Polity & Governance
- Rs2,900 crore approved for Nirbhaya fund to make cities safe for women
Government Schemes & Policies
- Government readies social security scheme for 50 crore workers
Issues related to Health & Education
- Scientists have identified 5 distinct types of Diabetes
- CBDT achieves important milestone of 200 APAs
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- ‘Supercolony’ of penguins on the Danger Islands
- UN spotlight on Kerala’s energy-positive campus
Bilateral & International Relations
- India, Russia, Bangladesh sign pact for Rooppur atomic plant
Art & Culture
- Controversy over Kuthiyottam ritual
- Bomb cyclone clean up continues
Key Facts for Prelims
- ‘Arunachal Express’
- 1 March: Zero Discrimination Day
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Polity & Governance
Rs2,900 crore approved for Nirbhaya fund to make cities safe for women
The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development have approved the projects worth Rs 2,919 crore under the Nirbhaya Fund for creating “safe cities”.
- Through this fund, the special focus will be given on women safety in public spaces and quick response systems to create deterrence against crime in these safe cities.
- The Eight cities which are selected for initiatives to take shape include Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Lucknow.
Measures to create safe cities:
- All the plans for safe cities have been prepared in coordination with municipal corporations and police commissioners of these cities.
- To enhance the safety of public places like roads, schools and metro etc., use of latest technology such as facial recognition analytics, video monitoring, and person tracking systems.
- Dedicated women safety patrol vans with GPS tracking.
- It will enable GIS mapping of criminal hotspots, training of investigating officers and quick response police teams.
- Strengthen the “Police Didi” programme wherein female police officers interact with women living in slums.
- A cybercrime and legal assistance compensation lab will also be set up.
- ABHAYAM Vans for quick response to women in distress, One Stop Crisis Centres and ‘She Teams’ of women for surveillance.
- User trial of the panic button feature on mobile phones.
About ‘Nirbhaya Fund’:
- The government, in April 2015, made the women and child development ministry (WCD) as the nodal agency for the Nirbhaya Fund replacing the Home Ministry.
- To approve the funds under Nirbhaya fund, a committee has been constituted which comprised officials from various ministries, including women and child development, home affairs, road transport and railways.
- Between 2013 and 2017, the corpus of Nirbhaya Fund has grown to Rs 3,100 crore.
Government Schemes & Policies
Government readies social security scheme for 50 crore workers
In a move to increase the social well-being of the marginalized groups of the country, the Ministry of Labour and Employment has proposed a social security system to provide retirement, health, old age, disability, unemployment and maternity benefits to 50 crore workers in the unorganized sector and people below the poverty line.
About the proposed scheme:
Implementation of the scheme:
- The scheme will be implemented in three phases over 10 years, after which the government hopes to make it universal.
- The scheme will be implemented in four tiers with the government wholly financing the cost for people below the poverty line.
- The first phase of the scheme will cost Rs 18,500 crore. The first phase will see all workers getting the bare minimum, which includes health security and retirement benefits.
- The second phase will see unemployment benefits being added to it while in the third phase, other welfare measures can be added.
Funding of the scheme:
- The scheme will be largely funded from the Building and Construction Worker Cess and funds allocated to other scattered schemes through the National Stabilisation Fund set up for the purpose.
- Its implementation would be regulated and monitored by an overarching regulatory body called the National Social Security Council to be chaired by the prime minister with finance minister, health minister and chief ministers of all states along with workers and employers as its members.
Classification of workers:
The 50 crore beneficiaries will be classified into four tiers.
- The first tier will comprise destitute and people below poverty line who cannot contribute for their security and hence the cost will be entirely borne by the government under tax-based schemes.
- The second tier will comprise workers in the unorganised sector who have some contributory power but are not self-sufficient.
- The third tier of beneficiaries will include those who either by themselves or jointly with their employers can make adequate contribution to the schemes, so as to be self-sufficient.
- The fourth tier will comprise comparatively affluent people who can make their own provisions for meeting the contingencies or risks as they rise.
Need for a social security scheme:
- India’s total workforce stands at around 500 million. A little over 10% of this is in the organised sector, where workers enjoy social security of some sort under EPFO and ESIC. But a major portion of the total workforce is still in the unorganised sector, where workers do not often get even the minimum wage and lack any kind of social security cover.
- The success or failure of the social security scheme depends on the implementation and execution of the project. But if the project succeeds, it will have a huge impact on the standard of living of employees in India.
Issues related to Health & Education
Scientists have identified 5 distinct types of Diabetes
Scientists have unveiled a revised classification for diabetes. There are five distinct types of diabetes that can occur in adulthood, rather than the two currently recognised.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic, progressive non-communicable disease (NCD) characterized by elevated levels of blood sugar (blood glucose).
- People with diabetes have excessively high blood glucose, or blood sugar, which comes from food.
How does it occur?
It occurs when
- The pancreas does not produce enough of the insulin hormone, which regulates blood sugar
- The body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces.
Types of Diabetes
Currently, the disease is divided into two sub-types:
- With type-1 — generally diagnosed in childhood and accounting for about 10% of cases — the body simply doesn’t make insulin, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels.
- For type-2, the body makes some insulin but not enough, which means glucose stays in the blood. This form of the disease correlates highly with obesity and can, over time, lead to blindness, kidney damage, and heart disease or stroke.
Revised classification for diabetes:
The results showed diabetes could be broken down into five cluster – three more severe, two milder. The most severe cluster of the five is defined similarly to classical type 1 diabetes, while the remaining four clusters represent subtler subtypes of type 2 diabetes.
- Cluster 1 – severe autoimmune diabetes is broadly the same as the classical type 1 – it hit people when they were young, seemingly healthy and an immune disease left them unable to produce insulin
- Cluster 2 – severe insulin-deficient diabetes patients initially looked very similar to those in cluster 1 – they were young, had a healthy weight and struggled to make insulin, but the immune system was not at fault
- Cluster 3 – severe insulin-resistant diabetes patients were generally overweight and making insulin but their body was no longer responding to it
- Cluster 4 – mild obesity-related diabetes was mainly seen in people who were very overweight but metabolically much closer to normal than those in cluster 3
- Cluster 5 – mild age-related diabetes patients developed symptoms when they were significantly older than in other groups and their disease tended to be milder.
Significance of this discovery:
- This is the first step towards personalised treatment of diabetes. This discovery could lead to better treatments and help doctors more accurately predict life-threatening complications from the disease.
Burden of Diabetes:
- Some 420 million people around the world today suffer from diabetes, with the number expected to rise to 629 million by 2045, according to the International Diabetes Federation.
- Today, Diabetes has become a major public health concern in India.
- According to the International Diabetes Federation, over 66 million people in India live with this metabolic disease; an almost equal number has pre-diabetes which is an immediate precursor to diabetes. It is predicted that by 2030 diabetes mellitus may afflict up to 79.4 million individuals in India.
CBDT achieves important milestone of 200 APAs
The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) entered into seven more Advance Pricing Agreements (APAs) during the month of February, 2018.
- With the signing of these Agreements, CBDT has crossed an important milestone of having signed 200 APAs.
- The total number of APAs entered into by the CBDT till date has gone up to 203. This includes 185 Unilateral APAs and 18 Bilateral APAs. In the current financial year, the CBDT has entered into 51 APAs so far (44 Unilateral APAs and 7 Bilateral APAs).
What is the meaning of the APA?
An Advance Pricing Agreement (APA) is a contract, usually for multiple years, between a taxpayer and at least one tax authority (CBDT) specifying the pricing method that the taxpayer will apply to its related-company transactions.
- These programmes are designed to help taxpayers voluntarily resolve actual or potential transfer pricing disputes in a proactive, cooperative manner, as an alternative to the traditional examination process.
About the APA scheme:
The APA scheme was introduced in the Income-tax Act in 2012 and the “Rollback” provisions were introduced in 2014.
- The scheme endeavours to provide certainty to taxpayers in the domain of transfer pricing by specifying the methods of pricing and setting the prices of international transactions in advance.
- Since its inception, the APA scheme has attracted tremendous interest and that has resulted in more than 700 applications (both unilateral and bilateral) having been filed in just four years.
Significance of the APA scheme:
- The progress of the APA Scheme strengthens the Government’s mission of fostering a non-adversarial tax regime.
- The Indian APA programme has been appreciated nationally and internationally for being able to address complex transfer pricing issues in a fair and transparent manner. It has contributed significantly towards improving the ease of doing business in India.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
‘Supercolony’ of penguins on the Danger Islands
Scientists have announced the discovery of a previously unknown “supercolony” of more than 1,500,000 Adélie Penguins in the Danger Islands, a chain of remote, rocky islands off of the Antarctic Peninsula’s northern tip.
Location of the Danger Islands:
- The Danger Islands is a group of islands lying 24 km east-south-east of Joinville Island near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.
- The Danger Islands have been identified as an “important bird area” by BirdLife International because it supports Adélie penguin colonies and seabirds.
- According to the March 2018 expedition leader, penguins in this area—which has remained cold—are thriving, whereas on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula—where warming has occurred—their numbers have been declining.
[Ref: Times of India]
UN spotlight on Kerala’s energy-positive campus
The Energy Management Centre (EMC), an autonomous institution under the Kerala government, has grabbed the global spotlight for its energy-positive campus, located in Thiruvananthapuram.
- The ‘Global Status Report 2017: Towards a zero-emission, efficient, and resilient buildings and construction sector,’ published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), has listed the EMC campus as one of the recent achievements in the deployment of key technologies for energy-efficiency in buildings.
EMC’s energy-positive campus:
- According to the report, the EMC’s energy-positive campus was designed to allow natural cross-flow ventilation from building forms and openings.
- The campus is equipped with a 30-kilowatt grid-connected solar capacity that exports around 50 kWh a day on an average, with a doubling of the capacity under implementation.
- The EMC campus uses daylighting controls, CFC-free heating, ventilation and cooling systems, along with a halogen-free fire-fighting system.
- Solar reflectance index coating, combined with high-albedo painting and turbo-vents for passive cooling, has been used, and tropical rainforest trees help create cool surroundings.
- Only certified green construction materials, recycled wood boards, low-emitting paints and adhesives, and green-plus certified carpets have been used.
Built with assistance from the Global Environment Fund, the EMC campus is the only LEED Gold certified building in the government sector in Kerala. Up to 94% of the built-up space is daylight illuminated.
Other projects recognised by the UNEP:
EMC is the only one from India to figure in the list, along with five other projects worldwide. The other five projects recognised by the UNEP include
- The Sierra Crest development in Fontana, California,
- The Association of Nubian Vaults in Sub-Saharan Africa,
- A construction and demolition waste recycling project in Paris,
- The Palm Tree eco-development project in Hanoi, Vietnam, and
- The Higashi-Matsushima Smart ecotown in northern Japan.
Need for energy-efficient buildings:
- Building-related carbon emissions have been rising by around 1% per year since 2010, and more than four million deaths are attributable to illness from household air pollution.
Bilateral & International Relations
India, Russia, Bangladesh sign pact for Rooppur atomic plant
India, Bangladesh and Russia have signed tripartite memorandum of understanding (MoU) for cooperation in construction of Rooppur nuclear power plant near Dhaka, Bangladesh.
- The Rooppur project is the first initiative under an Indo-Russian deal to undertake atomic energy projects in third countries.
- This will also be the first time Indian companies will be able to participate in a nuclear power project abroad. India is not a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and hence cannot participate directly in construction of atomic power reactors.
- Now, Indian companies can be involved in construction and installation works, the supply of materials and equipment of non-critical category in the interest of the Rooppur nuclear power plant.
- India has a nuclear cooperation agreement with Russia and Bangladesh.
- The Russian side is building a nuclear power plant in Bangladesh on a “turnkey” basis, which means the contractor will complete the whole project and they will be liable for any problems that arise in the plant. The scope of work includes design, production and supply of equipment, construction, installation, start-up and commissioning.
Art & Culture
Controversy over Kuthiyottam ritual
The Kerala State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights has registered a suo motu case in connection with the Kuthiyottam ritual.
What is Kuthiyottam ritual?
- The Kuthiyottam ritual is usually performed every year during the Pongala festival at the Attukal Bhagavathy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.
- The Attukal Pongala festival is the largest congregation of women for a festival in the world. Pongala, which means ‘to boil over’, is a ritual in which women prepare a pudding made from rice, jaggery, coconut and plantains cooked together, and offer it to the goddess. The ritual can only be performed by women.
What does the Kuthiyottam ritual involve?
- Nearly 1,000 young boys undertake a seven-day penance before Pongala day. These boys are said to represent the wounded soldiers of the goddess. The boys have to observe strict discipline and stay inside the temple for seven days. The rigours include sleeping on the floor, strict diet restrictions, and bathing three times a day. They also have to prostrate 1,008 times before the deity.
- The ritual also reportedly involves piercing the child’s side with a small hook and knotting a thread through it to symbolise their bond with the Goddess.
What’s the controversy now?
- Now, the Kerala State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights said it would examine if the ritual, reportedly involving piercing children’s sides with a hook, violated child rights in any manner.
Bomb cyclone clean up continues
A winter storm – also known as a “bomb cyclone” –has slammed into the northeast United States.
- The storm has roughly 80 million people along its path, with 22 million of those affected by a coastal flood warning.
What is Bomb Cyclone?
Bomb Cyclone is a nickname given to a phenomenon called “bombogenesis,” in which a weather system experiences a sharp drop in atmospheric pressure and intensifies rapidly, unleashing hurricane-force winds.
- By definition, the barometric pressure must drop by at least 24 millibars in 24 hours for a storm to be called a bomb cyclone; the formation of such a storm is called bombogenesis.
- What makes a storm a “bomb” is how fast the atmospheric pressure falls; falling atmospheric pressure is a characteristic of all storms.
- These strong winter systems are notorious for packing big winds and waves to go along with heavy snow – possibly resulting in downed trees, power outages and coastal flooding.
- It happens after the pressure inside a storm cell falls so quickly that it gives the storm explosive strength.
Mechanism of Bomb Cyclone:
- Deep drops in barometric pressure occur when a region of warm air meets one of cold air. The air starts to move and the rotation of the earth creates a cyclonic effect.
- The direction is counter-clockwise in the Northern hemisphere leading to winds that come out of the northeast.
Hurricanes vs. cyclones vs. typhoons:
Hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons are all tropical storms. They are all the same thing but are given different names depending on where they appear. When they reach populated areas they usually bring very strong wind and rain which can cause a lot of damage.
- Hurricanes are tropical storms that form over the North Atlantic Ocean and Northeast Pacific.
- Cyclones are formed over the South Pacific and Indian Ocean.
- Typhoons are formed over the Northwest Pacific Ocean.
[Ref: Indian Express, Times of India, NY Times]
Key Facts for Prelims
- A new train ‘Arunachal Express’ between Naharlagun in Arunachal Pradesh and Anand Vihar Terminal in the national capital was flagged off.
- The new train would cover the 2013 kilometre distance between Naharlagun and Anand Vihar Terminal in little over 38 hours and would have 14 stoppages en-route.
- This is the second direct train for Arunachal Pradesh and 14th for North East to connect with the national capital.
1 March: Zero Discrimination Day
- The Zero Discrimination Day was observed across the globe on March 1, 2018
- The day aims to promote equality before the law and in practice throughout all of the member countries of the UN.
- The United Nations first celebrated the Zero Discrimination Day on 1 March 2014.
- The Day was observed after UNAIDS launched its Zero Discrimination Campaign on World AIDS Day in December 2013.
- The UNAIDS is a UN program on human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
- It seeks to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.
- Since its launch in 1996, UNAIDS has been providing the strategic direction, advocacy, coordination and technical support to deliver life-saving HIV services.