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GS: 2


International relations:

Old friends: on India-Iran bilateral ties(The Hindu Editorial)

Context:

  • In bilateral terms, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to India was perfect in content.

Major takeaways from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to India:

  • The visit came amid uncertainty over the U.S.’s next move on Iran, given the Trump administration’s line on the Iran nuclear deal.
  • After his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India and Iran signed agreements and memorandums of understanding on a wide variety of issues.
  • Among the announcements was the decision to award India the contract to operate the ChabaharShahid Beheshti port terminal after the project is completed.
  • No announcement was made on the Farzad-B gas field that India has expressed an interest in, the joint statement indicates that positive deliberations may follow.
  • There were discussions on enhancing trade and investment and ease of doing business between India and Iran.
  • The discussion also included a double taxation avoidance agreement and an expert group to recommend trade remedy measures.
  • India announced that it would allow Indian investment in Iran to be done in rupee terms.
  • The two leaders also drew broad strokes highlighting the importance of bilateral ties between the two countries, stressing the strategic imperative for their growth.
  • Iran endorsed India’s bid for a permanent seat at the UN Security Council with the veto, and praised India as a “living museum of religious diversity”.
  • The joint statement issued contained tough language on the “sanctuaries for terrorism”, an issue important to both countries.

Way ahead:

  • It will be important to see what, if any, implications the Indian overtures would have on India’s ties with the U.S. and its recently upgraded relations with Israel.
  • However, it is crucial that India maintain a steady course on its strategic interests with Iran.

A Nepal-India win-win(The Hindu Opinion)

Context:

  • With the Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli sworn as Prime Minster of Nepal, he is tasked today to reset the relationship with India at a new normal.

Background:

  • India became progressively interventionist as Nepal got engaged in internal crisis during and after the Maoist ‘people’s war’, and as the hill-plain polarisation escalated during the constitution-writing.
  • While there are numerous domestic factors, a key reason for political instability in Nepal has been India’s overt and covert intercessions.
  • Meanwhile, Indian analysts fail to appreciate how political stability in Nepal can deliver economic bounty to the bordering Indian States on its three sides.

A fresh start for India-Nepal:

  • Tagging the Prime Minister of Nepal as ‘anti-Indian’ is not sensible, for being ‘pro-Nepal’ does not ipso facto mean animosity towards India.
  • And India may be surprised to find that Nepal is more than willing to reciprocate its overtures, providing reassurance that Kathmandu will never act against India’s security interests.
  • The central socio-political task is to ensure inclusion in governance, giving the Janjati ethnicities as well as the Madhesi plains people and others a feeling of ownership of the state.
  • While seeking to restore Nepal’s position internationally, the Prime Minster has to implement the connectivity agreements he signed with Beijing in 2015, while lifting the relationship with India above the patron-supplicant status.
  • Prime Minster Mr. Oli’s primary preoccupation will be managing the government’s relationship with the opposition.
  • He must reach out to build a working relationship with the NC and the Madhesbaadi plains-based parties, also because hundreds of new laws need to be urgently drafted under the Constitution.
  • He will have his hands full trying to raise employment through tourism, industry, agroforestry and agriculture, ensuring energy self-sufficiency through hydro projects and rescuing the post-earthquake reconstruction effort.
  • The Prime Minister’s immediate challenge, however, has to do with Pushpa Kamal Dahal (‘Prachanda’), his Maoist partner in the Left Alliance.

Khalistan casts shadow over Trudeau visit(The Hindu)

Context:

  • The Khalistan issue, which kept India-Canada ties on ice through three decades from 1980, has re-emerged.

“Khalsa day” parade:

  • The seeds for the current tensions have been sown since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came to power in 2015.
  • A major breaking point came when Mr. Trudeau attended a “Khalsa day” parade organised by one of the more radical gurudwaras in Toronto.
  • At the time, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) made it clear that India’s protest had been taken up with the Canadian government.
  • Among other disturbing issues was the felicitation at the parade of a politician responsible for a resolution in the Ontario assembly that accused India of “genocide” during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, a vote that India had also protested strongly.
  • Issues over the growth of Sikh extremist groups, especially those seeking a “referendum 2020” for the worldwide Sikh diaspora to vote on an “Independent Khalistan”, have been raised several times in the past few years.
  • Another sore point on the current visit has been Mr. Trudeau’s insistence on including Ministers in his cabinet accused of sympathising with the Khalistan movement.

New Zealand seeks clarity on India’s military ambitions(The Hindu)

Context:

  • As India expands its influence in southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean Region, New Zealand’s Chief of Defence Force Lt. Gen. Tim Keating has sought clarity on a probable military component to New Delhi’s ‘Act East’ policy.

New Zealand seeks clarity:

  • New Zealand wants to understand that as India grows, how it intends to grow its influence militarily both regionally and near region.
  • New Zealand wants to know military element in ‘Act East’.
  • Lt. Gen. Keating also queried the objectives of the recently resurrected quadrilateral (Quad) comprising India, Australia, Japan and the U.S.
  • He observed that the Quad need not necessarily be a military agreement at this stage but four large influential nations developing a common policy framework to various opportunities and potential threats in the region.
  • When asked, if New Zealand would be interested in joining the grouping at some point, Lt. Gen. Keating said that there is lot of clarity to be gained about what Quad is.

Maldives president seeks extension to state of emergency(The Hindu)

Context:

The state of emergency in Maldives has been extended by 30 days.

Details:

  • The state of emergency in Maldives has been extended by 30 days after a key parliamentary committee approved President Abdulla Yameen’s request
  • The approval was given to the Decree for State of Emergency submitted to the Parliament by Mr. Yameen during an extraordinary meeting of the National Security Committee of the People’s Majlis
  • A total of 38 MPs voted to accept the decree and forwarded it to the National Security Committee for evaluation.
  • All Opposition MPs boycotted the sitting
  • At least 43 MPs needed to be present in order for the decree to pass

‘Intolerance in India affects Bangladesh’(The Hindu)

Context:

Bangladesh’s Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu has said that religious intolerance in India affects Bangladesh

Details:

  • Mr. Inu has made this remark at a conference for media professionals
  • According to him, Bangladesh and India are unique as the (largest) minority community of India is the majority community of Bangladesh.
  • He added that violence against the minority community in India creates spillover effects in Bangladesh
  • Mr. Inu reminded India that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had delivered on her promises by cracking down on terrorism and urged India to deliver on the pending promises of sharing of Teesta’s waters.
  • He further urged a closer cooperation between the two sides on business and security.

Indian Constitution and Polity:

Raje drops Bill shielding public servants(The Hindu)

Context:

Rajasthan Chief Minister has announced the withdrawal of the Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Bill, 2017

About the Bill:

  • The Bill proposed banning courts from taking up cases against serving and former judges, magistrates and public servants without government sanction.
  • It also proposed to ban the media from naming the public servant involved in such cases until the government allowed it to be investigated.

‘No info from Centre on Naga pact’(The Hindu)

Context:

The Assam government has said that it had not received any communication from the Centre on the Naga Framework Agreement

Details:

  • The Assam government has said that it had not received any official intimation from the Centre on the Naga pact.
  •  The government has asserted that it would not accept the inclusion of the State’s territory in the proposed Nagalim or Greater Nagaland.

About the Naga Framework Agreement

  • The Naga framework Agreement was signed in 2015
  • It was signed by the Centre’s interlocutor for Naga peace talks, RN Ravi and leader of the NSCN (I-M).
  • It aimed at facilitating stronger ties among Nagas across the region, without substantially changing the jurisdictional and administrative authority of neighbouring states.

Plea seeks protection for ECs from removal(The Hindu)

Context:

  • The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre and the Election Commission of India to file their responses on a plea pointing out the vagueness in the procedure for the removal of two Election Commissioners.

Different views:

  • According to the petition this affects the top poll body’s autonomy.
  • A Bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra asked the Centre to file its response.
  • Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal informed the court that he and the government may hold different views on the issue.
  • Thus, the court gave the Centre and the top poll body four weeks to file their replies.

Internal security:

NIA expands Khalistan probe(The Hindu)

Context:

  • The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has expanded its investigation into the revival of the pro-Khalistan movement in Punjab to countries such as the U.K., Australia, the UAE, Italy and Pakistan.

Background:

  • On November 30th 2017, the Home Ministry handed over the probe into the murder of RSS member Ravinder Gosain in Ludhiana to the NIA.
  • The agency said Gosain’s murder and targeted killings of eight others from January 2016 were part of a conspiracy to destabilise Punjab hatched by Sikh extremist elements and others located in various parts of the world.
  • The Punjab police had arrested the accused and were handed over to the NIA for their alleged role in Gosain’s murder.
  • The agency said the accused were asked to target members of the RSS and Hindu organisations.
  • The accused were brainwashed and were incited on religious grounds by their mentors settled abroad.

Foreign funds:

  • The NIA said funds were channelled from foreign countries for execution of these incidents.

11 arrested so far:

  • On February 14, the NIA arrested an accused identified as Parvez, alias Farru, from Meerut in Uttar Pradesh.
  • Parvez provided the weapons in several of the eight incidents committed as part of an international conspiracy whose objective was to destabilize the law and order situation in Punjab and to revive militancy in the State.
  • So far 11 persons have been arrested.

GS:3


Economy:

CBI books head of Rotomac pens for Rs. 3,695 crore default(The Hindu)

Context:

  • The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has booked Rotomac Global Private Limited in an alleged Rs. 3,695 crore intentional loan default case.
  • The FIR was registered days after alleged fraudulent transactions worth Rs. 11,500 crore were detected in the Punjab National Bank.

Background:

  • Since 2008-09, Rotomac and other associated companies had taken a loan of Rs. 2,919 crore from a consortium of banks led by the Bank of India.
  • The other lenders are Bank of Baroda, Indian Overseas Bank, Union Bank of India, Allahabad Bank, Bank of Maharashtra and the Oriental Bank of Commerce.
  • However, it is alleged that the directors cheated the banks by drawing off the funds, in conspiracy with certain bank officials.
  • The agency also alleged that the company had submitted forged and false documents to get the credit facilities from banks.

Punjab to install micro ATMs in co-op institutions across the State(The Hindu)

Context:

  • The Punjab government plans to install micro ATMs in all its 3,535 primary agricultural cooperative societies and district central cooperative banks under its rural financial inclusion plan.

Introduction:

  • NABARD has accepted a proposal sent by the cooperative department to extend the digital transaction facilities to the rural populace and sanctioned 4,545 micro ATMs by financing 90% of the cost of the device.
  • The Punjab State Cooperative Bank was providing credit services to all sections of society since its establishment in 1949 and was now making great strides towards fulfilling the aspirations of its stakeholders, especially tillers and helping hands in all areas such as agriculture, housing, sugar production and dairy.

Purpose:

  • To deliver effective core banking services at the village level.

Benefits:

  • All transaction facilities like balance enquiry checking, cash deposit or withdrawal, fund transfer and remittance could be made through these hand-held devices.
  • Farmers using other banks’ ATMs for Kisan Credit Card purpose could use these micro ATMs at PACSs thereby saving inter-bank transactional costs to be paid to other banks.
  • Customers could use any other bank’s debit card at these locations and will no longer have to search for ATMs or travel long distances.
  • After implementation of these core banking facilities, farmers would be able to get fertilizers and seeds from the nearest PACS by swiping the KCC card at the micro ATMs.
  • These ATMs allow the PACSs and branches to connect to the bank’s core banking solution to authenticate the customer via biometric or PIN on real-time basis.

PM calls for re-skilling existing workforce(The Hindu)

Context:

  • The World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT 2018) or the ‘Olympics of IT’, coming to India for the first time.

Introduction:

  • The inauguration of the event held in Hyderabad, through video-conferencing.
  • The three-day event comprises the Nasscom India Leadership Forum.
  • Earlier, the Prime Minister unveiled FutureSkills platform, a Nasscom initiative to upskill 2 million technology professionals in India.

Purpose:

  • Re-skilling of existing workforce in the backdrop of emergence of new technologies.
  • Skilling citizens for the workplace of the future.

PM calls for re-skilling existing workforce:

  • The Prime Minister said India is the hotspot of digital innovation across all sectors. The country not only has a growing number of innovative entrepreneurs, but is also a growing market for tech innovation. “India is best placed to leverage the power of technology and leap-frog into the future while ensuring empowerment of every citizen.”
  • India will be one of the most tech-friendly population in the world, With over 1 lakh villages linked with optical fibre, 121 crore mobile phones, 120 crore Aadhaar and 50 crore internet users, India is best placed to leverage the power of technology and leap-frog into the future,” he declared.

PM highlighted the following points related to Digital India:

  • Technology has transcended power point presentation and has become an inseparable part of people’s lives.
  • Digital India has graduated beyond being a government initiative to one that has become a way of life.
  • The JAM trinity of combining 320 million bank accounts of poor with Aadhaar and mobile with direct benefits of welfare measures has saved 57,000 crore.
  • Digital India is a journey bringing about digital inclusion for digital empowerment aided by digital infrastructure for digital delivery of services.
  • Technology is becoming enabler of the deeply imbibed Indian philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.
  • Public good technology can deliver lasting prosperity to mankind and sustainable future for the planet.

Govt. seeks RBI view on system faults(The Hindu)

Context:

The Finance Ministry has sought the Reserve Bank’s view on the lapses in the banking system that led to the ₹11,500 crore fraud at the Punjab National Bank

Details:

  • Department of Financial Services has written a letter to the RBI to explain the shortcomings in the system which let the fraud to go undetected for 7 years
  • The letter also seeks the regulator’s advice on what system and processes need to be updated so that such frauds are prevented
  • The Ministry has also sought RBI’s view on failure of auditors to detect fraud that has been going on since 2011.

Consider privatising public sector banks: FICCI to govt.(The Hindu)

Context:

Industry body FICCI has called for privatisation of public sector banks (PSBs)

Details:

  • Recently, FICCI President has said that the government should consider privatising public sector banks
  • He added that the recapitalisation efforts by the government have had little effect on improving their health
  • The statement follows the government announcement last October of a ₹2.11 lakh crore recapitalisation plan for PSBs, of which ₹88,000 crore is scheduled for the current financial year.
  • He further said that the recapitalisation of PSBs alone is not a permanent solution and will not be effective unless the inherent issues related to governance, productivity; risk management, talent, customer service, etc. are resolved
  • Previously, Chief Economic Adviser had also stressed the need to shrink unproductive public sector banks and move forward with increasing private sector participation in the banking sector.

Bank bureau stares at uncertain future(The Hindu)

Context:

  • The Banks Board Bureau (BBB) is facing an uncertain future with the tenure of its members coming to an end on March 31, 2018.

Banks Board Bureau (BBB):

  • The Banks Board Bureau (BBB) was set up in April 2016, under the government’s Indradanush programme to reform public sector banks.
  • The BBB was seen as a step taken towards reforming the boards of public sector banks.
  • The term of all the members will come to end on 31 March, 2018.
  • The government is yet to communicate if the terms will be extended or a new board will be formed.

Loopholes in the management of BBB:

  • The government was supposed to distance itself from the appointment process of top management and board members of PSBs.
  • It is a function that could be performed by the BBB.
  • However, in practise, the BBB was involved in shortlisting and interviewing candidates — the final appointment was always made by the government.
  • There were instances of delays in appointment by the government despite the BBB recommending it.
  • The issue of governance and role of the board in public sector banks came to the fore again after the ₹11,500 crore PNB scam broke out.

Rajasthan to come up with vision document on nutrition(The Hindu)

Context:

National Nutrition Mission will be implemented in 24 of the 33 districts of Rajasthan

What is in news?

  • Rajasthan is gearing up for implementation of the National Nutrition Mission with a State Vision Document-2022
  • The document is being formulated to ensure convergence of work by all stakeholders for improving nutrition levels of women and children and reducing undernutrition and low birth weight by 2% each year.

About National Nutrition Mission (NNM):

  • More than 10 crore people in the country are expected to benefit from the NNM
  • The Mission has set the target to reduce stunting from 38.4% as per the National Family Health Survey-4 to 25% by 2022.
  • It will cover 235 districts in 2018-19 and the remaining districts in the next two years.

About NNM in Rajasthan

  • A multi-sectoral State consultation, “Nourishing Rajasthan-2022”, has thrown light on the strategies for addressing the issue of under-nutrition and stunting.
  • The NNM will be implemented in implemented in 24 of the 33 districts in Rajasthan
  • The 24 districts in the State have been selected on the basis of their previous track record and a number of indicators as well as empirical evidence which depicts a high degree of malnutrition among women and children.
  • The nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions will be made in Rajasthan in the realms of women and child development, health, food and public distribution, sanitation, drinking water, rural development, livelihoods, education and agriculture.
  • The UN body would extend help and render assistance at all levels to make NNM a success

What are the key system-level barriers in Rajasthan which need to be addressed?

  • Lack of knowledge among the frontline health workers,
  • Poor use of communication and counselling aids
  • Limited efforts for complementary feeding to newborn babies

Fixing delivery: on direct benefit transfer in fertilizers(The Hindu Opinion)

Context:

Efficiencies of the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) in fertilisers would be increasingly visible as the pilot project expands to more states

About the project:

  • In 2017, committee set up by NITI Aayog decided to roll out the pilot on DBT in fertilizers in 16 districts.
  • Since then DBT in fertilizers has been rolled out in 19 States and Union Territories
  • In another three months, DBT in fertilizers is expected to expand its footprint in the entire country.
  • These initiatives have been supplemented with allied processes set in motion by the Department of Fertilizers including appointment of 24 State DBT co-coordinators, and organising about 4,500 training sessions across India.
  • Training videos are also placed on YouTube, and the comprehensive redress system in place is being expanded to a multilingual help desk.

The process of Direct Benefit Transfer in fertilizers:

  • Each time a farmer purchases fertilizers from a dealer, he/she presses his or her thumb at a point-of-sale (PoS) device and an authenticated receipt comes out giving details of the purchase and subsidy to be paid by the government directly to the manufacturer.
  • The records of dealers are automatically updated and payment is made digitally or in cash

Advantages of DBT in Fertilisers

  • Restricts diversion,
  • Prevents leakages,
  • Brings about greater transparency, accountability and efficiency

Challenges faced:

  • An important issue had been connectivity. However, this has been addressed through flexibility in choosing the connectivity option (Wifi, LAN, PSTN) or use of external antenna to improve signal strength, other options have also been considered.
  • Another important issue had been developing the systems and sensitising all stakeholders to migrate to the new system
  • Currently, a major issue is of some dealer attrition, which is probably on account of declining margins and reduced possibility of diversion or sale at a higher price.

Surveys on pilot districts

  • An independent evaluation agency appointed by NITI Aayog conducted two rounds of surveys of the pilot districts to get ground-level feedback.
  • In the latest round 5,659 farmers and 427 retailers across 14 districts in addition to government officials and stakeholders in six States were surveyed

Findings:

  • The Aadhaar authentication strike rate increased to as high as 97% in three attempts;
  • 85% of farmers received transaction receipts, and
  • 98% were charged the same amount as mentioned in the receipt;
  • The grievance redress mechanism has improved and 79% retailers are satisfied
  • Despite initial challenges, a majority of farmers (and retailers) prefer the DBT system.

Way ahead

  • Innovative solutions such as making the application device agnostic so that retailers can use desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc. to run the application are expected to help.
  • The revamped toll-free number which will soon allow conversations in regional languages is a boost.
  • An important issue which needs to be addressed is reducing the waiting time for farmers purchasing fertilizers
  • While Aadhaar is the preferred form of identification of buyers, other forms of identification may also be used.
  • The broad and overriding goal should be to ensure that under no circumstances should any farmer be denied or refused the opportunity to purchase fertilizers.

How regulation widens inequality(The Hindu Opinion)

Context:

  • The government regulation is must to end the domination of big businesses and encourage the growth of smaller ones.

Why a government regulation is important?

  • To deal with the unintended effects of entry regulation for new businesses
  •   The bridge the gap between big and small businesses.
  •  Such sentiments are common when it comes to the tech industry which is dominated by just a few large companies.

Harmful impact of entry regulations on income inequality:

  • A recent paper, warns that regulators may actually be widening, instead of narrowing, the gap between big and small businesses through their rules.
  •  In “Barriers to prosperity: the harmful impact of entry regulations on income inequality”, published in Public Choice, study the impact that entry regulations have on income inequality.
  •  The authors use World Bank data regarding entry regulations in different countries and compare it to various measures of inequality to gauge the relationship between the variables.

Findings of the paper:

  • Countries with greater barriers against the entry of new businesses also witness greater levels of inequality.
  • In terms of numbers, one standard deviation increase in the number of procedures to start a business causes an increase of 7.2% in the share of income that accrues to the top decile of income earners and a 12.9% increase in the country’s Gini coefficient.

Problem areas:

  • Entry regulations like licensing requirements, which are usually justified as necessary to uphold the common good, can make it harder for new businesses that are smaller in size to enter and compete against incumbent giants.
  • This drastically reduces the number of opportunities available for the less fortunate to climb up the economic ladder by competing against existing large companies.

Advantages:

  • Entry regulations also make it easier for rich businessmen to stay on top for longer than they would otherwise.
  • With the help of regulations, large businesses can afford to be complacent about the threat of new companies challenging their position of dominance.
  • Big businesses that are keen to avoid the threat of competition from smaller players are generally supportive of the idea of the government regulating the entry of new players into their industry.

Environment:

NGT seeks report on Ganga rejuvenation(The Hindu)

Context:

  • The National Green Tribunal has sought a compliance report on the steps taken by the Centre, U.P. and Uttarakhand governments to clean river Ganga in the stretch between Gomukh and Unnao.

Introduction:

  • A Bench, headed by Justice Jawad Rahim, directed the National Mission for Clean Ganga and the Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam to submit a report on the number of drains joining river from Kanpur to the U.P. border.
  • The matter was posted for next hearing on March 12.
  • The Tribunal had earlier, in a detailed judgement, said the government has spent over Rs. 7,000 crore in two years to clean the Ganga which still remains a “serious environmental issue”.
  •  The tribunal also imposed a complete prohibition on disposal of municipal solid waste, e-waste or bio-medical waste on the floodplains or into the river and its tributaries.
  • The Tribunal reiterated its earlier order of ban on mechanical mining in Ganga and said “no in-stream mechanical mining is permitted and even the mining on the floodplain should be semi-mechanical and preferably more manual”.

No-development zones:

  • The green panel, in a detailed judgement, had passed a slew of directions to rejuvenate Ganga, declaring as ‘No Development Zone’ an area of 100 metres from the edge of the river between Haridwar and Unnao and prohibiting dumping of waste within 500 metres from the river.
  • No-development zones are areas where no construction, including commercial or residential buildings, can come up.

Indices of a decent society(The Hindu Opinion)

Context:

  • The recent report that ranks India 177 out of 180 countries in the Environmental Performance Index is not just an indicator of pollution but is as much an indicator of our indifference.

How did we arrive here?

  • It is not just about pollution of nature but also of our society.
  • There has been far more resistance to the environmental effects of modern life, such as the attempts to ban plastic or conserve water, there has been very limited awareness of the impact of the pollution of the social sphere.

Pollution of our society

  • The pollution of our society is much like that of the natural world: it happens silently and seemingly without our control.
  • One could even perhaps say that it is the prior pollution of the social world that creates natural pollution.
  • After all, some scholars have been claiming for quite some time that nature is already social.
  • There is no pure nature that is available to us, and our ideas of nature are most often socially constructed.
  •  Pollution of nature is as much the pollution of the social and vice versa.
  • The breakdown of basic social decency or the incitement of hatred about others should not just be seen as social aberrations but as pollution of our society.
  •  Like the air quality index or the water quality index, there should be indices of a decent society.
  • Something like a ‘social indifference index’ can gauge social pollution and we shouldn’t be surprised if India ranks among the bottom in this category.

Social practices:

  • An effective way to tackle the pollution of the natural world is to recognise that this pollution is symptomatic of social problems also.
  • If garbage is a worry, it is as much our social practices that make it an environmental problem.
  • If our air is so badly polluted, it is as much due to the indifference of governance as the exhaust caused by thousands of vehicles.

Unthinking development:

  • One of the greatest drivers of natural pollution is unthinking development in our country.
  • Unthinking development is also an important driver of social pollution.
  • Silently accepting toxic behaviour in our society is very similar to accepting products and technologies without even thinking about what we do.
  • It is the creation of an artificial chasm between the natural and the social that makes us forget that the pollution of nature is a reflection of the pollution of our society.

Way ahead:

  •  Our air or water quality index will improve when we attack social pollution in conjunction with natural pollution.
  • The cleanliness of a nation is really not very different from the cleanliness of the natural environment.
  • Unless we deal with social pollution as stringent as environmental pollution, it will be a sorry world that we leave behind for our children.
  • Swachh Bharat needs to be as much about cleaning socially polluted ideas and practices as it is about cleaning our streets and toilets.

Science and Technology:

Vaccines can prevent TB infections in adolescents(The Hindu)

Context:

  •   A clinical trial has provided encouraging new evidence that TB vaccines can prevent sustained infections in high-risk adolescents.

Introduction:

  • The results will be announced at the 5th Global Forum on TB Vaccines in New Delhi.
  • The study was conducted to evaluate the safety and immunogenicity of the vaccine regimens, as well as their ability to prevent initial and sustained TB infections among healthy adolescents in the Western Cape Province of South Africa.

Rationale behind this trial:

  • The result from this novel trial design will provide significant scientific benefit to the field in understanding TB infection, and based on this positive signal.

Subunit vaccine

  • In the Phase 2 trial conducted in South Africa, revaccination with the Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine significantly reduced sustained TB infections in adolescents.
  • An experimental vaccine candidate, H4:IC31, also reduced sustained infections, although not at statistically significant levels.
  • The trend observed for H4:IC31 is the first time a subunit vaccine has shown any indication of ability to protect against TB infection.

World Health Organisation data:

  • TB is the world’s leading cause of death from an infectious disease
  • According to the World Health Organisation, about one-third of the world’s population has latent TB infection, which means people have been infected by TB bacteria but are not (yet) ill with the disease and cannot transmit the disease.
  • People infected with TB bacteria have a lifetime risk of falling ill with TB of 10%.
  • People ill with TB can infect 10-15 other people through close contact over the course of a year.
  • Without proper treatment, 45% of HIV-negative people with TB on average and nearly all HIV-positive people with TB will die.
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