F-INSAS: Why in News?
- Defence minister Rajnath Singh handed over the much-awaited indigenously manufactured Future Infantry Soldier as a System (F-INSAS) to the Indian Army.
- Latest anti-personnel mine Nipun, the Made in India Landing Craft Assault (LCA) as well as a drone system to help keep an eye on enemy troops in the forward areas along the Line of Actual control were also handed over.
F-INSAS: What is F-INSAS?
- The F-INSAS project aims at modernising infantry and enhancing the operational capability of the soldier.
- Under it, soldiers are to be equipped with modern systems which will be lightweight, all-weather-all-terrain, economical and would require low maintenance.
- It looks to transform the soldiers deployed in the border areas into ‘a self-contained fighting machine’.
- The F-INSAS system includes an AK-203 assault rifle – a Russian-origin gas-operated, magazine-fed, select fire assault rifle with a range of 300 metre – as well as a ballistic helmet, ballistic goggles, a bulletproof jacket, elbow-pads, and knee pads.
- The helmet and bulletproof jacket offers protection against lethal weapons such as a 9mm bullet even from point blank range and from AK-47 rifle, as per Moneycontrol.
- Infantry soldiers will also be provided holographic vision mounted on their rifles to aid with target and acquisition with a 200 metre range.
- F-INSAS also includes a hands-free head-set which will help enhance the operational capabilities of an infantry soldier and improve communication effectively, as per the report.
Langya Virus: Why in News?
A new zoonotic virus that has evolved to infect humans was identified in China in August. On August 4, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) described the virus called Langya (LayV), reported in patients in Eastern China.
Langya Virus: What is LayV?
- LayV is a newly identified henipavirus of probable animal origin was associated with febrile illness.
- The pathogen belongs to the henipavirus family, closely associated with Nipah and Hendra viruses, and was noticed to cause fever, and respiratory symptoms among 35 people in China since 2018.
- It was discovered during routine sentinel surveillance of patients who had fever and reported a recent history of exposure to animals in eastern China.
- It was identified as a phylogenetically distinct henipavirus, indicating its evolution, after being identified in a throat swab sample from a patient.
- The virus was named after the town this patient lived in — Langya in the Shandong province in China.
e-Space Regulation: Why in News?
On August 10, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) instituted a framework for regulating the digital lending landscape in the country.
e-Space Regulation: What are the new regulations?
- The central premise is transparency. Lending must be carried out by entities that are either regulated by the RBI or possess permission to operate under a relevant law. Considering the large-scale outsourcing in the industry, this would also help address regulatory arbitrage.
- The RBI has mandated that all loan disbursals and repayments are to be executed directly between the bank accounts of the borrower and the entity, eliminating the involvement of LSP’s nodal pass-through account.
- Henceforth, before executing the contract, lenders would have to inform the borrower in a standardised format about all fees, charges as well as the annual percentage rate (APR).
- The latter refers to the annual rate that is charged for borrowing a loan and is inclusive of processing fees, penalties and all other charges associated with it.
- This would also help borrowers make better comparisons with industry peers. Further, LSPs cannot raise the credit limit of their customers without prior consent.
- Also, to address the need for a dedicated resolution framework, entities would have to appoint a grievance redressal officer.
- The ecosystem would also fall under the purview of the RBI’s Integrated Ombudsman Scheme (RB-IOS) should the complaint not be resolved within 30 days of receipt.
Why in News?
- The World Health Organization on July 18 confirmed two cases of the Marburg virus in Ghana, a first for the country.
- Around 100 others who came in contact with the infected individuals were quarantined and under observation for symptoms, which include high fever and external bleeding.
About Marburg Virus
- A cousin of the equally deadly Ebola virus, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Marburg virus was first identified after 31 people were infected and seven died in simultaneous outbreaks in 1967 in Marburg and Frankfurt, Germany & Belgrade, Serbia.
- The outbreak was traced to African green monkeys imported from Uganda. But the virus has since been linked to other animals.
- Among humans, it is spread mostly by people who have spent long periods in caves and mines populated by bats.
- A 2005 outbreak in Angola killed more than 300 people.
- There is no treatment or vaccine so far. Previous outbreaks of the disease have been seen in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda.
Revised Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP)
Why in News?
- The Commission for Air Quality Management unveiled a revised Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) on July 13 to curb air pollution in the National Capital Region (NCR).
- An expert group constituted by the CAQM had suggested revisions to the existing GRAP which comprises measures to be taken when the air quality worsens in Delhi-NCR.
What is Revised GRAP?
- GRAP sets emergency measures when air quality worsens in NCR.
- The revised plan suggests taking action based on the air quality index (AQI) rather than particulate matter concentrations and banning construction and plying of diesel-based four-wheelers after the AQI crosses certain thresholds.
- The revised Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) to deal with air pollution this winter will come into force with effect from October 1, according to the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM).
Four Stages Of Adverse Air Quality
- In the revised plan, there are four stages of adverse air quality — ‘poor’ (AQI from 201 to 300), ‘very poor’ (AQI from 301 to 400), ‘severe’ (AQI from 401 to 450) and ‘severe +’ (AQI more than 450).
- Actions under the ‘very poor’, ‘severe’ and ‘severe +’ categories are to be invoked at least three days in advance of the AQI reaching that particular stage.
- This will be based on forecasts provided to the CAQM by the India Meteorological Department and the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology.
Africa To Pay For Europe’s Energy Crisis
Why in News?
- At the latest meeting of the Group of 7 (G7) countries, host Germany and Italy watered down a pledge to end financing for overseas gas projects.
- The pledge was made at the 26th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change last year, and at the meet in June, new loopholes were introduced for temporary financing so countries can tide over the energy crisis due to the Russia-Ukraine war.
- The move is in line with how Germany and Italy are increasing fossil fuel investment in Africa in recent months.
- Italy, which has lowered its Russian energy imports from 40 per cent at the start of the year to 25 per cent, has secured deals with Algeria, Angola, Egypt, and the Republic of the Congo.
- Germany, which imports 35 per cent of its energy from Russia, is meanwhile pursuing investment in Senegal.
Key Possible Impacts on Africa
- The subsequent reliance of the African countries on fossil fuel exports can slow their economic growth by three times and hinder diversification into renewable energy.
- Moreover, as Europe’s own renewable energy goals are met, demand will decrease, and Germany and Italy will leave Africa to deal with defunct infrastructure.
- The fact that they will leave African countries holding the stranded assets is just as immaterial to them as their contributions to climate change have been.
The Editorial Analysis- The Coming 75 Years
The Coming 75 Years- Relevance for UPSC Exam
- GS Paper 1: Indian History- Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues.
The Coming 75 Years in News
- As India celebrates 75 years of Independence, it is apt to imagine what the next 75 years will look like.
- Can our nation, obsessed with politics, Bollywood, and cricket, aspire to make the next 75 years an enviable era with a higher standard of living for every citizen?
Associated Concerns with S & T in India
- Poor Investment in S&T: India spends a meagre 0.7% of its GDP on research and development (R&D).
- On the other hand, Israel and South Korea are prime examples that drive their respective economies by spending nearly 5% of their GDP on R&D.
- Inefficient Implementation: Although there is a well-defined system to disburse research grants to scientists through their institutions, it is mired in inefficiencies.
- Other Key Challenges faced by Scientific Community in India:
- Inadequate staffing at funding agencies,
- Lack of transparency in fund disbursal,
- Lack of a rigorous international standard review and feedback process,
- Excessive delay in fund disbursal, and
- An outdated appraisal system.
The Coming 75 Years- Making India Scientific Power
India needs a shift in focus to science and technology. Following steps can be taken to make India a Scientific Superpower in next 75 years-
- Increasing the R&D budget to 4% of the nation’s GDP: spending 4% of the national GDP on R&D is required to drive science and innovation.
- However, an increase in the science budget to innovate must precede appropriate macro-level policy changes on how and where the money needs to be spent.
- A part of this increase needs to be earmarked for building physical and intellectual infrastructure across the country, especially in the universities.
- A first-class infrastructure must be accompanied by well-trained, globally competitive institutional administrators and processes.
- India cannot compete on a global stage unless the dwindling infrastructure of its universities is upgraded.
- Ensuring that individual institutions implement processes to accommodate the large budget: before any policy changes take effect, individual institutions must implement processes to accommodate the large budget.
- This requires standardising procedures across institutions and borrowing the best practices from some global counterparts.
- For example, when the government encourages public-private partnerships, each grant-receiving institution must have internal procedures to handle their scientists’ requests to facilitate effective academia-industry collaboration.
- Bring and implement best practices from the industry and some of the best-run science grant administrations abroad.
- The involvement of the IT major, Tata Consulting Services, and technology use in transforming passport services across the globe gives us hope.
- Encouraging individual entrepreneurs and Linking science with society: it is time to bring the fruits of science and technology closer to the masses.
- There is no better way to do this than by promoting and facilitating individual entrepreneurs.
- This has received increased attention from the government with many positive policy changes.
- Lab to Land Implementation: There are no better cradles for creative ideas than our university labs.
- A robust system to link the labs with the entrepreneurs to funnel innovative ideas, products, and solutions to our society needs to be in place.
- To make this happen, the universities must encourage scientists to innovate and place standardised procedures to take ideas out of labs.
- Entrepreneurship will only succeed in India if it is backed by a funnel of ideas and a liberal process of taking those ideas out of our university labs.
- India must realise that the next generation of war is economic, not military, and only a science and technology-driven economy can prepare us for that.
Manthan Platform Launched
Manthan Platform- Relevance for UPSC Exam
- GS Paper 2: Governance, Administration and Challenges- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Manthan Platform in News
- Recently, the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser (PSA) to the Government of India (GoI) announced the launch of the Manthan platform.
- The Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser (PSA) is entrusted with the vision to enable and empower all spheres of science and technology within the country.
- Manthan Platform commemorates India’s 75 years of independence – Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsavand presents an opportunity to bring national and global communities closer to India’s technology revolution.
- About: The Manthan Platform is unique and will provide the necessary fulcrum for transforming our nation through innovative ideas, inventive minds, and public-private-academia collaboration to achieve our sustainability goals.
- Mandate: Manthan Platform aims to promote collaboration at scale between industry and the scientific research and development ecosystem in India.
- It will help meet India’s sustainability goals in alignment with the UN defined Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) charter.
- Implementation: the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser (PSA) to the Government of India (GoI) is implementing Manthan Platform.
- Manthan Platform is powered by NSEIT Limited which is its trusted knowledge and technology partner.
Manthan Platform Significance
- The Manthan Platform provides the necessary impetus to promote collaboration at scale between the demand side and supply side users.
- This will help ideas to thrive, technology to enhance communities, and deliver results that can catapult the nation towards many more glorious chapters.
- Manthan will help new concepts, science-led ideas, and new technology outcomes find swifter adoption across the country.
- The Manthan platform will facilitate knowledge transfers and interactions through Information Exchange Sessions, Exhibitions, and Events to develop a framework for future science, innovation, and technology-led growth.
- Manthan will empower to scale up the interactions among stakeholders, facilitate research and innovation, and share challenges in various emerging technologies and scientific interventions, including those that make a Social Impact.
Key Facts about Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav (AKAM)
- About: Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav is an initiative to celebrate and commemorate 75 years of progressive India and the glorious history of its people, culture and achievements.
- Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav is an embodiment of all that is progressive about India’s socio-cultural, political, and economic identity.
- Celebrating People of India: Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav is dedicated to the people of India who have been instrumental in bringing India thus far in its evolutionary journey.
- People of India also hold within them the power and potential to enable the Prime Minister’s vision of activating India 2.0, fuelled by the spirit of Atmanirbhar Bharat.
- Beginning of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav: The official journey of “Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav” commenced on 12th March 2021 which starts a 75-week countdown to our 75th anniversary of Independence.
- Categorize: Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav is envisioned to be celebrated in five categories –
- Freedom Struggle,
- Idea @75,
- Achievements @75,
- Action @75 and
- Resolve @75
The Editorial Analysis- Moving Policy Away From Population Control
The Editorial Analysis – Moving Policy Away From Population Control: Relevance for UPSC Exam
General Studies I- Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India.
The United Nations’ World Population Prospects (WPP), 2022, forecasts India becoming the most populous country by 2023, surpassing China, with a 140-crore population.
- In the 1960s, India had a population growth rate of over 2%. At the current rate of growth, this is expected to fall to 1% by 2025.
- Last year, India reached a significant demographic milestone as, for the first time, its total fertility rate (TFR) slipped to two, below the replacement level fertility (2.1 children per woman), as per the National Family Health Survey.
- Post-Independence, in the 1950s, India had a TFR of six.
- Bottlenecks in achieving a low TFR include high illiteracy levels, rampant child marriage, high levels of under-five mortality rates, a low workforce participation of women, and low contraceptive usage compared to other States.
- A majority of women in India do not have much of an economic or decisive say in their lives and without ameliorating the status of women in society (quality of life), only lopsided development is achievable.
- A larger population is perceived to mean greater human capital, higher economic growth and improved standards of living.
- As in the World Population Prospects 2022, India will have one of the largest workforces globally, i.e., in the next 25 years, one in five working-age group persons will be living in India.
- This working-age bulge will keep growing till the mid-2050s, and India must make use of it.
1.Serious Health Risks
- The disease pattern in the country has also seen a tremendous shift in these 75 years: while India was fighting communicable diseases post-Independence, there has been a transition towards non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the cause of more than 62% of total deaths.
- India is a global disease burden leader as the share of NCDs has almost doubled since the 1990s, which is the primary reason for worry.
- India is home to over eight crore people with diabetes. Further, more than a quarter of global deaths due to air pollution occur in India alone.
- With an increasingly ageing population in the grip of rising NCDs, India faces a serious health risk in the decades ahead.
- In contrast, India’s health-care infrastructure is highly inadequate and inefficient.
- Additionally, India’s public health financing is low, varying between 1% and 1.5% of GDP, which is among the lowest percentages in the world.
- Even after reaching the replacement level of fertility, the population will continue to grow for three to four decades owing to the population momentum (large cohorts of women in their reproductive age groups).
- Demographic Dividend
- There are several obstacles to harnessing this demographic dividend.
- India’s labour force is constrained by the absence of women from the workforce; only a fourth of women are employed.
- The quality of educational attainments is not up to the mark, and the country’s workforce badly lacks the basic skills required for the modernized job market.
- Having the largest population with one of the world’s lowest employment rates is another enormous hurdle in reaping the ‘demographic dividend’.
- Another demographic concern of independent India is the male-dominant sex ratio.
- Every other woman in the reproductive age group in India is anemic, and every third child below five is stunted.
- India stands 101 out of 116 nations in the Global Hunger Index; this is pretty daunting for a country which has one of the most extensive welfare programmes for food security through the Public Distribution System and the Midday Meals Scheme.
- Improvement in sex ratio should be a priority as some communities face severe challenges from a marriage squeeze (an imbalance between the number of men and women available to marry in a specific society) and eventual bride purchase.
- India is called a young nation, with 50% of its population below 25 years of age
- Advance investments in the development of a robust social, financial and healthcare support system for old people is the need of the hour.
- The focus of action should be on extensive investment in human capital, on older adults living with dignity, and on healthy population ageing.
- We should be prepared with suitable infrastructure, conducive social welfare schemes and massive investment in quality education and health.
- The focus should not be on population control; we do not have such a severe problem now. Instead, an augmentation of the quality of life should be the priority.
Paalan 1000- Relevance for UPSC Exam
- GS Paper 2: Governance, Administration and Challenges- Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes.
Paalan 1000 in News
- Recently, Dr. Bharati Pravin Pawar, Union Minister of State virtually launched the Early Childhood Development Conclave, Paalan 1000 National Campaign and Parenting App in Mumbai.
- While Launching the Paalan 1000, she said that India has taken rapid strides in reducing child mortality since 2014 from 45 per 1000 live births to 35 per 1000 live births in 2019.
Paalan 1000 National Campaign & Parenting App
- About: ‘Paalan 1000 National Campaign- Journey of the First 1000 Days’, focuses on the cognitive developments of children in the first 2 years of its life.
- Mandate: Cognitive development of children under 2 years is a major focus area of this PAALAN 1000.
- Key Features: Paalan 1000 combines early years coaching for parents, families and other caregivers with services designed to meet families’ basic needs.
- Infants and toddlers are shaped by their experiences – and those experiences are shaped by their caregivers.
- Caregivers are crucial for a strong start in the first years of life.
- The programme is aligned the mission of the Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram (RBSK), emphasizing responsive care and focusing interventions on the first 1000 days.
- Paalan 1000 Parenting App: It will provide caregiver with practical advice on what they can do in their everyday routine and will help resolving the various doubts of parents and will direct our efforts in the development of child.
- Guiding Principles: Paalan 1000 have focused on the 6 principles-
- Maximize Love,
- Talk & Engage,
- Explore through Movement and Play,
- Read and Discuss Stories,
- Mother’s Engagement with the Child while Breastfeeding and
- Managing Stress and Staying Calm.
- ‘Continuum of Care’ Concept: emphasises on care during critical life stages in order to improve child survival. It is being followed under the national programme.
Importance of Early Childhood Development in First 1000 Days
- The first thousand days encompasses the conception as well as the first two years of a child’s life and during this period, the growing child needs right nutrition, stimulation, love and support.
- The first 1000 days establishes a solid platform for a child’s physical, mental, emotional, cognitive and social health.
- The process of a baby’s brain development begins during pregnancy and is influenced by a pregnant woman’s health, nutrition and environment.
- After birth, apart from the physical growth, a human baby’s brain development paves the way for its future level of intelligence and quality of life.
- Each day of this journey is special and influences the way a baby develops, grows and learns – not just now, but for her entire life.
Understanding Ethanol Blending
Understanding Ethanol Blending-Relevance for UPSC Exam
General Studies III- Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India has achieved its target of blending 10% sugarcane-extracted ethanol in petrol, ahead of schedule while addressing the nation from the Red Fort on the 76th Independence Day.
What is Ethanol Blending?
- Blending ethanol with petrol to burn less fossil fuel while running vehicles is called ethanol blending.
- Ethanol is an agricultural by-product which is mainly obtained from the processing of sugar from sugarcane, but also from other sources such as rice husk or maize.
- Currently, 10% of the petrol that powers your vehicle is ethanol.
- Though we have had an E10 — or 10% ethanol as policy for a while, it is only this year that we have achieved that proportion.
- India’s aim is to increase this ratio to 20% originally by 2030 but in 2021, when NITI Aayog put out the ethanol roadmap, that deadline was advanced to 2025.
- Ethanol blending will help bring down our share of oil imports (almost 85%) on which we spend a considerable amount of precious foreign exchange.
- More ethanol output would help increase farmers’ incomes.
- The NITI Aayog report of June 2021 says, “India’s net import of petroleum was 185 million tonnes at a cost of $55 billion in 2020-21,” and that a successful ethanol blending programme can save the country $4 billion per annum.
First Generation and Second-Generation Ethanol
- With an aim to augment ethanol supplies, the government has allowed procurement of ethanol produced from other sources besides molasses — which is first generation ethanol or 1G.
- Ethanol can be extracted from materials such as rice straw, wheat straw, corn cobs, corn stover, bagasse, bamboo and woody biomass, which are second generation ethanol sources or 2G.
Though the U.S., China, Canada and Brazil all have ethanol blending programmes, as a developing country, Brazil stands out. It had legislated that the ethanol content in petrol should be in the 18-27.5% range, and it finally touched the 27% target in 2021.
- At the time of the NITI Aayog report in June last year, the industry had committed to the government to make all vehicles E20 material compliant by 2023.
- This meant that the petrol points, plastics, rubber, steel and other components in vehicles would need to be compliant to hold/store fuel that is 20% ethanol.
- Without such a change, rusting is an obvious impediment
- Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers says that the industry has committed to becoming E20 engine compliant by 2025, which means that engines would need to be tweaked so as to process petrol which has been blended with 20% ethanol.
- Even though the industry is recovering from the economic losses bought on by the pandemic, it is bound to make some change to comply with India’s promise for net-zero emissions by 2070.
- Optimization of engine for higher ethanol blends and the conduct of durability studies on engines and field trials before introducing E20 compliant vehicles.
- Storage is going to be the main concern, for if E10 supply has to continue in tandem with E20 supply, storage would have to be separate which then raises costs.
- It does not reduce the emission of another key pollutant — nitrous oxide.
- The water needed to grow crops for ethanol is another debating point- a litre of ethanol from sugar requires 2,860 litres of water.
- Given the uncertainty about future production, India may not find it easy to simultaneously strengthen domestic food supply systems, set aside adequate stocks for lean years, maintain an export market for grains, and divert grain to ethanol at the expected rate in coming years, and this is an issue that warrants continued monitoring.