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Prelims CGS -8: 400 Revision Points [Part 2 of 4]

Prelims CGS-7, 8, 9 and 10 under Target 2017 Programme are four documents covering 400 exam oriented topics / questions with important facts from current affairs 2016 to 15 May 2017 focusing on relevant facts on which questions may be asked in examination. This is second part of the series. The third document will be released on around 5 May and Last one around 20th May.

1.     What are key responsibilities of IndARC?

IndARC is India’s first underwater moored observatory anchored in the Kongsfjorden fjord, half way between Norway (1100km away from Norway) and the North Pole at a depth of 192 metre. The data provided by IndARC helps to understand the Arctic processes and their influence on the Indian monsoon system through climate modelling studies; and the response of the Arctic to climatic variability.

2.     What are different types of services provided by NAVIC

NAVIC (Navigation Indian Constellation) provides two types of services viz. Standard Positioning Services (SPS), which will be provided to all users; and Restricted Services – (RS), which will grant access only to authorised users. It is made of seven satellites of which three are in GEO and four are in GCO. With the launch of IRNSS-1G (seventh and final member of IRNSS constellation) the IRNSS system is complete and would be soon operational. IRNSS-1G has a 12-year mission life.

3.     What is Global Vaccine Switch?

Global Vaccine Switch was simultaneous replacement of trivalent OPV with bivalent OPV in routine immunization and supplemental immunization activities all over world within a 2-week timeframe (April 17 to May 1). Trivalent OPV would no longer be used anywhere in the world. This switch has been labelled as the largest globally coordinated withdrawal of one vaccine and the roll out of another into a routine immunization programme in history.

4.     What are current borrowing limit for states?

Currently, the states can borrow up to 3% of their GSDP {Gross State Domestic Product}. The recent cabinet approval allows the states {which exercise greater fiscal discipline} to borrow 0.5% additional to this limit.

5.     What is RIMES?

RIMES refers to Regional Integrated Multi-Hazard Early Warning System for Africa and Asia (RIMES). It is operational since 2009 and provides regional early warning services in the region.

6.     What is the Minimum judge requirement for a constitutional bench in Supreme Court?

Article 145(3) of the Constitution requires at least five judges to sit for deciding any case involving a substantial question of constitutional law. However, now-a-days division benches of two judges are deciding such cases mainly because of paucity of judges.

7.     What is Public Affairs Index (PAI)?

The first Public Affairs Index on good governance was released by Public Affairs Centre, an NGO in Bengaluru in 2016. The index measures aspects like economic, social and infrastructure development and attempts to rank governance at the inter-state level.  According to the index, the best states are Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat in that order and the worst states are Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha, in that order.

8.     What is Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST)?

Chinese scientists at the Institute of Physical Science in Hefei have moved a step closer to creating an ‘artificial sun’ through nuclear fusion. This breakthrough is claimed to end reliance on fossil fuels and offer unlimited clean energy forever.

The scientists created a temporary artificial star by producing hydrogen gas more than three times hotter than the core of our sun, and 8,600 times hotter than our planet’s core. The process is equivalent to a medium-scale thermonuclear explosion.

They conducted this experiment inside the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) fusion device, also referred to as the ‘Artificial Sun’. The scientists managed to maintain the extremely high temperature (50 million degrees Celsius) for 102 seconds, a feat which is first in the world.

The Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (East) project is part of global efforts to produce a viable source of alternative energy from nuclear fusion reactors. This project, which cost 300 million yuan (approximately $37 million), is attempting to provide solution to a fundamental problem that scientists have faced since the Industrial Revolution; that of creating energy from machines that is more than the initial input.

9.     What is Gravitational Lensing?

Normal lenses such as the ones used in a magnifying glass or a pair of spectacles bends the light rays that pass through them by refraction and focuses the light somewhere (such as in your eye). Gravitational lensing is among the first evidences of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity – simply put, mass bends light. The gravitational field of a massive object extends far into space; it bends the light rays passing close to that object and refocuses it somewhere else. The more massive the object, the stronger will be its gravitational field and hence greater will be the bending of light rays.

Astronomers are interested in large scale lensing that takes place in the universe. For instance, the gravitational field of galaxies and clusters of galaxies can lens light. However, in between the Earth and those galaxies is a mysterious entity called Dark matter. Though dark matter is invisible, it does have mass and makes up around 85% of the mass of the Universe. So, the light rays coming towards us from distant galaxies will pass through the gravitational field of dark matter and therefore will be bent by the lensing effect.

10. What is difference between Lok Sabha speaker in India and UK speaker in House of Commons regarding power of certifying money bill?

We note here that classifying a bill as Money Bill is a prerogative of the Speaker, who does it on his / her own. in UK also the speaker certifies the bill as money bill. However, he must consult two members of House of Commons before giving such certificate. There is no such consultive mechanism in India.

11. What is Sajibu Cheiraoba festival?

It is a festival of Manipur marking beginning of a new year  observed on the first lunar day of the lunar month Sajibu (March/April) by the Meiteis community, a majority ethnic group of Manipur.

12. Which are Tiger Range Countries {TRCs}?

Third edition of Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation was held in New Delhi.  It had participants from all 13 tiger range countries (TRCs) viz. Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

13. What is Param Kanchenjunga?

Supercomputer Param Kanchenjunga was unveiled at the National Institute of Technology (NIT) Sikkim. It has been named after Kangchenjunga mountain (8,586 m), the third highest mountain in the world which lies partly in Nepal and partly in Sikkim. It is most powerful and fastest supercomputer among all the 31 NITs and Sikkim NIT has secured a rare distinction of having such a supercomputer. Param Kanchenjunga has been jointly developed by Pune-based Centre for Development of Advanced Computing ‘C-DAC’ and the NIT Sikkim at a cost of three crore rupees.

14. What is key objective of National Hydrology Project?

With the objective to provide real time flood forecasts as well as data to help farmers plan their cropping pattern, the Union Government has given its nod to the multi-purpose National Hydrology Project (NHP) with an outlay of over Rs. 3679 crore.

Four Components

This project is a Central Sector Scheme with two main components viz. National Hydrology Project (NHP) worth Rs. 3640 Crore and National Water Informatics Centre (NWIC) worth Rs. 39.7 Crore. It will be implemented in two stages. The NWIC is proposed to be established as an independent organization under the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation. There are two other components viz. Water Resources Operation and Management System and Water Resources Institutions and Capacity Building.

Objectives

Under the NHP, the Hydro-meteorological data will be stored and analyzed in real time basis and can be seamlessly accessed by any user at State, District and Village level. The project will cover the entire country. The potential outputs of this project are as follows:

  • The NWIC would result in proper data storage, exchange, analysis and dissemination on hydrology.
  • Increase time of flood forecast from 1 day to 3 day advance.
  • Mapping of flood affected areas for disaster management.
  • Assessment of water in river basin {both surface and ground}.
  • Reservoir operations through seasonal yield forecast, drought management and SCADA {Supervisory control and data acquisition}
  • Design of surface and ground water structures, hydropower units, interlinking of rivers, smart cities and fulfilling Digital India.

In summary, the overall broad objective of the project is water management through scientific data collection, dissemination of information on water availability / flood forecasting in all parts of the country.

15. What are the Current Institutional Arrangements for Real Time Flood Forecast?

Currently, the Central Water Commission maintains a network of 878 stations for collection of flood information and issues flood forecast to 176 stations located on major rivers and their tributaries. In December 2015, the Government has also approved a Rs. 281 Crore scheme of Flood Forecasting for 12th plan period. This scheme envisages modernization of existing network and provision of 100 Flood Forecasting stations for real time flood forecasting. The last effort is approval of National Hydrology Project (NHP) and setting up of National Water Informatics Centre (NWIC) at New Delhi for timely and reliable information management.

16. What are important facts about Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay?

Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay (1903-1988) was a freedom fighter, social reformer and was driving force behind renaissance of Indian handicrafts, handlooms and theatre in post-independence India. She was born in Mangalore in 1903 in an orthodox aristocratic family. She was married off at 14 years but widowed two years later. When she was 20, she married to Harindranath much against the family. In early 1930s, she acted in a Kannada movie Mrichhakatika {based on Sudraka’s play of same name} and in a Hindi movie Tansen. In 1940s she acted in Shankar Parvati (1943) and Dhanna Bhagat (1945).

Role in Freedom Struggle

In early 1920s, when she was in London with her Husband, she came to know about the Non-cooperation Movement and returned back to join the Seva Dal.

Seva Dal

Seva Dal was established as Hindustani Seva Mandal within the Indian National Congress in 1924 due to efforts of N S Hardikar. Its first president was Jawahar Lal Nehru while founding president of its women’s wing was Umabai Kundapur. Kamaladevi was closely associated with this organization and served as in charge of its women’s wing.

In Seva Dal, she was in charge of the women’s wing and recruited, trained and organized the Sevikas.  In 1926, she met Margaret E. Cousins, the founder of All India Women’s Conference (AIWC) and with her inspiration; she contested elections for Madras Provincial Legislative Assembly, thus becoming the first woman to contest election for a legislative seat, although she lost this election.

In 1926, she represented the Indian women delegation to the Women International Conference at Berlin and hoisted the nag there. As a result, she was awarded rigorous imprisonment for 9 months.

In 1927, she led the All India Women’s Conference, which was earlier founded by Margaret E. Cousins, and her efforts made it a national organization of repute.

During the Salt Satyagraha, she was member of seven member lead team created by Mahatma Gandhi to prepare salt at the Bombay beachfront. She and Avantikabai Gokhle were only two women members of this team. She not only prepared salt  but also went to High Court nearby and offered the judge to buy this “freedom salt”. While trying to enter into the Bombay Stock Exchange to sell the “Freedom Salt”, she was arrested and spent a year in prison. Thus, she was the first woman to be arrested in freedom struggle. In 1936, she became president of Congress Socialist Party.

Role in Independent India

Immediately after India’s partition and freedom, she actively took part in rehabilitation of the displaced. She established Indian Cooperative Union to help with the rehabilitation. Due to her efforts, a cooperative housing unit was established near Faridabad rehabilitating over 50,000 refugees from North-West Frontier.

In 1950s, her focus turned to Indian handicrafts, arts, handlooms and traditional artisans especially the women artisans. She established a series of “crafts museums” to preserve and protect India’s arts and crafts; and also instituted the National Awards for Master CraftsmenCentral Cottage Industries Emporia throughout India. For drama, she started Natya Institute of Kathak and Choreography (NIKC), Bangalore in 1960s. She was also instrumental in setting up All India Handicrafts Board and worked as its first chairperson. Kamaladevi made it fashionable to wear hand-woven sarees and adorn homes with handicrafts.

She also set up Bhartiya Natya Sangh in 1954 and worked as second chairperson of National School of Drama.

17. What is meaning of Simhastha with respect to Kumbh Fair?

In India, a Kumbh Fair is organized at four sites viz. Haridwar, Allahabad, Nashik-Trimbakeshwar and Ujjain with interval of 12 years for a particular site.  Between Haridwar and Nasik Kumbh, there is a difference of around 3 years while the Kumbh at Nasik and Ujjain are celebrated in either same year or a year apart. At Ujjain and Nashik-Trimbkaeshwer, the Kumbh fair is organized when Jupiter is in Leo sign of Zodiac. This is called Simhasth. Kindly note that Simhastha is applicable for only Ujjain and Nasik-Trimbkeshwar.

18. Why is implication of UDAY Bonds being Non-SLR Bonds?

By April 2016, eight states had issued bonds worth over Rs.98,959.96 crore under UDAY scheme, aimed at improving operational and financial efficiency of state power distribution companies. Here are some important facts which you must note:

UDAY bonds are issued by the State Governments under the Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY) to revive loss-making power distribution companies (discoms). Under the scheme, the state government takes over 75% debt of the Discoms and issues bonds to market. The states can seek RBI’s help in issuing these bonds.

Kindly note that UDAY Bonds are non-SLR bonds. Banks have to keep 21.5% of their deposit base as SLR. When a bond is SLR security, it implies that it can be used by banks to borrow from RBI’s liquidity windows. Since UDAY bonds are non-SLR, they cannot be used by banks as SLR securities and this is considered to be a big flaw in the scheme. This is also one reason that bonds have low interest rates and low demand as well.

19. What is proposed National Industrial Corridor Authority (NICA)?

National Industrial Corridor Authority was first announced by Arun Jaitley in his maiden Budget speech in July 2014. The government wanted to establish such an authority with “statutory backing” to oversee work relating to all national ‘industrial corridors’. However, this plan has been shelved now.

We note here that to pass such an act, the Government first needed to pass a constitution amendment bill, because it was necessary to make it clear where the topic “industrial corridor” would fall – state or union list? At present, industries come under state list except industries under Union list such as those so declared by law, for ‘war’, ‘defence’ and ‘in public interest’. The constitution amendment had to be followed by an ordinary NICA act on lines of NHAI act. Since, the government is facing difficulties to pass such bills in Rajya Sabha where it is in minority, the government decided to shelve it as of now.

20. What is Difference between Sahajdhari and Amritdhari?

In May 2016, the Parliament had passed the Sikh Gurdwaras (Amendment) Bill, 2016 to remove rights given to Sahajdharis to vote in the elections to Sikh religious bodies. UPSC may ask you to differentiate between a Sikh and Sahajdhari, so here are important notes:

Sahajdharis, literally slow adapting, are those who have chosen the path of Sikhism but have still not have become full Sikhs {called Amritdhari}. They believe in all tenets of Sikhism and teachings of Sikh Gurus, but don’t adorn all the five symbols of Sikh Faith. This incomplete adaptation to path of Sikhism manifests in various ways such as – using a turban but shaving / trimming beard or using one or two of the 5 Ks {Kesh, Kanga, Kachha, Kara, Kirpan} but not all of them.

A Sahajdhari is essentially born into a non-Sikh family. This implies that Sahajdharis are NOT Sikhs by birth. However, if a person is Sikh by birth and chooses to give up Sikh Tenets { for example, trims his hair or shave his beard}, he would be called Mona Sardar or Mona Sikh. Thus, don’t get confused between a Mona Sikh and Sahajdhari.

Since 1949, Sahajdharis are continuously exercising their voting rights in the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) elections. The religious body had a long pending demand to remove such rights and this demand has been now fulfilled via this act.

21. What are important constitutional articles that impinge upon Delhi’s Statehood demand?

  • Administration of the Union Territories comes under Article 239 which puts them under President through an administrator. However, power to decide the “structure” of administration in UT is vested in Parliament{Article 239A}. Parliament was also empowered to create a legislature or Council of Ministers or both for a UT.
  • In Article 239AA {inserted by 69th amendment act, 1991} there are special provisions regarding Delhi. This article designates the Union Territory of Delhi as National Capital Territory of Delhi and provides for a legislative assembly for Delhi. However, the legislative assembly of Delhi was empowered to make laws on all subjects of state list or concurrent list except four subjects viz. Public order, Police, Land and Offenses against the laws.
  • Due to this Delhi Police comes under Ministry of Home Affairs in the Union. Delhi Development Corporation comes under Union Urban Development Ministry.

22. What are Fogbows?

Fogbows are formed by a phenomenon similar to that of the classical rainbows.  They get formed when sunlight interacts with water droplets contained in fog, mist or cloud. Fogbows are colorless or have only weak colors due to the small size of water droplets in fog. Like rainbows fogbows are also formed in the direction opposite to the sun. Fogbows are also known as white rainbows or ghost rainbows.

23. What is in Chip in the Chip and PIN based cards?

The RBI has directed banks to issue chip plus PIN based credit cards instead of the magnetic strip credit cards that were used earlier.  A chip plus PIN card has a chip embedded in the card that holds encrypted information about the card and transactions. A PIN is provided as a second measure authentication for authorising the use of the credit card. When a chip-based card is used at the point of sale terminal, the terminal reads the encrypted information on the card

and prompts for a PIN. The transaction processed only if the PIN is entered correctly. A chip plus PIN card offers protection against counterfeiting and prevents lost and stolen card frauds. {ET}

24. What is meaning of on Tap Bank Licenses Regime?

In May 2016, the RBI has come up with draft guidelines for issuing “on-tap” universal bank licenses. This is opposite to current “stop-start policy” in which RBI opens the window for bank licenses periodically but rarely. Thus, once final guidelines come up, the earlier “stop & go” approach will be replaced with continuous or on-tap licensing regime. Some key facts:

  • Since 2013 {when Raghuram Rajan’s tenure started}, RBI has granted license to 2 universal banks, 11 payment banks and 10 small finance banks. By proposing on-tap licenses, RBI is trying to create a more diverse banking sector.
  • The conditions for getting such license are very tough. It bars the large industrial houses from entering the sector. The door is open only for NBFCs, experienced individuals, and companies which are not part of large conglomerates.
  • The NBFCs which are controlled by Indian residents and have a successful track record of at least 10 years are allowed to apply. The individuals and professionals, who are residents and have 10 years of banking experience, can also now apply for a license.
  • Since the bank licensing is on-tap, the applications can be submitted to RBI at any time. The applications will be referred to a Standing External Advisory Committee (SEAC) to be set up by RBI, which will evaluate them.

The decision would be taken by RBI and would be final in this regard.

25. Who are Maori People?

The Māori refers to the first people to live in New Zealand. They most probably arrived in New Zealand from tropical Polynesia {probably Cooks Islands}. Currently, their population is around 7.5 Lakh of which 6 Lakh live in New Zealand and rest in Australia and other parts of the world. During WW-II, Maoris played role of brave soldiers winning many difficult battles.

The Europeans came to New Zealand in 18th and 19th century. In 1840 via the Treaty of Waitangi, British took over New Zealand from Maoris, assuring them rights over forests and fisheries. However, then there were conflicts over land sales. This led to several battles between Maoris and immigrants. Now, the New Zealand government has officially apologized past atrocities.

During his maiden trip to New Zealand, President Pranab Mukherjee was given a ‘Hongi’, a traditional form of greeting from Maori. Hongi is done by pressing one’s nose and forehead with another person at an encounter. In Hongi, there is a belief that ha (breath) is exchanged as a sign of sharing of souls. Hongi is performed by Maori people at traditional meetings and major ceremonies and serves a similar purpose to a formal handshake.

26. What are key features of Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana?

Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana was launched by the Prime Minister at Ballia in Uttar Pradesh. The scheme aims to provide 5 crore LPG connections to women from Below Poverty Line (BPL) households for the next three years. Under this scheme, the LPG connection would be given in the name of the women belonging to the BPL family. The Rs. 8000 crore scheme would be partially funded from the savings earned by the government from LPG users who voluntarily gave up their subsidy as part of the Give It Up Programme. Nearly one crore consumers had given up their subsidy as part of the Give It Up Programme. Under the new scheme, the beneficiaries will be exempted from paying any security deposit and the administrative cost of Rs.1600, cost of pressure regulator and safety hose will borne by the government. The scheme aims to address the serious health hazards such as acute respiratory illness, heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer associated with cooking based on fossil fuels.

27. What are VNOs and NSOs?

Virtual Network Operators or VNOs are basically resellers the telecom services. Unlike the Network Service Operators (NSOs), the VNOs don’t own their own infrastructure {such as towers}. What they do is that – they enter into a business agreement with a NSO to obtain bulk access to their network services at wholesale rates and then set retail prices independently. Thus, when we become customers of VNOs, we are actually getting service from a shared network infrastructure which is actually owned by NSO but we are billed by VNO. Thus, the biggest advantage of VNOs is that they are not required to duplicate the infrastructure. The core investments by leading NSOs is shared by both NSOs and VNOs.

28. What are MVNO, MOLO and MVNE?

A mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) or a Mobile Other Licensed Operator (MOLO) is a VNO who provides mobile services. They don’t have core infra. They may invest in customer service, billing support systems, marketing, and sales personnel etc. which makes them resellers to retail customers. However, if they don’t want to invest in these also, they can simply deploy the service of a mobile virtual network enabler (MVNE).

29. What is Hague Code of Conduct?

India has joined the Hague Code of Conduct {HCoC} against Ballistic Missile Proliferation, also known as the International Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation on 1 June 2016.

Important Facts about HCoC
  • HCOC is a voluntary and legally non-binding regimeto prevent the proliferation of ballistic missiles which are capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).
  • It was established on 25 November 2002. The HCoC does not ban ballistic missiles but works to restrict their production, testing, and export. It is only multilateral transparency and confidence building instrument related to the spread of ballistic missiles.
  • As of now 138 nations are signatories to the HCoC. India is the latest signatory to the HCoC.
  • Austria serves as the Immediate Central Contact (Executive Secretariat) and coordinates the information exchange within the HCOC framework. Since 2002, annual Regular Meetings (annual conferences) are in which the subscribing states to the HCOC participates.
  • In June 2016, the 15th Regular Meeting took place under the chairmanship of Kazakhstan and the 16th Regular Meeting is scheduled to be held under the chairmanship of Poland.

30. What are Ballistic Missiles?

Ballistic Missile are unmanned weapon delivery platform having a high, arching trajectory which is initially powered and guided, but falls under gravity on to its target. Most of its trajectory is unpowered and governed by gravity and air resistance if it is in the atmosphere. Ballistic missiles can be launched from fixed sites, mobile launchers, aircrafts, and ships. Ballistic missiles are categorized according to their range.  The United States classifies the missiles in to the following ranges:

  • Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) – over 5500 kilometers
  • Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM)- 3000 to 5500 kilometers
  • Medium-Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM)-1000 to 3000 kilometers
  • Short-Range Ballistic missile (SRBM)-up to 1000 kilometers

31. What are important facts about MTCR?

MTCR Is Informal And Voluntary Association

The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) is an informal and voluntary association of countries that works to limit the proliferation of missiles and missile technology. MTCR was set up in April 1987 by the G-7 industrialized countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the United States).

With the accession of India, the current membership of MTCR is 35. Other prominent members other than the G-7 industrialized countries are Australia, Brazil, Russian Federation, South Africa, Republic of Korea, Switzerland etc. Interestingly, China is not a member of MTCR.

MTCR Is NOT A Treaty

MTCR is not a treaty but an informal political understanding among member nations. MTCR does not impose legally binding obligations over its member countries.

MTCR Has Diverse Aims and Objectives

Initially, MTCR was focusing on proliferation of missiles for nuclear weapons delivery. But in 1992, it extended its focus to include proliferation of missiles for the delivery of all types of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), i.e., nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. As proliferation of WMDs is a threat to international peace and security, MTCR aims to counter this threat by maintaining vigilance over the transfer of missile equipment, software, complete rocket systems, unmanned aerial vehicles (not manned aircraft) and related technologies used by systems capable of carrying at least 500 kg payload for at least 300 km as well as those capable of delivering WMDs.

Moreover, the activities of MTCR are in line with the UN’s non-proliferation and export control efforts. Applying the MTCR guidelines helps the member countries to meet their export control obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 1540.

MTCR Chair

The MTCR Chairmanship rotates and the country that hosts the Plenary serves as the Chair for the ensuing year.

Decision Making In MTCR

All MTCR decisions require a consensus decision taken by all members.

MTCR Category I and Category II Items and their regulation

Category I items

Those systems which are capable of delivering a payload of at least 500 kg to a range of at least 300 km are classified as Category I items. They include:

Complete rocket and unmanned aerial vehicle systems including ballistic missiles, space launch vehicles, sounding rockets, cruise missiles, target drones, and reconnaissance drones.

The major subsystems such as rocket stages, engines, guidance-sets, re-entry vehicles, as well as the related software and technology, and specially designed production facilities for these items.

Regulation of category-I items

Export of items falling under category I are usually denied regardless of the purpose of the export. But, they may be licensed for export on rare occasions.

Exports of production facilities for these items are absolutely prohibited.

Category II Items

It includes other less sensitive items like dual-use missile related components and other complete missile systems with a range of at least 300km regardless of payload.

Regulation of category-II items

Export of category II items are subject to licensing requirements taking into consideration the non-proliferation factors as mentioned in the MTCR Guidelines. Exports intended for use in WMD delivery are put through a strong presumption of denial.

32. Why there are no commercially viable Nuclear Fusion Reactors?

The nuclear reactors use the heat produced during a nuclear reaction. The nuclear reaction can be either Nuclear Fission or Nuclear Fusion; but so far, nuclear fusion reactors are only under experimental stages. Once proved viable, the nuclear fusion reactors may be of high advantage over the current nuclear fission reactors.

In nuclear fission, we break the heavy nuclei into smaller nuclei and get energy as side-product; in Nuclear Fusion, we combine light nuclei such as Hydrogen to heavier nuclei such as Helium and get energy as side-product.  The cited advantages of nuclear fusion include:

  • Availability of abundant Hydrogen (which is used as fusion fuel), that can be extracted from water.
  • Possibility of generation of low nuclear waste.
  • Possibility of low nuclear radiation leaks.

Despite of these advantages, researchers are yet to create commercially viable nuclear fusion reactions.  The reason is as follows:

Unlike fission, Nuclear Fusion needs energy to overcome the barrier of electrostatic forces before fusion can occur. The two naked nuclei repel one another because of the repulsive electrostatic force between their positively charged protons. Bringing them close enough is a challenge. Thereafter, if the two nuclei can be brought close enough together; the attractive nuclear force, which is stronger at close distances is what will be helpful for fusion of the nuclei. Therefore, the prerequisite for fusion is that the nuclei must have enough kinetic energy that they can approach each other despite the electrostatic repulsion. This kinetic energy has to be provided for consumption in the fusion reactor to produce subsequent nuclear fusion energy. For this, Fusion needs high temperature and high pressure.

  • The high temperature gives the hydrogen atoms enough energy to overcome the electrostatic repulsion. Fusion requires temperatures about 100 million Kelvin (around six times hotter than the sun’s core). At these temperatures, hydrogen is a plasma, not a gas.
  • The high pressure is needed to squeeze the hydrogen atoms together. They must be within 1×10-15 meters of each other to fuse.

Thus, in current methods, the consumption of energy is high but production is subsequently low. The current methods cannot produce as much useful energy as the nuclear fusion would consume, i.e. the break-even point. Sustaining reactions that produce enough energy to make them a commercially viable power source is even further away.

33. What are different types of Nuclear Reactors?

As of now, all commercial reactors in the world are nuclear fission reactors. Such reactors have a turbine and generator to turn and produce electricity. Most reactor types turn water into steam and use a steam turbine while others heat up a gas and use a gas turbine.

Both forms of water viz. light water (H2O) and heavy water (D2O) are used in nuclear reactors. The nuclear reactors that use the regular water in a purified form are called Light Water Reactors. On the other hand, some reactors such as CANDU (Canada Deuterium Uranium), employ natural Uranium, which is not enriched, and use “heavy water”. They are called Heavy Water reactors.

Light Water Reactors

The light water reactors are of two types viz. Boiling Water Reactors (BWR) and Pressurized Water Reactors (PWR). At present, the PWR are most popular kind of nuclear reactors. Key difference between a BWR and PWR is that

  • In a BWR, the reactor core heats water which turns to steam and then drives a steam turbine. The reactors at Fukushima Daiichi were among the first reactors of such kind.
  • In a PWR, the reactor core heats water, which does not boil (because it is pressurised and increased pressure increases the boiling point). Thus, no steam is produced in PWR because of high pressure. This water can reach higher temperatures and this hot water then exchanges heat with a secondary low pressure water system, which turns to steam and drives the turbine.

Heavy Water Reactors

The heavy water reactors use Deuterium oxide (D2O) as its coolant as well as moderator. These reactors use “un-enriched” natural Uranium for production of energy. Natural Uranium, as we all know is a mixture of many isotopes. It is primarily U-238 and a much smaller amount of U-235. The U-238 can be made subject fission only by fast energy neutrons. Moreover, the fast energy neutrons are quickly absorbed by U-238 and that is why, it is not able to sustain a nuclear reaction. Thus, no amount of U-238 can be made to a self sustaining chain reaction i.e. “critical” in nuclear energy production. This also implies that despite being fissionable, U-238 is not considered a Fissile Material.

The U-235 can sustain chain reaction and that is needed for common nuclear reactors. However, since U-235 is very low in abundance, the natural Uranium is enriched to increase the relative amount of U-235 in the mixture.

The scientists had devised a trick to use the natural un-enriched Uranium. What they did is to use moderators to slow down the neutrons to such a level that:

  • It increases probability of fission in U-235 within natural mixture
  • It increases probability of sustained chain reaction in the mixture as a whole.

The neutrons moderators, which absorb some of the neutrons’ kinetic energy play important role here. Water is an excellent moderator. The Hydrogen atoms in the water molecules are very close in mass to a single neutron. When a neutron and a hydrogen atom collide, there is an efficient momentum transfer, akin to the collision of two billiard balls. Apart from being good moderator, water is also a good absorber of Neutrons. This implies that use of normal water will though increase the probability of sustained chain reaction, yet, it will bring down the number of neutrons thus posing a hurdle in sustaining the chain reaction.

Examples of Moderators

Normal Water, Graphite, Heavy water, light metals such as Lithium or Beryllium, Salts of these metals and certain organic compound such as biphenyl and terphenyl are examples of moderators used in nuclear energy production.

On the other hand, heavy water does not absorb the neutrons as readily as light water. This is because, while heavy water collides with neutrons and moderates them similar to the light water but it does not absorb neutrons because it already has the extra neutron that light water would normally tend to absorb. This is the basic premise on which heavy water reactors work. The visible advantage is that heavy water reactors can be operated without the expensive uranium enrichment facilities. The drawback is the cost of heavy water.

Gas-cooled Reactors

The problem with the light water, heavy water, pressurised water and boiling water reactors is that they don’t have great thermal efficiency because they cannot work at very high temperatures. This problem is overcome in the reactors that use gas as a coolant and to drive a gas turbine. Such reactors are called High Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactors (HTGRs). Gas such as helium or carbon dioxide is passed through the reactor rapidly to cool it. HTGRs can operate at very high temperatures, leading to great thermal efficiency (around 50%). These reactors are not only useful for power production but also for other heat processes such in oil refineries, water desalination plants, hydrogen fuel cell production etc. But the drawback of these reactors is that they need highly efficient backup cooling systems because gas is a poor coolant. So, huge amounts of coolant are required for relatively small amounts of power. Therefore, these reactors must be very large to produce power at the rate of other reactors.

Fast Reactors

The above mentioned reactors (LWR, HWR, PHWR, and HTGR) are known as thermal reactors, which slow the high-energy (fast) neutrons down to low-energy (slow) by using moderators. However, in a fast reactor, this process is avoided. The fast reactors use fast neutrons. This means they don’t use neutron moderator. To sustain a chain reaction by fast neutrons, the fission material needs to be highly enriched. Since, Uranium enrichment is highly costly affair, the production of energy from Fast readers is so far uneconomical. To achieve criticality, they need higher amount of Uranium fuel also. The advantages they offer are that they reduce total radio toxicity of nuclear waste, and dramatically reduce the waste’s lifetime.

The fast breeders usually use liquid sodium metal as the coolant, at or near atmospheric pressure, thereby obviating the need for pressure vessels. Because the boiling point of sodium is quite high, fast reactors can operate at a considerably higher temperature than LWRs.

Breeder Reactors

In the above description, we have read that despite being fissionable, U-238 cannot be used in nuclear reactors on its own because it’s not a fissile product i.e. it cannot sustain a chain reaction.  To be a useful fuel for nuclear fission chain reactions, the material:

  • Should be able to sustain a chain reaction
  • Should have a high probability of fission when bombarded with slow / fast neutrons
  • Should release two or more neutrons on average per collision so that it can compensate for non-fissions, and absorptions in the moderator
  • Should have reasonably long half-life
  • Be available in suitable quantities

U-235 fits in all of the above criteria except the last one. It is available in low amount in Natural Uranium, which needs to be enriched to increase ratio of U-235. It is only U235 that can be split using a slow neutron beam, producing enormous amounts of heat, to boil water, generate steam and run a turbine like in any other power station.

Breeder Reactor: Definition

A breeder reactor is a nuclear reactor capable of generating more fissile material than it consumes because its neutron economy is high enough to breed fissile fuel from fertile material like uranium-238 or thorium-232. Breeders were at first considered attractive because of their superior fuel economy compared to light water reactors. Interest in breeders declined after the 1960s as more uranium reserves were found and new methods of uranium enrichment reduced fuel costs. In more recent decades, breeder reactors are again of research interest as a means of controlling nuclear waste and closing the nuclear fuel cycle.

U-238 is not fissile; but some of U-238 converts itself into Plutonium (Pu-239), if exposed to fast neutrons. This new element, Pu-239, can be easily burnt to produce power or to make nuclear weapons.

If we mix 25-30 per cent of Plutonium with U-238 and expose it to fast neutrons in a reactor, the Plutonium will burn and give us about 20 times more power than the natural uranium reactors now in operation. Meanwhile, some of the U-238 in the fuel would absorb some fast neutrons and get converted again into Plutonium. Since roughly 1.1 kg of plutonium comes out of the spent fuel due to this conversion, for every 1 kg that was initially put in the fuel rod, such reactors are called breeder reactors. Since fast neutrons are used to trigger the chain reaction, such reactors are called fast breeder reactors.  Additionally, if we cover the reactor core with a blanket of either U-238 or Thorium, then this blanket captures some of the fast neutrons coming out of the core, which would have escaped and been wasted. On reprocessing this irradiated blanket, we could recover either Pu-239 or U-233, which is akin to U-235 is a fissile material.

Examples of Fissile Isotopes: U-233, U-235, Pu-239, Pu-241

Examples of Fertile Isotopes: U-238, Pu-240, Th-232

The above information can be summarized in the following:

  • U-235 is found in natural Uranium and is fissile
  • U-238 is found in natural Uranium and is NOT fissile. But, since U-238 can be converted into a fissile material by neutron absorption and subsequent nuclei conversions. Thus, it is called “Fertile Material”.
  • Plutonium-239 is a fissile material and is bred from U-238 by neutron collision (or capture).
  • When Plutonium-239 captures a neutron during nuclear reaction, some fraction of it would release energy but some fraction would convert itself in Plutonium-240, which is NOT fissile. So, for good health of a nuclear reactor (and also Nuclear Bomb), fuel needs to be as low in Pu-240 as possible. Again Pu-240 is a fertile material.
  • When Plutonium-240 captures a neutron, it converts into Pu-241 and it is fissile. Again, Pu-239 and Pu-241 are called weapon grade plutonium.
  • When Thorium-232 is used and captures a Neutron, it becomes Uranium-233 and that is also fissile. Thorium-232 is neither fissile nor fissionable but a fertile material.

Thorium Reactors / Thorium Fuel Cycle

Thorium-232, as we discussed above, is a fertile material. In natural conditions, trace amounts of Th-231are also found which is a fertile material but is so less than it is not even discussed among fissile materials. The first advantage of Thorium-232 is that it is four times more abundant in nature than Uranium, and is widely distributed throughout the Earth’s crust.  Thorium from monazite sand can be converted into fissile uranium and used to feed nuclear reactors. Apart from that, it can be used multiple times to generate electricity, thus creating an endless cycle of fuel availability. This is called Thorium Fuel Cycle.

The thorium fuel cycle claims several potential advantages over a uranium fuel cycle. These include:

  • Thorium’s greater abundance
  • Superior physical and nuclear properties
  • Better resistance to nuclear weapons proliferation
  • Smaller reactors
  • Reduced plutonium and actinide production; thereby less radioactive waste.
  • Reduced risk of nuclear meltdown

34. What is spent fuel Processing?

The nuclear fuel mix has high amount of fissile material. Once it is used, the amount of non-fissile material and by-products would increase and that material cannot be used again as fuel in its present form. This is called spent fuel. It may or may not be re-usable. If spent fuel is not reprocessed, the fuel cycle is referred to as an open fuel cycle (or a once-through fuel cycle); if the spent fuel is reprocessed, it is referred to as a closed fuel cycle.

We note here that, India’s nuclear programme is oriented towards maximising the energy potential of available uranium resources and the utilisation of the large thorium reserve. Available global uranium resources cannot sustain the projected expansion of nuclear power without adopting the closed fuel cycle approach.

The nuclear fuel cycle or Nuclear Fuel Chain is the progression of nuclear fuel through a series of differing stages. It has two parts:

  • Front End: It includes the preparation of the fuel and steps in the service period in which the fuel is used during reactor operation.
  • Back End: Which includes the steps to safely manage, contain, and either reprocess or dispose of spent nuclear fuel. When the spent fuel is reprocessed, it is a closed Fuel Cycle. When the spent Fuel is not reprocessed, it is an open fuel Cycle. India has adopted closed fuel cycle option, which involves reprocessing and recycling of the spent fuel.

During reprocessing, only about two to three percent of the spent fuel becomes waste and the rest is recycled. This waste, called high level waste (HLW), is converted into glass through a process, called vitrification. The vitrified waste is stored in a Solid Storage Surveillance Facility for 30-40 years with natural cooling prior to its disposal in a final disposal facility. The need for a final disposal facility will arise only after three to four decades. This will also provide sufficient time for the reduction in the radioactivity of some of the short-lived radioactive species in the vitrified waste.

35. What is India’s three stage nuclear fuel programme?

This programme was formulated in 1950s by Dr. Homi Bhabha to secure the country’s long term energy independence, via use of uranium and thorium reserves found in the monazite sands of coastal regions of South India. The ultimate focus is on Thorium Fuel Cycle. The three stages are as follows:

  1. Pressurized heavy water reactor (PHWR)
  2. Fast breeder reactor (FBR)
  3. Advanced Heavy Water Reactor(AHWR)
Logics behind Stage 1 PHWR
  • The first stage involved using natural uranium to fuel PHWR to produce electricity and producing Plutonium-239 as a byproduct. We note here that the PHWRs were chosen for the first stage because in 1960s, India had the efficient reactor design in terms of uranium utilisation. It was calculated that rather than going for creation of Uranium Enrichment Facilities, it would be wiser to create heavy water production facilities
  • Moreover, using Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors rather than Light Water Reactors was also a correct and wise decision. While Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors used unenriched uranium, Light Water Reactors required enriched uranium. Further, India could domestically produce the components of PWHR, as opposed to LWRs. Furthermore the byproduct plutonium-293 would be used in the second stage.
Logic behind Stage 2: FBR
  • The second stage involves using plutonium-239 to produce mixed-oxide fuel, which would be used in Fast Breeder Reactors. Plutonium 293 undergoes fission to produce energy, and metal oxide is reacted with enriched uranium reacts with mixed-oxide fuel to produce more plutonium-239.
  • Furthermore once a sufficient amount of plutonium-239 is built up, thorium will be used in the reactor, to produce Uranium-233. This uranium is crucial for the third stage.
Logic behind Stage 3: AHWR
  • The main purpose of stage-3 is to achieve a sustainable nuclear fuel cycle. The advance nuclear system would be used a combination of Uranium-233 and Thorium. Thus India’s vast thorium would be exploited, using a thermal breeder reactor.
  • Thorium use was reserved for the last stage because despite having significant availability, use of Thorium in production of energy has been full of certain challenges. It cannot be used directly. Since it is a fertile material, it can be only used with added fissile material that can be enriched Uranium, Plutonium or Uranium-233 (obtained after irradiation of Thorium). Thorium absorbs the neutrons, which can more efficiently produce more Plutonium in Fast Breeder Reactor for a faster growth.

Therefore, using Thorium in the first, or an early part of second stage of nuclear power programme will adversely affect the rate of growth of nuclear power generation capacity in the initial periods. Due to these reasons, large scale deployment of Thorium was postponed till the later part of the second stage. Thorium is to be introduced only at an optimal point during operation of Fast Breeder Reactors in the second stage.  Thorium, for power generation is to be used mainly in the third stage

https://academy.gktoday.in/wp-content/uploads/three-stage-nuclear-power-programme.png

Thus, the ultimate objective of the above programme is to create capacity to use Thorium for sustainable production of nuclear energy and make India energy independent.

Current Status: India’s AHWR

In 1984, India had built Purnima II, the first reactor of the world that handled U-233, part of the thorium fuel cycle. In 1996, India’s KAMINI wnet critically, which is only presently operating U-233 fuelled reactor operating in the world. At the same time, India is also working on several thorium reactor designs such as Compact High Temperature Reactor, the Innovative High Temperature Reactor, the Indian Molten Salt Breeder Reactor, and most famously, the Advanced Heavy Water Reactor.  In February 2014, India had announced design completion Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) and it was said that by 2016, India will build a 300 MW prototype.  Further, it was also projected that the first megawatt of electricity would be generated by 2025. The AHWR will be fuelled by a mix of uranium-233 and plutonium — which will be converted from thorium by previously deployed and domestically designed fast breeder reactors. Currently, the projected date of creating energy from AHWR goes in 2030s. {read this for further knowledge}

We further note that India is developing two types of AHWR viz. AHWR and AHWR-LEU, where LEU stands for Low Enrichment Uranium.  Both the AHWR and AHWR-LEU use thorium-based oxide fuels, with the AHWR using both UO2/ThO2 and PuO2/ThO2 fuels simultaneously, while AHWR-LEU uses only UO2/ThO2 fuel.

Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR)

The liquid fluoride thorium reactor is a modern incarnation of Thorium cycle based breeder reactor. The fuel used in such reactors is fluoride-based, molten, liquid salt of Thorium. The most notable and interesting thing about these Lifters (LFTRs, as they are spoken) is that they can achieve high operating temperatures at atmospheric pressure and can work at atmospheric pressure. This property changes the economics of nuclear power. In the light water reactors, the water deployed is under extremely high pressure. This implies that the light water reactors need to be sheathed in steel pressure vessels and placed in fortress-like containment buildings. The LFTR does not need all these.

In comparison to AHWR, LFTR offers several advantages of economy and ease of installation of nuclear reactor. The development of the LFTR could offer many advantages including the potential for low cost manufacture and very rapid scalability. Question is-Why India does not go for LFTR instead of AHWR? This question has not been clearly answered by Indian officials or policy makers. We note here that these days, China is very much interested in Thorium LFTR. All we can do is to hope that India will also appreciate the considerable advantages of Thorium LFTR over solid-fuel-rod Thorium systems which have many of the shortcomings of conventional MOX-fuel reactors.

36. What are main features of NPT?

The international efforts to promote nuclear non-proliferation started after the World War II. At that time, there was only nuclear arsenal of the world in United States. A Baruch Plan was proposed in US in 1946 which recommended the verifiable dismantlement and destruction of the U.S. nuclear arsenal after all governments had cooperated successfully to accomplish two things:

  • To establish an “international atomic development authority,” which would actually own and control all military-applicable nuclear materials and activities
  • Creation of a system of automatic sanctions, which not even the U.N. Security Council, could veto,

The Baruch Plan could not see the light of the day because in United Nations, the Soviet Union planned to veto it in the Security Council. Later, President Eisenhower’s proposal led eventually to the creation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 1957.

By 1960s, four nations viz. United States, the Soviet Union, Britain and France had acquired nuclear weapons. In 1968, governments represented at the Eighteen Nation Disarmament Committee (ENDC) finished negotiations on the text of the NPT.  In June 1968, the U.N. General Assembly endorsed the NPT and in July 1968, the NPT opened for signature in Washington, London and Moscow. The NPT entered into force in March 1970.

Objectives

The objectives of the NPT are as follows:

  • Prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology
  • Promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy
  • Nuclear disarmament.

The three objectives viz. non-proliferation, disarmament, and the right to peacefully use nuclear technology, are sometimes called three pillars of NPT.

Parties

The treaty entered into force in 1970 and in 1995 it was extended indefinitely.  It has 190 parties. All the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council are among its members. India, Pakistan & Israel have not signed the treaty. North Korea acceded to the NPT in 1985, then withdrew in 2003

Summary of Articles

This treaty is a small document with a Preamble and Eleven articles. Here is a brief summary, which would help you to understand the issues with it.

  • Article 1: A Nuclear-weapon state party will not transfer of nuclear weapons or technology, directly or indirectly
  • Article 2: A Non-nuclear weapon will not receive nuclear weapons or technology, directly or indirectly
  • Article 3: A Non-nuclear state party undertakes to accept safeguards agreement with IAEA, so that IAEA can verify the fulfillment of its obligations
  • Article 4: All parties have the right to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination. All parties have rights to participate in exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
  • Article 5: Each party shall take appropriate measures to ensure the potential benefits from any peaceful applications of nuclear explosions will be made available to non-nuclear-weapon parties on non-discriminatory basis.
  • Article 6: Each party will undertake to pursue the negotiations on effective measures relating to cessation of nuclear arms race.
  • Article 7: Any group of states have right to conclude regional treaties to reassure absence of nuclear weapons in respective territories.
  • Article 8: Amendment to the treaty may be proposed by any party. Amendment proposal will be first sent to depository country which shall circulate it to all parties, thereafter it should be acceptable to 1/3 parties and for amendment majority of the parties should pass it in a conference of all parties.
  • Article 9: It shall be open to all states for signature. Any country may sign it any time. After signature, it must be ratified. Instruments of ratification and instruments of accession shall be deposited with the Governments USA, UK, USSR, which are called Depositary Governments.’
  • Article 10:Every sovereign party has right to withdraw from the Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of this Treaty, have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country.
  • Article 11: This Treaty, the English, Russian, French, Spanish and Chinese texts of which are equally authentic, shall be deposited in the archives of the Depositary Governments.

The treaty is reviewed every five years in meetings called Review Conferences of the Parties to the Treaty of Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Issues with NPT

The core philosophy of the NPT is that non-nuclear-weapon states agree never to acquire nuclear weapons and the Nuclear-weapon states in exchange agree to share the benefits of peaceful nuclear technology and to pursue nuclear disarmament aimed at the ultimate elimination of their nuclear arsenals. Further, the spread of enrichment and reprocessing capabilities are the “Achilles’ heel” of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, because what can be obtained for peaceful purposes may be mis-used for military purposes.  NPT is supplemented by some other regimes such as Nuclear Suppliers Group to make it difficult for non-nuclear states to acquire the capability to produce nuclear weapons.

Analysis: India’s Engagement with NPT

Successive governments in India have kept the same instance over Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that India will “never” sign the treaty because its discriminatory. The same stance has been reiterated by current Indian Government also.  The five authorized nuclear weapons states still have around stockpiles of warheads and have shown a reluctance to disarm further, this is one major point raised by India. The reluctance of the nuclear parties to disarm themselves has angered some non-nuclear-weapon NPT signatories of the NPT. No current nuclear weapons state, can consider eliminating its last nuclear weapons without high confidence that other countries would not acquire them.

India does not sign the treaty because India argues that the NPT creates a club of “nuclear haves” and a larger group of “nuclear have-nots” by restricting the legal possession of nuclear weapons to those states that tested them before 1967, but the treaty never explains on what ethical grounds such a distinction is valid.

India has a no first use policy, a pledge not to use nuclear weapons unless first attacked by an adversary using nuclear weapons. India has also self-imposed a moratorium since 1998 on not to test the nuclear weapons. India has not signed the treaty not because of its lack of commitment for non-proliferation, but because it considers NPT as a flawed treaty which does not recognize the need for universal, non-discriminatory verification and treatment.

37. What are important facts on Nuclear Sharing?

Nuclear Sharing is a child of NATO. When the countries were negotiating the NPT, NATO was making secret nuclear weapons sharing agreements whereby the United States provided nuclear weapons to be deployed by, and stored in, other NATO states.

  • This means that the NATO members would without the nuclear weapons of thier own make the use of Nuclear Weapons of NATO. The participative countries take common decisions on nuclear weapons policy, maintain technical equipment required for the use of nuclear weapons (including warplanes capable of delivering them), and store nuclear weapons on their territory.
  • Accordingly, the countries such as Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey etc. have hosted and still said to be hosting U.S. nuclear weapons as part of NATO’s nuclear sharing policy.

Canada hosted weapons until 1984, Greece till 2001.  Till 1992, United Kingdom also received U.S. tactical nuclear weapons such as nuclear artillery and Lance missiles.  In peace time, the nuclear weapons stored in non-nuclear countries are guarded by U.S. soldiers; the codes required for detonating them are under American control. In case of war, the weapons are to be mounted on the participating countries’ warplanes. The weapons are under custody and control of USAF Munitions Support Squadrons co-located on NATO main operating bases who work together with the host nation forces.

The arguments of those who oppose such agreement say that the sharing agreement is a clear violation of the Articles I and II of NPT. A counter-argument is that the U.S. controlled the weapons in storage within the NATO states, and that no transfer of the weapons or control over them was intended “unless and until a decision were made to go to war, at which the treaty would no longer be controlling”, so there is no breach of the NPT.

38. What are important facts on NWFZs?

Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (NWFZ) is an agreement between a group of states to freely establish by treaty or convention that bans the use, development, or deployment of nuclear weapons in a given area.

  • A NWFZ has to be recognized as such by General Assembly of the United Nations. Still, they are not entities of United Nations.
  • It should have mechanisms of verification and control to enforce its obligations.

NWFZ is an area which has banned both nuclear power and nuclear weapons, and sometimes nuclear waste and nuclear propulsion also. There are 5 zones in the world. One of them governs only one country i.e. Mongolia. Three others are not part of any state and these are Antarctica, the seabed (Not seas, please note), and outer space. Most of the Earth’s oceans above the seabed are not covered by NWFZs since freedom of the seas restricts restrictions in international waters.

  • Antarctic is a NWFZ by virtue of the Antarctic Treaty System. Article 5 of the Antarctic Treaty System prohibits nuclear explosions or disposal of radioactive wastes.
  • Space is NWFZ by virtue of the Outer Space Treaty which prohibits the parties for placing nuclear weapons or any other weapons of mass destruction in orbit of Earth, installing them on the Moon or any other celestial body, or to otherwise station them in outer space.
  • Seabed is a NWFZ by virtue of the Seabed Arms Control Treaty which bans the emplacement of nuclear weapons or “weapons of mass destruction” on the ocean floor beyond a 12-mile (22.2 km) coastal zone. It allows signatories to observe all seabed “activities” of any other signatory beyond the 12-mile zone in order to ensure compliance.
  • The Treaty of Tlatelolco has established the Latin America and the Caribbean NFWP. The driving force behind this teray was Mexican diplomat Alfonso García Robles, who = received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1982 for his efforts in promoting the treaty.
  • The Bangkok Treaty or Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty establishes the Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone which covers 10 Southeast Asian member-states under the auspices of the ASEAN: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Viet Nam.
  • The Treaty of Rarotonga, which entered into force in 1986, establishes a Nuclear-Free-Zone in the South Pacific,. It was signed by South Pacific nations of Australia, the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Western Samoa on the island of Rarotonga. Please note Rarotonga is capital of Crooks Island.  As per the Treaty of Rarotonga, “nuclear goods would not be sold to countries that refuse to open all their facilities to international inspections”.
  • Treaty of Pelindaba establishes the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone. This treaty prohibits research on, development, manufacture, stockpiling, possession or control of any nuclear explosive devices, along with nuclear testing and stationing of nuclear weapons on the territory of the zone. The treaty entered into force in July 2009 and currently has 31 member states.

39. What are important facts on NSG?

Nuclear Suppliers Group was formed by  seven countries viz. Canada, West Germany, France, Japan, the USSR, the United Kingdom, and the United States in response to the ‘Smiling Buddha’ (Pokharan-I) of India in 1974. It was clear from this adventure of India that certain non-weapons specific nuclear technology could be readily turned to weapons development, since it was alleged that India used the Canada sourced material to make bomb. The objective of the NSG was to reduce nuclear proliferation by controlling the export and re-transfer of materials that may be applicable to nuclear weapon development and by improving safeguards and protection on existing materials.

  • The objective of the NSG was to strengthen the NPT. It placed an embargo upon India for nuclear material which was placed by the group in a so called Trigger List.
  • It has brought out a guideline for export items that could only be exported to non-nuclear states if certain International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards were agreed to or if exceptional circumstances relating to safety existed. The series of meetings to finalise these guidelines held in London, so it was also called London Club or London Group.
  • In 2006, the US Congress allowed the US laws to be amended to accommodate civilian nuclear trade with India. It was followed by a meeting of the NSG members in August 2008, in which some members expressed reservations.

However, in September 2008, NSG members agreed to grant India a ‘clean waiver’ from its existing rules, which forbid nuclear trade with the non signatory of NPT. This approval was based on a formal pledge by India stating that it would not share sensitive nuclear technology or material with others and will uphold its voluntary moratorium on testing nuclear weapons. The pledge was contained in a crucial statement issued during the NSG meeting by India outlining the country’s disarmament and non-proliferation policies.  In this way the 34 year embargo was lifted in 2008. India has formally applied to become a member of NSG but so far that application has not been approved.

40. What are important facts on CTBT?

Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) finds it origin in 1990s when by 1992; both the United States and the then Soviet Union had declared moratoria on nuclear testing. They were later joined by the UK. This set the stage for the negotiations on an international treaty which bans nuclear explosions for Test purposes.

  • Each State Party under CTBT has to undertake not to carry out any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion, and to prohibit and prevent any such nuclear explosion at any place under its jurisdiction or control.
  • The parties have also to undertake to refrain from causing, encouraging, or in any way participating in the carrying out of any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion.
  • CTBT was adopted by the United States General Assembly on September 10, 1996. As of now, it has not entered into force. As of now, 157 states have ratified the CTBT and another 25 states have signed but not ratified it.
  • Despite so many members signed and ratified the treaty, it could not come into force because it requires all the 44 states mentioned in its Annex-2 to ratify it. After 180 days of the day on which 44 annex-2 countries ratify the CTBT, the treaty would come into force.
  • These 44 states are those countries who took part in its negotiations. China, Egypt, Iran, Israel and the United States have signed but not ratified the Treaty; India, North Korea and Pakistan have not signed it.

United States does not ratify the treaty because they have put some conditions such as:

  • There should be a Science Based Stockpile Stewardship Program in which experiments can be continued in a highly safe environment.
  • No impact should be on experiments in nuclear technology which have immense applications in human well being.
  • A basic capability to resume tests should be maintained.
  • Treaty monitoring capabilities and operations programmes should be included.
  • US should be allowed to withdraw from CTBT under the standard “supreme national interests”.

So far the treaty has not seen the light of the day because of its dubious doubtful regime.

41. What are important facts on FMCT?

Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) is also a proposed international treaty to prohibit the further production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other explosive devices. Neither this treaty has been negotiated nor have its terms been defined.

A proposal has been made by United States that fissile material includes high-enriched uranium and plutonium (except plutonium that is over 80% Pu-238). According to a proposal by Russia, fissile material would be limited to weapons-grade uranium (with more than 90% U-235) and plutonium (with more than 90% Pu-239). Neither proposal would prohibit the production of fissile material for non-weapons purposes, including use in civil or naval nuclear reactors.

What is Fissile Material?

Any material which can be used to create a Nuclear Bomb is a fissile material. However the different draft FMCT documents define the fissile material differently.  The definition of fissile material in the U.S. draft FMCT is close to the definition adopted by the IAEA for weapon-usable or “direct-use” material: uranium enriched to more than 20% in U-235 or U-233 and plutonium containing less than 80% Pu-238.

Its worth note that U-238 is non fissile and U-235 is fissile.  Plutonium-239 is the isotope most useful for nuclear weapons. Plutonium-239 and 241 are fissile, meaning the nuclei of their atoms can break apart by being bombarded by slow moving thermal neutrons, releasing energy, gamma radiation and more neutrons.

Russia has proposed an alternative definition which bans only “weapon-grade” plutonium (Pu-239 and Pu-241) and uranium containing more than about 90 percent of the isotopes Pu-239 and U-235 respectively.

42. Which countries are participating in Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations?

Since November 2012, sixteen countries {ASEAN+6} have been engaged in the negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement called Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. The objective is to attain a modern, comprehensive economic partnership that covers not only goods but also trade in services, investments, technical cooperation, intellectual property, dispute settlement and other related matters.

Partnering Countries

The countries include 10 members of ASEAN (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, The Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) and their FTA partners (Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea, and New Zealand). Together, these countries comprise of three billion people, which is over 45% of the world’s population with a combined GDP of about US$ 17.23 trillion, which is about a third of the world’s current annual GDP.

43. What is IOM? What are its functions?

IOM is an intergovernmental organization in the field of migration and works closely with governmental, inter-governmental and non-governmental entities to promote humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all. It has a worldwide presence with 100 offices throughout the world. Its headquarters is in Geneva, Switzerland.

The organization was established in 1951 in the wake of World War II to resettle refugees from Europe. It has 165 member states and 8 more states holding observer status. It offers services and advice to governments and migrants and provides humanitarian assistance to migrants in need, including refugees and internally displaced persons. It primarily works in the following four broad areas of migration management:

  • Migration and development
  • Facilitating migration
  • Regulating migration
  • Forced migration

IOM was granted Permanent Observer status to the UN General Assembly in 1992. In 1996, a cooperation agreement between IOM and the UN was signed. IOM’s funding model is wholly project driven and depends upon the voluntary contributions from its 165 member states.

44. Is India a member state of IOM?

Yes, India is one among the 165 member states of IOM. India became a member state of IOM in 2008. Previously, it had obtained an Observer status in 1991. During Iraqi invasion of IOM helped to airlift 27,000 Indian nationals out of Kuwait. In the last 15 years, IOM has helped in the repatriation of over 30,000 Indian nationals stranded abroad. India was appointed as the External Auditor of IOM between 2010 and 2012.

45. What is Fat Tax?

Fat tax – originally a taxation that meant to reduce obesity in the developed country like the USA- is a tax imposed on fattening food, beverages, alcohol or on overweight individuals. Modelled upon Pigovian taxation, a fat tax aims to discourage unhealthy diets and offset the economic costs of obesity. It is all set to target those foods which have the potential to create serious chronic diseases like obesity and coronary heart disease. Fat Tax is conceived on the basis of the idea that the price of a food decreases, individuals get fatter. The proponents of the taxation claim that fat tax reduces expenditure on diseases and certain food items among the poor. Health practitioners, nutritionists and scholars have already suggested a fat tax on unhealthy foods. The chief rationale behind the proposition of fat tax is to rein in risky dietary behaviours among the citizens. Junk food outlets have been instrumental in changing the food habit of society and indirectly contribute to the spread of aforesaid diseases.

46. Pigovian Tax?  

Pigovian taxes were named after English economist Arthur C. Pigou. He had seminal contribution towards early externality theory in economics. It is based upon the sole premise of checking negative and harmful consequences of the consumption of certain luxury and food items on the health of both human being and environment.

47. What is Externality in Economics?

Externality refers to such economic activities wherein the production or consumption of goods causes either positive or negative impacts to the section of people who are not directly related to such activity. Factories releasing pollutants and polluting the environment affect people who are not part of their production and consumption. It is loss or gain that affects those who are not part of such activity. British economist A.C. Pigou had pioneering contribution to the development of the theory of externalities.

48. What is the current status of South Asian Economic Union (SAEU)

In 2014, SAARC countries had agreed to set up a South Asia Economic Union (SAEU) on the lines of European Union by facilitating a common market and removing trade barriers. This had to be achieved in a phased manner going through various stages viz.  Free Trade Area, a Customs Union, a Common Market, and a Common Economic and Monetary Union.

Analysis

The leaders of SAARC countries are great dreamers. They had dreamt of a SAFTA (South Asian Free Trade Area) in 2004 to foster intra-regional trade by creating a unified South Asia market. However, not much has happened since then. In 2014, the intra-regional trade in South Asia accounted only for 5% of total trade and is worth around 0.25 billion dollars which is abysmally low as compared to other such regional organizations. Though a clear road map { from FTA to Monetary Union}, but to begin to move in that direction, South Asian Free Trade agreement (SAFTA) needs to be implemented first. Based on SAFTA experience so far, the SAEU also appears a distant dream.

The socio-economic disparity, political differences and disturbances, mistrust; dangers from non-state actors in internal security, civil and ethnic conflicts etc. are some of the problems which don’t allow realizing a SAFTA or SAEU dream. At the same time, the geographical disparities and challenges hinder the intra-regional trade. Absence of required infra, required financial institution, cross border warehousing facilities, issues of smuggling and so on are some of the other major problems. The progress is slow and mainly visible in recent times in the form of BBIN-MVA.

Kindly note that the countries have also planned to start a SATIS {SAARC Agreement on Trade in Services} to spur trade in services between the countries. It also seems to be a distant reality as of now.

49. What is current status of SAARC Development Fund (SDF)

SAARC Development Fund (SDF) was inaugurated in 2010 during the 16th SAARC summit at Thimphu. It’s precursor was South Asian Development Fund (SADF), which itself was launched in 1996 by merging two existing facilities called SAARC Fund for Regional Projects (SFRP) and the SAARC Regional Fund.

SDF was created “umbrella financial mechanism” for all SAARC projects and programmes. Its core objective is to accelerate the economic growth, social progress and poverty alleviation in the region. It funds the projects in South Asia region via three windows viz. Social Window, Economic Window and Infrastructure WindowAt present, only Social Window is in operation, the other two windows are yet to open.

The Social window currently funds the projects mainly on poverty alleviation, social development focusing on education; health; human resources development; support to venerable/disadvantaged segments of the society; funding needs of communities, micro-enterprises, rural infrastructure development. Some of the key projects taken up by SDF include:

  • SAARC Business Association of Home based workers {SABAH} established in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. These are Civil Society Organizations for promotion of welfare for home based workers and their skill development
  • Establishment of Trade Facilitation Centers established in Bhutan, Nepal Pakistan and Sri Lanka
  • Strengthening Maternal and Child Health Including Immunization
  • Scaling up of Zero Energy Cold Storage (ZECS) technology for the horticultural commodities in the high hills of SAARC countries
  • Empowering Rural Communities “Reaching the Unreached” via establishing Community Centres in various countries.
  • South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children (SAIEVAC)
  • Post Harvest Management and Value Addition of Fruits in Production Catchments in SAARC Countries

We note here that SDF currently struggling with lack of finance for the effective implementation of projects. After it was formed, only social window has been activated so far. No such progress has been done towards Infrastructure window which is equally important for region.

50. What is current status of SAARC Motor Vehicles Agreement and BBIN-MVA?

In the November 2014 Kathmandu summit, India had proposed a SAARC Motor Vehicle Agreement. However, no progress was made on SAARC level due to objections from Pakistan. What India did was to pursue the same agreement with BBIN. In June 2015, the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal Motor Vehicles Agreement was signed.

Advantage

This agreement enables the vehicles to enter into any of the four countries without need for trans-shipment of goods from one country’s truck to another’s at the border. Under the system, cargo vehicles are tracked electronically; permits are issued online and sent electronically to all land ports. Vehicles are fitted with an electronic seal that alerts regulators every time the container door is opened. This saves not only time but also cost. For example, earlier a truck would travel 1540 kilometres through Indian territory to reach from Kolkata to Agartala. Once this agreement is in force, the same truck travelled only 640 kilometres via Dhaka.

Significance

The significance of this agreement can be ascertained from various angles. Firstly, Since Pakistan was not involved here; it took only 6 months to flag off the first truck to run between India-Bangladesh-India route. This was second major multilateral agreement between South Asian Countries and marks heralding the idea of SAARC-minus-Pakistan {First I consider BIMSTEC, which was launched on initiation of New Delhi}. The further events have further strengthened that notion. Secondly, it is first stage of the $8-billion road connectivity project between these four countries and Myanmar and Thailand. The latter two countries have agreed to develop a similar agreement and take ahead this economic cooperation to the door of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region

51. What is current status of SAARC Seed Bank Agreement?

In 2011, the SAARC Leaders had endorsed a SAARC Seed Bank Agreement and a Framework for Materials Transfer Agreement. Objective of the proposed seed bank was to foster “seed security” in the region; increase seed replacement ratio; address seed shortage via collective action and act as a Regional Seed Security Reserve for member states of SAARC.

This agreement required ratification from all members to come in effect. Out of eight members, only five viz. BBIN & Sri Lanka could ratify the agreement. No action was taken from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Maldives side.

The agreement is thus currently in limbo. There are several other issues related to its functioning, mechanism etc. also which would come to fore only when it comes into existence.

Kindly note that there were talks to set up Regional Vaccine Bank and Regional Livestock Gene Bank also. None of them is in operation right now.

52. What are Role and Functions of the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC)?

The Counter Terrorism Committee was established by UN Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001), adopted unanimously on 28 September 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on United States. It is made of 15 UNSC members and us tasked with monitoring the implementation of Resolution 1373, which mandates the UN member states to implement certain measures to enhance their legal and institutional ability to counter terrorist activities. Some of these include – criminalize terror finance; freeze funds of terror suspects; deny financial support to terrorist groups; suppress safe havens for terrorists; share terror related information; help each other in investigation, detention, extradition and prosecution of terrorists etc.

The current head of CTC is Egypt. Kindly note that CTC does not act as a direct capacity provider for countries. Neither has it maintained a list of terrorist groups or individuals.  However, it acts as broker between those states or groups which have relevant capacities and those in need of assistance.

53. What is CPGRAMS?

Centralized Public Grievance Redress and Monitoring System (CPGRAMS) is an integrated online grievance Redressal and monitoring system developed by NIC in association with Directorate of Public Grievances (DPG) and Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG). It has been devised as a simple procedure for citizens to lodge their complaints and reduce the loss of complaints in transit. Citizens can keep track of the status of their complaints. It has tried to automate the entire process of grievance Redressal and monitoring.

54. What is PRAGATI platform?

Pro-Active Governance and Timely Implementation (PRAGATI) is a multi-purpose and multi-modal grievance Redressal platform. It was designed for simultaneously monitoring and reviewing important state and union government schemes. It was designed by PMO with help of NIC and brings together PMO, Union Government Secretaries, and Chief Secretaries of the States at one stage, fostering cooperative federalism.

55. What is E-Nivaran?

Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has launched “e-nivaran” (electronic resolution) portal for online redressal of taxpayers grievances related to refunds, ITRs, PAN, etc., as part of its initiative to reduce instances of harassment of the public when it comes to complaints related to the I-T department. The taxpayers can register their complaints through their personal computer systems. Once the grievance is registered, the system will also issue an acknowledgment number which can be quoted by the taxpayer for all his future communications with the taxman and also to track the progress of the complaint.

Nivaran

Nivaran portal was launched in July 2016 by Railway Ministry for redressal of service related grievance of serving and former Railway employees. Employees are able to lodge their grievances and also monitor the progress.

56. What are Funded Interest Term Loan (FITL)?

In simple words, Funded Interest Term Loan (FITL) is giving a loan for repaying an existing loan. It’s a kind of loan restricting mechanism whereby lender would give the borrower money to repay the interest component of the loan. It is an ingenious tool recently brought out by RBI in order to tackle the growing NPA burden in India. The idea is to give companies breathing space to repay the loan by getting a moratorium. In this way, the pending amount to be recovered could be a recovered and FITL could be considered a blessing.

Some notable points for FITL are as follows:

  • FITL is a mechanism like other loan restructuring mechanism to enable a company facing financial crisis to meet its loan obligations.
  • The borrower gets a breather to repay the loan.
  • Banks are saved from the account being classified as an NPA.
  • FITL is a part of deep restructuring. It involves longer-than-usual repayment terms, lower interest rates and a moratorium on repayment.
  • The unpaid interest component of an existing loan is carved out as FITL, upon which the bank gives the borrower a moratorium.
  • However, if the borrower has not even been able to repay the FTIL, the lender (Bank) has no option but to ultimately classify the account as an NPA.

However, there are chances that the companies may simply take it for granted the provision and may ultimately make the pending debt an NPA. A better provision would be to specify the deadline upon which the FITL would expire and if the debt is not recovered, convert the pending debt to SDR.

Further Note: UPSC may ask you about various loan restructuring schemes available to Indian borrowers. Apart from mention the latest tool FITL, you can cite some other options to restructure the pending loans from the borrowers. First is the 5:25 scheme whereby the borrowers get an extended tenure for repayment. This in a way eases the borrower by simply giving an opportunity to repay. Second is the Strate[limit] 122430 CGS-25 to 30: GS Mains 2016 [Part-2: Questions & Answers] November 20, 2016

57. What changes have taken place in Kabaddi over the ages? What contribution has been of Pro-Kabaddi to this evolution?

Kabaddi is an ancient game played in several parts of India, and its origin is traced from Indian mythology {for example- Abhimanyu invented in during Mahabharata battle}. In different parts of India, different forms of this game evolved; and modern Kabaddi is basically a synthesis of these different types of games. In India, still four kinds of Kabaddi are played viz. Sanjeevni Kabaddi, Gaminee Kabaddi, Amar Kabaddi and Punjabi Kabaddi.

  • In Sanjeevani Kabaddi, one player is revived against one player of the opposite team who is out – one out. The game is played over 40 minutes with a five-minute break between halves. There are seven players on each side and the team that outs all the players on the opponent’s side scores four extra points.
  • In Gaminee Kabaddi, seven players play on either side or a player put out has to remain out until all his team members are out. The team that is successful in ousting all the players of the opponent’s side secures a point. The game continues until five or seven such points are secured and has no fixed time duration.
  • Amar Kabaddi resembles the Sanjeevani form in the time frame rule. But, a player who is declared out doesn’t leave the court, but instead stays inside, and the play goes along. For every player of the opposition touched ‘out,’ a team earns a point.
  • Punjabi Kabaddi is played on a circular pitch of a diameter of 22 meters.
  • Kabaddi was first introduced in 1938 in Indian National Games at Calcutta. The All India Kabaddi Federation came into existence in 1950, and it was reconstituted as Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India (AKFI) in 1972. First Asian Kabaddi Championship was held in 1980, in which India emerged as Champion. In 2016, India hosted the Kabaddi World Cup also.

Bangladesh adopted Kabaddi as its National Game {Hadudu}. In India, it is the state game of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab. It also encompasses similar sports known by their regional names in Indian states such as chedugudu in Andhra Pradesh, sadugudu in Tamil Nadu and hututu in Maharashtra.

With the advent of Pro-Kabaddi, this outdoor game played in streets has transformed into a sport that is now played indoors. It has also been able to garner glamour and lucrative deals for its players. Kabaddi was never played for a career or livelihood until recent times.

58. What are mandate and functions of Development Coordination and Monitoring Committee?

In July 2016, the Union Government had formed District Development Coordination and Monitoring Committee (DDCMC) or District Infrastructure Scheme Advisory Committees (DISHA) in place of the District Vigilance and Monitoring Committee (DVMC) for effective implementation of Central government schemes. Objective of this change is effective development and coordination in implementation of the Central Government Schemes.

Difference between DDCMC and DVMC
  • The Key difference is that earlier DVMC’s jurisdiction was only in the rural development sector. DDCMC / DISHA will monitor implementation of many schemes beyond rural development sector.
  • Like DVMC, DISHA will be headed by the respective LS MPs but also include MLAs and local elected representatives like sarpanch. It will also have representations from political parties.
    Other Notable Facts About DISHA
  • Its main purpose is to coordinate with Central and State and local Panchayat Governments for implementation of around 28 flagship schemes.
  • Chairperson of the committee is senior most Lok Sabha MP from the district.

59. What are the Role and Functions of Ethics Committee in Parliament?

Each of the two Houses of Parliament has an ethics committee. They deal with the members’ conduct. These panels were recently looking into complaints against Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi and Rajya Sabha MP Vijay Mallya.

Role of Ethics Committees

Besides overseeing the moral and ethical conduct of members, ethics committee also prepares a Code of Conduct for members, which are amended from time to time. The ethics committee in Lok Sabha has 15 MPs. In Rajya Sabha this number stands at 10.

Who can file complaint?

Any person may make a complaint to the Committee regarding alleged unethical behaviour or breach of Code of Conduct by a member or alleged incorrect information of a member’s interests. The Committee may also take up matters suo motu.

Punishment

Where it has been found that a member has indulged in unethical behaviour or there is other misconduct or a member has contravened the rules, the Committee may recommend imposition of one or more of the sanctions. This may include censure, reprimand, suspension from the House for a specific period or any other sanction determined by the Committee

60. What is Advanced Ultra Super Critical (AUSC) technology

AUSC refers to an advanced power generation system that works on higher temperatures (around 700°C) and pressure, thus achieving a great improvement in efficiency, reducing coal consumption and CO2 emissions. In August 2016, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CEEA) had given its approval for the development of AUSC technology for thermal power plants for three government entities. Power generation from coal-fired power plants contributes to about 38% of CO2 pollution in the atmosphere. AUSC technology which is still in research stage will help in 20% reduction in CO2 emission at source combined with 20% saving in coal consumption compared to sub-critical plants.

AUSC technology will enable Indian industries to design, manufacture and commission higher efficiency coal-fired power plants with indigenously developed technology. This will be the first time large power plant equipment will be manufactured without any technological collaboration or licensing agreement with foreign companies. Use of this technology in all future large coal-fired power plants will ensure energy security for the country for a longer period as well as greener environment.

61. What is Quantum Communication?

Quantum communication refers to an almost hackproof communication with use of quantum cryptography. The most common application of quantum cryptography is Quantum Key Distribution (QKD in which the quantum mechanical effects are used to perform cryptographic tasks. Quantum communication boasts ultra-high security communication and uses subatomic particles to securely communicate between two points. In case intruder (hacker) tries to crack the message in Quantum communication, it will change its form in a way that would alert the sender and cause the message to be altered or deleted.

In August 2016, China had launched world’s first quantum communication satellite called Quantum Experiments at Space Scaler (QUESS) or Micius {after the name of a 5th century Chinese Philosopher}. The objective of this launch is to establish hack-proof communications system by transmitting uncrackable keys from space to the ground.

Earlier, researchers had successfully sent quantum messages on land. But this first of its kind satellite-based quantum network would make it possible to send quickly encrypted (hack proof) messages around the world. It also opens door to other possible uses of the technology. The launch is also a major triumph for China in the field of quantum technology.

62. What are environmental impacts of HCFC as in contrast with HFCs in the light of recently agreed Kigali Agreement to phase out HFCs.

HFCs are used as refrigerants and coolants in refrigerators and air-conditioners, in fire extinguishers, furniture making, as solvents for cleaning, and other purposes.

CFCs and later HCFCs were being used for everything that HFCs are used now for, but it was found that these were depleting the ozone layer, which protects life on earth from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation. As CFCs and HCFCs started being phased out, HFCs, which are harmless to the ozone layer, started replacing them.

However, HFCs have a greenhouse gas potential and therefore there is a dire need to phase them out similar to CFCs and HCFCs. However, India suggested to work on this agreement of phase out of HFCs  under Kyoto Protocol, as it was specifically made for reducing greenhouse gasses whereas, Montreal protocol for ODS. But developed countries wanted to opt for Montreal Protocol seeking the urgency of the problem.

If HFCs was added in phase-out program under Montreal Protocol then it would be binding on its signatory members to phase-out HFCs on the other hand if it was added under Kyoto Protocol it would puts “differentiated responsibility” on developed and developing countries to cut down greenhouse gas emissions.

Thus, the Kigali agreement signed recently put legal obligation on all countries to phase out HFCs. The elimination of HFCs could reduce global warming by 0.5 degrees by 2100, according to a 2015 study.

63. What are Capital Gains?

Capital gain refers to the gain or profit from the sale of property or an investment. Investment may be in shares, equity, gold, real estate or valuables like paintings {a prelims question was asked if investment in paintings is a capital gains tax} etc.

Difference between Capital Gains and Capital Receipts

Though they sound alike, capital gains and capital receipts are different animals and are treated differently. Capital receipt is the amount which is received from sale of capital i.e. assets, shares, debentures, land, factory, machines etc. This is different from revenue receipts which are generated by selling products and services. On the other hand, capital gains is profit made on sale of capital assets. Thus, if you make profit while selling shares, you have a capital gain.

Tax policy on Capital Gains

The general rule under the income tax act is that

  • while revenue receipts are taxable, capital receipts are exempted from tax unless there is specific provision of taxation on it. This is the reason that gifts and loans don’t attract taxes. But there is nothing which can stop the government to impose taxes on capital receipts also. The Vodafone matter is manifestation this.
  • Capital gains is profit and is taxable. Gain here means the difference of price of asset/share when purchased and when sold. The tax is levied on that gain.
Current Government Policy on Capital Gains Tax

Capital Gains tax is of two kind viz. Short term and long term. Current policy of the government is that while there is a 15% tax on short term capital gains, the long term capital gains are not taxed. This implies that if a stock traded on an exchange is held for more than a year, gains from it are exempt from capital gains tax. On the other hand, if a trader books profit in a stock held for less than a year, he has to pay short-term capital gains tax of 15%.

64. What are Genomics and Personal Genomics?

Genome refers to the genetic material of an organism and it comprises of DNA (or RNA in RNA viruses). It offers a blueprint for an organism’s structure and function and has all information necessary for life. Study of genome is called genomics. One of the basic disciplines in genomics is Genome sequencing which refers to know the order of four nucleotides or bases within DNA molecules. The four bases are Adenine (A), Guanine (G), Cytosine (C), and Thymine (T).

Genomics is different from genetics- because the latter primarily studies role of genes in inheritance. Genomics helps in understanding the entire genetic information of an organism.

Personal Genomics

Personal genomics is an area of genomics focusing specifically on the sequencing and analysis of one person’s genome, and then giving them their genomic information.  In this, an individual’s genotype is compared with published literature / available data to establish the likelihood of the individual’s disease risk and trait expression. Personal genomics helps in uncovering a huge amount of information related to all aspects of an individual’s physiology – like their susceptibility to certain diseases and the way they respond to specific drugs.

65. What is Digital India Land Records Modernization Programme?

The Digital India Land Records Modernization Programme (DILRMP) was launched by the government in 2008 with an objective to develop a modern, comprehensive and transparent land records management system in the country. The major components of the programme are Computerization of land record, Survey/re-survey, Computerization of Registration, automated and automatic mutation, integration between textual and spatial records, inter-connectivity between revenue and registration, development of core Geospatial Information System (GIS) and capacity building.

66. What is IMAFT and its objectives?

Saudi Arabia made quite the headline on 15 December 2015 when the Minister of Defense of the country, Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud mooted the idea and subsequently announced the formation of a 34-country Islamic Military Alliance (IMA) or Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT) . On January 6, 2017, former Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan, General (Retired) Raheel Sharif was named as the IMA’s first Commander-in-Chief. Its headquarters are located at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Objectives

The basic objective of IMAFT , also called “Muslim NATO” is to serve as an inter-governmental counter-terrorism alliance against spread of ISIS in the region. Under this initiative, the Muslim countries have united for a military intervention against ISIS/ISIL and other terror organizations. It aims to battle against all outfitted gatherings and terrorist organizations that have been or are still involved in different kinds of terrorism. The stated objectives of IMA are as follows:

  • Efforts coordination to combat terrorism in countries like Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya and Afghanistan.
  • Helping participating members to fight against all terrorist groups by providing military support.
  • Fighting against ISIS and other terrorist nations like Al Qaida and Boko Haram.
  • International collaboration with powerful states to carry out operations in Syria against ISIS.
  • Helping non-member countries of IMAFT to eradicate terrorism from their states.
Members

The coalition had started off with only 34 members which gradually rose to 39 by March 2016. All the initial 34 members of IMA are also members of Organizational of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and they form about 60% of all the OIC states. We note that Saudi Arabia is regional opponent of Iran, so Iran and its friend Syria; and Iraq are not its members.

 

67. What is the centre’s recent decision to link the midday meal scheme to Aadhaar?

The Human Resource Ministry has specified that school students will have to register for or have an Aadhaar number to avail the benefits of mid-day meal scheme. The requirement also extrapolates to all those cooks and helpers who want to administer the government’s mid-day meal.

 

  • The scheme will be applicable across the whole country except few states like Meghalaya, Jammu and Kashmir and Assam.
  • The decision has come in wake of many other government schemes getting linked to Aadhaar.
  • HRD Ministry has given the deadline of June 30, 2017 to the students to get enrolled for Aadhaar.
  • The move is to check any potential losses which may be occurring during the implementation of the scheme which is operational among 10.03 crore children across 11.50 lakh schools in India. The step will bring in more transparency and efficiency in the system.

 

Critics have however stated that the move serves no concrete purpose and may derail a flagship programme which has been going on successfully. It will be appalling to see children denied meals due to non-availability of Aadhaar.

68. What are Submarine Canyon Systems? What is the relevance of NIO finding a new canyon system close to Kovvada coast?

Submarine Canyon System is a steep valley carved into the seabed of the continental slope. These canyons also extend into the continental shelf at times. They allow for flow of turbidity currents across the seafloor. Turbidity currents are formed by flow of dense, sediment laden waters which are supplied by rivers. Seabed storms, submarine landslides, earthquakes and other soil disturbances are also a source of these currents. As these systems are channels for deposition of sediments so they also increase the chances of finding newer hydrocarbons.

Formation:

They are basically formed as a result of two main processes:

  • Erosion caused by turbidity currents
  • Slumping of continental slopes
New Canyon system near Kovvada coast

Scientists have unearthed a major Canyon system near Kovvada in Srikakulam district. It has been made possible by sending 32 high density beams towards the depths of the sea. The discovery is significant as it has come after 5 decades as the last canyon systems were discovered by an American geologist E.C. LaFond of US Navy Electronics Laboratory.

The new canyon has been formed by the river Kandivalasa. It extends 50 to 70 kms deep into the sea. Its depth stretches from 90m to 2500m at the deepest point in the sea.

69. Why it is said that POSCO Act fails to account for mental age of the victim? Is that an anomaly?

POSCO Act was passed by the Indian Parliament in May, 2012. It delineates many offences which can amount to punishment of the accused for crimes committed against children. The Act defines a person under 18 years to be a child. This is specifically the biological age of the child and not his mental age. In addition the Act also criminalizes abetment of child sexual abuse, collection or watching any pornographic content involving children. Many procedural reforms have also been suggested.

Recent irritants

The Act has gained limelight as it completely ignores the mental age of the victim. The lacuna was exposed by a Case in SC of a 40 year old rape victim with mental age of 6 years. The victim is suffering from cerebral palsy congenitally. Her mental age was proved by a detailed medical examination based on 8 social adaptive domains.

The Act needs to factor in the mental age of victims in special cases for justice to be made apparent and transparent. A similar case in South Africa has set a correct precedent by considering the mental age of a 19-year old rape victim whose mental age was established to be 8.5.

70. Why Sri Lanka is making loss and thinking to scale back Hambantota port deal?

Hambantota port has always been in the strategic focus as it was seen as the Chinese design of its “string of pearls” strategy to encircle India, control critical sea-lanes of communication between Indian and Pacific Oceans and undermine its security. Also, all other projects being developed in the Hambantota district spelt a shift in power from Colombo  which has been a centre of  commerce to a new Hambantota district for the first time in Sri Lanka. Hambantota is located 10 kilometers from one of the most used maritime routes on the planet. It enjoys a central position between China and Middle-east. It is projected to become the 21st Century Chinese Maritime Silk Road.

Ground Reality:

Sri Lanka’s highly strategic deep-sea Hambantota port has failed its design to build a number two city in an area for its pristine beaches and wildlife preserves. Despite the state of the art infrastructure, the Mattala International Airport became known as the world’s emptiest airport as it lacked passengers and the newly constructed multi-lane highways lacked vehicles. The whole venture has brought in heavy loss in addition to consuming huge amounts of national revenue for upkeep and maintenance.

 

The port stands juxtaposed to its projection of bringing growth in Sri Lanka’s lagging southern region as it has brought massive debt trap to the country. The losses have prompted an IMF bailout recently. The port which has been built by the Chinese have brought Sri Lanka’s debt to the superpower to $8 billion.

 

71. What is the recent Public Data Offices Proposal of TRAI? What does it seek to achieve?

The Telecom Regulator has proposed setting up of Public Data Offices to provide last-mile WiFi Connectivity in places which have been subjected to low connectivity.

The Proposal:

  • The model envisages setting up of WiFi hotspots or Public Data Offices by help of small entrepreneurs or shop owners. The bandwidth has to be acquired from multiple Internet Service Providers. They will be just venue owners and may not deploy any infrastructure of their own.
  • The final bandwidth will then be further distributed to end-users as data at a much lesser price.
  • The Regulator also seeks to set up a Public Data Office Aggregator which will serve as a bandwidth aggregator who will buy spectrum from multiple ISPs and give them to owners of PDOs at discounted proportions. The PDOs will not require registering to get the telecom license. PDOA can also gather bandwidth from already existing WiFi hotspots in the locality and sell them further at retail level. ISPs will be permitted to levy differential tariffs while leasing the spectrum to PDOAs. PDOA will be registered with DoT.
Uses:
  • The Plan seeks to bring internet connectivity at doorstep of even the remote and rural areas where the existing ISPs and telcos have no incentive to reach out. It will also ensure entry of small service providers in the public WiFi ecosystem.
  • PDOs are seen as an upgraded option to the Cyber Cafe culture as the use of latter has come down drastically by mobile onslaught in internet market. Also, cyber cafes had to go through many granular requirements and regulations which could not be met by all. The compliance cost was too high to maintain them in rural areas and hence many such cafes had to shut down gradually.
What is the PDO Regulation Model?

PDOs are slated to have slightly lesser regulations than cyber cafes.

  • License is not required for PDOs for WiFi. PDOA will be instead registered with DoT.
  • PDOA will have to keep a list of all PDOs under DoT.
  • PDOs can outsource payments and can make use of “national open Application Program Interfaces implemented for Aadhaar, eKYC (e-Know Your Customer), and Unified Payment Interface (UPI).”
  • If users shift to new PDOA, there should be ease of services and no need for registration/authentication of services once again.

 

72. What is Neduvasal Hydrocarbon Project? Why there are protests against it?

Neduvasal is a small village in Pudukkottai district in Tamil Nadu in the Cauvery delta. The village is one of the 31 areas selected for exploration of hydrocarbons as per Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs. This is part of the Centre’s 2015 “Discovered Small Fields policy”. The contract under the latter is for 44 oilfields (28 on land and 16 offshore)     which were discovered by ONGC and Oil India Ltd. These have been offered under new fiscal terms via a transparent bidding process. Thus, Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy has replaced New Exploration and Licensing Policy  which has been operational since last 18 years. Both Karaikal and Neduvasal have been granted under the Discovered Small Fields bidding round as they have 4, 30,000 metric tonnes of oil.  Neduvasal has been recommended for GEM Labs Pvt. Ltd. for extraction of both oil and natural gas in an area of 10.0 sq. Km.

The Project:

Government of India aims to reduce the hydrocarbon imports by 10% by 2022 by Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP). It will spur self-sufficiency in the production of crude oil and bring in huge revenue amounting to Rs. 9,300 Crores of which the state government will get Rs. 5,000 Crores.  The state in addition will get many other economic benefits like royalty, employment opportunities, economic development etc.

The Protest and Reasons:

Villagers, students, farmers and many activists have launched a strong opposition and protest to the hydrocarbon project on the premise that the project will damage environment and affect their livelihoods. People from nearby villages especially Vadakadu where ONGC had abandoned such a project have also joined in the protest. People are resorting to fasts in various villages and districts of Tamil Nadu. The protests have been backed by genuine reasons like:

  • The project will impact livelihoods of many farmers and lead to severe environmental problems.
  • There will be adverse and lasting effects on land fertility of the area as the ground water level will fall. Furthermore, if the barrier between seawater and groundwater gets disturbed it can pose a threat to fresh-water sources which can turn saline over time.
  • As the project will put on hold all the agricultural activity in the region, the villagers will be forced to move to newer locations.

73. Why the Wheat Blast disease is creating concerns in various parts of the country?

Deadly Wheat Blast disease has made inroads to the country through Bangladesh into West Bengal and has infected about 1000 hectares of the crop in two major districts. The state government has responded on a war-footing as there is no cure to the disease and crops are being immediately burnt to stop further spread. It is suggested that the spores of the disease have come from Bangladesh and as they travel via air so are difficult to contain. Another possible source of entry is the movement of stray cattle across the border. Governments in both West Bengal and Assam have alerted the farmers to keep a strict watch for symptoms.

What is Wheat Blast?

Wheat Blast is a serious fungal disease which threatens wheat production worldwide. It was first discovered in Brazil and thereon spread to other countries like Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia. It has widespread ramifications for affecting food security in both developed and developed nations. The causal pathogen is Magnaporthe oryzae which is specific to wheat crop only. The pathogen which is more common in rice can be controlled by fungicides but its control in wheat becomes harder as the chemicals affect wheat heads instead. This leads to massive loss of crops.

The disease has recently been reported in Bangladesh where it has led to yield loss in more than 15,000 hectares.

What is the New clone of MRSA identified in Kerala recently?
A new clone of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) strain has been recently found by the scientists and it is exclusive to aquatic environment of Kerala.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)

It is bacterial strain which is the cause of many deadly infections in humans. It is that particular strain of Staphylococcus aureus which has developed multi-resistance to beta-lactam antibiotics like methicillin, dicloxacillin, nafcillin, oxacillin etc. Such resistance does not increase the virulence of the strain but makes the treatment of the infection with standard antibiotics more dangerous. The infection has been distinguished as HA-MRSA (healthcare-associated MRSA), CA-MRSA (community-associated MRSA) and LA-MRSA (livestock-associated MRSA).

The new discovery
  • New clone discovered is stated to be exclusive to the seafood and aquatic environment of Kerala. It is named as t15669 MRSA.
  • MRSA can lead to many diseases like skin infections, boils, furunculosis, life-threatening septicaemia and also forms of post-surgical contamination like bacteraemia.
  • It is feared that any further enhancement in concentration of the strain in Kochi has the potential to disrupt the food chains and can reach fish landing centres to retail outlets.

The current discovery is purely accidental as the scientists of Central Institute of Fisheries Technology came across the new strain while regular screening of fish samples.

74. Why Indus Valley Script has not been deciphered so far? How latest technology including AI can help to decipher it?

Indus script involves a collection of symbols which were developed by Indus Valley Civilization during 3500 and 1900 BCE. Most of these symbols are very small which makes them hard to be deciphered to be a real language. The lack of any other bilingual inscription is a stumbling block to decode the script. The primary characters of the script are pictorial and have many abstract signs. All these are generally found to be written from right to left although some also follow a boustrophedon style. The total number of principal signs is 400 approximately.  The script has long posed a severe challenge to epigraphists due to difficulty in reading and classifying texts.

Artificial Intelligence

It is the intelligence which is shown by the machines with primary goals of reasoning, knowledge, planning, learning, perception and also ability to manipulate objects. It is thus theory and development  of various systems on the computer which can perform various tasks which require human intelligence.

Recent breakthrough:

Artificial intelligence has successfully given way to decode the Indus script. Computational analysis has shown that the symbols actually represent a spoken language. Efforts of Iravatham Mahadevan- a reputed epigraphist  brought together 3,700 texts and 417 unique signs. He made use of deep neural networks which work like mammalian visual cortex. These algorithms recognise those regions of the image which contain the script and break it into graphemes. It is these features in each region which are combined by the network to form complete understanding of the whole picture.

75. What are time crystals? How do they help?

A time-crystal or a space-crystal is basically an open system which shows time translation symmetry breaking (TTSB).

  • The concept was first proposed by the Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek in 2012. He put forward that a time crystal can spontaneously break the symmetry of time translation.
  • They are related to the concepts of zero-point energy and dynamic Casimir effect.
  • Time crystals are said to show topological order which is an emergent phenomenon in which correlations between two particles which act in an entangled system are encoded in a whole wave-function. This also factors in any possible fault tolerance against perturbations. This actually makes them stable for all decoherence effects.

The possibility of their existence opens many new horizons in the field of science and time crystals now join the league of other exotic states of matter like superconductors, quantum-spin liquids and superfluids.

76. What is the motive and functioning of the alternative funding mechanisms of electoral bonds introduced by the government?

Alternative funding has been introduced by the government primarily to bring transparency in funding of political parties. The Union Government has announced 2 mechanisms for the same, namely: capping cash funding and electoral bonds. Here are some of the key facts of the same:

  • The finance bill lays out the way ahead for capping cash funding and sale of electoral bonds by proposing amendments in the section 13A of the Income-Tax Act, 1961 and to Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934.
  • Political parties will be exempted under the amendment if donation amount is upto Rs. 2000 and is made via authentic instruments like cheque, draft, electronic clearing system etc.
  • The amendment in the RBI bond will help in introduction of the electoral bonds to donate money to political parties with RBI as an intermediary.
  • The bonds can be purchased by the donors only through cheque or digital mode.
  • The bonds will be redeemable only in the designated official accounts of the political parties within a stipulated time.
  • The identity of the bond bearer will not be revealed in the accounts of the political party.

 

77. What are the key features of the newly launched India Information Index?

NITI Aayog or National Institution for Transforming India along with Confederation of Indian Industry have launched India’s first innovation index portal to rank the states in order of innovations made by them.

  • It is a joint effort and developed by NITI Aayog, DIPP and CII in consultation with World Economic Forum, World Intellectual Property Organisation, Cornell University, UNIDO, ILO, OECD, UNESCO and ITU.
  • It will provide right impetus to the states to build innovation environment and foster the spirit of innovation among people and institutions.
  • It will be based on the structure of Global Innovation Index. However, additional indicators will be added based on India-centric parameters which reflect Indian conditions.
  • The pillars of index include the capacity of human capital and research, strength of institutions, supporting infrastructure and the level of business sophistication, among others.
  • The portal will coalesce, disseminate and update periodically GII indicators and India–centric data from various states. It will be hosted on the NITI Aayog website.
  • It will be a one-stop data warehouse and will track progress on each indicator at the National level and the State level on real-time basis.

78. Describe the mission and features of Juno Spacecraft by NASA.

Juno is an unmanned spacecraft launched by NASA to study Jupiter’s composition and evolution in August 2011. It is the first solar power spacecraft  to orbit Jupiter and is second after Galileo.

  • Juno has successfully entered Jupiter’s orbit in July 2016 after covering a distance of 2 billion miles in 5 years.
  • The primary goals of the mission are to find out whether Jupiter has a solid core, how its atmosphere and magnetosphere formed, and whether there is water in the gas cloud shrouding the planet.
  • The information gathered from it will provide vital clues to how the planet formed and evolved, but also to how the solar system we live in came into existence.
  • The spacecraft has been named after the Roman goddess Juno, the wife of Jupiter who is considered as the god of the sky in ancient Greco-Roman mythology.

79. How will IUHDSS enhance the capability of Indian Navy?

The Integrated Underwater Harbour Defence and Surveillance System has been launched by Indian Navy in Mumbai, to increase the security of naval assets against all asymmetric threats. It is the third IUHDSS to be installed in India. Its state of the art infrastructure will foster Naval strength of India.

  • It has been designed and developed by Israeli Aerospace Industries ELTA. It will be instrumental in surface and sub-surface surveillance of the harbour.
  • The system is equipped with RADARs, advance sensors, electro optic cameras, SONARs etc. which will enhance real-time situational analysis for further monitoring.
  • Furthermore, it is also capable of detection, tracking, identifying and generating warning for all types of underwater and surface threats to harbour security.
  • It is also capable of detecting small targets like boats, swimmers,etc.

80. What are the key functions of National Testing Agency set up by the Central government?

Union Human Resource Development Ministry has proposed to set up National Testing Agency for conducting higher and secondary examinations. It will be a single authority which will conduct entrance tests like JEE, UGC-NET, NEET etc. for all higher institutions.

  • It will take over examination function from CBSE, AICTE and other agencies. This will enable the latter to focus on the core area development.
  • The primary role is to introduce much needed reforms in the education sector.
  • It is proposed that examinations like IIT, NIT and university exams will be conducted by the NTA.It will take on secondary school examinations later.
  • The department will have CBSE staff to initially and will finally have specialised personnel to handle the job.

81. Where are Irrawaddy dolphins found in India?

Irrawaddy dolphin is an oceanic dolphin that lives in brackish water near the coasts or mouths of the rivers and even in the estuaries in South and Southeast Asia. They are characterised by slaty blue to slaty gray colour while the underparts are relatively pale. It has a typical bulging forehead and short beak. They have established their sub-populations in freshwater rivers which include Ganges and also the Mekong. Thus, its habitat extends from the Bay of Bengal to New Guinea and the Philippines. These are labelled as “Vulnerable” in the Red Data List. Their numbers are threatened by various developmental projects like construction  of dams, tourism and diseases.

The latest census by the Odisha State Forest and Environment department 2016:

  • 181 Irrawaddy dolphins have been spotted in state as against a total of 450 in 2015.
  • The latest Census showed 34 Humpback dolphins, 31 bottlenose dolphins and 5 pantropical dolphins.
  • The Chilka Lake, which is the largest brackish water lagoon in the country has recorded a major drop in their population from 144 to 134 over one year.

82. What is the terahertz transmitter technology?

Terahertz transmitter technology is discovered by scientists in Japan. It is capable of transmitting digital data 10 times faster than 5G mobile networks. It has the power to send digital data at a rate of 100 gigabits per second over a single channel by employing a 300-gigahertz band.

Important facts:

  • It will be a vehicle for future ultra high speed wireless communications.
  • It achieves a communication speed of 105 gigabits per second using the 290-315 GHz frequency. It falls in the range of 275-450 GHz which gives way for faster downloads along-with considerable improvement in in-flight network connection.
  • Terahertz wireless is high-data-rate minimum-latency communications. Its possible applications include fast download from contents servers to mobile devices and ultrafast wireless links between base stations.
  • In 2016, scientists had demonstrated that the speed of a wireless link in the 300-GHz band can be greatly enhanced by using quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM).

83. What are Advance Pricing Agreements signed by Central Board of Direct Taxes?

The Central Board of Direct Taxes has signed 4 unilateral Advance Pricing Agreements related to manufacturing, financial and informational technology sectors and span international transactions like Contract manufacturing, software development services and IT Enabled services. Thus, the total number of APAs entered by CBDT has reached 130.

  • The APA Scheme was introduced by the IT Act to provide certainty to taxpayers in domain of transfer pricing by specifying methods of pricing and determining prices of international transactions in advance. The Rollback provisions under this scheme were introduced in 2014. The scheme seeks to foster government’s aim of non-adversarial tax regime.
  • It offers many other benefits in addition like:
    • Boost to economy and ease of doing business.
    • Strengthen Government’s mission of fostering a non-adversarial tax regime.
    • Introduces certainty in tax law by reducing compliance costs and make tax regime investment friendly.
    • Provides certainty to taxpayers regarding transfer pricing to avoid disputes between taxpayer and tax regulator.

84. What are the key features of the Braille Atlas prepared by NATMO?

The Braille Atlas has been prepared by the National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organisation (NATMO) under the Department of Science and Technology. It is the first braille atlas in the world for the visually impaired. .

  • In the Braille Atlas, maps are raised and embossed with simple point and lines symbols to facilitate users to realize the location and area coverage easily in terms of distinguishable shapes and textures.
  • It is made using indigenously developed silk-screen painting technology. The legend and reference is also placed on map in Braille script to navigate map.
  • About 20 maps on different themes of physical, socio-economic and cultural aspects of the country have been incorporated in it.
  • The Atlas will be distributed free of cost to various schools across the country for educating the students with visual challenges.
  • It was awarded National award for S&T intervention in empowering the physically challenged by the Prime Minister in January, 2017 at the Indian Science Congress held in Tirupati.
NATMO: National Atlas and Thematic Mapping Organisation

NATMO is a premier agency of applied Geo-Spatial technology and pioneer in Thematic Mapping and Atlas Cartography under Department of S&T, Union Ministry of Science & Technology and is engaged in preparing different atlases, thematic maps and other documents on block level, district, state, national and many other monograms. Its thematic maps and data are used by the decision makers at districts and sub-divisions levels for implementing the developmental schemes as well as by the researchers, students and common people.

85. Arunachal Pradesh has become the first NE state to implement e-Cabinet solution. What are the benefits of the same?

e-Cabinet is a highly powerful governance tool and will be immensely useful in streamlining the decision-making process. It is being implemented by the state Department of Information Technology and Communication.

  • It will allow state cabinet members to have an access to the notes of the cabinet before meeting. Also, it will allow the whole process of the Cabinet like helping ministers for preparation of Cabinet meetings, conduction and review of the minutes etc. completely without the use of paper.
  • It will also provide remote access to the ministers to view Cabinet notes which can be circulated in advance for analysis and feedback.
  • It has a multi-user and secure user solution which also keeps the relevant information organised and updated in real time.
  • The new system will effectively reduce the length of Cabinet meetings from 4-5 hours to merely 30-90 minutes. This will eliminate the need of printing and delivering many document pages.

86. What is the mandate and primary role of the separate Enforcement Department set up by RBI?

Reserve Bank of India has set up a separate Enforcement Department to monitor banks during any violations and thereby foster regulation and compliance. It will primarily deal with the penalties imposed on banks for any violations. The penalties were hitherto determined by the banking and non-banking supervision departments.

  • The Department will be the central point to deal with penalties which are imposed on banks. It will be useful for maintaining records of the performance of banks.
  • It will also deal with cases of non-compliance which come to light during surveillance or otherwise.

87. Nelambur Teak from Kerala will get the GI-tag. What is the significance of GI-tag?

Nelambur Teak from Kerala is internationally known for its superior timber quality. The teak was first recognised by the British for its fine quality. It is also called as the Mecca of Teak primarily because of its superior mechanical and physical properties. It has also been exported to England and other parts of the world.

Significance of GI-tag

GI or the Geographical Indication tag is an insignia on products which  have a unique geographical origin and evolution over the centuries especially in terms of its quality and reputation. The grant of the status stands for its authenticity and also ensures that the registered and authorised users are allowed to use the product name. It is regulated by the World Trade Organisation’s Agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) internationally while in India it is governed by the Geographical Indications of goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 which came into force in September 2003. Darjeeling tea was the first product to accorded with GI tag in India.It is covered as an element of intellectual property rights (IPRs) under the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property.

Benefits include:
  • Legal protection to the products
  • Prevents unauthorised use of a GI tag products by others
  • Helps consumers to get quality products of desired traits
  • Promotes economic prosperity of producers of GI tag goods by enhancing their demand in national and international markets.

88. What is the significance of Telemetry and Telecommand Processor developed by ISRO?

Indian Space Research Organization has indigenously developed the Telemetry and Telecommand Processor. It will be tested by the Space Checkout Group of ISAC. Its further production will be started with the help of Indian Industry. The processor was developed as part of the ‘Make in India’ campaign to replace the extensive imported equipment which was necessary for uplinking and downlinking to satellites.

  • It will be used by ISRO in Integrated Spacecraft Testing of Low Earth Orbit, Geostationary Orbit and Interplanetary Spacecraft.
  • It is configurable to meet uplink and downlink requirements of both CCSDS (Consultative Committee for Space Data Systems) and ISRO standards and multiple clients to remotely access for data and monitoring.
  • The system was developed on Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) platform. The softcore processor on board the FPGA allows programming all features of TCCP remotely.
  • It is being tested on the ground using the same communication protocols that will be used in space. During test, ground systems will communicate to spacecraft via the same uplink and downlink signals, as in space.
  • This indigenously developed Processor has been successfully deployed for the first time in checkout of GSAT-19, which is scheduled to be launched shortly onboard of GSLV-Mk III-D1.

89. What are issues about the Seemai Karuvelam trees?

Seemai Karuvelam (prosopis juliflora) tree species are native to West Africa. It was brought to Tamil Nadu in 1960s as fuel wood. It is an invasive species that has infiltrated the water bodies and dry lands of Tamil Nadu. It disrupts the local ecosystem of its habitation by soaking in all the ground water near it. In March, 2017, the Madurai Bench of Madra High Court has ordered Tamil Nadu Government to enact a law with with prohibitory and penal clauses to eradicate Seemai Karuvelam trees within two months.

90. What is Tejaswini Project of Government of India?

The Union Government has signed a Financing Agreement with World Bank for IDA credit of $63 million for the Tejaswini Socio-Economic Empowerment of Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) Project.

It is World Bank’s first project in India solely focused on the welfare of adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) aged between 14 and 24 to complete their secondary level education and provide relevant skills for job market.

This project seeks to empower adolescent girls with basic life skills to acquire market driven skill training or completion of secondary education, depending on the inclination of the beneficiary. Its three main components are

  • Expanding social, educational and economic opportunities:Support AGYW to achieve greater social, educational, and economic empowerment at community level and institutional level.
  • Intensive service delivery:It will evaluate more intensive community-level service delivery models focused on increasing AGYW’s access to educational interventions, training and employment opportunities
  • State capacity-building and implementation support:It aims to support strengthening of institutional capacity and outreach of concerned government agencies to enable effective and efficient delivery of services for AGYW in the state.
  • Life skills education includes four core elements: (i) Resilience and soft skills (ii) Rights and protections (iii) Health and nutrition. (iv) Financial literacy.

The project is being delivered in 17 Districts of Jharkhand. About 680,000 adolescent girls and young women in these districts are expected to benefit from the program.

91. What is SWATHI system?

In March 2017, the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) formally handed over an indigenously developed Weapon Locating Radar (WLR) system dubbed as ‘SWATHI’ to Indian Army. SWATHI, developed by DRDO’s Electronics & Radar Development Establishment (LRDE), has a range of 50 km which brings all artillery guns presently in service worldwide under its coverage.

  • Performs two roles i.e. Weapon Location Mode for enemy Artillery and Direction of Own artillery Fire (DOOAF) Mode for Artillery.
  • Provides quick, automatic and accurate location of all enemy weapons like mortars, shells and rockets firing within its effective zone of coverage.
  • Simultaneously it can handle multiple projectiles fired from different weapons at different locations. It can also direct artillery response based on the incoming enemy fire.
  • It has been extensively tested along the Line of Control (LoC). Four such systems are currently in operation and another 30 are on order for the Indian Army.

The WLR has been a critical requirement of the Indian Army and in the aftermath of the Kargil conflict it was imported from the US in 2002 to fill critical needs.

92. What were Operation Thunderbird and Operation Save Kurma ?

Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) has successfully coordinated Operation Thunder Bird from January 30 to February 19, 2017 in its fight to end poaching of India’s wildlife animals. It also had convened Operation Save Kurma, a species specific operation on turtles between 15 December 2016 and 30 January 2017. 

Key Facts
  • Operation Thunderbird:It is code-name of INTERPOL’s (International Criminal Police Organization) multi-national and multi-species enforcement operation for wildlife protection.
  • It has resulted in huge seizures of 2, 524 Live species of scheduled animals, 9 wild animal carcasses, 19.2 kg elephant ivory, 1 tiger skin, 1 organ pipe coral, 1 jar snake venom, 8 leopard skins and 1 Indian Mujtac skin.
  • The operation brought about a unanimous approach by the state enforcement agencies in the fight against wildlife crime in the country.
  • It had received overwhelming response from the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Maharashtra, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Uttrakhand, Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.
  • Operation Save Kurma:It was species specific operation on turtles. Under it total of 15,739 live turtles were recovered from 45 suspects, having inter-state linkages.
  • It helped the enforcement agencies to focus on the existing trade routes and major trade hubs in the country, which will be continued in future.

93. What are the main functions of Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB)?

WCCB is statutory multi-disciplinary body under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) to combat organized wildlife crime in the country.

It was established in June 2007 by amending the Wildlife (Protection) Act (WLPA), 1972, a special Act to protect the wildlife and fauna in the country.

It is headquartered in New Delhi and has five regional offices at Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Jabalpur; three sub-regional offices at Amritsar, Guwahati, and Cochin; and five border.

  • Functions:Under Section 38 (Z) of WLPA, 1972, it is mandated to collect and collate intelligence related to organized wildlife crime and disseminate it to state and other enforcement agencies for immediate action.
  • It assist foreign authorities and international organization concerned to facilitate co-ordination and universal action for wildlife crime control.
  • It is tasked with capacity building of the wildlife crime enforcement agencies for scientific and professional investigation into wildlife crimes and assist states to ensure success in wildlife crimes prosecutions.
  • It advises Union Government on issues relating to wildlife crimes having national and international ramifications, relevant policy and laws.

It also assists and advises the Customs authorities in inspection of the consignments of flora & fauna as per the provisions of Wild Life Protection Act, CITES and EXIM Policy governing such an item.

94. What is Kurukh language?

West Bengal Government has given official language status to endangered tribal language Kurukh, mother tongue belonging to the Dravidian family. In West Bengal, it is spoken by Oraon tribal community who live in Dooars (alluvial floodplains in northeastern India that lie south of outer foothills of Himalayas and north of Brahmaputra River basin).

Most of the tribal languages in West Bengal have their origins in the Austro-Asiatic and Tibeto-Barman families. But Kurukh is an exception which has its origin from the Dravidian family is Malto, which is not spoken in West Bengal, but in the Jharkhand’s Rajmahal hills area. Santhali, Munda and Hoe languages spoken in state that belong to Austro-Asiastic family, while the languages spoken by the Tamang, Lepcha and Bhutia tribes of the Darjeeling hills are of the Tibeto-Burman group.

About Kurukh language
  • Kurukh language belongs to subfamily of Dravidian languages, spoken by some 17 lakh people (2001 census report) of the Oraon tribes of Chota Nagpur plateau of east-central India.
  • It is closely related to Kumarbhag Paharia and Sauria Paharia languages, which are together referred to as Malto. Its script is called Tolong Siki.
  • The language has been listed “vulnerable”state in UNESCO’s list of endangered languages.
  • Jharkhand has recognised Kurukh as a language and its script in 2003. It allows students can write their school final examination in its script.

95. What is TIR convention?

The Union Cabinet has given its approval for India’s accession to the Customs Convention on International Transport of Goods under cover of TIR Carnets (TIR Convention) and necessary procedures for ratification.

By joining the convention, Indian traders will get access to fast, easy, reliable and hassle free international system for movement of goods by road or multi-modal means across the territories of other contracting parties.

Key Facts
  • The need for inspection of goods at intermediate borders as well as physical escorts en route shall be obviated by joining the TIR Convention, due to reciprocal recognition of Customs controls.
  • It will avoid clearances at Border Crossing Points and ports that may often be congested, as under the convention customs clearance can take place at internal Customs locations.
  • Movement under the TIR is allowed by only checking the seals and the external conditions of the load compartment or the container.
  • Thus, it will play important role in reducing border delays, transport and transaction costs thereby leading to increased competitiveness and growth for the trade and transport sectors.
  • Compliance with the Convention will ensure enhanced security in the supply chain as only approved transporters and vehicles are allowed to operate under it.
  • It also represents a guarantee for Customs duties and taxes and traffic in transit, so there is no need for payment of such taxes and duties en route.
  • It can serve as an instrument for movement of goods along the International “North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) particularly using ports in Iran like the Chabahar port.
  • It will be helpful in boosting trade with the Central Asian Republics and other Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
About TIR Convention

TIR Carnets, 1975 (TIR Convention) is an international transit system under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

It facilitates the seamless movement of goods within and amongst the Parties to the Convention. At present there are 70 parties to the Convention, including 69 states and the European Union.

It covers customs transit by road and other modes of transport (e.g., rail, inland waterway, maritime transport), as long as at least one part of the total transport is made by road. It also serves as a Customs declaration, and hence it precludes the need to file multiple declarations satisfying national laws of the different transiting countries.

96. What is Mission Fingerling?

This Rs. 520 crore mission was launched in March 2017 for holistic development and management of fisheries sector in India. The mission aims to achieve the target to enhance fisheries production from 10.79 mmt (2014-15) to 15 mmt by 2020-21 under the Blue Revolution.

Under this mission, the government has identified 20 States based on their potential and other relevant factors to strengthen the Fish Fingerling production and Fish Seed infrastructure in the country. This program will facilitate the establishment of Fingerling rearing pond and hatcheries to ensure the fish production of 426 crores fish fingerling, 25.50 crores Post Larvae of shrimp and crab in the country.

This will converge in the production of 20 lakh tonnes of fish annually, which will inturn benefit about 4 million families.

The implementation of this program will supplement the requirement of stocking materials in the country up to a large extent, which is a much needed input to achieve the enhanced fish production.

97. What are advantages of Coal Bed Methane (CBM) as fuel?

CBM is natural gas found in coal seams. It mainly consists of Methane (CH4) with minor amounts of nitrogen (N2), carbon dioxide (CO2) and heavier hydrocarbons like ethane (C2H6). It is clean source of energy.

During the initial years of mining, CBM was vented out and wasted into the atmosphere as it was considered as serious safety hazard while conducting coal mining operations.

However, later with advancement of technology it was possible to extract CBM, a precious energy resource and an unconventional form of natural gas.

Advantages of CBM as a fuel
  • It is environmentally safe and clean fuel which on combustion emits only carbon dioxide and water.
  • It is not only considered as an efficient fuel but also reduces emission of greenhouse gas from coal mining.
  • Its extraction prior to coal mining activities makes mining activities safer by degassing the coal seams.

98. What are main features of National Health Policy, 2017?

The National Health Policy 2017 has replaced previous policy which was framed 15 years ago in 2002. It aims at providing healthcare in an “assured manner” to all by addressing current and emerging challenges arising from the ever changing socio-economic, epidemiological and technological scenarios.

Highlights of National Health Policy, 2017
  • It aims to raise public healthcare expenditure to 2.5% of GDP from current 1.4%, with more than two-thirds of those resources going towards primary healthcare.
  • It envisages providing alarger package of assured comprehensive primary healthcare through the ‘Health and Wellness Centers’.
  • It is a comprehensive package that will include care for major non-communicable diseases (NCDs), geriatric healthcare, mental health, palliative care and rehabilitative care services.
  • It proposes free diagnostics, free drugs and free emergency and essential healthcare services in all public hospitals in order to provide healthcare access and financial protection.
  • It seeks to establish regular tracking ofdisability adjusted life years (DALY) Index as a measure of burden of disease and its major categories trends by 2022.
  • It aims to improve and strengthen the regulatory environment by putting in place systems for setting standards and ensuring quality of healthcare.
  • It also looks at reforms in the existing regulatory systems both for easing drugs and devices manufacturing to promote Make in India and also reforming medical education.
  • It advocates development of mid-level service providers, public health cadre, nurse practitioners to improve availability of appropriate health human resource.
Targets
  • It aims to ensure availability of 2 beds per 1000 population to enable access within golden hour. It proposes to increase life expectancy from 67.5 to 70 years by 2025.
  • It aims to reduce total fertility rate (TFR) to 2.1 at sub-national and national level by 2025.
  • It also aims to reduce mortality rate (MR) of children under 5 years of age to 23 per 1000 by 2025 and maternal mortality rate (MMR) to 100 by 2020.
  • It also aims to reduce infant mortality rate to 28 by 2019 and reduce neo-natal mortality to 16 and still birth rate to ‘single digit’ by 2025.

99. What are the main features of Draft Labour Code on Social Security & Welfare?

The Union Labour Ministry has proposed a labour code which will provide social security cover to the entire workforce in the country, including self-employed and agricultural workers.

In this regard, it has proposed a draft code on Social Security and Welfare with an aim to provide social security cover to the entire workforce in the country of about 45 crore workers. 

Features of Draft code
  • It will cover every working person whether he/she belongs to the organised sector or the unorganised sector in the country under it.
  • Thus, for the first time, agricultural workers along with self-employed people will be covered under the social security cover. Even factories employing single worker will have to contribute towards social security benefits.
  • It will cover any factory, mine, shop, plantation, charitable organisations and all establishments or households employing casual, fixed-term, part-time, informal, apprentice, domestic and home-based workers.
  • If such establishments or factories fail to contribute towards the social security schemes of the workers, they will be liable to pay compensation.
  • It even covers households employing domestic help and they will also have contribute towards schemes, including gratuity for the worker and provident fund.
  • It proposes,National Social Security Council (NSSC), chaired by the Prime Minister to streamline and make policy on social security schemes related to all the Ministries.
  • NSSC’s other members will include Union Finance Minister, Labour Minister, Health and Family Welfare Minister along with employer and employees’ representatives.
  • It will co-ordinate between central and State governments, monitor the implementation of social security schemes, regulate funds collected under various social security schemes, among others.

100.               What are main features of India’s National Hydrology Project?

The World Bank has approved $175 million for India’s ambitious National Hydrology Project to improve its ability to forecast floods and reduce vulnerability to recurring floods and droughts.

The loan has been issued from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) with maturity of 23 years. It also has a six-year grace period in which no interest payments will be due.

About National Hydrology Project (NHP)
  • NHP was approved by the Union cabinet in April 2016 as a central sector scheme with a total outlay of Rs 3679 crore. Later it was approved by the World Bank Board.
  • Of the total fund, Rs 3,640 crore will be spent for the national project, remaining Rs 39 crore will be used to establish National Water Informatics Centre (NWIC) as a repository of nation-wide water resources data.
  • It aims at improving extent, quality, and accessibility of water resources information, decision support system for floods and basin level resource planning and strengthen capacity of institutions in India.
  • It is expected to take forward the success of the Hydrology Project-I and Hydrology Project-II bycovering the entire country, including the states along the Ganga and Brahmaputra-Barak basins.
  • Earlier Project-I and Project-II were limited only to large river systems viz. Krishna and Satluj-Beas. They had established real-time flood forecast systems to give reservoir managers an accurate picture of the water situation in their region.
  • The early forecast had increased the time available for early flood warnings and improved flood management preparation from hours to days, saving hundreds of lives and avoided flood damages of $65 million a year.
Potential Advantages NHP
  • It will strengthen the capacity of existing institutions to assess the water situation and equip them with real-time flood forecast systems across the country.
  • It will help the states monitor all the important aspects of the hydro-meteorological cycle and adopt the procedures laid out in the earlier projects.
  • It will help communities to plan in advance to build resilience against flooding and droughts due to uncertainties of climate change
  • It will reduce the vulnerability of many regions to recurring floods and droughts as absence of real-time ground information for the entire country creates difficulties in issuing alerts on time.

Comments

  • vartika singh

    Hello sir, the download link seems to be not operating.

    • IASPOINT

      Can you please delete browser history / cache and check again. Its working but may be some browser issue that side.