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26 June Current Affairs

Help fulfil the dream of a safe, modern, inclusive nation: PM

In News:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday called upon all parties to move forward together to fulfil the dream of a safe, modern and inclusive country, a call reflected, he said, in the positive mandate that his government received in the last election.

Details:

Speaking in the Lok Sabha, while replying to the debate on the motion of thanks to the President for his address to both Houses of Parliament.

The Prime Minister said the mandate that his government received was a validation that it was moving in the right direction, a direction, he said, that valued both welfare and progress.

He extensively quoted from the speeches of Mahatma Gandhi, Ram Manohar Lohia and Jawaharlal Nehru, and said his own government’s direction, including in the field of sanitation and water, emanated from their words.

“Speaking of what was done in the past, let us remember that today is June 25th, the 44th anniversary of the Emergency, a blot on India’s democracy, when democratic rights were suspended, the press was crushed, all to keep someone in power”.

He added that calls currently on for putting certain people in jail or denying bail and parole were the work of the court system, not the political executive, adding, “This is not the Emergency where governments jailed people as they liked.”

Referring to the Triple Talaq Bill, Mr. Modi accused the Congress of missing opportunities to work for women’s empowerment, first by bringing separate civil codes for various religions, and specifically in the context of the Shah Bano judgment in 1985 that led to the passing of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights of Divorce) Act, 1986 passed by the then Rajiv Gandhi-led government.

Higher targets:

Prime Minister Modi said that rather than belittle his predecessors, he believed in reaching for higher targets, like making India a $5 trillion dollar economy, to reach piped water to all homes.

Karnataka’s health index score improves marginally

In News:

Karnataka’s health index ranking has marginally improved taking the State to the eighth position in 2017-18 from ninth last year, as per NITI Aayog Health Index rankings released for all States and Union Territories in the country.

Details:

The State’s overall score on various parameters rose from 58.70 in 2015-16 to 61.14 in 2017-18.

As per NITI Aayog’s categorisation, the State has been ranked among 21 large States. The States are ranked on parameters including neonatal mortality rate (NMR), under-five mortality rate (U5MR) and full immunisation coverage.

Some parameters:

Among larger States, Karnataka has been classified in the ‘Moderately Improved’ and ‘Frontrunner’ groups, respectively, on incremental performance and overall performance.

The State has shown improvement in parameters such as NMR, U5MR, proportion of low weight among newborns, proportion of institutional deliveries, and total case notification rate of tuberculosis (TB).

However, there are some disturbing trends such as deterioration in vital parameters such as sex ratio at birth, full immunisation coverage and treatment success rate of new microbiologically confirmed TB cases. Immunisation coverage in the State has deteriorated from 96.2 % in 2015 to 94.07% in 2017-18.

NMR (occurring in the first 28 days of life) per 1,000 live births is an important indicator as approximately 68% of infant deaths in India occur during the neonatal period. In Karnataka, NMR saw a decrease from 19 in 2015-16 to 18 in 2017-18. Karnataka’s U5MR that remained stagnant at 31 till 2015 has now declined to 29. In Low Birth Weight (<2.5 kg), the State witnessed a fall in proportion from 11.5% to 10.01%. The total case notification rate of TB has gone up from 105 in 2015 to 123 now. This rate is the number of new and relapsed TB cases notified in both public and private facilities per 1,00,000 population during a specific year.

State tops in NITI Aayog’s Health Index, yet slips on many counts

In News:

The second round of State Health Index 2018 published by NITI Aayog has established Kerala as the best overall performing State with a total score of 74.01.

Details:

In fact, when compared to the scores in the Base Year (2015-16), Kerala seems to have actually gone down slightly on many counts in the reference year (2017-18).

The overall performance score of the State has also gone down slightly from 76.56 in the first Health Index in 2015-16 to 74.01 in 2017-18. Health Index 2018 examined the overall performance and incremental improvement in the States and Union Territories for the period 2015-16 to 2017-18.

Health Index is a composite score incorporating 23 indicators covering key aspects of health sector performance, grouped into domains of Health Outcomes, Governance and Information, and Key Inputs/Processes.

In the Health Outcomes domain, Kerala has gone down slightly by 2.99 points, while it is 5.7 points down when it comes to performance in Key Inputs/Processes domain.

Sex ratio:

Significantly, while Kerala and Chhattisgarh are the only two States with a Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB) of more than 950, Kerala’s SRB has shown a decline from 967 in 2013-15 to 2014-16. The SRB measures the number of girls born for every 1,000 boys born. It reflects the extent to which gender discrimination leads to sex-selective abortion.

Kerala has already surpassed the Sustainable Development Goals target when it comes to neonatal mortality (NMR), at 6 per 1,000 live births. Under-5 mortality has, however, gone up from 11 per 1,000 live births to 13, from the base year to the reference year.

Immunisation:

The proportion of fully immunised children between nine and 11 months of age in Kerala shows an increase from 94.6 % in 2015-16 to 100 % on 2017-18.

However, the proportion of institutional deliveries in the State during the same period has shown a decline from 92.6 % to 90.9 %. TB total case notification rate in Kerala declined from 139 (per one lakh population) to 67 between 2016 and 2017.

Trade, missile on agenda during Pompeo visit

In News:

India will once again press its case for a waiver of U.S. sanctions on the $5.4-billion Russian S-400 Triumf anti-missile deal, but will discuss Washington’s concerns over the issue during talks with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Details:

On a visit to Delhi to prepare for the Trump-Modi meeting this weekend, Mr. Pompeo landed on Tuesday evening ahead of meetings with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval on Wednesday, where he will also call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Mr. Pompeo will start his day with full delegation meetings with Mr. Jaishankar followed by a press briefing. No MoUs or agreements are expected to be announced, though negotiations on two important agreements — the Industrial Security Annexe and the Geo-spatial cooperation agreement BECA — have made considerable progress. Mr. Pompeo will hold a closed-door interaction with Indian and American businesses to speak about the impasse over a trade deal and the U.S. withdrawal of India’s GSP (Generalized System of Preferences) status.

U.S. demands:

In the evening, he will meet Mr. Modi before the latter leaves for Osaka, and also give a public address aimed at India’s youth. Mr. Pompeo will leave for Osaka early Thursday morning. While strategic relations and people-to-people ties are on the agenda during the main talks, trade issues between the two countries are expected to take centre stage, diplomatic sources said. In addition, the U.S.’s objections to the purchase of S-400, its sanctions on imports of oil from Iran and Venezuela as well as its new demand that India must not allow Chinese telecom major Huawei to participate in 5G network trials are like to come up for discussion.

The sources acknowledged that the U.S. had made its concerns over the S-400 deal and other issues known, and India fears becoming “collateral damage” of U.S. relations with other countries. In the past few weeks, senior U.S. diplomats and officials have suggested that if India goes ahead with S-400 deal, the U.S. will not offer India certain hi-technology platforms or hold back on F-21/F-35 sales as it had done with Turkey that has also bought the S-400.

“[The U.S.] must realise that we have defence ties with Russia which we cannot wish away,” a government official said. “If you look at it from a legal point of view, India fulfils the requirements for a CAATSA waiver,” the official said, referring to the U.S. law that bans military purchases from Russia, Iran and North Korea.

On the Huawei issue, Mr. Jaishankar is likely to tell Mr. Pompeo that the government will balance the national security implications of the Chinese firm with the demands of the local telecommunications market before deciding on 5G trials. Last week, China sought India to take an “unbiased decision.

31.4% of Indian children will be stunted by 2022: report

Almost one in three Indian children under five years will still be stunted by 2022 going by current trends, according to an analysis of the country’s food and nutrition security released on Tuesday. Over the last decade, child stunting — which is a measure of chronic malnutrition — has reduced at a rate of about 1% per year, the slowest decline among emerging economies. At this rate, 31.4% of children will still be stunted by the 2022 deadline. India must double its rate of progress to reach the target of 25% by that time, says the report.

Analysis of progress:

The report, which is a baseline analysis of the country’s progress in achieving the second Sustainable Development Goal to end hunger, was prepared by the UN World Food Programme in collaboration with the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.

Foodgrain yields have risen 33% over the last two decades, but are still only half of 2030 target yields, says the report. Even so, the Indian farmer is producing more foodgrains than ever before, making the country self-sufficient in this regard. Unfortunately, the consumer’s access to rice, wheat and other cereals has not increased at the same rate, due to population growth, inequality, food wastage and losses, and exports. As a result, the average per capita consumption of energy among the poorest 30% of the population is 1811 kilo calories, much lower than the norm of 2155 kilo calories per day. The signs of unequal access are starkest among children. In States like Bihar (48%) and Uttar Pradesh (46%), almost one in two children are stunted, while it is only one in five children in Kerala and Goa (20% each). There are high rates of stunting among children in the poorest wealth quintile (51.4%), Scheduled Tribes (43.6%) and Scheduled Castes (42.5%), and children born to mothers with no education (51%).

‘Impressive’ tortoise discovered in Arunachal

In News:

A tortoise considered beautiful enough to be named ‘impressed’ has been discovered in Arunachal Pradesh.

Details:

A team of herpetologists from the Forest Department and two NGOs — Help Earth and Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) — found the Impressed Tortoise ( Manouria impressa ) in Yazali area of the Lower Subansiri district a few days ago.

This is the first record of the tortoise in India, taking the count to five and the non-marine chelonian count to 29. Chelonian is an order of reptile that includes turtles, terrapins and tortoises.

“There are only two species of tortoises under the Manouria genus. India was known to be the home of only the Asian Forest Tortoise (Manouria emys) until the discovery of the Impressed Tortoise,” Guwahati-based Jayaditya Purkayastha of Help Earth told The Hindu .

The Asian Forest Tortoise, the largest in mainland Asia, is found only in the northeast, as are 20 of the other 28 species of chelonians.

“The male Impressed Tortoise is smaller than the female which is 30 cm in length. This Manouria species is one-third the size of the Asian Forest Tortoise”.

Disability pension will now be taxed

In News:

Disability pension for military personnel who retired normally from service and not invalidated will now be taxed, according to a notification issued by the Finance Ministry.

Details:

In the notification dated June 24, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) said that “such tax exemption will be available only to armed forces personnel who have been invalidated from service on account of bodily disability attributable to or aggravated by such service and not to personnel who have been retired on superannuation or otherwise.”

Disability pension are of two types, war and normal. War disability is 60% of the last salary drawn in case of 100% disability and normal disability is 30% of the last salary drawn in case of 100% disability. It goes down proportionally for lower percentage of disability.

The move has come under criticism from the military fraternity. As per procedure, the CBDT will now issue a circular to all the banks for implementation as they are the ones that disburse the pensions.

Cross-LoC traders’ meet in Tashkent

Three months after the Home Ministry suspended cross-Line of Control trade in J&K, traders on both sides met in Uzbekistan’s capital Tashkent and urged India and Pakistan to “come up with the modalities and technical mechanism to restore the operation as soon as possible”.

“Both the governments did not do enough to put the mechanisms on modern lines, which left the twin routes vulnerable to possible misuse. The abrupt suspension of trade has resulted in an opportunity loss,” said a joint statement issued by 19 traders groups.