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GS: 1


Society and women related issues:

Saving lives(The Hindu Opinion)

Context:

According to the recent Unicef Report “Every Child Alive”, India, with nearly 600,000 newborn deaths each year, accounts for a quarter of the global burden of neonatal deaths. It needs political will for India to bring down its shamefully high newborn mortality rate

Highlights of the Report:

  • Of the 184 countries, which the report covers, India ranks 31st with 25.4 neonatal mortality rate (per 1,000 live births)
  • India ranks behind poorer countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal and Rwanda.
  • Despite being ranked 12th, India has shown impressive progress in reduction of under-five mortality, nearly meeting its (Millennium Development Goal) MDG target, with a 66% reduction in under-five deaths during 1990 to 2015.
  • The number of annual under-five deaths in India has gone below one million for the first time in 2016.

Chief causes of neonatal mortality rate:

  • Premature birth
  • Asphyxia during delivery

Suggestions to prevent newborn deaths:

  • According to the report, affordable and quality healthcare solutions should be there for every mother and newborn.

It includes:

  • Steady supply of clean water and electricity at health facilities,
  • presence of a skilled health attendant during birth,
  •  Disinfecting the umbilical cord,
  • Breastfeeding within the first hour after birth
  • Skin-to-skin contact between the mother and child
  • Piece of cloth to keep a baby warm

What can be understood from the rankings?

  • Rankings clearly indicate that financial resources are not the biggest constraint in improving this health indicator; political will is.
  • According to the report while average newborn mortality in low-income nations is nine times that of high-income ones, several countries do not follow the trend
  • For example, Sri Lanka and Ukraine, which like India are categorised as lower-middle income economies, had a neonatal mortality of around 5/1000 in 2016.
  • In comparison, the U.S., a high-income economy, did only slightly better with a rate of 3.7/1000.
  • On the other hand, Rwanda, which falls in the lowest income group of less than $1,005 per capita, has brought down its mortality rates from 41/1000 in the 1990s to 16.5 through programmes targeted at poor and vulnerable mothers.

Way ahead:

  • States like Kerala and Tamil Nadu show that newborn deaths can be brought to fewer than 15 per 1000 in Indian settings.
  • Programmes such as the Janani Suraksha Yojana must expand its reach in laggard States like Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
  • Factors outside the healthcare system, like female literacy rates, have great potential to make a big difference to healthcare-seeking behaviour.

Game-changer in quiet villages of Solapur(The Hindu)

Context:

  • It is not before less than two years that woman in Waluj village of Mohol Taluka in Solapur district, 400 km from Mumbai, knew what a gram sabha was.

The turning point:

  • Before the onset of 2017 summer, over 50 women marched to the gram sabha demanding job cards so they could get work under the Employment Guarantee Scheme.
  • The women also pressured the gram panchayat to provide filtered water to all the households in the village.
  • The gram panchayat had never seen such collective activism before and within a month, all 50 protesters received job cards.
  • The women formed self help groups (SHGs) under Umed, a State-led initiative under the Maharashtra State Rural Livelihood Mission (SRLM), which in turn is part of National Rural Livelihood Mission.
  • The programme aims to empower women by engaging them in innovative agricultural practices and giving them a steady source of income.
  • Government officials at the village and block level mobilise women to avail of finance for their homes, farms or even small businesses.
  • Women began to cultivate over 20 types of produce, including vegetables, cereals, pulses and fruits.
  • Women have started an information centre at the village where organic farming techniques are taught to everybody who visits it.
  • They  now work along with the local gram panchayat, whose members guide farmers to visit the information centre to learn about organic farming.

GS: 2


International relations:

Canada, India red-faced over invite to Khalistan activist(The Hindu).

Context:

Visiting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office and the Modi government has faced a major embarrassment after it emerged that a convicted terrorist and Khalistan activist from Canada had been part of the delegation’s events in Mumbai and was personally invited to a reception by the Canadian High Commission in Delhi.

What has happened?

  • Photographs of Jaspal Atwal with a Canadian minister and wife of the Canadian PM have rekindled the debate on Justin Trudeau’s stand on pro-Khalistan movement
  • The controversy surfaced after photographs of the invitation to the event in honour of Mr. Trudeau at “Canada House” in Delhi on 22nd February as well as the event on 20th February in Mumbai appeared in Canadian media.
  • Calling the invitation a mistake, Mr. Trudeau said it had been sent by a member of the Canadian parliament.
  • The Ministry of External Affairs said it was inquiring into how the Indian High Commission in Canada had issued Mr. Atwal a visa.

About Jaspal Atwal:

  • Jaspal Atwal is an Indian-origin businessman with ties to the Khalistan movement
  • He was formerly associated with a banned Sikh-separatist outfit- International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF), thought to be responsible, along with the Babbar Khalsa, for the 1985 mid-air bombing of Air India flight 182, killing 329 persons.
  • Jaspal Atwal was one of the four men convicted for shooting of Malkiat Singh Sidhu , a minister in Punjab in 1986 on the Vancouver island
  • Though the verdict was overturned, Mr. Atwal admitted to the parole board that he was the shooter that day

Talk like a South Asian(The Hindu Opinion)

Context:

  • Watching South Asia, one senses India lacks of a sense of neighbourhood and region as a component of our imagination.

Explanation:

  • The similarities between India and Nepal are immense, and yet India lacks any comprehension of Nepal’s fierce sense of itself.
  • India repeatedly displays a lack of sense of the diversities around which need a new sense of unity.
  • It issues warnings to the Maldives or Nepal, threatening them not to be seduced by the Chinese imperative, but it does little to sustain the reciprocity and autonomy of the relationship.

Time for renewal:

  • In the South Asian context, India must start inventing and reinventing the neighbour every day
  • Firstly, it has to invent a South Asia which is civilisational, reciprocal, local in its diversity.
  • One of the most exciting of these regional ideas was the creation of the South Asian University (SAU), with a faculty from all South Asian countries.
  • What India lacks is a South Asian theory of culture and knowledge which should anchor this imagination.
  • Secondly, the availability of eccentricity as dissent, alternatives, minorities has to be reworked constitutionally so the focus is not on trite obsessions with India-Pakistan but a genuine exploration of voices and theories.
  • Thirdly, diversity becomes the next axis of the South Asia imagination.
  • One has to allow for tribal, ethnic, nomadic and pastoral groups moving freely without being hounded by the panopticon called the boundary.
  • Fourthly, India needs a movement from muscular diplomacy, which we are poor at.
  • Democracy in India cannot exist without the extension of the democratic imagination to the region.

Bilateral trade must benefit poor: Justin Trudeau(The Hindu)

Context:

  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said while the focus of his country’s relations with India has shifted from aid in the 1950s to trade today, it was important to ensure that greater bilateral trade and investment benefits all, especially the poor.

Diversity spurs innovation:

  • Terming democracy and diversity as common factors for India and Canada, the Canadian Prime Minister said that if we want to progress as a community, we should not just tolerate diversity but champion it.
  • Diversity, including of religion and gender, enriches us, make our communities stronger and more resilient.
  • According to him, diversity opens societies to new ways of thinking and spurs innovation.
  • Canada and India need to capitalise on people-to-people ties, and leverage business and knowledge networks.
  • To improve business ties, Prime Minster Justin Trudeau also referred to the benefits of Canada’s ‘startup visa program’ to start businesses in Canada, and its ‘global skills strategy’ to help firms recruit and bring talent to Canada at a short notice.

India, Canada hold strategic dialogue(The Hindu)

Context:

  • Ahead of India-Canada bilateral summit, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland held a strategic dialogue here on covering a wide range of bilateral issues.

Area of discussions:

  • The two leaders “had wide ranging discussions on strengthening relations in trade and investment, security and cyber security, energy, people-to-people contacts and other relevant bilateral and regional issues.

Frosty ties

  • Ties between New Delhi and Ottawa have been frosty in recent times as Canada is being seen as offering a platform to separatists demanding an independent Khalistan.

India is ignoring facts, says Maldives(The Hindu)

Context:

  • India’s public statements regarding the suspension of democracy in the Maldives have ignored facts and ground realities, said the government of President Abdulla Yameen.

Why is it in news?

  • The public statements issued by the Government of India.. ignore the facts and ground realities with regard to the ongoing political developments in the Maldives.
  • The assertion by India that the extension of the state of Emergency by the People’s Majlis was unconstitutional is a clear distortion of facts which ignore the Constitution and Laws of the Maldives.
  • The Government of Maldives said the declaration of Emergency was backed by Article 253 of the Constitution, which empowers the President of the nation to protect national security with suspension of democracy.
  • The Supreme Court had cleared the validity of the Emergency in its ruling on 21 February, 2018.

Pakistan moves against terrorists “superficial, reversible”: U.S(The Hindu)

Context:

  • The Donald Trump administration is not satisfied with the measures taken by Pakistan in recent months to crack down on terrorist groups.

What is in news?

  • The U.S is concerned about tensions between India and Pakistan, “two nuclear armed states,” the onus is on Pakistan to create conditions conducive for talks and improvement in relations.
  • The Trump administration has zero tolerance towards terrorism, and terrorist sanctuaries inside Pakistan.
  • The U.S has not seen that determination in Pakistan, in really going after terrorist leaders that operate freely on their territory.

On India-Pakistan ties:

  • There is potential for things to escalate very quickly between India and Pakistan.
  • And there are concerns about terrorist groups that continue to function inside Pakistan, and have ability to conduct terrorist attacks inside India.
  • But until Pakistan really demonstrates seriousness in cracking down on LeT or Jaish-e-Mohammad, there is not going to be that conducive atmosphere for any dialogue or talks to take place.
  • There is probably some hesitation in India about reaching out and the potential impact or backlash to any effort to reach out to Pakistan.

Financial Action Task Force (FATF):

  • The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) plenary in Paris was yet to take a decision on action against Islamabad on the question of terrorism financing.
  • FATF is aimed at ensuring that the countries are implementing the statutes and the laws that are necessary to counter terrorist financing, money laundering , etc.

Indian Constitution and Polity:

Two Benches refer land acquisition cases to CJI(The Hindu)

Context:

A fight between two Benches of the Supreme Court has landed before the Chief Justice of India for final settlement

What has happened?

  • A three-judge Supreme Court Bench led by Justice Madan B. Lokur criticised another Bench for “tinkering with judicial discipline”.
  • Justice Lokur’s Bench had found fault with a judgment delivered by another Bench of three judges led by Justice Arun Mishra in a land acquisition case on February 8.
  • At the centre of the dispute is the question whether a three-judge Bench can overrule the judgment of another three-judge Bench.

About the February 8th Judgement:

  • The February 8 judgment delivered by Justice Mishra’s Bench concerned compensation paid to landowners, mostly farmers, when their lands were acquired.
  • In their majority opinion, Justices Mishra’s Bench had termed a 2014 judgment delivered by another three-judge Bench of then Chief Justice R.M. Lodha, Justices Madan B. Lokur and Justice Kurian as per incuriam. That is, they held that the 2014 judgment was rendered without care for facts and the law.

Cannot annul marriage between adults: SC)(The Hindu)

Context:

  • A Bench, led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, defined the limits of the court’s jurisdiction in the Hadiya case.

Introduction:

  • Ms. Hadiya, a 26-year-old homoeopathy student, had converted to Islam and then married a Muslim.
  • The Kerala High Court had annulled Ms. Hadiya’s marriage to Shafin Jahan
  • Her father, Asokan K.M., alleged that she had been indoctrinated by a “well-oiled network,” involved in recruiting Indian citizens and trafficking them abroad to strife-prone countries like Syria to work as “sex slaves”.

Courts jurisdiction:

  • Courts cannot annul marriages between two consenting adults or resort to a “roving enquiry” on whether the married relationship between a man and a woman is based on consent, the Supreme Court said on Thursday.
  • Justice D.Y. Chandrachud countered that if there was trafficking of citizens involved, the govt. had the power to stop it on the basis of credible information. If citizens were travelling abroad to be part of a manifest illegality, then too, the government had the authority to stop them. “But in personal law, we cannot annul marriages because she did not marry the right person,”

SC against disclosure of IAS prelims marks(The Hindu)

Context:

The Supreme Court has held that details of marks — raw and scaled — scored in the Civil Services Exam cannot be “mechanically” disclosed under Right to Information.

Background:

  • The decision came on an appeal filed by the Union Public Service Commission against a Delhi High Court order to divulge the marks on the basis of a petition filed by unsuccessful candidates of the Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination, 2010 (CSP).
  • The petitioners had sought the disclosure of marks (raw and scaled) awarded to them in the CSP 2010. They wanted information on cut-off marks for each subject, scaling methodology, model answers and the results of all candidates.

Supreme Court’s Judgement:

  • The Court has held that marks in Civil Services Exam cannot be directed to be furnished mechanically
  • The apex court has observed that the need for transparency and accountability championed by the Right to Information Act should be balanced by the requirement of confidentiality of sensitive information.

An umbrella for the consumer(The Hindu Opinion)

Context:

  • The Consumer Protection Bill, 2018 is a step towards providing ordinary consumers some protection of their interests and effective administration and settlement of disputes.

Definition of consumer:

  • The pending Bill, which will replace the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, defines the “consumer” as a person who buys any good or avails a service for a consideration.
  • The Bill covers transactions, both online and offline, and includes tele-shopping and multi-level marketing.

“Consumer rights”

  • The definition of “consumer rights” in the Bill exhaustively covers the right to be protected against the marketing of goods, products or services that are hazardous to life and property.
  • It also focuses on the right to be informed about the quality, quantity, potency, purity, standard and price of goods, products or services, as the case may be, so as to protect a consumer against unfair trade practices.
  • It also includes the right to be assured, wherever possible, of access to a variety of goods, products or services at competitive prices.
  • It involves the right to seek redress against unfair or restrictive trade practices, or unscrupulous exploitation of consumers.

Salient features of the Bill:

  • The Bill’s salient features include establishment of an executive agency to be known as the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) to promote, protect and enforce the rights of the consumers.
  • The Bill proposes to empower the CCPA to investigate, recall, refund and impose penalties.
  •  The Bill provides for product liability action in cases of personal injury, death or property damage caused by or resulting from any product, and mediation as an alternate dispute resolution, making the process of dispute adjudication simpler and quicker.
  • The CCPA is also empowered to deal with unfair trade practices and misleading advertisements.
  • The CCPA is to be headed by a Chief Commissioner.
  • The Bill seeks to set up a monitoring cell, to be constituted by the president of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission to oversee the functioning of the State consumer commissions from the administrative point of view.
  • The Bill provides for a State government to establish a consumer mediation cell to be attached to each of the district commissions and the State commissions.
  • The Bill proposes that the Centre establishes a consumer mediation cell to be attached to the National Commission.

GS: 3


Economy:

The next innovation(The Hindu Opinion)

Context:

  • The potential of blockchain to bring about substantial economic transformation is the mirror image of the way the Internet revolutionised commerce, media and advertising in the previous decade.

Blockchain:

  • Blockchain can be described as a way for people to share the extra space and computational power in their computers to create a global super-computer that is accessible to everyone.

Usage of blockchain:

  • The blockchain lets people who are part of this super-computer perform functions such as verification of transactions and contracts, and the updating and maintenance of these records in the form of trustworthy ledgers, tasks that are normally reserved for established intermediary organisations such as banks and legal firms, and be rewarded for it.
  • This core feature of the blockchain creates a space for trusted transactions in the digital space that have never been possible before.
  • Blockchain technology could drastically cut down, or even eliminate, these transaction charges by replacing the intermediaries, thereby creating hundreds of billions, or even trillions, of yearly savings.
  • Understanding this cost-saving potential, several international banks and state-owned banks in Russia, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have started working on blockchain-powered financial solutions.

Way ahead:

  • Blockchain applications could be further extended to sectors such as insurance, law, real estate and digital art.
  • It could be used to further strengthen our national institutions, including the judiciary and the Election Commission.
  • India should effectively channel its technical human capital surplus to position itself as one of the pioneers during this upcoming wave of innovation.

DoT’s plan to spur synergy among 7 PSUs(The Hindu)

Context:

  • The government unveiled a ‘strategic plan’ to enable seven state-owned companies under the Department of Telecom (DoT) to work closely with an aim of promoting greater operational synergy among them.

Introduction:

  • These PSUs will also look at pooling in resources to address new business opportunities in Digital India, Smart City and Internet of things, and develop mechanism for sharing of revenues and expenses.
  • The plan also includes effective utilization of human resources as well as land and building.

Action plan:

  • The action plan covers MTNL, BSNL, Indian Telephone Industries (ITI), Centre for Development of Telematics (CDOT), Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd. (TCIL), Testing and Certification of Telecom Equipments (TEC) and BharatNet (BBNL).
  • Under the plan, government has identified specific areas where teams will work on including manpower, settlement of legal issues and utilisation of vacant space.
  • However, there were no plans to merge BSNL and MTNL for now.
  • MTNL shares rose 7.78% to 24.25 per share while the ITI scrip climbed 2.13% to 126.90 on the BSE.
  • The strategic plan, finalised after several discussions between all stakeholders, entails effective utilisation of human resources, optimum use of vacant space and promoting ‘Make in India’.

Training manpower

  • Some units have excess manpower whereas others face a shortage.
  •  Under the plan, the Centre intended to train and redeploy manpower.
  • The strategic roadmap will also cover other areas such as standards and certification, and preparing to tap opportunities in areas like 5G and Internet of Things.

Environment:

Planning for electric mobility(The Hindu Opinion)

Context:

  • The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, published by the peer- reviewed Lancet medical journals in October 2017, attributed to air pollution an estimated 6.5 million premature deaths globally, with 1.1 million being from India.

World Health Organisation’s urban air quality database:

  • In 2014, the World Health Organisation’s urban air quality database had found four Indian cities to be among the world’s 10 most polluted.
  • The database also placed 10 Indian cities in the 20 worst list.

Reasons for India’s deteriorating air quality:

  • There are multiple reasons for India’s deteriorating air quality.
  • In urban India, emissions from motor vehicles are among the prime reasons.
  • The challenge of rising vehicular pollution in Indian cities.

Push for electric mobility:

  • From 2030, India would completely shift to using electric vehicles (EVs).
  • The push for electric mobility was backed by the government think-tank, NITI Aayog.
  •  NITI Aayog has estimated that the nation can save up to 4 lakh crore by rapidly adopting EVs.
  • It will help in achieving India’s ambitious renewable energy plan.

India needs to address fundamental issues:

  • The NITI Aayog lays stress on the need for a robust action plan to move towards electric mobility by 2030, India needs to address five fundamental issues immediately.

1-      Lead actor:

  •  EVs, involve several actors at the national, State and city levels, respectively.  It needs multiple ministries as well as national institutes such as NITI Aayog.
  • Since the initial EV revolution would predominantly be an urban one, State and city-level players need to be involved so as to address several technical and infrastructural needs.
  • Coordination between all three is crucial in driving the EV agenda.

2-   Figuring out the best mode forward:  

  • China has focussed on the use of electric buses as a catalyst for EV penetration.
  • It is the largest electric bus manufacturer in the world, with most in use in the country.
  • In 2016 about 80,000 electric buses were added to China’s roads.
  • The Netherlands, has captured the EV market using a simple yet well-crafted strategy of creating charging infrastructure and encouraging investment in charging technology by providing incentives to EV buyers.
  • Netherlands has the densest charging infrastructure in the world and is a major exporter of this technology.
  • These two case studies show that sustained growth is possible only due to positive economic impacts of EVs.
  • India is today the largest manufacturer and exporter of two-wheelers and auto-rickshaws.

3-   Battery conundrum

  • India does not produce lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries currently, and companies making battery packs are dependent almost exclusively on imports from China.
  • This is a cost-saving strategy as setting up a cell manufacturing unit in India would be expensive.
  • Accelerating EV use in India should be linked to the “Make in India” goal and domestic battery production.
  • Investment is required for research and development in battery-making and exploring alternative technologies.

4-      Charging infrastructure.

  • EV charging is more than just using electricity.
  •  It involves exchange of information requiring a communication protocol.
  • There is no unique or single-charging technology for EVs.
  • The three major EV users, China, Japan and the European Union, have their own charging technologies which are often conflicting and not interchangeable.
  • The absence of a standard global infrastructure is a major deterrent for EV penetration in India, as creating infrastructure can be cost-intensive. For this, the government needs to select or develop appropriate charging technology that avoids multiplicity and reduces the cost of infrastructure, while making it convenient and safe for users.

Jobs and economic impact:

  • India is the world’s fourth largest fifth auto market, where over 25 million motor vehicles are produced.
  • The sector is estimated to provide direct and indirect employment to about three crore people and accounts for 7.1% of the nation’s GDP.
  • The industry is estimated to grow to $300 billion in annual revenue by 2026, creating 65 million additional jobs, and contributing over 12% to the GDP.

Conclusion:

EVs have the potential to disrupt the mobility ecosystem, and, if implemented well, could have a positive impact on the economy as well as the urban environment. India, however, needs a road map, with timelines, processes, well-researched impact studies, bold initiatives and robust investments in technological research to turn its EV dream into reality.

A thorough qualitative and quantitative estimation of the new jobs the EV sector will create would go a long way in negating apprehensions and securing the pathway for EV technology and use.

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