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Current Affairs 9 December 2020 for UPSC Exam

Contents

  1. Tharu tribals and Tourism
  2. ‘Havana Syndrome’ explained
  3. NGT on strengthening elephant corridors
  4. Eluru mystery illness
  5. Effect of ‘Make in India’ on life-saving medicines

THARU TRIBALS AND TOURISM

Focus: GS-I Indian Society

Why in news?

  • The Uttar Pradesh government has recently embarked upon a scheme to take the unique culture of its ethnic Tharu tribe across the world.
  • The intention is to put Tharu villages on the tourism map, and to create jobs and bring economic independence to the tribal population.

More about the U.P. Govt. Scheme for Tharu Tribes

  • The state government is working to connect Tharu villages in the districts of Balrampur, Bahraich, Lakhimpur and Pilibhit bordering Nepal, with the home stay scheme of the U.P. Forest Department.
  • The idea is to offer tourists an experience of living in the natural Tharu habitat, in traditional huts made of grass collected mainly from the forests.
  • The Uttar Pradesh Forest Corporation will train the Tharu people to communicate effectively with visitors, and encourage villagers to acquaint them with aspects of safety and cleanliness, and with the rules of the forest.
  • Tharu homeowners will be able to charge tourists directly for the accommodation and home-cooked meals.
  • The UP government expects both domestic and international tourists to avail of the opportunity to obtain a taste of the special Tharu culture by staying with them, observing their lifestyle, food habits, and attire.

Who are Tharu people?

  • The Tharu (“Tharu” is believed to be derived from sthavir, meaning followers of Theravada Buddhism) community belongs to the Terai lowlands, amid the Shivaliks or lower Himalayas.
  • Most of them are forest dwellers, and some practice agriculture, living in both India and Nepal.
  • In the Indian terai, they live mostly in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, and Bihar.
  • According to the 2011 census, the Scheduled Tribe population in Uttar Pradesh was more than 11 lakh; this number is estimated to have crossed 20 lakh now.
  • Members of the tribe survive on wheat, corn and vegetables grown close to their homes.

More about the Tharu language and culture

  • They speak various dialects of Tharu, a language of the Indo-Aryan subgroup, and variants of Hindi, Urdu, and Awadhi.
  • In central Nepal, they speak a variant of Bhojpuri, while in eastern Nepal, they speak a variant of Maithili.
  • Tharus worship Lord Shiva as Mahadev, and call their supreme being “Narayan”, who they believe is the provider of sunshine, rain, and harvests.
  • Tharu women have stronger property rights than is allowed to women in mainstream North Indian Hindu custom.

Background: Scheduled Tribe

  • Scheduled Tribes are referred in Article 366 as those communities, who are scheduled in accordance with Article 342 of the Constitution.
  • According to Article 342 – Only those communities who have been declared as such by the President through an initial public notification or through a subsequent amending Act of Parliament will be considered to be Scheduled Tribes.
  • The Constitution does not mention about the criteria for specification of a community as a Scheduled Tribe.
  • But, commonly Primitiveness, geographical isolation, shyness and social, educational & economic backwardness are the traits that distinguish Scheduled Tribe communities from other communities.

-Source: Indian Express


‘HAVANA SYNDROME’ EXPLAINED

Focus: GS-III Science and Technology

Why in news?

Nearly four years after a mysterious neurological illness, referred to as “Havana syndrome”, started to afflict American diplomats and intelligence operatives in Cuba, China, and other countries, a report by the National Academies of Sciences (NAS) has found “directed” microwave radiation to be its “plausible” cause.

Introduction to the Study and Havana Syndrome

  • The study by National Academies of Sciences (NAS) in the U.S. was commissioned to investigate regarding the “hearing of strange sounds and experiencing of odd physical sensations” by U.S. diplomats and other officers stationed in Havana (capital of Cuba) in 2016.
  • The symptoms included nausea, severe headaches, fatigue, dizziness, sleep problems, and hearing loss, which have since come to be known as the Havana Syndrome.

Highlights of the report

  • The NAS report examined four possibilities to explain the symptoms viz. infection, chemicals, psychological factors and microwave energy.
  • Directed pulsed microwave radiation energy appears to be the most plausible mechanism in explaining the cases of Havana syndrome among those that the committee considered.
  • By calling it “directed” and “pulsed” energy, the report leaves no room for confusion that the victims’ exposure was targeted and not due to common sources of microwave energy.
  • It warns about the possibility of future episodes and recommends establishing a response mechanism for similar incidents, adding that future incidents might be more dispersed in time and place, and even more difficult to recognise quickly.
  • It also does not mention the source and if the energy was delivered intentionally, even though it conducted significant research on microwave weapons.

Microwave Weapons

  • Microwave Weapons are supposed to be a type of direct energy weapons, which aim highly focused energy in the form of sonic, laser, or microwaves, at a target.
  • The high-frequency electromagnetic radiations heat the water in the human body and cause discomfort and pain.
  • This process is similar to that which takes place in a microwave oven – In the oven the microwaves agitate the water molecules in the food, and their vibration produces heat that cooks the food.
  • A number of countries are thought to have developed these weapons to target both humans and electronic systems.
  • China had first put on display its microwave weapon, called Poly WB-1, at an air show in 2014.
  • The USA has also developed a prototype microwave-style weapon, which it calls the “Active Denial System”, which is the first non-lethal, directed-energy, counter-personnel system with an extended range greater than currently fielded non-lethal weapons.

-Source: Indian Express


NGT ON STRENGTHENING ELEPHANT CORRIDORS

Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology

Why in news?

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Odisha government to prepare an action plan on 14 identified elephant corridors for providing stress-free migration to jumbos from one habitation to another in the State.

Details

  • The Odisha State government had proposed 14 corridors, however, despite the passing of several years, no tangible progress had been made on government’s proposal.
  • NGT’s intervention for necessary legal action against encroachers and those violating the Provisions of the Forest Conservation Act 1980 and the Indian Forest Act 1927in the proposed corridors, was sought by an NGO.

Steps Taken by the NGT

  • The government was urged to remove the unauthorised buildings from the reserve forest land in Dhenkanal district, which sees acute human-elephant conflict, and make the forestland free from encroachment.
  • The NGT had issued a prohibition order directing that all such activities which are not permissible to be carried out in such a highly eco sensitive zone (ESZ), should not be undertaken.
  • NGT directed authorities to expedite demarcation of the corridors and the process for formal notification within a specific time frame in 2017.

Human-Elephant Conflicts

  • Elephant-human conflict is a result of habitat loss and fragmentation.
  • When elephants and humans interact, there is conflict from crop raiding, injuries and deaths to humans caused by elephants, and elephants being killed by humans for reasons other than ivory and habitat degradation.
  • Such encounters foster resentment against the elephants amongst the human population and this can result in elephants being viewed as a nuisance and killed.
  • In addition to the direct conflicts between humans and elephants, elephants also suffer indirect costs like degradation of habitat and loss of food plants.

What is Man-animal conflict?

  • Man-animal conflict refers to the interaction between wild animals and humans which results in a negative impact on people, animals, resources, and habitats.
  • It occurs when growing human populations overlap with established wildlife territory which creates competition for space and resources.
  • Conflicts between the man and animal have occurred since the dawn of humanity. However, it has come to light ever more frequently in recent times.

Causes of Man-animal conflict

  • In modern times rapid urbanization and industrialisation have led to the diversion of forest land to non-forest purposes, as a result, the wildlife habitat is shrinking.
  • The expansion of road and rail network through forest ranges has resulted in animals getting killed or injured in accidents on roads or railway tracks.
  • The increasing population has also led to many human settlements coming up near the peripheries of protected areas and encroachment in the forest lands by local people for cultivation and collection of food and fodder etc. therefore increasing pressure on limited natural resources in the forests.

Way Forwards to prevent Man – Animal Conflicts

  • Surveillance- Increased vigilance and protection of identified locations using hi-tech surveillance tools like sensors can help in tracking the movement of animals and warn the local population.
  • Improvement of habitat- In-situ and ex-situ habitat conservation measures will help in securing animals their survival.
  • Re-locating of animal habitats away from residential and commercial centres will serve to minimize animal-man conflict for illegal and self-interested motives
  • Awareness Programmes- To create awareness among people and sensitize them about the Do’s and Don’ts in the forest areas to minimize the conflicts between man and animal.
  • Training programs- Training to the police offices and local people should be provided for this purpose forest department should frame guidelines.
  • Boundary walls- The construction of boundary walls and solar fences around the sensitive areas to prevent the wild animal attacks.
  • Technical and financial support- For the development of necessary infrastructure and support facilities for immobilization of problematic animals through tranquilization, their translocation.
  • Part of CSR- Safeguarding Tiger corridors, building eco-bridges and such conservation measures can be part of corporate social responsibility.

-Source: The Hindu


ELURU MYSTERY ILLNESS

Focus: GS-III Science and Technology

Why in news?

  • At least 550 people have fallen sick in Eluru town of Andhra Pradesh had fallen sick following an undiagnosed illness.
  • Officials of the other teams which collected from the patients in Eluru found the presence of nickel and lead elements in the blood samples.
  • More investigations should be done to find out the reasons for the situation.
  • Doctors treating the patients said all the victims were admitted with similar complaints and are suffering with common symptoms.
  • If the density of the toxins were high, it would have affected the neurological system.

Heavy metals contaminating Indian rivers

  • A Central Water Commission (CWC) report on heavy metals contaminating Indian rivers shows that samples from two-thirds of the water quality stations spanning India’s major rivers are contaminated by one or more heavy metals, exceeding safe limits set by the Bureau of Indian Standards.
  • Arsenic and zinc are the two toxic metals whose concentration is always found within the limits.
  • Other major contaminants found in the samples were lead, nickel, chromium, cadmium and copper.
  • The main sources of heavy metal pollution are mining, milling, plating and surface finishing industries that discharge a variety of toxic metals into the environment.
  • The presence of metals in drinking water to some extent is unavoidable and certain metals, in trace amounts, are required for good health.
  • However, when present above safe limits, they are associated with a range of disorders.

Lead poisoning

  • Lead poisoning is a type of metal poisoning caused by lead in the body.
  • Symptoms may include abdominal pain, constipation, headaches, irritability, memory problems, inability to have children, and tingling in the hands and feet.
  • It causes almost 10% of intellectual disability of otherwise unknown cause and can result in behavioral problems.
  • Exposure to lead can occur by contaminated air, water, dust, food, or consumer products.
  • Children are at greater risk as they are more likely to put objects in their mouth such as those that contain lead paint and absorb a greater proportion of the lead that they eat.

-Source: The Hindu


EFFECT OF ‘MAKE IN INDIA’ ON LIFE-SAVING MEDICINES

Focus: GS-II Indian Economy

Why in news?

The Ministry of Railways has written to the Department for Promotion of Industry & Internal Trade, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, seeking exemption for procuring certain medical items manufactured outside India, particularly medicines used in the treatment of COVID-19, cancer, etc.

Background

  • The issue was first flagged in August 2020 by Northern Railway, which formally wrote to the Railway Board, expressing difficulty in procuring drugs and surgical items in the light of the latest ‘Make in India’ policy.
  • It said that certain drugs used in cancer treatment were manufactured outside India but available in the Indian market through agents or dealers.
  • Besides a surgical implant, the letter said that suppliers of anti-viral medicines used for the treatment of COVID-19, and even the vaccine for the coronavirus, may not fall under the Class-I or Class-II categories, which is required for purchases under the new ‘Make in India’ guidelines.

Class-I or Class-II according to DPIIT

  • Going by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade’s (DPIIT) norms, Class-I is a local supplier or service provider whose goods, services or works offered for procurement have local content equal to or more than 50%.
  • Class-II is a supplier or service provider whose goods, services or works offered for procurement have local content of more than 20% but less than 50%.
  • Only these two categories of suppliers shall be eligible to bid in the procurement of all goods, services or works and with estimated value of purchases of less than ₹200 crore.

Make in India

  • It is not a scheme rather an initiative which was launched on September, 2014 with the objective of facilitating investment, fostering innovation, building best class manufacturing infrastructure, making it easy to do business and enhancing skill development.
  • The initiative is further aimed at creating a conducive environment for investment, modern and efficient infrastructure, opening up new sectors for foreign investment and forging a partnership between government and industry through positive mindset.

Make in India 2.0

  • Make in India initiative has made significant achievements and presently focuses on 27 sectors under Make in India 2.0.
  • The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) is coordinating action plans for 15 manufacturing sectors
  • Department of Commerce is coordinating action plans for 12 service sectors.
  • At the same time, investment promotion and facilitation activities under the Make in India initiative are being undertaken by several Central Government Ministries/ Departments and various State Governments from time to time.

-Source: The Hindu

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