IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains
Focus)- 22nd December 2017
$25 million development assistance for Rakhine State from India
Part of: Mains GS Paper II- International relations
- India has announced a development assistance of $25 million for Myanmar’s Rakhine State, from where thousands of Rohingya Muslims recently fled following incidents of violence against the community.
- The amount will be spent over a period of five years.
- The broad objective of it is to restore normalcy in the troubled state.
- An estimated 6,00,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine State since late August after large-scale violence there.
- India and Myanmar Wednesday had inked an agreement on restoration of normalcy and development of the Rakhine State.
- The two countries signed a bilateral MoU on Rakhine State Development Programme.
This MoU is the first government-to-government agreement signed by the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement of Myanmar with a cooperation partner focussed on socio-economic development and livelihood initiatives in Rakhine State.
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National Rail and Transport University (NRTU) to be setup in Vadodara
Part of: Mains GS Paper II- Infrastructure
- The Cabinet has approved a project to set up India’s National Rail and Transport University (NRTU) in Vadodara in Gujarat.
- A not-for-profit company under Section 8 of the Companies Act, 2013, will be created by the ministry of railways which shall be the managing company of the proposed university.
The company will provide financial and infrastructural support to the university, and appoint Chancellor and Pro Chancellor of the university.
- A Board of Management, comprising professionals and academics, shall be independent of the Managing Company with full autonomy to perform its academic and administrative responsibilities.
- The university plans to use latest pedagogy and technology applications such as satellite-based tracking, Radio Frequency Identification and Artificial Intelligence to improve on the job performance and productivity.
- The funding of the new University/ Institute is to entirely come from Ministry of Railways.
- In 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that a railway university was needed for the research and modernisation of the country’s archaic railway system in particular, and transport infrastructure in general. It was subsequently included in the Railway Budget in 2014.
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Scheme for Capacity Building in Textile Sector
Part of: Mains GS Paper II- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector or Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources
- In order to ensure steady supply of skilled manpower in the labour-intensive textile sector, the Union Cabinet approved a Rs 1,300-crore outlay for skilling and up-skilling an estimated 10 lakh people in the entire value chain of the sector, including spinning and weaving.
- The ‘Scheme for Capacity Building in Textile Sector’ will provide demand-driven, placement-oriented skilling programme to incentivise the efforts of the industry in creating jobs in the organised textile and related sectors.
- Ten lakh people are expected to be skilled and certified through the scheme.
- The training courses will be compliant with National Skill Qualification Framework. The scheme will remain operational for three years ending in 2019-20.
- The scheme is aimed at promoting skilling and skill up-gradation in the traditional sectors through the Ministry of Textiles and providing livelihood to all sections of the society across the country.
- It will also be rolled out through reputed training institutions relevant to textile sector having placement tie- ups.
- Under the scheme, job role wise skilling targets will be based on skill gap identified for various levels including entry-level courses, up-skilling/re-skilling (supervisor, managerial training, advanced courses for adapting technology etc), recognition of prior learning.
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TOPIC: General Studies 2:
- Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes
- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
- Issues relating to Poverty and hunger
Undernutrition & Overnutrition: Tackling the Dual Burden
In the last few decades, with strides in technology, irrigation practices, and extension services, and with progressive agricultural policies, India has seen improvement in food and nutrition security. Agriculture, food grain production, and agricultural export have grown.
However, despite hunger (as measured by undernutrition) decreasing, the level of undernutrition remains unacceptably high in the country. India ranks 114th out of 132 countries in stunting among children aged less than five and 120th out of 130 countries in under-5 wasting, as per the Global Nutrition Report, 2016. The burden of vitamin and mineral deficiencies (‘hidden hunger’) is also considerable.
Fallout of micronutrient deficiencies:
Women and children are the most vulnerable to micronutrient deficiencies. This has adverse effects on their health.
- Deficiency of iron in women not only reduces physical work capacity and causes fatigue, but could lead to depression and post-partum maternal hemorrhage.
- In children, it impairs growth and cognitive development.
Over-nutrition: Becoming an emergency
What is ironic is that over-nutrition is emerging as an emergency in India.
As per the recent findings of the National Family Health Survey-4 (2015-16), the Body Mass Index (BMI) of 15.5% of urban women was found to be less than 18.5 kg/m2, whereas 31.3% of urban women were in the category of overweight or obese (BMI of or more than 25.0 kg/m2).
Around 15% of urban men were underweight, while 26.3% belonged to the category of overweight and obese.
Reason– Dramatic changes in lifestyle and dietary patterns in recent decades have contributed to an increasing prevalence of non-communicable diseases.
Fallout– If this double burden of undernutrition and growing percentage of obesity and associated non-communicable diseases is not controlled, it can have serious implications for the economy.
How has this happened?
The reason behind India facing the burden of under- and over-nutrition at the same time is that a vast majority of Indians eat cereal-based food, mainly wheat and rice.
- There is an insufficient intake of food such as milk, pulses, and fruits and vegetables, which are rich sources of micronutrients.
- While the Green Revolution phase saw new, fast-growing varieties of staples, especially wheat and rice, the following decades saw a steady decline in the food basket diversity, especially of traditional grains such as bajra and millet, which have high nutritional value.
- To ensure food and nutrition security, there is a growing need for a multi-sectoral approach.
- The policies and programmes of various ministries should be converged for better results.
- Apart from transforming India’s agricultural practices, we also need to spread awareness about nutritious food among key target groups, including tribals, women and children.
- We need to focus on the role of micronutrients. Deficiencies of micronutrients such as zinc, folic acid, magnesium, selenium and vitamin D needs to be given adequate attention.
The Sustainable Development Goal-2, which aims to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture”, is a priority area for India. India needs to take concerted efforts to deal with both the challenges of under and over nutrition at the same time.
Connecting the dots:
- The double burden of undernutrition and growing percentage of obesity and associated non-communicable diseases can have serious implications for the economy. Discuss.
- A multi-sectoral approach is required to ensure food and nutrition security. Analyze.
General Studies 2:
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
General Studies 3:
- Technology, Energy security.
India’s energy mix: Balancing renewables and non-renewables
India’s energy mix reflects a clear trend towards gas and renewables.
Still demand for oil is forecast to grow at least until 2040. However, oil companies are under pressure to prepare for a possible low-carbon future.
There is a fear of being too late to embrace newer energy sources, matched by equally high risks in moving too fast.
Leveraging resource advanatge:
Today, the major fossil fuels account for more than 90% of India’s total primary commercial energy supply. At present, India’s import dependence in the oil and gas sector is significant and the government has set a target to reduce dependence on crude imports by 10% by 2022.
The moment is opportune for India to take advantage of shifting pricing and supply dynamics in the oil and gas sector globally. In order to leverage the resources advantage, it should focus on the following areas:
- With softened oil prices there has been a significant decline in the cost of equipment and services associated with exploration and production. The effort of government-owned companies to acquire assets must continue.
- With 3.14 million sq. km of potential reserves lying unexplored until 2016, India’s potential in the oil and gas sector is immense and there exists vast headroom for new discoveries.
- Enhancing oil recovery- With the global average recovery factor for a typical oilfield being around 40%, a substantial amount of identified oil ends up as leftover despite existing production infrastructure. There is a need to enhance recovery from oilfields to reduce import dependence.
- Adoption of digitization, automation and robotics, which can substantially reduce operational costs and increase oilfield productivity, should be considered seriously.
- Adding value in petrochemicals:
India has emerged as a refining hub in Asia, serving a massive domestic market for refined petroleum products and even exports. Also, the government’s push towards a gas-based economy has given significant thrust to liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports, given the low domestic natural gas output. Both these elements present an opportunity for India’s downstream and midstream oil and gas sectors.
With a slump in global oil and gas prices, refiners and LNG importers have an opportunity to increase their profit by enhancing efficiency in refining and re-gasification of LNG.
- Strengthening sales and distribution networks:
With major fuels in India deregulated, retailers must focus on their sale and distribution networks.
The current distribution network is concentrated around a few producers, calling for the development of a strong network.
Indian stakeholders thus need to adopt an aggressive but cautious approach to fully harness the opportunity created as a result of changing dynamics in the global oil and gas sector.
We need to adopt a right mix of growth options in conventional and newer energy. This will help India reduce dependence on crude imports.
Connecting the dots:
- Oil companies are under pressure to prepare for a possible low-carbon future. In this light discuss how the state-owned oil companies should move forward.
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