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Insights Daily Current Events, 23 February 2016

Insights Daily Current Events, 23 February 2016



Paper 3 Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

NASA working on crunching a Mars trip to three days

NASA researchers are working on a technology that could harness the power of light and reduce the time taken to reach mars from the current five months to just three days.

Which is that technology?

The technology is known as ‘Photonic Propulsion’ system.

How it operates?

This technology uses lasers to propel the spacecrafts with giant sails. The system operates on photons particles of light to move forward.

Current practice:

Currently, when a spacecraft is launched, the thrust comes from burning a chemical, such as rocket fuel. This fuel weighs down the spacecraft.

Why Photonic Propulsion is better than the old one?

Current technology is an inefficient system when compared to using light or other electromagnetic radiation to accelerate objects. It is because Electromagnetic acceleration is only limited by the speed of light while chemical systems are limited to the energy of chemical processes.

sources: the hindu.


Paper 1 Topic: Physical geogrraphy (Prelims)


An article related to Auroras was published in today’s Hindu paper.

What is Aurora?

An Aurora is a display of light in the sky predominantly seen in the high latitude regions (Arctic and Antarctic). It is also known as a Polar light.


There are two types- the aurora borealis and aurora australis – often called the northern lights and southern lights.

Where do they occur?

They commonly occur at high northern and southern latitudes, less frequent at mid-latitudes, and seldom seen near the equator.


While usually a milky greenish color, auroras can also show red, blue, violet, pink, and white. These colors appear in a variety of continuously changing shapes.

Science behind their occurrence:

Auroras are a spectacular sign that our planet is electrically connected to the Sun. These light shows are provoked by energy from the Sun and fueled by electrically charged particles trapped in Earth’s magnetic field.

  • The typical aurora is caused by collisions between fast-moving electrons from space with the oxygen and nitrogen in Earth’s upper atmosphere.
  • The electrons—which come from the Earth’s magnetosphere, the region of space controlled by Earth’s magnetic field —transfer their energy to the oxygen and nitrogen atoms and molecules, making them “excited”.
  • As the gases return to their normal state, they emit photons, small bursts of energy in the form of light.
  • When a large number of electrons come from the magnetosphere to bombard the atmosphere, the oxygen and nitrogen can emit enough light for the eye to detect, giving us beautiful auroral displays.


Where do they origin?

  • They origin at altitudes of 100 to more than 400 km.

Why do auroras come in different colors and shapes?

The color of the aurora depends on which gas — oxygen or nitrogen — is being excited by the electrons, and on how excited it becomes. The color also depends upon how fast the electrons are moving, or how much energy they have at the time of their collisions.

  • High energy electrons cause oxygen to emit green light (the most familiar color of the aurora), while low energy electrons cause a red light. Nitrogen generally gives off a blue light.
  • The blending of these colors can also lead to purples, pinks, and whites. The oxygen and nitrogen also emit ultraviolet light, which can be detected by special cameras on satellites.


Auroras affect communication lines, radio lines and power lines.

It should also be noted here that Sun’s energy, in the form of solar wind, is behind the whole process.

sources: the hindu, nasa.


Paper 3 Topic: IPR.

No patents for standalone software

According to the latest guidelines of the Office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs & Trade Marks (CGPDTM), mere computer programmes — those not in conjunction with a novel hardware — will not be granted patent in India.

  • With this, the CGPDTM has agreed with a Parliamentary panel which had observed that computer programmes as such are not intended to be granted patent.
  • The fresh guidelines issued by the CGPDTM follows its stay on its August 2015 guidelines which had given rise to some confusion in this regard owing to certain “ambiguities” regarding whether Computer Related Inventions (CRIs) are patentable.
  • The new guidelines have been aligned to the Patents Act.

The objective of the guidelines is to bring out clarity in terms of exclusions expected under sub-section 3(k) of the Patents Act so that eligible applications of patents relating to CRIs can be examined speedily.

Sub-section 3(k):

The sub-section 3(k) says mathematical methods or business methods or computer programme per se or algorithms are not patentable.


The implication of these guidelines is that start-ups and software developers will continue to have the freedom to innovate without worrying about litigation in this area and infringement notices. Ambiguous guidelines, like those published in August last year, would have resulted in a patent minefield like in the U.S.

Way ahead:

The CGPDTM has asked the patent examiners to properly construe the claim and identify the actual contribution. If the contribution lies only in mathematical method, business method or algorithm, then the claim will be denied.


  • The Office of CGPDTM supervises the working of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) laws in India.
  • It supervises the working of the Patents Act, 1970, as amended, the Designs Act, 2000 and the Trade Marks Act, 1999 and also renders advice to the Government on matters relating to these subjects.
  • In order to protect the Geographical Indications of goods a Geographical Indications Registry has also been established in Chennai to administer the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registeration and Protection) Act, 1999 under the CGPDTM.
  • The CGPDTM reports to the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion(DIPP) under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

sources: the hindu.


Paper 3 Topic:  Environmental pollution.

India’s pollution levels beat China’s: study

According to a report released by the Greenpeace, the average Indian was exposed to more particulate matter than the average Chinese citizen in 2015. This has happened for the first time in the 21st century.

  • The report was based on the analysis of NASA’s satellite data on particulate matter from 2003 to 2015 in India and China.
  • The study also looked at the aerosol optical depth (AOD), which is the amount of fine solid particles and liquid droplets in air.

Highlights of the report:

  • Pollution levels in China peaked in 2011 and then started to gradually reduce. India, however, saw a spike over the past decade, the last year being the worst on record.
  • The levels in India have increased over the years, with north India being the most polluted part of the country. The biggest jump was seen in West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and the National Capital Region.
  • With a population-weighted analysis, the report found that the average citizen in India was exposed to more pollution in 2015 than his or her Chinese counterpart.
  • The report said that the AOD levels in Indian cities — Patna, Kolkata, New Delhi, Gorakhpur, Kanpur and Varanasi — all went up from 2005 to 2015. But not all of the highly-polluted big cities are covered by the air pollution monitoring network.
  • There are 89 cities with a population of more than five lakhs, but only 17 have continuous air quality monitoring systems. The National Air Quality Index covers 23 cities with 39 stations, as opposed to 1,500 monitoring stations in China. Among the most polluted cities that lack continuous monitoring data are Durgapur, Gorakhpur, Asansol, Shiliguri, Bareilly and Ludhiana.
  • China’s actions have led to a 17% reduction in PM2.5 from 2010 to 2015, while India saw a 13% increase over the same period. In comparison, the United States saw a 15% decrease.

After a public outcry, China implemented a national air pollution action plan in 2013, that included stricter emission norms for coal-based power plants and industries, and greater enforcement of standards. The results of these measures show in the satellite data — there is a slight reduction in pollution in Central and Eastern China.

Way ahead:

China is an example of how determined policies and tougher enforcement can turn the tide on air pollution to people’s benefit.

  • Now, India too needs to adopt strict and time-bound measures. And India should also set a deadline for meeting air quality standards.

sources: the hindu.


Paper 2 Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

ECI Hosts Executive Board Meeting of Association of World Election Bodies (A-Web)

Election Commission of India (ECI) recently hosted the 4th Executive Board meeting of the Association of World Election Bodies (A-WEB) in New Delhi.

Key facts:

  • ECI is currently serving its second term as a member of the Executive Board of the world body.
  • The meeting was chaired by Mr. Roberto Rosario Marquez, President of the Central Electoral Board of the Dominican Republic.
  • Romania participated as the current vice-chair of the organisation.
  • The Executive Board meets annually to discuss important issues and report to the General Assembly of the Association which meets every two years.
  • ECI will also host a seminar for the delegates on “Leveraging Technology for Transparent and Credible Elections”.


Association of World Election Bodies was established in 2013 and has 106 members from 102 countries.

  • The members comprise national Election Management Bodies and some regional associations and international electoral organisations.
  • A-WEB’s vision is to foster efficiency and effectiveness in conducting free, fair, transparent and participative elections worldwide.
  • Its activities are guided by its mission to identify latest trends, challenges and developments in democratic electoral management and electoral processes and to facilitate appropriate exchange of experience and expertise among members with the objective of strengthening electoral democracy worldwide.

sources: the hindu.


Paper 3 Topic: disaster management.

Seismic Microzonation reports

The centre recently released Seismic microzonation reports for Delhi and Kolkata.

Microzonation helps to minimize the impact of earthquakes by:

  • Proper assessment of Seismic Hazard.
  • Implementation of safe building construction codes.
  • Adopting appropriate land-use planning.

About Microzonation:

Seismic microzonation is a process of identifying geological, seismological, hydrological and geotechnical site characteristics in a specific region.

  • These would help design of safe structures to reduce loss of human life. Under microzonation the emphasis is given on the impact of earthquake on the habitat.
  • Under the microzonation process various investigations viz, ambient noise survey, Multi-Channel Analysis of Surface Waves (MASW) survey, in-situ geotechnical testing, in-situ seismic measurements etc. will be carried out.
  • After analysis of data sets different maps viz., Peak Ground Acceleration (PGA), spectral accelerations for different periods, liquefaction potential, predominant frequency, amplification factor, average shear wave velocity at 30 meters depth, geology & geomorphology and projected Hazard Scenarios at GIS platform etc. will be prepared.


Earlier a seismic zoning map for entire India was prepared and published by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), classifying the entire country into 4 major groups Zone-V (High intensity) to Zone-II (Low intensity). These zones encompass wider area for which specific design spectra is commonly used, despite geological and geo-morphological variability within the respective zones.

sources: pib.


Topic: general awareness. (Prelims)

Swachh Parayatan Mobile App

The centre has launched Swachh Parayatan Mobile App.

  • This project is being implemented by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India through DeGS and NIC.
  • This mobile app shall be monitored by the Project Monitoring Unit of Swachh Bharat Mission in Ministry of Tourism.
  • Using this app the general public can communicate their complaints about any unclean area/garbage piles in and around tourist destinations.

How it operates?

  • This mobile app enables a citizen to take photograph of garbage at the monument and upload the same along with his/her remarks.
  • The application then sends an SMS to the ASI Nodal Officer concerned with the monument upon receipt of which the Nodal Officer gets the garbage cleared/removed.
  • The Nodal Officer thereafter sends confirmation about the redressal of the complaint through an SMS to the complainant.

To start with, 25 Adarsh Smarak Monuments protected by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) have been identified for inclusion in the app. The application would be scaled up to include more monuments as the campaign expands.

sources: pib.


Paper 3 Topic: economic development.

PM Modi Launches ‘Rurban Mission’

Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently launched Shyama Prasad Mukherjee National Rurban Mission.

  • The mission was launched from Kurubhat village in Dongargarh block of Rajnandgaon district in Chhattisgarh.

Aim of the mission:

The Rurban Mission seeks to develop smart village on the line of smart cities and reduce the burden of migration to the cities through adopting ‘cluster approach’.


  • Under the scheme, the State Governments would identify the clusters in accordance with the framework for implementation prepared by the Ministry of Rural Development.
  • For the selection of clusters, an objective analysis at the district, sub district and village level, of the demography, economy, tourism and pilgrimage significance and transportation corridor impact will be carried out.
  • The clusters will be geographically contiguous Gram Panchayats with a population of about 25000 to 50000 in plain and coastal areas and a population of 5000 to 15000 in desert, hilly or tribal areas. The mission also aims to set up these clusters by 2019-20 across the country.

Components of the scheme:

  • The scheme will function with 14 mandatory components to ensure an optimum level of development of a cluster, which include skill development training linked to economic activities, digital literacy, fully equipped mobile health unit and inter-village road connectivity.
  • The other components of the scheme in clusters will be providing citizen service centres- for electronic delivery of citizen centric services and e-gram connectivity, public transport, LPG gas connections, agro processing, agri services including storage and warehousing, sanitation, provision of piped water supply, solid and liquid waste management and upgrading education facilities.


  • The funding will be through various schemes of the government converged into the cluster.
  • The mission will provide an additional funding support of up to 30% of the project cost per cluster as critical gap funding as central share to enable development of such ‘rurban clusters’.
  • The cost of developing a cluster might vary between Rs 50 crore and Rs 52 crore.
  • The preferred mode of delivery would be through public-private-partnerships while using various scheme funds.

sources: pib.


Other updates:

  1. A committee headed by Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu has been constituted to look into the demands of the Jat community for reservations in government jobs in Haryana.
  2. Bihar recently joined the Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana (Uday) scheme. It is the sixth state to join this scheme.