Insights Daily Current Affairs, 24 September 2018
Topic: Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues.
Dakshina Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: About the Sabha, its objectives, significance.
Context: The President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, inaugurated the centenary celebrations of the Dakshina Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha on September 22, 2018.
About Dakshina Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha:
- The organisation was established by Annie Besant in 1918 with support from Mahatma Gandhi, who became the founder president of the Sabha, who held the post till his death.
- In 1964, the institution was recognised by the Indian Government as one of the Institutes of National Importance.
- It was established to propagate the study of Hindi in the then Madras Presidency and princely states of Banganapalle, Cochin, Hyderabad, Mysore, Pudukkottai, Sanduru and Travancore.
- The first Hindi class was taken by Gandhi’s son Devdas Gandhi.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Ayushman Bharat- features, objectives and significance.
Context: Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently rolled out the Centre’s flagship scheme — Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Abhiyaan, also known as Ayushman Bharat or the National Health Protection Mission (AB-NHPM).
Significance of the project:
- This is the world’s largest health scheme which will serve a population that equals 27-28 European countries. The beneficiaries are almost equal to the population of Canada, Mexico and US put together.
- Meant to help the poor and the economically deprived, the scheme will be available for 10.74 crore beneficiary families and about 50 crore Indian citizens.
- Ayushman Bharat is the National Health Protection Scheme, which will cover over 10 crore poor vulnerable families (around 50 crore beneficiaries) providing coverage of up to ₹5 lakh (per family per year) for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation.
- It will subsume the on-going centrally sponsored schemes –Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) and the Senior Citizen Health Insurance Scheme (SCHIS).
Highlights of the scheme:
Coverage: The scheme has the benefit cover of Rs. 5 lakh per family per year. To ensure that nobody is left out (especially women, children and elderly) there will be no cap on family size and age in the scheme. The benefit cover will also include pre and post-hospitalisation expenses.
Target: The target beneficiaries of the proposed scheme will be more than 10 crore families belonging to poor and vulnerable population based on SECC database. Benefits of the scheme are portable across the country and a beneficiary covered under the scheme will be allowed to take cashless benefits from any public/private empanelled hospitals across the country.
Role of state governments: State Governments will be allowed to expand AB-NHPM both horizontally and vertically. States will be free to choose the modalities for implementation. They can implement through insurance company or directly through Trust/ Society or a mixed model.
Council: For giving policy directions and fostering coordination between Centre and States, it is proposed to set up Ayushman Bharat National Health Protection Mission Council (AB-NHPMC) at apex level Chaired by Union Health and Family Welfare Minister.
Who is eligible?
- It will be an entitlement based scheme with entitlement decided on the basis of deprivation criteria in the SECC database.
- The different categories in rural area include families having only one room with kucha walls and kucharoof; families having no adult member between age 16 to 59; female headed households with no adult male member between age 16 to 59; disabled member and no able bodied adult member in the family; SC/ST households; and landless households deriving major part of their income from manual casual labour.
- Also, automatically included families in rural areas having any one of the following: households without shelter, destitute, living on alms, manual scavenger families, primitive tribal groups, legally released bonded labour. For urban areas, 11 defined occupational categories are entitled under the scheme.
Why Ayushman Bharat?
- According to health ministry officials, the 71st round of National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) revealed that 85.9% of rural households and 82% of urban households have no access to healthcare insurance/assurance.
- More than 24% households in rural India and 18 per cent population in the urban area have met their healthcare expenses through some sort of borrowing. The Ayushman Bharat intends to change this status quo.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
Country Partnership Framework
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: CPA- meaning, objectives and significance for India.
Context: The World Bank Group (WBG) Board of Executive Directors has endorsed a new Country Partnership Framework (CPF) for India.
- The CPF aims to support India’s transition to a higher middle-income country by addressing some of its key development priorities — resource efficient and inclusive growth, job creation and building its human capital.
- The India CPF represents the largest country programme of the WBG, reflecting the strong collaboration between India and the Group’s institutions — The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA). The WBG expects to deliver $25-30 billion during this CPF period, ending in FY22.
With a fast growing economy, global stature, and its unique experience of lifting the highest number of poor out of poverty in the past decades, India is well-positioned to become a high middle-income country by 2030.
Need of the hour:
The future of India lies in the States of India. The country’s transition to high middle-income status will be determined in large part by the effectiveness of India’s federal compact. In this context, an important focus of the CPF will be to deepen engagement with India’s States and invest in the institutions and capabilities of the states and local governments to address their development priorities.
What is Country Partnership Framework (CPF)?
The World Bank Group’s Country Partnership Framework (CPF) aims to make our country-driven model more systematic, evidence-based, selective, and focused on the Bank’s twin goals of ending extreme poverty and increasing shared prosperity in a sustainable manner. The CPF replaces the Country Assistance Strategy (CAS). Used in conjunction with a Systematic Country Diagnostic (SCD), the CPF guides the World Bank Group’s (WBG) support to a member country.
A Systematic Country Diagnostic (SCD) informs each new CPF. The aim of the SCD is to identify the most important challenges and opportunities a country faces in advancing towards the twin goals. This is derived from a thorough analysis, and informed by consultations with a range of stakeholders.
The WBG will focus on three broad areas under the new CPF: promoting a resource efficient growth path, particularly in the use of land and water, to remain sustainable; enhancing competitiveness and enabling job creation; and investing in human capital — in health, education, skills — to improve quality and efficiency of service delivery.
Within these, some areas of deeper WBG’s engagement will include addressing the challenge of air pollution, facilitating jobs for women, increasing the resilience of the financial sector and investing in early years of children’s development. Across the sectors, the WBG will invest in harnessing the impact of new technology.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.
Total expense ratio
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: TER- meaning, significance and need for regulation.
Context: Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has announced changes to total expense ratio (TER) of mutual funds.
What is total expense ratio and why is it important for investing in mutual funds?
Mutual funds are investments where an investor entrusts his/her money with an investment manager (of an asset management company) to manage the money smartly and efficiently. This money management comes at a cost, which is usually charged as a percentage of the investment. The official regulator of mutual funds has laid down rules on how much an asset management company can charge an investor to manage their funds. For an investor this is important because it is a charge (called total expense ratio or TER in short) levied on their investment, and the money they get back from their investment is reduced by this figure.
So, for an investor, TER is an important number to focus on since it has a direct impact on their returns. However, it is not the only number to look at and investors should evaluate funds based on various parameters such as consistency of performance and risk levels.
What are the changes made by SEBI now to TER?
SEBI has, across the board, lowered the TER that a fund house can charge its investors. The reduction is higher for larger funds and lower for smaller funds — larger and smaller being a measure of how much money a fund manages.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Awareness in space.
NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Maven mission- objectives, significance and achievements.
Context: NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft has beamed back a selfie to mark its four years orbiting Mars and studying the upper atmosphere of the red planet.
MAVEN completed its primary mission in November 2015 and has been operating in an extended mission since that time, continuing its investigation of Mars’ upper atmosphere and exploring additional opportunities for science that the new relay orbit will bring.
- The MAVEN mission was launched on November 18, 2013, and went into orbit around Mars on September 21, 2014.
- During its time at Mars, the spacecraft has acquired compelling evidence that the loss of atmosphere to space has been a major driver of climate change on Mars.
- It also discovered two new types of Martian auroras — diffuse aurora and proton aurora. Neither type has a direct connection to the local or global magnetic field or to magnetic cusps, as auroras do on Earth.
- MAVEN has demonstrated that the majority of the carbon dioxide (CO2) on the planet has been lost to space and that there is not enough left to terraform the planet by warming it, even if the CO2 could be released and put back into the atmosphere.
About MAVEN mission:
- Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission was developed by NASA to study the Martian atmosphere while orbiting Mars. MAVEN was launched aboard an Atlas V launch vehicle.
- Mission goals include determining how the planet’s atmosphere and water, presumed to have once been substantial, were lost over time.
MAVEN mission has four primary scientific objectives:
- Determine the role that loss of volatiles to space from the Martian atmosphere has played through time.
- Determine the current state of the upper atmosphere, ionosphere, and interactions with the solar wind.
- Determine the current rates of escape of neutral gases and ions to space and the processes controlling them.
- Determine the ratios of stable isotopes in the Martian atmosphere.
Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
Scientists grow human oesophagus in lab
What to Study?
- For Prelims: Oesophagus and Stem cells- key facts.
- For Mains: Significance of stem cells and potential applications.
Context: In a first, scientists have successfully grown oesophageal organoids — miniature, functional versions of the human food pipe — using stem cells, paving the way for new ways to study and test drugs against gut disorders.
- The human oesophageal tissue was grown entirely from pluripotent stem cells (PSCs), which can form any tissue type in the body.
- The research may lead to personalised diagnostic methods and focused in part on developing regenerative tissue therapies to treat or cure GI disorders.
- In addition to being a new model to study birth defects like esophageal atresia, the organoids can be used to study diseases like eosinophilic esophagitis and Barrett’s metaplasia, or to bioengineer genetically matched esophageal tissue for individual patients.
What is Oesophagus?
- The oesophagus is a muscular tube that actively passes food from the mouth to the stomach.
- It is also called as gastro-intestinal tract (GI tract or gullet or food pipe).
- There are a number of lymph nodes close to the oesophagus.
The oesophagus has four layers:
- The mucosa – the inner layer, which is moist to help food pass smoothly into the stomach.
- The submucosa – this contains glands that produce mucus (phlegm), which keeps the oesophagus moist.
- The muscularis – the muscle layer, which pushes food down to the stomach.
- The adventitia – the outer layer, which attaches the oesophagus to nearby parts of the body.
The organ can be affected by congenital diseases, such as oesophageal atresia — a narrowing or malformation of the oesophagus caused by genetic mutations.
There are several diseases that can afflict people later in life. Some include oesophageal cancer, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or a rare ailment called achalasia — a disease affecting the muscles of the lower oesophagus that prevents contraction of the organ and the passage of food.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Conservation related issues.
Eco-sensitive area (ESA)
What to study?
- For Prelims: Meaning of ESA, highlights of Kasturirangan and Gadgil report.
- For Mains: ESA- concerns, significance and issues associated.
Context: The centre will soon issue a fresh draft notification declaring Western Ghats as an eco-sensitive area (ESA) with all but one of the six affected states on board.
- Karnataka is set to reject the notification as “it will adversely affect the state’s economy.” Karnataka is not in favour of declaring the Western Ghats as an ESA.
What’s the issue?
A draft notification regarding ecologically sensitive areas, issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF), has been delayed for over a year due to on-going negotiations between the Centre and the states. The initial draft, in March 2014, which was to be finalised in 545 days or by September 2015, has been repeatedly pushed.
The notice earmarked 60,000 square kilometres, or 37 per cent of the Ghats, as ecologically sensitive. However, it was protested by the states, especially Kerala, as ESAs restrict developmental activity. The Centre has since decided to accept recommendations from each state government.
What are ESAs?
An ecologically sensitive area is one that is protected by the government given the sheer number of species, plants and animals endemic to the region. According to the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, the government can prohibit industrial operations such as mining, sand quarrying and building thermal power plants in sensitive areas.
- The definition offered by the MoEF: “An ecological sensitive area is a bio-climatic unit (as demarcated by entire landscapes) in the Western Ghats wherein human impacts have locally caused irreversible changes in the structure of biological communities (as evident in number/ composition of species and their relative abundances) and their natural habitats.”
- To categorise an area as ecologically sensitive, the government looks at topography, climate and rainfall, land use and land cover, roads and settlements, human population, biodiversity corridors and data of plants and animal species.
The Kasturirangan committee report:
- The MoEF notification is based on findings of a High-Level Working Group, also known as the Kasturirangan committee. The government-appointed committee had said that the natural landscape of the Ghats constitutes only 41 per cent, or which 90 percent or 60,000 square kilometres were identified as ecologically sensitive.
- The committee suggested phasing out current mining projects within five years, or when mining leases were about to expire. It recommended that infrastructure and development projects be subject to environmental clearance, and that villages in ESA be involved in decision making regarding future projects.
- The notification was deemed too environmentally friendly by stakeholder states.
Significance of Western Ghats:
The Western Ghats was included as a ‘World Natural Heritage Site’ by UNESCO in 2012. According to the organisation, the Ghats, which are older than the Himalayas, are home to at least 325 globally threatened flora, fauna, bird, amphibian, reptile and fish species. It has been recognised as one of the world’s eight ‘hottest hotspots’ of biological diversity.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Disaster management.
What caused the floods in Kerala?
What to study?
For Mains: What caused floods in Kerala? Road ahead in disaster mitigation.
Context: A recent study has found that a combination of four factors led to extreme flooding across Kerala this year. Union government had declared the Kerala floods a “calamity of severe nature”.
The four factors that led to the disaster:
Above normal seasonal (May-August) rainfall: The summer monsoon rainfall in Kerala from May to August this year was 2,290 mm, which was 53% above normal. The average rainfall during the summer monsoon period (June-September) is about 1,619 mm. This makes 2018 Kerala’s third wettest year in the last 118 years (1901-2018); 1924 and 1961 were the wettest years with about 3,600 mm of annual rainfall.
Extreme rainfall events occurring almost across the State during the season: Till August 21, the State witnessed few extreme rainfall events covering almost the entire State. These extreme rainfall events have very low probability of recurrence in any given year.
Over 90% reservoir storage even before the onset of extreme rainfall events: Kerala received 1634.5 mm rainfall during the period May 1 to August 7, which is more than the average rainfall (1619.37 mm) during the summer monsoon period (June-September). As a result, six of the seven major reservoirs in the State had over 90% storage before August 8, well before Kerala received the unprecedented extreme rainfall events.
Unprecedented extreme rainfall in the catchment areas of major reservoirs in the State: The catchment areas of major reservoirs in the State received extreme rainfall never before witnessed in the State. The role of other factors such as changes in how infrastructure has grown at the expense of vegetation and drainage remains to be studied.
Sources: the hindu.
Facts for Prelims:
Context: Tamil Nadu government has announced a novel scheme for the protection of the exotic Neela kurinji (Strobilanthus kunthianus) plants that flower only once in 12 years.
- Kurinji or Neelakurinji (Strobilanthes kunthianus) is a shrub that is found in the shola forests of the Western Ghats in South India.
- Nilgiri Hills, which literally means the blue mountains, got their name from the purplish blue flowers of Neelakurinji that blossoms only once in 12 years.
- Some Kurinji flowers bloom once every seven years, and then die. Their seeds subsequently sprout and continue the cycle of life and death.
- The Paliyan tribal people living in Tamil Nadu used it as a reference to calculate their age.
Sikkim’s first-ever airport inaugurated:
Sikkim’s first-ever airport was recently inaugurated by the Prime Minister Narendra at Pakyong. The airport was constructed by the Airports Authority of India.
- The Pakyong Airport, the country has hit a century of airports. Until now, Sikkim was the only state in India remaining without a functional airport. The development not only eases connectivity to the Himalayan state but also brings it on the air-map of the world.
- The airport’s location makes it strategically relevant from the country’s security point of view. The Indian Air Force (IAF) will find this airport convenient for the landing and taking off of its aircrafts.
- The airport is not only India’s 100th functional airport but also one of the country’s five highest airports.