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Question and Answer


 Q. 65. What is "seafloor spreading"?
It  is a process that occurs at mid-ocean ridges, where new oceanic crust is formed through volcanic activity and then gradually moves away from the ridge. Seafloor spreading helps explain continental drift in the theory of plate tectonics. It  is a geologic process in which tectonic plates—large slabs of Earth's lithosphere—split apart from each other.
 Q. 64. Differentiate between the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) and Strategic Policy Group in terms of their composition and functions. What is the current agenda of NSAB?
The National Security Advisory Board (NSAB) is an integral part of the three-tier institutional structure dealing with national security issues with the National Security Council at its apex. The other important wing is the Strategic Policy group.  The NSAB normally meets at least once a month. Its principal function is to undertake long-term analysis of and provide perspectives on issues of national security. It reports to the National Security Council headed by the PM. The National Security Advisory Board consists of senior retired officials, civilian as well as military, academics and distinguished members of civil society drawn from and having expertise in Internal and External Security, Foreign Affairs, Defence, Science & Technology and Economic Affairs.

The NSAB  may also take up for study specific issues which the National Security Council may refer to it. Its policy recommendations and options are conveyed to the National Security Council for its consideration.

The National Security Council is the apex body, headed by the Prime Minister, with the National Security Adviser as its Secretary. The Strategic Policy Group is chaired by the Cabinet Secretary, consisting of serving senior officials responsible for policy-making and for follow up action in matters concerning national security. It includes the Chiefs of the Armed Forces, the Intelligence Bureau and the Research and Analysis Wing. Its main task is to make policy recommendations to the National Security Council.

The current agenda of the board include neighbourhood strategy, western neighbourhood, border management, maritime security, internal security, strategic industries and technology, strategic communications.
 Q. 63. What is MFN status under the WTO? Should India cancel it for Pakistan?
The Most Favoured Nation (MFN) treatment under the WTO means every member should all others normally for trade relations. Preferential terms are allowed but not negative discrimination. Exceptions to the general MFN rule on grounds of National Security, via Article XXI are permitted.  There are other exceptions as well, in Article XX of the GATT.  India in 1996 gave MFN status to Pakistan.
Pakistan, which is bound by WTO rules to extend the MFN status to India has not done so, using the provisions of Article XXI. India has not taken the issue to the WTO dispute settlement mechanism, partly because it is difficult to challenge Pakistan’s subjective assessment on security issues. Nor has New Delhi reconsidered withdrawing the 1996 decision. Article XXI ‘Security Exceptions’ of GATT states that:
“Nothing in this Agreement shall be construed…(a) to prevent any contracting party from taking any action which it considers necessary for the protection of its essential security interests…(b) taken in time of war or other emergency in international relations; or (c) to prevent any contracting party from taking any action in pursuance of its obligations under the United Nations Charter for the maintenance of international peace and security.”
The critical phrase – “which it considers necessary” – gives a member state nearly unfettered rights to invoke this provision at its own discretion, which is what Pakistan has used, to deny the MFN status to India.
When Pakistan has invoked a security exception to deny India an MFN status, New Delhi would be justified in reciprocating for the same reason and under the same provision; and Pakistan will have no case to take to the WTO. Furthermore, recent developments near the India-Pakistan border would constitute an emergency in New Delhi’s relations with Islamabad, which would justify the decision to withdraw the MFN status.
If India withdraws the MFN status to Pakistan, it hurts both (particularly India) though will be a strong political message to Pakistan, but more importantly, to domestic public opinion that the government means business in facing up to the security challenges from the western frontier.
Pakistan’s exports to India in 2015-16 was $441 million – 1.56 per cent of its total exports – and much of it was primary products. On the other hand, India’s exports through regular channels to Pakistan in 2015-16, despite the denial of MFN status, was $2.17 billion. Pakistan could retaliate by restricting imports of several items from India. Informal trade via third countries (due to high tariffs, Pakistan’s negative list, lack of infrastructure and political tensions) is more than double of it, much of its Indian exports.
 Q. 62. What is a startup ecosystem? How does the 2016 Startup policy of the Government create such a system?
A startup ecosystem is formed by people, startups in their various stages and various types of organizations in a location (physical or virtual), interacting as a system to create new startup companies and increase the productivity of the existing ones.. These organizations are universities, funding organizations, support organizations (like incubators, accelerators, co-working spaces etc.), research organizations, service provider organizations (like legal, financial services etc.) and large corporations. Different organizations  focus on specific parts of the ecosystem function and startups at their specific development stage.
1. Government policy
2. Ideas, inventions and research i.e. Intellectual property rights (IPR)
3. Entrepreneurship Education
4. Entrepreneurs
5. Start up team members
6. Angel investors
7. Startup mentors
8. Startup events 
(Startup Policy 2016 is given in Current  Events Notes coming up soon)
 Q. 61. Amendments to the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011 were made by the Union Government in October 2016. Why?
Currently, there are measures to control wholesalers and importers and not retailers. Retail prices are fixed by market forces, leaving very little room for the government to check undue spike in prices. The amendments to the Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 2011, have a provision to fix retail price of any essential commodity. If retail sale price of any essential commodity is fixed and notified by the competent authority under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, the same shall apply. This rule will apply to essential commodities that are sold both in loose and packaged form in retail markets. Fixing retail prices of essential items will be done only in extra-ordinary situations when retail prices shoot up abnormally. Government can fix retail prices of essential commodities like pulses and sugar in extraordinary situations. This provision will help the government to take proactive steps in the interest of consumers.
 Q. 60. What is "Himansh"? Outline its research activities.
Himansh, the glaciological research facility of India is located in Spiti Valley, one of the most uninhabited parts of the country, Himansh is considered to be the highest point from where an Indian glacier research facility is functioning. The research lab, established by the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR), has automatic weather stations, ground penetrating radars, geodetic GPS systems and other sophisticated facilities to study glaciers and their discharge.

The facility will serve as the base for Terrestrial Laser Scanners and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to digitise glacier movements and snow cover variations, said a communication from the NACOR.

The researchers plan to undertake integrated studies using glaciological and glacio-hydrological methods to quantify the glacier stability in the region and to quantify the contribution from water melting from glacials to the river discharge in the Indus basin.
 Q. 59. Write a short note on Black and red ware culture.
It belongs to 9th century BC and associated with the post-Rigvedic Vedic civilization.

In some sites, BRW pottery is associated with Late Harappan pottery, and according to some scholars, the BRW may have directly influenced the Painted Grey Ware and Northern Black Polished Ware cultures. BRW pottery is unknown west of the Indus Valley.

Use of iron, although sparse at first, is relatively early, postdating the beginning of the Iron Age in Anatolia (Hittites) by only two or three centuries, and predating the European (Celts) Iron Age by another two to three hundred years. Recent findings in Northern India show Iron working since 1800 BC .It is succeeded by the Painted Grey Ware culture.
 Q. 58. Give a brief outline of Mahajanapadas.
The term "Janapada" literally means the foothold of a tribe. The fact that Janapada is derived from Jana points to an early stage of land-taking by the Jana tribe for a settled way of life. This process of first settlement on land had completed its final stage prior to the times of the Buddha and Pāṇini. The Pre-Buddhist north-west region of the Indian sub-continent was divided into several Janapadas demarcated from each other by boundaries. In Pāṇini's "Ashtadhyayi", Janapada stands for country and Janapadin for its citizenry. Each of these Janapadas was named after the Kshatriya tribe (or the Kshatriya Jana) who had settled therein. Buddhist and other texts only incidentally refer to sixteen great nations (Solasa Mahajanapadas) which were in existence before the time of the Buddha. 

A Mahājanapada  is one of the sixteen kingdoms or oligarchic republics that existed in the ancient India from the sixth centuries BC to fourth centuries BC. Two of them were most probably 'ganas' ie. republics, and others had forms of monarchy. Ancient Buddhist texts like the Anguttara Nikaya make frequent reference to sixteen great kingdoms and republics which had evolved and flourished in a belt stretching from Gandhara in the northwest to Anga in the eastern part of theIndian subcontinent and included parts of the trans-Vindhyan region prior to the rise of Buddhism in India.

The 6th century BC is often regarded as a major turning point in early Indian history. Archaeologically, this period corresponds in part to the Northern Black Polished Ware culture.
 Q. 57. What do you know of Northern Black Polished Ware culture? Comment on its age. How is it similar to Harappan cultures and how do they differ?
The Northern Black Polished Ware culture ( NBPW/NBP ) is an urban Iron Age culture of the Indian Subcontinent, lasting c. 700–200 BC, succeeding the Painted Grey Ware culture and Black and red ware culture. It developed beginning around 700 BC, or in the late Vedic period, and peaked from c. 500–300 BC, coinciding with the emergence of 16 great states or mahajanapadas in Northern India, and the subsequent rise of the Mauryan Empire. After recent excavations at Gotihwa in Nepal,  by radiocarbon datings it was found  that proto-NBPW is at least from 900 BC. Excavations in India at Ayodhya, Juafardih near Nalanda, and Kolhua near Vaisali, show even earlier radiocarbon datings around 1200 BC. Based on this,  the following chronology may be proposed : Proto-NBPW (1200–800 BC); Early NBPW (800–300 BC); and Late NBPW (300–100 BC).

A luxury style of burnished pottery used by elites, it is associated with the emergence of South Asia's first cities since the decline of the Indus Valley Civilization; this re-urbanization was accompanied by massive embankments and fortifications, significant population growth, increased social stratification, and wide-ranging trade networks.

Scholars have noted similarities between NBP and the much earlier Harappan cultures, among them the ivory dice and combs and a similar system of weights. Other similarities include the utilization of mud, baked bricks and stone in architecture, the construction of large units of public architecture, the systematic development of hydraulic features and a similar craft industry.There are also, however, important differences between these two cultures; for example, rice, millet and sorghum became more important in the NBP culture. The NBP culture may reflect the first state-level organization in the Indian Subcontinent.

Some sites where Northern Black Polished Ware have been found are Mahasthangarh, Chandraketugarh, Wari-Bateshwar,Bangarh and Mangalkot (all in Bangladesh and West Bengal, India).

Other NBPW sites, associated with the mahajanapadas, are Charsada (ancient Pushkalavati) and Taxila, in Pakistan; Delhi or ancient Indraprastha; Hastinapura, Mathura, Kampil/Kampilya, Ahichatra, Ayodhya, Sravasti, Kausambi, Varanasi all in Uttar Pradesh; Vaishali, Rajgir, Pataliputra, and Champa in Bihar; and Ujjain and Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh.
 Q. 56. Who won the Nobel prize for Physics in 2016? For what studies? How are they relevant to us? Write a note on "strange matter."
British-born scientists David Thouless, Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz were awarded 2016 Nobel Prize in physics  for studies on exotic matter that could result in improved materials for electronics or quantum computers.

They  discovered unexpected behaviours of solid materials and devised a mathematical framework to explain their properties.The academy cited the three for “theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter.” Topology is a branch of mathematics that describes properties of objects.

“This year’s Laureates opened the door on an unknown world where matter can assume strange states. They have used advanced mathematical methods to study unusual phases, or states, of matter, such as superconductors, superfluids or thin magnetic films.Thanks to their pioneering work, the hunt is now on for new and exotic phases of matter. Many people are hopeful of future applications in both materials science and electronics.” When matter is in extreme conditions, such as when it's very cold or flat, scientists start to see unusual behaviour from the atoms.
The academy said the laureates’ work in the 1970s and 1980s opened the door to a previously unknown world where matter takes unusual states or phases.Their discoveries have brought about breakthroughs in the theoretical understanding of matter’s mysteries.”

They focused on phenomena that arise in flat forms of matter - on surfaces or inside extremely thin layers that can be considered two-dimensional.This contrasts with the three dimensions (length, width and height) with which we usually describe reality.They  also studied matter that forms threads so thin they can be considered one-dimensional.
Nobel judges often award discoveries made decades ago to make sure they withstand the test of time.
Exotic/Strange Matter and its applications
Phase transitions occur when matter changes from one phase to another, such as when ice melts and becomes water.They described a type of phase transition in a thin layer of very cold matter. In the cold, vortices form as tight pairs, but at higher temperatures, as the phase transition occurs, they separate and "sail" off in different directions.One aspect of the work, known as the Quantum Hall effect, has led to a real-world application in metrology to give a precise definition of the Ohm in resistance. Scientists are exploring whether topological concepts could be used in "robust quantum devices which can do things that classical computers or classical circuit elements are unable to do".

Microsoft's Station Q project is taking just such an approach to the development of powerful quantum computers.In addition,  topological metals could be used in the manufacture of improved conductors or transistors. Physicists are working very hard in the labs to get new materials which have interesting properties of conducting electricity.

Today's advanced technology  relies on our ability to understand and control the properties of the materials involved.This has paved the way for designing new materials with novel properties and there is great hope that this will be important for many future technologies.Their work could result in improved materials for electronics and is already informing one approach to super-fast computing.Thus, The physicists' pioneering research could be used in the next generation of electronics and superconductors.
 Q. 55. Kishanganga
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in  2013, issued a judgment, on the construction of Kishanganga Hydro-electric Project (KHEP) by India, which restructures and modernises the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) between India and Pakistan.

The Kishanganga river, rising near Gurez, is a tributary of the Jhelum. Flowing through J&K it crosses the Line of Control to enter POK as the Neelum river before merging with the Jhelum near Muzaffarabad. Since 2009, a hydro-electric project is being constructed by India with a planned capacity of 330 MW by diverting the waters of the Kishanganga river through a 23-km-long tunnel. It is expected to be completed by 2016.

In  2010, Pakistan approached the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) for arbitration under IWT challenging  inter-tributary diversion.The PCA in  2013 issued a partial award stating that since the KHEP was a runThe PCA, however, decided that India should  maintain a minimum flow of water in the river .In its final award, the PCA unanimously decided on the question of minimum flow that was left unresolved by the partial award, a decision to be binding upon both countries and not open to appeal. The court decided that India shall release a minimum flow of 318 cusecs into the Kishanganga/Neelum river below the KHEP at all times.
 Q. 54. How does the response of China to the award of the Permanent Court of Arbitration on South China Sea contrast with that of India to the India-specific awards of the same tribunal recently?
In July 2016,  the tribunal of five judges at Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration issued an award in Republic of Philippines v. People’s Republic of China, a case filed in 2013 by Manila concerning maritime entitlements and the status of features in the South China Sea, among other issues.The Tribunal  ruled that China’s nine-dash line claim and accompanying claims to historic rights have no validity under international law. China rejected the award.

Beijing’s  response to the PCA ruling on South China Sea contrasts  with Indian acceptance of the PCA judgment on its maritime boundary dispute with Bangladesh. The PCA ruling of July 2014 had awarded nearly four-fifths of the disputed maritime waters to Bangladesh. India showed  its commitment to international  law by accepting the ruling, unlike China, a difference that will be appreciated by  other countries as India seeks its place at various global forums.
 Q. 53. What is FARC? What was the "peace agreement" about? What happened to the agreement?
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia has been active  since1964. The operations of the FARC  were funded by kidnap and ransom; illegal mining; extortion;production, and distribution of illegal drugs. The conflict has claimed 220,000 lives and displaced about six million people.In June 2016, the FARC signed a ceasefire accord with the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos in Havana. This accord has been seen as a historic step to ending the war that has gone on for fifty years. Under the accord, the Colombian government will support massive investment for rural development and facilitate the FARC’s reincarnation as a legal political party. FARC promised to help eradicate illegal drug crops, remove landmines in the areas of conflict, and offer reparations to victims. FARC leaders can avoid prosecution by acts of reparation to victims and other community work. A national referendum  took place on 2 October.The referendum failed with 50.24% voting against the peace deal.
 Q. 52. What is moral support?
Moral support is a way of giving support to a person or cause, or to one side in a conflict, without making any contribution beyond the emotional or psychological value of the encouragement.
For example, in a war between two countries or alliances, a third nation may give moral support to one side, without actually participating in the conflict. Like India supported the cause of Balochs in Pakistan.
Another common example can be found in sports. By coming out to watch one's friend's team play a match, one is likely not directly supporting their team in any significant way (especially if there is no charge to attend), but one's friend may still feel encouraged by the moral support of one's presence.
The line between moral support and other forms of help is often hard to draw. For example, some athletes report that they play better when the spectators encourage them.
There is also moral support that one can offer someone who is experiencing a difficult situation. One may not be able to offer any concrete assistance except empathy.
 Q. 51. Write on Adam's Bridge and the importance of Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project.
Adam's Bridge also known as Rama's Bridge or Rama Setu is a chain of limestone shoals, between Pamban Island, also known as Rameswaram Island, off the southeastern coast of Tamil Nadu, India, and Mannar Island, off the northwestern coast of Sri Lanka. Geological evidence suggests that this bridge is a former land connection between India and Sri Lanka.
The bridge is 18 miles (30 km) long and separates the Gulf of Mannar (southwest) from the Palk Strait (northeast). Some of the sandbanks are dry and the sea in the area is very shallow, being only 3 ft to 30 ft (1 m to 10 m) deep in places, which hinders navigation.
Hindu believers hold it as the structure that Lord Rama and his army of apes and monkeys built to reach demon king Ravana`s Lanka.
Today, ships bound for India`s eastern coast have to circle around the entire island of Sri Lanka to reach Tuticorin, Chennai, Vizag, Paradip and other ports.
Therefore, a project titled Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project was mooted by the Government of India and a feasibility study ordered in the 1990s.
Successful completion of the project would cut travelling by about 350 nautical miles and will save 10 to 30 hours` sailing time. Plans were also drawn up to develop 13 minor ports in India, and fishing harbours and other infrastructure in both India and Sri Lanka.
The project involves creating a 83-km-long deepwater channel that will link Mannar with Palk Strait by extensive dredging and removal of the limestone shoals that constitute the Ram Sethu. It will bring down shipping costs and add to India`s exchequer in the form of transit fees.

The project has been condemned and opposed by a wide spectrum of the Indian people. Hindu outfits have come down on the plans to destroy something built by Lord Rama.
Some environmentalists opposed it as they hold it would destroy and destabilise the aquatic flora and fauna of the area.
With China’s influence in Sri Lanka increasing, India needs to explore alternative shipping routes and the project becomes more attractive for that reason.
 Q. 50. What is a tokamak? Where is it being built in the world today as the biggest scientific project? What role is India playing in it? Focus on cryostat.
India and ITER
Tokamak is the machine to produce unlimited supplies of cheap, clean, safe and commercial energy from atomic fusion. The international nuclear fusion project known as ITER is based on the 'tokamak' concept. Indian engineers are fabricating the world's largest high-vacuum cold storage vessel called the cryostat which will be home to the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), the largest and the most advanced facility of its kind being built in Cadarache, France. India is part of a seven nation consortium that is building the fusion reactor designed to produce electricity.
Apart from the cryostat (Read ahead), India is providing a tenth of the components for the massive nuclear complex unfolding at Cadarache in France.
India is also expected to contribute about 9,000 cores over the next decade to the project, thus paying for a little under 10% of the total cost.
Participation of India in the ITER project, with its immense scientific talent and industrial competence, has provided an opportunity to India to master cutting edge technologies.
Once the proof is established that mankind can harness the power of the Sun, India could well build its own fusion reactors after 2050.
India and the cryostat
Welded together from thick stainless steel plates measuring between 40 and 180 millimetres, the cryostat forms the vacuum-tight container surrounding the ITER vacuum vessel and superconducting magnets. Cryostat supports the entire mechanical, thermal and seismic load of the reactor and absorbs all the forces coming from fusion and magnetic forces. It would protect the magnets from unwanted heat loads and help in keeping them in superconducting state.Large bellows are used between the cryostat and the vacuum vessel to allow for thermal contraction and expansion in the structures.
India is building the ITER's cryostat. Scientists and engineers at the Institute of Plasma Research (IPR), Gandhinagar will manufacture the mammoth cryostat in segments at a cost of 100 million euros and ship it to France for being assembled at the site.
The supply of components is expected to take place between 2014 and 2017 and onsite fabrication and installation at Cadarache is scheduled to be completed by 2019.
 Q. 49. What do you know of Suryanamaskar and its benefits?
Without the sun, there will be no life on earth. Surya Namaskar or 'Sun Salutation' is a very ancient technique of paying respect or expressing gratitude to the sun that is the source of all forms of life on the planet. Symbolically, the sun becomes our source of energy as well. About the history of this technique, it has been said by the ancient rishis of India that the different parts of the body are governed by different devas (divine impulses or divine light).

Literally translated to sun salutation, these postures are a good way to keep the body in shape and the mind calm and healthy.Surya Namaskar is best done early morning on an empty stomach.
The solar plexus (located behind the navel, which is the central point of the human body), also known as the second brain, is said to be connected to the sun. This is the main reason why the ancient rishis recommended the practice of Surya Namaskar, because the regular practice of this technique enhances the solar plexus, which increases one's creativity and intuitive abilities.A set of 12 powerful yoga asanas (postures) that provide a good cardiovascular workout in the form of Surya Namaskar. 
 Q. 48. What is Kuznet's curve?
In economics, a Kuznets curve represents graphically the hypothesis advanced by Simon Kuznets in the 1950s and 1960s that as an economy develops, a natural cycle of economic inequality occurs, driven by market forces which at first increase inequality, and then decrease it after a certain average income is attained.
One explanation of such a progress suggests that early in development investment opportunities for those who have money multiply, while an influx of cheap rural labor to the cities holds down wages.
The Kuznets curve implies that as a nation undergoes industrialization – and especially the mechanization of agriculture – the center of the nation’s economy will shift to the cities. As capitalism causes a significant rural-urban inequality gap , rural populations are expected to decrease as urban populations increase, due to people migrating to cities in search of income. Inequality is then expected to decrease when a certain level of average income is reached and the processes of industrialization – democratization and the rise of the welfare state – allow for the trickle-down of the benefits from rapid growth, and increase the per-capita income. Kuznets believed that inequality would follow an inverted “U” shape as it rises and then falls again with the increase of income per-capita.
 Q. 47. Do you believe there are "Asian values"?
Various definitions of Asian values have been put forth. Generally, the phrase refers to loyalty towards the family, corporation, and nation; the forgoing of personal freedom for the sake of society's stability and prosperity; and, a strong work ethic together with thrift.
Proponents of "Asian values" claim these values are more appropriate for the region than Western democracy with its emphasis on individual freedoms.
"Asian values" include:
  • Preference for social harmony
  • Concern with socio-economic prosperity and the collective well-being of the community
  • Loyalty and respect towards figures of authority
  • Preference for collectivism rather than individualism
 Amartya Sen argues these so-called Asian values cannot operate because of the overriding cultural diversity found in Asia. Others say that Asian values is a concept that covers up for suppressing universal values such as freedom of speech and human rights.
 Q. 46. What do you understand by family values?
Family values are traditional or cultural values (that is, values passed on from generation to generation within families) that pertain to the family’s beliefs, attitudes, and ideals.  They are the moral and ethical principles traditionally upheld and transmitted within a family, as honesty, loyalty, industry, and faith. They are values especially of a traditional or conservative kind which are held to promote the sound functioning of the family and to strengthen the fabric of society. "Family values" are values held to be traditionally learned or reinforced within a family, such as those of high moral standards and discipline. This "traditional family" involves a middle-class family with a breadwinner father and a homemaker mother, raising their children.

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