9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – August 28th, 2021

Dear Friends,
We have initiated some changes in the 9 PM Brief and other postings related to current affairs. What we sought to do:

  1. Ensure that all relevant facts, data, and arguments from today’s newspaper are readily available to you.
  2. We have widened the sources to provide you with content that is more than enough and adds value not just for GS but also for essay writing. Hence, the 9 PM brief now covers the following newspapers:
    1. The Hindu  
    2. Indian Express  
    3. Livemint  
    4. Business Standard  
    5. Times of India 
  3. We have also introduced the relevance part to every article. This ensures that you know why a particular article is important.
  4. Since these changes are new, so initially the number of articles might increase, but they’ll go down over time.
  5. It is our endeavor to provide you with the best content and your feedback is essential for the same. We will be anticipating your feedback and ensure the blog serves as an optimal medium of learning for all the aspirants.
  • For previous editions of 9 PM BriefClick Here
  • For individual articles of 9 PM BriefClick Here

Mains Oriented Articles 

GS Paper 2

GS Paper 3

Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)


Mains Oriented Articles


GS Paper 2

Making sure that girls don’t drop out of school

Source: Indian Express

Syllabus: GS-2 Education: status of literacy in India & reforms required

Synopsis: Addressing gender bias in education requires providing social, financial and emotional support to the girl child.

Introduction

In the recently held Olympics, Indian women showed their excellent performance. They can also excel in other fields like education. Women can contribute not just to the economy of the nation, but can also be the agents of social transformation.

This is evident from the World Bank review, which pointed that the global average for the private rate of return (the increase in an individual’s earnings) with just one extra year of schooling is about 9 percent. While the social returns of an extra year of school are even higher — above 10 percent at the secondary and higher education levels.

Impact of Corona on girls globally: It is estimated that over 2.4 crore girls globally are on the verge of dropping out of schools because of the corona pandemic. The main reasons behind that are pandemic-induced school closure & economic hardship.

In India

Before Pandemic:

  • There was a gradual increase in the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) for women in higher education — from 19.8% in 2012-13 to 27.3 % in 2019-20. But the rate of dropouts is still high.
  • This can be analysed from the graphs given below:
Source: Indian Express

Graph1: It shows this gradual descent and the resulting paucity of women, who are even eligible to go to college.

Graph 2: Shows that states having the highest rate of secondary school drop-outs among girls are also the ones where a significant percentage of girls who get married before the age of 18 years.

What are the reasons to drop out?

  • Girls engaged in domestic activities (31.9%)
  • Financial Constraints (18.4%)
  • Lack of developing interest in education (15.3%)
  • Marriage (12.4%)
  • Gender bias & patriarchy

Given the need for women empowerment, the government has taken numerous Initiatives:

  1. National Scheme of Incentives to Girls for Secondary Education (NSIGSE)
  2. Supernumerary seats in all IITs
  3. PRAGATI Scholarship scheme for girls in technical education

But government initiatives alone may not be enough. We need to take many more steps like:

  1. Mohalla school or a community learning programme: These should be started with appropriate Covid norms

NITI Aayog, with the help of civil society organisations, had started a community programme led by volunteers called “Saksham Bitiya”. It aims to train girls in socio-emotional and ethical learning. Such initiatives should be replicated to ensure more girls do not drop out of schools during the pandemic.

  1. To predict likely drop-outs, a gender atlas comprising relevant indicators should be developed.
  2. Teachers should also be trained in all the scholarships and schemes available which provide economic support to girls and their families for continuing their education.
  3. There is a need to revise the National Scheme of Incentive to Girls for Secondary Education in areas or states where there is a high prevalence of drop-outs and early child marriages
  4. Special education zones should be set up in areas that have been traditionally backward in education.
    • The National Education Policy 2020 provides for a gender inclusion fund. This fund should be utilised to support STEM education in these schools as well as in all Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas.
  5. State governments need to leverage existing schemes to design interventions to promote women in higher education.
  6. Behavioural nudges are the key to tackling social prejudices and orthodox cultural norms that prevent girls from achieving their innate potential.
    • For this, Behavioural Insights Units (BIU) should be established across states to tackle social issues with the help of NGOs

Way Forward

The pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges for educators and students, especially for those on the margins, including girls. However, with informed targeting and an agile policy environment, this challenge could well prove to be an opportunity.


India’s tuition Pandemic (On India’s mushrooming ed-tech sector)

Source: Times of India

Syllabus: GS2- Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education, Human Resources.

Relevance: Issues due to the rise of Edtech sector

Synopsis: With billions of dollars in capital and tech backing, Indian educational corporates are creating a situation of tuition pandemic.

China’s crackdown on edtech

Recently, the Chinese government announced a crackdown on its booming educational tuition sector. Under its new policy,

  • private tutoring businesses have to restructure as non-profit companies.
  • They are banned from listing on the stock market or raising foreign capital.
  • They are prohibited from offering tutoring classes on weekends and school holidays.
  • Parents and students are being encouraged to report schools and teachers who make extra income through private tutoring.
What is the Indian Scenario?

The overemphasis on tuition is an issue in India too. While the Chinese solution is not the best one, the underlying problem exists in India.

We make children compete for exams that do not test true talent and operate like a lottery. This isn’t a new issue. For instance, we already have the Kota factory phenomenon.

Why overemphasis on tuition is not good?
  • Sports, musical instruments, dramatics, art, elocutions, debates anything that doesn’t feature in entrance tests or board exams is cut out.
  • The time spent to score little extra marks can instead be used to learn a completely new skill, which would make one more employable and contribute more to the economy.
  • Tuition takes away the level playing field. Many of these tuitions cost lakhs. Very smaller number of Indians can afford it.
Suggestions/Measures

The solution does not lie in banning mega educational companies. It attacks supply of tuitions, but does nothing about the huge demand for it.

  1. One, we need to make a cultural shift. We must let our children learn other than engineering and medicine.
  2. Two, we also need more good colleges. Lack of reputable colleges gives way for new edtech startups. Incentivize good people to open colleges, grant prime land and create more world-class institutions.
  3. Take the pressure off the cutoffs and entrance exams.
  4. Better regulate the mushrooming educational startups. Many of these companies provide excellent services, such as making people job-ready, upgrading skill-sets or teaching different vocations.

Conclusion

China’s massive crackdown is about how the tuition-obsession combined with tech can go too far. We need to fix this here before it is too late.


GS Paper 3

Facial recognition spreads, concern over absence of data protection law

Source: Indian Express

Syllabus: GS3 – Science and Technology- Developments and their Applications and Effects in Everyday Life

Relevance: Regarding Facial Recognition technology

Synopsis: The greater rush for the use of FRT systems has raised various concerns, despite the strength of justification. Let’s have a brief look into the debate.

Context

Facial recognition technology (FRT) software systems are being installed at some of India’s busiest airports and train stations. The growing list of users of this technology, started with the Home Ministry’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) and various police forces. It now includes the Airports Authority of India, the Indian Railways, public sector utilities, and the state-owned agency etc.

Must read: National Automated Facial Recognition System- Explained point wise
Applications
  • Airport Authority of India under Digi Yatra program, is using this technology
  • Indian Railways plan to install facial recognition tech at railway stations to “identify criminals”
  • The Delhi Police acquired an automated facial recognition software as a tool to identify lost boys and girls by matching photos
  • State-owned NTPC Ltd has started implementing FRT alongside biometrics to capture the attendance of employees. As per NTPC’s policy, consent of employees “shall not be” required for implementation of FRT.
Concerns
  • India does not yet have specific laws with regard to FRT and personal data protection
  • Experts have also flagged the issue of lack of informed consent: Images gathered from CCTV surveillance will also be used to extract particular data points such as the facial features etc. An individual might not have consented to sharing these when entering a CCTV-surveilled zone. These data points can be used to track future movements of the person.

Note: This article contains only those new points which haven’t been covered in our 7PM article on NAFRS. So, kindly go through that first.


Explained: Haryana’s changes to land law; why they have been criticised

SourceIndian Express

Syllabus: GS-3 Land Reforms

Relevance: To understand land policies of Haryana

Synopsis:  The recent land acquisition bill passed by Haryana Government is being termed as “anti-farmer” which will promote “crony capitalism”.

Context:

Recently, Haryana government passed the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Haryana Amendment), Bill, 2021. It seeks to expedite development projects by simplifying the procedure for the acquisition of land.

Provisions of the bill
  1. Exemption: It has brought Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects to the ‘exempt’ category, for which Social Impact Assessment (SIA)/ consent of landowners is not required.
      • Under the Central Land Acquisition Act, it is mandatory for the government in PPP projects to seek the consent of at least 70 % of affected families and conduct Social Impact Assessment (SIA).
  1. Power of collector: The Collector can determine the fair compensation and make the award without further enquiry if he is satisfied that all persons interested in the land have given their consent to the terms and conditions based on their free will.
  2. Building Evacuation: Under the new law, the condition of giving 48-hour notice to the occupants of an acquired building to evacuate has been removed. Occupants would be required to vacate the building immediately after the Collector announces the award.
  3. Compensation: It seeks to do away with the provision that required the government to give the evicted people plots of land in addition to monetary compensation.
Impact of the bill:

The government is no more bound to obtain the Consent of landowners, SIA for a range of projects. These projects are related to

  1. National security or defence of India;
  2. Rural infrastructure eg electrification; affordable housing etc
  3. Industrial corridors set up by the state government or its undertakings
  4. PPP projects wherein the ownership of land continues to vest with the state government
  5. Urban Metro and rapid rail projects.
Why the bill is being opposed?
  • It will provide arbitrary powers to the government to acquire land from landowners, majorly farmers. It will provide arbitrary powers to vacate buildings immediately after Collector’s notice, even at midnight.
  • It would offer no choice to landowners to negotiate, but to accept the compensation and hand over their lands
  • The government can now acquire even irrigable/cultivable land with or without the consent of the owner
  • Tenants and poor persons who may have non-proprietary rights on the land are likely to lose out.
  • There is fear that land will fall into the hands of corporates
Haryana Governments Stand

The government rejected the apprehensions that acquired lands will eventually go to corporates. Further,

  • There is no reduction in the amount of compensation. It will continue to be the same as it used to be under the Central Act
Conclusion:

Haryana is not the only state that has sought to make the amendments in the Central Act. 16 other states, including Telangana, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra, have also enacted such laws. Although these laws have also been challenged, they are pending in court at present.

Terms to know


Asset monetisation — execution is the key

Source: Business Standard, The Hindu1, The Hindu 2

Syllabus: GS3 – Indian Economy and issues relating to Planning, Mobilization of Resources, Growth, Development and Employment.

Relevance: Mobilization of resources

Synopsis: Challenges in implementing the National Monetisation Pipeline Project and suggestions for better implementation.

Background

Privatisation vs Monetisation

  • Privatisation takes the government out of a business, whereas Monetisation keeps the government in there as an active player.
  • In asset monetisation, the Government parts with its assets such as roads, coal mines for a specified period of time in exchange for a lump sum payment. At the end of the period, the assets return to the Government. Unlike in privatisation, no sale of government assets is involved.
Rationale behind Asset Monetization

While the Government gets a ‘fair’ value for its assets. The private player gets its return on investment. The economy benefits from an increase in efficiency.

Issues and Challenges
  • Cronyism: Given the record of past blunders and under-achievements and the vulnerabilities of India’s eroded institutions, the infrastructure asset monetization programme might end up as another scandal. Similar to the infamous auction of telecom licences and coal mines
  • Correct valuation of assets is very difficult: It is very difficult to get the valuation right over a long-term horizon, such as 30 years. For instance, for a road or highway, growth in traffic would also depend on factors other than the growth of the economy such as the level of economic activity in the area, the prices of fuel and vehicles, alternative modes of transport and their relative prices, etc.
    • If the rate of growth of traffic turns out to be higher than assessed by the Government in valuing the asset, the private operator will reap windfall gains.
    • Alternatively, if the winning bidder pays what turns out to be a steep price for the asset, it will raise the toll price steeply. The consumer ends up bearing the cost.
  • Monetisation will eventually end up as Privatisation: There is no incentive for the private player to invest in the asset towards the end of the tenure of monetisation. The life of the asset, when it is returned to the Government, may not be long. In that event, asset monetisation virtually amounts to sale. Monetisation through the PPP route is thus riddled with problems.
  • Cost of Capital: The cost of capital for a private player is higher than for a public authority. A public authority needs less equity capital and can access debt more cheaply than a private player. The higher cost of capital for the private player could neutralize the benefit of any reduction in operating costs.
Suggestions
  • Co-ordination among financial sector regulators (RBI, SEBI, IRDA and PFRDA) is important as the assets that are to be monetised are listed across sectors.
  • There is a need to expand the investor base and scale of monetisation instruments like InvITs and Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs).
  • Existing investment guidelines for insurance and pension funds have varying restrictions on investing in InvIT/ REIT and these needs to be streamlined.
  • Restrictions pertaining to investments in the overall corporate bond market also needs to streamlined. Such norms limit the investor class participation thereby constraining the pool of liquidity available.
  • Monetisation through InvITs: Utilising InvITs is likely to prove less of a problem than the PPP route. Because, In the InvIT route to monetisation, the public authority continues to own the rights to a significant portion of the cash flows and to operate the assets. So, the issues that arise with transfer of assets to a private party such as incorrect valuation or an increase in price to the consumer are less of a problem.
  • The Government should set up an Asset Monetisation Monitoring Authority staffed by competent professionals. The authority must evaluate all aspects of monetisation such as valuation, the impact on price charged to the consumer, monetisation of under-utilized versus well-utilised assets, the experience across different sectors, etc.

Why agrarian reforms should go beyond meeting demands of the agitating farmers

Source: Indian Express

Syllabus: GS 3 – Land Reforms

Relevance: To understand the land reforms

Synopsis: The land reforms of 50’s and 60’s have been inadequate in addressing the inequity in land ownership. Thus, new agricultural reforms should be targeted on land reforms.

Introduction

The government brought farms laws in 2020 and ever since then farmer’s protests and agitations have been going on. However, what is often missed in the discourse of such reforms is the larger issue of land reforms and equitable distribution of productive resources in rural India.

About Agriculture:

Agriculture in India is of vast importance because it has been an important contributor to GDP. In ’60s and 70’s, after the success of the green revolution, it contributed by making India self-sufficient in food grains. This also helped in reducing food imports and import bills.

However, India witnesses persistent poverty in rural India. This can be seen as:
  • Poverty co-exists with prosperity due to the inequitable distribution of resources like land.
  • National level food sufficiency has not translated to household-level food sufficiency.
  • Poverty alleviation necessitated interventions like MGNREGA.
Land reforms since Independence

Land reforms were initiated as soon as India gained its independence. These included measures like

  • Abolition of feudal landlordism,
  • Conferment of ownership on tenants,
  • Fixing land ceilings,
  • Distribution of surplus land,
  • Increasing agricultural productivity and production.

These reforms were met with some success, like abolishing Zamindari, tenancy rights.

Present status of Land ownership

Even though India introduced land reforms, the progress of land ownership has been slow and dismal.

  • Less than 1 percent of the total land in the country was declared as surplus.
  • Owing to manipulations in land records, very less land was available for distribution.
Challenges in land ownership

The land reforms in fact complicated the rural power structure and political environment.

  • This was accompanied by fast development of other sectors in the economy.
  • Rural areas were absorbed into urban and industrial areas. The new landowner soon turned capitalist farmers.
    • Capitalist farmers utilized programs like the green revolution, the nationalization of banks and urbanization and gained access to markets.
    • They soon dominated the labour markets, small farmers and rural credit.
    • They also cornered a disproportionate share of subsidies.
    • Many members of rich farm households moved into industry, business and professions, which resulted in further procurement of land.
Suggestions

What agricultural reforms actually demand is the reforms in land distribution to check the concentration of land in few hands. This is because the relation between caste and land still persists, with higher caste holding land assets. So any land reforms must address all segments of rural society, including farmworkers.

This calls for radical land reforms such as,

  • Agricultural land should be pooled and equally distributed among farm households.
  • Non-farm households should not be permitted to hold farmland
  • The land reforms programme should not be left to the states as it will be sabotaged by capitalist farmers who also hold political power.
  • India can make land reforms a central subject; while agriculture can remain a state subject.

The aim should be to provide a justiciable universal property right that must form an inalienable part of Article 21 (Right to Life) of the Constitution.

Terms to Know


Prelims Oriented Articles (Factly)


Land degradation in India hurts farmers and forest dwellers the most

Source: Down to Earth1, Down to Earth2

What is the news?

The findings of ISRO’s “Land Degradation and Desertification Atlas” has highlighted that, the impact of desertification in India is not uniform throughout the country. It varies across irrigation system, region etc.

Must read: Despite PM Modi’s assurance, land degradation, desertification increasing
Impact
Based on type of irrigation
  • Almost 37 million hectares (mha) of the degraded land in agriculture is unirrigated. And water erosion is the most common reason (80%) for degradation of unirrigated farmland, followed by wind erosion (17%), salinity / alkalinity in land (2%) and water logging (1%)
  • In rainfed areas, a lot of erosion happened because the topsoil remained exposed and got washed away easily with rains.
Impact on forest
  • After unirrigated farmland, forest remains the most vulnerable to degradation, despite the common belief that afforestation is one of the surest solution to land degradation
  • According to the India State of Forest Report 2019, India has a little over 71 mha of forestland. Of this, 30% forestland is degraded, says the land degradation report
  • Vegetation degradation which refers to as reduction in the biomass as a result of deforestation or overgrazing is the major reason for forest degradation.
Impact on North East region
  • According to ISRO data, Mizoram in the North East has been desertifying at the fastest rate in the country. It has lost more than 13% of its land to degradation/desertification in 2018-19 itself
  • Arunachal Pradesh as well as Nagaland witnessed rapid degradation
  • Deforestation and loss of green cover are the main reasons for land degradation and desertification in the region
  • Further, human settlements and water erosion are other main reasons behind increasing vegetation loss and the resulting desertification in these states.
  • As per IPCC, land degradation and climate change fuel each other thus has potential to heighten the climate crisis in the region

Terms to know


Costly active pharma ingredients from China create healthcare hurdles in India

Source: Down to Earth

What is the news?

A recent report Pharma Industry: Trends and Prospects has identified various gaps in Pharma Industry of India due to its dependence on China for API’s.

What is an API?
  • Active pharmaceutical ingredients or APIs can be defined as the chemicals used to manufacture pharmaceutical drugs.
  • The active ingredient(AI) is the substance or substances that are biologically active within the drug and is the specific component responsible for the desired effect it has on the individual taking it.
Findings of the report
  • Nearly 70% of the country’s APIs are imported from China
  • This dependence is around 90% for certain life-saving antibiotics such as cephalosporins, azithromycin and penicillin
  • There are gaps in diagnostic services in India, especially in rural India. It caused anxieties among the population regarding procuring medicines, arranging COVID-19 tests and treatment
Recommendations
  • Enhance expenditure on health care system– The overall spending on health varied from 1.3% of the gross domestic product in 2010-11 to 1.5% and 1.8% of the GDP for 2019-20 and for 2020-21. This needs to be increased
  • Use digital technology– It urged states to make digital technology accessible in rural areas as it can serve as “a catalytic element of the transformation” of the healthcare scenario in India
  • Promoting best state practices at national level
  • The industry should explore new and innovative options to generate and sustain new revenue streams.
Implications of the findings

India’s import dependency on China for Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) is leading to shortage of equipment, including small- and large-scale bioreactors and fermenters.

This dependency on China, amid rising border tensions with it, also presents a threat to India’s public health security.

It must be noted that during COVID pandemic, due to increased demand, the prices of APIs shot up pretty quickly causing problems for India.

Hence, it is a high time that the country explored ways to develop inputs indigenously.


No realistic plan of reducing import dependence in edible oils is possible without recognising the role of oil palm

Source: Indian express

What is the news?

Recently, the Government of India launched National Mission on Edible Oils-Oil Palm. The scheme aims at increasing the total area under oil palm from the current 3.5 lakh hectares (lh) to 10 lh by 2025-26.

Must read: Cabinet approves implementation of National Mission on Edible Oils- Oil Palm
Features of Oil Palm
  • It is a crop that can yield 20-25 tonnes of FFBs (fresh fruit bunches) per hectare
  • No other oilseed can give so much productivity per unit area of land
  • Mustard and groundnut yields aren’t more than 2-3 tonne per hectare and the oil recovery from that only at 35-40%

Hence, no realistic plan of reducing import dependence in edible oils for example 30-40% from the existing 60-70% is possible without recognizing the role of oil palm

Concern

Introduction of oil palm in tropical rainforests or biodiversity-rich areas such as the Andaman & Nicobar Islands and the Northeast has emerged as the biggest concern. It can lead to loss of forest cover and can threaten biodiversity in the region

Way forward

The crop is probably better suited for states such as Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Odisha. It can replace paddy and be grown using drip irrigation, mulching and other water-saving practices

  • India is anyway producing too much rice and any diversification must be welcomed.

International Vaccine Institute and Bharat Biotech launch Phase II and III trials for chikungunya vaccine

Source: Indian Express

What is the news?

A multi-country Phase II / III clinical trial of a vaccine led by the International Vaccine Institute (IVI) in partnership with Bharat Biotech International Ltd (BBIL) has begun in Costa Rica.

Read more: World may soon get a vaccine against Chikungunya

What is Chikungunya?

It is a viral disease transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes

How is it transmitted?

Chikungunya virus is most often spread to people by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. These are the same mosquitoes that transmit the dengue virus.

Symptoms:

  • The most common symptoms of infection are fever and joint pain
  • Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash.

Vaccination: Presently, there is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Chikungunya virus infection.


India adds 557 new species to its fauna: Zoological Survey of India

Source: The Hindu

What is the News?

The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) has released a document titled “ Animal Discoveries 2020”. ZSI has been publishing this document since 2007.

Key Findings of the Document:

  1. India has added 557 new species to its fauna (animal life). This includes 407 new species and 150 new records. With this, the number of faunal species in India has reached around 1.02 lakh species.
  2. Among new species discovered, invertebrates constitute the majority when compared to vertebrates. Among invertebrates, insects dominated the most, whereas Pisces and reptiles dominated among vertebrates.
    • Animals can be classified as either vertebrates or invertebrates.
      • Vertebrates are animals that have a backbone inside their body. The major groups include fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.
      • Invertebrates don’t have a backbone. They either have a soft body, like worms and jellyfish, or a hard outer casing covering their body, like spiders and crabs.
  3. State-wise: The highest number of new species were discovered from Karnataka (66 species), followed by Kerala (51 species). Also in 2020, 46 new species were discovered from Rajasthan and 30 from West Bengal. 
  4. State-wise based on New Records: In terms of new records or species recorded in the country for the first time, Arunachal Pradesh had the highest (20 new records). 

New Species discovered: Among the new species, some interesting species discovered in 2020 are:

  1. Trimeresurus salazar, a new species of green pit viper discovered from Arunachal Pradesh
  2. Lycodon deccanensis, the Deccan wolf snake discovered from Karnataka; 
  3. Sphaerotheca Bengaluru, a new species of burrowing frog named after the city of Bengaluru
  4. Xyrias anjaalai, a new deepwater species of snake eel from Kerala; 
  5. Glyptothorax giudikyensis, a new species of catfish from Manipur; and 
  6. Clyster galateansis, a new species of scarab beetles from the Great Nicobar Biosphere. 

Species recorded for the first time in India: Some newly recorded species include: 

  1. Myotis cf. frater, a bat species are earlier known from China, Taiwan and Russia, has been reported for the first time from Uttarakhand in India;
  2. Zoothera citrina gibsonhilli, an Orange-headed thrush earlier known from southern Myanmar to south Thailand (central Malay peninsula), which was reported for the first time from India based on a collection made from the Narcondam island in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

Note: India is a mega biodiverse country, with 23.39% of its geographical area under forest and tree cover. India is positioned 8th in mega biodiversity countries in the world with a 0.46 BioD index. The index is calculated by its percentage of species in each group relative to the total global number of species in each group.


Assam’s Deepor Beel Wildlife Sanctuary breathes easy after eco-sensitive zone notification

Source: The Hindu

What is the News?

​​The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has notified the Deepor Beel Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam as an Eco-sensitive zone(ESZ).

About Deepor Beel:
  1. Deepor Beel is a perennial freshwater lake located 10 km south-west of Guwahati city, Assam.
  2. Ramsar Site: Deepor Beel was designated a Ramsar site in 2002. It is the only Ramsar site in Assam.
  3. IBA: It is also an important bird sanctuary(IBA) habituating many migrant species.
  4. Significance: Deepor Beel constitutes a unique habitat for aquatic flora and avian fauna. About 150 species of birds have been recorded in the sanctuary, out of which two are critically endangered, one endangered, five vulnerable and four near-threatened.
  5. Moreover, Elephants regularly visit the wetland from adjoining Rani and Garbhanga Reserve Forest. Further, the wetland is an integral part of the elephant habitat.

Why was Deepor Beel Wetland declared as an Eco-Sensitive zone?

The Deepor Beel Wetland has for declared as an  Eco-Sensitive zone due to the following threats it is facing: 

  1. Garbage Dump: Deepor Beel has long been used as a sponge for Guwahati’s sewage via a couple of streams. The wetland has also suffered from seepage of toxins from a garbage dump.
  2. Encroachment from human habitation: Deepor Beel is adjacent to Guwahati city. Hence, the sanctuary is facing immense biotic pressure by way of human settlements and ever-increasing development activities.
  3. Railway track along the southern boundary of the wetland, which is set to be doubled and electrified.
Eco-sensitive zone(ESZ):
  • It is an area notified by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), around Protected Areas, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries. 
  • Notifications declaring areas as ESZ are issued under the Environment (Protection) Act 1986. 
  • The main aim behind ESZs is to regulate certain activities, to minimise the negative impacts of such activities on the fragile ecosystem surrounding the protected areas.
  • Activities prohibited in the eco-sensitive zone are hydroelectric projects, brick kilns, commercial use of firewood, discharge of untreated effluents in natural water bodies or land areas among others.

Govt launches e-Photo Exhibition “Making of the Constitution” and Virtual Film Poster Exhibition “Chitranjali@75”

Source: PIB (Article 1 and Article 2)

What is the News?

The Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting has inaugurated the e-Photo exhibition “Making of the Constitution” and the Virtual Film Poster Exhibition “Chitranjali@75” as part of ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’.

Note: Azadi Ka Amrut Mahotsav is a series of events to be organised by the Government of India to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of India’s Independence. 

About e-Photo exhibition:
  1. The purpose of the e-photo exhibition is to inform people on the making of the Constitution. 
  2. The exhibition will not only encourage the youth of our country to learn about the constitution, but also educate them on their rights as well as enlighten them on the spirit of their duties towards the nation.
About Chitranjali@75:
  1. ‘Chitranjali @ 75’, presents different moods of patriotism through 75 film posters and photographs from different language cinemas. This will remind people of the sacrifices made by our freedom fighters.
  2. The exhibition is divided into three segments: ‘Cinema of Social Reform’, ‘Freedom Struggle through the lens of Cinema’ and ‘Saluting the Brave Soldiers’.

BRICS Environment Ministers adopt the New Delhi Statement on Environment

Source: PIB 

What is the News?

BRICS countries have adopted the “New Delhi Statement” at the 7th meeting of the BRICS Environment Ministerial 2021.

About New Delhi Statement on Environment:

  1. New Delhi Statement on Environment is aimed at furthering the spirit of Cooperation for Continuity, Consolidation and Consensus in Environment among the BRICS Nations.
  2. The key areas proposed in the statement are guided by the issues, which may have primacy in COP 15 and COP 26.
    • The 15th Conference of the Parties(COP15) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will be held in Kunming, China in October 2021. The theme of the conference is “Ecological Civilization: Building a Shared Future for All Life on Earth”.

Other Terms Mentioned in the Article:


Government launches QSim – Quantum Computer Simulator Toolkit

Source: PIB

What is the News?

The Union Minister for Electronics & Information Technology has launched the country’s first ‘Quantum Computer Simulator (QSim) Toolkit’. 

About QSim – Quantum Computer Simulator Toolkit:
  • QSim is a first-of-its-kind toolkit that enables researchers and students to carry out research in Quantum Computing in a cost-effective manner.
  • Built by: Indian Institute of Sciences (IISc), Bengaluru, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Roorkee and the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC).
What was the need for QSim?
  • Quantum systems are highly sensitive to disturbances from the environment. Even necessary controls and observations disturb them. 
  • This is why QSim was needed. It will allow researchers to explore Quantum Algorithms under idealized conditions and help prepare experiments to run on actual Quantum Hardware. 

Key Features of QSim:

  1. Intuitive UI: QSim offers a robust QC Simulator that allows students/researchers to create Quantum programs, visualize the instant circuit generation and simulated outputs.
  2. Simulate noisy Quantum logic circuits: Helps simulate Quantum circuits with and without noise and test how well various algorithms work with imperfect quantum components. This is essential to simulate real-life conditions.
  3. Pre-loaded Quantum algorithms and Examples: QSim comes loaded with Quantum programs and algorithms, providing a head start to the users.
  4. Simulation: QSim simulation will be done using computing resources from C-DAC’s high-performance computers like PARAM Shavak and PARAM Siddhi. 

Read more: National Super Computing Mission(NSM)


Indian astrophysicists spot rare merger of three jumbo black holes

Source: The Hindu and PIB

What is the News?

Researchers from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bengaluru, have observed three supermassive black holes from three galaxies merging to form a triple active galactic nuclei.

About the Research:
  1. Researchers were studying a pair of known galaxies — NGC7733 and NGC7734 — when they detected an unusual bright clump at the centre of one of them. 
  2. However, the clump was moving at a different velocity compared to the one in which it was observed. This meant that the clump was not part of the same galaxy, but rather a small, separate galaxy that they named NGC7733N.
  3. Based on this, the scientists observed that there are three supermassive black holes from three galaxies merging to form a triple active galactic nuclei(AGN).
  4. Moreover, all these three merging black holes were part of galaxies in the Toucan constellation.
    • The constellation Tucana is located in the Southern Hemisphere of the sky.  It is a small constellation. It ranks 48th among the 88 constellations in the night sky. 
About Supermassive Black Holes:
  1. A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light can not get out. The gravity is so strong because matter has been squeezed into a tiny space. This can happen when a star is dying. Moreover, because no light can get out, people can’t see black holes. They are invisible.
  2. The largest black holes are called “supermassive.” These black holes have masses that are more than 1 million suns together. Scientists have found proof that every large galaxy contains a supermassive black hole at its center.

What are Active Galactic Nuclei(AGN)?

  1. When the dust and gas from the surroundings fall onto a supermassive black hole, some of the mass is swallowed by the black hole. But some of it is converted into energy and emitted as electromagnetic radiation that makes the black hole appear very luminous.
  2. They are called active galactic nuclei (AGN) and release huge amounts of ionised particles and energy into the galaxy and its environment.

Collision of two Black holes:

  1. If two galaxies collide, their black hole will also come closer by transferring the kinetic energy to the surrounding gas.
  2. The distance between the black holes decreases with time until the separation is around a parsec (3.26 light-years).
  3. The two black holes are then unable to lose any further kinetic energy to get even closer and merge. This is known as the final parsec problem.

Significance of three black hole merger:

  1. The presence of a third black hole can solve the final parsec problem.
  2. The dual merging black holes can transfer their energy to the third black hole and merge with each other.

BRICS-Agricultural Research Platform operationalized to strengthen cooperation in agricultural research & innovations

Source: PIB (Article 1 and Article 2)

What is the News?

The Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has announced the operationalization of the BRICS Agricultural Research Platform.

Note: The platform was established at the 11th meeting of BRICS Agriculture Ministers under the theme BRICS Partnership for Strengthening Agrobiodiversity for Food Security and Nutrition.

About BRICS Agricultural Research Platform(BRICS-ARP):

  1. It is a global platform that has been set up for strengthening the cooperation in the field of agricultural research & innovations amongst the BRICS member States. 
  2. Mission: To promote sustainable agricultural development and poverty alleviation through strategic cooperation in agriculture to provide food security in the BRICS member countries. 
  3. Nature of Cooperation: The Cooperation will focus on agricultural research, technology, policy, innovations, extension and technology transfer training and capacity building and information sharing. 
  4. Focal Point: The BRICS Nations have appointed their focal points for BRICS-ARP to interact virtually through the platform and identify the common problems and develop joint projects for finding the solutions.
    • Indian Council of Agricultural Research(ICAR) is the focal organization from India.
  5. Location: The coordinating centre is housed at NASC Complex, Pusa (New Delhi) under the governance of Department of Agricultural Research & Education/ICAR, Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare.

Specialized cells maintain healthy pregnancy by teaching the mother’s immune system not to attack developing fetus

Source: Down To Earth

What is the News?

A study published in Science Immunology has talked about the role of specialized “educator cells” in maintaining healthy pregnancy.

About the Study:
  1. Scientists have conducted this study to understand how the immune system generally learns what to attack and what not to attack.
  2. This is because the immune system is known to protect the body from invaders such as infections and cancers. 
  3. But the immune system does not target one’s own organs or tissues or in the case of pregnancy, the developing fetus.
    • A fetus shares a blood supply and immune system with its mother. But the fetus is genetically different from the mother, and it also develops specialized organs like the placenta that might seem foreign to the mother’s immune system. 
Key Findings of the study:
  1. Scientists have found there is a process known as immune self-education which happens in an organ called the thymus, specialized “educator cells”.
  2. These specialized educator cells teach developing immune cells what not to attack by showing off a diverse array of the body’s own proteins. Essentially, this process teaches immune cells what constitutes “self”.
    • During pregnancy, these cells teach the mother’s immune system to recognize the developing fetus as part of her “self,” protecting it from being attacked as something “other”.
  3. But these educator cells require a unique protein called the autoimmune regulator, or Aire, to teach the complete curriculum of the body’s own proteins. Any mutations in Aire lead to a devastating autoimmune disease.
  4. There are also extrathymic Aire-expressing cells or eTACs which reside outside the thymus. They are predominantly in the lymph nodes and spleen. These cells are also essential for protecting pregnancy. In absence of eTACs, the mother’s immune system gets overactivated and attacks the fetus.
Significance of this study:
  1. Pregnancy complications like miscarriage are common. But the cause is frequently a mystery. 
  2. Hence, understanding how the immune system works to protect pregnancy may help scientists and doctors better identify, and hopefully prevent or treat, more of these pregnancy complications.

 

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