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Daily Current affairs 23 July 2019

UPSC - Daily Current Affair

SL. NO.

TOPICS   

THE HINDU

PAGE NO.

1

I’d love to be a mediator on Kashmir: Trump

01

2

Speaker breaks House Convention

12

3

Subverting the RTI regime 

11

4

Odisha renews effort to revive gharial population

09  

5

The judicial presumption of non-citizenship 

10








 

Title

1.  I’d love to be a mediator on Kashmir: Trump (The Hindu Page 1)

Syllabus

Prelims: Current events of International importance

Mains: GS Paper II – International Relations  

Theme

US to be a mediator on Kashmir 

Highlights

Why in the news?

 

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday offered to be a “mediator” between India and Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. D. Trump has claimed that during the recent G-20 Summit in Japan, Indian PM had requested him for such.

 

Response by Ministry of External Affairs:

 

No such request has been made by Prime Minister to the US President. It has been India's consistent position that all outstanding issues with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally. Any engagement with Pakistan would require an end to cross border terrorism. The Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration provide the basis to resolve all issues between India and Pakistan bilaterally. 

 

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Title

2. Speaker breaks House Convention (The Hindu Page 12)

Syllabus 

Prelims: Polity & Governance  

Mains: GS Paper II - Polity & Governance   

Theme

Adjournment, Adjournment Sine Die & Prorogation 

Highlights

Adjournment

  • An adjournment suspends the work in a sitting for a specified time, which may be hours, days or weeks. An adjournment only terminates a sitting and not a session of the House. The power of adjournment lies with the presiding officer of the House.

 

Adjournment Sine Die

  • Adjournment sine die means terminating a sitting of Parliament for an indefinite period. In other words, when the House is adjourned without naming a day for reassembly, it is called adjournment sine die. The power of adjournment sine die lies with the presiding officer of the House.

  • Note: The presiding officer of a House can call a sitting of the House before the date or time to which it has been adjourned or at any time after the House has been adjourned sine die.

 

Prorogation

  • Prorogation means the termination of a session of the House by an order made by the President under article 85(2)(a) of the Constitution. Prorogation terminates both the sitting and session of the House

  • It does not affect the bills or any other business pending before the house.

  • All pending notices (other than those for introducing bills) lapse on prorogation and fresh notices have to be given for the next session.   

 

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Title

3. Subverting the RTI regime (The Hindu Page 11)

Syllabus 

Prelims: Polity & Governance  

Mains: GS Paper II - Polity & Governance; GS Paper IV – Ethics      

Theme

The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 

Highlights

 

The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill was recently passed by the Lok Sabha.
There are two main provisions which has amended through this bill that author in this editorial has criticised. 

  1. the stipulation that the terms of office of the Central and State Information Commissioners (CIC/SIC) will be determined by the Central government as against the existing provision which guarantees a fixed term of five years or up to an age of 65 years

  2. the proposal that their salaries, allowances, and other terms and conditions of service will be determined by the Central government. 

 

Reason for amendment bill:    

 
  • The earlier act had created an equivalence between the status and functions of the Election Commission and the Information Commission. 

  • However according to the government it was a gross anomaly to designate the CIC and ICs as equivalent to the CEC and the ECs respectively.

  • This is because it equated CICs to Judges of the Supreme Court even though the order passed by CIC is liable to be challenged in a High Court. 

  • The Bill states that the functions being carried out by the Election Commission and the Central and State Information Commissions are totally different. 

  • The Election Commission is a Constitutional body. On the other hand, the Central Information Commission and the State Information Commissions are statutory bodies established under the Right to Information Act, 2005.

    Critique of amendment bill:  

  • The information provided by IC is essential for effective governance and therefore working of IC should not be diminished by considering lower than that of other bodies such EC.

  • The Supreme Court has termed the CIC and SICs as guardians of the Act and directed that CIC and ICs shall be appointed on the same terms and conditions as applicable to the Chief Election Commissioner/Election Commissioners. 

  • The service conditions of CEC and Judge of SC is considered equivalent. An election petition against an order of EC can be filed in the High Court and this does not diminish the stature of the EC. 

  • Therefore, equivalency in service conditions of IC and EC can also be the same even petition against IC order can be introduced in High Court.

  • Security in service conditions such as tenure & salary act as freedom from outside influences and pressures. The recent Amendment will dilute the autonomy of IC against government interference.   

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Title

4. Odisha renews effort to revive gharial population (The Hindu Page 9)      

Syllabus 

Prelims: Environment

Mains: GS Paper III – Environment   

Theme

Gharial population            

Highlights

Why in the news?

  • Odisha has renewed its effort to revive the population of gharials, a species of crocodile, in their natural habitat by releasing five reptiles into the Satkosia gorge of Mahanadi — the southernmost limit of gharials’ home range in India.

  • Odisha is the only state with having all three species - gharial, mugger and saltwater crocodile.         

 

About Gharial Crocodile:

  • IUCN - Critically Endangered

  • Protected under Schedule I of WPA, 1972

 

Native Range: 

  • Extinct in Bhutan; Myanmar & Pakistan
    Current resident Extant in Bangladesh, India & Nepal

  • The species is now limited to only 14 widely spaced, restricted localities in north India and lowland Nepal. 

  • The single largest and most populous location, the protected National Chambal Sanctuary (NCS) in north India  

  • The surviving population can be found within the tributaries of the Ganga river system: Girwa (Uttar Pradesh), Son (Madhya Pradesh), Ramganga (Uttarakhand), Gandak (Bihar), Chambal (Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan) and Mahanadi (Orissa).   

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Title

5. The judicial presumption of non-citizenship (The Hindu Page  10)

Syllabus 

Prelims: Polity & Governance  

Mains: GS Paper II - Polity & Governance; GS Paper IV – Ethics       

Theme

NRC & Foreigner’s Tribunal     

Highlights

Context: There are two different aspects to this article

  1. The article highlights that process to determine citizenship through NRC (which is a process overseen and driven by the Supreme Court) is different from proceedings before Foreigners Tribunal as the Tribunal has been constituted by an executive order.   

  2. The article also highlights various lacunas in the functioning of Foreigner’s Tribunal. 

 

(A). Foreigner’s Tribunal was established through Foreigners (Tribunal) Order, 1964 from an order of Ministry of Home Affairs. The article has mentioned about a case named Abdul Kuddus.     

On the first point, the petitioners argued on three different grounds   

  1. The petitioners on the basis of executive formation of Foreigners Tribunal argued that an ‘opinion’ rendered by the Foreigners Tribunal was more in the nature of an executive order rather than a judicial order. Thus, if the ‘opinion’ of the Tribunal is in the nature of an executive order, then an adverse finding about any person will not automatically result in striking the name off from NRC List. 

  2. Tribunal’s order could be subsequently reviewed if fresh materials or evidence came to light with respect to a particular case (in this case, if new documents are revealed about establishing citizenship of any person). The petitioners argued that this point was important as most of the orders of Foreigner’s Tribunals are riddled with administrative lacunas. 

  3. And finally, the petitioners argued that if the opinion of the Foreigners Tribunal was used to justify keeping an individual out of the NRC, then that decision could be challenged and would have to be decided independently of the decision arrived at by the Tribunal.  So, effectively the petitioners submitted that the two process (NRC & Foreigners Tribunal Order) should be kept entirely independent of each other, and without according primacy to one over the other.    

Supreme Court’s Order

The Supreme Court rejected the petitioners’ arguments, and held that the “opinion” of the Foreigners Tribunal was to be treated as a “quasi-judicial order”, and was therefore final and binding on all parties including upon the preparation of the NRC.      

 

(B). Lacunas in the functioning of Foreigners Tribunal

  • Qualifications to serve on the Tribunals have been progressively diluted and the vague requirement of “judicial experience” has now been expanded to include bureaucrats.  This at times makes the orders of the tribunal more bureaucratic rather than having elements of reason.

  • Tribunals are given sweeping powers to refuse examination of witnesses if in their opinion it does not serve any purpose to the case at hand. Further, tribunals need not give reasons for their findings or orders. This makes the entire process more arbitrary.

  • Tribunals are left free to regulate their own procedure for disposal of cases. 

Problems in dealing with cases of NRC by the Tribunal

  • 64,000 people have been declared non-citizens in ex-parte proceedings, i.e., a proceeding where the other party was not heard.

  • Most of the times, people in Assam are not served notice about the date of their hearing. Hence, they are left with little recourse to do after passing of the date of their hearing. 

  • For most officials at the Tribunals, deciding about citizenship of a person is a mere mechanical process. However, such a decision rendering a person stateless impact not only on their citizenship, but various rights which accrues to them through the citizenship including basic human rights. 

  • Thus, the process followed by Foreigners Tribunal has resulted in fundamental de-humanisation and devaluation of individuals that has enabled the manner in which the Foreigners Tribunals operate. 

  • The onus to prove citizenship lies on the person who is accused of being a non-citizen. In this aspect, a parliamentary legislation that sought to place the burden upon the state was struck down as being unconstitutional.  

Way Forward – It is here where Supreme Court was supposed to take the lead as the protector of human rights of persons residing in India under the Constitution. The SC rather attempted to justify fixing time limits for NRC rather than adhering to basic principles of the rule of law which values human rights.

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Relevant articles from PIB:

GS Paper 2:

Topics Covered:

  1. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

Swadesh Darshan scheme

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Features and significance of the scheme, Important circuits and overview of their locations and geographical significance.

 

Context: Ministry of Tourism under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme has identified Tirthankar Circuit as one of the fifteen thematic circuits for development in the country. All the sites associated with Jainism are covered under this circuit.

Ministry has sanctioned the project “Development of Tirthankar Circuit: Vaishali-Arrah-Masad-Patna-Rajgir-Pawapuri-Champapuri in Bihar”.

 

About Swadesh Darshan Scheme:

Tourism Ministry launched the scheme.

Objective: to develop theme-based tourist circuits in the country. These tourist circuits will be developed on the principles of high tourist value, competitiveness and sustainability in an integrated manner.

 

Features of Swadesh Darshan Scheme:

  1. 100% centrally fundedfor the project components undertaken for public funding.
  2. To leverage the voluntary funding available for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)initiatives of Central Public Sector Undertakings and corporate sector.
  3. Funding of individual project will vary from state to state and will be finalised on the basis of detailed project reports prepared by PMC (Programme Management Consultant).
  4. PMC will be a national level consultant to be appointed by the Mission Directorate.
  5. National Steering Committee (NSC)will be constituted with Minister in charge of M/O Tourism as Chairman, to steer the mission objectives and vision of the scheme.
  6. Mission Directorateheaded by the Member Secretary, NSC as a nodal officer will help in identification of projects in consultation with the States/ UTs governments and other stake holders.

GS Paper 2:

Topics covered:

  1. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

Biofuels

 

What to study?

For Prelims: National Biofuel Policy- key features, classification of biofuels.

For Mains: Biofuels- significance, policies for their promotion and challenges therein.

 

Context: The Government has allowed the direct sale of biodiesel (B100) for blending with high speed diesel to all consumers, in accordance with the specified blending limits and the standards specified by the Bureau of Indian Standards, with effect from 29th June, 2017.

 

Background:

The National Policy on Biofuels-2018 approved by the Government envisages an indicative target of 20% blending of ethanol in petrol and 5% blending of bio-diesel in diesel by 2030.

 

National Policy on biofuels- salient features:

  1. Categorization: The Policy categorises biofuels as “Basic Biofuels” viz. First Generation (1G) bioethanol & biodiesel and “Advanced Biofuels” – Second Generation (2G) ethanol, Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to drop-in fuels, Third Generation (3G) biofuels, bio-CNG etc. to enable extension of appropriate financial and fiscal incentives under each category.
  2. Scope of raw materials:The Policy expands the scope of raw material for ethanol production by allowing use of Sugarcane Juice, Sugar containing materials like Sugar Beet, Sweet Sorghum, Starch containing materials like Corn, Cassava, Damaged food grains like wheat, broken rice, Rotten Potatoes, unfit for human consumption for ethanol production.
  3. Protection to farmers:Farmers are at a risk of not getting appropriate price for their produce during the surplus production phase. Taking this into account, the Policy allows use of surplus food grains for production of ethanol for blending with petrol with the approval of National Biofuel Coordination Committee.
  4. Viability gap funding: With a thrust on Advanced Biofuels, the Policy indicates a viability gap funding scheme for 2G ethanol Bio refineries of Rs.5000 crore in 6 years in addition to additional tax incentives, higher purchase price as compared to 1G biofuels.
  5. Boost to biodiesel production:The Policy encourages setting up of supply chain mechanisms for biodiesel production from non-edible oilseeds, Used Cooking Oil, short gestation crops.

 

Expected benefits:

Import dependency: The policy aims at reducing import dependency.

Cleaner environment: By reducing crop burning & conversion of agricultural residues/wastes to biofuels there will be further reduction in Green House Gas emissions.

Health benefits: Prolonged reuse of Cooking Oil for preparing food, particularly in deep-frying is a potential health hazard and can lead to many diseases. Used Cooking Oil is a potential feedstock for biodiesel and its use for making biodiesel will prevent diversion of used cooking oil in the food industry.

Employment Generation: One 100klpd 2G bio refinery can contribute 1200 jobs in Plant Operations, Village Level Entrepreneurs and Supply Chain Management.

Additional Income to Farmers: By adopting 2G technologies, agricultural residues/waste which otherwise are burnt by the farmers can be converted to ethanol and can fetch a price for these waste if a market is developed for the same.

 

Significance of Biofuels:

Globally, biofuels have caught the attention in last decade and it is imperative to keep up with the pace of developments in the field of biofuels. Biofuels in India are of strategic importance as it augers well with the ongoing initiatives of the Government such as Make in India, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Skill Development and offers great opportunity to integrate with the ambitious targets of doubling of Farmers Income, Import Reduction, Employment Generation, Waste to Wealth Creation.

 

Classification of Biofuels:

1st generation biofuels are also called conventional biofuels. They are made from things like sugar, starch, or vegetable oil. Note that these are all food products. Any biofuel made from a feedstock that can also be consumed as a human food is considered a first-generation biofuel.

2nd generation biofuels are produced from sustainable feedstock. The sustainability of a feedstock is defined by its availability, its impact on greenhouse gas emissions, its impact on land use, and by its potential to threaten the food supply. No second generation biofuel is also a food crop, though certain food products can become second generation fuels when they are no longer useful for consumption. Second generation biofuels are often called “advanced biofuels.”

3rd generation biofuels are biofuel derived from algae. These biofuels are given their own separate class because of their unique production mechanism and their potential to mitigate most of the drawbacks of 1st and 2nd generation biofuels.

 

Mains Question: Discuss the importance of biofuels for India? Critically examine whether the national policy on biofuels will help India unlock it’s biofuel potential?


Relevant articles from various news sources:

GS Paper 2:

Topics covered:

  1. Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources, issues relating to poverty and hunger.

 

When a juvenile is tried as an adult, when not?

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: Key features of JJ Act and the amendments, need, concerns and what is the way out?

 

Context: In 2016, a 17-year-old was booked for the murder of his three-year-old neighbour in Mumbai. The Mumbai city Juvenile Justice Board as well as a children’s court directed that he be tried as an adult under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2015. Last week, the Bombay High Court set aside these orders and directed that the accused be tried as a minor, saying the Act is reformative and not retributive.

 

When is a child tried as an adult?

The Juvenile Justice Act of 2000 was amended in 2015 with a provision allowing for Children in Conflict with Law (CCL) to be tried as adults under certain circumstances.

The Act defines a child as someone who is under age 18. For a CCL, age on the date of the offence is the basis for determining whether he or she was a child or an adult.

The amended Act distinguishes children in the age group 16-18 as a category which can be tried as adults if they are alleged to have committed a heinous offence — one that attracts a minimum punishment of seven yearsThe Act does not, however, make it mandatory for all children in this age group to be tried as adults.

 

Why was this distinction made?

The amendment was proposed by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2014. This was in the backdrop of the gang-rape of a woman inside a bus in Delhi in 2012, leading to her death. One of the offenders was a 17-year-old, which led to the Ministry proposing the amendment (although it could not have retrospectively applied to him).

The then Minister, Maneka Gandhi, cited an increase in cases of offenders in that age group; child rights activists objected to the amendment.

The J S Verma Committee constituted to recommend amendments also stated that it was not inclined to reduce the age of a juvenile from 18 to 16. The amendment was made in 2015.

 

When can a child be tried as an adult?

As per Section 15 of the JJ Act, there are three criteria that the Juvenile Justice Board in the concerned district should consider while conducting a preliminary assessment to determine whether the child should be tried as an adult or under the juvenile justice system, which prescribes a maximum term of three years in a special home. The criteria are:

  1. Whether the child has the mental and physical capacity to commit such an offence.
  2. Whether the child has the ability to understand its consequences.
  3. The circumstances in which the offence was committed.

If the Board finds that the child can be tried as an adult, the case is transferred to a designated children’s court, which again decides whether the Board’s decision is correct.

 

Sources: Indian Express.


GS Paper 2:

Topic covered:

  1. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019

 

What to study?

For prelims: key features of RTI, amendments proposed and the need.

For main: significance of RTI, issues present and measures to address these issues.

 

Context: The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 that amends the Right to Information Act, 2005 has been introduced in Lok Sabha.

However, former information commissioners and RTI activists have come out strongly against the move by the central government to amend the RTI Act, 2005.

 

Amendments include:

  1. The Centre shall have the powers to set the salaries and service conditions of Information Commissioners at central as well as state levels.
  2. Term of the central Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners: appointment will be “for such term as may be prescribed by the Central Government”.
  3. While the original Act prescribes salaries, allowances and other terms of service of the state Chief Information Commissioner as “the same as that of an Election Commissioner”, and the salaries and other terms of service of the State Information Commissioners as “the same as that of the Chief Secretary to the State Government”, the amendment proposes that these “shall be such as may be prescribed by the Central Government”.

 

Why is it being opposed?

  1. The original Act had quantified the tenures, and defined the salaries in terms of existing benchmarks. The amendments are being viewed as implying that, in effect, the terms of appointment, salaries and tenures of the Chief Information Commissioners and Information Commissioners can be decided on a case-to-case basis by the government. This will take away the independence of the RTI authorities.
  2. Therefore, the Bill is being seen as a “threat to the independence” of the Central Information Commissioner.
  3. By diminishing the status of the CIC, IC and State CIC from that of a Supreme Court judgewould reduce their ability to issue directives to senior government functionaries.
  4. The amendments would empower the Centre to make rules to decide the tenure, salary, allowances and other terms of service of information commissioners of the Central and also State Information Commissions. This will fundamentally weaken the institution of the information commissions as it will adversely impact the ability of commissioners to function in an independent manner.
  5. The government has brought about the Bill in complete secrecy and there have been no public consultations on the Bill, which will impact the fundamental right to information of the citizens of the country.

 

What are the government’s stated grounds for bringing the amendments?

The statement of objects says “the mandate of Election Commission of India and Central and State Information Commissions are different. Hence, their status and service conditions need to be rationalised accordingly”.

CIC has been given the status of a Supreme Court Judge, but his judgments can be challenged in the High Courts.

Therefore, the amendments Have been brought to correct certain anomalies in the RTI Act. It does not dilute the Act in anyway and it was passed in a hurry in 2005. RTI Amendments would strengthen the overall RTI structure.

 

Over the last 14 years, how far has the RTI Act served the purposes for which it was introduced?

The RTI Act is regarded as one of the most successful laws of independent India. It has given ordinary citizens the confidence and the right to ask questions of government authorities. According to estimates, nearly 60 lakh applications are being filed every year. It is used by citizens as well as the media. The law is seen as having acted as a deterrent for government servants against taking arbitrary decisions.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Mains Question: Discuss the role played by key stakeholders under the Right to Information Act of India.


GS Paper 3:

Topics covered:

  1. Awareness in space.

Chandrayaan 2

 

What to study?

For prelims and mains: Key objectives, significance, payloads of the mission.

 

Context: With the successful launch of India’s Moon mission Chandrayaan-2, all eyes are now on September 7 when the lander and rover modules of the spacecraft will make a soft landing on the surface of the moon.

The 640-tonne GSLV Mk-III rocket successfully injected the 3,850-kg Chandrayaan-2 composite module into the Earth’s orbit. According to the revised flight sequence, Chandrayaan-2 would spend 23 days in the Earth’s orbit.

 

Chandrayaan-2 mission:

  • In September 2008, the Chandrayaan-2 mission was approved by the government for a cost of Rs 425 crore.
  • It is India’s second mission to the moon.
  • It aims to explore the Moon’s south polar region.
  • The mission is an important step in India’s plans for planetary exploration, a program known as Planetary Science and Exploration (PLANEX).
  • There are three components of the mission, an orbiter, a lander and a rover.
  • The mission payloads include — Terrain Mapping Camera which will generate a Digital Elevation Model (DEM) of the entire moon, Chandrayaan 2 Large Area Soft X-ray Spectrometer which will test the elemental composition of the Moon’s surface Solar X-Ray Monitor which will provide solar X-ray spectrum inputs for CLASS. 
  • The orbiter will be deployed at an altitude of 100 kilometers above the surface of the Moon. The lander will then separate from the orbiter, and execute a soft landing on the surface of the Moon, unlike the previous mission which crash landed near the lunar south pole.
  • The lander, rover and orbiter will perform mineralogical and elemental studies of the lunar surface.
  • The rover is named Pragyan.
  • The mission’s lander is named Vikram after Dr Vikram A Sarabhai, the Father of the Indian Space Programme.

 

Objectives of the mission:

The primary objective of Chandrayaan-2 is to demonstrate the ability to soft-land on the lunar surface and operate a robotic rover on the surface. Scientific goals include studies of lunar topography, mineralogy, elemental abundance, the lunar exosphere, and signatures of hydroxyl and water ice.

 

GSLV Mk-III:

Developed by ISRO, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark-III is a three-stage vehicle.

Primarily designed to launch communication satellites into geostationary orbit.

It has a mass of 640 tonnes that can accommodate up to 8,000 kg payload to LEO and 4000 kg payload to GTO.

GSLV Mk-III vehicle is powered by two solid motor strap-ons (S200), a liquid propellant core stage (L110) and a cryogenic stage (C25), that has been designed for carrying the four-tonne class satellites.

The C25 is powered by CE-20, India’s largest cryogenic engine, designed and developed by the Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre.

 

Why the south polar region of the moon? 

According to ISRO, the lunar south pole is an interesting surface area, which remains in shadow as compared to the north pole. There is a possibility of the presence of water in permanently shadowed areas around it, the agency said, adding craters in the south pole region have cold traps and contain fossil records of the early solar system.

 

The challenges along the way:

Challenges involved in the moon landing are identifying trajectory accurately; taking up deep space communication; trans-lunar injection, orbiting around the moon, taking up soft landing on the moon surface, and facing extreme temperatures and vacuum.

 

 

India: Fourth Country to Land a Spacecraft on Moon:

India will become the fourth country to land a spacecraft on the Moon. So far, all the landings have been in the areas close to the Moon’s equator.

This is mainly because, this area receives more sunlight, which is required by solar powered instruments.

But Chandrayaan-2 will make a landing at a site where no earlier mission has gone, i.e., near the South Pole of the Moon. It can contain clues to the fossil records of early Solar System.

The unexplored territory gives an opportunity for the Mission to discover something new.  The South Pole of the Moon holds possibility of presence of water. In addition, this area is also supposed to have ancient rocks and craters that can offer indications of history of the Moon.

Sources: Indian Express.


GS Paper 2:

Topic covered:

  1. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill

 

What to study?

For Prelims: Key features of the National Medical Commission bill.

For Mains: MCI- issues, performance, concerns and need for superseding.

 

National Medical Commission Bill:

  1. The bill provides for the constitution of four autonomous boards entrusted with conducting undergraduate and postgraduate education, assessment and accreditation of medical institutions and registration of practitioners under the National Medical Commission.
  2. Composition of National Medical Commission: It will have government nominated chairman and members, and the board members will be selected by a search committee under the Cabinet Secretary. There will be five elected and 12 ex-officio members in the commission.
  3. As per the Bill, the government, under the National Medical Commission (NMC), can dictate guidelines for fees up to 40% of seats in private medical colleges. The bill also has a provision for a common entrance exam and licentiate (exit) exam that medical graduates have to pass before practising or pursuing PG courses. For MBBS, students have to clear NEET, and before they step into practice, they must pass the exit exam.
  4. Recognised medical institutions don’t need the regulator’s permission to add more seats or start PG course. This mechanism is to reduce the discretionary powers of the regulator.
  5. Earlier, medical colleges required the MCI’s approval for establishment, recognition, renewal of the yearly permission or recognition of degrees, and even increase the number of students they admitted. Under the new bill, the powers of the regulator are reduced to establishment and recognition. This means less red tape, but also less scrutiny of medical colleges.

 

Significance and the need:

  • The Bill seeks to regulate medical education and practice in India. 
  • The Bill attempts to tackle two main things on quality and quantity: Corruption in medical education and shortage of medical professionals.
  • The Bill aims to overhaul the corrupt and inefficient Medical Council of India, which regulates medical education and practice and replace with National medical commission.

 

Why is Medical Council of India being replaced?

  1. The Medical Council of India has repeatedly been found short of fulfilling its mandated responsibilities.
  2. Quality of medical education is at its lowest ebb; the current model of medical education is not producing the right type of health professionals that meet the basic health needs of the country because medical education and curricula are not integrated with the needs of our health system.
  3. Medical graduates lack competence in performing basic health care tasks like conducting normal deliveries; instances of unethical practice continue to grow due to which respect for the profession has dwindled.
  4. Compromised individuals have been able to make it to the MCI, but the Ministry is not empowered to remove or sanction a Member of the Council even if he has been proved corrupt.

 

Concerns:

  1. A bridge course allowing alternative-medicine practitioners to prescribe modern drugs is mentioned in the bill. Unscientific mixing of systems and empowering of other practitioners through bridge courses will only pave the way for substandard doctors and substandard medical practice. This will seriously impact patient care and patient safety
  2. Indian Medical Association (IMA) opposed the bill that it will cripple the functioning of medical professionals by making them completely answerable to the bureaucracy and non-medical administrators. NMC will become subservient to the health ministry, given that the representation of the medical profession in the new regulatory framework is minimal.
  3. The bill takes away the voting right of every doctor in Indiato elect their medical council.
  4. The bill allows private medical colleges to charge at will, nullifying whatever solace the NEET brought. The proposed NMC Bill discreetly intends to equate the post-graduate degrees given by MCI or proposed NMC and the National Board of Examination (NBE), which is unjustified too.
  5. Standards have been laid down for MCI courses, but not for NBE courses which are often run in private hospitals and nursing homes.
  6. It would replace an elected body (Medical Council of India, MCI) with one where representatives are “nominated.

 

Background:

The Medical Council of India was first established in 1934 under the Indian Medical Council Act, 1933. This Act was repealed and replaced with a new Act in 1956. Under the 1956 Act, the objectives of MCI include:

  • Maintenance of standards in medical education through curriculum guidelines, inspections and permissions to start colleges, courses or increasing number of seats.
  • Recognition of medical qualifications.
  • Registration of doctors and maintenance of the All India Medical Register.
  • Regulation of the medical profession by prescribing a code of conduct and taking action against erring doctors.

 

Sources: the hindu.


GS Paper 2:

Topics Covered:

  1. Issues related to health and Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

 

e-cigarettes

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: e-cigarettes- concerns, effects on health, need for regulation, challenges associated and measures needed.

 

Context: Government’s proposal to ban e-cigarettes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) needs to be welcomed as such a move will ensure that Indians, especially, children, are kept away from these pernicious products.

 

Background:

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has recommended ‘complete’ ban on Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), including e-cigarettes. The recommendation is based on currently available scientific evidence.

 

Why ICMR has recommended a complete ban?

Addictive in nature: e-cigarettes and other such devices contained not only nicotine solution, that was highly addictive, but also harmful ingredients like flavoring agents and vaporisers. Availability of flavour variants and attractive designs are adding to allure of devices, and globally there was an increasing trend of e-cigarettes consumption among youth and adolescents.

Use of ENDS or e-cigarettes can open a gateway for new tobacco addiction among the masses as on the balance, these have a negative impact on public health.

Prolonged use of ENDS or e-cigarettes has documented adverse impact on humans which includes DNA damage, respiratory/cardiovascular/ neurological Disorders, carcinogenic/cellular/molecular/immunological Toxicity and even have adverse effects on fetal development and pregnancy.

Research has found that youths using e-cigarettes (or other such devices) are more likely to use regular cigarettes in later period. The exposure to ENDS increases the likelihood to experiment with regular products and increase intention to indulge in cigarette smoking.

 

What are e-cigarettes? 

An electronic cigarette (or e-cig) is a battery-powered vaporizer that mimics tobacco smoking. It works by heating up a nicotine liquid, called “juice.”

Nicotine juice (or e-juice) comes in various flavors and nicotine levels. e-liquid is composed of five ingredients:vegetable glycerin (a material used in all types of food and personal care products, like toothpaste) and propylene glycol (a solvent most commonly used in fog machines.) propylene glycol is the ingredient that produces thicker clouds of vapor.

Proponents of e-cigs argue that the practice is healthier than traditional cigarettes because users are only inhaling water vapor and nicotine.

 

Why its hard to regulate them? 

As e-cigarettes contain nicotine and not tobacco, they do not fall within the ambit of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, 2003 (COTPA), which mandates stringent health warnings on the packaging and advertisements of tobacco products.

 

Need for regulation: The current unregulated sale of e-cigarettes is dangerous for a country like India where the number of smokers is on the decline (WHO Global Report, 2015) as it increases the possibility of e-cigarettes becoming a gateway for smoking by inducing nicotine addiction and perpetuating smoking by making it more attractive, thereby encouraging persons to become users of tobacco as well as e-cigarettes.

 

WHO report on e- cigarettes and effects:

  • As per the report, Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) (also known as e-cigarettes) emits nicotine, the addictive component of tobacco products. In addition to dependence, nicotine can have adverse effects on the development of the foetus during pregnancy and may contribute to cardiovascular disease.
  • The WHO report further says that although nicotine itself is not a carcinogen, it may function as a “tumour promoter” and seems to be involved in the biology of malignant disease, as well as of neurodegeneration.
  • Foetal and adolescent nicotine exposure may have long-term consequences for brain development, potentially leading to learning and anxiety disorders.
  • The evidence is sufficient to warn children and adolescents, pregnant women, and women of reproductive age against ENDS use and nicotine.

 

Sources: the Hindu.


Facts for Prelims:

 

Gharial (Gavial or fish eating crocodile):

Context: Odisha renews effort to revive gharial population.

Key facts:

  • Critically Endangered— IUCN Red List.
  • The male gharial has a distinctive boss at the end of the snout, which resembles an earthenware pot.
  • Habitat— foremost flowing rivers with high sand banks that they use for basking and building nests.
  • Gharials once inhabited all the major river systems of the Indian Subcontinent, from the Irrawaddy River in the east to the Indus River in the west. Their distribution is now limited to only 2% of their former range
  • India: Girwa River, Chambal River, Ken River, Son River, Mahanadi River, Ramganga River
  • Nepal: Rapti-Narayani River
  • Threats: Hunting for skins, trophies and indigenous medicine, and their eggs collected for consumption,Decrease of riverine habitat as dams, barrages, irrigation canals and artificial embankments were built; siltation and sand-mining changed river courses

Conservation:

  • Shedule 1 species under Indian wildlife act, 1972.
  • Project Crocodile began in 1975 (Government of India+ United Nations Development Fund + Food and Agriculture Organization) —  intensive captive breeding and rearing program.
  • Protected areas: National Chambal Sanctuary and Katerniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary.

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