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  • 28 Jul 2021
  • 45 min read
International Relations

Joint Actions in Afghanistan: China-Pakistan

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Why in News

Recently, China and Pakistan have decided to launch Joint Actions in Afghanistan to stop the war-torn country from becoming a hotbed for terrorism.

Key Points

  • Joint Action: It has been outlined in five areas:
    • To avoid the expansion of war and prevent Afghanistan from falling into a full-scale civil war.
    • To promote the intra-Afghan negotiations between the government and the Taliban and establish “a broad and inclusive political structure”.
    • To resolutely combat terrorist forces and push all major forces in Afghanistan to draw a clear line against terrorism.
    • To promote cooperation among Afghanistan’s neighbours and to explore the construction of a platform for cooperation among them.
    • To closely work on international fora on the Afghan issue.
  • Need:
    • Terrorism in Pakistan:
      • Pakistan is concerned over the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which has been waging an insurgency against the country for several years.
    • Rise in Uyghur Militants:
      • China is worried over the regrouping of the Uyghur militants from Xinjiang, China who operate under the aegis of East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which Beijing alleges has links with Al-Qaeda.
        • The recently released 12th report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team of the United Nation has confirmed the presence of the ETIM militants in Afghanistan.
    • Economic Interests:
      • If the situation in Afghanistan further deteriorates, Pakistan as well as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will be in danger. Also many other Chinese projects in Afghanistan and Pakistan will be in danger.
        • There was a recent bomb attack on a shuttle bus carrying Chinese engineers at Dasu area of Upper Kohistan district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistan where a Chinese company is building a 4320-mw dam on the Indus river.
        • India has opposed the CPEC, which passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), although China has pushed ahead with projects and stepped up its investments in PoK.
  • Background of Situation in Afghanistan:
    • On 11th September 2001, terrorist attacks (9/11) in America killed nearly 3,000 people.
      • Osama Bin Laden, the head of Islamist terror group al-Qaeda, was quickly identified as the man responsible.
    • The Taliban, radical Islamists who ran Afghanistan at that time, protected Bin Laden, and refused to hand him over. So, a month after 9/11, the US launched airstrikes against Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom).
    • After the attacks, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) coalition troops declared war on Afghanistan.
    • The US dislodged the Taliban regime and established a transitional government in Afghanistan.
    • In July 2021, the US troops departed from the biggest airbase in Afghanistan after the 20-year-long war, effectively ending their military operations in the country.
    • The US withdrawal has turned the balance of power in the battleground in favour of the Taliban.
  • India’s Interests:
    • Investments:
      • Protecting its investments, which run into billions of rupees, in Afghanistan.
    • Taliban:
      • Preventing a future Taliban regime from being a pawn of Pakistan.
    • Pakistan's Terror Base:
      • Making sure that the Pakistan-backed anti-India terrorist groups do not get support from the Taliban.

Way Forward

  • India’s Afghan policy is at a major crossroads; to safeguard its assets there as well as to stay relevant in the unfolding ‘great game’ in and around Afghanistan, India must fundamentally reset its Afghanistan policy.
  • India needs to re-evaluate its decisions and be more omnidirectional in its approach to deal with all forces that are central to the future of Afghanistan.
  • India must, in its own national interest, begin ‘open talks’ with the Taliban before it is too late. The time for hesitant, half-embarrassed backchannel parleys is over.
  • The changing political and security situation requires India to be more open to adapting its maximalist position and starting a dialogue with the Taliban.

Source: IE


Indian Economy

Marine Aids to Navigation Bill 2021

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Why in News

Recently, the Parliament has passed the Marine Aids to Navigation Bill 2021. The bill will repeal the Lighthouse Act, 1927, an over nine-decade-old law governing the traditional navigation aid, i.e. lighthouses.

Key Points

  • Background:
    • Uptil now, the administration and management of Lighthouse and Lightships in India is governed by Lighthouse Act 1927 for safe navigation.
    • Lighthouses serve two main purposes viz. as a navigational aid and to warn boats of dangerous areas.
      • It is like a traffic sign on the sea.
    • However, as the technology evolved, systems were put in place where with the help of Radar and other sensors, vessels were advised from shore about the position.
      • Thus, Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) came into existence and found wide acceptability.
    • These modern, technologically improved aids to marine navigation systems have changed their profile from a ‘passive’ service to that of ‘passive as well as interactive’ service.
    • The need for enactment of a new Act is necessitated to provide an appropriate statutory framework which reflects the modern role of marine aids to navigation and to be in compliance with India’s obligations under International Conventions.
  • Salient Features of the Bill:
    • Main Objectives:
      • Incorporating the global best practices and technological developments,
      • Complying with India's International obligations in the field of Marine Aids to Navigation,
      • Making the legislative framework user-friendly,
      • Promoting ease of doing business.
    • Scope of the Law: The Bill applies to the whole of India including various maritime zones including territorial waters, continental shelf, and exclusive economic zone.
    • Defined Mechanism: It defines aid to navigation as a device, system or service, external to vessels, designed and operated to enhance safe and efficient navigation of individual vessels and vessel traffic.
      • Vessel traffic service means a service implemented under the Act to improve the safety and efficiency of vessel traffic and to protect the environment.
    • Institutional Mechanism: The Bill provides that the Central government shall appoint a Director General, who will inter alia advise the central government on matters related to aids to navigation.
      • It also provides for appointments of Deputy Director Generals and Directors for districts.
    • Heritage Lighthouse: The Bill empowers the Central Government to designate any aid to navigation under its control as a "heritage lighthouse".
      • In addition to their function as aids to navigation, such lighthouses will be developed for educational, cultural, and tourism purposes.
    • Offences and Penalties: It comprises a new schedule of offences, along with commensurate penalties for obstructing and damaging the aids to navigation, and non-compliance with directives issued by the Central Government and other bodies.
  • Intended Benefits:
    • Improved Legal Framework for Matters related to Aids to Navigation & Vessel Traffic Services and covers the future developments in the field of Marine Navigation.
    • Management of ‘Vessel Traffic Services’ for enhancing the safety and efficiency of shipping and to protect the environment.
    • Skill development through Training and Certification for the operators of ‘Aids to Navigation’ and ‘Vessel Traffic Services’ at par with International standards.
    • Auditing and Accreditation of Institutes to cater to the need of Training and Certification at par with global standards.
    • Marking of “Wreck” in general waters to identify sunken / stranded vessels for safe and efficient navigation.
    • Development of Lighthouses for the purpose of education, culture and tourism, which would tap the tourism potential of coastal regions and contribute to their economy.

Source: PIB


Indian Heritage & Culture

India’s 40th World Heritage Site: Dholavira

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Why in News

Recently, UNESCO has announced the Harappan city of Dholavira in Gujarat as India’s 40th world heritage site. It is the first site of Indus Valley Civilisation (IVC) in India to be included on the coveted list.

  • With this successful nomination, India now enters the Super-40 club for World Heritage Site inscriptions.
  • Apart from India, Italy, Spain, Germany, China and France have 40 or more World Heritage sites.
  • India has 40 world heritage sites overall, which includes 32 cultural, 7 natural and one mixed property. Ramappa Temple (Telangana) was India's 39th World Heritage Site.

Key Points

  • About Dholavira:
    • It is one of the most remarkable and well-preserved urban settlements in South Asia.
    • It was discovered in 1968 by archaeologist Jagat Pati Joshi.
    • After Mohen-jo-Daro, Ganweriwala and Harappa in Pakistan and Rakhigarhi in Haryana of India, Dholavira is the fifth largest metropolis of Indus Valley Civilization (IVC).
      • IVC flourished around 2,500 BC, in the western part of South Asia, what today is Pakistan and Western India. It was basically an urban civilization and the people lived in well-planned and well-built towns, which were also the centers for trade.
    • The site contains ruins of an ancient IVC/Harappan city. It comprises two parts: a walled city and a cemetery to the west of the city.
      • The walled city consists of a fortified Castle with attached fortified Bailey and Ceremonial Ground, and a fortified MiddleTown and a Lower Town.
      • A series of reservoirs are found to the east and south of the Citadel.

  • Location:
    • The ancient city of Dholavira is an archaeological site at Kachchh District, in the state of Gujarat, which dates from the 3rd to mid-2nd millennium BCE.
    • Dholavira’s location is on the Tropic of Cancer.
    • It is located on Khadir bet island in the Kachchh Desert Wildlife Sanctuary in the Great Rann of Kachchh.
    • Unlike other Harappan antecedent towns normally located near to rivers and perennial sources of water, the location of Dholavira in the island of Khadir bet.
      • This was strategic to harness different mineral and raw material sources (copper, shell, agate-carnelian, steatite, lead, banded limestone, among others).
      • It also facilitated internal as well as external trade to the Magan (modern Oman peninsula) and Mesopotamian regions.
  • Archeological Findings:
    • Artifacts that were found here include terracotta pottery, beads, gold and copper ornaments, seals, fish hooks, animal figurines, tools, urns, and some imported vessels.
      • Remains of a copper smelter indicate Harappans, who lived in Dholavira, knew metallurgy.
      • It is believed that traders of Dholavira used to source copper ore from present-day Rajasthan and Oman and UAE and exported finished products.
      • It was also a hub of manufacturing jewellery made of shells and semi-precious stones, like agate and used to export timber.
    • 10 large stone inscriptions, carved in Indus Valley script, perhaps the world’s earliest sign board.
    • Near the ancient city is a fossil park where wood fossils are preserved.
    • Unlike graves at other IVC sites, no mortal remains of humans have been discovered at Dholavira.
  • Distinct Features of the Dholavira Site:
    • Cascading series of water reservoirs.
    • Outer fortification.
    • Two multi-purpose grounds, one of which was used for festivities and other as a marketplace.
    • Nine gates with unique designs.
    • Funerary architecture featuring tumulus — hemispherical structures like the Buddhist Stupas.
    • Multi-layered defensive mechanisms, extensive use of stone in construction and special burial structures.
  • Decline of Dholavira:
    • Its decline also coincided with the collapse of Mesopotamia, indicating the integration of economies.
      • Harappans, who were maritime people, lost a huge market, affecting the local mining, manufacturing, marketing and export businesses once Mesopotamia fell.
    • Dholavira entered a phase of severe aridity due to climate change and rivers like Saraswati drying up.
      • Due to a drought-like situation, people started migrating toward the Ganges valley or towards south Gujarat and further beyond in Maharashtra.
    • Further, the Great Rann of Kutch, which surrounds the Khadir island on which Dholavira is located, used to be navigable, but the sea receded gradually and the Rann became a mudflat.

Other Harappan Sites in Gujarat

  • Lothal: Before Dholavira was excavated, Lothal, in Saragwala village on the bank of Sabarmati in Dholka taluka of Ahmedabad district, was the most prominent site of IVC in Gujarat.
    • It was excavated between 1955 and 1960 and was discovered to be an important port city of the ancient civilisation, with structures made of mud bricks.
    • From a graveyard in Lothal, 21 human skeletons were found.
    • Foundries for making copperware were also discovered.
    • Ornaments made of semi-precious stones, gold etc. were also found from the site.
  • Rangpur on the bank of Bhadar river in Surendranagar district was the first Harappan site in the state to be excavated.
  • Rojdi in Rajkot district, Prabhas near Veraval in Gir Somnath district.
  • Lakhabaval in Jamnagar, and Deshalpar in Bhuj taluka of Kutch are among other Harappan sites in the state.

Other World Sites in Gujarat

  • Other than Dholavira, there are 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Gujarat.

Source: IE


Biodiversity & Environment

Initiative on Making Water Sensitive Cities in Ganga Basin

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Why in News

Recently, a new capacity building initiative on ‘Making water sensitive cities in Ganga basin’ was launched by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) in association with Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

Key Points

  • About the Initiative:
    • Aim: The aim of the program is capacity building and action research for promoting sustainable urban water management for improved river health in Ganga basin cities.
    • Key Focus Areas:
      • Water Sensitive Urban Design and Planning.
      • Urban Water Efficiency and Conservation.
      • Decentralized Wastewater Treatment and Local Reuse.
      • Urban Groundwater Management.
      • Urban Water Bodies/Lake Management.
    • Convergence Efforts:
    • Stakeholders: The program will engage all the stakeholders which includes:
      • SPMGs (State Program Management Group, Namami Gange), Municipal corporations, Technical & research constants, international organizations and local grassroot communities.
    • Water Sensitive Urban Design and Planning: It is an emerging urban development paradigm aimed to minimise hydrological impacts of urban development on the environment. This includes:
      • The method of planning and designing urban areas for optimum utilisation of water.
      • Reducing the harm caused to our rivers and creeks.
      • Focuses on the management of entire water systems (drinking water, storm water run-off, waterway health, sewerage treatment and recycling).
  • Other Related Initiatives:
    • There is a paradigm shift in planning for River Cities.
      • The “River Cities Alliance” will provide a unique platform for river cities to collaborate for collectively achieving river rejuvenation through sustainable development and capacity building.
    • The Jal Shakti Ministry’s ‘Catch the Rain' initiative launched for rainwater harvesting has nudged all stake-holders to create Rain Water Harvesting Structures (RWHS) suitable for the climatic conditions and subsoil strata to store rainwater.

Way Forward

  • The intensity of rain has increased over the years but the number of rainy days has reduced, making water management a crucial subject.
  • There is a need for a framework for integration between Urban Built Form including landscape and urban water cycle.
  • Cities have largely been held responsible for the deteriorated state of rivers, and therefore, will need to play a vital role in the rejuvenation efforts as well.
  • There is a need to mainstream river sensitive approaches while planning for the cities.

Source: PIB


Indian Economy

Promoting Digital Banking

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Why in News

Recently, the Union Minister of State for Finance has stated in the Rajya Sabha that the Government has taken a number of steps to facilitate digital banking, doorstep banking services and digital lending platforms.

Key Points

  • Digital Banking:
    • It is the digitization (or moving online) of all the traditional banking activities and programs services that were historically only available to customers when physically inside of a bank branch.
    • This includes activities like Money Deposits, Withdrawals, and Transfers, Checking/Saving Account Management, Applying for Financial Products, Loan Management, Bill Pay, Account Services.
  • Challenges:
    • Internet access is not the only barrier to adoption of digital payments.
    • Educating users as well as ensuring the security of their data is essential.
  • Initiatives Highlighted:
    • EASE Reforms Agenda: It was launched in January 2018 jointly by the government and PSBs.
      • It was commissioned through Indian Banks’ Association and authored by Boston Consulting Group.
      • EASE Agenda is aimed at institutionalizing CLEAN and SMART banking.
      • EASE Reforms Index: The Index measures performance of each PSB on 120+ objective metrics. The goal is to continue driving change by encouraging healthy competition among PSBs.
      • EASE 1.0: The EASE 1.0 report showed significant improvement in PSB performance in resolution of Non Performing Assets (NPAs) transparently.
      • EASE 2.0: EASE 2.0 builds on the foundation of EASE 1.0 and introduced new reform Action Points across six themes to make reforms journey irreversible, strengthen processes and systems, and drive outcomes.
        • The six themes of EASE 2.0 are: Responsible Banking; Customer Responsiveness; Credit Off-take, PSBs as UdyamiMitra (SIDBI portal for credit management of MSMEs); Financial Inclusion & Digitalisation; and Governance and Human Resource (HR).
      • Ease 3.0: It seeks to enhance ease of banking in all customer experiences, using technology viz. Dial-a-loan, Partnerships with FinTechs and E-commerce companies, [email protected], Tech-enabled agriculture lending, EASE Banking Outlets etc.
      • Ease 4.0: State-run banks will focus on co-lending with non-banking firms, digital agriculture financing, synergies and technological resilience for 24x7 banking as part of their reforms agenda for this fiscal, Ease 4.0.
    • PSBloansin59 minutes.com:
    • Trade Receivables Discounting System (TReDS) Platform:
      • Online bill discounting for MSMEs has been enabled on a competitive basis through Public Sector Banks (PSBs) onboarding onto the TReDS platform and the proportion of online discounted bills has grown rapidly.
        • Bill Discounting is a trade-related activity in which a company's unpaid invoices which are due to be paid at a future date are sold to a financier (a bank or another financial institution).
    • Jeevan Pramaan' Initiative:
      • This initiative for pensioners has enabled senior citizen pensioners the facility to update their annual life certificate online.
    • Doorstep Banking Services:
      • PSB Alliance, an initiative of all PSBs and Indian Banks' Association, has launched doorstep banking services for all customers.
      • Through ‘Door Step Banking’, customers can avail major Banking transaction services at their Doorstep.
  • Current Status:
    • Now, nearly 72% of financial transactions of PSBs are done through digital channels, with doubling of customers active on digital channels from 3.4 crore in FY 2019-20 to 7.6 crore in FY 2020-21.
    • The share of financial transactions undertaken through home and mobile channels has increased from 29% in FY 2018-19 to 76% in FY 2020-21.

Way Forward

  • Digital is the only way forward. Banks will have to hitch to this bandwagon by adapting new age technologies like Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Internet of Things (IOT).
  • Cross-selling through Intelligent Analytics driven on the strength of big data and curated product offerings for different customer segments is what will distinguish banking offerings.

Source: PIB


Indian Economy

World Economic Outlook: IMF

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Why in News

The latest edition of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) World Economic Outlook has cut its 2021 growth forecast for India to 9.5% from 12.5% estimated earlier in April 2021.

  • While re-calibrating its forecast IMF considered two major factors which are access to vaccines and risk of new Corona-variants.

Key Points

  • Indian Economy:
    • Indian economy is expected to grow by 9.5% in 2021 and 8.5% in 2022 (larger than the 6.9% it had projected in April).
      • In 2020, India’s economy witnessed an estimated contraction of 8%.
    • The IMF has cut its growth forecast because of the Covid-19 Second Wave that hit the recovery momentum, damaging consumer confidence and rural demand.
  • Global Economy:
    • Retained its global growth forecast at 6% for the year 2021, and it is expected to grow at 4.9% for the year 2022.
      • In 2020, the global economy contracted by 3.3%
  • Global Trade Volume:
    • Revised up its predictions of global trade volume growth by a sharp 130 bps for 2021 to 9.7% and 50 bps for 2022 to 7%.
      • India is set to benefit from an expected rise in global trade prospects once its supply side gains traction.
  • Suggestions:
    • Tighter External Financial Conditions:
      • Emerging markets should prepare for possibly tighter external financial conditions by lengthening debt maturities where possible and limiting the buildup of unhedged foreign currency debt.
    • Avoid Premature Tightening Policies:
      • Central banks should avoid premature tightening policies when faced with transitory inflation pressures but should be prepared to move quickly if inflation expectations show signs of de-anchoring.
    • Prioritize Health Spending:
      • Fiscal policy should continue to prioritize health spending, including on vaccine production and distribution infrastructure, personnel, and public health campaigns, to boost take-up.
        • Fiscal policy is the means by which a government adjusts its spending levels and tax rates to monitor and influence a nation's economy.

International Monetary Fund

  • The IMF was set up along with the World Bank after the Second World War to assist in the reconstruction of war-ravaged countries.
    • The two organisations were agreed to be set up at a conference in Bretton Woods in the US. Hence, they are known as the Bretton Woods twins.
  • Created in 1945, the IMF is governed by and accountable to the 189 countries that make up its near-global membership. India joined on 27th December, 1945.
  • The IMF's primary purpose is to ensure the stability of the international monetary system — the system of exchange rates and international payments that enables countries (and their citizens) to transact with each other.
    • The Fund's mandate was updated in 2012 to include all macroeconomic and financial sector issues that bear on global stability.
  • Reports by IMF:
  • World Economic Outlook
    • It is a survey by the IMF that is usually published twice a year in the months of April and October.
    • It analyzes and predicts global economic developments during the near and medium term.
    • In response to the growing demand for more frequent forecast updates, the WEO Update is published in January and July between the two main WEO publications released usually in April and October.

Source: IE


Science & Technology

GRB 200826A: Gamma-Ray Burst

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Why in News

Recently, a group of astronomers have detected a very short, powerful burst of high-energy radiation also known as Gamma-Ray Bursts (GRBs) that lasted for about a second.

Key Points

  • Gamma-Ray Bursts:
    • About:
      • They are the most powerful events in the universe, detectable across billions of light-years.
        • A light-year is the distance a beam of light travels in a single Earth year, or 9.5 trillion kilometers.
      • Astronomers classify them as long or short based on whether the event lasts for more or less than two seconds.
    • Long GRBs:
      • They observe long bursts in association with the demise of massive stars.
      • When a star much more massive than the Sun runs out of fuel, its core suddenly collapses and forms a black hole.
        • Black hole refers to a point in space where matter is so compressed as to create a gravity field from which even light cannot escape.
      • As matter swirls toward the black hole, some of it escapes in the form of two powerful jets that rush outward at almost the speed of light in opposite directions.
      • Astronomers only detect a GRB when one of these jets happens to point almost directly toward Earth.
      • Each jet drills through the star, producing a pulse of gamma rays – the highest-energy form of light – that can last up to minutes.
      • Following the burst, the disrupted star then rapidly expands as a supernova.
        • A supernova is the name given to an exploding star that has reached the end of its life.
    • Short GRB:
      • Short GRB, on the other hand, forms when pairs of compact objects – such as neutron stars, which also form during stellar collapse – spiral inward over billions of years and collide.
        • A Neutron star comprises one of the possible evolutionary end-points of high mass stars.
  • GRB 200826A:
    • It was a sharp blast of high-energy emission lasting just 0.65 seconds.
      • After traveling for a very long period of time through the expanding universe, the signal had stretched out to about one-second-long when it was detected by Fermi’s Gamma-ray Burst Monitor.
      • It had been racing toward Earth for nearly half the present age of the universe.
    • It is considered to be the the shortest GRB till now and it occurred caused by the death of a massive star.
  • Significance of GRB 200826A:
    • It has helped to resolve the long-standing issues related to gamma-ray bursts. Also, this study triggers to re-analyse all such known events to constrain number densities better.
  • Researchers:
  • Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope:
    • About:
      • Formerly called the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST), it is a space observatory being used to perform gamma-ray astronomy observations from low Earth orbit.
      • It was launched in June 2008. It is named after Enrico Fermi, an Italian-American scientist who did pioneering work in high-energy physics.
    • Collaboration:
      • Fermi is an astrophysics and particle physics partnership, developed in collaboration with the US Department of Energy, along with important contributions from academic institutions and partners in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden, and the U.S.
    • Major Function:
      • It maps the entire sky every three hours. It provides an important window into the most extreme phenomena of the universe, like GRBs, black-hole jets, and pulsars.
        • Pulsars are types of neutron stars which emit radio pulses at regular intervals.

Gamma Rays

  • About:
    • They are the highest-energy light in the universe. They can have over a billion times the energy of the type of light visible to our eyes.
    • They are produced by the hottest and most energetic objects in the universe, such as neutron stars and pulsars, supernova explosions, and regions around black holes.
    • The gamma rays possess high energy; they can pass right through any lens or mirror, making it very difficult to focus them in a visible-light telescope.
  • Gamma-Rays on Earth:
    • On Earth, gamma rays are generated by nuclear explosions, lightning, and the less dramatic activity of radioactive decay.
    • Gamma-ray astronomy is the astronomical observation of gamma rays with photon energies above 100 keV (Kilo Electron Volt).
    • Gamma rays are so energetic that they are harmful to life on Earth.
    • Earth's atmosphere absorbs gamma rays, preventing them from affecting life on the ground.
    • Astronomical observations of gamma-ray sources are therefore done with high-altitude balloons or satellites, above the protective blanket of Earth's atmosphere.

Source: PIB


Science & Technology

Nauka Module of Russia

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Why in News

Recently, the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos, launched its biggest space laboratory named Nauka to the International Space Station (ISS).

  • Earlier, four astronauts were launched to the ISS from Florida as part of a collaboration between NASA and SpaceX under the Commercial Crew Program. The mission is called Crew-2.

International Space Station

  • ISS is a habitable artificial satellite - the single largest man-made structure in low earth orbit.
  • It is a collaborative effort between five participating space agencies: NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe) and CSA (Canada).
  • A space station is essentially a large spacecraft that remains in low-earth orbit for extended periods of time.
  • It is like a large laboratory in space, and allows astronauts to come aboard and stay for weeks or months to carry out experiments in microgravity.

Other Space Stations

  • China has launched an unmanned module "Tianhe" of its permanent space station that it plans to complete by the end of 2022.
  • India is also planning to launch its own space station by 2030, joining the league of US, Russia, and China to an elite space club.

Key Points

  • About Nauka Module:
    • Nauka means Science in Russian. This is Russia's most ambitious research facility in space and is fitted with an oxygen generator, robotic cargo crane, a toilet and a bed for Russian astronauts.
    • This was sent into orbit using a Proton rocket (family of rockets in Russia - the most powerful in Russia’s space inventory) and will take eight days to reach the ISS.
      • During this period, engineers and flight controllers will test Nauka in space, and prepare for its arrival on the space station.
    • It will replace Pirs, and will be attached to the critical Zvezda module, which provides all of the space station’s life support systems and serves as the structural and functional centre of the Russian Orbital Segment (ROS).
      • Pirs has been part of the space station since September 2001, functioning as a docking port for Russian visiting spacecraft and an airlock for Russian spacewalks.
  • Significance:
    • It will increase the habitable volume of the ISS to 70 cubic Metres. Cosmonauts will use the extra space to conduct experiments and to store cargo.
    • Nauka will serve as a new science facility, docking port, and spacewalk airlock for future operations.
    • For more than 20 years, people have been carrying out research under microgravity conditions which is not possible on earth, this module will help augment the ongoing research.
      • Research is being carried out in various disciplines such as, biology, human physiology, and physical, material and space science.

Source: IE


Social Justice

Pneumonia

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Why in News

Recently, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare reported that Pneumonia contributes 16.9% of infant deaths and it is the 2nd highest cause of infant mortality (after prematurity & low birth weight).

Key Points

  • About:
    • Pneumonia is an acute respiratory infection of the lungs. It is also a Pneumococcal disease caused by bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae or pneumococcus.
  • Cause:
    • It doesn’t have one single cause – it can develop from either bacteria, viruses or fungi in the air.
  • Vulnerability:
    • Children whose immune systems are immature (i.e. newborns) or weakened – such as by undernourishment, or diseases like HIV – are more vulnerable to pneumonia.
  • Spread:
    • Pneumonia is contagious and can be spread through coughing or sneezing. It can also be spread through fluids, like blood during childbirth, or from contaminated surfaces.
  • Vaccine:
  • Diseases Burden:
    • Global: Together, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria and Pakistan account for more than half of all deaths due to pneumonia among children under 5.
    • Annually, India witnesses an estimated 71% of pneumonia deaths and 57% of severe pneumonia cases.
  • Initiatives Related to Pneumonia:
    • Social Awareness and Action to Neutralise Pneumonia Successfully (SAANS): The aim is to reduce child mortality due to pneumonia, which contributes to around 15% of deaths of children under the age of five annually.
      • The government aims to achieve a target of reducing pneumonia deaths among children to less than three per 1,000 live births by 2025.
    • In 2014, India launched ‘Integrated Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhoea (IAPPD)’ to undertake collaborative efforts towards prevention of diarrhoea and Pneumonia related under-five deaths.
      • The WHO and UNICEF had launched an integrated Global Action Plan for Pneumonia and Diarrhoea (GAPPD).

Source: PIB


Important Facts For Prelims

Exercise INDRA-21

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Why in News

The 12th Edition of Indo-Russia joint military Exercise INDRA will be held at Volgograd, Russia in August 2021.

Key Points

  • About Exercise INDRA:
    • The exercise will entail conduct of counter terror operations under the United Nations mandate by a joint force against international terror groups.
    • The INDRA series of exercises began in 2003 and was conducted as a bilateral naval exercise alternately between the two countries. However, the first joint Tri-Services Exercise was conducted in 2017.
    • The last joint, tri-services exercise between India and Russia was conducted in India in December 2019. It was held simultaneously at Babina (near Jhansi), Pune, and Goa.
  • Significance of Military Exercises:
    • In the domain of international relations, military diplomacy has, in recent years, emerged as a major tool to further diplomatic interests of nations.
    • Participation in international level military exercises is an indication of the highest level of trust and confidence between the member nations.
    • On the operational side, military exercises enable militaries to understand each other’s drills and procedures, overcome language barriers, and facilitate familiarisation with equipment capabilities.
    • This is particularly useful in the event of joint operations whether in war or in operations other than war (OOTW) like, humanitarian aid, disaster relief, anti-piracy, etc – when nations come together for a common cause.
    • Perhaps, the most important advantage of joint military exercises is ‘strategic signalling’.
      • A joint exercise with one or more nations serves the purpose of signalling to a third country the influence we have in the region and a demonstration of our resolve to further our diplomatic objectives.
    • On the intangible side, military exercises promote brotherhood and camaraderie between soldiers and militaries.
      • Besides goodwill, it is a tool for projection of a nation’s soft power – culture, language, customs, beliefs, food habits and lifestyle.
Joint Military Exercises of India with Other Countries
Name of Exercise Country
Garuda Shakti Indonesia
Ekuverin Maldives
Hand-in-Hand China
Kurukshetra Singapore
Mitra Shakti Sri Lanka
Nomadic Elephant Mongolia
Shakti France
Surya Kiran Nepal
Yudh Abhyas USA

Source: PIB


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