Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 09 February 2023

Primary Agricultural Credit Societies

GS Paper - 3 (Economy)

The Union Budget has announced the computerisation of 63,000 Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS) over the next five years, with the aim of bringing greater transparency and accountability in their operations and enabling them to diversify their business and undertake more activities.

What are PACS?

  1. PACS are village level cooperative credit societies that serve as the last link in a three-tier cooperative credit structure headed by the State Cooperative Banks (SCB) at the state level.
  2. Credit from the SCBs is transferred to the district central cooperative banks, or DCCBs, that operate at the district level. The DCCBs work with PACS, which deal directly with farmers.
  3. Since these are cooperative bodies, individual farmers are members of the PACS, and office-bearers are elected from within them. A village can have multiple PACS.
  4. PACS are involved in short term lending — or what is known as crop loan. At the start of the cropping cycle, farmers avail credit to finance their requirement of seeds, fertilisers etc.
  5. Banks extend this credit at 7 per cent interest, of which 3 per cent is subsidised by the Centre, and 2 per cent by the state government. Effectively, farmers avail the crop loans at 2 per cent interest only.

Why are PACS attractive?

  1. The attraction of the PACS lies in the last mile connectivity they offer. For farmers, timely access to capital is necessary at the start of their agricultural activities.
  2. PACS have the capacity to extend credit with minimal paperwork within a short time.
  3. With other scheduled commercial banks, farmers have often complained of tedious paperwork and red tape.
  4. For farmers, PACS provide strength in numbers, as most of the paperwork is taken care of by the office-bearer of the PACS.
  5. In the case of scheduled commercial banks, farmers have to individually meet the requirement and often have to take the help of agents to get their loans sanctioned. NABARD’s annual report of 2021-22 shows that 59.6 per cent of the loans were extended to the small and marginal farmers.
  6. Since PACS are cooperative bodies, however, political compulsions often trump financial discipline, and the recovery of loans is hit.
  7. Chairpersons of PACS participate in electing the office-bearers of DCCBs. Political affiliations are important here as well.

 

Isro starts recovery trials for Gaganyaan

GS Paper - 2 (Space Technology)

Isro, on 8 February 2023 said it began initial recovery trials of the Crew Module (CM), along with the Indian Navy, as part of preparations for the proposed human spaceflight mission — Gaganyaan. Isro, along with the Navy carried out initial recovery trials of the CM in the Water Survival Test Facility (WSTF) of the Indian Navy, at Kochi.

What

  1. The trials were part of the preparation for crew module recovery operations for the Gaganyaan mission that will be carried out in Indian waters with the participation of Indian agencies, while overall recovery operations will be led by the Navy.
  2. CM Recovery Model (CMRM) that simulates the masscentre of gravityouter dimensions, and externals of the actual CM at touchdown was used for the trials.
  3. The sequence of operations required for the recovery of the CM was carried out as part of the trials.
  4. As the safe recovery of the crew is the final step to be accomplished for any successful human spaceflight, it is of paramount importance and it has to be carried out with the minimum lapse of time.
  5. Hence, the recovery procedures for various scenarios need to be extensively practised by carrying out a large number of trials.
  6. The WSTF is a state-of-the-art facility of the Navy that provides realistic training of aircrew for escape from a ditched aircraft under varied simulated conditions and crash scenarios. The facility also simulates different sea state conditions, environmental conditions, and day/night conditions.
  7. These trials assist in validating the SoP, and training recovery teams as well as the flight crew.

Flashback

  1. The Gaganyaan Orbital Module (OM) has two parts - the Crew module (CM) and the Service module (SM) - and weighs about 8,000 kg. While in orbit, the OM will be orbiting the Earth with a velocity of about 7,800 m/s.
  2. The Orbital module will be launched by Human Rated Launch Vehicle (HRLV), which is a modified version of GSLV MK-III vehicle.
  3. For Gaganyaan, the selected four astronaut candidates have undergone generic space flight training in Russia for nearly 15 months.
  4. The Gaganyaan-specific training will be carried out in India at the Astronaut Training Facility being set up at Bengaluru.

 

Ethanol blending petrol & India's E20

GS Paper - 3 (Energy)

India launched a pilot for E20, or petrol blended with 20% ethanol at the ‘India Energy Week’ in Bengaluru, bringing forward by two years the launch of a cleaner-burning version of petrol.

What is Ethanol Blending?

  1. Ethyl alcohol or Ethanol (C2H5OH) is a biofuel that is naturally made by fermenting sugar.
  2. While it is mostly derived by extracting sugar from sugarcane, other organic matter like foodgrains can also be used for its production.
  3. As part of its carbon reduction commitments, India has launched the Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) programme to mix this biofuel with petrol to reduce the consumption of fossil fuel.
  4. Earlier, the government announced the achievement of E10 target, that is, the petrol used in the country has 10% ethanol in it.
  5. Prime Minister Modi launched the pilot of E20 across at least 15 cities. The same is expected to be rolled out across the country in a phased manner in the coming months and years.

Why E20?

  1. According to “Roadmap for Ethanol Blending in India: 2020-2025” a report by a special expert committee set up by the Centre, India’s net import of petroleum was 185Mt at a cost of $551 billion in 2020-21.
  2. Most of the petroleum products are used in transportation. Hence, a successful E20 programme can save the country $4 billion per annum, that is, around Rs 30,000 crore.
  3. Besides, ethanol is a less polluting fuel, and offers equivalent efficiency at lower cost than petrol.
  4. Availability of large arable landrising production of foodgrains and sugarcane leading to surpluses, availability of technology to produce ethanol from plant based sources, and feasibility of making vehicles compliant to ethanol blended petrol make E20 not only a national imperative, but also an important strategic requirement.

 

The North Star of Democracy

GS Paper - 3 (Science and Technology)

Vice President and Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar said Parliament is the “North Star” of democracy and everyone is required to work in accordance with rules. Some days back, Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud had called the basic structure doctrine a “North Star” that gives “certain direction to the interpreters and implementers of the Constitution when the path ahead is convoluted”.

What do these men mean by “North Star”?

  1. Polaris, also known as the North Star or the Pole Star, is a very bright star (around 2500 times more luminous than our sun) placed less than 1° away from the north celestial pole.
  2. Its position and brightness have made humans use it for navigation since late antiquity. It is a part of the constellation Ursa Minor and is around 323 light-years away from Earth.
  3. Since Polaris lies nearly in a direct line with the Earth’s rotational axis “above” the North Pole, it stands almost motionless in the night sky, with all the stars of the northern sky appearing to rotate around it.
  4. This makes it an excellent fixed point from which to draw measurements for celestial navigation.
  5. Simply the elevation of the star above the horizon gives the approximate latitude of the observer and in the northern hemisphere, if you can see Polaris you can always tell which way is north (and, by extension, which ways are south, east and west).
  6. Upon crossing the equator to the South, the North Star is lost over the horizon and hence stops being a useful navigational aid.

When did the North Star first used to navigate?

  1. Polaris seems to have been first charted by the Roman mathematician and astronomer Ptolemy, who lived from about 85 to 165 B.C.
  2. While there does exist some evidence pointing at how the star was used for navigation in late antiquity, it is during the ‘Age of Exploration’ that it becomes such a central part of human history.
  3. Christopher Columbus, on his first trans-Atlantic voyage of 1492, “had to correct (his ship’s bearings) for the circle described by the pole star about the pole”, wrote his son in his biography.
  4. As European colonists set sail for exotic locations across the world, the North Star became an ever so important feature of the night sky that allowed for remarkably accurate navigation using instruments which were still rudimentary by modern standards.

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