2nd May, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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‘Exercise Vijay Prahar’
(Facts that could be asked in Prelims)
Issue: Formations of South Western Command are carrying out Exercise VIJAY PRAHAR employing more than 20000 troops, cutting edge equipment and state of the art force multipliers in the Mahajan Field Firing Ranges close to Suratgarh in Rajasthan.
About the exercise
The exercise is aimed to orchestrate wide spectrum of threats which are planned to be tackled through high tempo joint air and land operation involving hundreds of aircrafts, thousands of tanks and artillery pieces supported by real time intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and just in time logistic support.
During the exercise, the formations of South Western Command are practicing and operationalising certain innovative concepts of operating in the network centric environment, integrated employment of modern day sensors with the weapon platforms, employment of attack helicopters in the air cavalry role and bold offensive of application of the Special Forces.
(GS2: Bilateral Relations)
Issue: The 9th India Japan Energy Dialogue was held in New Delhi
Highlights of the meeting
1. Both Japan and India, as the third and the seventh largest economies respectively, recognized that having access to reliable, clean and economical energy is critical for their economic growth
2. Both India and Japan with a view to implement Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the aegis of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) recognized the importance of development and deployment of next generation technologies including hydrogen to realize de-carbonization.
3. Both India and Japan appreciated the relevance of the grid stability given the high penetration of variable renewable energy. Both countries agreed to initiate the discussion towards development of Electric Vehicles (EVs)
4. Both India and Japan reiterated the continued importance of coal-based electricity generation in the energy mix in both the countries and also agreed to promote the cooperation on environmental measures for coal-fired power plants.
5. Both India and Japan further confirmed their commitment to work together in promoting well-functioning energy markets and affirmed to promote transparent and diversified Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) market through the relaxation of destination clause.
‘Polluted cities in the world’
(GS3: Environmental pollution)
Issue: Delhi and Varanasi are among the 14 Indian cities that figured in a list of 20 most polluted cities in the world in terms of PM2.5 levels in 2016, data released by the WHO
Highlights of the report
1. The WHO data also said that nine out of 10 people in the world breathe air containing high levels of pollutants
2. Other Indian cities that registered very high levels of PM2.5 pollutants were Kanpur, Faridabad, Gaya, Patna, Agra, Muzaffarpur, Srinagar, Gurgaon, Jaipur, Patiala and Jodhpur followed by Ali Subah Al-Salem in Kuwait and a few cities in China and Mongolia.
3. In terms of PM10 levels, 13 cities in India figured among the 20 most-polluted cities of the world in 2016.
4. The World Health Organisation has called upon member-countries in its Southeast Asia region to aggressively address the double burden of household and ambient (outdoor) air pollution, saying the region, which comprises India, accounts for 34% or 2.4 million of the seven million premature deaths caused by household and ambient air pollution together globally every year.
5. Of the 3.8 million deaths caused by household air pollution globally, the region accounts for 1.5 million or 40% deaths, and of the 4.2 million global deaths due to ambient air pollution, 1.3 million or 30% are reported from the region
6. The PM2.5 includes pollutants like sulfate, nitrate and black carbon, which pose the greatest risk to human health.
7. According to the report, more than 90% of air pollution-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries (including India), mainly in Asia and Africa, followed by low- and middle-income countries of the Eastern Mediterranean region, Europe and the Americas.
What is Particulate matter?
PM stands for particulate matter (also called particle pollution): the term for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Some particles, such as dust, dirt, soot, or smoke, are large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye. Others are so small they can only be detected using an electron microscope.
Particle pollution includes:
*PM10 : inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 10 micrometers and smaller; and
*PM2.5 : fine inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 2.5 micrometers and smaller.
- How small is 2.5 micrometers? Think about a single hair from your head. The average human hair is about 70 micrometers in diameter – making it 30 times larger than the largest fine particle.
Sources of PM
* These particles come in many sizes and shapes and can be made up of hundreds of different chemicals.
* Some are emitted directly from a source, such as construction sites, unpaved roads, fields, smokestacks or fires.
* Most particles form in the atmosphere as a result of complex reactions of chemicals such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which are pollutants emitted from power plants, industries and automobiles.
Harmful effects of PM
Particulate matter contains microscopic solids or liquid droplets that are so small that they can be inhaled and cause serious health problems. Particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter pose the greatest problems, because they can get deep into your lungs, and some may even get into your bloodstream. Fine particles (PM2.5) are the main cause of reduced visibility (haze)
‘Appointment to IRDAI’
(GS2: Regulatory body)
Issue: Former IAS officer Subhash Chandra Khuntia was appointed as the new chairman of Insurance Regulatory Development Authority of India (IRDAI) for three years. His appointment was approved by Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC)
The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) is an autonomous, statutory body tasked with regulating and promoting the insurance and re-insurance industries in India. It was constituted by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority Act, 1999, an Act of Parliament passed by the Government of India. The agency’s headquarters are in Hyderabad, Telangana, where it moved from Delhi in 2001.
IRDAI is a 10-member body including the chairman, five full-time and four part-time members appointed by the government of India.
Issue: New data suggests that Ganymede, the largest moon of Jupiter as has been bombarded by a rain of plasma, or highly charged particles
The newly rediscovered information came from a spacecraft called Galileo, which launched in 1989, flew past Venus and two asteroids, then spent its main mission studying Jupiter and its moons until 2003. But not all of the spacecraft’s data was analyzed.
Ganymede is the single largest moon in our solar system, and scientists think that it may have a giant liquid ocean sloshing around beneath its surface—like the more famous Europa and Enceladus—just the sort of place where extraterrestrial life could be hiding out.
Plus there’s the magnetic field, which is intriguing because Earth’s equivalent plays a crucial role in making the planet comfortable for life by shielding the surface from plasma released by the sun.
Issue: When NASA’s InSight Mars lander launches for the Red Planet on Saturday (May 5), it won’t be traveling alone. Two small spacecraft, nicknamed “Wall-E” and “Eva,” are hitching a ride as the first cubesats to visit another planet.
About the Cubesats
The twin cubesats are tiny spacecraft of a type whose design became popular in the 2000s as miniaturized computers increased the craft’s capabilities. While they don’t have all the backup systems and capabilities of bigger spacecraft, cubesats are useful for applications such as communications, tracking shipping or performing Earth observation. Until now, all of them stayed close to our home planet.
So, Mars InSight’s twin cubesats, officially called Mars Cube One (MarCO), will be pioneering Red Planet spacecraft.
‘Rainfall in Bengaluru’
Issue: The bountiful rain of last year seems to be spilling over this year too, with the first four months of 2018 recording 58% more rain than “normal”.
What the data says?
Karnataka State Natural Disaster Monitoring Centre data shows that Bengaluru urban has got 69% excess rainfall, while it is 88% in Bengaluru Rural. However, there is little respite from the heat, with the maximum temperature — preceding the storms — hovering between 33 degrees Celsius and 35 degrees Celsius.
(GS2: Fundamental Rights)
Issue: The Supreme Court on Tuesday admitted the petition of a man to quash the “tyranny” of Section 377 IPC, which criminalizes homosexuality.
A Bench led by Chief Justice of India issued notice to the government and tagged the petition with a series of petitions to be heard by a Constitution Bench.
‘DNA profiling Bill’
(GS2: Legislative powers)
Issue: The government on Tuesday informed the Supreme Court that it will introduce a DNA profiling Bill in the Monsoon Session of the Parliament. The government was responding to a PIL filed by NGO Lok Niti Foundation in 2012 on the use of DNA profiling for identifying unclaimed bodies, especially to match them with cold cases of missing persons.
About the bill
Last year, the Law Commission of India, in its 271st report, prepared the draft Bill named The DNA Based Technology (Use and Regulation) Bill, 2017 after examining various judicial pronouncements and constitutional provisions.
The exercise was initiated by the Commission after the Department of Biotechnology forwarded its draft of ‘The Use and Regulation of DNA based Technology in Civil and Criminal Proceedings, Identification of Missing Persons and Human Remains Bill, 2016’.
The Commission recorded that DNA profiling was indeed used for disaster victim identification, investigation of crimes, identification of missing persons and human remains and for medical research purposes.
It however had also flagged that privacy concerns and the ethics involved in this scientific collection of data was very high.
The Commission said the procedure for DNA profiling, if given statutory recognition, should be done legitimately as per constitutional provisions.
Primarily, the Bill provides for the setting up of a statutory DNA Profiling Board to spell out procedures and standards to establish DNA laboratories and grant of accreditation to these labs.
‘Core Sector growth’
(GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The growth of eight core sectors slowed to a three-month low of 4.1% in March due to weak performance in six sectors including coal, crude oil and natural gas. The other sectors which showed slower growth rates were refinery products, steel and electricity.
Cumulatively, the eight core sectors grew 4.2% in 2017-18. The growth was 4.8% in the previous fiscal and 3% in 2015-16. The core sector growth would have an impact on the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) data as these eight segments account for about 41% of the total factory output.
Only the fertilizer and cement sectors reported healthy numbers, growing 3.2% and 13% respectively in March.
Issue: In a major relief to consumers, the Telecom Commission on Tuesday gave its nod to a proposal for setting up an ombudsman for resolution of grievances of telecom consumers.
About the Ombudsman
Under the new mechanism, consumers can first approach the operator. If dissatisfied, they can then approach the Consumer Grievance Redressal Forum. Final appeals can be taken to the Ombudsman.
‘Foreign Portfolio investors’
(GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has allowed foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) to invest in treasury bills issued by the central government.
What are T-bills?
Treasury bills or T-bills, which are money market instruments, are short term debt instruments issued by the Government of India and are presently issued in three tenors, namely, 91 day, 182 day and 364 day. Treasury bills are zero coupon securities and pay no interest. They are issued at a discount and redeemed at the face value at maturity. For example, a 91 day Treasury bill of ₹100/- (face value) may be issued at say ₹ 98.20, that is, at a discount of say, ₹1.80 and would be redeemed at the face value of ₹100/-. The return to the investors is the difference between the maturity value or the face value (that is ₹100) and the issue price
What are FPI?
Foreign portfolio investment (FPI) consists of securities and other financial assets passively held by foreign investors. It does not provide the investor with direct ownership of financial assets and is relatively liquid depending on the volatility of the market. Foreign portfolio investment differs from foreign direct investment (FDI), in which a domestic company runs a foreign firm, because although FDI allows a company to maintain better control over the firm held abroad, it may face more difficulty selling the firm at a premium price in the future.
‘Medical device price caps’
(GS2: Government policies for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation)
Issue: India has told the United States it won’t abstain from capping prices for more medical devices, regardless of pressure to rethink its stance after price controls on heart stents and knee implants spoilt the market for some U.S. firms
India’s drug pricing authority is also pushing to bring three more devices, used in treating heart ailments, under the ambit of price controls as they are sometimes more expensive than the stent itself
Reason for US raising a concern
India’s $5 billion medical device market has provided rich fishing grounds for U.S.-based companies like Abbott Laboratories and Boston Scientific Corp, but the prospect of price caps being extended to more products sent shivers through their ranks. In September, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) wrote to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office and Trade Minister Suresh Prabhu urging them “to not expand price controls to additional medical devices”
Equating high trade margins on some medical devices with ”illegal profiteering”, the government last year capped prices of some high-end heart stents — small wire-mesh structures used to treat blocked arteries — at around $450, compared to $3,000 charged earlier.
The NPPA wrote to the health ministry on Feb. 26, asking for three other devices used to treat heart ailments — cardiac balloons, catheters and guide-wire — to be added to a list of products eligible for price controls.
The NPPA also said intraocular lenses, which are used during eye surgery, should be brought under the list. Medical device manufacturers argue that India’s price control mechanism hurts innovation, profits and future investment, and the USTR described India’s policy as “very troubling”.
Indian officials anticipate coming under more pressure from the U.S. The USTR is currently reviewing India’s eligibility under its Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), which allows duty-free imports of certain goods. India was the largest GSP beneficiary at $5.6 billion
Issue: Airlines on Tuesday welcomed the Telecom Commission’s decision to allow WiFi onboard flights
Pricing is likely to be the key to the success of the service