TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. GS1 Related HUMAN GEOGRAPHY 1. Social factors too define skin colour of Indians B. GS2 Related C. GS3 Related D. GS4 Related E. Editorials F. Tidbits 1. In rhino country, a division to boost conservation efficiency 2. Dropout rate soaring after school mergers in tribal belts 3. In U.P., plans to save the Taj Mahal 4. Meghalayan farms are also bird habitats 5. Seeing through the smoke 6. Why is retail sale of oxytocin banned? G. Prelims Fact 1. Kolleru Bird Sanctuary 2. Laser chaos 3. Bijapur, Karnataka H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
A. GS1 Related
- Skin colour variation in Indians is determined not just by the environment and genetics but by sexual selection, too.
- A complex interaction between physical and social forces is responsible for patterns of skin colour seen in males and females in India.
- The researchers looked at how skin colour varies between 10 different socio-cultural populations varied within and between the populations in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
- They also looked at variation in skin colour between males and females within and between populations.
- Then they studied the influence of ultraviolet radiation on skin colour and finally looked at the variations with respect to genetic data.
- The study showed that social factors along with genetics played a strong role in shaping skin colour diversity across India.
- Greater pigmentation and hence darker skin helps protect the skin from harmful UV rays near the equator while less pigmentation leading to lighter skin colour promotes season UV ray-induced vitamin D production in people living in higher latitudes.
- Women generally tend to have lighter skin than men highlighting the importance of cutaneous vitamin D production for enhanced vitamin D absorption during pregnancy and breast feeding.
- For the study, the researchers compared the skin colour data of people living in Hyderabad and belonging to five different castes, three castes in Tamil Nadu, and from Brahmins living in Uttar Pradesh and scheduled caste living in Bihar.
- The melanin index of people samples in Andhra Pradesh showed wide variation — 33.4 to 53.
- Three agricultural castes (Kapu, Naidu and Reddy) in the State had similar skin colour while Brahmins had far lighter colour and merchant caste (Vysya) had darker skin.
- In Tamil Nadu, Brahmins and Saurashtrians had lighter skin colour than pastoralist Yadava caste.
- Brahmins in Uttar Pradesh had fairer skin than scheduled caste in Bihar, and their melanin index range was nearly similar to their counterparts living in Andhra Pradesh.
- The melanin index range of scheduled caste in Bihar varied widely — about 46 to 79.
- Males belonging to the three agricultural castes in Andhra Pradesh showed darker skin than women.
- Even among Brahmins in the State, women had a lighter colour than men and there is greater difference in skin colour between the sexes.
- Though the merchant caste (Vysya) had darker skin than the other four, they showed the least difference in skin colour between women and men.
- The same differences and similarities were seen in the case of Brahmins in Uttar Pradesh and scheduled caste in Bihar.
- They need to undertake a more detailed study by increasing the sample size, analysing few more genetic loci and including specific micro epidemiological factors that might be influencing skin colour for better understanding.
- The environment apparently plays a smaller role (16%) in determining skin colour in Indians, while social factors could explain 42% variation in skin colour.
- This result is consistent with the observation that in India skin colour varies markedly even among populations living in the same geographic location.
- And the difference in skin colour in two north Indian populations that live close to each other and share important genetic history suggests that population-level variation have a role in skin colour.
- When we look at melanin index and the genetic variant together we find in addition to genetics, the social and environment factors also play a major role in determining the skin colour of a population.
- The authors conclude that numerous migrations into India and admixture of populations might have provided sufficient room for novel genetic variants that determine skin colour to emerge and spread among people in India, thus overriding natural selection.
- And the population-dependent sexual selection for lighter skin and endogamy practised in India has ensured that skin colour variation has been maintained between different populations.
B. GS2 Related
Nothing here for today!!!
C. GS3 Related
Nothing here for today!!!
D. GS4 Related
Nothing here for today!!!
Nothing here for today!!!
- In about a week’s time, an entire forest division in Assam will start moving 160 km northeast.
- The one-horned rhino of the Kaziranga National Park (KNP) is the reason for this long march.
- On August 14, Assam’s Environment and Forest Department issued a notification saying the KNP had been split into two divisions — the existing Eastern Assam Wildlife and the new Biswanath Wildlife — for intensive wildlife management.
- The Brahmaputra separates the two divisions straddling a total area of 1,030 sq.km.
- Kaziranga had an area of only 232 sq.m when it began its journey as a proposed reserve forest on June 1, 1905.
- The KNP officials said the creation of the Biswanath Wildlife Division, with headquarters at Biswanath Chariali in northeastern Assam, will entail relocating the Central Assam Afforestation Division at Hojai 160 km away.
- In fact, the afforestation division has been renamed a wildlife division.
- All these years, the KNP was being administered by the Eastern Assam Wildlife Division with headquarters at Bokakhat on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra.
- This division was formed in 1966, two years before the State government designated Kaziranga a national park, though it was given the official status in 1974.
- The KNP, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985, currently has a staff strength of nearly 1,300. Wildlife officials estimate that the park would require at least 3,000 men if they were to be deployed in eight-hour shifts.
- According to the last rhino census in March, the KNP has an estimated 2,413 rhinos.
- The park also has 57% of the world’s wild water buffalo population, one of the largest groups of Asian elephants and 21 Royal Bengal tigers per 100 sq.km – arguably the highest striped cat density.
The Eastern Assam Wildlife Division
- The Eastern Assam Wildlife Division had five ranges — Eastern or Agratoli, Kaziranga or Kohora, Western or Bagori, Burapahar and Northern — until the split.
- All except the Northern Range are on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra.
- Now, the Northern Range, with an area of 401 sq.km, has been upgraded to the Biswanath Wildlife Division with four ranges of its own — Eastern or Gamiri, Central or Biswanath Ghat, Western or Nagshankar and Crime Investigation Range.
- Much of the rhino poaching was being done from the northern side of the Brahmaputra, which was difficult to manage for officers posted on the southern side.
- Splitting the KNP into two divisions means there will now be two divisional forest officers under one director (based in Bokakhat near the Agratoli range), ensuring better vigil.
- Kaziranga will now have many more hands.
- The flawed policy of the NITI Aayog and the Human Resource Development Ministry to close public schools that have low enrolment rate or single teachers in tribal districts is leading to a huge spike in dropout rates.
- Research by the Centre for Adivasi Research and Development has revealed that following the NITI Aayog recommendations in Jharkhand, 1,300 primary and middle schools were merged or closed and the government was targeting another 4,600 schools this year.
- In Karnataka, both government and aided schools located within 1 km from other schools and having low enrolments will be merged with the nearest schools.
- This is expected to result in the merger of 28,847 schools with 8,530 nearest ones.
- In 2014, the Rajasthan government merged 17,000 of the 80,000 government schools in the State into the other schools.
- Another 4,000 schools are planned to be merged in the near future.
- Odisha has identified 4,200 schools that have under 10 students each for merger or closure. Rayagada district alone has witnessed closure of 121 government schools, followed by 90 schools in Kandhamal. The two districts have more than 60% tribal and Dalit population.
Concerns and way forward
- The Right to Education Act promises neighbourhood schools. Moreover because of the geographical conditions of the tribal region you need a decentralised system.
- Many villages are in remote locations and even if only for few children, the school must be located within the village.
- The government had not paid the post-matric and pre-matric scholarship for students and has an arrears of ₹716 crore in unpaid scholarships.
- The medium of instruction at the primary level should be in Adivasi languages.
- The students should be given right to choose the language of instruction at pre-matric and post-matric levels.
- Participants also criticised the government’s decision to stop funds for ashram schools without providing a viable alternative.
- The Supreme Court’s critical observation on the preservation of the Taj Mahal has redirected focus on the deterioration of the iconic Mughal monument.
- While multiple agencies are responsible for preventing pollution in and around the Taj and its preservation, the Uttar Pradesh government in July submitted a draft of its Vision Document in the court to outline its plan for the monument.
What does it say?
- Compiled by the School of Planning and Architecture in Delhi, the 240-page document makes a number of recommendations to protect the Taj precinct, Agra city and the Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ).
- Encompassing an area of 10,400 sq km, the restricted region of the TTZ includes five districts of Uttar Pradesh — Agra, Mathura, Firozabad, Hatras and Etah — and one in Rajasthan — Bharatpur.
- For example, the draft suggests that the entire precinct be declared a no-plastic zone, including the use of bottled water; no untreated sewage discharge be allowed throughout the stretch of the Yamuna; closure of polluting industries in the region and promotion of alternative industries with incentives, and a ban on construction on the Yamuna Flood Plains.
What are the challenges?
- Apart from the natural deterioration of the monument, the Taj has over the years faced an onslaught by pollutants, including that from vehicles and industries.
- In the recent past, activists have complained that the white marble structure was developing greenish-black patches on several parts as a result of the release of faeces and dirt by an insect identified as Geoldichironomus (Chironomus calligraphus).
- The activists attributed it to the rising pollution in the Yamuna.
- In May 2016, the then Chief Minister, Akhilesh Yadav, ordered a probe into the discolouring.
- To offset the discolouring, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has periodically been giving the monument a mud-treatment using fuller’s earth.
- The mud is applied to the monument and left to dry for 24 hours; thereafter, it is washed out.
- The herbal earth absorbs all the impurities absorbed by the marble from the atmosphere.
- Activists termed it eyewash and criticised the government and other agencies for not being serious about preserving the monument.
- While no issues are faced in the structural conservation of the Taj, the chemical cleaning faces hurdles created by the high footfall.
- The Taj remains closed only on Friday, and the ASI has adapted methods such as area segregation and tourist diversion to ensure the cleaning goes smoothly.
What about visitors?
- An average of 40,000-50,000 persons visit the monument daily, with the number shooting up during holiday seasons.
- In its reproach of the government, a Bench of the Supreme Court wondered which body was responsible for the preservation of the Taj and asked whether there was any need to recruit foreign agencies to protect the monument.
What lies ahead?
- The various bodies maintaining the Taj do not seem to work in sync.
- This was evident from the court having expressed surprise that the Uttar Pradesh government did not consult the ASI while drafting the Vision Document.
- A member of the Taj Conservation Society said that the Vision Document is faulty as it does not entail any study of air or water pollution.
- We know agricultural landscapes near protected areas are important habitats for wildlife in some regions.
- Now, researchers have proved this to be true in Meghalaya with the finding that wooded cultivated areas support multiple bird groups that play various roles — from insect controllers to fruit-eating seed dispersers — in the ecosystem.
- There are more than 100 bird species in the cultivated areas.
- While several of India’s natural ecosystems including forests are now ‘Protected Areas’ (PAs), there are many patches that fall outside PA-limits but also support wildlife.
- Meghalaya’s Nongkhyllem Wildlife Sanctuary and reserve forest are surrounded by community-managed forests and wooded betel leaf farms.
- A recent study by Wildlife Conservation Society-India found out how important these wooded areas are for birds.
- The researchers studied how different groups (guilds) of birds — including nectar drinkers like sunbirds and insectivores such as drongos — use these two habitats and the different woodland vegetation found there.
- They find that areas outside the protected areas were used by all guilds of birds, suggesting that these areas maintained a functional bird community.
- Studying the presence of such birds in these areas, the team examined the effects of vegetation structure — trees and shrubs — on the use of sites by different guilds of birds.
- They find that tree cover did not matter because most of these areas are highly wooded; shrub cover and bamboo influenced use of wooded areas by birds.
- The team also studied species richness in these areas.
- Surprisingly, agricultural woodlands supported more bird species than the protected areas did: bird species richness was higher in the wooded areas than in the protected areas due to increased number of generalist birds.
- But that does not mean protected areas are not important; some specialised species are still dependent on them.
- A lot of forests are at risk in Meghalaya because they are being converted into permanent open cultivation; encouraging regenerating forest areas or crops that require tree cover would be important.
- This well-designed study reinforces that at the landscape level, we can maximise the number of species we conserve by not just protecting natural habitats but also by ensuring the persistence of wooded areas (like regenerating forest) between protected areas.
- Traditionally, people have been using conventional products such as cigarettes, bidis and chewable tobacco.
- Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of deaths worldwide.
- It is reported to kill an estimated seven million people every year.
- On average, tobacco users lose 15 years of their life.
- Up to half of all users will die prematurely due to tobacco-related causes by any year or time estimation.
- Most of these deaths will be in middle- and low-income nations, accounting for almost 80% of all tobacco-related deaths.
- India is the third largest tobacco producer and the second largest consumer of tobacco worldwide.
- Tobacco-related mortality in India is estimated at upwards of 1.3 million people, with one million being attributed to smoking and the rest to smokeless-tobacco use.
- In the last decade, tobacco control in the form of restrictions and curbs being imposed by governments across the globe has taken centre stage, which in turn has affected the profits of tobacco firms.
- The tobacco industry is also attempting to maintain profits and keep people addicted by introducing new high-tech “heated tobacco products”, or HTPs, sticks of tobacco that are heated and look very similar to conventional cigarettes.
- These are being targeted at youth, who are being fed with the idea that they are less harmful than cigarettes because they do not burn tobacco and so produce lower levels of multiple toxicants (the main cause of smoking-related diseases).
- For example, the product, IQOS, is now available in 38 countries with the backing of a large transnational tobacco firm.
- And to sell it, there are boutique stores that have opened globally.
- The imagery used is of a clean, white and modern product with a suitable logo and tag line.
- While the claim is that the levels of harmful chemicals are much lower when compared to cigarette smoke, it must be noted that all the evidence supporting these claims is being driven by the tobacco lobby.
- Historically, there is strong evidence that studies backed by tobacco companies cannot be trusted.
- The World Health Organisation says “there is no evidence to demonstrate that HTPs are less harmful than conventional tobacco products”.
- The European Respiratory Society is clear that heated tobacco products are “harmful and addictive; undermine smokers’ wish to quit, and are a temptation for non-smokers and minors”.
- An expert scientific panel has advised the Food and Drug Administration to vote against applications by the tobacco giant to sell IQOS in the U.S. because there is no evidence that it is less risky than smoking cigarettes.
- The company now wants to bring IQOS to India, by marketing it as an aspirational product.
- India is a very young country. Half of its population is under the age of 25; two-thirds are less than 35 years.
- The promotion and marketing of HTPs is with the clear intent of attracting new tobacco users and not just to get smokers to swap.
- Some of those new users will inevitably be young people.
- India has been a pioneer in tobacco control, having enacted the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, and launched a dedicated National Tobacco Control Programme in 2007-08.
- Choosing between two evils is still an evil.
- On the one hand you have traditional tobacco products readily available in the market while on the other you are introducing a new tobacco product with the aim of attracting youngsters.
- The bottom line is to keep margins and sales up in a market which is young and has immense business potential.
- Central and State governments need to prevent the sale and marketing of HTPs just as many States have prohibited the sale of electronic cigarettes.
- From September 1, the Union Health Ministry will impose a highly controversial ban on the retail sale and private manufacture of oxytocin, a life-saving drug for new mothers.
- The reason for the ban is the misuse of oxytocin in dairy animals, like buffaloes, to increase milk production.
- The government’s April ban order refers to a 2016 Himachal Pradesh High Court judgement, which said daily oxytocin injections made cattle barren and reduced their lifespans.
- In addition, it claimed that drinking milk from oxytocin-treated cattle led to male impotence, early puberty among women and cancers.
Does it make cattle barren?
- There is little evidence that oxytocin, when used judiciously under the oversight of a veterinary doctor, harms animals.
- According to Prakash Nadoor, a veterinary pharmacologist at Karnataka Veterinary, Animals and Fisheries Sciences University, veterinarians use oxytocin in very few situations. One situation is to induce labour in cattle. Here, around 50-100 international units (IUs) of oxytocin is administered over the period of a day.
- Another situation is when a dairy animal is unable to produce milk because her calf is either dead or has been taken away. To supplement the animal’s natural oxytocin, which stimulates milk production, an injection of up to 5 IUs is given twice a day for 2-3 days.
- At such low levels, oxytocin is not known to harm cattle. A 1991 study published in the Journal of Dairy Science found that when Holstein cows were given 20 IU injections of oxytocin daily for a 305-day period, it did not increase prevalence of mastitis, a painful inflammation of the udder. Nor did it shorten the 21-day reproductive cycle of cows, known as the estrous cycle.
- In a more recent unpublished study by the National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI), Haryana, buffaloes were given 2.5 and 5 IUs of oxytocin daily for 90 days. Here, too, there were no adverse effects on the buffalos’ estrous cycle and ability to conceive, according to Mahendra Singh, a cattle physiologist at the NDRI. However, the animals grew addicted to oxytocin and produced lesser milk when deprived of it. This is why, continuous use of the hormone is problematic.
Does milk from such cattle hurt humans?
- Again, there is little evidence that oxytocin injected into cows at low doses is secreted in milk.
- In a 2014 study by the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, researchers found that oxytocin levels were similar in milk from cows injected with up to 1 IU of the hormone and untreated cows. Plus, whatever little oxytocin was in the milk did not survive intestinal digestion. So, it is unlikely that humans would experience effects like cancer.
If oxytocin doesn’t hurt, why the ban?
- Oxytocin can be overused in the absence of oversight by a veterinary doctor.
- At high doses, it can hurt animals.
- Also, when untrained dairy farmers are administering the injection, it can cause pain for the animals.
- Several investigations, both by the media and by law-enforcement officials, have found indiscriminate oxytocin use in States like Punjab and Haryana.
- Sometimes oxytocin is used to compensate for stressful living conditions, which interferes with milk let-down.
- Also, because the synthetic oxytocin available in pharmacies is expensive, farmers buy crude pituitary extract of the hormone from grey markets.
- Such extracts contain several other hormones like gonadotropins, which could have ill-effects too.
What can go wrong if animals are continuously given high doses?
- In a 1958 study, when dairy heifers were giving over 100 IUs of the drug daily, the hormone interfered with the formation of the animal’s corpus luteum, an endocrine structure critical to pregnancy.
Was the ban the only solution?
- No, given the drug’s importance to both human and veterinary medicine, the Drugs Technical Advisory Board recommended against a ban, advocating better surveillance instead.
- A ban might lead to scarcity and high drug prices.
G. Prelims Fact
- Kolleru Bird Sanctuary is a sanctuary in Andhra Pradesh, India.
- It covers 673 square kilometers.
- It was established in November 1999, under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.
- The sanctuary protects part of the Kolleru Lake wetland, which gained Ramsar Convention for International importance in 2002.
- The main flora of the sanctuary is Phragmites karka, a weed that grows up to 10 feet in height and that offers shelter for some species of birds.
- The aquatic vegetation includes species such as Nymphaeae nouchali, Nyphoides indicum, Ottelia alismoides, Nechamandra alternifolia, Limnophila indica, Vallisneria spiralis, Blyxa octandra, Ipomaea aquatica, Scirpus articulatus, Paspalidium germinatum, Typha angustata, and Phragmites karka.
2. Laser chaos
- Lasers are an inextricable part of semiconductor technology and these special beams are used in a range of applications — from welding and cutting metal to reading compact discs and scanning barcodes.
- But a long-standing problem with lasers is that being products of light, they have inherent instabilities which make them ‘incoherent’.
- The relative degree of this incoherence is called laser chaos and, often, users must choose between a powerful semiconductor laser with poor output quality or a coherent, but much weaker, laser.
- The instabilities in the laser are caused by optical filaments — light structures that move randomly and change with time causing chaos.
- By overcoming laser chaos, scientists can create ultra-bright 3D laser cinemas, or have them as elements in extremely bright laser systems used in nuclear fusion reactors.
- There could be a solution. In a paper in Science, an international research team has described how has been able to prevent laser filaments using a technique called ‘quantum chaos’.
- Bijapur, or Vijayapura as it is now known, was the capital of the Adil Shahi dynasty from 1490 to 1686.
- It is famous for its impressive buildings and dargahs.
- Undoubtedly, the most magnificent mausoleum is that of the seventh ruler of the dynasty, Mohammad Adil Shah (1627-1656), called the Gol Gumbaz (round dome).
- Covering an area of 18,225 sq ft, Gol Gumbaz has the distinction of being the largest space covered by a single dome in the world, followed by the Pantheon in Rome.
- Its dome is the second largest, after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
- The mausoleum complex has a Naqqar Khana (drumhouse) that houses an archaeological museum and a mosque.
- From afar, the Naqqar Khana creates the optical illusion of being the Gol Gumbaz itself, as the dome can be seen rising over it.
- Muhammad Adil Shah commissioned the mausoleum in his lifetime but died before it could be completed.
H. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam
Question 1. Consider the following statements:
- At the state level, the chief electoral officer is appointed by the governor of the State.
- The condition of services of office of the election commissioners are to be determined by the Parliament.
- Only 1
- Only 2
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Question 2. The National Green Tribunal has jurisdiction over which of the following laws?
- Air ( Prevention and Control Of Pollution) Act
- Water ( Prevention and Control Of Pollution) Act
- Scheduled Tribes ( Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2005
- Forest (Conservation) Act
- Public Liability (Insurance) Act
- 1 and 2 only
- 1, 2, 4 and 5 only
- 1, 2 and 4 only
- 2 and 4 only
Question 3. Consider the following statements regarding the Advocate General of a State:
- The Advocate General of a State must be qualified to be appointed as a judge of a high court.
- Constitution specifies the age of Advocate General to be not more than 65 years.
- Only 1
- Only 2
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Question 4. Consider the following statements:
- Development of regional languages in medieval India is attributed to the Bhakti movement and patronage by the local rulers.
- Paintings of court and hunting scenes and mythological themes were popular during the medieval period.
- The largest number of books on classical Indian music in Persian were written during Aurangzeb’s reign.
- 1 only
- 1 and 2 only
- 2 and 3 only
- All of the above
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
- What is the concept of ‘truth’ in Gandhian philosophy?
What role does emotional intelligence play in strengthening democratic values in a society like India?
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