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Death of Baby Sherin: Adoption process, who’s eligible, what safeguards are in place for the child

Context

  • External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has requested Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi to look into the circumstances of Sherin’s adoption.

What happened to Sherin?

  • The body of three-year-old Sherin Mathews was found in a tunnel in suburban Dallas in Texas.
  • The child’s adoptive father said she had choked on milk that he tried to “physically assist” her in drinking.

Who can adopt an Indian Child?

  • According to adoption guidelines notified in January this year, prospective adoptive parents have to be physically, mentally and emotionally stable, financially capable and should not have a life-threatening medical condition.
  • Singles are eligible, but a single male cannot adopt a girl child.
  • A couple must be married at least two years and their cumulative age at the time of adoption cannot exceed 110 years (55 in case of a single parent).
  • The minimum age difference between the child and either adoptive parent should not be less than 25 years.
  • Preference shall be given to place the child in adoption with Indian citizens and with due regard to the principle of placement of the child in his own socio-cultural environment, as per the Fundamental Principles of Adoption.

What formalities must prospective parents resident outside India fulfil?

  • All prospective parents irrespective of nationality have to register with the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA).
  • After registration, children are assigned by turn, and foreign couples are treated at par with Indian ones.
  • Any Non-Resident Indian, Overseas Citizen of India or foreign prospective adoptive parents, living in a country which is a signatory to The Hague Adoption Convention and wishing to adopt an Indian child, can approach the authorized foreign adoption agency or the central authority for preparation of their home study report.
  • Alternatively, they can approach the government department or Indian diplomatic mission concerned in that country.
  • The home study report, which looks at the couple’s family, circumstances, etc., is prepared by the adoption agency. It remains valid for two years, and is the basis of any adoption attempts that the couple make during that period.
  • Parents are given a chance to adopt on a first registered, first served basis. They are shown photographs, child study reports and medical examination reports of up to six children in their preferred category. The process of matching must be completed in 15 days.

When is a child eligible to be adopted?

  • A child has to be declared legally free to be adopted before being shown to a couple for adoption.
  • When a missing child is found, the District Child Protection Unit has to advertise the particulars and photograph in a state-level newspaper with wide circulation within 72 hours of receiving the child.
  • Local police have to submit a report about the child’s parents or any living family. The Child Welfare Committee declares the child legally free for adoption as per laid down procedures.

What legal process has to be followed?

  • The adoption petition is filed in court by the adoption agency.
  • Adoption proceedings have to be completed within two hearings and the petition has to be disposed of within two months of its filing.
  • The certified copy of the order has to be obtained by the agency within 10 days. It must also obtain the birth certificate of the child with the names of the adoptive parents.

How many children are adopted in India every year?

  • Figures available with CARA show that between 2010 and 2017, adoptions have gone down drastically.
  • In 2010, 5,693 children were adopted within India and 628 outside the country.
  • The fall is because norms have been tightened to protect the children. Despite the safeguards though, not all adoptive children stay safe.

Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA)

  • Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) is a statutory body of Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India.
  • It functions as the nodal body for adoption of Indian children and is mandated to monitor and regulate in-country and inter-country adoptions.
  • CARA is designated as the Central Authority to deal with inter-country adoptions in accordance with the provisions of the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption, 1993, ratified by Government of India in 2003.
  • CARA primarily deals with adoption of orphan, abandoned and surrendered children through its associated /recognised adoption agencies.
  • CARA interacts with State Governments and UT Administrations through regular training and orientation programmes as well as meetings, consultations and visits to the States/UTs.
  • The implementation of the adoption programme in the States/UTs is reviewed in various consultations organized by the Ministry as well as meetings of the Project Approval Board to consider proposals received from States/UTs for release of grants under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme.

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SC relief for self-employed, salaried road accident victims:

Context

  • The Supreme Court has held that the ‘future prospects’ of a road crash vict­im must be taken into account while computing the amount of compensati­o­n due to him under the Motor Vehicles Act.

How was the compensation rewarded earlier?

  • Compensation is awarded by the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal based on the victim’s income, personal living expenses and other factors at the time of death.
  • The courts would only take the actual income drawn by the victim at the time of death
  • The courts would only take the actual income drawn by the victim at the time of death. A departure could be made only in “rare and exceptional cases involving special circumstances.”

What is the verdict?

  • The Supreme Court modified the guidelines to include the possibility of future increases in the victim’s income as well as improvement in his living standards.
  • Irrespective of whether the victim is salaried, their future prospects must be considered while deciding the amount
  • The Constitution Bench fixed guidelines for computing motor accident claims for self-employed and salaried persons.

What are the new rules for a salaried victim?

  • If the road accident victim had a permanent job at the time of his or her death in a road accident
  • 50% of his actual salary will be added towards future prospects if his age is below 40 years
  • 30% if the age of the victim is between 40 to 50 years
  • 15% if the age is in the 50-60 brackets

What are the new rules for a self-employed victim?

  • Similarly if the victim was self-employed or on a fixed salary
  • 40% will be added to his established income if his or her age was below 40 years at the time of death
  • An addition of 25% if the victim was in the 40-50 age brackets
  • 10% if he or she was between 50 to 60 years.

Interpreting Section 168 of the Act

  • Interpreting Section 168 of the Act, it must be ensured that the compensation amount is ‘just’ and has been determined on the foundation of fairness, reasonableness and equitability.
  • To follow the doctrine of actual income at the time of death and not to add any amount with regard to future prospects to the income for the purpose of determination of multiplicand would be unjust

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Govt. plans to sell Air India, AI Express together:

Context

  • The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is working to conclude the sale of national carrier Air India by June 2018 and is keen on selling its core airline operations, together with its low-cost international airline, Air India Express.

Decision taken by Air India-specific Alternative Mechanism

  • As per a decision taken by the Air India-specific Alternative Mechanism, the Centre will look to sell AI’s regional airline Alliance Air to a separate universe of bidders while Air India and Air India Express will likely go together.
  • The ministerial group meeting held on September 21 was of view that a separate universe of bidders or prospective buyers be invited for Air India’s ground handling subsidiary — Air India Air Transport Service Limited (AIATSL) — and its maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) unit — Air India Engineering Services Limited (AIESL).

Status of Air India

  • Air India has amassed a debt of Rs 50,000 crore over the years, half of which is on account of buying costly aircraft beyond its means.
  • Once the nation’s largest carrier, Air India’s market share in the booming domestic market has slumped to 13 per cent as private carriers expanded.
  • Air India, which has fleet size of 114, mostly Boeings and Airbuses, is estimated to have booked operating profit of Rs 300 crore in 2016-17, almost three times the Rs 106 crore recorded in 2015-16.
  • The government will infuse Rs 1,800 crore from the 2017-18 Union budget, after pumping in close to Rs 24,000 crore between April 2012 and March 2016, from taxpayers’ money.
  • Air India is trying to shore up revenues through streamlining routes, phasing out of old fleet and consequential reduction in maintenance cost and closure of some overseas offices.

Talks with buyers

  • Prospective buyers will be available from international airlines if bids for Air India and Air India Express are called together.
  • Since Alliance Air operates flights mainly on regional domestic routes, it makes more sense to sell it off separately.
  • The decision was taken after the government held several rounds of backchannel talks with prospective buyers of Air India and its subsidiaries.
  • The government met companies involved in MRO, ground handling and airline operations to examine whether all the subsidiaries should be sold off together or calling for separate set of bidders would increase Air India’s valuation.

Interested buyers

  • Selling Air India in parts could help the company attract more buyers and reduce some debt of the parent company.
  • Aviation services provider Bird Group showed interest in buying Air India’s ground-handling unit AIATSL, making it the second company to show such interest after Inter Globe Aviation’s IndiGo last month.
  • Indigo was keen on buying the international arm and low-cost division of the 1930-incorporated carrier that is known for its Maharajah mascot.
  • The Tata Group, which has stakes in Vistara and AirAsia India, has also been mentioned as a possible suitor.

‘Doing Business’ rank: India jumps 30 places:

Context:

India climbed 30 positions in the latest ease of doing business ranking by the World Bank, in its Doing Business 2018 report released recently.

Introduction:

  • This year’s report from the World Bank has been titled Reforming to Create Jobs.
  • The report ranks India at 100 among 190 countries. Last year, India was ranked 130.
  • India’s upward jump in ranking is based on the underlying improvement in the distance to frontier (DTF) score- an absolute measure of progress towards the best practice-in the report.
  • India recorded the fifth highest change in DTF score and found a place for the first time in the top ten economies improving the most in a given year, in the report which is into its 15th edition.
  • The ease of doing business ranking compares economies with one another; the DTF score benchmark economies with respect to regulatory best practice.
  • According to an output-outcome framework document prepared by the government, India is seeking to reach the 90th rank in 2017-18 and 30th by 2020.

“Distance to Frontier”

The distance to frontier score helps assess the absolute level of regulatory performance overtime. It measures the distance of each economy to the “frontier”, which represents the best performance observed on each of the indicators across the economies in the Doing Business sample since 2005.  An economy’s distance t frontier is reflected on a scale from 0 to 100 , where o represents the lowest performance and 100 represents the frontier.

Doing Business report:

  • Doing Business report measures aspects of regulation affecting 11 areas of the life of a business, and India made eight reforms across these areas last year, the highest number for the country in a single year.
  • India is one of the three countries last year that undertook reforms in as many as eight areas.

Reforms noted by the report:

  • Faster permits for construction, combining the application for the Permanent Account Number (PAN) and the Tax Account Number (TAN) into a single submission, reduction in the time needed to complete the applications for Employee’s Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) and the Employee’s State Insurance Corporation (ESIC), reduction in export and imports border compliance costs and improved access to credit are among the reforms noted by the report.
  • The establishment of debt recovery tribunals reduced non-performing loans by 28%  and lowered interest rates on larger loans, suggesting that faster processing of debt recovery cases cut the credit.
  • India is now in the middle of the list, moving up from the last quarter but still it is at the place where there is scope for improvement.
  • There are still significant changes possible; thought the change this year is significant, both in relative and absolute terms.
  • The reforms have been broad-based encompassing wide range of areas including taxation, finance, legal and administrative procedures.
  • With GST, the government has laid the foundation for a more efficient indirect tax system and with the enactment of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, India now has an efficient institutional mechanism for easing of business exit.

Significance:

  • The huge improvement in ranking and score will immediately boost investor sentiments.
  • The latest report validates the commitment of the government to fast-tracking economic reforms, addressing red tape and facilitating business, which it has undertaken in mission mode over the last three years.
  • It will help India in moving the right direction and in creating the kind of channels that will attract foreign direct investment.

Where India is lagging behind?

  • The World Bank said while there has been substantial progress, India still lags in areas such as starting a business (156), enforcing contracts (164) and dealing with construction permits (181).

Global comparison:

  • India used to be the last among the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) countries in the ranking, but now it has overtaken Brazil in the list.
  • China maintained the same ranking it had last year, at 78.
  • New Zealand, Singapore and Denmark retained their first, second and third spots.
  • Russia, at 35 is the best among BRICS countries; while Brazil is now the last.
  • Enforcement of contract:
  • Enforcement of contract is one of the area of concern in India, according to bank officials.
  • The time to enforce a contract has  become longer today, at 1445 days compared to 1420 days 15 years ago, placing India at 164th place in the ranking on Enforcing Contracts indicator.
  • Property registration and property transition, land registry and administration is complicated in India compared to many other countries.
  • India has reduced the time to register a new business to 30 days now, from 127 days 15 years ago.

About Ease of doing business in India:

  • The Ease of doing business index in India is an index created by World Bank groups.
  • Higher ranking in this list  means  the country’s  regulatory environment is more conducive and favourable  for the starting and operation of  firm.
  • The report examines India’s recent regulatory process in order to evaluate the efficacy of the reforms.

A big bang bailout: (The Hindu, Editorial)

Context:

  • India’s banks received a considerable boost with the Union government deciding to inject Rs. 2.11 lakh crore worth of capital into the sector.
  • The amount is expected to help put India’s banks on the path to recovery.

What is the utility of the initiative by the government?

  • By infusing capital, the government is trying to partially improve the balance sheets of public sector banks.
  • This will also help banks write off some of the Rs 10 lakh crore bad loans currently on their books.

What is Bank recapitalization?

  • Bank recapitalization means recapitalising banks with new capital to improve their balance sheet.
  • The government, using different instruments to add capital into banks which undergoing credit deficiency.
  • Since the government is the biggest shareholder in public sector banks, the responsibility of infusing capital majorly lies with the government.

How Bank recapitalization takes place?

  • The recapitalisation plan comes into action when banks get caught in a situation where their liabilities are comparatively higher than their assets.
  • The liquidity with banks is a liability as it is the money deposited by customers, which needs to be paid sooner or later.
  • Due to this their balance-sheet weakens and banks find it difficult to raise capital from the open market.
  • Thus, the government, which is also the biggest shareholder, can infuse capital in banks by either buying new shares or by issuing bonds.

Why has Recapitalisation of the Banks Occurred?

  • Recapitalisation of the Banks occurs when:
  • People defaulted on loans and mortgages;
  • banks lent money (bought CDOs) to sub-prime mortgage companies in America who lost money;
  • falling house prices means that banks assets decline further and if they repossess homes it’s harder to get value of the original loan back, and
  • recession led to more defaults and losses.

Public sector versus private sector banks:

  • Mismanagement:  private banks owners, who have invested their own money and stand to lose it all in case of mismanagement, have a strong economic incentive.
  • It is a good effort compared to the almost complete negligence and gross mismanagement of books in the case of public sector banks.
  • Bad loans: private banks rarely face the problems of bad loans, which is a part and parcel of lending aggressively under a fractional reserve banking system.
  • But in the case of public sector banks, the implicit guarantee of their books by the government only adds to it the risk of moral hazard.
  • Taxpayer money: as nationalised banks are allowed to tap into taxpayer money whenever they are in deep financial trouble, they have very little reason to be careful while lending and more reason to take huge risks with their balance sheets.
  • Incidentally, the same happens whenever the government protects private sector banks from the negative consequences of their actions.

What are the drawbacks of public sector banks in India?

Rise in bad loans:

  • The biggest risk to India’s banks is the rise in bad loans.
  • These are loans which are not repaid back by the borrower. They are, thus, a loss for the bank.

Inadequate capital:

  • One way a bank tries to ensure it is protected from bad loans is by setting aside money as a ‘provision‘.
  • This money cannot be used for any other purposes including lending.
  • As a result, banks have lower capital available to use for its various operations.

Inadequate technology:

  • Public sector banks witness absence of technology.
  • There is a need to embrace technology to offer better products.

Failure in credit pattern:

  • One major weakness of the nationalised banking system in India is its failure to sustain the desired credit pattern and fill in credit gaps in different sectors.
  • Even though there has been a reorientation of bank objectives, the bank staff has remained virtually static and the bank procedures and prac­tices have continued to remain old and outmoded.

Ease of Doing Business in an uneasy India hides, not reveals: (Indian Express, Editorial

Context

The World Bank Group’s Doing Business 2018 report ranks India at 100 out of 190 countries

What is Ease of Doing Business Index?

  • The Ease of doing business index is an index released by the World Bank Group in its Doing business report.
  • Higher rankings indicate better, usually simpler, regulations for businesses and stronger protections of property rights.
  • New Zealand has topped the Ease of Doing Business rankings in 2017.

What are the indicators on which this index is calculated?

  • Starting a business
  • Dealing with construction permits
  • Getting electricity
  • Registering property
  • Getting credit
  • Protecting investors
  • Paying taxes
  • Trading across borders
  • Enforcing contracts
  • Resolving insolvency

Where does India stand in the Ease of Doing business index?

  • India ranked 130 among 190 countries however, has not made any improvement from the last year as its rank has been downgraded to 131.
  • This lack of improvement in the rankings though Indian Government was hoping to jump substantially this year has triggered a strong reaction and disappointment.
  • Though several reform measures have been taken by the Government, it feels they are not reflected in these rankings.
  • The only bright side in these rankings is that India has improved substantially in getting electricity for businesses and enforcing contracts.
  • Out of the 10 parameters, India has slipped down in 5 parameters and on other 3, there is a status quo.

Why India should not base its result on basis of this index?

  • World Bank index is based on limited data.
  • There is a disjunct between how things get done in india and Bank’s methodological approach .Many achievements have not been covered by the report due to methodological issues.
  • Eg- According to DIPP, Online filing and payment of returns at the Employee Provident Fund Organisation has been implemented, but it was not considered by the World Bank, even after it shared “logs and voluminous evidence” of the same.
  • Bank’s report is based on data collected from very few cities.
  • Centre has only partial control over several of these sub indices as it needs states support to bring the required legislations.
  • It does not directly measure more general conditions such as a nation’s proximity to large markets, quality of infrastructure, inflation, or crime.
  • Rankings are incompletely reflective of the significant transformation in the overall business environment in key areas such as openness to FDI, online procedures, MSME facilitation

What are the loopholes in the ease of doing business index?

  • In India’s case, the business environment in only Delhi and Mumbai are used to compile the national ranking.
  • These rankings also focus a lot more on the laws and rules that are on the books and do not necessarily capture the daily experiences of businesses.

Conclusion:

  • The government initiated an online single window clearance system for faster approvals of building plans. This will presumably lead to obtaining building permits faster
  • The Government should not be obsessed about this Index although all other BRICS nations are ahead of India.
  • It should go ahead and keep on doing what it thinks is necessary for betterment of small and medium enterprises in coordination with the state governments.
  • However, setting a national target of attaining a certain rank has also helped in bringing consensus across other parties involved like state governments and judiciary to improve overall environment of India in doing business.        
  • A lot of the parameters on which our rankings are poor are the ones where the processes are yet to be modernized.

Prelims Related News

Threefold rise in domestic budget for fight against tuberculosis:

Context

  • According to a report from the World Health Organisation (WHO), India’s domestic budget for fighting tuberculosis showed a dramatic jump from about 700 crores in 2015 to 2,500 crores last year.

Why is it important?

  • Most of India’s budget to combat the bacterial infection use to be dominated by international funding.
  • For the very first-time things have flipped as domestic resources accounted for 74% of the $525 million spent in India last year, while it was only 38% in 2015.

Decrease in numbers

  • In 2016, India recorded a 12% dip in the number of TB deaths from the previous year though the incidence dipped marginally by 1%.
  • The number of notified cases of drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) jumped from 79,000 to 84,000 in 2016.
  • The use of molecular diagnostic tests has scaled up to detect the infection even on detection of drug-resistant TB, which is an improvement.
  • India with 1.7 million new cases in 2016 continues to be the largest contributor to the global burden with up to a quarter of the 6.3 million new cases of TB.
  • India accounts for about 32% of the number of people worldwide who succumbed to the disease.

Government initiative

  • The government has committed to achieve a ‘90-90-90 target’ by 2035 i.e., 90% reductions in incidence, mortality and catastrophic health expenditures due to TB.
  • The target is premised on improved diagnostics, shorter treatment courses, a better vaccine and comprehensive preventive strategies.
  • However, several activists say that in spite of the government commitments, TB is still stigmatized and under-reported especially from the private sector and top-line drugs are still inadequate to treat people who suffer from the drug-resistant forms of the disease.

Directly Observed Treatment Short Course (DOTS)

  • For the past two decades, India has slowly come to grips with regular strains of TB under a World Health Organization program known as DOTS or Directly Observed Treatment Short Course, in which patients are given free drugs but have to take them three times a week, in the presence of a health worker or volunteer, for at least two months.
  • It involved a monumental effort perhaps bettered only by the country’s successful program to eradicate polio but India now meets global targets by detecting more than 70 percent of TB cases and curing more than 85 percent of those detected.

Multi-drug-resistant

  • Although drug-resistant TB can be transmitted from patient to patient, regular strains of TB still dominate.
  • Just 2 percent of new TB cases in India are found to be multi-drug-resistant; the majority of cases are in patients where the disease has recurred after unsatisfactory treatment.
  • The problem of drug resistance is manageable, but it is growing and if controls are not introduced over use of antimicrobials [drugs] and people are not put into right treatment regimens, it will grow.
  • Almost half of the six lakh rifampicin resistant multi-drug resistant tuberculosis cases in the world were in India, China, and Russian Federation.

What is Tuberculosis?

  • Tuberculosis (TB) is a multi-systemic infectious disease.
  • It is caused by a bacteria called as Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
  • It is a communicable disease.

What are the causes of tuberculosis?

  • Microscopic droplets: Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria that spread from person to person through microscopic droplets released into the air.
  • This can happen when someone with the untreated, active form of tuberculosis coughs, speaks, sneezes, spits, laughs or sings.
  • HIV and TB: Infection with HIV suppresses the immune system, making it difficult for the body to control TB bacteria.
  • As a result, people with HIV are many times more likely to get TB and to progress from latent to active disease than are people who aren’t HIV positive.
  • Drug-resistant TB: Another reason of tuberculosis is the increase in drug-resistant strains of the bacterium.
  • Drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis emerge when an antibiotic fails to kill all of the bacteria it targets.
  • The surviving bacteria become resistant to that particular drug and frequently other antibiotics as well.

What are the different types of Tuberculosis?

  • There are many types of tuberculosis, but the main two types are termed as:
  • Active tuberculosis infection: when the disease is actively producing symptoms, and can be transmitted to other people.
  • Latent tuberculosis infection: when the person is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria, but the bacteria is not producing symptoms.

Other forms of Tuberculosis are:

  • Pulmonary tuberculosis mainly infects the pulmonary system;
  • Cutaneous tuberculosis has skin symptoms;
  • Military tuberculosis describes widespread small infected sites.

WHO’s treatment guidelines for drug-resistant tuberculosis:

  • The WHO treatment guidelines for drug-resistant tuberculosis (2016 update) contain policy recommendations on priority areas in the treatment of drug-resistant tuberculosis.
  • The revision is in accordance with the WHO requirements for the formulation of evidence-informed policy.

The main highlights of the WHO guidelines, 2016-17 are:

  • A shorter MDR-TB treatment regimen is recommended under specific conditions;
  • Medicines used in the design of conventional MDR-TB treatment regimens are now reclassified to reflect updates in the evidence on their effectiveness and safety;
  • Specific recommendations are made on the treatment of children with rifampicin-resistant or MDR-TB based on a first-ever individual patient data meta-analysis;
  • Recommendations on the role of surgery in MDR-TB case management are included.

What is the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Program (RNTCP)?

  • Revised National Tuberculosis Control Program (RNTCP) is the state-run tuberculosis (TB) control initiative of the Government of India.
  • As per the National Strategic Plan 2012–17, the program has a vision of achieving a “TB free India”.

Objectives:

  • RNTCP provides various free of cost, quality tuberculosis diagnosis and treatment services across the country through the government health system.
  • The program uses the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended Directly Observed Treatment Short Course (DOTS) strategy and reaches over a billion people in 632 districts/reporting units.
  • It is also responsible for carrying out the Government of India five year TB National Strategic Plans.

Loopholes in the program:

  • Though the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) has treated 10 million patients, the rate of decline has been slow.
  • RNTCP failed on universal access to early diagnosis and treatment and improving case detection.
  • Also, India is far from reaching the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, i.e. reducing the number of deaths by 90% and TB incidence by 80% compared with 2015.  

What is National Strategic Plan for tuberculosis 2017– 2025?

  • The national strategic plan for tuberculosis elimination (2017-2025), has set a goal of “achieving a rapid decline in burden of TB, morbidity and mortality while working towards elimination of TB by 2025.”

Highlights:

  • The TB control programme plans to do away with the strategy of waiting for patients to walk in to get tested and instead engage in detecting more cases, both drug-sensitive and drug-resistant.
  • The emphasis will be on using highly sensitive diagnostic tests, undertaking universal testing for drug-resistant TB, reaching out to TB patients seeking care from private doctors and targeting people belonging to high-risk populations.
  • The other priority is to provide anti-TB treatment irrespective of where patients seek care from, public or private and ensure that they complete the treatment.
  • The TB control programme also talks of having in place patient-friendly systems to provide treatment and social support.

 

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