ISRO Missions and Discoveries

ISRO places Brazil’s Amazonia-1 satellite

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Amazonia satellite

Mains level : Not Much

The successful launch of Brazil’s Amazonia-1 satellite by the Indian Space Research Organisation marks a new high point in space cooperation between the two countries.

Note why Amazonia-1 Satellite is distinct in itself. It paves for statement based MCQs.

Amazonia-1 Satellite

  • The Amazônia-1 or SSR- is the first Earth observation satellite entirely developed by Brazil.
  • It is optimized to peer at the cloud-covered region of its namesake, the Amazon forest since it has infrared capabilities that allow it to look at the forest cover regardless of the weather.
  • Brazil plans to use the satellite to “alert deforestation” in the region, Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) said in an Amazonia 1 mission description.

Significance of the launch

  • This confirms the infinite potential of the India-Brazil partnership to overcome our development challenges through high technology.
  • The launch also marked the first dedicated mission of ISRO’s commercial arm NewSpace India Ltd. (NSIL).

Digital India Initiatives

E-Daakhil portal for consumer grievance redressal

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : E-Daakhil

Mains level : Consumer greivances redressal mechanisms

The Union Government has informed that the ‘E-Daakhil’ portal for consumer grievance redressal is now operational in 15 states and Union Territories (UTs).

Try this question from our AWE initiative:

What are the objectives sought to be achieved through The Consumer Protection (E-Commerce) Rules, 2020 to regulate commercial transactions? What are the issues with the rules? 10 marks

E-Daakhil

  • The Consumer Protection Act, 2019, which came into force on July 20, 2020, has a provision for e-filing of consumer complaints in the consumer commissions and online payment of the fees for filing a complaint.
  • A web application for e-filing of consumer complaints named ‘edaakhil.nic.in’ has been developed by NIC for the purpose.
  • E-filing was launched by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) on September 7, 2020.
  • Delhi was the first state to implement it on September 8, 2020.

Features of the portal

  • The E-Daakhil portal empowers the consumer and their advocates to file the consumer complaints along with payment of requisite fees online from anywhere for the redressal of their complaints.
  • It facilitates the consumer commissions to scrutinise the complaints online to accept, reject or forward the complaint to the concerned commission for further processing.
  • The digital software for filing consumer complaints has many features like e-notice, case document download link and virtual hearing link, filing written response by the opposite party, fling rejoinder by complainant and alerts via SMS/e-mail.
  • To facilitate the rural consumers for e-filing, it has been decided to integrate the common service centres (CSC) with the E-Daakhil portal.

History- Important places, persons in news

[pib] Who was Mannathu Padmanabhan (1878-1970)?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mannathu Padmanabhan

Mains level : Not Much

The Prime Minister has tweeted tributes to Sri Mannathu Padmanabhan on his death anniversary.

UPSC is digging deeper in the regional freedom movements to get such questions beyond our knowledge base.Try this question from CSP 2020

Q.The Vital Vidhvansak, the first monthly journal to have the untouchable people as its target audience was published by:

(a) Gopal Babu Walangkar

(b) Jyotiba Phule

(c) Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

(d) Bhimarao Ramji Ambedkar

Here, we know something about options b, c and d. So it is less dicey to pull the odd man out.

Mannathu Padmanabhan

  • Padmanabhan was an Indian social reformer and freedom fighter from the south-western state of Kerala.
  • He is recognised as the founder of the Nair Service Society (NSS), which claims to represent the Nair community that constitutes 12.10% (From KMS 2011) of the population of the state.
  • He fought for social equality, the first phase being the Vaikom Satyagraha, demanding the public roads near the temple at Vaikom be opened to low caste Hindus.
  • He took part in the Vaikom (1924) and Guruvayoor (1931) temple-entry Satyagrahas; the anti-untouchability agitations. He opened his family temple for everyone, irrespective of caste distinction.
  • He became a member of the Indian National Congress in 1946 and took part in the agitation against Sir C. P. Ramaswamy Iyer’s administration in Travancore.
  • As the first president of the Travancore Devaswom Board, he revitalised many temples which had almost ceased to function.

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

[pib] Sun’s Rotation over the Century

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sun’s Rotation

Mains level : Not Much

Scientists at Kodaikanal Solar Observatory have estimated how the Sun has rotated over a century from data extracted from old films and photographs that have been digitized.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Consider the following phenomena:

  1. Size of the sun at dusk
  2. Colour of the sun at dawn
  3. Moon being visible at dawn
  4. Twinkle of stars in the sky
  5. Polestar being visible in the sky

Which of the above are optical illusions?

(a) 1, 2 and 3

(b) 3, 4 and 5

(c) 1, 2 and 4

(d) 2, 3 and 5

Sun’s Rotation

  • The Sun rotates around an axis that is roughly perpendicular to the plane of the ecliptic; the Sun’s rotational axis is tilted by 7.25° from perpendicular to the ecliptic.
  • It rotates in the counterclockwise direction (when viewed from the north), the same direction that the planets rotate (and orbit around the Sun).
  • The Sun’s rotation period varies with latitude on the Sun since it is made of gas.
  • Equatorial regions rotate faster than Polar Regions.
  • The equatorial regions (latitude = 0 degrees) rotate in about 25.6 days. The regions at 60 degrees latitude rotate in about 30.9 days. Polar Regions rotate in about 36 days.

Key observations of the study

  • The Sun rotates more quickly at its equator than at its poles.
  • Over time, the Sun’s differential rotation rates cause its magnetic field to become twisted and tangled.
  • The tangles in the magnetic field lines can produce strong localized magnetic fields.
  • When the Sun’s magnetic field gets twisted, there are lots of sunspots.
  • The sunspots which form at the surface with an 11-year periodicity are the only route to probe the solar dynamo or solar magnetism inside the Sun and hence measure the variation in solar rotation.

Benefits offered

  • This estimation would help study the magnetic field generated in the interior of the Sun, which causes sunspots and results in extreme situations like the historical mini-ice age on Earth (absence of sunspots).
  • It could also help predict solar cycles and their variations in the future.

Mother and Child Health – Immunization Program, BPBB, PMJSY, PMMSY, etc.

Intensified Mission Indradhanush (IMI) 3.0

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mission Indradhanush

Mains level : Universal immunization programme

States and UTs have started the implementation of the Intensified Mission Indradhanush 3.0, a campaign aimed to reach those children and pregnant women who have been missed out or been left out of the routine immunisation.

Do not get confused with the Mission Indradhanush for Public Sector Banks launched in 2015. It aims at revamping the functioning of the Public Sector Banks to enable them to compete with the Private Sector Banks.

Intensified Mission Indradhanush (IMI) 3.0

  • IMI 3.0 is aimed to accelerate the full immunization of children and pregnant women through a mission mode intervention.
  • The campaign is scheduled to have two rounds of immunisation lasting 15 days (excluding routine immunisation and holidays).
  • It is being conducted in pre-identified 250 districts/urban areas across 29 States/UTs in the country.
  • Beneficiaries from migration areas and hard to reach areas will be targeted as they may have missed their vaccine doses during the pandemic.

About the Mission Indradhanush

  • Mission Indradhanush seeks to drive towards 90% full immunisation coverage of India and sustain the same by the year 2020. It was launched in December 2014.

Aims and objectives

  • It aims to immunize all children under the age of 2 years, as well as all pregnant women, against eight vaccine-preventable diseases.
  • The diseases being targeted are diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, poliomyelitis, tuberculosis, measles, meningitis and Hepatitis B.
  • In 2016, four new additions have been made namely Rubella, Japanese Encephalitis, Injectable Polio Vaccine Bivalent and Rotavirus.
  • In 2017, Pneumonia was added to the Mission by incorporating the Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine under Universal Immunisation Programme

Try this question from CSP 2016:

Q.‘Mission Indradhanush’ launched by the Government of India pertains to:

(a) Immunization of children and pregnant women

(b) Construction of smart cities across the country

(c) India’s own search for the Earth-like planets in outer space

(d) New Educational Policy

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

Carbon Watch: India’s first app to assess one’s carbon footprint

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Carbon footprints, Ecological footprints

Mains level : Not Much

Chandigarh became the first state or UT in India to launch Carbon Watch, a mobile application to assess the carbon footprint of an individual.

Carbon Footprint

  • A carbon footprint is the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by an individual, event, organization, service, or product, expressed as carbon dioxide equivalent.
  • It corresponds to the whole amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) produced to, directly and indirectly; support a person’s lifestyle and activities.
  • Carbon footprints are usually measured in equivalent tons of CO2, during the period of a year, and they can be associated with an individual, an organization, a product or an event, among others.
  • The GHGs whose sum results in a carbon footprint can come from the production and consumption of fossil fuels, food, manufactured goods, materials, roads or transportation.

Note: An ecological footprint, as explained earlier compares the total resources people consume with the land and water area that is needed to replace those resources. A carbon footprint also deals with resource usage but focuses strictly on the greenhouse gases released due to burning of fossil fuels.

How does the app Carbon Watch work?

  • As a person downloads the application, they will need to fill details in four parts — Water, Energy, Waste Generation and Transport (Vehicular movement).
  • In the category of Water, the person will be required to inform about the consumption of water.
  • In the Energy category, the details regarding the electricity units consumed every month at the house, monthly bill etc and usage of solar energy will have to be furnished.
  • In the Waste category, the individual will need to inform about the waste generated on their part and their family.
  • In the transport section, the individual will have to inform about the mode of transport used by four-wheeler, two-wheeler or bicycle.

Try this PYQ:

As a result of their annual survey, the National Geographic Society and an international polling firm GlobeScan gave India top rank in Greendex 2009 score. What is this score?

(a) It is a measure of efforts made by different countries in adopting technologies for reducing the carbon footprint

(b) It is a measure of environmentally sustainable consumer behavior in different countries

(c) It is an assessment of programs/schemes undertaken by different countries for improving the conservation of natural resources

(d) It is an index showing the volume of carbon credits sold by different countries

Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

What are Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Diseases (NAFLD)?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NAFLD

Mains level : Health threats posed by Fats

The Union Govt has integrated the Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke.

Try this MCQ:

Q.A Company marketing food products advertises that its items do not contain trans-fats. What does this campaign signify to the customers?

  1. The food products are not made out of hydrogenated oils.
  2. The food products are not made out of animal fats/oils.
  3. The oils used are not likely to damage the cardiovascular health of the consumers.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) Only 1

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

NAFLD

  • NAFLD is the abnormal accumulation of fat in the liver in the absence of secondary causes of fatty liver, such as harmful alcohol use, viral hepatitis, or medications.
  • According to doctors, it is a serious health concern as it encompasses a spectrum of liver abnormalities.
  • It can cause non-alcoholic fatty liver (NAFL, simple fatty liver disease) to more advanced ones like non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), cirrhosis and even liver cancer.

Why such a move?

  • NAFLD is emerging as an important cause of liver disease in India.
  • Epidemiological studies suggest the prevalence of NAFLD is around 9% to 32% of the general population in India with a higher prevalence in those with overweight or obesity and those with diabetes or prediabetes.
  • Researchers have found NAFLD in 40% to 80 % of people who have type 2 diabetes and in 30% to 90% of people who are obese.
  • Studies also suggest that people with NAFLD have a greater chance of developing cardiovascular disease.
  • Cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of death in NAFLD.

Monsoon Updates

Mawsynram: Wettest place on Earth sees a decreasing trend in rainfall

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mawsynram

Mains level : Not Much

A recent study that looked at the rainfall pattern in the past 119 years found a decreasing trend at Cherrapunji and nearby areas.

Try this PYQ:

Q.“Climate is extreme, rainfall is scanty and the people used to be nomadic herders.” The above statement best describes which of the following regions?

(a) African Savannah

(b) Central Asian Steppe

(c) North American Prairie

(d) Siberian Tundra

Mawsynram

  • Mawsynram is a town in the East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya state in northeastern India, 60.9 kilometres from Shillong.
  • Mawsynram receives the highest rainfall in India.
  • It is reportedly the wettest place on Earth, with an average annual rainfall of 11,872mm but that claim is disputed.
  • According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Mawsynram received 26,000 millimetres (1,000 in) of rainfall in 1985.

Why it rain highest in Mawsynram?

  • Because of the uneven relief of India due to the presence of a number of hill ranges, the monsoon is not able to shed its moisture evenly over India.
  • Windward sides receive more rainfall and leeward sides receive less rainfall.
  • Mawsynram lies in the funnel-shaped depression caused by the Khasi range in Meghalaya.
  • The Bay of Bengal branch of monsoons is trapped in it and causes heavy rainfall.

Decreasing rainfall trends

  • The research analysed daily rain gauge measurements during 1901–2019 and noted that the changes in the Indian Ocean temperature have a huge effect on the rainfall in the region.
  • There was a reduction in the vegetation area in northeast India in the past two decades, implying that human influence also plays an important role in the changing rainfall patterns.
  • The traditional way of cultivation known as Jhum cultivation or shifting cultivation is now decreased and being replaced by other methods.
  • Also, previous studies have noted there is sizable deforestation in the region.

History- Important places, persons in news

[pib] Who was Sant Ravidas?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sant Ravidas

Mains level : Bhakti Saints and their contribution

The President of India recently addressed the ‘Shri Guru Ravidas Vishva Mahapeeth Rashtriya Adhiveshan-2021’ in New Delhi.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2019:

Q.Consider the following statements:

1.Saint Nimbarka was a contemporary of Akbar.

2.Saint Kabir was greatly influenced by Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi.

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

Who was Sant Ravidas?

  • Ravidas was an Indian mystic poet-saint of the Bhakti movement and founder of the Ravidassia religion during the 15th to 16th century CE.
  • Venerated as a guru (teacher) in the region of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and mainly Punjab and Haryana. He was a poet-saint, social reformer and spiritual figure.
  • The life details of Ravidas are uncertain and contested. Scholars believe he was born in 1450 CE, in the cobbler caste.
  • Ravidas’s devotional Verses were included in the Sikh scriptures known as Guru Granth Sahib.
  • The Panch Vani text of the Dadupanthi tradition within Hinduism also includes numerous poems of Ravidas.
  • He taught the removal of social divisions of caste and gender and promoted unity in the pursuit of personal spiritual freedoms.

Why his preaching is important?

  • Philosophy and values of Sant Ravidas like social justice, equality and fraternity have been imbued in our constitutional values.
  • He had envisaged a society that is based on equality and free from any kind of discrimination.
  • He gave it the name ‘Be-gampura’ (a city near Lahore) where there is no place for any kind of grief or fear.
  • Such an ideal city would be bereft of fear, vulnerability or scarcity. Rule of law based on the right ideas like equality and welfare of all would be the principle for governance.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Life deep beneath Antarctica’s ice shelves

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Life under Antarctic

Mains level : Not Much

Researchers have accidentally discovered living under the ice shelves of the Antarctic — in extremely cold and harsh conditions.

Life beneath the Antarctic

  • Scientists have discovered sessile sponges — a pore bearing multicellular organism and other alien species — attached to the sides of rock beneath the ice sheets.
  • The unidentified species are estimated to be related to sponges, ascidians (sea squirts), hydroids, barnacles, cnidarian or polychaete. All of these look like bristle worms.
  • Scientists are yet to discover how these organisms access food.
  • They would use Environment Deoxyribonucleic acid (e-DNA) technology in future to identify the organisms.

Organisms discovered

Sponges

  • Sponges are the members of the phylum Porifera.
  • They are multicellular organisms that have bodies full of pores and channels allowing water to circulate through them, consisting of jelly-like mesohyl sandwiched between two thin layers of cells.

Ascidians

  • Ascidians, or sea squirts, are invertebrate chordates that belong to the earliest branch in the chordate phylum.
  • Ascidians are found all over the world, usually in shallow water with salinities over 2.5%.

Hydroids

  • Hydroids are a life stage for most animals of the class Hydrozoa, small predators related to jellyfish.
  • Some hydroids such as the freshwater Hydra are solitary, with the polyp attached directly to the substrate.

Barnacles 

  • Barnacles are a highly specialized group of crustaceans.
  • A barnacle is a type of arthropod related to crabs and lobsters.

Cnidarians

  • Cnidarians, also called coelenterate, any member of the phylum Cnidaria (Coelenterata), a group made up of more than 9,000 living species.
  • Mostly marine animals, the cnidarians include the corals, hydras, jellyfish, Portuguese men-of-war, sea anemones, sea pens, sea whips, and sea fans.

Now take this chance to revise your biology basics on various phyla. It will be beneficial for state PSC exams. UPSC has also begun puzzling us on core biology questions.

Defying old theories

  • The discovery has left many of them baffled for it contradicts earlier theories of non-survival of life in such extreme conditions.
  • Until now, scientists believed that sea life decreased with an increase in the depth of the Antarctic ice floor.

Indian Army Updates

Arjun: Main Battle Tank MK-1A

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MBT Arjun

Mains level : India's artillery capability

PM has recently handed over the indigenously developed Arjun Main Battle Tank (MK-1A) to the Indian Army.

Q.Discuss India’s preparedness for high-altitude warfare.

Arjun Main Battle Tank

  • The Arjun Main Battle Tank project was initiated by DRDO in 1972 with the Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (CVRDE) as its lead laboratory.
  • The objective was to create a “state-of-the-art tank with superior firepower, high mobility, and excellent protection”.
  • During the development, the CVRDE achieved breakthroughs in the engine, transmission, hydro-pneumatic suspension, hull and turret as well as the gun control system.
  • Mass production began in 1996 at the Indian Ordnance Factory’s production facility in Avadi, Tamil Nadu.

Features of the Arjun tank

  • The Arjun tanks stand out for their ‘Fin Stabilised Armour Piercing Discarding Sabot (FSAPDS)’ ammunition and 120-mm calibre rifled gun.
  • It also has a computer-controlled integrated fire control system with a stabilised sighting that works in all lighting conditions.
  • The secondary weapons include a co-axial 7.62-mm machine gun for anti-personnel and a 12.7-mm machine gun for anti-aircraft and ground targets.

How is Mk-1A different?

  • The Mk-1A version has 14 major upgrades on the earlier version.
  • It is also supposed to have missile firing capability as per the design, but this feature will be added later as final testing of the capability is still on.
  • However, the biggest achievement with the latest version is 54.3 per cent indigenous content against the 41 per cent in the earlier model.

Oil and Gas Sector – HELP, Open Acreage Policy, etc.

Why are Petrol, Diesel prices rising?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Impact of fuel prices on inflation

Mains level : Global oil price dynamics

Diesel and petrol prices have hit record highs across the country.

Govt explanation

  • The government reasons that global crude oil prices have risen by more than 50 per cent to over $63.3 per barrel since October, forcing oil retailers to increase pump prices.
  • That, however, is only partly true.
  • Indian consumers are already paying much higher than what they were paying last January, even though crude prices are yet to reach levels of early last year.

Note: Petrol and diesel do not come under the purview of goods and services tax (GST).

Fuel price dynamics in India

  • Retail petrol and diesel prices are in theory decontrolled — or linked to global crude oil prices.
  • It means that if crude prices fall retails prices should come down too, and vice versa.
  • But this does not happen in practice, largely because oil price decontrol is a one-way street in India.
  • When global crude oil prices fall and prices slide, the government slaps fresh taxes and levies to ensure that it rakes in extra revenues.
  • The consumer should have ideally benefited by way of lower pump prices, is forced to either shell out what she’s already paying or spend even more for every litre of fuel.
  • The main beneficiary in this subversion of price decontrol is the government.

Why crude oil prices are rising now?

  • Prices collapsed in April 2020 after the pandemic spread around the world, and demand fell away.
  • But as economies have reduced travel restrictions and factory output has picked up, global demand has improved, and prices have been recovering.
  • The controlled production of crude amid rising demand has been another key factor in boosting oil prices, with Saudi Arabia voluntarily cutting its daily output.

What is the impact of taxes on retail prices of auto fuels?

  • The central government hiked the central excise duty on petrol to Rs 32.98 per litre during the course of last year from Rs 19.98 per litre at the beginning of 2020.
  • It increased the excise duty on diesel to Rs 31.83 per litre from Rs 15.83 over the same period to boost revenues as economic activity fell due to the pandemic.
  • A number of states have also hiked sales tax on petrol and diesel to shore up their revenues.

How much tax do we pay now?

Currently, state and central taxes amount to around 180 per cent of the base price of petrol and 141 per cent of the base price of diesel in Delhi.

How will these hikes impact inflation?

  • Experts note that the impact of rising fuel inflation has been counterbalanced by declining food inflation, but that consumers with greater expenditure on travel are feeling the pinch of higher prices.
  • Rising fuel inflation may pinch consumers who have to travel further for work and have access to affordable cereals etc.
  • The urban population would be more impacted by rising fuel prices than the rural population — however, a weak monsoon may lead to rural India being hit as farmers are forced to rely more on diesel-powered irrigation.

Global Geological And Climatic Events

India and Australia were evolutionary neighbours

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Dickinsonia, Bhimbetka

Mains level : Geological time scale

Bhimbetka, which has yielded a fossil of Dickinsonia dating back about 550 million years, is the first time the particular fossilized organism has been recorded in India.

Why does this fossil matter?

  • It dates back to an era regarded as the precursor to the explosion of life on earth during the Cambrian period.
  • Thus it puts India firmly on the map for studies of the Ediacaran era along with Australia and Russia.

Here’s what makes the discovery a global milestone:

(a) Ediacaran Period

  • The finding gives lead about the earliest living species during a period of the earth’s history known as the Ediacaran, named after the Ediacara Hills in South Australia.
  • This is the period in Earth’s history when Dickinsonia and several multicellular organisms existed.
  • It was approximately 635 million years ago (Ma) and 541 Ma, with the living creatures of the era, called vendobionts.

Now take this opportunity to revise the Geological time scale from your NCERTs. Try differentiating between different era, periods and epoch.

(b) India’s Proximity to Australia

  • Studies of the rock characteristics in and around Bhimbetka show that they share several characteristics with rocks in Australia.
  • Dickinsonia fossils from India were found by the scientists to be identical to the Rawnsley Quartzite in South Australia.
  • This provides evidence of their age and the proximity of the two landmasses in Gondwanaland in that era.
  • The evidence however did not support reconstructions adjusted for the polar wander phenomenon [which involves motion of continents over geologic time and its impacts].

 Use of Zircon dating

  • The age of fossil rock is determined using Zircon isotopes.
  • Zircon dating of the youngest Maihar sandstone in Madhya Pradesh puts its age at 548 Ma.
  • The lower Bhander group in the Son and Chambal valleys yielded an isotope-derived age for limestones ranging from 978 Ma to 1073 Ma, situating it in the older Tonian period.
  • The Ediacaran period was the precursor to the Cambrian (about 541 Ma to 485.4 Ma) when the earth witnessed an explosion of life forms and much of which makes up modern animal life today.

Cyber Security – CERTs, Policy, etc

Sandes: the government’s new Instant Messaging Platform

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sandes

Mains level : Secured instant messaging

The National Informatics Centre (NIC) has launched an instant messaging platform called Sandes on the lines of WhatsApp.  Open initially only to government officers, it has now been released for the common public as well.

Features of Sandes Platform

  • The instant messaging app, called Sandes, has an interface similar to many other apps currently available in the market.
  • Like WhatsApp, the new NIC platform can be used for all kinds of communications by anyone with a mobile number or email id.
  • Although there is no option to transfer the chat history between two platforms, the chats on government instant messaging systems or GIMS can be backed up to a users’ email.
  • It also offers features such as group making, broadcast message, message forwarding and emojis.
  • Further, as an additional safety feature, it allows a user to mark a message as confidential, which will allow the recipient to be made aware the message should not be shared with others.

Why need such instant messaging platform?

  • Following the nationwide lockdown, the government felt the need to build a platform to ensure secure communication between its employees as they worked from home.
  • The idea for a secure communication network dedicated exclusively to government employees has been in the works for the past four years.
  • In August 2020, the NIC released the first version of the app, which said that the app could be used by both central and state government officials for intra and inter-organisation communication.
  • The app was initially launched for Android users and then the service was extended to iOS users.

Limitations of the app

  • The limitation, however, is that the app does not allow the user to change their email id or registered phone number.
  • The user will have to re-register as a new user in case they wish to change their registered email id or phone number on the app.

Do you remember?

[Burning Issue] WhatsApp Snooping

ISRO Missions and Discoveries

ISRO collaborates to build alternative to Google Maps

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MapmyIndia, Various tools of ISRO

Mains level : Geospatial data and its utilization

The ISRO has joined hands with MapmyIndia to combine their geospatial expertise and build holistic solutions by leveraging their geoportals.

Note various geo-spatial solutions of ISRO mentioned in the newscard.

What is the Project?

  • It combines the power of MapmyIndia’s digital maps and technologies with ISRO’s catalogue of satellite imagery and earth observation data.
  • Indian users would not be dependent on foreign organisations for maps, navigation and geospatial services, and leverage made-in-India solutions instead.

Various components

The collaboration will enable them to jointly identify and build holistic geospatial solutions utilising the ISRO’s earth observation datasets such as-

  • IRNSS (Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System) called NavIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation, is India’s own navigation system, developed by ISRO.
  • Bhuvan is the national geo-portal developed and hosted by ISRO comprising geospatial data, services and tools for analysis.
  • VEDAS (Visualization of Earth observation Data and Archival System) is an online geo-processing platform using an optical, microwave, thermal and hyperspectral EO data covering applications particularly meant for academia, research and problem solving, according to ISRO.
  • MOSDAC (Meteorological and Oceanographic Satellite Data Archival Centre)is a data repository for all the meteorological missions of ISRO and deals with weather-related information, oceanography and tropical water cycles.

About MapmyIndia

  • MapmyIndia is an Indian technology company that builds digital map data, telematics services, location-based SaaS (Software as a service) and GIS AI services.
  • The company was founded in 1992 and is headquartered at New Delhi with regional offices in Mumbai and Bengaluru and smaller offices across India.
  • Its map covers all 7.5 lakh villages, 7500+ cities at street and building-level, connected by all 63 lakh kilometres of road network pan India and within cities, in total providing maps for an unparalleled 3+ crore places across India.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

Mechanophotonics: Manipulating light through crystals

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mechanophotonics, Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM)

Mains level : Not Much

Crystals are normally rigid, stiff structures, but researchers from the University of Hyderabad have shown how crystals can be sliced and even bent using atomic force microscopy. They have named this technique as “mechanophotonics”.

The newscard discusses an out of the box technology which if brought to reality in practical use, can create immense disruptions in the technology market.

Manipulating light through crystals

  • Manipulating them with precision and control comes in very useful in the field of nanophotonics, a qualitative, emerging field.
  • The aim is to go beyond electronics and build-up circuits driven entirely by photons (light).

If the technique can be successfully developed, this can achieve an unprecedented level of miniaturisation and pave the way to all-optical-technology such as pliable, wearable devices operated by light entirely.

What Indian researchers have achieved?

: Bending light path

  • Light, when left to itself moves along straight paths, so it is crucial to develop materials and technology that can cause its path to bend along what is required in the circuits.
  • This is like using fibre optics, but at the nanoscale level using organic crystals.
  • The Hyderabad group has demonstrated how such crystals can be lifted, bent moved, transferred and sliced using atomic force microscopy.

: How?

  • Researchers add a crucial piece to the jigsaw puzzle of building an “organic photonic integrated circuit” or OPIC.
  • Generally, millimetre- to centimetre-long crystals were bent using hand-held tweezers.
  • This method lacks precision and control. Also, the crystals used were larger than what was required for miniaturisation.
  • The atomic force microscopy (AFM) cantilever tip could be used to lift a crystal, as crystals tend to stick to the tip due to tip–crystal attractive forces.
  • Thus they demonstrated the real waveguiding character of the crystal lifted with a cantilever tip.

In 2014, for the first time, the group led by Rajadurai Chandrasekar of the Functional Molecular Nano/Micro Solids Laboratory in University of Hyderabad demonstrated that tiny crystals could be lifted and moved with precision and control using atomic force microscopy.

What is Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM)?

  • AFMs are a type of electron microscope used for the observation at an atomic level.
  • It is commonly used in nanotechnology.
  • The AFM works by employing an ultra-fine needle attached to a beam.
  • The tip of the needle runs over the ridges and valleys in the material being imaged, “feeling” the surface.

Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

Novel Open Reading Frames (NORF)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : nORF

Mains level : Not Much

A team from the University of Cambridge set out to find whether new genes emerge in the genome of living organisms and if they do, how they do so. They have now catalogued 1,94,000 novel regions.

Genes/Genomes/DNA/RNA is all-time favourite of UPSC. You can easily find 1-2 questions every year since 2017 in Prelims.

Novel genomic regions

  • The ‘novel’ genomic regions cannot be defined by our current ‘definition’ of a gene.
  • Hence, researchers call these novel regions – novel Open Reading Frames or as nORFs.
  • Researchers found that the mutations in nORFs do have physiological consequences and a majority of mutations that are often annotated as benign have to be re-interpreted.

What novel did the researchers find?

  • nORF regions were uniquely present in the cancer tissues and not present in the control tissue.
  • They found that some nORF disruptions strongly correlated with the survival of patients.
  • nORFs proteins can form structures, can undergo biochemical regulation like known proteins and be targeted by drugs in case they are disrupted in diseases.
  • The researchers also identified these nORFs in Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite which causes the deadliest form of malaria.

Connected to disease

  • The research found that these regions are also broadly involved in diseases.
  • The nORFs were seen as dysregulated in 22 cancer types.
  • Dysregulated is a term which means that they could either be mutated, upregulated, or downregulated, or they could be uniquely present.

Cyber Security – CERTs, Policy, etc

What is NetWire Malware?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Malwares

Mains level : Cyber attacks and the treats posed to national security

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

Try this question from CSP 2018:

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

(a) Exoplanets

(b) Crypto currency

(c) Cyber attacks

(d) Mini satellites

What is NetWire?

  • NetWire, which first surfaced in 2012, is a well-known malware.
  • It is also one of the most active ones around.
  • It is a remote access Trojan, or RAT, which gives control of the infected system to an attacker. Such malware can log keystrokes and compromise passwords.

Threats posed

  • This malware essentially does two things:
  1. One is data exfiltration, which means stealing data. Most anti-virus software is equipped to prevent this.
  2. The other involves infiltrating a system, and this has proven to be far more challenging for anti-virus software.
  • NetWire is described as an off-the-shelf malware, while something like Pegasus, which used a bug in WhatsApp to infiltrate users’ phones in 2019, is custom-made and sold to nations.

Back2Basics: Classification of malicious softwares

Viruses

  • A computer virus is a type of malware that propagates by inserting a copy of itself into and becoming part of another program.
  • It spreads from one computer to another, leaving infections as it travels.
  • Viruses can range in severity from causing mildly annoying effects to damaging data or software and causing denial-of-service (DoS) conditions.
  • Almost all viruses are attached to an executable file, which means the virus may exist on a system but will not be active or able to spread until a user runs or opens the malicious host file or program.
  • When the host code (alternative word for a computer program) is executed, the viral code is executed as well.

Ransomware

  • Ransomware is a type of malicious software that threatens to publish the victim’s data or perpetually block access to it unless a ransom is paid.
  • While some simple ransomware may lock the system in a way that is not difficult for a knowledgeable person to reverse, more advanced malware uses a technique called cryptoviral extortion.
  • This encrypts the victim’s files, making them inaccessible, and demands a ransom payment to decrypt them.

Worms

  • Computer worms are similar to viruses in that they replicate functional copies of themselves and can cause the same type of damage.
  • In contrast to viruses, which require the spreading of an infected host file, worms are standalone software and do not require a host program or human help to propagate.
  • To spread, worms either exploit the vulnerability on the target system or use some kind of social engineering to trick users into executing them.
  • A worm enters a computer through a vulnerability in the system and takes advantage of file-transport or information-transport features on the system, allowing it to travel unaided.
  • More advanced worms leverage encryption, wipers, and ransomware technologies to harm their targets.

Trojans

  • A Trojan is a harmful piece of software that looks legitimate.
  • After it is activated, it can achieve any number of attacks on the host, from irritating the user (popping up windows or changing desktops) to damaging the host (deleting files, stealing data, or activating and spreading other malware, such as viruses).
  • Trojans are also known to create backdoors to give malicious users access to the system.
  • Unlike viruses and worms, Trojans do not reproduce by infecting other files nor do they self-replicate.
  • Trojans must spread through user interaction such as opening an email attachment or downloading and running a file from the Internet.

Bots

  • “Bot” is derived from the word “robot” and is an automated process that interacts with other network services.
  • Bots often automate tasks and provide information or services that would otherwise be conducted by a human being.
  • A typical use of bots is to gather information, such as web crawlers, or interact automatically with Instant Messaging (IM), Internet Relay Chat (IRC), or other web interfaces.
  • They may also be used to interact dynamically with websites.

History- Important places, persons in news

[pib] Swami Dayanand Saraswati

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Dayanand Saraswati

Mains level : Not Much

Information and Broadcasting Minister paid his tributes to Swami Dayanand Saraswati on his birth anniversary.

Dayanand Saraswati (1824-1883)

  • Swami Dayanand Saraswati was a philosopher, social leader and founder of the Arya Samaj, a reform movement of the Vedic dharma.
  • He was the first to give the call for Swaraj as “India for Indians” in 1876, a call later taken up by Lokmanya Tilak.
  • Denouncing the idolatry and ritualistic worship, he worked towards reviving Vedic ideologies.
  • Subsequently, the philosopher and then President, S. Radhakrishnan called him one of the “makers of Modern India”, as did Sri Aurobindo.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Which among the following event happened earliest?

(a) Swami Dayanand established Arya Samaj

(b) Dinabandhu Mitra wrote Neeldarpan

(c) Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay wrote Anandmath

(d) Satyendranath Tagore became the first India to succeed in the Indian Civil Services Examination

His influence

  • Those who were influenced by and followed him included Madam Cama, Shyamji Krishna Varma, Kishan Singh, Bhagat Singh, VD Savarkar, Bhai Parmanand, Lala Hardayal, Madan Lal Dhingra, Ram Prasad Bismil, MG Ranade, Ashfaq Ullah Khan, , Lala Lajpat Rai etc.

Philosophy

  • He was ascetic from boyhood and a scholar.
  • He believed in the infallible authority of the Vedas.
  • He advocated the doctrine of Karma and Reincarnation.
  • He emphasized the Vedic ideals of Brahmacharya, including celibacy and devotion to God.

His contribution

  • Among Dayananda’s contributions were his promoting of the equal rights for women, such as the right to education and reading of Indian scriptures.
  • He wrote his commentary on the Vedas from Vedic Sanskrit in Sanskrit as well as in Hindi.

Festivals, Dances, Theatre, Literature, Art in News

Art in news: Tholpavakkoothu

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Tholpavakkoothu

Mains level : India's puppetry

A shadow leather puppet in Kerala’s famous temple art Tholpavakkoothu is being animated by a robot in Palakkad.

Tholpavakkoothu

  • Tholpavakkoothu or shadow puppetry is a temple art form which is prevalent in the Bhagavathy temples (mother Goddess) in Palakkad district and nearby regions in Kerala.
  • Tholppava (Thol means leather, Pava means puppet) are moved with the help of strings, and their shadows are depicted on a screen with the help of a row of oil lamps in the background.
  • The story of Tholpavakkoothu performance is from the Indian epic, Ramayana.
  • In the olden days, it was performed elaborately over a period of forty-one days.
  • The narrative used for the performance is a mixture of prose and poetry called Adalpattu.

Try this PYQ:

Q.With reference to Manipuri Sankirtana, consider the following statements:

  1. It is a song and dance performance.
  2. Cymbals are the only musical instruments used in the performance.
  3. It is performed to narrate the life and deeds of Lord Krishna.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1, 2 and 3.

(b) 1 and 3 only

(c) 2 and 3 only

(d) 1 only

Setup of the art

  • Tholppavas are made of the skin of deer and the puppet forms are made by making small holes in the leather that is then attached vertically to a bamboo stick.
  • Accompanying instruments include Ezhupara, Chenda and Maddalam.
  • The artists have to undergo several years of rigorous training to master this art form.
  • The puppetry is staged on a special structure in temple premises called Koothumadam.