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Current Affairs Analysis

23rd & 24th October 2016 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

What is Bitcoins? H5N1 influenza; National Institutional Ranking Framework; ‘One India’ concept; 2016 Kabaddi World Cup; Indo-Italy Scientific and Technological Cooperation; etc.
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
October 24, 2016

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Monitoring Committee to Oversee Outbreak of H5 Avian Influenza
  • India falls short in female literacy
  • Centre plans to link varsity autonomy to performance

Economy

  • ‘One India’ push for ease of business
  • World Bank must aid countries to manage shift away from coal

Defence & Security Issues

  • Narcotics Control Bureau seizes 500 Bitcoins used in drug trafficking

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Indo-Italy Scientific and Technological Cooperation re-launched
  • 2016 Kabaddi World Cup

 

Polity & Governance

India falls short in female literacy

Data from new research on female literacy show that India’s school education system is under-performing in terms of quality in female literacy when compared to its neighbours, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

  • These findings were released by International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity (or Education Commission).

Highlights of the study:

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  • The proportion of women who completed five years of primary schooling in India and were literate was 48%, much less than 92% in Nepal, 74% in Pakistan and 54% in Bangladesh.
  • The female literacy rates in India went up by one to 15% after completing two years of schooling. Corresponding numbers for Pakistan and Nepal were three to 31% and 11 to 47% respectively.
  • Around the world, female literacy rates are improving. However, it is not clear if that is because of improvement in school quality.
  • India ranks low in global indices of female literacy as well. African countries Rwanda, Ethiopia and Tanzania all rank higher than India.
  • India was ranked 38th among the 51 developing countries for female literacy rates when countries are ranked by earliest grade at which at least of the women are literate.

How study was conducted?

  • For this research, researchers had devised a way to measure the quality of education around the world, with a specific focus on girls.
  • They had used data from nationally representative Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) which is one of the most comparable data sources on living standards in developing world.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Monitoring Committee to Oversee Outbreak of H5 Avian Influenza

Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has directed to constitute a monitoring committee for overseeing outbreak of H5 Avian Influenza in the country.

  • The decision has been taken in the backdrop of the reports of mortality among the birds in National Zoological Park, Delhi NCR and other parts of the country due to H5 Avian Influenza Virus.

Functions of the monitoring committee:

  • The committee will oversee the daily incidences of H5 Avian Influenza in National Zoological Park and other Zoos of the country and submit a daily report to the Environment Minister.

What actions are being taken to control the disease?

  • Active surveillance continues in the zoo;
  • Zoo is being screened regularly for any dead bird;
  • Bio-security measures continue;
  • Zoo remains closed for the safety of visitors and to control the disease;
  • A team of doctors from Animal Husbandry Department visited Delhi Zoo for monitoring;
  • A team of medical doctors visited and examined exposed employees of the zoo and medication was provided.

What is Avian influenza?

iastoppers-avian-influenza

  • Avian influenza (AI), commonly called bird flu, is an infectious viral disease of birds.

Effects of Avian influenza:

  • Outbreaks of AI in poultry may raise global public health concerns due to their effect on poultry populations, their potential to cause serious disease in people, and their pandemic potential.
  • Reports of highly pathogenic AI epidemics in poultry, such as A(H5N1), can seriously impact local and global economies and international trade.

What is H5N1?

  • Most avian influenza viruses do not infect humans. However, some, such as A(H5N1) and A(H7N9), have caused serious infections in people.
  • H5N1 is a type of influenza virus that causes a highly infectious, severe respiratory disease in birds called avian influenza (or “bird flu”).
  • Human cases of H5N1 avian influenza occur occasionally, but it is difficult to transmit the infection from person to person. When people do become infected, the mortality rate is about 60%.

How does H5N1 influenza spread to people?

  • Almost all cases of H5N1 infection in people have been associated with close contact with infected live or dead birds, or H5N1-contaminated environments.
  • The virus does not infect humans easily, and spread from person to person appears to be unusual.
  • There is no evidence that the disease can be spread to people through properly prepared and thoroughly cooked food.

Why is there so much concern about H5N1 influenza?

  • H5N1 infection in humans can cause severe disease and has a high mortality rate.
  • If the H5N1 virus were to change and become easily transmissible from person to person while retaining its capacity to cause severe disease, the consequences for public health could be very serious.

Prevention:

  • Controlling the disease in animals is the first step in decreasing risks to humans.
[Ref: PIB, WHO]

 

Centre plans to link varsity autonomy to performance

The Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry is considering linking the autonomy of higher education institutions to their performance as measured by the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF).

Details:

The government is thinking of dividing universities into three categories — A, B and C — on the basis of their NIRF rankings.

  • The A category will comprise institutions with high NIRF rank and these will be highest on the autonomy scale
  • The B category will comprise middle-ranking institutions with part autonomy but also government regulation.
  • Category C will mean institutions with low ranking that will require greater regulation and hand-holding for improvement.

Implications:

  • Greater autonomy could imply a number of things, including the complete freedom to have their own syllabi and curricula.

Background:

  • As per the 2016 rankings, IIT Madras topped among engineering colleges, followed by IITs at Mumbai, Kharagpur, Delhi, Kanpur and Roorkee. IIT Madras had a score of 89.41.
  • Among universities, the Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, topped, followed by the Institute of Chemical Technology in Mumbai, Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, Hyderabad University and Tezpur University.
  • Among management schools, IIM Bengaluru was ranked first with a score of 93.04, followed by the IIMs at Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Lucknow, Udaipur and Kozhikode.
  • The next round of NIRF rankings will be published on the first Monday of April 2017.

What is NIRF?

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The National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) is a methodology adopted by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) to rank all institutions of higher education in India.

  • It has been approved by the MHRD and was launched in September, 2015.
  • This framework outlines a methodology to rank institutions across the country.
  • The methodology draws from the overall recommendations and broad understanding arrived at by a Core Committee set up by MHRD, to identify the broad parameters for ranking various universities and institutions.
  • The parameters broadly cover “Teaching, Learning and Resources”, “Research and Professional Practices”, “Graduation Outcomes”, “Outreach and Inclusivity” and “Perception”.
  • NIRF has been given the responsibility of ranking institutions that have applied and submitted their data.
  • The ranking of the Institutions will be done based on the parameters proposed by NIRF for different disciplines.
[Ref: The Hindu, nirfindia.org]

 

Economy

‘One India’ push for ease of business

The Centre is working with State governments to introduce a ‘One India’ concept, the most ambitious ‘ease of doing business’ initiative so far.

iastoppers-ease-of-doing-business

What is ‘One India’ concept?

  • The ‘one-form-one-portal’ model is aimed at attracting huge investments.
  • Under this model, the processes will be simplified to an extent where investors will need to fill only a single e-form for investing and doing business anywhere in India.
  • The proposed concept will make it easy for investors to even change plans midway and shift projects to different locations in India where it is easier to do business.

Why such a reform is necessary?

  • Currently, firms are mandated to complete multiple forms at the Central and State-levels, and it gets more complicated as each State has different requirements and regulations.

Background:

  • The reform plan is among steps aimed at helping raise India’s global ranking on the World Bank Group’s ‘Doing Business’ index — from 130 in 2016 — to the top 50 among the 189 economies featured on the list.

Way ahead:

  • The centre has begun talks with the states, and will soon hold discussions with the private sector and users of government services in this regard.
  • As an initial measure, a draft ‘Common Application Form’ is being circulated among states for their feedback.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

World Bank must aid countries to manage shift away from coal

The World Bank and other global development lenders like the Asian Development Bank must help countries such as India to finance the shift of their coal production to more efficient technologies so they can meet their COP21 commitments.

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  • It was proposed by the World Coal Association.

Why should they provide aid?

  • Coal is backbone of countries energy mix to meet their energy demands. Even if countries push towards renewable energy they are not going to do away with coal in overall energy mix.
  • In absence of any funding countries invest in inefficient sub-critical thermal plants, which have much higher CO2 and particulate matter (PM) emissions. Thus, leading to higher emissions.
  • The aid global development lenders will facilitate countries to adopt Super critical and ultra-super critical (USC) plants technologies.

Benefits of aid from global development lenders:

  • Super critical and ultra-super critical (USC) plants technologies have capability to substantially reduce CO2 emissions and virtually eliminate PM emissions.
  • It will help countries in reducing their emissions from coal, rather than reducing coal itself and meet target provided in Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).
  • Thus, some target of Paris agreement on Climate Change about reducing the emissions from coal power plants will be achieved.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Defence & Security Issues

Narcotics Control Bureau seizes 500 Bitcoins used in drug trafficking

In a landmark case that could see the first ever seizure of bitcoin during a criminal investigation in India, the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) will look to seize about 400-500 bitcoins (approx. ₹ 21,883,567 INR) from the accounts of alleged drug traffickers in the country.

iastoppers-bitcoins-drugs

  • The seizure comes as a part of a wider crackdown on drug trafficking conducted over darknet marketplaces.
  • NCB has interdicted and begun investigation against three syndicates in the country till now and in one case detected in west ern India, it is moving to seize Bitcoins.

Legal hurdles:

  • Before seizing the bitcoins belonging to the alleged syndicate, the NCB will first have to figure out the legal proceedings of claiming an unregulated cryptocurrency.
  • The NCB is looking to pin the discovered bitcoins under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS) among other laws to facilitate the seizure.
  • While criminal probe agencies have seized a variety of assets like cash and immovable assets in their respective investigations all these years, Bitcoins have never been frozen as part of the tainted assets seizure.

What is Bitcoins?

  • Bitcoin is a form of digital currency, created and held electronically.
  • It is a new currency that was created in 2009 by an unknown person using the alias Satoshi Nakamoto.
  • Transactions are made with no middle men – meaning, no banks.
  • There are no transaction fees and no need to give your real name. More merchants are beginning to accept them.
  • Think of bitcoin like one big ledger shared by all the users: When you pay for something with bitcoin, or get paid, then your transaction is recorded on the ledger. Computers then compete to confirm the transaction by solving complex math equations, and the winner is rewarded with more bitcoins. The process is known as “mining,”.
  • Bitcoin is equivalent to about Rs. 1 crore in the Indian currency.

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[Ref: Indian Express]

 

Key Facts for Prelims

Indo-Italy Scientific and Technological Cooperation re-launched

iastoppers-indo-italy-scientific-and-technological-cooperation

  • The Indo-Italian Joint Committee established under the Scientific and Technological Cooperation Agreement re-launch the cooperation in the sectors of science, technology and innovation.
  • The original agreement was signed between Italy and India in 2003.
  • IT, energy, environment and sustainable agriculture, health care, biotechnology, nanotechnology, physics and cultural and natural heritage are the areas for joint projects.
  • Joint workshops will be alternatively held in Italy and India, starting from 2017.
  • An Indo-Italian Innovation Forum will be established to promote and connect the world of research with the world of business and investment.

 

2016 Kabaddi World Cup

iastoppers-2016-kabaddi-world-cup

  • India has won the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup by defeating Iran by 38-29 score in the final match played at the Arena By TransStadia in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.
  • It was India’s third consecutive Kabaddi World Cup in the Standard Style version of Kabaddi. Earlier India had won in 2004 and 2007.
  • The Kabaddi World Cup has been previously contested in 2004 and 2007.
  • It is important to note that all the three tournaments have been won by India by defeating Iran in the finals.

 

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