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Daily Current Affairs

26-October-2023

1. Rai demands action against senior official for stalling study on Delhi’s air pollution.

Topic: GS3 – air pollution

Context:

  • Environment Minister Gopal Rai sought the suspension of Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) chairman Ashwani Kumar.
  • The suspension request is in response to the DPCC chairman’s decision to stop a study meant to identify key sources of air pollution in Delhi. 

Delhi’s Air Pollution Issue – A Snapshot:

  • Delhi, the national capital of India, has been grappling with severe air pollution for years.
  • The city experiences heightened pollution during the winter months, leading to health and environmental concerns.
  • Factors contributing to this issue include vehicular emissions, industrial pollution, construction dust, and agricultural residue burning in neighboring states.
  • The combination of these factors results in elevated levels of particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) in the air, which can have adverse health effects.
  • Respiratory problems, cardiovascular diseases, and a decrease in overall quality of life are common consequences of prolonged exposure to polluted air.
  • Delhi’s air quality is often categorized as “severe,” prompting emergency measures such as the Odd-Even scheme to restrict vehicle usage on certain days.
  • The government has also experimented with artificial rain and the distribution of anti-pollution masks.
  • These measures, along with long-term strategies like promoting electric vehicles and reducing industrial emissions, aim to address the persistent challenge of air pollution in the city.
  • Public awareness, active citizen engagement, and coordinated efforts among different stakeholders are crucial to combat this issue effectively and improve the overall well-being of Delhi’s residents.

Question: Why does air pollution persist as a significant challenge in Delhi, and what strategies can be adopted to address this issue effectively?

2. 1,593 students found severely anaemic in Faridabad district

Topic: GS3 – malnutrition in India

Context:

  • Over 1,500 government school students in Faridabad, Haryana, were identified as severely anaemic during a screening campaign.
  • The campaign’s objective is to make the district anaemia-free.
  • A total of 1.20 lakh students in 378 schools across the district are part of the first phase of the screening initiative, scheduled until November 15.

Anaemia in Indian Adolescents – A Pressing Concern:

  • Anaemia, characterized by a deficiency of red blood cells or hemoglobin in the body, is a significant health issue in India, affecting a substantial number of adolescents.
  • This condition leads to fatigue, weakness, reduced cognitive function, and hampers overall growth and development, impacting educational outcomes and productivity.
  • The prevalence of anaemia is particularly high among adolescent girls, with around 56% in the age group of 15-19 being anaemic, as per the National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5) data.
  • Various factors contribute to anaemia, including inadequate nutrition, especially iron deficiency, and poor dietary diversity.
  • Menstrual blood loss in adolescent girls further exacerbates the risk of anaemia.
  • Anaemia also has intergenerational effects as anaemic mothers are more likely to give birth to undernourished infants, perpetuating the cycle of malnutrition.
  • Addressing anaemia in adolescents is essential for their overall well-being and India’s socio-economic development.
  • Strategies such as iron and folic acid supplementation, dietary diversification, nutrition education, and menstrual hygiene management can play a crucial role in reducing anaemia.
  • Effective implementation and awareness campaigns are vital to combat anaemia and ensure a healthier, more productive future for India’s youth.

Question: How does the prevalence of anaemia among Indian adolescents impact their educational outcomes and overall productivity, and what strategies can be employed to address this issue effectively?

3. Nipah virus antibodies found in Wayanad bats, says Kerala Minister

Topic: GS3 – Health sector

Context:

  • Kerala will heighten disease surveillance and maintain vigilance against Nipah virus, as Nipah virus antibodies have been identified in bats in Wayanad.
  • The Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) bat surveillance study revealed the presence of NiV antibodies in Pteropus bat species across 14 states and one union territory, indicating the potential for NiV outbreaks nationwide.

Nipah Virus – Key Points:

  • Origin: Nipah virus (NiV) is zoonotic, primarily transmitted from bats to humans, with intermediate hosts like pigs or other animals playing a role in transmission.
  • Symptoms: NiV infection can lead to fever, headache, respiratory illness, and encephalitis. Severe cases have high mortality rates.
  • Transmission: Direct contact with infected animals or consumption of contaminated food can lead to human transmission. Human-to-human transmission is also possible.
  • Outbreaks: Nipah virus outbreaks have occurred in South and Southeast Asia, particularly in Bangladesh and India.
  • Preventive Measures: Preventing contact with bats and practicing good hygiene, including avoiding consumption of raw date palm sap, are important preventive measures.
  • Research: Ongoing research aims to better understand the virus and develop treatments or vaccines to combat Nipah outbreaks.
  • One Health Approach: Combating Nipah virus involves a One Health approach, which considers the interconnection of human, animal, and environmental health to prevent future outbreaks.

4. How big is the gender gap in earnings?

Topic: GS3 – gender equality.

Gender Earnings Gap:

  • The Periodic Labour Force Surveys (PLFS) have been monitoring the gender earnings gap in India from April-June 2019 to 2023.
  • Men earn more than women across all forms of work, with the gap being the greatest for self-employed workers.
  • In 2023, male self-employed workers earned 2.8 times that of women, while male regular wage workers earned 24% more, and male casual workers earned 48% more.
  • The gender gap in earnings is still a persistent phenomenon, but there are differences in trends.
  • The gender gap increased for self-employed workers but fell for regular wage workers.

Average Weekly Work Hours:

  • Women work fewer hours than men during the week across all forms of work.
  • In 2023, the gap in work hours was the largest for self-employed workers (men worked 50% more), and lowest for regular wage workers (19%).
  • The ratio of hours worked was roughly constant for regular wage workers, but it saw a significant increase for self-employed workers.

Hourly Earnings Gap:

  • When considering hourly earnings, the gap significantly reduces for regular wage workers.
  • In 2023, men in this form of employment earn 24% more than women over the week, but also work 19% longer.
  • The gap in hourly earnings is only around 4%, falling from 11% in 2019.
  • Inequality in hourly earnings is higher in other forms of work, though not as high as when considering total earnings.
  • This analysis provides insight into the forces driving changes in inequality over this period.

Influences on Hours of Work:

  • Working hours are not always a pure and unconstrained choice, influenced by social norms and domestic responsibilities.
  • Policy should focus on removing barriers that limit the hours of work available to women, including interventions in the workplace and changes in social norms.

Conclusion:

  • The interplay between societal norms and individual choices shapes gender disparities in the workforce, and policy must address these factors to reduce gender inequality in earnings and hours worked.

5. Man beaten to death by mob in Hapur district of U.P.

Topic: GS1 – Indian society

Context:

  • A 25-year-old man was beaten to death by a mob in Luhari village, Hapur district, Uttar Pradesh.
  • The attack occurred after the victim’s motorcycle allegedly hit a man participating in Dasara festivities, leading to an altercation.
  • The victim was attacked with stones and bricks, and he was declared dead on arrival at a public health center.

Issue of mob lynching in India in recent times:

  • Mob lynching incidents in India have witnessed a concerning rise in recent years.
  • These acts of mob violence often stem from rumors, false allegations, or suspicions of cow slaughter, child kidnapping, and other factors.
  • Mob lynching victims are often from marginalized communities, and these incidents are a manifestation of deep-seated social prejudices.
  • Lack of swift legal action and the slow judicial process contribute to the persistence of mob lynching incidents.
  • These incidents are not only a violation of human rights but also pose a severe threat to social harmony and the rule of law.
  • The government and law enforcement agencies have been urged to take proactive measures to prevent mob lynching and bring perpetrators to justice.
  • Raising awareness, educating communities, and promoting tolerance are crucial steps to address the issue effectively.
  • Civil society, human rights organizations, and activists continue to campaign against mob lynching and seek justice for victims and their families.
  • Tackling mob lynching requires a multi-pronged approach, combining legal reforms, public awareness, and community engagement.

Question: How can India address and curb the rising menace of mob lynching incidents?

6. CHINA LAUNCHES NEW MISSILE SUBMARINE: WHY THIS IS SIGNIFICANT

Topic: GS3- Defence Technology

Context:

  • China’s naval capabilities have apparently advanced significantly with the launch of its first nuclear-powered guided missile submarines.

Pentagon Report:

  • In a recent study released on October 20, the Pentagon confirmed that Chinese shipyards are home to Type 093B guided missile submarines.
  • China now has access to options for land and marine attacks that were previously exclusive to the US and Russia.

Details:

  • China is reportedly accelerating its development of the Type 096 ballistic missile submarine, which is expected to pose a significant challenge to US and allied efforts to track it.
  • Analysts suggest that China’s new submarines will be operational before the end of the decade and will be exceptionally hard to detect due to their stealth and quietness, partly influenced by Russian technology.
  • The Type 096’s capabilities in terms of stealth, sensors, and weapons are expected to rival state-of-the-art Russian submarines, potentially reshaping the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • While there is speculation that China may have obtained some Russian technology in the past, the extent of their cooperation remains unclear.
  • The Type 096 is a projected class of ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) for China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy Submarine Force.

Some facts about nuclear class submarine:

  • At present only 6 countries have nuclear powered submarines i.e the US, the UK, Russia, France, India and China.
  • India has two nuclear powered submarine e INS Arihant and INS Arighat of Arihant class

Threat to Aircraft Carriers:

  • SSGNs, or conventionally armed missile submarines, are the name given to these recently identified submarines. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union first pioneered the idea of using cruise missiles to strike US aircraft carriers. With their vast range and pinpoint accuracy, cruise missiles glide along the surface of the ocean at subsonic speeds, making it challenging for radar to identify them.
  • A major new capability has been added to China’s naval arsenal with the arrival of SSGNs. China can now launch anti-ship and concentrated ground strikes from a far wider distance than it could previously thanks to these submarines. This presents a serious risk to possible enemies.

Some Facts about Nuclear Class Submarine:

Project 17-The Shivalik class Frigate

  • The Indian Navy currently operates a line of multirole frigates known as the Shivalik class, sometimes known as the Project 17 class.

Destroyers of the Delhi Class, Project 15.

  • The Indian Navy’s guided-missile destroyers are called Delhi-class destroyers.

Kolkata Class Destroyer, Project 15A

  • The Kolkata class of guided missile destroyers, also known as Project 15A, are stealthy vessels.

Project 15B: Visakhapatnam Class Destroyer

  • Currently under construction for the Indian Navy is a line of stealth guided missile destroyers called the Visakhapatnam class (Project 15B).

Project 17A

  • The Indian Navy’s Project 17 Shivalik-class frigate is being replaced with the Project 17A-class frigate.

Project 75

  • The purchase of six Kalvari-class diesel-electric assault submarines is the goal of Project 75 (P75).

Project 75I

  • Six Diesel submarines with Air Independent Propulsion System (AIP) technology for the Indian Navy.

7.Ethics Committee

Topic: Polity

Context:  Lok Sabha Ethics Committee to investigate a matter against a Member of Parliament.

Ethics Committee

  • The Ethics Committee was first constituted in the Rajya Sabha in 1997 and in the Lok Sabha in 2000. It was made a permanent committee in the Lok Sabha in 2015.
    • The Ethics Committee in the Lok Sabha consists of 15 members. The Speaker appoints members of the committee for one year.
    • The Ethics Committee in the Rajya Sabha consists of 10 members, including its Chairman, who is nominated by the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
  • The primary role of the Ethics Committee is to oversee and maintain the moral and ethical conduct of members of Parliament. It examines cases of misconduct referred to it.
  • The committee has the authority to entertain complaints against members of Parliament submitted by any person, including other members of Parliament. Complaints must be accompanied by evidence of misconduct and an affidavit stating that the complaint is not false, frivolous, or vexatious.
  • Upon receiving a complaint, the committee conducts a preliminary inquiry to determine whether it should be examined further. If the committee decides to proceed, it provides the member concerned with an opportunity to be heard.
  • After examining a complaint, the committee makes recommendations to the Speaker of the Lok Sabha or the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. Based on these recommendations, the Speaker or the Chairman may take appropriate actions, which can include issuing warnings, admonishments, or recommending the expulsion of the member from the respective house.

Limitations and criticisms

  • The Ethics Committee primarily deals with matters related to the ethical conduct of MPs. More serious complaints, such as those involving corruption or serious breaches of privilege, may be referred to other committees like the Committee on Privileges or special panels specifically established by the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha for such cases.
  • The work of the Ethics Committee sometimes overlaps with the Committee on Privileges, as both committees may handle matters related to the conduct of MPs. The Committee on Privileges, in addition to overseeing the conduct of MPs, is responsible for safeguarding the freedom, authority, and dignity of the Parliament as a whole.

Conclusion

  • The Ethics Committee plays a crucial role in upholding the ethical standards and conduct of members of parliament and ensuring that their behaviour aligns with the principles and values of the Indian Parliament.
  • It is part of the broader framework of parliamentary committees in India that serve various functions in the legislative process.

8. Centre approves Rs22,303 cr fertiliser subsidy for rabi season

Topic: Prelims- Government Schemes

Context:

  • The Centre approved the Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS) rates for nutrients including Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potash, and Sulphur for rabi season 2023-24 (October-March).

About Nutrient Based Subsidy Scheme:

  • The nutrient-based subsidy scheme has been implemented since 2010 by the Department of Fertilizers.
  • Under the NBS policy, a fixed rate of subsidy is announced on nutrients namely Nitrogen (N), Phosphate (P), Potash (K) and Sulphur (S) by the government on an annual basis.
  • Through fertilizer makers and importers, the government provides farmers with access to discounted pricing for fertilizers, specifically urea and 25 grades of P&K fertilizers.

Rationale behind Nutrient Based Subsidy Scheme

  • Availability: This will help the agriculture industry by ensuring that all P&K fertilizers are readily available to farmers during the Rabi season at discounted fertilizer costs.
  • Absorbing the volatility: Primarily, the Union Government has been absorbing the fluctuations in the global pricing of raw materials and fertilizers.
  • Ensuring supply: The P&K fertilizers are made available to farmers in adequate quantities.
  • Wider choice: More grades of P&K fertilizers have been brought under the purview of the NBS Scheme giving the farmers wider choice to use complex fertilizer grades.

9. Why Mumbai is witnessing more poor air quality days

Topic: GS3- Environment

Context:

  • Mumbai, known for its coastal breeze and cleaner air, is grappling with an annual decline in air quality, resembling Delhi’s long-standing pollution woes.
  • The city’s coastal location, once considered a safeguard against air pollution, is no longer a reliable defense.

What is Air Quality Index?

  • Notified by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), AQI considers 8 pollutants (PM10, PM2.5, NO2, SO2, CO, O3, NH3, and Pb).
  • There are six AQI categories, namely Good, Satisfactory, Moderately polluted, Poor, Very Poor, and Severe.

How does Mumbai’s geography affect its air quality?

  • The coastal city has a natural cleaning mechanism.
  • Strong surface winds lead to faster dispersal of pollutants, and the strong sea-breeze sweeps away these particles from the land.

What are the reasons behind rising air pollution in Mumbai recently?

It is a result of a combination of factors. These include: 

1) “Triple dip” La Niña:

  • Last winter, Mumbai experienced record-breaking particulate pollution, which was related to the unusual “triple dip” La Niña conditions— linked to climate change.
  • This had led to hardly any wind reversal from across the Arabian Sea, which would otherwise occur every 2 to 3 days and disperse pollutants in the air.

What is La Niña?

  • The weather pattern known as La Niña brings warmer-than-normal sea-surface temperatures (in red) to the southern Pacific Ocean around northern Australia, New Guinea, and the islands of Indonesia. The cooler sea-surface temperatures of La Niña (in blue) occur in the southern Pacific off the coast of South America.
  • A “triple-dip” La Niña is a multi-year cooling of the surface temperature of the equatorial Pacific Ocean. It’s called a “triple-dip” because it lasts for three consecutive northern hemisphere winters.

2) Delay in the withdrawal of monsoon:

  • The withdrawal of the monsoon was delayed till October. It plays a critical role in Mumbai’s air quality.
  • The withdrawal is always followed by an anti-cyclonic circulation above Mumbai leading to weak ventilation in the city.

3) Role of transport winds:

  • At the same time, the transport level winds (a measure of the average rate of the horizontal transport of air) transported pollutants towards Mumbai.
  • These winds encountered warmer winds which were laden with local dust. This dust-filled cloud pushed towards Mumbai and was halted because of the calm winds, deteriorating the city’s air quality.

4) PM10 pollution due to anthropogenic emissions:

  • PM10 stands for particulate matter with a diameter of 10 micrometers or less. It continues to be the major pollutant in the city. These coarser particles are largely a result of dust emissions.
  • Many development and construction activities are being undertaken across the city — these include the coastal corridor, the Metro and other digging activities.

What should be done to tackle this?

1) Prioritizing long-term mitigation planning: This should be based on mapping airsheds — areas where pollutants get trapped.

2) Tackling climate change: It is leading to extreme and unusual weather events leading to changes in the ecosystem.

3) Addressing anthropogenic emissions (root cause of air pollution)

4) Data- and science-driven approach: Data from reliable scientific sources should be taken into account. 

5) Using green curtains: in construction sites to reduce dust.

6) Regular spraying of water: Dampens dust particles and prevents them from becoming airborne.

7) Fossil fuel-less transportation: Ensuring transitioning to electric vehicles.

8) Waste Management: Addressing solid waste management, cleaning up dumping grounds and industrial toxin management can improve air quality in the medium term. 

Conclusion

  • Mumbai’s air quality predicament signals the urgency of addressing escalating pollution sources and fortifying mitigation measures.
  • While meteorological conditions play a role, the city’s growing economic activity and emissions are the driving forces behind its deteriorating air quality.
  • Relevant authorities must take proactive steps to combat this issue and ensure a healthier environment for its residents.

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