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15 April Current Affairs

Different harvest festivals being celebrated in several parts of country

  • Vaisakhi- Celebrated by Sikhs.
  • Vishu- Kerala.
  • Rongali Bihu- Assam.
  • Naba Barsha- Bengal.
  • Puthandu Pirappu- Tamil Nadu.

Resilient Cities Asia-Pacific (RCAP) Congress

In News:

4th Resilient Cities Asia-Pacific (RCAP) Congress 2019 was recently organized by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) in association with South Delhi Municipal Corporation.

About Resilient Cities Asia-Pacific:

It is the annual global platform for urban resilience and climate change adaptation.

It is convened by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability and co-hosted by the World Mayors Council on Climate Change and the City of Bonn.

It was launched in 2010 with the goal of forging partnerships and dialogues that matter.

The Asia-Pacific Forum on Urban Resilience and Adaptation – Resilient Cities Asia Pacific Congress (RCAP) is a response to heightened demand from the Asia Pacific Region, which encouraged ICLEI to expand the congress series to include Resilient Cities Asia-Pacific, bringing the event and the focus to the Asia-Pacific region, catering to the situation, challenges and opportunities of local governments specifically in this region.

Aim: To provide an Asian platform for urban resilience and climate change adaptation where partnerships are forged and concrete dialogues are happening, with the ultimate goal of identifying solutions and creating lasting impacts for cities in the region.

Need for urban resilience and climate change adaptation:

Current changes in climate, combined with rapid and often unplanned urbanisation, make Asia one of the regions of the world most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Increasing temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, intensification of extreme weather events and rising sea levels are already a reality in the region. At the same time, increasing population and spreading of human settlements in low lying, flood prone coastal areas magnify the risks coming from climate change related disasters, thus increasing the vulnerability of people, especially the urban poor, who live in hazardous areas. More than 60% of the world’s population resides in Asia and the region was most affected by natural disasters.

What can be done?

Town planners need to integrate sustainable solutions such as harvesting solar energy, enhancing green cover and water conservation as an essential part of town planning.

Municipal administrators to accord priority to tree plantation, solid waste management, protection and rejuvenation of water bodies.

Need for collaborative efforts of governments at state and centre to reduce the divide by providing urban amenities in rural areas.

Dependency on fossil fuel must be reduced and new forms of energy sources such as solar must be explored.

Need to adopt multi-dimensional and innovative approaches to ensure low emissions oriented development. Need to promote public transport in cities to reduce congestion and air pollution.

Facts for Prelims:

ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability is a global network of more than 1,750 local and regional governments committed to sustainable urban development.

India short of 6 lakh doctors, 2 million nurses: U.S. study

In News:

US -based Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP) has released a report on the state of health services.

Key findings:

India specific:

India has a shortage of an estimated 600,000 doctors and 2 million nurses. There is one government doctor for every 10,189 people (the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends a ratio of 1:1,000).

Lack of access to antibiotics kills more people currently than does antibiotic resistance.

65% of health expenditure is out-of-pocket, and such expenditures push some 57 million people into poverty each year.

Global scenario:

The majority of the world’s annual 5.7 million antibiotic-treatable deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, where the mortality burden from treatable bacterial infections far exceeds the estimated annual 700,000 deaths from antibiotic-resistant infections.

Even after the discovery of new antibiotic, regulatory hurdles and substandard health facilities delay or altogether prevent widespread market entry and drug availability.

Worldwide, the irrational use of antibiotics and poor antimicrobial stewardship lead to treatment failure and propagate the spread of drug resistance which, in turn, further narrows the available array of effective antibiotics.

Concerns:

The lack of staff who are properly trained in administering antibiotics is preventing patients from accessing live-saving drugs.

High out-of-pocket medical costs to the patient are compounded by limited government spending for health services.

Some of the key roadblocks for India’s healthcare industry:

Population: India has the world’s second-largest population, rising from 760 million in 1985 to an estimated 1.3 billion in 2015.

Infrastructure: The existing healthcare infrastructure is just not enough to meet the needs of the population. The central and state governments do offer universal healthcare services and free treatment and essential drugs at government hospitals. However, the hospitals are, understaffed and under-financed, forcing patients to visit private medical practitioners and hospitals.

Insurance: India has one of the lowest per capita healthcare expenditures in the world. Government contribution to insurance stands at roughly 32 percent, as opposed to 83.5 percent in the UK. The high out-of-pocket expenses in India stem from the fact that 76 percent of Indians do not have health insurance.

Rural-urban disparity: The rural healthcare infrastructure is three-tiered and includes a sub-center, primary health centre (PHC) and CHC. PHCs are short of more than 3,000 doctors, with the shortage up by 200 per cent over the last 10 years to 27,421.

Other issues include:

  • Weak governance and accountability.
  • Irrational use and spiralling cost of drugs.
  • Fragmented health information systems.
  • Low public spending on health.
  • Large unregulated private sector.
  • Unequally distributed skilled human resources.
  • A weak primary healthcare sector.

Source: The Hindu

Unified Payments Interface (UPI)

In News:

An analysis of data from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) and some industry players from April 2018 to March 2019 shows that not only is the UPI platform outperforming e-wallets in terms of the value of transactions done, but it is also eating away at e-wallets’ market share in specific areas such as person-to-merchant (P2M) transactions.

Details:

Payments made on the UPI platform saw a remarkable growth of over 400% in the April to March period, from a little more than ₹27,000 crore in April 2018 to ₹35 lakh crore in March 2019.

Why UPI is outperforming e- wallets?

People are changing the way they transact, choosing bank-to-bank methods such as the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) over other instruments such as e-wallets. This is because UPI is completely interoperable and as such, it is unique in the world, where you have an interoperable system on the ‘send’ and ‘receive’ side.

The rapid growth of UPI is accompanied by a reasonably strong growth in the value of transactions done using e-wallets, but the latter’s growth has not taken off much following the fillip it received in the aftermath of demonetisation in November 2016.

What is Unified Payments Interface (UPI)?

Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is a system that powers multiple bank accounts into a single mobile application (of any participating bank), merging several banking features, seamless fund routing & merchant payments into one hood. It also caters to the “Peer to Peer” collect request which can be scheduled and paid as per requirement and convenience.

How is it unique?

  • Immediate money transfer through mobile device round the clock 24*7 and 365 days.
  • Single mobile application for accessing different bank accounts.
  • Single Click 2 Factor Authentication – Aligned with the Regulatory guidelines, yet provides for a very strong feature of seamless single click payment.
  • Virtual address of the customer for Pull & Push provides for incremental security with the customer not required to enter the details such as Card no, Account number; IFSC etc.
  • Bill Sharing with friends.
  • Best answer to Cash on Delivery hassle, running to an ATM or rendering exact amount.
  • Merchant Payment with Single Application or In-App Payments.
  • Utility Bill Payments, Over the Counter Payments, Barcode (Scan and Pay) based payments.
  • Donations, Collections, Disbursements Scalable.
  • Raising Complaint from Mobile App directly.

Participants in UPI:

  • Payer PSP.
  • Payee PSP.
  • Remitter Bank.
  • Beneficiary Bank.
  • NPCI
  • Bank Account holders.
  • Merchants

UPI – Benefits to the Ecosystem participants:

Benefits for banks:

  • Single click Two Factor authentication.
  • Universal Application for transaction.
  • Leveraging existing infrastructure.
  • Safer, Secured and Innovative.
  • Payment basis Single/ Unique Identifier.
  • Enable seamless merchant transactions.

Benefits for end Customers:

  • Round the clock availability.
  • Single Application for accessing different bank accounts.
  • Use of Virtual ID is more secure, no credential sharing.
  • Single click authentication.
  • Raise Complaint from Mobile App directly.

Benefits for Merchants:

  • Seamless fund collection from customers – single identifiers.
  • No risk of storing customer’s virtual address like in Cards.
  • Tap customers not having credit/debit cards.
  • Suitable for e-Com & m-Com transaction.
  • Resolves the COD collection problem.
  • Single click 2FA facility to the customer – seamless Pull.
  • In-App Payments (IAP).

Source: The Hindu

Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART)

In News:

SPACEX TO LAUNCH NASA’S ASTEROID-SMASHING MISSION. The mission will blast off in June 2021 and will smash into the asteroid’s moon around October 2022.

Details:

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, is a spacecraft designed to determine whether an asteroid can be redirected with a high-speed collision.

SpaceX will launch the spacecraft toward an asteroid named Didymos about 4 million miles from Earth. It then will ram into the asteroid’s small moon at about 13,000 miles per hour.

About the DART:

DART would be NASA’s first mission to demonstrate what’s known as the kinetic impactor technique – striking the asteroid to shift its orbit – to defend against a potential future asteroid impact.

How it impacts?

The target for DART is an asteroid that will have a distant approach to Earth in October 2022, and then again in 2024. The asteroid is called Didymos – Greek for “twin” -because it is an asteroid binary system that consists of two bodies: Didymos A, about 780 metres in size, and a smaller asteroid orbiting it called Didymos B, about 160 metres in size.

DART would impact only the smaller of the two bodies, Didymos B. The Didymos system has been closely studied since 2003. The primary body is a rocky S-type object, with composition similar to that of many asteroids.

The composition of its small companion, Didymos B, is unknown, but the size is typical of asteroids that could potentially create regional effects should they impact Earth. After launch, DART would fly to Didymos and use an APL-developed onboard autonomous targeting system to aim itself at Didymos B.

Then the refrigerator-sized spacecraft would strike the smaller body at a speed about nine times faster than a bullet, about six kilometres per second. Earth-based observatories would be able to see the impact and the resulting change in the orbit of Didymos B around Didymos A, allowing scientists to better determine the capabilities of kinetic impact as an asteroid mitigation strategy.

The kinetic impact technique works by changing the speed of a threatening asteroid by a small fraction of its total velocity, but by doing it well before the predicted impact so that this small nudge will add up over time to a big shift of the asteroid’s path away from Earth.

Source: The Hindu

World’s largest plane makes first test flight

In News:

The world’s largest aircraft recently took off over the Mojave Desert in California.

Key facts:

  • It is carbon-composite plane built by Stratolaunch Systems Corp.
  • It is called Roc.
  • It has a wingspan the length of an American football field and is powered by six engines on a twin fuselage.
  • The plane is designed to drop rockets and other space vehicles weighing up to 500,000 pounds at an altitude of 35,000 feet and has been billed by the company as making satellite deployment as “easy as booking an airline flight.”

Yangtze giant softshell turtles

The only known female member of one of the world’s rarest turtle species has died at a zoo in southern China. The animal was one of four Yangtze giant softshell turtles known to be remaining in the world. The Suzhou zoo, where the female turtle lived, also houses a male Yangtze giant softshell turtle. The other two live in Vietnam.

It is also known as the Red River giant softshell turtle, Shanghai softshell turtle, Swinhoe’s softshell turtleor speckled softshell turtle.

It is listed as critically endangered in the IUCN Red List. It may be the largest living freshwater turtle in the world.

India becomes net steel importer, a first in 3 years

India was a net importer of steel during the 2018-19 fiscal year, the first time in three years, as the country lost market share among its traditional steel buyers and imports jumped on demand for higher quality steel domestically.

India’s exports during the fiscal year declined after rival steelmakers in China, Japan, South Korea and Indonesia, blocked from markets in the United States and Europe by tariffs and other protectionist measures, ate away at the country’s markets in West Asia and Africa.

Imports from the four Asian countries also climbed as they diverted supply into India. Imports of value-added steel, primarily for the auto sector and high-end electrical steel, were the biggest source of imports.

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