13 Jun | UPSC Current Affairs: Sarod, Crete Island, Lok Sabha Speaker Powers & More

UPSC GS 1

Sarod

  • News: The Sarod maestro Rajeev Taranath recently passed away.
  • Instrument Type: Sarod is a stringed instrument belonging to the lute family, highly esteemed in Hindustani classical music.
  • Accompaniment: It is commonly accompanied by tabla (drums) and tambura (drone lute).
  • Historical Evolution: Originating as an adaptation of the Afghan rabab, it arrived in India during the 16th century. Its modern form was developed in the 19th century.

Sarod

  • Design: 
    • Dimensions: The sarod measures approximately 100 cm in length, with its body crafted from hollow teak, sagwan, or tun wood.
    • Construction: High-quality sarods feature a body, neck, and peg box carved from a single piece of wood.
    • Resonator: Equipped with a resonator covered with stretched goatskin and a delicate horn bridge supporting the melody strings. Sympathetic strings pass through holes drilled into the bridge.
    • String Material: Traditionally strung with gut or silk, modern sarods utilize steel or bronze strings.
    • Neck: The neck lacks a fretboard, instead featuring a polished steel plate.
  • Playing
    • Player: A sarod player is referred to as a sarodiya, deriving from the Persian word for “song” or “melody.”
    • Playing Position: The sarod is played while seated, held across the lap.
    • Playing Technique: Strings are plucked using a triangle-shaped plectrum known as a jawa, typically fashioned from coconut shell, ebony, or horn. The left hand’s fingernails press the strings for notes.
    • Schools of Playing: Two prominent schools of sarod playing are those of Ghulam Ali Khan and Allauddin Khan. These schools have distinct playing styles, sarod types (varying in size, shape, and string count), and tuning systems.

Crete Island

  • News: A 4,000-year-old circular structure discovered on a hilltop in Greece.
  • Size and Location: 
    • Largest island in Greece and the fifth largest in the Mediterranean Sea. 
    • Located in the southern Aegean Sea.
  • Surrounding Seas: Bordered by the Sea of Crete (north), Libyan Sea (south), Myrtoan Sea (west), and Carpathian Sea (east).
  • Area: Covers an area of 8,336 sq. km.
  • Dimensions: Long and narrow shape, stretching approximately 260 km east-west and 60 km at its widest point.
  • Topography: Dominated by rugged mountains running west to east. Mt. Ida (Psiloritis) is the highest point at 2,456 m.

Crete Island

  • History:
    • Early Inhabitants: Inhabited since the Paleolithic Age by early hominids.
    • Minoan Civilization: Birthplace of the Minoan Civilization, flourishing from around 2700-1420 BCE.
    • Transition of Rule: After the decline of the Minoans due to a major earthquake, rule passed to the Mycenaeans.
    • Subsequent Rulers: Ruled by various civilizations including Romans, Byzantines, Andalusians, Venetians, and Ottomans.
    • Integration into Greece: Became part of Greece after gaining independence from Ottoman rule.
    • World War II: Occupied by Nazi German forces during World War II and site of the famous “Battle of Crete.”

UPSC GS 2

Powers of Lok Sabha Speaker

  • News:  With ministerial portfolios now allocated in Modi 3.0, attention shifts to selecting the Lok Sabha Speaker.
  • Speaker’s Constitutional Mandate: 
  • Mandate for Election: 
      • Article 93 of the Constitution of India: The Constitution mandates the election of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker “as soon as may be” after the House convenes.
  • Election Process: 
      • Election Process: The Speaker and Deputy Speaker are elected by a simple majority of the House members. There are no specific qualifications required to become the Speaker.
  • Tenure and Vacancy: 
      • Article 94 of the Constitution of India: The Speaker is chosen from among the members of the House and vacates office upon ceasing to be a member of the House.
  • Salary:
      • Speaker’s Salary: The salary of the Speaker is drawn from the Consolidated Fund of India.
  • Importance of the Speaker in Parliamentary Democracy
    • The Speaker of the Lok Sabha holds the highest position of authority in Lok Sabha.
    • Chairing Sessions: The Speaker is responsible for overseeing the sessions of the Lok Sabha, ensuring that debates and discussions proceed in an orderly and respectful manner. 
    • This includes ruling on points of order and enforcing parliamentary rules.
    • Representing the House: The Speaker represents the Lok Sabha and speaks on its behalf at public and international events, acting as the official voice of the lower house of Parliament.
    • Ensuring Neutrality: It is crucial for the Speaker to remain neutral and unbiased, treating all members of the Lok Sabha fairly and equally in the execution of their duties.
    • Promoting Openness: The Speaker ensures that the proceedings of the Lok Sabha are transparent and accessible to the public, thereby maintaining accountability and openness in parliamentary operations.
    • Facilitating Legislation: The Speaker plays a key role in the legislative process by assigning bills to committees, determining the order of bill consideration, and certifying the final text of bills before they are presented to the President for assent.
    • Inter-Parliamentary Relations: The Speaker represents the Lok Sabha in its interactions with other parliamentary bodies and institutions, fostering relationships and cooperation at various levels.
  • Powers of the Lok Sabha Speaker
    • Presiding Over Sittings (Article 95): The Speaker presides over the sessions of the Lok Sabha, ensuring order and decorum are maintained during proceedings.
    • Participation in Proceedings  (Article 96): The Speaker can participate in the debates and discussions of the house and any committee of which they are a member, though they do not vote initially.
    • Certification of Bills (Article 97): The Speaker is responsible for certifying money bills and financial bills, and has the power to classify other bills as money or financial bills.
    • Casting Vote (Article 100): In the case of a tie during voting, the Speaker casts the deciding vote.
    • Committee Appointments: The Speaker appoints committees, designates their chairpersons, and refers matters to these committees for deliberation.

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International Organization of Migration (IOM)

  • News:  At least 49 people have died and 140 are missing after a refugee boat from the Horn of Africa to Yemen sank, according to the UN’s International Organization for Migration. 
  • Overview:
    • IOM is part of the United Nations System and stands as the leading intergovernmental organization in the field of migration. 
  • Founded: 1951
  • Mission: To promote humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all by providing services and advice to governments and migrants. 

International Organization of Migration (IOM)

  • Member States: 175 member states and 8 observer states. India is a member of IOM. 
  • Key Publications:  World Migration Report, Migration Health Annual Report. 
  • Key Areas of Work: 
  • Migration and Development: To maximize the benefits of migration for both home and host countries, as well as for migrants themselves.
      • Migration Health: Providing health services and support to migrants and displaced populations.
      • Emergency Operations: Addressing humanitarian crises with emergency relief and post-crisis recovery programs, including transportation assistance, temporary shelter, and infrastructure rebuilding.
      • Counter-Trafficking Initiatives: Actively combating human trafficking through prevention, protection, and prosecution initiatives, and offering support to victims of trafficking.
    • Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland
    • What is the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)?
  • Establishment: Founded on December 14, 1950, by the United Nations General Assembly.
    • Mandate:
      • Lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide.
      • Safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees.
      • Ensure the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state.
      • Support voluntary return, local integration, or resettlement in a third country for refugees.
      • Assist stateless people. 

UPSC GS 3

Starship

  • News:  Elon Musk-owned SpaceX’s Starship rocket accomplished its first fully successful test flight recently.
  • Starship:
    • It is a two-stage heavy lift-off vehicle designed to carry crew or/and cargo to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars, and beyond. 
    • This rocket system is nearly 120 metres tall, making it the largest rocket ever flown. 
  • Components
    •  Super Heavy booster: 
      • It has 3 Raptor engines that can produce 74 meganewtons of thrust.
      • These Raptor engines use a 3.6:1 ratio of liquid oxygen (the oxidiser, a chemical which reacts with the fuel to cause combustion) and liquid methane (the fuel).
      • It is fully reusable, and capable of re-entering Earth’s atmosphere after a mission to land at the launch site.
    • Starship Spacecraft:
      • It has six Raptor engines and four landing fins.
      • It is also fully reusable.

Starship

  • Benefits:
    • Full Reusability: 
      • Entire Starship rocket system designed to be fully and rapidly reusable.
      • Unlike traditional launch systems, key hardware elements are retrieved for reuse rather than discarded.
  • Cost Efficiency: 
        • Estimated to deliver cargo up to 100 tonnes to Mars for approximately $50 million.
        • Contrasted with the retired Space Shuttle’s cost of $1.5 billion per launch for lower payload capacity into low Earth orbit.
  • Launching Larger Space Telescopes
        • Enables construction of larger space telescopes using cheaper but heavier materials.
        • Enhances capabilities for observing and studying distant celestial objects with unprecedented clarity.
  • Enhanced Equipment for Moon and Mars Missions
        • Potential to send larger equipment, such as full-sized drilling rigs capable of drilling up to a kilometre.
        • Provides scientists with access to the Moon and Mars interiors, exploring resources and unlocking scientific mysteries.
  • Sample Return Missions
        • Capable of returning significant samples from the Moon and other planets back to Earth.
        • Facilitates in-depth analysis and research to uncover insights into solar system history and the origins of life.
  • Role in NASA’s Artemis Program
      • Central to NASA’s Artemis program, aiming to return astronauts to the Moon by 2030.
      • Planned role in future crewed missions to Mars by the end of the next decade.

Enterobacter Bugandensis

    • News:  Scientists from the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-M) and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have carried out a collaborative study of the behaviour of multi-drug resistant pathogens aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
    • Species: A relatively new species within the Enterobacter genus.
    • Discovery: First described in 2013 after being isolated from cases of bloodstream infections in Uganda.
  • Key Characteristics
    • Type: Gram-negative, rod-shaped bacterium.
    • Habitat: Typically found in diverse environments including soil, water, and the gastrointestinal tracts of animals and humans.
    • Pathogenicity : Capable of causing various infections, primarily in immunocompromised individuals.
    • Types of Infections: Bloodstream infections, respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, and wound infections.
    • Antibiotic Resistance: Exhibits resistance to multiple antibiotics, complicating treatment.
    • Mechanisms: Includes beta-lactamase production, efflux pumps, and mutations that reduce drug uptake.
  • Multi-Drug-Resistant Pathogen: 
    • MDR Pathogen: A microorganism that has developed resistance to multiple antimicrobial agents, typically three or more categories.
    • Microorganisms: Resistance can occur in bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
    • Public Health Threat: The most concerning MDR forms are bacteria that resist multiple antibiotics.

Nitrous Oxide (N2O) Emissions

  • News:  Planet-warming nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions grew by 40% between 1980 and 2020, with China being the largest emitter, followed by India and the US, according to the Global Carbon Project. 
  • What is Nitrous Oxide (N₂O)?
  • Common Names: Known as laughing gas or happy gas.
  • Physical Properties: Colorless, odorless, and non-flammable gas.
  • Combustion: Although not flammable, it supports combustion similarly to oxygen.
  • Effect: Induces euphoria, hence the nickname “laughing gas.”
  • Solubility and Density: Soluble in water with vapors heavier than air.
  • Applications
    • Medical Use: Widely used by dentists and medical professionals to sedate patients during minor procedures.
    • Food Industry: Employed as a propellant in food aerosols.
    • Automotive Industry: Utilized to enhance engine performance.
  • Highlights of the Report: 
    • Greenhouse Gas: Third most significant greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide and methane.
    • Potency: 273 times more potent than CO₂ over 100 years.
    • Temperature Increase: Greenhouse gases have raised Earth’s average surface temperature by 1.15 degrees Celsius compared to the 1850-1900 average.
    • Contribution to Warming: Anthropogenic nitrous oxide emissions contribute approximately 0.1 degrees of this warming.
    • Top 10 Emitters: China, India, the US, Brazil, Russia, Pakistan, Australia, Indonesia, Turkey, and Canada.
  • Sources of Emissions: 
    • Human Sources: Major sources include agriculture, industry, and the burning of forests or agricultural waste.
    • Agricultural Practices: 74 % of emissions over the last decade originated from agricultural practices, specifically the use of nitrogen fertilizers and animal manure.
  • Atmospheric Concentration
    • 2022 Levels: The concentration of nitrous oxide reached 336 parts per billion.
    • Historical Increase: This is 25 percent higher than in the 1850-1900 period.
    • Predictions: These levels significantly surpass the predictions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

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Notified Disasters

  • News:  The ongoing spell of extreme heat in many parts of India has once again reopened discussions on the inclusion of heatwaves as one of the notified disasters under the Disaster Management (DM) Act, 2005.
  • Definition:  The Disaster Management (DM) Act, 2005 of India  defines a disaster as:
      •  A “catastrophe, mishap, calamity or grave occurrence” arising from “natural or man-made causes” that results in substantial loss of life, destruction of property, or damage to the environment.
      •  It must also be of such nature which is “beyond the coping capacity” of the community.
  • Categories of Notified Disasters: The DM Act includes 12 categories of notified disastes: Cyclone, Drought, Earthquake, Fire, Flood, Tsunami, Hailstorm, Landslide, Avalanche, Cloudburst, Pest attack, Frost and cold waves. 
  • Financial Provisions: 
    • The provisions allow states to draw money from the two funds that have been set up under this law:  the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) at the national level and the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) at the state level. 
    • The States’ first utilise the funds available in the SDRF, and only if the magnitude of the disaster is unmanageable with the SDRF, states seek the money from the NDRF.
    • The entire money of the NDRF comes from the central government.
    •  States contribute 25% of the money in the SDRF (10% in case of special category states), the rest comes from the Centre.
    •  The money in these funds cannot be used for any purpose other than response and management of notified disasters.
  • Why heat waves were not included as notified disasters?
    • In the last 15 years both the severity and frequency of heatwaves have increased in India.
    • But it has not been included as a notified disaster because heatwaves have a common occurrence during summer, and not really an unusual weather event.

Portable Optical Atomic Clock

  • News:  New portable atomic clock offers very accurate timekeeping at sea.
  • Development of Portable Optical Atomic Clock: 
    • Researchers have built a portable optical atomic clock suitable for use onboard ships.
    • This clock is more accurate than other vessel-borne timekeeping options.
    • Claimed to be the most performant optical clock at sea.
  • About Portable Clock and Its Working: 
    • Definition: An atomic clock is a timekeeping device that uses the vibrations of atoms to measure time with extreme precision.
    • Caesium-133 Usage: Some atomic clocks use the isotope caesium-133 (Cs-133) to keep time.
    • Microwave Radiation: These clocks measure the microwave radiation emitted when Cs-133 atoms transition between two energy levels.
    • Frequency Definition: The duration of one second is defined by the exact frequency of this energy transition, specifically 9,192,631,770 Hz.
    • Accuracy: Caesium atomic clocks are highly accurate, losing only one second every 1.4 million years.

Portable Optical Atomic Clock

  • Uses:
    • Navigation: Ideal for precise navigation.
    • Maritime Communication: Enhances maritime communication reliability.
    • Scientific Research: Beneficial for various scientific research applications.
    • Seismic Activity: Can monitor underwater seismic activity with precision.
    • Volcanic Activity: Useful for monitoring underwater volcanic activity.
    • Relativity Theories: Potential for testing relativity theories.
    • Satellite Navigation: Can improve satellite navigation systems.
  • How Optical Atomic Clocks Differ from Traditional Atomic Clocks? 
    • Use of Lasers: Optical atomic clocks use lasers to induce atomic transitions, unlike traditional atomic clocks which use microwaves.
    • Choice of Atoms: These clocks often use strontium or ytterbium atoms instead of caesium.
    • Higher Operating Frequency: Optical atomic clocks operate at a higher frequency, allowing them to count more cycles per second.
    • Narrower Linewidths: The higher frequency and narrower linewidths enable these clocks to make more precise time measurements.
    • Increased Accuracy: Due to these advancements, optical atomic clocks can measure time with greater accuracy than traditional atomic clocks.

Xylitol

  • News:  Researchers led by the Cleveland Clinic have linked the low-calorie sugar substitute xylitol to an increased risk of heart attack. 
  • Natural Origin: Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol found in plants, including many fruits and vegetables.
  • Chemical Composition: It has a chemical composition similar to that of sugar but with fewer calories.
  • Usage
    • Often used as a sugar substitute.
    • Widely used in “sugar-free” chewing gums, mints, and other candies.
  • Health Benefits: 
    • Dental Health: Xylitol reduces levels of decay-causing bacteria in saliva.
    • Blood Sugar: It doesn’t spike blood sugar levels.
    • Ear Infections: Acts against some bacteria that cause ear infections.
  • Potential Health Risks: 
    • High consumption of xylitol can cause a state of hypercoagulability, where the blood has an increased tendency to clot.
    • These clots have the potential to obstruct blood flow in both arteries and veins, leading to serious cardiovascular events.

Greater Adjutant Stork

  • News: 
  • Breeding Grounds: There are only three known breeding grounds, one in Cambodia and two in India.
    • In India:
    • Largest colony located in the Brahmaputra valley of Assam.
    • Smaller colony found around Bhagalpur in Bihar.
  • Protection Status
    • IUCN Listing: Endangered
    • Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972: Schedule IV

Wildlife (Protection)

  • Diet
      • Principally carnivorous.
      • Feeds on fish, frogs, snakes, other reptiles, eels, birds, offal, and carrion.
      • Shares scavenging habits with vultures.
  • Significance: 
    • Religious Importance: Considered the mount of Vishnu, one of Hinduism’s prime deities.
      • Some worship the bird and call it “Garuda Maharaj” (Lord Garuda) or “Guru Garuda” (Great Teacher Garuda).
    • Agricultural Benefit: Helps farmers by killing rats and other farm pests.
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