According to a study published in the Lancet Global Health,1 in 7 babies worldwide are born with a low birthweight.
The study has said that more than 20 million babies are born with a low birthweight (less than 2500 g or 5.5 pounds) worldwide. Further, South Asia accounts for almost half of the world’s low birthweight live births with an estimated 9.8 million in 2015.
The problem of low birthweight also remains substantial in high-income countries in Europe, North America, and Australia and New Zealand.
The researchers were unable to arrive at national estimates for India because only partial data were available. However, India has made progress in improving newborn care by building 834 newborn care units in the last decade.
Further, Worldwide low birthweight prevalence has fallen slightly from 17.5% in 2000 to 14.6% in 2015.But,the current rate of progress will still fall short of the WHO target of a 30% reduction in prevalence between 2012 and 2025.
Low birthweight is due to being born too soon (preterm or before 37 weeks of pregnancy) or too small (growth restricted in utero) or both.
The causes of Low birthweight include (a)maternal age (b)infections, (c)obesity or undernutrition (c)smoking and environmental exposures, (d)multiple pregnancies and (e)non-medically indicated Cesarean sections.
The International Monetary Fund(IMF) and Pakistan have agreed on terms for a $6bn bailout package to be disbursed to Pakistan over a span of more than three years.
Earlier, Pakistan had asked the IMF to bail itself out from a severe financial crisis that threatens to cripple the country’s economy. Pakistan has already received financial aid packages from countries like China, Saudi Arabia and the UAE during the current fiscal year.
The IMF has said the bailout conditions agreed upon are (a)increasing government revenues and reducing spending (b)bringing down the primary fiscal deficit in Pakistan’s upcoming budget.
The programme also include tax policy revenue mobilisation measures to eliminate exemptions, curtail special treatments, and improve tax administration.
It will also target Pakistan’s loss-making state-owned enterprises and the country’s energy sector, long plagued by structural issues that have led to a burden of heavy subsidies on the government.
However, Pakistan’s record in sticking to agreements with the IMF is not encouraging.It has often failed to meet conditions such as curtailing spending and selling government stake in state-owned enterprise.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an international organization headquartered in Washington, US. It consists of 189 countries. It was formed in 1944 at the Bretton Woods Conference. It has been established to (a)foster global monetary cooperation (b)secure financial stability, (c)facilitate international trade (d)promote high employment (e) sustainable economic growth and (f)reduce poverty around the world.
According to the Agriculture Ministry officials, Out of ₹1,400 crore earmarked annually for the north-eastern States under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana,only ₹8 crore was actually spent last year.
Further Four north-eastern States namely Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland ,Manipur and Mizoram are not covered under the scheme at all.
The lack of coverage has left thousands of maize farmers devastated by losses from the fall armyworm pest in the Mizoram without any hope of insurance.
The reasons for lack of coverage are Insurance companies have been reluctant to bid for these States as (a)administrative costs are high (b)no proper land records (c)historic yield data is not available for these States particularly at the gram panchayat and block level and (d)difficult to conduct CCEs(crop-cutting experiments) needed for many horticulture crops. CCEs are conducted to obtain fair, precise and accurate estimate of the yield of crops.
The Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (Prime Minister’s Crop Insurance Scheme) was launched in 2016.The scheme has replaced the two schemes National Agricultural Insurance Scheme(NAIS) as well as the Modified NAIS.
PMFBY envisages a uniform premium of 2% to be paid by farmers for Kharif crops and 1.5% for Rabi crops. The premium for annual commercial and horticultural crops will be 5%
Researcher at the University of Bristol has decoded the Voynich manuscript.
The Voynich manuscript is a handwritten and illustrated text carbon-dated to the mid-15th Century. The document is housed in the Beinecke Library at Yale University in the USA.
The manuscript is named after Wilfrid M Voynich, a Polish book dealer and antiquarian who purchased it in 1912.
The researcher has said that the text is written in Proto-Romance, belonging to today’s Romance languages including Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian, Romanian, Catalan and Galician.
The language was commonplace in the Mediterranean during the medieval period but got lost as Latin was the language of royalty, church and government.
Further, the researcher has said that (a)Its alphabet is a combination of unfamiliar and more familiar symbols (b)It includes no dedicated punctuation marks although some letters have symbol variants to indicate punctuation or phonetic accents and (c)All of the letters are in lowercase and there are no double consonant.
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has found out that the Under-5 mortality in India was higher than in any other country in 2015.Under-5 mortality means probability of dying between birth and age 5 which is expressed per 1,000 live births.
Researchers have said that while India has reduced its annual mortality among children under five from 2.5 million in 2000 to 1.2 million in 2015 but it was still the highest in the world.
The researchers have further noted that there exists large disparities in the child mortality rate between richer and poorer states. Among the states, the highest mortality rate is in Assam at 73.1 per 1,000 which was more than seven times that in Goa’s 9.7 per 1,000.
The major reasons which featured prominently as causes of death in higher-mortality states were due to preterm complications and preventable infectious diseases.
Researchers have suggested that India can accelerate its reduction of under-five mortality rates by scaling up vaccine coverage and improving childbirth and neonatal care especially in states where mortality rates remain high.
The Reserve Bank of India has directed non-banking finance companies (NBFC) with assets size of over Rs 5000 crore to appoint a chief risk officer(CRO) to improve standards of their risk management.
This directive comes at a time when NBFCs are facing a funding crisis as some of the firms are burdened with over-leveraging and mismatch between assets and liabilities.
RBI also told NBFCs to ensure the independence of their CRO. The CRO shall be a senior official in the hierarchy of an NBFC and shall have professional qualification/experience in the area of risk management.
The primary role of the risk officer will be identification, measurement and mitigation of risks. Further, all credit products (retail or wholesale) shall be vetted by the CRO from the angle of inherent and control risks.
An NBFC is a company registered under the Companies Act, 1956.It engages in the business of (a)loans and advances (b)acquisition of shares /stocks/ bonds/ debentures/securities issued by Government or local authority or other marketable securities of a like nature leasing and (c)hire-purchase, insurance business, chit business.
However, it does not include any institution whose principal business is that of (a)agriculture activity (b)industrial activity (c)purchase or sale of any goods (other than securities) and (d)providing any services and sale/purchase/construction of immovable property.
The Election Commission of India has curtailed campaigning in West Bengal for the final phase of the general election shutting down election campaigning 19 hours earlier than it was to end. It has also removed the state’s Home Secretary and a senior police officer.
This order comes after violence was reported in West Bengal during which a statue of the Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, one of the foremost icons of the Bengal Renaissance was destroyed.
EC had invoked powers under Article 324 of the Indian Constitution which states that superintendence, direction and control of elections to be vested in an Election Commission. This is the first time that such a ban on campaigning has been ordered in the history of India.
The Supreme Court in Mohinder Singh Gill & Anr vs The Chief Election Commissioner(1977) had held that Article 324 operates in areas left unoccupied by legislation and the words ‘superintendence, direction and control as well as conduct of all elections are the broadest terms. The Constitution has not defined these terms.
Parliament enacted The Representation of the People Act,1950 and The Representation of the People Act,1951 to define and enlarge the powers of the Election Commission.
The Representation of the People (Amendment) Act,1988 (Act 1 of 1989) introduced Section 28A in the RP Act of 1951 which said that all officers deployed for the conduct of an election shall be deemed to be on deputation to the Election Commission from the notification of the election to the declaration of the results. Such officers shall during that period be subject to the control, superintendence and discipline of the Election Commission.
The Representation of the People Act,1951 is an act of Parliament of India which provides (a)the conduct of elections of the Houses of Parliament and the House of the Legislature of each State (b)the qualifications and disqualifications for membership of those Houses and (c)the corrupt practices, decisions, doubts and disputes arising in connection with such elections
U.S. Chief of naval operations has said that India and the U.S. are cooperating to prevent all forms of terrorism both from land and sea.
He said that the foundational agreement, Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) which India had signed in 2018 would enable exchange of information on such threats.
COMCASA is an India-specific version of the Communication and Information on Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA).It came into force immediately and is valid for a period of 10 years.
COMCASA allows India to procure specialised equipment for encrypted communications from the U.S. origin military platforms. This will also enable greater communications interoperability between the militaries of India and the US.
CISMOA is one of the four foundational agreements that the U.S. signs with allies and close partners to facilitate interoperability between militaries and sale of high end technology.
India had signed the General Security Of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) in 2002 and the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in 2016. The last one remaining is the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA).
The US President has decided to announce a new proposal to overhaul the country’s immigration policy. The policy would give preference to foreigners based on merit rather than the existing system that gives preference to family ties.
Currently, about 12% of those receiving green cards entered the U.S. based on skill-based visas such as the H1B visas while some 66% are family-based green cards.
The proposed system is similar to the point-based system of countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. The proposal will increase skills-based green cards to close to 60%.Points will be awarded to applicants based on their education, work experience, age and English language ability.
The proposal also seeks to discontinue the diversity lottery system for green cards which currently makes 50,000 green cards available to under-represented groups each year.
Further, the second part of the proposal seeks to reduce illegal migration to the U.S. by building physical barriers in sections of the southern border with Mexico. It will also make it harder for individuals to claim asylum which is a right under U.S. and international law.
The proposed policy is likely to benefit Indian professionals on H-1B visa whose current Green Card wait on an average is more than a decade.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.
Dependents of H-1B visa holders get H-4 visas. Green Card is an identification card which gives one the status of a permanent resident along with legal rights to work in the USA.
Recently, Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction (GAR) has warned of new and much larger threats due to extreme climate changes to economies in particular the Asia Pacific region.
The GAR was launched at the ‘Global Platform’ organised by the by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).
The report has outlined major risk to human life from air pollution and biological hazards in addition to other natural disasters like floods, landslides and earthquakes.
The report has said that economic losses to the extent of 4% of GDP annually are projected if countries don’t invest in DRR (disaster risk reduction).The report has also estimated that an annual investment of $6 billion in DRR strategies would generate benefits of up to $360 billion each year.
The report has also warned that failure to act more urgently to manage intertwined risks could slow or even reverse progress towards the UN goals on sustainable development which include eradicating poverty and hunger.
The report has urged the governments to put the Sendai Framework into action shifting focus from disaster management to reducing risk.
The “Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030” was adopted during the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held in Sendai, Japan in March,2015.It outlines targets and priorities for action to prevent new and reduce existing disaster risks
The UNISDR was established in 1999 as a dedicated secretariat to facilitate the implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR).It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
It is mandated to serve as the focal point in the United Nations system for the coordination of disaster reduction and to ensure synergies among the disaster reduction activities.
India has handed over a pair of Mi-24 helicopters to Afghanistan with the aim of strengthening the Afghan air force.
The Mi-24 is a large helicopter gunship. It can be used for assault and transport missions given that it can ferry up to eight people.
The handover comes at a particularly crucial time for Afghanistan which has been looking for alternative sources of funds and weapons to sustain its defence forces in the event of a US exit.
India has pledged and donated more than $3 billion in aid and reconstruction efforts to Afghanistan.
However, India has been reluctant to send soldiers to reinforce a US-led multinational force. India’s reluctance stems from the fact that its embassy in Afghanistan have been targeted by terrorist groups such as the Haqqani network that are linked to Pakistan-backed Taliban insurgents who are aiming to dislodge Afghan President.
Further, U.S and Taliban officials had also held several rounds of talks aimed at ensuring a safe exit for U.S. forces in return for a Taliban guarantee that Afghanistan will not be used by militants to threaten the rest of the world.
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has decided to encourage the use of data analytics to timely detect frauds and take recovery actions such as blocking irregular transactions before payment authorisation.
This move is a part of RBI’s vision 2019-21 for payments and settlements in electronic space.
The RBI has also proposed to make India a cashless economy by 2021 through safe, secure, accessible and affordable e-payment systems. It said entry of more players and increased innovation may help in achieving a cash free economy.
RBI will also promote the adoption of digital payments through feature phones and offline payment mechanism.
Data analytics is a process of inspecting, cleansing, transforming, and modeling data with the goal of discovering useful information, informing conclusions, and supporting decision-making.
India has held the 11th Consular Committee Meeting with Iran to discuss on smoothening visa and legal matters essential for bilateral ties.
India and Iran discussed issues such as (a)early conclusion of mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) (b)extending longer duration of e-Visa for each other national on reciprocity and (c)visa facilitation for greater people-to-people contact.
Currently, Iran provides visa-on-arrival to Indian travellers which is given as a paper visa.Iranian visas are also given to Indians online and through missions. India also provides e-visa facilities to Iranian travellers but Iran has asked for longer duration of e-visas from India.
Further, Iran has been conducting talks with various countries for bilateral visa arrangements to help facilitate smooth travel as the country is facing international sanctions that can potentially affect the free movement of business travellers.
A mutual legal assistance treaty (MLAT) is an agreement between two or more countries for the purpose of gathering and exchanging information in an effort to enforce public or criminal laws.
This assistance may take the form of (a)examining and identifying people (b)places and things (c)custodial transfers and (d)providing assistance with the immobilisation of the instruments of criminal activity. India has signed Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) with 39 countries
Finance Commission has held discussions with the finance ministry on fiscal and economic management of the country,
During the meeting, 15th Finance Commission has said that the GDP numbers suggests continued high growth over the medium term even though there have been fluctuations within the overall global trend.
Gross domestic product (GDP) is the monetary value of all the finished goods and services produced within a country’s borders in a specific time period.
Further, discussions were also held on rationalisation of the Centrally Sponsored Schemes. Centrally sponsored schemes are schemes that are implemented by state governments but are funded by the Centre with some portion of funding being borne by states.
The Commission also noted that the revenue projections on direct taxes are healthy though on indirect taxes there have been periodic fluctuations.
The Finance Commission is constituted by the President under Article 280 of the Constitution mainly to give its recommendations on distribution of tax revenues between the Union and the States and amongst the States themselves.
The Commission is appointed every five years. It consists of a Chairman and four other members. The Chairman of the 15th finance commission is chaired by N. K. Singh. Its recommendations will cover the five year period commencing from 1st April,2020.
Scientists have said that they have made a significant progress in solving the mystery behind Moon’s formation after the detailed survey of the far side of the moon made by China’s Chang’e-4. The study has been published in the journal Nature.
Earlier in 2019, China had achieved a milestone after its spacecraft Chang’e-4 (named after the moon goddess in Chinese mythology) made first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon. Chang’e 4 lander deployed the rover Yutu-2 in Von Karmen Crater in the Aitken Basin at the moon’s South Pole.
The far side of the Moon is the hemisphere of the Moon that always faces away from Earth. The far side’s terrain is rugged with a multitude of impact craters. The near side of the moon is the one which face the Earth. This is because the tidal forces from Earth have slowed down the Moon’s rotation to the point where the same side is always facing the Earth. This phenomenon is called tidal locking
Previous research suggested that the moon was covered with an ocean of magma up to hundreds of miles deep when it was newly formed and still hot from its creation. As this magma ocean cooled and solidified, denser minerals rich in iron and magnesium, such as olivine, sank to the bottom of the magma-ocean. On the other hand, lighter minerals rich in silicon and aluminum, such as plagioclase gathered near the surface. The theory is popularly known as the lunar magma ocean theory.
Yutu-2 discovered minerals that appeared markedly different from typical lunar surface material, which were likely excavated from below the South Pole-Aitken Basin floor. Materials such as olivine and low-calcium pyroxene that are rare elsewhere on the surface have been detected.
According to researchers, these materials were ejected from the moon’s upper mantle when it was struck by a meteor. The researchers have claimed that the study support the lunar magma ocean theory, and demonstrate that the magma ocean hypothesis can be used to describe the early evolution history of the moon.
With rising temperature and depleting food and water resources, wild animals from Seshachalam biosphere reserve like slender loris and pangolin are foraying into human habitations.
IUCN has listed slender loris as Endangered, whereas they are listed under the Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of India, 1972, according them the highest level of legal protection. The pangolin is also listed as endangered in the IUCN Red List.
Seshachalam hills is the first Biosphere Reserve in Andhra Pradesh. It is located in southern Eastern Ghats of Chittoor and Kadapa districts. Biosphere Reserve (BR) is an international designation by UNESCO for representative parts of natural and cultural landscapes extending over large area of terrestrial or coastal/ marine ecosystems or a combination of them.
The programme of ‘Biosphere Reserve’ was initiated by UNESCO in 1971. If a country declares one area as a biosphere reserve, it can nominate the same to under the UNESCOs Man and Biosphere (MAB) Programme.
The Biosphere Reserves should meet a minimal set of criteria for inclusion in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR) under MAB programme. If UNESCO accepts the proposal of the government, the biosphere reserve then enters into the WNBR. There are 18 Biosphere Reserves in India. Of these, 11 are part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
The Delhi High Court has ruled that enkindling the #me too campaign by constantly republishing articles based sexual harassment complaints, where women remains anonymous, violates a man’s right to privacy, inherent to which is the right to be forgotten and left alone as guaranteed by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
The Court has directed to stop republication of articles against the managing director of a media house. A digital platform had published two articles in October 2018 against the man on the basis of harassment complaints received by it as a part of the #me too campaign. The complainants had chosen to remain anonymous. Later the articles have been continuously republished by other platforms.
The #MeToo campaign, began as a hastag on Twitter in 2017 amid the Weinstein incident Harvey Weinstein, a noted Hollywood producer was accused of sexual harassment by over 70 women. The movement soon became a global phenomenon with women across regions sharing their stories of sexual harassment and abuse on social media.
Since September 2018, number of women in India have come up with stories of harassment at workplace and many influential men-actors, stand-up comics, senior journalists- have been accused of alleged sexual abuse and harassment.
The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act is set to be withdrawn from Assam in August. In 1990, the entire was declared a “disturbed area” and AFPSA was imposed when the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) militancy was at peak. ULFA sought to establish an independent state of Assam with an armed struggle in the Assam conflict.
In September 2018, the Centre had delegated to Assam the power to extend or withdraw AFSPA. The state government has had twice extended the Act, citing the upcoming publication of the final National Register of Citizens (NRC). The deadline for submitting the complete and final NRC is July 31st.
The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act was enacted in 1958 to bring under control what the government of India considered ‘disturbed’ areas.
The state or central government considers those areas as ‘disturbed’ “by reason of differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.
Section (3) of the AFSPA empowers the governor of the state or Union territory to issue an official notification in The Gazette of India, following which the Centre has the authority to send in armed forces for civilian aid.
Once declared ‘disturbed’, the region has to maintain status quo for a minimum of three months, according to The Disturbed Areas (Special Courts) Act, 1976.
The AFSPA offers powers to the Army and Central forces deployed in disturbed areas to kill anyone acting in contravention of law, arrest and search any premises without a warrant. These armed forces are immune from prosecution unless Union Government provides sanction to the prosecuting agencies.
AFSPA is effective in the whole of Nagaland, Assam, Manipur (excluding seven assembly constituencies of Imphal) and parts of Arunachal Pradesh. The Centre had revoked it in Meghalaya on April 1, 2018.
The Vedic Science Research Centre (VSRC), Odisha, has asked Puri’s Sri Jagannath temple administration and the Odisha government to stop the cutting of a large number of trees in future for the construction of new chariots for the Rath Yatra. This comes in the backdrop of widespread destruction of tress due to extremely severe cyclone Fani which had recently hit the state.
VSRC is an organisation of ethno-biologists. It studies biological and environmental consciousness in ancient India and its scriptures.
Jagannath Rath Yatra is an annual event, which is celebrated on Ashadha Shukla Paksha Dwitiya (second day in bright fortnight of Ashadha month) in the month of June or July. It is dedicated to Lord Jagannath, his sister Goddess Subhadra and his elder brother Lord Balabhadra. It is held at Puri, Odisha. The festival commemorates Jagannath’s annual visit to Gundicha Temple.
A new study titled ‘Social, biological and programmatic factors link adolescent pregnancy to early childhood under nutrition: a path analysis of India’s 2016 National Family Health Survey’ by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has for the first time comprehensively shown the correlation between teenage pregnancy and child under nutrition in India.
The study has highlighted how child marriage adds to India’s child malnutrition burden. It analysed data from 60,097 mother-child pairs and examined the extent to which teenage pregnancy is associated with child under nutrition. According to the study, stunting (low height for age) and underweight (low weight for age) prevalence was 10% points higher in children born to adolescent mothers.
The study has also highlighted that the social challenges faced by schemes such as the Centre’s Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, the Delhi government’s Ladli and the West Bengal government’s Kanyashree. These are conditional cash transfer schemes that are aimed at encouraging education for girls and preventing underage marriage and infanticide
According to the National Family Health Survey-4 (NHFS-4) data, among the marriages in the country, 27% are those of underage girls. Further, according to the data, 38.4% babies in India are stunted.