9 PM Current Affairs Brief – 30th November, 2017

Download the compilation of all summaries of all the news articles here


Against gender rights 

Against gender rights 


The decision to re-introduce the 2016 Bill on transgender rights makes a mockery of democratic norms

What has happened?

The transgender community and its allies have erupted in anger over the decision of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to re-introduce the original Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016 in the winter session of Parliament.

Why the protest?

Despite resistance to the 2016 Bill followed by a year-long process to redraft it to reflect the demands of the community, the Ministry has taken the decision, and without a single change

Journey of the Bill

  • SC’s recognises fundamental rights of transgender persons: Supreme Court in its landmark decision in NALSA v. Union of India as a victory recognised that transgender persons have fundamental rights
  • Private member’s bill: The judgment was followed by a private member’s Bill, the Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2014, which was unanimously passed in the Rajya Sabha
  • Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2015: Instead of introducing it in the Lok Sabha, the Ministry uploaded its own Bill, the Rights of Transgender Persons Bill, 2015, on its website in December for public comments
    • Changes:The 2015 Bill, which was largely based on the 2014 Bill, did away with the national and State commissions for transgender persons and transgender rights courts

The Bill was fairly progressive since it granted a transgender person the right to be identified as a ‘man’, ’woman’ or ‘transgender’

  • A highly diluted version of the bill faces backlash: However, the 2016 Bill that was finally introduced in the Lok Sabha, came as a shock. A highly diluted version, it also pathologised transgender persons by defining them as “partly female or male; or a combination of female and male; or neither female nor male”
  • Expert standing committee:Met with backlash, the Ministry set up an expert standing committee on social justice and empowerment to examine the Bill. The standing committee invited public comments and thereafter held multiple rounds of consultations

Report of the committee

Its report, released on July 22, 2017 criticised the 2016 Bill for its stark deficiencies

  • It recommended re-drafting the definition of a ‘transgender person’ to make it inclusive and accurate
  • It further recommended providing for the definition of discrimination and setting up a grievance redress mechanism to address cases of discrimination; and granting reservations to transgender persons
  • Equal civil rights to Transgender persons: Its major recommendation was that the law must grant equal civil rights to transgender persons (marriage, divorce and adoption), thus opening the door for the legal system to take steps to undo its oppressive heteronormative (the presumption that heterosexuality is the norm) and cisgendered (the presumption that people’s gender identity is aligned with their anatomical sex) foundation

Reintroduction is against the policy

The Ministry’s decision to re-introduce the 2016 Bill disregards the pre-legislative consultative policy which requires Ministries to grant a minimum of 30 days for public comments and to place a summary of feedback/comments received from the public/other stakeholders on their website

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India unlikely to cut malaria by half in 2020: WHO

India unlikely to cut malaria by half in 2020: WHO


Article talks about World Health Organization’s World Malaria Report 2017


It is transmitted by the infective bite of Anopheles mosquito

  • Incubation period: The disease has an incubation period of 10-15 days which means a person may develop symptoms after a fortnight of being bitten by an infected mosquito.
  • The Plasmodium parasite that causes malaria is neither a virus nor a bacterium – it is a single-celled parasite that multiplies in red blood cells of humans as well as in the mosquito intestine. Infection by P falciparum is believed to be the most deadly
  • When the female mosquito feeds on an infected person, male and female forms of the parasite are ingested along with human blood. The male and female forms of the parasite meet and mate in the mosquito’s gut, and the infective forms are passed onto another human when the mosquito feeds again


  • India accounted for 6% of global malaria cases and 7% of deaths caused by it in 2016
  • India is unlikely to reduce its case burden beyond 40% by 2020. In contrast, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Kyrgyzstan achieved malaria-free status in 2015 and 2016 respectively
  • There were an estimated 445,000 deaths from malaria globally in 2016, compared with 446,000 estimated deaths in 2015. About 80% of the deaths were accounted for by 15 countries, namely, India and 14 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Weak surveillance system: A key impediment to eliminating malaria is a weak surveillance system. India and Nigeria, two major contributors to the global burden of malaria, were able to detect only 8% and 16% of cases, respectively, via the system. Despite this, India accounts for 6 per cent of all malaria cases reported globally
  • More plasmodium vivax cases: 51% of plasmodium vivax cases were traced in India. This could at least be partially explained by resistance to chloroquine, the first line treatment to p. vivax infections that has been detected in pockets of the country earlier this decade. For a long time, p falciparum dominated India’s case burden and, though its share has decreased, there is a slight increase in malaria cases by other parasites
  • Reversal of decline:In 2016, 91 countries reported a total of 216 million cases of malaria, an increase of 5 million cases over the previous year. The global tally of malaria deaths reached 445 000 deaths, about the same number reported in 2015
  • Investment needed:A minimum investment of $6.5 billion will be required annually by 2020 in order to meet the 2030 targets of the WHO global malaria strategy. The $2.7 billion invested in 2016 represents less than half of that amount. Of particular concern is that, since 2014, investments in malaria control have, on average, declined in many high-burden countries
  • Lesser reduction in India: India — due to low funding per person at risk and resistance to certain frontline insecticides — is only expected to achieve a 20%-40% reduction

Malaria parasites

Following are the malaria parasites,

  1. falciparum: It is found worldwide in tropical and subtropical areas, and especially in Africa where this species predominates. P. falciparumcan cause severe malaria because it multiples rapidly in the blood, and can thus cause severe blood loss (anemia). In addition, the infected parasites can clog small blood vessels. When this occurs in the brain, cerebral malaria results, a complication that can be fatal
  2. vivax: It is found mostly in Asia, Latin America, and in some parts of Africa. Because of the population densities especially in Asia it is probably the most prevalent human malaria parasite. P. vivax(as well as P. ovale) has dormant liver stages (“hypnozoites”) that can activate and invade the blood (“relapse”) several months or years after the infecting mosquito bite
  3. ovale: It is found mostly in Africa (especially West Africa) and the islands of the western Pacific. It is biologically and morphologically very similar to P. vivax. However, differently from P. vivax, it can infect individuals who are negative for the Duffy blood group, which is the case for many residents of sub-Saharan Africa. This explains the greater prevalence of P. ovale(rather than P. vivax ) in most of Africa.
  4. malariae: Found worldwide, is the only human malaria parasite species that has a three-day cycle. (The three other species have a two-day cycle.) If untreated, P. malariaecauses a long-lasting, chronic infection that in some cases can last a lifetime. In some chronically infected patients P. malariae can cause serious complications such as the nephrotic syndrome
  5. knowlesi: It is found throughout Southeast Asia as a natural pathogen of long-tailed and pig-tailed macaques. It has recently been shown to be a significant cause of zoonotic malaria in that region, particularly in Malaysia. P. knowlesihas a 24-hour replication cycle and so can rapidly progress from an uncomplicated to a severe infection; fatal cases have been reported.


  • There are 4 species of the Plasmodiumparasite that can cause malaria in humans:  falciparum, P. vivax, P. ovale, and P. malariae.The first 2 types are the most commonAmong those infected, P. falciparum is the most common species identified (~75%) followed by P. vivax (~20%)
  • Malaria can also be transmitted from mother to fetus during pregnancy

Annual Parasite Incidence (API)

API = (confirmed cases during 1 year/population under surveillance) x 1000

Malaria elimination target

As per the targets under the 12th Five Year Plan, the country is to achieve API<1 at state and district level by 2017 and pave way to malaria elimination in subsequent years

Government interventions against malaria

National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP)

  • It was launched in 2003-04 by merging National anti -malaria control programme,National Filaria Control Programme and Kala Azar Control programmes
  • Japanese B Encephalitis, Dengue/DHF& Chikungunya have also been included in this Program
  • Directorate of NAMP is the nodal agency for prevention and control of major Vector Borne Diseases

National Framework for Malaria Elimination (NFME)

India launched the National Framework for MalariaElimination (NFME) 2016-2030 in 2016, which outlines India’s strategy for elimination of the disease by 2030. This framework has been developed with a vision to eliminate malaria from the country and contribute to improved health and quality of life and alleviation of poverty


The Framework has four objectives:

  • Eliminate malaria from all 26 low (Category 1) and moderate (Category 2) transmissionstates/union territories (UTs) by 2022
  • Reduce the incidence of malaria to less than 1 case per 1000 population per year in allstates and UTs and their districts by 2024
  • Interrupt indigenous transmission of malaria throughout the entire country, includingall high transmission states and union territories (UTs) (Category 3) by 2027
  • Prevent the re-establishment of local transmission of malaria in areas where it has beeneliminated and maintain national malaria-free status by 2030 and beyond

API: Primary criteria

API has been kept as the primary criteria for classifying states/UTs under the framework

Classification of States/UTs based on API as primary criteria

Other features of NFME

  • District has been kept as the unit of planning and implementation
  • Focus will be on high endemic areas
  • Special strategy for P. vivax elimination

Targets under NFME

  • By end of 2016, all states/UTs are expected to include malaria elimination in their broader health policies and planning framework
  • By end of 2017, all states are expected to bring down API to less than 1 per thousand population
  • Lastly, by the end of 2020, 15 states/UTs under category 1 (elimination phase) are expected to interrupt transmission of malaria and achieve zero indigenous cases and deaths due to malaria

National Strategic Plan for Malaria Elimination (2017-22) 

Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare launched the National Strategic Plan for Malaria Elimination (2017-22) in 2017. It gives year wise elimination targets in various parts of the country depending upon the endemicity of malaria in the next 5 years

  • Strategy under NSP: The strategies involve
    • Strengthening malaria surveillance
    • Establishing a mechanism for early detection and prevention of outbreaks of malaria
    • Promoting the prevention of malaria by the use of Long Lasting Impregnated Nets (LLINs)
    • Effective indoor residual spray
    • Augmenting the manpower and capacities for effective implementation for the next five years
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Three laws, multiple prescriptions 

Three laws, multiple prescriptions 


What are the norms private medical practitioners follow in West Bengal, in Karnataka and in multiples states and Union Territories that have adopted the Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Act, 2010 passed by Parliament?


Both West Bengal and Karnataka’s Acts prescribe different regulatory structures from that envisaged in the Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Act 2010 (CEA), passed by Parliament for regulation of the private healthcare sector


All three Acts require a mandatory registration of medical establishments, albeit with different



Regulatory authority supervising medical establishments:

West Bengal

  • West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission: Under the West Bengal Clinical Establishments (Registration, Regulation and Transparency) Act, 2017, the West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission constituted by the state government is tasked with the “regulation and supervision of the functioning and activities of the clinical establishments”
  • Chairperson: The chairperson is a former High Court judge, a former chief secretary or additional chief secretary in the state government or a similarly ranked person in the government of India
  • Vice-Chairperson: The vice-chair is a “person of eminence” and members are selected from diverse fields, including medicine, law, public health, academics, social services and consumer interests. All members are appointed by the government


  • District Metropolitan Grievance Redressal Committee: In the Karnataka Private Medical Establishments Amendment Bill, 2017, tabled in the state Assembly recently, the District Metropolitan Grievance Redressal Committee has been given the authority to inspect a private medical establishment to check if provisions of the Act are being followed
  • Political leadership of the committee:This body is led by the chief executive authority of the zilla panchayat — the fact that a political person heads the committee is a major reason of unrest amongst doctors
  • Members of the committee: The authority consists of the district superintendent of police, the district surgeon, one representative of private medical establishments in that district, the public prosecutor and one nominated woman representative

Clinical Establishments Act 2010

  • National Council of Clinical Establishments: CEA 2010 prescribes a national council of clinical establishments. It is tasked with the registration of all medical establishments after ensuring that minimum standards are adhered to. Each state has to have a state council with a similar mandate
  • Chaired by:The National Council of Clinical Establishments, as laid down in the CEA 2010, is chaired by the Director General of Health Services, with one member each elected by the Dental Council of India, the Medical Council of India, the Pharmacy Council of India and the Nursing Council of India, three by the Central Council of Indian Medicine, one by the Central Council of Homoeopathy and one by the Indian Medical Association. In addition, there are members from the Bureau of Indian Standards, national-level consumer groups, the North Eastern Council, etc.

Difference in Penal provisions

Each Act also has different approaches to penal provisions overseeing the private practice of medicine


Of the three acts, only the Karnataka version has provisions prescribing jail terms for contraventions of the Act

  • A person convicted of running a medical establishment without registration can face a prison term of upto three years and a fine of upto Rs 5 lakh
  • A violation of registration conditions can be met with provisions for a prison term of three years or a fine of upto Rs 1 lakh
  • Failure to inform the public about the charges for various services would attract a prison term of six months to three years and a fine of upto Rs 5 lakh

West Bengal

The West Bengal Act provides for a fine of upto Rs 1 lakh for non-registration of clinical establishments and a penalty of Rs 1,000 per day after that up to a maximum of Rs 10 lakh

  • Disobedience can invite a penalty of upto Rs 5 lakh, as can willful destruction or falsification of medical records
  • The penalty for medical negligence as specified in the Act can range from Rs 3 lakh for a simple injury to Rs 10 lakh for death

CEA 2010

In the CEA 2010, the penalty for contravention ranges from Rs 10,000 for the first offence, which goes up for every subsequent offence, to a maximum of Rs 5 lakh

  • Willful disobedience or withholding of information can attract a fine of a maximum of Rs 5 lakh. Significantly, the provisions apply to government departments too

Difference in treatment of general obligations

There are also marked differences in how the three Acts treat the general obligations of medical establishments.


  • Under the Karnataka Act, medical establishments have to conform to standards laid down in this Act or the rules made therein, and also make available, for the information of patients and the general public, the schedule of charges payable for different medical treatments and other services, using brochures, booklets and notice boards.
  • Every establishment has to maintain clinical records and mandatorily treat victims of road traffic accidents or criminal assaults whenever they come to a hospital
  • According to the patients’ charter, every patient has the right to complete information on the disease, treatment and medical procedure and a right to give informed consent on his or her own course of treatment

West Bengal

The West Bengal Act says that,

  • Every establishment will have to follow fixed rates, including package rates for medical investigation, bed charges, operation theatre procedures, implants, ICU charges, etc., and also provide proper estimates for treatments not covered in packages
  • Establishments are also required to mandatorily obtain consent for the continuation of ventilator support after a patient is declared brain-dead

CEA 2010

The CEA 2010 envisages registration as the cornerstone of regulation, with registration conditions placed in the domain of the state government

  • As part of the enforcement plan of the Act, standard treatment guidelines have so far been prepared for 21 specialty areas, including endocrinology, oncology, neurology, orthopaedics and cardiovascular diseases
  • Guidelines have also been prepared for treating common problems like snake bites, dry eye disease, epilepsy, diabetic foot and osteoarthiritis of the knee
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Sorry no-show  

Sorry no-show  


Repressive mindsets rule in the CBFC and I&B ministry: That’s the message from IFFI’s refusal to screen ‘S Durga

What has happened?

I&B ministry during the 48th International Film Festival of India (IFFI)refused to allow two films, S Durga and Nude, to be screened in the Indian Panorama section


Though the director of S Durgagot a directive from the Kerala High Court in favour of the film, and a new jury voted in favour of screening it, officials raised technical objections to deny it screen-space at the IFFI. The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) withdrew its earlier certificate to the film, and sought to re-examine it

Author’s views

The restrictive mindset revealed by the I&B ministry and the CBFC in denying an independent and acclaimed young film-maker an audience is quite appalling

  • In this age of technology, it is absurd that the ministry and CBFC officials believe they can suppress a film by refusing it a censor’s certificate. The film has already been screened in several international and Indian festivals and many more are likely to watch it online

Pertinent questions

Author raises some important questions,

  • How can a bureaucracy entrusted with the task of promoting cinema so zealously work to curb filmmakers?
  • What has it gained by usurping the mandate of a jury and censoring the list of films?
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Hadiya’s Choices 

Hadiya’s Choices 


Question to SC: Does an adult woman not have a right to privacy and autonomy?

Author’s views

  • In ordering that “the NIA investigation shall continue in accordance with law,” the SC is continuing to allow the NIA the power to delegitimise a woman’s conversion and marriage and to go on looking for links between a Muslim man and terrorism
  • Kerala HC verdict had argued that “As per Indian tradition, the custody of an unmarried daughter is with the parents, until she is properly married.” For the SC not to have taken the first opportunity presented to it to set aside this blatantly regressive judicial premise is a matter of shame
  • It is also a matter of concern that the CPI(M)-led Kerala government which had earlier submitted that there was no evidence to merit an NIA probe, did a u-turn and asked the SC to pass a verdict only after considering the NIA report. It is a sad day for a Left party to imagine that it can credibly fight the communal agenda of the central government and the Sangh Parivar if its own government supports attempts to legitimise “love jihad”
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To make instant triple talaq a crime, Govt looks to change Shah Bano law 

To make instant triple talaq a crime, Govt looks to change Shah Bano law 


Triple Talaq issue

What has happened?

Moving to make instant triple talaq or talaq-e-biddat a criminal offence, the government is considering, among changes in existing laws, amendments to The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 (Shah Bano Act)

What is Shah Bano act?

It was enacted by the Rajiv Gandhigovernment under pressure from the Muslim clergy to overturn the Supreme Court ruling in the Shah Bano case. This law allowed, in line with Muslim personal law, maintenance to a divorced woman only during the period of iddat, or three menstrual cycles/three lunar months after divorce

What changes need to be made to Shah Bano Act?

The ‘preamble’ of the Shah Bano Act will have to be re-drafted since the existing law applies only after the divorce of a Muslim woman

What other changes need to be made?

Other than changes to the Shah Bano Act, the government is considering amendments to provisions of Section 125 Code of Criminal Procedure (order for maintenance of wives, children and parents) to provide further safeguards to Muslim women and their wards if they are abandoned via instant triple talaq

Impact of the new law

Once the law outlawing triple talaq is enacted, the Muslim clergy, government sources said, will have no role in cases of talaq-e-biddat and women can directly approach police for redressal


On August 22, the Supreme Court, in a landmark 3-2 verdict, “set aside” the centuries-old practice of instant triple talaq in which Muslim men divorce their wives by uttering talaq three times in quick succession

Additional Read: What is Shah Bano case?

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Eliminate torture 

Eliminate torture 


Article talks about the need of an anti-torture law in India

Need for an anti-torture law

  • Failed extradition requests: India has made many requests for extradition of offenders from other countries, and the absence of an anti-torture law may prevent these countries from acceding to India’s requests. Earlier this month, extradition courts in the United Kingdom refused to send two persons to India to face trial, one of them on the ground that there was “no effective system of protection from torture in the receiving state”
  • Protection of human rights: Ratifying the UN Convention and following it up with a domestic law against torture will not only be in the national interest but also have positive implications for the protection of human rights
  • Preventing custodial violence: Custodial violence continues to be prevalent in the country. The recent example of a bus conductor being forced to confess to murdering a schoolchild is a pointer to the use of torture as an investigative tool among policemen


  • The Prevention of Torture Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in 2010 to address the problem, but it lapsed after it was referred to a Select Committee in the Rajya Sabha
  • Law commission’s report: The Law Commission, to which the question was referred in July this year, produced a report within three months. It also submitted a draft Bill for the government’s consideration


The government should accept the recommendations without delay as it not only provides a penal framework for punishing public servants who inflict torture, but also lays down that just compensation be paid to victims

Additional read: Anti-torture law has also been covered in earlier 9PM Brief. Read it here

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Now, a debate on ‘royal welcome’ for Ivanka’s visit 

Now, a debate on ‘royal welcome’ for Ivanka’s visit 


India will benefit from the visit of Ivanka Trump, daughter of the U.S. President and Presidential Adviser, says the head of a key business chamber, dismissing criticism of the “royal welcome” Ms. Trump received


Prime Minister of India met Ms. Trump for a one-on-one conversation and hosted her at a grand banquet at theFalaknuma palace of the Nizams

  • Opposition parties questioned why the Prime Minister had broken with protocol to felicitate someone who is not a head of state or government

Criticism dismissed

Head of a key business chamber responded by stating that it was necessary to see Ms. Trump’s position not just as an adviser but also in terms of her influence with the U.S

Positive impact

The immediate impact of Ms Trump’s visit to India is there is much more awareness on a global basis that India is a fantastic opportunity for start-ups, adding that the GES had sent out a “clear message” that it is important to mentor more women professionals

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Singapore offers India logistical base 

Singapore offers India logistical base 


India and Singapore 2nd Defence ministerial dialogue

What has happened?

India and Singapore agreed on greater cooperation and activity in the Strait of Malacca and the Andaman Sea even as the two countries concluded a wide ranging naval agreement for maritime cooperation including logistical support, during the 2nd defence ministerial dialogue


  • Naval cooperation: The two countries concluded a bilateral agreement for naval cooperation, which includes maritime security, joint exercises and temporary deployments from the naval facilities of each other and mutual logistical support. The agreement would give the Navy the ability for extended deployments in the region

SIMBEX (Singapore-India Maritime Bilateral Exercises): It is a joint naval exercise b/w Indian and Singapore navies. Latest edition i.e. SIMBEX 17, was held in South China Sea in May 2017

  • Singapore accepted India’s proposal to institutionalise naval engagements in the shared maritime space, including setting up maritime exercises with like-minded countries and other ASEAN partners
  • The two countries also agreed to explore joints projects in research and development


Agreement assumes significance as the strait is considered a critical choke point for global commerce and is seen by China as a vulnerability for its energy security. The development is likely to be followed closely by Beijing

Changi Naval base

Strait of Malacca & Andaman Sea

Monitoring Chinese activity

Early this year, the Indian Navy permanently deployed a frontline warship at the mouth of the strait to keep an eye on the increasing Chinese movements in the Indian Ocean as part of its mission-based deployment

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U.S. now within range of N. Korea’s nuclear weapons 

U.S. now within range of N. Korea’s nuclear weapons 


North Korea said it successfully tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Wednesday in a “breakthrough” that puts the U.S. mainland within the range of its nuclear weapons whose warheads could withstand re-entry to the Earth’s atmosphere

Terms to know:


  • It is a guided ballistic missile – which follows a path – and has a range of 5,500kms.
  • They are primarily designed for nuclear weapons delivery but can also carry chemical and biological weapons.
  • They were first developed in World War Two
  • These missiles can carry a number of separate nuclear warheads – which means a single missile can hit multiple targets
  • Speed: An intercontinental ballistic missile constantly changes speed and altitude but the peak speed of an ICBM is about 6-7km/s
  • They are like rockets: All ICBMs are large rockets with space for a payload on top. They’re typically smaller than rockets that launch satellites and people into space, but structurally, the missiles aren’t too different – which is why militaries pay close attention to countries that develop human-spaceflight program
  • Flies like a football, destroys like a weapon: Most ICBMs don’t enter Earth’s orbit. Instead, they travel in high, arc-like paths, similar to the way a football flies across the field when kicked by the goalkeeper. The difference is that an ICBM “football” touches outer space, can strike a target from thousands of miles away, and is capable ofdestroying entire cities

How an ICBM works?

  • 3 stages: To reach high speeds and strike with such precision, ICBMs typically have three (or sometimes four) separate rocket motors, also called stages. This is because smaller rocket motors are easier to make than one big motor
  • 1st stage: The lower, first-stage rocket is sometimes called a booster. Boosters are the largest part of rockets and do most of the heavy lifting. (ICBMs weigh as much as a few school buses, mostly because of the large amounts of rocket fuel they carry
  • 2nd stage: Once the booster has used up its fuel dozens of miles above Earth, it detaches, and the second-stage rocket motor ignites. The same process happens with any subsequent stages
  • In-flight adjustments: During flight, ICBMs use several tricks to stay on course, though most adjustments happen during boosting. Flight computers can monitor a rocket’s trajectory and use gyroscopes to help nudge and tweak the missile’s direction. Some ICBMs also use cameras to look at constellations of stars while flying high above the clouds, constantly feeding that information into the flight computer to adjust the missile’s path
  • Gravity does its work: At each stage of flight, the missile and its payload move faster and faster, though they coast (moving without power) for some stretches to ensure an accurate strike. All the while, Earth’s gravity pulls the weapon back toward the ground
  • Last stage: By the time the last stage has burned out, all that remains is for the payload – a nuclear warhead, chemical weapon , or biological weapon – to deploy

What has happened?

North Korea has successfully tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in a “breakthrough” that puts the U.S. mainland within the range of its nuclear weapons whose warheads could withstand re-entry to the Earth’s atmosphere


North Korea, which also conducted its largest nuclear test in September, has tested dozens of ballistic missiles under its leader, Kim Jong Un, in defiance of international sanctions


The new Hwasong-15, named after planet Mars, was a more advanced version of an ICBM tested twice in July. It was designed to carry a “super-large heavy warhead.” Based on its trajectory and distance, the missile would have a range of over 13,000 km, more than enough to reach Washington D.C. and the rest of the U.S

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Why birds now flock to Israel 

Why birds now flock to Israel 


Climate change is turning country into a cool, befitting place for migratory avians


Climate change is turning Israel into a permanent wintering ground for some of the 500 million migrating birds that used to stop over briefly before flying on to the warm plains of Africa, Israeli experts say. They will stay longer and eventually the whole pattern of migration will change

Changes in the pattern

  • The birds now prefer to stay longer in cooler areas rather than cross into Africa, where encroaching deserts and frequent droughts have made food more scarce


Cranes are one of the most abundant species to visit the Hula wetlands and the number that prefer to stay in Israel until the end of March has risen from less than 1,000 in the 1950s to some 45,000 currently

Visiting birds: A problem

Although migrating birds are a welcome attraction for ornithologists and tourists, their hunger for food from crop fields makes them a menace to farmers

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Indus civilisation flourished along a course abandoned by the Sutlej, says study 

Indus civilisation flourished along a course abandoned by the Sutlej, says study 


New findings on Indus Valley civilization

What has happened?

A team of Indian and British researchers has found that it was the Sutlej, not the “lost” Saraswati river, as some believed, that gave rise to the great Indus civilization that flourished around 4,000 years ago


This recent discovery may have significant bearing on our understanding of how the ancient urban civilization bloomed and ended


The scientists reported in the journal Nature Communications that,

  • Unlike other civilisations such as Mesopotamian and Egyptian, which came up on major river banks, the Indus civilisation flourished along a course which the Sutlej abandoned some 8,000 years ago. Previously it was supposed that early urbanisation required access to perennial rivers. But the urban centres of the Indus civilisation (also known as Harappancivilisation) developed without the water provided by a big Himalayan river
  • Archaeological evidence gathered from excavated Indus civilisation sites in India and Pakistan has shown that the ancient urban settlements came about 4,600 years ago
  • Through meticulously carried out sediment studies and remote sensing, the scientists identified that the present-day Ghaggar, (called Hakra in Pakistan), which is a seasonal river, flows through the former course of Sutlej but the detailed dating of the river sediments carried out now show that the river did not flowing there at the time of the Indus settlements. The Sutlej had diverted several thousand earlier than that
  • Questioning earlier claims: The study calls into question the contention of a section of archaeologists that the settlements might have developed along the “lost” river of Saraswati. It may debunk some of their arguments to “establish” it was indeed Saraswati, not Ghaggarthat supported the ancient civilisation. For instance, the “proponents” of Saraswati had argued that there was enough geological and sedimentary evidence to show that the river that fed the Indus civilisation carried glacier headwaters. Ghaggar, they contested, could not have been that river, originating as it does from the Shiwaliks in the foothills of the Himalayas

Major turning point

Many believed that it was the death of a river that led to the collapse of the civilization. But what we find is that it was the demise of a river (by changing of its course) that helped nourish this civilization. In that sense this is a major turning point in our understanding of our past

Sutlej & IVC

When the river changed its course, it left a former channel in the landscape which was a topographic low. This served to capture and concentrate monsoon-fed river flow and contained excellent soils for agriculture. Thus the Sutlej formed the environmental template for the civilisation in this region

  • This was further proved by the fact that some of these ancient settlements — such as Banawali in Fatehabad district of Haryana — were actually built within the paleochannel, and had the river been active they would have been destroyed by floods
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Electric cars and us

Electric cars and us


They are far less polluting, but pose a challenge to Indian driving practices

Indian Driving practices

As a rule, typically, two-wheelers and cars don’t consider lanes important. We don’t want to wait our turn but keep jumping lanes and wading around obstacles.

  • We seem to be possessed by a primal urge to get ahead of others even if it means the driver of the car or the two-wheeler rider on the other lane has to jam hard on his brakes. In many cities, dents on car bumpers are the norm
  • Practice has taught Indian drivers to be cautious about speed. They know enough to take it easy with the friction brakes, and they are mindful of the danger of tyres skidding. They are aware that any pedestrian can suddenly turn into a traffic policeman and stop the traffic so he or she can cross the road

Disruptive change

Author states that over the next 15 years, however, Indian driving is likely to be disrupted by electric vehicles that the Indian government seems keen on introducing, without transitioning to hybrids

  • Without any noise: The motor is much quieter than the engine and the transmission system has fewer parts too. All one hears is wind, tyre and road noise, which is minimal in city driving
  • Instant acceleration: Electric motors are capable of instant acceleration unlike traditional combustion engines which need time to do so
  • Regenerative breaking:Another crucial, efficiency-boosting attribute of the electric car will be regenerative braking. It’s an application of an old physics law where the electric motor powering the car can reverse its role, becoming a generator and charging the battery. The generator load is the resistance that provides braking torque and it can be varied if you want to just bring down the speed, not stop the car altogether

Syncing the electric car to an Indian driver

  • Artificial noise can be added to the car to make it as per the aspirations of a typical Indian driver who has an ever present need to differentiate his vehicle from the others on the road
  • Adding a time delay: To ensure we don’t just step on the accelerator pedal and zoom our peppy, powerful electric car right into other vehicles on our chaotic roads, manufacturers can add a time delay in the software
  • Our habit of jamming on the brakes may make regenerative braking less useful. During sudden braking, for safety reasons, normal braking takes over after initial regenerative braking. In other words, the energy savings can come down


Electric cars present a unique opportunity for Indian drivers. Instead of tamping down the technology, we can instead change our habits — be mindful of lanes, wait our turn, be polite and respectful of others and their needs, and make our driving smoother, as well as make best use of regenerative braking

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Globalisation in retreat 

Globalisation in retreat 


Article tinkers with the popular question: The fate of globalization & where are we headed?

Globalization in retreat

Author cites the example of major countries where anti-globalization sentiment seems to be rising.

He states that

  • The retreat of globalization is not confined to the US alone. Germany, Britain, France and Italy are the four biggest European economies
  • Via Brexit, Britain has already given in to an inward-looking pullback
  • Right wing populist political forces are showing signs of revival in Italy
  • The nativist party led by Marine Le Pen finished second in France; and
  • A right-wing populist party has emerged from nowhere in Germany to become the third largest party in parliament, causing a substantial erosion of popular support for the centre right and centre left, and making it hard for a government to emerge

Defining globalization

  • Theoretical definition: Author states that in its purest economic form, globalization represents free movement of capital, goods and labour across national boundaries
  • Reality: In reality, compared to capital and goods, labour was always allowed lower freedom to move. Moreover, since different countries opted for varying degrees of integration with the global economy, even the movement of capital and goods, while less constrained than before, was not entirely free

Globalization as it is now

Eventually, the actually existing globalisation came to mean two things:

  1. Greater economic freedom beyond national borders than perhaps ever before; and
  2. Freer movement of capital and goods than of labour

Globalization 2.0

Economic historians also make it clear that the hundred years until the First World War constituted the first era of globalization. We have been watching Globalization 2.0 over the last four decades

How China & India have progressed under Globalization 2.0?

India and China were among the worst sufferers during the first globalisation but they have been two of the biggest beneficiaries of the second globalisation.

  • In 1980, China and India were not even among the 45 largest economies of the world
  • In 2016, at $11.2 trillion, China’s GDP was second only to the US ($18.6 trillion) and at $2.3 trillion, India’s GDP was the seventh largest in the world, ahead of Italy ($1.9 trillion) and Canada ($1.5 trillion), and only slightly behind Britain ($2.6 trillion) and France ($2.5 trillion), though its per capita income continues to be a fraction of all four

Therefore, China and India have not objected to Globalisation 2.0 while the West has. Further, it is not economic arguments against globalisation that have forced the retreat. It is the new political forces that have done so

Arguments against globalization

Two economic arguments against full-blown globalisation, made in the 1990s, are worth noting

  • Prone to extreme instability: In 1998, JagdishBhagwati, famous for his arguments in favour of trade globalisation, wrote vehemently against free movement of capital, arguing that capital markets were prone to extreme instability — “panics and manias” — unlike trade in goods, which was more stable and durably welfare-enhancing. In 1996, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and South Korea received $93 billion in capital inflow, but had an outflow of $12 billion in 1997, causing a massive East Asian economic crisis. Trade in goods can never wildly fluctuate in this manner
  • In 1997, Dani Rodrik, A Turkish economist, had argued against unrestricted free trade, claiming that many losers from trade liberalisation would lose permanently, not simply in the short run

Recent arguments against globalization

  • The first is the claim that there is a grave imbalance between the global nature of markets and the national scope of state sovereignty. If wages in the US are high, businesses can simply move overseas, hurting US work force. Greater popular control over capital, according to this argument, was necessary
  • Second argument is around immigrant movement across the borders. The anti-immigrant wave of politics, often taking ugly racist forms, is born out of the anxiety produced by the changing demographic composition of polities. In the US, the Hispanics and Muslims became the object of a majoritarian ire; in France, North African Muslims; in Britain, new migrants from Europe and elsewhere; in Germany, refugees from the Middle East, etc

Where are we headed?

As per author,

  • Labour migration will almost certainly be badly hurt
  • Capital is likely to be hit least as complex supply chains established after years of globalization cannot be easily broken
  • The tricky part for populist rulers will be how to impose higher tariffs to protect domestic businesses without triggering a trade war
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Why the humanoid robot could soon be your new best Mitra 

Why the humanoid robot could soon be your new best Mitra 


A robot called Mitra greeted PM Modi and Ivanka Trump at Hyderabad’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit. We could see more Mitra-like robots soon

Mitra: The Humanoid robot

‘Mitra’, the humanoid robot that greeted Prime Minister of India and Ivanka Trump at the inauguration of the 2017 Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), has been developed by a Bengaluru-based start-up Invento Robotics

  • The company was founded by BalajiVishwanathan in 2016
  • Made of fibre-reinforced plastic, the five foot-tall humanoid is capable of face and speech recognition and can interact with human beings smartly
  • Deployed at Canara Bank: It is already deployed at the Canara Bank’s main branch at J C Road in Bengaluru, where it assists customers. Invento Robotics, which researched and built the robot, sells and rents out its robots for events and functions

‘Mitra’ can automate your opening an account. Typically, one’d have to stand in a queue at a counter, fill in forms and give photographs to open an account and get a passbook. Mitra will greet the customer, take their photo, Aadhaarcard details, etc., store these in the bank’s database and in five or six minutes, request the customer to collect their passbook from a specified counter. It makes it that easy

  • Depending on the requirement, the company customizes robots accordingly. The humanoid also has a touch screen on its chest which can be used to interact where speech is not possible. On a single charge, it can work upto eight hours. It can also understand multiple languages
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Govt. may meld Make in India with Invest India, says Prabhu 

Govt. may meld Make in India with Invest India, says Prabhu 


Centre mulls new approach to attract more foreign investment in manufacturing

What has happened?

Centre is thinking over a new approach to attract more investment, including from overseas, in manufacturing sector by combining the strengths of its ‘Make in India (MII)’ & its ‘Invest India’ initiatives

MII & Invest India

The MII was unveiled in September 2014 to “transform India into a global design and manufacturing hub” while ‘Invest India’ is the government’s investment promotion and facilitation agency envisaged to be the first point of reference for potential investors

What will be & is being done?

Main idea is that manufacturing and exports sectors should get a big boost through measures in the Union Budget. Government willbe identifying 5-6 sectors, and there will be certain incentives for such newly identified manufactured products to help them scale up globally. It is  trying to work on a holistic strategy to make India a global manufacturing and export hub

  • Making apt changes to Start-upIndia: Start-up India policy was unveiled last January but only 74 start-ups have qualified for tax benefits under it. Measures would be taken by introducing appropriate changes in the Start-up India policy by making it more Start-up friendly
  • Efforts will be made to strengthen the State governments’ Investment Promotion and Facilitation Agencies
  • There is a need to hold regular sector-wise and country-wise round-tables as well as create specific groups using the latest technologies including social media to get quick feedback on policies
  • While there is already a State-wise ease of doing business rankings, there can be State-wise rankings in areas such as ‘start-up’- and ‘tourism’-friendliness
  • Helping out laggard states will also help because ultimately investment happens at the state-level. Invest India is in the process of identifying the strengths of each State to help them go in for tie-ups with countries that are world leaders in those areas
  • An exercise has already begun to identify the countries attracting the maximum investment sector-wise, the reasons for the same, as well as efforts to convince those very investors that India can provide better return on their investments and greater efficiency in those sectors
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Road to an open internet 

Road to an open internet 


Author talks about as to how net neutrality has transcended from being a technical rhetoric to a subject with widespread public discussion and debate owing to the inherent sense of fairness being involved

Net neutrality

Net neutrality creates rules for a free and open Internet.It requires that barriers should not be created by telecom and Internet service providers for user choice by limiting their power to discriminate between content providers and different classes of content. Through binding rules and regulations, the power of access providers to selectively price or create technical imbalances is corrected

SC’s position

In a recent judgement pertaining to a presidential reference on allocation of natural resources, SC has observed that,

as natural resources are public goods, the doctrine of equality, which emerges from concepts of justice and fairness, must guide the state in determining the actual mechanism for distribution of material resources”

In simpler words, equality should be the mainstay of any resource allocation done by the government. There should be no partiality of any sort. Resources are to be allocated with full fairness and as per the competence of the respective companies.

Why the debate of net neutrality has taken up such a wide recognition?

Following reasons can be attributed to this phenomenon,

  1. Concept of net neutrality involves aperception of fairness which appeals to us in a personal manner. No one should be limited to a set of options over internet
  2. Impact on freedom to speech & Expression: Each one of us uses internet on a daily basis. Any metric that is going to affect the nature of our internet usage has the potential of affecting our rights very deeply. Same holds true for net neutrality. Tinkering with it would impact both the right to speak and the ability to receive knowledge, hence impacting our right to freedom of speech and expression

Such realisation is found in the Differential Pricing Regulation issued on February 8, 2016, which prevented telecom companies from pricing access to Internet websites and content differently. In the explanatory memorandum to this regulation, TRAI states, “As observed by the Supreme Court, in the Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting v. Cricket Association of Bengal, (1995) 2 SCC 161, para 201(3)(b) allowing citizens the benefit of plurality of views and a range of opinions on all public issues is an essential component of the right to free speech. This includes the right to express oneself as well as the right to receive information as observed by the Supreme Court in the Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Pvt. Ltd. v. Union of India, (1985) 1 SCC 641 case.”


The Net neutrality campaign has not been without criticism and growing public disappointment. While such sentiments may arise from legitimate concerns, they are disproportionate to the greater benefit of raising public debate

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