- Fast Radio Burst
- Finance Commission
- Drone Scheme for Agriculture
- Special Development mission for PVTG
1 . Fast Radio Burst
Context: Astrophysicists are trying to wrap their heads around another twist in the story of fast radio bursts (FRBs).
What are Fast Radio Bursts?
- In radio astronomy, a fast radio burst (FRB) is a transient radio pulse of length ranging from a fraction of a millisecond to 3 seconds, caused by some high-energy astrophysical process not yet understood.
- The first FRB was detected in 2007. Till now, more than 600 of these celestial flashes have been recorded to date. Very little is known about their exact origins and why they show up as such short-lived spurts.
- Due to their elusive nature, all these FRBs were detected by happenstance, when astronomers used their radio telescopes to scan the right part of the sky at the right time.
- Astronomers have speculated that a type of neutron stars – the incredibly dense remnants of exploding stars called magnetars could be a likely source of FRBs. Magnetars rotate slowly compared to other neutron stars, so scientists reasoned that it is the objects’ ultra-strong magnetic energy rather than their rotation that probably produces the emission of FRBs.
- A magnetar’s magnetic field is more than a thousand-times-stronger than that of other neutron stars, and a trillion times that of the earth.
- In the absence of evidence, the role of magnetars in engendering FRBs has remained in the realm of speculation for long.
How are neutron stars involved?
- In a study published by Physical Review Letters, Drs. Most and Philippov suggested that FRBs could be triggered by a collision between two neutron stars, and released just before they crash into each other.
- The impact could set off two different kinds of signals: wrinkles in space-time called gravitational waves (tell-tale signatures of high energy cosmic events) and FRBs.
- Neutron star mergers have been known to be accompanied by electromagnetic counterparts. This was spectacularly recorded in August 2017, when the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) in the US and the Virgo instrument in Italy identified, for the first time, gravitational waves from two colliding neutron stars.
What is a neutron-star merger?
- The new study explains how a neutron star binary system behaves when the two bodies collide and coalesce.
- As a neutron star spins ever faster, the strong magnetic field above its poles causes electrons to speed up too, generating an electron-positron plasma.
- As the stars get closer to each other, the increasing electromagnetic energy breaches their by now distorted magnetic fields and throws out flares into the orbital plane of the stellar system.
- This sends out torrents of radio waves just before the actual collision, followed by the radiation of gravitational waves from the event. These emissions are not unlike FRBs emanating from magnetars.
- These cosmic light and sound shows are produced after the stellar collision.
Impact on astronomy
- The idea could also explain the intense radio light ‘seen’ in the host galaxies of some FRBs.
- Some astronomers attribute this radio light to the glow around high energy events, such as a gigantic black hole at the centre of the galaxy devouring stars.
- Others believe that in active galactic nuclei where magnetars generate FRBs, it is possible that two neutron stars could merge into a single stellar body without actually becoming a black hole.
- These findings give a leg-up to the study of gravitational waves, which were first observed in 2015 when scientists watched agape as LIGO recorded the signature of two black holes a billion times bigger than the Sun smashing into each other, hurling gravitational radiation out into space.
- Apart from validating Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, propounded exactly a hundred years ago in 1915, the event heralded the new era of gravitational-wave astronomy.
- It is also believed that radio telescopes of the future will work with gravitational-wave observatories to study these high energy events.
What is LISA?
- NASA’s space-based Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) is a proposed space probe to detect and accurately measure gravitational waves which are tiny ripples in the fabric of spacetime, from astronomical sources.
- LISA would be the first dedicated space-based gravitational-wave observatory.
- LISA comprises three spacecraft that will form an equilateral triangle in space, with each side of the triangle a million miles long to tap parts of the spectrum that are inaccessible from the earth.
- Laser beams will be relayed between the spacecraft and the signals will identify gravitational waves from distortions in space-time.
- LISA will explore cosmic evolution and structure more thoroughly than electromagnetic observations ever could.
2 . Finance Commission
Context: The Union Cabinet recently approved the terms of reference (ToR) for the Sixteenth Finance Commission, which will recommend the formula for sharing revenues between the Centre and the States for the five-year period beginning on April 1, 2026.
What is Finance commission?
- The finance commission is a quasi-judicial body constituted by the president of India under Article 280 of the Indian Constitution. It was established in the year 1951, to define the fiscal relationship framework between the Centre and the state.
- Finance Commission aims to reduce the fiscal imbalances between the centre and the states (Vertical imbalance) and also between the states (horizontal imbalance). It promotes inclusiveness.
- Its working is characterised by extensive and intensive consultations with all levels of governments, thus strengthening the principle of cooperative federalism.
- Its recommendations are also geared towards improving the quality of public spending and promoting fiscal stability.
- The first Finance Commission was set up in 1951 and there have been fifteen so far.
- A Finance Commission is set up once in every 5 years. It is normally constituted two years before the period. It is a temporary Body.
- The Finance Commission consists of a chairman and four other members to be appointed by the president.
- They hold office for such period as specified by the president in his order. They are eligible for reappointment
- The constitution authorises the parliament to determine the qualification of members of the commission and the manner in which they should be selected.
- Accordingly, the Parliament of India enacted the Finance Commission [Miscellaneous Provisions] Act, 1951 and The Finance Commission (Salaries & Allowances) Rules, 1951 to specify the qualification of the chairman and members of the commission
- As per the provisions contained in the Finance Commission [Miscellaneous Provisions] Act, 1951 and The Finance Commission (Salaries & Allowances) Rules, 1951, the Chairman of the Commission is selected from among persons who have had experience in public affairs, and the four other members are selected from among persons who–
- (a) are, or have been, or are qualified to be appointed as Judges of a High Court; or
- (b) have special knowledge of the finances and accounts of Government; or
- (c) have had wide experience in financial matters and in administration; or
- (d) have special knowledge of economics
Functions of Finance Commission of India
Article 280 (3) speaks about the functions of the Finance Commission. The Article states that it shall be the duty of the Commission to make the recommendations to the President as to:
- The distribution between the Union and the States of the net proceeds of taxes, which may be divided between them and the allocation among the states of the respective shares of such proceeds;
- To determine the quantum of grants in-aid to be given by the Centre to states [Article 275 (1)] and to evolve the principles governing the eligibility of the state for such grant-in-aid;
- Any other matter referred to the Commission by the President of India in the interest of sound finance. Several issues like debt relief, financing of calamity relief of states, additional excise duties, etc. have been referred to the Commission invoking this clause
Terms of Reference for the Sixteenth Finance Commission:
The Finance Commission shall make recommendations as to the following matters, namely:
- The distribution between the Union and the States of the net proceeds of taxes which are to be, or may be, divided between them under Chapter I, Part XII of the Constitution and the allocation between the States of the respective shares of such proceeds;
- The principles which should govern the grants-in-aid of the revenues of the States out of the Consolidated Fund of India and the sums to be paid to the States by way of grants-in-aid of their revenues under article 275 of the Constitution for the purposes other than those specified in the provisos to clause (1) of that article; and
- The measures needed to augment the Consolidated Fund of a State to supplement the resources of the Panchayats and Municipalities in the State on the basis of the recommendations made by the Finance Commission of the State.
- The Commission may review the present arrangements on financing Disaster Management initiatives, with reference to the funds constituted under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 (53 of 2005), and make appropriate recommendations thereon.
- The Commission shall make its report available by 31st day of October, 2025 covering a period of five years commencing on the 1st day of April, 2026.
3 . Drone Scheme for Agriculture
Context: The Centre will provide drones to 15,000 progressive women self-help groups (SHG) to be rented out to farmers for agricultural purposes.
About the Scheme
- The scheme aims to provide drones to 15,000 selected Women SHGs during the period 2023-24 to 2025-2026 for providing rental services to farmers for agriculture purpose.
- It seeks to empower women Self Help Groups (SHGs) and bringing new technologies through drone services in agriculture sector.
Highlights of the scheme
- The scheme approves holistic interventions by converging the resources and efforts of Department of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare (DA&FW), Department of Rural development (DoRD) and Department of Fertilizers (DoF), Women SHGs and Lead Fertilizer Companies (LFCs).
- Appropriate clusters where usage of Drones is economically feasible will e identified and progressive 15,000 women SHGs in various States in the identified clusters will be selected for providing drones.
- Central Financial Assistance @ 80% of the cost of drone and accessories/ancillary charges up to a maximum of Rs. Eight Lakh will be provided to the women SHGs for purchase of drones. The Cluster Level Federation (CLFs) of SHGs may raise the balance amount (total cost of procurement minus subsidy) as loan under National Agriculture Infra Financing Facility (AIF). Interest subvention @ 3% on the AIF loan will be provided.
- One of the members of the women SHGs who is well qualified, 18 and above years of age will be elected by the SRLM and LFCs for 15 day training comprising of 5 day mandatory drone pilot training and additional 10 day training for agriculture purpose of nutrient and pesticide application. The other member / family member of the SHG with inclination to take up repairs of electrical goods, fitting and mechanical works will be selected by the State Rural Livelihood Mission (SRLM) and LFCs who will be trained as drone technician/assistant. These training shall be provided as a package along with the supply of drones.
- Considering the difficulties which SHGs may face in procuring the drones, repair and maintenance of drones through drone companies, the LFCs will act as a bridge between drone supplier companies and SHGs.
- LFCs will also promote use of Nano Fertilizers such as Nano Urea and Nano DAP by the drones with SHGs. SHGs will rent out the drone services to the farmers for Nano fertilizer and also for pesticide applications.
- It is envisaged that the approved initiatives under the scheme will provide sustainable business and livelihood support to 15,000 SHGs and they would be able to earn additional income of at least Rs.One lakh per annum.
- It will help infusing advance technology in agriculture for improved efficiency, enhance crop yield and reduced cost of operation for the benefit of farmers.
4 . Special Development mission for PVTG
Context: The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved a special development mission for Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG) with a total outlay of over ₹24,104 crore over a three-year period.
- The Union Cabinet has approved Pradhan Mantri Janjati Adivasi Nyaya Maha Abhiyan (PM JANMAN) with total outlay of Rs.24,104 crore (Central Share:Rs.15,336 crore and State Share: Rs.8,768 crore) to focus on 11 critical interventions through 9 line Ministries.
- As announced in the Budget Speech 2023-24, “to improve socio-economic conditions of the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs), Pradhan Mantri PVTG of Development Mission will be launched. This will saturate PVTG households and habitations with basic facilities such as safe housing, clean drinking water and sanitation, improved access to education, health and nutrition, road and telecom connectivity, and sustainable livelihood opportunities.
- An amount of Rs.15,000 crore will be made available to implement the Mission in the next three years under the Development Action Plan for the Scheduled Tribes (DAPST).”
- India has ST population of 10.45 crore as per 2011 census, out of which 75 communities located in 18 States and the Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands have been categorized as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs). These PVTGs continue to face vulnerability in social, economic and educational fields.
Focus areas of the scheme
- The PM-JANMAN (comprising Central Sector and Centrally Sponsored Schemes) to focus on 11 critical interventions through 9 Ministries including Ministry of Tribal Affairs which are as follows:
- Interventions under the Scheme:
- Provision of pucca houses
- Connecting roads
- Piped Water Supply
- Community water supply
- Mobile Medical Units with medicine cost
- Construction of hostels
- Vocational education & skilling
- Construction of Anganwadi Centers
- Construction of Multipurpose Centers (MPC)
- Energization of HHs (Last mile connectivity)
- Provision of 0.3 KW solar off-grid system
- Solar lighting in streets & MPCs
- Setting up of Van Dhan Vikas Kendras
- Installation of mobile towers.
Other Interventions :
- Ministry of Ayush will set up Ayush Wellness Centre as per existing norms and Ayush facilities will be extended to PVTG habitations through Mobile Medical Units.
- Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship will facilitate skill and vocational training in PVTG habitations, Multipurpose centres and hostels as per the suitable skills of these communities.
5 . Prelims
- It is a citizen-centric portal launched by Deptt of Telecom to protect users from various frauds such as identity theft, forged KYC, theft of mobile devices, banking frauds, etc.
- It allows citizens to:
- Check the connections registered on their names
- Report fraudulent or unrequired connections
- Block the mobile phones which are stolen/lost
- Check IMEI genuineness before buying a mobile phone.