Daily Current Affairs : 8th September 2020

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Hypersonic technology demonstrator vehicle
  2. KV Kamath Committee
  3. Special Frontier Force (SFF)
  4. X Y, Z Category of Security
  5. Multi Dimensional Poverty Index
  6. Spraying Disinfectants on Humans
  7. Facts for Prelims

1 . Hypersonic cruise vehicle


Context: India has conducted a successful test flight of the indigenously developed hypersonic technology demonstrator vehicle (HSTDV).

About Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV)

  • Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV) is an unmanned scramjet demonstration aircraft for hypersonic speed flight, developed by India’s DRDO.
  • HSTDV is not a weapon itself but and is being developed as a carrier vehicle for hypersonic and long-range cruise missiles.
  • The HSTDV cruise vehicle is mounted on a solid rocket motor, which takes it to a required altitude. Once it attains certain mach numbers for speed, the cruise vehicle is ejected out of the launch vehicle. After that, the scramjet engine is ignited automatically.
  • The HSTDV has an air-breathing scramjet engine which means that it uses atmospheric oxygen for propulsion.

How fast is HSTDV

  • HSTDV can cruise at a speed of Mach 6, or six times the speed of sound, and rise up to an altitude of 32.5km in just 20 seconds.
  • DRDO tested the HSDTV with the help of Agni missile boosters, it successfully achieved an altitude of over 30,000 ft in just 22 seconds at a speed of Mach 6.
  • Hypersonic weapons when fully completed pose a challenge to the enemy country as they will find it difficult to restrain a missile attacking a designated target. Due to its high speed, most radars will not be able to detect it early enough to intercept it.

About the Launch

  • The HSTDV took off from the Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam launch complex on Wheeler Island off the Odisha coast.
  • The hypersonic cruise vehicle was launched using a proven solid rocket motor, which took it to an altitude of 30 km, where the aerodynamic heat shields were separated at hypersonic speed.
  • The cruise vehicle separated from the launch vehicle and the air intake opened as planned.
  • The hypersonic combustion sustained and the cruise vehicle continued on its desired flight path at a velocity of six times the speed of sound, which is nearly 2 km/s, for more than 20s.
  • With this test flight, India has joined the elite club of the US, Russia and China who possess such technology.

Significance

  • It is a giant leap in indigenous defence technologies and significant milestone towards a Sashakt Bharat and Atmanirbhar Bharat.
  • DRDO with this mission, has demonstrated capabilities for highly complex technology that will serve as the building block for NextGen Hypersonic vehicles 
  • The indegenous development of the technology will also boost the development of the systems built with hypersonic vehicles at its core, including both offensive and defensive hypersonic cruise missile systems and also in the space sector. With this technology, cruise missiles could now travel at hypersonic speeds.

Application

  • The HSDTV has a range of uses, including missiles for air defence, surveillance and reconnaissance, besides aiding the development of energy-efficient, low-cost and reusable satellite launch vehicles.

Ramjet, Scramjet Engine & Dual mode ramjet

  • Ramjet : A ramjet is a form of air-breathing jet engine that uses the vehicle’s forward motion to compress incoming air for combustion without a rotating compressor. Fuel is injected in the combustion chamber where it mixes with the hot compressed air and ignites. A ramjet-powered vehicle requires an assisted take-off like a rocket assist to accelerate it to a speed where it begins to produce thrust.
    • Ramjets work most efficiently at supersonic speeds around Mach 3 (three times the speed of sound) and can operate up to speeds of Mach 6. However, the ramjet efficiency starts to drop when the vehicle reaches hypersonic speeds.
  • Scramjet :A scramjet engine is an improvement over the ramjet engine as it efficiently operates at hypersonic speeds and allows supersonic combustion. Thus it is known as Supersonic Combustion Ramjet, or Scramjet. 
  • Dual Mode Ramjet : A dual mode ramjet (DMRJ) is a type of jet engine where a ramjet transforms into scramjet over Mach 4-8 range, which means it can efficiently operate both in subsonic and supersonic combustor modes. 

Difference between Hypersonic Missile, Cruise and ballistic missiles, ICBM and Anti satellite Missiles

  • Hypersonic missiles : Hypersonic missiles travel at speeds faster than 3,800 miles per hour or 6,115 km per hour, much faster than other ballistic and cruise missiles. They can deliver conventional or nuclear payloads within minutes. They are highly manoeuvrable and do not follow a predictable arc as they travel. They are said to combine the speed of ballistic missiles with the manoeuvring capabilities of cruise missiles. The speed makes them hard to track compared to traditional missile tech.
  • Cruise missiles : A cruise missile either locates its target or has a preset target. It navigates using a guidance system — such as inertial or beyond visual range satellite GPS guidance — and comprises a payload and aircraft propulsion system. Cruise missiles can be launched from land, sea or air for land attacks and anti-shipping purposes, and can travel at subsonic, supersonic and hypersonic speeds. Since they stay relatively close to the surface of the earth, they cannot be detected easily by anti-missile systems, and are designed to carry large payloads with high precision.
  • Ballistic missiles, : Ballistic missiles, meanwhile, are launched directly into the upper layers of the earth’s atmosphere. They travel outside the atmosphere, where the warhead detaches from the missile and falls towards a predetermined target. They are rocket-propelled self-guided weapons systems which can carry conventional or nuclear munitions. They can be launched from aircraft, ships and submarines, and land.
  • Intercontinental ballistic missiles or ICBMs are guided missiles which can deliver nuclear and other payloads. ICBMs have a minimum range of 5,500 km, with maximum ranges varying from 7,000 to 16,000 km. Only a handful of countries, including Russia, United States, China, France, India and North Korea, have ICBM capabilities. In 2018, India successfully test-fired nuclear-capable ballistic missile Agni-V, with a strike range of 5,000 km, from the Abdul Kalam Island.
  • Anti-satellite missiles : Anti-satellite missiles (ASAT) can incapacitate or destroy satellites for strategic military purposes. Several nations possess operational ASAT systems. Other anti-satellite weapons include ground-based jammers to disrupt the signal from navigation and communications satellites. The United States, Russia, and China are among countries pursuing anti-satellite weapons. India had successfully test fired an ASAT on 27 March last year, knocking off one of its own satellites 300 km in space.

2 . KV Kamath Committee


Context: RBI has issued a circular for resolution of stressed assets based on the recommendations of the K.V. Kamath committee which have been broadly accepted by the Reserve Bank.

Background

  • The RBI had formed a five member committee under the chairmanship of former ICICI Bank CEO KV Kamath to make recommendations on the financial parameters to be considered in the restructuring of loans impacted by the Covid 19 pandemic. The committee will also scrutinize restructuring of loans above Rs 1500 crore.
  • The committee recently submitted the report and RBI accepted the recommendations of the committee.

Recommendations by the committee

  • Sector Specific Thresholds for 26 sectors : The committee has recommended sector-specific thresholds for each ratio in respect of 26 sectors to be taken into account while finalizing the resolution plans. The plan has to be prepared based on the pre-Covid-19 operating and financial performance of the borrower and impact of Covid-19 on its operating and financial performance in the first and second quarter of this fiscal and to assess the cash-flows for this, next and subsequent years.
  • Kamath committee has identified four financial parameters including
    • Total outside liabilities /adjusted tangible net worth
    • Total debt/Ebitda Current ratio
    • Current Ratio
    • Debt service coverage ratio
    • Average debt service coverage ratio
  • The sector-specific thresholds (ceilings or floors, as the case may be) for each of the above key ratios should be considered by the lending institutions in the resolution assumptions with respect to an eligible borrower
  • In its report the five-member committee said power, construction, iron and steel, roads, real estate, wholesale trading, textiles, consumer durables, aviation, logistics, hotels, restaurants and tourism, mining are among the sectors that will need restructuring.
  • The ratios prescribed are intended as floors or ceilings. In these financial projections, the threshold total outside liability to adjusted tangible net worth and debt to EBIDTA ratios should be met by fiscal 2023. The other three threshold ratios should be met for each year of the projections starting from fiscal 2022. The base case financial projections need to be prepared as part of resolution plan
  • Automobile Sector: The committee has not prescribed any threshold for current ratio for the automobile sector due to the “just in time inventory” business model for raw materials and parts, and finished goods inventory being funded by channel financing available from the dealers.
  • Aviation: For aviation the committee has kept current ratio at 0.40 and above because its cash and carry model and higher current liabilities in form of advance received from customers which are approximately two

Definition of the ratios

  • Tangible net worth: TOL/TNW is a measure of a company’s financial leverage calculated by dividing the total liabilities of the company by the total net worth of the business.
  • Total outside liability is the sum of all the liabilities of the business and total net worth is the sum of share capital and surplus reserves of the company. This ratio gives an accurate picture of the businesses reliance on debt.
  • Debt/EBITDA—earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization: It is a ratio measuring the amount of income generated and available to pay down debt before covering interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization expenses. Debt/EBITDA measures a company’s ability to pay off its incurred debt. A high ratio result could indicate a company has a too-heavy debt load.
  • Current Ratio: It is a measure of businesses liquidity calculated by dividing the total current assets of the business by total liabilities. This ratio is a great indicator of a businesses ability to repay its short-term obligations as they become due over the next 12 months.
  • Debt Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR): It measures the ability of a company to use its operating income to repay all its debt obligations, including repayment of principal and interest on both short-term and long-term debt. This ratio is often used when a company has any borrowings on its balance sheet such as bonds, loans, or lines of credit.
  • Average Debt Service Coverage Ratio (ADSCR): It is the addition of net cash accruals along with interest and finance charges divided by addition of current portion of long term debt with interest and finance charges over the period of the loan.

3 . Special Frontier Force (SFF)


Context : On Monday, the funeral of Nyima Tenzin, a soldier of the Special Frontier Force (SFF), was held in Leh,

Background

  • There have been reports about SFF being involved in the August 29-31 operation to occupy previously unoccupied heights in Chushul sector in eastern Ladakh, the Army has so far maintained an official silence, and sources have said Tenzin was on a patrol when he stepped on a landmine dating back to the 1962 war, and was killed. Another SFF soldier was injured.
  • This is the first time that the SSF, a secretive force, has been so much in the public eye.

What is the Special Frontier Force (SFF)?

  • The SFF was raised by the Intelligence Bureau in the immediate aftermath of the 1962 China-India war.
  • The covert outfit recruited Tibetan exiles (now it has a mixture of Tibetans and Gorkhas) and was initially named Establishment 22 (Major Gen Sujan Singh Uban, an Artillery officer who raised the group, named it after the 22 Mountain Regiment he commanded).
  • Subsequently renamed SSF, it now falls under the purview of the Cabinet Secretariat.
  • On the ground, it is headed by an Inspector General who is an Army officer of the rank of Major General.
  • The units comprising the SFF are known as Vikas battalions. Former Army Chief Gen Dalbir Singh held that office at one point.
  • It is commonly believed that the SFF was raised by India in coordination with US intelligence agencies. However, former CIA officer John Kennet Knaus, who worked extensively in Tibet, wrote in Orphans of the Cold War: America and the Tibetan Struggle for Survival that while the SFF had “Washington’s full endorsement”, it was B N Mullik, chief of India’s Intelligence Bureau, who created the SFF “on his own”. But A Tom Grunfeld, history professor at the State University of New York, wrote in a paper in 2000 that the Indian government had created a “Tibetan military force called the Special Frontier Force with US support” and “eventually 12,000 Tibetans were trained by US Special Forces (Green Berets) and partly funded by the US to operate from bases along the Kashmir frontier where they crossed the border into Tibet planting electronic listening devices”.
  • The original task as envisaged was clandestine operations behind the lines in Tibet

Are SFF units part of the Army?

  • Strictly speaking, the SFF units are not part of the Army but function under its operational control.
  • SSF units have their own rank structures, of equivalent status with Army ranks. However, they are special forces personnel highly trained for a variety of tasks.

How are they trained?

  • The SSF training centre is in Chakrata, 100 km outside Dehradun. Recruits are imparted special forces training by the Army.
  • The training takes place under the auspices of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW). As the force was envisaged as one that would work behind enemy lines, all SFF soldiers are trained parachutists.
  • Initially, the para training takes place at Sarsawa near Saharanpur, where the Aviation Research Centre, R&AW’s covert air wing, has a base. More advanced training takes place at Stakna in Ladakh to simulate high-altitude paradrops.
  • Women soldiers too form part of SFF units, and are given the same training as men. It was envisaged that women working alongside men would be able to provide better camouflage.

What was the SFF’s role in 1971 war?

  • In 1971, the SFF operated in the Chittagong hill tracts to neutralise Pakistan Army positions and help the Indian Army advance. This was Operation Eagle. They were airdropped behind enemy lines to destroy lines of communication.
  • They played a vital role in preventing the escape of Pakistan Army personnel from Bangladesh into Burma. By one estimate, over 3,000 SFF personnel were used in the eastern theatre of the 1971 war. A large number of them received bravery awards.

What other major operations have SFF units taken part in?

  • There are several overt and covert operations in which SFF units have taken part over the years, including Operation Blue Star in Golden Temple Amritsar, the Kargil conflict, and counter-insurgency operations. Details of many operations, however, are classified.
  • This is why the spotlight on the SFF in the recent Ladakh operation is unprecedented. Some would even say it is part of deliberate signalling by India to China. While several SFF soldiers have been killed in earlier operations, Ram Madhav’s presence at Nyima Tenzin’s funeral on Monday marks the first time a politician has attended such an event.

4 . X Y, Z Category of Security


What is X, Y and Z security category?

  • In India, security is provided to high-risk individuals by the police and local government.
  • Depending on the threat perception to the person, the category is divided into four tiers: Z+ (highest level); Z; Y and X.
  • Individuals under the security blanket include Cabinet Ministers, Chief Ministers, High Court and Supreme Court Judges, leading politicians, and senior bureaucrats.

Number of Security Personnel

  • Z+ category has a security cover of 36 personnel.
  • Z category has a security cover of 22 personnel.
  • Y category has a security cover of 11 personnel.
  • X category has a security cover of 2 personnel.

Security Forces Used

  • The NSG is used extensively to guard VIPs and VVIPs, especially those in the ‘Z-plus’ category. Many NSG personnel are seconded to the Special Protection Group (SPG) which guards the Prime Minister.
  • SPG commandos cater to the PM, former PMs and their immediate family members as part of the z+ category of security cover.
  • The ‘z’ category, in turn, entails security cover by the Delhi police or the ITBF or CRPF personnel and one escort car.
  • The ‘y’ category encompasses two personal security officers (PSOs) and the ‘x’ category, one PSOs.

5 . Multi Dimensional Poverty Index


Context : NITI Aayog on Monday said it is at an advanced stage for preparation of a Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) parameter dashboard to rank states and Union Territories, along with a State Reform Action Plan (SRAP).

Background

The Aayog, which is the nodal agency for leveraging the monitoring mechanism of the Global MPI to drive reforms, has set up a coordination committee comprising members from different ministries and departments in this regard.

Global MPI

  • The Global MPI is part of the government’s decision to monitor the performance of the country on 29 select global indices, it said in a statement.
  • The objective of the Global Indices to Drive Reforms and Growth (GIRG) exercise is to fulfil the need to measure and monitor India’s performance on various important social and economic parameters and enable the utilisation of these indices as tools for self-improvement, bring about reforms in policies, while improving last-mile implementation of government schemes
  • Global MPI is an international measure of multidimensional poverty covering 107 developing countries. It was first developed in 2010 by Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative and United Nations Development Programme for UNDP’’s Human Development Reports.
  • The dimensions of poverty range from deprivations of health facilities, education and living standards. The MPI measures acute poverty and people experiencing multiple deprivations, for example, those who are both undernourished and do not have safe drinking water, adequate sanitation and clean fuel. These indicators are set to minimum international agreed standards in basic functioning.

6 . Spraying Disinfectants on Humans


Context : Spraying of disinfectants on humans causes both physical and psychological harm, the Union Ministry of Health informed the Supreme Court on Monday.

How is “disinfection” carried out?

  • Disinfection for the SARS-CoV2 virus is usually done using a solution of sodium hypochlorite, commonly known as bleach. It is a harsh chemical. “It (disnfectant) refers to substances applied on inanimate objects owing to their strong chemical properties.
  • Chemical disinfectants are recommended for cleaning and disinfection only of frequently touched areas/surfaces by those who are suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19,” the advisory lays down.

What is the problem with spraying people with this solution?

  • It can be harmful. Besides, the act itself is pointless. This is because there is a specific time that the disinfectant takes to act on an area, and as per the disinfection protocol, any place that has been disinfected has to be kept shut overnight. “There are very clear norms for this. You disinfect with sodium hypochlorite and then the place remains closed overnight. If during that time anybody enters the place, regardless of whether that person is carrying the infection or not, the process has to be repeated

What are the possible harmful effects?

  • The solution of sodium hypochlorite is unstable and quickly breaks down to release chlorine. Chlorine can have several harmful effects
  • Spraying of chlorine on individuals can lead to irritation of eyes and skin and potentially gastrointestinal effects such as nausea and vomiting.
  • Inhalation of sodium hypochlorite can lead to irritation of mucous membranes to the nose, throat, respiratory tract and may also cause bronchospasm.
  • Additionally use of such measures may in fact lead to a false sense of disinfection & safety and actually hamper public observance to hand washing and social distancing measures

Effectiveness

  • A Joint Monitoring Group meeting held by top health organisations, including the World Health Organisation, the Directorate General of Health Services, the Indian Council of Medical Research, etc, on April 4 logically concluded that external spraying does not kill the virus that has already entered the body.
  • In indoor spaces, routine application of disinfectants to environmental surfaces by spraying or fogging is not recommended for COVID-19 as the disinfectant may not be effective in removing organic material and may miss surfaces shielded by objects, folded fabrics or surfaces with intricate designs “It’s better to use a cloth soaked in disinfectant indoors
  • Similarly, the effect of spraying outdoors was negligible. Disinfectants were deactivated the moment they touched dirt or debris. Streets and sidewalks were porous and the spray cannot reach everywhere.

7 . Facts for Prelims


Sa-Dhan

  • Sa-Dhan the Association of Community Development Finance Institution has been working for supporting and strengthening the agenda of Financial Inclusion in India and creates a space and understanding of microfinance with policy makers, bankers, government, researchers and practitioners.
  • They are engaged with all kind of operating models, legal forms and have also roped in the technical institutions in the process. At present, Sa-Dhan has the membership base of 219 institutions (Including NBFC-MFI, NBFCs, Societies, Trusts,  Cooperatives, and SHPIs) also including Banks / SFB, Rating agencies and Capacity Building agencies, representing all legal forms and operating models. 
  • Sa-Dhan is recognized by the RBI as Self Regulatory Organisation (SRO) for the Microfinance Sector.
  • Sa-Dhan is recognized as National Support Organization (NSO) by National Rural Livelihood Promotion (NRLM).

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