Polity & Governance
- ECI appoints former IRS officers for Maharashtra polls
Government Schemes & Policies
- The larger picture about inclusive programming
- What is PGS, the heart of the organic food production industry?
- Government launches ‘UMMID’ to tackle inherited genetic diseases of new born babies
Issues related to Health & Education
- Conflicts, climate crisis, online misinformation are big emerging threats to children: UNICEF
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- PM Modi vows to more than double India’s non-fossil fuel target to 450 gigawatts
- Arunachal yields a new frog species
- Even unborn babies can be affected by pollution
- First in pollution control: how Surat industries will trade particulate matter
- Global Climate Strike and #FridaysForFuture
Art & Culture
- Ladakhi Shondol dance created history
- Cyclone ‘Hikaa’ heads towards Oman, away from Gujarat
Science & Technology
- ISRO is developing a methane-powered rocket engine
Key Facts for Prelims
- International Day of Sign Language
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Polity & Governance
ECI appoints former IRS officers for Maharashtra polls
The Election Commission of India (ECI) appointed former IRS officers as special expenditure observers for the forthcoming Maharashtra Assembly elections.
About the new appointments
- The appointments were made by ECI exercising the powers conferred on it under Article 324 of the Constitution and Section 20B of The Representation of the People Act 1951.
- The special observers will be monitoring the work being done by the electoral machinery and ensure that stringent enforcement action is undertaken based on intelligence inputs received through C-VIGIL and Voter Helpline.
Article 324: Gives power to the Election Commission to direct, control, and conduct elections to all Parliament, to the Legislature of every state and of elections to the offices of the President and Vice President.
Section 20B of The Representation of the People Act 1951: Give Election Commission power to nominate to watch the conduct of election and to perform such other functions as may be entrusted to him by the Election Commission.
What is C-VIGIL?
- C-VIGIL is a mobile application that can be used for reporting violations from the date of notifications for bye-election/ assembly/ parliamentary elections.
- The uniqueness of the app is that it only allows Live Photo/ video with auto location capture from within the app to ensure digital evidence for flying squads to act upon in a time-bound manner.
Government Schemes & Policies
The larger picture about inclusive programming
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) recently mandated captioning for TV programming in order to make it accessible to the Deaf or Hard of Hearing population.
- The decision comes nearly four decades after the United States first implemented captioning for the same purpose.
- The motivation for this decision came from the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 which made ‘sub-titles’ on TV a right.
Significance of this move
- India is one of the first major countries in the Global South to have captioning for media access, (Brazil has also done this). However, India is the first country where the importance of captioning, or Same Language Subtitling (SLS) has been established for mass reading literacy.
- It will help in achieving SDG (Sustainable Development Goal)- 4 on quality education as quality education depends on good reading skills.
Other benefits are
- Daily and automatic reading literacy practice for one billion viewers, including 500 million weak-readers who would benefit the most
- Indian language improvement for one billion viewers
- Media access for 65 million aurally challenged people
- Regular exposure to SLS leads to measurable reading skill improvement which result in much higher rates of newspaper and other forms of reading.
Indian Television and Subtitle Scenario
- The average Indian watches TV for 3 hours and 46 minutes every day. Film (24%) and general entertainment (53%) are the dominant genres.
- All English channels in India have been implementing Same Language Subtitling (SLS) for film and general entertainment content for over a decade to help the Indian people grasp unfamiliar English accents, causing rise in viewership.
- There is an active campaign in the United Kingdom to ‘Turn-On-The-Subtitles’ (TOTS) by default in children’s programming.
- The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has taken the most important step toward mainstreaming TV captioning. Now, together with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, policy needs to mandate SLS on all digital Over-The-Top (OTT) platforms.
- Although OTT offer SLS in English, none of them has SLS in the Indian languages, such as Hindi subtitles for Hindi content.
- The entertainment industry must play its part by turning on SLS for audio-visual content in all Indian languages.
What is PGS, the heart of the organic food production industry?
The head of India’s food safety regulator has said that she expects the Union Agriculture Ministry’s Participatory Guarantee Scheme (PGS) to incentivise more farmers to grow organic food.
What is the Participatory Guarantee Scheme (PGS)?
- PGS is a process of certifying organic products, which ensures that their production takes place in accordance with laid-down quality standards.
- The certification is in the form of a documented logo or a statement.
- According to a 2008 definition formulated by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), PGSs are locally focused quality assurance system that certify producers based on active participation of stakeholders and are built on a foundation of trust, social networks and knowledge exchange.
Four pillars of PGS
The government’s 2015 PGS manual underlines that the system in India is based on participatory approach, a shared vision, transparency and trust.
- Participation: Stakeholders such as producers, consumers, retailers, traders etc are collectively responsible for designing and decision-making. Direct communication among the stakeholders helps create an integrity- and trust-based approach with transparency in decision-making.
- Shared Vision: Each stakeholder organisation or PGS group can adopt its own vision conforming to the overall vision and standards of the PGS-India programme.
- Transparency: Transparency is maintained through the active participation of producers in information-sharing at meetings and workshops, peer reviews, and involvement in decision-making.
- Trust: A fundamental premise of PGS is the idea that producers can be trusted. The trustworthiness include a producer pledge made through a witnessed signing of a declaration, and written collective undertakings by the group to abide by the standards of PGS.
Advantages of PGS
- Procedures are simple, documents are basic, and farmers understand the local language
- All members live close to each other and are known to each other. As practising organic farmers themselves, they understand the processes well.
- Because peer appraisers live in the same village, they have better access to surveillance; peer appraisal instead of third-party inspections also reduces costs
- Mutual recognition and support between regional PGS groups ensures better networking for processing and marketing.
- Unlike the grower group certification system, PGS offers every farmer individual certificates, and the farmer is free to market his own produce independent of the group.
- PGS certification is only for farmers or communities that can organise and perform as a group within a village or a cluster of continguous villages, and is applicable only to farm activities such as crop production, processing, and livestock rearing, and off-farm processing by PGS farmers of their direct products.
- Individual farmers or group of farmers smaller than five members are not covered under PGS. They either have to opt for third party certification or join the existing PGS local group.
- PGS ensures traceability until the product is in the custody of the PGS group, which makes PGS ideal for local direct sales and direct trade between producers and consumers.
About International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM)
- Founded in 1972, IFOAM is the only international umbrella organization for the organic food, which represents close to 800 affiliates in more than 120 countries.
- It advocated ‘Organic 3.0‘movement. Organic 3.0 positions organic as a modern, innovative system that has positive impacts on global environmental and social challenges. ‘Organic 1.0’ paved the way for the formation of the organic movement and Organic 2.0 codified the standards and enforced rules that have established the organic sector and helped it to grow.
Functions of IFOAM
- Supply: Facilitating capacity development for sustainable production.
- Awareness Raising: Campaigning and acting as a resource center for organic communications.
- Policy & Guarantee: Advocating and providing support for the creation of a favorable policy environment.
Government launches ‘UMMID’ to tackle inherited genetic diseases of new born babies
The Union Minister for Science & Technology launched UMMID (Unique Methods of Management and treatment of Inherited Disorders) initiative and inaugurated NIDAN (National Inherited Diseases Administration) Kendras.
About UMMID initiative
- UMMID (Unique Methods of Management and treatment of Inherited Disorders) is an initiative of Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology.
- Under this initiative, training centres have been establish to provide training in Biochemical Genetics, Cytogenetics, Molecular Genetics, and Clinical Genetics.
- To establish NIDAN (National Inherited Diseases Administration) Kendras to provide counselling, prenatal testing and multidisciplinary care in Government Hospitals wherein the influx of patients is more
- To produce skilled clinicians in Human Genetics
- To undertake screening of pregnant women (10,000) and new born babies (5000) for inherited genetic diseases in hospitals at seven aspirational districts
- In India’s urban areas, congenital malformations and genetic disorders are the third most common cause of mortality in newborns.
- With a very large population and high birth rate, and consanguineous marriage favored in many communities, prevalence of genetic disorders is high in India.
- According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the following groups of women are at the risk of delivering babies with inherited genetic disorders:
- Pregnant women above the age of 35 years
- Expectant mothers with gestational diabetes
- Women who have consumed medication for epilepsy during pregnancy
- Women who have a family history of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, Thallasemia or Haemophilia
- Cytogenetics is the study of chromosomal structure, location and function in cells. It includes the study of chromosome number and its appearance, the physical location of genes on chromosomes, and chromosomal behaviour in processes such as cell division.
Issues related to Health & Education
Conflicts, climate crisis, online misinformation are big emerging threats to children: UNICEF
In an open letter issued by the UNICEF director marking 30 years since the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UNICEF sounds the alarm on major growing and future challenges facing children.
New set of challenges
UNICEF outlines eight growing challenges for the world’s children
- Today, the number of countries experiencing conflict is the highest it has ever been since the adoption of the Child Rights Convention in 1989. One in four children now live in countries affected by violent fighting or disaster.
Pollution and Climate crisis
- Climate change is becoming a key force behind the recent continued rise in global hunger, and as escalating droughts and flooding degrade food production, the next generation of children will bear the greatest burden of hunger and malnutrition.
- More than half a billion children live in areas with extremely high flood occurrence and almost 160 million in high-drought severity zones.
A decline in mental health
- Mental health disorders among under 18s have been rising steadily over the past 30 years and depression is now among the leading causes of disability in the young.
- The World Health Organization estimates that 62,000 adolescents died in 2016 because of self-harm, which is now the third leading cause of death for adolescents aged 15 –19.
- Migration is not a positive choice but an urgent necessity for many children as they do not have the opportunity for having safe and healthy life in the place they are born.
- Many children migrate without the legal permissions they need, becoming ‘irregular migrants’.
- One of the greatest migrations the world has ever seen is happening not across borders, but within borders, with millions migrating internally from rural to urban areas.
- In 1989, when the Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted, the majority of the world’s children lived in rural areas. Today the majority live in cities, and the urbanization rate is set to grow.
- Too often, young people lack access to an education that will prepare them for contemporary job and business opportunities.
- Meanwhile, in the past 30 years, absolute income inequality has increased significantly, so that some children and families with low incomes are left behind and miss out on the opportunities their richer peers enjoy.
- Every child has a right to a legal identity, to birth registration and a nationality. However, 1 in 4 babies never have an official birth certificate or qualify for a passport.
- If parents are stateless, their children may never be given an identity or birth certificate. This will result in denial of citizenship and other government services.
- The majority of children will grow up as natives of a digital environment saturated with online misinformation. For example, ‘deep fake’ technology uses artificial intelligence techniques to create convincing fakes of audio and video content, relatively easily.
- Online misinformation is already leaving children vulnerable to grooming, abuse, and other forms of exploitation and, in some communities, even prompting resurgence in deadly diseases due to distrust in vaccines fuelled by online misinformation.
- UNICEF is special program of UN devoted to aid national efforts to improve the health, nutrition, education, and general welfare of children.
- It was established in 1946 to provide relief to children in countries devastated by World War II.
- It was formerly known as United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund.
- It is headquartered in New York, United States.
Convention on the Rights of the Child
- The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is a human rights treaty which sets out the rights of children.
- Adopted in 1989, it is the world’s most widely ratified human rights treaty in history.
- Nations that ratify this convention are bound to it by international law. Compliance is monitored by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
- Currently, 196 countries are party to it, including every member of the United Nations except the United States. India ratified this convention in 1992.
This Convention establishes 4 principles:
- Best interest of the child
- Right to life, survival and development
- Respect for the views of the child
The Convention was completed in 2000 with two Protocols and in 2011 with a third one:
The optional Protocol regarding the,
- Involvement of children in armed conflicts
- Sale of children, children prostitution and children pornography
- Complaints procedure before the Committee on the Rights of the Child
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
PM Modi vows to more than double India’s non-fossil fuel target to 450 gigawatts
Indian Prime Minister made a path-breaking pledge, at the UN Global climate summit 2019, to more than double India’s non-fossil fuel target to 450 gigawatts.
- Indian Prime Minister had announced that India will produce 175 GW of non-fossil fuel as part of its commitment to the Paris Climate agreement.
Impact (of announcing 450 GW goal) and Suggestions
Reduce India’s dependence on coal
- It can help to reduce India’s dependence on coal, which contributes to 60% of India’s total carbon emissions. Most of these thermal power plants are in India’s highest polluted regions such as Singrauli in Uttar Pradesh.
- Though India has not given any commitment to reduce use of coal, as China has done under the Paris climate agreement, this shows India’s intent to transit to non-coal based fuel economy.
- However, such a transition will need cost effective technology transfer from the developed countries.
Global leader in Solar technologies
- This target can make India a global leader in new cost effective solar technologies if India can beat China, which leads in manufacturing of cheaper solar photo-voltaic equipment.
- The Global Solar Alliance, initiated by India, with about 80 countries can become an enabler in establishing India as a key manufacturer of solar equipment. However, it has so far not got the required push for innovation in absence of adequate manpower and resources.
- Hence, India needs to focus on green technology research in premier institutes such as Indian Institute of Sciences in Bengaluru and Indian Institutes of Technology, which are working in different fields of new and renewable energy.
- India also needs to provide skill training to youth in the area, which can generate around 10 million jobs by 2022.
Boost to electric mobility
- It can give boost to electric mobility in India.
- Recently, the Finance minister announced new incentives under National Electrical Mobility Mission, 2020 which provides Rs 10,000 crore for the next three years, of which Rs 1,000 crore will be provided to set up charging stations across India.
- Also, Tamil Nadu became the first state recently to notify a new policy on electric vehicles, which has specific timelines for setting up infrastructure for electric vehicles.
- The NITI Aayog had come up with guidelines on setting up of charging stations but most transport bodies have not done much to adopt these guidelines despite the incentives.
- Hence, India needs a national task force of transport ministers to implement a comprehensive national plan on electric mobility, which provides for affordable electric vehicles and low cost replacement policy for good quality batteries.
Highlights of the speech of PM at the UN Global climate summit 2019
- India is working to increase the proportion of the biofuel blend in petrol and diesel.
- India will spend USD 50 billion on the ‘Jal Jeevan Mission’ for water conservation and rainwater harvesting in the next few years.
- India and Sweden will together launch the Leadership group within the Industry transition track.
- India will launch a Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) to make its infrastructure disaster resilient and invited UN member to join this grouping.
- 80 countries have joined the International Solar Alliance initiated by India.
What is Paris Agreement?
- The Paris agreement aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 C.
- It was adopted in December 2015 by over 190 countries and entered into force in November 2016.
[Ref: Business Today]
Arunachal yields a new frog species
Scientists have reported the discovery of a new species of frog from Arunachal Pradesh named ‘eos’, highlighting India’s amphibian diversity amid rising concerns over biodiversity loss.
About discovery of a new species of frog – ‘Microhyla eos’
- The new species is named ‘eos’, after the mythological Greek goddess of dawn as Arunachal Pradesh is also popularly known as the Land of the Rising Sun or the Land of Dawn-lit Mountains.
- It was discovered from riparian habitats in a primary evergreen forest in the Namdapha tiger reserve.
- It is described as the 50th member of the genus Microhyla, a group of narrow-mouthed frogs commonly known as Rice Frogs or Chorus Frogs, widely distributed in Asia.
- Microhyla eos strikingly differs from other narrow-mouthed Chorus frogs by its size, shape, and other morphological features.
- What the scientists found surprising about the newly discovered species, is its evolutionary relationship. DNA analysis revealed that the closest relatives of Microhyla eos are in Southeast Asia rather than in India.
Even unborn babies can be affected by pollution
According to a research, Black carbon particles, which are not even considered to be particularly polluted by WHO standards, typically emitted by vehicle exhaust and coal-fired power plants have been detected on the fetus-facing side of placentas.
Highlights of the study
- Inhalation of black carbon particles can accumulate in the placenta of women through her lungs.
- Traces of black carbon were found on the inward-facing side of the placenta, putting them in direct in contact with the developing fetus. However, there was no evidence of pollution particles in the fetus itself, suggesting the placenta may act as a barrier to the toxins.
- Air pollution is known to have potentially devastating impacts on children’s health. The biggest risk is for low birth weight, which in turn increases the odds for diabetes, asthma, stroke, heart disease and a host of other conditions.
What is placenta?
- The placenta is an organ that develops in women’s uterus during pregnancy. It attaches to the wall of uterus and baby’s umbilical cord arises from it.
What is Black carbon (BC)?
- Black carbon is a component of fine particulate matter. It consists of pure carbon in several linked forms.
- It is formed through the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biofuel, and biomass, and is emitted in both anthropogenic and naturally occurring soot.
- It strongly absorbs sunlight and give soot its black colour.
- Primary sources include emissions from diesel engines, cook stoves, wood burning and forest fires.
Harmful effects of Black carbon:
- Black carbon has recently emerged as a major contributor to global climate change. It remains in the atmosphere for only a few weeks, hence, cutting its emissions would immediately reduce the rate of warming.
- BC is a pollutant known to aggravate breathing disorders. Because BC particles strongly absorb solar and terrestrial radiation and heats up the atmosphere it can upset the monsoon system. If deposited on snow, it could accelerate the heating of snow and quicken the melting of glaciers.
First in pollution control: how Surat industries will trade particulate matter
Recently, the Gujarat government launched Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) which is world’s first market for trading in particulate matter emissions in Surat.
What is particulate matter emissions?
- Particulate matter is total of all solid and liquid particles suspended in air many of which are hazardous, including both organic and inorganic particles, such as dust, pollen, soot, smoke, and liquid droplets.
About Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS)
- The ETS is a regulatory tool for reducing the pollution load in an area and at the same time minimising the cost of compliance for the industry.
- It was launched in Surat.
How will the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) work?
- ETS is a market in which the traded commodity is particulate matter emissions.
- The Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) sets a cap on the total emission load for all industries.
- Various industries can buy and sell the ability to emit particulate matter, by trading permits (in kilograms) under this cap. For this reason, ETS is also called a ‘cap-and-trade’ market.
- An environmental damage compensation will be imposed for emissions in excess of a unit’s permit holdings.
Why was Surat chosen for the scheme?
- In the last five years, the quality of air in Surat has deteriorated. Industries in Surat are emitting way above the cap (of 280 tonnes) at 362 tonnes per month.
- Also, industries in Surat had already installed Continuous Emission Monitoring Systems, which makes it possible to estimate the mass of particulate matter being released.
How does the trading take place?
- At the beginning of every one-month compliance period, 80 per cent of the total cap of 280 tonnes emission for that period is distributed free to all participant units. (i.e., industry can emit 80% of 280 tonnes limit of Particulate matter).
- GPCB will offer the remaining 20 per cent of the permits. Participating units may buy and sell permits among each other during the period.
- These auction will take place on the ETS (Emissions Trading Scheme) – PM trading platform hosted by the National Commodities and Derivatives Exchange e-Markets Limited (NeML).
How will ETS help reduce emissions?
- Purchasing Particulate matter permits helps industries buy some time and make investments later.
- Hence, the idea of this scheme is also to make sure that some industrial units realise that it is cheaper to install Air Pollution Control Module (APCM) and reduce emissions rather than buy permits at a higher cost that will vary due to the bidding process.
Current trading mechanisms for pollution control
- While trading mechanisms for pollution control do exist in many parts of the world, none of them is for particulate matter emissions.
- For example,
- CDM (carbon development mechanism) under the Kyoto Protocol allows trade in carbon credits
- The European Union’s Emission Trading System is for greenhouse gas emission and
- India has a scheme run by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency that enables trading in energy units.
Global Climate Strike and #FridaysForFuture
- Mumbaikars, especially students, marched to the beats of 16-year-old Swedish environment activist Greta Thunberg who led children and adults from 150 countries in a massive global climate strike to protest government and business inaction on climate change.
Global Climate Strike:
- Between September 20 and September 27, 2019 FFF, is marking Global Climate Strike.
- The strike is timed to be in sync with the Climate Action Summit that UN Secretary-General António Guterres will hold on September 23, 2019 to address the “global climate emergency”.
- It is a movement that began in August 2018, after 15 years old Greta Thunberg sat in front of the Swedish parliament every schoolday for three weeks, to protest against the lack of action on the climate crisis.
- On the 8th of September, Greta decided to continue striking every Friday until the Swedish policies provided a safe pathway well under 2-degree C, i.e. in line with the Paris agreement.
- It has now become an international movement of school students who take time off from class to participate in demonstrations to demand action to prevent further global warming and climate change.
Art & Culture
Ladakhi Shondol dance created history
The ongoing Buddhist carnival near the Hemis Monastery in Ladakh has creating history as Shondol dance has broken the previous record of 299 artists dance in the 2018 festival.
About the new world record
- The Shondol dance was held on the concluding day of the Buddhist carnival Naropa festival near the 11th-century Hemis Monastery.
- During the festival, the dance was not only focused on Zero usage of Plastic but also sensitise the religious and community leaders on plastic waste management and recycling.
About Shondol Dance
- Shondol, also known as the royal dance of Ladakh, was used to be performed by artists for King of Ladakh on special occasion.
About Naropa Festival
- Naropa Festival celebrates the life of Buddhist philosopher and scholar
- Similar to Kumbh Mela, the festival is celebrated every year with grand celebration every 12th year. The last celebration was organised in year 2016 for the completion of 1,000 years of Naropa legacy.
- It is the largest assembly of Drukpa masters and include cultural performances by prominent Himalayan artists.
- The festival includes several rare cultural events that are believed to grant spiritual liberation upon sight. This includes the ceremonial unfurling of the largest silk embroidery of Buddha Amitabha that is only displayed to public audiences during the Naropa festival.
Who was Naropa?
- Naropa was an Indian Scholar from the Nalanda University.
- He moved to Kashmir to propagate the teachings of Buddha.
- The Six Bone Ornaments of Naropa are one of the most revered relics of Buddhism. It is said that Naropa wore the Six Bone Ornaments upon achieving enlightenment.
Cyclone ‘Hikaa’ heads towards Oman, away from Gujarat
Tropical cyclone ‘Hikaa’ seems to be enjoying a supportive environment for sustenance even as the storm heads for a landfall to the South of Masirah, Oman, over the next few days.
Why cyclones are named?
- The practice of naming storms (tropical cyclones) began years ago in order to help in the quick identification of storms in warning messages because names are presumed to be far easier to remember than numbers and technical terms.
- Many agree that appending names to storms makes it easier for the media to report on tropical cyclones, heightens interest in warnings and increases community preparedness.
How are cyclones named?
The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) started the tropical cyclone naming system in 2000.
- Tropical cyclones are named to provide ease of communication between forecasters and the general public regarding forecasts, watches, and warnings.
The Cyclones worldwide are named by 9 regions —
- North Atlantic
- Eastern North Pacific
- Central North Pacific
- Western North Pacific
- North Indian Ocean
- South West Indian Ocean
- Southern Pacific
- South Atlantic
Naming of Tropical Cyclone
- Weather forecasters give each tropical cyclone a name to avoid confusion. Each year, tropical cyclones receive names in alphabetical order.
- The name list is proposed by the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) of WMO Members of a specific region, and approved by the respective tropical cyclone regional bodies at their annual/bi-annual sessions.
- Since 1953, Atlantic tropical storms have been named from lists originated by the National Hurricane Center. They are now maintained and updated by an international committee of the World Meteorological Organization.
- The original name lists featured only women’s names. In 1979, men’s names were introduced and they alternate with the women’s names. Six lists are used in rotation. Thus, the 2019 list will be used again in 2025.
- The only time that there is a change in the list is if a storm is so deadly or costly that the future use of its name on a different storm would be inappropriate for reasons of sensitivity.
Science & Technology
ISRO is developing a methane-powered rocket engine
In its endeavour to develop cutting-edge technologies that are on par with elsewhere in the world, ISRO, is developing methane-powered rocket engines.
About Methane-powered rocket engines
- ISRO is developing two ‘LOx methane’ (liquid oxygen oxidiser and methane fuel) engines.
- Methane can be synthesised with water and carbon dioxide in space and is often described as the space fuel of the future.
Why ISRO is developing such engines?
- ISRO currently use a fuel called Unsymmetrical Di-Methyl Hydrazine, along with Nitrogen tetroxide for oxidiser, in its liquid fuel (Vikas) engines.
- This liquid fuel engine is used in Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV).
- However, this fuel is highly toxic and cancer-causing due to Hydrazine content. Globally, governments are keen on banning hydrazine.
Advantages of Methane based space fuel over hydrazine based fuel
- Higher specific impulse (a measure of how much push (thrust) accumulates as by burning a fuel)
- Easy to store
- Does not leave a residue upon burning,
- Less bulky
- Can be synthesised up in space.
- Methane-fired engines need an igniter to start the fire. On the other hand, Hydrazine fuels are hypergolic (they start burning on their own upon coming in contact with oxygen).
- Only the Chinese are said to have developed a working Lox engine called ‘TQ-12’
- SpaceX, a private space company, is looking to make its rocket methane-fuelled.
- Mumbai-based start-up Manastu Space is developing a propulsion system that will use Hydrogen peroxide as fuel as an alternative to Hydrazine.
- Meanwhile, a few other rocket fuels such as Ammonium di Nitramide in Europe and Hydroxyl Ammonium Nitrate in the US have emerged.
Key Facts for Prelims
International Day of Sign Language
- The UN General Assembly has proclaimed 23 September as the International Day of Sign Languages to raise awareness of the importance of sign language as a human rights of people who are deaf.
- The theme for 2019 International Day of Sign languages is “Sign Language Rights for All“.
- The proposal for the Day came from the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), a federation of 135 national associations of deaf people.
- The first International Day of Sign Languages was celebrated on 23 September 2018 as part of the International Week of the Deaf, that took place in September 2018.
- Sign languages is a language that employs signs made with the hands and other movements, including facial expressions and postures of the body, used primarily by people who are deaf.
- There is also an international sign language, which is used by deaf people in international meetings and informally when travelling and socializing.
- According to the World Federation of the Deaf, there are approximately 72 million deaf people worldwide. More than 80% of them live in developing countries and use more than 300 different sign languages.
- The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes and promotes the use of sign languages.