1. PM announces Cabinet nod for Ram temple in Ayodhya

Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper II; Polity & Governance

Trust to establish Ram temple in Ayodhya

Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the Lok Sabha that the Cabinet had approved a scheme for the construction of a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya by setting up an autonomous trust, Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra, to take forward the process as per the Supreme Court’s orders.  The Supreme Court mandated three-month deadline to set up a trust was to end on February 9.

Composition of trust

The Ministry of Home Affairs notified the trust and Union Home Minister Amit Shah said in a tweet that there would be 15 trustees, out of which one would always be from the Dalit society.

Land for site

Mr. Modi announced that the government had decided to transfer the entire 67.703 acres to the trust. This trust will be fully autonomous to take any decision regarding the construction of temple.

The Uttar Pradesh government had approved the Supreme Court’s direction to grant 5 acres to the Central Sunni Wakf Board for construction of mosque.

Image describes the key points announced by PM Narendra Modi related to construction of Ayodhya Ram Mandir

Source: The Hindu

2. Draft notification on RO systems

Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper III; Science & Technology

Draft notification after NGT order

The Environment Ministry’s draft notification to regulate the use of membrane-based water purification systems primarily concerns the manufacturers of reverse osmosis (RO) water filters but effectively bars domestic users from installing RO systems.

The notification is the culmination of a legal dispute before the National Green Tribunal, which had banned RO water filter use in Delhi as the purification process wastes water.

The association of water filter manufacturers challenged this order and the litigation led to this pan-India notification, where the intent is to conserve water and cut waste.

Flaws in working of RO

In RO, the total dissolved solids (TDS) in water — which covers trace chemicals, certain viruses, bacteria and salts — can be reduced, to meet potable water standards. Home filters waste nearly 80% of the water during treatment.

Second, some research has shown that the process can cut the levels of calcium and magnesium, which are vital nutrients.

Implication of notification

The resort to prohibition (to restrict home filters) may cause consumer apprehension but it is unlikely that they will be taken to task for using such water filters. For one, the notification implies, these filters are only prohibited if the home gets water supply that conforms to Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) for Drinking Water. Although several State and city water boards claim BIS standards, the water at homes falls short of the test parameters.

BIS Standards

The BIS, last year, ranked several cities on official water supply quality. Delhi was last and only Mumbai met all the standards. In the 28 test parameters, Delhi failed 19, Chennai 9, and Kolkata 10. The BIS norms are voluntary for public agencies which supply piped water but are mandatory for bottled water producers. Moreover, most of the country does not have the luxury of piped water. The Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) of NITI Aayog says that 70% of water supply is contaminated. India is ranked 120th among 122 countries in an NGO, WaterAid’s quality index.

The case for restricting people’s choices on the means they employ to ensure potable water is thus weak. The notification mainly deals with rules for commercial suppliers and for integration of systems that inform consumers about TDS levels — a major determinant of water quality. This is envisaged both before water enters filtration systems and after it has been filtered. The aim is also to ensure that after 2022, no more than 25% of water being treated is wasted, and for residential complexes to reuse the residual waste water for other activities, including gardening. When implemented, the notification’s primary aim should be to persuade authorities to upgrade and supply BIS-standard water at the consumer’s end. This should be done without additional costs, particularly on millions who now lack access to protected supply.

Source: The Hindu

3. Cooperative banks to come under Reserve Bank regulation

Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper III; Economics

Cooperative banks brought under RBI

In the wake of the recent Punjab & Maharashtra Cooperative (PMC) Bank crisis, the Union Cabinet approved amendments to the Banking Regulation Act to bring 1,540 cooperative banks under the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) regulation.

Cooperative banks have 8.6 lakh account holders, with a total deposit of about ₹5 lakh crore.

What will be effect?

  1. Union Minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters that administrative matters would continue to be under the Registrar, Cooperative. However, cooperative banks would be regulated under the RBI’s banking guidelines. Their auditing would also be done as per its norms.

  2. Qualifications would be laid down for appointments, including that of Chief Executive Officers. Prior permission from the RBI would be required for the appointment of key positions.

  3. The regulator would deal with issues such as loan waivers.

  4. The RBI would also have powers to supersede the board of any cooperative bank in financial distress.

These measures would be implemented in a phased manner, said Mr. Javadekar.

Increase in deposit insurance cover

The proposed amendments, along with the government’s decision to increase the insurance cover on bank deposits from Rs. 1 lakh to Rs. 5 lakh, have been brought to strengthen the financial stability of cooperative banks and boost public confidence in the banking system.

PMC Bank case

In the PMC Bank case, the RBI had to step in last year after massive irregularities in its loan accounts were detected. The regulator had to place a withdrawal limit for account holders, which led to a major public strife and protests by them.

The bank had allegedly loaned about Rs. 6,500 crores to the Housing Development & Infrastructure Limited, amounting to more than 73% of its overall exposure, which was not repaid. It is alleged that over 21,000 fake accounts were created to conceal the bad loans.

The Enforcement Directorate is conducting a money laundering probe into the allegations.

Source: The Hindu

4. Why 98.6°F is no longer ‘normal’ for the body

Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper III; Science & Technology

The thermometer reading of 98.6°F has been a gold standard for a century and a half, ever since a German doctor laid it down as the “normal” human body temperature. If you suspect you have a fever, a reading of 98.6 tells you that you are not. Over the last few decades, the benchmark has often been questioned. Different studies have found the human body temperature averaging out differently, including at 97.7°, 97.9° and 98.2°F.

Now, new research has found that body temperatures have, in fact, been declining over the last two centuries. This was determined from an analysis of records of Americans dating between the 19th century and 2017.

Why we follow 98.6°F

In 1851, Carl Reinhold August Wunderlich pioneered the use of the clinical thermometer. It was a rod a foot long, which he would stick under the armpits of patients at the hospital attached with Leipzig University, and then wait for 15 minutes (some accounts say 20 minutes) for the temperature to register. He took over a million measurements of 25,000 patients, and published his findings in a book in 1868, in which he concluded that the average human body temperature is 98.6°F.

Most modern scientists feel Wunderlich’s experiments were flawed, and his equipment inaccurate. In 1992, a study by the University of Maryland made 700 temperature measurements of 148 individuals over various times of the day, concluded that the average human body temperature is closer to 98.2°F, and suggested that the 98.6°F benchmark be discarded.

In 2017, a study on 35,000 British individuals published in The BMJ found their average body temperature to be 97.9°F. And in 2018, Boston rheumatologist Jonathan Hausmann used an iPhone app, Feverprints, to collect 11,458 temperatures crowd-sourced from 329 healthy adults, and published findings that put the average normal temperature in adults at 97.7°F, measured orally.

Last month came the new study, published in the journal eLife, that concluded the average human body temperature has never been constant in the first place.

The body is cooler

Stanford University researchers recorded temperatures from three datasets covering distinct historical periods. One set was from 1862-1930, with records of Union Army veterans of the Civil War and including people born in the early 1800s. Another set was from 1971-75, from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The newest set was from adult patients who visited Stanford Health Care between 2007 and 2017.

From 6.77 lakh measurements and statistical modelling, the researchers reconfirmed some known trends — body temperature is higher in younger people, in women, in larger bodies and at later times of the day. Additionally, they found that the bodies of men born in the early to mid-1990s is on average 1.06°F cooler than those of men born in the early 1800s. And the body temperature of women born in the early to mid-1990s is on average 0.58°F lower than that of women born in the 1890s.

The calculations from the research correspond to a decrease in body temperature of 0.05°F every decade, Stanford University said in a statement.

Explaining the trend

The researchers have proposed that the decrease in body temperature is the result of changes in the environment over the past 200 years, which have in turn driven physiological changes.

The decrease in average body temperature in the US, they said, could be explained by a reduction in metabolic rate, or the amount of energy being used. This reduction, in turn, may be due to a nationwide decline in inflammation as a result of better healthcare in the US. Inflammation would have revved up metabolism and raised body temperature.

“The environment that we’re living in has changed, including the temperature in our homes, our contact with microorganisms and the food that we have access to. All these things mean that although we think of human beings as if we’re monomorphic and have been the same for all of human evolution, we’re not the same. We’re actually changing physiologically,” senior author Julie Parsonnet said in the university statement.

So, what is normal?

While the authors are confident of a cooling trend, they do not offer an updated definition of “average body temperature” to cover all Americans today. The strong influences of age, time of day, and genders on body temperature preclude such a definition, they said.

Source: The Indian Express

 Q. Though not very useful from the point of view of a connected political history of South India, the Sangam literature portrays the social and economic conditions of its time with remarkable vividness. Comment. (10 marks, 200 words, 2013)

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