Question and Answer :: SRIRAM'S IAS

 Q. 555. What is the importance of mapping Sugarcane Genome? Why could not it take place earlier? Mention the role of India.
Sugarcane was the last major cultivated plant to have its genome sequenced. This was because of its huge complexity: the genome comprises between 10 and 12 copies of each chromosome, when the human genome has just two. It was an international team coordinated by CIRAD that achieved this milestone. CIRAD is a French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development and is working for the sustainable development of tropical and Mediterranean regions. It will now be possible to modernize the methods used to breed sugarcane varieties. This will be a real boon to the sugar and biomass industry.
Sugarcane produces 80 per cent of the world’s sugar and emerged as the primary crop for biofuel production. A global team of researchers mapped the sugarcane genome using a variety grown in the Réunion Islands.
It will help scientists create a reference genome of sugarcane, which can be used to develop molecular tools to supplement conventional breeding methods. This reference sequence is also an essential resource to analyse the variations between the sugarcane varieties.
Until now, sugarcane cultivar breeding programmes were restricted to hybridisation, followed by cumbersome field assessments. As with all cultivated plants before it, sugarcane breeding will now be able to enter the age of molecular biology. The genome is so complex that classical sequencing approaches proved useless.
The sugarcane genome is nearly 20 times bigger than that of rice. While the rice genome could be sequenced about 15 years ago, the sugarcane genome proved a tough nut .
Each of the 10 basic sugarcane chromosomes is duplicated in 8-10 copies with a total of more than 100 chromosomes. In comparison, the human genome has just 23 pairs of chromosomes.
The genomic structures of sugarcane and sorghum are very similar. The scientists were thus able to use the sorghum genome as a template to assemble and select the sugarcane chromosome fragments to sequence.
The newly acquired genomic information will help sugarcane breeders develop varieties as per their requirements. For example, they can breed varieties that can withstand droughts, those requiring lesser water or cultivars containing higher sucrose levels. Theoretically, the maximum sucrose content that sugarcane can have is around 25 per cent.
This, in principle, could be breached if we know the molecular mechanisms involved in sucrose storage in the plant.
While many major institutes working on sugarcane research in Australia, South Africa and elsewhere were involved in the research, India was not part of it. However, a private institute in Maharashtra — Vasantdada Sugar Institute — was part of a larger consortium put together by CIRAD. All countries can “use the data produced in the study even if they are not part of the consortium.
 Q. 554. India's Foreign Policy Today
India's Foreign Policy Today
As India celebrates its 72nd Independence Day this year, India is a self-confident nation able to manage its external relations on its own terms. It can engage the United States as a strategic partner even as it can chart its own course vis-à-vis Russia and China. It can stand with China to raise its voice against global protectionism and yet it can stand up to China when its vital interests are targeted, like in Doklam last year. If there is one power that sits relatively confident in today’s rapidly evolving global dynamic when all other powers are openly competing with each other, it is India. Let there be no doubt about it.
As India’s economic weight has grown in international relations, its voice and partnerships are much sought after. A pluralist democracy growing rapidly at its own pace with all its inherent contradictions is a story which a world deeply in crisis wants to hear. And Indian policy makers increasingly are not averse to narrating their case. For any nation — and in particular for a self-proclaimed rising power — it is crucial that it sets out its own narrative about its place in the global pecking order. For the last two decades, China has managed to do it extremely effectively that after two decades of being a rising power, the world suddenly woke up one day to a China which has seemingly arrived. Indian leadership today is signaling that it too has grown up and has recognized that the need of the hour is to link India domestic development story with the global one.
Indian foreign policy has been evolving over the last few years as New Delhi’s engagements with Africa, Latin America, West Asia, and Southeast Asia have gained a new traction. Our investments, trade, energy relations, diaspora bonds and strategic interests involving bilateral, regional and global dimensions underpin the rising India.
With a $2.5 trillion economy and global reach in trade and investment, India needs new partners and new partnerships, it needs a more robust footprint in various parts of the world, and it needs a narrative about what it intends to do with the accretion of its material capabilities. Indian policymakers too are coming to terms with this weight of history. India’s evolving debates about its environmental policy or trade policy or even military presence abroad underscore this reality. We signed the Paris accord and also the Kigali agreement. Our commitments are huge in terms of renewable energy.
India has been developing alternative strategic,economic and developmental narratives with its leading presence in BRICS, AIIB and to a lesser extent in SCO.
India is a nuclear weapon power and it brings with it responsibility and power. India’s record in the management of nuclear weapons is globally acknowledged and thus we have been given waivers by NSG. Membership of MTCR, Australia and Wassenaar groups is also similarly to be noted. We are already there in G-20. Part of the reason for global economy revival is India’s growth after the Lehman closure in 2018. We are seriously contending to be permanent veto wielding members of UNSC.
The challenges continue to exist though. The challenge from Pakistan remains and the growing Chinese footprint in the wider South Asian and Indian Ocean region is challenging India on multiple fronts. There are no easy answers as Indian neighbors will try not to choose between two rising powers in their vicinity. And China will intrude but we need to engage and manage. China’s rise will remain the single most important issue facing the nation for the foreseeable future. Yet, it is a sign of India’s strategic evolution that today Pakistan problem is widely considered a subset of India’s China problem. 
India has a sizeable and powerful diaspora of about 28 million PIOs and NRIs who are very influential and have contributed to our external sector and foreign policy and we continue to nurture them with our “ dual nationality” policy(OCI card) and otherwise.
As India rises and overcomes the “hesitations of history,” a more dynamic conversation on the causes and consequences of India’s rise is the need of the hour. India’s sustenance of its foreign commitments will ultimately depend on how invested the common Indian is in shaping her nation’s foreign policy profile and for it public diplomacy is being encouraged.
(Partly drew from the thoughts of Prof. Harsh Pant)
 Q. 553. Is perfectionism a danger to youth of our times?
Perfectionism is a personality trait characterized by a person's striving for flawlessness and setting high performance standards, accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others' evaluations. According to some observers, the perfectionist does not necessarily believe that one can attain a perfect life or state of living. Rather, a perfectionist practices steadfast perseverance in obtaining the best possible life or state of living.
That there are many positive and negative aspects.. If it is not properly pursued, perfectionism drives people to attempt to achieve an unattainable ideal or unrealistic goal, while properly followed, perfectionism can make one adapt well to sometimes motivate the person to reach their goals optimally. Perfectionism is at the root of creativity, innovation and progress.
When perfectionists do not reach their goals, they often fall into depression and low self-esteem.
Broadly speaking, perfectionism is an irrational desire for flawlessness, combined with harsh self-criticism. But on a deeper level, what sets a perfectionist apart from someone who is simply diligent or hard-working is a single-minded need to correct their own imperfections.
Perfectionists need to be told that they have achieved the best possible outcomes, whether that’s through scores and metrics, or other peoples’ approval. When this need is not met, they experience psychological turmoil, because they equate mistakes and failure to inner weakness and unworthiness.
Irrational ideals of the perfect self have become desirable – even necessary – in a world where performance, status and image define a person’s usefulness and value.
This is a culture which preys on insecurities and amplifies imperfection, impelling young people to focus on their personal deficiencies. As a result, some young people brood chronically about how they should behave, how they should look, or what they should own. Essentially, agitating to perfect themselves and their lives.
Young people are typically ambitious, bright and hard-working. They have a broad network of friends, and most come from supportive families. Yet no matter how well-adjusted they can appear, we find that they are increasingly seeking support for mental health issues.
Student mental illness is at record highs. And right across the globe, young people are reporting to clinicians at unprecedented levels with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
One possible reason for this is that today’s young people are the first generation to grow up in a society based on the principles of market. Over the last 50 years, communal interest and civic responsibility have been progressively eroded, replaced by a focus on self-interest and competition in a supposedly free and open market place.
In this new market-based society, young people are evaluated in a host of new ways. Social media, school and university testing and job performance assessments mean young people can be sifted, sorted and ranked by peers, teachers and employers. If young people rank poorly, the logic of our market-based society dictates that they are less deserving – that their inferiority reflects some personal weakness or flaw.
It’s no wonder that there’s substantial evidence indicating that perfectionism is associated with (among other things) depression, anorexia nervosa, suicide ideation and early death.
Right values should be inculcated like collaboration and community achievement. Happiness curricula should be introduced. Ethics classes should be taught by world class philosophers by digital media to expand the worldview of the young.
It’s time for organisations such as schools and universities, as well as the politicians and civil servants who help to shape the way these organisations operate, to take steps to safeguard the welfare of young people. They must resist marketised forms of competition, at the expense of young people’s mental health. They should teach the importance of compassion over competition. If they do not, the rise of perfectionism – and its association with serious mental illness – is likely to continue unabated.
 Q. 552. Superconductivity
Most materials people use are insulators, like plastic, or conductors, like an aluminum pot or a copper cable. Insulators show very high resistance to electricity. Conductors like copper show some resistance. Another class of materials show no resistance at all when cooled to very low temperatures, cooler than the coolest deep freezer. Called superconductors, they were discovered in 1911. Today, they are revolutionizing the electric grid, cell phone technology and medical diagnosis. Scientists are working to make them perform at room temperature.Some of the technological applications of superconductivity include:
1. the production of sensitive magnetometers based on SQUIDs
2. fast digital circuits (including those based on Josephson junctions and rapid single flux quantum technology),
3. powerful superconducting electromagnets used in maglev trains, magnetic confinement fusion reactors (e.g. tokamaks), and magnets used in particle accelerators
4. low-loss power cables
But there are disadvantages. Superconducting materials superconduct only when kept below a given temperature called the transition temperature. For presently known practical superconductors, keeping them below that temperature involves a lot of expensive cryogenic technology. Thus, superconductors still do not show up in most everyday electronics. Scientists are working on designing superconductors that can operate at room temperature.
2 advantages In relative detail:
Transforming the Electricity Grid The electric power grid is among the greatest engineering achievements of the 20th century. Demand, however, is much more than supply. Superconductor technology provides loss-less wires and cables and improves the reliability and efficiency of the power grid. Plans are underway to replace by 2030 the present power grid with a superconducting power grid. A superconducting power system occupies less real estate and is buried in the ground, quite different from present day grid lines. It saves power and with it the financial savings and the environmental benefits also accrue
2. One of the first large-scale applications of superconductivity is in medical diagnosis. Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, uses powerful superconducting magnets to produce large and uniform magnetic fields inside the patient's body.
Recent breakthrough in India
Two scientists of India from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, posted their experimental findings that had claimed that they had found superconductivity at room-temperature and pressure in a nanostructure composite of gold and silver. Both these noble metals, which are good conductors, are individually known not to become superconductors even at temperatures approaching absolute zero (-273.15º C).The process used by them is as follows. Silver nanoparticles about 1 nm wide, prepared by “standard colloidal techniques”, were embedded in a gold matrix in a chemical sintering process. The nano strucured gold-silver composite globules so obtained were about 10-20 nm in size. These were then turned into thin films and pellets for electrical resistivity and magnetic susceptibility measurements respectively.
 Q. 551. "Government's wind power targets are ambitious and the challenges are coming up to their realisation." Comment on India's achievements and problems in the wind energy sector.
The central government has put strong focus on expanding renewable energy capacity, including solar power, to reduce the carbon footprint. India has ambitious plans to almost double its wind energy capacity to 60GW by 2022, from about 34GW at present. However, sector added 1.7 gigawatts (GW) in the last fiscal year, trailing a target of 4GW set by the government.
Wind power capacities have been installed in eight states that have strong wind velocities—Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Karnataka. In the last 12 to 15 months, the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI), the nodal agency for wind and solar energy auctions, and state utilities in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Gujarat issued tenders for a total of 8GW of wind energy.
Wind energy developers in India are struggling to add capacity due low tariffs and poor connectivity to the grid. In December, the lowest tariff for wind energy, of ₹2.43 a unit, was seen in a Gujarat state utility auction.
Besides low tariffs, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) blame the lack of power evacuation infrastructure for the slow pick-up in new wind projects.
 Q. 550. "The challenge today in India is to develop Renewable energy storage systems." Why? What is being done?
The draft National Energy Storage Mission seeks to set up grid-connected energy storage in India, set up a regulatory framework, and encourage indigenous manufacture of batteries. The draft sets a “realistic target” of 15-20 gigawatt hours (GWh) of grid-connected storage within the next five years Power grids do not currently use storage options that would help in smoothly integrating renewable energy sources.
The mission will focus on seven verticals: indigenous manufacturing; an assessment of technology and cost trends; a policy and regulatory framework; financing, business models and market creation; research and development; standards and testing; and grid planning for energy storage.
Renewable energy sources now make up almost one-fifth of India’s total installed power capacity. However, as power grids increase their share of solar and wind energy, the problem remains that the peak supply of renewable sources does not always meet peak demand. For instance, solar energy generation may be at its peak at noon, but unless stored, it will not be available when needed to light up homes at night. Moreover, renewable sources are inherently intermittent: there are days when the wind doesn’t blow or the sky is cloudy.
The challenge today in India is to develop energy storage systems for the renewable energy Batteries could help store surplus energy during peak generation times, but are more immediately needed to stabilise the grid when shifting between renewables and the base load thermal capacity. Once the installed capacity of renewables reaches 100 GW [from the curent 65 GW], it will become critical to incorporate storage options.
The Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) will issue tenders for grid-connected storage by the end of the year, said its managing director Jatindra Nath Swain. For its own 160 MW plant in Andhra Pradesh, the SECI will issue tenders for a storage option. Up to 10% of solar power can be injected into the grid without storage. After that, storage will become a necessity.
 Q. 549. How does India contribute to the stability of Afghanistan and what is the most recent example of it?
India-Afghanistan relation today, as for about two decades now, is defined by India's development and growth assistance to Afghanistan. India believes that economic empowerment will be the basis of stability of the country. More than $2b worth of assistance; Afghan-India Friendship Dam (AIFD), formerly Salma Dam, the hydroelectric and irrigation dam project located on the Hari River in Chishti Sharif District of Herat Province in western Afghanistan; Delaram- Zaranj highway that India built are prime examples. India is interested in Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India Pipeline (TAPI) which further will strengthen the country.
India in 2017 September scaled up its development partnership with Afghanistan and committed to 116 new projects in 31 provinces — ranging from drinking water supply to low cost housing, roads and polyclinics.
It is called New Development Partnership .116 new High Impact Development Projects will be jointly implemented that will bring socio-economic and infrastructure development, especially in the suburban and rural communities in 31 provinces of Afghanistan.” The projects will be in the areas of education, health, agriculture, irrigation, drinking water, renewable energy, flood control, micro-hydropower, sports infrastructure and administrative infrastructure. They will include Shahtoot dam and drinking water project for Kabul that will also facilitate irrigation, low-cost housing for returning Afghan refugees in Nangarhar Province to promote resettlement, road connectivity to Band-e-Amir in Bamyan Province that would promote tourism to the National Park and economic development; water supply network for Charikar city in Parwan Province, establishment of a gypsum board manufacturing plant in Kabul to promote value added industry, and construction of a polyclinic in Mazar-e-Sharif.
India’s contributions to stability in Afghanistan essentially involve developmental assistance. Last year's air corridor; Chabahar port in Iran for connectivity are other examples. These works earned India the goodwill of Afghan people
 Q. 548. The current currency crisis in the emerging economies is linked to the US trade and monetary policies. How? What wider global response is being witnessed to the US "flexing its financial muscle"?
Important emerging economies’ currencies crashed recently: Iranian rial, Turkish lira, Argentine peso, Brazilian real. There are many reasons for it .Turkey’s case is influenced by the bubble of easy credit created by European banks that Turkish banks are not able to repay. Iran’s has to do with harsh United States sanctions imposed after the Trump administration’s unilateral pullout from the Iran nuclear deal. Brazil’s has to do with a possible victory by the imprisoned Lula (former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva) or his appointed candidate in the presidential election in 2018 October.
This is a serious currency crisis affecting key emerging markets. Three of these – Brazil, Argentina and Turkey – are G20 members.
Independent analysts agree that the overwhelming factor in the current currency crisis is a reversing of the US Federal Reserve quantitative easing (QE) policy.No more liquid dollars flooding emerging markets such as Turkey, Brazil, Argentina, Indonesia or India. US interest rates are up. The Fed stopped buying new bonds. The US Treasury is issuing new bond debt. Thus QT, combined with a global, targeted trade war against major emerging markets, spells out the new normal: the weaponization of the US dollar.
Russia, China, Turkey, Iran – nearly every major regional player invested in Eurasia integration – is buying gold with the aim of progressively getting out of US dollar hegemony. Russia and China are heavily invested in buying gold. Russia has dumped US Treasuries en masse. And what the BRICS had been discussing since the mid-2000s is now in motion; the drive to build alternative payment systems to the US dollar. Germany appears to be coming around to the idea. If that does happen, it could possibly lead the way towards Europe redefining itself geopolitically in terms of its military and strategic independence. When and if that happens, arguably at some point in the next decade, US foreign policy configured as an avalanche of sanctions may be effectively neutralized.
It will be a long, protracted affair – but some elements are already visible.
Besides, there are nations contemplating the creation of their own cryptocurrencies whose popularity in future could undercut US dollar.
 Q. 547. What is an Ecologically sensitive area (ESA)? Write on Gadgil committee report and how Kasturirangan committee changed it.
An ecologically sensitive area is one that is protected by the government given the sheer number of species, plants and animals endemic to the region. The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 does not mention the word “Eco-Sensitive Zones”. However, Section 3(2)(v) of the Act, says that Central Government can restrict areas in which any industries, operations or processes or class of industries, operations or processes shall not be carried out or shall be carried out subject to certain safeguards. Besides, Rule 5(1) of the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986 states that central government can prohibit or restrict the location of industries and carrying on certain operations or processes on the basis of considerations like the biological diversity of an area, maximum allowable limits of concentration of pollutants for an area, environmentally compatible land use, and proximity to protected areas. The above two clauses have been effectively used by the government to declare ESZs or EFAs. Thus, the government can prohibit industrial operations such as mining, sand quarrying and building thermal power plants in sensitive areas.
The definition offered by the MoEF: “An ecological sensitive area is a bio-climatic unit (as demarcated by entire landscapes) in the Western Ghats wherein human impacts have locally caused irreversible changes in the structure of biological communities (as evident in number/ composition of species and their relative abundances) and their natural habitats.” To categorise an area as ecologically sensitive, the government looks at topography, climate and rainfall, land use and land cover, roads and settlements, human population, biodiversity corridors and data of plants and animal species.
The Western Ghats were declared an ecological hotspot in 1988.The Western Ghats was included as a ‘World Natural Heritage Site’ by UNESCO in 2012. According to the organisation, the Ghats, which are older than the Himalayas, are home to at least 325 globally threatened flora, fauna, bird, amphibian, reptile and fish species. It has been recognised as one of the world’s eight ‘hottest hotspots’ of biological diversity.
GOI constituted in 2010 a 14-member Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP), under the chairmanship of noted ecologist Madhav Gadgil, to look into measures required to arrest the widespread ecological devastation that the fragile Western Ghats were facing from human activities.
The panel submitted its report in 2011.
The Gadgil Committee divided the Western Ghats into three ecologically sensitive zones — highest (ESZ1), high (ESZ2) and moderate sensitivity (ESZ3), in addition to the Protected Areas, which are managed under regulations prescribed under pertinent acts such as the Wildlife Protection Act. It suggested that ESZ1 and ESZ2 would be largely ‘no-gone’ zones for mining, polluting industries as well as large-scale development activities, including new railway lines. It also objected to new dams, thermal power stations or massive windmill farms or new townships in ESZ1.
The panel, however, said the local communities and gram sabhas will have a larger say in deciding on matters relating to the ecology of these regions. It also called for stricter regulation on tourism, phasing out of plastics, chemical fertilisers and a ban on diversion of forest land into non-forest applications and conversion of public lands into private lands.
The High Level Working Group, headed by Kasturirangan, on the other hand, did away with the graded approach in terms of ecological sensitivity, divided the Western Ghats into cultural lands, where there are currently human settlements, and natural lands and recommended declaring cultural lands — around 60,000 sq-km or 37 per cent of the total — into ecologically sensitive area (ESA).
Kasturirangan committee had said that the natural landscape of the Ghats constitutes only 41 per cent, or which 90 percent or 60,000 square kilometres were identified as ecologically sensitive. The committee suggested phasing out current mining projects within five years, or when mining leases were about to expire. It recommended that infrastructure and development projects be subject to environmental clearance, and that villages in ESA be involved in decision making regarding future projects.
 Q. 546. What are convective clouds and why do we need to understand them better for more precise weather prediction in India?
‘Convection clouds’ are ones that form and grow by the process known as convection. Cumulus and Cumulonimbus are examples of this type of cloud. Convection in the atmosphere is the way air floats upwards on account of being warmer than the surrounding air. 
Our understanding of the monsoons has improved a lot in the past decades. We now understand clouds better, which has been revolutionised by satellites. In any model, knowledge of clouds is the most important. We need clouds for rain. Any problem in the prediction of rainfall is related to the prediction of clouds. The monsoon clouds here are convective. In the US, the weather doesn’t fluctuate that much, we know what the weather will be like for the next two-three days. In India, there will be blue skies in the morning, but in the afternoon there will be thunder clouds and it will rain, and then in the evening we will again have blue skies. This is a result of convective clouds, which is rare in the mid-latitude areas. So how the convective clouds are formed, its physics and so on needs to be understood more scientifically.
 Q. 545. What is "Peace Mission-2018"? When and where is it being held? How frequently is it conducted? Why is it special this year?
As part of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) initiatives, SCO Peace Mission Exercise is conducted biennially for SCO member states. The joint exercise for the year 2018 will be conducted by Central Military Commission of Russia from 22 August to 29 August 2018 in Russia. This will be a historic occasion due to the maiden participation of India post becoming a full member of the SCO in June 2017. This exercise marks a major milestone in the multilateral relations of SCO member nations. The exercise will involve tactical level operations in an international counter insurgency or counter terrorism environment under SCO Charter. The joint exercise will strengthen mutual confidence, interoperability and enable sharing of best practices among armed forces of SCO Nations.
Indian and Pakistani soldiers, who are eyeball to eyeball along the line of control in Jammu and Kashmir, exercise together for the first time as part of a multi-nation counter-terror wargame.
The SCO was constituted in 2001 by China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan. Now the grouping has eight full members, including India, Pakistan and Uzbekistan. Another four nations have been accorded "observer" status, while six others are "dialogue" partners.
 Q. 544. What is the Colour coded weather warning system and why is it adopted?
Colour coded weather warning system is used to alert the public to the predicted severity of weather: cyclones, floods, storms and winds. The colour system ranges from green, which is low risk, to red, which is the highest risk of severe conditions. Kerala floods brought the warning system into headlines.
YELLOW level weather alerts is to notify those who are at risk because of their location and/or activity, and to allow them to take preventative action. YELLOW level weather alerts are for weather conditions that do not pose an immediate threat to the general population, but only to those exposed to risk by nature of their location and/or activity.
ORANGE level weather warnings is for weather conditions which have the capacity to impact significantly on people in the affected areas. The issue of an Orange level weather warning implies that all recipients in the affected areas should prepare themselves in an appropriate way for the anticipated conditions.
RED level severe weather warnings should be a comparatively rare event and implies that recipients take action to protect themselves and/or their properties; this could be by moving their families out of the danger zone temporarily (evacuation), by staying indoors or by other specific actions aimed at mitigating the effects of the weather conditions. It is in the case of a red weather alert that we could see serious disruption to public transport, road closures and school closures.
It is aimed at helping emergency services and local authorities to anticipate potential disruption caused by severe weather. It not only predicts the likelihood of bad weather but also takes into account factors such as river levels and any previous structural damage to buildings in an area.
 Q. 543. How is Artificial Intelligence useful for national security and what has India done to tap into the opportunity?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has dual use: technology which can fuel technology driven economic growth and has potential to provide military superiority. Given India’s strong IT industry and pool of engineers this Ministry has initiated the process of preparing Indian defence forces in their use of AI and leveraging AI capabilities. To study the strategic implications of AI in the perspective of national security, a multi-stakeholder Task Force comprising the Government, Services, Academia, Industry, Professionals and Start-ups was constituted in February 2018, under the Chairmanship of Shri N Chandrasekharan, Chairman, Tata Sons to prepare a road map for AI in national security.
Its Terms of Reference included a global scan of AI applications, study of level of AI development in India in general and specifically in the context of defence needs, and to make recommendations relating to making India a significant power of AI in defence, specifically in the area of aviation, naval, land systems, cyber, nuclear and biological warfare including both defensive and offensive needs including counter AI needs; recommendations for policy and institutional interventions required to regulate and encourage robust AI based technologies for defence sector; working with start-ups / commercial industry and recommendations for appropriate strategies of working with start-ups. The Task Force submitted its Report in June, 2018.
 Q. 542. "Left Wing Extremism (LWE) situation in the country has been improving consistently." Where is the problem still widespread in India and what has caused improvement in the situation?
The and is now well under control. Currently 30 districts in 7 States(Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Odisha and Telangana ) are most affected by LWE violence. These 30 districts contributed 88% of violent incidents and 94% of deaths in 2017.
The Government has a holistic approach towards combating LWE wherein it supplements the efforts of the State Governments over a wide range of measures. A National Policy and Action Plan has been put in place that envisages a multi-pronged strategy involving security related measures, developmental interventions and ensuring rights & entitlements of local communities etc. Security related measures include assistance to LWE affected States by providing CAPF Bns, helicopters, UAVs, construction of fortified police stations, funds for modernization of State Police forces, arms and equipment, training assistance, sharing of intelligence etc.
On development side, apart from flagship schemes of the Central Government in infrastructure, education, health, skill development, agriculture etc, several initiatives have been taken specifically for development of LWE affected areas. These include focused schemes for development of roads, installation of mobile towers, skill development, improving network of banks and post offices, health and education facilities, particularly in the most affected districts.
It is the carrot and stick approach with the former addressing the root causes of Maoism.
SAMADHAN strategy of 2017 combines the two as can be seen below: S-smart leadership, A-aggressive strategy, M-motivation and training, A-actionable intelligence, D-dashboard-based KPIs (key performance indicators) and KRAs (key result areas), H-harnessing technology, A-action plan for each theatre and N-no access to financing.
 Q. 541. What is nuclear fusion?
What is nuclear fusion?
What is 'fusion' exactly?
  • Fusion occurs when two light atoms bond together, or fuse, to make a heavier one.
  • The total mass of the new atom is less than that of the two that formed it; the "missing" mass is given off as energy, as described by Albert Einstein's famous E=mc2 equation.
  • There are several "recipes" for cooking up fusion, which rely on different atomic combinations.
  • The most promising combination for power on Earth today is the fusion of a deuterium atom with a tritium one. The process, which requires temperatures of approximately 72 million degrees Fahrenheit (39 million degrees Celsius), produces 17.6 million electron volts of energy.
  • Deuterium is a promising ingredient because it is an isotope of hydrogen. In turn, hydrogen is a key part of water. A gallon of seawater (3.8 litres) could produce as much energy as 300 gallons (1,136 litres) of petrol.
Nuclear fusion is what happens in the Sun and other stars and involves joining two atomic nuclei to make one larger one. Both reactions release large amounts of energy, but with nuclear fusion there is very high energy yield and very low nuclear waste production.
Fusion reactor in the UK
  • The world's newest nuclear fusion reactor was switched on in the UK last week and has already managed to achieve 'first plasma' - a scorching blob of electrically-charged gas.
  • Scientists hope the tokamak reactor will be able to make hotter and hotter plasma - eventually reaching 100 million degrees Celsius (180 million degrees Fahrenheit) by 2018. That's the 'fusion' threshold - seven times hotter than the centre of the Sun - at which hydrogen atoms can begin to fuse into helium, unleashing limitless, clean energy in the process.
  • It is the latest in a number of significant developments towards finally realising practical nuclear fusion.
Putting theory into practice
  • While fusion power offers the prospect of an almost inexhaustible source of energy for future generations, it has also presented many so-far-insurmountable scientific and engineering challenges.
  • In the Sun, massive gravitational forces create the right conditions for fusion in the star’s core, but on Earth they are much harder to achieve.
  • Fusion fuels, different isotopes of hydrogen must be heated to extreme temperatures of the order of 50 million degrees Celsius, and must be kept stable under intense pressure, and dense enough and confined for long enough to allow the nuclei to fuse. And this is where progress has now been made.
The era of practical fusion power, and an inexhaustible supply of energy, may finally be coming near.
 Q. 540. What are the challenges of agriculture marketing as administered by states? How National Agriculture Market (NAM) aims to overcome these challenges? What are the objectives of NAM?
What are the challenges of agriculture marketing as administered by states? How National Agriculture Market (NAM) aims to overcome these challenges? What are the objectives of NAM?
Challenges of agriculture marketing as administered by states
Agriculture marketing is administered by the States as per their agri-marketing regulations, under which, the State is divided into several market areas, each of which is administered by a separate Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) which imposes its own marketing regulation (including fees). This fragmentation of markets, even within the State, hinders free flow of agri commodities from one market area to another and multiple handling of agri-produce and multiple levels of mandi charges ends up escalating the prices for the consumers without commensurate benefit to the farmer. NAM addresses these challenges by creating a unified market.

National Agriculture Market (NAM
  • National Agriculture Market (NAM) is a pan-India electronic trading portal which networks the existing APMC mandis to create a unified national market for agricultural commodities.
  • The NAM Portal provides a single window service for all APMC related information and services. This includes commodity arrivals & prices, buy & sell trade offers, provision to respond to trade offers, among other services. While material flow (agriculture produce) continue to happen through mandis, an online market reduces transaction costs and information asymmetry.
Addressing the challenges
NAM addresses the challenges of state government by creating a unified market through online trading platform, both, at State and National level and promotes uniformity, streamlining of procedures across the integrated markets, removes information asymmetry between buyers and sellers and promotes real time price discovery, based on actual demand and supply, promotes transparency in auction process, and access to a nationwide market for the farmer, with prices commensurate with quality of his produce and online payment and availability of better quality produce and at more reasonable prices to the consumer.

Objectives of NAM
  • A national e-market platform for transparent sale transactions and price discovery initially in regulated markets. Willing States to accordingly enact suitable provisions in their APMC Act for promotion of e-trading by their State Agricultural Marketing Board/APMC.
  • Liberal licensing of traders / buyers and commission agents by State authorities without any pre-condition of physical presence or possession of shop /premises in the market yard.
  • One license for a trader valid across all markets in the State.
  • Harmonisation of quality standards of agricultural produce and provision for assaying (quality testing) infrastructure in every market to enable informed bidding by buyers.
  • Single point levy of market fees, i.e. on the first wholesale purchase from the farmer.
  • Provision of Soil Testing Laboratories in/ or near the selected mandi to facilitate visiting farmers to access this facility in the mandi itself.
 Q. 539. Combustible Ice
Ans. Combustible Ice
  • Commercial development of the globe's huge reserves of a frozen fossil fuel known as "combustible ice" has moved closer to reality after Japan and China successfully extracted the material from the seafloor off their coastlines.
  • But experts say that large-scale production remains many years away—and if not done properly could flood the atmosphere with climate-changing greenhouse gases.
  • Combustible ice is a frozen mixture of water and concentrated natural gas. Technically known as methane hydrate, it can be lit on fire in its frozen state and is believed to comprise one of the world's most abundant fossil fuels.
  • the event can a breakthrough moment heralding a potential global energy revolution.
  • For Japan, methane hydrate offers the chance to reduce its heavy reliance of imported fuels if it can tap into reserves off its coastline. In China, it could serve as a cleaner substitute for coal-burning power plants and steel factories that have polluted much of the country with lung-damaging smog.
  • The South China Sea has become a focal point of regional political tensions as China has claimed huge swaths of disputed territory as its own. Previous sea oil exploration efforts by China met resistance, especially from Vietnam, but its methane hydrate operation was described as being outside the most hotly contested areas.
  • Methane hydrate has been found beneath seafloors and buried inside Arctic permafrost and beneath Antarctic ice. The United States and India also have research programs pursuing technologies to capture the fuel.
  • Estimates of worldwide reserves range from 280 trillion cubic meters (10,000 trillion cubic feet) up to 2,800 trillion cubic meters (100,000 trillion cubic feet), according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. By comparison, total worldwide production of natural gas was 3.5 billion cubic meters (124 billion cubic feet) in 2015, the most recent year available.
  • That means methane hydrate reserves could meet global gas demands for 80 to 800 years at current consumption rates.
  • Yet efforts to successfully extract the fuel at a profit have eluded private and state-owned energy companies for decades. That's in part because of the high cost of extraction techniques, which can use large amounts of water or carbon dioxide to flood methane hydrate reserves so the fuel can be released and brought to the surface.
  • There are also environmental concerns.
  • a) If methane hydrate leaks during the extraction process, it can increase greenhouse gas emissions.
  • b) The fuel also could displace renewables such as solar and wind power.
  • c) However, if it can be used without leaking, it has the potential to replace dirtier coal in the power sector.
  • Commercial-scale production could be transformative for northeast Asia, particularly for Japan, which imports nearly all its hydrocarbon needs.
  • The consensus within the industry is that commercial development won't happen until at least 2030. Smaller scale output could happen as early as 2020.
 Q. 538. Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA)
Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA)
  • Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) is aimed to give major push for creation of high quality infrastructure in premier educational institutions. The HEFA would be jointly promoted by the identified Promoter and the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) with an authorized capital of Rs. 2,000 crores. The Government equity would be Rs. 1,000 crores.
  • The HEFA would be formed as a SPV within a PSU Bank/ Government-owned-NBFC (Promoter). It would leverage the equity to raise up to Rs. 20,000 crores for funding projects for infrastructure and development of world class Labs in IITs/IIMs/NITs and such other institutions.
  • The HEFA would also mobilize CSR funds from PSUs/Corporates, which would in turn be released for promoting research and innovation in these institutions on grant basis.
Working of HEFA
All the Centrally Funded Higher Educational Institutions would be eligible for joining as members of the HEFA. For joining as members, the Institution should agree to escrow a specific amount from their internal accruals to HEFA for a period of 10 years. This secured future flows would be securitised by the HEFA for mobilising the funds from the market. Each member institution would be eligible for a credit limit as decided by HEFA based on the amount agreed to be escrowed from the internal accruals
 Q. 537. What is Value Capture Financing (VCF)? Explain the components and working mechanism of Value Capture Financing (VCF)?
What is Value Capture Financing (VCF)? Explain the components and working mechanism of Value Capture Financing (VCF)?
Value capture is a type of public financing that recovers some or all of the value that public infrastructure generates for private landowners. It seeks to enable States and city governments raise resources by tapping a share of increase in value of land and other properties like buildings resulting from public investments and policy initiatives, in the identified area of influence.
How does it work?
Value capture financing (VCF) works on the conviction that public policy and infrastructure projects typically lead to improvement in the quality of housing, jobs access and transportation, yield other social benefits, and lead to the emergence of important commercial, cultural, institutional, or residential developments in the influence area. This, in turn, leads to an appreciation in land value in the neighborhood.
The VCF process comprises 4 key steps:
  1. Value creation: Public regulations, policies and investments lead to creation of value
  2. Value realization by private owners: For instance, the investment made by a developer fetches a bigger monetary value when he sells housing units along a metro corridor planned by the government than he would have without the project
  3. Value capture: It involves the government and private owners agree to a sharing mechanism for the value captured
  4. Value recycle: The resources collected are ploughed back in other parts of the city to create fresh value
  • The different instruments of VCF are: Land Value Tax, Fee for changing land use, Betterment levy, Development charges, Transfer of Development Rights, Premium on relaxation of Floor Space Index and Floor Area Ratio, Vacant Land Tax, Tax Increment Financing, Zoning relaxation for land acquisition and Land Pooling System.
  • Traditional resource mobilization through direct sale of land, the most fundamental asset owned and managed by States and Urban Local Bodies is an inefficient form of resource mobilization. This innovative mechanism could also be used by for investing heavily in building national highways, railway projects, power generation and port infrastructure development.
  • Ministry of Urban Development is working to develop a comprehensive VCF framework so that it can be used efficiently and optimally across the country as a method of financing infrastructure and enhancing the finances of urban local bodies.
 Q. 536. What is natural capital? Why integrating natural capital in our policy framework is necessary for a sustainable future?
What is natural capital? Why integrating natural capital in our policy framework is necessary for a sustainable future?
Natural capital is from of capital from which humans derive a wide range of services also called ecosystem services, that make human life possible. Some important ecosystem services include the food we eat, the water we drink and the plant materials we use for fuel, building materials and medicines. There are also many less visible ecosystem services such as the climate regulation and natural flood defences provided by forests, the billions of tonnes of carbon stored by peat lands, or the pollination of crops by insects. In order to have an unhindered supply of these services natural capital conservation and sustenance needs to be ensured.

India’s natural capital
India’s natural resources has 11% of the world’s floral and faunal species. India is one of the 17 most ecologically diverse countries. It is blessed with major biomes. These biomes directly contribute billions of dollars to the Indian economy annually. The financial value of India’s forests, which encompass economic services such as timber and fuel wood, and ecological services such as carbon sequestration is approximately $1.7 trillion.

Declining natural capital
Because of increasing economic activity, natural capital assets are declining. It is directly affecting the quality of life and potentially giving rise to future inefficiencies in the economy. A concept of ‘Earth Overshoot Day’ is popular among the scientists. This is a figurative calendar date when humanity’s total annual resource consumption for the year overshoots the earth’s capacity to regenerate it. This has been advancing every year at an alarming rate.

As there is limits to natural capital stocks, there is a need to rethink the cascading effects that this might have on the economy, the environment and society. There are nine earth system boundaries, which mark the safe zones. Beyond these zones there is a risk of ‘irreversible and abrupt environmental change’. Four of these boundaries have already been crossed, these are: climate change, loss of biosphere integrity, land system change and altered biogeochemical cycles(phosphorus and nitrogen cycles). The human activity has already altered the balance of a few delicate equilibriums. The effect of these delicate equilibrium processes are reflected by changing weather patterns, accelerated extinction events for both flora and fauna, and global warming. Therefore, there is a need for a comprehensive evaluation system that takes these undesirable side-effects of economic activities into account.
Natural capital has the potential to optimise resources and thus maximise the net benefits of economic growth and development. However, ignoring or undervaluing natural capital, can lead to projects with far higher negative externalities compared to the benefits. Therefore, natural capital and its role as a primary support system for the economy should be understood in totality.

Natural capital and ingenuity
Sustained and unhindered use of natural capital requires innovation and adoption of newer, more efficient technologies. This was demonstrated by one Californian fashion company. It expositioned this by developing a unique waterless ozone technology to address water shortage challenges during a four-year-long drought. The company was able to reduce its water use and water bills by 50%, saving at least $1,300 per month.

Unlike the economic value of goods and services, the intangible nature of natural assets is mostly invisible and hence remains unaccounted for. Sustainable use of natural capital requires a strong policy push and the adoption of valuation frameworks such as the Natural Capital Coalition’s Natural Capital Protocol. Integrating natural capital assessment and valuation into our economic system is critical to usher in a truly sustainable future for India.