Current Affairs Analysis

15th & 16th March 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

SC approves Kerala slotting construction in Orange category; CPCB’s red, orange, green and white categories;Odisha cancels annual Chaitra Jatra festival; Chaitra Jatra festival; Rushikulya river; Nagarahole National Park; Royal Bengal Tiger; National Green Tribunal; Govt. seeks city-level plans for clean air; National Clean Air Programme; Centre withdraws ex-gratia notification on COVID-19; State Disaster Response Fund; Disaster; Emergency COVID-19 fund for SAARC nations; SAARC; How a little shell tells us the day was 23½ hours long; Defence Fund shortfall; Role of glucose in regulating liver functions and ageing; Trial shows success in treating drug-resistant TB; Tuberculosis; Super Hydrophobic coating; Break the Chain.
By IASToppers
March 16, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • SC approves Kerala slotting construction in Orange category
  • Centre withdraws ex-gratia notification on COVID-19

Government Schemes & Policies

  • seeks city-level plans for clean air

Issues related to Health & Education

  • Role of glucose in regulating liver functions and ageing
  • Trial shows success in treating drug-resistant TB

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Nagarahole National Park

Bilateral & International Relations

  • Emergency COVID-19 fund for SAARC nations

Defence & Security Issues

  • Defence Fund shortfall

Art & Culture

  • Odisha cancels annual Chaitra Jatra festival

Science & Technology

  • How a little shell tells us the day was 23½ hours long?

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Super Hydrophobic coating
  • Break the Chain

 

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Polity & Governance

SC approves Kerala slotting construction in Orange category

The Supreme Court has declined to interfere in an appeal filed by the Kerala chapter of the Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India (CREDAI) against the National Green Tribunal’s rejection of its contention that the inclusion of constructions between 2,000 sq. m and 20,000 sq. m in the ‘orange category’ by the Kerala State Pollution Control Board was arbitrary.

Central Pollution Control Board:

  • The CPCB of India is a statutory organisation under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).

CPCB’s red, orange, green and white categories:

Based on the series of brain storming sessions among CPCB, SPCBs and MoEFCC, the following criteria on ‘Range of Pollution Index ‘for the purpose of categorization of industrial sectors is finalized.

  1. Industrial Sectors having Pollution Index score of 60 and above –  Red category
  2. Industrial Sectors having Pollution Index score of 41 to 59 –  Orange category
  3. Industrial Sectors having Pollution Index score of 21 to 40–  Green category
  4. Industrial Sectors having Pollution Index score upto 20-  White category

Red List:

  • No Red category of industries shall normally be permitted in the ecologically fragile area / protected area.
  • List of Red category sector include: Storage of hazardous chemicals, Automobile Manufacturing (integrated), Hazardous waste recycling, Oil and gas extraction, Lead acid battery, Tanneries, Power generation plant, Thermal Power plants etc.

Orange List:

  • List of Orange category sector include: Building and construction (less than 20,000 sq. m), Coal washery, Food and food processing, Automobile servicing, repairing, Fertilizer (granulation / formulation / blending), Stone crushers etc.

Green List:

  • List of Green category sector include: Ayurvedic medicines, Cement products, Oil and gas transportation pipeline, Polythene and plastic products, Small Hotels etc.

White List:

  • The industrial projects under the new category of “White“, which is practically non-polluting, will not require either Environmental Clearance under Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 or Consent under Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.
  • There are 36 industry sector which fall under ‘White’ category which includes bio-fertilizers, bio pesticides, medical oxygen, electrical and electronic items, cotton and woolen hosieries, organic manure.

National Green Tribunal (NGT):

  • National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 is an Act of the Parliament of India which enables creation of a special tribunal to handle the expeditious disposal of the cases pertaining to environmental issues.
  • It draws inspiration from the India’s constitutional provision of Part III of the Constitution of India, Article 21 Protection of life and personal liberty, which assures the citizens of India the right to a healthy environment.
  • Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) is a department to control pollution in Delhi.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Centre withdraws ex-gratia notification on COVID-19

Hours after it issued a notification that an ex-gratia of ₹4 lakhs will be paid to the families of those who die of COVID-19 infection, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) withdrew the order.

What is the issue?

  • In an order recently, the MHA said it has decided to treat COVID-19 as a “notified disaster” for the purpose of providing assistance under the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF).
  • Under the old notification, the MHA listed ex-gratia relief to families of deceased persons and cost of hospitalization for managing COVID-19 patients at rates fixed by the State government among the items for assistance from the SDRF pool.
  • It issued another “partially modified” notification the same day where the above two items were removed.
  • It said the items that would be included for assistance under the SDRF are measures for quarantine, sample collection, screening and procurement of essential equipment/laboratories in response to COVID-19.
  • Relief to families of victims and cost of hospitalization removed in new order.
  • No explanation was given by the MHA officials for the modified notification.

What is the State Disaster Response Fund?

  • The SDRF is constituted under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and is the primary fund available with state governments for responses to notified disasters.
  • The Central government contributes 75 % towards the SDRF allocation for general category states and UTs, and over 90 % for special category states/UTs, which includes northeastern states, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand).
  • For SDRF, the Centre releases funds in two equal installments as per the recommendation of the Finance Commission.
  • On the other hand, the National Disaster Response Fund, which is also constituted under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 supplements the SDRF of a state, in case of a disaster of severe nature, provided adequate funds are not available in the SDRF.
  • The disasters covered under the SDRF include cyclones, droughts, tsunamis, hailstorms, landslides, avalanches and pest attacks among others.

What is a disaster?

  • According to the Disaster Management Act, a disaster is a catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence in any area, arising from natural or man-made causes, or by accident or negligence which results in substantial loss of life or human suffering or damage to, and destruction of, property, or damage to, or degradation of, environment, and is of such a nature or magnitude as to be beyond the coping capacity of the community of the affected area.
  • Ministry of Home Affairs has defined a disaster as an “extreme disruption of the functioning of a society that causes widespread human, material, or environmental losses that exceed the ability of the affected society to cope with its own resources.”
  • Further, the High Power Committee on Disaster Management, which was constituted in 1999, identified 31 disaster categories organised into five major sub-groups, which are: water and climate related disasters, geological related disasters, chemical, industrial and nuclear related disasters and biological related disasters, which includes biological disasters and epidemics.
[Ref: The Hindu, Indian Express]

Government Schemes & Policies

Govt. seeks city-level plans for clean air

Ministry of Environment has asked for city-level plans for the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) as these problems need to be dealt with at the local level.

Concern:

  • 342 out of 700 industries inspected by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) have been found violating environmental norms and causing pollution in the last four years.
  • The CPCB had carried out inspections for verification of compliance to environmental norms between April 2016 and March 2020.

National Clean Air Programme:

  • The National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) is envisaged as a scheme to provide the States and the Centre with a framework to combat air pollution.
  • The National Clean Air Programme is a pollution control initiative that was launched by the Ministry of Environment.

Aim of NCAP:

  • The main aim of the programme would be 20-30% reduction of PM2.5 and PM10 concentration by 2024.

Cities that fall under the Scheme:

  • 102 cities from 23 States and UTs have been chosen as non-attainment cities.
  • With the exception of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru, most of those chosen are tier two cities.
  • Maharashtra tops the list with 17 cities in the list, including Pune and Nagpur, while Uttar Pradesh is second with 15 cities chosen, including Lucknow and Varanasi.

Details of the scheme:

  • The programme is expected to be a collaboration between the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Ministry of Heavy Industry, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Health, NITI Aayog, and Central Pollution Control Board.
  • The NCAP will be a mid-term, five-year action plan with 2019 as the first year.
  • The programme would take 2017 as the base year for the comparison of concentration.

 [Ref: The Hindu, PIB]

Issues related to Health & Education

Role of glucose in regulating liver functions and ageing

A study by researchers from Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai shows that glucose controls the function of SIRT1 directly. A shortage or absence of this control can lead to a diabetic-like state, while excess feeding and sustained low levels of SIRT1 can lead to obesity and enhanced ageing.

Health and feeding regimen:

  • There are many diseases related to high calorie content in the body, such as metabolic disorders as shown in animal studies.
  • Every organism has evolved so as to feed and then alternately fast, so it becomes important to understand this cycle.
  • This cycle, known as the feed-fast cycle is a basic pattern and the metabolism related to this is largely taken care of by the liver.
  • The mechanism that triggers the liver to go from one stage to another in the feed-fast cycle.

Role of glucose:

  • Glucose controls the functions of a protein SIRT1 which in turn maintains everyday feed-fast cycles and is also associated with longevity.
  • In normal healthy individuals, SIRT1 protein levels are known to increase during fasting and decrease during feed, which is essential to maintain a balance between glucose and fat metabolism.
  • Despite decades of work on the beneficial roles of SIRT1, metabolic factors that decrease its functions both during normal feed-fast cycles and in nutrient excess states (like obesity) was unknown.
  • Glucose puts a check on the activity of SIRT1 in the fed state.
  • In the absence of this check, SIRT1 activity increases and results in hyperglycaemia in a fasted state, mimicking diabetic state.
  • Constant feeding or high calorie intake that leads to sustained reduction in the levels of SIRT1 (by glucose) is associated with ageing and obesity.

Future steps:

  • This study paves the way to regulating this modification, which might be beneficial in tackling lifestyle disorders and ageing related diseases.
  • The group next seeks to investigate if glucose-dependent control can dictate gene expression during feed-fast cycles.

 [Ref: The Hindu]

Trial shows success in treating drug-resistant TB

A small trial (Nix-TB) undertaken at three sites in South Africa to test the safety and efficacy of three oral drugs — bedaquiline, pretomanid and linezolid — in 109 patients with extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) and multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) showed encouraging results.

Success rate:

  • The 90% treatment success in the case of hard-to-treat patients is at par with the success rate seen while treating drug-sensitive TB.
  • Of the 109 patients treated, 11 had unfavourable outcomes while 98 had favourable outcomes.
  • The treatment success rate was 89% (63 of 71) for XDR-TB and 92% (35 of 38).
  • This study shows that XDR tuberculosis and complicated MDR tuberculosis can be treated with a regimen consisting of three oral agents for 26 weeks.

Tuberculosis:

  • Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that most often affect the lungs.
  • Tuberculosis is curable and preventable.
  • TB is spread from person to person through the air.
  • When people with lung TB cough, sneeze or spit, they propel the TB germs into the air.
  • A person needs to inhale only a few of these germs to become infected.
  • Tuberculosis mostly affects adults in their most productive years.
  • However, all age groups are at risk.
  • Over 95% of cases and deaths are in developing countries.
  • Tobacco use greatly increases the risk of TB disease and death.
  • 7.9% of TB cases worldwide are attributable to smoking.
  • Sustainable Development Goal 3.3 includes a target of ending the TB epidemic by 2030.

 [Ref: The Hindu]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Nagarahole National Park

A tiger which was suspected to be injured and was immobile in a coffee plantation abutting the borders of Nagarahole National Park and Virajpet in Kodagu was tranquilised for treatment but died while being shifted to the Mysuru zoo.

About Nagarahole National Park:

  • Nagarhole National Park is a national park located in Kodagu district and Mysore district in Karnataka, India.
  • It is one of India’s premier Tiger Reserves along with the adjoining Bandipur Tiger Reserve.
  • This park was declared the thirty seventh Project Tiger, Tiger reserves of India in 1999.
  • It is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.
  • The Western Ghats Nilgiri Sub-Cluster of 6,000 km2, including all of Nagarhole National Park, is under consideration by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for selection as a World Heritage Site.
  • The park has rich forest cover, small streams, hills, valleys and waterfalls.
  • The park has a healthy predator-prey ratio, with many tigers, Gaur, elephants, Indian leopards, and deer (Chital, Sambar, etc.).

Mysuru zoo:

  • Mysuru Zoo or the Sri Chamarajendra Zoological Gardens is a 157-acre zoo located near the palace in Mysore, India.
  • It is one of the oldest and most popular zoos in India, and is home to a wide range of species.

Royal Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris):

  • IUCN Red List: Endangered
  • Largest populations in India and some tigers in Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan.
  • Habitats: Tropical rainforests, marshes, and tall grasses.
  • As per the Status of Tigers, Co-predators, Prey and their Habitat, 2018’, India’s tiger population has jumped to an estimated 2,967, a rise by 33% over 2,226 reported in 2014.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Bilateral & International Relations

Emergency COVID-19 fund for SAARC nations

India pledged $10 million toward a COVID-19 emergency fund and said it was putting together a rapid response team of doctors and specialists for South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations as part of an initiative led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Welcome move:

  • Modi made the announcements during a video-conference with SAARC leaders that he had proposed amid rising cases of the disease in the region.
  • The voluntary creation of a COVID-19 emergency fund was proposed.
  • India’s offer was welcomed by all SAARC leaders.
  • Like other disasters, it rightly focuses on three Rs of its management – rescue, relief and rehabilitation.
  • Regional cooperation initiatives on a global disaster like this will act as building blocks for re-discovering the virtues of multilateralism.

South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC):

  • The SAARC was established with the signing of the SAARC Charter in Dhaka in 1985.
  • The Secretariat of the Association was set up in Kathmandu in 1987.
  • It aims to promote the economic development, regional integration and welfare of the people of South Asia.
  • SAARC is also one of the poorest regions of the world, ranking just second to the Sub-Saharan region in Africa.
  • Even with the presence of five of the world’s 20 megacities, it is the least urbanized region in the world with an urban population of about 27%.
  • Among its 5 regional centres, SAARC Disaster Management Centre (SDMC) is located in India.

Constituents of SAARC:

  • The SAARC includes the eight South Asian countries viz. India, Maldives, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
https://www.iastoppers.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Constituents-of-SAARC.png
[Ref: Economic Times]

Defence & Security Issues

Defence Fund shortfall

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence has expressed concern at the widening gap between projections and allocations in the defence budget impacting modernization and has recommended a dedicated fund for committed liabilities and procurements.

Widening Gap:

  • The shortfall in allocation has also effected setting up of three tri-service organisations and the operational readiness of the Andaman and Nicobar Command.
  • From the information submitted by the Ministry, the Committee notes that since 2015-16, none of the three Services has been given the matching allocation as per the projection.
  • The gap in capital allocation for the Army which was ₹4,596 crores in 2015-16, has increased to ₹17,911.22 crores in 2020-21 (14% to 36%).
  • In case of the Navy, the difference was ₹1,264.89 crores in 2014-15, which has increased to ₹18,580 crores in 2020-21 (5% to 41%) and for the Air Force, the gap of ₹12,505.21 crores in 2015-16 has increased to ₹22,925.38 crores in 2020-21 (27% to 35%).

Concerns:

  • The Committee opines that such situation is not conducive for preparation of country to modern-day warfare, where possession of capital intensive modern machines is pre-requisite for not only tilting the result of war in our favour but also having a credible deterrence.
  • The Committee noted the considerable shortage in the allocation in the Capital Head, which is 35% less than the projection.
  • The Committee observes that Navy’s fighting capabilities depend on the high value platforms like aircraft carrier, submarines, destroyers and frigate but the allocation of Capital Budget for Navy has the sharpest decline.
  • On the committed liabilities, which are payments anticipated during a financial year for contracts concluded in previous years, the Committee noted that they constitute a significant part of the Capital Head.
  • Inadequate allocation would definitely lead to ‘default situation’ on contractual obligations.
  • Both the Navy and the IAF have a situation where their committed liabilities are more than their share of the capital allocation in the Budget.
  • To offset this, the Services have been forced to defer payment of committed liabilities of the Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSU) among other measures.
  • The implications of shortfall in miscellaneous expenditure include inability to operationalization of Defence Space Agency (DSA), Defence Cyber Agency (DCYA) and Armed Forces Special Operations Division (AFSOD).
  • Other implications are lower operational readiness of Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC) ships due to impact on annual refit plans, maintenance of SIGINT (Signal Intelligence) equipment and administration of training institutes and operational units.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Art & Culture

Odisha cancels annual Chaitra Jatra festival

The famous annual Chaitra Jatra festival scheduled to be held on March 17 at Odisha’s Tara Tarini hill shrine was cancelled as a precautionary measure against COVID-19 infection.

What is the move?

  • The administration and the Tara Tarini Development Board (TTDB) at a meeting held at Chhatrapur, Odisha have decided to abide by the instructions of the government after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.
  • According to TTDB, more than 1.5 lakh visitors were to arrive for the festival. Of these, around 50,000 were expected to reach the hill top to offer prayers to the deity, while the rest would have enjoyed the festival at the foothill.
  • The administration withdrew all public services that were to be provided for the jatra. It has been decided to not allow any congregation at the foothill from March 16. No mass feast will also be allowed.
  •  All servitors of the temple have been asked to inform devotees and to persuade them to cancel their trips.
  • A medical team will be present at the temple to screen the small number of persons who may arrive.

Chaitra Jatra festival:

  • This festival is celebrated at Tara Tarini hill shrine on Tuesdays of the Hindu month of Chaitra.
  • The largest gatherings occur on second and third Tuesdays.
  • Tara Tarini hill shrine, located at Kumari hill on banks of the Rushikulya river, is a major centre of Shakti worship in Odisha.

Rushikulya river:

  • The Rushikulya River is one of the major rivers in the state of Odisha and covers entire catchment area in the districts of Kandhamal and Ganjam of Odisha.
  • The Rushikulya originates at an elevation of about 1000 metres from Daringbadi hills of the Eastern Ghats range.
  • It meets the Bay of Bengal at Puruna Bandha in Ganjam.
  • Its tributaries are the Baghua, the Dhanei, the Badanadi etc.
  • It has no delta as such at its mouth.
  • This area is the location of one of the largest mass nesting (Arribada) sites of olive ridley sea turtles in India.

Key Fact:

  • Indian Navy’s sailboat INSV Tarini was named after Tara Tarini hill shrine.
  • The first Indian all-woman crew had circumnavigated the globe in INSV Tarini.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Science & Technology

How a little shell tells us the day was 23½ hours long?

In a recent study published in the American Geophysical Union’s journal Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology, gives clue about different duration of day earlier as compared to today.

What is the finding?

  • Earth spun 372 times a year 70 million years ago, compared to the current 365.
  • This means the day was 23½ hours long, compared to 24 today.
  • This new measurement, in turn, informs models of how the Moon formed and how close it has been to Earth over their 4.5-billion-year gravitational relationship.

Faster Earth in the ancient days:

  • It has long been known that Earth’s spin has slowed over time.
  • Torreites sanchezi grew very fast, laying down daily growth rings.
  • Using lasers on a single individual, scientists sampled tiny slices and counted the growth rings accurately.
  • This allowed them to determine the number of days in a year 70 million years ago, and more accurately calculate the length of a day.
  • It is important to note that the period of Earth’s orbit has remained the same.
  • In other words, one year 70 million years ago was as long as one year today.
  • However, if there were a calendar then, the year would have been 372 “days” long, with each “day” half-an-hour shorter than one day today.
  • Today, Earth’s orbit is not exactly 365 days, but 365 days and a fraction, which is why our calendars have leap years, as a correction.

The Moon’s retreat:

  • Friction from ocean tides, caused by the Moon’s gravity, slows Earth’s rotation and leads to longer days.
  • And as Earth’s spin slows, the Moon moves farther away, at 3.82 cm per year.
  • If this rate is projected back in time, however, the Moon would be inside the Earth only 1.4 billion years ago.
  • Which cannot be, for the Moon has been with us much longer, which means the Moon’s rate of retreat has changed over time.

 [Ref: Indian Express]

Key Facts for Prelims

Super Hydrophobic coating

  • A team of chemical engineers created a similar super hydrophobic coating that can be used to save steel from rusting.
  • The team used polyurethane and silicon dioxide nanoparticles to create the coating which can be easily spin-coated on steel. The surface of the coating was found to have super hydrophobic property.
  • The coating was also chemically stable in both acidic and alkaline conditions. It also exhibited thermal stability, mechanical stability and self-cleaning.

Break The Chain

The Kerala health ministry launched a mass handwashing campaign called ‘Break The Chain’ to protect self and the community from Covid-19 infection.

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