Insights Daily Current Affairs, 27 February 2018
Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Revitalising Infrastructure and Systems in Education (RISE)
Context: IITs will corner the largest chunk of loans on offer under the new funding model — Revitalising Infrastructure and Systems in Education (RISE) — for all centrally-run institutes, announced in the Union Budget. A quarter of loan amount under the scheme will be set aside exclusively for the 23 IITs. The second largest share, Rs 20,000 crore, will be earmarked for central universities.
What is RISE scheme all about?
Under RISE, all centrally-funded institutes (CFIs), including central universities, IITs, IIMs, NITs and IISERs, can borrow from a Rs 1,00,000 crore corpus over the next four years to expand and build new infrastructure. The initiative aims to step up investments in research and related infrastructure in premier educational institutions, including health institutions.
Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) would be suitably structured for funding this initiative. The manner in which investment in institutions is provided is likely to be the same as is practised in HEFA, but there may be different windows for different institutions.
What is it? The Union Cabinet had approved HEFA in September 2016 as a Special Purpose Vehicle with a public sector bank (Canara Bank). It would be jointly funded by the promoter/bank and the MHRD with an authorised capital of ₹2,000 crore. The government equity would be ₹1,000 crore.
Functions: HEFA will leverage the equity to raise up to ₹20,000 crore for the funding of world-class infrastructure at the IITs, IIMs, the National Institutes of Technology (NITs) and such other institutions. The agency will also mobilise Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds from public sector units (PSUs) and corporates. These would be released as grants to eligible institutions for promoting research and innovation.
Significance of HEFA: Funding from HEFA is expected to boost infrastructure, especially state-of-the-art laboratories, in key institutions such as the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), and the Indian Institutes of Information Technology (IIITs).
- For Prelims: RISE scheme, HEFA.
- For Mains: Need for funding in the education sector.
Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Draft pesticide bill
Context: The Centre has released a new draft Pesticide Management Bill 2017 to replace an almost 50-year old legislation governing the plant chemicals sector. Proposed as a step towards promoting safe use of pesticides, this Bill seeks to regulate the manufacture, inspection, testing and distribution of pesticides.
The Pesticide Management Bill, 2008:
- The Bill establishes a Central Pesticides Board to advise the government on matters related to pesticide regulation, manufacture, use and disposal. It establishes a registration committee to register pesticides.
- No pesticide can be registered unless tolerance limits for its residues on crops and commodities are specified under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.
- The Bill establishes a procedure to licence manufacturers, distributors and retailers of pesticides, to be administered by state governments. Pesticide inspectors shall inspect facilities and collect pesticide samples while pesticide analysts shall test the samples collected.
What is pesticide?
The Bill defines a pesticide as any substance used to destroy or control pests in agricultural commodities or animal feeds. Pesticides used for non-agricultural purposes, such as health care, are thus excluded from this definition.
Farmers are opposing the bill as it does not address the core issues of applying penal provisions on companies marketing pesticides. The draft bill also does not ease the powers of regulation and registration to the state governments which has been a long pending demand of many governments. Also, the burden of spurious pesticide has once again passed on to the Registration Committee (RC) which is set to expanded under the new Bill.
- For Prelims: Pesticides bill.
- For Mains: Pesticides management in India- need, issues and challenges.
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.
SC seeks details on over-crowded prisons
Context: The Supreme Court has asked the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) to provide details and figures of prisons where the occupancy rate is over 150% as on December 31, 2017.
The apex court further agreed to hear issues related to standard operating procedure for Under Trial Review Committees (UTRCs) and responses received from States and Union Territories on open jails.
Supreme court is hearing a matter relating to inhuman conditions prevailing in 1,382 prisons across the country.
What are UTRCs?
The UTRCs, set up in every district, deliberates and recommends the release of undertrial prisoners and convicts who have completed their sentences or are entitled to be released from jail due to bail or remission granted to them.
What are open prisons?
Semi-open prisons or open prisons allow convicts to work outside the jail premises and earn a livelihood and return in the evening. The concept was brought in to assimilate the convicts with society and reduce the psychological pressure and lack of confidence they faced lack of confidence in returning to lives outside prison.
The management of prisons falls exclusively under the domain of the state government, as per the seventh schedule of the constitution. In every state, the prison administrative machinery works under the chief of prisons who is a senior ranking IPS officer.
Need for reforms:
- NHRC figures show that prisoners cut off from family and friends had a 50% more chance of committing suicide than those outside. The average suicide rate among the general public for this period is 11 (per 100,000) whereas the average suicide rate in prison is 16.9 (per 100,000). In other words, the average suicide rate in prisons is over 50% more than in normal conditions.
- Indian prisons face three long-standing structural constraints: overcrowding, thanks to a high percentage of undertrials in the prison population, understaffing and underfunding. The inevitable outcome is sub-human living conditions, poor hygiene, and violent clashes between the inmates and jail authorities.
- Besides, while 33% of the total requirement of prison officials still lies vacant, almost 36% of vacancy for supervising officers is still unfulfilled. In the absence of adequate prison staff, overcrowding of prisons leads to rampant violence and other criminal activities inside the jails.
Indian jails have often been dubbed as a university for grooming criminals due to pathetic and inhumane conditions. In the absence of a robust Whistleblower Protection Act and structural changes to address the issues of overcrowding and understaffing, India’s prisons will continue to be heaven for politically connected criminals and hell for socio-economically disadvantaged undertrials, some regular media uproars notwithstanding.
Fundamental rights of prisoners cannot be placed in the back-burner and the Centre and the states need to be more pro-active in sensitising staff about the need to treat prisoners as humanely as possible.
- For Prelims: NALSA, UTRCs and open jails.
- For Mains: Prison reforms- need and challenges.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
Coordinating center on medicinal plants
Context: Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) has entered into a MoU with the Regional Center for Science and Technology Transfer (RCSTT) of Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) for designating Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, Lucknow (CSIR-CIMAP) as Coordinating Center on Medicinal Plants.
Now, the IORA Center at CSIR-CIMAP will establish a database on the important medicinal plants, their value added products, related experts and industries of the IORA member states and organize meetings and training programmes to promote trade, commerce and scientific exchanges to complement the strength and limitation of the member states.
Significance of this move:
The Coordination Center will promote cooperation in the area of traditional knowledge related to medicinal plants for the welfare of the people of IORA member states.
The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), formerly known as the Indian Ocean Rim Initiative and Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC), is an international organisation consisting of coastal states bordering the Indian Ocean.
- The IORA is a regional forum, tripartite in nature, bringing together representatives of Government, Business and Academia, for promoting co-operation and closer interaction among them.
- The IORA is an association of 21 countries and 7 dialogue partners which have identified 6 areas of cooperation including medicinal plants. The Coordinating Secretariat of IORA is located at Ebene, Mauritius.
Significance of IORA:
The existence of IORA is a reminder of the untapped potential of Indian Ocean regionalism. Nearly five decades ago, in the aftermath of decolonisation, the attempt to bring together the Indian Ocean states faltered amidst deep divisions within the littoral and due to the negative impact of the Cold War. Today, the IORA underlines the region’s agency in shaping its own future.
IORA’s success would depend, to a large extent, upon what the middle powers of the Indian Ocean littoral, like Indonesia, Australia and India, can do. Together the three countries have already breathed new life into an organisation that few had heard of.
Also, India’s growing sea-borne trade and a historic power shift in the Indian Ocean cempell Delhi to pay greater attention to securing a sustainable regional order in the vast littoral.
- For Prelims: IORA, Centre on medicinal plants.
- For Mains: Significance of IORA and need for reforms.
Topic: Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers.
Context: The government is planning to create an online platform for trading cow dung and agricultural waste under its recently announced waste to wealth scheme, GOBAR-DHAN (Galvanising Organic Bio Agro Resources) scheme.
What is the GOBAR-Dhan Yojana?
The Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources Dhan (GOBAR-DHAN) scheme was first announced by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley during his budget speech on February 1. The scheme would focus on managing and converting cattle dung and solid waste in farms to compost, biogas and bio-CNG. It will help in keeping the village clean while increasing the income of farmers and cattle herders.
Benefits of the scheme:
- This is hugely helpful for the country as India is home to the highest cattle population in the world, close to 300 million in number, with a daily output of 3 million tonnes of dung.
- The Scheme will encourage the farmers to consider dung and other waste not just as a waste but as a source of income.
- It will provide many benefits to the rural people. It will be easier to keep the village clean and sanitized, livestock health will improve and farm yields will increase.
- Biogas generation will increase self-reliance in energy utilized for cooking and lighting.
- Farmers and cattle herders will be helped in augmenting their income. There will be novel opportunities for newer jobs linked to waste collection, transportation, biogas sales etc.
- The scheme also provides a stable fuel supply in the market for oil companies and accessible credit in the market through government schemes and banks for entrepreneurs.
- For Prelims: GOBAR Dhan Yojana.
- For Mains: Alternative sources of income for farmers, clean fuel generation.
Sources: the hindu.
National Technology Centre for Ports, Waterways and Coasts at IIT Chennai
Context: The Ministry of Shipping and IIT Chennai have signed an MoU to set up National Technology Centre for Ports, Waterways and Coasts (NTCPWC), at IIT Chennai.
NTCPWC is being set up under the Shipping Ministry’s flagship programme Sagarmala. Envisioned as a world class state-of-the – art centre, NTCPWC will be a hub for latest technology tools and reduce our dependence on foreign institutions. It will also reduce the cost of research drastically and result in cost and time savings for work in the port and maritime sector.
- It will act as a technology arm of the Ministry of Shipping for providing engineering and technological inputs and support for Ports, Inland Waterways Authority of India and other institutions.
- It will carry on applied research in the areas of 2D and 3D Modelling of ocean, coastal and estuarine flows, sediment transport and morphodynamics, navigation and maneuvering, dredging and siltation, port and coastal engineering-structures and breakwaters.
- It will provide indigenous software and technology, make technical guidelines and standards and address port and maritime issues with models and simulations.
- The centre will not only help generate new technology and innovations but also work towards their successful commercialization. It will provide learning opportunities for the people working in Ministry of Shipping.
The Sagarmala project seeks to develop a string of ports around India’s coast. The objective of this initiative is to promote “Port-led development” along India’s 7500 km long coastline. It aims to develop access to new development regions with intermodal solutions and promotion of the optimum modal split, enhanced connectivity with main economic centres and beyond through expansion of rail, inland water, coastal and road services. The Union Ministry of Shipping has been appointed as the nodal ministry for this initiative.
- For Prelims: NTCPWC, Sagarmala.
- For Mains: NTCPWC- need and significance, need for R & D, Sagarmala- Significance and challenges.
Facts for Prelims:
What is it? ‘SRIJAN’ (Station Rejuvenation Initiative through Joint ActioN) is an idea competition for 635 Station Development on Indian Railways. It has been launched at MyGov portal.
The winner for logo competition will get cash prize of Rs 75,000/-and for tagline also will get Rs 75,000/-.
UIDAI’s Blue Coloured New Aadhaar Card:
Context: UIDAI has introduced a blue coloured ‘Baal Aadhaar’ card for children below the age of 5 years. Blue coloured Aadhaar data does not include biometric information like fingerprints and iris scan. Once the child crosses the age of five, biometrics should be updated.
Aadhaar, the 12-digit unique identity number issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), is a compulsory identity card. It is not mandatory for children under 5 to get an Aadhaar card. However, it is needed for attending educational programmes overseas and availing of government scholarships.
September 22 as Rhino Day:
Context: The Assam government will be observing September 22 as Rhino Day to generate public awareness on protection of the one-horned pachyderm.
Key facts: The greater one-horned rhinoceros is the largest of the three Asian rhinos and, together with African white rhinos, is the largest of all rhino species. It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. With at least half of the total population, India’s Kaziranga National Park remains the key reserve for this species.
Viral load testing:
Context: The government has launched a scheme to provide free of cost viral load testing, at least once a year, for 1.2 million people who are living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV) and are on treatment.
What is it? The viral load is used to monitor the effectiveness of Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) over time. It measures the amount of HIV genetic material (RNA) in the blood and reports how many copies of the virus are present.