ias-toppers-project-loon
Current Affairs Analysis

18th February 2017 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Project Loon; Indo-Pakistan border; ‘National Song’; National Regulatory Authority (NRA) of India; Index of Economic Freedom 2017; INSV Tarini; ICGS AYUSH; Cryogenic Engine; GSLV Mark III rocket; “GraphAir” technology; South Asian Speakers Summit; etc.
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
February 18, 2017

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Govt. junks border wall plan
  • There’s no concept of National Song: SC
  • Governor not ‘duty-bound’ by popular will, says SC
  • Maximum Possible Marks to Indian NRA in WHO Assessment

Economy

  • India slips to 143 in Index of Economic Freedom 2017, behind Pak, Bhutan

Defence & Security Issues

  • INSV Tarini inducted
  • Indian Coast Guard Ship ICGS AYUSH commissioned

Science & Technology

  • Project Loon can now predict weather systems
  • ISRO successfully tests largest cryogenic engine for GSLV Mark III rocket
  • Scientists develop high-quality graphene from soybean

Key Facts for Prelims

  • South Asian Speakers Summit

 

Polity & Governance

Govt. junks border wall plan

The Centre has given up its proposal to build a wall along the Pakistan border in Jammu, originally envisaged as a barrier to cross-border terror.

Why?

  • The wall proposal was opposed by Pakistan, which shot off letters to the United Nations Security Council in 2015 accusing India of converting what it called a “working boundary” into a “quasi international boundary.”
  • The Indian Army too opposed the embankment, saying it would pose hurdles for their forward movement during military operations.
  • Also, unlike the Line of Control, the International Border is densely populated and has fertile agrarian land. Not many people were willing to let go of their land.

About the proposed wall:

ias-toppers-border-wall-plan

  • The proposed embankment would have been about 135 feet (41 metres) wide and 10 metres high, and would have accommodated bunkers and border outposts.
  • The raised embankment, initiated by the UPA government in 2013 after the twin attacks in the Hiranagar/Samba sector, was to come up along 179 km of the International Border in Jammu.

Way ahead:

  • The government plans to depend on ‘technological solutions’ such as a ‘smart fence’, a seamless virtual fence with sensors to identify any infiltration.
  • The Home Ministry is also working on a Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System (CIBMS) for 24X7 surveillance.

Indo-Pakistan border:

  • India shares 3323 Km (including Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu & Kashmir sector) of its land border with Pakistan.
  • This border runs along the States of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir.
  • The Indo-Pakistan border has varied terrain and distinct geographical features.
  • This border is characterized by attempts at infiltration by terrorists and smuggling of arms, ammunition and contraband, the Line of Control being the most active and live portion of the border.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

There’s no concept of National Song: SC

The Supreme Court has refused to intervene in a petition seeking a direction to the government to frame a national policy to promote and propagate the ‘National Song’, along with the National Anthem and the National Flag.

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What’s the issue?

  • The decision came on a petition contending that a national policy should be framed “in the spirit of Article 51A to achieve the great golden goals, as set out in the Preamble of the Constitution of India.”
  • The petition also sought the court to “ascertain the feasibility of singing/playing the National Anthem and National Song in the Parliament/Assembly, public offices, courts and schools on every working day.”

Article 51A(a):

  • Article 51A(a) mandates that citizens should abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem.

Court’s response:

  • According to the supreme court, “there is no concept of National Song”. Article 51A (a), citing the citizens’ fundamental duties, does not refer to ‘National Song.’ It only refers to National Flag and National Anthem.

 [Ref: The Hindu]

 

Governor not ‘duty-bound’ by popular will, says SC

Amid the ongoing power-politics in the state of Tamil Nadu, Supreme Court’s previous judgment comes in light to clear the picture of powers of governor.

ias-toppers-tamil-nadu

What’s the issue?

As Tamil Nadu politics witnessed a churn, the State’s Governor has come under intense scrutiny for not inviting AIADMK interim general secretary V.K. Sasikala to form the government despite the fact that her faction commanded a majority in the Legislative Assembly.

However, a 2011 Supreme Court Judgment empowers Governor to use discretion.

Supreme Court’s judgement:

  • A 2001 Supreme Court precedent holds that a State Governor should not always be swayed by “popular will” or the “brute” support a chief minister aspirant enjoys from her party MLAs.
  • It said the Constitution empowers the Governor, while appointing a chief minister, to use his discretion to ensure a stable government.
  • The court held that the Constitution does not give elected members of a majority party unfettered right to elect an incompetent or disqualified person as chief minister.
  • The court also held that “the contention that in all eventualities whatsoever the Governor is bound by the decision of the majority party is not a correct proposition. The Governor cannot be totally deprived of element of discretion in performance of duties of his office, if ever any such exigency may so demand its exercise”.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Maximum Possible Marks to Indian NRA in WHO Assessment

WHO has completed the assessment of the status of the Indian vaccine regulatory system against WHO NRA Global Benchmarking Tool (GBT) for benchmarking and measured the maturity of the system.

ias-toppers-national-regulatory-authority-nra-of-india

Key facts:

  • The assessment has been carried out by a WHO team comprising lead experts in different areas from WHO Headquarters Geneva, WHO India Country Office, experts drawn from the regulators of USA, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Indonesia, Thailand and Egypt.
  • The assessment has been done in respect of nine different functionalities and Indian National Regulatory Authority (NRA) has been declared ‘functional’ with a maturity level of 4 i.e. the highest level as per currently evolved definitions in respect of 5 functions, and maturity level 3 in respect of 4 functions.
  • While, maturity level 4 indicates good results and sustained improvement trends, maturity level 3 reflects systematic process based approach, early stage of systematic improvements, data availability regarding conformance to objectives and existence of improvement trends.

Need for assessment:

India is one of the main players in the pharmaceutical industry worldwide and often is referred as pharmacy of the world. India, as a large vaccine producing country, is currently supplying several vaccines to the United Nations agencies (UNICEF, WHO and PAHO).

A fully functional NRAI is a pre-requisite for WHO prequalification of vaccines. One of the requirements to become eligible and retain prequalification status is to get assessed.

About NRAI:

National Regulatory Authority (NRA) of India comprises the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO), State Drug Regulatory Authorities, Pharmaco-vigilance Programme of India (PvPI) and Adverse Events Following Immunization (AEFI) structures at the Central and States levels.

[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Economy

India slips to 143 in Index of Economic Freedom 2017, behind Pak, Bhutan

India was ranked 143rd out of 186 economies in the annual Index of Economic Freedom 2017 that measures the degree of economic freedom in the countries of the world.

ias-toppers-index-of-economic-freedom

About the index:

  • The index was released by top US based Think Tank, The Heritage Foundation.
  • The Index ranks countries based on score ranging 0 to 100, with 0 being the least free and 100 the most free.
  • The score is based on 12 factors of economic freedom, separated into four categories, using statistics from international organizations like World Bank, IMF, Economist Intelligence Unit and Transparency International. They are:
  1. Rule of Law (property rights, government integrity, judicial effectiveness).
  2. Government Size (government spending, tax burden, fiscal health).
  3. Regulatory Efficiency (business freedom, labour freedom, monetary freedom).
  4. Open Markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom).
  • Based on the score, countries are grouped in 5 different categories:
  1. Free (80–100),
  2. Mostly Free (70.0–79.9),
  3. Moderately Free (60.0–69.9),
  4. Mostly Unfree (50.0–59.9) and
  5. Repressed (0–49.9).

Highlights of 2017 Economic Freedom Index:

India:

  • In this edition, India’s overall score was 52.6 points, 3.6 points less than scored in 2016 when it was ranked 123rd.
  • India was placed in the category of “Mostly Unfree” Economies (points ranging from 50.0-59.9).
  • India’s progress on market-oriented reforms has been uneven. India has combination of advance technology and manufacturing sectors of developed world as well as traditional sectors, characteristic of a lesser developed economy.
  • Extreme wealth and poverty coexist in India as it both modernises rapidly and struggles to find paths to inclusive development for its large population.
  • India is a significant force in world trade, but underdeveloped infrastructure, corruption and poor management of public finance undermines its overall development.

Global:

  • Top 5 countries are: Hong Kong (1st), Singapore (2nd) and New Zealand (3rd), Switzerland (4th) and Austria (5th).
  • India’s neighbours, Nepal (125th), Sri Lanka (112th), Pakistan (141st), Bhutan (107th), and Bangladesh (128th) have surpassed India.
  • Only Afghanistan (163rd) and Maldives (157th) were ranked below India.
  • China with a score of 57.4 points ranked 111th which is 5.4 points above 2016 score.
  • United States was ranked 17th with a score of 75.1 points.
  • The world average score was 60.9, highest recorded in the 23-year history of the index.
  • 49 countries majority of developing countries and also Norway and Sweden have achieved their highest-ever index scores.
[Ref: Indian Express]

 

Defence & Security Issues

INSV Tarini inducted

ias-toppers-insv-tarini

  • Indian Navy’s second ocean-going sailboat INSV (Indian Naval Sailing Vessel) Tarini, the platform for the first Indian all-women expedition of globe circumnavigation, was inducted at the INS Mandovi Boat Pool in Goa.
  • It is a sloop built by Divar-based Aquarius Shipyard.
  • The boat draws her origin from the famous Tara-Tarini temple of Orissa’s Ganjam district. Tara-Tarini is a patron deity for sailors and merchants and is worshipped for safety and success at sea.
  • INSV Tarini’s predecessor INSV Mhadei learning experiences have been incorporated into it.
  • The INSV Mhadei has sailed over 1,15,000 nautical miles in the past eight years. It includes voyages like the first Indian solo globe circumnavigation undertaken by Dilip Donde in 2009 and the first solo, non-stop unassisted circumnavigation undertaken by Abhilash Tomy in 2013.

 

Indian Coast Guard Ship ICGS AYUSH commissioned

ias-toppers-icgs-ayush

  • Indian Coast Guard Ship ICGS AYUSH was commissioned at Kochi, Kerala.
  • ICGS AYUSH is the 20th and the last in the series of 20 Fast Patrol Vessels (FPVs) built by Cochin Shipyard Ltd.
  • The ship is capable of undertaking multifarious tasks such as surveillance, interdiction, search and rescue, anti-smuggling and medical evacuation.
  • It will also play a secondary role of providing a communication link and escort coastal conveys in times of war.
  • Fast Patrol Vessels (FPVs) are intended to help secure Indian waters by patrolling within the Exclusive Economic Zone and help in fisheries protection.

 

Science & Technology

Project Loon can now predict weather systems  

Researchers at Google have moved a step closer to rolling out a network of huge balloons to provide Internet connectivity to billions of people around the world, particularly those in difficult-to-reach rural areas.

ias-toppers-project-loon

How does it possible?

  • The Project Loon team, part of the company’s X research lab, said it can now use machine learning to predict weather systems.
  • By using machine-learning algorithms, Google thinks it has found a way to predict weather with enough accuracy to make it possible to hover balloons over a relatively small area for a long period of time.
  • The advance means Google has much more control over where its balloons reach, making it possible to focus on a specific region, rather than circumnavigating the globe.

About Project Loon:

  • Project Loon is a research and development project being developed by Google.
  • Objective of the project is to provide Internet access to rural and remote areas and to improve communication during natural disasters to affected regions.

How it works?

  • The project uses high-altitude balloons placed in the stratosphere at an altitude of about 18 km to create an aerial wireless network with up to 4G-LTE speeds.
  • The balloons are manoeuvred by adjusting their altitude in the stratosphere to float to a wind layer after identifying the wind layer with the desired speed and direction using wind data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
  • Users of the service connect to the balloon network using a special Internet antenna attached to their building.
  • The signal travels through the balloon network from balloon to balloon, then to a ground-based station connected to an Internet service provider (ISP), then onto the global Internet.

Why in Stratosphere?

  • Google asserts that this particular layer of the stratosphere is advantageous because of its relatively low wind speeds (e.g., wind speeds between 10 to 30 kmph) and minimal turbulence.
  • Moreover, Google claims that it can model, with reasonable accuracy, the seasonal, longitudinal, and latitudinal variations in wind speeds within the 18–25 km stratospheric layer.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

ISRO successfully tests largest cryogenic engine for GSLV Mark III rocket

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has achieved yet another milestone by successfully testing India’s largest cryogenic engine that it has indigenously developed.

ias-toppers-cryogenic-engine-for-gslv-mark-iii-rocket

  • ISRO is now all set to test GSLV Mark III rocket which will be powered by this engine.

Key facts:

  • India is now world’s sixth country, after Russia, USA, France, China, and Japan, to acquire the technology to manufacture such engines.
  • India’s indigenously developed cryogenic engine is capable of lifting 4-ton class satellites into the geo-synchronous orbit.
  • It will be used on ISRO’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mark III rocket. The geo-synchronous orbit, located 22,236 miles (35,786 kilometers) above Earth’s equator, is the most suitable site for monitoring weather, communications and surveillance.

About GSLV Mark III rocket:

ias-toppers-gslv-mark-iii-rocket

  • The GSLV Mk. III launch vehicle is an evolved version of India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle developed and operated by the Indian Space Research Organization.
  • GSLV Mk III is conceived and designed to make ISRO fully self-reliant in launching heavier communication satellites of INSAT-4 class, which weigh 4500 to 5000 kg.
  • GSLV Mark III rocket is almost 50 meters high and weighs 414 tons.
  • It would also enhance the capability of the country to be a competitive player in the multimillion dollar commercial launch market.
  • GSLV-Mk III is designed to be a three-stage vehicle.
  • The GSLV-III features an Indian cryogenic third stage and a higher payload capacity than the current GSLV.
  • The GSLV project was initiated in the 1990s when India determined that the country needed its own launch capability for Geosynchronous Satellites to become independent from other launch providers.
  • It was developed indigenously after Russia, under pressure from the United States in the late 1980s, refused to transfer India the technology requited to build such engines.
[Ref: Indian Express]

 

Scientists develop high-quality graphene from soybean

In a breakthrough, scientists have used the humble soybean to make the world’s strongest material graphene commercially more viable.

ias-toppers-graphene-from-soybean

What is Graphene?

  • Graphene is a carbon material that is one atom thick.
  • Its thin composition and high conductivity also enable thinner wire connections; providing extensive benefits for computers, solar panels, batteries, sensors and other devices.
  • Graphene has excellent electronic, mechanical, thermal and optical properties as well. Its uses range from improving battery performance in energy devices, to cheaper solar panels.
  • The potential applications of graphene include water filtration and purification, renewable energy, sensors, personalised healthcare and medicine, to name a few.

Background:

Until now, the high cost of graphene production has been the major roadblock in its commercialisation.

About “GraphAir” technology:

  • Previously, graphene was grown in a highly-controlled environment with explosive compressed gases, requiring long hours of operation at high temperatures and extensive vacuum processing.
  • Scientists from Australia have developed a novel “GraphAir” technology which eliminates the need for such a highly-controlled environment.
  • The technology grows graphene film in ambient air with a natural precursor, making its production faster and simpler.
  • GraphAir transforms soybean oil – a renewable, natural material – into graphene films in a single step.
  • With heat, soybean oil breaks down into a range of carbon building units that are essential for the synthesis of graphene.

Significance:

  • This ambient-air process for graphene fabrication is fast, simple, safe, potentially scalable, and integration friendly.
  • It is expected to reduce the cost of graphene production and improve the uptake in new applications.
  • It also results in good and transformable graphene properties, comparable to graphene made by conventional methods.
[Ref: Indian Express]

 

Key Facts for Prelims

South Asian Speakers Summit

ias-toppers-south-asian-speakers-summit

  • The two-day South Asian Speakers Summit was inaugurated by Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan at Indore in Madhya Pradesh.
  • The summit is being organised jointly by the Indian Parliament and Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), a global organisation for multilateral political and legislative discussions.
  • The speakers would discuss achieving sustainable goals, including poverty, development, environment and gender concerns in South Asia, the home to over 25% of the world population.
  • It was attended by President of Inter-Parliamentary Union Saber Chowdhury, Speakers of National Assemblies of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lankan, and Nepal.

 

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