PIB News 4th Oct, 2020

(General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations, Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.)

Woman Sarpanch from Punjab leads the movement of ‘water for all’
‘Jal Jeevan Mission’ warrior transforms her village through community participation

It’s a typical busy morning for Ms. Kulwinder Kaur Brar. Even as she hurriedly wraps up household chores, her focus is on the meetings ahead. Her day will be hectic as she meets with stakeholders, Government officials, corporates, NRIs and most importantly with her own team. Kulwinder’s life is very much like any other official, with just one exception. She is a village sarpanch from Memha Bhagwana village in Bathinda district of Punjab, who has imbibed the contemporary work style for greater good.

Since childhood, Kulwinder has seen village women suffering due to paucity of potable water in the village. Kulwinder was resolute to change their plight, and soon after becoming Sarpanch of the village, she started working towards the cause but with a smarter approach. Her idea and intent were superb, but to kickstart them, huge funds were required. With the launch of Jal Jeevan Mission, things were much more streamlined and soon the piped water scheme for providing water in every rural household was sanctioned for Mehma village.

To take the mission further, the Village Water & Sanitation Committee (VWSC) members went house-to-house explaining how piped water supply will not only save time and energy but will also provide clean drinking water of prescribed quality. The details of the scheme were informed where in 10% capital expenditure required to be contributed for in-village infrastructure. Families were encouraged to contribute and get a tap connection so that they get more time during the day for productive works. Most people agreed to pay the money towards the installation of the water connection as availability of water was a serious concern. But there were few households in the village who could not afford the contribution. Gram Panchayat took the decision to waive off their charges. The expenditure towards their household tap connections were taken up by the Panchayat. Today, for any new water tap connection the VWSC charges Rs. 500/ from the general household and Rs. 250/ from that belonging to scheduled castes.

The next milestone was to regularly take up water issue in Panchayat meetings. Patriarchy was the main hurdle in implementing this idea.  Although Kulwinder lead the Gram Panchayat as a Sarpanch but there were very few women who actually attended the Gram Sabha. It was a tough task to mobilize the women. Today, nearly 80% women attend the Gram Sabha and share their concerns. Seeing a woman at the helm of affairs instills confidence in women who are more participative and are willing to take leadership roles.

Jal Jeevan Mission’s IEC Campaign was a great help in steering the community. Role of women and their importance in water management was part of the campaign. In order to carry out regular awareness, an all women Village Water & Sanitation Committee was formed in the village since the women in the village believe that it’s the women who run the house, hence, they can manage water better.

Thanks to Jal Jeevan Mission! A silent revolution is happening in villages. The piped water connection has completely changed the lives of women. They are saved from the drudgery of fetching water. With a tap at home, women have more spare time in their lives.  Another visible change is that the dropout rate has reduced since piped water connection has reached the village. A number of adolescents have re-enrolled in the schools.

A five-member committee has been formed in the Panchayat which periodically tests the water source and household tap connection to assess the purity and standard of water supplied in the village. While skilled masons, electricians and plumbers are available in the village for various works related to drinking water supply, now women are also being trained to carry out minor repair worksand maintain the existing infrastructure.

Today Mehma Bhagwana village is a perfect example of community participation and mobilization to own the JJM scheme where the village has 100 percent functional household water connection and running it successfully for a population of 1,484 people, which can be emulated by other villages.

But for Kulwinder Kaur, the journey has just begun, as she now plans to work towards grey water management & installation of solar lights in the village. Under her leadership, she has other plans to see women from her village be economically independent. She is in the process of mobilizing them under the umbrella of SHGs. She says, ‘’I will ensure that these women from the village should take up some gainful economic activity to be financially independent and contribute to the family kitty.’’

The flagship programme, Jal Jeevan Mission is under implementation in partnership with States with the aim to provide drinking water to every rural household of the country by 2024. In the past one year, more than 2.30 Crore households have already been provided tap water connections across the country. As of now, 5.50 Crore households now get assured safe tap water in their homes, i.e. almost 30% of total rural households. In a recent letter dated 29 September, 2020, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has appealed to people and Gram Panchayats to make Jal Jeevan Mission a people’s movement.


(General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management, Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.)

Moving towards a vaccine to reduce yield loss due to diseases in rice
Dr Tayi Lavanya and her team is developing new disease control strategies which they can use as vaccines that activate the rice immune system.

We may be close to a vaccine to boost the immune system of rice. A scientist has uncovered the mechanism by which a bacterium called Xoo (Xanthomonas oryzaepv. oryzae) that causes a serious bacterial leaf blight disease in rice interacts with rice plant and cause disease.

Dr Tayi Lavanya, a recipient of DST-Inspire Faculty Fellowship, instituted by the Department of Science & Technology, Govt. of India, working in Centre for Plant Molecular Biology (CPMB), Osmania University, Hyderabadalong with her research group is working to identify and develop few molecules which are derived from either the Xoo bacterium or from the infected rice cell walls.

The team is developing new disease control strategies which they can use as vaccines that activate the rice immune system and provide resistance to rice plants from subsequent infections by pathogens.

Xanthomonas oryzaepv. oryzae, or commonly known as Xoo infection, cause huge yield losses to rice cultivation throughout the world. Treatment of rice with cellulase, a cell wall degrading enzyme secreted by Xoo induces rice immune responses and protects rice from subsequent infections by Xoo.

The team led by Dr Lavanya carried out biochemical and functional studies on plant cell wall degrading enzymes secreted by Xoo, which has provided key insights into the mechanisms by which the Xoo pathogen interacts with rice plant and cause disease.

Using the leads obtained from her Ph. D work, Dr Lavanya, along with her research group have zeroed in on few molecules derived from either the Xoo bacterium and from infected rice cell walls which they hope to develop into vaccines. 

Currently, Dr. Lavanya’s group is working on a cellulase protein secreted by Xoo. This cellulase protein has the features of a typical vaccine as it is a potent elicitor of rice immune responses. Pre-treatment of rice plants with this protein provides resistance to rice against subsequent Xoo infection.

In order to study how exactly this protein induces the rice immune system, her group is testing whether any surface exposed peptide of this cellulase protein is being recognized by the rice immune system leading to the activation of immune responses. They are also exploring whether the rice cell wall degradation products (sugars) that are released by the activity of this cellulase protein on rice cell walls elicit rice immunity. The elicitor molecules (peptide/sugars), once identified, will be used as a vaccine to activate the rice immune system and induce resistance in rice plants to subsequent infections by pathogens. 

So far, improving the resistance of rice plants by introducing Resistance “R” genes has been the best way to control this disease which involves breeding or gene manipulation techniques that are laborious and time-consuming. Also, the introduced of “R” genes provide only race-specific resistance that will prevent infections by only specific strains of Xoo. But the elicitor molecule that will be identified in this work will have the potential to induce a broad-spectrum resistance, which will be effective not only against Xoo but also against other pathogens.

According to Dr Lavanya, this study will reveal novel elicitors of rice defence responses and provide new knowledge about the basic aspects of plant-pathogen interactions that might lead to new ways of reducing yield losses for a crop that at least half of the world’s population depends on.


(General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management, Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.)

Scientists from Agharkar Research Institute, Pune discover two new species of pipeworts from the Western Ghats of Maharashtra & Karnataka
The new species belong to a plant group known for their varied medicinal properties

Two new species of a plant group known for their varied medicinal properties have been discovered in the Western Ghats – one of the thirty-five hot-spots of biological diversity in the world.

The plant group known as pipeworts (Eriocaulon), whichcompletes their life cycle within a small period during monsoon, exhibits great diversity in the Western Ghats, having around 111 species in India.

Most of these are reported from the Western Ghats and Eastern Himalayas, and around 70% of them are endemic to the country. One species, Eriocaulon cinereum, is well known for its anti-cancerous, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and astringent properties. E. quinquangulare is used against liver diseases. E. madayiparense is an anti-bacterial from Kerala. The medicinal properties of the newly discovered species are yet to be explored.

Scientists from Agharkar Research Institute (ARI), Pune, an autonomous institute of the Department of Science & Technology, Government of India, have recently found two new species of pipeworts in Maharashtra and Karnataka.

They found the new species while exploring the biodiversity of the Western Ghats. They wanted to trace the evolutionary history of the genus Eriocaulon and made extensive efforts to collect as many species as possible from India, especially from the Western Ghats.

“While critically examining our collection, we came across two accessions, which showed different floral characters than earlier known species. Hence, we studied morphology and its DNA to confirm the novelty,” said Dr. Ritesh Kumar Choudhary, the lead author of the study.

"Identification of the species belonging to Eriocaulon is very difficult as they all look similar, which is why the genus is often referred to as 'Taxonomist’s nightmare'. Its tiny flowers and seeds make it difficult to distinguish between different species," Dr. Choudhary pointed out. Their study was published in the journals 'Phytotaxa' and ‘Annales Botanici Fennici’.

The one reported from Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra was named as Eriocaulon parvicephalum (due to its minute inflorescence size), and the other reported from Kumta, Karnataka was named as Eriocaulon karaavalense (named after Karaavali = Coastal Karnataka region).

 “Future studies will focus on elucidating the evolutionary history of the genus in India. A thorough investigation of the phylogenetic relationship between all Indian species would also help in prioritizing the conservation of threatened species in India. We are also trying to develop DNA barcodes, which will enable us to identify the species with just a portion of the leaf,” said Dr. Choudhary's Ph.D. student Ashwini Darshetkar.




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