Tribes in News

Who are the Bru Tribals?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Bru Tribals

Mains level : Bru-Reang Repatriation Agreement

Non-Brus of Tripura has proposed six places for settling the displaced Brus from Mizoram and set a limit for the number of families to be accommodated in two subdivisions that have borne the brunt of the 23-year-old refugee crisis.

Try this PYQ:

Q. With reference to ‘Changpa’ community of India, consider the following statement:

  1. They live mainly in the State of Uttarakhand.
  2. They rear the Pashmina goats that yield fine wool.
  3. They are kept in the category of Scheduled Tribes.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct? (CSP 2014)

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Who are the Brus?

  • Reangs or Brus are the second largest ethnic group in Mizoram.
  • Their exodus in 1997 was spurred by violent clashes in Mamith subdivision, a Reang-dominated area when they demanded the creation of an autonomous council that was vehemently opposed by Mizo groups.
  • Around 34,000 people were forced to live in sub-human conditions in tents in Tripura. No solution could be reached all these years.
  • These people were housed in temporary camps at Kanchanpur, in North Tripura.

Read the complete thread here:

[Burning Issue] Bru– Reang Repatriation Agreement

Seeds, Pesticides and Mechanization – HYV, Indian Seed Congress, etc.

In news: Pokkali Rice

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Pokkali Rice

Mains level : Coastal farming and various hurdles

Farmers from West Bengal are betting on the Pokkali variety of rice from Kerala to tide over a crisis-like situation created by severe seawater incursion into paddy fields in vast areas of the Sundarbans after the cyclone Amphan.

Try this MCQ:

Q.Which of the following is the striking feature of the Pokkali Rice recently seen in the news?

a) It is bio-fortified rice for treating malnutrition

b) It is a saltwater resistant variety of rice

c) It is healthy rice used to treat diabetes

d) None of these

Pokkali Rice

  • The Pokkali variety of rice is known for its saltwater resistance and flourishes in the rice paddies of coastal Alappuzha, Ernakulam and Thrissur districts.
  • The uniqueness of the rice has brought it the Geographical Indication (GI) tag and is the subject of continuing research.
  • It had been in the news because of its uniqueness and also because a group of people in Kerala have been trying to revive the cultivation of the rice variety in the State.

Why introduce in Sunderbans?

  • About 80% of the rice paddies in the Sundarbans faced the problem of the saltwater incursion.
  • If the Pokkali experiment succeeds, it would be a good step to turn around the fortunes of the farmers.

Waste Management – SWM Rules, EWM Rules, etc

What is Pyrolysis?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Pyrolysis

Mains level : Not Much

Plastic from used personal protective equipment (PPE) can be transformed into renewable liquid fuels using chemical a process called pyrolysis, says a new study.

Try this PYQ:

Q.In the context of which one of the following are the terms ‘pyrolysis and plasma gasification’ mentioned? (CSP 2019)

(a) Extraction of rare earth elements

(b) Natural gas extraction technologies

(c) Hydrogen fuel-based automobiles

(d) Waste-to-energy technologies

What is Pyrolysis?

  • Pyrolysis is the thermal decomposition of materials at elevated temperatures in an inert atmosphere.
  • It involves a change in chemical composition. The word is coined from the Greek-derived elements pyro “fire” and lysis “separating”.
  • It is most commonly used in the treatment of organic materials. It is one of the processes involved in charring wood.
  • It is considered as the first step in the processes of gasification or combustion.

How does it work?

  • In general, pyrolysis of organic substances produces volatile products and leaves a solid residue enriched in carbon, char.
  • Extreme pyrolysis, which leaves mostly carbon as the residue, is called carbonization.
  • The process is used heavily in the chemical industry, for example, to produce ethylene, many forms of carbon, and other chemicals from petroleum, coal, and even wood, to produce coke from coal.

Applications

  • Aspirational applications of pyrolysis would convert biomass into syngas and biochar, waste plastics back into usable oil, or waste into safely disposable substances.

Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : HEFA

Mains level : Higher education infra development

The JNU has got approval for a fund from the Higher Education Funding Agency (HEFA) for the construction of new infrastructure.

Try this PYQ:

What is the aim of the programme ‘Unnat Bharat Abhiyan’? (CSP 2017)

(a) Achieving 100% literacy by promoting collaboration between voluntary organizations and government’s education system and local communities.

(b) Connecting institutions of higher education with local communities to address development challenges through appropriate technologies.

(c) Strengthening India’s scientific research institutions in order to make India a scientific and technological power.

(d) Developing human capital by allocating special funds for health care and education of rural and urban poor, and organizing skill development programmes and vocational training for them.

About HEFA

  • HEFA is a joint venture company of Canara Bank and Ministry of Human Resource Development.
  • It provides financial assistance for the creation of educational infrastructure and R&D in India’s premier educational institutions.
  • All the Centrally Funded Higher Educational Institutions will be eligible to join as members of the HEFA.
  • For joining as members, the educational institution must agree to escrow a specific amount from their internal accruals for a period of 10 years to the HEFA.

Funding pattern of HEFA

  • HEFA will have an authorized capital of 2,000 crore rupees and the government equity would be 1,000 crore
  • It also mobilizes CSR funds from Corporates/PSUs which will, in turn, be released for promoting research and innovation in these institutions on a grant basis.
  • The principal portion of the loan will be repaid through the ‘internal accruals’ of the institutions earned through the fee receipts, research earnings etc.

International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule ‘Endeavour’

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Demo 2 Mission

Mains level : Commercial space flights

Two NASA astronauts returned to Earth from the International Space Station (ISS) in a dramatic, retro-style splashdown, their capsule parachuting into the Gulf of Mexico to finish an unprecedented test flight.

We can get a match the pair type question in prelims asking various space missions and their purposes. Make note of similar space missions from here.

Crew Dragon

  • Crew Dragon is a part of the Dragon 2, a class of reusable spacecraft developed and manufactured by American aerospace manufacturer SpaceX.
  • It is the fifth class of US spacecraft to take human beings into orbit, after the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle programs.
  • The rocket, named Falcon 9, which carried the spaceship into the orbit, was also built by SpaceX.
  • It is done under the Demo-2 Mission of NASA and SpaceX.

Demo-2: What is the mission?

  • The Demo-2 mission is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program with the aim of developing reliable and cost-effective access to and from the ISS.
  • Essentially, the lift-off is a flight test to certify if SpaceX’s crew transportation system can be used to ferry crew to and from the space station regularly.

What makes it a special event?

  • It was the first splashdown by U.S. astronauts in 45 years, with the first commercially built and operated spacecraft to carry people to and from orbit.
  • The last time NASA astronauts returned from space to water was on July 24, 1975, in the Pacific to end a joint U.S.-Soviet mission known as Apollo-Soyuz.
  • The return clears the way for possible tourist flights in the near future.

Back2Basics: SpaceX

  • Space Exploration Technologies Corp., trading as SpaceX, is a private American aerospace manufacturer and space transportation Services Company headquartered in Hawthorne, California.
  • It was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk with the goal of reducing space transportation costs to enable the colonization of Mars.
  • It has developed several launch vehicles and the Dragon spacecraft.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

What are Time Capsules?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Time capsules

Mains level : NA

Ahead of the laying of the foundation stone for a temple, claims and denials have emerged about plans to put in a time capsule, or ‘Kaal Patra’.

Do you know?

A rubidium standard or rubidium atomic clock is the most inexpensive, compact, and widely produced atomic clock, used to control the frequency of television stations, cell phone base stations, in test equipment, and global navigation satellite systems like GPS.

What is a Time Capsule?

  • It is a container of any size or shape, which accommodates documents, photos and artefacts typical of the current era and is buried underground, for future generations to unearth.
  • The time capsule requires special engineering so that the contents don’t decay, even if pulled out after a century.
  • Material such as aluminium and stainless steel are used for the encasing, and documents are often reproduced on acid-free paper.
  • While the term “time capsule” was coined in the 20th century, among the earliest examples of one dates back to 1777, found by historians inside the statue of Jesus Christ in Spain during its restoration.

There’s a global society:

International Time Capsule Society

  • The International Time Capsule Society (ITCS), based in the US and formed in 1990, is now defunct but continues estimating the number of time capsules in the world.
  • As per its database, there are “10,000-15,000 times capsules worldwide”.

Are there any time capsules in India?

  • There have been a number of prominent examples.
  • One time capsule, outside the Red Fort and placed underground in 1972 by then PM Indira Gandhi, was dug out by the subsequent government.
  • Other time capsules are at a school in Mumbai, IIT-Kanpur, LPU in Jalandhar, and Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar.
  • The Red Fort time capsule was supposed to be dug out after 1,000 years.

Significance of time capsules

  • Historians often criticize the idea of being motivated.
  • This exercise is inevitably a subjective exercise, geared towards glorification not to construct the real picture.
  • All historians look at this time capsule exercise with suspicion.
  • It’s not a valid historical method — who decides what matter, what artefacts, written documents are going into it?

History- Important places, persons in news

William Jones and his linguistic studies

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Asiatic Society William Jones

Mains level : Linguistic study of ancient India

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

Try this PYQ from CSP 2016:

Q.Who of the following had first deciphered the edicts of Emperor Ashoka?

(a) Georg Buhier

(b) James Prinsep

(c) Max Muller

(d) William Jones

William Jones

  • William Jones was appointed as a judge on the Supreme Court of Judicature at Fort William in Bengal,
  • In the next couple of years, Jones established himself as an authority on ancient Indian language and culture, a field of study that was hitherto untouched.
  • He is particularly known for his proposition of the existence of a relationship among European and Indo-Aryan languages, which he coined as Indo-European.
  • He is also credited for establishing the Asiatic Society of Bengal in the year 1784.

His linguistic studies

  • Jones’ was the first to suggest that Sanskrit, Greek and Latin languages had a common root and that indeed they may all be further related, in turn, to Gothic and the Celtic languages, as well as to Persian.
  • He also suggested that Sanskrit ‘was introduced to India by conquerors from other kingdoms in some very remote age’ displacing ‘the pure Hindi’ of north India
  • His claim rested on the evidence of several Sanskrit words that had similarities with Greek and Latin.

Some examples of his propositions

  • As he studied the languages further, it became clearer that apart from Greek and Latin, Sanskrit words could be found in most other European languages.
  • For instance, the Sanskrit word for ‘three’, that is ‘trayas’, is similar to the Latin ‘tres’ and the Greek ‘treis’. Similarly, the Sanskrit for ‘snake’, is ‘sarpa’, which shares a phonetic link with ‘serpens’ in Latin.
  • For instance, ‘mata’ or mother in Sanskrit, is ‘mutter’ in German. ‘Dan’ or ‘to give’ in Sanskrit is ‘donor’ in Spanish.

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

In news: Galapagos Islands

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Galapagos Islands

Mains level : Not Much

Chinese ships are frequently entering Ecuador’s waters for commercial fishing near the Galapagos Islands.

Try this question from CSP 2018:

Q.Which one of the following can one comes across if one travels through the Strait of Malacca?

(a) Bali

(b) Brunei

(c) Java

(d) Singapore

The Galapagos Islands

  • Renowned worldwide for its unique species, the islands host a wide array of aquatic wildlife, including marine iguanas, fur seals, and waved albatrosses.
  • The giant tortoises found here – ‘Galápagos’ in old Spanish– give the islands its name.
  • Ecuador made a part of the Galapagos a wildlife sanctuary in 1935, and the sanctuary became the Galapagos National Park in 1959.
  • In 1978, the islands became UNESCO’s first World Heritage Site.
  • It was here that the British naturalist Charles Darwin made key observations in 1835 that shaped his theory of evolution. Darwin described the islands as a “world in itself”.

History- Important places, persons in news

What is Black Rain?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Black Rain

Mains level : Hiroshima and Nagasaki Bombings by US

Ahead of the 75th anniversary of Hiroshima, a Japanese court has recognised 84 survivors of the post-nuclear explosion “black rain” as the atomic bomb survivors. This would enable them to avail free medical benefits.

Try this question from CSP 2011:

Q.Acid rain is caused by the pollution of the environment by:

(a) Carbon dioxide and nitrogen

(b) Carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide

(c) Ozone and carbon dioxide

(d) Nitrous oxide and Sulphur dioxide

What is Black Rain?

  • An estimated 69 per cent of the buildings in Hiroshima were destroyed by the atomic bomb.
  • The debris and soot from this, mixed with the radioactive fallout from the bomb, raised high into the atmosphere in the form of a mushroom cloud.
  • This material combined with the vapour in the atmosphere and came down as dark drops of liquid that have been called black rain.
  • Survivors of the black rain described it as consisting of large, greasy drops that are much heavier than normal raindrops.
  • It is full of highly radioactive material, and studies have shown that exposure to it can result in serious illnesses.

What was its effect?

  • A study conducted in the year 1945 itself showed that black rain had come down as far as 29 km away from ground zero.
  • The rain contaminated everything it came in contact with, and dead fish were reported floating in water bodies and severely ill cattle were seen lying in the fields.
  • It has caused acute radiation symptoms (ARS) in many who were exposed to it, with reports of people suffering from nausea and diarrhoea for weeks.
  • Other ARS include fever, sore throat and loss of hair. Over time, many people who were exposed to black rain have developed cancer.

Indian Air Force Updates

Dassault Rafale Fighter Jets

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Rafale, Hammer

Mains level : India's arsenal

The five Rafale fighter jets that landed in Ambala will resurrect the Number 17 Golden Arrows squadron of the Indian Air Force (IAF).

Try this PYQ from CSP 2018:

Q.What is “Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD)”, sometimes seen in the news?

(a) An Israeli radar system

(b) India’s indigenous anti-missile programme

(c) An American anti-missile system

(d) A defence collaboration between Japan and South Korea

Dassault Rafale

(Refer image for specifications)

  • The state-of-the-art 4.5 Generation Rafale jet can reach almost double the speed of sound, with a top speed of 1.8 Mach.
  • With its multi-role capabilities, including electronic warfare, air defence, ground support and in-depth strikes, the Rafale lends air superiority to the Indian Air Force.

Armed with modern arms

  • Each aircraft has 14 storage stations for weapons. The jets come with one of the most advanced Meteor air-to-air missiles.
  • The 190-kg missile has a Beyond Visual Range (BVR) of over 100 km, travelling at a top speed of Mach 4.
  • The Rafale jets also come with SCALP, the air-to-ground cruise missile with a range over 300 km. It is a long-range deep strike missile.
  • The MICA air-to-air missile on Rafale is for both, close-quarter dogfights, and for BVR.
  • IAF has also asked for HAMMER (Highly Agile and Manoeuvrable Munition Extended Range), which is an air-to-ground precision-guided missile that can be used against bunker-type hardened targets within the range of 70 km.

What is so special about Rafale fighter jet?

  1. India in September 2016 inked a direct deal with the French government to purchase 36 new Rafale fighter jets in a 7.87 billion euro deal that is likely to bring major work to the Indian private sector in terms of offsets under the make in India policy.
  2. The Rafale deal for 36 jets includes over 3 billion euros of work for the Indian industry over the next 7-8 years.This has a huge potential to develop direct and indirect employment opportunities.
  3. High-end technology like engine know-how, major structural assembly is also likely in India, besides a chunk of avionics work.
  4. India will also get latest weapons like the Meteor and Scalp missiles as part of the contract, besides a 5 year support package that assures high availability of the fighter.
  5. India will pay a 15 % advance and deliveries are to start in three years.

India Specific enhancements

The Rafale deal caters to specific Indian air force needs. The fighter jet will be modified by France to meet the following:

  • Helmet mounted sights and targeting system to give the pilots lightening quick ability to shoot off weapons.
  • Ability to taken off from high altitude airbases like Leh on a ‘cold start’ – for quick reaction deployment
  • radar warning receiver to identify hostile tracking systems
  • A towed decoy system to thwart incoming missile attacks
  • French industrial support for fighter for 50 years

VITAL Stats

  • 7.87 billion Euro: Deal cost. This includes weapon systems, five year support, training, infrastructure and warranties. 15% to be paid in advance.
  • 91.7 million euros: as per contract, if other costs like weapons, training etc not counted, per unit price of single seat Rafale is 91.7 million euros
  • 75 % availability: French side will ensure that at any given point, at least 75 percent of the fleet is combat worthy. Failing which, heavy penalities to be invoked.
  • 67 months delivery: All aircraft ordered to be delivered within 67 months with first one coming in by 36 months
  • 50% offsets: Indian industry to get major boost as French side will invest half of deal value in Make in India products or technology transfer. Indian Partners to be firmed up within a year.
  • 328 million Euros: Saved by negotiation efforts by the Indian side on the Rafale deal, according to defence ministry sources.
  • 28/8: according to deal, India to get 28 single seater jets and 8 twin seaters for training.

For an edge over China

  • While China’s J20 Chengdu jets are called fifth-generation combat jets, compared to 4.5 generation Rafale, the J20 have no actual combat experience.
  • Whereas the Rafale is combat proven, having been used by the French Air Force for its missions in Afghanistan, Libya and Mali.
  • It has also been used for missions in Central African Republic, Iraq and Syria. Rafale can also carry more fuel and weapons than the J20.

GI(Geographical Indicator) Tags

Kashmir saffron gets GI certificate

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kashmir Saffron

Mains level : Not Much

The J&K administration has issued the certificate of geographical indication (GI) registration for saffron grown in the Kashmir Valley.

Must read:

GI Tags in news for 2020 Prelims

All time GI tags in news

Kashmir saffron

  • It is cultivated and harvested in the Karewa (highlands) in some regions of Kashmir, including Pulwama, Budgam, Kishtwar and Srinagar.
  • It is a very precious and costly product. Iran is the largest producer of saffron and India is a close competitor.
  • It rejuvenates health and is used in cosmetics and for medicinal purposes.
  • It has been associated with traditional Kashmiri cuisine and represents the rich cultural heritage of the region.
  • Saffron cultivation is believed to have been introduced in Kashmir by Central Asian immigrants around 1st Century BCE. In ancient Sanskrit literature, saffron is referred to as ‘bahukam’.

3 Types

The saffron available in Kashmir is of three types —

  • ‘Lachha Saffron’, with stigmas just separated from the flowers and dried without further processing;
  • ‘Mongra Saffron’, in which stigmas are detached from the flower, dried in the sun and processed traditionally; and
  • ‘Guchhi Saffron’, which is the same as Lachha, except that the latter’s dried stigmas are packed loosely in air-tight containers while the former has stigmas joined together in a bundle tied with a cloth thread

Whats’ so special about Kashmir Saffron?

  • The unique characteristics of Kashmir saffron are its longer and thicker stigmas, natural deep-red colour, high aroma, bitter flavour, chemical-free processing, and high quantity of crocin (colouring strength), safranal (flavour) and picrocrocin (bitterness).
  • It is the only saffron in the world grown at an altitude of 1,600 m to 1,800 m AMSL (above mean sea level), which adds to its uniqueness and differentiates it from other saffron varieties available the world over.

Global Geological And Climatic Events

[pib] Ravines of Chambal-Gwalior Region

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ravines, Chambal River

Mains level : Features of badland topography

Union Minister of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare held a meeting with World Bank representatives to bring large Ravines of Gwalior–Chambal region under agriculture.

Try this question for mains:

Q.What is Badland Topography? Discuss the scope of their utilization as arable land in India.

What are Ravines?

  • Badland topography is a major feature of the Chambal valley is characterized by an undulating floodplain, gullies and ravines.
  • Ravines are a type of fluvial erosional feature and are formed as a result of constant vertical erosion by streams and rivers flowing over semi-arid and arid regions.

How are they formed?

  • Researchers consider the regional climate as a major factor in the formation of ravines.
  • Climate indeed plays a huge role by supplying the water in the form of rain or snow as well as providing the temperature variations.
  • However, the ravines of Chambal are a bit difficult to be explained solely on climatic terms.
  • The region through which the Chambal River flows does not receive enough rainfall to create ravines that are 60–80 m deep.
  • Researchers have attributed neotectonic activities to the Chambal ravines genesis.

Other factors

  • It is well known that rivers are full of energy and actively erode in their initial phases and progressively become passive as they attain their base levels.
  • But sometimes, due to tectonic movements, the base level may be lowered further thus energizing the river and reactivating the erosion. This is known as River Rejuvenation.
  • Moreover, wind erosion has also contributed to the formation of Chambal ravines.

Back2Basics: What are Badlands?

  • Badlands are erosional landforms of highly dissected morphology that are created on soft bedrock in a variety of climate conditions.
  • They develop in arid to semiarid areas where the bedrock is poorly cemented and rainfall is generally heavy and intermittent.
  • The dry, granular surface material and light vegetation are swept from the slopes during showers, leaving the gullies bare.

History- Important places, persons in news

Rosalind Franklin: the unsung heroine of DNA

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : DNA/RNA

Mains level : Not Much

The famous British scientist and virologist Rosalind Franklin is remembered across the world on her birth centenary who worked to construct the double-helix structure of DNA.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2019:

DNA/RNA has been an all-time favourite of UPSC!

Q.‘RNA interference (RNAi)’ technology has gained popularity in the last few years. Why?

  1. It is used in developing gene-silencing therapies.
  2. It can be used in developing therapies for the treatment of cancer.
  3. It can be used to develop hormone replacement therapies.
  4. It can be used to produce crop plants that are resistant to viral pathogens.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1, 2 and 4

(b) 2 and 3

(c) 1 and 3

(d) 1 and 4 only

Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958)

  • She was an English chemist and X-ray crystallographer whose work was central to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), RNA (ribonucleic acid), viruses, coal, and graphite.
  • Although her works on coal and viruses were appreciated in her lifetime, her contributions to the discovery of the structure of DNA were largely recognised posthumously.

DNA breakthrough

  • In 1952, Raymond Gosling, a graduate student at King’s College London, took a historic X-ray photograph under Franklin’s supervision.
  • Photo 51, as it is called, demonstrates the now-familiar, double-helix structure of DNA.

Why is she remembered now?

  • The world is currently gripped in a pandemic, and her pioneering research in virology provided a crucial early step in the search for cures, vaccinations and tests.
  • During the Second World War, Franklin carried out research into coal and graphite that proved important for gas-masks, the PPE of that time.
  • It is because of Franklin, her collaborators and successors, that today’s researchers are able to use tools such as DNA sequencing and X-ray crystallography to investigate viruses such as COVID-10.

Back2Basics: DNA/RNA 

  • Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and Ribonucleic acid (RNA) are perhaps the most important molecules in cell biology, responsible for the storage and reading of genetic information that underpins all life.
  • They are both linear polymers, consisting of sugars, phosphates and bases, but there are some key differences which separate the two.
  • These distinctions enable the two molecules to work together and fulfil their essential roles.
  • DNA encodes all genetic information and is the blueprint from which all biological life is created. And that’s only in the short-term.
  • In the long-term, DNA is a storage device, a biological flash drive that allows the blueprint of life to be passed between generations.
  • RNA functions as the reader that decodes this flash drive. This reading process is multi-step and there are specialized RNAs for each of these steps.

Three types of RNA

  • Messenger RNA (mRNA) copies portions of genetic code; a process called transcription and transports these copies to ribosomes, which are the cellular factories that facilitate the production of proteins from this code.
  • Transfer RNA (tRNA) is responsible for bringing amino acids, basic protein building blocks, to these protein factories, in response to the coded instructions introduced by the mRNA. This protein-building process is called translation.
  • Finally, Ribosomal RNA (rRNA) is a component of the ribosome factory itself without which protein production would not occur.

Microfinance Story of India

Open Credit Enablement Network (OCEN)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Open Credit Enablement Network (OCEN)

Mains level : Credit facilities for MSMEs

A new credit protocol infrastructure called the OCEN protocol is set to be launched very soon.

Practice question for mains:

Q. What is Open Credit Enablement Network (OCEN)? How it is expected to be a gamechanger in the micro-credit facilitation services in India?

Open Credit Enablement Network (OCEN)

  • OCEN is a credit protocol infrastructure, which will mediate the interactions between loan service providers, usually fintech and mainstream lenders, including all large banks and NBFCs.
  • It is developed by a think tank, Indian Software Products Industry Round Table (iSPIRT).
  • With this, a credit will become more accessible for a large number of entrepreneurs and small businesses in the country.
  • Private equity and venture capital players, angel investors, high net worth individuals and others also could be part of this exercise as investors.

How will it work?

  • iSpirit is partnering with key leaders such as SBI, HDFC Bank Ltd., ICICI Bank Ltd., IDFC First Bank Ltd., Axis Bank Ltd. etc. for this new credit rail.
  • Account Aggregators which will be using these APIs to embed credit offerings in their applications, and will be called ‘Loan Service Providers’, which will play a crucial role in democratizing access to credit, and lowering interest rates for customers.

Why need OCEN?

  • The cost of lending being too high in India, small value loans becomes very unfeasible.
  • OCEN which seeks to connect lenders to marketplaces and thereby to borrowers is a technology system.
  • If implemented, the technology can democratize lending to micro-enterprises and street vendors in a big way.

Tribes in News

Tribe in news: Siddi Community

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Siddi Tribals

Mains level : NA

The Siddi community gets its first lawmaker in Karnataka. They are included as the Scheduled Tribes in Karnataka.

Try this question from CSP 2019:

Q.Consider the following statements about Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) in India:

  1. PVTGs reside in 18 States and one Union Territory.
  2. A stagnant or declining population is one of the criteria for determining PVTG status.
  3. There are 95 PVTGs officially notified in the country so far.
  4. Irular and Konda Reddi tribes are included in the list of PVTGs.

Which of the statements given above are correct?

(a) 1, 2 and 3

(b) 2, 3 and 4

(c) 1, 2 and 4

(d) 1, 3 and 4

Siddi Tribe

  • The Siddi also known as Sidi, Siddhi, Sheedi or Habshi, are an ethnic group inhabiting India and Pakistan.
  • They are sometimes referred to as Afro-Indians. They are descended from the Bantu peoples of the East African region.
  • Similarly, another term for Siddis, habshi, is held to be derived from the common name for the captains of the Abyssinian ships that also first delivered Siddi slaves to the subcontinent.
  • They are primarily Muslims, although some are Hindus and others belong to the Catholic Church.

How they came to India?

  • The first Siddis are thought to have arrived in India in 628 AD at the Bharuch port. Several others followed with the first Arab conquest of the subcontinent in 712 AD.
  • The latter groups are believed to have been soldiers with Muhammad bin Qasim’s Arab army and were called Zanjis.
  • In the Delhi Sultanate period prior to the rise of the Mughals in India, Jamal-ud-Din Yaqut was a prominent Siddi slave-turned-nobleman who was a close confidant of Razia Sultana.
  • Siddis were also brought as slaves by the Deccan Sultanates. They also served in the Navy of Shivaji Maharaj.
  • Several former slaves rose to high ranks in the military and administration, the most prominent of which was Malik Ambar.
  • Later the Siddi population was added to via Bantu peoples from Southeast Africa that had been brought to the Indian subcontinent as slaves by the Portuguese.

Nuclear Energy

[pib] Kakrapar Atomic Power Project (KAPP-3) in Gujarat

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Criticality of the nuclear reactors

Mains level : India's nuclear energy policy

The indigenously designed 700 MWe reactor at the Kakrapar Atomic Power Project has achieved Criticality.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2013:

Q. The known forces of nature can be divided into four classes, viz, gravity, electromagnetism, weak nuclear force and strong nuclear force. With reference to them, which one of the following statements is not correct?

(a) Gravity is the strongest of the four

(b) Electromagnetism act only on particles with an electric charge

(c) Weak nuclear force causes radioactivity

(d) Strong nuclear force holds protons and neutrons inside the nuclear of an atom.

What is ‘Criticality’ in Atomic/Nuclear Power Plants?

  • Reactors are the heart of an atomic power plant, where a controlled nuclear fission reaction takes place that produces heat, which is used to generate steam that then spins a turbine to create electricity.
  • Fission is a process in which the nucleus of an atom splits into two or smaller nuclei, and usually some by-product particles.
  • When the nucleus splits, the kinetic energy of the fission fragments is transferred to other atoms in the fuel as heat energy, which is eventually used to produce steam to drive the turbines.
  • For every fission event, if at least one of the emitted neutrons on average causes fission, a self-sustaining chain reaction will take place.
  • A nuclear reactor achieves criticality when each fission event releases a sufficient number of neutrons to sustain an ongoing series of reactions.

Controlling Criticality

  • When a reactor is starting up, the number of neutrons is increased slowly in a controlled manner. Neutron-absorbing control rods in the reactor core are used to calibrate neutron production.
  • The control rods are made from neutron-absorbing elements such as cadmium, boron, or hafnium.
  • The deeper the rods are lowered into the reactor core, the more neutrons the rods absorb and the less fission occurs.
  • Technicians pull up or lower down the control rods into the reactor core depending on whether more or less fission, neutron production, and power are desired.
  • If a malfunction occurs, technicians can remotely plunge control rods into the reactor core to quickly soak up neutrons and shut down the nuclear reaction.

Why is this achievement significant?

  • It is the biggest indigenously developed variant of the Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR).
  • The PHWRs, which use natural uranium as fuel and heavy water as moderator, is the mainstay of India’s nuclear reactor fleet.
  • Until now, the biggest reactor size of the indigenous design was the 540 MWe PHWR, two of which have been deployed in Tarapur, Maharashtra.
  • India works to ramp up its existing nuclear power capacity of 6,780 MWe to 22,480 MWe by 2031.
  • The 700MWe capacity constitutes the biggest component of the expansion plan.

Back2Basics: India’s PHWR technology

  • PHWR technology started in India in the late 1960s with the construction of the first 220 MWe reactor, Rajasthan Atomic Power Station, RAPS-1 under the joint Indo-Canadian nuclear co-operation.
  • Canada supplied all the main equipment for this first unit, while India retained responsibility for construction, installation, and commissioning.
  • For the second unit (RAPS-2), import content was reduced considerably, and indigenization was undertaken for major equipment.
  • Following the withdrawal of Canadian support in 1974 after Pokhran-1, Indian nuclear engineers completed the construction, and the plant was made operational with a majority of components being made in India.

Festivals, Dances, Theatre, Literature, Art in News

In news: Madhubani/Mithila Paintings

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Madhubani paintings

Mains level : Not Much

An artist known as the ‘mask man’ of Bihar dispatches masks with hand-painted Madhubani motifs all over India.

Also read:

[Prelims Spotlight] Indian Paintings and Handicrafts

Madhubani Paintings

  • Madhubani art (or Mithila painting) is a style of Indian painting, practised in the Mithila region of Bihar.
  • This painting is done with a variety of tools, including fingers, twigs, brushes, nib-pens, and matchsticks and using natural dyes and pigments.
  • It is characterized by its eye-catching geometrical patterns.
  • It was traditionally created by the women of various communities in the Mithila region of the Indian subcontinent.
  • This painting as a form of wall art was practised widely throughout the region; the more recent development of painting on paper and canvas mainly originated among the villages around Madhubani.
  • It is these latter developments that led to the term “Madhubani art” being used alongside “Mithila Painting.”

Its features

  • It uses two-dimensional imagery, and the colours used are derived from plants. Ochre, Lampblack and Red are used for reddish-brown and black, respectively.
  • It mostly depicts people and their association with nature and scenes and deities from the ancient epics.
  • Natural objects like the sun, the moon, and religious plants like tulsi are also widely painted, along with scenes from the royal court and social events like weddings.
  • Generally, no space is left empty; the gaps are filled by paintings of flowers, animals, birds, and even geometric designs.
  • Madhubani art has five distinctive styles: Bharni, Kachni, Tantrik, Godna and Kohbar.
  • This painting has also received a GI (Geographical Indication) status.

Global Geological And Climatic Events

Lonar Lake turned pink due to ‘Haloarchaea’ microbes

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Lonar Crater Lake, Pleistoscene epoch

Mains level : Not Much

The colour of Lonar lake water in Maharashtra’s Buldhana district turned pink due to a large presence of the salt-loving ‘Haloarchaea’ microbes, a probe carried out by a Pune-based institute has concluded.

Make a note of all saltwater lakes in India. Few of them are Pulicat, Pangong Tso, Chilika, and Sambhar Lakes etc.

Haloarchaea’ microbes

  • Haloarchaea or halophilic archaea is a bacteria culture which produces pink pigment and is found in water saturated with salt.
  • The increased salinity and pH facilitated the growth of halophilic microbes, mainly Haloarchaea.
  • Basically, it is the biomass of these microbes and because of that, the surface of the water turned red or pink and as soon as the biomass subsided, the colour disappeared.
  • The scientist said the colour of the lake is now returning to original as the rainy season has kicked in, allowing dilution of the water.
  • Initially, it was thought for the red-pigmented Dunaliella algae due to which the water might have turned pink.
  • Because of that, the salinity and pH/alkalinity levels have also come down and green algae have started growing in the water body.

About Lonar Lake

  • Lonar Lake, also known as Lonar crater, is a notified National Geo-heritage Monument, saline (pH of 10.5), Soda Lake, located at Lonar in Buldhana district, Maharashtra.
  • It was created by an asteroid collision with earth impact during the Pleistocene Epoch.
  • It is one of the four known, hyper-velocity, impact craters in basaltic rock anywhere on Earth.
  • It sits inside the Deccan Plateau—a massive plain of volcanic basalt rock created by eruptions some 65 million years ago.
  • Its location in this basalt field suggested to some geologists that it was a volcanic crater.

Cyber Security – CERTs, Policy, etc

BlackRock Android Malware

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Malwares

Mains level : Data privacy issues

Various security firms have alerted about new malware, called BlackRock.

Try this question from CSP 2018:

Q.The terms ‘WannaCry, Petya, Eternal Blue’ sometimes mentioned news recently are related to

(a) Exoplanets

(b) Cryptocurrency

(c) Cyberattacks

(d) Mini satellites

BlackRock

  • BlackRock isn’t exactly a new malware. In fact, it is based on the leaked source code of the Xeres malware, itself derived from a malware called LokiBot.
  • The only big difference between BlackRock and other Android banking trojans is that it can target more apps than previous malwares.

How does it work?

  • BlackRock works like most Android malware. Once installed on a phone, it monitors the targeted app.
  • When the user enters the login and/or credit card details, the malware sends the information to a server.
  • BlackRock uses the phone’s Accessibility feature and then uses an Android DPC (device policy controller) to provide access to other permissions.
  • It can be used to send and steal SMS messages, hide notifications, keylogging, AV detection, and much more.

Threats posed

  • The new malware can steal information like passwords and credit card information from about 377 smartphone applications, including Amazon, Facebook, and Gmail.
  • It is so powerful that it makes antivirus applications useless.

International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

[pib] Asteroid 2020 ND

NASA has issued a warning that a huge “Asteroid 2020 ND” will move past Earth on July 24.

Try this question from CSP 2014:

Q.What is a coma, in the content of astronomy?

(a) Bright half of material on the comet

(b) Long tail of dust

(c) Two asteroids orbiting each other

(d) Two planets orbiting each other

What are Asteroids?

  • Asteroids are small, rocky objects that orbit the Sun. They are leftover from the formation of our solar system.
  • Although asteroids orbit the Sun like planets, they are much smaller than planets.
  • There are lots of asteroids in our solar system. Most of them live in the main asteroid belt—a region between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
  • Some asteroids go in front of and behind Jupiter. They are called Trojans.
  • Asteroids that come close to Earth are called Near-Earth Objects, NEOs for short. NASA keeps a close watch on these asteroids.

Asteroid 2020 ND

  • The 2020 ND is about 170 metres-long.
  • It will be as close as 0.034 astronomical units (5,086,328 kilometres) to our planet and is travelling at a speed of 48,000 kilometres per hour.
  • Its distance from Earth has placed it in the “Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs)” category.

How are PHAs defined?

  • PHAs are currently defined based on parameters that measure the asteroid’s potential to make threatening close approaches to the Earth.
  • NASA classifies objects like these as ‘near-Earth objects’ (NEOs) as they get nudged by other planets’ gravitational attraction resulting in their proximity to our solar system.
  • It is not necessary that asteroids classified as PHAs will impact the Earth. It only means there is a possibility for such a threat.

Can they be deflected?

  • Over the years, scientists have suggested different ways to ward off such threats, such as blowing up the asteroid before it reaches Earth or deflecting it off its Earth-bound course by hitting it with a spacecraft.
  • The most drastic measure undertaken so far is the Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (AIDA), which includes NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission and the ESA’s Hera.
  • Both mission’s target is Didymos, a binary near-Earth asteroid, one of whose bodies is of the size that could pose the most likely significant threat to Earth.
  • In 2018, NASA announced that it had started the construction of DART, which is scheduled to launch in 2021 with an aim to slam into the smaller asteroid of the Didymos system at around 6 km per second in 2022.
  • Hera, which is scheduled to launch in 2024, will arrive at the Didymos system in 2027 to measure the impact crater produced by the DART collision and study the change in the asteroid’s orbital trajectory.

Back2Basics: Near-Earth objects (NEOs)

  • NEOs are comets and asteroids nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits which allows them to enter the Earth’s neighbourhood.
  • These objects are composed mostly of water ice with embedded dust particles, and occasionally approach close to the Earth as they orbit the Sun.
  • NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Study (CNEOS) determines the times and distances of these objects as and when their approach to the Earth is close.