Daily Current Affairs : 27th and 28th October 2020

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Appointment of Federal Judges as per US Constitution
  2. Central Electricity Regulatory Commission
  3. 2+2 Meeting
  4. BECA
  5. Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership (GCNEP)
  6. Land Laws in J&K
  7. Designated ‘terrorists’ under UAPA
  8. Discovery of Water on the Moon
  9. Facts for Prelims

1 . Appointment of Federal Judges as per US Constitution

Context : Senate Republicans pushed through the confirmation of Trump Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett, potentially giving the Supreme Court a 6-3 conservative majority for decades.

Who appoints federal judges?

  • Supreme Court justices, court of appeals judges, and district court judges are nominated by the President and confirmed by the United States Senate, as stated in the Constitution.
  • The names of potential nominees are often recommended by senators or sometimes by members of the House who are of the President’s political party.
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee typically conducts confirmation hearings for each nominee.
  • Article III of the Constitution states that these judicial officers are appointed for a life term.
  • The federal Judiciary, the Judicial Conference of the United States, and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts play no role in the nomination and confirmation process.

How are new judgeships created?

  • Court of appeals and district court judgeships are created by legislation that must be enacted by Congress. The Judicial Conference (through its Judicial Resources Committee) surveys the judgeship needs of the courts every other year.
  • A threshold for the number of weighted filings per judgeship is the key factor in determining when an additional judgeship will be requested. Other factors may include geography, number of senior judges, and mix of cases. The Judicial Conference presents its judgeship recommendations to Congress.

What are the qualifications for becoming a federal judge?

  • The Constitution sets forth no specific requirements. However, members of Congress, who typically recommend potential nominees, and the Department of Justice, which reviews nominees’ qualifications, have developed their own informal criteria.

How is a chief judge selected?

  • One is not nominated or appointed to the position of chief judge (except for the Chief Justice of the United States); they assume the position based on seniority. The same criteria exists for circuit and district chiefs.
  • The chief judge is the judge in regular active service who is senior in commission of those judges who are (1) 64 years of age or under; (2) have served for one year or more as a judge; and (3) have not previously served as chief judge. 

What is a senior judge?

  • The “Rule of 80” is the commonly used shorthand for the age and service requirement for a judge to assume senior status, as set forth in Title 28 of the US. Code, Section 371(c). Beginning at age 65, a judge may retire at his or her current salary or take senior status after performing 15 years of active service as an Article III judge (65+15 = 80). A sliding scale of increasing age and decreasing service results in eligibility for retirement compensation at age 70 with a minimum of 10 years of service (70+10=80). Senior judges, who essentially provide volunteer service to the courts, typically handle about 15 percent of the federal courts’ workload annually. 

2 . Central Electricity Regulatory Commission

Context : The Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC), which has been non-operational for nearly two months now, will continue to remain so for at least four more weeks. This is because two of the regulator’s members had been asked by the Supreme Court to go on leave until the appointment of a member-law — a position which the Centre sought more time to fill.

About Central Electricity Regulatory Commission

  • CERC is a statutory body functioning under sec – 76 of the Electricity Act 2003 (CERC was initially constituted under the Electricity Regulatory Commissions Act, 1998 on 24th July, 1998)
  • The Commission intends to promote competition, efficiency and economy in bulk power markets, improve the quality of supply, promote investments and advise government on the removal of institutional barriers to bridge the demand supply gap and thus foster the interests of consumers.

In pursuit of the above objectives the Commission aims to –

  • Improve the operations and management of the regional transmission systems through Indian Electricity Grid Code (IEGC), Availability Based Tariff (ABT), etc.
  • Formulate an efficient tariff setting mechanism, which ensures speedy and time bound disposal of tariff petitions, promotes competition, economy and efficiency in the pricing of bulk power and transmission services and ensures least cost investments.
  • Facilitate open access in inter-state transmission
  • Facilitate inter-state trading
  • Promote development of power market
  • Improve access to information for all stakeholders.
  • Facilitate technological and institutional changes required for the development of competitive markets in bulk power and transmission services.
  • Advise on the removal of barriers to entry and exit for capital and management, within the limits of environmental, safety and security concerns and the existing legislative requirements, as the first step to the creation of competitive markets.


As entrusted by the Electricity Act, 2003 the Commission has the responsibility to discharge the following functions:-

Mandatory Functions:-

  • to regulate the tariff of generating companies owned or controlled by the Central Government;.
  • to regulate the tariff of generating companies other than those owned or controlled by the Central Government specified in clause (a), if such generating companies enter into or otherwise have a composite scheme for generation and sale of electricity in more than one State;
  • to regulate the inter-State transmission of electricity ;
  • to determine tariff for inter-State transmission of electricity;
  • to issue licences to persons to function as transmission licensee and electricity trader with respect to their inter-State operations;
  • Improve access to information for all stakeholders.
  • to adjudicate upon disputes involving generating companies or transmission licensee in regard to matters connected with clauses (a) to (d) above and to refer any dispute for arbitration;
  • to levy fees for the purposes of the Act;
  • to specify Grid Code having regard to Grid Standards;
  • to specify and enforce the standards with respect to quality, continuity and reliability of service by licensees;
  • to fix the trading margin in the inter-State trading of electricity, if considered, necessary;
  • to discharge such other functions as may be assigned under the Act.

Advisory Functions:-

  • formulation of National Electricity Policy and Tariff Policy;
  • promotion of competition, efficiency and economy in the activities of the electricity industry;
  • promotion of investment in electricity industry;
  • any other matter referred to the Central Commission by the Central Government.

3 . 2+2 Meeting

Context : U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo raises security threat from China after 2+2 talks.


  • The ‘2+2’ dialogue is a meeting between the India Ministers for External Affairs and Defence with the US Secretaries of State and Defense
  • “2+2” dialogue was meant to replace the Strategic and Commercial Dialogue between the foreign and commerce ministers of the two countries that was held during the previous Obama administration.
  • First 2+2 Dialogue happened in India in September 2018

Key Agreements / discussions during this year’s meeting

  • Signing of Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation, BECA, after signing of  LEMOA in 2016 and COMCASA in 2018 
  • India and the U.S. also sealed an MoU on Technical Cooperation in Earth Observations and Earth Sciences, and an agreement to extend duration of the MoU regarding the Global Center for Nuclear Energy Partnership.
  • The two sides also signed an agreement on electronic exchange of customs data and a letter of intent regarding cooperation in traditional Indian medicines. 
  • Explored probable capacity building and other joint cooperation activities in third countries, including our neighbourhood and beyond. We have convergence of views on a number of such proposals and will take those forward.
  • Cooperation in the advanced field of maritime domain awareness. Both sides agreed to comprehend the requirements and initiate processes for joint development of requisite systems and expertise.
  • Agreed upon upholding the rules based international order, respecting the rule of law and freedom of navigation in the international seas and upholding the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states.
  • Apart from Indo-Pacific region, the two sides also discussed the status of Afghanistan and supported an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. 
  • Both sides welcomed Australia joining the forthcoming Malabar Exercise.

4 . BECA

Context : India signed the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement on geospatial cooperation (BECA) with the U.S.

About Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial cooperation (BECA)

  • Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial cooperation (BECA) will allow India to use US expertise on geospatial intelligence and to enhance military accuracy of automated hardware systems and weapons like cruise, ballistic missiles and drones.
  • BECA enables exchange of geospatial data and information between the two countries and will improve the accuracy of India’s missiles in future during precision strikes. 
  • BECA will help share geospatial maps and charts between U.S. and India, which may have been acquired from multiple sources like satellites, UAVs, reconnaissance aircraft, aerostats among others 
  • Data shared from BECA will help in identifying, updating and tracking of various types of target and their position, both on land and sea

Previous Agreements signed with US

  • India had signed three foundational agreements: the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) and the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA).
  • An extension to the GSOMIA, is the Industrial Security Annex (ISA) that was signed at the last 2+2 dialogue in 2019.

Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA)

  • LEMOA or Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement is another name for Logistics Support Agreement (LSA).
  • It is a Military agreement between Armed Forces of India and the USA.
  • LEMOA allows each military to avail logistics support facilities like fuel, spare parts, mechanics, etc. of the other while on joint training, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR), and port calls. 
  • The agreement lays out the procedure for billing for these facilities as part of a larger accounting transaction, and details are contained in the clarifying protocols annexed to LEMOA.
  • Under LEMOA, while Indian logistics support will be available to the US military, Indian armed forces will benefit from access to a large number of US military bases globally, particularly while undertaking HADR missions in a diaspora crisis. 
  • It will allow India to respond promptly to emerging situations or humanitarian crises, and will expand Indian military’s operational environment globally.

Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA)

  • COMCASA is meant to provide a legal framework for the transfer of communication security equipment from the US to India that would facilitate “interoperability” between their forces and potentially with other militaries that use US-origin systems for secured data links. 
  • The general agreement signed by the US is called the Communication and Information on Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) but the name was changed to COMCASA to reflect its India-specific nature.

Industrial Security Annex (ISA)

  • Industrial Security Annex (ISA) is an extension to the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA). ISA was signed between India and the U.S. at the second 2+2 dialogue in Washington.
  • Industrial Security Annex (ISA) is an enabling agreement that will allow US defense manufacturers to do business with Indian private sector companies.
  • The agreement will open the door for U.S. defence companies to partner with the Indian private sector for several multi-billion dollar deals in the pipeline, especially the deal for 114 fighter jets.
  • The ISA is a part of the General Security Of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), which India signed with the U.S. long back.
  • It became critical as India opened up the defence sector to the private sector and the Strategic Partnership policy, which has few big military platforms and is reserved for the Indian private sector.

5 . Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership (GCNEP)

Context : India and US signed an agreement to extend duration of the MoU regarding the Global Center for Nuclear Energy Partnership.


  • Government of India has approved the establishment of Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership (GCNEP) at village Jasaur Kheri & Kheri Jasaur, near Bahadurgarh, District Jhajjar, Haryana, in September 2010.
  • GCNEP is the sixth R&D unit under the aegis of Department of Atomic Energy (DAE).


  •  To conduct research, design and development of nuclear systems that are intrinsically safe, secure, proliferation resistant and sustainable.
  •  To organize training, seminars, lectures and workshops on topical issues by Indian and International experts, in order to develop a pool of trained human resource.
  •  To promote global nuclear energy partnership through collaborative research and training programs.
  •  To establish five schools specializing in the areas of :
    • Advanced Nuclear Energy System Studies
    • Nuclear Security Studies
    • Radiation Safety Studies
    • Nuclear Material Characterization Studies
    • Application of Radioisotopes and Radiation Technology in healthcare, agriculture and food


  • GCNEP will help in capacity building, in association with the interested countries and the IAEA, involving technology, human resource development, education & training and giving a momentum to R&D in enlisted areas. The main objectives of the centre include
  • Development of enhanced nuclear safeguards to effectively and efficiently monitor nuclear materials and facilities.
  • Promoting the development of advanced, more proliferation resistant nuclear power reactors.
  • Training manpower in the field of Nuclear Security and Radiological Safety.
  • Educating in the field of Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems, Isotopes and Radiation Technologies, nuclear forensic.
  • Establishing accreditation facilities for radiation monitoring.
  • The centre will house following 5 schools to carry out its objectives:
    • School of Advanced Nuclear Energy System Studies (SANESS)
    • School of Nuclear Security Studies (SNSS)
    • School on Radiological Safety Studies (SRSS)
    • School of Nuclear Material Characterization Studies (SNMCS)
    • School for Studies on Applications of Radioisotopes and Radiation Technologies (SARRT)

6 .  J&K Development Act

Context : People as well as investors outside Jammu and Kashmir can now purchase land in the Union Territory (UT) as the Centre on Tuesday notified new land laws for the region, ending the exclusive rights of locals over the land granted under now abrogated Article 370.


  • Four major land laws in Jammu and Kashmir preserved land in the hands of permanent residents: the Jammu and Kashmir Alienation of Land Act, 1938, the Big Landed Estates Abolition Act, 1950, the Jammu and Kashmir Land Grants Act, 1960, and the Jammu and Kashmir Agrarian Reforms Act, 1976.
  • The Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of State Laws) Fifth Order, 2020, repealed 12 state laws, including historic land reforms laws, and amended 14 other laws, some of which deal with the sale and purchase of land in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • It officially ends the protections on land rights guaranteed under Article 35A, repealed on August 5 last year. The law was intended to protect the distinct identity and culture of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. It had empowered the government of the former state of Jammu and Kashmir to define “permanent residents” of the state and reserve certain rights for them. That included the right to own land in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • People from outside the former state were barred from buying land there under the old regime.

Details of the Act

  • Under the newly introduced J&K Development Act, the term “being permanent resident of the State” as a criteria has been “omitted”, paving the way for investors outside J&K to invest in the UT.
  • Under the ‘transfer of land for the purpose of promotion of healthcare or education’, the government may now allow transfer of land “in favour of a person or an institution for the purpose of promotion of healthcare or senior secondary or higher or specialized education in J&K.
  • According to amendments made to “The Jammu & Kashmir Land Revenue Act, Samvat, 1996”, only agriculturists of J&K can purchase agricultural land. “No sale, gift, exchange, or mortgage of the land shall be valid in favour of a person who is not an agriculturist
  • The Restriction on Conversion of Agricultural Land and Process for Permission of Non-Agriculture clause, however, puts conditions on the use of agricultural land. “No land used for agriculture purposes shall be used for any non-agricultural purposes except with the permission of the district collector”, it reads.
  • Under a new provision, an Army officer not below the rank of Corps Commander can declare an area as “Strategic Area” within a local area, only for direct operational and training requirements of the armed forces.
  • The introduction of the UT of J&K Reorganisation (Adaptation of Central Laws) Third Order, 2020 by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has resulted in the repeal of at least 11 land laws in vogue in J&K earlier, including the J&K Big Landed Estates Abolition Act that had resulted in famous ‘Land to tiller’ rights.

7 . Designated ‘terrorists’ under UAPA

Context : The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Tuesday designated 18 more individuals, all Pakistan based, as “terrorists” under the amended anti-terror law that was passed by Parliament last year.

About the News

  • The list includes seven Indians who are now in Pakistan.
  • Those designated as terrorists include Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander Syed Salahudeen, founders of Indian Mujahideen Riyaz and Iqbal Bhatkal and gangster Dawood Ibrahim’s close aide Chota Shakeel.
  • The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), 1967, as amended in August last year empowersthe MHA to designate individuals as terrorists. Earlier, 13 individuals were designated as terrorists.
  • These designations are in alignment with laws in European Union (EU) countries, the U.S.A., China, Israel and even Pakistan and Sri Lanka.


  • In 2004 34 outfits, including the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad, were banned for terrorist activities through an amendment to the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA)
  • In September 2019 through another amendment to UAPA for the first time four individuals were designated as terrorists. The 2019 list includes Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar, Lashkar-e-Taiba’s Hafiz Saeed, his deputy Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, and underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, who planned and executed the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts.

About Unlawful Activitire Prevention Act

  • UAPA law is aimed at effective prevention of unlawful activities associations in India.
  • Its main objective was to make powers available for dealing with activities directed against the integrity and sovereignty of India
  • The National Integration Council appointed a Committee on National Integration and Regionalisation to look into, the aspect of putting reasonable restrictions in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India.
  • Pursuant to the acceptance of recommendations of the Committee, the Constitution (Sixteenth Amendment) Act, 1963 was enacted to impose, by law, reasonable restrictions in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India.
  • In order to implement the provisions of 1963 Act, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Bill was introduced in the Parliament

Provisions and Amendments

  • Main objective of the original bill was to make powers available for dealing with activities directed against the integrity and sovereignty of India
  • In 2004, the government chose to strengthen The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. It was amended to overcome some of the difficulties in its enforcement and to update it in accordance with international commitments. By inserting specific chapters, the amendment criminalised the raising of funds for a terrorist act, holding of the proceeds of terrorism, membership of a terrorist organisation, support to a terrorist organisation, and the raising of funds for a terrorist organisation. It increased the time available to law-enforcement agencies to file a chargesheet to six months from three.
  • The law was amended in 2008 after the Mumbai attacks, and again in 2012. The definition of “terrorist act” was expanded to include offences that threaten economic security, counterfeiting Indian currency, and procurement of weapons, etc. Additional powers were granted to courts to provide for attachment or forfeiture of property equivalent to the value of the counterfeit Indian currency, or the proceeds of terrorism involved in the offence.
  • In 2019 Act was again amended to designate an individual as a “terrorist”

What is Unlawful Activity as per the Act

  • Section 2(o) of UAPA as it stands today, defines “unlawful activity”
  • Unlawful activity, in relation to an individual or association, means any action taken by such individual or association (whether by committing an act or by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representation or otherwise),—
    • which is intended, or supports any claim, to bring about, on any ground whatsoever, the cession of a part of the territory of India or the secession of a part of the territory of India from the Union, or which incites any individual or group of individuals to bring about such cession or secession; or
    • Which disclaims, questions, disrupts or is intended to disrupt the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India; or
    • Which causes or is intended to cause disaffection against India;

Who is designated as a Terrorist under the act

  • Section 15 defines a “terrorist act” as any act committed with intent to threaten or likely to threaten the unity, integrity, security, economic security, or sovereignty of India or with intent to strike terror or likely to strike terror in the people or any section of the people in India or in any foreign country.
  • Section 35 of UAPA: It seeks to empower the central government to designate an individual a “terrorist” if they are found committing, preparing for, promoting, or involved in an act of terror through a notification in the official gazette, and add his name to the schedule 4 0f theact.
    • The government is not required to give an individual an opportunity to be heard before such a designation.
    • At present, in line with the legal presumption of an individual being innocent until proven guilty, an individual who is convicted in a terror case is legally referred to as a terrorist, while those suspected of being involved in terrorist activities are referred to as terror accused. The act does not clarify the standard of proof required to establish that an individual is involved or is likely to be involved in terrorist activities.
  • Insertion to schedule of treaties: The Act defines terrorist acts to include acts committed within the scope of any of the treaties listed in a schedule to the Act.  The Schedule lists nine treaties, including the Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings (1997), and the Convention against Taking of Hostages (1979).  Act has added another treaty to the list- International Convention for Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (2005).

What happens when an individual is declared a terrorist?

  • The designation of an individual as a global terrorist by the United Nations is associated with sanctions including travel bans, freezing of assets and an embargo against procuring arms However UAPA act does not provide any such detail.
  • The act also does not require the filing of cases or arresting individuals while designating them as terrorists.
  • The act also seeks to give the central government the power to remove a name from the schedule when an individual makes an application. The procedure for such an application and the process of decision-making will also be decided by the central government.
  • If an application filed by an individual declared a terrorist is rejected by the government, the act gives him the right to seek a review within one month after the application is rejected.
  • Under the act, the central government will set up the review committee consisting of a chairperson (a retired or sitting judge of a High Court) and three other members. The review committee will be empowered to order the government to delete the name of the individual from the schedule that lists “terrorists”, if it considers the order to be flawed.
  • Apart from these two avenues, the individual can also move the courts challenging the government’s order.


  • Under the Act, investigation of cases may be conducted by officers of the rank of Deputy Superintendent or Assistant Commissioner of Police or above.  The Bill additionally empowers the officers of the NIA, of the rank of Inspector or above, to investigate cases.
  • Prior approval of Director General of Police: The investigating officer has to take prior permission of the Director General of Police of a state for conducting raids, and seizing properties that are suspected to be linked to terrorist activities.
  • Approval for seizure of property by NIA:  If the investigation is conducted by an officer of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the approval of the Director General of NIA would be required for seizure of such property. 

Concerns about the Act

  • The new changes undermine human rights as the central government can brand a person a terrorist without an adjudication by the judiciary and such sweeping power in the hands of the central government is troublesome.
  • If an individual is wrongfully designated it could amount to social exclusion and deprivation of livelihood of the designated individual, which falls within the ambit of right to life and liberty under Art 21 of the Constitution.
  • The updated law though is not anti-federal but has enough teeth to violate the basic human rights of the citizens.

8 . Discovery of Water on the Moon

Context : In two separate studies in Nature Astronomy, scientists have reported findings with potentially huge implications for sustaining humans on the Moon in the future. One study reports the detection of water on the Moon’s sunlit surface for the first time. The other estimates that the Moon’s dark, shadowy regions, which potentially contain ice, are more widespread than thought. The Moon has water at places where none had been detected before, and has potentially more water than previously believed in regions where it was already understood to exist.

Why is the discovery of water important?

  • Apart from being a marker of potential life, water is a precious resource in deep space. For astronauts landing on the Moon, water is necessary not only to sustain life but also for purposes such as generating rocket fuel.
  • NASA’s Artemis programme plans to send the first woman and the next man to the Moon in 2024, and hopes to establish a “sustainable human presence” there by the end of the decade.
  • If space explorers can use the Moon’s resources, it means they need to carry less water from Earth.

What was known about water on the Moon?

  • Previous Moon studies, including by the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Chandrayaan-1 mission, have provided evidence for the existence of water.
  • In 2009, the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument aboard Chandrayaan-1 found water molecules in the polar regions. A paper in Nature Geoscience In August 2013 analysed M3 data to report the detection of magmatic water (water originating from the deep interiors) on the Moon’s surface
  • However, what was not established in such studies — based on observations by the Chandrayaan-1 mission, NASA’s Cassini and Deep Impact comet mission, and NASA’s ground-based Infrared Telescope Facility — was whether the detected molecules were water as we know it (H20) or in the form of hydroxyl (OH).

What is different in the new discovery?

  • This time, it is confirmed H20 molecules, discovered in Clavius Crater in the Moon’s southern hemisphere. And it is the first time water has been detected on the sunlit side, showing it is not restricted to the shadowy regions.
  • Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), which is a modified Boeing 747SP jetliner that flies at altitudes up to 45,000 feet, has an infrared camera that picked up the wavelength unique to water molecules. The data showed water in concentrations of 100-412 parts per million trapped in 1 cubic metre of soil.
  • SOFIA’s mission is to look at dark and distant objects. The Moon, on the other hand, is so close and bright that it fills the SOFIA guide camera’s entire field of view. In August 2018, just to check whether SOFIA could reliably track the Moon, scientists tried a test observation. It was from this test that came the detection of water. Scientists are now planning more observational flights.

How could the water have formed?

  • Space rocks carrying small amounts of water could have bombarded the Moon. Alternatively, the Sun’s solar wind could have carried hydrogen, which then reacted with minerals in the lunar soil to create hydroxyl, which later transformed into water.
  • The sunlit surface retaining the water presents a puzzle, since the Moon does not have a thick atmosphere. One possibility is that the water gets trapped into tiny bead-like structures that were created in the soil by impacts from space rocks. Alternatively, the water could be hidden between grains of lunar soil and sheltered from the sunlight, NASA said.

So, how widespread is water on the Moon?

  • On the sunlit side, it is not yet known whether the water SOFIA found is easily accessible. On the other hand, the hidden, shadowy pockets on the lunar surface called “cold traps” are spread across a combined 40,000 sq km, the other study has reported. That is roughly the size of Kerala.
  • The estimate used mathematical tools to analyse data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The cold traps have gone without sunlight for potentially billions of years. If they do contain ice, it means water is going to be more accessible than previously assumed.

What next?

  • SOFIA will look for water in additional sunlit locations to learn more about how the water is produced, stored, and moved across the Moon. Meanwhile, NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) will carry out a mission to create the first water resource maps of the Moon.

9 . Facts for Prelims

Vivad se Viswas Scheme

  • This is a direct tax scheme announced in Budget 2020, for settling tax disputes between individuals and the income tax department.
  • Earlier, the scheme offered complete waiver on interest and penalty to the taxpayers with a full and final settlement of the dispute if the scheme was availed by March 31, 2020.
  • An individual opting for settlement after March 31, 2020 was required to pay additional 10 per cent penalty on the disputed tax amount. However, now till December 31, 2020, you do not have to pay any penalty.
  • As per the scheme income tax disputes settled under it cannot be reopened in any other proceeding by the income tax department or any other designated authority.
  • Earlier, the government had extended the deadline for Vivad se Vishwaas scheme without paying any interest and penalty to June 30, 2020 from March 31, 2020.

Hygiene hypothesis

  • The latest analysis by researchers in India has added to the growing body of evidence in support of the “hygiene hypothesis,” which argues that areas or countries with high levels of background infections are likely to experience fewer Covid deaths.
  • According to the researchers deaths are low in areas with poorer sanitation and it could be due to a process called immune training, which involves multiple arms of the immune system
  • Better sanitation leads to poorer ‘immune training’ and thus could be leading to higher deaths per million

MSP for vegetables

  • The Kerala government is set to introduce a minimum support price (MSP) for 16 vegetables, starting from November 1. Kerala thus becomes the first state in the country to fix a floor price for vegetables
  • State Agriculture Department will implement the scheme with the support of local self-governing bodies and the Cooperative Department.
  • State Agriculture Minister V S Sunil Kumar said the move will encourage farmers to cultivate the vegetables which have been included in the scheme and would help increase vegetable production in Kerala. The rate has been already fixed after factoring in cost of production and productivity, he said.

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