Insights Daily Current Affairs, 12 September 2018
Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
HIV/AIDS Act, 2017
What to study?
- For Prelims: Key features of the Act.
- For Mains: Significance and the need for legislation on this.
Context: The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has issued a notification for bringing the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Act, 2017 in force from 10th September, 2018.
- The Act, safeguards the rights of people living with HIV and affected by HIV. The provisions of the Act address HIV-related discrimination, strengthen the existing programme by bringing in legal accountability, and establish formal mechanisms for inquiring into complaints and redressing grievances.
Highlights of the Act:
Provisions related to the role of governments: As per the Act, central and state governments are obliged to provide for anti-retroviral therapy (ART) and management of opportunistic infections (infections that take advantage of weakness in the immune system and occur frequently). It also prohibits specific acts of discrimination by the state, or any other person, against HIV-positive people, or those living with such people.
Provisions related to discrimination: It lays down penal provisions for any discrimination practised against a person with HIV/AIDS and breach of confidentiality. The protection mandated extends to the fields of employment, healthcare services, educational services, public facilities, property rights, holding public office, and insurance. It also provides for confidentiality of HIV-related information and makes it necessary to get informed consent for undertaking HIV tests, medical treatment and research.
Provisions related to ombudsman: It also provides for an ombudsman. An ombudsman shall be appointed by each state government to inquire into complaints related to the violation of the Act and the provision of health care services. The ombudsman shall submit a report to the state government every six months stating the number and nature of complaints received, the actions taken.
Provisions related to guardianship: Provisions related to guardianship are also specified. A person between the age of 12 to 18 years who has sufficient maturity in understanding and managing the affairs of his HIV or AIDS affected family shall be competent to act as a guardian of another sibling below 18 years of age. The guardianship will apply in matters relating to admission to educational establishments, operating bank accounts, managing property, care and treatment, amongst others.
Role of courts: Cases relating to HIV positive persons shall be disposed off by the court on a priority basis. In any legal proceeding, if an HIV infected or affected person is a party, the court may pass orders that the proceedings be conducted (a) by suppressing the identity of the person, (b) in camera, and (c) to restrain any person from publishing information that discloses the identity of the applicant. When passing any order with regard to a maintenance application filed by an HIV infected or affected person, the court shall take into account the medical expenses incurred by the applicant.
There are approximately 21 lakh persons estimated to be living with HIV in India and the percentage of patients receiving anti-retroviral therapy (ART) treatment currently stands at a mere 25.82% as against the global percentage of 41%, according to the 2015 Global Burden of Diseases (GBD).
Topic: e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential.
e-AarogyaBharati (e-VBAB) Network Project
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Key features and significance of the project.
Context: Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd (TCIL) have signed an Agreement for the implementation of e-VidyaBharati and e-AarogyaBharati (e-VBAB) Network Project. The project is hailed as a digital bridge of knowledge and health between India and Africa.
About e- VBAB Network project:
E-VBAB Network Project is primarily a technological upgrade and extension of the Pan-African e-Network Project (Phase 1) which was implemented in 48 partner countries across Africa from 2009 till 2017. The Phase 1 of the Project successfully imparted tele-education and tele-medicine by linking educational institutions and hospitals in India with those from the participating African countries.
Over the 5 years project duration, e-VBAB Network Project will provide free tele-education courses in various academic disciplines to 4000 students every year from African countries. The Project will also be utilized for providing free Continuing Medical Education (1000 every year) to African doctors/nurses/para-medical staff. Further, Indian doctors, through this project will provide free medical consultancy to those African doctors who seek such consultancy.
In order to operationalise the e-VBAB Network Project, a Data Centre and Disaster Recovery Centre will be established in India along with Learning Centres in various African countries which decide to be part of the Project. There will be two separate platforms for e-VidyaBharati (tele-education) and e-AarogyaBharati (tele-medicine) which will link, through a web-based technology, various educational institutions and hospitals in India and the participating African countries.
The e-VBAB Network Project will be completely funded by the Government of India for its entire duration and will be open for participation to all our partner countries in Africa. The Project will be another important milestone in our development partnership with Africa.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.
Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana
What to study?
- For Prelims: PMMY- key features.
- For Mains: Significance of the scheme and concerns raised over loans disbursed under the scheme, how can these loans be prevented from turning into NPAs.
Context: Former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan has cautioned that the next crisis in India’s banking sector could come from loans given to the unorganised micro and small businesses, called MUDRA loans, and credit extended through the Kisan credit card.
- He has also cautioned the government to refrain from setting ambitious credit targets or waiving loans. He also flagged the Credit Guarantee Scheme for MSMEs, run by the Small Industries Development Bank of India, calling it “a growing contingent liability” that needs to be examined with urgency.
A total of ₹6.37 lakh crore has been disbursed under the MUDRA scheme by public and private sector banks, regional rural banks and micro-finance institutions till date, as per data from the Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency (MUDRA) website.
- His warnings come at a time the Indian banking is reeling under an unprecedented bad loans problem. The NPAs of the 38 listed banks collectively crossed Rs 10.17 lakh crore in the fourth quarter of the last fiscal, with the 21 public sector banks (PSBs) accounting for the bulk of it.
- Besides, PSBs have collectively written-off over Rs 1,154 crore in NPAs in the last fiscal till December 31, which was a 103% jump from the amount written off in 2016-17.
About the Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana (PMMY) scheme:
The PMMY Scheme was launched in April, 2015. The scheme’s objective is to refinance collateral-free loans given by the lenders to small borrowers.
- The scheme, which has a corpus of Rs 20,000 crore, can lend betweenRs 50,000 and Rs 10 lakh to small entrepreneurs.
- Banks and MFIs can draw refinance under the MUDRA Scheme after becoming member-lending institutions of MUDRA.
- Mudra Loans are available for non-agricultural activities upto Rs. 10 lakh and activities allied to agriculture such as Dairy, Poultry, Bee Keeping etc, are also covered.
- Mudra’s unique features include a Mudra Card which permits access to Working Capital through ATMs and Card Machines.
There are three types of loans under PMMY:
- Shishu (up to Rs.50,000).
- Kishore (from Rs.50,001 to Rs.5 lakh).
- Tarun (from Rs.500,001 to Rs.10,00,000).
Objectives of the scheme:
Fund the unfunded: Those who have a business plan to generate income from a non-farm activity like manufacturing, processing, trading or service sector but don’t have enough capital to invest can take loans up to Rs 10 lakh.
Micro finance institutions (MFI) monitoring and regulation: With the help of MUDRA bank, the network of microfinance institutions will be monitored. New registration will also be done.
Promote financial inclusion: With the aim to reach Last mile credit delivery to micro businesses taking help of technology solutions, it further adds to the vision of financial inclusion.
Reduce jobless economic growth: Providing micro enterprises with credit facility will help generate employment sources and an overall increase in GDP.
Integration of Informal economy into Formal sector: It will help India also grow its tax base as incomes from the informal sector are non-taxed.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
Apsara – U Reactor
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Apsara and Apsara- U- Key features and significance of these reactors.
Context: THE BHABHA Atomic Research Centre has recommissioned an upgraded version of ‘Apsara’, the country’s oldest research reactor that was decommissioned almost a decade ago. Apsara is now operational as ‘Apsara-U’ on Trombay campus of Maharashtra.
About Apsara Nuclear reactor:
- Apsara is the oldest of India’s research reactors. The reactor was designed by the Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC) and built with assistance from the United Kingdom (which also provided the initial fuel supply consisting of 80% enriched uranium).
- Apsara first went critical on 4 August 1956.
- Apsara is a light water swimming pool-type reactor with a maximum power output of one megawatt thermal (MWt).
- The reactor burns enriched uranium in the form of aluminum alloyed curved plates. Fuel for the reactor is supplied under contract from the United Kingdom, provided that the fuel is safeguarded.
- The Apsara reactor is utilized for various experiments including neutron activation analysis, radiation damage studies, forensic research, neutron radiography, and shielding experiments.
- The reactor is also used for research and the production of radioisotopes.
- “Apsara-upgraded”, made indigenously, uses plate type dispersion fuel elements made of Low Enriched Uranium (LEU).
- By virtue of higher neutron flux, this reactor will increase indigenous production or radio-isotopes for medical application by about fifty percent and would also be extensively used for research in nuclear physics, material science and radiation shielding.
- This development has re-emphasised the capability of Indian scientists and Engineers to build, complex facilities for health care, science education and research.
Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
Model International Center for Transformative AI (ICTAI)
What to study?
- For Prelims: Objectives and features of ICTAI.
- For Mains: AI- need, concerns, potential and need for legislation.
Context: NITI Aayog, Intel, and Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) are collaborating to set up a Model International Center for Transformative Artificial Intelligence (ICTAI) towards developing and deploying AI-led application-based research projects.
This initiative is part of NITI Aayog’s ‘National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence’ Discussion Paper that focuses on establishing ICTAI in the country through private sector collaboration.
Aims of ICTAI:
- Based in Bengaluru, the Model ICTAI aims to conduct advanced research to incubate AI-led solutions in three important areas – healthcare, agriculture and smart mobility – by bringing together the expertise of Intel and TIFR.
- It aims to experiment, discover and establish best practices in the domains of ICTAI governance, fundamental research, physical infrastructure, compute and service infrastructure needs, and talent acquisition.
Goals and objectives:
- Through this collaborative effort, the model ICTAI is chartered to develop AI foundational frameworks, tools and assets, including curated datasets and unique AI algorithms.
- The intent is to develop standards and support policy development related to information technology such as data-storage, information security, privacy, and ethics for data capture and use.
- The model Centre also plans to develop AI foundational technologies to promote applied research that can scale for national impact and will lead to the creation of a vibrant and self-sustaining ecosystem.
- Another key area of its focus will be collaboration with industry leaders, startups, and AI services and product companies to productize technologies and IP that are developed at the model ICTAI. And finally, the goal is to support skilling and talent development for world-class AI talent.
- The learning and best practices developed through this model ICTAI will be used by NITI Aayog to set up the future ICTAIs across country.
What is artificial intelligence (AI)?
Artificial Intelligence comes from computer systems that have been programmed to — or have learnt to — do tasks that would otherwise require human intelligence. Many apps and software are already making mundane work easier by doing a certain part of it for us, based on acquired intelligence.
Automation threatens 69% of the jobs in India, while it’s 77% in China, according to a World Bank research. The transition is expected to happen in a decade, according to experts. Therefore, if automation is not planned well and addressed holistically, it is a disaster in the making.
While there is a risk to jobs due to these trends, the good news is that a huge number of new jobs are getting created as well in areas like cybersecurity, cloud, big data, machine learning and AI. The new job roles that will dominate the IT workforce are within digital domains such as big data, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing and cybersecurity. It is clearly a time of career pivot for IT professionals to make sure they are where the growth is.
Policy on AI:
The Union ministry of electronics and information technology, in October 2017, set up an internal committee to advise the government on a policy on artificial intelligence (AI). The expert committee will advise the IT ministry on the most apt technologies for India. The government’s main focus is to reduce cyber attacks with AI.
Need for a policy on AI:
The artificial intelligence market is estimated to touch $153 billion in 2020 and expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 45.4% from 2016 to 2022. However, AI is widely seen as a major challenge in generation of employment as many companies are likely to depend more on it to cut down on human resources.
Globally too, there is a growing interest in AI. In 2016, the White House initiated work on Preparing for the future of artificial intelligence; in the UK, the House of Commons committee on S&T looked at robotics and artificial intelligence while in 2017, the State Council of China started work on the next generation artificial intelligence development plan.
Seven- point strategy:
The government has recently drawn up a seven-point strategy that would form the framework for India’s strategic plan to use AI.
The strategy includes developing methods for human machine interactions; ensuring safety and security of AI systems; creating a competent workforce in line with AI and R&D needs, understanding and addressing the ethical, legal and societal implications of AI, measuring and evaluating AI technologies through standards and benchmarks, among others.
AI is a complex subject; it would be simplistic to look at it as all bad or all good. But robots and AI taking away middle-class, manufacturing jobs in the not-so-distant future is a very real prospect that will have to be addressed by governments sooner than they probably think.
Topic: indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
India’s first missile tracking ship is readying for sea trials
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Features and significance of the ship.
Context: Hindustan Shipyard Limited (HSL) is gearing up to undertake sea trials of India’s first missile tracking ship by the first week of October.
- This will be the first of its kind ocean surveillance ship being built as part of the efforts to strengthen the country’s strategic weapons programme.
- Its induction will put India in the elite of club of a few countries that have such a sophisticated ocean surveillance ship.
- It has the capacity to carry 300-strong crew with hi-tech gadgets and communication equipment, powered by two diesel engines, and a large deck capable of helicopter landing.
Sources: the hindu.
Facts for Prelims:
Yudh Abhyas 2018:
- As part of the ongoing Indo-US defence cooperation, a joint military training Exercise Yudh Abhyas 2018 will be held at Chaubattia in Uttarakhand. This will be the 14th edition of the joint military exercise hosted alternately by both countries.
- The joint exercise Yudh Abhyas 2018 will simulate a scenario where both nations will work together in counter insurgency and counter terrorism environment in mountainous terrain under United Nation charter.
Union Ministry of Railways has launched Rail Sahyog web portal (www.railsahyog.in).
- It will provide platform for Corporates and PSUs to fund creation of amenities at railway stations through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds.
- This portal will allow companies to register their requests for contributing to create amenities at railway stations through their CSR funds. These requests will be processed by Railway officials and based on tprinciple of first come first serve, requests will be shortlisted.
- Selected applicants will be intimated to deposit the funds with Railways or its nominated agencies like RITES or RAILTEL etc. The nominated agency will get the work executed thereafter.
- It will provide opportunity for industry, companies, associations to collaborate with Indian Railways. Fund utilized for creation of amenities will be beneficial for passengers and for neighbourhood of railway vicinity.