News Snippet

News 1: Decline in pre-primary enrolments continued in 2021-22

News 2: Child Welfare Police Officers a must in all police stations

News 3: Amur falcons and Nagaland

News 4: RISAT-2 satellite makes re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere

News 5: Mauna Loa eruption

News 6: Poppy cultivation and Afghanistan

Other important news:

  1. Bharat Stage emission norms
  2. Increasing tension in Korean Peninsula
  3. Impact of US Federal Reserve rate hikes

News 1: Decline in pre-primary enrolments continued in 2021-22


Background

The number of children entering pre-primary classes in 2021-2022 saw a further decline, resulting in 30% fewer students in this school section as compared to pre-Covid as younger students with less access to remote learning continue to bear the biggest brunt of learning loss during the pandemic, according to a report released by the Ministry of Education.

Findings

Enrolment in primary classes, which include classes 1 to 5, saw a drop for the first time, falling from 12.20 lakh in 2020-2021 to 12.18 lakh in 2021-2022. However, the total number of students from primary to higher secondary increased by 19 lakh to 25.57 crore.

Also for the first time since the pandemic, the report records a decline in number of schools due to closures as well as a lack of teachers. There were 20,000 fewer schools in 2021-2022 as the total number of schools dropped from 15.09 lakh to 14.89 lakh.

There were also 1.89 lakh or 1.98% fewer teachers as their number reduced from 96.96 lakh in 2020-2021 to 95.07 lakh in 2021-2022.

Computer facilities were available in 44.75% of schools, while Internet access was available only in 33.9% of schools. However, their availability has improved as compared to pre-Covid when only 38.5% of schools had computers and 22.3% had Internet facilities.


News 2: Child Welfare Police Officers a must in all police stations


Background

The Ministry of Home Affairs has asked the States/Union Territories to appoint a Child Welfare Police Officer (CWPO) in every police station to exclusively deal with children, either as victims or perpetrators.

Child Welfare Police Officer and Special Juvenile Police Unit

Acting on an advisory issued by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, the Home Ministry referred to provisions under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, which calls for designating at least one officer, not below the rank of an Assistant Sub-Inspector, as CWPO in every station.

In a note to all Directors-General of Police, the Home Ministry said the Commission had further requested that a Special Juvenile Police Unit in each district and city, which is headed by an officer not below the rank of a Deputy Superintendent of Police, be established.

The unit would comprise CWPOs and two social workers having experience of working in the field of child welfare, of whom one shall be a woman, to co-ordinate all functions of police in relation to children.

National Commission for Protection of Child Rights

  • The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights is an Indian statutory body established by an Act of Parliament
  • The Commission works under the aegis of Ministry of Women and Child Development, GoI
  •  The Commission became operational on 5 March 2007.

News 3: Amur falcons and Nagaland


Background

Nagaland is undertaking the first avian documentation exercise going beyond the Amur falcons, the migratory raptor that put the State on the world birding map.

Amur Falcon

Amur Falcons breed in eastern Siberia and in winter in southern Africa, often congregating in huge roosts on passage through India. They feed mainly on insects that they either catch on the wing or pick from the ground.

Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals/Bonn Convention

  • CMS brings together the States through which migratory animals pass, the Range States, and lays the legal foundation for internationally coordinated conservation measures throughout a migratory range.
  • As the only global convention specializing in the conservation of migratory species, their habitats and migration routes, CMS complements and co-operates with a number of other international organizations, NGOs and partners in the media as well as in the corporate sector.
  • Migratory species threatened with extinction are listed on Appendix I of the Convention. CMS Parties strive towards strictly protecting these animals, conserving or restoring the places where they live, mitigating obstacles to migration and controlling other factors that might endanger them.
  • Migratory species that need or would significantly benefit from international co-operation are listed in Appendix II of the Convention. For this reason, the Convention encourages the Range States to conclude global or regional agreements.
  • In this respect, CMS acts as a framework Convention. The agreements may range from legally binding treaties (called Agreements) to less formal instruments, such as Memoranda of Understanding, and can be adapted to the requirements of particular regions.

Central Asian Flyway

Flyways are the geographical area used by a single or group of migratory birds during their annual cycle

The Central Asian Flyway (CAF) covers a large continental area of Eurasia between the Arctic and Indian Oceans and the associated island chains.

The Flyway comprises several important migration routes of waterbirds, most of which extend from the northernmost breeding grounds in the Russian Federation (Siberia) to the southernmost non-breeding (wintering) grounds in West and South Asia, the Maldives and the Indian Ocean Territory.

The birds on their annual migration cross the borders of several countries. Geographically the flyway region covers 30 countries of North, Central, South Asia and Trans-Caucasus.

How many flyways pass through the Indian sub-continent?

1) Central Asian Flyway (CAF)

  • This migration route covers over 30 countries for different waterbirds.
  • It connects their northernmost breeding grounds in Siberia, Russia to the southernmost non-breeding grounds in West and South Asia, the Maldives and British Indian Ocean Territory.

2) East Asian Australasian Flyway (EAAF)

  • It extends from Arctic Russia and North America to the southern limits of Australia and New Zealand.
  • It covers large areas of East Asia, all of Southeast Asia. Importantly, it includes eastern India as well as Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • This flyway region covers 30 countries of North, Central and South Asia and Trans-Caucasus.
  • It covers at least 279 populations of 182 migratory waterbird species, including 29 globally threatened and near-threatened species.

3) Asian East African Flyway (AEAF)

  • It extends from Arctic Russia to South Africa and Madagascar in Africa.
  • In the Indian subcontinent covers the area from west of Tibetan plateau and Himalayas including central Asia and West Asia. North-western India is also covered.

What is Raptor MoU?

Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia is also known as Raptor MoU. Raptors MoU is an agreement under CMS. India is a signatory to Raptor MoU but it is not legally binding.


News 4: RISAT-2 satellite makes re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere


Background

ISRO’s RISAT-2 satellite, launched in 2009, has made an uncontrolled re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. RISAT-2 satellite, weighing about 300 kg, made an uncontrolled re-entry in the Indian Ocean near Jakarta on October 30.

RISAT-2

  • RISAT-2 was launched by the PSLV-C12 launch vehicle 13 years ago.
  • ISRO said that though the initial designed life of the satellite was four years, due to proper maintenance of orbit and mission planning by the spacecraft operations team in ISRO and by economical usage of fuel, RISAT-2 provided very useful payload data for 13 years.
  • RISAT-2, or Radar Imaging Satellite-2 was an Indian radar imaging reconnaissance satellite that was part of India’s RISAT programme.
  • It is India’s first dedicated reconnaissance satellite.
  • It is designed to monitor India’s borders and as part of anti-infiltration and anti-terrorist operations.

News 5: Mauna Loa eruption


Background

The ground is shaking and swelling at Mauna Loa, the largest active volcano in the world, indicating that it could erupt. 

Where is Mauna Loa?

Mauna Loa is one of five volcanoes that together make up the Big Island of Hawaii, which is the southernmost island in the Hawaiian archipelago.

It’s not the tallest (that title goes to Mauna Kea) but it’s the largest and makes up about half of the island’s land mass.

It sits immediately north of Kilauea volcano, which is currently erupting from its summit crater. Kilauea is well-known for a 2018 eruption that destroyed 700 homes and sent rivers of lava spreading across farms and into the ocean. Mauna Loa last erupted 38 years ago.

It’s about 200 miles (320 kilometers) south of Hawaii’s most populous island, Oahu, where the state capital Honolulu and beach resort Waikiki are both located.

Will Mauna Loa erupt like Kilauea?

Mauna Loa’s eruptions differ from Kilauea’s in part because it is taller. Its greater height gives it steeper slopes, which allow lava to rush down its hillsides faster than Kilauea’s. Its enormous size may allow it to store more magma, leading to larger lava flows when an eruption occurs.

Mauna Loa has a much larger magma reservoir than Kilauea, which may allow it to hold more lava and rest longer between eruptions than Kilauea.

Where will Mauna Loa erupt from?

Scientists won’t know until the eruption begins. Each eruption since 1843 started at the summit. Half the time, the volcano later also began erupting from vents at lower elevations.

The other half of the time it only erupted in the summit caldera. Scientists can’t tell far in advance when and where Mauna Loa will open new vents and erupt. Vents generally form along the volcano’s rift zone.

That’s where the mountain is splitting apart, the rock is cracked and relatively weak and it’s easier for magma to emerge. An eruption from vents on the southwest rift zone could hit residential communities, coffee farms or coastal villages on the west side of the island. Lava could reach homes in just hours or days.

It could take lava weeks or months to reach populated areas on this side of the mountain. Scott Rowland, a geologist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, said there’s no pattern when it comes to where an eruption will occur. “Just because the last one was on the northeast rift zone does not mean the next one will be down the southwest rift zone,” he said.

Will Mauna Loa explode like Mount St. Helens?

Fifty-seven people died when Washington state’s Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980 and blasted more than 1,300 feet (400 meters) off the top of the mountain. Steam, rocks and volcanic gas burst upward and outward.

A plume of volcanic ash rose over 80,000 feet (24,384 meters) and rained down as far as 250 miles (400 kilometers) away. Hawaii volcanoes like Mauna Loa tend not to have explosion eruptions like this.

That’s because their magma is hotter, drier and more fluid, said Hannah Dietterich, a research geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Alaska Volcano Observatory. The magma in Mount St. Helens tends to be stickier and traps more gas, making it much more likely to explode when it rises.

The gas in the magma of Hawaii’s volcanoes tends to escape, and so lava flows down the side of their mountains when they erupt. Hawaii’s volcanoes are called shield volcanoes because successive lava flows over hundreds of thousands of years build broad mountains that resemble the shape of a warrior’s shield.

Shield volcanos are also found in California and Idaho as well as Iceland and the Galapagos Islands.

Volcanoes like Mount St. Helens are called composite or stratovolcanoes. Their steep, conical slopes are built by the eruption of viscous lava flows and rock, ash and gas. Japan’s Mount Fuji is another example of a composite volcano.

How do scientists monitor Mauna Loa?

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory has more than 60 GPS stations on Mauna Loa taking measurements to estimate the location and the amount of magma accumulating beneath the surface. Scientists use tiltmeters to track long-term changes in the tilting of the ground, helping them identify when the ground is swelling or deflating.

A rapid change in tilt can indicate when an eruption will occur. There’s also a thermal webcam at Mauna Loa’s summit that will identify the presence of heat. And satellite radar can keep track of ground swelling and deflation.

Shield volcanoes

These are volcanoes shaped like a bowl or shield in the middle with long gentle slopes made by basaltic lava flows. These are formed by the eruption of low-viscosity lava that can flow a great distance from a vent.

They generally do not explode catastrophically. Since low-viscosity magma is typically low in silica, shield volcanoes are more common in oceanic than continental settings. The Hawaiian volcanic chain is a series of shield cones, and they are common in Iceland, as well.

Stratovolcano or Composite volcano

Composite volcanoes are steep-sided volcanoes composed of many layers of volcanic rocks, usually made from high-viscosity lava, ash and rock debris. These types of volcanoes are tall conical mountains composed of lava flows and other ejecta in alternate layers, the strata that give rise to the name.

Composite volcanoes are made of cinders, ash, and lava. Cinders and ash pile on top of each other, lava flows on top of the ash, where it cools and hardens, and then the process repeats.

Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’

The Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’ or Pacific rim, or the Circum-Pacific Belt, is an area along the Pacific Ocean that is characterised by active volcanoes and frequent earthquakes.

It is home to about 75 per cent of the world’s volcanoes – more than 450 volcanoes. Also, about 90 per cent of the world’s earthquakes occur here.

Its length is over 40,000 kilometres and traces from New Zealand clockwise in an almost circular arc covering Tonga, Kermadec Islands, Indonesia, moving up to the Philippines, Japan, and stretching eastward to the Aleutian Islands, then southward along the western coast of North America and South America.

The area is along several tectonic plates including the Pacific plate, Philippine Plate, Juan de Fuca plate, Cocos plate, Nazca plate, and North American plate. The movement of these plates or tectonic activity makes the area witness abundant earthquakes and tsunamis every year.

Along much of the Ring of Fire, tectonic plates move towards each other creating subduction zones. One plate gets pushed down or is subducted by the other plate. This is a very slow process – a movement of just one or two inches per year. As this subduction happens, rocks melt, become magma and move to Earth’s surface and cause volcanic activity


News 6: Poppy cultivation and Afghanistan


Background

Driven by the demand for heroin and other opioids, mostly in the West, Afghanistan’s poppy farmers have figured out that in a broken country where there are no jobs, and the de facto government has no money, poppy guarantees survival.

Afghanistan’s illicit narcotics industry thrived under the puritanical first Taliban regime, it flourished — with some ups and downs mostly related to demand — through two decades of “democracy”, and it continues to do so under the new Taliban regime.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Report

The land under poppy cultivation in Afghanistan in 2021 (October and November are the sowing season) increased by 32 per cent over the previous year.

The UNODC report says the 2021 harvest of 6,200 tonnes, 10 per cent less than in 2021, could be converted into 350-380 tonnes of export-quality heroin.

Eighty per cent of the world’s opiates come from Afghanistan.

With the Taliban back in power, Afghanistan’s situation is not very different from the 1990s. Still international outcasts and with no access to global funding, they are scrambling to raise money by levying taxes, as humanitarian aid keeps Afghanistan going.

Against this background, opiates are now “a crucial pillar of Afghanistan’s economy and permeate the rural society to the extent that many communities…have become dependent on the income from opium to sustain their livelihoods,” the UN report says.

The opiate economy, including local consumption and export, was valued at 9-14% per cent of the country’s GDP. With a shrinking GDP in 2022, it may now represent an even bigger share of the economy, the report says.

Regional concern

Russia and Afghanistan’s Central Asian neighbours view drugs as a top concern, more perhaps than the threat of religious extremism, radicalisation, and terrorism. India has voiced concerns about it from time to time.

At the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation security meetings, the threat of terrorism and drug trafficking from Afghanistan are discussed as inter-related threats to regional and global security.

Golden Crescent and Golden Triangle

Golden Crescent

The Golden Crescent is the name given to one of Asia’s two principal areas of illicit opium production and this space covers the mountainous peripheries of Afghanistan and Pakistan, extending into eastern Iran.

Golden Triangle

The Golden Triangle is the area where the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar meet at the confluence of the Ruak and Mekong rivers.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

Established: 1997

Headquarter: Vienna, Austria

The agency’s focus is the trafficking in and abuse of illicit drugs, crime prevention and criminal justice, international terrorism, and political corruption. It is a member of the United Nations Development Group.


Other important news


Bharat Stage Emission norms

These are the standards set up by the Indian government which specify the amount of air pollutants from internal combustion engines, including those that vehicles can emit. If these emit more pollutants than the prescribed limit, they don’t get a clearance to be sold in an open market.

Bharat Stage Emission Standards have been instituted by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), instituted within the Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change.

Vehicle emission norms were introduced in India in 1991 for petrol and in 1992 for diesel vehicles. Since 2000, Euro norms are followed in India under the name Bharat Stage Emission Standards for four wheeled vehicles. Bharat stage III norms have been enforced across India since October 2010.

Upgradation of emission norms

Upgrading the emission norms requires the manufacturing companies to upgrade their technology, which in turn increases the cost of the vehicle. Cost is one of the main reasons for the slow upgrade of emission standards.

However, there are also arguments that the increase in cost is made up by savings in health costs as the pollutants causing diseases are decreased with the upgrade in emission standards. Fuels also play a crucial role in meeting these emission norms. Fuel specifications have also been aligned to its corresponding European production norms.

Increasing tension in Korean Peninsula

Tensions escalated in the Korean peninsula as North Korea fired at least 20 missiles east and west of its southern neighbour, with one landing near South Korean territorial waters for the first time since the two countries were divided in 1953.

The escalation comes after North Korea warned against the recent joint military drills between the United States and South Korea, which it views as provocative and a rehearsal for an invasion.

The US and South Korea began their largest-ever joint drills on Monday, called Operation Vigilant Storm, during a period of national mourning in South Korea, following a deadly crowd surge in Seoul on Saturday in which over 150 people died.

Impact of US Federal Reserve rate hikes

Fed’s continuous rate hikes does not augur well for emerging markets including India. An increase in US interest rates results in an outflow of funds to US markets, putting their stock markets and currencies under pressure. Equity markets are likely to see increased volatility in the next few months.

RBI may not follow the Federal Reserve’s rate hike as it has to consider domestic factors, especially retail inflation, while reviewing the interest rates.


 

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