Daily Current Affairs 03-10-2023

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    Deaths in India’s Prisons

    Syllabus: GS2/Social Justice, GS2/ Governance

    News

    • Recently, the Supreme Court Committee on Prison Reforms found suicide to be the leading cause of ‘unnatural’ deaths in India’s prisons.

    Background

    • According to the Supreme Court Committee among Indian prisoners, the number of custodial deaths has seen a steady rise since 2019, and 2021 has recorded the highest number of deaths so far.
    • Uttar Pradesh recorded the highest number of overall deaths, with 481 inmates dying in 2021. Rajasthan was the state which had 52 unknown causes of deaths.

    Classification of Prison Deaths

    • Prison deaths are labeled as ‘natural’ or ‘unnatural’ by the Prison Statistics India report published by the National Crime Records Bureau(NCRB) every year.
    • ‘Natural’ deaths account for ageing and illness. Illness has been sub categorized into diseases such as heart conditions, HIV, tuberculosis, and cancer, among others.In 2021, a total of 2,116 prisoners died in judicial custody, with almost 90% of cases recorded as natural deaths.
    • Unnatural deaths are deaths other than ageing or illnesses.These areclassified as;
      • Suicide (due to hanging, poisoning, sellf-Iinflicted injury, drug overdose, electrocution, etc.),
      • Death due to inmates, assault by outside elements,
      • Death due to negligence or firing,
      • Accidental deaths (natural calamities like earthquakes, snakebites, drowning, accidental fall, burn injury, drug/alcohol consumption, etc.)

    Unnatural Deaths of Inmates in Prisons in 2021

    • As per a report by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) the suicide rate among inmates was found to be more than twice that recorded in the general population. 
    • After suicide, most unnatural deaths are due to “other” reasons or murder by inmates.

    Issues with Classification

    • An ‘unclear’ distinction: The Supreme Court in a judgment said NCRB’s distinction between natural and unnatural deaths is “unclear.”
    • Under-reported deaths:The prison deaths are under-reported and rarely investigated, resulting in a majority of deaths being classified as ‘natural’.
    • Pandemic challenge: the PSI report classified deaths due to COVID-19 as ‘natural’ deaths — at a time when the occupancy rate of prisons was 118% of their capacity, and almost 40,000 more undertrials were held in prisons.

    Concerns Regarding Prison Conditions

    • Shortage of staff: A sanctioned staff of 3,497 people (out of which only 2,000 roles were filled), was responsible for looking after 2,25,609 prisoners in 2021 (this number has shot up to 5,75,347 as of September 2023, according to the National Prisons Information Portal). 
    • Unevenly distributed vacancies: States like Bihar and Uttarakhand had over 60% of positions lying vacant. Moreover, the total strength of staff includes personnel charged with medical, executive, correctional, ministerial and other duties; not everyone is trained to provide medical aid.
    • Mental illnesses: Almost 1.5% of the prison population suffers from mental illnesses, as per the CHRI report. It indicates a dearth of correctional staff including psychologists, limited access to mental healthcare resources, inadequate identification of mental illnesses in inmates along with heightened vulnerability and stigma.Only 5% of expenditure is spent on medical facilities, per the PSI 2021 report. 
    • Underutilized fund: Between 2016 and 2021, money earmarked for spending on inmates was underutilized. ₹6,727.30 crore was the average national expenditure against a sanctioned ₹7,619.2 crore in 2021. 
    • Congested prisons: According to the National Crime Records Bureau’s 2021 statistics, there were 5,54,034 people in prisons across India, as against a capacity of 4,25,609. 
    • Infrastructural deficiencies: The infrastructural deficiencies are both a cause and effect of “callousness and neglect of the health of individuals in jail custody.

    Recommendations for Welfare of Prisoners

    • The Supreme Court in a 1996 judgment articulated the social obligation towards prisoners’ health, noting that they suffer from a “double handicap”:
      • ”First, the prisoners do not enjoy the access to medical expertise that free citizens have. Their incarceration places limitations on such access; no physician of choice, no second opinions, and few if any specialists. 
      • Secondly, because of the conditions of their incarceration, inmates are exposed to more health hazards than free citizens.”
    • The Model Prison Manual of 2016 and the Mental Healthcare Act of 2017, outline inmates’ right to healthcare.
      • It includes adequate investment in healthcare facilities, setting up mental health units, training officers to provide basic and emergency care, and formulating suicide prevention programmes to thwart such instances. 
    • In June 2023 the NHRC issued an exhaustive advisory to States, highlighting that suicides arise out of both medical and mental health issues. The NHRC’s recommendations are as;
      • Regular check and vigil on bed sheets and blankets of inmates be exercised to ensure that these are not used to make ropes, etc. to attempt suicide.
      • Gatekeeper Model: (devised by the World Health Organization, WHO), to strengthen mental health care in prisons be implemented for training of carefully selected inmates to identify prisoners at risk of suicide.
      • Measures to tackle the issue of addiction among prisoners are undertaken by regular visits of mental health care professionals and de-addiction experts.
      • Adequate number of telephones for contact with friends or family of the prisoner to be ensured in accordance with relevant regulations.
      • Existing vacancies of Prison staff should be filled up particularly those of Prison Welfare Officers, Probation Officers, Psychologists, and Medical Staff, and the strength should be suitably augmented to include Mental Health professionals.

    Source: TH

    Southeast Asia’s First High-Speed Railway

    Syllabus: GS2/International Relation

    In News

    • Indonesian President Joko Widodo inaugurated Southeast Asia’s first high-speed railway.

    About

    • It is a key project under China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative.
    • The railway connects Jakarta with Bandung, the heavily populated capital of West Java province, and will cut travel time from the current three hours to about 40 minutes.
    • It has speeds of up to 350 kph and is named as “Whoosh,”which means “timesaving, optimal operation, reliable system” in Indonesian language.
    • Its use of electrical energy is expected to reduce carbon emissions.
    • It was financed with a loan from the China Development Bank for 75% of the cost. The remaining 25% came from the consortium’s own funds.
    • The project is part of a planned 750-kilometer (466-mile) high-speed train line that would cut across four provinces on Indonesia’s main island of Java and end in the country’s second-largest city, Surabaya.

    China’s Connectivity Projects in Southeast Asia

    • China is one of the largest sources of foreign direct investment in Southeast Asia, a region home to more than 675 million people. 
    • Amid crackdowns by the United States and its allies, China is expanding trade with ASEAN countries and infrastructure projects are playing key roles.
    • A semi-high-speed railway linking China with Laos was inaugurated in December 2021. It runs through Laos’ mountain ranges to connect the southeastern Chinese city of Kunming with Vientiane, the capital of Laos.
      • The $6 billion infrastructure was financed mostly by China under the Belt and Road policy. 
    • There are plans for a high-speed train down through Thailand and Malaysia to Singapore.

    Source: TH

    New Development Projects in MP, Rajasthan and Telangana 

    Syllabus: GS 3/infrastructure 

    In News 

    • The Prime Minister laid the foundation stone of various projects in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Telangana .

    About the Projects 

    • In MP : various development projects worth around Rs 19,260 crores.
      • The projects include the dedication of Delhi-Vadodara Expressway  to boost connectivity across the country, Grih Pravesh of over 2.2 lakh houses built under  under PMAY – Gramin and dedication of houses constructed under PMAY – Urban, laying the foundation stone for Jal Jeevan Mission projects, 9 health centers under Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission to boost the health infrastructure, dedication of academic building of IIT Indore and laying the foundation stone for hostel and other buildings on campus and a Multi-Modal Logistics Park in Indore.
    • In Rajasthan: Various development projects worth about Rs 7,000 crore in Chittorgarh, Rajasthan.
      • The projects include the Mehsana – Bhatinda – Gurdaspur Gas Pipeline, the LPG Plant of HPCL at Abu Road, additional storage at the Ajmer Bottling Plant, IOCL, and the permanent campus of Indian Institute of Information Technology, Kota.
      • The Prime Minister dedicated a 4-lane road on NH-12 (New NH-52) on the Darah-Jhalawar-Teendhar section.
        • The foundation stone for constructing and widening the Railway Over Bridge (ROB) from two-lane to four-lane in Sawai Madhopur will also be laid
        • The railway projects dedicated to the nation by the Prime Minister include the projects involving the doubling of the Chittorgarh – Neemuch Railway line and Kota – Chittorgarh Electrified Railway line. 
        • The Prime Minister dedicated tourism facilities developed at Nathdwara under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme.
          • Nathdwara is the major center of faith for millions of followers of the Pushtimarg propagated by Saint Vallabhacharya.
    • Telangana:  Multiple developmental projects worth more than Rs 13,500 crore in Mahbubnagar, Telangana.
      • The Prime Minister laid the foundation stone of key road projects that are part of Nagpur – Vijayawada Economic Corridor. 
        • The projects include – 108 km long ‘four-lane access controlled Greenfield highway from Warangal to Khammam section of NH-163G’ and 90 km long ‘four-lane access controlled greenfield highway from Khammam to Vijayawada section of NH-163G. 
      • The Prime Minister dedicated to the nation a road project – ‘four laning of 59 km long Suryapet to Khammam section of NH-365BB’.
        • The project is a part of Hyderabad – Visakhapatnam Corridor and is developed under Bharatmala Pariyojana
      • He dedicated ‘37 Kms of Jaklair – Krishna New Railway Line’
      • He dedicated the nation to the ‘Hassan-Cherlapalli LPG Pipeline Project’. 
      • He also laid the foundation stone of the ‘Multiproduct Petroleum Pipeline of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) from Krishnapatnam to Hyderabad (Malkapur)’.
      • He also inaugurated ‘five new buildings of University of Hyderabad’ i.e. School of Economics; School of Mathematics & Statistics; School of Management Studies; Lecture Hall Complex – III;  and Sarojini Naidu School of Arts & Communication .

    Source: LM

    Use of Commercial Spyware

    Syllabus: GS-3/Cybercrime and Security

    In News

    • The commercial spyware is being extensively used by the governments around the world.

    What is Spyware?

    • It is defined as malicious software designed to enter a device, gather sensitive data, and forward it to a third party without the user’s consent. 
    • It is used for commercial purposes like advertising, malicious spyware is used to profit from data stolen from a victim’s device. 

    What is Commercial Spyware?

    • It is a software that allows an attacker to keep an eye on the victim’s device, potentially stealing data and causing harm in the real world.
    • It can take away all the information from mobile devices but also turn on the camera and microphone without the owner’s knowledge, effectively turning handsets into a spying device.

    How are the Devices Targeted?

    • Spyware gets attached to websites and downloads without going much into the notice of the user. There are many software’s that get downloaded without any warning alongside the needed software and are very dangerous for our computer system. 
    • Another way of spyware entering systems is when the user clicks unverified links or downloads malicious contents on the computer system.
    • When spyware enters the computer system it unethically accesses the information that it is not authorized to view.
      • In most cases, it supplies this information to third-party users leading to data leaks. Sensitive information such as passwords and bank information.
    Facts and Figures:
    – According to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, during 2011-2023, at least 74 governments contracted with commercial firms to obtain spyware or digital forensics technology.
    – In 2022, as per The New York Times,the FBI in the U.S. had bought a version of the Pegasus spyware and that Mexican authorities had deployed NSO products against journalists and political dissidents.
    – According to Trade Data, in 2023, an Indian defence agency purchased equipment from an Israeli spyware firm that is being billed as a potential Pegasus alternative.

    Threats and Problems Posed by Commercial Spywares

    • The spyware can steal personal information that can be used for identity theft. 
    • If one has visited online banking sites, spyware can have access to bank account information or credit card details and sell it to third parties or use them directly.
    • Spyware can also manipulate search engine results and deliver unwanted websites in your browser, which can lead to potentially harmful websites or fraudulent ones. 

    How to Prevent Spyware?

    Tech giants including Meta, Google, and Apple have taken concrete steps to address the problem of commercial spyware firms exploiting bugs in their software.

    • Installing Antivirus: The best way to protect a system from spyware is to install a good quality Antivirus such as MalwareBytes, Adaware, etc.
    • Beware of Cookie Settings: There are some websites that transfer confidential information alongside cookies. It is always advisable to keep a check on the cookie settings and set the settings to high security.
    • Beware of the Pop-ups on Websites: It is not recommended to click on the pop-ups that appear on websites without reading them. 
    • Never Install Free Software: It is advised to always be very cautious when installing free software on systems. Most of the time free software has spyware attached to them and it can directly leak confidential user information.
    • Always read Terms & Conditions: Always read Terms and Conditions before installing apps on the system. Never accept policies that breach privacy. Download only trusted and verified apps from Google PlayStore or Apple PlayStore for mobile phones to protect them from Spyware.

    Source: TH

    R21/Matrix-M malaria Vaccine

    Syllabus:GS3/Science and Technology, GS2/ Health

    News

    • The R21/Matrix-M malaria vaccine has been recommended for use by the World Health Organisation (WHO) after meeting required safety, quality and effectiveness standards.

    About

    • The vaccine has been developed by the University of Oxford and the Serum Institute of India, leveraging Novavax’s adjuvant technology.
    • To date the R21/Matrix-M malaria vaccine has been licensed for use in Ghana, Nigeria and Burkina Faso.
    • The R21 vaccine is the second malaria vaccine recommended by WHO, following the RTS,S/AS01 vaccine, which received a WHO recommendation in 2021.
    • The R21 and RTS,S vaccines act against P. falciparum, the deadliest malaria parasite and the most prevalent on the African continent.

    What is Malaria?

    • Malaria is a life-threatening disease spread to humans by some types of mosquitoes. It is mostly found in tropical countries. 
    • Transmission: It is caused by plasmodium protozoa.The plasmodium parasites spread through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.Blood transfusion and contaminated needles may also transmit malaria. 
    • Types of parasites: There are 5 Plasmodium parasite species that cause malaria in humans and 2 of these species – P. falciparum and P. vivax – pose the greatest threat. The other malaria species which can infect humans are P. malariae, P. ovale and P. knowlesi.
      • P. falciparum is the deadliest malaria parasite and the most prevalent on the African continent. P. vivax is the dominant malaria parasite in most countries outside of sub-Saharan Africa.  
    • Symptoms: Fever and flu-like illness, including chills, headache, muscle ache and fatigue.

    Disease Burden

    • According to the World malaria report, there were 247 million cases of malaria in 2021 compared to 245 million cases in 2020. The estimated number of malaria deaths stood at 619 000 in 2021 compared to 625 000 in 2020.
    • Four African countries accounted for just over half of all malaria deaths worldwide: Nigeria (31.3%), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (12.6%), United Republic of Tanzania (4.1%) and Niger (3.9%).

    Initiatives to Control Malaria by WHO

    • The WHO’s Global technical strategy for malaria 2016–2030 aims to reduce malaria case incidence and mortality rates by at least 40% by 2020, at least 75% by 2025 and at least 90% by 2030 against a 2015 baseline.
    • ‘E-2025 Initiative’: The WHO has identified 25 countries with the potential to eradicate malaria by 2025 under the initiative.
    • High Burden to High Impact (HBHI) initiative: WHO has initiated the initiative in 11 high malaria burden countries, including India. 

    Indian Government Initiatives to Control Malaria: 

    • The Government of India set a target to eliminate malaria in India by 2027.
    • In India, a National Framework for Malaria Elimination (NFME) has been developed and launched in 2016 aligned with the Global Technical Strategy (GTS) for malaria elimination 2016-2030.
    • Malaria Elimination Research Alliance-India (MERA-India): It was established by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) as a conglomeration of partners working on malaria control.

    Source: TH

    Is there a TB Drug Shortage in India?

    Syllabus: GS2/ Health, Management of Social Sector, Government Policies & Interventions.

    In News

    • Recently, there have been some media reports alleging a shortage of anti-TB drugs in India and questioning the effectiveness of such drugs under the National TB Elimination Programme (NTEP).

    About

    • Three essential medicines used for treating drug-resistant TB — Linezolid, Clofazimine, and Cycloserine, faced a stockout recently, though the government denied stockout.
    • Last year, Rifampicin – a medicine used for treating drug-sensitive TB, was not available in many parts of India.

    Tuberculosis (TB)

    • About: TB is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. In humans, TB most commonly affects the lungs (pulmonary TB), but it can also affect other organs (extra-pulmonary TB).
    • Many new cases of TB are attributable to five risk factors: 
      • Undernutrition
      • HIV infection
      • Alcohol use disorders
      • Smoking
      • Diabetes. 
    • Diagnosis: TB can be diagnosed using rapid tests, but it’s challenging to diagnose in children.
    • Transmission: TB is spread from person to person through the air. Its common symptoms are cough with sputum and blood at times, chest pains, weakness, weight loss, fever and night sweats.
    • Symptoms: Only a small number of infected individuals will develop TB disease and experience symptoms like a prolonged cough, chest pain, weakness, fatigue, weight loss, fever, and night sweats.
      • Certain conditions, such as diabetes, weakened immune system (like HIV or AIDS), malnutrition, and tobacco use, increase the risk of developing TB disease.
    • Treatment: The usual first-line drugs are: isoniazid and rifampicin.
      • TB is preventable and curable and around 85% of people who develop the disease can be successfully treated with a 4/6-month drug regimen.

    Multidrug-Resistant TB (MDR-TB)

    • About: It happens when TB bacteria become resistant to common medicines due to improper use or early treatment stoppage.
      • MDR-TB doesn’t respond to the usual first-line drugs, isoniazid, and rifampicin.
    • Treatment: The treatment regimen of Multi Drug-resistant TB consists of usually four months of 7 drugs (bedaquiline, levofloxacin, clofazimine, isoniazid, ethambutol, pyrazinamide and ethionamide) followed by five months of 4 drugs (levofloxacin, clofazimine, pyrazinamide and ethambutol).
      • In about 30% of persons with drug-resistant TB, cycloserine and linezolid is required.

    TB Burden

    • According to the WHO, 1.6 million people died from TB in 2021 (including 187,000 people with HIV). Worldwide, TB is the 13th leading cause of death and the second leading infectious killer after COVID-19 (above HIV/AIDS)
    • India accounts for more than a quarter of the total TB cases across the world.
      • According to India TB report 2023, Year 2022 saw notification of 24.2 lakh cases which was an increase of 13% over 2021.

    Government Initiatives

    • National TB Elimination Programme: The programme aims to meet the goal of ending the TB epidemic by 2025 in the country, five years ahead of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) for 2030.
    • Ayushman Bharat Digital Health Mission: The government has started utilising technology by creating digital health IDs for TB patients under the Ayushman Bharat Digital Health Mission to ensure proper diagnostics and treatment.
    • Ni-kshay Poshan Yojana: the yojana provides monetary support through direct benefit transfer to the patients.
    • Pradhan Mantri TB Mukt Bharat Abhiyan: It’s an initiative of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) to accelerate the country’s progress towards TB elimination by 2025. It provides additional patient support to improve treatment outcomes of TB patients.
    • TB Mukt Gram Panchayat Abhiyaan: TB Mukt Gram Panchayat campaign aims to involve the community  to realise the goal of TB elimination.it provides for TB Champions who have been identified and sensitised on TB at the Panchayat level.
    • Tuberculosis Model: India has developed a mathematical model for better estimation of the disease
      • Using this model, TB incidence and mortality estimate data for India will be available by March every year, months before the annual WHO estimates. India can also prepare similar estimates at the state level using the model in future.
    • World Tuberculosis (TB) Day: The day is observed on 24th March to spread awareness about the disastrous health, social, and economic consequences of TB and to make efforts to end the TB epidemic globally.

    Source: TH

    Nobel Prize in Medicine 2023

    Syllabus: GS3/Science and Technology

    In News

    • The Nobel Prizes for 2023 in Medicine or Physiology has been awarded to Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman for their work in mRNA vaccine.

    About

    • The discoveries by the two Nobel Laureates were critical for developing effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 during the pandemic that began in early 2020. 

    Vaccines Before the Pandemic

    • What is Vaccination? Vaccination stimulates the formation of an immune response to a particular pathogen. This gives the body a head start in the fight against disease in the event of a later exposure. 
    • Vaccines based on killed or weakened viruses have long been available, exemplified by the vaccines against polio, measles, and yellow fever.
      • In 1951, Max Theiler was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for developing the yellow fever vaccine.
    • As technology evolved, instead of the whole virus, just a part of the viral genetic code began to be introduced through vaccines.
      • But the large-scale development of such vaccines requires cell culture (growing of cells under controlled conditions) and takes time.

    mRNA Vaccines: A Promising Idea

    • During the Covid-19 outbreak, time was of the essence in finding a weapon against the deadly and fast-spreading virus. This is where mRNA technology proved crucial.
    • This technology had been known since the 1980s, but had not been perfected enough to create vaccines at a viable scale. 
    • Basically, instead of putting an inactivated virus in the body to activate an immune response, vaccines using this technology use messenger Ribonucleic Acid, or mRNA, to deliver a message to the immune system. 
    • Genetically engineered mRNA can instruct cells to make the protein needed to fight a particular virus.

    What Kariko and Weissman did?

    • Karikó and Weissman realised that the problem with lab-grown genetically engineered mRNA is that the body’s dendritic cells [which have important functions in immune surveillance and the activation of vaccine-induced immune response] recognise them as a foreign substance, and release inflammatory signaling molecules against them.
    • To investigate this, they produced different variants of mRNA, each with unique chemical alterations in their bases, which they delivered to dendritic cells. 
    • The results were striking: The inflammatory response was almost abolished when base modifications were included in the mRNA.
    • This was a paradigm change in understanding of how cells recognize and respond to different forms of mRNA. 
    • These seminal results were published in 2005, fifteen years before the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • Through their discoveries that base modifications both reduced inflammatory responses and increased protein production, Karikó and Weissman had eliminated critical obstacles on the way to clinical applications of mRNA.
    About Nobel Prize
    – Since 1901, the Nobel Prize has been awarded in the fields of physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and peace, while a memorial prize in economic sciences was added in 1968.
    1. In 1895 Alfred Nobel gave the largest share of his fortune to a series of the Nobel Prizes.
    – From Stockholm, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences confers the prizes for physics, chemistry, and economics, the Karolinska Institute confers the prize for physiology or medicine, and the Swedish Academy confers the prize for literature. 
    The Norwegian Nobel Committee based in Oslo confers the prize for peace. 
    – The Nobel Foundation is the legal owner and functional administrator of the funds and serves as the joint administrative body of the prize-awarding institutions, but it is not concerned with the prize deliberations or decisions, which rest exclusively with the four institutions.

    Source: TH

    Facts In News

    Bihar Caste Survey

    Syllabus: GS1/Human Geography

    In News

    • The Bihar government has released the results of its survey of castes in the state.

    Findings

    • Total Population: Bihar’s population, according to the survey, is 13,07,25,310, compared to the 10.41 crore recorded in the 2011 census.
      • Hindus comprise 81.99% of the population, and Muslims 17.72%
      • The populations of Buddhists, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, and other religious denominations are minuscule.
    • Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and Extremely Backward Classes (EBCs) constitute more than 63% of the population of Bihar.
    • The EBCs are the biggest social group comprising 36.01% of the state’s population.
    • The OBCs are 27.12%, and the Scheduled Castes (SCs) are 19.65%.
    • Scheduled Tribes are 1.68%, the bulk of the tribal population having become part of Jharkhand after the bifurcation of the state in 2000. 
    • The “unreserved” category comprises 15.52% of the total population.

    Source: IE

    Kármán Line 

    Syllabus: GS 3/Space 

    In News

    • Recently ,the Kármán Line was seen in the news .

    About Kármán Line

    • It is located at 100 km above sea level, it is an imaginary line that demarcates the earth’s atmosphere from space.
    • Though not all scientists and spacefarers accept it, a majority of countries and space organisations recognise this boundary between earthsky and space.
    •  It was established in the 1960s by a record-keeping body called Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI). 
    • Within a short distance on either side of the line, there is no significant difference in the pressure or the composition of air. 
    • The earth’s gravity continues to exert its pull here.
      • Even the earth’s atmosphere doesn’t end here. 

    Need and Purpose 

    • The Kármán Line was established to regulate airspace. It marks, roughly, the altitude beyond which a traditional aircraft can’t fly. 
    • Any aircraft flying beyond it needs a propulsion system to pull away from the earth’s tug. 
    • It also acts as a legal reference that separates airspace that a country can claim to own from space itself, which is governed like international waters.

    Source: TH

    Cholera Disease

    Syllabus: Prelims/General Science, GS2/ Health

    News

    • A June 2023 study by researchers at the University of Florida found that Vibrio pathogens have a unique ability to ‘stick’ to microplastics, and that these microbes might be adapting to plastic.

    About

    • Cholera is a water-borne disease caused by two strains called O1 and O139 of the bacteria Vibrio cholerae.
      • Of these, O1 is responsible for almost all outbreaks; outbreaks of O139 are rare and none have been recorded outside Asia. 
    • According to the WHO’s weekly epidemiological record (September 22), the world reported more than twice as many cholera cases in 2022 as it did in 2021
    • Between these years, more than twice as many countries also reported at least 10,000 suspected as well as confirmed cases of cholera.
    • Both these trends suggest a reversal of a short-term trend, of declining prevalence since 2019. The reversal also complicates a target the WHO specified in 2017, to reduce the number of cholera deaths worldwide by 90% by 2030. 

    What Causes Cholera?

    • According to the United Nations health body, “Cholera transmission is closely linked to inadequate access to clean water and sanitation facilities.” 
    • Vibrio cholerae bacteria also favour warmer waters with lower salinity.
      • All these conditions are created as a result of climate change which increases the likelihood of floods, heatwaves, intense monsoonal rains and storms, and the duration of warm periods and war.
    • The epidemiological record report blames limited investments in providing care to those most vulnerable to the disease; the effects of climate change; and increasing conflict.

    Recent Trends:

    • A 2021 study concluded that the length of the coastline favourable to the development of Vibrio bacteria could increase by 38,000 km by 2100 over the 1850-2014 average, in the SSP5-8.5 emissions scenario.
    • According to the report, most cholera cases continue to be reported from Africa and Asia, with Europe accounting for a few “imported cases” (Chart 2 and Map 3).

    Source: TH

    Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF)

    Syllabus: Prelims/Current Events of National Importance

    News

    • The price of Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) or jet fuel was hiked by 5% recently. 

    Aviation Turbine Fuel 

    • Jet fuel or aviation turbine fuel (ATF) is a special type of petroleum based fuel
    • ATF is colorless and straw-like in appearance. 
    • It is used to power aircraft with jet and turbo-prop engines. Most commercial aviation companies use Jet A and Jet A-1 fuel as fuel.

    Types of ATF

    • Jet A-1 and Jet A turbine are the two main categories of fuel used in civil commercial aviation. 
    • Other aviation fuels include military jet fuels, primarily JP-4, JP-5, and JP-8, all of which are kerosene type fuels.

    How are ATF Prices Determined?

    • Globally, ATF prices are highly and partially linked to crude oil prices as it is produced by the purification process of crude oil. 
    • Thus, all those factors that affect crude oil prices like demand and supply, global economic scenario, natural disasters, monetary fluctuations, geopolitical tensions, and interest rates also affect its prices.

    Source: TH

    Tortoise Trafficking Network

    Syllabus: GS3/ Conservation, Species in News

    In News

    • Recently a study titled ‘From pets to plates’ claims that Chennai is the highest-ranked node in the tortoise and hard-shell turtle trafficking network fuelling the global pet trade.

    About

    • The first-of-its-kind study compared the supply networks of tortoise or hard-shell turtles and soft-shell turtles based on 78 and 64 seizures, respectively, reported in the media during 2013 to 2019.

    Key Points of the Findings

    • Tortoise or hard-shell turtles from India are traded to more places globally and through a wider trafficking network than soft-shell turtles.
      • The former is mostly traded as pets while the latter for meat, primarily within the country. 
      • The trade network for pet turtles was also observed to be more organised than that for soft-shell turtles sold for meat.
    • Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh, Agra, and two districts of West Bengal — North 24 Parganas and Howrah — close to the India-Bangladesh border also rank high after Chennai. 
    • Asian turtle crisis’ is a term often used to describe the current state of tortoises and freshwater turtles (TFTs) in the largest continent on earth. Wild populations of TFTs have suffered immensely due to the onslaught of habitat destruction and illegal and unsustainable harvest.
    • The study found that the tortoise and hard-shell turtle network had a larger geographical scale with more international trafficking links than the soft-shell turtle network. 
    • The illegally traded tortoise / hard-shell turtles were often found to be transported by air, which indicated corruption at entry and exit points.
    • A lack of training on and awareness of illegal wildlife trade amongst enforcement authorities at entry / exit points and a lack of functional scanning equipment may also facilitate trafficking

    Soft-Shell Turtle

    • Softshells include some of the world’s largest freshwater turtles, though many can adapt to living in highly brackish areas.
    • Members of this family occur in Africa, Asia, and North America, with extinct species known from Australia.
    • Softshell turtles lack the hard shell or carapace, which is characteristic of most turtle species. Instead, their shell is more like leather than hard and bony. It lacks the large scales known as scutes that make up the hard carapace of other turtle species.
    • The Indian Softshell turtle, also known as the Ganges Softshell Turtle, is a reptile found in freshwater habitats and its distribution is restricted to the Ganges, Indus and Mahanadi rivers in northern and eastern India.

    Tortoise or Hard-Shell Turtles

    • The shell in tortoises is generally hard, and like other members of the suborder Cryptodira, they retract their necks and heads directly backward into the shell to protect them.
    • Tortoises are generally considered to be strict herbivores, feeding on grasses, weeds, leafy greens, flowers, and some fruits. However, hunting and eating of birds has been observed on occasion.
    • Tortoises are found from southern North America to southern South America, around the Mediterranean basin, across Eurasia to Southeast Asia, in sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, and some Pacific islands.

    Source: TH