In Focus: Smog @UpscExpress

In Focus: Smog

  • Very simply, smogis a type of air pollution that reduces visibility.
  • The term “smog” was first used in the early 1900s to describe a mix of smoke and fog, when smoke came from burning of fossil fuels like coal in thermal power plants.

Sulphurous Smog

  • It is also called “London smog”.
  • It results from a high concentration of sulphur oxidesin the air and is caused by the use of sulphur-bearing fossil fuels, particularly coal.
  • This type of smog is aggravated by dampness and a high concentration of suspended particulate matter in the air.

Photochemical Smog

  • Another type of smog is photochemical smog.
  • Photochemical smog is produced when sunlight reacts with nitrogen oxides (NOX) and at least one volatile organic compound (VOC) in the atmosphere.
  • Nitrogen oxides come from car exhaust, coal power plants, and factory emissions.
  • VOCs are released from gasoline, paints, and many cleaning solvents.
  • When sunlight hits VOCs and NOX, they form a combination of airborne particles and ground-level ozone which is called as smog.
  • Impact of Photochemical Smog:
    • The photochemical smog causes a light brownish coloration of the atmosphere, reduced visibility, plantdamage, irritation of the eyes, and respiratory distress. 
    • Ozone in the lower levels of troposphere can damage lung tissue, and it is especially dangerous to people with respiratory illnesses like asthma.
    • It can also cause itchy, burning eyes.
    • Smog is unhealthy to humans and animals, and it can kill plants.
    • It makes the sky brown or gray and reduces visibility.

In Focus: Smog Towers

  • A smog tower is a structure designed to work as a large-scale air purifier.
  • Smog towers are fitted with multiple layers of filters which trap fine dust particles suspended in the air as it passes through them.
  • Air is drawn through fans installed at the top of the tower, passed through filters, and then released near the ground.

Examples of Smog Towers:

  • Smog towers have been experimented with in recent years in cities of Netherlands, China, South Korea and Poland.
  • First Smog Tower of World
    • The first such tower was erected in 2015, in Rotterdam, Netherlands, created by Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde.
    • It is a 7 metre-high ‘smog free tower’ which can filter 30,000 cubic metres of air per hour around it.

  • Smog Towers of China
    • Beijing has a smog tower.
    • Smog tower of Xian- The University of Minnesota has helped design a 100-metre high permanent smog tower in the Chinese city of Xian. This tower was completed in 2017, and is said to be the world’s biggest air purifier.

  • Delhi’s Smog Tower at Lajpat Nagar
    • The first ‘smog tower’ was installed at Lajpat Nagar Central Market of Delhi
    • It became operational in January 2020.
    • This smog tower has a height of around 20 ft.
    • It is estimated to purify the air within a circumference area of almost 500 meters to 750 meters. The purifier aims at treating 2,50,000 to 6,00000 cubic meter air per day and release fresh air in return.

About: Delhi’s Pollution Problem

  • Delhi and its suburbs have ranked among the most polluted cities in the world frequently since 2014, when the WHO declared Delhi the most polluted city in the world.
  • Pollution levels in Delhi increase dramatically during winter- on some days to nearly 10 times above the limits prescribed by WHO, posing a serious risk to vulnerable and also healthy populations.
  • However, an assessment by the CPCB shows that Delhi’s air quality has been improving every year since 2016, even as it remains above acceptable limits, as a result of the pollution control measures being taken
  • Causes of Air Pollution in Delhi
    • Delhi’s air pollution is largely because sources of emissions from construction work, industrial and vehicular pollution in and around the city.
    • The situation is aggravated at the start of winter by smoke from stubble-burning in northwestern states, coupled with unfavourable meteorological conditions, such as calm winds, low temperatures, and fewer sunny days.

  • Measures Taken for Mitigating Air Pollution in Delhi
    • Persuading farmers in Punjab and Haryana to use mechanical alternatives to stubble-burning.
    • Closure of thermal power stations in Delhi.
    • Making industries use piped natural gas, in addition to control measures taken under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) when pollution levels spike.

Effectiveness of Smog Towers

  • Experts have claimed that the smog towers in Delhi would create “clean air zones” in the city.
  • An estimate made of their impact on air quality shows a tower would reduce 50% of the particulate matter load in an area of 1 kilometre in the direction of the wind, as well as 200 metres each along the sides of the tower and against the direction of the wind.
  • Delhi’s Environment Department is of the view these smog towers may not be useful for the whole city, but they can be useful in creating ‘clean air area’ zones in different parts of the city.
  • Another expert panel set up by the Centre’s Department of Science and Technology had estimated that 213 smog towers may be required across the whole city of Delhi.

When Indira banked on socialism

Headline : When Indira banked on socialism

Details :

In News

  • It’s now 50 years since the Indian government nationalized the 14 biggest commercial lenders on 20 July, 1969.


News Summary:

  • The Indian financial sector underwent a massive shift 50 years ago, when the government nationalized the 14 biggest commercial lenders.
  • The official history of the Reserve Bank of India describes bank nationalization as the single-most important economic policy decision taken by any Indian government after 1947.
  • The banks that were nationalised included Allahabad Bank, Bank of Baroda, Bank of India, Bank of Maharashtra, Central Bank of India, Canara Bank, Dena Bank, Indian Bank, Indian Overseas Bank, Punjab National Bank, Syndicate Bank, UCO Bank, Union Bank and United Bank of India.
  • Thereafter, in 1980, six more banks that were nationalised included Punjab and Sind Bank, Vijaya Bank, Oriental Bank of India, Corporate Bank, Andhra Bank and New Bank of India.
  • It was an outcome of the pursuance of the socialist doctrine which advocated public ownership of the ‘commanding heights’. What started off initially as public sector enterprises in the manufacturing sector was expanded to include banks which were the facilitators of finance for growth.


Events leading up to the nationalisation of banks:

  • Nationalization is the process of transforming private assets into public assets by bringing them under the public ownership of a national government or state.
  • Collapse of private banks:
    • The idea of nationalising banks had been around for much of the 1960s as private banks collapsed at an alarming rate.
    • More than 360 banks had failed between 1947 and 1955 — the rate of collapse was 40 banks a year. The trend continued through the 1950s and the first half of 1960s. Banks were failing largely due to speculative financial activities.
    • The collapse of banks were causing distress among people, who were losing their hard-earned money in the absence of a strong government support and legislative protection to their money.
  • Bank consolidation:
    • This had forced Morarji Desai, the then finance minister, to launch a massive bank consolidation drive. It brought down the number of banks from 328 in 1960 to 68 in 1965.

Bank Nationalisation process:

  • Opposing the idea led by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of nationalisation of banks, the finance minister, Morarji Desai, a known advocate of promoting private enterprise, to quit.
  • Nationalisation was confined to the 14 largest Indian-owned banks, categorised as “major” by the RBI. These were banks with a deposit base of over Rs 50 crore, which between them accounted for 85% of bank deposits.
  • The nationalisation was challenged in the Supreme Court, which struck it down in February, 1970 on the grounds that it was discriminatory.
  • But the government overrode the SC order by bringing in a new ordinance four days later, that was subsequently replaced by the Banking Companies (Acquisition and Transfer of Undertakings ) Act, 1970.


Reasons for Nationalisation

Finance Growth

  • As finance was the means to bring about growth, it was felt that this important segment had to be under the purview of the government which was also running the Five Year Plan in parallel for achieving certain socialist goals relating to growth and development.

Expansion of credit

  • To ensure that credit was available to the rural sector and high priority areas like agriculture, small industry, exports, special castes, something the private banks had failed to provide.
  • Between 1951 and 1968, industry’s share in bank loans had nearly doubled to 68%. During the period, agriculture received just around 2% of bank credit. Given that this was also the time when the Green Revolution was being pushed, it was indeed a key factor.
  • There was a feeling that these banks worked as monopolies and controlled the flow of credit. Hence, just like how the Monopolistic and Restrictive Trade Practice (MRTP) was used to curb the undue growth of private enterprises, nationalisation was to eradicate the same and make it more egalitarian.

Curb Regional Disparities

  • There were stark regional disparities in terms of uneven growth which had to be addressed. This was done even in the industrial sphere, where concessions were given for setting up enterprises in backward areas.
  • As an extension bank nationalisation intended to ensure the spread of banking to all states and regions and bring about balanced economic development.

Job creation

  • Expanding on bank branch network across the country, the system would also generate jobs as more manpower would be required. Hence, there would be an impetus to job creation.





Welfare Measures

  • Several programmes of the government have been driven by the PSBs by virtue of their ownership pattern.
  • For instance, the Jan Dhan programme of the government which aims at giving a basic bank account to all has been engineered and fulfilled by the PSBs as private banks do not find it attractive enough.
  • Assistance for constructing toilets under Swachh Bharat programme, Crop insurance schemes were implemented through banks.
  • Direct transfer benefit scheme meant people got subsidy benefits directly in their bank accounts.
  • All of this was possible as public sector banks enjoyed government protection for 45 years.


  • The nationalisation was a major step which helped expand banking. Bank nationalisation helped take banking to newer areas and rural areas.
  • The public sector bank (PSB) system is still dominant and accounts for two-third of the total deposits and credit in the system
  • In July 1969, at the time of nationalisation of banks, there were just 8,262 bank branches in the country. At the end of June 2018, state- owned banks alone had built a network of branches or a franchise of over 90,000 (over 29,000 in rural areas) and over 1.45 lakh ATMs while private banks had 28,805 branches.

Infra development:

  • On the economic front too, there was a substantial contribution made by these banks to the growth of infrastructure in the country.


  • Gross domestic savings almost doubled as a percentage of national income in the 1970s.
  • It led to formalisation of credit and product offerings



Political and Administrative Inference

  • Many public sector banks badly suffered due to the political interference. It was seen in arranging loan meals. It ultimately resulted in huge non-performing assets (NPA) of these banks and inefficiency.
  • Today, even after a quarter century of liberalization, state-controlled banks still control 70% of the sector’s assets. As a consequence, credit is weak, the private sector is stunted and India has to endure periodic banking crises and bailouts at taxpayer expense.


  • Banks, once nationalized, became risk-averse and hidebound, rarely lending to new firms.
  • Under-lending became chronic; manufacturers found themselves severely short of credit.
  • Bank officials did not have to care about finding and evaluating profitable firms. Instead they lent to those companies selected, for whatever reason, by their political bosses.

Reduced efficiency

  • Banking was not done on a professional and ethical grounds. It resulted into lower efficiency and poor profitability of banks.
  • In fact it converted many of the banking institutions in the loss making entities. The reasons were lethargic working, lack of accountability, lack of profit motive, political interference.

Complex rate structure

  • Credit planning also meant that the interest rate structure became incredibly complex. There were different rates of interest for different types of loans. The Indian central bank eventually ended up managing hundreds of interest rates.

Lost Decade

  • Bank nationalization was the pivot of a broader political economy strategy followed in the 1970s—a decade when economic growth barely outpaced population growth. Average incomes stagnated and it was a lost decade for India.

Misguided Economic Philosophy

  • What has remained unaltered in the last 50 years despite economic reforms is the political philosophy and belief echoed on banking — a commercial enterprise driven by a larger social purpose and political considerations.
  • It is on this that there has been a strong political consensus across successive governments irrespective of ideology, oblivious of the fact that the fundamental obligation of banks is to depositors.
Section : Economics

About GRAPES-3

About GRAPES-3

  • The Gamma Ray Astronomy PeV EnergieS phase-3 experiment is located at TIFR’s Cosmic Ray Laboratory in Ooty in Tamil Nadu.
  • It is a collaboration of the Indian Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, the Japanese Osaka City University and the Japanese Nagoya Women’s University.
  • GRAPES-3 (Gamma Ray Astronomy PeV EnergieS phase-3) is designed to study cosmic rays with an array of air shower detectors and a large area muon detector.
  • It aims to probe acceleration of cosmic rays in the four astrophysical settings.
  • The experiment had earlier detected the effect of a solar storm that hit the earth in June 2015.
  • The muon telescope has been successfully used to study acceleration of muons during large thunderstorm events.
  • GRAPES-3 also has an important role in understanding the propagation of storms from the L1 point (Lagrange point) to its impact on the Earth.

Note: Lagrange Points are positions in space where the gravitational forces of a two body system like the Sun and the Earth produce enhanced regions of attraction and repulsion.


How potential of thundercloud was measured using GRAPES-3?

  • Clouds have negative charges along their lower side and positive charges on top and can be several kilometres thick. However, thunderstorms last only for about 15-20 minutes, which makes it difficult to calculate the potential of thundercloud.
  • Muons and other particles are produced when cosmic rays bombard air particles surrounding the earth.
  • The muons produced can have positive or negative charge.
    • When a positively charged muon falls through a cloud, it loses energy. If its energy falls below 1 giga electron volt (GeV), which is the threshold of detection of the GRAPES-3 muon telescope, it goes undetected.
    • When a negatively charged muon falls through a cloud, it gains energy and gets detected.
  • Since there are more positive than negative muons produced in nature, the two effects don’t cancel out, and a net change in intensity is detected.
  • The researchers monitored the profiles of the clouds using four ground-based electric field monitors.
  • Only the cloud that crossed on December 1, 2014, had a profile that was simple enough to simulate.
  • Using a computer simulation and the observed muon intensity variations, the researchers worked out the relationship with the electric potential of the cloud.
  • They calculated that the potential of the cloud they were studying was approximately 1.3 GV, which no one has ever measured potential, size and height of a thundercloud simultaneously.


Way ahead

  • This method in future can be used to understand the terrestrial gamma ray bursts (huge flashes of light that accompany lightnings).
  • Learning about the properties of thunderclouds can be useful in navigation of aircraft and preventing short circuits. This serendipitous discovery might provide the means to making headway in this direction.



Section : Science & Tech
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In brief: Ancient monuments in India

In brief: Ancient monuments in India

What is Ancient monument?

  • Ancient Monument means any structure, erection or monument, or any tumulus or place of interment, or any cave, rock-sculpture, inscription or monolith which is of historical, archaeological or artistic interest and which has been in existence for not less than 100 years.
  • It includes
  • Remains of an ancient monument
  • Site of an ancient monument
  • Such portion of land adjoining the site of an ancient monument as may be required for fencing or covering in or otherwise preserving such monument
  • The means of access to, and convenient inspection of, an ancient monument


Protecting Ancient Monuments

  • Ancient monuments in India are protected by Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.
  • The Archeological Survey of India is the body entrusted with the responsibility of declaring and protecting ancient monuments in the country.
  • Currently, there are 3693 protected ancient monuments in India.
  • The states with highest number of ancient monuments include UP (745), Karnataka (506) and TN (413)


Latest addition

  • In December 2018, ASI declared the following 6 new sites as monuments of national importance
  1. Old High Court Building – Nagpur
  2. Haveli of Agha Khan – Agra
  3. Hathi Khana – Agra
  4. Neemrana Baori – Rajasthan’s Alwar district
  5. Group of Temples at Ranipur Jharail – Odisha’s Bolangir district
  6. Vishnu Temple – Pithoragarh district, Uttarkhand



In brief: Archaeological Survey of India

  • The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is an attached office under Ministry of Culture.
  • It is the premier organization for the archaeological researches and protection of cultural heritage of India.
  • The Archaeological Survey of India was established as a distinct department in 1871.
  • Alexander Cunningham was the first Director General of ASI.

Functions of ASI

  • Conducting archaeological explorations and excavations
  • Maintenance, conservation and protection of ancient monuments, archaeological sites and their remains
  • Implementation of Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 and Antiquities and Art Treasure Act, 1972
  • Epigraphical and numismatic (coins) studies
  • Training in Archaeology

About Ocean Energy

About Ocean Energy:

  • Oceans cover 70 percent of the earth’s surface and represent an enormous amount of energy in the form of wave, tidal, marine current and thermal gradient.
  • Deployment of ocean energy is currently limited but the sector has the potential to grow, fuelling economic growth, reduction of carbon footprint and creating jobs not only along the coasts but also inland along its supply chains.

Technologies exploring Ocean Energy:

  • Tidal Energy
    • Tidal energy is any form of renewable energy in which tidal action in the oceans is converted to electric power.
    • The tidal cycle occurs every 12 hours due to the gravitational force of the moon.
    • The difference in water height from low tide and high tide is potential energy.
    • Tidal water can be captured in a barrage across an estuary during high tide and forced through a hydro-turbine during low tide.
    • Examples: The Gulf of Cambay and the Gulf of Kutch in Gujarat on the west coast have the locations in the country where potential exists.
  • Identified Potential of Tidal Energy : 12455 MW, with potential locations identified at Khambat & Kutch regions, and large backwaters, where barrage technology could be used.


  • Tidal energy is considered as an intermittent source of energy, as it can only provide electricity when the tide surges, which happen about approximately 12 hours per day on average.
  • Tidal energy facilities need to be constructed close to land, which is also the place where technological solutions that come with them are being worked on.
  • The capital cost for tidal energy power plants is very high due to high civil construction and high power purchase tariff.
  • To capture sufficient power from the tidal energy potential, the height of high tide must be at least five meters (16 feet) greater than low tide.


  • Wave Energy
    • Wave power converts the periodic up-and-down movement of the oceans waves into electricity by placing equipment on the surface of the oceans that captures the energy produced by the wave movement and converts this mechanical energy into electrical power.
    • Wave energy is generated by the movement of a device either floating on the surface of the ocean or moored to the ocean floor.
    • Different techniques for converting wave energy to electric includes:
    • Wave conversion devices that float on the surface have joints hinged together that bend with the waves. This kinetic energy pumps fluid through turbines and creates electric power.
    • Stationary wave energy conversion devices use pressure fluctuations produced in long tubes from the waves swelling up and down. This bobbing motion drives a turbine when critical pressure is reached.
      • Other stationary platforms capture water from waves on their platforms. This water is allowed to runoff through narrow pipes that flow through a typical hydraulic turbine.
    • Identified Potential of Wave Energy in India along the country’s coast: about 40,000 MW .This energy is however less intensive than what is available in more northern and southern latitudes.


  • Wave energy conversion devices are location dependent requiring suitable sites were the waves are consistently strong.
  • Intermittent power generation as the waves come in intervals and does not generate power during calm periods.
  • Offshore wave energy devices can be a threat to navigation that cannot see or detect them by radar.
  • High power distribution costs to send the generated power from offshore devices to the land using long underwater cables.
  • They must be able to withstand forces of nature resulting in high capital, construction and maintenance costs.
  • Visual impact of wave energy conversion devices on the shoreline and offshore floating buoys or platforms is also not good, which may impact tourism.


  • Ocean Current Energy
    • Ocean current energy can be harnessed using underwater turbines, also known as tidal turbines, to generate power.


  • It is location specific as it need Ocean current velocity to be fast, large and stable ocean current.
  • Equipment and suspensions corrosion caused by seawater.
  • The extremely high cost of installing and maintaining underwater turbines.
  • Opposition from trawler fishermen, who claim that the turbines compete with their fishing areas.


  • Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC)
    • Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) is a process that can produce electricity by using the temperature difference between deep cold ocean water and warm tropical surface waters. A temperature difference of only 20°C can yield usable energy.
    • OTEC plants pump large quantities of deep cold seawater and surface seawater to run a power cycle and produce electricity.

Types of OTEC technologies:

  1. a) Open Cycle: In the open cycle system, the warm surface water is pressurized in a vacuum chamber and converted to steam to run the turbine. The steam is then condensed using cold ocean water from lower depths.
  2. b) Closed cycle: In the closed cycle method, a working fluid, such as ammonia, is pumped through a heat exchanger and vaporized. This vaporized steam runs a turbine. The cold water found at the depths of the ocean condenses the vapor back to a fluid where it returns to the heat exchanger.
  • Potential in India : OTEC has a theoretical potential of 180,000 MW in India , “subject to suitable technological evolution


  • Capital investment is very high.
  • Due to small temperature difference in between the surface water and deep water, conversion efficiency is very low about 3-4%.
  • Low efficiency of these plants coupled with high capital cost and maintenance cost makes them uneconomical for small plants.


Present Status of Ocean Energy technologies in India:

  • As on date, India does not have any installed ocean energy capacit.
  • Most types of technologies are currently at pre-research and development (R&D) or demonstration stage or the initial stage of commercialisation.
  • Basic R&D is being looked after by the ministry of earth sciences (National Institute of Ocean Technology, Chennai).
  • The MNRE intends to support demonstration projects of proven technologies and as approved by expert committee constituted by the MNRE.


News  Summary:

  • The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has clarified that energy produced using various forms of ocean energy such as tidal, wave, ocean thermal energy conversion among others shall be considered as renewable energy .

Significance of the move:

  • Various forms of Ocean energy shall be eligible for meeting the non-solar Renewable Purchase Obligations (RPO)

What is a Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO)?

  • RPO is a mechanism by which the State Electricity Regulatory Commissions are obliged to purchase a certain percentage of power from renewable energy sources.
  • RPO is being implemented throughout the country to create demand for renewable energy.
  • RPO is of two categories
    • Non Solar
    • Solar
  • The proportion is fixed by state power regulators.

Renewable Energy Certification (REC)

  • RECs are aimed at addressing the mismatch of renewable energy resources in the States and their RPO requirements
  • The discoms can also buy renewable energy certificates in lieu of mandated clean energy supplies, from the developers or renewable power generators.
  • In line with RPOs there are two categories of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) – Solar & Non-Solar.
  • Solar RECs include both PV and CSP technologies.
  • Non-solar RECs include renewable energy technologies such as biomass, wind, biofuel, cogeneration & small hydro and now also includes Ocean energy technologies.


Section : Economics

Explained: What ails the existing microcredit model

Headline : Explained: What ails the existing microcredit model

Details :

In News

  • Studies suggest that the existing systems of microcredit have a limited impact on the long-term wellbeing of the recipients.


About: Microcredit

  • Microcredit refers to the granting of very small loans to impoverished borrowers.


  • Loans given as microcredit are often given to people who may lack collateral, credit history, or a steady source of income.
  • The core idea is that a small loan will provide access to the larger economy to people who live outside the mainstream economy.
  • It has an aim of enabling the borrowers to use that capital to become self-employed and strengthen their businesses.


  • Microcredit agreements generally do not require any sort of collateral.
  • At times it may not even involve a written agreement, as many recipients of microcredit are often illiterate.
  • When borrowers demonstrate success in paying their loans on time, they become eligible for loans of even larger amounts.


  • Conventionally, microcredit has been used mainly for entrepreneurs to begin production and attain self-sufficiency.
  • However, there are other, mostly unexplored paths for the utilisation of microcredit for poverty alleviation and productivity-boosting measure, like:
  • Supplement rural labourers
  • Small microcredit loans can allow rural labourers to migrate to urban areas to find work during the lean season (when there is no work on farms).
  • Those who migrated temporarily during the lean season experienced increased spending in both food and non-food areas, and increased their calories consumed.
  • Address climate shocks
  • It can also be used to reduce the effects of shocks like floods and drought.
  • It can provide people with a form of insurance that both increases production before the shock and provides a safety net after.


  • An example of a microcredit institution is the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, founded in 1976 by Mohammed Yunus. It is a pioneering institution in the realm of micro finance.
  • The bank has 8.4 million followers, 97% of whom are women, and the bank has repayment success rates between 95 to 98 percent.


About: Microfinance

  • Microcredit falls under the larger umbrella of microfinance.
  • Microfinance activities usually target low-income individuals, with the goal of helping them to become self-sufficient.
  • Hence, microfinance activities have an aim of poverty alleviation as well.

News Summary:

  • Microcredit has emerged as a tool for ensuring the welfare of the most impoverished in society, and boosting development alongside.
  • However, some studies claim that certain flaws in microcredit transactions has led to limited benefits, and access to microcredit made very little difference to changing the lifestyles of borrowers.
  • As per a study, indicators like Household business profits, business expenditures, consumption, consumer durables spending etc. saw only a 5% impact when microcredit was available.

Repayment schedules main reason for low impact of microcredit:

  • To lower the risk of defaulting, microcredit lenders demand an initial repayment that is almost immediate.
  • After that, borrowers are required to follow an inflexible weekly schedule for repayments.
  • Due to this, borrowers are unable to use loans on investments that may take some time for benefits to be fully realised.
  • Hence, they are forced to use the loans on short term investments that only boost production to an extent, and the overall growth of their income remains small.


Findings of various studies on improving impact of microcredit

Initial grace period:

  • According to a study, borrowers who received an initial grace period were more likely to have started a new business.
  • Such borrowers also reported higher profits and household incomes.
  • However, there was also an increased rate of defaulting in this group.

Monthly repayment:

  • When borrowers switched from a weekly repayment schedule to a monthly one, there was an increase in incomes without the increased rate of defaulting.
  • Under a monthly repayment schedule, borrowers scored 45% lower on the Financial Stress Index.
  • Increases in income were more than double when compared to the borrowers under a weekly repayment schedule.

Mitigation of credit risk:

  • The barriers to assessing credit risk can be mitigated by using community information.
  • Communities can be an accurate source of information about credit risk for microcredit institutions.
  • However, the implementation of such processes would require the elimination of bias and incentivising accurate information.
Section : Economics

About Wolbachia

About Wolbachia

  • Wolbachiaare naturally occurring bacteria found in 60% of all insect species.
  • It is also the most common reproductive parasite in the biosphere.
  • However, it is not found in the Aedes aegypti mosquito.
  • The World Mosquito Program has also shown that when introduced into the Aedes aegyptimosquito, Wolbachia can help to reduce the transmission of  viruses to people
  • Wolbachiais safe for humans, animals and the environment.

How does Wolbachia work?

  • Wolbachia boosts the natural immune system of the mosquito making it harder for the mosquito to support the Zika, dengue or chikungunya infection.
  • Wolbachiaalso works by competing against viruses for key molecules like cholesterol.
  • Both the viruses and Wolbachianeed cholesterol to survive inside the mosquito. When Wolbachia is present, it consumes these molecules and makes it harder for the viruses to grow.

Wolbachia method

  • Under the method, the researchers released male and female Aedes aegyptimosquitoes with Wolbachia over a number of weeks.
  • These mosquitoes then breed with the wild mosquito population.
  • Over time, the percentage of mosquitoes carrying Wolbachia grows until it remains high without the need for further releases.


How Wolbachia increases in insect populations

Impact on India

  • Being a tropical country, India is prone to disease carrying mosquitoes.
  • In 2017, there were 1.9 lakh dengue cases and 325 deaths in India.
  • Until July 2018, there have been 15,000 cases and 38 deaths.
  • Under the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme, this approach is being tested in India.
  • However, field testing is still years away as this approach needs to be tested in large cities.
  • Further, large-scale trials in Brazil, Colombia and Indonesia have shown that wolbachia is self-sustaining at high levels and there has not been local dengue transmission.
  • Thus, expediting the implementation of this new bio-control approach can considerably reduce the virus-carrying mosquitoes in India.
Section : Science & Tech

HIV and AIDS: in brief

HIV and AIDS: in brief

  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the immune system, our body’s natural defence against illness.
  • If HIV is left untreated, a person’s immune system will get weaker and weaker until it can no longer fight off life-threatening infections and diseases.
  • Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a set of symptoms and illnesses that happen at the final stage of HIV infection, if left untreated.


How the HIV attacks the immune system?

  • After a person is infected with HIV, the virus attaches itself to the body’s immune cells in the hopes of producing more virus particles.
  • In the acute stages of infection, the virus destroys a lot of immune cells and produces many virus particles, leading the immune systeminto overdrive in trying and warding off infection.
  • Later, the virus enters into a period of clinical latency, this time the virus is active but reproduces minimally.
  • In the last stage of infection, AIDS, the number of immune cells drops well below the normal level.
  • The body’s immune system is left critically damaged, leaving the person susceptible to illness.


About CCR5-delta 32 mutation

  • CCR5-delta 32 is a genetic mutation responsible for HIV resistance, which hampers HIV’s ability to infiltrate immune cells.
  • CCR5 co-receptor is present outside the cells and acts like a door that allows HIV entrance into the cell.
  • The CCR5-delta 32 mutation acts like a door lock which prevents HIV from entering into the cell.
  • About 1% of people who are descendents from Northern Europeans, are homozygous carriers of the mutated gene (they inherited a copy from both of their parents). Thus, they are immune to HIV infection.
  • Since the CCR5-delta 32 is tied primarily to the Eurasia region, the mutation has not been found in Africans, East Asians etc.


Way ahead:

  • These successful cases marks critical moments in the search for an HIV cure and give hope that scientists will one day be able to cure AIDS.


Section : Science & Tech

About: Pied Cuckoo

About: Pied Cuckoo

  • Different Names
    • Scientific Name- Clamator jacobinus
    • The genus ‘Clamator’ literally translates to being a shouter, a bird which is quite vocal. The word ‘jacobinus’ relates to pied birds.
    • These birds are also called as Chatak locally in India or pied crested cuckoo and Jacobin Cuckoo.

  • It is a bird with black and white plumage (pied) with a fancy crest on the head.

  • Distribution
    • The species is distributed south of the Sahara in Africa and south of the Himalayas in India.
    • It is also found in Sri Lanka and parts of Myanmar.

  • Populations in India
    • There are two populations of the Pied Cuckoo in India.
    • One is a resident in the southern part of the country. They are not migratory in nature. 
    • The other, makes its way to North and Central India from Africa by crossing the Arabian Sea, along with the monsoon winds.
    • Though, it is believed that the pied cuckoos that come to the Himalayan foothills are from Africa, this has never been ascertained through collected data.
    • Pied cuckoos have high site fidelity, that is, they come back to the same location year after year.
    • However, it is not known from which exact part of Africa they come from.

  • Arrival in Summers
    • The pied cuckoo is one of the few species that come to India in the summer.
    • Most other migratory species come in winter from colder places like Mongolia, Siberia, northeastern China, Kazakhstan etc.

  • Habitat
    • The bird is primarily arboreal, which means that it mostly lives on trees but often forages for food in low bushes, and sometimes even on the ground.
    • As it is arboreal nature, its habitat includes forests, well-wooded areas and also bushes in semi-arid regions.

  • Role in Food Webs
    • These birds are primarily insectivores and feed on grasshoppers, beetles and are also often seen feeding on fruits and berries from trees.
    • The species, like all cuckoos, is a brood parasite.
      • It lays its eggs in nests that belong to other birds, preferring similar-sized birds like babblers and bulbuls, as their ‘hosts’.
      • The hosts are often distracted by male cuckoos, and the females quickly lay their similar-sized and coloured eggs into the hosts’ nests.
      • The hosts then take care of the eggs and the chicks that hatch from them, as their own.
      • The parasitic chicks are fed by the hosts and then leave the host parents once they are ready to be on their own.

Pied Cuckoos & Indian Monsoons

  • The arrival of the pied cuckoos in the Himalayan foothills has traditionally been seen as heralding the onset of the monsoon.
  • Indian farmers have traditionally relied on the arrival of the pied cuckoo as a signal to sow seeds, as they know that the monsoon will be upon them soon.
  • This signal is never wrong, because the pied cuckoo arrives in India riding the monsoon wind.
  • Gathering information about the migratory route of the pied cuckoo can be invaluable for research on “climatic variations” taking place in the world, especially since the species has such a close association with the monsoon.

Pied Cuckoo & Climate Change

  • Studying Pied Cuckoo will also give information on the monsoon, changes in the monsoon and monsoon winds, erratic rainfall, seasonal fluctuations, water vapour pressure, etc
  • Climatic regimes are governed by temperature and wind and water currents, or the conveyor belts that they result in.
  • Extreme weather events take place when there are disruptions in these conveyor belts. The movement of a species such as the pied cuckoo, can indicate any such disruptions.

About WII & IIRS

  • Wildlife Institute of India (WII) is Dehradun-based organization under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
  • It is India’s apex institute for the study of wildlife science.
  • Indian Institute of Remote Sensing (IIRS) is also in Dehradun and is a constituent unit of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). 

Some Basic Concepts of Economy

Some Basic Concepts

What is Gross Value Added (GVA)?

  • It is a measure of total output and income in the economy.
  • It provides the rupee value for the amount of goods and services produced in an economy after deducting the cost of inputs and raw materials that have gone into the production of those goods and services.
  • It also gives sector-specific picture like what is the growth in an area, industry or sector of an economy.
  • At the macro level, from national accounting perspective, it is the sum of a country’s GDP and net of subsidies and taxes in the economy.
  • When measured from the production side, it is a balancing item of the national accounts.

What is Gross Domestic Product (GDP)?

  • It gives the economic output from the consumers’ side.
  • It is the sum of private consumption, gross investment in the economy, government investment, government spending and net foreign trade (difference between exports and imports).

What is the difference between the two?

  • While GVA gives a picture of the state of economic activity from the producers’ side or supply side, the GDP gives the picture from the consumers’ side or demand perspective.
  • Both measures need not match because of the difference in treatment of net taxes.

Why did policy makers decide to also give weight to GVA?

  • A sector-wise breakdown provided by the GVA measure can better help the policymakers to decide which sectors need incentives/stimulus or vice versa.
  • Some consider GVA as a better gauge of the economy because a sharp increase in the output, only due to higher tax collections which could be on account of better compliance or coverage, may distort the real output situation.

Which of the two measures is considered more appropriate gauge of the economy?

  • A sector-wise breakdown provided by the GVA measure helps policymakers decide which sectors need incentives or stimulus and accordingly formulate sector specific policies.
  • But GDP is a key measure when it comes to making cross-country analysis and comparing the incomes of different economies.
Section : Economics