Currents Affairs & GK – Jul 15, 2017


General Studies-II
Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors

Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY)

Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) aims to safeguard the health of women & children by providing them with a clean cooking fuel – LPG, so that they don’t have to compromise their health in smoky kitchens or wander in unsafe areas collecting firewood.
Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana was launched by Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on May 1st, 2016 in Ballia, Uttar Pradesh. Under this scheme, 5 Cr LPG connections will be provided to BPL families with a support of Rs.1600 per connection in the next 3 years. Ensuring women’s empowerment, especially in rural India, the connections will be issued in the name of women of the households. Rs. 8000 Cr. has been allocated towards the implementation of the scheme. Identification of the BPL families will be done through Socio Economic Caste Census Data.

PMUY is likely to result in an additional employment of around 1 Lakh and provide business opportunity of at least Rs. 10,000 Cr. over the next 3 Years to the Indian Industry. Launch of this scheme will also provide a great boost to the ‘Make in India’ campaign as all the manufacturers of cylinders, gas stoves, regulators, and gas hose are domestic.

India is home to more than 24 Crore households out of which about 10 Crore households are still deprived of LPG as cooking fuel and have to rely on firewood, coal, dung – cakes etc. as primary source of cooking. The smoke from burning such fuels causes alarming household pollution and adversely affects the health of Women & children causing several respiratory diseases/ disorders. As per a WHO report, smoke inhaled by women from unclean fuel is equivalent to burning 400 cigarettes in an hour. In addition, women and children have to go through the drudgery of collecting firewood.


Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India

European Union & India establish an Investment Facilitation Mechanism

European Union (EU) and India today announced the establishment of an Investment Facilitation Mechanism (IFM) for EU Investments in India. The mechanism will allow for a close coordination between the European Union and the Government of India with an aim to promote and facilitate EU investment in India.

This agreement builds on the Joint Statement of the 13th EU-India Summit held in Brussels in March 2016, where the EU had welcomed India’s readiness to establish such a mechanism and leaders from both sides had reaffirmed their shared commitment to oppose protectionism and to work in favour of a fair, transparent and rule-based trade and investment environment.

As part of the IFM, the EU Delegation to India and the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce & Industry, agreed to hold regular high level meetings to assess and facilitate “ease of doing business” for EU investors in India. This will include identifying and putting in place solutions to procedural impediments faced by EU companies and investors in establishing or running their operations in India.

Invest India, the official Investment Promotion and Facilitation Agency of the Government of India, will also be part of the Mechanism. It will create a single-window entry point for EU companies that need assistance for their investments at the central or state level. The DIPP will also facilitate participation of other relevant ministries and authorities on a case-to-case basis.

Trade and Investment are key elements of the EU-India Strategic Partnership launched in 2004. Along with being the first trade partner in goods and services, EU is one of the biggest provider of foreign investment in India, with a stock exceeding US$ 81.52 billion (more than 4.4 lakh crores INR) as of March 2017. There are currently more than 6,000 EU companies present in India, providing direct and indirect employment to over 6 million people.



General Studies-III
Achievements of Indians in science & technology; Awareness in the fields of IT, Space

Saraswati, a supercluster of galaxies

A group of Indian astronomers have discovered a massive supercluster of galaxies, and have named it Saraswati. The supercluster is about 4 billion light years away and spreads over a great wall about 600 million light years across. This makes it one of the largest superclusters to be discovered and also the furthest.

The astronomers belong to Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA) and Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISER) in Pune, besides NIT, Jamshedpur and Newman College, Thodupuzha.

The first supercluster of galaxies, the Shapley Supercluster, was discovered in 1989, and the second, the Sloan Great Wall in 2003. The Milky Way galaxy is part of the Laniakea Supercluster, which was discovered in 2014.

The structure of the universe is not a homogeneous distribution of matter. It is clumpy with galaxies forming clusters and these in turn forming superclusters. There are thin filaments that connect galaxies, forming a cosmic web, and there are large voids in between. The current belief is that infant galaxies form in these filaments and then drift to the intersections of the filaments where they grow. The Saraswati supercluster could challenge this premise, because it had formed so early and building such a big structure far back might have been difficult. When sighting a supercluster of galaxies 4 billion light years away, the observer is looking back about 4 billion years. A light year is the distance travelled by light in one year. Given the belief that the universe is 13.8 billion years old, the discovery implies that such a huge structure existed even when the universe was just about ten billion years old. This raises questions about the formation of large structures and the nature of the universe.

Dark matter and dark energy are invoked to explain the structure of the universe. Dark matter, being massive, binds together the universe while dark energy, exciting the surrounding space, drives it apart; the balance of the two effects helps in maintaining the universe in its present form.

What are galaxy clusters? How big are they?

Galaxies are like the building blocks of the universe, they contain a huge number of stars, something like 100 billion at a count. Galaxy groups can have three to 20 galaxies, the richest systems are called clusters (like the Virgo cluster) which can have several hundred galaxies.

Superclusters are clusters of clusters. They can have as few as two clusters, and superclusters with two to four clusters are common. Saraswati has 42.

Within superclusters, clusters are connected by filaments and sheets of dark matter with galaxies embedded in them. It is supposed that the galaxies are born in the filaments and then migrate towards the intersection of the filaments where they are assimilated into clusters.

What are superclusters?

These are the largest coherent structures seen in the universe. Firstly there are clusters of galaxies together with associated gas and dark matter. Large groups of such clusters, linked by filaments, separated by voids together form the superclusters. Though initially a supercluster was used to describe groups of two-four clusters, now it is understood that much larger superclusters, comprising clusters that number an order of magnitude higher, exist. The first such large supercluster to be discovered was the Shapley supercluster.

How does the Saraswati supercluster compare with the Milky Way?

The newly discovered Saraswati supercluster is 600 million light years across. The Milky Way is 150,000 light years across.

Where does the supercluster Saraswati lie in the sky?

The supercluster Saraswati lies in the Stripe 82 of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. It is about 4000 million light years away from us. It is in the constellation of Pisces.

What is “Stripe 82 region of SDSS”?

SDSS stands for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. This is an ambitious plan to make a digital 3D map of the universe. Started in 2000, it has, over eight years, mapped more than a quarter of the sky. It has mapped nearly 930,000 galaxies. The SDSS has found nearly 50 million galaxies so far.

In its third phase, SDSS-III, which started in 2008 and ended in 2014, gave out sets of data that were released in 2011, 2012 and 2013. It produced a map of the North galactic cap which stretched to 7500 square degrees and of three stripes in the South Galactic Cap which added to 740 square degrees. The central stripe is known as Stripe 82.

What is the significance of this discovery? Is there a puzzle posed by the discovery of Saraswati?

Spotting a supercluster which is 4000 million light years away means that you are looking at light that has come in from four billion years ago. This is because a light year is the distance travelled by light in one year. Since the universe is believed to be 13.8 billion years old, this means we are looking at light from when the universe was about 10 billion years old, just about 70% of its present age.

This poses a puzzle. According to present theories, it is difficult for such a huge galaxy to have formed so early in the universe’s lifetime.

When was the term Galaxy cluster first used, in what context?

In 1926, Harlow Shapley and Adelaide Ames were the first to coin the term “cluster” to describe a collection of galaxies. They used this to describe the Coma-Virgo region. The term “Virgo cluster” was first used by Edwin Hubble and Milton Humason in 1931.

Is there any special way of discovering a supercluster? For instance, a star has a definite boundary, but how do you discern the boundaries of a supercluster?

It is very hard to outline the boundaries of a supercluster. It is done by studying maps such as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey in an exceedingly detailed manner. In the context of Saraswati supercluster, the astronomers could delineate 43 clusters of galaxies connected by a network of filaments.

Is Saraswati the first supercluster that Indians have discovered? Which was the first?

Professor Somak Raychaudhury, who is presently director of Inter University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune, had discovered a supercluster as part of his PhD thesis work at University of Cambridge. It was named “Shapley Supercluster,” after the American astronomer Shapley who first coined the term cluster. Shapley’s work in measuring the extent of galaxies is remarkable and a part of extending the Copernican programme – establishing that the earth is not the centre of the universe.


Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM)

NCSCM has been established at Anna University campus in Chennai by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Govt. of India. Six research divisions have been established at NCSCM that will combine geospatial sciences with cutting-edge research on conservation, pollution, climate change and community interface – both in mainland and islands of the country. NCSCM’s core strength is the multi-disciplinary nature of coastal system research for the well-being of coastal communities and promoting sustainable development based on scientific principles.

Objectives of National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management include –

  • Promoting integrated and sustainable management of the coastal and marine areas in the country for the benefit and well-being of the traditional coastal and island communities;
  • Strengthening capacity of coastal management at all levels, including stakeholders;
  • Advising Union and State governments and other associated stakeholders on policy and scientific matters related to Integrated Coastal Zone Management;
  • Striving to become a world class institution through cutting-edge research pertaining to understanding coastal zones, coastal processes, integrated planning and management of coastal and marine areas.

NCSCM, along with other Ministries and State/UT governments will also strive to scientifically map the cumulative vulnerability of coastal environment to climate change and consequent threats to ecology, lives and livelihoods; develop vulnerability-based environment and adaptive management plans for key sectors by (i) mainstreaming climate sensitivity and readiness into all coastal developmental projects and (ii) Promoting development taking into account the threats due to natural hazards in the coastal areas and sea-level rise; build resilience of coastal communities (fishermen, agriculturists etc) and develop infrastructure and settlements in urban and rural areas; conserve and protect coastal stretches, its unique environment and its marine area by enhancing mitigation (blue carbon ecosystems which include mangroves, seagrass meadows and salt marsh ecosystems) and build institutional capacity – both sector-wise and for community.


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