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Daily Current affairs 13 January 2019

UPSC - Daily Current Affair

The lowdown on HAL’s order book

Why in news?

  • Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is facing a financial crunch owing to non-payment of dues and lack of new firm contracts.

About Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL)

  • HAL is the Defence Public Sector Undertaking and the country’s only manufacturer of aircraft.
  • Its headquarters is in Bangalore, India.
  • It is governed under the management of the Ministry of Defence.
  • HAL makes a range of aircraft including fighter jets and trainers and helicopters, both indigenously developed and under licence from foreign original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

Reasons for the financial crunch:

  • Non-payment of dues by the Indian Air Force (IAF) for orders executed and under way.
  • Delay in finalization of new contracts.

What are its effects ?

  • The weak financial situation can affect future and the ongoing programmes programmes like indigenous fighter programme LCA, the advanced variant Mk1A, HTT-40 basic trainer and a Light Utility Helicopter (LCU).
  • It can also hamper regular maintenance activities that HAL undertakes for the IAF.
  • The fund crunch affects salaries and running costs.
  • Additionally, the delay in finalisation of new orders affects timely planning and supply chain management.

Way ahead:

  • The Defence Ministry has sought funds from the Finance Ministry to help HAL.
  • With anticipated collections up to March 2019, the cash position is expected to improve and in terms of future orders, final contracts for 83 LCA Mk1A and 15 LCH are in advanced stages.
  • Nonetheless, the developments are a matter of serious concern for the country and want immediate government attention to set things in order.                                                                           

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Section : Defence & Security


70% towns along Ganga let out garbage into the river

In News

  • According the recent Quality Council of India (QCI) assessment, 66 towns and cities along the river still have nullahs or drains flowing directly into the Ganga.
  • The assessment covered 92 towns (out of 97) along the river Ganga.
  • The assessment was commissioned by Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD)

Key Findings:

  • 3/4th of the towns have old legacy dumpsites along the ghats.
  • 72% of the towns have at least one drain flowing into the river.
  • 1/3rd of towns have solid waste flowing on river surface.
  • 85% of drain discharging into Ganga did not have screens to stop garbage from entering the river.
  • Towns which achieved A grade had population of less than 1 lakh people, which are mostly located in the upstream States of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh (exception was Maheshtala in West Bengal with a population of 4.5 lakh)
  • Large cities such as Kolkata, Varanasi, Kanpur and Patna all achieved low scores.

Parameters for the QCI assessment:

  1. Overall cleanliness involving the dump sites and garbage vulnerable points present near the ghats, as well as the presence of solid waste floating on the river’s surface;
  2. Availability of a municipal solid waste plant;
  3. Installation and maintenance of screens placed over nullahs; and
  4. Solid waste management services such as sweeping and cleaning arrangements, litter bins and anti-littering signs and a trash cleaner to trap solid waste floating on the river.

States from which river Ganga flows: Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.

Shift in focus: Earlier the government was focusing more on Liquid waste management under Namami Ganga, now the focus has been turned to Solid waste management under Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban)

About QCI

  • Quality Council of India (QCI) was set up in 1997 jointly by the Government of India and the Indian Industry represented by the three premier industry associations i.e. Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).
  • It is used as a third party agency to improve quality in departments and industry.
  • It is independent and works under the directions of its Governing Body (GB) having equal representation of government, industry and industry associations.
  • It does not get funded by the government and is a self-sustaining non-profit organization with its own Memorandum of Association (MOA) and Rules.
  • QCI came to be organized as an independent autonomous body that worked towards assuring quality standards across all spheres of economic and social activities.
  • The aim of the QCI is to establish and operate national accreditation structure and promote quality through National Quality Campaign.
  • Important Projects under QCI includes:
    • Swachh Sarvekshan,
    • Yoga Scheme,
    • Zero Defect Zero Effect (ZED),
    • e-Quest

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Section : Environment & Ecology


Inexplicable U-turn

The News

  • Recently in a notification the Union Ministry of Health and Family welfare ministry rolled back the National Policy for Treatment of Rare Diseases, 2017 due to poor implementation and cost-related issues.

About National Policy for Treatment of Rare Diseases

  • In 2013, the Delhi High Court in Mohammad Ahmed v/s Union of India directed the government to take care of treatment of rare diseases and make a national policy on rare diseases.
  • As a result, the Union the ministry of health and family welfare, recognising rare diseases as a public health challenge, approved the National Policy for Treatment of Rare Diseases in 2017 with an initial corpus of Rs.100 crore.
  • However, the health ministry in December 2018 rolled back the policy citing reasons such as bureaucratic barriers and high costs to treat patients with rare and expensive-to-treat diseases.
  • Thus the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is reviewing the policy in the light of new information indicating lack of effective implementation.

Lacuna in the National Policy for Treatment of Rare Diseases

  • Recently, there have been number of petitions filed in the Delhi High Court regarding ‘delayed response’ from government to treat the patients affected by rare diseases.
  • When the government announced the National Policy for Treatment of Rare Diseases, there was a proposal to set up a initial corpus of Rs.100 crore.
  • However, the government in December 2018 has confessed to the Delhi High Court that it had not allocated Rs.100 crore that it promised under the policy.
  • The Ministry had also requested the Ministry of Finance to cover the shortage of funds under Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi (RAN).
  • However, since RAN is a one-time grant it is not adequate to treat rare diseases.
  • The government has also conceded that the policy was framed in haste.
  • The main problem is that the policy was not framed with concurrence with the states though health is a state subject.
  • Further, the policy was handed over to the National Health Mission (NHM). However, National Health Mission is only for primary and secondary healthcare and not for tertiary care.
  • The health ministry has also cited bureaucratic barriers and high costs to treat patients with rare and expensive-to-treat diseases as main reasons for roll back.


What are rare diseases?

  • According to World Health Organisation, rare disease is the one that affects less than 1 in 1,000.
  • However, this definition varies nationally. India does not have a definition of rare disease.
  • In general, a rare disease is a health condition of low prevalence that affects a small number of people compared with other prevalent diseases in the general population.
  • Rare diseases include genetic diseases, rare cancers, infectious tropical diseases and degenerative diseases etc.
  • 80% of rare diseases are genetic in origin.
  • Rare disease is characterized with lack of awareness, dearth of diagnostic facilities and exorbitant cost of treatment.

Need for National Policy for Treatment of Rare Diseases

  • According to the Indian Society for Clinical Research (ISCR), there are an estimated 70 million patients living with a rare disease in India.
  • Further, 80% of rare diseases are genetic in origin and hence disproportionately impact children.
  • Out of this, approximately 50 per cent of those affected are children.
  • Further according to the union health ministry there are 450 rare diseases recorded in India.
  • The treatment of rare diseases often involves exorbitant cost ranging from Rs. 25 lakh and Rs. 4 crore per year.

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Section : Social Issues


Study shows solar wind fills the night side of the Moon

The News

  • A study using observations from various lunar missions including Chandrayaan 1 has found that plasma particles from the solar wind make their way into the Moon’s night side.

Key Observation 

  • Data from various missions including India’s Chandrayaan-1, Japan’s Kaguya, and China’s Chang’e-1 shows plasma environment is generated in the night-side of the moon too due to scattering of solar winds.
  • The solar wind particles scattered from the lunar magnetic regions on the day side can get transported to the night side of the Moon contributing to plasma refilling in the near wake region.


Near-Moon wake region

  • Studying interaction between the solar wind and the Moon is important for understanding the lunar plasma environment.
  • Since moon has no magnetic field of its own like earth the plasma environment on lunar surface is mainly generated by solar winds reaching it.
  • While the side facing the moon absorbs the solar wind, the night-side or the side not facing the sun has a void or wake of solar winds.
  • This near-moon wake region was hitherto believed to be devoid of any particles including plasma.


  • This discovery can help understand plasma environment in bodies that do not have magnetic field of their own such as Moon, Asteroids and other natural satellites.

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Section : Science & Tech

Digital e-Choupal set to turn aggregator, offer more services

The news

  • ITC has planned to bring up gradations in its E-Choupalinitiative.


About Agriculture sector in India

  • Agriculture is vital to India. However, Indian agriculture is characterised by various challenges-
    • Fragmented farms
    • Weak infrastructure
    • The involvement of numerous intermediaries
    • Reduced potential of Indian farmer who has been trapped in a vicious cycle of low risk taking ability
    • Globally uncompetitive Indian agribusiness sector


About E-Chaupal

  • E-Choupal is an India-based business initiative by ITC Limited that provides Internet access to rural farmers.
  • E-Chaupal was launched in June 2000 by ITC.
  • Under the current system, ITC helps build village internet kiosks.
  • These kiosks help farmers with-
    • Access to information in their local language on the weather and market prices.
    • Knowledge on scientific farm practices and risk management.
  • It was aimed to web-enable farmers to overcome challenges related to information access and procurement.
  • The e-Choupal model has been specifically designed to tackle the challenges posed by the unique features of Indian agriculture discussed above.
  • It has already become the largest initiative among all Internet-based interventions in rural India.
  • E-Choupal services today reach out to over 4 million farmers.
  • It covers farmers growing a range of crops - soyabean, coffee, wheat, rice, pulses, shrimp - in over 35,000 villages linked through 6,100 ‘e-Choupals’.


Goals envisioned by E-chaupal

  • Two goals were envisioned for information technology in the e-Choupal process.
  • The first was the delivery of real-time information independent of the transaction.
    • E-Choupal was seen as a medium of delivering critical market information independent of the mandi, thus allowing the farmer an empowered choice of where and when to sell his crop.
  • The second was to facilitate collaboration between the many parties required to fulfill the spectrum of farmer needs.
    • As a communication mechanism, this goal is related to the commitment to address the whole system.


Highlights of the news - Makeoverof E-chaupal

  • ITC is set to makeover its E-chaupal Service.
  • It plans to launch a mobile version of the E-chaupal programme by middle of 2019.
    • Launch of mobile version is planned as there is increasing smart phone penetration in the country along with the decline in the cost of data.
  • The mobile application has been developed by ITC Infotech, a wholly-owned subsidiary of ITC Limited.
  • The new model is being called as e-Choupal 4.0.
  • The e-Choupal 4.0 will play the role of an ‘Aggregator of Agricultural Services’, where it will offer a bouquet of farm focused services like-
    • Crop management
    • Farm mechanization
    • Healthcare
    • Banking
    • Insurance etc.

Baareh Mahine Hariyali

  • ITC has also launched a program, ‘baareh mahine hariyali’, as a part of the e-Choupal initiative.
  • The programme has been implemented in four districts of Uttar Pradesh including Allahabad, Chandauli, and Ghazipur and Bihar’s Munger district.
  • It is focused on helping farmers multiply their incomes by maximising farm utilisation over 12 months of the year.
  • Assistance under the scheme is-
    • Adopt new high yielding varieties of wheat.
    • Introduced short duration paddy to enable timely sowing of wheat in Rabi season.
    • Avail practices such as zero till sowing.
  • All this has resulted in cost savings, timely sowing and minimisation of environmental pollution.


Benefits of E-chaupal

  • Farmers are able to match their farm output with market demandwith the help of real-time information through E-chaupal.
  • Through E-chaupal farmers are virtually linked to the mandi for price discovery, which helps farmers to reduce transaction costs by eliminating the need for intermediaries.
  • Moreover, ITC also benefits by having lower net cost of procurement as it can eliminateunnecessary costs in the supply chain.
  • Besides improving the farmer’s income, the programme has brought in a sense of possibility and employment to the farmers.
  • Moreover, it has brought competitiveness in the mandi 
  • It can enhance the global competitiveness of Indian agriculture.
  • It can break the vicious cycle of low risk ability of farmers and begin a virtuous cycle of-
    • Higher productivity
    • Higher incomes
    • Enlarged capacity for farmer risk management
    • Larger investments
    • Higher quality and productivity

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Section : Economics