues with gencos (or electricity generation companies), who in turn can clear their outstanding dues with suppliers, such as coal miners, easing some of the working capital woes of Coal India Ltd and contract miners.
  • This is subject to the condition that the Centre will act as guarantor for loans given by the state-owned power finance companies such as PFC and REC Ltd to the discoms.

Why was this needed?

  • The primary trigger is the poor financial condition and revenue collection abilities of most state discoms.
  • This is despite several interventions, including a scheme called UDAY that was launched in 2015 to fix the problems of a sector where the upstream side (electricity generation) was drawing investments even as the downstream (distribution) side was leaking.

How do the DISCOMs work?

To understand how the sector works, we have to imagine a three-stage process.

  • First stage: Electricity is generated at thermal, hydro or renewable energy power plants, which are operated by either state-owned companies or private companies.
  • Second stage: The generated electricity then moves through a complex transmission grid system comprising electricity substations, transformers, and power lines that connect electricity producers and the end-consumers.
  • The entire electricity grid consists of hundreds of thousands of miles of high-voltage power lines and millions of miles of low-voltage power lines with distribution transformers that connect thousands of power plants to millions of electricity customers all across the country.
  • Third stage: This last-mile link is where discoms come in, operated largely by state governments. However, in cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, and Kolkata, private entities own the entire distribution business or parts of it.

Why there is a problem?

  • Discoms essentially purchase power from generation companies through power purchase agreements (PPAs), and then supply it to their consumers (in their area of distribution).
  • The key issue with the power sector currently is the continuing problem of the poor financial situation of state discoms.
  • This has been affecting their ability to buy power for supply, and the ability to invest in improving the distribution infrastructure. Consequently, this impacts the quality of electricity that consumers receive.

There are two fundamental problems here:

1) Lack of competitiveness

  • One, in India, electricity price for certain segments such as agriculture and the domestic category (what we use in our homes) is cross-subsidised by the industries (factories) and the commercial sector (shops, malls).
  • This affects the competitiveness of the industry.

2) Transmission and distribution losses

  • There is the problem of AT&C (aggregate transmission and distribution losses), which is a technical term that stands for the gap in the bills that it raises and the final collection process from end-consumers.
  • As a result, the discoms are perennially short of funds, even to pay those supplying power to them, resulting in a cascading impact up the value chain.

Back2Basics: UDAY Scheme

UDAY scheme for financial turnaround of Power Distribution Companies

Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

International Day of Light and its significancePrelims Only


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.
Foreign Policy Watch: India – EU

Mapping: Baltic Travel BubblePrelims Only


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Baltic Travel Bubble

Mains level : Travel restriction in times of COVID outbreak

The Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have opened their borders to one another, creating a coronavirus “travel bubble” with an improvised idea to boost travel into their countries.

Mark the following things on Map:

1. Baltic Sea and its bordering nations

2. Irben Strait

3. Gulf of Riga

4. Gulf of Finland

Baltic Travel Bubble

  • The ‘Baltic travel bubble’ aims to facilitate the citizens of these three countries to travel within the region without hassles.
  • However, those who are coming from any other than these three countries would be required to follow self-isolation guidelines and stay in quarantine for exactly 14 days.
  • During the epidemic, Estonia and Lithuania closed their borders to non-citizens and all three nations placed mandatory quarantines for those entering for reasons related to non-work activities.
  • The region has been part of the European Union since 2004 and since 2007 has been a member of the European Schengen Free Travel Area.

Significance of the travel ease

  • The Baltic nations have shown trust in each other’s healthcare system and have concluded that they have been able to tackle the coronavirus outbreak efficiently.
  • For Asian countries including India, these developments can provide interesting pointers when lockdown relaxations pertaining to travel and flights are being considered.

Bonus: Try this question from CSP 2011

Between India and East Asia, the navigation-time and distance can be greatly reduced by which of the following?

1. Deepening the Malacca straits between Malaysia and Indonesia.

2. Opening a new canal across the Kra isthmus between the Gulf of Siam and Andaman Sea.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Troglomyces twitteriPrelims Only


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Troglomyces twitteri

Mains level : NA

A new species has just been identified on an old image on Twitter. It is named as Troglomyces twitteri.

The species Troglomyces twitteri has something unique in its name. UPSC may ask a straight forward question like – The specie Troglomyces twitteri recently seen in news is a- (a) Algae (b) Fungi (c) Fish (d) Sea Grass …….

Troglomyces twitteri

  • Troglomyces twitteri is a type of parasitic fungus.
  • It belongs to an order called Laboulbeniales — tiny fungal parasites that attack insects and millipedes.
  • These fungi live on the outside of host organisms; in this case, on the reproductive organs of millipedes.
  • Laboulbeniales were first discovered in the middle of the 19th century.