Daily Current Affairs for 24th January 2023

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  5. Daily Current Affairs for 24th January 2023


Why in News?

Recent studies have shown that a phenomenon in our body, called immune imprinting, might be making new boosters for coronavirus less effective than expected.

Key Point

  • Bivalent boosters made to counter both the Omicron strains and the original corona virus strain don’t generate significantly greater antibody responses than an additional dose of the original mRNA vaccines.

What is immune imprinting?

  • Immune imprinting is a tendency of the body to repeat its immune response based on the first variant it encountered, through infection or vaccination, when it comes across a newer or slightly different variant of the same pathogen.
  • The phenomenon was first observed in 1947, as per the journal Nature, when scientists noted that those who had previously been infected by flu, and were then vaccinated against the current circulating vari- ant, produced antibodies against the first strain they had encountered.
  • After our body is exposed to a virus for the first time, it produces memory B cells that circulate in the bloodstream and quickly produce antibodies whenever the same strain of the virus infects again. The problem occurs when a similar, not identical, variant of the virus is encountered. In such cases, the immune system, rather than generating new B cells, activates memory B cells, which produce cross reactive antibodies that aren’t as effective

What did the studies find?

  • In the first study, done by the researchers of the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, 40 individuals who had received three shots of the original or monovalent vaccine participated.
  • To carry out the experiment, 19 of them were given a booster (fourth shot) of the original vaccine while 21 received a booster of the new bivalent vaccine.
  • It was observed that the bivalent boosters “did not elicit a discernibly superior virus-neutralising peak antibody response as compared with boosting with the original monovalent vaccines” across all coronavirus strains tested.
  • In the second study, researchers of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston evaluated immune responses in15 participants who had received the monovalent boosters and in18 participants who received the bivalent boosters.
  • It was found that “medianBA.5(Omicron) neutralising antibody titer was similar after monovalent and bivalent mRNA boosting, with a modest trend favouring the bivalent booster by a factor of 1.3.”

How to circumvent it?

  • Some scientists have said nasal vaccines might be better at preventing infections than injected ones.
  • They believe the mucous membranes would create stronger protection,despite carrying some imprint of past exposure.
  • Researchers are also trying to find if spacing out coronavirus vaccine shots on an annual basis could help with the problem of imprinting


Light Pollution

Why in News?

The district administration of Ladakh designated six hamlets within the Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary as a “dark sky reserve” , an area whose sky is free of light pollution. The designation meant that the reserve had a responsibility to keep the skies dark, particularly for the astronomical observatories located in the area.

The prevalence of skyglow

  • A recent new study reports global rapid reductions in the visibility of stars from 2011 to 2022.
  • Researchers from Germany and the U.S. analysed a global database of what the dimmest star visible from a particular location is; the database had more than 51,000 entries submitted by citizen scientists.
  • They found that non-natural light had increased the brightness of the artificial glow of the night sky, or skyglow, by 9.2-10% every year between 2011 and 2022.
  • Specifically, they reported that the skyglow had brightened around 6.5% over Europe, 10.4% over North America, and 7.7% over the rest of the world.
  • The finding is significant because it disagrees with satellite-based data, which has indicated that the rate of increase has been around 2% per year.
  • According to the new study, the discrepancy is probably because satellites are unable to ‘sense’ blue light emitted by LEDs and to study light that is emitted parallel to the ground.

Visible Light

  • Visible light emitted by many sources is divergent, so light emitted insufficiently downward could find its way into the sky. Almost all surfaces in cities reflect light, meaning a portion of entirely down-cast light will be reflected upwards, contributing to night-time light pollution.
  • The researchers recommend light sources that cast light at an angle below the plane of the horizon, capping the emissions of these sources and calibrating their output according to the total brightness at the spot being lit.

The situation in India

  • The study had only a few observations from Asia, South America and Africa.
  • There were no entries from China or Brazil, both rapidly industrializing nations in the study.
  • India isn’t a blind spot. In March 2021, Dorje , An engineer at the Indian Astronomical Observatory in Hanle famous for his night-sky photographs, tweeted pictures of the Chemrey Monastery, near Leh, before and after a power cut.
  • The number of stars that become invisible when the monastery is lit is striking.
    • A 2016 study reported that 19.5% of India’s population, the lowest fraction among G20 countries, experiences a level of skyglow that would at least keep the Milky Way galaxy out of sight and at most render “dark adaptation for human eyes” impossible.
    • The effects include stimulating the cone cells in human eyes, which is possible only when an environment is considered to be well-lit.


  • Regardless of historical or geographical context, humans tend to use as much artificial light as they can buy for about 0.7 percent of GDP.” That is, even though LEDs have become more efficient, their utilization hasn’t decreased, which in turn means the carbon emissions due to their production and use hasn’t decreased.
  • According to a 2003 report, lit beaches deter sea turtles from coming ashore to nest.
  • A 2006 review found that skyglow keeps trees from sensing seasonal variations.
  • A 2017 study found that young burrow-nesting seabirds don’t take flight unless the nesting site becomes dark.
  • A 2019 study reported that clownfish eggs don’t hatch when exposed to artificial light at night, killing the offspring.
  • A 2020 study noted that skyglow interferes with multiple aspects of insect life and allows insect predators to hunt for longer.
  • A small 2009 review concluded that circadian disruption increased the risk of breast cancer among night-shift workers by 40%.
  • The erasure of the night sky acts to erase Indigenous connection to the stars, acting as a form of ongoing cultural and ecological genocide.


Eco ­Sensitive Zones

Why in News?

Ecologically sensitive zones (ESZ) are intended to safeguard ‘protected areas’ national parks and wildlife sanctuaries by transitioning from an area of lower protection to an area of higher protection and the creation of these zones has provoked protests in Kerala and some other areas.

What are Protected Areas?

  • A Protected Area is a clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.
  • Protected areas cover 5.26% of India’s land area as 108 national parks and 564 wildlife sanctuaries.
    • They are notified under the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972.
  • Protected areas do away with even those activities permitted in ‘reserve forests’, where the rights of forest dependent communities residing on and/or accessing forest land are extinguished, unless specifically allowed.
  • However, this right negating ‘fortress conservation model’, has come under repeated criticism from conservation scientists, bringing in the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 which is also known as the Forest Rights Act (FRA).
  • FRA recognises the customary and traditional rights (both individual and collective) of forest dwellers on forest land, including in protected areas.

Forest Rights Act, 2006

  • FRA enacted in 2006 recognises the rights of forest-dwelling tribal communities (FDST) and other traditional forest dwellers (OTFD) to forest resources on which these communities were dependent for a variety of needs, including livelihood, habitation and other sociocultural needs.
  • It recognizes and vest the forest rights and occupation FDST and OTFD who have been residing in such forests for generations.
  • It strengthens the conservation regime of the forests while ensuring livelihood and food security of the FDST and OTFD.
  • The Gram Sabha is the authority to initiate the process for determining the nature and extent of Individual Forest Rights (IFR) or Community Forest Rights (CFR) or both that may be given to FDST and OTFD.

How is the FRA being implemented?

  • By bringing Forest Rights in the FRA, lawmakers were trying to undo a historic injustice done to the forest dwelling community of India.
  • The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) reckoned in 2009 itself that doing so would mean handing over at least four lakh sq. km more than half of India’s notified forest area to village ­level institutions.
    • But as of June 2022, only 64,873.70 sq. km or 16% has come under the FRA.
  • Gram sabhas are now the statutory authorities empowered to conserve, protect and manage forests, wildlife and biodiversity lying within the traditional village boundaries
    • These areas under gram sabhas are to be a new category of forests called ‘community forest resource’ (CFR).
    • Gram sabhas have to integrate their CFR conservation and management plan into the ‘working plan’ of the Forest Department, with the required modifications.

What are ESZs?

  • Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs) or Ecologically Fragile Areas (EFAs) are areas notified by the MoEFCC around Protected Areas, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.The purpose of declaring ESZs is to create some kind of “shock absorbers” to the protected areas by regulating and managing the activities around such areas.
  • They also act as a transition zone from areas of high protection to areas involving lesser protection.The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 does not mention the word “Eco-Sensitive Zones”.
  • An ESZ could go up to 10 kilometres around a protected area as provided in the Wildlife Conservation Strategy, 2002.Moreover, in the case where sensitive corridors, connectivity and ecologically important patches, crucial for landscape linkage, are beyond 10 km width, these should be included in the ESZs.
  • Governments have notified 341 ESZs in 29 States and five Union territories, while another 85 ESZs are awaiting notification. Together, protected areas and ESZs cover 8.66% of India’s land area.
    • Surrounding protected areas is a region of more than 1,11,000 sq. km or 3.4% percent of the country’s land which falls under the ESZ regime.
  • The ESZs span notified forests outside protected areas, most of which could also come under gram sabhas’ jurisdiction under the FRA.

What is the problem?

  • Parts of the ESZs in ten States Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan and Telangana fall within the Scheduled Areas notified under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution.
  • Scheduled Areas cover over 11% of the country’s land area and are thickly forested and mountainous.
  • They are preponderantly populated by Scheduled Tribe groups and are notified by the President under Article 244 where the Provisions of the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) 1996 apply.
  • The PESA recognises habitation ­level gram sabhas to be competent to safeguard and preserve community resources on forest and revenue lands in Scheduled Areas.
  • MoEFCC has shown no inclination to amend the Indian Forest Act 1927, the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and the Environment (Protection) Act 1986 (under which ESZs are notified) to comply with the PESA and FRA.
  • Forest Conservation Rules, compliance with the FRA, recognition of forest rights and the gram sabha’s consent were preconditions for considering proposals to divert forest land for non forestry purposes until the MoEFCC did away with them in 2022.
  • The Ministry has also overlooked demands by the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes to restore the erstwhile FRA compliance procedure.

How exactly were the ESZs implemented?

  • The 2002 Wildlife Conservation Strategy envisaged lands within 10 km of the boundaries of protected areas to be notified as ecologically fragile zones under Section 3(2)(v) of the Environment Protection Act 1986 and its Rules 5(viii) and (x).
  • The MoEFCC was to take steps to protect the environment by regulating and (if required) prohibiting industries, operations and processes. Rule 5(1)(vi) provided for environmentally compatible land use in areas around protected areas.
  • In 2005, the National Board for Wildlife decided to delineate site­ specific ESZs to regulate specific activities instead of prohibiting them.
  • The MoEFCC guidelines for ESZs stated that based on the forest rangers’ inventory of land­ use and wildlife corridors within 10 km of each protected area, a committee consisting of the Wildlife Warden, an ecologist, and an official from the local government was to determine the extent of each ESZ, the nature of environmental concerns to be addressed and ways to address them.
  • The Chief Wildlife Warden was to then list the activities that were to be prohibited, to be restricted with safeguards and to be permitted.
  • After this process, the State government would submit this list, the geographical description of the area and the biodiversity values, the rights and entitlements of local communities, and their economic potential and implications for their livelihoods, as a proposal to the MoEFCC for notification.
  • The guidelines also outlined a general indicative list of activities to be prohibited, regulated or permitted and information to be incorporated in the proposal.
  • Within two years of notification, the State government is required to draft a Zonal Master Plan for each ESZ in consultation with a number of departments.
  • However, there has been no information to the public on a Zonal Master Plan since 2012, when ESZs first began to be notified.
  • Within two years of notification, the State government is required to draft a Zonal Master Plan for each ESZ in consultation with a number of departments.
  • However, there has been no information to the public on a Zonal Master Plan since 2012, when ESZs first began to be notified.
  • Additionally, to monitor compliance with the various provisions of each notification, a State had to set up a monitoring committee for each ESZ.
  • The committee is required to report the actions taken to the Chief Wildlife Warden every year.
  • The institutional mechanisms and procedures prescribed in the guidelines and the ESZ notifications disregarded many legal facts and statutory requirements.
  • They set aside the habitation ­level gram sabhas in Scheduled Area and CFR forests and the Panchayat­ raj institutions entrusted with soil conservation, water management, social forestry, etc., even though those activities fall squarely within the scope of ESZs.

What has led to the protests?

The Supreme Court gave directions on ESZs.

  • The Court said that the MoEFCC guidelines are also to be implemented in the area proposed in the draft notification awaiting finalization and within a 10­km radius of yet to be proposed protected areas.The Court also allowed States to increase or decrease the minimum width of ESZs.
  • Secondly, the Court vested the powers to ensure compliance with the guidelines with the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) and the Home Secretary of the State/UT. The PCCF was to make a list of all structures within the ESZs and report it to the Supreme Court within three months (this is yet to be done). The Court also ordered that no new permanent structure could come up for any purpose within an ESZ.
  • This effectively meant that all the activities permitted by the guidelines and which are already being carried out can continue only if the PCCF grants permission, and that too within six months of the court’s order. This period has already expired.
    • Additionally, the Court’s directions have put the lives of many people in the hands of the PCCF whose authority now extends beyond the forest to revenue lands falling within an ESZ. This has led to protests in Kerala.
  • The new structures that are banned could include electric poles, buildings, walls, roads and bridges.
  • Millions of forest dwellers living on forest land and on the fringes of forests are the most affected.
  • After having been denied forest rights, they are now also denied better public infrastructure.
  • The government and the judiciary need to reconcile laws, reaffirm democratic governance, and protect the environment and as well as livelihoods.


Indian startups

Why in News?

A recent article titled ‘What drives startup fundraising in India?’ was published as a part of the January 2023 issue of the Reserve Bank of India’s monthly bulletin.

Key Points

  • It shows that more startups have been becoming unicorns in recent years in India

Number of months taken by startups in India to climb up the funding ladder has drastically declined in recent years.

  • As on January 12 this year, there were 87,988 startups in India recognised by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT).
  • It makes the country the third largest startup ecosystem in the world.

Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT)

  • According to DPIIT, startups have created around 7.6 lakh jobs in India as of June 30, 2022. Also, the average age of startup founders India was reported to be 32 years (as of 2019) and 14% of the startups had at least one female founder (as of 2022).
  • In the post­pandemic period, startups have been on a fast lane in India.
  • In 2021, the average time taken for a startup to become a unicorn dropped to 7.8 years from 9.9 years in 2020.


A unicorn is any privately owned firm with a market capitalization of more than $1 billion. It denotes new entities dedicated to offering creative solutions and new business models, among other things.There are several categories like fintech, edtechs, B2B companies, etc.

  • It shows the number of unicorns created in India each year.
  • The number of unicorns has surged in the post pandemic period with the total count increasing to 107 as of September 2022.
  • Most unicorns in India were FinTech platforms, Software as Service companies and e­commerce firms.
  • But many new entrants in 2021 to the unicorn club were from non-traditional areas (cloud kitchens, gaming, data management and analytics, and content).

  • As shown in the above chart, close to 40% of startups in India as on January 11 this year were in Bengaluru followed by Gurugram (16%) and Mumbai (15%).
  • Usually, a startup goes through many rounds of funding from funds, high net­worth individuals and other businesses in successive pitches or rounds (seed, Series A, B, C and so on).
  • Initially, the seed money comes from the founders, friends and family who are called angel investors.
  • Early rounds may be used to establish a foothold in the market, while later rounds may be used for expansion.
  • Later, when the startup gets acquired, or becomes a listed company, or merges with another firm, it no longer needs funding.
  • Notably, the median number of months required to rise up the funding stages has reduced for the startups founded in recent years.

  • It shows the median months taken for startups founded in 2014 and 2021 to rise up the funding stages.
  • Startups founded in 2014 took an average 50 months to transition from the seed stage to Series A, whereas startups founded in 2021 took only 28 months.
  • Similarly, for those founded in 2014, the progression from Series A to B was 36 months as against 12 months for those founded in 2021.

  • Indian tech startups raised $17.4 billion over 2,531 rounds in 2019.
  • In 2020, this was around $6.9 billion. In 2021, this increased to $45.4 billion over 2,900 rounds.
  • The share of late­ stage startups (Series C and beyond) in total funding and in the number of funding rounds increased compared to the past few years, as shown in above Chart.



Why in News?

Researchers have discovered more than 250 fossilised eggs that reveal crucial details about the lives of titanosaurs in the Indian subcontinent, according to a new study.

Key Finding of the Report

  • The fossils were from the Late Cretaceous period, and the researchers have identified six different “oospecies,” or egg species, which according to the research paper, suggests a higher diversity of titanosaurs than can be inferred from skeletal remains found in the region.

About Titanosaur

  • They belong to the sauropod group.
  • It is a humongous plant-eating lizard with a long neck and tail.
  • A recently discovered 20-meter Ninjatitan Zapata may be the oldest titanosaur to be ever discovered.
  • It was found in the Neuquen province of southwest Argentina in 2014.
  • It may have lived approximately 140 million years ago at the initial stages of the Cretaceous period.

Cretaceous Period

  • In geologic time, the Cretaceous Period is the final of the Mesozoic Era’s three eras.
  • The Cretaceous Period began 145.0 million years ago and ended 66 million years later; it came after the Jurassic Period and was replaced by the Paleogene Period.
  • The Cretaceous Period is the longest of the Phanerozoic Eon.
  • It spans 79 million years, which is more time than has passed since the extinction of the dinosaurs at the conclusion of the era.
  • The majority of Cretaceous rocks are not chalked, but the majority of chalks were deposited during the Cretaceous period.
  • They have not been distorted or eroded and are relatively close to the surface, many of these rocks reveal distinct and easily accessible characteristics of the time, as seen in the white cliffs surrounding the Strait of Dover between France and England.

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