CURRENT AFFAIRS – 29/05/2023

CURRENT AFFAIRS – 29/05/2023

Shrinking snow cover continues to haunt Himachal Pradesh

The trend of gradual reduction in snow cover in ecologically fragile Himachal Pradesh continues to haunt the hill State. Also, the mean maximum and minimum average temperature is on the rise in the Himalayan region.

In the past decade, Himachal Pradesh has been witnessing an erratic, inconsistent and decreasing trend of snowfall, besides a shift in its pattern and precipitation, triggered by climate change.

In the 2022-23 winter period (October-April), there was an overall reduction of about 14.05% in the total area under snow cover in Himachal Pradesh in comparision to 2021-22.

This has been revealed in the latest scientific report conducted jointly by the Himachal Pradesh’s State Centre on Climate Change (HIMCOSTE) and the Geo-Sciences, Hydrology, Cryosphere Sciences Applications Group (GHCAG) and the Space Applications Centre (SAC-ISRO).


Himachal Pradesh receives winter precipitation in the form of snow in the higher altitudes. About one-third of the total geographical area of the State remains under thick snow cover during the winter season. Most of the major rivers like the Chenab, Beas, Parvati, Baspa, Spiti, Ravi, Satluj and their perennial tributaries originating from the Himalayas, depend on the seasonal snow cover for their discharge dependability.

Given the importance of seasonal snow cover as a major input in controlling the hydrology of the river basins, seasonal snow cover assessment in terms of its spatial distribution was carried out in different river basins during the winter season of 2022-23 from October to April. The total area under snow cover was estimated using Advanced Wide Field Sensor (AWIFS) satellite data during 2022-23.

The study under the title — ‘Seasonal Snow Cover Variations in Himachal during 2022-23 and its comparative analysis with reference to 2021-22’ — showed that during 2022-23, there was early snowfall in October and November, resulting in positive trends in some basins.

However, during the peak winter months (December-February), all four basins — Chenab, Beas, Ravi and Satluj had negative trends in comparison to the last winter period.

The total area under snow during 2022-23 (October-April) slightly increased in the early half (October-November) in some basins, whereas in peak winter (December–February), there was a drastic reduction in the area under snow.

The late snowfall, which extended to April this year, resulted in an increase in the area under snow, but the snowfall during this period may not be of much use as the rising temperature from April onwards may enhance the melting rate thereby affecting the discharge dependability of the major rivers that relied on the seasonal snow cover besides the glacier melt during the peak summer time, it said.

The study added that the temperature trend analysis was also carried out from 2018-23, mean maximum and minimum average temperature showed an increasing trend in almost all the river basins.

Environmentalists, scientists, and officials have expressed concern over the reducing precipitation trend in the ecologically fragile hill State.

S.S. Randhawa, co-author of the study, told The Hindu, “Glaciers in the Himalayas have been reported to be retreating, and these retreating glaciers, depleting snow cover and Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs) are of immediate concern in the mountain environment. Decreases in snow accumulation and glacial retreat might lead to acute water shortages in the future.”

At Hiroshima, Japan’s moment to reinforce partnerships

The G-7 Hiroshima Summit is the first hosted by Tokyo since the 2008 summit and comes at a time when the world is faced with enervating challenges such as the war in Ukraine, the threat of nuclear proliferation, rapidly transpiring impacts of climate change, economic security, unstable supply chains and the impact and regulation of sensitive technologies. While the agenda for the Summit was expansive and ambitious, the imperative for the G-7 countries, led by Japan, appeared to be centered around the means to consolidate approaches toward the most pressing global issues while walking respective geopolitical tightropes. For Tokyo, the Summit was driven, in large part, by the need to define and devise the means of navigating the complex geopolitical landscape of the Indo-Pacific in order to enable collaborations that would be functional as well as act as bulwarks. It was a moment to reinforce partnerships in a region that has become laden with security risks and is a key theatre for great power competition while simultaneously being the principal geography on which the trajectory of the rest of the world’s fortunes depends.

Why the agenda is vital for Japan

Issues that weighed heavily on the agenda of the Hiroshima Summit included Russia’s aggression in Ukraine which is now more than a year old and shows little signs of abating; a China that is increasingly on the offensive with an ever-active military and nuclear modernisation plan; China’s growing military pressures on Taiwan; and the dangers posed by North Korea’s increasingly volatile nuclear posturing and nuclear weapons programme. While all of these issues are of great significance globally, for the Indo-Pacific and for Japan in particular, these are vital given the country’s geographical location in close proximity to China, Russia, and North Korea. Concurrently, both in the weeks leading up to the Summit and during it, Tokyo sought to step up collaboration in science and technology and progressed its objective of reinvigorating the country’s chip industry.

Security, nevertheless, informed much of the agenda at the Summit. The war in Ukraine has had a significant impact on Japan’s national security strategy. In the wake of the invasion, Japan has announced a number of changes to its defence policy, including plans to increase its defence spending and acquire new weapons systems. Similarly, China has been rapidly expanding its military power in recent years, and has been increasingly assertive in its territorial claims in the East China Sea and the South China Sea. Tokyo is no stranger to the debilitating consequences of a nuclear attack and is quite naturally concerned about the frequent nuclear posturing by Pyongyang with the latter not only conducting a number of missile tests in recent years but also threatening to attack Japan with nuclear weapons. These concerns are also shared by Seoul and Washington and are a key driving force behind U.S. efforts at strengthening the security architecture of Northeast Asia.

New Delhi-Tokyo partnership is important

Recent years have witnessed steady collaboration between New Delhi and Tokyo, with regular joint military exercises and the progress of agreements on economic cooperation. While Japan has been involved in the South Asian region through its involvement in several infrastructure initiatives, recent years have witnessed India partnering with Japan for advancing the same objective through the development of infrastructure projects in third countries in the Indo-Pacific region. As two of the world’s largest democracies, the continued cooperation between India and Japan is an important indicator of what sustained partnerships can achieve in addressing the challenges of the 21st century. The G-7 2023 Summit was another opportunity for Japan and India to further strengthen their partnership and expand the scope of their shared interests.

Two key principles form the central basis for both Japan and India’s role in the Indo-Pacific — first, the preservation of a rules-based order; and second, opposition to any unilateral attempt to alter regional order. Both countries reiterated these principles at the Hiroshima Summit, particularly with reference to Russia and China. Closer and stronger ties between India and Japan are significant for boosting middle-power diplomacy in the region.

Advancing Shinzo Abe’s legacy

Fumio Kishida, as the current Japanese Prime Minister, is enthusiastically carrying forward the legacy of his predecessor, Shinzo Abe, who was a strong advocate for Japan’s active role in the world, and worked determinedly to strengthen the country’s ties with its allies. Mr. Kishida’s efforts are evident in the strong network building that he has undertaken, and the Hiroshima Summit, which saw the participation of India, South Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia, Australia, and Brazil among others, is a further instance of Japan looking to build upon its relationships and transform them into partnerships that would bolster the region. His efforts saw agreements with the United Kingdom, Australia, the U.S., Africa, and the Quad (Australia, India, Japan and the U.S.). If Shinzo Abe laid the foundations of a more involved Japanese global presence, Mr. Kishida has advanced Shinzo Abe’s work by developing security and diplomatic partnerships across the world including with neighbouring South Korea with which bilateral ties have been historically tenuous. The Hiroshima Summit reinforced Japan’s re-emergence as a critical security actor which is increasingly willing to shape the emerging strategic contours of the Indo-Pacific and the wider global order.

For Tokyo, the G-7 Summit was driven by the need to define and devise the means of navigating the complex geopolitical landscape of the Indo-Pacific.

A belligerence towards Beijing that is unsettling

The intensifying head-to-head clash between the United States and China has set alarm bells ringing. Beginning with a trade war in 2018, U.S. policy towards China has morphed into a draconian technology denial regime aimed at hobbling China’s rise. Simultaneously with a view of preventing any Chinese military venture to capture Taiwan, the U.S. has taken major steps across the Indo-Pacific to shore up its military edge.

The belligerence towards Beijing is a bit unsettling. This was a quasi-ally whose friendship cemented the rise of China, but, today, Washington wants to stop it on its tracks. For several years, its own allies such as Japan and the European Union (EU) resisted U.S. pressure to follow its new course, but the war in Ukraine and the very obvious Chinese support for Russia seem to have settled the debate.

A détente is distant

The recent G-7 summit put forward a united West plus Japan view on China. Besides condemning its “economic coercion” and “militarisation activities”, it created a new group to deal with hostile economic actions, mainly by China, to coerce nations. On the table was a more draconian measure to review all outbound investment to China on the issue of security.

At the end of the G-7 meeting, U.S. President Joe Biden announced that he expected to soon “see a thaw” but the relationship is hardly heading for any kind of a détente. Both countries are jostling for power and influence across the world. “Extreme competition” over technologies may have initiated the conflict, but their insecurities are increasingly bringing their military and nuclear instruments to the fore.

Mr. Biden is outlining what is called the new Washington Consensus designed to re-establish U.S. hegemony. The old one, which was based on free markets, embraced China with the hope it would, over time, integrate into the American-led liberal international order. But China, in a sense, went rogue.

Technology denial to China is one aspect of the strategy. The other is to turn the old Consensus on its head by protectionism and a new industrial policy based on state subsidies. A third element is to reach out to China and claim that all that Washington wants is to “de-risk and diversify” its economy, and guard its key technologies using a “ small yard,[with a] high fence”.

Just what the U.S. goal is, is not clear. Most experts say that while controls may slow China, it is impossible to prevent it from developing its own technologies. The Russian experience shows too that sanctions are not easy to work either.

Seeing U.S. export restrictions to over 600 Chinese entities, all in the last couple of years, Beijing does not see much difference between “de-risking” and “containment”. Its immediate response to the G-7 was to order its infrastructure companies to stop buying from Micron and dressing down the Japanese Ambassador in Beijing over the G-7 communiqué.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s comment on refusing to be a vassal state of the U.S. represents a tip of the iceberg of the worries of Europe and allies such as South Korea. Now, there are signs that resistance is also building up in the U.S. to the strategy of the Biden administration. The chief of Nvidia, world leader in AI computing, has warned that the battle over chips risks “enormous damage” to the U.S. technology industry. He said that China made up roughly one-third of the U.S. industry’s market and would be “impossible to replace as both a source of components and an end market for its products”. There are more than a dozen companies such as Micron who derive between 25% to 50% of their revenue from China. Almost all the big names in the U.S. have a strong presence there anyway.

A dangerous game of ‘chicken’

The U.S. wants China in the new Washington Consensus on its terms, the hardest of which are setting limits as to what China can aspire to in the fields of technology and military. This is something Beijing naturally resents. The two now seem to be involved in what the Americans call a game of “chicken” which comes with a high risk of miscalculation, war or a messy global economic breakdown.

The problem is that where the old Washington Consensus was largely in the area of economics, the new suffers from an overdose of geopolitics which is also feeding into local U.S. politics as well. It is based on the erroneous belief that the U.S. is in a state of decline and that the old Washington Consensus gutted U.S. industry and impoverished its middle and poorer classes.

That it vastly enriched its well off is another matter. Instead of dealing with this outcome through effective policy, the Democrats and Republicans fiddled around with their pet policies — one encouraging entitlements and the other tax cuts.

This has created a toxic political atmosphere that both parties, increasingly dominated by their more extreme wings, are seeking to exploit. The one area they seem to agree on is that China is responsible for their alleged ills.

Mr. Biden seeks to introduce nuance into his approach to China. But Republican Hawks in Congress have created a Select Committee on China chaired by China hawk Mike Gallagher who said in its first meeting in March that the competition between China and the U.S. was “an existential struggle over what life will look like in the 21st century”.

In a recent interview, Henry Kissinger warned against misinterpreting Chinese behaviour. China wanted to be powerful, but not necessarily a global hegemon in the American style. The chances of that happening are not high anyway. The U.S. itself is by far the most powerful country in the world, militarily and economically, and current trends suggest that it is likely to remain so. With its allies the EU, the United Kingdom, Japan and Australia, it will continue to be ahead of China in every measure.

The issue is China’s diplomacy

China has achieved a great deal. It may have stolen IP, and will continue to do so, but it has also put down serious money in developing its tech and education sector.

Where it seems to have lost out is in its diplomacy where it has created significant adversaries through its assertive behaviour, be it in the East Sea, South China Sea or the mountains of Ladakh.

In their own way, both are privileging security over other issues when it comes to their global outlook. And therein lies the danger to the rest of the world. In this, the U.S., by far more powerful than China, must take the larger share of the blame.

As it is, the U.S. is not the smartest country when it comes to dealing with global geopolitical challenges. Its enormous wealth and power and echo-chamber think tanks make it difficult for it to understand distant countries and cultures. But worse is the American tendency to fight first and ask questions later. Vietnam, and the recent examples of Afghanistan and Iraq are proof of that. Worries are that something of the sort may happen in the case of China as well.

U.S. estrangement with China enhances India’s geopolitical value, something the present ruling dispensation is revelling in. But while the Sino-American hostility may bring benefits to India, a breakdown would be catastrophic, for not just India but also the world. New Delhi is not unaware of this and has stepped carefully in its own relationship with China, whether at the global and regional levels or the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh.

Washington’s hostility towards Beijing may bring benefits to India, but a breakdown in China-U.S. ties would be catastrophic for the world.

Menstrual health is a public health issue

In a recent incident, a man from a city in Maharashtra allegedly killed his 12-year-old sister because he mistook period stains on her clothes as a sign of a sexual relationship. The incident is indicative of the extent of misinformation about periods in India’s urban locales.

In urban India, girls and women navigate a good part of their life in the public domain — a young working woman travels for hours by public transport, a teenager living in slums makes her way to school through narrow lanes, a sanitation worker begins her day before dawn cleaning the city, a vegetable vendor spends hours by her stall, and a nurse works busy 12-hour shifts. Their lives are very different, but they all navigate public spaces on a daily basis while dealing with a private aspect of their lives: their periods.

Periods are normal, but continue to be shrouded by shame, stigma and discrimination. Consequently, people face barriers in getting accurate information about periods and related products, using toilets, and seeking help when needed. The popular belief is that rural areas are hubs for ‘period poverty’ — backward, steeped in superstitions and unsafe practices — while urban areas are progressive, with access to modern period products and related necessities. However, the lived experiences of many urban dwellers show otherwise.

The sanitation worker may not know much about her body or periods. She uses waste cloth during her periods and often throws away the cloth after one use as she cannot wash, dry and reuse the cloth hygienically. The teenager wears sanitary pads for 10-12 hours at a stretch. Both may not have a toilet in their homes, and use a community toilet or go to a secluded spot early in the morning or late at night. The community toilets close by 11 p.m. and are often unclean. During summer, the water supply is limited, and bathing daily may not be possible. The working woman wears extra pads as she may not have the time or a clean or separate toilet at work to change.

Barriers to menstrual hygiene

India has been a front runner for action on menstrual hygiene — governments, NGOs and the private sector have all played an important role in spreading awareness and providing menstrual products. But the focus has often been on India’s rural population, and for good reasons. However, India’s large, rapidly growing urban population also calls out for attention.

Field insights and research show that certain groups of urban dwellers face a whole range of limitations that affects their menstrual health. The understanding of periods is still limited, especially among low-income groups. Period products may be more easily available in local kirana shops, chemists and online channels, but continue to be wrapped in paper or black plastic bags due to the associated shame. While many urban homes have toilets, residents of low-income slums, pavement dwellers, and some educational institutions and workplaces still do not have toilets, or have toilets that are not easily accessible, safe or clean and convenient.

Poor awareness, stigma and shame, limited access to products, lack of personal hygiene, poor toilet and water facilities, and difficulties in disposing pads can cause anxiety, discomfort, and infections, and long-term health problems. Menstrual waste management is a looming concern given the growing use of disposable sanitary pads. Routine garbage collection exists in many urban residential areas, but not in low-income areas. Where waste collection mechanisms exist, users don’t always segregate pads. Sanitation workers are then forced to sort through waste with their bare hands. This task undermines their health and dignity.

Doable actions can help improve menstrual health in urban India, especially for low-income groups and in public spaces. Awareness about periods is a key pillar of action, and must be continued, along with efforts to address harmful social and gender norms. Menstrual products, both reusable and disposable, must be more available through various access channels — retail outlets, social enterprises, government schemes and NGOs. People should have the information and right to choose the products that they want to use. Citizen movements such as ‘Green the Red’ support urban populations to use menstrual cups and cloth pads, providing that much-needed exposure to reusable products.

Female-friendly community and public toilets are gaining popularity. ‘She Toilets’ in Telangana and Tamil Nadu and ‘Pink Toilets’ in Delhi provide safe, private, clean facilities with essential amenities needed to manage periods. Waste disposal and management remain a challenge. Yet some promising practices include the provision of dustbins and incinerators in female toilets, which promote waste segregation at source through initiatives like the ‘Red Dot Campaign’ and innovations like ‘PadCare Labs’.

Closing gaps

Some prominent gaps remain unaddressed in urban spaces: reaching people living in unregistered slums, pavements, refugee camps and other vulnerable conditions in urban areas. Worksites, both formal and informal, need to cater to the menstrual needs of women who work. Support should continue for innovations in menstrual waste management that are safe, effective and scalable.

As we marked May 28 as Menstrual Hygiene Day, let us come together to shape the narrative on menstrual health as vital to personal health, public health, and human rights for all.

Despite many initiatives by governments and NGOs, prominent gaps remain unaddressed in urban spaces.

Why is the 1.5 degree Celsius target critical?

Intense heat: A man crosses the dry and cracked bed of the Koparli dam in Peth Taluka village, Nashik, Maharashtra on May 26. Getty Images

What do the recent reports by the World Meteorological Organization say about the future of climate change? Why did international climate dialogues switch from the target of 2 degree Celsius above the baseline temperature of pre-industrial levels to 1.5 degree Celsius?


The story so far:

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released two reports titled “Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update 2023-2027” and “State of Global Climate 2022.” The decadal predictions of the WMO said that the annual mean global surface temperature between 2023 and 2027 will be 1.1-1.8 degree Celsius higher than the baseline temperature of 1850-1900 or pre-industrial levels. In 2022, it was 1.15 degrees above the baseline, and by 2027, the average will exceed 1.5 degrees, a critical point beyond which there may be no return.

What is the 1.5 degree Celsius target?

The 1.5 degree Celsius target is the global climate target that aims to limit warming to said level by 2100, in order to prevent the planet from slipping into further climate crises. For decades, 2 degree was an acceptable level of warming. The idea of 1.5 degree was perceived as unrealistic and unachievable. However, the 2 degree target was unacceptable to small island countries as it implied that their survival was compromised.

In 2010, at the Cancun COP16 , countries agreed to limit the global average warming to below 2 degree Celsius. In 2015, the parties to the Paris Agreement pledged to limit the average temperature rise to below 2 degree, while actively aiming for 1.5 degree above pre-industrial levels. This was endorsed as a global target by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2018 and since then has been pursued in all climate dialogues.

Why is the 1.5 degree target critical?

In 2018, the IPCC released a special report on the impact of global warming when temperature reaches 1.5 degree Celsius above baseline. It also drew a comparison with the effects of 2 degree Celsius warming. It was estimated that anthropogenic activities would have already caused 1 degree of warming, likely to reach 1.5 degree between 2030 and 2052 at the current rate. Frequent and intense heat waves, droughts, heavy precipitation, an additional 10-centimetre rise in sea level, destruction of ecosystems and mostly irreversible changes can be witnessed at the 2 degree level.

However, discussions on the average temperature rise do not imply that the current warming is uniform across the planet. For example, warming greater than the global average is being experienced in the Arctic, with the term ‘polar amplification’ gaining more traction. The regional differences and the vulnerability factors spell more urgency for climate action which must limit the average planetary warming to 1.5 degree.

Why are we missing the target?

Historically, developed countries are responsible for a major chunk of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Therefore, they are expected to assume more responsibility and implement climate action. However, the Climate Performance Index over the years has shown otherwise. Countries like Australia, the U.S., Japan, Russia and Canada have made little progress in meeting their pledges. Additionally, polluters like China, Iran and Saudi Arabia rank low in climate performance.

The pandemic pushed the world into a socio-economic crisis. On the road to recovery, countries pledged measures to build-back. However, in most cases there is little to no consideration for building-back in a sustainable manner. The Ukraine conflict has further added to woes and sparked an energy crisis threatening climate goals.

Are extreme weather events linked to the global rise in temperature?

The predictions of the recently released reports point to precipitation anomalies and an increase in marine heat waves as compared to marine cold spells. The El Niño, which is currently brewing, will further strengthen this year, resulting in a 98% possibility of witnessing temperatures higher than 2016 at least in one of the years in the 2023-27 period. The cryosphere is shrinking, and there is a mass loss of glaciers in High-mountain Asia, Western North America, and South America. Due to the alarming rate of warming of the Arctic Ocean, the Greenlandic ice sheet is melting at a faster pace, contributing to the increase in sea level.

Climate risks and hazards impact human population and the ecosystem depending on exposure, vulnerability, and adaptive capacity. It has exacerbated food insecurity, displacement, and deaths. Climate change has been affecting crop yield negatively and the risks posed by agricultural pests and diseases have also increased in the past few years. Countries like Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and Afghanistan are facing acute food shortages resulting in malnutrition and hunger, demanding urgent humanitarian assistance. However, food insecurity in these countries is due to the complex interaction of climate conditions with other factors such as droughts, cyclones, and political and economic instability.

The heatwaves in Pakistan and India in 2022 also resulted in a decline in crop yields. The floods in Pakistan affected croplands in southern and central parts of the country and displaced eight million people within the country.

The Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya) has been witnessing extreme drought conditions since 2020, while at the same time, western African countries are seeing floods and heavy rainfall which has pushed millions into acute food insecurity. Such shortage of food has also led to mass displacement within and across borders. In Syria and Yemen, thousands have been displaced owing to the floods, storms, and heavy snowfall.

Aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems have also not been immune to such changes in climate patterns. Phenological shifts and mismatches have been recorded due to climate change. The population of migratory species has declined in Sub-Saharan Africa. Additionally, the warming above 1.5 degree Celsius can prove lethal for coral reefs which are already prone to bleaching. According to the WMO, extreme weather anomalies have caused the deaths of two million people and incurred $4.3 trillion in economic damages over the past fifty years. In 2020-2021, 22,608 disaster deaths were recorded globally.

How is India impacted?

India has been increasingly facing the brunt of climate change. February 2023 was recorded as the hottest month since record-keeping began in 1901. In 2022, India witnessed extreme weather events for 80% of the days. Indian monsoons were wetter than usual last year after recording extreme heat during the pre-monsoon period, resulting in wildfires in Uttarakhand and acute food shortages.

According to the Climate Change Performance Index 2023, India ranked eighth with a high-performance after Denmark, Sweden, Chile, and Morocco. Being an emerging economy with development needs, it is attempting to balance its development needs with ongoing climate action both at the domestic and international levels. With domestic measures like the Green Hydrogen Mission and the introduction of green bonds, India is performing fairly well despite contributing only a miniscule to cumulative GHG emissions. At the international level, through the International Solar Alliance and Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, India can prove to be a responsible climate player keeping in mind that it has a long way to go in very little time.

The writers are doctoral scholars at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru.


The decadal predictions of the World Meteorological Organization said that the annual mean global surface temperature between 2023 and 2027 will be 1.1-1.8 degree Celsius higher than the baseline temperature of 1850-1900 or pre-industrial levels.

For decades, 2 degree was an acceptable level of warming. The idea of 1.5 degree was perceived as unrealistic and unachievable. However, the 2 degree target was unacceptable to small island countries as it implied that their survival was compromised.

Climate risks and hazards impact human population and the ecosystem depending on exposure, vulnerability, and adaptive capacity. It has exacerbated food insecurity, displacement, and deaths.

According to the WMO, extreme weather anomalies have caused the deaths of two million people and incurred $4.3 trillion in economic damages over the past fifty years.

A Foucault pendulum swings inside the new Parliament

One of the features of the new Parliament building in New Delhi, inaugurated on Sunday, is a Foucault pendulum suspended from its ‘Constitutional Gallery’ area. It has been designed and installed by the National Council of Science Museums (NCSM), Kolkata.

The Foucault pendulum is named for Léon Foucault (1819-1868), the French physicist who devised the apparatus in the 19th century. It is a deceptively simple device used to illustrate the earth’s rotation. At the time Foucault set up the first public display of the pendulum, the earth’s rotation was a well- established fact.

His achievement, instead, was to provide a proof that didn’t involve intricate astronomical observations and calculations.

The pendulum consists of a bob suspended at the end of a long, strong wire from a fixed point in the ceiling. As the pendulum swings, the imaginary surface across which the wire and the bob swipe is called the plane of the swing.

If the pendulum is installed at the North Pole, it will basically be swinging as the earth rotates ‘below’. But someone standing on the earth’s surface doesn’t notice the planet’s rotation (without looking up at the sky from time to time); instead, to them, the plane of the swing will seem to rotate by a full circle as the earth completes one rotation.

If the pendulum is installed over the equator, the plane won’t appear to shift at all because it will be rotating along with the earth. On any other latitude, the plane will shift through 360 degrees in “one sidereal day divided by the sine of the latitude of its location”, as per a Brown University note.

A Foucault pendulum is not a simple matter of setting up a pendulum with large parts. It must be designed, installed, and set swinging in such a way that the bob’s motion is influenced to the extent possible only by gravity.

In 1991, the then-new Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune, commissioned the country’s first Foucault pendulum for public display from the NCSM. After several studies and failed tests, the NCSM installed the set-up in 1993.


Coriolis force is responsible for the rotation of the plane of oscillation of Foucault’s pendulum.

  • Foucault’s pendulum is an experiment to demonstrate the Earth’s rotation. In the year 1851, it was demonstrated by Jean-Bernard Leon Foucault, a French physicist.
  • Rotation of the earth around its axis is responsible for Coriolis force.
  • The Coriolis impact describes the pattern of deflection taken by objects not firmly connected to the ground as they travel long distances around the Earth.
  • The Coriolis impact is responsible for many massive-scale weather patterns.
  • The key to the Coriolis effect lies in Earth’s rotation. Earth rotates faster at the Equator than it does on the poles.
  • Earth is wider on the Equator, so to make a rotation in a 24-hour period.

India sees reduction in stunting; but wasting, obesity are concerns: report

Commensurate with global and regional trends, India continues to show a reduction in stunting and recorded 1.6 crore fewer stunted children under five years in 2022 than in 2012, according to the Joint Malnutrition Estimates released by the UNICEF, the WHO and the World Bank.

However, wasting continues to remain a concern and so does growing levels of obesity.

Stunting among children under five years in India dropped from a prevalence rate of 41.6% in 2012 to 31.7% in 2022 with the numbers dropping from 52 lakh to 36 lakh. This was accompanied by India’s share of the global burden of stunting declining from 30% to 25% in the past decade.

The overall prevalence of wasting in 2022 was 18.7% in India, with a share of 49% in the global burden. The prevalence of obesity marginally increased in a decade from 2.2% in 2012 to 2.8% in 2022 with the numbers growing to 31.8 lakh from 27.5 lakh, thereby contributing to 8.8% of the global share. But the overall classification for obesity is low and much lower than the global prevalence of 5.6%.

Globally, stunting declined from a prevalence rate of 26.3% in 2012 to 22.3% in 2022.

There was no improvement on the weight issue worldwide, as its prevalence rate grew from 5.5% to 5.6%. There was a global prevalence of 6.8% in 2022, but there is no comparison available for past years as it is based on national-level country prevalence data.

The JME report says there is insufficient progress to reach the 2025 World Health Assembly global nutrition targets and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 targets and only about one-third of all countries are ‘on track’ to halve the number of children affected by stunting by 2030. Even fewer countries are expected to achieve the 2030 target of 3% prevalence for overweight.

In line with NFHS

The decline in stunting in India is commensurate with National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-5 (2019-2021) data which estimated its prevalence at 35.5% as against 38% in NFHS-4 (2016) and 48% in NFHS-3 (2006).

“This is the first time I noted in a global report that the problem has started to shift from South Asia. The relative contribution of India’s global burden from 29 to 24 was interesting. NFHS-5 showed evidence of continued reduction of stunting and instances of underweight children, though anaemia was disappointing. It also showed an improvement in access to health services — family planning, ante-natal care, deworming, breastfeeding counselling,” said Arjan Wagt, Chief of Nutrition and UNICEF India Deputy Representative, Programmes, adding that he remained hopeful of a further improvement in NFHS-6.

Wasting though is an outlier, Mr. Wagt explains. “In the past few years, we have learnt more about it. It is a challenging indicator, which assesses acute malnutrition over short periods… In India, on the basis of our analysis of a small cohort, we have found that two-thirds of children at 12 or 24 months had wasting at birth or at one month of age. This means two-thirds of the wasting is caused by maternal malnutrition.”



  • Stunting is defined as low height-for-age. It is the result of chronic or recurrent undernutrition, usually associated with poverty, poor maternal health and nutrition, frequent illness and/or inappropriate feeding and care in early life.
  • Stunting prevents children from reaching their physical and cognitive potential.


  • Wasting is defined as low weight-for-height. It often indicates recent and severe weight loss, although it can also persist for a long time.
  • It usually occurs when a person has not had food of adequate quality and quantity and/or they have had frequent or prolonged illnesses.
  • Wasting in children is associated with a higher risk of death if not treated properly.


Underweight is defined as low weight-for-age. A child who is underweight may be stunted, wasted or both.

Micronutrient deficiencies

Micronutrient deficiencies are a lack of vitamins and minerals that are essential for body functions such as producing enzymes, hormones and other substances needed for growth and development.

overweight, obesity and diet-related noncommunicable diseases (such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers).

‘From prevalence in eight States in 2001, dengue now a nationwide infection’

Faced with a shortage of entomologists, a trickier vector, increased travel, and less than optimal public participation for prevention, the infection geography of dengue, which was restricted to eight States in 2001, currently covers all the States and Union Territories in India. Dengue has now breached the country’s last bastion, Ladakh (with two cases in 2022), senior health officials say.

As the country gets ready to welcome the southwest monsoon, which is associated with the rise of certain diseases, including malaria, dengue and zika, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) confirmed that dengue’s infection geography has grown.

“During the past two decades, there has been a significant geographical spread of dengue with an 11-fold increase and repeated outbreaks. …Rural areas contributed approximately 32% of the total cases in 2015-16 and have increased to 41%-45% now,” experts maintained.

Half of world at risk

The World Health Organization estimates the global incidence of dengue has grown over recent decades, with half of the world population now at risk. The ICMR said that this risk from dengue, which is now endemic in more than 100 countries, has been propelled by several factors, including climate change, increased urbanisation and increased travel.

Himmat Singh, from the ICMR-National Institute of Malaria Research, notes that the problems in the control of the Aedes-borne disease are manifold. “Day-biting habit, multiple biting, long incubation period, fast transport, eggs retained up to one year, container breeding, human environment, and intermittent water supply and poor waste management at construction sites add to the problem,” Dr. Singh said.

According to the Central government’s paper on dengue outbreaks in India, the dengue vector is very different from the malaria vector and so, bio-environmental strategies alone will not work. This, coupled with the shortage of entomologists in the country, works to help the spread of dengue.

ICMR officials said that besides the work on vaccines, they were also looking at increasing awareness and promoting prevention, people’s participation, and the use of the latest technology, including satellite imaging and drones to map vulnerable areas.


Dengue is a mosquito-borne tropical disease caused by the dengue virus (Genus Flavivirus), transmitted by several species of female mosquito within the genus Aedes, principally Aedes aegypti.

There are 4 distinct, but closely related, serotypes (separate groups within a species of microorganisms that all share a similar characteristic) of the virus that cause dengue (DEN-1, DEN-2, DEN-3 and DEN-4).