Topic 1: Zealandia
Context: After 375 years of speculation and exploration, scientists have finally confirmed the existence of a “missing” continent known as Zealandia or Te Riu-a-Māui. Zealandia is now recognized as the world’s eighth continent.
- It was once part of an ancient supercontinent called Gondwana, which also included Western Antarctica and Eastern Australia over 500 million years ago.
- Zealandia began to pull away from Gondwana roughly 105 million years ago.
- It gradually sank beneath the waves, with over 94% of the landmass remaining underwater for millennia.
- The existence of Zealandia was first recorded in 1642 by Dutch businessman and sailor Abel Tasman.
- Zealandia is a long, narrow microcontinent that is mostly submebrged in the South Pacific Ocean.
- What is a microcontinent:
- A microcontinent is a landmass that has broken off from a main continent.
- Zealandia broke off from Antarctica about 100 million years ago, and then from Australia about 80 million years ago.
- This continent is approximately 1.89 million square miles in size,
- Zealandia is about half the size of Australia, but only 7 percent of it is above sea level.
- What does it consist of?
- Most of that terrestrial land makes up the two large islands of the country of New Zealand – the North Island and the South Island.
- Stewart Island, just south of the South Island, and many smaller islets are also a part of Zealandia.
- New Caledonia, a collection of islands governed by France, makes up the northern tip of Zealandia.
- Zealandia generally enjoys a mild, temperate climate.
- The tropical climate of New Caledonia has more in common with Oceania and the South Pacific.
- Its largest islands have glaciers, the largest being Tasman Glacier on the South Island.
- Activity from the last glacial period also carved out many fjords and valleys.
- Volcanic Activity
- Zealandia is a very tectonically active region.
- Part of the microcontinent is on the Australian plate, while the other part is on the Pacific plate.
- There are six major areas with active volcanoes, the largest being the Taupo Volcanic Zone on the North Island.
- Geothermal activity caused by the interaction of the Australian and Pacific plates also means there are many natural geysers and hot springs scattered throughout Zealandia.
- The North Island is dominated by the North Island Volcanic Plateau, while the primary mountain range of the South Island is the Southern Alps.
- Both mountain ranges are slowly getting higher through a process called tectonic uplift.
- Tectonic uplift is the geologic uplift of Earth’s surface that is attributed to plate tectonics.
- Underwater Zealandia
- The submerged part of Zealandia is rich in mineral deposits.
- New Zealand’s government strictly controlsundersea mining activity.
- The microcontinent of Zealandia helps determine New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
- A country may use any natural resources, such as oil or fish, in its EEZ without permission from another organization.
- New Zealand’s EEZ is about 4.3 million square kilometers, more than 15 times the amount of land above ground.
- There are also many natural gas fields scattered throughout Zealandia.
- The Maui natural gas field in the Tasman Sea is the largest.
- What makes a continent a continent?
- Geologists define a continent as a major land mass, including both dry land and the continental shelves that lie off the coast.
- A continent is made of continental crust – a base of igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks.
- Oceanic crust is made up of basalt and is thinner and denser than continental crust.
- A continent should also have areas of high elevation when compared to the surrounding seabed.
- There is no minimum size requirement for a continent.
- How zealandia fits in the definition?
- Zealandia meets these definitions.
- It is a continuous expanse of continental crust, linked together by the islands of New Caledonia to the north, North, South and Stewart Islands, the Auckland Islands and Campbell Island to the south and the Chatham Islands to the west.
- Zealandia’s continental crust is physically separate from Australia’s continental crust.
- Zealandia is also significantly elevated, rising about 3,000 m above the surrounding oceanic crust.
Topic 2: Rule 357 of the Rules and Procedure for Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha
Context: A Congress MP cited Rule 357 of procedure and conduct of business in the lower house of the Parliament.
What is Rule 357?
- Rule 357 states that a member may, with the permission of the Speaker, make a personal explanation although there is no question before the House.
- But in this case no debatable matter may be brought forward, and no debate shall arise.
Topic 3: Science behind earthquake tremors
Context: Strong tremors were felt in Delhi, Noida, Gurugram and other neighbouring cities after an earthquake of magnitude 6.6 struck the Hindu Kush region in Afghanistan.
- What is an earthquake?
- An earthquake is an intense shaking of Earth’s surface.
- The shaking is caused by movements in Earth’s outermost layer.
- An earthquake happens when two blocks of the earth suddenly slip past one another.
- The surface where they slip is called the fault or fault plane.
- It results in a sudden release of energy in the Earth’s lithosphere that creates seismic waves.
- Strength and intensity:
- The intensity of an earthquake decreases as the distance from the epicenter increases.
- The epicenter is the point on the Earth’s surface directly above where the earthquake originates, also known as the focus.
- The strength of an earthquake is measured on the Richter scale, which ranges from 1 to 10.
- Each increase of one on the scale represents a tenfold increase in ground motion and energy released.
- The shaking caused by an earthquake is strongest near the epicenter and weakens as it moves further away.
- The ground motion can also be amplified in certain areas, such as soft soil, valleys, and areas with a high water table.
- The intensity of an earthquake decreases as the distance from the epicenter increases.
- How is it felt?
- People can feel earthquakes when they have a magnitude of 2.5 or higher.
- The distance the tremors can be felt depends on several factors, such as:
- the depth of the earthquake,
- the type of rock or soil it travels through, and
- the magnitude of the earthquake.
- Generally, earthquakes can be felt up to 100 kilometers away from the epicenter, but this distance can vary.
Topic 4: Waste-to-energy plants
Context: The Kerala government recently announced the State’s first waste-to-energy project in Kozhikode.
What are Waste-to-energy plants?
- A waste-to-energy plant is a waste management facility that combusts wastes to produce electricity.
- Most waste-to-energy plants burn municipal solid waste, but some burn industrial waste or hazardous waste.
- Waste-to-energy projects use non-recyclable dry waste to generate electricity.
- The process increases the power generation capacity and eases the solid waste management (SWM) burden.
Need for such plants in India:
- Solid waste in India is:
- 55-60% biodegradable organic waste, which can be converted into organic compost or biogas;
- 25-30% non-biodegradable dry waste; and
- 15% silt, stones, and drain waste.
- What is recyclable?
- Of the non-biodegradable dry waste, only 2-3% including hard plastics, metals, and e-waste is recyclable.
- What is non-recyclable?
- The remainder consists of low-grade plastic, rags, and cloth that can’t be recycled.
- This fraction of the non-recyclable dry waste is the most challenging portion of the present SWM system.
- The presence of these materials also reduces the efficiency of recycling other dry and wet waste.
- It is this portion that waste-to-energy plants use to generate power.
- The waste is combusted to generate heat, which is converted into electricity.
- Low calorific value:
- The low calorific value of solid waste in India due to improper segregation.
- The calorific value of mixed Indian waste is about 1,500 kcal/kg, which is not suitable for power generation.
- Coal’s calorific value is around 8,000 kcal/kg.
- Biodegradable waste has high moisture content and cannot be used for power generation.
- The calorific value of segregated and dried non-recyclable dry waste is much higher, at 2,800-3,000 kcal/kg, sufficient to generate power.
- Segregation should be streamlined to ensure the waste coming to the facility has this calorific value.
- High costs of energy production:
- The cost of generating power from waste is around ₹7-8/unit.
- While the cost at which the States’ electricity boards buy power from coal, hydroelectric, and solar power plants is around ₹3-4/unit.
- Other challenges:
- Many waste-to-energy projects have failed because of improper assessments, high expectations, improper characterisation studies, and other on-ground conditions.
- The people should follow strict segregation practices and also process biodegradable waste.
- Operating waste-to-energy projects also depends on parameters like:
- the municipal collection efficiency,
- waste segregation,
- moisture content, and
- the operational efficiency of existing biodegradable-waste-processing plants.
- The municipality or the department responsible for SWM should be practical about the high cost of power generation, and include the State electricity department as a tripartite agreement between the municipality, the plant operator, and the power distribution agency.
- It is also crucial to conduct field studies and learn from the experience of other projects.
- Setting up waste-to-energy projects is complex and needs the full support of the municipality, the State and the people.
- To overcome its various challenges, the municipality must ensure that only non-biodegradable dry waste is sent to the plant and separately manage the other kinds of waste.
Topic 5: SARS-CoV-2 XBB.1.16 variant
Context: Over the past three years and multiple waves of infection, the SARS-CoV-2 virus continues to evolve by accumulating genetic variations.
What are recombinants?
- Co-infection of multiple lineages of a virus could result in recombinations between genomes which can give rise to chimeric genomes, also called recombinants.
- Most recombinations may not give rise to viable viruses.
- There is a rare possibility that recombination could result in the creation of a new lineage of the virus with better functional capabilities than either of the parent lineages.
- Several recombinant lineages of SARS-CoV-2 have emerged during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Two such recombinant lineages are currently designated as Variants Under Monitoring (VUM) by the World Health Organization:
- XBB, a recombinant of Omicron sublineages BA.2.10.1 and BA.2.75, and
- XBF, a recombinant of BA.5.2.3 and BA.2.75.3 Omicron sublineages.
What is the XBB.1.16 lineage?
- It was first detected in SARS-CoV-2 sequences from India.
- The XBB.1.16 is a recombinant lineage of the virus and is a descendent of the XBB lineage.
- The lineage has been circulating predominantly in India.
- The variant has to date been detected in at least 14 countries across the world.
Topic 6: National Programme for Dairy Development (NPDD) scheme
Context: Department of Animal Husbandry & Dairying (DAHD) is implementing National Programme for Dairy Development (NPDD) scheme across the country since 2014 and was restructured in 2021.
- The National Programme for Dairy Development (NPDD) scheme was launched in 2014.
- To provide technical and financial assistance for the dairy development and thereby creating any infrastructure related to the processing, production, marketing and procurement by providing training facilities to the farmers.
- This scheme is implemented with the view to dairying activities in a scientific and holistic manner and to integrate milk production.
- Objectives of the Scheme:
- To strengthen and create the necessary infrastructure for the production of quality milk including cold chain infrastructure that will enhance the linkage between the farmers and their consumers.
- To strengthen and create the infrastructure required for the production, procurement, marketing and processing of milk.
- To create appropriate training infrastructure and facilities for the training of dairy farmers.
- To strengthen the dairy Producer Companies/cooperative societies at the village level
- To increase the production of milk by providing the most needed technical input services.
- The scheme has two components:
- Component ‘A’:
- focuses towards creating/strengthening of infrastructure for quality milk testing equipment as well as primary chilling facilities.
- Component ‘B’:
- provides financial assistance from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
- It is an externally aided project, envisaged to be implemented during the period from 2021-22 to 2025-26 on pilot basis in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar
- Aims to create necessary dairy infrastructure for the purpose of providing market linkages for the produce in villages and enhancing the capacity of producer owned institutions.
Topic 7: Rajasthan Right to Health Bill (updated from 23rd January 2023)
Context: Rajasthan becomes first State to pass Right to Health Bill.
What is Right to Health?
- Article 21 of the Constitution protects and upholds the right to life and liberty.
- Courts have often taken a progressive stance in expanding the scope of the right to life to include the right to health.
- In State of Punjab and Ors versus Mohinder Singh Chawla (1996), the Supreme Court proclaimed the right to life the right to health, and also pointed out the obligations of the government to provide health services.
- Courts have also taken recourse to the Directive Principles of State Policy to highlight the State’s obligations in promoting and protecting the health of its citizens, particularly through Articles 38, 41, 42 and 47 of the Constitution.
- Constitutional Mandate:
- Falling under Item 6 of the state list in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, the state governments have the duty to ensure the promotion of public health and provision of medical services.
- The Bill provides for free and affordable health check-ups, and surgery in both private and public hospitals.
- It makes it a matter of right for the residents to avail free services as laid down in various insurance schemes.
- The state is becoming a model state in the field of health and 7% of the budget is being spent on the health sector.
- Right to medical information in medical establishments:
- It gives the residents the right to seek information regarding the diagnosis and treatment.
- At the same time, the Bill makes all such information confidential in nature.
- The Bill has also provided rights for health care providers such as:
- exemption from liability in bona fide acts,
- a safe working environment, and
- access to protective gears.
- Governmental obligations:
- The government would be obligated to provide funds, set up institutions, and set up grievance redressal systems.
- The government has the responsibility to coordinate among different departments and offices for adequate and safe drinking water and sanitation.
- The Bill has set out the constitution of a state health authority and district health authorities to carry out functions such as formulating plans, assessing preparedness and developing systems for clinical, medical and social audits.
- Bar on jurisdiction of civil courts
- It disallows any civil court to have jurisdiction in matters where the appellate authority has the power to decide matters.
- It also disallows the seeking of an injunction from any court against the actions carried out under the bill.
- This appears to be an arbitrary restriction on the right to go to court.
- What will be covered?
- The Right to Health encompasses a range of provisions, including the provision of healthcare during an epidemic and compensation for damages caused by biological weapons or natural biological events.
- It also includes access to various medical and healthcare services, such as emergency medical treatment, nursing, rehabilitation, and research.
- The right applies to all government and private healthcare institutions and service providers, and costs, benefits, and risks associated with treatment are included.
- Private providers must provide emergency treatment without advance payment, and medical treatment cannot be delayed due to medico-legal issues.
- Patients also have the right to privacy and dignity during treatment, and women must be present during the physical examination of female patients.
- A grievance redressal system will be developed, with a complaint portal and response within 24 hours.
What facilities will people get?
- Free treatment for patients at public health institutions, and emergency treatment is available without upfront payment at private healthcare providers.
- Patients have the right to choose alternative treatment methods and access to their medical records.
- Consent must be obtained before surgery or chemotherapy procedures, and confidentiality, dignity, and privacy must be respected during treatment.
- People get the right to get information about the rate and tax of every type of service and facility and during the treatment.
- The sources of taking medicine and investigation can be selected.
- Guaranteed Services cannot be denied in any direct or indirect manner and coordination will be done between government departments for providing adequate and safe food for nutrition along with the provision of safe drinking water and hygiene.
Grievance redressal system
- Within six months of the Act’s commencement, the government will establish a system for addressing complaints.
- The system will include a web portal and help centre that will promptly forward complaints to the appropriate officer or observer within 24 hours.
- The concerned officer will then respond to the complainant within 24 hours.
- If the officer fails to resolve the complaint within 24 hours, it will be immediately forwarded to the District Health Authority.
- The Authority will take appropriate action within 30 days of receiving the complaint and upload a report on the web portal, informing the complainant of the outcome.
- If the District Health Authority fails to resolve the complaint within 30 days, it will be forwarded to the State Health Authority
- There is the ambiguity around who will pay for the mandatory free-of-cost emergency treatment.
- It is argued that the bill abdicates the State’s responsibility in providing health protection and puts a larger patient load on the private sector.
- After protests, the government has agreed to create a fund to reimburse any emergency care offered by the private sector.
- There is no representation of local residents or healthcare workers in the State and district authorities proposed by the Bill.
- There is no clarity as to who will form these authorities and the power that will be delegated to them.
- There is a lack of a legal recourse if a patient’s family wants to approach the court about a medical procedure or treatment.
- There’s no mention of a designated timeframe within which the rules must be framed.
Topic 8: Mir Jafar
Context: A Congress leader was called the “present-day Mir Jafar” who sought help from abroad to fight political battles in India, by a ruling party spokesperson.
Who was Mir Jafar?
- Sayyid Mir Jafar Ali Khan Bahadur (1691–1765) was a commander-in-chief of the Bengali army under Siraj ud-Daulah.
- He reigned as the first dependent Nawab of Bengal of the British East India Company.
- Mir Jafar betrayed Siraj ud-Daulah during the Battle of Plassey and ascended to the throne after the British victory in 1757.
- Mir Jafar received military support from the East India Company until 1760, when he failed to satisfy various British demands.
- Jafar’s dispute with the British eventually led to the Battle of Chinsurah.
- In October 1760, the company forced him to abdicate in favor of Mir Qasim, Jafar’s son-in-law.
- However Jafar was restored as the Nawab in 1763 with the support of the company.
- Jafar ruled until his death on 5 February 1765 and was buried at the Jafarganj Cemetery in Murshidabad, West Bengal.
Topic 9: INS Androth
Context: Anti-submarine warship INS Androth launched.
- The INS Androth is the second in a series of eight Anti-Submarine Warfare Shallow Water Craft.
- It was built by Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers.
- It is propelled by three diesel-driven water jets.
- These ships can attain a maximum speed of 25 knots.
- Their primary role is to:
- conduct anti-submarine operations in coastal waters,
- low intensity maritime operations and
- mine laying operations.
- These ships are also capable of full-scale sub surface surveillance of coastal waters and various surface platforms.