A) Science and Technology, Defence, Space
1. Green Charcoal Hackathon and Torrefaction Technology (PIB)
- Context: NVVN (NTPC Vidyut Vyapar Nigam), a wholly-owned subsidiary company of NTPC Ltd, in partnership with Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL), launched the Green Charcoal Hackathon.
- The purpose of the event is to leverage the innovative Indian mind to bridge the technology gap, with the prime objective to clean the air by eliminating farm fire, producing renewable energy out of the agro residue, to promote local entrepreneurship, and to increase the income of the farmers.
- The increasing air pollution due to the burning of stubble and agro residue by local farmers has motivated NVVN to look for technologies to convert the agricultural waste to a form that can be used in the power plants in form of the Green Charcoal. One such option is torrefaction which converts the agro residue to green charcoal.
- The technology to produce torrefied fuel using agro residue biomass is not easily accessible to small entrepreneurs due to the higher cost of imported machines, lack of sufficient manufacturers.
- Torrefaction is a thermal process to convert biomass into a coal-like material, which has better fuel characteristics than the original biomass.
- Torrefied biomass is more brittle, making grinding easier and less energy intensive.
- Compared to fresh biomass, storage of the torrefied material can be substantially simplified since biological degradation and water uptake is minimized.
- Torrefaction involves the heating of biomass in the absence of oxygen/low oxygen concentrations to a temperature of typically 200 to 400°C.
- The structure of the biomass changes in such a way, that the material becomes brittle, and more hydrophobic.
- Due to the substantial weight loss and a relatively smaller loss of calorific content, the heating value of processed biomass per mass unit increases significantly in the process. Main product is the solid, torrefied biomass.
- During the torrefaction process a combustible gas is released, which is utilised to provide heat to the process.
- Torrefied biomass has seven immediate benefits over untreated biomass:
- Higher calorific value
- More homogeneous product
- Higher bulk density
- Excellent grindability
- Hydrophobic nature/water resistance
- No biological activity
2. XP100 – India’s first 100 Octane Petrol (PIB)
- Context: Indian Oil Corporation has launched country’s first 100 Octane petrol.
- Branded as XP100, the premium grade petrol was launched across selected cities
- The fuel is manufactured at IOC’s Mathura refinery in Uttar Pradesh and supplied at select petrol pumps.
- Octane ratings are measures of fuel stability.
- It is a measure of a fuel’s ability to avoid knock.
- Knock occurs when fuel is prematurely ignited in the engine’s cylinder, which degrades efficiency and can be damaging to the engine.
- Worldwide, 100 Octane petrol has a niche market for luxury vehicles that demand high performance and is available only in six countries of USA, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Malaysia and Israel.
- At most retail stations, three octane grade are offered, 87 (regular), 89 (mid-grade) and 91-93 (premium).
- The higher the octane number, the more resistant the petrol mixture is to knock.
- The use of higher octane fuels also enables higher compression ratios, turbocharging, and downsizing/downspeeding—all of which enable greater engine efficiencies and higher performance in modern high end/ performance vehicles.
- The octane rating is a measure of the resistance of gasoline and other fuels to detonation (engine knocking) in spark-ignition internal combustion engines.
- High-performance engines typically have higher compression ratios and are therefore more prone to detonation, so they require higher octane fuel.
- Petrol, or Gasoline, in technical terms is called Motor Spirit (MS), or Automotive Gasoline.
- Petrol is normally produced by refineries by the fractional distillation of crude oil, with further treatment including addition of multifunction additives to enhance its Octane rating (number) and other properties.
- Technically, it is a complex mixture of hydrocarbons that are balanced to deliver a satisfactory engine performance over a wide range of operating conditions.
- A key parameter for Petrol is the octane number, which is a measure of its resistance to knock.
- In a spark-ignition engine, the air-fuel mixture gets heated during the compression cycle and is thereafter triggered by the spark plug to burn rapidly, as per the engine design requirements.
- Higher compression ratios enable the engine to extract more mechanical energy from a given mass of air-fuel mixture, leading to higher thermal efficiency.
- With regard to the fuel, gasoline engines with higher design compression ratios typically require fuels with a higher octane rating.
- Use of petrol with lower than prescribed octane number may cause the air-fuel mixture to prematurely self-ignite before the ignition system sparks, with a characteristic “knocking” or “pinging” sound, which is undesirable as it may damage engine components due to higher pressures.
- Note: A lower-performance engine will not generally perform better with high-octane fuel, since the compression ratio is fixed by the engine design.
Some technical details
- The octane number of a fuel is measured in a test engine, and is defined by comparison with the mixture of iso-octane and normal heptane which would have the same anti-knocking capacity as the fuel under test: the percentage, by volume, of iso-octane in that mixture is the octane number of the fuel.
- For example, gasoline with the same knocking characteristics as a mixture of 90% iso-octane and 10% heptane would have an octane rating of 90. Because some fuels are more knock-resistant than iso-octane, the definition has been extended to allow for octane numbers higher than 100.
- The octane rating of a spark ignition engine fuel is the detonation resistance (anti-knock rating) compared to a mixture of iso-octane (2,2,4-trimethylpentane, an isomer of octane) and n-heptane.
- By definition, iso-octane is assigned an octane rating of 100 and heptane is assigned an octane rating of zero.
- An 87-octane gasoline, for example, possesses the same anti-knock rating of a mixture of 87% (by volume) iso-octane and 13% (by volume) n-heptane.
- This does not mean, however, that the gasoline actually contains these hydrocarbons in these proportions. It simply means that it has the same detonation resistance as the described mixture.
- Octane rating does not relate to the energy content of the fuel. It is only a measure of the fuel’s tendency to burn rather than explode.
- In the early 20th century, automotive manufacturers were searching for a chemical that would reduce engine knock.
- In 1921, automotive engineers working for General Motors in USA discovered that tetraethyl lead (better known as lead) provided octane to gasoline, preventing engine knock.
- While aromatic hydrocarbons (such as benzene) and alcohols (such as ethanol) were also known octane providers at the time, lead was the preferred choice due to its lower production cost.
- Leaded gasoline was the predominant fuel type until India began phasing it out in the 2000s because of proven serious health impacts.
- All fuels marketed for vehicles in India are unleaded.
Do you know about waste recycling?
- Fuel obtained from plastic waste has high octane rating. It contains no lead and is known as “green fuel”.
B) Polity, Bills, Acts and Judgments
3. Meaning and scope of the Writ Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the High Courts (TH)
- Context: The Supreme Court refused to entertain petitions seeking judicial inquiry or CBI probe against Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy for the circumstances leading to the release of his letter addressed to Chief Justice of India levelling allegations against a sitting Supreme Court judge and State High Court judges.
- The court also declined a plea by one of the petitioners to issue a writ of quo warranto against Mr. Reddy for releasing the ‘confidential’ letter to the public and thus “misusing his office”.
- The Constitution has constituted the Supreme Court as the guarantor and defender of the fundamental rights of the citizens.
- The Supreme Court is empowered to issue writs including habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari for the enforcement of the fundamental rights of an aggrieved citizen.
- In this regard, the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction in the sense that an aggrieved citizen can directly go to the Supreme Court, not necessarily by way of appeal.
- However, the writ jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is not exclusive.
- The high courts are also empowered to issue writs for the enforcement of the Fundamental Rights.
- It means, when the Fundamental Rights of a citizen are violated, the aggrieved party has the option of moving either the high court or the Supreme Court directly.
- Therefore, the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court with regard to federal disputes is different from its original jurisdiction with regard to disputes relating to fundamental rights.
- In the first case, it is exclusive and in the second case, it is concurrent with high courts’ jurisdiction.
- Moreover, the parties involved in the first case are units of the federation (Centre and states) while the dispute in the second case is between a citizen and the Government (Central or state).
- The Supreme Court (under Article 32) and the high courts (under Article 226) can issue the writs of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, certiorari and quo-warranto.
- Further, the Parliament (under Article 32) can empower any other court to issue these writs.
- Since no such provision has been made so far, only the Supreme Court and the high courts can issue the writs and not any other court.
- Before 1950, only the High Courts of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras had the power to issue the writs. Article 226 now empowers all the high courts to issue the writs.
- These writs are borrowed from English law where they are known as ‘prerogative writs’.
The writ jurisdiction of the Supreme Court differs from that of a high court in three respects:
- The Supreme Court can issue writs only for the enforcement of fundamental rights whereas a high court can issue writs not only for the enforcement of Fundamental Rights but also for any other purpose.
- The expression ‘for any other purpose’ refers to the enforcement of an ordinary legal right.
- Thus, the writ jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, in this respect, is narrower than that of high court.
- The Supreme Court can issue writs against a person or government throughout the territory of India whereas a high court can issue writs against a person residing or against a government or authority located within its territorial jurisdiction only or outside its territorial jurisdiction only if the cause of action arises within its territorial jurisdiction.
- Thus, the territorial jurisdiction of the Supreme Court for the purpose of issuing writs is wider than that of a high court.
- A remedy under Article 32 is in itself a Fundamental Right and hence, the Supreme Court may not refuse to exercise its writ jurisdiction.
- On the other hand, a remedy under Article 226 is discretionary and hence, a high court may refuse to exercise its writ jurisdiction. Article 32 does not merely confer power on the Supreme Court as Article 226 does on a high court to issue writs for the enforcement of fundamental rights or other rights as part of its general jurisdiction.
- The Supreme Court is thus constituted as a defender and guarantor of the fundamental rights.
Meaning and scope of different kinds of writs mentioned in Articles 32 and 226 of the Constitution:
- It is a Latin term which literally means ‘to have the body of’.
- It is an order issued by the court to a person who has detained another person, to produce the body of the latter before it.
- The court then examines the cause and legality of detention.
- It would set the detained person free, if the detention is found to be illegal.
- Thus, this writ is a bulwark of individual liberty against arbitrary detention.
- The writ of habeas corpus can be issued against both public authorities as well as private individuals.
- The writ, on the other hand, is not issued where the
- (a) detention is lawful,
- (b) the proceeding is for contempt of a legislature or a court,
- (c) detention is by a competent court, and
- (d) detention is outside the jurisdiction of the court.
- It literally means ‘we command’.
- It is a command issued by the court to a public official asking him to perform his official duties that he has
- failed or refused to perform.
- It can also be issued against any public body, a corporation, an inferior court, a tribunal or government for the same purpose.
- The writ of mandamus cannot be issued
- (a) against a private individual or body;
- (b) to enforce departmental instruction that does not possess statutory force;
- (c) when the duty is discretionary and not mandatory;
- (d) to enforce a contractual obligation;
- (e) against the president of India or the state governors; and
- (f) against the chief justice of a high court acting in judicial capacity.
- Literally, it means ‘to forbid’.
- It is issued by a higher court to a lower court or tribunal to prevent the latter from exceeding its jurisdiction or usurping a jurisdiction that it does not possess.
- Thus, unlike mandamus that directs activity, the prohibition directs inactivity.
- The writ of prohibition can be issued only against judicial and quasi-judicial authorities.
- It is not available against administrative authorities, legislative bodies, and private individuals or bodies.
- In the literal sense, it means ‘to be certified’ or ‘to be informed’.
- It is issued by a higher court to a lower court or tribunal either to transfer a case pending with the latter to itself or to squash the order of the latter in a case.
- It is issued on the grounds of excess of jurisdiction or lack of jurisdiction or error of law.
- Thus, unlike prohibition, which is only preventive, certiorari is both preventive as well as curative.
- Previously, the writ of certiorari could be issued only against judicial and quasi-judicial authorities and not against administrative authorities.
- However, in 1991, the Supreme Court ruled that the certiorari can be issued even against administrative authorities affecting rights of individuals.
- Like prohibition, certiorari is also not available against legislative bodies and private individuals or bodies.
- In the literal sense, it means ‘by what authority or warrant’.
- It is issued by the court to enquire into the legality of claim of a person to a public office.
- Hence, it prevents illegal usurpation of public office by a person.
- The writ can be issued only in case of a substantive public office of a permanent character created by a statute or by the Constitution.
- It cannot be issued in cases of ministerial office or private office.
- Unlike the other four writs, this can be sought by any interested person and not necessarily by the aggrieved person.
4. Nagaland Statehood Day (TH)
- Context: Nagaland, once part of Assam, attained statehood on December 1, 1963.
- This followed the 16-Point Agreement signed in July 1960 between the Naga People’s Convention (NPC) and the Centre.
- A majority of extremists did not recognise it.
- Formation of states in India since Independence have been covered in detail: Refer Nov 1 File.
C) Indices, Reports, Committees and Organisations
5. National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) (TH)
- Context: The Delhi High Court asked the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) to explain what step has been taken to recognise and classify transgenders as a separate third gender in its annual publication of Prison Statistics India.
National Crime Records Bureau
- NCRB, now under the Home Ministry, was set-up in 1986 to function as a repository of information on crime and criminals so as to assist the investigators in linking crime to the perpetrators.
- NCRB developed Crime Criminal Information System (CCIS) in the year 1995, Common Integrated Police Application (CIPA) in 2004, and finally Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & System (CCTNS) in 2009.
- National Digital Police Portal allows search for a criminal/suspect on a national data base apart from providing various services to citizens like filing of complaints online and seeking antecedent verification of tenants, domestic helps, drivers etc.
- NCRB also compiles and publishes annual National Crime Statistics e., Crime in India, Accidental Deaths & Suicides, Prison Statistics and Finger Prints.
- NCRB has been conferred with “Digital India Awards 2016-Silver Open Data Championship” from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
- NCRB has also floated various IT based Public Services like, Vahan Samanvay (online Motor Vehicle Matching), Talash (matching of missing persons and dead bodies).
- In addition, NCRB also maintains Counterfeit Currency Information and Management System (FICN) and Firearms Coordination System for lost and recovered firearms.
Cyber Crime Prevention against Women and Children (CCPWC) portal
- Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has launched Cyber Crime Prevention against Women and Children (CCPWC) portal to check objectionable online content.
- The portal will allow citizens to lodge complaints on objectionable online content related to child pornography, child sexual abuse material and sexually explicit material such as rape and gang rape.
- The portal will enable citizens to report complainants in without disclosing their identity.
- It also allows complainants to upload objectionable content and URL to assist in investigation by state Police.
- The complaints registered through this portal will be handled by police authorities of respective State/UTs.
- In this regard, NCRB has been notified as Central Government nodal agency to issue notices under the Information Technology (IT) Act.
Other functions of NCRB
- To function as a clearing house of information on crime and criminals including those operating at National and International levels so as to assists the investigators.
- To store, coordinate and disseminate information on inter-state and international criminals from and to respective States, national investigating agencies, courts and prosecutors in India without having to refer to the Police Station records.
- To collect and process crime statistics at the National level.
- Executive and develop computer-based systems for the Central Police Organisations.
- To function as the National storehouse of fingerprint (FP) records of convicted persons including FP records of foreign criminals.
6. Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the development of North-East India (TH)
- Context: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of India today signed a $132.8 million loan to strengthen and modernize the distribution network and improve the quality of power supplied to households, industries, and businesses in India’s north-eastern state of
- Though Meghalaya has achieved 100% electrification, remote rural areas in the state suffer from frequent power interruptions due to overloaded distribution networks and substations that use outdated technology, resulting in high aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses.
- The Government of India and the state government of Meghalaya embarked on a joint 24×7 Power for All Meghalaya initiative to provide uninterrupted, quality, reliable, and affordable power supply to all electricity consumers.
What Is the Asian Development Bank?
- Founded in 1966, the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) headquarters are in Manila, Philippines.
- ADB is composed of 68 shareholding members, 49 of which are from the Asia and Pacific region and rest from outside the region.
- The Asian Development Bank’s primary mission is to foster growth and cooperation among countries in the Asia-Pacific Region.
- It has been responsible for a number of major projects in the region and raises capital through the international bond markets.
- The ADB also relies on member contributions, retained earnings from lending, and the repayment of loans for funding of the organization.
- The two largest shareholders of the Asian Development Bank are the United States and Japan.
How the Asian Development Bank Works
- The Asian Development Bank provides assistance to its developing member countries, the private sector, and public-private partnerships through grants, loans, technical assistance, and equity investments to promote development.
Board of Governors
- ADB’s highest policy-making body is the Board of Governors, which comprises one representative from each member nation – 48 from the Asia-Pacific and 19 from outside the region.
Board of Directors
- The Governors elect 12 members to form the Board of Directors, which performs its duties full time at the ADB headquarters.
South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation
- India is also a member of the ADB’s South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) program.
- The South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) program brings together Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, and Sri Lanka in a project-based partnership that aims to promote regional prosperity.
- A long term strategy initiated by the Asian Development Bank to address the financial requirement of the Asian countries to deal with poverty.
- “Asian Development Outlook” is one of the major publications of ADB.
7. Goods and Services Tax (GST) (TH)
- Context: Gross revenues from the Goods and Services Tax (GST) crossed ₹1 lakh crore for the second month in a row, with ₹1,04,963 crore collected in November 2020. This was 1.4% higher than a year ago but a tad lower than October’s collections.
- The pick-up in GST revenues over the last two months could reduce the shortfall in GST compensation dues to the States, but economists urged caution till December to assess if the economy is truly out of the woods after the festive demand factor has played out.
Goods and Services Tax (GST)
- Started from July 1, 2017 on the recommendation of Kelkar Task Force on indirect taxes.
- It is an Indirect tax across the country on products and services.
- Under the GST system, tax will be levied only on the value added at each stage.
- It is a single tax (collected at multiple points) with a full set-off for taxes paid earlier in the value chain.
What is State GST and Central GST?
- For transactions within a State, there will be two components of GST – Central GST (CGST) and State GST (SGST) – levied on the value of goods and services.
- Both the Centre and the States will simultaneously levy GST across the value chain.
- In the case of inter-State transactions, the Centre would levy and collect the Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST). The IGST would be roughly equal to CGST plus SGST.
- GST is a destination-based tax.
- The tax is received by the State in which the goods or services are consumed and not by the state in which such goods are manufactured.
- Under the IGST scheme, 50% of the collections will go to the Centre (as the Central Goods and Services Tax component) and the remaining 50% will be allocated to the States and Union Territories (as the State Goods and Services Tax component).
- And, 42% of the CGST will be devolved to the States and Union Territories.
- The States/Union Territories are supposed to get 71% of the IGST (including 50% of the SGST and 21%, which is 42% of the 50% CGST).
- In GST collections, generally, the share of its different components in decreasing order is: IGST > SGST > CGST > Cess
What are the benefits of GST?
- For business and industry
- Easy compliance;
- Uniformity of tax rates and structures (ease of doing business);
- Removal of cascading;
- Improved competitiveness (through reduction in transaction costs);
- Gain to manufacturers and exporters.
- The subsuming of major Central and State taxes in GST;
- Complete and comprehensive set-off of input goods and services; and
- phasing out of Central Sales Tax (CST) would reduce the cost of locally manufactured goods and services.
- For Central and State Governments
- Simple and easy to administer;
- Better controls on leakage (due to a robust IT infrastructure);
- Higher revenue efficiency (through decrease in the cost of collection of tax revenues of the Government).
- For the consumer
- Single and transparent tax proportionate to the value of goods and services;
- Relief in overall tax burden: Because of efficiency gains and prevention of leakages, the overall tax burden on most commodities will come down, which will benefit consumers.
Which taxes at the Centre and State level are being subsumed into GST?
- At the Central level, the following taxes are being subsumed:
- a. Central Excise Duty,
- b. Additional Excise Duty,
- c. Service Tax,
- d. Additional Customs Duty commonly known as Countervailing Duty, and
- e. Special Additional Duty of Customs.
- At the State level, the following taxes are being subsumed:
- a. State Value Added Tax/Sales Tax,
- b. Entertainment Tax (other than the tax levied by the local bodies),
- c. Octroi and Entry tax,
- d. Purchase Tax,
- e. Luxury Tax, and
- f. Taxes on lottery, betting and gambling.
- h. Central Sales Tax (levied by the Centre and collected by the States).