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PIB 20th April


  1. Union HRD Minister chairs the review meeting on SWAYAM
  2. Surplus rice available with FCI allowed to be converted to ethanol
  3. New model to predict ionospheric electron density


Focus: GS-II Social Justice, Prelims

Why in news?

  • Union Minister for Human Resource Development, Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ held a detailed review of the National online education platform SWAYAM and the 32 DTH Television Education Channels SWAYAM PRABHA.
  • In the lockdown condition there has been a tremendous increase in demand and the usage of SWAYAM Courses and SWAYAM PRABHA videos.

What is SWAYAM?

  • SWAYAM (Study Webs of Active–Learning for Young Aspiring Minds) is a programme initiated by Government of India.
  • SWAYAM platform is developed by Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and NPTEL, IIT Madras with the help of Google Inc. and Persistent Systems Ltd.
  • It is designed to achieve the three cardinal principles of Education Policy viz., access, equity and quality.
  • The objective of this effort is to take the best teaching learning resources to all, including the most disadvantaged.
  • SWAYAM seeks to bridge the digital divide for students who have hitherto remained untouched by the digital revolution and have not been able to join the mainstream of the knowledge economy.
  • This is done through an indigenous developed IT platform that facilitates hosting of all the courses taught in classrooms to be accessed by anyone, anywhere at any time.
  • All the courses are interactive, prepared by the best teachers in the country and are available, free of cost to the residents in India.
  • UGC has already issued the UGC (Credit Framework for online learning courses through SWAYAM) Regulation 2016 advising the Universities to identify courses where credits can be transferred on to the academic record of the students for courses done on SWAYAM.
  • The courses hosted on SWAYAM is in 4 quadrants
    • video lecture
    • specially prepared reading material that can be downloaded/printed
    • self-assessment tests through tests and quizzes and
    • an online discussion forum for clearing the doubts.

What is SWAYAM Prabha?

  • The SWAYAM PRABHA is a group of 32 DTH channels devoted to telecasting of high-quality educational programmes on 24X7 basis using the GSAT-15 satellite.
  • Every day, there will be new content for at least 4 hours which would be repeated 5 more times in a day, allowing the students to choose the time of their convenience.


Focus: GS-III Science and Technology

Why in news?

It was approved in a meeting of NBCC on 20th April that the surplus rice available with Food Corporation of India (FCI) may be converted  to ethanol for utilization in making alcohol-based hand-sanitizers and in blending for Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) programme.

Is this allowed?

National Policy on Biofuels, 2018 under Para 5.3 inter-alia envisages that during an agriculture crop year when there is projected over supply of food grains as anticipated by the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, the policy will allow conversion of these surplus quantities of food grains to ethanol, based on the approval of National Biofuel Coordination Committee (NBCC).

However, this move may be criticized on the grounds that people who do not have ration cards can be given rice under the Food Security Act rather than converting the rice into a biofuel or spirit at a time when food security is noted as top priority by WHO.

Details and more information

  • This is the first time a food grain is being used for making spirit in the country for blending with petrol and manufacturing hand sanitizers that are highly in demand these days due to the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Ethyl Alcohol is also known as ethanol and is a by-product of the sugar industry.
  • The other option which is more suitable is isopropyl alcohol which is used by manufacturers of hand sanitizers as the base for their product.
  • The annual requirement of Hand Sanitizers in India is estimated at roughly 10 crore litres.
  • It is estimated that the sugar industry has manufactured about 8 lakh litres of ethanol in response to the demand increase from sanitizer manufacturers.


Focus: GS-III Science and Technology, Prelims

Why in news?

The Indian Institute of Geomagnetism researchers have developed a model that will predict electronic density of ionosphere which is important for Communication and Navigation needs.

Details about the new model

  • The new Artificial Neural Networks based global Ionospheric Model has been developed using long-term ionospheric observations to predict the ionospheric electron density and the peak parameters.
  • The ionospheric variability is greatly influenced by both solar originated processes and the neutral atmosphere origin, therefore, difficult to model.
  • Scientists have tried to model the ionosphere using theoretical and empirical techniques; however, the accurate prediction of electron density is still a challenging task.

More with respect to ANN

Artificial Neural Networks replicate the processes in the human brain to solve problems such as pattern recognition, classification, clustering, generalization, linear and nonlinear data fitting and time series prediction.

In recent years, the Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs) are showing potential to handle more complex and non-linear problems.

What is Ionosphere?

Ionoshpere in earths atmosphere reflecting waves
  • Ionosphere is the ionized part of Earth’s upper atmosphere, from about 60 km (37 mi) to 1,000 km (620 mi) altitude, a region that includes the thermosphere and parts of the mesosphere and exosphere.
  • The ionosphere is ionized by solar radiation, hence it grows and shrinks depending on the energy it absorbs from the Sun.
  • It plays an important role in atmospheric electricity and forms the inner edge of the magnetosphere.
  • It has practical importance because, among other functions, it influences radio propagation to distant places on the Earth.
  • Due to the ability of ionized atmospheric gases to refract high frequency (HF, or shortwave) radio waves, the ionosphere can reflect radio waves directed into the sky back toward the Earth.
  • This communication method is variable and unreliable, with reception over a given path depending on time of day or night, the seasons, weather, and the 11-year sunspot cycle.
February 2024