Current Affairs : 04 February 2019
- Infrastructure- Energy.
What to study?
- For Prelims: What is National Grid? UTs out of it, capacity and cross border transmissions.
- For Mains: Significance and the need for National Grid, India’s energy demands and the role of National Grid in fulfilling these demands.
Why in News? PM Modi recently dedicated the 220 kV Srinagar- Alusteng – Drass- Kargil – Leh Transmission Line to the Nation. With this, Ladakh is now connected to the National Grid.
The project has been completed by the Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (POWERGRID), a Navratna Company of Government of India, under Ministry of Power.
Benefits of this project: It will result in minimizing the massive use of diesel generating sets during winters, and thus will help in protection of beautiful environment, of pristine Ladakh region. This would also give huge boost to the tourism sector and enhance socio-economic development of Ladakh.
What is National Grid?
It is the high-voltage electric power transmission network in mainland India, connecting power stations and major substations and ensuring that electricity generated anywhere in mainland India can be used to satisfy demand elsewhere.
- The National Grid is owned, operated, and maintained by state-owned Power Grid Corporation of India.
- It is one of the largest operational synchronous grids in the world with 307.8 GW of installed power generation capacity.
- The union territories of Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep are not connected to the National Grid.
Benefits of a National Grid:
- Better availability resulting in lesser power cuts.
- More stability in power.
Cross border transmission links:
Presently, India is importing electricity from Bhutan with synchronous transmission links while exporting power to Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar with asynchronous transmission links between the National Grid, and the electricity grids of these countries.
- Development processes and the development industry the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders.
- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Know My India Programme:
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Know India Programme and its significance, about NFCH.
Why in News? The National Foundation for Communal Harmony (NFCH) is organizing a special workshop for 42 Youth in the age group of 15 to 22 years, who have been victims of communal violence in the past, under the Know My India Programme.
Objectives of the workshop:
- To help the children deal with the post-traumatic stress, provide them life tools to manage their emotions and eliminate disturbing impressions of the past events.
- To have them experience deep relaxation and peace, give them a broader and more inclusive view of the world and how each individual is connected with the others beyond social identities.
- The programme is being organized in collaboration with the Art of Living Foundation.
- The Youth come from 6 states including Jammu & Kashmir, Manipur, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Gujarat along with 10 official mentors.
About Know My India Programme:
It is a unique programme initiated by the NFCH to bring together financially assisted children of the Foundation from different States/Regions of the country to promote oneness, fraternity and national integration.
- The programme is all about familiarization with the environment, family life, social customs, etc. of the people living in different parts of the country; developing understanding of the common historical and cultural heritage of the country.
It is an autonomous organization under the administrative control of the Ministry of Home Affairs. The main objective of the Foundation is to provide assistance to the children / youth rendered orphan / destitute in communal, caste, ethnic or terrorist violence for their rehabilitation besides promoting communal harmony and national integration through various activities. The NFCH sponsors/conducts different activities for the promotion of communal harmony and strengthening of national integration.
Bharat Rang Mahotsav (BRM):
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: BRM and its significance.
Context: 20th edition of Bharat Rang Mahotsav is being held in New Delhi.
It is being organized by National School of Drama (NSD).
Bharat Rang Mahotsav (BRM):
- It is the annual international theatre festival of India organized by the National School of Drama (NSD).
- It was established two decades ago to stimulate the growth and development of theatre across India.
- Originally a national festival showcasing the work of the most creative theatre workers in India, BRM has evolved to international scope, hosting theatre groups from around the world, and is now the largest theatre festival of Asia.
Relevant News Paper Articles:
- Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.
- Issues related to health.
- Protection of the vulnerable sections of the society.
Kerala sets up drug price monitor:
What to study?
- For Prelims: Proposed unit, role, objectives and composition.
- For Mains: Need for such units, significance, issues involved and the need for drug price monitoring, relevance of DPCO.
Context: Kerala has become the first State to set up a price monitoring and research unit (PMRU) to track violation of prices of essential drugs and medical devices under the Drugs Price Control Order (DPCO).
Background: The move comes more than five years after the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA)proposed such a system for the States and the Union Territories.
The State Health Secretary would be the Chairman of the society and the Drugs Controller would be its member secretary. Its members include a State government representative, representatives of private pharmaceutical companies, and those from consumer rights protection fora. The society would also have an executive committee headed by the Drugs Controller.
The new watchdog will offer technical help to the State Drug Controllers and the NPPA to monitor notified prices of medicines, detect violation of the provisions of the DPCO, look at price compliance, collect test samples of medicines, and collect and compile market-based data of scheduled as well as non-scheduled formulations.
The suggestion to set up PMRUs was made against the backdrop of the lack of a field-level link between the NPPA and the State Drugs Controllers and State Drug Inspectors to monitor drug prices. Pharma companies have been accused of overcharging prices of drugs in the scheduled category fixed by the DPCO and those outside its ambit too.
Sources: the hindu.
Mains Question: Discuss the effectiveness of price capping methods for pharmaceutical products as a tool to ensure affordable healthcare? Suggest alternatives as well.
Paper 2 and 3:
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- Money laundering related issues.
NGOs and regulation of their foreign funding
What to study?
- For Prelims: FCRA guidelines on foreign funding to NGOs, eligibility.
- For Mains: Misuse of foreign funds, issues and the need for stringent measures to prevent the misuse of foreign funds.
Context: Greenpeace has been forced to close two of its regional offices and “considerably” reduce its staff in India because of a government crackdown on allegedly unlawful foreign funding of NGOs.
- Greenpeace India had its foreign funding blocked in 2015 as part of a nationwide crackdown on charities.
Significance of NGOs:
NGOs play an important role in the upliftment of the weaker sections of the society and their overall development. This is especially true in the case of India, where a vast majority of its population continues to remain under the poverty line and have little or no access to even basic facilities provided by the government.
Regulation of Foreign Funding:
The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 and rules framed under it (the “FCRA” or “Act”) regulate the receipt and usage of foreign contribution by non-governmental organisations (“NGOs”) in India.
Scope and objective of FCRA:
The intent of the Act is to prevent use of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality for any activity detrimental to the national interest. It has a very wide scope and is applicable to a natural person, body corporate, all other types of Indian entities (whether incorporated or not) as well as NRIs and overseas branches/subsidiaries of Indian companies and other entities formed or registered in India. It is implemented by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.
In order to achieve the above objective, the Act:
- Prohibits acceptance and use of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality by a certain specified category of persons such as a candidate for election, judge, journalist, columnist, newspaper publication, cartoonist and others.
- Regulates the inflow to and usage of foreign contribution by NGOs by prescribing a mechanism to accept, use and report usage of the same.
It defines the term ‘foreign contribution’ to include currency, article other than gift for personal use and securities received from foreign source. While foreign hospitality refers to any offer from a foreign source to provide foreign travel, boarding, lodging, transportation or medical treatment cost.
Acceptance of foreign funds:
The Act permits only NGOs having a definite cultural, economic, educational, religious or social programme to accept foreign contribution, that too after such NGOs either obtain a certificate of registration or prior permission under the Act.
Registration and prior approval under FCRA:
- In order to be registered under the FCRA, an NGO must be in existence for at least three years and must have undertaken reasonable activity in its field for which the foreign contribution is proposed to be utilised. Further, it must have spent at least INR 1,000,000 over three years preceding the date of its application on its activities.
- The registration certificate is valid for a period of five years and must be thereafter renewed in the prescribed manner.
- NGOs not eligible for registration can seek prior approval from FCRA for receiving foreign funding. This permission is granted only for a specific amount of foreign funding from a specified foreign source for a specific purpose. It remains valid till receipt and full utilisation of such amount.
The Act imposes various conditions on the use of foreign funds and some of them are as follows:
- All funds received by a NGO must be used only for the purpose for which they were received.
- Such funds must not be used in speculative activities identified under the Act.
- Except with the prior approval of the Authority, such funds must not be given or transferred to any entity not registered under the Act or having prior approval under the Act.
- Every asset purchased with such fund must be in the name of the NGO and not its office bearers or members.
Every NGO registered or having prior approval under the Act must file an annual report with the Authority in the prescribed form. This report must be accompanied by an income and expenditure statement, receipt and payment account, and balance sheet for the relevant financial year. For financial years where no foreign contribution is received, a ‘NIL’ report must be furnished with the Authority.
Sources: the hindu.
Mains Question: The Central government has acted against a number of NGOs in India in the past two years for allegedly violating the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act. Critically comment on its implications
Paper 2 and 3:
- Schemes for the vulnerable sections of the society and their performance analysis.
- Issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions.
Millet Village scheme
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Millet Village scheme- objectives and significance, all about Millets and their significance.
Context: With ‘superfood’ and ‘eat smart’ strategies forming the main ingredients of the latest dietary mantras, Kerala State Agriculture Department is earmarking farm space in more districts for growing nutrient-rich millets.
The state is also planning to expand its Millet Village scheme to various other districts.
About Millet Village scheme:
It is a special scheme to promote the cultivation of cereals such as millet, ragi, bajra and maize by setting up a millet village at Attappady. The project aimed at protecting seeds of traditional varieties of millets and ensures food security and livelihood for tribals.
What are Millets?
Millet is a common term to categorize small-seeded grasses that are often termed nutri-cereals or dryland-cereals, and includes sorghum, pearl millet, ragi, small millet, foxtail millet, proso millet, barnyard millet, kodo millet and other millets.
Benefits of Millets:
An important staple cereal crop for millions of small holder dryland farmers across sub-saharan Africa and Asia, millets offer nutrition, resilience, income and livelihood for farmers even in difficult times. They have multiple untapped uses such as food, feed, fodder, biofuels and brewing. Therefore, millets are Smart Food as they are Good for You, Good for the Farmer and Good for the Planet.
Nutritionally superior to wheat & rice owing to their higher levels of protein with more balanced amino acid profile, crude fiber & minerals such as Iron, Zinc, and Phosphorous, millets can provide nutritional security and act as a shield against nutritional deficiency, especially among children and women.
The anaemia (iron deficiency), B-complex vitamin deficiency, pellagra (niacin deficiency) can be effectively tackled with intake of less expensive but nutritionally rich food grains like millets.
Millets can also help tackle health challenges such as obesity, diabetes and lifestyle problems as they are gluten free, have a low glycemic index and are high in dietary fibre and antioxidants.
Adapted to low or no purchased inputs and to harsh environment of the semi-arid tropics, they are the backbone for dry land agriculture.
Photo-insensitive & resilient to climate change, millets are hardy, resilient crops that have a low carbon and water footprint, can withstand high temperatures and grow on poor soils with little or no external inputs. In times of climate change they are often the last crop standing and, thus, are a good risk management strategy for resource-poor marginal farmers.
Efforts by government to promote millets:
- In order to promote ‘millets’, India had on its part notified these climate resilient crops as “Nutri-Cereals” and allowed its inclusion in the Public Distribution System (PDS) for improving nutritional support in April.
- Recognising millets’ anti-diabetic properties, the notification called it a “powerhouse of nutrients” and identified several varieties of millets for promotion. The millets in the category of “Nutri-Cereals” include Sorghum (Jowar), Pearl Millet (Bajra), Finger Millet (Ragi), Foxtail Millet (Kangani/Kakun) and Buckwheat (Kuttu) among others.
- Besides, the government had in July substantially hiked the minimum support price (MSP) of millets so that more and more farmers may opt for cultivation of these less water consuming crops.
Facts for Prelims:
160th session of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Council, held in Rome in December 2018, approved India’s proposal to observe an International Year of Millets in 2023.
Sources: the hindu.
Mains Question: What is the importance of growing millets for India. Discuss. Also discuss the initiatives taken by the government for promoting production and consumption of millets.
- Conservation related issues.
World Wetlands Day 2019
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Significance of the day, wetlands conservation related issues.
Context: World Wetlands Day is celebrated on February 2 each year to mark the Day the Convention on Wetlands was adopted in the Iranian City of Ramsar in 1971.
India is a party to the Convention since 1982 and committed to the Ramsar approach of wise use of wetlands.
Theme: “Wetlands and Climate Change”.
About Ramsar convention:
The Ramsar Convention is an international treaty for the conservation and wise use of wetlands. It is named after the Iranian city of Ramsar, on the Caspian Sea, where the treaty was signed on 2 February 1971. Known officially as ‘the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat’ (or, more recently, just ‘the Convention on Wetlands’), it came into force in 1975.
Montreux Record under the Convention is a register of wetland sites on the List of Wetlands of International Importance where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring, or are likely to occur as a result of technological developments, pollution or other human interference.
It is maintained as part of the Ramsar List. The Montreux Record was established by Recommendation of the Conference of the Contracting Parties (1990). Sites may be added to and removed from the Record only with the approval of the Contracting Parties in which they lie.
Significance of urban wetlands:
In focusing on the theme “wetlands for a sustainable urban future”, this year’s World Wetlands Day sheds light on the importance of wetlands for cities. Today, 50% of the world’s population live in urban areas. Forecasts expect the urban population to rise to 6.3 billion by 2050 – a more than eightfold increase since 1950. While the urban proportion of the world’s population will more than double from 1950 to 2050, the number of the world’s wetlands has already more than halved over the past 100 years. However, wetlands play a vital role for cities and for the whole of humanity. For instance, they serve as a source of drinking water; they reduce flooding and the vegetation of wetlands filters domestic and industrial waste and improves water quality.
Wetlands are at risk, from 1900 64% of wetlands around the world have disappeared with severe consequences for those who are living in close proximity with them, mostly Farmers. The International Community should make greater efforts to preserve these wetlands and put Farmers in the best conditions to take advantage of wetlands while respecting them.
Sources: the hindu.
Mains Question: Why wetlands are considered as the kidneys of the cities? Critically examine how and why wetlands in Indian cities are adversely affected.
- Awareness in space.
NASA’s Hubble Telescope
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Hubble telescope- objectives and findings.
Context: Using the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered a dwarf galaxy in a globular cluster which is only 30 million light-years away.
The researchers determined that this galaxy — nicknamed Bedin 1, after discovery team leader L. R. Bedin of the INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova in Italy — is a “spheroidal dwarf” just 3,000 light-years wide.
About the Hubble Space Telescope:
- The Hubble Space Telescope is a large telescope in space. NASA launched Hubble in 1990.
- It was built by the United States space agency NASA, with contributions from the European Space Agency.
- Hubble is the only telescope designed to be serviced in space by astronauts.
- Expanding the frontiers of the visible Universe, the Hubble Space Telescope looks deep into space with cameras that can see across the entire optical spectrum from infrared to ultraviolet.
Sources: the hindu.
Facts for Prelims:
Context: The ‘Operation Smile-V’ initiative launched by Hyderabad Police has helped in rescuing 325 children, who were either working as labourers or begging on the streets, since January 1 this year.
Objective: To trace the missing children and rescue child labourers, Operation Smile-V was launched on January 1 across Telangana.
Operation Smile also called as Operation Muskaan is an initiative of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to rescue/rehabilitate missing children.
Context: The Tamil Nadu government has distributed nilavembu kudineer (a Siddha medicine) concoction to treat people infected with dengue during the outbreak.
Under in vitro conditions, nilavembu kudineer (a Siddha medicine) was found to provide protection against chikungunya virus while it was effective as a treatment during acute phase of dengue infection.
Summaries of Important editorials:
Standard deviations: On jobs data:
What’s the issue? The editorial discusses about the diminishing role of the National Statistical Commission and the need for upholding India’s statistical integrity.
- Chairman and few members of NSC have quit their jobs. Possible reasons:
- Centre’s refusal to release new data on employment that were due to be made public in December 2018.
- Unease about the recently unveiled back-series data on the economy. They were released by the NITI Aayog bypassing convention and the commission’s views.
What’s the issue now?
- A key role of the NSC, set up in 2006, is to verify whether data being put in the public domain are reliable and adequate. Information has been collected and disseminated by successive governments under laid-down schedules, earning Indian data greater global trust than most other emerging market peers, especially China. However, the present government has undermined the role of NSC. More often, the views and findings of NSC are not taken into consideration.
- On the question of job-creation for the youth, credible data are missing. The government’s approach to jobs-related data may be due to its disastrous demonetisation gambit which hurt supply chains and informal jobs in the economy and whose effects have lingered.
State of unemployment in India:
- As per the new Periodic Labour Force Survey, for July 2017-December 2018, unemployment in the country has registered a five-decade high.
- The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy has pegged job losses in 2018 at 11 million based on its regular employment surveys.
Delay often undermines the credibility of data being released. Therefore, the government should ensure that the data is withheld and India’s statistical integrity is not invalidated.
The Government of India through a resolution dated 1st June, 2005 set up the National Statistical Commission (NSC).
- The setting up of the NSC followed the decision of the Cabinet to accept the recommendations of the Rangarajan Commission, which reviewed the Indian Statistical System in 2001. The NSC was constituted with effect from 12th July 2006 with a mandate to evolve policies, priorities and standards in statistical matters.
- The Commission consists of a part-time Chairperson, four part-time Members, an ex-officio Member and a secretary. The Chief Statistician of India who is the Head of the National Statistical Office is the Secretary of the Commission and the Chief Executive Officer of the NITI Aayog is the ex-officio Member of the commission.
- The commission has also been entrusted with the functions of the Governing Council of the National Sample Survey Office which include overseeing the conduct of National Sample Surveys (NSS) on various socioeconomic subjects through the NSSO and the State Directorate of Economics and Statistics.
04 Febraury 2019
- The University of Ladakh, the first-ever in the state’s region, was established in – Leh (Ladakh, J&K).
- The first State to set up a price monitoring and research unit (PMRU) to track violation of prices of essential drugs and medical devices –
- The government has announced to launch Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan Dhan Yojana to the unorganized sector workers to provide a monthly pension of – Rs. 3000.
- Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana aims to provide an amount of Rs. 6000, which will be given to the farmers per annum having land up to – 2 hectares.
- The interim Andhra Pradesh High Court complex situated in –
- The United States suspended ‘Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty’ with – Russia.
- Top player at the ICC ODI Woman’s batsmen Rankings released on February 2 – Smriti Mandhana (India).
- Winner of the ‘AFC Asian Cup 2019’ football tournament –
Person In News
- The new Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) – Rishi Kumar Shukla.
- Current Chief Justice of India (CJI) – Ranjan Gogoi.
- The ‘Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force (INF) Treaty’ was signed between the United States and Russia in the year –
- Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) established in the year – 1963.
- National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) established in the year –
- Capital of Russia –
- Currency of Russia – Russian ruble.