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Current Affairs 31 May 2023

CONTENTS

  1. NVS-01 Satellite
  2. India: Sixth largest producer of coffee
  3. National Rare Diseases Committee
  4. China’s Shenzhou-16 spacecraft launched
  5. RBI’s ‘lightweight’ payments system
  6. Chandrayaan-3
  7. Senkakau Islands

NVS-01 Satellite


Context:

The NVS-01 satellite was successfully launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) using the GSLV-F12, and after a 19-minute flight, it was accurately placed into a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About NVS-01
  2. What is NavIC?

About NVS-01

NVS-01 is the first satellite of the second-generation NVS series by ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation).

  • Weight: With a weight of 2,232 kg, it is the heaviest satellite in the constellation.
  • Navigation Payloads: NVS-01 carries navigation payloads in L1, L5, and S bands.
  • Purpose: The satellite aims to provide continuity for NavIC services, the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System, which offers accurate and real-time navigation within India and a 1,500 km region around the country.
  • First-generation Comparison: In contrast to the first-generation NavIC satellites, NVS-01 is much heavier, weighing around 1,425 kg at liftoff.
Rubidium Atomic Clock:
  • NVS-01 incorporates a Rubidium atomic clock, a significant technological advancement developed by India.
  • Some existing satellites in the navigation constellation faced accuracy issues due to failed atomic clocks.
  • NVS-01 aims to rectify this problem by ensuring precise time measurements for accurate location information.
Signal Frequencies:
  • In addition to the L5 and S frequency signals provided by existing satellites, NVS-01 will also transmit signals in the L1 frequency.
  • This enhances interoperability with other satellite-based navigation systems.
  • The L1 frequency, widely used in the Global Positioning System (GPS), facilitates the use of regional navigation systems in wearable devices and personal trackers with low-power, single-frequency chips.
Extended Mission Life:
  • NVS-01 is designed for a longer mission life of over 12 years, surpassing the 10-year mission life of existing satellites.

What is NavIC?

  • NavIC, or Navigation with Indian Constellation, is an independent stand-alone navigation satellite system developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation.
  • NavIC was originally approved in 2006 at a cost of $174 million. It was expected to be completed by late 2011, but only became operational in 2018.
  • NavIC consists of eight satellites and covers the whole of India’s landmass and up to 1,500 km (930 miles) from its boundaries.
  • Currently, NavIC’s use is limited. It is being used in public vehicle tracking in India, for providing emergency warning alerts to fishermen venturing into the deep sea where there is no terrestrial network connectivity, and for tracking and providing information related to natural disasters.
How does NavIC compare?
  • The main difference is the serviceable area covered by these systems.
  • GPS caters to users across the globe and its satellites circle the earth twice a day, while NavIC is currently for use in India and adjacent areas.
  • Like GPS, there are three more navigation systems that have global coverage –
    • Galileo from the European Union,
    • Russia-owned GLONASS
    • China’s Beidou
  • QZSS, operated by Japan, is another regional navigation system covering Asia-Oceania region, with a focus on Japan.
  • India’s 2021 satellite navigation draft policy stated the government will work towards “expanding the coverage from regional to global” to ensure availability of NavIC signal in any part of the world.

-Source: The Hindu


India: Sixth Largest Producer of Coffee


Context:

According to a recent report by Statista, India ranks as the sixth largest coffee producer globally, following Brazil (the largest producer), Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia, Ethiopia, and Honduras.

  • Recently, there has been a growing focus on the health advantages of South Indian coffee blends, particularly emphasizing the use of chicory and milk in coffee preparation.

Relevance:

GS III: Agriculture

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is South Indian Coffee Blend?
  2. Key Points about Coffee
  3. Health Benefits of Coffee

What is South Indian Coffee Blend?

  • It is a coffee blend popular in South India that combines coffee and chicory powders.
  • This unique blend gives the coffee a distinct flavor and characteristics.
Chicory:
  • Origin: Chicory is an herb native to Europe and Asia.
  • Inulin Content: It contains inulin, a starchy substance known for its health benefits. Inulin is also found in various fruits, vegetables, and herbs like wheat, onions, bananas, leeks, artichokes, and asparagus.
Health Benefits:
  • Mild Laxative Properties: Chicory possesses mild laxative properties, aiding in digestion.
  • Anti-inflammatory Effects: It helps reduce swelling and inflammation in the body.
  • Rich in Beta-Carotene: Chicory is rich in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that provides superior protection against oxidative damage.
  • Complement to Coffee: Chicory is caffeine-free, making it a suitable addition to coffee, which naturally contains caffeine.

Key Points about Coffee:

  • Coffee was introduced to India in the late seventeenth century.
  • The initial arrival of coffee in India was marked by the smuggling of seven coffee beans from Yemen by an Indian pilgrim in 1670.
  • The Dutch, who occupied parts of India during the 17th century, played a role in spreading coffee cultivation.
  • Commercial coffee farming flourished during the British Raj in the mid-nineteenth century, particularly in the Mysore region.

Coffee Varieties in India:

  • Arabica and Robusta are the main coffee varieties.
    • Characteristics of Arabica: Grown at higher altitudes and known for its aroma, commanding a higher market value.
    • Characteristics of Robusta: Known for its strength and commonly used in various coffee blends.
Coffee Plantations and Biodiversity:
  • Predominantly grown under thick natural shade in ecologically sensitive regions of the Western and Eastern Ghats.
  • Coffee plantations in these regions are recognized as biodiversity hotspots.
  • Coffee cultivation contributes significantly to India’s unique biodiversity.
  • Approximately 65% to 70% of the coffee produced in India is exported, while the remaining is consumed domestically.
  • Role in Sustaining Biodiversity and Socio-economic Development:
  • Coffee cultivation plays a vital role in sustaining biodiversity.
  • It fosters socio-economic development in remote hilly areas.

Climatic Conditions and Soil Types:

Climate Conditions:
  • Hot and humid climate, with temperatures ranging from 15°C to 28°C and rainfall between 150 to 250 cm.
  • Frost, snowfall, high temperatures above 30°C, and strong sunlight can be detrimental to coffee cultivation.
Ideal Soil Conditions:
  • Well-drained loamy soils with the presence of humus and minerals such as iron and calcium.
  • Fertile volcanic red earth and deep sandy loam soils are also favorable for coffee cultivation.
  • Heavy clay soils and sandy soils are less suitable for coffee cultivation.

Coffee Plantation Locations in India:

  • Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh (Araku Valley), Odisha, Manipur, Mizoram, and other northeastern states.
  • Major Coffee Producer: Karnataka accounts for approximately 70% of India’s total coffee production.

Health Benefits of Coffee:

  • Protection against oxidative damage: Coffee is rich in antioxidants, which help combat oxidative stress and reduce the risk of cell damage caused by free radicals.
  • Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes: Studies have shown that regular coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Coffee may improve insulin sensitivity and regulate blood sugar levels.
  • Reduced risk of age-related diseases: Coffee has been linked to a decreased risk of age-related diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and certain types of cancers.
Benefits of South Indian Filter Coffee with Milk:
  • Enhanced taste and flavor: Unlike plain coffee, South Indian filter coffee is typically served with hot milk. The addition of milk adds a creamy texture and enhances the overall taste and flavor of the coffee.
  • Anti-inflammatory effects: Research conducted by the University of Copenhagen suggests that coffee with milk may have anti-inflammatory properties. The combination of proteins and antioxidants present in milk could contribute to this effect.
  • Ongoing human trial: A large-scale human trial is currently underway to study the health effects of milk-added coffee. This study has sparked interest among Indian coffee lovers and may provide further insights into the potential health benefits of this specific coffee preparation.

-Source: The Hindu


National Rare Diseases Committee


Context:

Recently, the Delhi High Court has taken a proactive step to address the challenges faced by patients with rare diseases by establishing a five-member panel to implement the Centre’s rare diseases policy effectively.

  • The panel, known as the National Rare Diseases Committee, aims to ensure that patients enrolled with the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, receive timely treatment and benefit from the policy.

Relevance:

GS II: Government Policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are ‘Rare diseases’?
  2. Pressing Issues regarding ‘Rare diseases’
  3. National Rare Diseases Committee
  4. Provisions of the National Rare Disease Policy 2021

What are ‘Rare diseases’?

A rare disease, also referred to as an orphan disease, is any disease that affects a small percentage of the population.

Most rare diseases are genetic, and are present throughout a person’s entire life, even if symptoms do not immediately appear.

  • Haemophilia,
  • Thalassemia,
  • Sickle-cell anaemia,
  • Auto-immune diseases,
  • Pompe disease,
  • Hirschsprung disease,
  • Gaucher’s disease,
  • Cystic Fibrosis,
  • Hemangiomas and
  • Certain forms of muscular dystrophies

Are some of the most common rare diseases recorded in India.

Pressing Issues regarding ‘Rare diseases’

  • Rare diseases pose a significant challenge to health care systems because of the difficulty in collecting epidemiological data, which in turn impedes the process of arriving at a disease burden, calculating cost estimations and making correct and timely diagnoses, among other problems.
  • There are 7,000-8,000 classified rare diseases, but less than 5% have therapies available to treat them.
  • About 95% rare diseases have no approved treatment and less than 1 in 10 patients receive disease-specific treatment. Where drugs are available, they are prohibitively expensive, placing immense strain on resources.
  • These diseases have differing definitions in various countries and range from those that are prevalent in 1 in 10,000 of the population to 6 per 10,000.
  • India has said it lacks epidemiological data on the prevalence here and hence has only classified certain diseases as ‘rare.’
  • Currently, only a few pharmaceutical companies are manufacturing drugs for rare diseases globally and there are no domestic manufacturers in India except for those who make medical-grade food for those with metabolic disorders.
  • Due to the high cost of most therapies, the government has not been able to provide these for free.

National Rare Diseases Committee:

The National Rare Diseases Committee is a panel established by the Delhi High Court to address the challenges faced by patients with rare diseases and implement the rare diseases policy.

Composition:

The committee is composed of five members who are experts in relevant fields, including medical professionals, policymakers, and representatives from healthcare institutions.

Responsibilities and Objectives:

Assessing Cases:

  • The committee focuses on patients enrolled with AIIMS in Delhi.
  • It evaluates individual cases to understand the medical needs of patients with rare diseases and determine appropriate treatment options.

Implementation of the Policy:

  • The committee devises strategies and guidelines for translating the provisions of the rare diseases policy into actionable steps.
  • It ensures that the policy is effectively implemented to benefit patients with rare diseases.

Coordination and Collaboration:

  • The committee facilitates close coordination between the medical community, therapy providers, and governmental agencies.
  • It creates a collaborative environment to address the challenges associated with rare diseases and find collective solutions.

Treatment Accessibility:

  • One of the committee’s objectives is to ensure timely access to treatment for patients with rare diseases.
  • It explores avenues for procuring necessary therapies and drugs and establishes a logistical framework for the seamless administration of treatment.

Provisions of the National Rare Disease Policy 2021

  • Patients of rare diseases will be eligible for a one-tome treatment under the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY).
  • Financial support up to Rs20 lakh under the Umbrella Scheme of Rashtriya Arogaya Nidhi shall be provided by the central government for treatment of those rare diseases that require a one-time treatment (diseases listed under Group 1) for their treatment in Government tertiary hospitals only. – (NOT be limited to below poverty line (BPL) families, but extended to about 40% of the population as eligible under the norms of Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY))
The policy has categorised rare diseases in three groups:
  • Disorders amenable to one-time curative treatment;
  • Those requiring long term or lifelong treatment; and
  • Diseases for which definitive treatment is available but challenges are to make optimal patient selection for benefit.

The government has said that it will also assist in voluntary crowd-funding for treatment as it will be difficult to fully finance treatment of high-cost rare diseases.

Criticisms of the National Rare Disease Policy 2021
  • Though the document specifies increasing the government support for treating patients with a ‘rare disease’— from Rs 15 lakh to Rs 20 lakh — caregivers say this doesn’t reflect actual costs of treatment.
  • The Policy leaves patients with Group 3 rare diseases to fend for themselves due to the absence of a sustainable funding support.
  • What the policy doesn’t capture is that these are diseases that last a lifetime adding up to a huge amount of expenditure and many of the patients who can’t afford such treatment will be unable to even make it to the prescribed tertiary hospitals for treatment.

-Source: The Hindu


China’s Shenzhou-16 Spacecraft Launched


Context:

China launched a spacecraft carrying three astronauts, including its first civilian, to its Tiangong space station.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About New Mission to the Tiangong Space Station
  2. Tiangong Space Station

About New Mission to the Tiangong Space Station:

  • The new mission aims to replace the crew of Shenzhou-15 aboard the Tiangong space station, who have been there since November of the previous year.
  • The newly arrived crew will stay on the space station for the next five months.

Mission Goals:

  • Conduct large-scale in-orbit tests and experiments in various fields as planned.
  • Achieve high-level scientific advancements in the study of novel quantum phenomena, high-precision space time-frequency systems, the verification of general relativity, and the origin of life.

Manned Mission History:

  • This mission marks China’s fifth manned mission to a fully functional space station since 2021.
Launch Details:
  • The spacecraft, Shenzhou-16, was launched atop a Long March-2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the Gobi Desert in northwest China at 9:31 am.
  • According to the Director of Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre, Zou Lipeng, the launch was a “complete success,” and the astronauts are reported to be in good condition.

Tiangong Space Station:

  • Operated by China Manned Space Agency (CMSA), the Tiangong space station is China’s ambitious project to establish a permanently inhabited space station for scientific research and space exploration.
Background:
  • Construction: The first module of the Tiangong space station entered orbit in 2021, with two more modules added in subsequent years.
  • US-China Relations: China developed its own space station after the United States barred NASA from collaborating with China due to concerns of espionage.
Objectives and Expansion:
  • Scientific Outpost: The Tiangong space station is expected to become the primary in-orbit outpost for scientific research once the operations of the International Space Station (ISS) conclude in 2030.
  • Expansion Plans: China has announced plans to expand the space station, intending to add additional modules to create a cross-shaped structure.
International Collaboration:
  • Invitation to Collaborate: China has invited other countries and companies to collaborate and carry out experiments at its space station, signaling openness to international cooperation in space exploration.
  • Missions: China’s space agency, CMSA, has planned three space missions for the space station’s application and development in 2023, including the Shenzhou-16 manned mission, the cargo craft Tianzhou-6, and the second crewed spaceship, Shenzhou-17.

-Source: Indian Express


RBI’s ‘Lightweight’ Payments System


Context:

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has conceptualised a lightweight payment and settlements system, which it is calling a “bunker” equivalent of digital payments, which can be operated from anywhere by a bare minimum staff in exigencies such as natural calamities or war.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Details
  2. Reasons for the Need of a Lightweight Payments System
  3. Differences between the Lightweight System and UPI
Details:
  • The infrastructure for this system will be independent of the technologies that underlie the existing systems of payments such as UPI, NEFT, and RTGS.
  • The central bank has not offered a timeline for the launch of this payments system yet.

Reasons for the Need of a Lightweight Payments System:

Minimalistic Hardware and Software:

  • The lightweight payments system is designed to operate on minimalistic hardware and software, reducing the infrastructure and operational costs.
  • This enables easy implementation and accessibility, especially in areas with limited technological resources.

Near Zero Downtime:

  • The lightweight system aims to ensure near-zero downtime of the payment and settlement system in the country.
  • By minimizing disruptions, it maintains the liquidity pipeline of the economy and enables uninterrupted functioning of essential payment services such as bulk payments, interbank payments, and cash provision to participant institutions.

Stability of the Economy:

  • The system is expected to process critical transactions that contribute to the stability of the economy, including government and market-related transactions.
  • By providing a reliable and efficient platform for these transactions, the lightweight system supports the smooth functioning of economic activities.

Resilience and Confidence:

  • Implementing a resilient payment system enhances public confidence in digital payments and financial market infrastructure, even during extreme conditions.
  • The lightweight system acts as a “bunker equivalent” for payment systems, ensuring their continued operation and bolstering public trust in the reliability and security of digital payments.

Differences between the Lightweight System and UPI:

Purpose and Design:

  • The lightweight system is designed to provide uninterrupted functioning of essential payment services, particularly in extreme and volatile situations, such as natural calamities or war.
  • UPI (Unified Payments Interface) is a popular payment system in India that facilitates peer-to-peer and peer-to-merchant transactions in a fast and convenient manner.

Handling of Transactions:

  • Existing conventional payment systems like UPI, RTGS (Real-Time Gross Settlement), and NEFT (National Electronic Funds Transfer) are designed to handle large volumes of transactions and ensure sustained availability.
  • The lightweight system, on the other hand, focuses on critical transactions necessary for the stability of the economy, including government and market-related transactions.

Infrastructure:

  • UPI and other conventional payment systems rely on complex wired networks and advanced IT infrastructure for their operations.
  • In contrast, the lightweight system is expected to operate on minimalistic hardware and software, reducing the dependency on sophisticated infrastructure and making it more portable and accessible.

Resilience:

  • The primary objective of the lightweight system is to ensure the resilience and availability of payment services, even during extreme and disruptive events.
  • While UPI and other existing systems strive for continuous availability, they may be temporarily affected during

-Source: Indian Express


Chandrayaan-3


Context:

Recently, chief of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) confirmed that Chandrayaan-3 will be launched in July, 2023.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Chandrayaan-3
  2. Objective and Composition
  3. Lander and Rover Instruments

About Chandrayaan-3

  • Follow-on Mission: Chandrayaan-3 is a mission that follows Chandrayaan-2 and aims to demonstrate safe landing and roving capabilities on the moon.
  • Propulsion Module: The propulsion module will transport the lander and rover configuration to a lunar orbit of 100 km.
  • Launch Details: Chandrayaan-3 will be launched using the LVM3 (Launch Vehicle Mark 3) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, India.
  • Mission Life: The expected mission life for the lander and rover is one lunar day, which is approximately 14 Earth days.

Objective and Composition:

  • Objective: Chandrayaan-3 is an ambitious mission by ISRO aimed at demonstrating critical technologies required for successful spacecraft landing on the moon’s south pole.
  • Composite Structure: The Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft is composed of three modules: propulsion, lander, and rover.
  • Scientific Instruments: The mission carries scientific instruments to study various aspects of the lunar environment, including the thermo-physical properties of the lunar regolith (surface material), lunar seismicity, lunar surface plasma environment, and elemental composition near the landing site.

Lander and Rover Instruments:

  • Lander Instruments: The lander deployed with Chandrayaan-3 will include Chandra’s Surface Thermophysical Experiment for measuring thermal conductivity and temperature. It will also carry the Instrument for Lunar Seismic Activity to estimate seismic activity and a Langmuir Probe to calculate plasma density and variations.
  • Rover Instruments: The rover will be equipped with the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer and the Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy instrument to analyze the elemental composition in the vicinity of the landing site.

-Source: Indian Express


Senkakau Islands


Context:

Amid the rising tensions in the Indo-Pacific region, Japan Coast Guard (JCG) source recently revealed that a China Coast Guard (CCG) vessel has been navigating in Japan’s territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands.

Relevance:

Places in News

Senkaku Islands

  • The Senkaku Islands are a group of uninhabited islands located in the East China Sea.
  • They are situated approximately 90 nautical miles north of the Yaeyama Islands in Japan’s Okinawa Prefecture and 120 nautical miles northeast of Taiwan.
  • The islands are known as the Diaoyu Islands in Mainland China, the Diaoyutai Islands in Taiwan, and the Pinnacle Islands by other observers.
  • The group of islands includes Uotsuri Island, Kuba Island, Taisho Island (also called Kumeakashima Island), Kitakojima Island, Minamikojima Island, Tobise Island, Okinokitaiwa Island, and Okinominamiiwa Island.

Dispute:

  • The Senkaku Islands are at the center of a territorial dispute between Japan and China, as well as between Japan and Taiwan.
  • Various countries claim sovereignty over the islands, which has led to tensions in the region.

Administration:

  • The islands were never administered by any other country prior to Japan incorporating them into its territory in 1895.
  • Currently, Japan administers and exercises control over the Senkaku Islands as part of the city of Ishigaki in Okinawa Prefecture.

-Source: The Print


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