21 August, 2019

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GS-I :
Rains apart, blame the dams for Maharashtra, Karnataka floods.

GS-I: Rains apart, blame the dams for Maharashtra, Karnataka floods.


With Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala among other states under deluge, questions are being raised over their flood management system. The disaster aggravates by the release of water from overflowing dams in the region at the same time that relentless rainfall hits it.

Cause of recent floods

  • Mismanagement on releasing the water from various dams worsened the flood situation in Kolhapur, Sangli, and Satara districts of Maharashtra.
  • The dams, that were supposed to help moderate the flood situation, instead ended up exacerbating it.
  • Due to uncertainty in rainfall and fear of dry conditions in future, dam operators think of storing as soon as water is available but that proves costly during flood fury as then there is no alternative but to release all the inflow downstream.

Resilient to climate change?

  • The 5,745 reservoirs in the country, of which, 293 were more than 100 years old. The age of 25 per cent of dams was between 50 and 100 years and 80 per cent were over 25 years old.
  • These dams pose a serious risk due to their ageing and structural deterioration.
  • Dams that span decades, experience differential settlement of foundation, clog of filters, increase of uplift pressures, reduction in freeboard, cracks in the dam core, loss of bond between the concrete structure and embankment, reduction in slope stability in earthen and rockfill dams, erosion of earthen slopes, and deformation of dam body itself.
  • Thus, dam components lose strength differently during their lifetime and every component within a large dam ages at a different rate. Hence, as a dam ages, the impact of the erosion of earthen components, through the dam body and foundations, and sedimentation occur at a rate different (or adverse) than what has been assumed by the policymakers and planners.


“In the era of climate change, following the rule curve is still more urgent. This is because we do not know when and how the rainfall will increase or decrease”.

Source: The Hindu

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Henley Passport Index 2019

GS-II:Henley Passport Index 2019


The latest Henley Passport Index ranks India at 86, down five places from 81 in 2018. The index ranks passports based on their power and mobility. Last year, an Indian passport holder had visa-free access to 60 countries this year, it has access to 58.

Henley Passport Index 2019

  • Prepared by Henley and Partners, a London-based global citizenship and residence advisory firm, the Henley Passport Index claims to be the “original ranking of all the world’s passports”.
  • The index gathers data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) that manages inter-airline cooperation globally.
  • The Index is updated in real time according to countries’ visa policy changes. It covers 227 destinations and 199 passports.
  • The index receives data from the IATA on a fixed day every year that forms the basis of the index.

How are passport ranks and scores interpreted?

  • Each passport is attributed with a score and a rank.
  • For instance for 2019, India’s score is 58 and it ranks 86 in the list. Japan and Singapore, on the other hand, are ranked 1 and have a score of 189.
  • The score is the sum of the number of countries accessible by that passport holder without requiring pre-departure government approval for visa-types including a visitor’s permit, visa on arrival or an electronic travel authority (ETA).
  • For every territory/country that a passport holder of a particular country/territory is able to access through these visa-types (without pre-departure government approval), a value of 1 is attributed to it.

What does this mean for Indian passport holders?

  • India has a score of 58. That is the number of destinations an Indian passport holder can travel to today, without pre-departure government approval.
  • That is the same as a citizen of any country, on an average, could travel to 13 years ago.
  • In 2006, a citizen, on an average, could travel to 58 destinations without needing a visa from the host nation; by 2018, this number had nearly doubled to 107.
  • Afghanistan holds the weakest passport, with a score and ranking of 25 and 109, respectively. Syria and Pakistan follow with rankings of 107 and 106 and scores of 29 and 30, respectively.
  • Passport rankings point towards the strength of diplomatic relations between countries.

What assumptions does the index make?

  • The index assumes that the passport is valid, belongs to an adult who is a citizen of the issuing country and that it is not diplomatic, emergency or temporary in nature.
  • It also assumes that the person travelling is doing so alone, rather than in tourist groups and meets all the basic requirements for entry such as hotel reservations.

Source: Indian Express

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Tardigrade the water bear

GS-III:Tardigrade the water bear


  • On this April 11, the Israeli spacecraft Beresheet attempted to land on the Moon, but crashed on the surface.
  • It was carrying a number of items — including thousands of specimens of a living organism called Tardigrade.


  • The Tardigrade, also known as water bear, is among the toughest and most resilient creatures on Earth.
  • The Tardigrade can only be seen under a microscope.
  • Half a millimeter long, it is essentially a water-dweller but also inhabits land and, a 2008 study found, can survive in the cold vacuum of outer space.
  • It derives its name from the fact that it looks like an eight-legged bear, with a mouth that can project out like a tongue.
  • Its body has four segments supported by four pairs of clawed legs.
  • A tardigrade typically eats fluids, using its claws and mouth to tear open plant and animal cells, so that it can suck nutrients out of them.
  • It is also known to feast on bacteria and, in some cases, to kill and eat other tardigrades. Although they are famed for their resilience, they are destructible too.
  • Should a human being swallow a tardigrade with her food, her stomach acid will cause the flesh of the tardigrade to disintegrate.

Survival instinct

  • In 2017, a study found that if all other life were to be wiped out by a cataclysmic event — a large asteroid impact, a supernova or a gamma-ray bursts — the tardigrade would be the likeliest to survive.

  • It can endure extreme hot and cold temperature levels.
  • Although the tardigrades on the Israeli spacecraft were dehydrated, the organism is known to “come back to life” on rehydration.
  • In fact, they themselves expel water from their bodies and set off a mechanism to protect their cells, and can still revive if placed in water later.
  • However, there is no evidence of liquid water on the Moon, although there is ice.
  • Without liquid water, it is possible that the tardigrades will remain in their current state, unless future astronauts find them and revive them in water.

Source: Indian Express

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GS-III : Economic Issues Terminology
What ails the existing microcredit model

GS-III: What ails the existing microcredit model


Microcredit has gained much traction as a tool for ensuring the welfare of the most impoverished in society, and boosting development alongside.

What is Microcredit?

  • Microcredit refers to the granting of very small loans to impoverished borrowers, with the aim of enabling the borrowers to use that capital to become self-employed and strengthen their businesses.
  • Loans given as microcredit are often given to people who may lack collateral, credit history.
  • Microcredit agreements frequently do not require any sort of collateral, and sometimes may not even involve a written agreement, as many recipients of microcredit are often illiterate.

Part of Microfinance

  • Microcredit falls under the larger umbrella of microfinance, financial services for individuals who don’t have access to traditional services of this kind.
  • Microfinance activities usually target low-income individuals, with the goal of helping them to become self-sufficient. In this way, microfinance activities have an aim of poverty alleviation as well.
  • An example of a microcredit institution is the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, founded in 1976 by Mohammed Yunus.


  • The primary reason for the lackadaisical effects of microcredit is the stringent repayment schedule offered by most microcredit institutions.
  • Since most borrowers to whom microcredit is given have little to no credit history as a result of their exclusion from traditional systems of credit.
  • Hence institutions offering microcredit are unable to judge the risk associated with lending to certain borrowers, and cannot be sure what the risk of them defaulting will be.
  • To lower the risk of defaulting, microcredit lenders therefore resort to repayment schedules that demand an initial repayment that is almost immediate, to which borrowers must adhere.

What are the other applications of microcredit?

  • Conventionally, microcredit has been used mainly for entrepreneurs to begin production and attain self-sufficiency.
  • Small microcredit loans can allow rural labourers –those who are employees, as opposed to entrepreneurs, who are employers to migrate to urban areas to find work during the lean season, when there is no work to be found on farms.
  • Those who migrated temporarily during this season experienced increased spending in both food and non-food areas, and increased their calories consumed.
  • Microcredit can be used in situations where seasonal factors cause drops in income to overcome these “seasonal credit crunches” and avoid taking decisions which cause people long-term negative impacts.


  • Microcredit has a vast range of applications for poverty alleviation and general development, but existing systems require reform in multiple areas to allow for unfettered benefits that last.
  • In areas were the application of microcredit is relatively new, microcredit systems must be carefully evaluated before they are put into place, so as to enable the greatest benefit from such institutions.

Source: Indian Express

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Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research (FEDOR)

GS-III: Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research (FEDOR)


Russia has launched an unmanned rocket carrying a life-size humanoid robot that will spend 10 days learning to assist astronauts on the International Space Station.


  • FEDOR is a Russian humanoid that replicates movements of a remote operator as well as performs a limited set of actions autonomously.
  • Named Fedor, short for Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research, the robot is the first ever sent up by Russia to the International Space Station.
  • Instead of cosmonauts, Fedor, also known as Skybot F850, was strapped into a specially adapted pilot’s seat, with a small Russian flag in hand.
  • “ The robot was heard saying during launch, repeating the famous phrase used by first man in space Yuri Gagarin”.
  • The silvery anthropomorphic robot stands 1.80 metres (5 foot 11 inches) tall and weighs 160kg (353 pounds).

What’s so special with Fedor?

  • Fedor copies human movements, a key skill that allows it to remotely help astronauts or even people on Earth to carry out tasks while the humans are strapped into an exoskeleton.
  • Fedor is described as potentially useful on Earth for working in high radiation environments, demining and tricky rescue missions.
  • Though initially developed for the emergencies ministry, Fedor can also be seen shooting at targets from two handguns in a video posted by Russian space agency.
  • On board, the robot will perform tasks supervised by Russian cosmonaut and will wear an exoskeleton and augmented reality glasses in a series of experiments later this month.
  • Since Fedor is not trained to grab space station handles to move about in microgravity conditions, its legs will be immobilised on the space station.

Fedor not the first

  • Fedor is not the first robot to go into space.
  • In 2011, NASA sent up Robonaut 2, a humanoid robot developed with General Motors that had a similar aim of working in high-risk environments.
  • It was flown back to Earth in 2018 after experiencing technical problems.
  • In 2013, Japan sent up a small robot called Kirobo along with the ISS’s first Japanese space commander. Developed with Toyota, it was able to hold conversations — albeit only in Japanese.

Source: The Hindu

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