Polity & Governance
- Farooq Abdullah to be in PSA detention for 3 more months
Government Schemes & Policies
- OCI can now apply for National Pension System
- Nirvik scheme may give fillip to export credit
- Share swap ratios in focus as banks move ahead with mergers
Bilateral & International Relations
- MNRE Hosts 2nd Assembly of International Solar Alliance (ISA) in New Delhi
- Trump impeachment: Democrats unveil resolution for next steps
- EU MPs visit to Kashmir ‘biggest diplomatic blunder’ in India’s history: Congress
Defence & Security Issues
- DRDO a step closer to boosting endurance of submarines
- Lessons on Tipu Sultan will be reviewed, says Karnataka CM
- Two cyclones form in Arabian Sea
Science & Technology
- An Indian nuclear power plant suffered a cyberattack
- IIIT Hyderabad researchers create first ever Indian Brain atlas
Key Facts for Prelims
- Mekong’s water levels fall as new Laos dam begins operations
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Polity & Governance
Farooq Abdullah to be in PSA detention for 3 more months
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Dr. Farooq Abdullah’s detention under the Public Safety Act (PSA) has been extended to three months. It was extended last month.
What is the J&K Public Safety Act (PSA)?
- The Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA),1978 was introduced to prevent the smuggling of timber. It is often referred to as a draconian law.
- Under the PSA, a person can be detained initially for 12 days. Any detention beyond three months is ratified by the PSA Advisory Board.
- It allows for detention of any person above the age of 16 for up to two yearsin the case of persons acting prejudicial to the security of the State and for detention up to one year where any person is acting prejudicial to the maintenance of public order.
- Detention orders under PSA can be issued by Divisional Commissioners or District Magistrates.
- Section 22 of the Actprovides protection for any action taken “in good faith” under the Act: “No suit, prosecution or any other legal proceeding shall lie against any person for anything done or intended to be done in good faith in pursuance of the provisions of this Act.”
Misuse of PSA
- The law was being misused widely and was repeatedly employed against political opponents by consecutive governments until 1990.
- After the emergence of militancy, the J&K government frequently invoked the PSA to detain separatists.
- In August 2018, the Act was amended to allow individuals to be detained under the PSA outside the state as well.
- Under Section 23 of the Act, the government is empowered to make rules consistent with the provisions of the Act. However, global human rights organisations have noted that no Rules have so far been framed to lay down procedures for the implementation of the provisions of the PSA.
- Between 2007 and 2016, over 2,400 PSA detention orders were passed of which about 58% were rejected by the courts. Hence, most of these dentations are done arbitrarily.
- PSA does not provide for a judicial review of detention. To checkmate the J&K High Court orders for release of persons detained under the act the state authorities issue successive detention orders. This ensures prolonged detention of people.
- PSC has been used against human rights activists, journalists, separatists and others who are considered as a threat to the law & order. Right to dissent is stifled by these Acts.
- The terms under which a person is detained under PSA are vague and include a broad range of activities like “acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the State” or for “acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order”.
- The detaining authority need not disclose any facts about the detention “which it considers to be against the public interest to disclose”.
- The vagueness provided in the act gives unbridled powers to the authorities. The detainees, therefore, are effectively debarred from contesting the legality of their detention.
Government Schemes & Policies
OCI can now apply for National Pension System
Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) has permitted Overseas Citizen of India to enrol in National Pension System till the age of 65 years at par with Non Resident Indians (NRIs).
National Pension System (NPS)
- National Pension System (NPS) is a pension cum investment scheme launched by Government of India to provide old age security to Citizens of India.
- The Scheme is regulated by Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA). National Pension System Trust (NPST) established by PFRDA is the registered owner of all assets under NPS.
- NPS was launched in January 2004 for government employees. However, in 2009, it was opened to all sections.
- The scheme allows subscribers to contribute regularly in a pension account during their working life. On retirement, subscribers can withdraw a part of the corpus in a lumpsum and use the remaining corpus to buy an annuity to secure a regular income after retirement. The government does not contribute to the NPS account.
- Every NPS subscriber is issued a card with 12-digit unique number called Permanent Retirement Account Number (PRAN).
- Any Indian citizen between 18 and 60 years.
- Overseas Citizens of India
- Non Resident Indians (NRIs)
Accounts under NPS
- The National Pension System works on defined contribution basis with two accounts: Tier-I and Tier-II accounts.
- Tier-I is a mandatory account and Tier-II is voluntary.
- The big difference between the two is on withdrawal of money invested in them. One cannot withdraw the entire money from Tier-I account till his/her retirement. Even on retirement, there are restrictions on withdrawal on the Tier-I account. The subscriber is free to withdraw the entire money from the Tier-II account.
- Minimum contribution in NPS is of Rs 6,000 for Tier-I account in a financial year.
- Active Choice: Allows the investor to decide how the money should be invested in different assets.
- Auto choice or lifecycle fund: This is the default option which invests money automatically in line with the age of the subscriber.
Difference between NPS and PPF:
Public Provident Fund (PPF)
Between 18 – 65
Between 18 – No upper limit
Minimum investment per year is Rs. 1,000 for tier 1 and No Minimum contribution for Tier 2
Minimum investment per year is Rs.500
Can Avail Annuity (Pension) Facility
Np Annuity (Pension) Facility
No Loan Facility
Regulated by Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA)
Regulated by Government of India
Before Age 60: Up to 20% of Corpus
After Age 60: Up to 60% of Corpus
Can be made from the start of the 7th financial year
Complete withdrawal done only at maturity i.e. after 15 yrs.
[Ref: The Hindu, Economic Times]
Nirvik scheme may give fillip to export credit
In the last four to five years, ECGC has paid nearly ₹1,000 crores a year towards claims to various banks and subsequently, it gradually decreased the cover. However, ECGC is optimistic that business and lending would pick up soon and the scheme would give a fillip to it.
About NIRVIK Scheme
- NIRVIK scheme was announced by the Export Credit Guarantee Corporation of India (ECGC) in September 2019.
- It is a 5-year scheme.
- to simplify the process of procuring a loan from financial institutions
- to increase the loans offered to exporters in India
Benefits of NIRVIK scheme
- Insurance cover percentage has been enhanced to 90% from the average of 60% for both Principal and Interest.
- Enhanced cover will ensure that Foreign and Rupee export credit interest rates will be below 4%and 8% respectively for exporters
- High premium rates for gems, jewellery and diamond (GJD) sectors with a limit of more than Rs.80 crores due to high loss ratio
- Enables the Indian exports to be competitive in national and international markets
- Reduced cost of insurance and tax reimbursements to increase productivity and increase credit loans
- Reduced cost of credit due to capital relief
About Export Credit Guarantee Corporation (ECGC)
- ECGC Ltd, wholly owned by Government of India, was set up in 1957.
- It was Formerly known as Export Credit Guarantee Corporation of India
- It aims to promote exports from the country by providing credit risk insurance and related services for exports.
- It functions under the administrative control of Ministry of Commerce & Industry and is managed by a Board of Directors comprising representatives of the Government, Reserve Bank of India, banking, and insurance and exporting community.
- Finance Minister in Pandit Nehru’s cabinet appointed a special committee under the Chairmanship of T.C.Kapur to examine the feasibility of setting up an effective organization to provide insurance against export credit risks.
- The Government accepted the recommendations of Kapur Committee and thus the Export Risk Insurance Corporation (ERIC) was registered in 1957.
What does ECGC do?
- Provides a range of credit risk insurance covers to exporters against loss in export of goods and services.
- Offers Export Credit Insurance covers to banks and financial institutions to enable exporters to obtain better facilities from them.
- Provides Overseas Investment Insurance to Indian companies investing in joint ventures abroad in the form of equity or loan.
How does ECGC help exporters?
- Offers insurance protection to exporters against payment risks.
- Provides guidance in export-related activities.
- Makes available information on different countries with its own credit ratings.
- Makes it easy to obtain export finance from banks/financial institutions.
- Assists exporters in recovering bad debts.
- Provides information on credit-worthiness of overseas buyers.
Need for export credit insurance
- The Payments risks have assumed large proportions today due to the far-reaching political and economic changes.
- However, an outbreak of war or civil war may block or delay payment for goods A coup or an insurrection may also bring about the same result. Economic difficulties or balance of payment problems may lead a country to impose restrictions on either import of certain goods or on transfer of payments for goods imported.
- Export credit insurance is designed to protect exporters from the consequences of the payment risks, both political and commercial, and to enable them to expand their overseas business without fear of loss.
Share swap ratios in focus as banks move ahead with mergers
At least seven of the 10 public sector banks (PSUs) slated for merger have invited independent experts to determine their share swap ratios.
What is Swap Ratio?
- Swap ratio is an exchange ratio used in case of mergers and acquisitions. It is the ratio in which the acquiring company offers its own shares in exchange for the target company’s shares.
- For example, if company A is acquiring company B and offers a swap ratio of 1:5, it will issue one share of its own company (company A) for every 5 shares of the company B being acquired.
Why there is a need for swap ratio?
- Swap ratio’s rationale is to give investors the same relative value in the shares of the new company so that the investment remains relatively unaffected from an investor’s perspective.
- Swap ratio also shows the relative size and strength of both companies. In general, if more shares of the target company are exchanged for one share in the acquiring company, then the latter is likely to be bigger and stronger.
- Moreover, it determines the control that each set of shareholders has on the combined company. For example, the acquiring company may have greater control over the firm if the swap ratio is high and, therefore, its Board of Directors could have a larger share in the new Board.
In August 2019, the Finance minister of India announced a major bank merger of ten public sector banks into four, taking the total number of public sector banks to 12 from 27 banks.
- Punjab National Bank will merge with Oriental Bank of Commerce and United Bank of India and become India’s second-largest bank after State Bank of India.
- Canara Bank and Syndicate Bank will be merged.
- Union Bank of India will be merged with Andhra Bank and Corporation Bank.
- Indian Bank and Allahabad Bank will merge.
Post this allegation, India will have at least six big banks in the public sector that can compete with large rivals both in the country and abroad for high-value lending.[Ref: Livemint]
Bilateral & International Relations
MNRE Hosts 2nd Assembly of International Solar Alliance (ISA) in New Delhi
Minister of Power, New & Renewable Energy hosts 2nd Assembly of International Solar Alliance (ISA) at New Delhi.
Highlights of the 2nd Assembly of International Solar Alliance
Two countries: Eritrea and St. Kittis and Nevis, signed the framework agreement of ISA. With this signing, 83 countries have signed the ISA framework agreement.
About International Solar Alliance (ISA):
- ISA is initiative jointly launched by India and France in November 2015 at Paris on side lines of COP21 UN Climate Change Conference.
- Its Framework Agreement came into force in December 2017. It celebrated its founding day on 11th March, 2018.
- It is a treaty-based international organization.
- It is a group of 121 solar resource-rich countries. 83 countries have signed the ISA framework agreement. 58 countries have ratified the ISA agreement.
- It is headquartered at campus of National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE), Gurugram, Harayana, making it first international intergovernmental treaty based organization to be headquartered in India.
- Currently, the ISA is not funding projects directly, but assist member countries in finding suitable bilateral or multilateral funding. The World Bank and French Development Agency are developing a Solar Risk Mitigation Facility for this purpose.
- ISA have partnered with over 40 organizations including UN, Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs), Development Finance Institutions (DFIs), international and regional organizations and foundations, and private sector players.
Objectives of ISA:
- Undertake joint efforts required to reduce the cost of finance and the cost of technology
- Deploy over 1,000 gigawatts of solar energy and mobilize more than US $1000 billion of investments needed by 2030 for massive deployment of solar energy
Who can join the International Solar Alliance?
- Must be Solar resource-rich States which lie fully or partially between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.
- Must be member of the United Nations.
Ongoing programs of ISA:
ISA presently has 5 ongoing programs:
- Scaling Solar Mini Grids
- Affordable Finance at Scale
- Scaling Solar Applications for Agricultural Use
- Scaling Solar Rooftop catering to the needs of solar energy in specific areas
- Scaling Solar E-Mobility & Storage
- The ISA has launched a Solar Technology Application and Resource – Centre ( iSTAR-C) to support capacity building efforts in the ISA member countries.
- It is also developing Solar INFOPEDIA, funded by European Union, dedicated to the dissemination of information, best practices and knowledge on Solar Energy.
- Other programmes are ITEC Master Trainers Programme at NISE Gurugram and M. Tech programme for mid-career professionals at IIT, Delhi.
Funding from India:
- India will contribute Rs. 160 crores to the ISA over 5-year duration from 2016-17 to 2020-21. India will release additional Rs. 15 crores in the year 2020-21.
- In addition, public sector undertakings of the India namely Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) and Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA)have made a contribution of US $ 1 million each for creating the ISA corpus fund.
Other solar funding by India
- India has provided US$ 2 Billion for solar projects in Africa out of Government of India’s US$10 Billion concessional Line of Credit (LOC) for Africa. Exim Bank of India is implementing this line of credit.
- In September 2019, India announced allocation of US$ 12 million grant, and a concessional LOC of US$ 150 Million for Pacific Islands Developing States for undertaking solar, renewable energy and climate related projects.
- At the United Nations Climate Action Summit 2019, Indian Prime Minister pledged to increase renewable energy capacity of India to 175 GW by 2022 and committed for further increasing it to 450 GW.
- India has 82 GW renewable capacity on ground and about 70 GW at different stage of fruition.
Trump impeachment: Democrats unveil resolution for next steps
Democrats in the US House of Representatives have published a resolution setting out the next steps in their impeachment efforts against US President.
What is the issue?
- An impeachment inquiry against President of the United States was initiated recently by U.S. House Speaker.
- The inquiry began after a whistleblower alleged that President and other top government officials had pressured the leaders of foreign nations, most notably Ukraine, to investigate former U.S. vice president and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, abusing the power of the presidency to advance his personal political interests.
Impeachment process of US President
- Impeachment is a provision that allows Congress to remove the President of the United States. Under the US Constitution, the House of Representatives (Lower House) has the sole power of impeachment while the Senate (Upper House) has the sole power to try all impeachments.
- Under the U.S. Constitution, the president can be removed from office for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” However, what constitutes these crimes and misdemeanors are not clearly defined.
- A president does not need to have violated a specific criminal law to have committed an impeachable offense.
Three step process
- First, the Congress investigates. This investigation typically begins in the House Judiciary Committee, but may begin elsewhere. If they find that there is enough evidence of wrongdoing, it will refer the matter to the full House.
- Second, the House of Representatives must pass, by a simple majority of those present and voting, articles of impeachment, which constitute the allegations. Upon passage, the defendant has been impeached. In other words, When the full House votes, if one or more of the articles of impeachment gets a majority vote, the President is impeached. If the House of Representatives votes to pass articles of impeachment, the Senate is forced to hold a trial.
- Third, the Senate tries the accused. In the case of the impeachment of a president, the Chief Justice of the United States presides over the proceedings. Conviction in the Senate requires a two-thirds supermajority vote of those present. The result of conviction is removal from office.
- The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, and consists of two chambers: The House of Representatives (same as Lok Sabha) and the Senate (Same as Rajya Sabha).
- No US President has ever been removed as a direct result of impeachment. The U.S. House did impeach two Presidents (Andrew Johnson (1968) and Bill Clinton (1998)) but the Senate did not convict them.
EU MPs visit to Kashmir ‘biggest diplomatic blunder’ in India’s history: Congress
Demanding answers from Indian Prime Minister, major opposition party of India termed the European Union (EU) MPs visit to Kashmir the “biggest diplomatic blunder” in India’s history and said the government had deliberately internationalised the issue.
- Amid complete shutdown, stone pelting and clashes between people, a delegation of EU MPs visited Kashmir for a first-hand assessment of the ground situation after the revocation of the state’s special status.
Observations made by the delegation of European Parliament members:
- The situation in Jammu and Kashmir has been peaceful and the security forces have been handling the law and order effectively and “most importantly in a humane manner.
- Terrorism which is a global menace and we should stand with India in fighting it.
- They condemned the killing of five migrant labourers from West Bengal by terrorists in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district.
- J&K should be promoted as a dynamic place for building tourism infrastructure, development projects and educational institutes.
- They do not want to interfere into internal matters of India, referring to abrogation of Article 370.
Why controversy over European MPs’ Kashmir visit?
- What exactly was the aim of this entire operation? News of India being questioned by the international press as it has hardly moved the needle in terms of public opinion.
- The move, especially accompanied by a huge lockdown and trampling of civil rights in the Kashmir Valley received terrible press and criticism from around the world.
- When the govt can allow MPs from a foreign country to visit Srinagar to understand the situation, why not allow MPs from opposition parties from India.
- Why were MEPs not allowed to talk to detained J&K leaders, certain groups and sections.
- These MPs were invited by a businessperson who runs a non-profit organisation in India. How could the govt honour invitations by such a person?
- The choice of this delegation has also raised eyebrows. A majority of those travelling to Srinagar belong to anti-immigration and far-right parties in the U.K., France, Italy, Poland and Germany.
- If the objective of govt’s move was to bring back normalcy, then would terror activities recur?
- Why have the communication networks not been restored completely?
- It is also being said that the government has committed grave sacrilege by introducing a third party to assess the ground situation in Kashmir and that also through an unknown think tank.
However, it is important to note that the visit of the European Parliamentarians was a private affair, not officially involving the European Union or its Parliament, and not organised by the Indian government.[Ref: India Today]
Defence & Security Issues
DRDO a step closer to boosting endurance of submarines
The indigenous Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system to enhance the endurance of conventional submarines being developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation reached a milestone with the successful operation of a land-based prototype.
- Submarines are essentially of two types: Conventional and nuclear.
- Conventional submarines (Non-nuclear submarines) use a diesel-electric engine and must come to surface daily for oxygen for fuel combustion.
- Modern non-nuclear submarines are stealthier (not easily detectable) than nuclear submarines as a nuclear ship’s reactor must constantly pump coolant, generating some amount of detectable noise.
- On the other hand, Non-nuclear submarines, running on battery power or Air-independent propulsion (AIP), can be virtually silent. Small, high-tech non-nuclear attack submarines are highly effective in coastal operations and pose a significant threat to nuclear submarines.
About Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system
- Air-independent propulsion (AIP) is a marine propulsion technology that allows a non-nuclear submarine to operate with less dependence on atmospheric oxygen.
- AIP is usually implemented as an auxiliary source, with the traditional diesel engine handling surface propulsion.
- All Scorpene submarines of the Indian Navy are planned to be equipped with an AIP soon.
What problem does AIP system solve?
- Because diesel-electric submarines require to come to the water surface or come to a depth from where it can push a funnel pipe (snorkel) to suck air to charge their batteries frequently, their underwater endurance time is less.
- With AIP, a submarine need to take in oxygen only once a week. Hence, AIP enables conventional submarines to remain underwater three or four times its standard capacity.
- AIP significantly improves stealth because it enables a submarine to generate electricity and battery charging while completely submerged.
How do duel cell AIP work?
- In a fuel cell AIP, an electrolytic fuel cell releases energy by combining hydrogen and oxygen, with only water as the waste product.
- The cells are highly efficient, and do not have moving parts, thus ensuring that the submarine has a low noise.
- A fuel cell-based AIP, like the one developed by DRDO, is known to deliver better performance compared to other types of AIP technologies.
Lessons on Tipu Sultan will be reviewed, says Karnataka CM
Karnataka Chief Minister dropped hints that lessons on Tipu Sultan may be dropped from State syllabus textbooks, saying that the issue would be reviewed. He also proposed to end State-sponsored Tipu Jayanti celebrations.
Why has the government announced such a step?
- Tipu Sultan was cruel to Hindus as he ordered torture, forced conversions, and the razing of temples.
- Tipu and his father Haider Ali invaded and annexed territories outside Mysore. Haider and Tipu annexed Malabar, Kozhikode, Kodagu, Mangaluru, Thrissur and Kochi. In these places, they burnt down villages, razed temples and churches, and forcibly converted Hindus.
- Hence, people in the hills of Kodagu on the Kerala-Karnataka border, as well as in Kerala, see Tipu Sultan as a tyrant.
What has been taught in school textbooks?
- In school textbooks, Tipu Sultan is seen as the fearless ‘Tiger of Mysore’, a powerful bulwark against colonialism, and a great son of Karnataka.
How should the historical figure of Tipu Sultan be assessed today?
- Tipu defeated the East India Company in wars, allied with the French to hamper the attempts of the British to control the politics of the Deccan and Carnatic, and sought to challenge the vital trading interests of the Company.
- Tipu’s aspiration to conquer Kodagu was linked directly to his desire to control the port of Mangaluru. He battled nearly all powers in the region, irrespective of the faith of his opponents. His army had both Hindus and Muslims, and among the populations that he slaughtered in Kerala, there were sizeable numbers of Muslims.
- To argue that Tipu was a nationalist patriot and secular, is misleading as in the 18th century, there was no nationalism or secularism. However, it is also misleading to argue that Tipu fought the British just to save his kingdom, because many other pre-modern rulers in India did the same thing.
- It is fact that Tipu persecuted Hindus and Christians. However, he patronised Hindu temples and priests, and gave them grants and gifts. He donated to temples at Nanjangud, Kanchi and Kalale, and patronised the Sringeri mutt.
- In nuthsell, it serves no purpose to view Tipu’s personality through the prism of morality or religion. It is not necessary that he be judged only in terms of either a hero or a tyrant.
About Tipu Sultan
- Tippu Sultan, was a sultan of Mysore who won fame in the wars of the late 18th century in southern India.
- He is prominently known as Sher-e-Mysore (Tiger of Mysore)and is also given the sobriquet of Sher-e-Hind and Sher-e-Mashriq (Tiger of the East).
- He was a ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore. He was the eldest son of Sultan Hyder Ali of Mysore.
- He fought the forces of the East India Company four times during 1767-99 in Anglo-Mysore wars.
- In alliance with the French, in their struggle with the British and in Mysore’s struggles with other surrounding powers, both Tipu and his father used their French trained army against the Marathas, Sira, and rulers of Malabar, Kodagu, Bednore, Carnatic, and Travancore.
- Tipu was killed while defending his capital Srirangapatnam in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War.
Achievements of Tipu Sultan
- Introduced a number of administrative innovations during his rule, including his coinage, and a new Mauludi lunisolar calendar.
- Devised a land revenue system based on detailed surveys and classification, in which the tax was imposed directly on the peasant, and collected through salaried agents in cash, widening the state’s resource base. This initiated the growth of Mysore silk industry.
- Modernised agriculture, gave tax breaks for developing wasteland, built irrigation infrastructure, and promoted sericulture.
- Built a navy to support trade, and commissioned a ‘state commercial corporation’ to set up factories. As Mysore traded in sandalwood, silk, spices, rice and sulphur, some 30 trading outposts were established across Tipu’s dominions and overseas.
- Expanded the iron-cased Mysorean rockets and commissioned the military manual Fathul Mujahidin. He is considered a pioneer in the use of rocket artillery. Tipu Sultan deployed the rockets against advances of British forces and their allies in their 1792 and 1799 Siege of Srirangapatna.
Two cyclones form in Arabian Sea
The simultaneous formation of two cyclones, Cyclone Kyarr and Cyclone Maha, in the Arabian Sea is a never-before-seen weather event, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has said.
About Cyclone Kyarr
- Kyarr was a super cyclone to have developed in the North Indian Ocean.
- It was also the strongest tropical cyclone in the Arabian Sea ever recorded and the second-most intense tropical cyclone in North Indian Ocean history, only behind the 1999 Odisha cyclone.
- It developed from a low-pressure system near the Equator.
Path of cyclone Kyarr and cyclone Maha
- Cyclone Kyarr moved towards the Indian coast and recurved towards the Oman coast. The cyclone system intensified into a super cyclone and further recurved away from the Oman and Yemen coast moving towards the Gulf of Aden.
- However, its impact resulted in increased wave action and minimal damage at Arabian Sea.
- Simultaneously, cyclone Maha, named by Oman, was formed which followed a similar track from the west coast of India towards Oman.
Reason for two cyclones appearing at the same time
- Independent meteorologists said the presence of the strong Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) led to the formation of two cyclones at the same time.
- IOD is an ocean-atmosphere phenomenon with difference in sea surface temperatures, characterised by cooling in parts of Indian Ocean and leading to enhanced rain.
- Even after the southwest monsoon, the Arabian Sea has been giving unseasonal rain to the west coast due to strong IOD, which is at a very high value for October. The IOD increases the temperature of the western Indian Ocean, creates a lot of convection in the Arabian Sea, and in this case, did not allow the Madden Julian Oscillation (a rain bearing system that triggers storms at sea owing to increased moisture) to propagate, leading to this rare weather event.
Cyclone causing factors
There are six parameters that lead to the formation of cyclones, merged into two groups: Dynamic Parameters and Thermodynamic parameters.
- Rising sea surface temperatures,
- Relative humidity in middle troposphere
- Instability in the atmosphere allowing moist air to form aiding cloud formation through the help of convection.
- Rotation of surface winds
- Location of low depression at 5 degrees north,
- Strong wind shear (rapid changes in wind speed combined with direction or height of moving winds)
- In 2019, there have been four cyclones in the Arabian Sea– Vayu, Hikka, Kyarr and Maha.
Science & Technology
An Indian nuclear power plant suffered a cyberattack
The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) has now confirmed that there was a cyberattack on the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) in Tamil Nadu, India, in September. However, it did not cause any critical damage.
About the Cyber-attack on KKNPP
- The cyber-attack on KKNPP was noticed by the CERT-In (Indian Computer Emergency Response Team), which is the national agency for responding to cybersecurity incidents.
- An investigation by India’s Department of Atomic Energy revealed that a user had connected a malware-infected personal computer to the plant’s administrative network.
- As per a virus scanning company, a large amount of data from the KKNPP’s administrative network has been stolen.
Did North Korea launch the attack?
- Some suggest that the KKNPP attack was caused by a variant of the DTRACK virus, developed by the North Korea-linked Lazarus group.
- Nearly one-fifth of North Korean cyber-attacks are launched from India.
- Also, North Korean students are present in India’s universities. This means that a cyberattack from North Korea could even originate from Indian territory.
- In the past, North Korean has targeted the ISRO’s National Remote Sensing Center and the Indian National Metallurgical Laboratory.
What is malware?
- Malware is short for “malicious software,” also known as malicious code or “malcode.”
- It is code or software that is specifically designed to damage, disrupt, steal, or in general inflict some other “bad” or illegitimate action on data, hosts, or networks.
- Viruses, worms, Trojans, and bots are all part of a class of software called “malware.”
What is an Air-gap?
- The physical isolation of a computer or a local network from the Internet to prevent any outside breach is called an air gap.
- The KKNPP is completely isolated from the internet. Hence, KKNPP cannot be accessed by any outside network from any part of the world. However, this security strategy can leave a nuclear plant quite vulnerable.
Why Air-gap security mechanism is not safe?
- Air gaps can be effective against untargeted cyber threats but not against targeted attacks as targeted attacks go beyond network connections.
- When nuclear reactor transfers new data through air-gapped operational network to update the software and hardware in the network, it exposes the critical internal network in a nuclear power plant to a host of vulnerabilities.
- Most famously, the Stuxnet attack penetrated Iran’s air-gapped Natanz uranium enrichment facility.
Adverse effects of Cyberattacks on nuclear power plants
- Cyberattacks on nuclear power plants could have physical effects, especially if the network that runs the machines and software controlling the nuclear reactor are compromised.
- This can be used to facilitate sabotage, theft of nuclear materials, or a reactor meltdown.
- In a densely populated country like India, any radiation release from a nuclear facility would be a major disaster.
- Cyberattacks can increase the risk of military escalation as well.
About Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP)
- The Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) is the single largest nuclear power station in India.
- It situated in Koodankulam in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu.
- It is India’s first nuclear plant to use imported PWR technology. The existing nuclear power plants in India use pressurised heavy water reactor or boiling water reactor technology.
- It is scheduled to have six water-water energetic reactor (VVER) reactors built in collaboration with Atomstroyexport, the Russian state company and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), with an installed capacity of 6,000 MW of electricity.
- Construction on the plant began in 2002 but faced several delays due to opposition from local fishermen. Unite 1 and 2 are operational, Unit 3 and 4 are under construction and Construction of unit 5 and 6 will start in 2020.
IIIT Hyderabad researchers create first ever Indian Brain atlas
Researchers at the IIIT Hyderabad said that the first ever Indian Brain Atlas (IBA) has been created. They stated that the next step is to prepare atlases for different age groups to study age related affects on brain anatomy.
What is a brain atlas?
- A brain atlas is a brain map or a template which becomes the ‘standard’ against which brain abnormalities can be measured.
- A brain atlas helps researchers compare findings from different brain imaging methods like Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and functional MRI (fMRI), or between healthy and diseased brain states, or across individuals.
Highlights of first ever Indian Brain Atlas (IBA)
- The average brain size of an Indian is smaller in height, width and volume in comparison to people of the Caucasian (western) and Eastern races (Chinese and Korean).
- Indian Brain Atlas is more similar to the Chinese and Korean atlases than Caucasian one.
Significance of the findings
- This finding is helpful in treatment of neurological problems or brain related ailments – like dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease etc.
- Currently, Medical practitioners depend on Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan to decide the treatment. They use the brain atlas created by the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI), based on Caucasian brains. Hence, these MRI images are likely to lead to a misdiagnosis as they are not based on Indian brains.
- Now, doctors can compare the MRI images with Indian Brain Atlas as reference to avoid misdiagnosis.
Standard brain atlases
- The earliest known brain atlas, the Talairach and Tournoux atlas, was created manually by drawing post-mortem brain sections.
- In 1993, Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI) and the International Consortium for Brain Mapping (ICBM) created the first digital human brain atlas.
- However, this brain atlas, created using Caucasian brains, are not ideal to analyze Indian population.
- There are many changes that take place in a brain due to advancing age, with the most typical one being atrophy or shrinking of structures. Hence, there is need to track the brain and see how it ages over time to understand dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s diseases etc.
- There is also need to build a larger atlas with a greater heterogeneous mix of subjects to account for diversity, even in terms of educational qualifications.
Key Facts for Prelims
Mekong’s water levels fall as new Laos dam begins operations
The water level of the Mekong river, southeast Asia’s arterial waterway, reportedly fell to the lowest in a century even as a new dam started operating on it in Laos on October 29, 2019.
About Mekong River
- The Mekong is a trans-boundary river in Southeast Asia.
- It passes through six countries: China, Myanmar, Thailand, Lao PDR, Cambodia, and Viet Nam.
- It is the 7th longest river in Asia, and the 12th longest in the world.
- It originates on the Tibetan Plateau and flows down to Hengduan Mountains of China. It also forms the border between Myanmar and Laos.
- The earliest settlements along the river date to 2100 BC with the first recorded civilization—the Indianised-Khmer culture of Funan—dating to the 1st century.
- The 1995 Mekong Agreement which was signed by Governments of 4 countries: Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam established the Mekong River Commission (MRC). Its focus is on the sustainable development of the Mekong River Basin’s water and related resources.
Rich productivity of Mekong river
- The source of the river’s great productivity is its seasonal variation in water level and the range of wetland habitats inundated.
- The Mekong River has the world’s largest inland fishery, which is due in part to its exceptional sediment and nutrient loads.
- Its basin ranges from the glaciated highlands of the Tibetan Plateau to the hot and humid lowlands of Southeast Asia.
About the Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC):
- The MGC is an initiative by India and five ASEAN countries, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam for cooperation in tourism, culture, education, as well as transport and communications.
- It was launched in 2000 at Vientiane, Laos.
- MGC aims to facilitate closer contacts among the people inhabiting these two major river basins.