A) Science and Technology/Defence/Space

  1. Warm and Cold Vaccines (TH)

  • Unlike drugs, virtually all vaccines need to be transported at cold temperatures (usually between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius) prior to use.
  • If they are exposed to higher temperatures, many vaccines lose potency. Re-cooling does not help. Thus, we need what is called the cold chain of handling before use.
  • It would therefore be extremely useful if we can make and transport a vaccine at room temperature, with no cold chain needed.

Warm vaccine

  • It is towards such a “warm vaccine” that an Indian group have worked.
  • The COVID virus has, on its surface, a protein called the spike which is about 1,300-amino-acids long. Within this, a sequence that is about 250 amino acids long, called the receptor-binding domain (RBD), attaches itself to the “host” cell surface and starts the process of infection.
  • The group decided to synthesize in the laboratory a 200-amino-acid fragment of the RBD, and study its structure.
  • The authors found that this fragment, when freeze-dried (or “lyophilized”), is highly stable, can withstand transient exposure to temperatures as high as 100 degrees Celsius and can be stored for over a month at 37 degrees Celsius, suggesting a cold-chain should not be required for this molecule.

Clues from structure

  • On an aside, for the past 70 years, India has been a pioneer in the field of how the structure or architecture of a protein offers clues to its function. It still is.
  • For example, how the triple helical structure of collagen, experimentally discovered by the late N. Ramachandran in 1954, explains why it is found in the skin and tendons, offering them rope-like strength.
  • Ramachandran also suggested, given a protein sequence, how we may predict the ways it may fold into a 3-dimensional architecture.
  • This, in turn, has led biochemists to synthesize proteins with changes in their amino acid sequences that function the way they want it to.
  • The RBD protein was produced in large amounts in mammalian cells as well as in yeast called Pichia pastoris,which is a highly cost-effective, inexpensive, host.

Adjuvants and trials

  • Generally, immunologists add what is called an adjuvant which, when co-injected along with the vaccine material (cells or molecules), stimulates the immune system and enhances the ability of the vaccine to work.
  • Aluminum salts are often used.
  • The authors chose to use guinea pigs in their initial immunizations since these are thought to be better models than mice for respiratory illnesses.

Temperature requirements for vaccines

  • Vaccines are sensitive biological products. Some vaccines are sensitive to freezing, some to heat and others to
  • While Oral poliovirus (OPV) is one of vaccines most sensitive to heat, Hepatitis B is comparatively lesser sensitive to heat.
  1. Explained: What has the 2020 Nobel Prize in physics been awarded for? (IE)

  • Context: The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences decided to award one half of the 2020 Nobel Prize in physics to Roger Penrose and the other half jointly to Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez for furthering the understanding of black holes, the most “enigmatic” objects in the universe.
  • Earlier, three biologists shared the 2020 Nobel Prize in medicine for the discovery of the vaccine for the hepatitis C virus.


What are black holes?

  • A black hole is formed when stars collapse and can be defined as a space in the universe with an escape velocity so strong that even light cannot escape it.
  • Escape velocity is the speed at which an object must travel to override a planet or an object’s gravitational force.
  • For instance, for a spacecraft to leave the surface of the Earth, it needs to be travelling at a speed of about 40,000 km per hour.
  • Since light cannot get out, black holes are invisible and can only be tracked with the help of a space telescope or other special tools.
  • And the reason light cannot escape is mainly that the gravity inside a black hole is very strong as a result of a lot of matter being squeezed into a small space.

What do the award winners’ work tell us about black holes?

  • Penrose’s work has shown that black holes are a direct consequence of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity.
  • Einstein himself did not believe that black holes exist and presented his theory in November 1915, providing a new way to look at and understand gravity that shapes the universe “at the largest scale”.
  • Gravity also shapes space and influences the passage of time. It is this gravity, which is so great inside a black hole that is able to bend space and slow down time.
  • Penrose used Einstein’s general theory of relativity in order to prove that the process of formation of black holes is a stable one.
  • He proved that black holes exist and described them in detail back in 1965, ten years after Einstein died.
  • Genzel and Ghez, on the other hand, have discovered that an invisible and an extremely heavy object governs the stars’ orbit at the center of the Milky Way.
  • Essentially, their work tells us that at the centre of our galaxy the Milky Way lies an invisible supermassive object, of which a black hole provides a reasonable explanation.
  • In order to see through to the middle of the Milky Way, Genzel and Ghez worked on developing methods and used some of the world’s largest telescopes.
  • By observing the orbits of the stars’ that are closest to the centre of the Milky Way, the physicists think that the black hole could most likely be hiding in Sagitarrius A*, a source of radio waves around which all stars in the Milky Way orbit.
  • In other words, the existence of a black hole at the center of our galaxy is what the physicists believe is what pulls a “jumble of stars,” causing them to “rush around at dizzying speeds”.

Where does research on black holes go from here?

  • While work done by Penrose has established that black holes are a “robust” consequence of the theory of relativity and that they are formed naturally in very overdense regions, thereby proving that their formation is a stable process, the theory ceases to apply at the centre of the black hole called the singularity– “a boundary at which all the known laws of nature break down”.
  • This essentially means that the extent to which the theory of general relativity applies to the structure of black holes requires further probing and questions about the internal structure of black holes still remain.

What Is a Black Hole?

  • A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light cannot get out.
  • The gravity is so strong because matter has been squeezed into a tiny space. This can happen when a star is dying.
  • Because no light can get out, people can’t see black holes. They are invisible.
  • Fig. An artist’s drawing a black hole named Cygnus X-1. It formed when a large star caved in. This black hole pulls matter from blue star beside it.
  • Space telescopes with special tools can help find black holes.
  • The special tools can see how stars that are very close to black holes act differently than other stars.
  • When a black hole and a star are close together, high-energy light is made. This kind of light cannot be seen with human eyes. Scientists use satellites and telescopes in space to see the high-energy light.

How Big Are Black Holes?

  • Black holes can be big or small. Scientists think the smallest black holes are as small as just one atom.
  • These black holes are very tiny but have the mass of a large mountain. Mass is the amount of matter, or “stuff,” in an object.
  • Another kind of black hole is called “stellar.”
  • Its mass can be up to 20 times more than the mass of the sun.
  • There may be many, many stellar-mass black holes in Earth’s galaxy called the Milky Way.
  • The largest black holes are called “supermassive.” These black holes have masses that are more than 1 million suns together.
  • Scientists have found proof that every large galaxy contains a supermassive black hole at its center.
  • The supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy is called Sagittarius A.
  • It has a mass equal to about 4 million suns and would fit inside a very large ball that could hold a few million Earths.
  • Fig. Scientific evidence shows that in the middle of the Milky Way is a supermassive black hole.

How Do Black Holes Form?

  • Scientists think the smallest black holes formed when the universe began.
  • Stellar black holes are made when the center of a very big star falls in upon itself, or collapses.
  • When this happens, it causes a supernova.
  • A supernova is an exploding star that blasts part of the star into space.
  • Scientists think supermassive black holes were made at the same time as the galaxy they are in.

Could a Black Hole Destroy Earth?

  • Black holes do not go around in space eating stars, moons and planets. Earth will not fall into a black hole because no black hole is close enough to the solar system for Earth to do that.
  • Even if a black hole the same mass as the sun were to take the place of the sun, Earth still would not fall in.
  • The black hole would have the same gravity as the sun. Earth and the other planets would orbit the black hole as they orbit the sun now.
  • The sun will never turn into a black hole. The sun is not a big enough star to make a black hole.

    B) Geography, Environment and Biodiversity

  • 4.What causes earthquake swarms in California? (TH)

  • According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), hundreds of earthquakes ranging from 2.5 to 4.9 magnitude have been rattling California.
  • These are called earthquake swarms – a sequence of mostly small earthquakes with no identifiable mainshock.
  • Swarms are usually short-lived, but they can continue for days, weeks, or sometimes even months.
  • They are many times too subtle for people to notice. They are not to be confused with aftershocks, which happen after a large mainshock.

Interactions between fluid and pressure in the fault zone

  • Scientists have found that pulses of high-pressure fluids moving closer to the surface can trigger these swarms.
  • While, fluid under pressure can push the walls of the fault away from each other making it easier for the fault to slide, a decrease in pressure creates a suction that pulls the walls together and inhibits sliding.

     E) Schemes/Policies/Initiatives/Social Issues

    9.Production Linked Incentive Scheme (PLI) for Large Scale Electronics Manufacturing (IE)

  • Context: Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said, it approved plans of 16 companies, including Apple’s contract manufacturers Foxconn etc, for starting work under the production linked incentive (PLI) scheme.
  • The Centre had, in April 2020, notified this scheme, under which companies that set up new mobile and specified equipment manufacturing units or expanded their present units would get incentives of 4-6 per cent on incremental sales from goods made in India.


Need for Production-Linked Incentive (PLI)

  • National Policy on Electronics 2019 (NPE 2019) is to position India as a global hub for Electronics System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) by encouraging and driving capabilities in the country for developing core components and creating an enabling environment for the industry to compete globally.
  • The government’s initial plans to make India a hub for high-end large electronics equipment and semiconductor units hit a roadblock after most global companies opted to assemble in India rather than set up manufacturing units.
  • On the contrary, Economic Survey 2019-20 also noted this and observed India should follow the Chinese model of becoming an assembling hub for the world for ‘network products’ such as computers, electronics, and road vehicles to raise its share in the world export market.
  • Group of industries, referred to as “network products” are those, where production processes are globally fragmented and controlled by leading Multi-National Enterprises (MNEs) within their “producer-driven” global production networks.
  • Examples of network products (NP) include computers, electronic and electrical equipment, telecommunication equipment, road vehicles etc.

Current issues with domestic electronics makers

  • The domestic electronics hardware manufacturing sector faces lack of a level playing field vis-à-vis competing nations like domestic supply chain and logistics; high cost of finance; inadequate availability of quality power; limited design capabilities and focus on R&D by the industry; and inadequacies in skill development.

Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme

  • The scheme shall extend an incentive of 4% to 6% on incremental sales (over base year) of goods manufactured in India and covered under target segments, to eligible companies.
  • It is being implemented by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, GOI.
  • Incentive under the Scheme shall be provided for a period of five (5) years subsequent to the base year.
  • It aims to give out incentives worth Rs 5,334 crore in total in the first year, to be divided among all the successful applicants.
  • The total incentive to be given to each company will be decided by an empowered committee.
  • Empowered Committee will have secretaries from the Department of Economic Affairs, Department of Expenditure, Department of Revenue, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade, Directorate General of Foreign Trade, apart from the MEITY secretary and the chief executive officer of the NITI Aayog.
  1. Explained: What is MSP and how is it determined? (IE)

  • Context: The newly passed 3 farm trade acts has raised concerns that farmers may no longer be assured MSP for their crop.


Introduction of MSP

  • Minimum support price (MSP) is a “minimum price” for any crop that the government considers as remunerative for farmers and hence deserving of “support”. It is also the price that government agencies pay whenever they procure a particular crop.

What is the basis of MSP then?

  • It is only a government policy that is part of administrative decision-making. There is no statutory/legal backing for MSP.
  • The government declares MSPs for crops, even there’s no law mandating their implementation.
  • Based on the recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs & Prices (CACP) the Centre currently fixes MSPs for 23 farm commodities —
  • 7 cereals (paddy, wheat, maize, bajra, jowar, ragi and barley),
  • 5 pulses (chana, arhar/tur, urad, moong and masur),
  • 7 oilseeds (rapeseed-mustard, groundnut, soyabean, sunflower, sesamum, safflower and nigerseed) and
  • 4 commercial crops (cotton, sugarcane, copra and raw jute).
  • But the CACP itself is not any statutory body set up through an Act of Parliament.
  • The CACP, as its website states, is just “an attached office of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare”.
  • It can recommend MSPs, but the decision on fixing (or even not fixing) and enforcement rests finally with the government (cabinet committee on economic affairs).
  • The government does buy wheat and paddy at their MSPs. But that’s more out of political compulsion and the need to supply the PDS’s foodgrain requirements, more so post the NFSA.
  • The only crop where MSP payment has some statutory element is sugarcane.
  • This is due to its pricing being governed by the Sugarcane (Control) Order, 1966 issued under the Essential Commodities Act.
  • That order, in turn, provides for the fixation of a ‘fair and remunerative price’ (FRP) for cane during every sugar year (October-September).
  • But even the FRP — which, incidentally, was until 2008-09 called the ‘statutory minimum price’ or SMP — is payable not by the government. The responsibility to make FRP payment to farmers within 14 days of cane purchase lies solely with the sugar mills.
  1. The standoff between Executive and Judiciary (TH, pg 9)

Context: Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said there is no stand-off between the Executive and the Judiciary over appointment of High Court judges and whenever a difference of opinion arises, it is mutually reconciled to ensure only a suitable person is appointed as a High Court judge.


Procedure for appointment of the Chief Justice of India   , judges of the SC & HC

  • The Chief Justice of India and the Judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President under clause (2) of Article 124 of the Constitution.


  • Appointment to the office of the Chief Justice of India should be of the seniormost Judge of the Supreme Court considered fit to hold the office.
  • The Union Minister of Law, Justice and Company Affairs would, at the appropriate time, seek the recommendation of the outgoing Chief Justice of India for the appointment of the next Chief Justice of India.
  • Whenever there is any doubt about the fitness of the seniormost Judge to hold the office of the Chief Justice of India, consultation with other Judges as envisaged in Article 124 (2) of the Constitution would be made for the appointment of the next Chief Justice of
  • After receipt of the recommendation of the Chief Justice of India, the Union Minister of Law, Justice and Company Affairs will put up the recommendation to the Prime Minister who will advise the President in the matter of appointment.

Judges of SC

  • Whenever a vacancy is expected to arise in the office of a Judge of the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice of India will initiate proposal and forward his recommendation to the Union Minister of Law, Justice and Company Affairs to fill up the
  • The opinion of the Chief Justice of India for appointment of a Judge of the Supreme Court should be formed in consultation with a collegium of the four seniormost puisne Judges of the Supreme Court.
  • If the successor Chief Justice of India is not one of the four seniormost puisne Judges, he would be made part of the collegium as he should have a hand in selection of Judges who will function during his term as Chief Justice of
  • The Chief Justice of India would ascertain the views of the seniormost Judge in the Supreme Court, who hails from the High Court from where the person recommended comes, but if he does not have any knowledge of his merits and demerits, the next seniormost Judge in the Supreme Court from that High Court should be
  • The opinion of members of the collegium in respect of each of the recommendations as well as the seniormost Judge in the Supreme Court from the High Court, from which a prospective candidate comes, would be made in writing and the Chief Justice of India, in all cases, must transmit his opinion as also the opinion of all concerned to the Government of India as part of record.
  • After receipt of the final recommendation of the Chief Justice of India, the Union Minister of Law, Justice and Company Affairs will put up the recommendations to the Prime Minister who will advise the President in the matter of appointment
  • As soon as the warrant of appointment is signed by the President, the Secretary to the Government of India in the Department of Justice will announce the appointment and issue the necessary notification in the Gazette of India.

Appointment of acting Chief Justice of India

o    Vacancy in the office of the Chief Justice must be filled whatever the period of vacancy.
o    In such an eventuality, the seniormost available Judge of the Supreme Court will be appointed to perform the duties of the office of the Chief Justice of India.
  • Appointment of acting Chief Justice is to be made by the President under Article 126 of the Constitution

Appointment of ad hoc judges :

  • Article 127 of the Constitution provides that if at any time there should not a quorum of Judges of the Supreme Court available to hold or continue any session of the Court the Chief Justice of India may, with the previous consent of the President and after consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court concerned request,  in writing,  a Judge of a High Court duly qualified for appointment as a Judge of the Supreme Court to attend, for such period as may be necessary, the sittings of the Supreme Court .
  • Whenever the necessity for such an appointment arises, the Chief Justice of India will consult the Chief Justice of the High Court concerned whether a Judge is available to attend the sittings of the Supreme Court.
  • The Chief Justice of the High Court will communicate his consent to the release of a particular Judge after consulting the Chief Minister of the State in which the High Court is situated.
  • The Chief Justice of India will then communicate to the Union Minister of Law, Justice and Company Affairs the name of the Judge and the period for which he will be required to attend the sittings of the Supreme Court, certifying that the release of the Judge has been agreed to by the Chief Justice of the High Court concerned and the Chief Minister of the State.
  • The Union Minister of Law, Justice and Company Affairs will put up the recommendation to the Prime Minister, who will advise the President as to the person to be appointed to attend the sittings of the Supreme Court.
  • As soon as the President gives his consent to the appointment, the Secretary to the Government of India in the Department of Justice will (i) inform the Chief Justice of India, who will formally request the Judge concerned, in writing, to attend the sittings of the Supreme Court as an ad hoc Judge and (ii) announce the appointment and issue the necessary notification in the Gazette of

Events in the past

The Supreme Court Collegium, led by Chief Justice of India, recommended the names of two judges to the court and rejected the government’s disapproval of the elevation of two others.


What is the Collegium system of appointing judges to the High Court and Supreme Court?

  • The Collegium is the system of appointment and transfer of judges that has evolved through judgments of the Supreme Court, and not by an Act of Parliament or by a provision of the Constitution.
  • The Constitution confers the power of appointment of judges on the President of India i.e. the Government of India to be made in consultation with the Chief Justice of India and other judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts.
  • The Supreme Court Collegium is headed by the Chief Justice of India and comprises four other seniormost judges of the court.
  • A High Court Collegium is led by its Chief Justice and four other seniormost judges of that court.
  • Names recommended for appointment by a High Court Collegium reaches the government only after approval by the CJI and the Supreme Court Collegium.
  • Judges of the higher judiciary are appointed only through the Collegium system — and the government has a role only after names have been decided by the Collegium.
  • The government’s role is limited to getting an inquiry conducted by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) if a lawyer is to be elevated as a judge in a High Court or the Supreme Court.
  • It can also raise objections and seek clarifications regarding the Collegium’s choices, but if the Collegium reiterates the same names, the government is bound, under Constitution Bench judgments, to appoint them as judges.
  • This system of appointments emerged out of three rulings of the Supreme Court collectively passed known as the Three Judges Case, culminating in the historic Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association Vs Union of India 1993 judgment.
  • In its landmark 1993 judgment, the apex court held that the independence of the judiciary, which is part of the basic structure of the Constitution, was being undermined by the primacy of the executive in key appointments.
  • First Judges Case: Primacy of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) was not really to be found in the Constitution.
  • In the First Judges Case (1981), the apex court held (4-3) that in the appointment of a judge of the Supreme Court or the High Court, the word “consultation” in Article 124(2) and in Article 217(1) of the Constitution does not mean “concurrence”.
  • In the event of a disagreement, the “ultimate power” would rest with the Union Government and not the CJI.
  • The First Judges Case, therefore, was an instance where the apex court acted against its own interests.
  • Second Judges Case:A specific procedure called ‘Collegium System’ for the appointment and transfer of judges in the higher judiciary.
  • In the Second Judges Case (1993), the court (7-2) overruled the First Judges Case, holding that in the event of conflict between the President and the CJI with regard to appointments of Judges, it was the Chief Justice of India whose opinion would not only have primacy, but would be determinative in the matter. Thus, the President’s recommendations was made non-binding.
  • The 1993 verdict also gave birth to the Collegium System. This was the collection of the CJI and the two most senior judges of the SC or the HC, depending on the case.
  • What this did was in effect “moderate” the CJI’s powers when it comes to the appointment of judges.
  • Third Judges Case: Recommendation should be made by the CJI and his four senior-most colleagues, instead of two.
  • Finally, in the Third Judges Case (1998), the SC reaffirmed its 1993 judgment and expanded the Collegium to include the CJI and the four most-senior judges of the court after the CJI.

What does the Constitution says?

  • The procedure listed in the Constitution for judicial appointments comes under Articles 124(2) and 217.
  • Every Judge of the Supreme Court shall be appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal after consultation with such of the Judges of the Supreme Court and of the High Courts in the States as the President may deem necessary for the purpose and shall hold office until he attains the age of sixty-five years.
  • “Provided that in the case of appointment of a Judge other than the Chief Justice, the Chief Justice of India shall always be consulted,” says Article 124(2).
  • “Every Judge of a High Court shall be appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal after consultation with the Chief Justice of India, the Governor of the State, and, in the case of appointment of a Judge other than the Chief Justice, the Chief Justice of High Court,” says Article 217.
  1. Gupkar Declaration (TH)

  • Mainstream political parties of Kashmir issued a joint statement reiterating their commitment to strive for the restoration of Articles 370 and 35A, and said all their other political activities would be subservient to that.
  • The parties reiterated that they are bound, wholly, by the contents of the ‘Gupkar Declaration’, a resolution issued after an all-party meeting on August 4, 2019 at the Gupkar residence of NC president Farooq Abdullah.
  • The resolution at the end of the meet on August 4, 2019, a day before the Centre announced its decision of revocation of J-K’s special status and split it into two union territories, said the parties unanimously resolved that they would be united in their resolve to protect and defend the identity, autonomy and special status of Jammu and Kashmir against all attacks and onslaughts.

Source-The Hindu, PIB, IE and Others

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