Issues related to Health and Education
- How India tests for Covid-19
- International Albinism Awareness Day
- Increased area under Kharif crops
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- NBWL calls for study on impact of sand mining in Uttarakhand
- Rare cave-dwelling baby dragons
Bilateral & International Relations
- Nepal passes amendment on new map
- India-Tanzania relations
Key Facts for Prelims
- RECOVERY Trial
- Great Oxidation Event
- Vast structures beneath the Earth
- Malabar Gliding frog
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Issues related to Health and Education
How India tests for Covid-19
The Indian Council of Medical Research recently approved ELISA test kits for COVID-19.
- Developed in 1974, ELISA stands for enzyme-linked immuno-sorbent assay.
- It detects whether a person’s immune system has produced antibodies against a particular infection — such as HIV.
- The test is called enzyme-linked because it uses enzymes to detect presence of antibodies in a blood sample.
- An ELISA test is of two types depending on the antibodies tested for — immunoglobulin G (IgG) and immunoglobulin M (IgM).
- IgG detects antibodies developed in later stage of infection, and IgM detects antibodies produced in early stages of infection. Currently only IgG testing kits have been approved in India.
- In India, the ELISA test for Covid-19 is only approved for serosurvey which estimate the proportion of the population exposed to infection.
- ELISA is relatively inexpensive and fast; its use is limited to making population-based estimates that can inform policy decisions.
- In May, ICMR designed a Covid Kavach ELISA IgG test through the National Institute of Virology in Pune.
- For individual diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19, the test used worldwide is RT-PCR (real time-polymerase chain reaction).
- In India, RT-PCR remains the final confirmatory test for COVID-19.
- The test involves taking swabs from the nasal and oral tracts, extracting the viral RNA in a printer-like machine and amplifying it to detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Corona.
- RT-PCR is expensive, while free in government labs.
Rapid antibody test:
- This test looks for antibodies in the blood, takes hardly 20-30 minutes, and is the cheapest.
- But a rapid test involves a high risk of false results — it may detect antibodies against of some other infection and show that the sample is positive for Covid-19.
- Hence this test is only used for population surveys.
- If a person tests positive through a rapid test, he has to undergo a confirmatory RT-PCR test before treatment. ELISA is more accurate than a rapid test.
- This is a privately designed test that works on the same principle as RT-PCR, but with a smaller kit and with faster results.
- TrueNat, designed by MolBio Diagnostics Pvt Ltd, Goa, is commonly used for tuberculosis and HIV testing.
- Recently, the ICMR approved TrueNat for screening and confirmation for Covid-19.
- If a sample test negative, it has to be treated as negative; if it tests positive, a second test called RdRp gene confirmatory assay has to be performed.
- The TrueNat machine is small and portable, mostly running on batteries, and provides result within 60 minutes.
- It involves taking nasal or oral swabs.
International Albinism Awareness Day
The International Albinism Awareness Day is observed every year on June 13.
- The UN General Assembly proclaimed June 13 to be International Albinism Awareness Day on December 2014, with it being observed for the first time in 2015.
- The day is celebrated to highlight the rights of those born with albinism and increase awareness of the genetic condition.
- Made To Shine is the chosen theme for this year’s International Albinism Awareness Day.
- It celebrates the achievements and successes of individuals with albinism worldwide.
- It is also a call for solidarity with those who have albinism and the challenges they face.
- Albinism is a rare disease which is characterised by a lack of melanin pigment in skin, hair and eyes.
- It is a genetically inherited, non-contagious disease.
- Those with albinism are vulnerable to sun exposure, that increases chances of skin cancer and severe visual impairment.
- Both parents must carry the gene for their child to have the condition.
- The condition is still not fully understood, socially or medically and has no cure at present.
- Albinism is widespread among animals as well and is caused by the absence of melanin in their bodies.
- One out of every 17,000 people across the world have albinism.
- Africa and Europe have the greatest number of those with albinism.
- In India, there are around 200,000 people who have albinism.
- In 2013, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution that called for the prevention of discrimination against individuals with albinism.
Increased area under Kharif crops
The area under Kharif crops has increased by 13.2% this year as compared to the last year’s level for this time of the year.
- Kharif or summer-sown crops account for half of India’s annual food output on 9.3 million hectares.
- Latest data from the agriculture ministry showed that farmers have sown pulses in 0.2 million hectares on June 13, 44.3% higher than sowing completed during the corresponding period last year.
- The area under oilseeds, cereals, rice, coarse cereals and cash crops like cotton and sugarcane has shown spike this year.
- The monsoon so far has been surplus by 31%, India Meteorological Department’s data till June 14 shows.
- According to the NITI Aayog’s assessment in April, the farm sector is poised to grow at least 3% in 2020-21, despite the pandemic.
- The fertiliser sales stood at 4 million tonnes in May 2020, which is twice the total sale during May 2019.
- The area sown is a critical gauge of the progress of cultivation, which depends on availability of inputs, such as fertilisers, seeds and pesticides, apart from weather.
- A larger sown area, aided by good weather, is an early sign of ample harvests.
- Agriculture has so far escaped the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, largely due to sufficient rains and uninterrupted markets for seeds and fertilisers, which were exempt from the lockdown.
Cropping Seasons in India:
India has three cropping seasons — Rabi, Kharif and Zaid.
1. Rabi crops:
- Rabi crops are sown in winter from October to December and harvested in summer from April to June.
- Some of the important rabi crops are wheat, barley, peas, gram and mustard.
- Though, these crops are grown in large parts of India, states from the north and northwestern parts such as Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh etc. are important for the production of wheat and other rabi crops.
- Availability of precipitation during winter months due to the western temperate cyclones helps in the success of these crops.
- The success of the green revolution in Punjab, Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh and parts of Rajasthan has also been an important factor in the growth of the above mentioned rabi crops.
2. Kharif crops:
- Kharif crops are grown with the onset of monsoon in different parts of the country and these are harvested in September-October.
- Important crops: Paddy, maize, jowar, bajra, tur (arhar), moong, urad, cotton, jute, groundnut and soyabean.
- Important rice-growing regions: Assam, West Bengal, coastal regions of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Maharashtra, particularly the (Konkan coast) along with Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
- In states like Assam, West Bengal and Odisha, three crops of paddy are grown in a year. These are Aus, Aman and Boro.
3. Zaid Crops:
- There is a short season during the summer months in between the rabi and the kharif seasons, known as the Zaid season.
- Some of the crops produced during zaid are watermelon, muskmelon, cucumber etc.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
NBWL calls for study on impact of sand mining in Uttarakhand
The National Board for Wildlife has raised concerns about extensive sand and boulder mining projects in Uttarakhand and their impact on river ecology and wildlife.
- There are over 100 sand mining leases operational in the state.
- NBWL had received three proposals for sand mining along the Asan Wetland Conservation Reserve and five along the Rajaji National Park’s boundary near Haridwar.
- NBWL decided against clearing the projects until they complied with Union environment ministry’s Sustainable Sand Mining Management Guidelines, 2016, and the National Tiger Conservation Authority’s conditions.
- The anthropogenic pressure and ecological degradation would be serious when several dozen miners work in the river beds around the Park, and thousands of trucks move every day for transport of the mining material.
National Board for Wildlife:
- NBW is a statutory board constituted by the Central Government under Section 5 A of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 (WLPA).
- Its role is advisory in nature and advises the Central Government on framing policies and measures for conservation of wildlife in the country.
Functions and Power:
- The primary function of the Board is to promote the conservation and development of wildlife and forests.
- It has power to review all wildlife-related matters and approve projects in and around National Parks and Sanctuaries.
- No alternation of boundaries in National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries can be done without approval of the NBWL.
- It adjudicates on industrial projects, road diversions or the like that could encroach into Protected Areas or eco-sensitive zones of forests.
- It is chaired by the Prime Minister and has 47 members including the Prime Minister.
- The standing committee of NBWL is chaired by the Minister of Environment Forest and Climate Change.
- The standing committee approves all the projects falling within protected wildlife areas or within 10 km of them.
Rare cave-dwelling baby dragons
Three rare aquatic creatures known as baby dragons are going on display in an aquarium at Slovenia’s Postojna Cave.
- The cave-dwelling animals called proteus or olms, have pale pink skin, no eyesight, a long thin body and four legs.
- They can grow up to a foot in length, making them the world’s largest cave-dwelling animals.
- They live only in the waters of dark caves of the southern European Karst region.
- Postojna Cave is the Europe’s largest cave have these olms kept in a special subterranean aquarium where the general public will be able to see them for the first time since they hatched in 2016.
- Karst is a topography formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone, dolomite, and gypsum.
- It is characterized by underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves.
- As rainwater seeps into the rock, it slowly erodes. This creates land forms such as shafts, tunnels, caves, and sinkholes.
- They are characterised by erosional landforms like pools, sinkholes, lapis and limestone pavements and depositional landforms like stalactites, stalagmites and pillars.
- There is a general absence of surface drainage and dry surface valleys – most of the surface water has gone underground.
- Streams rising on other rocks only flow over limestone for a short distance and then disappear underground.
Bilateral & International Relations
Nepal passes amendment on new map
The Lower House of Nepal’s Parliament unanimously approved a new map which includes India’s territories in Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district as the part of Nepal.
- The Lower House of Nepal’s Parliament unanimously passed the Second Constitution Amendment Bill guaranteeing legal status for the updated political map of Nepal which includes India’s territories in Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district.
- Apart from the ruling Nepal Communist Party, the amendment received support of the Nepali Congress and the newly formed Janata Samajvadi Party-Nepal.
- The Indian Ministry of External Affairs has said that the legislative process is violative of our current understanding to hold talks on outstanding boundary issues.
What is the Bone of Contention?
- The territorial dispute stems from the fact that Nepal claims the land to the east of river Kali, which forms the country’s western border.
- As per Nepal, the river originates from Limpiyadhura in the higher Himalayas, giving it access to a triangular-shaped land defined by Limpiyadhura-Lipulekh and Kalapani.
- India opposes the notion and says the origin of the river is much further down, which reduces Nepal’s territorial demand.
- Nepal has argued that the territorial dispute of Kalapani, Limpiyadhura and Lipulekh cannot be resolved at talks led by Foreign Secretaries or senior envoys as the disputed territories are now part of Nepal’s constitution and public imagination.
- The diplomatic fallout of the territorial dispute is likely to be serious and difficult days are expected ahead for Nepal-India relations as well as for South Asian region.
To know about India- Nepal border issue in detail, refer IASTopper’s Current Affairs of 14th May https://www.iastoppers.com/14th-may-2020-current-affairs-analysis-iastoppers/[Ref: The Hindu]
Prime Minister of India had a telephonic conversation with President of the United Republic of Tanzania.
- Tanzania and India have traditionally enjoyed close, friendly and co-operative relations.
- The political relationship was driven largely by shared ideological commitments to anti-colonialism, anti-racism, socialism in various forms as well as desire for South-South Cooperation.
Commercial and Economic Relations:
- India is the largest trading partner of Tanzania comprising 16% of Tanzania’s foreign trade.
- India is also among the top five investment sources in Tanzania.
- India’s major exports to Tanzania include petroleum products, pharmaceuticals & chemicals, motor vehicles, electrical goods, articles of iron & steel, sugar, machinery, etc.
- Tanzania’s major exports to India include gold dore, cashew nuts, pulses, timber, spices (mainly cloves), ores and metal scrap, gemstones, etc.
- Some of the recent MOU for Cooperation are: MOU in the field of Hydrography between Tanzania and India & Protocol on exchange of Hydrographic Data (2015).
- The Loan Agreement between Exim Bank and Government of Tanzania on line of credit for US$ 500 million for water supply projects in 17 towns across Tanzania (May 2018).
Culture and Indian Community:
- Tanzania is home to about 50,000 people of Indian origin which are concentrated in the major urban centers of the country.
- There is regular cultural outreach through performances by Indian arts groups in various towns of Tanzania, Yoga and AYUSH interactions, exhibitions and cooperation with educational institutions.
Key facts about Tanzania:
- The United Republic of Tanzania is located in eastern Africa on the Indian Ocean between Mozambique and Kenya and includes the island of Zanzibar.
- Capital: Dodoma
- Its largest city, Dar es Salaam, is located along the eastern coast on the Indian Ocean.
- It is home to Mt. Kilimanjaro (the highest point in Africa), Lake Victoria (the second largest lake in the world), and the Great Rift Valley.
- The climate varies from tropical along the coast to temperate in the highlands.
- Tanzania’s primarily agrarian economy is constrained by geography and environmental factors such as low and erratic rainfall, soil erosion and deforestation.
- Only 8 percent of Tanzania’s land is under cultivation, although about 80% of its population is employed in agriculture.
- Tanzania is among the fastest growing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Key Facts for Prelims
- AarogyaPath is a recently launched CSIR National Healthcare Supply Chain Portal.
- It aims to provide real-time availability of critical healthcare supplies.
- It is an integrated public platform that provides single-point availability of key healthcare goods and would serve manufacturers, suppliers and customers.
- CSIR expects AarogyaPath to become the national healthcare information platform, filling a critical gap in last-mile delivery of patient care within India through improved availability and affordability of healthcare supplies.
- It helps manufacturers and suppliers to reach a wide network of customers efficiently, overcoming gaps in connectivity between them and potential demand centers like nearby pathological laboratories, medical stores, hospitals, etc.
- The RECOVERY trial, a large randomised controlled trial in the U.K. has found no clinical benefit from use of hydroxychloroquine in hospitalised patients with COVID-19.
- RECOVERY trial is dynamic trial assessing five candidate drugs and convalescent plasma therapy for treating COVID-19 in patients in U.K. hospitals.
- These five drugs are: HIV drugs Lopinavir & Ritonavir, anti-inflammatory corticosteroid (dexamethasone), anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and antibiotic azithromycin.
- According to the World Health Organization, Entamoeba histolytica is the third-leading cause of morbidity and mortality due to parasitic disease in humans.
- It causes amoebiasis or amoebic dysentery, which is highly prevalent in developing countries.
- Amoebiasis infection is most common in tropical areas with untreated water.
- It spreads through drinking or eating uncooked food or fruits, that may have been washed in contaminated local water.
- A team of researchers from the Jawaharlal Nehru University has developed new drug molecules against the protozoa that causes amoebiasis.
- The inhibitors can check the growth of this organism with high efficacy.
Great Oxidation Event
- Great Oxidation Event refers to a time period when the Earth’s atmosphere and the shallow ocean experienced a rise in oxygen, approximately 2.4 billion years ago (2.4 Ga) to 2.1–2.0 Ga during the Paleoproterozoic era.
- The appearance of free oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere led to the Great Oxidation Event.
- This was triggered by cyanobacteria producing oxygen that was used by multicellular forms.
- The biologically produced molecular oxygen started to accumulate in Earth’s atmosphere and changed Earth’s atmosphere from a weakly reducing atmosphere to an oxidizing atmosphere, causing many existing species on earth to die out.
- Cyanobacteria belong to Earth’s oldest organisms and are still present today in oceans and waters and even in hot springs.
- By producing oxygen and evolving into multicellular forms, they played a key role in the emergence of organisms that breathe oxygen.
Vast structures beneath the Earth
- Scientists have discovered vast structures at a depth of around 2,900 km from the surface of Earth near its boundary at the molten core and solid mantle.
- This new discovery is paving the way towards developing a new map showing the details of things found in the interior of Earth above the liquid iron core.
- From this data, researchers had discovered ultra-low velocity (ULV) zone, a place where seismic waves travel at slower velocities.
- The map highlighted a large area under the Pacific and revealed a hot and dense regions were present below the Hawaii and Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia.
- For discovering this, the scientists used Sequencer which is a machine learning algorithm.
Malabar Gliding frog
- Malabar gliding frog is a tree frog endemic to the rain forests of Western Ghats.
- The amphibian can glide in the air up to 10 to 12 meters.
- The frog has got a body length of 10 cm, making it one of the largest mossy frogs.
- The fingers and toes are like sticks to attach and walk through tree branches.
- IUCN status: Least Concern.