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Insights Daily Current Events, 15 January 2015

Insights Daily Current Events, 15 January 2015

Forest owlet sighted in M.P.

The forest owlet ( Athene blewitti ) has been sighted in Madhya Pradesh’s Betul district. It was most recently seen for the first time in the Western Ghats in October last year.

Forest owlet:


  • The forest owlet is a very small member of the owl family, measuring only 23 centimetres in length.
  • It has been classified as ‘critically endangered species’.
  • This owlet is extremely rare, and the populations are isolated and fragmented from one another.
  • The owlet, endemic to central Indian forests was said to be extinct in the wild but was rediscovered in 1997.
  • The species faces a number of threats which in combination are suspected to be causing a decline at a rate of 10-19% over ten years.

Threats:

  • Habitat destruction and deforestation are the main threats to the existence of the forest owlet.
  • Illegal wood cutting and expansion of agriculture has greatly reduced, and continues to reduce, the forest this owlet requires.
  • Superstitious beliefs among the local human populations also take a toll of the owlet. The eggs of the owlet are thought to boost one’s chances of winning when gambling, and killing a baby owlet is supposed to make the person more fertile.
  • The forest owlet is also simply killed because it is thought to harm the soul.

 

Conservation efforts:

  • Efforts are under way to educate the villagers about the owlets so that they will stop killing them needlessly. The Melghat Tiger Reserve has also received more protection since the discovery of the forest owlet, which has helped to stabilize the numbers of these small birds. The forest owlet is now not only protected by CITES, but the Indian government has awarded it full protection from trapping, egg collection, or hunting.
  • Since its rediscovery in 1997, fieldwork has been conducted to study its status, ecology and threats. Interventions have been made to seek the prevention of further forest losses at the site of rediscovery.

 

Sources: The Hindu, www.birdlife.org.

 

Global economy to expand by 3 per cent this year

The World Bank, in a report, has projected that the global economy would expand by 3% this year.

Important observations and suggestions made by the World Bank:

  • The World Bank has said that the global economy is still struggling to gain momentum while many developing economies are less dynamic than they were in the past.
  • The global economy grew by an estimated 2.6 per cent in 2014, and is projected to expand by 3.3 per cent in 2016 and 3.2 per cent in 2017.
  • Developing countries grew by 4.4 per cent in 2014 and are expected to edge up to 4.8 per cent in 2015, strengthening to 5.3 and 5.4 per cent in 2016 and 2017.
  • Underneath the fragile global recovery lie increasingly divergent trends with significant implications for global growth.
  • Activity in the United States and the United Kingdom is gathering momentum as labour markets heal and monetary policy remains extremely accommodative.
    But recovery has been sputtering in the Euro area and Japan as legacies of the financial crisis linger.
  • As population growth has slowed in many countries, the pool of younger workers is smaller, putting strains on productivity.
  • The lower oil price, which is expected to persist through 2015, is lowering inflation worldwide and is likely to delay interest rate hikes in rich countries. This creates a window of opportunity for oil–importing countries, such as China and India. What is critical is for nations to use this window to usher in fiscal and structural reforms, which can boost long–run growth and inclusive development.
  • In this uncertain economic environment, developing countries need to judiciously deploy their resources to support social programmes with a laser–like focus on the poor, and undertake structural reforms that invest in people.

 

Sources: the Hindu.

 

India will catch up with China’s growth in 2016–17: World Bank

The World Bank has said that India will catch up with China’s growth at 7 per cent in 2016–17. It also said that the country’s economy has recovered in the wake of the economic reform measures taken by the new government, falling oil prices and lower interest rates.

Other details:

  • This would be for the first time in recent past that India’s growth rate would catch up with that of China.
  • The growth in South Asia rose to an estimated 5.5 per cent in 2014 from a 10–year low of 4.9 per cent in 2013. The upturn was driven by India, the region’s largest economy, which emerged from two years of modest growth.
  • The bank estimated a growth rate of 5.6 per cent in 2014 for India and forecast a growth rate of 6.4 per cent in 2015, while that of world’s second largest economy China, 7.4 per cent (estimated) in 2014 and 7.1 per cent (forecast) in 2015.
  • Regional growth is projected to rise to 6.8 per cent by 2017, as reforms ease supply constraints in India, political tensions subside in Pakistan, remittances remain robust in Bangladesh and Nepal, and demand for the region’s exports firms.
  • Past adjustments have reduced vulnerability to financial market volatility. Risks are mainly domestic and of a political nature. Sustaining the pace of reform and maintaining political stability are key to maintaining the recent growth momentum.
  • The bank expects implementation of reforms and deregulation in India to lift FDI.

 

Sources: The Hindu.

Brahma to be new CEC

H.S. Brahma, the seniormost Election Commissioner, will succeed V.S. Sampath as the next Chief Election Commissioner of India.

About CEC:

  • The Chief Election Commissioner heads the Election Commission of India, a body constitutionally empowered to conduct free and fair elections to the national and state legislatures.
  • The President of India appoints the Chief Election Commissioner. Conventionally, senior-most Election Commissioner is appointed as CEC.
  • He has tenure of six years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
  • He enjoys the same official status, salary and perks as available to Judges of the Supreme Court of India and High court.
  • The Chief Election Commissioner can be removed only through impeachment by the Parliament.

Sources: The Hindu, EC.

 

Draft Bill moots heavy fine for smoking in restricted areas

The Centre has cracked the whip on consumption of cigarettes and tobacco products by proposing a slew of amendments to the (COTPA) Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) (Amendment) Bill 2015.

Details of the Draft Bill:

  • It proposes to do away with on-site advertising of tobacco products. Which means kiosks and shops selling cigarettes and other tobacco products will no longer be able to display the brand names.
  • To prevent exposure of non-smokers to harmful emissions, the Health Ministry has proposed scrapping designated smoking areas from hotels, restaurants and airports; making an exception only for international airports.
  • The penalty for smoking in restricted areas has been upped from Rs. 200 to Rs. 1000.
  • Anyone found producing tobacco products without the specified warning will be liable for imprisonment for up to two years for the first offence or fine up to Rs. 50,000 or both. For the second and subsequent offences the imprisonment can be up to five years with a fine of up to Rs. 1 lakh.
  • Selling products without warning will incur a fine of up to Rs. 10,000 or a jail term of up to one year or both; subsequent offence will draw a fine of up to Rs. 25,000 and a jail term of two years.
  • Tobacco products and cigarettes in approved packaging (which have pictorial warnings across the designated area of the pack) will now be sold only to those above 21 years of age. The proposed age limit will be revised to 23 and 25 in two phases after evaluating the impact of raising the minimum age.

 

About COTPA Act:

It is an Act of Parliament of India enacted in 2003 to prohibit advertisement and regulation of tobacco business in India. The Act put restriction on tobacco products including cigarettes, gutka, panmasala (containing tobacco), cigar, cheerot, Beedi, Snuff, chewing tobacco, hookah, tooth powder containing tobacco.

It was enacted mainly to discourage the consumption of Cigarettes and other Tobacco products through imposing progressive restrictions and to protect non-smokers from second hand smoke.

The Key provisions under the Act include:-

  • Prohibition of smoking in public places
  • Prohibition on all forms of direct / indirect advertisement, promotion and sponsorship of tobacco products
  • Prohibition and sale of tobacco products to minors (any person who is under eighteen years of age)
  • Prohibition and sale of tobacco products in an area within a radius of one hundred yards of any educational institution
  • Mandatory depiction of specified health warnings on all tobacco products

Sources: The Hindu.

 

U.P. scholar wins Sahitya Akademi award for Sanskrit

Sanskrit scholar Prabhu Nath Dwivedi from Uttar Pradesh has won the Sahitya Akademi Award for 2014 for his collection of 16 short stories, Kanakalochanaha.

Sahitya Akademi Award:

Every year since its inception in 1954, the Sahitya Akademi Award is awarded to the most outstanding books of literary merit published in any of the major Indian languages recognised by the Akademy. The first Awards were given in 1955.

Criteria of Eligibility for the Award:

  • In order to be eligible for the award, the book must be an outstanding contribution to the language and literature to which it belongs. The book may be a creative or a critical work, but must not be
    • A work of translation; or
    • An anthology; or
    • An abridgement, or a compilation, or an annotation; or
    • A treatise or research work prepared for a university degree or any examination;
    • The work of an author who has earlier won an award from the Akademi (other than the Translation Prize);
    • The work of an author who is a member of the Executive Board of the Akademi.
  • A fresh collection of writings published earlier in book form, or revised editions of books published earlier, are not eligible for Award. However, if at least 75% of the work included in a collection has been published for the first time in book form, it can be considered for Award.
  • An incomplete work may be considered for the award only if the part that comprises the book is complete in itself.
  • A posthumous publication is eligible for Award only if the author has died within the three year period stipulated for the award or later.
  • A book shall be disqualified for the award if it is established to the satisfaction of the Executive Board that canvassing has been done by the author.

Sources: The Hindu, http://sahitya-akademi.gov.in/.

 

Meningitis: Indian vaccine will protect infants also

A meningitis A vaccine (MenAfriVac) manufactured by Serum Institute of India, Pune was approved by WHO a few days ago for use in infants in sub-Saharan African populations. The vaccine will be introduced as part of the routine immunisation programme.

  • In the four years since its introduction in Africa, MenAfriVac has had an immediate and dramatic impact in breaking the cycle of meningitis A epidemics.
  • The vaccine has already been used in those aged 1-29 years. But with the WHO’s approval, the vaccine can be given to infants thereby protecting million more children at risk of the deadly disease.
  • About 200,000 people suffer from meningitis every year in the region. The disease kills 20,000 to 25,000 people in the region every year.
  • Not many meningitis cases are seen in children below one year because a mother, who has had meningitis, transmits the meningitis antibodies to newborns and these antibodies protect them for one year.

Meningitis:

Meningitis is a bacterial infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord (meninges).

Causes: The most common causes of meningitis are viral infections that usually get better without treatment. However, bacterial meningitis infections are extremely serious, and may result in death or brain damage, even if treated.

Meningitis may also be caused by:

  • Chemical irritation
  • Drug allergies
  • Fungi
  • Parasites
  • Tumors

Most viral meningitis is due to enteroviruses, which are viruses that also can cause intestinal illness. Many other types of viruses can cause meningitis. Viruses that cause mumps and HIV can also cause aseptic meningitis.

Common Symptoms:

  • Fever and chills
  • Mental status changes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light (photophobia)
  • Severe headache
  • Stiff neck (meningismus)
  • Bulging fontanelles in babies
  • Decreased alertness
  • Poor feeding or irritability in children

Meningitis is an important cause of fever in children and newborns.

Treatment: Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial meningitis. The specific type depends on which bacteria is causing the infection. Antibiotics do not treat viral meningitis. Antiviral medicine may be given to those with herpes meningitis.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki, nlm.nih.gov.