Current Affairs Analysis

17th July 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Report on Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients; Indian Council of Agricultural Research; Prashad scheme; Somnath Temple; ZyCoV-D; National Biopharma Mission; BIRAC; Maternal mortality ratio; Sample Registration System; India Energy Modelling Forum; Methane emissions; Global Carbon Project; Pied Cuckoo; Indian Bio-resource Information portal; Melghat Tiger Reserve; Tenth Schedule; Main Features of the Anti-Defection Law; Ravi S Naik case, Kihoto Hollohan case; Dinesh Goswami Committee; Kerala Animals and Bird Sacrifices Prohibition Act of 1968; Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 1960; Postal Voting; Special voters; Classified service voters; Initiatives of Indian Government on APIs; etc.
By IASToppers
July 18, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Rajasthan political crisis
  • SC to examine Kerala Act on animal, bird sacrifices
  • EC to not extend facility of postal ballot to voters above 65

Government Schemes & Policies

  • Prashad scheme

Issues related to Health & Education

  • TIFAC releases report on Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients
  • ZyCoV-D

Social Issues

  • A decline in maternal mortality ratio

Economy

  • India Energy Modelling Forum
  • Indian Council of Agricultural Research

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Methane emissions
  • Pied Cuckoo
  • Melghat Tiger Reserve

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Polity & Governance

Rajasthan political crisis

Amid the worsening political crisis in Rajasthan, opposition leader and 18 other dissident MLAs moved the High Court challenging the disqualification notices issued to them by the Assembly Speaker. 

Background

  • Recently, Deputy Chief Minister of Rajasthan, and other MLAs went to Delhi, claiming that they can topple the current government in Rajasthan.
    • Deputy CM has been upset about the fact he was denied the Rajasthan chief minister’s post after the December 2018 assembly elections.
  • The Rajasthan Legislative assembly Speaker removed the Deputy Chief Minister of Rajasthan and 18 other MLAS from his position after they failed to show up at two Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meetings, which showed the intention of the MLAs to leave the Congress party.
  • Subsequently, a writ petition was filed to challenge the Speaker’s notices as well as the validity of the Rajasthan Assembly Members (Disqualification on the Grounds of Changing Party) Rules, 1989, and Clause 2(1) (a) of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, dealing with disqualification on the ground of defection.

Tenth Schedule:

  • The Tenth Schedule was inserted in the Constitution by the 52nd Constitution Amendment Act, 1985, popularly known as the “anti-defection law”.
  • It provides for the disqualification of Members of Parliament and State Legislatures who defect.
  • The main intent of the law was to combat the evil of political defections.

Main Features of the Anti-Defection Law

Disqualification of MLA:

  • If a member of a house belonging to a political party:

– Voluntarily gives up the membership of his political party, or

– Votes, or does not vote in the legislature, contrary to the directions of his political party. However, if the member has taken prior permission within 15 days from such voting or abstention, the member shall not be disqualified.

  • If an independently elected candidate joins a political party after the election.
  • If a nominated member joins a party six months after he becomes a member of the legislature.

Power to Disqualify:

  • The Constitution gives exclusive jurisdiction to the Speaker/Chairman to rule on disqualifications for defection
  • If a complaint is received with respect to the defection of the Chairman or Speaker, a member of the House elected by that House shall take the decision.

Exception:

  • The law allows a party to merge with or into another party provided that at least two-thirds of its legislators are in favour of the merger. In such a scenario, neither the members who decide to merge, nor the ones who stay with the original party will face disqualification.
  • Any person elected as chairman or speaker can resign from his party, and rejoin the party if he demits that post. 

How has the law been interpreted by the Courts while deciding on related matters?

 Voluntarily gives up his membership

  • In Ravi S Naik v. Union of India (1994) case, court held that the words “voluntarily give up membership” are not synonymous with “resignation” and have a wider connotation. 
  • It interpreted that in the absence of a formal resignation by the member, the giving up of membership can be inferred by his conduct. If members who have publicly expressed opposition to their party or support for another party are deemed to have resigned.
  • There have been more such judgments since then on this point including Rajendra Singh Rana v. Swami Prasad Maurya and Dr. Mahachandra Prasad Singh v. Bihar which held that express resignation is not required to prove that a lawmaker has given up the membership of the party.

Decision of the Presiding Officer is subject to judicial review

  • Initially, the decision of the Presiding Officer is not subject to judicial review.
  • This condition was struck down by the Supreme Court in Kihoto Hollohan case (1992), thereby allowing appeals against the Presiding Officer’s decision in the High Court and Supreme Court.
  • The only exception for any interference being cases of suspensions which may have grave, immediate and irreversible consequence.
  • However, it held that there may not be any judicial intervention until the Presiding Officer gives his order. Even the scope of judicial review against an order of a Speaker/Chairman would be confined to jurisdictional errors, that is, “infirmities based on violation of constitutional mandate.

Is there a time limit within which the Presiding Officer has to decide?

  • The law does not specify a time-period for the Presiding Officer to decide on a disqualification plea.
  • In some cases this delay in decision making has resulted in members, who have defected from their parties, continuing to be members of the House. There have also been instances where opposition members have been appointed ministers in the government while still retaining the membership of their original parties in the legislature.

Important grounds raised by Deputy CM

  • None of the MLAs have either by their express or implied conduct indicated their intention to give up Current party membership.
  • Voicing disagreement with the policies taken by the party does not amount to acting against the interests of the party.
    • In 2011, Karnataka High court disqualified 11 MLAs for opposing the chief minister. However, Supreme Court then set aside the disqualification citing that merely because these MLAs expressed lack of confidence in current government would not mean that the Speaker was empowered to take action against them.
  • Not attending two Legislature Party meetings will not fall within the scope of defection.
  • Rajasthan Assembly (Disqualification) Rules mandate that the Speaker should give 7 days’ notice to a member to explain his stance in a disqualification case. The notice issued by the Speaker was of only 4 days.
  • If somebody is expelled from a political party, such a person cannot be said to have voluntarily given up membership. This issue is not yet completely settled and is pending before the Supreme Court in the case of Amar Singh v. Union of India.

Advantages of Anti-Defection Law:

  • Provides stability to the government by preventing shifts of party allegiance.
  • Ensures that candidates elected with party support and on the basis of party manifestoes remain loyal to the party policies. Also promotes party discipline.

Disadvantages of Anti-Defection Law:

  • By preventing parliamentarians from changing parties, it reduces the accountability of the government to the Parliament and the people.
  • Interferes with the member’s freedom of speech and expression by curbing dissent against party policies.

Recommendations on Anti-defection law

Dinesh Goswami Committee (1990):

  • Disqualification should be limited to cases where (a) a member voluntarily gives up the membership of his political party, (b) a member abstains from voting, or votes contrary to the party whip in a motion of vote of confidence or motion of no-confidence.

Election Commission

  • The issue of disqualification should be decided by the President/ Governor on the advice of the Election Commission.

Law Commission’s 170th Report

  • Restrictions like prohibition on joining another party or holding offices in the government be imposed on expelled members.
  • Provisions which exempt mergers from disqualification should be deleted.
  • Pre-poll electoral fronts should be treated as political parties under anti-defection law.
[Ref: The Hindu, Indian Express]

SC to examine Kerala Act on animal, bird sacrifices

Supreme Court agreed to examine the constitutional validity of the Kerala Animals and Bird Sacrifices Prohibition Act of 1968.

  • The petitioners, who are followers of Shakthi worshipping tradition, claimed that appeasing deity through animal sacrifice is an essential religious practice mandated by religious texts and scriptures.
  • In Shakthi worship, a practice popularly known as “pramanas”, animal sacrifice is essential and unavoidable for the propitiation of the deity.

Arguments of the petitioner

  • The Kerala Animals and Bird Sacrifices Prohibition Act of 1968 bans killing of animals and birds for religious sacrifices but not for personal consumption.
  • On the other hand, Section 28 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 1960 does not make killing of animals for religious purposes as an offence in ritual in Hindu temples.
  • Hence, thisAct violates right to equality guaranteed by Article 14 and the right to practice religion and manage religious affairs under articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution.
  • Further, it was also contended that the 1968 Act does not penalizes for killing of animals for personal consumption within temple precincts.

Animal cruelty in India

  • Between 2012 and 2016, there were over 24,000 cases of animal cruelty reported under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA).
  • Two main laws concerning prevention of animal cruelty in India are the

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960: Police can arrest an offender involved in cruelty against animals and also provides a provision wherein a private individual under the provisions of Section 43 of Cr.P.C. can detain such individual involved in any such act.

Wildlife Protection Act, 1972:  authorizes an officer to arrest an offender if officer have reasonable grounds.

Concerns over animal cruelty in India

  • Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA) has never even been amended. Meaning, the monetary fines imposed for crimes against animals in 1960, still stands to date (ranging from 25 to 100 rupees).
  • Animals are keeping in cage for the purpose of gaining by the entertainment. Use of elephant as entertainer in circus and same as tourist purpose that is done for the gain of easy money.
  • Also, Animals are used for the purpose of sports as the case of Jallikattu (a tradition of Tamil Nadu in which a bull is released into a crowd of people who tires grab the large hump on the bull’s back and hang on to it while the bull attempts to escape) The case of banning jallikattu is pending in Supreme Court.
  • In 2011, a draft bill titled the Animal Welfare Act 2011 was introduced in the Parliament to replace which aimed at strengthening animal welfare organisations and enlarging the definition of animal abuse. Following this, the Animal Welfare bill was introduced in 2014, and another Private Member Bill, 2016 was introduced, both calling for higher penalties and broadening the scope of offences. Unfortunately, none of these three bills have been passed in parliament.

Suggestions

  • 70% accidents for animals are caused due to rash and negligent driving. Hence, there should be stringent law on this issue.
  • Centre has adopted the rules that impose a ban on testing cosmetics on the animal. However, the ban still allows import of animal-tested products. So there should be law on this loophole.
  • There is an urgent need to amend the Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001 as under these rules, animal organizations after the completion of animal birth control surgeries, do not provide any special treatment and release them in the area from where they were picked. Since the surgery makes them vulnerable, they are subjected to attacks and cruel treatment.
  • There should be State Animal Welfare Boards system in every state as there are many states where this kind of system still not available.

 [Ref: The Hindu]

EC to not extend facility of postal ballot to voters above 65

The Election Commission (EC) will not be extending postal ballot facility to electors above 65 years of age in the Bihar assembly poll, in a reversal of the stance it took earlier in view of the current pandemic situation.

  • EC had earlier, in view of the Covid-19 outbreak, recommended to the law ministry to amend the rules to allow persons above 65 years of age to vote by postal ballot.

What is Postal Voting?

  • Postal voting is voting in an election where ballot papers are distributed to electors (and returned) by post, in contrast to electors voting in person at a polling station.
  • Postal voting in India is done only through the “Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot Papers (ETPB)” system of Election Commission of India.
  • ETPB Enables one to cast vote from anywhere outside their constituency.
  • However, postal voting refers only to the means by which the ballots are submitted, not to the method by which the votes are counted.
  • When the counting of votes commences, these postal votes are counted fist before the counting of all other voters.
  • Significance: Give easy option to electors as the time constraint for dispatch of postal ballot has been addressed using this system.

Who can vote through postal ballots?

  • Service Voters & the wife of a Service Voter who ordinarily resides with him (husbands of female service voters are not eligible)
  • Special Voters
  • Voters on election duty
  • Voters under preventive detention

According to the provisions of Section 20 of Representation of People Act, 1950, service qualification means

(a)    Being a member of the armed forces of the Union (Indian Army, Indian Navy, Indian Air Force); or

(b)    Being a member of a force to which provisions of the Army Act, 1950 have been made applicable whether with or without modification (BSF, CRPF, ITBP, SSB, Assam Rifles, NSG, CISF)

(c)    Being a member of an Armed Police Force of a State, and serving outside that state; or

(d)    Being a person who is employed under the Government of India, in a post outside India (Indian Foreign Service Personnel)

Examples: The members of Indian Army/Navy/Air Force, Border Security Force, Indo Tibetan Border Police, Central Reserve Police Force etc.

Who are special voters?

  • There are 13 Offices whose holder qualifies as Special Voters as notified by President in 1960 Notification such as President of India, Vice-President of India, Governors of States, Speaker & Deputy speaker of the House/ Legislative Assembly, Parliamentary Secretaries etc.

Exception of classified voters

  • Service voters belonging to Armed Forces or forces to which provisions of Army Act, 1950 (option A and B of service voters) are applicable, have the option of either voting through postal ballot or through a proxy voter duly appointed by him. A service voter who opts for voting through a proxy is called Classified Service Voter (CSV).

How are votes recorded by post?

  • The Returning Officer is supposed to print ballot papers within 24 hours of the last date of nomination withdrawal and dispatch them within a day.
  • After receiving it, the voter can mark her preference with a tick mark or cross mark against the candidate’s name. They also have to fill up a duly attested declaration to the effect that they have marked the ballot paper.
  • The ballot paper and the declaration are then placed in a sealed cover and sent back to the Returning Officer before the time fixed for the commencement of counting of votes.

Key Facts:

  • The Lok Sabha passed “Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, 2017” that proposes to enable overseas electors to appoint proxies to cast their votes in elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies which is currently pending in the Rajya Sabha.
[Ref: Times of India]

Government Schemes & Policies

Prashad scheme

Union Minister of State(IC) for Tourism virtually joins the inauguration of project ‘Development of Pilgrimage Amenities at Somnath, Gujarat’ under Prashad scheme.

About the scheme:

National Mission on Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual, Heritage Augmentation Drive’ (PRASHAD) launched by the Ministry of Tourism in the year 2014-15.

  • The objective is for the integrated development of identified pilgrimage and heritage destinations.
  • The scheme aimed at infrastructure development such as entry points (Road, Rail and Water Transport), last-mile connectivity, and basic tourism facilities like Information/ Interpretation Centers, etc.

Somnath Temple:

  • The Somnath temple is located near Junagadh in Saurashtra on the western coast of Gujarat.
  • It is believed to be the first among the twelve jyotirlinga shrines of Shiva.
  • It is an important pilgrimage and tourist spot of Gujarat.
  • Reconstructed several times in the past after repeated destruction by several Muslim invaders and rulers.
  • The present temple was reconstructed in Chaulukya style of Hindu temple architecture and completed in May 1951.
[Ref: PIB]

Issues related to Health & Education

TIFAC releases report on Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients

A report named ‘Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients- Status, Issues, Technology Readiness, and Challenges’ was recently launched by Technology Information Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC).

  • TIFAC, established in 1988, is an autonomous organization under the Department of Science & Technology. It aims to look ahead in technology domain, assess the technology trajectories, and support innovation in select areas of national importance.

What are Active pharmaceutical ingredient?

  • Every medicine is made up of two main ingredients — the chemically active APIs and chemically inactive (called excipients), which is a substance that delivers the effect of APIs to one’s system.
  • Active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) is the biologically active component of a drug product (e.g. tablet, capsule).
  • API produces the intended effects to cure the disease. For instance, Paracetamol is the API for Crocin and it is the API paracetamol that gives relief from body ache and fever.

India’s Pharmaceutical Industry

  • It is third largest in the world, in terms of volume, behind China and Italy, and 14th largest in terms of value.
  • It has a strong network of 3,000 drug companies and about 10,500 manufacturing units with a domestic turnover of Rs 1.4 lakh crore in 2019, with exports to more than 200 countries in the world.

Distinct advantages that Indian pharmaceutical have

  • Low Manpower cost (Even lesser than that of China)
  • Availability of large pool of skilled manpower including scientists, researchers (PhDs), biotechnologists, pharmacist, microbiologists etc.
  • Huge domestic market, high economic growth rate, penetration of health insurance schemes
  • Favorable policy support of 100% FDI under automatic route for Greenfield pharma.
  • 100% FDI is also allowed in Brownfield pharma; wherein 74% is allowed under the automatic route and thereafter through government approval route.
  • Increasing investments – FDI worth USD16.39 billion was received between December 2019 and April 2020.

Challenges of Indian pharmaceutical sector

  • Despite a very strong base, due to low-profit margins and non-lucrative industry, domestic pharmaceutical companies have gradually stopped manufacturing APIs and started importing APIs, which was a cheaper option with increased profit margins on drugs.
    • If the API are currently manufactured in India, it will be 20% more costly than that of china.
  • The imports from China have been increasing steadily and now stand around 68%.

Challenges for MSME sector

The Indian pharmaceutical industry is extremely fragmented with approximately 24,000 manufacturing units in the MSME sector accounting for 70 % of production by volume.

The MSME in the Indian pharmaceutical sector is facing many challenges such as:

  • Lack of proper industrial infrastructure and capital.
  • Lack of compliance with environmental intensive laws.
  • Lack of awareness about regulatory compliance of stringent quality norms.
  • Ever changing technology in drug manufacturing procedures, meeting international standard requirements & yield.
  • Lack of venture capital funds.

Suggestions of the report

  • Indigenous production of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) needs to be scaled up to a level where the production is economically viable.
  • Need for Mission mode Chemical Engineering with defined targets for uninterrupted synthesis of molecules and
  • To create mega drug manufacturing clusters with common infrastructure in India
  • To make technology platform to be developed for bio-catalysis for cost optimization
  • Investment on priority in fermentation sector of large capacity
  • Attention to technologies like hazardous reactions, flow chemistry, cryogenic reactions, and membrane technology.
  • Focus on antiviral drugs, which require nucleic acid building blocks – Thymidine/ Cytosine Adenine/ Guanine none of which are manufactured in India because of lack of cyanation plants.
  • Government should encourage Indian companies working in chemical segments such as steroids, amino acids, carbohydrates, nucleosides, etc., to collaborate for technology development or quick technology transfer.
  • Closer academia-industry interaction for technology development and commercialization.

Initiatives of Indian Government on APIs

Year of API: The Government had declared 2015 as the “Year of API” to make India self-sufficient in bulk drugs.

Draft Pharmaceutical Policy 2017: prepared by Dept. of Pharmaceuticals aims to make essential medicines affordable to common people, making the industry self-reliance by promoting indigenous production of drugs, and ensure quality of medicines which are exported as well as consumed domestically.

Scheme for Development of Pharmaceutical Industry: Launched in during 2017-18, it is a Central Sector Scheme (CS) for a three-year period till 2019-20 to increase the efficiency of domestic pharmaceutical industry.

It comprises of five sub-schemes:

  • Assistance to Bulk Drug Industry for Common Facility Centre;
  • Assistance to Medical Device Industry for Common Facility Centre;
  • Assistance for Cluster Development;
  • Pharmaceutical Promotion and Development Scheme (PPDS); and
  • Pharmaceutical Technology Upgradation Assistance Scheme (PTUAS).

Inter-Ministerial Task Force

  • An inter-ministerial task force was constituted in April 2018 to formulate/ suggest a road map for enhanced production of APIs in the country.

Scheme on Promotion of Bulk Drug Parks

  • The Government in March 2020, approved a scheme on Promotion of Bulk Drug Parks for financing Common Infrastructure Facilities in 3 mega Bulk Drug Parks, in with Rs. 3,000 crore for next five years. The government will give Grants-in-Aid to States with a maximum limit of Rs. 1000 Crore per Bulk Drug Park.
  • This scheme will reduce manufacturing cost of bulk drugs and dependency on other countries for bulk drugs.

Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme

  • The Government in March 2020 approved an another Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme for promotion of domestic manufacturing of critical KSMs/Drug  Intermediates and APIs in the country for next  8 years.
  • Financial incentive will be given to eligible manufacturers of identified 53 critical bulk drugs on their incremental sales.

Champion Sector

  • The Government, during May 2020, has identified “champion sectors” including leather, gems and jewellery, renewable energy, pharmaceuticals and textiles, to provide hand- holding for investors.

High-Level Committee of Experts

  • A high-level committee of experts, chaired by Rajesh Bhushan, was formed in May 2020, to recommend reforms in India’s drug regulatory system so that approval processes can be fast-tracked.
[Ref: Times of India]

ZyCoV-D

BIRAC has announced that ZyCoV-D, the plasmid DNA vaccine designed and developed by Zydus and partially funded by the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India under the National Biopharma Mission has initiated Phase I/ II clinical trials in healthy subjects.

About National Biopharma Mission:

  • The Industry-Academia Collaborative Mission of Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Govt of India.
  • The mission was approved in 2017 at a total cost of Rs 1500 crore and is 50% co-funded by World Bank loan.
  • Implemented at Biotechnology Research Assistance Council (BIRAC).
  • This program is dedicated to delivering affordable products to the nation to improve the health standards of India’s population.
  • The oversight of the mission activities is provided by the inter-ministerial Steering Committee chaired by the Secretary-DBT.
  • The Technical Advisory Group (TAG) provides approval and reviews the scientific progress of its components. Additionally, domain-specific Scientific Advisory Groups (SAG), each for the activities/ product development partnerships, are responsible for providing scientific decision making and knowledge and oversight necessary for TAG.

It has 4 verticals

  • Development of product leads for Vaccines, Biosimilars and Medical Devices that are relevant to the public health need by focussing on managed partnerships.
  • Upgradation of shared infrastructure facilities and establishing them as centres of product discovery/discovery validations and manufacturing.
  • Develop human capital by providing specific training to address the critical skills gap among the nascent biotech companies across the product development value chain in areas such as Product development, intellectual property registration, technology transfer and regulatory standards.
  • Help enhance industry-academia inter-linkages and provide increased opportunities for academia, innovators and entrepreneurs to translate knowledge into products and technologies.

About BIRAC:

Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) is a not-for-profit Section 8, Schedule B, Public Sector Enterprise, set up by Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India.

It is an Interface Agency to strengthen and empower the emerging Biotech enterprise to undertake strategic research and innovation, addressing nationally relevant product development needs.

BIRAC is an industry-academia interface and implements its mandate through a wide range of impact initiatives.

  • Providing access to risk capital through targeted funding,
  • Technology transfer
  • Intellectual Property management
  • Handholding schemes

Vision

To Stimulate, foster and enhance the strategic research and innovation capabilities of the Indian biotech industry, particularly start-ups and SME’s, for creation of affordable products addressing the needs of the largest section of society

Key Strategies

  • Foster innovation and entrepreneurship
  • Promote affordable innovation in key social sectors
  • Empowerment of start-ups & small and medium enterprises
  • Contribute through partners for capability enhancement and diffusion of innovation
  • Enable commercialization of discovery
  • Ensure the global competitiveness of Indian enterprises
[Ref: PIB]

Social Issues

A decline in maternal mortality ratio

What is Maternal mortality rate (MMR)?

MMR is defined as the number of maternal deaths per 1, 00,000 live births.

  • Maternal mortality in a region is a measure of the reproductive health of women in the area.
  • As per the World Health Organization, maternal death is the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management.

MMR in India:

  • The Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) in India has declined to 113 in 2016-18 from 122 in 2015-17 and 130 in 2014-2016, according to the special bulletin on Maternal Mortality in India 2016-18, released by the Office of the Registrar General’s Sample Registration System (SRS).

Data:

  • The MMR of various States according to the bulletin includes Assam (215), Bihar (149), Madhya Pradesh (173), Chhattisgarh (159), Odisha (150), Rajasthan (164), Uttar Pradesh (197) and Uttarakhand (99). The southern States registered a lower MMR — Andhra Pradesh (65), Telangana (63), Karnataka (92), Kerala (43) and Tamil Nadu (60).
  • The target 3.1 of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) set by the United Nations aims to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 1,00,000 live births.

Sample Registration System:

  • There are four major sources of vital statistics in India, namely; (a) the Sample Registration System (SRS), (b) the Civil Registration System (CRS), (c) Indirect estimates from the decennial census and (d) Indirect estimates from the National Family Health Surveys (NFHS).
  • The Office of the Registrar General, India, initiated the scheme of sample registration of births and deaths in India popularly known as Sample Registration System (SRS) in 1964 65 on a pilot basis and full scale from 1969 70.
  • The SRS is the most regular source of demographic statistics in India.
  • It is based on a system of dual recording of births and deaths in fairly representative sample units spread all over the country.
  • The SRS provides annual estimates of (a) population composition, (b) fertility, (c) mortality, and (d) medical attention at the time of birth or death which give some idea about access to medical care.
  • Average time to the publication of SRS annual reports is about two years.
  • SRS estimates are generally valid and reliable for the country as a whole and bigger states with more than 10 million population.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Economy

India Energy Modelling Forum

The joint working group meeting of the Sustainable Growth Pillar, an India Energy Modelling Forum was launched.

  • It was co-chaired by NITI Aayog and USAID.

The India Energy Modelling Forum aims to:

  • Provide a platform to examine important energy and environmental related issues.
  • Inform decision-making process to the Indian government.
  • Improve cooperation between modelling teams, government, and knowledge partners, funders.
  • Facilitate the exchange of ideas, ensure the production of high-quality studies.
  • Identify knowledge gaps at different levels and across different areas.
  • Build the capacity of Indian institutions.

The SG pillar entails energy data management, energy modelling and collaboration on low carbon technologies as three key activities.

NITI Aayog will initially coordinate the activities of the forum and finalizing its governing structure. The forum would include knowledge partners, data agencies and concerned government ministries.

[Ref: PIB]

Indian Council of Agricultural Research

Indian Council of Agricultural Research celebrates its 92nd Foundation Day.

  • The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) is an autonomous organisation under the Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE), Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India.
  • It was established on 16 July 1929 as a registered society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.
  • The Council is the apex body for co-ordinating, guiding and managing research and education in agriculture including horticulture, fisheries and animal sciences in the entire country.
  • There are 102 ICAR institutes and 71 agricultural universities in the country.

Contributions:

  • Played a pioneering role in ushering Green Revolution.
  • India is surplus in food grains production due to the research contribution of the scientists and hard work of the farmers.
  • It has played a major role in promoting excellence in higher education in agriculture.

Challenges:

  • India needs to reduce its dependence on imports.
  • Increase the production of healthy foods and also increase the production of pulses and oilseeds.
  • Emphasizing on developing new varieties of oilseeds.
[Ref: PIB]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Methane emissions

As per the studies of the Global Carbon Project, the amount of methane in the Earth’s atmosphere has continued to rise, with 576 million tonnes of the gas added every year between 2008 and 2017.

Emissions increased by nine per cent compared to the last decade.

Methane emissions briefly stabilised between 2000 and 2006, concentrations of the gas in the atmosphere now exceed 1,875 parts per billion or about 2.5 times that from the 1850s.

Causes:

  • Wetlands contributed most of the emissions, at 30 per cent.
  • Oil, gas and coal activities accounted for 20 per cent of the emissions.
  • Agriculture made up 24 per cent of the emissions
  • Landfills were responsible for 11 per cent.

Regions:

  • Tropical regions in three continents i.e. Africa, Asia and South America were responsible for 64 per cent of the entire planet’s emissions.
  • Temperate regions contributed to 32 per cent
  • The Arctic region contributed 4 per cent.

The Arctic Region:

  • Large amounts of carbon are contained in the Arctic’s frozen soils (permafrost) and forest vegetation.
  • Water-logged soil, once it begins to thaw, creates conditions ideal for methane production.
  • NASA’s Arctic Boreal Ecosystem Vulnerability Study researchers have found millions of sources of methane around small ponds and lakes in Alaska and western Canada.

Global Carbon Project:

  • The Global Carbon Project was established in 2001 by a shared partnership between the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP), the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) and Diversitas.
  • It is a Global Research Project of Future Earth and a research partner of the World Climate Research Programme.
  • The GCP approach is to focus comprehensively on the global biogeochemical cycles which govern the main greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O), their natural and human drivers, and opportunities for low carbon pathways.
  • It aims to develop a small number of new research initiatives that are feasible within a 3-5-year time framework on difficult and highly interdisciplinary problems of the carbon cycle.

The Goals are:

The scientific goal of the Global Carbon Project is to develop a complete picture of the global carbon cycle, including both its biophysical and human dimensions together with the interactions and feedbacks between them. This will be:

  • Patterns and Variability
  • Processes and Interactions
  • Carbon Management
[Ref: Down to Earth]

Pied Cuckoo

The Wildlife Institute of India and the Indian Institute of Remote Sensing has used nanotechnology to track and study the migratory patterns of the Pied Cuckoo.

  • The bird is closely linked with the arrival of the south-west monsoon in India.

Key Points:

  • The Pied Cuckoo is known as Chatak in North Indian folklore.
  • There are three subspecies of the Pied Cuckoo of which one is resident in Africa while another is resident in South India. The third is a migrant moving between India and Africa. It moves to India during the summer.
  • The migratory species originates from Southern Africa and travels to the Himalayan foothills stretching from Jammu to Assam to breed every year. The birds come to the same localities every year.
  • It is a brood parasite i.e. it does not make its own nest and instead lays its egg in the nest of other birds.
  • IUCN Status: Least Concern

Indian Bioresource Information portal

  • The Pied Cuckoo migration study is part of a larger project — Indian Bioresource Information portal (IBIN) funded by the Department of Biotechnology, under the Union Ministry of Science and Technology.
  • IBIN is being implemented through the IBIN Portal. It aims to collate, translate and complement information from diverse data servers on bioprospecting and utilization, protection of rights, conservation and management of biological diversity of the country.
[Ref: Down to Earth]

Melghat Tiger Reserve

The Chief Minister of Maharashtra writes to Centre seeking an alternative route for a rail line through Melghat Tiger Reserve. The rail line will be passing through the core area of MTR.

Key Points:

  • One of the first 9 Tiger reserves of the country and one of the largest tiger reserves of India.
  • It is part of the Satpura-Maikal landscapes.
  • It consists of Gugamal National Park, Melghat, Wan, Ambawarba and Narnala sanctuaries.
  • The fauna found here include Tigers, Leopard, Jackal, Wild Pig etc.
  • The vegetation found here is mainly dry deciduous forests.
  • The reserve lies in the catchment of the Tapti River.
  • The Korku tribe reside in these forests.
[Ref: The Indian Express]
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