Insights Daily Current Affairs, 10 Aug 2017
Topic: Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.
Electronic Voting Machines To Have Paper Trail In Gujarat Assembly Polls
The Election Commission has told the Supreme Court that it will be able to conduct the Gujarat assembly elections, due late this year, using EVMs with paper trail. In its affidavit, the EC has said it will be able to conduct the upcoming Gujarat assembly polls using EVMs with paper trail if it gets 73,500 VVPAT machines by September from the manufacturers.
What is VVPAT?
VVPAT stands for Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail. VVPAT system maintains a physical trail of all votes cast. Small slips of paper records the details of the vote. The Election Commission (EC) first introduced VVPAT in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
How is it related to EVMs?
When a vote is cast on the electronic voting machine, a small paper slip bearing the name and symbol of the candidate is generated. This paper appears for about 10 seconds. The slip will then automatically fall in a sealed safe box, attached to the EVM, thus maintaining a physical paper trail of all the votes cast.
In 2013, conduct of Election Rules, 1961 was amended to facilitate the introduction of VVPAT units. For the first time, VVPAT with EVMs was used for the Noksen Assembly seat in Tuensang district of Nagaland.
In the case of Subramanian Swamy vs Election Commission of India (ECI), the Supreme Court held that VVPAT is “indispensable for free and fair elections” and directed the ECI to equip EVMs with VVPAT systems. The apex court had directed the EC to introduce EVMs in a phased manner for the next General Elections in 2014, saying it would ensure free and fair polls. SC also directed the Centre to provide financial assistance for introducing VVPAT system.
Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
National Deworming initiative
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has launched its 2nd round of National Deworming Day (NDD) 2017 in 33 States/UTs targeting. A total of 7.8 crore children are targeted in private schools and 3.5 crore out of school children will be covered in this program through Anganwadi workers and ASHAs.
What you need to know about National Deworming Day?
The NDD program has been launched in 2015 as WHO estimates that 220 million children below 14 years of age are at risk of STH infections in India. National Deworming Day is organised twice in a year covering all the children from 1-19 years of age except the States of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh where deworming is carried out once in a year. The Soil Transmitted Helminths (STH) prevalence in these two States is less than 20%.
- All the children are provided deworming tablet in schools and anganwadis. The deworming has the potential to improve nutritional status of children. The deworming tablet called ‘Albendazole’ is a safe and efficacious drug for controlling worm infestation.
- During NDD, besides the deworming tablet, various health promotion activities related to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) are also being organised in schools and anganwadis. This program is being implemented in close collaboration with Ministry of Human Resource & Development and Ministry of Women & Child Development.
- This is one of the largest public health programs reaching large number of children during a short period. The first NDD round of 2017 implemented in February covered 26 crore children with a coverage of 89%.
India carries the highest burden of worm infestation and 64% of Indian population less than 14 years of age are at risk of Soil Transmitted Helminths (STH) or worms’ infestation (WHO). Soil Transmitted Helminths (STH) interfere with nutrients uptake in children; can lead to anaemia, malnourishment and impaired mental and physical development. The situation of undernutrition and anaemia which is linked to STH ranges from 40% to 70% in different population groups across the country (WHO). They also pose a serious threat to children’s education and productivity later in life.
About Intestinal parasitic worms:
They are large multicellular organisms, which when mature can generally be seen with the naked eye. They are also known as Helminths. They are often referred to as intestinal worms even though not all helminths reside in the intestines.
Why this is a cause for concern:
- Parasitic worms in children interfere with nutrient uptake, and can contribute to anaemia, malnourishment, and impaired mental and physical development.
- Parasitic worms have also debilitating consequences on the health and education of children, and on their long-term earning potential.
- According to the 2012 report ‘Children in India’, published by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, 48% of children under the age of 5 years are stunted and 19.8% are wasted, indicating that half of the country’s children are malnourished.
Topic: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
French index for retirement says India is worst place to retire
As per the report of French asset management company Natixis Global, India ranks lowest among BRICS countries in terms of retirement. In a list of global retirement index of 43 countries, India has ranked the lowest.
About the Global Retirement Index:
The index created by French asset management company Natixis Global, ranks countries on the basis of four factors — the material means to live comfortably in retirement; access to quality financial services to help preserve savings value and maximize income; access to quality health services; and a clean and safe environment.
The index ranks 43 countries which include International Monetary Fund (IMF) advanced economies, members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China).
Performance of India:
- India ranks 43rd in this year’s GRI and has the same score compared to last year. Its sub-indices all rank in the bottom five. On all the four parameters, India ranked lowest whereas Switzerland, Norway and Iceland help top positions.
- Compared to last year’s report, India declines in the Material Wellbeing (41st) and Health (43rd) sub-indices but gains ground in Finances (39th) and Quality of Life (43rd). Despite finishing third to last for the Material Wellbeing sub-index, India actually has a top five finish by having the third highest score for the employment indicator. However, it has the lowest income per capita of all countries in the GRI.
- Additionally, its score for the income equality indicator declines compared to last year’s report. For the second year in a row, India ranks last in the Health sub-index and its score declines even more from last year. It has the lowest scores for all indicators within the sub-index and declines in the insured health expenditure compared to last year.
- India’s largest sub-index improvement is in Finances and it moves up three spots from its ranking last year. However, India still has the fifth-worst sub-index score of any country in the GRI. The main reason for the improvement is better scores in the interest rate, inflation and governance indicators. It also finishes first in old-age dependency, second in tax pressure and sixth in interest rates.
- Counterbalancing the high scores in these sub-indices is the governance indicator which, despite improving from last year, ranks as the fifth worst among all countries in the GRI. It also has the tenth-lowest score for the bank non-performing loans indicator. India places last in the Quality of Life sub-index for the second year in a row. Progress in CO2 emissions per GDP improves India’s environmental factors indicator.
- However, the country still has the worst scores for happiness, water and sanitation, and air quality as well as the second-worst score for biodiversity and habitat among all GRI countries.
- Switzerland, Norway and Iceland topped the ranking.
Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
India ratifies second commitment period of Kyoto Protocol
India has ratified the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol that commits countries to contain the emission of greenhouse gases, reaffirming its stand on climate action. With this, India became the 80th country to accept the amendment relating to the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, the international emissions reduction treaty.
About Kyoto Protocol:
The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which commits its Parties by setting internationally binding emission reduction targets.
- The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, in December 1997 and entered into force in February 2005.
- The first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol was from 2008-2012. The Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Qatar in December 2012. The amendment includes new commitments for parties to the Kyoto Protocol who agreed to take on commitments in a second commitment period from January 2013 to December 2020 and a revised list of greenhouse gases to be reported on by Parties in the second commitment period.
- Recognizing that developed countries are principally responsible for the current high levels of Greenhouse Gas (GHGs) in the atmosphere, the Kyoto Protocol places commitments on developed nations to undertake mitigation targets and to provide financial resources and transfer of technology to the developing nations.
- Developing countries like India have no mandatory mitigation obligations or targets under the Kyoto Protocol.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.
Anti-dumping duty on 93 products from China
Anti-dumping duty is in force on 93 products including chemicals and machinery items imported from China. The other Chinese products on which India has imposed this duty include steel and other metals, fibres and yarn, rubber or plastic, electric and electronics and consumer goods.
What you need to know about Anti-dumping duty?
Anti dumping is a measure to rectify the situation arising out of the dumping of goods and its trade distortive effect.
Purpose: The purpose of anti dumping duty is to rectify the trade distortive effect of dumping and re-establish fair trade.
Is it permitted? The use of anti dumping measure as an instrument of fair competition is permitted by the WTO. It provides relief to the domestic industry against the injury caused by dumping. It is levied on distrustfully low-priced imports, so as to protect the domestic manufacturers.
Need for anti-dumping duty: Dumping is an unfair trade practice of exporting goods to another country at a price lesser than what is paid in the exporting nation or their normal production cost, thereby distorting international trade and causing injury to the domestic manufacturers of the goods in the importing country.
Topic: Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers.
India in no hurry to grow GM food crops
The government has decided to examine all objections raised by scientists and farmers before taking a decision on genetically engineered (GE) mustard.
GEAC, India’s regulator for transgenic products, had given a green signal to GM mustard in early May, paving way for introduction of genetically modified food crops. After the regulator’s nod, the final call is taken by the government. Developed by Delhi University-based Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP), GE mustard is argued to be superior as it is resistant to pests and diseases.
However, several representations and concerns have been raised by a wide range of stakeholders including scientists, policymakers, farmers and NGOs. The issues raised are manifold, like long-term health and environmental impact, herbicide tolerance, loss to honey bees and pollinators, outperformance of native varieties, no enhancement in yields, etc. All these issues are under examination.
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.
Do we need GM crops?
Yes and why?
- Higher crop yields.
- Reduced farm costs.
- Increased farm profit.
- Improvement in health and the environment.
No and why?
- It is clear that the technology of genetic engineering is an evolving one and there is much, especially on its impact on human health and environment, that is yet to be understood properly. The scientific community itself seems uncertain about this.
- The irreversibility of this technology and uncontrollability of the Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) once introduced in the ecosystem is worrisome.
- It is argued that introducing genetically modified versions of crops could be a major threat to the vast number of domestic and wild varieties of these crops. In fact, globally, there is a clear view that GM crops must not be introduced in centres of origin and diversity. India also has mega biodiversity hotspots like the Eastern Himalayas and the Western Ghats which are rich in biodiversity yet ecologically very sensitive.
- There is also a potential for pests to evolve resistance to the toxins produced by GM crops and the risk of these toxins affecting nontarget organisms. There is also the danger of unintentionally introducing allergens and other anti-nutrition factors in foods.
Topic: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
Approval of Industrial Parks in Andhra Pradesh
Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) under Ministry of Commerce and Industry has approved two projects under ‘Modified Industrial Infrastructure Upgradation Scheme (MIIUS)’ for development of industrial clusters at Hindupur and Bobbili in the respective districts of Ananatapur and Vizianagaram of Andhra Pradesh.
- The objective of the approved projects is to provide quality and reliable infrastructure to industrial units located in these clusters; specifically these projects aim to provide road network, drainage, power and water supply networks and some other common services like health centres, canteens, crèches, dormitories, parking areas, etc.
Industrial Infrastructure Upgradation Scheme (IIUS) was launched in 2003 with the objective of enhancing industrial competitiveness of domestic industry by providing quality infrastructure through public private partnership in selected functional clusters/locations which have potential to become globally competitive. The Scheme was recast in February, 2009 on the basis of an independent evaluation to strengthen the implementation process.
A modified version of IIUS viz ‘Modified Industrial Infrastructure Upgradation Scheme (MIIUS)’ was notified in July 2013. Under MIIUS, projects have been undertaken to upgrade infrastructure in existing Industrial Parks/ Estates/ Areas. Greenfield Projects have also been undertaken in backward areas and North Eastern Region (NER).
The Salient features of MIIUS are as under:
- Central assistance upto 50% (for North Eastern Region upto 80%) of project cost with ceiling of Rs. 50 crore, limiting sanction upto two projects per State.
- Project implementation by State Implementation Agency (SIA) such as, State Industrial Development Corporation with minimum mandatory contribution of 25% of the project cost (10% in case of North Eastern Region).
- Projects are to be sanctioned to upgrade infrastructure in Industrial Estates/Parks/Areas. Greenfield projects could be supported in backward areas, including North Eastern Region (NER).
- Release of GoI grant (in 3 Installments viz. 30%, 40% and 30%) subject to upfront other Stakeholders’ contribution.
- Central grant for physical infrastructure is restricted to 25% of the grant subject to a ceiling of Rs.12.5 crore.
Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
Putting the sun to work
A consortium of 12 Indian and British universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, has received a £7 million grant from the U.K. government to build self-sufficient solar-powered buildings in remote Indian villages. The grant is part of a new solar project called ‘SUNRISE’.
- The programme is aimed at developing printed photovoltaic cells and new manufacturing processes which can be used to make solar energy products in India. These will then be integrated into buildings in at least five villages of India, allowing them to harness solar power to provide their own energy and go off-grid.
- One of the key aims of the SUNRISE project for India is to provide a real-life example which proves that this technology works and that it is appropriate within communities.
- The plan is that it will encourage local industries to manufacture affordable prefabricated buildings, adapted for their environment, that can generate, store and release their own power.
- The programme is part of a project led by the Swansea University, which has plenty of experience in the field. The project is in line with the Indian government’s plans to turn the country into a solar energy leader, leap-frogging fossil fuels.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
ISRO to develop full-fledged Earth observation satellite
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) says it plans to launch a full-fledged niche Earth observation (EO) satellite — called the Hyperspectral Imaging Satellite or HySIS — using a critical chip it has developed. With this satellite, it can see in 55 spectral or colour bands from 630 km above ground.
What is Hyspex imaging?
Hyspex’ imaging is said to enable distinct identification of objects, materials or processes on Earth by reading the spectrum for each pixel of a scene from space. ISRO first tried it out in an 83-kg IMS-1 experimental satellite in May 2008. The same year, a hyperspectral camera was put on Chandrayaan-1 and used to map lunar mineral resources. Very few space agencies have such a satellite; a German environmental satellite called EnMAP is due to be launched on an Indian booster in 2018.
Hyperspectral or hyspex imaging is said to be an EO trend that is being experimented globally. Adding a new dimension to plain-vanilla optical imagers, it can be used for a range of activities from monitoring the environment, crops, looking for oil and minerals all the way up to military surveillance — all of which need images that show a high level of differentiation of the object or scene.
Sources: the hindu.