Daily Current Affairs

TODAY’s MOST POWERFUL DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS CONCEPTS-30TH-SEPT,2020

UPSC PRELIMS+MAINS

A) Polity/Bills/Acts/Judgments

  1. Article 254 (2) of the Constitution: How can States bypass a Central law?

  • Context: Some States are exploring the possibility of passing laws to override the three agricultural laws (The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance & Farm Services Bill, 2020, and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020) passed recently by Parliament by using Article 254 (2) of the Constitution.

Analysis

  • Article 254 (2) of the Constitution essentially enables a State government to pass a law, on any subject in the Concurrent List, that may contradict a Central law, provided it gets the President’s assent.
  • In late 2014, the BJP government in Rajasthan took this very route to make changes to the central labour laws — the Factories Act, the Industrial Disputes act, and the Contract Labour Act — which subsequently got the President’s assent.
  • Punjab is contemplating to amend the Agriculture Produce Market Committee Act and declare the entire State as a principal mandi yard.
  • This would circumvent the provisions in The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, which was passed in Parliament.
  • The declaration of mandi yards ensures that any procurement outside their ambit is considered illegal, farmers do not get a price less than the MSP, and the State gets its mandi fee.

What is Article 254 (2)?

  • Article 254 (2) of the Constitution states, “Where a law made by the Legislature of a State with respect to one of the matters enumerated in the concurrent List contains any provision repugnant to the provisions of an earlier law made by Parliament or an existing law with respect to that matter, then, the law so made by the Legislature of such State shall, if it has been reserved for the consideration of the President and has received his assent, prevail in that State.
  • Firstly, the Article applies only when a state law on a subject which is the Concurrent List conflicts with a nationwide law.
  • In such a case, the state law can prevail over the Central law if the President gives his or her assent to the former.
  • The President, however, acts on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers.
  • However, Article 254 (2) represents the exception, not the norm.
  • Article 254 (1) of the Constitution essentially states that if there is any inconsistency between laws passed by Parliament and those passed by a state legislature, the former should prevail.
  • Further, a proviso to Article 254 (2) states that even if the President gives his or her assent to a state law passed under the provision, the Parliament can later amend or repeal the law.

Distribution of Legislative Subjects

  • The Constitution provides for a three-fold distribution of legislative subjects between the Centre and the states, viz., List-I (the Union List), List-II (the State List) and List-III (the Concurrent List) in the Seventh Schedule.
  • The Constitution expressly secures the predominance of the Union List over the State List and the Concurrent List and that of the Concurrent List over the State List.
  • Thus, in case of overlapping between the Union List and the State List, the former should prevail.
  • In case of overlapping between the Union List and the Concurrent List, it is again the former which should prevail.
  • Where there is a conflict between the Concurrent List and the State List, it is the former that should prevail.
  • In case of a conflict between the Central law and the state law on a subject enumerated in the Concurrent List, the Central law prevails over state law. But, there is an exception.
  • If the state law has been reserved for the consideration of the president and has received his assent, then the state law prevails in that state.
  • But, it would still be competent for the Parliament to override such a law by subsequently making a law on the same matter.
  1. What are Bypolls or By-elections? (TH, pg 9)

  • Context: By-elections to Assembly constituencies in Madhya Pradesh and other states and one Lok Sabha seat in Bihar that have been pending due to the COVID-19 pandemic would be held in November, the Election Commission of India (ECI) announced.

Analysis

What are Bypolls? 

  • By-elections or bypolls are used to fill elected offices that have become vacant between general elections.
  • Under the following circumstances, bypolls can occur for a seat:
  • When the incumbent dies or resigns.
  • When the incumbent becomes ineligible to continue in office.
  • When a constituency election is invalidated by voting irregularities.
  • When a candidate wins a seat after the bypolls he or she will remain in office till the Lok Sabha/Assembly dissolves.

Time limit for By-elections

  • According to Section 151A of Representation of the People Act 1951, the time limit for a bypoll to fill vacancies either for parliament or legislative assembly is six months from the date of occurrence of vacancy provided that nothing contained in this section shall apply if –
  • (a) the remainder of the term of a member in relation to a vacancy is less than one year; or
  • (b) the Election Commission in consultation with the Central Government certifies that it is difficult to hold the by election within the said period (the Election Commission had postponed Rajya Sabha polls, byelections and civic body elections in the wake of the pandemic).
  • A Panchayat/Municipality reconstituted after premature dissolution (i.e. before the expiry of the full period of 5 years) shall continue for the remainder of the period.
  • But if the remainder of the period is less than 6 months, it shall not be necessary to hold elections.
  • A person cannot be a member of both Houses of Parliament at the same time under the Representation of People Act (1951).
  • If a person is elected to both the Houses of Parliament, he must intimate within 10 days in which House he desires to serve.
  • If a sitting member of one House is also elected to the other House, his seat in the first House becomes vacant.
  • If a person is elected to two seats in a House, he should exercise his option for one, otherwise, both seats become vacant.
  • B) Geography, Environment and Biodiversity

  • 3.Invasive species in India (TH)

  • Context: A special drive to uproot the invasive lantana bushes in the famous Sajjangarh wildlife sanctuary in Rajasthan’s Udaipur district has helped in ecological restoration of grasslands and saved biodiversity.

Analysis

  • Lantana camara, a thicket forming shrub, has covered vast tracts of land in the sanctuary, stopping the natural light and nutrition for flora and fauna.
  • The toxic substance in its foliage and ripe berries affected the animals, while its expansion stopped the natural growth of grass and other shrubs.
  • With the herbivores not getting sufficient forage, the prey base for carnivorous animals was declining, leading to ecological disturbances in the food chain.
  • It was way back in 1992 at the Rio de Janeiro Convention on Biodiversity that biological invasion of alien species of plants was recognized as the second-worst threat to the environment after habitat destruction.
  • During the last decade or so weeds like hyptis, cassia tora and parthenium have occupied forest floors in many areas.
  • India accounts for 8% of the global biodiversity existing in only 2.4% land area of the world.
  • Climate change and unprecedented floods resulting from cloud bursts have facilitated the introduction of aquatic invasive alien species into new habitats in India.
  • Recently, a study revealed the role of the 2018 floods in introducing the most dangerous fish species into Kerala’s wetlands. The authors said that exotic fishes such as arapaima and alligator gar were reported or caught by the residents after the floods. These are illegally imported fish that are reared by ornamental and commercial fish traders across India.
  • Many native species, especially Indian major carps in various riverine systems, have been affected because of the invasion of exotic fish species such as Nile tilapia, African catfish, Thai pangus and common carp.
  • Apart from commercially important exotic species, ornamental fishes such as guppy, piranha, suckermouth, blue perch, goldfish and platy have been recorded in rivers, lakes, traditional village ponds and other inland freshwater bodies.
  • A team of researchers from Madurai Kamaraj University found that the exotic ornamental Amazon sailfin catfish poses a serious threat to the native fish species of Vandiyur Lake, Madurai.

Invasive species

  • An invasive species an organism that causes ecological or economic harm in a new environment where it is not native
  • Invasive species possess characteristic features like:
  • pioneer species in varied landscapes,
  • tolerant of a wide range of soil and weather conditions,
  • a generalist in distribution,
  • produces copious amounts of seed that disperse easily,
  • grows aggressive root systems,
  • short generation time,
  • high dispersal rates,
  • long flowering and fruiting periods,
  • broad native range and abundant in native range.
  • Invasive species are likely to have relatively small amounts of DNA in their cell nuclei.
  • Apparently, the cells in these plants are able to divide and multiply more quickly and consequently, the entire plant can grow more rapidly than species with higher cellular DNA content.
  • This gives them a leg up in disturbed sites.

Common Invasive Species in India

  • Cotton grass and Lantana are known to harm agriculture and biodiversity.
  • Papaya Mealy Bug, which belongs to Mexico and Central America, have destroyed huge crops of papaya in Assam, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.
  • Cotton Mealybug is a native of North America but has severely affected cotton crops in the Deccan.
  • Among the invasive fish species, Amazon sailfin catfish has been destroying fish populations in the wetlands of Kolkata.
  • African apple snail is said to be most invasive among all alien fauna.
  • It is a mollusk and was first reported in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • But today it is found all across the country and is threatening the habitats of several native species.
  • Among the alien invasive marine species, the genus Ascidiaac counts for the maximum number of species (31), followed by Arthropods (26), Annelids (16), Cnidarian (11), Bryzoans (6), Molluscs (5), Ctenophora (3), and Entoprocta (1).
  • Experts point to the example of Orange Cup-Coral, which originated in Indo-East Pacific but has now been reported in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Gulf of Kutch, Kerala and Lakshadweep.
  • As per studies of Zoological Survey of India, 157 species of fauna have been identified so far to have invasive status, of which 99 are aquatic while the rest 58 are terrestrial.

African catfish

  • The African catfish is a banned variety of fish in India.
  • Native to Africa and the Middle East where it inhabits freshwater lakes, rivers, swamps, and urban sewage systems, the African catfish was introduced all over the world in the early 1980s for aquaculture.
  • In India, the ‘alien fish’ as it is called, was first noticed in Andhra Pradesh, a bio-diversity hot spot of Indian aquaculture, in the 1990s.
  • It has since colonized water bodies and major rivers, invaded wetlands, and has been spotted right across the country.
  • One African catfish can release 400,000 eggs in a single season.
  • The voracious predator feeds on living and dead animal matter, including fish and invertebrates, and is known to attack small birds.
  • It affects native fish species by way of:
  • genetic impact,
  • disease introduction, as well as
  • catastrophic ecological impacts such as predation, competition and environmental modification.
  • The African catfish is popular among fish-breeders since:
  • it grows fast,
  • can tolerate adverse water quality conditions and
  • can be raised in dense numbers.
  • This air-breathing fish can crawl on dry ground and can survive in mud between rains.
  • It has the ability:
  • to survive on land,
  • has an omnivorous diet,
  • high tolerance for poorly oxygenated water and
  • has the ability to hide in vegetation which makes the species very difficult to control.
  • The African catfish is one of the reasons behind a 70% decline over the past two decades in native fish species at Powai Lake in suburban Mumbai.

Senna spectabilis

  • The Kerala Forest and Wildlife Department is planning to adopt steps to arrest the rampant growth of invasive plants, especially Sena spectabilis, in the forest areas of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (NBR), including the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • The spread of invasive plants, especially Senna spectabilis, is posing a major threat to the forest areas of the reserve, owing to its quick growth and coppicing character.
  • Coppicing is a traditional method of woodland management which exploits the capacity of many species of trees to put out new shoots from their stump or roots if cut down.
  • The plant has started to invade the adjacent Bandipur and Nagarhole tiger reserves in Karnataka and the Mudumalai tiger reserve in Tamil Nadu.
  • Earlier, the plant species was planted as avenue trees in Wayanad.

Mass flowering

  • Due to mass flowering and drying of bamboo species in Wayanad, lots of open spaces were created which had been occupied by Senna spectabilis.
  • An adult tree grows up to 15 to 20 metres in a short period of time and every year distributes thousands of seeds after gregarious flowering. The thick foliage arrests the growth of other indigenous tree and grass species and causes food shortage for the wildlife population, especially herbivores. Moreover, wildlife will not feed on the leaf of the treeas it is not palatable for them.
  • The allelochemicals produced by this plant adversely affect the germination and growth of the native species.

 3)Air Pollution in Delhi- Causes and Solutions (PIB)

  • Context: Severely polluted days in Delhi are again started to increase as the winter are coming.

Analysis

  • Varieties of surplus crop residues are burnt especially in northern states of Punjab, Haryana, UP, and Rajasthan depending on the agro-climatic region; however, about 50 per cent of all crop residue burnt in the country are residues of rice crop.
  • The effect of stagnant atmospheric conditions over Delhi during the harvest season of kharif crop has aggravated the deterioration of the ambient air quality in the region.
  • Emission pollutants released due to burning depends on the type of crop residue.
  • For example, PM2.5 emission (g/Kg) from the burning of different crop residues followed this order; Sugarcane (12.0), Maize (11.2), Cotton (9.8), Rice (9.3), wheat (8.5) (TERI, 2019).
  • There are studies that have reported that open burning of crop residues has ill effects on soil organic carbon and soil fertility.
  • National Green Tribunal in the order passed on 10.12.2015, directed and prohibited agricultural residue burning in any part of the NCT of Delhi, State of Rajasthan, State of Punjab, State of Uttar Pradesh and State of Haryana.
  • Any person or body that is found violating the directions of National Green Tribunal is liable to pay Environmental Compensation which is collected by the concerned State Governments.
  • In 2014, the Union government had released the National Policy for Management of Crop Residue, which NGT directed the States to implement.
  • Burning crop residue is a crime under Section 188 of the IPC and under the Air and Pollution Control Act of 1981.
  • A new Central Sector Scheme on ‘Promotion of Agricultural Mechanization for In-Situ Management of Crop Residue in the States of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and NCT of Delhi’ for the period from 2018-19 to 2019-20 is being implemented.
  • Under this Scheme, the agricultural machines and equipment for in-situ crop residue management are provided with 50 per cent subsidy to the individual farmers and 80 per cent subsidy for establishment of Custom Hiring Centres.
  • Ventilation index, defined as the product of wind speed and mixing height, is a significant factor affecting Delhi’s Air Quality.
  • Winters are dominated by cold, dry air, and ground-based inversion with low wind conditions, which makes the air stagnant and creates an unfavorable condition for dispersion.
  • The Air Quality Index (AQI) is the weighted average of different pollutants such as particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and other pollutants.
  • A lower value of AQI means better air quality.

Rain and air pollution in Delhi

  • The Capital’s air quality worsened from ‘poor’ to ‘very poor’ on Thursday mainly due to light showers witnessed during the day.
  • It only drizzled in Delhi on Thursday and this increased the humidity.
  • Due to free water molecules in the air, chemical reactions took place leading to the formation of secondary aerosols, which increased the PM2.5 [deadly respirable particles] level in the air.
  • If there had been good rainfall, then it would have washed away the pollutants. But the drizzling increased pollution.

Farm fires

  • The monitoring agency said PM2.5 level in Delhi does not increase just because the number of farm fires increases in neighboring States, as it depends on other factors too.
  • On November 3, the PM2.5 level in the city hit 625 ug/m3 — the highest this season, though the number of farm fires was around 3,000.
  • On November 6, the PM2.5 level hovered around 100 ug/m3 even though the number of farm fires increased to 3,534, said SAFAR. The safe limit for PM2.5 is 60 ug/m3.
  • So, we can conclude that farm fires though contribute to the air pollution in Delhi but farm fires and air pollution in Delhi are not directly proportional to each other.
  • The Supreme Court has recently said the ‘Polluter Pays Principle’ does apply to the State and the local bodies also.

Some specific causes of air pollution in Delhi

  • Burning of rice stubble in Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh in the month of October;
  • Dust pollution caused by large scale construction activity;
  • Vehicular pollution;
  • The NCR generates thousands of tons per day of municipal solid waste, much of which is eventually burned, adding particulate pollution to the air;
  • In the winter, cool air causes “inversions” that stagnant the air and trap pollution close to the ground;
  • Air flow patterns from Afghanistan and Pakistan pick up emissions as they move over the densely urbanized regions of Punjab and Haryana where farmers burn the straw in their fields and pull this pollution into Delhi;
  • Pre-monsoon dust storms also contribute to air pollution in the region.

Solutions

  • Provide alternative innovative solutions to rice stubble burning like the ‘Happy Seeder’ machine which can sow wheat without the need to remove of rice stubble.
  • Each construction site must have a dust monitoring mechanism by local pollution board with the provision of heavy penalties on violations of permissible limits.
  • Since meteorological conditions can very well forecast one week in advance, the state government should take proactive measures such as shutting down of polluting industries, restricting inter-state traffic and city traffic so that smog-like conditions do not arise.

4)Graded Response Action Plan for Delhi & NCR

  • In pursuant to the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s order in December 2016 in the matter of C. Mehta vs. Union of India regarding air quality in the National Capital Region of Delhi, a Graded Response Action Plan has been prepared for implementation under different Air Quality Index (AQI) categories namely, Moderate & Poor, Very Poor, and Severe as per National Air Quality Index.
  • A new category of “Severe+ or Emergency” has also been added.
  • Severe + or Emergency (ambient PM2.5 or PM10 concentration values of 300µg/m3 or 500 µg/m3 respectively persist for 48 hours or more).
  • Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change has notified for implementation of Graded Response Action Plan through Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority.

Dust suppressant

  • It is a powder that is mixed with water or a polymer and sprayed to form a layer of moisture over surfaces, thus controlling dust being raised into the air.

Learn from Africa

  • The “Great Green Wall” initiative is creating a barrier of vegetation in vulnerable areas across the continent.
  • This is expected to be a 4,000-mile wall of trees stretching across the Sahel, from Senegal to Djibouti.

C) Economy

5.Explained: What are ESG funds, big abroad, and now finding interest in India too (IE)

  • Context: Although big in global investments, ESG funds — which imbibe environment, social responsibility and corporate governance in their investing process— are witnessing growing interest in the Indian mutual fund industry too.

Analysis

What is ESG?

  • ESG investing is used synonymously with sustainable investing or socially responsible investing.
  • While selecting a stock for investment, the ESG fund shortlists companies that score high on the environment, social responsibility and corporate governance, and then looks into financial factors.

Why so much focus on ESG now?

  • Fund houses say modern investors are re-evaluating traditional approaches, and look at the impact their investment has on the planet.
  • As a result of this paradigm change, asset managers have started incorporating ESG factors into investment practices.

What change can it bring?

  • As ESG funds gain momentum in India, fund managers say companies will be forced to follow better governance, ethical practices, environment-friendly measures and social responsibility.

Which sectors/companies will lose out?

  • Industry insiders say tobacco companies and companies in the coal business may find it tough to make the cut; so will companies that generate hazardous waste and do not manage them properly.
  • Besides, sectors that use a lot of water and do not follow best practices on its reuse, or companies that discharge untreated waste in soil, water or air will find it tough to get funds parked in them.

D) Science and Technology/Defence/Space

6.Food Fortification in India and Biofortification Vs Conventional Fortification (IE)

  • Context: The Food Safety and Standards Authority (FSSAI) is mulling over making fortification in edible oil with Vitamin A and D mandatory, in a bid to combat the malnutrition challenges including micronutrient deficiencies in India.

Analysis

  • In 2018, the regulator had set standards for fortification for five category of staples which includes wheat flour and rice (with iron, vitamin B12 and folic acid), milk and edible oil (with Vitamins A and D) and double fortified salt (with iodine and iron).
  • The fortification norms are currently voluntary.

Food Fortification in India

  • India is #102 out of 117 countries on Global Hunger Index, 2019.
  • India has a very high incidence of micronutrient deficiency diseases like anaemia, vitamin A deficiency, iodine deficiency disorder etc. as Indian diets are commonly deficient in the following micronutrients – iron, iodine, vitamin A, folate/folic acid, vitamin B12, and vitamin D.
  • Food Fortification can fill the gap in nutritional needs in a cost effective and scalable manner and is a proven solution to micronutrient malnutrition.

Distribution of Fortified Ration

  • The Nutrient requirements and recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) for all age groups of the population including children are set and revised periodically by the National Institute of Nutrition – Indian Council of Medical Research.
  • The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Department of Food & Public Distribution has approved the “Centrally Sponsored Pilot Scheme on Fortification of Rice & its distribution through Public Distribution System”.
  • Financial Assistance up to 90% in case of North-Eastern, Hilly and Island States and up to 75% in case of rest of the States has been extended.

Double Fortified Salt (DFS)

  • Fortification of iodized salt with iron, as double fortified salt (DFS), is a complementary strategy to address widespread anemia in the country.
  • FSSAI has released the standards for fortification of salt with iron and iodine and enlisted two formulations-
  • Ferrous Sulphate (FS) with stabilizer Sodium Hexametaphosphate (SHMP) to prevent reaction between iodine and iron and
  • Ferrous Fumarate encapsulated by soya stearin (EFF) to prevent interaction between iodine and iron.
  • The key central ministries, like the Ministry of Women and Child Development and Department of School Education & Literacy, have issued directives in mandating use of Fortified Edible Oil, Double Fortified Salt and Fortified Wheat Flour in the Integrated Child Development Scheme and Mid Day Meal respectively.
  • For MDM, Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) allots grain to each state based on the average coverage/consumption of the first three quarters of the previous year and the number of working days.

Fortification Logo (+F)

  • FSSAI had issued the standards for fortification of five staples, namely, wheat flour, rice, milk, oil, and double fortified salt.
  • In order to promote and differentiate between regular products and fortified products, a “+F” logo has been developed by FSSAI for the FBOs to use on the packs of the products that they are fortifying.
  • The square around the +F represents completeness. The plus sign is about adding extra nutrition via vitamins and minerals to the daily nutrition requirements. The ring illustrates the ring of good health, protection for an active and healthy life.
  • The Food Authority has brought out the following nutrition claims that may be used for fortified food articles produced as per Food Safety Standards (Fortification of Foods) Regulation, 2016.

Biofortification: Madhuban Gajar

  • Madhuban Gajar, a biofortified carrot variety with high β-carotene and iron content has been developed by Shri Vallabhhai Vasrambhai Marvaniya, a farmer scientist from Junagadh district, Gujarat.

Biofortification of staple crops

  • Fortification is the practice of deliberately increasing the content of an essential micronutrient, i.e. vitamins and minerals (including trace elements) in a food, so as to improve the nutritional quality of the food supply.
  • Biofortification is the process by which the nutritional quality of food crops is improved through agronomic practices, conventional plant breeding, or modern biotechnology.
  • Crops can be biofortified through selective breeding or genetic engineering.
  • Biofortification differs from conventional fortification in that biofortification aims to increase nutrient levels in crops during plant growth rather than through manual means during processing of the crops.
  • Biofortification may therefore present a way to reach populations where supplementation and conventional fortification activities may be difficult to implement and/or limited.
  • ‘Hidden Hunger’ is a term used to describe dietary micronutrient deficiencies.
  • The most common micronutrient deficiencies are iron, zinc and Vitamin A and this triad is the focus of biofortification research.

Beta Carotene

  • The human body converts beta carotene into vitamin A (retinol) – beta carotene is a precursor of vitamin A.
  • We need vitamin A for healthy skin and mucus membranes, our immune system, and good eye health and vision.

Iron

  • Iron is a mineral vital to the proper function of hemoglobin, a protein needed to transport oxygen in the blood.
  • The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) varies between ages, but women who are pregnant require the most.
  • Iron promotes healthy pregnancy, increased energy, and better athletic performance.
  • Dhanashakti is the first iron-rich pearl millet that was released in 2012 in Maharashtra, and in 2013 across India.

Zinc

  • Zinc deficiency is particularly harmful as zinc plays a role in more body functions than any other mineral.
  • Of the trace minerals, this element is second only to iron in its concentration in the body.
  • Zinc is found in cells throughout the body.
  • It is needed for the body’s defensive (immune) system to properly work.
  • It plays a role in cell division, cell growth, wound healing, and the breakdown of carbohydrates.
  • Zinc is also needed for the senses of smell and taste.
  • Zinc also enhances the action of insulin.

7)Explained: What is Cat Que virus from China? Does it infect humans? (IE)

  • Context: The presence of antibodies against the Cat Que virus (CQV) in two human serum samples from India has been confirmed.

Analysis

  • The presence of the Cat Que virus has been largely reported in Culex mosquitoes in China and in pigs in Vietnam.
  • A study, which was conducted in 2017-2018, was undertaken to develop diagnostic tests for CQV prompted by the spread of similar species of Culex mosquitoes in India.
  • For CQV, domestic pigs are considered to be the primary mammalian hosts.
  • CQV infects both humans and economically important livestock species.
  • It was first isolated in 2004 from mosquitoes during the surveillance of arbovirus activity in northern Vietnam.
  • Humans can get infected through mosquitoes as well.
  • CQV is associated with acute febrile illness (history of fever that persisted for 2–7 days with no localizing source).
  1. Sero Surveillance Analysis (TH, pg 1)

  • Context: Around 7% of India’s adult population may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus till the last fortnight of August, according to the second national sero-survey by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
  • However, the numbers also suggest that the country still has an overwhelming majority of its population yet to be exposed to the virus and therefore, is far from any peak or herd immunity levels.
  • These refer to approximate estimates that show what percentage of the population needs to be exposed to the virus so that its spread is curtailed.

Analysis

  • A serological survey was also conducted in the national capital by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), which comes under the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, to
  • determine the extent of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19)’s spread;
  • study the scale of undetected infections; and
  • ascertain the population-level presence of the IgG antibody, which indicates past infection.
  • Sero Surveillance is an antibody detection test that was done to assess the prevalence of infection at the community level and primarily used for evidence-based public health response.
  • Sero-surveys are conducted by drawing blood samples and checking for a specific class of antibodies called IgG that appear within two weeks of infection.
  • Because it is yet unclear how long antibodies detectably persist in the body, their presence only indicates past exposure to — and not the presence of — the virus.
  • Unlike the real-time RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) tests or antigen tests that scan for the presence of the coronavirus in the body, the seroprevalence survey was designed to look for the presence of antibodies, produced in response to the coronavirus, in the blood.
  • On average, antibodies can be detected five days after an infection sets in.
  • The coronavirus, in general, diminishes after 21 days.
  • Antibodies, for a host of other viral infections, are normally expected to linger for many months and confer protection against fresh infections by the same virus. However, it is still too early in the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 to know how long the antibodies will last.

What are antigens?

  • Antigens are proteins that our immune system can recognize.
  • The majority of antigens are proteins but some are carbohydrates, lipids, and nucleic acids.
  • Any antigen that is ‘foreign’ to our immune system is destroyed by an antibody.

What are the antibodies?

  • Antibodies are attack molecules our immune system makes to protect ourselves against foreign things such as bacteria and viruses.
  • Antibodies can also be formed in response to different blood groups.
  • Everyone is born with some antibodies.

E) International Relations

9.Govt. mulls Australia’s entry into Malabar drill (TH, pg 10)

  • Context: A key meeting of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) discussed the issue of inviting Australia for the trilateral Malabar naval exercise with Japan and the United States.

Analysis

  • The final decision is likely before the exercise, which could take place towards the end of this year.
  • The naval exercise has been delayed this year due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • After years of reluctance due to Beijing’s sensitivities, India said it was open to Australia’s inclusion in Malabar, which began as a bilateral exercise between India and the U.S. in 1992 and was expanded into a trilateral format with the inclusion of Japan in 2015.
  • Japan and the U.S. have been pressing India for Australia’s inclusion in Malabar.
  • While New Delhi was reluctant to accept Canberra’s request, the bilateral cooperation has gone up significantly over the years.
  • In June 2020, the two countries signed the long-pending Mutual Logistics Support (MLSA), elevated their partnership to a Comprehensive Strategic partnership and also announced a joint declaration on a shared vision for maritime cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.

Malabar Naval Exercise

  • It involves the US, Japanese and Indian navies and is aimed at achieving deeper military ties between the three nations.
  • The Malabar series of exercises, initiated in 1992 between the Indian and US Navies, and later joined by the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF).
  • The Malabar Coast refers to India’s southwest coast, lying on the narrow coastal plain of Karnataka and Kerala states.
  • The initial series of exercises were held off the coast of Malabar, and hence the name of the series but these naval engagements have been held in other areas as well including the Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and in the Western Pacific.
  • The 23rd edition of the Trilateral Maritime Exercise Malabar took place in October 2019 off the coast of Japan.
  • The 23rd edition of the Trilateral Maritime Exercise Malabar will take place in Bay of Bengal.
  • The Exercise generally encompasses conduct of complex maritime operations in the surface, sub-surface and air domains, and focus on Anti-Submarine Warfare, Anti-Air and Anti-Surface Firings, Maritime Interdiction Operations (MIO) including Visit Board Search and Seizure (VBSS) and tactical scenario-based Exercise at Sea.
  • Japan has been in and out of the Malabar Exercise, mainly because of China’s protests.
  • The Indian government, had often given in to Chinese pressure, for the sake of overall improvement in relations with its Asian neighbour.
  • But in 2015, India put its foot down and a formal announcement was made that Japan would be a permanent invitee to Malabar, making it a trilateral exercise.
  • Australia’s request to join the Exercise has repeatedly been declined.
  • Australia believed that joining the Malabar Exercise was a natural progression of the Quad group (United States, Japan, Australia and India).
  • India has for several years resisted bringing Australia on board, reportedly because of possible negative reactions from China.
  • The fact is that the first and only time Australia has been part of this exercise was in 2007, when both Australia and Singapore were invited to join India, Japan and the United States.
  1. The Gavi COVAX (TH, pg 10)

  • Context: The Gavi COVAX is an international collaboration involving the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness that is coordinating the development of several probable vaccines.

Analysis

  • They have also devised an arrangement to ensure that all countries — irrespective of their wealth — are able to vaccinate a minimum percentage of their population.
  • The GAVI Alliance (formerly the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation) is a global health partnership of public and private sector organizations dedicated to “immunization for all”.
  • GAVI model encourages manufacturers to lower vaccine prices for the poorest countries in return for long-term, high-volume and predictable demand from those countries.

F) Indices/Committees/Reports/Organisations

11.NSO REPORT: TIME USE IN INDIA- 2019 (JANUARY – DECEMBER 2019) (PIB)

  • Context: Time Use Survey (TUS) is an important source of information about the activities that are performed by the population and the time duration for which such activities are performed.

Analysis

  • One distinguishing feature of Time Use Survey from other household surveys is that it can capture time disposition on different aspects of human activities, be it paid, unpaid or other activities with such details which is not possible in other surveys.
  • The primary objective of Time Use Survey (TUS) is to measure the participation of men and women in paid and unpaid activities.
  • TUS is an important source of information on the time spent in unpaid caregiving activities, volunteer work, unpaid domestic service-producing activities of the household members.
  • It also provides information on time spent on learning, socializing, leisure activities, self-care activities, etc., by the household members.
  • National Statistical Office (NSO), under the Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation, conducted the first Time Use Survey in India during January – December 2019.

Features of the Survey

  • This survey covered both rural and urban households.
  • Information on time use was collected from each member of age 6 years and above of the selected households.
  • In this survey data on time use was collected through personal interview method.

G) Art, Culture and History

12.Rural Olympics: the Kila Raipur Sports Festival (PIB)

  • The Rural Olympics, formally known as the Kila Raipur Sports Festival, is hosted in a small village of Punjab, i.e., Kila Raipur.
  • The Kila Raipur Sports Society, Patti Sohaviya, organises the Kila Raipur Games every February in this village near Ludhiana.
  • The Rural Olympics has already made a buzz by hosting competitive events for animals as well, where special breeds of bullocks, mules, camels, dogs, etc.
  • Every contest carries a unique folk name, derived from rural Indian culture, and several of them are designed only for specific genders.
  • Take Tirinjen for example — a spinning wheel is divided into sections with each section denoting different human emotions like sorrow, happiness, anger, love, disgust, etc.
  • The participants (ladies only) have to sing songs and express the emotion given to them.
  • Other unconventional games that grace this rural sports festival include tractor tyre racing, Gilli Danda, Lukan Miti (hide and seek), Rasa Kashi (tug of war) — and the list goes on.
  • The popular Indian sport, Kabaddi and other globally acclaimed sports such as wrestling, acrobatics, hockey, football and weight lifting have also garnered a prominent place in the Kila Raipur Sports Festival.
  • The event is also accompanied by a kaleidoscopic ethnic performance that exemplifies the folk richness and the sheer zest for life that the people of Punjab have.

H) Miscellaneous

13.Bakri Swayamvar (PIB)

  • Several villages in Uttarakhand are in areas that are infertile or unirrigated, making livestock the most viable option to keep local economies running.
  • Goats far outnumber sheep, with most owners being marginalized farmers who let the animals graze and roam free.
  • There’s not much systematic growth here in terms of broadening gene pools and not enough awareness of healthy breeding practices.
  • GreenPeople (an NGO), holds Bakri Swayamvar, their signature event, to help boost genetic diversity for goat populations in the area and educates farmers about a higher grade of livestock rearing.
  • GreenPeople’s efforts to elevate indigenous Indians won them the Indian Responsible Tourism Awards (IRTA) in 2019.

Source-The Hindu, PIB, IE and Others

Mains Answer Writing Practice…

Q1. Air pollution in National Capital Region becomes severe in Winters. Analyse the reasons behind this problem. Also Highlight the steps taken by Government for this recurrent issue. Cite 2 examples used by neighboring nations to provide partial relief to citizens facing this problem. (250 Words)

Q2. What is ‘Invasive Species’? Discuss the threats posed by them to the conventional biodiversity. Also suggest countermeasures adopted by the experts to tackle this menace. (150 Words)