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Insights Daily Current Events November 20, 2013

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November 20, 2013

NATIONAL

Jailed persons can contest polls

  • July 10th Judgement had upheld a 2004 Patna High Court ruling – ‘when a person in custody was disqualified to vote he/she was also disqualified from contesting the elections’. But in the recent decision, Supreme Court has taken note of the amendment made to the Representation of the People Act (RPA) treating persons in lawful custody in a criminal case as a voter and has allowed them to vote.

  • Section 62 (5) of the RP Act says, “No person shall vote at any election if he/she is confined in a prison, whether under a sentence of imprisonment or transportation or otherwise, or is in the lawful custody of the police: Provided that nothing in this sub- section shall apply to a person subjected to preventive detention under any law for the time being in force.”

  • Subsequent to the July 10 judgment, Parliament amended the RP Act and introduced a clause to Section 62 (5) in the RP (Amendment and Validation) Act, 2013, which says “… by reasons of the prohibition to vote under this sub-section, a person whose name has been entered in the electoral roll shall not cease to be an elector.”

  • The notification said “notwithstanding anything contained in any judgment, decree or order of any court, tribunal or other authority, the provisions of the RP Act, 1951, as amended by this Act, shall have and shall be deemed always to have effect for all purposes as if the provisions of this Act had been in force at all material times.”

HEALTH

Open Defecation & its consequences

  • The World Health Organisation(WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund has estimated that there were more than 620 million people i.e., over 50% of the population practising open defecation in the country. (19th November was marked as ‘World Toilet Day’)

  • Moreover, the latest Census data reveals that the percentage of households having access to TV and telephones in rural India exceeds the percentage of households with toilet facilities.

Impact of Open defecation:

  • According to the Water and Sanitation Programme, the economic impact of inadequate sanitation is about Rs. 2.4 trillion ($38.4 million), or 6.4% of India’s GDP.

  • According to a World Bank report, Open defecation is one of the vital contributors to malnutrition. Access to improved sanitation can increase cognition among children

  • According to UNICEF, hand washing with soap particularly after contact with excreta can reduce diarrhoeal diseases by over 40% and respiratory infections by 30%.

  • Diarrhoea and respiratory infections are the number one cause for child deaths in India.

  • With over 50% people defecating in the open and 44% mothers disposing of their children’s faeces in the open, there is a very high risk of microbial contamination (bacteria, viruses, amoeba) of water which causes diarrhoea in children.

  • Children weakened by frequent diarrhoea episodes are more vulnerable to malnutrition and opportunistic infections such as pneumonia.

India’s initiatives in this regard:

  • India’s Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) or Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA), a national programme encourages local governments to build and promote use of inexpensive pit latrines.

More about Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA)

  • Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) or Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA) is a Community-led total sanitation program initiated by Government of India in 1999.

  • It is a demand-driven and people-centered sanitation program. It evolved from the limited achievements of the first structured programme for rural sanitation in India, the Central Rural Sanitation Programme, which had minimal community participation.

  • The main goal of Total Sanitation Campaign is to eradicate the practice of open defecation by 2017. Community-led total sanitation is not focused on building infrastructure, but on changing cultural norms to prevent open defecation.

  • In Maharashtra where the program started more than 2000 Gram Panchayats have achieved “open defecation free” status. Villages that achieve this status receive monetary rewards and high publicity under a program called Nirmal Gram Puraskar.

Courtesy – wikipedia

HIV infection numbers stagnant in the past five years: UN report

  • According to a UN report, significant progress has been seen in a number of countries in Asia and the Pacific in reducing new HIV infections by over 50% since 2001, but the impact appears to be slowing down with overall numbers across the region remaining largely unchanged in the past five years. It has also warned of emerging epidemics in some countries, including Pakistan, Indonesia and the Philippines.

  • Though more people had access to HIV services across the region, inadequate focus on key populations at higher risk of HIV infection and geographical areas with higher HIV burden meant that most countries in the region were not progressing fast enough to reach global targets on HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.

  • The report warns of emerging epidemics in some countries.  It is estimated that 4.9 million (3.7 to 6.3 million) people were living with HIV in Asia and the Pacific in 2012. Twelve countries account for more than 90 per cent of people living with HIV and of new HIV infections in the region, including India.

  • The number of people accessing antiretroviral treatment in the region has increased to 1.25 million people at the end of 2012. Numbers of AIDS-related deaths have declined by 18 per cent since 2005 to 2,70,000 in 2012 largely due to increased access to treatment.

  • According to the report, new HIV infections in the region remain concentrated among key populations: people who buy and sell sex, injecting drug users, men who have sex with men, and transgender people. The fastest growing epidemics in the region are among men who have sex with men.

INTERNATIONAL

Developed countries try to bring down the differentiation firewall

  • A new zone of conflict has emerged between developed & developing countries as the developed have proposed for removing any difference in the responsibility thrust upon them in the ongoing Warsaw meet.

  • Even as U.S., Australia and Canada blocked negotiations on the issue of compensation for loss and damage caused by climate change in one track of talks, they pushed hard along with EU on the other to pull down the firewall of differentiation.

  • The Like-Minded Developing Countries (LMDC), which includes China and India, took a common stance on the draft decisions pushing that the existing principles of the Convention should not be subverted. They demanded that the developed countries provide U.S. $ 60 billion by 2016 as part delivery of their promise to ensure U.S. $ 100 billion by 2020.

  • The developed countries, instead of focusing on actions within the U.N. climate convention, demanded that the other bilateral and multilateral actions outside the convention be acknowledged.

  • On one issue — the refrigerant and greenhouse gas hydrofluorocarbon (HFCs) — China and Kuwait sided with India to demand that it be phased down under the principles of the climate convention and not right away under Montreal Protocol where equity and other principles do not apply.

Brazil calls for web governance meet

  • There would be a global meet on the ‘governance of worldwide web’ on April 23-24 in 2014, hosted by Brazil which would see Cabinet-level government officials, top Internet industry executives and civil society groups from all over the world

  • The international conference will focus on Internet governance, privacy of citizens and protection of individual and government data.

  • The new global Internet rules were necessary after revelations from the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden that the U.S., Canada and some European governments were involved in massive electronic surveillance of foreign governments, state companies and private citizens.

  • The idea is to produce a model of governance that guarantees users’ freedom and protects their rights so that new media can be used to its fullest.

U.N. calls for immediate end to new Kachin clashes

  • The U.N. has called for an immediate end to clashes between Myanmar troops and ethnic Kachin rebels which have trapped hundreds of people including schoolchildren in a remote area with limited food and shelter.

  • Skirmishes have affected at least 2,300 people in the Bhamo-Mansi area, among them many who had already been displaced by previous fighting.

  • The latest battle has also affected internally displaced persons (IDPs) located around the area and has called for an “immediate cessation of hostilities” to allow humanitarian access.

Background:

  • Fighting in Kachin, near the northern border with China, erupted in June 2011 when a 17-year ceasefire crumbled. It has displaced some 100,000 people.

  • The Kachin conflict along with religious unrest elsewhere in the country has overshadowed widely praised political changes as Myanmar emerges from decades of military rule.

  • President Thein Sein’s reformist government has reached tentative peace deals with most major ethnic minority rebel groups in the country, which has been racked by civil wars since independence from Britain in 1948.

  • Despite talks, peace in Kachin has so far remained elusive, stopping government efforts to cement a nationwide ceasefire which would brighten its reform credentials.

Courtesy – www.travel-myanmar.net (image)

ECONOMICS

OECD projects modest India GDP growth

  • According to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Indian economy is expected to improve marginally in the current financial year with its GDP at market price projected to expand by 3.4% from 3.3% in 2012.

  • The country’s economic activity is expected to recover gradually as “rupee depreciation supports exports, infrastructure projects cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Investment come on stream and political uncertainty declines after the general election due in the spring 2014.

  • According to OECD, rupee depreciation is putting pressures on inflation, public finances, corporates and banks with high external debt exposure. Also supply constraints will continue to restrain growth, adding to inflationary pressures and the current account deficit.

  • Meanwhile, OECD has welcomed India’s new monetary policy framework that puts more weight on inflation as a policy anchor.

  • However, it said that containing inflation pressures also requires reducing the fiscal deficit and dealing with supply constraints that limit growth. For instance, the new Land Acquisition Law may promote investment, but the new Food Act will be fiscally costly.

  • To reduce fiscal deficit – Priority should now be given to cutting energy subsidies, better targeting household transfers, implementing pending tax reforms, improving infrastructure and reforming the labour market.

  • OECD projects world economy to grow 2.7 % this year before accelerating to 3.6% in 2014. The weaker forecast was largely due to worsened outlook of some emerging economies.

More about Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

OECD was established in 1961. HQ: Paris, France; It consists of 34 member countries.

Mission

  • The mission of OECD is to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.

  • The OECD provides a forum in which governments can work together to share experiences and seek solutions to common problems. We work with governments to understand what drives economic, social and environmental change. We measure productivity and global flows of trade and investment. We analyse and compare data to predict future trends. We set international standards on a wide range of things, from agriculture and tax to the safety of chemicals.

  • We look, too, at issues that directly affect the lives of ordinary people, like how much they pay in taxes and social security, and how much leisure time they can take. We compare how different countries’ school systems are readying their young people for modern life, and how different countries’ pension systems will look after their citizens in old age.

  • Drawing on facts and real-life experience, we recommend policies designed to make the lives of ordinary people better. We work with business, through the Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD, and with labour, through the Trade Union Advisory Committee. We have active contacts as well with other civil society organisations. The common thread of our work is a shared commitment to market economies backed by democratic institutions and focused on the wellbeing of all citizens. Along the way, we also set out to make life harder for the terrorists, tax dodgers, crooked businessmen and others whose actions undermine a fair and open society.

Courtesy- http://www.oecd.org

Bharatiya Mahila Bank (BMB) bank to offer universal banking services

  • The Bharatiya Mahila Bank (BMB) would be a universal bank which would establish branches across India and offer all banking products that a regular commercial bank offers.

  • BMB would design and offer special products tailor made to the needs of women. It will cater to everybody from self help groups to lower middle class women to high net worth individuals. It will establish branches all over the country and, “in due course, some branches abroad.

  • According to a survey, 26 % of women in India have bank accounts and per capita credit for women is currently 80 % lower than that for men.

  • There is deep seated bias, at the institutional and individual levels against women. Since fewer women have bank accounts, fewer women get bank loans. Hence, the need for a bank that caters predominantly to women’s needs.

  • By the end of the financial year, the bank plans to open at least 25 branches, eyeing a presence in every state capital. The bank network would be expanded in subsequent years to reach 770 branches by 2020, covering Tier II and III cities, rural areas and unbanked areas.

  • BMB, headquartered in New Delhi, is headed by Usha Ananthasubramanian

  • In the Budget 2013-14, the Finance Minister had announced setting up of all-women bank with an initial capital of Rs. 1,000 crore.

U.S. regulators see value in bitcoin

  • The virtual currency, bitcoin, took a big step toward the mainstream as federal authorities signalled their willingness to accept it as a legitimate payment alternative.

  • But a cautious approach needs to be taken since new forms of digital money would provide avenues for money laundering and illegal activity.

Tea growers explore bitcoin option to expand global biz

  • Small and specialised tea growers are working with a U.S-based online tea marketplace to explore the option of using digital currency bitcoin as a means of avoiding heavy banking fees and to expand international business.

  • Hawaii-based Tealet facilitates tea purchases between small tea farmers and the beverage’s global connoisseurs, a form of online direct selling, and has signed up a number of independent tea growers in Assam, West Bengal and Bihar.

  • While bitcoins are not illegal in India, the RBI is “watching and learning about the developments in bitcoin” even though it has no intention of regulating it right now. The digital currency also lets growers avoid heavy transaction fees

What is Bitcoin?

  • Bitcoin is a consensus network that enables a new payment system and a completely digital money. It is the first decentralized peer-to-peer payment network that is powered by its users with no central authority or middlemen.

  • From a user perspective, Bitcoin is pretty much like cash for the Internet. Bitcoin can also be seen as the most prominent triple entry bookkeeping system in existence.

Courtesy- http://bitcoin.org

Bitcoin advantages:

– Easy and Fast Payments

– Secure

– Offers Some Degree of Anonymity

– Low or No Transaction Fees:

– anyone can use it; no registration required

– no fee when you are sending Bitcoins to somebody

Bitcoin disadvantages:

– it is not yet widely accepted currency

– could be used for illegal activities (trading drugs, weapons)

– Payments are Irreversible- when you send Bitcoins it couldn’t be charged back

– Its Price is Volatile

Courtesy- http://www.speculatebitcoin.com

http://voices.yahoo.com/advantages-disadvantages-bitcoin-12385858.html

AWARDS

Merkel chosen for Indira Gandhi Prize

  • Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development for 2013 would be honoured on German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her exemplary leadership in Europe and the world during the financial crisis and her stewardship of German economic growth.

  • The prize was being given to the German leader because of the work done by her for promotion of global economic stability, her commitment to universal peace and disarmament and her leadership role in strengthening productive and mutually beneficial relations with India and other developing countries.

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