Topic 1 : Grandmaster title
Why in news: Indian chess player Vaishali and Praggnanandhaa became the first brother-sister duo to become Grandmasters.
About the Grandmaster:
- What is it?
- Grandmaster is the highest title or ranking that a chess player can achieve.
- The Grandmaster title is awarded by the International Chess Federation, FIDE (acronym for its French name Fédération Internationale des Échecs), the Lausanne-Switzerland-based governing body of the international game.
- The title is the badge of the game’s super-elite, a recognition of the greatest chess talent on the planet, which has been tested and proven against a peer group of other similarly talented players in the world’s toughest competitions.
- Titles are for life
- All the titles, including that of Grandmaster, are valid for life, unless a player is stripped of the title for a proven offence such as cheating.
- Origin and evolution:
- The term grandmaster is about a century old, and was initially used as a generic expression to describe a player who was better than just a master.
- In 1950, FIDE started to formally designate the best players as Grandmasters, based on a set of laid-down criteria.
- Qualifications for Grandmaster
- Currently, FIDE awards chess’s highest honour to a player who is able to achieve a FIDE Classical or Standard rating of 2,500, plus three Grandmaster norms.
- Grandmaster norms are defined by a set of complex and rigorous rules regarding tournaments, games, and players, that are set out in the FIDE Title Regulations.
- Broadly, a player must have a performance rating of 2,600 or higher in a FIDE tournament that has nine rounds, playing against several opponents from federations or countries other than the one to which the player belongs.
- Those opponents must be titled themselves
- Other awards by FIDE:
- Besides Grandmaster, the Qualification Commission of FIDE recognises and awards seven other titles:
- International Master (IM),
- FIDE Master (FM),
- Candidate Master (CM),
- Woman Grandmaster (WGM),
- Woman International Master (WIM),
- Woman FIDE Master (WFM), and
- Woman Candidate Master (WCM).Topic 2 : Operation Gangotri
- Besides Grandmaster, the Qualification Commission of FIDE recognises and awards seven other titles:
Why in news: Members of India’s first expedition to Antarctica were felicitated recently at an ‘Antarctica Day event’.
- Celebrated on December 1 each year, Antarctica Day marks the signing of the Antarctic Treaty in 1959.
- In 1981 India decided to send its first scientific expedition to Antarctica.
- Marine biologist Dr S Z Qasim headed the 21-member team, which travelled on a chartered Norwegian vessel called the Polar Circle.
- The historic expedition, code-named Operation Gangotri, was kept under wraps from the public, since the outcome was uncertain.
About the operation and its outcomes:
- Under Indira Gandhi, India began formulating its first strategies for Antarctica during the same time when the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea was being finalized.
- India launched its first Antarctic expedition in December 1981 from the shores of Goa, with a pit stop in Mauritius to pick up equipment and supplies.
- India had hired the icebreaker ship MV Polar Circle from Norway.
- The expedition took 77 days, carrying 21 scientists, personnel, technicians and navy officers, successfully covering a journey of 21,366km.
- The launch of this first expedition caught many by surprise as it was organized and executed discreetly.
- At that time India was not a signatory to the Antarctic Treaty of 1959.
- Till date India only holds “consulting” status.
- In fact, no country holds a permanent status.
- The last category of states is those who have either made a territorial claim on Antarctica or reserve the right to do so.
- India only joined the Antarctic Treaty under the ambit of Indira Gandhi in 1983 as it flagged off its third expedition to the frozen continent.
- In 1983, Dakshin Gangotri, the country’s first scientific base station in Antarctica was set up.
Topic 3 : World Malaria Report
Why in news: The recently released World Malaria Report shows that the number of cases and deaths due to the mosquito-borne infection India have continued to decline.
- With an estimated 33.8 lakh cases and 5,511 deaths, India saw a decline of 30 per cent in malaria incidence and 34 per cent in mortality in 2022, compared to the previous year.
- India’s downward trend was reflected in the larger WHO South East Asian region that remained on track to achieving the 2030 target of reducing cases and deaths by 90 per cent.
- The number of malaria cases had dropped from 243 million to 233 million globally between 2000 and 2019.
- However, there was an increase of 11 million cases in 2020.
- They remained stable in 2021, before seeing another increase of 5 million in 2022 to 249 million.
- The number of malaria deaths also remained higher than the pre-pandemic levels.
Status of Malaria in India
- Although malaria cases have been on the decline in India, there was an 85.1 per cent decline in malaria cases and an 83.36 per cent decline in deaths between 2015 and 2022.
- However, India is still one of the countries with a high burden of the infection.
- In 2021, 1.7 per cent of the malaria cases in the world and 1.2 per cent of all the deaths were reported in India
- Most malaria cases are mainly concentrated in tribal and remote areas of the country.
- Six states along with tribal areas of MP and Maharashtra account for 90% disease burden:
- Andhra Pradesh &
|Key Takeaways From The Report
|India saw a 30% decline in malaria cases and 34% decline in deaths in 2022 as compared to the previous year
|Globally there were 5 million additional malaria cases in 2022 as compared to the previous year, totalling to 249 million
|Of the 5 million additional cases, the highest 2.1 million was from Pakistan that had a flood in 2022
|India accounted for 1.4% of total malaria cases in the world
Reasons behind India’s success story:
- Focus on providing primary healthcare to the remotest areas,
- Surveillance backed by digital data
- Better handling of extreme weather events such as cyclones
- Good preventive practices,
- Use of effective tools to keep the mosquito population in check,
- Use of point of care tests for quick diagnosis,
- Good management of the malaria cases
- Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by Plasmodium parasites, which are usually transmitted due to the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito
- These parasites swiftly multiply in the liver after being introduced in the host body, and destroy the red blood cells, thereby infecting the system
- Types of malaria:
- Plasmodium falciparum
- Plasmodium vivax (the commonest ones)
- Plasmodium malariae
- Plasmodium ovale
- Plasmodium knowlesi.
- Plasmodium ovale
- P ovale is very similar to P vivax, which is not a killer form
- P ovale is no more dangerous than getting a viral infection
- P ovale malaria is endemic to tropical Western Africa.
- According to National Vector-borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP) approximately 5 lakh people suffered from malaria (63% were of Plasmodium falciparum) in India.
- P. falciparum is the world’s most dangerous malaria parasite.
Climate change and malaria
- With increasing frequency of extreme weather events, the annual report for the first time focused on climate change and malaria.
- The malaria parasite and mosquito are both extremely sensitive to temperature, humidity, and rainfall, which can expand the reach of the disease.
- Climate change can:
- directly increase geographies for malaria spread
- indirectly affect the impact of the disease by reducing access to healthcare facilities and timely treatment.
- Climate change is likely to lead to an increase in temperatures, with newer areas especially in the Himalayan belt suitable for the spread of the disease.
- High risk zones will also emerge in states that face very high rainfall periodically.
- Biological threats:
- The biological threats include:
- drug resistance,
- insecticide resistance,
- gene deletions in parasites which make diagnosis difficult
- The biological threats include:
- Challenge of vivax malaria:
- Another challenge is vivax malaria, which accounts for over 40 per cent of malaria cases in India.
- The vivax plasmodium is known to hide in the liver and cause recurrent infections.
- To treat, a 14-day course of therapy has to be taken.
- The challenge with that is many do not complete the treatment and stop taking the drug once they feel better.
- With fewer cases being reported from the country, there has to be intensified efforts to find and treat the scattered cases.
- When the burden of disease is higher, any intervention in areas reporting most of the cases results in drastic reduction in numbers.
- However, when the numbers go down, the cases are scattered and difficult to find and this is where the role of surveillance comes in.
- It was important to have real-time digital data of these cases to help local administrations better plan the interventions.Topic 4 : Jal-Jeevan Hariyali Abhiyan
Why in news: Bihar receives global acclaim at COP-28 for afforestation initiatives.
About the Mission:
- The actions undertaken by the Bihar government in the field of afforestation, particularly through the Jal-Jeevan-Hariyali Abhiyan (Rural Development Department), received praise from the international community at the ongoing United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP-28) in Dubai.
- The ‘Jal-Jeevan Hariyali Abhiyan’ initiated in 2019 reflects the inherent interconnectedness between water management, vegetation coverage, and the existence of life.
- This is an ambitious multi stakeholder programme with the objective of:
- climate sustenance, conservation and rejuvenation of water bodies
- to keep water pollution free,
- maintaining level of Ground water,
- ensuring adequate water availability,
- climate resilient agriculture,
- energy conservation and
- promoting climate awareness among the masses.
- The programme showcases a promising way to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change.
- The programme has resulted in the creation and restoration of over one and a half lakh water bodies in a span of four years.
- The green cover in the State has increased from 9.9% in 2019 to 14.75% in 2021, with a total of 381.008 million plantations since 2012-13.
- The experience of Jal-Jeevan-Hariyali Abhiyan could be replicated in regions vulnerable to climate change, such as South Asian countries and Sub-Saharan Africa, facing irregular floods and droughts, respectively.Topic 5 : COP-28 Declaration on Climate and Health
Why in news: For the first time in 28 years of climate change negotiations, the climate-health nexus will take centre stage at the United Nations Conference of Parties (COP-28) summit in the UAE.
- Unabated greenhouse gas emissions are triggering extreme weather events, air pollution, food insecurity, water scarcity and population displacement.
- This in turn, are altering the trajectory of vector-borne diseases.
- Africa, Asia, South and Central America, and small island states, which have contributed the least to climate change, are bearing the brunt.
- 123 governments endorsed the COP-28 Declaration on Climate and Health.
A ‘Health Day’ at the summit:
- The ‘groundbreaking Health Day at COP-28’, is expected to pose two questions:
- how public health can become resilient to climate change, and
- who will finance this transformation.
- The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) recognises the health impacts of climate change.
- This is the first time there has been an official ‘Health Day’.
- This is also the first time there will be a health inter-ministerial meeting, with ministers of health, environment, finance and other types of ministries joining in.
Expectations from the Health talks:
- The COP-28 UAE Declaration on Climate and Health includesdialogue on:
- mitigating emissions,
- health sector adaptation to climate change,
- mainstreaming of health into climate policies and
- the question of climate financing for health.
- It recognisesthe need for:
- climate mitigation,
- strengthening research on the linkages between environmental and climatic factors and antimicrobial resistance and
- intensifying efforts for the early detection of zoonotic spill-overs” to prevent future pandemics.
- It does not mention pollution-related harms or identify ‘fossil fuels’ (coal, oil and gas) as a driver of health threats, or emphasise the need to end fossil fuel dependence.
- Reluctance of developed countries:
- Most G-20 countries, including wealthy industrialised nations responsible for the majority of historic greenhouse gas emissions, have failed to centre health in their climate action.
- Low-and middle-income countries like Burundi and Congo were found to be better at engaging with health concerns in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
- Impact on marginalized groups:
- Changing weather patterns and rising temperatures are altering the life cycle of vector-borne diseases such as dengue and malaria.
- It disproportionately impact poorer, marginalised groups.
- Financial concerns:
- Health crises triggered by warming climate are expected to chart a financial toll of around $2-4 billion annually by 2030.
- Another estimate shows that 40% of climate-related poverty would be due to direct health impacts, as people’s income, productivity and health costs would soar.
- Private financial institutions have been called upon to plug this need and contribute generously to the Green Climate Fund.
- Developing countries had earlier asserted the need for grant-based international public finance that doesn’t add to their debt burden.
- However, the Declaration endorses climate-health funding from “domestic budgets, multilateral development banks, multilateral climate funds”, along with philanthropies and private sector actors.
Where does India stand?
- In India, particulate air pollution is said to be the greatest threat to human health, and heat-related deaths may kill an additional 10 lakh people annually by 2090.
- India’s NDCs thus far have focused on:
- reducing emissions intensity,
- transitioning to non-fossil fuel sources and
- creating additional carbon sinks.
Toxic 6 : Global Stocktake
Why in news: Countries at COP28 will examine how much progress they have made in curbing global warming — a process called the Global Stocktake, which is happening for the first time — since the Paris Agreement in 2015.
- The results will determine what actions must be taken in future, in terms of making more stringent national policies, setting more ambitious goals or financially enabling poorer countries to transition to clean, green energy.
- The Paris Agreement made it mandatory for all countries to set emissions-reduction targets and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
- This is known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
- It was decided that countries would assess their progress for the first time in 2023 and, then, every five years.
- The Paris Agreement aims to keep global warming from rising more than 2 degree Celsius from the pre-industrial era (mid-1800s) and to try to keep it under 1.5 degree Celsius, the point till which the planet might still withstand severe climate change impact.
What Is the Global Stocktake?
- Established under the Paris Agreement, the Global Stocktake is designed to assess the collective progress towards achieving the purpose of the Paris Agreement and its long-term goals.
- Those goals include:
- cutting greenhouse gas emissions to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) and ideally 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F);
- building resilience to climate impacts; and
- aligning financial support with the scale and scope needed to tackle the climate crisis.
- The Paris Agreement’s Global Stocktake process is designed to assess the global response to the climate crisis every five years.
- The first-ever Stocktake is slated to conclude during this year’s UN climate conference (COP28).
- It evaluates theworld’s progress on:
- slashing greenhouse gas emissions,
- building resilience to climate impacts, and
- securing finance and support to address the climate crisis.
- By the end of COP28, countries must agree on how they will leverage the Stocktake’s findings to keep the global goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C alive and address the impacts of climate change.
- The Global Stocktake is intended to evaluate progress on climate action at the global level (not the national level) and identify overall gaps to achieve the Paris Agreement as well as opportunities to bridge them.
Which Aspects of Climate Action Does the Global Stocktake Assess?
- At COP24 in Katowice, Poland in 2018, countries agreed that the Global Stocktake would address climate progress in three key areas:
- Evaluating global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) and ideally 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F), and identifying opportunities for additional emissions cuts.
- Measuring progress in countries’ abilities to enhance their resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate impacts.
- Means of implementation, including finance, technology transfer and capacity building:
- Assessing progress on aligning financial flows with emissions-reduction goals and climate-resilient development, and providing support to developing nations to address the climate crisis.
- Other aspects of the Stocktake:
- The Global Stocktake is meant to address loss and damage, helping assess the actions and support needed to respond to climate impacts that go beyond what communities and ecosystems can adapt to.
- It also considers the unintended social and economic consequences that may arise from climate action and implementation, known as response measures.
- The Global Stocktake is intended to emphasize the importance of promoting equity and leveraging the best available science to inform strategies for tackling the climate crisis.
- Strengthening national climate plans:
- The response to the Global Stocktake should include an unequivocal signal that countries will submit enhanced NDCs with ambitious 2030 and 2035 climate targets well ahead of COP30.
- Finance to enable the development and implementation of these NDCs will be essential.
- As an outcome from the Global Stocktake, the UN Secretary General can convene a high-level event in early 2025, inviting countries to present their new NDCs and finance commitments.
- Countries can also invite voluntary national, regional and thematic stocktakes to be held in 2024 to help inform NDCs and other national commitments.
- Rapidly and equitably shifting away from fossil fuels and scaling up renewables:
- Without tackling the primary source of the problem (burning and financing fossil fuels) we will not be able to solve the climate crisis.
- In addition to transitioning away from fossil fuels, countries must commit at COP28 to at least triple annual renewable energy capacity and increase the share of renewables in global electricity generation to at least two-thirds by 2030.
- Transforming food systems, agriculture, forestry and land-use to bolster food security, enhance resilience and equitably reduce emissions:
- Failure to accelerate this systemwide transformation in the face of intensifying climate impacts will undermine global efforts to eliminate food insecurity, hunger and poverty.
- Scaling up climate-smart agriculture can boost yields while reducing GHG emissions from agriculture production by as much as 25% by 2030 (compared to 2020 levels).
- Countries must also commit to halt deforestation and degradation, shift to sustainable, healthy diets, and halve food loss and waste by 2030.
- Rapidly reducing transport emissions and shifting to fossil fuel-free transport:
- Fossil fuels still meet over 90% of all transport energy demands.
- By 2030, countries should double the share of fossil fuel-free transport to at least two-thirds of all passenger travel.
- This includes:
- shifting a significant share of trips to public and non-motorized modes of transit like cycling,
- rapidly increasing the share of electric vehicles in global passenger car sales to at least 75% and
- aiming for 30% zero-carbon trucks sales by 2030.
- Ramping up finance and other support for adaptation:
- Countries and communities that have contributed the least to the climate crisis, but often suffer its most devastating impacts, urgently need resources to enhance their adaptive capacity and address losses and damages.
- Developed nations must follow through on at least:
- doubling accessible adaptation finance by 2025,
- scale up high-quality and accessible adaptation support for local actors, and
- prioritize new, innovative, grant-based finance for loss and damage.
- Delivering on climate finance commitments to enable net-zero emissions and climate-resilient development:
- Wealthy nations must meet their $100 billion annual climate finance commitment this year and make up for the shortfalls since 2020, while ensuring faster access and higher-quality finance (for example, through grants).
- The Global Stocktake should also pave the way for a robust new climate finance goal, to be agreed upon at COP29.
- That means surpassing the $100 billion target and adopting a balanced focus on mitigation and adaptation, especially for vulnerable developing countries.
- By 2030, both public and private investments will need to reach $5.2 trillion per year and nations should achieve a 7-to-1 ratio for clean energy over fossil fuels investments.
- At the same time, essential reforms are needed in international financial architecture, including multilateral development bank (MDB) reforms and solutions for countries facing debt distress compounded by climate change.Topic 7 : Visa-free travel to Indian citizens
Why in news: Malaysia has become the latest country to extend the advantage of visa-free travel to Indian citizens.
- The facility will be extended to Indian travellers till December 31, 2024 and will be valid for 30 days from the date of entry.
- The initiative is aimed at ensuring hassle-free travel for Indians who have emerged as one of the major tourist groups visiting Malaysia in the recent past.
- At present there are around 26 countries that extend visa-free entry to Indian citizens for various reasons.
- The visa-free facility to Indian (and Chinese) travellers is aimed at making the country a more attractive destination for recreation seekers from two of the major Asian economies.
Which are the other countries extending visa-free travel to Indians?
- Among the major regional tourism destinations, Sri Lanka and Thailand are the nearby economies that have also extended visa-free travel facility to Indians.
Categories of visa exemption:
- According to the Ministry of External Affairs, at least 34 countries across the world, have agreements with India that exempt visas for the holders of Indian diplomatic passports.
- These include Germany, France, Iran, Japan, Norway, Turkey and others.
- That apart there are at least 99 countries with which India has operational agreements for diplomatic, service/official passport holders.
- There are at least 26 countries at present that provide visa-free facility to ordinary Indian passport holders.
Is the visa-free facility permanent?
- Countries extend visa-free facility to Indian tourists for a certain amount of time or for a period depending on their advantage.
- Factors that determine suitability for visa-free facility:
- It is subjected to security clearance.
- Visa-free facility does not mean relaxation of security protocol in the port of entry.Topic 8 : Codex Alimentarius Commission
Why in news: India has been unanimously elected as a member representing Asian region in the Executive Committee of Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC).
- Executive Committee is an important arm of the CAC.
- In this capacity, India would not only get an opportunity to contribute substantially in the International standard setting process for different food product categories but will also be involved in the decision making process.
- The Executive Committee supports in the management of the Commission’s programme of standards development by conducting a critical review of proposals to undertake work and monitors the progress of standards development.
- The Executive Committee comprises of:
- the Chair,
- three vice Chairs,
- six regional coordinators and
- seven elected representatives from the various geographical regions of Codex.
- India’s proposal for setting up group standards for millets was also accepted by the Commission and India’s initiative for establishing global standards for millets was acknowledged by the Commission and supported by the member countries.
What is the Codex Alimentarius?
- The Codex Alimentarius, or “Food Code” is a collection of standards, guidelines and codes of practice adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission.
Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC)
- The Codex Alimentarius Commission(CAC) is an international food standards body established jointly by the Food and Agriculture organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1963.
- To protect consumer health and promote fair practices in food trade.
- It held its first meeting in 1963.
- Membership of the Commission is open to all Member Nations and Associate Members of FAO and WHO which are interested in international food standards.
- The Commission meets in regular session once a year alternating between Geneva and Rome.
- The Commission works in the six UN official languages. These are:
- Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.
- Currently the Codex Alimentarius Commission has 189 Codex Members made up of 188 Member Countries and 1 Member Organization (The European Union).
- India became the member of Codex Alimentarius in 1964.