September 2019

Daily Current Affairs (18-09-19)


Related Topics: Science & Technology, IIST


The AAReST mission, an international collaboration involving Indian Space Research Organisation’s Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST) for demonstrating a new breed of space-based optical telescope, is poised for a mid-2020 launch.

What is AAReST?

It is a joint effort by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), University of Surrey, and the IIST to prove that large-space telescopes can be built by assembling smaller mirror segments out in space.

Key Features

  • It has three parts.
  • The core satellite or coresat is built by Caltech and features rigid mirrors and a boom with a camera and two ‘mirror satellites’ or mirrorsats consisting of deformable mirrors, one each built by the IIST and the University of Surrey.
  • The satellites will have a total mass of around 25 kg with dimensions of 350 cm x 400 cm x 525 cm.
  • The mirrorsat being developed by the IIST weighs 5 kg and features subsystems such as an on-board computer, electrical power systems, an attitude determination and control system and a cold gas propulsion system.


  • At present, the size of the primary apertures of space-borne telescopes — Hubble and the proposed James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) — is ultimately limited by the diameter of the launch vehicle in which they are transported to space.
  • With AAReST, the idea in a nutshell is to develop multiple autonomous spacecraft, each with its own mirror, which would reconfigure in space.
  • Together, they would serve the purpose of a single, large mirror.

[Source: The Hindu]



Related Topics: Government Policies & Interventions, MGNREGA


  • The Central Government is planning to inject more money into the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme by linking wages under the Act to an updated inflation index, which will be revised annually.
  • The increased wages based on updated inflation indices may result in 10% higher government expenditure on the scheme.

Average wage of an MGNREGA worker

  • MGNREGA workers get paid much lower than market rates.
  • The national average wage of an MGNREGA worker is ₹178.44 per day, less than half of the ₹375 per day minimum wage recommended by a Labour Ministry panel.
  • According to the latest Periodic Labour Force Survey, market wages for men were higher than MGNREGA wages by 74% in 2017-18, while for women, it was a 21% gap.

Update of Indices

  • In the first week of September 2019, the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation and the Labour Bureau informed the Rural Development Ministry that they had begun work to update the Consumer Price Indices for Rural areas (CPI-R) and Agricultural Labourers (CPI-AL) respectively.
  • This has been a long-pending demand and is one of the demand-side interventions that the government is carrying out in light of the current scenario in the rural economy.
  • The consumption basket of CPI-AL [which determines MGNREGA wage revisions] has not been updated for more than three decades, and rural consumption patterns have changed drastically in that time.
  • Food items make up more than two-thirds of the CPI-AL consumption basket.
  • But rural workers today spend a much smaller percentage of their money on subsidised food, and an increasingly larger amount on health, education and transport costs.

Why Government is showing urgency in wage revision?

  • The Centre is planning to notify updated MGNREGA wages in the current fiscal year itself rather than wait for the onset of 2020-2021.
  • This sense of urgency suggests the government views giving a fillip to the rural economy as a critical tool to combat the headwinds of the slowing economy.
  • The slowdown narrative and the Centre’s measures to address it so far have been dominated by urban India’s consumption crimp and easing of the corporate tax structure.
  • But the distress in villages where incomes are more vulnerable is more disconcerting.
  • The Reserve Bank of India, in its annual report, has pointed to weakening rural demand since the third quarter of 2018-19 as a serious concern and termed reviving consumption as its top policy priority.

Shortage of Funds

  • Even with existing wages, the scheme is running out of funds due to increased demand for work.
  • MGNREGA received a budgetary allocation of ₹60,000 crore, of which more than 75% has already been released by the Centre even before the halfway point of the year.
  • Droughts and floods in several States have led to an increased demand for work in the early part of the year, and the economic slowdown could spur demand again once the rabi planting season is over.

[Source: The Hindu]



Related Topics: Government Policies & Interventions, SWAYAM


Union Human Resource Development Minister has launched Leadership for Academicians Programme (LEAP) – 2019 and Annual Refresher Programme in Teaching (ARPIT) – 2019 under Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya National Mission on Teachers and Teaching (PMMMNMTT) in New Delhi.

Leadership for Academicians Programme (LEAP)

  • It is a three weeks Flagship leadership development training programme (2 weeks domestic and one week foreign training) for second level academic functionaries in public funded higher education institutions (HEIs).
  • The main objective is to prepare second tier academic heads who are potentially likely to assume leadership roles in the future.
  • The programme aims to build higher managerial capabilities of existing higher education leaders and administrators and to draw fresh talent into the management of higher education systems.
  • It is a national initiative, launched to design and deliver a structured scheme of leadership development for HEIs.
  • The mandatory eligibility conditions are: minimum 8 years of experience as Professor;  3 years administrative experience; Impeccable Integrity; High academic standing preferably 30 publications in ‘SCOPUS’ indexed international journals or UGC approved journals; and age below 58 years.
  • The implementation of LEAP Programme will be through 15 NIRF top ranked Indian Institutions.
  • The foreign Universities identified for the training are also within the top 100 in the world global rankings.

Annual Refresher Programme in Teaching (ARPIT)

  • Ministry of Human Resource Development has launched Annual Refresher Programme in Teaching (ARPIT) in November, 2018.
  • It is a major and unique initiative of online professional development of 5 million higher education faculty using the MOOCs platform SWAYAM.
  • For implementing ARPIT, discipline-specific National Resource Centres (NRCs) are identified which are tasked to prepare online training material with focus on latest developments in the discipline, new & emerging trends, pedagogical improvements and methodologies for transacting revised curriculum.
  • For ARPIT 2019, 51 discipline specific NRCs have been notified covering 46 disciplines.
  • The training materials have been uploaded and made available through SWAYAM to all the teachers from 1st September, 2019.
  • Through ARPIT all in-service teachers, irrespective of their subject and seniority have been given an enabling opportunity to keep abreast of the latest developments in their disciplines through the technology based online refresher courses.
  • Faculty can benefit from this initiative as it is highly flexible and can be done at one’s own pace and time.
  • The NRCs will revolutionize professional development of faculty by catering to massive numbers by leveraging ICT and online technology platform of SWAYAM.
[Source: PIB]




Telangana Legislative Assembly has passed a unanimous resolution, urging the Centre not to allow uranium mining operations in the Nallamala forest region of the state. Nallamala forest is home to the ‘Chenchu’ people and also rich biodiversity, including animals like tigers and Nilgai and rare varieties of plants. The exploration carried out for uranium might hurt the ecological balance in Nallamala forest region. Human life would also be adversely affected due the pollution of agricultural land, air and drinking water. The proposed exploration may contaminate river Krishna on which Hyderabad depends for drinking water. In May 2014, the AMD (Atomic Minerals Directorate) was given in-principle approval by the Forest Advisory Committee under the Ministry of Forest, Environment and Climate Change to conduct the survey for the radioactive mineral in Amrabad, one of the largest tiger reserves in the country. The AMD sought to drill 4,000 boreholes in the Tiger Reserve as part of survey for uranium deposits.


Indian Railways is planning to begin the second Vande Bharat Express on the Delhi-Katra route before Deepavali. The indigenously manufactured train will bring down the travel time between Delhi and Katra to eight hours from 12. The first Vande Bharat Express or Train 18 was launched on the Delhi-Varanasi route. Unlike its earlier version, which was criticised for lack of adequate space for pantry, the upgraded train has more space to store meals for passengers. It has adjustable seats and improved washbasins, a sturdy aluminium-clad nose cover to avoid damage due to cattle run-over and special anti-spall film on windows to guard against stone pelting.


The Defence Ministry has signed a ₹5,500 crore contract for additional indigenous Akash Surface to Air Missile (SAM) systems. It is surface to air anti-aircraft missile with a strike range of 25 km and capability to carry warhead of 60 kilogram. It can reach an altitude of 18 km and can be fired from both tracked and wheeled platforms. As per Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, the government is aiming to build a $10 trillion economy by 2032 and defence has been identified as one of the most prominent sectors to contribute to this growth.

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