CURRENT AFFAIRS – 31/07/2023

CURRENT AFFAIRS - 31/07/2023

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 31/07/2023

Bitter truths in Maharashtra’s sugar fields

The High Court of Bombay has recently taken suo motu cognisance of the exploitation of the intra-State workforce that migrates seasonally from the drought-affected and water-scarce regions of Marathwada to the sugar-belt region of western Maharashtra. Maharashtra is one of the top sugar producers in India. According to the Maharashtra Sugar Commissioner, in 2022-23, the net area under sugar cane was 1.487 million hectares, and there were 203 crushing factories in the State that were expected to produce 138 lakh metric tons of sugar.

Though intra-State migrant workers form the backbone of the sugar cane industry and economic growth, they have remained critically marginalised and oppressed for several decades. Considering the precarity of this migrant workforce, the High Court asked the Maharashtra government to form a committee of officers from various departments (with one nodal officer) to address their issues. Against this background, it would be critical to examine how ‘seriously’ the State develops policies and consistently implements strategic measures and existing labour laws for the effective inclusion of this precarious migrant group.

To deal with the prolonged unemployment after the sowing of rabi crops, millions of small and marginal peasant households from Beed, Jalna, Osmanabad, Latur, Nanded and Parbhani districts of the Marathwada region migrate to the sugar-belt districts such as Sangli, Kolhapur, Pune, Satara, Solapur and Ahmednagar to work in sugar cane harvesting and factories. Prolonged drought conditions, repeated crop failure, debt, and acute unemployment create an end-most situation for Marathwada’s rural labour, and, ultimately, they have to migrate seasonally. Therefore, there needs to be a long-term and comprehensive policy to address their vulnerability at both the source and destination.

The State government has to intervene in the prevalent exploitative structure of recruiting migrant workers in the sugar cane industry filed through the ‘Mukadam’ (labour contractor). The Mukadam has a contract with sugar factories to supply ‘Koytas’ (labour couples) and takes an advance to pay workers. The Mukadam system assures sugar factories a supply of a large volume of temporary, cheap, reliable, and efficient workforce (Breman, 1978). Because of eco-political reasons, the Mukadam system remains the focal point; migrant workers are very dependent on the Mukadam. Consequently, it creates adequate space to control migrant workers, violates labour laws, and is unfavourable to establish any relationship between the factory and workers.

Gaps in the data, plight of women, children

Inadequate data is the stumbling block in framing meaningful policies for seasonal migrants, especially when women migrants and children are largely invisible and un-enumerated. Hence, a periodic and time-bound enumerating exercise is critical to create a databank of seasonal migrants that is credible. A technology-aided Migration Tracking System (MTS) application was launched in 2022 by the Women and Child Development Department of the Maharashtra government, which was said to be the first-of-its-kind project in the country.

The MTS initially focused on seasonal migrants in the tribal districts to enumerate and track children, pregnant women, and lactating mothers at source and destination areas to ensure nutrition, immunisation and early childhood care, and continuity of the Integrated Child Development Services.

However, the MTS fails to create a comprehensive picture of seasonally migrating families, their current employment status, wage structure and entitlement coverage. With expanded scope, the revised MTS can be used in the State’s sugar belt and other seasonal migration corridors to enumerate migrants, understand the dynamics and clearly delineate the specific needs and interventions.

Another high priority area is addressing the plight of migrant women workers, and ensuring their health, safety and employment in the sugar cane labour market. In the sugar cane harvesting task, women workers are engaged in strenuous work such as headload cane bundles and carry heavy weight (40 kg-45 kg) on trucks or trolleys, which usually occur late in the evening, resulting in several accidents during the loading process (Oxfam India 2020). Their work adversely impacts their body, causing musculoskeletal disorders and several gynaecological issues. UNESCO noted that early and forced marriages among migrants cause problems for adolescent girls, resulting in early pregnancies (15-17 years), deliveries in the absence of a trained birth attendant, frequent childbirth, no exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and many other problems. Many studies have reported recurring violence and sexual harassment cases linked to the Mukadam and male workers. Despite multiple vulnerabilities among seasonally migrating women, the State government has not adopted any adequate long-term intervention strategy.

Though the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 emphasises equitable and inclusive education for all, the Right to Education of children who accompany their parents to sugar cane fields is violated blatantly. There are no sufficient alternative schooling models, which in turn affect their education. They are probably forced into child labour. In their joint study, the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS) and UNICEF (2022) observed that despite these children being physically absent from school, school records do not acknowledge this in many cases.

Need for government interventions

There needs to be intervention to ensure that seasonal migrants have access to justice and are guaranteed safe and healthy working and living conditions. The State government must take the lead and collaborate with different Ministries and Departments to formulate targeted and time-bounded interventions. With a strong political will, it is possible to create a favourable legal environment to protect the rights of migrants by strengthening the labour administration. On the one side, it is said to be an Amrit Kaal with the vision of an empowered and inclusive economy to fulfil all its humanitarian obligations, while on the other, State functionaries constantly neglect a tribulation of the huge groups of seasonal migrants, leaving them helpless and in jeopardy. One must stop this deceit and take specific action.

The Maharashtra government must create a favourable legal environment that protects the rights of and ensures the safety of seasonal migrant workers in the sugar industry.

Facts about the News 

The High Court of Bombay has recently taken suomotu cognisance of the exploitation of the intra-State workforce.

  • This intra-state workforce migrates seasonally from the drought-affected and water-scarce regions of Marathwada to the sugar-belt region of western Maharashtra.
  • They have remained critically marginalised and oppressed for several decades.
  • The migrant workforce in the sugar cane industry is recruited through the ‘Mukadam’ (labour contractor).
  • The Mukadam has a contract with sugar factories to supply ‘Koytas’ (labour couples) and takes an advance to pay workers.
  • The Mukadam system assures sugar factories a supply of a large volume of temporary, cheap, reliable, and efficient workforce.
  • A technology-aided Migration Tracking System (MTS) application was launched in 2022 by the Women and Child Development Department of the Maharashtra government.
  • The MTS initially focused on seasonal migrants in the tribal districts to enumerate and track children, pregnant women, and lactating mothers.
  • However, the MTS fails to create a comprehensive picture of seasonally migrating families.
  • UNESCO has also noted that early and forced marriages among migrants cause problems for adolescent girls, resulting in early pregnancies (15-17 years).
  • Many studies have reported recurring violence and sexual harassment cases linked to the Mukadam and male workers.
  • The Right to Education of children who accompany their parents to sugar cane fields is also violated blatantly.
    • They are probably forced into child labour.

What is Suo moto cognizance?

  • Suo moto cognizance means the power of the court to take up cases on its own.
  • Article 32 and Article 226 of the Indian Constitution warrants the Supreme Court and High Court to take up matters by its own.
  • Suo moto is a Latin term which means action taken by the government agencies.
  • The courts take suo moto cases after receiving information through media or from a third party.
  • This concept generally is considered to be a part of judicial activism and is also linked with judicial overreach.

About Sugarcane Industry in India


  • Sugarcane (Saccharumofficinarum) family Gramineae (Poaceae) is widely grown crop in India.
  • It provides employment to over a million people directly or indirectly besides contributing significantly to the national exchequer.
  • Cultivation of sugarcane in India dates back to the Vedic period.
  • The earliest mention of sugarcane cultivation is found in Indian writings of the period 1400 to 1000 B.C.
  • It is now widely accepted that India is the original home of Saccharum species.

Important Zones

  • Broadly there are two distinct agro-climatic regions of sugarcane cultivation in India, viz., tropical and subtropical.
  • However, five agro-climatic zones have been identified mainly for the purpose of varietal development. They are

          (i) North Western Zone

         (ii) North Central Zone

         (iii) North Eastern Zone

         (iv) Peninsular Zone

          (v) Coastal Zone.

  • Tropical region Shared about 45% and 55% of the total sugarcane area and production in the country, respectively.
  • Sub-tropical region accounted for about 55% and 45% of total area and production of sugarcane, respectively.

Tropical Sugarcane region:

  • The tropical sugarcane region consists of sugarcane agro climatic zone 4 (peninsular zone) and 5(Coastal zone).
  • It includes: Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Goa, Pondicherry and Kerala.
  • Sub-tropical sugarcane region: Around 55 per cent of total cane area in the country is in the sub-tropics. U.P, Bihar, Haryana and Punjab comes under this region.

Climatic requirement

  • The different critical stages of sugarcane production are germination, tillering, early growth, active growth and elongation.
  • Optimum temperature for sprouting (germination) of stem cuttings is 32° to 38°c.
  • It slows down below 25°, reaches plateau between 30°-34°.
  • Temperatures above 38° reduce the rate of photosynthesis and increase respiration.
  • For ripening, however, relatively low temperatures in the range of 12° to 14° are desirable.
  • The sugarcane productivity and juice quality are profoundly influenced by weather conditions. Sugar recovery is highest when the weather is dry with low humidity; bright sunshine hours, cooler nights with wide diurnal variations and very little rainfall during ripening period.

           – These conditions favour high sugar accumulation.

  • The climatic conditions like very high temperature or very low temperature deteriorate the juice quality and thus affecting the sugar quality.

Prices of Sugarcane

The Prices of Sugarcane are determined by the Central Government and the State Governments.

– The Central Government gives the Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP).

  • FRP are determined on the recommendation of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) and announced by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA).
  • The FRP is based on the Rangarajan Committee report on reorganising the sugarcane industry.

State Government announces the State Advised Prices (SAP).

  • SAP is generally higher than FRP.

Sugarcane Industry Facts

  • India emerges as the world’s largest producer and consumer of sugar and world’s 2nd largest exporter of sugar in 2021-22.
  • Sugar mills can divert excess sugarcane to ethanol, which is blended with petrol, which not only serves as a green fuel but also saves foreign exchange.
  • The government of India has fixed a target of 10% blending of fuel grade ethanol with petrol by 2022 & 20% blending by 2025.
  • India achieved its target of an average of 10% blending across the country five months ahead of the targeted timelines of November 2022.

Rap on the knuckles

Supreme Court has tried to hold States and Centre to account on mob violence

It is a matter of shame for the Union Government and several State governments that the Supreme Court has had to remind them of their “consistent failure” in the past five years to act against the lynching of and mob violence against Muslims and marginalised sections by “cow vigilantes” in particular. Following a petition by the National Federation of Indian Women highlighting this failure, the Court has asked the Ministry of Home Affairs, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana to respond to it. In 2018, the Court, in Tehseen S. Poonawalla vs Union of India, had held that it was the “sacrosanct duty” of the state to protect the lives of its citizens and that the authorities have the “principal obligation” to prevent “vigilantism” of any kind. It had come up with guidelines which included the designation of a nodal [police] officer in each district, who, with the identification of districts/blocks/villages where mob violence and lynching have occurred in recent years, and the help of police intelligence, would work towards tackling such incidence in coordination with other government agencies. They were also to be aided by the initiative of the Home Ministry and State governments in sensitising law enforcement officials and warning the public about the consequences of engaging in mob violence or vigilantism, among other measures.

That lynching, mob violence and “cow vigilantism” — an incorrect euphemism for criminals engaging in wanton violence against minorities for the purported reason of transporting cattle for slaughter or cattle meat — still happen since the judgment and little has been done by the Union government or the States in question, especially in north India, points to the nonchalance of the governments. It does not take deductive powers to note that the ideology of the Bharatiya Janata Party at the Centre and in many of these States that allows for the stereotyping and demonising of the minorities has also played into this. Besides vigilantism, social and economic boycott of the minority community have also taken root in States where they receive political patronage. The Court is right in issuing orders to agencies of the state in holding them to account for the non-implementation of the guidelines in the 2018 judgment. However, it requires no less than concerted civil society action to tackle the menace of mob violence and “vigilantism” by sensitising people towards fraternal relations with other communities and avoiding typecasting them as the “other”. In Tamil Nadu, for example, where, historically, secular and rational movements were active, such incidents are rare. And if they do occur, dominant political representatives face outrage from civil society. Preventing atrocities of the kind that mob violence wreaks on ordinary citizens cannot be left to just judicial fiat.

Hurdles to overcome before becoming ‘Digital India’


The digital payments system in India has grown significantly in recent years. Every neighbourhood kirana store now has a QR code scanner. Has the United Payments Interface (UPI) revolutionised how Indians carry out economic transactions? Has the popularity and ease of digital transactions brought about financial inclusion across the country? Where does India stand vis-à-vis other countries?

Modes of payment

Since the introduction of UPI in 2016, transactions in this mode have grown in value and volume. It has been well documented that demonetisation in November 2016 and the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 were major push factors for the widespread adoption of digital payments. From June 2021 to April 2023, UPI payments grew at an average monthly rate of 6%. The corresponding figures for NEFT, IMPS, and debit card payments was 3%, 3%, and 1.5%, respectively. This indicates that the popularity of UPI increased at a faster rate than all other modes of payment.

The share of UPI payments in the total value of digital retail payments in the country increased from less than 20% in mid-2021 to about 27% in March 2023 (Chart 1). Conversely, the share of NEFT transactions saw a decline of about 10 points (from 64% to less than 54%) over the same period. The share of IMPS remained relatively stable (about 9%). While the share of debit card payments and prepaid payments recorded a decline, their combined share did not exceed 2.5% of the overall digital retail transactions. This suggests that that the increasing share of UPI payments has come mainly at the cost of NEFT transactions. This might be because both UPI and IMPS are real-time payment settlement systems unlike NEFT.

Financial inclusion

It is to be expected that the increasing popularity of UPI-based payments would play an important role in improving financial inclusion. The first step towards financial inclusion is to have a bank account. At first glance, it seems like India has made significant progress on this front. According to the World Bank Global Findex Survey, while 53% of the population had bank accounts in 2014, 80% of the population had bank accounts in 2017 and 2021. However, a closer look at the data reveals that of those with bank accounts, 38% have inactive accounts. India has the highest share of inactive accounts in the world compared to all the other countries in the database. This might be an outcome of the push for Jan Dhan accounts. Zero-balance accounts were opened to meet official targets, but have been lying dormant since then. More women than men have inactive accounts (32% versus 23%). While there is no urban-rural divide or income group divide in the possession of bank accounts, differences are evident when we consider the share of inactive accounts. While 31% of the population in rural areas have an inactive account, the share in urban areas is 23%. Similarly, if we consider the poorest 40% of Indians, 35% of them have inactive bank accounts, whereas the corresponding figure for the richest 60% of the population is 22%.

While the popularity of UPI has increased substantially in recent years, only 35% of the population reported carrying out any digital transaction (making or receiving a payment) in 2021. While this was an improvement from previous years (22% in 2014 and 29% in 2017), India’s figures are unimpressive when compared to the average of 57% for all developing countries and the world average of 64%.

Although digital transactions have grown in value and volume, their growth has not been equal. There is a sharp gender gap in digital transactions. While 41% of the male population carried out any digital transaction in 2021, the corresponding figure among women was only 28% (Chart 2).

Not only are these figures low to begin with, but the significant difference of 13 points between men and women is high when compared to most countries including Vietnam (48% of men and 44% of women), Brazil (80% of men and 73% of women), China (87% of men and 85% of women) and Kenya (82% of men and 74% of women), which are at comparable stages of development as India. India’s figures are also lower overall compared to the figures in these countries. Although Bangladesh reported a greater gender gap, its statistics (58% of men and 34% of women) are higher than India’s.

If we look at the rural-urban gap in digital payments, India again stands out when compared to countries such as Bangladesh and Kenya. Only 30% of Indians in rural areas made or received any digital payment in 2021 as opposed to 40% in urban areas. This again indicates that a substantial share of the population has been bypassed. There was no rural-urban divide in Bangladesh (both rural and urban figures were 45%). In Kenya, 74% of the rural population carried out digital transactions, while the corresponding figure in urban areas was 87%. While there was a significant digital divide between urban and rural areas in Kenya, the fact that more than 70% of the population was a part of the digital payments ecosystem is impressive. Therefore, while India has made big strides, it still has a long way to go in becoming ‘Digital India’.

Arnab Chakrabarti and Anwesha Basu are Assistant Professors in the Department of Economics, FLAME University, Pune

Facts about the News

About UPI

  • A Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is a smartphone application that allows users to transfer money between bank accounts.
  • It is a single-window mobile payment system developed by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI).
  • It eliminates the need to enter bank details or other sensitive information each time a customer initiates a transaction.
  • The interface is regulated by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), India’s central bank.
  • The Unified Payments Interface is a real-time payment system.
  • It is designed to enable peer-to-peer inter-bank transfers through a single two-click factor authentication process.
  • It also caters to the “Peer to Peer” collect request which can be scheduled and paid as per requirement and convenience.
  • Sending money on the UPI is called a “push.” In order to send money, the user logs into the interface and selects the Send Money/Payment option.
  • Receiving money through the system is called a “pull.” Once the user has logged in to the system, they select the option to collect money.
  • Once the transfer has been completed, both the sender and the recipient receive a confirmation by text message to their smartphones.

UPI Statistics

In FY22, UPI accounted for 52 percent of the total 8,840 crore financial digital transactions with a total value of Rs 126 lakh crore.

  • In FY19 (2018-19), UPI accounted only for about 17 percent of the country’s total 3,100 crore digital transactions.

In FY23, the platform carried out 84 billion transactions, accounting to about Rs 139.09 trillion.

Unified Payments Interface (UPI) recorded its highest-ever number of transactions (monthly) at 9.41 billion in May 2023.

  • The total value of UPI transactions for May touched Rs 14.30 trillion.

The payment infrastructure recorded a 58 per cent YoY jump in transactions in terms of volume and 37 per cent jump in value.

What is National Electronic Funds Transfer system (NEFT)?

  • National Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT) is a nation-wide centralised payment system owned and operated by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
  • It was started in November 2005.
  • NEFT is an electronic funds transfer system.
  • NEFT allows the online transfer of funds from one NEFT-enabled bank account to another.
  • Transactions made through NEFT do not take place in real-time; implying that it takes some time for NEFT transactions to complete.

          –As per RBI guidelines, the payments made via NEFT are processed and settled in batches of half-hour

Before December 2019, RBI had fixed timings during which NEFT transactions can be processed.

  • Any NEFT transaction will be processed only between 8:00 AM and 6:30 PM from Monday to Friday, and 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM on Saturdays.
  • However, from 2020, NEFT transactions can be performed 24*7.

There are no limits on the amount of NEFT transactions.

  • There is a fee applicable on all NEFT transactions; the amount varies from Rs. 2.5 to Rs. 25, depending on the amount being transferred.

What is IMPS?

  • IMPS, which stands for Immediate Payment Service, is a popular interbank electronic funds transfer system in India.
  • It is built on the National Financial Switch (NFS), managed by NPCI (National Payments Corporation of India), and approved by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
  • It allows individuals to send and receive money instantly using their mobile phones or internet banking.

          – MPS provides a robust and real-time fund transfer option that operates round the clock.

  • IMPS transactions are subject to a daily maximum limit of Rs. 5 Lakh.
  • The charges associated with IMPS transactions may vary between Rs. 5 to Rs. 15, depending on the specific conditions set by the respective banks.

         – In addition to transaction charges, IMPS transactions may also levy an additional service tax.

Two Indian military aircraft visit Australia’s strategic Cocos Islands

India’s access to Cocos and Christian Islands would help the Navy monitor movements in the Indian Ocean. Twitter/@AusAirForce

The planes were at Cocos Island for a week, which can be an important base for refuelling and operational turnaround for Indian armed forces; India aims to increase its military-to-military engagement, deepening interoperability in the region

Expanding the strategic reach of the Indian military and improving interoperability with Australia, an Indian Navy Dornier maritime patrol aircraft and an Indian Air Force (IAF) C-130 transport aircraft visited Australia’s Cocos (Keeling) Islands (CKI) in the Southern Indian Ocean, close to Indonesia and strategic maritime choke points earlier this month, diplomatic and official sources confirmed.

“Cocos can be an important base for refuelling and operational turnaround for the Indian military, especially once the runway there is expanded to accommodate large aircraft like the P-8 long range maritime patrol aircraft,” an official source said, while confirming the visit by the Dornier and C-130 aircraft. According to diplomatic sources, the aircraft were at Cocos for close to a week. Neither the Navy nor the IAF responded to questions from The Hindu.

In a July 7 article published by The Strategist,the commentary and analysis site of Canberra-based think tank, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, David Brewster and Samuel Bashfield wrote that this week, several aircraft from the Indian Navy and the IAF made a “ground-breaking visit” to Australia’s CKI.

“This week’s visit by Indian Navy Dornier maritime patrol aircraft and a C-130 Hercules from the IAF effectively elevates the Cocos Islands as a staging point for Australian and Indian air surveillance of the maritime choke points through Southeast Asia and the entire eastern Indian Ocean,” they wrote in the article titled ‘Indian aircraft visit Cocos Islands as Australia strengthens its maritime security network’. “The visit represents an important step in the bilateral relationship as the two countries increasingly give each other access to their military facilities in the Indian Ocean,” they added.

This is the latest in a series of India’s growing military-to-military engagements, deepening interoperability broadly in the region and especially with Australia. In February, in another first, an Indian Navy Kilo class conventional submarine, INS Sindhukesari, which was on operational deployment, travelled through the Sunda Strait and docked in Jakarta, Indonesia for operational turnaround.

Even before the Indian military reached there, Cocos Islands had been a point of cooperation between the space agencies of the two countries for India’s Gaganyaan human space flight mission. Australia’s active support in establishing a temporary ground station at CKI for the Gaganyaan missions, and potential opportunities for cooperation in earth observation, satellite navigation, space situational awareness, weather and climate studies using satellite data, were the highlights of the discussion, an Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) statement had said during the visit of Enrico Palermo, head of the Australian Space Agency (ASA) to the ISRO’s headquarters in September 2022.

According to reports in the Australian media, the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) plans to upgrade the runway for handling larger military aircraft to use as a forward operating base have been delayed by a significant escalation in the cost of the proposed plan.

According to the ADF, due to insufficient length and strength of the existing airfield pavement at CKI, large defence aircraft are unable to operate out of there. “Subject to Parliamentary approval, works are expected to commence in late 2023, with construction to commence in late 2024. All works are forecast to be complete by early 2026,” the ADF website states on the proposed expansion. The scope of the project has been increased to include a 150-metre runway extension and additional supporting infrastructure, according to a spokesperson of the ADF.

India’s access to CKI and Christmas Island, which is even closer to the strategic choke points, has been under discussion for a while. A turnaround from either of the islands would significantly enhance the on-station time of the Indian Navy’s P-8Is to monitor movements into the Indian Ocean, especially by China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy, whose forays into the region have significantly gone up in recent years.

Facts about the News

Expanding the strategic reach of the Indian military and improving interoperability with Australia, an Indian Navy aircraft and an Indian Air Force aircraft visited Australia’s Cocos (Keeling) Islands (CKI).

  • The island is in the Southern Indian Ocean, close to Indonesia and strategic maritime point for Australia.

About Cocos (Keeling) Islands

  • Cocos Islands, officially Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands, also called Keeling Islands, external territory of Australia in the eastern Indian Ocean.
  • Situated 2750 kms northwest of Perth, Western Australia, and 900km from Christmas Island, the Cocos Keeling Islands are a group of coral islands that form two atolls.
  • Only two of the 27 islands are inhabited.
  • The territory’s administrative headquarters are on West Island in the southern atoll.
  • The inhabitants are predominantly the descendants of the original plantation workers, mostly of Malay origin.
  • The production and export of copra is the territory’s economic mainstay.
  • Importance for India:
  • Cocos can be an important base for refuelling and Operational Turnaround for the Indian military.
  • Even before the Indian military reached there, Cocos Islands had been a point of cooperation between the space agencies of the two countries for India’s Gaganyaan human space flight mission.

PSLV puts 7 satellites in orbit; four more missions this year

The primary satellite DS-SAR was sponsored by the Government of Singapore; to reduce space debris, PS4 stage brought to a lower orbit so that it re-enters atmosphere in less than two months

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Sunday successfully launched the PSLV-C56 carrying Singapore’s DS-SAR and six other satellites.

The rocket lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota at 6.31 a.m.

“PSLV-C56 carrying seven satellites including the primary satellite DS-SAR and six co-passengers has been successfully placed in the right orbit. This is a PSLV mission for New Space India Limited [NSIL] and I want to congratulate the customers sponsored by the Government of Singapore for having this mission onboard PSLV and their continued faith in our launch vehicle for deploying their spacecraft,” ISRO Chairman S. Somnath said.

The DS-SAR satellite is developed under a partnership between the DSTA (representing the Government of Singapore) and ST Engineering.


The co-passengers on the missions were VELOX-AM, a 23-kg technology demonstration microsatellite; Atmospheric Coupling and Dynamics Explorer (ARCADE), an experimental satellite; SCOOB-II, a 3U nanosatellite flying a technology demonstrator payload; NuLIoN by NuSpace, an advanced 3U nanosatellite enabling seamless IoT connectivity in both urban and remote locations; Galassia-2, a 3U nanosatellite that will be orbiting on a low-earth orbit; and ORB-12 STRIDER, a satellite developed under an international collaboration.

After the launcher placed all the seven satellites into a 535-km circular orbit, the PS4 stage was brought back to a lower orbit of 295 km x 300 km.

“The stage is purposefully manoeuvred to a 295 km x 300 km orbit. It now spends significantly less time in space, reducing its duration from over two decades to less than two months, before re-entering the earth’s atmosphere.

“ISRO and India remain committed to reduced space debris and sustainable use of space for the benefit of all,” the space agency said after the PS4 stage de-orbiting experiment.

Mr. Somnath said ISRO was set to launch four more missions this year which included another PSLV mission in August or early September.

Facts about the News

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully launched the PSLV-C56 carrying Singapore’s DS-SAR satellite and six other satellites.

The spacecraft carrying the DS-SAR satellite along with six other satellites lifted off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.

– The DS-SAR satellite is developed under a partnership between DSTA (representing the Government of Singapore) and ST Engineering.

  • Singapore Technologies Engineering Ltd, doing business as ST Engineering, is a Singaporean multinational technology and engineering group in the aerospace, smart city as well as defence and public security sectors.

The main payload on the PSLV was DS-SAR, a 794-pound (360 kilograms) satellite designed to image Earth in radar light. (SAR stands for “synthetic aperture radar.”)

– Six other, smaller satellites also flew on the rocket as secondary payloads.

  • All of them were developed by Singaporean universities and other organizations.

All seven satellites were deployed as planned into low Earth orbit, about 332 miles (535 kilometers) above the planet.

What is low Earth orbit (LEO)?

  • A low Earth orbit (LEO) is, as the name suggests, an orbit that is relatively close to Earth’s surface.
  • It is normally at an altitude of less than 2000 km but could be as low as 160 km above Earth.
  • The majority of satellites are to be found in LEO, as is the International Space Station (ISS).
  • In order to remain in this orbit, a satellite has to travel at around 17,500 miles per hour (7.8 kilometers per second). 

          – At this speed, it takes around 90 minutes for the satellite to complete an orbit of the planet.

  • A satellite in LEO completes around 16 orbits every day.
  • LEO satellites do not always have to follow a particular path around Earth in the same way – their plane can be tilted.
  • It is the orbit most commonly used for satellite imaging, as being near the surface allows it to take images of higher resolution.
  • However, individual LEO satellites are less useful for tasks such as telecommunication, because they move so fast across the sky and therefore require a lot of effort to track from ground stations.

Semiconductor mission not limited to domestic demand: Jaishankar

Trade in technology will have to be conducted by keeping in mind “where and with whom to do it”, External Affairs Minister (EAM) S. Jaishankar said on Sunday.

Presenting a comprehensive outlook on the Centre’s policy on semiconductors at the Semicon India Conference, 2023, Dr. Jaishankar highlighted a wide variety of engagements between India and its Quad partners — the U.S., Japan and Australia — and said that India’s semiconductor mission was not limited to the domestic demand, and that it also aimed to meet global requirement.

“Technology trade is not just trade; it is as much as about political science. The truth is that we are seeing the re-emergence of export controls as a response to strategic assertions of economic strength. How to do business needs to be tempered with where and with whom to do it,” Dr. Jaishankar said, presenting the core idea behind India’s push to create a new supply chain of semiconductors that is currently dominated by Taiwan.

He, however, did not mention China in his presentation.

‘Self reliant’

The Minister said that a “self-reliant India will ipso facto be self-reliant in semiconductor production”, hinting that India wants to safeguard its vital economic and strategic interests from any disruption of the supply chain.

“The depiction of a ‘chip war’ may be somewhat overstated, but it has more than a fundamental kernel of truth,” he said. The Minister highlighted critical and emerging technologies, and said this domain “should now emerge as one of the important metrics of power”.

“Who invents, who manufactures, what are the market shares, where are the resources, who has the skills, where is the talent pool — these are increasingly the crucial questions,” Dr. Jaishankar said.

He shed light on the ongoing semiconductor-related exchanges between India and the U.S.

Dr. Jaishankar highlighted the importance of the Minerals Security Partnership that India joined in June. India joined the 14-member grouping led by the U.S. in an attempt that will help emerging sectors such as electric vehicles.

Facts about the News

India Semiconductor Mission (ISM) is a specialized and independent Business Division within the Digital India Corporation.

  • It aims to build a vibrant semiconductor and display ecosystem to enable India’s emergence as a global hub for electronics manufacturing and design.
  • The mission is under Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
  • The Union Cabinet had approved the comprehensive Semicon India programme with a financial outlay of INR 76,000 in 2021.
  • The various schemes under the mission include:

           – Scheme for setting up of Display Fabs in India

           –Scheme for setting up of Compound Semiconductors / Silicon Photonics / Sensors Fab and   Semiconductor Assembly, Testing, Marking and Packaging (ATMP) / OSAT facilities in India

           – Design Linked Incentive (DLI) Scheme

  • Semicon India Program aims to provide attractive incentive support to companies / consortia that are engaged in Silicon Semiconductor Fabs, Display Fabs, Compound Semiconductors, etc.
  • For the same purpose Semicon India 2023 was held recently in Gujarat with the theme- Catalyzing India’s Semiconductor Ecosystem.

Unused UDAN routes will be up for re-bidding: Scindia

Jyotiraditya Scindia

Discontinued routes under the government’s regional connectivity scheme (RCS), also known as UDAN, are being put up for bidding again, Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said on Sunday.

The Minister was responding to a report in The Hindu on July 30 that said 50% of the RCS routes have shut down since the launch of the scheme in 2017, and that as a result, 15 airports developed under the scheme have fallen into disuse.

The report also noted that while the Union government had been saying that 74 airports had been built since 2014, only 11 of them were new ones built from scratch, while the remaining were old airports that were revived.

“As airlines create capacities and demand for air travel picks up, many discontinued routes are being bid for again by airlines under new rounds of the UDAN scheme,” the Civil Aviation Minister posted on Twitter (now rebranded as X).

On the collapse of the routes, he said that they were dependent on market demand and that the available airport infrastructure could be utilised when demand picks up.

He was hitting out at Congress leader P. Chidambaram, who cited The Hindu’s report and accused the government of “boast and exaggeration”, adding that “each scheme of the government can be exposed as partly true and mostly false”.

Mr. Scindia also said that while 12 airports have been made operational since 2015, including Hirasar, which was inaugurated last week, and will soon see flights, in the 65 years prior to that, only three greenfield airports were set up.

According to the Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, more than 1.23 crore people and 2.23 lakh flights have flown under the UDAN scheme.

Facts about the News

UDAN scheme, 50% routes grounded

Despite a levy of ₹2,038 crore collected from airlines and passengers on profitable routes to subsidise routes under the regional connectivity scheme (RCS), 225 out of 479 RCS routes have ceased operations.

  • Of the 225 routes that have ceased operations, 128 routes shut down even before completing the mandatory three-year period under the scheme.
  • Airlines found 70 of these routes to be commercially unviable despite the subsidy.
  • As many as 97 routes shut down after completing the three-year period during which the government provides support.

About UDAN Scheme

  • UDAN Scheme or UdeDeshKaAamNagrik Scheme was started as the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS Udan) for developing airports and airline route connectivity.
  • As the name suggests, the objective behind the scheme was ‘to let common citizen of India fly’ by making the Airways affordable by providing subsidies on airfare
  • The scheme was launched by the Ministry of Civil Aviation and is applicable for 10 years.
  • It is a part of the National Civil Aviation Policy 2016.
  • Key Features:
  • Airlines have to cap airfares for 50% of the total seats at Rs. 2,500 per hour of flight.
  • For this purpose, a Viability Gap Funding (VGF) was created by the government.
  • The partner State Governments (other than UTs and NER states where contribution will be 10%) would contribute a 20% share to this fund.
  • Various Phases:
  • Phase 1 was launched in 2017, with the objective of connecting underserved and unserved airports in the country.
  • Phase 2 (2018): expanding air connectivity to more remote and inaccessible parts.
  • Phase 3 (2018): enhancing air connectivity to hilly and remote regions
  • Phase 4 (2019): connecting islands and other remote areas.
  • Phase 5: UDAN 5.0 was recently launched.
  • To further enhance the connectivity to remote and regional areas of the country and achieve last mile connectivity.

African leaders leave Russia summit

20 of Africa’s 54 heads of state or government attended the Russia summit.

  • The Summit followed after Russia’s termination of the grain deal earlier this month.
  • Russia had said that it is withdrawing from the Black Sea grain deal, which assured safe passage to ships carrying grains from Ukraine.

What is the Black Sea grain deal?

  • Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, exports of grain from Ukraine, as well as food and fertilizers from Russia, have been significantly hit.
  • The disruption in supplies pushed soaring prices even higher and contributed to a global food crisis.
  • The Black Sea Grain Initiative, brokered by the United Nations and Türkiye, was set up to reintroduce vital food and fertilizer exports from Ukraine to the rest of the world
  • Under the deal, cargo ships would be allowed to travel from and to three Ukrainian ports of Odesa, Chornomorsk and Pivdennyi (Yuzhny), after inspection that they weren’t carrying arms.
  • The deal had been extended twice since its signing.

Why has Russia not agreed to renew it?

  • Russia claims that the promises made to it under the deal have not been met, and it is still facing trouble exporting its own agricultural products.
  • Russia has also said that it had agreed to the grain deal in order to help ensure global food security, but Ukraine has since exported mainly to high-and middle-income countries.

          – The UN says while this is true, poorer countries have been helped by food prices cooling down.

How are Russia and Ukraine’s grain exports?

  • Russia is consolidating its position as the world’s top wheat exporter, even as Ukraine’s shipments are projected to more than halve from their peak.
  • The primary destinations for Russian wheat are the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia, led by Egypt, Iran and Algeria.
  • The Black Sea Grain Initiative helped Ukraine export 16.8 million tonnes in 2022-23, about 39% of its wheat actually moved via the land route to Eastern Europe.
  • Ukraine’s markets have shifted dramatically from Asia and North Africa before the war to mainly Europe, mostly due to ease of shipment.