13th Sep, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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‘Ganesh Chaturthi’ (GS1: Indian Culture)
Issue: The President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind extended his greeting to all citizens of India and also people celebrating the festival all over the world on the eve of Ganesh Chaturthi
About the festival
Ganesha Chaturthi or Vinayaka Chavithi (Vināyaka Chavithī) is a Hindu festival celebrating the birth of Ganesha. A ten-day festival, it starts on the fourth day of Hindu luni-solar calendar month Bhadrapada, which typically falls in the months of August or September of the Gregorian calendar. The festival is marked with the installation of Ganesha clay idols privately in homes, or publicly on elaborate pandals (temporary stages). Observations include chanting of Vedic hymns and Hindu texts such as Ganapati Upanishad, prayers and vrata (fasting). Offerings and prasadam from the daily prayers that is distributed from the pandal to the community include sweets such as modaka believed to be a favorite of the elephant-headed deity. The festival ends on the tenth day after start, wherein the idol is carried in a public procession with music and group chanting, then immersed in a nearby body of water such as a river or ocean
The festival celebrates Lord Ganesha as the God of New Beginnings and the Remover of Obstacles as well as the god of wisdom and intelligence and is observed throughout India, especially in the states such as Maharashtra, Karnataka, Goa, Telangana, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh, and is usually celebrated privately at home in states such as Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Ganesh Chaturthi is also observed in Nepal and by the Hindu diaspora elsewhere such as in the Australia, Trinidad, Suriname, Fiji, Mauritius, United States and in Europe
‘India-South Africa ties’ (GS2: Bilateral relations)
Issue: The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has been apprised of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and South Africa on cooperation in the exploration and uses of outer space for peaceful purposes.
Features of the MoU
- Remote sensing of the earth;
- Satellite communication and satellite-based navigation;
- Space science and planetary exploration;
- Use of spacecraft, launch vehicles, space systems and ground systems;
- Practical applications of space technology including geospatial tools and techniques; and
- Other areas of cooperation to be determined by the Parties.
‘Hydrocarbons’ (GS3: Infrastructure)
Issue: The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the Policy framework to promote and incentivize Enhanced Recovery (ER)/ Improved Recovery (IR)/ Unconventional Hydrocarbon (UHC) production Methods/techniques to improve recovery factor of existing hydrocarbons reserves for augmenting domestic production of oil and gas.
Objective of this policy
This policy initiative is expected to spur new investment, provide impetus to economic activities and generate additional employment opportunities. The Policy is expected to facilitate induction of new, innovative and cutting-edge technology and forging technological collaboration to improve productivity of existing fields.
‘PM-AASHA’ (GS2: Government policies for development in various sectors)
Issue: The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved a new Umbrella Scheme “Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay SanraksHan Abhiyan’ (PM-AASHA). The Scheme is aimed at ensuring remunerative prices to the farmers for their produce as announced in the Union Budget for 2018.
About the programme
The programme aims to protect the farmers’ income which is expected to go a long way towards the welfare of farmers. Government has already increased the MSP of kharif crops by following the principle of 1.5 times the cost of production. It is expected that the increase in MSP will be translated to farmer’s income by way of robust procurement mechanism in coordination with the State Governments.
Components of PM-AASHA:
The new Umbrella Scheme includes the mechanism of ensuring remunerative prices to the farmers and is comprised of
- Price Support Scheme (PSS),
- Price Deficiency Payment Scheme (PDPS)
- Pilot of Private Procurement & Stockist Scheme (PPPS).
‘Electrification of all Broad gauge (BG)’ (GS3: Infrastructure)
Issue: The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has approved the proposal for electrification of balance un-electrified BG routes of Indian Railways (IR) comprising of 108 sections covering 13,675 route kilometers (16,540 track kilometers) at a cost of Rs.12,134.50 crore. This electrification is likely to be completed by 2021-22.
Significance of this move
The proposed electrification, which is mainly for missing links and last mile connectivity will increase the operational efficiency, enhance the line capacity and improve the average speed of trains.
The approved electrification will reduce the use of imported fossil fuels thereby improve energy security to the Nation. After the planned electrification, there would be reduction in the consumption of high speed diesel oil by about 2.83 billion litres per annum and a reduction in GHG emissions. This will also reduce environmental impact of Railways.
‘Fixed Dose drugs (FDC)’ (GS2: Issues related to Health)
Issue: The government prohibited the manufacture, sale or distribution of 328 fixed dose combination (FDC) drugs for human use with immediate effect
Painkillers, antibiotics, antiseptics for treatment of mouth and throat conditions and anti-diabetic drugs got a relief but with caveats,
Logic behind this move
The expert panel probing the efficacy of 349 banned FDCs complied with the December 2017 apex court judgment and gave its report to India’s top drug advisory body, the Drug Technical Advisory Board (DTAB). The panel after considering these drugs “irrational”, citing safety issues and lack of therapeutic justification, recommended continuing the ban.
What is DTAB?
DTAB is highest statutory decision-making body on technical matters related to drugs in the country. It is constituted as per the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940. It is part of Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
‘Agricultural income’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: Barely one in 10 rural households in India had any investible surplus in 2015-16, says the Nabard All India Rural Financial Inclusion Survey 2016-17 (NAFIS), published recently. Those who invested did so largely in physical assets, while less than 3% invested in financial instruments.
Other observations made in the data
- Just over half (51%) of the households reportedly saved some money during the year.
- Only 2.3% of households invested any money in the form of term deposits or long-term bank deposits
- Among investor agricultural households owning more than two hectares of land, a large share of investments were made in livestock (34%), new houses (20%), and on farm machine and irrigation equipment (16%).
- For the smallest land-holding class among agricultural households who made investments, almost half the amount was invested in bank deposits or post office deposits.
- While nearly nine in 10 rural households reported having a bank account in 2015-16, only a minuscule minority invests in bank deposits. Also, a significant portion of rural households continues to rely on informal sources for loans. The survey shows that nearly one-third (32%) of rural households, who took any loan, did so from non-institutional sources, while another 9% relied on both formal and informal sources.
The survey results suggest that those owning more land have more access to formal credit at relatively lower interest rates, which perpetuates inequality in the countryside. Large land-owners are able to invest much more in productive assets, such as farm equipment or livestock, further gaining in income
‘Retail Inflation’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: India’s retail inflation fell to 3.69 percent in August, lowest in ten months, driven by cheaper food items, according to data released by statistics ministry
What is retail inflation?
Retail inflation means the increase in prices of certain products or commodities compared to a base price.
In India, retail inflation is linked to Consumer Price Index (CPI) which is managed by Ministry of Statistics. CPI numbers are widely used as a macroeconomic indicator of inflation, as a tool by governments and central banks.
Currently the base year for India’s CPI is 2012 which means the prices for the certain commodities for the 2011-12 year are considered as the base price to calculate the price rise.
‘Health report’ (GS2: Issues related to Health)
Issue: Indians have registered a 50% increase in the prevalence of ischemic heart disease and stroke over the period from 1990 to 2016, with the number of diabetes cases climbing from 26 million to 65 million.
In the same period, the number of people ailing from chronic obstructive lung disease went up from 28 million to 55 million, according to the ‘India State-level Disease Burden Initiative’ report
Other observations made in the report
- The State-wise disease burden showed that Punjab has been ranked at the top for the burden of ischemic heart disease, followed by Tamil Nadu, and vice-versa for diabetes. West Bengal topped with the largest number of stroke cases followed by Odisha, according to the comprehensive analysis of several major non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
- Kerala was ranked at the top for the burden of cancer, followed by Assam.
- Being overweight was found to be a major risk factor for diabetes doubled in every State of India from 1990 to 2016.
- While it is known that NCDs have been increasing in India, a major finding of concern is that the highest rate of increase in ischemic heart disease and diabetes is in the less developed States of India.
The report is a joint initiative of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare
‘Suicide rate’ (GS2: Issues related to Health)
Issue: Suicide is the leading cause of death in the 15-39 years age group in India. Thirty-seven per cent of such deaths among women globally occur in India, and the suicide rate among the elderly has increased over the past quarter century.
India’s proportional contribution to global suicide deaths is high and increasing. Suicide Death Rate (SDR) in India is higher than expected for its socio-demographic index level, especially for women, with substantial variations in the magnitude and men-to-women ratio between the states
Need of the hour
India must develop a suicide-prevention strategy that takes into account these variations in order to address this major public health problem.
Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana, which are in the higher-middle and high epidemiological transition level groups, consistently had a higher SDR for both men and women.
‘Ethanol prices’ (GS3: Infrastructure)
Issue: The Centre has hiked ethanol prices, with a special incentive for ethanol directly produced from 100% sugarcane juice, in a dual bid to reduce both surplus sugar production and the fuel import bill. The ethanol produced from sugar is blended with petrol.
Logic behind the move
The price of ethanol derived from 100% sugarcane juice is raised from ₹47.13 to ₹59.13. The rate for ethanol produced from B-heavy — or intermediary — molasses has been raised to ₹52.43. The rate of ethanol produced from C-heavy molasses (which has no sugar left), however, has been marginally reduced to ₹43.46.
By increasing the price difference between ethanol with no sugar left and that of fully made up of sugar to almost 35%, the Centre has given sugar mills a clear incentive to increase ethanol production from sugar. In fact, oil marketing companies have been told to prioritize ethanol from 100% sugarcane juice followed by B-heavy molasses
Ethanol is naturally produced by the fermentation of sugars by yeasts or via petrochemical processes, and is most commonly consumed as a popular recreational drug. It also has medical applications as an antiseptic and disinfectant. The compound is widely used as a chemical solvent, either for scientific chemical testing or in synthesis of other organic compounds, and is a vital substance used across many different kinds of manufacturing industries. Ethanol is also used as a clean-burning fuel source.