Topic 1: New railway proposal for Kerala
Context: In Kerala, a new semi-high speed railway, expected to cruise at an average speed of 125 kmph has been proposed.
About the project:
- The approximately ₹1 lakh crore semi-high speed train project on standard gauge track was mooted recently.
- The new proposal is being projected as an alternative to the ₹64,000 crore Thiruvananthapuram-Kasaragod SilverLineproject, which was to cover the 530-km distance at an average speed of about 135 kmph.
- The proposed corridor would have a design speed of 200 kmph and can be linked with high-speed or semi-high speed rail projects on standard gauge.
- In 2014, the State government entrusted the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) with the task of readying a Detailed Project Report (DPR) for a high-speed rail corridor.
- The DPR which was handed over to the government in 2015 was considered too ambitious and costly and failed to take off.
- The SilverLineproject, proposed by the KRDCL in 2021, on the other hand, met with massive resistance, as it was to be built over a tall embankment constructed over the ground, and would have led to massive displacement of people.
- Increasing vehicles in the state:
- There are now 1.5 crore vehicles — one vehicle for every two persons which claim the life of over 4,000 people in accidents every year in the State.
- Way forward:
- The Railways has readied projects to strengthen existing tracks and to straighten curves so that they are capable of hosting trains moving at up to 110 kmph speed.
- Further, efforts will be made to augment the speed to 130 kmph, and to 160 kmph at a later stage.
Topic 2: Kanwar yatra
Context: The annual Kanwar Yatra, during which lakhs of pilgrims carried waters from the Ganga and other holy rivers to Shiva shrines concluded recently.
About the Kanwar Yatra
- The Kanwar Yatra is a pilgrimage organised in the month of Shravana (Saavan).
- While traditionally, saffron-clad devotees walked barefoot with pitchers of water to various Shiva temples, the yatra, or journey, is now often carried out in trucks and other vehicles.
- In the Gangetic plains, the water is taken from pilgrimage sites such as:
- Haridwar, Gaumukh and Gangotri in Uttarakhand,
- Sultanganj in Bihar, and
- Prayagraj, Ayodhya or Varanasi from Uttar Pradesh.
- Devotees carry the pitchers of holy water on their shoulders, balanced on decorated slings known as Kanwars.
- The water is used by the pilgrims to worship Shiva lingas at shrines of importance, including the 12 Jyotirlingas, or at certain specific temples such as:
- the Pura Mahadeva and Augharnath Temple in Meerut,
- Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi,
- Baidyanath Dham in Deoghar, Jharkhand.
- An important festival with similarities to the Kanwar yatra in North India, called the Kavadi festival, is celebrated in Tamil Nadu, in which Lord Muruga is worshipped.
Legends behind the ritual:
- Legend of samudra Manthan:
- The legend of the ritual goes back to the ‘samudra manthan’, one of the best-known episodes in Hindu mythology which explains the origin of ‘amrita’, or the nectar of immortality.
- As per the legend, many divine beings emerged from the manthan along with amrita, as well as ‘halahala’, or a lethal poison.
- Lord Shiva the Destroyer consumed the halahala so it would not spread.
- To reduce the effects of that poison, the practice of offering water to Shiva began.
- Legend of Lord Parashuram:
- Another origin story of the Kanwar yatra is linked with Lord Parashuram, a devotee of Shiva.
- The first Kanwar yatra was believed to have been undertaken by Parashuram.
- While passing through a place called Pura in present-day Uttar Pradesh, he was struck by a desire to lay the foundation of a Shiva temple there.
- Parashuram is said to have fetched Gangajal every Monday in the month of Shravana for Shiva’s worship.
- People from eastern UP come to Ayodhya to take water from the Saryu river to offer it to the Kshireshwar Mahadev Temple in the town.
- Others go to Varanasi and offer Ganga water to Baba Vishwanath.
- Another important temple where devotees come is the Lodheshwar Mahadev in Barabanki.
Topic 3: Alzheimer’s disease
Context: Less than two weeks after an Alzheimer’s drug developed by Biogen and Eisai won full approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Eli Lilly’s monoclonal antibody donanemab has been shown to significantly slow the progression of the disease if treated early.
- Lecanemab, a monoclonal antibody was granted “accelerated” approval for its ability to reduce amyloid beta protein plaques in the brain which is a defining feature of Alzheimer’s.
- Donanemab is not a cure for Alzheimer’s.
- Instead, they are antibodies that target different forms of amyloid-beta (Aβ) proteins that can clump together to form amyloid plaques in people’s brains, resulting in their congnitive decline.
- The drug aims to remove the plaques from the brain and slow the progression of the disease.
- Therapy with donanemab would require an early diagnosis, careful selection of patients, screening the eligible among them, and following up with expensive tests.
- Those being screened would have to be tested for the APOE4 gene, which has been associated with a higher risk of adverse events.
- It said special and expensive PET scans, the availability of which are limited in clinical settings, would be needed to stage protein abnormality levels in the brain before and during the treatment.
- The costs will be substantial, not just for the medication itself, but also for the biomarker and imaging workup.
About the disease:
- Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurologic disorder that causes the brain to shrink (atrophy) and brain cells to die.
- Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia — a continuous decline in thinking, behavioral and social skills that affects a person’s ability to function independently.
- The early signs of the disease include forgetting recent events or conversations.
- As the disease progresses, a person with Alzheimer’s disease will develop severe memory impairment and lose the ability to carry out everyday tasks.
- There is no treatment that cures Alzheimer’s disease or alters the disease process in the brain.
- Alzheimer’s disease affects at least 55 million people worldwide.
- Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.
- Dementia is the seventh leading cause of death and one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people globally.
Topic 4: BIMARU states
Context: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister said the State has risen from its BIMARU tag and is now contributing positively to the process of India’s development.
About BIMARU states:
- The term “BIMARU” is an acronym for five states:
- Bihar, MP, Rajasthan, and UP.
- These states were believed to be economically and socially backward in the 1980s and 1990s.
- The term was coined by economist Ashish Bose in the 1980s to describe the poor economic and social indicators of these states.
- The term “BIMARU” is an amalgamation of the Hindi words “bimar” (sick) and “ru” (a suffix meaning “land of”).
- Features of BIMARU states:
- Low per capita income
- High poverty rates
- Low literacy rates
- Poor healthcare indicators
- Agriculture-based economy
- Significant population
Role of BIMARU states in population growth
- Erstwhile BIMARU states, which accounted for 41 per cent of India’s total population in 2001, will account for 43.5 per cent in 2026.
- The share of BIMARU states in the absolute increase in India’s population during 2001-26 will be of the order of 50.4 per cent while the share of the south will be only 12.6 per cent.
- A 2020 report of the National Commission on Population of the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare said BIMARU states (excluding the three newly carved out states) will contribute to 49.1% of the population increase in India between 2011 and 2036.
- According to a 2015 IIM Ahmedabad study on medical facilities in these states, it was noticed there were gaps.
- All these states including Bihar (17.83), MP (7.53) and UP (3.91), except Rajasthan (61.19) are below the national average (20.74) in terms of total and rural government hospitals per million people.
- NITI Aayog’s 2019-20 Health Index Round IV also ranked Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh (in highest to lowest order) at the last four positions out of 19 large states.
Topic 5: Fusion of rock art in Rudragiri
Context: Rock art was discovered recently at Rudragiri hillock in Andhra Pradesh.
- This site unveils a combination of prehistoric rock paintings from the Mesolithic period and exquisite artwork from the Kakatiya dynasty.
- Rudragiri is nestled amidst the Eastern Ghats, features five naturally formed rock shelters at its foothills, facing westward.
- These shelters served as living quarters for people during the Mesolithic age around 5000 B.C., and they bear witness to the luminous rock paintings of that era.
- The first cave, starting from the southern end of the hillock, presents a narrative mural portraying the intense battle between the Vanara brothers — Vali and Sugriva.
- In the middle cave, a grand sketch of Hanuman, accompanied by sacred symbols of the conch (Sankha) and the fire altar (Yagna Vedi) can be seen.
- Hanuman is depicted carrying the Sanjivani hill in his hand, symbolising his mission to save Lakshmana’s life.
- The third cave houses the prehistoric rock paintings from the Mesolithic era.
- The Ramayana figures neither overshadow the Mesolithic drawings nor diminish their scenic beauty.
Topic 6: DPT3 immunisation in India
Context: India reports a record 93% DPT3 immunisation coverage in 2022.
- The coverage rate for DPT3, the third dose of diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus vaccines, in India rose to an all-time of 93% in 2022.
- It surpassed the previous pre-pandemic best of 91% recorded in 2019.
- In the WHO South-East Asia Region, the coverage rate for DPT3 recovered to the pre-pandemic level of 91%, a sharp increase from the 82% recorded in 2021.
- The region also witnessed a 6% improvement in the coverage of the measles vaccine, rising to 92% in 2022 from 86% in 2021.
- The number of zero-dose children (those that have not received even the first dose of DPT vaccine) halved to 2.3 million in 2022 from 4.6 million in 2021.
- The number of partially vaccinated children (those that have received at least one dose of DPT vaccine but did not complete the primary series of three doses) reduced to 6.5 lakh in 2022 from 1.3 million in 2021.
- The region had the best immunisation recoveries among all the WHO regions.
- Indonesia reported a DPT3 coverage of 85% in 2022.
- Bhutan recorded 98% and the Maldives 99%.
- Bangladesh with 98% and Thailand 97% demonstrated consistency in routine immunisation coverage.
|About DPT:DiphtheriaThe dangers associated with diphtheria come from the toxin released by the bacterium, Corynebacterium diphtheriae.The toxin makes it difficult for children to breathe and swallow, but it also attacks the heart, kidneys and nerves.TetanusTetanus is another disease caused by a toxin-releasing bacterium, Clostridium tetani.The bacteria live in the soil and usually enter the body following punctures or wounds that are not kept clean or include damaged. PertussisPertussis (also known as whooping cough) is one of the most contagious diseases around.Caused by a bacterium, Bordetella pertussis, whooping cough makes children cough uncontrollably.
Topic 7: Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
Context: Genetic resources commission gathers in Rome to deliberate on biodiversity, nutrition & human health.
- CGRFA is the only permanent intergovernmental body that deals with all components of biodiversity for food and agriculture.
- The commission was established in 1983.
- Its membership comprises 179 countries and the European Union.
- The Commission’s regular sessions are held once every two years.
- Headquarter: Rome, Italy.
- The CGRFA has a coordinating role and deals with policy, sectorial and cross-sectorial matters related to the conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources of relevance to food and agriculture.
- The Commission monitors the state of the world’s genetic resources for food and agriculture.
- The Commission strives to reach international consensus on policies and action programmes to ensure the conservation and sustainable utilization of genetic resources for food and agriculture, as well the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from their use.
- The Commission contributes to the strengthening of national and regional policies on biodiversity for food and agriculture and promotes cooperation in capacity-building.
- The Commission continues and strengthens cooperation and partnerships on biodiversity for food and agriculture.