February 2020
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Monetary Policy Committee Notifications

Explained: The reserves in Reserve BankPriority 1


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Economic Capital of RBI

Mains level: Debate regarding the independence of RBI and Fiscal Strain on Govt.



  1. The government and the RBI are engaged in fixing an appropriate economic capital framework for the central bank.
  2. The central government is expecting from RBI to re-distribute its surplus for recapitalization process to counter NPA crisis.

What is Economic Capital?

  1. Banks and financial institutions are faced with long-term future uncertainties that they intend to account for.
  2. Economic capital (EC) is the amount of risk capital that a bank estimates in order to remain solvent at a given confidence level and time horizon.
  3. The concept of economic capital has gained significance especially after the global financial crisis in 2008.
  4. The crisis exposed many central banks in the world to multiple risks, which forced many of them US Federal Reserve, Bank of England and European Central Bank to pump in liquidity.
  5. They tempted to buy securities and expand their balance sheets to boost confidence in the financial system and to ensure that critical institutions did not collapse.

What drives balance sheet of Central Banks?

  1. The balance sheet of central banks is unlike that of the institutions that it regulates or supervises.
  2. They are not driven by the aim of boosting profits given their public policy or public interest role.
  3. Their aim is primarily ensuring monetary and financial stability and maintaining confidence in the external value of the currency.
  4. Central banks do make money or the profits earned by issuing currency which is passed on to the owner of the central bank, the government.
  5. But they are typically conservative and the crisis prompted a review of the capital buffers that central banks and commercial banks needed.

Potential Risks to Central Banks

  1. Traditionally, central banks have been factoring in risks such as credit risk when there could be a potential default by an entity in which there has been an investment or exposure.
  2. There is also interest rate risk when interest rates either move up or slide, depending on the price of which securities or bonds held by a central bank or banks can be impacted.
  3. Besides, there is operational risk when there is a failure of internal processes.
  4. To measure these risks, both quantitative and qualitative methods are typically used.

The RBI proposal

  1. RBI holds a huge pile of foreign exchange reserves, and as the lender of last resort it described as contingent risks arising from its public policy role in fostering monetary and financial stability.
  2. In 2015, the RBI discussed this and put in place a draft Economic Capital Framework, or ECF.
  3. The rationale for such a capital framework was that there were increased risks to its balance sheet.
  4. RBI sought for an adequate capital buffer, critical not only to achieving its objectives, but also to ensuring the credibility of the central bank.

Concerns of RBI

  1. RBI pointed out that a weak balance sheet could force the central bank to rely more on excessive seigniorage (profit made by issuing currency) income, which would run in conflict to its price stability mandate.
  2. A compelling reason for RBI to build large capital buffers is to try and preempt a situation where they have to approach their governments for putting up their capital for recapitalization.
  3. That is seen by them as an erosion of their operational independence.
  4. The sovereign governments themselves are under fiscal strain.
  5. This strengthens the case for ex-ante capitalization (based on forecasts) than ex-post capitalization i.e. better to build a capital framework way ahead of a crisis.

Capital Buffer: A Case in England

  1. In June this year, the Bank of signed a MoU on a capital framework and on distributing its surplus.
  2. This new capital framework would ensure that the bank’s policy work is fully funded.
  3. The bank is to be equipped with capital resources consistent with monetary and financial stability remits given by Parliament.
  4. It provides a robust and transparent system that ensures the credibility of the bank’s policy action in even the most stressed environment, and reflects the new way in which the bank provides liquidity.

How it works

  1. The Bank of England’s capital will be capped by a ceiling above which all net profits are transferred to the treasury as dividend.
  2. It also ensures that there is a floor below which a rapid recap to the target is triggered.
  3. When the cap is below the target, no dividend is paid; when the cap is between the ceiling and the target, 50% of net profits is paid as dividend.
  4. These parameters are to be reviewed every five years.

Challenges in India

  1. The Bank of England has said that its capital framework takes into account its wide remit.
  2. That’s an argument the RBI can easily take, for its mandate too is wider than many central banks.
  3. There is also the fact that in India, the government that owns a large number of banks is itself struggling to recapitalize
  4. The govt. is under fiscal strain to meet fiscal targets and to spend adequately on infrastructure and on social welfare schemes.

Way Forward

  1. The heart of the capital framework is a risk-based capital target reflecting forward-looking risks to the balance sheet over the next five years.
  2. Its level is determined by evaluating the loss impact of severe stress scenarios.
  3. In September 2016, then outgoing RBI Governor said the RBI board has adopted a risk-management framework which indicates the level of equity the RBI needs citing potential risks it faces.
  4. The dividend policy of the RBI is a technical matter of how much residual surplus is available each year after bolstering equity.
  5. Such frameworks thus reduce the space for differences.
Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

Maternity Leave Incentive SchemePriority 1


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of the vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017

Mains level: Impact of the proposed incentive scheme


  • In a section of media, there have been some reports about Maternity Leave Incentive Scheme. In this regard, the Ministry of Labour & Employment has clarified about the scheme.

Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017

  1. The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 applies to establishments employing 10 or more than 10 persons in Factories, Mines, Plantation, Shops & Establishments and other entities.
  2. The main purpose of this Act is to regulate the employment of women in certain establishments for certain period before and after child birth and to provide maternity benefit and certain other benefits.
  3. The Act was amended through the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017 which, inter alia, has increased the paid maternity leave to women employees from 12 weeks to 26 weeks.

Ground Reality of Implementation

  1. While the implementation of the provision is good in Public Sector, there are reports that it is not good in Private Sector and in contract jobs.
  2. There is a wide perception that private entities are not encouraging women employees because they may have to provide maternity benefit to them, particularly 26 weeks of paid holiday.
  3. It is not rare when the employers come to know that their women employee is in the family way or applies for maternity leave, the contracts are terminated on some flimsy grounds.
  4. The extended maternity leave has become a deterrent for female employees who are asked to quit or retrenched on flimsy grounds before they go on maternity leave.

Proposal for an Incentive Scheme

  1. The Ministry is working on an incentive scheme wherein 7 weeks’ wages would be reimbursed to employers.
  2. It would be applicable to employers who employ women workers with wage ceiling upto Rs. 15000/- and provide the maternity benefit of 26 weeks paid leave, subject to certain conditions.
  3. It is estimated that approximately an amount of Rs. 400 crores would be the financial implication for the for implementing the proposed incentive scheme.

Expected Outcomes

  1. The proposed Scheme, if approved and implemented shall ensure the women an equal access to employment and other approved benefits along with adequate safety and secure environment.
  2. Also, the women shall continue to bear the major share of household work as well as child care.
  3. The work places will be more and more responsive to the family needs of the working women.

Defying False Rumors

  1. There are some media reports that this Scheme has been approved/notified.
  2. However, it is clarified that Ministry is in the process of obtaining necessary budgetary grant and approvals of Competent Authorities.
  3. The reports that it will be funded from Labour Welfare Cess, is also incorrect, as no such cess exists under this Ministry.

Which Cess Media is talking about?

  1. The Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Cess (BOCW) Act provides for collection of cess for construction workers by states/union territories.
  2. The states/UTs are required that the welfare schemes funded from cess fund should be exclusively for building and other construction workers only.
  3. Diversion of cess fund for welfare of other category of workers is not permissible under the BOCW Act.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

How much is a kilogram? Here comes a new way to measure itPriority 1


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Everything about Kilogram and Weighing system, Planck’s constant

Mains level: Read the attached story.


How much is a kilogram?

  1. Over the centuries, it has been defined and redefined, with a standard in place since 1889.
  2. Called Le Grand K, a cylinder of platinum-iridium is locked up in a jar at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in Paris.
  3. For nearly 130 years, the mass of this cylinder has been the international standard for the kilogram.

Redefining what constitutes 1 Kg

  1. Representatives from 57 countries will vote in Versailles, France, to redefine SI, or the International System of Units.
  2. The kilogram’s definition will be based on a concept of physics called the Planck constant.
  3. Reports worldwide suggest that the new definition is set to be voted in.

Why redefine the fundamental units?

  1. Scientists want to create a measurement system that is based entirely on unchanging fundamental properties of nature.
  2. Le Grand K, the “international prototype kilogram”, is the last physical object used to define an SI unit.
  3. It is far from unchanging as it gets dusty and is affected by the atmosphere, and when cleaned, it is vulnerable to change.
  4. The Planck constant, on the other hand, is just that, a constant, if a complex one — it is a quantity that relates a light particle’s energy to its frequency.
  5. It is described in a unit that has the kilogram built into it.

The kilogram comes next

  1. The Planck constant, which it is based on, is usually measured in joule seconds, but this can also be expressed as kilogram square metres per second.
  2. We know what a second and a metre is from the other definitions.
  3. So by adding these measurements, along with an exact knowledge of Planck’s constant, we can get a new, very precise definition of the kilogram.

New Concepts coming to Picture

  1. Since 1967, the ‘second’ has been defined as the time it takes for a certain amount of energy to be released as radiation from atoms of Caesium-133.
  2. This became the basis of all measures of time, and is used in atomic clocks. Once the second was defined, the metre fell into place.
  3. This was based on another universal constant: the speed of light.
  4. Today, the metre is defined as the the distance travelled by light in vacuum in 1/299,792,458 of a second (which is already defined).

Importance of Redefining

  1. The redefinition of certain aspects really helps science.
  2. Indeed, the new definition of the ‘second’ helped ease communication across the world via technologies like GPS and the Internet.
  3. This is evident from the failure of rubidium atomic clocks onboard IRNSS, the Indian version of GPS.


Time Measurement standards

  1. The second was initially based on the length of a day of 24 hours; in 1956, the standard was set to a fraction of the solar year.
  2. It was only in the middle of the 20th century that the more complex definitions began to be adoptedThe Indian measurement of time, for instance, is widely recognised as the oldest in the world.
  3. It was only in 1875, with the creation of BIPM, that measurement began to be standardised internationally.
  4. A treaty called Metre Convention was signed among 60 countries, leading to international standards.
  5. The BIPM reports to the General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM), to which India became a signatory in 1957. The SI system was adopted in 1960.

Fundamental Units

  1. There are seven fundamental units.
  2. Every other unit of measurement can be derived from one or more of these seven units: the unit for speed, for instance, factors in the units for distance and time.
  3. While four of the fundamental units, including the kilogram, are on the way to being redefined, the other three are already based on unchanging properties of nature.
  4. These are the second (time), the metre (distance), and the candela (luminous intensity, a measure for light’s brightness).
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Is Point Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary safe for migratory birds?Priority 1


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Point Calimere WLS

Mains level: Conservation of Birds and biodiversity


Birds began to avoid the sanctuary

  1. Point Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary in Vedaranyam Range has been closed for a week in view of water-logging caused by a heavy spell of rainfall.
  2. The water quality at the Point Calimere Wildlife Sanctuary might be unsafe for avifauna to feed and breed, notes a study that examined different pollution indicators in water.
  3. Researchers compared their results with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) standards to reach this conclusion.

Peak Breeding Season at Risk

  1. The pH and salinity of the waters exceeded the permissible limits for ecologically sensitive zones.
  2. Previous studies have shown that high acidic or high alkaline water can affect the metabolic and developmental activities of wild animals and birds.
  3. Atmospheric temperature at a few stations exceeded 36-40 degrees Celsius.
  4. This can affect the egg albumen during the pre-incubation period, thereby providing better growth conditions for harmful microorganisms in the eggs.
  5. There are many salt pans near the sanctuary. This could be increasing the salinity.
  6. The chemical companies are also letting out untreated effluents into the waters.

Microbial Indicators

  1. Microbial indicators such as coliform bacteria were also found to be very high at all the five sites.
  2. The faecal waste of the birds contains a high level of microbial load besides nitrogen, and this can significantly alter the nutrients in the water.
  3. Previous studies have shown that drinking the contaminated water can lead to deformities in birds.
  4. Coliform infections in the birds have also been reported to cause a change in their natural behaviour and even affect their long distance migration.
  5. There are also high chances for the prevalence of antibiotic resistance among the coliform bacteria

Way Forward

  1. Eco-tourism is causing disturbances in such areas.
  2. Strict environmental regulations should be imposed and salt pan and other aquaculture practices around the sanctuary should be prohibited.


Point Calimere WLBS

  1. The wildlife and bird sanctuary located in Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu spreads across an area of 30 sq.km and comprises sandy coastal, saline swamps and thorn scrub forests around the backwater.
  2. Though it is a protected area and a Ramsar site, chemical companies and small-scale shrimp farms around the wetland have started to pose a threat to the biodiversity and ecosystem of the sanctuary.
  3. It harbors the single-largest stretch of the unique dry-evergreen forest in the country besides open grasslands and tidal mudflats is of interest to tourists.
  4. It marks the presence of 364 flowering plants including 198 medicinal plants.
  5. Point Calimere is the spot inside the Calimere WLS where the coast takes a 90 degree turn from the Bay of Bengal towards Palk Strait.
  6. The sanctuary and the surrounding wetlands are important wintering grounds for water birds from the North.
  7. Around 100 species of birds including the Greater Flamingo, Painted Stork, Little Sting, Sea Gull and Brown-headed gull have been making their presence felt since September.
  8. Blackbuck (Antilope Cervicapra) is the flagship species of the sanctuary.
  9. Other important animals are the spotted deer, black-napped hare, wild boar, Indian jackal, feral horses, palm civet, short-nosed fruit bat, jungle cat and monitor lizard.
ISRO Missions and Discoveries

GSAT-29 has a perfect launchPriority 1


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: GSAT 29, GSLV MK III

Mains level: Importance of the Launch


Heaviest satellite launched on indigenous rocket

  • Amid concerns over Cyclone Gaja, the country’s heaviest satellite to be carried on board an indigenous rocket was successfully launched into Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO).


  1. GSLV Mk III is a three-stage heavy lift launch vehicle developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
  2. Two massive boosters with solid propellant constitute the first stage, the core with liquid propellant form the second stage and the cryogenic engine completes the final stage.

About GSAT 29

  1. GSAT-29 is a multiband, multi-beam communication satellite, intended to serve as test bed for several new and critical technologies.
  2. Its Ku-band and Ka-band payloads are configured to cater to the communication requirements of users including those from remote areas especially from Jammu & Kashmir and North-Eastern regions of India.
  3. In addition, the Q/V-Band communication payload onboard is intended to demonstrate the future high throughput satellite system technologies.
  4. Geo High Resolution Camera will carry out high resolution imaging.
  5. Optical Communication Payload will demonstrate data transmission at a very high rate through optical communication link.

Whats so special with this launch?

  1. The success of GSLV MkIII-D2 marks an important milestone in Indian space programme towards achieving self-reliance in launching heavier satellites.
  2. The success of this flight also signifies the completion of the experimental phase of GSLV Mark III.
  3. With declaring GSLV MKIII operational, Chandrayaan-2 and Gaganyaan missions will be launched by this heavy-lifter.
Agricultural Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

New index to check ease of doing agri-businessPriority 1


Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Ease of Doing Agri-Business Index

Mains level: Read the attached story


Rewarding high-performing States

  1. States may soon start receiving extra funding for the Agri Ministry’s flagship schemes on the basis of their performance in encouraging agri-business
  2. This is especially with regard to marketing, land and governance reforms.
  3. An online dashboard to track State performances will be developed by the year-end, and a national level workshop to roll out the Index will be held in January 2019, according to the concept note’s timelines.

Ease of Doing Agri-Business Index

  1. The Centre expects to roll out a new Ease of Doing Agri-Business Index which will rank the States on the basis of such reforms, as well as their investment in agriculture, increased productivity, reduction of input costs, and risk mitigation measures.
  2. The Agri Ministry will consider rewarding the higher performing States both in absolute and incremental terms by linking the performance with allocation from flexi funds made available in various flagship.
  3. NITI Aayog already brings out a Agricultural Marketing and Farm Friendly Reforms Index, rating States on their implementation of such reforms.
  4. In the initial edition of that Index in 2016, Maharashtra stood first in the rankings, followed by Gujarat.
  5. The proposed index has a wider ambit, but the focus is still on reforms, with marketing reforms (25%) and governance and land reforms (20%) carrying almost half of the weight of the parameters in its scoring system.

Process-oriented Parameters

  1. The parameters are process-oriented, and are meant to evolve as and when new reforms or initiatives are proposed, says the concept note.
  2. As agriculture is a State subject, the success of policies and reform initiatives proposed at the Centre is dependent on implementation by the States.
  3. To ensure that reform agenda of the government is implemented at a desired pace by all State governments, there is a need to develop a competitive spirit between the States.

Other Parameters: Soil health cards

  1. Another major parameter which States will be rated on is their success in reducing the cost of farm inputs (20%) by distributing soil health cards and encouraging organic farming and micro-irrigation.
  2. Risk mitigation measures such as crop and livestock insurance carry a 15% weightage, while increased productivity and investment in agriculture carry a 10% weight each.
Monetary Policy Committee Notifications

Decoding the Central Board of the RBIPriority 1


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Everything about RBI Board of Directors

Mains level: RBI-Govt tussle


  • The Central Board of Directors of the RBI has recently been a topic of much discussion in the light of both the recent public tussle with the Finance Ministry and the second anniversary of demonetization.

Why has the RBI Board been in the news?

  1. The RBI Board recently entered the news during the public spat between the central bank and the Finance Ministry.
  2. One of the reasons for the disagreement was the government’s alleged threat of invoking Section 7 of the RBI Act.
  3. Section 7 basically empowers the government to supersede the RBI Board and issue directions to the central bank if they are considered to be “necessary in public interest”.

RBI Board

  1. The RBI Board is a body comprising officials from the central bank and the Government of India, including officials nominated by the government.
  2. According to the RBI, the general superintendence and direction of the affairs and business of the RBI is entrusted to the Central Board.
  3. The Board exercises all powers and does all acts and things that are exercised by the RBI.
  4. The Board is also to recommend to the government the design, form and material of bank notes and also when and where they can serve as legal tender.


  1. The Board consists of official directors, who include the Governor and up to four Deputy Governors.
  2. Non-official directors include up to ten directors from various fields and two government officials and one director from each of four local boards of the RBI.
  3. The Governor and Deputy Governors hold office for not more than five years, the ten directors nominated by the government hold office for four years.
  4. The government officials are to hold a term on the RBI Board as long as the government sees fit.
  5. According to the RBI Act, the director of the RBI Board cannot:
  • be a salaried government official (except for the ones specifically nominated by the government)
  • be adjudicated as insolvent or have suspended payments to creditors
  • be an officer or employee of any bank (again, this does not include the government nominee), or, ,
  • if found lunatic or becomes of unsound mind


  1. The Governor has to call a Board meeting at least six times in a year, and at least once each quarter.
  2. A meeting can be called if a minimum of four Directors ask the Governor to call a meeting.
  3. The Governor or, if for any reason unable to attend, the Deputy Governor authorised by the him to vote for him, presides the Board meetings.
  4. In the event of split votes, the Governor has a second, or deciding vote.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Defeating pneumoniaPriority 1


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: U5 mortality in India and measures to prevent them



  1. The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health summit is to be hosted by India in December.
  2. In 2016, pneumonia was the leading cause for under-five deaths in India, and more than 25 million children under the age of two were found not immunized

Menace of Pneumonia

  1. A report by Save the Children (“Fighting for Breath”) showed that pneumonia kills two children in this age group every minute — more than malaria, diarrhoea and measles combined.
  2. More than 80% of victims have weakened immune systems caused by malnutrition or insufficient breastfeeding and unable to fight the infection.

Indian Case

  1. The “Fighting for Breath” report says that globally, a million children are dying from pneumonia annually, even though it can be treated with antibiotics costing as little as ₹26.
  2. In 2016, pneumonia was the leading cause for under-five deaths in India, and more than 25 million children under the age of two were found not immunized with pneumococcal conjugate vaccine.
  3. While the Indian government has taken several steps to improve the health of children, India continues to top the world ranking in the number of deaths due to the disease
  4. The number of unvaccinated children in the 0-2 age range in developing countries is estimated to be at around 170 million, with India dominating.

Caused by air pollution

  1. Air pollution is a major risk factor for pneumonia.
  2. The sources of pollution vary across and within countries.
  3. Outdoor air pollution, which is associated with emissions from factories, the burning of rubbish and coal, and traffic, is a growing concern.
  4. Children living in urban slum environments often face high levels of exposure to these sources of pollution.

Indoor Pollution is worsening the Situation

  1. Indoor air pollution is a major contributor of respiratory infection in many high-burden pneumonia countries, where the burning of biomass for cooking, heating and lighting are the common sources of pollution.
  2. According to the International Energy Agency’s Energy Access Outlook 2017 report, over 63% of households in India use biomass energy sources.
  3. Research shows that that the association between pneumonia and air pollutant exposure is particularly strong during the first year of life.

Way Forward

  1. It is a well known that exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months acts as an effective vaccine and continued breastfeeding with the gradual introduction of complementary food is another risk-reducer.
  2. Defeating pneumonia necessitates multi-sectoral action plans.
  3. Concerted action by the government, backed by civil society, corporates and communities can help save children’s lives, but we need to move fast.
International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

NASA’s Ralph and Lucy set to visit Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids in 2021Priority 1

Image result for NASA’s Ralph and Lucy


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Ralph, Lucy

Mains level: Space missions and their objectives


  • NASA’s Ralph — a space instrument that has travelled as far as Pluto — is set to explore Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, which are remnants from the early days of the solar system.


  1. Ralph was first launched aboard the New Horizons spacecraft in 2006 and obtained stunning flyby images of Jupiter and its moons.
  2. This was followed by a visit to Pluto where Ralph took the first high-definition pictures of the iconic minor planet.
  3. In 2021, Ralph is set to journey with the Lucy mission to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids.
  4. The instrument will fly by another Kuiper Belt object called 2014 MU69 nicknamed Ultima Thule in January 2019.
  5. Ralph’s observations of 2014 MU69 will provide unique insights into this small, icy world.

Lucy and L’Ralph

  1. The Lucy spacecraft carries a near-twin of Ralph, called L’Ralph, which will investigate Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids.
  2. The L’Ralph instrument suite will study this diverse group of bodies.
  3. Lucy will fly by six Trojans and one Main Belt asteroid more than any other previous asteroid mission.
  4. L’Ralph will detect the Trojan asteroids’ chemical fingerprints.
  5. L’Ralph allows scientists to interpret data provided by the Sun’s reflected light that are the fingerprints of different elements and compounds.
  6. These data could provide clues about how organic molecules form in primitive bodies, a process that might also have led to the emergence of life on Earth.
International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

China unveils new ‘Heavenly Palace’ space station as ISS days numberedPriority 1

Related image


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Tiangong

Mains level: Space missions and their objectives


  1. China unveiled a replica of its first permanently crewed space station.
  2. It would replace the ISS, international community’s orbiting laboratory .

Tiangong- The Heavenly Palace

  1. The unveiled model is a 17-metre (55-foot) core module.
  2. It represented the living and working space of the Tiangong or “Heavenly Palace” which will also have two other modules for scientific experiments and will be equipped with solar panels.
  3. Three astronauts will be permanently stationed in the 60-tonne orbiting lab, which will enable the crew to conduct biological and microgravity research.
  4. Assembly is expected to be completed around 2022 and the station would have a lifespan of around 10 years.
  5. China will then have the only space station in orbit, though it will be much smaller than the ISS which weighs 400 tonnes and is as large as a football pitch.

Open for All

  1. China has announced that the lab would be open to “all countries” to conduct science experiments.
  2. Research institutes, universities, and public and private companies have been invited to propose projects.
  3. The European Space Agency has sent astronauts to China to receive training in order to be ready to work inside the Chinese space station once it is launched.


International Space Station

  1. The International Space Station (ISS) is a space station, or a habitable artificial satellite, in low Earth orbit.
  2. It is collaboration between the United States, Russia, Canada, Europe and Japan.
  3. The ISS is the largest human-made body in low Earth orbit and can often be seen with the naked eye from Earth.
  4. The ISS serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which crew members conduct experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology, and other fields.
  5. The station is suited for the testing of spacecraft systems and equipment required for missions to the Moon and Mars.
  6. Its first component launched into orbit in 1998, and the last pressurized module was fitted in 2011 and is expected to operate until at least 2028.
  7. It consists of pressurized modules, external trusses, solar arrays.
Capital Markets: Challenges and Developments

RBI relaxes ECB norms for infra companiesPriority 1


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Effects of liberalization on the economy

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: ECBs, Hedging

Mains level: Factors affecting India’s BoP


  • The RBI has liberalized the norms governing foreign borrowings for infrastructure creation in consultation with the Government.

External Commercial Borrowings

  1. Lack of domestic capital and deficit in the current account compels any government to go after foreign capital.
  2. ECBs are loans in India made by non-resident lenders in foreign currency to Indian borrowers.
  3. They are used widely in India to facilitate access to foreign money by Indian corporations and PSUs.
  4. Most of these loans are provided by foreign commercial banks and other institutions. It is a loan availed of from non-resident lenders with a minimum average maturity of 3 years.
  5. The significance of ECBs their size in India’s balance of payment account. In the post reform period, ECBs have emerged a major form of foreign capital like FDI and FII.
  6. ECBs includes commercial bank loans, buyers’ credit, suppliers’ credit, securitized instruments such as Floating Rate Notes and Fixed Rate Bonds etc., credit from official export credit agencies and commercial borrowings from Multilateral Financial Institutions.

Advantages of ECBs 

  • ECBs provide opportunity to borrow large volume of funds
  • The funds are available for relatively long term
  • Interest rate are also lower compared to domestic funds
  • ECBs are in the form of foreign currencies. Hence, they enable the corporate to have foreign currency to meet the import of machineries etc.
  • Corporate can raise ECBs from internationally recognised sources such as banks, export credit agencies, international capital markets etc.

What’s new in the ECB norms?

  1. The minimum average maturity requirement for ECBs (external commercial borrowings) in the infrastructure space raised by eligible borrowers has been reduced to three years from earlier five years.
  2. Additionally, the average maturity requirement for mandatory hedging (an investment to reduce the risk of adverse price movements in an asset) has been reduced to five years from earlier ten years.

Raising Medium and Long term funds

  1. The move comes amid concerns surrounding the availability of funds following a liquidity squeeze and the difficulties being faced by non-bank lenders.
  2. This is especially for those facing asset liability issues due to heavy reliance on short term funding for long term assets.
  3. This, along with defaults by infra lender IL&FS, has hurt the credit markets.
  4. The relaxations in the ECB norms follow other moves by the RBI, including last week’s permission to banks to use credit enhancement to help NBFCs raise medium to long term funds.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

US exempts India from certain sanctions for development of Chabahar port in IranPriority 1


Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: South Asian Strategy

Mains level: Impact of US-Iran strain on India’s developmental initiatives in Afghanistan


  • The United States has exempted India from the imposition of certain sanctions for the development of the strategically-located Chabahar port in Iran.

Details of the Exemption

  1. After extensive consideration, US has provided for an exception from imposition of certain sanctions under the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012,.
  2. It included development of Chabahar port, construction of an associated railway and for shipment of non-sanctionable goods through the port for Afghanistan’s use, as well as imports of Iranian petroleum products.
  3. Eight countries namely India, China, Italy, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey were temporarily allowed to continue buying Iranian oil.
  4. They have shown a “significant reduction” in oil purchase from the Persian Gulf country.


  1. The decision signifies India’s role in development of the port on the Gulf of Oman, which is of immense strategic importance for the development of war-torn Afghanistan.
  2. This exception relates to reconstruction assistance and economic development for Afghanistan.
  3. These activities are vital for the ongoing support of Afghanistan’s growth and humanitarian relief.

Trump’s South Asia Strategy

  1. US decision to give India an exemption from the imposition of certain sanctions for the development of the port is driven by the South Asian strategy, which was announced by Trump in August.
  2. It states that India has a major role in bringing peace and development in Afghanistan.
  3. The South Asia strategy underscores our ongoing support of Afghanistan’s economic growth and development as well as its close partnership with India.
International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Earth has two extra, hidden ‘moons’Prelims OnlyPriority 1


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Kordylewski clouds, Lagrange Points

Mains level: Various space missions and their objectives


Three Moons for Earth

  1. The existence of the two extra ‘moons’ was hotly debated for over 50 years but as per a recent National Geographic report, Hungarian astronomers and physicists have finally provided enough data to confirm.
  2. The moon has at least two other companions made entirely of dust.
  3. The team of researchers confirmed their presence through photographs of the natural bodies at a distance of approximately 250,000 miles more or less the same distance as our moon.

Facts about the newly discovered dust moons

  1. The presence of the dust ‘moons’ or Kordylewski Clouds had been inferred by researchers since long before
  2. The first glimpse of the clouds was seen only in 1961 by Polish astronomer Kazimierz Kordylewski, after whom the dust clouds were named
  3. The new findings note that each Kordylewski cloud is about 15 by 10 degrees wide, or equal to 30 by 20 lunar disks in the night sky
  4. They are spread over a space area that is almost nine times the width of Earth — about 65,000 by 45,000 miles in actual size
  5. The dust ‘moons’ are huge but they are made of tiny dust particles that barely measure one micrometre across

How to spot them?

  1. When sunlight hits the dust particles, they glow very faintly, much like the zodiacal light we receive from the dust scattered in between planetary orbits
  2. Since these satellite dust clouds emit an extremely faint light, they are very difficult to find amidst the star light, sky glow, galactic light and zodiacal light in the sky
  3. The recent study revealing the existence of the two dust ‘moons’ used special polarizing filters on cameras to reveal the scattered light coming from the reflection of the individual dust particles in the clouds

Kordylewski clouds are always changing

  1. The Kordylewski clouds are always changing.
  2. They might be stable in orbit and may have existed for millions of years, but the ingredients that make the clouds the dust particles are always getting swapped for others.
  3. Some escape to gravitational pulls from Earth or the moon, while others come from interplanetary spaces and meteor showers

How Lagrange points in space helped find the extra ‘moons’

  1. Speculations about Earth having multiple moons have taken turns in astronomer circles for years.
  2. It was realized that if extra moons did exist, they could only do so in stable points in Earth’s orbit.
  3. Lagrange points are sweet spots in a planetary orbit where the pull of gravity working from two opposing celestial bodies is balanced due to the centripetal force of their orbits.
  4. Thus, an object at a Lagrange point will remain fixed at a constant distance from both the moon and Earth.
  5. In the 1950s, Kordylewski searched two Lagrange points L4 and L5  where he found the first glimpse of the two dust clouds orbiting Earth.

Aspect associated with Dust Clouds

  1. These huge clouds of dust could add much to space exploration efforts when it comes to fuel consumption and safety issues.
  2. Sometimes, satellites need to be parked at the Lagrange points so that the spacecraft consumes minimal fuel and can still stay in orbit.
  3. The James Webb Space Telescope will be set up at the L2 Lagrange point in 2020 for this purpose.
  4. Moreover, space agencies are also planning to use Lagrange points as transfer stations for Mars missions.
Nuclear Diplomacy and Disarmament

[op-ed snap] The significance of Arihantop-ed snapPriority 1


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Achievements of Indians in science & technology

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: INS Arihant, India’s nuclear triad

Mains level: Shortcomings in India’s nuclear triad and how to overcome those


India’s nuclear triad complete

  1. India achieved a significant milestone in its strategic nuclear posture when it announced the completion of its survivable nuclear triad by adding maritime strike capability to land and air-based delivery platforms for nuclear weapons
  2. With the country’s first nuclear ballistic missile submarine, INS Arihant, completing its maiden “deterrence” patrol, India joined the select group of five — US, Russia, China, France and UK — which can boast of this capability

Importance of INS Arihant’s deterrence patrol

  1. A deterrence patrol, as the term signifies, is meant to deter the adversary from conducting the first nuclear strike, as a nuclear ballistic missile submarine provides India with an assured second-strike capability
  2. The success of INS Arihant gives a fitting response to those who indulge in nuclear blackmail
  3. As a nation committed to “no first use” (NFU), it is of critical importance that an adversary contemplating a nuclear (first) strike should never be in doubt about the credibility of India’s nuclear deterrent and the assurance of a swift, devastating response
  4. Given the kind of transparency provided by satellites and other technical means, the land-based legs of our nuclear triad (missile sites and air-bases) remain exposed to enemy attack
  5. Once the submarine disappears underwater, it becomes virtually impossible to locate and can remain on patrol for months, with its ballistic missiles ready for launch on the PM’s orders
  6. This is the kind of credibility that Arihant and other submarines will provide to India’s nuclear deterrence in the future

Some shortcomings still present

  • The issue of missile ranges
  1. From a submarine patrol area in mid-Bay of Bengal, Islamabad is 2,500 km, while Beijing and Shanghai are over 4,000 km
  2. Therefore, to target cities and nuclear forces deep inside China or Pakistan, from a “safe haven”, India needs a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) of 6,000-8,000-km range
  3. The missile, reportedly, carried by the Arihant is the K-15, whose range falls below 1,000 km
  • Lack of coordination
  1. India has, so far, followed an unorthodox system, in which the National Command Authority (NCA) manages the nuclear deterrent through a “troika” consisting of the Strategic Forces Command (SFC), the Department of Atomic Energy and DRDO
  2. While scientists are the custodians of nuclear warheads and help mate them with the SFC’s missiles and IAF fighter-bombers, the MoD and Raksha Mantri remain out of the loop
  3. Since Arihant and her sisters will carry “cannisterised” missiles, with pre-mated warheads, scientists have been eliminated from the chain, with custody and control of weapons devolving on the submarine’s captain
  4. Although “fail-safe” electronic permissive action links (PAL) have been installed to ensure instant compliance with an authorised “launch” command from the NCA, while preventing accidental launch, structural and doctrinal changes are also urgently required
  • Effective command and control structure
  1. The Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) is, notionally, a key functionary in the nuclear command chain, responsible to the PM for the functioning of the SFC
  2. With the operationalisation of Arihant, his role assumes greater criticality
  3. Under existing rules, the appointment of chairman is tenable by the senior-most service chief who may (depending on his retirement date) serve for durations, varying from 30 days to 18 months
  4. He discharges this duty on a part-time basis, in addition to running his own service
  5. No other nuclear weapon state has such a farcical arrangement, and this impinges on the credibility of our deterrent
  6. Given the gravity and magnitude of his responsibilities, in the context of the nuclear triad, the Chairman COSC, in his current avatar, needs to be urgently replaced either by a Chief of Defence Staff or a Permanent Chairman COSC, with an independent charter and a fixed tenure
  • Need of more submarines
  1. The nuclear-reactors of our SSBNs will need re-fuelling (with fresh Uranium rods) every few years
  2. The process being a rather lengthy one, India would require an inventory of at least 3-4 SSBNs to maintain one on deterrent patrol off each seaboard
  3. A small force of nuclear attack submarines (SSN) would be required for the protection of SSBNs and other roles
  4. Thus, in a 50-60 year perspective, India should be looking at a nuclear submarine force of 8-12 SSBNs and SSNs

INS Arihant’s role in Make in India

  1. Apart from its strategic significance, the Arihant is a live manifestation of PM Modi’s “make in India” vision
  2. A number of major private-sector companies contributed to the Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) programme by mastering esoteric technologies to design and fabricate systems for the vessel
  3. This Navy-managed DRDO project has also spawned a huge country-wide indigenisation process by which small and medium industries, have contributed components manufactured to high precision and reliability specifications

Way forward

  1. India’s nuclear triad and its accessories are going to cost the nation trillions of rupees in the decades ahead
  2. It would be delusionary to imagine that a large military, and nuclear weapons, just by themselves, can assure India’s security and bequeath “great power” status on it
  3. A grand-strategic vision that integrates military power with a national security doctrine will certainly achieve both

With inputs from editorial: Sea change

History- Important places, persons in news

[op-ed snap] The forgotten million: on Indian soldiers in World War Iop-ed snapPriority 1


Mains Paper 1: History | All syllabus

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Quit India Movement

Mains level: World war 1, 2 & India’s contribution in it


Role of Indian soldiers in WW-I

  1. One hundred years after the end of World War I, the immense sacrifice and contributions of well over a million soldiers of undivided India are being incrementally recognised and memorialised the world over
  2. In France, the centenary celebrations of Armistice Day on November 11 will include the unveiling of the second overseas national war memorial for Indian soldiers
  3. The first such memorial abroad, formalised in 2002, is the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium, which is a recognition that more than 130,000 Indian soldiers fought in WWI in Belgium, at least 10,000 of whom lost their lives on the battlefield
  4. Last month, British Prime Minister Theresa May pledged to wear a khadi poppy in honour of more than 74,000 soldiers from pre-Partition India who fought on the side of the allies and died in battle

Not received proper respect from the British

  1. In the early days of the War, troops of the Indian Army, backed by the political bourgeoisie, were enthusiastic in responding to the British government’s call for military support from India
  2. This was because, although the swadeshi movement was underway, the freedom movement was in a fledgeling stage
  3. Even Mahatma Gandhi was open to Indians enlisting and learning to defend themselves using arms, as were leaders such as Bal Gangadhar Tilak
  4. Despite this, the Indian troops were given inhumane treatment, including floggings, denial of home leave, and brazenly racial-discriminatory treatment

Influence of World Wars on India’s freedom movement and future

  1. The pressure for the enlistment of Indians in the World War II effort produced an entirely different outcome — the Quit India movement and the escalation of the freedom movement
  2. WWI also influenced the collective psyche of the government of independent India, starting with the tenets of non-alignment that came to embody a core mantra of the country’s foreign policy ethos

Way forward

  1. While India remains wary of ‘treaty alliances’ and steers clear of combat involvement in third-party conflicts, it is the third-largest contributor of military and police personnel to UN peacekeeping missions
  2. Though the conditions faced by Indian peacekeepers must be difficult, they must be thankful that their country would never put them in the sort of situation that their predecessors faced from 1914 to 1918
Food Processing Industry: Issues and Developments

[pib] Ministry of Food Processing Industries issues guidelines for OPERATION GREENSPIBPriority 1


Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Food processing & related industries in India- scope & significance, location, upstream & downstream requirements, supply chain management

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Operation Greens

Mains level: Need for revolutionary measures in the supply and processing of agricultural produce

Guidelines for Operation Greens

  1. Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI) has approved the operationalisation strategy for Operation Greens
  2. Operation Greens was announced in the Budget speech of 2018-19 with an outlay of Rs 500 crores to stabilize the supply of Tomato, Onion and Potato(TOP) crops and to ensure availability of TOP crops throughout the country round the year without price volatility

The strategy

The strategy will comprise of a series of measures which include:

(I)        Short-term Price Stabilisation Measures

NAFED will be the Nodal Agency to implement price stabilisation measures. MoFPI will provide 50% of the subsidy on the following two components:

  1. Transportation of Tomato Onion Potato(TOP) Crops from production to storage;
  2. Hiring of appropriate storage facilities for TOP Crops;

(II)       Long-Term Integrated value chain development projects

  1. Capacity Building of FPOs & their consortium
  2. Quality production
  3. Post-harvest processing facilities
  4. Agri-Logistics
  5. Marketing / Consumption Points
  6. Creation and Management of e-platform for demand and supply management of TOP Crops.

Objectives of Operation Greens

  1. Enhancing value realisation of TOP farmers by targeted interventions to strengthen TOP production clusters and their FPOs, and linking/connecting them with the market.
  2.  Price stabilisation for producers and consumers by proper production planning in the TOP clusters and introduction of dual-use varieties.
  3.  Reduction in post-harvest losses by the creation of farm gate infrastructure, development of suitable agro-logistics, the creation of appropriate storage capacity linking consumption centres.
  4.  Increase in food processing capacities and value addition in the TOP value chain with firm linkages with production clusters.
  5.  Setting up of a market intelligence network to collect and collate real-time data on demand and supply and price of TOP crops
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Global Drug Survey set to cover IndiansPriority 1


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Global Drug Survey

Mains level: Lack of awareness related to drugs in India and interventions required to reduce drug abuse

Understanding India’s health issues

  1. The 2018 edition of the Global Drug Survey, the largest poll of its kind in the world surveyed recreational drug use among 1,30,000 people spanning 44 countries
  2. The GDS for 2019 will survey, for the first time, consumption trends in alcohol, cannabis and opiates in India

About GDS

  1. The GDS uses an encrypted, online platform to conduct annual anonymous surveys
  2. No IP addresses are collected and the survey is independent of governments
  3. A key objective of the survey is to understand how advances in technology are influencing drug use and the complexities this pose in determining the levels of harmful dosage and how those who sought to reduce drug-related harm responded
  4. The GDS 2019 will probe social issues, including how the police treat people who use drugs, and the complex problem of sexual assault, consent and drug use

Lack of research in India

  1. Few studies have looked at the use of alcohol and illicit drugs and consequences faced by drug users in India
  2. A 2004 survey by the Union Ministry of Social Justice on the extent and pattern and trends of drug abuse left out women
Nuclear Diplomacy and Disarmament

India’s nuclear triad is complete with INS Arihant ending its first deterrence patrolPriority 1

Image result for nuclear triad of india


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Achievements of Indians in science & technology

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: INS Arihant, Nuclear Triad, ATV project

Mains level: Boost to India’s security establishment with nuclear triad becoming operational

India announces complete nuclear deterrence

  1. India has declared that its nuclear triad, stated in its nuclear doctrine, is operational
  2. This was after indigenous ballistic missile nuclear submarine INS Arihant achieved a milestone by conducting its first deterrence patrol
  3. It essentially means that Arihant is now prowling the deep seas carrying ballistic missiles equipped with nuclear warheads
  4. The second submarine in the series, Arighat is now undergoing sea trials after which it will be inducted into service

Development of INS Arihant

  1. INS Arihant, a strategic asset, was developed for over two decades under the Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) programme
  2. INS Arihant is India’s first indigenously-designed, developed and manufactured nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, and three more such submarines are reportedly under various stages of construction
  3. INS Arihant development project was officially acknowledged in 1998 and the submarine was launched in 2009
  4. The nuclear reactor of the submarine went critical in 2013 and it was commissioned three years later

Reliability of INS Arihant

  1. It comes directly under the Nuclear Command Authority headed by the Prime Minister
  2. Given India’s stated position of ‘No-First-Use’ (NFU) in launching nuclear weapons, the SSBN is the most dependable platform for a second-strike
  3. Because they are powered by nuclear reactors, these submarines can stay underwater indefinitely without the adversary detecting it. The other two platforms — land-based and air-launched are far easier to detect
  4. This places India in the league of the few countries that can design, construct and operate SSBN

About NFU policy

  1. In 1998, India conducted nuclear tests under Pokhran-II and in 2003, it declared its nuclear doctrine based on credible minimum deterrence and an NFU policy while reserving the right of massive retaliation if struck with nuclear weapons first
International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

The legacy of Kepler, retired planet-hunterPrelims OnlyPriority 1


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Kepler Space Telescope

Mains level: Space missions and their objectives


Kepler: Retiring out of fuel

  • NASA’s Kepler space telescope, which has been retired after running out of fuel, is being widely described as the most prolific planet-hunting machine in history.

The Planet Hunter

  1. Indeed, by June 2017, it had discovered more than 4,000 planet candidates and 2,300 confirmed planets.
  2. Kepler also showed that the galaxy is teeming — “other surprises”.
  3. From its legacy, here are 10 landmark findings:

Double Sunset

  1. The Star Wars franchise showed the planet Tatooine as part of a double-star system, hence two sunsets.
  2. Kepler showed that double sunsets do exist; it discovered Kepler-16b, the first known planet (most likely a gas giant) around a double-star system.

Earth-like Planets

  1. Kepler found planets near in size to Earth and orbiting at a distance where liquid water could pool on the surface.
  2. Kepler-62f, for example, is about 40% bigger than Earth and is likely rocky.

Planet candidates

  1. Many of the planet candidates are likely to have small rocky cores enveloped by a thick atmosphere of hydrogen and helium, and some are thought to be ocean worlds.
  2. That doesn’t necessarily mean the oceans are full of water.

Life candidates

  1. Kepler’s survey has made it possible to measure the number of Earth-size habitable zone planets in the galaxy.
  2. Scientists hope to determine how many planets like Earth exist.

Size classification

  • Kepler’s discoveries showed that a lot of planets are either approximately 1.5 times the size of Earth or just smaller than Neptune.
  • They are, therefore, called Super Earths and mini-Neptunes.

Lava world

  1. Kepler-10b has a year that lasts less than an Earth day, and density so high that it is probably made of iron and rock.
  2. One of Kepler’s early discoveries, the first solid evidence of a rocky planet outside the Solar System.

Light & Aliens

  1. Kepler detected fluctuating light from “Tabby’s Star”, triggering mass speculation of an alien megastructure.
  2. Astronomers, however, have since concluded that it is probably an orbiting dust cloud.

Cannibal Star

  1. One may wander about a dying solar system and what happens to it.
  2. Kepler discovered a white dwarf, the compact corpse of a star in the process of vaporizing a planet.

Exploding Supernova

  1. Kepler recorded a sped-up version of a supernova called a “fast-evolving luminescent transit” that reached its peak brightness at breakneck speed.
  2. It was caused by a star spewing out a dense shell of gas that lit up when hit with the shockwave from the blast.

Solar System Cousin

  1. In 2014, scientists using data from Kepler discovered seven planets orbiting Kepler-90, a Sun-like star located 2,500 light-years away.
  2. Later, an eighth planet was identified in this planetary system, tying it with our own Solar System in having the highest number of known planets.


Kepler Mission

  1. Kepler is a space observatory launched by NASA to discover Earth-size planets orbiting other stars and was launched on March 7, 2009.
  2. Named after astronomer Johannes Kepler. It was launched into an Earth-trailing heliocentric orbit
  3. Kepler is part of NASA’s Discovery Program of relatively low-cost, focused primary science missions
  4. The scientific objective of Kepler is to explore the structure and diversity of planetary systems
  5. This spacecraft aims:
  • To determine how many Earth-size and larger planets there are in or near the habitable zone (often called “Goldilocks planets”)
  • To determine the range of size and shape of the orbits of these planets
  • To estimate how many planets there are in multiple-star systems
  • To determine the range of orbit size, brightness, size, mass and density of short-period giant planets
  • To identify additional members of each discovered planetary system using other techniques
  • Determine the properties of those stars that harbor planetary systems
ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Indian, US satellites find black hole that spins near maximum possible ratesPrelims OnlyPriority 1


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Black Hole, AstroSat

Mains level: Space related discoveries by NASA-ISRO collaboration


India’s AstroSat helps in finding blackhole

  • Scientists using data from India’s first dedicated astronomy satellite, AstroSat, and NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have found that a black hole in the binary star system 4U 1630-47 spins close to the maximum possible rate.

Details of the finding

  1. Relatively smaller black holes are exotic end states of massive stellar cores.
  2. The gravity of such a collapsing core is so strong that its entire mass is crushed into a point.
  3. This point, however, cannot be directly seen, because nothing, not even light, can escape from a region around it, thus justifying the name of the object.
  4. Surprisingly, astronomical black holes are the simplest known objects in the universe, because they can be fully characterized by only two properties, mass and spin rate.
  5. Therefore, measurements of these two properties are uniquely important to probe some extreme aspects of the universe, and the fundamental physics related to them.

Extreme aspects of the universe

  1. The scientific measurement of the spin rate of the black hole, an extremely exotic but the simplest object of the universe, comes out to be close to the maximum possible value.
  2. This is generally very important to probe some extreme aspects of the universe, and the fundamental physics (for example, the theory of gravitation) related to them.
  3. Such measurements, especially of the spin rate, are very difficult to make, and can be done only by high-quality X-ray observations in the correct state of the binary stellar system.

AstroSat-Chandra study

  1. This first cooperation of India and US using AstroSat and Chandra satellites regarding black hole studies should open up ways for future such collaborations.
  2. The SXT and the Large Area X-ray Proportional Counter (LAXPC) aboard the first dedicated Indian astronomy satellite AstroSat played a key role to measure the black hole spin rate, which was consistent with results from our contemporaneous Chandra satellite data.
  3. AstroSat was launched in 2015 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It is the first dedicated astronomy satellite of India, and the SXT aboard AstroSat is the first Indian X-ray telescope.
  4. Apart from Japan, India is the first Asian country to build an X-ray Telescope (for example, China could not build such a telescope till now).



  1. Astrosat is India’s first dedicated multi-wavelength space observatory launched on a PSLV-XL on 28 September 2015.
  2. It is a multi-wavelength astronomy mission on an IRS-class satellite into a near-Earth, equatorial orbit.
  3. On board ASTROSAT are five astronomy payloads for simultaneous multi-band observations.
  4. The assembly is placed on a rotating platform to scan the available sky once every six hours in order to locate transient X-ray sources. They are:
  • Twin 38-cm Ultraviolet Imaging Telescopes (UVIT) covering Far-UV to optical bands.
  • Large Area Xenon Proportional Counters (LAXPC) covering medium energy X-rays.
  • Soft X-ray Telescope (SXT) with conical foil mirrors and X-ray CCD detector
  •  A Cadmium-Zinc-Telluride coded-mask imager (CZTI)
  •  A Scanning Sky Monitor (SSM) consisting of three one-dimensional position-sensitive proportional counters with coded masks.