Answers: Mains Marathon – UPSC Mains Current Affairs Questions – July 19, 2018

Upcoming Current Affairs & Essay Test Series


Q.1) Nipah is a near perfect example of an emerging infectious disease and the intensive steps taken by Kerala to contain its spread, has lessons for other states. Discuss.

Answer: Nipah Virus (NiV) infection is a newly emerging infection in both animals and humans. The natural host of the virus are fruit bats of the Pteropodidae Family. The infection recently broke out in Kerala.

The Nipah virus disease caused high mortality rates, similar to that of the Ebola virus. Also, the lack of vaccines or definitive treatment and human to human transmission made it compoundable. While country feared its intensity and spread, the state has set an example of dealing it with efficiency.

Steps taken by Kerala government that can be the source of lesson for central government:

  1. Diagnosis – The early diagnosis of the infection was a feat. The very second case was diagnosed as Nipah infection. Nipah was tested for and confirmed promptly. In just over two weeks after the first case becoming ill, the causative agent could be identified. Containment action could now begin.
  2. Early action based on diagnosis – Early diagnosis meant that the people who had already contracted the infection were limited.
  3. Contacts surveillance– Close contacts of the first case developed symptoms of the disease about 10 days later. The authorities in Kerala were able to trace every single case reported thereafter to the first case or his contacts/carers.
  4. Machinery – Once the disease was confirmed, the government machinery swung into action. All the cases and suspected cases were moved to one hospital and an isolation protocol, similar to that for Ebola, was instituted. Health personnel in all hospitals were given training and safety equipment.
  5. Active surveillance – About 2,000 contacts of all the cases were traced and followed up on a daily basis. If and when any of them fell ill, they were transported to the isolation facility in an ambulance. The cases were treated symptomatically with life support
  6. Administration – The intensive efforts were directly supervised with clear communication channels.

Still, some areas need to be addressed across India, in the context of Nipah outbreak in Kerala. They include:

  1. Hospital borne infections – Many of those who contracted the illness acquired it in a hospital. Some were merely visitors. There’s a need to examine how we can decongest our hospitals through strict referral systems, controlling visitors and Infection control protocols.
  2. Social media rumours and fake news – though handling fake news is an unmanageable challenge for administrations these days, lot of rumours regarding the disease fuelled panic in the early days and also resulted in great economic loss.
  3. Need for public health act – Fake messages and mischievous and false propaganda needs to be checked by appropriate legal means. An effective public health Act, capable of dealing with such situations, has to be enacted at the earliest.

This episode serves a lesson for India fighting many communicable diseases outbreaks every monsoon season.

Q.2 ) What are challenges India is facing in universal electrification of all households. Discuss the steps taken by government and their effectiveness towards this goal.

Answer: Recently government announced 100% electrification in India. Still, universal electrification of all households remains a challenge.

The challenges facing us in the process of universal electrification are:

  1. Definition – Provision of basic infrastructure such as distribution transformers and lines in the inhabited locality, Provision of electricity in public places like schools, panchayat office, health centres, dispensaries, and community centres, and At least 10% of the total number of households in the village is electrified. As can be seen from the definition, 100% village electrification does not mean each house hold have access to electricity.
  2. Households – 31 million rural households and about five million urban households are still to be connected to the grid
  3. Quality of electricity – a significant portion of connected rural households is yet to get adequate quantity and quality of supply.
  4. Regional imbalances in electricity access is a major problem. Seven States (Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand, Assam, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh) account for 90% of un-electrified households.
  5. Financing by states – The fiscal space of these States and discoms are constrained to accommodate additional subsidy.
  6. Distribution network capacity – distribution infrastructure is overburdened, causing a high level of technical losses and frequent breakdowns. discoms have been resorting to load shedding while their contracted generation capacities are underutilised.
  7. Challenges in difficult terrains – hilly and mountainous areas cannot be connected with the transmission and distribution network suited to other areas. They remain unconnected.

Universal electrification has been the agenda of successive governments through several programs like Rajiv Gandhi GraminVidyuteekaran Yojana, the latest DeenDayal Upadhyay Gram Jyoti Yojana, Saubhagya scheme and Power for All. Still electrification remains a challenge due to several limitations in the implementation of these schemes. They include center-state differences in delineation of duties, financial constraints, states’ inabilities to carry the programs etc.

A way out of this to achieve electricity access to all households needs innovations like providing alternate energy, real time monitoring of access, efficient distribution network and constant financing of the projects. Many steps like Saubhagya scheme, Garv app are steps in this direction only.

Q.3) What is the difference between S and P waves? How is it possible to deduce the exact location of epicentre? And also suggest some earthquake mitigation strategies.

Answer: S and P waves, also called as Secondary and Primary waves are different seismic waves. They are emitted within the surface of earth at the time of an earthquake.

Despite their common origin, the two waves differ primarily on many aspects. These are tabulated as below:

These are also called as longitudinal or compressional waves because particles of the medium vibrate along the direction of propagation of the wave.Also called as transverse or distortional waves as they travel analogous to water ripples or light waves.
They move faster and are the first to arrive at the surface.These waves arrive at the surface with some time lag.
They can travel in all mediums.Velocity of P waves in Solids > Liquids > GasesA secondary wave cannot pass through liquids and gases.
Their velocity depends on shear strength or elasticity of the material.Travel at varying velocities (proportional to shear strength) through the solid part of the Earth’s crust, mantle.

These differences are responsible for their differential propagation within earth’s interior. This shaped our understanding of the interior of the earth.

Location of epicentre:

When seismic data is collected from at least three different locations, it can be used to determine the epicentre by where it intersects. Every earthquake is recorded on numerous seismographs located in different directions.

Each seismograph records the times when the first (P waves) and second (S waves) seismic waves arrive. From that information, we can determine how fast the waves are traveling. Knowing this helps them calculate the distance from the epicentre to each seismograph.

To determine the direction each wave travelled, scientists draw circles around the seismograph locations. The radius of each circle equals the known distance to the epicentre. Where these three circles intersect is the epicentre.

As earthquakes can’t be prevented nor be fully alerted before, it needs a set of mitigation strategies to prevent the hazard from turning into a disaster. Earthquake mitigation strategies:

  1. Hazard mapping – Determining the disaster risks and hazards to plan for mitigation.
  2. Planning – Awareness about emergency warning signals and alert notifications to the community.
  3. Structural engineering solutions- like retrofitting houses, construction with lightweight materials in earth quake risk zones to reduce the damage
  4. strong insurance mechanism – for property and lives.
  5. financial devolution- to empower locals to make necessary financial arrangements in case of a sudden emergency.
  6. Emergency Communication Plan- to act as a ready point of reference for all stakeholders involved.

With these steps, risk from earthquakes can be reduced. As recently suggested by the Sendai framework, Disaster Risk Reduction needs to be prioritised to prevent loss of lives and property.

Q.4) Discuss the continental Drift theory. Provide evidences in support of continental drift theory of Alfred Wegener

Answer: This theory was suggested by Alfred Wegener to answer the questions about how the present day continents and oceans formed.

Continental Drift Theory:

  1. There existed one big landmass called Pangaeawhich was covered by one big ocean called Panthalassa.
  2. A sea called Tethys divided the Pangaea into two huge landmasses:Laurasiato the north and Gondwanaland to the south.
  3. These landmasses drifted due to forces of gravity, pole-fleeing force, and tidal force.
  4. The drift is a continuous process going on even now.

Evidence in support of Continental Drift:

  1. Zig saw fit: South America and Africa seem to fit in with each other, especially, the bulge of Brazil fits into the Gulf of Guinea.The east coast of India, Madagascar and Africa seem to have been joined.

2.Rocks of Same Age across the Oceans: The belt of ancient rocks from Brazil coast matches with those found in the Western Africa.The ancient marine deposits along the coastline of Africa and South America are of the Jurassic age. This proposes that the ocean did not exist preceding to that time.

  1. Tillite:It is the sedimentary rock made out of deposits of glaciers.The Gondwana system of sediments from India is identified to have its counterparts in six various landmasses of the Southern Hemisphere.Counterparts of this series are found in Africa, Falkland Island, Madagascar, Antarctica and Australia besides India.
  2. Placer Deposits: The incidence of rich placer deposits of gold in the Ghana coast and the complete absence of source rock in the area is a fact.The gold-bearing veins are in Brazil and it is clear that the gold deposits of the Ghana are derived from the Brazil plateau when the two continents lay side by side.
  3. Distribution of Fossils: The interpretations that Lemurs occur in India, Madagascar, and Africa led some to consider a contiguous landmass “Lemuria” connecting these three landmasses.

Despite the elaborative proofs, this theory was criticised for the following reasons:

  1. coastlines are a temporary feature and are liable to change.
  2. several other combinations of fitting in of landforms could be attempted.
  3. Continental Drift Theory shifts India’s position too much to the south, distorting its relation with the Mediterranean Sea and the Alps.
  4. The mountains do not always exhibit geological affinity.
  5. the forces given as reasons for drift seem illogical because for these factors to be able to cause a drift of such a magnitude, they will have to be millions of times stronger.

Thus, despite the limitations, CDT could raise some vital questions which were later answered decisively by Plate Tectonics theory.

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