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The Hindu 18 August 2019

UPSC - Daily Current Affair







Brighter than the Sun



Combating fossil fuels



What is the UN’s stand on Kashmir?



Disqualification of Sikkim CM



New TB drug shows promise



India Bhutan inks 10 MoUs




1. Brighter than the Sun (The Hindu -Page. 15)


Prelims: Science and Technology 

Mains: GS, paper III, Science and Technology


About NASA’s Fermi Gamma ray telescope.


In News- According to scientist Moon would appear brighter than the sun when seen in the light of gamma rays as imagined by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray space telescope.

  • The telescope detected gamma rays from moon, which appears blurred with a prominent glow at its centre.

  • These gamma-ray observations are a reminder that astronauts on the Moon will require protection from the same cosmic rays that produce this high-energy gamma radiation.

  • When cosmic rays strike, they interact with the powdery surface of the Moon, called the regolith, to produce gamma-ray emission. 


What are Gamma Rays?

  • Gamma rays are part of electromagnetic spectrum having short wavelengths and are highly energetic.

  • They are produced by the hottest and most energetic objects in the universe, such as neutron stars and pulsars, supernova explosions, and regions around black holes.

  • On Earth, gamma waves are generated by nuclear explosions, lightning, and the less dramatic activity of radioactive decay.

  • Scientists can use gamma rays to determine the elements on other planets.


About Fermi Gamma ray telescope.

  • It is a powerful space observatory of NASA.

  • Launched in 2008 Fermi bore the name Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope, or GLAST.

  • NASA renamed the mission that August in honor of professor Enrico Fermi (1901-1954), a pioneer in high-energy physics.

  • After five years of operations, in 2013, Fermi entered an extended phase of its mission, a deeper study of the high-energy cosmos.

  • It is an astrophysics and particle physics partnership, developed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, along with important contributions from academic institutions and partners in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden and the U.S.

  • Fermi carries two instruments: The Large Area Telescope (LAT) and the Gamma-ray Burst Monitor (GBM). The LAT is Fermi's primary instrument, and the GBM is the complementary instrument.

  • Fermi enables scientists to answer persistent questions across a broad range of topics, including supermassive black-hole systems, pulsars, the origin of cosmic rays, and searches for signals of new physics.

  • Fermi observes light in the photon energy range of 8,000 electronvolts (8 keV) to greater than 300 billion electronvolts (300 GeV). An electronvolt is a unit of energy close to that of visible light.

  • Fermi observes photons with energy levels thousands to hundreds of billions of times greater than what the unaided eye can see.

  • Contribution of Fermi -

  • Physicists are able to study subatomic particles at energies far greater than those seen in ground-based particle accelerators. 

  • Cosmologists are gaining valuable information about the birth and early evolution of the Universe.



2. Combating fossil fuels (The Hindu -Page.15 )


Prelims: Science and Technology 

Mains: GS, paper III, Science and Technology


Algae based biofuel


In news- Scientist have discovered how diatoms, small algae that produce 20 % of the world’s, oxygen harness solar energy.

  • The discovery could lead to the development of algae-based biofuels and relief from the fossil fuels.

  • The algae store energy in the form of oils. Thus, further understanding this process can release a lot of such oils which can be used as bio-fuel to drive vehicles 


Why do we need to focus of Algae based biofuel? 

  • With fossil fuels set to get exhausted in the next few hundred years and the spectre of global warming looming over the planet, the world is increasingly looking at alternative energy options. 

  • Microalgae are photosynthetic microorganisms that are being touted as the next big sustainable source of clean energy. 

  • Microalgae are found in abundance in marine eco-systems and provide food for higher animal forms. 

  • Solving the fuel crisis is a multipronged approach. One type of fuel cannot solve it. We need a combination of fossil and biofuels to combat the problem.

  • India is a growing market for micro algae: There is scope for both small-scale (as cottage industries) and large-scale algal farming here. Algae is the third-generation biofuel and can be an ideal solution for India’s impending fuel crisis, as India’s long coastal region and tropical climate can facilitate the cultivation of algae in India in mass scale. This calls for strong and dedicated action by the government.


About algae-based biofuels 

  • Packed inside the microorganisms growing in ponds, lakes and rivers are lipids, which are fatty acid molecules containing oil that can be extracted to power diesel engines. 

  • Organisms such as microalgae an attractive form of biomass, organic matter that can be used as a sustainable fuel source. 

  • Marine algae have the power to simultaneously fuel vehicles, recycle carbon dioxide, and provide nutrition to animals and humans.

  • Algae can be used as a source for biofuel and bioethanol; apart from this, algae can also be used for the production of hydrogen (for use in fuel cells); and production of methane.

  • The biggest challenge in algae biofuel production is cutting the cost (Researchers are trying to figure out how to grow enough of the right strains of algae and how to extract the oil most efficiently)


Advantage microalgal biodiesel

  • Does not compete with food crops for land availability-According to scientist microalgal biofuel is grown on wasteland, and does not eat into agricultural land, like jatropha and ethanol – two other sources of biofuel.

  • It is a highly clean fuel and emissions are minimal.

  • They can be grown on brackish or polluted water and so don’t require freshwater resources either.

  • Micro algae consume carbon dioxide (CO2) and emit oxygen as they grow and thus help reduce the total amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

  • Jatropha can be harvested only every six months, while microalgae can be harvested on a daily basis.

  • Can grow in places away from forests, thus minimising the damages caused to the eco-and-food chain systems.



3. What is the UN’s stand on Kashmir?(The Hindu -Page. 14)


Prelims: International relation 

Mains-GS, Paper II - International Relation


Withdrawal of special status granted to Kashmir through Article 370


Closed Door Consultation by UNSC  

  • After decision of Indian Government to withdraw special status granted to Kashmir through Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, Government of Pakistan wrote to UNSC with the support of China and sought a meeting of the UNSC to discuss the developments in Kashmir. 

  • The 15-member Security Council in New York held a “closed consultation” meeting on the Kashmir situation on 16th August, 2019. However, both India and Pakistan were kept out of the meeting. 

  • Government of India reached out to all the five permanent members – US, China, Russia, France and United Kingdom – as well as most of the 10 non-permanent members of the UNSC over the past 24 hours in order to make sure that the closed-door consultation within the council does not lead to formal return of the J&K issue at the UN doorsteps.



  • The closed door consultation by UNSC on Kashmir could not achieve much as the Council did not even issued a statement to the press – considered as  lowest level of Council action. 

  • As per UN diplomats, countries disagreed on wording of a statement, with some fearing any comment would escalate tensions or would show bias towards Pakistan by simply holding the meeting. 

  • France, Germany and the United States objected to language that might have broadened the issue beyond the possibility of future bilateral talks between India and Pakistan. However, all agreed that the issue of Kashmir must be resolved bilaterally between Indian and Pakistan. 

  • Even US President Donald Trump has asked Pakistani PM Imran Khan to resolve the issue bilaterally.  


Stand of Russia

  • Russia's Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations expressed that divergence around Kashmir be settled bilaterally by political and diplomatic means only on the basis of Simla Agreement of 1972 and Lahore Declaration of 1999 as well as in accordance with UN Charter, relevant Resolutions and bilateral agreement between India and Pakistan. 


Indian stand on Kashmir

  • This stand of Russia goes against the stand of India not to involve any third-party including UN or its agencies to resolve Kashmir issue as it is an internal Indian matter. As per India, Simla Agreement in 1972 signed by Indira Gandhi and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the then Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan, had left no scope for the UN or any third party to get involved in the process to resolve the “outstanding issues” between the two nations. 

  • The principle of the Simla Agreement had again been reaffirmed by Lahore Declaration issued by then Prime Minister AB Vajpayee and his then Pakistani counterpart M Nawaz Sharif in 1999.  

  • India has been invoking Simla Agreement and Lahore Declaration to resist attempts by Pakistan to internationalise the bilateral dispute over Kashmir and raise it at the UN General Assembly or the Security Council.  


Resolutions 38 of UNSC

  • Resolution 38, 17 January, 1948 – India Pakistan Question called upon both countries to take immediately all measures within their power (including public appeals to their people) calculated to improve the situation, and to refrain from making any statements and from doing or causing to be done or permitting any acts which might aggravate the situation.

  • It asked both governments to inform the Council immediately of any material change in the situation which occurs or appears to either of them to be about to occur while the matter is under consideration by the Council, and consult with the Council thereon.


Resolutions 39 of UNSC

  • Under Resolution 39 on January 20, 1948, the UNSC set up a three-member UN Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) composed of representatives of three Members of the United Nations, one to be selected by India, one to be selected by Pakistan, and the third to be designated by the two so selected. 

  • The Commission was invested with dual functions:

  1.  to investigate the facts pursuant to Article 34 of the Charter of the United Nations

  2. to exercise, without interrupting the work of the Security Council, any mediatory influence likely to smooth away difficulties; to carry out the directions given to it by the Security Council; and to report how far the advice and directions, if any, of the Security Council have been carried out. 

  • However, disagreements between India and Pakistan did not result in any success.


Resolution 47 of UNSC

  • This led to Resolution 47 of UNSC dated 21st April, 1948. It highlighted need to restore peace and order because the continuation of the dispute was likely to endanger international peace and security.

  • It held that accession of Jammu and Kashmir between India or Pakistan should be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite.

  • It reaffirmed resolution 38 of UNSC and it increased the membership of the Commission established by its resolution 39 to five. 

  • It instructed the Commission to place its good offices and mediation in Indian sub-continent at disposal of both governments to take necessary measures to restore peace and order and hold a plebiscite. 

  • The UN Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP) passed a resolution on January 5, 1949 that provided the mechanism for holding a “free and impartial plebiscite” in Kashmir. 


Conditions for plebiscite

  • Pakistan at the behest of UK agreed for a ceasefire without withdrawing from the area in Kashmir which it had captured during its raid in October of 1947. This holding on to the Indian territory effectively undermined the entire idea of plebiscite. 

  • A key condition for the plebiscite was withdrawal of Pakistan from the areas under its control and India withdrawing individuals who were not residents of the State. However, neither of this happened. Instead both sides firmed up their presence in the areas under their control.   


Importance of Simla Agreement (1972) and Lahore Declarations (1999)

  • Under the Simla Agreement of July 2, 1972, India gained Pakistan’s commitment that the Kashmir conflict would be resolved bilaterally. Pakistan, however, kept the issue alive by hosting the Islamic Summit of 1974 and using it as a platform to raise Kashmir.  

  • The Simla Agreement was a peace treaty signed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan on 2nd July 1972 after the 1971 Bangladesh War, with the main intent to bring about withdrawals of troops and an exchange of PoWs. 

  • However, Simla agreement was much more than a peace treaty seeking to reverse the consequences of the 1971 war. It was a comprehensive blue print for good neighbourly relations between India and Pakistan. 

  • Under the Simla Agreement, both countries undertook to abjure conflict and confrontation which had marred relations in the past, and to work towards the establishment of durable peace, friendship and cooperation.

  • The Lahore Declaration (1999) was signed between India & Pakistan in the presence of Prime Minister of India, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, and Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Muhammad Nawaz Sharif. 

  • The Lahore Declaration was signed after the nuclear tests conducted by both countries but was preceded by the betrayal of Pakistan through the Kargil War and the subsequent exile of Nawaz Sharif by Pervez Musharraf.    




4. Combating fossil fuels (The Hindu -Page.15 )


Prelims: Polity & Governance

Mains: GS Paper II - Polity & Governance 


Disqualification on grounds of corrupt practices


  • This article highlights about disqualification of Prem Singh Tamang who is Chief Minister of Sikkim on grounds of corruption under Section 8(1)(m) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. The issue of his disqualification is pending in Supreme Court. 

  • Section 8(1)(m) - A person convicted of an offence punishable under Prevention of Corruption Act shall be disqualified to contest elections for a further period of six years since his release. The CM’s sentence came to an end in August 2018. Accordingly, he is barred from contesting polls until 2024. 

  • Supreme Court in the case of Jayalalitha held that non-legislator must be one who, when he is appointed, is not debarred from obtaining membership of the legislature : he must be one who is qualified to stand for the legislature and is not disqualified to do so. 

  • CM’s defence - The Repealing and Amending Act, 2015. In support of the cm, he has argued in SC that the Representation of People (Amendment) Act, 2002, under which the clause related to disqualification for conviction under the Prevention of Corruption Act was introduced, had been ‘repealed’ by the Repealing and Amending Act, 2015. 

  • The Repealing and Amending Act, 2015 mentions the The Representation of the People (Third Amendment) Act, 2002 as one of the laws that are being repealed. Now, after the 2002 amendment, the clause relating to disqualification under Prevention of Corruption Act is now part of main law i.e. RPA, 1951. Any repeal of the amendment will not lead to annulment of the entire RPA, 1951. 

  • Powers of Election Commission - The Sikkim Chief Minister has approached the Election Commission of India (ECI) for a waiver of the remaining period of his disqualification. Section 11 of the RPA, 1951 says the ECI is empowered to remove any disqualification or reduce its duration for “reasons to be recorded” except offences under section 8A of RPA, 1951.


5. New TB drug shows promise (The Hindu -Page.15 )


Prelims: Science & Technology

Mains: GS Paper III - Science & Technology 


New TB drug – Pretomanid 


In news-the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new drug Pretomanid.

  • Pretomanid is only the third new anti-TB drug approved for use by FDA in more than 40 years.

  • The drug was developed and tested in clinical trials by New York-based non-profit organisation TB Alliance.


What makes the new drug so promising?

  • The duration of treatment for drug-resistant TB can be drastically cut from 18-24 months to just six-nine months when pretomanid drug is used along with two already approved drugs — bedaquiline and linezolid.

  • The all-oral, three-drug regimen can also vastly improve the treatment success rate and potentially decrease the number of deaths due to better adherence to treatment.


How widespread is MDR-TB and XDR-TB?

  • People with TB who do not respond to at least isoniazid and rifampicin, which are first-line TB drugs are said to have MDR-TB. 

  • What is extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB)? -People who are resistant to isoniazid and rifampin, plus any fluoroquinolone and at least one of three injectable second-line drugs (amikacin, kanamycin, or capreomycin).

  • As per the World Health Organisation’sGlobal Tuberculosis Report 2018, an estimated 4.5 lakh people across the world have MDR-TB and nearly 37,500 people have XDR-TB. 

  • India has 24% of MDR-TB cases in the world.


Which category of drug-resistant TB patients will benefit from this new drug?

  • Pretomanid drug along with bedaquiline and linezolid is meant for treating adults with XDR-TB. 

  • In the case of MDR-TB, the three-drug regimen containing pretomanid can be used only in those patients who cannot tolerate the MDR-TB treatment or do not respond to standard MDR-TB treatment regimen.

  • The three-drug regimen is meant only for treating pulmonary TB 


How safe is the drug for clinical use?

  • The safety and efficacy of the drug has been evaluated either alone or as part of the combination therapy in 19 clinical trials conducted in 14 countries.

  • Safety and effectiveness of the drug has been studied and established only when used in combination with bedaquiline and linezolid.

  • The three-drug combination should not be used in patients for whom bedaquiline and/or linezolid drug is not receommended

  • The drug has not been tested in pregnant women.

India and TB-In India, rate of decline in TB incidence rate was 3.3% between 2016 and 2017 as compared to 2.3% between 2015 and 2016.


Steps taken by Indian government 

  • Early diagnosis of all the TB patients, prompt treatment with quality assured daily treatment regimen along with suitable patient support systems to promote adherence to prevent the development of drug resistance among any patient. To identify the drug resistance at early stage, all TB patient are being screened for detection of resistance under Universal Drug Susceptible Testing (U-DST).

  • Various interventions like Integrated mechanism for management of Adverse Drug Reactions (ADRs), provision of patients & family counselling at the time of diagnosis and during the course of treatment

  • The Nikshay Poshan Yojana provides 500 INR monthly to all TB notified TB patients in order to provide nutritional support and aid in the treatment of TB.

  • Revised guidelines for Programmatic Management of Drug Resistant TB (PMDT) are being implemented since December 2017.

  • Recently, India signs a Loan Agreement worth US$ 400 Million with the World Bank to help Treat and Eliminate Tuberculosis from India; The World Bank supported Program will cover Nine State in the country to achieve the target of eliminating TB by 2025.

  • The National Strategic Plan 2017-25 for TB elimination by 2025 was developed in 2017 and included various interventions through multi-stakeholder engagement to reduce the burden of TB.



6. India inks MoUs with Bhutan (The Hindu –Page 01 )


Prelims: International Relations

Mains: GS Paper II - International Relations  


MoU with Bhutan



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