IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains
Focus)- 17th September 2018
More river stretches critically polluted: CPCB
Part of: Prelims and mains GS III – Environment and pollution
Based on the recommendations of the NGT, the CPCB last month apprised the States of the extent of pollution in their rivers.
Findings of CPCB
- The number of polluted stretches in India’s rivers has increased to 351 from 302 two years ago.
- The number of critically polluted stretches — where water quality indicators are the poorest — has gone up to 45 from 34.
- While the ₹20,000 crore clean-up of the Ganga may be the most visible of the government’s efforts to tackle pollution, but several of the river’s stretches — in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh — are actually far less polluted than many rivers in Maharashtra, Assam and Gujarat.
- These three States account for 117 of the 351 polluted river stretches.
- Mithi among the worst, from Powai to Dharavi — with a BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) of 250 mg/l, the Godavari — from Someshwar to Rahed — with a BOD of 5.0-80 mg/l; the Sabarmati — Kheroj to Vautha — with a BOD from 4.0-147 mg/l; and the Hindon — Saharanpur to Ghaziabad — with a BOD of 48-120 mg/l.
- In its compilation of polluted stretches in Uttar Pradesh, the Ganga with a BOD range of 3.5-8.8 mg/l is indicated as a ‘priority 4’ river.
Measuring health of the rivers
- The CPCB, since the 1990s, has a programme to monitor the quality of rivers primarily by measuring BOD, which is a proxy for organic pollution — the higher it is, the worse the river.
- The health of a river and the efficacy of water treatment measures by the States and municipal bodies are classified depending on BOD, with a BOD greater than or equal to 30 mg/l termed ‘priority 1,’ while that between 3.1-6 mg/l is ‘priority 5.’
- The CPCB considers a BOD less than 3 mg/l an indicator of a healthy river.
- A priority 1 river may show high pollution but it also means more resources for clean up, whereas a priority 4 can mean achieving a clear river with relatively fewer resources.
U.P. to launch first-ever dial-FIR
Part of: Prelims and mains GS II – Governance
- The Uttar Pradesh Police are set to launch a first of its kind dial-FIR scheme in the country.
- In this scheme, a common man can register regular crimes without going to a police station.
- The scheme will also prepare an online photographic dossier of criminals that will be provided to policemen on 22,000 new i-pads.
- Besides this, the UP Police is also expanding the counter-terror combat and response grid in the State by training over 100 fresh commandos in special skills including a maiden batch of women personnel.
- The aim is to enhance the strength of the ATS both qualitatively and quantitatively.
Do you know?
- An e-FIR or dial-FIR scheme is the FIR (first information report) that sets the law into motion and to start investigation.
In managing water, Surat takes lead
Part of: Prelims and mains GS III – Environment; Water conservation
- India’s ‘Diamond City’ offers a lesson for the country’s ever-expanding cities on water management and the optimal use of water.
- Surat’s civic body is setting up state-of-the-art sewage treatment plants (STPs) to ensure every drop of waste water is treated and reused for purposes other than drinking.
- From March 2019, the Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) will be supplying 115 MLD (million litres per day) treated water to industries located within the city, in order to meet the entire industrial requirement of water through treated or recycled water.
- The entire quantum of water will be treated from domestic sewerage water in tertiary treatment plants, for supplying to mainly textile factories.
- Surat was the first city in the country to start selling recycled water to industries in 2014.
- Surat’s cost effective water management system is most advantageous for its contribution towards reducing the dependency on conventional resources of water, and thus optimal use of the resource.
- So far, the SMC has invested ₹ 280 crore in creating tertiary water treatment facilities in the city.
- India is facing its worst water shortage in history, according to a new report prepared by the Niti Aayog.
- Nearly 600 million Indians faced high to extreme water stress.
- About 2,00,000 people die every year in the country because of inadequate access to safe water.
CIC wants break-up of how MPLADS funds are utilised
Part of: Prelims and mains GS II – Governance
- Noting that ₹12,000 crore of the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) funds remains unspent, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has asked the Lok Sabha Speaker and the Rajya Sabha Chairman to come out with a legal framework to ensure its transparency and hold parliamentarians and political parties accountable for their obligations under the scheme.
What is MPLADS?
- The MPLADS allots ₹5 crore per year to each MP to be spent on projects of their choice in their constituency.
- The scheme is funded and administered through the Union Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI).
- Projects are to be recommended to and implemented by the district-level administration.
What CIC said?
- The CIC’s orders asked the leaders of the two Houses of Parliament to consider providing the “necessary legal frame” for the scheme, which would “make all Parliamentary parties and MPs answerable and accountable for MPLADS funds as public authorities under the RTI Act to prevent MPLADS irregularities.”
- The framework should make transparency a legal obligation, with all MPs and parties required to present the public and Parliament with a comprehensive report on the number of applications received for their constituency, works recommended, works rejected with reasons, progress of works and details of beneficiaries.
- Liabilities for any breach of duties should also be imposed, said the order. Further, the framework should prohibit and prevent MPs using the funds for their private works, or diverting them to private trusts or to their own relatives.
- District administrations must provide regular information — work-wise, MP-wise, and year-wise details on progress — which are to be compiled by the MoSPI and made available to the public.
Everything you need to know: When the world collapsed around Lehman Brothers
Part of: Prelims and mains GS III – Economics
It has been ten years since the investment banking firm Lehman Brothers collapsed in mid-September 2008. Shortly after, there was a meltdown in global financial markets, including India.
What triggered the crisis?
- From 2005 to 2007, at the height of the real estate bubble, mortgages were given to many homebuyers who could not afford them, and then packaged into securities and sold off.
- Lehman Brothers bought several mortgage brokerages and posted record profits. But in mid-2007, defaults on sub-prime mortgages rose exponentially.
- A credit crisis erupted in August 2007 with the failure of two Bear Stearns hedge funds while payment defaults triggered massive declines in banks and real estate incomes. In 2008, Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy.
Was there any ‘rescue act’ by banks?
In 2008, when America’s two biggest banks Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers reported high losses due to huge exposure to risk assets, all triggered by sub-prime lending by banking institutions, Bank of America came to the rescue of Merrill Lynch while Lehman Brothers had to file for bankruptcy.
What is a sub-prime loan?
- Sub-prime refers to a loan given to a borrower who does not qualify for a regular home loan because of a poor credit record, low income and lack of job security.
- If the customer has a poor credit record, why did banks offer a loan?
- The main reason was banks expected the value of the underlying security or the property to go up.
- So, they increased the mortgage interest rate (higher than the conventional loan) and called it a sub-prime mortgage.
- They could earn more with the higher mortgage interest rate and if the borrowers discontinued repayment, they could sell the property for a higher consideration due to appreciation in property prices.
Was India insulated?
- The impact on the Indian economy was less severe due to lower dependence on exports and the fact that a sizeable contribution to the GDP came from domestic sources.
- Indian banks had limited exposure to the U.S. mortgage market, directly or through derivatives, and also to the failed and financially-stressed global financial institutions.
TOPIC: General Studies 2
- Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes
- Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections
Lethal filth – on manual scavenging
Five young men who were employed to clean a septic tank in an upmarket residential community died during the process. Around the same time as the Delhi incident, five workers died in a septic tank in Odisha.
Do you know?
What is manual scavenging?
- Manual scavenging is a term used mainly in India for a caste-based occupation involving the manual removal of untreated human excreta from bucket toilets or pit latrines by hand with buckets and shovels.
- Manual scavenging has been officially prohibited by law in 1993 due to it being regarded as a dehumanizing practice (if not done in a safe manner).
- Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013’ came into effect from 6thDecember, 2013 replacing Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines(Prohibition) Act, 1993.This Act intends to achieve its objectives of eliminating insanitary latrines, prohibition of employment as manual scavengers etc
- The act says National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK)would monitor implementation of the Act and enquire into complaints regarding contravention of the provisions of the Act.
What does the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 say?
- A violation can be punished with two years of imprisonment or fine or both.
- Under the provision, no person, local authority or agency should engage or employ people for hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks.
- Mechanised cleaning of septic tanks is the prescribed norm.
- The law (Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013) is not being enforced, and there is no fear of penalties.
- The workers in Delhi were apparently asked to perform the task in violation of Section 7 of the Act;
- In spite of a well-funded programme such as the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in operation, little attention is devoted to this aspect of sanitation.
- The requirements of worker safety and provision of safety gear for rare instances when human intervention is unavoidable are often ignored.
- The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation in its manual of 2016 on toilet design acknowledges that in rural areas, mechanical pumps to clear septic tanks are not available.
- In the southern States, sanitation has expanded along with urbanisation, but it has brought with it a higher number of deaths as workers clean septic tanks manually. For instance, Tamil Nadu recorded 144 fatalities of workers engaged for septic tank cleaning in the past three years, according to official data.
- Toilet designs proposed by the government include those in which fully composted waste must be removed from pits every two years.
- In the absence of political will and social pressure, more lives could be lost because more tanks are being built in rural and urban areas as part of the drive to construct toilets.
- If the law on manual scavenging is to be effective, the penalties must be uniformly and visibly enforced.
- It is equally important for State governments to address the lack of adequate machinery to clean septic tanks.
- The Centre must ensure that the proposals for new toilet design does not become a fresh avenue to oppress members of some communities who are expected to perform such work, reflecting social inequalities.
- The incident is a shocking reminder that India’s high-profile sanitation campaign has done little to alter some basic ground realities. India’s sanitation problem is complex, and the absence of adequate toilets is only one lacuna.
- The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan should make expansion of the sewer network a top priority and come up with a scheme for scientific maintenance that will end manual cleaning of septic tanks. The law should be enforced vigorously to eliminate manual scavenging in its entirety.
Connecting the dots:
- Comment in brief on Manual scavenging in India. What are the steps taken by government to end this menace?
TOPIC: General Studies 3
- Agriculture economy
- Farmer issues; crop insurance
- Use of technology in agriculture
Covering the last field – On Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)
Excess rains and floods in Kerala, deficit rainfall in eastern and north-eastern India, and associated large-scale crop losses have again highlighted the need for providing social protection to poor farmers.
Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY):
- A highly subsidised Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) was launched in 2016 to provide insurance to farmers from all risks.
- The scheme was aimed at reducing basis risk and premium burden of the farmers
- The scheme’s total expenses today are almost Rs. 30,000 crore.
- In comparison to earlier schemes, the PMFBY is more farmer friendly, with sums insured being closer to the cost of production.
- The scheme’s linkage with parallel programmes like the ‘Jan Dhan Yojana’ and ‘Digital India’ makes it a truly inclusive and welfare-based scheme.
- The scheme therefore led to increased coverage of 5.7 crore farmers in 2016 and the sum insured crossed ₹200,000 crore. However, notwithstanding its ambition and intent, the scheme since its operation has been scrutinised more for its misses than its hits.
What are some of the problems inherent in the scheme:
- Outmoded method of crop loss assessment
- Inadequate and delayed claim payment
- High premium rates
- Poor execution
Consequently, in 2017, the expansive coverage of the scheme suffered some setback as seen in a drop of nearly one crore farmers in enrolment (about 17%). Such shortcomings inspired recent announcements such as that of Bihar to start its own scheme, the “Bihar Rajya Fasal Sahayata Yojna”.
How can the scheme be made more effective?
In order to make the PMFBY a sustained developmental action for a comprehensive climate risk protection for every Indian farmer, the following action points are suggested:
- Faster and appropriate claim settlement: The weakness of the PMFBY is the methodology deployed for crop loss assessment: the crop cutting experiments (CCEs).
- Crop Cutting Experiments: are periodic exercises conducted nationwide every season to determine crop yields of major crops. Sample villages are chosen through scientifically designed surveys, and crops are physically harvested to determine yields.
- Improvement in the efficacy of the PMFBY: technology use must be intensified. With options available today, such as detailed weather data, remote sensing, modelling and big data analytics, the exercise of monitoring crop growth and productivity can be not only more accurate and efficient but also resource saving. Hybrid indices, which integrate all relevant technologies into a single indicator, are good ways to determine crop losses.
- Creation of an online portal: the whole process of monitoring can be made accessible and transparent to farmers, policy-makers and insuring agencies alike through an online portal.
- Universal and free coverage for all smallholders: Farmers’ awareness about the scheme and crop insurance literacy remain low in most States, especially among smallholders in climatically challenged areas in most need of insurance. To increase insurance coverage a system should be thought of whereby every farmer automatically gets insured by the state.
- Improved and transparent insurance scheme design: Insurance companies are supposed to calculate actuarial rates, and based on tenders, the company quoting the lowest rate is awarded the contract. Science has the capacity today to characterise risks and reconstruct reasonably long-time series of yields. The premium rates, and hence subsidy load on the government, can come down significantly if we make greater use of such proxies and appropriate sum insured levels.
- If a comprehensive social protection scheme is implemented, there would be opportunities for further rationalisation of subsidies.
- The government today spends more than Rs. 50,000 crore annually on various climate risk management schemes in agriculture, including insurance.
- This includes drought relief, disaster response funds, and various other subsidies. Climate-risk triggered farm-loan waivers are an additional expense.
- All these resources can be better utilised to propel farm growth. Reinvigorating the crop insurance scheme will provide better social protection to every farmer.
Connecting the dots:
- There are enough number of schemes and programs for farmers, still large number of farming population is living in poverty. Critically analyse.
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
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Q.1) Increase in Biological Oxygen demand (BOD) in a water body indicates:
- Increase in microbial pollution
- Decrease in microbial pollution
- Absence of microbial pollution
- Can’t say
Q.2) The biological oxygen demand of water is reduced mainly by:
- Primary treatment
- Secondary treatment
- Tertiary treatment
- None of the above
Q.3) Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) is a standard criterion for
- Measuring oxygen levels in blood
- Computing oxygen levels in forest ecosystems
- Pollution assay in aquatic ecosystems
- Assessing oxygen levels in high altitude regions
Q.4) Consider the following statements about MPLADS Scheme
- It is a centrally-sponsored plan scheme fully funded by the government of India
- The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation has been responsible for the policy formulation, release of funds and prescribing monitoring mechanism for implementation of the Scheme
- Funds from MPLADS Scheme can be converged with MGNREGA with the objective of creating more durable assets
Which of the following statements is/are correct?
- 1 and 2
- 2 and 3
- 1 and 3
- All of the above
Q.5) Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) is constituted under the
- Environment (Protection) Act, 1986
- Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
- Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974
- Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
Q.6) Which of the following are the objectives of part of Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna (PMFBY)?
- To provide insurance coverage and financial support to the farmers in the event of failure of any of the notified crop as a result of natural calamities, pests & diseases.
- To stabilise the income of farmers to ensure their continuance in farming.
- To ensure flow of credit to the agriculture sector.
Select the code from below:
- 1 and 2
- 2 and 3
- 1 and 3
- All of the above
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