In today’s daily current affairs briefing for UPSC aspirants, we explore the latest developments that hold relevance for the upcoming civil services examination. Our focus today includes a critical analysis of recent policy changes, international affairs, and national developments, all of which play a pivotal role in shaping the socio-political and economic landscape of India. Stay informed and stay ahead in your UPSC preparations with our daily current affairs updates, as we provide you with concise, well-researched insights to help you connect the dots between contemporary events and the broader canvas of the civil services syllabus.
Ministry of Environment Reverses Decision to Merge Autonomous Bodies
Tag: GS-3 Environment and Ecology
Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change (MoEFCC) U-turn to merge autonomous bodies.
Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) issued a notification to establish integrated regional offices by merging offices of the Forest Survey of India (FSI), the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), and the Central Zoo Authority (CZA), and thus bring them under the Ministry.
Criticism of the ministry of Environment on Merging of Autonomous bodies
- This action could weaken the autonomy and influence of these organizations, each of which holds distinct responsibilities within environmental management.
- This could result in disarray and a lack of clarity in administration, given the distinct hierarchies and areas of authority that these bodies operate within.
- The integrity and reliability of their work might be put at risk, as external political influences and demands from the MoEFCC could come into play.
- The specialization and proficiency that these bodies bring to their specific fields could be diminished, as their unique mandates and skill sets might become less prominent.
Reversal of Decision
- The recent announcement by the MoEFCC not only canceled the proposed merger, but it also proposed a reorganization of the existing regional offices, which is also being met with opposition.
- The proposed jurisdiction of the Bengaluru regional office would cover a diverse range of geographical and environmental conditions, encompassing Karnataka, Kerala, Goa, and Lakshadweep.
Source: The Hindu
Sixth Anniversary of the Minamata Convention
Tags: GS – 3: Environment and Ecology (Environmental Pollution and Degradation)
Why in News:
The Minamata Convention on Mercury, which marks its sixth anniversary this year. On this occasion, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reflects on the ongoing campaign to eradicate the use of mercury in small-scale gold mining.
- The Minamata Convention on Mercury is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury and its compounds.
- It was agreed at the fifth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee in Geneva, Switzerland 2013.
- Controlling the anthropogenic releases of mercury throughout its lifecycle is one of the key obligations under the Convention.
- Mercury is a naturally occurring element that is found in air, water and soil.
- It is considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the top ten chemicals or groups of chemicals of major public health concern.
- It may have toxic effects on the nervous system, thyroid, kidneys, lungs, immune system, eyes, gums and skin.
- Sources of Mercury:
- Natural Sources: Volcanic eruptions, Erosion of rocks and soils.
- Anthropogenic Sources: Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining (ASGM), where mercury is used to extract gold from ore. Artisanal gold mining operations are responsible for 37% of global mercury pollution.
- Industrial Sources: Various industries, such as chlorine production, cement manufacturing, and waste incineration, emit mercury. The cement industry is responsible for around 11% of global anthropogenic mercury emissions.
- Waste Disposal: Improper disposal of e-waste products containing mercury, such as fluorescent bulbs and batteries, leads to mercury leaching into the environment.
- Major Applications of Mercury:
- Thermometers and Barometers: Due to high coefficient of thermal expansion and easy visibility.
- Chemical and Mining Processes: In the production of chlorine and mining of gold.
- Electronics and Electrical Switches: Mercury-wetted switches are used in various electrical applications because of mercury’s conductivity and low resistance.
- Impact of Mercury on human health:
- Methylmercury accumulates in aquatic organisms like fish. People primarily come into contact with methylmercury through the consumption of fish and shellfish.
- This compound carries a higher risk of causing Minamata disease, a condition characterized by sensory impairment, tremors, and both auditory and visual deficits.
- There is a need for global implementation of the planetGOLD program, led by UNEP, which seeks to eliminate mercury from artisanal gold mining and create safer working conditions. It operates under the Minamata Convention on Mercury.
- Phytoremediation allows plants to absorb and accumulate mercury from soil, water, or sediments. These plants can then be harvested and safely disposed of, effectively removing mercury from the environment.
Nutrition’s Role in Tuberculosis Prevention
Tags: GS – 1: Indian Society (Poverty and developmental Issues)
GS – 2: Social Justice (Issues related to poverty and hunger)
Why in News:
New studies conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and published in The Lancet and The Lancet Global Health journals provide evidence that improved nutrition can significantly reduce tuberculosis (TB) incidence and mortality in India.
- Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
- It primarily affects the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body.
- Transmission: It is an airborne infection that spreads through close contact with the infected, especially in densely populated spaces with poor ventilation.
- Symptoms: Common symptoms of active lung TB are cough with sputum and blood at times, chest pains, weakness, weight loss, fever and night sweats.
- Anti-TB medicines have been used for decades and strains that are resistant to 1 or more of the medicines have been documented in every country surveyed.
- Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is treatable and curable by using second-line drugs such as Bedaquiline.
- Extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) is a more serious form of MDR-TB caused by bacteria that do not respond to the most effective second-line anti-TB drugs, often leaving patients without any further treatment options.
- Status of TB in India and the world:
- As per the WHO Global TB Report 2022: India’s TB incidence for the year 2021 is 210 per 100,000 population (a decline of over 18% from 2020)
- India has a large burden of the world’s TB, with an estimated economic cost of US$100 million lost annually due to this disease.
- As per the WHO Global TB Report 2022, TB cases are attributable to five risk factors — undernourishment, HIV infection, alcohol use disorders, smoking and diabetes.
Major findings of the Studies:
- The Reducing Activation of Tuberculosis by Improvement of Nutritional Status (RATIONS) trial conducted in Jharkhand (the state has a high TB burden) revealed:
- Better nutrition among patients with lung TB can lead to a 39% reduction in all forms of TB and a nearly 49% reduction in infectious TB.
- Underweight TB patients who experience early weight gain can have their risk of mortality reduced by 60%.
- Nearly 30 households would need to be provided nutritional supplementation to prevent one case of TB.
Significance of the Studies:
- The trials’ findings are particularly significant as undernutrition has emerged as a leading risk factor for TB worldwide.
- These results could have policy implications and contribute to India’s goal of eliminating TB by 2025.
Source: Indian Express
Reforms for Secure Digital Connectivity
Tags: GS-III: Digital Infrastructure
Government of India launches Mobile User Protection Reforms to create a safer online environment for users and promote secure digital transformation.
About Reforms for Secure Digital Connectivity
- Ministry of Communications has recently launched reforms for safer digital ecosystem in the aftermath of increased digitalization and growth in users of mobile services for online activities.
- The step has been done with an objective to ensure secure digital connectivity, enhance security and build trust in the digital ecosystem.
- Key features:
- Strengthened KYC (Know Your Customer) process for telecom services and scanning of QR code of printed Aadhaar for accurate demographic details.
- Non-allocation of disconnected mobile numbers for 90 days with mandate of complete KYC for SIM replacement, with temporary SMS restrictions.
- Addition of facial biometric authentication to existing methods and mandatory registration of Franchisee, Agents, and Distributors (POS) by Licensees.
- Written agreement between POS and Licensees for indisputable verification of POS by Licensee to eliminate rogue actors.
- While existing POS will be required to be registered within 12 months, there will also be provision of penalty of termination and blacklisting of rogue POS for 3 years.
- Launching of Sanchar Saathi portal to empower mobile users for protection with ability to identify registered connections, report fraud, and block lost/stolen mobiles.
- However, there is need to emphasise on fostering a secure digital environment besides combining cutting-edge technology with vigilant oversight.
- Overall, ensuring the highest level of safety and trust in telecommunications will help providing a secure and reliable communication environment for all users.
Source: PIB Gov.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Tags: GS-III: Disease
Medical fraternity deliberates on challenges to live with ALS and need to care for patients
About Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or motor neuron disease is a neurodegenerative disease affecting motor neurons in brain and spine.
- Living with it takes a toll on patients and caregivers due to delayed diagnosis, infrastructural gaps, and invisible labor.
- Major highlights:
- Motor Neuron Degeneration of Special nerve cells affects control voluntary functions: walking, talking, chewing, arm movement.
- Progressive death of motor neurons leads to muscle atrophy leading to muscle weakness and twitching (fasciculations).
- It also leads to difficulty in speaking, swallowing, breathing and gradual loss of voluntary muscle control.
- There is no single test available at present and the disease is diagnosed through clinical examination and ruling out other conditions.
- Motor cell failure is detected in multiple body regions through a diagnostic process which may take 8 to 15 months from symptom onset.
- Although there is no clear cause available at present since most cases sporadic with around 5-10% cases have genetic link (familial ALS).
- The average survival time is 3 years as breathing muscles involvement leads to respiratory failure due to no definitive cure except treatments to manage symptoms and extend life.
- At present, treatment involves multidisciplinary approach involving neurologists, therapists, caregivers and medications to manage symptoms and slow progression.
- Breathing support devices and feeding tubes are inserted as the disease progresses with physical and occupational therapy used to maintain functionality.
- There is need to pursue more research to understand causes and develop treatments besides awareness campaigns to educate public about ALS and support for patients.
- Companies can also take fundraising for research and patient care through initiatives like Ice Bucket Challenge.
- Overall, ALS is a debilitating neurodegenerative disease whose early diagnosis, comprehensive care, and research efforts are essential to improve the quality of life for those affected by ALS.
Source: The Hindu
Rising Methane Levels and the Threat to Climate Stability
Tag: GS-3 Environment Conservation
The surge in the amount of methane in Earth’s atmosphere for the past few decades has raised concerns about climate transitions on the earth. Unlike the rise in carbon dioxide (CO₂), methane’s recent increase seems to be driven by biological emissions, not the burning of fossil fuels.
- Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, with over 80 times the warming impact of carbon dioxide (CO2) within the first two decades of its presence in the atmosphere. However, it has a shorter atmospheric lifespan than CO2.
- Methane was about 0.7 parts per million (ppm) of the air before humans began burning fossil fuels. Currently it is over 1.9 ppm and rising fast.
Reasons for increased Methane emissions:
- Mix of Anthropogenic and natural causes: Roughly three-fifths of emissions come from fossil fuel use, farming, landfills and waste. The remainder is from natural sources, especially vegetation rotting in tropical and northern wetlands.
- Emissions from huge cattle lots in tropical Africa, India and Brazil may also be rising.
- Rotting waste in landfills near megacities like Delhi are important sources too.
- Climate change is increasing rainfall, which has made wetlands wetter and bigger while rising temperatures have boosted plant growth, providing more decomposing matter and so more methane.
Impacts of Climate Change:
- Slowing down of Atlantic Ocean currents and changes in oceanic current patterns.
- Expansion of tropical weather regions across the globe.
- Faster warming of the far north and south poles leading to sea level rise by accelerating the melting of polar ice and glaciers
- Ocean heat is breaking records and extreme weather conditions are becoming routine.
- Sea level rise threatens coastal communities and exacerbates climate change impacts.
Measures to control Methane emissions:
- Plugging the leakage of oil and fossil fuel from the oil and gas industry
- Covering landfills with soil so that methane emission from rotting wastes are prevented.
- Reducing crop-waste burning could control the hasty rise of methane concentration.
Source: Down To Earth
Casteism in Indian Society
Tag: GS-1 Indian Society
The task of decolonizing the Indian mind-set needs to be complemented with the task of de-casting the society. And the first step in this direction would be acknowledging the existence of caste in Indian society.
About Casteism in India:
- Casteism can be defined as a practice of systemic marginalisation, discrimination, unequal access to opportunities and hierarchical division of society on the basis of birth.
- The caste system is a social hierarchy in India originally based on a person’s occupation and birth. It divides society into different groups called castes, which are further subdivided into sub castes.
- Decasting is a process which refers to the dismantling and eliminating of the entrenched caste-based discrimination, inequalities, and social hierarchies present in society. It involves challenging and overcoming the practices, biases, and prejudices associated with the caste system.
Steps taken to eliminate the practice of caste based discrimination:
- Constitutional protection: Prohibition of untouchability as enshrined in Article 17 and ensuring equality of opportunity and prevention of discrimination as established by Article 14 and 15 are some meaningful efforts to eliminate casteism.
- Legislations: Legislations like the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, provide protection against violence and discrimination faced by marginalised communities.
- Social Movements: Various social reform movements, led by activists, organisations, and leaders, have aimed to challenge and change traditional caste-based norms and practices.
- Affirmative action: Policies have been implemented to provide reparations to the historically marginalised sections of society in the form of reservation in educational institutes, employment and political representation.
Evidences of continued existence of caste based discriminations:
- Manual Scavenging: Despite prohibitions of manual scavenging, it is observed that mostly lower caste people are employed in this profession and the profession has been associated with their caste identity.
- Caste based politics: Caste based mobilisation during elections is a true depiction of the continued existence of casteism in the society.
- Hidden discrimination: Despite reaching to important constitutional positions, caste discrimination can be seen in inclusion of lower castes in closed groups such as clubs, elite institutions, intellectual spaces and media.
- Changing nature of caste identities where different caste groups are asserting their separate distinct identity in a more vocal way is creating caste fissures in the society.
- Credibility bias: Often lower caste doctors are avoided, lower caste engineers are searched to place responsibility for failure of projects etc. because of the societal bias against reserved category professionals.
Source: Indian Express
Trinidad and Tobago
Tags: GS – 1 Geography, GS – 2 International Relations
Why in news?
Recently, India and Trinidad and Tobago signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for sharing India Stack.
- India Stack is a collection of open APIs and digital public goods that aim to facilitate identity, data, and payment services on a massive scale.
Trinidad and Tobago
- Trinidad and Tobago, island country of the southeastern West Indies.
- It consists of two main islands, Trinidad and Tobago, and 21 smaller islands.
- It is located in the southern Caribbean Sea, and lie close to the continent of South America, northeast of Venezuela and northwest of Guyana.
- The climate of Trinidad and Tobago is tropical, with high relative humidity.
More about the news:
- India and Trinidad and Tobago agreed to cooperate in the areas of digital transformation by means of capacity building, training programmes, exchange of best practices, exchange of public officials and experts, development of pilot or demo solutions etc.
Source: Economic Times
Vast megalithic site in Kerala
Tags: GS – 1 Art & Culture
Why in news?
A recent archaeological salvage excavation conducted by the State Archaeology Department at Nagaparamba, Kuttippuram village, near Tirunavaya, Kerala, has led to the discovery of a large number of megalithic hat stones.
- Hat stones, popularly called Thoppikkallu in Malayalam, are hemispherical laterite stones that were used as lids on burial urns during the megalithic period.
- The team found numerous megalithic burial sites and relics, including a unique rock-cut laterite burial chamber, during the pipeline work that prompted the excavation.
- This site yielded a large number of earthen urns and distinctive iron implements, shedding light on the culture and life of people who inhabited the area over 2,000 years ago.
- Ashes were discovered within the urns and beneath the hat stones, which is different from the more common occurrence of cremated bones. This suggests unique mortuary practices at this site.
- Megaliths, large stones used to construct prehistoric structures and monuments, provide valuable insights into ancient civilizations and burial practices.
- These stones were either erected individually or in combination with others to create significant structures.
- They can be categorized into two main types: those used for burial purposes and those erected as commemorative memorials.
- In India, archaeologists trace the majority of the megaliths to the Iron Age (1500 BC to 500 BC).
- In India, these are concentrated in the states of Maharashtra (mainly in Vidarbha), Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
- It is the land of ancient Mamankam.
- It is situated on the banks of Bharathapuzha river; it is a place of historical importance.
- In olden days, Mamankam a grand assembly of rulers was held once in 12 years here.
Source: The Hindu
Tags: GS – 3 Science & Technology
Why in news?
Recently, The Lucknow-based CSIR-NBRI (National Botanical Research Institute) has reportedly developed a new variety of lotus flowers called ‘Namoh 108,’ characterized by having 108 petals.
- The name “Namoh 108” is a combination of the religious significance of the ‘lotus flower’ and the digit ‘108,’ which holds importance in Hinduism.
Features of Namoh 108:
- The Namoh 108 lotus variety flowers from March to December “and is rich in nutrients.
- The flower’s genome was sequenced, making it the only Indian lotus variety with a sequenced genome.
- The release also included products derived from the lotus, such as apparel made from lotus fibre and a perfume called ‘Frotus’ extracted from lotus flowers.
- The flower’s characteristics were modified to facilitate cultivation outside Manipur.
Source: The Hire
Pacific islands face the risk of drowning
Tags: GS – 3 Environment, Climate change
Why in news?
Recently, The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has released a report titled “State of Climate in the South-West Pacific, 2022”.
key findings of the report:
- The report has issued a warning about rising sea levels in the Pacific Islands.
- They report that sea levels in this region are increasing at a rate of about 4 mm per year, which is slightly higher than the global average.
- This poses a significant threat to low-lying islands like Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands, as it could lead to destructive floods, damaging agricultural lands and habitable areas.
- The report also highlighted the occurrence of marine heatwaves in a substantial region northeast of Australia and south of Papua New Guinea, spanning more than six months.
- Despite a decrease in the number of reported disaster weather events compared to 2021, the economic losses due to flooding and weather events have increased.
Urgent Need for Climate Action
- The findings of the WMO report highlight the urgent need for comprehensive climate action to mitigate these impacts and safeguard the future of these vulnerable island nations.
|World Meteorological Organization|
|It is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN). It is the UN system’s authoritative voice on the state and behavior of the Earth’s atmosphere, its interaction with the oceans, the climate it produces, and the resulting distribution of water resources. It originated from the International Meteorological Organization (IMO), which was founded in 1873. Established in 1950, WMO became the specialized agency of the UN for meteorology (weather and climate), operational hydrology and related geophysical sciences. Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland. Currently it has a membership of 191 countries.|
Source: India Today
‘Likaru-Mig La-Fukche’ road (Ladakh)
Tags: GS – 1 Geography
Why in news?
Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has commenced the construction of a 64-km long Likaru-Mig La-Fukche road in Eastern Ladakh’s Demchok sector.
- This road project aims to provide connectivity to the military outposts in the sensitive Fukche sector, lying near the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Likaru-Mig La-Fukche road:
- It is located close to Hanle in Eastern Ladakh.
- The 64-km long road will connect Likaru to Fukche, situated 3 km from the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
- Once completed, it will be the world’s highest motorable road at a height of 19,400 ft in Mig La.
- Currently, Umling La in Ladakh holds the title of the highest motorable road at 19,024 ft.
- It is the first project in India to be carried out entirely by an All-Woman Road Construction Company.
- It is led by a five-member All Woman Border Road Task Force.
- Additionally, the BRO is undertaking other significant projects, including the Shinku La tunnel and the construction of the ‘Nyoma Airfield’.
|Umling La Pass:|
|It is a 52-km road that connects Chishumle to Demchok villages. Both these villages lie in close proximity to the Line of Actual Control (LAC), and a friction point between India and China. Currently, Umling La in Ladakh, at a height of 19,024 ft, holds the record of being the highest motorable road in the world. The construction of this road has been achieved by the BRO (Border Road Organization) as part of “Project Himank”.|
Source: Hindustan Times
Agnibaan SubOrbital Technological Demonstrator (SOrTeD)
Tags: GS – 3 Space Technology, Achievements of Indians in Science & Technology
Why in news?
Recently, AgniKul Cosmos, a space tech start-up based in Chennai, set to launch their groundbreaking Agnibaan SubOrbital Technological Demonstrator (SOrTeD), the world’s first 3D-printed rocket into space.
- The Agnibaan SOrTeD is a customisable launch vehicle that could be launched in one or two stages.
- It is powered by AgniKul’s patented Agnilet engine.
- Agnilet, is a 3D-printed, 6 kilonewton (kN) semi-cryogenic engine that uses liquid oxygen and kerosene as propellants.
- Unlike traditional sounding rockets that launch from guide rails, Agnibaan SOrTeD will lift off vertically and follow a predetermined trajectory to perform a precisely orchestrated set of manoeuvres during flight.
- It is capable of carrying payloads up to 100 kg to an altitude of 700 km in five different configurations.
- The rocket has a mass of 14,000 kg.
- The rocket’s first stage could have up to seven Agnilet engines, depending on the mission, which are powered by Liquid Oxygen and Kerosene.
- The rocket is also designed for launch from more than 10 different launch ports.
- To ensure its compatibility with multiple launch ports, AgniKul has built a launch pedestal named ‘Dhanush’ that will support the rocket’s mobility across all its configurations.
- The Agnilet engine, which powers the entire operation, is the world’s sole single-piece 3D-printed engine.
- AgniKul Cosmos’ journey is supported by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe).
|3D printing is also known as additive manufacturing which uses materials such as plastics and metals to convert products envisaged on computer-aided design to real three-dimensional items. 3D printing traditionally has been used for prototyping and has a lot of scope in making artificial limbs, stents, dental crowns, parts of automobiles and consumer goods, among others.|
Source: Business Today
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