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04 March 2024 - Daily Current Affairs

Wallace and Weber Line

Here's a table summarizing the key points:

Feature

Wallace Line

Weber's Line

Proposed by

Alfred Russel Wallace (1859)

Max Carl Wilhelm Weber

Location

Between Bali and Lombok, Borneo and Sulawesi

Between Moluccas and Sulawesi, Kei Islands and Timor

Fauna to the West

Primarily Asian species

Primarily Asian species

Fauna to the East

Mixture of Asian and Australian species (more Australian influence further east)

More precise division between dominant Asian and Australian fauna

Q. Which of the following islands lies in between Wallace and Weber Line A) Borneo

B) Sulawesi

C) Java

D) Sumatra


Summary of PIB Press Release: Inauguration of First Made-in-India ASTDS Tug and Medical Mobile Unit at Paradip Port

Key highlights:

  • Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal virtually inaugurated:

  • "Ocean Grace," the first-ever Made-in-India ASTDS tug, built by Cochin Shipyard Limited.

  • A Medical Mobile Unit (MMU) as part of Paradip Port's CSR initiatives.

  • "Ocean Grace" signifies:

  • A step towards Aatmanirbhar Bharat (Self-reliant India) initiative.

  • Advancement in maritime infrastructure and port operations.

  • Green Tug Transition Programme (GTTP):

  • Aims to convert 50% of all tugs to green tugs by 2030.

  • Paradip Port takes the lead by acquiring the first ASTDS tug.

  • Maritime Amrit Kaal Vision 2047:

  • Outlines plans for developing cutting-edge, clean technology vessels.

  • Includes electric ferries, hybrid cargo carriers, and green hydrogen/ammonia-powered tugs.

  • Sagarmala Programme in Odisha:

  • Driving coastal infrastructure development with 53 projects worth Rs. 54,500 Crore.

  • Focusing on fisheries, skill development, tourism, and urban water transportation.

  • Paradip Port's CSR activities:

  • The new MMU provides accessible healthcare to underprivileged communities.

  • Paradip Port expansion:

  • The Western Dock project aims to increase capacity to over 300 MTPA in two years.

  • Includes a new dock, deeper harbor, and advanced handling facilities.

About Paradip Port:

  • Plays a vital role in coastal shipping, handling 25% of all coastal traffic in India.

  • Achieved the highest productivity among Major Ports in FY 2022-23.


An ASTDS tug stands for Approved Standardized Tug Design and Specification. It signifies a specific type of tugboat designed and built in India following a set of standardized specifications.

Here's a breakdown of the key points:

  • Developed by: Ministry of Ports, Shipping & Waterways (MoPSW) in line with the Aatmanirbhar Bharat (Self-reliant India) initiative.

  • Goal: To promote standardization and domestic production of tugs in India.

  • Benefits:

  • Reduced costs: Standardized design and construction lead to economies of scale.

  • Faster delivery times: Established specifications expedite design and manufacturing.

  • Improved quality and performance: Standardized components and practices ensure consistency.


Japan's "Moon Sniper" Lander Goes Back to Sleep After Surprising Lunar Night Survival

Unexpected Twist:

  • Japan's lunar lander, "SLIM," survived the harsh two-week lunar night, exceeding expectations.

  • Despite landing at an angle that blocked sunlight, the lander briefly reawakened and conducted scientific observations.

Current Status:

  • SLIM has re-entered sleep mode due to sunset on the lunar surface.

  • Another operation attempt is planned for late March when sunlight returns.

Background:

  • Designed for daytime operations, SLIM aimed to analyze the lunar mantle after a successful "soft landing" in January.

  • This marked a significant achievement for Japan's space program, solidifying its position as the fifth nation to achieve a lunar landing (United States

  • Soviet Union (now Russia)

  • China

  • India).

International Context:

  • This development coincides with the successful landing of the first private lunar spacecraft, the American "Odysseus."

  • NASA plans to return astronauts to the Moon later this decade, aiming for a permanent human presence and resource utilization in the future.

Conclusion:

Despite encountering challenges, SLIM's unexpected survival offers valuable insights for future lunar exploration.


What purposes do university rankings serve? | Explained


The Rise and Fall of University Ranking Systems: A Story of Obsession and Exploitation

The Rise of Rankings:

  • Global university ranking systems emerged two decades ago and gained significant influence.

  • Many countries invested heavily to improve their universities' rankings for political prestige.

  • These rankings use composite scores based on various factors like teaching, research, and reputation.

Are Rankings Perfect?

  • Critics argue that rankings, like GDP, oversimplify complex issues and fail to capture the full picture of university quality.

  • Studies show biases towards:

  • Old, large, wealthy, research-intensive universities.

  • Science-focused, English-speaking institutions in the Global North.

  • Ranking methodologies can be influenced by factors like:

  • Citation inflation by single scholars.

  • Questionable practices like data manipulation.

Concerns and Controversies:

  • Conflicts of interest:

  • Ranking entities sometimes consult with universities to improve their rankings for a fee.

  • Exclusive memberships offered by ranking agencies raise ethical concerns.

  • Data security:

  • University data submitted for rankings can be exploited by ranking agencies:

  • Free, perpetual, and unrestricted use rights granted.

  • This includes sensitive data like research income and patents.

The Pushback:

  • Prominent universities have boycotted rankings citing:

  • Misalignment with graduate career goals (U.S. News & World Report boycott by Harvard and Yale).

  • Perverse incentives and negative effects (Utrecht University withdrawal).

  • Similar concerns have led to boycotts by several IITs in India.

Conclusion:

  • While rankings may have driven some improvement, they also incentivize harmful behaviors and have systemic negative effects.

  • The UN University emphasizes the need to recognize the limitations of rankings and their potential pitfalls.



EDITORIAL ANALYSIS


Facts and statistics: On the national income data released by the National Statistical Office


Decoding India's GDP Growth: A Look Beyond the Headlines

Strong Headline Numbers, But Questions Remain

India's recent GDP data release has sparked both excitement and confusion. The National Statistical Office (NSO) reported a robust 8.4% year-on-year growth in real GDP for the October-December quarter (Q3). However, this number significantly surpasses many economists' projections.

Here's a breakdown of the key points and the reasons for the confusion:

  • Discrepancy with Projections: Economists are skeptical about the large gap between their forecasts and the official figures. This raises concerns about the accuracy of the data or the methodology used by the NSO.

  • Revisions and Base Effects: The NSO revised GDP data for previous years. While growth in 2021-22 was revised upwards (0.6%), growth in 2022-23 was revised downwards (0.2%). This revision affects the base used for calculating year-on-year growth in Q3, potentially inflating the current figure.

  • Sectoral Disparity:

  • GDP vs GVA: Overall GDP growth (8.4%) outpaces Gross Value Added (GVA) growth in real productive sectors (6.5%). GVA reflects the actual value addition within the economy.

  • Lower Growth in Key Sectors: Sectors like agriculture, a crucial part of the Indian economy, witnessed a contraction in Q3. This suggests a slowdown in core production activities.

  • Weak Demand: The data reveals sluggish private consumption (3.5% growth) and declining government spending (-3.2%). This indicates a lack of strong demand drivers for economic growth.

Looking Beyond the Headlines:

The focus on headline numbers like GDP growth can be misleading. A more comprehensive picture emerges when we analyze additional data sets:

  • Revision history: Understanding revisions in previous year's data helps account for base effects influencing current growth figures.

  • GVA growth: Focusing solely on GDP can miss the sluggishness in core production sectors (GVA).

  • Consumption data: Low private and government spending suggest a cautious consumer sentiment and limited government investment.

Conclusion:

While the official GDP data shows strong growth, a more nuanced understanding requires considering multiple data sets and revisions. The current picture suggests a potentially weaker economy than the headline figure implies. A thorough analysis is necessary to assess the true health of the Indian economy.


Editorial 02 - WUEGA: Empowering Women through Urban Employment Guarantee

The Problem:

  • Despite significant progress, women's participation in the workforce, especially in urban areas, remains low at 22.9% (PLFS, 2023).

  • This underutilization of female labor hinders economic growth and wastes valuable potential.

Existing Efforts and Gaps:

  • MGNREGA empowers rural women but doesn't address urban challenges like safety and social norms.

  • State-run urban employment programs show promise, with higher female participation, but lack national reach.

Proposed Solution: Women's Urban Employment Guarantee Act (WUEGA):

  • Core Features:

  • Guarantee at least 50% (ideally 100%) female participation in program management.

  • Ensure work availability within 5 km and free public transportation for women.

  • Provide essential worksite facilities like childcare.

  • Offer a diverse range of urban work options based on local needs and consultations.

  • Create incentives like automatic welfare board inclusion and apprenticeship opportunities.

  • Establish Information Facilitation Centers with computer training for women who completed Class 10.

  • Implement social audits with at least 50% female staff for independent program monitoring.

  • Estimated Cost: 1.5% to 2% of GDP, with phased roll-out and cost smoothening through periodic assessments.

Benefits:

  • Increased female workforce participation and economic empowerment.

  • Reduced unemployment and potential for an urban employment program for all.

  • Utilization of untapped female potential leading to economic growth.

  • Enhanced social capital and community empowerment.

Precedence: Successful women-led initiatives like waste management in Karnataka demonstrate feasibility.

Conclusion:

WUEGA is a feasible and impactful solution to address gender disparity in urban employment, ultimately contributing to economic prosperity and social progress. Its benefits outweigh potential fiscal concerns, making it a necessary step towards ensuring income security and empowering women in urban India.


Plastic Pollution Threatens the Indian Himalayan Region: A Call for Action

The Problem:

  • Plastic waste is ubiquitous in the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR), from mountains to rivers, impacting water quality, biodiversity, and human health.

  • Microplastics are found even in glaciers, posing a long-term threat.

  • Unsustainable production, consumption, and tourism exacerbate the issue.

Current Situation:

  • India's plastic overshoot day in 2023 highlights insufficient waste management capacity.

  • Official recycling claims are misleading, with a large portion of plastic being burned or ending up in landfills.

  • Legal frameworks exist (SWM, PWM, EPR rules) but often lack implementation and fail to address the specific challenges of the IHR, including:

  • Lack of segregation at source, leading to mixed waste and environmental pollution.

  • Inadequate local body powers and funding for proper waste management.

  • Exclusion of traditional institutions in waste management strategies.

Solutions:

  • Resource allocation: Consider the unique needs of the IHR, including its ecological sensitivity and geographical challenges.

  • Empower local bodies: Provide adequate funding, resources, and power to manage waste effectively.

  • Public awareness: Encourage participation through education and community engagement.

  • Data gaps: Improve data collection to inform decision-making.

  • Financial incentives: Implement geographically adjusted Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes, where companies pay higher fees for plastic waste management in the IHR.

  • Convergence of existing schemes: Utilize funds from Swachh Bharat Mission, MGNREGA, and others for infrastructure development and waste management operations.

  • Explore additional funding sources: Leverage Swachh Bharat Kosh Trust, AMRUT, and Smart Cities Mission schemes for waste management initiatives.

Call to Action:

Immediate and collaborative action involving government, communities, and businesses is crucial to address the plastic pollution crisis threatening the fragile ecosystem of the IHR.


Snakes: The Result of an Evolutionary Explosion

The "Uplift Universe" and Earth's Past:

  • Science fiction and the Earth's fossil record both show examples of species experiencing sudden bursts of evolution, leaving others behind.

  • Understanding these "quantum leaps" is a major challenge in evolutionary biology.

Darwinian Evolution vs. Reality:

  • Traditional theories like Darwin's natural selection suggest gradual transformation.

  • Fossil evidence reveals a more complex picture with bursts of change and varying speeds of evolution.

The Case of Snakes:

  • Around 150 million years ago, an "evolutionary explosion" led to the emergence of snakes from lizard ancestors.

  • Snakes evolved legless bodies, complex sensory systems, flexible jaws, and diverse attack mechanisms, becoming highly successful predators.

New Research:

  • A study sequenced the genomes of over 1,000 snake and lizard species, creating the most comprehensive evolutionary tree for these groups.

  • The study revealed that snakes evolved three times faster than lizards, allowing them to exploit new niches after the dinosaur extinction.

Unveiling the "Singularity of Snakes":

  • Scientists use DNA and protein sequences as a "molecular clock" to estimate evolutionary rates.

  • Lizards like the Lerista lizard also show remarkable adaptability, though not to the same extent as snakes.

  • The rapid diversification of snakes is attributed to a phenomenon called the "singularity of snakes," similar to the Big Bang, but in this case happening in a series of rapid changes over a short timeframe.

Beyond Prey Availability:

  • While prey availability contributed to snake diversity, the study acknowledges the ultimate cause of the singularity remains unknown.

  • Researchers suspect the "Sonic hedgehog gene" might play a role, as snake-specific changes in this gene were found to influence limb development in mice.

  • The "Sonic hedgehog gene" mentioned in the text is a crucial gene involved in embryonic development, specifically in patterning various body parts like limbs, digits, and the central nervous system. It's named after the video game character "Sonic the Hedgehog" due to the spiky appearance of the protein produced by the gene in fruit flies, where it was first discovered.

Looking Forward:

  • Understanding these evolutionary bursts could be crucial for comprehending the Earth's future ecosystem.

Authors' Note:

  • The authors are medical professionals also involved with the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur.


04 March 2024 - Daily Current Affairs

04 March 2024 - Daily Current Affairs


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