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Mars Curiosity rover reaches its primary destination

After more than two years of touching down on Mars, NASA’s Curiosity rover has finally reached the foothills of Mount Sharp, the primary destination it was designed to explore.

Mount Sharp is a Mount-Rainier-size mountain at the centre of the vast Gale Crater and the rover mission’s long-term prime destination.

Curiosity (rover)

Curiosity is a car-sized robotic rover exploring Gale Crater on Mars as part of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission (MSL).

The rover’s goals include: investigation of the Martian climate and geology; assessment of whether the selected field site inside Gale Crater has ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life, including investigation of the role of water; and planetary habitability studies in preparation for future human exploration.

On June 24, 2014, Curiosity completed a Martian year—687 Earth days—after finding that Mars once had environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.



Mrithasanjeevani scheme struggling to stay alive

Mrithasanjeevani scheme of kerala government, also called as Kerala Deceased Donor Organ Transplantation Program, is losing its steam due to System inadequacies, lack of infrastructure and manpower shortage.

Organ donation is the donation of biological tissue or an organ of the human body, from a living or dead person to a living recipient in need of a transplantation. Transplantable organs and tissues are removed in a surgical procedure following a determination, based on the donor’s medical and social history, of which are suitable for transplantation. Such procedures are termed allotransplantations, to distinguish them from xenotransplantation, the transfer of animal organs into human bodies.

India has a fairly well developed corneal donation programme however donation after brain death has been relatively slow to take off. To curb organ commerce and promote donation after brain death the government enacted a law called “The Transplantation of Human Organs Act” in 1994 that brought about a significant change in the organ donation and transplantation scene in India. Many Indian states have adopted the law and in 2011 further amendment of the law took place. Despite the law there have been stray instances of organ trade in India and these have been widely reported in the press. This resulted in the amendment of the law further in 2011. Deceased donation after brain death have slowly started happening in India and 2012 was the best year for the programme.

Efforts by various state governments:

In the year 2000 through the efforts of an NGO called MOHAN Foundation state of Tamil Nadu started an organ sharing network between a few hospitals. This NGO also set up similar sharing network in the state of Andhra Pradesh and these two states were at the forefront of deceased donation and transplantation programme for many years.Similar sharing networks came up in the states of Maharastra and Karnataka; however the numbers of deceased donation happening in these states were not sufficient to make much impact.

Tamil Nadu is the leader in deceased organ donation in the country. The small success of Tamil Nadu model has been possible due to the coming together of both government and private hospitals, NGOs and the State Health department. Most of the deceased donation programmes have been developed in southern states of India.

The various such programmes are as follows-

  • Andhra Pradesh – Jeevandan programme
  • Karnataka – Zonal Coordination Committee of Karnataka for Transplantation
  • Kerala – Mrithasanjeevani – The Kerala Network for Organ Sharing
  • Maharashtra – Zonal Transplant Coordination Center in Mumbai
  • Tamil Nadu – Cadaver Transplant Programme

Organ selling is legally banned in Asia.



India-Vietnam Relations

India-Vietnam relations have been exceptionally friendly and cordial since their foundations were laid by Prime Minister Nehru and President Ho Chi Minh more than 50 years ago. The traditionally close and cordial relations have their historical roots in the common struggle for liberation from foreign rule and the national struggle for independence.

Institutionalized mechanisms for bilateral exchanges

The Joint Commission Meeting at the Foreign Ministers’ level and the Foreign Office Consultations (FOCs) and Strategic Dialogue at Secretary-level provide the larger framework for bilateral cooperation in various areas. There is an annual Security Dialogue at Defence Secretary Level and a Joint Committee on Science and Technology that meets periodically. The India-Vietnam Joint Working Group on Educational Exchange was set up in 2012.

Economic and Commercial Relations

India’s relations with Vietnam are marked by growing economic and commercial engagement. India is now among the top ten trading partners of Vietnam.Bilateral trade between India and Vietnam has seen continuous growth over the past few years. India is now among the top ten trading partners of Vietnam. According to Vietnam’s official data, total trade volume touched US$ 3.94 billion in 2012. According to India’s official data, bilateral trade touched US$ 6.1 billion in 2012. This discrepancy is due to the fact that Vietnamese data does not include Indian exports/imports routed through third countries, such as Singapore or exports to third countries through Vietnam.

India granted the “Most Favoured Nation” status to Vietnam in 1975 and both nations signed a bilateral trade agreement in 1978 and the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) on March 8, 1997.

“Most favoured nation” (MFN) is a status or level of treatment accorded by one state to another in international trade. The term means the country which is the recipient of this treatment must, nominally, receive equal trade advantages as the “most favoured nation” by the country granting such treatment.

Defence Cooperation

The Indian Armed Forces have been engaged with the capacity building of the Vietnamese Armed Forces particularly the Navy. The areas of focus have been training, repairs and maintenance support, exchanges between think tanks, study tour and ship visits. India and Vietnam would be co-chairing the Expert Working Group on Humanitarian Mine Actions in the ADMM+ forum.

Science and Technology

The Joint Committee on Science and Technology meets periodically to review the progress made in cooperation in Science and Technology. The 9th meeting was heldin Hanoi in November 2012 at which the Programme of Cooperation (POC) in Science and Technology for 2013-14 was adopted by the two sides. The PoC provides for joint projects, seminars, workshops and exploratory visits of experts in the fields of biotechnology, material science, ICT, ocean development and oceanographic research, pharmaceuticals and medical research. Both sides have initiated a Joint Project forleather research and tannery waste recycling between Central Leather Research Institute of India and the Viet Nam Leather Research Institute.


Assistance to Vietnam within the ASEAN framework

India has set up the Vietnam-India Center for English Language Training in Danang in July 2007 and the Vietnam-India Entrepreneurship Development Centre in Hanoi in May 2006 as part of its support to the Initiative for ASEAN Integration providing technical assistance to the Government of Vietnam. It has been decided to open a new Vietnam-India Centre for English Language Training at the National Defence Academy of Vietnam. Both sides have also agreed to consider setting up a Vocational Training Centre in Ho Chi Minh City.A proposal to set up a Centre for Satellite Tracking and Data Reception and an Imaging facility in Vietnam under ASEAN-India Cooperation mechanism is under consideration. The Centre will be fully funded by India and ISRO will be the implementing agency. It will utilise data provided by Indian remote sensing satellites and harness it for multiple developmental applications.Assistance through IBSA: IBSA funded Rice Seed Improvement Project in Danang is ongoing with a grant from IBSA fund of US$ 529,000. An e-learning project for medical training at the Haiphong Medical University is under consideration.


Cultural Relations and People to People Exchanges

The year 2012 marked the 40th anniversary of the establishment of full diplomatic relations between India and Vietnam. The year 2012 also marked the 20th anniversary of partnership between India and ASEAN. The two sides celebrated it as the ‘Year of Friendship between India and Vietnam’ with activities such as commemorative seminars, business events, performances by cultural troupes, organizing film festivals, culinary week and art exhibitions.

Conservation and restoration of Cham monuments: The Archaeological Survey of India will execute a conservation and restoration project at the UNESCO heritage site of My Son in Vietnam. The project will highlight the old linkages of the Hindu Cham civilization between India and Vietnam. An MoU is under discussion, project duration would be 5 yrs.


Sources: THE HINDU,, WIKI.


Food Security Act beneficiaries yet to be identified

More than a year after the National Food Security Act (NFSA) was passed, beneficiaries are yet to be identified as States have delayed specifying fresh criteria and completing verification. Even the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC), which was proposed in 2011 as a comprehensive survey to identify socio-economic characteristics of the poor and to be used to identify NFSA beneficiaries, is more than two years behind its scheduled May 2012 completion.

The agencies involved in the SECC are — the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD), the Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL), the nodal agency to provide enumeration devices and data entry operators, and state officials.

The National Food Security Act, 2013 (also Right to Food Act) is an Act of the Parliament of India which aims to provide subsidized food grains to approximately two thirds of India’s total population.

Salient features:

  • 75% rural and 50% of the urban population are entitled for three years from enactment to five kg food grains per month at rupees 3 , 2 ,1 per kg for rice, wheat and coarse grains (millet), respectively.
  • The states are responsible for determining eligibility.
  • Pregnant women and lactating mothers are entitled to a nutritious “take home ration” of 600 Calories and a maternity benefit of at least Rs 6,000 for six months.
  • Children 6 months to 14 years of age are to receive free hot meals or “take home rations”.
  • The central government will provide funds to states in case of short supplies of food grains.
  • The current food grain allocation of the states will be protected by the central government for at least six months.
  • The state government will provide a food security allowance to the beneficiaries in case of non-supply of food grains.
  • The Public Distribution System is to be reformed.
  • The eldest woman in the household, 18 years or above, is the head of the household for the issuance of the ration card.
  • There will be state- and district-level redress mechanisms.and
  • State Food Commissions will be formed for implementation and monitoring of the provisions of the Act.
  • The cost of the implementation is estimated to be $22 billion(1.25 lac crore), approximately 1.5% of GDP.
  • The poorest who are covered under the Antodaya yojna will remain entitled to the 35 kg of grains allotted to them under the mentioned scheme.



    Sources: THE HINDU,WIKI.



Two national calamities in quick succession in the form of Orissa Super Cyclone (1999) and Gujarat Earthquake (2001) brought about the realization of the need of having a specialist response mechanism at National Level to effectively respond to disasters. This realization led to the enactment of the DM Act on 26 Dec 2005. The NDMA was constituted to lay down the policies, plans and guidelines for disaster management.

The DM Act has made the statutory provisions for constitution of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) for the purpose of specialized response to natural and man-made disasters.

The force is gradually emerging as the most visible and vibrant multi–disciplinary, multi-skilled, high-tech, stand alone force capable of dealing with all types of natural and man-made disasters.

The DM Act, 2005 envisages a paradigm shift from the erstwhile response centric syndrome to a proactive, holistic and integrated management of disasters with emphasis on prevention, mitigation and preparedness. This national vision inter alia, aims at inculcating a culture of preparedness among all stakeholders.

NDRF has proved its importance in achieving this vision by highly skilled rescue and relief operations, regular and intensive training and re-training, capacity building & familiarization exercises within the area of responsibility of respective NDRF Bns, carrying out mock drills and joint exercises with the various stakeholders.

Vision of NDRF is to emerge as the most visible and vibrant multi-disciplinary, multi-skilled, high-tech force capable to deal with all types of natural as well as manmade disasters and to mitigate the effects of disasters.


  •   Specialized response during disasters
  •  Proactive deployment during impending disaster situations
  •   Acquire and continually upgrade its own training and skills
  •  Liaison, Reconnaissance, Rehearsals and Mock Drills
  •   Impart basic and operational level training to State Response Forces (Police, Civil Defence and Home Guards)

    Vis-à-vis Community- All NDRF Bns are actively engaged in various:

  •  Community Capacity Building Programme
  • Public Awareness Campaign
  • Exhibitions : Posters, Pamphlets, literatures 


  • The only dedicated disaster response force of the world.
  • The only agency with comprehensive response capabilities having multi-disciplinary and multi-skilled, high-tech, stand alone nature.
  • Experienced paramilitary personnel specially trained and equipped for disaster response.
  • Capabilities for undertaking disaster response, prevention, mitigation and capacity building.


Sources: PIB,