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Current Affairs 29 November 2023

  1. NASA to Train an Indian Astronaut for ISS Mission
  2. Model Code of Conduct
  3. Decentralised Autonomous Organisations
  4. Green Leaf Volatiles (GLVs)
  5. AstroSat
  6. Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve
  7. Walking Pneumonia


Context:

US space agency NASA will train an Indian astronaut for a mission to the International Space Station by the end of 2024.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. NASA’s Collaborative Endeavor with ISRO: Training an Indian Astronaut for ISS Mission
  2. India’s Endeavor: Bharatiya Antariksha Station and Lunar Aspirations
  3. What needs to be done?
  4. NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR): Advancing Earth Observation

NASA’s Collaborative Endeavor with ISRO: Training an Indian Astronaut for ISS Mission

Key Highlights:
  • Training Collaboration: NASA commits to assisting in the training of an Indian astronaut selected by ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation).
  • ISS Mission Timeline: The trained astronaut is slated to embark on a mission to the International Space Station (ISS) by the close of 2024.
  • Selection Process: ISRO will be responsible for the selection of the astronaut, with potential candidates likely to emerge from the pool of individuals who have undergone foundational space astronaut training for the Gaganyaan mission.
  • Mission Duration: The mission’s science objectives, spanning a two-week period, will be determined by India.
Joint Working Group and Collaborative Areas:
  • A joint working group has been established by both NASA and ISRO to explore collaborative ventures in various domains.
  • The areas of collaboration encompass radiation impact studies, micro-meteorite investigations, orbital debris shield studies, and aspects related to space health and medicine.
Future of the ISS:
  • NASA has outlined plans to decommission the International Space Station (ISS) by 2031.
  • The decommissioning involves guiding the ISS out of Earth’s orbit, causing it to plunge into the ocean at a location far removed from human settlements.
  • Preparations for a seamless transition involve the anticipation of commercial replacement facilities that would sustain a continual human presence in low-Earth orbit.

India’s Endeavor: Bharatiya Antariksha Station and Lunar Aspirations

Indian Space Station – Bharatiya Antariksha Station (BAS):
  • India’s planned space station is named the Bharatiya Antariksha Station.
  • It will be both constructed and operated by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
  • The anticipated completion date for BAS is set for 2035.
  • Prime Minister Modi has urged ISRO to establish the Indian Space Station by 2035 and send an Indian to the moon by 2040.
Characteristics of BAS:
  • The Indian space station is projected to be smaller in scale compared to the International Space Station (ISS).
  • It will have a mass of 20 tonnes, distinguishing it from the ISS (450 tonnes) and the Chinese Tiangong Space Station (100 tonnes).
  • Its primary purpose will be to facilitate microgravity experiments.
  • The planned orbit for BAS is around 400 km above Earth’s surface.

What needs to be done?

Challenges and Technological Upgrades:
  • Constructing and maintaining a space station necessitates distinct technological expertise.
  • Areas such as life support systems, radiation protection, and ensuring long-term structural integrity pose challenges.
  • India needs substantial technological advancements to meet these demands.
International Collaborations and Funding:
  • To overcome challenges, India must explore international collaborations and potentially involve the private sector for funding.
Human Spaceflight Programs:
  • The development and operation of a space station require a well-trained team of astronauts.
  • Investment in human spaceflight programs, astronaut training, and essential infrastructure for crewed missions is crucial.

NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR): Advancing Earth Observation

Collaborative Effort:

  • NISAR, the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar, is a joint venture between NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation).

Innovative Technology:

  • NISAR stands out as the first radar imaging satellite to utilize dual frequencies, marking a technological advancement in Earth observation capabilities.

Comprehensive Earth Survey:

  • The primary mission objective is to survey all of Earth’s land and ice-covered surfaces every 12 days, providing frequent and comprehensive data.
  • The mission duration is slated for three years.

Observing Complex Natural Processes:

  • NISAR aims to observe intricate natural processes on Earth, including ecosystem disturbances, ice-sheet collapse, earthquakes, volcanoes, and landslides.

Functional Capabilities:

  • Positioned in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), NISAR will meticulously measure Earth’s dynamic surfaces, changing ecosystems, and ice masses.
  • Information gathering spans biomass, natural hazards, sea level rise, and groundwater.

Dual Radar Frequencies:

  • The satellite employs two distinct radar frequencies: L-band and S-band.
  • This dual-frequency approach allows for precise measurements of changes on Earth’s surface, achieving a level of precision down to less than a centimeter.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has withdrawn its earlier approval for the disbursement of funds under Telangana’s Rythu Bandhu scheme. This decision follows allegations of violations of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC).

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Rythu Bandhu Scheme Overview
  2. ECI’s Reversal of Rythu Bandhu Disbursement
  3. Model Code of Conduct (MCC)
  4. MCC (Model Code of Conduct) for political parties and candidates
  5. Criticisms of the MCC

Rythu Bandhu Scheme Overview:

  • Initiated by the Telangana government, Rythu Bandhu supports farmers with investment aid for agriculture and horticulture crops.
  • The scheme aims to alleviate the financial burden on farmers, offering a Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) of Rs.5,000 per acre each season for various agricultural needs.
  • Since its launch in 2018, the number of Rythu Bandhu beneficiaries has increased from 50.25 lakh to 70 lakh farmers.

ECI’s Reversal of Rythu Bandhu Disbursement:

  • The Election Commission of India (ECI) initially permitted Rythu Bandhu disbursement during the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) period, provided it adhered to specific guidelines.
  • Similar to the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi, the scheme aimed to support farmers without political exploitation.
  • However, a violation of MCC occurred when a Telangana minister publicized the release of funds during the elections, leading to the ECI’s reversal of permission.
  • The EC’s directive mandates an immediate halt to Rythu Bandhu disbursement during the MCC, impacting farmers’ financial assistance until the MCC period concludes.

 Model Code of Conduct (MCC)

  • The MCC refers to a set of guidelines created by the Election Commission of India (ECI).
  • It serves as a regulatory tool for political parties and candidates in the run-up to elections.
  • The primary objective of the MCC is to enable the EC to fulfill its constitutional mandate of supervising and conducting free and fair elections to the Parliament and State Legislatures.
Duration and applicability:
  • The MCC becomes operational from the date on which the election schedule is announced.
  • It remains in effect until the date of the result announcement.

MCC (Model Code of Conduct) for political parties and candidates:

Campaign Conduct
  • Political parties can criticize opponents based on policies, programs, past records, and work only.
  • Prohibited activities include using caste or communal feelings, criticizing candidates based on unverified reports, bribing or intimidating voters, etc.
  • Political parties must inform local police authorities of the time and venue of any meetings to allow for adequate security arrangements.
  • Parties should establish contact to avoid clashes between processions of multiple candidates.
  • Carrying and burning effigies representing members of other political parties is not allowed.
Polling Booth and Identity
  • Only voters and those with a valid pass from the EC can enter polling booths.
  • Authorized party workers at polling booths should wear suitable badges or identity cards.
  • Identity slips provided to voters by party workers should be on plain paper without symbols, candidate names, or party names.
Conduct of Party in Power
  • Ministers cannot combine official visits with election work or use official machinery for the same.
  • The party in power cannot advertise at the cost of the public exchequer or use official mass media for publicity to improve election chances.
  • The party in power cannot announce financial grants, promise construction of roads or provision of drinking water from the time of election announcement until the end of the election process.
  • Public spaces and rest houses cannot be monopolized by the party in power.
Election Manifesto
  • Manifestos should not contain anything against the ideals and principles of the Constitution.
  • Political parties should avoid making promises that may influence voters or vitiate the purity of the election process.
  • Manifestos should indicate the rationale and ways to meet financial requirements for promises.
  • Manifestos cannot be released during the prohibitory period prescribed under Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act 1951.
Recent Additions to the MCC:
  • Regulation of opinion polls and exit polls during the period notified by the ECI.
  • Prohibition of unapproved print media advertisements on polling day and one day prior to it.
  • Restriction on government advertisements featuring political functionaries during the election period.
Legally Enforceable MCC:
  • The MCC does not have statutory backing but is strictly enforced by the EC.
  • Certain MCC provisions can be enforced through corresponding provisions in other statutes such as the IPC 1860, CrPC 1973, and RPA 1951.
  • The Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice recommended making the MCC legally binding in 2013.
  • The ECI is against making the MCC legally binding, citing the short duration of elections and the length of judicial proceedings.

Criticisms of the MCC

Limitations and Failures of the MCC:

  • The MCC has not been effective in preventing various forms of electoral malpractices such as hate speech, fake news, money power, booth capturing, voter intimidation, and violence.

Challenges with New Technologies and Social Media:

  • The ECI faces difficulties in dealing with new technologies and social media platforms, which enable the rapid and extensive spread of misinformation and propaganda during elections.

Non-Binding Nature of the MCC:

  • The MCC is not a legally binding document, and its implementation depends on moral persuasion and public opinion, which makes it less effective in preventing electoral malpractices.

Implications on Policy Decisions and Public Interest:

  • The MCC places certain limitations on policy decisions, public spending, welfare schemes, transfers, and appointments, which can have implications for development activities and public interest.

Criticism of Application Timing:

  • The ECI has been criticized for applying the MCC too early or too late, which affects the timing of development activities and public interest.

Lack of Awareness:

  • The MCC is not widely known or understood by voters, candidates, parties, and government officials, which may lead to non-compliance with its provisions.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Decentralised Autonomous Organisations (DAOs) represent a groundbreaking innovation at the intersection of Blockchain Technology and governance.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Decentralised Autonomous Organisations (DAOs): A Digital Paradigm Shift
  2. Significance of DAOs
  3. Challenges Associated with DAOs

Decentralised Autonomous Organisations (DAOs): A Digital Paradigm Shift

  • DAOs are digital entities functioning autonomously, free from centralized control, relying on smart contracts and member consensus.
  • Utilizing cryptocurrencies for decision-making and resource allocation, DAOs have emerged across industries like finance, art, and governance.
Use Cases Across Industries:
  • Global Financial Ecosystem: Platforms like Compound and Maker DAOs redefine decentralized finance, providing global financial services beyond traditional banks.
  • Art World: Artists tokenize creations, employing DAOs for royalty management and intellectual property control.
  • Supply Chain Management: DAOs in supply chains ensure transparency and traceability, enhancing product authenticity and quality.
  • Governance of Online Communities: Platforms like DAOstack facilitate decentralized governance structures for internet communities.

Significance of DAOs:

  • Decentralization: DAOs shift power away from central authorities, embodying a decentralized approach.
  • Democratic Decision-Making: Token holders participate in proposing and voting on decisions, ensuring an inclusive and fair governance structure.
  • Transparency and Immutability: DAOs leverage smart contracts for transparency and immutability, fostering trust and reducing opacity.
  • Global Participation: DAOs transcend geographical and socio-economic barriers, promoting diversity and innovation.
  • Direct Cooperation: DAOs facilitate direct collaboration among participants, eliminating the need for intermediaries.
  • Encouraging Innovation: The structure of DAOs encourages innovation, cooperation, and the free flow of ideas, unrestricted by hierarchical structures.

Challenges Associated with DAOs

Security Concerns:
  • Smart Contract Vulnerabilities: Notorious incidents like the 2016 DAO hack underscore the importance of addressing vulnerabilities in smart contracts.
  • Security Audits: Rigorous security audits and ongoing improvements in code reliability are imperative to ensure the integrity of blockchain systems.
Legal and Regulatory Challenges:
  • Decentralized Nature: Legal classification, taxation, liability assignment, and regulatory compliance across jurisdictions pose challenges due to the decentralized nature of DAOs.
  • Governance and Compliance: Unanswered questions regarding governance, Intellectual Property, and cross-border operations require regulatory adaptation.
Dispute Resolution and Accountability:
  • Decentralized Decision-Making: Decentralized decision-making complicates dispute resolution and responsibility assignment within DAOs.
  • Smart Contract Automation: The automated nature of smart contracts raises concerns about accountability and conflict resolution without traditional legal mechanisms.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Recently, for the first time, scientists were able to visualise plants sensing compounds called green leaf volatiles (GLVs) released by other plants in danger.

Relevance:

Facts for Prelims

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Green Leaf Volatiles (GLVs)
  2. Volatiles

Green Leaf Volatiles (GLVs):

  • Green Leaf Volatiles (GLVs) stand out as a crucial category among plant volatiles, playing a pivotal role in various ecological interactions.
  • Composition: This group comprises six-carbon (C6) compounds, featuring a diverse array of substances such as alcohols, aldehydes, and esters. Notably, these aromatic messengers are emitted by nearly every plant.
Release Mechanisms:
  • Triggered Responses: GLVs are unleashed into the atmosphere in response to specific stimuli, primarily mechanical damage inflicted upon the plant or in reaction to herbivory, including attacks by fungi or bacteria.
Ecological Implications:
  • Multifaceted Roles: GLVs participate in a wide spectrum of ecological interactions. They exhibit the capacity to either repel or attract herbivores and their natural predators, showcasing their versatility in the plant kingdom.
Defence Mechanisms:
  • Dual Defence Strategies: Plants employ two major defence mechanisms triggered by molecular cascades. When subjected to damage, GLVs are released as by-products, initiating a series of reactions. This defense response aims to render the plant less palatable or even indigestible to potential insect attackers.
  • Calcium-Mediated Reactions: The intricate molecular cascade involved in plant defence is orchestrated by calcium, serving as a common mediator for both chemical and electrical signals. This calcium-mediated process underscores the sophistication of the plant’s defence strategy against external threats.

Volatiles

  • Volatiles refer to elements or compounds that undergo a phase change from a solid or liquid state to vapor at relatively low temperatures.
Common Examples:
  • Among the most prevalent volatiles are carbon dioxide, nitrogen, ammonia, hydrogen, methane, sulphur dioxide, and water. These substances are not only abundant in nature but also vital for the sustenance of living organisms.
Characteristic Features:
  •  A defining characteristic of volatiles is their ability to transition into a gaseous state at temperatures that are comparatively low, contributing to their dynamic presence in various natural processes.
Significance:
  • Essential for Life: The ubiquity of these volatiles, coupled with their transformative nature, underscores their indispensability in the intricate web of biological and ecological systems. They play a crucial role in sustaining life processes and maintaining environmental balance.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

India’s first multi-wavelength space telescope, AstroSat, has successfully detected its 600th Gamma-ray Burst (GRB), an event named GRB 231122B.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. AstroSat
  2. Scientific Objectives

AstroSat

  • AstroSat stands as India’s inaugural dedicated multi-wavelength space observatory, designed for the comprehensive study of celestial entities across X-ray, optical, and UV spectral bands simultaneously.
Key Launch Details:
  • Launched on September 28, 2015, by the Indian Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), AstroSat boasts a lift-off mass of 1515 kg.
  • Positioned in a 650 km orbit with a 6-degree inclination to the equator.
Mission Control:
  • Ground Operations: The spacecraft is diligently managed by the spacecraft control center located at the Mission Operations Complex (MOX) of the ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) in Bengaluru.
  • Mission Life: With a minimum anticipated mission life of around 5 years, AstroSat continues to contribute to scientific exploration.
Scientific Payloads:
  • AstroSat is equipped with five scientific payloads, facilitating the imaging and analysis of galactic and extra-galactic cosmic sources across a broad spectrum of wavelengths on a unified platform.

Scientific Objectives:

  • Probing High Energy Phenomena: Uncover the intricacies of high-energy processes within binary star systems housing neutron stars and black holes.
  • Magnetic Fields Exploration: Estimate the magnetic fields associated with neutron stars.
  • Stellar Birth Regions: Investigate star birth regions and the high-energy phenomena within star systems beyond our Milky Way.
  • X-ray Sky Exploration: Detect new, transiently luminous X-ray sources in the celestial expanse.
  • Ultraviolet Universe Survey: Conduct a limited yet profound deep-field survey of the Universe in the Ultraviolet region.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Researchers have discovered a new plant species in the genus ‘Impatiens’ (Balsaminaceae) in Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, Tirunelveli.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Discovery of ‘Impatiens Karuppusamyi’ in Agasthyamalai Region
  2. Key Facts about Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve

Discovery of ‘Impatiens Karuppusamyi’ in Agasthyamalai Region

  • The recently discovered plant species is named ‘Impatiens Karuppusamyi’, paying tribute to S. Karuppusamy for his notable contributions to the taxonomy of South Indian angiosperms.
  • It exclusively inhabits the Agasthyamalai region within the southern Western Ghats.
  • Classified under the scapigerous group (stemless group), the plant graces the landscape during the monsoon season for a limited period.
Impatiens Genus Overview:
  • Genus Impatiens: Encompassing over 1,000 species of flowering plants, the genus is widespread across tropical Africa, Madagascar, India, Sri Lanka, and China.

Key Facts about Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve:

  • Location: Situated in the Southern Western Ghats, spanning the Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari districts of Tamil Nadu.
  • Composite Sanctuaries: The reserve comprises three main sanctuaries: Kalakkad Sanctuary, Mundanthurai Sanctuary, and a segment of Kanyakumari Sanctuary.
  • Agastya Malai Hill Range: Forming the core area of the sanctuary, this hill range is part of one of the world’s 18 biodiversity hotspots and is colloquially known as the “River Sanctuary” due to 14 rivers originating from the Tiger Reserve.
  • Vegetation Diversity: Ranging from dry thorn forest to dry deciduous, moist deciduous, and a patch of West Coast wet evergreen forests on the higher elevations.
  • Rich Fauna: Home to diverse wildlife, including the Lion-tailed Macaque, Nilgiri Tahr, Nilgiri Pipit, Grey Headed Bulbul, Blue Winged Parakeet, and more.

-Source: The Times of India



Context:

Recently, a mysterious influenza-like illness termed as Walking Pneumonia has gripped school children in China.

Relevance:

GS II: Health

Walking Pneumonia: A Mild Form of Respiratory Infection

  • Walking pneumonia, or atypical pneumonia, is a less severe form of pneumonia primarily caused by bacteria, such as Mycoplasma pneumoniae.
  • Termed “walking” pneumonia due to its mild symptoms, allowing individuals to continue daily activities without requiring hospitalization or bed rest.
Prevalence and Transmission:
  • Common in Children: More prevalent among children, especially those aged 5 to 15, often transmitted in close-contact settings like schools.
  • Airborne Transmission: Spread through airborne droplets from coughing, sneezing, or talking, emphasizing the role of close contact in infection transmission.
Symptoms:
  • Mild Symptoms: Symptoms are generally mild and may include a persistent cough, fever, sore throat, headache, runny nose, ear pain, and occasional chest discomfort from coughing.
Treatment:
  • Antibiotics: Treatment involves antibiotics to target the specific bacteria causing the infection, aiding in a quicker recovery.

-Source: The Hindu


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