Current Affairs Mar 15

UDAN 4.1

Why in News?

  • Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has proposed about 392 routes under UDAN 4.1 bidding process.


  • The Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS)- Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN) is a flagship scheme of the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) envisaged to make air travel affordable and widespread in the country.
  • The scheme intends to boost inclusive national economic growth, employment opportunities, and air transport infrastructure development across the nation.
  • Till date, 325 routes and 56 airports including 5 heliports and 2 Water Aerodromes have been operationalised under the UDAN scheme.

UDAN 4.1 Focus

  • The UDAN 4.1 round is focused on connecting smaller airports, along with special helicopter and seaplane routes.
  • In addition to these, some new routes have been proposed under the Sagaramala Seaplane Services in consultation with the Ministry of Ports, Shipping, and Waterways.
  • Some of the operational flexibilities are extended to Airlines under the UDAN 4.1 to ensure suitable operation models to connect smaller cities/ airstrips.
  • Additionally, operations under NSOP will be allowed for seaplane, fixed-wing aircraft, Helicopters for RCS Routes awarded under UDAN 4.1.




 Pi day

Why in News?

  • March 14 is Pi Day!
  • Pi Day celebrates the Mathematical Constant Pi.
  • Pi Day is celebrated on March 14 since the day is denoted as 3/14 in the month-day format.
  • The ratio of the circumference to the diameter is a constant in any circle and can be approximated to 3.14 and hence the celebration.
  • March 14 also happens to be the birthday of Albert Einstein so this event too is celebrated along with Pi day.
  • The Greek Mathematician Archimedes first approximated Pi as roughly 3.14. However, the fraction 22/7 has been found to be a closer approximation of Pi than 3.14. Thus many scientists choose to celebrate Pi Day on July 22.
  • The Pi minute is also celebrated and occurs twice on each Pi Day. This stems from a more accurate value of Pi being determined to be 3.1415926… Thus on March 14 at 1:59:26 a.m. and 1:59:26 p.m. we have the Pi Day’s minutes and seconds occurring.
  • Historically, the first Pi Day was held at a San Francisco Science Museum in 1988.




Do genes determine our eye colour

  • Human eye colour ranges from black, brown to blue, green, and even red. Eye colour is primarily determined by melanin abundance within the iris pigment epithelium, which is greater in brown than in blue eyes.

Forms of Melanin

  • There are two forms of melanin – eumelanin and pheomelanin – and the ratio of the two within the iris as well as light absorption and scattering by extracellular components are additional factors that give irises their colour.
  • Absolute melanin quantity and the eumelanin–pheomelanin ratio are higher in brown irises, while blue or green irises have very little of both pigments and relatively more pheomelanin.
  • Eye colour in Asians with different shades of brown is genetically similar to eye colour in Europeans ranging from dark brown to light blue. Previously a dozen genes (mainly HERC2 and OCA2) were found to influence eye colour.
  • Over 53% of eye colour variation using common single-nucleotide polymorphisms.
  • Overall, the study outcomes demonstrate that the genetic complexity of human eye colour considerably exceeds previous knowledge and expectations, highlighting eye colour as a genetically highly complex human trait.
  • These findings will help improve our understanding of eye diseases such as pigmentary glaucoma and ocular albinism where pigment levels play a role.




Panel for studying Sarasvati River

Why in News?

  • The Centre has reconstituted an advisory committee to chalk out a plan for studying the mythical Sarasvati River for the next two years, after the earlier panel’s term ended in 2019.
  • The ASI had first set up the committee on December 28, 2017 for a period of two years.

Panel Members

  • The committee would continue to be chaired by the Culture Minister and include officials from the Culture, Tourism, Water Resources, Environment and Forest, Housing and Urban Affairs Ministries; representatives of the Indian Space Research Organisation; officials from the governments of Gujarat, Haryana and Rajasthan; and an ASI official.
  • According to the ASI’s 2017 notification, the committee was tasked with defining the Sarasvati River and its basin, identifying “special items of geotechnical nature for study of the Sarasvati basin and to suggest names of competent agencies/individuals” and identifying “archaeological sites and areas for multidisciplinary research and to assess their potential for development as centres of education and tourism”.




National Population Register

Why in News?

  • The Centre will allow residents to fill columns in the National Population Register (NPR) forms on their own through online mode, a month before door-to-door enumeration by Census officials starts.
  • After filling the form online, residents will get a reference code that they could mention to the field enumerator at the time of her/his visit.
  • The details of the respondent would get displayed on a mobile application developed in-house for conducting the Census exercise but no “biometrics or documents” would be collected.
  • The first phase of the decennial Census exercise — the Houselisting and Housing Census along with updating the NPR was scheduled to be held from April 1, 2020. It was postponed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is unlikely to be held this year.
  • The second and main phase of Census — the population enumeration — was to be concluded by March 5 this year.
  • The NPR earlier collated in the years 2010 and 2015 has an electronic database of more than 119 crore residents.

Three Approach of Collection

  • According to the recently published Ministry of Home Affairs’ (MHA) annual report for the year 2019-20, there will be a three-pronged approach for updating the NPR database — self updating, wherein it is proposed to allow residents to update their own data fields after following some authentication protocols in a web portal; updating of NPR data in paper format; and mobile mode.
  • The report said that a “pre-test” on NPR updation has been undertaken in the selected areas of the States and Union Territories except Assam, along with the pre-test of the Census.

About NPR

  • The NPR is prepared under various provisions of the Citizenship Rules, 2003, framed under the Citizenship Act, 1955.
  • In 2015, a few fields such as name, gender, date and place of birth, place of residence and father’s and mother’s name were updated and Aadhaar, mobile and ration card numbers were collected.
  • The NPR’s link with the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC) and yet to be implemented Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019 has been opposed by many States and civil society groups. Citizenship Rules framed in the year 2003 say that the NPR is the first step towards the compilation of the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC) or the NRC.
  • The CAA passed by the Parliament on December 11, 2019 allows citizenship on the basis of religion to six undocumented communities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, who entered India on or before December 31, 2014.




Legalisation of mining in Aravalis

Why in News?

  • A petition by Haryana government seeking permission for mining in Aravalis in Gurugram and Faridabad, in the Supreme Court, environmentalists and the residents are strongly opposed to mining being legalised and demand that forest cover be increased in the State.
  • Instead, the government should come out with a three-year roadmap to take the legal native forest cover in the State to 20%, as per the Haryana Forest Department policy target and an all-India average.
  • The other demands include demolition of all illegal construction in the Aravalis, planting of native sablings, notifying 50,000 acre of the Aravalis as deemed forest and retaining the Aravalis in South Haryana as Natural Conservation Zone.

Destruction of the Aravalis

  • It would worsen the air pollution situation in the NCR and the mountain range is the only natural barrier against desertification.
  • The Aravalis, with their natural cracks and fissures, have the potential to put two million litres of water per hectare in the ground every year.
  • Besides, the mountain range is a biodiversity hotspot with 400-odd species of native trees, shrubs and herbs; 200-odd native and migratory bird species; 100-odd butterfly species; 20-odd reptile species and 20-odd mammal species, including leopards.




Adenovirus Antibodies

  • Adenoviruses are a group of common viruses that infect the lining of your eyes, airways and lungs, intestines, urinary tract, and nervous system.
  • They’re common causes of fever, coughs, sore throats, diarrhea.
  • Unlike the mRNA vaccine platform used by Pfizer and Moderna, where vaccine efficacy reached 94% and 95%, respectively, the vector-based vaccine platform technology used by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson have shown lower efficacy.
  • While vaccine efficacy is 66% for Johnson & Johnson vaccine, AstraZeneca vaccine showed 55.1% efficacy.
  • “Adenovirus-based vaccine platforms have been in development for decades.
  • All through that time, the issue of whether pre-existing antibodies to the adenovirus vector will affect the development of antibodies against the new target the adenovirus is carrying as antigen has remained unclear.
  • Pre-existing antibodies against adenoviruses will stop the adenovirus particles from getting into cells and making the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.
  • The presence of pre-existing antibodies against adenovirus.
  • While high levels of neutralising antibodies against adenovirus subtype Ad5 have been seen in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, neutralising antibodies against adenovirus subtype Ad26 were moderately common in the two regions.




Monitoring Of Health Of Power Lines

Why in News?

  • Researchers at IIT Madras have demonstrated that by using Raman thermometry on fibre optic cables, they can achieve monitoring of power transmission cables.
  • Interestingly, they achieve this by using the optical fibres that are already embedded in the power cables for establishing optical communication.


  • Ten years back Balaji Srinivasan of the Department of Electrical Engineering at IIT Madras was approached by a company that planned to implement overhead power lines across the country.
  • Company wants Prof. Srinivasan to certify that the glass fibre they were planning to include for communication purposes along with their power cables was indeed an optical fibre.
  • It was during this certification process that Prof. Srinivasan got the idea that one or two of the unused fibres could be used – owing to their proximity to the power cables – to keep tabs on the health of the power cables.
  • This is based on the principle that any current flowing through a conductor would cause a temperature rise due to the Joule heating effect.

Raman Effect

  • India’s first and so far only Nobel laureate in physics, C.V. Raman, won the prize for his discovery of Raman Effect. This consisted of experimental observations on scattering of light.
  • In the Raman Effect, when light is scattered off an object, say a molecule, two bands are observed, with higher and lower frequency than the original light, called the Stokes and anti-Stokes bands, respectively.
  • By studying the relative intensity of the two bands, it is possible to estimate the temperature of the object that scattered the light.
  • The anti-Stokes component of Raman scattering is strongly dependent on the temperature that the material is subjected to.
  • Thus, by measuring the intensity of the anti-Stokes scattered light we can estimate the temperature. This is Raman thermometry.




Martian Blueberries

  • In 2004, NASA’s Mars exploration rover ‘Opportunity’ found several small spheres on the planet, informally named Martian blueberries.
  • They were made of iron oxide compounds called haematites.
  • This caused excitement, as the presence of haematites suggests that there was water present on Mars.
  • The haematites on Mars not just show the presence of water, they also indicate that the planet had an atmosphere with oxygen as haematites need oxygen to stabilise.
  • Water is believed to have disappeared from Mars rocks about three billion years ago.
  • Studies from the newly landed Perseverance rover may help find new clues and signs of life and other organic compounds, thus helping us paint a detailed picture of the history of Mars.




Mosquito protein inhibits number of viruses

Why in News?

  • A mosquito protein, called AEG12, strongly inhibits the family of viruses that cause yellow fever, dengue, West Nile, and Zika, and also weakly inhibits coronaviruses.
  • The researchers found that AEG12 works by destabilising the viral envelope, breaking its protective covering.
  • The protein does not affect viruses that do not have an envelope.
  • While the researchers demonstrated that AEG12 was most effective against flaviviruses — the family of viruses to which Zika, West Nile, and others belong — they felt it is possible AEG12 could be effective against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19.




UK’s Turing Scheme

Why in News?

  • Having left the European Union’s flagship Erasmus scholarship programme after Brexit, the UK launched its own replacement called the Turing scheme to enable UK students to study abroad.
  • Named after the celebrated English mathematician and codebreaker Alan Turing, the scheme will enable schools, colleges and universities in the UK to apply for government funding to allow students to study and work across the globe, including in India.

What is the UK’s Turing Scheme for students?

  • The scheme, for which the British government has allocated 110 million pounds for the first year, starts in 2021/22, and would enable up to 35,000 students from across the country to study or work across the world from September this year.
  • Under the programme, after schools and universities successfully apply for funding for exchanges, university study and work placements, they can invite their students to apply for individual fundings.
  • The scheme would be a global programme in which every country in the world will be able to partner with UK institutions. This is in contrast with the Erasmus+ programme, which only included European countries.
  • The British government has said that the scheme is aimed towards ensuring social mobility, and targets students from disadvantaged backgrounds and areas from where not many could benefit under the previous Erasmus+ scheme.




Seabuckthorn Plantations

Why in News?

  • The Himachal Pradesh government has decided to start planting seabuckthorn in the cold desert areas of the state this year.

What is seabuckthorn?

  • It’s a shrub which produces an orange-yellow coloured edible berry.
  • In India, it is found above the tree line in the Himalayan region, generally in dry areas such as the cold deserts of Ladakh and Spiti.
  • In Himachal Pradesh, it is locally called chharma and grows in the wild in Lahaul and Spiti and parts of Kinnaur.

What are the ecological, medicinal and economical benefits of the seabuckthorn plant?

  • As a folk medicine, seabuckthorn has been widely used for treating stomach, heart and skin problems.
  • In the last few decades, scientific research worldwide has backed many of its traditional uses.
  • “Its fruit and leaves are rich in vitamins, carotenoids and omega fatty acids, among other substances, and it can help troops in acclimatising to high-altitude.
  • Besides being an important source of fuelwood and fodder, seabuckthorn is a soil-binding plant which prevents soil-erosion, checks siltation in rivers and helps preserve floral biodiversity.
  • Seabuckthorn also has commercial value, as it is used in making juices, jams, nutritional capsules etc.