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Current Affairs – 13 July 2021

Current Affairs (13th July 2021)

Kongu Nadu

Context:

  • A list of new Union Cabinet ministers issued by the present Central ruling government has triggered a debate in political circles in Tamil Nadu, as well as on social media, by referring to ‘Kongu Nadu’, the informal name for a region in the western part of the state.
  • The list mentions new ministerhailing from ‘Kongu Nadu’. This has led to allegations that the present Central ruling government trying to bifurcate the state.

About:

  • ‘Kongu Nadu’ is neither a place with a PIN code nor a name given formally to any region. It is a commonly used name for part of western Tamil Nadu.
  • In Tamil literature, it was referred to as one of the five regions of ancient Tamil Nadu. There were mentions of ‘Kongu Nadu’ in Sangam literature as a separate territory.
  • In the present state of Tamil Nadu, the term is informally used to refer to a region that includes the districts of Nilgiris, Coimbatore, Tirupur, Erode, Karur, Namakkal and Salem, as well as Oddanchatram and Vedasandur in Dindgul district, and Pappireddipatti in Dharmapuri district.
  • The name derives from Kongu Vellala Gounder, an OBC community with a significant presence in these districts.
  • The region includes prominent businesses and industrial hubs at Namakkal, Salem, Tirupur and Coimbatore.

 

Lightning strikes

Context:

  • At least 30 people were killed in separate incidents of lightning in various parts of the country in the past 24 hours. Deaths due to lightning have become a frequent incident in the country.

How common are deaths by lightning?

  • More common than is sometimes realised in the urban areas.
  • As a whole, India sees 2,000-2,500 lightning deaths every year on average.
  • Lightning is the biggest contributor to accidental deaths due to natural causes.
  • A few years ago, over 300 people were reported killed by lightning in just three days — a number that surprised officials and scientists.
  • Lightning remains among the least studied atmospheric phenomena in the country. Just one group of scientists, at the Indian Institute of Tropical Management (IITM) in Pune, works full-time on thunderstorms and lightning.
  • Occurrences of lightning are not tracked in India, and there is simply not enough data for scientists to work with.
  • Often, safety measures and precautions against lightning strikes do not receive as much publicity as other natural disasters such as earthquakes.
  • Several thousand thunderstorms occur over India every year. Each can involve several — sometimes more than a hundred — lightning strikes.

What is lightning, and how does it strike?

  • Lightning is a very rapid — and massive — discharge of electricity in the atmosphere, some of which is directed towards the Earth’s surface.
  • These discharges are generated in giant moisture-bearing clouds that are 10-12 km tall.
  • The base of these clouds typically lies within 1-2 km of the Earth’s surface, while their top is 12-13 km away. Temperatures towards the top of these clouds are in the range of minus 35 to minus 45 degrees Celsius.
  • As water vapour moves upward in the cloud, the falling temperature causes it to condense. Heat is generated in the process, which pushes the molecules of water further up.
  • As they move to temperatures below zero degrees celsius, the water droplets change into small ice crystals. They continue to move up, gathering mass — until they are so heavy that they start to fall to Earth.
  • This leads to a system in which, simultaneously, smaller ice crystals are moving up and bigger crystals are coming down.
  • Collisions follow, and trigger the release of electrons — a process that is very similar to the generation of sparks of electricity. As the moving free electrons cause more collisions and more electrons, a chain reaction ensues.
  • This process results in a situation in which the top layer of the cloud gets positively charged, while the middle layer is negatively charged.
  • The electrical potential difference between the two layers is huge — of the order of a billion to 10 billion volts. In very little time, a massive current, of the order of 100,000 to a million amperes, starts to flow between the layers.
  • An enormous amount of heat is produced, and this leads to the heating of the air column between the two layers of the cloud. This heat gives the air column a reddish appearance during lightning. As the heated air column expands, it produces shock waves that result in thunder.

How does this current reach the Earth from the cloud?

  • While the Earth is a good conductor of electricity, it is electrically neutral. However, in comparison to the middle layer of the cloud, it becomes positively charged.
  • As a result, about 15%-20% of the current gets directed towards the Earth as well. It is this flow of current that results in damage to life and property on Earth.
  • There is a greater probability of lightning striking tall objects such as trees, towers or buildings. Once it is about 80-100 m from the surface, lightning tends to change course towards these taller objects.
  • This happens because air is a poor conductor of electricity, and electrons that are travelling through air seek both a better conductor and the shortest route to the relatively positively charged Earth’s surface.

What precautions should be taken against lightning?

  • Lightning rarely hits people directly — but such strikes are almost always fatal.
  • People are most commonly struck by what are called “ground currents”. The electrical energy, after hitting a large object (such as a tree) on Earth, spreads laterally on the ground for some distance, and people in this area receive electrical shocks.
  • It becomes more dangerous if the ground is wet (which it frequently is because of the accompanying rain), or if there is metal or other conducting material on it.
  • Water is a conductor, and many people are struck by lightning while standing in flooded paddy fields.
  • The Met office routinely issues warnings for thunderstorms. But this is a very generic advisory, and for locations that are very large in area.
  • Predicting a thunderstorm over a pinpointed location is not possible. Nor is it possible to predict the exact time of a likely lightning strike.
  • For reasons given above, taking shelter under a tree is dangerous.
  • Lying flat on the ground too, can increase risks.
  • People should move indoors in a storm; however, even indoors, they should avoid touching electrical fittings, wires, metal, and water.

 

New population policy

Context:

  • Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister launched the State’s population policy for 2021-2030.

Aims of New Policy:

  • Decreasing the total fertility rate from 2.7 to 2.1 by 2026 and 1.7 by 2030.
  • Increasing modern contraceptive prevalence rate from 31.7% to 45% by 2026 and 52% by 2030.
  • Increase male methods of contraception use from 10.8% to 15.1% by 2026 and 16.4% by 2030.
  • Decrease maternal mortality rate from 197 to 150 to 98, and infant mortality rate from 43 to 32 to 22, and under 5 infant mortality rate from 47 to 35 to 25.
  • It targets stabilisation and states that the State would attempt to maintain a balance of population among the various communities.
  • The policy comes at a time when the Uttar Pradesh State Law Commission has prepared the proposed draft Bill under which a two-child norm would be implemented and promoted.
  • A person who will have more than two children after the law comes into force would be debarred from several benefits such as government-sponsored welfare schemes and from contesting elections to the local authority or any body of the local self-government.
  • According to the draft, ration card units would be limited to four members of a family.

Impact of rising population:

Across the world, concerns have been raised from time to time about the increasing population being a hurdle in development. 

  • In the Indian context, the rising population is considered the root of major problems and prevailing inequality in society.
  • An increasing population can be an obstacle to development.
  • The rising population increases poverty.
  • People have to spend a large portion of their resources for bringing up their wards. It results in less savings and a low rate of capital formation. 
  • Besides, if there is no gap between the birth of two children, it will naturally affect their nutrition.

 

Kesariya Buddha Stupa

Context:

  • Recently, the world-famous Kesariya Buddha stupa in east Champaran district of Bihar has been waterlogged following floods after heavy rainfall in Gandak river’s catchment areas.

About:

  • The stupa is located about 110 km from the State capital Patna.
  • It has a circumference of almost 400 feet and stands at a height of about 104 feet.
  • It is regarded as the largest Buddhist stupa in the world and has been drawing tourists from across several Buddhist countries.
  • The locals call the stupa “devalaya” meaning “house of gods”.
  • The first construction of the stupa is dated to the 3rd century BCE.
    • The original Kesariya stupa is believed to date back to the time of emperor Ashoka (circa 250 BCE) as the remains of an Ashokan pillar was discovered there.
  • Faxian (or Fahien), a 5th century CE, Chinese Buddhist monk, in his travels, mentioned a stupa which was built over Buddha’s alms bowl by Licchavis of Vaishali. It is now believed the stupa that was referred to was none other than Kesariya stupa.
  • Hiuen Tsang, also mentioned the stupain his travels, but gave no details.
  • Its exploration started in the early 19th century after its discovery led by Colonel Mackenzie in 1814.
    • Later, it was excavated by General Cunningham in 1861-62 and in 1998 an Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) team led by archaeologist K.K. Muhammad had excavated the site properly.
    • However, a larger part of the stupa is yet to be discovered and developed as it remains under thick vegetation.
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