Current Affairs : 15 March 2019
Relevant articles from PIB:
India Energy Modelling Forum
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: About IEMF- objectives, functions and significance.
Context: First Workshop on India Energy Modelling Forum was recently Held.
Organized by: NITI Aayog and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) with the support of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). Organized under the Sustainable Growth Pillar of the India-U.S. Strategic Energy Partnership.
- IEMF has been envisaged as a pan-stakeholder platform for debating ideas, scenario-planning & discussing the India’s energy future.
- It seeks to provide a platform for leading experts and policy makers to study important energy and environmental issues and ensure induction of modelling and analysis in informed decision making process.
- The Forum aims to improve cooperation and coordination between modeling teams, the Government of India, knowledge partners and think-tanks, build capacity of Indian institutions, and identify issues for joint modeling activities and future areas of research.
- Issues related to health.
West Nile virus (WNV)
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: WNV- causes, spread, transmission, symptoms, prevention and treatment.
Context: Health Ministry takes stock of the public health measures for controlling West Nile Virus. A section of the media has reported that a seven year old boy from Malappuram District of Kerala is suffering from a West Nile Virus (WNV).
- West Nile Virus (WNV) is a member of the flavivirus genus and belongs to the Japanese encephalitis antigenic complex of the family Flaviviridae.
- West Nile Virus (WNV) can cause neurological disease and death in people. WNV is commonly found in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, North America and West Asia.
- WNV is maintained in nature in a cycle involving transmission between birds and mosquitoes. Humans, horses and other mammals can be infected.
Human infection is most often the result of bites from infected mosquitoes. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds, which circulate the virus in their blood for a few days. The virus eventually gets into the mosquito’s salivary glands. During later blood meals (when mosquitoes bite), the virus may be injected into humans and animals, where it can multiply and possibly cause illness.
The virus may also be transmitted through contact with other infected animals, their blood, or other tissues. A very small proportion of human infections have occurred through organ transplant, blood transfusions and breast milk. There is one reported case of transplacental (mother-to-child) WNV transmission.
Horses, just like humans, are “dead-end” hosts, meaning that while they become infected, they do not spread the infection. Symptomatic infections in horses are also rare and generally mild, but can cause neurologic disease, including fatal encephalomyelitis.
Signs and symptoms:
- Infection with WNV is either asymptomatic (no symptoms) in around 80% of infected people, or can lead to West Nile fever or severe West Nile disease.
- About 20% of people who become infected with WNV will develop West Nile fever. Symptoms include fever, headache, tiredness, and body aches, nausea, vomiting, occasionally with a skin rash (on the trunk of the body) and swollen lymph glands.
The symptoms of severe disease (also called neuroinvasive disease, such as West Nile encephalitis or meningitis or West Nile poliomyelitis) include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, and paralysis.
Treatment and vaccine:
Treatment is supportive for patients with neuro-invasive West Nile virus, often involving hospitalization, intravenous fluids, respiratory support, and prevention of secondary infections. No vaccine is available for humans.
- Indigenization and development of new technology.
Man Portable Anti-Tank Guided Missile (MPATGM)
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Key features and significance of MPATGM.
Context: In a major boost for Army, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully test fired indigenously developed, low weight, fire and forget Man Portable Anti-Tank Guided Missile (MPATGM).
- MPATGM is third-generation anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) indigenously developed by DRDO.
- It has strike range of 2.5 km. It weighs around 14.5 kg to maintain man portability. It is capable of being fired from shoulder and can be used during day and night. It has minimum lateral centre and gravity offset.
- It works on fire and forget principle and is known for its top attack capabilities. It is effective against both stationary and moving targets. It will be deployed in infantry and parachute battalions of Indian Army.
- Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
World Consumers Day
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: WCD- significance, theme, features and CPA.
What is it? 15 March is World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD), an annual occasion for celebration and solidarity within the international consumer movement. It marks the date in 1962 President John F Kennedy first outlined the definition of Consumer Rights.
Significance of the day: It is an opportunity to promote the basic rights of all consumers, for demanding that those rights are respected and protected, and for protesting the market abuses and social injustices which undermine them.
Theme: Trusted Smart Products.
- WCRD was first observed on 15 March 1983, and has since become an important occasion for mobilising citizen action.
- Consumers International (CI), which was founded in 1960 organises WCRD. It is the only independent and authoritative global voice for consumers and has over 220 member organisations in 115 countries around the world.
- Consumer Rights Day — India December 24th. On this day the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 had received the assent of the President.
Consumer protection act:
India adopted the Consumer Protection Act, later in 1986, thus providing a legal face to the Indian consumers. One of the strongest campaigns for protection of consumer rights in India, is “Jago Grahak Jago” which literally translates into, “wake up consumers”! This multimedia campaign from Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Government of India is aimed at creating an aware consumer.
UNNATEE (UNlocking NATional Energy Efficiency Potential)
What to study?
- For Prelims: About BEE, UNNATEE.
- For Mains: India’s energy demands, need for enhancement of efficiency.
Context: Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) has developed a national strategy document- UNNATEE (Unlocking NATional Energy Efficiency potential)– for accelerating energy efficiency in India.
The strategy document describes a plain framework and implementation strategy to establish a clear linkage between energy supply-demand scenarios and energy efficiency opportunities. The document offers a comprehensive roadmap to address India’s environmental and climate change mitigation action through energy efficiency measures.
The BEE is a statutory body under the Ministry of Power, Government of India.
- It assists in developing policies and strategies with the primary objective of reducing the energy intensity of the Indian economy.
- It coordinates with designated consumers, designated agencies, and other organizations to identify and utilize the existing resources and infrastructure, in performing the functions assigned to it under the Energy Conservation Act.
- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Festival of Innovation and Entrepreneurship 2019
What to study?
- For Prelims: About the festival and its key features.
- For Mains: Significance of the festival, key challenges faced by entrepreneurs in the country and measures to address them.
Context: Festival of Innovation and Entrepreneurship is being held in Gandhinagar, Gujarat.
About Festival of Innovation & Entrepreneurship (FINE):
FINE is an initiative being organised by Rashtrapati Bhavan in association with the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India and the National Innovation Foundation-India.
- It will recognise, respect, showcase, reward innovations and to foster a supportive ecosystem for innovators.
- FINE will provide a platform for innovators for building linkages with potential stakeholders to develop their ideas into implementable projects for the larger social good.
- It will provide a window to showcase creative and innovative solutions for social development through innovation emerging from grassroots, student ideas and other technologies.
Relevant articles from various News Papers:
- Population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies.
Mercer Quality of Living Ranking 2019
What to study?
- For Prelims: Highlights of the survey, performance of various cities.
- For Mains: Findings, significance, concerns, challenges and the need for comprehensive measures.
Context: Global consulting firm Mercer has released its annual quality of living survey in which 231 cities across the globe were ranked based on various factors. This is the 21st edition.
What Factors Determine Quality of Living?
These factors are evaluated in Mercer’s Quality of Living Reports, which offer city-to-city comparisons for nearly 500 global assignment destinations.
- Recreation Public services and transport.
- Socio-cultural environment.
- School and education.
- Medical and health considerations.
- Political and social environment.
- Natural environment.
- Economic environment.
- Consumer goods availability.
Highlights of the report:
- Globally, Vienna tops the ranking for the 10th year running, closely followed by Zurich, the runner-up.
- This year, Mercer provides a separate ranking on personal safety. Western Europe dominates the ranking, with Luxembourg named as the safest city in the world.
- London has been named the UK’s best city to live in.
- Indian cities: Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu is ranked at 105 in Mercer’s Quality Of Living Index and is the number one city from India. Bengaluru was the second best with the ranking of 149.
- Trade tensions and populist undercurrents continue to dominate the global economic climate. Combined with the spectre of monetary policy tightening and volatility looming over markets, international businesses are under more pressure than ever to get their overseas operations right.
- The survey shows that many cities around the world still offer attractive environments in which to do business, and the best understand that the quality of living is an essential component of a city’s attractiveness for businesses and mobile talent.
- Many cities had seen an improvement, but terror attacks in the last ten years have caused cities including Athens, Madrid and Paris to slide down the table.
Sources: the hindu.
- Conservation and pollution related issues.
Climate Vulnerability Index
What to study?
- For Prelims: About the index and key features.
- For Mains: Significance of the index and vulnerability of Himalayan states and the need for a policy framework to face the challenges.
Context: Scientists have developed a common framework for assessment of climate change vulnerability in all the states in the Himalayan region. They have developed an index based on socio-economic factors, demographic and health status, sensitivity of agricultural production, forest-dependent livelihoods and access to information, services and infrastructure.
The assessment has been done jointly by experts from Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) at Guwahati and Mandi, in collaboration with Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore with support from the Department of Science and Technology and the Swiss Development Corporation (SDC) which is implementing the Indian Himalayas Climate Adaptation Program (IHCAP).
- The assessment shows that the vulnerability index is the highest for Assam (0.72) and Mizoram (0.71).
- Sikkim is the least vulnerable state with the index being 0.42. Districts within a state face different degrees of vulnerability based on difference in geographic, climatic, socio-economic and demographic conditions.
- Assam is highly vulnerable to climate change because of factors like low per capita income, deforestation, large number of marginal farmers, least area under irrigation, lack of alternative sources of income and high rates of poverty.
Significance and the need for vulnerability map:
Receding apple lines, changing cropping patterns, more disasters like landslides and floods, drying springs in hills, spread of vector-borne diseases etc — are being felt all over the Himalayan region, which is one of the most sensitive climate zones globally. However, the vulnerability to climate change varies from state to state and even district to district within a state. It also depends on various socio-economic factors.
Climate adaptation is a collaborative effort between appropriate use of technology, vision that produces policies, change at ground level and engagement of local communities. These vulnerability maps will play a crucial role in this effort.
The vulnerability assessments will be useful for officials, decision makers, funding agencies and experts to have a common understanding on vulnerability and enable them to plan for adaptation.
Sources: down to earth.
- Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
Electoral bond scheme
What to study?
- For Prelims: Key features of Electoral Bonds and highlights of the scheme.
- For Mains: Significance of the scheme, benefits and concerns associated.
Context: Govt. defends electoral bonds scheme in SC.
What’s the issue?
A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking to strike down the ‘Electoral Bond Scheme 2018’ and amendments in the Finance Act, 2017, which allow for “unlimited donations from individuals and foreign companies to political parties without any record of the sources of funding.”
How govt defends its move?
- Electoral bonds have been introduced to promote transparency in funding and donation received by political parties.
- The scheme envisages building a transparent system of acquiring bonds with validated KYC and an audit trail. A limited window and a very short maturity period would make misuse improbable.
- The electoral bonds will prompt donors to take the banking route to donate, with their identity captured by the issuing authority. This will ensure transparency and accountability and is a big step towards electoral reform.
About Electoral bonds:
What are electoral bonds? Electoral bonds will allow donors to pay political parties using banks as an intermediary.
Key features: Although called a bond, the banking instrument resembling promissory notes will not carry any interest. The electoral bond, which will be a bearer instrument, will not carry the name of the payee and can be bought for any value, in multiples of Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000, Rs 1 lakh, Rs 10 lakh or Rs 1 crore.
Eligibility: As per provisions of the Scheme, electoral bonds may be purchased by a citizen of India, or entities incorporated or established in India. A person being an individual can buy electoral bonds, either singly or jointly with other individuals. Only the registered Political Parties which have secured not less than one per cent of the votes polled in the last Lok Sabha elections or the State Legislative Assembly are eligible to receive the Electoral Bonds.
Need: The electoral bonds are aimed at rooting out the current system of largely anonymous cash donations made to political parties which lead to the generation of black money in the economy.
How will the Bonds help?
The previous system of cash donations from anonymous sources is wholly non-transparent. The donor, the donee, the quantum of donations and the nature of expenditure are all undisclosed.
- According to government the system of Bonds will encourage political donations of clean money from individuals, companies, HUF, religious groups, charities, etc. After purchasing the bonds, these entities can hand them to political parties of their choice, which must redeem them within the prescribed time.
- Some element of transparency would be introduced in as much as all donors declare in their accounts the amount of bonds that they have purchased and all parties declare the quantum of bonds that they have received.
- The move could be misused, given the lack of disclosure requirements for individuals purchasing electoral bonds.
- Electoral bonds make electoral funding even more opaque. It will bring more and more black money into the political system.
- With electoral bonds there can be a legal channel for companies to round-trip their tax haven cash to a political party. If this could be arranged, then a businessman could lobby for a change in policy, and legally funnel a part of the profits accruing from this policy change to the politician or party that brought it about.
- Electoral bonds eliminate the 7.5% cap on company donations which means even loss-making companies can make unlimited donations.
- Companies no longer need to declare the names of the parties to which they have donated so shareholders won’t know where their money has gone.
- They have potential to load the dice heavily in favour of the ruling party as the donor bank and the receiver bank know the identity of the person. But both the banks report to the RBI which, in turn, is subject to the Central government’s will to know.
Sources: the hindu.
Mains Question: Critically examine the effectiveness of electoral bonds in ensuring transparent political funding and suggest alternatives?
Facts for Prelims:
What is it? It is a Joint Field Training Exercise between the Indian Army and 16 African nations. The 2019 edition will be conducted in Pune from March 18 to 27.
- AFINDEX-19 aims to train the participating contingents in Humanitarian Mine Assistance (HMA) and Peace Keeping Operations (PKO) under the United Nations Charter through practical and comprehensive discussions and tactical exercises.
- Contingents from Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, South Africa, Tanzania, Namibia, Mozambique, Uganda, Niger & Zambia are part of the joint exercise together with officers from Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar as Observers.
- The joint exercise will also focus on achieving interoperability, learning each other’s methodologies and tactics through synchronised operational level planning and tactical level training.
Summaries of important Editorials:
Disinvestment target within reach: Centre
Context: The government expects to meet its disinvestment target of Rs. 80,000 crore even though it has achieved only Rs. 56,473.42 crore so far with only 15 days left for the end of the financial year.
So far, the government has collected a total of Rs. 56,473.42 crore from disinvestments and stake sales. It retained the target of Rs. 80,000 crore for the current financial year and set a target of Rs. 90,000 crore for the next year. In 2017-18, the government earned Rs. 1,00,056.91 crore from disinvestment against a target of Rs. 72,500 crore.
What is Disinvestment?
Disinvestment, or divestment, refers to the act of a business or government selling or liquidating an asset or subsidiary or the process of dilution of a government’s stake in a PSU (Public Sector Undertaking).
Disinvestment policy in India- salient features of the Policy:
- Public Sector Undertakings are the wealth of the Nation and to ensure this wealth rests in the hands of the people, promote public ownership of CPSEs
- While pursuing disinvestment through minority stake sale in listed CPSEs, the Government will retain majority shareholding, i.e. at least 51 per cent of the shareholding and management control of the Public Sector Undertakings
- Strategic disinvestment by way of sale of substantial portion of Government shareholding in identified CPSEs upto 50 per cent or more, along with transfer of management control.
Why disinvestment is necessary ?
- Allows the transferring of the Indian government’s enormous public debt of its PSU’s to the Indian private sector. By transferring the debt the Indian government’s overall debt becomes greatly reduced.
- Eliminates the taxpayer’s exposure to the monetary risk of PSU’sby transferring the exposure to the private sector where private stakeholders are willing step in and assume the monetary risk.
- Enables the Indian government to raise funds for so that the government can invest in improving its current physical and social infrastructure.
- Allows the reallocation of PSU resourcessuch as manpower, real estate, technological, and operational infrastructure to critical governmental sectors that require urgent assistance.
- Forces financially sick PSU companies, through privatization, to either become healthy (profitable) enterprises or close down as a unhealthy businessdue to pressure from competing companies in the private sector.
- It would bring more competition into various private sectorsthus dramatically improving the quality of service for the customer through the PSU having to compete in a competitive private market.
- Helps to promote broader share ownership for the citizens of Indiaand also helps in the development of the capital market in India..
- Allows government assets allocated for profit-making ventures to instead be reallocated for use in non profit activities or social causesthus helping to strengthen both the non profit activities and social causes.
- Reduces financial burdenon the Government. Improves public finances.
Why there is a need to relook at the policy of disinvestment?
- Government has mostly used disinvestment for fiscal reasons rather than growth objectives.
- Process of disinvestment is not favoured socially as it is against the interests of socially disadvantaged people.
- Loss making units don’t attract investment so easily.
- Over the years the policy of divestment has increasingly become a tool to raise resources to cover the fiscal deficit with little focus on market discipline or strategic objective.
- Sometimes with the emergence of private monopolies consumer welfare will be reduced.
- Mere change of ownership from public to private does not ensure higher efficiency and productivity.
- It may lead to retrenchment of workers who will be deprived of the means of their livelihood.
- Private sector governed as they are by profit motive has a tendency to use capital intensive techniqueswhich will worsen unemployment problem in India.