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Insights Daily Current Events, 02 April 2015

Insights Daily Current Events, 02 April 2015

Around half of Indian children under 5 stunted

Leading up to World Health Day on April 7, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) in partnership with Amway has launched the Malnutrition Mapping Project, which they describe as “A new education and advocacy tool that shows the multiple impacts of malnutrition around the world using global data from 30 low-, middle- and high-income countries.” The project aims to map global malnutrition trends and raise awareness about a preventable problem.

Important findings:

  • The project has found that while India is home to third-highest number of obese people after the U.S. and China, 48% of women of reproductive age and 59% of children under the age of five are anaemic, and close to 48% of children under the age of five are stunted.
  • The project found that the country has over 58 million children under the age of five who were stunted and 2.3 million children in the age cohort who were obese.
  • The project also notes that high among the causes of childhood malnutrition in India are vitamin and mineral deficiencies, as well as sub-optimal breastfeeding practices.
  • The project report says the high proportion of anaemic women of reproductive age is linked to 62% of children in the country showing insufficient vitamin A status, which raises the risk of decreased immune function, increased morbidity and mortality and blindness.

The GAIN-Amway project highlighted the deleterious effects of this malnutrition status, arguing that several non-communicable diseases were associated with unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyles and obesity in India.

Sources: The Hindu.


Unravelling the ‘blood rain’ mystery

A recent study by Indian and Austrian scientists has led to the discovery of the cause of the ‘Blood Rain’ phenomenon to be dispersal of spores of micro algae. Since 1896, reports have been coming in of sporadic instances of red coloured rain over parts of Kerala and Sri Lanka. The latest one was in 2013 over Kerala.

Details of the new study:

  • The study confirmed that the red colour in the rain was caused by the presence of spores of a European species of green microalgae, Trentepohlia annulata that was reported previously only from Austria —a Central European country.
  • The study confirmed that the blood rain is nothing but a mechanism employed by this alga to disperse its spores (similar to plant seeds) to a very large area at once, so that algae can quickly colonize a large area.
  • The study revealed that DNA sequence of this species from Kerala and that from Austria had very little differences — and they evolve slowly, which suggests that the alga got introduced from Europe not very long ago.
  • The research also confirmed the likelihood that the introduction happened through clouds over ocean — a phenomenon of intercontinental species dispersal previously reported for bacteria and fungi, but first time for alga.

Scientists have said that spores of this alga from Europe get transported to India via clouds that drift across the Arabian Sea.

But if the spores travelled across the Arabian Sea all the way to Kerala and Sri Lanka, why did the phenomenon not occur in intermediate regions like Gujarat, MP?

  • Experts say that they do not have any proof for this “clouds over ocean” hypothesis, but probability is high because this is how spores of Trentepohlia get transported.
  • How exactly these lower stratospheric clouds got into Kerala remains unknown but aerial route from Austria to Kerala won’t pass through other states like Gujarat, MP etc. they also note that It might be related to monsoon as well, as Kerala is the first state which the SW monsoon strikes together with Sri Lanka.

The study is yet to be completed.

Sources: The Hindu.


Palestine joins ICC

Palestine has formally joined the International Criminal Court (ICC). Palestinians now hope that this could open the door to the possible prosecution of Israelis for alleged war crimes.

  • The accession was marked at a closed-door ceremony at ICC headquarters in The Hague, exactly 90 days after Palestine joined the court’s founding Rome Statute.
  • The Palestinians called on Israel to also join the global court, which was set up in 2002 to try crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide.
  • Exasperated after decades of failed negotiations with Israel and no prospect of achieving statehood anytime soon, Palestinians have been waging a campaign for recognition at international bodies including the ICC.


The International Criminal Court (ICC), located in The Hague, is the court of last resort for prosecution of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. It is the first permanent, treaty based, international criminal court established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community.

  • Its founding treaty, the Rome Statute, entered into force on July 1, 2002.
  • Presently, the ICC had 123 states parties, opened investigations in eight countries, and issued two verdicts (Lubanga case and Ngudjolo case).
  • The governments on which the ICC depends to carry out its mandate have been inconsistent in their support, particularly when it comes to arrests.
  • The ICC is an independent international organisation, and is not part of the United Nations system.
  • Although the Court’s expenses are funded primarily by States Parties, it also receives voluntary contributions from governments, international organisations, individuals, corporations and other entities.
  • The Court’s management oversight and legislative body, the Assembly of States Parties, consists of one representative from each state party. Each state party has one vote and “every effort” has to be made to reach decisions by consensus. If consensus cannot be reached, decisions are made by vote.
  • The Assembly is presided over by a president and two vice-presidents, who are elected by the members to three-year terms.

India and the ICC:

The government of India has consistently opposed the Court. It abstained in the vote adopting of the statute in 1998, saying it objected to the broad definition adopted of crimes against humanity; the rights given to the UN Security Council to refer and delay investigations and bind non-states parties; and the use of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction not being explicitly criminalized. Other anxieties about the Court concern how the principle of complementarity would be applied to the Indian criminal justice system, the inclusion of war crimes for non-international conflicts, and the power of the Prosecutor to initiate prosecutions.

Sources: The Hindu, ICC, Wiki.


Government Issues Guidelines for Administration and Operationalization of ‘Nirbhaya Fund’

The Government of India has issued the Guidelines for utilization of ‘Nirbhaya Fund’ with the approval of the Union Finance Minister. The Guidelines are as follows:

  • Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) is the nodal authority which can be approached by various Ministries/Departments with the proposals/schemes, to be funded from ‘Nirbhaya Fund’ targeted to strengthen the safety and security of women in the country.
  • Ministry of WCD would appraise these schemes to decide their suitability to qualify for getting funds from the ‘Nirbhaya Fund’.
  • Ministry of WCD shall forward the suitable proposals to Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) for necessary budgetary allocations in the respective Demands. DEA shall appraise the proposal on financial and other aspects to avoid any duplicity of schemes/Government efforts to strengthen safety and security of women in the country.
  • Budget Division (DEA), with the approval of Finance Minister would approve the funding of schemes from the fund and would also be the nodal Ministry for any accretion into and withdrawal from the fund.
  • The respective line Ministries/Departments shall take necessary action for approval of SFC/EFC/PIB and Cabinet for implementation of the scheme on the ground.
  • Ministry of WCD shall be the nodal Ministry to review and monitor the progress of these schemes in conjunction with the line Ministries/Departments.

Nirbhaya Fund:

Announced by the government of India in its 2013 Budget, the Fund was established to support initiatives by the government and NGOs working towards protecting the dignity and ensuring safety of women in India.

  • The Fund was created with a corpus of Rs. 1000 Crores for empowerment, safety and security of women and girl children.
  • The Fund is administered by Department of Economic Affairs of the finance ministry.
  • Utilization of Nirbhaya Fund would be preceded by formulation of viable schemes and necessary approvals from the competent authority.
  • The fund was set up after the horrific rape and murder of a 23-year old medical student in the national capital in 2012.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki, PIB.


Government unveils new foreign trade policy

The government recently unveiled a five-year plan for lifting India’s exports in a policy that seeks to make the country a bigger player in global trade by doubling overseas sales to $900 billion by 2019-20 while giving a boost to the Make in India initiative.


  • In a drastic change of stance in keeping with global trading norms under the World Trade Organization (WTO), the new FTP sought to consolidate all previous export incentive schemes under two: Merchandise Exports From India Scheme (MEIS) and Services Exports From India Scheme (SEIS).
  • The Merchandise Exports From India Scheme has replaced five existing schemes: Focus Products Scheme, Market-linked Focus Products Scheme, Focus Market Scheme, Agriculture Infrastrucutre Incentive Scrips and Vishesh Krishi Grameen Udyog Yojana (VKGUY).
  • Services Exports From India Scheme has replaced the existing Served From India Scheme (SFIS).
  • In a big relief for exporters, all scrips issued under MEIS and SEIS and the goods imported against these scrips will be fully transferable. This means that scrips issued under export from India schemes can now be used for payment of customs duty for import of goods, payment of excise duty on domestic procurement of inputs or goods, and payment of service tax.
  • In an effort to push the domestic content requirement, measures have been adopted to encourage procurement of capital goods from indigenous manufacturers under the EPCG scheme by reducing specific export obligation to 75 per cent of the normal export obligation.
  • The FTP also introduced a concept of import appraisal mechanism which will be done on a quarterly basis by the commerce department. In a view to boost exports from Special Economic Zones (SEZs) the government also expanded the benefits under MEIS and SEIS to the units located inside the tax-free zones.
  • The FTP from now on will have a mid-term review after two and a half years, except for exigencies. In an attempt to achieve greater policy coherence and mainstreaming of all export incentive schemes, the commerce department will now direct state governments to prepare their own export strategies based on the new FTP.

The new policy has come at a time when India’s merchandise exports continue to log a decent growth, having expanded by just 0.88% in the first 11 months of the current fiscal.

Sources: BS, ET.

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