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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

Monthly DNA

29 Jun, 2020

87 Min Read

The Mapillah uprising

GS-I : Modern History Modern India

The Mapillah uprising

By, Mohammed Ayoob is University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of International Relations, Michigan State University

Context

  • With the centenary of the Mapillah rebellion of 1921 fast approaching, controversy has erupted over Malayalam movie projects commemorating what was arguably the greatest challenge to British rule between the great uprising of 1857 and the Quit India movement of 1942.

Conflicting narratives

  • The controversy surrounding the Mapillah uprising demonstrates that in the case of most important historical events no single narrative is accepted by all sections of society.

  • There are multiple narratives propounded by people of different ideological persuasions. More often than not these divergent perspectives are shaped by the proponents’ current political projects and their preferred visions of their societies’ future.

  • On the one hand, people of secular and nationalist persuasions see it as a major instance of resistance to British colonial rule.

  • On the other, people of the Hindutva persuasion revile it as an example of ingrained Muslim hatred against Hindus.

  • The rebellion can be understood only if one discards ideological blinkers. It is an excellent example of the veracity of the assertion that important historical events always have multiple causes and do not occur in a social, economic, and political vacuum.

The revolt

  • The immediate trigger of the uprising was the Non-Cooperation Movement launched by the Congress in 1920 in tandem with the Khilafat agitation.
  • The Malabar Congress, many of whose leaders were Nairs, was the most active participant in these twin agitations with several Hindu leaders addressing Khilafat gatherings.
  • The anti-British sentiment fuelled by these agitations found fertile ground among the Muslim Mapillahs of south Malabar living in economic misery which they blamed in large part on British rule.
  • The British had introduced new tenancy laws that tremendously favoured the landlords and instituted a far more exploitative system than before.
  • The pre-British relations between landlords and tenants were based on a code that provided the tenants a decent share of the produce.
  • The new laws deprived them of all guaranteed rights to the land and its produce and in effect rendered them landless.
  • This change created enormous resentment among the tenants against British rule.
  • The fact that most of the landlords were Namboodiri Brahmins while most of the tenants were Mapillah Muslims compounded the problem.
  • The Nairs formed an intermediate grouping of well-off peasantry with their own economic and social grudges against the Namboodiri landlords but largely unsympathetic to the economic travails of the Mapillahs.

The spark that lit the fire

  • The Non-Cooperation Movement combined with the Khilafat agitation provided the spark that lit the fire of Mapillah revolt against the British rulers and their Hindu landlords.
  • The fiery speeches by Muslim religious leaders that accompanied the Khilafat movement added to the religious fervour of an already desperate peasantry and fuelled their ire against the British and the Hindu landlords leading to the atrocities committed by a segment of the mobilised Mapillahs against Hindus regardless of caste.
  • Non-partisan analyses of the uprising make clear that multiple factors contributed to the character of the movement.
  • These included economic distress, anger against foreign rule and the tenancy laws it instituted, and religious zeal.
  • But above all it was an agrarian revolt that simultaneously took on the garb of anti-colonialism and religious fanaticism.

Source: TH

70 Years of Korean War

GS-I : World History

70 Years of Korean War

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

Recently North and South Korea separately marked the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War.

  • The root of the conflict lies in the Japanese occupation of Korea between 1910- 1945.
  • When Japan was defeated in the Second World War, the Allied forces agreed to establish a “four-power trusteeship over Korea” at the Yalta Conference (1945).
  • However, the USSR invaded Korea and took control of the north while the south remained under the rest of the allies, mainly the USA. The division of the two regions was along the 38th parallel north, which still continues to be the official border dividing the two Koreas.
  • In 1948 the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) was established.
  • Efforts were made to resolve the conflict and unite the Korean peninsula, but with the advent of the Cold War chances of reunification were lost.
  • As both tried to enhance their reach, territorially and ideologically, the Korean Conflict emerged between the two nations.

The Korean War

  • On 25th June 1950, North Korea, backed by the USSR, launched an attack on South Korea and occupied most of the country.
  • In response, the United Nations force led by the US retaliated.
  • In 1951 the US forces led by Douglas MacArthur crossed the 38th parallel and triggered the entry of China in support of North Korea.
  • To prevent further escalation peace talks began later in 1951.
  • On 27th July 1953, the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed between the United Nations Command, the Korean People's Army and the Chinese People's Volunteer Army.

It led to an official ceasefire without a Peace treaty. Thus, the war officially never ended.

Exchange of Prisoners of war (PoWs).

Establishment of Korean Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) – a strip of land running across the Korean Peninsula to serve as a buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea.

The Korean DMZ intersects but does not follow the 38th parallel north.

South Korea did not sign the armistice as it refused to accept it.

However, in December 1991, North and South Korea signed a pact agreeing to refrain from aggression.

Current Dynamics

  • In recent years North Korea has accelerated its nuclear programme by increasing its nuclear stockpile, withdrawn from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has tested nuclear explosives multiple times.
  • USA has deployed THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defence) in South Korea to counter increasing missile adventurism of North Korea.
  • North Korea recently demolished the Inter-Korean Liaison Office in Kaesong, which was established in 2018. In the absence of formal diplomatic relations, the building functioned as a de facto embassy and provided a direct communication channel for the two nations.

Source: TH

Digital innovation is the way forward – Over the top platform

GS-II : Governance e-Governance

Digital innovation is the way forward – Over the top platform

GS- PAPER-2 Digital India MAINS-IV

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted every single industry, but the businesses that were most affected are those which solely rely on the social gatherings of people and the media and entertainment industry is not an exception.

However, Over the Top (OTT) platforms such as Netflix, Hotstar, Prime Video and online gaming are booming in this time of crisis, thereby testifying to the ongoing information revolution.

Though the Indian media landscape has traditionally been very dynamic, the issue of content regulation has always been important in India because of the diverse nature of Indian society in terms of religion, economic status, caste and language. Therefore, the effect that OTT has on society forms the basis of its regulation by the state.

Thus, there is a need to understand both the benefits and challenges associated with the use of Over the Top Platform (OTT) in India.

Benefits Associated with OTT Platforms

  • Creative Use of Media: As OTT platforms are relatively less subjected to censorship, it helps bring socio-political content or matters to a common man, which otherwise are censored in mainstream media.
  • On Demand Media Consumption: The OTT services have a hybrid character as they combine the passive consumption mode of television and the consumer choice of the web. Thus, OTT platforms' advantage of playing media anywhere and anytime has created a massive demand for it.
  • Sustenance of Media and Entertainment Industry: The future of traditional media platforms such as cinema, and live events is in jeopardy. This is even applicable post-Covid era, due to social distancing becoming a norm in society. In this context, OTT platforms serve as a parallel dissemination source of infotainment.
  • The democratisation of Media: OTT industry is benefiting numerous content producers and artists. It also helps in accessing regional films around the country as well as globally.

Issues

Lack of Regulation: While traditional media in India are regulated under specific laws such as Films are regulated under the Cinematograph Act of 1952—which provides for the certification of cinematograph films for public exhibition.

The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 —that applies to content appearing on cable televisions. However, there is no such specific law for regulation of content over OTT platforms.

Censorship Problem: Generally, the Government in India censors the content on grounds of public morality, communal harmony or cultural preservation, among various reasons. However, due to the lack of censorship, content on OTT platforms can disrupt the social harmony and the moral fabric of society.

No Consensus of Self Regulation: OTT platforms had signed a self-regulation code under the aegis of the Internet and Mobile Association of India. However, there’s no consensus on the code amongst the various OTT platforms operating in India.

Cultural Homogenisation: India is projected to become the second largest online video-viewing audience by 2020. In this context, OTT platforms are streaming a lot of cross-cultural content. Though it is good for creating a cosmopolitan world, it has aggravated some of the means in the society like cultural imperialism.

Conclusion

While the government recognizes the need for self-regulation in OTT, it wants video streaming platforms to agree to a common code.

Besides, there is a need to include online content explicitly within the ambit of this common code which will prohibit indecency in video streaming, advertisements, books, films, paintings, writings etc.

Source: BL

Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2020

GS-II : Governance Acts and regulations

Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2020

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

Recently, the Central government has introduced the Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2020 to amend various provisions in the Electricity Act 2003.

Rationale Behind Amendment:

  • To address critical issues weakening the commercial and investment activities in the electricity sector.
  • The current challenges plaguing the Indian power sector is derived from negligence in addressing the structural issues.
  • These include operational and financial inefficiencies of power generation, transmission and distribution utilities, access and quality of power supply, political interference, lack of private investments, inadequate public infrastructure and lack of consumer participation.
  • Bringing transparency and accountability to protect the interest of consumers and ensuring healthy growth of the power sector.

Key Objectives

    • Ensure consumer centricity,
    • Promote Ease of Doing Business,
    • Enhance sustainability of the power sector,
    • Promote green power,

Key Amendments

National Selection Committee: Instead of the separate Selection Committee (for appointment of Chairperson and members of State Electricity Regulatory Commissions-SERCs), there is a proposal to set up a National Selection Committee.

However, the Central Government is also considering continuing with the existing separate Selection Committees for each state – but making them Standing Selection Committees so that there is no need for constituting them afresh every time a vacancy occurs.

The only difference is that it will now be proposed to be presided by the Chief Justice of the High Court of the state.

Introduction of Direct Benefit Transfer: Direct Benefit Transfer will be beneficial for both the State Governments and as well as Distribution Companies.

It will be beneficial for the State Government because it will ensure that the subsidy reaches the people who are actually entitled and the State Government gets clear accounts of the amount given as subsidy. It will benefit the distribution company by making sure that the subsidies due are received as per the number of beneficiaries.

National Renewable Energy Policy: India is a signatory to the Paris Climate Agreement. It is therefore proposed to have a separate policy for the development and promotion of the generation of electricity from renewable sources of energy.

The policy prescribes a minimum percentage of purchase of electricity from renewable sources of production. It seeks to give special attention to hydro power.

Sustainability:
Cost Reflective Tariff: There had been the issue of lazy attempts from the commissions in adopting the tariffs determined, causing issues of cost escalation. To address this problem, the Amendment has prescribed a period of 60 days to adopt the determined tariffs. Failing such a timeline of 60 days, the tariff would be deemed to be accepted.

Payment Security: It is proposed to empower Load Dispatch Centres to oversee the establishment of adequate payment security mechanisms before the dispatch of electricity, as per contracts. Late payment of dues of generating and transmission companies have reached unsustainable levels. This impairs the finances of the Gencos and Transcos and also increases the Non-Performing Assets of the Banks.

Ease of Doing Business:

Establishment of Electricity Contract Enforcement Authority (ECEA): It is an Authority headed by a retired Judge of the High Court with powers to execute their orders as a decree of a civil court.

The Authority will enforce the performance of contracts related to purchasing or sale or transmission of power between a generating company, distribution licensee or transmission licensee. Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) and State Electricity Regulatory Commissions (SERCs) do not have powers to execute their orders as decree of a civil court.

Cross Subsidy: The Bill provides for the SERCs to reduce cross subsidies as per the provisions of the Tariff Policy.

Miscellaneous:

Strengthening of the Appellate Tribunal (APTEL): It is proposed to increase the strength of APTEL to at least seven to facilitate quick disposal of cases. To be able to effectively enforce its orders, it is also proposed to give it the powers of the High Court under the provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act.

Penalties: In order to ensure compliance of the provisions of the Electricity Act and orders of the Commission, sections 142 and section 146 of the Electricity Act are proposed to be amended to provide for higher penalties.

Cross Border Trade in Electricity: Provisions have been added to facilitate and develop trade in electricity with other countries.

Distribution sub-licensees: To improve quality of supply, an option is proposed to be provided to Discoms to authorise another person as a sub-license to supply the electricity in any particular part of its area, with the permission of the State Electricity Regulatory Commission.

Issues involved:

  • Cost reflective tariff has been a concern for states like Telangana which provide free electricity to the farming sector.
  • The formation of ECEA has also been criticized as a move towards the centralization of power.
  • Recognition of franchisees and sub-licensees might open the sector to private players.

Way Forward

The Bill provides the Central government more power to determine tariffs and regulations in the power sector. Since electricity is a Concurrent subject, States must not be deprived of their powers, through this Amendment.

Source: PIB

One Sun One World One Grid

GS-III : Economic Issues Government policies and interventions

One Sun One World One Grid

GS-Paper-3 Economics

Recently, the Government of India has called for bids to roll-out the ‘One Sun One World One Grid’ (OSOWOG) plan. The plan focuses on a framework for facilitating global cooperation, building a global ecosystem of interconnected renewable energy resources (mainly solar energy) that can be seamlessly shared.

ImpPoints

  • The vision behind the OSOWOG is ‘The Sun Never Sets’ and is a constant at some geographical location, globally, at any given point of time.
  • This is by far one of the most ambitious schemes undertaken by any country and is of global significance in terms of sharing economic benefits.
  • It has been taken up under the technical assistance program of the World Bank.
  • OSOWOG plan may also leverage the International Solar Alliance (ISA), co-founded by India that has 67 countries as members.
  • With India in the middle, the solar spectrum can easily be divided into two broad zones, which are:

Far East including countries like Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, Lao, Cambodia etc.

Far West covering the Middle East and the Africa Region.

Three Phases of the Plan:

First Phase: It deals with the Middle East, South Asia and South-East Asia (MESASEA) interconnection.
Fostering cross-border energy trade is an important part of India’s Neighbourhood-first policy.

India has been supplying power to Bangladesh and Nepal and has been championing a South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) electricity grid minus Pakistan to meet electricity demand in the region.

The initial plans also involve setting up an under-sea link to connect with Oman in the West.

Second Phase: It deals with the MESASEA grid getting interconnected with the African power pools.

Third Phase: It is about global interconnection.

Significance:

  • The proposed integration would lead to reduced project costs, higher efficiencies and increased asset utilization for all the participating entities.
  • This plan will require only incremental investment because it will not require a parallel grid infrastructure due to working with existing grids.
  • It will help all the participating entities in attracting investments in renewable energy sources as well as utilizing skills, technology and finances.
  • Resulting economic benefits would positively impact poverty alleviation and support in mitigating water, sanitation, food and other socio-economic challenges.
  • It will allow national renewable energy management centres in India to grow as regional and global management centres.
  • This move, during the time of the Covid-19 pandemic, gives India the opportunity to be seen as taking a lead in evolving global strategies.

Backdrops:
India is already expediting ISA's plan to set up the World Solar Bank (WSB) with a capital of USD 10 billion.

  • WSB aims to compete with other newly created funding institutions like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the New Development Bank (NDB).
  • The USA’s withdrawal from the Paris climate deal. OSOWOG will help to mitigate its ill effects on climate by providing clean and renewable energy sources, enabling member countries to fulfill their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) towards reducing global warming.
  • China’s attempts to co-opt countries into its One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, a programme to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure projects, including railways, ports and power grids, across Asia, Africa and Europe.
  • OSOWOG will provide a strategic rebalance in favour of India and will control the increasing Chinese dominance in Asian subcontinent, providing a better alternative to developing countries.

Way Forward

  • The move is the key to future renewable-based energy systems globally because regional and international interconnected green grids can enable sharing and balancing of renewable energy across international borders.
  • It allows grabbing opportunities to learn quickly from global developments and share renewable energy resources to reduce the global carbon footprint and insulate the societies from pandemics.

Source: L.M

“Global solar grid could cause sun burns”

GS-III : Economic Issues Government policies and interventions

“Global solar grid could cause sun burns”

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

In recent years, India has leveraged forums like the G20 and the UNFCCC to collaborate with major powers in new areas of growth and in bringing about global reforms. One such initiative is One Sun One World One Grid’ (OSOWOG).

Under OSOWOG vision, India seeks to replicate its global solar leadership (International Solar Alliance) by encouraging the phased development of a single globally connected solar electricity grid to leverage the multiple benefits (Low cost, Zero pollution) of solar energy.

The underlying logic behind OSOWOG is that a grid spread across multiple time zones could balance intermittent renewables with other renewables: the setting sun in one part of the grid is made up for by solar, wind or hydropower produced in a distant place.

OSOWOG seems to be a brilliant idea in pursuit of sustainable development. However, it faces certain challenges in its implementation.

For India

  • Parity with Great Powers: This ambition puts India alongside other major powers and their super-grid projects such as China’s Global Energy Interconnection project, Europe’s gold-standard power pools. Also, OSOWOG will provide an opportunity for India to move onto the centre stage globally, accelerating the energy system decarbonisation to help solve the global climate crisis.
  • Climate Mitigation: OSOWOG assumes more importance in backdrop of the USA’s withdrawal from the Paris climate deal. Also, OSOWOG will help to mitigate ill effects on climate by providing clean and renewable energy sources. Further, enabling member countries to fulfill their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) towards reducing global warming.
  • Balancing China: OSOWOG will provide a strategic rebalance in favour of India and will control the increasing Chinese dominance in Asian subcontinent, providing a better alternative to developing countries.
  • Bridging Current Account Deficit: India is currently importing around $250 billion of fossil fuel annually (oil, diesel, LNG, coking and thermal coal). OSOWOG can help India meet its needs and subsequently promote sustainable renewable energy exports and may improve the current account deficit and reduce imported inflation pressures.

Issues

  • Development in Battery Technology: With development in electricity storage technologies, reduces the viability of the need to follow the sun along any latitude, nor worry about day and night.
  • Easy Installation of Microgrids: Large capital expenditures are no longer necessary, as anyone can install rooftop solar or set up a microgrid (“distributed generation”).
  • Vulnerability of Grids: Electricity Grid is vulnerable to accidents, weather, and cyber-attacks that are prone to increase and disrupt the electricity supply on mass scale.
  • Transmission Losses: Solar generation is at less than 20% efficiency, in addition there will be major transmission losses on such scale.
  • Dependency on China: India is dependent on Chinese imports for solar equipment, such as solar cells, panels, etc.
  • Problem with Interconnectedness: This project’s success hinges on trust, not just transmission lines, between grid participants. Interconnected grids give countries the power to bring other economies to a grinding halt; this is the single biggest hurdle to integration.

Way Forward

Creation of Supranational Rule-Based Organisation: Institution building is key to fulfilling the ambitions of a multi-country grid project. In this context, ISA can act as an independent supranational institution to take decisions about how the grid should be run and conflicts settled.

Promoting MicroGrids: Along with prioritizing designing microgrids, public policy attention is needed for developing battery technologies at scale for local applications.

Constructively Engaging with China: Given India’s dependence on Chinese imports, OSOWOG will have to find ways of engaging with Chinese ambitions in a constructive manner rather than in a zero-sum way. Also, there is a pressing need to build its domestic capacity in solar equipment under the Make in India program.

Conclusion

Establishing a global solar grid is a novel idea, especially in context of climate change. However, underlying issues in its implementation needs to be addressed first. Apart from it, India can explore the possibility of establishing a federation of regional grids like SAARC grid.

Source: FE

MMR vaccine can help fight sepsis in Covid patients

GS-III :

MMR vaccine can help fight sepsis in Covid patients

  • A new paper suggests that live attenuated vaccines such as MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) may prevent the severe lung inflammation and sepsis associated with Covid-19 infection. The paper is published online in the journal mBio.

A live attenuated vaccine is derived from a disease-causing pathogen, which has been weakened in the laboratory so that it does not cause severe illness when a person is vaccinated with it.

  • The new research paper refers to growing evidence that live attenuated vaccines can activate certain immune cells to train leukocytes (the white blood cells of the immune system) to mount a more effective defence against unrelated infections.
  • The researchers used a live attenuated fungal strain and demonstrated, in the lab, that vaccination with it trained innate protection against sepsis (blood poisoning) caused by a combination of disease-causing fungi and bacteria.
  • The authors proposed that the protection is produced by cells called MDSCs. They stressed that this live attenuated MMR vaccine concept is not suggested to be directed against Covid-19, but instead an immune preventive measure against the severe inflammatory symptoms of Covid-19.
  • The use of childhood live attenuated vaccines such as MMR given to adults to induce bystander cells that can dampen or reduce severe complications associated with Covd-19 infection is a low risk – high reward preventive measure during a critical period of the pandemic.
  • These bystander cells are long-lived but not life-long.
  • Anyone who had an MMR vaccination as a child, while likely to still have immune antibodies directed against measles, mumps, or rubella, will not likely still have the immune cells directed against sepsis.
  • So, it could be important to get the MMR vaccination as an adult to protect better against Covid-related sepsis.

Source: IE

Why India is producing less and less oil

GS-III :

Why India is producing less and less oil

Importanat Data

  • India’s crude oil production fell 7.1% in May 2020 compared to May 2019 on the back of low demand due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Domestic production of crude has, however, been falling every year since FY 2012.
  • Annual crude oil production has fallen at a compounded annual rate of 2.1% since to 32,169.3 thousand Metric Tonnes (TMT) in FY 2020 from 38,089.7 TMT in FY 2012.
  • This has led to a steady climb in the proportion of imports in domestic crude oil consumption from 81.8% in 2012 to 87.6% in 2020.

Why is production falling?

  • Experts say that most of India’s crude oil production comes from aging wells that have become less productive over time.
  • A lack of new oil discoveries in India coupled with a long lead time to begin production from discovered wells has led to a steady decline in India’s crude oil production making India increasingly dependent on imports.
  • The output of these aging wells is declining faster than new wells can come up according to experts. Domestic exploration companies are attempting to extend the life of currently operational wells.
  • Crude oil production in India is dominated by two major state-owned exploration and production companies, ONGC and Oil India.
  • These companies are the key bidders for crude oil block auctions and end up acquiring most of the blocks that are put up for auction in India, according to experts.

Why are there not more private players?

  • While there are some private players in the upstream oil sector including Cairn India and Hindustan Oil Exploration Company there has been a lack of interest in exploration and production in India from major private players, particularly those based abroad.
  • According to experts, this is because of long delays in the operationalisation of production even after an oil block is allotted due to delays in approvals.
  • Some of the key approvals which are required to begin production include, environmental clearances and approval by the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons after the allottee completes a seismic survey and creates a field development plan.
  • “The best-case scenario from allotment to production is at least 5-7 years,” said an industry expert noting that in many cases it was delayed beyond this timeline particularly in the case of public sector companies.

What policy changes could help?

  • Existing public and private sector players have asked for reduced levies of oil production including oil cess, royalties, and profit petroleum especially when crude oil prices are below $45/barrel.
  • Experts say the requirement to pay royalties to the government at low crude prices can make it unviable for these companies to invest in further exploration and production.
  • The government introduced the Open Acreage Licensing Programme (OALP) in 2019 to allow companies to carve out blocks that they are interested in and with lower royalties and no oil cess.
  • However, existing players are calling for a relaxation of royalties and oil cess on block allotted under previous policies.
  • One expert pointed out that the Chinese government offered a floor price to oil producers insulating them somewhat from any sharp falls in international crude prices.
  • “This kind of policy at least allows for a company to have a fixed worst-case scenario for the sale of crude oil,” said an expert noting that this incentivised more investment in exploration and production.

Source: IE

Ozone Pollution

GS-III :

Ozone Pollution

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

Recently, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has observed an increase in ozone (a harmful pollutant) levels in the several cities of the country. The analysis is based on Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) data from 22 cities in 15 States. It has also observed that the particulate matter and nitrous oxide levels fell during the lockdown to control Covid-19 outbreak.

Ozone Gas

  • The ‘good’ ozone present in the earth’s ozone layer protects human beings from harmful Ultraviolet (UV) radiation whereas the ground level ozone is highly reactive and can have adverse impacts on human health.
  • Even short-term exposure of an hour is dangerous for those with respiratory conditions and asthma. Thus, an 8-hour average is considered for ozone instead of the 24-hour average for other pollutants.
  • Ozone is not directly emitted by any source but is formed by photochemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx), other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and gases in the air under the influence of sunlight and heat. Ozone pollution is thus also a clear indicator of vehicular pollution, which results in higher concentration of NOx.

Concept of Summer Pollution

  • The ozone is primarily a “sunny weather problem” in India as the presence of sunlight has a direct impact on formation of ground level ozone.
  • Heat acts as a catalyst, facilitating photochemical reactions. Hence, higher concentrations of ozone are seen during the summer months.
  • Additionally, the intense heat waves are one of the factors responsible for increased ozone levels in the country.
  • Usually, the ozone levels tend to spike when winter conditions subside, and its presence is felt most during the day. At night, ozone levels tend to deplete, before spiking again during the afternoon, when sunlight is available.
  • Thus, the characteristics of summer pollution include high winds, intermittent rains, thunderstorms, high temperature and heat waves.

Particulate Pollution

  • It has been observed that the particulate pollution has been dropped dramatically during the lockdown.
  • Also, an average PM 2.5 levels during the lockdown for all cities were found to be lower than the average for the same period in 2019.
  • However, with lockdown relaxed, pollution started to increase. As soon as lockdown 4.0 came in with more relaxation and traffic returned on roads, the average NO2 levels increased rapidly from the cleanest lockdown phase.

Conclusion

The government needs to take active steps to mitigate primary pollutants, which lead to ground ozone formation. These steps involved curbing private vehicle usage, increasing electric mobility, scaling up public transport and pedestrian infrastructure, deploying citywide parking management, and aggressively controlling industrial emissions.

Source: HT

“Facebook is weakening democracy” – Role of Social Media

GS-III :

“Facebook is weakening democracy” – Role of Social Media

Part of: GS-III- Internal security (MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

The introduction of the printing press in 15th century Europe revolutionised the social landscape, helping information spread further and faster than ever before. This had a deep link with the spread idea of democracy all over the world. In the present era, social media represents a similar paradigm shift.

Today, social media plays a crucial role in facilitating and distributing content related to all the matters that have a larger influence on public opinion and subsequently on democracy.

Although social media helps in the deepening of democracy, it also tends to weaken the concept of democracy and the emergence of anarchy, because of its unregulated nature and its role in the spread of fake news.

Social Media and Deepening of Democracy

  • Aiding C-Governance: Social media has led to the emergence of citizen-led governance (C–governance) in India.
    • Social media platforms help to create awareness from one another to a million and be united for any social cause. In the process, the existence of social media can nudge citizens to seek solutions.
    • Also for C-governance, people need to have information and be able to convey it to others. Social media platforms make that ton easier.
    • Given this, social media is gradually being accepted as the fifth estate of democracy.
  • Democratization of Expression: Social media has made Indian politics more inclusive by allowing citizens, who were traditionally excluded from politics due to geography and demography, to gain direct entry into the political process.
    • It has also allowed for a diversity of viewpoints and public engagement on an unprecedented scale.
  • Instrument for Bringing Behavioural Change: Use of social media for policy crowdsourcing and publicity is evident in the success of pan-India campaigns such as Swacch Bharat Abhiyan and the recently-launched Fit India Movement.
  • Making political communication people-centric: Social media has been increasingly used by Indian political actors for routine political communication between elections to provide unmediated and direct communication to connect citizenry.
    • Also, social media has changed the power of political messaging and has moved away from the mass media model and places it firmly into peer-to-peer, public discourse.

Ill-effects of Social Media On Democracy

  • Widening Social Fault Lines: Social media has enabled a style of populist politics, which on the negative side allows hate speech and extreme speech to thrive in digital spaces that are unregulated, particularly in regional languages.
  • Formation of Information Cocoons: Social Media, due to its technological capacity has enabled self-sorting and personalization of information one perceives.
    • This leads to the phenomenon of group polarization — which takes hold when like-minded people talk to one another and end up thinking a more extreme version of what they thought before they started to talk.
    • This is not in sync with the ethos of democracy which is based on debate, dissent and discussion.
  • Menace of Fake News: The rise of polarizing and divisive content has been a defining moment of modern politics, which is fed by fake news propagation through social media channels.
    • Further, dissemination of fake news through social media, among populations with low-to-no levels of critical digital literacy is a big challenge.
  • Cyberbullying or Trolling: Another dangerous element is the labelling and trolling of more rational voices or those who disagreed with the government’s actions or dominant public discourse as “anti-national.”

Way Forward

Social media awareness is needed which may enable citizens to be in a position to distinguish between truth and falsehood – and to know when democratic processes are being manipulated. Social Media Platforms can provide safeguards in the event that democratic processes are being intentionally disrupted or harmful falsehoods are spreading; it can help people find out what is true.

Source: HT

NITI Aayog: Navigating the New Normal

GS-IV : Ethics

NITI Aayog: Navigating the New Normal

Part of: GS-IV- Ethics-Persuasion (MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

The National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog, in partnership with several other stakeholders, has launched a behaviour change campaign called ‘Navigating the New Normal, and its website.

The campaign has two parts:

    • Covid-safe behavioural norms: The first is a web portal, containing resources informed by behavioural science and the use of nudge and social norms theory, related to Covid-safe behavioural norms during the ongoing Unlock phase, and
    • Wearing of Masks: The second is a media campaign focused on the wearing of masks.

The portal focuses on easy implementation of four key behaviours in the unlock phase: mask-wearing (essential focus), social distancing, Hand hygiene, and not spitting in public.

  • Citizens Role: It aims at desired social behaviour in which the enforcement burden shifts from the Government to the citizens.
  • Sector Specific: The website will have sector-specific collaterals and guidelines for health, nutrition, and public transport (in metro cities).
  • International Examples: Japan and South Korea have made ‘mask-wearing’ a socially accepted norm.
  • Recent Examples/Initiatives in India:
    • Recently, Meghalaya has issued a new health protocol which also lays emphasis on the Behaviour Change Model for living with Covid-19.
    • The Economic Survey 2019 too lays out an ambitious agenda for behavioural change by applying the principles of behavioural economics to several issues, including gender equality, a healthy and beautiful India, savings, tax compliance and credit quality.

Behavioural Science

  • Behavioural science is a method of analysis that applies psychological insights into human behaviour to explain their decision-making
  • In reality, decisions made by people often deviate from the classical principles. Drawing on the psychology of human behaviour, science provides insights to ‘nudge’ people towards desirable behaviour.

Nudge Theory

  • According to Nudge theory, people, rather than being forced, can be encouraged and influenced to pursue or desist from certain actions through nudges.
  • It does not talk about penalizing people if they do not behave in a particular manner, rather it encourages them to make desirable decisions.
  • It believes that Humans are not-so-rational and often need encouragement or intervention — a nudge — to get going and do what’s best for the country or society at large.
  • American economist Richard Thaler has won the 2017 Nobel Prize in economics for his contributions to behavioural economics.

Limitations of Behavioural Science

  • Continuous Efforts vs One-time Action - Give It Up campaign for LPG subsidy was a comparatively easy policy as it requires only a one-time action of affluent households, whereas task is very difficult in case of living with Covid-19, Beti Bachao, Beti Padao and SBM, as it requires continuous effort to dislodge mind-sets that prevailed for decades.
  • Specific Targeting is Required: In order to make this campaign a success, focus must be on special areas of concern such as small factories and poor labourers, who comprise a large part of the vulnerable population. Example: Advertising campaigns such as the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao scheme did not target specific states where child sex ratios were already skewed (although it was effective in Haryana, which also has a very poor sex ratio).
  • Case of Confirmation Bias: The applications of behavioural insights appeared to be a result of confirmation bias (to the extent that past policies were viewed with a behavioural lens).

Way Forward

  • As the lockdown is lifted, people will resume their normal activities. This raises a challenge of minimising the spread of Covid-19 without impacting the movement of people. This signals a need for change and creation of a “New Normal” – where we adapt our routine activities to enable consistent compliance to the COVID-19 protective behaviours.

Source: PIB

China Study Group (CSG)

GS-II : International Relations

China Study Group (CSG)

  • CSG is a government body in which cabinet secretaries and secretaries of the Home, external affairs, Defence and representatives of the Army are members.
  • In the wake of heightened road and track construction work undertaken by China along India’s Northern and Eastern frontiers in 1997, India constituted a China Study Group (CSG) to study the requirement of road communication along the China border for the brisk movement of troops in case of any aggression. The idea was to assert the country’s territorial claims and upgrade logistic sustenance capability in these areas.
  • The group's suggestions are recommendatory in nature for the government.
  • China Study Group (CSG) studies the frequent complaints of incursions by the People's Liberation Army along the Sino-Indian Line of Actual Control.

Source: TH

Gyanandromorphism

GS-III :

The rare biological phenomenon in dragonflies sighted at Kole wetlands

  • When Renjith R.V and Vivek Chandran spotted a peculiar dragonfly, the Scarlet Skimmer (Crocothemis servilia), in the Puzhakkal area of the Kole wetlands in Thrissur last year, little did they know that they were documenting a very rare biological phenomenon.
  • The male dragonflies typically have prominent blood red colouraton in almost all their body parts, including the head, thorax, abdomen and legs, and the female is a pale yellow in colour with a dark brown thorax and legs.
  • But the one they spotted on July 14 as part of the Kole Odonata Survey 2019, was “part red and part yellow”.
  • Later, while compiling data, they were thrilled to find that they had recorded gynandromorphism — a very rare biological phenomenon.

‘Genetic aberration’

  • Gynandromorphs are chimeric individuals having both male and female tissues and are viewed by the scientific community as a genetic aberration.
  • Even though common in some arthropod taxa such as Crustacea and Arachnida, the paper says it is very rare in Odonates and only 30 individuals from seven families have been reported with the condition worldwide.
  • The spotted individual showed bilateral gynandromorphism of only the thorax, half of which showed blood red colouration as in males, and the other half had the pale yellow characteristics of females.
  • The individual had a mix of male and female external characters, ranging from almost entirely female to about equally divided.

Odonate:

  • They are predaceous insects comprising the dragonflies and damselflies.

Arthropod:

  • An arthropod is an invertebrate animal having an exoskeleton, a segmented body, and paired jointed appendages. Arthropods form the phylum Euarthropoda, which includes insects, arachnids, myriapods, and crustaceans.

Gyanandromorph:

  • A gynandromorph is an organism that contains both male and female characteristics.

Source: TH

Statistics Day

GS-III : Economic Issues Economic Data

Statistics Day

Theme: SDG- 3 (Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages) & SDG- 5 (Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls)

  • The Government has been celebrating Statistics Day, to popularise the use of Statistics in everyday life and sensitise the public as to how Statistics helps in shaping and framing policies.
  • It has been designated as one of the Special Days to be celebrated at the national level and is celebrated on the birth anniversary of Prof. P C Mahalanobis, on 29th June, in recognition of his invaluable contribution to establishing the National Statistical System.

Mahalanobis Award

  • In 2019, the Ministry instituted a new award, namely, the Prof. P.C. Mahalanobis National Award in Official Statistics for recognizing outstanding achievement of official statisticians in Central Government, State Governments and Institutions.
  • The Prof.P.C. Mahalanobis National Award winner, 2020 will be felicitated during the event.

Other awards in the field of Statistics

  • The Ministry recognises the outstanding contribution of high-quality research work in the field of applied and theoretical statistics benefitting the official statistical system through the Prof. C. R. Rao and Prof. P. V. Sukhatme awards, awarded in alternate years.
  • For 2020, the award winner for Prof. P. V. Sukhatme will be declared during the event.
  • Every year, Statistics Day is celebrated with a theme of current national importance, which runs for a year by way of several workshops and seminars, aimed at bringing about improvements in the selected area.
  • The updated version of the Report on Sustainable Development Goals-National Indicator Framework (NIF) Progress Report 2020 (version 2.1)will be released during the event. Along with the report, the Indian Statistical Services Cadre Management Portal will also be launched on 29th June 2020.

Source: PIB

Kala- azar Disease

GS-III :

Kala-azar Disease

Recently, a team of researchers from the National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS), Pune have found new biomolecules to fight drug resistance in Kala-azar (visceral leishmaniasis). NCCS is an autonomous organisation under the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India. It was established to facilitate cell biology research in the country.

Leishmaniasis

  • It is a neglected tropical disease affecting almost 100 countries including India.
    Neglected tropical diseases are a diverse group of communicable diseases that prevail in tropical and subtropical conditions in 149 countries.
  • It is caused by a parasite called Leishmania, which is transmitted through the bite of sand flies.

There are three types of leishmaniasis:

    • Visceral leishmaniasis affects multiple organs and is the most serious form of the disease.
    • Cutaneous leishmaniasis causes skin sores and is the most common form.
    • Mucocutaneous leishmaniasis causes skin and mucosal lesions.

Visceral leishmaniasis, which is commonly known as Kala-azar in India, is fatal in over 95% of the cases, if left untreated.

Resistance to Drug: The only drug available against leishmaniasis, miltefosine, is rapidly losing its effectiveness because of emerging resistance to this drug due to a decrease in its accumulation inside the parasite.

Responsible Proteins: A protein called ‘P4ATPase-CDC50’, is responsible for the intake of the drug by the parasite, and another protein, called ‘P-glycoprotein’, is responsible for throwing this drug out from within the parasite’s body.

A decrease in the activity of the former protein, and an increase in the activity of the latter results in less accumulation of miltefosine inside the parasite’s body, thus causing it to become resistant to the drug.

While exploring ways to tackle miltefosine resistance, the researchers worked with one of the species of Leishmania that causes infection, called Leishmania major.

They tried to manipulate these transporter proteins in the species in a manner that would result in increased uptake of the drug and a decrease in its being thrown out of the parasite’s body.

They used computational methods to design small molecules, called peptides, that could very specifically interact with the transporter proteins of Leishmania major alone, and not interfere with human proteins in any way.

A peptide is a short chain of amino acids. Amino acids are organic compounds that combine to form proteins.

Also read: https://www.aspireias.com/daily-news-analysis-current-affairs/The-Orphan-Drug-Act-Rare-diseases

Source: PIB

National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research- Coccolithophores

GS-III :

National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research- Coccolithophores

Recently, the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR) carried out the study of Coccolithophores (microscopic ancient marine algae) and found that there is a decrease in the concentration of oceanic calcium carbonate (CaCO3) in the southern Indian ocean.

Key Points

  • Coccolithophores are single-celled algae living in the upper layers of the world’s oceans.
  • They calcify marine phytoplankton that produce up to 40% of open ocean calcium carbonate and are responsible for 20% of the global net marine primary productivity.
  • They build exoskeletons from individual CaCO3 plates consisting of chalk and seashells.
  • Though carbon dioxide (CO2) is produced during the formation of these plates, coccolithophores help in removing it from the atmosphere and ocean by consuming it during photosynthesis.
  • At equilibrium, they absorb more CO2 than they produce, which is beneficial for the ocean ecosystem.
  • Abundance and diversity enrichment of coccolithophores in the southern Indian Ocean is highly dependent on time and influenced by various environmental factors such as silicate concentrations, calcium carbonate concentration, diatom abundance, light intensity and availability of macro and possibly micronutrient concentrations (marine pollution).

**Diatoms are single-celled algae which occur after sea ice breakdown with climate change and ocean acidification.

**Diatoms increase the silicate concentration in the waters and which in turn decreases CaCO3 and reduces coccolithophores diversity.

**It will affect the growth and skeleton structure of coccolithophores, with potential significance for the world ocean ecosystem.

  • The study points to climate change as a major reason for the altered coccolithophore calcification rate which is important for bringing positive changes in the marine ecosystem and the global carbon cycle.

Source: PIB

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