Daily Current Affairs

Prelims Prominence - July 30, 2018

Science & Technology

Deep Ocean Mission (DOM) ‘ISRO-like’ ocean mission planned 8,000 crore plan to explore the deep recesses of the ocean

WHAT

  • Looking to emulate the success of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in designing and launching satellites, the Centre has drawn up a five-year, 8,000 crore plan to explore the deep recesses of the ocean.

Implementing Ministry

  • The Union Earth Sciences Ministry — tasked with coordinating the exercise — unveiled a blueprint of the ‘Deep Ocean Mission (DOM)’

Objectives

  • To plant an offshore desalination plant that will work with tidal energy, and developing a submersible vehicle that can go to a depth of at least 6,000 metres with three people on board.
  • The mission proposes to explore the deep ocean, similar to the space exploration started by ISRO about 35 years ago

Enlighten about India’s share

  • India has been allotted a site of 1,50,000 sq. km in the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) by the UN International Sea Bed Authority for exploitation of polymetallic nodules (PMN).
  • These are rocks scattered on the seabed containing iron, manganese, nickel and cobalt.
  • It is envisaged that 10% of recovery of that large reserve can meet the energy requirement of India for the next 100 years.
  • It has been estimated that 380 million metric tonnes of polymetallic nodules are available at the bottom of the seas in the Central Indian Ocean
  • India’s Exclusive Economic Zone spreads over 2.2 million sq. km and in the deep sea, lies unexplored and unutilised.
  • The focus will be on technologies for deep-sea mining, underwater vehicles, underwater robotics and ocean climate change advisory services, among other aspects.

Enlighten about UN International Sea Bed Authority

  • It is a principal function of the Authority is to regulate deep seabed mining and to give special emphasis to ensuring that the marine environment is protected from any harmful effects which may arise during mining activities, including exploration.
  • One of its first priorities was the formulation of the Regulations for Prospecting and Exploration for Polymetallic Nodules which includes the collaboration of the respective responsibilities of seabed explorers and the Authority in order to ensure environmentally sustainable development of seabed mineral resources.

State Specific

Kerala gets all-woman battalion

WHAT

  • The 578 members of the first batch of the battalion have completed their training at the Kerala Police Academy at Ramavarmapuram in Thrissur district. Of them, 44 have been trained as commandos.

Enlighten about the batttalion

  • Plans for a woman’s battalion started in Thiruvananthapuram in 2017.
  • The nine-month training for the first battalion started in September 2017.
  • They have been taught kalari, yoga, karate, swimming, driving, computers, disaster management and basic laws. They have also been trained in crime investigation and preparation of case diaries.

Defence

National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System-II (NASAMS-II) India plans to procure missile shield from U.S.

WHAT

  • India is in talks with the U.S. to procure an advanced air defence system to defend the National Capital Region (NCR) from aerial attacks.
  • The process for procuring the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System-II (NASAMS-II), estimated at $1 billion, has been initiated.
  • This system will help in preventing 9/11-type attacks [when terrorists flew hijacked planes into New York’s World Trade Center] on Delhi.
  • It is in the Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) stage now

Enlighten about India’s Secure airspace

  • India is deploying a multi-tiered air defence network to fully secure its airspace from incoming fighter aircraft, missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).
  • This system would complement other systems such as the medium and long-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems under procurement.
  • India is also in an advanced stage of talks with Russia for the procurement of very long range S-400 air defence systems.
  • Apart from these imports, India is also developing an indigenous Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) system.
  • Phase-I of the BMD is expected to be deployed soon.

Enlighten about NASAMS

  • The NASAMS was developed by Raytheon in partnership with KONGSBERG Defence and Aerospace of Norway.
  • It is a “highly adaptable mid-range solution” for any operational air defence requirement and provides a tailorable, state-of-the-art defence system that can maximise the ability to quickly identify, engage and destroy current and evolving enemy aircraft, UAV or emerging cruise missile threats.”
  • NASAMS-II is an upgraded version of the NASAMS and features new 3D mobile surveillance radars and 12 missile launchers for quicker reaction.
  • India is going ahead with the procurement of the S-400 systems despite differing views of the U.S. over the sanctions against Russia and the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.

Army’s Smerch systems to roll on Indian wheels Vehicles made by Ashok Leyland to replace Russian ones The firm has bagged the contract for 81 high mobility vehicles for the launchers.

WHAT

  • An Indian vehicle manufacturer will deliver heavy duty, high mobility vehicles for the Army’s Russian-built Smerch Multi-Barrel Rocket launchers (MBRL) as well to carry strategic missiles developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
  • Ashok Leyland was awarded a 100-crore contract for 81 high mobility 10x10 vehicles by the Army to replace the Russian vehicles which currently carry the Smerch launchers.
  • The delivery will start in this financial year and will be completed in the next financial year

Enlighten about the vehicle

  • The tender for the vehicles was floated by the Army in 2015 and trials were completed in 2017-end, with three contenders in the race.
  • The 10x10 vehicle is powered by the Ashok Leyland 360HP Neptune engine and can carry a maximum load of 27 tonnes at a maximum speed of 60 kmph.
  • Some of the vehicles will be fitted with rocket handling cranes.
  • This will reduce dependency on imports. It [the vehicle] has undergone extensive trials by the Army
  • Ashok Leyland also won a tender from the DRDO to develop an even heavier 12x12 vehicle to mount the country’s long range strategic missiles. These vehicles can carry a maximum load of 34 tonnes.
  • India initially procured two regiments of the 12-tube, 300 mm Smerch systems from Russia under a ₹2,600 crore signed in end 2015, and later procured additional systems under a second deal in 2007.
  • Each regiment has two batteries of six launchers each. The Smerch has a maximum range of 90 km.

Infrastructure Development

FASTags

  • The radio frequency identification device (RFID)-based FASTag system for vehicles crossing toll gates
  • 26 lakh cars and trucks now use the windscreen-mounted tags to shorten their journey time.
  • FASTag users can experience ‘near’ non-stop movement at 405 of the 479 toll plazas on various national highways.

How the device works

  • The tag with a quick response (QR) code and an identification number is affixed to the windscreen of a vehicle.
  • The tag is linked to a user’s FASTag account with the bank of his or her choice.
  • When a vehicle approaches a toll plaza on a national highway, it can use dedicated FASTag lanes to avoid stopping to pay a toll tax.
  • Currently the technology being currently used in India still requires one to slow down to a speed of 10 km per hour as the toll plaza antennae has a range of only six metres.
  • Once the vehicle passes through a toll booth, the user receives an SMS alert regarding the charge debited to his or her account.
  • To encourage the use of FASTags, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) refunds 5% of the total monthly transactions.
  • While the device was rolled out in April 2016, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways made it mandatory from December 1, 2017 for all new cars and trucks to be fitted with a FASTag before they were sold. But, the use of these smart cards is not mandatory yet.
  • The Ministry has also proposed to make FASTag compulsory for all commercial vehicles seeking a national permit.

Enlighten about FASTag Working

  • A FASTag is a reloadable tag that automatically deducts toll charges and allows a vehicle to pass through a toll gate without stopping for the payment.
  • It uses radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to make cashless payments through a prepaid account linked to it.
  • The tag is fixed to the windscreen of a vehicle and an RFID antenna in the canopy of the toll gate scans the QR code and the tag identification number, following which the boom barrier lifts to allow a vehicle to pass through.
  • The tag, which is valid for five years, comes in seven different colours — violet, orange, yellow, green, pink, blue, black. Each colour is assigned to a particular category of vehicles.
  • It is mandatory for cars and trucks sold after December 1, 2017 to be fitted with a FASTag.
  • The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has tied up with 20 banks to allow people to recharge their cards as well as for owners of old vehicles to purchase a FASTag.
  • The NHAI also has a mobile application for FASTag that allows users to buy and recharge these tags as well as seek information on toll rates on different routes. It also allows them to give their feedback
  • Users are refunded 5% of the total toll paid by them in a given month. Apart from enjoying a cashless transaction, users can also pass through the plaza without having to stop their vehicle to make the payment.
  • However, the RFID antennae deployed have a range of six metres, which means a vehicle needs to slow down for it to scan the tag.
  • Commercial vehicles such as taxis and trucks are the largest beneficiaries of the technology.

Ministry of Defence

Unified Commanders Conference - 2018

What

  • The two day Unified Commanders’ Conference (UCC) for the year 2018 will be held on 30th & 31st Jul 2018 at New Delhi.
  • The Annual Conference provides a platform for discussions at the Apex Level on all ‘Joint Issues’ amongst the three Services & Ministry of Defence and enables stock taking of the previous year and planning the way ahead for the next year.

Organising Members

  • The Conference will be conducted under the tutelage of Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff (HQ IDS) and will be attended by the Raksha Mantri, Rajya Raksha Mantri, National Security Advisor, the Chiefs of Army, Navy & Air Force and other Senior Military and Civil Officials of the Ministry of Defence and Tri-Service Organisations/Institutions.

Objective

  • The scope of this conference has been enhanced this year to enable the forum to facilitate joint stock taking of the previous year’s performance of all Services & Departments of Ministry of Defence and jointly chart the course for the next year.

Commerce

44th India Gem & Jewellery Awards 2017 Organised by the Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) Gold council to aid exports on the anvil

What

  • The Centre has decided to set up a Domestic Council for Gold to aid exports of jewellery and to create an ecosystem to harness the true potential for jewellery-making in the country.

Objective

  • The council would work towards industry development, job creation, building of regional clusters and strengthening of value chains.

Enlighten about the council

  • This council will represent all the jewellers of India who will be the electoral college.
  • They will form different interest groups and elect those who will sit in the council
  • Adding the council would provide domestic support for exports.
  • Every village has a jeweller who makes handmade and custom-made jewellery.
  • These artisans will be helped by jewellery designers to come out with products with better value, which will be ultimately exported by big companies

Formation of Coordination Committee

  • A Coordination Committee will be set up comprising senior officials of the Ministry and the gem and jewellery industry, who will meet monthly to ensure that industry concerns are addressed on priority.
  • The first meeting of the committee will be held on August 1.
  • India’s exports in 2017-18 were the highest in six years, and exports had been growing at a higher rate the last few months

Enlighten about World Gold Council

  • The World Gold Council is the market development organisation for the gold industry.
  • It works across all parts of the industry, from gold mining to investment, and their aim is to stimulate and sustain demand for gold.
  • They frequently publish research that demonstrates gold’s strength as a preserver of wealth – both for investors and countries.
  • They also provide analysis of the industry, offering insights into the drivers of gold demand.
  • They have also launched various products such as SPDR GLD and gold accumulation plans in India and China.
  • The World Gold Council is an association whose members comprise the world’s leading gold mining companies.
  • It helps to support its members to mine in a responsible way and developed the Conflict Free Gold Standard.
  • Headquartered in London United Kingdom, they have offices in India, China, Singapore, Japan and the United States.

Sources – The Hindu , PIB , Indian Express