Topic 1: National SC-ST Hub Scheme
Context: PM appreciates success of National SC-ST Hub Scheme
About the scheme:
- The National SC/ST Hub (NSSH) would provide professional support to the SC/ST enterprises enabling them to effectively participate in public procurement process.
- The Hub would also work towards the development of new entrepreneurs to participate in procurement process leveraging on the ‘Stand up India’ programme.
- Selected entrepreneurs would be provided with support and mentoring by industry experts, Central Public Sector Enterprises, and incubators.
- The Hub would operate out of the National Small Industries Corporation (NSIC) headquartered in Delhi.
- Administrative structure:
- High Powered Monitoring Committee
- Minister of MSME is the chairperson of the committee.
- The committee members are representatives of various stakeholders including states, various ministries, industry associations & SC/ST entrepreneurs.
- Advisory Committee
- This committee would work under the High Powered Monitoring Committee in order to bring the industry and SC/ST entrepreneurs’ perspective to the Hub.
- Purpose – developing an effective, mutually beneficial relationship between the target group and the Government.
- Empowered Project Approval Committee
- This Committee would ensure flexibilities with a view to accommodate changing requirements of SC/ST entrepreneurs.
- High Powered Monitoring Committee
Topic 2: Met Gala
Context: The annual Met Gala is being held.
What is the Met Gala?
- Official name: The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute.
- The Met Gala is an annual fundraising event for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York City.
- How does the Met Gala raise money?
- The Gala is funded by various sponsors each year.
- The money it raises is through the sale of tickets and tables, priced astronomically.
Topic 3: Asean India Maritime Exercise
Context: AIME-2023 is being held in Singapore.
- The ASEAN-India Maritime Exercise (AIME-2023) is an exercise between Indian Navy and ASEAN navies.
- To work closely with each other and conduct seamless operations in the maritime domain.
- Participating Ships:
- INS Delhi is India’s first indigenously-built guided missile destroyer
- INS Satpura is an indigenously-built guided missile stealth frigate.
- Both the ships are part of the navy’s Eastern Fleet based in Visakhapatnam.
- The ships will also participate in International Maritime Defence Exhibition (IMDEX-23) and International Maritime Security Conference (IMSC) being hosted by Singapore.
Topic 4: Psychedelic substances
Context: Psychedelic drugs, banned in India under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, are emerging in research as promising ways to treat treatment-resistant depression and post-traumatic stress disorder
What are Psychedelics?
- Psychedelics are a group of drugs that alter perception, mood, and thought-processing while a person is still clearly conscious.
- Psychedelics are non-addictive, non-toxic and compared to illicit drugs, they are less harmful to the end user.
- In India, the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 1985 prohibits the use of psychedelic substances.
- Ketamine, a dissociative anaesthetic with psychedelic properties, is used under strict medical supervision, for anaesthesia and treatment-resistant depression.
- A psychiatrist named Humphrey Osmond first used the term ‘psychedelic’ in 1957.
How do the drugs work in the body?
- An intriguing phenomenon called synaesthesia may occur, where the sensory modalities cross and the user may ‘hear colour’ or ‘see sounds’.
- Psychedelics are neither stimulants nor depressants of brain activity.
- Instead, they increase the cross-talk between different brain networks, and this correlates with the subjective effects of psychedelics.
Can such substances cause harm?
- Death due to direct toxicity of psychedelics has not been reported.
- Synthetic psychedelics have been associated with acute cardiac, central nervous system, and limb ischaemia, as well as serotonin syndrome.
- There have also been reports of death attributed directly to synthetic psychedelic use.
- Recently, the results from a phase II psilocybin trial found that a single 25-mg dose of psilocybin reduced depression scores over three weeks in people with treatment-resistant depression.
- In 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) designated the use of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also known as MDMA, to be the breakthrough therapy in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- In 2018, the FDA had granted breakthrough therapy status to psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression as well.
- Although recent findings are encouraging, there remains uncertainty about where the psychedelic renaissance will take us.
- Psychedelic substances provide an intriguing avenue through which one can probe the broader constructs of creativity, spirituality, and consciousness, aside from their therapeutic effects.
- While not a panacea, psychedelic substances have certainly reinvigorated clinical and research interests, and have added to psychiatry’s ever-expanding therapeutic armamentarium.
- If larger phase III trials establish their safety and therapeutic efficacy, the FDA and other regulatory bodies may clear these agents for routine clinical use.
Topic 5: Meitei community
Context: Some members of the Meitei community in Manipur, which has been seeking Scheduled Tribe (ST) status for decades, have now said that they intend to file contempt proceedings against the Hill Areas Committee (HAC) of the Manipur Assembly, which recently passed a resolution opposing their inclusion.
- Recently the Manipur High Court ordered the State government to recommend the inclusion of the Meitei community in the Scheduled Tribes list.
- The HAC passed a resolutionopposing the High Court’s order and called for the Centre and the State government to appeal it.
- The HAC was set up through a 1972 order and comprises legislators of all constituencies that fall partly or wholly within the State’s hilly areas.
- Current position of the Meitis:
- They are currently categorised as OBCs or SCs.
- The Meitei people dominate in more than half the State’s Assembly constituencies.
- A majority of them identify as Hindu, while about 8% are Muslim.
- Their demand:
- The community, through the Scheduled Tribe Demand Committee has been demanding ST status for decades.
- They argue they had been listed as one of the tribes of Manipur before it merged with India in 1949.
- They lost this tag when the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950, was drafted.
More about Meitis:
- The Meitei people are also known as the Manipuris.
- They are the predominant ethnic group of Manipur.
- They speak Meitei language (Manipuri) one of the 22 official languages of the Indian Republic and the sole official language of Manipur.
- The Meiteis primarily settled in the Imphal Valley in Manipur.
- There is also a notable presence of Meitei in the neighboring countries of Myanmar and Bangladesh.
- The Meitei ethnic group represents about 53% of Manipur’s population.
- Meitei is one of the officially recognized languages of India, and was included in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India in 1992.
- Many Manipuri or Meitei people resides in Sylhet division in north-eastern Bangladesh
Topic 5: Laundromat report
Context: Launromat report was released recently.
- Laundromat countries:
- China, India, Turkey, the UAE and Singapore.
- What these countries do?
- They buy Russian oil and sell processed products to European countries, thus side-stepping European sanctions against Russia
- India leads the laundromat countries, according to the report.
- European Union (EU) countries which are all part of the price cap coalition.
- The price-cap coalition countries include the European Union, G7 countries, Australia and Japan
- Price cap coalition countries have increased imports of refined oil products from countries that have become the largest importers of Russian crude.
- This is a major loophole that can undermine the impact of the sanctions on Russia
- The report accused Indian sellers and European buyers of possibly circumventing sanctions by selling crude products from a refinery in Gujarat that is co-owned by Russian oil company Rosneft.
Topic 6: Geomagnetic pearl oscillations
Context: Researchers have traced a very significant increase in special continuous oscillations with pearl-type structures called Geomagnetic Pc1 pearl oscillations on the surface of the Earth in the recovery phase of geomagnetic storms.
- Significance of the study:
- This study is significant for investigating of precipitation particles during geomagnetic storms and can help us understand the radiation hazard to satellites and astronauts.
- How geomagnetic oscillations are formed?
- Earth’s magnetic field forms a protective shield around us, and various plasma waves are generated in this magnetic field cavity.
- Geomagnetic storms often cause a dent in this protection.
- Energetic particles are either accelerated or lost from the Earth’s radiation belts during these storms.
- This is responsible for changes in plasma environment leading to growth of low-frequency waves called Electromagnetic ion-cyclotron (EMIC) wave instability which is seen as the magnetic field oscillations (0.1-5 Hz) called as Pc1 pulsations.
- About the Geomagnetic Pc1 pearl oscillations:
- The Geomagnetic Pc1 pearl oscillations are amplitude-modulated structured narrow-band signals, which are signatures of low-frequency EMIC waves generated by resonant wave-particle interactions in the Earth’s magnetosphere.
- The observation of these oscillations is a proxy for the measurement of particle precipitation in the Earth’s magnetosphere.
- Evidences of these pulsations are abundant in the mid and high-latitude regions.
- At very low latitude stations, it is not frequent.
- These waves are an important component of space weather in the near-Earth environment.
- Findings of the study:
- A clear increase in the number of Pc1 at night was observed compared to the day.
- This is because the attenuation of Pc1 waves upon propagation via the ionospheric waveguide towards lower latitudes is weaker during night hours.
- Similarly, during the solar maximum period, the transmission rate of Pc1 waves to the equator was diminished than during the solar minimum.
- The annual and seasonal patterns of Pc1 occurrence showed an inverse relation with sunspot numbers at both stations.
- An association of these pulsations with active geomagnetic conditions showed the occurrence of Pc1 increasing significantly in the recovery phase of geomagnetic storms.
Topic 7: Kyasanur disease
Context: One zoonotic illness where spillover events appear to have increased, resulting in recurring outbreaks, is Kyasanur forest disease (KFD) or monkey fever.
About the disease:
- The illness is named after Kyasanur forest in the Western Ghats, where it originated.
- It is a haemorrhagic fever borne by the tick, Haemaphysalis spinigera.
- It has a fatality rate of 3-5 per cent.
- It causes acute febrile hemorrhagic illness in humans and monkeys especially in southern part of India.
- The disease is caused by highly pathogenic KFD virus (KFDV) which belongs to member of the genus Flavivirus and family Flaviviridae.
- It was first identified in 1957 after an outbreak in a Kyasanur forest village in Shivamogga district of Karnataka.
Why the disease is spreading?
- Growing conflicts between humans and monkeys, particularly bonnet macaque (Macaca radiata) that is highly susceptible to KFD virus.
- Villages in the district are surrounded by either monoculture plantations, degraded forests, or natural forests.
- Conflicts with macaques are common in areas with mosaics of monoculture plantations, specifically acacia farms, or where agricultural land has increased in recent decades.
- Macaques started invading villages only with the decline in native fruit-bearing species in the forests.
- Habitat loss is the root cause of the increase in human-macaque conflicts as well as KFD outbreaks.
- Ecological restoration of degraded forests seems to be the only sustainable and ethical solution to mitigate the situation.
- This may be attained by reconnecting wildlife corridors and forest fragments, which in turn will minimise human-wildlife conflict.
- In plantations, mature trees can be periodically removed in patches and native fruit trees be planted to restore the habitat.
- With time, entire plantations can be converted into native forests, addressing the problems of macaque conflict and KFD.
|Bonnet macaqueThe bonnet macaque is also known as zati.It is a species of macaque endemic to southern India.IUCN Status: Least concern
Topic 8: Bihan Mela
Context: Since 2019, members of the Kondh tribe in Odisha have added one more event to their calendar of festivals and celebrations called Bihan Mela
- It is literally the seed festival.
- It includes both hybrid and indigenous varieties of paddy, millets, maize and sorghum.
- How is it celebrated?
- Women, who are at the helm of this festival, carefully collect seeds of the indigenous varieties and store them in earthen pots.
- Then, on a designated day in December, they decorate the pots with red and white motifs, place them in a bamboo basket and carry it on head to the village where the fair is being organised.
- Along the way, they are accompanied by men beating drums and other traditional instruments.
- The fair mimics a traditional market where farmers used to exchange seeds.
- Significance of the festival:
- Farmers in the region are mostly marginal and depend on the monsoon rains.
- In recent years, they have seen repeated crop failures either due to erratic rainfall or pest attacks.
- Since the Green Revolution, farmers in the region have abandoned native crops and varieties that are naturally resistant to pests and better suited to the region’s climate.
- Even in dongars or hilltops, where families used to practice mixed cropping until recently, have shifted to monoculture cash crops like cashew.
- This has not only affected their food and nutritional security, but also degraded the soil and made the farmers more vulnerable to crop loss.
- The seed festival was thus introduced to help farmers return to their traditional ways of farming like mixed-cropping.
- The Khonds are the largest tribal group in Odisha.
- They are a designated Scheduled Tribe in:
- Andhra Pradesh, `
- Madhya Pradesh,
- Jharkhand and
- West Bengal.
- The Khonds speak the Kui language as their native language.
- It is most closely related to the Gondi language.
- Kui is a Dravidian language and is written with the Odia alphabet.
Topic 9: Auroras in Ladakh
Context: The Indian Astronomical Observatory located over Mount Saraswati in Hanle, Ladakh, India, captured aurora lights on its camera.
- An intense geomagnetic storm that hit Earth resulted in mesmerising auroras in several regions of Earth, including Ladakh.
- It is extremely rare to see auroras at latitudes as low as those of Ladakh.
- Auroras are seen only in high-latitude regions, near the Arctic and Antarctic circles, which are situated about 66.5 degrees north and south of the equator.
What are ‘Auroras’?
- Auroras are a natural phenomenon caused by magnetic storms initiated by the Sun’s activity such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections.
- They are visible as bright lights in the sky and are known as aurora borealis or northern lights near the North Pole and aurora australis or southern lights near the South Pole.
- Typically, auroras are seen in regions closer to the Earth’s poles due to weaker magnetosphere, but during strong solar storms, they can be visible further away from the poles.
How ‘aurora’ forms?
- The Sun constantly emits a solar wind, which is composed of charged particles and flows outward into the solar system.
- When the solar wind encounters the Earth’s magnetic field, it can trigger a process called magnetic reconnection.
- This explosive process allows charged particles from space to be accelerated into the atmosphere.
- The charged particles from the solar wind are guided around the Earth’s magnetosphere and eventually become trapped in the magnetosphere’s long tail.
- When magnetic reconnection occurs, these particles are accelerated towards the Earth’s poles.
- Along the way, particles may collide with atoms and molecules in Earth’s upper atmosphere, providing the atoms with extra energy that is released as a burst of light.
- When we see the glowing aurora, we are witnessing a billion individual collisions that light up Earth’s magnetic field lines.
Why are northern lights visible only in winters?
- During the winter, the northern regions have long periods of darkness, making it easier to see the Northern Lights.
- In the summer, the polar regions have nearly continuous daylight, making observation difficult.
Solar phenomena which caused auroras in Ladakh
- The Sun released a coronal mass ejection towards Earth.
- The coronal mass ejection was linked with an M1 solar flare.
- A coronal mass ejection is a large expulsion of plasma and magnetic field from the Sun’s corona, and travels outward from the Sun.
- Solar flares are flashes of light that occur on the Sun in various wavelengths.
- When magnetic energy is released from sunspots, intense bursts of radiation, or solar flares occur.
- The auroras were observed in lower-than-usual latitudes.
- The last time such a severe geomagnetic storm occurred was in 2015, and that the event resulted in rare sightings of auroras in Europe, China and Ladakh.