1. Why are hydropower projects in the Himalayas risky
Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper III: Power | Prelims: HEP
Sub Theme: HEP | Hydro power | UPSC
Advantages and disadvantages of Hydropower
- Once a dam is constructed, electricity can be produced at a constant rate.
- If electricity is not needed, the sluice gates can be shut, stopping electricity generation. The water can be saved for use another time when electricity demand is high.
- Dams are designed to last many decades and so can contribute to the generation of electricity for many years / decades.
- The lake that forms behind the dam can be used for water sports and leisure / pleasure activities. Often large dams become tourist attractions in their own right.
- The lake’s water can be used for irrigation purposes.
- The build up of water in the lake means that energy can be stored until needed, when the water is released to produce electricity.
- When in use, electricity produced by dam systems do not produce green house gases. They do not pollute the atmosphere.
- Dams are extremely expensive to build and must be built to a very high standard. 2. The high cost of dam construction means that they must operate for many decades to become profitable.
- The flooding of large areas of land means that the natural environment is destroyed. 4. People living in villages and towns that are in the valley to be flooded, must move out. This means that they lose their farms and businesses. In some countries, people are forcibly removed so that hydro-power schemes can go ahead.
- The building of large dams can cause serious geological damage. For example, the building of the Hoover Dam in the USA triggered a number of earth quakes and has depressed the earth’s surface at its location.
- Although modern planning and design of dams is good, in the past old dams have been known to be breached (the dam gives under the weight of water in the lake). This has led to deaths and flooding. 7. Dams built blocking the progress of a river in one country usually means that the water supply from the same river in the following country is out of their control. This can lead to serious problems between neighbouring countries.
- Building a large dam alters the natural water table level. For example, the building of the Aswan Dam in Egypt has altered the level of the water table. This is slowly leading to damage of many of its ancient monuments as salts and destructive minerals are deposited in the stone work from ‘rising damp’ caused by the changing water table level.
2. ASHA workers losing hope
UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper II: Government policies | Prelims: ASHA scheme Sub Theme: ANM/ASHA/AWWW | Health | UPSC
Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) is a trained female community health activist. Selected from the community itself and accountable to it, the ASHA will be trained to work as an interface between the community and the public health system. At present there are over 9 Lakh ASHAs. The ASHA scheme is presently in place in 33 states (except Goa, Chandigarh & Puducherry).
Selection criteria for ASHAs
In rural areas
- ASHA must primarily be a woman resident of the village married/ widowed/ divorced, preferably in the age group of 25 to 45 years.
- She should be a literate woman with due preference in selection to those who are qualified up to 10 standard wherever they are interested and available in good numbers. This may be relaxed only if no suitable person with this qualification is available.
- ASHA will be chosen through a rigorous process of selection involving various community groups, self-help groups, Anganwadi Institutions, the Block Nodal officer, District Nodal officer, the village Health Committee and the Gram Sabha.
In urban areas
- ASHA must be a woman resident of the – “slum/vulnerable clusters” and belong to that particular vulnerable group which have been identified by City/District Health Society for selection of ASHA. • She should be preferably ‘Married/Widow/Divorced/Separated’ and preferably in the age group of 25 to 45 years.
- ASHA should have effective communication skills with language fluency of the area/population she is expected to cover,leadership qualities and be able to reach out to the community.
- She should be a literate woman with formal education of at least Tenth Class. If there are women with Class XII who are interested and willing they should be given preference since they could later gain admission to ANM/GNM schools as a career progression path.
- The educational and age criteria can be relaxed if no suitable woman with this qualification is available in the area and among that particular vulnerable group.
- A balance between representation of marginalized and education should be maintained. • She should have family and social support to enable her to find the time to carry out her tasks. • Adequate representation from disadvantaged population groups should be ensured to serve such groups better.
- Existing women Community workers under other schemes like-urban ASHAs or link workers under NRHM or RCH II, JnNURM, SJSRY etc. may be given preference provided they meet the residency, age and educational criteria mentioned above and are able to provide time for their activities.
Availability of ASHAs
In rural areas
There is one Community Health Volunteer i.e. ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) for every village with a population of 1000. The States have been given the flexibility to relax the population norms as well as the educational qualifications on a case to case basis, depending on the local conditions as far as her recruitment is concerned.
In urban areas
- Prior to the selection of ASHA it is important that City/ District health Society undertakes mapping of the city/urban areas with vulnerability assessment of the people living in slums or slum like situations and identifies these “slum/vulnerable clusters” for selection of ASHA.
- The general norm for selecting ASHA in urban area will be ‘‘One ASHA for every 1000-2500 population”. Since houses in urban context are generally located within a very small geographic area an ASHA can cover about 200-500 households depending upon the spatial consideration.
- When the population covered increases to more than 2500 another ASHA can be engaged. In case of geographic dispersion or scattered settlements of socially and economically disadvantaged groups the “slum/vulnerable clusters” selection of ASHA can be done at a smaller population.
- In cases where a particular geographic area has the presence of more than one ethnic/vulnerable group, selecting more than one ASHA below the specified population norm will be desirable. In such a case one ASHA could be selected for and from a particular vulnerable group so that their specific needs are addressed through an appropriate understanding of the socio-cultural practices of that community.
- The selected ASHAs will be preferably co-located at the Anganwadi Centre that are functional at the slum level, for delivery of services at the door step.
- In urban habitations with a population of 50,000 or less, ASHAs will be selected as in rural areas. • The other community volunteers built under other government schemes can also be utilized for this purpose.
Roles and responsibilities
The role of an ASHA is that of a community level care provider. This includes a mix of tasks: facilitating access to health care services, building awareness about health care entitlements especially amongst the poor and marginalized, promoting healthy behaviours and mobilizing for collective action for better health outcomes and meeting curative care needs as appropriate to the organization of service delivery in that area and compatible with her training and skills.
Compensation for ASHA
ASHA worker is primarily an “honorary volunteer” but is compensated for her time in specific situations (such as training attendance, monthly reviews and other meetings).In addition she is eligible for incentives offered under various national health programmes. She would also have income from social marketing of certain healthcare products like condoms, contraceptive pills, sanitary napkins etc. Her work should be so designed that it is done without impinging on her main livelihood and adequate monetary compensation for the time she spends on these tasks- through performance based payments should be provided. ASHA Benefit Package
ASHAs and ASHA Facilitators to be covered under Pradhan Mantri Suraksha BimaYojana (Life Insurance). The eligibility criteria are 18-70 years.Cover is for one-year period stretching from 1st June to 31st May and benefit is as under:–
- Rs. 2 Lakh in case of death due to accident
- Rs. 2 Lakh in case of total and irrecoverable loss of both eyes or loss of use of both hands or feet or loss of sight of one eye and loss of use of one hand or one foot.
- Rs. 1 Lakh in case of total and irrecoverable loss of sight of one eye or loss of use of one hand or one foot.
The annual Premium of Rs 12 per beneficiary will be paid by Central Government. ASHAs and ASHA Facilitators meeting the age criteria of 18-50 years to be covered under Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana (Accident insurance). The annual premium of Rs. 330 (average) will be paid by the Central Government. Cover is for one-year period stretching from 1st June to 31st May and benefit is Rs 2 Lakh in case of death due to any cause.
ASHAs will get a minimum of Rs.2000/- per month from current Rs 1000/- per month as incentives for routine activities. This is effective from October 2018. This is in addition to other task based incentives approved at Central/State level.
3. ‘Plasmid DNA vaccine ZyCoV-D is safe and effective for adolescents’
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Science and Technology
Sub Theme: ZyCoV-D vaccine DNA Vaccine | UPSC
ZyCoV-D vaccine is the world’s first plasmid DNA vaccine for human use.
DNA, or Deoxyribonucleic Acid, contains the genetic code of various components of an organism.
For the vaccine, the part of the COVID-19 virus that helps it enter the cell and causes disease i-e the spike protein, is coded. When the vaccine is injected into the human body, it produces only the spike protein of the virus and stimulates the immune system to generate antibodies and T-cells immunity against the virus.
This DNA is a laboratory-made structure and is unable to interfere with the genetic composition of humans.
This DNA piece is enclosed by a membrane called plasmid to avoid extracellular degradation and to successfully enter the nucleus of target cells to induce a long-term immune response.
DNA vaccine is very stable at higher temperatures.
The initial development of DNA vaccines in larger animals and human studies showed that DNA is well tolerated and has an excellent safety record.
Comparison of m-RNA and DNA vaccine
The principle of mRNA vaccines and DNA vaccine are same. Both DNA and RNA vaccines deliver the message to the cell to create the desired protein so the immune system creates a response against this protein.
Both just produces a specific portion of the virus – spike protein in case of corona virus. Both are laboratory-made structures and not obtained from the actual virus.
DNA and RNA vaccines are being touted for their cost effectiveness and ability to be developed more quickly than traditional, protein vaccines. Traditional vaccines often rely on actual viruses or viral proteins grown in eggs or cells, and can take years and years to develop. DNA and RNA vaccines, on the other hand, can theoretically be made more readily available because they rely on genetic code–not a live virus or bacteria. This also makes them cheaper to produce.
The COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech and another developed by Moderna are mRNA vaccines.
However there are some differences:
- DNA is much easy to prepare in laboratory. DNA based vaccine will be around 10 times cheaper.
- DNA has to enter the nucleus of the cell to produce the spike protein. m-RNA based vaccine uses Ribosome in the cytoplasm to produce the spike protein. So since in case of DNA vaccine, entry into nucleus is required, safety concerns are more.
4. BCG vaccine: 100 years and counting
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Science and Technology
Sub Theme: TB | BCG | UPSC
Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccine is a vaccine primarily used against tuberculosis (TB). It is named after its inventors Albert Calmette and Camille Guérin.
In countries where TB or leprosy is common, one dose is recommended in healthy babies as soon after birth as possible. In areas where TB is not common, only children at high risk are typically immunized, while suspected cases of TB are individually tested for and treated.
Adults who do not have TB and have not been previously immunized but are frequently exposed may be immunized as well.
BCG is prepared from a strain of the attenuated (virulence-reduced) live bovine tuberculosis bacillus, Mycobacterium bovis, that has lost its ability to cause disease in humans. Because the living bacilli evolve to make the best use of available nutrients, they become less well-adapted to human blood and can no longer induce disease when introduced into a human host. Still, they are similar enough to their wild ancestors to provide some degree of immunity against human TB
In brief: Tuberculosis
- Tuberculosis is an airborne communicable disease caused by the bacteria bacillus Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
- Typically they grow in the body where oxygen and blood are in high amount. As a result 80% of the TB cases are pulmonary or that which infects lungs and 20% cases which involves brain, uterus, stomach, mouth, kidneys and bones, called extra-pulmonary
- Mode of transmission:
- Airborne and therefore through coughing, sneezing or spiting.
- High-risk groups
- Those with weak immunity and can be identified as
- Those infected with HIV
- Alcohol consumption.
- Prevention and Treatment
- BCG vaccine for children
- Currently no effective vaccine for adults
- Early diagnosis is extremely important in fighting TB.
- Widely followed diagnosis methods include
- Sputum smear microscopy which studies phenotype of the pathogen from the sputum sample of the infected patient.
- Challenge: Low sensitivity, cannot detect drug-resistant pathogen.
- Molecular studies: have enabled study of genotype and therefore more sensitive and widely being used today.
- DOTS strategy (Directly observed Treatment Short Course) is WHO-recommended cost effective strategy to reduce the disease burden of TB.
- It includes sustained political and financial commitment, early diagnosis t, standardized short course anti-TB treatment, regular and uninterrupted supply of high quality anti-TB drugs. • Antibiotics
- Administering commonly used antibiotics like rifampin.
- Challenge: Mycobacterium tuberculosis has developed drug-resistance.
- New-gen drugs like Bedaquiline and Delaminid are recommended for MDR-TB.
TB incidence in India
- India tops the list of 20 TB high burden countries in the world
- According to WHO’s Global TB Report 2019, out of the 10 Million global TB incidences, 2.69 Million (about 27%) occurred in India.
- The number of deaths per lakh population due to TB is 199 in India.
Eradicating TB in India
- National TB control programme is ongoing since 1962 which has not performed upto the mark. • Revised National TB control Programme (RNTCP) was adopted in 1997 after WHO declared TB as the global epidemic in 1993.
- Focus of RNTCP has been Early Diagnosis and Treatment in accordance with DOTS strategy. • Under RNTCP about 4 lakh DOTS centres have been established so far.
National Strategic Plan for TB Elimination 2017-2025
- In 2018, India adopted the National Strategic Plan for TB Elimination in line with TB Elimination Strategy of WHO and SDG of UN.
- 4 strategic pillars of “Detect – Treat – Prevent – Build”.
- It aims to eliminate TB in India by 2025.
- Specific targets compared to 2015 include
▪ 80% reduction in TB incidence
▪ 90% reduction in TB mortality
▪ 0% patient having catastrophic expenditure due to TB
5. Rajnath commissions ICGS Vigraha
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Defence Equipments
Sub Theme: ICGS VIKRAM| ICGS VIGRAHA | UPSC
The Vikram-class offshore patrol vessel is a series of seven offshore patrol vessels (OPV) being built at the Kattupalli shipyard by L&T Shipbuilding for the Indian Coast Guard. These are long range surface ships which are capable of coastal and offshore patrolling.
It has been indigenously designed and has undergone dual certification from the American Bureau of Shipping and Indian Register of Shipping. The ships would be tasked with the roles of policing maritime zones, control and surveillance, search and rescue, pollution response, anti-smuggling and anti-piracy in the economic zones of the country. Other ship in the class include ‘Vijay’, ‘Veer’, ‘Varaha’, ‘Varad’ and ‘Vajra’.