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Current Affair Analysis

14th June 2019 Current Affairs Analysis -IASToppers

Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO); Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl (PFAs); Strait of Hormuz; Sheath Blight disease; Jammu & Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Bill; Asiatic Golden cat; Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV); Scram jet and Ram jet; Hypersonic weapon; Jnanpith Award; Spectrum-Roentgen-Gamma (SRG) Telescope; Windrush Scheme; Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019; Triple Talaq; Information Fusion Centre — Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR); Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019; etc.
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
June 14, 2019

Contents

Government Schemes & Policies

  • Aadhaar Amendment Bill gets Cabinet nod, to be introduced in coming Parliament session
  • Cabinet approves fresh bill to ban triple talaq
  • Government clears Jammu & Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Bill providing govt jobs to Pahari community

Issues related to Health & Education

  • How do lethal PFA chemicals enter your body?

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Six different ‘colour morphs’ of Asiatic golden cat discovered in Arunachal

Bilateral & International Relations

  • Prime Minister of India arrived in Bishkek for SCO Summit
  • Hundreds more Indians confirmed as British under Windrush Scheme
  • Strait of Hormuz is threatening the global oil market

Defence & Security Issues

  • Indian Navy hosts maritime information sharing workshop at IFC-IOR

Science & Technology

  • Scientists unravel the fungus responsible for Sheath Blight disease in rice
  • New space telescope to create a 3D X-ray map of Universe
  • India successfully test fires hypersonic cruise missile

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Amitav Ghosh becomes first English writer to win Jnanpith Award

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Government Schemes & Policies

Aadhaar Amendment Bill gets Cabinet nod, to be introduced in coming Parliament session

The Cabinet cleared a Bill, which replaces Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019, to allow voluntary use of Aadhaar as identity proof for opening bank accounts and procuring mobile phone connections.

Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019 1 Current Affairs Analysis

Highlights of Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) bill:

Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019

  • Provides for voluntary use of Aadhaar number in physical or electronic form by authentication or offline verification with the consent of Aadhaar number holder
  • Provides for use of twelve-digit Aadhaar number and its alternative virtual identity to conceal the actual Aadhaar number of an individual
  • Gives an option to children who are Aadhaar number holders to cancel their Aadhaar number on attaining the age of eighteen years
  • Permits the entities to perform authentication only when they are compliant with the standards of privacy and security specified by the Authority; and the authentication is permitted under any law made by Parliament or is prescribed to be in the interest of State by the Central Government
  • Allows the use of Aadhaar number for authentication on voluntary basis as acceptable KYC document under the Telegraph Act, 1885 and the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002
  • Proposes deletion of section 57 of the Aadhaar Act relating to use of Aadhaar by private entities
  • Prevents denial of services for refusing to, or being unable to, undergo authentication
  • Provides for establishment of Unique Identification Authority of India Fund
  • Provides for civil penalties, its adjudication, appeal thereof in regard to violations of Aadhaar Act and provisions by entities in the Aadhaar ecosystem

Significance:

  • The decision would enable UIDAI to have a more robust mechanism to serve the public interest and restrain the misuse of Aadhar.
  • Subsequent to this amendment, no individual shall be compelled to provide proof of possession of Aadhaar number or undergo authentication for the purpose of establishing his identity unless it is so provided by a law made by Parliament.
  • For the convenience of general public in opening of bank accounts, the proposed amendments would allow the use of Aadhaar number for authentication on voluntary basis as acceptable KYC document under the Telegraph Act, 1885 and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002.

Background:

Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019 2

  • The Supreme Court in its judgement had held Aadhaar to be constitutionally valid. However, it read down/struck down few sections of the Aadhaar Act and Regulations and gave several other directions in the interest of protecting the fundamental rights to privacy.
  • Consequently it was proposed to amend the Aadhaar Act, Indian Telegraph Act and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act in line with the Supreme Court directives and the report of Justice B.N.Srikrishna (Retd.) committee on data protection, in order to ensure that personal data of Aadhaar holder remains protected against any misuse and Aadhaar scheme remains in conformity with the Constitution.
[Ref: PIB]

 

Cabinet approves fresh bill to ban triple talaq

The Union Cabinet approved a fresh bill banning the practice of instant triple talaq, after the controversial original bill was held back by the opposition.

3pal talak

The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019

  • The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019 replaces an ordinance issued in February after the previous bill lapsed.
  • The so-called triple talaq Bill was one of the signature legislative initiatives of the previous government, but was stuck in the Rajya Sabha over the opposition’s demand for closer scrutiny by a select committee.

Highlights of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Second Ordinance, 2019:

  • The bill, to be introduced in the parliamentary session, makes it illegal for a Muslim man to divorce his wife by uttering the word “talaq” three times and provides for a jail term of three years for violators.
  • It makes all declaration of talaq, including in written or electronic form, to be void (i.e. not enforceable in law) and illegal.
  • It defines talaq as talaq-e-biddat or any other similar form of talaq pronounced by a Muslim man resulting in instant and irrevocable divorce.  Talaq-e-biddat refers to the practice under Muslim personal laws where pronouncement of the word ‘talaq’ thrice in one sitting by a Muslim man to his wife results in an instant and irrevocable divorce. 
  • The offence may be compounded by the Magistrate upon the request of the woman (against whom talaq has been declared. Compounding refers to the procedure where the two sides agree to stop legal proceedings and settle the dispute.  The terms and conditions of the compounding of the offence will be determined by the Magistrate.
  • A Muslim woman against whom talaq has been declared, is entitled to seek subsistence allowance from her husband for herself and for her dependent children.
  • A Muslim woman against whom such talaq has been declared, is entitled to seek custody of her minor children. 

History of Triple Talaq Issue :

  • Private matters of Muslims in India are governed by the Muslim Personal Laws or the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937.
  • Marriage is also governed by Muslim Personal Law unless the marriage is registered under the Special Marriage Act of 1954.
  • Since it was the divorced woman who suffered most, Triple Talaq ‘s practice was challenged through public interest litigation.
  • The issue of triple talaq became public in 1985 in the case of Shah Bano Begum.
  • The matter came to an end with the adoption of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce Act), which made it necessary for the husband to pay his wife’s food 90 days after divorce.
  • In 2002, the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court invalidated the triple talaq by referring to the Quran Dagdu Pathan vs Rahimbi. In this case, the court declared that a Muslim husband cannot refuse marriage at will.
  • In the Landmark case of Shayara Bano vs Union of India, Supreme Court’s said that Instant Triple Talaq is unconstitutional as it violated Islamic law while being used as a tool to oppress women.
[Ref: Live Mint]

 

Government clears Jammu & Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Bill providing govt jobs to Pahari community

Ministry of Information and Broadcasting announced that the Cabinet has approved the Jammu Kashmir (Amendment) Bill, 2014

j&k 333

About the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Bill, 2014:

  • The Jammu & Kashmir Reservation (Amendment) Bill, 2014, provides reservation to the persons belonging to Pahari community, clan or tribe having distinct cultural, ethnic and linguistic identity, in government jobs.
  • The amendment provides for the addition of a separate category of the persons belonging to the Pahari community among the socially and educationally backward classes (other than Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes).
  • These residents can avail reservation in direct recruitment, promotion and admission in different professional courses.

Need:

  • Due to the remoteness and inaccessibility of the areas of their residence, the Pahari community has historically faced considerable economic distress leading to overall socio-economic backwardness.
  • They are not able to compete with other sections of the society who are better placed in terms of socio-economic positions.
  • Moreover, Pahari People are not able to derive any benefit even at the lower rung in terms of getting employment.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Issues related to Health & Education

How do lethal PFA chemicals enter your body?

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl (PFAs), currently unregulated in India, are a group of artificial chemicals used in many items of daily use.

How-do-lethal-PFA-chemicals-enter-your-body

What are PFAs?

  • Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are synthetic chemicals found in many products.
  • This are the group of over 4,000 synthetic chemicals that have been in use world-wide since the 1940s.
  • They are found in a wide array of consumer and industrial products, including firefighting foam; stain and water-resistant coatings, clothing and carpet; cookware; and waxes and cleaners.
  • PFAS are highly mobile in the environment, which means they can migrate easily through groundwater to public and private water supplies.
  • In addition, because they are resistant to heat, water and oil, they are highly resistant to natural biodegradation and very difficult to treat with most remedial technologies.

Health concerns over PFAS:

  • Certain types of PFAS, such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), don’t break down in the environment or in the human body, and that may cause problems.
  • These chemicals can be fatal for human beings, travelling through bloodstreams and collecting in the kidney and liver.

PFAS in India:

  • In India, the PFAs are unregulated.
  • India joined as a party to the Stockholm Convention in 2006 and in turn, the Convention included India’s name to the PFA global restriction list in 2009. But, India has not accepted this amendment till now.
  • Brands which sell perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) free cookware, usually label the product. But this label is not completely fool-proof and it is likely that many of these manufacturers are simply using fluoropolymers made without using PFOA.

Key Facts:

  • Firefighting foam that includes PFAS consistently performs better in tests compared with nonfluorinated (PFAS-free) firefighting foam.
  • However, More than 50 commercial airports in major cities around the world and several of the biggest companies in the oil and gas industry have ceased using fluorinated firefighting foam and opted for alternatives.
  • China is the only country seeking an exemption for PFAS-containing firefighting foam.
[Ref: DownToEarth]

 

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Six different ‘colour morphs’ of Asiatic golden cat discovered in Arunachal

Scientists have discovered six different ‘colour morphs’ of the Asiatic golden cat in Arunachal Pradesh, that may be the world’s greatest number of different-colored wild cat species ever reported in one area.

Six different ‘colour morphs’ 122

About the newly discovered wild cats:

  • The study was carried out by The Zoological Society of London across Dibang Valley in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • The findings indicate that the ‘near-threatened’ Asiatic golden cat species which is native to north-eastern Indian subcontinent could become one of the most adaptable predator in Eastern Himalayas.
  • The wide variation displayed in the cat’s skin enables them to occupy different habitats at different elevations from wet tropical lowland forests to alpine scrubs and provides camouflage while hunting different prey.

What are Colour morphs?

  • Colour morphs are basically occurrence of two or more discrete colour forms of the animal within a population, due to a genetic mutation. For example- Black panther is a color morph of the common leopard.
  • These color morphs are not classified as different sub-species as they may live in the same area and even inter-breed. However, if they do not interbreed then this could represent the beginning of the evolutionary process into separate subspecies.

Implications:

  • According to evolutionary theory, if a colour morph is not beneficial for a species survival over time, it should die out in the population.
  • The fact that there are so many different colour morphs persisting in Dibang Valley shows there must be some ecological advantages to the variety of colours.
  • This phenomenon of varying colour could be driven by competition with other big cats such as tigers and clouded leopards, as being dark coloured in the mountains can help them conceal themselves from their prey making them better predators.
  • Understanding how this phenomenon takes hold in a population could help scientists to understand how quickly species can adapt and evolve to changing environments.

About Asiatic Golden cat

  • Asiatic Golden cat or Temminck’s cat is a medium-sized wild cat native to north-eastern Indian subcontinent and is listed as ‘Near Threatened’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
  • The Asian golden cat ranges from eastern Nepal, north-eastern India and Bhutan to Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, southern China, Malaysia and Sumatra.
  • It is known as Shonali Biral in Bangladesh.
  • In parts of China they are known as the ‘rock cat’. Asiatic Golden Cats have long been known in Myanmar and Thailand as ‘fire cats’.
  • It prefers forest habitats interspersed with rocky areas and inhabits dry deciduous, subtropical evergreen and tropical rainforests.
  • The most conspicuous features of this cat are the white lines bordered with black running across the cheeks, and from the inner corners of the eyes up to the crown.
[Ref: The Hindu, Livemint]

 

Bilateral & International Relations

Prime Minister of India arrived in Bishkek for SCO Summit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi embarked on a two-day visit to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit.

184766-modi

About the SCO Bishkek Summit

SCO Summit 2019 is being held in Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan

  • The two-day Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit was held in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan on 13-14 June 2019.
  • The focus of the summit was on global issues, issues dominating a changing and unstable world order and SCO’s role for regional and global stability.
  • At the sidelines of the summit, India held bilateral meetings with Russia and China.

About Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO):

About Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO

  • Seen as a counter to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), SCO is a Eurasian political, economic and military organisation which was founded in 2001 in Shanghai by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
  • These countries, except for Uzbekistan, had been members of the Shanghai Five, founded in 1996; after the inclusion of Uzbekistan in 2001, the members renamed the organisation.
  • Its headquarters is located in Beijing, China.
  • India, which has had an observer status for the past 10 years, was accepted along with Pakistan as full members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in 2017.
  • It has now eight members: China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India and Pakistan.
  • SCO has Afghanistan, Iran, Mongolia and Belarus as observers.
  • The SCO has six dialogue partners, namely the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Armenia, the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, the Republic of Turkey, and the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.The SCO has established relations with the United Nations, where it is an observer in the General Assembly, the European Union, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Hundreds more Indians confirmed as British under Windrush Scheme

More than 450 Indians have confirmed their British citizenship under the government’s ‘Windrush Scheme’, set up in the wake of an immigration scandal in 2018.

Windrush Scheme 1

What is Windrush Scheme?

Windrush Scheme 5

  • The Windrush generation refers to citizens of former British colonies who arrived before 1973, when the rights of such Commonwealth citizens to live and work in Britain were substantially curtailed.
  • The Windrush Scheme enables Commonwealth citizens, their children, and some other long term residents of the UK to obtain documentation confirming their status free of charge.
  • The immigrants referred to under the bracket of ‘Windrush Generation’ relates to a ship named ‘Windrush’, which brought Jamaican workers to the UK shores in 1948.

Eligibility for this scheme:

  • A Commonwealth citizen who settled in the UK before 1 January 1973 or has right of abode
  • A child of a Commonwealth citizen parent who settled before 1 January 1973, where you were born in the UK or arrived in the UK before the age of 18
  • A person of any nationality who settled in the UK before 31 December 1988 and is settled in the UK

Background:

  • The Windrush generation refers to citizens of former British colonies who arrived before 1973, when the rights of such Commonwealth citizens to live and work in Britain were substantially curtailed.
  • The name derives from the ship MV Empire Windrush, which on June 22, 1948, docked in Tilbury, Essex, bringing nearly 500 Jamaicans to the UK.
  • The immigrants came at the invitation of the British government, which was facing a labour shortage due to the destruction caused by World War II.
  • While a large proportion of them were of Jamaican/Caribbean descent who came on the ship Windrush, Indians and other South Asians were also affected by the UK government’s handling of their immigration status.

What is happening to them?

  • A scandal over the treatment of members of the Windrush generation has been mounting in recent months as a multitude of reports have come out about mostly elderly people being denied services, losing their jobs and even facing deportation.
  • Many of the Windrush generation had arrived as children on their parents’ passports. And although they have lived in Britain for many decades – paying taxes and insurance – they never formally became British citizens.
  • Amid the tightening of the immigration rules, an estimated 50,000 long-term UK residents could now be facing problems.
[Ref: Economic Times]

 

Strait of Hormuz is threatening the global oil market

Attacks on two tankers forced the evacuation of more than 40 sailors south of the Strait of Hormuz, a vital gateway for the world’s oil industry.

What is the Strait of Hormuz 2

Attacks on oil tankers:

  • The Strait of Hormuz, sometimes described as the world’s most important oil choke point, is also an increasingly dangerous place because of recent attacks on tankers, raising fears that the route is vulnerable to assaults that could threaten and destabilise oil prices.
  • The UAE said that four commercial vessels were sabotaged near Fujairah emirate, one of the world’s largest bunkering hubs lying just outside the Strait of Hormuz without naming the entity behind it.

Political tensions:

  • The United States has imposed sanctions on Iran aimed at halting its oil exports. Iran has threatened to disrupt oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz if the United States tries to strangle its economy.
  • The US Navy, based in Bahrain, is tasked with protecting commercial shipping in the area.
  • The Strait of Hormuz could be shut down, in part, because the US Navy maintains a robust presence in the region.
  • Iranians have been mentioned by some people as possible suspects behind the attacks and that they may consider such tactics an appropriate response to the US sanctions.

About the Strait of Hormuz:

  • The strait, separating the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Iran, is 33 kms wide at its narrowest point, but the width of the shipping lane in either direction is only two miles wide.
  • It links the Gulf north of it with the Gulf of Oman to the south and the Arabian Sea beyond.
  • Almost a fifth of the world’s oil passes through the Strait.
  • The bulk of this traffic heads for Asian markets like China, India and Japan.
  • Qatar, the world’s biggest liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter, sends almost all of its LNG through the Strait.

Significant of Strait of Hormuz:

Location of Strait of Hormuz

  • The oil-producing countries around the Persian Gulf, including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran, are crucial for supplying the world oil market. Most of their exports, about 20 per cent of world demand, must travel through the Strait of Hormuz.

Location of Strait of Hormuz:

  • The Strait of Hormuz is a narrow, strategically important strait between the Gulf of Oman in the southeast and the Persian Gulf.
  • On the north coast is Iran and on the south coast is the United Arab Emirates and Musandam, an exclave of Oman.

Background:

  • During the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, the two sides sought to disrupt each other’s oil exports in what was known as the Tanker War.
  • In 2002 an Iranian opposition group reveals that Iran is developing nuclear facilities including a uranium enrichment plant. The US accuses Iran of a clandestine nuclear weapons programme, which Iran denies.
  • As a result, The UN ratifies four rounds of sanctions on Iran between 2006 and 2010 over the nuclear issue.
  • Meanwhile, the United States said Iranian vessels threatened three U.S. Navy ships in the Strait.
  • Iran agreed to rein in its nuclear programme in return for an easing of sanctions under a 2015 deal with the United States and five other global powers. US pulled out of the pact in 2018. However, Western powers fear Iran wants to make nuclear weapons.
  • In July 2018, President of Iran said that Iran could disrupt oil flows through the Strait in response to US calls to reduce Iran’s oil exports to zero.
[Ref: Business Standard, Livemint]

 

Defence & Security Issues

Indian Navy hosts maritime information sharing workshop at IFC-IOR

Information Fusion Centre (IFC) for the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) 5The Indian Navy is hosting a maritime information sharing workshop under the aegis of the Information Fusion Centre — Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) at Gurugram.

About the workshop:

  • The two day workshop aims to acquaint participants about IFC-IOR and its information sharing mechanisms and promote sharing of best practices in this field.
  • Issues such as maritime terrorism, piracy, human and drug trafficking, humanitarian assistance as well as disaster relief and the legal perspective of combating these challenges would be looked into.

About IFC-IOR:

Information Fusion Centre (IFC) for the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) 1

  • The IFC has been established at Gurugram, and is collocated with Information Management and Analysis Centre which is jointly administered by the Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard. This is the single point centre linking all the coastal radar chains to generate a seamless real-time picture of the nearly 7,500-km coastline.
  • It aims to advance Maritime Safety and Security in the Indian Ocean Region; by enhancing maritime domain awareness and coordinating activities.
  • Through this Centre, information on “white shipping”, or commercial shipping, will be exchanged with countries in the region to improve maritime domain awareness in the Indian Ocean.
  • IFC-IOR is also works towards capability building in the region, coordination of incident response and disaster relief, and in time, also share submarine safety information.
  • The setting up of IFC-IOR underscores the governmental approach and effort in line with the Growth of All in the Region (SAGAR).
  • Under IFC-IOR, The Monthly Maritime Security Update (MMSU) provides information on threats to merchant vessels, shipping industry and other maritime stakeholders in the wider Indian Ocean Region in the last one month.
[Ref: The Hindu, PIB]

 

Science & Technology

Scientists unravel the fungus responsible for Sheath Blight disease in rice

fungus

Researchers have identified several genes and gene families in the strain that might account for their disease aggressiveness.

About the Discovery:

National-Institute-of-Plant-Genome-Researchjpg

  • A team of scientists at Delhi-based National Institute of Plant Genome Research has unraveled the genomic diversity associated with aggressiveness of the fungal pathogen that causes the Sheath Blight disease in rice.
  • The team sequenced the genome of the two aggressive fungus strains called BRS11 and BRS13 and compared them with the already available genome of Rhizoctonia solani AG1-IA group.

What is sheath blight disease?

  • Sheath Blight disease is a major issue in rice cultivation.
  • It can cause up to 60 per cent reduction in rice yield.
  • It is difficult to breed disease resistant rice varieties, as there is lack of natural source of disease resistance. Consequently, controlling the disease in a sustainable manner has remained a challenge.

Significance of the new Discovery:

  • The genetic manipulation of the pathogenicity-associated genes in rice through various biotechnological approaches may prove helpful in developing sheath blight resistant rice.
  • Further characterization of the identified genes will be helpful to understand their role in the pathogenesis of the fungus.
[Ref: Thehindubusinessline, Downtoearth]

 

New space telescope to create a 3D X-ray map of Universe

Spectrum-Roentgen-Gamma (SRG) 3

The Spectrum-Roentgen-Gamma telescope aims to detect up to 3 mn supermassive black holes and X-rays from 700,000 stars in the Milky Way.

About the Spectrum-Roentgen-Gamma (SRG) Telescope:

Spectrum-Roentgen-Gamma (SRG)

  • Spektr-RG/SRG is an international cooperative space research mission of Roskosmos (Russia), ESA (Europen Space Agency), MPE (Max-Planck-Institute for extraterrestrial Physics), Germany and NASA.
  • It is a high-energy space observatory planned to launch in June 2019 which will follow on from the Spektr-R satellite telescope launched in 2011.
  • The primary instrument of the mission is eROSITA designed to be used to conduct X-ray survey of universe.
  • The four-year mission will track the evolution of the universe and dark energy that is accelerating its expansion. The SRG will, however, not detect gamma radiation.
  • The telescope is the first to be sensitive to high-energy ‘hard’ X-rays and map the entire sky.

Scientific Objectives:

  • To carry out an all-sky survey in the soft X-ray range (0.3–11 keV) with outstanding sensitivity;
  • To perform a detailed study of selected astrophysical objects during subsequent observations in the harder energy range up to 30 keV.
  • To provide important and timely inputs for the next generation of giant X-ray observatories like IXO (International X-ray Observatory), a collaborative mission of ESA along with NASA and JAXA for the timeframe 2021.

Background:

  • SRG was first proposed in 1987, by Russian astrophysicists, but the fall of Soviet Union in 1991 led to the plans’ cancellation.
  • It was again revived in 2004, but a proposal to send an X-ray telescope to the International Space Station was scrapped when NASA ended its space-shuttle programme in 2011.
  • Finally, the joint mission was approved by the German space agency and Roscosmos later in 2009.
  • X-ray sky surveys have also been conducted by previous missions, but they were not able to map the entire sky.
  • While Germany’s ROSAT mission in the 1990s was sensitive only to ‘soft’ X-rays, with energies of about 2 keV, existing missions, such as NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and NuSTAR, can see high-energy radiation and resolve tiny details of cosmic structures. But, they see only small parts of the sky.
[Ref: DownToEarth]

 

India successfully test fires hypersonic cruise missile

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) conducted a successful first test flight of the indigenously developed Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV) from a base off the Odisha coast.

Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV) 2About the Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV):

Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV)

  • The HSTDV is an unmanned scramjet (allowing supersonic combustion) demonstration vehicle that can cruise up to a speed of mach 6 (or six times the speed of sound) and rise up to an altitude of 32. km in 20 seconds.
  • The HSTDV cruise vehicle is mounted on a solid rocket motor, which will take it to a required altitude, and once it attains certain mach numbers for speed, the cruise vehicle will be ejected out of the launch vehicle.
  • The only other countries that possess this technology are the US, Russia and China.

Uses:

  • It has a range of uses, including missiles of the future, and energy-efficient, low cost and reusable satellite-launch vehicle.
  • Besides its utility for long-range cruise missiles of the future, the dual-use technology will have multiple civilian applications too.

Significance:

  • In case of defence, it can be used to intercept incoming missiles in the outer atmosphere or in the inner atmosphere. It will help add to India’s ballistic missile defence capabilities.

Scram jet and Ram jet:

  • In scram-jet technology (supersonic combustion ramjet), combustion of fuel takes place in a chamber in the missile at supersonic speeds.
  • This is different from a ram jet system where the system collects the air it needs from the atmosphere during the flight at subsonic speeds and the propellants burn in the combustion chamber.

What is a hypersonic weapon?

  • A hypersonic weapon is a missile that travels at Mach 5 or higher, which is at least five times faster than the speed of sound. This means that a hypersonic weapon can travel about one mile per second.
  • A traditional jet engine could operate up to Mach 3 or Mach 4 and so, anything traveling faster would need an altered system such as Scram-jet.
  • There are two types of weapons emerging: hypersonic cruise missiles and hypersonic glide vehicles.
  • Hypersonic cruise missiles are powered all the way to their targets using an advanced propulsion system called a SCRAMJET.
  • Hypersonic cruise missiles can fly at altitudes up to 100,000 feet whereas hypersonic glide vehicles can fly above 100,000 feet.

Background:

  • India has been developing a range of cruise missiles and ballistic missiles to meet its security challenges under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme.
  • These include the Prithvi and Agni missiles as well as the anti-tank Nag and surface to air Akash.
  • India in collaboration with Russia has developed the Brahmos cruise missile.
  • In March, New Delhi, India successfully carried out an anti-satellite missile test that aims to protect its space assets.
[Ref: The Hindu, LiveMint]

 

Key Facts for Prelims 

Amitav Ghosh becomes first English writer to win Jnanpith Award

Amitav Ghosh has been announced as 2018’s Jnanpith Award winner for outstanding contribution towards literature.

Jnanpith Award

  • He is the 1st English language writer to become a Jnanpith laureate.
  • The decision to select Amitav Ghosh for 54th Jananpith Award was taken in a meeting of Jnanpith Selection Board chaired by eminent novelist and scholar Pratibha Ray.
  • Amit Gosh was described as a “path-breaking novelist” by Bharatiya Jnanpith.

About Jnanpith Award:

  • The Jnanpith Award is an Indian literary award for individual contributions to literature.
  • It was instituted in 1961 by the cultural organization Bharatiya Jnanpith to honour the best creative literary writing in any of the 22 “scheduled languages’.
  • The winner gets a cash prize along with a citation and a bronze replica of Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of learning.
  • In 1965, famous Malayalam writer G Sankara Kurup became the first winner of Jnanpith Award.

Famous Works of Amit Ghosh

  • The Circle of Reason
  • The Shadow Lines
  • The Calcutta Chromosome
  • The Glass Palace
  • The Hungry Tide
  • The Ibis trilogy that includes ‘Sea of Poppies’, ‘River of Smoke’, and ‘Flood of Fire’.
[Ref: The Hindu, India Today]

 

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