Current Affairs (6th March 2021)
- Defence Research and Development Organisation has successfully carried out a flight demonstration based on Solid Fuel Ducted Ramjet (SFDR) technology from Integrated Test Range Chandipur off the coast of Odisha.
- DRDO began developing SFDR first in 2017 and had conducted successful tests in 2018 and 2019 as well.
- All the subsystems, including the booster motor and nozzle-less motor, performed as expected.
- The test was carried out using a booster motor to simulate an air-launch scenario. The nozzle-less booster propelled the missile to the required Mach number for Ramjet operation.
- During the test, many new technologies were proven, including Solid Fuel based Ducted Ramjet technology.
- The performance of the missile was monitored using the data captured by Electro Optical, Radar and Telemetry instruments deployed by ITR and confirmed successful demonstration of the mission objectives.
- The launch was monitored by senior scientists of various DRDO labs, including Defence Research & Development Laboratory (DRDL), Research Centre Imarat (RCI) and High Energy Materials Research Laboratory (HEMRL)
- Successful demonstration of Solid Fuel based Ducted Ramjet technology has provided DRDO with a technological advantage which will enable it to develop long range air-to-air missiles.
- Ramjet powered missiles provide greater range and a higher average speed compared to missiles powered by solid propellants.
- Ramjet missiles use atmospheric oxygen rather than including an oxidizer as part of the solid motor.
- Ramjet missiles can carry a bigger warhead as they do not have to carry an oxidizer.
- At present, such technology is available only with a handful of countries in the world.
Freedom House report
- The Freedom House report has downgraded India’s status from a free to a partly free country.
- Nearly 75% of the world’s population lived in a country that faced deterioration over the last year.
- The most free countries in the world, with a score of 100, are Finland, Norway and Sweden, while the least free with a score of 1 are Tibet and Syria.
- India’s status declined from Free to Partly Free due to a multiyear pattern in which the Hindu nationalist government and its allies have presided over rising violence and discriminatory policies affecting the Muslim population and pursued a crackdown on expressions of dissent by the media, academics, civil society groups, and protesters.
- In its annual report, the democracy research institute said the world’s largest democracy was descending into authoritarianism and referred to what it called the “mob violence against Muslims” in the Delhi riots, the use of sedition laws against critics and the migrants’ crisis after Prime Minister announced what it described as a “ham-fisted” lockdown to control the coronavirus pandemic.
- Uttar Pradesh’s law prohibiting forced religious conversion through interfaith marriage was also listed as a concern.
- The government intensified its crackdown on protesters opposed to a discriminatory citizenship law and arrested dozens of journalists who aired criticism of the official pandemic response.
RESPONSE OF INDIA
- Many states in India under its federal structure are ruled by parties other than the one at the national level. It reflects the working of a vibrant democracy, which gives space to those who hold varying views.
- The Report alleged of discriminatory policies against a particular community, and Indian Government asserted that it treats every citizens with equality as enshrined under the Constitution and all laws are applied without discrimination.
- It added that due process of law is followed in matters relating to law and order, irrespective of the identity of the alleged instigator.
- USA based human rights watch dog Freedom House,which is largely funded through USA government grants, has been tracking the course of democracy since 1941.
- Freedom in the World reports assess the level of political rights and civil liberties in a given geographical area, regardless of whether they are affected by the state, nonstate actors, or foreign powers.
- Disputed territories are sometimes assessed separately if they meet certain criteria, including boundaries that are sufficiently stable to allow year-on-year comparisons.
QS WORLD UNIVERSITY RANKINGS 2021
- As many as 25 courses by Indian universities have figured in the top 100 globally, according to QS World University Rankings by Subject.
- Three Indian Institutes of Technology have entered the prestigious group of the top 100 engineering institutes with IIT-Bombay grabbing the best-ever 49th position in the engineering and technology category followed by IIT Delhi (54) and IIT Madras (94). MIT, USA has retained its top position.
- Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore — that secured number one position in the NIRF 2020 — is placed at the 92nd spot for natural sciences, followed by IIT Bombay (114), IIT Madras (187), and IIT Delhi (210), as per the data released by QS.
- Similarly, IIT-Madras is at number 30 for its petroleum engineering programme, IIT-Bombay and IIT-Kharagpur have grabbed 41 and 44 positions, respectively, in the subject ranking for mineral and mining engineering.
- These are the highest ranks achieved by the public Institutes of Eminence across this year’s Subject Rankings.
- In the life sciences and medicine category, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) bagged 248th spot.
- Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has been ranked 159th for arts and humanities, followed by the University of Delhi (252).
- Also, Delhi University bagged 208th spot worldwide in the social sciences and management category.
- QS World University Rankings by subject calculate performance based on four parameters — academic reputation, employer reputation, research impact (citations per paper) and the productivity of an institution’s research faculty.
- The QS rankings offer independent data on the performance of 253 programmes at 52 Indian higher education institutions, across 51 academic disciplines.
- These programmes include various engineering disciplines (chemical, petroleum, civil, mechanical), law, development studies and arts, among others.
Simlipal forest fire
- The Simlipal forest reserve area frequently witnesses forest fires during dry weather conditions. A fire which started in the biosphere reserve area in February 2021 and has been raging and was finally brought under control.
What is the Simlipal Biosphere reserve?
- Similipal, which derives its name from ‘Simul’ (silk cotton) tree, is a national park and a tiger reserve situated in the northern part of Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district.
- Similipal and the adjoining areas, comprising 5,569 sq km, was declared a biosphere reserve by the Government of India on June 22, 1994, and lies in the eastern end of the eastern ghat.
- Similipal is the abode of 94 species of orchids and about 3,000 species of plants.
- The identified species of fauna include 12 species of amphibians, 29 species of reptiles, 264 species of birds and 42 species of mammals, all of which collectively highlight the biodiversity richness of Similipal. Sal is a dominant tree species.
How fire prone is Simlipal forest?
- Generally, with the onset of summers and towards the end of autumn, the forest area remains vulnerable to forest fires. They are a recurrent annual phenomenon, but are also brought under control due to short span of precipitation.
- The months of January and February witness rainfall of 10.8 and 21 mm, respectively.
- The last incident of a major forest fire was reported in 2015.
- This duration coincides with the shedding of deciduous forests in the forest areas. The fallen leaves are more vulnerable to catching fire and facilitate the spreading of these forest fires quickly over the entire forest area.
Causes of the fire
- Natural causes such as lighting or even soaring temperatures can sometimes result in these fires, but forest officials and activists say most of the fires can be attributed to man-made factors.
- With dried leaves and tree trunks, even a spark can lead to a raging fire.
- Instances of poaching and hunting wherein the poachers set a small patch of forest on fire to divert the wild animals can lead to such fires.
- Secondly, jungle areas are also set on fire by villagers to clear the dry leaves on the ground for easy collection of mahua flowers. These flowers are used to prepare a drink which is addictive in nature.
- Villagers also believe burning patches of sal trees will lead to better growth when planted again.
- The transition zone of the reserve has 1,200 villages with a total population of about 4.5 lakh. Tribals constitute about 73 per cent of the population.
- This year, along with man-made factors, an advanced heat wave with the early onset of summer further deteriorated the condition.
- Such fires are generally brought under control by natural rains. Forecasting fire-prone days and including community members to mitigate incidents of fire, creating fire lines, clearing sites of dried biomass, and crackdown on poachers are some of the methods to prevent fires. The forest fire lines which are strips kept clear of vegetation, help break the forest into compartments to prevent fires from spreading.
- This year, the forest department intensified its mitigation measures and formed a squad each for 21 ranges across the five divisions to closely monitor the situation. 1,000 personnel, 250 forest guards were pressed into action. 40 fire tenders and 240 blower machines were used to contain the blaze.
- Awareness programmes are also being initiated at a community level to prevent such incidents.