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Electric rocket engines

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Nearly 55-60 per cent of a satellite’s weight consists of its chemical fuel. Now ISRO is planning to shift to electric propulsion of satellites which would reduce their weight.  Chemical rocket engines, like those on the space shuttle, work by burning two gases to create heat, which causes the gases to expand and exit the engine through a nozzle. In so doing they create the thrust that lifts the shuttle into orbit.

Smaller chemical engines are used to change orbits or to keep satellites in a particular orbit…Electric rocket engines use less fuel than chemical engines and therefore hold the potential for accomplishing missions that are impossible for chemical systems. To understand how, we have to understand a number called specific impulse.

Take one pound of the hydrogen/oxygen propellants used by the shuttle’s main engines and burn it in one second and you’d generate 370 pounds of thrust. That “370” is a measure for the combined efficiency of the engines and the propellants burned in them. If we could discover a different chemical combination that produced twice as much thrust for the same amount of fuel, it would have a specific impulse of 740.

The units of specific impulse are “seconds.” The advantage of having a higher specific impulse engine is that you need considerably less fuel to accomplish the mission…Reducing the weight of the fuel by increasing the specific impulse is one of the most powerful ways of reducing the overall weight of a spaceship. The problem is that all the energy for chemical engines comes from the energy stored in the propellants.

There is a limit to this and we’ve already pretty much reached it with the shuttle engines. The way around this problem is simple: we cheat. Instead of relying only on the energy stored in the propellants, we can add energy using electricity. In the simplest concept an electric heater is used to increase the temperature of the propellant above what it could get through combustion. The higher the temperature the greater the expansion and the more thrust per pound of propellant is obtained

Clean Ganga Mission

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Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti on Monday said a law to protect Ganga river will be brought in only after thorough consideration and refused to comment on the penal provisions in the draft statute. The government had formed a committee led by Justice Girdhar Malviya (retd) in July last year to prepare the draft Ganga Act.

The committee submitted its report to the Ministry for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation on April 12. The stretch of Ganga covers a length of 2525 kilometers across five states namely Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. It has a catchment area of 8,61,404 square km covering over a quarter of country’s land area and sustaining 46% of the total population of the country. It touches 118 towns and 1657 Gram Panchayats across 66 districts of 5 states of India.

The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), created in June, 2014, is being supported by State level Programme Management Groups (SPMGs) of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand and west Bengal. The main activities undertaken under Namami Gange include sewage and effluent management including creation of new and rehabilitation of existing STPs, complete sanitation coverage of Gram Panchayats, development of model cremation/dhobi ghats, development of decision support system in GIS platform for efficient planning and monitoring and creation of an IT based monitoring centre with capabilities of real time alerts and prediction.

For long term protection and rejuvenation, a provision has been made for 100% funding for the entire life time cost of the treatment of assets created including O&M cost for 10 years. Due importance has also been accorded to bio diversity, conservation, maintenance of flow in the river and afforestation along river side with medicinal and native plant species along with conservation of aquatic species. The expenditure incurred on Namami Gange in the first three years, (ie; 2014-2015 to 2016-17) is Rs 3673.00 crore.

For the current year (2017-18), an amount of Rs 2300 crore has been allocated in the budget. Biodiversity Conservation is being implemented in association with Wildlife Institute of India to cover Golden Mahaseer, Dolphins, Crocodiles, Turtles and Otters etc under conservation programme. 30,000 Hectares of land is targeted to be covered under afforestation programme.

Daily Current Affairs – 23rd June, 2017

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Environment and Ecology:-

1) Volcanism heralded dinosaur era?:-

Oxford study revealed the fact regarding the mass extinction during Triassic period:-

  • Volcanic activity may have played a key role in triggering the mass extinction event about 200 million years ago, which set the scene for the rise and age of the dinosaurs.
  • The Triassic extinction, one of the largest mass extinctions of animal life on record, was preceded by the dinosaur era.
  • The casualty list includes large crocodile-like reptiles and several marine invertebrates.
  • This mass extinction has long been linked to a large and abrupt release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, but the exact source of this emission has been unknown.
  • Following the discovery of volcanic rocks of the same age as the extinction, volcanic carbon dioxide emissions had previously been suggested as an important contributor to this extinction event.
  • These volcanic rocks covered a huge area, across four continents, representing the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province.
  • The findings of the study link volcanism to the previously observed repeated large emissions of carbon dioxide that had a profound impact on the global climate, causing the mass extinction at the end of the Triassic Period, as well as slowing the recovery of animal life afterwards.

2) The tiger is safe among Adilabad tribes:-

  • No harm is likely to come to the tiger that recently ambled into the Bela mandal of Adilabad district, Telangana apparently from the Tipeshwar Wildlife Sanctuary across the border in Yavatmal district, Maharashtra, so long as it moves in areas inhabited by Raj Gond and Kolam adivasis.
  • The aboriginal Raj Gonds worship the big cat as Rajulk Pen, the forest king and god.
    The customs of the Raj Gonds and Kolam tribes are attuned to peaceful co-existence with wild animals.
  • For example, the famous Dandari-Ghusadi dance takes inspiration from the movements of wild fauna, especially deer, peacock, rabbit and, of course, the tiger.
  • In a Dandari-Ghusadi performance, a masked Tappal Pen dancer depicts a tiger’s attack on cattle.

International Affairs:-

1) Dalveer Bhandari gets renomination to ICJ:-

 

  • India has renominated its serving candidate at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal legal organ of the United Nations.
  • Justice Dalveer Bhandari, 69, who received the re-nomination, will serve for a term of nine years as the Indian judge at the ICJ, which is the platform of the ongoing Kulbhushan Jadhav case.
  • Election process: The Court consists of 15 judges who are elected to nine-year terms by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council. In order to be elected, a candidate must receive an absolute majority of the votes in both bodies.
  • Privileges: As a judge of the ICJ, Justice Bhandari will enjoy privileges and immunities equal to the head of a diplomatic mission. Each member of the Court receives an annual salary and supplementary allowance. After leaving the court, members receive annual pensions.
  • Role of ICJ: Founded in 1945, the ICJ settles disputes between sovereign states and gives advisory opinions on legal questions that have been referred to it by other authorised UN organs.
  • The ICJ is open to all UN member states.

Economy, Project and Schemes:-

1) Reliance’s latest KG basin energy foray: A gamble:-

  • Reliance Industries Ltd.’s decision to invest afresh in the offshore Krishna Godavari (KG) basin after a gap of eight years has caught investors by surprise.
  • With RIL’s earlier investments of about $9 billion in the basin generating less than a tenth of the projected output of 80 million metric standard cubic metres per day (mmscmd) of gas and the refining-to-retail company still embroiled in arbitration over cases relating to alleged inflation of costs and under production, the announcement of a fresh investment commitment of $6 billion, along with BP Plc., into the KG basin has triggered a guessing game.
  • While gas from the KG basin is currently sold at $2.48 per million metric British thermal units (mmbtu) by RIL under the gas pricing formula worked out by the NDA government, some analysts contend that the company is betting on significantly higher returns based on the new pricing formula that the Centre had proposed for operating difficult fields including high pressure, high temperature, deep-water and ultra deep-water areas.
  • The Centre’s policy, however, has a categorical caveat. The new pricing formula won’t apply to blocks under arbitration.
  • Moody’s Investors Service has also cautioned that RIL’s proposed investment is fraught with risks.
  • “The planned investment will increase RIL’s exposure to Indian gas business, which is extremely challenging given the delays in regulatory approvals, retrospective changes in regulations and slow resolution of disputes. RIL is already in arbitration with the regulator for costs previously incurred in the KGD6 block,”.
  • “Two fields in the KGD6 block that are already producing have seen a sharp decline in production of 60 mmscmd (Million Metric Standard Cubic Meter Per Day) in 2010 to 7.8 mmscmd in 2017. The company has attributed the decline to more-than-expected complexity of the reservoirs. If the new fields also exhibit the same kind of complexity, the cash flows from the project could be much lower.”
  • Reliance’s billionaire chairman Mukesh Ambani, who recovered a substantial portion of the initial investment when the company sold a 30% stake to BP in 2011 for $7.2 billion, appears to be wagering that a resolution with the Centre is around the corner.
    RIL and its partner BP expect to produce up to 12 mmscmd, with first production in 2020.

2) Enough time given, GST will be implemented from July 1: Arun Jaitley:-

  • Brushing aside reservations from sections of industry as well as States such as West Bengal about the level of preparedness for the switch to the Goods and Services Tax (GST), Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that the new indirect tax system would be kicked off on July 1 as the government had given enough time for people to be prepared for the transition.
  • He also warned that consumers and producers in Kerala and Jammu and Kashmir, which are yet to ratify the State GST law to facilitate the implementation of the GST under their jurisdiction, would lose out on the benefits of a single national tax.
  • “The readiness will be determined when you have to file the first return, which we have extended to September 15 [from August 10]. So two-and-a-half months more are there to get ready. And if he is still not ready, then I am afraid he doesn’t want to be ready,” he pointed out.
  • 65 lakh out of 80 lakh assessees in the current indirect tax system have already registered themselves for the GST.

3) Rajdhani, Shatabdi trains set for revamp under ‘Operation Swarn’:-

  • After years of complaints by the travelling public, the premium trains are now set for a makeover. The Railway Ministry is to launch “Operation Swarn” to improve services in Rajdhani and Shatabdi Express trains.
  • In the first phase, the Mumbai-Delhi Rajdhani Express and Mumbai-Ahmedabad Shatabdi Express have been selected for upgradation.
  • Work will start from September 26. More trains will be identified in a phased manner.

4) RBI releases names of the 5 members in Overseeing Committee to tackle bad loans:-

  • The Reserve Bank of India announced the names of five members of the Overseeing Committee (OC) which looks into the resolution of stressed accounts where a company’s exposure exceeds Rs 500 crore.
  • The five members include existing members former Chief Vigilance Commissioner Pradeep Kumar who will be the Chairman and former State Bank of India Chairman Janki Ballabh.
  • The committee will comprise three other members – former chairman of Canara Bank MBN Rao, non-executive chairman of L&T Finance Holdings YM Deosthalee and former SEBI whole-time member S Raman.

5) India’s first single-wallet contactless, Open Loop Metro Card launched:-

  • Axis Bank, India’s third largest private sector bank in association with Kochi Metro Rail Corporation (KMRL) has launched KMRL Axis Bank ‘Kochi1’ Card.
  • This is India’s first open loop EMV contactless metro card that would make travel a convenient and hassle free experience for commuters in Kochi.
  • Axis Bank has partnered with National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) in developing this transit EMV contactless specification on interoperable open standards.

Science and Technology:-

1) Estonia to open the world’s first data embassy in Luxembourg:- 

  • The world’s first ever data embassy is set for launch next year after the Estonian government signed a deal with Luxembourg.
  • Estonia is planning to keep backup files of its vital information on servers in the duchy in order to guarantee country’s digital continuity.

Defence News:-

1) First indigenously built floating dock launched:-

  • The Indian Navy’s first indigenously built Floating Dock (FDN-2), developed by Larsen & Toubro Ltd. (L&T), was launched at L&T’s shipyard.
  • The Floating Dock is 185 metres long and 40 metres wide and will enable docking of all kinds of vessels, including Naval ships and submarines (excepting aircraft carriers and tankers) of up to 8,000 tonnes displacement, with draughts of up to seven metres, during both day and night.
  • The Navy already has one Floating Dock; this would be its second such facility.
    FDN-2 too will be based in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and will enhance the Navy’s technical repair infrastructure.

Appointments:-

1) Kenneth Juster to be new US ambassador to India:-

  • Kenneth I Juster, a top aide of US President Donald Trump, is set to be America’s new ambassador to India, the White House said.
  • Juster, 62, who is the deputy assistant to the US president for International Economic Affairs and deputy director of his National Economic Council, would replace Richard Verma if nominated and confirmed by the Senate.

2) Russian diplomat Vladimir Voronkov to be first UN counter-terrorism chief:-

  • The United Nations has announced the appointment of its first counter-terrorism chief, Russian diplomat Vladimir Voronkov.
  • The new high-level position has been created by United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres to strengthen counter-terrorism efforts that had been dispersed among several United Nations agencies and departments.
  • Voronkov will hold the title of under-secretary-general.

PSLV to launch Cartosat-2 with 30 nano satellites on June 23: ISRO

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About ISRO:-

  • The Indian Space Research Organisation is the space agency of the Government of India headquartered in the city of Bengaluru.
    Founder: Vikram Sarabhai
    Founded: 15 August 1969
    Motto:Space technology in the Service of humankind.
    Director: A. S. Kiran Kumar

About:-

  • India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle will launch Cartosat-2 series satellite along with 30 co-passenger satellites from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh on June 23
  • PSLV-C38 will launch the 712 kg Cartosat-2 series satellite for earth observation and 30 co-passenger satellites together, weighing about 243 kg at lift-off, into a 505-km polar Sun Synchronous Orbit
  • The co-passenger satellites, comprise 29 Nano satellites from 14 countries – Austria, Belgium, Chile, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, the United Kingdom and the United States of America besides a Nano satellite from India.
  • This will be the 40th flight of PSLV and 17th flight of PSLV in ‘XL’ configuration (with the use of solid strap-on motors).
  • The space agency also said the 29 international customer Nano satellites are being launched as part of the commercial arrangements between Antrix Corporation Limited (Antrix), commercial arm of ISRO and International customers.

About Cartosat-2:-

  • Cartosat-2 is an Earth observation satellite in a sun-synchronous orbit and the second of the Cartosat series of satellites. The satellite was built, launched and maintained by the Indian Space Research Organisation.
  • Cartosat-2 is a remote sensing satellite and it is similar in configuration to earlier satellites in the series with the objective of providing high-resolution scene specific spot imagery.

A Sun–synchronous orbit:-

  • SSO, also called a heliosynchronous orbit
  • Is a geocentric orbit that combines altitude and inclination in such a way that the satellite passes over any given point of the planet’s surface at the same local solar time.

Features of Sun Synchronous Orbits:-

  • The satellite passes over a given location on Earth every time at the same local solar time.
  • Thus, it guarantees the same illumination condition, which varies only with seasons.
  • The orbit is Quasi-polar in nature and so ensures coverage of the whole surface of the Earth

 

Urban Mega Crisis and Alternative Transport

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Urbanisation: the Mega Crisis:-

  • At 300 million, the urban population of India is still less than one third of its total population. It is projected that by 2045 nearly 800 million Indians will be living in its cities – more than the total population of the whole of present-day Europe.
  • With such a pace of urbanisation, it is inevitable that the number of metros and soon-to-be metros is substantially higher than the official tally.
  • Already, the infrastructures of all the six mega- and 40 million-plus cities of India are under very severe stress. The ground water is depleting rapidly, pollution is reaching crisis levels, the transportation system is in disarray, and sewerage and sanitation are in a shambles, all of which is affecting public health and hygiene which are the great concern for developing cities.
  • According to a new study by consultancy EY (India’s growth paradigm, March 2017), India already has two more metros — Jaipur and Surat (apart from 4 Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai) — as well as 10 ‘high potential’ cities which will soon grow to metro-hood: Bhopal, Chandigarh, Indore, Jabalpur, Kanpur, Lucknow, Nagpur, Patna, Vadodara and Visakhapatnam. This mega crisis is leading to the issue of transportation.

Tackling the growing transportation issues:-

  • To solve the growing issues of transportation with curbing pollution and health issues, there is need to shift to an eco-friendly means of transportation such as bicycle, E-Rickshaw, and other no-burning-fuel vehicles.
  • Invented in the 19th Century, Bicycles are an important means of transport in almost all urban areas of the world, with large number of people commuting in a big way.
    Developed countries in Europe have brought back the bicycle as a mode of urban commuting with huge success, while middle-income countries in Latin America are trying to replicate the model.
  • It is time for India to promote bicycle culture as well, so that we burn less fossil fuels, protecting environment while improving our health. Medical experts view cycling as an exercise which, while being less strenuous on the body, is a workout for all the major muscles.

Why Cycling?

  • Urbanization and economic development is increasing the purchasing power of Indian citizens. Although, only 18 out of 1000 are capable of owning a vehicle, India’s roads are already overstressed and emission levels are reaching at alarming point.
  • Air pollution is breaking records in India. Delhi, the capital of India, has earned the reputation of being the most polluted city in whole world.
    Lack of parking space and increasing fuel rates as fossil fuel resources are drying and continuous rise in number of vehicles on road, clearly, the concern here is air pollution, over-crowding and traffic congestion.
  • It cuts traffic trouble and struggle for parking space. A space required to park a car can accommodate 15-20 cycles. There are no fuel expenses, no maintenance cost, no emissions, lesser accident rate, lower road maintenance and many other benefits.
  • Using bicycle cut usage of metal, rubber, steel etc. as less number of vehicles will be manufactured. In every aspect, cycling reduces carbon footprint.

Cycling Culture in World:-

Amsterdam with an urban area population of over 1.1 million people, is the most bicycle-friendly city in the world. As is common in Dutch cities, Amsterdam has a wide net of traffic-calmed streets and world-class facilities for cyclists. All around are bike paths and bike racks, and several guarded bicycle parking stations.

Cycling Culture in India:-

  • Raahgiri-Apni Rahen, Apni Azaadi is India’s first sustained car-free citizen initiative that began in Gurgaon on Nov 17, 2013. The movement was conceived and is trademarked with the Raahgiri Foundation, consisting of local inhabitants from five organizations – EMBARQ India, I Am Gurgaon, Pedalyatri, Heritage School Gurgaon, Duplays Gurgaon. The initiative needs more expansion.
  • There were some attempts like ‘Cycle Chalao’ venture that started in 2010 in Mumbai and operated for sometime before its funds dried up.
    Recently, Delhi Metro launched its first public bicycle sharing scheme for its users to provide last-mile connectivity. The user can either register online or visit a metro station to obtain a smartcard. With this smartcard, user can rent a cycle at rate of Rs.10 per hour.

What India can learn from Bogota?

  • Bogota, Colombia’s capital, started a weekly programme called Ciclovia in 1974.Sections of roads were closed on Sundays for motor vehicles for half a day and only cycles, joggers and walkers were allowed. What started as a small exercise now covers more than 121 km of Bogota’s roads, with the participation of onefourth of its population of eight million, every Sunday and on other holidays, covering around 68 days of the year.
  • Many cities in Colombia and Latin America have adopted Bogota’s Ciclovia. Encouraged by the people’s response to cycling, Bogota has also developed 400 km of cycle routes and is adding another 120 km.
  • Around 7,00,000 trips are made by bicycle every day, constituting 6 per cent of all journeys. Seeing the popularity of Ciclovia, both public and private institutions sponsor events for spreading their particular messages.
  • In India, a start has been made through “Raahgiri” in certain areas of Delhi, Gurgaon, etc, but the initiative has room for expansion. This will require the involvement of the city administration as it needs some management of routes and traffic.
  • Like in Bogota, other public bodies, such as water boards and health departments, will also have to make their services available to ensure drinking water and health facilities in emergencies.
  • Also, we must keep in mind the weather in various Indian cities. In India, cities in the North Indian plains can have more cycle days in winter, while the hills can have more cycle days in summer.
  • Building cycle tracks must be a part of new town planning. The national highways, like in Colombia and several cities of Europe, could also have separate cycle lanes. Cycling culture, which existed in the 1970s and 1980s in India, before the arrival of cars in big numbers, can be revived.
  • This revival will not mean that we do away with motorised transport. We should look forward to a combination, where some journeys will be by public transport, others by car, others still by bicycle. If there is safety in cycling, many will use it as their prime mode of transport.

Conclusion:-

  • It is found in the comparative study of cities that most of the medium and large cities have about 50-75% trips below 5 km trip length. This means there is a considerable number of trips which have the potential to be shifted to the cycle.
  • The conversion of potential cycle trips from other modes is highly likely, if a favourable cycling infrastructure is made available. This requires revising the current design standards to make them bicycle compatible and sustained efforts of capacity building of implementing agencies like municipalities, transport department and public works departments to implement the bicycle friendly infrastructure.
  • The strong initiatives from the government side and active participation from all stakeholders will certainly bring the positive result in the near future to come.

South Asia Satellite: Significance

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About the satellite:-

  • It is a geosynchronous communications and meteorology satellite by the ISRO for the South Asian region.
  • Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka are the users of the facilities provided by the satellite.
  • It was launched on GSLV Mark-II rocket (GSLV-F09) from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota.
  • The South Asia Satellite has 12 Ku band transponders which India’s neighbours can utilise to increase communications.

Applications:-

Communication:

  • The satellite will facilitate DTH television, VSAT links, teleeducation and telemedicine.
    Disaster management support: The satellite will facilitate DTH television, VSAT links, tele-education and telemedicine.

Meteorology:

  • It is also equipped with remote sensing technology and thus enables the real time data weather condition and help in observations of the geology of the South Asian nations (i.e. mapping of natural terrain and resources).

Improve governance:

  • It will help in better governance, better banking and education in remote areas and linking people with top-end medical services through telemedicine. Its benefits also include deeper IT connectivity and fostering people-to-people contact.

Timeline:-

  • During the 18th SAARC summit held in Nepal in 2014, Indian PM Modi mooted the idea of a satellite serving the needs of SAARC member nations as a part of his Neighbourhood first policy.
  • But India rejected Pakistani offers, saying that it wanted the project to be a “Gift” and multi-national collaboration would be time consuming. As a result, Pakistan declined to participate in the project.
  • Since Pakistan opted-out of the satellite project, so it couldn’t be called a SAARC satellite. Thus it was renamed as South Asia satellite”.

Significance of the launch:-

The significance of the launch has been discussed below:

Neighbor-first policy:

  • India has gifted regional communications satellite worth Rs. 450 crore for free to our neighbors without asking anything in return. This shows that not only shows that India is willing to use it’s space capabilities as a tool of diplomacy, but also shows that we have a large heart.

Development of south Asia:

  • SAARC nations – which are economically lagging with limited technological resources – would receive in communication, telemedicine, meteorological forecasting and broadcasting.
    By this it will not only solve the problems of the region but will also spur economic growth in the region.

New frontier of cooperation among SAARC nations:

  • In the words of PM, “With this launch we have started a journey to build the most advanced frontier of our partnership. The South Asia Satellite tells us that even the sky is not the limit when it comes to regional cooperation.”
  • The sentiments were equally shared by Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani who stated that “If cooperation through land is not possible (because of Pakistan’s reluctance to grant transit rights for Afghanistan-India trade), we can be connected through space.”
  • If not SAARC, then SAARC-minus one: Pakistan opted out of the project on the ground that India refused to technical help from her (even though everyone knows that Pakistan’s space program is primitive as compared to India).
  • But still India went ahead without Pakistan. This shows that India will continue to cooperate with it’s neighborhood – be it in the form of SAARC, or in the form of SAARC-minus one. By this India have silently told Pakistan that it’s obstructionist attitude (whether in motor vehicle agreement or south Asia satellite) will not stop India from carrying out it’s neighbor-first policy – be it in the form of SAARC, or in the form of SAARC-minus one.

Containing China in South Asia:

  • This is also one of the many steps towards containing China’s growing influence in the region.
  • Even in pace also, China is gradually entering south Asia. SupremeSAT (Pvt) Limited, a Sri Lankan satellite operator has partnership with China’s state-owned satellite manufacturing institution China Great Wall Industry Corporation.
  • Techno-diplomacy is the new frontier: By launching south Asia satellite, India has taken the first step in techno-diplomacy.

Conclusion:-

  • The new satellite would change the face of South Asia and expand connectivity from land and water to space. The launch has also added yet another feather to ISRO’s cap.
  • India created space history and broke record by launching 104 satellites from a single rocket in one go in mid-February, this year. So far, ISRO has ferried 226 satellites into orbit, including 180 from abroad.
  • ISRO is attempting to increase its capacity to deliver by scaling up the frequency of launches to 12 per year from the seven, currently, by building more satellites and lowering the cost of access to space.

Daily Current Affairs – 22th June, 2017

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National News:-

1) Indore India’s first city to use robot to control unruly traffic:-

  • The number one clean city of India, Indore has got another milestone to its name. This commercial capital of Madhya Pradesh has reportedly become the first city in India where robot is being used on an experimental basis to control its ever growing and unruly traffic.
  • The traffic police in association with a private engineering college of the city for the first time has installed a metallic robot at a busy MR 9 intersection on an experimental basis to control the chaotic traffic in the locality.

2) Free education for girls in Punjab from Nursery to PhD:-

  • The Punjab Government has announced free education for girls in government schools and colleges from Nursery to PhD.
  • Fulfilling another poll promise, he announced free Wi-FI for 13,000 primary schools and all 48 government colleges.
  • Reservation for women in Panchayati Raj Institutions and Urban Local Bodies has already been increased by the government from 33 per cent to 50 per cent.

International News:-

1) First air corridor between India and Afghanistan inaugurated:-

  • Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has inaugurated the first Afghanistan-India air corridor during a ceremony at the Kabul International Airport—a direct route that bypasses Pakistan and is meant to improve commerce.
  • Ghani said the aim of the route is to create more opportunities and make Afghanistan an exporting nation.
  • Mountain-riddled Afghanistan is a landlocked country and all imports and exports depend on neighbouring countries.

2) China unveils world’s first train that runs on virtual tracks:-

  • China has unveiled the world’s first ‘railless’ train – a train that runs on virtual tracks.
    China is also testing a bus that can straddle the road, and allow traffic to pass under it.
  • The new train is part of China’s attempts to develop “intelligent rail express system”. Instead of railway tracks, the train runs on rubber tyres.
  • The train can move at a maximum speed of 70 km/hour.

3) Mumbai continues to be most expensive city for expatriates in India:-

  • Mumbai is the most expensive city for expatriates in India and is ranked higher than major global cities such as Paris, Canberra, Seattle and Vienna.
  • According to Mercer’s 23rd annual Cost of Living Survey, Mumbai is placed 57th on the list while New Delhi was placed at 99. Chennai (135), Bangalore (166) and Kolkata (184) were the other Indian cities on the list.
  • Luanda, the capital of Angola, was the costliest city, driven by cost of goods and security, followed by Hong Kong and Tokyo at the second and third places, respectively.

4) India’s population to surpass that of China’s around 2024: UN:-

  • India’s population could surpass that of China’s around 2024, two years later than previously estimated, and is projected to touch 1.5 billion in 2030, according to a UN forecast.
  • The 2017 Revision, published by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, that currently China with 1.41 billion inhabitants and India with 1.34 billion remain the two most populous countries, comprising 19 and 18 per cent of the total global population.
  • In roughly seven years, or around 2024, the population of India is expected to surpass that of China, the report.

Appointments:-

1) Rajiv Gauba to be next Union Home Secretary:-

  • Rajiv Gauba, currently Union Urban Development Secretary, will be the next Home Secretary, an official statement.
  • The 1982-cadre IAS officer will succeed Rajiv Mehrishi, whose tenure ends on August 30.
    Gauba, who was originally of the Bihar cadre but transferred to Jharkhand after the state’s division, is also posted on special duty in the Home Ministry.

2) India re-nominates Justice Dalveer Bhandari for another term as ICJ judge:-

  • Justice Dalveer Bhandari has been nominated by India as its candidate for another nine year term as judge of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal judicial organ of the UN.
  • Bhandari, 69, was elected in April 2012 during simultaneous balloting in both the General Assembly and the Security Council to a seat on the International Court of Justice, which is also known as the World Court and is based in The Hague in the Netherlands.
    His current term runs through February 2018.
  • The ICJ elections will be held in November and if elected, he will serve a term of nine years.

Awards:-

1) Agri. Microbiologist Dr Shrihari Chandraghatgi gets Japan Award:-

  • Indian Agricultural Microbiologist Dr Shrihari Chandraghatgi, President & CEO, EcoCycle Corporation, has been conferred with Ministry of Environment Award in Japan for developing cutting edge technologies to address environmental problems.
  • Dr. Shrihari is the first foreigner to win this award in environmental sector in Japan.
  • This award is the highest honour given every year jointly by the Ministry of Environment, Japan, and National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES), Japan and The Nikkan Kogyo Shinbun (a media group).

Daily Current Affairs – 21th June, 2017

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National News:-

1) Ram Nath Kovind resigns as Bihar Governor:-

  • Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind has resigned from the gubernatorial post.
    The resignation follows his nomination as the National Democratic Alliance’s presidential candidate.
  • West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi will discharge the functions of the Governor of Bihar, in addition to his own duties.
  • On June 19, the BJP announced the name of 71-year-old Mr. Kovind, a low-profile Dalit leader and a two-term BJP Rajya Sabha member, as its nominee for President.
  • The presidential election is scheduled for July 17,. Mr. Mukherjee completes his five-year term on July 24, 2017.

International News:-

1) International Day of Yoga: 21 June:-

  • International Day of Yoga or commonly and unofficially referred to as Yoga Day, is celebrated annually on 21 June since its inception in 2015.
  • An international day for yoga was declared unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on 11 December 2014.
  • The theme for the 2017 celebration, organized by the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations, is ‘Yoga for Health.’

2) 2017 BIO International Convention:-

  • The Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) BIO 2017 is being held in the San Diego Convention Centre, San Diego from 19th June t0 22nd June, 2017.
  • The Indian delegation taking part in the BIO 2017, is being led by Shri Y S Chowdary, Minister of State for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences.
  • The BIO International Convention is the largest global event for the biotechnology industry and attracts the biggest names in biotech.
  • The BIO International Convention is hosted by the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO).

3) Eighth Session of the Implementation Review Group of UNCAC at Vienna, Austria:-

  • The Central Vigilance Commissioner Shri K.V. Chowdary presented country statement at the Eighth Session of the Implementation Review Group of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) at Vienna, Austria.
  • The Eighth Session is being held from June 19th-23rd, 2017.
    Shri K.V. Chowdary said that India is fully committed to tackle corruption and adopts a ‘zero tolerance’ approach as well as minimum Government and maximum Governance.

Economic News:-

1) India and ADB Sign $275 Million Loan for Upgrading Urban Services in Madhya Pradesh:-

  • The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of India signed a $275 million loan on 19th June, 2017 for improving urban services in 64 small towns in the State of Madhya Pradesh.
  • The project will develop sustainable, inclusive, and climate-resilient water supply in 64 small and medium-sized towns, and integrated storm water and sewerage infrastructure in two heritage towns of Khajuraho and Rajnagar.
  • Previous ADB urban investments in the state have improved access to safe drinking water for more than 5 million residents in 4 major cities.
  • Along with ADB’s loan, the Government of Madhya Pradesh will provide counterpart support of $124 million. The project will run for almost five years with an expected completion date of June 2022.

2) Meghalaya Govt signs two MoUs with SBI for digital transaction:-

  • Meghalaya government signed two MoUs with the State Bank of India as a part of an initiative towards migrating government transactions to digital mode.
  • With implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), these MoUs are expected to give dealers and other citizens the desired platform for conducting financial transactions with the state government on a digital platform.
  • The state government has already established a new treasury called as Cyber Treasury, which dedicatedly handles all online transactions of government.

Appointments:-

1) Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman appointed Crown Prince:-

  • Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef has been relieved of his post and replaced by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in a promotion for King Salman’s 31-year-old son that confirms him as next ruler of the kingdom.
  • Prince Mohammed bin Salman becomes deputy prime minister and retains his defence and other portfolios.
  • Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, for years the kingdom’s counter-terrorism chief who put down an al Qaeda campaign of bombings in 2003-06, is relieved of all positions.

Awards:-

1) Ramamani Iyengar Institute wins first yoga award:-

  • The Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute here has been selected as the first recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award for outstanding contribution for promotion and development of yoga.
  • The decision has been taken by the screening committee and evaluation committee for the awards that were constituted in 2016.
  • The selection was done from among 85 nominations received and 15 more recommended by the screening committee.

One Belt One Road (OBOR) and India

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Introduction:-

  • The Belt and Road Initiative, also known as the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) project was launched by the Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013.
  • The project intends to link Asia with Europe and Africa through an overland “belt” and a maritime silk “road”.
  • The project consists of two main components: land-based “Silk Road Economic Belt” (SREB) and Ocean going “Maritime Silk Road” (MSR).

Why has China launched it?:-

Bridging the infrastructure gap in Asia:-

  • According to China, the Belt and Road Initiative will bridge the ‘infrastructure gap’ and thus accelerate economic growth across the Asia Pacific area and Central and Eastern Europe.

Economic motives of China:-

  • OBOR is aimed at boosting domestic growth in China which has slipped in recent years. In 2016 China grew by 6.7% which is the lowest since 1990.
  • According to experts OBOR is a second phase of ‘opening up’. Experts also believe that China feels “isolated” as it is not involved with G7, and is limited to the BRICS countries. Thus OBOR provides China another window to continue its economic expansion.
  • OBOR also provides China a market to sells its product produce esp. steel. With the massive demand creation of the BRI project, China will solve the problem of huge overcapacity in its domestic industries, especially steel.

Key highlights of the recent forum:-

  • Agreement was signed to deepen cooperation on China-Europe railway.
  • China pledged additional RMB 100 billion ($14.5 billion) into the Silk Road Fund.
  • China Development Bank and Export-Import Bank will set up new lending schemes of 250 billion ($36.2 billion) and RMB 130 billion ($18.8 billion), respectively, for Belt and Road projects.
  • China will also provide RMB 60 billion ($8.7 billion) for humanitarian efforts focused on food, housing, health care, and poverty alleviation.

India and BRI:-

Why India has not joined BRI?

  • India didn’t attended the belt and road forum, not even as an observer as India is apprehensive about the belt and road initiative.

India’s reservations, according to the Ministry of External Affairs, are threefold:-

  • The primary objection is that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (part of BRI) passes though Gilgit-Baltistan region and thus ignores India’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity”. According to political commentators, merely changing the name of CPEC to CSEC (China South Asian Economic Corridor) – as China has offered to India – will not address India’s grievances.

Second, BRI would lead to Chinese neo-colonialism causing:-

  • Unsustainable debt burden for communities; and
  • An adverse impact on the environment in the partner countries.
  • There is a lack of transparency in China’s agenda. Some experts believe that
  • B&RI is not just an economic project but one that China is promoting for political control.

Criticism of India’s decision:-

Few experts have criticized India for not joining BRI as:-

  • India may also face some difficult choices in the road ahead, because as a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and a co-founder of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank it will be asked to support many of the projects under the B&RI.
  • By this India will isolate itself amidst the apparently growing international support for the ambitious project.
  • The partner countries will benefit as this will lead to inflow of billions of dollars in loans for projects.
  • Even countries such as U.S. and Japan, which are not a part of the B&RI has sent official delegations.

Kashmir:-

  • Delhi must step up the effort to modernize and deepen J&K’s connectivity with the rest of India.

Arunachal:-

  • While China asks India to downplay the sovereignty argument in Pakistan occupied Kashmir, but it objects to India’s activity in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • In Arunachal, India should accelerate the state’s economic development and its connectivity to the rest of India.

Andaman:-

  • India should realize the strategic importance of Andaman and Nicobar islands that sit across China’s planned maritime silk routes in the eastern Indian Ocean.
  • Thus we should devote high-level political attention to the long-neglected islands. By that only we can cope with the maritime dimension of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Improve internal connectivity:-

  • India should improve internal connectivity in line of China’s BRI which was built on the existing internal “Go West” strategy launched two decades ago, that has focused on unifying China’s domestic market and connecting its developed east coast with the interior provinces.

Improve connectivity with neighbors:-

  • India should modernize connectivity across its land and maritime frontiers with its neighbors in the Subcontinent, South East Asia and the Gulf by completing projects in these regions.

Collaborate with Japan for Quality Infrastructure:-

  • India can work with nations like Japan and multilateral institutions in developing regional connectivity in the Subcontinent and beyond.
  • Japan has already outlined a Belt and Road initiative of its own, called the Partnership for Quality Infrastructure under which Japan has put up nearly $150 billion to support infrastructure projects all across the Indo-Pacific and Eurasia.
  • India should also improve access to Europe by expediting projects like INSTC and others.

NITI Aayog – Three Year Action Plan

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Benefits of Three Year Agenda over Five Year Plans:-

  • The Three Year Action Agenda has replaced the five year plans – an economic approach adopted by PM Nehru – which became history when the 12th Plan, the last of the Five-Year Plans, came to an end on March 31.

The benefits of this move are:-

  • In a country as big and diverse as India, centralized planning could not work beyond a point due to its one-size-fits-all approach. Thus it was time to come out of the legacy of five-year plans which are reminiscent of centrally planned economies like the Soviet Union and Romania.
  • Better accountability with responsibility: The cycle of five year plan and the term of government are not synchronous. Thus if there is a new government in power then it will be implementing the priorities set by earlier government and the previous government is not held accountable for the targets set in the five year plan. With the three year cycle, government is held more accountable for its action on the plan.
  • Equal focus on present and future: By making this three-year action plan a part of a seven-year strategy paper and a 15-year vision document, government can focus on short-term goals which can be changed from time to time in a dynamic environment with eyes firmly stuck on the long-term policy objectives.
  • Combines domestic aspiration with global aims: According to NK Singh (member of erstwhile planning commission), the new format of three, seven, fifteen combines domestic aspiration with global aims as the fifteen-year vision is coterminous (to a certain extent) with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • With the old distinction between “Plan” and “non-Plan” expenditure gone, India is now on the road of becoming a full-fledged market economy. Thus we don’t need detailed planned targets, rather we just need to set broad priorities.
  • It will focus on shorter goals which can be reviewed after every three years to ensure that they are relevant to the demand of time.
  • They will also be aligned with the Finance Commission recommendations as the finances would be provided through the Finance Commissions.
  • Flexibility: The document is not required to be approved by the Union Cabinet which also does not make it binding for the government and its ministries and departments which was in the case of five year plans. Also the three-year strategic paper would not be as comprehensive as the five-year plan and is not expected to go into minute details of each sector.

Important Recommendations:-

  • NITI Aayog for abolishing 2% Custom Duty on mobile circuits The Budget had imposed a 2% special additional duty (Custom duty) on imports of populated printed circuit boards (PCBs) used for mobile phones, as a measure to push the Make in India campaign.
  • The duty is aimed at providing ‘adequate protection to domestic industry,’ so that local manufacturers of PCBs get an incentive of sorts. Handset prices were expected to rise by over 1% owing to the duty.
  • Calling for a ‘low or no duty regime’ for key inputs of electronic products, 2% customs duty on PCBs would provide modest protection to domestic manufacturers, but hurt the mobile phone manufacturers.

Implication of rolling back of custom duty on manufacturing:-

  • In its three year action plan 2017-2020 NITI aayaog has noted “At this stage, it is best for us to let mobile phone manufacturing flourish and not be handicapped by tariffs on its components. As this happens and we begin to export mobile phones in large volumes, the way to the manufacture of other components will be automatically paved,” thus it is required to return to zero duty on PCBs.
  • The world market in electronic products is $2 trillion compared with only $65 billion in the domestic market. Therefore, an aggressive export strategy is essential to credibly prepare ourselves for the fourth Industrial Revolution. To increase India’s electronic manufacturing volumes and create jobs in the sector, we must address the high costs of inputs, reduce the administrative burden and provide appropriate incentives to producers.
  • Though India has the potential to become a large electronics manufacturer and exporter due to its large labour force, a growing domestic market and proximity to other economies on the electronics value chain, the sector accounted for just 3% of India’s merchandise exports in 2015.

Less Teaching & More research in Universities:-

  • The goal of Make in India is to make India a hub of Manufacturing, Design and Innovation. The innovation part shall require a transformation in current system governing Universities. Universities are nursery of Innovation like Universities in USA are pioneer in research and Innovation. Success of higher education system in Innovation sector rests on less regulation, autonomous governance, transparency and outcome.
  • NITI Aayog in its recently released three Year Action Plan has highlighted the issue of ensuring that investments in research better translate to more products and bolster “innovation and development”. It has recommended that faculty at “world class” institutions prioritise research and be allowed to “reduce their teaching responsibility,” if required.
  • This will give faculty and researchers required Time and Space to dedicate towards Research and Innovation and enter into collaboration with Private sector to serve their specific needs. More Innovation means more new form of Niche Products to serve local and Global needs, and higher manufacturing activities.

Other Recommendations:-

  • Such universities also ought to be allowed to recruit research staff from abroad and be encouraged to compete for research projects from industry. The so-called ‘world class universities’ are part of a government-outlined plan to raise funding for 10 public and 10 private universities and mould them into institutions that rank among the world’s best.
  • The NITI Aayog also pitches for a new ‘National Science, Technology and Innovation Foundation’ headed by a distinguished scientist. This will coordinate with science and technology departments, ministries, governments and private sector bodies and deliberate on national issues and recommend interventions.
  • Universities ought to be ranked according to metrics such as teaching, research output and funding won from the private sector.

Conclusion:-

  • The above inputs to reduce custom duty and enhance innovation have a common thread to boost manufacturing and increasing rate of economic growth. Both measures are required within the holistic framework as envisaged in Action Plan. However, the quantum by which Manufacturing will increase due to reduction in custom duty and how well Universities become innovation oriented depends majorly on time bound implementation.
  • Thus to ensure that it doesn’t meet the same fate of the five year plans (targets which remain on paper), NK Singh committee has recommended the following measures:
  • Firstly, in the case of five year plans, Parliament gave little time in analyzing the broader issues of the five-year plans. Thus we should constitute a separate parliamentary committee on planning, which could meaningfully engage with the NITI Aayog’s policy prescriptions.
  • Secondly, for fostering cooperative federalism in true spirit, we should create state level bodies on the line of NITI Aayog to ensure that the state-level policies are in sync with the “Three Year Action Agenda”.
  • The beginning is in right spirit, but only time will tell that how many of its proposals are actually implemented and most importantly how effectively the Trimurti’s – three year action agenda, seven-year strategy paper and a fifteen-year vision document are linked together to present a holistic vision for the country.