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Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Why gene editing of babies is problematic

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CRISPR-Cas9, Gene editing

Mains level: Gene editing, its advantages and issues involved.


News

Context

  • Recently a Chinese researcher created an international sensation with his claim that he had altered the genes of a human embryo that eventually resulted in the birth of twin girls.
  • If proven, it would be the first instance of human offspring having been produced with specific desired attributes, using newly-developed tools of gene “editing”.
  • In the case of the new-born Chinese babies, the genes were claimed to be “edited” to ensure that they do not get infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Gene editing

  1. Genes contain the bio-information that defines any individual.
  2. Physical attributes like height, skin or hair colour, more subtle features and even behavioral traits can be attributed to information encoded in the genetic material.
  3. An ability to alter this information gives scientists the power to control some of these features.
  4. Gene “editing” — sometimes expressed in related, but not always equivalent, terms like genetic modification, genetic manipulation or genetic engineering — is not new.
  5. It is widely practised in agriculture, to increase productivity or resistance to diseases, etc.
  6. But even in agriculture, genetic modification is a subject of major debate, especially in developing countries, including India.

CRISPR Technology

  1. CRISPR (short for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) technology is a new and the most efficient, tool for gene “editing” developed in the last one decade.
  2. The technology replicates a natural defence mechanism in bacteria to fight virus attacks, using a special protein called Cas9.
  3. CRISPR-Cas9 is a simple, effective, and incredibly precise technology.

How it works?

  1. CRISPR-Cas9 technology behaves like a cut-and-paste mechanism on DNA strands that contain genetic information.
  2. The specific location of the genetic codes that need to be changed, or “edited”, is identified on the DNA strand, and then, using the Cas9 protein, which acts like a pair of scissors, that location is cut off from the strand.
  3. A DNA strand, when broken, has a natural tendency to repair itself.
  4. Scientists intervene during this auto-repair process, supplying the desired sequence of genetic codes that binds itself with the broken DNA strand.

Loopholes in Gene Editing

  1. The technology was used to solve a problem potential infection to HIV that already has alternative solutions and treatments.
  2. It was not necessary to tamper with the genetic material, which can have unintended, and as yet unknown, consequences.
  3. There is no way to verify the claims or whether the “editing” was carried out in the proper manner.
  4. The technology is extremely precise, but not 100% precise every time.
  5. There is a possibility that some other genes also get targeted. In such scenarios, unintended impacts cannot be ruled out.
  6. If regulatory approvals were obtained, then there will be data and information gaps about the experiment.

Ethical uses

  1. The most promising use of the CRISPR technology is in treatment of diseases.
  2. For example, in sickle cell anaemia, a single gene mutation makes the blood sickle-shaped.
  3. This mutation can be reversed using gene editing technology.
  4. In such cases, the genetic codes of just one individual are being changed to cure a disease.

Ethics at Stake

  1. Gene “editing” capabilities now exist with hundreds of researchers and laboratories across the world.
  2. Tampering with the genetic code in human beings is more contentious.
  3. Leading scientists in the field have for long been calling for a “global pause” on clinical applications of the technology in human beings, until internationally accepted protocols are developed.

Core of the Issue

  1. The Chinese researcher has done is to edit the genes of an embryo. Such a change would be passed on to the offspring.
  2. The aforesaid experiment has been basically making changes in the genome of the next generation.
  3. If we allow this, nothing stops people with access to CRISPR technology to produce babies with very specific traits.
  4. There is this highly problematic issue of trying to produce “designer” babies or human beings.

RBI Notifications

RBI can transfer Rs 1-lakh crore to govt: report

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Debate regarding the independence of RBI


News

  • The Reserve Bank of India has “more than adequate” reserves and that it can transfer over Rs 1-lakh crore to the government after a specially constituted panel identifies the “excess capital”.

Background

  1. Multiple reports had claimed that the government is eyeing the extra cash which will help it in the run-up to the elections.
  2. This comes amidst falling GST collections and little borrowing window left for the government, as it has already used up close to 96 percent of borrowings as of end October.
  3. By taking the money from the RBI, the government will only increase its fiscal deficit, as it will have to issue bonds to the central bank.
  4. The government for the second year in a row has pegged fiscal deficit at 3.3 per cent of GDP this fiscal year.

Excess Capital from RBI

  1. The proposed committee on the RBI’s economic capital framework (ECF) to identify Rs 1-3 lakh crore which is 0.5-1.6 per cent of GDP as excess capital.
  2. As per its stress tests, the central bank can transfer Rs 1-lakh crore to the government if the transfer is limited to passing excess contingency reserve.
  3. It can go up to Rs 3-lakh crore if the total capital is included.
  4. It further said this level will be 75 per cent higher than the average of BRICS economies, excluding India.

Statutory Provisions for Transfer

  1. The statutes do not prohibit transfer of excess capital to the government, pointing out that the RBI Act places no bar as long as government maintains Rs 5 crore of reserve funds under Sec 46 of the RBI Act.
  2. While Section 47 enjoins the RBI to credit its annual surplus to the national exchequer, after provisions, it does not place any restrictions on further transfers.
  3. The RBI’s contingency reserves at 7 percent are higher than the BRICS (excluding India) average of 2 per cent.

Trade Sector Updates – Falling Exports, TIES, MEIS, Foreign Trade Policy, etc.

[pib] Logix India 2019

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Logix India

Mains level:  Logistics sector of India


News

  • Union Minister of Commerce & Industry has launched the logo and brochure of Logix India 2019.

Logix India 2019

  1. The logistics event is being organized by the Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) as a major initiative to improve logistics cost effectiveness and operational efficiencies for India’s global trade.
  2. Over 20 countries are sending delegations to explore logistics partnerships with India and FIEO is focusing on logistical solutions for difficult to reach markets.
  3. Over 100 international delegates are expected to attend Logix India 2019.
  4. FIEO will also focus on investment opportunities in infrastructure development, warehouse consolidation, technology integration and IT enablement and skilling of manpower at the three-day meet.
  5. Logix India will enable effective international trade logistics and help provide efficient and cost-effective flow of goods on which other commercial sectors depend.

India’s Logistics Sector

  1. India ranked 44 in the World Bank Logistics Performance Index 2018.
  2. As per the Economic Survey 2017-18, India’s logistics industry which is worth around USD 160 billion is likely to touch USD 215 billion in the next two years.
  3. This sector provides employment to more than 22 million people and is expected to grow at the rate of 10.5 per cent over the next 5 years.

Defence Sector – DPP, Missions, Schemes, Security Forces, etc.

[pib] Mission Raksha Gyan Shakti

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Issues relating to intellectual property rights.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Mission Raksha Gyan Shakti

Mains level: India’s indigenous defence industry


News

  • Raksha Mantri has launched ‘Mission Raksha Gyan Shakti’ which showcases salient inventions and innovations achieved by DRDO, Defence PSUs and Ordnance Factories (OFs).

Mission Raksha Gyan Shakti

  1. As part of the ongoing initiatives to enhance self-reliance in defence, the Department of Defence Production has instituted a new framework titled ‘Mission Raksha GyanShakti’ which aims to provide a boost to the IPR culture in indigenous defence industry.
  2. The Directorate General of Quality Assurance (DGQA) has been entrusted with the responsibility of coordinating and implementing the programme.
  3. The event brought out that the end objective of ‘Mission Raksha Gyan Shakti’ is to inculcate IP culture in Indian defence manufacturing ecosystem.
  4. The IPR has emerged as a key ingredient of an ecosystem which stimulates innovation and ingenuity.

Defense IPRs in India

  1. An IP Facilitation Cell was established in April this year which has worked tirelessly to achieve ambitious targets of training 10,000 personnel of OFB and DPSUs on IPR and to facilitate filing of at least 1,000 new IPR applications.
  2. This has resulted in successful filing of Intellectual Property Right (IPR) applications.

Industrial Sector Updates – Industrial Policy, Ease of Doing Business, etc.

[pib] NPCC is now a Miniratna

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy & their effects on industrial growth

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: NPCC

Mains level: Contribution of India’s PSUs


News

  • National Projects Construction Corporation Limited (NPCC) has been conferred with the status of Miniratna: Category –I by the Government of India.

About NPCC

  1. NPCC, a schedule ‘B’ CPSE under the administrative control of Ministry of Water Resources RD & GR, has also been awarded ISO 9001:2015 Certification.
  2. The Corporation, incorporated in 1957, is a premier construction company having mandate with creation of infrastructure to provide impetus for economic development of the country.
  3. The Corporation is making continuous profit since 2009-10,  having positive networth for the last six years and has ambitious business plan with enhanced order book position of Rs. 11833 crore.
  4. The empowerment of Miniratna Status to NPCC will help the company in taking speedy decisions by enhancing the delegation of powers to the Board.

Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[op-ed snap] The potential that quantum internet holds

Image result for quantum computing

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Quantum computing and internet

Mains level: Potential uses of quantum internet and how it is better than traditional internet


Context

Present computing theory

  1. All of today’s computing takes its root from the world of “bits”, where a transistor bit, which lies at the heart of any computing chip, can only be in one of two electrical states: on or off
  2. When on, the bit takes on a value of “1” and when off, it takes on a value of “0”, constraining the bit to only one of two (binary) values
  3. All tasks performed by a computer-like device, whether a simple calculator or a sophisticated computer, are constrained by this binary rule
  4. Eight bits make up what is called a “byte”
  5. Today, our computing is based on increasing the number of bytes into kilobytes, megabytes, gigabytes and so on
  6. All computing advances we have had thus far, including artificially intelligent programmes, and driverless cars are ultimately reduced to the binary world of the bit

Advent of quantum computing

  1. Classical internet is constrained by a binary thought process
  2. With quantum computing, information is held in “qubits” that can exist in two states at the same time
  3. A qubit can store a “0” and “1” simultaneously
  4. If you build two qubits, they can hold four values at once—11, 10, 01, and 00
  5. Adding on more qubits can greatly increase the computing capability of such a machine

Towards quantum internet

  1. The logical extension of quantum computing is a quantum internet, where computers don’t just compute in isolation, they also communicate with one another
  2. Scientists are now working on how a quantum internet might work
  3. To accomplish this, they are beginning by providing a vision of fundamentally new technology protocols to enable network communications between any two quantum computing machines on Earth
  4. They say that such a quantum internet will—in synergy with the “classical” internet that we have today—connect quantum computers in order to achieve unparalleled capabilities that are impossible today
  5. Several major applications for the quantum internet have already been identified, including secure communication, secure identification, achieving efficient agreement on distributed data, as well as secure access to remote quantum computers in the cloud

Advantages of the quantum internet

  1. The ability of a quantum internet to transmit “qubits” that are fundamentally different than classical “1” and “0” bits is what is paramount
  2. Qubits also cannot be copied, and any attempt to do so can be detected
  3. This makes qubits well suited for security applications

Way forward

  1. The transmission of qubits require radical new concepts and technology, requiring concerted efforts in physics, computer science, and engineering to succeed
  2. Although it is hard to predict what the exact components of a future quantum internet will be, it is likely that we will see the birth of the first multi-node quantum networks in the next few years

Indian Army Updates

[op-ed snap] Preventing another scuffle

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Various Security forces & agencies & their mandate

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Strained civil-military relationship in recent times and need of maintaining good relations between the two


Context

Tensions between civil & military officers

  1. In a disturbing incident in Bomdila, Arunachal Pradesh recently, two soldiers of the Indian Army were arrested by the local police and reportedly beaten up for alleged incorrect behaviour during a festival, which was then followed by alleged retaliatory high-handedness by their Army compatriots
  2. This is an apt example of the leadership on both sides not using their superior skills to prevent the unsavoury happenings and living up to the requirement of statecraft
  3. The term ‘statecraft’ is important because the leadership at every level of the government is a vital cog in maintaining a harmonious relationship with other arms, all the while respecting the other’s domain specialisation

Not the first instance

  1. The Bomdila incident is not the first instance of the civil administration and the military having locked horns
  2. It is just that earlier incidents did not get publicity in the absence of fast communication
  3. Though the issues were “resolved”, tensions have continued to simmer
  4. Social media and near instantaneous communications now amplify the damage

Link between civil & military personnel

  1. There is a delicate thread that links the uniformed and non-uniformed sections
  2. Pride in one’s job should not translate to contempt for another’s job
  3. The civil administration has challenges that no uniformed person ever faces, such as the pressures from social strife, economic hardships, and law and order
  4. The uniformed services, on the other hand, see themselves as protectors of the nation even at the cost of their own lives
  5. So, just as a uniformed force must acknowledge the expertise of the civil administration, so too should the latter respect and ensure that a soldier does feel a bit special

Role of leadership in the military

  1. A commander’s order is sacrosanct and a soldier on the front line follows it unflinchingly despite knowing that he could lose his life the next moment
  2. It is this implicit faith that permeates the psyche of a uniformed person based on the belief that his commander is supreme and will always look after his interests as well as those of his family
  3. This is how the military works, by laying emphasis on the point that military effectiveness requires a military culture that is different from that of a civilian’s
  4. This is the heart of the ‘chip on the shoulder’ feeling that drives a soldier to sacrifice his life at his superior’s command

Important issues in the civil-military relationship

At the heart of civil-military relations are two questions

  1. First, who controls the military and how? Is there civilian control or has it degenerated into civilian bureaucratic control?
  2. Second, what degree of military influence is appropriate for a given society?
  • While direct intervention in domestic affairs is a big no, on the other extreme is the utilisation of the armed forces in happenings that should logically come under the civilian domain
  • The Army is being called in to construct railway foot overbridges in Mumbai and even clear up litter left behind by tourists in the hills of north India. There are pitfalls when lionising translates to deification

Way forward

  1. Deification of the military could lead to resentment among certain sections of society
  2. Using the armed forces very often as a bulwark to sort out civil issues is detrimental to military philosophy
  3. So also is the absence of oversight to prevent civilian bureaucratic control and delays in resolving the problems service personnel face
  4. An unequal civil-military dialogue, wherein a soldier begins to doubt his ‘uniqueness’ (not deification) in society does not bode well for good civil-military relations
  5. Civil-military relations is an art that requires delicate nursing through statesmanship. Good leadership from both sides is the key to preventing new Bomdilas

History- Important places, persons in news

[op-ed snap] Legacies crucial for the commons

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: History | All syllabus

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: UPSC has been asking comparison questions between famous personalities on a continuous basis. The editorial is very important in that context


Context

Anniversaries of Gandhi & Marx

  1. The 150th birth anniversary year of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and the 200th birth anniversary of Karl Marx went by this year
  2. Such anniversaries can become occasions of tokenism — for instance, the Indian government has set up a committee with more than 100 members to coordinate celebrations of Gandhi’s anniversary
  3. Any meaningful homage to Gandhi would call into question the very fundamentals of today’s political and economic power, and point a sharply critical gaze at the rampant abuse of religion and nationalism and so too perhaps for Marx

Legacy of these stalwarts continues

  1. The celebrations are being led by so-called revolutionary governments in those parts of the world where Leftist parties still hold power
  2. This does not mean that these two figures are of no relevance now. On the contrary, they are even more so than before
  3. Their legacy is crucial for the majority of the world’s population, marginalised by capitalism, statism, patriarchy and other structures of oppression
  4. As it is for the rest of nature, so badly abused by humanity

Resistance and construction

  1. There are many movements of sangharsh (resistance) and nirman (construction) throughout the world
  2. These movements realise that the injustices they are facing, and the choices they must make, are not bound by the divides that ideologues play games with
  • Resistance movements
  1. At any given time in India, there are dozens of sites where Adivasis, farmers, fisherpersons, pastoralists and others are refusing to part with their land or forest or water to make way for so-called development projects
  2. News that is both inspiring and depressing keeps coming from Latin America, of indigenous people standing up for their territorial rights against mining and oil extraction, and all too frequently paying the price when state or corporate forces kill their leaders
  3. There have been movements for land and forest rights, communal harmony, workers’ security and other causes in India that are not so easy to place in any ideological camp
  • Construction of alternatives
  1. Across the world, there are incredible examples of sustainable and holistic agriculture, community-led water/energy/food sovereignty, worker takeover of production facilities, resource/knowledge commons, local governance, community health and alternative learning, inter-community peace-building, the reassertion of cultural diversity, gender and sexual pluralism, and much else

Common features of these movements

  1. There is the exploration of autonomy, self-reliance, people’s governance of politics and the economy, freedom with responsibility for the freedom of others, and respect for the rest of nature
  2. While these movements do often call for policy interventions from a more accountable state, there is also an underlying antipathy to the centralised state, as there is in both Gandhian swaraj and in Marxist communism and in many versions of anarchy
  3. Private property is also challenged
  4. While Gandhi was weak on challenging capital, and Marx on stressing the fundamental spiritual or ethical connections amongst humans, these movements often tend to bridge these gaps
  5. Many of them integrate the need to re-establish ecological resilience and wisdom, some even arguing for extending equal respect to other species
  6. They also encompass Marx’s vision of a society that bridges humanity’s ‘metabolic rift’ with nature, and Gandhi’s repeated emphasis on living lightly on the earth
  7. With this they also challenge the very fundamentals of ‘development’, especially its mad fixation on economic growth, reliance on ever-increasing production and consumption, and its utter disregard for inequality

Way forward

  1. There are points of tension between Gandhi & Marx, for instance, on the issue of non-violence as a principle
  2. There are points of ambiguity in recognising that indigenous peoples have already lived many elements of their dreams
  3. But there is critical common ground amongst them if our ultimate goals are well-being, justice, and equity, based on ecological wisdom
  4. We would do well to honour their legacy by identifying such common ground and building on the struggles and creativity of ‘ordinary’ people in communities across the world

Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

[pib] Integrated Health Information Platform (IHIP)

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: IHIP

Mains level: Need for electronic health information system.


News

  • The Union Health Ministry did soft-launch of the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) segment of Integrated Health Information Platform (IHIP) in seven states today.

Integrated Health Information Platform (IHIP)

  1. IHIP is real time, village-wise, case based electronic health information system with GIS tagging which will help in prompt prevention and control of epidemic prone diseases.
  2. The initiative will provide near-real-time data to policy makers for detecting outbreaks, reducing the morbidity and mortality and lessening disease burden in the populations and better health systems.
  3. The primary objective of IHIP is to enable the creation of standards compliant Electronic Health Records (EHRs) of the citizens on a pan-India basis.
  4. The EHRs aims to build a comprehensive Health Information Exchange (HIE) as part of this centralized accessible platform.
  5. The success of this platform will depend primarily on the quality of data shared by the states.
  6. For effective implementation of the platform, 32,000 people at the block level, 13,000 at the district level and 900 at the state level have been trained.

Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

[pib] PAISA Portal for Affordable Credit & Interest Subvention Access launched under DAY-NULM

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social Issues | Urbanization – problems and remedies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: PAISA Portal, Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana

Mains level: Read the attached story


News

PAISA Portal

  1. PAiSA stands for  Portal for Affordable Credit and Interest Subvention Access
  2. Nodal Ministry: Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs
  3. It is a centralized electronic platform for processing interest subvention on bank loans to beneficiaries under Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM).
  4. The web platform has been designed and developed by Allahabad Bank which is the Nodal bank.
  5. PAiSA is an effort by the government to connect directly with the beneficiaries, ensuring that there is greater transparency and efficiency in delivery of services.
  6. DBT of subvention on monthly basis under DAY-NULM will give the necessary financial support to small entrepreneurs in a timely manner.
  7. All 35 states / UTs & all scheduled commercial banks, RRBs and Cooperative Banks are expected to be on board the PAiSA portal the year end.

Back2Basics

Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana

Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Antyodaya Yojana

International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

NASA’s InSight spacecraft lands on red planet after six-month journey

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the mission

Mains level: Importance of the mission


News

Landing on the Red Planet

  1. InSight, a NASA spacecraft designed to burrow beneath the surface of Mars landed on the red after a six-month, 482 million-km journey and a perilous, six-minute descent through the rose-hued atmosphere.
  2. It was NASA’s ninth attempt to land at Mars since the 1976 Viking probes. All but one of the previous U.S. touchdowns was successful.
  3. NASA last landed on Mars in 2012 with the Curiosity rover.
  4. The plan called for the spacecraft to go from 12,300 mph (19,800 kph) to zero in six minutes flat as it pierced the Martian atmosphere and settled on the surface.

Landing: A difficult Job

  1. Landing on Mars is one of the hardest single jobs that people have to do in planetary exploration.
  2. Mars has been the graveyard for a multitude of space missions.
  3. Up to now, the success rate at the Mars has been only 40 percent, counting every attempted flyby, orbital flight and landing by the U.S., Russia and other countries since 1960.

Missions on board with InSight

  1. InSight was shooting for Elysium Planitia, a plain near the Martian equator that the InSight team hopes is as flat.
  2. This is no rock-collecting expedition.
  3. Instead, the stationary 800-pound (360-kilogram) lander will use its 6-foot (1.8-metre) robotic arm to place a mechanical mole and seismometer on the ground.
  4. The self-hammering mole will burrow 16 feet (5 metres) down to measure the planet’s internal heat, while the seismometer listens for possible quakes.
  5. No lander has dug deeper than several inches, and no seismometer has ever worked on Mars.

Expected Outcomes

  1. By examining the interior of Mars, scientists hope to understand how our solar system’s rocky planets formed 4.5 billion years ago.
  2. It would try to justify that why they turned out so different i.e.Mars cold and dry, Venus and Mercury burning hot, and Earth hospitable to life.
  3. InSight has no life-detecting capability, however.
  4. NASA’s Mars 2020 mission will collect rocks that will eventually be brought back to Earth and analysed for evidence of ancient life.

Back2Basics

InSight Mars Mission

  • Please navigate to the page:

Nasa Mars InSight blasts off from California Air Base to check on ‘Marsquakes’

Tiger Conservation Efforts – Project Tiger, etc.

SSB to patrol Dudhwa Tiger Reserve

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Details of Dudhwa Tiger Reserve

Mains level: Preventing trans-boundary environmental crime


News

Intelligence and information Sharing  

  1. Dudhwa Tiger Reserve and Sashastra Seema Bal have joined hands to provide security to Dudhwa forests and its rich wildlife.
  2. A consensus was reached among all security agencies including SSB on the border and the Dudhwa field staff to strengthen the patrolling in and around Dudhwa to check forest and wildlife crimes.
  3. It is aimed for intelligence and information sharing among various security agencies about activities of wildlife and forest criminals.

About Dudhwa Tiger Reserve

  1. The Dudhwa Tiger Reserve is a protected area in Uttar Pradesh that stretches mainly across the Lakhimpur Kheri and Bahraich districts.
  2. It comprises the Dudhwa National Park, Kishanpur Wildlife Sanctuary and Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary.
  3. It covers an area of 1,284.3 sq.km and includes three large forest fragments amidst the matrix dominated by agriculture.
  4. It shares the north-eastern boundary with Nepal, which is defined to a large extent by the Mohana River.
  5. The area is a vast alluvial floodplain traversed by numerous rivers and streams flowing in south-easterly direction.
  6. In 1987, the Dudhwa National Park and the Kishanpur Wildlife Sanctuary were brought under the purview of the ‘Project Tiger’ as Dudhwa Tiger Reserve.

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Andaman & Nicobar Islands: home to a tenth of India’s fauna species

Image Source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Read the attached story

Mains level: Bio-geographic zones of India


News

ZSI account of A&N fauna

  1. A recent publication by the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) titled Faunal Diversity of Biogeographic Zones: Islands of India has come up with a database of all faunal species found on the island, putting the number at 11,009.
  2. The ZSI document proves that the islands, comprising only 0.25% of India’s geographical area, are home to more than 10% of the country’s fauna species.
  3. The presence of a large number of species in such a small area makes the Andaman and Nicobar Islands one of the richest ecosystems and biodiversity hot spots in India.

Endemic Species of A&N

  1. There are 1,067 endemic faunal species found only on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and nowhere else.
  2. Key species of them include:
  • Narcondam Hornbill
  • Nicobar Megapode, a bird that builds nests on the ground
  • Nicobar Treeshrew, a small mole-like mammal
  • Long-tailed Nicobar macaque
  • Andaman day gecko

Features of the Islands

  1. The total area of the A&N Islands, which comprises of 572 islands, islets and rocky outcrops, is about 8,249 sq. km.
  2. The population of the islands, which includes six particularly vulnerable tribal groups (PVTGs) — Great Andamanese, Onge, Jarawa, Sentinelese, Nicobarese and Shompens — is not more than 4 lakh.

Threatened Species

  1. Of the ten species of marine fauna found on the islands, the dugong/sea cow, and the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin, are both classified as Vulnerable under the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species.
  2. Among the 46 terrestrial mammalian species found, three species have been categorised as Critically Endangered — Andaman shrew (Crocidura andamanensis), Jenkin’s shrew ( jenkinsi) and Nicobar shrew (C. nicobarica).
  3. Five species are listed as Endangered, nine species as Vulnerable, and one species as Near Threatened, according to the IUCN.
  4. Among birds, endemism is quite high, with 36 among 344 species of birds found only on the islands. Many of these bird species are placed in the IUCN Red List of threatened species under the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA).

Marine diversity

  1. Another unique feature of the islands’ ecosystem is its marine faunal diversity, which includes coral reefs and its associated fauna.
  2. In all, 555 species of scleractinian corals (hard or stony corals) are found in the island ecosystem, all which are placed under Schedule I of the WPA.
  3. Similarly, all species of gorgonian (sea fans) and calcerous sponge are listed under different schedules of the WPA.

Tourism Sector

  1. The number of tourists visiting the islands has crossed the number of people residing in them, with latest data showing 4.87 lakh tourists visiting the islands annually.
  2. In a recent development, the Government of India relaxed the Restricted Area Permit (RAP) norms for some foreign nationalities notified under the Foreigners (Restricted Areas) Order, 1963, to visit 29 of its inhabited islands, till December 31, 2022.

Note of caution

  1. The publication cautions that tourism, illegal construction and mining are posing a threat to the islands’ biodiversity, which is already vulnerable to volatile climatic factors.
  2. Some of the species in A&N Islands are restricted to a very small area and thus more vulnerable to any anthropogenic threat.
  3. Development paradigm that we are pushing for this place at the macro level, such as tourism, construction and development of military, are not taking in account three factors:
  • Ecological fragility of the area (the endemism),
  • Geological volatility (earthquakes and tsunamis), and
  • Impact they will have on local communities

Communicable and Non-communicable diseases – HIV, Malaria, Cancer, Mental Health, etc.

[op-ed snap] Ahead on malaria: on reduction in cases in India

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: World Malaria Report, WHO

Mains level: Efforts needed to eliminate Malaria from South Asia


Context

Malaria incidence reduced in India

  1. The World Malaria Report 2018 of the World Health Organisation notes that India’s record offers great promise in the quest to cut the number of new cases and deaths globally by at least 40% by 2020 and to end the epidemic by 2030
  2. The declining trend of the scourge shows that sustained public health action can achieve good results

Factors for optimism: Odisha shows the way

  1. A lot of that optimism has to do with the progress made by Odisha, one of the most endemic States
  2. Investments made there in recruiting accredited social health workers and large-scale distribution of insecticide-treated bednets, together with strategies to encourage health-seeking behaviour, seem to have paid off
  3. The WHO report highlights a sharp drop in the number of cases in the State
  4. The reduction in cases by half in 2017 compared to the same study period in 2016 appears to reinforce research findings
  5. Malaria cases in Odisha have been coming down steadily since 2003, with a marked reduction since 2008, attributed to greater political and administrative commitment
  6. This positive trend should encourage authorities not just in Odisha, but in the northeastern States and elsewhere too to cut the transmission of the disease further

Further efforts required

  1. This positive trend should encourage authorities not just in Odisha, but in the northeastern States and elsewhere too to cut the transmission of the disease further
  2. Importantly, the reduction in the number of cases should not produce complacency and lead to a reduction in the deployment of health workers and funding cuts to programme components
  3. Where allocations have been reduced, they should be reversed
  4. One issue that requires monitoring in India is resistance to combination therapy using artemisinin
  5. Recent reports indicate that some patients in West Bengal became resistant to the treatment protocol used for the falciparum parasite, which causes debilitating cerebral malaria and leads to a high number of deaths
  6. Eliminating malaria requires an integrated approach, and this should involve Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal, which have a higher burden of the disease

Way forward

  1. India has suffered from a major burden of malaria for decades, with high levels of morbidity and death
  2. Odisha’s experience with using public health education as a tool and reaching out to remote populations with advice needs to be replicated
  3. Given that emerging resistance to treatment has been reported in Myanmar, among other countries in this belt, there is a need for a coordinated approach to rid southern Asia of malaria

Tribes in News

[op-ed snap] Leave them alone: on the Sentinelese

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Arts & Culture | All syllabus

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Sentinelese and other tribes of Andaman

Mains level: Need of special safeguards for isolated tribes


Context

Killing of a US citizen by Sentinelese tribe

  1. The death of a young American man at the hands of the inhabitants of North Sentinel Island in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands has led to dangerous lines of debate
  2. Some have called for the Sentinelese to be convicted and punished and others have urged that they be integrated into modern society
  3. Both these demands are misguided, and can only result in the extinction of a people
  4. The Sentinelese are perhaps the most reclusive community in the world today
  5. Their language is so far understood by no other group and they have traditionally guarded their island fiercely, attacking most intruders with spears and arrows

Special safeguards for the Sentinelese

  1. There is a reason why no one — whether missionary, scholar, adventurer, U.S. citizen or Indian — is allowed to venture near North Sentinel Island without permission, which is given only in the rarest of circumstances and with meticulous precautions in place to ensure that the Sentinelese are not disturbed
  2. Having lived in isolation in an island in the Bay of Bengal for thousands of years, the Sentinelese have no immunity or resistance to even the commonest of infections
  3. Various degrees of protection are in place for the indigenous people of A&N Islands, but it is complete in the case of the Sentinelese
  4. The administration enforces “an ‘eyes-on and hands-off’ policy to ensure that no poachers enter the island”
  5. A protocol of circumnavigation of the island is in place, and the buffer maintained around the island is enforced under various laws

Need of restraint

  1. At the heart of the issue is the survival of the Sentinelese
  2. According to the 2011 Census, their population was just 15 — though anthropologists like T.N. Pandit, who made contact with them in the 1960s, put the figure at 80-90
  3. This degree of ignorance about the Sentinelese often sparks an Orientalist public discourse, instead of understanding the dangers of trying to physically overpower them
  4. A foreigner’s death is a cautionary incident — for the danger of adventurism, and for the administration to step up oversight
  5. But it is also an occasion for the country to embrace its human heritage in all its diversity and to empathetically try to see the world from the eyes of it’s most vulnerable inhabitants

Internal Security Architecture Shortcomings – Key Forces, NIA, IB, CCTNS, etc.

[op-ed snap] India is not better prepared than 2008

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Internal Security | Role of external state & non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: NATGRID

Mains level: Shortcomings in India’s counter-terrorism apparatus and need of strengthening it


Context

10 Years of Mumbai Terror Attack

  1. Ten years ago on this day, Pakistan carried out one of the most heinous of terror attacks perpetrated anywhere in the world
  2. The 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, named after the date in 2008 when the attack took place, is in some respects comparable to the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the U.S.

Changes in terrorist tactics

  1. Terrorism is hardly a post-modern phenomenon
  2. Several of the terror attacks in the 21st century, however, reflect a paradigmatic change in the tactics of asymmetric warfare, and the practice of violence
  3. The kaleidoscopic features of modern terrorism have befuddled even advanced countries with better interdiction capability
  4. Today’s attacks carried out in different corners of the world by al-Qaeda and its affiliates, the Islamic State, al-Shabaab, and similar terror outfits, are very different from those witnessed in the previous century
  5. The tactics employed may vary, but the objective is common, viz. achieving mass casualties and widespread destruction

State involvement in terrorism

  1. The 26/11 Mumbai terror attack was one of a kind and not a mere variant of previous instances of terrorist violence
  2. It was the rarest of rare cases, where one state’s resources, viz. Pakistan’s were employed to carry out a series of terror attacks in a major Indian city
  3. It was a case of ‘war by other means’, in which the authorities in Pakistan, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, the Pakistani armed forces, were involved
  4. It is difficult to recall any recorded instance in modern times where a state and its various agencies were directly involved in carrying out a terror attack of this nature
  5. The degree of involvement of the Pakistani deep state in the planning and preparation of the attack is evident from many aspects that have come to light subsequently
  6. Seldom has any terrorist group then, or for that matter even now, used such highly sophisticated, state-of-the-art communications, including Voice over Internet Protocol
  7. Planning for the attack involved the use of a third country address
  8. Handlers in Pakistan were given unfettered freedom to provide instructions to the terrorists during the entire four-day siege
  9. The choice of the sea route aimed at deception and avoiding detection was again dictated by official agencies

Lacunae in counter-terrorism network

  1. The first major difficulty is that terrorism is handled by different state police systems with no legal role by the central government under Schedule 7 of our Constitution
  2. It is true that under Article 355, the central government is duty-bound “to protect every state against external aggression and internal disturbances”
  3. But the Constitution did not provide any implements to the central government to carry out this obligation except in emergencies when it can take over the administration of the state under articles 352 or 356
  4. In all other situations, central forces that are supplied to the states are under the control of state authorities
  5. Similarly, the intelligence provided by the central government to the states is only of advisory nature
  6. Thus, in our system, all peacetime CT activities are the legal responsibility of the states
  7. Situations might arise when the states concerned might ignore terrorism-related alerts

International best practices for counterterrorism

  1. In all countries, a centrally directed CT architecture is provided to watch the global developments in terrorist methodology to advise all components of the country to take preventive measures
  2. In many countries concurrent powers are given to the central government to intervene when a state fails to take security measures
  3. After 9/11 the private sector was involved in a big way in other countries in supplementing security and resistance measures
  4. This is because several key infrastructure projects are now managed by private companies
  5. In some countries, they even participate in intelligence sharing so that they could take preventive action on their own with their security personnel

Initiatives taken by India after 26/11

  1. In the wake of the terror attack, several steps were initiated to streamline the security set-up
  2. Coastal security was given high priority, and it is with the Navy/Coast Guard/marine police
  3. A specialised agency to deal with terrorist offences, the National Investigation Agency, was set up and has been functioning from January 2009
  4. The National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) has been constituted to create an appropriate database of security related information
  5. Four new operational hubs for the NSG have been created to ensure rapid response to terror attacks
  6. The Multi Agency Centre, which functions under the Intelligence Bureau, was further strengthened and its activities expanded
  7. The Navy constituted a Joint Operations Centre to keep vigil over India’s extended coastline

Way forward for India

  1. One new variant is the concept of ‘enabled terror’ or ‘remote controlled terror’, viz. violence conceived and guided by a controller thousands of miles away
  2. Today the ‘lone wolf’ is, more often than not, part of a remote-controlled initiative, with a controller choosing the target, the nature of the attack and even the weaponry to be used. Internet-enabled terrorism and resort to remote plotting is thus the new threat
  3. Operating behind a wall of anonymity, random terror is likely to become the new terror imperative
  4. We have to go a long way to claim that we are safer in 2018 than what we were in 2008

With inputs from the editorial: Ten years after the Mumbai attack

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Scientists mull stratospheric barrier to curb global warming

Note4studnets

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Stratospheric Aerosol Injection (SAI)

Mains level: Artificial mitigations against Global Warming


News

Fencing Earth against Sunlight

  1. Spraying sun-dimming chemicals high above the earth to slow global warming could be remarkably inexpensive costing about $2.25 billion a year over a 15-year period, according to a study by U.S. scientists.
  2. Some researchers say the geo-engineering technique known as stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI) could limit rising temperatures that are causing climate change.

What are Stratospheric Sulphur Aerosols?

  1. Stratospheric sulfur aerosols are sulfur-rich particles which exist in the stratosphere region of the Earth’s atmosphere.
  2. The layer of the atmosphere in which they exist is known as the Junge layer, or simply the stratospheric aerosol layer.
  3. These particles consist of a mixture of sulfuric acid and water.
  4. They are created naturally, such as by photochemical decomposition of sulfur-containing gases, e.g. carbonyl sulfide.
  5. Sulfur aerosols are common in the troposphere as a result of pollution with sulfur dioxide from burning coal, and from natural processes.
  6. Volcanoes are a major source of particles in the stratosphere as the force of the volcanic eruption propels sulfur-containing gases into the stratosphere.

Stratospheric Aerosol Injection (SAI)

  1. Under SAI delivery of precursor sulfide gases such as sulfuric acid, hydrogen sulfide (H2S) or sulfur dioxide (SO2) by artillery, aircraft and balloons has under study.
  2. This proposed method could counter most climatic changes, take effect rapidly, have very low direct implementation costs, and be reversible in its direct climatic effects.
  3. It would involve the use of huge hoses, cannons or specially designed aircraft to spray large quantities of sulphate particles into the upper layer of the atmosphere to act as a reflective barrier against sunlight.
  4. Total costs estimated to launch a hypothetical SAI effort 15 years from now would be $3.5 billion and average annual operating costs would be about $2.25 billion a year over 15 years.
  5. Discounting other methods of deployment because of cost and feasibility, the research assumes a special aircraft can be designed to fly at an altitude of about 20 km and carry a load of 25 tonnes.

Benefits of the SAI

  • Mimics a natural process
  • Technological feasibility
  • Economic and feasible Cost
  • Efficiency

Possible side effects

  • Tropospheric Ozone depletion
  • Whitening of the sky
  • Tropopause warming and the humidification of the stratosphere
  • Health effects
  • Stratospheric temperature and circulation change

Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

RIMES terms Titli cyclone ‘rarest of rare’

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Geography | Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: RIMES

Mains level: Impact of such rarest cyclones on coast as well as hinterlands


News

Background

  1. The severe cyclonic storm Titli left more than 60 people dead, mainly due to land slide in interior Gajapati district of Odisha.
  2. The Regional Integrated Multi-Hazard Early Warning System (RIMES) for Africa and Asia, a 45-nation international organisation on disaster warning, has termed ‘Titli’as ‘rarest cyclone’.

Rarest in 200 Years

  1. More than 200 years of cyclone track history in the Odisha coast reveals that the Titli cyclone is the rarest of rare.
  2. The severe cyclone had changed its path after landfall.
  3. It is explained in terms of its characteristics such as recurvature after landfall and retaining its destructive potential after landfall and recurvature away from the coastal areas for more than two days.
  4. Considering the history of cyclone tracks, no synthetic track projection captures the Titli type of
  5. The forecast information available lacks actionable early warning information such as no indication of occurrence of secondary hazards, including landslides far away from the coasts.

Danger is not limited to Coast

  1. The State government actions linked to the cyclone-risk management is heavily focused on the coastal areas where cyclones cross at their peak intensities.
  2. Therefore, coastal areas now have been largely well managed through evacuations and other protocols, leading to zero casualties in these areas.
  3. The highest number of casualties occurred in a village called Baraghara in Gajapati district due to landslides.
  4. People did not evacuate, as the risk is unknown and also not expected. There was no pin-pointed forecast available what will happen where.

About RIMES

  1. The RIMES stands for Regional Integrated Multi-Hazard Early Warning System for Africa and Asia.
  2. It is an international and intergovernmental institution, owned and managed by its Member States, for the generation and application of early warning information.
  3. It was established on 30 April 2009, and was registered with the United Nations on 1 July 2009.
  4. It operates from its regional early warning center located at the campus of the Asian Institute of Technology in Pathumthani, Thailand.
  5. RIMES evolved from the efforts of countries in Africa and Asia, in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
  6. It aims to establish a regional early warning system within a multi-hazard framework for the generation and communication of early warning information, and capacity building for preparedness and response to trans-boundary hazards.
  7. RIMES caters to differential needs and demands of its Member States by enhancing capacities for end-to-end multi-hazard early warning, in particular:
  • Hazard monitoring, detection, analysis, prediction, and forecasting
  • Risk assessment
  • Potential impact analysis
  • Generation of tailored risk information at different time scales
  • Risk communication
  • Application of tailored risk information in decision-making
  1. The governing council is composed of heads of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) and national scientific and technical agencies generating multi-hazard early warning information.
  2. The Council is empowered to make policy decisions, on behalf of governments, concerning regional early warning arrangements, for enhanced preparedness, response, and mitigation of natural hazards.
  3. Currently, India chairs the RIMES Council.

Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

IMD develops technology to assess rise of water level in rivers, reservoirs by rain

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Disaster Management | Disaster & disaster management

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Impact Based Forecasting Approach

Mains level: Flood Monitoring using Impact Based Forecasting Approach


News

  • A new technology has been developed by IMD to assess the rise of water level in rivers and reservoirs by rain and can help state governments to minutely monitor the impact of rainfall.

Impact Based Forecasting Approach

  1. The technology shows “pre-event scenario which can help authorities in taking real-time decisions.
  2. With this the government can be able to generate a scenario where it can take decisions to release water or not release it.
  3. It will be helpful for every state authority to take a decision.
  4. There is another technology which would help in identifying warm ocean segments that are contributing to the rapid intensification of the systems.

Open Transit Data (OTD)

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, and Railways etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: OTDs

Mains level: Utility of OTD in transportation and its viability for use in other parts of country.


News

  • Open Transit Data (OTD) has started being shared on a dedicated portal launched by the Delhi government for commuter’s convenience.

Open Transit Data (OTD)

  1. The portal is designed and developed by IIT-Delhi.
  2. GPS feeds from cluster buses being operated by the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) will currently be available to the public through this platform.
  3. The data will include geo-coordinates of bus stops, route maps, timetable, and real time GPS feeds of bus locations every 10 seconds.
  4. The Capital is the first city in the country to share transit data of city buses both static and real time through a dedicated website.

Services provided under OTD

  1. The OTD portal will incorporate multi-modal transport data feed in future, including those of Metro and last-mile connectivity vehicles.
  2. The portal will also enable the government install real-time Passenger Information Systems (PIS) or display boards at bus stops and terminals to let commuters know the arrival time of various buses.
  3. OTD will also enable app-builders provide transit-related services like estimated time of arrival (ETA) at any bus stop, position of the vehicle, and alert and diversion messages, among others.

Benefits of OTD

  1. This initiative will provide a lot of useful information at the finger tips of citizen and encourage more and more people to switch to public transport, thereby impacting pollution.
  2. Researchers or anyone who can handle data can scrutinise the performance of buses whether they stop at bus stops, whether they complete their routes and also if they are speeding.
  3. Anyone can also make mobility apps for consumers using this data for predicting bus timings, route planning and integration with other transit options.