Daily Current Affairs : 12th August

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Reusable rocket
  2. Bio-diesel
  3. Relationship between Monsoon Shift and irrigation policy
  4. Global analysis of nematodes
  5. Uber for Farmers
  6. Exchange Traded Funds
  7. Federalism in India
  8. Facts for Prelims : Kajin sara lake

1 . Reusable rocket

Context : Chinese startup LinkSpace on Saturday completed its third test of a reusable rocket in five months, stepping up the pace in the race to develop a technology key to cheap space launches in an expected global boom in satellite deployment.

About Reusable Rockets

  • Reusable launch vehicle (RLV) has the capability to deliver a payload to orbit, re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and land, where it can then be refuelled. The process can then be repeated with a short turnaround.
  • Today’s rockets are one shot wonders. They burn up fuel in a few minutes and splash down into terrestrial oceans, having put their payload on the right trajectory. This is wasteful and that is why scientists have dreamt of building reusable launch vehicles.
  • Reusable rocket is also a pivotal breakthrough needed to substantially reduce the cost of space access
  • SpaceX has already used recoverable rockets on a number of orbital missions since a historic launch early in 2017, spurring Europe, Russia, Japan and China to speed up their own research into the technology or at least consider studying it.

2 . Bio-diesel

Context : In a bid to encourage the biofuel sector, Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Saturday announced that the state-run oil marketing companies would procure the entire supply of biodiesel produced from used cooking oil for a three-year period.

About the Scheme

  • Biodiesel plants using used cooking oil as their raw material will be assured that their entire production will be procured by the oil marketing companies to be blended with normal diesel. The scheme is being launched in 100 cities across the country.
  • Under the scheme, the OMCs — Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum — will pay biodiesel producers ₹51 per litre in the first year, ₹52.7 per litre in the second, and ₹54.5 per litre in the third year. The oil companies will also bear the cost of transportation and GST for the first year.

Recent order of FSSAI on Repurpose used Cooking Oil

  • (FSSAI) has directed Food Safety Commissioners to ensure that Food Business Operators (FBOs), whose consumption of edible oils for frying is more than 50 litres per day, stop reusing the oil more than three times.
  • Repurpose Used Cooking Oil (RUCO)’ sticker and a phone app was launched to enable the collection of used cooking oil. Restaurants and hotels interested in supplying used cooking oil can affix the sticker to show availability.
  • When used multiple times, cooking oil becomes acidic and darkens in colour. This may alter the fatty acid composition of the oil. FSSAI will also ask cooking oil manufacturers to come out with colour charts (either on the product or in a booklet along with the product) that will help people to identify if the oil is fresh or re-used.
  • The order says all FBOs should compulsorily dispose off their used cooking oil to authorised collection agencies or aggregators and lists eight biodiesel manufacturers enrolled with agency so far.
  • All FBOs whose consumption of edible oil for frying is more than 50 litres per day will now have to maintain records including date, name of the oil, quantity of oil taken for frying, quantity discarded at the end of the day, date and mode of disposal of the used oil and discarded oil collected by agency. This will be enabled through an app

What Is Biodiesel?

  • Biodiesel is a methyl ester of long chain fatty acids having properties very similar to diesel fuels. It is Green & clean fuel derived from trans-esterification or acid esterification of vegetable oils or fats.

How biodiesel is produced?

  • Biodiesel is made through a chemical process called transesterification in which the glycerin is separated from the fat or vegetable oil. The process leaves behind two products — methyl esters (the chemical name for biodiesel) and glycerin (a valuable byproduct usually sold to be used in soaps and other products).


  • biodiesel is a clean burning fuel.
  • It does not have any toxic emissions like mineral diesel.
  • It does not require modifications to a diesel engine to be used.
  • It has reduced emissions compared to petroleum diesel fuel.
  • It has lower toxicity compared to petroleum diesel fuel.
  • It has a very high flash point 130 degree C & it is safe to handle compared to petroleum diesel fuel.
  • biodiesel quality is governed by IS15607-2016 quality parameters.
  • biodiesel is bio-degradable.

3 . Relationship between Monsoon Shift and irrigation policy

Context : For the first time, researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay have found that even a change in irrigation policy has the potential to shift monsoon rainfall and intensify extreme rainfall in India through its feedback to atmosphere

Key Findings of the research

  • During the month of September, agriculture lands are highly irrigated and the crops are matured. As a result, there is maximum evapotranspiration taking place leading to highest contribution of moisture from the land to the atmosphere. “
  • Several studies have already shown that irrigation contributes moisture to the Indian summer monsoon. But the IIT Bombay team along with researchers from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory have shown that whenever there is a change in the irrigation management, there is a change in the moisture feedback to the atmosphere.
  • The researchers found that as a result of excess irrigation over northern India, the summer monsoon rainfall in September shifts towards the northwestern part of the country. There is also intensification of extreme rainfall over central India during September.
  • Land-surface processes including irrigation affect the heat fluxes — temperature related and evapotranspiration. Modified heat fluxes along with changes in atmosphere moisture content and distribution result in a shift in rainfall towards northwestern part of the country and increased extreme rainfall over central India during September.
  • The study has not looked at how irrigation and agriculture influence monsoon in southern India.

4 . Global analysis of nematodes

Context : Grab a pinch of soil and you can find over a hundred soil worms or nematodes, says the first global analysis of nematodes.

About the Nematodes

  • Nematodes are roundworms and their size can vary from a tiny 0.2 millimetre to a few metres.

About the Research

  • A team of over 50 researchers collected over 6,500 soil samples from all seven continents of the world and found that there are about 57 billion nematodes for every human being on Earth.
  • The study was done only on the top 15 cm of soil. Their total biomass comes to around 300 million tonnes which is about 80% of the combined weight of Earth’s humans.
  • The paper published in Nature adds that these nematodes are responsible for “around 2.2% of the total carbon emission from soils”.
  • Soils from Western and Eastern Ghats of India and the Himalayas were used for the study.

Key Findings

  • At 38% of the total, sub-Arctic regions have the highest abundance of nematodes. The temperate region has the next highest abundance followed by the tropical regions.
  • Reasons : Soil organic matter content was the key driver for nematode abundance. The low temperature and high moisture in the sub-Arctic regions reduce the decomposition rate of organic matter. This leads to accumulation of organic matter and the nematodes happily thrive on them

Importance of the Research

  • Predicting climate change requires that we understand global carbon and nutrient cycles. We currently have a great understanding of the physics and chemistry of our planet, but we know far less about the biological organisms that drive these cycles. Improving our understanding of these organisms at a global level is critical if we are going to understand and address climate change.”
  • “Various kinds of bacteria, fungi, arthropods and a wide variety of nematodes inhabit the soil. We can study the environmental changes by looking at a small amount of soil as they can represent the entire food web

5 . Uber for Tractors

Context : ‘Uber for tractors’: Government to launch app to aid farmers

Need of tractors

  • A laser-guided land leveller harnesses technology to accurately flatten a field in a fraction of the time used by a traditional oxen-powered scraper. Farmers save precious groundwater and increase productivity by 10 to 15%.


  • The cost is at least ₹3 lakh, way beyond the reach of the average small farmer.

About the New App

  • There are now more than 38,000 custom hiring centres (CHCs) across the country, which rent out 2.5 lakh pieces of farm equipment every year.
  • The new mobile app to efficiently connect farmers with these CHCs, just like Uber connects you to cabs.”
  • The CHC app is already open for registrations by the farmers, societies and entrepreneurs who run these centres. So far, almost 26,800 CHCs have registered to offer more than one lakh pieces of equipment for hire.
  • Once the app is officially launched, farmers who wish to hire equipment can register using their names, addresses and mobile numbers, and then punch in their requirements.
  • Farmer can call the CHC or just use the app to book the equipment at a specific time and location, and it will turn up just like an Uber.
  • App will also create an invaluable database for policy-makers, who can track the use and cost of equipment. The system would also help to track the usage of new technology that the government wants to promote, such as the Happy Seeder that aims to prevent stubble burning that causes air pollution, or solar dryers that can help farmers process and preserve their produce.

6 . Exchange Traded Fund

About Exchange Traded Funds

  • Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) are mutual funds listed and traded on stock exchanges like shares. Index ETFs are created by institutional investors swapping shares in an index basket, for units in the fund. U
  • sually, ETFs are passive funds where the fund manager doesn’t select stocks on your behalf. Instead, the ETF simply copies an index and endeavours to accurately reflect its performance.
  • In an ETF, one can buy and sell units at prevailing market price on a real time basis during market hours.
  • While ETFs originally tracked only the market bellwethers, they have evolved in recent years to track different asset classes. Many popular ETFs nowadays track custom-made indices as well. Apart from their returns, the efficacy of ETFs is measured through the Tracking Error, which measures how closely an ETF tracks its chosen index.
  • The Bharat 22 ETF offered now allows the Government to park its holdings in selected PSUs in an ETF and raise disinvestment money from investors at one go. It tracks the specially made S&P BSE Bharat 22 Index, managed by Asia Index Private Limited. This index is made up of 22 PSU stocks and with a few private sector companies.

CPSE Exchange Traded Fund

  • CPSE ETF, as the name suggests, is an exchange-traded fund (ETF) comprising public sector enterprises (PSEs).
  • The ETF was launched by the government in March 2014 to help divest its stake in select public sector undertakings through the ETF route. The ETF is based on the Nifty CPSE index that comprises 11 PSEs 
  • Investors get to hold stake in the best of public sector enterprises — the so-called Maharatna, Navaratna and the Miniratna — that have a strong dividend-paying track record.

7 . Federalism

Context : The Union government has withdrawn the special status conferred on Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) under Article 370 of the Constitution. It has also divided the State into two regions and declared them as Union Territories. Thus, the government has made a significant alteration in the unique form of federalism that it has been practising in respect of the sensitive border State. Instead, it has put in place an alternative form of federalism in which the two new units will be administered by the Centre.

How is this debate concerned with federalism?

  • Nations are described as ‘federal’ or ‘unitary’, depending on the way in which governance is organised.
  • In a unitary set-up, the Centre has plenary powers of administration and legislation, with its constituent units having little autonomy.
  • In a federal arrangement, the constituent units are identified on the basis of region or ethnicity, and conferred varying forms of autonomy or some level of administrative and legislative powers.
  • As the current political status of J&K — as two Union Territories — is a form of demotion from the sort of autonomy it enjoyed, it becomes an issue concerning federalism.

Why is India called as quasi-federal

  • Supreme Court has noted that the essence of a ‘federation’ is the existence of the Union of the States, and the distribution of powers between them.
  • In S.R. Bommai vs. Union of India, it notes the commonly invoked model of federalism is the United States, by which it is clear that it is a federation of States. These States were independent and sovereign in their territories, and decided to form a federation. Their territories cannot be altered by the federal government.
  • In India, on the other hand, Parliament has the power to admit new States, create new States, alter their boundaries and their names, and unite or divide the States.In the latest exercise, the unprecedented act of converting a State into a Union Territory has also been performed.
  • The concurrence of States is not needed for the formation and unmaking of States and Union Territories. Further, the court noted the existence of several provisions of the Constitution that allow the Centre to override the powers of the States.
  • In legislation, there is a Concurrent List, unlike in the U.S., which outlines the powers of the federal government, and leaves any matter not mentioned in it as the legislative field for the States.
  • In India, the residuary powers of legislation, that is the power to make law in a field not specified in the Constitution, is vested in Parliament, whereas in the U.S., residuary powers are with the States.
  • In Fiscal matters, the power of the States to raise their own resources is limited, and there is a good deal of dependency on the Centre for financial assistance.
  • Even though the States are sovereign in their prescribed legislative field, and their executive power is co-extensive with their legislative powers, it is clear that “the powers of the States are not coordinate with the Union”. This is why the Constitution is often described as ‘quasi-federal’.

Why is it said that India has asymmetric federalism?

  • The main forms of administrative units in India are the Centre and the States. But there are other forms, too, all set up to address specific local, historical and geographical contexts. Besides the Centre and the States, the country has Union Territories with a legislature, and Union Territories without a legislature.
  • When the Constitution came into force, the various States and other administrative units were divided into Parts A, B, C and D. Part A States were the erstwhile provinces, while Part B consisted of erstwhile princely states and principalities. Part C areas were the erstwhile ‘Chief Commissioner’s Provinces’. They became Union Territories, and some of them initially got legislatures and were later upgraded into States. Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Tripura, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Goa belong to this category.
  • Puducherry and Delhi have legislatures, while the other territories under the Centre do not have legislatures or a ministerial council to advise the administrator. Even between Puducherry and Delhi, there is a notable difference. Puducherry has legislative powers on any matter mentioned in the State List or the Concurrent List, insofar as it applies to the Union Territory. Delhi, which has the same field, has three further exceptions: police, land and public order are outside its purview. However, Parliament has overriding powers over any law made by the Assembly in the Union Territories.
  • Puducherry has one more unique feature. Despite being a single administrative unit, the Union Territory is ‘non-contiguous’. That is, its territory is not limited to one extent of land. Besides Puducherry and its adjoining areas, it has enclaves located within other States: Karaikal (within Tamil Nadu) Yanam (within Andhra Pradesh) and Mahe (within Kerala).
  • There is another significant tier of administration under the larger framework of asymmetric federalism. The Sixth Schedule to the Constitution contains provisions for the administration of tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. These create autonomous districts and autonomous regions. Any autonomous district with different Scheduled Tribes will be divided into autonomous regions. These will be administered by District Councils and Regional Councils. These Councils can make laws with respect to allotment, occupation and use of land, management of forests other than reserve forests and water courses. Besides they can regulate social customs, marriage and divorce and property issues.
  • In Assam, the Karbi-Anglong Autonomous Council, Dima Hasao Autonomous District Council and the Bodoland Territorial Council have been set up under the Sixth Schedule. Another six autonomous councils have been formed by Acts of the legislature.
  • Ladakh has two autonomous hill development councils (Leh and Kargil). The Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council is in West Bengal.
  • Just as the Centre and the States do not have matching powers in all matters, there are some differences in the way some States and other constituent units of the Indian Union relate to the Centre. This creates a notable asymmetry in the way Indian federalism works.

8. Facts for Prelims

Kajin sara lake

  • A newly-discovered lake in Nepal is likely to set a new record of being the world’s highest lake replacing Tilicho, which is situated at an altitude of 4,919 metres in the Himalayan nation and currently holding the title.
  • The Kajin Sara lake in Manang district was discovered about a few months ago by a team of mountaineers, the Himalayan Times reported. It is located at Singarkharka area of Chame rural municipality.


  • Harmony is a new operating system developed by Huawei

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