Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 01 July 2019
Relevant articles from PIB:
- Public Distribution System objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security.
What to study?
For prelims: key features of the proposed scheme, PDS.
For mains: Need for, significance of the scheme and challenges in its implementation.
Context: Government all set to implement “One nation-one ration card” scheme throughout India by 30th June, 2020.
About the scheme:
One Nation One Ration Card (RC) will ensure all beneficiaries especially migrants can access PDS across the nation from any PDS shop of their own choice.
Benefits: no poor person is deprived of getting subsidised foodgrains under the food security scheme when they shift from one place to another. It also aims to remove the chance of anyone holding more than one ration card to avail benefits from different states.
Significance: This will provide freedom to the beneficiaries as they will not be tied to any one PDS shop and reduce their dependence on shop owners and curtail instances of corruption.
Prone to corruption: Every state has its own rules for Public Distribution System (PDS). If ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ is implemented, it will further boost corruption in an already corrupted Public Distribution System.
The scheme will increase the woes of the common man and, the middlemen and corrupt PDS shop owners will exploit them.
Tamil Nadu has opposed the proposal of the Centre, saying it would result in undesirable consequences and is against federalism.
- Welfare schemes for the protection of vulnerable sections of the society.
What to study?
For Prelims: Key features of RVY and about ALIMCO.
For Mains: Significance of the programme and similar policies for the aid of old aged.
Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana:
- The Scheme aims at providing Senior Citizens, belonging to BPL category and suffering from any of the age-related disability/infirmity Low vision, Hearing impairment, Loss of teeth and Locomotor disability, with such assisted-living deviceswhich can restore near normalcy in their bodily functions, overcoming the disability/infirmity manifested.
- Funding: This is a Central Sector Scheme, fully funded by the Central Government. The expenditure for implementation of the scheme will be met from the “Senior Citizens’ Welfare Fund “.
- Under the scheme, free of cost distribution of the devices, commensurate with the extent of disability/infirmity that is manifested among the eligible senior citizens will take place.
- In case of multiple disabilities/infirmitiesmanifested in the same person, the assistive devices will be given in respect of each disability/impairment.
- Beneficiaries in each district will be identified by the State Governments/UT Administrations through a Committee chaired by the Deputy Commissioner/District Collector.
- As far as possible, 30% of the beneficiaries in each district shall be women.
Need of hour:
With more than 70% of the 104 million elderly living in the rural hinterland, any serious initiative to improve the lot of senior citizens must incorporate adequate budgetary support for social welfare spending on the relevant programmes.
With the number of the elderly in India set to surge by 2050 to almost 300 million, or about a fifth of the population, governments need to make more comprehensive efforts to address the problems of elderly.
- Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
What to study?
For Prelims: Statistics day, ISI.
For Mains: Important contributions of PC Mahalanobis.
National Statistics Day:
In recognition of the notable contributions made by Late Professor Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis in the fields of statistics, statistical system and economic planning, Government of India in 2007, has designated 29th June as the “Statistics Day” in the category of Special Days to be celebrated every year at the National level.
The objective of celebration of this Day is to create public awareness about the importance of statistics in socio-economic planning and policy formulation, to acknowledge the contribution of Prof. Mahalanobis, and to pay homage to him.
Theme: Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) keeping in view India’s commitment towards achieving these goals.
PC Mahalanobis became 1st Indian statistician to receive world recognition and is called as Father of Indian Statistics.
The Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) at Kolkata, set up by Prof. Mahalanobis in 1931, and was declared an autonomous “Institute of National Importance” through an act of Parliament in 1959.
ISI celebrates 29th June as the “Worker Day”.
In 1936 he introduced statistical measure called Mahalanobis distance, widely used in cluster analysis and classification techniques for which he is widely known.
Relevant articles from various news sources:
- India and its neighbourhood- relations.
- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
What to study?
For Prelims: Overview of regions and countries in Indo- pacific region, important straits.
For Mains: Significance and potential of the region, need for international cooperation to main peace and order in the region.
Context: The term Indo-Pacific has been gaining traction in Indian policy circles for some time now, it achieved operational clarity after the Indian vision was presented by Prime Minister in his keynote address at the Shangri-La Dialogue in June 2018.
What is it?
Geographically, the Indo-Pacific refers to the Indian and the Pacific Oceans between the east coast of Africa and the American west coast and their several littoral countries. As a term to denote an economic and strategic community, it has been in use among scholars of international relations and geopolitics since the first decade of this century, around the same time as China’s rise.
Mechanisms for India to integrate with Indo-Pacific Policy:
- India’s Act East policyremains the bedrock of the national Indo-Pacific vision and the centrality of ASEAN is embedded in the Indian narrative.
- India has been an active participant in mechanisms like the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).
- India has also been convening the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, in which the navies of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) participate.
- India has boosted its engagements with Australia and New Zealand and has deepened its cooperation with the Republic of Korea.
- Through the Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation, India is stepping up its interactions with the Pacific Island countries.
- India views the Indo-Pacific as a geographic and strategic expanse, with the 10 ASEAN countries connecting the two great oceans.
Challenges ahead for Indo-Pacific regional policy:
- The integration of the IORA means that attention will continue to be focused on the IOR. This can be a result of the growing Chinese footprint in the Indian Ocean and Chinese diplomacy in the region.
- There are still challenges for India, especially how it will integrate the Quadrilateral initiativewhich got revived in 2017 with its larger Indo-Pacific approach.
- There are differences between India’s vision and the U.S.’s strategy for the Indo-Pacific even as countries like China and Russia view the Indo-Pacific with suspicion.
Efforts by the US:
The renaming of the U.S. Pacific Command to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command as well as the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act in December 2018 showcase Washington’s more serious engagement with the Indo-Pacific.
- The idea of an Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue (IPRD) was first conceptualised and conducted in 2018, as the apex level conference of the Indian Navy, organised by the National Maritime Foundation as the Navy’s Knowledge Partner.
- The permanent theme of this annual dialogue is a review of India’s opportunities and challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.
- The aim is to focus attention on the Indo-Pacific, as a maritime geographical-entity, while deliberating aspects of great relevance to regional geopolitics.
Sources: Indian Express.
- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
What to study?
For prelims and mains: provisions in regard to reservations in India, issues present, need for revamping the policy.
Context: The Bombay High Court has upheld the constitutional validity of reservation for the Maratha community in education and government jobs in Maharashtra, but directed that it be slashed from the present 16 per cent to 12 per cent and 13 per cent respectively.
The Marathas who are almost one-third of Maharashtra’s population are not a homogeneous community. Historically, they evolved from the farming caste of Kunbis who took to military service in medieval times and started assuming a separate identity for themselves. Even then they claimed hierarchy of 96 clans.
But the real differentiation has come through the post-independence development process, creating classes within the caste:
- A tiny but powerful section of elites that came to have control over cooperatives of sugar, banks, educational institutions, factories and politics, called gadhivarcha (topmost strata) Maratha.
- The next section comprising owners of land, distribution agencies, transporters, contracting firms, and those controlling secondary cooperative societies, is the wadyavarcha (well-off strata) Maratha.
- The rest of the population of Marathas comprising small farmers is the wadivarcha (lower strata) Maratha.
Need for reservations:
- Reservation in India is the process of facilitating people in education, scholarship, jobs etc that were faced historical injustice.
- Reservation is a form of quota-based affirmative action. Reservation is governed by constitutional laws, statutory laws, and local rules and regulations.
- The system of reservation in India comprises a series of measures, such as reserving access to seats in the various legislatures, to government jobs, and to enrolment in higher educational institutions.
- The reservation is undertaken to address the historic oppression, inequality and discriminationfaced by those communities and to give these communities a place. It is intended to realise the promise of equality enshrined in the Constitution.
- The primary objective of the reservation system in India is to enhance the social and educational status of underprivileged communities and thus improve their lives.
Why there is a need to reexamine reservation policy?
- Unlike in the late Sixties and again in the late Eighties, when the reservation discourse originated in a deep sense of unfairness of the social system, today’s reservation discourse draws its strength from unfair development policies.
- Reservation is increasingly seen as a remedy for the adverse effects of ill-thought out development policies.
- Reservation is also called ‘Discrimination in Reverse’ or Reverse Discrimination. This terminology connotes that reservation, which works as a protection to the reserved categories i.e. scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other backward classes, acts as a reverse discrimination against the upper castes.
- For political parties reservation discourse is convenient because it allows them to keep subscribing to the consensus over economic policies, avoiding a critical approach to the root causes of the problem.
What needs to be done?
- The government will have to expand the economic aspect and create fresh opportunities so that people, especially young people, who leave agriculture are absorbed in non-farm sectors.
- It is time that India made a critical assessment of its affirmative action programmes.
- The government should consider the economic, political and social wellbeing of the community and make a balanced decision.
- Problems of these castes should be addressed through government schemes and programmes.
- Progressive steps should be taken to ensure that poorer section among the backward communities get the benefit of reservation system.
- The policy of reservation should be gradually phased out after it serves its purpose.
Sources: the Hindu.
Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
What to study?
For prelims: key features of the resolution.
For mains: Why India abstained from voting, concerns, issues and what needs to be done?
Context: India joined ranks with Russia and 42 other nations to abstain from voting on a General Assembly resolution aimed at examining options to end trade in goods used for capital punishment and torture.
The resolution was introduced by Romania.
- Incorporating capital punishment into the scope of this resolution “raises concerns that it may be an attempt to place it on par with torture.”
- India has voted against the resolution as a whole, as it goes against statutory law in India. The death penalty is exercised in ‘rarest of rare’ cases, where the crime committed is so heinous that it shocks the conscience of the society.
- Indian law provides for all requisite procedural safeguards, including the right to a fair trial by an independent Court, presumption of innocence, the minimum guarantees for defence, and the right to review by a higher court.
The 193-member UN General Assembly recently adopted the resolution Towards torture-free trade: examining the feasibility, scope and parameters for possible common international standards’ by a recorded vote of 81 in favour to 20 against, with 44 abstentions.
What is the resolution all about?
- The resolution requests the secretary-general to seek the views of member states on the feasibility and possible scope of a range of options to establish common international standards for the import, export and transfer of goods used for capital punishment and for torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
- It asks the secretary-general to submit a report on the subject to the General Assembly at its 2019-20 session.
- It also requests the secretary-general to establish a group of governmental experts to examine, beginning in 2020, the feasibility and scope of the goods to be included, and draft parameters for a range of options to establish common international standards on the matter.
- It asks for the transmission of the report of the group of experts to the General Assembly for consideration at its 2020-21 session.
What is capital punishment?
Capital punishment also called as death penalty is the execution of an offender sentenced to death after conviction by a court of law.
Problems with death penalty:
- The death penalty is error-ridden. For Instance, Between January 1, 2000 and June 31, 2015, the Supreme Court imposed 60 death sentences. It subsequently admitted that it had erred in 15 of them (25%).
- The landmark SC judgment in 2009 in the Santosh Bariyar casein which Justice Sinha went to the extent of admitting the undue influence of public opinion in awarding death. The Bariyar verdict pointed to” the danger of capital sentencing becoming a spectacle in the media”.
- The death penalty unfairly targets the poor and marginalised.
Arguments in favour:
- The punishment is not arbitrary because, it comes out of a judicial process.
- It is being implemented in the “rarest of the rare” cases and the fact is during the last 13 years, only four people have been executed.
- Its constitutionality is upheld, even in liberal democracies like U.S. It is not reflection of uncivilised society.
- India’s neighbourhood is not peaceful, unlike Scandinavia. India has got troubled borders. Several forces are trying to destabilise the very idea of our Nation from across the Border.
- The sacredness of life can only be seen to be protected, if those who take it away are proportionately punished.
Two-thirds of countries in the world has abolished it. India certainly does not need it as it serves no purpose. The evidence is all to the contrary. For deterrence to work, the severity of the punishment has to coexist with the certainty and swiftness of the punishment.
Sources: the Hindu.
Mains Question: Does the death penalty stop crime? Do you think India abolish capital punishment? Critically analyze.
Issues related to health.
What to study?
For prelims and mains: Key features, need for and significance of the guidelines.
Context: The WHO has launched its first guidelines on self-care interventions for health.
Need for self- care interventions:
As per an estimate by 2035 the world will face a shortage of nearly 13 million healthcare workers. Currently at least 400 million people worldwide lack access to the most essential health services.
What is Self-Care?
It is the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health-care provider.
Self-care interventions represent a significant push towards new and greater self-efficacy, autonomy and engagement in health for self-careers and caregivers.
Self-care is also a means for people who are negatively affected by gender, political, cultural and power dynamics, including those who are forcibly displaced, to have access to sexual and reproductive health services, as many people are unable to make decisions around sexuality and reproduction.
- The guidelines focus on sexual and reproductive health and rights.
- Some of the interventions include self-sampling for human papillomavirus (HPV) and sexually transmitted infections, self-injectable contraceptives, home-based ovulation predictor kits, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) self-testing and self-management of medical abortion.
- These guidelines look at the scientific evidence for health benefits of certain interventions that can be done outside the conventional sector, although sometimes with the support of a health-care provider.
- They do not replace high-quality health services nor are they a shortcut to achieving universal health coverage.
Sources: the Hindu.
Context: NASA has selected an US based Indian researcher to lead its PUNCH mission which will image the Sun.
About PUNCH (Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere):
It is focused on understanding the transition of particles from the Sun’s outer corona to the solar wind that fills interplanetary space.
It will consist of a constellation of four microsatellites that through continuous 3D deep-field imaging, will observe the corona and heliosphere as elements of a single, connected system.
The mission is expected to be launched in 2022.
Sources: the Hindu.
Facts for Prelims:
Context: US President Donald Trump recently met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Demilitarized Zone.
What is it? The DMZ, which runs across the Korean Peninsula, is 248 kilometres long and the 4 kilometres wide. Created as a buffer at the close of the 1950-53 Korean War, it’s jointly overseen by the American-led UN Command and North Korea.
India has signed a deal with Russia for acquiring Strum Ataka anti-tank missile for its fleet of Mi-35 attack choppers of Indian Air Force (IAF).
NASA to send Dragonfly robot to search for life on Saturn’s moon Titan:
- Context: NASA has planned to return to Saturn’s moon Titan with a nuclear-powered drone, Dragonfly.
Dragonfly aims to search for signs of microbial alien life on Saturn’s moon Titan, while navigating its earth-like gravity and aerodynamics in the process. The mission will succeed NASA’s Cassini probe, which ended its 13-year mission orbiting Saturn in September 2017 by diving into Saturn’s atmosphere.
Dragonfly mission is a part of NASA’s New Frontiers program, which includes a series of space exploration missions, which are being conducted with the purpose of researching several of the Solar System bodies, including the dwarf planet Pluto.
- The New Frontiers programme also includes Pluto probe New Horizons, Jupiter probe Juno and OSIRIS-Rex asteroid mission.
- The Dragonfly mission replaces a previously discontinued concept project called Titan Saturn System Mission (TSSM), which required a balloon probe to circumnavigate Titan.