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Here are the topics covered for 29th November 2023:
GS-2: Special Category Status, ECI Revokes Rythu Bandhu Scheme Disbursement
GS-3: Walking Pneumonia, Rat-Hole Mining
Facts for prelims: International Sugar Organization, Amyloidosis
Special Category Status
- The recent resolution passed by the Bihar Cabinet, seeking Special Category Status (SCS) for the state, highlights the socio-economic challenges faced by Bihar, as revealed by the \”Bihar Caste-based Survey, 2022\”.
- The demand for SCS is driven by economic disparities, natural calamities, lack of infrastructure, and the need for funding to address long-standing issues.
About Special Category Status:
- Special Category Status is a classification by the Centre to aid the development of states facing geographical and socio-economic disadvantages.
- While the Constitution does not explicitly provide for SCS, it was initiated based on the 5th Finance Commission\’s recommendations in 1969.
- Eleven states, including Assam, Himachal Pradesh, and Telangana, currently hold this status, which focuses on economic and financial aspects rather than legislative and political rights.
- Resource Allocation: Granting SCS can strain central government resources, potentially leading to disparities among states.
- Dependency: States with SCS may become heavily reliant on central assistance, hindering efforts toward self-sufficiency and independent economic growth.
- Implementation Challenges: Administrative inefficiencies, corruption, and lack of planning may hinder effective fund utilization.
Concerns Related to Bihar\’s Demand:
- While Bihar meets most SCS criteria, its lack of hilly terrain poses challenges for infrastructural development.
- In 2013, the Raghuram Rajan Committee suggested an alternative approach based on a \’multi-dimensional index\’ to address socio-economic backwardness.
- Refine Criteria: There is a need to revisit and refine criteria for SCS, considering socio-economic indicators, infrastructure development, and other relevant factors. A more comprehensive approach could ensure fairness and transparency.
- Holistic Development Plans: States should be encouraged to create comprehensive development plans focusing on sustainable growth, job creation, infrastructure, and human capital enhancement. SCS should be part of a broader strategy.
- Reducing Dependency: Policies should be implemented to gradually reduce states\’ dependency on central assistance. Promoting self-sufficiency and economic diversification is crucial for long-term development.
- While Bihar\’s demand for SCS reflects genuine concerns, the challenges and concerns associated with this status necessitate a balanced approach.
- Revisiting the criteria, encouraging holistic development plans, and reducing dependency is essential for ensuring the effectiveness of SCS.
- The central and state governments must collaborate to address the socio-economic challenges faced by Bihar and other states while promoting sustainable and independent growth.
ECI Revokes Rythu Bandhu Scheme Disbursement
- The Election Commission of India (ECI) has revoked its earlier \’no objection\’ for the disbursement of funds under Telangana\’s Rythu Bandhu scheme, citing violations of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC).
- The move has raised concerns about the impact on farmers\’ financial aid and the adherence to fair election practices.
About Rythu Bandhu Scheme:
- The Rythu Bandhu scheme, initiated by the Telangana government, provides direct financial assistance to farmers for agricultural and horticultural activities.
- Each farmer receives a Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) of Rs. 5,000 per acre per season, aiming to alleviate the debt burden on farmers.
- MCC Violation: The alleged violation of the MCC by a Telangana minister\’s speech publicizing the release of funds during elections prompted the ECI\’s reversal. This challenges the fair conduct of elections and raises questions about the enforcement of the MCC.
- Impact on Farmers: The suspension of Rythu Bandhu disbursement during the MCC period may impact farmers\’ financial stability, as the scheme plays a crucial role in supporting agricultural activities.
- Political Influence: The use of government schemes for political gains, especially during election periods, raises concerns about the misuse of public resources and the potential manipulation of voter sentiment.
- Strict Enforcement of MCC: The ECI should ensure stringent enforcement of the MCC to maintain the integrity of the electoral process. Prompt action against violations is essential to prevent undue political influence.
- Transparent Communication: Political leaders and government officials must communicate about schemes like Rythu Bandhu responsibly, adhering to MCC guidelines. Transparency in such communications is crucial to avoid controversies.
- Continuous Review of Guidelines: Regular review and refinement of MCC guidelines are necessary to address emerging challenges and ensure their relevance in the evolving political landscape.
- The ECI\’s decision to revoke the permission for Rythu Bandhu disbursement underscores the importance of upholding the MCC to ensure free and fair elections.
- While the move aims to prevent misuse of government schemes for political gains, it also raises concerns about the potential impact on farmers.
- Striking a balance between electoral integrity and the welfare of citizens is crucial. Continuous efforts to strengthen election-related guidelines, coupled with transparent communication, are essential for maintaining public trust in the democratic process.
- The ECI and political stakeholders must work collaboratively to address challenges and uphold the democratic principles that govern the conduct of elections in India.
Walking Pneumonia Outbreak
- A recent outbreak of a mysterious influenza-like illness termed Walking Pneumonia has raised concerns as it affects school children in China.
- The exact cause of the outbreak remains unknown, although medical experts suspect a connection to mycoplasma pneumonia, a common bacterial infection known as \’walking pneumonia.\’
About Walking Pneumonia:
- Walking pneumonia, also known as atypical pneumonia, is a milder form caused by bacteria such as Mycoplasma pneumonia.
- Its name originates from the fact that symptoms are often mild enough for individuals to continue daily activities without requiring bed rest or hospitalization.
- The condition is more prevalent among children, especially those aged 5 to 15, who are in close contact at schools and can easily transmit the infection to family members.
- Chinese authorities have identified familiar pathogens like mycoplasma pneumonia, adenovirus, and influenza virus, ruling out the involvement of novel pathogens like the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus.
- Identification and Containment: The challenge lies in identifying the exact cause of the outbreak and implementing effective containment measures. The involvement of multiple pathogens complicates the process of identification.
- Transmission in Schools: Given that walking pneumonia is more common among school-aged children, preventing transmission within schools becomes crucial. The airborne nature of the infection poses a significant challenge in maintaining control.
- Treatment and Antibiotic Resistance: While antibiotics are commonly used to treat bacterial infections, the emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains poses a threat. This adds complexity to the treatment process and raises concerns about the efficacy of existing medications.
- Enhanced Surveillance: Implementing a robust surveillance system to monitor respiratory illnesses in schools and communities can aid in early detection and timely response.
- Public Awareness Campaigns: Educating the public, especially parents and school communities, about the symptoms, transmission, and preventive measures of walking pneumonia can contribute to early intervention and reduced spread.
- Collaboration with Global Health Organizations: Collaborating with international health organizations and sharing information about the outbreak can facilitate a coordinated response and access to global expertise.
- The Walking Pneumonia outbreak in China underscores the ongoing challenges in managing infectious diseases, especially among school-aged children.
- The multi-pathogen nature of the outbreak requires a comprehensive and collaborative approach.
- Effective surveillance, public awareness, and international cooperation are essential to containing and preventing the further spread of the illness.
- As global initiatives, such as the SAANS program in India and the GAPPD launched by WHO and UNICEF, emphasize, a concerted effort is needed to eliminate preventable childhood deaths from pneumonia. The current outbreak serves as a reminder of the importance of preparedness and swift action in the face of emerging health threats.
In the recent Silkyara-Barkot tunnel collapse, the employment of rat-hole mining has become noteworthy. The horizontal auger machine, initially used for rescue operations, faced complications, leading to the adoption of rat-hole mining. This prompts a closer look at the method\’s intricacies, its previous ban, and the current challenges.
Horizontal Auger Machine:
- A horizontal auger machine, also known as a horizontal boring machine or directional drill, is a specialized tool designed to create horizontal bores or underground tunnels without disturbing the surface.
- It consists of a rotating helical screw blade, called an auger, attached to a central shaft or drill. This machine is commonly used in construction, utility installations, and infrastructure projects.
- Positioned at the starting point of the bore on the surface, the machine comprises a drill head with an auger or a drill string.
- The rotating auger at the front cuts through the soil, rock, or other materials underground. Hydraulic or mechanical systems power this rotation. As the auger advances, it removes the material from the tunnel, usually flushed out by drilling fluid or mud pumped through the drill string.
- Rat-hole mining is a method of extracting coal from narrow, horizontal seams, prevalent in Meghalaya.
- The term \”rat hole\” refers to the narrow pits dug into the ground, just large enough for one person to descend and extract coal.
- Miners descend using ropes or bamboo ladders to reach coal seams, and manual tools such as pickaxes, shovels, and baskets are used for extraction.
- Side-Cutting Procedure: Narrow tunnels are dug on hill slopes, and workers go inside until they find the coal seam.
- Box-cutting: A rectangular opening is made, and through that, a vertical pit is dug. Once the coal seam is found, rat-hole-sized tunnels are dug horizontally for extraction.
Environmental and Safety Concerns:
- Rat-hole mining is often unregulated, lacking safety measures and causing environmental damage such as land degradation, deforestation, and water pollution. The hazardous working conditions have led to numerous accidents, injuries, and fatalities.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned rat-hole mining in Meghalaya in 2014, retaining the ban in 2015. The decision was influenced by concerns about flooding during the rainy season, resulting in deaths and adverse impacts on workers.
- The recent incident highlights challenges in rescue operations, prompting consideration of alternative methods like rat-hole mining. This practice, banned due to safety and environmental concerns, remains controversial and underscores the need for stringent regulations and safer alternatives in mining practices.
Fact for Prelims:
International Sugar Organization
- The International Sugar Organization plays a crucial role as an intergovernmental entity dedicated to enhancing the global sugar market. It represents a significant portion of the world\’s sugar dynamics, encompassing 87% of global sugar production and 64% of consumption. With a membership of approximately 88 nations, including India, the organization represents a diverse array of countries.
- The ISO administers the International Sugar Agreement (ISA) of 1992, which serves several key objectives:
- Foster international cooperation in matters related to sugar.
- Facilitate intergovernmental discussions aimed at improving the global sugar economy.
- Collect and disseminate valuable market information.
- Encourage the expanded use of sugar, particularly in non-traditional applications.
Recently, scientists achieved the fabrication of a 2D protein monolayer by assembling lysozyme molecules, a model protein often studied in the context of diseases like Amyloidosis.
- Amyloidosis is a rare ailment characterized by the accumulation of an abnormal protein, known as amyloid, in various organs. This buildup adversely affects the shape and function of the organs.
- Critical organs such as the heart, brain, kidneys, spleen, and others can be impacted, leading to life-threatening conditions, including organ failure.
- Certain forms of amyloidosis are associated with other diseases, and treating the underlying condition may improve these types.
- However, some variants can result in severe organ failure, posing a direct threat to life. The common indicators of amyloidosis encompass significant fatigue, weight loss, swelling in the abdomen, legs, ankles, or feet, numbness, pain, or tingling in the extremities, and alterations in skin colour.
- Various prevalent types of amyloidosis include Light-chain (AL) amyloidosis, which is more likely to occur in individuals with conditions like multiple myeloma or a bone marrow ailment.
- Another type, A amyloidosis (previously termed secondary amyloidosis), is linked to chronic infectious or inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis.