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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)

Lassa Fever

Part of : Prelims and GS-II -Health

Context : One of the three persons diagnosed with Lassa fever in the UK has died on February 11. The cases have been linked to travel to west African countries.

Key takeaways 

  • The Lassa fever-causing virus is found in West Africa and was first discovered in 1969 in Lassa, Nigeria.
  • The fever is spread by rats.
  • It is primarily found in countries in West Africa including Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, and Nigeria where it is endemic.
  • A person can become infected if they come in contact with household items of food that is contaminated with the urine or feces of an infected rat.
  • Person-to-person transmission is more common in healthcare settings.
  • Symptoms typically appear 1-3 weeks after exposure. 
  • Mild symptoms include slight fever, fatigue, weakness and headache.
    • More serious symptoms include bleeding, difficulty breathing, vomiting, facial swelling, pain in the chest, back, and abdomen and shock.
  • Death can occur from two weeks of the onset of symptoms, usually as a result of multi-organ failure.
  • How to prevent the epidemic: Maintaining hygiene to prevent rats from entering the house, keeping food in rat-proof containers and laying down rat traps. 

News Source: IE

Riverbed sand mining

Part of : Prelims and GS-III Environment 

Context: Environment clearance issued to as many as 60 mining areas has paved the way for legal mining of bajri (riverbed sand) in Rajasthan.

  • The Supreme Court had banned the sand mining activities four years ago in riverbeds until a scientific replenishment study was completed.
  • The apex court later appointed a Central Empowered Committee (CEC) to look into the issue of illegal sand mining.
  • Recommendations: 
    • issue environmental clearance to all valid holders of letters of intent, as suggested by the Expert Appraisal Committee, within three months and
    • do not insist on submission of the scientific replenishment report as a precondition. 
    • The replenishment study could be undertaken during the course of mining.
  • The Supreme Court accepted the CEC’s recommendations permitting riverbed sand mining to be conducted after obtaining all statutory clearances and payment of applicable taxes.

What is riverbed sand mining?

  • Sand mining is the extraction of sand, mainly through an open pit but sometimes mined from beaches and inland dunes or dredged from ocean and river beds.
  • Uses:
    • Sand is often used in manufacturing as an abrasive or in concrete.
    • Sand mining helps in extracting rutile, ilmenite, and zircon, which contain the industrially useful elements titanium and zirconium.
  • Ill-effects: 
    • Sand mining is a direct cause of erosion, and impacts the local wildlife.
    • Various animals depend on sandy beaches for nesting clutches, and mining has led to the near extinction of gharials in India.
    • Disturbance of underwater and coastal sand causes turbidity in the water, which is harmful for organisms like coral that need sunlight. 
    • It can also destroy fisheries, financially harming their operators.

News Source: TH

National Health Authority (NHA)

Part of : Prelims and GS-II Health

Context: The Union Health Ministry has said that the National Health Authority (NHA) is working to integrate the database of Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) 2011 beneficiaries with the National Food Security Act (NFSA) portal so that beneficiaries can seek information regarding their entitlements under the AB PM-JAY using their ration card number.

What is NHA?

  • The NHA is mandated with the implementation of the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri–Jan Arogya Yojana (AB PM-JAY). 
    • AB PM-JAY provides health assurance of up to Rs. 5 lakh for a family a year, for secondary and tertiary care-related hospital- isations.
  • The NHA is also working on a proposal to use fair price shops or ration shops for providing information related to the scheme and entitlement under the scheme to eligible beneficiaries.

What is NFSA?

  • The NFSA provides a legal right to persons belonging to eligible households to receive foodgrains at subsidised price– rice at Rs 3/kg, wheat at Rs 2/kg and coarse grain at Rs 1/kg — under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS). 
  • Beneficiaries : Eligible households comprise two categories — priority households, and families covered by the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY). 
  • Benefits : Priority households are entitled to receive 5 kg of foodgrains per person per month, whereas AAY households are entitled to 35 kg per month at the same prices.
  • Coverage : 75% of the rural population and up to 50% of the urban population. 

What is the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC)?

  • Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC), which collected the first figures on caste since 1931, is the largest exercise of the enumeration of caste. 
  • SECC supplies data to differentiate the socio-economic status of households based on housing, educational status, landholding, differently abled, occupation, possession of assets, SC/ST households, incomes etc.
  • The Census thus provides a portrait of the Indian population, while the

News Source: TH

(News from PIB)

Medaram Jathara :

Second-largest fair of India, after the Kumbh Mela

  • Celebrated by the second-largest Tribal Community of Telangana- the Koya tribe for four days.
  • Declared a State Festival in 1996.
  • Conducted in honour of the Goddesses Sammakka and Saralamma
  • Celebrated once in two years in the month of “Magha” (February) on the full moon day.

News Source: PIB

Pulwama Attack

Part of: Prelims and GS-III- Security

In News: The Prime Minister paid homage to all those martyred in Pulwama on this day in 2019 and recalled their outstanding service to our nation.

  • Forty CRPF jawans travelling in convoy were killed by a vehicle-borne suicide attack on February 14, 2019 in Pulwana City of Jammu Kashmir.
  • The terrorist organisation Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing. 
  • The Balakot airstrikes were seen as a direct response to the Pulwama bombing.

Operation Bandar

  • The IAF’s mission to bomb the terrorist hideout in Balakot, Pakistan, was given the codename ‘Operation Bandar’. It was a rare operation in which the IAF crossed the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir and dropped bombs on targets in Pakistani territory. Balakot is a small town located in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.  
  • On February 26, 2019, Indian Air Force’s Mirage-2000 fighter jets took off from airbases across India. The Indian Air Force jets crossed the LoC in JK and bombed Jaish terror camps in Balakot with precision-guided missiles.
  • Pakistan retaliated a day after. The Pakistan Air Force attempted an airstrike on Indian soil. The Indian Air Force launched its fighter jets in response, leading to a rare dogfight between the Indian and Pakistani jets. In the skirmish, an IAF MiG-21 Bison fighter jet shot down a Pakistani F-16 during the conflict. Indian Mig-21, which was being flown by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, was also shot down and he was captured by the Pakistani forces. After much deliberation, Wing Commander Abhinandan was released two days later from Pakistan’s hold. This development calmed the tensions between the two nations after two weeks of heightened conflict.

Prelims Value Addition

  • NIA was created after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks with the enactment of the National Investigation Agency Act 2008.
  • NIA is the  Central Counter Terrorism Law Enforcement Agency of India  and it works under overall guidance of  Ministry of Home Affairs

News Source: PIB

(Mains Focus)

GOVERNANCE / POLITY

  • GS-2: Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure  
  • GS-2: Parliament and State legislatures—structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers privileges and issues arising out of these. 

Language-domicile protest in Jharkhand

Context: Several parts of Jharkhand are seeing massive protests against the inclusion of Bhojpuri and Magahi as “regional languages” in district-level competitive examinations for government jobs.

  • Hundreds of protesters, including women, have been marching with placards, raising slogans against the government mainly in the east-central districts of Bokaro and Dhanbad, but also in Giridih and Ranchi.

Why are the protests taking place?

  • On December 24, the Jharkhand Personnel, Administrative Reforms, and Rajbhasha Department issued a notification to include Magahi, Bhojpuri, and Angika among others as regional languages in the district-level selection process through exams conducted by the Jharkhand Staff Selection Commission (JSSC).
  • The notification triggered resentment in a section of people especially in Bokaro and Dhanbad, who saw the inclusion of Bhojpuri and Magahi as an “infringement” on the rights of Adivasis and Moolvasis.  
  • The protesters argue that the “low population” of Magahi and Bhojpuri speakers in these two districts did not “warrant” the inclusion of these languages in the job selection process.
  • Anecdotal evidence suggests there is a relatively small number of Magahi- and Bhojpuri-speaking people in these districts; however, no precise data are available.

What kind of examinations are these?

  • There is no clarity so far. Eligibility requirements are relatively modest, and the exams will be held for appointments to lower-level jobs in the districts. But these jobs are yet to be advertised.
  • It is not applicable to the selection process at the level of the state. As of now, no vacancies have been advertised against the notification.
  • This would be the first time that the exams would have Bhojpuri, Angika, and Magahi as language papers, and the government was expected to announce details of the weightage and marks.

Who is protesting against the notification?

  • The Jharkhandi Bhasha Sangharsha Samiti, an organisation of Moolvasis and Adivasis which claims to be apolitical , has organised more than 50 protest gatherings over the in the month of Jan 2022. 
  • The protests were intended to pressure the government because the population that speaks Magahi and Bhojpuri in Bokaro and Dhanbad is minuscule that will only make jobs scarcer for Jharkhandis
  • The Samiti in not opposing the inclusion of these languages in Latehar, Garhwa or Palamu, because a substantial population speaks these languages in those areas.”

Is this the only issue for the protesters?

  • They are also demanding that 1932 be made the cut-off date while taking into account proof of land records for the state’s domicile policy
  • This has long been contentious. Following the creation of Jharkhand in 2000, the first Chief Minister, Babulal Marandi, thought it was necessary to define a ‘Jharkhandi’ in order to provide benefits including government jobs to local people.
  • In 2016, the government came out with a “ relaxed domicile policy” that included criteria such as employment for the last 30 years, and essentially made 1985 the cut-off year. 
  • After coming to power in 2019, the new government set up a cabinet sub-committee to re-define domicile.

Is there any opposition to the protests?

  • A group called the Bhojpuri, Magahi, Maithili Angika Manch, has criticised the alleged polarising nature of the protests. It has claimed that more than 1 crore people in Jharkhand speak Bhojpuri, Magahi, and Angika, and recalled the “immense contribution” of Bhojpuri and Magahi speakers to the state. 

So, where is this protest headed?

The protest on the language issue is “full of contradictions”. 

  • Some MLAs have been “directly involved in crowd-gathering”, “so the claim that this movement is apolitical is not true”.
  • Placards and banners displayed at the protests say “Languages from outside Jharkhand cannot run here.” 
  • However, the protesters do not have a problem with Bengali or Odia being made regional languages, nor do they oppose other districts having Bhojpuri and Magahi as regional languages.

Connecting the dots:

  • Linguistic Reorganisation of States
  • Domicile based Job Quota 

GOVERNANCE/ ECONOMY

  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation
  • GS-3: Indian Economy

India’s Geospatial Sector

Context: It was in Feb 2021 new guidelines took effect to completely de-regulate the geospatial sector for Indians. It is time to look back and assess its impact and identify the bottlenecks so that the full potential of the geospatial sector can be realised

The Present Status of Geospatial sector

  • India has a robust ecosystem in geospatial, with the Survey of India (SoI), ISRO, remote sensing application centres (RSAC)s, and the National Informatics Centre (NIC) but the full benefits have yet to percolate to the public and there wasn’t much contribution to the nation’s GDP. 
  • Since deregulation, the geospatial sector, which was considered taboo by investors, is seeing new interest. The market of geospatial sector is estimated to grow to ₹1 lakh-crore by the year 2029 with 13% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR). 
  • Since the new guidelines, some of the noticeable developments were over subscription of the initial public offering of MapmyIndia, launching of a city mapping programme by Genesys International in India and aggressive stance by investors in India’s geospatial sector.

Are there roadblocks still despite the enabling policy in place? 

  • Low demand due to lack of awareness: There is no demand for geospatial services and products on a scale linked to India’s potential and size. This is mainly due to the lack of awareness among potential users in government and private. 
  • Inadequate Products : Barring a few cases, there are still no ready-to-use solutions especially built to solve the problems of India.
  • Shortage of Manpower : The other hurdle has been the lack of skilled manpower across the entire pyramid. Unlike the West, India lacks a strata of core professionals who understand geospatial end-to-end.
  • Governance Gap: The lack of clarity on data sharing and collaboration prevents co-creation and asset maximisation. The restrictive data policy of yesteryears was the root cause of many of these limiting factors. 

Way Ahead

  • Spread Awareness: However, the experience has been that despite one year since the new guidelines came into effect, users are still not fully aware of things. There is a need to publish the entire policy document and make government and private users aware of things.
  • Generate foundation data across India that should include the Indian national digital elevation model (InDEM), data layers for cities, and data of natural resources. 
  • Accessibility of Public-Funded data: The data available with government departments should be unlocked, and geo-portal needs to be established to make all public-funded data accessible through data as a service model, with no or nominal charge.
  • Open data sharing protocol: There is a need to inculcate the culture of data sharing, collaboration and co-creation. This will only be possible through an open data sharing protocol.
  • Promote Entrepreneurship: Solution developers and start-ups should be engaged to build solution templates for various business processes across departments. Local technology and solutions should be promoted, and competition should be encouraged for quality output.
  • Decentralising Regulation: National organisations like SoI and ISRO should be entrusted with the responsibility of regulation and the projects related to the nation’s security and scientific significance.
  • Increase the pool of skilled manpower: India should start a bachelor’s programme in geospatial also in the IITs and NITs. Besides these, there should be a dedicated geospatial university.

Connecting the dots:

  • Geo-Spatial Sector – Deregulated
  • SVAMITVA Scheme

(Sansad TV: Perspective)

Feb 10: Russia-Ukraine Standoff – https://youtu.be/lsbP_XPrRss  

TOPIC:

  • GS-2: International Relations

Russia-Ukraine Standoff

Context: Russian aggression on its border with Ukraine has triggered one of the greatest security crises in Europe since the Cold War. In 2014, Russia had seized Crimea, an important port region in Ukraine. Conflicts between the two militaries continue till this day but the recent Russian build-up of 100,000 troops along the border has escalated tensions to unprecedented levels. The Ukrainian capital is located just about 75 miles south of the border with Belarus, and the West fears that Russia could use Belarusian territory to invade Ukraine. 

  • Ukraine has termed it “psychological pressure”. 
  • While France, which is trying to broker peace through negotiations with both countries, has also called the drills as a “violent gesture” by Russia. 
  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called it the biggest security crisis in decades. 
  • The US has warned that an attack from Russia could come at any time. Although Russia has repeatedly denied any plans to invade Ukraine. 

Background

  • What is happening at the Ukraine-Russia border: Russia is deploying troops, around 100,000 personnel. 
  • Why: Ukraine made friends with NATO or the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
  • Did it become a member of NATO: No. It wants to, but it hasn’t been invited for membership yet. But, Ukraine has NATO’s 2016 Comprehensive Assistance Package, through which the Eastern European country is encouraged to beef up its security and defence sector.
  • And Russia is furious because: Russia has always thought of Ukraine as part of its sphere of influence. When Ukrainians voted out a pro-Russian head of state in 2014, Russia must have got a little worried, because it took Ukraine’s southern Crimean peninsula and egged on separatists to go take over eastern Ukraine. It didn’t please Ukraine, obviously, which then reached out to NATO for help. 

Could Russia stage a full-scale invasion?

Most military analysts say this would be unlikely because it would involve a long and messy war with unavoidably heavy casualties. They expect Russia to opt for crushing air strikes and/or limited land grabs rather than all-out war including battles for major cities.

Putin would be likely to face qualms from his own public about waging war on a fellow Slav nation, as well as intense anti-Russian sentiment within Ukraine. He has also been warned by the West that Russia will be hit with  unprecedented sanctions  if it attacks Ukraine.

Responses

  • NATO has stepped up deployment of troops to bolster the alliance’s eastern flank. 
  • The US has begun to move the 2nd Cavalry Regiment’s stryker squadron from Vilseck, Germany, to Romania, which borders Ukraine. About 1,700 US soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division are going to Poland and about half have now arrived, with more expected to flow in during the coming days. 
  • Britain also has pledged to send 350 more troops to Poland and already has sent anti-tank weapons to Ukraine. 

What are India’s stakes in its ties with Ukraine Russia?

In 2014, the Russian annexation of Crimea created problems for India. And if Moscow again takes military action against Ukraine, it will significantly complicate India’s objectives vis-à-vis Russia, China, the US, Europe, and even Ukraine.

A. It would hinder Delhi’s interest in preventing a further deepening of Russia’s ties with China .

  • Potential Russian military action against Ukraine and western backlash would mean that Moscow will need Beijing’s diplomatic support even more. 
  • Beyond the strategic challenge that a close Sino-Russian partnership poses for India, a Moscow that is more beholden to Beijing would be particularly problematic at this moment when India is dependent on Russian military supplies and Sino-Indian border tensions could flare up again.
  • If Beijing asks Moscow to take some steps (for instance, stall military supplies to India), what will Russia do at a time when its need for China is acute due to a crisis with Ukraine? It’s worth keeping in mind that in 1962, when Moscow needed Beijing’s backing during the Cuban missile crisis, it resulted in Soviet support for ally China versus friend India at a crucial moment in the China-India war.

B. Russian military action against Ukraine would also impede Delhi’s suggested approach for stalling Sino-Russian ties or fuelling friction between them — that the West, particularly the US, stabilise relations with Russia . For this reason, Delhi welcomed last summer’s Biden-Putin meeting — it would also help if two of India’s key partners were not at loggerheads. But another Russian invasion of Ukraine would put paid to any near-term prospect of a rapprochement between the West and Russia.

C. Russian military action against Ukraine would complicate India’s efforts to maintain a delicate balance between its partnerships with the US, Europe, and Russia

  • Delhi could try its posture, post the Russian annexation of Crimea, of neither openly criticising nor endorsing Russian actions. However, its silence will be seen as an endorsement. 
  • Moreover, even as Moscow might seek support from Delhi, it will sell India’s silence as an endorsement, as it did in the case of Crimea, and recently when it unilaterally issued a joint statement on Afghanistan.

D. A worsening Russia-Ukraine conflict would also bring India-US and India-Europe contradictions on Russia to the fore. The western response will involve even more sanctions that will further hinder India’s ability to do business with Russia and diversify Russia-India ties. And all this could come at a time when Washington is considering a waiver for India from CAATSA sanctions.

E. India has economic and defence trade ties with Ukraine , as well as 7,500-odd citizens residing there. 

  • India is Ukraine’s largest export destination in the Asia-Pacific and the fifth largest overall export destination.
  • Moscow’s justifications for its actions against Ukraine are similar to those Beijing makes versus India: Historical claims, ethnic linkages, and Indian steps that it says threaten China. And Russian military action would go against respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty that Delhi frequently advocates.

F. Sanctions on Russia would affect equity investors and mess with India’s LNG (liquified petroleum gas) plans

Can you answer the following questions?

  1. How is it the Ukraine-Russia standoff impacting the world and India? Discuss.

(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)

Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)

Q.1 Consider the following statements regarding Lassa Fever:

  1. It was first discovered in 1969 in Lassa, Nigeria.
  2. The fever is spread by birds.

Which of the above is or are correct? 

  1. 1 only 
  2. 2 only 
  3. Both 1 and 2 
  4. Neither 1 nor 2 

Q.2 Consider the following statements :

  1. The National Health Authority (NHA) is mandated with the implementation of the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri–Jan Arogya Yojana (AB PM-JAY). 
  2. AB PM-JAY provides health assurance of up to Rs. 5 lakh for a family a year, for secondary and tertiary care-related hospitalisations.

Which of the above is or are correct? 

  1. 1 only 
  2. 2 only 
  3. Both 1 and 2 
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Q.3 W hich of the following is/are the negative consequences of riverbed sand mining?

  1. Soil erosion
  2. Disturbance of underwater and coastal sand 
  3. Destruction of fisheries
  4. All of the above

ANSWERS FOR 15th Feb 2022 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

Must Read

On Centre-State relations:

The Hindu

On IAS shortfall at the Centre:

The Hindu

On significance of Indo-Pacific for India:

Indian Express