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Insights Daily Current Events, 06 October 2015

Insights Daily Current Events, 06 October 2015

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Paper 3 Topic: Environmental pollution.

Nuclear energy not viable, says German economist

A German green economist has said that nuclear energy is not viable. He says, India will do better if it invests in solar and in wind power than in nuclear energy.

Why he says so?

He cites the following reasons:

  • Nuclear energy is not green. It is inherently high-risk. If something goes wrong then it can be catastrophic like Chernobyl and Fukushima.
  • There is also the problem of nuclear proliferation. There is a very thin wall between civil and military nuclear applications.
  • Increasing cost of plants is also a matter of concern. The cost is growing. Nuclear power will not be able to survive without government subsidies. The market cannot decide it.

Sources: the Hindu.

Paper 3 Topic: e-technology in the aid of farmers.

Drones to help gauge crop damage

To fasten payment of crop insurance claims to farmers, the Centre has launched a pilot programme Kisan, which will use satellite and drone-based imaging and other geospatial technology to get timely and accurate data on crop yields.

  • The programme envisages use of high resolution remote sensing data both from satellite and drone-based imaging, sophisticated modelling activity and other geospatial technology for improving the accuracy of crop yield estimation through more efficient crop cutting experiments.

Why it was necessary?

Currently, the crop insurance claim is calculated on the basis of crop cutting experiments. However, there has always been a problem in getting timely and accurate data, due to which payment of claims to farmers were getting delayed and the government is concerned over the delays in settlements. To address this issue Kisan programme is being launched on pilot basis.

Advantages:

  • Gives accurate data to enable crop insurance companies to give proper compensation to affected farmers.
  • Helps develop index-based data for insurance companies.
  • The scientific data collected by drones and collated with satellites imagery will be matched with traditional crop cutting experiments to arrive at a foolproof data.
  • It also helps in block level yield estimation.

Initially, the pilot study will be carried out in rice and cotton fields in four districts. The programme will be scaled up across the country after assessing the results.

The programme will be jointly conducted by Mahalanobis National Crop Forecast Centre, Indian Space Research Organisation, India Meteorological Department, State Agriculture Departments and Remote Sensing Centres, Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Paper 3 Topic: e-technology in the aid of farmers.

App to collect hailstorm data

The centre has launched an Android-based app for collection of data of hailstorm. This gives access to large-scale damage to standing crops.

  • The app will be used by state agriculture officials for data collection and the data will help the union agriculture ministry in having very fast assessment of damage to crops because of hailstorm.
  • Even farmers can download the app and send pictures of hailstorm.
  • The app has been developed with the support of ISRO.
  • The app can be used through smartphones for collection of hailstorm data along with photographs and locations and can be uploaded on real-time to ISRO’s Bhuvan server.

The app allows the farmers to immediately send photos of their crop damage to officials concerned for immediate relief. This will cut the red tape in reaching assistance to farmers

hailstorm

Hailstorm:

  • Any thunderstorm which produces hail that reaches the ground is known as a hailstorm. Hail is a form of solid precipitation. It consists of balls or irregular lumps of ice, each of which is called a hailstone.
  • Hail formation requires environments of strong, upward motion of air with the parent thunderstorm and lowered heights of the freezing level. In the mid-latitudes, hail forms near the interiors of continents, while in the tropics, it tends to be confined to high elevations.

Hailstorms cause large scale damage to standing crops. However, at present, there is no comprehensive approach to collect hailstorm data.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.

 

Paper 2 Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Germany won’t sign MLAT, cites death penalty

Germany has expressed its inability to sign the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) with India, citing its provision for “death penalty” for heinous crimes and terror activities.

  • This is perhaps the first time a country has refused to sign the treaty on grounds of the death penalty provision.
  • India has signed MLAT with 39 countries, including the United States.
  • India and Germany have been negotiating since 2007 to sign the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in criminal matters but have not been able to reach a conclusion due to Germany’s strong reservation to the provision of death penalty in Indian law.

About Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT):

  • MLAT is an agreement between two or more countries for gathering and exchanging information to enforce public or criminal laws.
  • Under the agreement, mechanisms have been developed among nations for requesting and obtaining evidence for criminal investigations and prosecutions.

Mutual legal assistance: When evidence or other forms of legal assistance, such as witness statements or the service of documents, are needed from a foreign sovereign, states may attempt to cooperate informally through their respective police agencies or, alternatively, resort to what is typically referred to as requests for ‘mutual legal assistance’.

Abolition of death penalty in India:

The Law Commission of India has already recommended for abolition of death penalty except in terror-related cases. However, the Home Ministry is believed to be against it maintaining that time was not ripe yet to remove it completely from the statute book keeping in mind the threat from terrorism.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.

 

Paper 3 Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.

3 win Nobel Prize in Medicine for parasite-fighting therapies

Three scientists from the US, Japan and China have won the Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering drugs to fight malaria and other tropical diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people every year.

The three scientists are:

  1. Santoshi omura from Japan2015-nobel-prize-medicine-split-large-169
  2. Youyou tu from China
  3. William campbell from Ireland

Facts:

  • Campbell and Omura were cited for discovering avermectin, derivatives of which have helped lower the incidence of river blindness and lymphatic filariasis, two diseases caused by parasitic worms that affect millions of people in Africa and Asia.
  • Tu discovered artemisinin, a drug that has helped significantly reduce the mortality rates of malaria patients. Tu Youyou is the first-ever Chinese medicine laureate.

These discoveries have provided humankind with powerful new means to combat these debilitating diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people annually.

River blindness is an eye and skin disease that ultimately leads to blindness. About 90% of the disease occurs in Africa, according to the World Health Organization.

river blindness infograph

Lymphatic filariasis can lead to swelling of the limbs and genitals, called elephantiasis, and it’s primarily a threat in Africa and Asia. The WHO says 120 million people are infected with the disease, without about 40 million disfigured and incapacitated.

lymphatic filariasis

Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease that still kills around 500,000 people a year, mostly in Africa, despite efforts to control it.

malaria lifecycle

Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine:

  • The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine is awarded once a year for outstanding discoveries in the fields of life sciences and medicine. It is awarded by the Swedish Karolinska Institute to scientists and doctors.
  • It is one of five Nobel Prizes established in 1895 by Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, in his will.
  • It carries a cash prize of 8 million Swedish kronor (about $960,000).

Sources: the Hindu, wiki.

 

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

Road Safety Bill will give govt power to order recall of vehicles: Gadkari

In the wake of the Volkswagen emissions scandal, Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari has underscored a clause in the pending Road Safety Bill that allows the government to direct a manufacturer to recall motor vehicles if a defect in that particular type of vehicle may cause harm to the driver or occupants or road users.

  • According to the Bill, a manufacturer can be ordered to recall a particular type of motor vehicle if a specified number of users complain about a defect that can cause harm to them, their passengers, or any other road users.
  • The Bill could not be introduced in the last session Parliament.
  • It is also to be noted that the Road safety Act falls in the purview of concurrent list and both state governments and the Centre have rights.

Road Transport and Safety Bill:

It is a Bill which aims to provide a framework for safer, faster, cost effective and inclusive movement of passengers and freight in the country thus enabling the mission of ‘Make in India’.

Highlights of the Bill:

  • 2 lakhs lives to be saved in first 5 years due to reduction in road traffic accident deaths
  • 4% GDP improvement on account of increased efficiency and safety of road transport sector
  • 10 lac Jobs to be created with increase in investment in the sector
  • The new Bill makes significant departures from the 1988 Motor Vehicle Act as it includes safety in construction, design, maintenance and use of motor vehicles and roads as a major component.
  • The Bill provides for more stringent penalties to offenders. A graded penalty point system would now act as a deterrent and improve traffic condition whereas electronic detection and centralized information of offences would facilitate to identify repeat-offenders.

New proposed Agencies and systems:

  • The Bill proposes to introduce an independent agency called the National Road Safety Authority of India, which will be an independent, legally empowered and accountable expert lead agency. It shall be accountable to the Parliament and Central Government.
  • The new Bill provides for the establishment of State Safety Authorities which shall act in accordance with the directions issued by the National Authority.
  • The Bill seeks to establish a unified driver licensing system in India which will be transparent. Such a system shall facilitate any time anywhere licence application mechanism in the country and mitigate duplication of licences from various regional transport offices.
  • According to the Provisions of the Bill there will be a unified vehicle registration system to enable electronic and online submission of applications for registration at any registering authority leading to real time interchange of data relating to such an activity.
  • On the safety issues, the Bill envisages for enforcement of modern safety technologies.
  • It also contains the provision for creation of a motor vehicle accident fund for immediate relief to the accident victim. It gives special emphasis on safety of school children and security of women.
  • The Bill also includes the setting up of a Highway Traffic Regulation and Protection Force (HTRPF).

Why are some against this Bill?

  • Due to some provisions in the proposed bill. They say that the proposed fines are too high.
  • According to provisions of the Bill, the Motor Vehicle Act 1988 will be scrapped and State RTOs will close. Instead, a Central authority will be created and private entities will issue and renew licences. This move is not being welcomed.
  • The provisions in the Bill are said to be against the principles of jurisprudence.
  • Some state governments allege that the bill encroaches upon the financial, legislative and administrative powers of state governments.

Sources: The Hindu, pib.

 

Paper 2 Topic: Issues relating to poverty and hunger.

World Bank estimates show fall in India’s poverty rate

The World Bank has revised the global poverty line, previously pegged at $1.25 a day to $1.90 a day (approximately Rs. 130). This was stated in its latest report ‘Ending Extreme Poverty, Sharing Prosperity: Progress and Policies’.

  • The new poverty line has been arrived at based on an average of the national poverty lines of 15 poorest economies of the world. The poverty lines were converted from local currency into U.S. dollars using the new 2011 Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) data.

Notable facts:

  • The latest headline estimate for 2012 based on the new data suggests that close to 900 million people (12.8% of the global population) lived in extreme poverty. Compared with 2011, this number represents continued poverty reduction, as the headcount estimate then, using 2011 PPP data, was 987 million people (14.2% of global population).
  • India’s poverty rate is one of the lowest among those countries with the largest number of poor. India’s poverty rate for 2011/12 is 21.2%.
  • The number of people living in extreme poverty around the world is likely to fall to under 10% of the global population in 2015.
  • The poverty rate in low-income countries averages 43% in 2012, compared to 19% in lower-middle-income countries. Yet lower middle-income countries are home to about half of the global poor, compared to a third for low-income countries.
  • In South Asia, the poverty would fall to 13.5% in 2015 compared to 18.8% in 2012; Sub-Saharan Africa poverty would decline to 35.2% in 2015 compared to 42.6% in 2012.
  • Tentative projections for global poverty in 2015 suggest that the global headcount may have reached 700 million, leading to a poverty rate of 9.6 %.

With the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in September, seeking to end all forms of poverty world over, the World Bank Group has set itself the target of bringing down the number of people living in extreme poverty to less than 3% of the world population by 2030.

Sources: The Hindu.

 

Paper 2 Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements.

U.S., 11 nations reach historic deal

Trade ministers from the Asia-Pacific region have reached a deal on the Pacific trade pact that is intended to cut trade barriers and establish common standards for 12 countries. This is the largest trade pact in 20 years.

About the Trans-Pacific Partnership:

  • The Trans-Pacific Partnership is headed by the US and includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.
  • The agreement covers 40% of the world’s economy.
  • It would set new terms for trade and business investment among the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations.
  • It would phase out thousands of import tariffs as well as other barriers to international trade. It also would establish uniform rules on corporations’ intellectual property, open the Internet even in communist Vietnam and crack down on wildlife trafficking and environmental abuses.

Trans-Pacific Partnership

What the supporters say?

  • It would be a boon for all the nations involved. It would unlock opportunities and address vital 21st-century issues within the global economy.

What the opponents say?

  • Opponents in the United States see the pact as mostly a giveaway to business, encouraging further export of manufacturing jobs to low-wage nations while limiting competition and encouraging higher prices for pharmaceuticals and other high-value products by spreading American standards for patent protections to other countries.
  • A provision allowing multinational corporations to challenge regulations and court rulings before special tribunals is drawing intense opposition.

Why the US is interested in this pact:

  • The pact is a major component of President Obama’s “pivot” to Asia. It is seen as a way to bind Pacific trading partners closer to the United States while raising a challenge to Asia’s rising power, China, which has pointedly been excluded from the deal, at least for now.
  • It is seen as a means to address a number of festering issues that have become stumbling blocks as global trade has soared, including e-commerce, financial services and cross-border Internet communications.

Sources: the Hindu, et.

Trivia:

India has decided to set up a fast-track system for German companies in the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce and Industry. The wing will become fully operational by 2016. The exclusive special window for Germany will be the second since a similar wing was created for Japan after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Japan in September 2014.