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25th November Current Affairs

NFHS Survey

(GS-II: Issues related to Health)

In News:

The National Family and Health Survey (NFHS)-5, the most comprehensive survey on socio-economic and health indicators in the country, has been released.

Details:

The previous four rounds of the NFHS were conducted in 1992-93, 1998-99, 2005-06 and 2015-16.

Highlights of the Report:

Women outnumber men, fertility has decreased, and India is getting older: There were 1,020 women for 1000 men in the country in 2019-2021. This is the highest sex ratio for any NFHS survey as well as since the first modern synchronous census conducted in 1881.

The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) has also come down below the threshold at which the population is expected to replace itself from one generation to next. TFR was 2 in 2019-2021, just below the replacement fertility rate of 2.1.

Children’s nutrition improved but at a slower pace: The share of stunted (low height for age), wasted (low weight for height), and underweight (low weight for age) children have all come down since the last NFHS conducted in 2015-16. However, the share of severely wasted children has not, nor has the share of overweight (high weight for height) or anaemic children.

India might be food secure, but nutrition is a problem for adults too: Though India might have achieved food security, 60% of Indians cannot afford nutritious diets.

About NFHS survey:

NFHS is a large-scale, multi-round survey conducted in a representative sample of households throughout India.

All NFHSs have been conducted under the stewardship of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, with the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS) Mumbai, serving as the nodal agency.

NFHS-5 includes some new focal areas, such as death registration, pre-school education, expanded domains of child immunisation, components of micro-nutrients to children, menstrual hygiene, expanded age ranges for measuring hypertension and diabetes among all aged 15 years and above, which will give requisite input for strengthening existing programmes and evolving new strategies for policy intervention.

Every National Family Health Survey (NFHS) has two specific goals to fulfill. They are:

To provide essential data needed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and other agencies for informed decision making and policy and programme intervention purposes.

To provide insight regarding important emerging health and family welfare issues.

Chinese firms eye Afghanistan’s lithium

(GS-II: India and neighbourhood relations)

In News:

A number of Chinese companies have already begun “on-site inspections” of possible projects to tap lithium deposits in Afghanistan, having received the green light to do so from the Taliban regime.

Background:

Lithium is one of many resources in Afghanistan present in large deposits but as yet untapped, largely because of years of political instability and the lack of infrastructure.

Challenges ahead:

The security situation, not to mention a dire economic crisis including food shortages, are among the many challenges.

About Lithium:

It is a soft, silvery-white metal. Under standard conditions, it is the lightest metal and the lightest solid element.

It is highly reactive and flammable, and must be stored in mineral oil. It is an alkali metal and a rare metal.

Key Characteristics and Properties:

It has the highest specific heat capacity of any solid element.

Lithium’s single balance electron allows it to be a good conductor of electricity.

It is flammable and can even explode when exposed to air and water.

Uses:

Lithium is a key element for new technologies and finds its use in ceramics, glass, telecommunication and aerospace industries.

The well-known uses of Lithium are in Lithium ion batteries, lubricating grease, high energy additive to rocket propellants, optical modulators for mobile phones and as convertor to tritium used as a raw material for thermonuclear reactions i.e. fusion.

Prescribed substance:

The thermonuclear application makes Lithium as “Prescribed substance” under the Atomic Energy Act, 1962 which permits AMD for exploration of Lithium in various geological domains of the country.

Under the Atomic Energy Act, 1962, “Prescribed Substance” means any substance including any mineral which the Central Government may, by notification, prescribe, being a substance which in its opinion is or may be used for the production or use of atomic energy or research into matters connected therewith and includes uranium, plutonium, thorium, beryllium, deuterium or any of their respective derivatives or compounds or any other materials containing any of the aforesaid substances.

Will you ban convicts from polls, asks SC

(GS-II: Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act)

In News:

The Supreme Court has asked the Centre whether it was “willing” to favour a lifetime ban on contesting elections for people convicted of offences.

What’s the issue?

A petition has been filed in the court urging the need for a level playing field. He said if a convicted person cannot be a government clerk, the same rule should apply to a politician.

Centre’s response:

The Government, in an affidavit filed by the Law Ministry in the court in December 2020, had rejected the idea of a lifetime ban on convicted persons contesting elections or becoming an office-bearer of a political party.

Why is the Centre against the lifetime ban?

The Ministry had reasoned that MPs and MLAs were not bound by specific “service conditions”. They are bound by oath to serve citizens and country. They are bound by propriety, good conscience and interest of the nation.

The Supreme Court in Public Interest Foundation case of 2019 said “though criminalisation of politics is a bitter manifest truth, which is a termite to the citadel of democracy, be that as it may, the court cannot make the law”.

The government has maintained that disqualification under the Representation of the People Act of 1951 for the period of prison sentence and six years thereafter was enough for legislators.

Offences against MPs and MLAs- concerns:

States have a large number of criminal cases pending against former and sitting legislators. Uttar Pradesh may host the “largest”.

EC’s views:

The Election Commission of India (ECI), in 2017, had endorsed the call for a lifetime ban in the apex court.

It had argued that such a move would “champion the cause of decriminalisation of politics”.

The ECI had then agreed in the Supreme Court that a ban would be in the spirit of fundamental rights of the Constitution, including the right to equality.

Need of the hour:

There should not be any delay in complying with a Supreme Court decision to have high courts constitute Special Sessions and Magisterial Courts to quicken the pace of long-pending criminal cases against legislators across the country.

In a series of directions to make the right of information of a voter “more effective and meaningful”, the court has ordered:

  • The Election Commission of India launched a dedicated mobile app for voters to get details of the criminal history of the candidates at the touch of a button.
  • The Commission formed a separate cell to monitor political parties on their compliance with the court’s judgment.

Digital Tax pact

(GS-II: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate)

In News:

India and the US have decided on a “transitional approach” to digital service tax imposed by the government.

Details:

The terms of the deal will be the same that were thrashed out between the US and Austria, France, Italy, Spain, and the UK last week.

The pact provides relief from the proposed American retaliatory action, while comforting tech giants such as Amazon, Google and Facebook that face the levy.

What’s the issue?

The US had announced in January this year that India’s equalisation levy was discriminatory and actionable, and in March, proposed 25 per cent retaliatory tariffs on about 40 products including shrimps, wooden furniture, gold, silver and jewellery items and basmati rice.

The levies could add up to about $55 million which was the approximate amount of the DST payable by US-based companies such as Google, Amazon, Linkedin and Facebook, as per calculations made by the USTR.

Background:

In a major reform of the international tax system, on October 8 this year, 136 countries, including India, have agreed to an overhaul of global tax norms to ensure that multinationals pay taxes wherever they operate and at a minimum 15% rate.

However, the deal requires countries to remove all digital services tax and other similar unilateral measures and to commit not to introduce such measures in the future.

Significance:

This compromise represents a pragmatic solution that helps ensure that countries can focus their collective efforts on the successful implementation of the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework’s historic agreement on a new multilateral tax regime.

Two pillars of framework:

Dealing with transnational and digital companies. This pillar ensures that large multinational enterprises, including digital companies, pay tax where they operate and earn profits.

Dealing with low-tax jurisdictions to address cross-border profit shifting and treaty shopping. This pillar seeks to put a floor under competition among countries through a global minimum corporate tax rate, currently proposed at 15%.

Expected outcomes:

If implemented, countries such as the Netherlands and Luxembourg that offer lower tax rates, and so-called tax havens such as Bahamas or British Virgin Islands, could lose their sheen.

Impact/implications on India:

India will have to roll back the equalisation levy that it imposes on companies such as Google, Amazon and Facebook when the global tax regime is implemented.