IASCLUB Daily Current Affairs : 07 September 2019

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 ‘Indus Valley settlers had a distinct genetic lineage’

Topic: GS-I:  History

Throwing fresh light on the Indus Valley Civilisation, a study of DNA from skeletal remains excavated from the Harappan cemetery at Rakhigarhi argues that the hunter-gatherers of South Asia, who then became a settled people, have an independent origin.

More findings:

  • The researchers who conducted the study contend that the theory of the Harappans having Steppe pastoral or ancient Iranian farmer ancestry thus stands refuted. The finding also negates the hypothesis about mass migration during Harappan times from outside South Asia.
  • Researchers had successfully sequenced the first genome of an individual from Harappa and combining it with archaeological data, found that hunter-gatherers of South Asia had an independent origin, and authored the settled way of life in this part of the world.
  • They do not contain genome from either the Steppe region or ancient Iranian farmers. The genetic continuity from hunter gatherer to modern times is visible in the DNA results.
  • The study, finds that the same hunter-gatherer communities developed into agricultural communities and formed the Harappan civilisation.
  • The researchers also suggest that there was a movement of people from east to west as the Harappan people’s presence is evident at sites like Gonur in Turkmenistan and Sahr-i-Sokhta in Iran.
  • As the Harappans traded with Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Persian Gulf and almost all across South Asia, there was bound to be movement of people, resulting in a mixed genetic history. India had a heterogeneous population right from the beginning of settled life. There was a hint that settled life and domestication went from South Asia to West Asia.
  • The Rakhigarhi study was reported in a paper titled “An Ancient Harappan Genome Lacks Ancestry from Steppe Pastoralists or Iranian farmers” in the journal Cell.

Origins of farming

  • In Europe, ancient-DNA studies have shown that agriculture tended to spread through an influx of people with ancestry in Anatolia, in modern day Turkey.
  • The new study shows a similar dynamic in Iran and Turan (southern Central Asia), where the researchers found that Anatolian-related ancestry and farming arrived around the same time. In South Asia, however, the story appears quite different. The researchers found an absence of Anatolian-related ancestry.

India, South Korea seal logistics pact

Topic: GS –II: International relations

India and South Korea concluded a military logistics agreement during the ongoing visit of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to Seoul.

More in news:

  • The two countries also formulated a forward-looking road map to take bilateral defence industry cooperation to the next level.
  • The Ministers exchanged views on regional and international developments of mutual interest. Two MoUs to further defence educational exchanges and extend logistical support to each other’s Navies were signed.
  • A defence source said this foreign cooperation initiative would greatly help interoperability.India will be able to get assured logistic support when it operates in the Indo-Pacific in the ports of South Korea.Such agreements extend the reach, presence and sustainability of Navy ships when deployed at great distances from home ports.
  • Singh also invited the South Korean industry to explore the feasibility of local production of items, used in main weapon systems imported by defence public sector undertakings (PSUs).

Previous lunar missions

Topic: GS -III: Science and Technology

Chandrayaan-2 is the 110th space mission to the moon, and the 11th this decade. A bulk of the moon missions, 90 out of the 109 so far, were sent between 1958 and 1976. There was a complete lull in moon exploration after that.

More in news:

  • Missions to moon slowly resumed in the 1990s but have picked up steam only in the last decade. The discovery of the presence of water on the moon, by Chandrayaan-1 mission in 2008, has been one of the prime reasons for a renewed interest in moon.

Here are the different kinds of moon missions:

  • Flybys: These are the missions in which the spacecraft passed near the moon but did not get into an orbit around the moon. These were either designed to study the moon from a distance, or were on their way to some other planetary body or deep space exploration and happened to pass by the moon. Some early examples of flyby missions were Pioneer 3 and 4 by the United States and Luna 3 of the then USSR.
  • Orbiters: These were spacecraft that were designed to get into a lunar orbit and carry out prolonged studies of the moon’s surface and atmosphere. India’s Chandrayaan-1 was an Orbiter, so were 46 other moon missions from various countries. Orbiter missions are the most common way to study a planetary body. So far, landings have been possible only on moon and Mars. All other planetary bodies have been studied through Orbiter or flyby missions.
  • Impact Mission: These are an extension of orbiter missions. While the main spacecraft keeps going around the moon, one or more instruments onboard make an uncontrolled landing on the moon. They get destroyed after the impact, but still send some useful information about the moon while on their way. One of the instruments on Chandrayaan-1, called Moon Impact Probe, or MIP, was also made to crash land on the moon’s surface in a similar way. ISRO claims that data sent by the MIP had presented additional evidence of presence of water on moon, but these findings could not be published because of calibration errors.
  • Landers: These missions involve the soft-landing of the spacecraft on the moon. These are more complicated than the Orbiter missions. In fact, the first 11 attempted lander missions had all ended in failure. The first landing on the moon was accomplished on January 31, 1966, by the Luna 9 spacecraft of the then USSR. It also relayed the first picture from the moon’s surface.
  • Rovers: These are an extension of the lander missions. The lander spacecraft, because they are bulky and have to stand on legs, remain stationary after landing. The instruments onboard can carry out observations and collect data from close quarters but cannot come in contact with the moon’s surface or move around. Rovers are designed to overcome this difficulty. Rovers are a special wheeled payloads on the lander that can detach themselves from the spacecraft and move around on moon’s surface, collecting very useful information that instruments within the lander would not be able to obtain. The rover onboard Vikram lander in the Chandrayaan-2 mission is called Pragyaan. Earlier this year, a Chinese lander and rover mission reached the moon. These are still active.
  • Human missions: These involve the landing of astronauts on the moon’s surface. So far only NASA of the United States has been able to land human beings on the moon. So far, six teams of two astronauts each have landed on the moon, all between 1969 and 1972. After that, no attempt has been made to land a moon. But NASA has now announced plans to send another manned mission by the year 2024.

Chandrayaan-2 and the quest for water on moon

Topic: GS -III: Science and Technology

The possibility of the presence of water on the moon has been talked about since the 1970s, though the evidence at that time was very weak. In fact, the rock and soil samples brought back by the Apollo missions of NASA in the late 1960s and early 1970s suggested that moon’s surface was bone dry, bereft of any water.

More in news:

  • In the 1990s, two NASA missions, Clementine and Lunar Prospector, picked up signals of water on moon. So did Cassini mission in 1998 which flew by the moon on its way towards Saturn.
  • But the clinching evidence of presence of water on moon was provided by two instruments on board Chandrayaan-1 which was launched in 2008. It has totally changed the way scientists now view the moon, and has led to a renewed interest in lunar exploration.
  • Presence of water is crucial for the hopes of using moon as a future launch pad to send probes deeper in to space. Such a facility would require human beings to use moon for extended period stays which is not possible in the absence of water. It is economically not feasible to transport water from the earth to sustain extended human presence on moon.
  • A lot of water is believed to be present in the polar regions of the moon, trapped as ice in deep craters. Some estimates put the amounts of ice in the polar region to be in millions to billions of tonnes.

There is water on moon, but not in extractable form

  • There are several possibilities about the manner in which water detected on moon could have been formed. It is known that the lunar surface is full of oxides of different elements. These oxides could react with hydrogen ion in the solar winds to make hydroxyl molecules, which could combine again with hydrogen to make H20.
  • The water could also have come from external sources. Comets and asteroids that contain water vapour are known to have collided with the moon in the past, and could have transferred traces of this water to the moon, which could get trapped inside the extremely cold regions.
  • There are different implications if it is found that water on the moon was not formed in-situ but was delivered from outside, due to collision of comets or asteroids, for example. That would mean that the quantity of water was limited.
  • Chandrayaan-2 was originally scheduled to be launched way back in 2011 itself, immediately after Chandrayaan-1 which was launched in 2008 and remained functional in its orbit till about a year later. In fact, Chandrayaan-2 was conceived well before the launch, and success, of Chandrayaan-1.
  • At that time, however, Chandrayaan-2 was supposed to be a joint collaborative mission between India and Russia. While the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was to provide the rocket and the Orbiter module, the lander and rover modules were to come from Russia’s Roscosmos space agency. ISRO did not have the capability to build its own lander and rover at that time.
  • The kind of lander and rover that Russia was preparing to send on Chandrayaan-2, however, developed problem on a different mission, forcing Roscosmos to make design corrections. But the new proposed design was found to be incompatible to Chandrayaan-2. Russia had to eventually pull itself out from the collaboration, which left ISRO to make efforts to develop its own lander and rover through research and development. This task took a few years to accomplish.
  • This delay also provided ISRO additional time to improve on the design of the main spacecraft. The current Chandrayaan-2 composite module is a far superior design, and incorporates several additional safety features that would have not been possible in the original design that was scheduled to be launched in 2011.

Prepare plan for protection of the Great Indian Bustard: NGT

Topic: GS -III: Bio-diversity

Noting the high mortality rate of the Great Indian Bustard, the National Green Tribunal has directed the Centre to prepare a time-bound action plan within two months for protection of the birds.

More in news:

  • A Bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel also constituted a joint committee comprising officials of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Ministry of Power and Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.
  • The committee was asked to prepare an action plan for the implementation of suggestions put forth by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII).
  • The WII in its report also said steps should be taken to reduce poaching of the specie and other wildlife in the Thar landscape.
Great Indian Bustard:

·         The great Indian bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps) or Indian bustard is a bustard found on the Indian subcontinent.

·         A large bird with a horizontal body and long bare legs, giving it an ostrich like appearance, this bird is among the heaviest of the flying birds. Once common on the dry plains of the Indian subcontinent, as few as 150 individuals were estimated to survive in 2018 (reduced from an estimated 250 individuals in 2011) and the species is critically endangered by hunting and loss of its habitat, which consists of large expanses of dry grassland and scrub.

·         These birds are often found associated in the same habitat as blackbuck. It is protected under Wildlife Protection Act 1972 of India.

Images for Great Indian Bustard Feature GIB- Dr Ajit Deshmukh

Editorial section:

Bear hug-The Hindu

Calls of duty that’ll hurt the U.S. economy-The Hindu

Empowering primary care practitioners-The Hindu

Easing the pressure-The Hindu




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