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Insights Daily Current Events, 29 December 2014

Insights Daily Current Events, 29 December 2014

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Nutritional intake grows in India

The National Sample Survey Office’s data on nutritional intake shows that per capita calorie intake in India grew marginally for the first time in 30 years and protein intake grew for the first time in over a decade.

Important observations made by the Report:

  • The data shows that per capita calorie consumption rose to 2099 kilocalories per day in rural areas and 2058 kilocalories in urban areas. However, both numbers are still below a planning commission benchmark of 2400 kilocalories per day.
  • The proportion of acutely undernourished people seems to be declining. The proportion of Indians who get less than 80% of the recommended nutritional intake has declined.
  • Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra saw a slight increase in their per capita calorie consumption between 2009 and 2012, the number has fallen in rural Gujarat.
  • Karnataka’s per capita income is nearly twice that of Jharkhand, but both have nearly the same average calorie consumption in rural areas.
  • The share of cereals in total calorie intake has steadily decreased.
  • The share of meats and dairy has grown only slightly.
  • The share of oils and fats has grown sharply.

The Data says that the implications of this change are unclear. Why?

  • India’s most developed states have the lowest average calorie consumption, pointing to the fact that higher calorie intake may not be a direct predictor of well being.
  • The top 5% of rural Indians consume double the calories as the bottom 5%.
  • With increase in per capita income, calorie consumption increases. But this is not visible in some states.

A possible explanation for the decreased calorie consumption even with the rising incomes could be lower levels of physical activity.

Sources: The Hindu.

GCF to consider funds from private sector

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) will consider accepting funds from the private sector in June 2015 to bolster much need finances for climate action.

  • The GCF which has crossed the ten billion $ mark during the U.N. climate talks, still needs much more to fill its coffers and help developing countries.
  • Now, the first batch of mitigation and adaptation funds from the GCF would be disbursed by October 2015. The Adaptation Fund set up in 2001 was to be financed by a share of money from the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) but is virtually stagnant now.

GCF:

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is a fund established in 2010 and is within the framework of the UNFCCC.

Why it was founded?

  • It was founded as a mechanism to redistribute money from the developed to the developing world, in order to assist the developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change.
  • It was also founded to make a significant and ambitious contribution to the global efforts towards attaining the goals set by the international community to combat climate change.

How it helps?

  • The Green Climate Fund will support projects, programmes, policies and other activities in developing country Parties using thematic funding windows. It is intended to be the centrepiece of efforts to raise Climate Finance of $100 billion a year by 2020.
  • The Fund will promote the paradigm shift towards low-emission and climate-resilient development pathways by providing support to developing countries to limit or reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the impacts of climate change, taking into account the needs of those developing countries particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.
  • The Fund will strive to maximize the impact of its funding for adaptation and mitigation, and seek a balance between the two, while promoting environmental, social, economic and development co-benefits and taking a gender-sensitive approach.

Who will govern the Fund?

  • The Fund is governed and supervised by a Board that will have full responsibility for funding
  • It is governed by a Board of 24 members and was initially supported by an Interim Secretariat.
  • The Fund is accountable to, and functions under the guidance of, the COP.

Sources: The Hindu, gcf.org.

15 States ratify National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill

15 States have ratified the Constitution (121st Amendment) Bill, 2014.

  • It will give a constitutional status to the commission. The NJAC Bill, passed by Parliament in August, had to be ratified by at least half the State legislatures before it got the Constitutional status.

About the NJAC and 121st constitution amendment Bill:

NJAC is a proposed body responsible for the appointment and transfer of judges to the higher judiciary in India. JAC Bill seeks to replace the collegium system of appointing the judges of Supreme Court and 24 High Courts with judicial appointments commission wherein the executive will have a say in appointing the judges.

  • A new article, Article 124A, (which provides for the composition of the NJAC) will be inserted into the Constitution.
  • The Bill provides for the procedure to be followed by the NJAC for recommending persons for appointment as Chief Justice of India and other Judges of the Supreme Court (SC), and Chief Justice and other Judges of High Courts (HC).
  • The amendment bill seeks changes in articles 124,217,222 and 231.

According to the bill the commission will consist of the following members:

  • Chief Justice of India (Chairperson, ex officio)
  • Two other senior judges of the Supreme Court next to the Chief Justice of India – ex officio
  • The Union Minister of Law and Justice, ex-officio
  • Two eminent persons (to be nominated by a committee consisting of the Chief Justice of India, Prime Minister of India and the Leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha or where there is no such Leader of Opposition, then, the Leader of single largest Opposition Party in Lok Sabha), provided that of the two eminent persons, one person would be from the Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes or OBC or minority communities or a woman. The eminent persons shall be nominated for a period of three years and shall not be eligible for re-nomination.

Functions of the Commission:

  • Recommending persons for appointment as Chief Justice of India, Judges of the Supreme Court, Chief Justices of High Courts and other Judges of High Courts.
  • Recommending transfer of Chief Justices and other Judges of High Courts from one High Court to any other High Court.
  • Ensuring that the persons recommended are of ability and integrity.

Under the present Collegium system, the Chief Justice of India would consult the four senior most judges of the Supreme Court for Supreme Court appointments and two senior-most judges for high court appointments.

How the NJAC will help:

  • The NJAC, once it came into existence, is expected to usher in transparency in judicial appointments in the highest courts and end the highest judiciary’s two-decade-old grip over appointments of judges through the collegium system.
  • It would restore an equal role for the executive in higher judicial appointments.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki, prsindia.org.

Cost hikes hurting Navy upgrade: panel

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence has rapped the government for the steep cost escalations and repeated delays in the construction and commissioning of naval vessels in the country. The committee made the observations in a detailed report submitted to Parliament last week.

Observations made by the committee:

  • Three of the major projects which saw steep cost overruns are Project 15A for guided-missile destroyers, Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) and Project 28 for Anti-submarine corvettes.
  • There has been a spurt in accidents of naval vessels in the recent past and in most cases the reason for mishap is either material failure or human error.
  • Reviewing the progress on the new mountain strike corps being raised by the Army, the committee expressed dismay that the government had not made any additional fund allocation and it was being raised with “war wastage reserves.”
  • An amount of Rs. 5,000 crore has been earmarked for it, but it is not over and above the actual budget allocated and the Army has been asked to raise this corps out of its own budget.
  • The committee also expressed dissatisfaction over critical shortages in missiles and artillery guns and developing basic products such as rifles. There was failure on the part of the government in procuring life-saving bullet proof vests for the troops jeopardising the lives of thousands of soldiers.

The committee stated that if this trend was allowed to continue, all important acquisitions would be delayed resulting in compromising the national security in a big way. The committee expressed disappointment at the delays in defence procurement and insufficient fund allocations, which are severely affecting defence preparedness and endangering national security.

Sources: The Hindu.

Indian n-facilities under IAEA safety umbrella

Paving the way for import of fuel for its nuclear reactors, India will complete the process of placing its civilian reactors under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards in the next two days.

  • So far 20 facilities have been placed under IAEA safeguards. These reactors are now eligible to use imported uranium.
  • Indian nuclear reactors have been running below the capacity “due to the mismatch of power and supply demand of uranium.

Why place reactors under IAEA safeguards?

  • This will enable India to use international fuel for civilian reactors.
  • A deal was signed under which India was to sign and ratify the Additional Protocol of the IAEA. A separation plan was chalked out after the deal, segregating the military and civilian reactors.
  • The civilian reactors were to be placed under the IAEA safeguards by December 2014, which will enable India to use the much needed international fuel for civilian reactors.

IAEA:

The IAEA is the world’s centre for cooperation in the nuclear field. It was set up as the world’s “Atoms for Peace” organization in 1957 within the United Nations family. The Agency works with its Member States and multiple partners worldwide to promote the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear technologies.

  • It seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons.
  • IAEA reports to both the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council.
  • The IAEA has its headquarters in Vienna, Austria.
  • The IAEA serves as an intergovernmental forum for scientific and technical cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear technology and nuclear power worldwide.
  • The programs of the IAEA encourage the development of the peaceful applications of nuclear technology, provide international safeguards against misuse of nuclear technology and nuclear materials, and promote nuclear safety (including radiation protection) and nuclear security standards and their implementation.
  • IAEA financial resources include the regular budget and voluntary contributions. The General Conference sets the annual regular budget and addresses extra-budgetary funds as well as voluntary contributions made to the Technical Cooperation Fund.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Safeguards is a system of inspection and verification of the peaceful uses of nuclear materials as part of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), supervised by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Sources: The Hindu.

Huge population at fluorosis risk

With drinking water in 14,132 habitations in 19 States still containing fluoride above the permissible levels, the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry fears that a huge population is at risk of serious health conditions such as skeletal fluorosis. The Ministry has now urged the Drinking Water and Sanitation Ministry to ensure the supply of safe drinking water in these habitations.

According to the Data collected by the Drinking water and Sanitation Ministry:

  • Rajasthan has the highest number of such habitations (7,670), affecting 48,84,613 people.
  • Telangana has 1,174 such districts with 19,22,783 affected people.
  • Karnataka has 1,122 such districts and Madhya Pradesh 1,055.
  • Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chattisgarh, Maharashtra, Odisha, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh too face the problem.

What the WHO says?

  • The World Health Organization guideline value for fluoride is 5 mg per litre, with a target of between 0.8 and 1.2 mg per litre to maximise benefits and minimise harmful effects. Fluoride levels in the body depend on climate and intake of the chemical from drinking water and other sources.
  • Fluoride contamination affects the teeth and bones and long-term excessive exposure causes abdominal pain, excessive saliva, nausea, vomiting, seizures and muscle spasms.
  • Fluoride levels above 1.5 mg per litre causes pitting of tooth enamel and deposits in bones. Levels above 10 mg per litre cause the crippling skeletal fluorosis.

Government’s initiative:

  • The government has started the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Fluorosis in 2008-09. In 2013-14, the programme was brought under the National Rural Health Mission, which has so far covered 111 districts.
  • The programme includes surveillance of fluorosis in the community, training and manpower support, establishment of diagnostic facilities, treatment and health education.
  • The Indian Council of Medical Research has formed a task force on fluorosis to address issues related to prevention and control.

Fluorosis:

Fluorosis is a crippling and painful disease caused by intake of fluoride. Fluoride can enter the body through drinking water, food, toothpaste, mouth rinses and other dental products; drugs, and fluoride dust and fumes from industries using fluoride containing salt and or hydrofluoric acid.

Fluorosis occurs as:

  • Dental Fluorosis
  • Skeletal Fluorosis and·
  • Non-skeletal Fluorosis

Drinking water is typically the most significant source of fluoride. The control of drinking-water quality is therefore critical in preventing fluorosis.

How to remove fluoride from water?

  • Fluoride in water is mostly of geological origin. Waters with high levels of fluoride content are mostly found at the foot of high mountains and in areas where the sea has made geological deposits.
  • Removal of excessive fluoride from drinking-water is difficult and expensive. The preferred option is to find a supply of safe drinking-water with safe fluoride levels.
  • Where access to safe water is already limited, de-fluoridation may be the only solution. Methods include: use of bone charcoal, contact precipitation, use of Nalgonda or activated alumina.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki, WHO.