Current Affairs August 22, 2023: Drilling in the North Sea, BRICS, Yasuni National Park, Manipur Violence, Polymerase Chain Reaction, TAPAS UAV, Tomahawk Missile, Kashmir Stag

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Table of contents

{GS1 – Geo – EG – Oceanic Resources – 2023/08/22} Drilling in the North Sea

  • Context (TH): U.K. plans for new fossil fuel offshore drilling in the North Sea.
  • North Sea Transition Authority (NTSA), responsible for regulating oil, gas, and carbon storage industries, is expected to release the first of the new licences in autumn.

North Sea

North Sea map

  • North Sea is a marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean, that lies between England and Scotland on its west, the Netherlands, Belgium, and France on its south, and Norway, Denmark, and Germany on its east.
  • North Sea is known for its rich fisheries and oil and gas reserves.
  • Marginal sea: It is a body of water that is partially enclosed by land but is still open to and connected with a larger ocean or sea.
  • It is usually shallower than the open ocean and is influenced by the surrounding landmasses, including their geography, climate, and ocean currents.

Offshore Drilling

  • Offshore drilling refers to the process of extracting oil and natural gas from beneath the seabed in oceans, seas, and other bodies of water.
  • Generally, it refers to drilling activities on the continental shelf, though the term can also be applied to drilling in lakes, inshore waters, and inland seas.

History of Offshore Drilling

  • Early Attempts and Innovations (19th Century): In the 1830s, the first offshore wells were drilled in the shallow waters of the Grand Lake St. Marys in Ohio, USA.
  • First Submerged Oil Well: The first submerged oil well is drilled in the Gulf of Mexico in 1896.
  • Transition to Fixed Platforms (Early to mid-20th Century): In the early 20th century, offshore drilling shifted to using fixed platforms constructed in shallow waters.
  • Expansion into Deeper Waters (Mid-20th Century): As technology improved, offshore drilling expanded into deeper waters. This expansion led to discoveries in the North Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and other regions.

1958 Geneva Convention on the Continental Shelf

  • It is an international treaty that established the rights of countries over the continental shelves adjacent to their coastlines.
  • This treaty paved the way for the exploration of oil and natural gas on continental shelves of different oceans and seas including the North Sea.

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)

  • UNCLOS (also called the Law of the Sea Treaty) is an international agreement adopted in 1982.
  • It came into force in 1994.
  • It establishes the legal framework for marine and maritime activities.
  • Members: 167 countries and the European Union. India is a party to it.

International Seabed Authority (ISA)

  • ISA is a Jamaica-based autonomous intergovernmental body established under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),1982 and its 1994 Agreement on Implementation.
  • It is mandated to organise, regulate, and control all mineral-related activities in the international seabed area for the benefit of mankind as a whole and, also to protect the ecosystem of the seabed, ocean floor and subsoil in “The Area” beyond national jurisdiction.
  • Members: It has 167 member states and the European Union. India is a member state of it.
  • It holds authority over the ocean floors outside of its 167 member states’ Exclusive Economic Zones.

Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ)

  • EEZ extends up to 200 nm from the coastal state’s baseline.
  • Within this zone, the coastal state has special rights and jurisdiction over the exploration and exploitation of natural resources, both living and non-living, in the water, as well as the seabed and subsoil.
  • Other states enjoy freedoms such as navigation and overflight, as well as the right to lay submarine cables and pipelines.

UNCLOS Maritime Zones
Description automatically generated

Concerns Associated with Offshore Drilling

Oil Spills

  • Oil spills can occur during drilling, production, or transportation.
  • They can have a devastating impact on marine life and coastal ecosystems.
  • E.g., the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Water Pollution

  • Offshore drilling can also pollute the water with chemicals and other pollutants.
  • This can harm marine life and make the water unsafe for swimming and fishing.

Noise Pollution

  • Offshore drilling can produce a lot of noise, which can disturb marine animals.
  • This can disrupt their feeding, breeding, and migration patterns.

Habitat Destruction

  • Offshore drilling can destroy marine habitats, such as coral reefs and seagrass beds.
  • These habitats are important for a variety of marine life, and their destruction can have a cascading impact on the ecosystem.

Safety Risk

  • Offshore drilling is a complex activity. There is a risk of accidents, injuries, and fatalities.

{GS2 – IR – Groupings – 2023/08/22} BRICS

  • Context (TH): PM Narendra Modi is set to visit South Africa for the BRICS Summit.
  • BRICS is a grouping of the world economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa formed in 2010.

Evolution of BRICS

  • In 2001, British economist Jim O’Neill coined the term ‘BRIC’, standing for the initials of four emerging economies at the time – Brazil, Russia, India, and China.
  • The leaders of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) countries met for the first time in St. Petersburg, Russia in July 2006.
  • In September 2006, the group was formalised as BRIC.
  • The first formal meeting was held in 2009 in Russia. South Africa joined in 2010, expanding it to ‘BRICS’.
  • Now, BRICS includes these five economies, representing:
    • 42% of the world’s population
    • 30% of the world’s territory
    • 23% of global GDP
    • 18% of world trade.

Need of BRICS (Alternative mechanism for global governance)

  • The unrepresentative character of global governance institutions has led to their failure.
  • A more inclusive system like BRICS can fill such institutional vacuums.
  • BRICS and SCO could ignite a genuine conversation on making global governance more representative and inclusive.

Rationale behind creating BRICS

  • To counter the dominance of European and Western countries at international forums and institutions, such as the United Nations.
  • To represent global south at the centre of international agenda-setting.

BRICS agenda

  • The chairmanship rotates among the group annually.
  • The Chair has to set the agenda, priorities, and calendar for the year.
  • This year, the agenda of the 15th Summit is ‘BRICS in Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development and Inclusive Multilateralism’.

Expansion of BRICS

  • Over 40 countries have formally or informally expressed interest in joining an expanded BRICS.
  • It reflects the anger in the global South countries about their place in the world.
  • Given its size, economic influence, spread of the Belt and Road Initiative, and diplomatic bandwidth, China will influence an expanded BRICS.
  • In an attempt to create a multipolar world and alternative mechanisms for global governance, India should not boost the rise of China and the China-centric world order.

Issues

  • BRICS has not been able to steer the global economy in any significant manner.
  • It doesn’t really want to make economic agreements within its members.
  • Its historical capability to influence global geopolitics is overestimated.
  • As a bloc, it is hardly an attractive investment destination.

Importance for India

  • The platform could be a means of establishing its larger efforts to represent the Global South.
  • The Summit could move things along from a diplomatic perspective.
  • This is the first in-person summit since the military standoff with China at the Line of Actual Control began in 2020. This meeting could resolve the LAC situation.
  • Just over two weeks after the BRICS summit, India will host the G20 summit, and India will want to ensure full attendance by the leaders including all BRICS members.
  • The 2017 Doklam stand-off at the Bhutan-India-China trijunction was resolved just days before Modi and Xi were scheduled to meet for the then BRICS summit in China.
  • All BRICS countries are members of G20.

India and Global Groupings

How can India be a part of the Quad, G-20, BRICS, SCO and global South at the same time?

  • India’s active participation in non-western multilateral forums such as BRICS, SCO and the global South must also be seen as India’s response to the undemocratic and inequitable governance structures of institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the UNSC.
  • India’s objective is not to create or belong to an anti-U.S./West bloc either.
  • Developmentally, historically, and geographically, India belongs to BRICS, SCO, and the global South.
  • But India does not only belong to them. Structurally and aspirationally, the G-20, G-7, Quad and the like are where India is headed.

New Development Bank (NDB/BRICS Bank)

  • NDB formally came into existence as a legal entity in 2015 on the eve of the Ufa summit.
  • It was established by BRICS member states in 2016.
  • It has its headquarters in Shanghai, China.
  • In 2018, the NDB received observer status in the UN General Assembly.
  • Its objective is to support the infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging economies, as well as in developing countries.
  • The NDB President is elected on a rotational basis from one of the founding members, and there are four Vice Presidents from each of the other four founding members.
  • K.V. Kamath from India was the first elected president of the NDB.

Membership

  • All members of the United Nations could be members of the bank; however, the share of the BRICS nations can never be less than 55% of voting power.
  • As of now, nine countries are members of BRICS.
    • All BRICS members are members of NDB.
    • NDB admitted Bangladesh, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Uruguay as its new members in 2021.
    • NDB included UAE as a prospective member.
  • Prospective members: Members that have been admitted by NDB’s Board of Governors and will officially become a member country once they deposit their instrument of accession.

Contribution and Voting

  • The New Development Bank have an initial subscribed capital of US$ 50 billion and an initial authorized capital of US$ 100 billion.
  • The initial subscribed capital is equally distributed amongst the founding members. The voting power of each member shall equal its subscribed shares in the capital stock of the Bank.
  • Each member cannot increase its share of capital without all other four members agreeing.

{GS3 – Envi – Conservation – 2023/08/22} Yasuni National Park

  • Context (TH): In a historic decision, Ecuadorians voted against the oil drilling of Yasuni National Park, a protected area in the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador.
  • Yasuni National Park is located between the Napo and Curaray Rivers.
  • Yasuni National Park is largest national park in Ecuador
  • It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • It is one of the richest biodiversity hotspots in the world.
  • Yasuni National Park is home to two uncontacted tribes, Tagaeri and Taromenane.
  • The park is threatened by oil drilling and deforestation.
  • Conservation Status: IUCN Category II protected areas
  • Biodiversity hotspots: They are regions with a high level of species diversity, many endemic species, and a significant number of threatened or endangered species.
  • National Parks: They are typically classified as IUCN Category II protected areas.

Protected Areas and Management Conditions for their Classification

Tagaeri and Taromenane

  • Tagaeri and Taromenane are two indigenous groups that live in voluntary isolation in the Yasuni National Park of the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest.
  • They are distinct subgroups of the Waorani people.
  • These groups have chosen to avoid contact with the outside world and have maintained traditional ways of life, living in remote and often inaccessible areas.

Reason for Voluntary Isolation of Tagaeri and Taromenane

  • Both the Tagaeri and Taromenane have experienced conflicts and violence when in contact with the larger Ecuadorian society, including the oil industry, loggers, and settlers.
  • These conflicts have likely contributed to their decision to live in isolation as a means of protection.

Amazon Rainforests

  • Amazon rainforests are tropical forests that occupy the drainage basin of the Amazon River and its tributaries.
  • It is located in South America. It spans nine countries: Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. It comprises about 40% of Brazil’s total geographical area.
  • It is bounded by the Guiana Highlands to the north, the Andes Mountains to the west, the Brazilian Central Plateau to the south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east.

Amazon Rainforest, South America Map

Tropical Rainforests

  • Tropical forests are located in the tropics, between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.
  • Climate:
    • Rainfall: Annual average above 200 cm.
    • Temperature: Between 20°C and 35°C all throughout the year.
  • Canopy Structure: Closed-canopy forests (where the uppermost layer of vegetation forms a dense cover, limiting the amount of sunlight that reaches the forest floor) to open-canopy forests.

Amazon River

  • Amazon River is the largest drainage system in the world in terms of the volume of its flow and the area of its basin.
  • It is the second-longest river in the world.
  • It is located in South America and it traverses through Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Guyana.
  • It originates in the Peruvian Andes and drains into the Atlantic Ocean.
  • It produces about 20% of the world’s flow of freshwater into the oceans.

Amazon River

{GS3 – IS – Ethnic Conflicts – 2023/08/22} Manipur Violence

  • Context (TH): Manipur Assembly failed to hold a Special Session to discuss the ongoing violence.

Geography of Manipur

  • The state consists of Imphal Valley and surrounding hills.
Imphal valley The hills
  • It comprises about 10% of Manipur’s landmass.
  • The non-tribal Meitei dominates the area.
  • It has 40 of the State’s 60 MLAs.
  • The hills comprise 90% of the geographical area of Manipur.
  • They are inhabited by 33 recognised tribes.
  • They send only 20 MLAs to the Assembly.

Manipur’s border

  • Manipur is bordered by the Indian states of Nagaland to the north, Assam to the west, and Mizoram to the southwest and by Myanmar (Burma) to the south and east.

States bordering Manipur

Fencing of Myanmar-Manipur border
  • Fencing of 10 km of the Myanmar-Manipur border has been completed and the tender for 80 km of fencing has been completed while a survey in the remaining areas is under way.

Manipur’s ethnic composition

  1. Non-tribal people
    • Meitei community accounts for 53% (majority) of Manipur’s population.
    • They are currently categorised as Other Backward Classes (OBC) or SCs, and many of them have access to benefits associated with the SC, OBC or EWS status.
    • The majority of the Meiteis are Hindus, followed by Muslims.
    • The language of the Meitei people (Manipuri) is included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.
  2. Tribal people
    • Tribes inhabited in the valley are mostly Kuki, Chin, Mizo, Zomi, and Naga.
    • Nagas and Kukis constitute 40% of the population.
    • The 33 recognised tribes, broadly classified into ‘Any Naga tribes’ and ‘Any Kuki tribes’ are largely Christians.

The demand of Meiteis for ST status

  • The demand for ST status for Meiteis began in 2012.
  • In 2013, The Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs sent a letter to the Manipur Government and asked them to send recommendations related to the community’s request for inclusion in the ST list.
  • In 2023, The Manipur HC:
    • Noted that the recommendation from the State government had been pending for 10 years now.
    • Asked the Manipur State government to send a recommendation to the Centre regarding the demand to include the Meitei community in the STs list.

STDCM’s Demand

  • According to the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee of Manipur (STDCM), Meiteis were recognised as a tribe before the merger of the State with the Union of India in 1949, and they lost this tag when the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950 was drafted.
  • They argued that the ST status is needed to “preserve” the community and “save the ancestral land, tradition, culture, and language” of the Meiteis.
  • The STDCM also said the Meiteis needed constitutional safeguards against outsiders, stating that the community has been kept away from the hills while the tribal people can buy land in the Imphal Valley.
  1. Article 342 of The Constitution (Scheduled Tribes)
    • The President shall notify the tribes or tribal communities to be deemed to be Scheduled Tribes in relation to that State or Union territory.
    • Parliament may by law include in or exclude from the list of Scheduled Tribes.

Reasons for the violence

  • On May 3, violence began because a student group (ATSUM) protested a decision by the Manipur HC asking Manipur State government to send a recommendation to the Centre regarding the demand to include the Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribes (STs) list.
  • According to Union Home Ministry, three primary reasons for the violence are:
    1. Legacy issues
    2. Infiltration from Myanmar
    3. Manipur HC order
  • Role of illegal migrants from Myanmar: The Centre and Manipur government told the SC that the genesis of ethnic violence in the state was the crackdown on illegal Myanmar migrants.

Why are tribal groups against ST status for Meiteis?

  • The tribal groups feel the ST status to the Meiteis would:
    • Lead to loss of job opportunities.
    • Allow Meiteis to acquire land in the hills.
    • Push the tribals out.
  • On May 4, as the violence escalated between the Meiteis and the tribes of the hill districts, the Centre invoked Article 355 of IC.
  1. Article 355 of IC
    • It is a part of emergency provisions. It empowers the Centre to take necessary steps to protect a State against external aggression or internal disturbances.

Article 356 of IC

  • Provisions in case of failure of constitutional machinery in States: If the President, on receipt of a report from the Governor of a State or otherwise, is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the Government of the State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution, the President may by Proclamation:
    1. Assume to himself all or any of the functions of the Government of the State and all or any of the powers vested in or exercisable by the Governor or anybody or authority in the State other than the Legislature of the State.
    2. Declare that the powers of the Legislature of the State shall be exercisable by or under the authority of Parliament.
    3. Any such Proclamation may be revoked or varied by a subsequent Proclamation.

Hill Areas Committee (HAC)

  • The Hill Areas Committee (HAC) of the Manipur legislative assembly passed a resolution opposing the High Court’s order.
  • HAC is a Constitutional body. It was established under Article 371C.
  • All 20 MLAs from the hill districts are members of the committee.
  • The HAC is empowered to monitor legislation and administration for the hill areas.

Steps taken by the government to protect the indigenous people of the state

Article 371C

  • Article 371C (Special provisions for Manipur) was added by the 27th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1971.
  • Under Article 371C, the President is authorised to provide for the creation of a committee of the Manipur Legislative Assembly consisting of the members elected from the Hill Areas of the state.

Inner Line Permit System

  • Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, and Mizoram are protected by the Inner Line permit system.
  • An Inner Line Permit is an official document that allows an Indian citizen to enter a protected area for a limited period (visit or stay in a state that is protected under the ILP system).

Recent Ethnic violence in Manipur

Procedure for the inclusion of a community in the ST list

  1. The state government will have to send the latest anthropological and ethnographic reports supporting the inclusion of a community (e.g. Meitei) in the ST list.
  2. The Tribal Affairs Ministry will send this to the Office of the Registrar General of India (RGI).
  3. On the approval of the RGI, the file will be sent to the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST).
  4. If the Office of the RGI and the NCST approve the proposal, the Tribal Affairs Ministry prepares a Cabinet note.
  5. Once the Cabinet approves, the change will have to be passed by Parliament, after which the President notifies the revised ST list.
  1. 1951 Refugee Convention of UNHRC and its 1967 protocol
    • It is related to the Principle of Non–Refoulement, which asserts that a refugee should not be forced to return to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom.
    • The 1951 convention was originally limited to Europe but the 1967 protocol removed this limitation.
    • India is not a signatory of the 1951 UN Convention or the 1967 Protocol.
    • UNHCR stated that the principle of non-refoulement is considered part of customary international law and hence binding on all states whether they have signed the Refugee Convention or not.
  2. Customary International Law
    • It refers to international obligations arising from established international practices, as opposed to obligations arising from formal written conventions and treaties.

Manipur and AFSPA

  • Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is effective in:
    1. Some part of Nagaland, Assam, and Arunachal Pradesh.
    2. Manipur (excluding seven assembly constituencies of Imphal).
    3. Parts of Arunachal Pradesh.

Manipur and Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs)

Article 243M of the IC

  • Some areas are exempt from Part IX (PRIs). These include:
    • Tribal areas in the States of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram (Sixth Scheduled Areas).
    • Scheduled Areas in any State other than the States of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram (Fifth scheduled areas).
    • States of Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Mizoram.
    • The hill areas in the State of Manipur (for which District Councils exist).
    • Hill areas of Darjeeling (Village Councils exist in these areas).

Special session of Manipur Legislative Assembly

  • On August 4, 2023, the State Cabinet recommended the Governor to summon the session of the Manipur Legislative Assembly.
  • The Governor did not issue any notification to convene it.
  • Under Article 174 of IC:
    • The Governor has the power to Summon or Prorogue the Houses or House of Legislature of the state.
    • There should not be more than six months of gap between two successive sessions.
  • The last session of the Assembly was adjourned sine die (End of a session) in March.
  • The next session must be held before September 2.
  • Notification for summoning is required to be issued fifteen days ahead of a session.

SC Judgement

  • In Nabam Rebia versus Deputy Speaker case, the Constitution Bench judgment of the SC held that:
    • The Governor cannot employ his ‘discretion and should strictly abide by the “aid and adviceof the Cabinet to summon the House.
    • The discretionary power of the Governor is extremely limited and can be reviewed by the judiciary.
    • The Governor’s discretionary powers are limited to specified areas like:
      • Giving assent or withholding/referring a Bill to the President
      • Appointment of a Chief Minister
      • Dismissal of a government which has lost confidence but refuses to quit, etc.

Adjournment

  • It is the suspension of proceedings/sitting for a while, which may be hours, days, or weeks.
  • At the end of the day’s business, the presiding officer adjourns the house.
  • House may be adjourned for Lunch or due to a lack of quorum.
  • While adjourning the House for the day, the Presiding officer also announces the date and hour of the commencement of the next sitting.

House sine die

  • On the last sitting of a session, the presiding officer adjourns the House sine die. Generally, the announcement is followed by the playing of the Vande Mataram.

Prorogation

  • Prorogation means the end of a session (not of a Parliament).
  • The President declares the summoning and prorogation of both Houses of Parliament.
  • A session is terminated only by prorogation and not by adjournment.
  • Usually, prorogation follows the adjournment of the House sine die.
  • On prorogation of (any) House of Parliament, the President can issue Ordinances (since it is impossible to enact laws when any of the House is not in session) under Article 123 of the IC.
  • If an Ordinance is issued/notified before the order of prorogation, it would be void.

The Effect on Pending Business

  • Bills: a bill pending in Parliament does not lapse by the prorogation of the House.
  • Business pending before Parliamentary Committees: Any business pending before a committee does not lapse by the prorogation of the House.
  • Motions and Resolutions: On the prorogation, all pending notices except those relating to the introduction of Bills lapse and fresh notices must be given for the next session.

{GS3 – S&T – Biotechnology – 2023/08/22} Polymerase Chain Reaction

  • Context (TH): Scientists can’t create a virus from scratch and for this, they have to rely on nature.
  • So, scientists take samples from patients and make more copies of the genetic material of the virus using a technique called a polymerase chain reaction.
  • They use it to understand the sequence of bases that make up its genetic material.

Virus

  • A virus is a microscopic infectious agent that consists of genetic material (either DNA or RNA) enclosed in a protein coat.
  • It can infect living organisms, including humans, animals, plants, and even microorganisms like bacteria.
  • It is an acellular or non-cellular organism, meaning it cannot carry out cellular functions like metabolism, growth, and reproduction on its own.
  • A virus can self-replicate inside a host cell. The infected cells may produce thousands of new copies of the original virus at an extraordinary rate.

Comparison of DNA virus and RNA virus

DNA virus

RNA virus

Genetic material is DNA Genetic material is RNA
Mostly double-stranded Always single-stranded
Mutation rate is lower Mutation rate is higher
DNA replication takes place in the nucleus (refer image below) RNA replication takes place in the cytoplasm (refer image below)
DNA viruses are stable RNA viruses are unstable

 

Necessity of Creating a Virus from Scratch

To study the basic biology of viruses

  • By understanding how viruses work at the molecular level, one can learn how they infect cells, replicate, and cause disease.
  • This knowledge gives insights into fundamental cellular processes and disease mechanisms which helps in developing new antiviral drugs.

To create new vaccines

  • Traditional vaccines work by exposing the body to a weakened or inactive form of a virus, which helps the body develop immunity to the virus.
  • By building a virus from scratch, scientists can create new types of vaccines which do not contain the weakened or inactive form of a virus.
  • Such new vaccines are more effective and safer than traditional vaccines.

To develop gene therapies

  • Viruses are used as vectors for delivering therapeutic genes to target cells in gene therapy.
  • By modifying the genetic material of viruses, scientists can create safe and efficient vectors for delivering genes to treat genetic disorders or other diseases.

To create new bioweapons

  • A bioweapon is a biological agent, such as a virus, that is deliberately used to cause harm to humans or animals.
  • The ability to build a virus from scratch could make it easier to develop bioweapons.

To study potential biosecurity and biosafety risks

  • Building a virus from stretch helps to better understand how viruses could evolve, become more dangerous, or evade countermeasures.

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)

  • Polymerase Chain Reaction (or PCR) is a molecular biology technique that is used to amplify or make multiple copies of a specific segment of DNA.
  • PCR uses the ability of the enzyme, DNA polymerase (enzymes that make copies of DNA) to synthesize new strands of DNA in a complementary manner to the offered template strand.
  • It has revolutionized various fields, including genetics, forensics, medical diagnostics, and biotechnology.
  • It was developed in 1983 by Kary B. Mullis, an American biochemist who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1993 for his invention.

Process of Polymerase Chain Reaction

  • The PCR reaction is carried out in a thermocycler (which heats and cools the solution in a controlled manner).
  • The steps of the PCR reaction are as follows:
    • Denaturation: The DNA is heated to a high temperature (95-98°C) to separate the two strands of the DNA molecule.
    • Annealing: The temperature is lowered to about 55°C to allow the primers to bind to the DNA template. Primers are short, single-stranded DNA sequences that are used to bind to the ends of the target DNA sequence.
    • Extension: The temperature is raised to a moderate temperature (72-75°C) to allow the DNA polymerase to synthesize new DNA strands complementary to the DNA template.
  • These steps are repeated 20-30 times, resulting in billions of copies of the DNA template.

Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR)

  • RT-PCR is a type of PCR technique that is used to amplify RNA.
  • RT-PCR is used in case of RNA virus.
  • It is a two-step process:
    1. First step: RNA is converted into DNA using reverse transcriptase (an enzyme converts the RNA into complementary DNA or cDNA).
    2. Second step: PCR technique is used to amplify the DNA.
  • E.g., In case of the SARS-COV-2 (COVID-19) virus, the RT-PCR technique was used.

Quantitative PCR (qPCR) or Real-time PCR

  • qPCR or real-time PCR is a type of PCR that allows for the quantification of the amplified DNA in real-time.
  • This is done by using a fluorescent dye or probe that binds to the amplified DNA.
  • The fluorescence of the dye or probe increases as the amount of amplified DNA increases.

Advantages of Real-time PCR over Conventional PCR

  • Accurate quantification
  • Reduced risk of contamination
  • Ability to monitor the amplification process in real-time

Uses of Real-time PCR

  • Viral detection: RT-PCR is used to detect viruses by amplifying the viral DNA in real time. This is a common method for diagnosing viral infections, such as HIV and SARS-CoV-2.
  • Gene expression analysis: RT-PCR can be used to measure the levels of specific genes in a sample. This can be used to study gene expression, such as in cancer research.
  • Mutation detection: RT-PCR can be used to detect mutations in genes. This can be used to diagnose genetic diseases, such as sickle cell anemia.

{GS3 – S&T – Defence – 2023/08/22} TAPAS UAV

  • Context (IE I HT): Tapas Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) of the DRDO crashed near a village in Karnataka’s Chitradurga.

TAPAS UAV

  • The Tactical Airborne Platform for Aerial Surveillance-Beyond Horizon-201 or TAPAS BH-201 is a medium-altitude long-endurance.
  • UAV being developed in India by the Aeronautical Development Establishment.
  • It was designed on the lines of General Atomics MQ-1 Predator.
  • It was formerly referred to as Rustom-II until 2016.
  • General Atomics MQ-1 Predator (also known as Predator drone) is an American Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) by the United States Air Force and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Features

  • The medium-altitude, long-endurance drone has an impressive flight endurance of several hours and successfully completed its maiden flight in November 2016.
    • The platform can operate at an altitude of 28,000 ft and has an endurance of 18 hours.
    • It also has night flying capability. It is an indigenous solution to the tri-services Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition And Reconnaissance (ISTAR) requirements.
    • It can carry a maximum payload of 350 kg.
    • The UAV can also be used for artillery fire corrections and battlefield post-strike assessment.
    • India currently does not have any drones in the HALE (high altitude long endurance) category.

{GS3 – S&T – Defence – 2023/08/22} Tomahawk Missile

  • Context (TOI I FP): Australia to buy US Tomahawk missiles to boost long-range strike capabilities.
  • Tomahawk cruise missile is a long-range, precision-guided weapon that can be launched from ships or submarines to strike targets on land.
  • The Tomahawk is designed to fly at low altitudes, making it difficult to detect on radar.
  • It uses a variety of guidance systems including inertial navigation, terrain-matching, and GPS.
  • The Tomahawk has a range of up to 2,400 kilometres and an Accuracy of about 5 meters. It can carry either conventional or nuclear warheads.
  • It is powered by a solid propellant during its launch phase and a turbofan engine for sustained flight.
  • It is capable of twisting and turning like a radar-evading fighter plane, making it difficult to intercept.

TOMAHAWK Cruise Missile

{Prelims – Envi – Misc – 2023/08/22} Vegetated Canopies

  • Context (IE): Vegetated canopies for creating green spaces in urban Spain
  • Vegetated canopies are vegetated awnings that have been anchored to the facades of surrounding buildings.
  • They mimic natural canopies found in forests and various plant species.
  • Awnings: It is a rooflike structure, often made of canvas or plastic, that serves as a shelter, as over a storefront, window, door, or deck.

Generate shadows without trees: vegetable awnings, a new way to generate  shadows in the city.

How the Vegetated Canopies are Formed?

  • The awnings are laid down using the specific geotextile substrate or material.
  • An irrigation system is installed at the highest side, from where the water falls by gravity, soaking the entire substrate.
  • The seed mixture is then projected onto the geotextile.
  • In addition to water, fertilizer is also used.
  • After a few months, the vegetated canopy is formed.

Advantages of Vegetated Canopies

  • Provides shade
  • Mitigates Urban Heat Island Effect
  • Absorbs greenhouse gases
  • Reduces noise pollution
  • Urban Heat Island effect: It is a phenomenon that occurs when urban areas are significantly warmer than surrounding rural areas. This is due to a number of factors, including:
    • Presence of buildings
    • Lack of vegetation
    • Use of concrete pavement and other materials that absorb heat
    • Lack of airflow

{Prelims – Envi – Species – 2023/08/22} Kashmir Stag/Hangul

  • Context (HT): After two years, the unique Kashmir stag (Hangul) the state animal of J&K, has again shown a marginal increase in its population.
  • However, if compared to the numbers of the past two decades, when the census exercise started, the rare animal’s population has increased by around 50%

Kashmir Stag Recent Census shows increased population of endangered Hangul at Dachigam  National Park | News - Times of India Videos

  • It is a subspecies of Red Deer which is native to India.
  • Habitat: Dense riverine forests, high valleys, and mountains of the Kashmir valley and northern Chamba in Himachal Pradesh.
  • In Kashmir, it is found primarily in the Dachigam National Park where it receives protection.
  • Threat: habitat destruction, over-grazing by domestic livestock, and poaching.

Dachigam National Park

  • It is located in the Zabarwan Range of the Western Himalayas.
  • Vegetation: Coniferous forest, alpine pastures, meadows and scrub vegetation.
  • Major Fauna: Kashmiri stag (hangul) (CR), Musk Deer (EN), Himalayan serow, Kashmir grey langur, Himalayan black bear, Himalayan brown bear.
  • The Dachigam National Park is home to the last viable population of Kashmir stag (Hangul).
  • It also has the largest population of Black Bears in Asia.

National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries in J&K and Ladakh

{Prelims – India PIN – 2023/08/22} Kashmir’s Tulip Garden

  • Context (TI I HT): Kashmir’s Tulip Garden has been included by the World Book of Records for being Asia’s largest Tulip Garden with 1.6 million plants of 68 varieties.
  • Srinagar’s Tulip Garden is on the foothills of the Zabarwan mountain range at an altitude of 5,600 ft, overlooking the Dal Lake in Siraj Bagh.
  • The garden was opened in 2007 with the aim to boost floriculture and tourism in the Kashmir Valley.
  • The Tulip Festival is an annual Spring festival to increase tourism by the Government of J&k.

Tulip Garden in Srinagar

Zabarwan Range

  • This is a sub-range of mountains that lies between the Pir Panjal and the Great Himalayan Range.
  • It is situated in the middle of the Kashmir Valley.
  • The Tallest Peak is Mahadev Peak, which stands at 13,013 feet, is the highest point of this range.
  • Shankaracharya Temple is located at of the central part of the Zabarwan Range.
  • There are three Mughal gardens on the northern slopes of the central part of the range, built by Emperor Shah Jahan.
  • These are Chashma Shahi, Nishat Bagh, and Shalimar Garden, along with the Pari Mahal.
  • The main attraction of the range is the Dachigam National Park.
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