1. The concept of Circular Economy (PIB)
- Context: AIM (Atal Innovation Mission), in association with Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), is organizing a two-day hackathon on circular economy, ‘India–Australia Circular Economy Hackathon (I-ACE)’, on 7 and 8 December.
The World Economic Forum’s Definition of Circular Economy
- A circular economy is an industrial system that is restorative or regenerative by intention and design.
- It replaces the end-of-life concept with restoration, shifts towards the use of renewable energy, eliminates the use of toxic chemicals, which impair reuse and return to the biosphere, and aims for the elimination of waste through the superior design of materials, products, systems, and business models.
- It is based on three principles:
- design out waste and pollution;
- keep products and materials in use;
- regenerate natural systems.”
- A circular economy is based on the idea that there is no such thing as waste.
- In order to achieve this, products are designed to last (good quality materials are used) and optimized for a cycle of disassembly and reuse that will make it easier to handle and transform or renew them.
2. Explained : Why energy MNCs want natural gas to come under GST? (IE)
- Context: Global energy majors are bullish on the growth of natural gas usage in India and have called on the government to bring natural gas under the GST regime at the India Energy Forum (an annual event organised by the NITI Aayog and the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas) being held this week.
- Currently petrol, diesel, aviation turbine fuel, natural gas and crude oil fall outside India’s Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime.
Why is it important to bring natural gas under the GST regime?
- Experts have argued that bringing natural gas under the GST would lead to a reduction in the cascading impact of taxes on industries such as power and steel, which used natural gas as an input.
- The inclusion of natural gas under the GST regime would do away with the central excise duty and different value added taxes imposed by states.
- This would lead to an increase in the adoption of natural gas in line with the government’s stated goal to increase the share of natural gas in the country’s energy basket from 6.3% to 15%.
B) Schemes/Policies/Initiatives/Social Issues
1. Child Care Leave for Males (PIB)
- Context: Male employees of the government are also now entitled to Child Care Leave.
- The provision and privilege of Child Care Leave (CCL) will be available only for those male employees who happen to be “single male parent”, which may include male employees who are widowers or divorcees or even unmarried and may therefore, be expected to take up the responsibility of child care as a single – handed parent.
- An employee on Child Care Leave may now leave the head quarter with the prior approval of Competent Authority.
- In addition, the Leave Travel Concession (LTC) may be availed by the employee even if he is on Child Care Leave.
- Child Care Leave can be granted at 100% of leave salary for the first 365 days and 80% of leave salary for the next 365 days.
- Another welfare measure introduced in this regard is that in case of a disabled child, the condition of availing Child Care Leave up to the age of 22 years of the child has been removed and now Child Care Leave can be availed by a government servant for a disabled child of any age.
2. Pradhan Mantri Street Vendor’s Atma Nirbhar Nidhi (PM SVANidhi) Scheme (TH)
- Context: PM interacts with beneficiaries of PM SVANIDHI Yojana from UP.
- The Pradhan Mantri Street Vendor’s Atma Nirbhar Nidhi Scheme has been launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs—a micro-credit scheme for street vendors–as part of the economic package for those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown.
- It is aimed at benefiting over 50 lakh vendors who had their businesses operational on or before March 24, in urban areas including those from surrounding peri-urban/rural areas.
- The scheme is valid till March 2022.
- The vendors will be able to apply for a working capital loan of up to ₹10,000, which is repayable in monthly instalments within a year.
- On timely/early repayment of the loan, an interest subsidy of 7% per annum will be credited to the bank accounts of beneficiaries through direct benefit transfer on a six-monthly basis.
- There will be no penalty on early repayment of loan.
- The loans would be without collateral.
- The Ministry signed a memorandum of understanding with the Small Industries Development Bank of India to be the implementing agency for the PM Street Vendors AtmaNirbhar Nidhi scheme.
- Incentives in the form of interest subsidy (@ 7% per annum) and cash back (upto Rs.1,200/- per annum) are being provided to promote good repayment behaviour and digital transactions respectively.
- The scheme promotes digital transactions through cash-back incentives up to an amount of Rs. 100 per month.
- The interest subsidy effectively works out to 30 % of the entire interest burden for a loan of Rs. 10,000 @ 24 % annual interest.
- Therefore, in effect the vendor does not pay any interest, rather gets a subsidy on the loan amount if he repays in time and uses digital transactions for all receipts and payments.
C) Science and Technology/Defence/Space
1. Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) (PIB)
- Context: NASA’s telescope on an airplane, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) has confirmed, for the first time, water on the sun-lit surface of the Moon.
- This discovery indicates that water may be distributed across the lunar surface, and not limited to cold, shadowed places.
- SOFIA has detected water molecules (H2O) in Clavius Crater, one of the largest craters visible from Earth, located in the Moon’s southern hemisphere.
- Under NASA’s Artemis program, the agency is eager to learn all it can about the presence of water on the Moon in advance of sending the first woman and next man to the lunar surface in 2024 and establishing a sustainable human presence there by the end of the decade.
- Without a thick atmosphere, water on the sunlit lunar surface should just be lost to space.
- Orbital and impactor missions over the past 20 years, such as NASA’s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, confirmed ice in permanently shadowed craters around the Moon’s poles. Meanwhile, several spacecraft – including the Cassini mission and Deep Impact comet mission, as well as the Indian Space Research Organization’s Chandrayaan-1 mission – and NASA’s ground-based Infrared Telescope Facility, found evidence of hydration in sunnier regions, yet those missions were unable to definitively distinguish the form in which it was present – either H2O or OH.
- Without a thick atmosphere, water on the sunlit lunar surface should just be lost to space.
- Several forces could be at play in the delivery or creation of this water.
- Micrometeorites raining down on the lunar surface, carrying small amounts of water, could deposit the water on the lunar surface upon impact.
- Another possibility is there could be a two-step process whereby the Sun’s solar wind delivers hydrogen to the lunar surface and causes a chemical reaction with oxygen-bearing minerals in the soil to create hydroxyl. Meanwhile, radiation from the bombardment of micrometeorites could be transforming that hydroxyl into water.
- The only way for this water to survive on the sunlit lunar surfaces where it was observed was to be embedded within mineral grains, protecting it from the frigid and foreboding environment.
- SOFIA is a modified Boeing aircraft that allows astronomers to study the solar system and beyond in ways that are not possible with ground-based telescopes.
- Flying at altitudes of up to 45,000 feet, this modified Boeing jetliner with a telescope reaches above 99% of the water vapor in Earth’s atmosphere to get a clearer view of the infrared universe.
- Using its Faint Object infraRed CAmera for the SOFIA Telescope (FORCAST), SOFIA was able to pick up the specific wavelength unique to water molecules, and discovered a relatively surprising concentration in sunny Clavius Crater.
- For a mission designed to look at distant, dim objects such as black holes, star clusters, and galaxies, SOFIA’s spotlight on Earth’s nearest and brightest neighbor was a departure from business as usual.
- SOFIA’s data will add to the work of future Moon missions, such as NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER), to create the first water resource maps of the Moon for future human space exploration.
- SOFIA is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center.
2. Inputs from the lecture on ‘The Nobel Prize 2020: Physics’ – Unravelling the Mythical Black Holes by Somak Chaudhury (PIB)
- Unlike being portrayed in many science-fiction movies, Black Holes don’t move around sucking in objects like a vacuum cleaner.
- If the Sun turns into a black hole today, it won’t suck the other planets; the earth will still be revolving around the sun as if nothing happened, except that there won’t be any light and that the earth will turn very cold…but still we will be revolving.
- The contribution of different scientists over different periods of time, right from Isaac Newton till date, have resulted in a better understanding of the black holes.
- This year, three scientists have won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics for their contribution in understanding Black Holes: Roger Penrose (for the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity), Andrea Ghez and Reinhard Genzel (for the discovery of a supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy).
‘Calcutta connection’ of Nobel Prize for Black Holes
- In their study about black holes, both Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose used the formalism laid down in 1955 by Amalkumar Raychaudhuri, a famous professor of physics at Ashutosh College under the University of Calcutta.
- His paper ‘Relativistic Cosmology Paper 1’ is about Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
- The paper says nothing about black holes, instead it is a concept of ‘differential geometry’.
- Hawking used this concept to define how a spinning star with angular momentum collapses and distorts the space time to finally end up in a singularity.
- This was explained by both Hawkins and Penrose in their paper, which was cited by Nobel committee this year.
- A black hole has two basic parts: the singularity and the event horizon.
- The singularity is at the centre and is where the mass resides. It was Stephen Hawking and R. Penrose who wrote the first paper on Singularities.
- Event horizon is the famed “point of no return” beyond which nothing, not even light, can escape.
- Black holes are of three types, classified on the basis of their mass – Stellar mass black holes, Mid- size black holes and Super Massive black holes.
- Findings of Andrea Ghez and Reinhard Genzel have shown the super massive black hole in the middle of our galaxy.
- One cannot see the black hole since no light comes from it.
- Hence the scientists thought of watching the stars very close to the black holes and observe their movement and believed that from their mass, the mass of the galaxy and the black holes can be measured.
- Shri Chaudhury also said that how technologies like adaptive optics helped in getting a clear image of the black holes, even when it is tough to obtain one, due to dust.
- Adaptive optics corrects the distortions caused by the turbulence in the Earth’s atmosphere in real time.
- But speckle holography enabled the researchers to improve the data from the decade before adaptive optics came into play.
LIGO – India and the role of India in the findings and research of black holes
Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory
- LIGO is the world’s largest gravitational wave observatory and a cutting-edge physics experiment.
- It comprises two enormous laser interferometers located thousands of kilometers apart.
- LIGO exploits the physical properties of light and of space itself to detect and understand the origins of gravitational waves.
- Gravitational waves are ‘ripples’ (disturbances) in the fabric of space-time caused by some of the most violent and energetic processes in the Universe.
- Albert Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves in 1916 in his general theory of relativity.
- Gravitational waves cause space itself to stretch in one direction and get squeezed in a perpendicular direction.
- Einstein’s mathematics showed that massive accelerating objects (such as neutron stars or black holes orbiting each other) would disrupt space-time in such a way that ‘waves’ of distorted space would radiate from the source (like the movement of waves away from a stone thrown into a pond).
- Furthermore, these ripples would travel at the speed of light through the Universe, carrying with them information about their cataclysmic origins, as well as invaluable clues to the nature of gravity itself.
What are the possible sources of gravitational waves?
- The strongest gravitational waves are produced by catastrophic events like:
- Mergers of black holes or neutron stars,
- the collapse of stellar cores (supernovae),
- coalescing neutron stars or white dwarf stars,
- rapidly rotating neutron stars
- the slightly wobbly rotation of neutron stars that are not perfect spheres, &
- the remnants of gravitational radiation created by the birth of the Universe itself, the Big Bang itself, are the strongest sources..
- There can be many other sources, but these are likely to be too weak to detect.
- While the origins of gravitational waves can be extremely violent, by the time the waves reach the Earth they are millions of times smaller and less disruptive.
- Gravitational waves are detected by high-tech underground stations, known as interferometers, that do not rely on light in the sky like a telescope does, but instead sense vibrations in space and can pick up the “chirp” created by a gravitational wave.
- The acronym LIGO stands for Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory.
- LIGO consists of a pair of huge interferometers, each having two arms which are 4 km long.
- They are called interferometers because they work by merging two or more sources of light to create an interference pattern, which can be measured and analyzed.
- A single LIGO detector cannot confidently detect this disturbance on its own. At least two detectors are needed. This is because the signal is so weak that even a random noise could give out a signal that can mislead one into thinking a genuine gravitational wave has been detected.
- They are often used to make very small measurements that are not achievable any other way.
- This is why they are so powerful for detecting gravitational waves–LIGO’s interferometers are designed to measure a distance 1/10,000th the width of a proton.
- Because of their wide application, interferometers come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
- They are used to measure everything from the smallest variations on the surface of a microscopic organism, to the structure of enormous expanses of gas and dust in the distant Universe, and now, to detect gravitational waves.
- Despite their different designs and the various ways in which they are used, all interferometers have one thing in common: they superimpose beams of light to generate an interference pattern.
- Basically, an interferometer consists of a laser, a beam splitter, a series of mirrors, and a photodetector (the black dot) that records the interference pattern.
- Three things truly distinguish LIGO from an astronomical observatory:
- First, LIGO is blind. Unlike optical or radio telescopes, LIGO cannot see electromagnetic radiation (e.g., visible light, radio waves, microwaves) nor does it have to because invisible gravitational waves are not part of the electromagnetic spectrum.
- They are not light waves but a different phenomenon altogether — a stretching of spacetime due to immense gravity.
- Second, LIGO is the opposite of round. Since LIGO doesn’t need to collect light from stars or other objects in the Universe, it doesn’t need to be dish-shaped like telescope mirrors or radio dishes, which collect and focus electromagnetic radiation to produce images.
- Rather than having ‘eyes’ typical of astronomical observatories, LIGO really has ears consisting of two straight and level 4 km long steel vacuum tubes, 1.2 m in diameter, arranged in the shape of an “L”, and protected by a 10-foot wide, 12-foot tall concrete enclosure that protects the tubes from the outside world.
- Third, LIGO cannot function alone. While an astronomical observatory can function and collect data just fine on its own (some do not, by choice), gravitational wave observatories like LIGO cannot operate solo.
- The only way to definitively detect a gravitational wave is by operating in unison with a distant twin so that local vibrations are not mistaken for signals from gravitational waves.
- Initially, the LIGO project operated three gravitational-wave (GW) detectors.
- Two were at Hanford in the State of Washington, north-western USA, and one was at Livingston in Louisiana, south-eastern USA.
- Following the 2015 detection, which later won the Physics Nobel (2017), these LIGO detectors detected seven such binary black hole merger events before they were joined by the European Virgo detector in 2017.
- The Japanese detector, KAGRA, or Kamioka Gravitational-wave Detector, is expected to join the international network soon.
- In the meantime, in a collaboration with LIGO, a gravitational wave detector is being set up in India.
- The LIGO India project is expected to join the international network in a first science run in 2025.
- The proposed LIGO-India project aims to move one Advanced LIGO detector from Hanford to India.
- The LIGO-India project is an international collaboration between the LIGO Laboratory and three lead institutions in the LIGO-India consortium: Institute of Plasma Research, Gandhinagar; IUCAA, Pune; and Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology, Indore.
- LIGO-India is being jointly funded by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and is expected to be ready by 2025.
- The Environment Ministry has allowed scientists to test the suitability of land in Maharashtra’s Dudhala village in Hingoli district to host the India wing of the ambitious Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) project.
- Hosting such a detector in India, scientists have said, will improve the odds of detecting more such phenomena. However, the construction of such a large, sensitive device requires an extremely flat surface.
What is the need to have another detector in India?
- Right now, with just three detectors, there is huge uncertainty in determining where in the sky the disturbance came from.
- Observations from a new detector in a far-off position will help locate the source of the gravitational waves more accurately.
Why does one study gravitational waves?
- As a largely unknown and fundamental phenomenon, gravitational waves are interesting to scientists.
- But once many more detectors are in place, the study also offers a new way to map out the universe, using gravitational-wave astronomy.
- Perhaps one day we will have such accurate detection facilities that signatures of gravitational waves bouncing off celestial objects can help us detect and map them.
Will LIGO India be different from LIGO itself?
- Like the LIGO detectors, the one at LIGO India will also have two arms of 4 km length. But while there are similarities there will be differences too.
- Being an ultra-high precision large-scale apparatus, LIGO India is expected to show a unique “temperament” determined by the local site characteristics.
What is the technology being developed in India for LIGO India?
- Some of it includes design and fabrication of ultra stable laser, quantum measurement techniques, handling of complex control system for enforcing precision control, large-scale ultra-high vacuum technology, data analysis and machine learning.
2017 Nobel Prize for Physics
- The 2017 Nobel Prize for Physics hasbeen conferred to three scientists namely Rainer Weiss, Barry C Barish & Kip S Thorne under the LIGO Project for their discovery of gravitational waves, 100 years after Einstein’s General Relativity predicted it.
1. Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2019 (PIB)
- Context: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) designated eighteen more individuals as “terrorists” under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) as amended in 2019.
- Earlier, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar, Hafiz Saeed of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, his deputy Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and underworld don Dawood Ibrahim have been designated as terrorists.
- The Ministry of Home Affairs had also extended the ban on the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K) by notifying it as an “unlawful association” under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in September 2020.
- The Naga insurgent group, since it was first banned in 2015, has been involved in 104 violent incidents, the MHA said.
Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2019
- The Act provides special procedures to deal with terrorist activities, among other things.
Who may commit terrorism:
- Under the Act, the central government may designate an organisation as a terrorist organisation if it:
- (i) commits or participates in acts of terrorism,
- (ii) prepares for terrorism,
- (iii) promotes terrorism, or
- (iv) is otherwise involved in terrorism.
- The Amendment Act additionally empowers the government to designate individuals as terrorists on the same grounds.
- Previously, only as organisation could be designated as one.
- The proposal to designates an individual as a terrorist will come from security agencies.
- The proposal if approved will have to be signed by the Home Minister.
- The individual can file an appeal with the Home Ministry which in turn will have to decide on the appeal in 45 days.
- The individual will then have an option to appeal before an independent three-member review committee comprising sitting or retired High Court judges. The committee will also be appointed by MHA.
Approval for seizure of property by NIA:
- Under the Act, an investigating officer is required to obtain the prior approval of the Director General of Police to seize properties that may be connected with terrorism.
- However, if the investigation is conducted by an officer of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the approval of the Director General of NIA would be required for seizure of such property.
Investigation by NIA:
- Under the Act, investigation of cases may be conducted by officers of the rank of Deputy Superintendent or Assistant Commissioner of Police or above.
- The Amendment Act additionally empowers the officers of the NIA, of the rank of Inspector or above, to investigate cases.
Insertion to schedule of treaties:
- The Act defines terrorist acts to include acts committed within the scope of any of the treaties listed in the second schedule to the Act.
- The Schedule lists nine treaties,
- (i) Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft (1970);
- (ii) Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation (1971);
- (iii) Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons, including Diplomatic Agents (1973);
- (iv) International Convention against the Taking of Hostages (1979);
- (v) Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (1980);
- (vi) Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts of Violence at Airports Serving International Civil Aviation, supplementary to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation (1988);
- (vii) Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the safety of Maritime Navigation (1988);
- (viii) Protocol for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Fixed Platforms located on the Continental Shelf (1988); and
- (ix) International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings (1997).
- The Amendment Act adds another treaty to the list. This is the International Convention for Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (2005).
Right to Reputation
- Last year, the Supreme Court asked the Union government to respond to petitions challenging its decision to amend the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act giving it powers to categorise anyone as a terrorist.
- The petition said the right to reputation was an intrinsic part of fundamental right to life with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution and tagging an individual as “terrorist” even before the commencement of trial or any application of judicial mind over it, did not amount to following the ‘procedure established by law’.
- The right of dissent is a part and parcel of fundamental right to free speech and expression and therefore, cannot be abridged in any circumstances except for mentioned in Article 19 (2).
- The UAPA, 2019 empowers the ruling government, under the garb of curbing terrorism, to impose indirect restriction on right of dissent which is detrimental for our developing democratic society.
E) International Relations
1. Two-Plus-Two Dialogue Mechanism and the Foundational Agreements between India and U.S. (TH)
- Context: India concluded the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial cooperation (BECA) with the USA in the latest (third such meeting) round of their 2+2 dialogue mechanism.
Two-Plus-Two Dialogue Mechanism
- The two-plus-two dialogue involves the discussion among the defence and foreign secretaries/ministers of the two participating countries.
- India hosted the inaugural round of the two-plus-two dialogue with the United States in September 2018.
- The ministerial-level meetings cover bilateral, regional and global issues.
- The dialogue will be led by External Affairs Minister and Defence Minister from the Indian side and the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defence from the U.S.
- India has institutionalised the two-plus-two dialogue mechanism with Australia, Japan and U.S.
Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial cooperation (BECA)
- U.S. was pressing India to sign Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geospatial Information and Services Cooperation since 2 years and it was signed in the third 2+2 Dialogue.
- India earlier feared that signing these agreements would mean compromising India’s age-old military-ties with Russia and access to their weaponry system.
- BECA enables exchange of geospatial data and information between the two countries and will improve the accuracy of India’s missiles in future during precision strikes.
- It will help share geospatial maps and charts between the U.S. and India, which may have been acquired from multiple sources like satellites, UAVs, reconnaissance aircraft, aerostats, among others.
- Data shared from BECA will help in identifying, updating and tracking of various types of target and their position, both on land and sea.
Foundational Agreements between India and U.S.
- India has already signed the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) and the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA).
- These foundational agreements are essential to take high technology cooperation to the next level like allowing India to purchase Guardian Avenger armed drones from the U.S.
- The most significant of them is LEMOA, which gives both nations access to each other’s military facilities. But it does not make it automatic or obligatory.
- The COMCASA provides the legal mechanism to allow for exchange of cyber communications, surveillance data, transfer of communication equipment and setting up secure (encrypted) communication channels from the U.S. origin military platforms.
Industrial Security Annex (ISA)
- The Industrial Security Annex (ISA), signed between India and the U.S. at the second 2+2 dialogue in Washington, will open the door for U.S. defence companies to partner with the Indian private sector for several multi-billion dollar deals in the pipeline, especially the deal for 114 fighter jets.
- This [ISA] will enable smooth transfer of classified technology and information between private entities of the U.S. and India.
- The ISA is a part of the General Security Of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), which India signed with the U.S. long back.
- It became critical as India opened up the defence sector to the private sector and the Strategic Partnership policy, which has few big military platforms and is reserved for the Indian private sector.
- Sealink Advanced Analysis (S2A) is to be set up to analyse large volumes of data that is received as part of the Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) cooperation with U.S.
- The S2A is being co-developed by India and the U.S. for big data analytics, an official said.
Do you know?
- Today, the U.S. is the country with which India undertakes the largest number of military exercises.
- In 2016, India was designated as a ‘Major Defence Partner’ country.
- Recently, India has been included in the Strategic Trade Authorisation-1 (STA-1) category, putting it on a par with allies in terms of technology access.