Insights Daily Current Affairs, 18 July 2017

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Insights Daily Current Affairs, 18 July 2017


 

Paper 3 Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

 

Eco-bridges for the movement of tigers

 

Telangana State is planning to construct eco-friendly bridges over a canal cutting across the tiger corridor linking the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) in the Chandrapur district of Maharashtra with the forests in Telangana’s Kumram Bheem Asifabad district.

  • The Telangana Irrigation Department has given its consent for the construction of the eco-bridges. Recommendations on the size and locations of the bridges are awaited from the National Board of Wildlife.

eco bridges

What’s the plan?

The ‘eco-bridges’ will be constructed at key spots along the 72 km-long, and at some places over a kilometre wide. The plan involves laying of fertile soil to grow grass and plants over the structure, so that fragmentation of the reserve forest is camouflaged.

 

Background:

The concept emerged after visits by experts from the Wildlife Board of India and the Wildlife Institute of India. They were concerned about the large-scale destruction of pristine forest along the corridor, which would result in cutting off tiger movement between TATR and Bejjur.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 2 Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

Does a minimum wage kill jobs?

 

The Union Cabinet is expected to approve a bill that, among other things, mandates a universal minimum wage. The code empowers the Centre to set a minimum wage to help poor, unskilled workers earn more.

minimum wage

What’s the concern?

Economists, however, have warned for long that price floors prevent the available supply of goods from being fully sold. So, the minimum wage would logically hurt workers by increasing unemployment.

A study found that employment among the youth in Denmark decreased by one-third when they attained the age at which their minimum wage increases by 40%. Other economists have found similar evidence suggesting that a minimum wage increases unemployment.

 

An opposing viewpoint:

The above mentioned logic has been questioned by a famous 1993 study by David Card and Alan B. Krueger that made the case that a rise in the minimum wage in New Jersey actually decreased unemployment.

For instance, “Seattle’s Minimum Wage Experience 2015-16”, a 2017 study by researchers at the University of California Berkeley, found that since the city raised its minimum wage in 2015, unemployment dropped from 4.3% to 3.3%.

 

Way ahead:

Given such contradictory empirical findings, some say it may be wise to trust age-old economic wisdom. The minimum wage increases unemployment, except when it is set below the market price for labour; or only marginally higher, in which case the minimum wage enhances the bargaining power of workers.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

Paper 2 Topic: Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.

 

Centre seeks debate in SC on J&K special status

 

The Centre has asked the Supreme Court to debate on the special status granted to the State of Jammu and Kashmir, saying it was both a sensitive and constitutional matter. The court agreed to schedule the case before a three-judge Bench.

J&K special status

Background:

The centre’s response came on a PIL plea filed by a Delhi-based NGO, We the Citizens, contending that the J&K government, given the State’s special autonomous status under Articles 35A and 370, was discriminatory against non-residents as far as government jobs and real estate purchases were concerned.

 

J&K High Court ruling:

Jammu and Kashmir High Court had previously ruled that Article 370 assumed a place of permanence in the Constitution and the feature was beyond amendment, repeal or abrogation. The court said Article 35A gave “protection” to existing laws in force in the State.

It also observed that the President under Article 370 (1) was conferred with power to extend any provision of the Constitution to the State with such “exceptions and modifications” as may be deemed fit subject to consultation or concurrence with the State government. The High Court said J&K, while acceding to the Dominion of India, retained limited sovereignty and did not merge with it.

 

What is Article 370?

Article 370 of the Indian Constitution is a ‘temporary provision’ which grants special autonomous status to Jammu & Kashmir.

  • Under Part XXI of the Constitution of India, which deals with “Temporary, Transitional and Special provisions”, the state of Jammu & Kashmir has been accorded special status under Article 370.
  • All the provisions of the Constitution which are applicable to other states are not applicable to J&K.

 

Important provisions under the article:

  • According to this article, except for defence, foreign affairs, finance and communications, Parliament needs the state government’s concurrence for applying all other laws. Thus the state’s residents live under a separate set of laws, including those related to citizenship, ownership of property, and fundamental rights, as compared to other Indians.
  • Indian citizens from other states cannot purchase land or property in Jammu & Kashmir.
  • Under Article 370, the Centre has no power to declare financial emergency under Article 360 in the state. It can declare emergency in the state only in case of war or external aggression. The Union government can therefore not declare emergency on grounds of internal disturbance or imminent danger unless it is made at the request or with the concurrence of the state government.
  • Under Article 370 the Indian Parliament cannot increase or reduce the borders of the state.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

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

 

GM mustard policy: SC gives govt. time

 

The government has informed the Supreme Court that a policy decision on the commercial release of the Genetically Modified (GM) mustard crop is yet to be finalised. It said it was poring through the various suggestions on and objections to the commercial rollout of the GM crops.

  • The court has granted the government one week to report back on when the policy would be finalised. It said the policy should be good-intentioned and well-informed.

gm mustard

Background:

The court had on October 17, 2016, extended the stay on the commercial release of the GM mustard until further orders. It had asked the Centre to collect public opinion before the release. The government had assured the court that there would be no commercial release of GM seeds till the views of the public were collected and placed before the appraisal committee.

 

What is a GM crop?

A GM or transgenic crop is a plant that has a novel combination of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology.

For example, a GM crop can contain a gene(s) that has been artificially inserted instead of the plant acquiring it through pollination. The resulting plant is said to be “genetically modified” although in reality all crops have been “genetically modified” from their original wild state by domestication, selection, and controlled breeding over long periods of time.

 

GM crops in India:

The GM mustard, developed by a Delhi University institution, is only the second food crop which got its clearance from the central regulator. The GEAC had earlier in 2010 cleared the Bt Brinjal but the decision was not accepted by then environment minister Jairam Ramesh. Currently, only Bt Cotton – a non-food GM crop – is commercially cultivated in the country.

An application for commercial release of the GM Mustard was filed in December 2015. The GEAC had subsequently set up a sub-committee to examine the safety aspect of the use of transgenic variety of the mustard. The sub-committee had last year given its safety clearance while noting that the GM Mustard is safe for human consumption and environment. Decision of the GEAC was, however, vehemently opposed by environmentalists and anti-GM groups.

 

Sources: the hindu.


 

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

 

National strategic plan for malaria elimination

 

The ambitious National Strategic Plan (NSP) for Malaria Elimination (2017-22) has been launched. The NSP, a year-wise roadmap for malaria elimination across the country, is based on last year’s National Framework for Malaria Elimination, which was, in turn, spurred by World Health Organisation’s Global Technical Strategy for Malaria, 2016-2030.

malaria control

What is this plan to eradicate malaria?

The NSP divides the country into four categories, from 0 to 3. Zero, the first category, has 75 districts that have not reported any case of malaria for the last three years.

  • Category 1 has 448 districts, in which the annual parasite incidence (API, or the number of positive slides for the parasite in a year) is less than one per 1,000 population. In Category 2, which has 48 districts, the API is one and above, but less than two per 1,000 population. Category 3 has 107 districts, reporting an API of two and above per 1,000 population.
  • The plan is to eliminate malaria (zero indigenous cases) by 2022 in all Category 1 and 2 districts. The remaining districts are to be brought under a pre-elimination and elimination programme.
  • The NSP also aims to maintain a malaria-free status for areas where transmission has been interrupted. It seeks to achieve universal case detection and treatment services in endemic districts to ensure 100% diagnosis of all suspected cases, and full treatment of all confirmed cases.

 

Components of the plan:

The plan has four components, based on WHO recommendations: diagnosis and case management; surveillance and epidemic response; prevention — integrated vector management; ‘cross-cutting’ interventions, which include advocacy, communication, research and development, and other initiatives.

 

What kind of challenges is the NSP likely to face?

One of the biggest challenges is the shortage of manpower. According to the Health Ministry, there are only about 40,000 multipurpose health workers (MPWs) against the approximately 80,000 sanctioned posts in the 1,50,000 subcentres in the country. Other problems include access to conflict-affected tribal areas, and to areas with a high malaria endemicity and insecticide resistance. High endemicity states include those in the Northeast, which share borders with neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, where the prevalence of malaria is high.

 

Background:

In India, malaria is caused by the parasites Plasmodium falciparum (Pf) and Plasmodium Vivax (Pv). Pf is found more in the forest areas, whereas Pv is more common in the plains. The disease is mainly concentrated in the tribal and remote areas of the country. The majority of reporting districts are in the country’seastern and central parts — the largest number of cases are found in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, and the Northeastern states of Tripura, Mizoram and Meghalaya.

 

Sources: the hindu.

 


Facts for Prelims:

Sohum:

  • The government has launched a low-cost indigenously developed hearing screening device for newborns called Sohum to cater to nearly 26 million babies born every year in India.
  • This device, which allows screening without requiring babies to be sedated, once available across the country can help minimise hearing impairment or even reverse the damage.
  • The battery-operated noninvasive Sohum uses brainstem auditory evoked response technology.