October 2020: Current Affairs Science & Technology UPSC Notes | EduRev

UPSC Mains: International Relations, Social Issues & others

UPSC : October 2020: Current Affairs Science & Technology UPSC Notes | EduRev

The document October 2020: Current Affairs Science & Technology UPSC Notes | EduRev is a part of the UPSC Course UPSC Mains: International Relations, Social Issues & others.
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Narco and Polygraph Tests

As part of the inquiry into the alleged gangrape and murder of a 19-year-old in Hathras last month, the Uttar Pradesh government recently agreed to conduct polygraph and narcoanalysis tests on the accused and all concerned police personnel.

Key Points

➤ Polygraph or Lie Detector Test:

  1. It is a procedure that measures and records several physiological indicators such as blood pressure, pulse, respiration, and skin conductivity. At the same time, a person is asked and answers a series of questions.
    • This test is based on the assumption that physiological responses that are triggered when a person is lying are different from what they would be otherwise.
  2. A numerical value is assigned to each response to conclude whether the person is telling the truth, is deceiving, or is uncertain.
    • A test similar to Polygraph was first done in the 19th century by the Italian criminologist Cesare Lombroso, who used a machine to measure changes in criminal suspects' blood pressure during interrogation.

Narcoanalysis Test:

  • It involves the injection of a drug, sodium pentothal, which induces a hypnotic or sedated state in which the subject's imagination is neutralised, and they are expected to divulge. The drug, also referred to as truth serum, was used in larger doses as anaesthesia during surgery and has been used during World War II for intelligence operations. 
  • Recently, investigating agencies have sought to employ these tests in the investigation, and are sometimes seen as being a softer alternative to torture or "third degree" to extract the truth from suspects.

➤ Brain Mapping Test or P-300 Test:

  • In this test, the activity of the brain of a suspect is measured during interrogation to find out whether he is concealing any information.

➤ Limitations:

 None of these methods has been scientifically proven to have a 100% success rate and remains contentious in the medical field. 

  • The consequences of such tests on individuals from weaker sections of society who are unaware of their fundamental rights and unable to afford legal advice can be adverse.

It may involve future abuse, harassment, and surveillance, even leakage of the video material to the press for media-trials.

Legal and Constitutional Aspects:

  1. In the Selvi vs State of Karnataka & Anr case (2010), the Supreme Court (SC) ruled that no lie detector tests should be administered without the accused's consent.
    • Also, those who volunteer must have access to a lawyer and have the physical, emotional, and legal implications of the test explained to them by police and the lawyer.
    • The tests' results cannot be considered to be "confessions", but any information or material subsequently discovered with the help of such a voluntarily-taken test can be admitted as evidence.
    • The SC cited Article 20 (3) or Right Against Self­ incrimination which states that no accused can be compelled to be a witness against himself.
  2. In the D.K. Basu vs State of West Bengal case (1997), the SC ruled that involuntary administration of the polygraph and narcos test will amount to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment in the context of Article 21 or the Right to Life and Liberty.
    • It may also be violative of the Right to Privacy, a part of the Right to Life.
  3. The Indian Evidence Act, 1871 does not admit these tests' results as evidence.
    • The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in 1999 adopted a set of guidelines relating to the administration of the Polygraph Test which included consent, recording of the test, etc. true information

Anti Radiation Missile: Rudram-1

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has successfully tested an anti-radiation missile developed in-house (Rudram-1).

Key Points

About Anti Radiation Missiles:

  • Aim: These are designed to detect, track and neutralise the adversary's radar, communication assets and other radio frequency sources, which are generally part of their air defence systems.
    1. These can locate and target any radiation-emitting source.
    2. These can play a key role in neutralising any jamming platforms of the enemy or take out radar stations thereby clearing a path for own fighters to carry out an offensive and also prevent own systems from being jammed.
  • Components:
    • Inertial navigation system: A computerised mechanism that uses changes in the object's own position — coupled with GPS, which is satellite-based.
    • 'Passive homing head' for Guidance: A system that can detect, classify and engage targets (radio frequency sources in this case) over a wide band of frequencies as programmed.

About Rudram-1:

  1. Development and Test: It is an air-to-surface missile, designed and developed by the DRDO.
  2. DRDO conducted a successful test of the New Generation Anti Radiation Missile (NGRAM) also called the Rudram-1 at the Integrated Test Range (ITR) in Balasore (Odisha).
  3. Rudram-1 is the first indigenous anti-radiation missile of the country.
  4. Capability: Once the missile locks on the target, It can strike accurately even if the radiation source switches off in between.

➤ Operational Features:

  1. The missile, integrated with SU-30 MkI aircraft, has a capability of varying ranges based on the launch conditions.
    • It can be adapted for launch from other fighter jets too.
  2. It can be launched from altitudes of 500 m to 15 km and speeds of 0.6 to 2 mach.

➤ Significance:

  • Rudram has been developed for the Indian Air Force - IAF's requirement to enhance its Suppression of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD) capability.
  • Further, modern-day warfare is more and more network-centric, which means it comprises elaborate detection, surveillance and communication systems that are integrated with the weapons systems.
    October 2020: Current Affairs Science & Technology UPSC Notes | EduRev
  • This is yet another test of indigenously developed weapons systems in addition to the recent tests of Shaurya missile or Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV), which is an uncrewed scramjet vehicle, or the test of a flight test of a Supersonic Missile Assisted Release of Torpedo (SMART) system.

Fluoride & Iron Removal technology of CMERI

The Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (CMERI) has transferred its High Flow Rate Fluoride & Iron Removal technology to Capricans Aqua Private Limited, West Bengal.

Key Points

➤ Technology:

  • It is a Community Level Water Purification System with a Flow-Rate capacity of 10,000 Ltr/hr. 
  • It uses commonly available raw materials such as sand, gravel and adsorbent materials. 
  • It comprises a three-stage purification process that purifies water within permissible limits (1.5 parts per million (ppm) & 0.3 parts per million for Fluoride and Iron respectively).
  • The technology uses a combination of Oxidation, gravity settling (settling down of heavier impurities under gravity) and the Chemisorption process in an Affordable Package.
  • Chemisorption is a kind of adsorption that involves a chemical reaction between the surface and the adsorbate. New chemical bonds are generated at the adsorbent surface. The integrated backwashing technology will help improve the shelf-life of the filtration media in a resource rationalized manner.
  • Backwashing refers to pumping water backwards through the filter media, for the preventive main­tenance so that the filter media can be reused.

➤ Significance:

  1. The number of Fluoride affected individuals are continuously increasing in a contaminated habitat in the last 50 years.
    • This has been happening in consonance with the disproportional depletion of the Water Table, which has led to the multiplication of Fluoride's level of concentration in the particular region.
    • The deployment of this Community Level system at affected places can help to turn the tide against the menace of Iron and Fluorosis across the Nation.
  2. Cost-Effective solution for serving the most vulnerable sections of the Nation. 
  3. Besides, technology is also a major thrust towards the Atmanirbhar Bharat campaign. 
  4. The proliferation of this technology will also help in catalyzing Employment Generation opportunities.

➤ Iron in water: Iron is the most common contaminant of drinking water, followed by salinity, arsenic, fluoride, and heavy metal.

  • Rajasthan had the highest number of rural habitations affected by contamination overall, at 16,833 in 2019.
  • Combined arsenic and iron pollution affect West Bengal and Assam the worst.
  • Reason: Corrosion of pipes is a common reason why iron is found in drinking water. 
  • Impacts: As little as 0.3 mg/L concentration of iron can make the water appear brown.
  • The overload of iron may cause severe health problems such as liver cancer, diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, diseases related to the heart and central nervous system, infertility etc.

Fluoride in water:

  1. High levels of Fluoride were reported in 230 districts of 20 States of India (2016-17). o Reasons: Naturally occurring fluoride in water along with the result of industrial processes.
    Owing to inaccessibility to Affordable Fluoride Removal Solutions the Fluorosis affected statistics has also witnessed an upward trajectory. o Impact: There are two main fluorosis types, namely dental and skeletal fluorosis.
  2. Dental fluorosis is caused by continuous exposure to high fluoride concentrations during tooth development.
  3. Skeletal fluorosis is developed by the disturbance of calcium metabolism in the formation of bones of the body.
    • It results in the softening and weakening of bones resulting in deformities leading to crippling.
  4. The National Programme for Prevention and Control of Fluorosis:
    • NPPCF is a health initiative launched in the 11th Five Year Plan, initiated in 2008-09. 
  5. Objectives:
    • To collect, assess and use the baseline survey data of fluorosis of the Ministry of Jal Shakti.
    • Comprehensive management of fluorosis in the selected areas.
    • Capacity building for prevention, diagnosis and management of fluorosis cases.

➤ Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute

  • CMERI is a public engineering research and development institution in Durgapur, West Bengal.
  • It is a constituent laboratory of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.
  • Council of Scientific and Industrial Research
  • CSIR is the largest research and development (R&D) organization in India. CSIR has a pan-India presence and has a dynamic network of 38 national laboratories, 39 outreach centres, 3 Innovation Complexes and 5 units.
  • Established: September 1942
  • Located: New Delhi
  • The Ministry of Science and Technology funds CSIR and it operates as an autonomous body through the Societies Registration Act, 1860.
  • CSIR covers a wide spectrum of streams and provides significant technological intervention in many areas regarding societal efforts that include the environment, health, drinking water, food, housing, energy, farm and non-farm sectors.

Factor D Protein: Covid-19 

A recent study by Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers suggests that blocking a human protein factor D may curtail the potentially deadly inflammatory reactions that many patients have to the novel coronavirus (SARS- CoV-2).

Key Points

  • Method: The new study used normal human blood serum and three subunits of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to discover exactly how the virus hijacks the immune system and endangers normal cells.
  • Focus: Team focused on two proteins, factor H and factor D, which are known as "complement" proteins because they help the immune system clear pathogens from the body.
  • Findings: The researchers discovered that Covid-19's spike protein causes factor D to overstimulate the immune response, which in turn prevents factor H from mediating that response.
  1. Spike proteins on the surface of SARS-CoV-2 are how it attaches to cells targeted for infection.
  2. The spikes first grab hold of a molecule called heparan sulfate.
    • Heparan sulfate is a large, complex sugar molecule found on the surface of cells in the lungs, blood vessels and smooth muscle making up most organs.
  3. Facilitated by its initial binding with heparan sulfate, SARS-CoV-2 then uses another cell-surface component, the protein known as Angiotensin­ Converting Enzyme 2 (ACE2), as its doorway into the attacked cell.
    • ACE2 is a protein on the surface of many cell types.
    • It is an enzyme that generates small proteins by cutting up the larger protein angiotensinogen, which then regulates functions in the cell.
  4. When SARS-CoV-2 attacks the ACE2 receptors to proliferate and infect more cells in the human body, it also prevents Factor H from using the sugar molecule to bind with cells.
    • Factor H's main function is to regulate the chemical signals that trigger inflammation and keep the immune system from harming healthy cells.
  5. The team found that by blocking factor D, they could stop the destructive chain of events triggered by SARS-CoV-2.

Significance:

  • It has provided a definite direction for research to tackle Covid-19.
  • There may already be drugs in development for other diseases that can block this protein, a positive sign for the study.

Holographic Imaging-Based Method

Scientists from New York University have developed a method using holographic imaging to detect both viruses and antibodies.

  • Holography is a process that creates three-dimensional images called holograms using laser beams, the properties of interference and diffraction, light intensity recording, and illumination of the recording.

Key Points

➤ About the Method:

  • It uses laser beams to record holograms of the specially prepared test beads. 
  • The surfaces of the beads are activated with biochemical binding sites that attract either antibodies or virus particles, depending on the intended test.
  • Binding antibodies or viruses cause the beads to grow by a few billionth parts of a metre. 
  • Researchers detect this growth through changes in the beads' holograms. The test can analyse a dozen beads per second.

Significance:

  • The method can test either for the virus (current infection) or antibodies (immunity). 
  • The breakthrough has the potential to aid in medical diagnoses, and specifically, those related to the Covid-19 pandemic. 
  • If fully realised, this proposed test could be done in under 30 minutes, is highly accurate, and can be performed by minimally trained personnel.

Saviour Sibling

Doctors recently completed India's first saviour sibling' experiment with great success.

Key Points

  1. 'Saviour Sibling' refers to babies that are created to serve an older sibling as a donor of organs, bone marrow or cells.
  2. Stem cells from the umbilical cord blood or blood of the saviour sibling are used to treat serious blood disorders like thalassemia and sickle cell anaemia.
  3. They are created with In vitro fertilisation (IVF) so that they can undergo pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (or testing) to rule out any genetic disorders and also check bone marrow compatibility.
  4. Pre-implantation Genetic Testing (PGT) refers to the genetic profiling of embryos. It is used to screen embryos for genetic diseases or chromosomal abnormalities.
  5. From each embryo, PGT takes a biopsy of only a few cells and conducts a genetic analysis. 
  6. This analysis can search to exclude embryos carrying a genetic variant that causes a hereditary disease, and it can search to find embryos that are a Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) match to a sibling.
    • HLA is a type of molecule found on the surface of most cells in the body. These play an important part in the body's immune response to foreign substances.
    • These make up a person's tissue type, which varies from person to person.
    • HLA typing is important in organ transplantation protocols, as they determine the likelihood of rejection.
  7. The world's first saviour sibling, Adam Nash, was born in 2000 in the USA.
  8. Need: For families with a child who requires a stem cell transplant, there is often a hurdle of finding a donor for the transplant.
  9. A successful transplant requires an HLA match between donor and recipient. However, the probability of finding a suitable match among family members is about 30% overall.

Ethical Considerations and Implications: In a 2004 paper published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, UK researchers debated whether selecting saviour siblings should be banned. 

  • They studied the arguments to ban it:
    1. That saviour siblings would be wrongfully treated as means rather than ends.
    2. They would cause or constitute a slide towards designer babies,
    3. They would suffer physically and/or emotionally. 
  • But the paper found these arguments to be flawed. It concluded that the selection of saviour siblings should be permitted, especially given that prohibiting it would result in several existing children's preventable deaths.

In vitro Fertilisation

  1. IVF is one of the more widely known types of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART).
  2. In vitro comes from the Latin word 'in glass', i.e. studies are done in a test tube rather than in a human or animal.
    • The opposite to 'In-vitro' is 'In-Vivo, which comes from the Latin word 'within the living. In vivo refers to experimentation being done in a living organism.
  3. In vitro means outside the body. Fertilization means the sperm has attached to and entered the egg.
  4. During IVF, mature eggs are collected (retrieved) from the ovaries and fertilized by sperm in a lab. The fertilized egg (embryo) or eggs (embryos) are then transferred to a uterus.

OSIRIS-REx Mission: NASA

NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft recently landed on the surface of asteroid Bennu for a brief landing to obtain rock and dust samples.

Key Points

➤ About OSIRIS-REx Mission:

  1. It is the United States' first asteroid sample return mission, aiming to collect and carry a pristine, unaltered sample from an asteroid back to earth for scientific study.
  2. The OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) spacecraft was launched in 2016 for the journey to Bennu.
  3. The mission is essentially a seven-year-long voyage and will conclude when at least 60 grams of samples are delivered back to the Earth (in 2023).
  4. As per the National Aeronautics and Space Ad­ministration (NASA), the mission promises to bring the largest amount of extraterrestrial material back to the Earth since the Apollo era.
    • Apollo was the NASA program that resulted in American astronauts making 11 space flights and walking on the moon (1968-72).
  5. The spacecraft contains five instruments meant to explore Bennu, including cameras, a spectrometer and a laser altimeter.
  6. Recently, the spacecraft's robotic arm called the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM), attempted to "TAG" the asteroid at a sample site and collected a sample.
  7. The departure window for the mission will open up in 2021, after which it will take over two years to reach back to Earth.

➤ Asteroid Bennu:

  1. Bennu is an ancient asteroid, currently more than 200 million miles from Earth.
  2. Bennu offers scientists a window into the early solar system as it was first taking shape billions of years ago and tossing ingredients that could have helped seed life on Earth.
    • Significantly, Bennu hasn't undergone drastic changes since its formation over billions of years ago and therefore, it contains chemicals and rocks dating back to the birth of the solar system. It is also relatively close to the Earth.
  3. So far, it is known that this asteroid is a B-type asteroid, implying that it contains significant amounts of carbon and various other minerals.
    • Because of its high carbon content, it reflects about 4% of the light that hits it, which is very low compared with a planet like Venus, which reflects about 65% of the light that hits it. Earth reflects about 30%.
  4. Around 20-40% of Bennu's interior is empty space and scientists believe that it was formed in the first 10 million years of the solar system's formation, implying that it is roughly 4.5 billion years old.
  5. As per high-resolution photographs taken by the spacecraft, the asteroid's surface is covered in massive boulders, making it more difficult to collect samples from its surface.
  6. There is a slight possibility that Bennu, which is classified as a Near-Earth Object (NEO), might strike the Earth in the next century, between the years 2175 and 2199.
    • NEOs are comets and asteroids nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits, allowing them to enter the Earth's neighbourhood.
  7. The asteroid was discovered by a team from the NASA-funded Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research team in 1999.

NAG Missile: Anti Tank Guided Missile

The final user trial of 3rd generation Anti Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) NAG was carried out successfully from Pokhran range in Thar desert (Rajasthan).

Key Points

Developed By:  Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)

➤ Features:

  • The NAG missile has been developed to strike and neutralise highly-fortified enemy tanks. It also has night strike capabilities.
  • ATGMs are missile systems that can strike and neutralise armoured vehicles such as tanks.
  • It has a minimum range of 500 metres and max­imum range of 4 km.
  • As a third-generation fire and forget' category system, NAG uses an infra-red imaging seeker to lock on to the target before launch.
  • In the top attack mode, the missile is required to climb sharply after launch and travel at a certain altitude, then plunge on top of the target. In the direct attack mode, the missile travels at a lower altitude, directly striking the target.
  • It can defeat Main Battle Tanks (MBT) equipped with composite and reactive armour.
  • The NAG missile carrier (NAMICA) is a Russian-origin BMP-II based system with amphibious capability.
  • BMP-II is a mechanized infantry fighting vehicle.
  • Version of NAG ATGM: DRDO is currently in the final stages of developing the helicopter-launched version of Nag ATGM, called the Helina, which has undergone successful tests in 2018.

Significance:

  • With this final user trial, Nag will enter the production phase.
  • The missile will be produced by Defence Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) Bharat 
  • Dynamics Limited (BDL), whereas Ordnance Factory, Medak, will produce the NAMICA.
  • This means that the Indian Army will no longer have to import this weapon from either Israel or the USA for the range of four kilometres.
  • It was due to the unavailability of a credible anti­tank weapon, that India had to buy around 200 pieces of Spike anti-tank missiles from Israel as emergency purchases after the aggression by the People's Liberation Army (China) in Ladakh.
  • Further, the army is currently using second-generation Milan 2T and Konkur ATGMs and has been looking for about third-generation missiles, which are important for stopping advancing enemy tanks.
  • Other Missile Systems: India has developed missiles under the 'Integrated Guided Missile Development Program'.

➤ Other Recent Tests:

  • The NAG ATGM trial was in continuation of a series of missile tests conducted by the DRDO in the last one-and-a-half months.
  • Among these trials were two other ATGMs - the Laser-Guided ATGM, and the Stand-Off Anti­Tank Missile (SANT).

DRDO successfully tested India's first indigenous anti-radiation missile named Rudram, Supersonic Missile Assisted Release of Torpedo (SMART) system, nuclear-capable missile Shaurya, Naval version of the BrahMos and Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV).

Placid Trials

Recently, the PLACID Trial, a multicentre randomized controlled trial, has shown that convalescent plasma (CP) as a therapeutic for Covid-19 patients showed no positive effects and did not improve the outcome of the patients.
The randomized controlled trial (RCT) is a trial in which subjects are randomly assigned to one of two groups: one (the experimental group) receiving the intervention that is being tested, and the other (the comparison group or control) receiving an alternative (conventional) treatment.

Key Points

Convalescent Plasma Therapy:

  • Convalescent Plasma, extracted from the blood of patients recovering from an infection, is a source of antibodies against the infection.
  • The therapy uses blood from people who have recovered from an illness to help others recover.
  • Blood donated by people who have recovered from Covid-19 has antibodies to the virus that causes it. The donated blood is processed to remove blood cells, leaving behind liquid (plasma) and antibodies. These can be given to people with Covid-19 to boost their ability to fight the virus.
  • The plasma donor would have to be a documented case of Covid-19 and healthy for 28 days since the last symptoms.

➤ Placid Trial:

  • It was conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and it aimed to investigate CPT's effectiveness for the treatment of Covid-19. o It is the first and largest randomized control trial to be completed globally.

Findings:

  • The trial results indicate that there was no difference in the 28-day mortality (estimates of deaths in the 28 days after entering the hospital for a specific condition) or progression of Covid-19 from moderate to severe in patients treated with CP along with basic standard care compared to basic standard care alone.
  • While the use of CP seemed to improve the resolution of shortness of breath and fatigue in patients with moderate Covid-19, this did not translate into a reduction in 28-day mortality or progression to severe disease.

Impact of the Findings:

  1. The ICMR is now considering removing the option of CPT from the national guidelines.
    • CPT as a treatment for Covid-19 in India has led to questionable practices such as calls for donors on social media, and the sale of convalescent plasma on the black market.
    • Although CP is a safe form of treatment when transfused following the regulations, it involves resource-intensive processes such as plasmapheresis (separating plasma from the blood cells), plasma storage, and measurement of neutralizing antibodies a limited number of institutes can undertake these procedures in a quality-assured manner.
  2. However, experts have held that guidelines are not necessarily binding and it is too early to dismiss convalescent plasma therapy.

Earth Observation Satellite EOS-01: ISRO

India would launch its latest earth observation satellite, EOS-01 and nine international customer satellites from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Andhra Pradesh's Sriharikota.

  • The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C49) of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will launch these ten satellites on 7th November 2020. It will be PSLV's 51st Mission.

Key Points

EOS-01: It is an earth observation satellite and is intended for agriculture, forestry and disaster management support.

  • Earth observation satellites are satellites equipped with remote sensing technology. Earth observation is gathering information about Earth's physical, chemical, and biological systems

Many earth observation satellites have been employed on sun-synchronous orbit. o Other earth observation satellites launched by ISRO include RESOURCESAT- 2, 2A, CARTOSAT-1, 2, 2A, 2B, RISAT-1 and 2, OCEANSAT-2, Megha-Tropiques, SARAL and SCATSAT-1, INSAT-3DR, 3D, etc.

Nine Customer Satellites: These are being launched as part of a commercial agreement with NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), Department of Space.

  1. NSIL, incorporated in 2019 (under the Companies Act, 2013), is a wholly-owned Government of India company, under the administrative control of the Department of Space (DOS).
  2. NSIL is the commercial arm of ISRO with the primary responsibility of enabling Indian industries to take up high technology space-related activities and is also responsible for promoting and commercialising the products and services emanating from the Indian space programme.
  3. The major business areas of the NSIL include:
    • Production of Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) through the industry.
    • Production and marketing of space-based services, including launch services and space-based applications like transponder leasing, remote sensing and mission support services.
    • Building of Satellites (both Communication and Earth Observation) as per user requirements.
    • Transfer of technology developed by ISRO centres/ units and constituent institutions of Dept. of Space.
    • Marketing spin-off technologies and products/ services emanating out of ISRO activities.
    • Consultancy services.
  4. Recently, the Government of India has created the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center (IN-SPACe), an independent nodal agency under the Department of Space, to boost the private sector participating in space-related activities or using India's space resources.
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