14th Sep, 2020


Intermediate-Mass Black Hole

Analyses of signals from gravitational waves detected in 2019 at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), the USA and the detector Virgo at Italy have indicated a black hole with unusual mass.

These waves were a result of a collision between two black holes billions of years ago.

The signal has been named GW190521.

It likely represented the instant that the two black holes merged.

It lasted less than one-tenth of a second.

It was calculated to have come from roughly 17 billion light-years away.

Out of the two, the larger black hole was of 85 solar masses and the smaller black hole was of 66 solar masses

In the merger leading to the GW190521 signal, the larger black hole was well within the unexpected range, known as the pair-instability mass gap.

The researchers suggest that the larger 85-solar-mass black hole was not the product of a collapsing star but was itself the result of a previous merger.


About LIGO

It is a large scale physics experiment observatory established in 2002 to detect gravitational waves.

The present telescopes could detect objects which emit electromagnetic radiations like X-ray, gamma rays etc. However, merger of black holes and many other cataclysmic events do not emit electromagnetic waves rather gravitational waves.

Thus, LIGO was established to unfold the many unknown phenomenon in universe through the gravitational waves detection.

Indian participation in the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, was done under the umbrella Initiative –IndIGO, which is a consortium of Indian gravitational-wave physicists.


Draft Data Empowerment and Protection Architecture: NITI Aayog

Recently, the NITI Aayog has released draft Data Empowerment and Protection Architecture (DEPA).

Aim: To promote greater user control on data sharing.

Implemented by: RBI, SEBI, IRDAI, PFRDA and the Ministry of Finance

DEPA will be empowering individuals with control over their personal data, by operationalising a regulatory, institutional, and technology design for secure data sharing.

It is designed as an evolvable and agile framework for good data governance.

It empowers people to seamlessly and securely access their data and share it with third party institutions.

The consent given under DEPA will be free, informed, specific, clear, and revocable.

Using DEPA, individuals and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) can use their digital footprints to access not just affordable loans, but also insurance, savings, and better financial management products.

The framework is expected to become functional for the financial sector starting fall 2020.

It will help in greater financial inclusion and economic growth.

Opening up an API-based data sharing framework would bring significant innovation by new fintech entities.

This architecture replaces costly and cumbersome data access and sharing practices that disempower individuals.


Rogan Art: Gujarat

Rogan art (hand painting on cloth) was recently in news because it is facing an unprecedented challenge due to pandemic.

With origins in Persia, it came to Kutch around 300 years ago.

This rare craft is practised by a lone Muslim family, the Khatris of Nirona Village, Gujarat.

Rogan is a form of textile painting which uses a rich, brightly coloured paint made from castor oil and natural colors. 

The intricate motifs – geometric flowers, peacocks, the tree of life, etc. – are drawn from the history and folk culture of the Kutch region.

The ‘Tree of Life’ design is the most famous design in Rogan painting.


Flying V Aircraft

The first real test flight of the scaled model of the ‘Flying V’ aircraft was successfully conducted.

Flying V is a futuristic and fuel-efficient long-distance aircraft that could one day carry passengers in its wings.

The Flying-V design integrates the passenger cabin, the cargo hold and the fuel tanks in the wings.

Computer calculations have predicted that the aircraft’s improved aerodynamic shape and reduced weight will reduce fuel consumption by 20% compared to today’s advanced aircrafts.

The original plan for the Flying-V aircraft design came from TU Berlin student Justus Benad.

The ‘Flying V’ project was first presented at the 100th anniversary of the Dutch airlines KLM, which has also been a partner in the project since its beginning in 2019.

Various business partners including Airbus (an aerospace company), are now involved in the project.


Kiran: Mental Health Rehabilitation Helpline launched

24/7 toll-free helpline ‘Kiran’ was recently launched.

Launched by: The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment 

Objective: To provide support to people facing anxiety, stress, depression, suicidal thoughts and other mental health concerns.

Coordinated by: The National Institute for the Empowerment of Persons with Multiple Disabilities (NIEPMD), Chennai (Tamil Nadu) and National Institute of Mental Health Rehabilitation (NIMHR), Sehore (Madhya Pradesh).

It will cater to – People in Distress, pandemic induced psychological issues and Mental Health Emergency.

It will offer mental health rehabilitation services with the objective of early screening, first-aid, psychological support, distress management, promoting positive behaviours, etc.

It will be available in 13 languages and has 660 clinical/rehabilitation psychologists and 668 psychiatrists as volunteers.

Helpline operators had been sensitised not to ask the caller for name or any identification details.

Earlier, the Ministry of Education had launched the ‘Manodarpan’ initiative to provide psycho-social support and counselling to students for their mental health and well-being.


Extension of Tenure of Standing Committees may be extended

The Rajya Sabha Secretariat is considering changing the rules governing the Departmentally-Related Standing Committees’ (DRSC) tenure to make it to two years from the present one year.

Objective: The panels should have enough time to work on the subjects selected by them. A significant amount of the tenure of the committees was lost due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of the panels have not been able to complete reports on the subjects they were working on. 


Options that are being considered

To extend the term of the panels for a year.

To form new committees with a fixed tenure of two years.


Parliamentary Committees

The Constitution of India makes a mention of these committees at different places, but without making any specific provisions regarding their composition, tenure, functions, etc.

Two kinds of parliamentary committees — Standing Committees and Ad Hoc Committees.

Standing Committees: Permanent (constituted every year or periodically) and work on a continuous basis.  Term: one year from the date of its constitution.

Ad Hoc Committees: Temporary and cease to exist on completion of the task assigned.

Role: (1) Through Committees, Parliament exercises its control and influence over administration and keeps vigilance over the executive; (2) They aid and assist the Legislature in discharging its duties; (3) They also provide the expertise on a matter which is referred to them.


Ease of Doing Business Rankings of the States: DPIIT

4th edition of Ease of Doing Business Rankings based on the State Business Reform Action Plan (State BRAP) was recently released.

Released by: The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), Ministry of Commerce and Industry 

Top Performers: (1) Andhra Pradesh; (2) Uttar Pradesh; (3) Telangana; (4) Madhya Pradesh; (5) Jharkhand. 

Worst performers: (1) Tripura; (2) Sikkim; (3) Odisha 

Ease of Doing Business (EODB)

Joint initiative by: The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) and the World Bank 

Objective: To improve the overall business environment in the States.

Business Reform Action Plan

Launched in: 2015.

BRAP 2019 contains a list of 80 reforms (187 reform action points) to be implemented by 19 State departments.

These reforms cover 12 business regulatory areas such as Access to Information, Single Window System, Labour, Environment, etc.

Objective: To encourage a healthy competition between states.

This would help in attracting investments and increasing Ease of Doing Business in each State.


SAROD-Ports: Dispute Resolution Mechanism launched

 ‘SAROD-Ports’ (Society for Affordable Redressal of Disputes – Ports) through virtual ceremony in New Delhi was recently launched.

Launched by: The Union Ministry of Shipping 

Established under:  Societies Registration Act, 1860.

‘SAROD-Ports’ is similar to provision available in Highway Sector in the form of SAROD-Roads constituted by National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).

Composition: Members from Indian Ports Association (IPA) and Indian Private Ports and Terminals Association (IPTTA).

Functions: (1) SAROD-Ports will advise and assist in settlement of disputes through arbitrations in the maritime sector.

Benefits: (1) SAROD-Ports will become the pivotal mechanism of ummeed (hope), vishwas (trust) and nyaya (justice) in the Port sector of India; (2) It will lead to saving huge amounts of legal expenditure and time; (3) Enforcement of concession agreements in the letter and spirit.

A concession agreement is a contract that gives a company the right to operate a specific business within a government’s jurisdiction or on another firm’s property, subject to particular terms.

It will promote ease of doing business in the maritime sector because of the fast, timely, cost effective and robust dispute resolution mechanism.

It will inspire confidence in the private players.


Real Mango: Illegal Software

In a nationwide investigation, Railway Protection Force (RPF) has disrupted the operation of illegal software called “Real Mango” – used for cornering confirmed Railway reservation.

Real Mango software is illegal software developed for booking Tatkal tickets.

It bypasses captcha.

It synchronises bank OTP with help of a mobile app and feeds it to the requisite form automatically.

The software auto-fills the passenger details and payment details in the forms.

The software logs in to the IRCTC website through multiple IRCTC Ids.

Following these steps multiple tickets can be booked. And it leads to swift online tickets booking by agents whereas common people may not get the tickets booked on their own. This creates the possibility of ticket hoarding and black marketing of tickets.

Significance: The information supplied by RPF will help the Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS) to strengthen security features in the Passenger Reservation System (PRS).