THE INDIAN POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. NITI AAYOG’S INDIA INNOVATION INDEX, 2022
THE CONTEXT: According to Niti Aayog’s India Innovation Index Karnataka has bagged the top rank in NITI Aayog’s India Innovation Index, 2022, which determines innovation capacities and ecosystems at the sub-national level.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE REPORT:
• Karnataka was followed by Telangana, Haryana, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Bihar and Gujarat were at the bottom of the index.
• Manipur secured the lead in the Northeast and Hill States category, while Chandigarh was the top performer in the Union Territories and City States category.
• Pointing out that India’s average innovation score is arguably insufficient, given the country’s ambitious targets to be named among the top 25 nations in the Global Innovation Index, the report by the government think tank has recommended measures, such as increasing Gross Domestic Expenditure on R&D (GDERD), promoting private sector participation in R&D and closing the gap between industry demand and what the country produces through its education systems.
• The report went on to state that countries that spend less on GDERD fail to retain their human capital in the long run and the ability to innovate is dependent on the quality of human capital; India’s GDERD as a percentage of GDP stood at about 0.7%.
• “Therefore, GDERD needs considerable improvement and should touch at least 2%, which would play an instrumental role in India achieving the goal of a 5 trillion economy and further influence its innovative footprint across the globe,” it suggested.
• It added that the private sector needs to pick up pace in R&D. Taking the evidence from countries like South Korea, USA, and Germany, where the presence of private players is quite evident, the report noted that public expenditure is productive up to some extent; once the growth follows a trajectory, it is desirable to shift to R&D mostly drive by the private sector. “Therefore, it is important for India to find that inflexion point after which private sector takes over the government sector”.
• The report also noted that the country has not performed well in the knowledge worker pillar, as much as it has in the human capital pillar. “…the expenditure on human capital has been unable to create that knowledge base in the country…Moreover, it was also observed that innovation is skewed against the manufacturing sector due to the problems pertaining to and the missing middle. This requires inexorable efforts to overcome challenges and make the best use possible.
The Gross domestic expenditure on R&D (GERD) as the percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) is around 0.7%. The percentage expenditure for the last couple of years has shown a downward trend.
1. Low Cost Indigenous solutions: R&D is desired in order to create tailor made solutions for the Indian population; such solutions that are cost effective and easily accessible to the poor sections like the Jaipur Foot.
2. Improve Learning Outcomes: The best teaching and learning process at the higher education level occurs in environments where there is a strong culture of research and knowledge creation. This is testified from the experience of the world’s best universities like the Harvard, Stanford, Oxford etc.
3. Reducing Imports: India spends considerable money for importing high end technologies from countries like the U.S, South Korea etc. which raises the import bill and increases fiscal deficit.
4. National Security: Relying on foreign countries for domestic R&D needs increases vulnerability of modern digital economies to cyber attacks and espionage. Experts have raised caution against the use of semiconductor chips imported from China. Further India is still one of the largest defense importers of the world as per data of Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
5. Climate Change: The Sixth Report of IPCC has cautioned the world towards the approaching climate change. This warrants creating eco friendly technologies to reduce GHG emissions like building low cost solar panels, EVs, lithium batteries etc.
THE INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
2. EXPLAINED: CAN EUROPE LIVE WITHOUT RUSSIAN NATURAL GAS?
THE CONTEXT:Europe faced an energy crisis even before drama emerged about the Nord Stream 1 pipeline reopening from Russia to Germany.
• There are growing concerns in European countries that Russia would extend the temporary suspension of gas supplies in retaliation against the current sanctions levelled against Moscow.
• While there have been attempts to reduce the dependence on Russian gas, Germany, which is Europe’s biggest economy, continues to heavily rely on it. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which was completed in September 2021 and would double the flow of direct Russian gas to Germany, was suspended in February, (2022) in response to the invasion of Ukraine.
• The Nord Stream 1, however, continued to be used, whose flow of gas was slashed by 60% in mid-June by Moscow. Russia had blamed the reduction of supplies on the delayed return of a turbine, which was being serviced by Germany’s Siemens Energy in Canada.
What is Nord Stream 1?
• Nord Stream 1 is a 1,224 km underwater gas pipeline that runs from Vyborg in northwest Russia to Lubmin in northeastern Germany via the Baltic Sea. Majority owned by the Russian energy giant Gazprom, the pipeline is the primary route through which its gas enters Germany, as reported by Reuters.
• It transports 55 billion cubic metres of gas a year, of which most goes directly to Germany, while the rest travels west and southwards through onshore links to other countries and into storage caverns.
Germany is Russia’s biggest European gas consumer, and most of it comes through the Nord Stream Pipeline. Its share of Russian gas supplies was 55% in 2021, and currently lies at 35%.
What are Europe’s alternative sources of energy?
There have been growing concerns that there could be further restrictions to European gas supplies, well beyond the scheduled maintenance that has been imposed. European countries rely on Russian energy for their cold winters, but now believe that Russia could weaponize their dependency as a response to their sanction due to the conflict in Ukraine. If Nord Stream 1 does not resume its supply to Europe, it will not have adequate gas supply by the end of the year.
How has Canada stepped in to help Germany?
• To assist Berlin’s energy crisis, the Canadian government announced it would circumvent its own sanctions and return a repaired Russian gas turbine to Germany that is required for the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline.
• While the Canadian government announced that it would introduce fresh sanctions on Russia’s industrial manufacturing sector, that it was introducing a “time-limited and revocable permit” to allow the return of the key component.
THE ENVIRONMENT, ECOLOGY AND CLIMATE CHANGE
3. REVISION SERIES: OBJECTIVES OF PM-KUSUM
THE CONTEXT: According to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy,the provisions of PM-KUSUM Scheme to increase country’s solar water pump manufacturing capacity.
The objectives of the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (PM-KUSUM) include de-dieselisation of the farm sector, providing water and energy security to farmers, increasing the income of farmers and curbing environmental pollution. To achieve these objectives, following targets have been kept under the Scheme:
• Component-A: 10,000 MW of Decentralized Ground Mounted Grid Connected Solar Power Plants.
• Component-B: Installation of 20 lakh standalone Solar Powered Agriculture Pumps.
• Component-C: Solarisation of 15 Lakh Grid-connected Agriculture Pumps including through Feeder Level Solarisation.
Following provisions of the PM-KUSUM Scheme aim to increase country’s solar water pump manufacturing capacity:
• Target of installation or solarisation of 35 lakh pumps through central financial support under the Scheme provides visibility of demand in the coming years.
• Condition of domestic content requirement for participation in Component-B and Component-C.
• Direct participation of manufacturers of solar pumps/ solar photovoltaic modules/ solar pump controller either as sole bidder or member of a Joint Venture, in bidding under Component-B and Component-C.
To avoid disruption of the groundwater table, particularly in the districts with depleted levels of ground water, installation of new solar pumps is not allowed under the Scheme in the dark zones/ areas notified by Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), which monitors and regulates groundwater development and extraction.
Only the existing diesel pumps can be replaced with solar pumps under Component-B and existing electric pumps can be solarized under Component-C in these areas provided they use micro-irrigation techniques to save water.
Additionally, to conserve groundwater, the following provisions are included in the PM-KUSUM Scheme:
• Preference for installation of standalone solar pumps and solarisation of existing agriculture pumps is given to the farmers using micro irrigation systems or covered under micro irrigation schemes or those who opt for micro irrigation systems.
• The size of the standalone solar pump is to be selected on the basis of the water table in the area, land covered and quantity of water required for irrigation.
• Farmers have the option to monetize the surplus power generated under individual grid-connected pump solarisation by selling it to the DISCOM. Further, under feeder level solarisation, farmers are incentivised for electricity consumption below the benchmark consumption.
The steps taken/being taken by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy for decentralised solar power production include the following:
• Installation of grid-connected solar power plants up to 2 MW capacity under Component A of PM-KUSUM Scheme
• Installation of standalone solar pumps under Component-B and solarisation of grid-connected agriculture pumps including through feeder level solarisation under Component-C of PM-KUSUM Scheme by providing Central Financial Assistance (CFA).
• Promotion of rooftop solar under Solar Rooftop Phase II Programme by providing CFA in the residential sector and incentives to DISCOMs.
• Off-Grid & Decentralised Solar PV Applications Programme implemented during the years 2018-21 provided financial support for the installation of Solar Street Lights, Off-Grid Solar Power Plants and distribution of Solar Study Lamps.
4. STEPS BY GOVERNMENT OF INDIA TO PROMOTE RENEWABLE ENERGY IN THE COUNTRY
THE CONTEXT: According to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, the Government has taken several steps to promote renewable energy, including wind energy, in the country.
India is anticipated to be the biggest contributor to the renewables boom in 2021, with the country’s annual growth in renewables doubling from 2020. Prime Minister of India mentioned about having huge renewable energy deployment plans for India for the next 10 years which are likely to create business opportunities of around $20 billion a year.
What is renewable energy?
• It is an energy that is generated from the renewable sources – the ones that can be replenished quickly on par with human demand.
• The examples of renewable energy sources include solar energy, wind energy, tidal energy, etc.
• These sources, if used to produce energy, can reduce the amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere.
Renewable energy is often used in the following areas:
• Electricity generation
• Heating/cooling of air and water
• Stand-alone power system or Remote Area Power Supply (RAPS) for rural areas.
Measures taken to Promote Renewable Energy:
• Permitting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) up to 100 percent under the automatic route,
• Waiver of Inter State Transmission System (ISTS) charges for inter-state sale of solar and wind power for projects to be commissioned by 30th June 2025,
• Declaration of trajectory for Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) up to the year 2022,
• Setting up of Ultra Mega Renewable Energy Parks to provide land and transmission to RE developers on a plug and play basis,
• Laying of new transmission lines and creating new sub-station capacity for evacuation of renewable power,
• Setting up of Project Development Cell for attracting and facilitating investments,
• Standard Bidding Guidelines for tariff based competitive bidding process for procurement of Power from Grid Connected Solar PV and Wind Projects.
• Government has issued orders that power shall be dispatched against Letter of Credit (LC) or advance payment to ensure timely payment by distribution licensees to RE generators.
• Conducting skill development programmes to create a pool of skilled manpower for implementation, operation and maintenance of RE projects.
In addition to the above, the following steps have been taken specifically for promoting wind energy:
• Concessional custom duty exemption on certain components required for manufacturing of wind electric generators.
• Generation Based Incentive (GBI) is being provided to the wind projects commissioned on or before 31 March 2017.
• Technical support including wind resource assessment and identification of potential sites through the National Institute of Wind Energy, Chennai.
THE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
5. NEW STUDY THAT SUGGESTS DEPRESSION IS NOT CAUSED BY SEROTONIN IMBALANCE IN BRAIN
THE CONTEXT: Researchers from University College London who carried out a “comprehensive review of the major strands of research on serotonin” have now reported that “there is no convincing evidence that depression is associated with, or caused by, lower serotonin concentrations or activity”.
• Researchers from University College London who carried out a “comprehensive review of the major strands of research on serotonin” have now reported that “there is no convincing evidence that depression is associated with, or caused by, lower serotonin concentrations or activity”.
• For decades, a “chemical imbalance” in the brain, especially that of a chemical called serotonin, has been widely seen to be responsible for depression — a view that has promoted the use of antidepressants as part of the treatment for the condition.
What exactly is serotonin?
• Serotonin is a chemical that carries messages between nerve cells in the brain and throughout your body. Serotonin plays a key role in such body functions as mood, sleep, digestion, nausea, wound healing, bone health, blood clotting and sexual desire
What is the serotonin theory of depression?
• “The idea that depression is the result of abnormalities in brain chemicals, particularly serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine or 5-HT), has been influential for decades, and provides an important justification for the use of antidepressants,” the authors write in the paper.
• Depression was first linked to lowered serotonin levels in the 1960s, according to researchers theory gained wide acceptance in the 1990s with the advent of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants, which temporarily increase the availability of serotonin in the brain.
What is the conclusion of the new research?
• Over the years, several studies have questioned the serotonin theory. The new study conducted an “umbrella review”, collating existing overviews of the principal areas of relevant research on serotonin and depression. The intention was to establish “whether the current evidence supports a role for serotonin in the aetiology of depression, and specifically whether depression is associated with indications of lowered serotonin concentrations or activity”.
• The conclusion of the study: “The serotonin theory of depression has been one of the most influential and extensively researched biological theories of the origins of depression. Our study shows that this view is not supported by scientific evidence. It also calls into question the basis for the use of antidepressants.”
• According to the researchers, there are other explanations for the effect that antidepressants have on a person. Drug trials show they are “barely distinguishable from a placebo (dummy pill) when it comes to treating depression,” and antidepressants appear to have more of a generalised emotion-numbing effect on people’s moods.
What causes depression, then?
• Several experts have said that the findings of the study should not lead anyone to immediately stop taking prescribed antidepressants. This ‘study of studies’ does make some important points, such as depression being a result of multiple factors, but more research is needed to confirm some of its big claims.
• The authors have concluded that it “is impossible to say that taking SSRI antidepressants is worthwhile, or even completely safe”, and that this study is “critical” for making informed decisions about whether or not to take antidepressants.
THE PRELIMS PERSPECTIVE
6. ONE WORD A DAY – MARBURG
THE CONTEXT:The first two cases of the Marburg virus disease, a highly infectious Ebola-like disease, have been confirmed officially by Ghana after test results were verified by a Senegal laboratory.
• This outbreak is only the second time that the disease has been detected in West Africa.
• It was first detected in 1967 after simultaneous outbreaks in Marburg and Frankfurt in Germany; and in Belgrade, Serbia.
• Due to its detection in Marburg, it got its name.
What is the Marburg virus disease?
• According to WHO, Marburg virus disease (MVD), is a severe, often fatal hemorrhagic fever.
• It was earlier known as Marburg haemorrhagic fever.
• Marburg, like Ebola, is a filovirus; and both diseases are clinically similar.
What are the hosts for the Marburg virus?
• Rousettus fruit bats are considered the natural hosts for the Marburg virus.
• According to WHO, African green monkeys imported from Uganda were the source of the first human infection.
• It was first detected in 1967 after simultaneous outbreaks in Marburg and Frankfurt in Germany; and in Belgrade, Serbia.
• The disease has an average fatality rate of around 50%.
• However, it can be as low as 24% or as high as 88% depending on virus strain and case management, says the WHO.
What are the challenges with Marburg virus disease?
• It is difficult to clinically distinguish MVD from diseases such as malaria, typhoid fever and other viral haemorrhagic fevers.
• However, it is confirmed by lab testing of samples, which like Coronavirus and Ebola are extreme biohazard risks.
• There is no approved antiviral treatment or vaccine for MVD as of now.
• It can be managed with supportive care.
• According to the WHO, rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids, and treatment of specific symptoms can help prevent death.
THE PRELIMS PRACTICE QUESTIONS
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Q.Consider the following statements with respect to Marburg viral disease:
1. This outbreak is only the second time that the disease has been detected in South America.
2. Rousettus fruit bats are considered the natural hosts for the Marburg virus.
Which of the following the above statements is/are correct?
a) 1 only
b) 2 only
c) Both 1 and 2
d) Neither 1 nor 2
ANSWER FOR 21TH JULY 2022
• The government of India sets the MSP twice a year.
• The Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) which advises the minimum price, and the recommendations are not binding on the government.