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Current Affairs 30 May 2023

CONTENTS

  1. IRDAI’s Vision: Insurance for all by 2047
  2. Lack of teachers in higher education
  3. Central Vigilance Commission
  4. Decreasing Yield on Government Securities
  5. Fortified Rice
  6. Foucault’s Pendulum
  7. Powassan Virus
  8. Chytridiomycosis
  9. Gomphonema rajaguruii

IRDAI’s Vision: Insurance for all by 2047


Context:

The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI), as part of its Vision Insurance for all’ by 2047, has allotted states and union territories to every insurer to increase insurance penetration in India.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India
  2. IRDAI Vision 2047
  3. About Bima Trinity

About Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India:

  • Establishment: IRDAI was founded in 1999 as a regulatory body to safeguard the interests of insurance customers.
  • Statutory Body: It operates as a statutory body under the IRDA Act 1999 and falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Finance.
  • Regulatory and Development Authority: IRDAI is responsible for regulating and fostering the development of the insurance industry in India.
  • Monitoring Activities: The authority closely monitors insurance-related activities to ensure compliance with regulations and standards.
  • Legal Framework: The powers and functions of IRDAI are defined by the IRDAI Act, 1999 and the Insurance Act, 1938.

IRDAI Vision 2047

The objective of IRDAI Vision 2047 is to achieve “Insurance for All” by ensuring that every citizen has appropriate life, health, and property insurance coverage, and every enterprise is supported by suitable insurance solutions.

Additionally, it aims to make the Indian insurance sector globally attractive.

Pillars: The vision focuses on three key pillars:
  • Insurance customers (Policyholders)
  • Insurance providers (insurers)
  • Insurance distributors (intermediaries)
Focus Areas:
  • Right Products for Right Customers: Ensuring the availability of appropriate insurance products to meet the specific needs of customers.
  • Robust Grievance Redressal Mechanism: Establishing a strong system for resolving customer grievances effectively.
  • Ease of Doing Business: Facilitating a business-friendly environment in the insurance sector.
  • Adaptive Regulatory Architecture: Aligning the regulatory framework with market dynamics to promote innovation and competition.
  • Boosting Innovation: Encouraging innovative practices in the insurance industry.
  • Mainstreaming Technology: Embracing technology advancements for efficient operations.
  • Principle-Based Regulatory Regime: Transitioning towards a regulatory approach based on principles.
Significance:
  • IRDAI Vision 2047 has the potential to ensure that households across the country have access to affordable insurance policies covering health, life, property, and accidents.
  • The vision aims to provide faster claim settlements, sometimes within hours, and additional benefits such as gym or yoga memberships.
  • It seeks to enhance customer experience, promote financial security, and drive overall growth in the insurance sector.

About Bima Trinity:

  • IRDAI is also planning to launch Bima Trinity – Bima Sugam, Bima Vistar, Bima Vaahaks – in collaboration with general and life insurance firms to make insurance activities hassle free.
  • Bima Trinity is a multifaceted insurance initiative that encompasses key components: Bima Sugam, Bima Vistar, and Bima Vaahaks.
  • These components work together to provide simplified insurance processes, comprehensive coverage, and women-centric empowerment.
Bima Sugam:
  • Bima Sugam is a unified platform that brings insurers and distributors together.
  • It offers customers a convenient portal for purchasing policies, making service requests, and settling claims.
  • This platform streamlines the insurance experience by integrating various functions into one accessible platform.
Bima Vistar:
  • Bima Vistar is a comprehensive bundled policy that covers various aspects of life, health, property, and accidents.
  • It provides defined benefits for each risk category, ensuring prompt claim payouts without the need for surveyors.
  • By offering a wide range of coverage, Bima Vistar aims to provide customers with comprehensive protection against various risks.
Bima Vaahaks:
  • Bima Vaahaks are a women-centric workforce operating at the Gram Sabha level.
  • Their main objective is to educate and convince women about the advantages of comprehensive insurance, specifically Bima Vistar.
  • Bima Vaahaks address concerns, emphasize the benefits of insurance, and empower women to enhance their financial security.
  • By focusing on women, Bima Vaahaks aim to increase awareness and access to insurance among this demographic.

-Source: The Hindu


Lack of teachers in higher education


Context:

Faculty shortages have existed in India’s higher education sector at least since the 1980s, but seem to have become permanent today.

Relevance:

GS II: Education

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Why is there a Lack of Reliable Data on Faculty Shortages?
  2. Faculty shortages are not solely a quantitative issue but encompass various dimensions

Why is there a Lack of Reliable Data on Faculty Shortages?

Previous Efforts and Observations:
  • In 2009, the Ministry of Human Resource Development established a task force to address the issue of faculty shortages in higher education.
  • The task force’s 2011 report, titled ‘Report of the Task Force On Faculty Shortage and Design of Performance Appraisal System,’ highlighted a significant problem.
  • The report acknowledged the existence of a substantial shortage of teaching staff in Indian higher education but noted the lack of factual data to support this perception.
Need for Data Collection Mechanism:
  • The report emphasized the necessity of establishing a standing mechanism to collect accurate and regular information on the size and quality of faculty resources.
  • It recommended that data on faculty members be made accessible on the websites of academic institutions.
  • However, despite these recommendations, little progress has been made in implementing a reliable data collection system.
Issues with Current Data Collection:
  • The government conducts the annual All India Survey of Higher Education (AISHE) to collect data on colleges and universities, including faculty numbers.
  • However, participation in the survey is voluntary, and the responsibility for data accuracy lies with the institutions themselves.
  • This lack of independent verification compromises the reliability of the information provided.
  • Another challenge is the widespread use of adjunct or part-time faculty members, and even fictitious “ghost” members, by educational institutions.
  • Some institutions count adjunct faculty as part of the regular faculty to present a favorable teacher-student ratio, distorting the true faculty resource estimate.
Consequences of Incomplete Information:
  • The absence of reliable data makes it difficult to accurately assess the extent of faculty shortages in higher education.
  • It hinders effective planning and policy formulation to address the issue adequately.
  • Additionally, incomplete and messy websites of academic institutions further contribute to the lack of transparency and understanding of their faculty bodies.

Faculty shortages are not solely a quantitative issue but encompass various dimensions

There are six types of shortages identified, each requiring different remedial measures:

Disciplinary, Institutional, and Regional Variations:

  • Shortages vary across disciplines, institutions, and locations.
  • Some areas may experience an oversupply while others face acute shortages.
  • Balancing supply and demand in specific disciplines can help alleviate shortages in different institutions or locations.

Financial Constraints:

  • Many public institutions struggle to hire faculty despite a pressing need.
  • Financial limitations affect state universities, which are often underfunded.
  • State governments may not create or approve new positions, and existing ones remain vacant due to insufficient funds.

Reluctance to Hire:

  • Some private colleges prioritize profit over hiring sufficient faculty.
  • These institutions may opt for less-qualified part-time staff instead of qualified full-time faculty to minimize costs.

Reservation Policies:

  • Public institutions face shortages due to reservations for Other Backward Classes and Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe groups.
  • Reservations can limit the pool of qualified candidates, leading to vacant faculty positions.
  • Caste-based discrimination may also contribute to unfilled positions.

Unfavorable Locations and Conditions:

  • Faculty shortages can result from the unwillingness of candidates to work in certain institutions due to unfavorable locations or working and living conditions.

Qualitative Shortages:

  • Shortages may exist in terms of qualified candidates, even if the number of applicants with PhDs is sufficient.
  • Improving the quality of PhD programs at Indian universities is essential to address this aspect of faculty shortages.
  • These six types of shortages are not mutually exclusive and emphasize that faculty shortages are multi-faceted. Addressing the issue requires nuanced policies tailored to specific challenges in different contexts.

-Source: The Hindu


Central Vigilance Commission


Context:

Recently, Vigilance Commissioner Praveen Kumar Srivastava was sworn in by President Droupadi Murmu as the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC).

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Central Vigilance Commission
  2. Functions of CVC
  3. Removal of members (according to CVC Act)
  4. Criticism – Limited Powers of CVC
About Central Vigilance Commission
  • Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) is an apex Indian governmental body created in 1964.
  • CVC was set up based on the recommendations of the Committee on Prevention of Corruption, headed by Shri K. Santhanam, to advise and guide Central Government agencies in the field of vigilance.
  • The CVC became a Statutory Body with the enactment of CVC Act, 2003.
  • The CVC is an independent body, free of control from any executive authority, (It is NOT controlled by any ministry or department).
  • The CVC is responsible only to the Parliament.
  • The CVC is NOT an investigating agency.
  • The CVC may have the investigation done through the CBI or Chief Vigilance Officers (CVO) in government offices.
  • President of India appoints CVC members by warrant under his hand and seal.
  • The Oath of office is administered by the President.
  • A three-member committee made of –
  • The Prime Minister, The Home Minister , The Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha – Makes the Recommendation for appointment of Vigilance Commissioners.
  • The Vigilance Commissioners are appointed for a term of Four years OR until they attain 65 years of age (whichever is earlier).
  • On retirement – they are NOT eligible for reappointment in any central or state government agency.
Functions of CVC
  • The CVC monitors all vigilance activity under the Central Government It advises various authorities in Central Government organizations in planning, executing, reviewing and reforming their vigilance work.
  • The CVC recommends appropriate action on complaints on corruption or misuse of power.
  • Lokpal, Central Government or Whistle blowers can approach the CVC regarding complaints.
  • The CVC – Under Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 – can inquire into offences reported against certain categories of Public Servants. (However, remember, CVC is NOT an Investigating agency).
  • The Annual Report of the CVC not only gives the details of the work done by it but also brings out the system failures which leads to corruption in various Departments/Organisations, system improvements, various preventive measures and cases in which the Commission’s advises were ignored etc.
Composition of Central Vigilance Commission

The CVC is comprised of 3 members:

  • A Central Vigilance Commissioner (Chairperson)
  • Up to Two Vigilance Commissioners (Members)
Removal of members (according to CVC Act)

The Central Vigilance Commissioner or any Vigilance Commissioner can be removed from his office only by order of the President on the ground of proved misbehavior or incapacity after the Supreme Court reports that the officer ought to be removed after inquiry, on a reference made to it by the President.

Also, a member can be removed if the member:

  • Is Adjudged as an insolvent
  • Is convicted of an offence that involves moral turpitude according to Central Government
  • Engages in Office of profit outside the duties of his office
  • Is declared unfit by reason of infirmity of mind or body, by the President
  • Participates / Concerned / Interested to Participate – in any way in the profit / in any benefit – in any contract or agreement made by or on behalf of the Government of India

Criticism – Limited Powers of CVC

  • CVC is treated as an advisory body only as Central Government Departments are free to either accept or reject CVC’s advice in corruption cases.
  • The Commission has no jurisdiction over private individuals and organisations of the State Governments. The CVC is left with no power to register criminal case.
  • The CVC cannot direct the CBI to initiate inquiries against any officer of the level of Joint Secretary and above.
  • Hence, CVC neither has the resources nor the power to take action on complaints of corruption.
  • Appointments to CVC are indirectly under the control of Govt of India.
  • Although, the leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha is a member of the committee that selects the CVC Members – the committee just considers the candidates that are put up before it, and these candidates are decided by the Government.
  • CVC is a very small set up with a sanctioned staff strength of 299, which is supposed to check corruption in more than 1500 central government departments and ministries.

-Source: The Hindu


Decreasing Yield on Government Securities


Context:

The yield on the benchmark 10-year government security (G-sec) in India has experienced a decline, prompting retail investors to reassess their investment strategies.

  • Although the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has allowed retail investors to participate in the government securities market, their involvement has been comparatively limited.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Factors Influencing the Decline in G-sec Yield
  2. Reasons for Low Participation of Retail Investors in G-Secs
  3. Government Securities (G-Secs)

Factors Influencing the Decline in G-sec Yield

The yield on the benchmark 10-year government security (G-sec) has experienced a decline, with various factors contributing to this trend.

Changes in Debt Mutual Fund Taxation:

  • The yield decline can be attributed to changes in debt mutual fund taxation.
  • The removal of the benefit of indexation in the calculation of long-term capital gains on debt mutual funds has played a role in this decline.
  • These changes have impacted investor sentiment and affected the demand for government securities.

RBI’s Repo Rate Decision:

  • The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) decision on the repo rate has also influenced the movement of G-sec yields.
  • Changes in the repo rate, which is the rate at which the RBI lends to commercial banks, can impact the overall interest rate environment.
  • The RBI’s decisions regarding the repo rate can affect the demand and pricing of government securities, leading to changes in their yields.

Declining Inflation:

  • Another factor contributing to the decline in G-sec yields is the trend of declining inflation.
  • Lower inflation rates reduce the expectation of future interest rate hikes, resulting in lower yields on government securities.
  • Declining inflation can impact the market perception of inflationary risks, affecting investor demand for G-secs.

Current G-sec Yield Levels:

  • As of May 2023, the G-sec yield stands at around 6.9% after experiencing a decline from 7.4% in early March 2023.
  • Presently, G-secs are trading at approximately 6.96-6.99%.
  • The yield levels are reflective of the aforementioned factors and market dynamics, influencing investor decisions in the government securities market.

Reasons for Low Participation of Retail Investors in G-Secs

Complicated Investment Process:

  • Retail investors often find it challenging to invest in government bonds and require guidance, potentially through intermediaries, to navigate the complex investment process.
  • The intricacies of investing in G-secs can deter retail investors who prefer more simplified investment options.

Lack of Liquidity:

  • The G-Sec market suffers from a lack of liquidity, making it difficult for retail investors to find buyers in the secondary market when they want to sell their securities.
  • This lack of liquidity can result in investors being stuck with their investments, reducing their willingness to participate.

Daunting Investment Process:

  • Retail investors, particularly those who are uninformed, may find the investment process in G-Secs daunting.
  • This may lead them to prefer more straightforward investment options, such as fixed deposits, that do not require as much knowledge or expertise.

RBI Retail Direct Platform Limitations:

  • The RBI Retail Direct platform, while beneficial for informed investors, may not cater to uninformed participants who require a simpler investment process.
  • This limitation can hinder retail investor participation in the G-Sec market.

Low Traded Volume:

  • The traded volume in the secondary market for G-Secs has been relatively low.
  • This further reduces the attractiveness of G-Secs for retail investors, as it may limit their ability to enter or exit positions in a timely manner.

Alternative Investment Avenues:

  • Retail investors may consider alternative investment avenues, such as fixed deposits, that have seen increased interest rates.
  • Exploring new bonds, NCDs (Non-Convertible Debentures), and post office deposit schemes could also divert retail investor attention away from G-Secs.

Government Securities (G-Secs)

Government Securities, often referred to as G-Secs, are tradable instruments issued by the Central Government or State Governments to borrow money from the public and finance their fiscal deficit. They are a type of debt instrument.

Debt Instrument:

  • A debt instrument represents a contractual obligation by the issuer (government) to pay the holder a fixed amount of money, known as the principal or face value, on a specified date.
  • G-Secs acknowledge the government’s debt obligation and serve as a means for the government to borrow funds.

Short-Term and Long-Term:

  • G-Secs can be categorized as short-term or long-term securities.
  • Short-term securities, known as treasury bills, have original maturities of less than one year, commonly issued in tenors of 91 days, 182 days, and 364 days.
  • Long-term securities, called government bonds or dated securities, have original maturities of one year or more.

Central and State Government Issuance:

  • The Central Government in India issues both treasury bills and bonds or dated securities.
  • State Governments, on the other hand, issue bonds or dated securities known as State Development Loans (SDLs).

Risk Profile:

  • G-Secs are considered risk-free gilt-edged instruments, meaning they carry minimal risk of default.
  • These securities are considered safe investments due to the backing of the government.

Gilt-Edged Securities:

  • Gilt-edged securities are high-grade investment bonds offered by governments and large corporations to borrow funds.
  • G-Secs fall under this category as they are considered secure investments.

Role of RBI:

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) conducts Open Market Operations (OMOs) involving the sale or purchase of G-Secs to adjust money supply conditions.
  • The RBI sells G-Secs to remove liquidity from the system and buys them back to infuse liquidity.

Bond Yield:

  • Bond yield refers to the return an investor realizes on a bond.
  • The yield is calculated by dividing the annual coupon rate (interest paid by bond issuers on the bond’s face value) by the current market price of the bond.
  • Bond prices and yields have an inverse relationship: when bond prices rise, yields fall, and vice versa.

Bonds:

  • A bond is an instrument used to borrow money, which can be issued by a government or a company to raise funds.
  • G-Secs are a type of bond issued by the government to raise funds.

Coupon Rate:

  • The coupon rate represents the interest rate paid by bond issuers on the bond’s face value.

Types of Government Securities (G-Secs)

Treasury Bills (T-bills):

  • Treasury bills are short-term government securities with maturities of less than one year (commonly 91 days, 182 days, and 364 days).
  • T-bills are issued at a discount to their face value and do not pay any interest. Instead, they are redeemed at the face value upon maturity.

Cash Management Bills (CMBs):

  • CMBs were introduced by the Government of India in 2010 to address temporary cash flow mismatches.
  • Similar to T-bills, CMBs are short-term instruments with maturities of less than 91 days.
  • They serve the purpose of meeting the immediate funding requirements of the government.

Dated G-Secs:

  • Dated G-Secs are long-term government securities that carry a fixed or floating coupon (interest rate).
  • These securities pay interest on the face value on a half-yearly basis.
  • The maturity period of dated G-Secs typically ranges from 5 years to 40 years, providing investors with long-term investment options.

State Development Loans (SDLs):

  • State Governments also raise funds from the market by issuing securities known as State Development Loans (SDLs).
  • SDLs are similar to dated G-Secs and are issued through auctions conducted by the state governments.
  • These securities help state governments finance their developmental and expenditure requirements.

-Source:  Indian Express


Fortified Rice


Context

India’s pilot studies on rice fortification showed that nutritional anaemia could be reduced, with a significant drop in the prevalence of anaemia among schoolchildren, according to a United Nations report.

Relevance:

GS III- Indian Economy, Public distribution system

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is rice fortification?
  2. Need of rice fortification
  3. What are the standards for fortification?
  4. Advantages
  5. Issues with fortified food

What is rice fortification?

  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) defines fortification as “deliberately increasing the content of essential micronutrients in a food so as to improve the nutritional quality of food and to provide public health benefit with minimal risk to health”.
  • The cooking of fortified rice does not require any special procedure.
  • After cooking, fortified rice retains the same physical properties and micronutrient levels as it had before cooking.
  • Fortified rice will be packed in jute bags with the logo (‘+F’) and the line “Fortified with Iron, Folic Acid, and Vitamin B12”.
  • Various technologies are available to add micronutrients to regular rice, such as coating, dusting, and ‘extrusion’.
  • The last mentioned involves the production of fortified rice kernels (FRKs) from a mixture using an ‘extruder’ machine.
  • It is considered to be the best technology for India.
  • The fortified rice kernels are blended with regular rice to produce fortified rice.
Need of rice fortification
  • India has very high levels of malnutrition among women and children.
  • According to the Food Ministry, every second woman in the country is anaemic and every third child is stunted.
  • Fortification of food is considered to be one of the most suitable methods to combat malnutrition.
  • Rice is one of India’s staple foods, consumed by about two-thirds of the population.
  • Per capita rice consumption in India is 6.8 kg per month.
  • Therefore, fortifying rice with micronutrients is an option to supplement the diet of the poor.
What are the standards for fortification?
  • Under the Ministry’s guidelines, 10 g of FRK must be blended with 1 kg of regular rice.
  • According to FSSAI norms, 1 kg of fortified rice will contain the following: iron (28 mg-42.5 mg), folic acid (75-125 microgram), and vitamin B-12 (0.75-1.25 microgram).
  • Rice may also be fortified with zinc (10 mg-15 mg), vitamin A (500-750 microgram RE), vitamin B-1 (1 mg-1.5 mg), vitamin B-2 (1.25 mg-1.75 mg), vitamin B-3 (12.5 mg-20 mg) and vitamin B-6 (1.5 mg-2.5 mg) per kg.

Advantages

  • Fortified staple foods will contain natural or near-natural levels of micro-nutrients, which may not necessarily be the case with supplements.
  •  It provides nutrition without any change in the characteristics of food or the course of our meals.
  •  If consumed on a regular and frequent basis, fortified foods will maintain body stores of nutrients more efficiently and more effectively than will intermittently supplement.
  •  The overall costs of fortification are extremely low; the price increase is approximately 1 to 2 percent of the total food value.
  •  It upholds everyone’s right to have access to safe and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger
Issues with fortified food
  • Fortification and enrichment upset nature’s packaging. Our body does not absorb individual nutrients added to processed foods as efficiently compared to nutrients naturally occurring.
  • Supplements added to foods are less bioavailable. Bioavailability refers to the proportion of a nutrient your body is able to absorb and use.
  • They lack immune-boosting substances.
  • Fortified foods and supplements can pose specific risks for people who are taking prescription medications, including decreased absorption of other micro-nutrients, treatment failure, and increased mortality risk.

-Source: The Hindu


Foucault’s Pendulum


Context:

Suspended from the ceiling of the Central Foyer of India’s new Parliament building is a Foucault pendulum that all but touches the floor as it rotates on its axis. The pendulum hangs from a skylight at the top of the Constitution Hall, and signifies the “integration of the idea of India with the idea of the cosmos”.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Foucault’s Pendulum
  2. Pendulum Motion at Different Latitudes
  3. Educational Significance

About Foucault’s Pendulum

  • Foucault’s pendulum is an experiment created by Leon Foucault in 1851.
  • It provides direct visual evidence of the Earth’s rotation on its axis.
The Largest Foucault’s Pendulum in India:
  • Created by the National Council of Science Museum (NCSM) in Kolkata.
  • Stands 22 meters tall and weighs 36 kg.
  • Installed at the new parliament building, it is the largest pendulum of its kind in India.
  • A prototype was developed and tested at Science City, Kolkata, to ensure safety and functionality.
Experimental Setup:
  • A heavy object is suspended from a height with a string, allowing it to swing freely.
  • The pendulum’s initial motion can be in any direction, such as north-south.
  • Over time, the pendulum changes its orientation gradually, e.g., shifting to east-west.

Ground Rotation, Not Pendulum:

  • The apparent change in the pendulum’s motion is due to the rotation of the ground beneath it.
  • Observers on the ground, rotating with the Earth, can observe the pendulum’s change in orientation.

Pendulum Motion at Different Latitudes:

At the north and south poles:

  • When aligned with the Earth’s axis of rotation, the pendulum’s back-and-forth motion returns to its original plane in precisely 24 hours.
  • It gradually shifts from north-south to northeast-southwest and east-west before returning to its original orientation.

At other latitudes:

  • The pendulum takes longer to return to its original orientation.
  • The pendulum is not aligned with the Earth’s axis, causing deviations in its swing.

At the equator:

  • The pendulum remains perpendicular to the axis of rotation.
  • It does not change its orientation, showing no deviation from its original course.

Educational Significance:

  • Foucault’s pendulum is a common feature in science museums worldwide, designed to educate children about the Earth’s rotation.
  • It helps people understand concepts such as the Earth’s spherical shape and its rotation on the axis.
  • Experiments like Foucault’s pendulum embody the spirit of scientific inquiry and promote scientific temper.

-Source: Indian Express


Powassan Virus


Context:

A person in the US recently died from the rare Powassan virus, marking the first fatal case in the US this year.

Relevance:

GS II: Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Powassan Virus Disease
  2. Prevention and Treatment

Powassan Virus Disease

  • Powassan virus disease is a rare but potentially serious illness caused by the Powassan virus, which is transmitted through the bite of infected ticks. The virus was first identified in Powassan, Ontario in 1958.
Transmission and Risk:
  • Not all ticks carry the Powassan virus, and not all individuals bitten by a tick will become sick.
  • The virus is transmitted to humans when an infected tick bites and remains attached for a certain duration.
  • The risk of contracting the disease is higher in areas where infected ticks are prevalent.
Symptoms:
  • In the initial stages, people infected with the Powassan virus may experience symptoms such as fever, headache, vomiting, and weakness.
  • In some cases, the virus can progress to cause more severe conditions like brain infection (encephalitis) or inflammation of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord (meningitis).
  • Severe cases may lead to symptoms such as confusion, loss of coordination, difficulty speaking, and seizures.

Prevention and Treatment:

  • Currently, there are no specific medications available to prevent or treat Powassan virus infection.
  • Management of the disease focuses on relieving symptoms through rest, hydration, and over-the-counter pain medications.
  • It is crucial to take preventive measures when entering tick-infested areas, such as wearing protective clothing and using insect repellents containing DEET.
  • Prompt removal of attached ticks and careful inspection of the body can help reduce the risk of infection.

-Source: India today


Chytridiomycosis


Context:

A recent multinational study has developed a method to detect all strains of Chytridiomycosis.

Relevance:

GS II: Species in News

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Chytridiomycosis
  2. Infection Process

Chytridiomycosis

  • Chytridiomycosis is an infectious disease that primarily affects amphibians, particularly frogs, on a global scale. It is caused by two species of amphibian chytrid fungus: Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis and Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans.
  • This emerging disease has had a significant impact on amphibian populations worldwide, leading to the decline or complete extinction of over 200 species.

Infection Process:

  • Waterborne Fungus: Chytrid fungus is primarily a waterborne organism. It disperses in the environment, searching for new hosts.
  • Entry through Skin: The fungus travels through water sources until it encounters a susceptible host, typically a frog. It enters the frog’s body through its permeable skin.
  • Skin Infection: Once inside the frog, the chytrid fungus reproduces within the skin cells.
  • Multiplication and Release: The single-celled fungus multiplies within the skin cell and then breaks out onto the surface of the frog’s skin.
  • Skin Damage and Effects: The infection damages the frog’s skin, impairing its ability to regulate water and salt levels effectively. This disruption in the skin’s functioning can have detrimental effects on the frog’s health and survival.
  • Consequences: If the infection reaches high levels, it can lead to severe consequences, such as dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and ultimately death.

-Source: Indian Express


Gomphonema Rajaguruii


Context:

Researchers at the Pune-based Agharkar Research Institute (ARI) recently discovered a new species named Gomphonema rajaguruii from the northern Western Ghats.

Relevance:

GS III: Species in News

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Gomphonema rajaguruii: A Unique Freshwater Diatom Species
  2. Diatoms: Photosynthetic Single-Celled Organisms

Gomphonema rajaguruii: A Unique Freshwater Diatom Species

Discovery and Naming:

  • Found in a semi-aquatic environment along the wet walls of Mahabaleshwar, Maharashtra.
  • Named after the late Professor S. N. Rajaguru, a renowned geo-archaeologist from the region.

Characteristics:

  • Unique diatom species exhibiting traits from two genera: Gomphonema and Gomphoneis.
  • Represents a distinct combination of features not typically seen in diatoms.

Diatoms: Photosynthetic Single-Celled Organisms

  • Diatoms are photosynthetic organisms consisting of single cells.
  • They belong to a major group of algae and are common phytoplankton in aquatic ecosystems.
  • Widely distributed in freshwater and marine environments.

Cell Structure and Function:

  • Diatoms possess cell walls composed of silica.
  • Each species has a unique pattern of tiny holes (frustules) in the cell wall.
  • Frustules serve as channels for nutrient absorption and waste elimination.

Ecological Significance:

  • Diatoms contribute significantly to oxygen production globally.
  • Responsible for generating up to 50% of the Earth’s annual oxygen through photosynthesis.
  • Found in nearly all types of aquatic environments, including freshwater and marine systems.

Diatoms as Phytoplankton:

  • Diatoms are one of the most common forms of phytoplankton.
  • They play a crucial role in the aquatic food chain as a primary food source.
  • Additionally, diatoms contribute to nutrient cycling in aquatic ecosystems.
  • Understanding and studying diatoms, such as Gomphonema rajaguruii, enhance our knowledge of the diversity and ecological importance of these microscopic organisms in freshwater habitats.

-Source: The Hindu


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