Polity & Governance
- Ministry of Railway launches SFOORTI Application
Issues related to Health & Education
- India misses Kala Azar elimination deadline
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Ministry refuses captive breeding of Chiru antelope
Art & Culture
- National Youth Day and 22nd National Youth Festival
Science & Technology
- ISRO launches its 100th satellite into space
- New space telescope ‘SPARCS’ to explore nearby stars
- NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope passes critical milestone
- China launches latest Beidou-3 navigation satellites into space
Key Facts for Prelims
- First woman lawyer to be directly promoted as SC judge
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Polity & Governance
Ministry of Railway launches SFOORTI Application
In a major digital initiative to help plan the traffic flows and optimize freight operations, Ministry of Railways have launched Smart Freight Operation Optimisation & Real Time Information (SFOORTI) App for Freight Managers which provides features for monitoring and managing freight business using Geographic Information System (GIS) Views and Dashboard.
Salient features of SFOORTI Application:
- With this application, movement of freight trains on Geographic Information System (GIS) view can be tracked.
- Both passenger and freight trains can be tracked over Zones/Divisions/ Sections in single GIS View.
- Freight business can be monitored.
- Comparative Analysis of Zonal/Divisional Traffic.
- Analysis of new traffic captured and traffic lost.
- This app provides a Bird’s eye view of all Freight Assets in a single window.
- Provides end to end Rake movement on Geospatial view
- Expected Traffic at Interchange points to evaluate daily performance can be viewed.
- Performance of each zone and divisions with respect to loading and utilization of freight assets can be viewed.
- Sectional performance monitoring for sections, divisions and zones shall help in traffic routing.
- Freight terminal and sidings can be better monitored to ensure better turnaround of rakes.
Significance of Railway Freight traffic:
- Railway Freight traffic is vital for economic and industrial progress of the country.
- Freight traffic is major source of revenue for Indian Railways.
- Only one-third of 13000 trains running daily by Indian Railways are freight trains, but they account 65% of total revenue of Railways.
Issues related to Health & Education
India misses Kala Azar elimination deadline
India has missed December 2017 deadline announced for elimination of Kala Azar (black fever) in 2017-18 Budget by the Union Government.
- Elimination in this case is defined as reducing annual incidence of disease to less than 1 case per 10,000 people at the sub-district level.
- In recent times endemic blocks have increased from 61 to 68 in 17 districts of Bihar and Jharkhand.
Reasons for rise in endemic blocks
- The active case findings rather than actual increase in disease are main reason for increase in number of endemic blocks.
- Moreover, little-known skin condition called Post Kala Azar Dermal Leishmaniasis (PKDL) — a red flag for transmission of Kala Azar—also has been growing steadily over the past few years.
Reasons for missing deadline
- For elimination of Kala Azar, its vector needs to be eliminated first. But it is very difficult to eliminate vector as it dwells in wooden structure and escapes various measures to kill it.
- The majority of houses in endemic blocks are made from wood. Hence, to stop infection transmission, pucca houses need to be built.
What is kala-azar?
Kala-azar, also known as black fever and Dumdum fever, is a slow progressing indigenous disease caused by a protozoan parasite of genus Leishmania.
- The parasite primarily infects reticuloendothelial system and may be found in abundance in bone marrow, spleen and liver.
- It is zoonotic (or parasatic) infection transmitted by sand fly (Leishmania donovani), a blood-sucking pest, which is one-third size of mosquitoes and found in moist (humid) mud and sand and in close proximity to livestock.
- Kala-azar is a vector borne disease.
- It signs and symptoms include fever, weight loss, fatigue, anemia, and substantial swelling of liver and spleen.
- It is treatable and requires a medical diagnosis.
- If untreated, kala-azar can kill within two years of onset of ailment.
- Kala-azar belongs to Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD)family of diseases which affect poorest populations.
- It is second-largest parasitic killer in world after Malaria.
- It is endemic to Indian subcontinent in 119 districts in four countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal).
Kala-azar in India:
- India accounts for half the global burden of Kala-azar disease.
- In India, Leishmania donovani is the only parasite causing this disease.
- Sandfly of genus Phlebotomus argentipes are the only known vectors of kala-azar in India
- Indian Kala-azar has a unique epidemiological feature of being Anthroponotic; human is the only known reservoir of infection.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Ministry refuses captive breeding of Chiru antelope
The Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has refused to allow captive breeding of Chiru (Tibetan antelope), whose underfur is used for making famous shahtoosh shawls.
- The suggestion for captive breeding was made by Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science & Technology, Environment & Forests asking to consider captive breeding as it will add to livelihood of people of Kashmir.
- Chiru for long time have been hunted for their underfur, which is renowned for its quality which is traditionally woven into an extremely fine fabric to make Shahtoosh shawls. It takes three to five hides to make a single shawl.
- Moreover, the wool cannot be sheared or combed and to collect the fur, the animals have to be killed.
Parliament panel view:
- The Parliament panel was of view that MoEFCC should conserve and breed Chiru goat, which can then be given to shawl makers for collecting hair.
- This would increase number of these goats but would also add to sustainable livelihood opportunities of people of Kashmir, who are lot dependant on the handicraft of embroidered shawls.
- It also cited that China and Mongolia are breeding Chiru goats for its wool, which is very expensive. The cost of an embroidered shahtoosh shawl can run into crores of rupees.
Why the government is not in favour of captive breeding of Chiru?
- Chiru is assessed as ‘Near Threatened’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) 2017. Their current low population can only be maintained with continued high levels of protection in its natural. Any relaxation in protection regime of animal will lead to rapid population decline due to commercial poaching.
- Chiru inhabits high-altitude Tibetan plateau and requires large expanse of land for its movement and ranging patterns to fulfil its feeding and breeding requirements. Rearing it in captivity is extremely difficult.
- Besides, any attempt to do conservation breeding at very high altitude regions of Ladakh may not be economical or feasible as humans cannot be posted there continuously for more than 2-3 months.
- Moreover, Chinese also have failed to keep Chiru in captivity due to its poor survival rates.
About Tibetan antelope (chiru):
- Tibetan antelope (chiru) is a medium-sized bovid native to the Tibetan plateau.
- It is classified as “near threatened” under the IUCN’s red list.
- In recent years, they have become endangered due to poaching. Fewer than 75,000 individuals are left in the wild.
- They are hunted for their soft and warm wool which is usually obtained after death. This wool is known as shahtoosh and is used to weave shawls.
- The shahtoosh trade was banned globally in 1975 under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to which India is a signatory.
- Chiru is listed under Schedule- I of the India’s Wildlife (Protection) Act, granting it the highest level of protection.
- They are found almost entirely in China, where they inhabit Tibet, southern Xinjiang, and western Qinghai; a few are also found across the border in Ladakh, India. Today, the majority are found within the Chang Tang Nature Reserve of northern Tibet.
Art & Culture
National Youth Day and 22nd National Youth Festival
The National Youth Day is observed every year on 12 January to mark the birth anniversary of social reformer, philosopher, thinker and youth icon of India Swami Vivekananda.
- On the occasion of National Youth Day, the 22nd National Youth Festival (NYF) was held in New Delhi.
- This is the first time that the National Youth Festival is being organized in National Capital Region (NCR). The first National Youth Festival was held in 1995 in Bhopal.
About National Youth Festival (NYF):
NYF is the biggest Youth Festival of its kind in the Country.
- The Theme of the Festival is ‘Sankalp Se Siddhi’.
- The objective of organizing NYF is to provide a platform to bring the youth of the country together in an attempt to provide them opportunity to showcase their talents in various activities.
- It seeks to capitalize on demographic dividend of country’s youth and also capture vibrancy and fresh perspective of youth and to pledge to accomplish goal of New India.
- The Festival is organised by Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports in collaboration with State Govt. of Uttar Pradesh at Gautam Buddha University.
- The Festival also provides an arena, by creating a Mini-India, where youth interact in formal and informal settings and exchange their social and cultural uniqueness. This blend of diverse socio-cultural milieu creates ‘Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat’.
- The entire programme is designed to enhance the awareness about government initiatives and exhorting the youth to express their perceptions and concepts of how to make their initiatives more effective.
Science & Technology
ISRO launches its 100th satellite into space
Indian Space agency ISRO has successfully sent up a rocket carrying India’s 100th satellite along with 30 others, four months after failed launch.
- The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle or PSLV lifted off from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. This is the 42nd flight of the PSLV.
- The PSLV-C40 placed 31 satellites, originating from seven countries.
- The 30 other satellites onboard include two other satellites from India and 28 satellites from six countries — Canada, Finland, France, Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States.
- The Cartosat-2 satellite, the third in the series, was deployed to relay high resolution scene specific spot imageries. The images will be useful for cartographic applications, urban and rural applications, coastal land use and regulation, road network monitoring, water distribution, creation of land use maps and change detection to bring out geographical Land Information Systems and Geographical Information System applications.
- The mission is a unique one, since the satellites were launched in two orbits.
- Thirty of the satellites were launched in an orbit 550 km about, and one 359-km above the Earth.
- This was done through what scientists call the “multiple burn technology” under which the rocket’s engine is switched off and then switched on to control its height.
- This is ISRO’s first launch in 2018 and it is also the first after the unsuccessful mission of IRNSS-1H in August last year.
About Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV):
PSLV is an expendable launch system developed and operated by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
- It was developed to allow India to launch its Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellites into sun-synchronous orbits, a service that was, until the advent of the PSLV, commercially available only from Russia.
- PSLV can also launch small size satellites into geostationary transfer orbit (GTO).
- It is the first Indian launch vehicle to be equipped with liquid stages.
- After its first successful launch in October 1994, PSLV emerged as the reliable and versatile workhorse launch vehicle of India with 39 consecutively successful missions by June 2017.
- During 1994-2017 period, the vehicle has launched 48 Indian satellites and 209 satellites for customers from abroad.
- Besides, the vehicle successfully launched two spacecrafts – Chandrayaan-1 in 2008 and Mars Orbiter Spacecraft in 2013 – that later traveled to Moon and Mars respectively
New space telescope ‘SPARCS’ to explore nearby stars
Scientists are planning to launch a small telescope into the Earth’s orbit that will monitor the flares and sunspots of small stars to assess how habitable the environment is for planets orbiting them.
The spacecraft, known as the Star-Planet Activity Research CubeSat, or SPARCS, is a new NASA-funded space telescope and will be launched in 2021.
- The mission, including spacecraft design, integration and resulting science, is led by Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration (SESE).
- The stars that SPARCS will focus on are small, dim, and cool by comparison to the Sun. Having less than half the Sun’s size and temperature, they shine with barely one per cent its brightness.
- The heart of the SPARCS spacecraft will be a telescope with a diameter of nine centimetres plus a camera with two ultraviolet-sensitive detectors to be developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
- Both the telescope and camera will be optimised for observations using ultraviolet light, which strongly affects the planet’s atmosphere and its potential to harbour life on the surface.
- Scientists will study the habitability and high-energy environment around stars that they call M dwarfs.
What exactly the M dwarfs are?
- When we look up at the night sky, none of the stars we see are M dwarfs.
- These diminutive stars, much smaller and dimmer than our own sun aren’t bright enough to see with the naked eye.
- M dwarfs (also known as red dwarfs) are by far the most common stars around, comprising some 70 percent of all the stars in our galaxy.
Researches on M dwarfs:
- Astronomers have discovered that essentially every M dwarf star has at least one planet orbiting it, and about one system in four has a rocky planet located in the star’s habitable zone.
- This is the potentially life-friendly region where temperatures are neither too hot nor too cold for life as we know it, and liquid water could exist on the planet’s surface.
- Since M dwarfs are so plentiful, astronomers estimate that our galaxy alone contains roughly 40 billion rocky planets in habitable zones around their stars. This means that most of the habitable-zone planets in our galaxy orbit M dwarfs.
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope passes critical milestone
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope — the world’s premier infrared space observatory of the next decade — has successfully completed critical testing in a massive thermal vacuum chamber, enabling it to function properly in the extremely cold and airless environment in space in 2019.
About James webb space telescope:
Webb Space Telescope is the most sophisticated — and expensive — space observatory ever designed.
- It is bigger and more powerful than NASA’s operational Hubble Space Telescope.
- JWST is a space telescope optimized for observations in the infrared.
- It is the formal successor to the Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer Space Telescope. It is 100 times more potent than its predecessor, Hubble, and three times larger.
- After its launch, it will be the premier observatory of the next decade.
- It was formerly known as the Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST).
- It is an international collaboration between of about 17 countries including NASA, European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
- The main component of the telescope is the primary mirror, which consists of 18 hexagonal mirrors and looks like a giant puzzle piece.
- It will help in broad range of investigations across the fields of astronomy and cosmology.
- It will help to understand the origins of the universe, evolution of our own Solar System, search for signs of life on faraway planets.
- It can also analyze the atmospheres of exoplanets that pass in front of their stars.
China launches latest Beidou-3 navigation satellites into space
China has sent twin satellites into space on a single carrier rocket, as part of efforts to enable its BeiDou system to provide navigation and positioning services to countries along the Belt and Road by the end of 2018.
- This is the first launch of the BeiDou satellites in 2018.
- The twin satellites are coded the 26th and 27th satellites in the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS).
BeiDou Navigation Satellite System
Named after the Chinese term for the plough or the Big Dipper constellation, the BeiDou project was formally initiated in 1994.
- It began to serve China in 2000 and the Asia-Pacific region at the end of 2012.
- Beidou currently consists of 10 satellites and covers a swath of the Asia-Pacific region from Australia in the south to Russia in the north.
- The system is accurate to within 82 feet (25 meters) and now serves China and surrounding areas on a pilot basis.
- The emergence of Beidou should make China far less dependent on the GPS constellation, which is operated by the United States military and is currently the world’s dominant satellite navigation network.
- It is important to note that India has its own navigation satellite Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), US has Global Positioning System (GPS), Russia has Glonass, Europe has Galileo and Japan has QZSS.
Key Facts for Prelims
First woman lawyer to be directly promoted as SC judge
- Senior Advocate Indu Malhotra will be the first woman lawyer to be directly elevated from the Bar to the Supreme Court as a judge.
- Her name was recently cleared unanimously by the Supreme Court Collegium.
- Indu Malhotra will be the seventh woman judge since Independence to make it to the Supreme Court.