Topic 1: Ground level Ozone
Context: The ground-level ozone pollution affecting parts of the Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR) was lower this year than in the last five years, but the duration of its exceedance was higher, a new analysis has found.
What is ozone?
- O3 is a colourless, odourless gas at ambient concentrations and is a major component of smog.
- Stratospheric ozone, also known as the “ozone layer” forms high in the atmosphere when intense sunlight causes oxygen molecules (O2) to break up and re-form as ozone molecules (O3).
- These ozone molecules form the ozone layer and are commonly referred to as “good ozone.”
- Ground-level ozone forms just above the earth’s surface (up to about 2 miles above ground) and impacts human, animal, and plant respiration.
- Ground level ozone is a highly reactive secondary pollutant.
- This pollutant forms when primary pollutants, like hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides, react with sunlight.
- Ozone irritates people’s lungs and is a major component of photochemical smog.
- Ground level ozone is created by a chemical reaction between volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides.
- The sun and high temperatures act as catalysts to this reaction.
- Although ground-level ozone is less concentrated than stratospheric ozone, its impacts on human health and welfare make ground-level ozone “bad ozone.”
- Ground-level ozone is an irritant and can negatively affect human health and welfare.
- Ground-level ozone concentrations typically are highest on days warm/hot days with low humidity when wind is light or stagnant.
Health effects of ground-level ozone
- Make it more difficult to breathe deeply and vigorously
- Cause shortness of breath and pain when taking a deep breath
- Cause coughing and sore or scratchy throat
- Inflame and damage the airways
- Aggravate lung diseases such as asthma, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis
- Increase the frequency of asthma attacks
- Make the lungs more susceptible to infection
- Continue to damage the lungs even when the symptoms have disappeared
- Cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Effect on the environment
- Just as ground-level ozone can make it harder for people to breathe, it also makes it harder for plants to breathe.
- Reducing ground-level ozone can have the following impacts on vegetation:
- Protect forest communities
- Improve yields for timber and some crops, such as soybeans and winter wheat
What types of weather conditions contribute to high ozone?
- On any given day, there are enough emissions of NOx and VOC to produce high ozone.
- The key difference between a high ozone day and a low ozone day is the weather.
- Weather conditions associated with high ozone include:
- Lots of sunlight
- Slow wind speeds
- High peak temperatures
- Large differences between high and low temperatures for the day
- Low humidity
Topic 2: Flapshell turtles and black turtles
Context: Flapshell and black turtles that were charred to death in a fire that broke out in a wetland in Kasaragod
About flapshell turtle:
- The Indian flapshell turtle is a freshwater species of turtle found in South Asia.
- The “flap-shelled” name stems from the presence of femoral flaps located on the plastron.
- Indian flapshell turtles are widespread and common in the South Asian provinces.
- The Indian flapshell turtle is found in Pakistan, India (common in lakes and rivers), Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh (Indus and Ganges drainages), and Myanmar (Irrawaddy and Salween Rivers).
- It has been introduced to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
- It is also found in the desert ponds of Rajasthan.
- The Indian black turtle or Indian pond terrapin is a species of medium-sized freshwater turtle found in South Asia.
- The species occurs in India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Nepal, and the Chagos Archipelago.
- There are five recognized subspecies with overlapping distributions:
- Trijuga: peninsula black turtle, India
- Coronata: Cochin black turtle, India
- Indopeninsularis: Bangladesh black turtle, India, Nepal
- Parkeri: Sri Lanka
- Thermalis: Sri Lanka black turtle, India, Maldives, Sri Lanka
- IUCN status: Least concern
- M. t. indopeninsularis is considered threatened in Bangladesh.
- The population in Myanmar is thought to be vulnerable or endangered.
Topic 3: India’s trade momentum
Context: India’s merchandise exports shrunk 12.7% on a year-on-year (YoY) basis to $34.66 billion in April — a six-month low.
Current underlying trends in global trade
- The essential headwinds observed with respect to global trade are:
- Weaker economic activities worldwide,
- Inflation and tightening of monetary policies,
- Disrupted supply chains because of the Russia-Ukraine conflict:
- The ongoing conflict in Eastern Europe continues to have a bearing on the prices of energy, food and commodities.
- Though food and energy prices receded from their post conflict peaks by the fourth quarter last year, they remained high by historical standards and continued to erode real incomes and import demand.
- Financial instability because of the collapse of several financial institutions in advanced economies:
- The collapse of financial institutions and the loss of confidence in Credit Suisse added to the troubled scenario.
- The events raised the spectre of financial contagion in an already slowing economy.
How it affected India’s trade?
- India and EU:
- The EU is India’s third largest trading partner after the U.S. and China.
- The European Economic Forecast held that the region would narrowly escape the recession.
- Impact of economic slowdown:
- In a period of economic slowdown, international trade, both exports and imports, falls sharply as overall demand for goods and services stand reduced.
- There is an aversion for discretionary spending which particularly weighs on some imports and postponable expenditures.
- It is in this light that the exports of engineering goods, gems and jewellery, chemicals, and readymade garments and plastics, along with petroleum products contracted or grew at a slower pace in 2023.
- Impact of inflation:
- Inflation, the uneven rise in prices especially of essentials such as food and energy erodes the purchasing power of an individual.
- Additionally, inflation also affects the flow of capital to a developing country.
- Global demand is not looking good from markets like the EU and the US.
- A global slowdown, especially in the U.S. which is our major trading partner would have implications on demand for our merchandise exports.
- The government should find ways to diversify and sustain the exports momentum.
Topic 4: Higgs boson
Context: Physicists working with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) particle-smasher at CERN, in Europe, reported that they had detected a Higgs boson decaying into a Z boson particle and a photon. This is a very rare decay process that tells us important things about the Higgs boson as well as about our universe.
What is a Higgs boson?
- An electron is a subatomic particle that has mass.
- The stronger a particle’s interaction with the Higgs boson, the more mass it has.
- A Higgs boson can also interact with another Higgs boson.
- The Higgs boson is a type of boson, a force-carrying subatomic particle.
- It carries the force that a particle experiences when it moves through an energy field, called the Higgs field, that is believed to be present throughout the universe.
- The Higgs boson has a mass of 125 billion electron volts — meaning it is 130 times more massive than a proton.
- It is also chargeless with zero spin — a quantum mechanical equivalent to angular momentum.
- The Higgs Boson is the only elementary particle with no spin.
Why is the Higgs boson called the ‘God Particle?’
- The origin of this is often connected to Nobel Prize-winning physicist Leon Lederman referring to the Higgs boson as the “Goddamn Particle” in frustration with regards to how difficult it was to detect.
Significance of Higgs boson:
- In 1964, researchers had begun to use quantum field theory to study the weak nuclear force (which determines the atomic decay of elements by transforming protons to neutrons) and its force carriers the W and Z bosons.
- The weak force carriers should be massless.
- Putting mass arbitrarily onto particles also caused certain predictions to trend towards infinity.
- Yet, researchers knew that because the weak force is so strong over short distance interactions (much more powerful than gravity) but very weak over longer interactions, its bosons must have mass.
- The solution proposed by Peter Higgs François Englert, and Robert Brout, in 1964 was a new field and a way to “trick” nature into breaking symmetry spontaneously.
- The field quickly, in just fractions of a second, finds a stable configuration, but this in the process breaks its symmetry.
- This gives rise to the Brout-Englert-Higgs mechanism which grants mass to the W and Z bosons.
- What was later discovered about the Higgs field was that it would not only give mass to the W and Z bosons but that it would grant mass to many other fundamental particles.
- Without the Higgs field and the Brout-Englert-Higgs mechanism, all fundamental particles would race around the universe at the speed of light.
- This theory doesn’t just explain why particles have mass but also, why they have different masses.
About the Large Hadron Collider:
- Who built it?
- The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN)
- It is the world’s largest science experiment.
- It is a collider. It accelerates two beams of particles in opposite directions and smashes them head on.
- These particles are hadrons.
- A hadron is a subatomic particle made up of smaller particles.
- The functioning of the LHC
- The LHC typically uses protons, which are made up of quarks and gluons.
- It energises the protons by accelerating them through a narrow circular pipe that is 27 km long.
- This pipe encircles two D-shaped magnetic fields, created by almost 9,600 magnets.
- By switching the direction of the magnetic field more and more rapidly, protons can be accelerated through the beam pipe.
- In the process they accrue a tremendous amount of energy according to the special theory of relativity.
- The effects of collision
- When two antiparallel beams of energised particles collide head on, the energy at the point of collision is equal to the sum of the energy carried by the two beams.
- There is a lot of energy available, and parts of it coalesce into different subatomic particles under the guidance of the fundamental forces of nature.
- The findings of the LHC
- The LHC consists of nine detectors.
- Located over different points on the beam pipe, they study particle interactions in different ways.
- The LHC specialises in accelerating a beam of hadronic particles to certain specifications and delivering it.
- Scientists have used the LHC to energise and collide lead ions with each other and protons with lead ions.
- Using the data from all these collisions, they have:
- tested the predictions of the Standard Model of particle physics, the reigning theory of subatomic particles;
- observed exotic particles like pentaquarks and tetraquarks and checked if their properties are in line with theoretical expectations; and
- pieced together information about extreme natural conditions, like those that existed right after the Big Bang.
- The LHC consists of nine detectors.
Topic 5: Centrally Sponsored Schemes
Context: Nyaya Vikas Portal created for monitoring the implementation of Centrally Sponsored Schemes
- Nyaya Vikas Portal empowers stakeholders with seamless access to information pertaining to funding, documentation, project monitoring and approval.
- About Nyaya Vikas:
- This portal has been created for monitoring the implementation of this Scheme.
- The Department of Justice has been implementing the Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) for Development of Infrastructure Facilities for Districts and Subordinate Judiciary since 1993-94.
- Under the Scheme, central assistance is provided to the State Government / UT Administrations for construction of court halls and residential units for Judicial Officers / Judges of District and Subordinate Courts.
- The funds sharing pattern under the Scheme for Center and State is 60:40 in respect of States other than North Eastern and Himalayan States.
- The funds sharing pattern is 90:10 in respect of North Eastern and Himalayan States and 100% in respect of Union Territories.
What are Centrally sponsored schemes
- Central welfare schemes can be categorised into two sections:
- centrally sponsored schemes and
- central sector schemes.
- Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) are those schemes which are implemented by the state government but sponsored by the central government with a defined shareholding.
- The funding is borne by the states in the ratio of 50:50 or 90:10 or 75:25 or 70:30, etc.
- In CSS, the funding by the central government works as an initiation, with further spending coming from states towards the cause.
- Aim of the schemes:
- These schemes are aimed at supplementing efforts undertaken by the state government because the central government has more resources at its disposal.
- These schemes can either be national or regional in character.
Difference between central sector schemes and centrally sponsored schemes
- Central sector schemes are implemented by the central government and the budget or financing needed for the scheme is entirely sourced by the central government.
- The implementation of a centrally sponsored scheme is done by state governments.
- For example, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Generation Scheme is a centrally sponsored scheme, while the National Rural Health Mission is a central sector scheme.
- Centrally sponsored schemes can be further divided into two sections:
- Core of core schemes:
- Core of the core schemes include the umbrella scheme for development of scheduled castes, minorities, and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Generation Scheme.
- Core of core schemes are implemented for social inclusion and social protection, and they are fully funded by the central government.
- Core schemes:
- Green Revolution, White Revolution, Blue Revolution, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana, Pradhan Manti Awas Yojana, Swachh Bharat Mission, Mid-day meals in schools and National Livelihood Mission are some core schemes.
- Core of core schemes:
Topic 6: India Rankings 2023
Context: Ministry of Education released the India Rankings 2023
- The National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) was launched in 2015 by the Ministry of Education.
- This is the eighth consecutive edition of India Rankings of Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) in India.
- Three distinct additions of 2023 edition of India Rankings are:
- Introduction of a new subject – Agriculture & Allied Sectors
- Integration of Innovation ranking previously executed by the Atal Ranking of Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARIIA) into the India Rankings.
- Expansion of scope of “Architecture” to “Architecture and Planning” to include institutions imparting courses in Urban and Town Planning.
- Five Broad Categories of Parameters and Weightage
|1||Teaching, Learning & Resources||100||0.30|
|2||Research and Professional Practice||100||0.30|
|4||Outreach and Inclusivity||100||0.10|
Key Highlights of India Rankings 2023
- Indian Institute of Technology Madras retains its 1st position in Overall Category for fifth consecutive year and in Engineering for eighth consecutive year, ,..
- Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru tops the Universities Category for eighth consecutive years.
- IIM Ahmedabad tops in Management subject retaining its first position for fourth consecutive year.
- All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi occupies the top slot in Medical for the sixth consecutive year.
- National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research, Hyderabad tops the ranking in Pharmacy for first time pushing Jamia Hamdard to the second slot.
- Miranda House retains the 1st position amongst Colleges for the seventh consecutive year.
- IIT Roorkee stands at 1st position in Architecture subject for third consecutive year, i.e. from 2021 to 2023.
- National Law School of India University, Bengaluru retains its first position in Law for the sixth consecutive year
- Colleges in Delhi maintained their dominance in ranking of Colleges with five colleges out of first 10 colleges from Delhi.
- Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi takes the top slot in Agriculture and Allied Sectors.
- Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur tops in Innovation category.
Topic 7: Commission of Railway Safety
Context: Investigation into the recent tragic train accident in Odisha is being conducted by the Commissioner of Railway Safety for the south-eastern circle.
- CRS deals with matters related to safety of rail travel and operations, among some other statutory functions such as inspectorial, investigatory, and advisory as laid down in the Railways Act, 1989.
- Investigating serious train accidents is one of the key responsibilities of the CRS.
- It is headquartered in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.
- The CRS does not report to the Ministry of Railways of the Railway Board.
- It is under the administrative control of the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA).
- The reason or principle behind this is to keep the CRS insulated from the influence of the country’s railway establishment and prevent conflicts of interest.
- In 1940, the Central Legislature recommended that the senior government inspectors of the railways should be placed under the administrative control of a different authority under the government.
- Consequently, in 1941, the Railway Inspectorate was separated from the Railway Board and put under the administrative control of the then Department of Posts and Air.
- Since then, the Inspectorate, which was re-designated as the CRS in 1961, has been under the control of the central ministry exercising control over civil aviation in India.
Topic 8: Deposit insurance cover for PPIs
Context: Prepaid Payment Instrument (PPI) holders may soon get protection for their money against any fraud or unauthorised payment transactions.
- A committee set up to review the Customer Service Standards in RBI Regulated Entities has recommended that the central bank should examine the extension of Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation (DICGC) cover to PPIs.
- The DICGC cover is at present available only to bank deposits.
What are PPIs?
- PPIs are instruments that facilitate the purchase of goods and services, conduct of financial services and enable remittance facilities, among others, against the money stored in them.
- PPIs can be issued as cards or wallets.
- There are two types of PPIs:
- Small PPIs and
- Full-KYC (know your customer) PPIs.
- Further, small PPIs are categorized as:
- PPIs up to Rs 10,000 (with cash loading facility) and
- PPIs up to Rs 10,000 (with no cash loading facility).
- PPIs can be loaded/reloaded by cash, debit to a bank account, or credit and debit cards.
- The cash loading of PPIs is limited to Rs 50,000 per month subject to the overall limit of the PPI.
Who can issue PPI instruments?
- PPIs can be issued by banks and non-banks after obtaining approval from the RBI.
What is DICGC?
- DICGC is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the RBI and provides deposit insurance.
- The deposit insurance system plays an important role in maintaining the stability of the financial system, particularly by assuring the small depositors of the protection of their deposits in the event of a bank failure.
- The deposit insurance extended by DICGC covers:
- all commercial banks including local area banks (LABs),
- payments banks (PBs),
- small finance banks (SFBs),
- regional rural banks (RRBs) and
- co-operative banks, that are licensed by the RBI.
- The deposit insurance extended by DICGC covers:
- What does the DICGC insure?
- DICGC insures all deposits such as savings, fixed, current and recurring including accrued interest.
- Each depositor in a bank is insured up to a maximum of Rs 5 lakh for both principal and interest amount held by them as on the date of liquidation or failure of a bank.
- The earlier insurance cover provided by DICGC was Rs one lakh.
- However, the limit of insurance cover for depositors in insured banks was raised to Rs 5 lakh in 2020.