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Current Affairs – 19 August 2021

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Nuclear fusion

Indian Express

GS 3: Science and Technology


  • Recently, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California announced that an experiment carried out in its National Ignition Facility has made a breakthrough in nuclear fusion research.
  • In the experiment, lasers were used to heat a small target or fuel pellets. These pellets containing deuterium and tritium fused and produced more energy. The team noted that they were able to achieve a yield of more than 1.3 megajoules.


  • Nuclear fusion is defined as the combining of several small nuclei into one large nucleus with the subsequent release of huge amounts of energy.

  • Nuclear fusion powers our sun and harnessing this fusion energy could provide an unlimited amount of renewable energy.
  • The 2018 book Comprehensive Energy Systems notes: “Nuclear fusion energy is a good choice as the baseload energy in the future with many advantages, such as inexhaustibility of resources, inherent safety, no long-lived radioactive wastes, and almost no CO2 emissions.”

How was the new breakthrough achieved?

  • The team used new diagnostics, improved laser precision, and even made changes to the design. They applied laser energy on fuel pellets to heat and pressurise them at conditions similar to that at the centre of our Sun. This triggered the fusion reactions.
  • These reactions released positively charged particles called alpha particles, which in turn heated the surrounding plasma. (At high temperatures, electrons are ripped from atom’s nuclei and become a plasma or an ionised state of matter. Plasma is also known as the fourth state of matter)
  • The heated plasma also released alpha particles and a self-sustaining reaction called ignition took place. Ignition helps amplify the energy output from the nuclear fusion reaction and this could help provide clean energy for the future.


Growth of Patents


GS 3: Intellectual Property Rights


  • India has recorded 572% growth in grant of Patents in the last 7 years.


  • Trade Marks registration has shot up from 65,045 in 2015-16 to 2,55,993 in 2020-21.
  • These developments have reflected positively in the improvement of India’s ranking in Global Innovation Index to 48th in 2020, (+33 ranks from 81st in 2015-16).

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR):

  • IPR are the rights given to persons over the creations of their minds. They usually give the creator an exclusive right over the use of his/her creation for a certain period.

Types of IPR:

  • Copyright:
    • It is a legal term used to describe the rights that creators have over their literary and artistic works.
    • Works covered by copyright range from books, music, paintings, sculpture and films to computer programs, databases, advertisements, maps and technical drawings.
  • Patent:
    • It is an exclusive right granted for an invention.
    • A patent provides the patent owner with the right to decide how – or whether – the invention can be used by others.
    • In exchange for this right, the patent owner makes technical information about the invention publicly available in the published patent document.
  • Trademark:
    • It is a sign capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one enterprise from those of other enterprises.
    • It dates to ancient times when artisans used to put their signature or “mark” on their products.
  • Industrial Design:
    • It constitutes the ornamental or aesthetic aspect of an article.
    • A design may consist of three-dimensional features, such as the shape or surface of an article, or of two-dimensional features, such as patterns, lines or color.
  • Geographical Indications (GI):
    • GI and appellations of origin are signs used on goods that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities, a reputation or characteristics that are essentially attributable to that place of origin.
    • Most commonly, a geographical indication includes the name of the place of origin of the goods.
  • Trade Secrets:
    • These are IP rights on confidential information which may be sold or licensed.
    • The unauthorized acquisition, use or disclosure of such secret information in a manner contrary to honest commercial practices by others is regarded as an unfair practice and a violation of the trade secret protection.


Impact of Afghanistan fall on Middle East

Indian Express

GS 2: International Relations


  • The Afghanistan debacle, in which a 300,000-strong US-trained and equipped Afghan army collapsed in hours, serves as a reminder of the limits of American power in the wider Middle East.


  • The United States, which had waged its longest-running conflict in history to drive the Taliban out from Afghanistan since 2001, was recently reduced to announcing emergency deployment in Kabul in a last-minute effort to evacuate its diplomats, citizens and soldiers
  • The withdrawal of forces by Washington is now being likened to the fall of Saigon, a somewhat similar catastrophe that befell the US almost half a century ago;
    • When Saigon, the capital of US-backed South Vietnam, fell to Communist-ruled North Vietnam two years after the withdrawal of the American military.


  • After the fall of Kabul and the hasty US withdrawal from a country on which it had squandered $1 trillion, the question remains: what next for the Middle East?
  • Every corner of the Middle East and North Africa will be touched in some way by the failure of American authority in Afghanistan, the longest war in its history.
  • The Afghan situation is more concerning because so much of the Middle East is at risk of descending into chaos.

Implication on Middle east:

  • From America’s perspective, its exit from Afghanistan leaves its attempts to breathe life into the nuclear deal with Iran as its main piece of unfinished Middle East business — if we put aside the seemingly intractable Israel-Palestine dispute.
  • Iran Angle:
    • Attempts to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) have formed a cornerstone of the Biden administration’s efforts to engage more constructively in the Middle East.
    • The election of a new hardline Iranian president further complicates efforts to achieve compromise.
    • Failure to resuscitate the JCPOA, abandoned by President Donald Trump, will add a new layer of uncertainty — and risk — to Middle East calculations.
    • There will have been no more interested party in developments in neighbouring Afghanistan than the leadership in Tehran.
    • Iran’s relationship with the Taliban has been fraught at times, cooperative at others, given the anxiety in Tehran over mistreatment of Afghanistan’s Shia population.
    • Shia Iran and the Sunni fundamentalist Taliban are not natural partners.
  • Gulf States:
    • Qatar has provided a diplomatic haven for the Taliban during peace talks with the vanquished Ghani government.
      • This peace initiative, under US auspices, is now revealed to have been a foil for the Taliban’s ambitions to return to power in its own right.
    • Saudi Arabia will be unsettled by developments of the past few days because it is not in Riyadh’s interests for American authority in the region to be undermined.
      • But the Saudis have their own long standing links with the Taliban.
      • In Saudi Arabian foreign policy, Afghanistan is not a zero sum game.
    • More generally, the hit to US standing in the region will be worrying for its moderate Arab allies.
      • This includes Egypt and Jordan. For both, with their own versions of the Taliban lurking in the shadows, events in Afghanistan are not good news.
  • The Taliban success in Afghanistan will also have implications for the most combustible corner of the Middle East.
    • In both Iraq and parts of Syria where the US maintains a military presence, the American exit will be unsettling.
  • In Lebanon, which has become to all intents and purposes a failed state, the Afghanistan debacle will be adding to the gloom.
  • Israel will be calculating the implications of the setback suffered by its principal ally.
    • Increased Middle East instability would not seem to be to Israel’s advantage.



All India Radio

GS 3: Economy


  • The Reserve Bank of India has created a composite Financial Inclusion Index (FI-Index) to capture the extent of financial inclusion across the country.


  • The announcement regarding the creation of the FI-Index was made in the first Bi-monthly Monetary Policy Statement for 2021-2022 on 17 April.
  • The annual FI-Index for the period ending March 2021 is 53.9 against 43.4 for the period ending March 2017. The FI-Index will be published annually in July every year.
  • The FI-Index has been conceptualised as a comprehensive index, incorporating details of banking, investments, insurance, postal as well as the pension sector, in consultation with government and respective sectoral regulators.
  • It also captures information on the financial inclusion aspects in a single value ranging between 0-100, where 0 represents complete financial exclusion and 100 indicates full financial inclusion.
  • The FI-Index comprises three broad parameters — Access (35%), Usage (45%), and Quality (20%), with each of these consisting of dimensions computed based on many indicators.
  • The Index is also responsive to the ease of access, availability and the usage of services, and the quality of services, comprising all 97 indicators.
  • A unique feature of the Index is the quality parameter, which captures the quality aspect of financial inclusion as reflected by the financial literacy, consumer protection, and inequalities and deficiencies in services.
  • The FI-Index has been constructed without any ‘base year’, and as such it reflects cumulative efforts of all stakeholders over the years towards financial inclusion.

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