16 August Current Affairs – Daily News

16 August Current Affairs – Daily News

CIVIL SNIPPETS

 

Independence Day speech: Modi announces Chief of Defence Staff post, Jal Jeevan Mission- Nistula Hebbar #GS2 #Governance

 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day address from the ramparts of the Red Fort was not only a summing up of what his newly re-elected government had accomplished in the last 75 days but also unveiled a powerful social charter going forward, including raising concerns over population explosion, water conservation along with the big announcement of appointing a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), a decision that had been pending for two decades since the Kargil War.

 

The first dealt with the announcement that a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) would be appointed, a demand that was raised after a review on the conduct of the Kargil War, during the time of late Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s government. This would have far-reaching ramifications for defence preparedness and co-ordination between the three services.

 

The second announcement pertained to the creation of Jal Jeevan Mission for water conservation and revival of water bodies, and an allocation of ₹3.5 lakh crores.

 

Mr. Modi explained the removal of special status of Jammu and Kashmir and the reorganisation of the State into two Union territories and the passage of the Triple Talaq Bill in great detail, stating that his government believed neither in “creating problems nor prolonging them” rather moving decisively ahead to find solutions.

 

He added that the removal of special status to Jammu and Kashmir would ensure justice and development to backward sections of society in the State and lakhs of migrants who had moved to the State post partition of India. “Now we can say with pride, One Nation, One Constitution,” he said.

 

He also made a forceful interjection on the Triple Talaq Bill saying that if social evils such as ‘Sati’ could be proscribed, “Muslim sisters were also deserving of justice by the removal of Triple Talaq.”

 

Population explosion in the country will create various problems for the coming generations. Those who follow the policy of small family also contribute to the development it is also a form of patriotism. He made a special appeal to farmers to avoid the use of chemical based fertilizers and aim to keep at least 20-25% of their land holding free of these.

 

The Prime Minister’s speech had no reference to neighbouring Pakistan but did make common cause with other neighbours such as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka who had been, like India, at the receiving end of terror fomented from beyond their borders. He also wished Afghanistan on its upcoming centenary of independence.

 

With economic numbers not in the optimistic zone, Mr. Modi, however, assured the country that the fundamentals of the economy were strong and that his government had earmarked ₹100 lakh crores in the next five years for investment in infrastructure which he said would lift the economy.

 

 

 

 

U.N. Security Council to hold closed-door meeting on August 16 #GS2 #IR

 

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) will meet on August 16 morning to discuss Kashmir (India’s abrogation of Article 370), Poland’s mission to the UN confirmed to The Hindu. The Presidency of the UNSC is currently with Poland.

 

Consultations are a way for Security Council members to informally take up an issue and the “closed” refers to the fact that the consultation is not open to the public and no record of statements is kept. The format also precludes Pakistan from participating, a diplomat said.

 

Earlier this week, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the U.N., Maleeha Lodhi had handed over a letter from the country’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi to the UNSC President and Polish Ambassador to the U.N., Joanna Wronecka, requesting that the Council take up the issue.

 

Pakistan has since launched an international campaign demanding an explanation for New Delhi’s decision, which has also drawn China’s displeasure with regard to the move creating a new Union Territory of Ladakh which remains relevant to the ongoing Special Representative-level dialogue on India-China Boundary Question.

 

A former Indian representative to the U.N. said the body will have to first address how it can take up Kashmir under the “India-Pakistan Subjects”, which was relevant till 1971 but is known to have lapsed after U.N. recognised the Simla Agreement of 1972 between India and Pakistan. Since 1972 India has maintained that the agreement provides the guideline for dialogue on the contentious issue, though Pakistan been trying to bring it back to the high table of U.N.

 

 

 

 

 

Govt. making rules for us without us: transgenders- Aarushi Aggarwal #GS2 #Governance

 

On August 5, the Lok Sabha passed the Transgender Persons (Protection Of Rights) Bill, however, news about the legislation got buried as it was the same day that the Centre decided to revoke special status for Jammu and Kashmir.

 

While the nation grappled with the implications of amending Article 370, the transgender community took a closer look at the Bill that was supposed to protect their rights, and found that barely any of their demands had been included.

 

On the day Parliament announced the amendment to Article 370, the Lok Sabha also passed the revised transgender Bill.

 

 

The legislation has been criticised by the transgender community for replacing district screening committees with bureaucratic impediments.

 

They have also highlighted that the provisions against discrimination have no enforceability. The Bill has also attracted disapproval for only providing separate definitions for intersex persons but no provisions for transgenders.

 

According to the Bill, a transgender is a person whose gender does not match with the one assigned at birth and includes transman or transwoman (whether or not such person has undergone sex reassignment surgery or hormone therapy or laser therapy), person with intersex variations, gender-queer and person having such sociocultural identities as ‘kinner’, ‘hijra’, ‘aravani’ and ‘jogta’.

 

The Bill has come to Parliament in this context of apathy, neglect and secrecy. A series of betrayal of assurances and a convolution of a law that would do nothing for the trans community and would rather snatch away the bare minimum that existed [sic]. An ideal Bill would be different and have separate provisions for transgender, transsexual and intersex persons.

 

He claims that transsexual persons lead a very different life compared to a transgender. On the subject, Payal added that intersex persons more often than not align themselves with one of the sexes and “do not possess talents like that of a transgender”.

 

The new Bill states that transgenders, while obtaining a certificate, “shall be entitled to change the first name on the birth certificate”. This clause has not been well received in the community. “Our families often do not wish to associate with us. The community is our family. We should be allowed to take our guru’s name. They have given us everything,”

 

 

 

 

Odisha government’s scheme for farmers runs into rough weather- Prafulla Das #GS3 #Environment

 

The Odisha government’s much-hyped Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA) scheme has gone haywire. The authorities are now facing a gigantic task of removing bogus beneficiaries who have already availed of the benefits.

 

A total of 51 lakh cultivators, loanee and non-loanee farmers, sharecroppers and landless agricultural labourers have been provided with financial assistance under the scheme so far. The authorities have now found out that all beneficiaries were not entitled to the benefits under the scheme and have asked the ineligible people to refund the money.

 

The State government, which had increased the target of KALIA beneficiaries to 75 lakh families, has stopped disbursement of financial assistance following the revelation about bogus beneficiaries.

 

In a majority of blocks, the number of applicants have outnumbered the number of ration card-holding families. A total of 54,000 applications were received for inclusion under KALIA from one block in Jagatsinghpur district while the total number of ration cards issued in the block stood at 23,000 only.

 

 

 

 

 

Article 371H will not be tinkered with #GS2 #Governance

 

Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu on Thursday allayed fears of revocation of the special provisions of Article 371H and said the rights are aimed at developing the backward areas of the State.

 

In his Independence Day address, Mr. Khandu said the provisions enshrined in Article 371H are aimed at “protecting the economic and cultural interests” of some States, including Arunachal.

 

The recent abrogation of the provisions of Article 370 in J&K by the Centre have raised apprehensions in the Northeast, with several parties and organisations fearing that the Centre may also tinker with the special status accorded to their States.

 

The provisions of Article 371H are inclusive in nature, but that of Article 370 are primarily divisive. The government has taken the first step towards the inclusive development of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

 

Article 371H vests the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh with special responsibility with respect to the law and order situation in the State and in the discharge of his functions in relation thereto.

 

 

 

 

No more joy for those who make Andhra’s famous Kondapalli toys- Tejaswi Marthi #GS1 #Culture

 

Kondapalli toys – cultural icons of Andhra Pradesh – are one of the most sold handicrafts in India and abroad, across online, wholesale, and retail platforms.

 

The toys attract great business to the showroom. Kondapalli toys account for an earning of ₹ 4-₹ 5 lakh per month,” said a store official at the Lepakshi Handicraft Emporium. Customer response vis-a-vis the quality of the toys, on the online platforms – a relatively new addition – has been very positive so far.

 

Competition from Chinese machine made toys is our main obstacle. We spend 10-20 hours-a-day making a dozen miniature buffaloes that are sold for a mere ₹ 300. We toil our lives away making these toys but sustaining ourselves in this competing age is major challenge.

 

Adding to their troubles is the scarcity of the ‘Tella Poniki’ wood, which gives the toys its unique character. No other wood can be a replacement to make these toys as Tella Poniki is malleable and can be easily chiseled into the desired shape.

 

Keeping in mind the rapid scarcity of the trees, the Forest Department had set up a ‘Wood Bank’ with an aim to grow the soft trees that could be legally distributed among the toy-makers.

 

The Forest Department said it spends ₹ 2.85 lakh every year for the purpose. The trees would provide raw material for toy-making for the next 20 years. However, the artisans complain that Tella Poniki takes a lot of time to grow and that is in its earlier stages.

 

 

 

 

 

Pension scheme for small traders yet to kick off- Damini Nath #GS2 #Governance

 

The Centre’s pension scheme for small traders, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned in his Independence Day speech on Thursday as one of the promises met by his government since its re-election in May, is yet to start.

 

The Pradhan Mantri Laghy Vyapari Mann-Dhan scheme was among the promises of the BJP for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and was among the proposals cleared in the first Cabinet meeting after Mr. Modi’s re-election.

 

 

On July 22, the scheme was notified by the Labour Ministry, making it applicable from that date. A checklist for the scheme on the Ministry’s site shows that “commencement of the scheme” and “launch of the scheme” are yet to take place.

 

According to Ministry officials, the online application portal for beneficiaries was supposed to start soon after the notification, while the official launch could have been done by the Prime Minister on Independence Day.

 

Traders who have an annual turnover of less than ₹1.5 crore and are between 18 and 40 years of age would be eligible for the scheme. Those applying for the scheme cannot be covered under the National Pension Scheme, the Employees’ State Insurance Scheme and the Employees’ Provident Fund nor be Income Tax assessees.

 

The beneficiary will have to contribute a monthly amount, which will be matched by the government.

 

After they turn 60, the scheme’s subscribers would get ₹3,000 as monthly pension.

 

 

 

 

 

Booming agritech sector aims at solving supply chain woes #GS3 #Economy

 

With Indian farmers facing post harvest losses amounting to a whopping ₹93,000 crore, a slew of agritech start-ups are now trying to bridge that gap with demand driven cold chains, warehouse monitoring solutions and market linkages that can significantly boost farmer income.

 

According to a new study from Information technology industry body NASSCOM, these efforts to create supply chain efficiency are the focus of more than 50% of India’s booming agritech industry, which has received 300% more funding in the first half of 2019 than in the whole of 2018.

 

In its report “Agritech In India: Emerging Trends in 2019” released this week, NASSCOM noted that India is home to more than 450 startups in the agriculture technology sector, of the global total of about 3,100. Year-on-year growth in India has been at a rate of 25%.

 

With regards to funding, the start-ups received 10 times more money in 2017-18 than in 2013-14. Over the same period, funding for global start-ups only doubled. Corporates and investors are playing a vital role with over $200 million in the last 18 months coming for B2B start-ups, with technology innovations that are aimed directly at the farmer.

 

According to government data, post-harvest losses are highest in the fruit and vegetable sector with as much as 16% of produce going waste. Some of the biggest agritech deals have been aimed at addressing this issue, creating direct market linkages through digital platforms such as Ninjacart and Crofarm.

 

These could support evolving business areas such as farm to fork, or direct delivery of produce from farmers to hotels, restaurants and cafes. Other innovations include image sensing for quality grading,

 

 

storage monitoring based on the Internet of Things and the digitisation of mandis, as well as farmer producer organisations.

 

Other start-ups offer technology solutions to increase crop productivity, using big data analytics, Artificial Intelligence and remote sensing to improve land management, crop cycle monitoring and harvest traceability.

 

Another group aims at solving farmers’ credit issues, providing low cost and timely financing for agricultural equipment and allowing access to low cost digital loans using virtual credit cards. India’s agriculture sector is advancing steadily towards its digital transformation and the start-up ecosystem is playing a critical role here, bringing innovation and disruption in much-needed areas.

 

Adoption of technology in agriculture has always needed a structured institutional focus and technology firms are trying to break into the agricultural landscape using newer business models.

 

 

 

 

 

Climate change policy warned of floods in State two years ago, no action taken-Alok Deshpande #GS3 #Environment

 

The floods in western Maharashtra have renewed the debate on climate change with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis setting up a panel of experts to look into the changing weather pattern. However, the government has put its own policy in cold storage for nearly two years despite spelling out guidelines to every department and even the district administration.

 

In October 2017, the State Cabinet gave approval to a climate change policy based on an action plan submitted to it by The Energy and Resources Institute. On October 25, 2017, the environment department issued a 28-page government resolution (GR) detailing an action plan for departments such as forests, water resources, agriculture, power, health, public works, disaster management, rural development, urban development, finance, and planning.

 

Two years later, neither the above-mentioned departments nor the district administrations have prepared plans to counter the effects of climate change. The GR had specifically directed the government to “have department-wise recommendations/measures by making necessary changes in the existing policies or bringing in new policies.”

 

The GR had predicted adverse impacts of climate change on agriculture, and possible floods and health-related problems caused by it. “The rise in temperature in the State will lead to changes in rainfall and heat index. The rising temperature and changes in humidity in 2030, 2050 and 2070 will have adverse impact on crop production.”

 

 

The GR said these conditions would lead to increase in health hazards. “The possible high rainfall will have adverse impact on basic infrastructure such as roads and bridges, farming on the riverbanks, and population.”

 

A special cell was set up even then to look into the implementation of the policy and coordination with the Central government and NGOs.

 

Government officials told The Hindu that departments had been informed about the policy adopted in 2017. “It is the responsibility of each department to act accordingly. Sometimes we indulge in firefighting instead of taking precautionary measures,” an official privy to the discussion said.

 

The official said , “After 2017, the State government had held department-wise meetings and with private consultancy services to facilitate the implementation of the policy. It never moved ahead after two to three meetings.”

 

Following the CM’s directions to set up an experts’ committee, sources said, meetings will take place in the last week of August with consultancy agencies on how to go ahead with the policy.

 

 

 

 

 

Minister to launch drive against single-use plastic #GS3 #Environment

 

Union Minister Prakash Javadekar on Thursday announced that a massive campaign will be launched to make India free of single-use plastic.

 

Mr. Javadekar made this announcement at Sau Paulo in Brazil, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day speech urged people to shun single-use plastic and go in for jute and cloth bags. Mr. Javadekar is in charge of the Environment Ministry.

 

In this regard, a series of meetings will be held with all stakeholders, including State governments, to chalk out a concrete plan to make it a people’s campaign, Mr. Javadekar was quoted in an official statement issued by the Environment Ministry in New Delhi in the national capital.

 

Talking about Mr. Modi’s speech, Mr. Javadekar said the Prime Minister had laid out the vision for the next five years and highlighted the first 75 days of the present government, which, according to him, were highly productive with historic decisions on the triple talaq and Article 370 of the Indian Constitution.

 

 

 

 

 

Understanding post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) #GS2 #Governance

 

What is the office of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS)?

 

 

 

The CDS is a high military office that oversees and coordinates the working of the three Services, and offers seamless tri-service views and single-point advice to the Executive (in India’s case, to the Prime Minister) on long-term defence planning and management, including manpower, equipment and strategy, and above all, “jointsmanship” in operations.

 

In most democracies, the CDS is seen as being above inter-Service rivalries and the immediate operational preoccupations of the individual military chiefs. The role of the CDS becomes critical in times of conflict.

 

Most countries with advanced militaries have such a post, albeit with varying degrees of power and authority. The United States Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC), for example, is extremely powerful, with a legislated mandate and sharply delineated powers.

 

He is the most senior military officer and military adviser to the President, and his remit extends to the National Security Council, the Homeland Secuirty Council, and the Defence Secretary.

 

The Chiefs of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and National Guard too, are members of the JCSC. All, including the CJCSC, are four-star officers, but by statute only the CJCSC is designated as the “principal military adviser”. However, the CJCSC is barred from exercising any operational authority over combat commanders in varied theatres; this authority rests exclusively wit the US President.

 

So, why had India not appointed a CDS until now?

 

India has had a feeble equivalent known as the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC); but this is a toothless office, given the manner in which it is structured. The seniormost among the three Service Chiefs is appointed to head the CoSC, an office that lapses with the incumbent’s retirement.

 

The current Chairman CoSC is Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa, who succeeded the former Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba on May 31. When ACM Dhanoa retires at the end of September 2019, he would have served as Chairman CoSC for a mere four months.

 

In 2015, then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had described the CoSC arrangement as “unsatisfactory”, and its Chairman as a “figurehead”. The post did not further tri-service integration, resulting in inefficiency and an expensive duplication of assets, he had said.

 

The CoSC system is a leftover from the colonial era, with only minor changes being carried out over the years. Apprehensions in the political class about a powerful military leader, along with inter-Services bickering, have long worked to disincentivise the upgrade of the post.

 

The first proposal for a CDS came from the 2000 Kargil Review Committee (KRC), which called for a reorganisation of the “entire gamut of national security management and apex decision-making and structure and interface between the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces Headquarters”. The

 

 

Group of Ministers Task Force that studied the KRC Report and recommendations, proposed to the Cabinet Committee on Security that a CDS, who would be five-star officer, be created.

 

In preparation for the post, the government created the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) in late 2002, which was to eventually serve as the CDS’s Secretariat. However, over the past 17 years, this has remained yet another nebulous department within the military establishment.

 

But what happened to the proposal?

 

No consensus emerged among the Services, with the IAF especially opposed to such a move. The Congress, then in opposition, was against the idea of concentrating too much military power in the CDS’s post. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) too, opposed it subtly for the same reasons, and because it could disrupt civil-military ties in the latter’s favour.

 

“A CDS with direct access to the Prime Minister and Defence Minister was the last thing that the MoD wanted,” said Lt Gen H S Panag (retd), who served as the GOC-in-C, Northern and Central Commands. According to Gen Panag, a major reason why the CDS idea could not be implemented was that the MoD bureaucracy was loath to relinquish its power over the three Services. Consequently, the MoD played one Service against the other.

 

“Besides,” Gen Panag said, “each Service has its own ethos, and the Chiefs feel that under a CDS, they will be rendered virtual nonentities.”

 

The smaller Air Force and Navy fear that the CDS would be from the Army, by far the largest Service. The IAF has long argued that unlike the United States and other western militaries, the Indian Services are not an expeditionary force, for which a CDS is a necessity. The appointment of a CDS would also lead to theatre commands, another aspect that the IAF opposes, fearing a diminution of its operational role.

 

In 2011, more than a decade after the KRC Report, the UPA government, led by the Congress, which had opposed the CDS proposal when in opposition, set up the Naresh Chandra Committee on defence and security.

 

The 14-member Committee, comprising retired Service Chiefs and other defence experts, suggested a watered-down version of the CDS proposal, in which the Chairman CoSC in the rank of a four-star officer would have a fixed tenure of two years. He would have significantly more authority and powers than the Chairman CoSC, and would be a CDS in all but name.

 

What is the case for having a CDS?

 

Although the KRC did not directly recommend a CDS — that came from the GoM — it underlined the need for more coordination among the three Services, which was poor in the initial weeks of the Kargil conflict.

 

 

The KRC Report pointed out that India is the only major democracy where the Armed Forces Headquarters is outside the apex governmental structure. It observed that Service Chiefs devote most of their time to their operational roles, “often resulting in negative results”.

 

Long-term defence planning suffers as day-to-day priorities dominate. Also, the Prime Minister and Defence Minister do not have the benefit of the views and expertise of military commanders, in order to ensure that higher level defence management decisions are more consensual and broadbased.

 

The CDS is also seen as being vital to the creation of “theatre commands”, integrating tri-service assets and personnel like in the US military. India has 17 Service commands at different locations and duplicating assets, Gen Panag said.

 

In 2016, China integrated its military and other police and paramilitaries into five theatres from the earlier seven area commands, each with its own inclusive headquarters, one of which has responsibility for the Indian border. In contrast, India’s border with China is split between the Eastern, Western, and Northern Commands, Gen Panag said.

 

And what are the arguments against?

 

Theoretically, the appointment of a CDS is long overdue, but there appears to be no clear blueprint for the office to ensure its effectiveness. India’s political establishment is seen as being largely ignorant of, or at best indifferent towards, security matters, and hence incapable of ensuring that a CDS works.

 

Militaries by nature tend to resist transformation. In the US, the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act elevated the Chairman from first among equals to the “principal military advisor” to the President and the Secretary of Defence. In the Indian context, critics fear, the absence of foresight and understanding might end up making the CDS just another case of “jobs for the boys”.

 

Who at present advises India’s Prime Minister on military matters?

 

In effect it is the National Security Adviser. This has been especially so after the Defence Planning Committee was created in 2018, with NSA Ajit Doval as its chairman, and the foreign, defence, and expenditure secretaries, and the three Service Chiefs as members.

 

 

 

 

 

Ladakh lives it up in its transition to Union Territory #GS2 #Governance

 

Ladakh, which will become a Union Territory after the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir, celebrated Independence Day with fervour on Thursday, with local BJP MP Jamyang Tsering Namgyal saying the region has got “independence from Kashmir”.

 

The parliamentarian, whose speech in the Lok Sabha after the abrogation of special status to Jammu and Kashmir drew praises, was seen dancing and playing the drums along with locals.

 

 

On August 5, the Centre stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its special status given under Article 370 and split it into two Union territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, which will come into existence on October 31. The region has got “independence from Kashmir” and the celebration is “just a trailer” for the development of Ladakh, he said.

 

So, we decided to celebrate Independence Day in the traditional Ladakhi style through the beating of the daman and surna,” he said, adding that these celebrations are “just a trailer for the development of Ladakh”.

 

Mr. Namgyal said, “On the occasion of Independence Day, we celebrate the martyrdom of our heroes. We paid our respects to the four young heroes who laid down their lives agitating for the UT status for Ladakh”.

 

 

 

 

 

Global markets gripped by recession fears #GS3 #Economy

 

A relentless drop in global bond yields raised fears that the world economy was hurtling towards recession and weighed on global equities.

 

Expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve and other central banks would respond robustly to the recession warning helped world stocks to steady earlier. But that recovery was cut short by the latest rhetoric from Beijing.

 

China’s threat to impose counter-measures in retaliation for the latest U.S. tariffs knocked stocks sprawling on Thursday. Wall Street futures erased earlier losses and were trading in the positive territory

 

We have regional bonfires in Hong Kong, Argentina, Japan against South Korea, and none of these are going away easily; each and every one is not necessarily strong enough to cause trouble.”

 

Recession fears grew after yields on 10-year treasury bonds dropped to less than two-year rates for the first time in 12 years, when the same yield curve inversion presaged the 2008 recession. The curve has inverted before every recession in the past 50 years and sent a false signal just once.

 

The latest inversion has since reversed, albeit marginally, and yields on 30-year treasuries rose off the record 1.965% low reached in Asian trade. But they are still down 60 basis points in just 12 sessions.

 

Markets appear to be pinning their hopes, yet again, on central banks, betting that scale of the scare would alarm policymakers, especially at the Fed. Money markets price in a growing chance the Fed will cut rates by half a point at its September meeting.

 

 

The Chinese comments sent a pan-European equity index down more than 0.50% and markets in London and Frankfurt lost over 1%. Earlier, Asian shares fell 0.5%. Japan’s Nikkei shed 1.2% as a yen surge hit the export-heavy market.

 

German 30-year yields are below minus 0.2% for the first time. Ten-year yields touched a record low of minus 0.67%. The growth worries come amid economic stress in Argentina and some other emerging markets, fears of Chinese military intervention in Hong Kong and trade tensions that show no sign of abating.

 

As the Sino-U.S. trade war escalates, long-dated bond yields have fallen across the developed world, flattening yield curves in what is considered a clear signal of a worsening growth outlook. What sent the U.S. curve over the brink into inversion was German data on Wednesday that showed the economy had contracted in the quarter to June. That came on the heels of dire Chinese data for July.

 

 

 

Plastics industry seeks export schemes, tax benefits for MSMEs #GS3 #Economy

 

Plastic manufacturers, who are finding the going tough amid environmental challenges have called for export promotion schemes for Micro, Small, Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the sector and removal of anti-dumping duty on machines not made in India.

 

At a recent meeting with officials, they sought allocation of 25% of the land available at all industrial corridors for MSMEs at discounted rates.

 

The industry also sought world-class infrastructure for MSMEs under the Public Private Partnership model comprising physical infrastructure, knowledge infrastructure, incubation centres, e-platforms, B2B access and technology and innovation support for MSME.

 

Additionally, it appealed to the government to make lending to MSMEs more convenient. “There is a need to provide capital adequacy norms support through recognition of MSME credit ratings programme for plastic processing sector; rationalise interest rate and margin requirements for MSME who adopt credit rating programme

 

There is a need for the establishment of a helpdesk for MSMEs at banks, and the current limits under the Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE) scheme needs to increase to ₹4 crore,” the statement added.

 

It also demanded direct tax exemption on export income and income generated directly or indirectly from indigenisation as well as import substitution exemption for a period of five years.

 

New cure for deadly strain of tuberculosis #GS3 #SnT

 

Four years ago, South African fashion designer Innocent Molefe, 38, was diagnosed with tuberculosis. A year ago, it developed into multi-drug resistant strain requiring painful injections and heaps of pills.

 

Three months after the first round of treatment, he relapsed and started a second round. At the end of it he still wasn’t cured.

 

Thanks to a new treatment — approved on Wednesday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, he is now cleared of the disease, has bounced back to work and has even resumed night-clubbing, something he has stopped four years ago.

 

The announcement was especially welcomed in South Africa, one of the countries with the highest number of TB cases. Of the more than 1.6 million TB deaths recorded every year, more than 75,000 are in South Africa alone. In 2017, South Africa recorded more than 3,22,000 active TB cases.

 

The new treatment which cures highly drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis will drastically shorten the treatment period.

 

The three-drug regimen consists of bedaquiline, pretomanid and linezolid — collectively known as the BPaL regimen. Pretomanid is the novel compound developed by the New York-based non-profit organisation TB Alliance and which received the FDA greenlight on Wednesday.

 

The treatment regimen was studied at three sites in South Africa involving 109 patients and achieved a 90% success rate after six months of treatment and six months of post-treatment follow-ups. With the treatment involving five pills of the three drugs daily taken over just six months, it is easier to administer.

 

This compares to between 30 and 40 drugs that multiple-drug resistant TB patients take each day for up to two years.

 

This still includes daily injections for six months, which are extremely painful,” Ms. Howell said, adding that taking only five pills would make a huge difference. The FDA approval represents a victory for those suffering from highly drug-resistant forms of the world’s deadliest infectious disease.

 

 

 

 

 

Everest climbers set to face new rules- Bhadra Sharma #GS3 #Environment

 

In an effort to address deadly human traffic jams on Mount Everest and weed out inexperienced climbers, Nepali officials on Wednesday formally proposed new safety rules that could significantly reduce the number of permits issued for the world’s highest peak.

 

 

Under the measures, would-be climbers would have to prove that they have scaled another major peak, and tourism companies would be required to have at least three years’ experience organizing high-altitude expeditions before they can lead climbers on Everest.

 

To discourage cost-cutting that can put climbers’ lives at risk, the Ministry also said that clients of expedition companies would have to prove, before setting out, that they had paid at least $35,000 for the expedition. (A typical total price tag easily surpasses $50,000.)

 

Everest cannot be climbed just based on one’s wishes,” Yogesh Bhattarai, Tourism Minister, said at a news conference. “We are testing their health conditions and climbing skills before issuing climbing permits.” The government plans to put the changes, which have been under consideration for several months, before Parliament soon.

 

The proposed rules were unveiled alongside findings from a group of government investigators who uncovered alarming problems in the management of Everest.

 

 

 

 

 

Microplastics in Arctic snow point to widespread air contamination #GS3 #Environment

 

Minute microplastic particles have been detected in the Arctic and the Alps, carried by the wind and later washed out in the snow, according to a study that called for urgent research to assess the health risks of inhalation.

 

Every year, several million tonnes of plastic litter course through rivers and out to the oceans, where they are gradually broken down into smaller fragments through the motion of waves and the ultraviolet light of the sun.

 

The new study, conducted by scientists at Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute and Switzerland’s Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research, found that microplastic particles can be transported tremendous distances through the atmosphere.

 

These particles, defined as shreds less than five millimeters in length, are later washed out of the air by precipitation, particularly snow.

 

Ms. Bergmann and her colleagues used an infrared imaging technique to analyse samples collected between 2015 and 2017 from floating ice in the Fram Strait off Greenland, visiting five floes by helicopters or dinghies.

 

They then compared these with samples taken from from remote Swiss Alps and Bremen in northwest Germany. Concentrations of the microparticles in the Arctic were significantly lower than in the European sites, but still substantial.

 

 

The team’s hypothesis for airborne transportation builds on past research conducted on pollen, where experts confirmed that pollen from near the equator ends up in the Arctic. Similarly, dust from the Sahara desert can cover thousands of kilometres and end up in northeast Europe.

 

Ms. Bergmann said little work had been done to determine the effects of exposure to these particles.

 

But once we’ve determined that large quantities of microplastic can also be transported by the air, it naturally raises the question as to whether and how much plastic we’re inhaling,” she said, stressing the need for urgent research into the effects on human and animal health.

 

 

 

 

 

Smart’ clothing gives boost to wearable tech #GS3 #SnT

 

Researchers in Singapore have invented ‘smart’ clothing they say can boost signals and save battery life on wireless devices such as headphones and smart watches. The invention called “metamaterial” allows radio waves like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to glide across clothing between wearable devices instead of radiating outwards in all directions.

 

This means sensors and wearable technology such as Apple Watches and AirPods can establish stronger connections faster and save energy,

 

This T-shirt increases the wireless connectivity of devices around my body by 1,000 times,” said assistant professor John Ho, donning a sports shirt laced with comb-shaped strips of the metamaterial textile.

 

Mr. Ho, who oversaw a 10-member team that developed the technology over a year, said it could be used for measuring the vital signs of athletes or hospital patients. The Singapore team have obtained a provisional patent on the design.

 

 

 

 

 

IMD starts forecast of water volume in river basins #GS1 #Geography

 

In a bid to ensure effective reservoir management, the India Meteorological Department (IMD), Pune, has started issuing water level forecasts for all river basins in India from August 1.

 

Last year, it was alleged that improper dam management aggravated the flood situation in Kerala. Nearly 80 dams, big and small, were on the verge of collapse and this forced the irrigation department to simultaneously open their gates, leading to flooding in several districts, including Ernakulam, Idukki, Thrissur and Wayanad.

 

The Experts at IMD, Pune, are now making use of real-time rainfall data from its own network of rain gauges to issue forecasts for water levels in river basins.

 

 

Under this new application, all 25 river basins and 101 sub-river basins earmarked by the Central Water Commission (CWC) will be covered. CWC identifies river basins for Indus, Mahi, Narmada, Ganga, Krishna, Mahanadi, Cauvery, Tapi, Sabarmati and Godavari.

 

We will make use of our forecasts and rainfall information to calculate the total volume of water expected to accumulate in every river basin and sub-river basin on the basis of its area expanse. This information will then be shared with CWC and other authorities, like the department of irrigation. It will be handy and can be decisive while deciding the release of water from time to time, especially during the monsoon.

 

All the water volume data will be provided in Thousand Million Cubic feet (TMC) as per CWC standards, said Guhathakurta. While all the river-basin information would be available on the website of IMD, Pune, officials also plan to share it with authorities concerned of the department of water resources or irrigation, as per requirement.

 

Effective dam management need of the hour

 

An effective dam management mechanism has become the need of the hour, given the erratic nature of rainfall recorded in recent times. Often, improper and unscientific release of large quantities of water from reservoirs lead to augmenting the flood situation. Incidents triggered by extreme rainfall minus scientific dam management resulted in disasters in Kerala (August 2018), Maharashtra and Karnataka (2019). The move to utilise IMD’s expertise in forecasting water volumes alongside rainfall can be a baby step towards dam management in India.

 

 

 

What fertility rate data show #GS2 #SocialIssues

 

The graph (below) shows trends for the total fertility rate (TFR) in various states. TFR, defined as the number of children born to a woman until the end of her child-bearing age, is a key indicator for population trends.

 

The graph is based on TFR data from the Sample Registration System (SRS) undertaken by the Office of the Registrar General of India. The SRS also looks at other indicators such as crude birth rate, general fertility rate, age specific/marital fertility rate, gross reproduction rate along with sex ratio at birth. While Census figures provide the total population every decade, the regular SRS estimates provide dynamic trends underlying the population growth.

 

After four successive years (2013-2016) when the TFR stagnated at 2.3 births per woman of child-bearing age, the latest SRS estimates (2017) show the TFR dropping to 2.2. This figure is only marginally higher than the fertility rate (2.1) required for replacement of the existing population.

 

SRS estimates over the last decade and more, meanwhile, show a declining trend across the country. Even the states that have a higher TFR — Uttar Pradesh (3.0), Bihar (3.2), MP (2.7), Rajasthan (2.6),

 

 

Assam (2.3), Chhattisgarh (2.4) and Jharkhand (2.5) — have been witnessing a declining trend in fertility rates. These seven states account for about 45 per cent of the total population in the 2011 Census.

 

Two more states, Gujarat and Haryana, recorded a TFR of 2.2, which is above the replacement rate but is equal to the national average. Taken together, these nine major states account for 52 per cent of the 2011 population.

 

This means that in the states barring these nine, and accounting for almost half the population, the replacement level is either 2.1 or has gone below it. These states with a lower TFR include Kerala (1.7), Tamil Nadu (1.6), Karnataka (1.7), Maharashtra (1.7), Andhra Pradesh (1.6), Telangana (1.7), West Bengal (1.6), Jammu and Kashmir (1.6) and Odisha (1.9).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ISRO’s Chandrayaan-2 reaches key stage, what next? #GS3 #SnT

 

On Wednesday, the Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft left Earth’s orbit and moved towards the Moon, which it will orbit over a series of manoeuvres before the ultimate soft landing, scheduled on September 7.

 

SO FAR, since its launch on July 22, Chandrayaan-2 had been orbiting the Earth, moving into higher and orbits. This is achieved by a series of “Earth-bound orbit-raising manoeuvres”. There were five such manoeuvres before the mission left Earth orbit on Wednesday. These raised the orbits around Earth successively to 230 × 45,163 km (July 24), 251 × 54,829 km (July 26), 276 × 71,792 km (July 29), 277 ×

 

 

89,472 km (August 2) and 276 × 1,42,975 km (August 6). The two figures with each orbit refer to the distance at the nearest and farthest points.

 

ON AUGUST 20, Chandrayaan-2 will approach Moon and the spacecraft’s liquid engine will be fired again to insert the spacecraft into a lunar orbit. Following this, there will be further four orbit manoeuvres to take the spacecraft into its final orbit, passing over the lunar poles at a distance of about 100 km from the Moon’s surface (see table).

 

After that, the soft landing. The Vikram lander will separate from the orbiter on September 2. Two orbit manoeuvres will be performed on the lander before the initiation of powered descent on September 7.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chandrayaan 2 will land on the Moon’s south polar region, unexplored by science so far. ISRO said in a statement that the south pole is especially interesting because of the lunar surface area here that remains in shadow is much larger than that at the north pole. There is a possibility of the presence of water in permanently shadowed areas around it.

 

 

 

 

 

WTO to rule on India sugar export subsidies #GS3 #Economy

 

 

The World Trade Organization (WTO) set up panels on Thursday to rule on complaints by Australia, Brazil and Guatemala against India’s export subsidies for sugar and sugarcane producers which they assert are illegal, a Geneva trade official said.

 

The decision was automatic upon the complainants’ second request at a closed-door meeting of the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body.

 

India will keep its sugar export subsidies despite complaints to the WTO from rival producers, though it will tweak how it provides them, four sources directly involved in the matter said told Reuters in Mumbai last month.

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