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Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD)

Source: TOI

Why in News: The Department of Telecom has directed telecom operators to discontinue USSD-based call forwarding by April 15 and transition to alternative methods for - Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) Solution

About Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD)

Definition and Usage:

  • USSD is a protocol within GSM networks for transmitting short text messages.
  • It functions as an instant messaging service without storing messages on operator or subscriber devices.

USSD Format:

Types: USSD exists primarily in two forms:

  • USSD Pull: Initiated by the user through MMI commands.
  • USSD Push: Messages sent by the operator and displayed on the user’s screen.

Commands: Users utilize USSD commands, typically comprised of * and # characters along with numeric codes.

Format: USSD commands usually start with * or #, can include multiple occurrences of these characters to separate commands and subcommands, and typically end with #.

Length Limit: Although the maximum length of a USSD message is 182 characters, real-world requests rarely exceed 20 characters.


  • USSD is employed for various purposes, including:
  • Displaying balance deductions on mobile screens post-call or SMS.
  • Checking IMEI numbers of mobile devices.

Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT)

Source: TH

Why in News: Recently, the Allahabad High Court ruled that a challenge to a decision of the CAT when exercising its contempt authority under Section 17 of the Administrative Tribunals Act 1985 should be directed to the Supreme Court.Tribunals

About Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT)

  • Establishment under Constitutional Provision: CAT was instituted in accordance with Article 323-A of the Constitution.
  • Mandate: Tasked with resolving disputes and grievances concerning the recruitment and terms of service of individuals appointed to public roles within the Union or other entities under governmental control.
  • Expanded Jurisdiction: Over 214 organizations have been included under CAT’s jurisdiction through notifications issued by the Government under Section 14(2) of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985.
  • Geographical Reach: CAT operates through 17 Benches and 21 Circuit Benches, ensuring nationwide coverage.


  • Each bench comprises a Judicial Member and an Administrative Member.
  • Chairman and Members enjoy service conditions akin to High Court Judges.

Regulation of Staff Conditions:

  • Salaries, allowances, and service conditions of Tribunal officers and staff are determined by the Central Government.


  • Jurisdiction extends solely to service matters within the purview of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985.
  • Decisions are guided by principles of natural justice, not restricted by Civil Procedure Code.
  • Authority to establish its own procedural rules.
  • Empowered to address contempt of court within its jurisdiction, akin to a High Court.

Red Sea

Source: TOI

Why in News: Recent global trade has encountered significant disruption, primarily stemming from the interruption of a vital shipping pathway, notably the route passing through the Red Sea.Navigating the Red Sea Crisis: Origins, Economic Impacts, and Actionable Strategies for Businesses

About the Red Sea

Geographical Features: 

  • It serves as a semi-enclosed inlet of the Indian Ocean, positioned between Africa and Asia.
  • Renowned as one of the warmest seas globally.


  • Linked to the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean via the Gulf of Aden and the narrow Bab El-Mandeb strait to the south.
  • The northern segment is divided by the Sinai Peninsula, forming the Gulf of Aqaba and the Gulf of Suez, where it connects to the Mediterranean Sea through the Suez Canal.

Bordering Nations:

  • Yemen and Saudi Arabia are eastern neighbors of the Red Sea.
  • Egypt borders it to the north and west, while Sudan, Eritrea, and Djibouti lie to the west.

Physical Dimensions:

  • Encompassing an area of approximately 438,000 km2, it stretches about 2,250 km in length.
  • The widest point measures 355 km, with a maximum depth of 3,040 m at the central Suakin Trough and an average depth estimated at 490 m.

Unique Characteristics:

  • The Red Sea contains some of the planet’s hottest and saltiest seawater.


  • Notable islands include Tiran Island near the Gulf of Aqaba’s mouth and Shadwan Island at the entrance of the Gulf of Suez.

Maritime Importance:

  • As a crucial link to the Mediterranean Sea via the Suez Canal, it stands as one of the busiest maritime routes globally, facilitating trade between Europe and Asia.

Atal Tunnel

Source: HT

Why in News: Fresh snowfall near the Atal Tunnel in Lahaul and Spiti districts led to the closure of the Manali-Leh highway recently.Atal Tunnel, world's longest highway tunnel above 10,000ft, inaugurated |  India News - Times of India

About Atal Tunnel

Longest High-Altitude Tunnel:

  • Previously known as Rohtang Tunnel, Atal Tunnel holds the distinction of being the world’s longest high-altitude tunnel.
  • Situated approximately 3,100 meters (10,171 feet) above sea level.

Geographical Location:

  • Nestled in the Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas within Himachal Pradesh.
  • Passes through the famed Rohtang Pass.


  • Extending over a length of 9.02 km, it establishes a year-round link between Manali and Lahaul-Spiti Valley, a region traditionally inaccessible for about six months annually due to heavy snowfall.

Portal Details:

  • The south portal (SP) is positioned 25 km from Manali, standing at an altitude of 3,060 meters.
  • The north portal (NP) lies near village Teling, Sissu, in Lahaul Valley, situated at an altitude of 3,071 meters.

Tunnel Structure:

  • Designed as a horseshoe-shaped, single tube, double-lane tunnel with a roadway spanning 8 meters.
  • Offers an overhead clearance of 5.525 meters.

Safety Features:

  • Equipped with a semi-transverse ventilation system, emergency exits placed every 500 meters, evacuation lighting, broadcasting systems, and fire hydrants to ensure safety during emergencies.
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