Insights Daily Current Events, 30 January 2016

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Insights Daily Current Events, 30 January 2016

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Paper 2 Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

Zika virus (update)

Sensing the urgency, the government of India recently constituted a special, technical group to monitor the spread of the Zika virus in other countries.

  • The centre has assured that it is closely monitoring the situation and has taken all necessary steps to ensure that India is well prepared in case of any eventuality. The government is mainly focusing on strengthening the surveillance system.
  • Emphasis has also been given on prevention to control the spread of the Aedes mosquito that breeds in clean water. Aedes mosquito which transmits dengue also transmits Zika virus.
  • There have been no reports of outbreaks of Zika in India though there is concern that given the ubiquity of air-travel, carriers of the virus may arrive in India.

WHO recently warned that the spread of the mosquito-borne disease has gone from a mild threat to one of alarming proportions. The Zika virus has been associated with inexplicable spike in Brazil, of babies being born with unusually-small heads. The virus has been detected in some people in the U.S. and the U.K. who have said they had travelled to South America.

sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 1 Topic: poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.

‘Urban poor own nominal assets’

New data from the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) show that average asset holding of the bottom 10% of urban Indian households is around Rs. 291.

  • The survey was conducted in 2012-13 and was made public recently.

Important observations made in the survey:

  • Most households surveyed reported owning some kind of physical or financial assets. On an average, rural and urban households own assets worth Rs.10 lakh and Rs.23 lakh respectively. However, the average hides a wide variation in the distribution of assets.
  • The bottom 10% (in terms of total assets) of rural households had assets worth Rs.25,071 on an average, largely as a result of the value of land, while the figure for their urban counterparts was just Rs.291, implying that the urban poor hardly own any assets.
  • On the other hand, the top 10% of the rural and urban population had average assets worth Rs.57 lakh and Rs.1.5 crore respectively.
  • The data also show that 31% of the rural households and 22% of the urban households were under debt.

Composition:

  • Land and buildings held the dominant share in asset holdings, as was the case in the previous decade, comprising more than 90% of all assets in both urban and rural areas. The report notes that the share of land as a proportion of total assets has increased with time, possibly due to the escalation of land prices.
  • Financial assets that include shares in companies and cooperative societies, national saving certificates, and deposits in companies and banks, were 2% of total assets in rural areas, compared with 5% in urban areas.

Performance of various states:

  • Haryana and Punjab have the highest average assets per household in rural areas, while Maharashtra and Kerala were on top in urban areas.
  • Odisha lay at the bottom in both rural and urban India.

sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 2 Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

WHO unit to focus on achieving universal health coverage

The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced setting up of a dedicated unit that will focus on achieving universal health coverage (UHC).

  • It should be noted here that achieving universal health coverage is one of the targets of sustainable development goals (SDGs). The goals within SDGs emphasise the need to achieve universal health coverage (UHC) by ensuring financial risk protection and improving access to essential health care services for those marginalised.

Was it necessary?

So far, the quality of services had been neglected within the universal health coverage (UHC) dialogue. It is with this in mind the WHO has formed a special unit to address UHC & quality.

What will the special unit do?

This special unit will focus on three key aspects: alignment of country engagements and global framework, health service resilience, and quality and lastly establishing partnerships to reach these goals.

Way ahead:

  • Shortly, the WHO will launch a global learning lab for UHC, which will help in aligning national policies and strategies to reach UHC.
  • The aspect of health service resilience, will focus on learning from experiences in recovery in Ebola-affected countries — especially by establishing linkages between UHC, post shock recovery.

What are the SDGs?

The SDGs are a set of 17 goals and 169 targets aimed at resolving global social, economic and environmental problems.

  • Aiming to encompass almost every aspect of human life, the main themes of the SDGs are ending poverty, tackling inequality and combating climate change.
  • According to the UN’s own estimates, achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets meant to transform the world will require over 250 billion dollars annually for the next 15 years.

These new goals, which replace MDGs, were adopted by the United Nations in September 2015.

sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 3 Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

Fiscal deficit at 88% of annual target

According to the recently released data, the government’s fiscal deficit for the first nine months (April-December) of this financial year stood at 88% of the annual target comparable with 100.2% of the target it managed during the same period in the previous financial year.

  • The April-December fiscal deficit stood at Rs.4.88 lakh crore, which is 88% of the Rs.5.55 lakh crore target for the full year set by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the Budget.
  • This figure amounts to 3.9% of the GDP. The improvement is mainly on account of buoyancy in tax collections, which have kept revenue deficit in check.
  • However, many industry leaders want this target to be pushed back in favour of increased public expenditure, which, according to them, will boost the domestic demand.

Some experts want the government to increase public spending and still keep a tight grip on the fiscal deficit target. But, how can this be achieved?

  • One way is to revive PPPs, and the Kelkar Committee report laid out a good roadmap for this.
  • Another way is to bring to resolution the large number of tax dispute cases held up in court, which will then release the tax arrears.
  • The third option is to make use of the huge saving the government is incurring due to falling oil prices.

Definition: Fiscal deficit is the difference between total revenue and total expenditure of the government. It is an indication of the total borrowings needed by the government.

Revenue deficit is concerned with the revenue expenditures and revenue receipts of the government. It refers to excess of revenue expenditure over revenue receipts during the given fiscal year. Revenue deficit signifies that government’s own revenue is insufficient to meet the expenditures on normal functioning of government departments and provisions for various services.

sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 2 Topic: Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

Kamlesh Kumar Pandey appointed as the CCPD

Kamlesh Kumar Pandey has been appointed as the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (CCPD) for a period of three years.

  • Previously, Pandey has worked with many civil society initiatives like ‘Sewa Bharti’ working for rehabilitation of slum dwellers and ‘Akhil Bhartiya Dristihin Kalyan Sangh’ working for visually challenged persons.

About CCPD:

The Office of the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities is a statutory government agency functioning under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment of Government of India. It has been set up under the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights & Full Participation) (PWD) Act, 1995.

  • The CCPD coordinates with the state governments’ commissioners to monitor the utilization of funds disbursed by the central government.
  • The body also looks into the facilities made available to persons with disabilities and to submit reports to the Centre on the implementation of the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995.

Appointment of commissioner: The Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (CCPD) is appointed by the Central Government from amongst persons having special knowledge or practical experience in matters relating to rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities.

sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 3 Topic: Infrastructure-energy.

‘US firms keen to participate in India’s solar programme’

A recent study by the US Exim Bank has indicated that several American companies are looking at opportunities in India’s renewable energy sector and are keen to participate in the National Solar Mission. A number of US based companies are looking for opportunities to expand their business in India.

Background:

It may noted here that, in 2014, the US dragged India to WTO on the country’s solar mission. The US alleged that India’s programme appears to discriminate against the US solar equipment by requiring solar energy producers to use locally manufactured cells and by offering subsidies to those developers who use domestic equipment. It also alleged that forced localisation requirements restricted US exports to Indian markets.

  • India had lost this case as the WTO ruled that India’s domestic content requirements under its solar power programme were inconsistent with the international norms.
  • After losing the battle at WTO last year, India is looking to modify its solar power programme.

National Solar Mission, launched in 2010, aims to establish India as a global leader in solar energy by creating the policy conditions for its diffusion across the country as quickly as possible. The Mission has set the ambitious target of deploying 20,000 MW of grid connected solar power by 2022 and aims at reducing the cost of solar power generation in the country.

The US primarily exports thin film technology for the solar panel.

sources: business standard.