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Daily Current affairs 14 JULY 2019

UPSC - Daily Current Affair






TIFR desalinates seawater with gold nanoparticles



Seed rights: Ministry notice to PepsiCo



Registry for phones   



How will Chandrayaan 2 study the moon?



Why is India opting for overseas bonds?




1 TIFR desalinates seawater with gold nanoparticles (The Hindu Page 15)


Prelims: General Science 

Mains: GS Paper III – Science & Technology  


Desalination of seawater using gold nanoparticles 


What is the news?

  • Researchers at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai have been able to desalinate seawater to produce drinking water by using gold nano particles. 

  • The gold nano particles in the process absorb sunlight over the entire visible spectrum including the near infrared light. 

  • Unlike the conventional reverse osmosis method which requires energy and pressure, the gold nanoparticles does not require any external energy to produce potable water from seawater.   

How does gold nanoparticles help in absorbing sunlight from the sun?              

  • The formation of smaller gold nanoparticles allows variation in size, which is essential for harvesting light. 

  • Each gold nanoparticle has an electron cloud on the surface that resonates with light. As the gold nanoparticles come closer when they grow bigger, the resonating electron cloud starts coupling together.  

  • This allows the gold nanoparticles to absorb light of different wavelength including visible and near infrared light. Absorption of light by gold nanoparticles results in increase of temperature of the seawater.  

  • The TIFR team used 2.5 mg of gold nanoparticles and was able to use sunlight to heat the water to 85 degree Celsius and generate steam to produce drinking water from seawater. 

  • Since the temperature reached is high, about 10% of seawater becomes steam in about 30 minutes which can be then condensed to drinking water. 

Image result for spectrum of light


How is the process different from conventional methods?

  • In conventional method to desalinate water, reverse osmosis is used which requires lot of energy and hence is also referred as an energy intensive process. However, the gold nanoparticles require no external energy to produce potable water from seawater. 

Understanding Osmosis and Reverse Osmosis 

  • To understand the process of Reverse Osmosis, let us first understand the naturally occurring process of Osmosis. 

  • In a naturally occurring osmosis, a weaker saline solution tends to migrate to a strong saline solution through a semi permeable membrane. A semi-permeable membrane allows some atoms or molecules to pass but not others. 

  • Examples of osmosis are when plant roots absorb water from the soil and our kidneys absorb water from our blood. So, a solution that is less concentrated will have a natural tendency to migrate towards a solution with a higher concentration.   

  • Whereas, Reverse Osmosis is the process of Osmosis in reverse. Unlike osmosis which is a naturally occurring process, in reverse osmosis external energy or pressure is required to reverse the process of osmosis. Thus, energy or pressure needs to be applied to the more saline solution for water to pass through the semi permeable membrane. 

  • A reverse osmosis membrane is a semi-permeable membrane that allows the passage of water molecules but not the majority of dissolved salts, organics, bacteria and pyrogens. 

  • The extra energy or pressure pushes the water through the reverse osmosis membrane by applying pressure that is greater than the naturally occurring osmotic pressure in order to desalinate water in the process, allowing pure water through while holding back a majority of contaminants.  

  • Thus, in reverse osmosis, the flow of water is from a higher concentration to a lower concentration. 

Other use of gold nanoparticles

  • The gold nanoparticles can be used to convert carbon dioxide into methane. 

  • This happens when the light absorbed by the gold nanoparticles excites the electrons, and the excited electrons when transferred into carbon dioxide converts it into methane in the presence of hydrogen. 

  • The hydrogen comes from the water that is used as a reaction solvent. 





2. Seed rights: Ministry notice to PepsiCo (The Hindu Page 09)


Prelims: Environment, Social Issue 

Mains: GS Paper III - Economy and environment, Social Issues


Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Right Act, 2001 (PPVFR Act)  


Present News: 

  • A central agency under Ministry of Agriculture has served a notice to Food and beverage giant PepsiCo India regarding an application to revoke registration of its potato variety used to make LAYS CHIPS.  PepsiCo introduced in 2009 the FC5 variety of potato that it uses to make its popular ‘Lays’ potato chips to India. 

  • The potato variety is grown by approximately 12,000 farmers who are a part of the company’s collaborative farming programme, wherein the company sells seeds to farmers and has an exclusive contract to buy back their produce. 

  • In 2016, the company registered the variety under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act, 2001 (PPV&FRA).   


Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Right Act, 2001 (PPVFR Act) 

  • It is an Act of the Parliament of India that was enacted to provide for the establishment of an effective system for protection of plant varieties, the rights of farmers and plant breeders, and to encourage the development and cultivation of new varieties of plants. 

  • The PPV&FR Act, 2001 was enacted to grant intellectual property rights to plant breeders, researchers and farmers who have developed any new or extant plant varieties. 

  • The Intellectual Property Right granted under PPV&FR Act, 2001 is a dual right – one is for the variety and the other is for the denomination assigned to it by the breeder. 

  • The rights granted under this Act are heritable and assignable and only registration of a plant variety confers the right. Essentially Derived Varieties (EDV) can also be registered under this Act and it may be new or extant. 

  • Farmers are entitled to save, use, sow, re-sow, exchange or sell their farm produce including seed of a registered variety in an unbranded manner. 

  • Farmers' varieties are eligible for registration and farmers are totally exempted from payment of any fee in any proceedings under this Act. 

  • The period of protection for field crops is 15 years and for trees and vines is 18 years and for notified varieties it is 15 years from the date of notification under section 5 of Seeds Act, 1966. 

  • Farmers can claim for compensation if the registered variety fails to provide expected performance under given conditions. 

  • The rights granted under this Act are exclusive right to produce, sell, market, distribute, import and export the variety.

  • Civil and criminal remedies are provided for enforcement of breeders' rights and provisions relating to benefit sharing and compulsory licence in case registered variety is not made available to the public at reasonable price are provided. 

  • Compensation is also provided for village or rural communities if any registered variety has been developed using any variety in whose evolution such village or local community has contributed significantly. 




It has been established under the provisions of Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights Act, 2001. Its objectivesincludes:


In order to provide for the establishment of - 

  • An effective system for protection of plant varieties, 

  • The rights of farmers and plant breeders and 

  • To encourage the development of new varieties of plants it has been considered necessary to recognize and protect the rights of the farmers in respect of their contribution made at any time in conserving, improving and making available plant genetic resources for the development of the new plant varieties. 

  • To accelerate agricultural development, it is necessary to protect plants breeders' rights to stimulate investment for research and development for the development of new plant varieties.

  • Such protection is likely to facilitate the growth of the seed industry which will ensure the availability of high quality seeds and planting material to the farmers.

  • India having ratified the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of the Intellectual Property Rights has to make provision for giving effect to Agreement.

  • To give effect to the aforesaid objectives the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights Act, 2001 has been enacted in India.

For the purposes of this Act, Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights Authority has been established. 



3. Registry for phones  (The Hindu Page 14)


Prelims: General Science

Mains: GS Paper III – Science & Technology  


National Mobile Property Registry 


The National Telecom Policy of 2012 calls for the establishment of a National Mobile Property Registry to address the issue of “security, theft, and other concerns including reprogramming of mobile handsets.  Based on this, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) under the Ministry of Communications initiated a Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR) for mobile service providers.


Every mobile network provider in India has an Equipment Identity Register (EIR), or a database of the phones connected to its network. These EIRs will now share information with a single central database called CEIR.CEIR will be a repository of information on all mobile phones connected to networks across India. 


Purpose of CEIR

  • CEIR is meant to identify and block stolen or illegal mobile phones across networks. 

  • Currently, when a customer reports a mobile phone as missing or stolen, mobile service providers have the ability to blacklist the phone’s IMEI in their EIRs and block it from accessing their network. But if the SIM is changed to a new network, it can continue to be in use. 

  • With a CEIR, all network operators will be aware that the phone is blacklisted.

  • The CEIR will also access the GSMA’s database of IMEI numbers to check whether the phone is authentic. There are cases of phones being in use with duplicate IMEI numbers, or with all zeroes instead of an authentic IMEI number. 

  • Most importantly, as per the DoT’s 2017 memorandum, the CEIR will be able to block services to subscribers. This ability had rested with individual networks till now. The memorandum also mentions enabling “IMEI based lawful interception”, which means allowing legal authorities to use CEIR data.




4. How will Chandrayaan 2 study the moon? (The Hindu Page 14)      


Prelims: science and technology 

Mains: GS Paper III – science and technology ; Space Technology


  ISRO Lunar surface simulation


History of Moon Missions

India’s first moon mission was launched on October 22, 2008, from Sriharikota, using the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), India became the fourth country to plant its flag on the lunar surface.

It detected traces of water along with magnesium, aluminium and silicon

The first moon landing occurred on July 20, 1969, on the Apollo 11 mission 

Almost 50 years after first moon landing and decade after Chandrayaan 1,  India will launch its second lunar mission, Chandrayaan 2, on July 15, 2019, again from Sriharikota, using the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mark III rocket.

Purpose of Moon mission 

The Moon is the closest cosmic body at which space discovery can be attempted and documented. 

It is also a promising test bed to demonstrate technologies required for deep-space missions. 

Chandrayaan 2 attempts to foster a new age of discovery, increase our understanding of space, stimulate the advancement of technology, promote global alliances, and inspire a future generation of explorers and scientists.

Special feature of Chandrayaan 2 

The Chandrayaan-2 is an Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) lunar mission comprising an orbiter and lander (Vikram) carrying a rover (Pragyan).

This is the first space mission to conduct a soft landing on the Moon's south polar region which has a lunar surface area much larger than that of the North Pole and remains in shadow.

The GSLV Mk-III which will carry Chandrayaan 2 to its designated orbit is India's most powerful launcher to date.

Chandrayaan-2 will have 14 Indian payloads or study devices including scientific ones to study topography, seismography, mineral identification and distribution, and surface chemical composition.


What are the scientific objectives of Chandrayaan 2? Why explore the Lunar South Pole?

Moon provides the best linkage to Earth’s early history. It offers an undisturbed historical record of the inner Solar system environment.

Extensive mapping of lunar surface to study variations in lunar surface composition is essential to trace back the origin and evolution of the Moon. 

Evidence for water molecules discovered by Chandrayaan-1, requires further studies on the extent of water molecule distribution on the surface, below the surface and in the tenuous lunar exosphere to address the origin of water on Moon.

The lunar South Pole is especially interesting because of the lunar surface area here that remains in shadow is much larger than that at the North Pole.

There is a possibility of the presence of water in permanently shadowed areas around it. In addition, South Pole region has craters that are cold traps and contain a fossil record of the early Solar System.

Chandrayaan-2 will attempt to soft land the lander -Vikram and rover- Pragyan in a high plain between two craters, Manzinus C and Simpelius N, at a latitude of about 70° south.


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5. Why is India opting for overseas bonds? (The Hindu Page  14)


Prelims: Economy 

Mains: GS Paper III – Economy (Government Budgeting)


Overseas Bonds 



In the Budget, announcement was made that Government would start raising a part of its gross borrowing program in external markets in external currencies. 


What is an overseas bond?

A government bond or sovereign bond is a form of debt that the government undertakes wherein it issues bonds with the promise to pay periodic interest payments and also repay the entire face value of the bond on the maturity debt. So far, the government has only issued bonds in the domestic market (G-Sec).


India's sovereign external debt to GDP ratio is among the lowest around the world, at less than 5%. Against this background, the government will start raising a part of its gross borrowing program in external markets in external currencies. 


Government will only test the waters and borrow about $10 billion, which works out to about 10% of its gross market borrowing.


This is a marked break from the past as previously: 

  • India issued government bonds in rupees 

  • Borrowed in foreign exchange only from development institutions such as World Bank, Asian Development Bank etc.



  • Low exposure currently

Currently, India's sovereign external debt to GDP is among the lowest globally at less than 5%. So, if external borrowing is done moderately it will not be of much concern.


  • This will also have beneficial impact on demand situation for the government securities in domestic market which come at concessional terms. 


  • Foreign borrowing can be cheaper because dollar or yen interest rates are lower than rupee interest rates. 


  • This will bring a whole new set of investors and participants in sovereign debt markets of India.


  • Create space for private sector investment

Quantum of government borrowing domestically is crowing out the private sector investment. Government borrowing accounts for about 80-85% of domestic savings. In other words, the government borrowing is at such a level that there are not enough funds available for private sector to adequately meet its credit and investment needs. If the private sector cannot borrow adequately, then it cannot invest as it wants to, and that cripples economic growth.

  • Enables gradual decrease in Fiscal deficit 

Overseas borrowing program allows the government to maintain its gradual reduction of the fiscal deficit. Had the government relaxed its fiscal deficit to say 4.4%, then this would have allowed it to borrow an additional Rs 2 Lakh crores from the domestic market. However, this would meant that Rs 2 Lakh crore is not available for the private sector.


  • Appetite of the international market for Indian bonds and their price will also say a lot about how India is viewed globally on the risk factor. 


  • India is not likely to be viewed as a risky proposition by the international market and so is likely to fetch an attractive rate for the bonds. 


  • There are not enough funds in the domestic market to cater to the needs of the governments and private sector. This shallowness of the bond market is not a good thing, especially at a time when the government needs the bond market to finance several initiatives. Under the UDAY scheme State Governments overtake power distribution company debt and issue bonds to repay it. Also use of Recap bonds to infuse capital in stressed PSBs. A shallow bond market would make it difficult for the government to expand any of these schemes.




  • Precedents from other developing economies

Economists have cautioned that India might follow the path of some Central and South American countries such as Mexico and Brazil. In the 1970s, these countries borrowed heavily overseas when the global market was flush with liquidity. However, when their currencies depreciated sharply a decade later, these countries were in big trouble as they could not repay their debt.


  • Can lead to Ruppee appreciation curbing exports 

Overseas borrowing can lead to quicker increase to India's foreign exchange reserve, which would lead to a stronger rupee at a time when it is already appreciating against the dollar. A stronger rupee would encourage imports and disincentivise exports threatening the adversely the current account deficit.


  • Takes out a policy tool out of government kitty ie the possibility to print currency

Government would not be able to inflate itself out of trouble ie if the debt of the government is in domestic currency, in case of a crisis if the government is not able to meet its obligations, it can simply print more money, let inflation rise quickly and repay its debt. This option will not be available in case of overseas bond issue as Indian government cannot print foreign currency to repay its debt. 


  • Currency Risk

Most of the debt is of domestic origin insulating the debt portfolio from currency risk. This provides safety from volatility in the international financial markets. 


  • Possibility to tap external funds by removing/relaxing limits on foreign participation in G-Secs

If the government wants to tap into external savings to supplement domestic savings, it could have increased current ceilings on foreign portfolio investment into government rupee bonds. The effect is the same - more foreign inflows - but the government security is issued in rupees.


  • Low interest rates are offset by depreciation of Rupee

The lower dollar interest rate in foreign markets is offset in the long run by higher principal  repayments as the rupee depreciates against the dollar. 


  • Can lead to overdependence in future and cause trouble:

A small issuance will likely not be problematic. The concern is that once the door is opened, the government will be tempted to issue more, much more, with attendant risks – after all, all addictions start small. 


  • Negative Impact on prospects of Rupee Internationalisaion: 

In the past, India has stated its desire to internationalise the rupee eventually – to make it a currency that other countries will use. The first step has been to make the rupee more attractive by bringing down domestic inflation. Instead of promoting of making ruppee assets more liquid this overseas borrowing will create unnecessary competition for rupee assets and Indian markets by denominating India's most sought after financial asset, the government bond, in foreign currency.



Way forward:

  • Removal and relaxation of the limits set for foreign participation in GSec market (Rupee denominated sovereign debt)

  • Steps to increase tax-GDP ratio with increased focus on tax compliance on both indirect and direct tax sides.

  • The external sovereign borrowing should be resorted in a very small amounts. 

  • Steps to boost economic growth

  • A more consultative approach factoring in all the risks and benefits should be taken on this.