Current Affair – April 27, 2021

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CURRENT AFFAIRS

Study on Groundwater and Cropping intensity

  • A new international study highlights the depleting groundwater in India and its impact on cropping intensity.
  • The international team studied India’s three main irrigation types on winter cropped areas: dug wells, tube wells, canals, and also analysed the groundwater data from the Central Ground Water Board.

Findings of study

  • With severe groundwater depletion, the cropping intensity or the amount of land planted in the winter season may decrease by up to 20% by 2025.
  • 13% of the villages in which farmers plant a winter crop are located in critically water­depleted regions.
  • These villages may lose 68% of their cropped area in future if access to all groundwater irrigation is lost.
  • The study suggests that these losses will largely occur in northwest and central India.
  • Alternative: Switching to canal irrigation has limited adaptation po­tential at the national scale. Even if all re­gions that are currently us­ing depleted groundwater for irrigation will switch to using canal irrigation, crop­ping intensity may decline by 7% nationally.

About Indian Agriculture

  • India is the second­largest producer of wheat in the world, with over 30 million hectares in the country dedicated to producing this crop. Some of the important winter crops (Rabi)  are wheat, barley, mustard and peas.
  • There are several first generation (productivity) and second­ generation (sustainability) problems. In the green revo­lution era, policy supported environment led to a large increase in rice cultivation in northwestern India mainly in Punjab and Haryana which are ecologically less suitable for rice cultivation due to predominantly light soils.
  • Policy supported intensive agri­culture led to unsustainable groundwater use for irriga­tion and in turn groundwa­ter scarcity.
  • There was also post­ harvest residue burn­ ing to make way for the timely sowing of wheat

Way forward

  • Adoption of water­-saving technologies like a sprinkler, drip irriga­tion and switching to less water-intensive crops may help use the limited groundwater resources more effectively.
  • There are enough groundwater re­sources supported with higher monsoon rainfall in eastern Indian states like Bi­har. But due to lack of enough irrigation infras­tructure, farmers are not able to make use of natural resources there.
  • There is need for better poli­cies in eastern India to ex­pand the irrigation and thus increase agriculture pro­ductivity. 
Source: The Hindu

Project DANTAK

  • Project DANTAK is commemorating its Diamond Jubilee in Bhutan. Indian Ambassador to Bhutan laid a floral wreath at the DANTAK Memorial in Simtokha.
  • It was a fitting tribute to the sacrifices made by personnel of DANTAK in strengthening the bonds of friendship between India. Over 1,200 DANTAK personnel laid down their lives while constructing important infrastructure in Bhutan.

About the project

  • Project DANTAK was established on April 24, 1961 as a result of the visionary leadership of His Majesty the Third King and then Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru.
  • It identified the utmost importance of connectivity in spurring the socio-economic development and growth of Bhutan.
  • DANTAK was tasked to construct the pioneering motorable roads in the Kingdom.
  • DANTAK completed the road connecting SamdrupJongkhar to Trashigang in 1968. In the same year, Thimphu was connected to Phuentsholing by DANTAK. Many Bhutanese had also volunteered to work with DANTAK.
  • Over the years, DANTAK has met the myriad infrastructure requirements in Bhutan in accordance with the vision of Their Majesties and the aspirations of the people in a symbiotic manner.
  • The medical and education facilities established by DANTAK in far flung areas were often the first in those locations. The food outlets along the road introduced the Bhutanese to Indian delicacies. The famous Takthi Canteen midway between Phuentsholing and Thimphu has been a compulsory stop for travelers.

Important projects by DANTAK

  • Construction of Paro Airport
  • Yonphula Airfield
  • Thimphu – Trashigang Highway
  • Telecommunication & Hydro Power Infrastructure
  • Sherubtse College
  • Kanglung and India House Estate.
Source: PIB

Chimeras

  • Scientists have created the world’s first monkey embryos containing human cells. It is an attempt to investigate how the two types of cell develop alongside each other.
  • The embryos were derived from a macaque and then injected with human stem cells in the lab. These were allowed to grow for 20 days before being destroyed.
  • The term for this type of life form is : a chimera. It is named after the fire-breathing monster of Greek mythology that was part lion, part goat and part snake. It’s hoped that part-human chimeras — essentially animal bodies with some human organs or other characteristics — might one day offer clues to help us treat human diseases, as well as providing organs to transplant to humans.
  • But for these purposes, part-human chimeras will first have to be born and this research takes is one step closer to that eventuality.

Ethics

  • It is ethically controversial.
  • These creatures could possess an ambiguous moral status: Somewhere between that of humans and animals.
  • How to treat part-human chimeras will depend upon the moral status assigned to them

Why make chimeras?

  • Human-monkey chimeras could be created to study parts of the brain, for instance, to better understand Alzheimer’s Disease.
  • To grow human organs for transplantation by “deleting” the relevant organ from the animal’s genetic instructions and replacing it with human stem cells to fill the developmental niche.
Source: Downtoearth

Shadow puppet theatre

  • India has the richest variety of types and styles of shadow puppets.
  • Shadow puppets are flat figures. They are cut out of leather which has been treated to make it translucent. They are pressed against the screen with a strong source of light behind it. The manipulation between light and screen make silhouettes or colourfully shadows.
  • The tradition survives in Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.
  • There are six shadow puppet traditions locally known as ChamadyachaBahulya in Maharashtra, TolpavaKuthu in Kerala, TogaluGombeyetta in Karnataka, Tolu Bomlattam in Tamil Nadu, Tolu Bomlatta in Andhra Pradesh and Ravanchayya in Odisha.
Source: Yojana

A critical review of news vaccination strategy

Government of India unveiled a completely revamped vaccine strategy.The new strategy shifts the onus onto the State governments, which have to take decisions re­garding free vaccination for peo­ple above 18 years, while the cen­tral government would continue to support vaccination for people above 45 years, and health­care workers and frontline workers

Features of new policy

  1. The cover has been extended to the en­tire adult population.
  2. Significant De­regulation of vaccine market: Vaccine manufacturers have the freedom to sell 50% of their vaccine produc­tion to State governments and private hospitals.
  3. The new strategy fragments the market into three layers namely, central government procurement, State go­vernment procurement and the private hospitals
  4. A grant of ₹45 billion to the two vaccine ma­nufacturers, the Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech, to boost their capacities.

Critical view

  1. Until now, nearly 142 million vaccine doses have been adminis­tered in the country, the third highest in the world. However, in terms of population share, less than 2% has received both vaccine doses, while less than 9% has re­ceived one dose.
  2. Demand-sup­ply mismatch has begun to appear:
  • Coverage of vaccine elig­ible population expanded
  • US had used Defense Production Act to restrict exports of vaccine cul­ture and other essential materials.
  • The manufacturing company complained that it lacked the financial capacity to expand its production, request­ing a grant from the government
  1. So far, the central govern­ment played the role of a sole pro­curement agency that helped in driving down prices, thus address­ ing the issue of affordable access to vaccines. However, now the layering of the market into 3 segments would allow the pro­ducers to charge high prices from the State governments and private hospitals. 
  2. Inequitable access across States: Vaccination of a sig­nificant section of the population depends on the financial health of each State government.
  3. Poor states’ finance: Most State governments may not be able to procure the required num­ber of vaccine doses to meet the demands of the targeted popula­tion. In such a situation, a large share of the vaccine quota (50% of domestic production) could end up with private hospitals.
  4. In view of the advance of ₹ 45 billion made by the GoI to the two vaccine producers in In­dia for expanding their production capacities the question arises why the tax­paying pu­blic should bear the high prices of vaccines when Central taxes have been used to beef up the vaccine producers. This question is more pertinent in India, where access to affordable vaccines is critical for ensuring “vaccination for all”.

Way forward 

  • India has long championed the cause of ac­cess to affordable medicines in international forums.
  • India needs more vaccine manufacturers to ensure uninterrupted supply.
  • The government has taken the positive step of in­creasing production of Bharat Bio­ tech’s vaccine through the involve­ment of three public sector undertakings.
  • There is a need for more open li­censing of this vaccine to scale up production. This would enhance competition in the market, ena­bling the vaccines to reach every citizen in the country.
Source: The Hindu

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