Polity & Governance
- ‘More toilets but fewer computers in govt. schools’
- ‘Situation worse for old women in India’
- Drones better than satellites to gauge crop loss, says panel
Environment & Ecology
- GM mustard trials: CIC asks govt to reveal bio-safety data
Science & Technology
- Union Bank of India launches USSD based mobile app
- India climbs 15 spots in innovation ranking
- Call to remove IP clauses from trade pact
Key Facts for Prelims
- ‘Bastar Net’ project
- Carrier Pigeon Service
- Amnesty International
- India’s first ever BIO-CNG plant
- Indo-Lanka ETCA
Polity & Governance
‘More toilets but fewer computers in govt. schools’
The District Information System for Education (DISE) report of 2014-15 shows various State governments’ efforts towards providing computer education and toilet facilities.
Highlights of the report:
The DISE report reveals that
- While government schools in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana lag behind those in neighbouring Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Maharashtra in computer access for students, they are way ahead in providing toilets for girls.
- Though Telugu techies make waves across the world, other major States with fewer engineering graduates or software workers, have better access to computer education in government schools.
- Kerala leads with 93.77 per cent of schools providing computer training followed by Gujarat at 75.22 per cent, Tamil Nadu with 57.28 per cent and Maharashtra with 57.07 per cent.
- On toilets, Andhra Pradesh is ahead of Telangana with 98.07 per cent schools having toilets for girls compared to 92.10 per cent in Telangana. However, when it comes to toilets for boys, both States are far below the national average of 88.62 per cent.
U-DISE (Unified District Information System for Education) is a database of information about schools in India.
- The database was developed at the National University for Educational Planning and Administration.
- It records information such as the level of dropouts and the condition of school toilets.
‘Situation worse for old women in India’
According to recently released research document, “Innovative Practice For Care of Elderly Women in India,” prepared by NGO Stree Shakti in association with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Senior citizens in India face a number of challenges, but the situation is worse in case of elderly women.
Highlights of the research:
- Old women who are single, abandoned or widowed face multiple barriers due to illiteracy, malnourishment, abuse, ill-health, lack of housing and exclusion from economic benefits.
- Elderly women face bias and discrimination throughout their life and most of the time they do not raise their voices against it.
Suggestions given by the research group:
The group has recommended
- A panel for aged women within the National Commission for Women (NCW) to create legal awareness,
- Free travel passes,
- Inclusion of single women in welfare schemes,
- Mandatory provision of healthcare for elderly women,
- Universal pension scheme,
- Tax concessions, and
- Reform and developing post-retirement skills.
Other important study reports depicting the situations of elderly women in India:
- According to a 2008 UNDP study, 65% of widows in India are over 60 years old. Of these, only 28% are eligible for pension. However, only 11% actually receive it.
- Also in the Global Age Watch Index 2014, India ranks 71 among 96 countries in elderly (60 years plus) care. India has the second highest population of elderly in the world, projected to rise to 12% of the total population by 2020.
- Eight per cent of the elderly are in rural areas, with 40% below the poverty line and over 73% illiterate. Worse, 90% have no social security cover and 50% of bedridden days are ascribed to elderly patients.
- The research study, The Global Report on Ageing in the 21st Century (UNFPA and HelpAge International 2012), reinforces the observation that in India older persons, particularly older women, experience multiple discriminations, including limited access to jobs and health care, abuse, denial of the right to own and inherit property and lack of minimum basic income and social security.
About the UNFPA:
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), formerly known as United Nations Fund for Population Activities, trust fund under the jurisdiction of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
- Established in 1969, the UNFPA is the largest international source of assistance for population programs.
- It is the leading United Nations (UN) organization for the implementation of the 1994 Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development.
- The Fund works with governments and non-governmental organizations in over 150 countries with the support of the international community, supporting programs that help women, men and young people:
- Voluntarily plan and have the number of children they desire and to avoid unwanted pregnancies
- Undergo safe pregnancy and childbirth
- Avoid spreading sexually transmitted infections
- Decrease violence against women
- Increase the equality of women
About the Global AgeWatch Index:
The Global AgeWatch Index has been developed and constructed by an NGO HelpAge International.
- The index has been developed from international data sets drawn from the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the World Bank, World Health Organization, International Labour Organization, UNESCO and the Gallup World Poll.
Drones better than satellites to gauge crop loss, says panel
NITI Ayog constituted committee tasked with studying how unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can be used in crop insurance schemes has said that drones are better than satellites in crop insurance schemes.
- The committee is expected to submit its report to the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog) shortly.
Why drones are better than satellites?
- The current satellites which are even better than 10m spatial resolution would not be sufficient due to their non-availability during cloud cover, limited revisit possibility during the crop season and high price.
- UAVs gather data from low heights i.e., below the cloud and at very high resolution.
- Pilot surveys that can estimate varying risk profiles for different regions of the country, and that for schemes such as PMFBY, drones are a better bet than satellite imagery.
The committee has recommended that
- Sharing cadastral (land’s location, ownership, tenure) details, Aadhaar card and bank account details should be made mandatory for effective crop insurance policies.
- Farmer field coordinates be made mandatory for issuance of insurance policy. This will help in tracking the crop field throughout the crop season without much ground monitoring, and, any kind of loss can readily be verified from satellite data.
Drone Vs. Satellite:
[Ref: The Hindu]
Environment & Ecology
GM mustard trials: CIC asks govt to reveal bio-safety data
The Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the environment ministry to reveal safety data regarding trials of genetically modified (GM) mustard without further delay.
- The CIC has noted that any attempt to postpone or delay the disclosure will block the public discussion on the controversial issue.
- The CIC also directed the ministry to put in the public domain bio-safety data pertaining to all other GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in the pipeline.
What’s the Issue?
- The GM mustard in question—DMH-11—has been developed by the Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants of Delhi University. If it gets the green light from the environment ministry’s GEAC (Genetic Engineering Approval Committee), it will be the first GM food crop to be commercially cultivated in India.
- In April, the CIC had pulled up the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) over its lack of transparency on trials of GM crops and directed it to make public all information, including bio-safety data, related to the field trials of the GM mustard crop before 30 April.
- Instead of furnishing information as ordered by 30 April 2016, the public authority requested for two more months and later for 90 days.
- Finally, the CIC finds no sufficient reason to extend the time for another 90 days to give information which the MoEFCC was supposed to disclose on its own under proactive disclosure provisions of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
- Right now, only GM cotton is allowed.
- GEAC is the environment ministry’s regulator for GMOs and transgenic products.
What is a Genetically modified crop?
Genetically modified crops (GMCs, GM crops, or biotech crops) are plants used in agriculture, the DNA of which has been modified using genetic engineering techniques.
Who grows GM crops?
Science & Technology
Union Bank of India launches USSD based mobile app
National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), the umbrella organisation for all retail payments system in the country has partnered with Union Bank of India to launch an Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) based *99# mobile application for their customers.
Key features of the *99# mobile application:
- It can be downloaded in an android smartphone from the Google Play Store by the bank customers.
- It can be used even without any internet connection as it does not require any data and is available in 10 languages.
- It provides basic banking facilities like checking account balance, sending money, Mobile PIN (MPIN) management.
- Besides, it provides value added services like checking Aadhaar linked overdraft status and PMJDY account overdraft status.
What is Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD)?
USSD is a GSM based technology used to send text between a mobile phone and an application program in the network.
- It is a protocol used by GSM cellular telephones to communicate with the service provider’s computers.
- Unlike Short Message Service (SMS) messages, USSD messages create a real-time connection during a USSD session. So they are more responsive than services that use SMS.
- USSD can be used for prepaid callback service, WAP browsing, mobile-money services, location-based content services, menu-based information services etc.
India climbs 15 spots in innovation ranking
India climbed 15 spots, from 81 last year, to 66 in the recently published Global Innovation Index (GII).
- The index is released by Cornell University, INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
- The theme of the GII 2016 is: “Winning with Global Innovation”.
- India has maintained the top spot in the Central and South Asia regions.
- India scored high on tertiary education and R&D, the quality of its universities and scientific publications and its market sophistication.
- India ranks second on innovation quality among middle-income economies, overtaking Brazil.
- In information and communication technology service exports it ranks first in the world.
Suggestions given by the report:
- India’s priorities for innovation need to be in the areas of energy, water, transport, health care, food security and digital consumption.
- India should strengthen its own talent pool and leverage global talent “in these market-pull areas”.
Prospects of India:
According to the index,
- India has the ability to create a unique spot in innovation history to meet its own market requirements by using its cultural advantages of frugality and sustainability.
- The commitment of India to innovation and improved innovation metrics is strong and growing, helping to improve the innovation environment. This trend will help gradually lift India closer to other top-ranked innovation economies.
Call to remove IP clauses from trade pact
Ahead of the next round of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade talks in Vietnam, humanitarian aid organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has called for the removal of intellectual property provisions — known as the TRIPS-plus provisions — from the agreement.
- According to the MSF, the TRIPS-plus provisions like patent term extensions and data exclusivity could hinder access to affordable drugs.
- Nearly two-thirds of all the drugs MSF purchases to treat HIV, TB and malaria across the world are generic medicines from India; data exclusivity provisions under RCEP could delay the entry of generic medicines.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement (FTA) is proposed between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) (Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and the six states with which ASEAN has existing FTAs (Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand).
- RCEP negotiations were formally launched in November 2012 at the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia.
- The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is among the proposed three mega FTAs in the world so far. The other two is:
- The TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership, led by the US) and
- The TTIP (Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the US and the EU).
- RCEP is viewed as an alternative to the TPP trade agreement, which includes the United States but excludes China.
Key Facts for Prelims
‘Bastar Net’ project
In a significant move to expand digital India programme to Chhattisgarh’s Bastar division, Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh announced ‘Bastar Net’ project for strengthening mobile as well as internet connectivity across the insurgency-hit region.
Under the project, optical fibre will be laid to boost the communication system in all seven districts of the division. The network will be based on ‘ring network’ mechanism so that it may provide uninterrupted mobile and internet connectivity through alternative routes.
Carrier Pigeon Service
The Carrier Pigeon Service — the heritage courier service of Odisha Police — was once again put on public display on the occasion of 70th Independence Day. As many as 22 specially-trained pigeons were released from cages at the venue of the Independence Day parade.
For more than two decades now, these special pigeons have been making ceremonial appearance at different functions in the State. Years ago, Odisha government had terminated the service of pigeons for sending messages to unreachable destinations at the time of disasters following advent of modern communication tools. The courier service, which once boasted of 800 pigeons, was down to 150.
Amnesty International (commonly known as Amnesty and AI) is a non-governmental organisation focused on human rights with over 7 million members and supporters around the world.
The stated objective of the organisation is “to conduct research and generate action to prevent and end grave abuses of human rights, and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated.
Amnesty works to mobilise public opinion to put pressure on governments that let abuse take place.
Its moto is “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”
The organisation was awarded the 1977 Nobel Peace Prize for its “campaign against torture,” and the United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights in 1978.
India’s first ever BIO-CNG plant
India’s first ever BIO-CNG plant producing CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) from agricultural residue was inaugurated in Pune, Maharashtra.
This plant uses agricultural residue to generate CNG which can be used in automobiles as fuel.
Sri Lanka and India are negotiating a trade agreement namely Indo-Lanka Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement better known as ETCA (formerly CEPA).
Unlike other trade agreements which covers goods, this covers services – specifically IT and shipyards services. This means that people may move back and forth- this is causing a lot of controversy.
Recently, Y.K. Sinha, India’s High Commissioner in Colombo, indicated that the proposed ETCA may soon be a reality.