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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

19 Jul, 2020

86 Min Read

Maternal Mortality Ratio

GS-I : Social issues Women

Maternal Mortality Ratio

Paper-3 Health/Women (Mains-Optional)

Recently, the Office of the Registrar General’s Sample Registration System (SRS) has released a special bulletin on Maternal Mortality in India 2016-18. As per the World Health Organization, maternal death is the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management.

Maternal Mortality Ratio of the Country:

  • MMR has declined to 113 in 2016-18 from 122 in 2015-17 and 130 in 2014-2016.
  • MMR is defined as the number of maternal deaths during a given time period per 1,00,000 live births during the same time period.
  • The target 3.1 of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations aims at reducing the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 1,00,000 live births.

MMR of Various States:

  • Assam (215), Uttar Pradesh (197), Madhya Pradesh (173), Rajasthan (164), Chhattisgarh (159), Odisha (150), Bihar (149), and Uttarakhand (99).
  • The southern States registered a lower MMR — Karnataka (92), Andhra Pradesh (65), Tamil Nadu (60), Telangana (63) and Kerala (43).

Government Initiatives:

  • Janani Suraksha Yojana under the National Health Mission to link cash assistance to institutional deliveries.
  • The Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan (PMSMA) provides a fixed day for assured, comprehensive and quality antenatal care free of cost to pregnant women on 9th of every month.
  • Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana and LaQshya Guidelines.

Way Forward

Maternal mortality in a region is a measure of reproductive health of women in the area. The WHO has already appreciated India’s efforts in reducing the maternal mortality rate. India needs to give a special focus to states with higher maternal mortality ratio.

Source: PIB

Delimitation: North-east Illegal

GS-II : Governance Electoral reforms

Delimitation: North-east Illegal

GS-PAPER-2 Governance – Elections

Delimitation

Delimitation is the act of redrawing boundaries of Lok Sabha and Assembly constituencies to represent changes in population and is done on the basis of the preceding Census.

  • Need:
    To provide equal representation to equal segments of a population.
  • A fair division of geographical areas so that one political party does not have an advantage over others in an election.
  • To follow the principle of “One Vote One Value”.

Delimitation Commission

Establishment: It was appointed by the President of India and works in collaboration with the Election Commission of India.

Constitutional Basis:

  • Article 82 provides the Parliament to enact a Delimitation Act after every Census.
    The Census Act of 1948 provides for the permanent scheme of conducting population Census. It is carried out in a ten years interval.
  • Article 170 provides division of State into territorial constituencies as per Delimitation Act after every Census.
  • Once the Act enacted by the Parliament is in force, the Union government sets up a Delimitation Commission.
  • Composition: It is usually composed of the retired Supreme Court judge, Chief Election Commissioner and respective states’ Election Commissioners.

Functions: It determines the number and boundaries of constituencies to make the population of all constituencies nearly equal. It also identifies the seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, wherever their population is relatively large.

In News:

Recently, a former legal advisor to the Election Commission (EC) has held that the Centre’s order for setting up a Delimitation Commission for ArunachalPradesh, Manipur, Assam and Nagaland is “unconstitutional” and “illegal”. The government constituted a Delimitation Commission to redraw Lok Sabha and assembly constituencies of the Union Territory Jammu and Kashmir and the four northeastern states on 6th March 2020. It is headed by the former Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai.

ImpPoints

Background:

  • Last delimitation exercise (2002-08) kept out Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur and Nagaland because the data used for it from 2001 Census was challenged for being defective.
  • The tribal communities in the four states feared that the delimitation exercise would change the composition of seats reserved for them, hurting their electoral interests.
  • The Delimitation Act of 2002 was amended on 14th January 2008, to empower the President to postpone the exercise in these states after violence erupted.
  • Subsequently, Parliament decided that EC would carry out the delimitation exercise in the four states and introduced the Section 8A of the Representation of the People (RP) Act 1950 for this purpose.
  • The decision of Parliament was based on earlier precedence of the EC being vested with the authority to redraw boundaries of constituencies including when Delhi was delimited into 70 seats in 1991-92 and Uttarakhand into 70 seats in 2000.

Issue: The Centre's order for setting up a Delimitation Commission is illegal because it violates the Representation of the People Act 1950.

Section 8A of the RP Act 1950, introduced by Parliament in 2008, states that delimitation in the four northeastern states would fall within the EC’s remit.

Hence, any delimitation exercise by the new Delimitation Commission would be declared void and result in wastage of huge public funds.

Source: IE

US-India Strategic Energy Partnership

GS-II : International Relations

US-India Strategic Energy Partnership

GS-Paper-2 India and USA

Recently, India and the USA have participated in a virtual ministerial meeting of the U.S.-India Strategic Energy Partnership (SEP) to review progress, highlight major accomplishments, and prioritize new areas for cooperation.

The SEP was established in April 2018 whose objective is to encourage meaningful engagements through robust government-to-government cooperation and industry engagement. The next Ministerial meeting will be held in 2021.

Description: The SEP organizes inter-agency engagement on both sides across four primary pillars of cooperation:

      • Power and Energy Efficiency,
      • Oil and Gas,
      • Renewable Energy,
      • Sustainable Growth.

The SEP also supports USA efforts under the AsiaEDGE initiative, which establishes India as a strong energy partner in the Indo-Pacific region.

Major Outcomes: Number of achievements and priorities for new work under the SEP were announced by both sides. These can be broadly segregated under the four primary pillars of cooperation, as given below:

1. Power and Energy Efficiency:

  • Modernizing the Power System: Both countries have been collaborating on the integration of new technologies into the smart grid; modernizing the power distribution sector i.e. rooftop solar, deployment of Smart Meters etc.
    The two countries are leading joint research and development (R&D) through Advance Clean Energy-Research (PACE-R) on smart grids and energy storage to increase resilience and reliability of the electric grid.
  • New areas of research on transformational power generation based on supercritical CO2 (sCO2) power cycles and advanced coal technologies for power generation including carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) were also initiated.

**sCO2 is a fluid state of carbon dioxide where it is held at or above its critical temperature and critical pressure.

  • Commitment to advance civil nuclear cooperation i.e. recent progress on the Westinghouse (USAs Electric Company) nuclear reactor project at Kovvada, Andhra Pradesh were also discussed.
  • It also promotes continued bilateral R&D engagement on advanced civil nuclear energy technologies through the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Energy Working Group.

2. Oil and Gas: A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed to begin cooperation on Strategic Petroleum Reserves operation.

  • The possibility of India storing oil in the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve was also discussed.
  • Both sides have noted the significant increase in the bilateral hydrocarbon trade through SEP touching 9.2 billion USD during 2019-20 and marking a 93% increase since 2017-18, Through the U.S.-India Natural Gas Task Force, it affirmed to promote greater hydrocarbon trade between the two countries.

3. Renewable Energy: The both sides launched a public-private Hydrogen Task Force to help scale up technologies to produce hydrogen from renewable energy and fossil fuel sources and to bring down the cost of deployment for enhanced energy security and resiliency.

  • Efficient Buildings and Clean Technologies: A MoU was signed to collaborate on India’s first-ever Solar Decathlon in 2021, establishing a collegiate competition to prepare the next generation to design and build high efficiency buildings powered by renewables.
  • In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL), India has jointly initiated “Retrofit of Air Conditioning to Improve Air Quality for Safety and Efficiency” (RAISE) for healthy and energy efficient buildings.
  • Launched collaboration between the USA Department of Energy (DOE) National labs and the Indian National Institutes under the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy as part of the South Asia Group for Energy (SAGE), supported by USAID, for joint research on development of advanced clean technologies.
  • Information exchange on sustainable biofuel production (bioethanol and renewable diesel) and use for air and sea transport were also discussed.
  • It will also explore cooperation on utilizing the economic value of converting bio-waste into biogas.

4. Sustainable Growth: The best practices are being adopted through methodologies in energy data management and capacity building in energy modeling.

  • USAID and NITI Aayog jointly launched the India Energy Modeling Forum to build a network of modeling communities and its linkage with Government for analytical work and policy making exercise.
  • Empowering Women in the Energy Sector: USAID launched the South Asia Women in Energy (SAWIE) platform focused on the power sector and both the countries have been working to incorporate gender-focused activities across the technical pillars.

Source: PIB

UN ECOSOC

GS-II :

UN ECOSOC

GS-PAPER-2 I.O (PT-MAINS)

Economic and Social Council

  • It is the principal body for coordination, policy review, policy dialogue and recommendations on economic, social and environmental issues, as well as implementation of internationally agreed development goals.
  • It has 54 members, elected by the General Assembly for overlapping three-year terms.
  • It is the UN's central platform for reflection, debate and innovative thinking on sustainable development.
  • Each year, ECOSOC structures its work around an annual theme of global importance to sustainable development. This ensures focused attention, among ECOSOC’s array of partners and throughout the UN development system.
  • It coordinates the work of the 14 UN specialized agencies, ten functional commissions and five regional commissions, receives reports from nine UN funds and programmes and issues policy recommendations to the UN system and to member states.
  • Few important bodies under the purview of ECOSOC:
    • International labour Organization (ILO)
    • Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
    • United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
    • World Health Organization (WHO)
    • Bretton Woods Twins (World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund)
    • United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
    • Apart from these there are various Functional and Regional Commissions, Standing Committees, Ad Hoc and Expert Bodies as well.

In News

Recently, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) has held a high-level dialogue on the subject ‘Multilateralism after Covid-19: What kind of UN do we need at the 75th Anniversary?’

The Prime Minister of India gave a speech focusing on India’s battle against the Covid-19 pandemic and emphasised upon the need of multilateralism in achieving sustainable peace and prosperity. He also indicated India’s push for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.

**The UN will celebrate its 75th anniversary on 24th October 2020.

Imp Points

Covid-19 and Current Indian Scenario:

  • India has crossed the 1 million mark for Covid-19 cases recently, making it the third highest incidence in the world.
  • India also has the third highest recoveries at about 644,000, after the USA and Brazil.
  • However, its recovery rate is about 63%, which ranks India at number 42 in the world.

India’s Efforts Against Covid-19:

  • India has extended assistance to more than 150 countries. For example, assistance in materials and services to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives (Operation Sanjeevani), Nepal and Sri Lanka.
  • India set up a South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Covid-19 Emergency Fund in the South Asian neighbourhood.
  • PM Cares Fund to deal with any kind of emergency or distress situation like posed by the current pandemic.
  • Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan with various economic stimulus packages worth Rs. 20 lakh crore aimed towards achieving the mission of self reliance.

Multilateralism

  • It is the process of organizing relations between groups of three or more states.
  • It generally comprises certain qualitative elements or principles that shape the character of the arrangement or institution. These principles are:
    • Indivisibility of interests among participants.
    • Commitment to diffuse reciprocity, i.e. not an equivalence of obligations or concessions in any one exchange but a balance in an ongoing, potentially indefinite, series of exchanges with a group of partners instead of expectations of direct obligations or concessions by a particular member.
    • System of dispute settlement intended to enforce a particular mode of behaviour.
  • Multilateralism has a long history but it is principally associated with the era after World War II, during which there was a rapid growth of multilateral agreements. The organizations most strongly embodying the principle of multilateralism are to be found in trade like the World Trade Organization (WTO) and security like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
  • Multilateral institutions have played a significant role in postwar global governance and are arguably more stable than other forms of organization because the principles underlying them appear to be more durable and more able to adapt to external changes.

Conclusion

India called on the UN members to pledge for reform within the world body and held that the multilateral system needs to be more representative. The United Nations was originally born from the furies of World War II and the current fury of the pandemic provides the context for its rebirth and reform.

At this pivotal moment, with Covid-19 still spreading, geopolitical tensions rising and the cry for racial justice, social justice and climate justice ever more urgent, the UN and world leaders have a responsibility to respond to the anxieties, fears and hopes of the people.

Source: TH

COVID19- Mom to child transmission

GS-III :

Study finds evidence of vertical transmission of coronavirus across the placenta

Modes of COVID-19 transmission

  • Transmission through droplets and contact with contaminated surfaces seem to be the major routes of novel coronavirus spread.
  • The World Health Organization recently acknowledged that “short-range aerosol transmission” of the virus “cannot be ruled out” in specific indoor locations which are crowded, inadequately ventilated and where exposure to the infected person is over a prolonged period of time.
  • Now, a study has found evidence that confirms vertical transmission of SARS-CoV-2 virus from the mother to the foetus.
  • The route of infection is through the womb (in utero) well before the onset of labour and delivery of the baby.

Transplacental transmission (a probable route):

  • These studies could not confirm the transmission route because samples of placenta, amniotic fluid and blood of the mother and the newborn were not collected and tested in every mother–infant pair.
  • For instance, in a study published recently in the journal CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal), only the placenta and nasopharyngeal swab samples of the mother were tested for the virus.
  • Though nasopharyngeal swab samples of the newborn collected on the day of birth and on two other days, plasma and stool samples tested positive for the virus, the researchers did not collect and test the cord blood.
  • Hence the researchers classified it a “probable” case of congenital route of vertical transmission.

Strong evidence

  • In contrast, the results published recently in Nature Communications involving one mother–newborn pair provide strong evidence of “confirmed” vertical transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus through the “transplacental” route.

About transpacental transmission:

  • The virus first occurs in the mother’s blood and later causes placental infection and inflammation.
  • The virus then gets into the blood of the neonate following placental infection.
  • The neonate also showed clinical manifestation of COVID-19 in terms of neurological signs and symptoms.
  • To check for vertical transmission, the researchers first collected clear amniotic fluid prior to rupture of membranes. The amniotic fluid tested positive for two genes of the virus.
  • The baby was delivered through caesarean section to avoid infection during normal childbirth; caesarean delivery is routinely done in the case of HIV positive mothers to cut the risk of vertical transmission.

Source: TH

NTPC and Renewable energy & NIIF

GS-III : Economic Issues Government policies and interventions

NTPC and Renewable energy & NIIF

GS-paper-3 Energy security (PT-MAINS)

National Investment and Infrastructure Fund Limited

It is a collaborative investment platform for international and Indian investors, anchored by the Government of India. It was set up in December 2015 to catalyse funding into the country’s core sector.

It invests across asset classes such as infrastructure, private equity and other diversified sectors in India, with the objective to generate attractive risk-adjusted returns for its investors.

  • It has a targeted corpus of Rs. 40,000 crore to be raised over the years.
    49% of which will be funded by the government at any given point of time.
  • Remaining 51% is to be raised from domestic and global investors, including international pension funds, sovereign wealth funds and multilateral/bilateral investors.
  • It was registered with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) as a Category II Alternate Investment Fund on 28th December 2015.
  • NIIF manages over USD 4.3 billion of equity capital commitments across its three funds which are Master Fund, Fund of Funds and Strategic Opportunities Fund, each with its distinct investment strategy.
    The NIIF Master Fund is the largest infrastructure fund in the country and invests in core infrastructure sectors such as transportation and energy.
  • A Governing Council chaired by the Finance Minister has been set up to act as an advisory council to the NIIF.

In News:

Recently, the National Thermal Power Corporation Limited (NTPC Ltd.) has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF), acting through the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund Limited (NIIFL). It will explore opportunities for investments in areas like renewable energy (RE), power distribution among other areas of mutual interest in India.

  • NTPC Ltd. is a central Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) under the Ministry of Power.
  • It is India’s largest energy conglomerate with roots planted way back in 1975 to accelerate power development in India.
  • Aim: To provide reliable power and related solutions in an economical, efficient and environment-friendly manner, driven by innovation and agility.
  • It became a Maharatna company in May 2010.
  • It is located in New Delhi.

Few Recent Initiatives:

  • Creation of public charging infrastructure in various cities and battery charging and swapping stations for electric 3-wheelers have been commissioned.
  • Providing electric buses to state/city transport undertakings. For example, e-bus solutions for Andaman and Nicobar Administration are under implementation.
  • Launch of its new project involving hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEV) to run in Delhi and Leh.

Please refer WWW.ASPIREIAS.COM search for HYDROGEN FUEL CELL

Source: PIB

Covid-19 Vaccine: ZyCoV-D

GS-III :

Covid-19 Vaccine: ZyCoV-D

GS-PAPER-3 S&T

Recently, India has started phase I/II clinical trials of Covid-19 vaccine - ZyCoV-D, designed and developed by Zydus (a pharmaceutical company) with support from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT).

The adaptive phase I/II clinical trials will assess the safety, tolerability and immunogenicity of the vaccine. The other indigenously developed vaccine - Covaxin - produced by Hyderabad based Bharat Biotech is also underway to start clinical trials.

Imp Points

  • Description: ZyCoV-D, a plasmid DNA vaccine, comes under the Vaccine Discovery Programme supported by the Department of Biotechnology under the National Biopharma Mission.

National Biopharma Mission

  • It is an industry-academia collaborative mission for accelerating biopharmaceutical development in the country.
  • It was launched in 2017 at a total cost of Rs. 1500 crore and is 50% co-funded by World Bank loan.
  • It is being implemented by the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC).

(BIRAC is a Public Sector Enterprise, set up by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Science & Technology)

  • Under this Mission, the Government has launched Innovate in India (i3) programme to create an enabling ecosystem to promote entrepreneurship and indigenous manufacturing in the biopharma sector.
  • Objectives: Development of vaccines, medical devices, diagnostics and biotherapeutics besides, strengthening the clinical trial capacity and building technology transfer capabilities in the country.

Plasmids are circular deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) vectors that can be used as vaccines to prevent various types of diseases.

  • Pre-Clinical Phase: It was found to initiate a strong immune response in multiple animal species like mice, rats, guinea pigs and rabbits.
    • The antibodies produced by the vaccine were able to neutralize the wild type virus indicating the protective potential of the vaccine candidate.
    • No safety concerns were observed in repeat dose by both intramuscular (directly into muscles)
    • intradermal (superficial injection into skin) routes of administration.
  • DNA Vaccine Platform: The development of ZyCov-D has established the DNA vaccine platform in the country which is simple to deploy, temperature stable, and consistently manufacturable- thus lowering costs and enhancing the effectiveness of a vaccine.

It provides ease of manufacturing the vaccine with minimal biosafety requirements. It has shown much improved vaccine stability and lower cold chain requirements making it easy for transportation to remote regions of the country. Furthermore, the platform can be rapidly used to modify the vaccine in a couple of weeks in case the virus mutates.

Source: IE

Moral Injury

GS-IV : Ethics Behavioral science

Moral injury

  • Moral injury is the damage done to one’s conscience or moral compass when that person perpetrates, witnesses, or fails to prevent acts that transgress one’s own moral beliefs, values, or ethical codes of conduct.
  • Within the context of military service, particularly regarding the experience of war, “moral injury” refers to the lasting emotional, psychological, social, behavioral, and spiritual impacts of actions that violate a service member’s core moral values and behavioral expectations of self or others
  • This type of psychological distress is occurring among the healthcare workers handling the COVID-19 cases.

Source: TH

Why is a psoriasis drug being used to treat COVID-19 patients?

GS-III :

Why is a psoriasis drug being used to treat COVID-19 patients?

Context

  • Biocon announced that it had received the approval of the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) to market Itolizumab for treatment of cytokine release syndrome (CRS) in moderate to severe acute respiratory distress syndrome patients due to COVID-19.
  • Itolizumab is a monoclonal antibody which is used to treat acute psoriasis.

What are monoclonal antibodies?

  • Monoclonal antibodies are proteins cloned in the lab to mimic antibodies produced by the immune system to counter an infection.
  • They have their genesis in serum, the colourless constituent of blood that contains antibodies.
  • These proteins bind to an antigen, the fragment of an infectious virus in the case of SARS-CoV-2, and either destroy it or block its action.
  • In the case of COVID-19, there are yet no proven drugs to treat moderate or severe manifestations of the disease.
  • Among the therapies being tested is convalescent plasma, which is a constituent of blood and recovered from those who have successfully fought the disease.
  • This blood contains antibodies produced within a week or two of being infected.
  • While plasma therapy involves injecting this entire antibody-soup into another sick patient, a monoclonal antibody can be made by isolating specific antibodies and multiplying them via various techniques.
  • Isolating plasma and serum is laborious and time-consuming when it must be administered to every patient.
  • However, since 1975, several techniques have been perfected that allow antibodies once isolated to be easily replicated. These are stored in vials and can be injected into patients.

How useful are they in treating COVID-19 patients?

  • While eight in 10 of those infected by the disease recover with little more than a few days of cough and fever, about one in 10 can manifest severe systems of the disease irrespective of their age and medical history.
  • Experts are not sure why, but have observed that many who died were victims of a cytokine storm — when the immune system goes into overdrive to flush out the virus.
  • Pro-inflammatory cytokines recruit a host of specialised immune system cells to neutralise antigens.
  • However, these cytokines can aggravate inflammation and injury in lung cells as well as in several other organs.
  • A challenge in treatment is how to prevent this over-reaction. One method is to use antibodies that can block a particular protein, called CD6. They are found on the surface of T-cells, a class of cells that are a central prong in the body’s defence system.
  • Experts say if this CD-6 is suppressed, it will prevent the T-cells from releasing a cytokine cascade and thus better regulate the immune system.

Is there a downside?

  • Itolizumab is an approved drug for acute psoriasis since 2013 and has passed safety and efficacy trials for that disease in over 500 patients.
  • However, independent experts have pointed out that the efficacy of the drug in treating COVID-caused Acute Respiratory Disease Syndrome has not been conclusively demonstrated because it has, as part of a clinical trial, only been tested on 30 patients.
  • However, the drug has been approved by the DCGI for emergency use in the treatment of moderate to severely-ill patients as per the discretion of physicians.
  • The DCGI also directed Biocon to conduct a phase-4 study — it must monitor it for adverse reactions or side-effects after it has been administered in large groups of patients and report back to the authorities.
  • Experts pointed out that the normal process for approving a drug includes a phase-3 trial, where the drug’s safety and efficacy are first evaluated in the wider population.

Source: TH

Previously unknown faults at the foot of the Himalaya discovered

GS-I : Human Geography Earthquake

Previously unknown faults at the foot of the Himalaya discovered

Context

  • Data from an oil and gas exploration company has now helped geologists discover a series of faults at the foot of the Himalaya.

Sesimic exploration data

  • The team looked at seismic reflection data, which are routinely collected by exploration companies looking for oil and gas.
  • In this method, seismic waves are produced by small explosions at multiple sources, and many recorders called geophones record the sound echoing off layers beneath the surface.

Composite image

  • The signals are combined to make an image that looks like a slice showing layers through the top few kilometres of the Earth’s crust.
  • The researchers were able to identify the faults because the pattern of layers showed bends.
  • This network of faults show that the Himalayan deformation reaches further [about 40 kilometres further south] than we previously thought.

Source: TH

Autotomy

GS-III :

Autotomy

How does a lizard lose its tail?

  • Certain animals voluntarily shed a body part in response to attempted predation.
  • Lizards losing their tails when they are pulled by a predator is well known. This self-amputation is called autotomy.
  • The severed tail continues to wiggle for about 30 minutes.
  • Studies have shown that the severed tail follows an elaborate repetitive and diverse motion, which includes flips up to 3 cm in height. The wiggly motion very often distracts the attention of the predator, thus enabling the lizard to escape.

How does a lizard lose its tail?

  • The tail autotomy occurs at preformed horizontal fracture planes.
  • In the case of tail autotomy within the vertebra, the tail gets fractured or split at a distinct preformed area of weakness.
  • Studies have shown that lizards aid the process of autotomy by “contracting muscles around the fracture planes”.
  • The muscle contractions are supposed to “facilitate splitting of the skin and muscles to complete the release of the tail”.
  • According to their findings published in December 2012 in the journal PLOS ONE, the mechanism of tail autotomy in Tokay gecko is determined by pre-formed ‘dotted lines’ in the fracture planes, which are maintained by adhesion and microstructures seen at the terminal end of the muscle fibres also likely play a role in releasing the tail.

Source: TH

Solar Orbiter Mission

GS-III :

Solar Orbiter Mission

  • NASA has launched the Solar Orbiter to space on an Atlas 5 rocket from Florida on February 10.
  • The mission is a cooperative mission between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) which will help researchers to know how the star's energy affects Earth and humans in space.

Key Points

  • The Solar Orbiter Mission is a cooperative mission between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).
  • It a seven-year mission.

Significance:

  • It will observe the Sun with high spatial resolution telescopes and capture observations in the environment directly surrounding the spacecraft to know how the Sun can affect the space environment throughout the solar system.
  • It also intends to give a better understanding of how stars can affect the space environment throughout the solar system.
  • The spacecraft also will be the first to provide images of the Sun’s poles.
  • The mapping of Sun’s pole could allow for the first time to observe the concentrated source of solar wind that permeates our solar system.
  • The solar wind is the mixture of charged particles that are highly concentrated at the poles and beam through our solar system, affecting satellites and electronic devices on Earth.
  • The mission will also study the magnetic environment around the Sun, which in turn will provide information about the Sun’s 11-year solar cycle and its periodic outpouring of solar storms.
  • Solar Orbiter carries ten instruments, three of which will help to survey how Sun’s surface changes over time.

Source: TH

Arming India’s poor against the pandemic

GS-III :

Arming India’s poor against the pandemic

  • Vitamin D deficiency can affect COVID-19 high-risk patients, particularly those who are diabetic, have heart conditions, pneumonia, obesity and those who smoke.
  • It is also associated with infections in the respiratory tract and lung injury.

Importance of Vitamin-D

  • Besides, vitamin D is known to help in having the right amount of calcium in the bones, catalyse the process of protecting cell membranes from damage, preventing the inflammation of tissues and helping stop tissues from forming fibres and weakening bones from becoming brittle, leading to osteoporosis.

Vitamin D and its prevalence

  • It is produced when sunlight (or artificial light, particularly in the ultraviolet region of 190-400 nm wavelength) falls on the skin and triggers a chemical reaction to a cholesterol-based molecule, and converts it into calcidiol (adding one hydroxyl group, also called 25(OH)D technically) in the liver and into calcitriol (or 1, 25(OH)2D) in the kidney.
  • It is these two molecules that are physiologically active. It is suggested that the level of 25-OHD in the range 30-100 ng/ml is thought to be sufficient for a healthy body; levels between 21-29 ng/ml are considered insufficient, and levels below 20 ng/ml mean the individual is deficient in the vitamin.
  • Since sunlight in important for the generation of vitamin D, tropical countries have an advantage over the northern countries. India, being a tropical country, one would expect naturally derived vitamin D levels to be good. Yet, it is not so!
  • A study in India reveals that the level of vitamin D ranged between 3.15 ng/ml to 52.9 ng/ml. Vitamin D level among south Indians is (15.74–19.16) ng/ml, yet below 20. Also, females showed consistently lower levels than males.
  • The authors conclude that India, a nation of abundant sunshine, is surprisingly found to have a massive burden of vitamin D deficiency among the public irrespective of their location (urban or rural), age or gender, or whether they are poor or even rich.
  • Hence, it is clear that vitamin D supplementation is necessary for most Indians to treat its deficiency.

Way forward

  • Given the deficit in vitamin D (indeed in many other vitamins, and calcium), it is highly desirable for the governments to

(a) consult nutrition experts and institutions to advise and suggest the type of nutritive items that can be added to the current ‘ration’ food given to the poor, and the meals given to school children,

(b) in any case, supply free of charge, vitamin D, other vitamins and calcium, in consultation with medical and public health experts regarding the dosage, frequency and other details.

Source: TH

Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)

GS-III :

Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)

Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) celebrated its 92nd foundation day on 16th July 2020.

  • The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) was established on 16 July 1929 as a registered society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.
  • It is an autonomous organisation under the Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE), Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India.
  • It is headquartered at New Delhi. With 102 ICAR institutes and 71 agricultural universities spread across the country this is one of the largest national agricultural systems in the world.
  • It is the apex body for coordinating, guiding and managing research and education in agriculture including horticulture, fisheries and animal sciences in the entire country.
  • The ICAR has played a pioneering role in ushering Green Revolution and subsequent developments in agriculture in India through its research and technology development that has enabled the country to increase the production of foodgrains by 5.6 times, horticultural crops by 10.5 times, fish by 16.8 times, milk by 10.4 times and eggs by 52.9 times since 1950-51 to 2017-18.

PT SHOT:

  • The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) will start a Farmers Innovation Fund.
  • The 'Kisan Diwas' or National Farmers Day is observed across the country on 23rd December to celebrate the birth anniversary of Chaudhary Charan Singh, the former Prime Minister of India.
  • Dr. Norman E. Borlaug was the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work in global agriculture. He is also known as the Father of the Green Revolution.

The World Food Prize is also known as the "Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture". Dr. Rattan Lal has been declared the winner of the World Food Prize 2020

  • Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, the father of India’s green revolution, was the first recipient of this award in 1987.
  • World Food Day is observed annually on 16th October to address the problem of global hunger (SDG 2-Zero hunger).

Source: PIB

NISHTHA Programme

GS-III : Economic Issues Education

NISHTHA Programme

GS-Ppaper-3 Education

Recently, the National Initiative for School Heads and Teachers Holistic Advancement (NISHTHA) programme has been launched for the first time in online mode in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

Imp Points

Initially, the NISHTHA programme was launched in 2019 through face-to-face mode to improve learning outcomes at the elementary level in the country.

  • Covid-19 pandemic situation and lockdown has affected the conduct of this programme in face-to-face mode. Therefore, NISHTHA has been customized for online mode to be conducted through Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing (DIKSHA) and NISHTHA portals.

Digital Infrastructure for Knowledge Sharing

  • DIKSHA Portal was launched by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD in 2017.
  • It provides a digital platform for teachers giving them an opportunity to learn and train themselves and connect with the teacher community.
    • It is built considering the whole teacher's life cycle - from the time student teachers enroll in Teacher Education Institutes (TEIs) to after they retire as teachers.
    • It also provides access to NCERT textbooks and lessons, following the regular school curriculum.
  • States, government bodies and even private organisations, can integrate DIKSHA into their respective teacher initiatives based on their goals, needs and capabilities.

Aim:

  • National Initiative for School Heads’ and Teachers’ Holistic Advancement (NISHTHA) is a capacity building programme for improving the quality of school education through integrated teacher training.
  • It aims to build competencies among all the teachers and school principals at the elementary stage.

Implementation:

  • The functionaries (at the state, district, block level) will be trained in an integrated manner on learning outcomes, school based assessment, learner – centred pedagogy, new initiatives in education, addressing diverse needs of children through multiple pedagogies, etc.
  • It is being organized by constituting National Resource Groups (NRGs) and State Resource Groups (SRGs) at the National and the State level who will be training 42 lakhs teachers subsequently.

Source: PIB

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