30 th July, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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‘National Hepatitis control programme’ (GS2: Issues related to Health)
Issue: National Viral Hepatitis Control Program was launched to mark the World Hepatitis Day, 2018.
About the programme
Ministry of Family and Health Welfare has launched the ‘National Viral Hepatitis Control Program’, with the goal of ending viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030 in the country. The aim of the initiative is to reduce morbidity and mortality due to viral hepatitis. The key strategies include preventive and promotive interventions with focus on awareness generation, safe injection practices and socio-cultural practices, sanitation and hygiene, safe drinking water supply, infection control and immunization; co-ordination and collaboration with different Ministries and departments; increasing access to testing and management of viral hepatitis; promoting diagnosis and providing treatment support for patients of hepatitis B &C through standardized testing and management protocols with focus on treatment of hepatitis B and C; building capacities at national, state, district levels and sub-district level up to Primary Health Centres (PHC) and health and wellness centres such that the program can be scaled up till the lowest level of the healthcare facility in a phased manner.
What is Viral Hepatitis?
Viral hepatitis is liver inflammation due to a viral infection. It may present in acute (recent infection, relatively rapid onset) or chronic forms.
The most common causes of viral hepatitis are the five unrelated hepatotropic viruses hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, hepatitis D, and hepatitis E.
‘Earthquake’ (GS1: Geophysical phenomenon)
Issue: A strong earthquake struck Indonesia’s popular tourist island of Lombok
The quake hit Lombok Island early in the morning at 6.47 am when many people were still sleeping and damaged dozens of single-story houses. Even though tremors were felt in Bali, which is about 200 km away, there was no damage or casualties.
An earthquake is a phenomenon that occurs without warning and involves violent shaking of the ground and everything over it. It results from the release of accumulated stress of the moving lithospheric or crustal plates. The earth’s crust is divided into seven major plates, that are about 50 miles thick, which move slowly and continuously over the earth’s interior and several minor plates. Earthquakes are tectonic in origin; that is the moving plates are responsible for the occurrence of violent shakes. The occurrence of an earthquake in a populated area may cause numerous casualties and injuries as well as extensive damage to property.
Earthquake risk in India
India’s increasing population and extensive unscientific constructions mushrooming all over, including multistoried luxury apartments, huge factory buildings, gigantic malls, supermarkets as well as warehouses and masonry buildings keep – India at high risk. During the last 15 years, the country has experienced 10 major earthquakes that have resulted in over 20,000 deaths. As per the current seismic zone map of the country (IS 1893: 2002), over 59 per cent of India’s land area is under threat of moderate to severe seismic hazard-; that means it is prone to shaking of MSK Intensity VII and above (BMTPC, 2006). In fact, the entire Himalayan belt is considered prone to great earthquakes of magnitude exceeding 8.0-; and in a relatively short span of about 50 years, four such earthquakes have occurred: 1897 Shillong (M8.7); 1905 Kangra (M8.0); 1934 Bihar-Nepal (M8.3); and 1950 Assam-Tibet (M8.6). Scientific publications have warned of the likelihood of the occurrence of very severe earthquakes in the Himalayan region, which could adversely affect the lives of several million people in India.
At one time regions of the country away from the Himalayas and other inter-plate boundaries were considered to be relatively safe from damaging earthquakes. However, in the recent past, even these areas have experienced devastating earthquakes, albeit of lower magnitude than the Himalayan earthquakes. The Koyna earthquake in 1967 led to revision of the seismic zoning map, resulting in deletion of the non-seismic zone from the map. The areas surrounding Koyna were also re-designated to Seismic Zone IV, indicating high hazard. The occurrence of the Killari earthquake in 1993 resulted in further revision of the seismic zoning map in which the low hazard zone or Seismic Zone I was merged with Seismic Zone II, and some parts of Deccan and Peninsular India were brought under Seismic Zone III consisting of areas designated as moderate hazard zone areas. Recent research suggests that as understanding of the seismic hazard of these regions increases, more areas assigned as low hazard may be re-designated to higher level of seismic hazard, or vice-versa.
The North-Eastern part of the country continues to experience moderate to large earthquakes at frequent intervals including the two great earthquakes mentioned above. Since 1950, the region has experienced several moderate earthquakes. On an average, the region experiences an earthquake with a magnitude greater than 6.0 every year. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are also situated on an inter-plate boundary and frequently experience damaging earthquakes.
The increase in earthquake risk is due to a spurt in developmental activities driven by urbanization, economic development and the globalization of India’s economy. The increase in use of high-technology equipment and tools in manufacturing and service industries has also made them susceptible to disruption due to relatively moderate ground shaking. As a result, loss of human life is not the only determinant of earthquake risk any more. Severe economic losses leading to the collapse of the local or regional economy after an earthquake may have long-term adverse consequences for the entire country. This effect would be further magnified if an earthquake affects a mega-city, such as Delhi or Mumbai.
‘Defence Equipment’ (GS3: Indigenization of Technology)
Issue: For the first time, an Indian vehicle manufacturer will deliver heavy duty, high mobility vehicles for the Army’s Russian-built Smerch Multi-Barrel Rocket launchers (MBRL) as well to carry strategic missiles developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
About the project
The 10×10 vehicle is powered by the Ashok Leyland 360HP Neptune engine and can carry a maximum load of 27 tonnes at a maximum speed of 60 kmph. Some of the vehicles will be fitted with rocket handling cranes.
Indigenizing vehicles is a key step in improving the maintenance and efficiency of the Army’s logistics chain
‘Central Road and Infrastructure Fund (CRIF)’ (GS3: Infrastructure)
Issue: Work related to the Central Road and Infrastructure Fund (CRIF) has been taken away from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and brought under the domain of the Finance Ministry
It will now be under the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), Finance Ministry. Budget 2018 amended the Central Road Fund Act, 2000, and renamed the Central Road Fund the Central Road and Infrastructure Fund.
Objective of the amendment
The objective of the amendment was to use proceeds of the road cess under CRIF to finance other infrastructure projects such as waterways, some portion of the railway infrastructure and even social infrastructure, including education institutions and medical colleges.
About the working of this fund
The government recently constituted a ministerial panel headed by the Finance Minister to decide on fund allocation for infrastructure projects from the CRIF.
The four-member committee would approve recommendations made by the sub-committee headed by the Economic Affairs Secretary on the list of infrastructure projects to be financed from the CIRF
Other members of the committee include the Ministers of Road Transport and Highways, Railways and Human Resource Development
‘Goods and Services Tax (GST)’ (GS3: Mobilization of Resources)
Issue: Rating agency Moody’s on Monday said the recent Goods and Services Tax (GST) rate cuts on 88 items will weigh on government’s revenue collection and is ‘credit negative’ as it will put pressure on efforts of fiscal consolidation.
Other observations made by agency
The recent GST rate cut would lead to a revenue loss of about ₹8,000-10,000 crore, but the government expects that more compliance and demand would lead to revenue buoyancy which would offset the loss.
‘Missile Shield’ (GS3: Security challenges)
Issue: India is in talks with the U.S. to procure an advanced air defence system to defend the National Capital Region (NCR) from aerial attacks
About the project
The process for procuring the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System-II (NASAMS-II), estimated at $1 billion. This system will help in preventing 9/11-type attacks. India is deploying a multi-tiered air defence network to fully secure its airspace from incoming fighter aircraft, missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).
India is also in an advanced stage of talks with Russia for the procurement of very long range S-400 air defence systems.
Apart from these imports, India is also developing an indigenous Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) system.
‘National Register of Citizens (NRC)’ (GS2: Issues related to Human resources)
Issue: The complete draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam was published today with 2.89 crore out of 3.29 crore citizens found eligible to be included in the National Register of Citizens
It is a legal process done under the direct supervision of the Supreme Court
The National Register of Citizens (NRC) contains names of Indian citizens of Assam. The NRC was prepared in 1951, after 1951 Census of India.
The NRC Updating of 2014–2016 across Assam includes the names of those persons (or their descendants) who appear in the NRC 1951, or in any of the Electoral Rolls up to the midnight of 24 March 1971or in any one of the other admissible documents issued up to the midnight of 24 March 1971, which would prove their presence in Assam on or before 24 March 1971
‘Ghost Firm’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: About 66% of the 17.79 lakh companies registered in India were active at the end of June, official data showed amid the government continuing its clampdown on “shell companies”.
What the data says?
In terms of economic activities, 3.7 lakh companies were into business services and 2.36 lakh entities were engaged in manufacturing and other lines of work. Business services include information technology (IT), research and development, law and consultancy.
The corporate affairs ministry had in 2017-18 struck off names of 2.26 lakh companies from the registrar of companies for not carrying out business activities. More such “shell companies” are under the scanner and are likely to face regulatory action soon.
What is a shell company?
A shell corporation is a corporation without active business operations or significant assets. These types of corporations are not all necessarily illegal, but they are sometimes used illegitimately, such as to disguise business ownership from law enforcement or the public. Legitimate reasons for a shell corporation include such things as a startup using the business entity as a vehicle to raise funds, conduct a hostile takeover or to go public.
Shell corporations are used by large well-known public companies, shady business dealers and private individuals alike. For example, in addition to the legal reasons above, shell corporations act as tax avoidance vehicles for legitimate businesses, as is the case with Apple’s corporate entities based in the United Kingdom. They are also used to obtain different forms of financing.
‘FASTags’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: Less than two years after the government introduced the radio frequency identification device (RFID)-based FASTag system for vehicles crossing toll gates on the country’s highway network, 26 lakh cars and trucks now use the windscreen-mounted tags to shorten their journey time.
According to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways officials, FASTag users can experience ‘near’ non-stop movement at 405 of the 479 toll plazas on various national highways.
How the device works?
The tag with a quick response (QR) code and an identification number is affixed to the windscreen of a vehicle. The tag is linked to a user’s FASTag account with the bank of his or her choice.
When a vehicle approaches a toll plaza on a national highway, it can use dedicated FASTag lanes to avoid stopping to pay a toll tax. However, the technology being currently used in India still requires one to slow down to a speed of 10 km per hour as the toll plaza antenna has a range of only six metres.
Once the vehicle passes through a toll booth, the user receives an SMS alert regarding the charge debited to his or her account. To encourage the use of FASTags, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) refunds 5% of the total monthly transactions.
Loopholes in this technology implementation
- Many plazas don’t have a dedicated lane for RFID tags, which means that one still has to wait in a queue along with other vehicles which need to stop to make cash transaction
- At many places RFID readers don’t work because concessionaires are not keen to switch to the new technology.
- Low range of the antenna
While the device was rolled out in April 2016, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways made it mandatory from December 1, 2017 for all new cars and trucks to be fitted with a FASTag before they were sold. But, the use of these smart cards is not mandatory yet.
The Ministry has also proposed to make FASTag compulsory for all commercial vehicles seeking a national permit.
‘Domestic Institutional investors’ (GS3: Mobilization of resources)
Issue: Domestic institutional investors or DIIs have put in more than $10 billion, or ₹66,666 crore to be precise, in equities in the current calendar year, which has seen the benchmark indices touch new highs at regular intervals.
The Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) has the DII investment data since 2008 and the current year has seen the highest quantum of investment by DIIs in the January-July period.
Factors driving this trend
- Given the improved penetration of insurance [firms] and mutual funds, and efforts to further improve the same, financial savings should continue to grow at a healthy pace. Moreover, the move by the Employee Provident Fund Organization (EPFO) to increase allocation to equities and the rapid growth of the National Pension Scheme (NPS) schemes should further increase sustainable flows to equities annually,
- Within the DII universe, mutual funds have been the most aggressive this year as a significant amount of fresh money poured in and the recent change in regulations led to most fund houses reallocating portfolios from the mid-cap and small-cap space to large caps.
What is a DII?
Domestic institutional investors are those institutional investors which undertake investment in securities and other financial assets of the country they are based in.
Institutional investment is defined to be the investment done by institutions or organizations such as banks, insurance companies, mutual fund houses, etc in the financial or real assets of a country. Simply stated, domestic institutional investors use pooled funds to trade in securities and assets of their country.
These investment decisions are influenced by various domestic economic as well as political trends. In addition to the foreign institutional investors, the domestic institutional investors also affect the net investment flows into the economy.
‘Gold Exports’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The Centre has decided to set up a Domestic Council for Gold to aid exports of jewellery and to create an ecosystem to harness the true potential for jewellery-making in the country.
A Coordination Committee will be set up comprising senior officials of the Ministry and the gem and jewellery industry, who will meet monthly to ensure that industry concerns are addressed on priority.
‘Back from the dead’ (GS3: Science)
Issue: A sample of microscopic worms that were suspended in a deep freeze in Siberia for 42,000 years have come back to life after being defrosted
Significance of this discovery
The findings, published in the journal Doklady Biological Sciences, represent the first evidence of multi-cellular organisms returning to life after spending a long period in Arctic permafrost.
About the species involved in this discovery
Nematodes are tiny worms that typically measure about one millimetre in length, and are known to have impressive abilities. Some are found living 1.3 kilometers below Earth’s surface, deeper than any other multi-cellular animal.
After defrosting the worms, researchers saw them moving and eating, making this the first evidence of “natural cryopreservation” of multi-cellular animals
The Arctic is a polar region located at the northernmost part of Earth. The Arctic consists of the Arctic Ocean, adjacent seas, and parts of Alaska (United States), Northern Canada (Canada), Finland, Greenland (Kingdom of Denmark), Iceland, Norway, Russia and Sweden. Land within the Arctic region has seasonally varying snow and ice cover, with predominantly treeless permafrost (permanently frozen underground ice)-containing tundra. Arctic seas contain seasonal sea ice in many places.
The Arctic region is a unique area among Earth’s ecosystems. For example, the cultures in the region and the Arctic indigenous peoples have adapted to its cold and extreme conditions. In recent years, Arctic sea ice decline has been caused by global warming. Life in the Arctic includes organisms living in the ice, zooplankton and phytoplankton, fish and marine mammals, birds, land animals, plants and human societies. Arctic land is bordered by the subarctic.
The Arctic’s climate is characterized by cold winters and cool summers. Its precipitation mostly comes in the form of snow and is low, with most of the area receiving less than 50 cm (20 in). High winds often stir up snow, creating the illusion of continuous snowfall. Average winter temperatures can be as low as −40 °C (−40 °F), and the coldest recorded temperature is approximately −68 °C (−90 °F). Coastal Arctic climates are moderated by oceanic influences, having generally warmer temperatures and heavier snowfalls than the colder and drier interior areas. The Arctic is affected by current global warming, leading to Arctic sea ice shrinkage, diminished ice in the Greenland ice sheet, and Arctic methane release as the permafrost thaws.
Arctic vegetation is composed of plants such as dwarf shrubs, graminoids, herbs, lichens, and mosses, which all grow relatively close to the ground, forming tundra.
Herbivores on the tundra include the Arctic hare, lemming, muskox, and caribou. They are preyed on by the snowy owl, Arctic fox, Grizzly bear, and Arctic wolf. The polar bear is also a predator, though it prefers to hunt for marine life from the ice.