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Current Affairs 07 October 2022

CONTENTS

  1. Nobel Prize 2022 in Medicine/ Physiology
  2. Graded Response Action Plan
  3. 70 million plunged into poverty in 2020: World Bank 
  4. SASTRA Ramanujan Prize 2022

Nobel Prize 2022 in Medicine/ Physiology


Context:

Recently, the 2022 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to Swedish geneticist Svante Pääbo for his research in the field of genomes of extinct hominins and human evolution.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Highlights of Svante Paabo’s Research
  2. Relation between evolution and biology
  3. Challenges in carrying out such research

Key Highlights of Svante Paabo’s Research

  • This year, the focus of the committee seems to have been on human evolution and the role that it has played in shaping our health and biological systems over time.
  • Svante Pääbo’s “seminal” discoveries “provide the basis for exploring what makes us uniquely human.
  • Hominins refer to the now-extinct species of apes that are believed to be related to modern humans, as well as modern humans themselves.
  • He also found that gene transfer had occurred from these now extinct hominins to Homo sapiens following the migration out of Africa around 70,000 years ago.
  • This ancient flow of genes to present-day humans has physiological relevance today, for example affecting how our immune system reacts to infections.

Relation between evolution and biology

  • Svante Pääbo established an entirely new scientific discipline, called paleogenomics, that focuses on studying the DNA and genetic information of extinct hominins through reconstruction,
  • His discoveries have established a unique resource, which is utilized extensively by the scientific community to better understand human evolution and migration.
Example:
  • When Pääbo extracted DNA from bone specimens from extinct hominins, from Neanderthal remains in the Denisova caves of Germany.
  • The bone contained exceptionally well-preserved DNA, which his team sequenced.
  • It was found that this DNA sequence was unique when compared to all known sequences from Neanderthals and present-day humans.
  • Pääbo had discovered a previously unknown hominin, which was then given the name Denisova.
Neanderthals
  • Neanderthals, the closest relatives of the present-day human species, lived in Europe and West Asia – as far as southern Siberia and the Middle East – before they disappeared around 30,000 years ago.
Denisova
  • Comparisons with sequences from contemporary humans from different parts of the world showed that gene flow, or mixing of genetic information among a species, had also occurred between Denisova and Homo sapiens – the species of modern-day humans.
  • This relationship was first seen in populations in Melanesia (near Australia) and other parts of South East Asia, where individuals carry up to 6% Denisova DNA.
  • The Denisovan version of the gene EPAS1 confers an advantage for survival at high altitudes and is common among present-day Tibetans.

Challenges in carrying out such research

  • There are “extreme technical challenges because with time DNA becomes chemically modified and degrades into short fragments”.
  • The main issue is that only trace amounts of DNA are left after thousands of years, and exposure to the natural environment leads to contamination with DNA from bacteria and contemporary humans, making research complex.
    • Pääbo started to develop methods to study DNA from Neanderthals and continued doing so for several decades.

-Source: Indian Express


Graded Response Action Plan


Context:

The Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM) said that measures under ‘Stage-1’ of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) will be enforced in the NCR with immediate effect.

  • The order came after Delhi’s AQI deteriorated to be in the ‘poor’ category . Other parts of the NCR, including Gurgaon, Noida and Greater Noida, also recorded ‘poor’ air quality.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the Graded Response Action Plan?
  2. How is the GRAP different this year?
  3. Who will implement and enforce the GRAP?
  4. What are the measures that will be enforced?

What is the Graded Response Action Plan?

  • GRAP is a set of emergency measures that kick in to prevent further deterioration of air quality once it reaches a certain threshold.
    • Stage 1 of GRAP is activated when the AQI is in the ‘poor’ category (201 to 300), for instance, the AQI in Delhi was 211.
    • The second, third and fourth stages will be activated three days ahead of the AQI reaching the ‘very poor’ category (301 to 400), ‘severe’ category (401 to 450) and ‘severe +’ category (above 450) respectively.
  • For this, the CAQM is relying on air quality and meteorological forecasts by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) and the India Meteorological Department (IMD).
  • Measures being imposed under the previous categories will continue even when the subsequent category is activated, that is, if measures under Stage-2 are activated, measures under Stage-1 will continue to remain in place.
Other Details:
  • The CAQM revised the Graded Response Action Plan earlier this year.
  • The GRAP was first notified in January 2017 by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
  • This was based on a plan that was submitted by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in November 2016. According to the notification, the task of implementing the GRAP fell on the now dissolved Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority for the NCR.
  • From 2021 onwards, the GRAP is being implemented by the CAQM.

How is the GRAP different this year?

  • In the version of the GRAP that was notified in 2017, measures kicked in after pollution concentrations reached a certain level.
    • This year, measures are pre-emptive and will kick in based on forecasts in an attempt to prevent the AQI from deteriorating further.
  • The older version of the GRAP was enforced based only on the concentration of PM2.5 and PM10.
    • This year, GRAP is being enforced based on the AQI, which takes other pollutants also into account, such as ozone, sulphur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen.

Who will implement and enforce the GRAP?

  • The CAQM has constituted a sub-committee for the operationalization of the GRAP.
  • This body includes officials from the CAQM, member secretaries of pollution control boards of Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, the Central Pollution Control Board, a scientist from the IMD and one from the IITM, and Health Advisor, Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, Maulana Azad Medical College. The sub-committee is required to meet frequently to issue orders to invoke the GRAP.
  • The orders and directions of the CAQM will prevail in case of any conflict between directions issued by the State governments and the CAQM.
  • Measures under the different categories of the plan are to be enforced by the pollution control boards of the NCR states and the concerned departments and agencies, including the traffic police, the Transport Department and road owning and construction agencies.

What are the measures that will be enforced?

Stage 1 (AQI ‘Poor’ – 201 to 300)

  • Stopping all construction and demolition activities with plot size of 500 square metres or more which have not been registered on dust mitigation monitoring portals
  • Mechanised sweeping, water sprinkling on roads
  • Enforcing guidelines on use of anti-smog guns at construction sites
  • Enforcing ban on open burning of waste and PUC (pollution under control norms) for vehicles
  • DISCOMs to minimise power supply interruptions in NCR
  • Encourage offices to start unified commute for employees to reduce traffic

Stage 2 (AQI ‘Very poor’ – 301 to 400)

  • Not allowing coal/firewood in tandoors at hotels
  • Stopping use of diesel generator sets except for essential and emergency services (hospitals, railways, metro services, airports, water pumping stations, “projects of national importance”)
  • Enhance parking fees to discourage private transport
  • Augment CNG/ electric bus and metro services by procuring additional fleet and increasing the frequency of service

Stage 3 (AQI ‘Severe’ – 401 to 450)

  • Ban on construction and demolition activities except railway, metro, hospitals, sanitation projects etc, linear public projects like highways, roads, flyovers
  • Closure of industries that have PNG supply and are not running on approved fuels. In industrial areas that don’t have PNG supply, industries not running on approved fuels will operate only for five days a week
  • State governments in NCR may impose restrictions on BS III petrol and BS IV diesel four wheelers

Stage 4 (AQI ‘Severe +’ – more than 450)

  • Stop entry of truck traffic into Delhi (except for essentials, CNG and electric trucks)
  • Ban on plying of Delhi registered diesel medium and heavy goods vehicles in Delhi, except for essentials
  • Ban on plying of 4-wheeler diesel vehicles in Delhi and districts of NCR bordering Delhi, except BS-VI vehicles and vehicles used for essential or emergency services
  • State Governments may consider additional emergency measures like closure of schools, plying of vehicles on odd-even basis
  • NCR State governments to decide on allowing public, municipal and private offices to work on 50% strength and the rest to work from home
  • Ban C&D activities in linear public projects such as highways, roads, flyovers

-Source: Indian Express


70 Million Plunged Into Poverty in 2020: World Bank 


Context:

According to a new World Bank report, titled “Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2022: Correcting Course”, the Covid pandemic has been the biggest setback to global poverty alleviation in decades.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Highlights of the report
  2. What about India’s poverty levels?
  3. What are the suggested solutions?

Highlights of the report

  • The report states that global poverty reduction has been slowing down since 2015 but the Covid pandemic and the war in Ukraine have completely reversed the outcomes.
  • By 2015, the global extreme-poverty rate had been cut by more than half. Since then, poverty reduction has slowed in tandem with subdued global economic growth.
  • As such, the global goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030 would not be achieved.
  • In 2020 alone, the number of people living below the extreme poverty line rose by over 70 million; the largest one-year increase since global poverty monitoring began in 1990.
  • As a result, an estimated 719 million people subsisted on less than $2.15 a day by the end of 2020.
  • Inequalities, too, have risen. The poorest people bore the steepest costs of the pandemic: income losses averaged 4 per cent for the poorest 40 per cent, double the losses of the wealthiest 20 per cent of the income distribution.
  • Global inequality rose, as a result, for the first time in decades.
  • Global median income declined by 4 per cent in 2020—the first decline since measurements of median income began in 1990.

What about India’s poverty levels?

  • Poverty has gone up in India too.
  • Previous estimates suggested a poverty headcount rate at the US$1.90 poverty line of 10.4 percent in 2017.
  • The latest estimate based on Sinha Roy and van der Weide (2022) shows that poverty at the US$1.90 poverty line was 13.6 percent in 2017.
    • However, the report uses data from Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), because there are no official estimates of poverty available since 2011.
  • It could not have left India out of the poverty estimates simply because India is one of the countries with the biggest poor population.
  • It states that given the country’s size and importance for global and regional poverty estimates, the CMIE data helps fill an important gap.

What are the suggested solutions?

  • Fiscal policy—prudently used and considering the initial country conditions in terms of fiscal space—does offer opportunities for policy makers in developing economies to step up the fight against poverty and inequality.
  • The World Bank has three specific suggestions when it comes to fiscal policy.
    • Choose targeted cash transfers instead of broad subsidies.
    • Prioritize public spending for long-term growth.
    • Mobilize tax revenues without hurting the poor.
  • To be sure, the average poverty rate in developing economies would have been 2.4 percentage points higher without a fiscal response.
  • Yet government spending proved far more beneficial to poverty reduction in the wealthiest countries, which generally managed to fully offset Covid-19’s impact on poverty through fiscal policy and other emergency support measures.
    • Developing economies had fewer resources and therefore spent less and achieved less: upper-middle-income economies offset just 50 per cent of the poverty impact, and low- and lower-middle income economies offset barely a quarter of the impact.

-Source: Indian Express


SASTRA Ramanujan Prize 2022


Context:

The SASTRA Ramanujan Prize for 2022 will be awarded to Yunqing Tang, Assistant Professor with the University of California, Berkeley, U.S.A.

Relevance:

Facts for Prelims

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About SASTRA
  2. About Srinivasa Ramanujan Ji
  3. National Mathematics Day

About SASTRA

  • The award was instituted by the Shanmugha Arts, Science, Technology & Research Academy (SASTRA) in 2005.
  • A cash prize of USD 10,000 is presented annually to individuals aged 32 and below, who made outstanding contributions in the field of mathematics, influenced by Srinivasa Ramanujan in a broad sense.
  • Ms. Yunqing’s works display a remarkable combination of sophisticated techniques, in which the arithmetic and geometry of modular curves and of Shimura varieties play a central role, and her results and methods are bound to have major impact on future research in this area.

About Srinivasa Ramanujan Ji

  • Born on December 22nd,1887 in Erode, Tamilnadu, the day is celebrated in his memory as the National Day of Mathematics.
  • Famous British mathematician Godfrey Harold Hardy acknowledged his talent in 1913 and invited Ramanujan to Cambridge.
  • Ramanujan made significant contributions and worked on elliptical functions to analytic number theories.
  • He worked on the whole number division, hypergeometric series and the constant of Euler as well.
  • He published his papers in English and European journals and was elected to the Royal Society of London in 1918.
  • Ramanujan compiled around 3,900 results consisting of equations and identities. One of his most treasured findings was his infinite series for Pi.
  • He discovered his theory of divergent series, worked out the Riemann series, the elliptic integrals, hypergeometric series, and the functional equations of the zeta function.
  • 1729 or the Ramanujan-Hardy number or the Taxicab number is unique in itself as it is the smallest no. 
  • He died after a long illness on 26 April 1920, in India.

National Mathematics Day

  • In 2012, then prime minister Manmohan Singh declared 22 December as National Mathematics Day.
  • National Mathematics Day is celebrated every year on December 22, honoring the birth anniversary of mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan. 
  • The main objective behind celebrating the day is to raise awareness among people about the importance of mathematics for the development of humanity.
  • National Mathematics Day is celebrated in various schools, colleges, universities, and educational institutions in India. Even the International Society UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) and India had agreed to work together to spread mathematics learning and understanding. Along with this, various steps were taken to educate the students in mathematics and spread knowledge to the students and learners all over the world.

-Source: The Hindu


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