International Mother Language Day
- This day is observed every year on February 21 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.
- International Mother Language Day recognizes that languages and multilingualism can advance inclusion, and the Sustainable Development Goals focus on leaving no one behind.
- About 200 Indian languages are facing extinction and the UNO has expressed concern over one world language becoming extinct every two weeks.
- This year’s observance is a call on policymakers, educators and teachers, parents and families to scale up their commitment to multilingual education, and inclusion in education to advance education recovery in the context of COVID-19.
- This effort also contributes to the United Nations International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022-2032), for which UNESCO is the lead agency, and which places multilingualism at the heart of indigenous peoples’ development.
- International Mother Language Day was proclaimed by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in November 1999.
- The UN General Assembly welcomed the proclamation of the day in its resolution of 2002.
Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav
Why in News?
- The second phase of the Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav will be inaugurated by the Union Minister of State for Culture & Tourism (Independent Charge) on 22nd Februrary 2021 at Raj Bhawan in Darjeeling,West Bengal.
- The Ministry of Culture is mandated with the task of preservation, promotion and propagation of Indian Culture, both tangible and intangible which inter-alia includes traditional folk dances and art forms, performing arts and rich tribal heritage.
- It organizes cultural programs, festivals and theatrical performances to fulfill this mandate.
- Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav, the flagship festival of this Ministry organized since 2015 with the active participation of Seven Zonal Culture Centres has been playing a pivotal role to take the vibrant culture of India out to the masses instead of confining to auditoria and galleries.
- It has been instrumental in showcasing, folk and tribal art, dance, music, cuisines & culture of one state in other states reinforcing the cherished goal of “Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat” and at the same time providing an effective platform to the artists and artisans to support their livelihood.
- Ten editions of RSM have been held till date since November, 2015 in various states and cities such as Delhi, Varanasi, Bengaluru, Tawang, Gujarat, Karnataka, Tehri and Madhya Pradesh.
- The Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav-2021 will cover a profusion of folk-art forms and it would offer the chance to experience the best in established and emerging virtuosity.
- The RSM will reconnect the people, especially the youth, with their indigenous culture, its multi-faceted nature, magnificence, opulence and historical importance in the context of India as a Nation over the millennia.
Wettest place on Earth sees decreasing trend in rainfall
- The village of Mawsynram trounced Cherrapunji to become the wettest place in the world. Mawsynram receives over 10,000 millimetres of rain in a year.
- A recent study that looked at the rainfall pattern in the past 119 years found a decreasing trend at Cherrapunji and nearby areas.
- The team analysed daily rain gauge measurements during 1901–2019, and noted that the changes in the Indian Ocean temperature have a huge effect on the rainfall in the region.
- They also analysed satellite data and add that there was a reduction in the vegetation area in northeast India in the past two decades, implying that human influence also plays an important role in the changing rainfall patterns.
- The traditional way of cultivation known as Jhum cultivation or shifting cultivation is now decreased and being replaced by other methods. Also, previous studies have noted there is sizable deforestation in the region.
Increase in cropland
- The analysis showed reductions in vegetation with 104.5 sqkm lost per year. On the other hand, there were significant increases in crop-land (182.1 sqkm per year) and urban and built-up lands (0.3 sqkm per year) during the period 2001–2018.
- The annual mean rainfall for the period 1973–2019 showed decreasing trends of about 0.42 mm per decade.
But why study the northeast region?
- Since northeast India is mostly hilly and is an extension of the Indo-Gangetic Plains, the region is highly sensitive to changes in regional and global climate.
- “Northeast India has the highest vegetation cover in India and includes 18 biodiversity hotspots of the world, indicating the importance of the region in terms of its greenery and climate-change sensitivity.”
Why in News?
- Ayesha Aziz, 25, became the country’s youngest pilot when she acquired her flying license at the age of 16.
- She now flies GoAir planes and is emerging as a role model among women in the Kashmir valley, who too are eager to break the social barriers of a conservative society to join professions otherwise dominated by men.
- Aziz was given the First Ladies’ Award by the President of India in 2018 and figured among the country’s top 100 women achievers.
Why in News?
- The closing ceremony of the joint military exercise between the Indian and U.S. Army, ‘Exercise Yudh Abhyas-20’ was held at Mahajan Field Firing Range.
- This was the 16th edition of the joint exercise and it began on February 8.
- The aim of the exercise was to focus on counter terrorism operations under the mandate of the United Nations.
- The training focused primarily on subject matter exchange of topical issues of contemporary significance, drills at tactical level and sharing of best practices of each other.
- The exercise was conducted in two phases. The first phase of combat conditioning, tactical training and inter-operability was completed successfully by both the contingents.
- The training received by both the armies in the first phase was validated in the second phase.
Why in News?
- Tamil Nadu CM laid the foundation stone for the first phase of the Cauvery-South Vellar-Vaigai-Gundar intra-State river-link project.
- Also laid the foundation for the renovation of irrigation infrastructures under the Extension, Renovation and Modernisation of Cauvery Sub-basin Project.
- Under the first phase of the intra-State river-link project, a canal will be built from the Mayanur barrage on Cauvery river to the South Vellar — a distance of about 118.45 km.
- The ₹3,384 crore project for the renovation and modernisation of the Cauvery sub-basin is aimed at ensuring irrigation for over 4.6 lakh acres of land in Thanjavur, Nagapattinam, Tiruvarur and Mayiladuthurai districts, served by the Cauvery, and 21 of its tributaries falling in the lower Cauvery sub-basin.
- Chandrayaan-3, India’s third mission to Moon, is likely to be launched in 2022.
- The COVID-19 lockdown has hit several projects of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) including Chandrayaan-3, which was scheduled to be launched in late 2020, and Gaganyaan, the country’s first manned space mission.
- It is the same configuration like Chandrayaan-2 but it will not have an orbiter. The orbiter launched during Chandrayaan-2 will be used for Chandrayaan-3.
- Chandrayaan-2, aimed at landing a rover on unchartered Lunar South Pole, was launched on July 22, 2019 on board the country’s most powerful geosynchronous launch vehicle.
- However, the lander Vikram hard-landed on September 7, 2019, crashing India’s dream to become the first nation to successfully land on the lunar surface in its maiden attempt.
- Chandrayaan-3 is critical for ISRO as it will demonstrate India’s capabilities to make landing for further interplanetary missions.
- Gaganyaan envisages to send three Indians to space by 2022. The four test pilots selected for the mission are currently undergoing training in Russia.
Why in News?
- The status of WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) in healthcare facilities is an important issue in development.
- US, have estimated the cost of ensuring WASH and taking related steps for infection prevention and control for one year in healthcare facilities in all of India.
- They estimate that improving WASH across the pubic healthcare facilities in India and maintaining this for a year would cost $354 million (Rs 2567,00,00,000 approximately) in capital costs and $289 million (Rs 2095,00,00,000 approximately) in recurrent expenses.
- The study further finds that the most costly interventions were providing clean water, linen reprocessing and sanitation while the least expensive were hand hygiene, medical device reprocessing and environmental surface cleaning.
- A 2019 joint global baseline report by WHO and UNICEF had pointed out that globally, one in four healthcare facilities lacked basic water servicing and one in five had no sanitation service and 42% had no hygiene facilities at point of care.
Impact of WASH
- A WHO document on WASH in healthcare facilities points out that 8,27,000 people in low- and middle-income countries die as a result of inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene each year.
- Also, death of 2,97,000 children under five years can be prevented each year if better WASH could be provided.
- On a positive note, a 2012 WHO report had calculated that for every dollar invested in sanitation, there was $5.50 to be gained in lower health costs, more productivity and fewer premature deaths.
Why in News?
- Chandigarh became the first state or Union Territory in India to launch Carbon Watch, a mobile application to assess the carbon footprint of an individual.
- Although the app can be accessed by everyone, it has specific options for the residents of Chandigarh to compile a detail study.
- Carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gases-especially carbon dioxide-released into the atmosphere by a particular human activity.
- As a person downloads the application, they will need to fill details in four parts- Water, Energy, Waste Generation and Transport (Vehicular movement). In the category of Water, the person will be required to inform about the consumption of water.
- With the mentioned information, the mobile application will automatically calculate the carbon footprint of the individual.
What solutions will be offered by the mobile application? Will it get updated everyday?
- The mobile application will suggest methods to reduce the carbon footprints. The application will suggest ways as per the information furnished by the individuals.
- The app focuses on individuals’ actions and calculates carbon footprint on the basis of Transport, Energy, Waste and Water consumption.
- It also suggests remedial actions and sensitises people about their lifestyle emissions, their impact and possible countermeasures to mitigate the same.
Wage of Tea Garden Workers
Why in News?
- Recently, the Assam government increased the wages of tea garden workers from Rs 167 to Rs 217.
What is the latest government announcement?
- The Assam government announced that the wage of tea garden workers will be increased from Rs 167 to Rs 217 per day. Moreover, for equal wages of small tea workers, a one-man committee under Principal Secretary Dr JB Ekka will be formed.
Why is the tea garden community important in Assam?
- The tea tribe community — comprising 17% of the state’s population.
- The community is spread over in 800 tea gardens plus several unorganised small gardens of Assam.
- It is marked by exploitation, economic backwardness, poor health conditions and low literacy rates.
- In 2017, the Assam government formed an advisory board to fix minimum wages of tea workers — the board recommended an amount of Rs 351.
- The next year, as an interim measure, the Assam government hiked daily wages from Rs 137 to Rs 167. In 2019, a one-man committee, headed by former chief secretary of Assam Kumar Sanjay Krishna, recommended that the cash component of the wages be hiked to around Rs 195, which including perks could go up to an amount around Rs 226.
- In the Union Budget presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on February 1, Rs 1,000 crore was announced for the welfare of tea workers in Assam and West Bengal.
Unusually foggy over north India this winter
Why in News?
- For several days during the last two months, zero visibility and dense fog has engulfed parts of Delhi and all of Punjab and Haryana keeping up with cold weather conditions.
What is fog?
- Fog is a phenomenon of small droplets remaining suspended in the air. Fog develops normally during late evening, night or early morning hours of the day, severely affecting visibility.
- Poor visibility, falling to less than a kilometre disrupts the smooth flow of vehicular and air traffic.
- Road accidents, delays in flight take-offs and landings are linked to poor visibility caused by fog.
- Foggy conditions prevail over the plains of north India during the winter season and can prolong for days and sometimes even for weeks.
What factors led to dense fog over north India this winter?
- Fog developed over Delhi-Haryana-Punjab belt during February 2-6, due to the passing of an active western disturbance, which caused light rain and brought along fresh moisture over these regions.
- Though western disturbances continued to pass through the extreme northern hilly terrains affecting weather over Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh during February 8-19, the plains largely remained unaffected.
- In the absence of an active western disturbance, an anticyclone formed and stayed put over the extreme north of the plains. This coincided with the dominant easterly waves pumping in moisture into the region, favouring the fog formation.
- Clear sky conditions accompanied by calm winds during the day allowed the fog to persist for longer than normal duration.
- The Punjab-Haryana-Delhi belt is infamous for possessing a high concentration of sources causing air pollution, but this season, the pollutants had little role to play with respect to fog.
- With the persistent prevalence of an easterly trough across Central India after February 8, the easterly winds continued to remain active for 9 to 10 consecutive days.
- This resulted in continuous moisture being fed and the water droplets contributed towards the fog development and its persistence all these days.
Crispr gene-editing therapies
- Last year’s Nobel prize for chemistry was awarded to biochemist Jennifer Doudna and microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier for their work in developing the technique of gene editing known as Crispr-Cas9 (pronounced “crisper”), hailed their discovery as “molecular scissors” that would allow us to “rewrite the book of life”.
- The real promise of Crispr is for treating diseases caused by genetic mutations, from muscular dystrophy to congenital blindness, and even some cancers.
- Many common diseases, including heart conditions, Alzheimer’s and diabetes, are partly caused by genes: people who inherit the “wrong” variants of certain genes are more vulnerable.
- Other diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, might be caused by the malfunction of just one or a few genes.
- In that case, the disease might be cured entirely by gene editing: replacing the faulty genes with the healthy variant.
- This “gene therapy” approach has been a goal ever since scientists first began learning how to edit genes in the 1970s.
- But it has never yet lived up to the hype, because editing one gene among about 21,000 others in the DNA of each of our cells is hard.
- It requires very accurate tools for finding the gene, snipping the DNA at that point, and then stitching in a new gene (or fragment of one) in its place.
- Crispr technique uses an enzyme molecule called Cas9, first found in bacteria, which can be reliably programmed to find its target.
- It carries with it a piece of genetic material called mRNA, similar to DNA, which holds the sequence of the target site. When the enzyme finds the DNA sequence matching that on its mRNA reference strand, it snips the DNA double helix in two. Other enzymes can then insert another piece of DNA – encoding the “healthy” sequence, say – into the break.
- Crispr also made gene-editing more viable for medicine.
5th Environment Assembly
Why in News?
- Climate change, biodiversity loss and land degradation should be tackled together by transforming the world’s relationship with nature, said a new report released by United Nations ahead of its fifth Environment Assembly.
- The assembly will be held February 22-23, 2021 on the theme ‘Strengthening Actions for Nature to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals’.
- It calls for strengthened action to protect and restore nature and nature-based solutions to achieve the sustainable development goals in its three social, economic and environmental dimensions.
- The report called ‘Making Peace with Nature’ presents a strong case for innovation and investment to tackle climate, biodiversity and pollution —the three environmental emergencies within the framework of sustainable development goals.
- Three sustainable development goals — poverty alleviation, food and water security and good health for all — will also be reached by addressing environmental crisis.
- It advocates for advancements in science and bold policymaking for a carbon neutral world by 2050, while bending the curve on biodiversity loss and curbing pollution and waste.
- The report highlights the importance of changing mindsets and values, and finding political and technical solutions that measure up to the Earth’s environmental crises.
For a sustainable future
- Natural capital can be included by the governments to measure the economic performance. Nations are advised to put a price on carbon and shift trillions of dollars in subsidies from fossil fuels, non-sustainable agriculture and transportation towards low-carbon and nature-friendly solutions.