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Prelims Capsule

Prelims bits

Prelims Bits (1st Week)

Environment and Ecology:

Panna Tiger Reserve threatened by Ken Betwa Link Project 

  • Context: The Panna tiger reserve is situated in the Vindhya mountain range in the northern part of Madhya Pradesh. Ken river (a tributary of the Yamuna River) flows through the reserve.
  • About: The region is also famous for Panna diamond mining. Ken-Betwa river interlinking project will be located within the tiger reserve.
  • About: Ignoring petitions pending before the National Green Tribunal and the Supreme Court besides growing opposition to the Ken-Betwa river-linking project, the Centre has given its nod to the project costing Rs 35,000 Crore at 2017-18 prices.
  • At today’s valuation the project would cost Rs 45,000 Crore and by the time it is completed, the cost is certainly going to escalate further.
  • Under this project, water from the Ken River will be transferred to the Betwa river. Both these rivers are tributaries of river Yamuna. A 73.8-meter-high dam proposed on Ken at Daudhan in Madhya Pradesh’s Chhattarpur district.
  • Both the rivers are rain-fed and are tributaries of the Yamuna. The project is estimated to take eight years to complete.
  • According to the Comprehensive Detailed Project Report, the cost of Ken-Betwa Link Project is estimated at Rs 35,111.24 crore at 2017-18 prices.

Tyrannosaurus Rex Dinosaur – New research findings of T Rex speed

  • Context: According to a study, the Tyrannosaurus had a preferred walking speed of just 5 kmph– about the same as the average walking speed of humans.
  • About: The Tyrannosaurus had a preferred walking speed of just 5 kmph– about the same as the average walking speed of humans.
  • The Tyrannosaurus rex, the most storied of all dinosaurs, is considered the most fearsome eating machine to have evolved on Earth. It lived toward the end of the Cretaceous period, around 66 million to 68 million years ago.
  • It is believed that an adult member of the species stood 12 feet tall and 40 feet long, and weighed between 5,000 to 7,000 kg.
  • The dinosaur inhabited what is today’s western United States. It was not found in India; the fiercest of all Indian dinosaurs was probably the Rajasaurus narmadensis, followed by another specimen of the Abelisauridae family, the Indosuchus raptorius.

Economy:

RBI purchases Dollar worth 5% of GDP – US retains India in currency manipulator watchlist

  • Context: The US treasury department has retained India in the currency manipulator watch list in its semi-annual report submitted to the Congress.
  • About: The reason being higher dollar purchases by RBI of close to 5% of GDP large on account of huge capital inflows, which is higher than its threshold of 2% of GDP.
  • India was added to the list for a second time in December 2020.
  • It was first added to the list in December 2018, and later removed in 2019
  • This is a label given by the US government to countries it feels are engaging in “unfair currency practices” by deliberately devaluing their currency against the dollar.
  • The practice would mean that the country in question is artificially lowering the value of its currency to gain an unfair advantage over others.
  • This is because the devaluation would reduce the cost of exports from that country and artificially show a reduction in trade deficits as a result.
  • The US Treasury Department uses three criteria to assess whether an economy has manipulated its currency or not.
  • “Over the four quarters through December 2020, five major US trading partners — Vietnam, Switzerland, Taiwan, India, and Singapore — Intervened in the foreign exchange market in a sustained, asymmetric manner with the effect of weakening their currencies,”according to the report released on April 16. India meets two out of the three criteria above-mentioned criteria.
  • While the RBI frequently intervenes in both directions, RBI purchased foreign exchange on net in 11 of the 12 months of 2020,
  • India’s current account registered a surplus of 1.3% of GDP 2020, a shift from the consistent current account deficits recorded since 2004
  • India’s goods trade surplus with the United States was $24 billion in 2020, as per the report.
  • India also ran an $8 billion services trade surplus with the United States in 2020

Security:

Indonesian Navy searches for missing submarine KRI Nanggala 402 – Indian Navy helping Indonesian

  • Context: An Indonesian Cakra (Type 209/1300) class diesel-electric submarine (SSK) has been reported to be missing near Bali. Indonesian Navy (also known as Tentar Nasional Indonesia-Angkatan Laut or TNI-AL) operated KRI Cakra (401) and the KRI Nanggala (402) since the early 1980’s decade
  • About: The submarine reported to be missing is the KRI Nanggala-402 vessel.
  • The Nanggala is a German-built vessel in service of 1981 vintage.
  • According to reports, KRI Nanggala (402) had lost contact in the sea 95 km north of Bali on April 21, 2021 and had 53 crew members.
  • It was conducting torpedo firing drills when the contact was lost in an area which was up to 700 meters deep in the sea.
  • Indonesia sent out an international distress signal answered by India, Australia, and Singapore, with whom Jakarta sought help, and signed a submarine rescue agreement.
  • Indonesia’s TNI-AL dispatched several warships, including the hydrographic ship, KRI Rigel (933) to conduct a search operation for the German-built KRI Nanggala-402.
  • The SAR activity is a methodical process where the search patterns in water and from air are well defined to maximize the probability of location of the submarine.
  • However, time is always critical when limited oxygen capacity exists onboard a distressed submarine, and some specialized searches which maximizes the probability of detection in the shortest time too are useful
  • The naval vessels involved in the search operations use sophisticated sonars to scan the sea bottom to identify the submarine in the underwater profiles obtained on the displays.
  • There is also a look out for any acoustic noise emanating from the machines of the submarine, if running, or emergency signal direction finding using passive means
  • Incidents like Russian Kursk submarine sinking and fire accident onboard INS Sidhuratna had highlighted the need for a submarine rescue vessel.
  • India’s first DSRV was procured from the UK and successfully operationalised by Indian Navy after successfully completing Sea Trials in June 2019.
  • DSRV can recover submarine crew from depths up to 650m.
  • The DSRV is equipped with sonar and an ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) to clear the underwater obstructions and for the rescue operations.
  • The DSRV can be transported to the area of operations by air or sea routes
  • DSRV can recover submarine crew from depths up to 650m.
  • The DSRV is equipped with sonar and an ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) to clear the underwater obstructions and for the rescue operations.
  • The DSRV can be transported to the area of operations by air or sea routes

International Relations:

India, Japan & Australia launches Supply Chain to counter China

  • Context: Global supply chains are complex beasts. They are multi-tiered, multi-dimensional ecosystems of intimately related parts that allow lean, just-in-time manufacturing, and delivery models
  • About:  This complexity gives rise to supply chain vulnerabilities as threats, such as natural disasters, accidents, trade wars, and cyberattacks that grow in frequency and severity.
  • Supply chain resilience is a supply chain’s ability to be prepared for unexpected risk events.
  • If you have a resilient supply chain, you can manage to respond and recover quickly to these disruptions by returning to the original situation or by moving to, a new, and more desirable state in order to increase customer service, market share and financial performance.
  • In a move to counter China’s dominance of supply chain in the Indo-pacific region, trade ministers of India, Japan and Australia
  • Formally launched the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI) in a virtual trilateral ministerial meeting.
  • The trade ministers first met in September last year to explore the possibility of supply chain initiative.
  • Based on the high-level consultations among Australia, India and Japan since September last year, The Ministers noted the importance of risk management and continuity plans in order to avoid supply chain disruptions and affirmed their commitment to strengthen resilient supply chains.
  • Possible policy measures may include:

(i) Supporting the enhanced utilization of digital technology;

(ii) Supporting trade and investment diversification

Science and Technology:

NASA’s Perseverance Rover makes breathable oxygen on Mars

  • Context: NASA has logged another extraterrestrial first on its latest mission to Mars: Converting carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere into pure, breathable oxygen, the U.S. space agency
  • About: The unprecedented extraction of oxygen, literally out of thin air Mars, was achieved on Tuesday by an experimental device aboard Perseverance, a six-wheeled science rover that landed on the Red Planet 18 after a seven-month journey from Earth.
  • In its first activation, the toaster-sized instrument dubbed MOXIE, short for Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment, Produced about 5 grams of oxygen, equivalent to roughly 10 minutes’ worth of breathing for an astronaut, NASA said.
  • Although the initial output was modest, the feat marked the first experimental extraction of a natural resources from the environment of another planet for direct use by humans.
  • The instrument works through electrolysis, which uses extreme heat to separate oxygen atoms from molecules of carbondioxide, which accounts for about 95% of the atmosphere on Mars.
  • The remaining 5% of Mars’ atmosphere, which is only about 1% as dense Earth’s, consists primarily of molecular nitrogen and argon.
  • Oxygen exists on Mars in negligible trace amounts. But an abundant supply is considered critical to eventual human exploration of the Red Planet, both as a sustainable source of breathable air for astronauts & as a necessary ingredient for rocket fuel to fly them home.

Chinese Satellite Shijian 17 with Robotic Arms is a threat for other nations’ satellites says USA

  • Context: US military leaders have claimed China has a satellite with a grappling arm, and said its existence highlights the needs for increased funding to match the Middle Kingdom and Russia’s expanding orbital arsenals.
  • About: One notable object is the Shijian-17, a Chinese satellite with a robotic arm. Space-based robotic arm technology could be used in a future system for grappling other satellites. China also has multiple ground-based laser systems of varying power levels that could blind or damage satellite systems.
  • China is developing a broad complement of jamming and cyberspace capabilities, directed energy weapons, on-orbit capabilities, and ground-based antisatellite missiles that can achieve a range of effects. China will attempt to hold US space assets at risk while using its own space capabilities to support its military objectives and overall national security goals.
  • Testimony at the hearing also claimed Russia is testing mobile ground-based missile, the “Nudol”, to destroy low earth orbit satellites. The Nudol joins satellite prototypes COSMOS 2504 and COSMOS 2536 and other ground-based low power lasers in Russia’s arsenal of possible antisatellite weapons.
  • Space debris (also known as space junk, space pollution, space waste, space trash, or space garbage) is defunct human-made objects in space—principally in Earth orbit—which no longer serve a useful function. These include derelict spacecraft—nonfunctional spacecraft and abandoned launch vehicle stages—mission-related debris, and particularly numerous in Earth orbit, fragmentation debris from the breakup of derelict rocket bodies and spacecraft.

World’s Largest Nuclear Power Plant – French firm EDF submits final offer to India for Jaitapur site

  • Context: World’s Biggest Nuclear Power Plant To Come Up At Maharashtra’s Jaitapur As French Firm EDF Submits Offer To NPCIL
  • About: In another step towards the deepening and bolstering of the bilateral ties between India and France, French electricity major EDF Group has offered to supply engineering studies and equipment for building six EPR nuclear reactors at Maharashtra’s Jaitapur.
  • EDF Group has submitted a binding techno-commercial offer to the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL).

DRDO develops Single Crystal Blades technology for helicopters

  • Context: Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed single crystal blades technology and supplied 60 of these blades to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) as part of their indigenous helicopter development program for helicopter engine application
  • About: During the normal casting of metal components, the metal while solidifying forms grains. Each grain has a different orientation of its crystal lattice from its neighbours.
  • A grain boundary is the interface between two grains, or crystallites, in a polycrystalline material.
  • These conditions can lead to creep, corrosion and cracks also start at grain boundaries. Thus, grain boundaries greatly shorten turbine vane and blade life, and require lowered turbine temperatures with a concurrent decrease in engine performance.
  • To offset the limitations imposed by grain boundaries in polycrystalline materials, metallurgists have sought to eliminate grain boundaries from turbine airfoils altogether, by inventing techniques to cast single-crystal turbine blades and vanes, and design alloys to be used exclusively in single-crystal form.
  • By eliminating grain boundaries, single-crystal airfoils have longer thermal and fatigue life, are more corrosion resistant and can also be cast with thinner walls.

Government scheme and Initiative:

National Pension System – Major changes proposed by Government 

  • Context: Started as the New Pension Scheme for government employees in 2004 under a new regulator called the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA)
  • About: The National Pension System (NPS) has been open for individuals from all walks of life to participate and build a retirement nest-egg.
  • Given the dominance of informal employment in India, the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation, which is contingent on a formal employer-employee relationship, only covers a fraction of the workforce.
  • The NPS has been gradually growing in size and now manages 5.78 lakh crore of savings and 4.24 crore accounts in multiple savings schemes.
  • Of these, over 3.02 crore accounts are part of the Atal Pension Yojana (APY), a government-backed scheme for workers in the unorganised sector that assures a fixed pension payout after retirement.
  • The rest constitute voluntary savings from private sector employees and self-employed individuals
  • The law regulating the NPS allows members to withdraw just 60% of their accumulated savings at the time of retirement.
  • With the remaining 40%, it is mandatory to buy an annuity product that provides a fixed monthly income to retirees till their demise.
  • Members who accumulate up to 2 lakh in their NPS account at the time of retirement are exempted from the mandatory annuitisation, and can withdraw the full amount.
  • Falling interest rates and poor returns offered by annuity products had triggered complaints from some members and experts about the compulsory annuitisation clause.
  • “If someone opts for a lifetime annuity at retirement with a return of purchase price to the nominee once the person dies, the rates are varying between 5% and 5.5%.

India’s first Fire Park inaugurated in Odisha – CM Patnaik launches AgnishamaSeva portal

  • Context: India’s first Fire Park comes up in Odisha
  • About: Located inside the premises of the Odisha Fire and Disaster Academy in Bhubaneswar, the Fire Park will be open to the public every Saturday from 3.30 pm to 5.30 pm.
  • Demonstrations on use of first aid fire-fighting equipment, rescue and disaster operations, visit to exhibition hall, screening of films and distribution of leaflets on fire safety will be part of the activities.
  • Students from schools and colleges will be the focus group
  • Stating that all the 16 fire related services are now available to the citizens on online mode in the portal www.odishafshgscd.gov.in,
  • The Chief Minister advised the fire service department to continue to put priority on the feedback mechanism under the ‘Mo Sarkar’ to ensure hassle free and time bound services to the public
  • The National Building Code (NBC) in India states on matters of building construction and fire safety.
  • As per the code, fire prevention and fire protection is a subject of the state. The key responsibility for fire protection and fire prevention lies on the shoulders of the State Government.
  • The fire safety rules for the prevention and protection will set in the form of Municipal By-Laws or State Regulations.

Miscellaneous:

Global Energy Transition Index 2021 by World Economic Forum – India secures 87th spot

  • Context: Recently, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has released the annual rankings of the global Energy Transition Index.
  • About: The index benchmarks 115 economies on the current performance of their energy systems across economic development and growth, environmental sustainability and energy security and access indicators and their readiness for transition to secure, sustainable, affordable and inclusive energy systems.
  • India has been ranked at the 87th position among 115 countries in the Energy Transition Index (ETI) that tracks nations on the current performance of their energy systems across various aspects, according to a report.
  • The report from the World Economic Forum (WEF) released on Wednesday and prepared in collaboration with Accenture also draws on insights from ETI.
  • The top 10 countries in the index are Western and Northern European countries, and Sweden is in the first position followed by Norway (2nd) and Denmark (3rd).
  • For India, gains have come from a government-mandated renewable energy expansion programme i.e. to add 275 GW by 2027.
  • India has also made significant strides in energy efficiency through bulk procurement of LED bulbs, smart meters and programs for labelling of appliances. Similar measures are being experimented to drive down the costs of electric vehicles (EVs).
  • It indicates a strong positive trajectory, driven by strong political commitment and an enabling policy environment.

Religious Freedom in India – USCIRF says India should be a Country of Particular Concern

  • Context: The USCIRF has recommended putting India on a list of CPCs or Countries of Particular Concern for the second year in a row due to the violations of religious freedoms in the year 2020.
  • About: The United Nations Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has recommended putting India on a list of CPCs or Countries of Particular Concern for the second year in a row due to the violations of religious freedoms in the year 2020. Earlier, in its 2020 Human Rights Report, the US State Department pointed out several Human Rights issues in India.
  • The report focuses on two groups of countries, namely, Countries of Particular Concern and Special Watch List Countries. It also focusses on the Entities of Particular Concern.