Daily Prelims Notes 10 January 2022
- January 10, 2022
- Posted by: admin1
- Category: DPN
Daily Prelims Notes
10 January 2022
Table Of Contents
- Turkmenistan’s ‘Gateway to Hell’
- Caspian Sea
- Omicron Epidemic
- Dharma Sansad and Mahamandaleshwar
- Boost to Biofuels
- GST-1 and GSTR-3B
- Green Cement
- China’s Chang’e 5 lunar probe
- Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)
- National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT)
- Harmonised Guidelines and Standards for Universal Accessibility in India 2021
- Veer Baal Diwas
- Adi Sankaracharya
Subject – IR
Context – Turkmenistan President has ordered experts to find a way to extinguish a fire in a huge natural gas crater, the Darvaza gas crater also known as the ‘Gateway to Hell’
- Turkmenistan President has ordered experts to find a way to extinguish a fire in a huge natural gas crater, the Darvaza gas crater also known as the ‘Gateway to Hell’.
- Mystery surrounds the Darvaza crater’s creation in the Karakum Desert.
- Many believe it formed when a Soviet drilling operation went wrong in 1971.
- According to local Turkmen geologists, the huge crater formed in the 1960s but was only lit in the 1980s.
- The crater is one of Turkmenistan’s most popular tourist attractions.
- In 2018, the president officially renamed it the Shining of Karakum.
Subject – IR
Context – Lukoil boasts production milestone at Caspian Sea field
Is the Caspian Sea a sea?
- The Caspian has been called a sea since its discovery and first description in ancient times. The bordering states – Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan – call it a sea in their respective languages.
- Yet the Caspian Sea has some unique features that make its identity problematic. It is an inland sea that can only be accessed through Russia’s Volga River and the canals connecting it to the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea and the Sea of Azov. It is supplied by freshwater sources and has no salt-water connection to the open seas of the world.
- The determinations of the U.N. Group of Experts on Geographical Names have no legal status.
Subject – Science and Tech
Context – Increasing number of omicron cases
- India is facing an epidemic wave of Omicron disease presenting mostly with sore throat, nasal discharge – without cough or high fever. Pneumonia is uncommon. Blood oxygen level remains normal.
- Omicron disease is a milder version of COVID-19 with Wuhan-D614G or Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta variants.
- All previous variants had few mutational changes of the spike protein, Omicron has many more, particularly in the ‘receptor-binding domain’ (RBD), the ligand that binds to host cell receptor, ACE-2.
- While earlier variants have 8-9 mutations on the S1 portion, Omicron has 32-37 in different studies.
- This many mutations have resulted in several alterations in the virus-host cell interactions. For example, the viral load in saliva is high, allowing high sensitivity in RTPCR of saliva samples. Much virus is broadcast into air even without cough.
- Coronaviruses have two cell entry processes – the major one by fusion of virus envelope with the cell membrane and the minor one by fusion with the endosomes within the cytoplasm.
- Virus multiplication is far more efficient with major than minor process. All previous variants use the major cell entry process.
- Omicron uses the second process, as elucidated in laboratory experiments. After receptor-binding the receptor–virus complex is ‘swallowed up’ by the cell through ‘endocytosis’ without affecting the cell membrane.
- The endocytotic vesicle (invagination of cell membrane) then fuses with subcellular organelle called endosome, a normal process. The virus coat now fuses with endosome membrane, releasing the virus genome into the cytoplasm.
- In the first process with cell-surface fusion, all adjacent cells also fuse with the infected cell and form a ‘syncytium’– giant cell with multiple nuclei.
- Syncytia are closely associated with disease severity, particularly with lung pathology.
- In laboratory experiments with Omicron, syncytium formation does not occur. This change presumably leads to less virus production in the body, less invasion of organs and tissues, lower severity and duration of symptoms, decreased need for hospitalisation and low case-fatality ratio – altogether a watered down 2021 version of COVID 2019.
- Omicron resembles influenza virus infection that remains mostly confined to upper respiratory tract.
- Omicron has a propensity for immunity evasion. Virus neutralising antibodies induced by infection by all earlier variants or any of the available vaccines are far less effective against Omicron disease.
- Most monoclonal antibodies that were effective to treat COVID-19 are no longer effective to treat Omicron disease. However, the world over, high degree of protection against severe disease requiring hospitalisation by enhanced antibody levels achieved by a booster dose, is observed.
- Even when antibody fitness to the virus (affinity) is low, the sheer magnitude of antibody level enables antibody-binding to more viruses, thus enhancing functional effectiveness as shown in the U.K.
- These many changes – genetic, fundamental cell–virus interactions, pathology, virulence, disease characteristics, immunity evasion – set Omicron apart from all other variants.
- To emphasise its greater deviation than other variants, imagine the term ‘deviant’.
- The term deviant indicates the high degree and abruptness (non-continuum) of change – in virology, the terms used to represent substantial genetic differences are: lineage, sub-type or serotype – depending on the degree of deviation
- Analogy with Influenza Type A virus epidemiology is interesting. The 1957 pandemic due to a subtype H2N2 emerged when the H1N1 of 1918 pandemic was still circulating as endemic/seasonal.
- H2N2 with antigenic shift not only spread globally, but it also displaced H1N1 from circulation.
- Immunity induced by H2N2 was sufficient to prevent H1N1 circulation.
- In 1968, the next pandemic started with H3N2 subtype; it displaced H2N2, presumably due to cross-immunity.
- The 2009 pandemic was with a new variant of H1N1, with borrowed genes from swine influenza, and named H1N1pdm09 to distinguish it from the earlier H1N1.
- Antigenic cross-reactivity with H3N2 was not strong – hence both H3N2 and H1N1pdm09 are in co-circulation globally as endemic/seasonal.
Subject – Art and Culture
Context – The organisers of the dharma sansad in Haridwar have announced a “pratikarsabha” on January 16 to protest the FIRs registered against them in connection with the hate speeches at the three-day meeting last month.
- A dharma sansad, literally, religious parliament, is a platform of Hindu religious leaders or sants, where decisions are taken on issues considered important to the dharma.
- The first dharma sansad was organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) at VigyanBhawan in New Delhi in 1984, where a decision was taken to launch the Ramjanmabhoomi movement.
- At the next dharma sansad held in Udupi in 1985, eight resolutions were passed, one of which demanded that Shri Ramjanmabhoomi, Shri Krishnajanmasthan and the Kashi Vishwanath complex should be immediately handed over to the Hindu samaj.
- The VHP’s dharma sansads are called by its margadarshakmandal, a body of 65 prominent sants from around the country, whenever, according to the sants, a need is felt to guide the Hindu samaj.
- The margadarshakmandal decides the participants, which include the sants from the akharas. These sants may participate themselves or send their representatives to the sansad.
- Over the years, newer organisations have called their own dharma sansads, which the VHP has tacitly approved. While the VHP organised the first dharma sansad in 1984, anybody could hold a dharma sansad.
- A dharma sansad simply is a meeting of sants, and that every akhara regularly holds its own dharma sansads.
- All 13 akharas in the country nominate mahamandaleshwars to propagate sanatan dharma as the representative of the akhara.
- The mahamandaleshwar has no role in the internal organisation and financial affairs of the akhara, which is run by an executive body of the akhara concerned.
- The akharas have their own norms for appointing mahamandaleshwars.
- In JunaAkhara, a prospective mahamandaleshwar’s name is proposed by an existing mahamandaleshwar or other senior functionary.
- In NiranjaniAkhara, an aspiring mahamandaleshwar should be educated, have knowledge of the shastras, should be able to propagate sanatan dharma, and should have his own ashram or at least an educational institution to hold satsangs and teach sanatan dharma.
- There are more than 100 mahamandaleshwars of the NiranjaniAkhara working across the country.
- The mahamandaleshwars are part of the Peshwai procession of their akharas during KumbhMelas; they also hold satsangs during the Mela.
Subject – Environment
Context – Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari announced on November 11, 2021, that flex-fuel engines will be made mandatory in the coming days
- The advantage of flex-fuel engines is that it can run with 100 per cent biofuel, unlike a standard engine which develops problem if blending ratio goes above 20 per cent.
- The flex-fuel, or flexible fuel, is basically biofuel made with a combination of gasoline, methanol or ethanol where blending ratio may shift from zero to 100 per cent.
- The aim is to gradually shift to fuels which are import substitutes, cost effective, indigenous and pollution-free.
- The entire automobile sector in Brazil runs on flex-fuel engines. The blending varies depending on the availability of biofuel feedstock and price of global crude oil. As a result, international crude oil price does not pinch them anymore.
- While the idea of pushing towards flex-fuel auto-engine is a novel one, the stark reality is that we do not have the feedstock even for 20 per cent bending ratio.
- Currently, the supply is enough to meet about 8.5 per cent blending ratio.
- The government has decided to step up domestic manufacture of biofuels by 10 per cent every year and has advanced the target of blending 20 per cent ethanol in petrol to 2025, from 2030.
- Biodiesel production involves four distinct stages —
- (i) cultivation of oilseeds bearing plants from which seeds would be harvested;
- (ii) trading of seeds which involves procurement of seeds from the individual farmers and selling them to the processing factories;
- (iii) oil extraction from the seeds and transforming the extracted oil to biofuel through the process of trans-esterification;
- (iv) blending this biofuel with the petrol/ diesel and its disposal to individual consumers through retail outlet.
- Originally, India’s biofuel programme identified a few oilseeds whose cultivation was encouraged to meet feedstock supply. However, this policy is now discarded in the new biofuel policy.
- Increasingly, the focus is now of adopting second generation biofuel process, namely producing biofuel from used vegetable oil, crop residue.
- While the policy seems to be sound on paper, very little has been achieved. Only two bio-refineries with capacity of 500,000 litres/day of ethanol from spoilt and surplus food-grain have been constructed by Indian Oil Corporation out of the 12 new bio-refineries to be built across 11 States in the country.
To know about National Policy on Biofuels, please refer August 2021 DPN.
To know about biofuels, please refer October 2021 DPN.
Subject – Economy
Context – Taxman to take ‘explanation-first’ approach in short payment cases
- GSTR – 3B is a monthly summary return filed by a taxpayer by the 20th of the next month or 22nd/24th of month following a quarter. GSTR-3B discloses supplies made during the month along with GST to be paid, input tax credit claimed, purchases on which reverse charge is applicable, etc., and also makes a provision for the payment of taxes, if any, for the relevant month.
- GSTR – 1 is a monthly or quarterly return filed by taxpayers to disclose details of their outward supplies for the month – along with their tax liability. Here, invoice-wise details are to be uploaded so that the Government can keep a check on every transaction. This forms the basis for the recipient of supplies to accept the same and take the eligible input tax credit.
Subject – Environment
Context – Green cement as a sustainable construction material
- Green cement is an environmentally friendly product that minimizes carbon footprint of cement production.
- Many attempts have been made to produce green cements and several green cement types have been produced.
- The majority of these are based on technological advances that include energy-efficient, low carbon production methods, new cement formulations, geopolymers, carbon-negative cements, and new concrete products.
- Additionally, green cement production reduces cement intake, and its major raw materials include discarded industrial wastes like blast furnace slag and fly ash.
- Ekkomaxx cement, magnesium oxychloride cement, geopolymer cement, ferrocrete, calcium sulfoaluminate cement, and sequestrated carbon cement are some examples of green cement. Some of these products have been commercialized and used in various projects whereas a number of these cements have not been utilized broadly in construction projects but possess great potential to be used.
- It has been estimated that a single tonne of Portland cement releases approximately six percent of the total man-made carbon emissions, which significantly contributes to the current environmental issues. The usage of green cement can provide an effective solution to such pressing complications.
- Lowers carbon dioxide emission as it does not require as much heat during its production, releasing up to 80% less carbon dioxide.
- Makes use of industrial waste such as fly ash, silica fume, and last furnace that may require several acres of land to dispose it. As a result, it protects land from becoming a dumping ground and ultimately being destroyed.
- Requires less energy since industrial by-products present in green cement, the energy needed in production is greatly reduced. Additionally, it withstands temperature fluctuations and hence decreases costs related to both heating and cooling.
- Long-lasting – Having a low shrinkage rate, green cement tends to be more long-lasting than the traditional cement.
Subject – Science and Tech
Context – China’s Chang’e 5 lunar probe finds first on-site evidence of water on moon’s surface
- China’s Chang’e 5 lunar lander has found the first-ever on-site evidence of water on the surface of the moon, lending new evidence to the dryness of the satellite.
- The lunar soil at the landing site contains less than 120 parts-per-million (ppm) water or 120 grams water per ton, and a light, vesicular rock carries 180 ppm, which are much drier than that on Earth.
- The presence of water had been confirmed by remote observation but the lander has now detected signs of water in rocks and soil.
- A device on-board the lunar lander measured the spectral reflectance of the regolith and the rock and detected water on the spot for the first time.
- The water content can be estimated since the water molecule or hydroxyl absorbs at a frequency of about three micrometers.
- It was the solar wind that contributed to the most humidity of lunar soil as it brought hydrogen that makes up the water, the researchers said.
- The additional 60 ppm water in the rock may originate from the lunar interior, according to the researchers. Therefore, the rock is estimated to hail from an older, more humid basaltic unit before being ejected onto the landing site to be picked up by the lunar lander.
- The study revealed that the moon had turned drier within a certain period, owing probably to the degassing of its mantle reservoir.
- The Chang’e-5 spacecraft landed on one of the youngest mare basalts located at a mid-high latitude on the moon. It measured water on the spot and retrieved samples weighing 1,731 grams.
Subject – IR
Context – Former Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor Urjit Patel has been appointed as a vice-president of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a Beijing based multilateral development bank.
To know about AIIB, please refer October 2021 DPN.
Subject – Governance
Context – Amazon moves NCLAT against CCI order suspending deal with Future
- It was constituted under Section 410 of the Companies Act, 2013 for hearing appeals against the orders of National Company Law Tribunal.
- NCLAT is also the Appellate Tribunal for hearing appeals against the orders passed by NCLT(s) under Section 61 of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC).
- NCLAT is also the Appellate Tribunal for hearing appeals against the orders passed by Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India under Section 202 and Section 211 of IBC.
- NCLAT is also the Appellate Tribunal to hear and dispose of appeals against any direction issued or decision made or order passed by the Competition Commission of India (CCI).
Subject – Governance
Context – Jallikattu banned in many T.N. districts
- A tradition over 2,000 years old, Jallikattu is a competitive sport as well as an event to honour bull owners who rear them for mating.
- It is a violent sport in which contestants try to tame a bull for a prize; if they fail, the bull owner wins the prize.
- It is popular in Madurai, Tiruchirappalli, Theni, Pudukkottai and Dindigul districts of Tamil Nadu known as the Jallikattu belt.
- It is celebrated in the second week of January, during the Tamil harvest festival, Pongal.
- Jallikattu is considered a traditional way for the peasant community to preserve their pure-breed native bulls.
- Kangayam, Pulikulam, Umbalachery, Bargur and MalaiMaadu are among the popular native cattle breeds used for Jallikattu. The owners of these premium breeds command respect locally.
- In 2014, the Supreme Court banned the bull-taming sport, ruling on a petition that cited the 2011 notification.
- In 2011, the Centre added bulls to the list of animals whose training and exhibition is prohibited.
Current Legal Position on Jallikattu:
- The state government has legalised these events, which has been challenged in the court.
- In 2018, the Supreme Court referred the Jallikattu case to a Constitution Bench, where it is pending now.
- Except in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, where bull-taming and racing continue to be organised, these sports remain banned in all other states including Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Maharashtra due to the 2014 ban order from the Supreme Court.
Subject – Governance
Context – Govt. issues revised plans of universal accessibility
- The guidelines are a revision of the Harmonised Guidelines and Space Standards for Barrier-Free Built Environment for Persons with Disabilities and Elderly Persons released by the The Central Public Works Department (CPWD), under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) in February 2016.
- Earlier, the guidelines were for creating a barrier-free environment, but now they are focusing on universal accessibility.
- The guidelines say ramps are extremely crucial for providing an accessible mobility option, but it is equally important to understand that ramps have to adhere to given guidelines.
- The guidelines provide the gradient and length of ramps.
- The guidelines are not just for persons with disabilities (PwD), but for those involved in planning projects, from the construction of government buildings to master-planning cities.
- While making public buildings and transport fully accessible for wheelchair users is covered in the guidelines, other users who may experience temporary problems have also been considered.
- Drafted by a team of the IIT-Roorkee and the National Institute of Urban Affairs of the MoHUA, the revised guidelines aim to give a holistic approach.
- It calls to incorporate accessibility symbols for PwD, family-friendly facilities and transgender, among the symbols for other user groups.
Central Public Works Department (CPWD)
- CPWD is the Central Government authority, charged with the public sector works. It works under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.
- It deals with buildings, bridges, roads, flyovers, complicated structures such as stadiums, auditoriums, bunkers, laboratories, border roads, hills roads, border fencing, etc.
- The authority was established in July 1854, when Lord Dalhousie established a central agency to execute public works and set up Ajmer Provincial Division.
Subject – Art and Culture
Context – Veer Baal Diwasto be observed on Dec. 26: PM
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared that December 26 shall henceforth be marked as Veer Baal Diwas to pay homage to the courage of the Sahibzades, four sons of Guru Gobind Singh, the last Sikh guru.
- While all four were martyred, the date has been chosen as it was the day observed as the martyrdom day of the Sahibzadas Zorawar Singh and Fateh Singh, who were killed at the tender age of six and nine in Sirhind by Mughal forces
- Sahibzade in Punjabi means sons. The term is usually used to refer to the four sons of the Sikh guru GuruGobind Singh.
- His four sons were Sahibzada Baba Ajit Singh, Jujhar Singh, Zorawar Singh and Fateh Singh.
- The younger pair of the sons were called the ChottaSahibzade.
- They were martyred by the Mughals together.
- SahibzadaFateh Singh was less than six years old. ShahibzadaZorawar Singh was eight years old.
- They were bricked alive by the Mughals. Even at such tender age they refused to bow down to the Mughals.
- The GurudwaraFatehgarh Sahib marks the execution of the Sahibzades. It is located in Sirhind, Punjab.
VaadaSahibzade and Zafarnamah
- The older sons of Guru Gobind Singh are called VaadaSahibzade. Baba Arjit Singh and Jujhar Singh died in the second Battle of Chamkaur. They died in the age of 18 and 14 respectively.
- The battle was fought between the Khalsa army led by Guru Gobind Singh and the Mughal Army on the order of Aurangazeb.
- The battle was fought in December 1704.
- Guru Gobind Singh refers to the battle as Zafarnamah.
- The Sahibzades died between December 21 and December 26. Every year, the Sikhs observe Sangat during this period.
- Sangat in Punjabi means company or association.
- During this time, the Sikhs chant hymns and perform kirtans.
Subject – Art and Culture
Context – Adi Sankaracharya’s birthplace likely to be national monument
- A monument of national importance, if designated by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), authorises the central government to “maintain, protect and promote the site”, which may be considered of significant historical importance.
- Currently, there are around 3,600monuments of national importance being protected by the ASI.
To know about Adi Shankaracharya, please refer November 2021 DPN.