22nd March, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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(GS3: Conservation of Environment)
Issue: An organisation of whistleblowers in Assam, armed with an RTI reply from the authorities of a national park, has said that rhinoceros census data may be getting doctored for ensuring the flow of foreign funds.
The assertion has come less than a week before the rhino census in the 430 sq. km. Kaziranga National Park begins. The last rhino census in the wildlife reserve, a World Heritage Site, was in 2015.
What is RTI?
The Right to Information Act, simply known as RTI, is a revolutionary Act that aims to promote transparency in government institutions in India. The Act came into existence in 2005, after sustained efforts of anti-corruption activists.
It is termed revolutionary because it opens government organisations up for scrutiny. Equipped with knowledge about RTI, a common man can demand any government agency to furnish information. The organisation is bound to provide the information, that too within 30 days, failing which the officer concerned is slapped with a monetary fine.
All government agencies, whether they are under a state government or the Centre, come under the purview of the Act. For example, Municipal Corporations, PSUs (Public Sector Units), Government departments, Ministries at the State as well as Central level, Judiciary, Government owned Companies, Government Universities, Government Schools, Works Departments, Road Authorities, Provident Fund department etc.
Who are Whistleblowers?
A whistleblower (also written as whistle-blower or whistle blower) is a person who exposes any kind of information or activity that is deemed illegal, unethical, or not correct within an organization that is either private or public. At times, these whistleblowers have been targeted by unscrupulous entities in society for exposing corruption. For their protection, the government has enacted the Whistleblower protection act
Highlights of the Bill
- The Bill amends the Whistleblowers Protection Act, 2014.
- Key Issues and AnalysisThe Act provides a mechanism for receiving and inquiring into public interest disclosures against acts of corruption, wilful misuse of power or discretion, or criminal offences by public servants.
- The Bill prohibits the reporting of a corruption related disclosure if it falls under any 10 categories of information.
- These categories include information related to: (i) economic, scientific interests and the security of India; (ii) Cabinet proceedings, (iii) intellectual property; (iv) that received in a fiduciary capacity, etc.
- The Act permits disclosures that are prohibited under the Official Secrets Act (OSA), 1923. The Bill reverses this to disallow disclosures that are covered by the OSA.
- Any public interest disclosure received by a Competent Authority will be referred to a government authorised authority if it falls under any of the above 10 prohibited categories. This authority will take a decision on the matter, which will be binding.
- The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill states that the 10 prohibited categories are modeled on those under the RTI Act, 2005. However, this comparison may not be appropriate. Unlike the RTI Act, disclosures under the Bill are not made public but in confidence to a high level constitutional or statutory authority.
- With regard to the 10 prohibited categories, the RTI Act allows (i) the public authority to disclose information if he considers it to be in public interest; and (ii) a two stage appeal process if information is not made available. The Bill does not contain such provisions.
- A Competent Authority is required to refer a prohibited disclosure to a government authority for a final decision. However, the Bill does not specify the minimum qualifications required or the process of appointment of this authority.
- Whistleblower laws in other countries also prohibit the disclosure of certain types of information. These include information related to national security and intelligence, received in a fiduciary capacity, and any disclosure specifically prohibited by a law.
About Indian Rhinoceros
The Indian rhinoceros also called the greater one-horned rhinoceros and great Indian rhinoceros is a rhinoceros native to the Indian subcontinent. It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, as populations are fragmented and restricted to less than 20,000 km2 (7,700 sq mi). Moreover, the extent and quality of the rhino’s most important habitat, alluvial grassland and riverine forest, is considered to be in decline due to human and livestock encroachment.
The Indian rhinoceros once ranged throughout the entire stretch of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, but excessive hunting and agricultural development reduced their range drastically to 11 sites in northern India and southern Nepal. In the early 1990s, between 1,870 and 1,895 rhinos were estimated to have been alive. In 2015, a total of 3,555 Indian rhinoceros are estimated to live in the wild
In 2006, the total population was estimated to be 2,575 individuals, of which 2,200 lived in Indian protected areas:
- In Kaziranga National Park 1,855 — increased from 366 in 1966; 2,048 rhinos were estimated in 2009.
- in Jaldapara National Park 108 — increased from 84 in 2002
- in Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary: 81 — increased from 54 in 1987
- in Orang National Park: 68 — increased from 35 in 1972
- in Gorumara: 27 — increased from 22 in 2002
- in Dudhwa National Park: 21
- in Manas National Park: 19
- in Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary: 2
‘World Water Day 2018’
Issue: World Water Day, on 22 March every year, is about focusing attention on the importance of water. The theme for World Water Day 2018 is ‘Nature for Water’ – exploring nature-based solutions to the water challenges we face in the 21st century.
About World Water Day celebration
World Water Day is an annual observance day on 22 March to highlight the importance of freshwater. It is also used to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. World Water Day is celebrated around the world with a variety of events. These can be educational, theatrical, musical or lobbying in nature. The day can also include campaigns to raise money for water projects. The first World Water Day, designated by the United Nations, was commemorated in 1993.
The UN World Water Development Report is released each year around World Water Day.
UN-Water coordinates activities with UN member organisations who share an interest in that year’s theme. In 2016 the “Water and Jobs” theme led to collaboration with the International Labour Organization. UN-Water mobilizes organizations of all kinds to action, whether globally or locally.
The World Water Day website announces events, activities and volunteer opportunities. In 2018, stories are about “Nature and water from around the world” in keeping with the theme of “Nature for water”.
(GS1: Distribution of Key natural resources)
Issue: The Indian government’s relatively slow progress in securing lithium reserves could be a big problem for the energy storage industry in the country
India has moved substantially away from the prevalent lead acid batteries towards those based on lithium ion technology, which is far more efficient.
Lithium ion battery advantages:
There are many advantages to using a li-ion cell of battery. These li-ion battery advantages include:
- High energy density: The much greater energy density is one of the chief advantages of a lithium ion battery or cell. With electronic equipment such as mobile phones needing to operate longer between charges while still consuming more power, there is always a need to batteries with a much higher energy density. In addition to this, there are many power applications from power tools to electric vehicles. The much higher power density offered by lithium ion batteries is a distinct advantage.
- Self-discharge: One issue with batteries and cells is that they lose their charge over time. This self-discharge can be a major issue. One advantage of lithium ion cells is that their rate of self-discharge is much lower than that of other rechargeable cells such as Ni-Cad and NiMH forms.
- No requirement for priming: Some rechargeable cells need to be primed when they receive their first charge. There is no requirement for this with lithium ion cells and batteries.
- Low maintenance: One major lithium ion battery advantage is that they do not require and maintenance to ensure their performance. Ni-Cad cells required a periodic discharge to ensure that they did not exhibit the memory effect. As this does not affect lithium ion cells, this process or other similar maintenance procedures are not required.
- Variety of types available: There are several types of lithium ion cell available. This advantage of lithium ion batteries can mean that the right technology can be used for the particular application needed. Some forms of lithium ion battery provide a high current density and are ideal for consumer mobile electronic equipment. Others are able to provide much higher current levels and are ideal for power tools and electric vehicles.
Lithium ion battery disadvantages
Like the use of any technology, there are some disadvantages that need to be balanced against the benefits. The li-ion battery disadvantages include:
- Protection required: lithium ion cells and batteries are not as robust as some other rechargeable technologies. They require protection from being over charged and discharged too far. In addition to this, they need to have the current maintained within safe limits. Accordingly one lithium ion battery disadvantage is that they require protection circuitry incorporated to ensure they are kept within their safe operating limits. Fortunately with modern integrated circuit technology, this can be relatively easily incorporated into the battery, or within the equipment if the battery is not interchangeable.
- Ageing : One of the major lithium ion battery disadvantages for consumer electronics is that lithium ion batteries suffer from ageing. Not only is this time or calendar dependent, but it is also dependent upon the number of charge discharge cycles that the battery has undergone. When a typical consumer lithium cobalt oxide, LCO battery or cell needs to be stored it should be partially charged – around 40% to 50% and kept in a cool storage area. Storage under these conditions will help increase the life.
- Transportation: Another disadvantage of lithium ion batteries is that there can be certain restrictions placed on their transportation, especially by air. Although the batteries that could be taken in aircraft carry-on luggage are unlikely to be affected, care should be taken not to carry any more lithium ion batteries than are needed. Any carried separately must be protected against short circuits by protective covers, etc.
- Cost: A major lithium ion battery disadvantage is their cost. Typically they are around 40% more costly to manufacture than Nickel cadmium cells. This is a major factor when considering their use in mass produced consumer items where any additional costs are a major issue.
- Immature technology: Lithium ion battery technology is a developing area. This can be a disadvantage in terms of the fact that the technology does not remain constant. However as new lithium ion technologies are being developed all the time, it can also be an advantage as better solutions are coming available.
(GS2: India-Russia Bilateral ties)
Issue: India today successfully flight-tested its precision strike BrahMos weapon, which is called the world’s fastest supersonic cruise missile
About BRAHMOS missile
The BrahMos is a medium-range ramjet supersonic cruise missile that can be launched from submarine, ships, aircraft, or land. It is the fastest supersonic cruise missile in the world. It is a joint venture between the Russian Federation’s NPO Mashinostroeyenia and Republic of India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) who together have formed BrahMos Aerospace. It is based on the Russian P-800 Oniks cruise missile and other similar sea-skimming Russian cruise missile technology. The name BrahMos is a portmanteau formed from the names of two rivers, the Brahmaputra of India and the Moskva of Russia. Russia supplies 65% of the BrahMos’ components, including its ramjet engine and radar seeker
The BrahMos is a medium-range ramjet supersonic cruise missile that can be launched from submarine, ships, aircraft, or land. It is the fastest supersonic cruise missile in the world
It is the world’s fastest anti-ship cruise missile in operation. The missile travels at speeds of Mach 2.8 to 3.0, which is being upgraded to Mach 5.0.The land-launched and ship-launched versions are already in service, with the air and submarine-launched versions currently in the testing phase.An air-launched variant of BrahMos appeared in 2012. A hypersonic version of the missile, BrahMos-II, is also presently under development with a speed of Mach 7-8 to boost aerial fast strike capability. It is expected to be ready for testing by 2020.
India wanted the BrahMos to be based on a mid range cruise missile like the P-700 Granit. Its propulsion is based on the Russian missile, and missile guidance has been developed by BrahMos Aerospace. The missile is expected to reach a total order US$13 billion.
In 2016, as India became a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), India and Russia are now planning to jointly develop a new generation of Brahmos missiles with 600 km-plus range and an ability to hit protected targets with pinpoint accuracy.
(Facts that can be asked in prelims)
Issue: Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has extended his greetings on the occasion of Navroz.
Nowruz is the name of the Iranian New Year,also known as the Persian New Year, which is celebrated worldwide by Iranians, along with some other ethno-linguistic groups, as the beginning of the New Year.
Although having Iranian and religious Zoroastrian origins, Nowruz has been celebrated by people from diverse ethno-linguistic communities. It has been celebrated for over 3,000 years in Western Asia, Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Black Sea Basin, and the Balkans. It is a secular holiday for most celebrants that is enjoyed by people of several different faiths, but remains a holy day for Zoroastrians.
Nowruz is the day of the vernal equinox, and marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It marks the first day of the first month (Farvardin) in the Iranian calendar. It usually occurs on March 21 or the previous or following day, depending on where it is observed. The moment the sun crosses the celestial equator and equalizes night and day is calculated exactly every year, and families gather together to observe the rituals.
North East Industrial Development Scheme (NEIDS), 2017
(GS2: Government policies and interventions for development for various sectors)
Issue: The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the North East Industrial Development Scheme (NEIDS), 2017 with financial outlay of Rs.3000 crores upto March, 2020. Government will provide necessary allocations for remaining period of scheme after assessment before March 2020. NEIDS is a combination of the incentives covered under the earlier two schemes with a much larger outlay.
Details about the scheme:
In order to promote employment in the North East States, Government is incentivizing primarily the MSME Sector through this scheme. Government is also providing specific incentive through the scheme to generate employment.
All eligible industrial units, which are getting benefits of one or more components of other schemes of the Government of India, will also be considered for benefits of other components of this scheme.
Under the Scheme, the following incentives shall be provided to new industrial units set up in the North Eastern States including Sikkim:
|Central Capital Investment Incentive for Access to Credit (CCIIAC)||30% of the investment in Plant & Machinery with an upper limit of Rs.5 Crore on the incentive amount per unit.|
|Central Interest Incentive (Cll)||3% on working capital credit advanced by eligible Banks/ Financial institutions for first 5 years from the date of commencement of commercial production by the unit.|
|Central Comprehensive Insurance Incentive (CCII)
|Reimbursement of 100% insurance premium on insurance of building and Plant & Machinery for 5 years from the date of commencement of commercial production by the unit.|
|Goods and Service Tax (GST) Reimbursement
|Reimbursement up to the extent of Central Govt. share of CGST and IGST for 5 Years from the date of commencement of commercial production by the unit.|
|Income-Tax (IT) Reimbursement||Reimbursement of Centre’s share of income tax for first 5 years including the year of commencement of commercial production by the unit.|
|Transport Incentive (TI)||· 20% of the cost of transportation including the subsidy currently provided by Railways/ Railway PSU for movement of finished goods by rail.
· 20% of cost of transportation for finished goods, for movement through InlandWaterways Authority of India.
· 33% of cost of transportation of air freight on perishable goods (as defined by IATA) from the airport nearest to place of production toany airport within the country.
|Employment Incentive (EI)||The Government shall pay 3.67% of the employer’s contribution to the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) in addition to Government bearing 8.33% Employee Pension Scheme (EPS) contribution of the employer in the Pradhan MantriRojgarProtsahanYojana (PMRPY).|
Ministry of Commerce and Industry is the nodal ministry for implementation of the scheme
‘National Health Protection scheme’
(GS2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors)
Issue: The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi today has approved the launch of a new Centrally Sponsored Ayushman Bharat -National Health Protection Mission (AB-NHPM) having central sector component under Ayushman Bharat Mission anchored in the MoHFW. The scheme has the benefit cover of Rs. 5 lakh per family per year. The target beneficiaries of the proposed scheme will be more than 10 crore families belonging to poor and vulnerable population based on SECC database. AB-NHPM will subsume the on-going centrally sponsored schemes -RashtriyaSwasthyaBimaYojana (RSBY) and the Senior Citizen Health Insurance Scheme (SCHIS),
1. AB-NHPM will have a defined benefit cover of Rs. 5 lakh per family per year.
This cover will take care of almost all secondary care and most of tertiary care procedures. To ensure that nobody is left out (especially women, children and elderly) there will be no cap on family size and age in the scheme. The benefit cover will also include pre and post-hospitalisation expenses. All pre-existing conditions will be covered from day one of the policy. A defined transport allowance per hospitalization will also be paid to the beneficiary.
2. Benefits of the scheme are portable across the country and a beneficiary covered under the scheme will be allowed to take cashless benefits from any public/private empanelled hospitals across the country.
3. AB-NHPM will be an entitlement based scheme with entitlement decided on the basis of deprivation criteria in the SECC database, The different categories in rural area include families having only one room with kucha walls and kucha roof; families having no adult member between age 16 to 59; female headed households with no adult male member between age 16 to 59; disabled member and no able bodied adult member in the family; SC/ST households; and landless households deriving major part of their income from manual casual labour, Also, automatically included families in rural areas having any one of the following: households without shelter, destitute, living on alms, manual scavenger families, primitive tribal groups, legally released bonded labour. For urban areas, 11 defined occupational categories are entitled under the scheme.
4. The beneficiaries can avail benefits in both public and empanelled private facilities. All public hospitals in the States implementing AB-NHPM, will be deemed empanelled for the Scheme. Hospitals belonging to Employee State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) may also be empanelled based on the bed occupancy ratio parameter. As for private hospitals, they will be empanelled online based on defined criteria.
5. To control costs, the payments for treatment will be done on package rate (to be defined by the Government in advance) basis. The package rates will include all the costs associated with treatment. For beneficiaries, it will be a cashless, paper less transaction. Keeping in view the State specific requirements, States/ UTs will have the flexibility to modify these rates within a limited bandwidth.
6. One of the core principles of AB-NHPM is to co-operative federalism and flexibility to states. There is provision to partner the States through co-alliance. This will ensure appropriate integration with the existing health insurance/ protection schemes of various Central Ministries/Departments and State Governments (at their own cost), State Governments will be allowed to expand AB-NHPM both horizontally and vertically. States will be free to choose the modalities for implementation. They can implement through insurance company or directly through Trust/ Society or a mixed model.
7. For giving policy directions and fostering coordination between Centre and States, it is proposed to set up Ayushman Bharat National Health Protection Mission Council (AB-NHPMC) at apex level Chaired by Union Health and Family Welfare Minister. It is proposed to have an Ayushman Bharat National Health Protection Mission Governing Board (AB-NHPMGB) which will be jointly chaired by Secretary (HFW) and Member (Health), NITI Aayog with Financial Advisor, MoHFW, Additional Secretary & Mission Director, Ayushman Bharat National Health Protection Mission, MoHFW (AB-NHPM) and Joint Secretary (AB-NHPM), MoHFW as members. CEO, Ayushman Bharat – National Health Protection Mission will be the Member Secretary, State Secretaries of Health Department may also be members as per the requirement. It is proposed to establish an Ayushman Bharat – National Health Protection Mission Agency (AB-NHPMA) to manage the AB-NHPM at the operational level in the form of a Society. AB-NHPMA will be headed by a full time CEO of the level of Secretary/ Additional Secretary to the Government of India.
8. States would need to have State Health Agency (SHA) to implement the scheme States will have the option to use an existing Trust / Society / Not for Profit Company/ State Nodal Agency or set up a new Trust / Society / Not for Profit Company/ State Health Agency to implement the scheme and act as SHA. At the district level also, a structure for implementation of the scheme will need to be set up.
9. To ensure that the funds reach SHA on time, the transfer of funds from Central Government through AB-NHPMA to State Health Agencies may be done through an escrow account directly. The State has to contribute its matching share of grants within defined time frame.
10. In partnership with NITI Aayog, a robust, modular, scalable and interoperable IT platform will be made operational which will entail a paperless, cashless transaction. This will also help in prevention / detection of any potential misuse / fraud / abuse cases. This will be backed by a well-defined Grievance Redressal Mechanism. In addition, pre-Authorisation of treatments with moral hazards (Potential of misuse) will be made mandatory.
11. In order to ensure that the scheme reaches the intended beneficiaries and other stakeholders, a comprehensive media and outreach strategy will be developed, which will, inter alia, include print media, electronic media, social media platforms, traditional media, IEC materials and outdoor activities.
At the national level to manage, an Ayushman Bharat National Health Protection Mission Agency (AB-NHPMA) would be put in place. States/ UTs would be advised to implement the scheme by a dedicated entity called State Health Agency (SHA). They can either use an existing Trust/ Society/ Not for Profit Company/ State Nodal Agency (SNA) or set up a new entity to implement the scheme. States/ UTs can decide to implement the scheme through an insurance company or directly through the Trust/ Society or use an integrated model.
In-patient hospitalization expenditure in India has increased nearly 300% during last ten years. (NSSO 2015). More than 80% of the expenditure are met by out of pocket (OOP). Rural households primarily depended on their ‘household income / savings’ (68%) and on ‘borrowings’ (25%), the urban households relied much more on their ‘income / saving’ (75%) for financing expenditure on hospitalizations, and on ‘(18%) borrowings. (NSSO 2015). Out of pocket (OOP) expenditure in India is over 60% which leads to nearly 6 million families getting into poverty due to catastrophic health expenditures. AB-NHPM will have major impact on reduction of Out Of Pocket (OOP) expenditure on ground of:
i) Increased benefit cover to nearly 40% of the population, (the poorest & the vulnerable)
ii) Covering almost all secondary and many tertiary hospitalizations. (Except a negative list)
iii) Coverage of 5 lakh for each family, (no restriction of family size)
This will lead to increased access to quality health and medication. In addition, the unmet needs of the population which remained hidden due to lack of financial resources will be catered to. This will lead to timely treatments, improvements in health outcomes, patient satisfaction, improvement in productivity and efficiency, job creation thus leading to improvement in quality of life.
The expenditure incurred in premium payment will be shared between Central and State Governments in specified ratio as per Ministry of Finance guidelines in vogue. The total expenditure will depend on actual market determined premium paid in States/ UTs where AB-NHPM will be implemented through insurance companies. In States/ UTs where the scheme will be implemented in Trust/ Society mode, the central share of funds will be provided based on actual expenditure or premium ceiling (whichever is lower) in the pre-determined ratio.
Number of Beneficiaries:
AB-NHPM will target about 10.74 crore poor, deprived rural families and identified occupational category of urban workers’ families as per the latest Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) data covering both rural and urban. The scheme is designed to be dynamic and aspirational and it would take into account any future changes in the exclusion/ inclusion/ deprivation/ occupational criteria in the SECC data.
AB-NHPM will be rolled out across all States/UTs in all districts with an objective to cover all the targeted beneficiaries.
Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA)
(GS2: Issues related to Health)
Issue: The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has given its approval for continuation ofCentrally Sponsored Scheme of RashtriyaUchchatarShikshaAbhiyan (RUSA) from 1.04.2017 to 31.03.2020.
Targets of the programme are:
- RUSA seeks to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio of the country to 30% by 2020,
- It also seeks to increase the spending on higher education by the State Governments,
- The scheme, in its 2nd phase, aims at creation of 70 new model degree colleges and 8 new professional colleges; Enhancing quality and Excellence in 10 select State universities and 70autonomous colleges, providing infrastructural support to 50 universities and 750 colleges etc.
- Improving access, equity and accessibility of higher education in Slates through reforms such as academic reforms, governance reforms, affiliation reforms etc.
- Improve equity in higher education by providing adequate opportunities of higher education to socially deprived communities; promote inclusion of women, minorities, SC/ST/OBCs and differently-abled persons,
- To identity and fill up the existing gaps in higher education, by augmenting and supporting the State Governments’ efforts,
- Promote a spirit of healthy competition amongst states and institutions to excel in quality higher education, research and innovation.
RUSA is an overarching scheme, operated in a mission mode for funding the state universities and colleges in order to achieve the aims of equity, access and excellence. It seeks to improve the overall quality of existing State higher educational institutions by ensuring their conformity to prescribed norms and standards. Transformative reforms such as governance, academic, affiliation and accreditation reforms are pre-requisites in the implementation of the scheme in State higher educational institutions. The funding to States is based on critical appraisal of State Higher Education Plans. These plans are required to address each State’s strategy to address issues of equity, access and excellence in higher education. All funding under the RUSA are norm based and future grants are outcome dependent. The scheme is implemented by Ministry of Human resources development