Current Affair-April 21, 2021

Russia space station

  • Russia’s space agency expected to launch its own orbital station in 2025. The first core module of the new Russian orbital sta­tion is in the works.
  • Moscow is considering withdrawing from the International Space Station programme (ISS).


  • The International Space Station (ISS) is a multi-nation construction project that is the largest single structure humans ever put into space.
  • The ISS was launched in 1998,  in­volving Russia, the United States, Canada, Japan, and the European Space Agen­cy.
  • NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia) and the European Space Agency are the major partners of the space station who contribute most of the funding; the other partners are the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.
  • It is one of the most ambitious international col­laborations in human histo­ry. It is  one of the few successful examples of cooperation with the West.

Russia space programme

  • Russia lost its monopoly for manned flights to the ISS last year after the first successful mission of U.S. com­pany Space X.
  • Russia this month marked the 60th anniver­sary of Yuri Gagarin becom­ing the first person in orbit.
  • Despite its much­-lauded history,  the country’s space pro­gramme has struggled in recent years.
Source: The Hindu

Codex Committee on Spices and Culinary Herbs

  • The 5th Session of CCSCH began on 20th April with a series of virtual sessions running till 29 April, 2021, with nearly 300 experts from 50 countries taking part in the deliberations.
  • The committee will be considering the quality Standards for dried or dehydrated forms of Ginger, Cloves, Saffron and two culinary herbs, Oregano & Basil at step seven, besides Nutmeg and Chilli peppers & Paprika at step four in the Codex procedure of elaboration of food standards.
  • There are also three proposals for new work, viz. Cardamom, Turmeric and prioritized group standard for spices in the form of dried fruits and berries.

About Codex Committee on Spices and Culinary Herbs (CCSCH)

  • CCSCH was formed in 2013 with support of more than a hundred countries with India as the host country and Spices Board India as the Secretariat for organising the sessions of the committee.
  • It aims to develop and expand worldwide standards for spices and culinary herbs, and to consult with other international organisations in the standards development process
  • Since its inception, the CCSCH has been successful in developing harmonised global Codex standards for spices and herbs.
  • In its past four sessions, the committee developed and finalized standards for four spices, viz. dried or dehydrated forms of  black/white/green pepper, cumin, thyme, and garlic. 

Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC)

  • CAC was set up in 1963.
  • It is an intergovernmental body established jointly by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), within the framework of the Joint Food Standards Programme to protect the health of consumers and ensure fair practices in the food trade.
Source: PIB

Oxygen supply

  • A number of states have reported shortages of medical oxygen for a growing pool of patients in need of oxygen support. India plans to import 50,000 metric tonnes of medical oxygen to cater to the rising demand.

Production of oxygen

  • Oxygen has applications in the iron and steel industry, hospitals, pharmaceutical units that manufacture vials, and the glass industry.
  • The major manufacturers are Inox Air Products, Linde India, Goyal MG Gases Pvt Ltd, National Oxygen Limited.   Currently, most states have diverted their entire oxygen production for medical use.
  • India has the capacity to produce more than 7,000 metric tonnes of medical oxygen.
  • During the first wave of the pandemic last year, smaller manufacturers that produced industrial oxygen, too, were allowed to produce medical oxygen by changing certain specifications. This has helped expand the medical oxygen production capacity.

The major manufacturers are Inox Air Products, Linde India, Goyal MG Gases Pvt Ltd, National Oxygen Limited.


  • Manufacturers prepare liquid oxygen with 99.5% purity, which is stored in jumbo tankers, and transported to distributors in cryogenic tankers at a specified temperature.
  • At distributor level, a process of regasification is followed to convert the oxygen into gaseous form and fill it in jumbo cylinders and dura cylinders.
  • These cylinders then go to smaller suppliers or directly to hospitals.
  • The problem is demand is high, but there are not enough cylinders and tankers to store and transport oxygen.
  • It is not possible to immediately set up new oxygen manufacturing plants or expand existing ones.

Hurdles in transportation

  • India does not have enough cryogenic tankers to ensure 24×7 road transport of medical oxygen. Now when oxygen is being transported from one state to another, the travel time it takes from the manufacturer to a patient’s bed has increased from 3-5 days to 6-8 days.
  • The smaller a hospital or the more remote its location, the longer the time taken for the oxygen to reach there.
  • Smaller suppliers have also complained they do not have enough jumbo and dura cylinders to keep the flow steady.
  • The increase in cost for transport and logistics has increased the cost of refilling cylinders. A cylinder that would earlier cost Rs 100-150 for refiling, now costs Rs 500-2000.

Way forward

  • The Empowered Group plans to identify 100 hospitals in far-flung areas to install pressure swing absorption (PSA) plants, which can manufacture their own oxygen and make the hospitals self-reliant.
  •  This will cut transportation costs and delays in oxygen supply to remote parts.
  • Hospitals are setting up huge storage tanks to store supplies that can last at least 10 days. In the last one year, several civil hospitals have set up such jumbo tankers to avoid their daily wait for cylinders.
  • The Railways will run ‘Oxygen Express’ trains over the next few days to transport liquid medical oxygen and oxygen cylinders across the country.
  • Surplus oxygen stocks from iron and steel plants have been diverted for medical use.
  • The Empowered Group-2 has also decided that argon and nitrogen tankers be diverted for oxygen transport. The Group has also advised use of industrial cylinders for refilling.
  • The Health Ministry has repeatedly warned against oxygen wastage and unnecessary use.
Source: Indian Express

Hydrogen- As Future Fuel

About Hydrogen

  • Hydrogen is the ultimate green fuel. It is the most abundant element in the universe.
  •  It provides three times more energy than fossil fuels and releases pure water as the only byproduct.
  • It is also one of the leading options for storing energy from renewables and looks promising to be the lowest-cost option for storing electricity over days, weeks or even months.


  • The first experiments took place way back in the 1800s and it was used as a fuel in Apollo I that landed on the moon in July 1969.
  • Yet, the availability of cheap fossil fuel meant hydrogen energy never really picked up.
  • The fact that hydrogen does not occur naturally as a gas on the Earth — it is always combined with other elements such as water (H2O) adds to the problem. An external energy source is required to isolate hydrogen.
  • At present coal or fossil fuels is used to isolate hydrogen almost everywhere. This is called grey hydrogen and it is as polluting as fossil fuel.

Significance of using hydrogen

  • Clear signs that fossil fuels can no longer be used to meet the world’s energy needs.
  • Given the limited supply of rare metals to make EV batteries, hydrogen will soon play an indispensable role in delivering zero emission transport.
  • Natural abundance of hydrogen means it has the potential to level competition in the automotive sector, whereas the supply of raw materials for EV batteries is controlled by a few large players.
  • The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) suggests the share of hydrogen in the 2050s energy mix should reach to 12% from almost zero right now.
  • Today, around 120 tonnes of hydrogen are produced annually and less than 1% is green hydrogen.

Initiatives Worldwide

  • The current cost of green hydrogen production is $5-6/kg, which is almost thrice the cost of grey hydrogen.
  • In December 2020, a consortium of seven biggest global green hydrogen project developers launched the Green Hydrogen Catapult Initiative to increase the production of green hydrogen 50-fold in the next six years.
  • Several countries have also published national hydrogen strategies, including Australia, Chile, Germany, EU, Japan, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain and South Korea.
  • EU in June 2020 laid out plans to install 40 gigawatts of renewable hydrogen electrolysers and produce as much as 10 million tonnes of renewable hydrogen by 2030.
  • Saudi Arabia is setting up a $5 billion solar and wind energy plant to produce green hydrogen. When the plant is completed in the planned megacity of Neom in 2025, it will be one of largest producers of green hydrogen in the world.


  • India reiterated its commitment to green hydrogen this February, plan to launch the Hydrogen Energy Mission as mentioned in budget speech. It has earmarked Rs 1,500 crore for the mission and the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency though details are awaited.
  • Like the rest of the world, India has been dabbling with grey hydrogen for a while now. Its experience with green hydrogen is limited.
  • The focus so far has been in transportation and power generation sectors. The public sector undertaking is working on pilot hydrogen buses between Delhi and Jaipur and in Leh.
  • The country is also exploring the possibility of adding hydrogen to existing piped natural gas connections to reduce the carbon footprint.
Source: Downtoearth

Ad-hoc judges

  • Supreme Court of India, activated Article 224A of the Constitution and allowed high court chief justices to start appointing retired HC judges as ad hoc judges for two to five years if the HC faced pendency of a large number of cases.


  • Ad hoc judges would not be against vacancies in the sanctioned strength of judges in an HC.
  • The recourse to Article 224A is not an alternative to regular appointments.
  • The bench said the trigger point for activating Article 224A by an HC chief justice could be many —

a) if vacancies are more than 20% of the sanctioned strength,

 b) cases in a particular category are pending for over five years,

c) more than 10% of the backlog of pending cases are over five years old,

d) the percentage of rate of disposal is lower than the institution of cases either in a particular subject matter or generally in the court, and,

e) even if there are not many old cases pending, but depending on the jurisdiction, a situation of mounting arrears is likely to arise if the rate of disposal is consistently lower than the rate of filing over a period of a year or more.

Article 224A

  • Article 224A was there in the original Constitution adopted in 1949 but was deleted in 1956 only to be reintroduced in 1963.
  • It had been dormant for 58 years.
  • In the last 58 years, only three retired judges have been appointed as ad hoc judges to HCs for a period of one year each.
Source: Times of India

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