Mains Test Series


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GS 2

India, Seychelles talk of ‘mutual welfare’

News:

  1. India and Seychelles signed six agreements on the sideline of Seychelles President  Danny Faure’s visit to India.

Important facts:

  1. Both sides agreed to work on Assumption Island project, which was last week refused by Seychelle’s Parliament. This project would give India a strategic advantage in the Indian Ocean Region.
  2. Both sides stressed on the following initiatives for strategically located country.

a) India announced USD 100 million credits to Seychelles for augmenting its defence capabilities

c) Both nations have convergence of views on the geo-strategic importance of the Indian Ocean Region.

d) Both nations would intensify cooperation to carry out hydrographical studies of the maritime region and declare exchange of necessary oceanic maps between two sides.

e) India also gifted a Dornier aircraft to Seychelles

f) India is ready to finance three civilian infrastructure projects in Seychelles under special grant.

g) Both sides sealed six agreements including one that will twin Panjim in Goa with Victoria of Seychelles.

Seychelles

Assumption Island:

  •  Assumption Island is a small island in the outer island of Seychelles north of Madagascar
  • In 2018, Seychelles and India signed an agreement to build and operate a joint military facility on a portion of the island..
  • The deal for an Indian military base in Seychelles was declared ‘dead’ by the Island’s opposition party.
  •  The plans for an Indian military base in Seychelles stirred up public protests by activists who believe that the islands must stay away from the brewing India-China regional conflict

 

Centre may miss NRC deadline

News:

  1. Assam likely to miss deadline for publication of remaining draft of National Register of Citizens (NRC).

Important facts:

2.The extended deadline is from June 30 to July 8.

3.Deadline extension was demanded because State is affected by floods.

4.The Registrar General of India will be responsible for publication of final list to segregate Indian citizens from who illegally entered the state from Bangladesh after March 25, 1971.

5.Those names that do not appear in the list cease to be Assamese citizens.

6.The claim for such cases would be held at Foreigners Tribunal.

 

7.There are around 100 such tribunals in the state.

8.The centre will provide more armed police forces to Assam as the deadline for the final draft nears.

National Register of Citizens(NRC):

  • NRC contains names of Indian citizens of Assam.
  • The NRC was prepared in 1951 after the Census of 1951.
  • The NRC updation of 2014-16 across Assam includes the names of those persons who appear in the NRC 1951 or in any of the Electoral Rolls till 1971.

Eligibility criteria for inclusion in NRC:

  • Persons included in the 1951 census
  • Persons on the Electoral Rolls up to midnight 24 March 1971
  • Descendants of the above-mentioned persons.
  • Persons who came to Assam on or after 1 January 1966 but before 25 March 1971 and registered themselves in accordance to the rules made by the Central Government with the Foreigners Registration Regional Officer (FRRO).
  • Those who have not been declared as illegal migrants or foreigners by the authority

 

Erdoğan’s day

News:

  1. Tayyip Erdogan’s recent re-election as President of Turkey

Important facts:

  1. The elections were held in a state of emergency, imposed in July 2016 following a coup attempt.
  2. The president will acquire the seeping executive powers given to the presidency through last year’s referendum.
  3. One presidential candidate, Selahattin Demirtaş of the pro-Kurdish Peoples Democratic Party (HDP), contested from prison.
  4. The outcome from his election is expected, is a big setback to the secularist republican people’s party, the main opposition.
  5. His victory is likely to see Turkey continuing with its belligerent role in the West Asian neighbourhood.
  6. A stable, democratic and pluralist Turkey is essential in a neighbourhood that continues to be blighted by ethnically driven civil wars.

 

GS 3

An unequal platter

Article:

  1. Soumitra Ghosh, Tata Institute of Social Science, discusses how Maharashtra is a classic case of a lack of development with high level of malnutrition among children.

Important Analysis:

  1. Maharashtra being India’s richest state, is suffering from high level of malnutrition among children in the tribal belts.
  2. Despite states per capita income has doubled since 2004, its nutritional status has not made commensurate progress.
  3. The National Family Health Survey(NFHS) 2015-16 and 2005-06, highlighted the following pointers:
  4. Though stunting has declined from 46.3% to 34.4%, wasting rates have increased from 16.5% to 25.6%.
  5. Underweight rate (36%), has remained static in the last decade.
  6. This is worse than in some of the poor countries like Bangladesh(33%), Afghanistan (25%) , or Mozambique(15%).
  7. Every second tribal child suffers from growth restricting malnutrition due to chronic danger.
  8. In 2005, child malnutrition claimed 718 lives in Maharashtra’s Palghar District.
  9. Even after a decade of double digit economic growth (2004-05 to 2014-15), Palghar’s malnutrition status has barely improved.
  10. In September 2016, the National Human Rights Commission issued notice to Maharashtra government over reports of 600 children dying due to malnutrition in Palghar.
  11. On this, the State government promised to implement schemes like Jaccha Baccha and Integrated Child Development Services to check malnutrition.
  12. Even independent survey conducted in Vikramgad block of the district found that 57%, 21%, and 53% of children were stunted, wasted, and underweight respectively.
  13. It is generally believed that recovery from growth retardation is only possible if the affected child put on nutrient requirement diet.
  14. Nutrient adequacy is calculated by difference grouping of food which includes:- cereals, roots and tubers; legumes and nuts; dairy products; flesh foods; eggs; fish; dark green leafy vegetables; and other fruits and vegetables
  15. 26% and 57% of the children (83% put together) had food from only two/three of the eight food groups.
  16. While, only 17% of the children achieved a minimum level of diet diversity — they received four or more of the eight food groups.
What is stunting?

  •   India has the highest number of stunted children worldwide.
  •  Stunting is a serious form of malnutrition or chronic undernutrition during the most critical periods of growth and development of children.
  • It is characterised by low height for age and is caused mainly due to insufficient nutritional intake often triggered by recurrent infections such as diarrhoea.
  •  Stunting is caused by an insufficient intake of macro- and micro-nutrients.

17. Reasons for food insecurity in Maharashtra:

  • Acute food insecurity in tribal households is due to loss of their traditional dependence on forest livelihood.
  • State’s deepening agrarian crisis.
  • Weakening of public nutrition programmes.
  • State’s Budget on nutrition expenditure has drastically decline from 1.68% in 2012-13 to 0.94% in 2018-19.
  • Nutritional schemes not having desired results.

18. Solutions:

  • The government need to look at the root cause of the issue and finds sustainable solutions for tackling malnutrition.
  • State need to focus on inclusive development by creating employment opportunities for the marginalized.

 

A TB vaccine for diabetics?

News:

  1. According to a study published in npj Vaccines, tuberculosis vaccine called BCG(Bacillus Calmette-Guerin) might lower blood sugar in diabetes patients over a five to eight year period.

Important facts:

2. Case Study

  • In the study, “Long-term reduction in hyperglycemia in advanced type 1 diabeties”, patients received BCG vaccine. Three year later, other patients received the same treatment.
  • The trial investigators, led by immunologist Denise L. Faustman from Massachusetts General Hospital in the U.S.  The findings of this study are given below:

3. The study found a sustained drop in a marker for high-blood sugar called HbA1c.

4. None of the patients experienced hypoglycaemia or dangerously low blood sugar, a potentially life-threatening side-effect in patients taking insulin.

5. The study promises a safe and inexpensive treatment for type-I diabetics, if replicated in large clinical trials.

6. Even though the BCG vaccine doesnot work very well against childhood TB, it protects against leprosy, sepsis among babies and leishmaniasis.

7. It is also the first approved immunotheraphy against bladder cancer.

8. Although BCG seemed to have regenerated the pancreas in the phase 1 trial, the Faustaman team found little improvement in their patients’ HbA1C levels.

9. In the phase I trial, Faustaman team gave the BCG vaccine to three patients, finds that the patients produced more pancreatic insulin and had more of a type of immune cell called Regulatory T cells(Tregs), which protect against autoimmune diseases.

Type-1 diabetes:

  •  Type 1 diabetes, once known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, is a chronic condition in which pancreas produces little or no insulin.
  •   Insulin is a hormone needed to allow sugar (glucose) to enter cells to produce energy.

10. BCG increased the numbers of Tregs.

11. although, Tregs help type-1 patients a little, it switch to glycolysis which extracts more sugar from the bloodstream, which seems to be behind the improvement in HbA1c.

 

‘Anchor bank for PSB consolidation put on hold’

News:

  1. The concept of having 5-6 anchor banks and consolidate weaker banks with them put on hold.

Important facts:

  1. Culture is the major hurdle in integration, emphasized by Canara Bank chairman, T.N. Manoharan.
  2. T.N. Manoharan also opines that turning of loan to big infrastructure projects to bad loan is real cause of NPA
  3. It is contrary to public perception that bad loans are due to wilful defaulters and indiscriminate lending’
  4. T.N. Manoharan also supported the idea of bad bank.
  5. Classification of banks into three categories mooted:
    1. Universal Banks: Does all kinds of banking, including corporate lending.
    2. National Retail Banks: would focus only on retail lending.
    3. Regional retail banks.
Anchor banks:

  • Anchor banks are public sector banks that will drive the consolidation process among the state owned banks.
  •   Consolidation among PSBs has been under discussion from the last one decade.
  •  However, bankers had opposed the idea of consolidation among PSBs on the ground that the financial health of the most of banks had detiorated.

 

Centre cannot guarantee power supply to all villages, says official

News:

  1. Despite the government pegging India as a power surplus nation, almost every State in the country reels under power cuts.

Important facts:

  1.  Centre’s responsibility is to connect households and villages to the power grid , it cannot guarantee the supply of electricity to them.
  2. It is the responsibility of State level distribution companies to ensure power availability in every villages
  3. The government is working on  24X7 power for all deadline by March 2019.

Discoms, not Centre, to guarantee power supply to all villages, says official

 

5. The Centre has claimed 100% electrification of all villages and 83% of all households across the country.

6. However, there are several discrepancies between the actual and the on-paper status of electrification. For example:

  • In some cases, the electrification infrastructure such as cables and transformers were stolen days after they were installed, leaving the target village unelectrified in reality
  • In other cases, electricity was supplied for just a few hours a day.

7. Reasons :

  • Inefficiency of discom, with the costs they incur in the transmission far outweighing revenue.
  •  Government data show discoms across the country, on an average, lose ₹0.22 a unit of electricity supplied.
  • However , the Power ministry claims that situation is improving under the Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY). And discom losses reduced drastically compared to previous year.
  • Financial health of discoms are not viable.
  • Some of them have good infrastructure facilities to supply good quality power on a sustained basis.

8. Suggestions:

  • Respective State governments continue to give financial support and assurances to the discoms.

 

Toxic air is causing malnutrition in trees

News:

  1. Air pollution is causing malnutrition in Trees as per the new study published in the Nature.

Important facts:

2.The study examined 40,000 roots from 13,000 soil samples at 137 forest sites in 20 European countries to determine the fungi’s tolerance to pollution.

3.The key highlights of the study are given below:

a)  Mycorrhizal fungi is hosted by the trees in their roots to receive nutrients from the soil.

b) These fungi provide essential nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium from soil in exchange for carbon from the tree.

c)This plant-fungal symbiotic relationship is crucial for the health of the tree.

d) However, high levels of the nutrition elements like nitrogen and phosphorus in the mycorrhizae changes them to act as pollutants rather than nutrients, the findings showed.

Sign of malnutrition:

  • It can be seen in the form of discoloured leaves and excessive falling of leaves.
  • There is an alarming trend of tree malnutrition across Europe, which leaves forests vulnerable to pets, disease, and climate change.

Reasons

  •  Ecosystem changes are negatively affecting the tree health.
  • Air pollution impacts trees by harming fungi that is important for providing mineral nutrients to tree roots.

Suggestions:

4. The researchers suggested that the results should be used to design new studies into the link between pollution, soil, mycorrhizae, and tree growth.

 

Uniquely placed

Article:

  1. Ashish Kundra, IAS officer, Government of Mizoram, pointed out that the finance commission must heed the norhteast’s challenges.

Important Analysis:

  1. The 15thFinance Commisssion is in the process of figuring out a fair formula for the distribution of net tax proceeds between the Union and the States, and among States.
  2. However, the 14thFinance Commission pointed out:
  • The commission had adopted a formula based tax devolution approach, apart from grant-in aid for local bodies, disaster relief and post-devolution revenue deficit grants.
  • The share of devolution to the states was enhanced to 42% from 32% which gave the states considerable flexibility.
  • The 14th FC accorded 27.5% weight to the population (of which 17.5% was of the 1971 population), 15% to area, 7.5% to forest cover and 50% to income distance.
  • Larger States with larger populations have a greater requirement of resources.
  • Income distance was adopted as a proxy for fiscal capacity, and forest cover was given weightage for the first time, underscoring ecological benefits.
  • No State-specific grants were recommended
  1. Northeast States:
  • The author pointed out that the Northeast represents a distinct entity for developmental planning and has a special category status. These states faces the following challenges, which need to address in devolution formula.

a)Low levels of human development indice

b) A low resource base.

c) Poor connectivity and infrastructure.

d) Northeast also bear burden of natural disaster.

e) The Energy and Resources Institute has computed an index of vulnerability of all States. The disaster vulnerability index is highest for the northeast.

  • A 20% cost disability was allowed by the 13th FC while allocating grants for road maintenance.

f)Maintenance of assets, such as rural roads under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, require huge expenditure, especially in hilly States.

  1. g) The region also has the highest forest cover and represents the largest carbon sink nationally.
  2. The Centre ministries earmark 10% of their allocations for the Northeast.

5.10% of tax proceeds could be earmarked for vertical devolution to the region.

6.A number of centrally sponsored schemes have been rolled out where the obligation of State share is huge, adding to revenue expenditure.

7.While, the 13the Finance Commission depicts the different position of the northeast while arriving at the formula for horizontal devolution. It highlighted the following pointers:

  •  Its twin guiding principles were equity and efficiency.
  • It accorded 47.5% weight to fiscal capacity distance.
  • Per Capital GSDP was taken as a proxy for fiscal capacity, but States were divided into two groups- general and special category States.
  • Average tax to GSDP ratio was higher for the former.
  • Three-year per capita GSDP was computed separately in these two groups, weighted means of tax to GSDP ration obtained, and per capita tax revenue was assessed for each State.
  • The fiscal distance was calculated on estimated per capita revenue with reference to the higher State, which was then multiplied by the 1971 populations to arrive at the share of each State.
  1. The revision of the base year to 2011-12 by the Central Statistics Office from 2004-5 also created complications.

8.For example Arunachal Pradesh, saw a sudden spike in per capita GSDP.

9.Suggestion:

  • The Terms of Reference of the 15th FC mention performance-based incentives based on improvements in GST collection, Direct Benefit Transfer rollout, etc.
  • This would definitely infuse a spirit of competition.
  • The challenge for the commission is to strike a balance between those who need and those who perform.
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