Daily Current Affairs : 7th June 2023

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Anti Microbial Resistance and Pandemic Treaty
  2. Manual Scavenging
  3. Commission on Railway Safety
  4. Hypersonic Missile system

1 . Anti- Microbial Resistance and Pandemic Treaty

Context: the latest version of the draft Pandemic Instrument, also referred to as the “pandemic treaty,” was shared with member states at the World Health Assembly. The text was made available online via Health Policy Watch and it quickly became apparent that all mentions of addressing antimicrobial resistance in the Pandemic Instrument were at risk of removal.

What is Pandemic Treaty?

  • In December 2021, the World Health Assembly agreed to start a global process to draft the pandemic treaty. The need for an updated set of rules was felt after the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the shortcomings of global health systems. The Health Assembly adopted a decision titled “The World Together” at its second special session since it was founded in 1948.
  • Under the decision, the health organisation established an intergovernmental negotiating body (INB) to draft and negotiate the contents of the pandemic treaty in compliance with Article 19 of the WHO Constitution.
  • The pandemic treaty is expected to cover aspects like data sharing and genome sequencing of emerging viruses and equitable distribution of vaccines and drugs and related research throughout the world. Solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic have seen an inequitable distribution of vaccines so far, with poorer countries at the mercy of others to receive preventive medication. Most countries have followed the “me-first” approach which is not an effective way to deal with a global pandemic,
  • The European Union (EU) also wants a ban on wildlife markets to be included in the treaty. A widely-accepted theory points that the novel coronavirus may have jumped from animals to humans in a wildlife market of China.
  • While the EU wants the treaty to be legally binding, the U.S., Brazil and India have expressed reservations about the same. The legal nature of the treaty is yet to be defined.
  • Since the beginning of negotiations on the Pandemic Instrument, there have been calls from civil society and leading experts, including theGlobal Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance, to include the so-called “silent” pandemic of antimicrobial resistance in the instrument.
  • Article 19 of the WHO Constitution gives the World Health Assembly the authority to adopt conventions or agreements on matters of health. A two-third majority is needed to adopt such conventions or agreements.
  • The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control was set up under Article 19 and it came into force in 2005.

Why Anti- Microbial Resistance need to be included in the Pandemic Treaty?

  • Without knowing what the next pandemic will be, the “pandemic treaty” must plan, prepare and develop effective tools to respond to a wider range of pandemic threats, not solely viruses.
  • Even if the world faces another viral pandemic, secondary bacterial infections will be a serious issue. During the COVID-19 pandemic for instance, large percentages of those hospitalized with COVID-19 required treatment for secondary bacterial infections.
  • New research from Northwestern University suggests that many of the deaths among hospitalized COVID-19 patients were associated with pneumonia — a secondary bacterial infection that must be treated with antibiotics.
  • Treating these bacterial infections requires effective antibiotics, and with AMR increasing, effective antibiotics are becoming a scarce resource. Essentially, safeguarding the remaining effective antibiotics is critical to responding to any pandemic.

What is the consequence of removing Anti- Microbial Resistance section from the text?

  • Sections of the text which may be removed include measures to prevent infections (caused by bacteria, viruses and other microbes), such as: The exclusion of these measures would hinder efforts to protect people from future pandemics, and appears to be part of  shift to water-down the language in the Pandemic Instrument, making it easier for countries to opt-out of taking recommended actions to prevent future pandemics.

Why is it removed from the treaty?

  • Including bacterial pathogens in the definition of “pandemics” was critical. They also identified specific provisions that should be tweaked to track and address both viral and bacterial threats. These included AMR and recommended harmonizing national AMR stewardship rules.

What will be next step?

  • The Pandemic Instrument is the best option to mitigate AMR and safeguard lifesaving antimicrobials to treat secondary infections in pandemics.
  • AMR exceeds the capacity of any single country or sector to solve. Global political action is needed to ensure the international community works together to collectively mitigate AMR and support the conservation, development and equitable distribution of safe and effective antimicrobials.
  • By missing this opportunity to address AMR and safeguard antimicrobials in the Pandemic Instrument, severely undermine the broader goals of the instrument: to protect nations and communities from future pandemic emergencies.
  • It is important going forward that member states recognize the core infrastructural role that antimicrobials play in pandemic response and strengthen, rather than weaken, measures meant to safeguard antimicrobials.
  • Antimicrobials are an essential resource for responding to pandemic emergencies that must be protected. If governments are serious about pandemic preparedness, they must support bold measures to conserve the effectiveness of antimicrobials within the Pandemic Instrument.  

What is Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) 

  • Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death. 
  • As a result of drug resistance, antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines become ineffective and infections become increasingly difficult or impossible to treat.
  • It is an urgent global public health threat, killing at least 1.27 million people worldwide and associated with nearly 5 million deaths in 2019. 
  • In the U.S., more than 2.8 million antimicrobial-resistant infections occur each year. More than 35,000 people die as a result, according to CDC’s 2019 Antibiotic Resistance (AR) Threats Report. 
  • It has the potential to affect people at any stage of life, as well as the healthcare, veterinary, and agriculture industries. This makes it one of the world’s most urgent public health problems.

How Resistance Spreads?

  • Resistant germs can spread between people, animals, and the environment, and can cause deadly infections. 
  • Healthcare facilities
    • People receiving medical care in healthcare facilities like hospitals or nursing homes can get serious infections called healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). 
    • People can get HAIs during or after procedures like surgery, or from devices like catheters or ventilators. 
    • Sometimes these infections can be caused by antimicrobial-resistant germs. 
    • People can also enter healthcare facilities with infections from the community or from another healthcare facility when transferred and these germs could spread without appropriate infection control measures.
  • Community spread
    • Germs, including resistant germs, can spread between people, animals, and food, through common activities. 
    • For example, germs can spread from food to people and between people and animals without appropriate hand hygiene. 
    • People can also get an infection when traveling, then spread these germs when they return. 
    • Other examples include gonorrhea, a common sexually transmitted disease (STD) that has progressively developed resistance to almost every drug ever used to treat it. 
  • Through Water, Soil, & the Environment
    • Human activity can contaminate the environment (water, soil) with antibiotics and antifungals, which can speed up the development and spread of resistance. Contamination can occur from:
      • Human and animal waste
      • Use of antibiotics and antifungals as pesticides on plants or crops
      • Pharmaceutical manufacturing waste
  • Through food supply
    • Animals, like people, carry germs in their gut, which can include antimicrobial-resistant germs.
    • These germs can spread between animals and in their environments (such as on farms, in animal markets, and during transport). When animals are slaughtered and processed for food, these germs can contaminate meat or other animal products.
    • Animal waste can also carry antimicrobial-resistant germs. Fruits, vegetables, and other produce can become contaminated through contact with soil or water containing untreated or un-composted waste from animals.

How to tackle it?

  • Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a growing health crisis, and tackling it needs a multi-pronged approach. 
  • Newer, more effective antimicrobial drugs, improved access to life-saving antimicrobials across the globe; better diagnostics to identify drug-resistant infections and treat them with drugs that work, and robust surveillance systems to monitor the spread of drug resistant infections.
  • While discovering new antimicrobial drugs through pharmaceutical research and development is expensive, time-consuming, and often out of reach for many low- and middle-income countries, India can rely on collaborations and innovations to build game-changing strategies in tackling the AMR crisis and catch up with the evolving superbugs.  

Scale of AMR crisis 

  • In 2019 alone, drug-resistant superbugs killed about 1.27 million people globally — a toll more than HIV/AIDS or malaria — and according to the United Nations’ (UN) estimates, that number could reach 10 million by 2050.
  • In India, the largest consumer of antimicrobials globally, AMR is gaining ground, and the use of last-resort antibiotics like cephalosporins is soaring.
    • The country is projected to have 1.6 million multi-drug resistant infectious cases in 2040, which is significantly higher than any country. 
    • The warnings are stark, but our current approaches to reign in the spread of superbugs seem inadequate. 

Diagnostic innovations

  • One way to prevent the reckless overuse of antimicrobials is to diagnose what’s causing an infection early, which helps determine the right course of drugs. 
  • In India, many doctors prescribe antibiotics to treat infections that are likely caused by viruses. 
  • Rapid diagnostics, which can help identify the exact microbe and the drug to which they are susceptible to, can avoid antibiotic misuse at the point of care.
  • Diagnosing AMR needs research on identifying the appropriate biomarkers to detect multi-drug resistant pathogens and developing accurate and affordable detection tools. Agencies like ICMR, BIRAC could fund such development.

Antibiotic discovery

  • While the consumption of antibiotics like cephalosporins, quinolones, and macrolides has sharply increased in low-and middle-income countries, the pipeline of new antibiotics is dry. 
  • Lack of funding in pharmaceutical research, clinical trial and supply chain challenges, and regulatory hurdles have slowed down new antibiotics development.
  • Developing new antibiotics is expensive and it takes a few years for new drugs to become available in low- and middle-income countries. 
  • India needs to start in-house development of new antibiotics by leveraging public-private partnerships between pharma companies and government research labs.
  • Government agencies like ICMR and CSIR, along with DBT, DST could work with international partners like Global Antibiotic Research Development Partnership (GARDP), Wellcome Trust and others to pursue antibacterial research, develop world-class clinical trial infrastructure to accelerate drug development.
  • In India, where 80% urban healthcare providers are private, resource-starved hospitals struggle to procure pricey antibiotics. 
  • Innovative pricing models, bulk procurement of such antibiotics and guaranteed purchase commitments from hospitals could not only reduce cost but also imbibe confidence in pharma companies that have invested in antibiotics research. 
  • The rollout of universal health coverage in India could improve access to antibiotics for more than 100 million families by reducing out-of-pocket spending for individuals while also easing procurement for the government with bulk orders.


  • AMR is an emerging pandemic, and India is the AMR capital of the world.
  • With India’s demonstrated prowess in pharmaceutical knowledge, experience and infrastructure, it has the opportunity to tackle AMR and show the way for other low- and middle-income countries.
  • In this direction, fostering innovation and international partnerships are key. With millions of lives at stake with the soon-to-become AMR pandemic, the country must act now. 

2 . Manual Scavenging

Context: Despite stating over the past few years that manual scavenging had been eliminated in the country and the only remaining threat was the hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks, the Union Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry has now said that only 508 of the 766 districts in the country have been declared free of manual scavenging.

Who is a Manual Scavenger and What is Manual Scavenging?

  • Manual scavenging is the practice of removing human excreta by hand from sewers or septic tanks. India banned the practice under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 (PEMSR). The Act bans the use of any individual for manually cleaning, carrying, disposing of or otherwise handling in any manner, human excreta till its disposal.
  • In 2013, the definition of manual scavengers was also broadened to include people employed to clean septic tanks, ditches, or railway tracks. The Act recognizes manual scavenging as a “dehumanizing practice,” and cites a need to “correct the historical injustice and indignity suffered by the manual scavengers.”

Why is manual scavenging still prevalent in India?

  • The cause for manual scavenging is
    • The existence of insanitary latrines.
    • The lack of enforcement of the Act and
    • Exploitation of unskilled labourers are the reasons why the practice is still prevalent in India.

Laws to Prevent Manual Scavenging:

  • The Employment of Manual Scavenging and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993 was passed to prohibit manual scavenging and to ensure that the people who are indulged in this practice are not deprived of their right to live with human dignity. As it is evident from the name of the Act, it prohibits the employment of the manual scavengers and also the building of the insanitary latrines.
    • The violation of the same is punishable with simple imprisonment up to one year or a fine of Rs 2000/- or with both in some cases. This Act and the provisions were made to protect the interest of the workmen involved in this practice but due to the bad implementation and ignorance there were no convictions and this practice kept on going and is still prevalent even after passing of this Act.
  • The Self Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavenging, 2007 (SRMS) was passed to help and provide assistance to the manual scavengers and their family members for their rehabilitation in some alternative occupations.
  • The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013. The very first step which was laid down by this Act was to ‘demolish all the insanitary latrines.’ The local authorities like municipal corporations, railway authorities etc. will be held responsible under this Act for the building and the maintenance of the community sanitary latrines, and must ensure that they are functional and hygienic. The second step was to prohibit employment of any person for manual scavenging or hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks.
    • Further the Act mandated the conversion of insanitary latrines into the sanitary and hygienic latrines within 6 months. Also, the authorities mentioned under this Act have to build sufficient community sanitary latrines as it is considered necessary especially in the areas where the insanitary latrines have been found. These were the certain objectives of passing this Act.
  • The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation (Amendment) Bill, 2020. This Bill was introduced in the Indian Parliament by the Union Government.  The main objectives of introducing this Bill are to eradicate manual scavengers all over the country from this shameful practice and also to take out all those workmen who are already involved in this degrading job. The Government will also rehabilitate them and their family members. This Bill lays down a proper and a complete mechanism to clear the septic tanks and sewers without involving the manual labour. This Act will ensure that no human is involved in such practice and proper hygienic community sanitary latrines will be built.

Schemes For Welfare and Rehabilitation 

National Safai Karamcharis Finance and Development Corporation (NSKFDC):

  • National Safai Karamcharis Finance and Development Corporation (NSKFDC) was incorporated on 24 January, 1997 under Section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956, as an Apex Institution for all round socio-economic upliftment of the Safai Karamcharis and their dependents throughout India and to extend concessional financial assistance to the Safai Karamcharis beneficiaries for establishment of income generating projects.
  • NSKFDC provides loans to the Safai Karamcharis and their dependents through the State Channelising Agencies. The target groups of the Corporation are “Scavengers” and their dependents and “Safai Karamcharis.

Self -Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers:

  • The Self-Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS) was introduced in January, 2007, with the objective to rehabilitate the remaining manual scavengers and their dependents in alternative occupations by March, 2009. However, as this could not be done by the target date, the Scheme was extended up to March, 2010, with a provision for the coverage of spill-over of beneficiaries even thereafter, if required.
  • After the enactment of ‘Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013’, SRMS was revised in synchronization with the provision of the Act. As per the revised Scheme, the following benefits are provided to the target group:-
    • identified manual scavengers, one from each family, are provided one-time cash assistance of Rs. 40,000.
    • The identified manual scavengers and their dependents are provided project based upfront capital subsidy up to Rs. 5,00,000 and concessional loan for undertaking self-employment ventures.
    • Sanitation workers and their dependants are provided assistance for procurement of sanitation related projects on the same scale as admissible to manual scavengers for general projects.
    • Group of the target beneficiaries is eligible for projects costing upto Rs. 50.00 lakh.
    • Beneficiaries are also provided training for skill development for a period up to two years, during which a stipend of Rs. 3,000 per month is also provided.
    • Manual Scavengers and their family members are also eligible for Health Insurance coverage of Rs. 5.00 lakh under Ayushman Bharat-PMJAY.
    • Upskilling/RPL training is provided to sanitation workers
    • Workshops are organised with the officers, supervisors and sanitation workers on “Hazardous Cleaning of Sewers and Septic Tanks”

National Action for Mechanised Sanitation Ecosystem (NAMASTE)

  • Namaste is a Central Sector Scheme of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MoSJE) as a joint initiative of the MoSJE and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA).
  • NAMASTE envisages safety and dignity of sanitation workers in urban India by creating an enabling ecosystem that recognizes sanitation workers as one of the key contributors in operations and maintenance of sanitation infrastructure thereby providing sustainable livelihood and enhancing their occupational safety through capacity building and improved access to safety gear and machines.
  • NAMASTE would also aim at providing access to alternative livelihoods support and entitlements to reduce the vulnerabilities of sanitation workers and enable them to access self-employment and skilled wage employment opportunities and break the inter-generationality in sanitation work.
  • In addition, NAMASTE would bring about a behaviour change amongst citizens towards sanitation workers and enhance demand for safe sanitation services.
  • NAMASTE aims to achieve the following outcomes:
    • Zero fatalities in sanitation work in India
    • All sanitation work is performed by skilled workers
    • No sanitation workers come in direct contact with human faecal matter
    • Sanitation workers are collectivized into SHGs and are empowered to run sanitation enterprises
    • All Sewer and Septic tank  sanitation workers (SSWs) have access to alternative livelihoods
    • Strengthened supervisory and monitoring systems at national, state and ULB levels to ensure enforcement and monitoring of safe sanitation work
    • Increased awareness amongst sanitation services seekers (individuals and institutions) to seek services from registered and skilled sanitation workers
  • Enumeration: NAMASTE envisages identifying the Sewer/Septic Tank Workers (SSWs) with a focus on informal workforce who are engaged in hazardous cleaning operations. The database will enable MoSJE, NSKFDC and MoHUA (including DAY-NULM, SBM 2.0 and AMRUT) to reach to the SSWs and their families and provide them necessary support for collectivization, skill building and linking with social and financial benefits. The Survey would be conducted by the City NAMASTE Managers and validated by the concerned ULB.  The survey would be held in digital mode in a pre-approved format.
  • Extending Insurance Scheme Benefits: For providing a safety net to identified SSWs and their families they will be covered under the Ayushyaman Bharat- Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY). The premium for AB-PMJAY for those identified SSWs families who are not covered earlier shall be borne under NAMASTE.
  • Livelihood Assistance: The Action Plan will promote mechanization and enterprise development. NSKFDC will provide funding support and subsidy(capital +interest) to the sanitation workers, SHGs of SSWs and private sanitation service organizations (PSSOs) to procure sanitation related equipment and vehicles under SUY for total mechanization of cleaning operations.

3 . Commission on Railway Safety

Context:  Investigation into the recent tragic train accident in Odisha, the deadliest train crash in India in over two decades, is being conducted by the Commissioner of Railway Safety for the south-eastern circle. Rail safety commissioners are part of the Commission of Railway Safety (CRS), a government body that acts as the railway safety authority in the country.

Commision of Railway Safety

  • The Commission of Railway Safety works under the administrative control of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India. Though the administrative control is that of the MoCA, the Commission derives its statutory powers from the Railways Act, 1989.
  • Functions– The main functions of the Commission are inspectorial, investigatory and advisory in nature. The Commission is also entrusted with conducting inquiries into serious train accidents and making recommendations for improving the safety of the Indian railways. The Commission directs, advises and cautions the Railway Board that works under the Ministry of Railways.
  • Composition– The Commission comprises of one Chief Commissioner located at Lucknow and nine Commissioners located across different places in the country. The Commissioners look after different Zonal Railways and have Deputy Commissioners working under them.
  • Due to the Commission working under the administrative control of the MoCA and deriving its statutory powers from the Railways Act, 1989, there is a system of ‘dual control’ of the Commission of Railway Safety, which is the reason its independence is often questioned.

Issues in functioning of the Commission of Railway Safety

  • A Parliamentary Standing Committee headed by Shri TG Venkatesh presented its report before the Rajya Sabha in 2022 highlighting the issues in the functioning of the Commission of Railway Safety.
  • Several key issues regarding the functioning of the Commission were highlighted, though not acted upon by the Government. These include issues regarding the independence of the Commission, the powers bestowed upon it, the response of the Government to the recommendations of the Commission and many more.

‘Dual’ control over the Commission of Railway Safety:

  • The report said that involvement of two Ministries in the functioning of the Commission leads to avoidable confusion in the command structure and that there is an immediate need to free the CRS from undue influence of both the Ministries.
  • The report said that it is a significant problem that Deputy Commissioners, part of the Commission, come from the Ministry of Railways on a deputation basis and go back to the Ministry after the completion of their deputation period.
  • The Deputy Commissioners are some of the most senior officers, second in the hierarchy after the Commissioners.
  • Such an important post should not be filled up on a deputation basis
  • The Committee in its report has suggested that the Commission should be made an autonomous statutory body on the lines of many other independent regulatory bodies.

Power of the Railway Ministry to amend the Railways Act, 1989:

  • As per the existing position, the Ministry of Railways has full power and authority to amend the provisions of the Railways Act, 1989. This allows the Ministry to bring about unilateral changes to the rules, without consulting the CRS.
  • The Railways Act also gives absolute power to the Ministry of Railways to either accept, regulate or modify any condition proposed by the CRS to the Ministry. Views of the CRS need not be mandatorily taken into account by the Ministry, as the current law stands. Due to this, the Parliamentary Panel recommended that a complete review of the procedure be adopted for amending the provisions of the Railways Act, 1989.

Action Taken Reports of the Railway Board:

  • The Commission for Railway Safety is required to submit an accident report to the Ministry of Railways within the prescribed time limit of 30 days for the preliminary report and 180 days for the final report.
  • This is done after conducting a detailed inquiry along with recommendations to avoid such accidents in the future. The Railway Board, after due deliberations, is required to submit an Action Taken Report to the Commission with para-wise remarks against each recommendation. No time limit is prescribed for the Railway Board to submit its Action Taken Report.
  • Data mentioned in the report of the Parliamentary Panel suggests that there are 15 Action Taken Reports that are still pending with the Railway Board with the oldest being from an accident in 2013-14, implying a delay of more than 9-10 years.
  • The Parliamentary report suggests that such a huge delay in submitting the Action Taken Reports makes the whole effort of investigating the accident fruitless. An urgent need was expressed by the Panel to streamline the procedure for submitting ATRs and fixing a time frame from the Railway Board to do so.
  • Data also suggests that from the 31 Action Taken Reports that have been received in the past five years, 89% of the recommendations made by the CRS have been fully or partially accepted by the Railways Ministry and 11% recommendations have either not been accepted or are under consideration.

Government Response to Report

  • The response of the government to the Parliamentary Panel report was submitted in March this year. The Ministry put forth the details of the action taken by the Ministry of Civil Aviation on the recommendations made. Out of 15 recommendations made by the Panel, the government accepted one recommendation. Four were pursued by the Ministry and 10 recommendations have been rejected.
  • The only recommendation accepted by the government was regarding the development and implementation of the Train Collision Avoidance System ‘KAVACH’.
  • On the issue of dual control of the Commission, the Ministry has informed the Parliament that the autonomy and independence of the Commission is ensured by virtue of its functioning under a Ministry different from the Ministry of Railways.
  • The government said there was no interference in the day to day working of the Commission by the Ministry of Railways and sufficient safeguards have been built to ensure the Commission’s independent working.
  • Regarding the deputation of the Deputy Commissioners, the Government says that if Deputy Commissioners are selected on a permanent basis, there will be hardly any promotion avenues for them and hence the current existing system of taking Deputy Commissioners on deputation seems adequate.
  • The Ministry of Civil Aviation is of the view that autonomy of the Commission needs to be maintained by way of consultation with the Railways Ministry. The government also said no decision can be taken unilaterally on any issue that concerns more than one department.
  • Regarding the delayed submission of the Action Taken Reports, the government said there should be a fixed time frame for submission of the Action Taken Reports, since delay in implementation of safety recommendations is not desirable from a public safety point of view.
  • The government said responses may get delayed in certain cases due to not receiving information from a third agency. In such cases, it said, a monthly status report should be forwarded by the Ministry of Railways to the Chief Commissioner’s office.

4 . Hypersonic Missile

Context : Iran claimed that it had created a hypersonic missile capable of travelling at 15 times the speed of sound. Iran’s state television reported that the missile — called Fattah, or “Conqueror” in Farsi — had a range of up to 1,400 kilometers. The report also claimed the missile could pass through any regional missile defense system, though it offered no evidence to support the claim.

What is a hypersonic missile?

  • A hypersonic missile is a weapon system which flies at least at the speed of Mach 5 i.e. five times the speed of sound and is manoeuvrable.
  • The manoeuvrability of the hypersonic missile is what sets it apart from a ballistic missile as the latter follows a set course or a ballistic trajectory. Thus, unlike ballistic missiles, hypersonic missiles do not follow a ballistic trajectory and can be manoeuvred to the intended target.
  • The two types of hypersonic weapons systems are Hypersonic Glide Vehicles (HGV) and Hypersonic Cruise Missiles. The HGV are launched from a rocket before gliding to the intended target while the hypersonic cruise missile is powered by air breathing high speed engines or ‘scramjets’ after acquiring their target

What are the advantages of hypersonic missiles?

  • Hypersonic weapons can enable responsive, long range strike options against distant, defended or time critical threats (such as road mobile missiles) when other forces are unavailable, denied access or not preferred.
  • Conventional hypersonic weapons use only kinetic energy i.e. energy derived from motion, to destroy unhardened targets or even underground facilities.

Are hypersonic missiles detectable in flight?

  • Hypersonic weapons could challenge detection and defence due to their speed, manoeuvrability and low altitude of flight.
  • Ground based radars or terrestrial radars cannot detect hypersonic missiles until late in the flight of the weapon. This delayed detection makes it difficult for the responders to the missile attack to assess their options and to attempt to intercept the missile.

Which countries possess hypersonic weapons or are in process of developing them?

  • Apart from Russia, which announced its hypersonic missile ‘Kinzhal’ or Dagger in 2018 and has now used it for the first time in battle conditions in Ukraine, China too is reportedly in possession of this weapon system and has twice used it to circumnavigate the globe before landing near a target in August 2021.
  • The Russian Kinzhal missile is said to be a modification of its Iskander missile and was test fired from a MiG-31 aircraft in July 2018 striking at a target 500 miles away. As per Russian media reports the Kinzhal has a top speed of Mach 10 with a range up to 1200 miles when launched from a MiG-31. Russia is also said to be using the missile on Su-34 long range fighter and is working towards mounting it on Tu-22M3 strategic bomber.
  • China is said to have tested a HGV in August 2021 launched by a Long March rocket. There are reports that China may use this weapon system by mating conventionally armed HGVs with the DF-21 and DF-26 missiles that it possesses. China has also extensively tested the DF-ZF HGV with a range of 1200 miles and is said to have fielded it in 2020. According to US defence officials quoted in the Congressional report, China has also successfully tested Starry Sky-2 (Xing Kong-2), a nuclear capable hypersonic vehicle prototype in August 2018.
  • In the US, the hypersonic weapons are being developed under its Navy’s conventional Prompt Strike Programme as well as through Army, Air Force and Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). While the US, Russia and China are in advanced stages of hypersonic missile programmes, India, France, Germany, Japan and Australia too are developing hypersonic weapons.

What is known about the Indian hypersonic missile programme?

  • India is also developing an indigenous, dual capable (conventional as well as nuclear) hypersonic cruise missile as part of its Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle programme and has successfully tested a Mach 6 scramjet in June 2019 and September 2020. “India operates approximately 12 hypersonic wind tunnels and is capable of testing speeds upto Mach 13,”

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