TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. GS1 Related "Nothing for Today" B. GS2 Related GOVERNANCE 1. Monitoring govt. schemes in real time C. GS3 Related HEALTH 1. Turning the tables on TB SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY 1. Astronomers puzzled by ‘cow’ in the sky ENVIRONMENT 1. Aiming to be like Sikkim D. GS4 Related E. Editorials 1. Railways steps in after UNESCO warns Darjeeling toy train off track 2. UNESCO world heritage tag F. Tidbits 1. PSLV bags first Australian order 2. Decreasing ‘greenness’ in India’s forests 3. Exoplanets with seasons 4. Cheers to Camellia 5. Mars valleys G. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions H. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
A. GS1 Related
A. GS2 Related
1. Monitoring govt. schemes in real time
- In a bid to make data-driven decision making more than a mere buzzword, the Ministry of Rural Development launched the DISHA dashboard, a nifty tool that will make it easier to monitor governance by geography in real time.
- The application, which is now available to all members of Parliament and State Assemblies as well district officials, allows the user to track the progress of multiple and diverse schemes in a certain district, block, or even a gram panchayat.
- The application automatically turns sets of statistics and data into interactive and visually accessible graphics and maps.
- Currently, 18 schemes are covered; the ultimate plan is to integrate all 42 Central schemes — representing a total outlay of ₹3 lakh crore — which are already monitored by DISHA or District Development Coordination and Monitoring Committees.
- Several schemes have good Management Information Systems, but they don’t talk to each other. So, it is difficult for elected representatives and local planners to go through all the data and get a sense of what is happening in a particular place.
- Currently, geographic mismatches make it difficult to unite data; for instance, while the Rural Development Ministry tracks its schemes by gram panchayat, the Health Ministry tracks it by anganwadis, which are mapped by population, while crime data uses different boundaries.
B. GS3 Related
1. Turning the tables on TB
- Over the last few decades, the emergence of TB strains that are resistant to first-line medication has alarmed doctors and public health experts.
- Some forms of drug-resistance — especially to the two first-line drugs (referred to as multidrug-resistant TB or MDR-TB) — require a longer duration of therapy that is more expensive and toxic.
- Therefore, MDR-TB and other advanced forms of drug resistance have the potential to undermine global TB elimination efforts.
- These concerns are particularly relevant for India which has the world’s largest TB epidemic and the largest number of individuals with MDR-TB.
TB drug-resistance survey
- On World TB Day this year (March 24), the Government of India released the country’s first national TB drug-resistance survey.
- It found that 6% of patients seeking care in the government sector have MDR-TB; this includes 3% of patients diagnosed with TB for the first time and 12% of patients with a prior history of TB treatment.
- Recent modelling studies predict that the percentage of patients with MDR-TB in India is only likely to rise over the next two decades.
- As of 2013, the outcomes of patients with MDR-TB in the government TB programme were dismal.
- Of the 61,000 patients estimated to have reached government diagnostic centres that year, 14% were successfully diagnosed and have completed therapy.
- To its credit, since 2013, the government has made efforts to improve diagnosis and treatment of such patients.
- The findings of the survey highlight an urgent need to accelerate these efforts.
Shortcomings of the survey
- The findings of the survey are limited by the fact that it was conducted using a sample of a little over 5,000 patients from the public sector.
- This is a significant shortcoming as about 50% to 60% of patients in India are being treated in the private sector.
- Recent studies have found very poor quality of TB care in the private sector.
- It is quite common for patients to first consult a private or informal health-care provider when they develop symptoms, which has been shown to increase delays in diagnosis.
- Also, patients often do not have access to support systems that are in place in the public health system.
Drug susceptibility testing (DST)
- Drug susceptibility testing (DST) is used to determine if a patient has MDR-TB, thereby enabling prompt diagnosis and treatment.
- In previous years, the government had restricted use of DST to patients at higher risk for MDR-TB (those with a history of TB treatment).
- As a result, patients diagnosed with TB for the first time had to fail the first-line regimen before being screened with DST, resulting in prolonged delays in diagnosis.
- Last year, the government introduced universal DST in 19 States.
- It needs to be rapidly rolled out in the States with the highest TB burden if there is to be a meaningful impact in India’s MDR-TB epidemic.
- Further, strict adherence to medication can lower the chances of developing drug resistance and reduce TB deaths.
- Improving pill-taking by patients, however, is easier said than done.
- The MDR-TB drug regimen is demanding and can have severe side-effects (loss of appetite and hearing loss) if patients are not closely monitored.
- Enhanced counselling and access to patient support groups may help patients stick to their treatment.
- In addition, innovative treatment-monitoring technologies such as digital pillboxes may assist in improving patient outcomes.
- Engaging with the private sector is crucial to address the challenge of drug resistant TB (DR-TB).
- Innovative models for Mumbai, Patna (Bihar), and Mehsana (Gujarat) have proven to be successful.
- These models can serve as a starting point for conducting a drug resistance survey in the private sector and extending universal DST to the private sector.
- While the government is employing some of these strategies, the pace and scale of implementation have been slower and smaller than will be needed to turn the tables on DR-TB.
1. Astronomers puzzled by ‘cow’ in the sky
- Astronomers across the world are puzzled by a new phenomenon — a very bright celestial object seen close to the very small galaxy CGCG 137-068.
- A fast-brightening spot, initially thought to be a bright transient astronomical event lying close to the galaxy CGCG 137-068, was spotted by the ATLAS telescope.
- Named AT2018cow, the transient was soon given the nickname ‘cow’.
- This is not due to any resemblance to the quadruped but a mere coincidence of letters in the way of naming such transients.
- The cow proved to be suitably interesting, because though it was initially thought to be a nova, later analysis showed that it was more like a broadline supernova of the type Ic.
- A nova is an explosion from the surface of a white-dwarf star in a binary star system while a supernova is a violent stellar explosion that can shine as brightly as an entire galaxy of billions of normal stars.
- However, AT2018cow’s fast rise time and high luminosity are unprecedented for a supernova.
- Transient astronomical events last from a few seconds to several weeks and may have several causes.
- Specifically, a Type Ic supernova is caused by the explosion of an extremely massive star which has lost its outer layers of hydrogen and helium.
- Indian scientists too are keeping an eye on the mysterious transient AT2018cow using the 2-metre Himalayan Chandra Telescope (HCT) at Hanle, Ladakh.
- The HCT observations indicate that the transient is steadily fading in all optical bands.
Indian Astronomical Observatory (IAO)
- The Indian Astronomical Observatory (IAO), is located near Leh in Ladakh, India, has one of the world’s highest sites for optical, infrared and gamma-ray telescopes.
- It is operated by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore.
- It is currently the third highest optical telescope in the world, situated at an elevation of 4,500 meters (14,764 ft).
- The Observatory has two active telescopes: Himalayan Chandra Telescope (HCT) and a High Altitude Gamma Ray Telescope (HAGAR).
- The Himalayan Chandra Telescope is a 2.01 meters (6.5 feet) diameter optical-infrared telescope named after India-born Nobel laureate Subrahmanyam Chandrasekhar.
1. Aiming to be like Sikkim
- Looking around at the amount of plastic that fills our homes and surroundings, it is difficult to believe that as many as 18 States have some kind of ban on plastic in place.
- The Maharashtra Plastic and Thermocol Products (Manufacture, Usage, Sale, Transport, Handling and Storage) Notification, 2018, issued under a 2006 State law, the Maharashtra Non-Biodegradable Garbage (Control) Act, is just the latest in a series of attempts by various State governments as well as the Centre to curb the growing menace of virtually indestructible plastic waste that is choking our planet.
- The fight against plastic goes as far back as 1999 in India, when the Centre notified rules controlling the manufacture, sale and usage of plastic.
- The rules have been amended since then. Changes introduced in 2016 were considered the most environment friendly, extending responsibility to producers and generators of plastic, and imposing responsibilities on industry, consumers and civic bodies (up to and including the village level) for segregating, managing, recycling and reducing the usage of plastic.
- India’s per capita, per year consumption of plastic is around 11 kg per year, while the average American consumes over 100 kg.
- In total, India is one of the largest consumers and generators of plastic in the world.
- According to Central Pollution Control Board data, India generates nearly 26,000 tonnes of plastic waste a day.
- But the availability of data is poor and this volume doesn’t correlate with India’s annual plastic production, expected to cross 20 million tonnes per year by 2020.
- The plastic industry generates over ₹1 lakh crore per year, has more than 30,000 processing units and generates 11 lakh jobs, according to a 2017 FICCI study.
- Given this huge economic impact, there is bound to be pushback against any attempt to control the manufacture, sale and usage of plastic.
- Every attempt to impose some kind of control by fiat has immediately been met with huge lobbying by those with a key stake in the plastic industry.
- And almost invariably, the government has caved.
- Two years after the Centre’s 2016 plastic control rules, implementation has not even started, but dilution has.
- In amendments issued in 2018, multilayered plastic, of the kind we find in juice cartons, which was earlier banned (except of the recyclable variety, a rare and expensive type) is now allowed provided energy can be recovered from it or it can be put to alternative use.
- How all this is to be done is not specified.
- Likewise, the 2016 rules which made retail establishments start charging for plastic carry bags (by making them register with the local civic body and pay ₹4,000 a month as fees) has been reworded so that the explicit charge for plastic bags (which was beginning to encourage reuse) is no longer there.
- For instance, the Maharashtra ban has been diluted several times within a week of being introduced.
- First, after imposing a ban on single-use plastic across the State, the government has now given a three-month extension to small retailers to phase out single-use plastic.
- Then, with Ganesh Chaturthi looming, the government hurriedly exempted thermocol, which is used to decorate Ganapati pandals, from the ban, while also throwing a lifeline to the fishing community by exempting that near-indestructible material for storing fish.
- A string of other exemptions has followed — plastic medical packaging, food grade plastic, plastic used for handling solid waste, plastic bins, plastic used in exports, plastic integral to manufacturing, bags for agriculture (allegedly degradable), and so on.
- Under pressure from e-tailers like Amazon and Flipkart, the State government is also reportedly considering allowing them to continue, provided they set up a mechanism to collect the waste.
- This has pretty much been the story of India’s attempts to impose legal controls on plastic.
The way forward
- What is needed is firmness of resolve in committing to reducing plastic usage, imposing responsible behaviour on producers and consumers of plastic, especially at the industry level, and a focussed search for alternatives.
- India, in fact, is home to jute, one of the world’s best natural packaging materials, but the jute industry has been sent into terminal decline by cheaper plastic and policy decline.
- Above all, we need social change. Sikkim has shown the way.
- Massive awareness campaigns backed with policy change has led to a noticeable decline in plastic use in the tiny State.
- Unless India does a Sikkim, the dystopian earth of Wall-E will be the home of future generations.
1. Railways steps in after UNESCO warns Darjeeling toy train off track
Why in news?
- The Darjeeling toy train and stations of Darjeeling were declared World Heritage sites two decades ago, then a first for India
- Alterations, destruction of some structures, disposing of heritage railway material as scrap and similar violations during a cleanliness drive at the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) has had UNESCO red flagging the “diminishing heritage value” of the World Heritage Site.
To make a part of the World Heritage Site
- “Mountain Railways of India” entered the UNESCO list
- Darjeeling Himalayan railways.
- The Nilgiri Mountain Railway in Ooty in 2005.
- Kalka Shimla Railway in 2008.
- At a detailed technical meeting in Kurseong, UNESCO pointed out the violations to the Railways, prompting the Railway Board to shoot off urgent instructions to the local zonal railway to take immediate action and avoid the “embarrassment” of being downgraded in the elite UNESCO heritage list.
- The ‘toy train’ and stations of Darjeeling were declared World Heritage sites two decades ago, then a first for India.
- “You would appreciate that any heritage site, if downgraded due to non-compliances, would become a matter of serious embarrassment and invite criticism…,”
- The Railway Board to the Northeast Frontier Railway, which owns and manages the DHR, an 88-km, 139-year old railway system taking the train from New Jalpaiguri in the plains to Darjeeling through the mountains in West Bengal on a two-feet narrow gauge line.
What steps has been taken?
- To spruce up the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway before a routine inspection tour by Railway Board, local authorities had carried out a massive cleanliness drive that led to the mass disposal of vital materials of the Kurseong printing press of the DHR.
- Toilets were also built at Darjeeling and Ghum stations. Ghum is India’s highest railway station.
- A UNESCO team has been stationed at the DHR since 2016 working on a Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) that will be completed in December 2018.
- There has been a moratorium in place since 2016 that stipulates that “no changes in the structure and/or beautification of DHR World Heritage Site shall be allowed till the CCMP is finalised.”
- The current situation, according to the Railways, has arisen official directives in place were not implemented and the moratorium was not fulfilled, forcing the Ministry’s intervention.
Northeast Frontier Railway views
- “We are following the UNESCO guidelines, we are not deviating. we are in touch with UNESCO, any alterations we have to do we approach them, we are not disturbing the heritage status at all.
- That they had taken cognisance of the matter and that it was more a case of confusion than willful negligence.
- “We have cautioned the people concerned and have taken up the matter. It was not a case of negligence, just that some things happened out of some confusion, but we have taken concern of the matter.”
- UNESCO representative raised serious concerns about diminishing heritage values of DHR World Heritage properties, citing some examples of inappropriate maintenance/conservation procedures of DHR engineering assets, disposal of heritage items as scrap during recent cleanliness drive, closure of stations due to shortage of manpower etc,” says the Railway Board letter, which also instructed personal attention of the general manager in the matter.
2. UNESCO world heritage tag
Why in news?
- Mumbai’s Victorian and Art Deco buildings
- Get UNESCO world heritage tag.
- This is the third such honour for Mumbai after the Elephanta Caves and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station found place in the world heritage site list in 1987 and 2004, respectively
UNESCO, Mumbai heritage tag
Among sites that made it to the heritage list
- Mumbai Victorian buildings,
- Mumbai art deco buildings,
- Marine drive, fort
- Indian express Mumbai’s Oval Maidan
About this UNESCO world heritage sites
- BUILDINGS of Victorian and Art Deco architectural styles, stretching from Marine Drive to Fort in south Mumbai, on Saturday jointly made it to the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. This is the first world heritage site that flaunts a combination of 19th century Victorian structures and 20th century Art Deco buildings.
- The site is home to buildings such as the Bombay High Court, Mumbai University, Old Secretariat, Elphinstone College, David Sassoon Library, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Western Railways headquarters, Maharashtra Police headquarters, Oval Maidan, Art Deco buildings of Backbay Reclamation scheme, Cricket Club of India, Ram Mahal along Dinshaw Wacha Road, Eros and Regal cinemas and the first row of buildings along Marine Drive.
- At Manama in Bahrain, where the 42nd UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting was held on Saturday, France termed the Mumbai dossier as “magnificent” while Azerbaijan described it as “perfect”, noticing that despite two decades or urban development, the city has been able to preserve the heritage site.
Status of India
- Across India, there are now 37 world heritage sites, making it the seventh ranked country in the list of world heritage properties. With five sites, Maharashtra has the maximum number of sites in India and Mumbai accounts for three of them.
- While the first tentative nomination for the world heritage site was submitted to the Union Ministry of Culture in 2014, it was in 2017 that the ministry decided to nominate Mumbai.
- Conservation architect Abha Narain Lambah, who prepared the nomination dossier, had first presented this idea at a UNESCO Conference on Modern Architecture in Chandigarh in 2014. “What favoured our dossier was that despite urban development for the last 20 years, Mumbai has managed to preserve this site.
- The very fact that Mumbai became first city in India in 1995 to regulate heritage regulations has been appreciated by UNESCO.
- Miami and Jerusalem are known for beautiful art deco buildings, and Canada and London for their Victorian buildings.
- “Mumbai alone has a combination of both. In this heritage site, they are facing each other in a dialogue.”
- The 1,500-page dossier contained historical narrative and drawings of all the 94 buildings located at the site. UNESCO Director and representative in India, said: “This is an excellent nomination dossier that highlights outstanding universal value of these groups of buildings, which are now officially on world heritage site list”.
- Getting such a tag will bring Mumbai on the international tourist map and help attract investment on the lines of London and European.
- “This nomination acknowledges the wealth of India’s 19th and 20th century architecture in historic city centres such as Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi.
- The Indian PSLV launcher has broken into a rising Australian space market and bagged its first small but promising order from Down Under.
- Fleet Space Technologies, an IoT (Internet of Things) start-up, disclosed that its first 10-kg nanosatellite Centauri I would fly to space on a PSLV later this year.
- The second nanosat, Centauri II, is to be launched on the U.S. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket later this year.
- The prospect for the PSLV is in the fact that Adelaide-based Fleet plans to put up a constellation of an unstated number of tiny satellites — all of which will need a suitable, timely launch vehicle to take them to space.
- Australia is in the throes of setting up its space agency and an industry around it. Adelaide in South Australia is the current hub of this activity.
- The PSLV’s three versions can lift satellites of 1,000-1,750 kg to distances of around 600 km in pole-to-pole orbits.
- A neat launch record has made the booster a trusted and affordable space vehicle for small satellites.
- Big rocket players are focussed on taking heavy, multi-tonne satellites to space.
- Since its first commercial launch in 1999, the PSLV has put in orbit 237 small satellites of 28 countries, About half of them are from the US.
- Most forests are green. But a recent study finds that this ‘greenness’ is consistently decreasing across more than 46 lakh hectares of various types of forest in India, particularly in core protected areas.
- This indicates that our forests are vulnerable.
- India’s diverse forests face several threats including forest degradation, as the loss of greenness signifies.
- Scientists at Hyderabad’s National Remote Sensing Centre analysed NASA’s MODIS satellite images of India’s forests at eight-day intervals for 15 years (2001 to 2014) and assessed the persistent decreases in greenness.
- Using an index that determines the amount forest vigour, they assessed the seasonal greenness of 14 different forest types: the negative the trend of greenness over years, the more degraded and vulnerable the forest.
- They found that the highest degradation is in moist deciduous forests (more than 20 lakh hectares), especially in the states of Chhatisgarh, Odisha, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
- Wet evergreen forests – including those in the Western Ghats and Eastern Himalayas – are also affected, with the major changes observed in Karnataka and Arunachal Pradesh, followed by Kerala and Meghalaya.
- More than 15% of India’s total mangrove forests also showed a decrease in greenness.
- Nearly 80% of these changes occurred in ‘core’ forests like protected areas.
- Using statistical analyses, the team determined the spots or areas where the decrease in seasonal greenness were high and spatially contiguous.
- West Bengal was a major hotspot of mangrove degradation. Arunachal Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka and Meghalaya were hotspots of decreasing greenness of wet evergreen forests while Manipur, Tamil Nadu, Mizoram, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh showed degraded montane (high-elevation) wet forests.
Significance and shortcomings
- The result of this study could provide first-hand information to prioritise and plan conservation of these areas or restore them to their original glory.
- However, while the study identifies the hotspots where decreasing greenness is a worry, it does not identify what caused this problem.
- This decreasing greenness could be due to natural or anthropogenic factors that has not been identified in the study.
- It could be due to changing climates, shifts in monsoon patterns, decreasing soil fertility or the impact of human activities.
- Ttwo earth like exoplanets, Kepler-186f and Kepler-62f, have regular seasons and stable climates.
- Kepler-186f is about 500 light years away.
- Not only is it likely to host liquid water, its axis is tilted stably, like the earth’s, indicating its stable seasons.
- Scientists at Assam Agricultural University, Jorhat, have reported that oil extracted from the seeds of some of the tea varieties grown in Assam may be beneficial to health.
- It is good for the heart because of the high levels of unsaturated fatty acids that have been found in it.
- In terms of quality, tea seed oil is comparable to olive oil.
- In China, about 15% of the population uses it for cooking.
- In India, especially in the Northeast, all the three basic types of tea are cultivated — ‘Assam’, ‘China’ and ‘Cambod’ and their hybrids.
- Tea plants produce large seeds. The kernels, which make up about 70% of the tea seed weight, are rich in oil and can be stored easily.
- They can also be a source of antioxidants and emollients for skin care.
- Currently, tea seeds are almost fully used to produce planting material.
- The study assumes particular importance for India because there is a widening gap between the demand and domestic availability of edible oils in the country.
- There is also a demand for oil with a high nutritive value.
- As India is one of the largest producers of tea in the world, the use of tea seed to produce edible oil could turn out to be a win-win situation.
5. Mars valleys
- The surface of Mars, the planet, bears imprints of structures that resemble fluvial steam networks on earth.
- Hence, there is a pervasive belief that there must have been enough water on the red planet to feed water streams that incised their path into the soil.
- For years, however, scientists have been debating the source from where this water must have originated.
- Was it rainwater that caused streams and rivers to swell? Or did water ice in the soil melt due to volcanic activity and seep out to form rivers?
- New evidence suggests that the branching structure of the former river networks on Mars has striking similarities with terrestrial arid landscapes.
- The structure and branching patterns of these valleys suggest that they have been formed by rainwater. Therefore, there was once ample water on the planet.
G. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam
Question 1. Which of the following statement/s is/are incorrect with respect to the high seas?
- These are parts of the sea that are not included in the territorial sea or in the internal waters of a State.
- The high seas are open to all States, whether coastal or land-locked.
- The high seas shall be reserved for peaceful purposes.
- i) and ii) only
- ii) only
- i) and iii) only
- None of the above
Question 2. Consider the statements:
- Supreme court has jurisdiction over the decisions regarding disqualification of a member of the parliament.
- An exemption has been provided to the Speaker and deputy speaker of the House of people to disqualification.
Which of the above statements is/are correct?
- i) only
- ii) only
- Both i) and ii)
Question 3.Article 243G talks about the provisions related to powers, authority and responsibilities of panchayats. These matters for economic and social development of the villages are listed in
- Schedule 10
- Schedule 11
- Schedule 12
- Schedule 7
Question 4. Which of the following is incorrectly matched?
- Humayun’s Tomb – Haji Begam
- Hampi – Vijayanagara Empire
- Churches and Convents, Goa – Portuguese
- Moti Masjid, Agra – Akbar
H. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
- With the consumption levels of plastic in India on the rise, curbing the plastic menace will prove to be an arduous task. Discuss the challenges faced by the government in the implementation of the various legislations to control plastic pollution and suggest measures to design and implement an effective policy.
- Wars bring plight to one, an opportunity for another. In this context, discuss the economic impact of World War II on various sections of the Indian society.
Also, check previous Daily News Analysis
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