Current Affairs Feb 11

India becomes fastest in the world to reach 70 lakh vaccinations against COVID19 in only 26 days


  • India accomplished this feat in only 26 days.
  • While it took 27 days for the US and 48 days for the UK to reach the same figures.
  •  India has also been the fastest to touch the 6 million mark a few days back.
  •  ON11th February, 2021, till 8 AM, more than 70 lakh (70,17,114) beneficiaries have received the vaccination.
  • 13 States/UTs have vaccinated over 65% of the registered healthcare workers (HCWs).
  •  Bihar leads with over 79% of the registered HCWs vaccinated.
  • 7 States/UTs have reported less than 40% vaccinations of the registered healthcare workers (HCWs).
  • Puducherry has recorded the lowest vaccination performance of 17.5%.
  •  17 States/UTs have not reported any deaths in the last 24 hours.
  • These are Telangana, Gujarat, Assam, Haryana, Odisha, Uttarakhand, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Lakshadweep, Ladakh (UT), Sikkim, Manipur, Mizoram,A&N Islands, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh and D&D & D&N (UT).
  • 12,923 new confirmed cases were recorded in the last 24 hours in the country. 11,764 new recoveries were registered in the same period.


Why did the Chamoli tragedy happen in winter

  • A sudden surge of water in the Rishi Ganga river in Chamoli district, Uttarakhand on February 7, 2021
  • This led to the Dhauliganga dam being completely obliterated and 28 lives lost, while 170 people are still missing.
  • The deep gorges of Himalayan rivers seem sufficient to transport excess rainwater.
  • The Himalayas do flood, though not during winter time.
  • Identifying the cause of where this mass of water has come from, has left both the government and scientists perplexed.
  • A GLOF or glacial lake outburst flood, is suspected.
  • The paradox is that this region of the Himalayas does not have any known glacier lakes.
  •  However if it was indeed a GLOF, the question of where the glacier lake is, still holds.
  • It was possible that a glacier lake was present in the area but not known to scientists. This is because there are also instances of lakes forming inside glaciers that cannot be detected in satellite images.
  • A  portion of the Nanda Devi glacier broke off, creating an avalanche, releasing water trapped behind the ice.
  • An aerial survey of the glacier was conducted where the incident took place in Chamoli.
  • Prima facie it looks that a hanging glacier broke away from the main glacier and came down in the narrow valley.
  • In the valley, it formed a lake that burst later and caused the damage.
  • A second theory is a proglacial lake, formed when a glacier retreats, was held together by boulder and sediment.
  •  It was breached by the said avalanche.
  • The final working theory is that the part of the glacier that broke off, blocked the river, eventually melting and thereby releasing the mass of water.

Why winter?

  • Glacier and ice sheet mass loss is one of the impacts of climate change.
  • Different studies on global and regional climate model projections for the Hindu Kush-Himalaya region, the mean annual temperature is projected to increase in a range of 1-4°C by mid-21st century and 2-6°C by the late-21st century relative to the late-20th century.
  • Currently, we are just seeing the impacts of a 1°C warming in the form of reduced snowfall and runaway glacier melt water in the Himalayas.


Better understanding the reasons behind Arctic amplified warming

  • Rising greenhouse gas emissions are the main driver of global warming.
  • Arctic, a massive oceanic region around the North Pole which is warming two to three times faster than the rest of the planet.
  • One consequence of the melting of the Arctic ice cap is a reduction in albedo, which is the capacity of surfaces to reflect a certain amount of solar radiation.
  • Earth’s bright surfaces like glaciers, snow and clouds have a high reflectivity.
  • As snow and ice decrease, albedo decreases and more radiation is absorbed by the Earth, leading to a rise in near-surface temperature.

Aerosol role

  • Aerosols are tiny particles suspended in the air, they come in a wide range of sizes and compositions and can occur naturally such as from sea spray, marine microbial emissions or forest fires or be produced by human activity, for example from the combustion of fossil fuels or agriculture.
  • Without aerosols, clouds cannot form because they serve as the surface on which water molecules form droplets.
  • aerosols are an essential element in regulating the climate and Arctic climate in particular.
  • Arctic climate tends to change fastest in the winter despite there being no albedo during this period of 24-hour darkness.
  • One reason could be that clouds present in winter are reflecting the Earth’s heat back down to the ground; this occurs to varying degrees depending on natural cycles and the amount of aerosol in the air.
  • That would lift temperatures above the Arctic ice mass,
  • Need to improve our climate models because what’s happening in the Arctic will eventually spread elsewhere.
  • It’s already affecting the climate in other parts of the northern hemisphere,the melting glaciers and rising sea levels in Greenland.
  • And to develop better models, a better understanding of aerosols’ role will be crucial.
  • They have a major impact on the climate and on human health.



SDG India Index

  • NITI Aayog undertook the extensive exercise of measuring India and its States’ progress towards the SDGs for 2030.
  • The SDG India Index is intended to provide a holistic view on the social, economic and environmental status of the country and its States and UTs.
  • Designed to provide an aggregate assessment of the performance of all Indian States and UTs.
  • To help leaders and change makers evaluate their performance on social, economic and environmental parameters
  • The Index has been constructed spanning across 13 out of 17 SDGs (leaving out Goals 12, 13, 14 and 17).
  • It tracks the progress of all the States and Union Territories (UTs) on a set of 62 National Indicators, measuring their progress on the outcomes of interventions and schemes of the Government of India.

 The Index can be useful to States/UTs in assessing their starting point on the SDGs in the following ways.

  • Support States/UTs to benchmark their progress against national targets and performance of their peers to understand reasons for differential performance and devise better strategies to achieve the SDGs by 2030.
  • Support States/UTs to identify priority areas in which they need to invest and improve by enabling them to measure incremental progress.
  • Highlight data gaps related across SDGs for India to develop its statistical systems at the national and State levels.



Arctic permafrost releases more carbon dioxide than once believed

  • Rising global temperatures are causing frozen Arctic soil permafrost in the northern hemisphere to thaw and release CO2 that has been stored within it for thousands of years.
  • The amount of carbon stored in permafrost is estimated to be four times greater than the combined amount of CO2 emitted by modern humans
  • The newly discovered phenomenon will release even larger quantities of CO2 than once supposed from organic matter in permafrost a pool of carbon previously thought to be bound tightly and safely sequestered by iron.
  • The amount of stored carbon that is bound to iron and gets converted to CO2.
  • Then released is estimated to be somewhere between two and five times the amount of carbon released annually through anthropogenic fossil fuel emissions.
  • Iron doesn’t bind organic carbon after all
  • Microorganisms play a key role in the release of CO2 as permafrost melts.
  • Microorganisms activated as soil thaws convert dead plants and other organic material into greenhouse gases like methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide.
  • The mineral iron was believed to bind carbon even as permafrost thawed.
  • The new result demonstrates that bacteria incapacitate iron’s carbon trapping ability, resulting in the release of vast amounts of CO2.
  • Bacteria simply use iron minerals as a food source.
  • As they feed, the bonds which had trapped carbon are destroyed and it is released into the atmosphere as greenhouse gas.
  • “Frozen soil has a high oxygen content, which keeps iron minerals stable and allows carbon to bind to them.
  • But as soon as the ice melts and turns to water, oxygen levels drop and the iron becomes unstable.
  • At the same time, the melted ice permits access to bacteria.
  • As a whole, this is what releases stored carbon as CO2.”


How disaster caused in uttarakhand?

  • Himachal Pradesh has 10,000 glaciers, Uttarakhand has 1,000 glaciers and all are in extremely inhospitable locations.
  • Normally, access to these regions is only possible in the summer, and it’s not easy even then.
  • That’s why our knowledge of glaciers is limited and this is inadequate. That makes satellite analysis or aerial surveys critical
  • This was caused by a combination of a large piece of rock, possibly from a mountain peak, breaking off.
  • This was probably part of the Raunthi/Mrigudhani mountain. It fell on a hanging glacier, probably perched off a cliff.
  • The impact from the falling rock broke it [the glacier] and this mass of rock and ice debris avalanches over a nearly 40 degree slope for two kilometres before falling onto the Raunthi Gadhera stream floor.
  • There was thus a huge mass of rock, ice and other debris that stayed that way for a while.
  • It looks like it stayed that way for three days and the ice and snow started to melt from the heat. It was a clear sky.
  • Eventually, the pressure created by the volume of water and other debris forced its way down the valley and led to the flooding and deluge.
  • Result of decades of freezing and thawing that would have led to weaknesses and cracks forking in those mountain structures.
  • It was not a sudden event, and this underlines the reasons of why we need to keep monitoring the Himalayas


Medical termination  of pregnancy act (MTP Act)

  • The MTP Act of 1971 was framed in the context of reducing the maternal mortality ratio due to unsafe abortions.
  • It allows an unwanted pregnancy to be terminated up to 20 weeks of pregnancy and requires a second doctor’s approval if the pregnancy is beyond 12 weeks.
  • Further, it only allows termination when there is a grave risk to the physical or mental health of the woman or if the pregnancy results from a sex crime such as rape or intercourse with a mentally challenged woman



Disinformation as security threat

  • Disinformation is, similarly, an attack and compromise of our cognitive being.
  • Nation-state actors, ideological believers, violent extremists, and economically motivated enterprises manipulate the information ecosystem to create social discord, increase polarisation, and in some cases, influence the outcome of an election
  • Cyberattacks are aimed at computer infrastructure while disinformation exploits our inherent cognitive biases and logical fallacies.
  • Cybersecurity attacks are executed using malware, viruses, trojans, botnets, and social engineering.
  • Disinformation attacks use manipulated, miscontextualised, misappropriated information, deep fakes, and cheap fakes.
  • Cognitive hacking is a threat from disinformation and computational propaganda.
  • This attack exploits psychological vulnerabilities, perpetuates biases, and eventually compromises logical and critical thinking, giving rise to cognitive dissonance.
  • A cognitive hacking attack attempts to change the target audience’s thoughts and actions, galvanise societies and disrupt harmony using disinformation
  • For example, QAnon spread false information claiming that the U.S. 2020 presidential election was fraudulent.
  • Conspiracy theorists (in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Ireland, Cyprus and Belgium) burned down 5G towers because they believed it caused the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  • COVID-19 disinformation campaigns have prevented people from wearing masks, using potentially dangerous alternative cures, and not getting vaccinated
  • Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) is a well-coordinated cybersecurity attack achieved by flooding IT networks with superfluous requests to connect and overload the system to prevent legitimate requests being fulfilled.
  • Similarly, a well-coordinated disinformation campaign fills broadcast and social channels with so much false information and noise, thus taking out the system’s oxygen and drowning the truth
  • Deep fakes add a whole new level of danger to disinformation campaigns.
  • A few quality and highly targeted disinformation campaigns using deepfakes could widen the divides between peoples in democracies even more and cause unimaginable levels of chaos, with increased levels of violence, damage to property and lives.
  • Defense-in-depth is an information assurance strategy that provides multiple, redundant defensive measures if a security control fails
  • We need a defense-in-depth strategy for disinformation.
  • The defense-in-depth model identifies disinformation actors and removes them
  • A critical component of cybersecurity is education. Technology industry, civil society and the government should coordinate to make users aware of cyber threat vectors such as phishing, viruses, and malware.
  • The industry with public-private partnerships must also invest in media literacy efforts to reach out to discerning public.
  • Intervention with media education can make a big difference in understanding context, motivations, and challenging disinformation to reduce damage.
  • The freedom of speech and the freedom of expression are protected rights in most democracies.
  • Balancing the rights of speech with the dangers of disinformation is a challenge for policymakers and regulators
  • The disinformation infodemic requires a concerted and coordinated effort by governments, businesses, non-governmental organisations, and other entities to create standards and implement defences



Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana

  • All Pregnant Women and Lactating Mother (PW&LM) (except those who are in regular employment with the Central Government or State Government or Public Sector Undertaking or those who are in receipt of similar benefits under any law for the time being in force) are eligible to claim benefits for first living child of the family under the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY).
  • Under Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY), pregnant women undergoing institutional delivery are eligible for the benefit.
  • No separate data of number of pregnant women who were actually enrolled under JSY and total number of pregnant mothers below the age of 19 years undergoing institutional deliveries is maintained.



Scheme for Capacity Building in Textile Sector (Samarth)

  • Scheme for Capacity Building in Textile Sector (SAMARTH) was approved towards addressing the skill gap in textile sector and also to supplement the efforts of textile industry in providing gainful and sustainable employment to the youth.
  • The objectives of Samarth are as follows
    1. To provide demand driven, placement oriented National Skills Qualifications Framework (NSQF) compliant skilling programmes to incentivize and supplement the efforts of the industry in creating jobs in the organized textile and related sectors, covering the entire value chain of textiles, excluding Spinning and Weaving
    2. To promote skilling and skill upgradation in the traditional sectors of handlooms, handicrafts, sericulture and jute
    3.  To enable provision of sustainable livelihood either by wage or self-employment to all sections of the society across the country
  • The skilling programme under Samarth is implemented through Implementing Partners (IPs) comprising Textile Industry/ Industry Associations, State Government Agencies and Sectoral Organizations of Ministry of Textiles.