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Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 21 August 2019

Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 21 August 2019

Relevant articles from PIB:

GS Paper 3:

Topics covered:

  1. Awareness in space.



What to study?

For prelims and mains: Key objectives, significance, payloads of the mission.


Context: The second moon mission of India, the Chandrayaan-2 has been precisely inserted in defined orbit.

Next in line is the landing mission. The soft landing will be near lunar South Pole



It was launched from Sriharikota on 22nd July this year.

It was launched on-board the powerful Geostationary satellite launch vehicle (GSLV)-Mk-111 M-1.

While the orbiter would revolve around the moon for an year, Lander Vikram and Rover Pragyan have a lifespan of 14 days, after starting operations on the lunar surface.


With Chandryaan-2, India will become only the fourth country in the world to land a rover on the Moon. Previously, the United States, Russia and China have landed rovers on the Moon.

However, none have landed near the south pole of the Moon.

Israel attempted a ‘soft landing’ near the south pole this year, but the mission failed and the Israeli probe crashed instead.

Goals and objectives of the mission:

The primary objective of Chandrayaan 2 is to demonstrate the ability to soft-land on the lunar surface and operate a robotic rover on the surface.

Scientific goals include studies of lunar topography, mineralogy, elemental abundance, the lunar exosphere, and signatures of hydroxyl and water ice.


Other objectives of the mission:

  1. To identify or to find out the minerals and indicators of hydroxyl and water molecules.
  2. To study the surface of the moon.
  3. To study the density of the electrons in the Moon’s ionosphere that is the uppermost part of the atmosphere that is ionised by radiation.
  4. The Orbiter will observe the lunar surface and relay communication between Earth and Chandrayaan 2’s Lander



Why is the study of the Moon important?

The Moon is the closest celestial body at which space discovery can be attempted and documented. It is also a promising testbed to illustrate technologies required for deep-space missions. Chandrayaan-2 attempts to foster a new age of discovery, increase our understanding of space, stimulate the advancement of technology, promote global alliances, and inspire a future generation of explorers and scientists.

Extensive mapping of lunar surface to study variations in lunar surface composition is essential to trace back the origin and evolution of the Moon. Evidence for water molecules discovered by Chandrayaan-1, requires further studies on the extent of water molecule distribution on the surface, below the surface and in the tenuous lunar exosphere to address the origin of water on the Moon.


  1. 1st space mission to conduct a soft landing on the Moon’s south polar region.
  2. 1st Indian expedition to attempt a soft landing on the lunar surface with home-grown technology.
  3. 1st Indian mission to explore the lunar terrain with home-grown technology.
  4. 4th country ever to soft land on the lunar surface.


Relevant articles from various news sources:


GS Paper 3:

Topics covered:

  1. Awareness in space.

Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission


What to study?

For prelims and mains: Key features, objectives and significance of the mission.


Context: The Magnetospheric Multiscale mission (MMS) recently made the first precise measurements of an interplanetary shock using high-resolution instruments.

These interplanetary shocks provide ideal test beds for learning about larger universal phenomena.


About Magnetospheric Mission:

NASA’s MMS investigates how the Sun’s and Earth’s magnetic fields connect and disconnect, explosively transferring energy from one to the other in a process that is important at the Sun, other planets, and everywhere in the universe, known as magnetic reconnection.

Reconnection limits the performance of fusion reactors and is the final governor of geospace weather that affects modern technological systems such as telecommunications networks, GPS navigation, and electrical power grids.


Science Goals:
MMS reveals, for the first time, the small-scale three-dimensional structure and dynamics of the elusively thin and fast-moving electron diffusion region.

It does this in both of the key reconnection regions near Earth, where the most energetic events originate. 


Mission Objective:

  1. By observing magnetic reconnection in nature, MMS provides access to predictive knowledge of a universal process that is the final governor of space weather, affecting modern technological systems such as communications networks, GPS navigation, and electrical power grids.
  2. MMS will establish knowledge, methods and technologies applicable to future space weather missions and the future growth and development of space weather forecasting.
  3. MMS sensors will measure charged particle velocities, as well as electric and magnetic fields, with unprecedented (milliseconds) time resolution and accuracy needed to capture the elusively thin and fast-moving electron diffusion region.
  4. MMS probes reconnection of solar and terrestrial magnetic fields in the dayside and nightside of Earth’s magnetosphere, the only natural laboratory where it can be directly observed by spacecraft.


Sources: Down to Earth.

GS Paper 3:

Topics covered:

  1. Conservation and pollution related issues.


World Bank report on water pollution


What to study?

For prelims: Water pollution- key contributors, impacts and About BoD.

For mains: Effects, concerns over water pollution, challenges present and ways to address them.


Context: World Bank has released a report on Water Pollution.

The report relied on what the Bank said was the biggest-ever database assembled on global water quality using monitoring stations, satellite data and machine learning models.


Key findings:

Concerns raised:

  1. Clean water is a key factor for economic growth. Deteriorating water quality is stalling economic growth, worsening health conditions, reducing food production, and exacerbating poverty in many countries.
  2. Heavily polluted water is reducing economic growth by up to a third in some countries.
  3. When Biological Oxygen Demand — an index of the degree of organic pollution and a proxy for overall water pollution — crosses a threshold of 8 milligrams per liter, GDP growth in downstream regions drops by 0.83 percentage points, about a third for the mean growth rate of 2.33 percent used in the study.
  4. A key contributor to poor water quality is nitrogen, essential for agricultural production but which leaches into rivers and oceans where it creates hypoxia and dead zones, and in the air where it forms nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas.
  5. Early exposure of children to nitrates affects their growth and brain development, reducing their health and earning potential.
  6. For every additional kilogram of nitrogen fertilizer per hectare, yields may rise up to five percent, but childhood stunting increases as much as 19 percent and future adult earnings fall by up to two percent compared to those not affected.
  7. And increased salinity as a result of manmade pressures such as irrigation, stormwater runoff, leaching of fertilizer, and urban wastewater discharge is pushing down agricultural yields.
  8. The report estimated enough food is lost to saline water each year to feed 170 million people, about the population of Bangladesh.


What needs to be done- key recommendations?

  1. Need for action to address human and environmental harm.
  2. Information campaigns to raise awareness.
  3. Prevention efforts to stem some of the worst problems.
  4. Investments to treat pollution once it has occurred, with more modern technologies like reverse-osmosis offering new pathways.


Sources: the Hindu.

GS Paper 2:

Topics covered:

  1. Issues related to health.


New anti-tuberculosis drug


What to study?

For prelims and mains: Key features and significance of the new drug, Need for, and concerns associated with drug resistant tb.


Context: U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a new drug Pretomanid for treating drug-resistant tuberculosis — multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) and extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB).


Key facts:

  1. Pretomanid is only the third new anti-TB drug approved for use by FDA in more than 40 years.
  2. Pretomanid will be part of the three-drug regimen for drug approval by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
  3. The duration of treatment for drug-resistant TB can be drastically cut from 18-24 months to just six-nine months when pretomanid drug is used along with two already approved drugs — bedaquiline and linezolid.
  4. The all-oral, three-drug regimen can also vastly improve the treatment success rate and potentially decrease the number of deaths due to better adherence to treatment.

How widespread is MDR-TB and XDR-TB? 

People with TB who do not respond to at least isoniazid and rifampicin, which are first-line TB drugs are said to have MDR-TB.

People who are resistant to isoniazid and rifampin, plus any fluoroquinolone and at least one of three injectable second-line drugs (amikacin, kanamycin, or capreomycin) are said to have XDR-TB.

  • As per the World Health Organisation’s Global Tuberculosis Report 2018, an estimated 4.5 lakh people across the world have MDR-TB and nearly 37,500 people have XDR-TB.
  • India has 24% of MDR-TB cases in the world. By the end of 2017, XDR-TB had been reported from 127 countries, including India.


What is tuberculosis (TB)?

It is a disease caused by bacteria that are spread from person to person through the air. TB usually affects the lungs, but it can also affect other parts of the body, such as the brain, the kidneys, or the spine.

In most cases, TB is treatable and curable; however, persons with TB can die if they do not get proper treatment.


How does drug resistance happen?

Resistance to anti-TB drugs can occur when these drugs are misused or mismanaged. Examples include when patients do not complete their full course of treatment; when health-care providers prescribe the wrong treatment, the wrong dose, or length of time for taking the drugs; when the supply of drugs is not always available; or when the drugs are of poor quality.



Way ahead:

Making the drug affordable to those with extreme form of drug resistance will be highly commendable and a desperately needed model to be followed. After all, there is a compulsion to keep the prices low and increase treatment uptake to stop the spread of highly drug-resistant TB bacteria.


Sources: the Hindu.

GS paper 3:

Topics Covered:

Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.


Fly ash


What to study?

For prelims: What is fly ash, how is it produced and where it can be used?

For mains: Concerns associated with its contamination, what needs to be done and legislative measures necessary.


Context: IIT Hyderabad scientists convert fly ash into waterproofing material.

Treating fly ash with stearic acid, used in soaps and shampoos, modified the nature of fly ash and helped develop materials with contrasting adhesion behaviours — high adhesions like a rose petal and low adhesion like a lotus leaf.


What is Fly Ash?

Fly ash is a major source of PM 2.5 (fine, respirable pollution particles) in summer. It becomes air borne, and gets transported to a radius of 10 to 20 kms.

It can settle on water and other surfaces.



Fly ash contains heavy metals from coal, a large amount of PM 2.5 and black carbon (BC).


Health and environmental hazards:

Toxic heavy metals present: All the heavy metals found in fly ash nickel, cadmium, arsenic, chromium, lead, etc—are toxic in nature. They are minute, poisonous particles accumulate in the respiratory tract, and cause gradual poisoning .

Radiation: For an equal amount of electricity generated, fly ash contains a hundred times more radiation than nuclear waste secured via dry cask or water storage.

Water pollution: The breaching of ash dykes and consequent ash spills occur frequently in India, polluting a large number of water bodies.

Effects on environment: The destruction of mangroves, drastic reduction in crop yields, and the pollution of groundwater in the Rann of Kutch from the ash sludge of adjoining Coal power plants has been well documented.


The issues which impede its full-scale utilization in India:

  1. Indian fly ash is primarily of the calcareous or class C variety, implying that it possesses not only pozzolanic, but also hydraulic (self-cementing) properties. In contrast, European fly ash is of a silicious or class F variety, implying an absence of hydraulic properties.
  2. BIS revised the maximum and minimum blending standards. While the BIS is in line with the American standards on blended cement, the European and South African standards allow the blending of fly ash up to 55%.
  3. The pricing of fly ash is increasingly becoming a contentious issue that is hampering its gainful utilisation.
  4. Imperfections typical of quasi-markets, such as information asymmetry and high transaction costs, vested interests, technical and technological limitations, and the lack of regulatory oversight and political will, have impeded the flow of fly ash to its most value-adding use. 


How can it be utilised?

  1. Fly ash is a proven resource material for many applications of construction industries and currently is being utilized in manufacturing of Portland Cement, bricks/blocks/tiles manufacturing, road embankment construction and low-lying area development, etc.
  2. There is need for education and awareness generation.
  3. Road contractors and construction engineers need to know the benefits of using fly ash in construction.
  4. Measures need to be taken to reduce the cost of construction of roads using fly ash by way of tax structure, subsidies and transportation services.
  5. There is also a need to prevent the ash from coming to the power plant by washing the coal at its place of origin.
  6. The government should also come out with a policy to encourage fly ash use in cement plant.


Need of the hour:

  1. Conduct more research on improving the quality of fly ash, grading fly ash generated by different technologies and types of coal, and feasible blending ratios for the cement industry.
  2. The BIS must update the blending standards, which have not been revised since 2000.
  3. Improve transparency and reduce the costs of fly ash disposal by Coal power plants.
  4. Limit fly ash production through greater deployment of renewable energy sources, using better coal and combustion techniques, etc, since cement-related industries alone will not be able to absorb all the fly ash generated in the future
  5. The key requirements for overcoming the barriers are greater regulatory oversight and price control, revision of cement blending standards, research in improving fly ash quality, reducing cost of transportation, provisions for overcoming information asymmetries, and overall sensitisation of key decision-makers on the matter.


Sources: the Hindu.


Facts for Prelims:


Van Mahotsava:

It is an annual tree planting festival.

In 1950, it was started by K. M. Munshi, the Union Minister for Agriculture and Food at that time.

It was started to create awareness in the mind of the people for the conservation of forests and planting of new trees.


Who was Pangloss?

Professor Pangloss was a character in Candide, ou l’Optimisme (translated into English as Candide: Optimism), a satirical novella published by the French Enlightenment philosopher François-Marie Arouet a.k.a. Voltaire in 1759.

Pangloss was convinced that “all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds”, an idea that he also taught his young student, Candide.

A Panglossian way of life is one of extreme optimism, in which you are convinced whatever happens is for the best, and hence make no effort to change it.

Why in News? Mentioned by RBI governor in his recent speech.


What is Sericin?

Produced by silkworms, it is a silk protein which is known to possess anti-oxidant and other medicinal properties.

These properties depend on amino acid composition and secondary metabolites (polyphenols and flavonoids) of sericin.

They vary with source of silkworms and their availability depends on the length of sericin peptides obtained during extraction.

Uses: It could be used for protection from oxidative damage, edema, erythema, sunburn, premature aging, wrinkling, and skin cancer.


Summaries of important Editorials:


A top post, its promise and peril- About CDS:

Context: On Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).


When was it first proposed?

Officially, this post was first proposed by the Group of Ministers Report in 2001 but the idea for a CDS can be traced back to Lord Louis Mountbatten, the architect of India’s higher defence organisation.


Challenges ahead and ways to address them:

  1. Implementation is key: The Prime Minister needs to be bold with this initiative and should understand that his military and civilian advisers, institutionally, have an interest in undermining it.
  2. An “implementation committee” has been established comprising the Defence Secretary, Chief of Integrated Defence Staff and other unnamed officers. This itself is a mistake. The committee should ideally be headed by a political leader and/or a rank outsider, who should have no skin in the game. Indeed, the experience of defence reforms in other countries suggests that it is best to have qualified ‘outsiders’ involved in the process. Serving officials can of course assist such an individual or a team but expecting them to, if necessary, curtail their own powers is quixotic.
  3. Appointing the first CDS: The government need not go with the seniority rule and should instead consider a “deep selection” from current pool of flag officers. To begin with, and to assuage the fears of the smaller services, it may be wise to not let an Army officer to first tenet this post. Moreover, it is not necessary, or perhaps even desirable, for a former service chief to be appointed as the CDS. As a fulcrum for future defence transformation and armed with a possible mandate to examine inter-services prioritisation, long-term planning, officer education (including the perennially-imminent Indian National Defence University) and jointness, the CDS can emerge as the biggest “game changer”.
  4. Inter-se relations between the military and the Ministry of Defence: This needs to focus on capacity, expertise, decision-making powers and aligning responsibility and accountability. The relations between the civilian bureaucracy and the military are among the biggest fault-lines in the defence apparatus and remedial actions are required, on both sides, to create a professional, well-developed and qualified bureaucracy which integrates both civilian-military expertise.


Need for a CDS:

India’s is perhaps the only large military wherein the service chiefs retain both operational and staff functions. This anomaly cannot continue merely because that is the tradition. If this government wants a “new India” it will have to break decisively from the past and draw up a time-bound road map to divest the chiefs of their operational command.


About the Chief of Defence Staff:

The CDS is a high military office that oversees and coordinates the working of the three Services.


Roles and functions of CDS:

  1. CDS shall provide “effective leadership at the top level” to the three wings of the armed forces, and to help improve coordination among them.
  2. It offers seamless tri-service views and single-point advice to the Executive (in India’s case, to the Prime Minister) on long-term defence planning and management, including manpower, equipment and strategy, and above all, “jointsmanship” in operations.