Sarat Chandra IAS Academy

New Shephard rocket System

Sarat Chandra IAS Academy -UPSC Civils Daily Current Affairs 22nd July-2021


  • High altitude Balloons for Internet
  • 97th Amendment Act ,2011
  • India Inequality report
  • “SMILE – Support for Marginalized Individuals for Livelihood and Enterprise”
  • Stand up India Scheme
  • New Shephard rocket System


1.High altitude Balloons for Internet

#GS3 #Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, Robotics

#GS2 #International relations

Context: Recently, the US has planned to transmit the Internet to the people in Cuba via high-altitude balloons when their government has blocked access.

How does that work?

  • They are commonly known as Loon Balloons as the first High Altitude Balloon for providing internet was used under Project Loon.
  • The Loon balloons were effectively cell towers the size of a tennis court.
  • Made of the commonplace plastic polyethylene, the balloons used solar panels for electricity and could deliver service to smartphones in partnership with a local telecom.
  • While up in the air, they act as floating cell towers, transmitting internet signals to ground stations and personal devices.
  • They float 60,000 to 75,000 feet, above the Earth, well above commercial jetliner routes.
  • They last for well over 100 days in the stratosphere before being returned to earth.
  • Each balloon can serve thousands of people. But they had to be replaced every five months or so because of the harsh conditions in the stratosphere. And the balloons can be difficult to control.

What equipment was required?

  • Beyond the balloons themselves, it needed network integration with telecom to provide service and some equipment on the ground in the region.
  • It also needs permission from local regulators.

Could a network be set up from afar?

  • Loon used multiple balloons to extend connections beyond the necessary ground link.
  • In one 2018 test, the connection jumped 1,000 kilometers over 7 balloons.

Significance of the move:

  • By allowing phone companies to expand their coverage where needed, the balloons are intended to offer countries a cheaper option than laying cables or building cell towers.
  • They are able to bring Internet access to remote and rural areas poorly served by existing provisions and to improve communication during natural disasters to affected regions.


  • Loon would need an unused band of spectrum, or radio frequencies, to transmit a connection, and spectrum use is typically controlled by national governments.
  • Subscriber Density: The fundamental challenge lies in gaining enough subscribers per balloon for economic viability without overloading the system.
  • Power Wattage: Project Loon’s systems are currently set to generate 100 watts from solar power and will impose strict power limits on both the transmitter and the on-board electronics, making viability even more challenging.
  • Operational Obstacles: Challenges include developing algorithms to appropriately map balloon positions, determining a good strategy to deal with inclement weather and addressing the concern of relying on the non-renewable resource, helium, among other challenges.
  • In this case, the Cuban government could also try to jam the signal.


2.97th Amendment Act, 2011

#GS2 # Evolution, Features, Amendments, Significant Provisions of Indian Constitution

Context: SC quashes some provisions of 97th Amendment dealing with co-operative societies.

The 97th constitutional amendment:

  • It dealt with issues related to effective management of co-operative societies in the country.
  • It was passed by Parliament in December 2011 and had come into effect from February 15, 2012.
  • It amended Article 19(1)(c) to give protection to the cooperatives and inserted Article 43 B and Part IX B, relating to them.
  • It makes Right to form cooperatives is a fundamental right.


  • The Gujarat High Court had held that the amendment, to the extent it introduced conditions for state laws on co-operative societies, was liable to be struck down as it was passed without the ratification of one-half of the state legislatures as mandated by Article 368(2) of the Constitution.
  • It went to the extent of determining the number of directors a society should have or their length of tenure and even the necessary expertise required to become a member of the society.

What was the rationale behind such move by the centre?

  • Centre justified that the government was injecting ‘professionalism’, ‘Uniformity’ and autonomy into the functioning of the societies and it did not take away the powers of states.
  • Lack of accountability by the members has led to poor services and low productivity.
  • Even elections are not held on time. Co-operatives need to run on well-established democratic principles.

Supreme Court’s Ruling:

  • Upholding the Gujarat High Court’s 2013 decision striking down certain provisions of the 97th constitutional amendment, the Supreme Court held that the Parliament cannot enact laws with regard to cooperative societies as it is a state subject.
  • Several intervenors have contended that the amendment made a direct in-road into the exclusive domain of states to enact laws with regard to cooperatives.
    • Part IX B, which consists of Articles 243ZH to 243ZT, has “significantly and substantially impacted” State legislatures’ “exclusive legislative power” over its co-operative sector under Entry 32 of the State List.
    • The court pointed out how Article 243ZI makes it clear that a State may only make law on the incorporation, regulation and winding up of a society subject to the provisions of Part IXB of the 97th Amendment.
  • Supreme held that the 97th Constitutional Amendment required ratification by at least one-half of the state legislatures as per Article 368(2) of the Constitution, since it dealt with an entry which was an exclusive state subject (co-operative societies).
  • Supreme Court did not strike down the parts of Part IXB of the Amendment concerning ‘Multi State Co-operative Societies (MSCS)’ due to the lack of ratification.
    • When it comes to MSCS with objects not confined to one State, the legislative power would be that of the Union of India which is contained in Entry 44 List I (Union List).

Other Major Provisions of the 97th Amendment:

  • The word “cooperatives” was added after “unions and associations” in Article 19(1)(c) under Part III of the Constitution. This enables all the citizens to form cooperatives by giving it the status of fundamental right of citizens.
  • A new Article 43B was added in the Directive Principles of State Policy (Part IV) regarding the “promotion of cooperative societies”.


  1. India Inequality report

#GS2 # Issues relating to Poverty and Hunger

Context: Recently, Oxfam released a report titled “India Inequality Report 2021: India’s Unequal Healthcare Story” India showing that the socio-economic inequalities seep into the health sector and disproportionately affect health outcomes of marginalised communities due to the absence of Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

Highlights of the report:

  • Performance of states: India’s low spending on public healthcare systems and focus on supporting private healthcare has led to serious inequalities in access to healthcare, especially during the Covid 19 pandemic.
    • Report says that states attempting to reduce existing inequalities and with higher expenditure on health had lower confirmed cases of Covid-19.
      • States that have for the past few years been reducing inequalities, such as inequalities to access to health between the general category and SC and ST populations, have less confirmed cases of Covid – such as Telangana, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan.
      • States that have had higher GDP expenditure on health, such as Assam, Bihar and Goa, have higher recovery rates of Covid cases.
    • The report marks Kerala as a success story in handling the pandemic.
      • As per the report, Kerala invested in infrastructure to create a multi-layered health system, designed to provide first-contact access for basic services at the community level and expanded primary healthcare coverage to achieve access to a range of preventive and curative services.
    • The report also took note of best practices by different states during second wave of the pandemic:
      • Income Inequality: The report stated that those in higher income brackets, and with access to health infrastructure, had to face less visits to hospitals and Covid centres than those belonging to lower income groups.
      • People belonging to lower income groups also faced five times more discrimination on being found Covid-positive than those in higher income groups.
        • Over 50 per cent of people from SC and ST communities faced difficulties in accessing non-Covid medical facilities, compared to 18.2 per cent of people in the ‘general’ category.
      • Rural-Urban Divide: It was highlighted during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, when rural areas witnessed a shortage of tests, oxygen and hospital beds.
      • Doctor-person Ratio: The National Health Profile in 2017 recorded one government allopathic doctor for every 10,189 people and one state-run hospital for every 90,343 people.
      • Immunisation: The immunisation in ST households at 55.8% is still 6.2% below the national average, and Muslims have the lowest rate across all socio-religious groups at 55.4%.
        • The rate of immunisation of girls continues to be below that of the male child.
        • More than 50% of children still do not receive food supplements in the country.
      • Out of Pocket Expenditure: The out-of-pocket health expenditure of 64.2 percent in India is higher than the world average of 18.2 percent.
        • Exorbitant prices of healthcare has forced many to sell household assets and incur debts.
        • Over 63 million people are pushed to poverty every year due to health costs alone, according to government estimates.
      • Infant Mortality Rate: Overall improvement in Infant mortality rate (IMR) is not equal across social groups. Dalits, Adivasis and OBCs have higher IMR as compared to the general category.
        • IMR for Adivasis is 44.4 which is 40% more than the general category and 10% more than the national average.
      • Bed Ratio: Number of beds in the country has come down from 9 beds per 10,000 persons in the 2010 Human Development Report, to only 5 beds per 10,000 persons today.
      • Doctor-Patient ratio: The National Health Profile in 2017 recorded one government allopathic doctor for every 10,189 people and one state-run hospital for every 90,343 people.
        • India also ranks the lowest in the number of hospital beds per thousand population among the BRICS nations at 0.5 — it is lower than lesser developed countries such as Bangladesh (0.87), Chile (2.11) and Mexico (0.98).
        • Rural India houses 70 percent of the population, while it has 40 percent of hospital beds, the report said.

Way Forward:

  • Enact ‘Right to Health’ as a fundamental right:
    • The right to health should be enacted as a fundamental right that makes it obligatory for the government to ensure equal access to timely, acceptable, and affordable healthcare of appropriate quality, and address the underlying determinants of health to close the gap in health outcomes between the rich and poor.
    • The free vaccine policy should adopt an inclusive model to ensure that everyone gets the vaccine without any delay.
  • Increase health spending to 5 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
    • Ensure that union budgetary allocation in health for SCs and STs is proportionate to their population.
    • Prioritising primary health by ensuring that two-third of the health budget is allocated for strengthening primary healthcare, specifically health and wellness centres, to ensure accessibility of services to all, including those living in the remotest parts of the country.
    • States should be allowed a higher degree of autonomy on spending funds received from the Centre through centrally-sponsored schemes and the flexibility to reallocate funds to issues that might be of higher priority in a state
    • Centre should extend financial support to the states having low per capita health expenditure to reduce inter-state inequality in health.
  • Ensure equity in access and quality of health services specifically for the poor and marginalised populations like the Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims.
    • Regions with higher concentration of marginalised population should be identified and public health facilities should be established, equipped and made fully functional.
  • Regulate the private health sector by ensuring that all state governments adopt and effectively implement Clinical Establishments Act or equivalent state legislation.
  • Extend the price capping policy introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic to include diagnostics and non-Covid treatment in order to prevent exorbitant charging by private hospitals and reduce catastrophic out-of-pocket health expenditure.
  • Augment and strengthen human resources and infrastructure in the healthcare system by regularising services of women frontline health workers.


  1. “SMILE – Support for Marginalized Individuals for Livelihood and Enterprise”

#GS1 # Population and Associated Issues, Poverty and Developmental issues #Social Empowerment

Context: Recently, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has formulated a scheme “SMILE – Support for Marginalized Individuals for Livelihood and Enterprise”, which includes a sub scheme – ‘Central Sector Scheme for Comprehensive Rehabilitation of persons engaged in Begging’.

Highlights of the scheme:

  • It is a new Scheme after the merger of existing Schemes for Beggars and Transgenders.
  • Focus of the scheme is on rehabilitation, provision of medical facilities, counselling, basic documentation, education, skill development, economic linkages etc.
  • This scheme covers several comprehensive measures including welfare measures for persons who are engaged in the act of begging.
  • Pilot projects initiated on Comprehensive Rehabilitation of Persons engaged in the act of Begging in ten cities namely Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Indore, Lucknow, Mumbai, Nagpur, Patna and Ahmadabad.
  • Scheme provides for the use of the existing shelter homes available with the State/UT Governments and Urban local bodies for rehabilitation of the persons engaged in the act of Begging.
    • In case of non-availability of existing shelter homes, new dedicated shelter homes are to be set up by the implementing agencies.
  • It is estimated that an approximate 60,000 poorest persons would be benefited under this scheme for leading a life of dignity.
  • The scheme would be implemented with the support of State/UT Governments/Local Urban Bodies, Voluntary Organizations, Community Based Organizations (CBOs), institutions and others.

Scheme for Comprehensive Rehabilitation of Beggars:

  • It will be a comprehensive scheme for persons engaged in the Act of begging which would cover identification, rehabilitation, provision of medical facilities, counselling, education, skill development with the support of State Governments/UTs/Local Urban Bodies and Voluntary Organizations.
  • The scheme will be implemented in the selected cities having large concentration of Beggar community during the financial year 2020-2021.
  • 100% Assistance under the Scheme shall be provided to the States/UTs for its implementation.
  • During 2017-18, the Ministry has released an amount of Rs. One crore and Rs. 50.00 lakh for 2018-19 to National Backward Classes Finance & Development Corporation (NBCFDC) for skill development programmes for beggars on pilot basis.
  • During the year 2019-20, this Ministry has released an amount of Rs. One Crore to National Institute of Social Defence (NISD) and Rs. 70.00 Lakh to National Backward Classes Finance & Development Corporation (NBCFDC) for skill development programmes for beggars.

Status of Beggars in India:

  • According to the Census 2011, total number of beggars in India is 4,13,670 (including 2,21,673 males and 1,91,997 females) and the number has increased from the last census.
  • West Bengal tops the chart followed by Uttar Pradesh and Bihar at number two and three respectively. Lakshadweep merely has two vagrants according to the 2011 census.
  • Recently, the Supreme Court has agreed to examine a plea for decriminalising begging which has been made an offence in various states under Prevention of Begging Act.
  • The Persons in Destitution (Protection, Care and Rehabilitation) Model Bill, 2016, was introduced to address the issue of chronic beggary and homelessness in India.
  • The Indian Constitution under Article 21 guarantees right to life, which does not merely involve the act of breathing but also incorporates the right to live with dignity, with livelihood, with good health and all other aspects which make a human life meaningful and wholesome.
  • In several different rulings, the Supreme Court has also established such an interpretation of Article 21. Beggary can be classified as exploitation and is also against Article 23 (right of life free from exploitation) of the Constitution.


  1. Stand up India Scheme

#GS3 #Growth and Development #Government policies #Employment

Context: Recently, Department of Financial Services, Ministry of Finance has extended the Stand-Up India Scheme which was launched by the Prime Minister on 05th April, 2016 up to the year 2025.

About the scheme:

  • It was launched in April 2016 to promote entrepreneurship at the grass-root level focusing on economic empowerment and job creation.
  • Stand Up India Scheme facilitates loans to underserved sector of people like Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and women borrowers.
  • The objective of this scheme is to facilitate bank loans between Rs.10 lakh and Rs.1 crore to at least one SC or ST borrower and at least one-woman borrower per bank branch of Scheduled Commercial Banks for setting up a Greenfield enterprise.
    • This enterprise may be in manufacturing, services or the trading sector.
  • A RuPay debit card would be provided for the withdrawal of credit.
  • Credit history of the borrower would be maintained by the bank so that the money is not used for any personal use.


  • SC/ST and/or women entrepreneurs; above 18 years of age.
  • Loans under the scheme are available for only Greenfield projects.
  • Borrower should not be in default to any bank or financial institution.
  • In case of non-individual enterprises, at least 51% of the shareholding and controlling stake should be held by either an SC/ST or Woman entrepreneur.
  • The offices of SIDBI (Small Industries Development Bank of India) and NABARD (National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development) are designated Stand-Up Connect Centres (SUCC).
  • Government does not allocate funds for loans under the Stand-Up India Scheme.
    • Loans under the Scheme are extended by Scheduled Commercial Banks as per commercial parameters, Board approved policies of respective banks and extant RBI guidelines.
  • The Government has taken various steps towards effective implementation of the Scheme, these, inter alia, include provision for submission for online applications by potential borrowers through a portal, hand-holding support, intensive publicity campaign, simplified loan application form, Credit Guarantee Scheme, convergence with State and Central government Schemes wherever feasible, reduction in margin money and inclusion of activities allied to agriculture etc.
  • Finance Minister in the Budget Speech for Financial Year 2021-22, reduced the margin money requirement for loans under the Scheme from ‘upto 25%’ to `upto 15%’ and activities allied to agriculture have been included in the Scheme.

Performance so far:

  • A total of 1,16,266 loans amounting to Rs. 26204.49 crore extended under the Scheme since inception.
  • The scheme has benefited more than 93,094 women entrepreneurs.


  1. New Shephard rocket System

#GS3 # Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers # Science and Technology- Developments and their Applications and Effects in Everyday Life.

Context: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos blasted into space recently on his rocket company Blue Origin’s first flight on New Shepard spacecraft with people on board.

  • He was accompanied by brother Mark Bezos, Wally Funk, and 18-year-old passenger Oliver Daemen.

What is New Shephard, the rocket system?

  • New Shephard has been named after astronaut Alan Shephard, the first American to go to space, and offers flights to space over 100 km above the Earth and accommodation for payloads.
  • It is a rocket system meant to take tourists to space successfully.
  • The system is built by Blue Origin.
  • The idea is to provide easier and more cost-effective access to space meant for purposes such as academic research, corporate technology development and entrepreneurial ventures among others.

Significance of the mission:

  • The astronauts experienced three to four minutes of zero-g and travelled above the Kármán Line, the internationally-recognised boundary of space.
    • The Karman line is the internationally recognized boundary of space.
    • The line is named after Theodore von Kármán (1881–1963), a Hungarian American engineer and physicist, who was active primarily in aeronautics and astronautics.
    • The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) defines Karman Line as the altitude of 100 kilometres above Earth’s mean sea level.
      • FAI is the world governing body for air sports, and also stewards definitions regarding human spaceflight.
      • However, other organizations do not use this definition. There is no international law defining the edge of space, and therefore the limit of national airspace.


How does it work?

  • The rocket system consists of two parts, the cabin or capsule and the rocket or the booster.
  • The cabin can accommodate experiments from small mini payloads up to 100 kg.
  • The cabin is designed for six people and sits atop a 60-feet tall rocket and separates from it before crossing the Karman line, after which both vehicles fall back to the Earth.
  • The system is a fully reusable, vertical takeoff and vertical landing space vehicle that accelerates for about 2.5 minutes before the engine cuts off.
  • After separating from the booster, the capsule free falls in space, while the booster performs an autonomously controlled vertical landing back to Earth.
  • The capsule, on the other hand, lands back with the help of parachutes.

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