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Chang’e-4 Mission

Mains Paper 3 : Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the mission

Mains level : Magma Ocean Theory and formation of Moon



News

Chang’e-4

  • In January, the Chinese spacecraft Chang’e-4 — named after the moon goddess in Chinese mythology — became the first ever craft to touch down on the far side of the lunar surface.
  • The team landed its probe in the Von Karmen Crater in the Aitken Basin at the Moon’s south pole — home to one of the largest impact craters known in the solar system.
  • Scientists have said they could be a step closer to solving the riddle behind the Moon’s formation, unveiling the most detailed survey yet of the far side of Earth’s satellite.

Formation of Moon

  • The moon is believed to have gone through a phase during its formation when it was partially or entirely composed of molten rock.
  • As it cooled, denser minerals sank to the bottom of the magma-ocean, while lighter materials gathered near the surface to form its mantle.
  • They detected materials such as olivine and low-calcium pyroxene that are rare elsewhere on the surface.
  • These materials were ejected from the Moon’s upper mantle when it was struck by a meteor.

Lunar Magma Ocean Theory

  • The lunar magma ocean (LMO) is a term used in planetary science to describe the thermal state of Earth’s Moon in the thousands to millions of years following its formation.
  • The most widely accepted model for the formation of the Moon invokes a collision between proto-Earth and another proto-planet.
  • The Moon accreted from the resulting debris disk surrounding the Earth, which likely consisted of molten and vaporized silicate material.
  • The accretion of the Moon from this debris disk leads to a body in a largely or completely molten state.
  • This “magmasphere” is referred to as the LMO.
International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Reserve Bank proposes 24×7 NEFT money transfer

Mains Paper 3 : issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NEFT, RTGS, IMPS

Mains level : Promoting digital transactions in India


News

  • The RBI has proposed to examine the possibility of extending availability of National Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT) round-the-clock on all the seven days of the week — 24×7 basis — to facilitate beyond the banking hour fund transfer.
  • Besides, the central bank will also examine the possibility of extending the timings for Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) transactions.

What are NEFT and RTGS?

I. NEFT

  • NEFT is an electronic funds transfer system maintained by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
  • Started in November 2005, the setup was established and maintained by Institute for Development and Research in Banking Technology (IDRBT).
  • NEFT enables bank customers in India to transfer funds between any two NEFT-enabled bank accounts on a one-to-one basis. It is done via electronic messages.
  • Unlike Real-time gross settlement (RTGS), fund transfers through the NEFT system do not occur in real-time basis.

II. RTGS

  • RTGS are specialist funds transfer systems where the transfer of money or securities takes place from one bank to any other bank on a “real time” and on a “gross” basis.
  • Settlement in “real time” means a payment transaction is not subjected to any waiting period, with transactions being settled as soon as they are processed.
  • “Gross settlement” means the transaction is settled on one-to-one basis without bundling or netting with any other transaction.
  • “Settlement” means that once processed, payments are final and irrevocable.

What are the current limits?

  • Customers can transfer anywhere between Rs 1 and Rs 25 lakh via NEFT (for HDFC Bank; varies from bank to bank) through net banking in a day.
  • Through RTGS, they can transfer between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 25 lakh through net banking in a day.
  • However, as of now, these online transactions are not available on Sundays, on the second and fourth Saturdays of every month and on bank holidays.
  • On working days, NEFT is available between 8 am and 7 pm (varies from bank to bank) except on working Saturdays (8 am and 1 pm) and hence they restrict customers’ ability to carry out such transactions.
  • Online RTGS transactions are available for lesser hours. It can be done till 4 pm (varies from bank to bank).

Current options available

  • Customers can currently transfer money through Immediate Payment Service (IMPS) round the clock but the maximum amount allowed is Rs 2 lakh.
  • If RBI makes NEFT 24×7, it will not only ease the fund transfer for customers round the clock but will also take some load-off the bank branches for executing such transactions.
RBI Notifications

Global Drug Survey Report 2018

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : GDS

Mains level : Read the attached story



News

  • A global survey of recreational drug-use, which for the first time polled respondents from India, has found that Indians — more than from other nationalities — are seeking help to reduce their alcohol intake.

Global Drug Survey

  • The Global Drug Survey (GDS) is an anonymised online survey that uses a detailed questionnaire to assess trends in drug use and self-reported harms among regular drug users and early adopters of new trends.
  • The survey is not designed to determine the prevalence of drug behaviour in a population.
  • It throws light on stigmatized behaviours and health outcomes of a hidden population that is otherwise difficult to reach.
  • GDS use its data and expertise to create digital health applications delivering screening and brief interventions for drugs and alcohol.
  • GDS also produces a range of drug education materials for health and legal professionals, the entertainment industry and the general public.

Drugs menace in India

  • Alcohol, tobacco and cannabis were the most common stimulants used by Indians.
  • Of the nearly 1,00,000 respondents from 30 countries, Indians reported ‘being drunk’ on an average of 41 times in the last 12 months — behind the U.K., the U.S., Canada, Australia and Denmark in that order but well above the global average of 33 times.
  • Indian respondents to the survey, conducted online October-December 2018, appeared more than other nationalities eager for help with reducing their alcohol intake.
  • According to the 2019 GDS, 51% of the respondents wanted to ‘drink less’ in the following year and 41% ‘wanted help to do so’ — again the highest percentage among other countries.
  • About 6% of the female Indians surveyed reported seeking ‘emergency medical treatment’ in the last 12 months. The global female average was about 13%.
  • None of the males in India reported seeking medical treatment, compared to the global average of 12%.

Less cannabis

  • Only 2% sought emergency medical treatment after using cannabis.
  • Similar to alcohol use, 51% said they wanted to use ‘less cannabis’ in the following year; more than any other nationality and well above the global average of 31%.
  • Alcohol and tobacco apart, the most used drugs globally were cannabis, MDMA (or Ecstacy), cocaine, amphetamines, LSD (or ‘acid’), magic mushrooms, benzodiazepines, prescription opioids, ketamine, nitrous oxide.
  • The survey also found that globally approximately 14% (11,000) reported being taken advantage of sexually while intoxicated in their lifetime and 4% in the last 12 months.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Graphite mining in Arunachal Pradesh

Mains Paper 3 : Effects Of Liberalization On The Economy, Changes In Industrial Policy and their effects on Industrial Growth |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Graphite and its properties

Mains level : India-China Border Issues


News

  • Arunachal Pradesh has asked the Geological Survey of India (GSI) to explore the possibility of surveying and drilling for minerals along the India-China border.

What is Graphite?

  • Graphite is a naturally-occurring form of crystalline carbon.
  • It is a native element mineral found in metamorphic and igneous rocks.
  • It is extremely soft, cleaves with very light pressure, and has a very low specific gravity.
  • It is the only non-metal element that is a good conductor of electricity.
  • It is also known as a dry lubricant for its greasy feel.

Why mine in Arunachal?

  • Beijing is carrying out “massive” mining activities very close to the border in the Tibet Autonomous Region.
  • Arunachal could be the leading producer of graphite, going a long way in cutting down India’s import of the mineral.

Arunachal holds highest deposits of graphite

  • The GSI presented the status of mineral deposits in Arunachal Pradesh at the meeting.
  • Data showed that the State has 35% of the total graphite reserves in India – the highest in the country.
  • The GSI’s 2013 report showed Arunachal Pradesh sits on 43% of the country’s graphite resources followed by Jammu & Kashmir (37%), Jharkhand (6%), Tamil Nadu (5%), and Odisha (3%).
  • But in terms of resources, Tamil Nadu led with 37% followed by Jharkhand with 30% and Odisha with 29%.
Coal and Mining Sector

Explained: Strait of Hormuz — the world’s most important oil artery

Mains Paper 2 : India & Its Neighborhood - Relations |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Strait of Hormuz

Mains level : US-Iran turmoil and its impact on India


News

Why in news?

  • The Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping route linking Middle East oil producers to markets in Asia, Europe, North America and beyond, has been at the heart of regional tensions for decades.
  • Recently two Saudi oil tankers were among vessels targeted in a “sabotage attack” off the coast of the UAE, condemning it as an attempt to undermine the security of global crude supplies.
  • Iran’s foreign ministry called the incidents “worrisome and dreadful” and asked for an investigation.

Strait of Hormuz

  • The Strait of Hormuz is a strait between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.
  • It provides the only sea passage from the Persian Gulf to the open ocean and is one of the world’s most strategically important choke points.
  • The waterway separates Iran and Oman, linking the Gulf to the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea.
  • The Strait is 21 miles (33 km) wide at its narrowest point, but the shipping lane is just two miles (three km) wide in either direction.

Why does it matter?

  • The US Energy Information Administration estimated that 18.5 million barrels per day (bpd) of seaborne oil passed through the waterway in 2016.
  • That was about 30 per cent of crude and other oil liquids traded by sea in 2016.
  • With global oil consumption standing at about 100 million bpd, that means almost a fifth passes through the Strait.
  • Most crude exported from Saudi Arabia, Iran, the UAE, Kuwait and Iraq — all members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries are shipped through the waterway.
  • It is also the route used for nearly all the liquefied natural gas (LNG) produced by the world’s biggest LNG exporter, Qatar.

Why always in turmoil?

  • During the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, the two sides sought to disrupt each other’s oil exports in what was known as the Tanker War.
  • The US Fifth Fleet, based in Bahrain, is tasked with protecting the commercial ships in the area.
  • The fleet ensures that the critical waterway remains open, provocative Iranian military maneuvers are likely in the immediate offing as is a nuclear restart.
  • Iran agreed to rein in its nuclear programme in return for an easing of sanctions under a 2015 deal with the United States and five other global powers.
  • Washington pulled out of the pact in 2018. Western powers fear Iran wants to make nuclear weapons. Tehran denies this.
  • The UAE and Saudi Arabia have sought to find other routes to bypass the Strait, including building more oil pipelines.

Have there been incidents in the strait before?

  • In January 2012, Iran threatened to block the Strait in retaliation for US and European sanctions that targeted its oil revenues in an attempt to stop Tehran’s nuclear programme.
  • In May 2015, Iranian ships fired shots at a Singapore-flagged tanker which it said damaged an Iranian oil platform, causing the vessel to flee. It also seized a container ship in the Strait.
  • In July 2018, Iranian President hinted Iran could disrupt oil flows through the Strait in response to US calls to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero.
  • A Revolutionary Guards commander also said Iran would block all exports through the Strait if Iranian exports were stopped.
  • The US in turn declared the guards a terrorist organization.
Iran’s Nuclear Program & Western Sanctions

DNA database for Indian Rhino

Mains Paper 3 : Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Eia |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : DNA Database for Indian Rhino

Mains level : Conservation of Rhinos


News

  • The Environment Ministry has embarked on a project to create DNA profiles of all rhinos in the country.

DNA Database of Indian Rhino

  • By 2021, the Indian rhino could be the first wild animal species in India to have all its members DNA-sequenced.
  • The project’s proponents include the World Wildlife Fund for Nature-India (WWF-India) and the Centre-funded Wildlife Institute of India (WII).
  • The exercise would be useful in curbing poaching and gathering evidence in wildlife crimes involving rhinos.
  • There are about 2,600 rhinos in India, with over 90% of the population concentrated in Assam’s Kaziranga National Park.
  • Around 60 samples of tissue have been collected so far from some rhinos living outside Kaziranga.

About Indian Rhino

  • The Indian rhinoceros also called the greater one-horned rhinoceros and great Indian rhinoceros is a rhinoceros native to the Indian subcontinent.
  • It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, as populations are fragmented and restricted to less than 20,000 km2 .
  • It once ranged across the entire northern part of the Indian Subcontinent, along the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra River basins, from Pakistan to the Indian-Myanmar border.
  • Poaching for rhinoceros horn became the single most important reason for the decline of the Indian rhino.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

[pib] High-speed Expendable Aerial Target (HEAT)

Mains Paper 3 : Achievements Of Indians In S&T |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ABHYAS, HEAT

Mains level : Not Much


News

  • DRDO conducted successful flight test of ABHYAS – High-speed Expendable Aerial Target (HEAT) from Interim Test Range, Chandipur in Odisha.

High-speed Expendable Aerial Target (HEAT)

  • HEAT offers a realistic threat scenario for practice of weapon systems. It is designed for autonomous flying with the help of an autopilot.
  • It is designed on an in-line small gas turbine engine and uses indigenously developed MEMS based navigation system for its navigation and guidance.
  • The performance of the system was as per simulations carried out and demonstrated the capability of ABHYAS to meet the mission requirement for a cost effective HEAT.
  • The flight test was tracked by various RADARS & Electro Optic Systems and proved its performance in fully autonomous way point navigation mode.
Indian Missile Program Updates

Arsenic bio-remediation using two soil bacteria

Mains Paper 3 : Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Arsenic contamination and bioremediation

Mains level : Prevention of water pollution


News

  • Using two indigenous strains of bacterium isolated from arsenic-contaminated field, researchers from CSIR-National Botanical Research Institute (CSIR-NBRI) and the University of Lucknow have shown that arsenic can be effectively removed from contaminated soil with the help of microbes.

Arsenic bioremediation

  • The strains are named as Bacillus flexus and Acinetobacter junii.
  • Several studies have pointed out that using arsenic-contaminated water for agricultural purposes can lead to increased concentration of arsenic in fruits and grains, proving toxic to humans.
  • The researchers studied the two bacteria under different concentrations of arsenate and arsenite, the toxic forms of heavy metal.
  • Arsenic treatment did not stunt or delay the growth of both the bacterial strains.
  • flexus exhibited resistance to high levels (150 mmol per litre) of arsenate and A. junii to about 70 mmol per litre of arsenite.
  • This is higher than previously reported arsenic tolerant bacteria and so were regarded as hyper-tolerant strains.
  • Further gene detection studies pointed out that both the bacteria have a special ars C gene, which aids in arsenic detoxification.

Promotes plant growth

  • The bacterial strains were further scrutinised to understand if they can help in plant growth too. In studies carried out in the lab, both the bacteria were able to solubilise phosphorus.
  • Phosphate solubilising bacteria have been reported to increase phytoavailability of phosphate, thus facilitating plant growth.
  • These two bacterial strains were also found to produce siderophores and ACC deaminase enzyme.
  • Siderophore increase the bioavailability of iron and other metal ions in polluted soil environment and ACC deaminase is a well known plant growth promoting enzyme.
  • These bacteria can live symbiotically in the roots of plants in arsenic- contaminated soils and help them uptake the required nutrients without causing toxicity.

Back2Basics

Hazards of Arsenic contamination

  • Arsenic is an element widely distributed in earth’s crust, and in groundwater in many countries.
  • Long-term intake of arsenic contaminated water leads to arsenic poisoning or arsenicosis, with cancer of skin, bladder, kidney or lung or diseases of skin (colour changes, and hard patches on palms and soles), or blood vessels of legs and feet.
  • Fresh evidence indicates possible association between intake of contaminated water to onset of diabetes, hypertension and reproductive disorders.
  • In India, the states of West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Manipur and Chhattisgarh are reported to be most affected by arsenic contamination of groundwater above the permissible level.
  • WHO’s provisional guideline value for arsenic in drinking water – 0.01 mg/l (10 μg/l).
Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Lakshadweep recruits Barn Owls to fight rodent menace

Mains Paper 3 : Economics Of Animal-Rearing |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Barn Owls

Mains level : Not Much


News

  • With a thriving rat population playing havoc with its coconut yield, the UT of Lakshadweep hires barn owls for help.

What is barn?

  • A barn is an agricultural building usually on farms and used for various purposes.
  • It refers to structures that house livestock, including cattle and horses, as well as equipment and fodder, and often grain.

Recruiting barn owls

  • Coconut is an important money-spinner for the islands, but the pesky rodents account for 30-40% of the yield loss.
  • However, employing owls to hunt down rats is not exactly a new idea for the islanders.
  • Similar attempts were reportedly made in the 1960s as well.
  • The birds were reintroduced in the 19th century for rodent management.

Why barn owls?

  • The reason is that the rats in the Lakshadweep Islands practically live on treetops.
  • The coconut palms here grow so close together that they resemble a jungle. The fronds overlap, allowing the rodents to move easily from one tree to another.
  • Besides, the nocturnal barn owls are natural rat hunters, armed with a powerful auditory mechanism.
  • There is also an important environmental angle to Lakshadweep’s decision to choose biocontrol.
  • The islands being a designated organic zone, use of chemicals for pest control is a strict no-no.
  • If successful, the barn owl campaign will be extended to other islands in Lakshadweep as well.

IAF gets first Apache Guardian attack helicopter

Mains Paper 3 : Various Security Forces, Agencies & Their Mandates |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Apache Helicopters

Mains level : Modernization of armed forces


News

  • US aerospace major Boeing has handed over first of the 22 Apache Guardian attack helicopters to the Indian Air Force today.
  • The addition of AH-64E (I) Apache helicopter is a significant step towards modernization of the force’s chopper fleet.

AH-64E Apache

  • The AH-64E Apache is a leading multi-role attack helicopter and is flown by the US Army.
  • The helicopter has been customised to suit the IAF’s future requirements and would have significant capability in mountainous terrain.
  • It has the capability to carry out precision attacks at standoff ranges and operate in hostile airspace with threats from ground.
  • Its ability to transmit and receive the battlefield picture, to and from the weapon systems through data networking makes it a lethal acquisition.
Indian Air Force Updates

Exercise Group Sail

Mains Paper 3 : Various Security Forces, Agencies & Their Mandates |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Exercise Group Sail

Mains level : Ensuring safe and open sea lanes


News

Exercise Group Sail

  • Two Indian naval ships joined their counterparts from the US, Japan, and The Philippines for a “Group Sail” exercise through the contested waters of the South China Sea.
  • In China, the ships took part in the International Fleet Review (IFR) as part of the 70th anniversary celebrations of the People’s Liberation Army (Navy).
  • The ships undertook various exercises en route which included formation manoeuvering, under way replenishment runs, cross-deck flying and exchange of sea riders.
  • The group sail exercise showcased India’s commitment to operating with like-minded nations to ensure safe maritime environment through enhanced interoperability.

Importance of the exercise

  • The exercise comes at a time when India has been warily looking at increased Chinese activity in the northern Indian Ocean, traditionally seen as India’s backyard.
  • The presence of Chinese ships and submarines has been on the rise.
  • In 2017, China opened its first overseas military facility in Djibouti and has also been investing heavily in infrastructure along Africa’s eastern coast – in Tanzania and Kenya – as part of its ambitious OBOR initiative.
  • This move underlined India’s commitment to working with partners to ensure safe and open sea lanes.
Indian Navy Updates

Indian scientists discover how serotonin helps brain cells cope with stress

Mains Paper 3 : Achievements Of Indians In S&T |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Serotonin

Mains level : Serotonin and its uses


News

  • Indian scientists have discovered that serotonin boosts energy production in brain cells and helps them survive under stress. This new knowledge can potentially be used to develop anti-stress drugs in future.

Role of Serotonin

  • Serotonin is a chemical that relays information from one part of the brain to another and is known to play a key role in a number of functions ranging from sleep to social behaviour.
  • The study by scientists at the Mumbai-based Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) has found that the neurotransmitter boosts the number of mitochondria in brain cells.
  • Mitochondria in brain cells generate energy to carry out cellular functions and play a role in survival of brain cells under stress.
  • In addition, serotonin also increases production of energy by mitochondria.
  • This role of serotonin in regulating neuronal energetics was not known till now.

Benefits of Serotonin

  • Serotonin reduces toxic reactive oxygen species in neurons, boosts anti-oxidant enzymes and buffers neurons from the damaging effects of cellular stress.
  • The study has uncovered an unprecedented role of serotonin in energy production in neurons, directly impacting how neurons handle stress.
  • It has also identified novel therapeutic targets for the treatment of neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders.

Energy boosting function

  • Researchers have also found out the mechanism through which serotonin carries out its energy boosting function.
  • It has emerged that generation of new mitochondria in neurons by serotonin is accompanied by increased cellular respiration and energy chemical ATP.
  • These effects of serotonin involve the serotonin2A receptor and master regulators of mitochondrial generation – SIRT1 and PGC-1a.
Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

Purple frog set to be crowned Kerala’s state amphibian

Mains :

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Purple Frog


Click here for Image

News

  • There is an ongoing campaign in Kerala to declare ‘Maveli’, the purple frog as Kerala’s State Amphibian, making it first of its kind in India.

Roots in mythology

  • Mahabali, or Maveli, was a benevolent asura king who ruled over the region of Kerala but was banished into the netherworld by Lord Vishnu in order to appease the gods.
  • But Maveli was granted one wish: he could return to Kerala for a single day and meet his subjects.
  • This day in Kerala came to be celebrated as ‘Thiruvonam’, the most auspicious day of Onam when people would greet their old king.

Purple Frog

  • Quite similar to the lore of King Maveli, researchers have found that the Purple frog (Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis), which lives almost its entire life in underground tunnels, comes out to the surface for a single day in a year to breed.
  • Once it lays it’s eggs, the bloated frogs characterized by a protruding snout and powerful hind legs return to the earth’s deepest layers.
  • This intriguing frog species is listed as Endangered on the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
  • It feeds mostly on soil-mites, ants and termites using its fluted tongue.
  • The male and female frogs mate underground and once in a year, they come out on the surface to lay thousands of eggs near seasonal streams in the months of May-June.
  • How they time their emergence onto the surface along with the onset of early rains is a mystery that continues to baffle naturalists.

Why is it so special?

  • It’s endemic to this part of the southern Western Ghats and cannot be found anywhere else.
  • Described for the first time in 2003 by two scientists in the jungles of Kerala, the species sparks feverish imagination among herpetologists worldwide for a number of reasons.
  • It’s evolutionary roots suggest it could have shared space with dinosaurs going back almost 70 million years ago.
  • This could help scientists understand how it’s population may have evolved and learned to overcome the challenges of shifting land masses.
  • A year after it was documented, the frog’s closest relatives were found in Seychelles, an island in the Indian Ocean off East Africa.
  • This discovery led many to ask whether the species could indeed be living proof of the theory of Gondwanaland.

Another proof for continental drift

  • Mammals and rodents have often travelled the seas through ships and with voyagers. But amphibians can’t tolerate salinity.
  • So it’s a possibility that the landmass could have been connected (for the species’ close relatives to be found on two continents today).
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Grizzled Giant Squirrel

Mains :

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the squirrel

Mains level : Not Much


News

Grizzled Giant Squirrel

  • For the first time, researchers have sighted nests of the grizzled giant squirrel at Pakkamalai Reserve Forests near Gingee in the Eastern Ghats.
  • The grizzled giant squirrel is usually known to nest in the Western Ghats in Southern India ranging from Chinnar Wildlife sanctuary in Kerala to Anamalai Tiger Reserve and Palani hills in Tamil Nadu.
  • Owing to habitat loss and poaching, the species has been categorised as near threatened by the Red List and listed under Schedule II of CITES.
  • It is an endangered species listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972
  • The grizzled giant squirrel is usually known to nest in the Western Ghats in Southern India ranging from Chinnar Wildlife sanctuary in Kerala to Anamalai Tiger Reserve and Palani hills in Tamil Nadu.
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Genetic Study on people of Lakshadweep Islands

Mains Paper 3 : Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Lakshadweep Islands

Mains level : Read the attached story


News

Genetic studies in Lakshadweep

  • Genetic studies on the people of the Lakshadweep archipelago was done by a team of CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), for the first time.
  • It has have shown that a majority of human ancestry in Lakshadweep is largely derived from South Asia with minor influences from East and West Eurasia.
  • And, there was no evidence of early human migration through the Lakshadweep islands.

Findings of the study

  • The islands are located between Africa and southwestern part of India.
  • Through our earlier studies we know that early human migration from Africa to Andaman and Australia happened through western coast of India.
  • So it was presumed that Lakshadweep Islands might have played a major role in early human migration and expected the presence of genetic signatures of ancient people, such as Andamanese and Australian aboriginals.
  • The study of major islands of Agatti, Andorth, Bitra, Chetlat, Kadmat, Kalpeni, Kiltan and Minicoy of Lakshadweep and demonstrated a close genetic link of Lakshadweep islanders with people from Maldives, Sri Lanka and India.

Why study Lakshadweep?

  • Lakshadweep is an archipelago of 36 islands, scattered over approximately 78,000 square km of the Arabian Sea, 200-440 kms off the south-western coast of India, with a population of approximately 65,000.
  • However, the genetic composition of the first human settlement of this archipelago is not clear.
  • The islands were known to sailors since ancient times and historical documents say that the spread of Buddhism to these islands happened during 6th century B.C. and Islam was spread by in 661 A.D. by Arabians.
  • Cholas ruled the islands in 11th century, Portuguese in 16th century, Ali Rajahs in 17th, Tipu Sultan in 18th before the British Raj of 19th century.
Promoting Science and Technology – Missions,Policies & Schemes

Fourth Scorpene-class submarine INS Vela launched

Mains Paper 3 : Various Security Forces, Agencies & Their Mandates |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : INS Vela, Project 75

Mains level : India's naval arsenal


News

  • The Scorpene-class submarine Vela, the fourth of six underwater warships being built in India with French collaboration, was launched in Mumbai.

INS Vela

  • The submarine has been named ‘Vela’ after an earlier lead submarine of the erstwhile Vela class, which was the second batch of the Foxtrot class submarines acquired from erstwhile Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).
  • INS Vela is the fourth Scorpene class Submarine of Project 75.
  • INS Kalvari, the first of the Scorpene-class submarines, was commissioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 14, 2017.
  • INS Khanderi and INS Karanj are in advanced stages to join the fleet.
  • The remaining two — INS Vagir and INS Vagsheer are in the advanced stages of manufacturing.

Scorpene Class Submarine: What it means?

  • The Scorpene class submarines have the capability to be operational in any theatre also have the capability of undertaking different types of missions, which include anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, intelligence gathering, mine laying and area surveillance.
  • They have top end stealth features which includes advanced acoustic silencing techniques, low radiated noise levels, hydro-dynamically optimised shape and the ability to launch a crippling attack on the enemy using precision-guided weapons.

Who built it?

  • The State-owned Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited has entered into a contract for construction and transfer of technology for six Scorpene-class submarines with French collaborator Ms Naval Group (formerly DCNS).
Indian Navy Updates

Thailand’s cultural roots with India

Mains Paper 1 : Arts & Culture |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Not Much


News

Background

  • Recently Thailand observed an elaborate coronation ceremony for its new king.
  • Last time such a ceremony took place in the country was back in May 1950 for King Bhumibol Adulyadej, also known as Rama IX.
  • Adulyadej passed away in 2016 at the age of 88, after having ruled for seven decades.

Indian roots of Coronation

  • The coronation ceremony is an interesting mix of Buddhist and Brahminical rituals, symbolically declaring the king as Devaraja (God-king) and upholder of Buddhism in Thailand.
  • The Indian roots of the Thai king’s coronation ceremony are reflexive of the rich, long relationship that South East Asian countries have shared with Hindu and Buddhist communities in India.
  • The Brahmanical character of the Thai coronation ceremony needs to be located in the context of such cultural exchange.
  • The Siamese preserve the ancient term for coronation as ‘Rajabhisheka’ which in ancient India referred to the coronation of ordinary kings.
  • For the Siamese, Rajabhisheka is rather a Rajasuya, a ceremony for the consecration of an emperor, and it is extremely interesting to find that some of its features can be traced back to the Vedic Rajasuya described in the Satapatha Brahmana.

Indianisation in SE Asia

  • French scholar George Coedes is known to be the first person to have carried out an in-depth study of the process of ‘Indianisation’ in South East Asia, whereby he coined the term ‘Farther India’.
  • Trade was perhaps the foremost cause of contact between the two regions.
  • As Coedus notes, individual traders had perhaps set up small kingdoms in South East Asian states, thereby carrying with them Buddhist and Hindu cultural motifs and value systems.

Observation of Brahminical features

  • The existence of Brahmanical features in the coronation ceremony can be traced back to the Sukhothai Kingdom of the thirteenth century.
  • Since then, despite the growth of Buddhism in the country, Brahmins had an extremely important role to play in the royal court.
  • Although Buddhism was the religion of the people, and was protected by the kings, Hinduism was still considered as essential to the monarchy, and received a great share of royal favour.
  • During the period of the Ayutthaya Kingdom, Brahmins were appointed in the court from Cambodia and from the Indian peninsula.
  • The Brahmanical nature of the court ceremonies was destroyed only when the Ayutthaya kingdom was sacked in the 18th century by the Burmese troops of the Konbaung Dynasty.
  • King Rama I, who founded the Rattanakosin Kingdom in the late 18th century, brought back the Brahmanical tradition of the coronation ceremony which continues to be observed till date.
History- Important places, persons in news

Explained: Dissent in the Election Commission

Mains Paper 2 : Representation Of People's Act |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : ECI and its composition

Mains level : Read the attached story


News

  • Election Commissioner has dissented with the opinion of his colleagues in the Election Commission in five different matters pertaining to alleged violations of the Model Code of Conduct.

Business of ECI

  • Section 10 (Disposal of business by Election Commission) of The Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991, lays down that “all business of the EC shall, as far as possible, be transacted unanimously”.
  • Dissent is, however, provided for in the Act itself, which says: “If the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and other Election Commissioners (ECs) differ in opinion on any matter, such matter shall be decided according to the opinion of the majority”.

CEC=EC

  • The Election Commission of India draws its authority from the Constitution itself.
  • Under Article 324, the powers of “superintendence, direction and control of elections” are to be vested in an Election Commission.
  • The CEC and ECs are appointed by the President to a tenure of six years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
  • They enjoy the same status and receive salary and perks as judges of the Supreme Court of India.
  • All three Election Commissioners have equal say in the decision making of the Commission.

Members of the ECI

  • The Constitution does not, however, fix the size of the Election Commission.
  • Article 324(2) says that “the Election Commission shall consist of the Chief Election Commissioner and such number of other Election Commissioners, if any, as the President may from time to time fix”.
  • From the beginning, the Election Commission of India consisted of just the Chief Election Commissioner.
  • However, on October 16, 1989, the Congress government of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi appointed two more Election Commissioners, making the Election Commission a multi-member body.
Electoral Reforms In India

ISRO plans to launch radar imaging satellite in May

Mains Paper 3 : Awareness In The Fields Of It, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : RISAT

Mains level : Significance of the RISAT Mission


News

  • India is planning to launch its radar imaging satellite RISAT 2BR1 sometime towards the end of this May on one of the variants of its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket.

RISAT 2BR1

  • The RISAT was first deployed in orbit on April 20, 2009 as the RISAT-2.
  • It uses synthetic aperture radars (SAR) to provide Indian forces with all-weather surveillance and observation, which are crucial to notice any potential threat or malicious activity around the nation’s borders.
  • Following the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, the launch of RISAT-2 was prioritized over RISAT- 1, as its C-band SAR radar was not yet ready and RISAT -2 hence carried Israeli-built X-band radar.
  • The to-be-deployed RISAT-2BR1 satellite uses the same SAR band and will further improve India’s imaging reconnaissance abilities.
  • The rocket that would carry RISAT 2BR1 is designated as PSLV-C46 as per ISRO’s numbering system and will blast off from the first launch pad at the country’s rocket port in Sriharikota.
  • Following the launch of RISAT 2BR1, ISRO will send up a cartography satellite Catosat-3.
ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Rare life-size stucco figurine unearthed in Telangana

Mains Paper 1 : Arts & Culture |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ikshavaku dynasty, Stucco

Mains level : Ancient Buddhist art


News

  • Archaeologists in Telangana have unearthed a rare treasure in the form of a life-sized stucco sculpture from a Buddhist site at Phanigiri.

What is stucco?

  • Stucco is a material made of aggregates, a binder, and water. Stucco is applied wet and hardens to a very dense solid.
  • It is used as a decorative coating for walls and ceilings, and as a sculptural and artistic material in architecture.
  • Stucco may be used to cover less visually appealing construction materials, such as metal, concrete, cinder block, or clay brick and adobe.

About the Bodhisattva statue

  • It is the biggest stucco sculpture found in the country so far.
  • The life-size figurine found in the excavations is thought to represent one of Bhodhisattva in Jathaka Chakra.
  • The stucco is about 1.73 metres in height and 35 cm in width, thus the biggest stucco sculpture found in the country so far
  • Apart from the life-sized stucco, these excavations brought to light a Mahastupa, apsidal chaitya grihas, votive stupas, pillared congregation halls, viharas, platforms with staircases at various levels.
  • It also had sculptural panels with Brahmi inscriptions, belonging to Satavahana period from first century BC, continued with Mahayana till the end of Ikshvaku period and others in third-fourth century AD.

About Ikshvaku Dynasty

  • The Ikshvaku dynasty, in Puranic literature, was a dynasty founded by the legendary king Ikshvaku. The dynasty is also known as Sūryavaṁśa (the Solar dynasty).
  • Lord Rama belonged to the Ikshavaku dynasty.
  • Twenty-two out of the twenty-four Jain Tirthankara belonged to this dynasty.
  • Rishabha is present in both Hindu as well as Jain mythology. Both refers to the same person.
  • According to the Buddhist texts, Prince Siddhartha belonged to this dynasty.
  • The Buddhist text, Mahavamsa traces the origin of the Shakyas to king Okkaka (Pali equivalent to Sanskrit Ikshvaku) and gives their genealogy from Mahasammata, an ancestor of Okkaka.
Historical and Archaeological Findings in News