Current Affairs and News Analysis for UPSC Civil Service Examination and State Civil Service Examinations.

17 September 2018 - Current Affairs for UPSC IAS and State Civil Service Exam

Science and Technology

ISRO launches two British satellites NovaSAR and S1-4 using PSLV-C42

The NovaSAR and S1-4 earth observation satellites were launched at the spaceport here in Andhra Pradesh's Sriharikota.

The PSLV-C42 launch vehicle, which carried both space satellites, blasted off from the first launchpad at Satish Dhawan Space Centre at 10.08 pm.

NovaSAR is intended to be used for forest mapping, land use and ice cover monitoring, flood and disaster monitoring.

The S1-4 will be used for surveying resources, environment monitoring, urban management and disaster monitoring.

  • After ISRO put the replacement navigation satellite, IRNSS-1I to space aboard the PSLV-C41 rocket on April 12th, it has not carried out any launch.
  • The PSLV is being launched in its core-alone format, minus the external boosters.
  • Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV):

    • It is a medium-lift launch vehicle that has become the most reliable workhorse for ISRO.
    • It was developed to allow India to launch its Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellites into sun-synchronous orbits.
    • PSLV can also launch small size satellites into geostationary transfer orbit (GTO).
    • The PSLV has four stages using solid and liquid propulsion systems alternately.
    • The first stage is one of the largest solid rocket boosters in the world.
    • The second stage employs the Vikas engine and carries liquid propellant.
    • The third stage uses solid propellant and while the fourth stage is powered by twin engines carrying liquid propellants.
    • There are currently two operational versions of the PSLV — the core-alone (PSLV-CA) without any strap-on motors, and the (PSLV-XL) version, with six extended length (XL) strap-on motors.
    • Some notable payloads launched by PSLV include India’s first lunar probe Chandrayaan-1, India’s first interplanetary mission, Mars Orbiter Mission (Mangalyaan) and India’s first space observatory, Astrosat.
    • PSLV has gained credence as a small satellite launcher due its numerous multi-satellite deployment campaigns with auxiliary payloads usually ride sharing along an Indian primary payload.
    • Most notable among these was the launch of PSLV C37 on 15 February 2017 successfully deploying 104 satellites in sun-synchronous orbit, tripling the previous record held by Russia for most number of satellites sent to space on a single launch.

    Govt Scheme

    7 out of 10 seats sold on flights to smaller cities

    For every 10 seats available under the government’s low-cost flying scheme, as many as seven were grabbed by passengers since its launch last year, according to data accessed under the RTI (Right to Information) Act.

    Seat occupancy, also known as passenger load factor, is an indicator of demand on a particular route

    Important Points

    • Under UDAN, which aims to take flying to the masses and enhance air connectivity to Tier-1 and Tier-2 cities, two rounds of bidding have taken place so far.
    • Under the scheme eight airlines have started flights on 96 routes out of a total of 428 routes that were awarded to 17 airlines and helicopter operators. But helicopter services are yet to commence.
    • Airline operators are required to set aside half of the total aircraft capacity for cheaper fares which are offered at the subsidised rate of ₹2,500 per hour of flight.
    • The airlines in return are compensated by the Centre and the respective State government.
    • Seat occupancy, also known as passenger load factor, is an indicator of demand on a particular route.
    • Analysis of data sought obtained through RTI shows that as many 7.5 lakh seats were made available for sale by eight airline operators, out of which 5.24 lakh seats were sold between the first flight under the scheme in April last year and until August 1st, 2018.

    AboutUde Desh Ka Aam Nagrik(UDAN) Scheme

    • UDAN RCS (Regional Connectivity Scheme) was launched in October 2016 to develop the regional aviation market.
    • It is a vital component of the National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP), 2016.
    • It aims to make flying affordable by providing connectivity to un-served and under-served airports of country through revival of existing airstrips and airports so that persons in regional towns are able to take affordable flights.
    • It is applicable on flights covering distance between 200 km and 800 km with no lower limit set for hilly, remote, island and security sensitive regions.
    • It seeks to reserve a minimum number of UDAN seats i.e. seats at subsidized rates and also cap fare for short distance flights.
    • It has a unique market-based model to develop regional connectivity. It has Viability Gap Funding (VDF) mechanism to meet the VGF requirements under the scheme.
    • Airports Authority of India (AAI) under the Ministry of Civil Aviation is the implementing agency of the scheme.
    • The scheme has two components. The First componentis to develop new and enhance the existing regional airports to increase the number of operational airports for scheduled civilian flights.
    • The Second componentis to add several hundred financially-viable capped-airfare new regional flight routes to connect more than 100 underserved and unserved airports in smaller towns with each other as well as with well served airports in bigger cities by using “Viability Gap Funding” (VGF) where needed

    PM launches cleanliness campaign

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the “Swachhata Hi Seva” (“cleanliness is service”) campaign.

    • As According to PM Narendra Modi, the sanitation coverage in India had increased from 40% to over 90% in the four years of the “Swachh Bharat” (Clean India) project.
    • He launched the “cleanliness is service” exercise to promote greater public participation in one of the flagship programmes of the government.
    • It will continue till Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary next month.
    • The campaign is being coordinated by Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, convening Ministry for the Swachh Bharat Mission.
    • Its objective is to mobilise people and reinforce Jan Aandolan (mass movement) for sanitation to contribute to Mahatma Gandhi’s dream of a Clean India.
    • It will see large scale mobilisation of people from all walks of life to undertake shramdaan (voluntary work for cleanliness and construction of toilets and to make their environments open defecation free. There will be targeted cleaning of public and tourist places.
    • The main agenda of the campaign will be to reach out to the poor and marginalised and provide them with sustainable sanitation services.

    37 lakh new mothers receive cash benefits under Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY)

    Under the Centre Govt's maternity benefit programme Nearly 37 lakh women have received cash incentives since the implementation of the scheme last year.

    Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY)

    • The scheme came into effect from January 1, 2017, and has an estimated 51.6 lakh beneficiaries a year.
    • The Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) offers pregnant women and lactating mothers’ ₹5,000 as assistance for the first birth in the family. The programme’s aim is to reduce malnutrition.
    • A sum of ₹1,000 is also given to women after institutional delivery under the Janani Suraksha Yojana.
    • The scheme has an estimated 51.6 lakh beneficiaries a year.
    • As many as 48.11 lakh women have been enrolled in the Matru Vandana Saptah and the Centre has disbursed an amount of ₹1,168.63 crores to various States.
    • It is implemented by the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
    • It is a Maternity Benefit Programme that is implemented in all the districts of the country in accordance with the provision of the National Food Security Act, 2013.
    • Under – nutrition continues to adversely affect majority of women in India. In India, every third woman is undernourished and every second woman is anaemic.
    • An undernourished mother almost inevitably gives birth to a low birth weight baby. When poor nutrition starts in – utero, it extends throughout the life cycle since the changes are largely irreversible.
    • Owing to economic and social distress many women continue to work to earn a living for their family right up to the last days of their pregnancy. Furthermore, they resume working soon after childbirth, even though their bodies might not permit it, thus preventing their bodies from fully recovering on one hand, and also impeding their ability to exclusively breastfeed their young infant in the first six months.

    Objective of the Scheme

    1. Providing partial compensation for the wage loss in terms of cash incentives so that the woman can take adequate res t before and after delivery of the first living child.
    2. The cash incentive provided would lead to improved health seeking behaviour amongst the Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers (PW& LM).

    International Relations

    Does U.S. want India to import more?

    • US President Trump has unleashed a trade war against many countries based on his electoral promise of ‘America First’.
    • As a result, the US government has imposed higher duties on imports to spur local manufacture and increase jobs in the U.S.
    • The same spirit is also behind the move to pressure India to import at least $10 billion a year more from the U.S. over the next three years.

    India – US trade volume:

    •  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, India imported $25.7 billion from the U.S. in 2017 while it exported $48.6 billion to the largest economy in the world.
    • The U.S.’s latest demand from India is to cut its trade deficit by close to half, through increased purchases of civilian aircraft and natural gas.

    How does it affect India?

    • Such a policy of the US could be disastrous for India — not only will India’s exports to the U.S. suffer, but it would have wasted precious dollar resources in signing up for imports under pressure.
    • Even if the U.S. continued to grow, an increase in imports by India, merely to address the trade gap, would have a telling effect on the exchange rate.
    • Indian government officials have estimated an extra $26 billion expenditure due to rising oil prices.
    • Oil importers buy dollars to pay for their imports. That has contributed significantly to the falling rupee, which has lost as much as 14% this year, making it the worst performing currency in Asia.
    • Spending an extra $10 billion a year on imports from the U.S. would mean further pressure on the rupee.
    • A falling rupee makes life difficult for other Indian importers. This would have a domino effect on the rest of the economy.
    • Rising prices could dampen consumer demand, resulting in poorer profit margins for industry.

    GS II/ Constitutional bodies

    SC's Stay on RBI's Circular

    The Supreme Court has ordered a stay on the implementation of RBI's February 12 circular dealing with insolvency proceedings. Click here to know more on the issue.


    • The RBI's circular is part of a revised RBI framework for resolution of stressed assets in the economy.
    • It mandates insolvency proceedings under the new Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) for a debt servicing default beyond 180 days.
    • It also asks banks to recognise loans as non-performing even if repayment was delayed by just one day.
    • Power firms have argued that the provision was unfair.
    • It's because their debt repayment capacity was directly linked to revenue from power distribution companies.
    • It is also depended on the availability of coal, a natural resource closely regulated by the State.
    • The Allahabad High Court thus earlier refused to grant relief to troubled power companies facing action from the RBI.
    • But the SC has now ordered that insolvency proceedings should not commence against the defaulting power companies.

    Supreme Court's rationale

    • The current insolvency resolution process has its own flaws, despite the benefits.
    • Lenders could realistically expect to recover less than a tenth of their dues if stressed assets are to be liquidated.
    • It's because the IBC overemphasises on speedy resolution than the recovery of maximum value from stressed assets.
    • Power companies thus argue that their assets could yield better returns if resolved completely outside the IBC's purview.
    • With SC's order, the distressed power companies and many other firms in shipping, sugar and textile sectors would be relieved.
    • The decision is also helpful for the banks as they would have time for the recognition of bad loan losses.


    • Intervention - The troubles of power companies can be traced to structural issues such as the -
    1. absence of meaningful price reforms
    2. unreliable fuel supply
    3. unsustainable finances of public sector power distribution companies
    • So banks are unlikely to make much money out of the stressed assets until these structural problems are addressed.
    • Certainly, policymakers, and not courts, would have to take charge and resolve these issues.
    • So the Court's decision to intervene will do very little good in the long run to either stressed power companies or their lenders.
    • IBC - The decision will transfer all pleas seeking exception from RBI's circular to the court itself.
    • This has come as the biggest challenge against the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) yet.
    • Postponement of next hearing and the resultant delay undermines the new bankruptcy regime's feature of resolution within a strict time frame.
    • It is thus likely to cause significant uncertainty in the resolution of stressed assets.
    • It would also undermine investor confidence in the bankruptcy process.