Daily Current Affairs : 23rd July 2020

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Unified bond market & G-Sec in Demat
  2. Impact of COVID-19 on the private school system
  3. Haloarchaea microbes
  4. Oath or Affirmation by Rajya Sabha Members
  5. Madhubani Paintings
  6. Kakrapar – 3

1 . Unified bond market & G-Sec in Demat

Context: Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) chairman Ajay Tyagi called for unification of the financial markets.

About the news

  • SEBI chairman has suggested that the market infrastructure for corporate bond and G-Secs markets should be integrated and he also proposed the idea of providing G-secs through demat

Why G-Sec through demat

  • G-Secs are issued through auctions conducted by the Reserve Bank of India. Retail investors cannot directly bid for this instrument but can do so through brokers.
  • Equity markets had seen a big surge in participation of retail investors in the last few months, and that the rise in new demat accounts indicated the entry of first-time retail investors
  • If G-Secs are offered through demat then these new demat account holders, after gaining experience of investing in G-Secs could then gradually add other securities to their demat accounts and the issuance of G-Secs in demat form would facilitate easier borrowing as the government plans to borrow an additional ₹4 trillion this year on account of COVID-19

Issues with Corporate Bond Market

  • The problem with the corporate bond market is that most trading is restricted to top-rated papers. Today about 97 per cent of trading happens in AAA, AA+ and AA papers only.
  • In comparison, only 5 per cent of trading happens in such papers in the US, while nearly 75 per cent of trading happens in A, BBB and BB-rated papers

Other Important Aspects of Indian Debt Market

  • RBI regulates money markets & G-secs; while SEBI regulates the Corporate debt market & bond markets.
  • Structurally, the debt market remains firmly skewed towards government securities (G-secs). Also the largest investor group in the G-secs market are the banks, due to their regulatory requirement to invest into SLR.
  • The Indian corporate bond market has low & unstable trading volumes. Sadly, the corporate bond market remains largely about top-rated financial and public sector issuances.

Need for a unified bond market

  • The separate systems result in artificial segmentation of investors and divergent regulatory norms for institutions in the two markets performing similar functions

Benefits of a unified bond market

  • Unified platform for government securities (g-secs) and corporate bonds will ensure trading, clearing and settlement takes place on one platform, backed up by an eco-system that provides for seamless transfer of government and private bonds.
  • The mechanism will also help in better price discovery

Indian Debt Market

Indian debt market, primarily of the fixed-income variety, can be broadly classified into:

  • Money Market: Where the borrowing is for tenor of less than a year. Inter Bank Term Money, repo transactions, Certificate of Deposits, Commercial Papers, T-Bills, etc. are some of the money market instruments through which short term requirement of funds are met by banks, institutions and the state and central governments.
  • Bank and Corporate Deposits: Bank fixed deposits (FDs) have been popular and widely subscribed to, as the feeling of no-default-risk. Corporate deposits are FDs issued by a company (non-bank).
  • Government Securities: G-Secs are sovereign-rated debt papers, issued by the government with a face value of a fixed denomination.
  • Corporate & PSU Bond Market: Corporate bonds are issued by public sector undertakings (PSUs) and private firms. These bonds are issued for a wide tenor between 1 year – 15 years. These bonds carry a different risk profile and hence will have associated rating.

2 . Impact of COVID-19 on the private school system

Context: A preliminary survey was conducted by the Central Square Foundation (CSF) to assess the impact of COVID-19 on the private school system.

About the survey

  • The preliminary survey of about 90 stakeholders was done to assess the impact of COVID-19 on the private school system.
  • This was a part of a wider report on the status of the sector by CSF and Omidyar Network

Findings of the survey

  • Budget schools:  Almost half of all students are enrolled in private schools in India. Most of these are not elite schools; 70% of students pay less than ₹1,000 per month and 45% pay less than ₹500 per month. About three-fourth of children in urban India go to private schools
  • According to the preliminary survey over two-thirds of private schools are using WhatsApp, probably on a shared phone, as the main mode for teaching and learning during the pandemic. More than 80% of teachers in these schools have not been paid after March.
  • Given that many low income parents wait until March-April, at the time of the year-end examination, to pay annual fees for the previous year, the lockdown meant that more than half of the school owners surveyed have uncollected fees ranging from ₹4 lakh to ₹4.8 crore due from the previous year. “Out of about 3,900 budget schools, 58% say they have not received one paisa in fees since the lockdown


  • There are 3 crore teachers and other staff dependent on private schools and families of students are also in crisis because of the lockdown and governments and courts also gave orders that no fees can be collected hence it becomes difficult for schools to pay salaries of teachers as fees are one of there main source of income

What need to be done to improve the sector

  • As a short term policy states must ensure that the reimbursements for students of Economically Weaker Sections must be paid promptly to private schools.
  • Longer term policy changes are needed to support the sector like a shift in focus from regulation of inputs such as fees, salaries, land and infrastructure to monitoring of learning outcomes instead.
  • An accreditation system for private schools would also bring transparency and accountability to the sector

3 . Haloarchaea microbes

Context : According to Agharkar Research Institute, Pune the colour of water in Lonar lake in Maharashtra’s Buldhana district turned pink due to a large presence of the salt-loving Haloarchaea microbes.

Recent Findings

  • Initially, the pink colour of Lonar Lake was thought to be because of the red-pigmented Dunaliella algae. But on studying the samples it was found that a large Haloarchaea population was present in the lake.
  • Absence of rain, less human interference and high temperature resulted in the evaporation of water which increased its salinity and pH. The increased salinity and pH facilitated the growth of halophilic microbes, mainly Haloarchae
  • The other scope of the investigation was to find out whether the colour attributed to the water was permanent for the researcher allowed the sample water to stand still for some time and found out that the biomass settled at the bottom and the water became clear and transparent hence it was the biomass of these microbes and because of that the surface of the water turned red or pink and as soon as the biomass subsided, the colour disappeared
  • According to the scientist the colour of the lake is now returning to original as the rainy season has kicked in, allowing dilution of the water. Because of that, the salinity and pH/alkalinity levels have also come down and green algae have started growing in the water body.

Other Findings

  • During the investigation, they also came across an interesting incidental finding related to flamingos that visit the lake.
  • The plumage of the bird is pink or reddish in colour because of ingestion of carotenoids-rich food. This bacteria, which produces a pink pigment, is ingested by these birds and they get carotenoid-rich food, because of that their plumage is pink in colour. So before we noticed it, these flamingos might have noticed the red colour at the lake and landed there

About Haloarchaea microbes

  • Haloarchaea (halophilic archaea, halophilic archaebacteria, halobacteria) are a class of the Euryarchaeota, found in water saturated or nearly saturated with salt.
  • Halobacteria are now recognized as archaea, rather than bacteria and are one of the largest groups. These microorganisms are members of the halophile community, in that they require high salt concentrations to grow, with most species requiring more than 2.0M NaCl for growth and survival
  • Haloarchaea can grow aerobically or anaerobically.

About Lonar Lake

  • Lonar Lake, also known as Lonar crater, is a notified National Geo-heritage Monument, saline, soda lake, located at Lonar in Buldhana district, Maharashtra, India. Lonar Lake was created by an asteroid collision with earth impact during the Pleistocene Epoch
  • It is one of the four known, hyper-velocity, impact craters in basaltic rock anywhere on Earth.
  • It sits inside the Deccan Plateau—a massive plain of volcanic basalt rock created by eruptions some 65 million years ago.
  • Its location in this basalt field suggested to some geologists that it was a volcanic crater.

 4 . Madhubani Painting

Context :

About Madhubani Paintings

  • Madhubani painting is one of the many famous Indian art forms.
  • It is practiced in the Mithila region of Bihar and Nepal and is called Mithila or Madhubani art.
  • Instead of contemporary brushes, objects like twigs, matchsticks and even fingers are used to create the paintings.
  • It is characterized by complex geometrical patterns.
  • The paintings are largely made using powdered rice, colors derived from turmeric, pollen, pigments, indigo, various flowers, sandalwood, and leaves of various plants and trees, etc. Also, many natural sources are combined and are processed to obtain the desired colors. The colors are often prepared by the artists themselves.
  • These colors are often bright and pigments like lampblack and ochre are used to create black and brown respectively.
  • The women of the village practiced these paintings on the walls of their respective home. Their paintings often illustrated their thoughts, hopes and dreams.


  • Some of the initial references to the Madhubani painting can be found in the Hindu epic Ramayana when King Janaka, Sita’s father, asks his painters to create Madhubani paintings for his daughter’s wedding. The knowledge was passed down from generation to generation and the paintings began to adorn the houses of the region.
  • The themes used in these paintings often revolve around Hindu deities like Krishna, Rama, Lakshmi, Shiva, Durga and Saraswati. Also, heavenly bodies like the Sun and the Moon often form the centerpiece of Madhubani paintings.
  • Paintings based on the scenes from the royal courts and social events like weddings are also made.
  • These paintings are also known for their simplicity.
  • No empty spaces are left and if the artists come across it even after completing the painting, they usually fill up those empty spaces with the motifs of flowers, animals, birds and geometrical patterns. A double line is usually drawn as the border.
  • Madhubani art has five distinctive styles: Bharni, Kachni, Tantrik, Godna and Kohbar.
  • This painting has also received a GI (Geographical Indication) status.

5 . Oath or Affirmation by Members

Context : 45 Rajya Sabha Members takes oath

Article 84

  • Article 84 of the Constitution lays down the qualifications for membership of Parliament. And one of the qualification is associated with an oath.

Provisions Regarding Oath or affirmation

  • Before taking his seat in the House every member of the Rajya Sabha, elected either in a biennial election or bye-election or nominated by the President, is required to make and subscribe before the President, or some person appointed in that behalf by him, oath or affirmation according to the following form set out for the purpose in the Third Schedule to the Constitution:

Administration of Oath

  • Pursuant to the provision contained in article 99, the President of India made the following Order dated 11 May 1952:
  • The President of India made an Order dated 21 April 1956,thereby, President of India, appoint—
    • (i) the Chairman,
    • (ii) the Deputy Chairman,
    • (iii) the persons competent to preside over the Council of States under clause (2) of article 91 of the Constitution of India
  • to be the persons before either of whom members of the Council of States may make and subscribe the oath or affirmation in accordance with the provisions of article 99 of the Constitution of India.


  • If a member sits or votes in the House without making and subscribing the oath or affirmation he is liable in respect of each day on which he so sits or votes to a penalty of five hundred rupees, to be recovered as a debt due to the Union.

Rights, etc. of a member before making oath/affirmation

  • A member elected or nominated to the Rajya Sabha is entitled to make and subscribe the prescribed oath or affirmation and take his seat in the House only upon the commencement of his term of office under the relevant provisions of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
  • He is not entitled to sit, participate and vote in the House qua member until he has taken the oath or made the affirmation.
  • However after the commencement of his term of office and even if he has not made and subscribed oath or affirmation, such a member is entitled to receive salary as a member.
  • He can be nominated to the panel of Vice-Chairmen though he can function as such only after he makes and subscribes oath or affirmation and takes his seat.
  • Members can also attend the President’s Address without making the oath or affirmation.
  • A member who has not taken a seat in the House can give notice of a question or a resolution and it can be included in the list of business but he cannot ask the question or move the resolution until he takes his seat after making the oath or affirmation
  • Members can also attend the President’s Address without making the oath or affirmation.
  • A member who has not taken a seat in the House can give notice of a question or a resolution and it can be included in the list of business but he cannot ask the question or move the resolution until he takes his seat after making the oath or affirmation
  • A member who has not taken the seat in the house has to ask for leave of absence from the sittings of the House in order to save his seat being declared vacant. A member may resign his membership of the House by addressing a letter to the Chairman before he makes and subscribes oath or affirmation and takes his seat in the House.

Time Limit

  • The first act of a member after his election or nomination to the House is to make and subscribe oath or affirmation.
  • The Constitution or the rules do not prescribe time limit within which a member has to do so.
  • The penalty for sitting and voting before making oath or affirmation is laid down in article 104.
  • Members are, therefore, expected to make oath or affirmation as soon as convenient to them after their election or nomination.

Other Provisions

  • Members are requested to intimate or indicate in advance the language in which they will like to make and subscribe oath or affirmation so that appropriate form of oath or affirmation is supplied to them.
  • If a member omits anything from the prescribed oath or affirmation, while reading it, which however, does not affect the substance thereof, the oath or affirmation is taken as read.
  • A member, while making oath or affirmation in the prescribed form, is not permitted to add or to say anything other than the prescribed oath or affirmation and if he does so, the same does not form part of the record.

6 . Kakrapar-3

Context : The third unit of the Kakrapar Atomic Power Project (KAPP-3) in Gujarat achieved its ‘first criticality’ — a term that signifies the initiation of a controlled but sustained nuclear fission reaction — at 9.36 am on Wednesday.

Why is this achievement significant?

  • This is a landmark event in India’s domestic civilian nuclear programme given that KAPP-3 is the country’s first 700 MWe (megawatt electric) unit, and the biggest indigenously developed variant of the Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR).
  • The PHWRs, which use natural uranium as fuel and heavy water as moderator, are the mainstay of India’s nuclear reactor fleet. Until now, the biggest reactor size of indigenous design was the 540 MWe PHWR, two of which have been deployed in Tarapur, Maharashtra
  • The operationalisation of India’s first 700MWe reactor marks a significant scale-up in technology, both in terms of optimisation of its PHWR design — the new 700MWe unit addresses the issue of excess thermal margins — and an improvement in the economies of scale, without significant changes to the design of the 540 MWe reactor. (‘Thermal margin’ refers to the extent to which the operating temperature of the reactor is below its maximum operating temperature.)
  • Four units of the 700MWe reactor are currently being built at Kakrapar (KAPP-3 and 4) and Rawatbhata (RAPS-7 and 8). The 700MWe reactors will be the backbone of a new fleet of 12 reactors to which the government accorded administrative approval and financial sanction in 2017, and which are to be set up in fleet mode
  • As India works to ramp up its existing nuclear power capacity of 6,780 MWe to 22,480 MWe by 2031, the 700MWe capacity would constitute the biggest component of the expansion plan. Currently, nuclear power capacity constitutes less than 2% of the total installed capacity of 3,68,690 MW (end-January 2020)
  • As the civilian nuclear sector gears up for the next frontier — building a 900 MWe Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR) of indigenous design — the experience of executing the larger 700MWe reactor design will come in handy, especially with regard to the improved capability of making large pressure vessels. This is alongside isotope enrichment plants being developed to supply part of the required enriched uranium fuel to power these new generation reactors over the next decade or so, Department of Atomic Energy officials have said.

When did work start on this 700 MWe project?

  • The first “pour of concrete” happened in November 2010, and this unit was originally expected to be commissioned in 2015.
  • State-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) had awarded the reactor-building contract for both KAPP-3 and 4 to Larsen & Toubro at an original contract value of Rs 844 crore. The original cost of two 700 MWe units was pegged at Rs 11,500 crore, and the tariff per unit was originally calculated to be Rs 2.80 per unit (kWh) at 2010 prices (a cost of roughly Rs 8 crore per MWe). This costing is expected to have seen some escalation.
  • The capital investment for these projects is being funded with a debt-to-equity ratio of 70:30, with the equity part being funded from internal resources and through budgetary support.

What does achieving criticality mean?

  • Reactors are the heart of an atomic power plant, where a controlled nuclear fission reaction takes place that produces heat, which is used to generate steam that then spins a turbine to create electricity.
  • Fission is a process in which the nucleus of an atom splits into two or more smaller nuclei, and usually some byproduct particles.
  • When the nucleus splits, the kinetic energy of the fission fragments is transferred to other atoms in the fuel as heat energy, which is eventually used to produce steam to drive the turbines.
  • For every fission event, if at least one of the emitted neutrons on average causes another fission, a self-sustaining chain reaction will take place.
  • A nuclear reactor achieves criticality when each fission event releases a sufficient number of neutrons to sustain an ongoing series of reactions.

What are the milestones in the evolution of India’s PHWR technology?

  • PHWR technology started in India in the late 1960s with the construction of the first 220 MWe reactor, Rajasthan Atomic Power Station, RAPS-1 with a design similar to that of the Douglas Point reactor in Canada, under the joint Indo-Canadian nuclear co-operation. Canada supplied all the main equipment for this first unit, while India retained responsibility for construction, installation, and commissioning.
  • For the second unit (RAPS-2), import content was reduced considerably, and indigenisation was undertaken for major equipment. Following the withdrawal of Canadian support in 1974 after Pokhran-1, Indian nuclear engineers completed the construction, and the plant was made operational with a majority of components being made in India.
  • From the third PHWR unit (Madras Atomic Power Station, MAPS-1) onward, the evolution and indigenisation of the design began. The first two units of PHWR using indigenously developed standardised 220 MWe design were set up at the Narora Atomic Power Station.
  • This standardised and optimised design had several new safety systems that had been incorporated in five more twin-unit atomic power stations with a capacity of twin 220 MWe units located at Kakrapar, Kaiga, and Rawatbhata.
  • To realise economies of scale, the design of 540 MWe PHWR was subsequently developed, and two such units were built at Tarapur. Further optimisations were carried out when the upgrade to 700 MWe capacity was undertaken, with KAPP-3 the first unit of this kind.

Does the 700MWe unit mark an upgrade in terms of safety features?

  • PHWR technology has several inherent safety features. The biggest advantage of the PHWR design is the use of thin walled pressure tubes instead of the large pressure vessels that are used in pressure vessel type reactors.
  • This results in the distribution of pressure boundaries to a large number of small-diameter pressure tubes, thus lowering the severity of the consequence of an accidental rupture of the pressure boundary.
  • Additionally, the 700 MWe PHWR design has enhanced safety through a dedicated ‘Passive Decay Heat Removal System’, which can removing decay heat (released as a result of radioactive decay) from the reactor core without requiring any operator actions. This is on the lines of similar technology adopted for Generation III+ plants to negate the possibility of a Fukushima-type accident that happened in Japan in 2011
  • The 700 MWe PHWR unit, like the one deployed in KAPP, is equipped with a steel-lined containment to reduce any leakages, and a containment spray system to reduce the containment pressure in case of a loss of coolant accident.

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