India is one of the top-ranking countries in the field of basic research. The year 2018 saw Indian Science getting further recognized as one of the most powerful instruments of growth and development, especially in the emerging scenario and competitive economy. Department of Science & Technology (DST) established in May 1971, with the objective of promoting new areas of Science & Technology plays the role of a nodal department for organizing, coordinating and promoting S&T activities in the country. Some of the Key highlights, initiatives and achievements of the Department in the year 2018 are as follows:
One of the biggest developments of the year came in the month of December as the Union Cabinet gave its approval to the launch of National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems (NM-ICPS) to be implemented by Department of Science &Technology at a total outlay of Rs. 3660 crore for a period of five years. The Mission addresses the ever increasing technological requirements of the society, and takes into account the international trends and road maps of leading countries for the next generation technologies.
November saw the launch of The Global Cooling Prize ,an innovation challenge that aims to spur development of a residential cooling solution that has at least five times (5x) less climate impact than today's standard products. This technology could prevent up to 100 gigatons (GT) of CO2-equivalent emissions by 2050. Over US$3 million will be awarded in prize money after the 2-year competition. As part of its Act East policy, the 1st ASEAN-India InnoTech Summit was hosted by India in New Delhi during 29-30November 2018. The main objective of the InnoTech Summit was to exhibit and build networks between Indian and ASEAN researchers, scientists, Innovators, Technocrats, private companies and Start-ups etc to facilitate building an ASEAN-India Innovation and Technology Databank for sharing among India and ASEAN country stakeholders. An Inter-Ministerial / Departmental meeting was held on 6 November 2018 in under the Chairmanship of Secretary, DST to discuss harmonization of guidelines on emoluments and other service conditions of research personnel (JRF/SRF/RA) in R&D programmes of Central Government Departments and Agencies. The Inter-Ministerial Group recommended upward revision of fellowship with certain modification in the eligibility criterion.
Agreement on Cooperation in the field of Science Technology & Innovation between the Government of India and the Government of the Republic of Uzbekistan was concluded in the month of October. The DST-CII Technology Summit was held in New Delhi during October 29-30, 2018 with Italy as partner country.
To combat vehicular pollution WAYU (Wind Augmentation and purify Ying Unit) was inaugurated in September by Union Science & Technology Minister at ITO intersection and Mukarba Chowk in New Delhi.WAYU helps in reducing ambient air pollution levels ejected by vehicles at places, which have high concentration of pollutants. WAYU can reduce PM10, PM2.5, CO, VOCs, HC emitted in the atmosphere. The cost of device is Rs.60, 000 per device with a maintenance cost of Rs.1500 per month. September also witnessed The Make Tomorrow for Innovation Generation, a PPP Initiative between Department of Science & Technology, Intel Technologies and Indo -US S&T Forum. The programme encouraged the school children of the age group of 14-17 to make innovative prototypes using the kits given to them.
In July, a major partnership was announced between Indian Government and Republic of Korea in terms of establishment of Indo-Korean Center for Research and Innovation (IKCRI) in India, which will act as the hub for systematic operation and management of all cooperative programmes in research and innovation between the two countries including innovation & entrepreneurship and technology transfer.
Thirty young meritorious Indian scholars in the field of physiology and medicine and allied areas participated in the 68th Nobel Laureates meeting held in Lindau, Germany during 24-29 June 2018.The Indian team of students also visited various research institutes/universities in Germany during 02-06 July 2018 in the exposure visit jointly supported by DST and German Research Foundation. June also saw the Department deputing 27 young Indian Scientist / Innovators for participation in 3rd BRICS Scientist Conclave which was held in Durban (South Africa) during 25-29 June 2018. The Conclave covered 3 themes namely Energy, Water and Use of ICT for Societal applications. The Conclave also organized BRICS Young Innovators Award competition. One Indian innovator aged 23 years was awarded the “BRICS most promising Innovator” during the Conclave.
Mission Innovation Ministerial meeting during the month of May at Denmark and Sweden saw signing of bilateral Science, Technology Innovation Agreement. May 2018 also witnessed completion of 10 years of Indo-Dutch Science, Technology and Innovation cooperation.
A major event in April was the India – UK Science & Innovation Policy Dialogue wherein it was agreed to scale up collaboration to tackle global challenges realizing the potential of artificial intelligence (AI), digital economy, health technologies, cyber security and promoting clean growth, smart urbanisation, future mobility, environment (removal of plastic and micro-plastics from land and ocean), fight against climate change and participation in International Solar Alliance (ISA). This came in as a follow up of the two Prime Ministers statement that technology partnership is central to their vision of India-UK collaboration and their desire to raise it to £ 400 million by 2021.
The month of March witnessed The President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, inaugurating the Festival of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (FINE) and presenting the Gandhian Young Technological Innovation Awards at Rashtrapati Bhavan.
The month of January saw Department of Science and Technologyand the National Technological Innovation Authority of Israel jointly establishing a US$ 40m “India-Israel Industrial R&D and Technological Innovation Fund (I4 Fund)” for a period of five years. This fund will extend support to joint R&D projects aimed to co-develop innovative technology-driven products, services or processes that have potential for commercialization. The Fund will provide opportunity for techno-economic cooperation between India and Israel by extending institutional support in building up consortia including private industry, enterprises and R&D institutions.
The beginning of 2018 also saw the launch of three Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB)’s Schemes by Union Science & Technology Minister viz.
Teacher Associate ship for Research Excellence (TARE): The Scheme aims to tap the latent potential of faculty working in state universities, colleges and private academic institutions who are well trained but have difficulty in pursuing their research due to varied reasons including lack of facilities, funding and guidance. This scheme facilitates mobility of such faculty members to carryout research in a well-established public funded institution such as IITs, IISc, IISERS and other National Institutions (NITs, CSIR, ICAR, ICMR labs, etc) and Central Universities located preferably nearer to the institution where the faculty member is working. Up to 500 TAs will be supported under this scheme.
Overseas Visiting Doctoral Fellowship (OVDF): This scheme offers opportunities for up to 100 PhD students admitted in the Indian institutions for gaining exposure and training in overseas universities / institutions of repute and areas of importance to country for period up to 12 months during their doctoral research.
SERB Distinguished Investigator Award (DIA): DIA has been initiated to recognize and reward Principal Investigators (PIs) of SERB/DST projects who have performed remarkably well. The scheme aims not only to reward the best PIs of completed projects but also to motivate the ongoing PIs to perform exceedingly well. DIA is a one-time career award devised to specifically cater to the younger scientists who have not received any other prestigious awards or fellowships.
Some other major initiatives of the year were the inauguration of India’s first supercritical Brayton Cycle CO2 test facility at IISc Bangalore,which has the potential to pave the way for highly efficient compact power plants driven by wide range of heat sources including Solar; Organization of Children’s Science Congress all over the country on the Focal Theme of “Science Technology and Innovation for Clean, Green and Healthy Nation”.
Communicating science also got a major fillip in the Launch of Augmenting Writing Skills for Articulating Research (AWSAR), a new initiative that aims to communicate and disseminate Indian research stories among masses in a format that is easy to understand and interesting for a common person.
A Draft Policy Document Scientific Research Infrastructure and Maintenance Networks (SRIMAN) in the S&T sector has already been framed and the year 2019 looks all set to see an accelerated impetus towards fulfillment of the mandate of Department of Science & Technology in terms of formulation of policies, promotion of new areas of S&T with special emphasis on emerging areas, integration of areas of S&T having cross-sectoral linkages ,application of S&T for weaker sections, women and other disadvantaged sections of Society and others.
Start-up Village Entrepreneurship Programme (SVEP), the sub-scheme under the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana - National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM) has the objective of helping rural households including women to set-up enterprises.
The scheme was approved during 2015-16 and the enterprise formation started in 2017-18. As on 30th November 2018, a total of 30,352 enterprises were formed across 20 States where the scheme is operational. The details of enterprise formed during the last two years is given as Annexure-I.
Skill building support is provided to all the entrepreneurs supported under Start-up Village Entrepreneurship Programme through Community Resource Persons for Enterprise Promotion (CRP-EP).
SVEP process mandates the preparation of a Detailed Project Report (DPR) for each block. The DPR provides estimates of the potential of enterprises in various sectors in the block. The entrepreneurs have the freedom to identify the sectors in which they want to start businesses based on assessment of market potential.
The details of the major ten types of enterprises selected by the entrepreneurs under the scheme in manufacturing, trading and services sector are given as Annexure-II.
The total SVEP proposals approved till 30th November 2018 is 131. Of these Kudumbashree NRO, Kerala is supporting implementation of 69 projects, Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDII) NRO, Ahmedabad is supporting implementation of 42 projects and other Project Implementing Agencies (PIA) are supporting implementation of 20 projects.
Background: Department of Posts has been paying a tribute to eminent personalities who have made a significant contribution to public life especially freedom fighters. With this stamp, the Department has released 43 issues in the current calendar year.
Who was Rajkumar Shukla? In drawing the attention of Mahatma Gandhi to the plight of peasants suffering under an oppressive system established by European indigo planters in Champaran, Bihar, Rajkumar Shukla made a seminal contribution culminating in the launch of the Champaran Satyagraha in 1917 by Mahatma Gandhi.
About the Champaran Satyagraha: It was undertaken in the erstwhile undivided Champaran district in northern Bihar. Mahatma Gandhi went there in April, 1917 on learning about the abuses suffered by the cultivators of the district, forced into growing indigo by British planters/estate owners.
Gandhi was so thoroughly persuaded by Rajkumar Shukla, an indigo cultivator from Champaran that he decided to investigate into the matter. Gandhi’s method of inquiry at Champaran was based on surveys by the volunteers. The respondents who willingly gave statements should sign the papers or give thumb impressions.
For those unwilling to participate, the reasons must be recorded by the volunteers. The principal volunteers in this survey were mostly lawyers like Babu Rajendra Prasad, Dharnidhar Prasad, Gorakh Prasad, Ramnawami Prasad, Sambhusaran and Anugraha Narain Sinha.
Outcomes: In June 1917, the British administration declared the formation of a formal inquiry committee with Gandhi aboard. The Government accepted almost all its recommendations. The principal recommendation accepted was complete abolition of Tinkathia system. It was a major blow to the British planters who became resentful. But they could not prevent the passage of Champaran Agrarian Act in Bihar & Orissa Legislative Council on March 4, 1918.
It was in Champaran that Gandhi first met J. B. Kripalani and Rajendra Prasad; and it was through his work in Champaran that Gandhi attracted the attention (and admiration) of Vallabhbhai Patel and Mahadev Desai.
About Operation Vijay: Portuguese were the first ones to colonize parts of India and were the last to leave. The Portuguese invaded Goa in the year 1510.
Operation Vijay began on December 17, 1961, when the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru ordered the invasion. With a force of almost 30,000, the Indian attack overpowered the ill-prepared Portuguese 3,000 member army. With minimal blood shed, the attack was successful and was carried forward to retrieve the other Portuguese-controlled areas, Daman and Diu.
At this point on December 18, the Portuguese Governor General Vassalo da Silva gave up control of the Union Territory of Goa, Daman and Diu. Three days after the attack began, Goa finally became a part of India.
Referendum and Statehood: The Goa Opinion Poll was a referendum held in the state of Goa, India, on 16 January 1967, to decide the future of the Union Territory of Goa, Daman and Diu within the Indian Union. Although popularly called an opinion poll, it was in fact, a referendum, as the results of the poll were binding on the government of India. The referendum offered the people of Goa a choice between continuing as a union territory or merging with the state of Maharashtra. It is the only referendum to have been held in independent India. The people of Goa voted against the merger and Goa continued to be a union territory. Subsequently, in 1987, Goa became a full-fledged state within the Indian Union.
What is Winter Solstice? The winter solstice happens every year when the Sun reaches its most southerly declination of -23.5 degrees. In other words, it is when the North Pole is tilted farthest away from the Sun, delivering the fewest hours of sunlight of the year.
The Sun is directly overhead of the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere during the December solstice and is closer to the horizon than at any other time in the year. The day after the winter solstice marks the beginning of lengthening days, leading up to the summer solstice in June. In the Southern Hemisphere, the opposite is true. Dawn comes early, and dusk comes late. The sun is high and the shortest noontime shadow of the year happens there. In the Southern Hemisphere, people will experience their longest day and shortest night.
Does the winter solstice always occur on December 21st? While it more often than not falls on December 21st, the exact time of the solstice varies each year. In the Northern hemisphere the winter solstice is the shortest day of the year, because it is tilted away from the sun, and receives the least amount of sunlight on that day.
However, the earliest sunset does not occur on the solstice, because of the slight discrepancy between ‘solar time’ and the clocks we use. The shortest day of the year often falls on December 21st, but the modern calendar of 365 days a year – with an extra day every four years – does not correspond exactly to the solar year of 365.2422 days. The solstice can happen on December 20, 21, 22 or 23, though December 20 or 23 solstices are rare. The last December 23 solstice was in 1903 and will not happen again until 2303.
What does ‘solstice’ mean? The term ‘solstice’ derives from the Latin word ‘solstitium’, meaning ‘Sun standing still’. On this day the Sun seems to stand still at the Tropic of Capricorn and then reverses its direction as it reaches its southernmost position as seen from the Earth. Some prefer the more teutonic term ‘sunturn’ to describe the event.
What’s the issue? The United States first alleged in its July 2014 Compliance Report that Russia is in violation of its INF Treaty obligations “not to possess, produce, or flight-test” a ground-launched cruise missile having a range of 500 to 5,500 kilometers or “to possess or produce launchers of such missiles.”
Subsequent State Department assessments in 2015, 2016, and 2017 repeated these allegations. Russia denies that it is in violation of the agreement. On December 8, 2017, the Trump administration released a strategy to counter alleged Russian violations of the Treaty.
About the Intermediate- Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty: The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty required the United States and the Soviet Union to eliminate and permanently forswear all of their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers.
The treaty marked the first time the superpowers had agreed to reduce their nuclear arsenals, eliminate an entire category of nuclear weapons, and utilize extensive on-site inspections for verification. As a result of the INF Treaty, the United States and the Soviet Union destroyed a total of 2,692 short-, medium-, and intermediate-range missiles by the treaty’s implementation deadline of June 1, 1991.
Despite its name, the INF Treaty covers all types of ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles — whether their payload is conventional or nuclear. Moscow and Washington are prohibited from deploying these missiles anywhere in the world, not just in Europe. However, the treaty applies only to ground-launched systems. Both sides are free to deploy air- and sea-launched missiles within the 500-to-5,500-kilometer range.
What are the diplomatic implications of withdrawal? Withdrawal is likely to be controversial with U.S. allies in NATO, further splitting the alliance at a difficult time for transatlantic relations. Many Western European NATO states favor retaining the INF, in conjunction with previous U.S. policy designed to push Moscow back into compliance. This raises concerns that divisions within NATO may worsen when the United States officially withdraws from the INF.
Trump’s move is also likely to undermine the 2010 New START treaty governing U.S. and Russian long-range nuclear systems. The INF Treaty’s demise will undercut New START by reopening questions on the relationship between intermediate and strategic systems that have been resolved for 30 years by the elimination of ground-based, intermediate-range missiles.
The agreement includes the future deployment of UN-supervised neutral forces and the establishment of humanitarian corridors. Troops from both sides will withdraw from the entire Hodeidah area within a maximum of 21 days in a process overseen by a UN-chaired committee.
What next? A political framework for Yemen will be discussed in a next round of meetings, scheduled for late January. If implemented on the ground, the deal would represent a breakthrough because the port is the gateway for the bulk of humanitarian aid coming into the country, and has been the subject of intense fighting. Ceasefires have also been agreed at two other ports, Salif and Ras Issa.
What triggered the truce? The ceasefire between Yemen’s Houthi rebels and forces loyal to President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi in the port city of Hodeida came into existence on December 18. The agreement was reached in UN-mediated talks held in Stockholm earlier this month. At the time of the negotiations, the city was almost in the hands of the Saudi-led coalition. The coalition had blockaded the port, the main conduit for humanitarian aid to enter Yemen, for months, and the fighters, mostly UAE soldiers, were battling the rebels.
But Saudi Arabia came under increased global pressure to stop fighting in Yemen after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside its consulate in Istanbul triggered a global outcry. The spotlight on Yemen and its deteriorating humanitarian situation has been so strong after the Khashoggi affair that even the U.S., which supports Riyadh in the war, cut down its involvement by ending refuelling of coalition aircraft. With the UN also pushing for talks, the Yemeni government backed by Saudi Arabia gave the green light for talks.
How bad is Yemen’s humanitarian situation? Since the Saudi intervention in 2015, at least 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen, according to the WHO. The widespread damage caused to infrastructure by the coalition airstrikes and lack of supplies of food and medicines due to the blockade have pushed Yemen into a humanitarian catastrophe. About 12 million people are at the risk of starvation if aid doesn’t reach them fast. The country has also seen a massive cholera outbreak. A child dies every 10 minutes in Yemen from preventable causes, says UNICEF.
Why is Saudi Arabia in Yemen? Saudi Arabia interfered in Yemen after the Shia Houthi rebels captured Sana’a, the capital city, and the internationally recognised government of President Hadi moved to the country’s south. The Saudis accuse Iran of bankrolling the Houthis and “destabilising” the Arabian Peninsula.
The Saudi plan was to expel the Houthis from Sana’a and restore the authority of the government. But almost four years since they launched the attack, the Houthis still control Sana’a and much of the north of Yemen. They also fire short-range missiles across the border into Saudi Arabia, which has become a major security concern for Riyadh.
About GSAT-7A: GSAT-7A has been placed in the geostationary orbit and this communication satellite is expected to help the IAF to interlink different ground radar stations, airbases and AWACS (Airborne Warning And Control System) aircraft. The idea is to improve the IAF’s network-centric warfare capabilities.
It is an advanced communication satellite with a Gregorian Antenna and many other new technologies. It is the heaviest satellite being launched by GSLV with an indigenously developed cryogenic stage. The GSAT-7A is expected to have the Ku-band transponders and two deployable solar arrays onboard.
It is the 39th Indian communication satellite of ISRO to provide services to the users in Ku-band over the Indian region. The GSAT-7A is also expected to be a big push for drone operations as it will help the Navy reduce the reliance on on-ground control stations and take satellite-control of military unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) which should help boost the range and endurance of the UAVs.
The satellite, being dubbed as ‘angry bird’ by some, is likely to enhance the range of communication and also aid in aircraft to aircraft communication. In addition to GSAT-7A, the IAF would also be getting the GSAT-7C in a few years, to boost the network-centric operations.
Background- GSAT 7 series: The GSAT 7 series was launched in 2013 as a dedicated communications satellite for the Indian Navy, which made the Navy completely independent of relying on foreign satellites for its blue water capabilities, thanks to GSAT 7 having a 2,000 nautical mile footprint. This helps in providing real-time inputs to Indian warships, submarines and maritime aircraft.
GSLV: The GSLV is ISRO’s fourth generation launch vehicle that has three stages. The four liquid strap-ons and a solid rocket motor at the core constitute the first stage. The second stage is equipped with a high thrust engine that uses liquid fuel. The cryogenic upper stage forms the third and final stage of the vehicle. The GSLV-F11 was the seventh flight carrying indigenously developed cryogenic upper stage.
About the Apollo 8 Mission: Apollo 8, the second manned spaceflight mission in the United States Apollo space program, was launched on December 21, 1968, and became the first manned spacecraft to leave low Earth orbit, reach the Moon, orbit it, and safely return.
The three-astronaut crew—Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders—became the first humans to travel beyond low Earth orbit, see Earth as a whole planet, and enter the gravity well of another celestial body. They were also the first humans to orbit another celestial body, see the far side of the Moon, witness and photograph an “Earthrise”, escape the gravity of another celestial body (the Moon), and reenter Earth’s gravitational well.
Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY) is the flagship placement linked skill-training programme under the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD).
There are several challenges that are preventing India’s rural poor from competing such as the lack of formal education and employability skills. DDU-GKY bridges this gap by funding training projects with an emphasis on placement, retention, career progression and foreign placement. The mission of the flagship scheme of MoRD is to ensure rural poor youth are skilled in market relevant trades and job-relevant competencies.
Champion Employers policy: The Champion Employers are the industry leaders who have the potential to provide training and captive employment to the DDU-GKY candidates. The policy seeks a strategic alignment of objectives of DDU-GKY with the HR strategy of organizations, which have a large potential to absorb trained manpower.
Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY): The Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) announced the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana (DDU-GKY) Antyodaya Diwas, on 25th September 2014.
DDU-GKY is a part of the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM), tasked with the dual objectives of adding diversity to the incomes of rural poor families and cater to the career aspirations of rural youth.
DDU-GKY is uniquely focused on rural youth between the ages of 15 and 35 years from poor families. As a part of the Skill India campaign, it plays an instrumental role in supporting the social and economic programs of the government like the Make in India, Digital India, Smart Cities and Start-Up India, Stand-Up India campaigns.