Smart Anti Airfield Weapon
Why in News?
- DRDO successfully conducted captive and release trial of indigenously developed Smart Anti-Airfield Weapon (SAAW) from Hawk-I of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) off the Odisha coast.
- The smart weapon was successfully test fired from Indian Hawk-Mk132 of HAL.
- This was the 9th successful mission of SAAW conducted by DRDO till now.
- It was a text book launch, which met all mission objectives.
- SAAW is indigenously designed and developed by DRDO’s Research Centre Imarat (RCI) Hyderabad.
- This is 125 Kg class smart weapon, capable of engaging ground enemy airfield assets such as radars, bunkers, taxi tracks, and runways etc. up to a range of 100 kms.
- The high precision guided bomb is light weight as compared to weapon system of the same class.
- The weapon was earlier successfully test fired from Jaguar aircraft.
‘Rapid Assessment System (RAS)’
Why in News?
- Under the Covid Vaccination drive, the Government of India is using ‘Rapid Assessment System (RAS)’, a platform developed by Ministry of Electronics & IT (MeitY) for taking feedback from those who get vaccinated.
- This initiative to utilize RAS platform is aimed at improving the vaccination experience for citizens, while ensuring that all norms are being followed during the vaccination process at all vaccination centres.
- This feedback system will help the Government to make the vaccination process more citizen-friendly.
About Rapid Assessment System (RAS):
- National e-Governance Division, Ministry of Electronics & IT, developed Rapid Assessment System (RAS) for online instant feedback for e-services (online as well as offline through counters) delivered by the Government of India and State Governments.
- The main objective of RAS is to continuously assess the quality of eServices, through feedback, under each e-Governance project and realign processes to achieve targeted benefits. RAS interface prompts the citizens to provide feedback about the quality of service immediately after the citizen avails an eService of the Government.
- The analytic features of RAS help integrated departments in system improvement and better delivery of services.
Decision Support System (DSS)
Why in News?
- The Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) in NCR and adjoining areas has begun the process of setting up a Decision Support System (DSS) having a web, GIS and multi-model based operational and planning decision support tool.
What it does?
- This tool will help immensely in capturing the static and dynamic features of the emissions from various sources.
- It will have an integrated framework to handle both primary and secondary pollutants using chemical transport model.
- The system will also be able to handle the source specific interventions with the framework to estimate benefits of interventions and will focus on presenting the best results in a comprehensive user friendly and simple format for different users.
The Air Quality Management Decision Support Tool (DST)
- It integrates an emissions inventory development application and database;
- Regional, local and source–receptor modelling; and
- Geographical Information System (GIS) based visualization tools in a software framework.
- So as to build a robust system to formulate and implement source specific interventions to improve the air quality over targeted sectors of Delhi / NCR.
- The sources covered will include industries, transport, power plants, residential, DG sets, road dust, agricultural burning, refuse burning, construction dust, ammonia, volatile organic compounds, landfill etc.
- For instance, municipalities, industrial associations, industrial development authorities etc. would be the stake holders for identifying interventions related to waste burning, industrial source pollution, respectively.
Harnessing Potash in Rajasthan
Why in News?
- A tripartite agreement was signed between Mineral Exploration Corporation Limited (MECL), Rajasthan State Mines & Minerals Limited (RSMML) and the Department of Mines & Geology (DMG), Govt. of Rajasthan for taking up feasibility studies of Solution Mining of Potash in the state of Rajasthan.
- MoU will pave the way to undertake feasibility studies for harnessing sub-surface salt deposits through solution mining, utilise Rajasthan’s rich mineral reserves, boost its economy and establish it as a hub of solution mining of potash, the 1st in the country.
- Rajasthan has huge Potash and Halite resources spread across 50,000 sq. kms in the Nagaur – Ganganagar basin in the northwest.
- Bedded Salt formations are strategically useful for underground oil storage, repositories for hydrogen, ammonia and helium gas, storage of compresses gas and nuclear waste.
- Potash & Sodium Chloride from the Bedded Salt are extensively used in the Fertiliser Industry and the Chemical Industry respectively.
“Shramshakti” Digital Data Solution for Migrant Workers
Why in News?
- Ministry of Tribal Affairs launched “ShramShakti”, a National Migration Support Portal at a programme held at Panjim, Goa.
- It would effectively help in the smooth formulation of state and national level programs for migrant workers.
- Also launched a tribal migration cell, a tribal museum at Goa and “ShramSaathi”, a training manual for migrant workers.
- The Chief Minister of Goa also launched dedicated Migration cell in Goa to facilitate and support migrants who come from different States to Goa.
- Lack of real time data of migrants was the biggest challenge for state and national governments in formulating effective strategies and policy decisions for welfare of migrant workers at both source and destination states.
- The migration of tribal population is distress-driven and the migrants are exposed to difficult and unsafe conditions.
- The tribal migration repository, Shram Shakti would be able to successful able to address the data gap and empower migrant workers who generally migrate in search of employment and income generation.
- It would also help the government for linking the migrant population with existing Welfare Scheme- under Atam Nirbhar Bharat.
- The various data that will be recorded via Shram Shakti include demographic profile, livelihood options, skill mapping and migration pattern.
- Also launched the tribal training module- ShramSaathi, to ensure that the process of livelihood migration is safe and productive.
- After training via this module, tribal migrant workers will be able to demand and access services, rights and entitlements related to livelihood and social security at their village before migration, as well after migration at destination towns and cities.
Vaccine Maitri Diplomacy
Why in News?
- Large consignments of Covishield vaccine doses were flown in special Indian aircraft to Seychelles, Mauritius and Myanmar.
- The shipments of the vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India in Pune is part of the Vaccine Maitri diplomacy that the Ministry of External Affairs said will also cover Africa which is in need of affordable COVID-19 vaccine doses.
- In the first round of supplies, special flights have already carried large consignments of the Covishield vaccine doses to Bhutan, the Maldives, Bangladesh and Nepal.
Research, Tourism in Arctic
Why in News?
- India has unveiled a new draft ‘Arctic’ policy that, among other things, commits to expanding scientific research, “sustainable tourism” and mineral oil and gas exploration in the Arctic region.
National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research
- India expects the Goa-based National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research to lead scientific research and act as a nodal body to coordinate among various scientific bodies
- to promote domestic scientific research capacities
- By expanding “earth sciences, biological sciences, geosciences, climate change and space related programmes, dove-tailed with Arctic imperatives in Indian Universities.
Other objectives of the policy
- Putting in place Arctic related programmes for mineral/oil and gas exploration in petroleum research institutes and encouraging tourism and hospitality sectors in building specialised capacities and awareness to engage with Arctic enterprises.
- Five Arctic littoral states — Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Norway, Russia and the USA (Alaska) — and three other Arctic nations — Finland, Sweden and Iceland — form the Arctic Council.
Arctic Region & Climate Change
- Climate change has meant that seasons in the Arctic influence tropical weather.
- The Arctic influences atmospheric, oceanographic and biogeochemical cycles of the earth’s ecosystem.
- The loss of sea ice, ice caps, and warming of the ocean and atmosphere would lower salinity in the ocean, increase the temperature differential between land and oceans in the tropical regions, dry subtropical areas and increase precipitation at higher latitudes.
- Arctic research will help India’s scientific community to study melting rates of the third pole — the Himalayan glaciers, which are endowed with the largest freshwater reserves in the world outside the geographic poles.
India on Arctic
- India launched its first scientific expedition to the Arctic in 2007 and set up a research station ‘Himadri’ in the international Arctic research base at Ny-Ålesund in Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Norway.
- It has two other observatories in Kongsforden and Gruvebadet. Himadri is manned for about 180 days a year.
- Since its establishment, over 300 Indian researchers have worked in the station. India has sent 13 expeditions to the Arctic since 2007 and runs 23 active projects.
Crimes against Persons with Disabilities
Why in News?
- A group of over 90 disability rights organisations, activists and academics has written to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, urging that the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) maintain data of the violent crimes committed against persons with disabilities.
- They were “dismayed by the fact that despite the large number of reported cases of sexual assaults on disabled girls/women, the NCRB does not maintain disaggregated data on such violence, as a separate category”.
Others on This
- The United Nations committee monitoring the implementation of the U.N. Convention on Rights of PwD had recommended to the government in September 2019 to ensure that the NCRB collected disaggregated data by sex, age, place of residence, relationship with perpetrator and disability in case of violence and exploitation of women and girls with disabilities.
- The National Human Rights Commission too had recommended recently that the NCRB should maintain data on PwD.
- They issue was urgent as the number of such cases were on the rise, including during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tighter Regulatory Framework for NBFCs
Why in News?
- The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has suggested a tougher regulatory framework for the non-banking finance companies’ (NBFC) sector to prevent recurrence of any systemic risk to the country’s financial system.
- The regulatory and supervisory framework of NBFCs will be based on a four-layered structure — the base layer (NBFC-BL), middle layer (NBFC-ML), upper layer (NBFC-UL) and the top layer.
- If the framework is visualised as a pyramid, the bottom of the pyramid, where least regulatory intervention is warranted, can consist of NBFCs currently classified as non-systemically important NBFCs (NBFC-ND), NBFCP2P lending platforms, NBFCAA, NOFHC and Type I NBFCs.
- Moving up, the next layer may comprise NBFCs currently classified as systemically important NBFCs (NBFC-ND-SI), deposit-taking NBFCs (NBFC-D), HFCs, IFCs, IDFs, SPDs and CICs.
- The regulatory regime for this layer shall be stricter compared to the base layer.
- The next layer may consist of NBFCs identified as ‘systemically significant’. This layer will be populated by NBFCs having a large potential of systemic spill-over of risks and the ability to impact financial stability.
- The extant regulatory framework for NBFC-NDs will now be applicable to base layer NBFCs, while the extant regulatory framework applicable for NBFC-NDSI will be applicable to middle layer NBFCs. NBFCs residing in the upper layer will constitute a new category.
- The current threshold for systemic importance, which is ₹500 crore now, is proposed to be revised to ₹1,000 crore.
- As per the proposals, the extant NPA classification norm of 180 days will be reduced to 90 days.
Why in News?
- How has the Sensex moved and changed over time?
- Launched on January 2, 1986 (base year:1978-79 = 100), the country’s first equity index has risen from 124 in April 1979 to 50,000 today, a compounded annual growth rate of 15.9% over 42 years.
- From 1990, when it hit 1,000, the CAGR of the S&P BSE Sensex is 13.5%.
- Thirty-five years ago, there were no IT companies and banking stocks in the benchmark index; it now has 9 stocks from banking and finance, and 4 information technology companies.
- Only five companies that were initially part of the index retain their place — Reliance Industries, HUL, ITC, L&T, and M&M.
What is behind the recent unhindered rise of the market?
- The latest spike that has pushed the Sensex past 50,000 is primarily on account of the smooth transition of power in the United States after the deadly January 6 siege of the Capitol.
- Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion stimulus is likely to keep global markets at elevated levels for now.
- Analysts expect the combination of strong capital inflows, low interest rates, leaner corporate balance sheets, and steps taken by the government, to quicken the pace of economic recovery in India.
Government Decided To Put Farm Laws on Hold
Why in News?
- After a round of internal discussions, farmer unions rejected the government’s offer on keeping the farm laws on hold to break the impasse over their protest against the same.
Reasons being cited for the government’s decision to keep the laws on hold for 18 months.
Supreme Court’s move to stay the implementation of the law:
- In its interim order on January 12, the apex court stayed implementation of the three new farm laws — rarely does the Supreme Court stay a law passed by Parliament.
- Some BJP leaders saw the court’s decision to appoint an expert panel as “a way out” for the government which has been desperate to end the protests that have dragged on for well over a month.
- Some leaders expressed resentment over “judicial overreach”.
The Sangh leadership’s open call could embolden those “disapproving voices” inside the party:
- A number of party leaders have pointed out that the government could have had more deliberations on the Bills or that it could have been referred to a select committee once the objections were raised, which would have weaken the opposition to the laws.
The tractor rally:
- The Supreme Court’s stand that Delhi Police should decide on the entry of protesting farmers into Delhi on Republic Day has also disappointed many in the government.
- A tractor rally on Republic Day in the national capital is not the optics the government would like to have.
- The government is now trying to avoid such an embarrassment, and it wanted to resolve the issue at least temporarily.
- If the farmers hold the rally, even the Republic Parade will be overshadowed and it would create a major embarrassment for the government.
- With the budget session set to begin on January 29, the Opposition is gearing up to corner the government on the farm laws and the unrelenting protests at Delhi’s borders.
- “With many parties — including regional parties and some allies — expressing their support to the farmers, the BJP could be isolated on the issue in Parliament.
- This will give the opposition an opportunity to be united against the government.
Counting Elephants from Space
Why in News?
- Scientists are using very high-resolution satellite imagery to count and detect wildlife species, including African elephants.
- A team of researchers detected elephants in South Africa from space using Artificial Intelligence with an accuracy that they have compared to human detection capabilities.
What is the significance of this?
- The population of African elephants has plummeted over the last century due to poaching, retaliatory killing from crop-raiding and habitat fragmentation.
- Therefore, in order to conserve the species, it is important for scientists to track elephant populations.
- It is important that scientists know the exact number of elephants that exist in an area as inaccurate counts can lead to misallocation of conservation resources, which are already limited and have resulted in misunderstanding population trends.
So, how did scientists track the elephants?
- Before researchers developed the new technique, one of the most common survey methods to keep a check on elephant populations in savannah environments involved aerial counts undertaken from manned aircraft.
- However, this method does not deliver accurate results since observers on aircraft are prone to get exhausted, are sometimes hindered by poor visibility and may even succumb to bias. Further, aerial surveys are costly and logistically challenging, the university article states.
- To test the new method, researchers chose the Addo Elephant National Park in South Africa, the country’s third-largest park and which has a high concentration of elephants.
- They used satellite imagery that required no ground presence to monitor the elephants.
- Researchers used the highest resolution satellite imagery currently available, called Worldview3.
- The team created a training dataset of 1,000 elephants and fed it to the Convolutional Neural Network (CNN) and compared the results to human performance.
Why in News?
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit Assam.
- The venue for Modi’s programme — where he will launch an Assam government initiative to distribute over one lakh land pattas (documents) to indigenous communities of the state — is the historic Jerenga Pothar in Upper Assam’s Sivasagar district.
- Formerly known as Rangpur, Sivasagar was the seat of the powerful Ahom dynasty, who ruled Assam for six centuries (1228-1826).
- It is part of Upper Assam, which saw strong opposition to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) last year.
What is the historical significance of Jerenga Pothar?
- Jerenga Pothar, an open field in Sivasagar town, is popularly connected to the valour of 17th century Ahom princess Joymoti.
- While the courage of Ahom kings is well-documented, Joymoti’s story — little-known until the latter part of the 19th century — is today celebrated and invoked as a symbol of inspiration.
- From 1671 to 1681, the Ahom kingdom was undergoing a period of tumult under ‘ministerial superiority’, meaning the nobles and prime ministers were more important than the king, who were often puppets.
- It was at this time that Sulikhpaa— also known as ‘Lora Raja’ or the boy prince — and his Prime Minister Laluksala Borphukan were tracking down, and killing, possible heirs, to ensure a clear passage to the throne.
- Prince Godapani, Joymoti’s husband, was next in line, but he escaped to the Naga Hills before Lora Raja and his men could capture him.
- It was then that Lora Raja sought out Godapani’s wife Joymoti, hoping she would tell him about his whereabouts.
- However, despite being tortured for days, tied to a thorny plant, in an open field, Joymoti refused to divulge any information.
- She died, sacrificing her life for her husband, who ultimately became the king, ushering in an era of stability and peace in Assam.
- The place Joymoti was tortured to death was Jerenga Pothar.
Sudden Stratospheric Warming
What is Sudden Stratospheric Warming?
- Starting with the troposphere, this is the lowest 10km and the zone where all our weather sits and where our jet streams are.
- The next layer spanning between 10km and 50km is the stratosphere, where the ozone layer is and where there are also jet streams.
- In winter, the North Pole is tilted away from the sun allowing the air to cool and pool over the Arctic, down as low as minus 80 Celsius! A jet stream with strong westerly winds called the Stratospheric Polar Vortex encircles this cold air, locking it in place.
- Sometimes the Polar Vortex will become disrupted and the air within it collapses in on itself, squashing and compressing, and warming up quickly.
- That’s the SSW taking place; there’s no heat being put in, simply the action of the air being squished.
- The polar vortex then starts to weaken and slow down, even reverse its winds to easterlies.
- This weakening of the polar vortex eventually extends down through the stratosphere to the top of troposphere and starts to weaken our own jet stream.
- This in turn alters our weather patterns and stops our usual winter stream of Atlantic low pressure systems and mild southwesterlies.
- We end up instead with cold easterly winds bringing prolonged periods of low temperatures, ice, frost and snow.
Why in News?
- Scientists from the United Kingdom and Japan have come together to develop new, safer technologies to dismantle old nuclear facilities like the Fukushima Daiichi reactors, which were severely damaged by an earthquake and a tsunami in March 2011.
- Long-reach robot arms used in this research collaboration called ‘LongOps’ will diminish risks to human health and also speed up decommissioning of legacy sites.
- The £12 million (approximately Rs 120 crore) project will focus on innovation for fast decommissioning of legacy nuclear sites and automating parts of the nuclear fusion power generation process.
- The research will be equally funded over four years by UK Research and Innovation, UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), which owns the disabled Fukushima plant.
- Another innovation known as ‘digital twin technology’ will sophistically analyse data from the decommissioning sites and predict maintenance and operational challenges.
- This will help the project scientists improve productivity and optimise the process at every step.
- Robotics and remote control technology is important for the success of fuel debris recovery.
The Global Risks Report 2021
Why in News?
- The World Economic Forum (WEF), in its ‘The Global Risks Report 2021’ has warned that infectious diseases, environmental risks, and economic troubles including livelihood and debt crises stand as the highest risks for the next ten years.
The WEF, in its report, states that
- Risks of job losses, a widening digital divide, disrupted social interactions, and abrupt shifts in markets could lead to dire consequences and lost opportunities for large parts of the global population.
- These consequences, which could manifest in the form of social unrest, political fragmentation, and geopolitical tensions, will shape the effectiveness of responses to other key threats of the next decade, climate change being paramount among them, along with cyberattacks and weapons of mass destruction.
- Among the highest likelihood risks of the next ten years are extreme weather, climate action failure, and human-led environmental damage; as well as digital power concentration, digital inequality and cybersecurity failure.
- Among the highest impact risks of the next decade, infectious diseases are in the top spot, followed by climate action failure and other environmental risks; as well as weapons of mass destruction, livelihood crises, debt crises, and IT infrastructure breakdown.
- Out of these, employment and livelihood crises, widespread youth disillusionment, digital inequality, economic stagnation, human-made environmental damage, erosion of societal cohesion, and terrorist attacks are the most imminent threats to the world that could become critical in the next two years.
- Terming the climate crisis as one of the most impactful risks, the WEF report cautions that although lockdowns worldwide caused global emissions to fall in the first half of 2020, evidence from the 2008-2009 financial crisis warns that emissions could bounce back.
- With COVID-19 driving digitisation in all walks of life, the Global Risk Report emphasises that digital inequality could become a critical short-term threat.
- The response to COVID-19 offers four governance opportunities to strengthen the overall resilience of countries, businesses and the international community:
- Formulating analytical frameworks that take a holistic and systems-based view of risk impacts;
- Investing in high-profile “risk champions” to encourage national leadership and international co-operation;
- Improving risk communications and combating misinformation; and
- Exploring new forms of public-private partnership on risk preparedness
New Shepard programme
Why in News?
- Jeff Bezos’s space travel company, Blue Origin, says it is “getting really close” to flying humans after the successful completion of its 14th mission into space.
- The New Shepard rocket blasted off from the company’s private launch site in west Texas, carrying an upgraded crew capsule containing a test dummy dubbed “Mannequin Skywalker”.
- Following its separation from the booster, the crew capsule reached an altitude of 66 miles (107km) above mean sea level, placing it 4.3 miles (7km) higher than the Kármán line, the official boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space.
The New Shepard programme
- It is designed to take six space tourists on a sub-orbital flight where they can experience about three minutes of weightlessness.
- The total flight time for this particular test was 10 minutes and 10 seconds. During that time, the capsule was made to rotate at 2 to 3 degrees a second, so that future passengers can experience a 360-degree view during their flight.
Attack of Coronavirus on The Brain
Why in News?
- Very high levels of the novel coronavirus were found in the brain of mice infected in a controlled exposure study by scientists.
- The peak viral load in the brain was 1,000 times than in lungs, suggesting that the coronavirus has a high potential for replication in the brain.
- The research also showed a direct correlation between high viral load in the brain and the onset of neurological symptoms and deaths in the infected mice.
- “Brain infection leads to immune cell infiltration, inflammation and cell death”.
- It also noted that humans have a higher chance of developing a brain infection with a high dose of the virus
- The researchers collected a strain of the virus from the throat swab of a patient and introduced it into the mice through their noses.
- Upon entering, the virus made its way to the brain by infecting the nasal passageway, olfactory bulb (responsible for the sense of smell) and eyes.
- High concentration of the virus was found in the lungs from the first day of the infection and declined during the last phase (days five and six). In the brain, however, the viral load increased only in the last stage —the highest levels were observed on days five and six.
- This also when the infected mice displayed neurological symptoms such as hunchbacked posture, ruffled fur, tremors and ataxic gait.
- Immune response in these two murine organs also followed the same timeline. The levels of interferons, proteins secreted by the immune cells of the body, were found to be higher in the lungs than the brain despite higher virus replication in the brain.