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Insights Daily Current Events, 21 April 2015

Insights Daily Current Events, 21 April 2015

Price Stabilization Fund

The Department of Agriculture & Cooperation has approved the Price Stabilisation Fund (PSF) as a Central Sector Scheme, with a corpus of Rs.500 crores.

Why?

  • To support market interventions for price control of perishable agri-horticultural commodities during 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17.

How it will be used?

  • PSF will be used to advance interest free loan to State Governments/Union Territories and Central agencies to support their working capital and other expenses on procurement and distribution interventions for such commodities.
  • Initially the fund is proposed to be used for onion and potato only.
  • The one time advance to the States/UTs based on their first proposal along with matching funds from the State/UT will form a revolving fund, which can then be used for all future market interventions to control prices of onions and potatoes based on approvals by State level Committee set up explicitly for this purpose.
  • In case of North Eastern States, the State level corpus will comprise of 75% funds from Centre and 25% from the State. While the advance is returnable, the Central Government will share 50% of losses (75% in case of NE states), if any, at the time of settlement of the advance on 31st March, 2017. The Central Government also intends to share the profits, if any, in the same ratio.
  • The States could also request Central Agencies to undertake such operations on their behalf to be supported out of the State corpus. Additionally, the Centre can also request the Central Agencies like SFAC, NAFED, etc. to undertake price control operations for onion and potato.

Fund management:

  • The Price Stabilization Fund will be managed centrally by a Price Stabilization Fund Management Committee (PSFMC) which will approve all proposals from State Governments and Central Agencies.
  • The PSF will be maintained in a Central Corpus Fund account to be opened by Small Farmers Agri-Business Consortium (SFAC), which will act as Fund Manager.

Procurement of these commodities will be undertaken directly from farmers or farmers’ organizations at farm gate/mandi and made available at a more reasonable price to the consumers.

Sources: The Hindu.

 

India has 988 species on IUCN ‘Red List’

India has added 15 more species to the “Red List” of threatened species published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2014.

Details:

  • India is at the 7th position now with 988 threatened species on the list. In 2013, the number was 973. With 659 species in 2008, the increase over seven years is 50%, in part due to better research identifying more threatened species and deforestation.
  • By adding 37 species, China seemed to have helped India improve its rank.

A recent World Bank mapping of endangered mammals shows India as having the fourth largest number of threatened species in the world, 31 of them endemic to the region.

IUCN:

  • IUCN was founded in October 1948 as the International Union for the Protection of Nature (or IUPN) following an international conference in Fontainebleau, France.
  • It was renamed as International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources in 1956 with the acronym IUCN.
  • IUCN is the world’s first global environmental organization. Today it is the largest professional global conservation network
  • The Union’s HQ is located in Gland, near Geneva, in Switzerland.
  • It demonstrates how biodiversity is fundamental to addressing some of the world’s greatest challenges such as climate change, sustainable development and food security.
  • The IUCN Red List is set upon precise criteria to evaluate the extinction risk of thousands of species and subspecies. These criteria are relevant to all species and all regions of the world. The aim is to convey the urgency of conservation issues to the public and policy makers, as well as help the international community to try to reduce species extinction.
  • Species are classified by the IUCN Red List into nine groups, set through criteria such as rate of decline, population size, area of geographic distribution, and degree of population and distribution fragmentation.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.

 

Navy’s stealth destroyer launched

The Indian Navy recently launched the stealth destroyer INS Visakhapatnam at Mumbai’s Mazagon dock.

Details:

  • INS Visakhapatnam is the first of P15-B stealth destroyers.
  • The 163 m long ship, which will be propelled by four gas turbines, is designed to achieve a speed of over 30 knots at a displacement of approximately 7300 tons.
  • This indigenously designed stealth destroyer will have state-of-the-art weapons, sensors, an advance Action Information System, in Integrated Platform Management system, sophisticated Power Distribution System and a host of other advanced features
  • It will be fitted with supersonic surface-to-surface missile system. The system enables the ship to engage shore-based and naval surface targets at long range making it a lethal platform for strike against enemy targets.
  • The ship’s air defence capability, designed to counter the threat of enemy aircraft and anti-ship cruise missiles, will revolve around the vertical launch and long range surface to air missile system.
  • Indigenously developed twin tube torpedo launchers and rocket launchers will add punch to the ship’s anti-submarine capability.
  • The vessel is follow-on of P15A-Kolkota class destroyers with enhanced features.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.

 

Centre extends food security Act deadline

The period for identification of households eligible for coverage under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) has been extended up to September 30, 2015 through an order issued by the Department of Food and Public Distribution.

  • The deadline has been extended, for the second time, because States have not yet identified beneficiaries, and also due to lack of preparedness in 25 States/Union Territories for implementing the Act.
  • Though the law stipulates that any such orders made under the Act are tabled in Parliament, the Centre has no such plans.

What the Act says

As per Section 42 of the NFSA Act, “if any difficulty arises in giving effect to the provisions of this Act, the Central government may, by order, published in the Official Gazette, make such provisions, not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act, as appear to it to be necessary or expedient for removing the difficulty.” But this is upon the condition that “every order made under this Section shall be laid, as soon as may be after it is made, before each House of Parliament.”

About National Food Security Act, 2013:

  • Also called as the Right to Food act, this act aims to provide subsidized food grains to approximately two thirds of India’s 1.2 billion people.
  • It extends to the whole of India.

Under the provisions of this act, beneficiaries are able to purchase 5 kilograms per eligible person per month of cereals at the following prices:

  • Rice at 3 Rupees per kg
  • Wheat at 2 Rupees per kg
  • Coarse grains (millet) at 1 rupee per kg.

Salient features:

  • 75% rural and 50% of the urban population are entitled for three years from enactment to five kg food grains per month at 3 Rupees , 2 Rupees, 1 Rupee per kg for rice, wheat and coarse grains (millet), respectively.
  • The states are responsible for determining eligibility.
  • Pregnant women and lactating mothers are entitled to a nutritious “take home ration” of 600 Calories and a maternity benefit of at least Rs 6,000 for six months.
  • Children 6 to 14 years of age are to receive free hot meals or “take home rations”.
  • The central government will provide funds to states in case of short supplies of food grains.
  • The state government will provide a food security allowance to the beneficiaries in case of non-supply of food grains.
  • The Public Distribution System is to be reformed.
  • The eldest woman in the household, 18 years or above, is the head of the household for the issuance of the ration card.
  • There will be state- and district-level redress mechanisms and State Food Commissions will be formed for implementation and monitoring of the provisions of the Act.
  • The poorest who are covered under the Antodaya yojana will remain entitled to the 35 kg of grains allotted to them under the mentioned scheme.
  • The cost of the implementation is estimated to be $22 billion(1.25 lac crore), approximately 1.5% of GDP.

Sources: The Hindu, Wiki, NFSA, PIB.

 

NCDC team in Goa to study Kyasanur Forest Disease

A team from the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Delhi, is presently in Goa carrying out detailed investigation of the outbreak Kyasanur Forest Disease(KFD) and also give expertise in prevention and control measures in the affected areas.

About the Disease:

KFD is caused by the Kyasanur Forest Disease Virus (KFDV). The virus was identified in 1957 when it was isolated from a sick monkey from the Kyasanur Forest in. Since then, between 400-500 humans cases per year have been reported.

  • Hard ticks (Hemaphysalis spinigera) are the reservoir of the KFD virus and once infected, remain so for life.
  • Rodents, shrews, and monkeys are common hosts for KFDV after being bitten by an infected tick. KFDV can cause epizootics with high fatality in primates.
  • Transmission to humans may occur after a tick bite or contact with an infected animal, most importantly a sick or recently dead monkey. No person-to-person transmission has been described.
  • The disease as of now is stated to be transmitted through monkeys. Large animals such as goats, cows, and sheep may become infected with KFD but play a limited role in the transmission of the disease.
  • These animals provide the blood meals for ticks and it is possible for infected animals with viremia to infect other ticks, but transmission of KFDV to humans from these larger animals is extremely rare. Furthermore, there is no evidence of disease transmission via the unpasteurised milk of any of these animals.

Symptoms:

  • After an incubation period of 3-8 days, the symptoms of KFD begin suddenly with chills, fever, and headache. Severe muscle pain with vomiting, gastrointestinal symptoms and bleeding problems may occur 3-4 days after initial symptom onset. Patients may experience abnormally low blood pressure, and low platelet, red blood cell, and white blood cell counts.
  • After 1-2 weeks of symptoms, some patients recover without complication. However, the illness is biphasic for a subset of patients (10-20 %) who experience a second wave of symptoms at the beginning of the third week. These symptoms include fever and signs of neurological manifestations, such as severe headache, mental disturbances, tremors, and vision deficits.

Vulnerable Group:

  • People with recreational or occupational exposure to rural or outdoor settings (e.g., hunters, herders, forest workers, farmers) are potentially at risk for infection by contact with infected ticks.
  • Seasonality is another important risk factor as more cases are reported during the dry season, from November through June.

Diagnosis:

Diagnosis can be made in the early stage of illness by molecular detection by PCR or virus isolation from blood. Later, serologic testing using enzyme-linked immunosorbent serologic assay (ELISA) can be performed.

Prevention

  • Doctors say there is no specific treatment for KFD, but early hospitalisation and supportive therapy is important. Supportive therapy includes the maintenance of hydration and the usual precautions for patients with bleeding disorders.
  • A vaccine does exist for KFD and is used in endemic areas of India. Additional preventative measures include insect repellents and wearing protective clothing in areas where ticks are endemic.

Previous outbreaks:

The disease has historically been limited to the western and central districts of Karnataka State, India. However, in November 2012, samples from humans and monkeys tested positive for KFDV in the southernmost district of the State which neighbours Tamil Nadu State and Kerala State, indicating the possibility of wider distribution of KFDV.

Sources: The Hindu.

 

India to hand over three Cheetal copters to Kabul

India has planned to hand over three indigenously-built Cheetal multi-role helicopters to Afghanistan during the upcoming visit of the Indian Prime Minister to Afghanistan.

  • This comes amid increasing perception that India’s strategic space in Afghanistan is under threat after formation of the new Unity government there and its major policy shift towards Pakistan and China.

Cheetals:

  • Cheetals are the upgraded variants of Cheetah light utility, multi-role helicopters built by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.
  • They can be used for personnel transport, casualty evacuation, reconnaissance and aerial survey, logistic support and rescue and can operate in high-altitude areas, a critical requirement for Afghanistan’s mountainous regions.
  • They have been customised as per the requirements of Afghanistan and will not be armed.

Choppers are being supplied under the strategic partnership agreement between the two countries signed in 2011. Afghanistan has in the past repeatedly requested India for military assistance and lethal hardware, including tanks, helicopters and artillery guns among others in addition to training of military personnel. But India had been reluctant to antagonise Pakistan which views India’s role in Afghanistan with suspicion.

Sources: The Hindu.

 

‘One rank, one pension scheme in this session’

The government is planning to introduce the one rank, one pension scheme for all military personnel in the current session of Parliament.

One-rank one-pension scheme

This is a scheme which will ensure that soldiers of the same rank and the same length of service receive the same pension, irrespective of their retirement date. In simple words, it demands equal pensions for those who have retired in one particular year, as those who retire in another year at the same position, and for the same duration of services rendered.

  • The difference in the pension of present and past pensioners in the same rank occurs on account of the number of increments earned by the defence personnel in that rank.
  • So far, there was no such rule. While every pay commission bumps the salaries of government servants, pensions of ex-servicemen remain the same.

The implementation of one rank, one pension is also expected to push up the Centre’s defence pension payments by a record 40 per cent, posing fresh challenges to keep the Centre’s fiscal deficit within the budgetary target of 4.1 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product.

Sources: The Hindu, PIB.

 

China, Pakistan launch economic corridor link worth $46 bn

China and Pakistan recently launched a plan for energy and infrastructure projects in Pakistan worth $46 billion, linking their economies and underscoring China’s economic ambitions in Asia and beyond.

Details:

  • The plan, which would eclipse US spending in Pakistan over the last decade or so, is part of China’s aim to forge “Silk Road” land and sea ties to markets in West Asia and Europe.
  • The corridor would transform Pakistan into a regional hub and give China a shorter and cheaper route for trade with much of Asia, West Asia and Africa.
  • The Corridor will link China’s underdeveloped far—western region to Pakistan’s Gwadar deep—sea port on the Arabian Sea via PoK through a massive and complex network of roads, railways, business zones, energy schemes and pipelines.
  • The corridor will pass through Pakistan’s poor Baluchistan province, where a long-running separatist insurgency that the army has vowed to crush will raise questions about the feasibility of the plan.
  • The corridor — expected to be ready in three years and provide about 10,400 MWs of electricity — gives China direct access to the Indian Ocean and beyond.

The planned Chinese spending exceeds that of the US, which has given $31 billion to Pakistan since 2002, according to the Congressional Research Service. About two-thirds of that was earmarked for security.

Sources: The Hindu.

 

 

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