Insights Daily Current Events, 01 September 2015
Paper 3 Topic: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
Railways on a zero-accident mission
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu recently told that the Railways will shortly launch a zero-accident mission.
What is it?
It is a mission which envisages renewal of tracks, more railway bridges, better signalling and rolling out of accident-proof coaches and engines.
- Once this mission is implemented fully, the accident rate is expected to go down and speeds will improve, facilities will improve, quality of service will go up and revenue will increase.
- Hence, customer experience will go up significantly.
Significance of this plan:
The plan has come at a time when accidents on the tracks are on the rise. Train accidents, delay of trains and deterioration of service, all are happening because of the under-investment in the past. The ‘zero-accident mission’ aims to improve the overall service.
To achieve this objective, the Railways Ministry has planned an investment of Rs. 8.5 lakh crore in the next five years. Since, all investments could not come from fares or freight, additional funds will be raised through prudential borrowing from institutions such as the LIC, the World Bank and other multilateral agencies, which would be repaid in the next 30-40 years through an increase in revenues.
- The Railway Ministry is also working on increasing the transparency and efficiency of the Railways by bringing in a change in the accounting system, which is key to attracting investments.
- Moving to commercial accounting was one of the key recommendations of the Bibek Debroy panel on railway restructuring.
- Railways is also looking for information technology (IT) platform to take care of operations, a management information system and so on.
Sources: The Hindu, PIB.
Paper 2 Topic: issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein, and Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
TS to get funds deducted by RBI
The Finance Ministry has asked the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to reverse deductions of Rs. 1,274 crore made by the central bank from the principal amount of Telangana held by the RBI.
The FinMin says that the deduction was not “in consonance with the principle of co-operative federalism”.
- The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had deducted an amount of Rs. 1,274.21 crore on account of the State of Telangana in response to the Income Tax Notice.
- The deduction by the RBI was towards the income tax liability of Andhra Pradesh Beverages Corporation Limited, a company owned by the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh government and which is involved in packaging of liquor.
- The I-T department contends that the tax liability of the corporation is in excess of Rs.2,900 crore for 2012-13 and 2013-14.
- In response to the RBI decision to deduct the amount, the Telangana government had in June termed the move illegal, arbitrary and unauthorised, a view now seemingly endorsed by the Finance Ministry.
Finance Ministry’s argument:
- Since the money in the principal account of Telangana held by the RBI formed part of the Consolidated Fund of Telangana, Article 204 (3) of the Constitution of India mandates that the consolidated fund of a State can be debited only after the due process of appropriation.
- Any decision to debit the cash balance of any state by RBI should be based on some executive order issued by the competent authority after following the legislative process of appropriation.
Typically, RBI holds the consolidated funds of state and central governments and makes deductions based on demands raised by other agencies.
Sources: The Hindu.
Paper 1 and 2 Topic: Indian culture and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies. And pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.
Supreme Court lifts stay on Santhara ritual of Jains
The Supreme Court has restored the Jain religious practice of a ritualistic fast unto death by staying an order of the Rajasthan High Court, which compared it to an act of suicide.
- The order came based on petitions filed by Jain community members. They had complained that the High Court, based on incorrect observations on Jainism, criminalised the philosophy and essential practice of Sallekhana/Santhara, a fundamental component of the Jain principle of ahimsa (non-violence).
- The petitions also said the High Court order infringed on secularism. It criminalised Santhara without even consulting scholars or findings.
- The Rajasthan High Court had recently ruled that the voluntary religious practice of santhara was a form of suicide and, therefore, illegal.
- Jains had protested against the order, saying suicide was sin, whereas santhara was religion.
- In its order, the Rajasthan high court had agreed that the practice amounted to suicide and hence, had made it a criminal offence.
- Some also argued that the order violated the Fundamental Rights guaranteed under Article 21 and 25 of the constitution.
What is Santhara?
- Santhara means a fast unto death. A person after taking a vow of ‘Santhara’ stops eating and even drinking water and awaits death.
- In Jainism, the concept of choosing the manner and time of one’s death is a centuries-old ritual. The devout Jains believe that Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankar, allowed Santhara, or Sallekhana, as the ultimate test of spirituality, will power, whose ultimate goal is purifying body and mind and facing death voluntarily.
- According to the ritual, which Jains believe has been prevalent for thousands of years, a person voluntarily gives up food and water, either because of an incurable illness or due to the belief that the end is near. It is reserved only for the old and the invalid and is practised rarely.
- Jainism is one of the world’s most ancient religions, and Jain monks lead a life of extreme austerity and renunciation.
Some human rights activists say the ritual is “a social evil” and should be considered as suicide.
Is it really different from suicide?
- It is difficult to argue that Santhara is different from suicide or euthanasia. In the end, the objective of all these concepts is death, the destruction of life and mortal body. But, the Jains believe the difference is in the motivation for both the acts.
- Suicide is a desperate measure, triggered by failure and setbacks in life; it is an act of cowardice, a surrender to the circumstance because of lack of will power. It is a decision forced upon the person by external circumstances. According to the Jains, Santhara is the exact opposite of this.
Sources: The Hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Health – S&T
Five swine flu cases reported
The drop in temperatures has started to trigger cases of swine flu (H1N1) in Hyderabad and elsewhere in the districts. It is nearly after four months, fresh cases of the deadly swine flu are trickling in the city.
- The increase in cases between January and April this year was the highest during a wave since the pandemic of 2009-2010.
- The health departments have been asked to ensure sanitation and hygiene in public places. High-risk groups, which include those with low immunity, non-communicable diseases such as diabetes or serious ailments, have been advised to take precautions and report to the nearest hospital or diagnostic centre in case of symptoms.
Swine Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses that causes regular outbreaks in pigs. H1N1 is a flu virus. When it was first detected in 2009, it was called “swine flu” because the virus was similar to those found in pigs.
- Transmission from Pigs to Humans: The H1N1 virus is currently a seasonal flu virus found in humans. Although it also circulates in pigs, one cannot get it by eating properly handled and cooked pork or pork products.
- In 2009, H1N1 was spreading fast around the world, so the World Health Organization called it a pandemic.
- Swine flu is contagious, and it spreads in the same way as the seasonal flu.
- When people who have it cough or sneeze, they spray tiny drops of the virus into the air. If a person comes in contact with these drops or touch a surface that an infected person has recently touched, the person can catch H1N1 swine flu.
- Pregnant women who contract the H1N1 infection are at a greater risk of developing complications because of hormonal changes, physical changes and changes to their immune system to accommodate the growing foetus.
Most symptoms are the same as seasonal flu. They can include:
- sore throat
- stuffy or runny nose
- body aches
If, not controlled it can lead to more serious complications like pneumonia and respiratory failure. Influenza vaccines are one of the most effective ways to protect people from contracting illness during influenza epidemics and pandemics. The antiviral drugs are sometimes prescribed to reduce the severity of symptoms.
Sources: The Hindu, IE.
Paper 1 and 2 Topic: Indian Culture and Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Sabarimala to be national pilgrim centre
The Union government recently said that it will take necessary steps to declare Sabarimala a national pilgrim centre.
- The Union Ministry of Tourism would initiate steps to include Sabarimala in the national pilgrim tourism circuit by bringing it under the Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spirituality Augmentation Drive (PRASAD) scheme.
About PRASAD scheme:
PRASAD scheme aims to create spiritual centres for tourism development within the nation.
- Twelve cities namely Amaravati (Andhra Pradesh), Gaya(Bihar), Dwaraka(Gujarat), Amritsar(Punjab), Ajmer(Rajasthan), Kanchipuram(Tamil Nadu), Vellankani(Tamil Nadu), Puri(Odisha), Varanasi(Uttar Prasesh), Mathura(Uttar Pradesh), Kedarnath (Uttarakhand) and Kamakhya (Assam) have been identified for development under Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spirituality Augmentation Drive (PRASAD) by the Ministry of Tourism.
- To implement the PRASAD scheme a Mission Directorate has been set up in the Ministry of Tourism.
- The Budget provision of Rs.15.60 crore has been made in Revised Estimate (RE) 2014-15.
Sources: The Hindu, PIB.
Paper 2 Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
Council seat will help Hindi enter U.N. list
India, which is aspiring for a permanent seat in the expanded United Nations Security Council (UNSC), hopes its inclusion in the elite group will make it easier for it to gather support for the inclusion of Hindi in the list of U.N. official languages.
Official languages of the United Nations:
The official languages of the United Nations are the six languages that are used in UN meetings, and in which all official UN documents are written when budget allows. They are:
- These languages are used at meetings of various UN organs, particularly the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, and the Security Council.
- Each representative of a country may speak in any one of these six languages, or may speak in any language and provide interpretation into one of the six official languages.
- The UN provides simultaneous interpretation from the official language into the other five official languages, via the United Nations Interpretation Service.
- The six official languages are also used for the dissemination of official documents. Until a document is available in all six official languages, it is not published. Generally, the texts in each of the six languages are equally authoritative.
- The six official languages spoken at the UN are the first or second language of 2.8 billion people on the planet, less than half of the world population. The six languages are official languages in more than half the nations in the world.
Sources: The Hindu, Wiki.
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Which of the following languages are not considered as the official languages of the United Nations?
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The coastlines of the Caspian Sea are NOT shared by:
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