Polity & Governance
- Cabinet approves proposal for amendments in NCIM, 2019
- Karnataka anti-superstition law
- Tongo hands over letter of engagement to NTPC
- Four hydro projects violate Ganga flow norms: Central Water Commission
Government Schemes & Policies
- Chandauli district tops NITI Aayog’s ranking in Dec
Issues related to Health & Education
- World Neglected Tropical Diseases Day
- Demand for measuring ‘misery index’ of economy
- Andhra Pradesh flags off country’s first ‘fruit train
Bilateral & International Relations
- Trump unveils West Asia plan, Palestinians protest
Defence & Security Issues
- India-Bangladesh JT Exercise SAMPRITI-IX
- PM Pays Tributes to Mahatma Gandhi on Martyrs Day
Key Facts for Prelims
- Month-long Nagoba jatara concludes in Telangana
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Polity & Governance
Cabinet approves proposal for amendments in NCIM, 2019
The Union Cabinet has given its approval for proposal of Official Amendments in the National Commission for Indian System of Medicine Bill, 2019 (NCIM).
- Main objective of establishing NCIM is to promote equity by ensuring adequate supply of quality medical professionals and enforce high ethical standards in all aspects of medical services in Indian System of Medicine.
Composition and appointment of members:
- The NCISM will consist of 29 members, appointed by the central government.
- A Search Committee will recommend names to the central government for the post of Chairperson, part time members, and presidents of the four autonomous boards set up under the NCISM.
- These posts will have a maximum term of four years.
- The Search Committee will consist of five members including the Cabinet Secretary and three experts nominated by the central government (of which two should have experience in any of the fields of Indian System of Medicine).
Functions of the National Commission for Indian System of Medicine:
- Framing policies for regulating medical institutions and medical professionals of Indian System of Medicine,
- Assessing the requirements of healthcare related human resources and infrastructure,
- Ensuring compliance by the State Medical Councils of Indian System of Medicine of the regulations made under the Bill, and
- Ensuring coordination among the autonomous boards set up under the Bill.
- The Commission will promote availability of affordable healthcare services in all parts of the country.
- The Commission has been structured to streamline the functions related to academic standards, evaluation, assessment and accreditation of educational institutions pertaining to Indian System of Medicine.
For information on the proposed amendments in the National Medical Bill, refer IASTopper’s video summary: https://www.iastoppers.com/rstv-big-picture-national-medical-commission-bill-2019/[Ref: PIB]
Karnataka anti-superstition law
Three years after the Karnataka Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices and Black Magic Act, 2017 was passed, the act has finally come into force January 2020. A controversial anti-superstition law in Karnataka was formally notified by the current government.
Objective of the act:
- To eradicate such inhuman practices performed in the name of “black magic” by conmen with the sinister motive of exploiting the common people, thereby destroying the social fabric in society.
- To bring social awakening in society and create a healthy and safe social environment.
Activities banned under the act:
- Performing any black magic.
- Inhumane act and evil practices in search of treasure or bounty.
- Tantric acts which include physical and sexual assault.
- Practices such as parading people naked.
- Ostracising a person in the name of a ritual and encouraging inhumane acts during said rituals.
- Assaulting people under the pretext of exorcism.
- Spreading misinformation.
- Creating a panic-like situation under the pretext of ghosts and black magic and others.
- Making claims of healing power.
- Propagating practices that involve self-mutilation.
- Coercing people to perform fire-walking.
- Preventing person taking medical treatment and diverting him to practice inhuman evil and acts.
- Practice of piercing from rods from one side of jaw to another side of the jaw and including the tongue (baibiga practice).
What is not banned?
- The form of the worship such as Pradakshina, Yatra, Parikrama performed at religious places.
- Harikata, Keerthana, Pravachana, Bhajana, teaching of ancient and traditional learning and arts, practice, propagation and circulation.
- Miracles of the deceased saints propagation and circulation of the same and the propagation and distribution of literature about miracles of the religious preachers which do not cause physical injury.
- Performance of prayers, upasana and religious rituals at home, temple, darghas, gurdwara, pagoda, church, and other religious places which do not cause physical injury.
- All religious celebrations, festivals, prayers, procession and other act relating other rituals.
- Piercing of ears and nose of children in accordance with rituals of religious such as Kesh Lochan by the Jains.
- Advice in regard to vaastu shasthra, and advice by jyothishya and other astrologers.
Tongo hands over letter of engagement to NTPC
The Letter of Engagement of National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) as PMC (Project Management Consultant) for development about 300 MW Solar Power Projects by Togo was handed over by Embassy of Togo to NTPC.
- Togo is the first ISA Country to avail the services of NTPC.
About National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC):
- NTPC Limited is a Power Major and a Public Sector Company of Government of India, owning an installed Power capacity of more than 58,000 MW which include 870 MW of Solar Projects.
- Apart from development of own Solar projects, the Company has been the nodal Agency for development of more than 4000 MW of Solar Projects on Independent Power Producers (IPP) Model.
About International Solar Alliance (ISA):
- ISA is initiative jointly launched by India and France in 2015 at Paris on side lines of COP21 UN Climate Change Conference.
- It is a treaty-based international organization.
- It is a group of 121 solar resource-rich countries. 83 countries have signed the ISA framework agreement. 58 countries have ratified the ISA agreement.
- It is headquartered at campus of National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE), Gurugram, Harayana, making it first international intergovernmental treaty based organization to be headquartered in India.
- Currently, the ISA is not funding projects directly, but assist member countries in finding suitable bilateral or multilateral funding. The World Bank and French Development Agency are developing a Solar Risk Mitigation Facility for this purpose.
- Presently there are 6 Programmes of ISA to develop Solar capacities in Member Countries which include Agricultural Pumps, Mini grids, Rooftop Solar, Large Scale Grid connected Projects etc.
Objectives of ISA:
- Undertake joint efforts required to reduce the cost of finance and the cost of technology
- Deploy over 1,000 gigawatts of solar energy and mobilize more than US $1000 billion of investments needed by 2030 for massive deployment of solar energy
Who can join the International Solar Alliance?
- Must be Solar resource-rich States which lie fully or partially between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.
- Must be member of the United Nations.
Funding from India:
- India will contribute Rs. 160 crores to the ISA over 5-year duration from 2016-17 to 2020-21. India will release additional Rs. 15 crores in the year 2020-21.
- It is a Country in West Africa and Member of International Solar Alliance (ISA).
- It has set an ambitious plan to achieve universal electricity access by 2030 with focus on capacity addition in Solar Power generation.
Location of Togo:
- Located in Africa, togo shares land borders with 3 countries: Burkina Faso, Ghana, Benin.
- A Swiss Challenge is a method of bidding, often used in public projects, in which an interested party initiates a proposal for a contract or the bid for a project.
- Independent Power Producers (IPPs) or non-utility generator (NUG) are private entities, which own and or operate facilities to generate electricity and then sell it to a utility, central government buyer and end users.
Four hydro projects violate Ganga flow norms: Central Water Commission
Over a year after the government made it mandatory for hydro power projects on the upper reaches of the river Ganga’s tributaries to release minimum quantities of water through the year, 4 of the 11 projects are flouting norms.
In October 2018, Ministry of Jal Shakti published the ecological flow (e-flow) notification.
Key Highlights of e-flow notification:
- Upper stretches of the Ganga (from its origins in the glaciers and until Haridwar) would have to maintain:
- 20% of the monthly average flow of the preceding 10-days between November and March (dry season).
- 25% of the average during the lean season of October, April and May.
- 30% of the monthly average during the monsoon months of June-September.
- The Central Water Commission (CWC) is the designated authority for supervision, monitoring, regulation of flows.
- Any dam or structure meant for diversion of river flows for the purpose of irrigation, hydro-power and domestic or industrial use will now have to maintain the minimum flow.
- The mini and micro-projects which do not alter the flow characteristics of the river or stream significantly are exempted from these environmental flows.
- The flow conditions in these river reach will be monitored at hourly intervals from time to time.
- National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) may direct release of additional water in the river Ganga to meet special demand.
- Environmental flows are the acceptable flow regimes that are required to maintain a river in the desired environmental state or predetermined state.
- Power producers generally hoard water to create reserves to increase power production, impeding the continuous flow of river.
Government Schemes & Policies
Chandauli district tops NITI Aayog’s ranking in Dec
Chandauli district in Uttar Pradesh topped the list of aspirational districts delta ranked by the NITI Aayog in December, followed by Belangir (Odisha) and YSR (Andhra Pradesh).
Methodology of ranking:
- The districts have been ranked on parameters across 6indicators: Health and nutrition, agriculture and water resources, education, skill development, financial inclusion and basic infrastructure.
- The rankings are based on the data that is publicly available through the Champions of Change Dashboard, which includes data entered on a real-time basis at the district level.
What is Aspirational Districts Programme?
- ‘Aspirational Districts’ programme was launched in January, 2018 with an aim to quickly and effectively transform some of the most underdeveloped districts in the country.
- The broad contours of the programme are Convergence (of Central & State Schemes), Collaboration (of Central, State level ‘Prabhari’ Officers & District Collectors), and Competition among districts driven by a Mass Movement or a Jan Andolan.
- With States as the main drivers, this program focuses on the strength of each district, identify low-hanging fruits for immediate improvement, measure progress, and rank districts.
6 Thematic areas of Aspirational Districts’ programme:
Health & Nutrition, Education, Agriculture & Water Resources, Financial Inclusion & Skill Development, and Basic Infrastructure.
- From May 2018, Districts were ranked on their “incremental progress” i.e. Delta Ranking, exemplifying the spirit of competitive federalism.
- Till now, the NITI Aayog has conducted two Delta ranking of the Aspirational Districts in 2018.
- The ranking of aspirational districts is done every month.
Issues related to Health & Education
World Neglected Tropical Diseases Day
January 30, 2020 is the first-ever World Neglected Tropical Diseases Day (World NTD Day), a day to celebrate the achievements made towards control of the world’s NTDs, yet recognize the daunting challenges in the control of these conditions.
About Neglected tropical diseases:
- Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a diverse group of 17 communicable diseases that prevail in tropical and subtropical conditions in 149 countries.
- Neglected tropical diseases persist under conditions of poverty and are concentrated almost exclusively in impoverished populations in the developing world.
- These diseases include dengue, rabies, leprosy (Hansen disease), lymphatic filariasis etc.
How are they spread?
- Infections are caused by unsafe water, poor housing conditions and poor sanitation.
- Children are the most vulnerable to these diseases.
Global Challenges of NTD:
- Lacking a strong political voice, people affected by these tropical diseases have a low profile and status in public health priorities.
- Lack of reliable statistics and unpronounceable names of diseases have all hampered efforts to bring them out of the shadows.
- Neglected tropical diseases, which affect more than 1 billion people, are frequently clustered together geographically and individuals are often afflicted with more than one parasite or infection.
- More than 70% of countries and territories that report the presence of neglected tropical diseases are low-income or lower middle-income economies.
Challenges in India:
- A comprehensive policy to foster research in drug discovery and vaccine development in neglected tropical diseases is lacking.
- Not enough funding for product development: India is the fourth largest government funder of neglected diseases research, and the largest among middle income countries. Yet, funding falls far short of requirements.
- Slow adoption of novel and innovative technologies: The absence of market intermediaries for commercialisation of products for neglected diseases often results in innovations remaining in laboratories.
- Regulatory bottlenecks: Cosmetics Rules in India does not permit phase I clinical trials of drugs or vaccines that have been developed outside India.
- Stigma and discrimination: Since some of the neglected tropical diseases result in complications that are disabling and disfiguring, this leads to social displacement and isolation.
- Co-existence of other diseases: Some of these neglected tropical diseases co-exist with other diseases, which makes their treatment more difficult.
- Earmark a proportion of public funds for neglected diseases research and innovation.
- Develop mechanisms to facilitate priority regulatory pathways for innovations in neglected diseases.
- Capacity building of regulators, including institutional ethics committees, in handling regulatory process for neglected diseases.
- Facilitate early adoption of innovations proved effective into national disease treatment programmes.
- A National Observatory on Biomedical R&D to prioritise on neglected diseases, is needed.
- Creating common repositories of biological samples and other materials accessible to researchers, industry, and regulators would facilitate innovation.
- A comprehensive national surveillance database for neglected diseases is essential to monitor trends across the country.
Recent policies on neglected diseases research in India:
- The National Health Policy (2017) sets an ambition to stimulate innovation to meet health needs and ensure that new drugs are affordable for those who need them most,8 but it does not specifically tackle neglected diseases.
- The National Policy on Treatment of Rare Diseases (2018) includes infectious tropical diseases and identifies a need to support research on treatments for rare diseases. It has not yet prioritised diseases and areas for research funding or how innovation would be supported.
Demand for measuring ‘misery index’ of economy
India’s economy needs to be evaluated in terms of the global misery index (GMI), the Congress said.
About Misery Index:
- The first Misery Index was constructed by economist Art Okun in 1960s.
- It is equal to the sum of the inflation rate and the unemployment rate.
- It helps determine how the average citizen is doing economically.
- The higher the index, the greater the misery felt by the average citizens.
- The misery index has been modified several times, first in 1999 by Harvard economist Robert Barro who created the Barro misery index.
- In recent times, it has broadened to include other economic indicators, such as bank lending rates.
- It doesn’t include economic growth data.
- Underweights the unhappiness attributable to the unemployment rate.
- In recent times, the prevalence of low unemployment and low inflation figures across world also means that the utility of this index is limited.
Andhra Pradesh flags off country’s first ‘fruit train
A ‘fruit train’ carrying locally grown bananas, said to be the first of its kind in the country, was flagged off from Anantapur district to Jawaharlal Nehru Port in Mumbai, from it will be exported to Iran.
- The transport of fruits in Air-conditioned container helps save both time and fuel as shipment by trucks takes too much time and energy.
- The government was targeting exports of 30,000 MT of fruits from all over Andhra Pradesh, and had roped in six major corporate companies to collaborate with the local farmers to enhance the productivity, post-harvest treatment and packing, providing market linkage and ensuring higher prices.
Bilateral & International Relations
Trump unveils West Asia plan, Palestinians protest
U.S. President proposed creation of a Palestinian state with capital in eastern Jerusalem, dependent on Palestinians taking steps to become self-governing, as part of a peace plan to end decades of conflict in the region.
About the West Bank:
- The West Bank is a landlocked territory, which is bordered by Jordan to the east and Israel in the north, south and west.
- West Bank was captured by Jordan from Israel after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. However, Israel captured East Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza Strip back during the Six Day War of 1967, and has occupied it ever since.
What is the issue?
- As per the United Nations, West Bank settlements are violative of the Fourth Geneva Convention (Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War).
- The Fourth Geneva Convention says that an occupying nation (Israel here) “shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies (West bank here).” The International Criminal Court classifies such transfers as war crimes.
- In other words, Israelis should not enter in the West Bank even though West Bank is part of Israel.
About the West Asia plan:
- It tries to give two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
- It seeks to give the Israelis an expansive state with Jerusalem as its “undivided capital” and tight security control over a future Palestinian state.
- It proposed an independent Palestinian state and the recognition of Israeli sovereignty over West Bank settlements. In return, Israel would freeze further settlement activities on the West Bank for four years.
- Israel would be allowed to annex the Jewish settlements on the West Bank as well as the Jordan Valley.
- The Palestinian refugees, who were forced out from their homes during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war that followed the declaration of the state of Israel in the historic Palestine, would not be allowed to return. They could move to the future Palestinian state, be integrated into the host countries or settled in other regional countries.
- Palestine would get control over more land than what it currently controls (According to the Oslo Accords, West Bank was divided into three areas and only one of them is under the direct control of the Palestinian). It proposes land swap for the Israeli annexation of the West Bank Jewish settlements. It seeks to enlarge Gaza and connect the strip with the West Bank through a tunnel.
- US has also proposed $50 billion in investment over 10 years should Palestine accept the proposals.
What are the issues at stake?
Jerusalem: Both Israel and the Palestinians hold claims to the city. Israel regards Jerusalem as its capital. The Palestinians insist on that East Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in the 1967 Middle East war, should be the capital of its future independent state.
Palestinian statehood: The Palestinians want an independent state of their own, comprising the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
Recognition: Israel insists that any peace deal must include Palestinian recognition of it as the “nation-state of the Jewish people”, arguing that without this Palestinians will continue to press their own national claims to the land, causing the conflict to endure. The Palestinians says recognising Palestinian as the Jewish country will discriminate against Israel’s Arab population of Palestinian origin, who are Muslims, Christians and Druze.
Borders: Both sides have fundamentally different ideas as to where the boundaries of a potential Palestinian state should be. The Palestinians insist on borders based on ceasefire lines which separated Israel and East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza between 1949 and 1967. Israel says those lines are militarily indefensible and were never intended to be permanent.
Settlements: Since 1967, Israel has built about several settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Palestinians say all settlements must be removed for a Palestinian state to be viable.
Refugees: The UN says it support Palestinian refugees in the Middle East including the descendants of people who fled or were expelled by Jewish forces from what became Israel in the 1948-49 war. Palestinians insist on their right to return to their former homes, but Israel says they are not entitled to, noting that such a move would lead to its end as a Jewish state.
- India said final status issues should be resolved through direct negotiations between the two parties and be acceptable to both.
- It urged the parties to engage with each other, including on the recent proposals put forward by the United States, and find an acceptable two-state solution for peaceful coexistence.
Defence & Security Issues
India-Bangladesh JT Exercise SAMPRITI-IX
As part of the ongoing Indo-Bangladesh defence cooperation, a joint military training exercise SAMPRITI-IX is being conducted at UMROI, Meghalaya, India from 03 Feb to 16 Feb 2020.
Highlights of the exercise:
- During the exercise, a Command Post Exercise (CPX) and a Field Training Exercise (FTX) will be conducted.
- For both the CPX and FTX, a scenario where both nations are working together in a Counter Terrorism environment will be simulated under the UN Charter.
About Exercise SAMPRIT:
- It is a bilateral defence cooperation between India and Bangladesh.
- It is hosted alternately by both countries.
PM Pays Tributes to Mahatma Gandhi on Martyrs Day
Prime Minister of India paid tributes on 72nd Anniversary of the Martyrdom Day of Mahatma Gandhi.
About Martyrs’ Day:
- Martyrs’ Day is observed annually on January 30 and March 23 to give respect to the soldiers who lost their lives defending the sovereignty of India.
Why January 30 and March 23?
- January 30: Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated at Gandhi Smriti in the Birla House on January 30, 1948.
- March 23: Bhagat Singh, Shivaram Rajguru and Sukhdev Thapar were hanged to death by the British on March 23, 1931.
Martyrs’ Day is also celebrated on different days in different places:
- July 13 in Jammu and Kashmir to memorise the death of 22 people who were killed in 1931 during a revolt against British atrocities.
- November 17 in Odisha to observe the death anniversary of Lala Lajpat Ray.
- November 19 in the Jhansi to celebrate birth of Rani Lakshmi Bai.
Key Facts for Prelims
Month-long Nagoba jatara concludes in Telangana
The ceremony of Betal puja constituted the last of the rituals before the formal end of the Nagoba jatara which was spread over a month.
About Nagoba Jatara:
- It is a tribal festival held in Keslapur village of Telangana. Hence, it is also known as Keslapur Jatara.
- It is the second biggest tribal carnival and celebrated by Boigutta branch of the aboriginal Raj Gond and Pardhan tribes for 10 days.
- Beginning of the annual tribal fair is started with the Mahapuja of Nagoba, also known as Persa Pen or great god.
- Tribal people from Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh belonging to the Mesram clan offer prayers at the festival.
- The event also includes a ceremony called ‘bheting’, which incorporates new brides into the clan.
- The Gusadi Dance performance by dancers from the Gond tribe is a major special attraction of the event.