Topic 1: Vagus nerve
Why in news: Research has indicated a link between vagus nerve dysfunction and long COVID.
What is the vagus nerve?
- They’re a pair of nerves, one on each side, that run from your brainstem, through the neck, to your chest and stomach.
- They form a key part of the parasympathetic nervous system, the system that is responsible for relaxing and resting your body after a bout of activity and for a number of vital functions including your heart rate, blood pressure and digestion.
- It also plays a role in the immune system.
- The vagal nerves are the longest cranial nerves, going from your brain to your large intestine, connecting with your neck, heart, lungs, abdomen and digestive tract.
- They are the 10thof your 12 cranial nerves and contain 75% of your parasympathetic nervous system’s nerve fibre.
- They work bi-directionally, allowing the brain and body to communicate with each other.
- Researchers are increasingly looking at ways through which stimulation of these nerves, may potentially help with various health conditions.
What are the conditions vagus nerve stimulation can treat?
- Epilepsy and depression:
- Some treatments are already in existence, for instance, an implantable vagus nerve stimulator is used to treat epilepsy and depression (that does not respond to conventional treatment), by stimulating areas of the brain that lead to seizures and affect moods.
- There are now non-invasive devices that can be held against the skin for stimulation.
- One finding about the vagus nerve was that it regulates inflammation.
- The body, in response to an infection, gets temporarily inflamed, but once the infection is dealt with, the vagus nerve helps bring the body back to normal by suppressing inflammation.
- This, researchers believe, could have implications in helping to treat several conditions.
- Other diseases:
- Vagus nerve stimulation is also being studied for other diseases and disorders such as migraines, polycystic ovary syndrome, alcoholism, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis and gut disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease and Crohn’s disease.
- Implanted vagus nerve stimulation does not work for everybody, and is not intended to replace conventional treatment.
- It is an adjuvant treatment for most conditions, not a primary treatment and more research is needed into its potential therapeutic effect.
- Stimulation of the vagus nerve with a device must not be done at home.
- Since the nerve regulates heartbeat and blood pressure, cardiac clearance is needed.
Topic 2: Analysing where India stands in the G20
Why in news: The country’s performance in recent decades across select socioeconomic metrics has been poor compared to its fellow G20 members
- India hosted the 18th G20 Summit in New Delhi, focusing on the theme ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future.’
- The summit wrapped up successfully as India transferred the G20 Presidency to Brazil.
- This analysis evaluates India’s performance in recent decades across various socioeconomic metrics in comparison to its fellow G20 members.
- The G20 is made up of:
- India, Australia, China, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the European Union (EU), Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, the United States, South Africa, and Saudi Arabia.
- GDP per capita ($) is the sum of gross value added by all resident producers in the economy divided by mid-year population.
- In 1970, with a GDP per capita of $111.97, India ranked 18 out of the 19 regions analysed.
- While Indonesia lagged behind India in 1970, it moved ahead by 2022, pushing India to the last spot with a GDP per capita of $2,388.62.
- Human Development Index (HDI):
- The HDI is a measure of life expectancy, access to education, and standard of living.
- HDI in the graph is measured on a scale of 0 (worst) to 1 (best).
- India’s HDI improved from 0.43 in 1990 to 0.63 in 2021.
- However, despite its progress in absolute terms, India ranked at the bottom of the list.
- India’s performance has seen little relative improvement in metrics relating to health, even though there has been growth in absolute numbers.
- In 1990, the average life expectancy in India was 45.22 years, which was better than China’s 33.27 years.
- By 2021, life expectancy rose to 67.24 years, ahead of South Africa.
- However, India’s ranking remained the same, as China surpassed India.
- In 1990, with an infant mortality rate of 88.8, India ranked at the bottom of the 20 regions analysed.
- In 2021, the infant mortality rate improved to 25.5 and India ranked 19, just ahead of South Africa (26.4).
- Labour force participation rate (LFPR):
- A comparison of the labour force participation rate (LFPR) was done above 15 years of age in the 20 regions between 1990 and 2021-22.
- In 1990, with an LFPR of 54.2%, India ranked 18, above Italy (49.7%) and Saudi Arabia (53.3%).
- In 2021-22, its rank slipped to 19, only ahead of Italy’s (49.4%).
- Notably, India’s LFPR also decreased to 49.5% in this period.
- Women in Parliament:
- A comparison was made for the share of women in Parliament of 19 regions (18 countries plus the EU) between 1998 and 2022.
- Despite having seen several women in leadership positions, India’s relative growth in the share of women in Parliament has been slow, with many countries and the EU outpacing India.
- From 8.1% in 1998, the share almost doubled to 14.9% in 2022.
- When compared to the 18 countries and the EU, India’s rank slipped from 15 in 1998 to 18 in 2022, just ahead of Japan (9.9%).
- Carbon emissions:
- India has been the lowest emitter of CO2 in 1990 and 2020 among the 20 regions analysed.
- However, its progress in adopting eco-friendly energy sources to combat climate change has been relatively slow.
- Most G20 nations, excluding the U.S. and Mexico, generated less than 2% of their electricity from renewables in 1990.
- By 2015, only 5.36% of India’s electricity came from renewable sources.
- India ranked 13 out of the 20 regions.
Topic 3: Bhoj wetland
Why in news: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) pulled up the Madhya Pradesh government over the very drastic damage to water bodies and ordered it to stop the operation of cruise vessels as well as other motor-propelled boats in the Bhoj wetland.
- Also known as Bhopal Lake, the Bhoj wetland is a designated Ramsar site, making it a wetland of international importance according to the Convention of Wetlands signed in 1971.
- The NGT order observed that it is really reprehensible that the M.P. government itself is launching cruise boats and cruise restaurants in the waters of river Narmada.
- Without any statutory permission, clearance, consent or no-objection certificate from the competent authorities, the government started construction activities within the prohibited area of Upper Lake (of Bhopal Lake) and even trees were cut illegally.
- The green court said that only operation of boats fitted with four-stroke outboard engines, as done in more than three dozen foreign countries, may be carried out in lakes or water bodies not designated as wetlands, subject to compliance of environmental laws.
- The MoEF&CC (Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change) and CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) are directed to formulate a standard operating procedure for motorised boats in water bodies/lakes (not designated as wetlands).
- If the motors are fitted with four stroke outboard engines or operated by green fuel and do not cause any damage to water and air ecology and environment.
About the Wetland:
- The Bhoj Wetland consists of two lakes located in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh.
- The two lakes are the Bhojtal (Upper Lake) & the Lower Lake.
- The Upper Lake is surrounded by Van Vihar National Park on the south.
- The Bhojtal was created by Paramara Raja Bhoj (1005-1055), ruler of Malwa.
- The Lower Lake was created in 1794 by Nawab Chhote Khan.
- They have been designated a wetland of international importance under the international Ramsar Convention since 2002.
|About NGTThe National Green Tribunal was established in 2010, as per the National Green Tribunal Act.It is a specialised judicial body equipped with expertise solely for the purpose of adjudicating environmental cases in the country.The Tribunal is tasked with providing effective and expeditious remedy in cases relating to environmental protection, conservation of forests and other natural resources and enforcement of any legal right relating to environment.The Tribunal’s orders are binding and it has power to grant relief in the form of compensation and damages to affected persons.Composition:The Tribunal has a presence in five zones-North, Central, East, South and West.The Principal Bench is situated in the North Zone, headquartered in Delhi.The Tribunal is headed by the Chairperson.It has at least ten but not more than twenty judicial members and at least ten but not more than twenty expert members.|
Topic 4: Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023
Why in news: The special session of Parliament scheduled will witness the discussion on the Chief Election Commissioner and Other Election Commissioners (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Bill, 2023.
- The Bill attempts to alter constitutional provisions that equate ECs with Supreme Court judges.
- It also seeks to undo the top court’s recent ruling in ‘Anoop Baranwal vs. Union of India’.
- Revision of salary and service conditions:
- The Bill proposes to revise the salary, allowance, and service conditions of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and the two Election Commissioners, to bring it at par with those of a Cabinet Secretary.
- Repeal of 1991 Act:
- Until now, Election Commissioners were at par with Supreme Court judges in this regard, under the Election Commission Act, of 1991.
- The Bill’s passage will result in the 1991 Act’s repeal.
- Bringing EC under the ambit of bureaucracy:
- This move seeks to bring Election Commissioners under the ambit of the bureaucracy, which in turn could stifle their authority and independence.
- Change in role:
- The EC’s primary task is that of superintendence, direction, and control of elections, as laid down under Article 324.
- However, this control of elections is likely to shift if the Election Commissioner, who will now be equivalent to the rank of a Cabinet Secretary, tries to discipline a Union Minister for electoral violations.
- At present, when the commissioners call a government, their order is perceived to carry the authority of a Supreme Court Judge.
- It will affect their command and control if they are seen as equal to Cabinet Secretary.
- Appointment committee:
- This Bill seeks to constitute a committee of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, and a Cabinet Minister nominated by the PM to select members of the Election Commission of India.
- This committee will not have the Chief Justice of India as a member, contrary to the top court’s suggestion in a ruling delivered in March this year.
The SC ruling
- A five-judge SC bench unanimously ruled that a high-power committee of the PM, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, and the CJI must pick the CEC and ECs.
- Article 324(2) states that the Election Commission shall consist of the Chief Election Commissioner and such number of other Election Commissioners, if any, as the President may from time-to-time fix.
- The appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners shall, subject to the provisions of any law made in that behalf by Parliament, be made by the President.
- However, since no law was made by Parliament as prescribed by the Constitution, the court stepped in.
- Article 324(5), allows the President to decide the conditions of service and tenure of the ECs, albeit subject to a law made by Parliament.
- In furtherance of this, the Election Commission Act was passed by Parliament in 1991.
How does the new Bill change the 1991 Act?
- The Bill seeks to repeal the 1991 Act.
- This Act states that there shall be paid to the Chief Election Commissioner [and other Election Commissioners] a salary which is equal to the salary of a Judge of the Supreme Court.
- However, the Bill states that the salary, allowances, and service conditions of the CEC and ECs shall be the same as those of the Cabinet Secretary.
Topic 5: M Visvesvaraya
Why in news: September 15 is marked as the birthday of Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya (1861-1962), credited for his role as a civil engineer and administrator in colonial India.
- After completing his engineering from the Poona College of Science, Visvesvaraya accepted an offer to work as an Assistant Engineer in the Public Works Department (PWD) of the Government of Bombay.
- One of his first projects was to construct a pipe syphon across one of Panjra river’s channels.
- In 1909, he joined the Mysore service as Chief Engineer, ultimately assuming the position of the 19th Dewan of Mysore.
- He took voluntary retirement in 1918 because he did not agree with the proposal to set aside state jobs for the “non-brahmin” community.
- After his retirement, he presided as chairman or became a member of various committees including:
- the Bombay Technical and Industrial Education Committee,
- Bombay University Committee for Promoting Chemical Industries and
- the Cauvery Canal Committee.
His significant works
- Some of his significant works include:
- the introduction of the block systemof irrigation in the Deccan canals in 1899,
- The objective of the Block System of Irrigation was to distribute the benefits of an irrigation work over a large number of villages and to concentrate the irrigation in each village within blocks of specified limits and in selected soils and situations
- solving the problem of the muddy and discoloured water in the city of Sukkur located on the banks of the Indus river and
- inventing automatic gates meant to regulate the flow of water in reservoirs, which is patented.
- the introduction of the block systemof irrigation in the Deccan canals in 1899,
- His books, “Reconstructing India” and “Planned Economy of India” were published in 1920 and 1934, respectively.
Contribution in Educational field:
- Visvesvaraya was instrumental in the setting up of the University of Mysore in 1916, as he was the Dewan of Mysore at the time.
- He believed that the aim of an educational institution should be in line with the state of the country’s civilisation and of its material prosperity, and that the conditions inside a university should not be very different from the ones a student has to encounter in real life.
- He established the Sir Jayachamarajendra Occupational Institute in Bangalore in 1943, which was later renamed Sir Jayachamarajendra Polytechnic.
- This institute was meant to impart special training to technicians keeping in mind the impending industrial development of India.
Topic 6: The Maratha quota demand
Why in news: A Maratha activist broke his 17-day fast demanding reservation for the community in jobs and education.
Who are the Marathas?
- Historically identified as a warrior caste, the Marathas comprise mainly peasant and landowning groups who make up almost a third of the population of Maharashtra.
- Most Marathas speak Marathi, though not all Marathi-speaking people are Marathas.
- The Marathas have been the politically dominant community in Maharashtra.
- The division of holdings and problems in the farm sector over the years have, however, led to a decline in the prosperity of middle- and lower middle-class Marathas.
What has triggered the current phase of agitation?
- The Marathas want to be identified as Kunbis, which would entitle them to benefits under the quota for Other Backward Classes (OBCs).
- The demand for OBC reservation arose after the Supreme Court, in 2021, struck down the quota for Marathas under the state’s Socially and Educationally Backward Class (SEBC) Act, 2018.
- In 2019, the Bombay High Courtupheld the Maratha quota under the SEBC Act.
- However, the court ruled that the 16% quota under the Act was not “justifiable”, and reduced it to 12% in education and 13% in government jobs, as recommended by the State Backward Class Commission.
- The HC also said that total reservations should not exceed 50%, except in exceptional circumstances and extraordinary situations.
- This would be subject to availability of quantifiable and contemporaneous data reflecting backwardness, inadequacy of representation and without affecting the efficiency in administration.
The Supreme Court judgment:
- In 2021, a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan struck down the provisions of the Maharashtra law providing reservation to the Maratha community, which took the total quota in the state beyond the 50% ceiling set by the court in its 1992 Indra Sawhney (Mandal) judgment.
- The court turned down Maharashtra’s plea for a review of its decision, following which the state said it would file a curative petition.
- The government also said that a commission would be set up to carry out a detailed survey of the “backwardness” of the community.
Opposition from OBCs:
- OBCs already get only 19% reservation in Maharashtra compared to the 27% nationally.
- The 52% reservation in the state is currently divided into:
- Scheduled Castes 13%,
- Scheduled Tribes 7%,
- OBCs 19%,
- Special Backward Classes 2%,
- Vimukta Jati 3%,
- Nomadic tribe (B) 2.5%,
- Nomadic Tribe (C) Dhangar 3.5%, and
- Nomadic tribe (D) Vanjari 2%.
- Separately, there is a 10% EWS quota which is applicable to the non-quota section of the population irrespective of caste and religion, with an annual income limit of Rs 8 lakh.
Topic 7: Monoclonal Antibody
Why in news: India has reached out to Australia seeking to restock monoclonal antibody doses to combat the Nipah virus.
About monoclonal antibody:
- Monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) are immunoglobulins derived from a monoclonal cell line and which have a defined specificity.
- A monoclonal is an antibody produced from a cell lineage made by cloning a unique white blood cell.
- All subsequent antibodies derived this way trace back to a unique parent cell.
- Their immunological activities are based on binding to a specific ligand or antigen
- Monoclonal antibodies can have monovalent affinity, binding only to the same epitope (the part of an antigen that is recognized by the antibody).
- In contrast, polyclonal antibodies bind to multiple epitopes and are usually made by several different antibody-secreting plasma cell lineages.
- In 2020, the administration of monoclonal antibodies was authorized by several countries for treating moderate symptoms of COVID-19.
What are antibodies?
- Antibodies are proteins produced by our immune system and are one of the main ways the body defends itself against diseases.
- They work by binding to their specific targets – for example, viruses, bacteria or cancerous cells – and making them harmless.
- They block the action of the target, or they flag it as foreign so that other parts of our immune system can clear the ‘invaders’ away.
How Monoclonal antibodies work:
- Monoclonal antibodies work in the same way as mentioned in the case of antibodies.
- They bind to their specific target, without harming anything else in their way.
- This target is not always a ‘foreign intruder’, like a virus.
- Due to their numerous applications, monoclonal antibodies have been safely and effectively used to treat a growing number of diseases, some of which were difficult to treat in the past.
What diseases are they used for?
- The majority of the monoclonal antibodies on the market are for noncommunicable diseases, such as autoimmune diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis and cancer.
- In the past few decades, cancer immunotherapies have saved the lives of millions of people around the world.
- Out of more than 100 licensed monoclonal antibodies, only seven are for treating and preventing infectious diseases – though many more are in development, including candidates for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.
- Several antibodies that can act against different strains of HIV are also in development.
Topic 8: U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)
Why in news: The U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has announced that it will hold a hearing on religious freedom in India.
- India has previously rejected USCIRF reports that alleged violations of religious freedom in the country.
- The hearing is on how the U.S. government can work with the Indian government to address violations.
- The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is a U.S. federal government commission created by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998.
- USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the leadership of both political parties in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
- USCIRF’s principal responsibilities are to review the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom internationally and to make policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and the Congress.
- USCIRF was authorized by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, which established:
- An Office of International Religious Freedom
- A mandate that the State Department prepare Annual Reports on International Religious Freedom
- A requirement to name the most egregious religious freedom violators as Countries of Particular Concern (CPCs) and to take policy actions in response to all violations of religious freedom as a specific element of U.S. foreign policy programs, cultural exchanges, and international broadcasting.