Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 09 March 2023

International Women’s Day 2023

GS Paper - 1 (Society)

International Women’s Day 2023 (IWD) was celebrated on 8 March under the theme “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”. The United Nations has highlighted the need for inclusive technology and digital education. It plans to have discussions on the role of all stakeholders in improving access to digital tools. With the IWD’s origins linked to women workers’ movements, it is important to note that women’s lack of access to technology and digital tools makes them less likely to be a part of the wider domains of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – collectively termed the STEM fields.

Why does women’s underrepresentation in STEM fields matter?

  1. Across the world, there has been a marked absence of women in the professional realm of STEM subjects – including the IT sectorenvironment and climatemedical sciences, etc.
  2. This underrepresentation is of note because developments in STEM fields, particularly in technology, are increasingly shaping all aspects of modern life – from chatbots like ChatGPT that are expected to replace workers in various settings to the ubiquity of social media which shapes identities and public discourse.
  3. Furthermore, from a career perspective, these fields are generally lucrative for workers. A typical STEM worker earns two-thirds more than those employed in other fields, according to Pew Research Center.
  4. Therefore, the underrepresentation of women in STEM impacts the overall gender pay gap as well – women are typically overrepresented in lower-paying jobs and underrepresented in higher-paying jobs such as in STEM fields.

What is the ‘gender gap’ in STEM?

  1. Globally, 18 percent of girls in higher-level education are pursuing STEM studies, compared with 35 per cent of boys.
  2. Even within the STEM fields, there lies a gender divide, with similar numbers of boys and girls pursuing natural sciences while far more boys looked to engineering, manufacturing and construction.
  3. In India, the enrolment of girls in engineering programmes is significantly lower when compared to their male counterparts.
  4. Overall in UG, PG, MPhil and PhD engineering programmes, the total enrolment is 36,86,291 where 71 per cent of enrolled students were males and 29 per cent were females, according to data from the All India Survey of Higher Education for 2020-2021.

Why does the gap exist?

  1. Multiple factors determine how women choose to work and the options available to them. These include the presence of existing resources such as mentors and programmes offering scholarships, as well as, on a broader level, general societal attitudes on women’s education that do not encourage families to invest in it as much as they do for boys.
  2. UNICEF points to gender bias in curricula. For instance, in India, more than 50 per cent of illustrations in math and science textbooks in primary show boys and only 6 percent show girls.
  3. In the UK, over a quarter of girls say they have been put off a career in tech as it is too male-dominated and only 22 per cent can name a famous female working in the field.
  4. In the US26 per cent of tech startups have at least one female founder, and in Europe, only 21 percent of tech founders are female. But it points out that numbers are increasing — potentially creating more role models for girls and women.

ISRO brings down Megha-Tropiques-1

GS Paper - 3 (Space Technology)

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) brought down the decommissioned weather satellite Megha-Tropiques-1 in a controlled manner and burned up in the atmosphere. The ISRO carried out a series of 20 manoeuvres from August 2022 to slowly lower the satellite’s orbit, expending the 120 kg fuel that remained unutilised even at the end of the mission life.


  1. After the final two manoeuvres – firing four onboard thrusters for around 20 minutes each – the satellite entered the denser atmosphere and disintegrated over the Pacific Ocean.
  2. Large satellites likely to survive re-entry through the atmosphere and shower down debris are brought down in a controlled manner to ensure that it does not impact people.
  3. Megha-Tropiques-1 was developed as a joint mission by India and France to study the tropics’ water cycle and energy exchanges.
  4. Like many others developed by the ISRO, the satellite worked for over a decadeproviding valuable data for climate models. The 1,000-kg satellite was launched in 2011 with a mission life of three years.
  5. The space agency said that the de-boost manoeuvres were planned considering several constraints, such as the re-entry being visible from the ground stations, ground impact in the targeted zone, and maximum thrust and maximum firing duration of the thrusters.
  6. The space agency said satellites such as Megha-Tropiques-1 were not designed to undergo such controlled re-entry after the end of life, making it challenging. Complicating matters further was that the satellite had been sitting in orbit longer and lower than intended, which meant several systems had lost redundancies and their performance had degraded.


  1. The space agency said the United Nations and Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC) guidelines recommend that satellites be deorbited – either through controlled entry over a safe impact zone as was attempted by Isro with Megha-Tropiques-1 or by bringing it down to reduce the orbital lifetime – the time it would take for a satellite to drop from a particular orbit by itself – to less than 25 years.
  2. It is also recommended that stored fuel be removed from the spacecraft to ensure that no accidents break up the satellite in space and create more debris.
  3. In the case of Megha-Tropiques-1, the orbit of 867 km with 20-degree inclination meant an orbital lifetime of over 100 years.
  4. And over 120 kg of fuel was left over, which was estimated to be sufficient to achieve a fully controlled atmospheric re-entry.
  5. The re-entry experiment of MT1 has been undertaken as a part of the ongoing efforts as this satellite with sufficient left-over fuel presented a unique opportunity to test the relevant methodologies and understand the associated operational nuances of post-mission disposal by direct re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere.

Migrant workers’ issues recur

GS Paper - 3 (Economy)

Rumours of migrant workers being assaulted in Tamil Nadu have triggered concern among manufacturers in the state. Officials have rejected the reports as fake news, and political leaders and the administration have appealed to workers to not pay heed to the rumoursBihar and Jharkhand have sent officials to Tamil Nadu to take stock of the situation. There is inadequate coordination among states on a formal exchange of information on migrant workers. In the absence of data, it is difficult to track labourers during times of crisis.

What is the legal framework for migrant welfare?

  1. The Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act, 1979 looks into the welfare of the labourers.
  2. The Act mandates that the establishment which proposes to employ migrant workers be required to be registered with destination states.
  3. Contractors will also have to obtain a licence from the concerned authority of the home states as well as the host states. However, in practice, this Act has not been fully implemented.
  4. This Act has been subsumed into the four broad labour codes notified by the Centre: The Code on Wages, 2019; The Industrial Relations Code, 2020; The Code on Social Security, 2020; and The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020. These have not been implemented yet.

Are there any states which have tried to implement the Inter-State Act?

  1. In 2012, with the help of International Labour Organisation, an MoU was signed between Odisha and Andhra Pradesh to track labourers migrating from 11 districts of Odisha to work in brick kilns in the then united Andhra Pradesh.
  2. Kerala has set up facilitation centres for migrant workers whom the state refers to as “guest workers”.
  3. These facilitation centres maintain data regarding migrant workers arriving in Kerala as well as help migrant workers navigate any problems they might face.
  4. However, there is no data sharing between Kerala and the migrant workers’ home states.

Wildfire-inducing ‘hot lightning’ strikes

GS Paper - 3 (Environment)

Soaring global temperatures could lead to more “hot lightning” strikes in many parts of the world, a new study has found. It added that this type of lightning is more likely to ignite wildfires than typical lightning. Published in the journal Nature Communications, the study, ‘Variation of lightning-ignited wildfire patterns under climate change’, has been done by the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia (Spain) and the Institute of Atmospheric Physics (Germany).

What are the findings of the study?

  1. The researchers analysed 5,858 selected lightning-ignited fires based on satellite images of US wildfires between 1992 and 2018 and found that approximately 90 percent of them might have started by “hot lightning” strikes.
  2. Also known as long continuing current (LCC), this type of lightning strike can last from around 40 milliseconds to nearly a third of a second.
  3. With the help of computer simulations, the researchers also looked at the frequency of “hot lightning” strikes and observed that as the atmosphere warms, there might be an increase of 41 per cent in the incidents of LCC strikes by 2090.
  4. This means that the rate of such lightning flashes could jump from three strikes per second globally to four strikes per second.
  5. Meanwhile, the frequency of all cloud-to-ground strikes might increase to nearly eight flashes per second, a 28 per cent jump.

What is lightning and how does it occur?

  1. Lightning is a rapid and massive electrical discharge that takes place between storm clouds and the ground, or within the clouds themselves.
  2. Scientists believe that for lightning to occur, positive and negative charges must separate within a cloud.
  3. This happens, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), when the water droplets in the bottom part of the cloud are moved upwards, where the much colder atmosphere freezes them into small ice crystals.
  4. As these small ice crystals continue to go up, they gain more mass and eventually become so heavy that they start to fall down to Earth.
  5. This causes a system in which ice crystals going down collides with the water vapours coming up, leading to the accumulation of positive charges on the top of the cloud and negative changes gathering at the base, while the atmosphere between them in the cloud acts as an insulator.
  6. When the positive and negative charges grow large enough, their strength overpowers the insulating properties of the properties. As a result, the two kinds of charges meet with each other and produce lightning.
  7. Although most of the lightning takes place within the clouds, sometimes it is directed towards Earth also.
  8. With the base of the cloud becoming negatively charged, positive charges start to accumulate on tall objects, like trees, poles and buildings.
  9. “stepped leader” of negative charge descends from the cloud seeking out a path toward the ground…As the negative charge gets close to the ground, a positive charge, called a streamer, reaches up to meet the negative charge. The channels connect and we see the lightning stroke,” NOAA said.