Daily Current Affairs : 12th and 13th January

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Carbon Storage in Evergreen Forest
  2. Satopanth glacier
  3. Deshbandhu Chittaranjan, Binay-Badal-Dinesh
  4. ICGS Amrit Kaur and ICGS Annie Besant
  5. Levels and Trends in Child Mortality’ report 
  6. H9N2
  7. One China Policy
  8. Facts for Prelims

1 . Carbon Storage in Evergreen Forest

Context : Spending over six months conducting surveys inside Anamalai Tiger Reserve and using satellite data from multiple locations in the Western Ghats, an international team of researchers has shown that carbon storage was highest in species-rich evergreen forest

About the Research

  • The study was done in natural evergreen and deciduous forests, and in teak and eucalyptus plantations. The studied eucalyptus plantations had comparatively lower carbon storage, while teak plantations stored nearly as much carbon as deciduous forests.
  • The team identified the trees, measured their girth and height in 250 square plots inside the Anamalai Tiger Reserve, and used the measurements to estimate carbon storage in different forests and plantation types.
  • They then used satellite data from Parambikulam Tiger Reserve, Rajiv Gandhi Tiger Reserve, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary and Bhadra Tiger Reserve, along with Anamalai to assess the rate of carbon capture and how they varied across years (2000-2018).
  • All the study areas used to be exploited for timber and for raising plantations of commercially important trees in the past, but are now strictly protected as wildlife reserves. Annual rainfall and stressors like drought were all taken into consideration for the study.

Key Observations

  • The results showed that the species-rich evergreen forests stored carbon at approximately 300 tons per hectare. The storage in teak and eucalyptus plantations was 43% and 55% less, respectively.
  • The researchers also found that the rates of carbon capture remained nearly the same year after year in natural forests compared with plantations.

Benefits of the Study

  • Findings suggest that protecting and regenerating natural forests comprising a diverse mix of native tree species is more reliable in the long term than raising monoculture or species-poor plantations as a strategy for mitigating climate change.”
  • Species-rich forests are beneficial for biodiversity as they also provide habitat to many other components — insects, birds, etc. Previous studies have shown that species-rich forests are also resistant to diseases.
  • Different trees have varying degrees of fire resistance depending on the thickness of the bark. Also, the ability to regenerate the seeds differ across species and so a multi-species forest would likely show greater resilience in case of a fire.

Uses of the Study

  • Study can help transform reforestation policies. Currently, according to government data, over half of compensatory afforestation plantations use five species or less, which is way lower than in natural forests and totally inadequate. This is not good for biodiversity, and now this study has shown that it is not great for the stability of carbon capture too,
  • We also need to think about where the afforestation measures are being carried out. Grasslands help in carbon capture themselves and planting trees there can cause more harm than good.

2 . Satopanth glacier

Context : A study of the Satopanth glacier in order to model the melting of debris-covered glaciers has been carried out by a group of Indian researchers. Their new method gives a better estimate of the glacier’s melting than existing ones.

About Satopanth Glaciers

  • Satopanth glacier is located in Garhwal in Central Himalaya, in Uttarakhand.
  • It is the origin of the river Alaknanda, one of the two main tributaries of the Ganga. The other tributary is Bhagirathi, which originates from the Gangotri glacier.
  • These two rivers join at Devprayag, around 70 km upstream of Rishikesh. Downstream of Devprayag, the river is called Ganga.

About the Study

  • This line of research was initiated by H.C. Nainwal of the Geology Department, Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal University, in 2004. Initially it constituted studies of paleoglaciation and monitoring the fronts of Satopanth and Bhagirath Kharak glaciers. “Full scale glaciological observations began in 2013,” says R Shankar of The Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai, and an author of the paper.
  • To study the melting, the team planted nearly 60 bamboo stakes in the Satopanth glacier, most of which were placed in ten transverse lines below 4,600 metres elevation. The initial depth of the bamboo stakes was noted down, and periodic measurements were made over the course of three years to assess how much ice had melted.
  • Studying debris-laden Himalayan glaciers is important from the point of view of how climate change affects them. About 20% of Himalayan glaciers are debris-laden, and their dynamics are very different from the ones without debris cover.

About the New Method

  • The team computed the sub-debris melting of the glacier by interpolating the collected data as a function of thickness of the debris and averaging over debris thickness distribution over different parts of the glacier. This is to be contrasted with the conventional method where the collected data is interpolated as a function of elevation.
  • The new method introduced by the group worked better at estimating the dynamics of the glacier than the conventional method.

Effect of Debris

  • In glaciers without a debris cover, the rate of melting increases as the elevation decreases. However, in glaciers covered with debris, the thick cover partially insulates the glacier from the warm exterior and thereby slows down the melting.
  • The thickness of the debris cover, by and large, increases as the glacier flows down. This works against the general trend that the lower the elevation, the higher the rate of melting. Matters are further complicated because the thickness of the debris cover is not uniform but fluctuates randomly.

3 . Chittaranjan Das & Binay-Badal-Dinesh

Context : “A museum called Biplabi Bharat will be made, in which Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Aurobindo Ghosh, Deshbandhu Chittaranjan, Binay-Badal-Binesh, and all great soldiers of freedom struggle should get some place,

About Chittaranjan Das

  • Chittaranjan Das is generally referred as Deshbandhu which means “Friend of the nation”.
  • Das completed his education in England, where he became a Barrister, his public career began in 1909 when he successfully defended Aurobindo Ghosh on charges of involvement in the Alipore bomb case.
  • Das maintained close contact with Bipin Chandra Pal and Aurobindo Ghosh and helped them in publishing the Bande Mataram, an English weekly for propagating the ideals of swaraj.
  • Das also brought out a newspaper called ‘Forward‘ and later changed its name to Liberty to fight the British Raj. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose was the editor of this newspaper. Bose considered Das as his mentor..
  • Das was also a voracious reader, he was closely associated with a number of literary societies and wrote poems, apart from numerous articles and essays.
  • Das, a few years before his death, gifted his house and the adjoining lands to the nation to be used for the betterment of the lives of women. At present, it is a big hospital called Chittaranjan Seva Sadan and has gone from being a women’s hospital to one where all specialties are present.

Political Career

  • Das’ political career spanned just six years, but even in that brief period he managed to leave a mark.
  • He entered active politics in 1917 when he played “a significant role in the controversy over the election of Mrs Annie Besant as President of the Indian National Congress for its Calcutta Session”
  • He was a believer in the ‘Swadeshi’ idea and completely rejected the notion of development as promoted by Western powers.
  • In the Calcutta session, he put forward a plan for village reconstruction, which was to entail steps such as establishment of local self-government, co-operative credit societies as well as re-starting the cottage industry.
  • The next year, he denounced the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms, which were aimed at installing a dual government system or dyarchy in the country.
  • In 1920, Das sacrificed all his luxuries and supported the cause of ‘khadi’. The same year he participated in Mahatma Gandhi-led Non-Cooperation Movement. During the movement, he also initiated a ban on British clothes in Bengal.
  • Das was jailed alongside his wife and son for six months for participating in the movement in 1921. The same year he was elected to Ahmedabad Congress.

Swaraj Party

  • On 4 February 1922, Mahatma Gandhi suddenly ended the movement following the Chauri Chaura incident. Das was firmly against Gandhi’s move.
  • At the Gaya session of the party in December 1922, Das was chosen as the Congress president, but resigned later when his plan to introduce non-cooperation from within the councils failed to go through.
  • Alongside Motilal Nehru, Das then established the Swaraj party within the Congress. The aim of the newly-founded party was to contest in the Central Legislative Assembly in 1923 and derail the British rule through anti-government activities within the council chambers.
  • The party was able to secure only 40 seats and the number was too small to make any legislative impact. Following the death of Das on 16 June 1925, it was eventually disbanded.

About Binay-Badal-Dinesh

  • In 1930, Benoy along with Badal and Dinesh Chandra Gupta , dressed in European costume, entered the Writers’ Building and shot dead Simpson.
  • The association targeted Col NS Simpson, the Inspector General of Prisons, who was infamous for the brutal oppression on the prisoners in the jails. The revolutionaries decided not only to murder him, but also to strike a terror in the British official circles by launching an attack on the Secretariat Building – the Writers’ Building in the Dalhousie Square in Kolkata.
  • Soon police overpowered them. However, the three did not wish to be arrested. Badal Gupta took Potassium cyanide, while Benoy and Dinesh shot themselves with their own revolvers. Benoy was taken to the hospital where he died on 13 December 1930.
  • However, Dinesh survived the near-fatal injury. He was convicted and the verdict of the trial was death by hanging for anti-government activities and murder. While awaiting execution, Dinesh wrote a number of letters from his prison cell on the heroism of the revolutionaries and his belief in the greatness of self-sacrifice.
  • Benoy, Badal, and Dinesh were treated as martyrs by supporters in Bengal and other parts of India. After independence, Dalhousie Square was named B.B.D. Bagh – after the Benoy-Badal-Dinesh trio.

4 . ICGS Amrit Kaur and ICGS Annie Besant

Context : Two Indian Coast Guard Ships (ICGS) — Annie Besant and Amrit Kaur — were commissioned 

About the ICGS

  • ICGS Annie Besant was named in honour of Annie Besant whereas ICGS Amrit Kaur derives the name from Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, who belonged to the ruling family of Kapurthala, Punjab
  • The ships are capable of undertaking multi-faceted tasks such as surveillance, interdiction, search and rescue, and medical evacuation.
  • They are fitted with state-of-the-art technology, navigation and communication equipment, sensors and machinery. The ships are also equipped with Bofors 40/60 guns and 12.7 mm SRCGs (Stabilised Remote Controlled Gun) for enhancing the fighting efficiency of the ship.
  • The ships carry one RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) and a Gemini boat each for swift boarding and search and rescue operations. ICGS Annie Besantis commanded by Commandant (JG) Sunny Deo while ICGS Amrit Kaur is commanded by Commandant (JG) Himanshu Mishra, the release added.

Contribution of Annie Besant

  • Besant was a British social reformer, campaigner for women’s rights and a supporter of Indian nationalism.
  • Annie Besant joined The Theosophical Society on 21 May 1889, and became a devoted pupil and helper of HPB, pledging her loyalty to the President-Founder, Col. H. S. Olcott, and the cause of Theosophy. Besant first visited India in 1893 and later settled there, becoming involved in the Indian nationalist movement.
  • She soon gathered round her a band of Indians to work for the regeneration of the country and in 1898, after much planning, founded the Central Hindu School and College in Benares (now Varanasi).  A few years later she started the Central Hindu School for Girls. Theosophists from overseas came to help her in the work of the college, which was established with the object of impressing India’s past glory on the minds and hearts of the students.
  • In 1916 she established the Indian Home Rule League, of which she became president. She was also a leading member of the Indian National Congress.
  • She started the Young Men’s Indian Association in 1914 to train young people for public work and donated Gokhale Hall in Madras as a centre for national awakening and free speech. She also started two journals: The Commonweal, a weekly dealing with issues of national reform; and New India, a daily newspaper which for fifteen years was a powerful instrument promoting Home Rule and revolutionizing Indian journalism.
  • By 1918 she had started the Madras Parliament, opened Madanapalle College (now in Andhra Pradesh), inaugurated the Adyar Arts League, started the Home Rule League in Bombay, started the Girls’ College in Benares, founded the Order of the Brothers of Service, presided over the Women’s Indian Association at Adyar — from which grew the All-India Women’s Conference at Poona (now Pune) in 1927 and the All-Asian Women’s Conference at Lahore in 1931 — and started the Society for the Promotion of National Education (SPNE).  
  • She fell into disfavour with the Indian National Congress because of her opposition to Mr Gandhi’s plan of non-cooperation and civil disobedience as she foresaw the danger of instilling disrespect for the law.  

Contribution of Rajkumari Amrit Kaur

  • Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, who belonged to the ruling family of Kapurthala, Punjab. She took active part in the ‘Salt Satyagraha’ and ‘Quit India Movement’, and served Independent India as its first Health Minister.
  • She worked towards uplift of the less privileged, the progress of women, and was a founder-member of All India Women’s Conference and founder-President of Indian Council for Child Welfare. 

5 . Levels and Trends in Child Mortality’ report 

Context : India is among the few countries in the world where, in 2018, the mortality under-5 years of girls, exceeded that of boys, according to the ‘Levels and Trends in Child Mortality’ report by the United Nations (UN) inter-agency group for child mortality.

Details of the Report

  • The global report states that in 2018 fewer countries showed gender disparities in child mortality, and across the world, on average, boys are expected to have a higher probability of dying before reaching age-5 than girls. But this trend was not reflected in India.
  • “In some countries, the risk of dying before age 5 for girls is significantly higher than what would be expected based on global patterns. These countries are primarily located in Southern Asia and Western Asia,” said the report.

Key Findings regarding India

  • According to India’s 2017 Sample Registration System (SRS) the States with the highest burden of neonatal mortality are Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh, with 32, 33 and 30 neonatal deaths per 1,000 live births, respectively. India’s neonatal mortality rate is 23 per 1,000 live births.
  • Also States and Union Territories, Jharkhand, Bihar and Uttarakhand showed the largest gender gaps in under-5 mortality.
  • “The burden of child mortality is determined both by the mortality rate (the proportion of children who die) and by the estimated population of any given State (total number of annual births). In this sense, Uttar Pradesh is the State with the highest number of estimated newborn deaths in India, both because of the high neonatal mortality rate and because of the large cohort of births that occur every year in the State,” noted information released by UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund).

Main Reasons

  • Estimates indicate that the majority of child mortality cases in India are attributable to deaths during the neonatal period.
  • The major causes of neonatal mortality are pre-term birth, intrapartum related events, and neonatal infection. In the post-neonatal period, the major direct causes of death are diarrhoea and pneumonia. 
  • The report adds that despite the tremendous progress in child survival that has been made over the past two decades, one child or young adolescent died every five seconds in 2018.

Way forward

  • “Current trends predict that close to 10 million 5- to 14-year-olds, and 52 million children under 5 years of age, will die between 2019 and 2030.
  • Almost half of these under-5 deaths will be newborns whose deaths can be prevented by reaching high coverage of quality antenatal care, skilled care at birth, postnatal care for mother and baby, and care of small and sick newborns,” said the study.

6 . H9N2

Context : Indian scientists have detected the country’s first case of infection with a rare variant of the virus that causes avian influenza, or bird flu. Scientists of the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, have reported avian influenza A(H9N2) virus infection in a 17-month-old boy in Maharashtra.

About H9N2 virus

  • H9N2 is a subtype of the influenza A virus, which causes human influenza as well as bird flu.
  • The H9N2 subtype was isolated for the first time in Wisconsin, US in 1966 from turkey flocks.
  • According to the US National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), H9N2 viruses are found worldwide in wild birds and are endemic in poultry in many areas.
  • According to a recent report by NCBI researcher T P Peacock, H9N2 viruses could potentially play a major role in the emergence of the next influenza pandemic.
  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), with avian influenza viruses circulating in poultry, there is a risk for sporadic infection and small clusters of human cases due to exposure to infected poultry or contaminated environments. Therefore, sporadic human cases are not unexpected.

Human infections

  • H9N2 virus infections in humans are rare, but likely under-reported due to typically mild symptoms of the infections.
  • Cases of human infection have been observed in Hong Kong, China, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Egypt. One case was detected in Oman recently. The first case globally was reported from Hong Kong in 1998. A total of 28 cases in China have been reported since December 2015. Cases continue to be reported mainly from mainland China and Hong Kong.
  • The virus has, however, spread extensively among poultry populations. Surveillance for influenza viruses in poultry in Bangladesh during 2008-2011 found H9N2 virus to be the predominant subtype. The virus was also identified in poultry populations in surveillance studies in Myanmar during 2014-16 and Burkina Faso in 2017.

7 . One China Policy

What is the ‘One China’ policy?

  • It is the diplomatic acknowledgement of China’s position that there is only one Chinese government.
  • Under the policy, the countries recognises and has formal ties with China rather than the island of Taiwan, which China sees as a breakaway province to be reunified with the mainland one day.
  • The One China policy however, it is distinct from the One China principle, whereby China insists Taiwan is an inalienable part of one China to be reunified one day.
  • Although Taiwan’s government claims it is an independent country officially called the “Republic of China”, any country that wants diplomatic relations with mainland China must break official ties with Taipei.

Origin of Policy

  • The policy can be traced back to 1949 and the end of the Chinese civil war.
  • The defeated Nationalists, also known as the Kuomintang, retreated to Taiwan and made it their seat of government while the victorious Communists began ruling the mainland as the People’s Republic of China. Both sides said they represented all of China.
  • Since then China’s ruling Communist Party has threatened to use force if Taiwan ever formally declares independence, but it has also pursued a softer diplomatic track with the island in recent years.
  • Initially, many governments including the US recognised Taiwan as they shied away from Communist China. But the diplomatic winds shifted as China and the United States saw a mutual need to develop relations beginning in the 1970s, with the US and other countries cutting ties with Taipei in favour of Beijing.
  • Many however still maintain informal relations with Taiwan through trade offices or cultural institutes.

8 . Facts for Prelims

Criteria for Cancellation of OCI Card

  • Section 7(D) says that the OCI registration may be cancelled if it was obtained by means of fraud, false representation or the concealment of any material fact; or if the overseas citizen of India has shown disaffection towards the Constitution of India, or unlawfully traded or communicated with an enemy (in case of a war) or has been sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not less than two years within five years after registration as an OCI, or if it is necessary so to do in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India.

Rogali Bihu

  • Bihu is a set of three important Assamese festivals in the Indian state of Assam Rongali or Bohag Bihu observed in April, Kongali or Kati Bihu observed in October, and Bhogali or Magh Bihu observed in January.

Kaanum Pongal

  • The jallikattu-like event using foxes, or vanga nari in Tamilis usually organised on Kaanum Pongal on the outskirts of the district as villagers believe it will bring bountiful rain and good fortune.
  • Foxes are a protected species under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and hunting or capturing them is prohibited.

Private Property

  • A citizen’s right to own private property is a human right.
  • The state cannot trespass into the private property of a citizen and then claim ownership of the land in the name of ‘adverse possession’. Grabbing private land and then claiming it as its own makes the state an encroacher. In a welfare state, right to property is a human right
  • Right to Property ceased to be a fundamental right with the 44th Constitution Amendment in 1978. Article 300A required the state to follow due procedure and authority of law to deprive a person of his or her private property

Second Wetland bird count in Kaziranga

  • Kaziranga National Park and avian specialists conducted the second wetland bird count on January 9-10. The teams counted a total of 19,225 birds belonging to 96 species under 80 families.
  • The first waterfowl census in 2018 had yielded 10,412 birds covering 80 families from 21 families.
  • Kaziranga, about 220 km east of Guwahati, has a total area (tiger reserve) of 1,030 sq km with a core area of 430 sq. km.
  • With 6,181 individuals, the bar-headed goose led the species count, followed by the common teal at 1,557 and northern pintail at 1,359. All three belong to the family anatidae,
  • The other species with sizeable numbers include gadwall, common coot, lesser whistling duck, Indian spot-billed duck, little cormorant, ferruginous duck, tufted duck, Eurasian wigeon, Asian openbill, northern lapwing, ruddy shelduck and spot-billed pelican.
  • Importance : Data on avian wealth is important because the wetlands nourish Kaziranga’s ecosystem. Increase or decrease in the number of birds is indicative of the park’s health
  • Conservation efforts in Kaziranga are mainly focused on the ‘big four’ species— rhino, elephant, Royal Bengal tiger and Asiatic water buffalo. The 2018 census had yielded 2,413 rhinos and approximately 1,100 elephants. The tiger census of 2014 said Kaziranga had an estimated 103 tigers, the third highest population of the striped cat in India after Jim Corbett National Park (215) in Uttarakhand and Bandipur National Park (120) in Karnataka. Kaziranga is also home to nine of the 14 species of primates found in the Indian subcontinent.

Bojjannakonda & Lingalametta

  • Bojjannakonda and Lingalametta are the twin Buddhist monasteries dating back to the 3rd century BC.
  • These sites have seen three forms of Buddhism – the Theravada period when Lord Buddha was considered a teacher, the Mahayana, where Buddhism was more devotional, and Vajrayana, where Buddhist tradition was more practised as Tantra and esoteric form
  • It is situated near a village called Sankaram, which is a few kilometres away from Anakapalle, Vishakhapatnam in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh
  • The name Sankaram is derived from the term, ‘Sangharama’. It is famous for the whole lot of votive stupas, rock-cut caves, brick-built structural edifices, early historic pottery and Satavahana coins that date back to the 1st century AD.
  • The main stupa was carved out of rock and then covered with bricks, where one can see a number of images of the Buddha sculpted on the rock face all over the hill. At the Lingalametta, one can see hundreds of rock-cut monolithic stupas in rows.

Tallest Buddha Statute

  • Spring Temple statue in China (153 metres), Thailand-based Sitting Buddha statue (92 metres).
  • The Gujarat government had proposed to develop Dev Ni Mori in Sabarkantha district into an “international Buddhist destination” with “the second tallest statue of Buddha (108 metres)
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