GS Paper I- History and Geography of the World and Society.

Meghalaya: At Over 24,000 Metres In Length, World’s Longest Sandstone Cave Found Called Krem Puri.

Background

  • The world’s longest sandstone cave at 24,583 metres in length has been discovered in Meghalaya, the northeastern state known for its complex cave systems hidden under its undulating hills.
  • Called Krem Puri, the cave was discovered in 2016, but its actual length was found during an expedition by the Meghalaya Adventurers’ Association (MAA) to measure and map it between February 5 and March 1, 2018, said Brian Daly Kharpran, a founding member of the organisation.
  • This underground cavern is more than 6,000 metres longer than the world record-holder, the Cueva Del Saman in Edo Zulia, Venezuela — a quartzite sandstone cave measuring 18,200 metres.

 

Highlights Of The Development-

  • This sandstone cave has also become India’s second longest cave in the general category after the limestone Krem Liat Prah-Umim-Labit system measuring a little over 31km in Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya, said Kharpran, a recipient of the Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award in 2002.
  • Besides delighting speleologists and cave enthusiasts, Krem Puri near the village of Laitsohum in the Mawsynram area of East Khasi Hills district also has features that attract paleontologists.
  • The cave system has fossils of dinosaurs, especially the Mosasaurus, a giant reptile that lived 66-76 million years ago.
  • The expedition team comprised 30 seasoned cavers from the UK, Ireland, Austria, Romania, Switzerland, Poland, the Netherlands, members of MAA, and four Italian scientists from La Venta.
  • The scientists were invited to give their insight about the structure and genesis of krems, which in the Khasi language means cave, in Mawsynram — known as the wettest place on earth for its record-breaking rainfall.
  • The 25-day exploration mapped almost all of Krem Puri, with little leads left open, Kharpran said.
  • That apart, nine more partially explored and new caves were mapped. Overall, the 2018 expedition explored and mapped 22.8km of new cave passages, said Kharpran, who has been exploring and mapping caves since 1992.
  • The whereabouts of more than 1,650 caves and cave locations are known in Meghalaya, of which over 1,000 have been explored or partially explored. According to official data, the state has 491km of surveyed caves. And many more are waiting to be discovered.

Sources- Hindustan Times.

GS Paper II- Polity.

Parliament Passes Gratuity Amendment Bill 2017.

Background

  • On 22nd March, 2018, the Upper House of Parliament or Rajya Sabha passed The Payment of Gratuity Bill 2017 which was introduced by Minister of Labour and Employment Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar on December 18, 2017 in the Lok Sabha.  
  • Rajya Sabha passed the bill, which was approved by Lok Sabha last week, on March 15. Besides enabling the central government to fix the ceiling of tax free gratuity, the bill will also empower it to fix the period of maternity leave through executive order.
  • The Bill seeks to empower the government to fix the period of maternity leave and the tax-free gratuity amount with an executive order.

 

Highlights Of The Development-

  • Introduced in 1972, the Act was enacted to provide for a scheme for the payment of gratuity to employees engaged in factories, mines, oilfields, plantations, ports, railway companies, shops and other establishments. Employees who have rendered a minimum five years of continuous service with the establishment employing ten or more persons fall under the Act.
  • The 2017 bill seeks to amend the Act on two issues.
  • First, it empowers the government to notify the period of maternity leave eligible for qualifying as continuous service and determine the amount of gratuity available to employees.
  • Under the Act, the maximum maternity leave (Section 2A) was based on the maternity leave stated under the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961. After the amendment of the Maternity Act in 2017, the maximum maternity leave under the Maternity Act was changed from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. The present bill sought to remove the reference of 12 weeks in the Act and empowers the government to notify the maximum maternity leave.
  • Secondly, the Act had introduced a ceiling of Rs. 10 lakh on the maximum amount of gratuity payable to an employee through an amendment in 2010. The provision was based on the Central Civil Services (Pension) Rules, 1972 enacted for government employees. After the implementation of the 7th Central Pay Commission, the ceiling gratuity for Central Government employees has been enhanced from Rs. 10 lakh to Rs. 20 lakh. Seeking to amend the current provision (Section 4) of the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972, the bill empowers the government to notify the ceiling proposed instead of amending the Act. This amendment was sought so that the limit can be revised from time to time with the increase in wage and inflation and future pay commissions.
  • Gratuity is calculated based on 15 days of wages for each year of continuous and complete service, subject to a ceiling.

Sources- The Indian Express.

 

GS Paper III- Technology.

ISRO Postpones Launch Of Chandrayaan-2 Mission.

Background

  • There is a slight delay in the launch of India’s second lunar mission ‘Chandrayaan-2’. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has postponed the launch to October in view of additional tests to be carried out.
  • ISRO chairman K Sivan told the media persons at the Chennai airport on 23rd March that the experts had met recently and suggested the tests, following which the mission would be launched in October, 2018.
  • Union Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh, who is in charge of the Department of Space, said on February 16 last that the mission would be launched in April.
  • However, Sivan said while the target date for the launch was in April, the Indian Space Research Organisation would be launching the mission in October or November, after the tests are carried out.

 

Highlights Of The Development-

  • The Chandrayaan-2, a totally indigenous mission costing about `800 crore, would orbit around the moon and perform the objectives of remote-sensing the moon. The payloads will collect scientific information on lunar topography, mineralogy, elemental abundance, lunar exosphere and signatures of hydroxyl and water-ice.
  • Explaining how the mission proceeds, Indian Space Research Organisation scientists said that once the GSLV-F10 put the spacecraft in the 170 km x 20,000 km elliptical orbit, the orbiter would  be manoeuvred towards the 100-km lunar orbit by firing thrusters and then the lander housing the rover will separate from the orbiter.
  • After a controlled descent, the lander will soft-land on the lunar surface at a specified site and deploy the six-wheeled robotic rover, which will move around the landing site in a semi-autonomous mode as decided by the ground commands. The instruments on the rover will observe the lunar surface and send back data, which will be useful for analysis of the lunar soil.Most complex part of the entire mission is soft-landing on the lunar surface of the moon.
  • Only the US, Russia and China have been able to soft-land spacecraft on the lunar surface.

Sources- The New Indian Express.