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Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 16 October 2019

Insights Daily Current Affairs + PIB: 16 October 2019

Table of contents:


GS Paper 1:

  1. Global Hunger Index.
  2. What is a randomised controlled trial?


GS Paper 2:

  1. Kurds.


GS Paper 3:

  1. IMF’s World Economic Outlook (WEO).
  2. One Nation One FASTag.
  3. Microbial fuel cells.


Facts for prelims:

  1. 2019 Booker prize.
  2. The National Blindness & Visual Impairment Survey India 2015-2019.
  3. World Food Day.
  4. 2019 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation.
  5. Maritime States Development Council.



GS Paper 1:


Topics Covered:

  1. Population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.

Global Hunger Index


What to study?

For Prelims: GHI- key facts, Performance of India and other countries.

For Mains: GHI- findings on India, concerns and challenges, remedies.


Context: The 2019 Global Hunger Index report has been released.

The GHI ranks countries on a 100-point scale, with 0 being the best score (no hunger) and 100 being the worst. Values less than 10 reflect low hunger, values from 20 to 34.9 indicate serious hunger; values from 35 to 49.9 are alarming; and values of 50 or more are extremely alarming.


What is Global Hunger Index?

The report is a peer-reviewed publication released annually by Welthungerhilfe and Concern Worldwide.

The GHI scores are based on a formula that captures three dimensions of hunger—insufficient caloric intake, child undernutrition, and child mortality—using four component indicators:

  1. UNDERNOURISHMENT: the share of the population that is under-nourished, reflecting insufficient caloric intake
  2. CHILD WASTING: the share of children under the age of five who are wasted (low weight-for-height), reflecting acute undernutrition.
  3. CHILD STUNTING: the share of children under the age of five who are stunted (low height-for-age), reflecting chronic undernutrition.
  4. CHILD MORTALITY: the mortality rate of children under the age of five.


Key findings:

Global scenario:

  1. The report is topped by Central African Republic.
  2. It is becoming difficult to feed the world due to climate change.
  3. While there has been progress in reducing hunger, but the gains are now being threatened and severe hunger persists in many regions across the world.
  4. Multiple countries have higher hunger levels now than in 2010, and approximately 45 countries are set to fail to achieve low levels of hunger by 2030.
  5. Among the 117 countries, 43 have “serious” levels of hunger. The Central African Republic is in the “extremely alarming” level in the hunger index.
  6. The Global Hunger Index recommends various steps the countries could take to tackle this serious problem: Prioritizing resilience among the most vulnerable groups, better response to disasters, addressing inequalities, action to mitigate climate change are among measures suggested in the report.


India and it’s neighbours:

  1. India ranked 102 on the index among 117 qualifying countries with a score of 30.3. Even North Korea, Niger, Cameroon fared better than India.
  2. Neighboring countries too bagged better spots — Sri Lanka (66), Nepal (73), Pakistan (94) and Bangladesh (88).
  3. India bagged the top spot in child wasting rate in the world with an increase of 4.3 percentage points in nine years.
  4. Around 90 per cent of children aged between 6 and 23 months in the country don’t even get minimum required food.
  5. When it comes to stunting in children under five, the country saw a dip, but it’s still high — 37.9 per cent in 2019 from 42 per cent in 2010.
  6. Despite the Swachh Bharat campaign, open defecation is still practiced in India. It jeopardises the population’s health and severely impacts children’s growth and their ability to absorb nutrients.


Concerns for India:

  1. These findings point at a serious food crisis since wasting is “a strong predictor of mortality among children under five and is usually the result of acute significant food shortage and/or disease.
  2. India’s hunger indicators have a huge impact on the total indicators of the region owing to its large population.
  3. The data shows that India’s poor scores were pulling down South Asia to a point where it does worse than even sub-Saharan Africa.

What needs to be done?

In India, to combat the malnutrition levels both immediate and long term interventions are needed.

  1. Around 85 to 90% of wasting can be managed at the community level.
  2. Now, the nutritional rehabilitation centres are coming up across the country. It can help in taking care of the institutional needs of the children who are already malnourished.
  3. But to prevent it from happening, mothers need to be educated about nutrition at anganwadis, access to clean drinking water and sanitation has to be ensured, and livelihood security is needed.
  4. However, for immediate intervention, nutritional formulation needs to be made available at community level.
  5. The government can utilise the existing network of public distribution system, have the self-help groups prepare packaged, portioned nutritional formulations to help the moderately malnourished before wasting happens.


Sources: the Hindu.


Mains Question: Why despite India being a large agricultural country a large population is malnourished? Discuss in detail the reasons and challenges associated with malnutrition in India.

Topics Covered:

  1. Population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.


What is a randomised controlled trial?


What to study?

For Prelims and mains: What is RTC? Why is it used, significance and criticisms.


Context: The new Economics Nobel laureates – Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer – are considered to be instrumental in using randomised controlled trials to test the effectiveness of various policy interventions to alleviate poverty.


What is a randomised controlled trial?

It is an experiment that is designed to isolate the influence that a certain intervention or variable has on an outcome or event.


Why is randomised controlled trial so popular?

  1. At any point in time, there are multiple factors that work in tandem to influence various social events.
  2. RCTs allow economists and other social science researchers to isolate the individual impact that a certain factor alone has on the overall event.
  3. For instance, to measure the impact that hiring more teachers can have on children’s learning, researchers must control for the effect that other factors such as intelligence, nutrition, climate, economic and social status etc., which may also influence learning outcomes to various degrees, have on the final event.
  4. Randomised controlled trials promise to overcome this problem through the use of randomly picked samples.



Many development economists believe that RCTs can help governments to find, in a thoroughly scientific way, the most potent policy measures that could help end poverty rapidly. 


Criticisms of randomised controlled trials:

As per economist Angus Deaton, who won the economics Nobel Prize in 2015, “Understanding and misunderstanding randomised control trials” that simply choosing samples for an RCT experiment in a random manner does not really make these samples identical in their many characteristics. While two randomly chosen samples might turn out to be similar in some cases, he argued, there are greater chances that most samples are not really similar to each other.

Other economists argue that social science research, including research in the field of development economics, may be inherently unsuited for such controlled research since it may be humanly impossible to control for multiple factors that may influence social events.


Sources: the Hindu.



GS Paper 2:


Topics Covered:

  1. Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.




What to study?

For Prelims: Who are Kurds and Where is Kurdistan?

For Mains: Why are they under attack and what led to these attacks, what is the way out?


Who are Kurds?

At an estimated 25 million to 35 million population, they are the world’s largest stateless ethnic group.

The majority among the Kurdish people today are Sunni Muslim, but there are adherents of other faiths too, including Sufism and other mystical practices.

  • They live in the highlands of southern and eastern Turkey, northern Iraq, the northeastern Syria, northwestern Iran, and parts of south Armenia, and are a minority in each of these countries. Small communities live in Georgia, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, and eastern Iran as well.
  • Kurds have long had a reputation for being fearless fighters, and they have served as mercenaries in many armies over the centuries.
  • The mediaeval warrior Saladin, founder of the Ayyubid dynasty that replaced the Fatimids in Egypt and ruled over large parts of the Middle East in the 12th and 13th centuries, was of Kurdish ethnicity.


What’s happening now?

Recently, the Trump administration ordered US troops to step aside from the border in northern Syria, effectively paving the way for Turkey to launch an offensive against US-backed Kurdish forces who they regard as enemies.


What are their demands?

The Kurds have never achieved nation-state status, except in Iraq, where they have a regional government called Iraqi Kurdistan.

Kurdistan is made up of five different regions: southeastern Turkey, northeastern Syria, northern Iraq, northwestern Iran and southwestern Armenia.

In the early 20th century, the Kurds began working toward the creation of homeland known as Kurdistan. In 1920, the Treaty of Sèvres — one of a series of treaties that the Central Powers signed after their defeat in World War I — outlined the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and called for an autonomous Kurdistan.

Three years later, after the end of the war, Western allies dropped demands for an independent Kurdish state and the Kurdish region was divided among several countries.

Why is Turkey attacking them?

Turkey has two main goals in northeast Syria: to drive the Kurdish YPG militia which it deems a security threat away from its border, and to create a space inside Syria where 2 million Syrian refugees currently hosted in Turkey can be settled.


Latest developments:

  1. Kurdish forces who had until recently been America’s allies against both the Islamic State and President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, announced an agreement with the Damascus regime, which is backed by Moscow and Tehran, the United States’ two great rivals in the region.
  2. Turkey has also launched a military operation against Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria.


What could this mean for Islamic state?

Chaos could present Islamic State with an opportunity to stage a revival and the SDF has been conducting operations against IS sleeper cells since capturing its final territorial foothold earlier this year.


Way ahead:

The operation could reshape the map of the Syrian conflict once again, dealing a blow to Kurdish-led forces that have battled Islamic State while widening Turkey’s territorial control at the border.


Sources: Indian Express.



GS Paper 3:


Topics Covered:

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


IMF’s World Economic Outlook (WEO)


What to study?

For Prelims and mains: Key findings, reasons for slowdown and measures proposed.


Context: IMF’s 2019 World Economic Outlook (WEO) has been released.


India- specific observations:

  • India retains its rank as the world’s fastest-growing major economy, tying with China.
  • It has a projected growth rate of 6.1 per cent for the current fiscal year, despite an almost one per cent cut in the forecast.
  • However, India’s economy is projected to pick up and grow by 7 per cent in the 2020 fiscal year.


Reasons for the cut in growth projection for India:

  • India’s economy decelerated further in the second quarter, held back by sector-specific weaknesses in the automobile sector and real estate as well as lingering uncertainty about the health of non-bank financial companies.
  • “Corporate and environmental regulatory uncertainty” are other factors that weighed on demand.
  • The reduction in India’s growth projection for this year “reflects a weaker-than-expected outlook for domestic demand”.


Measures needed for India to revive its growth:

  1. Use monetary policy and broad-based structural reforms to address cyclical weakness and strengthen confidence.
  2. A credible fiscal consolidation path is needed to bring down India’s elevated public debt over the medium term.
  3. This should be supported by subsidy-spending rationalisation and tax-base enhancing measures.
  4. Reduce the public sector’s role in the financial system, reform the hiring and dismissal regulations.


Global scenario:

  1. The world economy is projected to grow only 3 per cent this year and 3.4 per cent next year amid a “synchronised slowdown“.
  2. China’s economic growth will slow down to 5.8 per cent next year.
  3. In the Euro area, growth is projected to be only 1.2 percent this year and 1.4 next year, with the German economy expected to grow by a dismal 0.5 per cent this year.
  4. United States is expected to slightly better with a 2.1 per cent growth projected for this year and 2.4 per cent for the next.
  5. Reasons for slowdown: rising trade barriers, uncertainty surrounding trade and geopolitics, and structural factors, such as low productivity growth and an aging population in developed countries.

Sources: the Hindu.

Topics Covered:

  1. Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.


Microbial fuel cells


What to study?

For Prelims and mains: What are microbial fuel cells, how they work, significance and potential applications?


Context: Microbial fuel cells have been installed at a zoo in London.

Using these cells, a plant has taken the botanical world’s first selfie.


What are microbial fuel cells?

A device that converts chemical energy to electrical energy by the action of microorganisms.


How it works?

  1. Under sunlight, plants produce sugars and oxygen from water and CO2 (photosynthesis).
  2. These sugars do not remain in the leaves, but are transported throughout the plant to the stem and roots.
  3. Some of these sugars are excreted by the roots as a waste product from the plant.
  4. Soil micro-organisms break this down further, releasing energy. 
  5. This energy is captured using an anode (minus) and a cathode (plus) and charge a super capacitor.
  6. When the super capacitor is full, the power is discharged and a photo is taken.



Unlike solar panels, plants can survive in the shade, naturally moving into position to maximise the potential of absorbing sunlight.


Sources: Indian Express.

Topics Covered:

  1. Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.


One Nation One FASTag


What to study?

For Prelims: Key features and overview of the scheme.

For Mains: Benefits, challenges in implementation and significance of the scheme.


Context: One Nation One FASTag scheme inaugurated recently.

The government has already announced that FASTags will be mandatory for all vehicles at all National Highways from December 1.


Features of the scheme- One Nation One FASTag:

  1. The scheme will be implemented from December 1, 2019, and can be availed upon activation by new cars having Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags on national and state highways throughout the country.
  2. The plan aims to integrate the collection of toll digitally and ensure seamless mobility of vehicles across India.
  3. The payment method is a part of the National Electronic Toll Collection (NETC) programme. The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) collects the payments.


What is ‘FASTag’? How they operate?

  1. Stickers affixed to the windscreen of vehicles.
  2. Use RFID technology to enable digital, contactless payment of tolls without having to stop at toll gates.
  3. The tags are linked to bank accounts and other payment methods.
  4. Sensors are placed on toll barriers, and the barriers open for vehicles having valid FASTags.
  5. A FASTag is valid for five years and needs to be recharged only as per requirement.


Why do we need this scheme?

According to the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), these devices will make passing through tolls considerably smoother since drivers will no longer have to carry cash or stop to make a transaction.

Cameras at toll booths will take photos of passengers in a vehicle, which will be useful for the Ministry of Home Affairs as there will be a record of a vehicle’s movement.

Sources: Indian Express.



Facts for prelims:


2019 Booker prize:

Context: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood and Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo have jointly won this year’s Booker prize.

Please note that this year’s award was an exception as the rules do not allow for the award to be either split or withheld.

However, this year the jury was unanimous after several rounds that this year’s award must be shared.

What is the Booker prize?

  • Awarded every year to the best novel that was “written in English and published in the UK or Ireland”.
  • Launched in 1969.
  • Sponsored by Man Group.
  • It carries an award of £50,000.

Is this the first time the Booker has been shared?

No, the prize has been shared in the past.

  • The first time this happened was in 1974 when Nadine Gordimer and Stanley Middleton won its together.
  • The second time was in 1992 when Michael Ondaatje and Barry Unsworth won it together. However, since then the rules were tweaked to ensure there are no joint winners.


The National Blindness & Visual Impairment Survey India 2015-2019:

Released recently, the survey looks at district-wise prevalence of blindness and visual impairment. 

The prevalence of blindness is highest among those who are at least 80 years old (11.6%).

Cause of blindness:

  1. Untreated cataract is the main cause of blindness, at 66.2%. and also, the foremost cause of severe visual impairment, at 80.7% of all cases.
  2. Corneal opacity, cataract surgical complications and some posterior segment disorders are some of the other causes of blindness.

World Food Day:

Celebrated on October 16 every year to raise awareness on the issues of poverty and hunger.

Established by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in November 1979.

The theme of World Food Day 2019 is “Our Actions Are Our Future. Healthy Diets for A #ZeroHunger World”.


2019 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation:

Sixteen projects from five countries – Australia, Bhutan, China, India and New Zealand – have been recognized by the international Jury of conservation experts in this year’s Awards.

Significance: The UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation programme recognizes the efforts of private individuals and organizations that have successfully restored and conserved structures and buildings of heritage value in the region.


Awardees from India include:

Award of Distinction:

  • Vikram Sarabhai Library, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, India.


Award of Merit:

  • Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, Mumbai, India.
  • Our Lady of Glory Church, Mumbai, India.


Honourable Mention:

  • Flora Fountain, Mumbai, India.



Maritime States Development Council:

MSDC is an apex advisory body for the development of the Maritime sector and aims to ensure integrated development of Major and non-Major Ports.

The MSDC was constituted in May, 1997 to assess in consultation with State Governments, the future development of existing and new Minor Ports by the respective Maritime States either directly or through captive users and private participation.