Daily Current affairs and Questions from The Hindu & PIB - September 16

Phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus

An announcement by an international team of astronomers about the discovery of phosphine gas in the atmosphere of Venus triggered global excitement about the possibility of the presence of lifeforms on the neighbouring planet.

Key findings

  • In a paper published in Nature Astronomy, a team of scientists have reported traces of phosphine in a concentration of approximately 20 parts per billion, thousands to millions of times more than what could otherwise be expected.
  • A team of experts used telescopes in Hawaii and Chile’s Atacama Desert to observe Venus’ upper cloud deck, around 60 km from the surface.
  • They detected traces of phosphine, a flammable gas that on Earth occurs from the breakdown of organic matter.
  • Apart from being produced in industrial processes, phosphine, a colourless but smelly gas, is known to be made only by some species of bacteria that survive in the absence of oxygen.

About Venus

  • Venus is Earth’s closest planetary neighbour. 
  • Similar in structure but slightly smaller than Earth, it is the second planet from the sun
  •  Venus is wrapped in a thick, toxic atmosphere that traps in heat.
  • It has the densest atmosphere of the four terrestrial planets, consisting of more than 96% carbon dioxide. 
  • Surface temperatures reach a scorching 880 degrees Fahrenheit (471 degrees Celsius), hot enough to melt lead. 
  •  Venus is shrouded by an opaque layer of highly reflective clouds of sulfuric acid, preventing its surface from being seen from space in visible light. 
  • Venus orbits the Sun every 224.7 Earth days.
  • Venus does not have any moons, a distinction it shares only with Mercury among planets in the Solar System.


  • Phosphine (IUPAC name: phosphane) is a colorless, flammable, very toxic gas compound with the chemical formula PH3, classed as a pnictogen hydride.
  • On Earth, microorganisms in “anaerobic” environments – ecosystems that do not rely on oxygen – produce phosphine. These include sewage plants, swamps, rice fields, marshlands, lake sediments and the excrements and intestinal tracts of many animals. 
  • Phosphine also arises non-biologically in certain industrial settings.

National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2020

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is likely to introduce a legislation in the ongoing Parliament session to amend a 1991 Act pertaining to the powers and functions of the Delhi government and the Lieutenant Governor. 

Key Points

  • The National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2020, to “bring ease in implementation of certain provisions of the Act”, is among more than 20 Bills proposed to be introduced in this Parliament session.
  • According to a source, the Bill proposes to clearly spell out the functions of the Council of Ministers and the Lieutenant Governor by giving more discretionary powers to the LG.
  • According to changes proposed in the new Act, the LG could act in his discretion on any matter that is beyond the purview of the powers of the Assembly of Delhi in matters related to the All India (Civil) Services and the Anti Corruption Branch (ACB).
  • It will also give more teeth to the LG, and the validity of any decision taken as per such discretion shall not be questioned.

Article 239AA of the Constitution of India

  • The 69th Amendment Act, 1992 has added two new Articles 239AA and 239AB under which the Union Territory of Delhi has been given a special status.
  • Art. 239AA provides that the Union Territory of Delhi shall now be called the National Capital Territory of Delhi and its administrator shall be known as Lt. Governor.
  • As per Article 239AA – Public Order, Police & Land in NCT of Delhi fall within the domain and control of Central Government which shall have the power to make laws on these matters. For remaining matters of State List or Concurrent List, in so far as any such matter is applicable to UTs, the Legislative Assembly shall have power to make laws for NCT of Delhi.
  • Article 239AB provides that the President may by order suspend the operation of any provision of Article 239AA or of all or any of the provisions of any law made in pursuance of that article. This provision resembles Art.356 (President’s Rule).
  • It also provides for a Council of Ministers for Delhi consisting of not more than 10% of the total number of members in the assembly.

Kerala to have certified snake handlers

Becoming the first to institutionalise snake handling in the country, the Kerala Forest Department has framed guidelines for rescuing snakes from human dominated places and releasing them in uninhabited areas.

The move to certify snake handlers comes amid allegations of unscientific approaches by snake catchers that tend to create stress to the animal and pose risk to their and others’ lives.

There have also been allegations of snakes being supplied for criminal purposes. The murder of Kollam native Uthra after being bitten by a snake that was allegedly planted in her room by her husband dominated the headlines recently.

Key Points 

  • The guidelines make it mandatory for snake handlers, aged between 21 and 65 years, to seek certification.
  • The applications will be screened by the Assistant Conservators of Forest (ACF, Social Forestry) to prepare lists of snake handlers in each district. Various parameters, including experience, age, health as well as track record, will be considered during the selection process. 
  • Those shortlisted will be required to undergo a mandatory training on safe and scientific handling of snakes. 
  • While the certification will be valid for five years, the respective ACFs can withdraw or cancel the same if the snake handler is found to be involved in any illegal or unethical practices.
  • The protocol tasks certified snake handlers with responding to alerts of snake presence in human habitations, informing the caller of the immediate precautions to be adopted, and to intimate the concerned ACF of the activity. They will be required to wear protective gear and equip themselves with safety equipment while on the task.
  • Rescued snakes will also have to be released in the presence of forest officials at the earliest. If found injured, the snake can be released only after ascertaining its fitness.
  • Nonnative species, however, cannot be released and have to be handed over to the Forest Department. Beat Forest Officers will also be imparted training on safe handling of snakes at State Forest Training Institutes. 
  • As many as 318 Forest Officers completed the first phase of training recently.

Govt launches Postage Stamp commemorating Mission Shakti's success

A customized My Stamp on India’s First Anti Satellite Missile (A-SAT) was launched on the occasion of Engineers Day on September 15 in the presence of Ajit Doval, National Security Advisor (NSA). The stamp was released by Department of Posts.

About Mission Shakti

  • Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully conducted an Anti-Satellite (A-SAT) missile test ‘Mission Shakti’ from Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Island in Odisha on 27th March 2019.
  • DRDO developed A-SAT Missile successfully engaged an Indian orbiting target satellite in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) in a ‘Hit to Kill’ mode. The interceptor missile was a three-stage missile with two solid rocket boosters.
  • DRDO used its Ballistic Missile Defence interceptor which is part of the ongoing ballistic missile defence programme along with the technology where India has developed capability, thus making it an appropriate choice to ensure achieving the objectives set out in the mission.
  • Anti-satellite weapons (ASATs) are created to destroy or incapacitate satellites. 
  • There are many countries which have this capability, but only four countries — including India — have demonstrated their ASAT capabilities. 
  • The US first tested ASAT technology in 1958, the USSR followed in 1964 and China in 2007. In 2015, Russia tested its PL-19 Nudol missile and followed it up with other tests.
  • With this technological mission conducted by the DRDO, India becomes the fourth country, after US, China and Russia, with the capability to destroy a low-orbit satellite.

The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020

  • The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020, that seeks to impose a penalty of up to Rs 1 crore for lapses and violation of airline rules and regulations, was passed by the Rajya Sabha.
  • The Bill seeks to amend the Aircraft Act, 1934 that regulates the manufacture, possession, use, operation, sale, import and export of civil aircraft, and licensing of aerodromes. 
  • It also seeks to converts three existing bodies—the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), and the Aircraft Accidents Investigation Bureau (AAIB), under the Ministry of Civil Aviation into statutory bodies.
  • As per the provisions on the Bill, a violation can be punished with up to two years in jail or a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh, or both. 
  • Carrying arms, ammunition, and explosives or other banned goods on board, and illegal construction around airports will attract fines up to Rs 10 lakh to Rs 1 crore.

Multiple-choice question (MCQ)

1) The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020, that seeks to impose a penalty of up to Rs 1 crore for lapses and violation of airline rules and regulations, was passed by the Rajya Sabha. The Bill seeks to amend the 

a) Aircraft Act, 1954
b) Aircraft Act, 1964
c) Aircraft Act, 2004
d) Aircraft Act, 1934

2) Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully conducted an Anti-Satellite (A-SAT) missile test  from Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Island in Odisha on 27th March 2019. Anti-Satellite (A-SAT) missile test was also known as 

a) Mission Rudra Shakti
b) Mission Shakti
c) Mission Agni
d) All the above

3) Identify the Article that provides the Union Territory of Delhi shall now be called the National Capital Territory of Delhi and its administrator shall be known as Lt. Governor.

a) Article 239BB 
b) Article 239A 
c) Article 239AA
d) Article 370



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