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Current Affairs 18 January 2023

CONTENTS

  1. Anti-Microbial Resistance
  2. Jallikattu
  3. ISRO’s Venus Mission
  4. Old Pension Scheme vs National Pension Scheme
  5. PARAKH

Anti-Microbial Resistance


Context:

Recently, a strand of antimicrobial-resistant gonorrhea outbreak has hit Kenya.

Relevance:

GS-III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)?
  2. What is Gonorrhea?
  3. Concerns regarding Antimicrobial resistance (AMR)
  4. Way forward

What is Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)?

  • Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is the ability of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites to remain unaffected or survive antimicrobial drugs such as antibiotics, antivirals and antimalarials.
  • AMR occurs when microorganisms exposed to antimicrobial drugs develop antimicrobial resistance resulting in standard treatments becoming ineffective leading to persistence of infections and spreading of infections.
  • Microorganisms that develop antimicrobial resistance are sometimes referred to as “superbugs”.
  • The misuse of antimicrobials in medicine and inappropriate use in agriculture is one of the major causes of spread of Antimicrobial Resistance.
  • Contamination around pharmaceutical manufacturing sites where untreated waste releases large amounts of active antimicrobials into the environment also leads to spread of AMR.

What is Gonorrhea?

  • Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae.
  • It can affect both men and women in the genitals, rectum, and throat.
  • If left untreated, it can lead to serious health complications such as infertility and an increased chance of contracting HIV.
  • It is the second most common sexually transmitted disease worldwide. Gonorrhea is usually treated with antibiotics, however, the bacteria have developed resistance to many of the drugs that were once effective.
Basis of Antimicrobial Resistance
  • Some bacteria due to the presence of resistance genes are intrinsically resistant and therefore survive on being exposed to antibiotics.
  • Bacteria can also acquire resistance by sharing and transferring resistance genes present in the rest of the population, or by genetic mutations that help the bacteria survive antibiotic exposure.

Multi drug resistance

  • Multiple drug resistance (MDR), multidrug resistance or multi-resistance is antimicrobial resistance shown by a species of microorganism to multiple antimicrobial drugs.
  • The types most threatening to public health are MDR bacteria that resist multiple antibiotics; other types include MDR viruses, parasites (resistant to multiple antifungals, antiviral, and antiparasitic drugs of a wide chemical variety).
  • Recognizing different degrees of MDR, the terms extensively drug resistant (XDR) and pandrug-resistant (PDR) have been introduced.

Concerns regarding Antimicrobial resistance (AMR)

  • Medical procedures such as organ transplantation, cancer chemotherapy, diabetes management and major surgery (for example, caesarean sections or hip replacements) become very risky due to AMR.
  • AMR increases the cost of healthcare with lengthier stays in hospitals, additional tests and use of more expensive drugs.
  • No new classes of antibiotics have made it to the market in the last three decades, largely on account of inadequate incentives for their development and production.
  • Without urgent action, we are heading towards a future without antibiotics and with bacteria becoming completely resistant to treatment and when common infections and minor injuries could once again kill (referred to as antibiotic apocalypse).
  • It is putting the gains of the Millennium Development Goals at risk and endangers achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Concerns regarding AMR in India
  • India, with its combination of large population, rising incomes that facilitate purchase of antibiotics, high burden of infectious diseases and easy over-the-counter access to antibiotics, is an important locus for the generation of resistance genes.
  • The multi-drug resistance determinant, New Delhi Metallo-beta-lactamase-1 (NDM-1), emerged from this region to spread globally – Africa, Europe and other parts of Asia have also been affected by multi-drug resistant typhoid originating from South Asia.
  • In India, over 56,000 newborn deaths each year due to sepsis are caused by organisms that are resistant to first line antibiotics.

Way forward

  •  The use of antibiotics unrelated to treating human disease, such as in food and animal production, must be “optimised”.
  • Greater action need to be taken to monitor and control infections, globally, nationally and within individual hospitals.
  • Access to vaccines, clean water and sanitation ought to be expanded.
  • And finally should be “more thoughtful” about our use of antimicrobial treatments —expanding access to lifesaving antibiotics where needed, minimising use where they are not necessary to improve human health and acting according to WHO’s recommendations on the same.
  • Increasing funding for developing new antimicrobials and targeting priority pathogens such as K. pneumoniae and E. Coli and ensuring that they are affordable and accessible to most of the world.

-Source: The Hindu


Jallikattu


Context:

Jallikattu, an event involving bulls conducted in many parts of Tamil Nadu, does not actually conserve the native breeds, contrary to the claim made by its proponents, says the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO). 

Relevance:

GS I: Art and Culture

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Jallikattu?
  2. Why is Jallikattu important in Tamil culture?
  3. Why has Jallikattu been the subject of legal battles?
  4. So, is it legal or banned now?

What is Jallikattu?

  • The bull-taming sport is popular in Madurai, Tiruchirappalli, Theni, Pudukkottai and Dindigul districts — known as the Jallikattu belt.
  • Jallikattu is celebrated in the second week of January, during the Tamil harvest festival, Pongal.
  • A tradition over 2,000 years old, Jallikattu is a competitive sport as well as an event to honour bull owners who rear them for mating.
  • It is a violent sport in which contestants try to tame a bull for a prize; if they fail, the bull owner wins the prize.
  • In an age when the farm sector is largely mechanised, there are no major monetary benefits for bull owners in breeding Jallikattu bulls other than the prizes they get during the Jallikattu events.
    • Traditionally, these used to be a dhoti, a towel, betel leaves, bananas and a cash prize of Rs 101.
    • Over the last two decades, the prizes have included grinders, a fridge and small furniture.

Why is Jallikattu important in Tamil culture?

  • Jallikattu is considered a traditional way for the peasant community to preserve their pure-breed native bulls.
  • At a time when cattle breeding is often an artificial process, conservationists and peasants argue that Jallikattu is a way to protect these male animals which are otherwise used only for meat if not for ploughing.
  • Kangayam, Pulikulam, Umbalachery, Barugur and Malai Maadu are among the popular native cattle breeds used for Jallikattu.
  • The owners of these premium breeds command respect locally.

Why has Jallikattu been the subject of legal battles?

  • In India, legal battles surrounding animal rights issues emerged in the early 1990s.
  • A notification from the Environment Ministry in 1991 banned the training and exhibition of bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers and dogs, which was challenged by the Indian Circus Organisation in the Delhi High Court.
    • In 1998, dogs were excluded from the notification.
  • Jallikattu first came under legal scrutiny in 2007 when the Animal Welfare Board of India and the animal rights group PETA moved petitions in the Supreme Court against Jallikattu as well as bullock cart races.
  • The Tamil Nadu government, however, worked its way out of the ban by passing a law in 2009, which was signed by the Governor.
  • In 2011, the UPA regime at the Centre added bulls to the list of animals whose training and exhibition is prohibited.
  • In May 2014, days before the BJP was elected to power, the Supreme Court banned the bull-taming sport, ruling on a petition that cited the 2011 notification.

So, is it legal or banned now?

  • That is the subject of a case pending in the Supreme Court. The state government has legalised these events, which has been challenged in the court.
  • In January 2017, months after the death of Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, massive protests erupted across Tamil Nadu against the ban, with Chennai city witnessing a 15-day-long Jallikattu uprising.
  • The same year, the Tamil Nadu government released an ordinance amending the central Act and allowing Jallikattu in the state; this was later ratified by the President.
  • PETA challenged the state move, arguing it was unconstitutional.
  • In 2018, the Supreme Court referred the Jallikattu case to a Constitution Bench, where it is pending now.
  • The main question to be resolved is whether the Jallikattu tradition can be protected as a cultural right of the people of Tamil Nadu which is a fundamental right.
    • Article 29 (1) mandates that “any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same”.
  • Like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka too passed a law to save a similar sport, called Kambala. A similar attempt by Maharashtra, too, was challenged in court, before it was passed as a law.
  • Except in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, where bull-taming and racing continue to be organised, these sports remain banned in all other states including Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Maharashtra due to the 2014 ban order from the Supreme Court.

-Source: The Hindu


ISRO’s Venus Mission


Context:

Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Venus mission, Shukrayaan I may be postponed to 2031. ISRO’s Venus mission was expected to be launched in December 2024.

Relevance:

GS-III: Science and Technology (Space Technology and advancements in Space Technology)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Venus
  2. Observations and explorations of Venus
  3. What does the Shukrayaan-I Mission entail?

About Venus

  • Venus is the second planet from the Sun and is the brightest natural object in Earth’s night sky after the Moon. It can cast shadows and can be seen with the naked eye on rare occasions, even during daylight.
  • Venus has a unique rotation pattern, where the Sun rises in the west and sets in the east. This is because it rotates in the opposite direction (East to West/Clockwise) to all but Uranus.
  • Venus has the densest atmosphere of the four terrestrial planets, consisting of more than 96% carbon dioxide. This causes a strong greenhouse effect, making Venus the hottest planet in the Solar System despite being farther from the Sun than Mercury.
  • The atmospheric pressure at the planet’s surface is about 92 times that of Earth’s sea level pressure.
  • Venus is covered by an opaque layer of highly reflective clouds made of sulfuric acid, which prevents its surface from being seen in visible light.
  • The planet lacks a planetary magnetic field, which caused the water to photo dissociate and the free hydrogen to be swept into interplanetary space by the solar wind.
  • Venus has been a significant fixture in human culture for as long as records have existed.

Observations and explorations of Venus

Early Exploration:
  • Due to its proximity to Earth, Venus has been a prime target for early interplanetary exploration.
  • It was the first planet beyond Earth visited by a spacecraft (Mariner 2 in 1962), and the first to be successfully landed on (by Venera 7 in 1970).
  • Venus’s thick clouds render observation of its surface impossible in visible light, and the first detailed maps did not emerge until the arrival of the Magellan orbiter in 1991.
  • Plans have been proposed for rovers or more complex missions, but they are hindered by Venus’s hostile surface conditions.
Methods of Observation:
  • Observations of the planet Venus include those in antiquity, telescopic observations, and from visiting spacecraft.
  • Spacecraft have performed various flybys, orbits, and landings on Venus, including balloon probes that floated in the atmosphere of Venus.
  • After the Moon, Venus was the second object in the Solar System to be explored by radar from the Earth.
Missions to Venus:
  • Ten Soviet probes have achieved a soft landing on the surface, with up to 110 minutes of communication from the surface, all without return.
  • U.S.’s missions to Venus: Mariner series 1962-1974, Pioneer Venus 1 and Pioneer Venus 2 in 1978, Magellan in 1989.
  • Russia’s mission to Venus: Venera series of space crafts 1967-1983, Vegas 1 and 2 in 1985.
  • Japan’s Akatsuki was launched in 2010, however, the orbital insertion maneuver failed and the spacecraft was left in heliocentric orbit.
  • Venus Express was a mission by the European Space Agency to study the atmosphere and surface characteristics of Venus from orbit.

Significance of Exploring Venus

  • It will help to learn how Earth-like planets evolve and what conditions exist on Earth-sized exoplanets (planets that orbit a star other than our sun).
  • It will help in modelling Earth’s climate, and serves as a cautionary tale on how dramatically a planet’s climate can change.

What does the Shukrayaan-I Mission entail?

  • After dispatching similar missions to the Moon and Mars, Shukrayaan will be India’s first orbiter mission to Venus.
  • The mission’s goal is to investigate the surface of our solar system’s hottest planet and decipher the mysteries hidden beneath the Sulphuric Acid clouds that surround it.
  • The orbiter is the third mission to Venus, following NASA’s announcement of two probes and the European Space Agency’s announcement of a spacecraft.
  • The probes will travel the globe in search of clues to the destructive past of Earth’s strange twin, which scientists believe previously had massive water reserves similar to our own.
  • The ISRO plans to launch in December 2024, with orbital manoeuvres scheduled for the following year.
  • When the earth and Venus are perfectly aligned, the spaceship can be placed in the orbit of the neighbouring planet with the least quantity of propellant.
Objectives
  • Investigation of the surface processes and shallow sub-surface stratigraphy, including active volcanic hotspots and lava flows
  • Studying the structure, composition, and dynamics of the atmosphere
  • Investigation of solar wind interaction with the Venusian Ionosphere

-Source: Indian Express


Old Pension Scheme vs National Pension Scheme


Context:

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has cautioned states against reverting to the old pension scheme (OPS), which was in vogue till 2004, stating that it will add to the fiscal burden of States in the coming years.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What did RBI say about the old pension scheme?
  2. Reasons for states switching to the Old Pension Scheme (OPS)
  3. Old Pension Scheme vs National Pension Scheme

What did RBI say about the old pension scheme?

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has warned about the potential risks of some states reverting to the old pension scheme.
  • In its “Report on State Finances,” the RBI stated that the move to revert to the old scheme would only result in short-term savings for states, but could lead to the accumulation of unfunded pension liabilities in the future.
  • According to budget estimates for 2022-23, states are expected to see a 16% increase in pension expenditure, reaching Rs 463,436 crore in 2022-23 compared to Rs 399,813 crore in the previous year.
  • The compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) in pension liabilities for the 12 years ended FY22 was 34 per cent for all the state governments, according to an SBI Research report.

Reasons for states switching to the Old Pension Scheme (OPS)

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has warned that more states are opting to switch to the old pension scheme (OPS) instead of the National Pension Scheme (NPS). After Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Punjab, Himachal Pradesh has also announced its intention to switch to OPS.
  • States have found it more convenient to pay old pensioners with the money collected from serving employees.
  • Under the OPS, retired employees receive 50% of their last drawn salary as monthly pensions. However, this scheme is considered fiscally unsustainable, and state governments do not have the money to fund it.
  • The OPS had no accumulated funds or stock of savings for pension obligations and was a clear fiscal burden.
  • The scheme is often attractive to political parties because it benefits the current aged population, even if they did not contribute to the pension kitty, according to the SBI Research report.

Old Pension Scheme vs National Pension Scheme

Old Pension Scheme (OPS)
  • An old pension scheme (OPS), commonly known as the PAYG scheme, is defined as an unfunded pension scheme where current revenues fund pension benefits.
  • Under this scheme, the contribution of the current generation of workers was explicitly used to pay the pensions of existing pensioners.
  • The scheme has been discontinued in most countries before the 1990s as it creates problem of pension debt sustainability, an ageing population, an explicit burden on future generations and the incentive for early retirement as the pension is fixed at the last drawn salary.
National Pension Scheme (NPS)
  • NPS is a defined contribution pension scheme. It enables an individual to undertake retirement planning while in employment.
  • With systematic savings and investments, NPS facilitates the accumulation of a pension corpus during their working life. It is designed to deliver a sustainable solution of having adequate retirement income in old age or upon superannuation.
  • NPS is mandatory for central government employees joining services on or after January 1, 2004, and almost all state governments have adopted it for their employees. NPS is regulated by the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA).
  • Under NPS, employees contribute 10% of their salary (Basic + Dearness Allowance) and the government contributes 14% towards the employees’ NPS accounts.
  • As of December 2022, 59.78 lakh state government employees are part of NPS, with total assets under management of Rs 4.27 lakh crore.

-Source: Indian Express


PARAKH


Context:

Recently, the National Council for Education Research and Training (NCERT) has notified India’s first national assessment regulator, PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development), which aims to set up assessment guidelines for all boards.

Relevance:

GS II: Government policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is PARAKH?
  2. Significance of PARAKH

What is PARAKH?

  • PARAKH stands for Performance Assessment, Review and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development.
  • The proposed regulator will act as a constituent unit of the NCERT.
  • It will also be tasked with holding periodic learning outcome tests like the National Achievement Survey (NAS) and State Achievement Surveys.
  • The benchmark assessment framework will seek to put an end to the emphasis on rote learning, as envisaged by the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020.
  • PARAKH, the proposed implementing agency, is also part of the NEP proposal.

Significance of PARAKH

  • PARAKH will assist in addressing the issue of some state board students being at a disadvantage when applying to colleges when compared to their peers in CBSE schools.
  • In the end, PARAKH will become the national single-window source for all assessment-related information and expertise, with a mandate to support learning assessment in all formats, both nationally and where applicable, internationally.
  • It will create and implement “technical standards for the design, conduct, analysis, and reporting” of tests at all levels of school education.

-Source: Indian Express


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