Daily Current Affairs : 26th and 27th November 2023

Topics Covered

  1. Ozone Hole
  2. IVF
  3. Urban outcome framework
  4. Special Category status
  5. Facts for Prelims  

      1 . Ozone Hole


      Context: The core (middle stratospheric layer) of the Antarctic ozone in mid-spring (October) has experienced a 26% reduction since 2004, contrary to previously reported recovery trends in total ozone, according to a study published recently in the journal Nature Communications. 

      Ozone layer

      • The ozone layer resides in the stratosphere and surrounds the entire Earth.
      • UV-B radiation (280- to 315- nanometer (nm) wavelength) from the Sun is partially absorbed in this layer. As a result, the amount of UV-B reaching Earth’s surface is greatly reduced. UV-A (315- to 400-nm wavelength) and other solar radiation are not strongly absorbed by the ozone layer.
      • Human exposure to UV-B increases the risk of skin cancer, cataracts, and a suppressed immune system. UV-B exposure can also damage terrestrial plant life, single cell organisms, and aquatic ecosystems.
      • Ozone is also created close to the surface as a byproduct of pollution can trigger health problems such as asthma and bronchitis.

      What is ozone hole

      • The ozone “hole” is really a reduction in concentrations of ozone high above the earth in the stratosphere. The ozone hole is defined geographically as the area wherein the total ozone amount is less than 220 Dobson Units.
      • Ozone depletion consists of two related events observed since the late 1970s: a steady lowering of about four percent in the total amount of ozone in Earth’s atmosphere, and a much larger springtime decrease in stratospheric ozone (the ozone layer) around Earth’s polar regions, which is known as the Ozone Hole. 
      • Each spring over Antarctica atmospheric ozone is destroyed by chemical processes. This creates the ozone hole, which occurs because of special meteorological and chemical conditions that exist in that region.

      Causes of Ozone Hole

      • The main causes of ozone depletion and the ozone hole are manufactured chemicals, especially manufactured halocarbon refrigerants, solvents, propellants,and foam-blowing agents (chlorofluorocarbons(CFCs), HCFCs, halons), referred to as ozone-depleting substances (ODS). 
      • These compounds are transported into the stratosphere by turbulent mixing after being emitted from the surface, mixing much faster than the molecules can settle. 
      • Once in the stratosphere, they release atoms from the halogen group through photodissociation, which catalyze the breakdown of ozone (O3) into oxygen (O2). Both types of ozone depletion were observed to increase as emissions of halocarbons increased. 

      Steps taken

      • In 1987, The Montreal Protocol was created to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of these harmful substances. 

      Montreal Protocol

      • The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is the landmark multilateral environmental agreement that regulates the production and consumption of nearly 100 man-made chemicals referred to as ozone depleting substances (ODS).
      • When released to the atmosphere, those chemicals damage the stratospheric ozone layer, Earth’s protective shield that protects humans and the environment from harmful levels of ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

      2 . IVF


      Context: The Congress has included in vitro fertilisation (IVF) as an area of focus in its manifesto for the Rajasthan Assembly election. 

      About the news:  

      • Integrating infertility with political agenda, Goa recently became the first State to offer free IVF, assisted reproductive technology (ART), and intrauterine insemination (IUI) services. 
      • Maharashtra is also looking into providing financial support to people from rural areas for IVF treatments under the Mahatma Phule Jan Arogya Yojana. 

      About IVF

      • In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is a medical procedure where an egg and sperm are combined outside the body in a laboratory dish (“in vitro” means “in glass”). 
      • This process involves stimulating the ovaries to produce multiple eggs, retrieving the eggs, and fertilizing them with sperm in a controlled environment. 
      • The resulting embryos are then cultured and selected for transfer into the uterus, with the aim of achieving a successful pregnancy. 
      • Children born through IVF are colloquially called test tube babies. 
      • The Latin term in vitro, meaning “in glass”, is used because early biological experiments involving cultivation of tissues outside the living organism were carried out in glass containers, such as beakers, test tubes, or Petri dishes. 

      Benefits of IVF 

      • Treatment of Infertility: IVF is a highly effective method for couples facing infertility issues, providing them with the opportunity to conceive when natural conception is challenging. 
      • Addressing Ovulatory Disorders: IVF can help individuals with irregular ovulation or those who do not ovulate, as it involves controlled ovarian stimulation to produce multiple eggs. 
      • Age-Related Infertility: IVF can be a viable option for women of advanced maternal age, as it increases the chances of successful pregnancy by using younger donor eggs if necessary. 
      • Same-Sex Couples and Single Parents: IVF enables same-sex couples and single individuals to have biological children by using donor eggs, sperm, or gestational carriers. 
      • Preservation of Fertility: IVF offers the possibility of preserving fertility through methods like egg freezing, allowing individuals to postpone childbearing until a later time. 

      Issues with IVF

      • Expensive: The WHO and the Indian Society for Assisted Reproduction (ISAR) studies show that one in six couples in India find it difficult to conceive a child, may require medical help, and treatment cost is expensive. The average cost of an IVF cycle ranges from ₹2.5 lakh to ₹4 lakh. 
      • Social Stigma: Doctors in India explain that despite the high incidence of the problem, solutions for the diagnosis and treatment of subfertility, including IVF, remain inaccessible for many due to social stigma. They add that infertility can impact quality of life. 

      3 . Urban outcome framework


       
      Context: Urban Affairs Ministry starts data portal on cities for policymaking. 

      About the news

      • The Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs is making raw data from Indian cities available on a single platform for academics, researchers, and stakeholders to help data-driven policymaking. 
      • The Amplifi 2.0 (Assessment and Monitoring Platform for Liveable, Inclusive and Future-ready urban India) portal was launched by the Ministry.  
      • Currently, 258 urban local bodies have been onboarded, and data for 150 cities is available on the portal. 
      • It is hoped that data from all 3,739 municipal corporations will eventually be made available on the portal.  
      • The website provides data on a range of information for several cities, including total consumption; number of samples tested for water quality; average annual expenditure on healthcare; number of slum dwellers; and road accident fatalities. 

      Urban Outcome Framework

      • Urban Outcomes Framework 2022 was launched as an initiative to undertake a transparent and comprehensive assessment of cities based on cross-city outcomes across major sectors. 
      • The Framework includes the third rounds of Ease of Living Index (EoLI), Municipal Performance Index (MPI), Climate Smart Cities Assessment Framework (CSCAF) and Data Maturity Assessment Framework (DMAF). 
      • It has been developed for the Ministry by the National Institute of Urban Affairs and PwC India. 
      • It shifts the focus from the indices to data with a comprehensive list of indicators. 
      • With this, data across 14 sectors are streamlined to increase focus on data collection, and disaggregated data can be analysed by experts. 
      • The initiative also provides the opportunity to create new frameworks based on open data. 

      Ease of Living Index (EoLI)

      • The Government of India, with support from various State and Local bodies, is running several flagship programs for urban development. With the purpose of making Indian cities more livable, MoHUA had launched one such initiative called Ease of Living index (EOLI) which assesses Indian cities based on various parameters across urban domains.
      • The aim of this index is to develop competitive spirit among the cities, which will eventually enhance the quality of life for the citizens through improvements across multiple dimensions like housing, transportation, utilities, mobility, ICT, health, education, economy, etc.

      Municipal Performance Index (MPI)

      • The governance of cities is determined by the functioning of Municipalities. They are the key agents that provide the enablers into making a city ‘Smart’. With this view, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has launched the first ever Municipal Performance Index(MPI) to assess and analyze the performance of Municipalities across the country in all 100 Smart Cities and million plus population cities, based on their defined set of functions.
      • This index will act as a guide to evidence-based policy making, catalyze action to achieve broader developmental outcomes including the Sustainable Development Goals, assess and compare the outcomes achieved by municipal bodies, give citizens an insight into the functioning of local bodies and build a dialogue between the stakeholders.

      Climate Smart Cities Assessment Framework (CSCAF)

      • Cities while being the engines of growth and centres for economic, social & cultural development are also the biggest consumers of energy, and at risk due to the density of human population and the impacts of Climate Change.
      • Hence, in order to incentivize a holistic, climate responsive development in Indian Cities, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has launched “Climate Smart Cities Assessment Framework” for the 100 smart cities. This is first of its kind Assessment Framework, aimed at creating a green mindset in the cities while they plan and undertake various development projects.

      Data Maturity Assessment Framework (DMAF)

      • As part of the DataSmart Strategy’s focus on “People, Process and Platform”, Data Maturity Assessment Framework has been prepared to drive effective use of data by our cities, and to help city leaders in structuring their approach to building a collaborative data ecosystem.
      • As India’s cities grow in their ability to leverage data, we will continue to evolve this Assessment Framework through its twin pillars of ‘Systemic’ and ‘Sectoral’ maturity to support cities in the most relevant manner possible in the context of their current maturity levels

      Components

      • The 14 sectors included are demography, economy, education, energy, environment, finance, governance, health, housing, mobility, planning, safety and security, solid waste management, and water and sanitation. 

      4 . Special Category status


       
      Context: On November 22, the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar-led Cabinet passed a resolution seeking the grant of special category status (SCS) to Bihar. The demand comes in the backdrop of the findings from the “Bihar Caste-based Survey, 2022”, which revealed that nearly one-third of Bihar’s population continues to live in poverty. 

      What is a special category status? 

      • It is a classification granted by the Centre to assist the development of States that face geographical or socio-economic disadvantages. 
      •  The SCS was introduced in 1969 on the recommendation of the fifth Finance Commission (FC). Five factors such as (i) hilly and difficult terrain (ii) low population density and/or sizeable share of tribal population (iii) strategic location along international borders (iv) economic and infrastructural backwardness and (v) non-viable nature of state finances, are considered before granting SCS. 
      • In 1969, three States including Jammu & Kashmir, Assam and Nagaland were granted the SCS. 
      • Subsequently, eight more States including Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Sikkim, Tripura, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand were given the SCS by the erstwhile National Development Council. 

      What are the benefits attached? 

      • The SCS States used to receive grants based on the Gadgil-Mukherjee formula, which earmarked nearly 30% of the total central assistance for States to the SCS States.  
      • However, after the abolition of the Planning Commission and the recommendations of the 14th and 15th FC, this assistance to SCS States has been subsumed in an increased devolution of the divisible pool funds for all States (increased to 41% in the 15th FC from 32%). 
      • Additionally, in the SCS States, the Centre-State funding of centrally sponsored schemes is divided in the ratio of 90:10, far more favourable than the 60:40 or 80:20 splits for the general category States. 
      • There are several other incentives available to the SCS States in the form of concession in customs and excise duties, income tax rates and corporate tax rates to attract investments to set up new industries etc. 

      Why is Bihar demanding the SCS? 

      • The demand for SCS for Bihar has been made by various political parties of the State time and again. 
      • The poverty and backwardness of the State are argued to be because of the lack of natural resources, continuous supply of water for irrigation, regular floods in the northern region and severe droughts in the southern part of the State. 
      • Simultaneously, the bifurcation of the State led to the shifting of industries to Jharkhand and created a dearth of employment and investment opportunities. 
      • With a per-capita GDP of around ₹54,000, Bihar has consistently been one of the poorest States. Highlighting the same in his fresh demand for SCS, CM Nitish Kumar, said that the State is home to around 94 lakh poor families and the granting of SCS will help the government get about ₹2.5 lakh crore required to fund various welfare measures over the next five years. 

      Demands from other states: ? 

      • Since its bifurcation in 2014, Andhra Pradesh has asked for a grant of SCS on the grounds of revenue loss due to Hyderabad going to Telangana. 
      • Odisha has also been requesting for the SCS, highlighting its vulnerability to natural calamities such as cyclones and a large tribal population (nearly 22%).  
      • However, the Central government citing the 14th FC report, which made a recommendation to the Centre that no State be accorded the SCS, has repeatedly denied their demands. 

      Is Bihar’s demand justified? 

      • Although Bihar meets most of the criteria for the grant of SCS, it does not fulfil the requirement of hilly terrain and geographically difficult areas, which is considered to be the primary reason for difficulty in infrastructural development. 
      • In 2013, the Raghuram Rajan Committee set up by the Centre, placed Bihar in the “least developed category” and suggested a new methodology based on a ‘multi -dimensional index’ for devolving funds instead of a SCS, which can be revisited to address the State’s backwardness. 
         

      5 . Facts for Prelims  


      Difference between Natural Gas and Biogas

      • On the basis of formation , Biogas forms in the presence of anaerobic bacteria. It is a naturally occurring gas which results from the breakdown of organic waste whereas Natural gas is a fossil fuel. 
      • Sources: Biogas can be produced synthetically or from natural sources like agricultural waste, manure, municipal trash, plant materials, sewage, and other raw materials. Natural gas is produced from natural sources like plants, animals, and microorganisms that lived millions of years ago. 
      • Energy Source: Biogas is an energy source that is both renewable and environmentally friendly. Natural gas is a nonrenewable energy source. 
      • Production: Biogas is produced by biological processes that break down organic substances.  Natural gas is produced by geological processes that break down organic materials. 
      • Materials: Methane, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulphide, nitrogen, hydrogen, and carbon monoxide are all found in impotent levels in biogas. Methane and simple alkanes are found in natural gas, along with trace amounts of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, hydrogen, and sulphide, as well as minute amounts of helium. 

      All India Forward Bloc

      • The All India Forward Bloc (abbr. AIFB) is a left-wing nationalist political party in India. 
      • It emerged as a faction within the Indian National Congress in 1939, led by Subhas Chandra Bose. 
      • The party re-established as an independent political party after the independence of India. It has its main stronghold in West Bengal. 
      • It held its first All India Conference in Nagpur in 1940.  

      3HP TB Preventive Drug 

      • 3HP is a combination of 2 drugs, rifapentine and isoniazid, which are taken once weekly for 3 months to get rid of latent TB infection. 
      • The 3HP regimen of one combination drug a week for three months translates to 12 pills in all. 
      • Since treatment with 3HP involves only 12 doses, compliance is better and adverse effects are less. 
      • TB Treatment using the 3HP drug is cheaper than isoniazid monotherapy for six months. 

      Green Leaf volatiles

      • Green leaf volatiles (GLV) are organic compounds released by plants. 
      • Some of these chemicals function as signaling compounds between either plants of the same species, of other species, or even different lifeforms like insects. 
      • Green leaf volatiles are involved in patterns of attack and protection between species. 
      • They have been found to increase the attractive effect of pheromones of cohabiting insect species that protect plants from attacking insect species. 
      • When a plant is attacked, it emits GLVs into the environment through the air. 

      Piezoelectricity

      • Piezoelectricity is a remarkable phenomenon whereby some materials including quartz, ceramics such as lead zirconate titanate (PZT), and even certain biological substances like bone and the tendons can generate an electric charge in response to mechanical stress. 
      • This property is the result of their unusual crystal structures.  
      • Usually, the charges on atoms in the molecules that make them up are symmetric on two sides of an axis. When some stress is applied, the molecule becomes distorted and the asymmetry of charges gives rise to a small electric current. 
      • The term “piezoelectric” itself originates from the Greek words “piezein,” meaning ‘to squeeze’, and “elektron”, for amber which is a material known for its association with static electricity. 

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