Current Affairs for NDA, CDS, AFCAT, Airforce X&Y Groups – News Analysis from THE HINDU (December 30, 2018)
1. Bangladesh goes to the polls today
With a spate of violent incidents preceding Sunday’s elections and rumours fuelling fears of an escalation, Bangladesh’s Army chief, General Aziz Ahmed, has said that more than 50,000 personnel have been deployed so that everyone can vote freely.
Groups of armed men checked vehicles and drivers’ papers here through the day. After two days of unusual quiet on the streets of the capital city, with hardly any traffic, private vehicles were back on the roads, along with residents out shopping or discussing politics.
2. Meghalaya mine mishap: search to be renewed from today
The search for 15 miners trapped in a water-filled coal mine in Meghalaya’s East Jaintia Hills since December 13 will resume on Sunday, with divers from the Navy and experts from other agencies reaching the spot on Saturday afternoon.
Teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the State Disaster Response Force, not equipped to undertake operations in narrow ‘rat-hole’ coal mines, had tried in vain to drain out the water from the rectangular 350 ft pit at Ksan in East Jaintia Hills district. The pumps available with them were not powerful enough to drain out the pit that kept filling with water to a level of about 70 ft.
Officials said – on the basis of the accounts of five survivors of the mishap – the miners could have either hit an aquifer or the bed of the Lytein river nearby while digging for coal along the narrow seams, 3-4 ft high underneath. The NDRF had a few days ago suspended the operation to rescue the miners or retrieve their bodies, triggering criticisms against the Narendra Modi government for being indifferent to the mishap. A renewed search by multiple agencies, including the Navy, Odisha Fire Service and Coal India Limited, was subsequently ordered.
The NDRF handed over the rescue operation to the other agencies but will remain a part of the exercise. While the 15-member Navy team from Vishakhapatnam has five divers, the Coal India Limited team includes a mining and a disaster expert.
3. Kerala govt. considers IIT-M building tech to rebuild houses
Building technology developed by IIT Madras over the last decade is now being considered by the Kerala government for the housing needs of those whose homes were ravaged by the floods in August this year.
The technology recycles gypsum — a major waste product of the fertilizer industry and coal fired power plants — to produce low-cost, environment-friendly housing which is also resistant to earthquake damage.
The first house using these prefabricated panels was built in 2013. It stands within the campus and is now occupied by IIT Madras faculty. Currently, more than a thousand houses across the country have been constructed using this Glass Fibre Reinforced Gypsum building technology.
One reward for the researchers is to have the Kerala government adopt the technology as a key option to help rebuild houses ravaged by the recent cyclone.
Originally developed in Australia by Rapidwall Building Systems, the concept was enriched and enhanced by the IIT team of researchers who made a breakthrough in developing floors out of this material.
4. ISRO readies for a busy 2019
Novel geostationary remote-sensing spacecraft watching from a high perch. A wasted rocket stage innovatively put to work again in orbit. A utilitarian small wonder called the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle.
These are a few missions promising to debut from the Indian Space Research Organisation’s basket in the new year.
ISRO’s 2019 calendar is dotted with 32 new missions, an ambitious record-making goal for the most number of Indian missions in a year. In contrast, 2018 saw about 14 missions against a goal of 18, including the failed GSAT-6A satellite of April.
The new year’s very first mission is set for January and will try out a unique experiment to re-control and rework the fourth and last stage of the PSLV-C44 rocket after it completes its job in space. C-44 is slated to carry the 150/200-kg special purpose Microsat-R to a low-Earth polar orbit.
Stage 4 or PS4 takes the satellite to the last lap of desired height (anywhere between 400 km and 700 km.) Job done, it floats there for several years as space junk.
ISRO Chairman K. Sivan said the trial with the expired fourth rocket stage would easily be the first of its kind by any space agency. It would show PS4 as a unique cost-saving test bed for new technologies.
The PSLV’s fourth and final stage weighs about 450 kg and equals two micro satellites (100-500 kg class). A full test satellite of that size can cost around ₹200 crore, an avoidable expense in the high-risk space business. Also, some piggyback trial payloads can use such test beds and not eat up precious space or add to the weight of a working satellite. Dr. Sivan said the revived stage of the PSLV-C44 flight would be equipped with solar power systems to keep it working and monitored from ground.
5. First 50 world-class stations by 2022
Fifty world-class railway stations — with concourses modelled on airport-like swanky retail spaces for commuters to wait — will be completed by the Indian Railway Station Development Corporation (IRSDC) by 2022.
Phase I of the Habibganj railway station in Madhya Pradesh, being redeveloped on the lines of Germany’s Heidelberg station in the public-private partnership (PPP) mode, will be the first to be commissioned in February next.
Holding areas on all platforms of the station, commercial establishments, a bus terminal, office lobbies, service apartments outside the station, hotels, hospitals, spas and a convention centre figure in the ₹450 crore project that will be carried out in association with the Bansal Group, which will maintain and operate the station for eight years.
6. Army fatigues replace khaki uniform of Tripura force
The Tripura government has changed the uniform of the Tripura State Rifles (TSR), 34 years after the force was raised to deal with insurgency.
The khaki uniform of the troops has been replaced by Army fatigues.
The TSR was raised on March 12 , 1984, after the Assembly passed a Bill to create a paramilitary force. It came into force with one battalion with most of the troops recruited from within the State.
The force now has 12 battalions and nine of them were raised as India Reserve battalions. It is functioning under the State police administration.
The TSR was predominantly deployed for counter-insurgency operations and was instrumental in restoration of peace in the State. With militancy on the wane, the force has now been used for security deployment and disaster management.
7. ‘Credit for India’s missile power goes to Kalam’
The credit for making India a missile power goes to former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, said Sudhir Kumar Mishra, Director General (BrahMos), Defence Research and Development Organisation, on Saturday.
Dr. Mishra was here to attend the convocation ceremony of the National Institute of Technology. In all, 763 students were awarded degrees and 150 gold medals in different disciplines.
8. Japan Foreign Minister to visit India on Jan. 7
Foreign Minister of Japan Taro Kono will make his maiden trip to India from January 7 to 9. The Embassy of Japan in India confirmed that Mr. Kono will hold various engagements, including formal meetings, with leaders of the Indian government.
9. On the cosmic ray trail in Tirunelveli
“They installed these huge towers and we stopped getting rains,” says K. Vijayalakshmi, a resident of Krishnapuram village pointing at the MF Radar antennas (30 m tall towers) at the Equatorial Geophysical Research Laboratory (EGRL), Tirunelveli.
The four antenna towers that Vijayalakshmi pointed to, though creating a panic among the locals have nothing to do with rains. They are part of atmospheric radar that helps study the winds at heights between 70 km and 100 km above the Earth.
Located at a distance of 11 km from Tirunelveli, EGRL, spread over an area of more than 35 acres, is a regional centre of the Indian Institute of Geomagnetism (IIG), Mumbai. A multi-disciplinary centre with instruments to measure the Earth’s magnetic field variations and various atmospheric parameters, the facility has been continuously monitoring the Earth’s near-space environment for over 25 years now.
“Like the surface winds that we are familiar with, winds in the upper atmosphere too are highly variable. Understanding what causes those variable winds has been a primary focus of study at EGRL,” explains Dr. Sathishkumar, associate professor at the laboratory. “Lower atmospheric disturbances like severe weather events can have their signatures in the upper atmosphere, too. We are trying to establish the teleconnection between distant regions of the atmosphere and their impact on regions up to 100 km height and beyond.”
Tirunelveli is in close proximity to both the geomagnetic and geographic equator. When experimental activities at the centre first commenced in 1991, the geomagnetic equator passed right through the city.
When winds blow, electric currents are expected to be produced in the electrically charged upper layers of the atmosphere across the geomagnetic field. Over Tirunelveli and the adjoining regions, where the geomagnetic field is horizontal the current flowing primarily in the east–west direction would be enhanced. Scientists call this current ‘Equatorial Electrojet’ and probing this helps scientists understand the Sun–Earth connection.
Secondary cosmic ray study
Another major experimental facility recently set up at EGRL is meant to monitor secondary cosmic rays. When the cosmic rays — from supernovae, colliding galaxies and spinning black holes — enter the Earth’s atmosphere, they lose their energies through collisions with our atmospheric molecules and produce a cascade of subatomic particles known as secondary cosmic rays.
10. On the tracks of the Earth’s mantle helium
Helium – the second most abundant element in the universe – is hard to come by on Earth in its gaseous state, because it is so light that it can escape easily. But one of the places where it is found is in volcanic lava plumes, such as seen in Iceland and Hawaii, originating from the Earth’s mantle. This is ancient helium from when the Earth was formed. It is believed to be trapped in compounds deep within the earth. However, the nature of these compounds have so far remained a mystery.
Now a group of researchers has come up with a striking possibility that the mantle helium must exist as the compound FeO2He which is stable and solid under the pressure and temperature conditions prevailing at those depths.
The team used a crystal search algorithm CALYPSO which they had developed, to look at possible compounds containing helium. If the energy of the suggested compound containing helium was lower than that of free helium, then the compound state would be considered favoured and the algorithm would give a positive answer. In this manner, looking at many hypothetical magnesium and iron based compounds, the team came up with just one possibility – FeO2He.
Stable at the mantle
Their calculations showed that this compound is stable at temperatures between 3000 K and 5000 K and at pressures between 135 and 300 GPa. These conditions correspond to those found in the core–mantle boundary.
If this result is proved right by experiment, it will solve the longstanding problem of where ancient helium is stored within the Earth.
11. Water from air
Where water is scarce, it is difficult to transport and store it. Researchers from Ohio State University in the US have come up with a novel way to extract water from ambient air, inspired by beetles, cacti and desert grasses. Using a 3D printer, they made surfaces with bumps and barbs as you find on a beetle’s back or a cactus and placed these in a closed foggy environment. They found conical surfaces gathered more water than cylindrical; grooved surfaces more than those not grooved. The materials that yielded best results were hydrophilic in nature. The press release referred to the precedent in the Atacama Desert in Chile, where nets are used to trap fog, harvest water for farming. Research showed that this may not be the best way.
12. What is Surfer’s ear?
It is a small, bony bump in the ear canal and common among surfers, kayakers and free divers in cold climates. No one really understands exactly how the bony growths, technically called exostoses, form. But the skin is thin in the ear canal and the accepted theory is that exposure to cold water or cold temperatures caused by wind and water make the bone react by growing extra layers, similar to the way bone spurs form on the feet and in other body places where there is constant irritation or stress. Almost half of the members of a swimming club in England were found to have Surfer’s ear.
Book – Gene Machine: The Race to Decipher the Secrets of the Ribosome
Writer – Venki Ramakrishnan
Descriptions – A scientist and Nobel laureate’s journey is an insightful guide to the workings of modern science
Book – Yeh Un Dinoñ Ki Baat Hai: Urdu Memoirs of Cinema Legends
Writer – Yasir Abbasi
Descriptions – Revisiting portraits and reminiscences of bygone-era stars
Book – Performing Representation: Women Members in the Indian Parliament
Writer – Shirin M. Rai & Carole Spary
Descriptions – How women MPs operate in a deeply patriarchal system
Book – The Oxford India Gandhi: Essential Writings
Writer – Gopalkrishna Gandhi
Descriptions – Gandhi’s autobiography ends in the late 1920s, several years before his assassination in 1948. This book seeks to fill that void left by Gandhi himself. Edited by Gopalkrishna Gandhi, the book tells Gandhi’s story in his own words. Through speeches and articles, informal diary entries and letters, the writings unfold chronologically unexplored facets of Gandhi’s evolving world view.
Book – Tamil Characters: Personalities, Politics, Culture
Writer – A.R. Venkatachalapathy
Descriptions – A historian provides a ringside view of contemporary Tamil Nadu society and culture beginning with political figures such as Periyar and Annadurai, Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa, significant poets, writers and thinkers like Subramania Bharati, Pudumaippithan and Ashokamitran among others. He also takes up issues such as language politics, prohibition, jallikattu and Dalit rights.
Book – India Unmade: How the Modi Government Broke the Economy
Writer – Yashwant Sinha with Aditya Sinha
Descriptions – Former finance minister Yashwant Sinha looks at the Modi government’s economic and development track record and argues that a once-in-a-lifetime mandate it got in the 2014 elections has been wasted. The Modi government’s “lasting legacy will be the catastrophe that was demonetisation,” he writes, that broke the back of a core BJP votebank.
Book – Around the World in 80 Trains: A 45,000-mile Adventure
Writer – Monisha Rajesh
Descriptions – When Monisha Rajesh announced plans to circumnavigate the globe in 80 train journeys, she was met with disbelief. But she planned a route that would cover 45,000 miles, coasting along the world’s most remarkable railways — from Tibet’s Qinghai railway to the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.
Book – Moeen
Writer – Moeen Ali with Mihir Bose
Descriptions – On July 31 last year, a ‘part-time bowler’ became the first England spinner in 79 years to take a hat-trick in a Test at the Oval, which was hosting its 100th match. Moeen Ali was anointed Player of the Series against South Africa. Ali, a devout Muslim, shares his story, tracing the journey from backyard cricket to an international career.
14. ICC gives BCCI one year to get tax exemptions
The ICC has given the BCCI twelve months to get tax exemptions from the Central Government in order to host two high-profile World competitions in India in 2021 and 2023.
The ICC Chief Executive, David Richardson, informed the BCCI two months ago that if it does not get the tax exemptions for the ICC events to be held in India (men’s and women’s T20 World Cup in 2021 and the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2023) by December 31, 2019, the two competitions may be moved to another country “in order to avoid any adverse tax risks associated with those events.”
CoA, BCCI aware
The Committee of Administrators (CoA), BCCI office-bearers and the professional managers of the BCCI are aware that they have twelve months to get tax exemptions from the Central and State governments.
The Central Government, especially the then Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, made a special case and provided tax exemptions for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 held in India, but the BJP government, which came to power in 2014 has not extended any such concessions to the BCCI.
Richardson has emphatically stated that the “December 31, 2019 deadline” to provide tax exemptions has been set because the BCCI has not been able to get the tax exemption for the ICC World T20 2016.
Over the last two and half years, the BCCI has given assurances to the ICC that it would be able to provide tax exemptions for the ICC World T20 2016.
15. AIFF mulls extension for Constantine
The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has not ruled out giving another contract extension to head coach Stephen Constantine after the Asian Cup in January, saying the National team has been “performing excellently” under him.
Terming some media reports which claimed the AIFF was parting ways with Constantine after the January 5 TO February 1 Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates as baseless, the National federation said it was focusing on the team’s performance in the continental showpiece event.
The 56-year-old Constantine was brought back as head coach in 2015 for a two-year tenure after his first stint from 2002-05. He was given a contract extension of one year in 2017.
Early this year, he again accepted another one-year extension till the end of the Asian Cup. “Back in 2015, when the Briton took charge of the Blue Tigers, they were ranked 173 in the FIFA rankings. Since then, they have experienced a meteoric rise in the ladder to surge up to 97,” the AIFF said.
India plays Thailand in its opening match of the Asian Cup in Abu Dhabi on January 6.
16. Knighthood for Cook and Beaumont
Former England cricket and rugby captains Alastair Cook and Bill Beaumont headlined sporting personalities in the New Year’s Honours List with both men receiving knighthoods from Queen Elizabeth II. Cook — who has more Test centuries (33) and runs (12,472) than any other England player accrued during a record 161 Tests — is the first cricketer to be knighted since legendary all-rounder Ian Botham in 2007.
The 34-year-old opener finished his Test career in the best possible manner with a century against India at The Oval despite having declared there “was nothing left in the tank”.
Beaumont — chairman of the sport’s governing body, World Rugby — skippered England to the 1980 Five Nations Grand Slam as well as captaining the British and Irish Lions. Following his retirement as a player the 66-year-old became a much loved face on BBC television, his avuncular style adapting well to captaining a team in Question of Sport.
England manager Gareth Southgate and captain Harry Kane rewarded for the national side’s run to this year’s World Cup semifinals.
Southgate, whose sartorial elegance in Russia saw sales of waistcoats rocket, received the middle-ranking Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) whilst Tottenham Hotpsur sharpshooter Kane garnered the lesser Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).
Kane, who won the World Cup Golden Boot for finishing top scorer with six goals, said he learnt of his award from his fiancee Kate just prior to a Premier League game with Southampton in early December.
17. India clinches Asian u-14 title
Aman Dahiya and Udit Gogoi outplayed the Uzbeks in the final, losing just two games in two matches, as India won the Asian u-14 tennis championship on Friday.
The title helped the four-member Indian team, along with coach Subhransu Charan Sarangi, to stay for another week in Doha and watch the Qatar Open ATP Tour event. Ayushman Arjeria and Deep Munim were the other members of the Indian team.
The result (final): India bt Uzbekistan 2-0 (Aman Dahiya bt Amir Mulushev 6-1, 6-0; Udit Gogoi bt Ismoil Khayriddinov 6-1, 6-0).
National Disaster Response Force (NDRF)
Tripura State Rifles (TSR)
19. Things to Remember:
ISRO Chairman K. Sivan
20. Improve your Vocabulary:
Meaning 1 – Prod (someone) gently with one’s elbow in order to attract attention.
Example – ‘people were nudging each other and pointing at me’
Synonyms – poke, elbow, dig, prod, jog, jab, butt
Meaning 1.1 – Touch or push (something) gently or gradually.
Example – ‘the canoe nudged a bank of reeds’
Synonyms – touch, bump, bump against, push, push against, run into
Meaning 1.2 – Coax or gently encourage (someone) to do something.
Example – ‘we have to nudge the politicians in the right direction’
Synonyms – prompt, encourage, coax, stimulate, prod, jog
Meaning 1.3 – Approach (an age, figure, or level) very closely.
Example – ‘both men were nudging fifty’
Synonyms – approach, come close to, get close to, be verging on, border on, near