Daily Current Affairs : 23rd January 2023

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. UNESCO World Heritage Site
  2. Big Bang Theory
  3. School Health and wellness programme
  4. Study on Clean Energy
  5. Facts for Prelims

1 . UNESCO World Heritage Site


Context: The Centre has decided to nominate Assam’s Charaideo Maidams — the Ahom equivalent of the ancient Egyptian pyramids — for the UNESCO World Heritage Centre this year, said the Chief Minister of Assam, Himanta Biswa Sarm. 

About the News 

  • Centre has decided to nomiate Assam’s Charaideo Maidams, representing the late medieval (13th-19th century CE) mound burial tradition of the Tai Ahom community in Assam, from among 52 sites across the country seeking the World Heritage Site tag. 
  • The nomination of the Charaideo Maidams has attained significance at a time when the country is celebrating the 400th birth anniversary of Lachit Barphukan. 
  • There is currently no World Heritage Site in the category of cultural heritage in the northeast.  

About the Ahom dynasty 

  • The Ahom dynasty (1228–1826) ruled the Ahom Kingdom in present-day Assam, India for nearly 598 years.  
  • The dynasty was established by Sukaphaa, a Shan prince of Mong Mao who came to Assam after crossing the Patkai mountains.  
  • The rule of this dynasty ended with the Burmese invasion of Assam and the subsequent annexation by the British East India Company following the Treaty of Yandabo in 1826. 
  • In external medieval chronicles the kings of this dynasty were called Asam Raja, whereas the subjects of the kingdom called them Chaopha, or Swargadeo . 
  • Charaideo, more than 400 km east of Guwahati, was the first capital of the Ahom dynasty founded by Chao Lung Siu-Ka-Pha in 1253. 
  • Lachit Barphukan  was a commander in the erstwhile Ahom kingdom and is known for his leadership in the 1671 battle of Saraighat that thwarted an attempt by Mughals to capture Assam. The ‘Battle of Saraighat’ was fought on the banks of Brahmaputra in Guwahati. 

About Charaideo Maidams 

  • Charaideo Maidam was a burial ground of the Ahom monarch and is a sacred place for the Ahom community. Charaideo Maidam, about 28 km from Sivasagar city, is also famously known as the “Pyramids of Assam“. 
  • Charaideo is said to have served as the capital of the Ahom kingdom. There are some 31 maidams belonging to kings and some 160 of queens. 
  • Out of 386 Maidams or Moidams explored so far, 90 royal burials at Charaideo are the best preserved, representative of and the most complete examples of mound burial tradition of the Ahoms. 
  • The Charaideo Maidams enshrine the mortal remains of the members of the Ahom royalty, who used to be buried with their paraphernalia.  
  • After the 18th century, the Ahom rulers adopted the Hindu method of cremation and began entombing the cremated bones and ashes in a Maidam at Charaideo 

About world heritage Sites 

  • World Heritage Site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an international convention administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  
  • World Heritage Sites are designated by UNESCO for having cultural, historical, scientific, or other forms of significance. The sites are judged to contain “cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity” 
  •  As of August 2022, a total of 1,154 World Heritage Sites (897 cultural, 218 natural, and 39 mixed properties) exist across 167 countries. With 58 selected areas, Italy is the country with the most sites on the list. 

Criteria for UNESCO World Heritage Sites:

  • Human creative genius.
  • Interchange of values.
  • Testimony to cultural tradition.
  • Significance in human history.
  • Traditional human settlement.
  • Heritage associated with events of universal significance.
  • Natural phenomena or beauty.
  • Major stages of Earth’s history.
  • Significant ecological and biological processes.
  • The significant natural habitat for biodiversity

Types of World Heritage SitesCultural, Natural and Mixed sites

  • Cultural heritage sites include hundreds of historic buildings and town sites, important archaeological sites, and works of monumental sculpture or painting. 
  • Natural heritage sites are restricted to those natural areas that (1) furnish outstanding examples of Earth’s record of life or its geologic processes, (2) provide excellent examples of ongoing ecological and biological evolutionary processes, (3) contain natural phenomena that are rare, unique, superlative, or of outstanding beauty, or (4) furnish habitats for rare or endangered animals or plants or are sites of exceptional biodiversity.
  • Mixed heritage sites contain elements of both natural and cultural significance. 

UNESCO world Heritage sites in India 

  • As of 2022, there are 40 World Heritage Sites located in India. Out of these, 32 are cultural, 7 are natural, and one, the Khangchendzonga National Park, is of mixed type.  
  • India has the sixth largest number of sites in the world. The first sites to be listed were the Ajanta Caves, Ellora Caves, Agra Fort, and Taj Mahal, all of which were inscribed in the 1983 session of the World Heritage Committee.  
  • The most recent site listed was Dholavira and kakatiya temple at Warrangal, in 2021. 
  • Number of UNESCO sites in Assam is two- Kaziranga National Park and Manas National Park. 
  • One site is transnational, The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier is shared with six other countries. 
  • In addition, India has 49 sites on its tentative list. 


2 . Big Bang Theory


Context: Lost’ interview of Georges Lemaître rediscovered. The VRT has found in its archives an interview with Georges Lemaître that was thought to be lost. The cosmologist from Louvain was the founder of the big bang theory in the 1920s and 1930s.  Now the entire 20-minute interview has been found. 

What is Big Bang Theory? 

  • In 1927, an astronomer named Georges Lemaître had a big idea. He said that a very long time ago, the universe started as just a single point. He said the universe stretched and expanded to get as big as it is now, and that it could keep on stretching.
  • Big Bang hypothesis states that all of the current and past matter in the Universe came into existence at the same time, roughly 13.8 billion years ago. At this time, all matter was compacted into a very small ball with infinite density and intense heat called a Singularity. Suddenly, the Singularity began expanding, and the universe as we know it began.
  • Although this type of universe was proposed by Russian mathematician Aleksandr Friedmann and Belgian astronomer Georges Lemaître in the 1920s, the modern version was developed by Russian-born American physicist George Gamow and colleagues in the 1940s. 
  • While this is not the only modern theory of how the Universe came into being – for example, there is the Steady State Theory or the Oscillating Universe Theory – it is the most widely accepted and popular. Not only does the model explain the origin of all known matter, the laws of physics, and the large scale structure of the Universe, it also accounts for the expansion of the Universe and a broad range of other phenomena.

Assumptions 

  • The big-bang model is based on two assumptions :
    • The first is that Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity correctly describes the gravitational interaction of all matter.  
    • The second assumption, called the cosmological principle, states that an observer’s view of the universe depends neither on the direction in which he looks nor on his location.  
  • This principle applies only to the large-scale properties of the universe, but it does imply that the universe has no edge, so that the big-bang origin occurred not at a particular point in space but rather throughout space at the same time.  
  • These two assumptions make it possible to calculate the history of the cosmos after a certain epoch called the Planck time. Scientists have yet to determine what prevailed before Planck time. 

Details of the Big bang theory

  • According to the big-bang model, the universe expanded rapidly from a highly compressed primordial state, which resulted in a significant decrease in density and temperature. 
  •  Soon afterward, the dominance of matter over antimatter (as observed today) may have been established by processes that also predict proton decay.  
  • During this stage many types of elementary particles may have been present. After a few seconds, the universe cooled enough to allow the formation of certain nuclei.  
  • The theory predicts that definite amounts of hydrogenhelium, and lithium were produced.  
  • Their abundances agree with what is observed today.  
  • About one million years later the universe was sufficiently cool for atoms to form. The radiation that also filled the universe was then free to travel through space.  
  • This remnant of the early universe is the cosmic microwave background radiation—the “three degrees” (actually 2.728 K) background radiation—discovered in 1965 by American physicists Arno A. Penzias and Robert W. Wilson. 
  • In addition to accounting for the presence of ordinary matter and radiation, the model predicts that the present universe should also be filled with neutrinos, fundamental particles with no mass or electric charge. 
  •  The possibility exists that other relics from the early universe may eventually be discovered. 

About Steady State Theory 

  • The steady-state theory, in cosmology, a view that the universe is always expanding but maintaining a constant average density, with matter being continuously created to form new stars and galaxies at the same rate that old ones become unobservable as a consequence of their increasing distance and velocity of recession. 
  •  A steady-state universe has no beginning or end in time, and from any point within it the view on the grand scale—i.e., the average density and arrangement of galaxies—is the same. Galaxies of all possible ages are intermingled. 
  • The theory was first put forward in 1948 by British scientists Sir Hermann BondiThomas Gold, and Sir Fred Hoyle. 
  •  It was further developed by Hoyle to deal with problems that had arisen in connection with the alternative big-bang hypothesis.  
  • Observations since the 1950s (most notably, those of the cosmic microwave background, which was predicted by the big-bang model) have produced much evidence contradictory to the steady-state picture and have led scientists to overwhelmingly support the big-bang model. 

Georges Lemaître 

  • Georges Lemaître,  Belgian astronomer and cosmologist who formulated the modern big-bang theory, which holds that the universe began in a cataclysmic explosion of a small, primeval “super-atom.” 
  • It was because Lemaître was the originator of the Big Bang theory of the universe’s origin and derived an important law that cosmologists still use to understand the motion of galaxies away from each other. 
  • In 1927, the year he became a professor of astrophysics at the Catholic University of Leuven (Louvain), he proposed his big-bang theory, which explained the recession of the galaxies within the framework of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity.  
  • Although expanding models of the universe had been considered earlier, notably by the Dutch astronomer Willem de Sitter, Lemaître’s theory, as modified by George Gamow, has become the leading theory of cosmology. 
  • Lemaître also did research on cosmic rays and on the three-body problem, which concerns the mathematical description of the motion of three mutually attracting bodies in space.  
  • First, Lemaître discusses the arguments by which the Big Bang theory replaced steady state theory, under which Fred Hoyle and others claimed that the universe was static, that the galaxies that were there had always just been there. 
  • His works include Discussion sur l’évolution de l’univers (1933; “Discussion on the Evolution of the Universe”) and L’Hypothèse de l’atome primitif (1946; The Primeval Atom: An Essay on Cosmogony). 


3 . School Health & Wellness Programme


Context: It has been nearly three years since the School Health and Wellness Programme was launched under the Ayushman Bharat scheme, and so far only 15 of India’s States – less than half – have started weekly 40-minute classroom sessions with students, official sources from the Union Health Ministry said. 

What is School Health and Wellness Programme? 

  • Schools play a critical role in helping students establish lifelong healthy behaviours. Recognizing the importance of this, school-based health promotion activities have been incorporated as a part of the Health and Wellness component of the Ayushman Bharat Programme. 
  • School Health & Wellness Programme (launched in Feb 2020) is being implemented in government and government aided schools in districts (including aspirational districts). 
  •  Two teachers, preferably one male and one female, in every school, designated as “Health and Wellness Ambassadors” shall be trained to transact with school children, health promotion and disease prevention information on 11 thematic areas in the form of interesting joyful interactive activities for one hour every week. 

About Ayushman Bharat Programme 

  •  Ayushman Bharat, a flagship scheme of Government of India, was launched as recommended by the National Health Policy 2017, to achieve the vision of Universal Health Coverage (UHC).  
  • This initiative has been designed to meet Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and its underlining commitment, which is to “leave no one behind.” 
  • Ayushman Bharat is an attempt to move from a sectoral and segmented approach of health service delivery to a comprehensive need-based health care service.  
  • This scheme aims to undertake path-breaking interventions to holistically address the healthcare system (covering prevention, promotion and ambulatory care) at the primary, secondary and tertiary level.  
  • Ayushman Bharat adopts a continuum of care approach, comprising of two inter-related components, which are – 
    • Health and Wellness Centres (HWCs) 
    • Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY) 

Health and Wellness Centers (HWCs) 

  • In February 2018, the Government of India announced the creation of 1,50,000 Health and Wellness Centres (HWCs) by transforming the existing Sub Centres and Primary Health Centres. 
  •  These centres are to deliver Comprehensive Primary Health Care (CPHC) bringing healthcare closer to the homes of people. They cover both, maternal and child health services and non-communicable diseases, including free essential drugs and diagnostic services. 
  • Health and Wellness Centers are envisaged to deliver an expanded range of services to address the primary health care needs of the entire population in their area, expanding access, universality and equity close to the community.  
  • The emphasis of health promotion and prevention is designed to bring focus on keeping people healthy by engaging and empowering individuals and communities to choose healthy behaviours and make changes that reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases and morbidities. 

Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY) 

  • The second component under Ayushman Bharat is the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojna or PM-JAY as it is popularly known. This scheme was launched on 23rd September 2018 in Ranchi, Jharkhand by the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi. 
  • Ayushman Bharat PM-JAY is the largest health assurance scheme in the world which aims at providing a health cover of Rs. 5 lakhs per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization to over 10.74 crores poor and vulnerable families (approximately 50 crore beneficiaries) that form the bottom 40% of the Indian population.  
  • The households included are based on the deprivation and occupational criteria of Socio-Economic Caste Census 2011 (SECC 2011) for rural and urban areas respectively. 
  •  PM-JAY was earlier known as the National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS) before being rechristened.  
  • It subsumed the then existing Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) which had been launched in 2008. The coverage mentioned under PM-JAY, therefore, also includes families that were covered in RSBY but are not present in the SECC 2011 database. PM-JAY is fully funded by the Government and cost of implementation is shared between the Central and State Governments. 

Key Features of PM-JAY 

  • PM-JAY is the world’s largest health insurance/ assurance scheme fully financed by the government. 
  • It provides a cover of Rs. 5 lakhs per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization across public and private empanelled hospitals in India. 
  • Over 10.74 crore poor and vulnerable entitled families (approximately 50 crore beneficiaries) are eligible for these benefits. 
  • PM-JAY provides cashless access to health care services for the beneficiary at the point of service, that is, the hospital. 
  • PM-JAY envisions to help mitigate catastrophic expenditure on medical treatment which pushes nearly 6 crore Indians into poverty each year. 
  • It covers up to 3 days of pre-hospitalization and 15 days post-hospitalization expenses such as diagnostics and medicines. 
  • There is no restriction on the family size, age or gender. 
  • All pre–existing conditions are covered from day one. 
  • Benefits of the scheme are portable across the country i.e. a beneficiary can visit any empanelled public or private hospital in India to avail cashless treatment. 
  • Services include approximately 1,393 procedures covering all the costs related to treatment, including but not limited to drugs, supplies, diagnostic services, physician’s fees, room charges, surgeon charges, OT and ICU charges etc. 
  • Public hospitals are reimbursed for the healthcare services at par with the private hospitals 

Key Findings of the Report 

  • Until December 2022, only 71 of 766 districts have achieved 100% HWA training targets, according to Ministry data. Only four States and UTs – Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli – have achieved 100% coverage. Some States are on the road to achieving targets, like Rajasthan (99%), Uttarakhand (97%), and Haryana (92%). 
  • In 2022-23, over 300 districts have been targeted to be covered across 36 States and UTs,” a senior health ministry official said. 
  • In States like Chhattisgarh and West Bengal, the number of HWAs trained is at 8% and 9% respectively. States like Uttar Pradesh (29%), Karnataka (31%), Andaman and Nicobar Islands (32%) and Madhya Pradesh (34%) have also not met training targets. 
  • The Health Ministry is facing various challenges in implementing the programme. 
    • One major hindrance is that teachers at government schools are overworked. In Delhi for instance, the Health and Wellness Programme syllabus is in addition to the Happiness Curriculum, Desh Bhakti Curriculum, and Entrepreneurship Mindset Curriculum that schools are already implementing. 
  • Not all States have set aside the weekly time slot in the classroom schedule to conduct these programmes.  
  • There is currently no formal reporting structure or accountability to ensure that the syllabus is implemented 
  • The challenge is conducting adequate teacher training programmes while maintaining quality. 
  • The syllabus, designed by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) covers 11 core themes including managing emotional and mental health, navigating interpersonal relationships, and promoting the safe use of internet and social media. 


4 . Study on Financial impact by Transitioning to Clean Energy


Context: India’s financial sector is highly exposed to the risks of the economy transitioning from being largely dependent on fossil fuel to clean energy, says a study in the Global Environmental Change journal, published online last week 

About the Report 

  • An analysis of individual loans and bonds found that 60% of lending to the mining sector was for oil and gas extraction, while one-fifth of manufacturing sector debt is for petroleum refining and related industries.  
  • Electricity production – by far the largest source of carbon emissions – accounted for 5.2% of outstanding credit, but only 17.5% of this lending is to pure-play renewables.  
  • Moreover, there was a shortage of experts in India’s financial institutions who had the expertise to appropriately advise the institutions on such a transition, the authors noted. 
  • “Fewer than half of the 154 finance professionals surveyed were familiar with environmental issues, including climate change mitigation and adaption, greenhouse gas emissions or transition risks. Only four of the ten major financial institutions surveyed collect information on environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks, and these firms do not systematically incorporate that data into financial planning,” the authors noted. 
  •  “Our findings suggest that financiers, regulators and policymakers in emerging and developing economies should be acting swiftly to ensure an orderly transition to net-zero,” they said. 
  • In 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi committed India to reach net-zero emissions by 2070. India has also announced plans to source half of its electricity needs from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030. However, it has also maintained that it needs financing to the order of at least a trillion dollars to meet these commitments. 
  • Mapping India’s policy commitments against these lending and investment patterns reveals that India’s financial sector is heavily exposed to potential transition risks. 

Sovereign green bonds 

  • India is expected to launch its first-ever sovereign green bonds auction later this week, with the Reserve Bank of India expected to launch 5-year and 10-year green bonds worth ₹40 billion. India’s presidency of the G-20 also means a focus on the energy transition and mobilising sustainable finance. 
  • High-carbon industries — power generation, chemicals, iron and steel, and aviation — account for 10% of outstanding debt to Indian financial institutions. However, these industries are also heavily indebted, and therefore have less financial capacity to respond to shocks and stresses. 

Few resources for renewables 

  • Coal currently accounts for 44% of India’s primary energy sources and 70% of its power generation. The country’s coal-fired power plants have an average age of 13 years and India has 91,000 MW of new proposed coal capacity in the works, second only to China. According to the Draft National Electricity Plan 2022, coal’s share in the electricity generation mix will decrease to 50% by 2030, compared to the current contribution of 70%. 

What is Clean Energy? 

  • Clean energy comes from generation systems that do not produce any kind of pollution, notably greenhouse gases like Co2, which cause climate change. Therefore, clean energy – in full development – drives advances to conserve the environment and palliate the crisis with non-renewable fuels, such as gas and oil. 
  • It is energy that is produced through methods that do not release greenhouse gases or any other pollutants. clean energy can be generated from renewable sources like solar and air currents. 
  • It is important to note that the terms Renewable Energy and clean energy are not interchangeable. Not all renewable energy methods are clean energy. For example, geothermal power is renewable energy source but some of the ways it can be processed can have a negative impact on the environment. 
  • The benefits of clean energy are that it reduces the reliance on Fossil Fuels and can mitigate Climate Change.  


5 . Facts for Prelims 


Hybrid Immunity 

  • Hybrid immunity is gained from a previous infection plus vaccines – either the primary doses or both primary and booster doses.  
  • The study said that a hybrid immunity offers a “higher magnitude and durability” of protection as compared to infection alone, emphasising the need for vaccination. 
  • Hybrid immunity provides the best protection – an infection after vaccination acts like a booster.  

Buddhist Stupa 

  • A Buddhist stupa is a commemorative monument usually housing sacred relics associated with the Buddha or other saints or priests, whereas votive stupas have similar significance but are smaller structures originating in eight cylindrical structures.   
  • The hemispherical form of the stupa appears to have derived from pre-Buddhist burial mounds in India. 
  • As most characteristically seen at Sanchi in the Great Stupa (2nd–1st century BC), the monument consists of a circular base supporting a massive solid dome (the anda, “egg,” or garbha, “womb”) from which projects an umbrella.  
  • The whole of the Great Stupa is encircled by a railing and four gateways, which are richly decorated with relief sculpture depicting Jataka tales, events in the life of the Buddha, and popular mythological figures. 
  • The Indian conception of the stupa spread throughout the Buddhist world and evolved into such different-looking monuments as the bell-shaped dagaba (“heart of garbha”) of Ceylon (Sri Lanka), the terraced temple of Borobudur in Java, the variations in Tibet, and the multistoried pagodas of China, Korea, and Japan.  
  • Worship of a stupa consists in walking around the monument in the clockwise direction. Even when the stupa is sheltered by a building, it is always a freestanding monument. 
  • Buddhist stupas were originally built to house the earthly remains of the historical Buddha and his associates and are almost invariably found at sites sacred to Buddhism.  

Mabja Zangbo river 

  • Mabja Zangbo originates from Mt. Kangrinboqe (Mount Kailash) in Nagari country of Tibet, flows through Nepal into the Ghaghara River before joining the Ganga in India. 
  • China is constructing a new dam on the Mabja Zangbo river in Tibet, close to the tri-junction, satellite imagery has revealed. 
  • The new dam is located around 16 km north of the tri-junction and is opposite the Kalapani area of Uttarakhand

Military Service Pay 

  • MSP is paid to service personnel for the unique hardships they face in the line of duty and was introduced in the Sixth Pay Commission.  
  • It will be admissible to the defence forces personnel only. 
  • In the Seventh Pay Commission, the MSP was ₹5,200 for Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) and ORs and ₹15,500 for officers from Lieutenant to the rank of Brigadier. 

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