A) Indices/Committees/Reports/Organisations

  1. National Green Tribunal (NGT) (IE)

  • Context: NGT has completed 10 years on October 18.


  • The National Green Tribunal, established in 2010, as per the National Green Tribunal Act, is a specialised judicial body equipped with expertise solely for the purpose of adjudicating environmental cases in the country.
  • The National Green Tribunal was established for:
  • effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources and help reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts;
  • enforcement of any legal right relating to the environment;
  • giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. 
  • restoration of the ecology in accordance with the ‘Polluter Pays’ Principle and powers to enforce the ‘Precautionary Principle’. 
    • It is a specialized body equipped with the necessary expertise to handle environmental disputes involving multi-disciplinary issues. 
    • The Tribunal has the same powers as are vested in a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. 
    • The Tribunal shall not be bound by the procedure laid down under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, but shall be guided by principles of natural justice.
    • The NGT is also not bound by the rules of evidence as enshrined in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. 
  • The Tribunal is mandated to make and endeavor for disposal of applications or appeals finally within 6 months of filing of the same. 
  • The Tribunal has the original jurisdiction over all civil cases, where a substantial question relating to the environment is involved, under the following acts:
  • The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974;
  • The Water (Prevention and Control o[Pollution) Cess Act, 1977;
  • The Forest (Conservation) Act; 1980;
  • The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981;
  • The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986;
  • The Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991;
  • The Biological Diversity Act, 2002.
  • Barring the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the Indian Forest Act, 1927, and laws enacted by states pertaining to forests, the NGT has the power to hear all civil cases relating to environmental issues and questions. 
  • It can impose sentences “which may extend to three years, or with fine which may extend to Rs 10 crore,” on individuals failing to comply with its orders, and can take action for offences by companies or government departments.
  • The Tribunal is competent to provide relief over and above as is admissible under the Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991. 
  • In order to ensure access to justice, pollution control boards and local authorities have also been empowered under the NGT Act to file an application or appeal before the Tribunal on behalf of the affected person. 
  • The decisions of the Tribunal are binding. The Tribunal’s orders are enforceable as the powers vested are the same as in a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.   
  • Are decisions of the Tribunal final?…The Tribunal has powers to review its own decisions. If this fails, the decision can be challenged before the Supreme Court within ninety days.
  • No civil court shall have jurisdiction to entertain any appeal in respect of any matter which the Tribunal is empowered to determine under its appellate jurisdiction. 
  • Engaging an advocate is not necessary to approach the Tribunal. Aggrieved parties may approach the Tribunal in person by submitting an application in the required format. 
  • The NGT can quash a decision taken by the MoEF.
  • New Delhi is the Principal Place of Sitting of the Tribunal and Bhopal, Pune, Kolkata and Chennai are the other four places of sitting of the Tribunal. 
  • India was the third country following Australia and New Zealand to have such a system. 

Chairperson and Members of NGT

  • It has a full-time chairperson and following members:
  • At least 10 and a maximum 20 full-time Judicial Members
  • At least 10 and maximum 20 full time Expert Members
  • Its chairperson should have been either a Judge of Supreme Court or Chief Justice of a High Court in India.
  • Other Judicial members are retired Judges of High Courts. 
  • Expert members should have a professional qualification and a minimum of 15 years of experience in the field of environment/forest conservation and related subjects. 
  • Once retired, the chairperson or judicial members cannot take up any job related to matters of this tribunal for at least 2 years.
  • Earlier every Bench of the NGT consisted of “two or more” members and made up of at least one judicial and one expert member.
  • But recently, in a bid to address the festering problem of vacancies in the National Green Tribunal, the government has amended rules to allow the court to constitute single-member Benches. 

NGT in News 

  • Citing the recent devastating floods in Kerala and the serious stress to the Western Ghats ecology, the National Green Tribunal has restrained six States in the region from giving environmental clearance to activities which may adversely affect the eco-sensitive areas.
  • The six States are Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
  • The National Green Tribunal has given directions to the J&K government to stop the use of horses and ponies in Vaishno Devi shrine premises in Jammu because large amounts of untreated solid and liquid waste generated by them are disposed directly into Banganga river. 
  • The India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) project was recently challenged in the National Green Tribunal on environmental grounds, given the proposed site’s proximity to the Mathikettan Shola National Park in Kerala’s Western Ghats, a global biodiversity hotspot.

Dharmapuri Lake

  • The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the restoration of the 490-year-old heritage Dhamapur Lake, a notified wetland in Maharashtra’s Sindhudurg district and directed the bank account of the state public works department (PWD) be seized since its previous orders were not adhered to.
  • The bench was hearing a 2017 application by Sindhudurg residents before NGT, Pune, saying encroachments and the construction of skywalks around the Dhamapur Lake by the PWD with permissions issued by the district administration was shrinking the size of the lake and causing environmental degradation.
  • The Dhamapur Lake, an inland wetland and a permanent freshwater lake, was constructed in 1530.
  • It is one of the top 100 wetlands in India identified by the Union environment ministry for rapid restoration and improvement, and also a projected Ramsar site by the Maharashtra government.

Polluter Pays Principle 

    • The polluter pays principle came to be explicitly discussed in relation to environmental harms by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development in the 1970s and 80s.
  • In 1992, it was adopted by the international community in Principle 16 of the Earth Summit’s Rio Declaration (1992).

The Indian Experience

  • The Polluter Pays principle made an important impact in the famous MC Mehta Oleum Gas Leak case. 
  • In this judgment, the Supreme Court laid down the rule of absolute liability which essentially states that a person would be wholly responsible for any mishap caused by their “hazardous or inherently dangerous” enterprise, which in this case was a chlorine plant. 
  • The apex court noted that the polluter’s liability would depend on their ability to pay thus using the principle to both clean up the environmental damage and to punish the polluter.
  • In later cases like Bichhri, the Court noted that the polluter would need to pay for cleaning up the damage as well as compensate those harmed by the pollution. 
  • Again, in the Vellore Citizens case, the Court highlighted that the polluter pays principle was implied in the Constitutional provisions protecting the environment as well as in the various Acts concerning the environment.
  • Interestingly, under the public interest litigation route, courts in India have often also held the government liable for failing to curb the pollution and have directed them to pay for the costs of environmental damage.

Grey Areas

  • The primary problem with this principle occurs with the fact that by its very nature, environmental pollution is not always easy to narrow down to a single source which can be strictly punished. 
  • A great deal of pollution is from non-point sources, cumulative in nature and occurs over long time spans. 
  • Thus, identifying a perpetrator is both difficult and in some cases, technically unfeasible.
  • Another problem appears with the principle itself – there is no clarity on how exactly the damages should be calculated. 
  • This ambiguity can cause problems and the principle tends to be used differently in different cases.

‘Precautionary Principle’ 

  • The Precautionary Principle’, expressed in the Rio Declaration, stipulates that, where there are “threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.”
  • ‘Onus of Proof under this Principle is on the actor or the developer to show that the action is environmentally friendly.

    B) Schemes/Policies/Initiatives/Social Issues

    2. Indians cannot afford the recommended diet (TH)

  • Context: The recently released Global Hunger Index, 2020, showed that India has the world’s highest prevalence of child wasting, reflecting acute undernutrition. 


  • On indicators that simply measure calorie intake, India performs relatively better, but they do not account for the nutrition value of those calories.
  • The National Institute for Nutrition’s guidelines for a nutritionally adequate diet call for adult women to eat 330 gm of cereals and 75 gm of pulses a day, along with 300 gm of dairy, 100 gm of fruit, and 300 gm of vegetables, which should include at least 100 gm of dark green leafy vegetables. 
  • Currently, food costs are measured through consumer price indices (CPIs) which weight foods by expenditure shares. 
  • In poor countries such as India, CPIs are heavily weighted towards nutrient-sparse starchy staples, meaning that trends in the food CPI can be misleading from a nutritional standpoint. 
  • The Thalinomics discussion in this year’s Economic Survey concluded that affordability of vegetarian thalis improved 29% from 2006-07 to 2019-20 while that for non-vegetarian thalis improved by 18%. 
  • The Economic Survey’s methodology however excluded dairy, fruits and dark green leafy vegetables, often the most expensive food items. 
  • Industrial wages being used to compare affordability while nutritional insecurity is the biggest problem among unskilled workers.
  1. Buldhana Pattern and Tamaswada Pattern (PIB)

  • Ministry of Road Transport & Highways is doing water conservation by using the soil/murum from water bodies, drains and rivers for the construction of Highways. 
  • This synchronization of National Highways construction and water conservation results not only in increasing water storage capacity but saving environment. 
  • Initially this activity was done on large scale in Buldhana district as pilot project and hence named as ‘Buldhana pattern’
  • The Ministry further informed that the Tamaswada Pattern adopted in Wardha and Nagpur districts is another effort towards Rain Water Harvesting, Conservation and Ground Water Recharge. 
  • These works are done on the basis of Scientific and Complete Development of Mini-Micro Watersheds. 
  1. IST (Fund for Improvement of S&T Infrastructure in Universities and Higher Educational institutions) 2.0 (PIB)

  • Context: Startups and industries will soon have access to equipment and S&T infrastructure in different institutions, universities, and colleges spread all over the country to carry out experiments and tests they require for their R&D, technology, and product development.


  • DST is restructuring its FIST (Fund for Improvement of S&T Infrastructure in Universities and Higher Educational institutions) programme under which it supports scaling up of the network of infrastructural facilities for teaching and research in Universities and higher educational institutions to cater to high-end S&T infrastructural requirements of startups and industries. 
  • It will also link up programs like FIST, Sophisticated Analytical Instrument Facilities (SAIF), and Sophisticated Analytical & Technical Help Institutes (SATHI), all of which are designed to set up S&T infrastructure centres at different levels –department, university, regional and national level respectively.
  1. Multi-modal Logistics Parks (PIB)

    • Context: India’s first multi-modal logistics park has been set-up in Assam. 
  • The multi-modal logistic park will be developed under the ambitious Bharatmala Pariyojna. 


  • In a bid to enhance the logistical efficiency on India’s highway network, the transport ministry is planning a network of 35 multi-modal logistics parks, envisioned to be key production and consumption centres, which will account for 50% of the road freight in the country.
  • India has a total road network of 5.6 million km. National highways account for 2.3% of this with a total length of 131,326 km, state highways account for 144,961 km and other roads 5.3 million km. 
  • National highways cater to more than 40% of the road traffic.
  • Setting up of Multi-Modal Logistics Parks (MMLPs) part of transport ministry’s Logistics Efficiency Enhancement Program (LEEP) are aimed to improve the country’s logistics sector by lowering overall freight costs, reducing vehicular pollution and congestion, and cutting warehousing costs. 
  1. Frontier Technologies Cloud Innovation Center in India (PIB)

  • To address societal challenges through digital innovation, NITI Aayog recently announced the establishment of a Frontier Technologies Cloud Innovation Center (CIC) with Amazon Web Services (AWS)—the first of its kind in India to spur innovation in Agriculture, Healthcare, Education, Infrastructure & Governance.
  • The NITI Aayog Frontier Technologies CIC addresses a core mission: to identify and deploy leading-edge technologies to drive continuous innovation in delivering citizen services. Local enterprises, start-ups, researchers, and universities in India can experiment and build prototypes on AWS Cloud.
  • The NITI Aayog Frontier Technologies CIC joins a global network of AWS public sector cloud innovation centers across Australia, Bahrain, Canada, France, Germany, South Korea, and United States. 

C) Polity/Bills/Acts/Judgments

7.Mechanisms to investigate charges against a Supreme Court judge (TH)

  • Context: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister has stirred a hornet’s nest by writing to the Chief Justice of India complaining about a Supreme Court judge for allegedly influencing posting of cases in the State High Court.
  • Article 121 and Article 211 of the Constitution, however, expressly bar the Parliament and State Legislatures to discuss the conduct of any Judge.


How are allegations of misconduct against judges dealt with?

  • The Constitution protects the independence of judges of the High Courts and the Supreme Court by making them removable only through a long process of impeachment. However, not all forms of misconduct will warrant impeachment. 
  • Over the years, three mechanisms have evolved to investigate cases of misconduct, including cases of sexual harassment, misbehavior or incapacity against judges.  

In-house procedure (1999)

  • The Supreme Court has an in-house process to deal with allegations against a judge relating to the discharge of his judicial function, or with regard to his conduct or behaviour outside court.   

Sexual harassment guidelines 

  • In 2013, Parliament passed the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.  
  • Subsequently, the Supreme Court framed regulations for the protection of women against sexual harassment in the Supreme Court. 
  • Under the regulations, the CJI is required to constitute a Gender Sensitisation and Internal Complaints Committee (GSICC).  The GSICC will include 7-13 members including: 
  • (i) one or two judges of the Supreme Court, and 
  • (ii) up to two outside members (having experience in social justice, women empowerment, gender justice, among others) to be nominated by the CJI.  
  • The Regulations require the majority of the members of GSICC to be women.  

Removal for proven misbehavior or incapacity 

  • Charges of misconduct may also be investigated in the context of proceedings for removal of a judge.  
  • Article 124(4) of the Constitution of India provides that a judge can be removed only by Parliament on the basis of a motion in either the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha.  
  • The procedure for removal of judges is elaborated in the Judges Inquiry Act, 1968.  
  • Till date, no judge of the higher judiciary has been impeached under this process. 

Table 1: Process for investigation of charges against a Supreme Court judge

  In-house Procedure of Supreme Court 2013 SC Sexual Harassment Regulation Removal Proceedings
Who may file a complaint Complaint of misconduct may be filed by any person. Written complaint of sexual harassment by a woman. Signed notice by at least 100 members of the Lok Sabha, or 50 members of the Rajya Sabha on charges of misbehaviour or incapacity by a judge. 
Persons to whom complaint must be filed CJI or President of India Gender Sensitisation and Internal Complaints Committee (GSICC) Presiding Officer of the relevant House of Parliament
Composition of Inquiry Committee The Committee to be constituted by the CJI will comprise three judges including:

1. a Judge of a High Court and two Chief Justices of other High Courts if the case is against a High Court Judge;

2. a Judge of the Supreme Court and two Chief Justices of other High Courts if the case is against a High Court’s Chief Justice;

3. three Supreme Court judges if the case is against a Supreme Court judge.

The in-house procedure does not give any separate provision to deal with complaints against the Chief Justice of India. But in practice, a panel of three other Supreme Court justices is formed.

The Committee to be constituted by the GSICC will comprise members of the GSICC or persons nominated by the GSICC, with majority members being a woman and an outside member. If the notice is in order, the Presiding Officer will constitute a three-member committee to investigate the complaint.

The committee will comprise a Supreme Court judge, Chief Justice of a High Court, and a distinguished jurist. 

Time limit for submission of inquiry report No specific time limit provided. To be completed within 90 days of the constitution of the Internal Sub-Committee, and forwarded to the GSICC within 10 days of completion.  To be submitted to the presiding officer within 90 days, who will lay the report before the relevant House.
Action taken upon submission of report The CJI may ask the judge to resign or seek voluntary retirement.  

The CJI may decide to not allocate any judicial work to the judge concerned. 


The GSICC has the power to: (i) to pass an order of admonition (reprimand), which may also be published in the court precinct, or (ii) pass an order to prohibit the accused from harassing or communicating with the complainant, or (iii) pass any other order to end the sexual harassment faced by the complainant.

GSICC may also recommend to the CJI to pass orders against the accused, including: (i) prohibiting entry of the accused into the Supreme Court for up to a year, or (ii) filing a criminal complaint before the concerned disciplinary authority governing the accused.

If the report records a finding of misbehaviour or incapacity, the motion for removal will be taken up for consideration and debated. 

The motion is required to be adopted by each House by a majority of the total membership of that House and a majority of at least two-thirds of the members of that House present and voting.

Once the motion is adopted in both Houses, it is sent to the President, who will issue an order for the removal of the judge.

Process for Appeals No specific provision. Any aggrieved person may make a representation to the CJI to set aside/modify the orders passed by the GSICC.  

The CJI also has the power to issue any other orders in order to secure justice to the victim.

No specific provision.

D) Science and Technology/Defence/Space

8.BepiColombo: The Mission to Mercury (IE)

  • Context: BepiColombo recently completed its first flyby of Venus.


  • BepiColombo is European Space Agency’s first mission to Mercury, and is being conducted in cooperation with Japan.
  • BepiColombo started its seven-year long journey to the solar system’s innermost planet in October 2018, lifting off on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
  • When it will arrive at Mercury in late 2025, it will endure temperatures in excess of 350°C.


  • Among others, the mission has the following scientific objectives:

    • Why do spectroscopic observations not reveal the presence of any iron, while this element is supposedly the major constituent of Mercury?
    • In the absence of any ionosphere, how does the magnetic field interact with the solar wind?
  • Perform a test of Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

Mercury’s Magnetic Field Mystery

  • One of the objectives of the Mission is to find out why does such a small planet possess an intrinsic magnetic field, while Venus, Mars and the Moon do not have any!
  • As Mercury is so small, scientists expected the planet’s iron core to have cooled down and solidified billions of years ago, abruptly halting the churning motions of any core dynamo that would drive a magnetic field. 
  • However, Mariner 10 data +detected a substantial magnetic dipole similar to that of Earth.
  • The magnetosphere is the region of space around the planet that is influenced by its magnetic field.

Two spacecrafts to provide a comprehensive view of the smallest planet

  • The mission consists of two separate spacecraft that will orbit the planet. 
  • ESA is building one of the main spacecraft, the Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO), and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will contribute the other, the Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO).
  • The ESA-built Mercury Transfer Module (MTM) will carry the orbiters to Mercury using a combination of solar electric propulsion and gravity assist flybys — one of Earth, two at Venus, and six at Mercury — prior to MPO and MMO orbit insertions.
  • For launch and the journey to Mercury, the MPO and the MMO were carried as part of the Mercury Composite Spacecraft (MCS). 

Technological Challenges

  • The way the journey from Earth to Mercury was carried out was also a first. 
  • After launch into Earth-escape orbit, the MCS underwent a near-Earth commissioning phase. 
  • Leaving Earth on its way to Mercury, the spacecraft must decelerate against the Sun’s gravitational attraction, which increases as it approaches the Sun.
  • This is in contrast to accelerating away from the Sun, as is the case with journeys to the outer Solar System.

Mission Name

  • BepiColombo is named after Professor Giuseppe (Bepi) Colombo (1920-1984), a mathematician and engineer of astonishing imagination. 
  • He was the first to see that an unsuspected resonance is responsible for Mercury’s habit of rotating on its axis three times for every two revolutions it makes around the Sun. 
  • He also suggested to NASA how to use a gravity-assist swing-by of Venus to place the Mariner 10 spacecraft in a solar orbit that would allow it to fly by Mercury three times in 1974-5.

Planet Mercury 

  • Mercury is the smallest planet (In increasing order of radius: Mercury < Mars < Venus < Earth) in our solar system. It’s just a little bigger than Earth’s moon. 
  • It is the closest planet to the sun, but it’s actually not the hottest. Venus is hotter.
  • Along with Venus, Earth, and Mars, Mercury is one of the rocky planets. It has a solid surface that is covered with craters. 
  • It has a thin atmosphere, and it doesn’t have any moons (Mercury likes to keep things simple :).
  • Mercury takes 59 Earth days to make one full rotation.
  • Because it’s the closest planet to the sun, it completes one revolution around the sun in just 88 Earth days. 
  • Because Mercury has a slow spin and short year, it takes a long time for the sun to rise and set there. 
  • Mercury only has one sunrise every 180 Earth days! 
    • Mercury was named by the Romans after the fleet-footed messenger of the gods because it seemed to move more quickly than any other planet. 
    • The Sun appears two and a half times larger than on Earth; however, the sky is always black because Mercury has virtually no atmosphere to cause scattering of light. 
  • At maximum elongation, it is only 28 degrees from the Sun as seen from Earth. 
  • Because of this, it can only be viewed during daylight hours or just prior to sunrise or after sunset. 
  • Unlike the Moon which is tidally locked to Earth, Mercury is not tidally locked to the Sun.
  • Mercury rotates one and a half times during each orbit.
  • Mariner 10 showed that Mercury has a magnetic field that is 1% as strong as Earth’s.

Could water exist on Mercury?

  • It would appear that Mercury could not support water in any form. It has very little atmosphere and is blazing hot during the day.
  • But in 1991 scientists at Caltech bounced radio waves off Mercury and found an unusual bright return from the north pole. 
  • The apparent brightening at the north pole could be explained by ice on or just under the surface. 
  • Because Mercury’s rotation is almost perpendicular to its orbital plain, the north pole always sees the sun just above the horizon. The insides of craters would never be exposed to the Sun. 

Previous Missions

  • Mercury is a poorly explored planet. So far, only two spacecrafts have visited the planet: 
  • NASA’s Mariner 10, which flew past three times in 1974–5 and returned the first close-up images of the planet, and 
  • NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft, which performed three flybys (two in 2008 and one in 2009) before entering orbit around the planet in March 2011. 
  • Mariner 10 was not only the first mission to visit Mercury, but also the first to use the gravity of one planet to reach another–a manoeuvre known as a gravity assist or gravitational slingshot.

Do you know? 

  • Delta-v (literally “change in velocity”), as used in spacecraft flight dynamics, is a measure of the impulse that is needed to perform a maneuver such as launch from, or landing on a planet or moon, or in-space orbital maneuver. 
  • It is a scalar that has the units of speed.

Gravitational Slingshots/Gravitational Assists 

  • Gravitational slingshots/assists allow spacecrafts to save on fuel and time using a simple physical law. 
  • NASA’s Voyager 1 & 2 spacecrafts on a mission to explore the edge of the solar system are famous for using the gravity of Jupiter & Saturn to go fast enough to escape the Sun’s gravity and study interstellar space. 
  • After launch (in 1970s), the twin Voyagers didn’t have enough velocity to escape the Sun’s gravity straightaway. 
  • It was and remains impossible for us to build a rocket powerful enough to achieve that. 
  • The Titan III rockets that launched the Voyagers (10 days apart) left with them enough energy just to get to Jupiter. 
  • It’s the orbital momentum from the planet which gives the spacecraft a tremendous speed boost. 
  • The closer it can fly, the more momentum it receives, and the faster it flies away from the encounter.

Gravity assists can help a spacecraft slow down too

  • Gravity assists can also be used to slow down a spacecraft. 
  • This works when the spacecraft approaches the planet in a direction opposite to the planet’s orbit around the Sun. 

Why does Venus hotter than Mercury? 

  • Venus is the second planet from the Sun.
  • It appears as a brilliant morning or evening “star” – the brightest object in the night sky apart from the Moon. 
  • Venus is so bright because it is covered by clouds that reflect much of the incoming sunlight. 
  • The yellowish clouds are made of sulphur and sulphuric acid.
  • In a telescope, it can be seen to go through phases, just like the Moon.
  • In some ways, Venus is Earth’s twin. It is about the same size and made of the same rocky materials. It also comes closer to us than any other planet. 
  • However, it is blanketed with a thick atmosphere of carbon dioxide – the gas that we breathe out. 
  • This atmosphere is so dense that walking through would be like wading through water.
  • The carbon dioxide traps most of the heat from the Sun. The cloud layers also act as a blanket. The result is a “runaway greenhouse effect” that has caused the planet’s temperature to soar to 465°C, hot enough to melt lead. This means that Venus is even hotter than Mercury.

What is Tidal locking?

  • Tidal locking is the phenomenon by which a body has the same rotational period as its orbital period around a partner. 
  • So, the Moon is tidally locked to the Earth because it rotates in exactly the same time as it takes to orbit the Earth. 
  • That is why we only see one side of the Moon. 
  • If both bodies are of comparable size and are close together, both bodies can be tidally locked to each other – this is the case in the Pluto-Charon system.
  • Charon is the largest of the five known natural satellites of the dwarf planet Pluto.
  • Tidal locking is a natural consequence of the gravitational distortions induced by a body on another.
  1. Starlink Project (TH)

  • Context: SpaceX plans to launch two Starlink missions within a span of three days, the first one on October 18, and the next on October 21. 
  • The aerospace company’s Starlink satellite network has over 700 satellites in the low Earth orbit
  • Starlink is targeting service in the Northern U.S. and Canada in 2020, rapidly expanding to near global coverage of the populated world by 2021


    • With performance that far surpasses that of traditional satellite internet, and a global network unbounded by ground infrastructure limitations, Starlink will deliver high speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable
  • SpaceX is developing a low latency, broadband internet system to meet the needs of consumers across the globe. Enabled by a constellation of low earth orbit.
  • Latency is an element that contributes to network speed
  • A so-called low latency network connection is one that generally experiences small delay times, while a high latency connection generally suffers from long delays. 

Starlink Project

  • Starlink is a satellite-based broadband network, with the objective of eventually building a low-cost, satellite-based broadband network capable of delivering internet access to the entire globe. 
  • While satellite internet has been around for ages, it has generally suffered from high latency, unreliable connections, and spotty service areas. 
  • With Starlink, SpaceX intends to put a “constellation” of satellites in low earth orbit, thereby providing high-speed, cable-like internet to every corner of the planet.
  • SpaceX will need to launch 4,425 satellites into orbit to achieve its desired coverage. 

Low Earth orbit (LEO)

  • A low Earth orbit (LEO) is normally at an altitude of less than 1000 km but could be as low as 160 km above Earth – which is low compared to other orbits, but still very far above Earth’s surface.
  • By comparison, most commercial airplanes do not fly at altitudes much greater than approximately 14 km, so even the lowest LEO is more than ten times higher than that.
  • Unlike satellites in geostationary orbit (GEO) that must always orbit along Earth’s equator, LEO satellites do not always have to follow a particular path around Earth in the same way – their plane can be tilted. 
  • This means there are more available routes for satellites in LEO, which is one of the reasons why LEO is a very commonly used orbit.
  • LEO’s close proximity to Earth makes it useful for several reasons. 
  • It is the orbit most commonly used for satellite imaging, as being near the surface allows it to take images of higher resolution. 
  • It is also the orbit used for the International Space Station (ISS), as it is easier for astronauts to travel to and from it at a shorter distance. 
  • Satellites in this orbit travel at a speed of around 7.8 km per second; at this speed, a satellite takes approximately 90 minutes to circle Earth, meaning the ISS travels around Earth about 16 times a day.
  • However, individual LEO satellites are less useful for tasks such as telecommunication, because they move so fast across the sky and therefore require a lot of effort to track from ground stations.
  • Instead, communications satellites in LEO often work as part of a large combination or constellation, of multiple satellites to give constant coverage. 

Pros & Cons of Satellite Internet

  • Pros
  • Available nearly everywhere.
  • Broadband-level speeds possible.
  • Cost effective compared to mobile hotspots.
  • Quick recovery post-disaster. 
  • You don’t need a phone line for satellite internet. 
  • Satellite internet connections can handle high bandwidth usage, so your internet speed/quality shouldn’t be affected by lots of users or “peak use times.”
  • Cons
  • High latency
  • Slower than cable and fiber
  • Vulnerable to bad weather
  • Won’t support a VPN

Other Competitors

  • Google may be messing around with balloons (Project Loon), but Facebook is developing a satellite in house named “Athena” specifically to offer internet service to underdeveloped areas. 

About SpaceX 

  • SpaceX designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. 
  • The company was founded in 2002 to revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets. 
  • SpaceX has gained worldwide attention for a series of historic milestones. 
  • It is the only private company capable of returning a spacecraft from low Earth orbit, which it first accomplished in 2010. 
  • The company made history again in 2012 when its Dragon spacecraft became the first commercial spacecraft to deliver cargo to and from the International Space Station.
  • SpaceX successfully achieved the historic first reflight of an orbital class rocket in 2017, and the company now regularly launches flight-proven rockets. 
  • In 2018, SpaceX began launching the world’s most powerful operational rocket by a factor of two. 
  • Building on the achievements of Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, SpaceX is working on a next generation of fully reusable launch vehicles that will be the most powerful ever built, capable of carrying humans to Mars and other destinations in the solar system.

E) Geography, Environment and Biodiversity

10.Heeng cultivation introduced in India (PIB)

  • Context: CSIR-IHBT (Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (IHBT), Palampur) makes history by introducing asafoetida (Heeng) cultivation in Indian Himalayan region.


  • The remote Lahaul valley in Himachal Pradesh taking up the cultivation of asafoetida (Heeng) to utilize vast expanses of wasteland in the cold desert conditions of the region. 
  • The plant prefers cold and dry conditions for its growth and takes approximately five years for the production of oleo-gum resin in its roots, therefore cold desert areas of Indian Himalayan region are suitable for cultivation of asafoetida.
  • Asafoetida is one of the top condiments and is a high value spice crop in India. India imports about 1200 tonnes of raw asafoetida annually from Afghanistan, Iran and Uzbekistan and spends approximately 100 million USD per year. 
  • Lack of planting material of Ferula assa-foetida plants in India was a major bottleneck in cultivation of this crop. 
  • The institute introduced six accessions of seeds from Iran through the ICAR-National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (ICAR-NBPGR), New Delhi; this has been the first attempt for the introduction of asafoetida (Ferula assa-foetida) seeds in the country.
  • Raw asafoetida is extracted from the fleshy roots of Ferula assa-foetida as an oleo-gum resin. 
  • Although, there are about 130 species of Ferula found in the world, but only Ferula assa-foetidais the economically important species used for the production of asafoetida
  • In India, we do not have Ferula assa-foetida, but other species Ferula jaeschkeana is reported from the western Himalaya (Chamba, HP), and Ferula narthex from Kashmir and Ladakh, which are not the species that yield asafoetida.

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