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State PCS

Science & technology

20 Solved Questions with Answers
  • 2017

    16. Give an account of the growth and development of nuclear science and technology in India. What is the advantage of fast breeder reactor programme in India? (2017)

    India’s journey in the field of nuclear science and technology began with the formation of Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) in 1954. The aim was to harness nuclear resources for peaceful purposes. India had to surpass the obstacle of technology denial by capable nations.

    In this background  three-stage nuclear power programme was formulated by Dr. Homi Bhabha in 1950s to secure country’s long term energy independence, through use of uranium and thorium reserves found in the monazite sands of coastal regions of South India.

    The ultimate focus of the programme is on enabling thorium reserves of India to be utilised in meeting country's energy requirements. Thorium is particularly attractive for India, as it has not only around 1–2% of the global Uranium reserves, but one of the largest shares of global Thorium reserves at about 25% of the world's known Thorium reserves.

    The three stages adopted were

    • Natural uranium fuelled Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PWHR)
    • Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs) utilizing plutonium based fuel
    • Advanced nuclear power systems for utilization of Thorium

    At present only stage 1 is operational and all 22 functional nuclear reactor in India belongs to this stage with total capacity of 6780 MW. At present, the fast breeder reactor programme in India is carried out by Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, Kalpakkam, Tamilnadu.

    The advantage with a breeder reactor is that it generates more fissile material than it consumes. Also in the second stage, fast breeder reactors (FBRs) would use Plutonium-239, recovered by reprocessing spent fuel from the first stage, and natural uranium.

    This technology does not contribute to air pollution, except during mining and processing of Uranium ore. Breeder reactors use a small core, which is important to sustain chain reactions. Besides, they do not even need moderators for slowing down neutrons, as they use fast neutrons.

    In FBRs, plutonium-239 undergoes fission to produce energy, while the uranium-238 present in the fuel transmutes to additional plutonium-239. Furthermore, once a sufficient amount of plutonium-239 is built up, thorium will be used in the reactor, to produce Uranium-233. This uranium is crucial for the third stage. 

  • 2018

    16. With growing energy needs should India keep on expanding its nuclear energy programme? Discuss the facts and fears associated with nuclear energy? (2018)

    Indian energy needs are growing rapidly in line with its ever increasing billion plus population and expanding economy. Indian energy demand grows at 4% annually, and is expected to increase from 700 million tonnes of oil equivalent (MTOE) in 2010 to 1,500 MTOE by 2030. In this, nuclear energy comes out as a clean source of energy for future.

    With 6700 MW capacity under installation, nuclear energy currently provides 3% of India’s energy needs. It is projected by department of atomic energy that by 2050, 20-30 percent of Indian energy needs will be provided by nuclear energy.

    Reasons why India needs to expand its nuclear energy programme:

    • Fossil Fuel Dependence: With huge dependence on imported oil and associated foreign exchange payments, nuclear energy can reduce fossil fuel dependence.
    • Environment Friendly: Being low on CO2 emissions, nuclear technology helps in checking climate change thereby helping realizing India’s Nationally Determined Contributions to UNFCCC.
    • Strategic Benefits: With improved technological development and acceptance as responsible nuclear state, India will become part of global nuclear trade regime and also rightfully gain position in Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
    • Economic Dependence: Reduced per unit cost with technological development and realization of thorium enabled production cycle.
    • Agreements: Strategic position as India partnered many countries in bilateral and multilateral agreements. (e.g. 123-USA, Reactor sully – France, Russia, Fuel Supply – Canada, Australia).

    Fears associated with nuclear technology:

    • Safety Issues: Historical accidents like Chernobyl and recent ones like Fukushima raise persistent doubt about human safety and its impact on environment. This has led nations like Germany and Japan to phase out use of Nuclear energy.
    • Waste Management: There is difficulty in the management of nuclear waste. It takes many years to eliminate its radioactivity and risks associated are high.
    • Security: Terrorist and other mischievous organizations can create global havoc by getting access to critical nuclear material or technology.

    With Indian motto of ‘atoms for peace’, nuclear energy can act as a great catalyst for inclusive growth and development by providing much needed energy security, so that India should continue to expand nuclear energy programme.

  • 2019

    16. How can biotechnology help to improve the living standards of farmers?

    In India, the majority of the population is involved in agriculture but it is not remunerative enough, especially in areas which did not go through the stages of the green revolution. In this scenario, biotechnology holds good potential to transform agriculture. It can affect all steps of the production chain, from agrochemical inputs to final food processing.

    • Under biotechnology, plants, bacteria, fungi and animals whose genes have been altered by manipulation (Recombinant DNA Technology) are called Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO). GMO technology has brought significant changes in agriculture and areas related to it.
    • Tissue Culture is the science of cultivating animal/ plant tissue in a prepared medium. Technologies based on this can be harnessed to achieve crop improvement objectives.
    • Crops have been made more tolerant to abiotic stresses (cold, drought, salt, heat) so the farmers do not have to worry about the weather conditions and can help plants adapt to environmental stress and climate change.
    • It has reduced reliance on chemical pesticides (pest-resistant crops) which is pocket-friendly for the farmers and eco-friendly for the consumer by eliminating harmful chemicals from the ecosystem.
    • Post-harvest losses have been reduced by increasing crops’ abilities to withstand the transportation period without being perished.
    • Efficiency of mineral usage by plants has been increased by it (this prevents early exhaustion of fertility of soil), so a piece of land can be used for a long time for equally good yields.
    • It has enhanced the nutritional value of food (like Vitamin A enriched rice) which increases the market value of the product, profiting the farmers and improving human health.
    • Plants developed using biotechnology naturally resist specific insects, weed plants and diseases so there is no loss of crop due to these reasons. (Like Bt crops).
    • In addition, it has been used to create tailor-made plants to supply alternative resources to industries, in the form of starches, fuels and pharmaceuticals etc. which can boost the agricultural-industrial relations uplifting the farmers.

    The benefits of biotechnology are especially meaningful at a time when our global population is growing and our demand for food is increasing, mainly in developing countries. Biotechnology allows farmers to grow more food on less land using environmentally sustainable farming practises which are necessary for them to have a good income and a better living standard. Biotechnology is a powerful tool to feed an increasing world population, but its “positive and negative potential” should be carefully evaluated.

  • 2021

    16. The Nobel Prize in Physics of 2014 was jointly awarded to Akasaki, Amano and Nakamura for the invention of Blue LEDs in 1990s. How has this invention impacted the everyday life of human beings?

    LEDs are basically semiconductors that have been built so they emit light when they are activated. White light, which we generally use, is made by a combination of red, green and blue light. Scientists say that while it was easier to make red and green LEDs, making Blue LED was the ultimate challenge. The Nobel Prize in Physics 2014 was awarded jointly to Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura for the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes which has enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources.

    Impact of this invention on our everyday life:

    • Electricity Conservation: A modern white LED light bulb converts more than 50% of the electricity it uses into light. This is opposed to the 4% conversion rate for incandescent bulbs.
    • Increasing Access to Electricity: White LEDs’ efficiency makes them appealing for getting lighting to folks living in regions without electricity supply. A solar installation can charge an LED lamp to last a long time.
    • Smart Energy Efficient Homes: In addition to generating light, LEDs can incorporate sensors that detect when people are in a room, and switch off the lights when no one is there – a requirement for any smart home.
    • Enables other Technological Advancements: In the electronics industry, LEDs provide backlighting for the liquid crystal displays (LCDs) in many smartphones, laptops and televisions. The LEDs are more energy-efficient than the fluorescent lights that are sometimes used for backlighting, and allow for very thin displays.
    • Increased Ability to Store Data: Blu-ray players, the successor to DVD players, use blue LED lasers to read data off a digital optical disc. When these systems switched from using an infrared laser (like that used in DVD players) to a blue LED laser, it became possible to store five to 10 times as much data.

    Researchers are exploring other applications of LEDs as well like in transmitting data from the Internet and water purification. These advancements show that LEDs will continue to impact everyday life of humans for years to come.

  • 2022

    16. What is the basic principle behind vaccine development? How do vaccines work? What approaches were adopted by the Indian vaccine manufacturers to produce COVID-19 vaccines?

    A vaccine is a biological product that can be used to safely induce an immune response that confers protection against infection and disease on subsequent exposure to a pathogen. The essential component of most vaccines is one or more protein antigens that induce immune responses that provide protection.

    Basic Principle Behind Vaccine Development

    • To induce protection against a pathogen by mimicking its natural interaction with the human immune system.
    • Vaccines induce the immune system to produce an immunological memory based on T and B lymphocytes.
    • This memory helps to produce a rapid and effective response to exposure to the targeted pathogen.

    Working of Immune System

    • When a pathogen does infect the body, our immune system gets triggered and the pathogen is attacked and destroyed.
    • The subpart of a pathogen that causes the formation of antibodies is called an antigen.

    Working of Vaccines

    • Vaccines contain weakened or inactive parts of an antigen that triggers an immune response within the body.
    • This weakened version of antigen will prompt the immune system to respond much as it would have on its first reaction to the actual pathogen.

    Approach Adopted to Develop India’s First Indigenous COVID-19 Vaccine

      • Developed by the Bharat-Biotech.
      • It is an inactivated vaccine which is developed by inactivating the live microorganisms that cause the disease.
      • It is developed using Whole-Virion Inactivated Vero Cell derived platform technology.
      • Developed by the University of Oxford in collaboration with Swedish-British drugmaker AstraZeneca.
      • Serum Institute of India (SII) is the manufacturing partner in India.
      • It is based on a weakened version of a common cold virus or the adenovirus that is found in chimpanzees.
      • This viral vector contains the genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein (protrusions) present on the outer surface of the virus that help it bind with the human cell.

    In a historic achievement, India’s vaccination drive has surpassed the 200-Crore milestone in July 2022. India has always supported the research, development and manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines under the “Make-in-India” and “Make-for-World” Strategy, embarked on the use of cutting-edge technologies like CoWIN.

  • 2018

    15. Why is there so much activity in the field of biotechnology in our country? How has this activity benefitted the field of biopharma? (2018)

    Biotechnology refers to the application of technology to biological processes for industrial, agricultural and medical purposes. This field has seen a boom in terms of focus on immediate and long-term plans to promote it in India and active involvement of states and central government, private entities, and international players in this regard. The surge in activity is guided by the realization that field of biotechnology holds many promises for India in the following areas:

    • Agriculture: High yielding varieties of crops, drought resistant plants, etc., have overall contributed to food security of vast population of India; fighting malnutrition by use of biofortified crops, e.g. Dhanashakti-first iron rich pearl millet in India; biofertilizers for ecologically safe enrichment of soil, e.g. algal biofertilizers for rice cultivation.
    • Industry: Novel techniques for inexpensive production of several products like corn-syrup, alcohol, eatables like cheese etc., by use of bio-enzymes.
    • Medicine: Correction of gene defects via gene therapy to treat diseases like adenosine deaminase (ADA) deficiency; products like genetically engineered insulin hold special significance in India which has a large diabetic population; use of biopharmaceuticals for better medicines with lesser side effects.

    The development in the field of biotechnology has resulted in the development of biopharma industries in the following ways:

    • Biopharmaceuticals drugs are structurally same as human compounds. This structural similarity gives biopharmaceuticals the potential to cure diseases rather than merely treat symptoms as done by traditional chemical compound medicines.
    • Biotechnology allows researchers to use cell fusion, DNA-recombinant technologies, and other technologies to modify treatments specifically for individual diseases. Bio-pharma allows clinicians to tailor treatment to the specific medical problems experienced by each patient.
    • The greatest potential for bio-pharma is in gene therapy. Conditions associated with rapidly dividing cells, such as cancer, develop as the result of defective or mutated genes. In gene therapy, scientists replace defective genes with healthy ones to treat existing disease or to prevent disease from developing later.

    Initiatives such i3 (Innovate in India); National Biopharma Mission and establishment of Bio-incubation centre’s will provide impetus for the development of this sector. The sector has potential to create new jobs enhance revenues through medical tourism and to develop affordable medicinal market in India as well as abroad.

  • 2019

    15. How is the Government of India protecting traditional knowledge of medicine from patenting by pharmaceutical companies?

    Traditional medicine comprises medical aspects of Traditional Knowledge (TKs) that developed over generations within various societies before the era of modern medicine. India has diverse set of traditional practices arising out of Ayurveda, Siddha, and diverse Tribal Practices that have developed over generations.

    Issues involved in the protection of Traditional Knowledge

    • Non-codification of TKs: Non-codified traditional knowledge are vulnerable to lose their relevance with the influences of modern medical practices.
    • Patenting of TKs by Biotechnology companies: Various cases of Bio-piracy were raised in India where Biotech companies used the Traditional Knowledge to develop products and issued patents. E.g. Jeevani sports drug was derived from traditional knowledge of Kani tribe.
    • Access and Benefit Sharing from TKs: Traditional knowledge is also often held collectively by communities, rather than by individual owners. This makes the benefit sharing difficult.
    • Inadequate International Regimes for protection of TKs: Due to the community nature of traditional knowledge, it is not recognized in international laws explicitly.

    Steps of Government To Protect TKs

    • Legal Steps:
      • Biological Diversity Act: It contains the provision for fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.
      • Forest Rights Act 2006: It provides for community rights over forest resources. It can help in the protection of traditionally owned knowledge and practices. It also protects and promotes the livelihood of tribal community which is often based on their knowledge system and forest produce.
      • The Geographical Indication of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999: It provides a collective right to the holders of the traditional knowledge associated with a particular geographical area.
    • Institutional Steps:
      • AYUSH Ministry: To cultivate education and research in Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, Homoeopathy, Sowa-Rigpa (Traditional Tibetan medicine), and other indigenous medicine systems.

    Policy Measures, Initiatives and Projects

    • Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL): It is a repository of traditional knowledge, especially of medicinal plants and formulations used in Indian system of medicine.
    • National Ayush Mission: It promotes AYUSH medical practices, quality enhancement and mainstreaming these practices to our healthcare system. It also promotes the education and awareness of AYUSH medicine system.
    • Research Centres and National Institutes have been created across India in the fields of Ayurveda, Unani, Homoeopathy, Siddha.
    • India has also signed agreements with the United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office and other countries’ patent office like USA etc to prevent the grant of invalid patents by giving patent examiners at International Patent Offices access to the TKDL database for patent search and examination.

    The interest in traditional medicines is growing rapidly due to the increased side effects, adverse drug reactions, and cost factor of modern medicines. So, awareness and development of various traditional knowledge practices should be done along with a focus on their mainstreaming so as to reap its potential of great livelihood support particularly for the tribals. Also, a sui-generis system should be developed that can recognize the diverse nature of Traditional Knowledge and provide them with adequate legal and commercial protection.

  • 2020

    15. COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented devastation worldwide. However, technological advancements are being availed readily to win over the crisis. Give an account of how technology was sought to aid management of the pandemic.

    The lockdown imposed worldwide during COVID-19 pandemic brought almost all the world to standstill. It impacted our lives, both personal and professional. However, the advancement in technology helped to manage almost all kinds of stuff even during this pandemic. 

    Ways in which technology helped during COVID-19 pandemic

    • Enabling Distance Learning Features for students: Since educational institutions remained shut during the pandemic, there was a major concern on delivery of education. But the online platforms like websites, YouTube and mobile applications helped students and teachers to interact and ensure education is not interrupted even during this pandemic.
    • Online Entertainment: Entertainment is considered very necessary to remove stress. During pandemic, since individuals cannot move out freely for entertainment, therefore, online platforms acted as a major boost for their entertainment. With theatres remaining shut, Over the Top (OTT) platforms such as Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, Netflix, etc. helped both producers and consumers to run the entertainment industry.
    • Contactless Delivery of Essentials: Online shopping which was earlier predominant in urban areas became very common even in rural areas during this pandemic. Easy searching of items on the web, placing of order with ease and timely delivery at doorstep have built consumer confidence in online shopping. Thus, technology ensured delivery of essentials like medicines, electronic items, grocery, etc. via contactless mode during this pandemic. 
    • Robotics: Doctors and nurses were also feared of getting infected with corona during medical diagnosis or performing normal procedures. Robots have eased their work by cleaning infected areas and by delivering food to quarantined individuals.
    • Work from Home (WFH) Facility: The work from home option available to employees has ensured smooth running of business activities. 4G technology, smart phones, better Internet, data privacy security, virtual meetings, cloud conferencing, etc. have assisted professionals in adopting work from the home scenario with ease.
    • The Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator is a pioneering international teamwork to fast-track development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.
    • Aarogya Setu’, a mobile app utilizing Bluetooth technology, algorithms and artificial intelligence, was developed to bring the people of India together in a determined fight against COVID-19.
    • Co-WIN or the COVID-19 Vaccine Intelligence Network, which is an extension of electronic Vaccine Intelligence Network (eVIN), is a digitalized tech platform for effectively rolling out and scaling up of the COVID Vaccine Distribution System mechanism at national level to reduce wastage and make the most effective use of vaccine supply and cold chain network.
    • AI enabled MyGov Corona Helpdesk helped improve our outreach and engagement during the pandemic and made a marked difference to society.
    • The Centre for Augmenting War with COVID-19 Health Crisis (CAWACH) encouraged Bangalore based start-up to bring out a mobile app for detection of possible infection in an asymptomatic individual and risk assessment of COVID 19 infected individuals, called Lyfas COVID score.

    Thus, we notice that during the COVID-19 period technology innovations helped in tackling the epidemic in a timely and systematic manner. Technology will not only ease one’s life but also generate new opportunities for society and also prove a cornerstone to deal with such pandemics, if any, in near future.

  • 2021

    15. What are the research and developmental achievements in applied biotechnology? How will these achievements help to uplift the poorer sections of the society?

    Biotechnology is technology based on biology. Biotechnology generates cellular and biomolecular processes to develop technologies and products that help improve our lives and the health of our planet. Biotechnology is helping to heal the world by harnessing nature’s own toolbox and using our own genetic makeup.

    Research and developmental achievements:

    • Stem Cell Research: Stem cells have the ability to keep on dividing infinitely and have the capacity to distinguish into different types of body cells during the early development of an organism. Researchers can program these stem cells to differentiate into specific types of cells.
    • Human Genome Project: It was an international scientific research project coordinated by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Energy. Officially launched in 1990, it had the goal of determining the sequence of nucleotide base pairs that make up human DNA. It has supported researchers in identifying genes that cause diseases.
    • Targeted Cancer Therapies: The established standard chemotherapies are toxic for healthy cells at present. Targeted cancer therapies are drugs that operate either by interfering with the function of specific molecules or by only targeting known cancerous cells in order to reduce damage to healthy cells.
    • CRISPR: Clustered Regularly Interspersed Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) is a relatively new gene-editing system that has been hailed as a groundbreaking tool in medical research. HIV research is one of its many uses.

    Role in uplifting poorer sections of society:

    • Biotechnology is assisting to expand the income of marginal farmers by increasing crop yield and making it climate and pest resilient.
    • It has revolutionised the medical science leading to controlled death rate and world class treatment possible in India itself.
    • By genome sequencing, biotechnology helps in accessing health of the people from the corners of India which ultimately proves conducive for the government in framing targeted policy initiatives.
    • It also proves beneficial in expanding the shelf life of food products, which in turn, keeps their price in check for the poor.
    • Pollution attacks poor the most. Biotechnology helps in reducing pollution and, thus, alleviates their suffering. For example, landfills are cleaned through bioremediation techniques.

  • 2022

    15. Launched on 25th December, 2021, James Webb Space Telescope has been much in the news since then. What are its unique features which make it superior to its predecessor Space Telescopes? What are the key goals of this mission? What potential benefits does it hold for the human race?

    The James Webb Space Telescope (sometimes called JWST or Webb) is a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror. It was successfully launched from French Guiana on 25th December 2021. The telescope is the result of an international collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency.

    Features of James Webb Telescope over other Telescopes

    Features James Webb Telescope Hubble Telescope Herschel Space Observatory Telescope
    Wavelength Observes in Infrared range Observes in Ultra-violet and visible part of spectrum. Observes in Infrared range
    Coverage 0.6 to 28 microns 0.8 to 2.5 microns 60 to 500 microns.
    Mirror Size Diameter: 6.5 meter Diameter: 2.4 meter Diameter: 3.5 meter
    • The James Webb Telescope and the Herschel Telescope is orbiting L2 region while other previous telescopes were launched into low earth orbit. It will help in better image capturing because of different wavelengths.
    • The size of mirror of James Webb telescope is much larger than other telescopes which will help in collecting larger area as compared to other.
    • James Webb Telescope is expected to go beyond the range of Hubble Telescope which will help in revealing stars and galaxies 13.7 billion years ago.

    Key Goals

    • Search for the first galaxies that formed after the Big Bang.
    • Determine how galaxies evolved from their earlier formation until now.
    • Observe the formation of stars from the first stages to the formation of planetary systems.
    • Measure the physical and chemical properties of planetary systems and investigate the potential for life in such systems.

    Potential benefits of James Webb for Human Race

    • The Webb telescope offers opportunity to understand the formation and growth of earlier galaxies.
    • It will help to detect possibilities of life on other planets. The detection of water and methane present in atmosphere of exoplanets can be done by infrared wavelengths.
    • It will be helpful in watching the birth of stars as the infrared light from the stars can penetrate through the dust.
    • It will help in studying black holes form different angle. It will provide valuable data related to temperatures, speed, chemical composition of the black hole.
    • It will also help to observe the atmospheres of extrasolar planets which are present beyond our solar system.

    James Webb telescope is the successor of the Hubble Telescope. The characteristics of the telescope will aid in learning about the mass, age, history and composition of ancient galaxies. It is expected that it will provide broad range of investigation in fields of astronomy ad cosmology.

  • 2016

    13. Why is nanotechnology one of the key technologies of the 21st century? Describe the salient features of Indian Government’s Mission on Nanoscience and Technology and the scope of its application in the development process of the country (2016)

    In the recent years nanotechnology has revolu-tionized scientific research across the globe in a big way. Today, from agriculture to aerospace research, nanotechnology's impact is being felt. Research in nanotechnology spans across an array of fields such as health, environment, agriculture, food and beverages, product development, space technology, power generation, genetics, biotechnology, forensic science, electronics and communications.

    At a commercial level the impact of nanotechnology is on three major industries, namely consumer products, electronics and healthcare. Some applications that make nanotechnology one of the key technologies in 21st century are discussed below:

    • Nanosilver provides an effective, broad-spectrum antimicrobial coating to the surface of various consumer products. Therefore silver nanotechnology is being used in a wide range of consumer products such as wound dressings, textiles, food storage containers, paints and personal care appliances.
    • Nanotechnology has significantly scaled down the size of transistors and chips used in the production of computers and other electronic goods.
    • Nanotechnology has made great strides in the field of medicine. Several nano- sized gadgets and materials are being developed to diagnose and treat diseases like cancer more effectively. Nano-pharmacology helps to produce smart drugs that have negligible side effects.
    • Nanoscale thin films on eyeglasses, computer and camera displays, windows, and other surfaces can make them water-repellent, antireflective, self-cleaning, resistant to ultraviolet or infrared light, antifog, antimicrobial, scratch-resistant, or electrically conductive.
    • Scientists are coating fabrics with a thin layer of zinc oxide nanoparticles that give better protection from UV radiation.
    • Using nanoparticles in the manufacture of solar cells is beneficial as they can reduce manufacturing costs by using a low temperature process.

  • 2016

    12. Discuss India’s achievements in the field of Space Science and Technology. How the application of this technology has helped India in its socio-economic development? (2016)

    India embarked on developing space science and technology in an era when it was being criticized for spending money on such expensive technologies when it’s priority should be fighting rampant poverty that prevails.

    However, our visionary leaders like Nehru and scientists prevailed over such criticisms and led India onto a path of great technological achievements. It has shown its proverbs in the field through achievements like Mars Orbiter Mission at a cost ten times lower than US’s similar project, Chandrayan mission which made ISRO sixth space organization to send orbiter to moon, developing it’s own navigation system through NAVIC (IRNSS). Thus ending its dependence on GPS. It has also made major strides in launch vehicles by developing Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV), GSLV with indigenous cryogenic stage which made India self reliant in launching 2 ton class communication satellites, record launch of 20 satellites in 2016 etc.

    Apart from being a mighty achievement, these achievements have also helped in socio-economic developments of the country. Through metrological data sent by satellites, it has been possible to gauge weather changes, arrival of monsoon and extent of rainfall, monitoring cyclones in advance which has helped farmers and citizens through advanced preparedness in general and in events of disasters. The communication satellites have enabled data connectivity to rural India eventually helped in digital India. NAVIC has made India self reliant thus saving resources, ensuring reliable data for army, farmers, tourists, navigators, fishermen.

  • 2017

    7. India has achieved remarkable successes in unmanned space missions including the Chandrayaan and Mars Orbiter Mission, but has not ventured into manned space mission. What are the main obstacles to launching a manned space mission, both in terms of technology and logistics? Examine critically. (2017)

    India has been able to carry out unmanned spaced mission but lacks the full fledged capabilities in manned space missions. Although some developments have taken place in terms of technology and logistics, India is still facing some hurdles in launching manned space missions.


    • India lacks the technology to carry heavy payloads into space.
    • Full capabilities in re-entry technologies are yet to be developed.
    • India could not get international cooperation in the field such as cryogenic technology at early stage.
    • ISRO is planning to launch manned space programme by 2021-24. Towards this end, it has unveiled a prototype of its first crew capsule (4 metre high module) designed to carry two people into low earth orbit.
    • India in 2017 launched the GSLV (Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle) Mark 3 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre. It carried a three ton payload, including “Crew Module Atmospheric Re-entry Experiment (CARE)”. However the third stage of cryogenic technology in GSLV is still not fully developed. GSLV Mark 3 will also be upgraded and tested to carry payloads upto 8 tonnes.
    • India is also working on Space Capsule Recovery Experiment-2 (SRE-2) that will demonstrate critical technologies required for recoverable launch vehicles.


    • India is depended mainly on single type of launch vehicle such as that of PSLV which hampers the capacity expansion of the programme.
    • India does not have its own global navigation system.
    • Funding and finance is essential to develop various equipments, technology  and new tools required in the coordination of a manned space programme. But ISRO is still waiting for the government approval and funding for a human space flight programme.

    Some scientists hold the view that private players have much more flexibility, freedom and risk taking abilities than the state owned agencies. Thus there should be more participation of private players in space programmes. India must realize that China launched its manned space mission to space in 2016 and will establish its permanent space station by 2022. Therefore India should also increase its footprints in manned space mission capabilities at the earliest.

  • 2017

    6. Stem cell therapy is gaining popularity in India to treat a wide variety of medical conditions including leukaemia, Thalassemia, damaged cornea and several burns. Describe briefly what stem cell therapy is and what advantages it has over other treatments? (2017)

    Stem cells refer to class of undifferentiated cells that have ability to differentiate into various specialized cells. These cells have potential to develop into many cell types in body during early life and growth. In many tissues these cells work as a kind of internal repair system to replenish other cells.

    This ability to repair and regenerate damaged cell is used in stem cell therapy for treatment of various diseases. In this therapy, stems cells are administered systematically and directly in high concentration in damaged tissues for self-healing. Stems cells for this purpose are obtained from the patient’s bone marrow, fat and umbilical cord tissue or blood. This therapy is being promoted as the next panacea for all ills.

    • Diseases that were earlier considered degenerative, incurable and irreversible are being treated with the help of stem cell therapy. The list includes diseases like diabetes, heart disease, spinal cord injuries, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's disease etc.
    • Blood stem cells are increasingly being used to treat diseases of the blood. Some methods of treatment like chemo therapy used in treatment of cancer destroys bone marrow also. Stem cell transplant can be used to replace such bone marrow.     

    India is among the frontrunner in stem cell therapy. Clinical trials are being performed to treat genetic, metabolic and blood related conditions. Stem cell has the potential to replace expensive, painstakingly protracted and routinely ineffective conventional therapy for treating a multitude of acute and chronic ailments.

  • 2019

    6. What is India’s plan to have its own space station and how will it benefit our space programme?

    A space station is a large artificial satellite designed to be occupied for long periods and to serve as a base for scientific observation. Recently, India has announced its plan to build its own space station, as a carry forward of the Gaganyaan mission, which will be the first Indian manned mission to space.

    India’s Plan toward own Space Station

    • The proposed space station is envisaged to weigh 20 tonnes and serve as a facility where astronauts can stay for 15-20 days.
    • It would be placed in lower Earth’s orbit at around 400 km above the earth.
    • The time frame for launch is 5-7 years after the Gaganyaan mission which is expected to take place in 2022.
    • The Gaganyaan mission would equip the ISRO with the necessary technology required for creating space platforms.

    Space station’s benefit toward the space programme

    • It would help to sustain Human Space Mission in the future for a longer period of time.
    • Space platforms can be used to perform Microgravity experiments. It would help in scientific and technological developments such as innovations related to water purification and biotechs.
    • It will help in Deep space exploration like the study of other galaxies.
    • The indigenous Space station would enhance India’s image in the international sphere. It would increase
    • India’s position as a space power.
    • India can earn revenue from the commercial engagements with other countries from its space prowess.

    India should increase its engagement with the private sector and research institutions in order to create human resources and innovative products for its growing space economy.

  • 2020

    6. How is science interwoven deeply with our lives? What are the striking changes in agriculture triggered off by science-based technologies?

    After the Industrial Revolution, the separate paths taken by science and technology began to move closer together. Scientific progress has a major effect on people’s sense of values, and it is changing the nature of society itself in every aspect of life, be it healthcare, education, agriculture, entertainment, etc.

    Science is interwoven deeply in our lives

    • Energy technology viz. the daily use of electrical energy from households to industries.
    • Manufacturing technology viz. the use of machines for manufacturing of food and other essential products of daily use.
    • Environmental technology viz. the management of wastewater and industrial emissions, harnessing of solar energy etc.
    • Scientific research brought new knowledge to Humanity.
    • Economic Development through the promotion of new research and development.
    • Social infrastructure technology like transportation and roads.

    Striking changes in agriculture triggered off by science-based technologies

    • The Green Revolution increased agricultural production, increased farm productivity, and raised farmer’s income.
    • Use of agricultural equipment and machinery helped to make farming and other agricultural practices more effective and easier for the farmer.
    • Disease control with help from the new varieties of genetically Modified crops which are disease resistant.
    • Good roads and modern transport vehicles help in the evacuation of foodstuffs from the hinterland to the urban areas or to other areas where they are needed.
    • ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) and Remote sensing (via satellites), GIS, eNAM, crop and soil health monitoring, and technologies for livestock and farm management aimed at empowerment, enablement, and market expansion.

    The technologies including Artificial Intelligence, Big Data Analytics, Blockchain Technology, Internet of Things, etc. are going to change and revolutionize agricultural practices along with incentivizing farmers, but environmental factors need to be taken care of along with advancements.

  • 2018

    5. Discuss the work of ‘Bose-Einstein Statistics’ done by Prof. Satyendra Nath Bose and show how it revolutionized the field of Physics. (2018)

    Satyendra Nath Bose did path-breaking work on quantum mechanics in the early 1920s, using maths to describe the behavioural pattern of the bosons. Bose worked with Einstein providing the foundation for Bose-Einstein statistics and the Bose-Einstein condensate.

    Bose figured out how a group of identical photons would behave. He sent his paper to Albert Einstein who recognized the value of his research work and extended it further under the name of Bose-Einstein Statistics. The particles such as photons that obey these statistics are called bosons.

    One of the most dramatic effects of Bose-Einstein statistics is the prediction that bosons can overlap and coexist with other bosons. Fermions on the other hand cannot do this because they follow the Pauli Exclusion Principle (no two electrons in an atom can be at the same time in the same state or configuration). Because of this, it is possible for photons to become a laser and some matter is able to form the exotic state of a Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC). A BEC is used to study quantum mechanics on a macroscopic level. Light appears to slow down as it passes through a BEC, allowing study of the particle/wave paradox. A BEC also has many of the properties of a superfluid (flowing without friction). BECs are also used to simulate conditions that might apply in black holes.

  • 2019

    5. How was India benefited from the contributions of Sir M.Visvesvaraya and Dr. M. S. Swaminathan in the fields of water engineering and agricultural science respectively?

    The British rule in India neglected modernisation of Indian agriculture and little was done to improve irrigation system. After independence, India did not have enough to feed its burgeoning population and it was forced to subsist on "ship to mouth" existence.

    At these junctures,two personalities-Sir M Visvesvaraya and MS Swaminathan- emerged who revolutionised their respective fields of knowledge, contributing enormously to India’s development.

    Sir M. Visvesvaraya’s contribution in the field of water engineering

    • He is remembered as India’s most prolific civil engineer, dam builder, economist, statesman, and can be counted among the last century’s foremost nation-builders.
    • He played an instrumental role in the construction of the Krishna Raja Sagara Lake and dam in 1924. This dam not only became the main source of water for irrigation for the nearby areas, but is also the main source of drinking water for several cities.
    • Visvesvaraya was, among other things, responsible for the building and consolidation of dams across the country. He invented the Block System -automated doors that close in the conditions of overflow, and also designed Hyderabad’s flood management system.
    • He is recognised for his brilliance and creativity in harnessing water resources, designing and constructing dams and bridges, and revolutionising the irrigation system in India.
    • Due to his outstanding contribution to the society, Government of India conferred ‘Bharat Ratna’ on this legend in the year 1955.

    Dr. M.S. Swaminathan’s contribution to agriculture science

    • A plant geneticist by training, Professor Swaminathan’s contributions to the agricultural renaissance of India have led to his being widely referred to as the scientific leader of the green revolution movement.
    • Recognized worldwide for his basic and applied research in genetics, cytogenetics, radiation and chemical mutagenesis, food and biodiversity conservation, he conceptualized ever-green revolution movement in agriculture.
    • Swaminathan is the visionary who took India from the bondage of ‘Ship to Mouth’ existence to the freedom of ‘Right to Food’ through home grown food.
    • Apart from serving as head of various national and international institutions, he headed the National Commission on Farmers (NCF) constituted in 2004 to address the nationwide calamity of farmer suicides in India.

    India needs to adhere to the visions of these two men, especially when our agrarian challenges are mounting due to erratic rainfall, cycles of floods and droughts, unsustainable practices and other endemic issues.

  • 2020

    5. What do you understand by nanotechnology and how is it helping in health sector?

    Nanotechnology is the use and the development of techniques to study physical phenomena and develop new material and devices structures in the physical size ranging from 1 to 100 nanometers (nm). Nanotechnology influences almost all areas of our lives, including manufacturing, electronics, computers and information technologies, medicine, the environment and energy storage, chemical and biological technologies, and agriculture.

    Contribution of nanotechnology in health sector

    • Nanomedicine, the application of nanotechnology in medicine helps in producing precise solutions for disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.
    • Nanotechnology  has  broadened  itself  in  the  areas  of  medical  tools,  knowledge,  and  therapies  currently available to clinicians.
    • Better imagining and diagnostic tools enabled by nanotechnology are paving the way for earlier diagnosis, more individualized treatment options, and better therapeutic success rates.
    • Nanotechnology in medicine currently being developed involves employing nanoparticles to deliver  drugs, heat, light or other substances to specific types of cells (such as cancer cells). This technique reduces damage to healthy cells in the body and allows for earlier detection of disease.
    • In contrast to dialysis, which works on the principle of the size related diffusion of solutes and ultrafiltration of fluid across a semi-permeable membrane, the purification with nanoparticles allows specific  targeting of substances. Additionally, larger compounds which are commonly not dialyzable can be removed.

    Because of their small size, much concern has been expressed about the potential for adverse health effects arising from the ability of nanoparticles to penetrate cell walls and the blood-brain barrier. Therefore, there is a need to identify key gaps in knowledge and areas where further research may be targeted to efficiently exploit the technology.

  • 2021

    5. How is S-400 air defence system technically superior to any other system presently available in the world?

    The S-400 Triumf is a mobile, surface-to-air missile system (SAM) designed by Russia. It is the most dangerous operationally deployed modern long-range SAM (MLR SAM) in the world, considered much ahead of the US-developed Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system (THAAD). India is engaged with Russia for the purchase of five S-400 Missile Systems.

    Why S 400 is different from others:

    • S-400 Triumf is considered one of the world’s most advanced air defence systems that can simultaneously track and neutralize a range of incoming objects spanning aircraft, missiles and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV).
    • Each system has four different types of missiles for up to 40 km, 120 km, 250 km and maximum range of 400 km and up to 30 km altitude. The different ranges and varying altitudes create a layered air defence net.
    • Unlike S-400, the American THAAD is a one-dimensional missile system as it can fire only one type of missile upto a range of 150-200 km and Patriot has a range of 180 km.
    • THAAD cannot intercept a fighter jet while S-400 can.
    • The deployment time for S-400 and Patriot is 5 minutes and 25 minutes respectively.
    • The maximum target speed of S-400 is 4.8km/sec as compared to 1.38km/sec of Patriot.

    Even though buying S-400 from Russia attracted criticism from the US under the CAATSA agreement, the purchase of the much-awaited S-400 for India was inevitable keeping its volatile neighbors in mind.

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