14 Apr 2018: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS1 Related
B. GS2 Related
SOCIAL ISSUES
1. Kathua rape-murder case: Maneka Gandhi proposes death penalty for rape of children below 12 years
2. Gender equality continues to suffer at senior levels: report
GOVERNANCE
1. Draft witness protection programme circulated with states for comments: Centre to SC
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. India to host conference aimed at checking proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction
2. India reaches out to African countries to counter China
3. Myanmar says ICC lacks jurisdiction to probe Rohingya crisis
4. Ajit Doval meets China’s top diplomat in Shanghai ahead of SCO summit
POLITY
1. Master of roster: Supreme Court agrees to examine Shanti Bhushan plea
ART AND CULTURE
1. National Film Awards 2018
C. GS3 Related
ECONOMY
1. Govt extends FAME scheme by 6 months
2. US to review India's eligibility for GSP scheme
3. Integrate spot, derivative markets to ensure better prices for farmers: Panel
4. Govt firm on Air India divestment terms
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
1. iLIFE: A new 3 D imaging tool to screen for biological specimen by IISc scientists
2. NASA's first 'space crop'
3. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)
ECOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT
1. Owls in demand in election season
2. Turtle with punk hairdo on endangered species list
D. GS4 Related
E. Editorials
GOVERNANCE
1. Divided we fall: on the 15th Finance Commission
2. Preventing accidents
F. Prelims Fact
G. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
H. UPSC Mains Practice Questions 

A. GS1 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

B. GS2 Related

Category: SOCIAL ISSUES

1. Kathua rape-murder case: Maneka Gandhi proposes death penalty for rape of children below 12 years

  • Reacting to the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said that her ministry will amend laws to bring in death penalty for those found guilty of raping children aged 12 years or below.
  • The minister, one of the few from the Narendra Modi government to break their silence on the issue, said that she would move a Cabinet note to amend the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012.
  • The stringent POCSCO laws are meant to protect children below the age of 18 from sexual assault. However, capital punishment for rape will be made applicable only in case of assault on children and pre-adolescents of 12 years or under.
  • According to sources in WCD Ministry, Sections 4 and 6 of POCSO Act would be amended to make provision for death penalty for those convicted of raping children. Section 4 of the law deals with penetrative sexual assault and is currently punishable by imprisonment of between seven years and life term.
  • Section 6 deals with aggravated penetrative sexual assault, for which the maximum penalty is imprisonment from 10 years to life term. Both will be amended to make a provision for capital punishment.
  • The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, added a new section to POCSO Act, which already provides for death penalty in certain cases where the offence is read with IPC, including cases where rape causes the victim’s death.
  • Section 42 of POCSO Act, dealing with ‘Alternate Punishment’, was amended following the Justice Verma Committee report. It said that if the offence falls under POCSO, as also specific IPC sections, then the offender can be punished under whichever of the two has a punishment of a greater degree.
  • Two such IPC Sections cited in the amended Section 42 is 376A (where in the course of such commission of rape, the offender inflicts an injury which causes the death of the woman or reduces her to a persistent vegetative state) and 376E (repeat offender) — the maximum punishment for these is death penalty.
  • The WCD Ministry’s proposal, if approved, would amend the Act further so as to award capital punishment in all cases of rape of children under 12 years.

2. Gender equality continues to suffer at senior levels: report

The pan India survey of organisations was launched by Confederation of Indian Industry’s (CII) Indian Women Network (IWN), in association with EY.

Findings of the survey

  • Despite substantial rise in the number of women joining workforce in India, gender parity continues to suffer, especially at senior positions, as 16 per cent of organisations have no women on board level.
  • As per the survey, 16 per cent respondents reported having no women on the board and 47 per cent reported that there are no more than 5 per cent women in senior management roles.
  • Some of the major challenges that hinder the progress of diversity and inclusion initiatives include, unconscious bias, ineffective implementation of policies, fewer women in leadership roles, lack of awareness about the benefits of gender diversity.
  • According to the survey, 42 per cent female respondents said they face managerial bias. This bias is known to be present at senior levels and affects the growth of women in the workplace.
  • Moreover, 33 per cent female respondents believe that there are different performance standards and expectations for male and female employees working at the same level.
  • India fares rather poorly on the Gender Disparity Index.The report further noted 69 per cent of organisations have been unable to understand the financial benefits of diversity.
  • Responses in the survey came from over 17 states covering multiple sectors like services, manufacturing, IT, pharma, healthcare and education.

Category: GOVERNANCE

1. Draft witness protection programme circulated with states for comments: Centre to SC

  • The Centre has framed a draft witness protection scheme in consultation with the Bureau of Police Research and Development and NALSA.
  • The Centre told the Supreme Court that the draft has been circulated for comments from the states.The top court asked the union government to finalise the scheme after getting a response from the state government.
  • On November 17, the apex court had asked Centre as to why a draft scheme cannot be formulated for witness protection in the country when specific provisions in this regard were already there in the NIA Act.
  • The apex court had said that witness protection scheme can be implemented for at least sensitive cases and MHA could come out with a comprehensive plan.
  • The issue of the witness protection programme had cropped up when the apex court was hearing a PIL seeking protection for witnesses in rape cases involving self-styled preacher Asaram Bapu.

Salient Features of the Draft

  • The proposed protective measures include concealment of witness identity, change of identity and relocation according to the threat perception.

Categories of Witnesses

  • The draft scheme identifies three categories of witnesses as per threat perception.
    1. Cases where threat extends to life of witness or family members for a substantial period during investigation, trial or even thereafter would be in Category A.
    2. Category B are those where the threat extends to safety, reputation or property of the witness or family members only during the investigation or trial.
    3. Cases where the threat is moderate and extends to harassment or intimidation of the witness or his family members, reputation or property during the investigation would fall in Category C.

Funding

  • Expenses for the programme will be met from a witness protection fund, to be established by states and Union Territories.
  • They should make annual budget allocation for the fund, which will also be free to accept donations from national and international philanthropic organisations and amounts contributed as part of corporate social responsibility, according to the draft scheme.

Competent authority

  • The application for protection will have to be filed before a “competent authority” along with supporting documents. The authority will in turn seek a threat analysis report from the Commissioner or Police or SSP concerned.
  • The police officer must submit the report within five days, according to the draft. The Authority too is required to dispose of an application seeking protection within five days from date of receipt of the threat analysis report.
  • In the report, the officer must categorise the threat perception and suggest protective measures.
  • While processing the application, the Authority shall interact in person, and if that is not possible, through electronic means with the witness and other relevant persons. Proceedings of the authority will be held in-camera.
  • According to the draft, the witness protection order passed by the competent authority will be implemented by the witness protection cell of the state or union territory. It also puts the overall responsibility for implementing the order on the police chief of the state or UT concerned. If the order is for change of identity or relocation, it will be implemented by the home department concerned.

Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

1. India to host conference aimed at checking proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction

In news

  • India will next week host a global conference aimed at helping nations to implement a UN resolution that seeks to check proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons to terrorists and other non-state actors.
  • The External Affairs Ministry, in cooperation with Germany and the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), will host the India-Wiesbaden Conference 2018 from April 16-17, 2018, at the Federation House here.
  • The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) will be the industry partner for the event titled ‘’Securing Global Supply Chains through Government-Industry Partnerships towards Effective Implementation of UNSC Resolution 1540′.
  • Representatives from the government and Industry of 39 countries, as well as experts from the UNSC 1540 Committee and UN Office for Disarmament Affairs in New York, will be participating in the two-day conference.

What is the need for such a Conference?

  • The conference is being held amid reports of an alleged chemical attack in Douma, Syria.
  • The Conference provides an opportunity to participants to share experiences on their export control systems and to identify legal and technical assistance, action plans and challenges in the national implementation of UNSC 1540.
  • The UN Security Council Resolution 1540 of 2004 establishes legally binding obligations on all states to adopt and enforce appropriate and effective measures to prevent the proliferation to non-state actors of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and their delivery systems.
  • It requires, therefore that states implement appropriate and effective measures to prevent non-state actors such as terrorists, from obtaining access to weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
  • The Wiesbaden Process was initiated by Germany in 2012 to strengthen the implementation of UNSC 1540 through government-industry partnerships.
  • India, with its long-standing commitment to international non-proliferation, has established a legally backed robust export control system to implement UNSC 1540.

2. India reaches out to African countries to counter China

In news

  • India has reached out to several African countries through a slew of demand-driven projects over the last one week even as President Ram Nath Kovind visited Zambia, Swaziland and Equatorial Guinea recently. The exercise is seen as a part of India’s counter to Chinese attempts to make inroads into Africa.

Projects in Africa

  • New Delhi has signed off two major infrastructure projects in Zambia. The first supports Zambia’s hospitality industry and conference tourism by setting up the Mahatma Gandhi Convention Centre in Lusaka. The convention centre is likely to be used for the African Union meetings, to be hosted by Zambia in the near future.
  • The second big project, the Lusaka City Roads Decongestion Project, will be implemented with support from India. Zambian President Edgar Chagwa Lungu has offered New Delhi a chance to take up a major railway project in the country.
  • In Swaziland, too, India has stepped in with a project, which has impressed many, including the ruling establishment. President Ram Nath Kovind inaugurated an Information Technology Centre located in the Royal Science & Technology Park (RSTP).
  • India has also announced that it would provide Swaziland a new credit-line of $10.4 million to help establish a ‘Disaster Recovery Site’ for the National Data Centre housed within the RSTP.
    • Swaziland top leadership has also been concerned about the increased Chinese presence in the country, and is reported to have conveyed the concerns to New Delhi as well.
  • In Equatorial Guinea, India is planning to set up an Entrepreneurship Development and Vocational Training Centre and an English Language Training Laboratory, as a strong symbol of India’s desire to contribute to capacity building and training.

3. Myanmar says ICC lacks jurisdiction to probe Rohingya crisis

In news

Myanmar has expressed serious concern over an attempt at the International Criminal Court to open a probe into mass deportations of Rohingya Muslims, dismissing the claims and saying the court has no jurisdiction.

  • Some 700,000 people from the stateless Muslim minority fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state to Bangladesh following Rohingya insurgent attacks on border guard posts in August last year.
  • Myanmar says it was defending itself from the rebel Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army but harrowing testimony from refugees in Bangladesh of rape, extrajudicial killing and arson has prompted accusations of ethnic cleansing and genocide.
  • The chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court in The Hague asked judges to rule whether the body has jurisdiction to open a probe into the more than 670,000 Rohingya who have been intentionally deported across the international border into Bangladesh.

Myanmar responded in a statement from the ministry that oversees civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s state counsellor office.

Legal Hurdles

  • The statement highlights the legal thorniness around the possible probe by arguing that Myanmar is not a party to the Rome statute that countries must sign on to as ICC member states.
  • ICC Charter says that the Court has no jurisdiction over States which have not accepted that jurisdiction.
  • Bangladesh is a member, however, and chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in her filing that her office does have the authority to investigate. A pre-trial chamber of judges is currently reviewing her request but no decision has been made.
  • Myanmar’s government said the prosecutor is attempting to override its sovereignty and rejected the claims in the filing.
  • The two countries have agreed to start repatriating Rohingya refugees but so far not one has returned.

Set up in 2002, the ICC is the only permanent war crimes court and acts to prosecute abuses including genocide in countries where national courts are unwilling or unable to act.

4. Ajit Doval meets China’s top diplomat in Shanghai ahead of SCO summit

  • The National Security Adviser Ajit Doval has met China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi in Shanghai, ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Qingdao for a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
  • Diplomatic sources clarified that the NSA’s meeting is purely bilateral and not part of an SCO arrangement.
  • Later in April, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman are visiting Beijing for meetings that are being held under the SCO framework.
  • Analysts say that talks between Mr. Doval and Mr. Yang are significant as the Chinese diplomat holds a higher rank in the official hierarchy than Wang Yi, who is the foreign minister and state councilor on foreign affairs. Mr. Yang is a member of the powerful 25-member Politburo of the Communist Party of China.

Defusing the Doklam crisis

  • Doval and Mr. Yang had earlier played a major role, including stating the bottom lines for mutual withdrawal, in defusing the Doklam crisis in the Sikkim sector during the preparatory meeting on the BRICS summit that was held in Xiamen in September.
  • Yang then in his capacity as state councilor—a position now held by foreign minister Wang—had visited India in December to energise the “Xiamen process” of rebooting ties between India and China, following the meeting between Prime Minister Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
  • Doval’s visit precedes the India-China Strategic Economic dialogue that begins in Beijing between the NITI Ayog and the China’s top planning body, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).

SCO

  • Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is a Eurasian political, economic, and security organisation, the creation of which was announced on 15 June 2001 in Shanghai, China by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan;
  • These countries, except for Uzbekistan, had been members of the Shanghai Five group, founded on 26 April 1996 in Shanghai.
  • India and Pakistan joined SCO as full members on 9 June 2017 at a summit in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Category: POLITY

1. Master of roster: Supreme Court agrees to examine Shanti Bhushan plea

  • The Supreme Court agreed to examine a petition filed by former union law minister Shanti Bhushan to declare that the authority of the Chief Justice of India as ‘master of roster’ should not be reduced to an absolute, singular and arbitrary power.
    The Bench will hear the petition despite two separate judgments by the Supreme Court in November 2017 and April 9, 2018 upholding the Chief Justice of India’s complete administrative authority to allocate cases and constitute Benches. Both judgments were pronounced by Benches led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. The April 9 verdict called the CJI an “institution in himself”.
    In his petition, Mr. Bhushan said such “absolute discretion” cannot be confined in just one man, the Chief Justice of India.
    Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, for Mr. Bhushan, referred to the Judges case of 1998 to argue that the Supreme Court itself has interpreted the term ‘Chief Justice of India’ to mean the entire Collegium for the purposes of appointments and transfers of judges.
    Dave argued that certain “sensitive” cases were allocated to Benches as per the special order of the CJI. It is the allocation of these core cases that require the collective attention of the Collegium and they should not be left to the “absolute discretion” of the CJI, said Mr. Dave.
  • Justice Sikri observed it was not feasible for the Supreme Court Collegium of the Chief Justice of India and his four senior most to convene two or three times every week to allocate ‘sensitive’ cases among various judges.
    Justice Bhushan told Mr. Dave that “what may be ‘sensitive’ for you may not be sensitive for us (the Supreme Court)”.
  • Justice Sikri said that Prima facie Collegium should not be treated as the Chief Justice of India.But, Mr. Dave replied that Dr. B.R. Ambedkar had said the CJI may also be a man of many failings.
  • Both judges said a procedure for allocation of cases to judges is an “in-house” affair. The judges themselves should evolve a self-governing mechanism.
  • In his petition, Mr. Bhushan asked the Supreme Court to “clarify the administrative authority of the Chief Justice of India as the master of roster and for the laying down of the procedure and principles to be followed in preparing the roster for allocation of cases”.

What does the Petition say?

  • Master of roster cannot be unguided and unbridled discretionary power, exercised arbitrarily by the Chief Justice of India by hand-picking benches of select Judges or by assigning cases to particular judges.
  • The collective opinion of a collegium of senior judges is much safer than the opinion of the Chief Justice alone.

Background

Master of the roster

  • ‘Master of the Roster’ refers to the privilege of the Chief Justice to constitute Benches to hear cases.
  • This privilege was emphasised in November last year, when a Constitution Bench, led by the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, declared that “the Chief Justice is the master of the roster and he alone has the prerogative to constitute the Benches of the Court and allocate cases to the Benches so constituted.”
  • It further said that “no Judge can take up the matter on this own, unless allocated by the Chief Justice of India, as he is the master of the roster.”

Category: ART AND CULTURE

1. National Film Awards 2018

The 2018 National Film Awards were announced by Shekhar Kapur, the head of the Jury for feature films.

Background

The National Film Awards is the most prominent film award ceremonies in India. Established in 1954, it has been administered, along with the International Film Festival of India and the Indian Panorama, by the Indian government’s Directorate of Film Festivals since 1973.

  • Every year, a national panel appointed by the government selects the winning entry, and the award ceremony is held in New Delhi, where the President of India presents the awards.
  • This is followed by the inauguration of the National Film Festival, where the award-winning films are screened for the public.
  • Declared for films produced in the previous year across the country, they hold the distinction of awarding merit to the best of Indian cinema overall, as well as presenting awards for the best films in each region and language of the country.
  • Due to the national scale of the National Film Awards, it is considered the Indian equivalent of the American Academy Awards.

C. GS3 Related

Category: ECONOMY

1. Govt extends FAME scheme by 6 months

  • The Union government decided to extend the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid) and Electric Vehicles (FAME) scheme by six months until 30 September 2018, or till the time the second phase of the scheme is approved by it.
  • The department of heavy industries has already prepared a draft of the second phase of the scheme, which has been sent to the finance ministry for approval.
  • As the government intends to promote electric mobility in India, it is expected that the new version of the scheme will give exemptions and subsidies for manufacturing electric vehicle components and to buyers of electric vehicles (EVs) for commercial purposes like public transport.

About FAME

  • FAME, launched in fiscal 2015, was meant to run for two years until March 2017. Subsequently, the scheme was extended twice till March 2018.
  • In December, the department of heavy industries in a bid to utilize the funds sanctioned under the FAME scheme and boost electric mobility across the country, launched a pilot project for funding electric vehicles in 11 cities for public transport purposes.
  • Under the pilot project, a 60% subsidy is provided to buses, 20% for three-wheelers and 10-15% to four-wheelers. Almost 10% of the total subsidy will be spent on establishing charging stations.
  • Automobile manufacturers were eagerly awaiting an extension of the FAME scheme before the second phase is introduced sometime during the current fiscal year.

FAME India Scheme

  • The Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles (FAME) India was launched in 2015 under the National Electric Mobility Mission (NEMM) aims at promoting eco-friendly vehicles in the country. It is being administered by the Heavy Industries Ministry.
  • The objective of scheme is to provide fiscal and monetary incentives for adoption and market creation of both hybrid and electric technologies vehicles in the country. It also aims at incentivising all vehicle segments, including two-wheelers, three wheeler auto, passenger four-wheeler vehicle, light commercial vehicles and buses.
  • The scheme covers hybrid and electric technologies like a strong hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles. Its mandate is to support hybrid or electric vehicles market development and its manufacturing eco-system in country in order to achieve self-sustenance in the stipulated period.

2. US to review India’s eligibility for GSP scheme

In news

  • The US has decided to review India’s eligibility to enjoy duty-free access for certain products in the American market under a tax benefit scheme.
  • As many as 3,500 Indian products from sectors such as chemicals and engineering get duty-free access to the US market under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), introduced in 1976.
  • The office of the US trade representative (USTR) said it was reviewing the eligibility of India, Indonesia and Kazakhstan under the GSP, based on concerns about the countries’ compliance with the program.
  • The reviews are based on the Donald Trump administration’s new GSP country eligibility assessment process, as well as GSP country eligibility petitions. For India, the GSP country eligibility review is based on concerns related to its compliance with the GSP market access criterion.

About GSP

  • GSP is a trade preference programme that the US government offers to exporters from other countries to promote economic development by allowing duty-free entry of goods.
  • Under the GSP, Indian exports to the US enjoy lower import tariffs compared to those imposed on non-GSP exporters.
  • The US has been pressing India not to extend price caps on medical devices and wanted India to allow firms to withdraw products from the market if they do not wish to sell at government-determined rates. According to US, the pricing policy had created serious problems for US stent makers in India. American medical device makers had also asked the USTR to suspend or withdraw India’s benefits under GSP.

3. Integrate spot, derivative markets to ensure better prices for farmers: Panel

Report of Expert Committee on Integration of Commodity Spot and Derivatives Markets

  • It is a committee chaired by NITI Aayog member Ramesh Chand. It was set up by the finance ministry in June last year.

Key suggestions

  • A well regulated, pan-India electronic spot market converging with a functional derivatives market will help farmers receive better and stable prices.
  • Such a convergence of spot and futures prices will also enhance the effectiveness of the commodity ecosystem and connect farmers to a transparent market-driven production system,.
  • Absence of a central law to regulate a pan-India spot market, lack of adequate storage, infrastructure and assaying facilities are challenges waiting to be addressed.
  • Providing a road map for integrating spot and derivatives markets, the report recommended urgent adoption of the model agriculture marketing Act (proposed by the centre last year) and promoting farmer producer organizations (FPOs) to improve farmers’ bargaining power.
  • For developing a robust derivatives market in farm produce, the government should desist from imposing sudden restrictions due to production or price fluctuations.
  • The panel observed that existing spot market platforms like the electronic National Agriculture Market (eNAM) need a robust dispute-resolution mechanism.
  • A large number of participants in pan-India trading platforms like the eNAM will lead to transparent price discovery and eliminate the possibility of manipulative practices like cartelization.

4. Govt firm on Air India divestment terms

In news

  • The government does not plan to dilute the terms of reference for the disinvestment of Air India despite demands and pressures from a number of bidders.
    • According to civil aviation ministry officials, some potential bidders have informally raised issues such as the huge debt that the successful bidder will have to take on and sought a reduction in the liability.
    • The interested parties have also expressed concern over the rule that forbids mergers with other existing airlines as long as the government continues to be a shareholder and the veto on downsizing for at least a year.
  • The expressions of interest have to be filed by mid-May, and the officials believe the bidding process will attract a significant number of global players in partnership with Indian business houses.

What are the concerns of the bidders?

  • On offer is a 76 per cent stake in Air India to the successful bidder, which can be a single firm or a consortium. Though foreign airlines are allowed a 49 per cent stake, management control has to remain in Indian hands.
  • Another sore point for the bidders is the rule that the airline be run on a going-concern basis and on an arms-length basis from the other businesses of the bidder as long as the government holds a stake even after the selloff.
  • Most of the potential Indian bidders are existing airlines – Jet, Indigo and the Tatas, who own Air Asia India and Vistara – who were looking to synchronise their operations with Air India, including taking over some of Air India’s lucrative routes and landing slots and eventual merger.
  • The amount of debt and the arms length management clauses are believed to be behind Jet and Indigo fighting shy of entering the fray and reports suggesting that the Tatas may not be that keen on Air India.

 Category: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

1. iLIFE: A new 3 D imaging tool to screen for biological specimen by IISc scientists

  • Scientists from Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR) have demonstrated a new type of 3 dimensional imaging platform, called iLIFE, that provide detailed images of biological specimen flowing in a fluid.

What is it?

  • iLIFE stands for integrated light-sheet imaging and flow based enquiry. Light-sheet microscopy is a technique used to image fast moving or imaging-sensitive biological samples.
  • Here the biological sample is made to pass through a light-sheet-a literal sheet made of light, while a detector or a camera placed perpendicular to the sheet, records the cross sections of the biological sample as it moves through the light-sheet.

Applications

  • The authors foresee a range of 3D imaging applications for the iLIFE system in the future, in fields like structural biology and biophysics, with their demonstration being the first step.
  • The detector can then provide a complete 3D image of the sample by merging the cross sections together. This method also avoids any affects of the light on the specimen, by illuminating only a single plane of the specimen at a time.
  • The system has already been used to screen and image biological specimen of varying sizes, including single cell organisms (like HeLa) and multi cellular organisms, like Caenorhabditis elegans, commonly called roundworm which can grow to a size of around 1 millimeter.

2. NASA’s first ‘space crop’

In a significant breakthrough, NASA has documented the first growth in its newly installed Advanced Plant Habitat (APH). The APH was installed at the international space station (ISS) in 2017, and this growth of dwarf wheat and Arabidopsis(a type of flowering rockcress) marks its first harvest.

How it happened?

  • Joe Acaba, a NASA astronaut, prepped the grower in the APH by inserting seeds in February 2017. Thereafter, the crops were looked after by an automated, closed-loop system known as the Plant Habitat Avionics Real-Time Manager or PHARMER.
  • PHARMER then continued to collect data from 180 sensors that were assessing conditions such as temperature, humidity, light, and visual imagery.
  • The habitat is designed to test which growth conditions plants prefer in space and provides specimens a larger root and shoot area. By doing so, scientists will now gauge which crops can be grown aboard the space station.
  • The APH is a recent addition to the ISS and is roughly the size of a mini-fridge. The crew at the station had to add water to the chamber and change atmospheric elements such as ethylene scrubber, carbon dioxide scrubber & bottles, and filters.

Why grow food in space?

  • Growing plants on board will help NASA as it will help reduce the amount of food that must be carried for long-duration missions in space.
  • In addition too this, astronauts might just get to see a variety in terms of food choices. Even though the astronauts seem to enjoy their diet, fresh produce will be a welcomed change. Furthermore, it has been reported that the activity of caring for plants and watching them grow gives scientists some joy in their daily routine.
  • Scientists have managed to grow vegetables without sunlight or soil. NASA’s ability to grow plants in space is an achievement for agriculturalists, environmentalists and scientists.

3. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)

In news

A new NASA satellite, which will hunt for exoplanets that have the potential to harbour alien life, is on schedule to launch next week. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), will launch from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on April 16.

About the Probe

  • With the help of a gravitational assist from the Moon, the spacecraft will settle into a 13.7-day orbit around Earth. Sixty days after launch, and following tests of its instruments, the satellite will begin its initial two-year mission.
  • The satellite, developed by scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US, aims to discover thousands of nearby exoplanets, including at least 50 Earth-sized ones.
  • The spacecraft, not much larger than a refrigerator, carries four cameras that will survey the nearest, brightest stars in the sky for signs of passing planets.
  • TESS will spend two years scanning nearly the entire sky – a field of view that can encompass more than 20 million stars.
    The first year of observations will map the 13 sectors encompassing the southern sky, and the second year will map the 13 sectors of the northern sky.
  • The spacecraft will be looking for a phenomenon known as a transit, where a planet passes in front of its star, causing a periodic and regular dip in the star’s brightness.
  • NASA’s Kepler spacecraft used the same method to spot more than 2,600 confirmed exoplanets, most of them orbiting faint stars 300 to 3,000 light-years away.
  • The TESS science team at MIT aims to measure the masses of at least 50 small planets whose radii are less than four times that of Earth.
  • Many of TESS’s planets should be close enough to our own that, once they are identified by TESS, scientists can zoom in on them using other telescopes, to detect atmospheres, characterize atmospheric conditions, and even look for signs of habitability.

Category: ECOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT

1. Owls in demand in election season

What have owls got to do with elections?

  • Ever since the Assembly elections were announced in Karnataka, there has been an upswing in the demand for these birds, which are included in the schedule of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act.
  • Some candidates believe that it brings them good luck. Seven cases of poaching have been registered in the past few days alone in Kollegal in Chamarajanagar district, Doddaballapur in Bengaluru Rural, and Chintamani in Chickballapur district. The source admitted that the demand is usually high during elections.
  • In a latest trend, poachers have been using social media to sell the birds. Birds’ photographs and prices are being circulated through WhatsApp.
  • Forest mobile squads have stepped up vigilance around villages in Kollegal and other forest ranges to prevent poaching of owls, department officials said.
  • Sources said there was a strong belief in Chamarajanagar district, which is one of the most backward in the State, that owl would bring good fortune.

2. Turtle with punk hairdo on endangered species list

  • An Australian turtle with a green, punk hairdo known as  Mary River Turtle has become the latest creature to join the “EDGE of Existence” list of endangered species compiled by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).
  • A native of Queensland, Australia, the turtle was one of 100 reptiles added to the catalogue.It lives only in the Mary River from which it takes its name. The inventory has no shortage of weird and wonderful creatures. But the Mary River Turtle might just be the strangest of them all.
  • The species is known to scientists as Elusor macrurus . It can breathe underwater through specialised glands in the cloaca — orifices through which the turtle excretes urine and waste, and lays eggs.
  • This turtle is able to spend so much time underwater — up to three days — without coming up for air due to its strange ability to breathe through its bum.
  • They have specialised organs in their cloaca which process oxygen from the surrounding water. But the most distinguishing feature is the bright green, spiky mohawks sprouting on the heads of some.

Green mohawk

  • This is not hair, but algae. The Mary River Turtle spends so much time submerged underwater that some individuals become covered in algae — and can end up with some pretty impressive bright green hairstyles.
  • According to Australia’s department of the environment, the Mary River Turtle’s rapid decline was sparked by its popularity as a house pet in the 1970s and 80s, known then as the “Penny Turtle”.The creature was only recognised and listed as a distinct species in 1994.
  • The Mary River Turtle takes an exceptionally long time to reach sexual maturity, with individuals not breeding before the age of 25.
  • Destruction of the creatures’ natural habitat through the building of dams, as well as the collection of its eggs for the pet trade, piled on the survival pressure.

 

D. GS4 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

E. Editorials

Category: GOVERNANCE

1. Divided we fall: on the 15th Finance Commission

Context:

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi thinks vested interests are behind the “baseless” allegation that the terms of reference of the 15th Finance Commission are biased against certain States or a region.
  • Southern States for a rethink on the parameters for the Commission to determine revenue-sharing between the Centre and the States.

Keypoints:

  • The southern States are worried that the Commission is changing from the 1971 Census to the 2011 Census.
  • These States have improved to control populace growth.
  • What’s more, they could see their portions, as a small amount of the aggregate assets, decreased for performing better.
  • In any case, Tamil Nadu would really profit by the Commission’s command as the Center has mooted motivators for the individuals who have done well on populace control.

Impact of the Finance Commission

  • One should hold up till October 2019, when the Finance Commission’s last suggestions come in, to survey the genuine effect on States’ money flows, however surrounding the issue as a southern versus northern States talk is not constructive.
  • The fourteenth Finance Commission had additionally given a 10% weightage for the 2011 Census in its figuring’s and there was no perceivable effect on assignments to the more crowded States, for example, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
  • Considering couple of different States whose offer of India’s total population has declined in the vicinity of 1971 and 2011, including West Bengal, Goa, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab is likewise the need of great importance.

So what should be focus of the hour?

  • Regardless of whether mid-day meals for kids or work plans for the poor under the employment schemes add up to populist pandering is a great degree subjective call.
  • At long last, it is deluding for State governments to accept that every single positive change in socioeconomics are their very own consequence activities or arrangements.
  • There is an assortment of elements impacting everything when people settle on choices about reproduction.
  • It is more basic to guarantee that resources reach those individuals who require them the most and that the really destitute are not denied, wherever they might be.
  • States may spend their energies better by looking for greater lucidity on the Commission’s different terms of reference, particularly the motivations proposed for disregarding populism and the move to give the Center a bigger offer of the assets to manufacture the New India it imagines by 2022.
  • Also, the Center’s endeavor to build its offer from the separable pool of assets from the present 58% is something that should concern all States, regardless of whether crowded or not.

2. Preventing accidents

Context:

  • Data on deaths this week of at least 23 children and many others in a school bus crash in Kangra, Himachal Pradesh, or of the 18 labourers in a lorry accident in Maharashtra, or of nine people in a truck mishap in Uttar Pradesh are mere blips on the radar of administrators.

Facts and Figures:

  • Bald data on Indians killed or injured in road accidents put out annually by the Centre obscure the human impact of the carnage on national and State highways, as well as urban and rural roads.
  • Bringing sanity to the roads of a fast-motorising country seems to be nobody’s responsibility.
  • India as a whole is inured to the ghastly toll every year, although the Supreme Court has been trying to shake governments out of their apathy through the Committee on Road Safety it constituted in 2014 and several specific and time-bound directions.
  • Take the issue of safety black spots on roads that were identified on the basis of fatal accidents between 2011 and 2014.
  • The Union Road Transport Ministry stated in March this year that only 189 out of 789 such spots had been rectified, while funds had been sanctioned for another 256, and the rest were either under State jurisdiction or awaiting sanction.
  • Incremental approaches such as this result in the shameful national record of about 150,000 dead and several hundred thousand injured annually.

What is the solution ahead?

  • The Kangra accident needs to be probed by qualified transport safety experts to determine the factors that caused it. There needs to be a report on the crash, to identify lapses, if any, and to take up remedial road engineering measures.
  • The apex court has directed that the performance of district committees should be reviewed periodically.
  • This should ideally follow mandatory public hearings every month for citizens to record road risk complaints.
  • Forming the much-delayed National Road Safety and Traffic Management Board, with a provision for State governments to participate, has to be a top priority.
  • Without expert help, executive agencies such as the Police and Public Works Departments are unable to conduct a technical investigation into an accident.
  • Only a scientific system can stop the routine criminalising of all accidents. The present investigative machinery does not have the capability to determine faults, enabling officials responsible for bad road design and construction and lax traffic managers to escape liability.
  • For accident victims, there is also the heavy burden of out-of-pocket expenditure on medical treatment. The government had promised to address this issue through a cashless facility, but it has not been able to do so as the requisite amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act have not yet been passed.
  • Ultimately, road safety depends on enforcement of rules with zero tolerance to violations, and making officials accountable for safety. That can be ensured even today.

 

F. Prelims Fact

Nothing here for today!!!

G. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam

Question 1. Consider the following statements about National Film Awards:
  1. It has been administered, along with the International Film Festival of India and the Indian Panorama, by the Indian government’s Directorate of Film Festivals since 1973.
  2. Every year, a national panel appointed by the government selects the winning entry.

Which of the above statements are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

See

Answer
Question 2. Consider the following statements about Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO):
  1. Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is purely an economic organisation.
  2. China and Russia are members of the organisation.

Which of the above statements are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

See

Answer
Question 3. Consider the following statements:
  1. The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted for protection of plants and animal species.
  2. Schedule I and part II of Schedule II provide absolute protection – offences under these are prescribed the highest penalties.

Which of the above statements are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

See

Answer

H. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

  1. The Jayanthi’s and National holidays celebrated should be the time to cherish the values and virtues rather than mere cosmetic approach of celebration. Analyze.
  2. Explain why India, not China, is a better investment partner for Africa?

 

Also, check previous Daily News Analysis

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