What is causing ‘Mice Rain’ in Eastern Australia?
What is the News?
The Government of New South Wales (NSW) in Australia is facing one of the worst mouse plagues. It has affected farmers, community members, and residents. In some affected areas, mice are falling out from rooftops causing “mice rain”.
What is Mice Rain?
- The mice population in Australia has increased exponentially. These mice are causing extensive damages to the cultivated crop and stored food grains. In some places, mice are falling out from the rooftops. This situation is being referred to as Mice Rain.
How plague is related to mice rain?
- Plague is a life-threatening infectious disease caused by rod-shaped bacteria called Yersinia pestis.
- It is found in mammals such as mice. As the mice population is increasing, the spread of the disease is also increasing. This means that the plague is increasing due to Mice rain.
Causes of Plague:
- Scientists have attributed the plague to an unusually abundant grain harvest earlier in the season. This resulted in a surplus of mice earlier in the season.
- Further, mice have a short breeding cycle and a pair of breeding mice can give birth to a new litter every twenty-one days. Hence, this has led to an exponential increase in mice in Australia.
Effects of Plague:
- Rodents such as mice are capable of destroying food grains. They can also cause widespread damage to domestic households, commercial businesses, farms, manufacturers, and livestock.
- Further, rodents can not only chew materials but can also ruin supplies by excreting them.
- Rodents can also cause diseases such as leptospirosis and typhus fever. They can also carry fleas or ticks that can harm pets and humans.
- Research carried out by the Grains Research and Development Corporation(GRDC) found that increasing zinc phosphide in mouse baits will help in reducing mouse numbers.
- As a result of this research, the authorities have allowed makers to double the toxicity levels in mouse baits to tackle mice rain.
Source: Indian Express
Ways to Strengthen India’s Democracy
Synopsis: Increasing attacks on the press and the erosion of judicial autonomy are threatening India’s global image as an Indian’s Democracy. The government needs to take steps to strengthen India’s democratic values,
- It has been said that Democracy is on retreat worldwide. Many democracies in the 21st century continue to disregard the principles of democracies.
- Principles such as the freedom of the press, independence of the other public institutions of the state are often violated.
- For instance, many world leaders such as Vladimir Putin (Russia), Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (Turkey), Trump (USA) had initiated a sustained, attack on these very institutions to sustain power.
- Recently, the western academic institutions, the Freedom House (US) and the Varieties of Democracy project (Sweden) downgraded India’s democratic ratings.
- However, India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar dismissed these ratings as irrelevant.
Evolution of India’s Democracy :
- The first-ever institutional check on sovereign power was provided through the Glorious Revolution in England. It led to the establishment of Parliament and England shifted from absolute monarchy to Constitutional monarchy.
- Later, the French Revolution and the American revolution assured inalienable rights to its citizens.
- However, in the era of colonialism, exclusion of women, as well as racial and religious minorities continued till the 1950s.
- After the 1950s, democracy got strengthened due to the following measures.
- Institutionalization of universal suffrage elections
- Constitutional check on the powers of the government
- Independent judiciary empowered with judicial review
- Empowered press to scrutinize government actions
- Finally, after the end of the Cold War, due to the collapse of the Soviet Union, many authoritarian countries were forced to conduct elections. This led to the establishment of liberal democracy rule in most of the world’s countries.
Why India’s democratic ratings were downgraded?
- Both Freedom House and V-Dem multi-dimensional framework give considerable weightage to the freedom of the press and the independence of the judiciary.
- Concerns about the undermining of these institutional checks-and-balances led both institutions to reduce India’s score on their index.
- Weakening democracy in India can negatively impact India’s ambitions to become a full-fledged member of the Quad or the D-10. It will also undermine India’s claim to become a Permanent Member of the UN security council.
What needs to be done?
- First, the Government should hear criticism rather than rejecting it outrightly. Suggestions on eroding democratic values need a thoughtful, and respectful response.
- Second, the press and the judiciary which are considered the pillars of India’s Democracy, require to be independent of any executive interference.
- Third, strong democracy requires strong opposition. Without an alternative choice, the very objective of election to provide a check on arbitrary power gets defeated.
Democratic Values and Principles are core to India’s identity. We need to safeguard India’s Democracy by strengthening its pillars- the Legislature, Executive, Judiciary, and the Media.
Source: The Hindu
Fossils of ‘Dickinsonia’ found at Bhimbetka
What is the News?
Researchers discovered three fossils in Madhya Pradesh. These fossils are possibly of the earliest known living animal named ‘Dickinsonia’(550-million-year-old).
About the discovery:
- The fossils are found on the roof of Auditorium Cave at Bhimbetka Rock Shelters. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Madhya Pradesh.
- The fossil can be identified from the white leaf-like patches with a central vertebra (central midrib) and connecting veins.
- These are the only Dickinsonia fossils available in the country. They are similar to those seen in South Australia.
- The Dickinsonia fossils found in other parts of the world exceeded 4 feet in length. However, the Bhimbetka fossil is only 17 inches long.
- It is an extinct genus of basal animal. They lived during the late Ediacaran period in what is now Australia, Russia, and Ukraine. Ediacaran period is marked at 575 to 541 million years ago.
- It was first described by Reg Sprigg, the original discoverer of the Ediacaran biota in Australia. He named it after Ben Dickinson, then Director of Mines for South Australia.
- It (roughly) resembles a bilaterally symmetrical ribbed oval. Its affinities are presently unknown. As per some theories, it is the oldest known animal, visible without a microscope.
Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka:
- It is a recognized world heritage site by UNESCO. It is located in the foothills of the Vindhya Mountains in the State of Madhya Pradesh.
- The site spans the prehistoric Paleolithic and Mesolithic periods as well as the historic period.
- Bhimbetka is also known as Bhima’s Lounge (Bhima was the second of the five Pandava princes in the Hindu epic Mahabharata).
- Most of the paintings here are in red and white with occasional dashes of yellow and green. Their themes include events of everyday life, thousands of years ago.
- The scenes depicted are mainly of dancing, playing music, hunting, horse and elephant riding, decorating bodies, and collecting honey. Household scenes too, constitute an occasional theme.
Source: The Hindu
World’s oldest known cave painting (a wild pig image) found in Indonesia
News: Archaeologists have discovered the world’s oldest known animal cave painting in Indonesia – a wild pig – believed to be drawn 45,500 years ago.
Source: Indian Express
- About Cave Painting: The cave painting uncovered in South Sulawesi in Indonesia consists of a figurative depiction of a warty pig, a wild boar that is endemic to this Indonesian island.
- Technique used: The researchers used a technique called uranium-series dating to analyse a mineral formation that overlapped part of the image and that must have formed after the cave art was produced. The mineral formation is at least 45,500 years old suggesting the artwork itself could be much older.
- Significance: The painting provides the earliest evidence of human settlement of the region.
- Is it the oldest human produced art? The painting may be the world’s oldest art depicting a figure, but it is not the oldest human-produced art. In South Africa, a hashtag-like doodle created 73,000 years ago is believed to be the oldest known drawing.