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22 May, 2020

60 Min Read

Paper Topics Subject
GS-II Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana
GS-III Ecologically Sensitive Area of Western Ghats. Biodiversity & Environment
Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM)
National Directives for COVID-19 Management violations Disaster and Disaster management
MHRD has ensured safe shifting of stranded students of  Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas Disaster and Disaster management
IIT Guwahati discovers new ways to prevent memory loss due to Alzheimer
PT Pointer Agappe Chitra Magna
Alternative dwarfing genes in wheat can eliminate rice crop residue burning Economic Issues
GS-II :
Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana

Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana

Context

As part of the economic response to COVID-19, the Government of India has launched a pro-poor scheme “Pradhan Mnatri Garib Kalyan Package” (PMGKP), Under this scheme, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas is providing free of cost LPG cylinders to over 8 crore PMUY beneficiaries for 3 months w.e.f 1.4.20. During April, 2020, Oil Marketing Companies(OMCs) have delivered 453.02 lakh cylinders to PMUY beneficiaries under PMGKP.

About Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana

Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana is a scheme of the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas for providing LPG connections to women from Below Poverty Line (BPL) households.

Need

In India, the poor have limited access to cooking gas (LPG). The spread of LPG cylinders has been predominantly in the urban and semi-urban areas with the coverage mostly in middle class and affluent households. But there are serious health hazards associated with cooking based on fossil fuels.

According to WHO estimates, about 5 lakh deaths in India alone due to unclean cooking fuels. Most of these premature deaths were due to non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. Indoor air pollution is also responsible for a significant number of acute respiratory illnesses in young children. According to experts, having an open fire in the kitchen is like burning 400 cigarettes an hour.

Providing LPG connections to BPL households will ensure universal coverage of cooking gas in the country. This measure will empower women and protect their health. It will reduce drudgery and the time spent on cooking. It will also provide employment for rural youth in the supply chain of cooking gas.

Target beneficiaries

Under the scheme, an adult woman belonging to a poor family not having LPG connection in her household, is an eligible beneficiary under the expanded scheme.

Release of LPG connection under this Scheme shall be in the name of the women belonging to the BPL family.

Initially, the Government covered the following categories under the Scheme :-

  1. Beneficiaries listed in the SECC 2011 list
  2. All SC/STs households beneficiaries of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana(PMAY) (Gramin)
  3. Antyoday Anna Yojana (AAY)
  4. Forest dwellers
  5. Most Backward Classes (MBC)
  6. Tea & Ex-Tea Garden Tribes
  7. People residing in Islands
  8. People residing in river islands.

Benefits to the citizens

Under the scheme, five crore LPG connections are to be provided to BPL households. The Scheme provides a financial support of Rs 1600 for each LPG connection to the BPL households, interest free loan to purchase stove and refill by Oil Marketing Companies. The administrative cost of Rs. 1600 per connection, which includes a cylinder, pressure regulator, booklet, safety hose, etc. would be borne by the Government.

Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana scheme for the PMUY beneficiaries

As part of Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana scheme for the PMUY beneficiaries to enable them to combat COVID 19 crisis, availability of up to 3 refills for 14.2 kg cylinders and advance Retail Selling Price being transferred by OMCs to the PMUY customer’s bank account, which can be withdrawn to obtain the refill from the distributor has been announced.

Source: PIB

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GS-III : Biodiversity & Environment
Ecologically Sensitive Area of Western Ghats.

States express desire to expedite early notification of Ecologically Sensitive Area of Western Ghats.

Context:

Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Shri Prakash Javadekar today interacted with Chief Ministers, Cabinet Ministers & State Government Officers of six states viz, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu through Video Conference to discuss issues relating to notification of Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) pertaining to Western Ghats.

To conserve and protect the bio diversity of Western Ghats while allowing for sustainable and inclusive development of the region, Government of India had constituted a High Level Working Group under the Chairmanship of Dr. Kasturirangan. The Committee had recommended that identified geographical areas falling in the six States of Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu may be declared as Ecologically Sensitive Areas.

Ecologically Sensitive Areas

  • The notified land is spread over six states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
  • In the ESA, all kinds of mining activities, thermal power plants and highly polluting industries would no longer be allowed.
  • The existing mines shall be phased out within five years from the issue of final notification or on the expiry of the existing mining lease, whichever is earlier.
  • All new ‘Red’ category industries and the expansion of such existing industries shall be banned.
  • Other kinds of projects and activities, like operation of hydropower plants, and ‘orange’ category of industries, will be strictly regulated in the ESA.
  • New expansion projects of building and construction with built-up area of 20,000 square meters and above shall be prohibited too.

Why Western Ghats is so important?

  • Western Ghats is a mountain range that runs parallel to the western coast of the Indian peninsula, located entirely in India.
  • It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the eight "hottest hot-spots" of biological diversity in the world.
  • A total of 39 properties including national parks, wildlife sanctuaries were designated as world heritage sites - twenty in Kerala, ten in Karnataka, five in Tamil Nadu and four in Maharashtra.
  • It has over 7,402 species of flowering plants, 1,814 species of non-flowering plants, 139 mammal species, 508 bird species, 179 amphibian species, 6,000 insects species and 290 freshwater fish species.
  • Thus, the demarcation of an ESA is an effort to protect the fragile eco-system from indiscriminate industrialisation, mining and unregulated development.
  • Two committees – Gadgil and Kasturirangan – were appointed in the last eight years to identify the areas that needed to be kept out from such activities.

Gadgil report

  • The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP), also known as the Gadgil Commission has designated the entire hill range as an Ecologically Sensitive Area.
  • The panel has classified the 142 taluks in the Western Ghats boundary into Ecologically Sensitive Zones (ESZ) 1, 2 and 3.
  • It recommended that no new dams based on large-scale storage be permitted in Ecologically Sensitive Zone 1.
  • For Goa, the committee suggested an indefinite moratorium on new environmental clearances for mining in ESZ 1 and 2.
  • No new polluting industries, including coal-based power plants, should be allowed in ESZ 1 and 2.
  • The existing red and orange category industries should be asked to switch to zero pollution by 2016.
  • Gadgil Committee asked for bottom to top approach i.e., from Gram sabhas to top, rather than a top to bottom approach.
  • It suggested the formation of a Western Ghats Ecology Authority (WGEA), a statutory authority which enjoys the powers under the Environment (Protection) Act.
  • The major criticism faced by Gagdil Committee was that it was more environment-friendly and is not in tune with the ground realities.

Kasturirangan report

  • The report has sought to balance the two concerns of development and environment protection, by watering down the environmental regulation regime proposed by Gadgil.
  • It seeks to bring just 37% of the Western Ghats under the ESA zones — down from the 64% suggested by the Gadgil report.
  • The report distinguishes between cultural and natural landscape.
  • It said that cultural landscapes, which include human settlements, agri fields and plantations, covered 58.44% of the Western Ghats.
  • It identified 90% of the remaining natural landscape area marked as an ESA. The panel called for a complete ban on mining, quarrying and sand mining in this area.
  • It also made several pro-farmer recommendations, including the exclusion of inhabited regions and plantations from the purview of ESAs.
  • The major criticism of the committee is it used remote sensing and aerial survey methods for zonal demarcation of land in WG.
  • The use of  this erroneous method had caused inclusion of many villages under ESAs.

 

Source: PIB

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GS-III :
Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM)

Context

  • Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh has appreciated the role played by Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM) and other Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in Nation’s fight against global Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. He said this while addressing via video conference MSMEs E-conclave, jointly organised by SIDM, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Department of Defence Production here today.
  • He calls for making ‘Local’ Focal in daily lives to achieve self-reliance

About Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM)

The Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM) is a not-for-profit association formed to be the apex body of the Indian defence industry. SIDM plays a proactive role as an advocate, catalyst, and facilitator for the growth and capability building of the defence industry in India.

Vision

Catalyse the Indian defence industry to effectively contribute to India's national security and become a trustworthy global partner.

Mission

Work closely with the Government towards enabling the growth of the defence industry. Collaborate with experts from the Armed forces.

Values

  1. India First
  2. One Voice
  3. Self Reliant for Security

Source: PIB

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GS-III : Disaster and Disaster management
National Directives for COVID-19 Management violations

Violations of MHA Guidelines being reported at various places across the country

  • Strict Implementation of all measures in Government guidelines is essential to contain the spread of COVID-19.
  • However, violations in the implementation of MHA Guidelines are being reported at various places across the country. Taking note of this the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has written to all States/UTs and emphasised that the Ministry’s guidelines should be strictly implemented, and all authorities in States/UTs should take necessary steps to ensure the same.
  • States and UTs are now empowered to delineate various zones and decide on the activities prohibited, or allowed with restrictions, in accordance with the MHA guidelines.
  • The communication stresses on proper delineation of containment zones by following guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW), and effective implementation of containment measures within these zones, which is key to preventing the spread of COVID-19. 
  • The communication mentions the importance of observing the night curfew strictly, as it would ensure social distancing, and contain the risk of spread of infection. 
  • Accordingly, strict compliance of these orders should be ensured by the local authorities.
  • It also reiterates that it is the duty of all District and local authorities to enforce the National Directives for COVID-19 Management and ensure that people wear face covers, ensure social distancing at work, transport and in public places, maintain hygiene and sanitation etc.

Source: PIB

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GS-III : Disaster and Disaster management
MHRD has ensured safe shifting of stranded students of  Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas

MHRD has ensured safe shifting of stranded students of  Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas

Context

  • Union Human Resource Development Minister Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank' informed that Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti has, on 15th May, 2020, successfully completed the exercise of shifting of over 3000 students who were staying in 173 Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas in various parts of the country during the lockdown period.
  • In the backdrop of COVID-19 situation, the Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (NVS) had pre-poned its summer vacation schedule and the JNVs were closed w.e.f. 21.3.2020.
  • While majority of the students of the JNVs could travel to their respective residences (which are mostly   within the   district   boundaries) before the imposition of the nationwide lockdown, 3169 outstation students   who were staying in 173 JNVs, under the migration scheme and 12 students who were attending preparatory classes at Centre of Excellence, Pune for the JEE (Mains) exam could not travel to their residences.
  • With further extension of the lockdown period, these outstation students (including     girls) and mostly in the age group of 13 - 15 years, were increasingly becoming restless and home sick as they had not met their families for the past over 6 months.

About Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas

  • Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas are co-educational residential schools run by the Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti, which is an Autonomous Organization under the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Department of School Education & Literacy. 
  • The main objective of the Navodaya Vidyalayas is to provide good quality modern education including a strong component of culture, inculcation of values, awareness of the environment, adventure activities and physical education to the talented children predominantly from the rural areas without regard to their families’ socio-economic condition.
  • At present, there are 661 sanctioned JNVs in various States and UTs of the country today in which over 2.60 lakhs   students are receiving quality education, free of cost.
  • One of the important features of the Navodaya Vidyalaya Scheme is the migration of students from a JNV located in a particular linguistic region to another JNV in a different linguistic region to promote understanding of the diversity and plurality of India’s culture and people. 
  • The migration scheme has been in operation since long and has been instrumental in inculcating a feeling of national integration among the students.

 

Source: PIB

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GS-III :
IIT Guwahati discovers new ways to prevent memory loss due to Alzheimer

IIT Guwahati discovers new ways to prevent memory loss due to Alzheimer

Context

Researchers at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Guwahati has worked on out-of-the-box ideas that can help prevent or reduce short-term memory losses associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

They studied the neurochemical principles of Alzheimer’s, and explored new ways to prevent accumulation of neurotoxic molecules in the brain that are associated with short-term memory loss.

Methods used

  • The IIT Guwahati team reports interesting methods such as application of low-voltage electric field, and the use of ‘trojan peptides’ to arrest aggregation of neurotoxic molecules in the brain.
  • They found that external electric/magnetic field modulates the structure of these peptide molecules, thereby preventing aggregation.
  • Upon exposure to electric field, we could retard the degeneration of nerve cells to an extent of 17–35%. Objectively, this would translate to about 10 years delay in the onset of the disease
  • The idea of using ‘Trojan peptide’ comes from mythological “Trojan Horse” used as subterfuge by the Greeks in the battle of Troy.
  • The researchers have designed Trojan peptides by adopting a similar approach of ‘deceit’ to impede the aggregation of the amyloid peptide, arrest the formation of toxic fibrillar assemblies, and reduce poisoning of nerve cells that leads to memory loss.

Importance of this discovery

  • The development of a cure for Alzheimer’s disease assumes importance India as it has the third highest number of Alzheimer’s patients in the world, after China and US, with more than four million people falling prey to the memory loss associated with it.
  • While current treatments only alleviate some of the symptoms of the disease, there is no disruptive therapeutic approach yet that can treat the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s.
  • Approximately hundred potential drugs for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease have failed between 1998 and 2011, which shows the gravity of the problem.
  • A defining hallmark of Alzheimer’s is the accumulation of amyloid beta peptides in the brain.

 

 

 

Source: PIB

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GS-III :
Agappe Chitra Magna

Agappe Chitra Magna

Agappe Chitra Magna is a magnetic nanoparticle-based RNA extraction kit for use during testing for detection of COVID-19.

The RNA extraction kit was developed by Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST), Trivandrum, an Institute of National Importance of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) along with Agappe Diagnostics Ltd, an in vitro diagnostics manufacturing company based in Cochin.

Advantages

  • The commercial launch of the kit is a major step to make India self-reliant in detecting COVID 19 and can help increase the rate of testing and bring down its costs, a crucial step for combating the pandemic.
  • It can also be an example of rapid commercialization and implementation of a state of the art technology for the world to emulate.
  • The transformation of R&D from purely generation of knowledge to generation of value demands increased investment and a strong, empowered R&D management system.
  • Synchronising the efforts of academia, national laboratories and industries would be most essential in this transformed ecosystem.

Agappe Chitra Magna

Agappe Chitra Magna is a magnetic nanoparticle-based RNA extraction kit for use during testing for detection of COVID-19.

The RNA extraction kit was developed by Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST), Trivandrum, an Institute of National Importance of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) along with Agappe Diagnostics Ltd, an in vitro diagnostics manufacturing company based in Cochin.

Advantages

  • The commercial launch of the kit is a major step to make India self-reliant in detecting COVID 19 and can help increase the rate of testing and bring down its costs, a crucial step for combating the pandemic.
  • It can also be an example of rapid commercialization and implementation of a state of the art technology for the world to emulate.
  • The transformation of R&D from purely generation of knowledge to generation of value demands increased investment and a strong, empowered R&D management system.
  • Synchronising the efforts of academia, national laboratories and industries would be most essential in this transformed ecosystem.

 

Source: PIB

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GS-III : Economic Issues
Alternative dwarfing genes in wheat can eliminate rice crop residue burning

Alternative dwarfing genes in wheat can eliminate rice crop residue burning

  • In India, close to twenty-three million tonnes of leftover rice residues are annually burnt by farmers to get rid of the straw and prepare their fields for sowing wheat, which is the next crop, resulting in air pollution.
  • Also, dry environments pose a challenge for the germination of wheat varieties with short coleoptile.
  • To overcome these problems, Scientists at Pune based Agharkar Research Institute (ARI), an autonomous institute of the Department of Science and Technology, have mapped two alternative dwarfing genes Rht14 and Rht18 in wheat.
  • These genes are associated with better seedling vigour and longer coleoptiles (sheath protecting the young shoot tip).
  • ARI have mapped the dwarfing genes on chromosome 6A in durum wheat, and DNA-based markers were developed for a better selection of these genes in wheat breeding lines.
  • The DNA-based markers will help wheat breeders to precisely select wheat lines carrying these alternative dwarfing genes from a massive pool of wheat breeding lines.
  • These DNA based markers are being used at ARI for marker-assisted transfer of these genes in Indian wheat varieties, so as to make them suitable for sowing under rice stubble-retained conditions and dry environments.
  • Wheat breeding lines with these alternative dwarfing genes are presently at an advanced stage.

Issues with Rht dwarfing varieties

  • The presently available semi-dwarf wheat varieties, which were explored during the Green Revolution, carry conventional Rht1 dwarfing alleles (variant form of a given gene) and produce optimum yields under high-fertility irrigated conditions.
  • However, they are not well adapted for deeper sowing conditions in dry environments due to shorter coleoptiles, and low early vigor often results into reduced seedling emergence.
  • Moreover, crop stands of Rht1 wheat also remain poor where previous crop residues pose a barrier for seedling emergence due to the short coleoptiles.
  • Burning of leftover rice crop residue has serious implications for the environment, soil, and human health. Therefore, there is a need to include alternative dwarfing genes in wheat improvement programs.
  • Also, only two dwarfing alleles of Rht1 are predominant in Indian wheat varieties; therefore, there is a need to diversify the genetic base of dwarfing genes considering diverse wheat growing zones in India.

Advantages of Rht14 and Rht18

  • In genetic studies conducted at ARI, dwarfing genes Rht14 and Rht18 in wheat conferred a plant height reduction comparable to the Rht1 alleles while retaining early vigour in wheat seedlings, but do not affect coleoptile length and seedling shoot length.
  • These can, therefore, be utilized as an alternative dwarfing gene to Rht1 for deep sowing conditions or in fields with retained stubble.
  • It will help reducing stubble burning incidences under the rice-wheat cropping system.
  • These lines will also allow deeper sowing of wheat seeds to avail advantage of residual moisture in the soil, therefore, saving valuable water resources and reduce the cost of cultivation to farmers.

Source: PIB

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