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05 June Current Affairs

#SelfiewithSapling

In News:

On the eve of World Environment Day, Union Environment Ministry has launched a people’s campaign called #SelfiewithSapling, urging people to advocate the cause on social media.

Details:

Under the campaign, people have been urged to plant a sapling and post selfie with the planted sapling on social media.

World Environment Day:

Every June 5th is World Environment Day. On this day, communities and individuals around the world work to increase awareness of the importance of conserving the environment, the positive global impact of environmental regulations and controls and engage in activities that serve to educate and improve their environment locally.

The World Environment Day is a part of the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) for creating awareness and action worldwide for the environment. The first World Environment Day was celebrated in 1973.

The theme for 45th World Environment Day is Beat Air Pollution. It is the call for action to combat the global crisis for ‘fresh air’.

Host: China.

Source: The Hindu

Tamil Nadu Health System Reform Programme

In News:

The Government of India, Government of Tamil Nadu (GoTN) and the World Bank recently signed a $287 million loan agreement for the Tamil Nadu Health System Reform Programme.

About the Tamil Nadu Health System Reform Programme:

The programme aims to improve the quality of health care, reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), and fill equity gaps in reproductive and child health services in Tamil Nadu.

The programme supports interventions to strengthen institutional and state capacity to achieve results.

The programme will promote population-based screening, treatment and follow-up for NCDs, and improve monitoring and evaluation. Patients will be equipped with knowledge and skills to self-manage their conditions. Lab services and health provider capacity will also be strengthened to address mental health. To tackle road injuries, the programme will improve in- hospital care, strengthen protocols, strengthen the 24×7 trauma care services and establish a trauma registry.

Another key aim of this programme is to reduce the equity gaps in reproductive and child health. Special focus will be given to nine priority districts, which constitute the bottom quintile of the RCH indicators in the state and have a relatively large proportion of tribal populations.

This Programme focuses on results instead of inputs through a Programme-for-Results (PforR) lending instrument. This will provide a much greater focus on outputs and outcomes through better alignment of expenditures and incentives with results.

The Tamil Nadu Health System Reform Program will support the state government to:

  • develop clinical protocols and guidelines;
  • achieve national accreditation for primary, secondary, and tertiary-level health facilities in the public sector;
  • strengthen physicians, nurses and paramedics through continuous medical education;
  • strengthen the feedback loop between citizens and the state by making quality and other data accessible to the public.

Background:

Tamil Nadu ranks third among all Indian states in the NITI Aayog Health Index which is reflected in vastly improved health outcomes. The state’s maternal mortality rate has declined from 90 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2005 to 62 deaths in 2015-16 while infant mortality has declined from 30 deaths per 1000 live births to 20 in the same period. A key contribution to these achievements has been the establishment of emergency obstetric and neonatal care centres and the 108 ambulance service with previous support from the World Bank. These have ensured that no mother has to travel more than 30 minutes to access emergency obstetric and neonatal care 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Source: The Hindu

Jan Shikshan Sansthans (JSS)

In News:

The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship has decided to waive off fee for SC/ST candidates who join vocational training under Jan Shikshan Sansthans (JSS).

About Jan Shikshan Sansthans (JSS):

Formerly under the Ministry of Human Resources Development, Jan Shikshan Sansthan was transferred to the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship in 2018.

Jan Shikshan Sansthans (JSS) were established to provide vocational training to non-literate, neo-literate, as well as school dropouts by identifying skills as would have a market in the region of their establishment.

They were formerly known as Shramik Vidyapeeth.

The JSSs are unique, they link literacy with vocational skills and provide large doses of Life Enrichment Education (LEE) to the people.

They aim for convergence with other stakeholders in society. It is their endeavour to shape their beneficiaries into self reliant and self-assured employees and entrepreneurs.

Source: The Hindu

Nandan Nilekani-led panel on digital payments

In News:

Nandan Nilekani-led panel on digital payments has submitted its recommendations.

Background:

The five-member high-level panel headed by Aadhar architect and former Infosys chairman Nilekani was constituted earlier this year by the central bank tasked to submit a comprehensive report holding consultations with all the major stakeholders to strengthen the digital payments industry which has seen a ten-fold growth in the last five years.

Key recommendations:

Targets: It has set a target for the government and regulators to achieve a ten-fold volume growth in digital payments over the next three years through customer-friendly pricing mechanisms and broadening access infrastructure.

Measures to increase the outreach: Banks need to ensure that no user is more than 5 kms away from a banking access point and if such areas are found, these must be considered ‘shadow areas’ and a local vendor be made a banking correspondent (BC) as he deals in money and stays there.

Measures to less-cash economy: removing transaction charges on digital payments made to government, inducing a competitive Merchant Discount Rates (MDR) pricing structure and easing KYC costs to banks are amongst the key recommendations put forward by the committee.

Role of the governments: committee has put the onus on government to be at the forefront of the transition by taking steps such as removing transaction charges on all digital payments made by customers to the government. The committee recommends that the Government, being the single largest participant in payments, take the lead on all aspects of digitization of payments.

Committee has also asked RBI to set an interchange rate for transaction between customers and leave the MDR on competitive market pricing which would reduce the transaction cost for customers.

Special impetus on digitising mass volume channels such as recurring bill payments, toll and ticket payments at public facilities and digital onboarding of khirana store merchants has also been recommended by the panel in order to achieve the targeted growth.

The panel has also asked the government to set up special risk mitigation and complaint registering digital portals. A special data monitoring mechanism to garner granular district level data on consumer trends and payment behaviour has also been suggested by the committee for targeted intervention to improve the existing infrastructure.

Source: The Hindu

Can an individual simultaneously be a member of both Houses of Parliament?

In News:

Some of those who won in the recent elections were elected from more than one constituency; some were already members of either Rajya Sabha or the legislature of a state. These MPs must vacate one of their seats — because under the Constitution, an individual cannot simultaneously be a member of both Houses of Parliament (or a state legislature), or both Parliament and a state legislature, or represent more than one seat in a House.

What are the procedures and timelines for effecting this?

Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha:

If a person is elected simultaneously to both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, and if he has not yet taken his seat in either House, he can choose, within 10 days from the later of the dates on which he is chosen to those Houses, the House of which he would like to be a member. [Article 101(1) of the Constitution read with Section 68(1) of The Representation of the People Act, 1951]

The member must intimate his choice in writing to the Secretary to the Election Commission of India (ECI) within the 10-day window, failing which his seat in Rajya Sabha will fall vacant at the end of this period. [Sec 68(2), RPA 1951]. The choice, once intimated, is final. [Sec 68(3), RPA, 1951]

No such option is, however, available to a person who is already a member of one House and has contested the election for membership of the other House. So, if a sitting Rajya Sabha member contests and wins a Lok Sabha election, his seat in the Upper House becomes automatically vacant on the date he is declared elected to Lok Sabha. The same applies to a Lok Sabha member who contests an election to Rajya Sabha. [Sec 69 read with Sec 67A, RPA 1951]

Elected on two Lok Sabha seats:

There is no one in this category in the new Lok Sabha. Under Sec 33(7) of RPA, 1951, an individual can contest from two parliamentary constituencies but, if elected from both, he has to resign one seat within 14 days of the declaration of the result, failing which both his seats shall fall vacant. [Sec 70, RPA, 1951 read with Rule 91 of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961]

State Assembly and Lok Sabha:

Under Article 101(2) of the Constitution (read with Rule 2 of the Prohibition of Simultaneous Membership Rules, 1950, made by the President under this Article) members of state legislatures who have been elected to Lok Sabha must resign their seats within 14 days “from the date of publication in the Gazette of India or in the Official Gazette of the State, whichever is later, of the declaration that he has been so chosen”, failing which their seats in Lok Sabha shall automatically fall vacant.

Source: Indian Express

India’s fertiliser industry needs to prioritise pollution control: CSE Study

In News:

The Indian fertiliser industry has overlooked the aspects related to environmental pollution, while making improvements in energy efficiency, according to a study conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment, a New Delhi-based non-profit, under its Green Rating Project (GRP).

Highlights of the study:

The fertiliser industry has been classified under the ‘red category’ of polluting sectors by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

Water pollution:

The discharge of untreated or partially treated industrial wastewater has increased pollution of surface water (rivers and other water bodies) and groundwater sources. Most of the groundwater samples were found to be non-compliant with the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) limits on amount of ammonia.

According to the BIS, the maximum permissible limit of ammonia (as total ammoniacal nitrogen) in drinking water is 0.5 ppm. However, about 83 per cent groundwater samples collected from hand-pumps in surrounding villages and near ash ponds, tubewells and borewells near 18 plant sites (out of the total 23 plant sites studied) had an ammoniacal nitrogen content of 0.51–93.5 ppm, the upper limit of which is 187 times the permissible limit set by BIS.

Such high levels of contamination can be linked to the seepage or overflow of a plant’s ash pond water into the ground, the study showed.

About 57 per cent samples collected near 14 plants were found non-compliant with fertiliser effluent discharge norms set by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, particularly with respect to cyanide concentrations in many of the samples and total Kjeldahl nitrogen levels in a few samples.

Some plants were also found to be diluting their wastewater with freshwater to meet pollution control norms.

Air pollution:

While most plants are meeting the particulate matter (PM) standards, inefficient air pollution control devices or improper fuel combustion within the systems have led to high emission levels at some plants. There is also no regulation in India for parameters like emissions of gaseous ammonia from urea manufacturing, the study pointed out.

Emissions from prilling towers are the main source of pollution at a urea plants. The emissions, which contains urea dust, ammonia and oxides of nitrogen and carbon, also affects the growth and productivity of vegetation and crops around a plant. Crops become dry due to exposure to excess ammonia gas.

Solid Waste:

Solid and hazardous waste management of most urea manufacturing plants is satisfactory. But, a few plants are not managing their hazardous waste properly, for which they have received notices or directions from the respective PCB or CPCB.

Ash pond maintenance has emerged as an issue at most plants. At some plants, handling and storage of fly ash is inefficient and causes pollution due to fly ash dispersal into the atmosphere and leaching into the groundwater table.

A few plants transport coal by road in uncovered trucks, taking advantage of lack of strict regulations regarding transportation of coal.

Source: Down to Earth

State of India’s Environment 2019

In News:

The State of India’s Environment 2019 in Figures is an exclusive data-driven analysis of major developmental and environmental sectors. SoE 2019 in Figures is an annual quantified statement of environmental statistics and analysis put together by Down To Earth magazine, which Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) helps publish.

Details:

Usefulness: The datasets can be used by the media to investigate compelling stories, ask better questions to policymakers to drive them to come up with better policies for sustainable development agenda.

Key findings:

State of air – Air pollution is responsible for 12.5 per cent of all deaths in India. Its impact on children is equally worrying. Over 100,000 children below the age of five die due to bad air in the country. While India was one of the first countries to pledge the phasing out of non-electric vehicles, its national scheme to promote the sale of e-vehicles is yet to pick up. Against the target of 15-16 million e-vehicles by 2020, the county had 0.28 million vehicles till May 2019.

State of development – Climate change poses the biggest economic threat in the world today and features prominently in the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030. With just 10 years to go, India is yet to identify indicators to track its climate change preparedness. Of the 13 SDGs the country is tracking, indicators exist for only a handful of the targets.

State of water – Both surface and groundwater in the country are under stress. 86 water bodies are critically polluted. The bulk of the polluted water bodies are in Karnataka, Telangana and Kerala. One of the reasons is the substantial increase (136 per cent) in the number of grossly polluting industries between 2011 and 2018. Groundwater is also reeling under overexploitation, which is running 94.5 per cent of all minor irrigation schemes in the country. There has been an unsustainable increase in the number of deep tubewells that has gone up by 80 per cent between 2006-07 and 2013-14.

State of land and agriculture – India’s farm sector is under duress. While the input costs for major crops are rising, the average farmland size is shrinking. Even the share of the insured cropped area stands at a dismal 26 per cent.

State of Health – India’s rural health infrastructure is ailing. There is a 35 per cent shortfall in the number of 24×7 public health centres, where 26 per cent of the positions for medical officers are lying vacant. In fact, Kerala does not have a single 24×7 public health centre. Another worrying trend is that the number of new doctors qualifying every year in the country has decreased by 60 per cent between 2013 and 2017. The country also shares the world’s largest absolute burden of at least 11 major neglected tropical diseases, which includes diseases like dengue.

State of cities – By 2050, India is projected to add 416 million urban dwellers to the world’s urban population and will be home to about 58 per cent of the total global population. Keeping this in mind, India in 2015-16 announced its ambitious plan of creating 100 smart cities. Four years later, only 21 per cent of the allocated funds for the smart cities have been spent. In the meanwhile, most urban cities have a sizeable population living in slums, which are unfit for habitation. India has 2,613 towns with slums. Of them, 57 per cent are in Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra.

State of waste – The burden of solid waste is becoming unmanageable. In fact, 79 major protests against unsanitary landfills and dump yards have been recorded in 22 states in the past three years. Maharashtra, which registered 16 major protests, leaves 43 per cent of its waste unprocessed. While India claims to process 96 per cent of its biomedical waste, eight states and UTs have defaulting hospitals. The country has also recorded a 56 per cent increase in the number of hazardous-waste generating industries between 2009 and 2016-17. At the same time, most of these industries are not properly maintaining their waste inventory, as mandated by the law.

State of energy – India’s natural gas and hydro-based power plants are in shambles. Gas-based plants are running at 24 per cent of their capacity due to the acute shortage of domestic natural gas. Hydropower projects, on the other hand, are running at just 19 per cent of their capacity and their share in total installed capacity has consistently declined since 1962. The country’s progress in renewable energy in 2018-19 has also been dismal. In wind, the country met only 6.3 per cent of the target this year. In solar, it met 5.86 per cent.

State of climate – There has been a 22 per cent increase in India’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions between 2010 and 2014. This has been fuelled by the energy sector, which is responsible for 73 per cent of the total GHG emissions. Besides, India phased out ozone depleting substances such as chlorofluorocarbon by 2011, it shifted to substances such as hydrochlorofluorocarbon, which have high globalwarming potential. India continues to bear the brunt of extreme weather events. In 2018, 11 states recorded major extreme weather events that claimed 1,425 lives.

State of forests – India has recently shifted to a powerful forest fire monitoring and alert system, SNPP-VIIRS, which can capture forest fires with better accuracy and precision. In April 2019, the new technology recorded 69,523 forest fires, which was 9.5 times more than that recorded by the earlier technology.

State of wildlife – 37 species were poached or seized in 2018. Of these, 13, including lion, marked an increase over the last year; 161 wild animals were also killed due to road and train accidents.

State of employment – India has witnessed a 1.9 times increase in the unemployment rate in the past two years. This has especially affected the youth and the educated. Unemployment rate among people with at least a graduate degree was 13.17 per cent in September-December 2018, up from 10.39 per cent in May-August 2017.

Source: Down to Earth

Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS)

In News:

The latest edition of Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) has been released.

Key findings:

The unemployment rate (UR) in both rural and urban India is at its highest since 1972.

The unemployment rates among men and women in both rural and urban groups, are also the highest ever. The increase in the UR is more than three times among rural men and more than double among rural women according to the usual status since 2011-12.

In urban areas, the UR among men is more than twice and has increased twice among women since 2011-12. It is to be noted that the UR between 1972 and 2012 was almost static or did not have many differences (See Table 1). Besides, the UR rose sharply among youth of ages between 15-29 years and those who got better education.

The unemployment rates in urban areas are higher than those in rural areas. In rural areas, the UR is 5.3 per cent, whereas in urban areas, the UR is 7.8 per cent according to the usual status. The overall unemployment rate is 6.1 per cent in India according to the usual status. The rural employment rate is 8.5 per cent whereas the urban rate is 9.6 per cent. The overall unemployment rate is 8.9 per cent.

In urban areas, the unemployment rates for females are higher than those for males.

The unemployment rate among youth between 15 and 29 years has risen sharply since 2011-12. Among rural males and females, the UR is almost three times since 2011-12, whereas among urban males and females, this rate is more than double.

The UR has also sharply increased among those who are more educated. Since 2011-12, the UR among rural males has increased by almost three times, from 1.7 per cent to 5.7 per cent. Those who have higher degree of education and those who are completely not-literate have witnessed almost the same level of unemployment.

Interestingly, unemployment among rural not-literate females has reduced and among urban females, the number of those who are literate up to primary-level jobs, is the same as 2011-12.

Among social groups, the highest UR is among the ‘General’ or ‘Others’ category — 6.7 per cent. This groups is followed by Schedule Castes (6.3 per cent), Other Backward Classes (6 per cent) and Scheduled Tribes (4.3 per cent).

Among religious groups, Christians have the highest UR in both urban and rural areas. In rural areas, Christians have a UR of 7.4 per cent, Muslims have a UR of 6.5 per cent, Sikhs 6.3 per cent and Hindus 5.2 per cent.

In urban areas, Christians have a UR of 11 per cent, Sikhs 9.1 per cent, followed by Muslims 8.5 per cent and Hindus 7.6 per cent.

Background:

The Union Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation had constituted PLFS under the chairmanship of Amitabh Kundu. The data was collected by NSSO from July 2017 to June 2018. The survey was spread over 12,773 first-stage sampling units (7,014 villages and 5,759 urban blocks) covering 1,02,113 households (56,108 in rural areas and 46,005 in urban areas) and enumerating 4,33,339 persons (2,46,809 in rural areas and 1,86,530 in urban areas).

Source: The Hindu

Parthenogenesis

In News:

About a week ago, the New England Aquarium in the US announced that a “virgin” anaconda had given birth during the winter. The aquarium does not have a male anaconda. Yet Anna, a green anaconda, gave birth to a few babies in January, two of which have survived. In scientific terminology, it is know as parthenogenesis.

Details:

Parthenogenesis is “a reproductive strategy that involves development of a female (rarely a male) gamete (sex cell) without fertililisation. It occurs commonly among lower plants and invertebrate animals (particularly rotifers, aphids, ants, wasps and bees) and rarely among higher vertebrates”.

A gamete is the egg in females and the sperm in males. In animals, parthenogenesis means development of an embryo from an unfertilised egg cell.

Many species that reproduce through parthenogenesis do not reproduce sexually. Others switch between the two modes taking cues from the environment.

About 2,000 species are known to reproduce through parthenogenesis, which is one of the known means of asexual reproduction. Grafting (of plants) is also a type of asexual reproduction.

Key features:

Babies born through parthenogenesis are clones of the mother, as has now been confirmed by the aquarium through DNA tests.

Parthenogenetic offspring tend to be clones of the parent because there has been no exchange and rearrangement of genetic information with another individual as happens in case of a sexual reproductive process.

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