Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 31 January 2023

Cows and sheep contribute to climate change

GS Paper - 3 (Environment)

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has invested in an Australian climate technology start-up that aims to curtail the methane emissions of cow burps. The start-up, Rumin8, has received funding worth $12 million from Breakthrough Energy Ventures, which Gates created in 2015Rumin8 is developing a variety of dietary supplements to feed to cows in a bid to reduce the amount of methane they emit into the atmosphere. The supplement includes red seaweed, which is believed to drastically cut methane output in cows.

How do cows and other animals produce methane?

  1. Ruminant species are hooved grazing or browsing herbivores that chew cudRuminants such as cows, sheep, goats, and buffaloes have a special type of digestive system that allows them to break down and digest food that non-ruminant species would be unable to digest.
  2. Stomachs of ruminant animals have four compartments, one of which, the rumen, helps them to store partially digested food and let it ferment.
  3. This partially digested and fermented food is regurgitated by the animals who chew through it again and finish the digestive process.
  4. However, as grass and other vegetation ferments in the rumen, it generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Ruminant animals such as cows and sheep release this methane mainly through burping.

Why is methane such a big problem?

  1. Methane is one of the main drivers of climate change, responsible for 30 percent of the warming since preindustrial times, second only to carbon dioxide.
  2. Over a 20-year period, methane is 80 times more potent at warming than carbon dioxide, according to a report by the United Nations Environment Programme.
  3. It’s also the primary contributor to the formation of ground-level ozone, a colourless and highly irritating gas that forms just above the Earth’s surface.
  4. According to a 2022 report, exposure to ground-level ozone could be contributing to 1 million premature deaths every year.

How are researchers trying to mitigate methane emissions?

  1. Rumin8 isn’t the first one to find a dietary solution to curb methane emissions from ruminant species.
  2. Scientists have been working on it for quite some time now, as they are looking to make these animals more sustainable and less gassy.
  3. A 2021 study, published in the journal PLUS ONE, found that adding seaweed to cow feed can reduce methane formation in their guts by more than 80 per cent.
  4. Apart from this, researchers are also trying to find gene-modifying techniques to curtail methane emissions in these animals.
  5. Last year, scientists in New Zealand announced they had started the world’s first genetic programme to address the challenge of climate change by breeding sheep that emit lower amounts of methane.


AISHE 2020-2021 released

GS Paper - 2 (Education)

The Ministry of Education, Government of India has released All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2020-2021. The Ministry has been conducting All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) since 2011, covering all higher educational institutions located in Indian Territory and imparting higher education in the country. The survey collects detailed information on different parameters such as student enrollmentteacher’s datainfrastructural informationfinancial information etc. For the first time, in AISHE 2020-21, HEIs have filled data using an entirely online data collection platform through the Web Data Capture Format (DCF) developed by the Department of Higher Education through the National Informatics Centre (NIC).

Key highlights of the survey

Student Enrollment

  1. The total enrollment in higher education has increased to nearly 4.14 crore in 2020-21 from 3.85 crore in 2019-20. 
  2. The Female enrolment has increased to 2.01 crore from 1.88 crore in 2019-20.  The percentage of female enrolment to total enrolment has increased from 45% in 2014-15 to around 49% in 2020-21.
  3. As per 2011 population projections for 18-23 years age group, GER has increased to 27.3 from 25.6 in 2019-20.
  4. Notable increase of 1.9 points is observed in GER of ST students in 2020-21, as compared to 2019-20.
  5. Female GER has overtaken Male GER since 2017-18Gender Parity Index (GPI), the ratio of female GER to male GER, has increased from 1 in 2017-18 to 1.05 in 2020-21.
  6. Uttar PradeshMaharashtraTamil NaduMadhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Rajasthan are the top 6 States in terms of number of students enrolled.
  7. As per response in AISHE 2020-21, about 79.06% of the total students are enrolled in undergraduate level courses and 11.5% are enrolled in postgraduate level courses.
  8. Among Disciplines at undergraduate level, enrollment is highest in Arts (33.5%), followed by Science (15.5%)Commerce (13.9%) and Engineering & Technology (11.9%).
  9. Government Universities (59% of total) contribute towards 73.1% of the enrolment. Government Colleges (21.4% of total) contribute towards 34.5% of the enrolment.
  10. The enrolment inInstitute of National Importance (INIs) has increased by nearly 61% during the period 2014-15 to 2020-21.
  11. Enrolment has increased in 2020-21 compared to 2014-15 in the Specialized Universities relating toDefence, Sanskrit, Biotechnology, Forensics, Design, Sports etc.

Number of Institutions

  1. The total number of Universities / University like institutions registered is 1,113Colleges 43,796 and Standalone Institutions 11,296.
  2. During 2020-21, the number of Universities has increased by 70, and the number of Colleges has increased by 1,453.
  3. The Institutes of National Importance (INIs) have almost doubled from 75 in 2014-15 to 149 in 2020-21.
  4. 191 new Higher Education Institutions have been established in North Eastern States since 2014-15.
  5. Highest number of Universities is in Rajasthan (92), Uttar Pradesh (84) and Gujarat (83).
  6. 17 Universities (of which 14 are State Public) and 4,375 Colleges are exclusively for women.


  1. The total number of faculty/teachers are 15,51,070 of which about 57.1% are male and 42.9% are female.
  2. The female per 100 male faculty has improved to 75 in 2020-21 from 74 in 2019-20 and 63 in 2014-15.


OBC panel gets 14th extension

GS Paper - 2 (Polity)

The Justice G. Rohini-led commission for the sub-categorisation of other backward classes (OBCs) has now been given yet another extension in its tenure by the President, according to a gazette notification issued by the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

More about the extension

  1. This is the 14th extension in tenure that the commission has been given. The commission, formed in October 2017, was initially given 12 weeks to finish the task of sub-categorising the nearly 3,000 castes within the OBC umbrella and recommend division of the 27% OBC quota among them equitably.
  2. Initially, the government cited more time required by the panel to gather information and data and then it cited the pandemic.
  3. As part of its work, the commission had identified dominant caste groups among all OBC communities in the Central list, finding that a small group of dominant OBC communities were crowding out a large number of communities from the 27% OBC quota.
  4. Consequently, the commission decided to divide all OBC communities into four broad categories, with the largest share of the quota pie going to the group that has historically been deprived of OBC quota as a result of being pushed out by dominant OBC groups.
  5. The fresh extension comes as the Bihar government is in the middle of its much-anticipated caste-based survey in the State and the Uttar Pradesh government is in the process of conducting a fresh survey to assess the need for OBC reservation in its local body elections, with other States like Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra also looking to form panels to implement OBC reservation in local body polls.
  6. The last time a country-wide survey was conducted to enumerate the number of castes and their population was in 2011 as part of the Socio-Economic Caste Census. However, data from this was never made public.

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