Government Schemes & Policies
- Regulations, ecosystem needed for growth of New Space in India
- Why government wants to bank DNA
Bilateral & International Relations
- Pakistan among 55 nations to back India’s candidature for UN Security Council for 2021-22
Defence & Security Issues
- Under what circumstances parole can be granted?
Art & Culture
- Sindhu Darshan Utsav
Science & Technology
- Did high methane level indicate life on Mars?
- NASA’s About to Send an Atomic Clock into Orbit
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Government Schemes & Policies
Regulations, ecosystem needed for growth of New Space in India
The government is likely to introduce the Space Activities Bill which will allow commercial use of space.
What is Space Activities Bill,2017?
- It is a proposed Bill to promote and regulate the space activities of India.
- It encourages the participation of non-governmental/private sector agencies in space activities in India under the guidance and authorisation of the government through the Department of Space.
What is the current status of this bill?
- Currently, steps are being taken on the Bill after taking comments from stakeholders and the public and it could be possibly introduced during Budget session in 2019.
Features of the bill:
- The provisions of this Act shall apply to every citizen of India and to all sectors engaged in any space activity in India or outside India.
- A non-transferable licence shall be provided by the Central Government to any person carrying out commercial space activity.
- The Central Government will formulate the appropriate mechanism for licencing, eligibility criteria, and fees for licence.
- The government will maintain a register of all space objects (any object launched or intended to be launched around the earth) and develop more space activity plans for the country.
- It will provide professional and technical support for commercial space activity and regulate the procedures for conduct and operation of space activity.
- It will ensure safety requirements and supervise the conduct of every space activity of India and investigate any incident or accident in connection with the operation of a space activity.
- It will share details about the pricing of products created by space activity and technology with any person or any agency in a prescribed manner.
- If any person undertakes any commercial space activity without authorisation they shall be punished with imprisonment up to 3 years or fined more than 1 crore INR or both.
Current condition of space start-up industry in India
- Considering the potential for space business in India, the number of start-ups in the space segment is still less due to uncertainties in regulations and investments.
- India’s space programme is a low-budgeted one with little room for the industries to grow.
- There is lack of technology to design, manufacture and supply sub-systems and components to the space systems.
- There is also no government funding to support space start-up companies exclusively.
- There is absence of a regulatory agency, different from the Department of Space, as there could be a conflict of interest considering that these companies are also service providers to the department.
Why government wants to bank DNA
The Cabinet cleared the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill again paving the way for its reintroduction in Parliament as it was not passed by Rajya Sabha in January 2019.
About the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill
- The Bill regulates the use of DNA technology for establishing the identity of persons in respect of matters listed in a Schedule including criminal matters and civil matters.
- To create a regulatory framework for obtaining, storing and testing of DNA samples of human beings, mainly for the purposes of criminal investigations, and with the objective of establishing the identity of a person.
- To bring in a supervisory structure to oversee these practices, and frame guidelines and rules so that the DNA technology is not misused.
Provisions of the proposed law:
- The bill proposes to set up two institutional structures i) DNA regulatory board, and ii) DNA data bank both at the national level.
- The data bank would be the repository of all DNA samples collected from various people under specified rules.
- As per the Bill, national and regional DNA data bankswill be set up for maintaining a national database for identification of victims, suspects in cases, undertrials, missing persons and unidentified human remains.
- Every Data Bank will maintain the following indices: (i) crime scene index, (ii) suspects’ or undertrials’ index, (iii) offenders’ index, (iv) missing persons’ index, and (v) unknown deceased persons’ index.
- The Bill proposes that testing of DNA samples can be carried out only at laboratories that are authorised to do so by the regulatory board.
- The bill’s provisions will enable the cross-matching between persons who have been reported missing on the one hand and unidentified dead bodies found in various parts of the country on the other, and also for establishing the identity of victims in mass disasters.
- It also specifies the circumstances under which a person can be asked to submit DNA samples, the purposes for which such requests can be made, and the exact procedure for handling, storing and accessing these samples.
- As per the bill, all DNA data, including DNA profiles, DNA samples and records, will only be used for identification of the person and not for “any other purpose”.
- Written consent by individuals is required to collect DNA samples from them. Consent is not required for offences with punishment of more than seven years of imprisonment or death.
- The Bill provides for the removal of DNA profiles of suspects on filing of a police report or court order, and of undertrials on the basis of a court order. Profiles in the crime scene and missing persons’ index will be removed on a written request.
- According to it, those leaking the DNA profile information to people or entities who are not entitled to have it, will be punished with a jail term of up to three years and a fine of up to Rs. 1 lakh. Similar, punishment has also been provided for those who seek the information on DNA profiles illegally.
Why it is often debated?
The above bill is debated mainly due to three reasons:
- Whether the DNA technology is foolproof.
- Whether the provisions adequately address the possibility of abuse of DNA information.
- Whether the privacy of the individual is protected.
- DNA information can be extremely revelatory as it can reveal a lot about physical and biological attributes.
- For years, critics of the Bill have been claiming that collecting and storing such intrusive information could lead to abuse, besides being violative of a person’s privacy.
- The government has been arguing that since DNA tests are frequently used as the most reliable tool to establish identity, it would be better to have regulatory safeguards so that it is carried out only in prescribed manner and by authorised personnel and institutions.
About DNA technology
- DNA technology refers to wide range techniques used to study, improve, create and manipulate the genetic material.
- DNA technology has important uses in basic research and potential applications in medicine, industry, agriculture, and forensics.
- It has been used for diagnosis and treatment of diseases, correction of genetic disorders, and manufacture of hormones and other pharmaceutical products.
- Detectible genetic disorders may be corrected through a procedure called gene therapy.
- It can be also used in agriculture such as Increasing milk production in cows, Diseases resistance, Herbicide tolerance in crops and Delayed ripening of fruit.
What is Recombinant DNA?
- Recombinant DNA, which is often shortened to rDNA, is an artificially made DNA strand that is formed by the combination of two or more gene sequences.
- This new combination may or may not occur naturally, but is engineered specifically for a purpose to be used in one of the many applications of recombinant DNA.
- Better Crops (drought & heat resistance)
- Recombinant Vaccines (ie. Hepatitis B)
- Prevention and cure of sickle cell anemia
- Production of insulin
- Production of recombinant pharmaceuticals
- Plants that produce their own insecticides
- Germ line and somatic gene therapy
Bilateral & International Relations
Pakistan among 55 nations to back India’s candidature for UN Security Council for 2021-22
India’s candidature for a non-permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has been unanimously endorsed by the Asia Pacific group, comprising 55 nations.
United Nations Security Council (UNSC):
- United Nations Security Council is one of the six main organs of the United Nations (UN).
- The council held its first session in 1946.
- It is headquartered at New York, United States.
- It is the only body of the United Nations with the authority to issue binding resolutions to member states.
- The presidency of the Council is held by each of the members in turn for one month, following the English alphabetical order of the Member States names.
- A State which is a Member of the United Nations but not of the Security Council may participate, without a vote, in its discussions when the Council considers that country’s interests are affected.
- The Council is composed of 15 Members.
- Five permanent members: China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and ten non-permanent members elected for two-year terms by the General Assembly (with end of term year).
- The non‑permanent members are elected on a regional basis for a two‑year term by the General Assembly. It is not possible to be re‑elected immediately after holding a seat in the Security Council.
Functions of UNSC:
- To maintain international peace and security in accordance with the principles of the United Nations
- To investigate any dispute which might lead to international friction
- To formulate plans for the establishment of a system to regulate armaments
- To determine the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression and to recommend what action should be taken
- To call on Members to apply economic sanctions not involving the use of force to prevent or stop aggression
- To take military action against an aggressor
- To recommend to the General Assembly the appointment of the Secretary-General and together with the Assembly, to elect the Judges of the International Court of Justice
How are the non-permanent members elected?
- Each year, the UNSC elects five non-permanent members (out of 10 in total) for a two-year term.
- In accordance with the General Assembly resolution 1991, the 10 non-permanent seats are distributed on a regional basis as follows: five for African and Asian States; one for Eastern European States; two for the Latin American and Caribbean States; and two for Western European and other States.
Reform proposal of Security Council
- Since 1993, the UN General Assembly has debated Council reform but has not been able to reach agreement yet.
- The main debate revolves around some county asking ‘permanent status’ in UNSC, however, many other countries oppose them.
Reform of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) encompasses five key issues:
- Categories of membership: It looks at the addition of both permanent members and elected members. Such changes require amendments to the UN Charter.
- The question of the veto held by the five permanent members: It looks closely at this key issue and whether it could (and should) be eliminated or curtailed.
- Regional representation: It examines the arguments for and against supranational organizations, like the EU, as potential candidates for Council membership.
- The size of an enlarged Council and its working methods: It considers the procedures of the Council and the way it conducts its work. Unlike membership changes, these reforms do not require Charter change and the Council itself can implement them.
- The Security Council-General Assembly relationships
- Group of 4 countries (G4) i.e. Germany, Japan, Brazil, India are bidding for permanent seats in the UN Security Council.
- The Coffee Club or Uniting for Consensus are Group of countries which opposed to the G4. They favoured the expansion of the non-permanent category of seats with members to be elected on a regional basis. It includes Italy, Spain, Argentina, Canada, Mexico, South Korea and Pakistan.
Need for Reform proposal of Security Council
- The United Nations Security Council is the international community’s principal organ for peacekeeping and conflict management and its decisions are binding on all member states.
- However, under the current mechanism, the council do not have the necessary authority and legitimacy to force any country to follow its order.
- Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean regions do not have the representation on the Council according to their current standing demands, and are therefore calling for the Council’s composition to be adapted to the new situation.
- Alongside the call for a geographically balanced distribution of seats, the Charter of the United Nations also expressly states that countries that make considerable contributions to the UN should be members of the Security Council which is not followed currently.
Why India should be given a permanent seat in the council?
Arguments in favour of:
- India is the largest democracy in the world and one of the largest economies.
- India was among the founding members of United Nations.
- India has stronger economy than Russia, which is a permanent member of Security Council.
- India has been elected seven times as a non permanent member of the UNSC. It has been a member of UNSC for 7 terms and a member of G-77 and G-4, so permanent membership is a logical extension.
- In terms of population, India stands second.
- India is a nuclear weapon state.
- India is the second largest and a one of the largest constant contributor of troops to United Nations Peacekeeping missions. Today, India has over 8,500 peacekeepers in the field, more than twice as many as the UN’s five big powers combined.
- India has one of the best armed forces in the world.
- In space research, India’s ISRO is one of the world’s best.
- There are some other countries that are economically much better than India, and not a part of UNSC.
- India is one of the countries having lowest Human Development Index.
- India is the second most unequal country, with most of the wealth is in the hands of the rich.
What India can do to get permanent seat at UNSC?
[Ref: India Today, Indian Express]
Defence & Security Issues
Under what circumstances parole can be granted?
What is Parole?
- Parole is essentially a conditional release of a prisoner along with suspension of sentence.
- The release is subject to conditions such as the prisoner’s behaviour. Besides, he must report to authorities for a certain period of time.
- Parole is considered a reformative process, and the provision (along with furlough) was introduced with a view to humanising the prison system.
- Parole (along with furlough) falls under the Prison Act of 1894.
- Those convicted under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act or of multiple murders cannot get parole.
- However, since jails are a state subject, the specific state’s Prison Act determines the rules for parole.
What is difference between parole and furlough?
- Parole may be denied to a convict while furlough is seen as a matter of right, to be granted periodically irrespective of any reason and merely to enable the prisoner to retain family and social ties.
- Parole is not a matter of right and may be denied to a prisoner even when he makes out a sufficient case.
- Also, furlough is typically given in cases of long jail terms.
How does the parole system works?
- Parole is granted by the state executive and competent authority takes a final decision on grant of parole on humanitarian considerations.
- If parole is rejected, the convict can move the High Court challenging the order of the competent authority.
- Also, apart from regular parole, the superintendent of a jail can also grant parole up to a period of seven days in emergent cases.
- In the US and Britain, every sentence above 18 months is eligible for parole, after completion of one-third of prison time.
Art & Culture
Sindhu Darshan Utsav
- Sindhu Darshan is celebrated in Shey Manla, located 8 kms away from the main city of Leh.
- This is a 3-day festival, which happens from 12th to 14th June on the bank of Indus river.
- The celebrations of this festival were started in the month of October 1997, for the celebration of unity as well as communal harmony along with the national integration. There is also a symbolic salute to the brave soldiers of the country.
- Usually the festival begins on full moon day which is also called Guru Purnima.
- At the time of the festival, the local artists from various parts of the country traditional dance performances.
- People from all religions, castes and regions become a part of this festival.
Science & Technology
Did high methane level indicate life on Mars?
NASA’s Curiosity rover discovered high amounts of methane in the air on Mars, leading to excitement whether this was an indication of life.
- But recently, NASA reported that the methane had fallen back to usual levels.
Methane on Mars:
- Methane gas on mars is considered as a prominent sign of existence of life on it.
- Since methane the gas was first detected on Mars by the Mars Express, a European Space Agency orbiter, it has been considered a potential biomarker.
- High amounts of methane were a transient methane plume, which has been observed in the past. But in most previous observations, the concentration of methane in the Martian air has been low.
- However, the recent increased levels of Methane caused excitement because it was much higher than previous readings.
- This concentration continued for about a couple of months, then ebbed away before scientists could establish where the methane came from.
- Scientists have observed that the levels of methane rise and fall seasonally, they haven’t yet found a pattern in the occurrence of methane.
What is methane?
- On Earth, methane (CH4) is a naturally occurring gas. Most of the methane on Earth is produced in biological processes — some of it by microbes, and some occurring as underground natural gas that had been formed by earlier generations of microbial life.
- Cows and other farm animals along with landfill waste produce methane.
- Methane also escapes into the air when coal, oil and natural gas are extracted from the Earth.
- However, methane can also be produced by abiotic processes (those that do not involve living organisms).
- It has been found to occur in formations such as rocks, springs and aquifers, and studies have concluded that it was formed there by chemical reactions between carbon and hydrogen atoms at low temperature.
- The global mean of methane concentration is over 1,800 parts per million.
Global Methane Initiative (GMI):
- The Global Methane Initiative (GMI) is a voluntary, international partnership focusing on reducing barriers to the recovery and use of methane as a clean energy source.
- GMI focuses on three key sectors: Oil and Gas, Biogas, and Coal Mines.
- It has 52 partner countries including India.
About NASA’s Curiosity:
- Curiosity is a car-sized robotic rover exploring Gale Crater on Mars as part of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission (MSL).
Goals of Curiosity rover:
The rover’s goals include
- Investigation of the Martian climate and geology
- Assessment of whether the selected field site inside Gale Crater has ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life, including investigation of the role of water
- Planetary habitability studies in preparation for future human exploration.
NASA’s About to Send an Atomic Clock into Orbit
Private company SpaceX launched its spacecraft with 24 satellites intended for various applications.
About the various satellites launched:
Deep Space Atomic Clock (DSAC)
- It is sent by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on one of the 24 satellites.
- It aims at helping spacecraft navigate by themselves, relying on the new atomic clock in space.
- Atomic clocks are based on the oscillations of trapped excited atoms, which tick back and forth which are incredibly precise.
- The atomic clocks on satellites use caesium and rubidium atoms. However, The Deep Space Atomic Clock is based on electrically charged mercury atoms.
- It is expected to be stable to better than one microsecond per decade (one second per 10 million years), which is about 50 times more accurate than atomic clocks already abroad GPS satellites.
Need of Atomic clock:
- Accurate timekeeping is crucial to the performance of Global Positioning System (GPS).
- Most clocks and watches are based on a quartz oscillator. However, these clocks lose efficiency over time hence, they cannot be used in Satellites.
- At present, satellites rely on an exchange of signals with Earth, where atomic clocks calculate the time it takes for the signals to arrive.
- GPS satellites are constantly sending light-speed radio signals transmitting the location and time. The receiver on Earth (i.e. mobile phone), measures the time delay from each satellite, and converts this into spatial coordinates.
- This is how spacecraft navigation works, too. Navigators on Earth sends a signal to the spacecraft, and the spacecraft sends one back. Because the signal travels at a known speed, the time this takes allows the distance to the spacecraft to be calculated.
- Hence, the more accurate the clock, the better the location data.
How does normal quartz clock works?
- Battery provides current to microchip circuit
- Microchip circuit makes quartz crystal (precisely cut and shaped like a tuning fork) oscillate (vibrate) 32768 times per second.
- Microchip circuit detects the crystal’s oscillations and turns them into regular electric pulses, one per second.
- Electric pulses drive miniature electric stepping motor. This converts electrical energy into mechanical power.
- Electric stepping motor turns gears.
- Gears sweep hands around the clockface to keep time.
ASCENT green fuel:
- It is a test spacecraft for the development of safer rocket fuel.
- The traditional fuel used in satellites is hydrazine which is extremely toxic to humans as well as the environment.
- The new alternative is called ASCENT (Advanced Spacecraft Energetic Non-toxic Propellant), formerly called AF-M315E, which is a hydroxyl ammonium nitrate fuel/oxidiser blend.
- First developed by the US Air Force, ASCENT is described as a fuel with significantly reduced toxicity levels compared to hydrazine, and potentially shorter launch processing times, resulting in lower costs.
Solar-powered sail (LightSail 2):
- LightSail 2 is a crowd-funded solar sail project from the Planetary Society (non-profit US foundation).
- It seeks to become the first orbiting spacecraft to be propelled solely by sunlight.
- In 2015, LightSail 1 spacecraft successfully completed a test flight. LightSail 2, which is aimed to go into orbit, is enclosed within Prox-1 satellite.
- In 2005, the Planetary Society launched the world’s first solar sailing spacecraft, Cosmos 1, which was lost due to a rocket failure.
[Ref: Indian Express]