07 June, 2020
43 Min Read
|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|
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.
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.
Focus and epicentre
Foreshocks and aftershocks
Causes of Earthquakes
Human Induced Earthquakes
Earthquakes based on the depth of focus
Wadati–Benioff zone: Earthquakes along the Convergent boundary
Distribution of Earthquakes
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.”
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
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.
Serotonin triggers desert locust swarms
Part of: GS-III- Natural Hazard (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
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).
How locusts form 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.
India’s first solar ferry sails into global contest
‘Aditya’, representing Asia in the Gustave Trouvé Awards event, is from Kerala.
India’s first solar-powered ferry, Aditya, 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:
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.
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
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.
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.
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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