Daily Current Affairs : 25th August 2020

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. AstroSat
  2. Structured Finance and Partial Guarantee Programme
  3. DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019.
  4. Bill to rotate Panchayat Seats between Men and Women
  5. Compensation Cess on all Tobacco Products
  6. Facts for Prelims

1 . AstroSat

Context : In a major breakthrough, a global team led by scientists of the Inter University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA) has discovered one of the earliest galaxies in extreme ultraviolet light. AstroSat, India’s first multi-wavelength satellite that has five unique X-ray and ultraviolet telescopes working in tandem, has detected extreme UV light from a galaxy called AUDFs01, 9.3 billion light-years away from Earth.

About the Findings

  • The discovery was made by an international team of astronomers led by Dr Kanak Saha, associate professor of astronomy at IUCAA, and was published on August 24 by Nature Astronomy. The team comprises scientists from India, Switzerland, France, USA, Japan and Netherlands.
  • Team observed the galaxy, which is located in the Extreme Deep field, through AstroSat. These observations lasted for more than 28 hours in October 2016. But it took nearly two years since then to carefully analyse the data to ascertain that the emission is indeed from the galaxy.
  • This is the first time that star-forming galaxies have been observed in this extreme UV environment. 


  • AstroSat is India’s first multi-wavelength space telescope, which has five telescopes seeing through different wavelengths simultaneously — visible, near UV, far UV, soft X-ray and hard X-ray.
  • It can observe the same target in visible, X-ray, and UV wavelengths together. 
  • Onboard the AstroSat is a 38-cm wide UltraViolet Imaging Telescope (UVIT), which is capable of imaging in far and near-ultraviolet bands over a wide field of view. This data from the extreme-UV emission from the galaxy was collected by the UVIT instrument.
  • AstroSat was launched on 28 September 2015 by ISRO into a near-Earth equatorial orbit.
  • It is a multi-institute collaborative project, involving IUCAA, ISRO, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (Mumbai), Indian Institute of Astrophysics (Bengaluru), and Physical Research Laboratory (Ahmedabad), among others. 


  • Team observed the galaxy within the patch of sky called the Hubble eXtreme Deep field (XDF), which itself sits at the centre of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF). 
  • The HUDF is a small area in the constellation of Fornax, created using Hubble Space Telescope data from 2003 and 2004. It contains thousands of galaxies, and became the deepest image of the universe ever taken at the time. 
  • XDF contains about 5,500 galaxies, including those that go back 13.2 billion years in time, nearly as old as the universe, which is 13.7 billion years old. The youngest galaxy in XDF came into existence barely 450 million years after the Big Bang. 
  • AstroSat looked at a part of XDF for 28 hours in October of 2016, a feat only space telescopes could perform because the atmosphere absorbs ultraviolet radiation. 
  • After the observation, the researchers analysed the data for two years to ascertain that the emission was indeed from the AUDFs01. The researchers had to be doubly sure because the Hubble did not detect any UV emission from this galaxy since it was too faint. 

Why Astrosat

  • Earlier, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope (HST), which is significantly larger than the Ultra Violet Imaging Telescope (UVIT) on Astrosat, did not detect any UV emission (with energy greater than 13.6 eV) from this galaxy because it is too faint.
  • AstroSat/UVIT was able to achieve this unique feat because the background noise in the UVIT detector is much less than the ones on HST


  • Discovery marks the beginning of a new exploration of star-forming galaxies at extreme UV wavelength.
  • The purpose of obtaining this data was to understand the conditions in the early universe when baby stars and galaxies were starting to form, and understand the conditions under which ionising radiation was produced, after a period called the Cosmic Dark Age. 
  • One second after the Big Bang, the newly expanding universe reached a temperature of 1 billion degrees, and began to cool. At this point, it consists only of protons, neutrons, and photons. Then neutrons and protons combined to form deuterons, an isotope of hydrogen. Some also formed helium. These ionised matter attracted electrons, and eventually combined to form neutral hydrogen.
  • At this point, about 3,80,000 years after the Big Bang, the universe is thought to have become “transparent” — it was able to allow light to flow freely through space for the first time in all directions. 
  • But there were no astronomical bodies or structures, including stars or galaxies for upto 100 to 200 million years after the Big Bang, so the universe was in the dark. This period is the Cosmic Dark Age, which ended when the first stars formed. 
  • High-energy processes like star and galaxy formation released tremendous amounts of energy, which split hydrogen and helium atoms back into protons and electrons, deionising the universe. 
  • Which sources produced this reionization the most is an outstanding problem in the field of observational cosmology.
  • The answer has been hard to find because the intergalactic medium is very good at absorbing all photons from the reionization epoch of the universe. Therefore, it is very hard for them to have survived all these billions of years and to then reach Earth. And yet, some still do, enabling astronomers to observe ionising photons from this time period directly. 
  • Observation of this galaxy is the first in this extreme ultraviolet environment where the understanding of star formation and evolution is not yet fully formed. 

2 . Structured Finance and Partial Guarantee Programme

Context : National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) has introduced ‘Structured Finance and Partial Guarantee Programme to NBFC-MFIs,’ a dedicated debt and credit guarantee product, to ensure unhindered flow of credit to the last mile in COVID-19-affected rural areas.

About the Programme

  • As per this programme, NABARD will provide partial guarantee on pooled loans extended to small and mid-sized MFIs. It will help facilitate ₹2,500 crore funding in the initial phase and is expected to be scaled up going forward.
  • The program is expected to cover over 1 million households across 28 states and 650 districts, NABARD


  • The partially guaranteed loan facility will catalyse much-needed financing to millions of households, agricultural and business markets to sustain in the post COVID-19 environment.
  • The Pooled Loan Issuance (PLI) structure provides the lending bank adequate comfort through NABARD’s partial credit protection, reduces cost of capital as the rating of the loans get notched up and helps lenders meet priority sector goals.
  • This structure will pool together the risk of multiple borrowers and add a layer of partial first loss credit enhancement from a highly rated guarantor.
  • With NABARD as a guarantor and a convincing product construct in place, the programme has helped attract a large number of mainstream banks and small finance banks to participate

3 . DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019.

Context: A draft report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology headed by Jairam Ramesh has flagged issues in the  DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019.

About DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019

  • The Bill provides for the regulation of use of DNA technology for establishing the identity of certain persons.
  • Use of DNA Data: Under the Bill, DNA testing is allowed only in respect of matters listed in the Schedule to the Bill.  These include offences under the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and for civil matters such as paternity suits.  The Schedule also includes DNA testing for matters related to establishment of individual identity.   
  • Collection of DNA: For preparing a DNA profile, bodily substances of persons may be collected by the investigating authorities. 
    • Authorities have to obtain consent for collection in certain situations. 
    • For arrested persons, authorities are required to obtain written consent if the offence carries a punishment of up to seven years. However, if the offence carries more than seven years of imprisonment or death, consent is not required. 
    • If the person is a victim, or relative of a missing person, or a minor or disabled person, the authorities are required to obtain the written consent of such victim, or relative, or parent or guardian of the minor or disabled person.  If consent is not given in these cases, the authorities can approach a Magistrate who may order the taking of bodily substances of such persons.  
  • DNA Data Bank: National DNA Data Bank and Regional DNA Data Banks shall be established for every state, or two or more states. 
    • DNA laboratories are required to share DNA data prepared by them with the National and Regional DNA Data Banks. 
    • Every Data Bank will be required to maintain indices for the following categories of data: (i) a crime scene index, (ii) a suspects’ or undertrials’ index, (iii) an offenders’ index, (iv) a missing persons’ index, and (v) an unknown deceased persons’ index.
  • Removal of DNA profiles: The Bill states that the criteria for entry, retention, or removal of the DNA profile will be specified by regulations. 
    • The Bill provides for the removal of the DNA profiles of the following persons: (i) of a suspect if a police report is filed or court order given, (ii) of an undertrial if a court order is given, and (iii) on written request, for persons who are not a suspect, offender or undertrial, from the crime scene or missing persons’ index.   
  • DNA Regulatory Board: The Bill provides for the establishment of a DNA Regulatory Board, which will supervise the DNA Data Banks and DNA laboratories.  – The Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, will be the ex officio Chairperson of the Board. 
    • The Board will comprise additional members including: (i) experts in the field of biological sciences, and (ii) Director General of the National Investigation Agency and the Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation.
  • Functions of the Board: The functions of the Board include:
    • (i) advising governments on all issues related to establishing DNA laboratories or Data Banks, and (ii) granting accreditation to DNA laboratories. 
    • The Board is also required to ensure that all information relating to DNA profiles with the Data Banks, laboratories, and other persons are kept confidential.
  • DNA laboratories: Any laboratory undertaking DNA testing is required to obtain accreditation from the Board. 
    • The Board may revoke the accreditation for reasons including, failure to: (i) undertake DNA testing, or (ii) comply with the conditions attached to the accreditation. 
    • If the accreditation is revoked, an appeal will lie before the central government or any other authority notified by the central government. 
    • Every DNA laboratory is required to follow standards for quality assurance in collection, storing, and analysis of DNA samples. 
    • After depositing the DNA profile for criminal cases, the laboratory is required to return the biological sample to the investigating officer.  In all other cases, the sample must be destroyed.  
  • Offences: The Bill specifies penalties for various offences, including: (i) for disclosure of DNA information, or (ii) using DNA sample without authorization. 
    • For instance, disclosure of DNA information will be punishable with imprisonment of up to three years and fine of up to one lakh rupees.

Issues raised by the committee

  • The Bill that proposes DNA sampling and profiling of citizens accused of crime or reported missing and storing their unique genetic information for administrative purposes has some alarming provisions that could be misused for caste or community-based profiling.
    • DNA profiles can reveal extremely sensitive information of an individual such as pedigree, skin colour, behaviour, illness, health status and susceptibility to diseases. “Under the provisions of the Bill, access to such intrusive information can be misused to specifically target individuals and their families with their own genetic data. This is particularly worrying as it could even be used to incorrectly link a particular caste/community to criminal activities
  • Disregard to an individual’s privacy and other safeguards – The Bill proposes to store DNA profiles of suspects, undertrials, victims and their relatives for future investigations. “While there is a good case for a DNA database of convicts, so that repeat offenders may be easily identified, there is no legal or moral justification for a database with DNA of the other categories as noted above, given the high potential for misuse
  • Consent : In the Bill, if a person is arrested for an offence that carries punishment up to seven years, investigation authorities must take the person’s written consent before taking the DNA sample. But this consent, the draft report flags, is only “perfunctory.”
    • The Bill refers to consent in several provisions, but in each of those, a magistrate can easily override consent, thereby in effect, making consent perfunctory.
    • There is also no guidance in the Bill on the grounds and reasons of when the magistrate can override consent, which could become a fatal flaw

Suggestions made by the committee

  •  The committee has urged the government to amend the provisions to ensure that if a convict is found innocent then his DNA profile must be removed immediately from the data bank.
  • The committee has also recommended that independent scrutiny must be done of the proposals to destroy biological samples and remove DNA profiles from the database.

A similar provision in other countries

  • Nearly 60 countries have enacted similar legislation of DNA law.
  • The U.S. had brought in a DNA law in 1994.
  • The UK, South Africa and Ireland also have similar provisions.

Other issues with the bill

  • Regulation of medical or research laboratories: On regulation of medical or research laboratories the bill is unclear where through DNA profiling an individual’s identity can be established.
  • Consent requirements in civil matters: The consent requirements for DNA profiling of individuals in criminal investigations and identifying missing persons have not been specified.
  • Right to privacy: Storage of DNA profiles for civil matters (such as paternity suits) in the Data Banks may not serve a public purpose, it may violate the right to privacy.
  • Removal of DNA profiles from Data laboratories: There is no regulation regarding the removal of DNA profiles from Data laboratories as is there in the case od Data Banks.
  • DNA profile may include information other than identification: A DNA sample can provide additional information about an individual such as pedigree, skin colour, behaviour, illness, health status and susceptibility to diseases. other than his identity.  The Bill does not specify that information other than identity will not be included in a DNA profile.
  • Access to such intrusive information can be misused to specifically target individuals and their families with their own genetic data. This is particularly worrying as it could even be used to incorrectly link a particular caste/community to criminal activities
  • No mechanism for grievance redressal for removal of profiles: The Bill does not provide any mechanism for redressal of grievances in cases where the DNA profile is not removed from the data banks by the Director of the National DNA Data Bank.
  • Written consent for collecting DNA samples on arrest may be inadequate: If a person is arrested for an offence that carries punishment up to seven years, investigation authorities must take his written consent before taking his DNA sample.  However, the Bill does not include safeguards to ensure that the consent is voluntary.
  • Though the provision of consent is there but a magistrate can easily override consent, thereby in effect, making consent perfunctory.
  • There is also no guidance in the Bill on the grounds and reasons when the magistrate can override consent.
  • Collection of DNA samples from photograph or video is unclear: The Bill lists photographs or video recording of body parts as a source for sample collection along with other biological substances such as blood sample, hair, and mouth swab. But it is unclear how a DNA sample can be collected from a photograph or video recording.
  • Comparison of fingerprints and DNA profiling: Currently fingerprinting is used for the purpose of establishing the identity of a person charged with a criminal offence.  However, the regulations governing the use of fingerprinting and the provisions related to DNA profiling under the Bill are different.

4 . Bill to Rotate Panchayat Seats between Men and Women

Context : The Haryana government is planning to bring a Bill to provide 50:50 reservation in panchayat polls for men and women candidates, and rotate the seats between male and female representatives after each term.

Details of the Bill

  • Men and women will be able to contest panchayat polls under the odd-even formula.
  • This will be implemented for sarpanches and members of village wards, block samitis and zila parishads. If a ward or village is headed by a man in one term, it will be represented by a woman in the next term
  • Haryana will be first in the country to opt for such a formula


  • Bill will ensure equal opportunities for men and women. He pointed out that women have more than 67 per cent representation in panchayat bodies in some states that have given them 50 per cent reservation.

5 . Compensation Cess on all Tobacco Products

Context: Public health groups, along with doctors and economists, have urged the GST Council to increase compensation cess on all tobacco products. that can provide an additional tax revenue of ₹49,740 crores.

Tobacco Consumption in India

  • India has the second largest number of tobacco users (268 million or 28.6% of all adults in India) in the world – of these at least 12 lakh die every year from tobacco-related diseases.
  • The total direct and indirect cost of diseases attributable to tobacco use was a staggering ₹1.04,500 crores in 2011 or 1.16% of India’s GDP, said the group.

Need to Increase the taxes on Tobacco Products

  • Increasing taxes on all tobacco products will not only reduce their affordability and therefore consumption, but also to limit the increasing health and fatal damages caused by tobacco.
  • Tobacco smoking is a known risk factor for many respiratory infections and increases the severity of respiratory diseases. Early evidence from China and Italy has found that patients with underlying health conditions and risk factors, including smoking and diseases linked to smoking, may be at greater risk for severe outcomes or death from COVID-19
  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended total taxes to represent at least 75% of the retail price for all tobacco products. Currently, the total tax burden (tax expressed as a percentage of final retail price) was only 49.5% for cigarettes, and 63.7% for smokeless tobacco in India, well below the minimum recommended by the WHO
  • Bidis, on the other hand, enjoyed an extremely low tax burden of only 22% despite being at least as harmful as cigarettes, and were smoked by almost twice as many Indians as cigarettes, resulting in an estimated annual economic costs from diseases and deaths to the tune of ₹805.5 billion, or 0.5% of India’s GDP. There is ample evidence about bidis being the killer and not the pleasure of the poor.
  • These should be made unaffordable for the poor to save them from a lifetime of misery and suffering


  • This additional revenue could significantly contribute to the increased need for compensation by different States during the pandemic and to disburse the dues already owed by the Centre
  • Increasing compensation cess on all tobacco products, including bidis, is a winning proposition for government as it will provide the much-needed additional tax revenue for COVID-19 stimulus package for providing relief to the people of the country while motivating millions of tobacco users to quit and preventing youngsters from initiating tobacco use”
  • Even though imposing additional taxes on the general public might not be a viable policy option when consumption needs to be boosted, compensation cess on tobacco, could be a win-win as it will discourage tobacco consumption while bringing in substantial revenue for the government

5 . Facts for Prelims

Type-054 A/P frigates

  • Pakistan had signed a contract with the China Shipbuilding Trading Company Ltd. (CSTC) for the delivery of two Type-054 A/P frigates in 2017.
  • In 2019 China decided to build four advanced frigates for Pakistan Navy.
  • China has launched first of the four advanced naval warships it is building for Pakistan.
  • The Type-054 class, equipped with the latest surface, subsurface, anti-air weapons, combat management system, and sensors, will be one of the technologically advanced surface platforms of the Pakistan Navy fleet.

Guwahati-North Guwahati ropeway

  • It is one of the most advanced & longest river crossing Aerial Tramway systems in India
  • The ropeway uses a “twin-track, single-haul, bi-cable double reversible jig back system
  • It is of 1.82-km andis India’s longest ropeway in its category.
  • It connects a forest campus near the Kamrup (Metro) Deputy Commissioner’s office in the city on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra to a hillock behind the Doul Govinda temple in north Guwahati on the other.
  • The ropeway passes over the mid-river Peacock Island that houses Umananda, a medieval Shiva temple.
  • It takes eight minutes to traverse the entire length of the ropeway.

Bonda Tribes

  • The Bonda (also known as the Bondo, Bondo Poraja, Bhonda, or Remo) are a Munda ethnic group who live in the isolated hill regions of the Malkangiri district of southwestern Odisha, India, near the junction of the three states of Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and Andhra Pradesh.
  • Bondas are a particularly vulnerable tribal group (PVTG).
  • Their population is around 7,000.
  • Odisha is home to 62 tribal communities — the largest diverse groups of tribal population in India. Thirteen of them are PVTGs.
  • Tribal populations are found in the entire seven districts of Kandhamal, Mayurbhanj, Sundargarh, Nabarangpur, Koraput, Malkanagiri and Rayagada, and in parts of six other districts.

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