21st Dec, 2020

Indigenously developed DRDO systems handed over to Army, Navy and Air Force

The Union Defence minister recently handed over three indigenously developed Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) systems to Army, Navy and Air Force.

The Minister handed over the Indian Maritime Situational Awareness System (IMSAS) to the Chief of Naval Staff , ASTRA Mk-I Missile to Air Chief Marshal and Border Surveillance System (BOSS) to the Chief of Army Staff.

BOSS is An all-weather electronic surveillance system. 

The system facilitates monitoring and surveillance by automatically detecting the intrusions in harsh high-altitude sub-zero temperature areas with remote operation capability.

The IMSAS is high performance intelligent software system that provides Global Maritime Situational Picture, Marine planning tools and Analytical capabilities to Indian Navy. 

The ASTRA Mk-I is the indigenously developed first Beyond Visual Range (BVR) Missile, which can be launched from Sukhoi-30, Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), Mig-29 and Mig-29K. 

Indian Railways issues draft National Rail Plan

Recently, Indian Railways issued draft National Rail Plan. 

The objective of the Plan is to create capacity ahead of demand by 2030, which in turn would cater to growth in demand right up to 2050 and also increase the modal share of Railways from 27% currently to 45% in freight by 2030.

It aims to Reduce transit time of freight substantially by increasing average speed of freight trains from present 22Kmph to 50Kmph.

Three Dedicated Freight Corridors, namely East Coast, East-West & North-South identified along with timelines. 

Assess Locomotive requirement to meet twin objectives of 100% electrification (Green Energy) by December 2023 and also the increasing traffic right up to 2030 and beyond up to 2050.

Several new High Speed Rail Corridors have also been identified. 

Survey on Delhi-Varanasi High Speed Rail already under way.

As part of the National Rail Plan, Vision 2024 has been launched for accelerated implementation of certain critical projects by 2024 such as:

  • 100% electrification,
  • Upgradation of speed to 160 kmph on Delhi-Howrah and Delhi-Mumbai routes,
  • Upgradation of speed to 130kmph on all other Golden Quadrilateral-Golden Diagonal (GQ/GD) routes
  • Elimination of all Level Crossings on all GQ/GD route.

Government publishes a draft notification on E20 Fuel 

The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has published a draft notification seeking comments from the public for adoption of E20 fuel as an automotive fuel and for the adoption of mass emission standards for this fuel.

The notification facilitates the development of E20 compliant vehicles.

E20 fuel is blend of 20% of ethanol with gasoline.

It will also help in reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons, etc. 

It will help reduce the oil import bill, thereby saving foreign exchange and boosting energy security.

The compatibility of the vehicle to the percentage of ethanol in the blend of ethanol and gasoline shall be defined by the vehicle manufacturer and the same shall be displayed on the vehicle by putting a clearly visible sticker.

GalSafe Pigs approved by FDA

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved a first-of-its-kind intentional genomic alteration (IGA) in a line of domestic pigs referred to as GalSafe pigs.

Genetically modified (GM) pigs have been approved for food and medical use in the USA.

The pigs are only the second GM animal to be approved for food after GM salmon in 2015.

The GM pigs have been engineered to eliminate alpha-gal, a sugar found in pigs that can cause allergic reactions.

It was the first time a GM animal is approved for human food and medical use.

Intentional genomic alteration

Intentional genomic alteration in animals means making specific changes to the genome of the organism using modern molecular technologies that are popularly referred to as “genome editing” or “genetic engineering”.

However, there are other technologies that can be used to make IGAs in animals.

Such changes in the DNA sequence of an animal may be carried out for research purposes, to produce healthier meat for human consumption and to study disease resistance in animals among other reasons.

Human Freedom Index 2020 released

The Human Freedom Index 2020 released recently placed India at the 111th spot out of 162 countries. 

India ranked 94 on the index in 2019.

Published by: American think tank Cato Institute and Fraser Institute in Canada

India’s score

  • 6.30 out of 10 in personal freedom 
  • 6.56 in economic freedom. 
  • 6.43 in overall human freedom score

Top countries: New Zealand, Switzerland and Hong Kong 

USA and UK: 17th rank

War-torn Syria ranked the last on the list.

India’s neighbouring countries:

(1) China – 129;

(2) Bangladesh – 139;

(3) Pakistan – 140.

The report takes into account 76 indicators of personal, civil, and economic freedoms to rank 162 countries from 2008 to 2018.

The institutes noted that the world has seen a notable decline in personal freedom since 2008.

India-Bangladesh Virtual Summit held

Indian Prime Minister and Prime Minister of Bangladesh held a Summit in virtual format recently.

The two sides jointly inaugurated the Bangabandhu-Bapu Digital Exhibition.

They jointly inaugurated a railway link between Haldibari in India and Chilahati in Bangladesh during the summit.

Haldibari – Chilahati route will be beneficial for transit into Bangladesh from Assam and West Bengal.

They also agreed to hold an early meeting of the Joint Boundary Conference to prepare a new set of strip maps along the stretch of Icchamati, Kalindi, Raimongol and the Hariabhanga Rivers.

Beautification and city development project in Rajshahi City was also inaugurated. 

Construction of Khalishpur Collegiate Girl’s School in Khulna was inaugurated as well.

List of MoUs/Agreements signed during the Summit:

Framework of Understanding on Cooperation in the Hydrocarbon Sector

MoU regarding Indian Grant Assistance for Implementation of High Impact Community Development Projects through Local Bodies and other Public Sector Institutions

Protocol on Transboundary Elephant Conservation

MoU for Supply of Equipment & Improvement of Garbage/Solid Waste Disposal Ground at Lamchori Area for Barishal City Corporation

MoU on Cooperation in the field of Agriculture

MoU between Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Memorial Museum, Dhaka, Bangladesh and the National Museum, New Delhi, India

Terms of Reference of India-Bangladesh CEO’s Forum

Any exploitation of Sentinel Island will wipe out tribals: AnSI

Anthropological Survey of India (AnSI) policy document warns of threat to endangered group from commercial activity. 

According to ANSI, any exploitation of the North Sentinel Island of the Andamans for commercial and strategic gain would be dangerous for its occupants – the Sentinelese. 

It also said that the Right of the people to the island is non-negotiable, unassailable and uninfringeable. 

The prime duty of the state is to protect these rights as eternal and sacrosanct.

Their island should not be eyed for any commercial or strategic gain. 

The document also calls for building a knowledge bank on the Sentinelese.

Since ‘on-the-spot study’ is not possible for the tribal community, anthropologists suggest the ‘study of a culture from distance’.


It is the most secluded, particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG) who reside in complete isolation on the Andamans. 

It has a population of about 50 to 100 on the North Sentinel Island. 

They are not only among the most isolated of nearly 70 PVTGs across the country, but also among the five in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands which include Great Andamanese, Onge, Jarawa, and Shompens.

Though both Sentinelese and Great Andamanese are classified as PVTG, the tribes live in two completely different contact situation. 

While in the case of the Sentinelese their contact to the outside world is almost nil, the Great Andamanese had decades of exposure to the world outside their Island.