Current Affairs (2nd April 2021)
Impact of COVID-19 on pregnancy
According to a review of data from 40 studies representing 17 countries published in The Lancet Global Health, pregnancy outcomes for mothers and babies have worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Findings varied by country but analysis of pooled data showed stillbirth and maternal mortality rates increased by approximately one-third during the pandemic compared to life before Covid-19 took hold.
- Of the 40 studies, 12 reported on the incidence of stillbirth. Analysis of the pooled data found the chances of a stillbirth increased by more than a quarter compared with pre-pandemic instances.
- The review included two studies on the impact of the pandemic on maternal death rates (one from India and one from Mexico). The risk of mothers dying during pregnancy or childbirth was increased by more than a third compared with before the pandemic.
- The current case fatality rate for Covid 19 in India is 1.3%, most of which are of the older age group. Covid-related direct death rate among pregnant women is like the general population.
- However, due to delay in seeking care, there are pregnancy related complications and therefore Covid-attributed death rate has increased.
- The unfortunate part is the unborn deaths (stillbirths) at the community level are not counted. There is an established reporting system for stillbirths at hospitals but not at the community level.
- Recently, Russian scientists launched one of the world’s biggest underwater neutrino telescopes called the Baikal-GVD (Gigaton Volume Detector) in the waters of Lake Baikail, the world’s deepest lake situated in Siberia.
- The construction of this telescope, which started in 2016, is motivated by the mission to study in detail the elusive fundamental particles called neutrinos and to possibly determine their sources.
- This study will aid scientists’ understanding of the origins of the universe since some neutrinos were formed during the Big Bang, others continue to be formed as a result of supernova explosions or because of nuclear reactions in the Sun.
- The Baikal-GVD is one of the three largest neutrino detectors in the world along with the Ice Cube at the South Pole and ANTARES in the Mediterranean Sea.
What are fundamental particles?
- So far, the understanding is that the universe is made of some fundamental particles that are indivisible.
- Broadly, particles of matter that scientists know about as of now can be classified into quarks and leptons. But this only applies to “normal matter” or the matter that scientists know that five per cent of the universe is made up of.
- In their book We Have No Idea, cartoonist Jorge Cham and particle physicist Daniel Whiteson have said that these particles make up matter that accounts for only five per cent of the universe.
- Not much is known about the remaining 95 per cent of the universe, which is classified by the authors into dark matter (27 percent) and the remaining 68 per cent of the universe of which scientists have “no idea” about yet.
- But in the universe scientists know about, exploration in the field of physics so far has led to the discovery of over 12 such quarks and leptons, but three of these (protons, neutrons and electrons) is what everything in the world is made up of.
- Protons (carry a positive charge) and neutrons (no charge) are types of quarks, whereas electrons (carry a negative charge) are types of leptons.
- These three particles make what is referred to as the building block of life– the atom.
Why do scientists study fundamental particles?
- Studying what humans and everything around them is made up of gives scientists a window into understanding the universe a better way, just how it is easy to grasp what a cake is once one knows the ingredients it is made up of.
- This is one reason why scientists are so keen on studying neutrinos (not the same as neutrons), which are also a type of fundamental particle.
- Fundamental means that neutrinos, like electrons, protons and neutrons cannot be broken down further into smaller particles.
So where do neutrinos fit in?
- Neutrinos are abundant in nature, with about a thousand trillion of them passing through a human body every second.
- In fact, they are the second most abundant particles, after photons, which are particles of light. But while neutrinos are abundant, they are not easy to catch, this is because they do not carry a charge, as a result of which they do not interact with matter.
- One way of detecting neutrinos is in water or ice, where neutrinos leave a flash of light or a line of bubbles when they interact. To capture these signs, scientists have to build large detectors.
- An underwater telescope such as the GVD is designed to detect high-energy neutrinos that may have come from the Earth’s core, or could have been produced during nuclear reactions in the Sun.
Military Farms Service
The Indian Army formally closed the Military Farms Service which administered the 130 military farms all across the country.
The flag of the Military Farms Service was lowered for the last time in a solemn ceremony held at Delhi Cantonment.
History of Military Farms and their role in the Indian Army
- The first Military Farm was established in 1889 at Allahabad by the British.
- The basic aim with which these farms were subsequently set up across the length and breadth of the country was to ensure nutritious milk supply to the troops deployed in India.
- Initially, the military farms were mostly located in the Central, Southern and Western Commands of the Army and subsequently, when Northern and Eastern Commands were raised, new Military Farms were set up in these areas too.
- Apart from supplying milk and butter, the Military Farms also supplied hay to the Animal Transport units of the Indian Army.
- Gradually, the role of Military Farms had expanded from only milk production to artificial insemination of cows
- The first pioneering steps in this regard were taken as early as in 1925. At one point of time the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) had found Military Farms to be the largest holders of cattle in the country.
- In collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, the Military Farms undertook ‘Project Frieswal’ one of the largest cross-cattle breeding programmes in the country.
- The project was launched by Military Farms in collaboration with the ICAR and the aim was to develop milch cattle by cross-breeding which would suit the tropical climate of countries like India.
- According to the Indian Army, its aim was “to produce and rear Holstein Friesian cross bread with Sahiwal breed for high milk productivity”.
- A memorandum of understanding had been signed between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Defence in this regard in 1991.
- ‘The aim of the project was to develop a milch breed yielding 4000 kgs in 300 days lactation with four per cent butterfat”.
- Semen freezing, planned breeding, progeny testing and gene mapping were some of the other areas in which the research for the project was undertaken.
Genesis of the decision to close military farms
- Union Education Minister launched the “MyNEP2020” Platform of NCTE Web Portal.
- The platform seeks to invite suggestions/inputs/membership from the stakeholders for preparing draft for development of National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPST) and National Mission for Mentoring Program membership (NMM).
- The “MyNEP2020” platform will be operational from 1st April 2021 to 15th May 2021.
- This exercise of digital consultation envisages the participation of teachers, education professionals, academicians, & other stakeholders in preparing the documents on teacher policy for sustainable and positive change in the Teacher’s Education Sector.
- For preparing the documents on above two major recommendations of NEP 2020, NCTE will work in close consultation with individuals/organizations.
- Expert committee will extensively review the inputs collected during the consultation period and will finally formulate the Drafts for public review. Comments by the reviewers from the stakeholders will then be used to prepare a final Draft for notification.
Credit Guarantee Scheme for Subordinate Debt (CGSSD)
- In order to keep the avenues of assistance to stressed MSME Units open, the Government has decided to extend Credit Guarantee Scheme for Subordinate Debt scheme for six months from 31.03.2021 to 30.09.2021.
- Government of India announced creation of ‘Distressed Assets Fund- – Subordinate Debt for Stressed MSMEs’ on 13th May, 2020, under the Atma Nirbhar Bharat Package.
- Accordingly, a scheme viz. ‘Credit Guarantee Scheme for Subordinate Debt’was approved by the Government on 1st June, 2020 and the scheme was launched on 24th June, 2020.
- It aims to provide credit facility through lending institutions to the promoters of stressed MSMEs viz. SMA-2 and NPA accounts who are eligible for restructuring as per RBI guidelines on the books of the Lending institutions.
- This scheme was to remain in operation till 31.03.2021.