River Interlinking

[pib] Saryu Nahar National Project

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Sarayu River

Mains level: River interlinking and associated issues

 

PM will inaugurate the Saryu Nahar National Project.

Saryu Nahar National Project

  • The Project involves the interlinking of five rivers – Ghaghara, Saryu, Rapti, Banganga and Rohini to ensure optimum usage of water resources of the region.
  • It will benefit nine districts of Eastern Uttar Pradesh namely – Bahraich, Shravasti, Balrampur, Gonda, Siddharthnagar, Basti, Sant Kabir Nagar, Gorakhpur and Maharajganj.
  • The sub canals with a length of 6,600km have been linked to the 318km main canal.
  • The work on the project started in 1978 but due to lack of continuity, it got delayed and was not completed even after nearly four decades.

Benefits offered

  • The project will provide assured water for irrigation of over 14 lakh hectares of land and benefit about 29 lakh farmers of over 6200 villages.
  • The farmers of the region, who were the worst sufferers of the inordinate delay in the project, will now immensely benefit from the upgraded irrigation potential.
  • They will now be able to grow crops on a larger scale and maximize the agri-potential of the region.

Back2Basics: Sarayu River

  • The Sarayu is a river that originates at a ridge south of Nanda Kot mountain in Bageshwar district in Uttarakhand.
  • It flows through Kapkot, Bageshwar, and Seraghat towns before discharging into the Sharda River at Pancheshwar at the India—Nepal border.
  • Lower Ghaghara is also popularly known as Sarayu in India.
  • Especially while it flows through the city of Ayodhya, the birthplace of legendary Rama.

 

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Capital Markets: Challenges and Developments

What are Non-convertible Debentures?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Non-convertible Debentures

Mains level: Not Much

Several companies have announced public issues to raise funds through non-convertible debentures.

What are Debentures?

  • Debentures are long-term financial instruments issued by a company for specified tenure with a promise to pay fixed interest to the investor.
  • They can be held by individuals, banking companies, primary dealers other corporate bodies registered or incorporated in India and unincorporated bodies.
  • Their types include:
  1. Convertible debentures (CDs): They are a type of debentures that can be converted into equity shares of the company.
  2. Non-convertible debentures (NCDs): They are defined as the type of debentures that cannot be converted into equity shares of the company.

What are NCDs?

  • Some debentures have a feature of convertibility into shares after a certain point of time at the discretion of the owner.
  • The debentures which can’t be converted into shares or equities are called non-convertible debentures (or NCDs).
  • They are debt financial instruments that companies use to raise medium- to long-term capital.

Benefits offered by NCDs

  • At a time when fixed deposit rates are in low single digits, these NCD offerings look lucrative.
  • NCDs offer interest rates between 8.25–9.7%.

Risks posed

  • Although NCDs are generally considered safe fixed-income instruments, some recent defaults have made investors cautious.
  • NCDs can be either secured by the issuer company’s assets, or unsecured.
  • Certain issuers, with credit rating below investment grade, had in the past issued both a secured NCD and another unsecured one through the same offer document, with different credit ratings.
  • The risk is high in the case of unsecured NCDs, even though they offer high-interest rates.
  • Credit rating of the issuer is a key factor to consider before investing in any NCD.

 

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Ambergris: The Floating Gold

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Ambergris

Mains level: Not Much

The Crime Branch in Pune and seized 550 grams of ambergris, also known as ‘floating gold’.

What is Ambergris?

  • Ambergris, which means gray amber in French, is a waxy substance that originates from the digestive system of the protected sperm whales.
  • It is incorrectly referred to as ‘whale vomit’.
  • It is produced in the gastrointestinal tract of some of the sperm whales for the passage of hard, sharp objects that are ingested when the whale eats large quantities of marine animals.

Why is it so expensive?

  • Investigating agencies from across India who have seized ambergris in the recent past estimate its value to be somewhere between Rs 1 to 2 crores per kilogram, depending on the purity and quality.
  • Being extremely rare contributes to its high demand and high price in the international market.

Its uses

  • Traditionally, ambergris is used to produce perfumes that have notes of musk.
  • While there are records of it being used to flavor food, alcoholic beverages and tobacco in some cultures in the past, it is rarely used for these purposes presently.

Legalities and recent cases of seizure in India

  • While there is a ban on possession and trade of ambergris in countries like the USA, Australia and India, in several other countries it is a tradable commodity.
  • In the Indian context, the sperm whales are a protected species under Schedule 2 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and possession or trade of any of its by-products, including Ambergris is illegal.
  • It has been observed that the gangs smuggling the ambergris procure it from coastal areas and ship it to destination countries via some other countries with whom India has comparatively less stringent sea trade.

 

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Modern Indian History-Events and Personalities

Significance of Raigad Fort in Maratha History

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Raigad Fort

Mains level: Not Much

 

President Ram Nath Kovind is commencing his visit to Maharashtra by visiting the Raigad Fort where he will pay tribute to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

Where is Raigad fort located?

  • Raigad is a hill fort situated about 25 km from Mahad in the Raigad district and stands 2,851 feet above sea level.
  • The British Gazette states the fort was known to early Europeans as the Gibraltar of the East.
  • Its decisive feature is a mile and a half flat top which has adequate room for buildings.
  • In its prime, the fort had 300 stone houses and a garrison of 2,000 men.

When was it built?

  • The fort, which was earlier called Rairi, was the seat of the Maratha clan Shirke in the 12th century.
  • The fort changed hands a number of times from the dynasty of Bahaminis to the Nizamshahis and then the Adilshahis.
  • In 1656, Chhatrapati Shivaji captured it from the More’s of Javli who were under the suzerainty of the Adilshahi Sultanate.
  • The fort not only helped Shivaji challenge the supremacy of the Adilshahi dynasty but also opened up the routes towards Konkan for the extension of his power.

Significance of the fort in Shivaji’s life

  • In 1662, Shivaji formally changed the fort’s name to Raigad and added a number of structures to it.
  • By 1664, the fort had emerged as the seat of Shivaji’s government.
  • As the Marathas under the leadership of Shivaji gained strength in their struggle against the Mughals, the announcement of a sovereign, independent state was made.
  • On June 6, 1674, Shivaji was coronated at Raigad by Gagabhatt where he took on the title of Chhatrapati.
  • Six years later, Shivaji passed away in Raigad in 1680 and has been cremated at the fort.

Importance of Raigad Fort in Maharashtra’s polity

  • Chhatrapati Shivaji is the tallest and the most revered icon in Maharashtra and there is a constant attempt by political parties of all hues to appropriate his legacy.
  • Due to the significance of Raigad in his life, many political leaders make it a point to visit the fort.
  • Maharashtra has already announced a mid-sea memorial in the Arabian Sea for the Maratha warrior king.

 

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International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: LCRD

Mains level: NA

NASA has launched its new Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) — the agency’s first-ever laser communications system.

What is LCRD?

  • LCRD involves laser communications – also called optical communications which uses infrared light to send information.
  • LCRD is launched in a geosynchronous orbit, over 35,000km above Earth.
  • LCRD has two optical terminals – one to receive data from a user spacecraft, and the other to transmit data to ground stations.
  • The modems will translate the digital data into laser signals. This will then be transmitted via encoded beams of light.

Benefits offered by LCRD

  • Currently, most NASA spacecraft use radio frequency communications to send data.
  • Optical communications will help increase the bandwidth 10 to 100 times more than radio frequency systems.
  • The LCRD will help the agency test optical communication in space.

Laser vs Radio

  • Laser communications and radio waves use different wavelengths of light. It uses infrared light and has a shorter wavelength than radio waves.
  • This will help the transmission of more data in a short time.
  • Using infrared lasers, LCRD will send data to Earth at 1.2 gigabits-per-second (Gbps).
  • It would take roughly nine weeks to transmit a completed map of Mars back to Earth with current radio frequency systems. With lasers, we can accelerate that to about nine days, says NASA.

Other advantages

Optical communications systems are smaller in size, weight, and require less power compared with radio instruments.

  • A smaller size means more room for science instruments.
  • Less weight means a less expensive launch.
  • Less power means less drain on the spacecraft’s batteries.

 

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New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Species in news: Physella Acuta

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Snail Physella Acuta

Mains level: Not Much

A tiny snail with a striking, pellucid golden-yellow shell found in the Edappally canal in Kochi has been flagged as an invasive species that could play havoc with native ecosystems.

Snail Physella Acuta

  • First described by J.P.R. Draparnaud in 1805, Physella acuta is considered native to North America but is now found in all continents except Antarctica.
  • The snail was first reported in India in the early 1990s.
  • It is believed to have reached Kerala through the aquarium trade, a major vector for invasive species.
  • In Kerala, the snail had made its home in a highly polluted reach plagued by high sedimentation, untreated sewage, commercial effluents, construction wastes and a thick growth of invasive aquatic weeds.

Threats posed

  • This snail plays host to worms that can cause food-borne diseases and skin itches in humans.
  • Moreover, its rapid growth rate, air-breathing capability, and tolerance to pollution make it a potential competitor to native fauna.

 

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Agmark, Hallmark, ISI, BIS, BEE and Other Ratings

How is Gold Hallmarking being implemented?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Hallmark Gold

Mains level: Not Much

The Government has made it mandatory for the introduction of a Hallmark Unique Identification (HUID) number in every piece of jewellery.

What is HUID?

  • HUID is a six-digit alphanumeric code, or one that consists of numbers and letters. It is given to every piece of jewellery at the time of hallmarking and is unique for each piece.
  • It is being implemented by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) in a phased manner.
  • Hallmarking & HUID are mandatory for 14-, 18- and 22-carat gold jewellery and artefacts.
  • Before buying any piece of gold jewellery, the buyer should check all these three symbols.

Implementation of HUID

  • Symbols: The hallmark consists of three symbols which give some information about the jewellery piece. The first symbol is the BIS logo; the second indicates purity and fineness; and the third symbol is the HUID.
  • A&H centre: Jewellery is stamped with the unique number manually at the Assaying & Hallmarking centre.

Why is it being introduced?

  • Authentication: HUID gives a distinct identity to each piece of jewellery enabling traceability.
  • Credibility: It is critical to the credibility of hallmarking and to help address complaints against adulteration.
  • Registration: In HUID-based hallmarking, registration of jewellers is an automatic process with no human interference.
  • Prevents malpractice: It also helps check malpractice by members of the trade.
  • Data privacy: It is a secure system and poses no risk to data privacy and security.
  • Financial tracking: HUID provides traceability and financial tracking of purchases.

Issues with HUID

  • Time-consuming: It is cumbersome to number each piece of jewellery
  • Intricate jewellery: HUID cannot be engraved in tiny pieces.
  • Unnecessary expense: Also it will increase cost for consumers.
  • Infrastructural issues: there needs to be ample AH Centres.

What does this mean for the consumer?

  • Consumer protection: Given that gold plays a big role in the lives of Indians, mandating gold hallmarking is aimed at protecting consumer interests.
  • Assurance of quality: It provides ‘third-party assurance’ to consumers on the purity of gold jewellery.

Conclusion

  • HUID concept is innovative, out-of-the-box thinking and more than makes up for stepping in late with mandatory hallmarking.
  • It is the sort of global leadership India has and needs to show in gold-related reforms.

 

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ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Dhawan-1: India’s first privately developed Cryogenic Rocket

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Dhawan-1

Mains level: Space startups in India

Skyroot Aerospace successfully tested Dhawan-1 last month. It became the country’s first privately developed fully cryogenic rocket engine.

Dhawan-1

  • The indigenous engine was developed using 3D printing with a superalloy.
  • It runs on two high-performance rocket propellants — liquid natural gas (LNG) and liquid oxygen (LoX).
  • This was after successfully designing and developing the solid propulsion rocket engine, the first private firm in the country to do so.

Other projects by Skyroot

  • Skyroot is working simultaneously on different stages of both solid propulsion and liquid propulsion engines.
  • It is named after eminent scientists, like Kalam (Abdul Kalam) series for the former and Dhawan (Satish Dhawan).
  • The launch vehicles are named after Vikram Sarabhai.

 

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Tribes in News

Tribes in news: Konyak

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Konyak Tribe

Mains level: Not Much

An angry mob allegedly vandalized an Assam Rifles camp and the office of the Konyak Union in Nagaland’s Mon district.

Konyak Tribe

  • With a population of roughly 3 lakh, the area inhabited by the Konyaks extends into Arunachal Pradesh, with a sizeable population in Myanmar as well.
  • They are known to be one of the fiercest warrior tribes in Nagaland.
  • The Konyaks were the last to give up the practice of head-hunting – severing heads of enemies after attacking rival tribes – as late as the 1980s.

Significance in Naga Peace Process

  • Mon is the only district in Nagaland where the separatist group has not been able to set up base camps, largely due to resistance from the Konyaks.
  • The Konyaks therefore, are imperative for a smooth resolution of the peace talks, as well as the post-talk peace process in the state.

Also read:

Naga Peace Accord

 

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Modern Indian History-Events and Personalities

Who was St. Francis Xavier?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: St. Francis Xaviers and his missions

Mains level: Not Much

The Prime Minister has greeted the people of Goa on the day of the Feast of St. Francis Xavier.

St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552)

  • Francis Xavier venerated as Saint Francis Xavier, was a Catholic missionary and saint who was a co-founder of the Society of Jesus.
  • He was born in Javier, Kingdom of Navarre (in present-day Spain), he was a companion of Ignatius of Loyola and one of the first seven Jesuits.
  • He led an extensive mission into Asia, mainly in the Portuguese Empire of the time and was influential in evangelization work, most notably in India.

His works

  • He has asked for a special minister to the king of Portugal whose sole office would be to further Christianity in Goa.
  • He also was the first Christian missionary to venture into Japan, Borneo, the Maluku Islands, and other areas.
  • In those areas, struggling to learn the local languages and in the face of opposition, he had less success than he had enjoyed in India.
  • Xavier was about to extend his missionary preaching to China when he died on Shangchuan Island.
  • Known as the “Apostle of the Indies” and “Apostle of Japan”, he is considered to be one of the greatest missionaries since Paul the Apostle.

Try this question from CSP 2021

Q. Consider the following statements:

  1. Francis Xavier was one of the founding members of the Jesuit Order.
  2. Francis Xavier died in Goa and a church is dedicated to him there.
  3. The Feast of St. Francis Xavier is celebrated in Goa each year.

Which of the statements given above are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

 

Post your answers here.

 

 

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Modern Indian History-Events and Personalities

Paika Rebellion to be included as ‘case study’ in history textbook

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Paika Rebellion

Mains level: Peasants uprising in India

The 1817 Paika Rebellion of Odisha would be included as a case study in the Class 8 NCERT history textbook, informed the Union Culture Minister.

Who were the Paiks?

  • The Paiks of Odisha were the traditional landed militia and enjoyed rent free land tenures for their military service and policing functions on a hereditary basis.

Paika Rebellion

  • When the British started tinkering with the revenue system in 1803, the farming community of Odisha rose in rebellion.
  • At that critical juncture, Bakshi Jagabandhu Bidyadhar — the military chief of the King of Khurda — led his army of Paikas forcing the British East India Company forces to retreat.
  • The rebellion came to be known as Paika Bidroh (Paika rebellion).

When did it take place?

  • The rebellion, by the landed militia of Khurda called Paiks, predates the first war of independence in 1857 but did not get similar recognition.
  • It took place when the British East India Company wrested the rent-free land that had been given to the Paiks for their military service to the Kingdom of Khurda.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2020:

Q. With reference to the history of India, ‘ulgulan’ or the great tumult is the description of the which of the following?

(a) The revolt of 1857

(b) The Mappila rebellion of 1921

(c) The Indigo revolt of 1859-1860

(d) Birsa Munda’s revolt of 1899-1900

 

Post your answers here.

 

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International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

James Webb Space Telescope

The James Webb Space Telescope, NASA’s largest space science telescope ever constructed, is scheduled to be sent into orbit in December.

James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)

  • It is a space telescope being jointly developed by NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
  • It has taken 30 years and $10bn to develop, and is being described as one of the grand scientific endeavors of the 21st Century.

What is the goal of this telescope?

  • The telescope will be able to see just about anything in the sky.
  • However, it has one overriding objective – to see the light coming from the very first stars to shine in the Universe.
  • These pioneer stars are thought to have switched on about 100-200 million years after the Big Bang, or a little over 13.5 billion years ago.
  • Webb will be picking out groupings of these stars.
  • They are so far away their light – even though it moves at 300,000km per second – will have taken billions of years to travel the cosmos.

JWST mirror

  • One of the most important objects it will carry is a large mirror which will help collect light from the objects being observed.
  • The primary mirror is made of 18 hexagonal-shaped mirror segments — each 1.32 metre in diameter — stitched together in a honeycomb pattern.
  • The primary mirror is a technological marvel.
  • The lightweight mirrors, coatings, actuators and mechanisms, electronics, and thermal blankets when fully deployed form a single precise mirror that is truly remarkable.
  • Each mirror segment weighs approximately 20 kilograms and is made from beryllium.

Why beryllium?

  • NASA explains that beryllium was used as it is both strong and light.
  • Beryllium is very strong for its weight and is good at holding its shape across a range of temperatures. Beryllium is a good conductor of electricity and heat and is not magnetic.
  • Because it is light and strong, beryllium is often used to build parts for supersonic airplanes and the Space Shuttle.
  • It added that special care was taken when working with beryllium because it is unhealthy to breathe in or swallow beryllium dust.

So, it does not have gold?

  • After the beryllium mirror segments were polished a thin coating of gold was applied to it. Gold helps improve the mirror’s reflection of infrared light.
  • The gold was coated using a technique called vacuum vapour deposition.
  • The mirrors are kept inside a vacuum chamber and a small quantity of gold is vapourised and deposited on the mirror.
  • The thickness of the gold is just 100 nanometers. So less than 50 grams of gold was used for the entire mirror.
  • A thin layer of glass was also deposited on top of the gold layer to protect it from scratches.

 

 

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Air Pollution

Perform, Achieve and Trade (PAT) Scheme

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: PAT Scheme

Mains level: Schemes for emission control

A recent report by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has attributed the inefficiency of the PAT scheme to non-transparency, loose targets and overlooked deadlines.

PAT Scheme

  • Perform Achieve and Trade (PAT) scheme is a flagship program of Bureau of Energy Efficiency under the National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency (NMEEE).
  • NMEEE is one of the eight national missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) launched by the Government of India in the year 2008

Working of the scheme

  • PAT is a market-based compliance mechanism to accelerate improvements in energy efficiency in energy-intensive industries.
  • The energy savings achieved by notified industries is converted into tradable instruments called Energy Saving Certificates (ESCerts).
  • The ESCerts after issuance by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency are traded at Power Exchanges.

What is PAT cycle?

  • The government shortlists industries and restricts the amount of energy they can consume and defines a time limit of three years by when this restriction should be met as part of PAT.
  • These three years of time are called one PAT cycle.
  • The industries are chosen after in-depth, sector-wise analysis by the government.
  • Industries that participate in this scheme are called designated consumers (DC).
  • Those that overachieve their targets are issued energy savings certificates (ESCerts) that can be traded with industries that have not achieved their targets.
  • Non-achievers have to buy the ESCerts after the three years for compliance.

Various PAT cycles

  • PAT covered about 13 energy-intensive sectors
  • Sectors included are thermal power plants (TPP), cement, aluminium, iron and steel, pulp and paper, fertilizer, chlor-alkali, petroleum refineries, petrochemicals, distribution companies, railways, textile and commercial buildings (hotels and airports)
  • Announcements for six cycles since 2012 have been made so far

 

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Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

[pib] Scheme for Protection and Preservation of Endangered Languages of India (SPPEL)

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: [pib] Scheme for Protection and Preservation of Endangered Languages of India (SPPEL)

Mains level: Not Much

The Government of India has initiated a Scheme known as “Scheme for Protection and Preservation of Endangered Languages of India” (SPPEL) informed the Minister of Culture and Tourism.

About SPPEL

  • The Scheme was instituted by Ministry of Human Resource Development in 2013.
  • The sole objective of the Scheme is to document and archive the country’s languages that have become endangered or likely to be endangered in the near future.
  • The scheme is monitored by the Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL) located in Mysuru, Karnataka.
  • The CIIL has collaborated with various universities and institutes across India for this mission.
  • University Grants Commission (UGC) is also providing financial assistance for the creation of centres for endangered languages at Central and State Universities.

What are Endangered Languages?

  • At the moment, the languages which are spoken by less than 10,000 speakers or languages that are not been linguistically studied earlier are considered endangered language.

Present status of the scheme

  • Presently, 117 languages have been listed for the documentation.
  • Documentation in the form of grammar, dictionary and ethno-linguistic profiles of about 500 lesser known languages are estimated to be accomplished in the coming years.

 

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Telecom and Postal Sector – Spectrum Allocation, Call Drops, Predatory Pricing, etc

Ericsson Mobility Report on 5G Subscriptions

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: 5G technology

Mains level: Useful data about 5G in India

India 5G subscriptions are set to reach 500 mn by 2027, said Ericsson in its report.

Ericsson Mobility Report

  • The report has added that the total number of smartphone subscriptions is expected to be 810 million at the end of 2021.
  • It is projected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 7%, exceeding 1.2 billion by 2027.

5G penetration in India

  • 5G telecom services are likely to account for 39% of mobile subscriptions or about 500 million subscriptions in India at the end of 2027.
  • 4G is expected to remain the dominant technology in India in 2027.
  • 4G subscriptions are expected to reduce from 68% of mobile subscriptions in 2021 to 55% in 2027 as subscribers migrate to 5G.
  • However, 4G subscriptions are forecast to drop from 790 million in 2021 to 710 million in 2027, showing an annual average decline of 2%.

Back2Basics: 5G Technology

  • 5G or fifth generation is the latest upgrade in the long-term evolution (LTE) mobile broadband networks.
  • It mainly works in 3 bands, namely low, mid and high-frequency spectrum — all of which have their own uses as well as limitations.

Three bands of 5G

  • The low band spectrum has shown great promise in terms of coverage and speed of internet and data exchange, the maximum speed is limited to 100 Mbps (Megabits per second).
  • This means that while telcos can use and install it for commercial cellphones users who may not have specific demands for very high-speed internet, the low band spectrum may not be optimal for specialised needs of the industry.
  • The mid-band spectrum, on the other hand, offers higher speeds compared to the low band but has limitations in terms of coverage area and penetration of signals.
  • Telcos and companies, which have taken the lead on 5G, have indicated that this band may be used by industries and specialized factory units for building captive networks that can be molded into the needs of that particular industry.
  • The high-band spectrum offers the highest speed of all the three bands, but has extremely limited coverage and signal penetration strength.
  • Internet speeds in the high-band spectrum of 5G have been tested to be as high as 20 Gbps (gigabits per second), while, in most cases, the maximum internet data speed in 4G has been recorded at 1 Gbps.

 

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International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

What is a Tundra Satellite?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Tundra Satellite, Various types of Orbits

Mains level: Not Much

Russia has successfully placed into orbit a military satellite believed to be part of the Kremlin’s early warning anti-missile system. This launch could be delivering a Tundra satellite.

Tundra Satellite

  • The Tundra or EKS (Edinaya Kosmicheskaya Sistema) series of satellites is the next generation of Russian early-warning satellites.
  • The development of the EKS started in 2000.
  • These satellites carry a secure emergency communications payload to be used in case of a nuclear war.
  • They are launched on Soyuz-2-1b Fregat boosters into Molniya-orbits, inclined highly elliptical 12 h orbits.

What are Tundra Orbits?

  • A Tundra orbit is a highly elliptical geosynchronous orbit with a high inclination (approximately 63.4°), an orbital period of one sidereal day.
  • A satellite placed in this orbit spends most of its time over a chosen area of the Earth, a phenomenon known as apogee dwell.
  • It makes satellites particularly well suited for communications satellites serving high latitude regions.
  • The ground track of a satellite in a Tundra orbit is a closed figure 8 with a smaller loop over either the northern or southern hemisphere.
  • This differentiates them from Molniya orbits designed to service high-latitude regions, which have the same inclination but half the period and do not hover over a single region.

Back2Basics: Types of Orbits

[1] Geostationary orbit (GEO)

  • Satellites in geostationary orbit (GEO) circle Earth above the equator from west to east following Earth’s rotation – taking 23 hours 56 minutes and 4 seconds – by travelling at exactly the same rate as Earth.
  • This makes satellites in GEO appear to be ‘stationary’ over a fixed position.
  • In order to perfectly match Earth’s rotation, the speed of GEO satellites should be about 3 km per second at an altitude of 35 786 km.
  • This is much farther from Earth’s surface compared to many satellites.
  • GEO is used by satellites that need to stay constantly above one particular place over Earth, such as telecommunication satellites.
  • Satellites in GEO cover a large range of Earth so as few as three equally-spaced satellites can provide near-global coverage.

[2] Low Earth orbit (LEO)

  • A low Earth orbit (LEO) is, as the name suggests, an orbit that is relatively close to Earth’s surface.
  • It is normally at an altitude of less than 1000 km but could be as low as 160 km above Earth – which is low compared to other orbits, but still very far above Earth’s surface.
  • Unlike satellites in GEO that must always orbit along Earth’s equator, LEO satellites do not always have to follow a particular path around Earth in the same way – their plane can be tilted.
  • This means there are more available routes for satellites in LEO, which is one of the reasons why LEO is a very commonly used orbit.
  • It is most commonly used for satellite imaging, as being near the surface allows it to take images of higher resolution.
  • Satellites in this orbit travel at a speed of around 7.8 km per second; at this speed, a satellite takes approximately 90 minutes to circle Earth.

[3] Medium Earth orbit (MEO)

  • Medium Earth orbit comprises a wide range of orbits anywhere between LEO and GEO.
  • It is similar to LEO in that it also does not need to take specific paths around Earth, and it is used by a variety of satellites with many different applications.
  • It is very commonly used by navigation satellites, like the European Galileo system of Europe.
  • It uses a constellation of multiple satellites to provide coverage across large parts of the world all at once.

[4] Polar Orbit

  • Satellites in polar orbits usually travel past Earth from north to south rather than from west to east, passing roughly over Earth’s poles.
  • Satellites in a polar orbit do not have to pass the North and South Pole precisely; even a deviation within 20 to 30 degrees is still classed as a polar orbit.
  • Polar orbits are a type of low Earth orbit, as they are at low altitudes between 200 to 1000 km.

[5] Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO)

  • SSO is a particular kind of polar orbit. Satellites in SSO, travelling over the polar regions, are synchronous with the Sun.
  • This means they are synchronised to always be in the same ‘fixed’ position relative to the Sun.
  • This means that the satellite always visits the same spot at the same local time.
  • Often, satellites in SSO are synchronised so that they are in constant dawn or dusk – this is because by constantly riding a sunset or sunrise, they will never have the Sun at an angle where the Earth shadows them.
  • A satellite in a Sun-synchronous orbit would usually be at an altitude of between 600 to 800 km. At 800 km, it will be travelling at a speed of approximately 7.5 km per second.

[6] Transfer orbits and geostationary transfer orbit (GTO)

  • Transfer orbits are a special kind of orbit used to get from one orbit to another.
  • Often, the satellites are instead placed on a transfer orbit: an orbit where, by using relatively little energy from built-in motors, the satellite or spacecraft can move from one orbit to another.
  • This allows a satellite to reach, for example, a high-altitude orbit like GEO without actually needing the launch vehicle.
  • Reaching GEO in this way is an example of one of the most common transfer orbits, called the geostationary transfer orbit (GTO).

 

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Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

Were there domestic horses in ancient India?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Indus valley civilization

Mains level: Not Much

A group of researchers has been able to collect bones and teeth samples of over 2,000 such ancient specimens from regions from where domestic horses could have originated.

Research on horse domestication

  • The research has studied fossils from the Iberian Peninsula in the southwestern corner of Europe, or the western-most edge of Eurasia (Spain and its neighbours), Anatolia (modern Turkey), and the steppes of Western Eurasia and Central Asia.
  • These collective data have led them to decide that until about 4200 BCE, many distinct horse populations inhabited various regions of Eurasia.

Key findings of the research

  • A similar genetic analysis has found that horses with the modern domestic DNA profile lived in the Western Eurasian Steppes, particularly the Volga-Don River region.
  • By around 2200–2000 BCE, these horses spread out to Bohemia (the Czech Republic of today and Ukraine), and Central Asia and Mongolia.
  • These horses were bred by breeders from these countries to sell them to countries that demanded them.
  • Riding on horses became popular in these nations by around 3300 BCE, and armies were built using them, for example, in Mesopotamia, Iran, Kuwait and the ‘Fertile Crescent’ or Palestine.
  • The first spoke-wheeled chariots emerged around 2000-1800 BC.

Indian story

  • Horses were never native to India.
  • The only animals native to India were the Asian elephant, snow leopard, rhinoceros, Bengal tiger, Sloth bear, Himalayan wolf, Gaur bison, red panda, crocodile, and the birds peacock and flamingo.
  • Thus, it seems clear from these sources that horse is not native to India.
  • Horses must have come into India through inter-regional trading between countries.
  • Indians might have traded their elephants, tigers, monkeys, birds to their neighbours and imported horses.

When did India get its horses?

  • Horse-related remains and artefacts have been found in Late Harappan sites (1900-1300 BCE).
  • Horses did not seem to have played an essential role in the Harappan civilization.
  • This is in contrast to the Vedic Period, which is a little later (1500-500 BCE).
  • The Sanskrit word for horse is Ashwa, which is mentioned in the Vedas and Hindu Scriptures.
  • These are roughly towards the end of the late Bronze Age.

Try this PYQ:

Q. With reference to the difference between the culture of Rigvedic Aryans and Indus Valley people, which of the following statements correct?

  1. Rigvedic Aryans used the coat of mail and helmet in warfare whereas the people of Indus Valley Civilization did not leave any evidence of using them.
  2. Rigvedic Aryans knew gold, silver and copper whereas Indus Valley people knew only copper and iron.
  3. Rigvedic Aryans had domesticated the horse whereas there is no evidence of Indus Valley people having been aware of this animal.

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) Only 1

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

 

Post your answers here.

 

 

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Coronavirus – Disease, Medical Sciences Involved & Preventive Measures

What is Omicron Variant?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: COVID mutation

Mains level: Not Much

A new lineage of SARS-CoV-2 has been designated as a Variant of Concern (VoC) by the World Health Organization (WHO) and has been named Omicron.

Behind the name: Omicron

  • The WHO has been using Greek letters to refer to the most widely prevalent coronavirus variants, which otherwise carry long scientific names.
  • It had already used 12 letters of the Greek alphabet before the newest variant emerged in South Africa this week.
  • After Mu, the 12th named after a Greek letter, WHO selected the name Omicron, instead of Nu or Xi, the two letters between Mu and Omicron.
  • The WHO said Nu could have been confused with the word ‘new’ while Xi was not picked up following a convention.

Why is the Omicron variant interesting?

  • The Omicron variant is interesting due to the fact that it has a large number of mutations compared to other prevalent variants circulating across the world.
  • This includes 32 mutations in the spike protein.
  • Many of these mutations lie in the receptor-binding domain of the spike protein, a key part of the protein required for binding to the human receptor proteins for entry into the cell.
  • It can thus play an important role in recognition by antibodies generated due to a previous infection or by vaccines.

What do spike mutations do?

  • Many of the mutations in the spike protein have been previously suggested to cause resistance to antibodies as well as increased transmission.
  • Thus, there is a possibility that this variant could be more likely to re-infect people who have developed immunity against previous variants of the virus.
  • The behavior of the virus is not yet accurately predictable based on the evidence on individual mutations.

Does the variant result in vaccine breakthrough infections?

  • Some of the initial individuals identified to be infected with the variant have been vaccinated for COVID-19 and therefore the variant can indeed cause vaccine breakthrough infections.
  • This should not be of concern, since the prevalent variants of concern including Delta have been shown to cause breakthrough infections.
  • Whether the variant causes more breakthrough infections than Delta is not currently known.

How can we be prepared for the variant?

  • Enhanced surveillance and genome sequencing efforts are essential to detect and track the prevalence of the Omicron variant.
  • Rapid sharing of genome sequences of the virus and the epidemiological data linked with it to publicly available databases will help in developing a better understanding of the variant.
  • Existing public health and social measures need to be strengthened to control and prevent transmission.
  • Enhancing vaccination coverage across different regions along with access to testing, therapeutics and support will be essential for combating the new variant.
  • Equitable access to vaccines would be key to controlling the Omicron variant, and slowing down the emergence of any future variants.

 

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Indian Navy Updates

Trilateral Exercise ‘Dosti’

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Exercise Dosti

Mains level: Not Much

The 15th edition of the biennial trilateral coast guard exercise ‘Dosti’ involving India, the Maldives and Sri Lanka is underway in the Maldives.

Exercise Dosti

  • The aim of this exercise is to further fortify the friendship, enhance mutual operational capability, and exercise interoperability and to build cooperation.
  • Both the Maldives and Sri Lanka are of strategic importance to New Delhi and to its maritime security interests.
  • 2021 marks 30 years since these exercises were first launched.

Significance of the exercise

  • These exercises help during joint operations and missions undertaken by countries and also help enhance interoperability.
  • Although piracy is not a major issue in this part of the Indian ocean, these kinds of exercises also help coast guards with training for possibilities.
  • These exercises help develop a better understanding of the other nation’s coast guard operations and how to enhance coordination during different kinds of missions.

What it involves

  • The scope of these exercises are wide-ranging.
  • India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives have agreed to work on what they called the “four pillars” of security cooperation.
  • These involved the areas of marine security, human trafficking, counter-terrorism and cyber security.

 

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Modern Indian History-Events and Personalities

[pib] Who was Lachit Borphukan?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Lachit Borphukan, Battle of Saraighat

Mains level: Not Much

The Prime Minister has paid tributes to Lachit Borphukan on Lachit Diwas.

Who was Lachit Borphukan?

  • The year was 1671 and the decisive Battle of Saraighat was fought on the raging waters of the Brahmaputra.
  • On one side was Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb’s army headed by Ram Singh of Amer (Jaipur) and on the other was the Ahom General Lachit Borphukan.
  • He was a commander in the Ahom kingdom, located in present-day Assam.
  • Ram Singh failed to make any advance against the Assamese army during the first phase of the war.
  • Lachit Borphukan emerged victorious in the war and the Mughals were forced to retreat from Guwahati.

Lachit Diwas

  • On 24 November each year, Lachit Divas is celebrated statewide in Assam to commemorate the heroism of Lachit Borphukan.
  • On this day, Borphukan has defeated the Mughal army on the banks of the Brahmaputra in the Battle of Saraighat in 1671.
  • The best passing out cadet of National Defence Academy has conferred the Lachit gold medal every year since 1999 commemorating his valour.

Try this PYQ:

Q.What was the immediate cause for Ahmad Shah Abdali to invade and fight the Third Battle of Panipat:

(a) He wanted to avenge the expulsion by Marathas of his viceroy Timur Shah from Lahore

(b) The frustrated governor of Jullundhar Adina Beg khan invited him to invade Punjab

(c) He wanted to punish Mughal administration for non-payment of the revenues of the Chahar Mahal (Gujrat Aurangabad, Sialkot and Pasrur)

(d) He wanted to annex all the fertile plains of Punjab upto borders of Delhi to his kingdom

Post your answers here.

 

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