IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains
Focus)- 24th September 2018
PM launches Ayushman Bharat
Part of: Prelims and mains II – Health and Public services
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the healthcare scheme, Ayushman Bharat, also known as the Pradhan Mantri-Jan Aarogya Yojana (PM-JAY), from Ranchi on the 23rd of September, 2018.
- He further declared that the scheme would be a “game changer” globally in health insurance.
Do you know?
Ayushman Bharat; There are two flagship initiatives under Ayushman Bharat:
- The first is to create a network of health and wellness centres that will bring the healthcare system closer to the people.
- The centres will provide comprehensive healthcare, including treatment for non-communicable diseases and maternal and child health services. Besides this, they will also provide free essential drugs and diagnostic services;
- Rs. 1200 crore have been allocated for this flagship programme. The scheme will cover more than 10 crore poor families, which is approximately 50 crore persons.
- It will also setup wellness centres which will give poor people OPD facility near their homes.
- The second flagship programme under ‘Ayushman Bharat’ is the ‘National Health Protection Scheme’. The National Health Protection Scheme will cover over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families.
- It will provide coverage up to 5 lakh rupees per family, per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization.
India looks to buy Israeli missiles
Part of: Prelims and mains III – Defence, International relations
- A deal has been brought before the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) for approval, about the procurement of the Spike anti-tank guided missiles from Israel through the government-to-government route.
- However, some validation trials have to be held before the deal is signed. These validation trials pertain to that of the infrared seeker (IR).
- The validation trials would be held once the DAC accords approval.
- Currently, the Indian Army is faced with a huge shortage of anti-tank guided missiles.
Do you know? Defence Acquisition Council (DAC):
The objective of the Defence Acquisition Council is to ensure expeditious procurement of the approved requirements of the Armed Forces in terms of capabilities sought and time frame prescribed by optimally utilizing the allocated budgetary resources.
- In-principle approval of 15 Year Long-Term Integrated Perspective Plan for Defence Forces;
- Accord of Acceptance of Necessity to acquisition proposals;
- Categorization of the acquisition proposals relating to ‘Buy’, ‘Buy & Make’ and ‘Make’;
- Issues relating to Single vendor clearance;
- Decision regarding ‘offset’ provisions in respect of acquisition proposals above Rs. 300 crores;
- Decisions regarding Transfer of Technology under the ‘Buy & Make’ category of acquisition proposals; and
- Field Trial evaluation
Lending a helping hand to coconut farmers
Part of: Prelims and mains III – Agriculture and related issues
Major Challenges before farmers
- Water availability is a major issue. Ground water is available at 1,000 feet.
- Pest attacks on hybrid trees for which farmers has to use common pesticides available in the market.
Project kalpavriksha: Guidance to farmers
- Consumer products company Marico started working on a project in 2014 for coconut farmers and in a year, had 125 farmers in Thanjavur area under its ambit, apart from six agronomists.
- Last year, the project was given shape and unveiled as Kalpavriksha. It now covers almost 6,000 coconut farmers in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
- The Kalpavriksha mobile application is also available to know about copra rates.
- On an average, the yield had increased 18% for the farmers, according tp Marico. They aims to improve it by about 50% and double the income of farmers.
- The project has field staff in almost 750 villages who visit coconut farms, advise farmers on best practices, disease and yield improvement.
- It has a digital library and toll free number. The number of farmers who drop out of the project is about 10%.
- Going forward, Kalpavriksha will not only cover more farmers and agronomists but will also bring on its platform start-ups, financial institutions, and government agencies.
- Some of them can extend their service at a cost to the farmers.
Special kits to aid rape case probe: The fight against rape
Part of: Prelims and mains II – Justice, governance issues
Police stations in the country will soon have special kits to collect blood and semen samples, besides other evidence, to carry out immediate investigation into sexual assault cases.
Help at hand
- The Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kits (SAECK) or ‘rape investigation kits’ are designed to carry out immediate medico-legal investigation and aid in furnishing evidence in sexual assault and rape cases.
- The Home Ministry, as part of a pilot project, will initially procure 3,960 rape investigation kits at a cost of ₹79.20 lakh, and 100 such kits will be given to each State and U.T.
Citizen science initiative helps save hornbills
Part of: Prelims and mains III – Environment and biodiversity
A recent citizen science initiative of documenting Indian hornbills is providing valuable inputs for the conservation of this unique bird.
The Hornbill Watch initiative
- The Hornbill Watch initiative (www.hornbills.in) is an interactive web interface that allows a person to report on hornbills anywhere in India. People can record the observation of a live hornbill, note its call or report a dead, hunted or captive bird.
- The data on the presence of hornbills outside protected areas would be crucial in identifying and protecting their habitats from possible threats and development projects.
- States from where the most sightings were recorded are Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
- Hornbills were reported from across 70 protected areas in the country. While 41% of the observations were made within protected areas, 59% were made outside.
Some Important Hornbills: There are nine hornbill species in India.
- The endangered Narcondam hornbill is restricted to an area of 6 sq.km. of the Narcondam Island in the Andamans.
- The rufous-necked hornbill is a vulnerable or near threatened species.
- Further, the Austen’s brown hornbill and the great hornbill were observed in several States in northeastern India.
- Other important species of hornbill include the oriental pied hornbill and the Indian grey hornbill.
What caused the floods in Kerala?
Part of: Prelims and mains II – Governance and Public services
- According to a study by IIT professor, a combination of four factors led to extreme flooding across Kerala this year.
- Above normal seasonal (May-August) rainfall, extreme rainfall events occurring almost across the State during the season, over 90% reservoir storage even before the onset of extreme rainfall events, and finally, the unprecedented extreme rainfall in the catchment areas of major reservoirs in the State led to the disaster.
- First. the summer monsoon rainfall in Kerala from May to August this year was 2,290 mm, which was 53% above normal.
- The average rainfall during the summer monsoon period (June-September) is about 1,619 mm. This makes 2018 Kerala’s third wettest year in the last 118 years (1901-2018); 1924 and 1961 were the wettest years with about 3,600 mm of annual rainfall.
- Second, till August 21, the State witnessed few extreme rainfall events covering almost the entire State. These extreme rainfall events have very low probability of recurrence in any given year.
- Third, Kerala received 1634.5 mm rainfall during the period May 1 to August 7, which is more than the average rainfall (1619.37 mm) during the summer monsoon period (June-September).
- As a result, six of the seven major reservoirs in the State had over 90% storage before August 8, well before Kerala received the unprecedented extreme rainfall events.
- Finally, the catchment areas of major reservoirs in the State received extreme rainfall never before witnessed in the State. The role of other factors such as changes in how infrastructure has grown at the expense of vegetation and drainage remains to be studied.
TOPIC: General Studies 3
- Agriculture and food security; issues related to it
- Biodiversity, invasive species
- Science and technology
Ravaged by a caterpillar: on the armyworm invasion in India
- Maize crop of Karnataka is being destroyed by a small greenish-brown worm with dark lines along its length and an inverted ‘Y’ on its head. It looks like any of the thousands of pests that infest fields in India each year, but this one is special.
- Karnataka is one of the largest maize producers in India, and maize is the third most widely produced cereal in the country.
The fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda)
- The fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda), a native of the Americas, first seen in Asia five months ago.
- Since its identification in the State’s Shivamogga district in May, the pest has reached as far as West Bengal and Gujarat.
- There are six phases in the fall armyworm’s life, and between the first and the last, its appetite changes dramatically.
- Within days, it turns from a light feeder into a voracious eater that can wipe out farms. After pupation, adult moths emerge.
Other alien attacks on farm fields
- This isn’t the first time a foreign visitor is poised to wreak havoc on Indian farms.
- In 2008, the papaya mealybug, a central American native, entered the country and destroyed plantations in several States.
- Then, in 2014, the tomato pinworm, or Tuta absoluta, a South American moth, was spotted in Karnataka. Within a couple of years, it had reached Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi and other regions, where it caused widespread damage to tomato crop.
The rise in invasives
- Some researchers have argued that India has traditionally been extra vulnerable to invasive species because of its history of political invasions.
- From the Mughals to the British and the Portuguese, everyone brought their share of noxious weeds, insects and trees.
- Consider the case of the Lantana species, camara, which was first introduced by the British as an ornamental hedge in the 19th century.
- Today, it is widespread across India and threatens biodiversity by taking over forest understorey and grabbing resources from other species.
- Another invasive, congress grass, is thought to have piggybacked via wheat shipments from the U.S. under the 1950s PL-480 Food for Peace program.
- But the entry of invasives has been rising the world over in the last few decades, and one likely reason is increased trade.
- Out of several factors such as a country’s population density and amount of cropland, it was the degree of international trade that best predicted the number of invasives.
- Such alien species which migrate to a new geography from their native lands can be a huge risk to both agriculture and wildlife.
- They could be insects, trees, weeds or viruses. Many of them tend to die out in new environments. Some become naturalised, like a few eucalyptus species have in India.
- Naturalised aliens maintain their population and do not pose a great risk to biodiversity. A small percentage of them turn invasive, and spread uncontrollably.
- The absence of natural predators from their original homes allows them to disrupt ecosystems and cause massive economic losses.
- In 2016, a paper published in Nature Communications, titled ‘Massive yet grossly underestimated global costs of invasive insects’, calculated that such attacks cost the world around $70 billion a year.
- Such destruction is why countries take strong measures to prevent the entry of these pests.
Destruction caused by fall armyworm
- The earliest published reports of widespread destruction by the fall armyworm come from Georgia, U.S. in the 18th century.
- The fall armyworm was known as a particularly voracious pest. Though it preferred maize, it ate nearly 80 other plants.
- Nearly 200 million people here depend on maize for nutrition, and they are all at risk from the little brown caterpillar.
- One of the worst attacks occurred in 1912. According to reports, the pest swept almost the entire U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains, destroyed the corn and millet in the southern U.S., severely injured cotton and truck crops etc.
- Even today, it continues to be a major cereal pest in both North and South America.
- In 2016, the pest turned up in the west African country of Nigeria. Initially, farmers confused it with another Spodoptera species native to the region.
- Today, two years later, the pest has spread to 43 countries on the continent.
- It is expensive to control it. In June, the Food and Agriculture Organisation said it had invested $20 million in controlling the pest in Africa, and was looking for another $23 million.
There are several reasons why the armyworm is thriving:
- It reproduces rapidly, and the continent’s tropical and sub-tropical climates allow it to feed all year round. In contrast, fall armyworms die in Canada’s frigid winters.
- Each summer, new populations of the moth migrate to Southern Canada from warmer states in the U.S. like Texas.
- Such migration isn’t hard for them; the Spodoptera moth is known to be able to fly around 1,400 km. This is another reason why it spread so quickly to new countries after it landed on African shores.
- Researchers speculate that it might have hitched a ride in cargo containers on commercial aircraft or in someone’s cabin baggage, and reached to Africa.
- According to the European Union Notification System for Plant Health Interceptions, Spodoptera frugiperda was intercepted 14 times by EU quarantine officers in 2017.
- It was caught piggybacking on all kinds of organic material — flowers from Kenya, bonnet peppers from Mexico, and cucurbits from Suriname, to name a few.
How did it enter India?
- To get into India, the fall armyworm would have either had to fly here, or make it past India’s plant quarantine system.
- This caterpillar has several stages in its life cycle, during which it does not need food to survive. Out of these stages, the pupal and adult moth stages can survive for days without food. Such pupae or moths could easily have hitched a ride on maize shipments into India.
- In 2018 alone, India imported 500 million tonnes of maize. Further, the experience of the European Union shows that armyworms can survive on fresh fruits and vegetables too.
- India’s imports of fresh fruits and vegetables are not high, but they are not non-existent either. According to the data from the Ministry of Food Processing Industries, in 2016-17, India’s imports of edible vegetables were worth $1,371 million.
India’s quarantine system
- The first line of defence is a quarantine system, under which imports of grains and plants that can host such insects are inspected at shipping ports, airports and land border crossings.
- This system is built around the Plant Quarantine (Regulation of Import into India) Order of 2003. The order, in turn, is notified under an Act that is over a century old: The Destructive Insects and Pests Act of 1914.
- Under the Plant Quarantine Order, grains or plant material can come to India only through notified points of entry. Imports at each of these points are to be inspected by officers from the Directorate of Plant Protection.
- In India, this responsibility lies with the Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine & Storage, with its headquarters in Faridabad, Haryana.
- Unfortunately, the directorate is failing in its task of policing Indian borders. It is short-staffed and hamstrung by the lack of a strong legislation.
- Quarantine stations do not have key experts and required tools and infrastructure.
- There are also gaps in regulating the import of plant materials by individual passengers.
- Under the Quarantine order, around 2 kg of cut flowers and dry fruits are exempt, but any seeds or larger quantities of flowers must be accompanied by a certificate declaring that they are free of pests and microbes.
- If not, passengers arriving at international airports are required to declare them. 99% of the people don’t do that.
Time for a new law?
- The Destructive Insects and Pests Act is subsidiary to the Customs Act, 1962, quarantine officers must wait for customs officers to flag suspicious goods before they can check them.
- The customs officer may not suspect anything, because what they are looking for is entirely different from what a quarantine officer wants to examine.
- In 2013, after widespread recognition of the lapses in the current quarantine system, a new Bill called the Agricultural Biosecurity Bill was tabled in the Lok Sabha.
- The Bill borrowed from some of the most stringent quarantine regimes in the world, such as the U.S., Australia and New Zealand.
- Unlike India’s Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine and Storage which comes under the Ministry of Agriculture, the U.S.’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and AQIS are autonomous bodies.
- The Bill envisaged setting up a similar body in India, called the Agricultural Biosafety Authority of India.
- Quarantine officers would have wider powers under this Bill. And the authority could even penalise States for not following its directions in controlling an invasive species outbreak.
- But as of today, this Bill has lapsed.
- Quarantine systems to be strengthened at the internationals airports in the State.
- Prominent signboards should be installed in airports warning passengers of the dangers of bringing exotic fruits and flowers into the country.
- Training of plant quarantine officers and for providing them with equipment to detect dangerous species.
- The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS), for example, employs sniffer dogs to detect agricultural material on passengers.
- It also has scanners that can detect organic material such as seeds in baggage. Several Indian airports do not have this. When such items are found, stringent penalties are necessary.
- In 2002, Indian cricketers Harbhajan Singh and Saurav Ganguly famously paid fines of NZ $200 at Auckland airport in New Zealand for not declaring mud on their footwear.
Connecting the dots:
- Poor quarantine system is one of the main reason behind increasing invasions by foreign species on Indian agriculture. Elucidate.
TOPIC: General Studies 2
- Constitution, federal structure of governance
Currently, the discretionary powers of the Governor are once again at the centre of controversy. This assumes importance based on the recent decision on the remission of seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.
Pardoning powers of Governor
- It is important to note that Article 161 of the Constitution provides the Governor with the power to “remit or commute the sentence of any prisoner”.
- However, the Governor’s decision will be subject to judicial review by the constitutional courts.
- Currently, the immediate question is whether there is an independent, discretionary power vested with the Governor with regard to Articles 161 and 163 of the Constitution.
- In the Nabam Rebia and Bamang Felix v. Deputy Speaker (2016) case, the Supreme Court, speaking through a five-judge Bench, viewed that the discretionary power of the Governor is extremely limited and entirely amenable to judicial review.
- Time and again, the courts have spoken out against the Governor acting in the capacity of an “all-pervading super-constitutional authority”.
- Pertaining to the exercise of discretion, in Samsher Singh v. State of Punjab (1974), a seven-judge Bench of the Supreme Court had held that the Governor may do so only “in harmony with his Council of Ministers”.
- In an effort to do so, the Governor is prevented from taking a stand against the wishes of the Council of Ministers.
- Currently, the domain being traversed in this case is alien to the Constitution of India, not having envisaged a situation where the Governor exercises his power under Article 161 against the express recommendation of the Council of Ministers.
- Decision taken by governor contrary to advise conferred by council of ministers, may drastically alter the Constitution and its founding principles; the federal structure, Cabinet responsibility and accountable governance.
- This might also be interpreted as the Governor having lost faith in the State government with regard to the performance of its executive functions.
- Either which way, it is believed that to stay true to the spirit of the Constitution, the Governor should desist from conferring discretionary powers to his office where there are none.
Connecting the dots:
- Critically analyse the discretionary powers and pardoning powers of Governor of a state in India.
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
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Q.1) Consider the following with regard to Ayushman Bharat scheme:
- It aims to to create a network of health and wellness centres that will bring the healthcare system closer to the people.
- ‘National Health Protection Scheme’ is a flagship initiative under Ayushman Bharat.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Q.2) Narcondam Hornbill is found in which of the following?
- Western Ghats
Select the correct code:
- 1 and 2
- Only 2
- 1 and 3
- 1, 2 and 3
Q.3) Consider the following pairs and choose the correctly matched pair/s from below options:
Missile deal : : Associated country
- SPIKE anti-tank guided missile : : India-US
- S-400 Triumf long-range surface-to-air missile systems : : India-Russia
- SPYDER Surface-to-Air Missile System : : India-Israel
Choose appropriate code from options below:
- 1 only
- 2 only
- 1 and 2 only
- 2 and 3 only
Q.4) Consider the following statements about ‘Great Hornbill’
- In India, it is restricted to the Himalayan foothills and hill forests in northeast only
- They are omnivorous birds
- They are critically endangered according to IUCN status
Select the INCORRECT statements
- 1 and 2
- 2 and 3
- 1 and 3
- All of the above
A pan-India Dalit assertion
The primary anchor of a health-care road map
Saving Cauvery’s cradle
The wrong reform
The law of happiness
Truth and spin