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Southwest Monsoon likely to set in over Kerala on June 4

Paper : General Studies 1

Why in news?

  • Southwest monsoon is expected to arrive in Kerala on June 4, but is poised to make a sluggish progress thereafter. It will also make a simultaneous onset over parts of NE India.
  • All four regions of the country are going to witness less than normal rainfall this season.
  • Central India, the country’s ricebowl, is expected to see the lowest rainfall in the region, with seasonal rains at 91% of Long Period Average (LPA)
  • The normal date of arrival of monsoon over Kerala is June 1. The delay can be attributed to a host of factors including El Nino and high temperatures in the Bay of Bengal.


What is El Nino?

  • El Nino refers to the occurence of a warm current off the coast of Peru in place of the cold Humboldt/Peru current.
  • El Niño means The Little Boy, or Christ Child in Spanish. El Niño was originally recognized by fishermen off the coast of South America in the 1600s, with the appearance of unusually warm water in the Pacific Ocean. The name was chosen based on the time of year (around December) during which these warm waters events tended to occur.
  • The term El Niño refers to the large-scale ocean-atmosphere climate interaction linked to a periodic warming in sea surface temperatures across the central and east-central Equatorial Pacific.
  • During an El Niño event, the surface waters in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean become significantly warmer than usual. That change is intimately tied to the atmosphere and to the winds blowing over the vast Pacific.
  • Easterly trade winds (which blow from the Americas toward Asia) falter and can even turn around into westerlies. This allows great masses of warm water to slosh from the western Pacific toward the Americas. It also reduces the upwelling of cooler, nutrient-rich waters from the deep—shutting down or reversing ocean currents along the equator and along the west coast of South and Central America.
  • The circulation of the air above the tropical Pacific Ocean responds to this tremendous redistribution of ocean heat. The typically strong high-pressure systems of the eastern Pacific weaken, thus changing the balance of atmospheric pressure across the eastern, central, and western Pacific. While easterly winds tend to be dry and steady, Pacific westerlies tend to come in bursts of warmer, moist air.


What is El Nino’s impact over India?

  • Trade winds coming from South America normally blow westward towards Asia during Southwest Monsoon. Warming of the Pacific Ocean results in weakening of these winds. Therefore, moisture and heat content gets limited and results in reduction and uneven distribution of rainfall across the Indian sub-continent.
  • However, there is no one-on-one correlation between a weak monsoon and an El Nino since the Monsoon is affected by a host of other factors as well


Pilot Project to use technology to estimate crop yield

Paper : General Studies 3


Why in news?

  • A pilot project will be done to test the use of technology to determine the yield estimates at the panchayat level
  • This is being done to reduce the delay in crop insurance claim settlements and increase the accuracy of compensation to the farmers under PM Fasal Bima Yojana
  • It is being carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture.
  • The pilot project will focus on pady, soybean, cotton, bajra, sorghum and groundnut
  • Technologies will include satellite data, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), advanced intelligent crop simulation models, artificial intelligence (AI) and internet of things (IoT)


What is the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)?

  • It is a government sponsored crop insurance scheme

Its objectives are:

  • To provide insurance coverage and financial support to the farmers in the event of failure of any of the notified crop as a result of natural calamities, pests & diseases.
  • To stabilise the income of farmers to ensure their continuance in farming.
  • To encourage farmers to adopt innovative and modern agricultural practices.
  • To ensure flow of credit to the agriculture sector.

Its features include:

  • There will be a uniform premium of only 2% to be paid by farmers for all Kharif crops and 1.5% for all Rabi crops. In case of annual commercial and horticultural crops, the premium to be paid by farmers will be only 5%. Balance premium will be paid by the Government to provide full insured amount to the farmers against crop loss on account of natural calamities.
  • There is no upper limit on Government subsidy.
  • The use of technology will be encouraged to a great extent. Smartphones will be used to capture and upload data of crop cutting to reduce the delays in claim payment to farmers. Remote sensing will be used to reduce the number of crop cutting experiments.
  • PMFBY is a replacement scheme of  NAIS / MNAIS.
  • All farmers growing notified crops are eligible for the scheme.
  • Comprehensive risk insurance is provided to cover yield losses due to non-preventable risks, such as Natural Fire and Lightning, Storm, Hailstorm, Cyclone, Typhoon, Tempest, Hurricane, Tornado. Risks due to Flood, Inundation and Landslide, Drought, Dry spells, Pests/ Diseases also will be covered.



Wayanad Sanctuary holds largest population of Tigers in Kerala

Paper : Prelims Specific, General Studies 3


Why in news?

Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary holds 75 out of the total 176 tigers identified in the state of Kerala


About Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary

  • Wayanad wildlife sanctuary is contiguous to the protected areas of Nagarhole and Bandipur of Karnataka on the north-east and Mudumalai of Tamilnadu on the south –east.
  • The sanctuary is an integral part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve
  • The forest types include South Indian Moist Deciduous forests, West coast semi-evergreen forests and plantations of teak, eucalyptus and Grewelia
  • Elephant, Gaur, Tiger, Panther,Sambar, Spotted deer, Barking deer, Wild boar, Sloth bear, Nilgiri langur, Bonnet macaque, Common langur, Wild dog, common otter, Malabar giant squirrel etc are the major mammals found here.


ICMR develops cheap diagnostic test for  Haemophilia A

Paper : General Studies 2


Why in news?

  • National Institute of Immunohaematology under Indian Council of Medical Research at Mumbai has developed a cost-effective Point-of-Care (POC) diagnostic test for severe Haemophilia A and Von Willebrand Disease (VWD)
  • Working cost of these kits is less than Rs. 50 in comparison to existing tests that cost between Rs 4000 – 10,000.
  • The diagnosis can be done within 30 minutes of collection of blood samples.


What is Haemophilia?

  • Hemophilia is a rare condition in which the blood does not clot properly.
  • Proteins called clotting factors work with platelets to stop bleeding at the site of an injury.
  • People with hemophilia produce lower amounts of either Factor VIII or Factor IX than those without the condition.
  • This means the person tends to bleed for a longer time after an injury, and they are more susceptible to internal bleeding.
  • It is a genetic disorder and is a rare disease.


What is Von Willebrand Disease?

  • Von Willebrand disease (VWD) is a genetic disorder caused by missing or defective von Willebrand factor (VWF), a clotting protein.
  • VWF binds factor VIII, a key clotting protein, and platelets in blood vessel walls, which help form a platelet plug during the clotting process.
  • It is also a rare disease


What is a rare disease?

  • A disease is considered rare when it affects one person out of 2 000 or less. They are between 5 000 and 8 000 rare diseases, most of them genetic. A very rough estimate would be that in the world, one person out of 15 could be affected by a rare disease.
  • Rare diseases are serious chronic diseases, and are often life-threatening. While most genetic diseases are rare diseases, around 20% of rare diseases are not caused by genetic defects.
  • Since, occurence is low there is a lack of research and drugs to combat these diseases. Big pharmaceutical companies often do not invest in the research of drugs to combat these diseases. Such drugs are called ‘orphan’ drugs.



US updates military plans against Iran

Paper : General Studies 2


Why in news?

  • The US Defense Secretary presented an updated military plan to the US President that envisions sending as many as 1,200,000 troops to West Asia should Iran attack US forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons.
  • The US had pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) last year and ended waivers given to Iran’s oil buyers (including India) to strengthen sanctions against Iran
  • Iran too has suspended some of the restrictions imposed on it by the JCPOA regarding its nuclear programme.

To read more about the JCPOA review Current Affairs for April.


India finds OECD index for services trade faulty

Paper : General Studies 3


Why in news?

  • India has found problems in the current method under which the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) ranks countries under the Services Trade Restrictiveness Index (STRI).
  • The index continues to show Indian services sector as one of the most restrictive even after maximum liberalisation for FDI since 1991
  • India states that there are both theoretical and empirical inconsistencies in the OECD methodology


What is the Services Trade Restrictiveness Index (STRI)?

  • Services Trade Restrictiveness Index (STRI) is a unique, evidence-based tool that provides information on regulations affecting trade in services in 22 sectors across all OECD member countries and Brazil, the People’s Republic of China, Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Russian Federation, and South Africa.
  • It is calculated by the OECD
  • These countries and sectors represent over 80% of global trade in services.
  • The STRI indices take values between zero and one, one being the most restrictive. They are calculated on the basis of the STRI regulatory database
  • The STRI database records measures on a Most Favoured Nations basis. Preferential trade agreements are not taken into account. Air transport and road freight cover only commercial establishment (with accompanying movement of people).
  • India scores above average across all sectors in the STRI