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Monthly DNA

10 May, 2020

69 Min Read

Mountain Passes in India

GS-I : Human Geography

List of Important Mountain Passes India:-

Name of the Pass


Nathu La Pass

It is located in the state of Sikkim. This famous pass is located in the India- China border was reopened in 2006. It forms a part of an offshoot of the ancient silk route. It is one of the trading border posts between India and China.

Shipki La Pass

It is located through Sutlej Gorge. It connects Himachal Pradesh with Tibet. It is India’s third border post for trade with China after Lipu Lekh and Nathula Pass.

Jelep La Pass

This pass passes through the Chumbi valley. It connects Sikkim with Lhasa, the capital of Tibet.

Qara Tagh Pass

It is located in the Karakoram Mountains. It was a subsidiary of the ancient silk route.

Mountain Passes in Leh & Ladakh

Khardung La

It is the highest motorable pass in the country. It connects Leh and Siachen glaciers. This pass remains closed during the winter.

Thang La / Taglang La

It is located in Ladakh. It is the second-highest motorable mountain pass in India.

Aghil Pass

It is situated to the North of Mount Godwin-Austen in the Karakoram. It connects Ladakh with Xinjiang province of China. It remains closed during the winter season from November to May.


It is a high mountain pass in the Greater Himalayas. It connects Ladakh with Tibet.

Lanak La

This is located in the Aksai Chin in Ladakh region. It connects Ladakh and Lhasa. The Chinese authority has built a road to join Xinjiang with Tibet.

Imis La

The pass has a difficult geographical terrain and steep slopes. This pass remains closed during the winter season. It connects Ladakh and Tibet.

Bara-La/ Bara- Lacha La

It is situated on the National Highway in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It connects Manali and Leh.

Mountain Passes in Uttarakhand

Traill’s Pass

It is located in Uttarakhand. It is situated at the end of the Pindari glacier and connects the Pindari valley to Milam valley. This pass is very steep and rugged.

Lipu Lekh: Uttarakhand-Tibet

It is located in Uttarakhand. It connects Uttarakhand with Tibet. This pass is an important border post for trade with China. The pilgrims for Manasarovar travel through this pass.

Mana Pass: Uttarakhand-Tibet

It is located in the Greater Himalayas and connects Tibet with Uttarakhand. It remains under snow for six months during winter.

Mangsha Dhura Pass: Uttarakhand-Tibet

The pass which connects Uttarakhand-Tibet is known for landslides. The pilgrims for Manasarovar cross this route. It’s located in the Kuthi Valley.

Muling La: Uttarakhand-Tibet

Situated in the north of Gangotri, at an elevation of 5669 m in the Great Himalayas.This seasonal pass that connects Uttarakhand with Tibet remains snow-covered during the winter season.

Niti Pass

This pass joins Uttarakhand with Tibet. This also remains snow-covered during the winter season.

Debsa Pass: Spiti Valley and Parvati Valley

It joins Spiti Valley and Parvati Valley. It is a high mountain pass in between the Kullu and Spiti of Himachal Pradesh. It is a bypass route of Pin-Parvati Pass.

Rohtang Pass: Kullu-Lahul-Spiti

This is located in the state of Himachal Pradesh. It has excellent road transportation. This pass connects Kullu, Spiti, and Lahul.

Mountain Passes in Northeastern States

Bomdi-La: Arunachal Pradesh-Lhasa

The Bomdi-La pass connects Arunachal Pradesh with Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet. It is located in the east of Bhutan.

Dihang pass: Arunachal Pradesh- Mandalay

It is located in the Northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh. This pass connects Arunachal Pradesh with Myanmar (Mandalay). At an elevation of more than 4000 m it provides passage.

Diphu pass: Arunachal Pradesh- Mandalay

Diphu Pass is a mountain pass around the area of the disputed tripoint borders of India, China, and Myanmar. Diphu Pass is also a strategic approach to eastern Arunachal Pradesh. It lies on the McMahon Line.

In October 1960 China and Burma demarcated their border to Diphu Pass, which is 5 miles south of the watershed of the mountain ranges. However, this caused a diplomatic row with India, which expected the tri-point to be at the watershed.The dispute has become part of the ongoing border disagreement between China and India regarding Arunachal Pradesh

Pangsan Pass

It is located in the state of Arunachal Pradesh. This pass connects Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar.

Pangsau Pass or Pan Saung Pass, 3,727 feet (1,136 m) in altitude, lies on the crest of the Patkai Hills on the India-Burma (Myanmar) border. The pass offers one of the easiest routes into Burma from the Assam plains. It is named after the closest Burmese village, Pangsau, that lies 2 km beyond the pass to the east.

Mountain Passes in Kashmir

Banihal Pass (Jawahar Tunnel): Banihal with Qazigund

Banihal pass is a popular pass in Jammu and Kashmir. It is situated in the Pir- Panjal Range. It connects Banihal with Qazigund.

Zoji La: Srinagar- Kargil & Leh

It connects Srinagar with Kargil and Leh. Beacon Force of Border Road Organization is responsible for clearing and maintaining the road, especially during the winter.

Burzail pass: Srinagar- Kishan Ganga Valley

This pass joins the Astore Valley of Kashmir with the Deosai Plains of Ladakh.

Pensi La

The Pensi La connects the Kashmir valley with Kargil. It is situated in the Greater Himalayas.

Pir-Panjal Pass

It is a traditional pass from Jammu to Srinagar. This pass was closed after the partition. It provides shortest roadway access to Kashmir valley from Jammu.

Mountain Passes in Southern India

Shencottah Gap: Madurai-Kottayam

It is located in the Western Ghats. It joins the Madurai city in Tamil Nadu with Kottayam district in Kerala.

The second largest gap in Western Ghats which is situated five kilometres from town is known by its name that is Shencottah Gap road rail lines pass through this gap which connect Shencottah with Punalur.

Bhor Ghat

Bhor Ghat or Bor Ghat or Bhore Ghaut is a mountain passage located between Palasdari and Khandala for railway and between Khopoliand Khandala on the road route in Maharashtra, India situated on the crest of the western Ghats. It is located at an elevation of four hundred and forty-one meters’ elevation above sea level.

The ghat has a bit of historical evidence. The ghat was the ancient route developed by Satavahana to connect the ports of Choul, Revdanda Panvel etc. on the Konkan coast and the surrounding areas on the Deccan plateau. Today the ghat plays a massive part of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway laid from Mumbai to Pune.

Thal Ghat

Thal Ghat (also called Thul Ghat or Kasara Ghat) is a ghat section (mountain incline or slope) in the Western Ghats near the town of Kasara in Maharashtra. The Thal Ghat is located on the busy Mumbai–Nashik route, and is one of the four major routes, rail and road routes, leading into Mumbai. The railway line, which passes through the ghat is the steepest in India with a gradient of 1 in 37

Pal Ghat

The Palakkad Gap is located in the Western Ghats between the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. India at an elevation of about 140 m. The mountain pass is located between Nilgiri Hills in the north and Anaimalai Hills towards the south and connects Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu with Palakkad

in Kerala. The mountain pass was an important instrument for human migration across India’s southern tip throughout settled history.

Interesting facts about the Passes in India

  1. The Dungri la pass or Mana Pass is the high altitude mountain pass and the highest motorable road with an elevation of 18,399 ft.
  2. Jawahar tunnel was constructed under the Banihal pass.
  3. Shipki La is a Himalayan pass which connects India and China.
  4. Zoji La pass connects the Ladakh and Kashmir valley.

Source: Web

UN releases commemorative postage stamp on anniversary of eradication of smallpox


UN releases commemorative postage stamp on anniversary of eradication of smallpox

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

World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN's postal agency have released a commemorative postage stamp today on the 40th anniversary of the eradication of smallpox. In May 1980, the 33rd World Health Assembly issued its official declaration that the world and all peoples have won freedom from smallpox.
It ended after a 10-year WHO-spearheaded global effort that involved thousands of health workers around the world to administer half a billion vaccinations to stamp out smallpox. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, when WHO's smallpox eradication campaign was launched in 1967, one of the ways countries raised awareness about smallpox was through postage stamps.

The stamp recognises the global solidarity in fighting smallpox and honours millions of people working together. From world leaders and international organisations to rural doctors and community health workers, to eradicate smallpox the stamp has recognised all.

About small pox?

Smallpox is an extremely contagious disease, which is caused by the deadly virus called Variola. This contagious disease came into existence since 10,000 BC. In 1980, this syndrome was declared as completely eradicated after the global immunization campaign led by the World Health Organization (WHO) with the help of the smallpox vaccine. The first effective vaccine to be discovered was the smallpox one as it was developed in 1796 by Edward Jenner. The last symptoms of this infectious disease were found in the year 1977.

Smallpox – An Extremely Contagious Disease

Smallpox is a contagious disease, which transmits from one person to another by infective droplets of an infected person. There is no treatment found for this contagious disease but could be prevented through the vaccinations.

Variola- The Smallpox Virus

The variola virus has two forms namely the Variola minor and Variola major. Variola virus, is a deadly virus, being a member of the orthopoxvirus family. The structure of this virus resembles that of brick ones and the core of the virus is made up of a genetic material DNA which resembles a dumbbell in shape. The DNA in the core comprises necessary proteins, which are required to replicate the host’s cell. The incubation period for this disease is about 17 days, which later results in severe fever with the appearance of rashes on the face, legs, hands, arms, etc.

Causes of Smallpox

Smallpox is an airborne disease that spreads at a faster rate and is mainly caused by an infection of a deadly type of virus variola.

  1. It transmits through the droplets released from coughing, sneezing, and face to face contact with an infected person.
  2. This infection is also transmitted by sharing drinks, exchange of body fluids like blood transfusion and etc.
  3. Caused by even touching any contaminated area.
  4. By using unclean syringes or the used ones.

Symptoms of Smallpox

Usually, after the infection of the variola virus, the symptoms occur after 17 days. Below Listed general symptoms are seen after the incubation period

  1. High fever followed with chills.
  2. Vomiting or nausea.
  3. A severe headache, followed by other body pains.
  4. Development of rashes, filled with pus or fluid on the face, legs, hands, arms, etc.

Treatment for Smallpox

Since it is a deadly disease, there is no such cure available for this syndrome. It could be still prevented by vaccinating with the smallpox vaccine. This vaccine helps in preventing the disease from illness and causing fatal conditions to humans. The antibodies present in this vaccine protects the body from invading and to destroy the virus.

FOR WHO: https://www.aspireias.com/daily-news-analysis-current-affairs/WHO

Source: AIR

Tamil Nadu to introduce online application for RTI

GS-II : Governance RTI

Tamil Nadu to introduce an online application for RTI


Applications seeking documents under the Right to Information (RTI) Act can now be filed online in Tamil Nadu. A Government Order issued by the Department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms said the facility of online filing of petitions under Section 6(1) and First Appeals under Section 19(1) of RTI Act will be rolled out. This will be done using the software available with the National Informatics Centre (NIC) and after making necessary changes to make it suitable for the needs of the State. The government also decided to accept online payment pending amendment to the Tamil Nadu RTI (Fees) Rules and to engage the State Bank of India to act as a merchant banker for providing payment gateway.

So far, applications under the RTI Act, are submitted in the State only through typed or handwritten applications. Karnataka, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh and Delhi already allowed online applications.

Importance of RTI Act:

Right to information opens up government records to public scrutiny, thereby arming citizens with a vital tool to inform them about what the government does and how effectively, thus making the government more accountable.

The RTI Act, 2005 did not create a new bureaucracy for implementing the law. Instead, it tasked and mandated officials in every office to change their attitude and duty from one of secrecy to one of sharing and openness.

It carefully and deliberately empowered the Information Commission to be the highest authority in the country with the mandate to order any office in the country to provide information as per the provisions of the Act. And it empowered the Commission to fine any official who did not follow the mandate.

Section 4 of the RTI Act:

Section 4 of the RTI Act requires suo motu disclosure of information by each public authority. However, such disclosures have remained less than satisfactory.

Section 4(2) of the RTI Act:

Section 4(2) of the RTI Act mandates Governments to maintain computerized records and provide information suo motu (on their own accord) to the public, so that there is minimal need for filing RTI applications.

But in reality, the Governments are not keeping as much information as possible in the public domain on their own accord (suo motu).

As per a recent NGO study of the Central Information Commission in 2018, 70% of the original RTI applications are not required, provided the Government suo motu publishes the information in the public domain.

Persistent vacancies in State and Central Information Commissions is another problem.

The Supreme Court allowed the request and asked the Centre and States to expedite the filling up of the vacancies. Not filling up vacancies on time has led to the piling up of backlogs.

Section 6(2) of RTI Act: File RTI only if you are connected with the issue:

An applicant making request for information shall not be required to give any reason for requesting the information.

If the locus standi (one can only approach the public authority with a query, when he/she is affected) of applicants is made criteria, the rejection rate, which has steadily declined over time, will rise significantly.

The clause is kept because seeking locus standi in order to respond to public requests could result in a chilling effect (inhibition and discouragement of legitimate exercise), as public authorities could choose to deny information to general citizens on subjective grounds.

Disclose of data in public: A lifeline called Jan Soochna:

The government of Rajasthan had launched Jan Soochna Portal (JSP), which is in concurrence with the spirit of Right to Information Act (RTI). This virtually makes JSP a Janta Information System.

JSP envisages public disclosure of data, which is the furtherance of civil society reforms initiated by the RTI, making it in synergy with good governance.

The portal aims to provide information to the public about government authorities and departments empowering them with access to useful information.

JSP integrates data regarding the employment guarantee programme, sanitation, the public distribution system among others, by not only explaining the schemes but also providing real-time information on beneficiaries, authorities in charge, progress, etc.


Transparency must be accompanied by accountability, and that is where the JSP has great value and significance since it places the power of making the State government accountable to everyone who accesses the information made available on the portal.

The Right to Information Act’s role in fostering a more informed citizenry and an accountable government has never been in doubt ever since its implementation in 2005.

JSP a milestone in increasing transparency and accountability in governance.

Rather than focusing on locus standi, public authorities would be advised to provide for greater voluntary dissemination on Government portals. Government should also take steps for filling up various vacancies.

Source: TH

Kailash Mansarovar runs into diplomatic trouble-India-Nepal Spat

GS-II : International Relations

New road to Kailash Mansarovar runs into diplomatic trouble-India-Nepal Spat

Part of: GS-II- India and Nepal (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

Nepal says India has breached a 2014 agreement India’s plans to shorten the travel time for pilgrims to Kailash Mansarovar ran into diplomatic trouble as Nepal strongly objected to the new link road from India to China which was inaugurated by Defence Minister.

In a strongly worded statement, Nepal’s Foreign Ministry said the decision to build the road through territory at the Lipulekh pass that it claims as its territory is a breach of an agreement reached between the two countries to discuss the matter. “The Government of Nepal has learnt with regret about the ‘inauguration’ by India of ‘Link Road’ connecting to Lipulekh, which passes through Nepali territory,”

“This unilateral act runs against the understanding reached between the two countries including at the level of Prime Ministers that a solution to boundary issues would be sought through negotiation,” the statement said, referring to the agreement between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and (then) Nepal PM Sushil Koirala in 2014 for Foreign Secretaries to work out the “outstanding boundary issues” on Kalapani (where Lipulekh lies) and Susta.

A response

The Ministry of External Affairs said the road going through Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district “lies completely within the territory of India”. The road that starts from Dharchula in Uttarakhand and runs 80 km to the Lipulekh pass was built by the Border Roads Organisation to help shorten the travel time to reach Kailash Mansarovar in Tibet by about three days each way. Nepal’s latest objection comes months after another protest in November 2019 by Mr. Oli’s government against the publication of Indian maps that included the Kalapani area. At the time, the Ministry of External Affairs had rejected Nepal’s contention, asserting that the map “accurately depicts the sovereign territory of India”.

Border Roads Organisation (BRO)

  • The BRO develops and maintains road networks in India’s border areas and friendly neighbouring countries and functions under the Ministry of Defence.
  • It is entrusted with the construction of Roads, Bridges, Tunnels, Causeways, Helipads and Airfields along the borders.
  • Officers from the Border Roads Engineering Service (BRES) and personnel from the General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) form the parent cadre of the Border Roads Organisation.
  • It is also staffed by officers and troops drawn from the Indian Army’s Corps of Engineers on extra regimental employment.
  • The BRO operates and maintains over 32,885 kilometers of roads and about 12,200 meters of permanent bridges in the country.

Darchula – Lipulekh road

  • The road is an extension of Pithoragarh-Tawaghat-Ghatiabagarh road. In this 80 Km road, the altitude rises from 6000 feet to 17,060 feet.
  • It originates from Ghatiabagarh in Uttarakhand and terminates at Lipulekh Pass, the gateway to Kailash Mansarovar.
  • With the completion of this project, the arduous trek through treacherous high-altitude terrain can now be avoided by the Pilgrims of Kailash Mansarovar Yatra and the period of the journey will be reduced by many days.

(Note: The Lipulekh Pass links Uttarakhand with China’s Tibetan Autonomous Region.)

For all PASSES: https://www.aspireias.com/daily-news-analysis-current-affairs/Mountain-Passes-in-India

Source: TH

National infant mortality rate at 32, Madhya Pradesh worst performer


National infant mortality rate at 32, Madhya Pradesh worst performer


  1. Madhya Pradesh has the worst infant mortality rate in the country while Nagaland has the best.
  2. Chhattisgarh has the highest death rate, while Delhi has the lowest.
  3. Bihar continues to remain at the top of list in birth rate while Andaman and Nicobar is at the bottom.

These details were released by the Centre recently in its Sample Registration System (SRS) bulletin based on data collected for 2018.

  1. According to the data released by the Registrar General of India, the national birth rate in 2018 stood at 20, and death and infant mortality rates stood at 6.2 and 32, respectively. (The rates are calculated per one thousand of the population).
  2. The data shows that against the national infant mortality rate (IMR) of 32, Madhya Pradesh has an IMR of 48 and Nagaland 4.
  3. Bihar has the highest birth rate at 26.2 and Andaman and Nicobar Islands has a birth rate of 11.2.
  4. Chhattisgarh has the highest death rate at 8 and Delhi, an almost entirely urban state, has a rate of 3.3, indicating better healthcare facilities.
  5. The death rate of India has witnessed a significant decline over the last four decades from 14.9 in 1971 to 6.2 in 2018.
  6. The decline has been steeper in rural areas. In the last decade, death rate at an all-India level has declined from 7.3 to 6.2. The corresponding decline in rural areas is 7.8 to 6.7 and in urban areas, 5.8 to 5.1.
  7. As far as IMR is concerned, the present figure of 32 is about one-fourth as compared to 1971 (129). In the last 10 years, IMR has witnessed a decline of about 35 per cent in rural areas and about 32 per cent in urban areas.
  8. The IMR at an all-India level has declined from 50 to 32 in the last decade.
  9. Birth rate is a crude measure of fertility of a population and a crucial determinant of population growth. India’s birth rate has declined drastically over the last four decades from 36.9 in 1971 to 20.0 in 2018.
  10. The rural-urban differential has also narrowed. However, the birth rate has continued to be higher in rural areas compared to urban areas in the last four decades.

About Sample Registration Survey

The SRS is a demographic survey for providing reliable annual estimates of infant mortality rate, birth rate, death rate and other fertility and mortality indicators at the national and sub-national levels.

Initiated on a pilot basis by the Registrar General of India in a few states in 1964-65, it became fully operational during 1969-70.

The field investigation consists of continuous enumeration of births and deaths in selected sample units by resident part-time enumerators, generally anganwadi workers and teachers; and an independent retrospective survey every six months by SRS supervisors. The data obtained by these two independent functionaries are matched.

Source: IE

Sal forest tortoise 


Sal forest tortoise

The sal forest tortoise is widely distributed over eastern and northern India and Southeast Asia.

However, it is not common in any of this terrain. In fact, 23 of the 29 species of freshwater turtle and tortoise species found in India come under the threatened category in the IUCN red list and are under severe existential threat due to human activities.

IUCN Category

Also known as the elongated tortoise (Indotestudo elongata), the sal forest tortoise, recently assessed as critically endangered

Threats of Sal forest tortoise

  • It, is heavily hunted for food.
  • It is collected both for local use, such as decorative masks, and international wildlife trade.
  • A recent study by ecologists in the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, finds that the area designated as a protected area network has only a small overlap with the actual habitat it roams around in.
  • According to the authors of the study published in the journal Herpetological Conservation and Biology, over 90% of the potential distribution of the species falls outside current protected area’s network.
  • Also, in northeast India, the representation of the species in protected areas is least, and there is little to no connectivity among most of the protected areas where the species is present.
  • The study also found that 29% of the predicted distribution of the species falls within high occurrence fire zones or areas where there is management burning.
  • Protected areas are designated in a largely mammal-centric way. Many reptiles and amphibians which are equally threatened live outside protected areas where exploitation risk is more.
  • This includes Uttarakhand State which is the “westernmost” distribution limit of the species .
  • In northeast India, which is a suitable habitat for the species, they experience jhum fire. Such an intervention may not only directly kill the animals but also open up habitats, which, in turn, increases the chance of people finding the tortoise easily.
  • Forest fires also perturb soil moisture which may impact forest floor thus changing the whole community on which the reptiles depend.
  • According to the IUCN the population of the species may have fallen by about 80% in the last three generations (90 years).

Monitoring needed

  • We need to realise that tortoises are no less threatened than tigers. Thus, they should be part of regular monitoring effort.
  • In summer days, these tortoises select moist patches such as dry stream beds. Such areas should be protected from the spread of forest fire.
  • The study covers not only parts of India but also Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal.
  • But, transboundary research has not picked up in our countries. For tigers, yes, there are some efforts in this line, but not for many other species which are equally threatened globally.
  • The “Tiger Conservation Unit” and transboundary conservation reserves such as Manas for the Indo-Bhutan region, the Sundarban for the India-Bangladesh region.
  • The critically endangered brackish water turtle (Batagur baska) distributed in India and Bangladesh also needs such support.
  • There is little information on the population sizes of the sal forest tortoise, or any such species, mainly because they are so rare, live in remote areas of the forest and funding opportunities to study them are few.
  • Species having large distribution may suffer myriad problems.



IUCN Status

Northern River Terrapin(Batagur baska)

Sunder bans

Critically Endangered

Red-Crowned Roof Turtle (Batagur kanchuga)

National Chambal Sanctuary, spread across Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh

Critically Endangered

South Asian Narrow Headed Softshell Turtle (Chitra Indica)

Gangetic river system

Critically Endangered

Black Softshell Turtle (Nilssonia nigricans)

Temple ponds in Assam and Bengal

Extinct in wild

Asian Giant Softshell Turtle (Pelochelys cantorii)

In the eastern part of the Country


Four-toed River Terrapin or River Terrapin (Batagur baska)

India, Bangladesh and Nepal

Critically Endangered

Olive ridley’s

Odhisha Gahirmatha


Hawksbill Turtle

Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the coast of Tamil Nadu and Orissa.

Critically Endangered

Leatherback Turtle

Tropical and temperate waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and into Indian Oceans.


Source: TH

Using NFHS for population surveillance for coronavirus


Using NFHS for population surveillance for coronavirus


Governments worldwide have been testing for coronavirus (COVID-19) in high-risk individuals, such as those with symptoms, close contacts of those tested positive, health-care professionals and those with travel history to an affected region.

But this does not give an accurate number of those affected, making it impossible to understand the true prevalence in a population.

Inaccurate data

Lancet Global Health proposes the use of the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) framework to ascertain the prevalence of COVID-19.

The scientific and logistical infrastructure of India’s National Family Health Survey (NFHS) be leveraged to conduct a random sample-based population surveillance to track coronavirus.

Used earlier

The article gives the example of how India used NFHS for HIV surveillance — India was projected to have 25 million HIV-positive individuals, with a 3-4% prevalence in adults, but when a random-sample-based population surveillance was conducted to test for HIV in the general population, the estimates sharply reduced to 2·5 million, with a 0.28% prevalence in adults.

They note that “layering a COVID-19-focused data-collection effort on to the NFHS infrastructure would keep operational costs low, with the major expense being laboratory costs for testing samples.”

Prevalence and Testing

They estimated that if COVID-19 anticipated prevalence is under 0·5%, it needs a sample of about 3,000 individuals to be tested.

“The minimum required sample size increases to just over 15,000 under a rarer scenario of 0·1% prevalence.” If a disease is widespread, meaning there is higher prevalence, its detection is easier, needing only a smaller sample. Conversely, if it is rare, it is harder to find and a larger sample should be tested to detect that.

This sampling approach could be implemented at the State or district levels.

India and about 90 countries with established DHS sampling frames can implement this surveillance system. The idea is that population-based testing is important for any decision making with some repeated cross-sectional testing of the same.

Source: TH

Right to Information

GS-IV : Ethics Transparency and accountability

Right to Information


Historical Background

  • The right to information gained power when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 providing everyone with the right to seek, and receive, information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
  • The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966 states that everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression, the freedom to seek and impart information and ideas of all kinds.
  • According to Thomas Jefferson “Information is the currency of democracy,” and is critical to the emergence and development of a vibrant civil society. However, with a view to set out a practical regime for the citizens to secure information as a matter of right, the Indian Parliament enacted the Right to Information Act, 2005.
  • The genesis of RTI law started in 1986, through the judgement of the Supreme Court in Mr. Kulwal v/s Jaipur Municipal Corporation case, in which it directed that freedom of speech and expression provided under Article 19 of the Constitution clearly implies Right to Information, as without information the freedom of speech and expression cannot be fully used by the citizens.

Reasons for Adoption of Information Act

The factors responsible for the adoption of the information act are as follows-

  • Corruption and scandals
  • International pressure and activism
  • Modernization and the information society


  • To empower the citizens
  • To promote transparency and accountability
  • To contain corruption and
  • To enhance people’s participation in the democratic process.

Features of the Act

  • Section 1(2): It extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Section- 2 (f): "Information" means any material in any form, including Records, Documents, Memos, e-mails, Opinions, Advice, Press releases, Circulars, Orders, Logbooks, Contracts, Reports, Papers, Samples, Models, Data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a Public Authority under any other law for the time being in force.
  • Section- 2(j): "Right to Information" means the right to information accessible under this Act which is held by or under the control of any public authority and includes the right to:
    • Inspection of work, documents, and records;
    • Taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records;
    • Taking certified samples of material;
    • Obtaining information in the form of diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through printouts where such information is stored in a computer or in any other device.

What is Public Authority?

"Public authority" means any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted—

  • by or under the Constitution;
  • by any other law made by Parliament/State Legislature.
  • by notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government, and includes any—
    • body owned, controlled or substantially financed;
    • non-Government organisation substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate Government.
  • Section 4 of the RTI Act requires suo motu disclosure of information by each public authority. However, such disclosures have remained less than satisfactory.
  • Section 8 (1) mentions exemptions against furnishing information under RTI Act.
  • Section 8 (2) provides for disclosure of information exempted under the Official Secrets Act, 1923 if larger public interest is served.
  • The Act also provides for the appointment of Information Commissioners at the Central and State level. Public authorities have designated some of its officers as Public Information Officers. They are responsible to give information to a person who seeks information under the RTI Act.
  • Time period: In normal course, information to an applicant is to be supplied within 30 days from the receipt of application by the public authority.
    • If information sought concerns the life or liberty of a person, it shall be supplied within 48 hours.
    • In case the application is sent through the Assistant Public Information Officer or it is sent to a wrong public authority, five days shall be added to the period of thirty days or 48 hours, as the case may be.


  • The RTI Act, 2005 did not create a new bureaucracy for implementing the law. Instead, it tasked and mandated officials in every office to change their attitude and duty from one of secrecy to one of sharing and openness. It carefully and deliberately empowered the Information Commission to be the highest authority in the country with the mandate to order any office in the country to provide information as per the provisions of the Act. And it empowered the Commission to fine any official who did not follow the mandate.
  • Right to information has been seen as the key to strengthening participatory democracy and ushering in people centred governance.
  • Access to information can empower the poor and the weaker sections of society to demand and get information about public policies and actions, thereby leading to their welfare. It showed an early promise by exposing wrongdoings at high places, such as in the organisation of the Commonwealth Games, and the allocation of 2G spectrum and coal blocks.
  • Right to information opens up government’s records to public scrutiny, thereby arming citizens with a vital tool to inform them about what the government does and how effectively, thus making the government more accountable.
  • Improves decision making by public authority by removing unnecessary secrecy.


  • Different types of information is sought which has no public interest and sometimes can be used to misuse the law and harass the public authorities. For example-
    • Asking for desperate and voluminous information.
    • To attain publicity by filing RTI
    • RTI filed as vindictive tool to harass or pressurize the public authority
  • Because of the illiteracy and unawareness among the majority of population in the country, the RTI cannot be exercised.
  • Though RTI’s aim is not to create a grievance redressal mechanism, the notices from Information Commissions often spur the public authorities to redress grievances.

RTI vs Legislations for Non Disclosure of Information

  • Some provisions of Indian Evidence Act (Sections 123, 124, and 162) provide to hold the disclosure of documents.
    • Under these provisions, head of department may refuse to provide information on affairs of state and only swearing that it is a state secret will entitle not to disclose the information.
    • In a similar manner no public officer shall be compelled to disclose communications made to him in official confidence.
  • The Atomic Energy Act, 1912 provides that it shall be an offence to disclose information restricted by the Central Government.
  • The Central Civil Services Act provides a government servant not to communicate or part with any official documents except in accordance with a general or special order of government.
  • The Official Secrets Act, 1923 provides that any government official can mark a document as confidential so as to prevent its publication.

RTI vs Right to Privacy

  • Conceptually, RTI and the right to privacy are both complementary as well as in conflict to each other.
  • While RTI increases access to information, the right to privacy protects it instead.
  • At the same time they both function, as citizen rights safeguarding liberty, against state’s overreach.

When the question of harmonising the contradicting rights arises, it should

  • give justice to the larger public interest
  • advance the public morality


The OSA was enacted in 1923 by the British to keep certain kinds of information confidential, including, but not always limited to, information involving the affairs of state, diplomacy, national security, espionage, and other state secrets.

  • Whenever there is a conflict between the two laws, the provisions of the RTI Act override those of the OSA.
  • Section 22 of the RTI Act states that its provisions will have effect notwithstanding anything that is inconsistent with them in the OSA.
  • Similarly, under Section 8(2) of the RTI Act, a public authority may allow access to information covered under the OSA, “if the public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interest”.

RTI and Political Parties

Why activists want political parties to be brought under RTI?

  • To contain corruption
  • Huge donations from corporates which lead to favouritism or crony capitalism
  • Illegal foreign contribution
  • The leader of the opposition is statutorily mandated to be part of the select committees to choose Chairperson for CIC, Lokpal, CBI Director and CVC
  • Various members of the opposition are also part of various parliamentary committees
  • They enjoy multiple benefits like concessional office spaces, free airtime on DD & AIR from govt

Stand of Political Parties

  • PP’s are not public authorities, hence cannot be brought under RTI Act.
  • Disclosed information can be misused.
  • Can disclose financial information under the IT Act.

Recent Amendments

  • The RTI amendment Bill 2013 removes political parties from the ambit of the definition of public authorities and hence from the purview of the RTI Act.
  • The draft provision 2017 which provides for closure of case in case of death of applicant can lead to more attacks on the lives of whistleblowers.
  • The proposed RTI Amendment Act 2018 is aimed at giving the Centre the power to fix the tenures and salaries of state and central information commissioners, which are statutorily protected under the RTI Act. The move will dilute the autonomy and independence of CIC.
  • The Act proposes to replace the fixed 5 year tenure to as much prescribed by government.

Other Issues

  • Information commissioners do not have adequate authorities to enforce the RTI Act.
  • In case of award of compensation to activist by public authority as ordered by commision, compliance cannot be secured.
  • Poor record-keeping practices
  • Lack of adequate infrastructure and staff for running information commissions
  • Dilution of supplementary laws like the whistleblowers protection Act.


As observed by Delhi High Court that misuse of the RTI Act has to be appropriately dealt with; otherwise the public would lose faith and confidence in this "sunshine Act". It is well recognized that right to information is necessary, but not sufficient, to improve governance. A lot more needs to be done to usher in accountability in governance, including protection of whistleblowers, decentralization of power and fusion of authority with accountability at all levels.

This law provides us a priceless opportunity to redesign the processes of governance, particularly at the grass roots level where the citizens’ interface is maximum. The Right to Information Act was made to achieve social justice, transparency and to make accountable government but this act has not achieved its full objectives due to some impediments created due to systematic failures.

Source: Web

China began the mining of combustible ice-Flammable ice


China began the mining of combustible ice (natural gas hydrates)

The trial mining was conducted at a depth of 237-304 meters undersea in the Shenhu sea (PT) area, about 320 kilometres southeast of Zhuhai City in Guangdong Province. China has set two world records in terms of the total gas output in a month and the daily gas production of 28,700 cubic meters.

The latest test adopted a horizontal well drilling technique, the first time it has been used in the natural gas hydrate extraction, which has greatly increased the gas production
Chinese scientists have achieved gratifying results after two years' efforts and made new breakthroughs in key technologies and core equipment.

What it is?

Combustible ice is a natural gas hydrate trapped in ice crystals formed under high pressure and low temperatures in permafrost or under the sea. It can be ignited like solid ethanol, which is why it is called combustible or flammable ice. Combustible ice that contains 88 percent to 99.9 percent of methane is an efficient, abundant and clean energy. Like natural gas, it can be used for household gas consumption, motor fuel supply, chemical industrial production, city heat supply and electricity generation.

Mining of combustible ice started in the 1960s, but China began research in 1998. China found flammable ice in the South China Sea in 2007 and conducted its first experimental gas extraction in 2017. The first exploitation test succeeded in producing a total of 309,000 cubic meters of natural gas in a 60-day period. The combustible ice reserve in China's waters is equal to around 80 billion tons of oil and boasts a bright future. The improvement in gas scale and efficiency will bring China's combustible ice mining on to a fast track.

Combustible Ice

  • Combustible ice is a frozen mixture of water and concentrated natural gas.
  • Technically known as methane hydrate, it can be lit on fire in its frozen state and is believed to comprise one of the world’s most abundant fossil fuels.
  • Commercial development of this frozen fossil fuel has now moved closer to reality after Japan and China successfully extracted the material from the sea floor off their coastlines.
  • Large-scale production, if not done properly, could flood the atmosphere with climate-changing greenhouse gases.
  • Methane hydrate has been found beneath seafloors and buried inside Arctic permafrost and beneath Antarctic ice.

Source: AIR

Cobra Lily


Cobra Lily

  • The incredibly rare Arisaema translucent, more commonly known as the cobra lily, was recently rediscovered in the western Nilgiris after 84 years.
  • They can be found only in a small area measuring less than 10 square kilometres in the Nilgiris.
  • The Toda tribals of the Nilgiris, who know the plant well, have an embroidery motif known as the ‘podwarshk’, which resembles it.
  • The indigenous community could predict the early arrival of monsoon from the blooming of the cobra lily's ‘translucens’.
  • Prized for their beauty around the world, cobra lilies are at even greater risk of extinction from the commercial trade in exotic plants.

Source: AIR

Panda of the sea


Vaquita Porpoise

  • With an estimated 30 or fewer individuals remaining, the vaquita porpoise — the world's most endangered marine mammal — may go extinct by 2018 if no action is taken to save them, a new study warns.
  • Known as the 'panda of the sea' because of its distinctive markings, the vaquita is endemic to the Upper Gulf of California.
  • Unsustainable fishing practices and illegal wildlife trade driven by demand for the swim bladder, has caused the vaquita population to plummet.
  • Listed as the most endangered cetacean in the world these mammals are often accidentally killed in gillnets also.

Source: Web

Solibacillus kalamii


Solibacillus kalamii

  • Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the foremost lab of NASA for work on interplanetary travel, discovered the new bacteria on the filters of the International Space Station (ISS) and named it Solibacillus kalamii to honour the late President.
  • Even as it orbits the earth some 400 kilometres above, the ISS is home to many types of bacteria and fungi.
  • These spore formers tend to withstand high radiation and also produce some useful compounds protein-wise which will be helpful for biotechnology applications.

Source: Web

Turtle – Threats


Turtle – Threats

  • In an attempt to raise awareness on conservation of tortoise and turtles, and on illegal trafficking, May 23 is celebrated as World Turtle Day.
  • In addition to smuggling, turtles face a variety of man-made issues that threaten their existence. One major threat, as with all other animal species, is habitat destruction.
  • As rivers become more and more polluted, the turtles are beginning to die off at greater rates. The hatchlings are born deformed; adults are dying from eating plastic; and the food sources are disappearing.
  • Large fishing trawlers also sometimes catch sea turtles, cut off their flippers to get them out of the net, and then leave them to die.
  • One of the greatest threats facing turtles and tortoises in India is smuggling to East Asian and Southeast Asian markets.
  • West Bengal has become a focal point of the turtle smuggling trade as many of the turtles make their way to Kolkata before being shipped off.

Source: Web

Monkeypox Virus


Monkeypox Virus

Singapore recently reported the first ever case of the Monkeypox Virus, a rare virus similar to the human smallpox.

About Monkeypox Virus:

What is It?

  1. Monkeypox virus (MPXV) is an orthopoxvirus that causes a viral disease with symptoms in humans similar, but milder, to those seen in smallpox patients.
  2. Smallpox was declared eradicated in 1980, whereas human monkeypox is endemic in villages of Central and West Africa.
  3. The occurrence of cases is often found close to tropical rainforests where there is frequent contact with infected animals.
  4. There is no evidence to date that person-to-person transmission alone can sustain monkeypox in the human population.


Monkeypox is a viral zoonosis, i.e. a disease transmitted from animals to humans. It can be transmitted through contact with the blood, bodily fluids, or cutaneous or mucosal lesions of infected animals. Human infections have been documented through the handling of infected monkeys, Gambian giant rats and squirrels, with rodents being the most likely reservoir of the virus.


As of now, there is no specific treatment or vaccine available for monkeypox infection. The patient is generally treated in isolation by doctors.

Source: Web

Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia)-Murder Hornet


Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia)-Murder Hornet

The Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia) has arrived in North America. This insect has attacked honeybees: it crawls into hives and rips off the heads of bees in large numbers—making its supervillain nickname, “murder hornet,” feel disturbingly apt. Government agencies and local beekeepers have sprung into action, hoping to eradicate the hornet before it can consolidate a foothold in the continent. Success may lie in how predator and prey interact naturally.

V. mandarinia is the largest hornet in the world. A female worker may grow to a length of nearly four centimeters (an inch and a half), and the insect has large biting mouthparts that enable it to decapitate its victims. Hornets are usually solitary hunters. But between late summer and fall, V. mandarinia workers may band together to conduct mass attacks on nests of other social insects, notably honeybees. This behavior even has a name: the slaughter and occupation phase. U.S. beekeepers supply billions of honeybees each year to help pollinate at least 90 agricultural crops. And they are worried that this new raider could further worsen already deep losses in important pollinator populations.

The hornet is native to Asia, ranging from Japan and Russia down to Thailand and Myanmar (formerly Burma).

Source: TH

Mattu Gulla growers hope to make profits before season ends-GI Tag

GS-III : Economic Issues GI Tag

Mattu Gulla growers hope to make profits before the season ends

With Udupi district coming under the green zone, prospects have brightened for the growers of Mattu Gulla, brinjal enjoying the Geographical Indication (GI) tag, owing to improvement in transportation and relaxation in lockdown hours.

Mattu Gulla is grown by about 150 farmers in Mattu and its surrounding villages, on 129 hectares in the district. This brinjal is known for its unique taste, and a curry prepared from this vegetable is usually a must in religious and auspicious functions.

Note for GI TAG: https://www.aspireias.com/daily-news-analysis-current-affairs/Bangalore-Blue-for-Karnatakas-and-GI-analysis

Source: AIR

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