Daily Current affairs for UPSC |SSC | RAILWAYS 18 october 2018

Daily Current Affairs

[op-ed snap] A flawed defence procurement policy

POSTED ONOCTOBER 18, 2018 | LIVE MINT

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Indian Economy| Investment models

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Offset Partnership

Mains level: The newscard discusses flaws in India’s defence procurement policy , which is indirectly hampering Make in India policy and provides scope for crony capitalism to persist.


News

Row over Rafale

  1. The Defence Procurement Procedure, 2016, (DPP) recognizes the need to ensure that procurement is undertaken in a manner that takes India closer to the goal of developing a world-class domestic defence and aerospace industry.
  2. However, the offset requirements under the DPP are not helping it achieve this goal.
  3. The recent Rafale controversy is the symptom of a larger underlying problem in decision-making, transparency and consistency of public policy.

Offsets guidelines in the DPP

  1. Offsets are a portion of a contracted price with a foreign supplier that must be re-invested in the Indian defence sector, or against which the government can purchase technology.
  2. Some good intentions inform the DPP and its offsets regime, such as the need for public-private partnership, encouraging startups and direct investment, and flexibility for foreign suppliers.
  3. However, when it comes to the details, things look different.

Procurement Policy of India

  1. Under Indian law, government procurement is treated as distribution of endowments by the state and, hence, must be fair, transparent and equitable.
  2. There can be no favouritism or nepotism in the award of public contracts.

Biggest Policy Loophole

  1. Offsets are financed by Indian taxpayers, but the award of contracts by foreign suppliers is not subject to public procurement safeguards.
  2. The DPP even seems to indicate that the foreign supplier has complete discretion on choice of the Indian offset partner (IOP).
  3. This would permit the Indian government to avoid public procurement rules when taxpayer money is routed through a foreign supplier towards “offsets”.

An Open to Abuse Policy?

  1. Such a policy was the government’s argument during the Rafale controversy.
  2. It is openly falsehood for the government to require foreign suppliers to have IOPs and yet not have a say in the choice of offset partner or its investments.
  3. If this were true, the offset regime would be inherently open to abuse by the foreign supplier.

DPP norms for selecting Offset

  1. The DPP provides the government with extensive control over selection of the offset partner.
  2. For instance, it has the power to bar any entity from becoming an offset partner.
  3. The government also retains the power to evaluate offset proposals received in response to procurement tenders and conclude offset contracts.
  4. The DPP also provides that all offset proposals will be approved by the Union minister of defence, regardless of their value.
  5. During the period of the contract, any change in the Indian offset partner also requires government approval.

Are the offset guidelines satisfactory?

  1. From the above norms it is unlikely that the government has nothing to do with the selection of Indian offset partners. Neither would this be desirable.
  2. The intention is to create a free, open and competitive market, and yet at the same time, ensure that Indian taxpayers money not taken for a granted.

They are not, because:

[I]

  1. Defence procurement should be subject to transparent processes that ensure that Indian companies, big and small, compete on a level playing field.
  2. The selection of a large (and failing) conglomerate with no prior experience, as is the case with Rafale, would not have been possible if the government had directly procured under a sophisticated award process.
  3. If it is not possible or desirable under a direct procurement regime, it is difficult to argue that it is desirable under an offsets regime.

[II]

  1. While the procurement policy recognizes the need for domestic private partnership, it does not mandate a fair and diverse procurement process for offsets.
  2. Given the large contract values involved, this makes it likely that foreign suppliers will partner with just one or two large industrial groups to discharge their offset obligations.

[III]

  1. The definition of IOP is flawed. IOPs are defined as Indian enterprises engaged in making eligible products and/or services.
  2. If the objective is to build a domestic defence sector, the focus should instead be on direct investments.
  3. In other sectors where India has succeeded, foreign technology and know-how has followed investments, irrespective of ownership.

More Transparency is the need of Hour

  1. Indian ownership does not necessarily contribute to the growth of a sector, as much as investments within Indian shores.
  2. Focussing on investments will ensure that companies of all sizes, including foreign companies who wish to manufacture in India, are permitted to grow and flourish.
  3. For this, regulations that restrict foreign investments in the defence sector require a dose of reform.
  4. More importantly, transparency is essential in procurement contracts.

Way Forward

  1. In the interest of fairness, foreign suppliers should be free to invest in India, yet at the same time, offset investments/procurement must be subject to safeguards.
  2. Without substantive reforms in the DPP, there are likely to be more controversies and perceptions of crony capitalism.
  3. What is worse, the substantial amount of taxpayer’s money meant for the development of an indigenous defence sector might not find its way back.

Make in India: Challenges & Prospects

Explained: How Zika spreads, and harms

POSTED ONOCTOBER 18, 2018 | THE INDIAN EXPRESS

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Everything about Zika Virus

Mains level: Tackling Zika Virus menace in India


News

Context

  • In what is India’s first large outbreak of the Zika virus, afresh 100 cases have been detected so far Jaipur itself.
  • A look at how the virus spreads and the big risk it involves — the possibility of babies being born with a defect:

Zika

  1. Zika is a viral infection, spread by mosquitoes.
  2. The vector is the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which also spreads dengue and Chikungunya.
  3. First identified in Uganda in 1947 in monkeys, Zika was detected in humans five years later.
  4. Sporadic cases have been reported throughout the world since the 1960s, but the first outbreak happened only in 2007 in the Island of Yap in the Pacific.
  5. In 2015, a major outbreak in Brazil led to the revelation that Zika can be associated with microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with small and underdeveloped brains.

Transmission of Zika Virus

  1. Infected people can transmit Zika sexually.
  2. Fears around Zika primarily involve microcephaly, especially when pregnant women are infected.
  3. Generally, the virus is not considered dangerous to anyone other than pregnant women.
  4. Some countries that have had a Zika outbreak, including Brazil, reported a steep increase in Guillain-Barré syndrome — a neurological disorder that could lead to paralysis and death, according to WHO.
  5. In 2017, following a study on Brazil’s confirmed cases, the US National Institutes of Health study estimated the fatality rate at 8.3%.

Symptoms

  1. Most people infected with the virus do not develop symptoms.
  2. When they are manifested, the symptoms are similar to those of flu, including fever bodyache, headache etc.
  3. WHO says these symptoms can be treated with common pain and fever medicines, rest and plenty of water.
  4. If the symptoms worsen, people should seek medical advice.
  5. Additional symptoms can include the occasional rash like in dengue, while some patients also have conjunctivitis.
  6. The incubation period (the time from exposure to symptoms) of Zika virus disease is estimated to be 3-14 days.

Preventive Measures against Zika

  1. Mosquito control measures such as spraying of pesticides, use of repellents etc. are widely suggested.
  2. Because of the possibility of congenital abnormalities and sexual transmission, there is also focus on contraceptives.
  3. WHO requires countries to counsel sexually active men and women on the matter to minimize chances of conception at the time of an outbreak.

Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Suicides in India: What data shows?

POSTED ONOCTOBER 18, 2018 | LIVE MINT

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social Issues | Population and associated issues

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Global Burden of Disease Study, Stats mentioned

Mains level: The problem of suicides and its effects on society as well as the demographic dividend of India


News

Context

  • The nation accounts for over a third of the world’s annual female suicides and nearly a fourth of male suicides, a significant rise in global share from 1990.

About the research

  1. This outcome is based on the study conducted by Public Health Foundation of India, which was published in the Lancet Public Health Journal.
  2. It studied multiple sources, including official sample registration and vital registration surveys, medically certified causes of death, and verbal autopsy studies.
  3. The research was part of the 2016 Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factors (GBD 2016), a worldwide database of health indicators.

India accounts for a growing share

  1. The suicide rates for men and women in India were much higher than the global averages.
  2. Drinking alcohol was associated with the risk of suicide in men.
  3. Being widowed, divorced or separated was associated with a slightly decreased risk of suicide in women.
  4. Violence against women is an important determinant of suicide, research suggests.

The big bad female suicide problem

  1. Across the world, men commit suicide at a higher rate than women, and India is no different.
  2. India has the sixth highest female suicide death rate in the world.
  3. If Indian states were countries, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and West Bengal would have the third, fourth and fifth worst rates of female suicide in the world (only Greenland and Lesotho are worse).
  4. The three Indian states with the highest age-standardized suicide rates among men— Tripura, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu—would be the 11th, 17th and 20th highest in the world if they were countries.
  5. In all, there are 45 countries with higher male suicide death rates than India.

Regional skew

  1. India’s southern states are more developed, but also more suicide-prone.
  2. This follows a global pattern, with more developed states having higher suicide rates.
  3. However, in the medical literature, instead of “more developed” and “less developed” countries or states are classed by their stage in the “epidemiological transition”.
  4. It is moving from high rates of fertility to lower rates as incomes grow, health improves and women become educated.
  5. Among lower fertility states, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir and West Bengal, and among higher fertility states Uttarakhand had significant declines in suicide rates for women from 1990 to 2016.

A youth suicide crisis

  1. Young people in India die predominantly of suicide, the GBD data shows.
  2. For both sexes in India, suicide was the leading cause of death among those aged 15-39 in 2016, while globally it was the third most common cause of death for this age group.
  3. There is another significant difference between suicides among men and women in India.
  4. The highest age-specific rates of suicide for men were among elderly men aged 75 years or older, while among women it was for young women aged 15-29.

Problem of Under-reporting

  1. In 2015, the most recent year for which data is available, there were 130,000 suicides in India, according to the Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India report brought out by the NCRB.
  2. That’s 100,000 fewer suicides than estimates, or a decrease of 77%.

Way Forward

  1. The decriminalization of suicide in 2017 is expected to have a major role in access to mental health treatment and possible reduction in under-reporting and stigma associated with suicide.
  2. The first step in addressing India’s suicide crisis would be to record suicide deaths accurately, and acknowledge the gravity of the crisis.

LPG set to make Kerala the first smoke-free State

POSTED ONOCTOBER 18, 2018 | THE HINDU

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Kerala’s success in various sectors of development.


News

Context

  • Kerala is now set to become the first smoke-free State in the country with public sector oil companies eyeing 100% LPG penetration here.

Mission mode Supply of LPGs

  1. LPG is being supplied beyond commercial considerations with the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana initiated by the Ministry of Petroleum.
  2. With three bottling plants at Kochi, Kozhikode, and Kollam, LPG is being brought to 49.79 lakh customers through 308 distributors.
  3. The Indian Oil is also prepared to provide with new generation fuels like CNG and other green fuels.
  4. Piped gas supply of LPG is also being attempted by the company.

100% penetration

  1. Villages getting symbolic smoke-free certificates have been making headlines in the country for some time now.
  2. Kerala is one of the States with the highest penetration of LPG, which is transforming lifestyles.
  3. The target has almost been achieved in most villages, towns and cities in the Kerala.

25 lakh trees saved

  1. LPG consumption was 933.3 TMT (thousand tonnes) in the Kerala in 2017-18.
  2. And Indian Oil sold 4.25 lakh tonnes of LPG the previous fiscal.
  3. It is estimated that one crore tonnes of emissions, from poisonous gases like firewood cooking, have been contained and 25 lakh trees have been saved.

[pib] CSIR develops affordable Water Disinfection System “OneerTM”

POSTED ONOCTOBER 18, 2018 | PIB

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology |Developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: OneerTM

Mains level: Provision of Safe Drinking Water


News

OneerTM

  1. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (CSIR-IITR) has developed a Drinking Water Disinfection System with trade name OneerTM.
  2. It is useful for continuous treatment of water and eliminates all disease causing pathogens such as virus, bacteria, fungi, protozoa and cyst.
  3. It provides safe drinking water to domestic and communities settings as per National and International standards prescribed for potable water (BIS, WHO etc.).
  4. It will provide access to safe and clean drinking water at a cost of just 2 Paise / Ltr.

Importance of the development

  1. A large proportion of India’s rural community is consuming water that does not meet the WHO drinking water quality standards.
  2. According to the World Health Organization, access to safe drinking-water is essential to health, a basic human right and a component of effective policy for health protection.
  3. The Community level model is of 450 LPH capacities which can be scaled up to 5000 to 1 lakh L/day; and is also maintenance and membrane free.
  4. The technology will be helpful especially for rural people since it can be solar powered and this development is in line with the ‘Make in India’ Mission.

Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[pib] 12th ASEM Summit

POSTED ONOCTOBER 18, 2018 | PIB

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: ASEM

Mains level: Importance of such international engagements


News

12th ASEM Summit, Brussels

  1. The Vice President of India has left for Belgium to attend the two-day 12th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Brussels.
  2. The bi-annual event is considered the highest platform for dialogue and cooperation between Asia and Europe in the areas of trade, investment, security and tourism.
  3. The theme of the ASEM Summit is ‘Global Partners for Global Challenges’.

Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM)

  1. The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) is an intergovernmental process established in 1996 to foster dialogue and cooperation between Asia and Europe.
  2. The initial ASEM partnership in 1996 consisted of 15 EU member states and 7 ASEAN member states plus China, Japan, Korea and the European Commission.
  3. Presently it comprises 53 partners: 30 European and 21 Asian countries, the European Union and the ASEAN Secretariat.
  4. ASEM addresses political, economic, social, cultural, and educational issues of common interest, in a spirit of mutual respect and equal partnership.
  5. The main components of the ASEM process rest on the following 3 pillars:
  • Political & Security Pillar
  • Economic & Financial Pillar
  • Social, Cultural & Educational Pillar

Foreign Policy Watch: India – EU

‘Swastha Bharat Yatra’ campaign to create awareness about safe food

POSTED ONOCTOBER 18, 2018 | THE ECONOMIC TIMES

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Eat Right Movement, Swastha Bharat Yatra

Mains level: Read the attached story.


News

Context

  • The government has launched a national campaign ‘Swastha Bharat Yatra’ on the World Food Day under which a pan-India cycle rally is being organised to sensitize people about eating safe food and be healthy.

Swastha Bharat Yatra

  1. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is leading this campaign where about 7,500 cyclists are expected to participate in over 18,000 km relay.
  2. The cycle rally will travel across six tracks through almost every state and UT over 100 days to propagate a powerful message ‘Eat Right India’.
  3. The cyclathon will culminate in the national capital on January 27.

Activities under the Yatra

  1. Along with a bicycle convoy, there will be ‘Eat Right Mobile Unit’ and ‘Mobile Food Testing Unit’ to build awareness around food safety, combating food adulteration and healthy diets.
  2. In all, over 7,500 volunteer cyclists would stop at 2,000+ locations and conduct in-city and en-route activities and ‘Prabhat Pheris’ to propagate the message of Eat Right India.