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October 2, 2021
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1st October Current Affairs

PM Poshan Shakti Nirman Scheme

(GS-II: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation)

In News:

The existing Mid-Day Meal scheme, which provides hot meals to students, has been renamed as the National Scheme for PM Poshan Shakti Nirman.

Key propositions in the PM POSHAN Scheme:

Supplementary nutrition: The new scheme has a provision for supplementary nutrition for children in aspirational districts and those with high prevalence of anaemia.

States to decide diet: It essentially does away with the restriction on the part of the Centre to provide funds only for wheat, rice, pulses and vegetables. Currently, if a state decides to add any component like milk or eggs to the menu, the Centre does not bear the additional cost. Now that restriction has been lifted.

Nutri-gardens: They will be developed in schools to give children “firsthand experience with nature and gardening”.

Women and FPOs: To promote vocals for local, women self-help groups and farmer producer organisations will be encouraged to provide a fillip to locally grown traditional food items.

Social Audit: The scheme also plans “inspection” by students of colleges and universities for ground-level execution.

Tithi-Bhojan: Communities would also be encouraged to provide the children food at festivals etc, while cooking festivals to encourage local cuisines are also envisaged.

DBTs to school: In other procedural changes meant to promote transparency and reduce leakages, States will be asked to do direct benefit cash transfers of cooking costs to individual school accounts, and honorarium amounts to the bank accounts of cooks and helpers.

Holistic nutrition: The rebranded scheme aims to focus on “holistic nutrition” goals. Use of locally grown traditional foods will be encouraged, along with school nutrition gardens.

About the Mid-Day meal scheme:

The scheme guarantees one meal to all children in government and aided schools and madarsas supported under Samagra Shiksha.

Students up to Class VIII are guaranteed one nutritional cooked meal at least 200 days in a year.

The Scheme comes under the Ministry of HRD.

It was launched in 1995 as the National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education (NP – NSPE), a centrally sponsored scheme. In 2004, the scheme was relaunched as the Mid Day Meal Scheme.

The Scheme is also covered by the National Food Security Act, 2013.

Objective:

Address hunger and malnutrition, increase enrolment and attendance in school, improve socialisation among castes, provide employment at grassroot level especially to women.

The MDM rules 2015, provide that:

The place of serving meals to the children shall be school only.

If the Mid-Day Meal is not provided in school on any school day due to non-availability of food grains or any other reason, the State Government shall pay food security allowance by 15th of the succeeding month.

The School Management Committee mandated under the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 shall also monitor implementation of the Mid-day meal Scheme.

Nutritional norms:

In terms of calorie intake, as per the MDM guidelines, the children in primary schools must be provided with at least 450 calories with 12 grams of protein through MDM while the children in upper primary schools should get 700 calories with 20 grams of protein, as per MHRD.

The food intake per meal by the children of primary classes, as provided by MHRD is 100 grams of food grains, 20 grams of pulses, 50 grams of vegetables and 5 grams of oils and fats. For the children of upper-primary schools, the mandated breakup is 150 grams of food grains, 30 grams of pulses, 75 grams of vegetables and 7.5 grams of oils and fats.

Global Roadmap to Defeat Meningitis by 2030

(GS-II: Issues related to health)

In News:

The Global Roadmap to Defeat Meningitis by 2030 was recently released by the World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners.

Details:

This is the first-ever global strategy to defeat meningitis.

It aims to eliminate epidemics of bacterial meningitis and to reduce deaths by 70 per cent and halve the number of cases.

The new roadmap will aim for:

  • Achievement of high immunisation coverage, development of new affordable vaccines and improved prevention strategies and outbreak response.
  • Speedy diagnosis and optimal treatment for patients.
  • Good data to guide prevention and control efforts.
  • Care and support for those affected, focusing on early recognition and improved access to care and support for after-effects.
  • Advocacy and engagement, to ensure high awareness of meningitis, accountability for national plans, and affirmation of the right to prevention, care and after-care services.

Significance:

The strategy could save more than 200,000 lives annually and significantly reduce disability caused by the disease.

About Meningitis:

Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord.

It is predominantly caused by bacterial and viral infection.

Meningitis caused by bacterial infection causes around 250,000 deaths a year and can lead to fast-spreading epidemics.

It kills a tenth of those infected — mostly children and young people — and leaves a fifth with long-lasting disability.

Indian scientists develop reactor for cost-effective production of hydrogen using sunlight and water

(GS-III: Infrastructure- energy)

In News:

Scientists have, for the first time, developed a large-scale reactor which produces a substantial amount of hydrogen using sustainable sources like sunlight and water, which is a cost-effective and sustainable process.

Details:

They have used an earth-abundant chemical called carbon nitrides as a catalyst for the purpose.

This work is supported by the DST Nano Mission NATDP project.

How does the reactor work?

The team employed a low-cost organic semiconductor in carbon nitrides which can be prepared using cheaper precursors like urea and melamine at ease in a kilogram scale.

When the sunlight falls on this semiconductor, electrons and holes are generated.

The electrons reduced the protons to produce hydrogen, and holes are consumed by some chemical agents called sacrificial agents.

If the holes are not consumed, then they will recombine with the electrons.

The reactor is about 1 metre square, and the photocatalyst was coated in the form of panels where water flow is maintained.

Upon natural sunlight irradiation, hydrogen production occurs and is quantified through gas chromatography.

Significance of the development:

Hydrogen generated in this manner can be used in many forms like electricity generation through fuel cells in remote tribal areas, hydrogen stoves, and powering small gadgets, to mention a few.

Eventually, they can power the transformers and e-vehicles, which are long-term research goals under progress.

Way ahead:

During his Independence Day speech, PM had announced the launch of a National Hydrogen Mission to accelerate plans to generate carbon-free fuel from renewables as he set a target of 2047 for the country to achieve self-reliance in energy.

India has set a target of 450 GW of renewable energy by 2030. To achieve this, researchers are working towards renewable energy solutions that should be sustainable with a limited carbon footprint.

What is Hydrogen fuel?

Hydrogen is the lightest and first element on the periodic table. Since the weight of hydrogen is less than air, it rises in the atmosphere and is therefore rarely found in its pure form, H2.

At standard temperature and pressure, hydrogen is a nontoxic, nonmetallic, odorless, tasteless, colorless, and highly combustible diatomic gas.

Hydrogen fuel is a zero-emission fuel burned with oxygen. It can be used in fuel cells or internal combustion engines. It is also used as a fuel for spacecraft propulsion.

Occurrence of Hydrogen:

It is the most abundant element in the universe. The sun and other stars are composed largely of hydrogen.

Astronomers estimate that 90% of the atoms in the universe are hydrogen atoms. Hydrogen is a component of more compounds than any other element.

Water is the most abundant compound of hydrogen found on earth.

Molecular hydrogen is not available on Earth in convenient natural reservoirs. Most hydrogen on Earth is bonded to oxygen in water and to carbon in live or dead and/or fossilized biomass. It can be created by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Storage:

Hydrogen can be stored physically as either a gas or a liquid.

Storage of hydrogen as a gas typically requires high-pressure tanks.

Storage of hydrogen as a liquid requires cryogenic temperatures because the boiling point of hydrogen at one atmosphere pressure is −252.8°C.

Hydrogen can also be stored on the surfaces of solids (by adsorption) or within solids (by absorption).

Potential of clean hydrogen industry in reducing greenhouse gas emissions:

The only by-product or emission that results from the usage of hydrogen fuel is water — making the fuel 100 per cent clean.

Hydrogen is considered an alternative fuel. It is due to its ability to power fuel cells in zero-emission electric vehicles, its potential for domestic production, and the fuel cell’s potential for high efficiency.

In fact, a fuel cell coupled with an electric motor is two to three times more efficient than an internal combustion engine running on gasoline.

Hydrogen can also serve as fuel for internal combustion engines.

The energy in 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) of hydrogen gas contains about the same as the energy in 1 gallon (6.2 pounds, 2.8 kilograms) of gasoline.

Efforts in this regard:

Recently, the Finance Minister in the Union budget for 2020-21 formally announced the National Hydrogen Mission which aims for generation of hydrogen from green power resources.

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has also disclosed that the draft regulations for NHM will be finalised by the end of this month and will thereafter proceed for approval of the Union Cabinet.

Challenges for India:

One of the colossal challenges faced by the industry for using hydrogen commercially is the economic sustainability of extracting green or blue hydrogen.

The technology used in production and use of hydrogen like carbon capture and storage (CCS) and hydrogen fuel cell technology are at nascent stage and is expensive which in turn increases the cost of production of hydrogen.

The maintenance costs for fuel cells post-completion of a plant can be costly, like in South Korea.

The commercial usage of hydrogen as a fuel and in industries requires mammoth investment in R&D of such technology and infrastructure for production, storage, transportation and demand creation for hydrogen.

Antibodies against Nipah virus detected in bats from Kerala

(GS-II: Issues related to health)

In News:

Nipah virus antibodies (IgG antibodies) were detected in bat samples collected by the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, from two districts in Kerala where a Nipah infection was confirmed.

Significance of the discovery:

Given the current evidence, it has been logically concluded that the Nipah outbreak in Kozhikode did originate from bats, even though the authorities are still in the dark as to the route of virus transmission from bats to humans.

Nipah Virus outbreaks in India:

India has experienced four NiV outbreaks, with the case fatality rate between 65 percent and 100 percent.

The most recent outbreak started in Kerala in 2018.

Southern Asian countries and some Indian states have been identified as potential hotspots for the disease.

What’s the Concern now?

Nipah is considered dangerous as there is no medicine or vaccines and the death rate among those affected is high. While the Case Fatality Rate (CFR) among COVID-19 affected patients is between 1-2%, that for Nipah infections is in the range of 65-100%.

About the Nipah virus:

  • It is a zoonotic virus, meaning that it can spread between animals and people.
  • The organism which causes Nipah Virus encephalitis is an RNA or Ribonucleic acid virus of the family Paramyxoviridae, genus Henipavirus, and is closely related to Hendra virus.
  • Fruit bats, also called flying foxes, are the animal reservoir for NiV in nature.
  • Symptoms: Infection with NiV is associated with encephalitis (swelling of the brain) and can cause mild to severe illness and even death.