9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – December 18, 2020

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Here is our 9pm current affairs brief for you today

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GS 2

Nutritional agenda

Eliminating Tuberculosis (TB)

Farmers have constitutional right to continue with protest: SC

GS 3

Waste to Energy

Guaranteed MSP will claim half the Budget

Farmer’s protest

9 PM for Preliminary examination


Nutritional agenda

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS-2- Health

Context: The fifth round of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS 2019-20) factsheets on the burden of child under nutrition is not encouraging.

How is under nutrition measured?

  • Relied on the measure of a child’s anthropometry: Children are defined as stunted, underweight or wasted if their standardised height-for-age, weight-for-age or weight-for-height is more than two standard deviations below the (WHO) Child Growth Standards median.
    • However, under nutrition can also be measured by observing the adequacy and sufficiency of food or dietary intake among children.

What is the status of under nutrition in the fifth round of NFHS report?

  • NFHS-4 (2015-16): The percentage of children (aged 6-23 months) who do not meet the minimum dietary adequacy as defined under the Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) practices by WHO is 83.9%; a decline of just over 2 percentage points.
    • Thus, eight out of 10 children appear to be experiencing a dietary shortfall.
    • Analysis based on NFHS-4 has shown that consumption of protein-rich food as well as fruit and vegetables were substantially low.
  • Dietary adequacy: Goa experienced the largest percentage point decline (11.1%), and Jammu and Kashmir observed the highest increase in its percentage of children not meeting dietary adequacy over the last three years (76.5% to 86.4%).
    • While there are some variations, in every State more than 75% of the children do not receive the minimum adequate diet.
  • Anaemia prevalence: Anaemia prevalence among children increased by about eight percentage points from 51.8% to 60.2%. The prevalence of anaemia in childhood increased in 18 of the 22 States/Union Territories.
    • In the majority of the States, two out of three children have possible iron-deficiency. The State-wise trends for adults are mixed, although it is clear that women are substantially at a far greater risk for anaemia than men.

What are the steps to be taken?

  • Initiatives: (POSHAN) Abhiyaan and the Anemia Mukt Bharat or AMB Strategy was launched in 2018 with efforts to improve Iron and Folic Acid (IFA) supplementation.
    • Behaviour change and anaemia-related care and treatment across six target groups including pregnant women, lactating mothers, and children, and the provisional verdict is mixed for women and concerning for children.
  • Typology: A classification of nutritional status using a combined typology based on children who experience dietary failure and anthropometric failure is crucial.
    • A recent NFHS-4 based study using this typology found that 36.3% of children who experienced a dietary failure do not show anthropometric failure.
  • Nutrition agenda: Dietary factors can clearly be a major determinant of stagnancy in the nutritional status of Indian children. Therefore the nutrition agenda needs to be considered from “food as a right” perspective.
  • Quality data: Data available in a timely manner and in public domain, is empowering, as the NFHS has demonstrated over the last 25-plus years. But systematic and quality data on what Indians eat remains largely unknown.
    • A modern data initiative leveraging and combining aspects of the NFHS, the National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau and the National Sample Surveys that collected data on detailed household-level consumption and expenditure on various food items should be considered.

Way forward

  • Decluttering our current approach to reducing the burden of child under nutrition and keeping it simple with a policy goal to providing affordable (economic and physical) access to quality food items, particularly for lower socioeconomic populations groups, should be prioritised.

Eliminating Tuberculosis (TB)

Source- The Indian Express

Syllabus- GS 2- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

Context- The pandemic provides learning opportunity and opens up possibilities of accelerating Tuberculosis (TB) elimination venture.

More in news-

  • Covid-19 has derailed the painstaking efforts of decades and diverted scientific attention from killer diseases like tuberculosis
  • COVID-19 lockdowns have resulted in a 30 per cent decline in tuberculosis diagnosis and reporting.
  • Researchers estimate that over the next five years, an additional 1.19 million TB cases and 3,61,000 TB deaths may occur in India.

What is Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that most often affect the lungs.

  • TB causes respiratory illness and spread from person to person through the air.
  • Mortality rate of 13 per cent — far worse than the 1.3 per cent for COVID-19.

How combating COVID-19 pandemic can help eradicate TB?

  1. Raise the awareness of the general masses- The leaders and individuals have realized the devastation an infectious respiratory disease can cause.
  2. Behavioural changes– The changes acquired during the pandemic such as cough hygiene, use of masks, physical distancing will further help reduce the transmission of tuberculosis, which is a respiratory illness.
  • Doctors and nurses will be less complacent about these measures.
  1. Raise investments in the healthcare sector– investments in health systems infrastructure, infection control equipment and personal protection equipment will ensure better airborne infection prevention and control.
  2. Boost testing scale-
  • COVID-19 has changed the landscape of testing and surveillance.
  • The speed of research on new COVID-19 tests and the scale at which testing was applied are lessons to be learned by TB programmes.
  • Bi-directional” TB and COVID-19 testing – Greater identification of cases will lead to more persons being isolated and treated.
  1. Speed of vaccine development-
  • The success of various COVID-19 vaccine platforms and the speed at which the vaccine has been brought to the market gives tremendous hope for TB vaccine candidates.
  • Fast-tracking of research, advance purchasing, and research sharing by countries witnessed during the pandemic could apply to the TB vaccine.
  1. Several dedicated infectious diseases hospitals have come up as a part of the pandemic response measures, which would contribute in a major way towards tuberculosis care and management.
  2. The molecular diagnostic capacity has increased – These multi-platform devices based on cartridge and chip-based technology can decentralize TB diagnosis.
  3. COVID-19 has taught to prioritize public health as much as curative and preventive health.
  4. The increased uptake of telemedicine and teleconsultation during the pandemic will provide channels of consultation for tuberculosis

What is the way forward?

COVID-19 is likely to expedite the trajectory of TB elimination.

  • COVID-19 pandemic has provided an opportunity to boost TB elimination activities through health system strengthening and infectious diseases control.

Farmers have constitutional right to continue with protest: SC

Source: Click Here

Syllabus: GS2: Indian Constitution—historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.

News: The Supreme Court has said that farmers have a constitutional right to continue with their “absolutely perfect” protest as long as their dissent against the three controversial agricultural laws did not slip into violence.


  • Background: This ruling came by the Supreme Court during the hearing of a batch of petitions seeking removal of protesting farmers from the Delhi borders.
  • Verdict: The Supreme Court has stated that it is the fundamental right of the farmers to protest as long as the protest is constitutional and does not destroy property or endanger life.

Additional Facts:

  • Right to Protest: The right to protest peacefully is enshrined in the Indian Constitution—Article 19(1)(a) guarantees the freedom of speech and expression; Article 19(1)(b) assures citizens the right to assemble peaceably and without arms.
    • However, these rights are also subject to reasonable restrictions mentioned under Article 19(2).
  • Supreme Court Judgements on Right to Protest:
    • Ramlila Maidan Incident vs Home Secretary, Union Of India & Ors. case(2012): The Supreme Court had stated that citizens have a fundamental right to assembly and peaceful protest which cannot be taken away by an arbitrary executive or legislative action.
    • Shaheen Bagh Judgement: The Supreme Court has upheld the right to peaceful protest against the law but made it unequivocally clear that public ways and public spaces cannot be occupied and that too indefinitely.

Waste to Energy

Source: The Hindu

Gs3: Environmental Pollution and Degradation, Science and Technology- Developments and their Applications and Effects in Everyday Life

Context: Recently Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa laid the foundation stone for a 11.5 MW waste-to-energy plant near Bidadi. This plant is expected to process 600 tonnes per day of inorganic waste.

What is the significance  of Waste to Energy Plants?

  • The waste-to-energy plants usually accept the RDF material generated in organic composting plants.
  • They also segregate the wet and inorganic material near the plant, convert organic waste to compost, and inorganic waste to energy.

Why it is needed?

  • Bengaluru generates close to 5,000 tonnes of waste daily, of which about 2,500 tonnes is organic, about 1,000 tonnes inert material (sweeping waste) and 1,500 tonnes inorganic.
  • This inorganic material, which consists of bad quality plastics and used cloth pieces, can be processed as Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF).
  • This material has a calorific value of more than 2,500 kJ/kg, and can be used to generate steam energy, which can be converted into electric energy instead of burning coal and other materials used in traditional waste-to-energy plants.
  • At present, Inorganic waste that is not fit for recycling are landfilled or left unhandled in waste plants and cause fire accidents.
  • Attempts to send this material to cement kilns have not fructified.
  • The proposed plant can source 600 tonnes per day of this RDF and generate 11.5 MW of power equivalent to 2.4 lakh units of power per day.
  • This will reduce the city’s dependency on unscientific landfills, reduce fire accidents, and provide a permanent solution to recover value from inorganic waste.

What are the challenges faced by Waste to Energy plants in India?

  • Poor quality of waste: The Waste to Energy plants require fine inorganic material with less than 5% moisture and less than 5% silt and soil contents, whereas the moisture and inert content in the mixed waste generated in the city is more than 15%-20%.
  • Lack of segregation at source: Since segregation at source doesn’t happen in the city, the collected waste material needs to be sieved using 80mm-100 mm sieving machines, which lets through organic material with more than 80mm-100 mm particle sizes into the inorganic waste. In addition, the sticky silt and soil particles will also reduce the calorific value.
  • Cost of Power is high: Generally, the tariff at which the power is purchased by to energy plants across the country is around ₹7-8 KwH which is higher than the ₹3-4 per KwH generated through coal and other means. This could be a serious challenge, as the selling price of power cannot be increased corresponding to the purchasing price.

Guaranteed MSP will claim half the Budget

Source: The Hindu Business line

Gs3: Issues related to Direct and Indirect Farm Subsidies and Minimum Support Prices

Context: Procurement of 23 crops at MSP which will amount to ₹17-lakh cr and to support this annual allocation, rich farmers should pay tax.

What is the farmers ’demand?

  • The protesters have rejected the offer of amendments to farm laws and are firm on their demand for repeal of the three laws.
  • Farmers want MSP guarantee.

Is it feasible to accept demand of MSP guarantee?

  • Not economical: India has about 14 crore farmers (as per PM-KISAN enumeration). Cost of procuring all 23 crops is 50 per cent of India’s annual expenditure
  • Unsustainable burden: The cost of MSP and subsidised food supplies are being met by heavy borrowings from the National Small Savings Fund (NSSF).
  • Rising subsidies: In 2019-20, 11 per cent of the country’s total budget was spent on farmer welfare schemes. Subsidies on food and fertiliser and expenses on irrigation schemes in 2019-20 noticed a 65 per cent jump from 2017-18.
  • Direct benefit: introduction of the PM-KISAN scheme resulted in leap in food subsidy.
  • Rise in procurement: Procurement of food crops including paddy, wheat, pulses and oilseeds under MSP has seen a dramatic increase. For example, compared to 1,395 lakh tonnes of wheat procured between 2009 and 2014, 1,627 lakh tonne of wheat have been procured in the last five years.

What are the other issues?

  • Disparities: MSP’s poor implementation has created problems of equity with large farmers of just two States Punjab and Haryana.
  • Faulty policy: As per CACP, more than 95 per cent paddy farmers in Punjab and about 70 per cent farmers in Haryana are covered under MSP operations. States such as Uttar Pradesh (3.6 per cent), West Bengal (7.3 per cent), Odisha (20.6 per cent) and Bihar (1.7 per cent), have only a minuscule number of farmers benefit from procurement.

Why blanket exemption on taxing agriculture income is bad policy?

  • Agriculture income including that from sale of farmland is exempt under Section 10 (1) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 without any limit.
  • Rich farmers and politically influential people use the provision to convert black money into white.
  • Rich farmers include many corporates who run seed companies and whose profits run into crores.
  • In 2019, a Comptroller and Auditor General report red-flagged the irregularities in exemptions given by the taxman on agriculture income.
  • It said that claims of tax exemption on farm income were given based on “inadequate verification or incomplete documentation” in more than a fifth of the 6,778 cases.
  • Exemption was granted in hundreds of cases where land records or proof of farm income was not available.
  • According to an article published in the Economic and Political Weekly by Govind Bhattacharjee, a retired Director General from CAG, assesses who had reported agricultural of more than ₹5 lakh each between 2014-15 and 2016-17 were 22,195.

The blanket exemption on agriculture income should be stopped and it should continue for roughly 86 per cent of the peasants of the country. The 14 per cent rich farmers should come forward to help the rest get MSP support.

Farmer’s protest

Source- The Hindu

Syllabus- GS 3- Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System- objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions; economics of animal-rearing.

Context- The economic calculus needs to shifts from ‘economies of scale with standardization’ to ‘economies of scope for sustainability’.

How farm productivity can be increased and what are the consequences of this?

The agriculture sector contributes 17 per cent of India’s GDP. As per estimate, about 57 per cent of the working population is engaged in agriculture.

According to economists the farm productivity can be increased by –

  • India needs to shift from basic farming to more efficient, sustainable, productive farming.
  • More technology and automation will be required to improve productivity.
  • Reduce the number of employed– The agriculture sector should employ only 17 per cent of the workforce as to become more productive like other sectors.

Concern with such approach-

  1. Landholdings are too small for mechanization
  2. Mono-cropping– Mechanized farming will initiate mono-cropping, as mechanization requires standardization of work, which results in-
  • Fluctuate the ecological balance.
  • Reduced diversity of flora enables pests to spread more easily.
  • Soil quality gets reduced and waters resources deleted.

Therefore, India must figure out a way to provide meaningful employment to hundreds of millions of people outside agriculture.

What is government’s contention with new farm laws?

  1. Farmers will get higher prices – These Acts are intended to empower the farmers and ensure doubling of their incomes.
  2. Provide wider markets for farm produce – The Acts will only increase options for farmers in the output markets.
  • Connections into global supply chains can increase volumes of sales.

What are the major issues with new farm reforms?

  1. Promote corporate control– The farmers contend the federal government is making ready to withdraw from the procurement of food grain and hand it over to the company gamers.
  2. Will not have adequate pricing power-Small and marginal, would be left at the mercy of the corporates, with reduced collective bargaining capacity.
  • Trade will always favour the larger players in the supply chains who have easier access to capital.
  1. Against the Spirit of Cooperative federalism– Since agriculture and markets are State subjects, the ordinances are being seen as a direct encroachment upon the functions of the States

What is the way forward?

  1. Experts from many disciplines must collaborate to find systemic solutions for low income in farm sectors.
  2. The intended beneficiaries of the new policies must be included in the designing of the new policies right at the beginning.
  • Policymakers must listen to the institutions that represent small people — associations and unions of farmers, informal workers and small enterprises.
  1. Cooperative ownership and collective bargaining must be strengthened to give power to small farmers before opening markets to large corporations.

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