Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | Mar 22, 2021

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“House Sparrow” population is increasing in India

What is the News?

House Sparrow population was on the decline in cities, for decades. But now the citizen-led movements across various states are facilitating the increase of House Sparrow population.

About House Sparrow:

  • House Sparrow(Passer domesticus) is a bird of the sparrow family Passeridae. It is found in most parts of the world.

Characteristics of House Sparrow:

  • The male and female House Sparrow are easily distinguishable not in size but in colouration. The male is dark brown with a black bib, grey chest, and white cheeks. Whereas the female is light brown throughout its body, with no black bib, crown, or white cheeks.
  • The bird is known to stay close to human habitations. So it is among the most commonly found bird species in urban cities.

Habitat of House Sparrow:

  • The house sparrow is widespread across the world, inhabiting every continent except Antarctica, and countries like China and Japan. It is native to Eurasia and North Africa.
  • In India, House Sparrow is found throughout the country. It is found up to the Assam valley and lower parts of the Assam hills. In the eastern Himalayas, the house sparrow species is replaced by the Eurasian tree sparrow.


  • State Bird: House Sparrow is the State bird of Bihar and Delhi.
  • World Sparrow Day: It is celebrated every year on March 20 to raise awareness about the bird.
  • IUCN Red List: Least Concern

Causes of Decline:

  • The unfriendly architecture of our homes.
  • The use of chemical fertilizers in crops.
  • Noise pollution.
  • Exhaust fumes from vehicles.

House Sparrow Conservation Initiatives:

  • In Odisha, the Rushikulya Sea Turtle Protection Committee started a campaign in 2007. They distributed earthen pot bird nests to homes in Odisha. This has led to an increase in the sparrow population.
  • In Visakhapatnam, a filmmaker in association with city-based NGO Green Climate has made a film on sparrow conservation. In that, they mentioned the need to save the house sparrow species. Further, they also mentioned the ways to create an ecosystem to make the bird thrive.

Source: The Hindu

Turkey withdraws from “Istanbul Convention”

What is the News?

Turkey withdraws from the Istanbul Convention to combat violence against women.

About Istanbul Convention:

  • Istanbul Convention is also called the Council of Europe Convention. It aims towards preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.
  • Adoption: The convention was adopted by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers in 2011. It came into force in 2014.
  • Purpose: The convention sets minimum standards for governments to meet when tackling violence against women. Once ratified the Convention is legally binding on the country.
  • Significance: It is the first legally-binding instrument that creates a comprehensive legal framework and approach to combat violence against women.
  • Members of the Istanbul Convention: As of March 2019, it has been signed by 45 countries and the European Union.

About Council of Europe:

  • Council of Europe is an international organisation. It aims to uphold human rights, democracy, and the rule of law in Europe.
  • Founded in: The council was founded in 1949. It has 47 member states. In that, 27 members are the members of the European Union(EU).
  • Relation with EU: The organisation is distinct from the European Union (EU) although it is sometimes confused with it.
  • Significance:
    • No country has ever joined the EU without first belonging to the Council of Europe.
    • The Council of Europe is the United Nations Observer.
  • Headquarters: Strasbourg, France.

Source: Indian Express

The emerging “Helium” crisis in India

What is the News?

India imports the majority of helium for its domestic needs. However, the U.S appears to cut off exports of helium from 2021. Hence, the Indian industry stands to lose out heavily.

About Helium:

  • Helium is a chemical element with the symbol He and atomic number 2.
  • It is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, non-toxic, inert, first in the noble gas group in the periodic table. Its boiling point is the lowest among all the elements.
  • Helium is the second lightest and second most abundant element in the observable universe (hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant).
  • The liquified Helium is obtained by cooling the gas to -270 degrees Celsius.

Applications of Helium:

  • Cryogenics: Helium is used as a super coolant for cryogenic applications. It is used in applications such as Magnet Resonance Imaging (MRI), particle accelerator, in rockets, and in nuclear reactors.
  • Aerostatics: The density of helium is lighter than air. Therefore, helium is used as lift gas for balloons, meteorological balloons and airships.
  • Leak Detection: Helium is used for leak detection because helium has the smallest molecular size. It is a monatomic molecule, therefore, helium passes easily through the smallest leaks.
    Monatomic gases: Mono means single. So Monatomic means “Single-atom”. These gases are not bound to each other and non-reactive in nature. Noble gases are monatomic gases.
  • Semiconductors Manufacturing: Helium is used as the preferred protective gas due to its chemical inertness. Helium is used as cooling gas due to its very high specific heat and thermal conductivity in semiconductor manufacturing.

Helium Exporting Countries:

  • The US became the most important exporter of helium across the world. Large quantities of helium were discovered under the American Great Plains.
  • Qatar is also a possible exporter of Helium. But acute political and diplomatic wrangles have made Qatar unreliable.

India’s Helium Imports:

  • India imports helium for its needs. Every year, India imports helium worth Rs 55,000 crores from the U.S. to meet its needs.
  • However, the US is now planning to switch off the export of helium from 2021. Hence, the Indian Industry needs to find an alternative source of Helium.

Way Forward:

  • India’s Rajmahal volcanic basin in Jharkhand is the storehouse of helium trapped for billions of years.
  • At present, India is mapping the Rajmahal basin extensively for future exploration and harnessing of helium.

Source: The Hindu

United Nations SDSN publishes “World Happiness Report 2021”

What is the News?

World Happiness Report 2021 has been released. The report evaluated levels of happiness by accounting factors such as GDP, social support, personal freedom, and levels of corruption in each nation.

 About World Happiness Report:

  • The World Happiness Report is an annual report published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network(SDSN).
  • The report ranks countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be.
  • The World Happiness Report 2021 focuses on the effects of COVID-19 and how people all over the world have fared.

Parameters: The survey used the Gallup World Poll. The poll asked people to vote on three indicators:

  • Life Evaluations: Under this, people were asked to evaluate their current life using the image of a ladder. The best possible life for them is rated at 10 and the worst possible at 0.
  • Positive Emotions: Under this, respondents were asked whether they smiled or laughed a lot the previous day. An affirmative response is coded as a 1 while a negative response is coded as 0.
  • Negative Emotions: Under this, people were asked whether they experienced negative emotions such as worry, sadness, and anger a lot on the same day.

Key Findings Related to India:

  • India has been ranked 139 out of 149 countries in the World Happiness Report 2021.
  • In 2020, India was ranked 144 out of 156 countries.

Other Key Findings of the World Happiness Report 2021:

  • Finland ranked as the happiest country in the world for the fourth consecutive year.
  • It was followed by Iceland, Denmark, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, and Norway.
  • Afghanistan(149) is the most unhappy country. This is followed by Zimbabwe (148), Rwanda (147), Botswana (146), and Lesotho (145).

Source: Indian Express

“Pabbi-Antiterror-2021” – SCO’s joint anti-terrorism exercise

What is the News?

India, Pakistan, China and other members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(SCO) will hold a joint anti-terrorism exercise called “Pabbi-Antiterror-2021”.

About Exercise Pabbi-Antiterror-2021:

  • Exercise Pabbi-Antiterror was announced during the 36th meeting of the Council of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure(RATS) held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
  • Purpose of Pabbi-Antiterror: To improve cooperation between the competent authorities of the SCO member states. Further, helping them in identifying and suppressing channels that finance terrorist activities.

About SCO:

  • Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(SCO) is a permanent intergovernmental international organisation founded in 2001. It was founded by Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
  • Members: China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. India and Pakistan were admitted to the SCO as permanent members in 2017.
  • Observer States: Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia.
  • Dialogue Partners: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey and Sri Lanka.

Organisational Structure:

  • Heads of State Council(HSC): It is the supreme decision-making body in the SCO. It meets once a year and adopts decisions and guidelines on all important matters of the organisation.
  • SCO Heads of Government Council(HGC): It meets once a year to discuss the organisation’s multilateral cooperation strategy and priority areas. It helps to resolve the current important economic and other cooperation issues. The HGC also approves the organisation’s annual budget.

Permanent Bodies:

  • SCO Secretariat based in Beijing, China.
  • Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure(RATS): It is a permanent organ of the SCO. RATS serves to promote cooperation of member states against the three evils of terrorism, separatism and extremism.

Source: The Hindu

Military Direct releases “Ultimate military strength Index”.

What is the News?

A Defence Website Military Direct has released a study titled “Ultimate military strength Index”.

About Ultimate military strength index:

  • The Ultimate military strength index ranks the strongest military forces in the world.
  • The index calculated this after taking into consideration various factors. The factors include budgets, average salaries, number of inactive and active military personnel. The index also includes total air, sea, land, and nuclear resources and the weight of equipment.

Key Findings of Ultimate military strength index related to India:

  • India has the fourth strongest military force in the world.
  • India is the world’s third-biggest military spender. According to the index India spends almost a budget of USD 71 billion.

Other Key Findings of the Ultimate military strength index:

  • China has the strongest military force in the world. Despite the enormous military budget, the USA gets a second position. This is followed by Russia, India, and France.
  • The US is the world’s biggest military spender with a budget of USD 732 billion per year. This is followed by China(USD 261 billion) and India.
  • Based on the number of air, sea, land resources the Ultimate military strength index predicted a winner in terms of hypothetical conflicts.
  • The report predicts China would win by sea, the USA would win by air, and Russia by land in this hypothetical conflict.

Source: The Hindu

India sealed “India-Myanmar border” entry points

What is the News?

India has sealed all entry points along the India-Myanmar border. Further, India is closely monitoring border areas to prevent any Myanmar nationals from entering the country.

Why India sealed the entry points of the India-Myanmar border?

  • After the coup in Myanmar, widespread civil disobedience movements(CDM) are taking place all over Myanmar.
  • The Military ruled Myanmar is following stringent methods to curb the protests like shooting the public, night raids on protesters home, etc.
  • Due to this the Myanmar nationals including many policemen have crossed into India and sought refuge. Hence, to stop this illegal migration India-Myanmar border has been closed.
  • However, the border between India and Myanmar is unfenced, and completely blocking it is not possible given the tough terrain.

India-Myanmar Border

  • Myanmar is also known as Burma is in South East Asia. It shares its borders with Thailand, Laos, Bangladesh, China, and India.
  • India-Myanmar shares a 1,643-km-long border with Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, and Mizoram
  • India – Myanmar have a free movement regime(FMR). It allows people in border villages to trade and moves freely up to 16 kilometers inside each other’s territory.
  • The free movement regime(FMR) has been suspended since March 2020 due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Since the suspension, there is an increase in smuggling across the border due to the livelihood of people disrupted due to the pandemic.

Source: The Hindu


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