Weekly Current Affairs Prelims (16th to 23rd Sep, 2019)

Weekly Current Affairs Prelims (16th to 23rd Sep, 2019)

(Info-graphic Summary at the end)

 

Topic: Measles and Rubella

Topic in Syllabus: Indian Society

Context:

  • The member nations of the WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia have postponed the deadline for achieving the eradication of measles and rubella. India accounts for 36% of the global measles cases.
  • The major campaign undertaken by the Indian government is currently facing challenges due to the reluctance of the public and also because of its vast coverage. The deadline has been postponed mainly due to these hindrances.
  • The government needs to address these issues to make India free from the two major childhood killers – measles and rubella

 

What is Measles?

  • Measles is a viral disease caused by RNA based Measles virus of the Morbillivirus
  • Humans are the only known host of the virus. It infects 90% of all non-immune individuals upon contact.
  • It is an airborne disease that is spread through sneezing, coughing, contact with secretions, close contact with the infected persons, etc. The virus can remain active for even up to 2 hours outside the host.

Symptoms

  • Symptoms appear 10 to 12 days after infection. An infected person can spread the disease to others even 4 four days before the onset of the symptomatic rashes.
  • Common symptoms of measles include fever, conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eyes), runny nose, cough, Koplik’s spots (white spots inside the mouth), red rashes, etc.
  • Innate immunity that is obtained from the mother protects the child for up to 9 months. But this is lost over time and makes the child vulnerable to Measles infection.

Remedies

  • Vaccination is the best way to tackle the disease as current treatments available are only supportive in nature.
  • MR (measles and rubella) Vaccine is used widely. 2 doses are given to infants- first between 9 to 15 months and then again between 15 months to 6 years.
  • The undernourished children and children affected by HIV are most vulnerable to the disease. Vitamin A deficiency is also connected with the vulnerability.
  • The disease may cause complications like pneumonia, encephalitis, blindness, etc.
  • 95% of measles deaths occur in countries with low per capita income.

 

What is Rubella?

  • Rubella is also a viral disease that is spread through airborne routes.
  • It is caused by Rubella virus which is RNA based.
  • It also shows rashes as symptoms (like in Measles) and is also known as 3-days Measles or German Measles.

Symptoms

  • Symptoms include conjunctivitis, inflammation of glands (like lymph glands), headache, fever, rashes that fade in 3 days, etc.
  • Congenital Rubella Syndrome/ CRS occurs in the foetus of an infected pregnant woman as the virus can cross the placenta. Infection during the early stage of pregnancy can cause miscarriage.
  • Symptoms of CRS include deafness, blindness, cardiac issues, etc.

Remedies

  • As there is no specific treatment post-infection, vaccination using the MR vaccine is the best option.
  • WHO reports that CRS incidence is highest in African and South-east Asian regions.

 

How is the South-east region dealing with these diseases?

  • Measles has been causing 500,000 deaths in the region per year.
  • Annually, there are over 55,000 cases of rubella infection in the region every year.
  • The region has seen a 23% decline in measles-related mortality between the years 2014 and 2017. Globally, measles-related deaths have dropped by about 84% from 2000 to 2016. Yet 7 million people had been affected by measles in 2016.
  • This is due to mass vaccination campaigns. Nearly 366 million children have been covered by it since 2017.

Current Status:

  • Globally, Rubella incidence has dropped by 97% between 2000 and 2016.
  • Of the 11 member countries, 10 have provided access to rubella vaccination coverage while all 11 have provided access measles vaccination coverage to the children.
  • Currently, the 72<sup>nd</sup> session of the WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia set the deadline for eliminating these two diseases at 2023.
  • This is a postponement of the earlier deadline set at 2020. This is in accordance with the ‘Measles Elimination and Rubella/CRS Control by 2020’ program of the committee. The elimination of these diseases has been the regional committee’s priority since 2014.
  • Till date, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Timor Leste, and DPR Korea have succeeded in eliminating Measles.
  • Six countries of the region, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, and Timor Leste have successfully controlled Rubella incidence among their respective populations.

Strategic Plan for Measles and Rubella Elimination 2020-2024

The 72ND session’s goals are to be achieved by the use of ‘Strategic Plan for Measles and Rubella Elimination 2020-2024’. This is the roadmap which the countries are to follow to meet the goals by the deadline year.

The plan involves the use of financial, societal and political support for interrupting the transmission of indigenous viruses (measles and rubella) by 2023.

The resolution calls for:

  • Strengthen the immunisation system
  • Sustain high-level population immunity
  • Use of sensitive laboratory supported surveillance system

How prevalent are these diseases in India?

  • Measles is known as Khasra in India. It is a major issue especially among the poor sections of the population. Undernourished children constitute a major portion of its victims.
  • Every year, 1.3 million children acquire the disease every year. Of this, 49,000 children die every year.
  • India has the 4TH highest number of measles cases in the world. Measles cases from India constitute 36% of the global numbers.
  • Children under the age of one have the highest incidence of measles. This is followed by the age brackets 1 to 4 years and 5 to 9 years.
  • Every year, Rubella infection has been causing 40,000 cases of birth defects in the country.
  • Early 2018 reports showed that the number of CRS cases in India has been seeing an uptick.

How is India dealing with these diseases?

  • India has been using mass vaccination campaigns to control both diseases.
  • Though India has been providing vaccination against measles from earlier on as a part of the national immunisation program, the anti-rubella vaccine was added as a piggy-back component in 2017.
  • In light of the ‘Measles Elimination and Rubella/CRS Control by 2020’ program, India’s health and family welfare ministry had launched the ‘Measles-Rubella vaccination Campaign’.

Measles-Rubella vaccination Campaign

  • The campaign aimed to cover 41 crore children in the age group of 9 months to less than 15 years.
  • Over 200 million children have been covered by this campaign.
  • The campaign was carried out in a phased manner, with the first phase covering 5 states and the second covering 8 states and UTs. The entire campaign will stretch across 4 phases.
  • This phased implementation of the scheme is because India has a single manufacturer of the vaccine: Pune’s Serum Institute of India.
  • Schools, health facilities and community centres were used to implement the campaign.
  • The WHO-NPSP (National Polio Surveillance Project) provided technical assistance for the campaign’s implementation. NPSP is known for its role in eradicating polio from the country.
  • The surveillance part is supported by a network of 19 MR laboratories across the countries. Along with the Indian Council of Medical Research, it is to play a vital role in the part of the campaign.
  • The campaign includes collaboration with a number of players like WHO, UNICEF, UNDP, Indian Medical Association, etc.
  • After the conclusion of the campaign, the MR vaccine will become a part of the National Immunisation Program.
  • However, vaccination hesitancy and the sheer scale of the immunisation program given the huge population has proven to be issues faced by the campaign.
  • In January, the Delhi arm of the project saw impediments when over 70 schools refused to undertake the vaccination campaign.
  • Hence, India and the other 10 member countries, after consultations have decided to set the new deadline in 2023.
  • The concept of piggybacking the anti-rubella vaccine onto the prevalent anti-measles vaccine has proven to be a cost-effective and time-saving measure. This is an example to continue and emulate.

 

Mission Indradhanush:

India’s Mission Indradhanush which is to protect children against Vaccination Preventable Diseases/ VPD has been touted as one of the 12 best practices from around the world. This will also prove to be an effective tool for achieving the new deadline as it covers the ‘catch up’ part of the fight against these diseases.

Other countries of the region had succeeded in eliminating the disease by use of mass vaccinations. Hence the MR vaccination campaign too would be effective.

After the conclusion of the campaign, the vaccine would be incorporated into the routine vaccination program of the country. Hence the results achieved would become sustainable in the long run.

The campaign is one of the largest in the world. Hence, issues of coordination and management that come with it are to be addressed.

Vaccination

  • Vaccination hesitancy and vaccination refusal continue to be a problem. These arise from mistrust between the caregivers and the health workers, doubts about the procedure or equipment used, source of the vaccines, misinformation, etc. Proper awareness programs are required to eliminate misconceptions and fears about vaccines.
  • The campaign itself had provided for an Adverse Events Following Immunization (AEFI) Surveillance program. This will address the concerns from the public about possible side-effects from the vaccination.
  • The Delhi incident highlighted the issue of ‘question of consent’. The established global practice is obtaining parents’ permission before vaccination. WHO recognises oral written and implied permissions. India needs to evolve a well-defined procedure to address this concern.
  • Since a pregnant woman cannot be vaccinated against rubella, efforts to vaccinate women earlier on must be taken to curb the incidence of CRS. Health infrastructure must be fortified to treat the pregnant women infected by rubella.

 

Conclusion

The Sustainable Development Goal target 3.2 seeks to end preventable death of children under 5 by 2030. Winning the fight against these two diseases is needed for achieving this target.

 

Sample Question:

How does rubella cause foetal abnormalities?

a) By crossing the placenta early in pregnancy and infecting the foetus

b) By only infecting the placenta

c) By inducing cytokines and chemokines in the mother

d) By raising the temperature of the mother and inducing an abnormal immune reaction to the foetus

Answer: a)

 


 

Topic: Drone in Delhi

Topic in Syllabus: Security Issues

Context:

  • Recently, 2 US citizens were detained for flying a drone fitted with a camera above the high-security zone in Lutyens’s Delhi.
  • The drone was spotted above Rashtrapati Bhavan and its camera contain footage of Central Secretariat and nearby buildings.
  • Flying of drones is banned over most parts of Delhi.

 

Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA)

  • A general guidelines issued by the, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) also lay down specific no-go areas for drones.
  • It made legal for ordinary enthusiasts to operate drones in India, subject to various requirements and clearances.

DGCA has identified multiple categories of drones, which can be broadly classified as,

  • ‘Nano’ (weighing up to 250 g),
  • ‘Micro’ (more than 250 g but less than 2 kg) and
  • ‘Small and above’ (weighing 2 kg or more).

Guidelines:

  • Every drone that is bigger than a ‘Nano’ must obtain a unique identification number (UIN) from the aviation regulator.
  • This number must be displayed on the remotely piloted aircraft.
  • A UIN will be issued once, against a fee of Rs 1,000, and will not be issued to a foreign citizen or entity.
  • Users of bigger drones will be required to obtain a Unique Air Operator’s Permit (UAOP), similar to a driver’s licence.
  • The UIN and UAOP can be obtained from the online platform ‘Digital Sky’.

Nano category requirements

All drones other than those in the ‘Nano’ category must meet mandatory equipment requirements such as,

  1. GPS,
  2. Anti-collision light,
  3. ID plate,
  4. Radio-frequency identification (RFID) and

SIM facilities with software that ensures ‘no-permission, no-takeoff’, among other features.

Before flying a ‘Small’ or bigger drone, an operator has to file a flight plan, and inform the local police.

  • ‘Micro’ drones will be required to submit a flight plan only if using controlled airspace.
  • Many drones used for amateur photography fall in this category.
  • These aircraft will need a UIN but no UAOP, and will be allowed to climb only to a height of 200 ft.
  • ‘Nano’ drones will be able to operate freely, without any registration or permit.
  • But their operations will be restricted to only 50 ft above the ground.

UAOP

  • All those requiring a UAOP must undertake a 5-day training that will expose them to regulations, basic principles of flight, air traffic control procedures, weather and meteorology.
  • These operators will also have to take written tests and flight simulator tests before they are issued permits.
  • All categories of drones must be flown in the visual line of sight, and only during daytime.

 

No-drone zones

  • The regulator listed 12 categories of “No-drone zones”,
  • Area up to 5 km from the perimeters of the high-traffic airports of Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Hyderabad.
  • For other airports, the no-drone zone extends up to 3 km.
  • Drones cannot fly closer than 25 km of international borders, including the Line of Control and Line of Actual Control.
  • Within a 5-km radius of New Delhi’s Vijay Chowk.
  • Within 2 km from the perimeter of strategic locations and vital installations notified by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • Within 3 km radius of secretariat complexes in state capitals.
  • Within 3 km radius from a mobile platform such as a moving vehicle, ship or aircraft.

 

Sample Question:

What are UCAVs?

a)      UAVs designed for combat

b)      UAVs designed for pesticide application

c)       UAVs designed for oceanography

d)      None of the above

Answer: a)

 


 

Topic: Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act

Topic in Syllabus: Indian Governance

Context:

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah has been detained under the state&rsquo;s stringent Public Safety Act (PSA), which enables authorities to detain any individual for two years without trial.

 

Background:

The Jammu & Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978 is a preventive detention law, under which a person is taken into custody to prevent him or her from acting in any manner that is prejudicial to & the security of the state or the maintenance of the public order

It is very similar to the National Security Act that is used by other state governments for preventive detention.

 

Preventive detention is meant to be preventive, not punitive.

  • It comes into force by an administrative order passed either by Divisional Commissioner or the District Magistrate or not by detention order by police based on specific allegations or for specific violation of laws.
  • The PSA allows for detention of a person without a formal charge and without trial.
  • It can be slapped on a person already in police custody; on someone immediately after being granted bail by a court; or even on a person acquitted by the court.
  • Person who is detained under the PSA need not be produced before a magistrate within 24 hours of the detention
  • The detained person does not have the right to move a bail application before a criminal court, and cannot engage any lawyer to represent him or her before the detaining authority.
  • The High Court and the Supreme Court have the jurisdiction to hear such petitions and pass a final order seeking quashing of the PSA
  • There cannot be prosecution or any legal proceeding against the official who has passed the order.
  • The DM has to place the detention order within four weeks before an advisory board, consisting of three members including a chairperson who is a former judge of the High Court.

 

Constitutional Safeguards against PSA:

  • Article 22(a) of the Constitution states that no person who is arrested shall be detained in custody without being informed, as soon as may be, of the grounds for such arrest, nor shall he be denied the right to consult, and to be defended by, a legal practitioner of his choice.
  • Article 22(b) states that every person arrested and detained shall be produced before the nearest magistrate within a period of 24 hours (excluding the time necessary for the journey from the place of arrest to the court) and no such person shall be detained beyond this period without the authority of a magistrate.
  • However, Article 22(3) (b) allows for preventive detention and restriction on personal liberty for reasons of state security and public order.
  • Supreme Court has held that in order to prevent &misuse of this potentially dangerous power, the law of preventive detention has to be strictly construed and meticulous compliance with the procedural safeguard is mandatory and vital;
  • Therefore, the DM has to show that the detention order follows the procedure established by law.
  • Supreme Court has also held that when a person already under police custody is slapped with the PSA, the DM has to record &compelling reasons& for detaining that person.
  • All the material on the basis of which the detention order has been passed, the Supreme Court has held, should be provided to the detained person for making an effective representation; and the grounds of detention has to explained and communicated to the person in the language understood by the detained person.

 

Sample Question:

The constitution of Jammu & Kashmir was framed by

a)      The same constituent assembly which framed the constitution of india

b)      The special constituent assembly set up by parliament

c)       The special constituent assembly set up by state

d)      None of the above

Answer: c)

 


 

Topic: US-China trade talks explained

Topic in Syllabus: International Affairs

Context:

Senior US and Chinese officials are meeting in Washington on in an attempt to settle their ongoing trade war, but a lasting peace seems elusive.

Since trade negotiations between the world’s largest economies broke down in May, both countries have added tariffs on billions of dollars of the others’ goods, broken good faith promises, and traded public insults.

 

Background:

The trade war has hardened into a political and ideological battle that runs far deeper than tariffs and could take years to resolve. Washington accused Beijing of reneging on commitments to change its laws to enact economic reforms, while Beijing called US President Donald Trump’s tariff’s “barbaric.”

Here is what is at stake:

Tariffs:

  • The Trump administration has rolled out stiff tariffs on Chinese imports since 2018. Chinese officials want these wiped out before they agree to any broader deal.
  • The US has put 25% tariffs on some $250 billion of Chinese products, and China has retaliated with tariffs on $110 billion of US imports.
  • Both sides made some concessions ahead of this week’s talks by suspending some planned tariffs, in a sign of goodwill.

Blacklists :

  • Beijing is smarting from Trump’s decision to blacklist Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker, which effectively banned US firms from doing business with the company.
  • It has prompted many non US-based companies to cut their own ties to the firm.
  • China wants the United States to lift those restrictions, but Washington is lobbying other countries to reduce dealings with Huawei.
  • Legislation in the US Congress would prevent Chinese rail company CRRC and drone-maker DJI from bidding on US contracts that involve federal money.
  • China has indicated it may strike back through limiting rare earth supplies to the United States.
  • It could also revoke orders for airplanes built by Boeing Co, the No. 1 US exporter.
  • Trump has called on US companies like General Motors Co to pull manufacturing facilities out of China.

Intellectual Property:

  • US companies complain they are pressured to hand over their competitive secrets as a condition for doing business in China.
  • US officials also cited progress on cyber theft, services, currency, agriculture and non-tariff barriers to trade.
  • China’s Communist Party is not willing to negotiate on the fundamental way that it manages the country’s economy, including support for state-owned enterprises and subsidies.
  • One of the biggest US complaints is that China has used coercion and outright theft to systematically obtain American intellectual property and trade secrets and advance its standing in many high-technology industries.

 

Concerns

  • China is determined to upgrade its industrial base in 10 strategic sectors by 2025, including aerospace, robotics, semiconductors, artificial intelligence and new-energy vehicles.
  • China’s subsidies to state enterprises, including at the provincial and local government levels, have led to a build up in Chinese industries like steel that has depressed global prices.
  • Chinese officials generally view the US actions as a broad effort to thwart the Asian country’s rise in the global economy.
  • US lawmakers are writing bills that further limit visas, banning students with ties to the Chinese military.
  • Beijing warned students and academics about risks in the United States, pointing to limits on the duration of visas and visa refusals.
  • It also warned companies operating in the United States they could face harassment from US law enforcement, gun violence, robberies, and thefts.

 

Sample Question:

Which of the following theories holds that countries will produce and export products that use large amounts of production factors that they have in abundance?

a)      Mercantilism.

b)      The factor endowment theory.

c)       The theory of absolute advantage.

d)      None of the above.

Answer: b)

 


 

Topic: Single-use plastic ban

Topic in Syllabus: Ecology and Environment

Context

India is set to impose a nationwide ban on single-use plastic bags, cups and straws on October 2 following such an announcement in PM’s Independence Day speech.

 

What is single-use plastic?

Single-use plastics are commonly used for packaging and include items intended to be used only once before they are thrown away or recycled. These include, for example, grocery bags, food packaging, bottles, straws, containers, cups, etc.

 

India and single-use plastic

  • Generation and waste: Indian cities generate 20,000 tonnes of plastic waste daily and about 70% of the plastic produced in the country ends up as waste.
  • Comparison with other countries: Compared to other countries such as the U.S. and China, India has very low per capita generation of plastic waste. However, in real terms, this is quite substantial.
  • Per capita consumption: Per capita consumption of plastic is projected to go up to 20 kg by 2022.
  • Collection and recycling: Inadequacy of collection and recycling systems is the root cause of burgeoning plastic waste problem in India.
  • Harms done by single-use plastic
  • Slow decomposition: If not recycled, plastic can take a thousand years to decompose.
  • Release of carcinogenic metals: At landfills, it disintegrates into small fragments and leaches carcinogenic metals into groundwater.
  • Release of toxic gases: Plastic is highly inflammable releasing toxic gases into the environment such as dioxins, furans, mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls.
  • Marine pollution: It floats on the sea surface and ends up clogging airways of marine animals.
  • Clogging: The unchecked piling up of plastic bags resulted in the clogging of the public drainage system in Bangladesh in the 1980s and intensified a flood situation that killed several people.
  • Blocking of breathing passages: High concentrations of plastic materials, particularly plastic bags, have been found blocking the breathing passages and stomachs of hundreds of different species.
  • Cancer in humans: When broken down into microscopic particles, it produces toxic chemicals which can cause hormonal problems and cancer in humans.
  • Impact on food chain: Plastic bits in the ocean can absorb and concentrate organic pollutants such as PCBs and DDT from the surrounding seawater. These pollutants are passed up the food chain when predators, such as humans, eat prey that has been contaminated.
  • Impact on corals: Corals smothered in plastic face increased threat of disease compared with corals free from plastic. The plastic debris starves corals of vital oxygen and light, and releases toxins enabling bacteria and viruses to invade.
  • Impact on human health: Different human health problems like irritation in the eye, vision failure, breathing difficulties, respiratory problems, liver dysfunction, cancers, skin diseases, lungs problems, headache, dizziness, birth effect, reproductive, cardiovascular, genotoxic, and gastrointestinal problems are caused due to plastic pollution.
  • Impact on animal health: Plastic bags, once ingested, cannot be digested or passed by an animal so it stays in the gut. Plastic in an animal’s gut can prevent food digestion and can lead to a very slow and painful death.
  • Land pollution: Most of the plastic waste is dumped into landfills. When it comes in contact with water they produce many toxic and hazardous chemicals which affects soil fertility. The emission of toxic and foul gases from landfills pollutes the environment and causes major health issues on humans as well as animals.
  • Microplastic pollution: Microplastics, small pieces of plastic, less than 5 mm (in length, occur in the environment as a consequence of plastic pollution. Microplastics are present in a variety of products, from cosmetics to synthetic clothing to plastic bags and bottles.
  • Ganga, the largest carrier of plastics:20 rivers carry two-thirds of plastic waste to the ocean; the Ganga’s contribution to this is one of the highest.
  • Sea animals feed on plastics: Recently, a plastic spoon was found in the remains of a whale shark off Rameswaram.
  • Toxic cow milk: When plastic is stuck in a cow’s stomach for long, the toxicity can contaminate the milk it produces.
  • Open waste burning: Open waste burning practice in India includes plastics as constituent which release toxic gases and pollutes the air.

 

India’s efforts towards reducing use of plastic

  • Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR): EPR, introduced in 1998, makes it mandatory for the producing company to get their used products collected.
  • Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: The national mission on cleanliness and sanitation — Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launches in 2014 — has a special focus on plastic waste management.
  • The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016: It called for a ban on non-recyclable and multi-layered packaging and carry bags of thickness less than 50 microns.
  • The Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2018: The 2016 Rules were amended in 2018.
  • It lays down that the phasing out of Multilayered Plastic (MLP).
  • National marine litter action campaign: The government plans to establish a national marine litter action campaign to cover 7,500-km coastline and a programme to measure how much plastic enters coastal waters.

International efforts towards reducing use of plastic: At least 60 countries around the world have fully or partially restricted the use of non-biodegradable polymers.

For example.

  • Ireland: In 2002, Ireland imposed a levy tax on plastic bags.
  • Rwanda: In 2008, Rwanda imposed a blanket ban on the sale, use, and production of plastic bags.
  • Bangladesh: Bangladesh imposed a ban in 2002.
  • Canada: Canada aims to ban single-use plastics by 2021.
  • Peru: Visitors will no longer be allowed to carry in single-use plastics into Peru’s natural and cultural protected area.
  • US: Several cities in United Sates have banned containers made of polystyrene, better known as Styrofoam.
  • EU: The European Union, in 2018. approved a measure to slash single-use plastic across the continent.
  • UN: In 2019, UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, a non-binding resolution was made over throwaway items like plastic bags.

 

Some of the national best practices to deal with single use-plastic

  • Sikkim: In 2016, Sikkim banned plastic bottles in all government departments and programmes. Not just this, Sikkim also banned the use and sale of disposable items such as cups, plates, spoons, containers and many such items made from polystyrene foam.
  • Indian Parliament: The Indian Parliament has also banned the use of non-reusable plastic water bottles and other plastic items with the complex.
  • Indore: Indore replaced plastic bottles and single-use utensils in its offices with traditional alternatives like copper, glass among others.
  • Indian Railways: Indian Railways has decided to impose ban on single-use plastic material on its premises as well as in trains.

 

Concerns related to single-use plastic ban

  • Unclear definition: There is no clear definition of what is single-use plastic.
  • Unviable alternatives: Compostable and biodegradable plastics made from various materials such as bagasse, corn, etc. envisaged as alternatives currently have limitations of scale and cost.
  • Low-quality recycling: Most of the recycling of plastic in India is done in informal, home-based industries which produce very low-quality recycled plastic.
  • Inadequate resources with PRIs: Unlike urban local bodies, gram panchayats may not have the resources to do routine checks on plastic use.
  • Employment: Ban could have impact on the large number of people employed at units making these plastic products.
  • Regulation and infrastructure: Poor regulation and enforcement infrastructure in India spells worries for the ban.
  • Lack of resources: There is a lack sufficient resources, both material and human.
  • Financial distress: In India where a large majority of the population still buys its fruits, vegetables, dairy, and meat from street vendors, the lack of cheaper alternatives to plastic is bound to cause severe financial distress on masses.

 

Way forward

  • Certification of alternatives: A ban on single-use plastic items would have to lay down a comprehensive mechanism to certify the materials marketed as alternatives, and the specific process required to biodegrade or compost them.
  • Efficient waste management system: It is required to put in an efficient waste management system that would involve segregation of waste at source, collection and recycling.
  • Behavioural changes: People need to be nudge towards making behavioural changes to reduce plastic usage. There should be a sustained campaign to educate citizens on how to responsibly handle plastic products
  • Innovative ways to recycle: Startups and experts need to find ways to recycle plastic, like using it in building highways.
  • Duty of shopkeepers: Shopkeepers should requests customers not to ask for plastic bags and use sell jute and cloth bags.
  • Use of technology: We must also put technologies in use to abolish plastic usage.
  • Marking with numbers: Plastic should be marked with numerical symbols (such as 1 for PET, 4 for Low Density Polyethylene, and so on) to facilitate recycling using the correct industrial process.
  • Mixing with virgin material: It is possible for recycled plastic to be mixed with virgin material to then produce high-grade plastic products
  • Shift to sustainable material: The industry manufacturing plastic products have to shift to more sustainable packaging material.
  • Comprehensive solution: Government should unveil a comprehensive solution to eliminate SUP.
  • Allocation of resources: India should allocate resources to replenishing ramshackle institutions such as the Central Pollution Control Board and other task forces dedicated to enforcing the ban.
  • Subsidizing of alternatives: Alternatives such as fibre or reinforced paper must be subsidized in order to be commercially viable for small-scale vendors.
  • Plastic to fuel conversion: If pure hydrocarbons, such as polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP), are burnt in oxygen free chambers, they produce a fuel that burns fairly clean.
  • Plastic in road construction: Waste plastic can be mixed with heated bitumen and the mixture can be coated over stone for use in road construction.
  • Use of plastic in textile industry: Plastic makes many types of fabric possible, from nylon and organza to faux leather and fur. Transforming recycled plastic into clothing provides an appealing solution to the amount of plastic waste floating in the oceans or covering the land.
  • 4Rs: The 4Rs of – refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle- is the best way to deal with plastic pollution. REFUSE disposable plastic whenever and wherever possible; REDUCE plastic footprint. REUSE durable, non-toxic straws; RECYCLE what we can’t refuse, reduce or reuse.

 

Sample Question:

Which of the following answers contains the top 5 contributing countries to the world’s plastic pollution problem?

a)      Russia, France, USA, Vietnam, India

b)      Indonesia, Thailand, USA, China, France

c)       Thailand, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines

d)      USA, China, India, UK, Australia

Answer: c)

 


 

Topic: Freebie model of governance

Topic in Syllabus: Indian Polity

Context:

The expanding role of freebies in Indian Politics in the last decade has become an intriguing question in the Indian political economy. Freebies have become a strategy to attract voters nowadays. The Election Commission, earlier 2019, has revealed an analytical emphasis on the distribution of freebies and attractions to voters by almost all the political parties.

 

What is the freebie model of governance?

  • Freebies are the things that are promised by the political parties in their manifestos of the election to provide for free to the people.
  • Freebies cover a wide range of goods as well as services like bicycles, laptops, smartphones, TV sets, waivers on water and electricity bills etc.

The freebies can be classified into: 

  • The manifesto issued by a political party before the elections and
  • Government going forward and bringing schemes related to freebies.

 

Background:

  • In 1967, the DMK was the first party in the country to announce in its state assembly manifesto, few measures like rice at Re 1 (at a time when the country was facing a severe food shortages), fostered by the anti-Hindi agitation two years earlier and thus had dislodged the Congress permanently from power in the state.
  • Tamil Nadu government was the first to introduce freebies to the Indian politics in 2006 and also succeed in it. The DMK had promised and started the freebie services in the form of free television sets and LPG connections to people below the poverty line.
  • These freebies were challenged in Supreme Court and the election commission was then directed by the SC to revise the code of conduct and lay down some guidelines.
  • Many states like Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan in recent elections are seen following this freebie model of governance.

 

Rationale behind the ‘freebie model of governance’:

  • Judicial Viewpoint:The distribution of freebies was earlier challenged before the Madras High Court as well as the Supreme Court in Subramaniam Balaji vs State of Tamil Nadu.
  • Supreme Court’s Judgement in 2013: As argued by the Supreme Court earlier, distribution of freebies of any kind undoubtedly influences the people, affects the level-playing field and obstruct the ‘free and fair elections’ in the democracy.
  • Not included in RPA Act, 1951:But the SC explained that the law has excluded the promises made in an election manifesto to be construed as a ‘corrupt practice’ under Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
  • It also stated that the schemes do not violate Article 14 of public purpose and reasonable classification as it is in the realm of fulfilling the DPSP’s.
  • SC’s direction to the EC:The Supreme Court had also directed the EC to frame guidelines in consultation with all recognised parties.
  • Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, defines ‘bribery’, including gifts, offers or promises by a candidate or his election agents or by any other person that has the effect of inducing a voter to vote for him.
  • The SC also differentiated the subsidy by the Government and the freebies in the election manifesto, stating that, if the Government, through its election manifestos, wants to give free service to needy people, it must make sure that the money riding off will come from somewhere else.
  • But now a days, all political parties are indulging in freebie in some way or other. For example, Delhi Government’s recent announcement of free power, free water and free bus services for women. 
  • The idea of freebies came up in the last ten years to India as a result of the lack of confidence of the ruling political party in its governance.

 

Is the ‘freebie model of governance’ sustainable enough?

Although the Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, does not include promises made in the election manifesto under ‘corrupt practices’, the distribution of freebies of any kind undoubtedly influences the voter and affects the level-playing field, violating the ‘free and fair’ election processes. 

  • Practices such as freebies underestimate not only the electoral judgment of voters but also the election process, the political system and parliamentary democracy.
  • The freebie model allows the Government with excuses for its governance and policies over a period, thus neglecting incumbent government’s actual work.
  • Freebies by the ruling Government in the form of granting loan waivers, subsidies and distributing articles free of cost make the fiscal deficit of unsustainable.
  • It may not only raise the debt to GDP ratio of the State, but also eventually take it to bankruptcy.
  • Such an unfair political economy may also lead to electing an undeserving candidate to the House of State.
  • These practices may also bring a culture of short-sightedness to the voter, caring more about living in the present at the cost of an uncertain future.
  • Also to the side of political parties, the freebies model cannot give any guarantee to the political party to win the elections.

 

Challenges posed by the freebie model to Indian democracy:

  • Undermining the powers of the EC: It undermines the powers of the Election Commission using many loopholes like,
    • Disclosing the election manifestos before the declaration of elections by the EC.
    • Undefined freebies and promised manifestos.
    • Disturbing the free and fair election process of the Election Commission
  • No legal basis to the freebie model: There is no legality to the promises made by the political parties. They are neither construed under Section 123 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, nor is there any process to get these freebies promises fulfilled.
  • Upper hand to the ruling Government:The ruling Government will always get an upper hand the freebie model of governance with ample resources and machineries to fulfil their promises. It can announce subsidies, new policies or schemes withstanding the loopholes of election processes.
  • Reduced responsibility of Government:It also reduces the responsibility of government to act in a good governance manner.

 

Conclusion:

  • The freebie model of governance is thus an unhealthy practice on account of taxpayer’s money which is not appreciated by many voters.
  • The model is neither sustainable nor economically viable as it causes a great fiscal burden and raises the debt to GDP ratio of the Country.
  • It also undermines the democratic feature of free and fair elections in the country.
  • The Election Commission of India needs to revise the Model Code of Conduct as guided by the Supreme Court.
  • After all the onus of rooting out or control the freebie model of governance lies on everyone from voters to opposition parties as well as ruling government.

 

Sample Question:

Plural Theory of Sovereignty emphasises the importance of
a) State

b) Religion
c) Individual
d) Associations

Answer: d)

 


 

Topic: GST Council and Corporate Tax

Topic in Syllabus: Indian Economy

Context:

  • The Goods & Services Tax (GST) Council held a meeting on 20th September 2019 to decide on tax moderation, keeping in mind the revenue position and the need to boost sagging economic growth.
  • The GST Council had its 37thmeeting in Goa in the backdrop of economic growth hitting a six-year low of 5% for the first quarter of the current fiscal (April – June 2019).
  • There have been demands pouring in from various sectors — from biscuits to automobiles and Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) to hotels — to reduce tax rates in the wake of the economic slowdown.

 

Steps Taken:

  • To factor in the creation of Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir as well as Ladakh,suitable amendments in the Central GST Act, the Union Territories’ GST Act, and the corresponding State GST Acts were approved.
  • Slashed tax rates on a host of products and services, including jewellery stones, hotel stay and outdoor catering, besides easing the compliance burden for small and medium enterprises.

 

GST Council

  • It is a constitutional body for making recommendations to the Union and State Government on issues related to Goods and Service Tax.
  • The GST Council is chaired by the Union Finance Minister and other members are the Union State Minister of Revenue or Finance and Ministers in-charge of Finance or Taxation of all the States.
  • It is considered as a federal body where both the centre and the states get due representation.

 

Corporate Tax Rate

  • The central government slashed corporate tax rates for domestic firms from 30% to 22%and for new manufacturing companies from 25% to 15% to boost economic growth.
  • Corporate tax is a tax imposed on the net income of the company.
  • The new effective tax rate inclusive of surcharge and cess for domestic companies would be 17%and for new domestic manufacturing companies would be 17.01%.
  • These rates would be applicable to those companies who forego the current exemptions and incentives.
  • Also, the Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT)will not apply to such companies.
  • The reduction in the corporate tax rate for domestic companies would be effective from 1stApril 2019.
  • The change for new domestic companies would apply for those which get incorporated on or after 1stOctober 2019 and start producing on or before 31st March 2023.
  • The provisions affecting these changes have been inserted in the Income-tax Act through an ordinance.

 

Impact:

  • The move will cost the government Rs 1.45 lakh crore annually.This increases the chances of higher fiscal deficit and government may have to resort to spending cuts or embark on higher disinvestments.
  • It is expected that it will give a great stimulus to‘Make In India’, attract private investment from across the globe, improve the competitiveness of the private sector, create more jobs.
  • The reduction in corporate tax, effectively, brings India’s ‘headline’ corporate tax rate broadly at par with an average of 23% rate in Asian countries.

 

Sample Question:

After introduction of GST export from India is subject to –

a) IGST

b) CGST plus SGST

c) Zero rated

d) SGST plus CGST plus IGST

Answer: c)

 


 

Topic: Challenges to Children

Topic in Syllabus: International Organisations

Context:

On the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) raised alarms on major growing and future challenges facing children.

UNICEF outlined the following eight growing challenges for the world’s children.

  1. Prolonged Conflicts

Problem:

  • One in four children live in countries affected by violent fighting or disaster.
  • Children and young people’s education is disrupted by conflict and natural disaster.

Solution:

 A digitally inclusive world that allows young people, no matter their situation, to get access to education.

 

  1. Pollution and the Climate Crisis

Problem:

  • Climate change is becoming a key force behind the recent continued rise in global hunger, and as escalating droughts and flooding degrade food production, the next generation of children will bear the greatest burden of hunger and malnutrition.
  • Air pollution, toxic waste and groundwater pollution is damaging children’s health.

Solution:

  • Governments and businesses need to work together to tackle the root causes by reducing greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement.
  • They also need to work hand in hand to reduce fossil fuel consumption, develop cleaner agricultural,industrial and transport systems and invest in scaling renewable energy sources.

 

  1. A decline in mental health

Problem:

  • Mental illness among adolescents has been on the rise in the years since the adoption of the CRC.
  • Depression is among the leading causes of disability in the young.

Solution:

  • Rehabilitation for children and young people affected by mental health issues need to be prioritized.
  • The stigma and taboo surrounding mental illness needs to be challenged so that treatment can be sought and support is provided.

 

  1. Mass Migration and Population Movements

Problem:

  • When migration is driven by desperation, children often take perilous journeys across deserts, oceans and armed borders, encountering violence, abuse and exploitation on the way.
  • One of the greatest migrations the world has ever seen is happening within borders, with millions migrating internally from rural to urban areas.

Solution:

  • It is essential that child migrants have their rights upheld. Governments can protect child migrants by prioritizing the best interests of children in the application of immigration laws.
  • Social policies and programmes designed to support child survival and development should pay greater attention to the poorest and most marginalized urban children.

 

  1. Statelessness

Problem:

Every child has a right to a legal identity, to birth registration and a nationality. It is expected that, almost 1,00,000 babies born today, may never have an official birth certificate, reason being parents are stateless or from a persecuted or marginalized community.

Solution:

Registering children at birth is the first step in securing their recognition before the law, safeguarding their rights, and ensuring that any violation of these rights does not go unnoticed.

The United Nations has set a goal that every human being on the planet will have a legal identity by 2030.

 

  1. Future Skills for Future Work

Problem:

Too often, it is seen that young people lack access to an education that will prepare them for contemporary job and business opportunities i.e. giving them the skills and outlook they need for a twenty-first century economy.

Solution:

There is a need to prepare young people to become productive and engaged citizens.

 

  1. Data Rights and Online Privacy

Problem:

  • Too often, children do not know what rights they have over their own data and do not understand the implications of their data use, and how vulnerable it can leave them.
  • Privacy terms and conditions on social media platforms are often barely understood by highly educated adults, let alone children.
  • Personal information created during childhood may be shared with third parties, traded for profit or used to exploit young people – particularly the most vulnerable and marginalized.

Solution:

  • Such design systems need to be developed that maximize the positive benefits of big data and artificial intelligence,while preserving privacy, providing protections from harm and empower people – including children – to exercise their rights.
  • The Convention on the Rights of the Child makes it clear that children have a specific right to privacy and there is no reason this should not apply online.
  • Equipping young people with the knowledge and skills to claim their digital rights is essential.
  • Private sector internet service providers and social media must develop transparent, ethical standards and implement heightened scrutiny and protection for the full range of data concerning children.

 

  1. Online Misinformation

Problem:

Studies indicate that many children and young people today have a hard time distinguishing fact from fiction online and as a consequence, the generation is finding it more difficult to know who and what to trust.

Solution:

  • A higher level of digital and media literacy can act as a protective filter.
  • The society needs to work harder to prepare savvy young citizens to resist manipulation and retain a trusting connection to reliable and verifiable information and institutional knowledge.

 

Convention on the Rights of the Child

  • It is a treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in
  • It recognises a child as every human being under 18 years old.
  • It sets out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of every child,regardless of their race, religion or abilities.
    • It includes rights such as Right to Education, Right to Rest and Leisure, Right to Protection from Mental or Physical Abuse including Rape and Sexual Exploitation.
    • It is the world’s most widely ratified human rights treaty.

 

Sample Question:

Deficiency of vitamin A in children causes:

a)      Goitre

b)      Poor cognitive development

c)       Poor bone growth

d)      Increased risk of mortality

Answer:  d)

 


Info-graphic Summary