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13 December, 2019

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GS-II : International Relations Others
India faces a diplomatic challenge

Syllabus subtopic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India's interests, Indian diaspora.

Prelims and Mains focus: about USCRIF 2019 report, citizenship amendment bill 2019, diplomatic challenges faced by India regarding the passage of CAB

News: In the wake of a statement from United States Congress members on the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), the Union government has spoken to lawmakers across parties in Washington, the External Affairs Ministry said.


New Delhi is grappling with the diplomatic and logistical fallout of the Bill on relations with Bangladesh and Afghanistan and the coming visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

In particular, the Ministry said it had noted a statement from the bipartisan House Foreign Affairs Committee that had said that any “religious test for citizenship” would undermine Indian democracy.

Earlier, the Ministry had reacted strongly to the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) favouring sanctions against Home Minister Amit Shah and other senior leadership.


  • US Commission on International Religious Freedom is a bipartisan, independent federal government commission, created by International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.
  • It also publishes International Religious Freedom report

Key findings of International Religious Freedom 2019 report

In its Annual Report, USCIRF unflinchingly describes threats to religious freedom around the world and recommends to the State Department countries for designation as “countries of particular concern” (CPCs) for engaging in or tolerating “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations.”

USCIRF also recommends to the State Department that non-state actors cited for similarly severe violations be designated as “entities of particular concern” (EPCs).

This year, USCIRF has recommended 16 countries for CPC designation and five entities for EPC designation.

Also, USCIRF placed 12 countries on its Tier 2 list, meaning the violations meet one or two, but not all three, of the elements of the systematic, ongoing, egregious test for CPC status.

Key facts:

The 16 countries USCIRF recommended for CPC designation include 10 that the State Department so designated in November 2018 – Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan – as well as six others that the State Department has not designated – Central African Republic (CAR), Nigeria, Russia, Syria, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.

The 12 countries on USCIRF’s Tier 2 list are Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, and Turkey.

The five entities recommended for EPC designation include the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Taliban in Afghanistan, al-Shabab in Somalia, and new to the list this year, the Houthis in Yemen and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in Syria.

What it says about India

India saw an “overall deterioration of religious freedom conditions in 2018”.

India continues to remain a Tier II country. It is in same list since 2009. Tier II countries are those in which violations engaged in or tolerated by government are serious and characterized by at least one of the elements of systematic, ongoing, and egregious (horrible)’.

India is facing declining religious freedom, apart from increased securitisation and politicisation of religion.

It is increasingly becoming difficult to separate religion and politics. It is a tactic which is sometimes intended by those who seek to discriminate against certain religious communities.

Over the last decade Minorities conditions have deteriorated in country. The reason is attributed to extremist groups, anti-conversion laws, cow-protection groups, mob lynching, concerns that millions from Assam will be incorrectly left out of NRC (National Register of Citizen) and a denying international NGOs registration.

About Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019

Note: to know in detail about CAB, click on the link below:


Source: The Hindu

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SC, ST quota in Parliament extended

Syllabus subtopic: Parliament and State Legislatures - structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.

Prelims and Mains focus: About the key features of the Bill and the controversy around it, constitutional provisions related to Anglo Indians

News: Parliament on Thursday passed a Constitutional amendment giving a 10­year extension to reservations for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies and ending the provision for nomination of two Anglo­Indians.

About the Bill

The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty­Sixth Amendment) Bill, 2019, was passed unanimously by the Rajya Sabha, two days after it was passed by the Lok Sabha.

All 163 members present voted to pass the amendment, after a heated exchange between the ruling party and the Opposition.

The Bill extended the reservation for SCs and STs in the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies, which was due to end on January 25, 2020, for 10 years, the seventh such 10­year extension given since the Constitution was enacted in 1950.

The Bill also ended the provision for nomination of Anglo­Indians too.

Provisions related to Anglo Indians

According to Article 366 (2) an Anglo-Indian means a person whose father or any of whose other male progenitors in the male line is or was of European descent but who is domiciled within the territory of India or born within such territory and whose parents habitually were resident in India and not established for temporary purposes only.

The Constitution empowers the President under Article 331 to nominate maximum of two members of the Anglo Indian Community to the Lok Sabha, if he/ she is of the opinion that the community is not adequately represented. The president will act on the basis of this constitutional provision only when no Anglo Indian had been elected to the House of people in General Elections

Under Article 333, the Governor of a state is of the opinion that Anglo Indian Community is not adequately represented in the state assembly, he / she can nominate one member.

Note: The Anglo Indian Community was entitled to special educational grants under the Article 337 of the Constitution for a period of 10 years. During the first three years, this grant was what the community had been receiving in 1947. Thereafter, it was to be progressively reduced @10%.

Source: The Hindu

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CAG hints at massive diversion of LPG

Syllabus subtopic: Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.

Prelims and Mains focus: key findings and significance of CAG report, About PMUY, CAG

News: The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, in a report on the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY), has highlighted the risk of diversion of domestic LPG cylinders for commercial use, as 1.98 lakh beneficiaries had an average annual consumption of more than 12 cylinders.

About PMUY

The PMUY scheme was launched in May 2016 to safeguard the health of women and children by providing them with clean cooking fuel. Its target was revised to eight crore LPG connections.

What did the report say?

The CAG said this level of consumption seemed improbable in view of the BPL (below poverty line) status of such beneficiaries.

13.96 lakh beneficiaries consumed 3 to 41 refills in a month. Further, IOCL [Indian Oil Corporation Limited] and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) in 3.44 lakh instances issued 2 to 20 refills in a day to a PMUY beneficiary having single-bottle cylinder connection.

As on 31 March 2019, the oil marketing companies(OMCs) had issued 7.19 crore connections, which is about 90% of the target to be achieved till March 2020.

To rule out existing LPG connections in beneficiaries’ household, de-duplication was to be carried out based on Aadhaar of all family members.

Audit noticed that out of 3.78 crore LPG connections, 1.60 crore (42%) connections were issued only on the basis of beneficiary Aadhaar which remained a deterrent in de-duplication.

Errors in identification

The CAG said laxity in identification of beneficiaries was noticed as 9,897 connections were issued against Abridged Household List Temporary Identification Numbers (AHL TINs), where names of all family members and the beneficiary were blank in the Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC)-2011 list.

Lack of input validation check in the IOCL software allowed issue of 0.80 lakh connections to beneficiaries aged below 18. Data analysis also revealed that 8.59 lakh connections were released to beneficiaries who were minor as per the SECC-2011 data, which was in violation of PMUY guidelines and LPG Control Order, 2000.

It also exposed a mismatch in the name of 12.46 lakh beneficiaries between the PMUY database and SECC-2011 data. The CAG, on field visits, also found that connections were given to “unintended” persons.

The audit also highlighted the delay of more than 365 days in the installation of 4.35 lakh connections against the stipulated time period of seven days.

About Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG)

Appointed by President, nominated by PM of India + Office term – 6 years or upto 65 yrs of age & can be removed by the President on the same grounds & manner as a judge of SC.

Duties & Functions

He is the chief Guardian of Public purse & head of Indian audit & account department

Audits accounts of Union & states to ensure nothing is spent out of consolidated fund of India or of the state without the sanction of the parliament or respective state legislature

Audits government owned companies (51% stake of Gov.) as an external auditor

Reports of CAG are taken into consideration by public accounts committee (PAC)

Public accounts committee (PAC)

A committee of not more than 22 members (LS → 15 & RS → 7)

Formed every year in parliament & state legislature

A minister cannot be a member of PAC

Chairman of PAC is appointed by speaker of Lok sabha & is generally from opposition party

Independence of office of CAG

Gets security of tenure as though appointed by President, CAG may be removed from his office only on the grounds of proved misbehaviour or incapacity only in a manner as a judge of SC is removed (i.e. each house of parliament is passing a resolution supported by not less than 2/3rd of the members present & voting )

Salary & conditions of his service cannot be changed except under financial emergency

His salary is charged on consolidated fund of India & is not subjected to vote of parliament (paid salary equivalent to Judge of SC) & is eligible for annual pension

In other matters, his conditions of service shall be determined by rules applicable to an IAS officer, holding a rank of secretary to GOI

After retirement, he is disqualified for appointment under union or state government

Source: The Hindu

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Andhra Cabinet clears law to deal with crime against women

Syllabus subtopic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Prelims and mains focus: about the new laws cleared by the AP assembly and their significance; about Zero FIR

News: The Andhra Pradesh Disha Act and the Andhra Pradesh Special Court for Specific Offences against Women and Children Act 2019 were cleared by the Andhra Pradesh Cabinet on Wednesday and the Bills are scheduled to be taken up for discussion in the Legislative Assembly this week.

Key features of the new laws

As per these new laws, if there is conclusive evidence to prove crimes committed against women, the police can wrap up investigation in a week and file the charge sheet within 14 days. The judicial process of awarding punishment would be concluded within 21 days.

In cases of heinous crimes like rape, the death sentence would be awarded under the new law.

Also, special courts will be set up to try cases of crimes against women and children in the state.

The Disha Act also empowers the police and courts to take action under Indian Penal Code section 354 (E) against those who upload posts on social media that degrade women or damage their reputation. First time offenders would be sentenced to prison for two years, second time offenders would get four years in jail.

Also, under the new law, action would be taken under IPC section 354 (F) on those involved in sexual assault on children. Offenders in such cases will be sentenced to 10-14 years in prison and depending on the severity of the crime, the punishment would be extended to life imprisonment.

The Cabinet also decided to extend the imprisonment for crimes under the POCSO Act. The Act also makes it compulsory for police to register a “Zero FIR’’, which means that police have to register a case anywhere, irrespective of jurisdiction.

Source: Indian Express

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Aung San Suu Kyi defends Myanmar at ICJ in Rohingya genocide case

Syllabus subtopic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.

Prelims and Mains focus: About the Rohingya crisis and its consequences, ICJ, OIC

News: Myanmar State Counsellor and Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi defended Myanmar at International Court of Justice against accusations of carrying out a genocide against its Muslim Rohingya minority.


Myanmar’s civilian leader will appear at the International Court of Justice, after the Republic of the Gambia — a tiny country along the west coast of Africa — accused Myanmar of breaching the 1948 Genocide Convention. The Gambia, which is predominantly Muslim, is backed by the 57-member Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

During three days of hearings, Gambia’s legal team will ask the 17-member panel of UN judges at the ICJ to impose “provisional measures” to protect the Rohingya before the case can be heard in full.

Myanmar’s defence on the case

Myanmar authorities have strongly disputed that conclusion, categorizing the military operation as a legitimate counter-terrorism response to attacks by Rohingya militants..

While it risks drawing further criticism abroad, Suu Kyi’s decision to go to court has won plaudits in Myanmar, where the Rohingya are widely viewed as illegal immigrants. However, several right groups have also planned demonstrations in the Duty city, calling for a global boycott of Myanmar.

Suu Kyi’s appearance at the ICJ will be a far cry from her previous visits to Europe. She has not visited western Europe since 2016, when she still enjoyed international support after Myanmar’s first free election in decades. Since the Rohingya crackdown, the 74-year-old’s international reputation has been tarnished and she has been stripped of numerous honours and attacked by fellow Nobel laureates.

About the Rohinga crisis

Who are the Rohingyas?

The Rohingya are an ethnic group, the majority of whom are Muslim. The Rohingyas are 100 per cent Bengali and speak a Chittagong dialect. They currently reside in Rakhine State, Myanmar. There was an estimated about 1 million Rohingya living in Myanmar before the 2016–17 crisis.

What is the background of Rohingyas?

According to historian, Ronhingyas were forcibly settled in Burma by the British in order to control the Arakan (Rakhine State) in Myanmar and they were spread through the country. Burmese Prime Minister Ne Win evacuated out the Rohingyas from much of Burma in 1962 but those in Arakan, remained. But the government efforts remained the same. Due to the government’s efforts around Rohingya were displaced, 200,000 (1978), 250,000 (1991), 14000 (2012) and are at it again.

Why are they persecuted?

Military coup in Myanmar changed the national history of the country after 1962. All citizens were required to obtain national registration cards, but Rohingya was given foreign identity cards. This act, gradually diminishing the rights on the jobs and educational opportunities. In 1982, a new citizenship law resolution was passed which effectively curbed the Rohingya as stateless resident. The new law, Rohingya enabled them to erase their position in the country's 135 ethnic groups. The law outlined three levels of citizenship. In order to obtain the most basic level (naturalised citizenship), the people must produce a proof that the person's family lived in Myanmar before 1948 and fluency in one of the national languages. But unfortunately Rohingya didn’t have such proof. As a result of the law, Rohingya’s lost their rights to study, work, travel, marry, practice their religion and even the access health services have been and continue to be restricted. Being treated as foreigners the Rohingya couldn’t vote.

In the early 1970’s, Myanmar government began to follow a series of crackdowns Rohingya in Rakhine State have forced hundreds of thousands to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh, India, Thailand and Saudi Arabia. But after the killings of nine border police in October 2016, the Myanmar government blamed that an armed Rohingya group was the culprit and began a more severe security crackdown on villages where Rohingya. For the first time, a UN official accused the government of carrying out ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya in November 2016.

International Initiatives

About 70 per cent of the one million refugees are now receiving food aid, according to the Inter Sector Coordination Group report from mid-April 2018. Currently around 1 lakh people are provided adequate foods to treat their malnutrition.

In order to minimize the risk of disease and infection, large-scale vaccination programmes have been launched to try to minimise the risk of disease. Around 4 lakh children (Under 15 years of age) were given a five-in-one vaccination, including cover for diptheria, tetanus and whooping cough.

To improve sanitation and public health, 47,639 temporary emergency latrines have been built Bangladesh military

Bangladesh has built more shelters in the Cox's Bazaar area but also wants to limit their travel to allocated areas

The UK has pledged £59m in aid to support those fleeing to Bangladesh. UK Prime Minister Theresa May also said the military action in Rakhine had to stop. The UK has suspended training courses for the Myanmar military.

Rohingyas refugees in India

India does not have a specific law regarding refugees besides, India has the biggest number of refugees in the country in the entire South Asia and dealt with one of the biggest refugee crises in the world during partition of the country. Indian Constitution defines the citizen of thecountry and the subsequent laws also do not deal with refugees. In legal terms, a person living in India can be either a citizen or a foreigner defined under the Foreigners Act, 1946. India has also not been a signatory of the 1951 UN Convention or the 1967 Protocol - both relating to the Status of Refugees and included in the UNHCR statute. According to the UNHCR, a refugee is a person living in another country following persecution in his own on the grounds of "race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion."

According to unofficial estimates, even before the present Rohingya crisis broke out, there were around 2 lakh persons in India, of whom 2,01,281 were refugees and 6,480 asylum seekers" by the end of 2015. There are about 16,000 UNHCR- verified Rohingya refugees in India. The government estimate puts the figure of Rohingya refugees living in India beyond 40,000 with maximum concentration in and around Jammu.


Even before the Rohingya crisis acquired international proportion, their population in Myanmar was estimated at around 1 million (10 lakh). Under the 1982 citizenship law, the Myanmar government recognised only about 40,000 Rohingyas as its citizens and the rest of the people were treated illegal people speaking Bengalis (immigrants from Bangladesh).

As the Myanmar government does not recognise the Rohingyas as its citizens, in general, it will be difficult for India to deport them. Due to lack of refugee law or policy India cannot force them to evacuate Rohingyas as their stay in the country, but this could give a political twist. The Centre has told the Supreme Court that many Rohingyas have acquired documents meant for Indian citizens only like Aadhaar card, PAN card and even Voter-ID. This raises the concern of the naturalisation of the illegal migrants by illegal means. Due to the socio-economic complexities of Indian society and politics, this could lead to a debate around the minority rights of the Rohingyas. So in order to avoid such problems the country should enact a new law regarding refugees. Before that, India must rehabilitate the Rohingya refugees who could a target for Jihadi outfits.

About ICJ

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial body of the UN. Established in 1946 to replace the Permanent Court of International Justice, the ICJ mainly operates under the statute of its predecessor, which is included in the UN Charter.

It has two primary functions: to settle legal disputes submitted by States in accordance with established international laws, and to act as an advisory board on issues submitted to it by authorized international organizations.


The International Court of Justice is composed of 15 judges elected to nine-year terms of office by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council. These organs vote simultaneously but separately. In order to be elected, a candidate must receive an absolute majority of the votes in both bodies. In order to ensure a measure of continuity, one third of the Court is elected every three years. Judges are eligible for re-election.

Who nominates the candidates?

Every state government, party to the Charter, designates a group who propose candidates for the office of ICJ judges. This group includes four members/jurists of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (machinery which enables arbitral tribunals to be set up as desired and facilitates their work) also picked by the State. Countries not part of the statute follow the same procedure where a group nominates the candidates.

Each group is limited to nominate four candidates, two of whom could be of their nationality. Within a fixed duration set by the Secretary-General, the names of the candidates have to be sent to him/her.

Qualifications of ICJ judges?

A judge should have a high moral character.

A judge should fit to the qualifications of appointment of highest judicial officers as prescribed by their respective states or.

A judge should be a juriconsult of recognized competence in international law.

The 15 judges of the Court are distributed as per the regions:

Three from Africa.

Two from Latin America and Caribbean.

Three from Asia.

Five from Western Europe and other states.

Two from Eastern Europe.

Independence of the Judges:

Once elected, a Member of the Court is a delegate neither of the government of his own country nor of that of any other State. Unlike most other organs of international organizations, the Court is not composed of representatives of governments. Members of the Court are independent judges whose first task, before taking up their duties, is to make a solemn declaration in open court that they will exercise their powers impartially and conscientiously.

In order to guarantee his or her independence, no Member of the Court can be dismissed unless, in the unanimous opinion of the other Members, he/she no longer fulfils the required conditions. This has in fact never happened.

About the OIC:

Organisation of Islamic Cooperation is an international organization founded in 1969, consisting of 57 member states.

It is the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations.

The organisation states that it is “the collective voice of the Muslim world” and works to “safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony“.

The OIC has permanent delegations to the United Nations and the European Union.

Permanent Secretariat is in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Source: Indian Express

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GS-III : Economic Issues Stock market
Low risk a draw for investors in Bharat Bond ETF

Syllabus subtopic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

Prelims and Mains focus: About ETFs, Bharat Bond ETF, advantages of ETFs over mutual funds

News: The Bharat Bond exchange-traded fund (ETF), which has opened for subscription, is a new category of debt investment with the benefits of low-cost passive investing in a fixed maturity product that invests in a portfolio of AAA-rated bonds.

What is the Bharat Bond ETF?

It is an investment product that invests in a portfolio of AAA-rated bonds issued by government entities. The portfolio will mimic the Nifty Bharat Bond Index that includes bonds of issuers such as NTPC and REC. The three-year variant tracks the three-year Nifty Bharat Bond Index and matures in April 2023; the 10-year variant tracks the 10-year index and matures in April 2030. Investors will be allotted units in the ETF in demat form, which will be listed and traded on the stock exchange. On maturity of the ETF, the bonds held in the portfolio will also mature and the money received will be paid out to unit holders.

How is it different from other products?

Bharat Bond is a target maturity ETF unlike other ETFs and mutual fund (MF) schemes that are open- ended products. The three-year ETF will only invest in bonds with similar tenures and likewise the 10-year ETF. The tenure of the bonds will roll down over time and mature around the time of maturity of the ETF. The interest rate risk will thus come down over time, as bonds with lower maturity will see less volatility in their prices. The portfolio of other ETFs and MFs reflect the maturity band of the product category specified by SEBI: say, a short duration fund has to always run a duration between 1-3 years in its portfolio.

How does a target maturity ETF benefit its investor?

A target maturity ETF gives investors visibility on their yield: it’s like buying a bond and holding it to maturity. You will get interest payments and repayment of principal on maturity. Bharat Bond ETF will, similarly, hold a basket of bonds and receive coupon income and the repayment of principal on maturity, which will be distributed to the unit holders.

What is the likely yield for Bharat Bond ETF?

The fact sheets for the Bharat Bond indices indicate a yield of 7.58% for the 10-year index and 6.69% for the three-year index as on 5 December. The yields for the two variants are likely to be around these levels. SBI’s fixed deposit rates for similar tenures is around 6.25%. The gains from the ETF held for over three years are taxed as long-term capital gains with indexation benefits, which reduce the incidence of tax, especially on the 10-year ETF. However, interest income on fixed deposit is taxed at the marginal rate of tax.

How does the ETF manage risks?

The structure of the Bharat Bond ETF eliminates the risk of volatility in net asset value for investors who hold the units to maturity. Sebi’s recent guidelines on ETFs capping the exposure to issuers at 15%, along with the quasi-sovereign nature of the issuers, makes the default risk in the investment negligible. As an ETF, the units are available for purchase and sale anytime during trading hours on the exchange. There are market makers, who will provide buy and sell quotes to ensure liquidity for the investors.

What is an Exchange-traded-fund?

Benefits of ETF

Low Cost – Unlike traditional mutual and index funds, ETFs have no front- or back-end loads. In addition, because they are not actively managed, most ETFs have minimal expense ratios, making them much more affordable than most other diversified investment vehicles.

Liquidity – Whereas traditional mutual funds are only priced at the end of the day, ETFs can be bought and sold at any time throughout the trading day

Tax-Advantages – In a traditional mutual fund, managers are typically forced to sell off portfolio assets in order to meet redemptions. Often, this act triggers capital gains taxes, to which all shareholders are exposed. By contrast, the buying and selling of shares on the open market has no impact on an ETF’s tax liability

While IPOs and stake sales depend on market conditions and investor appetite, exchange-traded funds allow the government to lower its holding in public sector companies without being concerned about the volatility in the market


Although exchange-traded funds offer several advantages over traditional mutual funds, they also have distinct disadvantages.

The securities that an ETF tracks are largely fixed, so investors that prefer active management will probably find ETFs wholly unsuitable.

Since ETFs are traded as stocks, each ETF purchase will be charged a brokerage commission

PSUs suffer from constant government intervention in their business and pricing decisions which can have serious impact on returns on investment.

Source: mint

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NASA scientists map presence of water ice on Mars

Syllabus subtopic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

Prelims and mains focus: About NASA’s missions to Mars and their achievements, India’s MOM.

News: Nasa scientists have developed a map detailing the presence of water ice on Mars, with some believed to be as little as 2.5 centimetres below the Red Planet’s surface.

What is it about?

The researchers, including those from Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, said in a statement that water ice will be a key consideration for any potential landing site on Mars.

In the current study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, the scientists used data from two satellites orbiting the Red Planet—Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), and Mars Odyssey orbiter—to locate water ice that could potentially be within reach of astronauts.

The regions noted in the study are near the Martian poles, and have been studied by Nasa’s Phoenix lander, which scraped up ice, and by the MRO, which has taken images from its orbit of meteor impacts that have excavated this ice.

“You wouldn’t need a backhoe to dig up this ice. You could use a shovel,” said study’s lead author, Sylvain Piqueux. “We’re zeroing in on the best places for astronauts to land,” Piqueux said.

About Mars

Mars is known as the red planet because it looks red from Earth. The reddish color comes from the high concentration of iron oxide compounds—that is, rust—in the rocks of the Martian surface. Some key facts about Mars are as follows:

  • Martian year is of 687 days and Martian day is 24h 37m.
  • Martian atmosphere is very thin—only about 7000th the density of Earth’s atmosphere. The atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide, with tiny fractions of Oxygen, Nitrogen and other gases.
  • At the equator, during the warmest times of the Martian summer, the temperature can reach nearly –18°C at the poles, during the coldest times of the Martian winter, temperatures drop to -85°C and beyond.
  • Mars is known for fascinating geologic features on its surface; it is covered with all sorts of mountains, craters, channels, canyons, highlands, lowlands, and even polar ice caps.
  • Scientific evidence strongly suggests that once, billions of years ago, Mars was much warmer than it is now, and was an active, dynamic planet.

Polar Ice Caps on Mars

Polar Ice Caps were first observed by Italian astronomer Gian Domenico Cassini, who is known for many important discoveries, including a gap in Saturn’s rings (This is called Cassini division).

He made detailed observations of Mars, and discovered light-colored patches at the Martian north and south poles. These polar caps showed seasonal variations, spreading during the Martian winter and shrinking during the summer.

Martian polar ice caps are made up mostly of frozen carbon dioxide {dry ice.}. Some frozen water, or just plain ice, may also be embedded within the polar caps. Due to the atmospheric conditions on the surface of Mars, however, neither the ice nor the dry ice would melt to make water or liquid carbon dioxide when the temperatures go up; rather, they would sublimate, or turn directly into gas. Thus, polar ice caps on Mars are not a source of liquid water.

Geological features of Mars

Mars has a rich variety of geological features: huge craters, broad plains, tall mountains, deep canyons, and much more, all with colorful names.

The tallest mountain in the solar system, the extinct volcano Olympus Mons, rises 24 kilometers above the Martian surface.

A massive canyon called the Vallis Marineris (Mariner Valley) cuts across the northern hemisphere of Mars for more than 3,200 kilometers; it is three times deeper than the Grand Canyon on Earth.

On the southern hemisphere of Mars is Hellas, an ancient canyon that was probably filled with lava long ago and is now a large, light area covered with dust.

Martian meteorite ALH84001

ALH84001 was so named because it was found in the Allan Hills region of Antarctica in 1984 . It is the most famous of a number of meteorites that are thought to have been pieces of the Martian surface millions of years ago.

They were probably knocked loose by a powerful collision from a comet or asteroid, which sent pieces of rock into orbit around the Sun that later landed on Earth.

Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, are geological robots that have explored several areas of Mars. Among the many discoveries made with them are minerals that form only in the long term presence of water; microscopic mineral structures nicknamed “blueberries” that only form when moisture is present, along with chemical and isotopic ratios in Martian rocks that would have formed only if liquid water were in the environment.

The strong scientific conclusion is that Mars is currently dry on its surface, but that this was not always the case. It may even have been awash with liquid water billions of years ago.

Moons of Mars – Phobos and Deimos

Phobos and Deimos are irregularly shaped rocky objects. They look very much like asteroids. Phobos is about 10 miles across, and Deimos is about half that size. The proximity of Mars to the asteroid main belt, suggests that they were indeed once asteroids whose orbits took them close to Mars. The orbital conditions were just right for Mars to capture them with its gravity, causing them to enter into stable orbits around Mars.

Note: to know about all the Mars missions of NASA click on the link below:


India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM)

Source: mint

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GS-III : Economic Issues Terminology
IIP shrinks again, inflation accelerates

Syllabus subtopic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

Prelims focus: Terms like inflation, stagflation, IIP and CPI

Mains focus: the impact of recent slowdown on various sectors of the economy and govt’s efforts to check it

News: Industrial activity contracted for the third consecutive month in October by 3.8%, driven by a fall in activity across sectors.

Inflation and Contraction data

Retail inflation had surged to a 40-month high of 5.54% in November, driven by rising food inflation.

The Index of Industrial Production (IIP) had contracted by 4.3% in September and 1.1% in August.

Within the IIP, the mining sector shrunk by 8% in October compared with a contraction of 8.5% in the previous month. The manufacturing sector contracted for the third consecutive month in October, by 2.1%, compared with a contraction of 3.9% in September.

Growth in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) accelerated in November for the fourth consecutive month. It stood at 4.62% in October.


This combination of contraction in industrial activity and rising inflation has led experts to fear that India is entering a phase of stagflation (a situation in which there is persistent high inflation combined with stagnant or declining demand).

The momentum of IIP remaining in the negative zone has continued while CPI inflation, led by food and vegetable inflation, has crossed 5.5%. This is developing into a classic situation of stagflation.

Within the IIP, the mining sector shrunk by 8% in October compared with a contraction of 8.5% in the previous month. The manufacturing sector contracted for the third consecutive month in October, by 2.1%, compared with a contraction of 3.9% in September.

What is meant by the term Inflation?

  • Inflation is a quantitative measure of the rate at which the average price level of a basket of selected goods and services in an economy increases over a period of time.
  • It is the constant rise in the general level of prices where a unit of currency buys less than it did in prior periods. Often expressed as a percentage, inflation indicates a decrease in the purchasing power of a nation’s currency.

Types of Inflation Indices

Depending upon the selected set of goods and services used, multiple types of inflation values are calculated and tracked as inflation indexes. Most commonly used inflation indexes are the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and the Wholesale Price Index (WPI).

The Consumer Price Index (CPI)

  • The CPI is a measure that examines the weighted average of prices of a basket of goods and services which are of primary consumer needs. They include transportation, food, and medical care.
  • CPI is calculated by taking price changes for each item in the predetermined basket of goods and averaging them based on their relative weight in the whole basket. The prices in consideration are the retail prices of each item, as available for purchase by the individual citizens.
  • Changes in the CPI are used to assess price changes associated with the cost of living, making it one of the most frequently used statistics for identifying periods of inflation or deflation.

The Wholesale Price Index (WPI)

  • The WPI is another popular measure of inflation, which measures and tracks the changes in the price of goods in the stages before the retail level.
  • While WPI items vary from one country to other, they mostly include items at the producer or wholesale level. For example, it includes cotton prices for raw cotton, cotton yarn, cotton gray goods, and cotton clothing.
  • Although many countries and organizations use WPI, many other countries, including the U.S., use a similar variant called the producer price index (PPI).

The Producer Price Index

  • The producer price index is a family of indexes that measures the average change in selling prices received by domestic producers of goods and services over time.
  • The PPI measures price changes from the perspective of the seller and differs from the CPI which measures price changes from the perspective of the buyer.

Note: In all such variants, it is possible that the rise in the price of one component (say oil) cancels out the price decline in another (say wheat) to a certain extent. Overall, each index represents the average weighted cost of inflation for the given constituents which may apply at the overall economy, sector or commodity level.

About Index of Industrial Production (IIP)

  • It is an index that shows the performance of different industrial sectors of the Indian economy.

The IIP is estimated and published on a monthly basis by the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO). As an all India index, it gives general level of industrial activity in the economy.

Importance of Index of Industrial Production

The IIP is used by public agencies including the Government agencies/ departments including that in the Ministry of Finance, the Reserve Bank of India etc. for policy purposes. The all-India IIP data is used for estimation of Gross Value Added of Manufacturing sector on quarterly basis.

Similarly, the data is also used extensively by analysts, financial intermediaries and private companies for various purposes.

Following are the main changes brought in the new series of IIP:

  • Base year has been updated to 2011-12 by upgrading the item basket and weighting structure.
  • National Industrial Classification (NIC) 2008 has been adopted in the new series of IIP.
  • Number of item groups has increased from 399 to 407 out of which 149 are new/ emerging items.
  • Electricity generation from renewable energy sources has been included under the ‘Electricity’ sector.
  • Weights are rationalised to appropriately to reflect the actual value addition of each sector incorporating effects of subsidies.
  • New use-based classification has been adopted with following categorisation: (i) Primary goods, (ii) Capital goods, (iii) Infrastructure/ construction goods, (iv) Intermediate goods, (v) Consumer durables, and (vi) Consumer non-durables.
  • A review mechanism has been introduced through a Technical Review Committee.

Note: In the new base year (i.e. 2011-12), the 407 item groups are divided under three sectors i.e. Mining (1 item group), Manufacturing (405 item groups) and Electricity (1 item) with weights of 14.37%, 77.63% and 7.99% respectively.

Source: The Hindu

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