Current Affairs 1st March

ISRO puts Brazil’s Amazonia-1, 18 other satellites into orbit #GS3 #SnT

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully launched Brazil’s optical earth observation satellite, Amazonia-1, and 18 co-passenger satellites — five from India and 13 from the U.S. — from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota.

The satellites were carried on board the PSLV-C51, the 53rd flight of ISRO’s launch vehicle and the first dedicated mission of its commercial arm, NewSpace India Ltd. The mission was undertaken under a commercial arrangement with Spaceflight Inc., U.S.

The PSLV-C51, equipped with two solid strap-on boosters, the third such launch of the PSLV-DL variant, lifted off at 10.24 a.m. from the first launch pad at Sriharikota.

The satellites from India are the Satish Dhawan SAT (SDSAT) built by Space Kidz India, a nano-satellite intended to study the radiation levels, space weather and demonstrate long-range communication technologies; the UNITYsat, a combination of three satellites for providing radio relay services; and another satellite belonging to the DRDO.

The SDSAT has an engraving of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the top panel to show solidarity for the aatmanirbhar initiative and space privatisation. The Bhagavad Gita was also sent on board an SD card to give the scripture, which teaches oneness as the highest form of humanity, the highest honour.

The UNITYsat was designed and built as a joint development by Jeppiar Institute of Technology, Sriperumbudur, G.H. Raisoni College of Engineering, Nagpur and Sri Shakthi Institute of Engineering and Technology, Coimbatore.

Amazonia-1 was injected into its precise orbit of 758 km in a sun-synchronous polar orbit. Thereafter, other 18 customer satellites were placed into their intended orbits. The operation took about 1 hour and 55 minutes. 

Benefit of the NewsIndia- Brazil relations; Space technology achievement for ISRO

Satellite launch a high point in space ties, say India, Brazil #GS2 #IR

The successful launch of Brazil’s Amazonia-1 satellite by the Indian Space Research Organisation marks a new high point in space cooperation between the two countries that began nearly two decades ago.

The launch was witnessed by the visiting Brazilian Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Marcos Pontes, and the heads of the Brazilian Space Agency (AEB) and the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) at Sriharikota.

“This confirms the infinite potential of the [India-Brazil] partnership to overcome our development challenges through high technology,” Brazilian Ambassador Andre Aranha Correa do Lago told The Hindu , adding that the new satellite would “open the door for multiple business and governmental opportunities” and help “fulfil the environmental commitments of the Brazilian government” towards the Amazon rainforest.

The launch also marked the first dedicated mission of ISRO’s commercial arm NewSpace India Ltd. (NSIL).

The unique relationship between both countries has ensured support for each other’s satellites and the use of each other’s ground stations, including tracking India’s Chandrayaan-1&2 missions and the 2013 Mangalyaan Mars Orbiter Mission using Brazilian earth stations Alcantara and Cuiaba. 

Brazil and India first signed an MoU between the Department of Space and AEB in March 2002, followed by a Framework Agreement in 2004, that is reviewed by a Joint Working Group (JWG). In 2007 they inked a special arrangement which allows Indian scientists access to Brazilian ground stations to remote sensing data from the Indian satellites.

Benefit of the NewsIndia- Brazil relations

In Nagaland, an itch to revive prickly cages for lawbreakers #GS1 #Culture

Some villages in Nagaland are trying to revive a traditional form of punishment that seeks to check crime with an itch in time. Social offenders or violators of Naga customary laws have over the ages dreaded a cramped, triangular cage made from the logs of an indigenous tree that irritates the skin.

The dread is more of humiliation or loss of face within the community or clan than of spending at least a day scratching furiously without any space to move.

Such itchy cages are referred to as khujli ghar in Nagamese — a pidgin lingua franca — but each Naga community has its own name. The Aos, one of the major tribes of Nagaland, call it Shi-ki that means flesh-house.

A few villages where traditional practices are very strong still prescribe this form of punishment, a deterrent for offenders of various shades, including robbers and drug addicts. Many villages are trying to revive it.

In full public view

The cage is usually placed at a central spot in the village, usually in front of the morung, or bachelor’s dormitory, for the inmate to be in full public view. “The cage is made of the logs of Masang-fung, a local tree that people avoid because of the irritation it causes. It does not affect the palm but people who make the cages have to be careful

Benefit of the NewsAbout Nagaland tribe naming “Aos” and about “Shi-ki”

PM calls for water conservation drive #GS2 #Governance

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said there was a need to start conserving water right away and that the Jal Shakti Ministry would be launching a 100-day “catch the rain” campaign soon.

“In most parts of India, rainfall begins in May-June. Can we right away start a 100-day campaign for the sake of cleaning up the water sources around us and conserving rainwater? With this very thought in mind, in a few days from now, Jal Shakti Abhiyan ‘catch the rain’ is being initiated by the Jal Shakti Ministry.

Since it was National Science Day on Sunday, Mr. Modi said the youth should learn about the history of science in India and scientists.

‘Self-reliant India’

“Friends, when we talk of science, many a time people restrict it to physics, chemistry or labs, but the spread of science is much more than that. And there is a lot of contribution of the power of science to the Atmanirbhar Bharat campaign. We have to move science forward with the mantra of ‘Lab to Land’.

For making India more self-reliant, Mr. Modi said it was not just “bigger things”, such as missiles, aircraft, tanks and Metro trains, that would achieve the goal. He cited the example of a farmer in Uttar Pradesh who has started growing chia seeds.

“Friends, nowadays you must be hearing a lot about chia seeds. People connected to health awareness give a lot of importance to it and it has a lot of demand too in the world. In India, it is mostly sourced from abroad, but now people are taking up the challenge to be self-reliant in chia seeds, too. Similarly, Harishchandrajiof Barabanki in Uttar Pradesh has begun farming of chia seeds. Cultivation of chia seeds will also increase his income and will help in the self-reliant India campaign too,” he said.

Benefit of the News– New initiative of Jal Shakti Ministry

Phase 2 of vaccination begins today amid a COVID-19 surge #GS3 #SnT

A day before India opens up vaccination for senior citizens and those above 45 with comorbidities, fresh daily COVID-19 infections were above 16,000 for the fourth consecutive day. Excluding Sunday, the figures for which are not yet available, the number of fresh weekly infections was close to 1,20,000.

Only on January 28 did India record 18,000 new infections, after which daily cases never touched 15,000 until February 23, when cases have consistently been above 16,000.

Six States — Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat — have shown a surge in new cases in the 24 hours up to 8 a.m. on Sunday, with about 86% of the cases emerging from these States.

Maharashtra reported the highest daily new cases at 8,623, followed by Kerala with 3,792 and Punjab with 593.

Nearly 1.07 crore people have recovered so far with 11,718 patients discharged in the 24 hours. The recoveries continue to be high in States that are posting an increase in number of cases. Nearly 85% of the new recovered cases were in six States, with Kerala reporting the highest single-day recoveries of 4,650. As many as 3,648 recovered in Maharashtra, followed by 491 in Tamil Nadu.

Latest figures are available, 1,43,01,266 vaccine doses have been administered through 2,92,312 sessions. These include vaccination for 6.6 million healthcare workers who have got one dose; 2.4 million with a second dose; and 5.1 million frontline workers with a second dose.

The Centre has also deputed high-level multi-disciplinary teams to Kerala, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and Jammu and Kashmir, to ascertain the reasons for the surge and coordinate with the State Health Departments in COVID-19 control and containment measures.

To ramp up vaccination, nearly 10,000 private hospitals under Ayushman Bharat PMJAY and more than 600 private hospitals under the Central Government Health Scheme will be utilised with prospective beneficiaries having the option to pre-register via the CoWin 2.0 or Arogya Setu app, or walk in at any of the registered vaccination sites. Those over 60 and above 50 with comorbidities total at least 270 million Indians.

Those with comorbidities are expected to get a medical certificate from a registered medical practitioner detailing their condition.

Benefit of the NewsVaccination status current

Suryakiran, Sarang teams to dazzle Colombo skies #GS3 #Defence #GS2 #IR

The Suryakiran Aerobatic Team (SKAT) and the Sarang helicopter display team, along with the light combat aircraft, of the Indian Air Force will perform at an airshow at the Galle Face in Colombo from March 3 to 5 as part of the 70th anniversary celebrations of the Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF).

This will be the first performance for the SKAT team outside India since it was resurrected in 2015 with the Hawk advanced jet trainers. Earlier, the SKAT team had toured Sri Lanka during the 50th anniversary of the SLAF in 2001.

1971 commemoration

Marking the golden jubilee year of the 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh, the SKAT team has been flying different formations over landmarks across the country starting from Kanyakumari in the south. The team has already flown over some of the southern cities and more demonstrations are in the pipeline.

As an aerial salute to all those who took part in the 1971 war, the number “71” was formed in the air over Kanyakumari with 10 aeroplanes — six aircraft making the number seven and four of them making the number one. More formations are planned all over the country over the year, a defence official said.

The team currently has 13 pilots and is led by Group Captain Anoop Singh. The entire team consists of fighter pilots and qualified flying instructors. The team is currently procuring and integrating the smoke pods so it can paint the skies in the signature Suryakiran Style.

The SKAT team, also known as 52 Squadron or The Sharks, is based in Bidar. The team was formed in 1996 with Kiran Mk-II aircraft and had enthralled spectators across the country till 2011. It was revived in 2015 with Hawk trainers initially with four aircraft and grew to the nine-aircraft formation.

Since its inception, the SKAT team has carried out over 600 displays all around the country. It has also represented India across southeast Asia including China.

‘Lateral entry’ into bureaucracy: reason, process, and controversy #GS2 #Governance

Earlier this month, the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) issued an advertisement seeking applications “from talented and motivated Indian nationals willing to contribute towards nation building” for three posts of Joint Secretary and 27 of Director in central government Departments.

These individuals, who would make a “lateral entry” into the government secretariat, would be contracted for three to five years. These posts were “unreserved”, meaning were no quotas for SCs, STs and OBCs.

What is ‘lateral entry’ into government?

NITI Aayog, in its three-year Action Agenda, and the Sectoral Group of Secretaries (SGoS) on Governance in its report submitted in February 2017, recommended the induction of personnel at middle and senior management levels in the central government. These ‘lateral entrants’ would-be part of the central secretariat which in the normal course has only career bureaucrats from the All-India Services/ Central Civil Services.

A Joint Secretary, appointed by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC), has the third highest rank (after Secretary and Additional Secretary) in a Department, and functions as administrative head of a wing in the Department. Directors are a rank below that of Joint Secretary.

What is the government’s reasoning for lateral entry?

On July 4, 2019, Minister of State for DoPT Jitendra Singh told Rajya Sabha that “Government has, from time to time, appointed some prominent persons for specific assignments in government, keeping in view their specialised knowledge and expertise in the domain area”.

In a separate response to a similar question in the same House, he said: “Lateral recruitment is aimed at achieving the twin objectives of bringing in fresh talent as well as augment the availability of manpower.”

Has the government so far made any ‘lateral entry’ appointments?

The new ad is for the second round of such recruitments. Earlier, the government had decided to appoint experts from outside the government to 10 positions of Joint Secretary in different Ministries/Departments and 40 positions at the level of Deputy Secretary/Director.

The ad for the Joint Secretary-level appointments, issued in early 2018, attracted 6,077 applications; after a selection process by the UPSC, nine individuals were recommended for appointment in nine different Ministries/Departments in 2019.

One of these individuals, Kakoli Ghosh, did not join; the rest — Amber Dubey, Rajeev Saksena, Sujit Kumar Bajpayee, Dinesh Dayanand Jagdale, Bhushan Kumar, Arun Goel, Saurabh Mishra and Suman Prasad Singh — were appointed on a three-year contract. Arun Goel resigned in December last year to return to the private sector.

Why is lateral entry sometimes criticised?

Groups representing SCs, STs and OBCs have protested the fact that there is no reservation in these appointments.

After Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman tweeted a link to the government’s notification on February 5, saying “Lateral Recruitment for Joint Secretary Level and Director Level Posts on Contract Basis. Interested candidates can apply from the 6th of February 2021 to 22nd March 2021,” Bihar Leader of Opposition Tejashwi Yadav shot back: “You should explain whether UPSC selection procedure is failing to ensure ‘willing, motivated & talented’ candidates for ‘nation building’, or hand-picked ones are more so? Isn’t it another ploy to sideline & reduce reservations for deprived sections?”

Former UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav tweeted, “BJP is opening back doors to bring its own people openly. Who cares about those candidates who are preparing for years?”

So are these contractual appointments not open for quotas?

In a May 15, 2018 circular, the DoPT noted that “in respect of appointments to Central Government posts and services there shall be reservation for Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe/Other Backward Class candidates in temporary appointments which are to last for 45 days or more”. This was a reiteration — with OBCs added — of a circular issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs as far back as on September 24, 1968.

However, there is a reason why these posts are claimed to be “unreserved”.

As per the currently applicable “13-point roster”, there is no reservation up to three posts. File notings provided by the DoPT to The Indian Express (reported on June 14, 2019) under the RTI Act state, “In a single post cadre, reservation does not apply. Since each post to be filled under this scheme is a Single Post, reservation is not applicable.”

Each of the nine individuals appointed in 2019 was recruited as a separate appointment — had they been considered as a group of nine, there would have been at least two seats for OBCs and one seat for an SC candidate as per the Centre’s reservation rules.

Likewise in the latest advertisement, if the 27 Directors were considered as a single group, seven posts would have to be reserved for OBCs, four for SCs, one for ST, and two for EWS category, as per the 13 point roster. But as they have been advertised/ considered separately for each Department, all of them have been declared “unreserved”.