Current Affairs June 14

Policy on archiving, declassification & compilation of war/operations histories

Why in News?

  • Raksha Mantri has approved the policy on archiving, declassification and compilation/publication of war/operations histories by the Ministry of Defence.
  • The policy envisages that each organisation under the Ministry of Defence such as Services, Integrated Defence Staff, Assam Rifles and Indian Coast Guard, will transfer the records, including war diaries, letters of proceedings & operational record books, etc., to the History Division of Ministry of Defence (MoD) for proper upkeep, archival and writing the histories.
  • The responsibility for declassification of records rests with the respective organisations as specified in the Public Record Act 1993 and Public Record Rules 1997, as amended from time to time.
  • According to the policy, records should ordinarily be declassified in 25 years.
  • Records older than 25 years should be appraised by archival experts and transferred to the National Archives of India once the war/operations histories have been compiled.
  • The policy mandates constitution of a committee headed by Joint Secretary, MoD and comprising of representatives of the Services, MEA, MHA and other organisations and prominent military historians (if required), for compilation of war/ operations histories.
  • The Committee should be formed within two years of completion of war/operations. Thereafter, collection of records and compilation should be completed in three years and disseminated to all concerned.
  • The requirement of having war histories written with clear cut policy on declassification of war records was recommended by Kargil Review Committee headed by K Subrahmanyam as well as N N Vohra Committee in order to analyse lessons learnt and prevent future mistakes.




Waste water treatment technology


  • Soon automobile servicing industry, food industry, and other low and medium scale enterprises can have a smart, affordable electric field-assisted membrane separation device at their disposal for oily waste water treatment.
  • Low-income group users mostly cannot afford the high cost of treatment technologies available for handling oily wastewater generated at their source points.
  • As a result, large amount of untreated oily wastewater is discharged into the aquatic bodies without following the guidelines of the Pollution Control Board.

Why in News?

  • The technology developed by Dr Chiranjib Bhattacharjee, Professor at the Chemical Engineering Department in Jadavpur University, Kolkata, uses a combination of Electrocoagulation and Electroflotation Enhanced Membrane Module (ECEFMM) techniques for waste water treatment.
  • Electrocoagulation is a waste water treatment technique that uses electrical charge for changing the particle surface charge, allowing suspended matter to form aggregates, and
  • Electroflotation is the separation of suspended particles from water using hydrogen and oxygen bubbles generated by passing electricity through water.

How is it Work?

  • In the developed module, electrocoagulation and electrofloatation are adjoined with membrane in a single indigenous setup.
  • The turbulence created because of the hydrogen bubbling through the feed medium or the waste-water resists the deposition of oil over the membrane.
  • The synergistic effect of hydrogen bubbling and rotation of the membrane module creates substantial turbulence within the solution and on membrane surface.
  • On application of electric field during membrane separation, membrane fouling is substantially reduced, and membrane longevity is also enhanced by restricting the membrane ageing for prolonged time period.
  • Thus, it requires less frequent membrane replacement, thereby reducing the maintenance costs to a great extent.
  • This technology developed with support from the Advanced Manufacturing Technologies programme of the Department of Science & Technology (DST).
  • The recovered spent oil after oily wastewater treatment can be further used as an industrial burner oil, furnace oil, mould oil, hydraulic oil and so on.





Why in News?

  • ‘Project O2 for India’ of the Office of Principal Scientific Adviser, Government of India, is to enable stakeholders working to augment the country’s ability to meet this rise in demand for medical oxygen.
  • Under Project O2 for India,a National Consortium of Oxygen is enabling the national level supply of critical raw materials such as zeolites, setting up of small oxygen plants, manufacturing compressors, final products, i.e.,oxygen plants, concentrators, and ventilators.
  • The consortium is not only looking forward to providing immediate to short-term relief but also working to strengthen the manufacturing ecosystem for long-term preparedness.




Copperplate inscriptions found at Srisailam temple

Why in News?

  • The Bhramarambha Mallikarjuna Devasthanam, engaged in reviving ancient Ganta Matham near Srisailam temple complex, chanced upon six sets of copperplate inscriptionsrecently.
  • There were 18 copper leaves found.
  • The copperplates found at Srisailam could be dated back to somewhere between 14 and 16 centuries.
  • Out of the six sets, four have inscriptions in Sanskrit and Nandi-Nāgarī script and the other two plates are in Telugu script.

About Srisailam temple

  • Mallikarjuna Temple (also simply known as Srisailam Temple), is a Hindu temple dedicated to the deity Shiva, located at Srisailam in Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
  • It is significant to the Hindu sects of both Shaivam as this temple is referred to as one of the twelve Jyothirlingas of Lord Shiva. Shiva is worshiped as Mallikarjuna, and is represented by the lingam.
  • There are inscriptional evidence from the Satavahana dynasty which place the temple to be existent from the 2nd century.
  • Most modern additions were done during the time of king Harihara I of Vijayanagara Empire.
  • The veerasheromandapam and paathalaganga steps was constructed during the time of Reddi Kingdom.




India’s investment in research unsatisfactory

  • While India has made ‘solid progress’ towards the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets concerning industry, infrastructure and innovation, the country’s investment in research remains unsatisfactory, the UNESCO Science Report has observed.
  • The gross domestic expenditure on research (GERD) has been stagnant at 0.7% of the GDP for years, although, in absolute terms, research expenditure has increased.
  • India has one of the lowest GERD/GDP ratios among the BRICS nations, according to the report which is published every five years.
  • India’s research intensity has been declining since 2014. The Science and Technology Policy of 2003 fixed the threshold of devoting 2% of GDP to research and development (R&D) by 2007.
  • This target date was set back to 2018 in the new Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (2013) then again to 2022 by the Economic Advisory Council of the Prime Minister.
  • In 2020, the task force drafting the country’s new Science and Technology Policy recommended pushing back the target date to a more realistic 2030.
  • In 1990, the density of scientists/engineers engaged in R&D in the country per 10,000 of the labour force stood at ten.
  • “It rose to just 11 in 2018, when it stood at 50 in China, 130 in Japan and 180 in South Korea
  • R&D in the government sector has been in steady decline since 2015, whereas the share of private business enterprises in it has shot up to 42%. While in theory this is a positive trend, the R&D is focused primarily in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, automotive, and information technology. Even in these industries, it is concentrated in a small number of firms.
  • Investment in R&D by foreign multinationals is on the rise, accounting for as much as 16% of private-sector investment in R&D in 2019.
  • Indian researchers are publishing between 1.5 and 1.8 times the global average on smart-grid technologies, photovoltaics, biofuels and biomass and wind turbine technologies, complementing the government’s push to expand green energy sources.
  • The majority of the software-related patents were being bagged by MNCs operating from Indian soil, while pharma patents were obtained mostly by domestic firms.




Pyrostria laljii

Why in News?

  • A 15-meter-tall tree that belongs to the genus of the coffee family has recently been discovered from the Andaman Islands.
  • The new species, Pyrostria laljii, is also the first record of the genus Pyrostria in India.
  • Plants belonging to genus Pyrostria are usually found in Madagascar but the recently discovered species is new to science.
  • The other places in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands where the tree could be located are the Tirur forest near the Jarawa Rerserve Forest and the Chidia Tapu (Munda Pahar) forest.
  • Pyrostria laljii has been assessed as ‘Critically Endangered’ based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List criteria.
  • The species has been named Pyrostria laljii after Lal Ji Singh, Joint Director and Head of Office, Andaman and Nicobar Regional Centre, Botanical Survey of India.
  • While the genus Pyrostria is not found in India, there are several genera from the family Rubiaceae that are common in India.
  • These plants, including cinchona, coffee, adina, hamelia, ixora, galium, gardenia, mussaenda, rubia, morinda, have high potential for economic value.
  • Other physical features that distinguish the tree from other species of the genus is its umbellate inflorescence with 8-12 flowers. The colour of the flowers varies from white to cream, and turns brown after pollination.




Why do some corals withstand climate change better than others?

  • In 2014 and 2015, the brown rice coral in Hawaii was completely bleached, but the blue rice coral recovered quickly after bleaching, and blue coral was unaffected by the elevated ocean temperatures.
  • Researchers have now decoded the reason for this resilience. Hawaiian blue rice corals have a deep blue pigment derived from algae called zooxanthellae that live inside the coral tissue.
  • The researchers found that these algae produce sunscreen for the coral. This pigment has a protein named chromoprotein which filters out harmful UV radiation.
  • After the 2014 and 2015 Hawaii bleaching events, the blue rice coral was found to have exceptional reproductive vigour at 90% motility.
  • But the brown coral’s motility was only half this. A key factor in the blue rice coral’s ability to reproduce successfully might be its sunscreen pigment, which the coral may retain even if it bleaches.




Bharitalasuchus tapani

Why in News?

  • In the mid 20th century, researchers from the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata, carried out extensive studies on rocks of the Yerrapalli Formation in what is now Telangana, uncovering several fossils.
  • By studying some of these specimens stored at the Institute, an international team has now thrown light on a carnivorous reptile that lived 240 million years ago.


  • This reptile belongs to a genus and species previously unknown to science.
  • They named it Bharitalasuchus tapani. In the Telugu language, Bhari means huge, Tala means head, and Suchus is the name of the Egyptian crocodile-headed deity. The species is named after paleontologist Tapan Roy Chowdhury in honour of his contribution to Indian vertebrate paleontology and especially his extensive work on the Yerrapalli Formation tetrapod fauna.
  • The reptile belonged to a family of extinct reptiles named Erythrosuchidae.
  • They were approximately the size of an adult male lion and might have been the largest predators in their ecosystems.
  • The first Erythrosuchidae remains were discovered in South Africa in 1905 and more were found in China and Russia.
  • The South African one is about 245 million years old, while the ones from China and Russia are around 240 million years old. So the Indian one is one of the youngest fossil records.




How Covid-19 affects human kidney cells

Why in News?

  • Many individuals who develop Covid-19 also experience kidney damage, but it has been so far unclear if this is a direct result of viral infection or a consequence of another condition or the body’s response to the infection.
  • Researchers after investigation found that
    • The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus can infect and replicate in human kidney cells, but this does not typically lead to cell death.
    • Kidney cells that already have features of injury may be more easily infected and develop additional injury.
  • Prior to infection, the cells contained high levels of interferon signalling molecules, and the infection stimulated an inflammatory response that increased these molecules. In contrast, infection of kidney cells deficient in such molecules resulted in cell death, suggesting a protective effect.
  • The data indicate that it is unlikely that the virus is a primary cause of acute kidney injury seen in COVID-19 patients. It implies that if such injury takes place in the kidney by any cause, the virus might jump on the wagon to intensify it.





Why in News?

  • The development of a vital instrument, which will be used in upcoming sky surveys to study stars, is being led by an Indian astronomer. The project has been funded by the world’s leading institutions, signalling India’s growing expertise in building complex astronomical instruments.


  • Polar-Areas Stellar-Imaging in Polarisation High-Accuracy Experiment (PASIPHAE) is an international collaborative sky surveying project.
  • Scientists aim to study the polarisation in the light coming from millions of stars.
  • The name is inspired from Pasiphae, the daughter of Greek Sun God Helios, who was married to King Minos.
  • The survey will use two high-tech optical polarimeters to observe the northern and southern skies, simultaneously.
  • It will focus on capturing starlight polarisation of very faint stars that are so far away that polarisation signals from there have not been systematically studied.
  • The distances to these stars will be obtained from measurements of the GAIA satellite.
  • By combining these data, astronomers will perform a maiden magnetic field tomography mapping of the interstellar medium of very large areas of the sky using a novel polarimeter instrument known as WALOP (Wide Area Linear Optical Polarimeter).

Why is PASIPHAE important?

  • Since its birth about 14 billion years ago, the universe has been constantly expanding, as evidenced by the presence of Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation which fills the universe.
  • Immediately after its birth, the universe went through a short inflationary phase during which it expanded at a very high rate, before it slowed down and reached the current rate.
  • However, so far, there have only been theories and indirect evidence of inflation associated with the early universe.
  • A definitive consequence of the inflationary phase is that a tiny fraction of the CMB radiation should have its imprints in the form of a specific kind of polarisation (known scientifically as B-mode signal).
  • All previous attempts to detect this signal met with failure mainly due to the difficulty posed by our galaxy, the Milky Way, which emits copious amounts of polarised radiation.
  • Besides, it contains a lot of dust clouds that are present in the form of clusters. When starlight passes through these dust clouds, they get scattered and polarised.
  • The PASIPHAE survey will measure starlight polarisation over large areas of the sky. This data along with GAIA distances to the stars will help create a 3-Dimensional model of the distribution of the dust and magnetic field structure of the galaxy.
  • Such data can help remove the galactic polarised foreground light and enable astronomers to look for the elusive B-mode signal.

What is WALOP?

  • Wide Area Linear Optical Polarimeter (WALOP) is an instrument, when mounted on two small optical telescopes, that will be used to detect polarised light signals emerging from the stars along high galactic latitudes.
  • WALOP will operate on the principle that at any given time, the data from a portion of the sky under observation will be split into four different channels.
  • Depending on the manner in which light passes through the four channels, the polarisation value from the star is obtained.
  • That is, each star will have four corresponding images which when stitched together will help calculate the desired polarisation value of a star.

Gaia (spacecraft)

  • Gaia is a space observatory of the European Space Agency (ESA), launched in 2013 and expected to operate until c. 2022. The spacecraft is designed for astrometry: measuring the positions, distances and motions of stars with unprecedented precision.
  • The mission aims to construct by far the largest and most precise 3D space catalog ever made, totalling approximately 1 billion astronomical objects, mainly stars, but also planets, comets, asteroids and quasars, among others.




India and Pakistan’s battle over basmati

Why are India and Pakistan fighting over basmati?

  • India, the world’s largest exporter of basmati rice, has applied for protected geographical indication (PGI) status from the European Union’s Council on Quality Schemes for Agricultural Products and Foodstuffs.
  • This would give it sole ownership of the basmati title in the EU. Pakistan, which is the only other basmati rice exporter in the world, has opposed this move as it would adversely impact its own exports, especially as the EU is a major market for its basmati.

Where does basmati actually grow?

  • In India, historically, the long-grained, aromatic rice has been cultivated in Indo-Gangetic plains at the foothills of the Himalayas.
  • In modern India, this region is spread over Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Basmati has also been grown for centuries in the Kalar tract, which lies between the Ravi and Chenab rivers in Pakistan’s Punjab province.

What is Geographical Indication (GI) tag?

  • According to the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), it is an agricultural, natural or a manufactured product, originating from a specific geographical area due to which it possesses unique characteristics and qualities.
  • GI tag is basically an assurance that the product is coming from that specific area.
  • It’s kind of trademark in the international market.



Mustard oil blending banned

Why in News?

  • From June 8, 2021, mustard oil did not need to be blended with anything else.
  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India had decided this on March 31. This would end the pratice to add other edible oil (like from palms, rice bran, etc) to mustard oil.
  • This is a good news for mustard farmers whose fortunes were adversely hit as up to a fifth of mustard oil volume could earlier be blends of other oils.

The dropsy epidemic

  • The Union health ministry had allowed blending in edible vegetable oil in a notification in 1990.
  • In 1998, Delhi and other north Indian states witnessed the dropsy epidemic — a disease that caused swelling in the body due to the build-up of fluid in tissues.
  • Researchers believed consumption of mustard oil caused the disease. Upon investigation, it was found to be adulterated with Argemone Mexicana, a kind of weed that grows with yellow flowers.
  • While mustard is a rabi crop that is cultivated in the winters, Argemone Mexicana grows in April-May. This meant that the possibility of mixing mustard seeds with that Argemone mexicana was rare.
  • Several studies have found mustard oil unsafe for consumption. The United States Food and Drug administration’s website claims it has erucic acid, which can cause heart disease if consumed above the prescribed limits.
  • Meanwhile, the sales of mustard oil dropped drastically. Rumours of widespread adulteration became prevalent. Experts started advocating for packed mustard oil.
  • The first case of dropsy was reported in West Bengal in 1877, according to official data. But the disease was prevalent in North India where mustard oil is majorly consumed. South Indian states didn’t report any cases of dropsy for the people there largely consume groundnut or coconut oil.

The 1990 decision

  • Experts have claimed that the blending of mustard oil was not only dangerous to health, but also adversely impacted mustard farming.
  • Following the Union health ministry 1990 notification allowing for the blending of edible vegetable oil, the FSSAI rolled out regulations in the regard in 2006.
  • Producers and other companies involved in blending were regularised through the Agriculture Produce (Grading and Marking) Act (AGMARK). It also made it mandatory to write the kind of oil used for blending over the packet.