Current Affairs Jun 11

All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2019-20

Why in News?

  • Union Education Minister announced the release of the report of All India Survey on Higher Education 2019-20.
  • This Report provides key performance indicators on the current status of Higher education in the country.
  • In the last five years from 2015-16 to 2019-20, there has been a growth of 11.4% in the student enrolment. The rise in female enrolment in higher education during the period is 18.2%.

Key features of All India Survey on Higher Education Report 2019-20

  1. Total Enrolment in Higher Education stands at 3.85 crore in 2019-20 as compared to 3.74 crore in 2018-19, registering a growth of 11.36 lakh (3.04 %). Total enrolment was 3.42 crore in 2014-15.
  2. Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER), the percentage of students belonging to the eligible age group enrolled in Higher Education, in 2019-20 is 27.1% against 26.3% in 2018-19 and 24.3% in 2014-2015.
  3. Gender Parity Index (GPI) in Higher Education in 2019-20 is 1.01 against 1.00 in 2018-19 indicating an improvement in the relative access to higher education for females of eligible age group compared to males.
  4. Pupil Teacher Ratio in Higher Education in 2019-20 is 26.

In 2019-20: Universities: 1,043(2%); Colleges: 42,343(77%) and stand-alone institutions: 11,779(21%).

  1. 3.38 crore Students enrolled in programmes at under-graduate and post-graduate level. Out of these, nearly 85% of the students (2.85 crore) were enrolled in the six major disciplines such as Humanities, Science, Commerce, Engineering & Technology, Medical Science and IT & Computer.
  2. The number of students pursuing PhD in 2019-20 is 2.03 lakh against 1.17 lakh in 2014-15.
  3. The Total Number of Teachers stands at 15,03,156 comprising of 57.5% male and 42.5% female.




Refill Booking Portability for LPG consumers

Why in News?

  • Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas allowed LPG customers to have a choice deciding which distributors they want their LPG refill from.
  • Consumers will be able to choose their “Delivering Distributor” from the list of distributors catering to their address within their Oil Marketing Company (OMC).In the pilot phase, which will be launched shortly, this unique facility will be available in Chandigarh, Coimbatore, Gurgaon, Pune, and Ranchi.
  • The customer can opt for any of the distributors from the list applicable for his/her area to get an LPG refill delivery.


  • The service will not only empower the customers by way of enhanced choice, but also inspire healthy competition amongst the distributors to provide the best in class services to the customers and improve their performance ratings.




Toxic Metals

Why in News?

  • A multi-instrument facility established at IISc, Bangalore can determine concentrations of metals and metalloids spanning a concentration range of ≥100 ppm to 10 ppt (9 orders of magnitude).
  • This Water analysis facility will be key in tracing sources of pollution, quantifying reactive-transport pathways of toxic metals, and assessing the efficiency of remediation methods.
  • Facilities for accurate and precise determination of major, minor, and trace element concentration from natural water samples is critical for quality environmental and geochemical research.
  • The project ‘Fast Forward to SGD6: Acceptable and affordable water in secondary Indian cities (4WARD)’ under its Urban Water Systems programme, awarded to a cluster of institutions (IIT Bombay, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Amritha Vishwa Vidyapeetham, and IISc) and led by IIT Kharagpur, supported by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) focuses on identification and alleviation of water quality and quantity related challenges faced by Tier-II Indian cities.



COMSOL Platform through I-STEM for academic researchers

Why in News?

  • For the first time in the country, through the I-STEM portal academic users in India will now be able to access the COMSOL Multiphysics software suite at no cost.
  • The Indian Science Technology and Engineering facilities Map (I-STEM), the national web portal for sharing R&D facilities, and the COMSOL Group headquartered in Sweden, have entered a collaborative arrangement for this.
  • The suite is hosted on the cloud server to provide user friendly access from anywhere in India.


  • The arrangement is expected to assist many students and researchers in the country, especially those in the more remote and less-endowed institutions, thereby enhancing learning outcomes and promoting R&D efforts across India.


  • I-STEM is an initiative of Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Govt. of India under the PM-STIAC mission.
  • The goal is to strengthen the R&D ecosystem by connecting researchers with resources, in part by promoting technologies and scientific equipment development indigenously and providing necessary supplies and supports to researchers and enable them to access existing R&D facilities through the I-STEM web portal.


  • The COMSOL Multiphysics software suite, developed by the COMSOL Group, is used worldwide as an indispensable tool for a variety of computer simulations for R&D as well as for learning and instruction.
  • It is a general-purpose simulation software package for modelling designs, devices, and processes in all fields of engineering, manufacturing, and scientific research.

Prime Minister’s Science, Technology, and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC)

  • It is an overarching Council that facilitates the Principal Scientific Adviser’s Office to assess the status in specific science and technology domains, comprehend challenges in hand, formulate specific interventions, develop a futuristic roadmap and advise the Prime Minister accordingly.
  • The Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser (PSA) to the Government of India coordinates to facilitate and ensure the implementation of significant interventions by concerned government departments, agencies, and ministries.




Cyber Insurance

Why in News?

  • Large-scale cyberattacks, like the recent SolarWinds and U.S. Colonial Pipeline attacks, have highlighted the growing threat of high-profile hacks on Internet users worldwide.
  • According to the World Economic Forum, cyberattacks top the list of human-caused risks globally.

What does cyber insurance cover?

  • A typical cybersecurity insurance, or cyber risk insurance, is designed to help businesses hedge against potential cybercrime including ransomware, malware and denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.
  • Some policies may also cover losses incurred by other methods of hacking such as cyber stalking, e-mail spoofing, phishing, and cyber-extortion that may compromise a network and expose sensitive data.
  • The claims could also include the cost of privacy investigations or lawsuits following an attack.
  • Additionally, individual and corporate plans should also cover the cost of hardware, like in a case where a cyberattack causes a computer burn-off due to extensive CPU utilisation or heat dissipation system failure.
  • Cyber insurance policies generally don’t cover potential future lost profits and loss of value due to theft of intellectual property.

How much does a policy cost?

  • ​The cost of a cyber-insurance policy depends on several factors. Premiums are likely to be high for companies in certain sectors like pharmaceuticals, healthcare, hospitality, and banking, as they hold sensitive customer information and are prone to vulnerability.
  • Cyberattack preparedness will also determine the cost of a policy.




CHIME telescope

  • Scientists with the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) Collaboration, who include researchers at the Pune-based Tata Institute for Fundamental Research (TIFR) and the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA), have assembled the largest collection of fast radio bursts (FRBs) in the telescope’s first FRB catalogue.
  • While catching sight of an FRB is considered a rare thing in the field of radio astronomy, prior to the CHIME project, radio astronomers had only caught sight of around 140 bursts in their scopes since the first FRB was spotted in 2007.

About Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs)

  • FRBs are oddly bright flashes of light, registering in the radio band of the electromagnetic spectrum, which blaze for a few milliseconds before vanishing without a trace. These brief and mysterious beacons have been spotted in various and distant parts of the universe, as well as in our own galaxy.
  • Their origins are unknown and their appearance is highly unpredictable.
  • But the advent of the CHIME project — a large stationary radio telescope in British Columbia, Canada — has been a game-changer and has nearly quadrupled the number of fast radio bursts discovered to date.
  • While most radio astronomy is done by swivelling a large dish to focus light from different parts of the sky, CHIME stares, motionless, at the sky, and focuses incoming signals using a correlator — a powerful digital signal processor that can work through huge amounts of data, at a rate of about seven terrabytes per second, equivalent to a few per cent of the world’s Internet traffic.




New Enzyme For Cell Stability

Why in News?

  • The Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) scientists have discovered an enzyme that helps maintain the stability and integrity of cell walls in bacteria such as Escherichia coli.
  • Named ‘LdtF’, the enzyme plays a vital role in the formation of covalent linkages between the bacterial outer membrane and an inner polymer layer that protects bacteria from environmental stress.
  • This study will help understand the fundamental bacterial cell wall biology and identify alternate drug targets for the development of new antimicrobials.


  • Cell wall of gram-negative bacteria has an outer membrane and an inner membrane.
  • Sandwiched between these two membranes is a layer of ‘peptidoglycan’, a polymer of amino acids and sugars that form a protective layer.
  • A lipoprotein is known to link the outer membrane to the layer of peptidoglycan. But, how the linkages between the lipoprotein and peptidoglycan are modified is not known.
  • CCMB scientists studied strain of E. coli using genetic and biochemical approaches to identify ‘LdtF’ which could cleave the lipoprotein from the peptidoglycan.
  • Absence of this LdtF enhanced growth defects and increased the peptidoglycan-lipoprotein linkages in the bacteria.
  • The presence of this enzyme, however, decreased the levels of peptidoglycan-bound lipoprotein, suggesting its role in modulating the peptidoglycan-lipoprotein linkages.
  • Such LdtF-mediated modulation of the cell wall gives bacteria flexibility and a survival advantage in fluctuating environmental conditions.

New low-cost sensor to detect COVID-19 in wastewater

  • K. and Indian scientists have jointly developed a low-cost sensor that can detect fragments of the virus responsible for COVID-19 within wastewater, paving the way for health officials to get a better understanding of how prevalent the disease is in a larger area.
  • The technique, developed by researchers from the University of Strathclyde and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, could be used to enable widespread monitoring of COVID-19 prevalence in low- and middle-income countries which struggle to conduct mass human testing.
  • The sensor can be used with portable equipment that uses the standard Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus, without the need for the expensive chemicals and lab infrastructure needed for real-time quantitative PCR tests.




Longest undersea cable in the world

Why in News?

  • Google o is building an open subsea cable that will connect the East Coast of the US and Las Toninas, Argentina with additional landings in Brazil and Uruguay.
  • With the new cable, the tech giant aims to bolster internet connectivity to users in South America and enhance its existing cable investments in the region.
  • The Firmina cable, named after Brazilian abolitionist and author Maria Firmina dos Reis, will be the longest cable in the world.
  • It is capable of running entirely from a single power source at one end of the cable if its other power source(s) become temporarily unavailable.
  • With Firmina, Google has now investments in 16 subsea cables including Dunant, Equiano and Grace Hopper.




Beed model of crop insurance

Why in News?

  • Maharashtra Chief Minister recently asked Prime Minister for state-wide implementation of the ‘Beed model’ of the crop insurance scheme Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bhima Yogna (PMFBY).

How does the insurance scheme work?

  • Launched in 2016, the flagship PMFBY insures farm losses against inclement weather events. Farmers pay 1.5-2% of the premium with the rest borne by the state and central governments.
  • It is a central scheme implemented by state agriculture departments as per central guidelines.
  • For farmers, the low rate of premium and relatively decent coverage make the scheme attractive.
  • A premium of Rs 1,300 can insure an hectare of soyabean for Rs 45,000. Prior to 2020, the scheme was optional for farmers who did not have loans pending, but mandatory for loanee farmers.
  • Since 2020, it has been optional for all farmers.

What is Beed model the state government wants implemented?

  • Located in the drought-prone Marathwada region, the district of Beed presents a challenge for any insurance company.
  • Farmers here have repeatedly lost crops either to failure of rains or to heavy rains. Given the high payouts, insurance companies have sustained losses.
  • During the 2020 kharif season, tenders for implementation did not attract any bids.
  • The state-run Indian Agricultural Insurance Company implemented the scheme.
  • Under the new guidelines, the insurance company provided a cover of 110% of the premium collected, with caveats.
  • If the compensation exceeded the cover provided, the state government would pay the bridge amount.
  • If the compensation was less than the premium collected, the insurance company would keep 20% of the amount as handling charges and reimburse the rest to the state government.




Brood X

Why in News?

  • Recently, US President Joe Biden’s first trip abroad was delayed unexpectedly when a swarm of cicadas bombarded the plane Air Force One, which was about to take off for the UK.

But what is Brood X?

  • Cicadas live underground for extended periods of time, typically 13 or 17 years, and feed on roots of trees both underground and above it.
  • The term ‘brood’ refers to a population of cicadas that is isolated from other populations because of differences in their year of emergence or locality.
  • Brood X is the largest brood of 17-year cicadas and is found in Pennsylvania, northern Virginia, Indiana and eastern Tennessee.
  • Among periodical cicadas, there are seven species. There are also some annual cicadas, which come out every year.
  • Brood X started emerging in May and will be around until the end of June. The time when they decide to emerge is dependent on weather, specifically when ground temperatures reach about 17-18°C.

Are cicadas dangerous?

  • Cicadas also do not bite or sting, but when the males sing, their collective chorus can reach up to 100 decibels, a noise level that can possibly cause severe damage if exposed to it for several hours.
  • One hundred decibels is equivalent to a jet flyover at 1000 feet, a motorcycle or a powered lawn mower.




Quantum leap for medical research

  • Australian researchers have developed a microscope that can image tiny biological structures that were previously not visible in what has been described as a significant step for quantum technology.
  • Quantum technologies are based on the principles of quantum physics, used to describe how tiny systems like atoms and subatomic particles behave.
  • The quantum microscope works with 35% more clarity – at the scale of bonds between atoms in a cell – than existing state-of-the-art imaging techniques.
  • It is hoped to eventually have wide-ranging applications, including improving MRI scans, and studying nerve degeneration and the effects of antibiotics.
  • A common problem in imaging tiny structures is the ratio of the signal given off by the thing researchers are trying to look at compared with random light fluctuations in the background of an image.
  • Scientists had previously overcome this issue by increasing the intensity of a microscope’s light source, using lasers billions of times brighter than the sun – including in techniques that won the Nobel prize for chemistry in 2014.
  • To get a clearer picture, the new microscope uses quantum technology to reduce random light fluctuations within an image.
  • It works involving quantum entanglement, a phenomenon in which photons of light are linked to each other – an effect Einstein described as “spooky interaction at a distance”.




Climate and nature crises

  • Humanity must solve the climate and nature crises together or solve neither, according to a report from 50 of the world’s leading scientists.
  • Global heating and the destruction of wildlife is wreaking increasing damage on the natural world, which humanity depends on for food, water and clean air. Many of the human activities causing the crises are the same and the scientists said increased use of nature as a solution was vital.
  • The devastation of forests, peatlands, mangroves and other ecosystems has decimated wildlife populations and released huge amounts of carbon dioxide.
  • Rising temperatures and extreme weather are, in turn increasingly damaging biodiversity.
  • But restoring and protecting nature boosts biodiversity and the ecosystems that can rapidly and cheaply absorb carbon again.
  • Rapid cuts in fossil fuel burning is also essential to ending the climate emergency.
  • They also warned against action on one crisis inadvertently aggravating the other, such as creating monoculture tree plantations that store carbon but are wildlife deserts and more vulnerable to extreme weather.
  • The report identified actions to simultaneously fight the climate and nature crises, including expanding nature reserves and restoring – or halting the loss of – ecosystems rich in species and carbon, such as forests, natural grasslands and kelp forests.
  • Between 1970 and 2000, mangrove forests have lost about 40% of their cover and salt marshes an estimated 60%.
  • Food systems cause a third of all greenhouse gas emissions, and more sustainable farming is another important action, helped by the ending of destructive subsidies and rich nations eating less meat and cutting food waste.
  • Animal agriculture not only emits 10 to 100 times more greenhouse gases per unit product than plant-based foods, they also use 10 to 100 times more land.
  • More plant-based diets would mean more environmentally friendly farming and then there would be more land on which to apply nature-based solutions.




Coffee wilt disease

  • Researchers have re-animated 70-year-old frozen samples of fungus to look for modern-day clues that cause coffee to wilt.
  • The study showed how historical genomics can help reveal mechanisms that prevent fungal pathogens from spreading.
  • Coffee wilt disease, caused by a fungus Fusarium xylarioides, has led to devastating outbreaks in sub-Saharan Africa since the 1920s. It currently affects two of Africa’s most popular coffee varieties — Arabica coffee in Ethiopia and Robusta coffee in east and central Africa.
  • The first outbreak in the 1920s-1950s was brought under control by management practices such as burning infected trees, looking for natural resistance in coffee and breeding programmes.
  • Two separate diseases were identified after the 2000s outbreak, with each infecting only specific types of coffee — one infects Arabica coffee in Ethiopia and the other Robusta coffee in eastern and central Africa.
  • Researcher found new and specific types of fungi have larger genomes and they identified genes that could have helped the fungi overcome the plants defenses and survive within the plants to cause disease.
  • These genes affect more than 120 crops, including bananas in sub-Saharan Africa that cause the Panama disease.
  • This banana-infected strain is known to be able to exchange genes, conferring the ability to infect new varieties, but the possibility of transferring those genes to another species has never been seen.
  • The two species often live close to the roots of coffee and banana plants, so it was possible that coffee fungus gained these genes from banana-based neighbours.