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Insights Daily Current Events, 01 August 2015

Insights Daily Current Events, 01 August 2015


No special category status, Centre tells AP

In a major blow to Andhra Pradesh, Union minister of state for planning, Rao Inderjit Singh recently announced that special category status would not be granted to any new state in the country in the present circumstances.

  • The Union Government has said that special status for states cannot be granted as the 14th Finance Commission is against it. However, only special development packages will be considered.
  • The 14th Finance Commission has not made any distinction between special and general category States in the recommendation of horizontal distribution among the States.
  • This is being seen as a major disappointment to the Andhra Pradesh Government as it is heavily banking on the concessions/incentives that would accrue to the state if it were given special status. Given its precarious financial position, Andhra Pradesh is expected to suffer a major hit if these privileges are not given to it.

Special category states in India:

The decision to grant special category status to States lie with the National Development Council.

Background: Initially, three states namely Assam, Nagaland and Jammu & Kashmir were accorded special category status and later on eight other states were also given special category status namely: Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Uttarakhand, Tripura, Himachal Pradesh, and Sikkim and thus the list is now increased to eleven.

The bases on the basis of which NDC decides whether a State should be accorded special status or not includes:

  • hilly and difficult terrain.
  • low population density and or sizeable share of tribal population.
  • strategic location along borders with neighboring countries.
  • economic and infrastructure backwardness and non-viable nature of state finances.

Other details:

  • In order to achieve the status of a special category state, a state has to project itself as socioeconomically or strategically vulnerable state.
  • The Finance Commission is entrusted with the work of distribution of central tax revenues among states. The Finance Commission also recommends the principles governing non-plan grants and loans to states.
  • The special category states get 30% of the total assistance for all states while the other states share the remaining 70%.
  • The nature of the assistance also varies for special category states. Normal Central Assistance (NCA) is split into 90% grants and 10% loans for special category states, while the ratio between grants and loans is 30:70 for other states.

Sources: The Hindu, prsindia.

Two-thirds of rural households still use firewood for cooking

Recently released data from the National Sample Survey (NSS) show that over two-thirds of households in rural India still rely on firewood for cooking.

The data relate to a survey conducted by the NSSO on a nationally representative sample during 2011-12.

Details of the survey:

  • Over two-thirds of households use liquefied petroleum gas for cooking in urban areas, but 14% of urban households — including nearly half of the poorest 20%— still rely on firewood.
  • The data show that the use of firewood for cooking has declined only very slowly over the years in rural India going from 78.2% of all rural households in 1993-94 to 67.3% in 2011-12.
  • LPG use in rural households has grown relatively fast, from fewer than two per cent of rural households two decades ago to 15% in 2011-12.
  • In North Indian States, cow-dung cake remains one of the major fuels for cooking.
  • The use of cooking fuel is sharply dictated by class — the use of firewood drops steadily with rising incomes in rural and urban areas, and LPG use is highest among the richest classes.
  • The data show 87% of Scheduled Tribe households and 70% of Scheduled Caste households in rural India use firewood, compared with 57% of others.
  • Tamil Nadu had the highest use of LPG among rural households, with over a third using it for cooking, followed by Kerala and Punjab. The use of LPG was least in Chhattisgarh (1.5% of households) followed by Jharkhand (2.9%) and Odisha (3.9%).
  • The majority of households in the country uses electricity as its primary source of lighting, but over a fourth of rural households still rely on kerosene.
  • Over the past decade, the proportion of households using kerosene to light their houses has, however, halved in rural India.
  • The use of electricity was the highest in rural A.P., Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, where nearly all rural households used electricity to light their homes.

Sources: The Hindu.

Russia, China to counter U.S.-led ‘Asia Pivot’

Russia has released a new naval doctrine that singles out China as its core partner in the Pacific, signalling Moscow and Beijing’s push towards countering the Japan backed “Asia Pivot” of the U.S.

  • The naval doctrine, which will be valid till 2020, underscores that friendly ties with China in the Pacific are one of the cornerstones of Moscow’s new policy.
  • Experts have said that such announcements can cement Washington’s “Asia Pivot” doctrine which envisages that 60% of the total U.S. armed forces would be deployed under the Pacific Command, with China as its focal point.

What is Asia Pivot doctrine?

  • The “Pivot to Asia” doctrine marks a decisive shift in the US foreign policy. The doctrine essentially envisages a rebalance of US relationships vis-a-vis Asian states and a restructuring of priorities for the American foreign policy establishment.
  • Under this doctrine, the US’ political attention will increasingly shift from Euro-Atlantic region to the Indo-Pacific region, particularly focusing on East Asian states in order to contain the Chinese meteoric rise.
  • This doctrine adopts a multidimensional approach encompassing economic, political and security issues to strengthen US engagement with Asian states. It advocates multilateralism with strong emphasis on trade and economic partnerships while subtly combining hard power and soft power instruments to gain predominance in the Indo-Pacific region.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.

Vaccine developed to fight Ebola

A new vaccine developed against Ebola by Public Health Agency of Canada has shown 100 % efficiency in a trial that was carried out in Guinea. This scientific accomplishment is likely to bring the West African epidemic to an end.


  • A dummy virus (vesicular stomatitis virus, or VSV) was designed with diluted elements of Ebola. As the risk-free virus enters a human body, it alarms the immune system, which launches a scathing attack on the intruder, killing it along with the deadly Ebola virus.
  • The scientists have deployed “the ring” vaccination methodology in the vaccine trial, which means, 4000 people who had had a minimum or a maximum contact with 100 diseased persons were vaccinated with VSV. The scientists observed that the vaccinated community blocked the virus.


  • Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal illness in humans. It is a disease of humans and other primates caused by an ebolavirus.
  • Symptoms start two days to three weeks after contracting the virus, with a fever, sore throat, muscle pain and headaches.
  • Typically, vomiting, diarrhea and rash follow, along with decreased functioning of the liver and kidneys. Around this time, affected people may begin to bleed both within the body and externally.
  • The virus may be acquired upon contact with blood or bodily fluids of an infected animal.
  • Fruit bats are believed to be a carrier and may spread the virus without being affected. Once human infection occurs, the disease may spread between people, as well.
  • In order to reduce the spread, the World Health Organization recommends raising community awareness of the risk factors for Ebola infection and the protective measures individuals can take. These include avoiding contact with infected people and regular hand washing using soap and water. Traditional burial rituals, especially those requiring washing or embalming of bodies, should be discouraged or modified.

Quarantine: Quarantine, also known as enforced isolation, is usually effective in decreasing spread. Governments often quarantine areas where the disease is occurring or individuals who may be infected.

Sources: The Hindu, WHO.

Scheme for Development of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups

Ministry of Tribal Affairs has revised the Central Sector Scheme known as “Development of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)”.

  • Under the revised scheme, the Ministry will provide 100% financial assistance through State Governments for activities including housing, land distribution and land development, agricultural development, animal husbandry, construction of link roads, installation of non-conventional sources of energy or other innovative activity.
  • The financial assistance will be for the comprehensive socio-economic development of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs).
  • The assistance will be based on Conservation-cum-Development (CCD) Plan prepared by the concerned State Governments on the basis of assessment of their requirements.
  • Under the Scheme, priority is accorded for their protection and improvement in terms of the social indicators like livelihood, health, nutrition and education, so as to decrease their vulnerability.
  • At present there are 75 tribal groups identified and categorized as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs), (earlier known as Primitive Tribal Groups) located in the States/UT of AP, Bihar, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, MP, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Odisha, Rajasthan, TN, Tripura, UP, Uttarakhand, West-Bengal and Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

Sources: PIB.

Enclaves transferred

India and Bangladesh recently exchanged the enclaves located on Indo – Bangladesh border. With this the complex issue that has lingered since independence has been resolved.

  • Now, Bangladeshi enclaves in India and Indian enclaves in Bangladesh shall stand physically transferred to the other country with effect from the midnight of July 31, 2015.
  • There were 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh and 51 Bangladeshi enclaves in India which were to be exchanged pursuant to the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement and 2011 Protocol and instruments of ratification.
  • From now on, enclave residents on both sides of the border will enjoy the benefits of nationality of India or Bangladesh, as the case may be, and thus access to civic services, education, health-care and other facilities provided by the two Governments to their respective nationals.
  • According to an estimate, around 37,000 people are living in Indian enclaves in Bangladesh while 14,000 people are staying in Bangladeshi enclaves in India.

About the land swap deal:

The swap will involve handing over 17,000 acres of land to Bangladesh in return for 7,000 acres in 111 enclaves in West Bengal, Assam, Tripura and Meghalaya, and was first decided under the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) between India and Bangladesh, but never ratified by Parliament.

  • It will require an amendment to the Constitution (the 119th amendment) ratified by both Houses of Parliament with a two-thirds majority.

Sources: The Hindu, PIB, ET.

Kochi gets India’s first harbour defence system

The naval harbour in Kochi has become the first in the country to get a top-notch defence system.

About the Integrated Underwater Harbour Defence and Surveillance System (IUHDSS):

  • It is a state-of-the-art automated system capable of detecting, identifying, tracking and generating warning for surface and underwater threats.
  • It will enable operators to foresee, and respond to, surface and sub-surface threats to vital assets along the harbour and warships in the quay.
  • The system comprises a cluster of coastal surveillance radars, high-power underwater sensors and diver detection sonars.
  • It was designed by Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) ELTA.
  • Similar coastal defence systems are deployed at 150 locations across the world. In India, the decision to cast a network of electro-optical sensors, thermal imaging sensors, radar and high-definition underwater sensors around naval jetties was taken in the aftermath of 26/11 with a view to strengthening security around the coast and high-value naval assets.
  • The IUHDSS, along with the specialised Sagar Prahari Bal, would help augment security of the coast around the naval installations in Kochi.
  • The IUHDSS will relay images to the multi-agency Joint Operations Centre (JOC).

Sources: The Hindu.

Ravichandran Ashwin honoured with Arjuna Award

India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin was presented the Arjuna Award recently, which was conferred on him last year, by the Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal in Delhi. With this, Ashwin became the 48th Cricketer to receive this prestigious award.

About the Arjuna Award:

  • The Arjuna Awards are given by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports to recognize outstanding achievement in National sports.
  • Instituted in 1961, the award carries a cash prize of 5, 00,000, a bronze statuette of Arjuna and a scroll.
  • The Government has recently revised the scheme for the Arjun Award. As per the revised guidelines, to be eligible for the Award, a sportsperson should not only have had good performance consistently for the previous three years at the international level with excellence for the year for which the Award is recommended, but should also have shown qualities of leadership, sportsmanship and a sense of discipline.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.

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