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Insights Daily Current Affairs, 14 February 2018

Insights Daily Current Affairs, 14 February 2018


Paper 2:

Topic: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.


Medical Council of India (MCI)

Context: Medical Council of India (MCI) proposal to amend the Screening Test Regulations 2002 has been approved by Health Ministry. It is now mandatory to qualify NEET to pursue foreign medical course.


What’s the issue?

A common National Entrance Exam viz. National Eligibility cum Entrance Test has been made mandatory for admission to all medical courses in the country. Indian students can also pursue medical education abroad and have to qualify a Screening Test called Foreign Medical Graduates Exam (FMGE), for registration to practice in India after obtaining primary medical qualification (MBBS) overseas. However, few medical institutions / Universities of foreign countries admit Indian students without proper assessment or screening of the students’ academic ability to cope up with medical education with the result that many students fail to qualify the Screening Test. In this regard, Medical Council of India (MCI) had proposed to amend the Screening Test Regulations, 2002, making it mandatory to qualify NEET to pursue foreign medical course.


About MCI:

The Medical Council of India was first established in 1934 under the Indian Medical Council Act, 1933. This Act was repealed and replaced with a new Act in 1956. Under the 1956 Act, the objectives of MCI include:

  • Maintenance of standards in medical education through curriculum guidelines, inspections and permissions to start colleges, courses or increasing number of seats.
  • Recognition of medical qualifications.
  • Registration of doctors and maintenance of the All India Medical Register.
  • Regulation of the medical profession by prescribing a code of conduct and taking action against erring doctors.


Why reform the MCI?

Like a license-raj permit controller, MCI has for long focused too much on licensing of medical colleges and stipulating impractical conditions, while ignoring its other mandate of maintaining ethical conduct in the profession. It has failed to stop the sale of medical seats in private colleges for capitation fees going up to Rs.50 lakh.

Over the years, it has emerged as a single, all-powerful agency heavily influenced by corporate hospitals to provide accreditation to institutions and assess their quality, ignoring blatant conflicts of interest.


What’s important?

  • For Prelims: NEET, MCI.
  • For Mains: MCI reforms.


Sources: pib.

Topic: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.


Defence Acquisition Council

Context: Defence Acquisition Council has cleared a plan to procure some much-needed fire-power for the armed forces, expected to cost Rs. 15,935 crore. The list includes light machine guns, assault rifles and sniper rifles.


Defence Acquisition Council (DAC)

What is it? To counter corruption and speed up decision- making in military procurement, the government of India in 2001 decided to set up an integrated DAC. It is headed by the Defence Minister.

Objective: The objective of the DAC is to ensure expeditious procurement of the approved requirements of the Armed Forces, in terms of capabilities sought, and time frame prescribed, by optimally utilizing the allocated budgetary resources.

Functions: The DAC is responsible to give policy guidelines to acquisitions, based on long-term procurement plans. It also clears all acquisitions, which includes both imported and those produced indigenously or under a foreign license.


What’s important?

  • For Prelims: composition of DAC.
  • For mains: not much.


Sources: the hindu.

Topic: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.


Jogighopa to become India’s new gateway to South-East Asia

Context: Jogighopa, a small town in Assam, is set to become India’s gateway to South-East Asia as well as the rest of the North-East with the road ministry gearing up to develop a multimodal logistics park (MMLP) there with road, rail, waterways and air transport facilities.


What is being done?

Under the project, all four types of transportation—road, rail, air and waterways—will be available. The development includes railway sidings, container terminals, warehousing, non-cargo processing, a truck terminal, common facilities, support infrastructure and equipment. A special purpose vehicle, backed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), will be created to execute the project, which will be executed in two phases.


Need for alternatives:

The current transit corridors from mainland India to the North-East region pass through an area known as the “Chicken’s Neck”—a narrow tract of land in India between the borders with Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan. Since it is close to these borders and cannot be expanded, the North-East region requires an alternative route for providing connectivity to the rest of India—a route with adequate expansion potential. The Indo-Bangladesh road route, along with the National Waterways-2, provides such an option.


Significance of this move:

The move comes at a time when India’s neighbours are gearing up for trade. For example, Bangladesh’s development of the Khulna-Dhaka-Sylhet Economic Corridor and the Banglabandha-Dhaka-Chittagong-Cox’s Bazar Economic Corridor—to promote industrial development in the region. These initiatives are expected to drive freight movement in the region and facilitate trade between India and Bangladesh, and between Bangladesh and Bhutan through India.


Way ahead:

North-East is one of the regions which has played a pivotal role in terms of logistics connectivity with the international and national corridors of India. And Asean’s (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) strong bond with the North-East region will act as a mascot for the entire region and for the rest of the businesses in India.


Facts for Prelims:

Jogighopa is a small town located on the banks of the Brahmaputra River in the Bongaigaon district in the state of Assam. Within the city are the remains of the five rock cut rock-cut caves, examples of Salasthambha period architecture.


Sources: livemint.

Topic: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.


LPG Panchayat


Context: The President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, recently hosted an ‘LPG Panchayat’ at Rashtrapati Bhavan. The LPG Panchayat was organised by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas with an aim to provide a platform for LPG consumers to interact with each other, promote mutual learning and share experiences.

Each LPG Panchayat has about 100 LPG customers coming together, near their living areas,to discuss safe and sustainable usage of LPG, its benefits and the link between clean fuel for cooking and women’s empowerment.


About LPG Panchayat:

The LPG Panchayat is an interactive communication platform aimed at educating rural LPG users about proper safety precautions to be taken while using LPG, its benefit to the environment, its effect on women empowerment and health. With this, the government aims to reach the doorsteps of poor and under-privileged women to educate them about the safety and efficiency, health benefits, positive impact on environment, economic development and empowerment on usage of LPG connections.

One lakh LPG Panchayats would be activated across the country under the scheme during the next one and a half years. The idea of this platform is to trigger a discussion through sharing of personal experiences on the benefits of use of clean fuel compared to traditional fuels like cowdung. The agenda would also include safe practices, quality of service provided by distributors and availability of refill cylinders.


About the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana:

Under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, Rs.8,000 crore has been earmarked for providing 50 million LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) connections to poor households. Under the scheme, an adult woman member of a below poverty line family identified through the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) is given a deposit-free LPG connection with financial assistance of Rs 1,600 per connection by the Centre.

Eligible households will be identified in consultation with state governments and Union territories. The scheme will be implemented over the next three years. The scheme is being implemented by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.


What’s important?

  • For Prelims: LPG Panchayat, PMUY.
  • For Mains: need for PMUY.


Sources: the hindu.





Paper 3:

Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.


Merger of PSU non-life insurers


Context: Finance minister Arun Jaitley had proposed a merger of these three PSU general insurers in the Union Budget on February 1. The proposed merger of three public sector insurance firms may be completed by early 2019.

The three public sector general insurance companies to be merged are — National Insurance (NIC), Oriental Insurance (OIC) and United India Insurance (UII).



There are a lot of operational advantages and savings that will accrue from this proposed merger. The trigger for central government to go for merger of three general insurers is mainly to boost up their solvency ratio and divest part of its holding in the market. Merger will also stop the unhealthy competition between the government-owned insurers. It is hoped that this merger will make companies stronger.



There is also a concern that post merger, there will be unhealthy competition between two government-owned general insurers – New India Assurance and the new company that emerges out of the proposed merger. Also, it will be a big task to build the brand equity for a new entity in a highly competitive market.


Way forward:

Few experts are of the view that the government should go one step further and merge all the four public sector general insurers.


What’s important for:

  • Prelims: names of PSU insurers to be merged.
  • Mains: Reasons for merger.


Sources: the hindu.

Topic: Farm issues.


Rajasthan announces Rs8,000 crore farm loan waiver

Context: Rajasthan government has announced one-time farm loan waiver of up to Rs50,000 for small and marginal farmers in the state, which would cost Rs8,000 crore to the exchequer. The government has also announced setting up a farmer loan relief commission where farmers can approach and present their side for getting relief on merit basis.



In India, farm loan waivers have been announced intermittently by both the central and state governments to provide relief to farmers facing distress due to natural calamities/crop failure. According to a 2017 report by the RBI, farm loan waiver amounting to Rs 88,000 crore likely to be released in 2017-18 by seven states, including Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, may push inflation on permanent basis by 0.2%.


Drawbacks of loan waivers:

  • Firstly, it covers only a tiny fraction of farmers. The loan waiver as a concept excludes most of the farm households in dire need of relief and includes some who do not deserve such relief on economic grounds.
  • Second, it provides only a partial relief to the indebted farmers as about half of the institutional borrowing of a cultivator is for non-farm purposes.
  • Third, in many cases, one household has multiple loans either from different sources or in the name of different family members, which entitles it to multiple loan waiving.
  • Fourth, loan waiving excludes agricultural labourers who are even weaker than cultivators in bearing the consequences of economic distress.
  • Fifth, it severely erodes the credit culture, with dire long-run consequences to the banking business.
  • Sixth, the scheme is prone to serious exclusion and inclusion errors, as evidenced by the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) findings in the Agricultural Debt Waiver and Debt Relief Scheme, 2008.
  • Lastly, schemes have serious implications for other developmental expenditure, having a much larger multiplier effect on the economy.


What needs to be done?

  • Proper identification: For providing immediate relief to the needy farmers, a more inclusive alternative approach is to identify the vulnerable farmers based on certain criteria and give an equal amount as financial relief to the vulnerable and distressed families.
  • Enhance non- farm income: The sustainable solution to indebtedness and agrarian distress is to raise income from agricultural activities and enhance access to non-farm sources of income. The low scale of farms necessitates that some cultivators move from agriculture to non-farm jobs.
  • Improved technology, expansion of irrigation coverage, and crop diversification towards high-value crops are appropriate measures for raising productivity and farmers’ income. All these require more public funding and support.


Way ahead:

The magic wand of a waiver can offer temporary relief, but long-term solutions are needed to solve farmer woes. There are many dimensions of the present agrarian crisis in India. The search for a solution therefore needs to be comprehensive by taking into consideration all the factors that contribute to the crisis. Furthermore, both short- and long-term measures are required to address the numerous problems associated with the agrarian crisis.


What’s important?

  • For Prelims: Which states announced farm loan waivers in last one year.
  • For Mains: Advantages and Disadvantages of farm loan waivers.


Sources: the hindu.

Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.


India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2017


Context: The environment ministry has released the India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2017. The ISFR report is published every two years. The India State of Forest Report 2017 is the 15th such report in the series. The report, however, for the first time contains information on decadal change in water bodies in forest during 2005-2015, forest fire, production of timber from outside forest, state wise carbon stock in different forest types and density classes.


Highlights of the report:

  • India’s forest cover increased by 6,778 sq km over the last two years. The increase, based on satellite data and subsequent ‘ground truthing’, has put the total forest cover at 7,08,273 sq km which is 21.54% of the country’s geographical area.
  • Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Odisha and Telangana saw increase in their green footprint during the last two years though there is a worrying decline in six northeastern states, including a shrinkage of 630 sq km in the eastern Himalayas.
  • While overall green cover, including tree patches outside recorded forest areas, reported an incremental 1% increase (8,021 sq km) over the last assessment year in 2015, the quality of forests remain a hotly debated subject even as satellite monitoring has increased availability of data.
  • Taking into account the density (canopy covering branches and foliage formed by the crowns of trees), forest cover is divided into ‘very dense’, ‘moderately dense’ and ‘open’ forest. The ‘very dense’ forest cover has increased over the last assessment of 2015, but the ‘moderately dense’ category reported a decline — a sign which environmentalists consider quite worrying.
  • The report also shows the total mangrove cover stands at 4,921 sq km and has shown an increase of 181 sq km. All the 12 mangrove states have shown a positive change in the mangrove cover, as compared to the last assessment. Mangrove ecosystem is rich in biodiversity and provides a number of ecological services.


Facts for Prelims:

  • Report shows that three states – Andhra Pradesh, followed by Karnataka and Kerala – have shown the maximum increase in forest cover. On the other hand, forest cover in states like Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura and Meghalaya has decreased in 2017 as compared to 2015.
  • The report notes that there was an increase of 2,647 sq km in the extent of water bodies over the decade (2005-15) with all states and Union Territories (UTs) showing an increase except Arunachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh figure as the top three states reporting maximum increase in areas of water bodies including lakes and wetlands.
  • Madhya Pradesh has the largest forest cover of 77,414 sq km in the country in terms of area, followed by Arunachal Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. In terms of percentage of forest cover with respect to the total geographical area, Lakshadweep with (90.33%) has the highest forest cover, followed by Mizoram (86.27%) and Andaman & Nicobar Island (81.73%).


Way ahead:

India may be endowed with 16 major forest types, and 221 types and sub-types based on the Champion and Seth classification, but retains very little of its ancient forests after centuries of pre-colonial and colonial exploitation. Latter-day development pressures are also taking their toll. Forest restoration should, therefore, aid the return of native vegetation.

Increase in forest cover over the years is in sync with India’s commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change and the country would meet its target of creating additional carbon sink (2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent) through increase in forest and tree cover by 2030.


Sources: the hindu.




Facts for Prelims:


NTPC to supply 300 MW power to Bangladesh:

Context: State-run power giant NTPC’s arm NVVN has emerged as the lowest bidder for supply of 300 MW power to Bangladesh for 15 years at an estimated tariff of Rs 3.42 per unit. The company is expecting a revenue of Rs 900 crore every year for supplying 300 MW under a tender floated by Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB). At present, India exports approximately 600 MW electricity to Bangladesh.

India already has power grid links with Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh, and is building power projects in the three countries. It also plans to develop power transmission links with Myanmar and Sri Lanka.


Soyuz rocket launches cargo freighter to International Space Station:

Context: A Russian Soyuz rocket has launched the cargo ship Progress 69 toward the International Space Station. Progress 69 is packed with food, science gear and other vital supplies for the six-person Expedition 54 crew on the International Space Station.