Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 08 July 2019


Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 08 July 2019


Relevant articles from PIB:

Topics Covered:

  1. Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.

 

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

 

What to study?

For Prelims: UNESCO WHS- important sites.

For Mains: Significance and the need for conservation of WHS.

 

Context: India gets its 38th UNESCO World HERITAGE SITE as Pink City Jaipur.

With Successful inscription of Jaipur City, India has 38 world heritage sites, that include 30 Cultural properties, 7 Natural properties and 1 mixed site.

 

UNESCO world heritage site:

A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as of special cultural or physical significance.

The list is maintained by the international World Heritage Programme administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, composed of 21 UNESCO member states which are elected by the General Assembly.

Each World Heritage Site remains part of the legal territory of the state wherein the site is located and UNESCO considers it in the interest of the international community to preserve each site.

 

Selection of a site:

To be selected, a World Heritage Site must be an already classified landmark, unique in some respect as a geographically and historically identifiable place having special cultural or physical significance (such as an ancient ruin or historical structure, building, city, complex, desert, forest, island, lake, monument, mountain, or wilderness area). It may signify a remarkable accomplishment of humanity, and serve as evidence of our intellectual history on the planet.

 

Legal status of designated sites:

UNESCO designation as a World Heritage Site provides prima facie evidence that such culturally sensitive sites are legally protected pursuant to the Law of War, under the Geneva Convention, its articles, protocols and customs, together with other treaties including the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and international law.

 

What are endangered sites?

  • A site may be added to the List of World Heritage in Danger if there are conditions that threaten the characteristics for which the landmark or area was inscribed on the World Heritage List. Such problems may involve armed conflict and war, natural disasters, pollution, poaching, or uncontrolled urbanization or human development.
  • This danger list is intended to increase international awareness of the threats and to encourage counteractive measures.
  • Review: The state of conservation for each site on the danger list is reviewed on a yearly basis, after which the committee may request additional measures, delete the property from the list if the threats have ceased or consider deletion from both the List of World Heritage in Danger and the World Heritage List.

Gandhian Young Technological Innovation (GYTI) Awards:

 

SRISTI (Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions) celebrates the creativity and innovation of young technological students by recognising their outstanding projects with Gandhian Young Technological Innovation (GYTI) Awards.

These Awards celebrate the spirit of student innovation in all the fields of engineering, science, technology and design through extremely affordable/frugal solution or the ones pushing the technological edge.


Lal Bahadur Shastri

 

Context: PM visits Varanasi Unveils Lal Bahadur Shastri statue at Varanasi airport.

 

Lal Bahadur Shastri- related facts:

  1. Pre- independence:

Lal Bahadur Shastri was born on 2nd October, 1904 at Mughalsarai, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.

He was given the title “Shastri” meaning “Scholarby Vidya Peeth as a part of his bachelor’s degree award.

He introduced a slogan “Jai Jawan Jai Kisan” and played a pivotal role in shaping India’s future.

He became a life member of the Servants of the People Society (Lok Sevak Mandal), founded by Lala Lajpat Rai. There he started to work for the upliftment of backward classes, and later he became the President of that Society.

He participated in the non-cooperation movement and the Salt Satyagraha.

 

  1. Post- independence:

He was the second Prime Minister of Independent India.

In 1961, he was appointed as Home Minister, and he appointed the Committee on Prevention of Corruption. He created the famous “Shastri Formula” which consisted of the language agitations in Assam and Punjab.

He promoted the White Revolution, a national campaign to increase milk production. He also promoted the Green Revolution, to increase the food production in India.

In 1964, he signed an agreement with the Sri Lankan Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike, in concern with the status of Indian Tamils in Ceylon. This agreement is known as Srimavo-Shastri Pact.

He was awarded the Bharat Ratna the India’s highest civilian award posthumously in 1966.

He signed Tashkent Declaration on 10 January, 1966 with the paksitan President, Muhammad Ayub Khan to end the 1965 war.


 

Relevant articles from various news sources:

GS Paper 2:

Topic covered:

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

Drugs and Cosmetic Rules, 1945

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: Generic drugs- significance, concerns, usage and efforts by the government to promote them.

 

Context: The Central Government is considering amendments to the Drugs and Cosmetic Rules, 1945 to ensure that registered medical practitioners dispense only generic medicines.

 

Background:

A proposal was recently received by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) committee wherein the Drugs Consultative Committee (DCC) was apprised that registered medical practitioners can supply different categories of medicines including vaccines to their patients under the exemption provided, with certain conditions, under Schedule K of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945. As of now there are no specified types of medicines which can be supplied by doctors to their patients.

It is now proposed that registered medical practitioners shall supply generic medicines only and physicians samples shall be supplied free of cost.

 

What is a Generic Medicine?

Generic medicines are unbranded medicines which are equally safe and having the same efficacy as that of branded medicines in terms of their therapeutic value. The prices of generic medicines are much cheaper than their branded equivalent.

 

Why are they cheaper?

Since the manufacture of these generic drugs do not involve a repeat of the extensive clinical trials to prove their safety and efficacy, it costs less to develop them. Generic drugs are, therefore, cheaper.

However, because the compounds in the generic versions have the same molecular structure as the brand-name version, their quality is essentially the same.

 

Why aren’t generic drugs more popular?

Lack of awareness about them.

Since they are cheap, people who can afford branded drugs don’t buy them believing them to be of inferior quality. Chemists have to hand out exactly what’s written on the prescription and most doctors except in government hospitals don’t hand out generic drugs.

Also, private doctors never hand out generic drugs because there are no kickbacks or incentives involved from pharma companies.

The government or specifically the government’s Department of Pharmaceuticals is also to blame for the lack of awareness.

 

However, there are three fundamental areas of concern:

  1. Efficacy of Indian-made drugs: Oftentimes, such drugs have been found to contain less than the required amount of active pharmaceutical ingredient (API), rendering them ineffective.
  2. Lack of data integrity: The poorly managed documentation practices of Indian generic firms featured as the primary criticism flagged by foreign regulatory authorities. The lack of reliable and complete data on the test results of specific drug batches, along with inconsistencies in the records presented, meant that inspection and verification of drug quality was extremely difficult.
  3. Hygiene standards of the manufacturing plants: Individuals suffering from illness are especially susceptible to infections, and inspections of generic drug plants reveal pest infestations and dilapidated infrastructure.

 

Various efforts by the government:

Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana’ is a campaign launched by the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Govt. Of India, to provide quality medicines at affordable prices to the masses through special kendra’s known as Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Aushadhi Kendra.

Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India (BPPI) is the implementing agency of PMBJP. BPPI (Bureau of Pharma Public Sector Undertakings of India) has been established under the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Govt. of India, with the support of all the CPSUs.

Sources: the Hindu.

Mains Question: Discuss merits and demerits of compulsory prescription of generic medicines.


GS Paper 3:

Topic covered:

Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

India to be a $5-trillion economy

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: India’s present state and what needs to be done to achieve the targets?

 

Context: The government has announced that its main goal is to make India a $5-trillion economy by the end of this term.

 

Present state:

In 2014, India’s GDP was $1.85 trillion. Today it is $2.7 trillion and India is the sixth-largest economy in the world.

Essentially the reference is to the size of an economy as measured by the annual GDP.

 

Are Indians the sixth-richest people in the world?

No. That India is the sixth-largest economy does not necessarily imply that Indians are the sixth-richest people on the planet.

GDP per capita gives a better sense of how an average resident of an economy might be fairing. It reveals a very different, and indeed a more accurate picture of the level of prosperity in the respective economies.

For instance, on average, a UK resident’s income was 21 times that of an average Indian in 2018.

Still, the richest 1% of Indians own 58.4% of wealth. The richest 10 % of Indians own 80.7 % of the wealth.

 

Can India achieve the target by 2024?

The answer would depend essentially on the assumption about economic growth.

If India grows at 12% nominal growth (that is 8% real GDP growth and 4% inflation), then from the 2018 level of $2.7 trillion, India would reach the 5.33 trillion mark in 2024. India must keep growing at a rapid pace to attain this target.

 

How will GDP per capita change when India hits the $5-trillion mark?

If by 2024 India’s GDP is $5.33 trillion and India’s population is 1.43 billion (according to UN population projection).

India’s per capita GDP would be $3,727.

This would be considerably more than what it is today, still it will be lower than Indonesia’s GDP per capita in 2018.

 

Sources: Indian Express.


GS Paper 3:

Topics covered:

  1. 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.

 

Zero Budget Natural Farming

 

What to study?

For Prelims: Features of ZBNF.

For Mains: Significance of ZBNF, advantages of ZBNF.

 

Context: Nirmala Sitharaman in her budget speech said zero budget farming is already being practiced in some states of the country. Sitharaman said emphasis on zero budget farming will help double the farming income in days to come.

 

What is Zero Budget Natural Farming?

Zero Budget Natural Farming, as the name implies, is a method of farming where the cost of growing and harvesting plants is zero.

This means that farmers need not purchase fertilizers and pesticides in order to ensure the healthy growth of crops.

It is, basically, a natural farming technique that uses biological pesticides instead of chemical-based fertilizers. Farmers use earthworms, cow dung, urine, plants, human excreta and such biological fertilizers for crop protection. It reduces farmers’ investment. It also protects the soil from degradation.

 

Benefits of Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF):

As both a social and environmental programme, it aims to ensure that farming – particularly smallholder farming – is economically viable by enhancing farm biodiversity and ecosystem services.

It reduces farmers’ costs through eliminating external inputs and using in-situ resources to rejuvenate soils, whilst simultaneously increasing incomes, and restoring ecosystem health through diverse, multi-layered cropping systems.

Cow dung from local cows has proven to be a miraculous cure to revive the fertility and nutrient value of soil. One gram of cow dung is believed to have anywhere between 300 to 500 crore beneficial micro-organisms. These micro-organisms decompose the dried biomass on the soil and convert it into ready-to-use nutrients for plants.

Resilient food systems are the need of the day given the variability of the monsoons due to global warming and declining groundwater in large parts of India. The drought-prone regions in India is reportedly seeing promising changes already in farms with the ZBNF.

Zero budget natural farming requires only 10 per cent water and 10 per cent electricity than what is required under chemical and organic farming. ZBNF may improve the potential of crops to adapt to and be produced for evolving climatic conditions.

 

The four-wheels of zero budget natural farming require locally available materials:

  1. Water vapour condensation for better soil moisture.
  2. Seed treatment with cow dung and urine-based formulations.
  3. Mulching and soil aeration for favourable soil conditions.
  4. Ensure soil fertility through cow dung and cow urine-based concoctions

 

Government initiatives to support ZBNF:

Government of India has been promoting organic farming in the country through the dedicated schemes of Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) since 2015-16 and also through Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY).

In the revised guidelines of PKVY scheme during the year 2018, various organic farming models like Natural Farming, Rishi Farming, Vedic Farming, Cow Farming, Homa Farming, Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) etc. have been included wherein flexibility is given to states to adopt any model of Organic Farming including ZBNF depending on farmer’s choice.

Under the RKVY scheme, organic farming/ natural farming project components are considered by the respective State Level Sanctioning Committee (SLSC) according to their priority/ choice.

 

Sources: the hindu.

 

Mains Question: What do you understand by Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF). Discuss its economic and environmental benefits vis a vis conventional farming practices.


GS Paper 3:

Topics Covered:

  1. Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

 

Environment Impact Assessment (EIA)

 

What to study?

For Prelims: Kalasa- Banduri project.

For Mains: All about EIA.

 

Context: State-level officers tasked with environmental assessment have objected to several clauses in a draft law that proposes the creation of district-level environment impact assessment authorities.

 

What’s the issue?

The proposed Environment Impact Assessment Notification, 2019, makes the District Magistrate (DM) the chairperson of an expert authority, or the District Environment Impact Assessment Authority (DEIAA), that will accord environment clearance for “minor” mining projects.

District Magistrate (DM) in the State is also the ‘District Mining officer’ who is tasked with executing mining licence deeds. These officers usually had a “target” to collect revenues from mining activities. Making the DM the chairman (of the DEIAA) would be self-serving for grant of environmental clearance.

 

About EIA:

Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) is a formal process used to predict the environmental consequences of any development project. Environment Impact Assessment in India is statutory backed by the Environment Protection Act in 1986, which contains various provisions on EIA methodology and process.

 

Rationale behind EIA: EIA looks into various problems, conflicts and natural resource constraints which may not only affect the viability of a project but also predict if a project might harm to the people, their land, livelihoods and environment. Once these potential harmful impacts are predicted, the EIA process identifies the measures to minimize those impacts.

The objective of the EIA is to: Identify the environmental, social and economic impacts of a project prior to taking a decision on its implementation. Mitigation of harmful impacts and maximizes the beneficial effects.

Once the assessment is complete, the EIA findings are communicated to all stakeholders viz. developers, investors, regulators, planners, politicians, affected communities etc. On the basis of the conclusion of EIA process, the government can decide if a project should be given environment clearance or not. The developers and investors can also shape the project in such a way that its harms can be mitigated and benefits can be maximized.

 

Sources: the Hindu.


Facts for prelims:

 

Operation Sudarshan:

What is it? Border Security Force (BSF) has launched a massive exercise, code named as Sudarshan, to fortify Anti-Infiltration Grid along Pakistan border in Punjab and Jammu.

 

Manghdechhu hydropower project:

The Mangdechhu hydroelectric project is a 720MW run-of-river power plant built on the Mangdechhu River in Trongsa Dzongkhag District of central Bhutan.

Mangdechhu is one of the ten hydroelectric projects planned under the Royal Government of Bhutan’s initiative to generate 10,000MW hydropower by 2020 with support from the Indian Government.


 

Summaries of important Editorials:

 

Is desalination realistically a help in harnessing potable water from the sea?

Context: With warnings from India’s top policy-makers and reports of major cities in India struggling to stave off a water crisis, there’s talk about exploring the idea of desalination, or obtaining freshwater from salt water.

 

What is desalination technology?

To convert salt water into freshwater, the most prevalent technology in the world is reverse osmosis (RO).

How it works? A plant pumps in salty or brackish water, filters separate the salt from the water, and the salty water is returned to the sea. Fresh water is sent to households.

Seawater has Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) — a measure of salinity — close to 35,000 parts per million (ppm), or equivalent to 35 g of salt per one litre/kg of water. An effective network of RO plants reduce this down to about 200-500 ppm.

Challenges: Engineering RO desalination plants have to factor in various constraints, for instance, salt levels in the source water that is to be treated, the energy required for the treatment and disposing of the salt back into the sea.

 

Osmosis and RO:

Osmosis involves ‘a solvent (such as water) naturally moving from an area of low solute concentration, through a membrane, to an area of high solute concentration.

A reverse osmosis system applies an external pressure to reverse the natural flow of solvent and so seawater or brackish water is pressurised against one surface of the membrane, causing salt-depleted water to move across the membrane, releasing clean water from the low-pressure side’.

 

How popular is it in India?

Years of water crises in Chennai saw the government set up two desalination plants between 2010 and 2013. Each supplies 100 million litres a day (MLD); together they meet little under a fourth of the city’s water requirement of 830 MLD. Buoyed by the success of these plants, the city’s water authorities are planning to install two more plants.

Last year, Gujarat announced plans of setting up a 100 MLD RO plant at the Jodiya coast in Jamnagar district. This would go a long way in ‘solving’ the water availability problems in the drought-prone Saurashtra region.

Other plants of a similar size are expected to come up in Dwarka, Kutch, Dahej, Somnath, Bhavnagar and Pipavav, which are all coastal places in Gujarat.

There are also a slew of desalination plants that cater to industrial purposes. For now, India’s real-world experience with desalination plants is restricted to Chennai.

 

What are the problems with RO plants?

Deposition of brine (highly concentrated salt water) along the shores.

Hyper salinity along the shore affects plankton, which is the main food for several of these fish species.

The high pressure motors needed to draw in the seawater end up sucking in small fish and life forms, thereby crushing and killing them — again a loss of marine resource.

Construction of the RO plants required troves of groundwater. This was freshwater that was sucked out and has since been replaced by salt water, rendering it unfit for the residents around the desalination plants.

Cost and time: On an average, it costs about ₹900 crore to build a 100 MLD-plant and, as the Chennai experience has shown, about five years for a plant to be set up.

To remove the salt required, there has to be a source of electricity, either a power plant or a diesel or battery source. Estimates have put this at about 4 units of electricity per 1,000 litres of water. It is estimated that it cost ₹3 to produce 100 litres of potable water.

 

Is RO water healthy?

In the early days of RO technology, there were concerns that desalinated water was shorn of vital minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, sodium, potassium and carbonates. They are collectively referred to as TDS. Higher quantities of these salts in desalination plants tend to corrode the Seawater has Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) — a measure of salinity — close to 35,000 parts per million (ppm), or equivalent to 35 g of salt per one litre/kg of water. An effective network of RO plants reduce this down to about 200-500 ppm. and filtration system in these plants. So ideally, a treatment plant would try to keep the TDS as low as possible. Highly desalinated water has a TDS of less than 50 milligrams per litre, is pure, but does not taste like water. Anything from 100 mg/l to 600 mg/l is considered as good quality potable water.

Most RO plants put the water through a ‘post-treatment’ process whereby salts are added to make TDS around 300 mg/l.

 

Are there technological alternatives?

Low-temperature thermal desalination (LTTD) technique works on the principle that water in the ocean 1,000 or 2,000 feet below is about 4º C to 8º C colder than surface water. So, salty surface water is collected in a tank and subject to high pressure (via an external power source). This pressured water vapourises and this is trapped in tubes or a chamber. Cold water plumbed from the ocean depths is passed over these tubes and the vapour condenses into fresh water and the resulting salt diverted away.

Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion: It will draw power from the vapour generated as a part of the desalination process. This vapour will run a turbine and thereby will be independent of an external power source. While great in theory, there is no guarantee it will work commercially. For one, this ocean-based plant requires a pipe that needs to travel 50 kilometres underground in the sea before it reaches the mainland.