Polity & Governance
- Data vacuum due to COVID-19
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- North India reels under intense heat
- State of the World’s Forests report 2020
- The invasion of Desert Locusts
- Banana Covid hits plantations
- Snow leopard conflict cases rise in Ladakh
Art and Culture
- Quest for birthplace of Purandara Dasa
Key Facts for Prelims
- Mizoram grants industry status to sports
- Guru Arjan Dev
- Balbir Singh
- New species of Frog
- New species of Fish
- Germplasm collection
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Polity & Governance
Data vacuum due to COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has stalled the many surveys which were to be conducted this year including Household Consumer Expenditure and Census survey.
Household Consumer Expenditure:
- The National Sample Survey Office (now National Statistical Office) conducted a large sample survey of Household Consumer Expenditure (HCE) in 2009-10.
- This survey, usually carried out once in five years, was repeated in 2011-12.
- The reason: 2009-10 saw India suffer both a severe drought and the aftereffects of the global financial crisis.
- 2011-12 was a normal year like 1999-2000 and 2004-05, free from any major economic downturn.
- The NSO did carry out a HCE survey for 2017-18, but the Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation did not release its results citing “data quality issues”.
- Instead, it proposed conducting back-to-back HCE surveys in 2020-21 and 2021-22 “after incorporating all data quality refinements”.
- The 2020-21 survey is supposed to start from July, which looks unlikely given the novel coronavirus-induced situation.
What else is uncertain?
- The Census, which collects individual-level demographic information as well as socio-cultural, occupational, education and migration-related information is scheduled to be conducted in February-March 2021.
- Prior to that, the first Houselisting & Housing phase – which looks at the amenities and assets possessed by households along with the condition of homes (construction material, number of rooms, etc) – was to take place during April-September 2020.
- With Covid-19, there is no chance of the Houselisting & Housing phase taking off immediately.
- The same goes for the Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) 2021.
- The Modi government has used the SECC-2011 database for identifying beneficiaries under Pradhan Mantri Gramin Awaas Yojana (rural housing), Ujjwala (LPG connection), Saubhagya (household electrification), Ayushman Bharat (health insurance) and other welfare schemes.
- But the SECC-21 cannot be undertaken without the demarcation of enumeration blocks as part of the Census houselisting operation.
What can this lead to?
- With neither 2020-21 nor 2021-22 set to be “normal years”, any official survey may throw up distorted results, such as a dramatic drop in HCE.
- The 2017-18 HCE survey report itself was allegedly withheld because it showed rural consumption declining in real inflation-adjusted terms over 2011-12 amid high farm distress.
- The upcoming Census could also give a distorted picture with regard to migrants, whose share in India’s population rose from 29.9% to 37.6% between 2001 and 2011.
- In this unusual year many migrant workers have gone back to their villages, so census might end up with something different from the actual overall decadal trend.
- The Census considers a person a migrant if he/she, on the date of enumeration, is at a place different from his/her place of birth.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
North India reels under intense heat
Several parts of north India continued to reel under scorching heat with Jammu recording its season’s hottest day at over 40°Celsius.
- A Heat Wave is a period of abnormally high temperatures, more than the normal maximum temperature that occurs during the summer season in the North-Western parts of India.
- Heat Waves typically occur between March and June, and in some rare cases even extend till July.
- More intense heat waves are becoming increasingly frequent globally due to climate change.
- The extreme temperatures and resultant atmospheric conditions adversely affect people living in these regions as they cause physiological stress, sometimes resulting in death.
Criteria for Heat Waves:
The Indian Meteorological Department has given the following criteria for Heat Waves:
- Heat Wave need not be considered till the maximum temperature of a station reaches at least 40°C for Plains and at least 30°C for Hilly regions.
- When actual maximum temperature remains 45°C or more irrespective of normal maximum temperature, heat waves should be declared.
Health Impacts of Heat Waves:
- Heat Cramps: Ederna (swelling) and Syncope (Fainting) generally accompanied by fever below 39°C i.e. 102°F.
- Heat Exhaustion: Fatigue, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps and sweating.
- Heat Stroke: Body temperatures of 40°C i.e. 104°F or more along with delirium, seizures or coma. This is a potential fatal condition
State of the World’s Forests report 2020
The 2020 edition of SOFO, a joint effort between two United Nations entities: Food and Agriculture Organisation and the United Nations Environment Programme, has been released recently.
- According to the report Insects and pest attacks were a threat to 142 million hectares of forest land across the world between 2003 and 2012.
- Invasive species (non-native insect pests, pathogens, vertebrates and plants) and outbreaks of native insect pests and diseases posed an increasing threat to the health, sustainability and productivity of natural and planted forests globally.
- These disturbances to forest land — along with wildfires and adverse weather events — adversely affected forest ecosystems and increased tree mortality.
- Approximately 67 million hectares of forest were burned annually between 2003 and 2012, while 98 million hectares were burned in 2015.
- The report warned climate change will exacerbate wildfires and pest attacks in the future.
Climate change and forests:
- Climate change is expected to bring longer fire seasons and more-severe fires over much of the globe, including areas where fire was not earlier a common problem.
- Climate change along with poor forest management practices including alteration of forest structure and diversity changed the biology (faster development) and behaviour (host preference) of native and introduced pests and pathogens.
- Higher temperatures, severe and extreme weather events and drought stress result in reduced vigour of trees, making them more vulnerable to outbreaks of native and introducing pests and diseases.
- The implementation of phytosanitary measures is needed to make forests more resilient to pests, diseases and invasive species.
- A coordination of national, regional and global activities for prevention, early detection, early action and implementation was required to achieve this.
- It also requires sustainable forest management practices that reduce the vulnerability of forests to the impacts of climate change and take biodiversity conservation and sustainable use into consideration.
The invasion of Desert Locusts
Locust invasions are common in parts of Rajasthan sharing borders with Pakistan but for the first time they have reached Jaipur, a city 700km from the border.
Where Did They Originate?
- This swarm originated in the Horn of Africa, where excess rains triggered a breeding boom.
- The swarm entering India now had breeding in Balochistan, Iran and Pakistan.
What Damage Can They Cause?
- A swarm of locusts spread over a square kilometre can chew through food enough for 35,000 people in a day.
- The current upsurge is alarming in the Eastern Africa region.
- Over 25 million people will face acute food insecurity in the region in the second half of 2020
- In Yemen locusts have been reproducing in hard-to-access inland areas threatening 17 million people.
Can They Hurt Humans?
- Locusts do not attack people or animals.
- There is no evidence that suggests that locusts carry diseases that could harm humans.
Can They Be Controlled?
- They can fly as far as 150km a day, making them difficult to control.
- Locust swarms can cover extremely large areas, which can sometimes be extremely remote and difficult to access.
- The Food and Agriculture Organisation monitors locust swarms on a 24-hour basis and provides forecasts and early warning alerts on the timing, scale and location of movement.
- Traditional chemicals are used to control their numbers. Now nature-based biopesticides are also available as a less harmful alternative for controlling outbreaks.
What Happens Now?
- If we are not able to control them, the sub adults will come back to their summer breeding area in the Thar desert bordering Pakistan.
- If there are good rains, they will lay eggs and lead to a new generation of desert locusts migrating to India again in a few months.
Measures In India
- The Locust Warning Organisation under the Ministry of Agriculture has a ground team of 50 people mainly to monitor and track the swarms; drones are used for aerial spraying of Malathion 96, an organophosphate insecticide and a potentially toxic chemical for non-cropped areas.
- For areas with agriculture, chlorpyrifos is sprayed by drones, fire brigades and tractor-mounted sprays.
Banana Covid hits plantations
Fusarium wilt TR4, a novel fungus strain, is devastating banana plantations across the globe.
- According to the Food and Agriculture Organization TR4 is one of the most destructive of all plant diseases.
- The outbreak of the fungal disease is setting up new hotspots and threatening output in India, the world’s largest producer of bananas.
- The strain, Tropical Race 4 (TR4), was first identified in Taiwan, and has jumped from Asia to the Middle East and Africa, reaching as far as Latin America.
- It cripples plantations by first attacking the leaves, which turn yellow from their trailing edges before wilting away and there is no effective remedy yet.
- Due to large scale devastation, it is being compared to Covid-19 of the plant world.
- The Indian Council of Agricultural Research is advocating a set of measures, known as “biopriming”.
- It has asked farmers whose plantations have been affected to abandon them.
- They must grow rice for a year or two before returning to the banana.
- Banana is the world’s most globally exported fruit, according to the FAO.
- India produces 27 million tonnes of bananas annually and grows about 100 named cultivars (varieties).
- Most of India’s bananas are consumed domestically.
- Ecuador is the largest exporter which is currently the epicentre of the outbreak.
Snow leopard conflict cases rise in Ladakh
The cases of Snow leopard conflict have risen in Ladakh after the imposition of lockdown.
What is the reason?
- This is a lean season for them. They do not find enough prey in high altitudes during this time of year and so tend to come down.
- Snow leopards do periodically kill free grazing livestock.
- So, if herders haven’t been taking livestock out for grazing amid lockdown, a particular snow leopard who is partially dependent on livestock, can get into a village in search of food, enter a corral and attack livestock.
- The snow leopard is a large cat native to the mountain ranges of Central and South Asia.
- Snow leopards inhabit the higher Himalayan and Trans Himalayan landscape in an altitude range between approximately 3,000 m to 5,400 m above mean sea level.
- In India they are found in UT Jammu and Kashmir, UT Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
- This area contributes to only 5% of the global snow leopard range.
- There are around 500 snow leopards in India according to the Wildlife Fund for Nature but no census has been conducted yet.
- IUCN status: Vulnerable
- The global population is estimated to number less than 10,000 mature individuals and is expected to decline about 10% by 2040.
Art and Culture
Quest for birthplace of Purandara Dasa
The Karnataka State government had directed Kannada University, Hampi to form an expert committee to solve the mystery over the birthplace of Purandara Das.
What is the issue?
- Purandara Dasa is hailed as the father figure of Carnatic music.
- As ‘Purandara Vithala’ was the pen name of his compositions, it was widely believed that the mystic poet was born in Purandharagad, Maharashtra.
- However, many in Malnad region claimed that he hailed from Karnataka.
- The Department of Archaeology, Heritage and Museums will soon commence field research work at Keshavpura in Araga Gram Panchayat of Thirthahalli taluk in Karnataka.
- This is to explore definitive archaeological evidence that may put an end to speculations regarding the birthplace of Purandara Dasa.
- Purandara Dasa was a rich merchant and was called Srinivasa Nayaka prior to his initiation to Haridasa tradition.
- The proponents of the theory that Puranadara Dasa was born in Malnad point out that ‘Nayaka’ title was attributed to locally influential people, including wealthy merchants in Malnad during the Vijayanagar rule.
- Purandara Dasa (c. 1484 – c. 1565) a renowned composer of Carnatic music, a great devotee of the supreme Lord Krishna, a Vaishnava poet, a saint and a social reformer.
- He gave away all his material riches to become a Haridasa, a devotional singer.
- He made the difficult Sanskrit tenets of Srimad Bhagavatam available to everyone in simple and melodious songs.
- He formulated the basic lessons of teaching Carnatic music by structuring graded exercises known as Svaravalis and Alankaras.
- He introduced the raga Mayamalavagowla and is noted for composing Dasa Sahithyad.
- Purandara Dasa’s Carnatic music compositions are mostly in Kannada, though some are in Sanskrit.
Key Facts for Prelims
Mizoram grants industry status to sports
- The Mizoram Cabinet has recently granted industry status to “sports”, the first state in India to do so.
- It is aimed to attract investment, bolster the sports activities in order to generate employment and increase value.
- The industry status to sports would also ensure sustainability, proper registration as well as management of sports.
- After the move, sports and its infrastructure will be eligible to avail subsidy, loan and assistance from the private and government sources.
- Besides football, hockey, wrestling, there are a number of indigenous games such as, stick fighting, Insuknawra (rod pushing), Kal Chhet kal (relay race using bamboo), Inarpathai (cock fighting) in Mizoram.
Guru Arjan Dev
- Guru Arjan Dev was the fifth Sikh Guru and the first Sikh martyr.
- The Guru laid the foundation of the Golden Temple (Harmandir Sahib) in Amritsar.
- He also declared that all Sikhs should donate a tenth of their earnings to charity.
- He compiled all of the past Gurus’ writings into one book, now the holy scripture: the Guru Granth Sahib.
- Guru Arjan Dev included the compositions of both Hindu and Muslim saints which he considered consistent with the teachings of Sikhism and the Gurus.
- In 1606, the Muslim Emperor Jahangir ordered that he be tortured and sentenced to death after he refused to remove Islamic and Hindu references from the Holy book.
- Balbir Singh Dosanjh (1923 – 2020) was an Indian hockey player.
- He was a three-time Olympic gold medallist and played a key role in India’s wins in London (1948), Helsinki (1952) (as vice captain), and Melbourne (1956) (as captain) Olympics.
- The hockey legend passed away recently.
- A study has found that bumblebees bite the leaves of plants to make them flower early.
- When there is a shortage of pollen, they use their proboscis and mandibles (mouth) to make distinct, semi-circular incisions on the leaves of plants, which makes plants flower earlier.
- The bumblebees did not indulge in such behaviour when there was no shortage of pollen.
- Plants whose leaves were damaged by bumblebees flowered 30 days prior to undamaged plants and 25 days before the plants damaged in the lab.
- The study can to understand the resilience of bumblebees whose numbers have been declining in recent years due to climate change and pollution due to pesticides.
New species of Frog
- A proposed new species of stump-toed frog from Madagascar has been named after Christoph Froschauer, a printer in Medieval Europe.
- The species, named Stumpffia froschaueri is found in just three forest patches of the Sahamalaza region, an area severely threatened by fire, drought and high levels of forest clearance.
- Much of the region where the new frog is found, is subject to slash-and-burn cultivation, thus leading to habitat fragmentation for the frog species.
- Scientists have called for the species to be included as a Critically Endangered Species in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List.
New species of Fish
- A new species of freshwater fish has been found in Velankanni in Tamil Nadu.
- The silver-hued fish has been named Puntius sanctus.
- It is a species of small freshwater fish of the family Cyprinidae.
- Puntius sanctus is small and it grows to a length of 7 cm.
- It can be used both as food and as an aquarium draw.
- The Uttarakhand government recently opened its largest germplasm collection of rare and endemic vegetation, put together by the Forest Research Centre of the forest department.
- Germ plasm are living genetic resources such as seeds or tissues that are maintained for the purpose of animal and plant breeding, preservation, and other research uses.
- These resources may take the form of seed collections stored in seed banks, trees growing in nurseries, animal breeding lines maintained in animal breeding programs or gene banks, etc.
- Uttarakhand’s collection will be the third largest in India after the National Botanical Research Institute in Lucknow and the Botanical Survey of India in Kolkata.