Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 19 September 2019
Table of contents:
GS Paper 1:
- Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC).
GS Paper 2:
- Zonal Councils.
- Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes Ordinance, 2019.
- AICTE’s Margadarshan and Margadarshak scheme.
- Accessible India Campaign.
- International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
GS Paper 3:
- Coal Gasification.
- Shola grasslands.
GS Paper 4:
- Issues in debate around setting an age limit for IVF.
Facts for prelims:
- National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT).
- Waste Management Accelerator for Aspiring Women Entrepreneurs (WAWE Summit 2019).
- Year of Artificial Intelligence.
GS Paper 1:
Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc., geographical features and their location- changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.
What to study?
For Prelims: What is AMOC?
For Mains: How warming up of Indian Ocean affects AMOC?
Context: Since the past 15 years, Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) has been weakening — a development that could have dramatic consequences for Europe and other parts of the Atlantic rim. Warming up of Indian Ocean is said to be a key driver behind this.
How it affects?
Warming in the Indian Ocean generates additional precipitation, which, in turn, draws more air from other parts of the world, including the Atlantic.
The higher level of precipitation in the Indian Ocean will reduce precipitation in the Atlantic and increase salinity in the waters.
What is the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation?
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is a large system of ocean currents that carry warm water from the tropics northwards into the North Atlantic.
It aids in distributing heat and energy around the earth, as the warm water it carries releases heat into the atmosphere, and in absorbing and storing atmospheric carbon.
How does the AMOC work?
- The AMOC is a large system of ocean currents, like a conveyor belt, driven by differences in temperature and salt content – the water’s density.
- As warm water flows northwards it cools and some evaporation occurs, which increases the amount of salt. Low temperature and a high salt content make the water denser, and this dense water sinks deep into the ocean.
- The cold, dense water slowly spreads southwards, several kilometres below the surface. Eventually, it gets pulled back to the surface and warms in a process called “upwelling” and the circulation is complete.
Sources: Down to earth.
GS Paper 2:
Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Particulars and significance of Zonal Councils.
Context: 29th Meeting of the Northern Zonal Council Held recently.
Statutory bodies established under the States Reorganisation Act 1956 and not constitutional bodies. They are only deliberative and advisory bodies.
Aim: to promote interstate cooperation and coordination.
There are 5 five Zonal councils namely:
- The Northern Zonal Council, comprising the States of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, National Capital Territory of Delhi and Union Territory of Chandigarh.
- The Central Zonal Council, comprising the States of Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
- The Eastern Zonal Council, comprising the States of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, and West Bengal.
- The Western Zonal Council, comprising the States of Goa, Gujarat, Maharashtra and the Union Territories of Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli.
- The Southern Zonal Council, comprising the States of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry.
The North Eastern States i.e. (i) Assam (ii) Arunachal Pradesh (iii) Manipur (iv) Tripura (v) Mizoram (vi) Meghalaya (vii) Sikkim and (viii) Nagaland are not included in the Zonal Councils and their special problems are looked after by the North Eastern Council, set up under the North Eastern Council Act, 1972.
Chairman – The Union Home Minister is the Chairman of each of these Councils.
Vice Chairman – The Chief Ministers of the States included in each zone act as Vice-Chairman of the Zonal Council for that zone by rotation, each holding office for a period of one year at a time.
Members– Chief Minister and two other Ministers as nominated by the Governor from each of the States and two members from Union Territories included in the zone.
Advisers– One person nominated by the Planning Commission (which has been replaced by NITI Ayog now) for each of the Zonal Councils, Chief Secretaries and another officer/Development Commissioner nominated by each of the States included in the Zone.
Union Ministers are also invited to participate in the meetings of Zonal Councils depending upon necessity.
The main objectives of setting up of Zonal Councils are:
- Bringing out national integration.
- Arresting the growth of acute State consciousness, regionalism, linguism and particularistic tendencies.
- Enabling the Centre and the States to co-operate and exchange ideas and experiences.
- Establishing a climate of co-operation amongst the States for successful and speedy execution of development projects.
US: Has the highest population of smokeless tobacco and vape-product users. Plans to ban all e-cigarette flavours, except for tobacco.
UK: Sales of ENDS products like vapes are legal. Introduced regulations for e-cigarette firms in 2016.
China: Announced in July 2019 that it plans to regulate e-cigarettes to strengthen supervision of these products.
France: Allows sale of e-cigarettes as either medicines or consumer products, but those making health claims related to these products need marketing authorisation under standard drug licencing process. Those selling as consumer products are regulated by the country’s May 2016 decree on vapour products containing nicotine.
Germany: Classifies nicotine-containing e-cigarettes as tobacco-related products and regulates it under country’s 2016 law on Implementation of the Tobacco Products Directive and Related Products.
- Issues related to health and Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: e-cigarettes- concerns, effects on health, need for regulation, challenges associated and measures needed.
Context: Cabinet approves Promulgation of the Prohibition of Electronic Cigarettes (production, manufacture, import, export, transport, sale, distribution, storage and advertisement) Ordinance, 2019.
Upon promulgation of the Ordinance:
- Any production, manufacturing, import, export, transport, sale (including online sale), distribution or advertisement (including online advertisement) of e-cigarettes shall be a cognizable offence.
- It shall be punishable with an imprisonment of up to one year or fine up to Rs. 1 lakh or both for the first offence; and imprisonment of up to three years and fine up to Rs. 5 lakh for a subsequent offence.
- Storage of electronic-cigarettes shall also be punishable with an imprisonment up to 6 months or fine up to Rs 50,000 or both.
- The owners of existing stocks of e-cigarettes on the date of commencement of the Ordinance will have to suomoto declare and deposit these stocks with the nearest police station.
- The Sub-Inspector of Police has been designated as the Authorized Officer to take action under the Ordinance.
- The Central or State Governments may also designate any other equivalent officer(s) as Authorized Officer for enforcement of the provisions of the Ordinance.
What are Electronic-cigarettes?
Battery-operated devices that produce aerosol by heating a solution containing nicotine, which is the addictive substance in combustible cigarettes.
These include all forms of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems, Heat Not Burn Products, e-Hookah and the like devices.
Their use has increased exponentially and has acquired epidemic proportions in developed countries, especially among youth and children.
Apart from nicotine, e-cigarettes may also be used for delivery of other psychoactive substances.
Widespread use and unchecked proliferation of e-cigarettes and the like devices would seriously undermine and derail Government’s efforts to reduce the prevalence of tobacco use.
Significance of the decision:
The decision to prohibit e-cigarettes will help protect population, especially the youth and children, from the risk of addiction through E-cigarettes.
Enforcement of the Ordinance will complement government’s efforts for tobacco control and will help in reduction of tobacco use and reduction in associated economic and disease burden.
The WHO has also urged member countries to take appropriate steps including prohibiting these products.
Drugs Consultative Committee (“DCC”) has recommended a complete ban on the manufacture and import of ENDS under sections 26A and 10A of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940.
Interestingly, the Delhi High Court and the Bombay High Court in their orders dated 18 March 2019 and 25 July 2019 respectively have held that ENDS are not drugs and therefore cannot be banned under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and hence no proceedings can be initiated against the manufacturers, sellers and importers of ENDS.
There is, therefore, a clear inconsistency and conflict when it comes to the stand taken by the Central government and the courts.
If anything is per se harmful it should never be allowed in the interest of public health. At the same time, in the absence of clear scientific evidence, anything which is less harmful or not harmful cannot be banned when something else which is far more harmful is being allowed.
Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
What to study?
For Prelims and mains: Key features and significance of the schemes.
- Under this scheme, institutions having good accreditation record / highly performing institutions are supposed to mentor relatively newer 10 – 12 potential institutions.
- Best practices in teaching learning process followed in mentor institute are diffused to mentee institutions.
- These institutions are also provided funding uptoRs. 50 lakhs (Rupees Fifty Lakhs Only) per institution over a period of three years in instalments for carrying out various activities like trainings, workshops, conferences and travel.
- Under this scheme, mentor teachers or Margdarshaks who are either serving or superannuated but willing and motivated with good knowledge of accreditation and who can devote adequate time to make required visits to these Institutions are identified.
- These Margdarshaks will regularly visit to the mentee institutions, stay on their campus and guide them for their improvement in quality so that institutions are able to get accreditation by NBA.
Selection of Mentee Institutes:
In the 1st phase, institutes having student enrolment of 70% or more and willing to get mentoring through AICTE’s Margadarshaks, but are not yet accredited are provided Margadarshaks. Remaining institutes can be covered in the subsequent phases. Willingness of mentee institutes is taken. However, response giving willingness to be a Mentee institute has been received from 400 institutes only to date.
Criteria for Margadarshaks are:
- Must be a Ph.D.
- Should be from Technical Education (Engg.) Domain
- Min experience 20 years; Not less than 5 years in academicsAnd
- Designation not less than Professor if from AICTE approved institution Or
- Not less than Associate Professor if from IIT/NIT And
- Minimum 10 Research Publications Or
- Minimum 05 Ph.D. Guidance Or
- Minimum 2 Patents Or
- Minimum 2 Books written And
- Member NBA visit team / NAAC visit team Or
- Participated in accreditation of his/her own department at least for 2 cycles
- Persons from industry with passion for education & who are NBA/NAAC team members
- Applicants should have time to visit institutes
- 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.
What to study?
For Prelims and mains: Key features, need for and significance of the scheme.
Context: The Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) under Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has developed a Management Information System (MIS) for stakeholders of Accessible India Campaign (AIC).
The portal will bring all the nodal ministries, and States/UTs on a single platform for monitoring the progress being made against each target of AIC.
About Accessible India Campaign:
What is it? Accessible India Campaign (AIC) is the nationwide flagship campaign of the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
Aim: The aim of the Campaign is to make a barrier free and conducive environment for Divyangjans all over the country. The campaign has the vision to build an inclusive society in which equal opportunities are provided for the growth and development of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) so that they can lead productive, safe and dignified lives.
Implementation: For creating universal accessibility for Persons with Disabilities, the campaign has been divided into three verticals: Built Environment; Transport and Information & Communication Technology (ICT) ecosystem.
- Completing accessibility audit of at least 25-50 most important government buildings in 50 cities and making them fully accessible by the end of this year.
- Making 50% of all the government buildings of NCT and all the State capitals fully accessible by December 2018.
- Completing accessibility audit of 50% of government buildings and making them fully accessible in 10 most important cities/towns of States not covered in targets (i) and (ii) by December 2019.
Facts for Prelims:
Accessible India Campaign is in line with the Article 9 of UNCRPD(UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) to which India is a signatory since 2007.
- Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: IAEA and safeguards- objectives, significance and their implementation.
Context: The 63rd General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is presently going on at Vienna.
Set up as the world’s “Atoms for Peace” organization in 1957 and it is an autonomous organisation.
Reports to both the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council.
Headquarters in Vienna, Austria.
- Works with its Member States and multiple partners worldwide to promote the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear technologies.
- Seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons.
Board of Governors:
- 22 member states (must represent a stipulated geographic diversity) — elected by the General Conference (11 members every year) – 2 year term.
- At least 10 member states — nominated by the outgoing Board.
- Board members each receive one vote.
- Recommendations to the General Conference on IAEA activities and budget.
- Responsible for publishing IAEA standards.
- Responsible for making most of the policy of the IAEA.
- Appoints the Director General subject to General Conference approval.
- 171 member states — one vote per member.
- Forum for debate on current issues and policies.
- Meets once a year.
- Approve the actions and budgets passed on from the Board of Governors.
- Approves the nominee for Director General.
- Program of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT).
- Human Health Program.
- Water Availability Enhancement Project.
- International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles, 2000.
GS Paper 3:
- Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
What to study?
For Prelims: What is coal gasification? Byproducts.
For Mains: Benefits, concerns and challenges.
Context: Government has awarded Lump Sum Turn Key (LSTK) contract for Coal Gasification Plant PF Talcher Fertilizers Limited to M/s Wuhuan Engineering Co. Ltd, China as a part of measures to revival closed units of Fertilizer Corporation of India Ltd. (FCIL) and Hindustan Fertilizers Corporation Ltd (HFCL).
Benefits of gasification:
- Transporting gas is a lot cheaper than transporting coal.
- Help address local pollution problems.
- Has greater efficiency than conventional coal-burning because it can effectively use the gases twice: the coal gases are first cleansed of impurities and fired in a turbine to generate electricity. Then, the exhaust heat from the gas turbine can be captured and used to generate steam for a steam turbine-generator.
Concerns and challenges:
- Coal gasification is one of the more water-intensive forms of energy production.
- There are concerns about water contamination, land subsidence and disposing of waste water safely.
What is Underground coal gasification?
The process involves pumping oxygen and steam through a small borehole into the coal seam to produce a small and controlled combustion. Unlike coal-bed methane, therefore, the actual coal is converted from a solid state into gas. The hydrogen, methane, carbon monoxide and CO2 are then siphoned off through a second borehole.
Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
What to study?
For Prelims: What are they? Where are they found?
For Mains: Threats, need for conservation.
Context: Expanding plantations of exotic species, including tea, in the Nilgiris can wipe out Shola vegetation, according to a report filed by an expert committee formed by the Madras High Court.
- This change in vegetation will result in loss of water sources and is already leading to massive landslides.
- Invasive species like eucalyptus, tea plantations and wattle and naturalised alien species like Lantana camara, Opuntia stricta, Chromolaena odorata, Parthenium hysterophorus and Senna spectabilis have had a serious impact on the Shola forest and grasslands.
What are Shola Grasslands?
The Shola vegetation are tropical montane forests found in the Western Ghats separated by rolling grasslands in high altitudes.
- Shola grasslands consist of dwarf trees growing 25-30 feet.
- It is a stunted forest growths of diverse grass species.
- Vegetation is double layered storey with closed canopy which hardly permits a single ray of sunlight to penetrate in the natural vegetation.
- Nilgiris upper region is classified as southern grassland mountain grassland.
- Between 1973-2014 Shola grasslands area had seen a 66.7% decline.
The Shola forests and associated grasslands store large quantities of water on the mountain ranges, thus serving as huge `water harvesting and storage structures.
Many of the rivers in Kerala and Tamil Nadu originate from the Shola grasslands and were perennial. With depletion of Sholas and other forests, the streams that supply water to them dry up in summer.
They are rich store houses of biodiversity and also home to extremely rich wildlife.
- Shola grasslands which are critical habitats for many species, continue to be viewed as lower priority or grassy blanks
- As grasslands vanish or become more fragmented, local flora and fauna, particularly endemic species such as Nilgiri Pipit, may be under threat.
- In the Palani hill range of Western Ghats.
- The Forest Departments of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, besides private planters, were responsible for large-scale destruction of Sholas during the past two centuries
- Expanding agriculture – agriculture and fallow land have increased three times to 100 sq.km. in the past four decades.
- The spread of invasive species like acacia have eaten into as much as two-thirds of natural grasslands.
- Fire is also one of the major factor which not only depletes undergrowth but also facilitates the seed germination of fast invading, weed plants by breaking seed dormancy.
- Development of tourism in places such as Udhagamandalam, Ponmudi (Thiruvananthapuram district) and Munnar is also leading to destruction of Shola grasslands.
Need for conservation:
Shola is a very sensitive type of vegetation. Once it vanishes from its original habitat, it is very difficult to make it reappear in view of the change in climate which does not allow shola seedling to grow in open grasslands.
Sources: Down to earth.
GS Paper 4:
Context: A 74-year-old woman from Andhra Pradesh was recently recorded as the oldest in the world to give birth to twins through in-vitro fertilisation or IVF.
However, the medical community has expressed ethical and medical concerns over conception at such an advanced age.
Why this is a concern?
The average life expectancy of an Indian woman is 70 and of a man 69, and the medical community has expressed concerns over future of children born to such an elderly couple. There are complications that can risk human life.
Pregnancy in old age poses multiple risks — hypertension, diabetes, convulsions, bleeding, and cardiac complications to name a few.
The womb of an older woman has to be prepared by injecting hormones for the foetus to grow for nine months. Also, a woman of that age cannot breastfeed.
How is it regulated?
Globally, an estimated 15% of couples are infertile.
- The Assisted Reproductive Technologies (Regulation) Bill, 2010, states that in the Indian social context, children are “old-age insurance”.
- The Bill proposes the upper age limit at 45 for women and 50 for men to undergo the IVF procedure.
- As of now, several centres rely on ICMR’s 2017 guidelines that recommend the same age limits.
- Even for adoption, the total age of the couple must not exceed 110 years.
- With increasing life expectancy, doctors are in talks with the government to increase the IVF age limit to 50-52 years for women.
- Until then, several experts self-regulate, some counsel senior citizens to drop the idea, and others refuse them IVF treatment.
Sources: the Hindu.
Facts for prelims:
National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT):
Established in November 1993 as an autonomous society under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India.
Major aim of starting NIOT is to develop reliable indigenous technologies to solve the various engineering problems associated with harvesting of non-living and living resources in the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which is about two-thirds of the land area of India.
Waste Management Accelerator for Aspiring Women Entrepreneurs (WAWE Summit 2019):
It will be held in November-December 2019.
Jointly organized by All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and Institute of Waste Management (IIWM) at Jaipur.
It will be the largest gathering of young women students to promote entrepreneurship in waste management and providing alternatives to single use plastic carry bags.
Theme: Make your own bag – empowering women to take up income generation activity and entrepreneurship in waste management through making a business out of this record creating concept.
Year of Artificial Intelligence:
The state government of Telangana has decided to declare 2020 as Year of Artificial Intelligence.
Throughout the year 2020, the state government will be running multiple programs, meetings and activities such as hackathons, master classes and other activities.