Prelims Booster

18th August – Prelims Booster

Pandit Jasraj

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has paid condolences to Pandit Jasraj on his demise.

Who was Pandit Jasraj?

  • Born in Haryana in 1930, his musical career spanned eight decades.
  • Many of his notable stage performances were converted into music albums. He taught music in several countries including the United States and many of his students went on to become famous musicians.
  • Belonging to Mewati Gharana, Jasraj was introduced to vocal music by his father, and was later trained as a tabla accompanist under the tutelage of elder brother, Pandit Pratap Narayan. Jasraj began training as a vocalist at the age of 14, and his riyaz once used to last for 14 hours a day.
  • He received several national and international awards in his career. He got Padma Shri – India’s fourth highest civilian award – in 1975; Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1987 and Padma Bhushan in 1999. In the year 2000, the government of India conferred him with Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian honour in the country.

Planet Panditjasraj –

  • In 2019, a minor planet, between Mars and Jupiter, has been named after Pandit Jasraj.
  • International Astronomical Union (IAU) has named minor planet 2006 VP32 (number -300128) , discovered on November 11, 2006 , as ‘Panditjasraj‘.
  • ‘Panditjasraj’ traverses the cosmos between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
  • ‘Panditjasraj’ minor planet can be seen on their official website with the number 300128, his date of birth in reverse order (28/01/30).

Dwarf Planet Ceres

Researchers have shed new light on the dwarf planet Ceres, which lies in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and is also the largest object in that belt.

Ceres now has the status of an “ocean world”, after scientists analysed data collected by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft.

What is a ‘dwarf planet’?

  • As of today, there are officially five dwarf planets in our Solar System. The most famous is Pluto, downgraded from the status of a planet in 2006. The other four, in order of size, are Eris, Makemake, Haumea and Ceres. The sixth claimant for a dwarf planet is Hygiea, which so far has been taken to be an asteroid.
  • Last year, using observations made through the European Space Organisation’s SPHERE instrument at the Very Large Telescope (VLT), astronomers found that Hygiea may possibly be a dwarf planet since it satisfied the four criteria set by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) for a celestial body to be called a dwarf planet.

Criteria for a dwarf plant –

These four criteria are – that the body orbits around the Sun, it is not a moon, has not cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit (which means it is not the dominant body in its orbit around the Sun and this is what differentiates a planet from a dwarf planet) and has enough mass for its gravity to pull it into a roughly spherical shape.

About ‘Ceres’ –

  • Ceres is the largest object in the main asteroid belt that lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
  • The dwarf planet was first spotted by Giuseppe Piazzi in 1801, who assumed that Ceres was the missing planet between Mars and Jupiter.
  • It was classified as a dwarf planet in 2006 and is the first dwarf planet to be orbited by a spacecraft.
  • In 2015, NASA’s Dawn reached it to study its surface, composition and history.
  • Dawn was launched in 2007 and visited Vesta and Ceres.
  • In 2015, it went into the orbit around Ceres and the information it collected reinforced the idea that dwarf planets could have hosted oceans over a significant part of their history. The mission concluded in 2018.

What does it mean to be an ‘ocean world’?

  • Ceres, NASA has said, “is a crucial piece of the ocean worlds puzzle”. “With a crust that mixes ice, salts, rock-forming minerals and other materials, Ceres looks to be a remnant “ocean world,” wearing the chemistry of its old ocean and records of the interaction on its surface.” Scientists are interested in exploring ocean worlds because they may support life.
  • The observations from Dawn suggest the presence of briny liquid water under Ceres’s surface. Before the mission ended in October 2018, the spacecraft dipped to less than 35 km above the surface of the dwarf planet, due to which it was able to collect data in a higher resolution.
  • Now, by analysing this data, which was collected at the end of the mission, scientists have determined that Ceres has a brine reservoir located about 40 km deep and which is hundreds of miles wide, making the dwarf planet, “water rich”.
  • There are other dwarf planets and moons in our solar system where oceans exist, including the moons of Saturn and Jupiter.

Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme (PCGS) 2.0

As part of Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, announced by the Government, Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme (PCGS) 2.0 was launched in May 2020 to provide Portfolio Guarantee for purchase of Bonds or Commercial Papers (CPs) with a rating of AA and below issued by NBFCs/HFCs/ MFIs by Public Sector Banks (PSBs).

Performance of the scheme –

  • It was envisaged to purchase Bonds/CPs of Rs. 45,000 crore under PCGS 2.0 of which the maximum headroom permissible for purchase of Bonds/ CPs rated AA/AA- was 25% of the total portfolio i.e. Rs. 11,250 crore.
  • Under PCGS 2.0, PSBs have approved purchase of Bonds/ CPs rated AA/AA- issued by 28 entities and Bonds/CPs rated below AA- issued by 62 entities, amounting to Rs. 21,262 crore overall.

What has been changed?

  • Keeping in view the progress under the Scheme, the Government has now decided to modify PCGS 2.0 for purchase of Bonds/CPs as under:
    • Additional 3 months have been granted to build up the portfolio. At the end of six months, i.e. by 19.11.2020, the portfolio shall be crystallised based on actual amount disbursed, for the Guarantee to come into effect.
    • At the portfolio level, AA and AA- investment sub-portfolio under the Scheme should not exceed 50% (instead of 25% stipulated earlier) of the total portfolio of Bonds/ CPs purchased by PSBs under the Scheme.

Significance –

It is expected that the above modification will provide greater flexibility to PSBs in purchasing Bonds/CPs under PCGS 2.0.

About Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme –

The Union Cabinet in May 2020 had approved the Sovereign portfolio guarantee up to 20% first loss for purchase of Bonds or Commercial Papers (CPs) with a rating of AA and below (including unrated with original/initial maturity of up to one year) issued with NBFCs/MFCs/Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs) by Public Sector Banks (PSBs) through an extension of the Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme (PCGS).

Bioethanol in Petrol

The government has set targets of 10 per cent bioethanol blending of petrol by 2022 (from current levels of 5 percent) and to raise it to 20 per cent by 2030 under the ethanol blending programme to curb carbon emissions and reduce India’s dependence on imported crude oil.

1G and 2G bioethanol plants are set to play a key role in making bio-ethanol available for blending but face challenges in attracting investments from the private sector.

What are 1G and 2G biofuel plants?

  • 1G bioethanol plants utilise sugarcane juice and molasses, byproducts in the production of sugar, as raw material, while 2G plants utilise surplus biomass and agricultural waste to produce bio-ethanol.
  • Currently, domestic production of bioethanol is not sufficient to meet the demand for bio-ethanol for blending with petrol at Indian Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs).
  • Sugar mills, which are the key domestic suppliers of bio-ethanol to OMCs, were only able to supply 1.9 billion litres of bio-ethanol to OMCs equating to 57.6 per cent of the total demand of 3.3 billion litres.

3G and 4G biofuels –

Third generation biofuel is made from algae. The fourth-generation biofuels combine genetically engineered feedstock with genomically synthesised microorganisms, such as cyanobacteria, to efficiently generate bioenergy, and they are made using non-arable land similar to third-generation biofuels.

Why are Indian plants not able to meet the demand for bio-ethanol?

  • Experts point out that many sugar mills which are best placed to produce bioethanol do not have the financial stability to invest in biofuel plants and there and there are also concerns among investors on the uncertainty o the price of bio-ethanol in the future.
  • It is to be noted that the sugar mills have had to pay high prices for sugarcane set by the government even when there have been supply gluts.
  • The prices of both sugarcane and bio-ethanol are set by the central government. The price of obtaining agricultural waste required for the production of bio-ethanol at 2G plants was currently too high for it to be viable for private investors in the country.

What needs to be done?

  • The experts suggest that the state governments need to set up depots where farmers could drop their agricultural waste and that the central government should fix a price for agricultural waste to make investments in 2G bioethanol production an attractive proposition.
  • Experts say the government could provide greater visibility on the price of bioethanol that sugar mills can expect by announcing a mechanism by which the price of bio-ethanol would be decided.
  • 2G bioethanol not only provided a clean source of energy, but also helped to provide greater income to farmers and prevent them from having to burn agricultural waste which can be a major source of air pollution.

Positive Pay System

High value bank cheque transactions are set to become safer with the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) stated intention to adopt the Positive Pay system for the payment of cheques valuing Rs 50,000 and above.

What is it?

  • The move is aimed to end cheque frauds including altering, counterfeiting and forging of the financial instruments and it is likely to do away with the need for banks to call customers to confirm if they indeed issued a high value cheque that comes up for payment at the customer’s bank’s clearance branch.
  • The move announced by the RBI is likely to cover 20 percent of total cheques by volume and 80 percent by value, according to the central regulator, which announced the scheme earlier this month.

How does it work?

  • The system works by ensuring that every high value cheque valued at Rs 50,000 and above is crossed checked with details provided by the issuing party or the individual.
  • Only a match will lead to the drawee’s bank clearing the cheque and in the event of a ‘no match’ scenario, the issuing authority/individual will be contacted for verification, cancellation or withdrawal of the cheque.
  • The Positive Pay system demands that an account holder electronically uploads the details of the high value cheque through the bank’s net banking system.
  • Customers will need to put in a cheque number, issuance date, payee name, account number, amount payable along with an image of the front and reverse side of the instrument on the Positive Pay system. The cheque can then be handed over to the beneficiary.
  • In the next stage, the cheque is submitted for encashment to the beneficiary’s bank and forwarded to the clearing branch of the drawee bank. The drawee bank then compares the details mentioned on the cheque with the details provided online by the customer through the Positive Pay system. If the details match, the cheque is honoured.

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