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07 June, 2020

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GS-I Tremble after the tremors- EARTHQUAKE Explained  Human Geography
GS-II China’s new code aims to curb land grabs International Relations
French forces kill al-Qaeda’s Algeria leader International Relations
CBSE to release reduced syllabus in a month Governance
GS-III What are some of the key terms being used to describe the novel coronavirus outbreak? THE HINDU EXPLAINED
Prevalence of diabetes among women high in southern India
Serotonin triggers desert locust swarms
India’s first solar ferry sails into global contest
PT Pointer Paleolithic sites Art and Culture
Medaram Jatara Art and Culture
Indus script Art and Culture
Res extra commercium Governance
GS-I : Human Geography
Tremble after the tremors- EARTHQUAKE Explained 

Tremble after the tremors- EARTHQUAKE Explained 

Part of: GS-I- Earthquake  (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

The NCR shook seven times in the last 20 days, fuelling fears of a high-magnitude earthquake. Seismologists have ruled out an immediate threat though they insist the region remains at risk of a ‘great’ Himalayan quake

Since May 15, the National Center for Seismology has recorded seven small earthquakes, ranging from 1.8 to 4.5 on the Richter scale, with epicentres at Faridabad, Rohtak and New Delhi. The spate of tremors — the most recent one occurring last (June 3) — has fuelled speculation about the possibility of a bigger earthquake in this region.

The experts have discredited this theory but warned that the region — situated close to the ‘most active fault line on earth’ — would be at risk in the event of a widely anticipated ‘great’ Himalayan earthquake.

 

Misinterpreted threat

  • The Director of Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Kalachand Sain, was recently quoted in a news article saying, “There is consistent seismic activity happening in the NCR and can trigger a major earthquake in Delhi.”
  • But he told The Hindu that his words were misinterpreted. In fact, he clarified he meant quite the opposite and the recent earthquakes were a sign that “the region was unlikely to have a greater earthquake”.
  • Earthquakes in this region were due to “release of stress” accumulated from the movement of the Indian tectonic plate and its collision with the Eurasian tectonic plate, Dr. Sain explained.
  • Consequently, the recent tremors would have diffused the accumulated stress, reducing the risk of a more serious earthquake, he added.
  • Vineet Gahalaut, former director of National Center for Seismology, too dismissed the fears of a devastating earthquake. “There is something called background seismicity level, which continues over a region over time and that is normal for it.
  • Such tremors have been occurring in this region for the last 40-50 years. That would be a cause for concern only if they occurred in regions where tectonic plates met,” he said.
  • Only larger faults and larger systems trigger bigger earthquakes, explained Kusala Rajendran of Centre for Earth Sciences at Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.
  • That is why you have great earthquakes only along the plate boundaries such as the Sumatra plate boundary [near Indonesia], Andaman plate boundary or Himalaya and California,” she said, while reiterating that Delhi had a history of only small tremors.

Not risk-free

  • Concerns about the risk of a major earthquake in Delhi, however, may not be unfounded. “An earthquake of 5.5 to 6 magnitude can never be ruled out anywhere,” citing the instance of the 1993 earthquake in Latur, Maharashtra.
  • At that time, the area fell under zone 1 of the country’s seismic zonal maps, which was the category with least risk.
  • With a magnitude of 6.2 on the Richter scale, the earthquake left thousands dead. The same can’t be ruled out here.
  • “Though there are pockets of localised seismicity in Delhi, that is not new… As a seismologist who has been working on earthquakes for a long time, my feeling is that the real fear for Delhi is from the Himalayas,” adding that it is very close to the most active fault line in the world.
  • Several researchers have hypothesised the probability of a great earthquake, something of the magnitude of eight and above, striking the Himalayan region.
  • Based on historical, archaeological and geological data, that such an event has not taken place in the area for at least a 1,000 years.
  • Others peg it at 500 years. This, along with GPS-based modelling of the speed of movement of the Indian plate, suggests that an earthquake is due, she said, and added: “That means it can happen any time.”

Impact on Delhi

“Even a strong earthquake in the Himalayan belt [as experienced in the recent past] may pose a threat to Delhi-NCR,”. He based this on the fact that this region is only 150-odd km from the active Himalayan seismic belt. Also, the “large sediment thickness (loose soil) in the Ganga Alluvial Plains” to the north of Delhi tends to amplify the impact of earthquakes. Given the presence of high-rises in the area, large number of buildings and a dense population, he said, it was imperative to strictly impose building codes as a precautionary measure.

An earthquake in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district in March 1999, measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale, which caused damage to some buildings in Patparganj in Delhi, 280 km from the epicentre. She also raised concerns over the vulnerability of buildings in Delhi-NCR and whether the authorities had taken steps to make them secure.

About EARTHQUAKE

Earthquakes

  • An earthquake is shaking or trembling of the earth’s surface, caused by the seismic waves or earthquake waves that are generated due to a sudden movement (sudden release of energy) in the earth’s crust (shallow-focus earthquakes) or upper mantle (some shallow-focus and all intermediate and deep-focus earthquakes).
  • A seismograph, or seismometer, is an instrument used to detect and record earthquakes.

Focus and epicentre

  • The point where the energy is released is called the focus or the hypocentre of an earthquake.
  • The point on the surface directly above the focus is called epicentre (first surface point to experience the earthquake waves).
  • A line connecting all points on the surface where the intensity is the same is called an isoseismic line.

Foreshocks and aftershocks

  • Usually, a major or even moderate earthquake of shallow focus is followed by many lesser-size earthquakes known as aftershocks.
  • A mild earthquake preceding the violent shaking movement of an earthquake is known as a foreshock.

Swarms

  • Large numbers of small earthquakes may occur in a region for months without a major earthquake.
  • Such series of earthquakes are called earthquake swarms.
  • Earthquakes associated with volcanic activity often occur in swarms.
  • Earthquake swarms can serve as markers for the location of the flowing magma throughout the volcanoes.

Causes of Earthquakes

  • Fault Zones
  • Plate tectonics
  • Volcanic activity
  • Human Induced Earthquakes

Fault Zones

  • The immediate cause of most shallow earthquakes is the sudden release of stress along a fault rupture (crack) in the earth’s crust.
  • Sudden slipping of rock formations along fault rupture in the earth’s crust happens due to the constant change in volume and density of rocks due to intense temperature and pressure in the earth’s interior.
  • The longer the length and the wider the width of the faulted area, the larger the resulting magnitude.
  • The longest earthquake ruptures along thrust faults (convergent boundary) are approximately 1,000 km.
  • The longest earthquake ruptures on strike-slip faults (transform fault) are about half to one third as long as the lengths along the thrust fault.
  • The fault ruptures along normal faults (divergent boundary) are shorter.

Plate tectonics

  • Slipping of land along the faultline along convergent, divergent and transform boundaries cause earthquakes.
  • Reverse faults (convergent boundary) are associated with the most powerful earthquakesmegathrust earthquakes, including almost all of those of magnitude 8 or more.
  • Megathrust earthquakes occur at subduction zones, where one tectonic plate is forced underneath another. E.g. 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake.
  • Strike-slip faults, particularly continental transforms, can produce major earthquakes up to about magnitude 8.
  • San Andreas Fault is a transform fault where Pacific plate and North American plate move horizontally relative to each other causing earthquakes along the fault lines.
  • Earthquakes associated with normal faults (divergent boundary) are generally less than magnitude 7.

Volcanic activity

  • Volcanic activity also can cause an earthquake, but the earthquakes of volcanic origin are generally less severe and more limited in extent than those caused by fracturing of the earth’s crust.
  • Earthquakes in volcanic regions are caused by the consequent release of elastic strain energy both by tectonic faults and the movement of magma in volcanoes.
  • Such earthquakes can serve as an early warning of volcanic eruptions, as during the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens
  • There is a clear correspondence between the geographic distribution of volcanoes and major earthquakes, particularly in the Circum-Pacific Belt and along oceanic ridges.
  • Volcanic vents, however, are generally several hundred kilometres from the epicentres of most major shallow earthquakes, and many earthquake sources occur nowhere near active volcanoes.

Human Induced Earthquakes

  • Human Induced Earthquakes refers to typically minor earthquakes and tremors that are caused by human activity like mining, large scale petroleum extraction, artificial lakes (reservoirs), nuclear tests etc.

Reservoir-induced seismicity

  • The pressure offered by a column of water in a large and deep artificial lake alter stresses along an existing fault or fracture. Also, the percolation of water weakens the soil structure and lubricates the faults.
  • Loading and unloading of water can significantly change the stress. This significant change in stress can lead to a sudden movement along the fault or fracture, resulting in an earthquake.
  • The 6.3 magnitude 1967 Koynanagar earthquake occurred near the Koyna Dam reservoir in Maharashtra and claimed more than 150 lives. There have been several earthquakes of smaller magnitude since then.
  • Some geologists believe that the earthquake was due to reservoir-triggered seismic activity.
  • The 2008 Sichuan earthquake, which caused approximately 68,000 deaths, is another possible example. It is believed that the construction and filling of the Zipingpu Dam may have triggered the earthquake.

Earthquakes based on the depth of focus

  • Earthquakes can occur anywhere between the Earth’s surface and about 700 kilometres below the surface.
  • For scientific purposes, this earthquake depth range of 0 – 700 km is divided into three zones: shallow, intermediate, and deep.
  • Shallow focus earthquakes are found within the earth’s outer crustal layer, while deep focus earthquakes occur within the deeper subduction zones of the earth.
  • Shallow earthquakes are 0 – 70 km deep.
  • Intermediate earthquakes are 70 – 300 km deep.
  • Deep earthquakes are 300 – 700 km deep.
  • Of the total energy released in earthquakes, about 12-15 per cent comes from intermediate earthquakes, about 3-5 per cent from deeper earthquakes and about 70-85 per cent from the shallow earthquakes.
  • A quake’s destructive force depends not only on the energy released but also on location, distance from the epicentre and depth.
  • On 24 August 2016, a 6.2 earthquake rocked Central Italy killing about 300 people. An even bigger 6.8 hit Myanmar the same day killing just a few people.
  • Italy’s quake was very shallow, originating within 10 kilometres underground. By contrast, the quake in Myanmar was deeper ? 84 kilometres.

Shallow-focus earthquake

  • The great majority of earthquakes have shallow-focus. Hence, they are also called as ‘crustal earthquakes.’
  • Majority of the shallow focus earthquakes are of smaller magnitudes (usual range of 1 to 5). But a few can be of a higher magnitude and can cause a great deal of destruction.
  • They occur quite frequently and at random. However, as most of them are either of smaller magnitudes or occur along submarine ridges, they are often not felt.
  • Though comparatively of low magnitude, shallow focus earthquakes can cause relatively greater damage at the surface (as the whole energy is directed towards a small area) compared to their deep-focus counterparts.

Deep-focus earthquake

  • In general, the term “deep-focus earthquakes” is applied to earthquakes deeper than 70 km.
  • The deeper-focus earthquakes commonly occur in patterns called Benioff zones that dip into the Earth, indicating the presence of a subducting slab (zone of subduction).
  • Hence, they are also are known as intraplate earthquakes (triggered by the collision between plates).
  • They happen as huge quakes with larger magnitudes (usual range of 6 to 8), as a great deal of energy is released with the forceful collision of the plates.
  • But the earthquakes alone may not cause much destruction as the foci of the quakes lie at great depths and the energy of the quakes dissipates over a wide area.
  • The strongest deep-focus earthquake in seismic record was the magnitude 8.3 Okhotsk Sea earthquake that occurred at a depth of 609 km in 2013.
  • The deepest earthquake ever recorded was a 4.2 earthquake in Vanuatu at a depth of 735.8 km in 2004.

Wadati–Benioff zone: Earthquakes along the Convergent boundary

  • Wadati Benioff zone is a zone of subduction along which earthquakes are common. The most powerful earthquakes occur along this zone (most powerful earthquakes occur along the convergent boundary).
  • Differential motion along the zone produces numerous earthquakes, the foci of which may be as deep as about 700 kilometres.
  • Wadati–Benioff zones can be produced by slip along the subduction thrust fault (Himalayan Region – C-C convergent boundary) or slip on faults within the downgoing plate (O-O and C-O convergent boundary).

 

Distribution of Earthquakes

  • Earth’s major earthquakes occur mainly in belts coinciding with the margins of tectonic plates.
  • The most important earthquake belt is the Circum-Pacific Belt, which affects many populated coastal regions around the Pacific Ocean—for example, those of New Zealand, New Guinea, Japan, the Aleutian Islands, Alaska, and the western coasts of North and South America.
  • The seismic activity is by no means uniform throughout the belt, and there are many branches at various points.
  • Because at many places the Circum-Pacific Belt is associated with volcanic activity, it has been popularly dubbed the “Pacific Ring of Fire.”
  • The Pacific Ring of Fire accounts for about 68 per cent of all earthquakes.
  • A second belt, known as the Alpine Belt (Himalayas and Alps). The energy released in earthquakes from this belt is about 15 per cent of the world total.
  • The mid-world mountain belt (Alpine Belt) extends parallel to the equator from Mexico across the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea from Alpine-Caucasus ranges to the Caspian, Himalayan mountains and the adjoining lands.
  • There also are striking connected belts of seismic activity, mainly along oceanic ridges—including those in the Arctic Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, and the western Indian Ocean—and along the rift valleys of East Africa.
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GS-II : International Relations
China’s new code aims to curb land grabs

China’s new code aims to curb land grabs

Part of: GS-II- China (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

It also focuses on giving greater independence to the country’s judiciary

Farmers in China have faced forced evictions and illicit land grabs for decades — sources of social unrest that the government is finally trying to address in a major shake-up of its property law. Millions of hectares of rural land were taken away from farmers in the past three decades and given to developers as China raced to urbanise, often with little or no compensation in return.

Important Points

  • “Land disputes trigger half of an estimated 1,00,000 social protests in China every year, making them the second leading cause for public unrest after labour disputes,” Ni Yulan, a lawyer who advocates for property rights of low-income families in Beijing, said.
  • Ms. Ni has been jailed twice for her advocacy and is paralysed from the waist down, a result she says of beatings received during her detention.
  • China’s first-ever civil code approved by Parliament focuses on giving judges greater independence and curbing the influence of local officials, but the judiciary is still ultimately answerable to the Communist Party.
  • The guidelines have narrowed the interpretation of “public interest” to prevent abusive land grabs.
  • It also makes it mandatory for local governments to make public announcements on “all acts taken by the state in relation to private property”, thus making land transactions more transparent.

 

No punishment

But it does not stipulate any punishments for those illegally expropriating land or the rights of individual farmers to collective land, making it harder for families to seek compensation. The wide-ranging legislative package will come into effect on January 1. Local governments have taken away land from 1,00,000 to 5,00,000 farmers every year between 2005 to 2015 in violation of national land-use laws, according to a study by Qiao Shitong, a property and urban law professor at the University of Hong Kong.

In China, land can only be owned by the state or collective organisations. Private individuals or businesses can only buy the right to use land for up to 70 years. The civil code — for the first time — clarifies what will happen once a home owner’s 70-year usage rights expire. The law affirms that land-use rights for residential homes will be automatically renewed after expiration but does not say whether owners need to pay for renewals.

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GS-II : International Relations
French forces kill al-Qaeda’s Algeria leader

French forces kill al-Qaeda’s Algeria leader

Part of: GS-II- Terrorism  (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

Droukel, an explosives expert, had been sentenced to death in 2013 for terror attacks

France said its forces have killed the leader of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, in a blow to the group behind a string of deadly attacks across the troubled Sahel region.

Who?

Abdelmalek Droukdel was killed in northern Mali near the Algerian border, where the group has bases from which it has carried out attacks and abductions of Westerners in the sub-Saharan Sahel zone. “Many close associates” of the Algerian — who commanded several affiliate jihadist groups across the lawless region — were also “neutralised”, she added.

Important points

  • Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) emerged from a group started in the late 1990s by radical Algerian Islamists, who in 2007 pledged allegiance to Osama Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network.
  • The group has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks on troops and civilians across the Sahel, including a 2016 attack on an upmarket hotel and restaurant in Burkina Faso, which killed 30 people, mainly Westerners.
  • The death of Droukdel — once regarded as Algeria’s enemy number one — could leave AQIM in disarray, French military sources suggested.
  • France has deployed more than 5,000 troops to combat jihadist groups in the region — a largely lawless expanse stretching over Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, where drugs and arms flow through porous borders.
  • Northern Mali is the site of frequent clashes between rival armed groups, as well as a haven for jihadist activity.
  • In 2012, key cities fell under the control of jihadist groups linked to al-Qaeda, who exploited an ethnic Tuareg-led rebel uprising, leading to a French-led military intervention.
  • According to the UN, Droukdel was an explosives expert and manufactured devices that killed hundreds of civilians in attacks on public places.

He was sentenced to death in Algeria in 2013 for his involvement in the bombings of a government building and offices of the UN’s refugee committee in Algiers that killed 26 people and wounded 177.

Droukdel’s death is a symbolic coup for the French, a military source said.

Born in 1971 in a poor neighbourhood of Algiers, Droukdel — also known as Abou Moussaab Abdelouadoud — took part in the founding in Algeria of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC).

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GS-II : Governance
CBSE to release reduced syllabus in a month

CBSE to release reduced syllabus in a month

Part of: GS-III- Education  (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

The aim is to adapt to a shorter academic session and the loss of classroom time

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) will release a cut-down syllabus within a month to adapt to a shorter academic session and the loss of classroom time because of the COVID-19 pandemic, CBSE chairman Manoj Ahuja.

 “There will definitely have to be some rationalisation of the syllabus, because there will definitely be some loss of time, even with blended schooling and home schooling... That’s what we are planning and we should be able to finalise it in a month’s time,” Mr. Ahuja said, speaking to teachers and principals at a virtual conference on schooling in the time of COVID, hosted by Ashoka University.

Important Points

  • “What that would entail broadly is that we retain the core elements which are very necessary in terms of learning outcomes. But concepts which are duplicated or seem superfluous will be shaved off,”
  • Schools will also be asked to start shifting to a competency-based education system from this academic year, with more focus on learning outcomes.
  • Aimed at moving away from the rote-learning, content-based, examination-focussed structure of Indian education, competency-based education looks to map a child’s understanding and application of concepts rather than knowledge of facts.
  • While this is being done in an incremental manner, it means that from the coming year, the CBSE’s Class 10 board examinations will include 20% case-based questions, which have real life connections.
  • There will be 10% such questions in the Class 12 board examinations for all subjects as well.
  • Making this change in board examinations is just a small nudge to urge schools to change classroom teaching and assessment from Class 1 itself, said the CBSE chairman.
  • The curriculum is being gradually overhauled to ensure that there are measurable learning outcomes attached to every single lesson, and ways to help teachers map whether each individual child is gaining competence in specific areas.

However, Mr. Ahuja emphasised that it is important for the wider ecosystem of parents, coaching centres, higher education institutions and recruiters to come on board too and be willing to change from a traditional mindset. “If getting into college or getting a job is still based on the old rote-learning, content-based model, there will be no incentive for change from the demand side,” he said, “The change needs to be simultaneous.”

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GS-III :
What are some of the key terms being used to describe the novel coronavirus outbreak? THE HINDU EXPLAINED

What are some of the key terms being used to describe the novel coronavirus outbreak? THE HINDU EXPLAINED

Part of: GS-III- Health (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

Here is a short glossary of terms that you might hear/use regularly, but may not understand entirely.

COVID-19 — A term coined by the World Health Organization (WHO) to denote the disease that has led to a pandemic. On February 11, 2020, WHO announced a name for the mysterious disease originating in China, caused by a new coronavirus. It called it coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19, where CO stands for corona, VI for virus, and D for disease, while the numerals – 19 refer to the year in which the first case was detected. WHO claimed it had consciously avoided naming the disease after the place of origin, to avoid stigmatising that country/area. The International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) announced “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)” as the name of the new virus, also on February 11, 2020. This name was chosen because the virus is genetically related to the coronavirus responsible for the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2003. While related, the two viruses are different. WHO and the ICTV were in communication about the naming of both the virus and the disease.

 

Epidemic — When the incidence of a disease rises above the expected level in a particular community or geographic area, it is called an epidemic. The outbreak started in Wuhan city in Hubei province in China, with what seemed then as a cluster of pneumonia-like cases.

Pandemic A global epidemic. When the epidemic spreads over several countries or continents, it is termed a pandemic. On January 30, WHO announced that COVID-19 was a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. On March 11, WHO decided to announce COVID-19 as a pandemic.

 

R0 — R-Naught is the basic reproduction number. This is the number of new infections caused by one infected individual in an entirely susceptible population. It helps determine whether an epidemic can occur, the rate of growth of the epidemic, the size of the epidemic and the level of effort needed to control the infection. If R0 is 2, then one individual will infect two others. As of end May, India’s R0 value was in the range of 1.22.

 

Co-morbidities — Several health conditions including uncontrolled diabetes and hypertension, cancer, morbid obesity, lung diseases, compromised immune systems put patients at greater risk for contracting the infection, and also have poor clinical outcomes. Special attention to prevent the disease and prevent mortality in these groups is the concern of health managers.

 

Transmission — The method by which the disease spreads. In COVID-19 it is through respiratory droplets, expelled while talking, laughing, coughing and sneezing. This makes mask wearing and physical distancing the main tools for protection against the virus. Washing hands with soap and water is an effective way to kill the virus.

Community transmission — When you can no longer tell how someone contracted the disease, or who the source of infection was. As numbers climb, this tracing becomes next to impossible.

 

Contact tracing — Identifying and monitoring people who may have come into contact with an infectious person. In the case of COVID-19, monitoring usually involves self-quarantine as an effort to control the spread of disease.

 

Super spreader — Some individuals seem to have the capacity to cause more infections in a disproportionately large number of people, than others. The current pandemic has recorded some super spreaders who have had a huge role in the transmission.

 

Positivity rate — The percentage of people who test positive among all those who are tested. If positivity rate is high, it is possible that only high risk groups are being tested. A low positivity rate can also indicate that not enough testing is being done.

 

Infection fatality rate — It is the number of deaths occurring in all infected people in a particular population. This includes those who might have the COVID-19 infection, but have not been tested for it. Given that the number of tests is not high, experts have clarified that this is not a useful metric to have in this pandemic.

 

Case fatality rate — This is the number of deaths occurring among confirmed cases of COVID-19. Since these two figures are available with a certain amount of reliability, it is actually CFR that is being referred to when there is a loose reference to fatality rate.

 

Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI) — A respiratory disease also caused by a coronavirus, and spread through the same transmission method, i.e. respiratory droplets. The symptoms (fever, cough, body ache, difficulty in breathing) are also similar. The government has begun surveillance of SARI patients as also patients with Influenza-like Illness (ILI) admitted in hospitals too.

 

Cytokine storm — An immune reaction triggered by the body to fight an infection is known as a cytokine storm when it turns severe. The body releases too many cytokines, proteins that are involved in immunomodulation, into the blood too quickly. While normally they regulate immune responses, in this case they cause harm and can even cause death. Experts have noticed a violent cytokine storm in several individuals who are critical with COVID infection. These cytokines dilate blood vessels, increase the temperature and heartbeat, besides throwing bloodclots in the system, and suppressing oxygen utilisation. If the cytokine flow is high and continues without cessation, the body’s own immune response will lead to hypoxia, insufficient oxygen to the body, multi-organ failure and death. Experts say it is not the virus that kills; rather, the cytokine storm.

 

RT- PCR (Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction) — It is the primary test to detect COVID-19 infection across the globe. It is a sensitive test that uses swab samples drawn from the nasal/oral cavity to test for the presence of viral RNA (ribonucleic acid). It has got better sensitivity (ability to correctly identify those with the disease) and specificity (ability to correctly identify those without the disease) rates in current diagnostic tests for COVID.

 

Antibody tests — These tests check your blood by looking for antibodies, and that just means you have had a past infection of SARS-CoV-2. Antibodies are proteins that help fight off infections, and are specific to every disease, granting immunity against getting that particular disease again. An antibody test, with poor specificity, is not believed to be effective in detecting new infections. States have been asked to commence testing seroprevalence in the community, using antibody tests, that are blood tests.

 

Convalescent plasma therapy — Researchers are examining the efficacy of using convalescent plasma, that is, using neutralising antibodies from the blood of people who have recovered from the COVID-19 infection to treat patients with COVID-19.

 

Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) — An antimalarial oral drug that is being repurposed for treatment in COVID-19. It has also been used successfully in the treatment of some auto immune conditions. Its value in COVID-19 has not been resolved entirely.

 

Flattening the curve — Reducing the number of new COVID-19 cases, day on day. The idea of flattening the curve is to ensure that the health infrastructure is not overwhelmed by a large number of cases.

 

Herd immunity — This is also known as community immunity, and constitutes the reduction in risk of infection within a population, often because of previous exposure to the virus or vaccination.

 

PPE — Personal protective equipment, or PPE, is specialised clothing and equipment used as a safeguard against health hazards including exposure to the disease.

Sources: National Institutes of Health – National Cancer Institute, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S., Johns Hopkins University, Texas Medical Center, Mayo Clinic, Oxford Concise Medical Dictionary, Oxford Handbook of Epidemiology for Clinicians

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GS-III :
Prevalence of diabetes among women high in southern India

Prevalence of diabetes among women high in southern India

Part of: GS-III- Health  (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

More than one in 10 women aged 35-49 suffer the disease         

Researchers have identified a bunch of districts in India that have the maximum prevalence for diabetes among women. At least 50 of the 640 districts studied have high prevalence of diabetes — greater than one in 10 — among women aged 35-49 years. Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha have districts with the highest prevalence. The results were published in the Journal of Diabetes & Metabolic Disorders.

While Cuttack in Odisha has the highest prevalence of 20%, 14 districts in Tamil Nadu — the maximum among all States — have high prevalence, prompting the researchers to classify them as ‘hotspots’.

In all, 254 districts have a “very high level” (greater than 10.7%) of diabetes burden, and 130 have a moderately high (8.7-10.6%) burden. The burden is higher in the southern and eastern parts of the country and lowest in central India.

The researcher’s sourced data from the National Family Health Survey-4 (2015-16) as it provides district-level health indicators for women. Demographic details of 2,35,056 women from 36 States/Union Territories were analysed for gleaning disease spread and analysing relationship among disease and socio-economic category, location, number of children, obesity and hypertension among others. This was also the first NHS survey to collected blood glucose levels in men and women thus helping determine diabetes.

 

Factors at play

“Results portray that prevalence of diabetes among women in their late reproductive ages is highest among those with two or fewer children ever born, who are educated, belonging to economically prosperous households, living in urban areas and hence enjoying changing lifestyle... increased access to high energy (refined and processed) food and development,” the authors Shrikant Singh, Parul Puri and S.V. Subramanian note.

Previous studies of the incidence of diabetes in men and women in India have thrown up mixed results with some finding greater evidence of the disease in women, in North India, and others reporting men in South India as more susceptible. However, a skewed gender ratio as well unequal access to medical care has led to the disease being under-reported in women, says a 2014 article in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism.

 

Mortality and women

The study focused on women who were approaching menopause, which was also a period when the risk of obesity, hypertension rose as well as complications from late pregnancy, Ms. Puri told The Hindu. It also provided a greater perspective on why mortality from diabetes is higher among women. Knowing this will help design programmes and interventions to lower community-based prevalence of diabetes, especially among women in their late reproductive ages.

Previous work had found that diabetes-related mortality is higher among women in India. According to Ms. Puri, the prevalence of diabetes among women in India didn’t substantially differ from that of men.

 

Rise of diabetes

The number of people with diabetes in India increased from 26·0 million in 1990 to 65 million in 2016. The prevalence of diabetes in adults aged 20 years or older in India increased from 5·5% in 1990 to 7·7% in 2016. The prevalence in 2016 was highest in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study, 2018.

The authors also point to the higher levels of diabetes in the southern and eastern parts of India as being linked to diets of “rice-meat-and-fish” and a higher intake of “sweets and snacks” that were rich in trans-fats. These however weren't explanatory, the authors note. “Being a cross-sectional survey, we found

correlations not causation,” Ms. Puri added.

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GS-III :
Serotonin triggers desert locust swarms

Serotonin triggers desert locust swarms

Part of: GS-III- Natural Hazard  (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

Background

During the last 10 days, there has been a host of analytical articles in the press about the latest locust swarming from the Rajasthan/Gujarat desert region, all the way into Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, causing extensive damage to the crops. These articles have also pointed out how India (and indeed Pakistan as well) has been handling this plague since centuries, indeed even since the Mahabharata times (recall how Karna challenged the Pandava’s army: “we will pounce on you, as — shalabasana — a swarm of locusts).

History

  • The British colonial government had set up Locust Warning Organizations (LWOs) since the early 1900s at Jodhpur and Karachi in the Indian subcontinent.
  • After Independence, the Union Ministry of Agriculture has continued and improved upon the LWOs, one with administrative affairs at Faridabad, near New Delhi, and another LWO at Jodhpur, Rajasthan, where the technical aspects are handled along with local branches in the region.
  • They use the technique of aerial spray of insecticides (using drones these days), as well as spraying by land-based workers in the field. And they are doing a good job of it.

Locust control

  • The Agriculture Ministry uses a site called <vikaspedia.in>, which gives considerable details of the problem of locust control and plant protection, and the current methods of handling them.
  • The Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine and Storage, at the Ministry has a site, <ppqs.gov.in>, which details the contingency plan for desert locust invasions, outbreaks and upsurges.
  • The locust problem is not confined to India alone, but most of Africa, West Asia, Iran and even parts of Australia.
  • The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO, this is a part of the United Nations, and based in Rome, Italy) co-ordinates and helps these nations with advice and funds in combating this plague.
  • The informative document from FAO, called the Locust Environmental Booklet, gives an update on the situation and methods of handling locust swarms.
  • And an excellent update (available online) on ‘locust swarm and its management’ has been published on May 29 by the ICRISAT Development Centre (IDC) of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), based in Hyderabad.
  • By and large, “detect the swarm and kill it as it moves” has been the method, and countries across the world are using it.

How locusts form swarms

  • This however raises the important scientific question of how and why locusts collect together by the thousands in order to make a swarm.
  • Insect biologists have long since known that the locust is by nature a recluse and a singleton, not mixing with others in the same group, Yet, when the harvest season arrives, these singletons team up with others as an army of swarms to attack plants for food.
  • What is the mystery? What is the biological mechanism by which this sociological transformation comes about? If we know this mechanism, there can be novel ways of stopping this group rampage.
  • Stephen Rogers of Cambridge University, U.K. (and University of Sydney, Australia) is an acknowledged world expert in the study of how and why such swarms come about.
  • In one of his papers, way back in 2003, he showed that when solitary locusts happen to come near each other (looking for food) and happen to touch each other, this tactile stimulation, even just in a little area of the back limbs, causes their behaviour to change.
  • This mechanical stimulation affects a couple of nerves in the animal’s body, their behaviour changes, leading to their coming together.
  • And if more locusts come nearby, the crowding starts, and what was once a simple looking insect becomes larger in size and shape, and its colour and morphology changes.
  • In the next paper, his group showed substantial changes in some molecules that modulate the central nervous system of the locust, the most important among them being serotonin, which regulates mood and social behaviour.
  • And putting all these together, they came out with a publication in Science in 2009 <https://science.sciencemag.org/content/323/5914/627>, that serotonin is indeed responsible for swarm formation.
  • In this paper, they did a lab experiment wherein they placed locusts in a container one by one, and as the numbers increased, the coming together triggered mechanical (touch) and neurochemical (serotonin) stimulations to make crowding (‘gregarisation’) occur within a few hours! Interestingly, when they started adding substances that inhibit the production of serotonin (for instance, molecules such as 5HT or AMTP), the crowding was significantly less.
  • (For a comprehensive summary of this work, I recommend his 2014 article in the book: “New Frontiers in Social Neuroscience”, downloadable free at <Researchgate.net>.

Stopping swarms

Now, here is a potential way of stopping swarms from forming! Can we work with the LWOs in Jodhpur and other places, spray serotonin inhibitor molecules as the swarm begins to form Rogers had indeed hinted this in his Science paper. Is this possible or a quixotic idea. Let the experts tell us. It is well worth a try.

Finally, the insecticides (mainly malathion (PT)) sprayed on the swarms need to be looked at for side-effects. Though many studies have cleared it as not very harmful, we need to work on biopesticides which would be environmentally and animal/human health-friendly, using natural and animal products of India.

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GS-III :
India’s first solar ferry sails into global contest

India’s first solar ferry sails into global contest

GS- Paper-III

‘Aditya’, representing Asia in the Gustave Trouvé Awards event, is from Kerala.

India’s first solar-powered ferryAditya, which became an icon on the Vaikom-Thavanakadavu route in Kerala, is among 12 such ferries that have been shortlisted for the Gustave Trouvé Award. It is the sole entrant from Asia.

There are three award categories:

  • one for electric boats up to 8m in length,
  • electric boats more than 8 m long and
  • electric ferry boats (passenger boats), the category in which Aditya is in the fray.

Gussies Electric Boat Awards were instituted in memory of Gustave Trouvé, a French electrical engineer and pioneer in electric cars and boats. Trouvé was a prolific inventor with over 75 patents. Back in 1881, he developed a 5-m-long prototype electric boat.

Built in Kochi

Operated by the Kerala State Water Transport Department (KSWTD), the vessel was built by Navalt Solar and Electric Boats, Kochi. Buoyed by the success of the ferry and its rock bottom operating cost, the department is expected to roll out more such vessels in the future.

The founder-CEO of the firm, Sandith Thandassery, a naval architect who graduated from IIT-Madras, explained what contributed to the success of the vessel. “As a public transport solar-electric ferry, it has proven its performance in its third year, transporting 11 lakh passengers and clocking a distance of 70,000 km, without a single drop of fossil fuel. It thus saved KSWTD over 1 lakh litres of diesel.”

The per km energy cost of Aditya is low, and the ferry normally operates 22 trips a day, covering a total of 66 km, carrying 75 passengers per trip.

It needs just ?180 per day in energy cost, compared to about ?8,000 for a diesel-run ferry of similar size. It is unusual for a high technology product to have such a low break-even period, Mr. Thandassery said. The financial viability of the zero pollution vessel is such that the KSWTD, in January 2020, said that it saved ?75 lakh since its 2017 launch.

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GS-I : Art and Culture
Paleolithic sites

Paleolithic sites

The study of over 7,200 stone artefacts collected from the archaeological site at Attirampakkam in the Kortallayar river basin (Tamilnadu) throws light over the transition period from lower to middle Paleolithic period

The Paleolithic/Old stone age period extends from 2.6 million years ago to 10000 BC. The period is divided into Lower, Middle and Upper phases

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GS-I : Art and Culture
Medaram Jatara

Medaram Jatara

Medaram Jatara is a festival of tribal origin in Telangana. It is a festival of honouring the goddesses Sarakka celebrated in the state of Telangana.

The festival is held every two years at in Medaram Village in the heart of the thick forests of Jayashankar Bhupalpally district.

The festival honors tribal folk goddess Sammakka and Saralamma. It has become a major pilgrimage in the recent decade and is believed to attract the largest number of devotees in the country after Kumbha Mela.

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GS-I : Art and Culture
Indus script

Indus script

Scientists at The Institute of Mathematical Sciences have figured out a way to computationally estimate whether a language is written from left to right or otherwise.

As a part of the study, the found that the Indus script was written from right to left. However in some long seals the Boustrophedon method of writing was adopted. Boustrophedon writing is the way of writing in the reverse direction in alternate line.

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GS-II : Governance
Res extra commercium

Res extra commercium

It is Latin phrase meaning ‘outside commerce’. The doctrine dates back to the Roman period. If applied, the doctrine gives authorities more leeway to impose restrictions. e.g The Supreme Court’s application of the doctrine to alcohol in the 1970s paved the way for at least two Indian states to ban it completely and allowed courts to take a stricter stance while regulating liquor.

The Indian government is now pushing the Supreme Court to use this doctrine to the tobacco industry’s legal right to trade. With an aim to curb tobacco consumption, the government has recently raised tobacco taxes, started smoking cessation campaigns and introduced laws requiring covering most of the package in health warnings.

But a court in Karnataka recently quashed the labelling rules holding them as “unreasonable” and as violative of the right to trade. So the government is pushing the courts to use the doctrine to deter tobacco companies from challenging tough new regulations.

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