Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 22 December 2022

Smart Cities Mission bags Digital India Award

GS Paper - 2 (Development Process)

The Smart Cities Mission has been picked as the platinum icon in the Digital India Awards 2022 under the Data Sharing and Use for Socio Economic Development category for its 'DataSmart Cities: Empowering Cities through Data' initiative.

More about the news:

  1. The Data Smart Cities initiative is a key step in creating a robust data ecosystem that enables evidence-based decision-making in cities.
  2. The awards instituted in 2009 are one-of-a-kind in India for honouring the efforts of different government entities in the digital realm.
  3. These are conducted by the National Informatics Centre (NIC) under the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY). The seventh edition of Digital India Awards is being held in 2022.
  4. 'DataSmart Cities' initiative aims to harnesses the power of data for better governance in India's 100 Smart Cities.
  5. "To leverage and utilise valuable data being generated in cities via network of intelligent devices and systems, the Smart Cities Mission launched the DataSmart Cities (DSC) initiative across 100 Smart Cities.
  6. The DSC uses a three-pronged approach people, process, platforms to imbibe a culture of data awareness and data usage in city functioning.

Digital India Awards (DIA)

  1. It is a prestigious National competition that seeks to encourage and honour innovative digital solutions by government entities in realising the Digital India vision.
  2. The category ‘Data Sharing and Use for Socio Economic Development’ emphasizes on sharing of Government Data by Ministries/Departments/Organizations, States, Cities and ULBs to create a vibrant data ecosystem in the country for analysis, decision-making, innovation, services, economic development and public good.

Smart Cities Mission

  1. The main objective of the Mission is to promote cities that provide core infrastructure, clean and sustainable environment and give a decent quality of life to their citizens through the application of ‘smart solutions.
  2. The Mission aims to drive economic growth and improve quality of life through comprehensive work on social, economic, physical and institutional pillars of the city.
  3. The focus is on sustainable and inclusive development by creation of replicable models which act as lighthouses to other aspiring cities. 100 cities have been selected to be developed as Smart Cities through a two-stage competition.


BF.7 circulation in India

GS Paper - 3 (Health and Diseases)

The current surge in Covid-19 infections in China is believed to be driven by the BF.7 sub-variant of Omicron that is circulating in that country. This isn’t the first time that BF.7 has made news — in October, it started to replace the variants that were then dominant in the United States and several European countries.

What do we know about BF.7?

  1. When viruses mutate, they create lineages and sub-lineages — like the main trunk of the SARS-CoV-2 tree sprouting branches and sub-branches.
  2. The BF.7 is the same as BA., which is a sub-lineage of the Omicron sub-lineage BA.5.
  3. A study published in ‘Cell Host and Microbe’ journal earlier this month reported that the BF.7 sub-variant has a 4.4-fold higher neutralisation resistance than the original D614G variant — meaning that in a lab setting, antibodies from a vaccinated or infected individual were less likely to destroy BF.7 than the original Wuhan virus that spread worldwide in 2020.
  4. But BF.7 is not the most resilient sub-variant — the same study reported a more than 10-fold higher neutralisation resistance in another Omicron sub-variant called BQ.1.
  5. higher neutralisation resistance means there is a higher likelihood of the variant spreading in a population and replacing other variants.
  6. BF.7 accounted for more than 5% of US cases and 7.26% of UK cases in October. Scientists in the West were watching the variant closely; however, there was no dramatic increase in the number of cases or hospitalisations in these countries.

Is BF.7 circulating in India as well?

  1. The January 2022 wave in India was driven by the BA.1 and BA.2 sub-variants of Omicron.
  2. The sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5 that followed were never as prevalent in India as they were in European countries; thus, India saw very few cases of BF.7 (which is an offshoot of BA.5).
  3. As per data from India’s national SARS-CoV-2 genome sequencing network, BA.5 lineages accounted for only 2.5% of cases in November.
  4. At present, a recombinant variant XBB is the most common variant in India, accounting for 65.6% of all cases in November.


International Year of Millets

GS Paper - 3 (Agriculture)

2023 has been declared as the “International Year of Millets” by the United Nations, after a proposal from India in 2019To raise awareness on millets and prepare for 2023, Prime Minister, along with fellow parliamentarians across party lines, enjoyed a sumptuous lunch where millets were front and centre.

 What are millets, India’s indigenous foodgrains?

  1. The term millet is used to describe small-grained cereals like sorghum (jowar)pearl millet (bajra)foxtail millet (kangni/ Italian millet)little millet (kutki)kodo milletfinger millet (ragi/ mandua)proso millet (cheena/ common millet)barnyard millet (sawa/ sanwa/ jhangora), and brown top millet (korale).
  2. Millets were among the first crops to be domesticated. There is evidence for consumption of millets in the Indus-Sarasvati civilisation (3,300 to 1300 BCE).
  3. Several varieties that are now grown around the world were first cultivated in IndiaWest AfricaChina, and Japan are also home to indigenous varieties of the crop.
  4. Millets are now grown in more than 130 countries, and are the traditional food for more than half a billion people in Asia and Africa.
  5. Globally, sorghum (jowar) is the biggest millet crop. The major producers of jowar are the United StatesChinaAustraliaIndiaArgentinaNigeria, and SudanBajra is another major millet crop; India and some African countries are major producers.
  6. In Indiamillets are mainly a kharif crop. During 2018-19, three millet crops — bajra (3.67%)jowar (2.13%), and ragi (0.48%) — accounted for about 7 per cent of the gross cropped area in the country, Agriculture Ministry data show.

Where are millets produced (and consumed)?

  1. Jowar is mainly grown in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, and Madhya Pradesh.
  2. Bajra is mainly grown in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka.
  3. The consumption of millets was reported mainly from these states: Gujarat (jowar and bajra)Karnataka (jowar and ragi)Maharashtra (jowar and bajra)Rajasthan (bajra), and Uttarakhand (ragi).


  1. On 3 March 2021, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a resolution to declare 2023 as the International Year of Millets.
  2. The proposal, moved by India, was supported by 72 countries. Several events and activities, including conferences and field activities, and the issuing of stamps and coins, are expected as part of the celebrations aimed at spreading awareness about millets, inspiring stakeholders to improve production and quality, and attracting investments.


InSight Mars lander ‘signing off’

GS Paper - 3 (Space Technology)

NASA’s InSight Mars lander account struck a sombre note and said the robot currently on Mars will be signing off soon, ending its nearly four-year-long journey to study the red planet’s early evolution. Few months ago, InSight was active in its work, even detecting the strongest earthquakes recorded on Mars – dubbed ‘Marsquakes’ – in May this year.

What was the purpose of the InSight Lander?

  1. The lander had two main functions, according to NASA. The first was to understand how rocky planets formed and evolved, and study the interior structure and geological processes of Mars through its various layers, such as the core, the mantle and the crust.
  2. Second, InSight was to figure out just how tectonically active Mars is today, and how often meteorites impact it. This included measuring marsquakes, and more than 1,300 quakes have been detected.
  3. InSight has transformed our understanding of the interiors of rocky planets and set the stage for future missions.

Why is InSight shutting down?

  1. When InSight landed on Mars in 2018, its solar panels produced around 5,000 watt-hours on each Martian day, or sol.
  2. Each Martian day is 40 minutes longer than a day on earth. Now, they’re producing roughly 500 watt-hours per sol.
  3. The reduced power is because the panels’ capacity to receive energy naturally reduces over time. There will be more dust in the air that would accumulate on the panels and therefore reduce the sunlight received – and the lander’s source of energy.
  4. While earlier some of the dust was removed, the mission would need a more powerful dust-cleaning event to reverse this, such as very strong winds.
  5. Because of the reduced power, NASA announced in May this year that the team would soon put the lander’s robotic arm in its resting position (called the “retirement pose”).

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