Daily Current Affairs : 1st and 2nd October 2023

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Osiris – Rex mission
  2. Common school syllabus
  3. Largest climate action lawsuit
  4. Gandhi’s Image on Indian currency
  5. Facts for Prelims

1 . Osiris – Rex mission

Context: On September 24, NASA’s asteroid-hunting spacecraft OSIRIS-REx — short for Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer — dropped a capsule containing a sample of rocks and dust that it had collected from the asteroid 101955 Bennu over the earth, which landed in the Utah desert.  

What was OSIRIS-REx’s mission?

  • NASA’s OSIRIS-REx is a robotic spacecraft that has been on a seven-year mission to collect and return samples from an asteroid called Bennu — billions of kilometers from Earth. 
  • It took more than two years to reach Bennu after OSIRIS-REx launched in 2016. It then spent almost as much time mapping the asteroid, finding a site to scrape and collecting about 250 grams (8.8 ounces) of the rock. Then it began its journey back toward Earth. 
  • At an altitude of about 250 kilometers (155 miles) from the surface of Earth, OSIRIS-REx released a capsule carrying the samples over the Great Salt Lake Desert in Utah, US 
  • Scientists have been training to recover the capsule and securely transfer the samples to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. 
  •  Having released its capsule, OSIRIS-Rex will travel on toward a new destination: Apophis, an asteroid once thought to pose a hazardous impact threat to Earth — but not anymore.  

Why do scientists want to study Bennu? 

  • The asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter is inhabited by thousands of space rocks, ranging from pebbles to the 800-km-wide Ceres. A part of the orbits of some of these bring them closer to the sun than Mercury. Sometimes, such eccentric orbits also bring them quite close to the earth. Planetary defence experts are keen to know more about such near-earth asteroids (NEA), to safeguard from future collisions .  
  • The problem is that even if these rocks don’t directly threaten the earth, planetary gravitation can cause their paths to change with each orbit. Of the greatest concern are asteroids wider than a kilometre that stray into a collision course with the earth. If one of these hunks of stone and metal strikes the planet, several cities would be rapidly flattened. So space agencies have invested in plans to intercept such doomsday rocks, deflecting them away or destroying them altogether. 

Can we mine asteroids?

  • One of the reasons to study asteroids like Bennu is the possibility of mining them.NASA’s Galileo (launched in 1989) and NEAR Shoemaker (1996) and Japan’s Hayabusa 1 (2003) and Hayabusa 2 (2014) missions have found that many asteroids are solidified debris from supernovae, and are made of the same stuff as the solar system: dust, rocks, water ice, and an alloy of iron, nickel and cobalt — a sort of natural steel. This material can be extracted from asteroids; one can also tap the water present in them in the form of permafrost or saturated minerals as a resource in space.  
  • NEAs could be better pit stops than the moon where space missions can drop payloads off to be returned to the ground. However, challenges like low gravity, lack of atmosphere, and radiation exposure need to be overcome first. 

2 . Common school syllabus

Context: The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has objected to a plea in the Supreme Court for a uniform Board and school curriculum, saying such a move does not take into account local context, culture and language, besides the power of individual States to frame their own syllabus, curriculum and conduct examinations for their schools. 

About Common School Syllabus

  • It is the system of following a common syllabus and common curriculum in the mother tongue up to Class 12 across all boards – CBSE, ICSE, and state boards.  

Benefits of common syllabus 

  • The Article 21A of the Constitution has the RTE (Right to Education) Act says that every child in the age of 4 to 16 should be given free and compulsory education. To keep a check on the quality of education provided, a common syllabus throughout the country might be beneficial. This will ensure equality in terms of education. 
  • Helps in ensuring equity in preparation for competitive exams- With a common syllabus throughout the country, no student will  lag behind in education and hence, this will help them prepare better for competitive examinations or admission tests beyond school level for the outside world. 
  • Politics, in some cases influence the education system which is unfair for the students. Some state boards prefer the admission of students from their own region and willingly keep the seats of colleges and universities occupied for students passing their 12th standard from their state boards. With a common syllabus, neither the political parties, nor the state boards will get much preference as the students all over the country will get a chance for scoring grades and engulfing knowledge in equal amounts.  
  • The rat race for marks and grades will be given a fair look and an even opportunity with a common syllabus. The probability of having a noticeable difference among the scores of different boards of education will lessen with the common set of syllabus into play.  
  • There would be no discrimination regarding quality education on the basis of caste, creed, social, religious beliefs or economic backgrounds. It will provide an unbiased ground of learning and development of the young ones, which may turn out to be very beneficial in future.  
  • At present, some of the state boards are not updating their syllabus frequently as per the changes in society. This loophole will be eliminated with the introduction of uniform syllabus in India. 

Issues in implementation

  • Education is a Concurrent Subject in the Constitution: A majority of schools are under the jurisdiction of the State governments. It is for the respective State/Union Territory governments to frame syllabus, curriculum and conduct examinations for their schools. 
  • Such a common framework does not take into account local context, culture and language. A child can better relate to a curriculum that is more closely related to his/her life outside the school. 

3 . Largest climate action lawsuit

Context: September 27 marked the beginning of a historic legal battle in the climate action movement. 

 What is the lawsuit? 

  • Six young people from Portugal, aged 11 to 24, are suing 32 European governments (including the U.K., Russia and Turkey) at the European Court of Human Rights in France’s Strasbourg. The plaintiffs began arguing before 17 judges that their governments have failed to take sufficient action against the climate crisis, thus violating their human rights and discriminating against young people globally. 
  • The lawsuit, titled as Duarte Agostinho and Others versus Portugal and Others was filed in September 2020, in the aftermath of the wildfires that consumed Portugal’s Leiria in 2017. Over 60 people died, and 20,000 hectares of forests were lost. 

Arguments by the petitioner 

  • According to the petition the recent spate of heatwaves and fires across Greece, Canada and other parts of Europe served as reminders that every increment beyond the 1.5°C temperature threshold would be catastrophic. In this context, Portuguese youths claim that European nations have faltered in their climate emission goals, blowing past their global carbon budgets consistent with the Paris Agreement target of limiting global warming under 1.5°C.  
  • According to the Law suit the nations have violated people’s fundamental rights protected under the European Convention on Human Rights, including the right to life, the right to be free from inhuman or degrading treatment, the right to privacy and family life and the right to be free from discrimination. 
  • Since the 32 countries contributed to climate catastrophes and jeopardised the future of young people, it falls upon the nations to rapidly escalate their emissions reductions and aim higher in curtailing domestic emissions, in line with what scientific evidence shows, the lawsuit argues. Other measures include cutting the production of fossil fuels and cleaning up global supply chains

How have governments responded? 

  • Countries so far have rejected any relationship between climate change and its impact on human health. For instance, Greece, in its submissions, maintained that the effects of climate change do not seem to directly affect human life or human health. This is even as the country witnessed devastating wildfires earlier this year and torrential rain and flooding in September. 
  • The Portuguese and Irish governments have dismissed these concerns as future fears – arguing that there is no evidence to show climate change poses an immediate risk to their lives. 

4 . Gandhi’s Image on Indian currency  

Context: Many prominent photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Margaret Bourke-White, and Max Desfor clicked Mahatma Gandhi throughout his lifetime. The most widely circulated image of Gandhi, however, is his portrait on Indian official currency notes. As the Father of the Nation, he might seem an obvious choice to have appeared on the national currency after the formation of independent India in 1947. But it was many decades after, only in 1996, that he became a permanent feature on legal banknotes of every denomination issued by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) — India’s Central bank and the body responsible for regulating the Indian banking system. 
The origins of Gandhi’s image on Indian currency 

  • The portrait of Gandhi visible on banknotes isn’t a caricature but a cut-out of a photograph taken in 1946, where he is standing with British politician Lord Frederick William Pethick-Lawrence.

The banknotes for independent India 

  • For a few months after the declaration of independent India on August 15, 1947, the RBI continued to issue notes from the colonial period featuring King George VI.  
  • The government of India brought out its new design of the 1-rupee note in 1949 — in the watermark window, King George was replaced with a symbol of the Lion Capital of Ashoka Pillar at Sarnath. 
  • Consequently, in 1950, the first Republic of India banknotes were issued in denominations of Rs 2, 5, 10 and 100. All of them bore the Lion Capital watermark. 
  • Over the years, legal tenders of higher denominations were introduced, and the motifs on the back of the notes transitioned to represent new India — from fauna motifs such as tiger and sambar deer in the early years, to motifs depicting agricultural endeavours in the 1970s, such as farming and plucking of tea leaves. The 1980s saw emphasis on symbols of scientific and technological advancements and Indian art forms — the Aryabhatta satellite featured on the Rs 2 note, farm mechanisation on Rs 5 and the Konark Wheel on Rs 20, among others. 

When did Gandhi first appear on INR notes? 

  • Gandhi first featured on Indian currency in 1969, when a special series was issued to commemorate his 100th birth anniversary. Bearing the signature of the RBI governor LK Jha, it depicted Gandhi with the Sevagram Ashram in the backdrop. 
  • Then, in October 1987, a series of Rs 500 currency notes, featuring Gandhi, was launched. 

When did Gandhi’s portrait become a permanent feature on banknotes? 

  • By the 1990s, the RBI felt that the traditional security features on currency notes were inadequate considering the advancements in reprographic techniques like digital printing, scanning, photography and xerography. It was reportedly believed that inanimate objects would be relatively easier to forge compared to a human face.  
  • Gandhi was chosen because of his national appeal, and in 1996, a new ‘Mahatma Gandhi Series’ was launched by the RBI to replace the former Ashoka Pillar bank notes. Several security features were also introduced, including a windowed security thread, latent image and intaglio features for the visually impaired. 
  • Further, In 2016, the ‘Mahatma Gandhi New Series’ of banknotes were announced by the RBI. The portrait of Gandhi continues, while the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan logo has been added on the back of the notes, apart from additional security features. 

6 . Facts for Prelims

 BSL 3 Lab: 

  • BSL-3 laboratories are used to study infectious agents or toxins that may be transmitted through the air and cause potentially lethal infections. Researchers perform all experiments in a biosafety cabinet.  
  • BSL-3 laboratories are designed to be easily decontaminated. As an additional safety measure, these laboratories must use controlled, or “directional,” air flow to ensure that air flows from non-laboratory areas (such as the hallway) into laboratory areas.  
  • Other engineered safety features include a requirement for entry through two self-closing, interlocked doors, sealed windows, floors and walls, and filtered ventilation systems.  
  • BSL-3 labs must also be equipped to decontaminate laboratory waste using an incinerator, an autoclave, and/or another method of decontamination, depending on the biological risk assessment. 

Project Udbhav 

  • It is a project started by the Indian army to rediscover the profound Indic heritage of statecraft and strategic thoughts derived from ancient Indian texts of statecraft, warcraft, diplomacy and grand strategy in collaboration with the United Service Institution of India, a defence think-tank. 
  • USI will conduct a Military Heritage Festival on October 21 and 22, to acquaint future thought leaders with the dynamics of comprehensive national security with special emphasis on India’s strategic culture, military heritage, education, modernisation of security forces and Atmanirbhar Bharat.  

Fuel-cell technology-based breath analyzers

  • Fuel-cell technology-based breath analyzers are devices used for the detection and measurement of alcohol and other volatile substances in a person’s breath. 
  • These analyzers operate on the principle of electrochemical reactions within a fuel cell to determine the concentration of specific substances, primarily ethanol (alcohol) . It works based on the oxidation of alcohol (ethanol) within a fuel cell. When a person blows into the device, the exhaled breath is exposed to the fuel cell’s electrodes. Ethanol in the breath reacts with oxygen in the air, generating an electric current. 

Karman Line

  • The Kármán line is a proposed conventional boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space set by the international record-keeping body FAI (Fédération aéronautique internationale) at an altitude of 100 kilometres (54 nautical miles; 62 miles; 330,000 feet) above mean sea level 
  • Anyone individual who crosses this line qualifies as an astronaut.
  • It has no particular physical meaning, in that there is no noticeable change in the characteristics of the atmosphere across it, but is important for legal and regulatory purposes, since aircraft and spacecraft are subject to different jurisdictions and legislations. International law does not define the edge of space, or the limit of national airspace. 
  • The Kármán Line was established to regulate airspace. It marks, roughly, the altitude beyond which a traditional aircraft can’t fly. Any aircraft flying beyond it needs a propulsion system to pull away from the earth’s tug. It also acts as a legal reference that separates airspace that a country can claim to own from space itself, which is governed like international waters.

Concarpus trees

  • Conocarpus is a genus of two species of evergreen flowering plants in the family Combretaceae, native to tropical regions of the world. One of the species is a widespread mangrove species, and the other is restricted to a small area around the southern Red Sea coasts, where it grows alongside seasonal rivers. 
  • They are dense multiple-trunked shrubs or small to medium-sized trees from 1 to 20 m tall. 
  • It is widely used in public spaces for its ornamental looks but is known to have negative effects on the local biodiversity. 

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