Current Affair – May 1, 2021

Mount Meron disaster

  • A massive stampede at a densely packed Jewish pilgrimage site killed at least 45 people in Israel.
  • The nighttime carnage struck after pilgrims thronged to Meron at the site of the reputed tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai,where mainly ultra­Orthodox Jews, or haredim, mark the Lag BaOmer holiday.

What is the Lag B’Omer festival?

  • Lag B’Omer is an annual Jewish festival observed during the Hebrew month of Iyar. It is celebrated on the 33rd day of the Omer, the 49-day period between Passover and Shavuot.
  • Lag B’Omer is the only day during the 49-day period when celebration is permitted. Hence, it is common for Jews to schedule weddings on this day every year. Young boys, who have reached the age of three, are also traditionally brought here for their first hair cut.
  • To mark the occasion, tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jewish pilgrims make their way to the base of Mount Meron every year, to pay their respects to Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, a second century sage and mystic, who is believed to have died on this day. The Rabbi’s tomb is a much revered holy site in Israel.

Rabbi Shimon

  • Rabbi Shimon was said to have been a gifted Talmudic scholar and a disciple of Rabbi Akiva, one of the greatest Jewish sages of all time.
  • According to some accounts, Rabbi Shimon authored the ‘Zohar’, which is the main work of Kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism.
  • Jews believe that on the day of his death, Rabbi Shimon told his disciples the many secrets of the Kabbalah, which some believe is how Lag B’Omer became a day of celebration. Bonfires are often lit on the day to represent the knowledge and wisdom he shared with his followers.
  • Others believe that a deadly plague that killed 244,000 of Rabbi Akiva’s followers ended on this day. Rabbi Shimon was said to have been among the few people who survived.
Source: Indian Express

Special powers to Armed forces

  • Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has invoked special provisions and granted emergency financialpowers to to the armed forces.
  • Vice Chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force, including Chief of Integrated Defence Staff To The Chairman Chiefs Of Staff Committee (CISC) and General Officer Commanding-in-Chiefs and equivalents of all three services have been given full powers.
  • The Corps Commanders and Area Commanders of the forces have been delegated powers upto Rs 50 lakh per case.
  • The powers have been given for a three-month period.

Purpose of Powers

  • The purpose is to empower armed forces and speed up their efforts to tide over current COVID­19 situation.
  • The powerswill help the formation commanders to establish and operate quarantine facilities/hospitals.
  • Indertake procurement/repair of equipment/items/material/stores, besides provisioning of various services and works required to support the ongoing effort against the pandemic

Other powers

  • Defence Minister had also approved delegating seminal emergency powers to the Director General Medical Services (Army/Navy/Air Force), and the heads of the medical branches.
  • The directors general were given powers till Rs 5 crore, while Major General-rank officers and Brigadier and equivalent ranks officers got powers till Rs 3 and Rs 2 crore respectively.
  • Similar emergency powers had been given to the forces last year too, during the first wave of the pandemic.
Source: The Hindu

World’s oldest water

  • World’s oldest water was located in 2009 on the 2.7 billion-year-old Canadian Shield. It is one of the world’s largest continental shields – meaning the oldest and least tectonically active parts of the Earth’s crust.
  • Water was discovered at 2.4 km below the Earth’s surface.
  • The water was highly saline– ten times saltier than sea water.

What scientists found in the water

  • Investigations into the highly saline water led to a pathbreaking discovery.
  • Scientists found that chemolithotrophic microbes– bacteria, that can thrive in the most extreme surroundings, had been able to survive in the subterranean liquid.
  • The microbes had been feeding on nitrogen and sulphate, and that the chemistry that supported them bore resemblance to ocean beds that are known to support similar such extreme life forms.
  • The Canadian Shield, on which the Kidd mine is located, in the past used to form an ocean floor. Over millions of years of flux, however, its horizontal seabed became vertical, now preserved in the mine’s rock walls from which the water sample was extracted.

Why this matters in the search for life on Mars

  • Being a continental shield, which suffers the least from plate tectonic activity, the Canadian Shield is the closest analogue on Earth to the subsurface of Mars, researchers believe.
  • Scientists argue that if life-supporting water can be found 2.4 km below the Earth, it may be possible that the same could be true in the case of the Red Planet.
  • This hypothesis provides an impetus for missions like Perseverance, which are looking for signs of present or past life on Mars.
Source: Indian Express

MACS 1407

  • Scientists in India have developed a high-yielding & pest-resistant variety of soybean ‘MACS 1407’.
  • This new variety is suitable for cultivation in Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Assam and Northeastern states.
  • The seeds of MACS 1407 will be made available to the farmers for sowing during 2022 Kharif season.


  • With the use of conventional cross-breeding technique scientists have developed MACS 1407 that gives 39 quintals / hectare making it a high yielding and pest-resistant variety.
  • Its thick stem, higher pod insertionfrom ground & resistance to pod shattering make it suitable for mechanical harvesting too.
  • It is suitable for rain-fed areas of north-east India.
Source: Indian Express

Ct value

  • Maharashtra government sought clarity from Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)whether it was advisable to treat a person as Covid-negative if the Ct value is more than 24 and the person is asymptomatic.
  •  ICMR responded: All patients with a Ct value less than 35 may be considered as positive while those with a Ct value above 35 may be considered as negative,
In an RT-PCR test, RNA is extracted from the swab collected from the patient. It is then converted into DNA, which is then amplified.
Amplification refers to the process of creating multiple copies of the genetic material — in this case, DNA. This improves the ability of the test to detect the presence of virus. Amplification takes place through a series of cycles — one copy becomes two, two becomes four, and so on — and it is after multiple cycles that a detectable amount of virus is produced.  

What is Ct value

  • Cycle threshold (Ct) is a value that emerges during RT-PCR tests, the standard for detection of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
  • Ct value of an RT-PCR reaction is the number of cycles at which fluorescence of the PCR product is detectable over and above the background signal.
  • It refers to the number of cycles after which the virus can be detected.
  • If a higher number of cycles is required, it implies that the virus went undetected when the number of cycles was lower. The lower the Ct value, the higher the viral load — because the virus has been spotted after fewer cycles.

Is there any correlation between a Ct value and severity of disease?

  • No. Although Ct value is inversely correlated with viral load, It does not have any bearing on the severity of the disease.
  • A patient can have a low Ct value, which means her viral load is high enough to be detected rapidly, but she may still be asymptomatic.
Source: Indian Express

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