Daily Current Affairs

5 August Current Affairs – Daily News



National Register of Citizens: Assam minorities bombarded with re-verification notices- Rahul Karmakar #GS2 #Governance


Anwar Hussain was surprised to receive a notice from the Local Registrar of Citizen Registration (LRCR) of the Goroimari Revenue Block on Saturday.


The notice gave him less than 48 hours to appear, with all members of his family, for re-verification of their citizenship documents at the Golaghat North Development Block office in Golaghat district’s Dergaon, about 330 km west of his village Kanahara in Kamrup district. They were asked to report at 9 a.m. sharp on Monday.


All those who were asked to get their documents reverified are included in the draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) published on July 30, 2018. They are not among the 40.07 lakh and 1.02 lakh put on the two lists of people excluded from the NRC


The notices have been a bolt from the blue. Most people like Jamir Ali, Jahanara Khatun, Aamir Ali are daily-wagers and unable to get vehicles to centres 300-500 km away at such short notice. They fear they will be excluded from NRC if they cannot turn up at the specified place in time,


The Brahmaputra Valley Civil Society (BVCS), a group of academicians, retired bureaucrats, lawyers and professionals, said the notices cited The Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue National Identity Cards) Rules 2003.


“But the rules, as amended in 2009, and the Standard Operating Procedure that the Centre came up with for the NRC exercise say that a person has to be given at least 15 days to appear for a hearing. In a sudden bombardment of notices on August 3, people have been asked to go to faraway places for hearings on August 5, 6 and 7.


The notices have also violated the SC ruling on July 23 against the government’s plea for re-verification after NRC State Coordinator Prateek Hajela said 27% re-verification has already been done.


Sachetan Nagarik Mancha, a group that has been demanding re-verification of 20% NRC applicants in districts bordering Bangladesh and 10% in other districts, have also criticised Mr. Hajela for a different reason.






Ending tax terrorism was part of BJP’s manifesto in 2014: Mohandas Pai- Mini Tejaswi #GS3 #Economy



The Centre is aware of the ‘tax terrorism’ in this country, but it has not done enough to stop taxmen from harassing entrepreneurs and businessmen.


The Union government is aware of the harassment, but it is yet to do something effective to stop it. The government’s delay in taking adequate measures in this regard has given additional powers to the tax authority, and taxmen have gone amok. Taxmen have been terrorising people while making collections.


Parliament and political leaders have failed citizens miserably on the tax front, leaving their liberties under huge risk. “The tax assessment system has broken down. The justice system is also not functioning effectively. As both these key systems have failed miserably, law-abiding citizens and entrepreneurs are left in the lurch.


According to Mr. Pai, bringing an end to tax terrorism was part of the BJP’s manifesto before it came to power in 2014.


Expressing shock over the way the Income Tax Department handled the issue of the late Cafe Coffee Day founder V.S. Siddhartha, Mr. Pai said, “Mr. Siddhartha had clearly written in his letter that he suffered harassment by taxmen. Who gave the I-T Department permission to conduct a press conference, to float information about him on social media, and to divulge personal details about him in the public?


The tax department is not a court to call a person bad and punish him. It has no right to tarnish the reputation of a person, especially when he is no longer in a position to defend himself. This is atrocious and insensitive.”






Indian Navy, Army and Air Force join rescue operations in Mumbai #GS3 #DM


The Indian Navy, Army and Air Force on Sunday participated in rescue operations to assist Thane, Palghar and Kalyan district administration as Bhatsa and Barvi dams overflowed leading to Bhatsa and Ulhas rivers breaching their banks and stranding people in their homes. Waters rose up to a height of 8 to 10 feet requiring specialist assistance in evacuation.


Within 40 minutes of receiving a request from the Disaster Management Unit of the State government, the Indian Navy deployed three fully equipped flood rescue teams to assist the district administration. The Indian Air Force too deployed its Mi17 helicopter to airlift stranded villagers.


“Two teams operated in the vicinity of Khadawali village and have successfully evacuated 27 people to safety. One flood rescue team was active in Shahad region under Kalyan Dombivali Municipal Corporation (KDMC) till late on Sunday evening. All three teams are being positioned with district authorities overnight to be able to respond quickly to any new emergencies that might arise overnight



The village near Titwala had turned in to an island, after river water surrounded it, cutting off all access roads. Thane district Guardian Minister, Eknath Shinde communicated with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, following which a request to air-lift the trapped villagers was made to the air force.


































Biotechnology Department will scan 20,000 Indian genomes- Jacob Koshy #GS3 #SnT


The Department of Biotechology (DBT) plans to scan nearly 20,000 Indian genomes over the next five years, in a two-phase exercise, and develop diagnostic tests that can be used to test for cancer. The first phase involves sequencing the complete genomes of nearly 10,000 Indians from all corners of the country and capture the biological diversity of India.


In the next phase, about 10,000 “diseased individuals” would have their genomes sequenced. These vast troves of data sets would be compared using machine learning techniques to identify genes that can predict cancer risk, as well as other diseases that could be significantly influenced by genetic anomalies.


While 22 institutions, including those from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the DBT would be involved in the exercise, the data generated would be accessible to researchers anywhere for analysis. This would be through a proposed National Biological Data Centre envisaged in a policy called the ‘Biological Data Storage, Access and Sharing Policy’, which is still in early stages of discussion.



Genomics research is a major thrust area for the Department. What is unique about this programme, called the Genome India Initiative, is its scale. The deliverables are genomic-based diagnostics that can be affordably made available through a lab,” Dr. Swarup added.


The programme is expected to formally launch in October, with an estimated budget of ₹250-350 crore for the Phase-1, she added.


Along with genome samples, the Pune-based National Centre for Cell Sciences also involved in the


project — will also collect samples of the microbiome from the human gut. The diversity of the bacterial samples is at the frontier of global research, and scientists have said there is an intimate connection between the genome, the gut microbiome and disease.


There is interest among private and public companies in sequencing genomes thanks to the declining costs for the process. From China to the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia, several countries have announced plans to sequence their population.


Currently, genomic data sets under-represent Asia, particularly India, whose population and diverse ethnicity make it an attractive prospect for genome-mining efforts. The CSIR already has an effort underway to scan 1,000 genomes from healthy Indians.






India successfully test-fires 2 quick reaction surface-to-air missiles #GS3 #Defence


India successfully conducted two back-to-back flight tests of its state-of-the-art quick reaction surface-


to-air missiles (QRSAM) against live aerial targets from a base in Odisha on Sunday. The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully test-fired the two missiles from the integrated test range (ITR) at Chandipur near here.


The entire mission was captured by various electro-optical tracking systems, radar systems and telemetry systems. The all-weather and all-terrain QRSAM system has been developed for the Army, with search and track on the move capability having a very short reaction time.


The systems are equipped with indigenously-developed phased array radar, inertial navigation system, data link and RF seeker. The missile, which can be mounted on a truck and stored in a canister, is equipped with electronic counter measures against jamming by aircraft radars. QRSAM uses solid-fuel propellant and has a range of 25-30 km.


The two missiles were tested for different altitude and conditions. The test flights had successfully demonstrated their aerodynamics, propulsion, structural performance and high manoeuvring capabilities.





Govt tenders worth ₹25k cr cancelled, modified to promote Make in India products #GS3 #Economy


Government tenders worth over ₹25,000 crore were either cancelled or modified and re-issued after the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) stepped in to change their conditions in order to promote ‘Made in India’ goods, a top official said.


“The department is taking every step for effective implementation of public procurement order, 2017, to promote ‘Made in India’ products. The government issued the order on 15 June, 2017, to promote


manufacturing and production of goods and services in India and enhance income and employment in the country.


A tender worth ₹8,000 crore was withdrawn and re-issued with modified conditions after the intervention of the DIPP. The project was related with setting up of a urea and ammonia plant for gasification.


Similarly, a tender for procurement of train set coaches was cancelled as the tender had certain restrictive conditions which were discriminatory against domestic manufacturers and favoured foreign players. The project cost was ₹5,000 crore.


A tender for ₹8,135 crore was modified with revised eligibility criteria for setting up of a 3×800 MW project. A tender worth ₹3,000 crore for Mumbai Metro was also modified.


The move assumes significance as concerns have been raised by certain quarters about the restrictive and discriminatory clauses being imposed against domestic manufacturers and suppliers in tender documents for public procurement.


The department had earlier held a series of meetings with all the concerned departments and ministries including steel, railways, defence, oil and gas, pharmaceutical, electronics, telecommunications, heavy industries, textiles, shipping and power in this regard.


“Directions were given to ensure strict compliance of the order in letter and spirit. All nodal ministries were directed to ensure notification of local content,” the official added.


Under the Public Procurement (Preference to Make in India) Order, it was envisaged that all central government departments, their attached or subordinate offices and autonomous bodies controlled by the Government of India should ensure purchase preference be given to domestic suppliers in government procurement.


Last year, the Central Vigilance Commission had issued directives to all central vigilance officers to exercise oversight on all contracts of over ₹5 crore to ensure that restrictive and discriminatory clauses



against domestic suppliers are not included in the tender documents for public procurement and that the tender conditions are in sync with the order.


Further, the official said that any grievance related to the issue will be taken care of by the standing committee on implementation of this order. It is chaired by the DPIIT Secretary






M.P. returns over 25% of target under PMAY- Priscilla Jebaraj #GS2 #Governane


Madhya Pradesh has surrendered more than a quarter of its allotted Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Grameen) houses for this financial year, giving up 2.32 lakh out of a total 8.32 lakh houses. This is the first time any State has done so.


The housing scheme aims to ensure that every rural Indian family has a pucca house with basic amenities by 2022, and expects to build a total of 2.95 crore houses by then. The nationwide target for this financial year 2019-20 is 60 lakh houses.


“The State targets were determined in February 2019 and Madhya Pradesh was allotted a total of 8.32 lakh houses under the Annual Action Plan approved by the Empowered Committee. However, on July 31, we got a letter from the MP government that they wished to surrender 2.32 lakh houses this year.


This is an unprecedented situation and it is not good for the State to reduce its target. At the end of the day, it delays housing for lakhs of its people.


Under PMAY (G), each beneficiary is given a total of ₹1.2 lakh to construct a pukka home, with a hygienic kitchen space. (The amount is ₹1.3 lakh for hilly States, difficult areas and tribal and backward districts which come under the Integrated Action Plan.)


The cost is split in a 60:40 ratio between the State and Central governments in plain areas, and a 90:10 ratio in northeastern and Himalayan States. Thus, State governments must bear a share of the cost of the flagship Central scheme.


In the last three financial years, Madhya Pradesh has been second only to West Bengal in the number of houses constructed under PMAY (G), completing more than 13 lakh houses since 2016, according to government data.


When the State’s Congress government presented its own maiden budget, it increased its budgetary allocation for farmers by 145% over the previous year to ₹22,736 crore.


In keeping with poll promises to implement a farm loan waiver scheme, the State’s Finance Minister said the loans of 20 lakh farmers had been waived, to the tune of ₹7,000 crore, over two months. Asn additional ₹8,000 crore was set aside for the remaining farmers



Only 9,304 of MP’s approximately 80 lakh farmers had received the first instalment of the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN)scheme’s annual income support of ₹6000, Union Rural Development Minister Narendra Singh Tomar told the Rajya Sabha in June.


With regard to the Centre’s Ayushman Bharat, on the other hand, MP has created its own version of the health insurance scheme and re-christened it as Maha Ayushman, increasing the amount of coverage and the number of beneficiaries as well.






It’s ‘Operation Bedlam’ for the tourism sector in Kashmir- Peerzada Ashiq #GS3 #Security


Tourism has suffered a major jolt in Kashmir on Sunday. Against an average footfall of 3,000 tourists per day just the previous week, a trickle of 350 arrived in the Valley, despite the adverse advisory. Around 700 tourists are still in the Valley after helping around 90% tourists to leave Kashmir in the past two days.


According to data, Kashmir witnessed a major drop in tourists after the Pulwama attack in February, which witnessed India and Pakistan entering into a border duel. However, April, May, June and July saw a steady growing numbers, from 17,172 in April to 60,844 in May and 1,16,572 in June and around 2 lakh in July, the official figures suggest.


Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry general secretary Farooq Amin said the sudden advisory had proved “Operation Bedlam” for people and the State economy.


The change in policy has been evident from February 2019. Since then tourism, horticulture and other sectors of our economy suffered tremendous losses due to the decision of the government to restrict movement of civilians on the only road link of Srinagar-Jammu. It has hit the final nail in the coffin now.






Pakistan syndicates under the scanner as drug seizures mount in subcontinent-Devesh K. Pandey #GS3 #Security


The recent seizures of over 1,100 kg of heroin in the Indian subcontinent have left the investigating agencies worried about a spurt in the activities of Pakistan-based drug-trafficking syndicates in the region.


The seized heroin is suspected to be of Afghanistan origin. “Three routes are traditionally used for global distribution of Afghan heroin: the Balkans, Central Asian countries and the Indian subcontinent.



Since 2015, there has been a decline in seizures on the Balkans and Central Asian routes. However, they have of late increased in the subcontinent,” an enforcement agency official said.


The Coast Guard detected 200 kg of heroin on a Pakistan fishing vessel, named Al-Madina, off Gujarat


on May 21. Four Pakistan nationals were arrested. On May 6, an Iranian boat, allegedly transporting large quantities of narcotics, was seized by the Maldivian authorities west of Baa Atoll. Seven crew members were arrested.


In another case, the Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS), together with the Coast Guard, seized 100 kg of heroin from an Iranian boat off Porbandar and arrested nine Iranian nationals in March. Investigation revealed that the consignment had been sent by Pakistan national, Hamid Malek, and loaded on the boat close to the Gwadar port. A follow-up action by the ATS led to the arrest of an Afghan national at Lajpat Nagar in Delhi and another suspect in Kerala.


On March 24, enforcement officials in southern Sri Lanka seized over 107 kg of heroin from an Iranian vessel.


Inland seizures have also pointed to the role of Pakistan-based syndicates, the official said. A case in point is the seizure by the Customs at the Attari Integrated Check Post in June of 532 kg of heroin and 52 kg of other drugs. They had been declared rock salt.


The alleged kingpin, Tariq Ahmed Lone of Kupwara in Jammu and Kashmir, was arrested, along with importer Gurpinder Singh. “The consignment was booked in the name of Global Vision Impex, a front for Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), in Lahore,” the official said. The seizure came a couple of


months after India suspended cross-border trade through Kashmir as the route was being used to push in drugs and weapons.


In several cases, the agencies have come across evidence of drug money being used to fund terror activities.


After demonetisation, there has been no major seizure of Indian fake currency notes printed in Pakistan. This has forced the ISI-backed groups to raise funds by trafficking drugs. The first high-quality seizure — of over ₹7 crore in counterfeit currency notes — was made at the Kathmandu airport in March. Three Pakistan nationals were arrested,” the official said.


Jabir Moti, a Pakistan national alleged to be a close aide of Dawood Ibrahim, a designated global terrorist, is under the scanner of Indian agencies for drug-money laundering. Now lodged in a London jail, he is facing proceedings for extradition to the U.S.






Israel, India bond over Twitter on Friendship Day #GS2 #IR



Israel greeted India on friendship day with a Twitter message that featured the song ‘yeh dosti’ from Bollywood blockbuster Sholay, drawing an equally warm response from Prime Minister Narendra Modi who asserted that the bond between the two countries is “strong and eternal“.


“Happy #FriendshipDay2019 India! May our ever strengthening friendship & growing partnership touch greater heights,” the Israeli embassy said in a tweet on Sunday.


The message had the Hindi lyrics “yeh dosti hum nahi todenge” (We will not break this friendship) of the song from the 1975 movie “Sholay”, starring Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra and Hema Malini, and emoticons conveying that Israel loves India.






Car sales down, what does this mean for the economy? #GS3 #Economy


Leading automobile manufacturers announced a sharp decline of up to 50 per cent in their domestic sales in July with the market leader Maruti Suzuki reporting a 36.2 per cent drop in sales during the month.


Hit by the liquidity crunch for non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) and a dip in consumer sentiment, July became the twelfth out of the last 13 months in which the auto sector has seen a decline in domestic sales.


Manufacturers are now going for cuts in production, and the industry that is one of the biggest job creators in the country is staring at a deep-rooted slowdown and job losses across its value chain.


Where is the decline?


The drop in sales is happening across all segments. If passenger vehicles ales witnessed a fall of 18.4 per cent in the quarter ended June 2019, the commercial vehicle segment witnessed a 16.6 per cent decline. The two-wheeler segment too, saw a drop in sales by 11.7 per cent during the quarter.


In fact, the 18.4 per cent drop in passenger vehicles ales in the quarter ended June 2019 was the worst quarter for the industry in the last 18 years since Q3 of 2001-02, when sales fell 27 per cent.


Even the tractor industry, which had bucked the broader downturn in the auto sector to post a third consecutive year of double digit growth up until March 2019, has seen a steady slide since then, recording the biggest monthly fall in production in June 2019.


Tractor sales have consistently fallen since March 2019, amidst weak farm sentiment; with volumes seeing a double-digit decline over the past three months, and the worst number of an over 32 per cent decline in production in June 2019.


Why are car sales falling?



Industry insiders feel that while the pressure on NBFCs and the liquidity squeeze in the market is a big factor, the decline in customer confidence is the other factor that is leading to a continuous slide in sales of passenger cars.


According to these sources, a third of the retail sales of Maruti Suzuki — the country’s largest carmaker


— were funded by NBFCs, and a liquidity crisis for the NBFC sector has led to a drop in sales for lack of funding for customers.


Customers are also postponing their purchase decisions due to various considerations, including an expected fall in GST rates, and the hope that the transition from BS-IV to BS-VI may lead to big discounts between January and March 2020. Customers are also expecting discounts in the coming festive season.


However, company officials say that they do not expect the trend to be reversed in the near future.


Why is there a decline in the sales of commercial vehicles and tractors?


The NBFC liquidity stress has been playing a part in the decline in sales of vehicles across segments, as NBFCs are significant lenders in the tier II and smaller towns.


Tractor sales have been further hurt by weak farm sentiment, the slowdown in the rural economy, and fears of a worse than average monsoon this year. This comes amid the third advance estimates of crop production indicating a slide in rabi production. Kharif sowing has remained weak so far.


Truck sales have been hurt by changes made by the government in the axle load norms. Industry officials said that a significant decline in the sales of commercial vehicles has been visible ever since the increased axle load has become effective. The industry has been calling for a scrappage policy and other policy support measures to revive demand.


According to data released by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), overall, the commercial vehicles segment registered a decline of 9.53 per cent in April-June 2019 as compared to the same period last year. While the medium & heavy CVs declined 16.60 per cent, LCVs declined by 5.06 per cent during the quarter.


What does this situation indicate?


The sharp decline in sales numbers of the leading manufacturer shows the decline in consumer sentiment and indicates an overall slowdown in the economy. The drop in sales over the last one year has led major manufacturers to cut production, and has put pressure on the overall automotive sector, including the automobile ancillaries.


Last month, Ashok Leyland shut its manufacturing plant in Pantnagar, Uttarakhand, for nine days until July 24 because of weak demand for commercial vehicles. The plant, which can manufacture 1.5 lakh units annually, was earlier closed intermittently for some seven days between June 17 and June 29.



Tata Motors is learnt to have decided to close its Pantnagar facility in July for a couple of days in order to ensure improvement in productivity. Maruti Suzuki has cut vehicle production for the last seven months, including in July 2019.


There have already been job losses across the value chain of the automobile sector, including in the dealerships and ancillaries. The continuing decline in sales is now expected to put pressure on manufacturers to cut down on their costs, and reduce headcounts.


And how are two-wheelers faring?


The two-wheeler segment — the more affordable form of motorised mobility and an indicator of consumption demand in the hinterland — has also seen a slowdown.


Hero MotoCorp, the world’s largest two-wheeler manufacturer and the market leader in India, Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India, the second biggest two-wheeler player in the Indian market, and TVS Motor Co, all reported a clear drop in dispatches in the months leading up to July.


What happens in the auto segment from here on?


The outlook for the rest of the year will depend on multiple factors, including the progress of the monsoon and the festive season offtake, as well as improvement in the liquidity situation.


Like tractors, the drop in two-wheeler volumes is a key indicator of rural distress. In the two-wheeler segment, motorcycle sales are predominantly dependent on rural India; people in rural areas prefer motorcycles to scooters given their sturdier structure, better performance, and lower operational costs, especially in the economy segments.


The continued sluggishness in two-wheeler volumes is worrying, given that India, despite now being the world’s biggest two-wheeler market, still has a very low penetration level of two wheelers. Only about 102 out of every 1,000 people have two-wheelers in India — less than half the penetration levels in Indonesia (281) and Thailand (291).






Why Medical Commission Bill bothers doctors #GS2 #Governance


On Thursday, Rajya Sabha passed the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill that seeks to overhaul the medical education regulation infrastructure. Since then, doctors have struck work in Delhi and other cities. What is the Bill about and why is it controversial?


Bill status


An earlier version of he NMC Bill was introduced during the previous Lok Sabha and later referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare. It lapsed with the dissolution of that Lok Sabha. In the current session, the Bill was reintroduced with changes based on the Committee’s



recommendations. After Lok Sabha passed it, it was sent to Rajya Sabha with two new amendments and passed. It is now headed back to Lok Sabha, where the government enjoys a brute majority.


Licence to practice


Section 32 of the NMC Act 2019 allows the proposed NMC, which will replace the Medical Council of India, to grant “limited licence to practice medicine at mid-level as a community health provider”. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) sees it as encouraging quackery.


In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 30 calling for the Bill to be redrafted, the IMA wrote: “We are deeply concerned about granting non medical ‘persons connected with modern scientific medical profession’, licence to practise modern medicine… This is nothing but legalising and promoting quackery in India… Who will guarantee that these ‘legalised quacks’ will work in villages only?… National Medical Commission Bill will open the floodgates for licencing 3.5 lakhs ‘legalised quacks’. This amounts to ‘licence to kill’.”


Bridge course


Doctors have expressed concerns about the licence mentioned in Section 32 being another name for a contentious “bridge course”. Such a course has been proposed in the original version of the Bill. It would have allowed practitioners of homoeopathy and Indian systems of medicine to go on to practice allopathy.


In the new Bill, the bridge course has been dropped as per the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare, which wrote: “The Committee is of the view that the bridge course should not be made a mandatory provision in the present Bill.


However, the Committee appreciates the need to build the capacity of the existing human resources in the healthcare sector, to address the shortage of healthcare professionals so as to achieve the objectives of the National Health Policy, 2017…


The Committee, therefore, recommends that the State Governments may implement measures to enhance the capacity of the existing healthcare professionals including AYUSH practitioners, BSc (Nursing), BDS, B Pharma etc to address their State specific primary healthcare issues in the rural areas.”


Exit examination


The original Bill had proposed a licentiate examination for doctors, and the IMA had expressed concerns about it then too. The new Bill proposes a single exit exam – the final MBBS exam, which will work as a licentiate examination, a screening test for foreign medical graduates, and an entrance test for admission in postgraduate programmes. It also provides for just one medical entrance test across the country


In the letter, IMA wrote: “The Bill condenses final year MBBS exam, Licentiate exam. and PG NEET into one examination. This effectively removes the opportunity to reappear for PG selection. Moreover, the



examination being objective in nature, increases the workload and stress level of the students manifold. Allowing foreign medical graduates to take the same examination will be an injustice… The current system allows medical graduates to practise irrespective of the status of his/her PG NEET.”


Arguments in favour


Dr K S Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India and former professor of cardiology at AIIMS, said: “The NMC Bill opens the path to a long-awaited reform of medical education… Mid-level health workers like Community Health Providers are very much needed but their training programmes, competencies and roles have to be clearly defined to differentiate them from medical graduates.


The Allied Healthcare Professionals Bill, which is to be examined by the Standing Committee, is the right place to position them. A common exit examination is needed for standardisation and postgraduate course selection but must be preceded by a college-level testing of practical clinical skills as a qualifier for the theory-based NEXT (National Exit Test).”






The extent of groundwater over-exploitation, state by state #GS3 #Environment



























Groundwater resources are over-exploited in 1,186 out of 6,881 “assessment units” (blocks, talukas, watersheds etc) in the country, the Jal Shakti Ministry said in reply to a question in Lok Sabha. This was as assessed in 2017, and translates to 17%, or one in every six of these units.


All these over-exploited assessment units are in 17 states and Union Territories. Punjab has the highest extent of over-exploitation at 79 per cent of its blocks, followed Rajasthan, Delhi, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, each at 50 per cent or more.



Tamil Nadu, which has the highest number of blocks (1,116 firkas), also has the highest number of over-exploited units at 462 firkas, or 40 per cent. In Maharashtra, where the Marathwada region is drought-hit, 3 per cent of the talukas are over-exploited. In Uttar Pradesh with 830 units (820 blocks and 10 cities), 11 per cent are over-exploited. In the eight Northeastern states none of the assessment units (districts and blocks) is over-exploited.






With 5G, more people will be dependent on network, so security will be very important’ #GS3 #SnT


What does 5G technology enable?


Centuries ago, in Industry 1, the focus was the steam engine with mechanical engineering. Industry 2 required more electricity to run engines and machines. Industry 3, where we are now, is the electronics game. What we are looking forward to in Industry 4 are things like distributed processing, robotics, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, and big data. It will be distributed computing, trying to do activities that are distributed in nature.


What do we mean by ‘distributed’ activities? Say, I am a surgeon sitting in Chennai and I want to do two different surgeries in two different places on the same day. I can have a robotic setup in these locations and do robotic surgery.


So far, we have had human-to-human communication and human-to-machine communication. In Industry 4, it will also be a machine-to-machine. Two autonomous vehicles or two drones can do collaborative work.


Why does 5G bring up more urgent security concerns than before?


5G is taking technology closer and closer to mankind. When we looked at 2G, the mobile phone was used just for voice communication. We never dreamt that we would use mobile devices for anything else. Now, we rarely talk on our phones compared to (the) other activities (we do on them).


As we go towards 5G, a lot more of our livelihoods will depend on the network, so the issue of security becomes more significant.


In addition, the scale will be bigger, the number of towers will be bigger, the number of devices will be bigger, and when something goes wrong it becomes irreversible. Just like if you distribute one million phones and want to take them back, it will be difficult.


What is the global concern over Huawei?



The United States claims that it has security concerns in deploying (Chinese-owned) Huawei because of spyware and malware — what you would call back doors that could leak data from the installations. So the US has banned Huawei equipment to be deployed in that country.


Two things can happen if I have back door: I can leak information from a place to another place of my choice. Secondly, I can gain control over the equipment and stop it from functioning.


So, how should India manage these concerns?


Fortunately or unfortunately, the entire narrative of 5G is now being looked at through this ‘Huawei or not-Huawei’ issue. But the narrative should be, at the first stage, what do we need to do when we try to bring in unknown equipment — hardware or software? This should be the first question we need to answer. Huawei or not is for the next stage.


The unknown system problem is that it is very easy to find out if the system does what I want it to do, but it is difficult for me to find out whether the system will not do what I don’t want it to do.


We need to create a comprehensive framework for our requirements. In this, there will be technical issues, as well as the notion of trust and countries’ past record. Each sector will have its own do’s and don’ts, whether it is power, transportation, finance, entertainment, aviation, or defence.


Also, this is where indigenisation of technology comes in. If we focus on building technologies here (in India), I will have very, very clear access to my hardware and my software.


How will I be secure if I don’t even know what is inside my chips? In the mobile phone you are using, there are one billion transistors, and your Android operating system that is running, is one million lines of code. With one million lines of code running on one billion transistors, you don’t know what could happen.






How a biometrics-based token system is reducing chaos on railway platforms #GS3 #SnT


Boarding ‘general’ compartments — in which seating is not reserved — especially in long-distance trains leaving major cities, has always been an ordeal for passengers. The massive mismatch between the numbers of travellers and the available seats drives people to queue up on platforms up to 10 hours in advance.


Chaos at the time of boarding has led to stampedes and even deaths in the past. The Railway Protection Force is employed routinely to prevent fights among groups of passengers. Gangs of touts ‘reserve’ seats for a price, and those who can’t pay suffer.



The Western and Central Railways have introduced a new Biometric Token System (BTS) that seeks to streamline the process of boarding unreserved coaches. Tokens are issued on a first-come, first-served basis, after accepting biometric information of individual passengers.


Passengers with valid tickets are required to place their fingers on a scanner, and are issued a token with a serial number against their biometric data. Passengers must queue up and enter the compartment in the order of their serial numbers.


The tokens are issued three hours before a train’s departure. The use of biometrics cuts out the touts, and helps genuine passengers. The data (captured in the machines) will be used to analyse the pattern of crowds and the patronage of trains. In case of a mishap, we will have details of the passengers, and with the help of this (biometric information) we can prevent black marketing of unreserved tickets.


A senior RPF officer pointed out that since the issuance of tokens begins only three hours before departure, “passengers don’t have to wait for 8-9 hours in queues”.




Authorities in Western Railway and Central Railway said the Railways hoped to expand the token system to the rest of the country soon.


The initial experience with the system has underlined some issues and generated user feedback. Some passengers have suggested that the tokens should be given along with the tickets themselves — this, they have said, would obviate the need to reach the station three hours before the train’s departure in order to get a token.


There are some teething problems as well.


On August 1, when The Indian Express visited Pune Jn station, passengers of the 12149 Pune Danapur Express leaving Pune at 8.55 pm, complained that the token-issuing machine had “heated up” and stopped functioning after dispensing just 98 tokens.


The initiative is also not sufficiently well known yet. Many passengers continue to queue up separately hours before the trains’ departure because they are unaware of the biometrics-based tokens.






To ensure authenticity, APIs of drugs may soon get track-and-trace codes #GS3 #Economy


The Health Ministry may soon make it mandatory for companies to include codes to track-and-trace key ingredients used to make medicines in India, The Indian Express has learnt.



If implemented, the move will potentially be the first step by the government to pinpoint the origin and movement of drugs manufactured here and ensure their authenticity.


A draft amendment mandating quick response (QR) codes at “each” level of packaging of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs), used to give medicines their therapeutic effect, is ready and will be notified “soon”, said a senior Health Ministry official. The Indian Express has viewed a copy of this draft.


“The basic drug is in the API. For a medicine to be effective, the API has to be effective. As a first step (to tracking and tracing medicines in the country), every API manufactured or imported in India will bear a QR code on its label at each level of packaging.


India is currently dependent on China for imports of APIs to make “certain” essential medicines, with around Rs 12,255 crore worth of these ingredients imported from the country in 2016-17, as per government data.


The latest development follows recommendations by the Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB) — India’s apex drug advisory body — during a meeting this year, to include “necessary” provisions in India’s drugs and cosmetics rules mandating QR coding on API labels.


The Board was apprised that the Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient is most important constituent of any drug formulation. The supply chain with respect to its security and integrity in proper storage condition plays very important role to enhance quality supply of APIs,”. The body made these recommendations after “stakeholders” suggested it.


Issues with qualities of APIs were raised earlier this year during a Drugs Consultative Committee (DCC) meeting, when Punjab sought provisions to make API manufacturers “accountable and responsible” for the quality and purity of their products.


APIs by “various” vendors have been found to be “not as per defined specifications with respect to their quality, specifications and purity and in certain cases the desired effects are not obtained,” said the DCC meeting minutes on this issue.


It added that Punjab’s regulators “suspected that either such APIs are not manufactured at the right premises or such APIs are not manufactured with the required scientific techniques to produce the bio-active substance.”


A track-and-trace system for pharma products has been under discussion for several years in this government to also check counterfeits (fake copies), but implementation has been stalled following intervention by sections of the industry in the past.


The Commerce Ministry in June this year announced it would implement a “robust” track-and-trace mechanism for the sector “in three months”.


Even DTAB, in April 2015, had deliberated a proposal for mandatory bar coding on primary, secondary and tertiary levels of drug packaging to trace their movement from the manufacturer to retailer. Draft



rules to this effect were brought out in June 2015, but “large numbers” of objections were received from stakeholders, so the rules are yet to be finalised.


There is lack of clarity on the scale of India’s counterfeit and substandard drug problem. The US, in its Special 301 Report this year, estimated that up to 20 per cent of drugs sold in the Indian market are “counterfeit and could represent a serious threat to patient health and safety.”


However, a nationwide survey conducted by the Indian government between 2014 and 2016 concluded that only around 3 per cent of the medicines here were substandard and only 0.023 per cent spurious or counterfeit.


Drug regulators here have, on many occasions, flagged medicines produced by even large drug makers for failing quality tests. Yet, the firms have refuted claims stating the products were counterfeit.


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