(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)
Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Defence and Security
- The U.S. State Department approved the proposed sale of six P-8I patrol aircraft and related equipment to India, a deal estimated to cost $2.42 billion.
- In November 2019, the Defence Acquisition Council, approved the procurement of the long-range maritime surveillance aircraft manufactured by Boeing.
- The possible sale comes through the Foreign Military Sale route and requires that the U.S. Congress be notified.
- With India having signed the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) foundational agreement with the U.S., the six aircraft will come fitted with encrypted systems.
- The P-8I is based on the Boeing 737 commercial aircraft and India was its first international customer.
Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Disaster management
- Over the past year, there have been deadly fires in hospital buildings, including those treating COVID-19 patients.
- The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) says 330 people died in commercial building fires in 2019.
- Fatalities for residential or dwelling buildings: 6,329.
- Electrical faults are cited as the leading cause of fires
- State governments are widely criticised for being lax with building safety laws and for failing to equip public buildings with modern technology.
- Hospital ICUs (intensive care units) are a great fire risk because they are oxygen-suffused, and need to meet high standards.
- Part 4 of the National Building Code of India deals with Fire and Life Safety.
- The document provides specifications and guidelines for design and materials that reduce the threat of destructive fires.
- Hospitals come under the institutional category in the code.
Part of: GS Prelims and GS – III – Biodiversity
- Herpetologist Deepak Veerappan has a snake named after him.
- In the first four months of 2021, the Western Ghats presented new butterflies, frogs, fruit flies, and even a freshwater crab.
- Joining the list is a tiny snake of just 20 cm length with iridescent scales – Xylophis Deepaki.
- It was first stumbled upon in a coconut plantation in Kanyakumari.
- It is now reported to be an endemic species of Tamil Nadu and has been sighted in a few locations in the southern part of the Western Ghats.
- The species is named in honour of Indian herpetologist Deepak Veerappan for his contribution in erecting a new subfamily Xylophiinae to accommodate wood snakes.
Do you know?
- Wood snakes are harmless, sub-fossorial and often found while digging soil in farms and under the logs in the Western Ghat forests.
- They feed on earthworms and possibly other invertebrates.
- Interestingly, their close relatives are found in northeast India and Southeast Asia and are known to be arboreal.
Part of: GS Prelims and GS – II – International Relations
- At least 31 people have been killed in Kyrgyzstan in heavy clashes at its disputed border with Tajikistan.
- More than a third of the two countries’ border is disputed, with the area surrounding the Vorukh, where recent conflict erupted.
- It is a regular flashpoint over territorial claims and access to water.
- Vorukh is a jamoat (administrative division) in northern Tajikistan.
- It is an enclave surrounded by Kyrgyzstan that forms part of the city of Isfara in Sughd Region.
- The location of the border of the enclave is disputed by the Tajik and Kyrgyz governments.
Part of: GS Prelims and GS – I – Culture
- The COVID-19 pandemic has provided an Assam-based trust the opportunity to focus on a near-forgotten form of string puppetry called Putola Nach.
- It is performed in three areas with distinct characteristics.
- These areas are Barpeta-Nalbari in western Assam, Kalaigaon in northern Assam and Majuli “island” in eastern Assam.
- The Ramayana, either in its entirety or by episodes, is performed, as well as scenes from the Mahabharata.
- The puppeteers are happy to add dialogues or chants taken from bhaona, the local traditional theatre.
Lag B’omer Festival
- Lag B’Omer is an annual Jewish festival observed during the Hebrew month of Iyar.
- It is celebrated on the 33rd day of the Omer, the 49-day period between Passover and Shavuot.
- Lag B’Omer is the only day during the 49-day period when celebration is permitted.
- Hence, it is common for Jews to schedule weddings on this day every year.
- Young boys, who have reached the age of three, are also traditionally brought here for their first hair cut.
- To mark the occasion, ultra-Orthodox Jewish pilgrims make their way to the base of Mount Meron every year, to pay their respects to Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a second century sage and mystic, who is believed to have died on this day.
- The Rabbi’s tomb is a much revered holy site in Israel
- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Context: Medical oxygen is a critical component in the treatment of COVID affected patients. A shortage of medical oxygen at hospitals in many parts of the country in the wake of the ongoing second wave of COVID-19 infections has caused multiple deaths across country.
How much oxygen does India produce?
- Union Health Ministry has said that India had a daily production capacity of 7,127 metric tonnes (MT) of oxygen, which it asserted was sufficient given that the countrywide medical oxygen consumption as of April 12 was 3,842 MT.
- The 7,127 MT capacity that the Ministry referred to was the overall oxygen-producing capacity, including the volumes produced for industrial use,
- Recently, the Centre has restricted the supply of oxygen for all non-medical purposes, except a list of exempted industries that includes pharmaceuticals, food, oil refineries and oxygen cylinder makers. This has meant that the major share of output has been earmarked for medical use.
- PMO has said in release that the production of LMO [liquid medical oxygen] in the country has increased from 5,700 MT/day in August 2020 to the present 8,922 MT (on April 25, 2021). The domestic production of LMO is expected to cross 9,250 MT/day by the end of April 2021.
What led to the shortage?
- Caught off guard by steep demand: While the Union government did constitute an inter-ministerial Empowered Group (EG2) of senior officers in March 2020 to ensure the availability of essential medical equipment, including medical oxygen, to the affected States, the group appears to have been caught off guard by the sheer scale and speed of the rise in infections.
- Failure of Demand Forecasting: Oxygen demand projections have woefully lagged behind actual requirements thus causing the crisis. The demand for medical oxygen, which prior to the onset of the pandemic last year was at about 10% of overall output, or 700 MT/day, has skyrocketed in recent weeks, to ~5700MT/day, with the incidence of patients suffering acute respiratory distress having sharply spiked during the current second wave.
- Increased Demand by States: while Uttar Pradesh doubled its requirement forecast to 800 MT from 400 MT earlier, Delhi said it would need 700 MT as of April 20, a 133% increase from the 300 MT it had previously sought.
- Poor Logistical Preparation: The logistical preparation for a second wave in India appears to have been wholly inadequate. With just 1,224 cryogenic tankers available for transporting LMO, there have not been enough vehicles to carry medical oxygen in quick time to critical locations. As a result, supplies ran out with replenishment not reaching on time and many seriously ill patients gasping to death
Why are we facing supply challenges?
- Prior to the pandemic, a bulk of the health sector’s medical oxygen requirement had been met with supplies delivered either in form of oxygen cylinders containing the element as a high-purity gas or through dedicated cryogenic tankers that transport the oxygen in liquid form and deliver them to storage tanks at hospitals.
- The stand-alone facilities for the production of oxygen, including the medical variant, have so far been geographically concentrated mainly in clusters in the eastern, southern and western parts of the country, thus necessitating the transportation of the element over distances by road.
What is being done to boost supply?
The Centre is taking a multi-pronged approach to address the crisis.
- Diversion from Steel Plants: For one, it has decided to deploy surplus stocks of the element available with steel plants across the country, including Public Sector Units.
- Logistical Support by Government: The movement of transport tankers for LMO is now being closely monitored and the Indian Railways and the Indian Air Force have been roped in to help ferry tankers by both rail and air
- Tankers augmentation: The PESO (Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation) has also issued directions to oversee the conversion of argon and nitrogen tankers for use as oxygen tankers. Production of additional cryogenic tankers is also underway to augment fleet capacity.
- Usage of Industrial Cylinders: Separately, industrial cylinders have been permitted to be used for medical oxygen after due purging, and the Health Ministry is placing orders for another one lakh oxygen cylinders.
- Decentralised approach for producing oxygen: Union Health Ministry is also expediting on a war footing the commissioning of 162 Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) plants that can generate oxygen from the air at various hospitals across the country.
- International Assistance: For now, the government is also accepting assistance from abroad with several countries, including Russia and Singapore, despatching oxygen equipment.
- GS-1: Geography
- GS-3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation
Context: Rising sea levels, heatwaves, melting glaciers and storms are some of the well-known consequences of climate change. New research has added yet another impact to this list – marked shifts in the axis along which the Earth rotates.
A study published in Geophysical Research Letters of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) says that due to the significant melting of glaciers because of global temperature rise, our planet’s axis of rotation has been moving more than usual since the 1990s.
How the Earth’s axis shifts?
- The Earth’s axis of rotation is the line along which it spins around itself as it revolves around the Sun. The points on which the axis intersects the planet’s surface are the geographical north and south poles.
- The location of the poles is not fixed, however, as the axis moves due to changes in how the Earth’s mass is distributed around the planet. Thus, the poles move when the axis moves, and the movement is called “polar motion”.
- According to NASA, data from the 20th century shows that the spin axis drifted about 10 centimetres per year. Meaning over a century, polar motion exceeds 10 metres.
- Generally, polar motion is caused by changes in the hydrosphere, atmosphere, oceans, or solid Earth. But now, climate change is adding to the degree with which the poles wander.
What the new study says?
- Since the 1990s, climate change has caused billions of tonnes of glacial ice to melt into oceans. This has caused the Earth’s poles to move in new directions.
- As per the study, the north pole has shifted in a new eastward direction since the 1990s, because of changes in the hydrosphere (meaning the way in which water is stored on Earth).
- From 1995 to 2020, the average speed of drift was 17 times faster than from 1981 to 1995. Also, in the last four decades, the poles moved by about 4 metres in distance.
- The faster ice melting under global warming was the most likely cause of the directional change of the polar drift in the 1990s, the study says.
- The other possible causes are (terrestrial water storage) change in non‐glacial regions due to climate change and unsustainable consumption of groundwater for irrigation and other anthropogenic activities
- While ice melting is the major factor behind increased polar motion, groundwater depletion also adds to the phenomenon. As millions of tonnes of water from below the land is pumped out every year for drinking, industries or agriculture, most of it eventually joins the sea, thus redistributing the planet’s mass.
Connecting the dots:
- Paris Climate Deal
- Carbon Neutrality
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)
- Correct answers of today’s questions will be provided in next day’s DNA section. Kindly refer to it and update your answers.
- Comments Up-voted by IASbaba are also the “correct answers”.
Q.1 Consider the following statements:
- Xylophis Deepaki is endemic species of Tamil Nadu.
- Subfamily Xylophiinae accommodates wood snakes.
Which of the above is/are correct?
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Q.2 Vorukh, recently seen in the news, is a disputed area between which of the following two countries?
- Russia and Kazakhstan
- Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan
- Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan
- Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan
Q.3 Patola Nach is a string puppetry of which of the following state of India?
ANSWERS FOR 1st May 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)
On Supreme Court intervention against clampdown on information:
On India’s COVID efforts:
On need for changes in Gender Policy: