⏳ Cabinet gives nod to 10 new atomic reactors for power generation
- The Union cabinet cleared a proposal to indigenously build 10 atomic reactors of 700 MW each under its Make in India flagship programme.
- The largest ever approval granted for such facilities in one go.
- The Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) to have indigenous but latest technology.
- The 10 reactors would be built at Mahi Banswara (Rajasthan), Chutka (Madhya Pradesh), Kaiga (Karnataka) and Gorakhpur (Haryana).
Importance of the decision:
- Prioritise the use of clean power in India’s energy mix as part of low-carbon growth strategy
- Ensure long-term base load requirement for the nation’s industrialisation.
- Supports India’s commitment to sustainable development, energy self-sufficiency, and bolsters global efforts to combat climate change
- India currently has installed nuclear power capacity of 6,780 MW from 22 operational plants.
- Another 6,700 MW of nuclear power is expected to be added by 2021-22 when currently under-construction projects go onstream in Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Tamil Nadu.
- The total share of nuclear power in the country currently stands at a measly 3.5 percent.
- The National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), which reports to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the National Security Advisor (NSA) will now have the same “norms of conduct” as the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW).
- The Home Ministry issued a notification listing NTRO under The Intelligence Organisations (Restriction of Rights) Act, 1985.
- The NTRO was created after the 1999 Kargil conflict as a dedicated technical intelligence agency.
Restrictions to be imposed:
- The Act prevents employees of a notified agency from forming unions/associations
- Puts restrictions on the employee’s freedom of speech, bars any communication with the press, or publishing a book or other document without the permission of the head of the intelligence organisation.
- Both IB and R&AW -opposed the inclusion of any other organisation in the list of monitoring agencies under the Act.
Other agencies demand:
- Agencies like the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) among others have been asking the Home Ministry to include them under the Intelligence Organisations Act.
⏳ ‘All options for Air India revival open’
- The Centre is reviewing a range of options, including possible disinvestment, to revive the ailing flag carrier Air India, Civil Aviation Minister said.
- Decision would be taken based on recommendations from the NITI Aayog, a top Air India official said.
- As part of the turnaround plan, the Centre had already pumped equity of Rs. 24,745 crore till the end of 2016-17 into the carrier.
- The government has to infuse Rs. 30,231 crore up to 2021 as part of the plan approved by the previous UPA government.
- Air India has been suffering continued losses over the years, and it posted a net loss of Rs. 3,837 crore in 2015-16.
- Air India’s debt was Rs. 50,357 crore at the end of 2015-16.
- Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian had cited Air India’s example to highlight the government’s difficulty in privatising public sector enterprises in the Economic Survey 2017.
- Back in 2000, the previous NDA government had decided to sell 51% of equity of erstwhile domestic airline Indian Airlines with 26% stake to a strategic partner.
- It also decided to allow disinvestment of 60% of Air India, which was running international operations, with 26% foreign entity stake.
- However, the move was dropped following opposition from the then Civil Aviation Minister Sharad Yadav.
⏳ Visakhapatnam billed the cleanest rail station
- The Visakhapatnam railway station is the cleanest, followed by Secunderabad and Jammu Tawi, among the 75 major (A1) stations in the country.
- The findings are a part of a third party survey on station cleanliness carried out by the Quality Control of India (QCI) and released by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu here on 17 May 2017.
- In the A category (those earning between Rs. 6 crore and Rs. 50 crore in annual passenger revenue), Beas in Punjab secured the top spot, followed by Khammam (Telangana) and Ahmednagar (Maharashtra).
- The QCI evaluated cleanliness at 407 railway stations’ parking, main entry area, main platform and waiting room.
- Passenger feedback was also factored in.
- A round-the-clock control room was set up and images were geo-tagged to monitor the progress, according to the Indian Railways.
⏳ Palestine, it’s Israel’s turn
- A day after the visit of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the government has now turned its focus to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel in July, with Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar and a key BJP official leaving for Tel Aviv on 17 May 2017 to plan his diaspora event.
- Israel is home to 80,000 people of Indian origin, mainly those who have taken “Aliyah,” as the migration of the Jewish diaspora to Israel is called.
- Among the groups which migrated in large numbers are the Bene-Israelis from Maharashtra, Cochin Jews, Baghdadi Jews from Kolkata, as well as some from the so-called “lost tribe” of B’nai-Menache from Manipur.
- Indian and Israeli officials involved in the arrangements told that PM Modi is expected to travel to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa during his visit from July 4 to 6.
- He is not, however, expected to visit the Palestinian territories as other leaders including President Pranab Mukherjee and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj did last year.
- In Haifa, he is expected to meet innovators and founders of technology companies and start-ups, and pay respects at the memorial to Indian soldiers who fought for the liberation of Haifa from the Ottoman Army during the First World War.
⏳ Navy saves ship from pirates
- Deploying the warship INS Sharda, the Navy rescued a merchant vessel, m.v. Lord Mountbatten, from a piracy attempt in the Gulf of Aden on 16 May 2017.
- The ship received a distress call from m.v. Lord Mountbatten.
- INS Sharda, which was 30 nm from the merchant vessel at that time, responded immediately.
- The ship had been deployed for anti-piracy operations in the region since April 6.
- In April 2017, the Navies of India and China jointly foiled a hijack attempt on a bulk cargo carrier in the Gulf of Aden.
Context: The Goods and Services Tax, begins from July1st.
GST advantages as per experts:
- Reduce the cost of transport and logistics. The cost of logistics is currently very high in India, making up about 14-15% of GDP whereas it is only 7-8% in mature markets.
- Formalise the sector, and
- Could help bring supply chain management to the forefront
New Study findings:
- Mars has geological features like the Earth and the Moon, such as craters and valleys, many of which were formed through rainfall
- Heavy rain on Mars may have reshaped the Red planet’s impact craters and carved out river-like channels on its surface billions of years ago
- Changes in the Martian atmosphere made it rain harder and harder, which had a similar effect on the planet’s surface as seen on Earth.
- Valley networks on Mars show evidence for surface run-off driven by rainfall.
- There is a growing body of evidence that there was once water on Mars.
Atmospheric pressure and Rain fall:
- When Mars first formed 4.5 billion years ago, atmosphere pressure was very high.
- This pressure influences the size of the raindrops and how hard they fall.
- During the initial stages, water droplets would have been very small, producing something like fog rather than rain.
As the atmospheric pressure decreased over millions of years, raindrops got bigger and rainfall became heavy enough to cut into the soil and start to alter the craters. The water could then be channelled and able to cut through the planet’s surface, creating valleys.
⏳ Tech could run foldable speakers
- Scientists have created a paper-thin, flexible device that can generate energy from human motion and could one day lead to foldable loudspeakers or even talking newspapers.
- The audio breakthrough can act as a loudspeaker and a microphone at the same time.
- “This is the first transducer that is ultra-thin, flexible, scalable and bidirectional, meaning it can convert mechanical energy to electrical energy and electrical energy to mechanical energy,” said Nelson Sepulveda, associate professor at Michigan State University in the U.S.
- Last year, reseachers had successfully demonstrated their sheet-like device – known as a ferro electret nano generator (FENG) – by using it to power a keyboard, LED lights and an LCD touch-screen.
⏳ Babies from skin cells? Advance unsettles experts
- Nearly 40 years after the world was jolted by the birth of the first test-tube baby, a new revolution in reproductive technology is on the horizon – and it promises to be far more controversial than In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) ever was.
- Within a decade or two, researchers say, scientists will likely be able to create a baby from human skin cells that have been coaxed to grow into eggs and sperm and then used to create embryos that can be implanted in a womb.
- The process, called In Vitro Gametogenesis, (IVG), so far has been used only in mice.
- But stem cell biologists say it is only a matter of time before the procedure could be used in human reproduction – opening up mind-boggling possibilities.
- With IVG, two men could have a baby that was biologically related to both of them, by using skin cells from one to make an egg that would be fertilized by sperm from the other.
- Women with fertility problems could have eggs made from their skin cells, rather than go through the lengthy and expensive process of stimulating their ovaries to retrieve their eggs.
- “You can imagine one man providing both the eggs and the sperm, almost like cloning himself. You can imagine that eggs becoming so easily available would lead to designer babies.”
- Some scientists are even talking about what they call the “Brad Pitt scenario” when someone retrieves a celebrity’s skin cells from a hotel bed or bathtub.
- Or a baby might have what one law professor called “multiplex” parents.
- “IVG may raise the spectre of ‘embryo farming’ on a scale currently unimagined, whichmight exacerbate concerns about the devaluation of human life.”
- Still, how soon IVG might become a reality in human reproduction is open to debate.