(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)
Part of: Prelims and GS III – Defence and security
Context: North Korea fired a new intercontinental ballistic missile.
- It was the most powerful launch since 2017.
- North Korea has launched nearly a dozen weapon tests this year like never before in defiance of UN sanctions.
Intercontinental ballistic missile
- An intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) is a missile with a minimum range of 5,500 kilometres primarily designed for nuclear weapons delivery.
- Conventional, chemical, and biological weapons can also be delivered with varying effectiveness, but have never been deployed on ICBMs.
- Countries that have ICBMs: India, Russia, the United States, North Korea, China, Israel, the United Kingdom and France.
- ICBMs are differentiated by having greater range and speed than other ballistic missiles.
- Short and medium-range ballistic missiles are known collectively as the theatre ballistic missiles.
News Source: TH
Part of: Prelims and GS II – Polity
Context: Nine states have withdrawn general consent to the CBI to investigate cases.
- They include West Bengal, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Kerala and Punjab.
About Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)
- The CBI is the premier investigating agency of India.
- Ministry: Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.
- Role: It was originally set up to investigate bribery and governmental corruption.
- In 1965, it received expanded jurisdiction to investigate breaches of central laws enforceable by the Government of India, multi-state organised crime, multi-agency or international cases.
- CBI is exempted from the provisions of the Right to Information Act.
- CBI is India’s officially designated single point of contact for liaison with the Interpol.
- The CBI headquarter: New Delhi.
News Source: Newsonair
Part of: Prelims and GS II – International Relations
Context: The Solomon Islands has signed a military deal with China and will send a proposal for a broader security agreement to its Cabinet for consideration.
- The Solomon Islands switched diplomatic ties from Taiwan to Beijing in 2019.
- Australia has historically provided security support to the Solomon Islands.
- Solomon Islands is a sovereign country consisting of six major islands and over 900 smaller islands in Oceania, to the east of Papua New Guinea and northwest of Vanuatu.
- It is located in southwestern Pacific Ocean.
- Its capital, Honiara, is located on the largest island, Guadalcanal.
News Source: TH
(News from PIB)
Part of: GS-Prelims and GS-III: Indian Economy & its challenges
Context: The present installed nuclear power capacity in the country is 6780 MW comprising of 22 operational nuclear power reactors. In addition, one reactor, KAPP-3 (700 MW) has also been connected to the grid in January- 2021.
- India is not very rich in fossil fuel resources and considering the large and growing energy demand, all energy sources are deployed optimally.
- Nuclear power is a clean and environment friendly base load source of electricity generation, which is available 24X7.
- It also has a huge potential and can provide the country long term energy security in a sustainable manner.
- Expansion of nuclear power capacity will help in the country’s energy transition for meeting the goal of net zero economy.
India at COP26 Summit held in Glasgow: India will reach its non-fossil energy capacity to 500 GW by 2030 and India will meet 50 percent of its energy requirements from Renewable Energy by 2030.
- The existing nuclear power capacity of 6780 MW is going to be increased to 22480 MW by the year 2031 on progressive completion of projects under construction and accorded sanction. More nuclear power plants are also planned in future.
- Similarly a total capacity of 31665 MW of coal based capacity are in the various stages of construction.
News Source: PIB
Part of: GS-Prelims and GS-III: Indian Economy & its challenges
Context: Established by Government of India to plan and monitor implementation of policies and programmes related to Smart Grid activities in India.
- The primary aim of the Smart Grids is to improve reliability of the Electricity networks and make the grid amenable to renewable energy inputs through distributed generation.
- Increased efficiencies with Smart Grid and Smart Meters empower the consumers to manage their electricity consumption in a better manner and help them in reducing their bills.
- The NSGM also envisages capacity building initiatives for Distribution Sector personnel in the field of Smart grids.
News Source: PIB
- GS-3: Agriculture & issues.
- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Context: The report of the Supreme Court-appointed committee on the controversial farm laws was made public for the first time.
Brief Background of the Issue
- The committee was set up for the purpose of listening to the grievances of the farmers relating to the new farm laws and the views of the Government and to make recommendations.
- The farmers accused the government of trying to corporatise agriculture through the laws and feared that they would ring the death knell for the MPS and mandi systems.
- The repealing of the three farm legislations was one of the key demands of around 40 farmer unions(under the banner of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM)) protesting against these reforms at Delhi borders.
- On November 19, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the withdrawal of the three farm laws, saying the government could not convince protesting farmers about the benefits of the agriculture sector reforms.
Key Highlights of the report
- Existing Policy unsuited for present: The report says that the existing agricultural laws & policies were first designed to boost production during the decades of food production deficit and scarcity, and are consequently unsuited for the present times when India has made the leap into a food surplus country.
- Objective of new laws: The three new acts are intended to enhance access to agricultural markets and incentivize crop diversification
- Legal issue of MSP: The committee suggested many changes in the laws, including giving freedom to states to make the minimum support price (MSP) system legal.
- Capping Procurement: The committee’s recommendations included capping the procurement of wheat and paddy by the Food Corporation of India (FCI). Instead of largescale purchases, the model adopted by the National Cooperative Agricultural Marketing Federation (NAFED) to procure oilseeds and pulses can be adopted.
- Dispute settlement– An important recommendation was an alternative mechanism for dispute settlement, through civil courts or arbitration mechanism, may be provided to the stakeholders.
- Agriculture Marketing Council under the chair of the Union Minister of Agriculture, with all states and UTs as members may be formed on lines of the GST Council to reinforce cooperative efforts in the implementation of these Acts.
- Government measures– The government should take urgent steps towards
- strengthening agricultural infrastructure
- enabling aggregation, assaying and quality sorting of agri produce through cooperatives and FPOs
- Silent majority support Farm Laws: The report stated that a “repeal or a long suspension of these laws would be unfair to the silent majority who support the farm laws.”
- The report claims that out of the 73 farmers’ organisations, 61 organisations (85.7%) representing over 3.3 crore farmers fully supported the laws.
What was the concern with the silent majority argument of the committee?
- 40 unions, which had organised agitations against the laws under the banner of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), did not make any submission despite repeated requests.
- 4 Farmers Organizations, representing 51 lakh farmers (13.3 per cent), did not support the Act, 7 representing 3.6 lakh farmers (1 per cent) supported with some suggestions for modifications
- Of the total 142 representatives who participated in meetings of the committee, only 78 were from farmers’ organisations, while 64 belonged to industry bodies and other organisations.
- The report shows that out of the 19,207 responses, only 5,451, or 28 per cent, came from farmers.
- Of these, the maximum responses were from Maharashtra (2,000-2,500), followed by “Unspecified” location (a little over 2,000), and then Rajasthan, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh. These states saw negligible protests over the farm laws.
Connecting the dots:
- New Farms Laws
- Repeal of Farm Laws
- How has agri-marketing policy changed over years
- MSP Demand and Possible solution
SCIENCE & TECH
- GS-3: Basic Sciences
What are solar storms?
- Just as the sun keeps sending us light and heat, it also throws out a lot of other material in all directions, including towards Earth.
- In fact, there is a constant stream of charged particles — electrons and protons — that escape from the sun’s atmosphere (corona) and spread across space. This stream is called ‘solar wind’.
- We are protected from the solar wind by our magnetic field, which deflects the particles away.
What is Coronal Mass Ejection?
- Sometimes, a bubble of gas gets burped out of the sun. Imagine it like a bubble escaping from a bucket of soap water.
- This bubble, typically containing billions of tonnes of matter, ploughs through the solar wind and travels in a random direction at a speed of several million kilometers per hour.
- Such a bubble that has cut loose from the sun’s corona is called ‘coronal mass ejection’ (CME) or ‘solar storm’.
- If a CME happens to be coming in the direction of the earth, it is a cause for concern.
- Scientists says that it has been known for some time that the sun undergoes cycles of high (maxima) and low (minima) CME activity. Right now, there is an upswing and it will reach a maximum in a few years.
Why do they happen?
- Just as sparks flying out of a bonfire, matter getting ejected from the sun is a common phenomenon.
- It is as natural as water particles getting flung out of a spinning, wet tennis ball.
- The sun is spinning fast and this spin creates complex swirls and eddies. Sometimes matter gets engulfed in loops of the magnetic field, which gets ejected violently.
What will be the impact of solar storms?
- It all depends upon the individual solar storm.
- Usually, the earth’s magnetic field — magnetosphere — will ward off the dangerous incursions; the CME could pose danger only if the magnetic field is overwhelmed.
- The magnetic field, on the sun-facing side of the earth, extends to about 65,000 km, well within the range of earth’s satellites. (Actually, the magnetic field on the day side gets compressed to 65,000 km by the solar winds; on the night side, the magnetosphere is much bigger).
- If a big CME occurs, some satellites could be lost; there is nothing we can do about it.
- As for the earth-based systems, such as power grids and telecom networks, even if a big CME hits the earth, only countries in the upper and lower latitudes are in danger of getting affected. Being near the equator, India is relatively safe.
How big a problem is it?
- It depends upon the individual CME. Occasionally, a large solar storm might cut loose and hurl towards the earth; and we can do nothing about it.
- If we can predict it, we can reschedule satellite launches, but the CMEs are difficult to predict sufficiently ahead of their occurrence.
- A large solar storm hitting the earth might happen once in a century. The last big one was in 1859. The ‘Carrington Event’ shut down telegraph and electrical systems for many days.
- If an 1859-type of solar storm were to hit the earth today, the US alone could suffer damage of $2.6 trillion.
(Down to Earth: Health)
March 24: Like COVID, TB is a pandemic and must be treated as an emergency
- GS-2: Health
Context: In 1993, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared tuberculosis (TB) a global public health emergency. It urged nations to coordinate efforts to avert millions of deaths. In January 2020, the WHO declared COVID-19, another airborne infectious disease, a public health emergency of international concern.
The similarity between the global responses to these two pandemics ends there.
The scientific, public health, medical, and pharmaceutical communities’ responses to COVID-19 in the past two years has been spectacular.
- Within two weeks of declaring COVID-19 a global emergency, the WHO had convened a meeting of experts and issued a research roadmap. National governments rapidly committed vast sums of money into research at all levels, from basic virology and immunology to clinical care and prevention. Pharmaceutical companies launched development programmes for new products to diagnose, treat and prevent COVID-19. As a result, diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines were developed at a dizzying pace, delivering an array of tools to control and end the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.
The effective and equitable deployment of those tools is a challenge. But no one can say that science has been found wanting in responding to the global crisis.
- TB, on the other hand, has not been treated as a true emergency. Yet its worldwide distribution, impact on health, and mortality burden was just as dire. TB incidence remains plateaued at 10 million cases per year.
- In 2020 case detection fell by almost 20 per cent and mortality rose for the first time in a decade to 1.5 million deaths. These setbacks are directly attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic is different from the TB pandemic in many ways, with its sudden appearance, rapid worldwide spread and broad impact on individuals and communities. Nevertheless, TB remains a major killer and the pace of TB clinical research can best be described as glacial.
Triumphs despite long timelines
Even with limited funding, there have been some triumphs in TB research in the past decade:
- Molecular assays make diagnosis possible in less than 2 hours
- Treatment of multidrug resistant TB has been shortened and made easier
- Treatment of drug-susceptible TB has been shortened
- Treatment of TB infection has been cut, with safer and better tolerated regimens.
But all of these transformative advances took far longer than they should have.
- Funding opportunities for TB biomedical research are fewer and the reviews of TB applications are slow.
- The overall timeline for conducting critically important TB research is scandalously long.
- Most studies are unnecessarily prolonged by long administrative and regulatory review processes.
The broader problem, however, is much larger than the mechanics of individual funding agencies or regulatory bodies.
- First, nobody is treating TB as an actual emergency. As we have seen with COVID-19, when everyone thinks it is an emergency, people act differently, and things move rapidly.
- Second, the clinical and public health research infrastructure is vastly underfunded and under-supported. COVID-19 has demonstrated what is possible when researchers, funders, and regulatory agencies unite to confront a crisis. Game-changing trials can be conducted in record time without cutting corners and compromising participant safety and scientific integrity, if everyone behaves like it is an emergency. But to do so requires a radical change in mindset in addition to substantially greater human and financial resources.
How to accelerate progress – The Way Forward
Operating in crisis mode for COVID-19, TB, or any other health catastrophe, is difficult to sustain. But the COVID-19 pandemic has shown what works to accelerate progress against a global threat.
- First, substantial funding for priority research multiplies innovation and progress. As a starting point, governments, pharma / biotech companies, and foundations must increase investment in TB research, at least to the levels laid out in the UN High Level Meeting Report and make TB a central element in global pandemic response strategies. Governments and other funders must commit more to end TB by 2030.
- Second, the funding timeline can be greatly reduced. If the rationale for faster review of biomedical research in HIV and COVID-19 was that these infections would rapidly spread and kill, then TB grants should likewise be reviewed rapidly.
- Third, the regulatory bottleneck must be cleared. There must be more investment in the regulatory and ethics infrastructure (including training and international coordination) so that these vital requirements do not suffocate innovative research.
- Finally, governments must treat TB as a central element in global pandemic response strategies. The new focus on pandemic preparedness — most notably the beginning of negotiations at WHO to create a legally binding pandemic treaty or similar mechanism — must include a commitment to end ongoing pandemics such as TB. If an annual 1.5 million deaths due to TB is not a pandemic, then what is?
- Ending social stigma: TB is not a health issue alone. It is a broader societal challenge. Patients often hesitate to seek treatment or deny their condition altogether for fear of losing social standing. The consequence is that TB becomes a death sentence for many even though it is a fully curable illness. Women are disproportionately affected with estimates suggesting that 100,000 Indian women are asked to leave their homes every year after being diagnosed with TB.
Advances in TB diagnostics, treatments and prevention need to be pursued and scaled up with the urgency they deserve. If we do not behave like TB is a global health emergency, we will continue to experience unacceptable suffering from a disease that has killed more than 20 million people in this century alone.
- India’s contribution towards eliminating TB
- Eliminating TB by 2025: India is committed to eliminating tuberculosis by 2025, five years ahead of the global target of 2030.
- National Tuberculosis Elimination Programme: To align with the ambitious goal, the programme has been renamed from the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) to National Tuberculosis Elimination Programme (NTEP
- Addressing all co-morbidities and goes beyond medical interventions to tackle the social determinants of TB while minimizing access barriers to diagnosis and treatment.
- Through the Nikshay Poshan Yojana, nutritional support is extended to all TB patients for the entire duration of their treatment.
- Rigorously working towards Airborne Infection Control in hospital wards and outpatient waiting areas.
- Has the provision of chemoprophylaxis against TB disease in pediatric contacts of TB patients and PLHIV patients.
- The process is ongoing for expanding TB preventive treatment for the adult contacts too.
- ‘TB Mukt Bharat Abhiyaan’ has been launched as a people’s movement for TB elimination in India.
- India remains committed to supporting countries in its neighbourhood with possible technical support and assistance.
- Tuberculosis is a social disease –
- Due to overcrowding and malnutrition, it disproportionately affects the poor and the marginalised.
- The stigma and myths associated with this disease lead to underreporting and under-diagnosis.
- The long-drawn multi-drug treatment leads to poor compliance and drug-resistance, which hamper recovery.
- Complications increase with a pre-existing illness like diabetes or co-infection with HIV.
- Finally, the chronic nature of the disease and propensity to damage multiple organs increase mortality risk.
Can you answer the following question?
- If we do not behave like TB is a global health emergency, we will continue to experience unacceptable suffering from a disease that has killed more than 20 million people in this century alone. Comment.
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)
Q.1 Consider the following statements regarding Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI):
- It comes under the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.
- CBI is exempted from the provisions of the Right to Information Act.
Which of the above is or are correct?
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Q.2 Which of the following country does not have Intercontinental ballistic missile?
Q.3 Solomon Islands is located in which of the following ocean?
- Pacific Ocean
- Atlantic Ocean
- Indian Ocean
- Arctic Ocean
ANSWERS FOR 25th March 2022 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)
On sealed cover jurisprudence:
On India-Russia relationship:
On hunger problem of India’s poor: