Polity & Governance
- Mobile Health App `MedWatch’
- IHGF – Delhi Fair Autumn 2017
Government Schemes & Policies
- India could provide universal basic income of Rs 2,600 a year: IMF
Issues related to Health & Education
- India 100th on global hunger index, trails North Korea, Bangladesh
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Calamities displace 23 lakh every year in India
- El Nino caused record CO2 spike in 2015-16: NASA
Bilateral & International Relations
- India to build more roads on China border
- U.S., Israel quit U.N. heritage agency citing bias
Science & Technology
- New nanotube material may help create hypersonic aircraft
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Polity & Governance
Mobile Health App `MedWatch’
The Indian Air Force (IAF) has launched a mobile health App ‘MedWatch’ for its personnel on the occasion of its 85th anniversary (8th October).
- The innovative App is aimed at providing authentic health information to the Air Force staff in keeping with the Prime Minister’s vision of ‘Digital India’.
Key features of the MedWatch:
- ‘MedWatch’ App has been developed in-house with zero financial outlay by the Directorate of Information Technology (DIT).
- The concept and content of the App is by the Directorate General of Medical Services.
- The App is available on the IAF’s AFCEL network.
- It comprises a host of features like a reminder tool to enable timely immunization for the children of all Air Warriors.
- An important component of the App, the reminder tool will directly enable ‘Mission Indradhanush’ of the Govt of India.
- ‘MedWatch’ is the first mobile health app in the three Armed Services.
IHGF – Delhi Fair Autumn 2017
The Union Textile Minister Smt. Smriti Zubin Irani inaugurated IHGF – Delhi Fair Autumn 2017, world’s largest handicrafts and gifts fair at Greater Noida.
- The Minister applauded the role of Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (EPCH) in promoting exports of handicrafts.
- Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (EPCH) was established under Companies Act in the year 1986-87.
- It is a non-profit organisation, with an object to promote, support, protect, maintain and increase the export of handicrafts.
- It is an apex body of handicrafts exporters for promotion of exports of Handicrafts from country and projected India’s image abroad as a reliable supplier of high quality of handicrafts goods & services.
- Handicraft exports have witnessed a year-on-year growth of 13.15% in 2016-17 and has touched Rs. 24,392 crores.
EPCH scheme for educating artisans’ children
- EPCH under their CSR programme provides full support to education of children of artisans through open schools.
- 75% of the expenditure will be borne by EPCH and 25% by member exporters.
New developments in EPCH:
- The Minister appreciated the introduction of “Design Register” scheme by EPCH, under which the member exporter can register their design without any hassle.
- EPCH design services will definitely help the sector in a big way and will augment the exports of handicrafts from the country, ultimately increasing employment opportunities to artisans.
- EPCH has an integrated programme of development of North Eastern Region (NER) handicrafts and handlooms, under which support is provided for design, marketing and skill development.
New developments in handicraft sector:
- For the first time for handicrafts sector, an initiative is being taken to promote Foreign Direct Investment and opportunities for Joint Ventures for both exporters and importers.
Government Schemes & Policies
India could provide universal basic income of Rs 2,600 a year: IMF
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates India could provide a universal basic income (UBI) of Rs 2,600 a year to every person if it eliminates food and energy subsidies.
- The IMF, in its Fiscal Monitor report pitched for the role of UBI as supplanting the existing system of state subsidies, which they characterise as inefficient in terms of cost, administration, and implementation.
- IMF reached the estimation by combining the cost of Public Distribution System (that focuses on rationing food and kerosene) and energy subsidies.
- Even such a modest level of UBI will incur a fiscal cost of about 3% of GDP, but would outperform the public food distribution and fuel subsidies on three counts.
- The calculations are based on 2011-12 data and would therefore need to be adjusted for sharp decline in fuel subsidies under the NDA government and better targeting of other subsidies through Aadhaar that has reduced overall subsidies.
- It will address the under coverage of the near 20% lower income groups in the PDS, address the issue of higher income groups cornering bigger subsidies and increase generosity benefits received by the lower income groups.
- UBI was recommended in India by Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramaniam in the Economic Survey 2016-17. Finance minister Arun Jaitley, though supportive of the cause, claimed it was likely to be politically unfeasible.
- Universal basic income (UBI) is a model for providing all citizens of a country or other geographic area with a given sum of money, regardless of their income, resources or employment status.
- It is a kind of social security for citizens and the money is transferred directly to their bank accounts. The purpose of the UBI is to prevent or reduce poverty and increase equality among citizens.
- Thomas More introduced the concept of guaranteed income in his 1516 book, Utopia.
- Though the aim of UBI is said to alleviate poverty and social exclusion and reduce economic inequality, it is argued that the policy would give unnecessary benefit to higher-income groups who may not need that money.
- As per the report, IMF said that eliminating tax subsidies on energy would give way to significant rise in fuel taxes and retail prices of fuel such as petrol (67 percent), diesel (69 percent), LPG (94 percent), and coal (455 percent), etc.
- UBI may help overcome some failures of the current system, concerns on fiscal affordability and political feasibility weigh heavily on policy discussions.
Issues related to Health & Education
India 100th on global hunger index, trails North Korea, Bangladesh
India has been ranked 100th among 119 developing countries on the Global Hunger Index (GHI), behind North Korea, Bangladesh and even the war-torn Iraq, but ahead of Pakistan.
- The Global Hunger Index (GHI) is a multidimensional statistical tool used to describe the state of countries’ hunger situation.
- The GHI measures progress and failures in the global fight against hunger.
- The GHI is updated once a year.
- The Index was adopted and further developed by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and was first published in 2006 with the Welthungerhilfe, a German non-profit organization (NPO).
- Since 2007, the Irish NGO Concern Worldwide joined the group as co-publisher.
Indicators of GHI:
- Now in its 12th year, the GHI ranks countries based on four indicators — undernourishment, child mortality, child wasting and child stunting.
- Worldwide, scores of the 119 countries in the report vary widely. A score of 9.9 or lower denotes low hunger; while scores between 35.0 and 49.9 denote alarming hunger, and a score of 20-34.9 means ‘serious’ problem of hunger.
- The new formula for calculating GHI is that it has standardises indicator values, and the ‘child underweight’ parameter has been replaced by ‘child stunting’ and ‘child wasting’.
- Over three-year duration, India has seen a slide of 45 positions from 55 in 2014. However, the rankings are not strictly comparable, as the current formula was introduced in 2015. The earlier formula was used to calculate GHI scores from 2006 to 2014.
Highlights of the report:
- India has the third highest score in all of Asia only Afghanistan and Pakistan are ranked worse.
- At 31.4, India’s 2017 GHI score is at the high end of the ‘serious’ category, and one of the main factors pushing South Asia to the category of worst performing region this year, followed closely by Africa South of the Sahara.
- More than a fifth of Indian children aged below five weighed too little for their height and over a third were too short for their age.
- As of 2015-16, more than a fifth (21%) of children suffer from wasting (low-weight-for- height)
- However, India has made considerable improvement in reducing its child stunting rate, down 29% since 2000, but even that progress leaves India with a relatively high stunting rate of 38.4.
- India’s child wasting rate has not shown any substantial improvement in the past 25 years.
- India was ranked 97th last year.
- The country’s hunger problem is driven by high child malnutrition, and underlines the need for stronger commitment to the social sector.
Other Asian countries:
- Among India’s neighbouring countries, China ranks the highest at 29; Nepal has been ranked 72, Myanmar 77, Sri Lanka 84, Bangladesh 88, Pakistan 106, Afghanistan 107, North Korea ranks 93rd, and Iraq 78th.
- Only three other nations — Djibouti, SL and South Sudan — show child wasting (low-weight-for- height) above 20% this year.
- Globally, the Central African Republic has the worst score (reflecting the highest hunger level) of any country ranked in the report, and is the sole country in the Index’s “extremely alarming” category.
- India has developed and launched an action plan on ‘undernourishment free India’ by 2022.
- The plan shows stronger commitment and greater investments in tackling malnutrition in the coming years.
About International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI):
- IFPRI is an international agricultural research center founded to improve the understanding of national agricultural and food policies to promote the adoption of innovations in agricultural technology.
- The mission of IFPRI is to provide research-based policy solutions that sustainably reduce poverty and end hunger and malnutrition.
- It was founded in 1975 with its headquarters at Washington, D.C., USA
[Ref: The Hindu, Business Standard]
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Calamities displace 23 lakh every year in India
According to the study, ‘A Global Disaster Displacement Risk Model’, conducted by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre of the Norwegian Refugee Council and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), calamities displace 23 lakh people every year in India.
Highlights of the report:
- India ranks top among world’s most disaster prone countries with rising number of homeless people at an average annual displacement of 2.3 million, uprooted due to calamities such as floods, cyclone or earthquakes.
- The report forecasted a continued rise in homelessness.
- India alone accounts for 2.3 million displacement, or more than the combined displacement in US, Russia, Indonesia, Pakistan and Myanmar.
- The top five countries with highest annual displacements are India, China (1.3 million), Bangladesh (1.2 million); Vietnam (1 million) and Philippines (7, 20,000).
- The estimation of displaced people in India may be on the lower side considering that in the recent Bihar floods alone, more than 1.75 crore (about 17.5 million) people were affected and 8.55 lakh were evacuated. Floods had affected at least half a dozen other states this year.
- Most of this displacement is being driven by flooding, which is on the increase in a warming world where population growth in hazard-prone parts of the globe has increased exposure.
- The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) was created in December 1999 as part of the UN Secretariat with the purpose of ensuring the implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.
- It was established as a successor to the secretariat of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction.
- UNISDR has its headquarters in Geneva and implements its mandate through five regional offices.
- It is part of the United Nations Secretariat and its functions span the social, economic, environmental as well as humanitarian fields.
- UNISDR supports the implementation, follow-up and review of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction adopted by the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction on 18 March 2015 in Sendai, Japan.
UNISDR’s vision is anchored on the four priorities for action set out in the Sendai Framework:
- Understanding disaster risk.
- Strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk.
- Investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience.
- Enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response and to “Build Back Better” in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction.
El Nino caused record CO2 spike in 2015-16: NASA
A NASA study has found that the 2015-16 El Nino—one of the largest on record—caused the largest annual increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration seen in at least 2,000 years.
- The findings are based on analysis of the first 28 months of data from NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite.
What is El Nino?
- El Nino refers to a band of warm ocean water that develops in the Pacific Ocean and causes global changes of both temperatures and rainfall.
- El Nino is the warm phase of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation cycle (ENSO).
- The ENSO cycle is the way scientists describe the fluctuations in temperature between the atmosphere and the ocean in the east-central Equatorial Pacific.
- Basically, El Nino is a naturally occurring phenomenon that is linked to a periodic warming in sea surface temperatures across the central and east-central Equatorial Pacific.
- El Nino is Spanish for “the boy child,” which is often used to refer to Jesus Christ, and the phenomenon earned this name because it typically occurs in December around Christmas.
- El Nino occurs every 2-7 years, and can last anywhere between nine months and two years.
Key findings of the report:
- The impacts of El Nino-related heat and drought occurring in tropical regions of South America, Africa and Indonesia were responsible for the record spike in global carbon dioxide.
- The total amount of carbon released to the atmosphere from all land areas increased by three gigatonnes in 2015, due to the El Nino.
- About 80 per cent of that amount —or 2.5 gigatonnes of carbon—came from natural processes occurring in tropical forests in South America, Africa and Indonesia, with each region contributing roughly the same amount.
- Scientists suspected the 2015–16 El Nino, one of the largest on record, was responsible, but exactly how has been a subject of ongoing research.
- These three tropical regions released 2.5 gigatonnes more carbon into the atmosphere than they did in 2011.
- Analysis shows this extra carbon dioxide explains the difference in atmospheric carbon dioxide growth rates between 2011 and the peak years of 2015–16.
- In 2015 and 2016, OCO–2 recorded atmospheric carbon dioxide increases that were 50 per cent larger than average increase seen in recent years preceding these observations.
- These record increases occurred even though emissions from human activities in 2015–16 are estimated to have remained roughly the same as they were prior to the El Nino, which is a cyclical warming pattern of ocean circulation in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean that can affect weather worldwide.
- Understanding carbon cycle in these regions and its response to El Nino will enable scientists to improve carbon cycle models, which should lead to improved predictions of how our planet may respond to similar conditions in the future
- The team’s findings suggest that if future climate brings more or longer droughts, as the last El Nino did, more carbon dioxide may remain in the atmosphere, leading to a tendency to further warm Earth.
Bilateral & International Relations
India to build more roads on China border
The Ministry of Defence has decided to significantly enhance infrastructure along the Sino-Indian border including near Doklam, where the militaries of both sides were engaged in a two-month standoff.
- There will be a concerted heft toward road construction activities in this sector. To that end, four passes to Niti, Lipulekh, Thangla 1 and Tsangchokla will be connected by 2020 on priority.
Importance of Doklam:
- Doklam is a disputed area between Bhutan and China and is obviously not the Chinese territory.
- Chinese propaganda of India trespassing and Doklam being Chinese territory & Bhutan not asking for Indian support was exposed as lies when Bhutan denied it.
- The construction of roads right down to the southern tip of this tri-junction & unilaterally take over Doklam & pressurizing Bhutan for diplomatic ties puts India in the tactical military disadvantage.
- India’s Siliguri corridor will also get threatened and more vulnerable bringing China much closer to the North Eastern States.
- In an effort to modernise military stations and bringing them on a par with the Centre’s Smart City plan, the Army has sought allocation of 15 per cent additional funds for five years.
- The total cost of about ₹8.5 crore per military station will be required for the project.
- The Ministry is also considering allotting additional funds to the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) for Northern Command to develop roads and infrastructure.
U.S., Israel quit U.N. heritage agency citing bias
Israel will join the US in pulling out of the UN’s cultural organisation United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), after US officials cited “anti-Israel bias”.
- The US withdrawal will become effective at the end of December 2018 – until then, the US will remain a full member.
- The US will establish an observer mission at UNESCO to replace its representation.
Reasons for US withdrawal:
- In 2011 the US cut its funding to the agency in protest at its decision to grant full membership to the Palestinians.
- US is pulling out of the UNESCO, after US officials cited “anti-Israel bias”.
Reasons for Israel withdrawal:
- And last year, Israel accused UNESCO of ignoring Judaism’s ancient connection to the city, which includes the crypt where its matriarchs and patriarchs are buried.
- The resolution also criticised Israel’s activities at holy places in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.
- Then earlier this year, Israel condemned UNESCO for declaring the Old City of Hebron in the West Bank a Palestinian World Heritage site.
- The US state department is concerned about mounting financial debts at the UNESCO agency and believes that it should be reformed.
- However, it’s mainly due to the US decision to cut more than $80m (£60m) worth of funding to the agency amid the furore over Palestinian membership six years ago – slashing its budget by 22%.
- US withdrawal is also motivated by a desire to stop accruing arrears to the agency itself. Despite suspending funding the US continues to be charged, and now owes more than $500m.
- US President has criticised what he sees as a disproportionate contribution by the US to UN institutions. The US funds 22% of the UN’s regular budget and 28% of UN peacekeeping.
- The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) based in Paris.
- It was formed in 16 November 1945.
- Its declared purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through educational, scientific, and cultural reforms in order to increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom proclaimed in the United Nations Charter.
Science & Technology
New nanotube material may help create hypersonic aircraft
Scientists at NASA and Binghamton University in the US have identified an extremely lightweight material called boron nitride nanotubes (BNNTs) that can withstand a high temperature and stress.
Significance of Research:
- The discovery is a step towards developing hypersonic aircraft able to travel at five to 10 times the speed of sound.
- The study could lead to a drastic decrease in flight times.
BNNT better than carbon:
- Typically, carbon nanotubes have been used in planes for their strength – they are stronger than steel – and their ability to conduct heat.
- While carbon nanotubes can stay stable at temperatures up to 400 degrees Celsius, the study found that BNNTs can withstand up to 900 degrees Celsius.
- BNNTs are also able to handle high amounts of stress and are extremely lightweight.
- Withstanding high temperatures is an important requirement for any material meant to build the world’s next super planes.
- The material has to be able to maintain both structural and mechanical properties in an oxygen environment.
- The study has brought new light to the strength and stability of BNNTs but their use on planes may not be a reality for another five to 10 years.
- Right now, BNNTs cost about USD 1,000 per gramme and therefore it would be impractical to use a product that expensive.
- However, researchers noted that carbon nanotubes were about the same price 20 years ago.
- As more studies indicated the usefulness of carbon nanotubes, the production rates increased and prices went down to the current rate, between USD 10 and USD 20 per gramme. It is believed that price of BNNTs would similarly go down.