Daily Current Affairs : 12th June 2023

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Rail interlocking system
  2. Arctic Sea ice
  3. Hydrogen production from Sea water
  4. Cry2Ai – Transgenic cotton
  5. Facts for Prelims

1 . Rail Interlocking System

Context: An electronic track management system used by the Railways has become the focus of investigation after the multi-train crash in Balasore district of Odisha. The Railway Board, the apex body of Indian Railways, also singled out “signalling interference” in its preliminary probe, with senior officials indicating that possible sabotage and tampering with the interlocking system could have caused the mishap.

What is an interlocking system?

  • Railway traffic is controlled and managed by railway signalling. Interlocking, an integral part of it, involves a set of apparatus placed on a track to manage the safe movement of trains and track configuration at stations and junctions. It prevents conflicting movements as a train gets a signal to proceed ahead only when its route is set, locked, and detected as safe.
  • The signal apparatus in an interlocking system may be interconnected mechanically or electrically with the tracks or both.
    • Electronic interlocking (EI) is an advanced version of signalling that uses computer-based systems and electronic equipment to control signals, points and level-crossing gates. The Indian Railways defines it as a “microprocessor-based interlocking equipment to read the yard and panel inputs; process them in a ‘fail-safe’ manner and generate required output.” Unlike the conventional relay interlocking system, the “interlocking logic” in an EI system is managed via software and electronic components. It ensures all elements work together in proper sequence so that trains can move without coming in the way of one another.

What are the Components of Interlocking System?-

  • The three components that form the basis of an electronic interlocking signal system are:
    • Signal: Based on the status of the track ahead, light signals direct a train to stop (red light), proceed (green), or exercise caution (yellow).
    • Point: These are moveable sections of a track which allow a train to change track by guiding the wheels towards a straight or diverging line. For instance, if a train has to change lines, the point is activated ahead of time and locked. Electric point machines lock and unlock point switches in the desired position.
    • Track circuit: Electrical circuits are installed on tracks to detect the presence of a train between two points. These verify whether it is safe for a train to proceed over it.

Types of Interlocking system

  • Mechanical Interlocking.
  • Panel Interlocking (Relay)
  • Route Relay Interlocking.
  • Solid State Interlocking(SSI)

Mechanical Interlocking:  

  • In mechanical signaling, since the functions are operated by levers, the relationship that should exist between the functions can be transferred to exist between the levers.
  • To ensure that the signal can be taken ‘OFF’ only after the point is correctly set, we can arrange the interlocking between the signal lever and point lever to be such that the signal lever can be reversed only after the point lever is in the correct position, viz. ‘Normal’ or ‘Reverse’, as the case may be.  
  • As the size of yards & train movements increased, size of lever frames also increased. These lever frames not only increased in size occupying more space but also required intensive maintenance.

 Panel Interlocking:  

  • With the advent of Electro-mechanical relays, lever frames gave way to relay interlocking based installations.
  • This development resulted in relatively faster operation, fail safe operation and reduced size of buildings required for housing of interlocking installations.
  • With further increase in traffic and expansion of railway network, panel Interlocking installations were commissioned.

Route Relay Interlocking:  

  • Route Relay interlocking is same as Panel Interlocking with Electro Mechanical Relays doing the Interlocking except that it can be employed for big yards.
  • The interlocking is done between one route and another route.
  • Another Important feature in terms of operating point of view is that the SM has to only press two buttons, Signal button & Route Button (entry-exit system). He doesn’t have to individually operate the points to the required position.

Solid State Interlocking (SSI):  

  • Computer based interlocking uses thousands of Electro-mechanical relays requiring complex wiring and Inter-connections.
  • The wiring diagrams for such installations run into hundreds of sheets. Individual relays, wiring and interconnections along with thousands of shouldered joints are required to be physically examined and certified. This exercise requires traffic blocks of long durations and large manpower to manage the traffic during blocks. 
  • Even for small yard re-modelling like addition of a loop line, all the above activities are required to be redone. Therefore, the advantages of relay based interlocking installations are being nullified.   
  • The SSI system occupies considerably less space, consumes less power, is more reliable and is easy to install and maintain. Also, initial commissioning & changes due to yard re-modeling can be carried out in negligible time requiring skeleton manpower for traffic management during the blocks.
  •  Unlike PI or RRI, Microprocessors (IC’S) are doing the Interlocking based on pre determined logic circuits.

Advantages of SSI:-

  • Increase in section capacity.
  • Faster operation.
  • User friendly operation.
  • Fail safe technique
  • Multiple mode operation. 

Significance of SSI for operating staff:

  • Reduces man power
  • Centralised operation
  • Multiple mode of operation
  • Control cum indication panel
  • Video display unit (P.C)
  • CTC (Centralised Traffic Control)—permits remote control
  • Significant reduction in traffic block time
  •  Easier & simple operation

Who gives the signals and operates the interlocking system?

  • The interlocking system is monitored by personnel from the signalling and telecommunication department of the Railways. These people monitor the tracks, send out signals and are responsible for ensuring safe movement

How does the system work?

  • The system receives a command, following which information is collected from the yard and processed to set a safe route.
  •  The determined route is aligned, and signalling devices are interlocked at a particular position.
  • A signal to pass is given based on which direction the track is set and whether the divergent track is free of obstruction.
  • If a train is required to switch lines, then the system will direct it to the empty track at the point where two lines meet. Track circuits, meanwhile, prevent multiple trains from running on that block to avoid a collision.
  • All points remain locked until the train has crossed a particular section of the track in use or the signal to proceed has been withdrawn.
  • In case there is a failure in the system, the red light will be flashed, indicating that the route ahead is not clear or safe.

2 . Arctic Sea Ice

Context: A recent study in the Nature journal says that the loss of Arctic sea ice is inevitable in the decades ahead, even if the world somehow gets its act together and sharply reduces carbon emissions.

Decline in Arctic Sea ice

  • The Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in summer by the 2030s, even if we do a good job of reducing emissions  
  • scientists say preparations need to be made for the increased extreme weather across the northern hemisphere that is likely to occur as a result.

Arctic Sea ice- Formation and its Significance

  • Formation of Arctic Sea ice- The massive sheets of ice that pad the Arctic region play a major role in influencing global climate and the rise and fall in Arctic sea temperatures. During winter, the sea ice envelops most of the Arctic Ocean and in summer, a portion of it melts due to being exposed to longer periods of sunlight and elevated temperatures. Sea ice normally melts and is at its thinnest and most sparse in mid-September, when the area covered by ice is roughly half the size of the winter maximum. With the onset of winter and dipping temperatures, the ice begins to expand and thicken, all the way until March when it reaches its zenith.
  • Significance of Arctic Sea Ice: Sea ice is light-coloured and therefore reflects more sunlight back to space than liquid water, thus playing a vital role in keeping polar regions cool and maintaining the earth’s energy balance. Sea ice also keeps the air cool by forming a barrier between the cold air above and the relatively warmer water below.

What does the new study say?

  • Analysis shows that even if greenhouse gas emissions are sharply reduced, the Arctic will be ice-free in September in coming decades. The study also shows that if emissions decline slowly or continue to rise, the first ice-free summer could be in the 2030s, a decade earlier than previous projections
  • That the Arctic sea ice is decreasing is well-known and acknowledged in several reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and it is widely expected that the world will see its first ‘sea-ice free summer’ before 2050. This, however is under the assumption that global emissions will drive temperatures to beyond 4.5°C making the Arctic ice-free by 2081-2100.
  • There was uncertainty on whether this sea-ice-free scenario applied to situations where carbon emissions were curbed enough to ensure that temperature-rise was restricted to say 1.5°C or 2°C, as envisaged in the Paris Agreement. The recent Nature study confirms that there is no scenario under which the Arctic sea ice can be saved in summer.

What’s the basis for this study’s conclusions?

  • The research shows that 90% of the melting is the result of human-caused global heating, with natural factors accounting for the rest. In the study, the scientists first established how much rising greenhouse gases have contributed to ice melting compared with natural factors such as variation in the sun’s intensity and emissions from volcanoes.  
  • Since satellite records began in 1979, summer Arctic ice has shrunk by 13% a decade, in one of the clearest signs of the climate crisis. Arctic sea ice reaches its annual minimum at the end of summer, in September, and in 2021 it was at its second lowest extent on record.
  • The scientists used this information to model future melting and found that the models underestimated the pace of melting compared with observations of ice in the Arctic from 1979 to 2019.
  • Calibrating the models to be consistent with the observations led to the projections of faster melting and an ice-free summer even in the low emissions scenario. In the intermediate and high emissions scenarios, August and October also become ice-free by about 2080, the study found.

What are the impact of loss of Arctic Sea Ice?

  • Faster melting of Arctic Sea ice leads to a vicious circle of more heating, because the dark ocean exposed as ice melts absorbs more heat from the sun.
  • The result is faster warming in the Arctic, and scientists have increasing evidence that this is weakening the jet stream and leading to more extreme weather events in North America, Europe and Asia.
  • The searing heatwave in the Pacific north-west of America in 2021 and the catastrophic floods in Pakistan in 2022 are the type of events that may be increasing in likelihood because of a weaker jet stream.
  • Faster Arctic heating also accelerated the melting of the Greenland ice cap, driving up sea level, and the melting of permafrost regions, releasing more greenhouse gases.
  • Changes in sea ice can affect biodiversity and impact mammals such as polar bears and walruses, which rely on the presence of sea ice for hunting, breeding, and migrating.
  • As the amount of sea ice decreases, the Arctic region’s cooling effect is reduced, and this may initiate a ‘feedback loop’ whereby ocean warming caused by more absorption of solar energy leads to an even greater loss of sea ice and further warming.
  • The reduction in ice cover also affects the traditional subsistence hunting lifestyle of indigenous Arctic populations such as the Yup’ik, Iñupiat, and Inuit
  • On the other hand, reduced ice can present “commercial and economic opportunities” with the opening up of shipping lanes and increased access to natural resources in the Arctic region. This has already provoked global competition with several countries, including India, vying for greater influence in groups such as the Arctic Council that governs access to Arctic resources.

3 . Hydrogen production from Sea water

Context: Researchers from the Department of Physics at IIT-Madras have developed critical components for a highly efficient, cost-effective way to electrolyse seawater to generate hydrogen.

What is hydrogen?

  • Hydrogen is a clean alternative to methane, also known as natural gas. It’s the most abundant chemical element, estimated to contribute 75% of the mass of the universe.
  • Here on earth, vast numbers of hydrogen atoms are contained in water, plants, animals and, of course, humans. But while it’s present in nearly all molecules in living things, it’s very scarce as a gas – less than one part per million by volume.
  • Hydrogen can be produced from a variety of resources, such as natural gas, nuclear power, biogas and renewable power like solar and wind. The challenge is harnessing hydrogen as a gas on a large scale to fuel 

Why is hydrogen important as a future clean energy source?

  • A fuel is a chemical that can be ‘burnt’ to provide useful energy. Burning normally means that chemical bonds between the elements in the fuel are broken and the elements chemically combine with oxygen (often from the air).
  • For many years, fossil fuels are used to generate electricity. When fossil fuels are burnt, it provides heat energy. But a waste product alongside is carbon dioxide, which when released into the atmosphere contributes to climate change. Burning hydrogen does not release carbon dioxide.

How hydrogen is generated from seawater using solar energy?

Electrolyser using alkaline seawater

  • The IIT-Madras team led by Dr. Ramaprabhu Sundara has developed simple, scalable and cost-effective alternatives that are highly efficient in splitting seawater and generating hydrogen.
  • In place of pure or fresh water, the team has developed an electrolyser using alkaline seawater.
  • They used a carbon-based support material for the electrodes instead of metals to almost eliminate the possibility of corrosion.
  • They also designed and developed transition metal-based catalysts that can catalyse both oxygen and hydrogen evolution reactions.
  • The catalyst enhances the production of both hydrogen and oxygen even when impurities and chemical deposition on one of the electrodes takes place.
  • Also, the researchers have developed a cellulose-based separator that is very economical and serves the purpose of allowing hydroxide ions to pass through but prevents oxygen and hydrogen that are generated from crossing-over.
  • Finally, the researchers have optimized all the parameters such that the water electrolyser can directly use photovoltaic-derived voltage to split seawater and generate green hydrogen and oxygen; oxygen can be used elsewhere.

How does it work?

  • Alkaline water electrolyser consists of two half-reactions occurring at the anode and cathode. At the cathode, water dissociates into H+ and hydroxide ions, and the H+ ions get converted into hydrogen.
  • The hydroxide ions produced at the cathode permeate through the separator and oxygen is generated at the anode.
  • When seawater is used for electrolysis, hypochlorite formation occurs at the anode.
  • Hypochlorite is responsible for corrosion of the electrode support material, and competes with the oxygen evolution reaction thus reducing the amount of oxygen produced.
  • At the cathode, the hydrogen evolution reaction is slowed down when several impurities get adsorbed on the electrode surface.
  • The electrodes have a support material that is coated with a catalyst.
  • The support material is used in both the anode and cathode, and is coated with the catalyst. The catalyst allows enhanced and simultaneous production of hydrogen at the cathode and oxygen at the anode

4 . Cry2Ai – Transgenic cotton

Context: Gujarat, Maharashtra and Telangana have rebuffed a proposal, approved by the Centre’s Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), to test a new kind of transgenic cotton seed.

Cotton production in India 

  • Cotton is the most important commercial crop contributing upto 75% of total raw material needs of textile industry and provides employment to about 60 million people. 
  • India has the largest area under cotton cultivation with relatively low productivity primarily due to the large area under rainfed cultivation with inadequate supply of inputs. Area wise, India ranks first in world, whereas, it ranks second in production next to China. 
  • Only in India, all the four spinnable fibre yielding species of Gossypium viz., Gossypium hirsutum, G. barbadense, G. arboreum and G. herbaceum are cultivated commercially. 
  • Hybrid cotton cultivation in about 45% of total cotton area contributing 55% of production is a significant milestone achievement in Indian Cotton scenario.   
  • Cotton is attacked by several insect pests reducing the crop yield to a greater extent.  The insect pests that attack cotton crop may be classified into sap sucking insects (Aphids, Jassids and White fly) or chewing insects (Bollworms, leaf eating caterpillars etc.). 
  • Of the total pesticides used in Indian Agriculture, about 45 per cent is sprayed on cotton crop alone.  To reduce pesticide usage in cotton, several strategies like use of Genetic Resistance to insect pests, Integrated Pest Management (IPM), Insecticide Resistance Management (IRM) etc. are advocated.  In recent times, Bt cotton technology is found to be one of the best strategies to manage bollworms, the most important pest of cotton. 

The Need for BT Cotton 

  • The genetic resistance, one of the important pest management strategies, is available in cotton gene pool against the sap sucking pests such as jassids, whitefly etc and using this several resistant / tolerant varieties and hybrids have been developed and released in India.  However, such kind of known resistance is not available against the bollworms.  Hence, an alternate strategy is explored to circumvent this problem by cloning and transferring the genes encoding the toxic crystal δ – endo toxin protein from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis.  
  • The Bt transgenic cotton (Bollgard of Monsanto) has thus been developed successfully in USA, which has the ability to control the bollworms at the early stages of crop growth (upto 90 days) effectively. 

What is GM Cotton

  • Bt cotton is a genetically modified pest resistant plant cotton variety, which produces an insecticide to combat bollworm. 
  • BT cotton remains the only GM crop allowed to be cultivated in the country.  


  • Pink Bollworm larvae feed on the seeds and fibers within the cotton bolls, which reduces the yield and quality of the cotton. To combat this pest, the GEAC had in 2002 approved the use of another genetically modified variety of cotton, the BT cotton.  
  • However, by 2009, the Pink Bollworm began to develop resistance to the protein, warranting the need for continued research in the field of GM cotton.  
  • The Cry2ai gene, introduced in the new variety, is also derived from the bacterium Bacillus Thuringiensis and makes the cotton pest resistant. 

Need for Cry2Ai 

  • The first commercial Bt cotton variety was released in USA by M/S. Monsanto (Bollgard), which contains Cry 1Ac gene of Bacillus thuringiensis 
  • However, by 2009, the Pink Bollworm began to develop resistance to the protein, warranting the need for continued research in the field of GM cotton. 
  • Earlier Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) has approved confined field trials for Pink Bollworm-resistant GM cotton contain (Cry2 Ai) in Hisar, Haryana 
  • The Cry2ai gene, introduced in the new variety, is also derived from the bacterium Bacillus Thuringiensis and makes the cotton pest resistant. 
  • It is a significant issue for the cotton industry in India and is regarded as one of the most destructive pests of cotton globally. The cotton yield and quality are decreased as a result of the Pink Bollworm larvae feeding on the seeds and fibers found inside cotton bolls  

What is Pink Bollworm?

  • The Pink Bollworm or Pectinophora gossypiella is a pest that feeds on the reproductive parts of cotton plants, where the fibers are produced. It is considered to be one of the most destructive pests of cotton worldwide and is a major problem for the cotton industry in India. 
  • The Pink Bollworm larvae feed on the seeds and fibers within the cotton bolls, which reduces the yield and quality of the cotton. To combat this pest, the GEAC had in 2002 approved the use of another genetically modified variety of cotton, the BT cotton.  

Difference between Cry2Ai and Cry1AC

  • There are differences between the two genes and the proteins they produce. Cry1Ac primarily targets lepidopteran insects (moths and butterflies), while Cry2Ai targets a broader range of insects, including some coleopteran (beetle) and dipteran (fly) species. 
  • During the field trials, the researchers will be evaluating different parameters of the crop, including assessing damages from Pink Bollworm infestation, seed cotton yield, along with safety of the crop from mice and rabbits. 

What is the controversy ? 

  • The new variety cotton seeds were developed by Hyderabad-based Bioseed Research India  
  • Under the current rules, transgenic seeds must be tested in open fields before they can hope to be cleared by the GEAC for commercial development.  
  • Agriculture being a state subject means that, in most cases, companies interested in testing their seeds need approvals from the States for conducting such tests. 
  • The seed has passed preliminary, confined trials and was recommended by the GEAC to be tested in farmer’s fields at Janwada, Telangana; Jalna, Maharashtra; Akola, Maharashtra; Junagadh, Gujarat; and Barwala-Hisar, Haryana. 
  • Of the four States that Bioseed applied to, only Haryana gave permission for such tests. 
  • Step taken by GEAC to address this issue– The GEAC has also asked the Department of Biotechnology and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research to “…jointly organise capacity-building activities with regard to GM crops for apprising the State/UT Government(s) about the technology involved and the regulatory framework in place for evaluation of these GM crops. 

Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) 

  • The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) is the statutory committee constituted under the “Rules for the Manufacture, Use/Import/Export and Storage of Hazardous Micro Organisms/Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells (Rules, 1989)” framed under Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.  
  • As per Rules, 1989, it is responsible for appraisal of activities involving large scale use of hazardous microorganisms and recombinants in research and industrial production from the environmental angle. The committee is also responsible for appraisal of proposals relating to release of genetically engineered (GE) organisms and products into the enviornment including experimental field trials. 
  • GEAC is chaired by the Special Secretary/Additional Secretary of MoEF&CC and co-chaired by a representative from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT). Presently, it has 24 members and meets every month to review the applications in the areas indicated above. 

5 . Facts for Prelims

‘Project Akashteer’

  • Project Akashteer is an Automated Air Defence Control & Reporting System
  • The Automated Air Defence Control and Reporting System ‘Project Akashteer’ will empower the Air Defence units of the Indian Army with an indigenous, state-of-the-art capability, to effectively operate in an integrated manner.
  • Akashteer will enable monitoring of low-level airspace over the battle areas of the Indian Army and effectively control the Ground-based Air Defence Weapon Systems.


  • MANPADS are “short-range surface-to-air missiles used to intercept fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft in flight.”
  • They are designed to be fired while mounted on a person’s shoulder or a tripod.
  • Among such weapons, Stingers – made by the US – have an infrared seeker which detects the target through its radiation emissions.
  • They can be used to shoot down aircraft and drones.
  • Another example of such missiles is the Russian Igla-S.

Museums under ministry of culture

  • Allahabad Museum, Prayagraj
    • The Allahabad Museum is a national-level museum in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh. Established in 1931, it is known for its rich collection and unique objects of art, and is funded by Ministry of Culture.
    • Its rock art gallery has the largest collection of prehistoric paintings displayed in India dating from 14,000 B.C to 2000 B.C.
  • Indian Museum, Kolkata
    • The Indian Museum is a massive museum in Central Kolkata, West Bengal, India. It is the ninth oldest museum in the world and the oldest and largest museum in India as well as in Asia. It has rare collections of antiques, armour and ornaments, fossils, skeletons, mummies and Mughal paintings.
  • Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya, Bhopal
    • Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya , National Museum of Humankind , Museum of Man and culture with special reference to India. It spreads over an area of about 200 acres on the Shyamla Hills in the city.
  • National Council of Science Museums, Kolkata
    • National Council of Science Museums (NCSM) is an autonomous organisation under Indian Ministry of Culture.
    • It is the largest chain of science centers or museums under a single administrative umbrella in the world.
    • Functioning under the Ministry of Culture (and drawing its funding primarily from it), the NCSM has been built to co-ordinate all informal science communication activities in the museum space in the country.
    • Its raison d’etre is specified on the website as described in the section ‘Genesis’:
  • National Museum Institute, New Delhi
    • The National Museum Institute of the History of Art, Conservation and Museology (NMIHACM) is an autonomous institute, a seat of higher education in the fields of History, Conservation and Museology under the Ministry of culture, Government of India
  • Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad
    • The Salar Jung Museum is an art museum located at Dar-ul-Shifa, on the southern bank of the Musi River in the city of Hyderabad, Telangana, India.
  • Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata
    • The Victoria Memorial is a large marble building on the Maidan in Central Kolkata, having its entrance on the Queen’s Way.
    • It was built between 1906 and 1921 by the British government.
    • It is dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria, Empress of India from 1876 to 1901.
    • It is the largest monument to a monarch anywhere in the world, it stands in 64 acres of gardens and is now a museum under the control of the Ministry of Culture.


  • Jatan Virtual Museum Builder is the software being used for digitizing records of antiquities in the various collections, that are displayed in a common portal for the public view.
  • It enables upkeep, research and making antiquities of Indian museums more accessible and visible to the world than ever before.
  • The Digitization Cell of National Museum is the nodal unit for Digitization of Museum Objects in JATAN platform.
  • JATAN provides public the access to any artefacts on display or in the reserve collection of the Museum.

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