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North East Road Network Connectivity Improvement Project

Paper: General Studies 3

Topic: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

Why in the news?

  • The work of construction of four-lane bridge including approaches over River Brahmaputra between Dhubri on North Bank in Assam and Phulbari on South Bank in Meghalaya is being taken up with loan assistance from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The estimated cost of this work is Rs. 4997.04 crore.  The construction period is 7 years and 9 months and the projected date of completion is in the year 2026-27. 
  • This work falls under the project ‘North East Road Network Connectivity Improvement Project’. National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL), a Central Public Sector Enterprise (CPSE) under the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, is the executing agency.

What is the North East Road Network Connectivity Improvement Project?

The objective of the project is to enhance the connectivity of the North Eastern states with the rest of India and each other.


Chandrayaan 2

Paper: General Studies 3

Topic: Achievements of Indians in science & technology

Why in the news?

  • India’s Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle GSLV MkIII-M1, successfully launched the 3840 kg Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft into an earth orbit today. The spacecraft is now revolving round the earth with a perigee (nearest point to Earth) of 169.7 km and an apogee (farthest point to Earth) of 45,475 km. 
  • This flight marks the first operational flight of the GSLV Mk III.

What is the GSLV MkIII?

  • GSLV MkIII, chosen to launch Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft, is a three-stage heavy lift launch vehicle developed by ISRO. The vehicle has two solid strap-ons, a core liquid booster and a cryogenic upper stage.
  • GSLV Mk III is designed to carry 4 ton class of satellites into Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) or about 10 tons to Low Earth Orbit (LEO), which is about twice the capability of the GSLV Mk II.
  • The two strap-on motors of GSLV Mk III are located on either side of its core liquid booster. Designated as ‘S200’, each carries 205 tons of composite solid propellant and their ignition results in vehicle lift-off. S200s function for 140 seconds. During strap-ons functioning phase, the two clustered Vikas liquid Engines of L110 liquid core booster will ignite 114 sec after lift -off to further augment the thrust of the vehicle. These two engines continue to function after the separation of the strap-ons at about 140 seconds after lift -off.

What is the Chandrayaan 2 mission?

  • Chandrayaan-2 is India’s second mission to the moon. It comprises a fully indigenous Orbiter, Lander (Vikram) and Rover (Pragyan). The Rover Pragyan is housed inside Vikram lander.
  • The mission objective of Chandrayaan-2 is to develop and demonstrate the key technologies for end-to-end lunar mission capability, including soft-landing and roving on the lunar surface. 
  • On the science front, this mission aims to further expand our knowledge about the Moon through a detailed study of its topography, mineralogy, surface chemical composition, thermo-physical characteristics and atmosphere leading to a better understanding of the origin and evolution of the Moon.
  • After leaving earth orbit and on entering Moon’s sphere of influence, the on-board propulsion system of Chandrayaan-2 will be fired to slow down the spacecraft. This will enable it to be captured into a preliminary orbit around the Moon. Later, through a set of manoeuvres, the orbit of Chandrayaan-2 around the moon will be circularised at 100 km height from the lunar surface.
  • Subsequently, the lander will separate from the Orbiter and enters into a 100 km X 30 km orbit around the Moon. Then, it will perform a series of complex braking manoeuvers to soft land in the South polar region of the Moon on September 7, 2019.
  • Following this, the Rover will roll out from the lander and carry out experiments on the lunar surface for a period of 1 lunar day, which is equal to 14 Earth days. The mission life of the lander is also 1 lunar day. The Orbiter will continue its mission for a duration of one year.
  • The orbiter had a lift-off weight of about 2,369 kg, while the lander and rover weighed 1,477 kg and 26 kg respectively. The rover can travel up to 500 m (half a kilometre) and relies on electric power generated by its solar panel for functioning.
  • Chandrayaan-2 has several science payloads to facilitate a more detailed understanding of the origin and evolution of the Moon. The Orbiter carries eight payloads, the lander carries three, and the rover carries two. Besides, a passive experiment is included on the lander. The Orbiter payloads will conduct remote-sensing observations from a 100 km orbit while the Lander and Rover payloads will perform in-situ measurements near the landing site.


Inter-Ministerial Committee on Virtual Currencies 

Paper: General Studies 3

Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

Why in the news?

  • The Government had constituted an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on 2.11.2017 under the Chairmanship of Secy (EA), with Secy (MeiTY), Chairman (SEBI) and Dy. Governor, RBI as Members, to study the issues related to virtual currencies and propose specific action to be taken in this matter. 
  • The Group’s report, along with a Draft Bill has been received by the Government. This Report and Draft Bill will now be examined in consultation with all the concerned Departments and Regulatory Authorities, before the Government takes a final decision.


What are the major recommendations of the committee?

  • The inter-ministerial committee set up by the government on virtual currencies has suggested banning of  cryptocurrencies in India due to the risks associated with them and the volatility of prices.
  • The report also suggests punishment for holding and trading in cryptocurrencies. “Whoever directly or indirectly mines, generates, holds, sells, deals in, transfers, disposes of or issues cryptocurrency… shall be punishable with fine or with imprisonment which shall not be less than one year but which may extend up to ten years, or both,” the report said.
  • The group has also proposed that the government should have an open mind on having an official digital currency.
  • The group has proposed that the government might consider setting up of a standing committee to revisit the issues addressed in the report, as virtual currencies and its technology are still evolving.
  • The report also said that the government in consultation with the RBI, may approve digital rupee to be legal tender to come into effect as and when notified and to an extent as may be specified. The digital rupee shall be governed by such regulations as may be notified by the Reserve Bank under the relevant provisions of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934 (Act No. 2 of 1934) .
  • It has also submitted a Draft Bill ‘Banning of Cryptocurrency & Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2019 containing the above provisions.
  • The report also highlights the positive aspect of distributed-ledger technology (DLT) and suggests various applications, especially in financial services, for use of DLT in India. The DLT-based systems can be used by banks and other financial firms for processes such as loan-issuance tracking, collateral management, fraud detection and claims management in insurance, and reconciliation systems in the securities market.

What is distributed ledger technology?

  • Distributed ledger technology (DLT) is a digital system for recording the transaction of assets in which the transactions and their details are recorded in multiple places at the same time. Unlike traditional databases, distributed ledgers have no central data store or administration functionality.
  • In a distributed ledger, each node processes and verifies every item, thereby generating a record of each item and creating a consensus on each item’s veracity. A distributed ledger can be used to record static data, such as a registry, and dynamic data, i.e., transactions.
  • Distributed ledger technologies have the potential to speed transactions because they remove the need for a central authority or middleman. Similarly, distributed ledgers have the potential to reduce costs of transactions.
  • Experts also believe that a distributed ledger technology is much more secure because each node of the network holds records, thereby creating a system that’s more difficult to manipulate or successfully attack.


Private Sector Investment in Defence Production

Paper: General Studies 3

Topic: indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

What are the steps that have been taken to enhance private investments in defence production?

  • Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) has been revised in 2016 wherein specific provisions have been introduced for stimulating growth of the domestic defence industry.
  • A new category of procurement ‘Buy {Indian-IDDM (Indigenously Designed, Developed and Manufactured)}’ has been introduced in DPP-2016 to promote indigenous design and development of defence equipment.  It has been accorded top most priority for procurement of capital equipment. Besides this, preference has been accorded to ‘Buy (Indian)’, ‘Buy and Make (Indian)’ & ‘Make’ categories of capital acquisition over ‘Buy (Global)’& ‘Buy & Make (Global)’categories.
  • Government has notified the ‘Strategic Partnership (SP)’ Model which envisages establishment of long-term strategic partnerships with Indian entities through a transparent and competitive process, wherein they would tie up with global Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to seek technology transfers to set up domestic manufacturing infrastructure and supply chains.
  • The ‘Make’ Procedure has been simplified with provisions for funding of 90% of development cost by the Government to Indian industry and reserving projects not exceeding development cost of Rs.10 crore (Government funded) and Rs.3 crore (Industry funded) for MSMEs.
  • Separate procedure for ‘Make-II’ sub-category has been notified wherein a number of industry friendly provisions such as relaxation of eligibility criteria, minimal documentation, provision for considering proposals suggested by industry/individual etc. have been introduced. Till date, 36 proposals for development by industry have been given ‘In-principle’ approval under Make-II.
  • Government has decided to establish two defence industrial corridors to serve as an engine of economic development and growth of defence industrial base in the country.  These are spanning across Chennai, Hosur, Coimbatore, Salem and Tiruchirappalli in Tamil Nadu and across Aligarh, Agra, Jhansi, Chitrakoot, Kanpur and Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh (UP).
  • An innovation ecosystem for Defence titled Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) has been launched in April, 2018.  iDEX is aimed at creation of an ecosystem to foster innovation and technology development in Defence and Aerospace by engaging Industries including MSMEs, Start-ups, Individual Innovators, R&D institutes and Academia and provide them grants/funding and other support to carry out R&D which has potential for future adoption for Indian defence and aerospace needs.
  • The Ministry has instituted a new framework titled ‘Mission Raksha Gyan Shakti’ which aims to provide boost to the IPR culture in indigenous defence industry.
  • Government has notified a Policy for indigenisation of components and spares used in Defence Platforms in March, 2019 with the objective to create an industry ecosystem which is able to indigenize the imported components (including alloys & special materials) and sub-assemblies for defence equipment and platform manufactured in India.
  • Defence Investor Cell has been created in the Ministry to provide all necessary information including addressing queries related to investment opportunities, procedures and regulatory requirements for investment in the sector.
  • FDI Policy has been revised and under the revised policy, FDI is allowed under automatic route upto 49% and beyond 49% through Government route wherever it is likely to result in access to modern technology or for other reasons to be recorded.
  • The process for export clearance has been streamlined and made transparent & online.  Scheme for promotion of defence Exports has been notified.
  • Government has set up the Technology Development Fund (TDF) to encourage the participation of public/private industries especially MSMEs, through provision of grants, so as to create an eco-system for enhancing cutting edge technology capability for defence applications.
  • Offset guidelines have been made flexible by allowing change of Indian Offset Partners (IOPs) and offset components, even in signed contracts.  Foreign Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) are now not required to indicate the details of IOPs and products at the time of signing of contracts.  ‘Services’ as an avenue of offset have been reinstated.

Prelims Specific

  • Indian Naval Air Squadron (INAS) 313, the fifth Dornier aircraft squadron was commissioned into the Indian Navy. The Squadron will be operating from Chennai International Airport. With commissioning of INAS 313, the State of Tamil Nadu will have three naval air bases; which is the highest number for any Coastal State. INS Rajali at Arakkonam and INS Parundu at Ramnad are the other two air bases in Tamil Nadu. The Squadron will operate Dornier aircraft which is a multi-role Short Range Maritime Reconnaissance (SRMR) aircraft manufactured by HAL, under license from RUAG Aerospace. The aircraft is used for maritime surveillance, Search and Rescue Operations and to provide targeting data to weapon platforms. 


For details on Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019 see Current Affairs of July 2019.