1. Kerala gets its first ever scientific bird atlas
KBA is arguably Asia’s largest bird atlas in terms of geographical extent
The Kerala Bird Atlas (KBA), the first-of-its-kind State-level bird atlas in India, has created solid baseline data about the distribution and abundance of bird species across all major habitats, giving an impetus to futuristic studies.
Conducted as a citizen science-driven exercise with the participation of over 1,000 volunteers of the birdwatching community, the KBA has been prepared based on systematic surveys held twice over 60 days a year during the wet (July to September) and dry (January to March) seasons between 2015 and 2020.
The KBA accounts for nearly three lakh records of 361 species, including 94 very rare species, 103 rare species, 110 common species, 44 very common species, and 10 most abundant species. “The KBA offers authentic, consistent and comparable data through random sampling from the geographical terrain split into nearly 4,000 grids. We are in the process of bringing out papers on interesting trends based on a scientific analysis of solid data besides making futuristic predictions. It will be exciting to undertake a similar exercise between 2025 and 2030, giving an insight into the changes in the decade since the first KBA,” says P.O. Nameer, one of the State-level coordinators of the KBA.
It is arguably Asia’s largest bird atlas in terms of geographical extent, sampling effort and species coverage derived from the aggregation of 25,000 checklists. It was found that the species count was higher during the dry season than in the wet season while species richness and evenness were higher in the northern and central districts than in the southern districts.
Most of the endemics were concentrated in the Western Ghats while the threatened species were mostly along the coast. The KBA is considered to be a valuable resource for testing various ecological hypotheses and suggesting science-backed conservation measures.
Volunteers were divided into survey teams of two to five members. They were deployed across all 14 districts armed with technological tools such as Locus Free, an Android GPS application, and eBird platform for seamless conduct of the survey and documentation.
The survey ignored the short duration passage of migrant species.
2. Mahatma’s favourite hymn out of Beating Retreat list
Abide with me played since 1950
The traditional Christian hymn Abide with me, believed to have been a favourite of Mahatma Gandhi, has been dropped from the list of tunes for this year’s Beating Retreat ceremony. The tune had been played at the annual ceremony every year since 1950.
Abide with me is played by the ‘Massed Bands’ at the end of the ceremony, and this year, there are three tunes without it instead of the four tunes played last year, including the hymn.
The three tunes to be played by massed bands this year are Kadam kadam badhaye ja, Drummers call, and Ae mere watan ke logon. In contrast, the four tunes last year were Bharat ke jawan (new composition), Kadam kadam badhaye ja, Drummers call, and Abide with me.
In 2020 too, the tune was initially dropped from the list but was subsequently restored in the final list after protests from a cross-section of the public on social media. In addition, the national song Vande Mataram was played for the first time in 2020.
Beating Retreat is a centuries-old military tradition going back to the days when troops disengaged from battle at sunset. As soon as the buglers sounded the ‘retreat’, troops ceased fighting and withdrew from the battlefield.
Beating Retreat is performed every year on the evening of January 29 at Vijay Chowk in the national capital, and marks the end of the Republic Day celebrations.
3. National master plan portal to be ready by end of March
The Gati Shakti programme announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year envisages a digital platform for a national master plan of infrastructure projects in the country which will be ready by March 31, 2022, according to a senior government official.
“All infrastructure projects will be mapped on the national master plan [portal]. 75% of data from Central Ministries on their infrastructure projects have already been uploaded. We are now training State governments to share their data. We are hopeful that the national master plan [portal] will be ready by March-end,” Amrit Lal Meena, Special Secretary, Department for Promotion of Investment and Internal Trade told The Hindu.
Prime Minister Modi announced the Gati Shakti national master plan (NMP) on October 13, 2021, for setting up a centralised portal, and “institutionalising” planning, designing and execution among 17 different Ministries in the Centre as well as States. It will include projects worth ₹100 lakh crore. The programme also aims to cut down logistical costs and improve supply chains.
“The national master plan will show us geographical features such as forests, water bodies, mines, religious and archaeological sites and help us plan alignment of infrastructure projects so that we can circumvent these. Earlier, projects would be planned from within the confines of offices,” Mr. Meena said.
About PM GatiShakti:
It is a digital platform that connects 16 ministries — including Roads and Highways, Railways, Shipping, Petroleum and Gas, Power, Telecom, Shipping, and Aviation.
It aims to ensure holistic planning and execution of infrastructure projects.
- The portal will offer 200 layers of geospatial data, including on existing infrastructure such as roads, highways, railways, and toll plazas, as well as geographic information about forests, rivers and district boundaries to aid in planning and obtaining clearances.
- The portal will also allow various government departments to track, in real time and at one centralised place, the progress of various projects, especially those with multi-sectoral and multi-regional impact.
The objective is to ensure that “each and every department now have visibility of each other’s activities providing critical data while planning and execution of projects in a comprehensive manner.
- Through this, different departments will be able to prioritise their projects through cross–sectoral interactions”.
- It will also boost last-mile connectivity and bringing down logistics costs with integrated planning and reducing implementation overlaps.
- Poor infrastructure planning included newly-built roads being dug up by the water department to lay pipes. This has badly affected the road Infrastructure and movement of the country.
- Also, logistics costs in India are about 13-14% of GDP as against about 7-8% of GDP in developed economies. High logistics costs impact cost structures within the economy, and also make it more expensive for exporters to ship merchandise to buyers.
4. Two species of fungi associated with basal stem rot found
Future studies can use the public database entry for early detection of the pathogen
Researchers from Kerala have identified two new species of fungi from the genus Ganoderma that are associated with coconut stem rot. They have also genotyped the two fungi species, named Ganoderma keralense and G. pseudoapplanatum and identified genetic biomarkers. The DNA barcodes have been made publicly available in DNA sequence repositories so that future studies can use it for early detection of the pathogen. The research was published in the journal Mycologia.
Basal stem rot
The butt rot or basal stem rot of coconut is known by several names in different parts of India: Ganoderma wilt (Andhra Pradesh), Anaberoga (Karnataka) and Thanjavur wilt (Tamil Nadu), to mention a few.
The infection begins at the roots, but symptoms include discolouration and rotting of stem and leaves. In the later stages, flowering and nut set decreases and finally the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) dies.
A reddish brown oozing is seen. This oozing has been reported only in India. Once infected, recovery of the plants is not likely. Not surprising then, that this causes a huge loss: By some estimates made in 2017, in India, around 12 million people are said to depend on coconut farming.
Another sign of infection is presence of shelf-like “basidiomata,” which are the fruiting or reproductive structures of the fungus, on the tree trunks. “Although microscopic, many fungi… produce macroscopic fruiting structures on the substrates where they grow [for example, Ganoderma],” says T.K. Arun Kumar of Zamorin’s Guruvayurappan College, Kohikode, who led this research, in an email. He further explains that the basidiomata of Ganoderma bear reproductive propagules (called spores) which are dispersed through wind and sometimes with the help of insects. “That is how the pathogen spreads from one host to the other,” he adds.
Since the fungus is microscopic, it is only detected after the symptoms start manifesting or when the reproductive structures are borne, which can be too late.
Lack of taxonomy
Surprisingly, before this study, the disease was commonly attributed to the genus Ganoderma and the specific species involved were not identified correctly. One reason for this could be the lack of studies focusing on taxonomy. “Plant pathologists may be very good at identifying diseases based on disease symptoms, devising strategies to prevent disease occurrence and even in developing disease resistant plants. However, there is a dearth of fungal taxonomists among plant pathologists who are able to identify fungal pathogens with accuracy,” says Dr Arun Kumar.
The two-member team collected the material for their research during the years 2015 to 2019. “There was a large-scale outbreak of the disease in Kozhikode district, Kerala, a few years back and our examination of the collected fungal specimens along with collections [over many years] from plantations throughout Kerala revealed that the identity of pathogenic species was hitherto unrecognised,” says Dr Arun Kumar. This led him and PhD student N. Vinjusha to study the specimens further, first morphologically and then through genome sequencing. The two species seemed to be new to science. “This discovery was based on morphological characters, DNA sequences of the Kerala collections and phylogenetic analyses by comparing DNA of all Ganoderma species known worldwide,” says Dr Arun Kumar. The research has revealed the identity of the pathogenic species associated with butt rot. Hence, species-specific disease prevention strategies can now be developed.
As Dr Arun Kumar says: “So far, scientists and farmers had to solely rely on the visible symptoms of the disease [which appear only at a later stage, after complete colonization], but now they can easily detect the presence of the pathogen much earlier by analysing plant extracts which can be easily obtained at any stage of growth.”
5. Why is 5G rollout a problem near U.S. airports?
What are the differences in the way the technology is deployed in other countries and in America?
The story so far: The rollout of the 5G C-band spectrum (3.7 GHz-3.98 GHz) in the U.S., on January 19, 2022 — after a pushback since December 2021 (the original roll-out date) — led to several major airlines, including Air India, temporarily cancelling their flights to the U.S. over fears of spectrum interference with crucial aircraft navigation systems. An aircraft type largely affected in this was the Boeing 777. The two major telecom firms concerned, Verizon and AT&T, also took cognisance of appeals by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and airlines about their worries, leading U.S. President Joe Biden to put out a statement on January 18, 2022. Called the “Statement by [U.S.] President [Joe] Biden on 5G Agreement”, he “wanted to thank Verizon and AT&T for agreeing to delay 5G deployment around key airports and to continue working with the Department of Transportation on safe 5G deployment at this limited set of locations.”
The issue has led to a comparison of how 5G services in Europe and parts of Asia have hardly led to any disruptions to aviation in these parts of the world unlike the near panic that has set in the U.S. How is this so?
An aviation expert said the main worry is of ‘radio emissions’at the top of the C-band’s 3.98 GHz frequency ‘bleeding over’ into the 4.2 GHz-4.4 GHz band used by civil aircraft radio altimeters.
The FAA has said that there are differences in the way 5G technology has been deployed in other countries. These include lower power levels; frequencies that are ‘of a different proximity to frequencies that are used by aviation equipment’ and a different placement of antennas in the vicinity of airports.
In Europe, 5G services are in the 3.4 GHz-3.8 GHz range. In Korea, they are in the 3.42 GHz-3.7 GHz range.
In U.S. airspace, which the FAA calls ‘the most complex in the world’, the initial stages of 5G use will try and mirror the safeguards used in France. But even here, there are differences. In France, for example, the 5G power level (on average, 631 Watts) is still lower than what it would be in the U.S. (on average, 1,585 Watts). Also the planned buffer zones around airports in the U.S. will protect only the last 20 seconds of the flight. France has a permanent safeguard of protecting the last 96 seconds of a flight. It also has a condition that the antenna angle has to have a downward tilt to limit potential interference. The height of a 5G antenna and the power of the signal are the factors that determine how close it can be allowed near an airport or a flight path.
The buffer zones around an estimated 50 U.S. airports will be designed to try and keep 5G signals and aircraft separate.
In Japan, three frequency bands have been allocated for 5G: the 3.7 GHz band (3.6 GHz-4.1 GHz), 4.5 GHz band (4.5 GHz–4.6 GHz), and the 28 GHz band (27.0 GHz–29.5 GHz), according to a special article published in 2020 in the NTT Docomo Technical Journal.
Another report in a leading technology news publication says the Electronic Navigation Research Institute, National Institute of Maritime, Port and Aviation Technology, Japan had conducted a study on 5G interference with radio altimeters, and submitted its findings to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in March 2021. The detailed experiments used altimeters manufactured by Rockwell Collins and Honeywell, which are the key suppliers to aircraft manufacturers, Airbus and Boeing.
One of the findings was that there would need to be “at least 60 MHz” of what was called a ‘guard band’ to avoid interference with radio altimeters. It also made a finding of locating the high-power 5G base station 200 metres away from the approach path of an aircraft. The findings were made after ensuring that the antennas were pointed downwards.
What has the FAA been doing?
It says that the delays to the 5G rollout have helped it in ‘processing 5G transmitter location and power level information’. Further, under what is called an Alternative Method of Compliance (AMOC) process, it has collaborated with airlines ‘on how they can demonstrate altimeters are safe and reliable in certain 5G C-band environments’.
Between January 16 and January 20, 2022, the FAA issued approvals clearing 78% of the commercial fleet of airlines to perform low-visibility landings at airports where the 5G C-band is in use. These are aircraft models with one of the 13 cleared altimeters — a range of Boeing aircraft (including the Boeing 777 and Boeing 787), most Airbus planes and some models of regional jets.
Mobile Phone Generations and the Network Standards
- Industrial, scientific and medical radio bands reserved for medical, scientific and industrial use and not intended for telecommunication.
- Originally this band of radio frequencies was intended for use in industrial, scientific and medical ISM machines that operate at this range in order not to interfere with the wider.
- 1G or (1-G) refers to the first generation of wireless telephone technology (mobile telecommunications).
- These are the analog telecommunication standards that were introduced in 1979 and the early to mid-1980s and continued until being replaced by 2G digital telecommunications.
- The main difference between these two mobile telephone generations is that in 1G systems the audio was encoded as analog radio signals, while 2G networks were entirely digital.
- 2-G provides three primary benefits over their predecessors:
- phone conversations are digitally encrypted;
- 2G systems are significantly more efficient on the spectrum allowing for far greater mobile phone penetration levels; and
- 2G introduced data services for mobile, starting with SMS (Short Message Service) plain text-based messages.
- 2G technologies enable the various mobile phone networks to provide the services such as text messages, picture messages and MMS (Multimedia Message Service).
- Second generation 2G cellular telecom networks were commercially launched on the GSM standard in Finland in 1991.
- GSM is an abbreviation for Global System for Mobile Communication.
- It describes the protocols for second-generation (2G) digital cellular networks used by mobile devices such as mobile phones and tablets.
- GSM is a digital cellular technology used to transmit data and voice communication at a frequency range of 850MHz to 1900MHz.
- GSM technology uses a Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) technique to transmit data.
- The GSM system converts the data into a digital signal and sends it through two different time stamped channels at a rate between 64 kbps and 120 kbps.
- It is the upgrade for 2.5G GPRS and 2.75G EDGE networks, for faster data transfer.
- 3G technology provides an information transfer rate of at least 144 kbit/s.
- Later 3G releases, often denoted 3.5G and 3.75G, also provide mobile broadband access of several Mbit/s to smartphones and mobile modems in laptop computers.
- This ensures it can be applied to wireless voice telephony, mobile Internet access, fixed wireless Internet access, video calls and mobile TV technologies.
- CDMA2000 is a family of 3G mobile technology standards for sending voice, data, and signaling data between mobile phones and cell sites.
- CDMA stands for Code Division Multiple Access. It is a channel access method used by various radio communication technologies,
- CDMA uses a multiple access mode of communication.
- Here, several transmitters can send information simultaneously over a single communication channel.
- This allows several users to share a band of frequencies.
- CDMA allows up to 61 concurrent users in a 1.2288 MHz channel by processing each voice packet with two PN (pseudo-noise) codes.
- To permit this without undue interference between the users, CDMA employs spread spectrum technology and a special coding scheme (where each transmitter is assigned a code).
- This is where several transmissions are made over the same channel simultaneously. Using a speed spectrum, each transmission is assigned a unique code that corresponds to the source and destination of the signal.
- The technology is commonly used in ultra-high-frequency (UHF) cellular telephone systems, bands ranging between the 800-MHz and 1.9-GHz.
- 4G provides, in addition to the usual voice and other services of 3G, mobile broadband Internet access, for example to laptops with wireless modems, to smartphones, and to other mobile devices.
- Potential and current applications include amended mobile web access, IP telephony, gaming services, high-definition mobile TV, video conferencing, 3D television, and cloud computing.
- Network Standard: LTE (Long Term Evolution)
- LTE (Long Term Evolution) is a 4G communication standard designed to be 10 times faster than standard 3G.
- The technology provides IP-Based communication of voice and multimedia and streaming at between 100 Mbit per sec and 1 Gbit per second.
- IP stands for “Internet Protocol,” which is the set of rules governing the format of data sent via the internet or local network.
- In essence, IP addresses are the identifier that allows information to be sent between devices on a network.
- LTE has an algorithm that is able to send large chunks of data via IP. This approach streamlines the traffic and reduces latency.
- LTE offers higher peak data transfer rates than 3G, initially up to 100 Mbps downstream and 30 Mbps upstream. It provides reduced latency and scalable bandwidth capacity.
- 5G was the next major phase of mobile telecommunications standards beyond the current 4G/IMT-Advanced standards.
- 5G networks clubbed with Network Slicing Architecture enables telecom operators to offer on-demand tailored connectivity to their users that is adhered to Service Level Agreement (SLA).
- Such customized network capabilities comprise latency, data speed, latency, reliability, quality, services, and security.
- 5G wireless technology is meant to deliver higher multi-Gbps peak data speeds, ultra low latency, more reliability, massive network capacity, increased availability, and a more uniform user experience to more users.
- Higher performance and improved efficiency empower new user experiences and connects new industries.
Network Standard: MIMO
- 5G network slicing is the use of network virtualization to divide single network connections into multiple distinct virtual connections that provide different amounts of resources to different types of traffic.
- MIMO or ‘multiple-input, multiple-output’ is a wireless technology/ radio antenna technology that, when deployed, uses multiple antennas at both the source (transmitter) and the destination (receiver).
- This allows for more data to be sent and received at the same time, unlike in conventional wireless communications where only a single antenna is used.
- MIMO utilises a natural radio-wave phenomenon known as ‘multipath’ or ‘multipath wave propagation’.
- In the past, multipath caused interference and significantly slowed down wireless networks. However now, by using multiple smart transmitters and receivers, MIMO technology adds another dimension and increases performance and range.
- By enabling antennas to combine their data streams that are arriving from different paths at different times, receiver signal-capturing is greatly increased using MIMO.
Technology underlying 5G
- 5G is based on OFDM (Orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing), a method of modulating a digital signal across several different channels to reduce interference.
- This could provide more 5G access to more people and things for a variety of different use cases.
- 5G will bring wider bandwidths by expanding the usage of spectrum resources, from sub-3 GHz used in 4G to 100 GHz and beyond.
- 5G can operate in both lower bands (e.g., sub-6 GHz) as well as mmWave (e.g., 24 GHz and up), which will bring extreme capacity, multi-Gbps throughput, and low latency.
- 5G is designed to not only deliver faster, better mobile broadband services compared to 4G LTE, but can also expand into new service areas such as mission-critical communications and connecting the massive IoT-factory, the connected car, or the smart energy grid.
6. Is suspension of MLAs up for judicial review?
Can members of legislative assemblies be barred beyond one session? Does a one-year ban violate the Constitution?
The story so far: Twelve BJP legislators were suspended for one year by the Maharashtra Assembly last July for alleged disorderly conduct. The unusually long period of suspension has been questioned by the Supreme Court, which is hearing a challenge to the Assembly’s action. The court has reserved its judgment after hearing elaborate arguments. The main question before the court is whether suspension for a whole year is valid.
What happened on July 5, 2021?
There was a ruckus in the Assembly when the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government introduced a resolution seeking empirical data on OBCs (other backward classes) from the Union government. The House was adjourned for a few times before the resolution was passed, as BJP members rushed to the well of the House and were accused of damaging the presiding officer’s microphone and grabbing the mace. Later, Bhaskar Jadhav, a Shiv Sena MLA who was in the Chair during the incidents, said when he was in the Deputy Speaker’s chamber, some members rushed inside and abused him.
A resolution moved by the Parliamentary Affairs Minister was subsequently adopted by the House suspending 12 MLAs —Dr. Sanjay Kute, Ashish Shelar, Abhimanyu Pawar, Girish Mahajan, Atul Bhatkhalkar, Harish Pimple, Jaykumar Rawal, Yogesh Sagar, Narayan Kuche, Bunty Bhangdiya, Parag Alavani and Ram Satpute.
They were barred from entering the legislative premises for 12 months.
What questions has the Supreme Court raised?
In the course of the hearing, a Bench, comprising Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice C.T. Ravikumar, questioned the rationality of suspending members beyond an ongoing session.
The Bench also cited Article 190(4) of the Constitution, which stipulates that the House may declare vacant the seat of a member who is absent for 60 days without permission, to wonder whether any suspension could traverse beyond this 60-day limit.
Also, the Representation of the People Act, 1951, says any vacancy in the House has to be filled up through a by-election within six months of its occurrence, the Bench pointed out, and wondered if a constituency can be unrepresented in the Assembly for a whole year in the light of this six-month limit.
Further, suspension seemed to have worse consequences than outright expulsion from the legislature, as a by-election will be held within six months; whereas, a one-year suspension does not entail mandatory filling up of the vacancy. The Bench also wondered about the likely consequences of an unlimited power of suspension for democracy, as it could be misused to alter the composition of a House in which a Government has only a slender majority.
What does the State government say?
Counsel for the State government has argued that there is no limitation on the power of the legislature to punish for breach of privilege or disorderly conduct in the course of its proceedings. Once the power to punish a member for disorderly conduct is recognised, there can be no judicial review of the manner in which it is exercised. Under Rule 53 of the Maharashtra Assembly Rules, the Speaker could direct a Member to withdraw from the Assembly for disorderly conduct for the day, or the remainder of the Session. However, there is no such limitation when the whole House decides to impose suspension.
In this context, counsel contended that when the power to expel a member is available, the power to suspend, being a lesser punishment, is also available to the House at all times. On the provision for declaring a seat vacant if the member is absent for 60 days, the Government has argued that it is the House that declares the seat vacant, and it is not a necessary consequence of a member’s absence for 60 days on which the House met. Further, during suspension, a member continues to hold office, but only loses their voice in the legislature.