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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs [Prelims + Mains Focus] – 17th October 2018

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  • October 18, 2018
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IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs Analysis
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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains

Focus)- 17th October 2018

Archives


(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


Zika cases touch 80 in Rajasthan

Part of: Prelims and Mains GS II – Health issue

In News

  • As the number of people infected with the Zika virus rose to 80 in Rajasthan, the Union Health Ministry directed the National Centre for Disease Control to monitor cases on a daily basis while urging people not to panic.
  • While 80 cases have been reported from the State, 330 teams have already been deployed in the affected wards and a population of over 4 lakh brought under surveillance.
  • Health workers undertook on­the­spot source reduction and treated containers with temiphose during the survey besides carrying out focal spray and fogging in the affected areas.

About National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC)

  • India’s National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) assists Indian states with infectious disease control through assistance with multidisciplinary outbreak investigations, communicable disease surveillance, networking of public health labs, and capacity building.
  • NCDC’s goal is to expand to national surveillance of vaccine-preventable diseases, animal health/human health interface, and to build capacity through short-term training programs and long-term programs.
  • NCDC was established to function as a national centre of excellence for control of communicable diseases.

#Self4Society: A govt. app to rope in volunteers

Part of: Prelims and Mains GS II – Governance and social service; Role of technology

In News

  • Professionals keen on doing volunteer work in their free time will be provided a platform by the government through an app, #Self4Society, developed by MyGov.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi to launch the app at a townhall­style event on October 24.
  • A lot of companies run volunteering initiatives. This platform will help to create better synergies among so many initiatives and lead to a much better outcome of the efforts of professionals.
  • Companies have observed that a spirit of service and volunteering improves employee satisfaction and reduces employee attrition.
  • The app will have incentives, gamification and intra and inter­company competitions, and social networking.
  • At first, this will be aimed at IT companies, with more joining in when it takes off.
  • The volunteer time for the government’s flagship programmes such as Swachh Bharat is expected to increase.

Korean War memorial to be built in Delhi

Part of: Prelims and Mains GS I and II – World history; International Relations

In News

  • A Korean War memorial will be built in New Delhi to commemorate India’s role in the war which ended in an armistice in 1953.
  • India and South Korea have agreed on building the war memorial.
  • The proposal was initiated by the Indian Korean War Veterans Association and the Delhi government had already designated a place to build the memorial.
  • Funding for the construction of the memorial will be contributed both the countries.

Do you know?

  • There were 21 countries which participated in the Korean War of 1950­53 of which 16 countries had sent combat troops.
  • India sent medical teams and a custodian force to deal with the Prisoners of War (PoW).
  • India played a neutral role in the war and contributed in a peaceful manner to end the Korean War.
  • As of now, there are Korean War memorials in about 20 countries around the world which had played a role in the war.

El Salvador eyes Indian investors

Part of: Prelims and Mains GS II and III – International relations and Economy

In News

  • El Salvador is keen to attract investments from Indian companies in the energy, ITeS, pharma, manufacturing and textiles sectors.
  • The country was looking to diversify its energy sources to fulfill its growing needs for more energy. They are looking at possibilities, also have geothermal energy because there are more than 40 volcanoes in El Salvador, they are working on it.
  • The Ambassador said the country was looking at different forms of energy such as solar, wind, and biomass.
  • Indian companies investing in El Salvador would be provided concessions including on land, tax exemptions, and duty­free import of equipment.
  • The Ambassador also spoke of El Salvador’s ties with ‘Manjula’, an Indian elephant that was sent to the country in the 1950s through Germany and died in 2010.
  • She became an icon in El Salvador, it was the only elephant in the country. The day Manjula died, people got really sad…there was national mourning.

UPI to facilitate interoperability among prepaid payment instruments

Part of: Prelims and mains GS III – Banking, inclusive growth, financial inclusion

In News

  • The Reserve Bank of India has released the guidelines for interoperability between prepaid payment instruments (PPIs) such as wallets and cards.
  • It will effectively allow users of popular payment wallets such as Paytm, Freecharge, Mobikwik, PhonePe and PayZapp, among others, to transfer money from one wallet to another.
  • In a circular, the RBI said that wallets could implement interoperability through the Unified Payment Interface (UPI).
  • The RBI also allowed PPIs to issue cards using authorised card networks such as Mastercard, Visa or RuPay.
  • PPI issuers shall adhere to all the requirements of card networks/UPI, including membership type and criteria, merchant on­boarding, adherence to various standards, rules and regulations applicable to the specific payment system such as technical requirements, certifications and audit requirements, governance, etc.
  • The guidelines, while boosting the e­wallet segment, would also ensure the safety and accuracy of the transfer of money by individuals from one wallet to another.
  • It is a progressive move for nonbank players and would lay the foundation to reach the under­banked and unbanked segment with a powerful payment product.

Ancient rocks in India give clues to early life Biomarkers show steroid compound

Part of: Prelims and mains GS I & III – History, Science and technology

In News

  • Researchers have found the oldest clue yet to the mystery of animal life in ancient rocks and oils, including those from India, dating back at least 100 million years before the famous Cambrian explosion of animal fossils.
  • Researchers at the University of California, Riverside in the U.S. tracked molecular signs of animal life, called biomarkers, as far back as 660­635 million years ago during the Neoproterozoic era.
  • In ancient rocks and oils from India, Oman, Siberia, they found a steroid compound produced only by sponges, which are among the earliest forms of animal life.
  • The “Cambrian Explosion” refers to the sudden appearance in the fossil record of complex animals with mineralised skeletal remains 541 million years ago.
  • They have been looking for distinctive and stable biomarkers that indicate the existence of sponges and other early animals, rather than single­celled organisms that dominated the earth for billions of years before the dawn of complex, multicellular life.
  • The biomarker they identified, a steroid compound named 26­methylstigmastane (26­mes), has a unique structure that is currently only known to be synthesised by certain species of modern sponges called demosponges.

Miscellaneous

  • The government is working continuously in a phased manner to achieve the goal of ‘zero hunger’ by 2030, Agriculture Minister said while elaborating on efforts being taken to boost farm output.
  • India is facing serious problem of hunger, it has been ranked 103rd among 119 countries on the global hunger index 2018.
  • In a first for the Indian defence sector, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has announced a Mehar Baba prize under which individuals, start­ups and other “for profit” entities can compete to build a swarm of 50 drones to be employed in Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations.
  • Chandra Observatory is back in action: NASA’s Chandra X­ray telescope — which observes galaxies from the Earth’s orbit — is back in action after suffering a technical glitch and going into safe mode last week. The glitch occurred in one of Chandra’s gyroscopes.
  • A 2,000­foot­long floating pipe nicknamed “Wilson” has begun its mission to collect the plastic in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  The pipe, which is in the shape of a U, features a three­metre­deep net to trap floating plastic under the water’s surface.
  • Paul G. Allen, the co­founder of Microsoft who helped usher in the personal computing revolution and then channelled his enormous fortune into transforming Seattle into a cultural destination, died Monday in Seattle. He left Microsoft in the early 1980s, after the cancer first appeared, and, using his enormous wealth, went on to make a powerful impact on Seattle life through his philanthropy and his ownership of an NFL team there, ensuring that it would remain in the city.

(MAINS FOCUS)


NATIONAL

TOPIC:General studies 2

  • Government policies and issues arising out of their design and implementation
  • Constitution: Right to information and right to privacy
  • Governance

Hamstringing the RTI Act

Introduction

  • The Right to Information (RTI) Act, operationalised in October 2005, was seen as a powerful tool for citizen empowerment.
  • It showed an early promise by exposing wrongdoings at high places, such as in the organisation of the Commonwealth Games, and the allocation of 2G spectrum and coal blocks. However, it now faces multiple challenges.

Challenges

  • The Act, path-breaking in many respects, did not give adequate authority to the Information Commissions to enforce their decisions.
  • Besides awarding compensation to an applicant for any loss suffered, the commissions can direct public authorities to take the steps necessary to comply with the Act, but are helpless if such directions are ignored.
  • If an officer fails to fulfil his duty, the commission can either impose a maximum penalty of Rs. 25,000 or recommend disciplinary action against him.
  • This deterrent works only when the piece of information lies at the lower levels; it is ineffective in many cases where information relates to higher levels of government.
  • Implementation of decisions taken by the commissions, therefore, remains a weak link.

Proposed amendments

  • The government proposes to do away with the equivalence of the Central Information Commissioners with the Election Commissioners on the ground that the two have different mandates.
  • The underlying assumption that transparency is less important for a democracy than holding of free and fair elections is absurd.
  • The government also proposes to replace the existing fixed five-year tenure of the Information Commissioners with tenure as may be prescribed by it.
  • This would make the tenure largesse to be bestowed by the government.
  • This would be detrimental to the independence and authority of the Information Commissions.

Right to information and right to privacy

  • The Act struck a balance between privacy and transparency by barring the disclosure of personal information if it has no relationship to any public activity or would cause unwarranted invasion of privacy.
  • However, the Justice Srikrishna Committee has proposed an amendment that would broaden the definition of ‘harm’, restricting disclosure of personal information even where it may be clearly linked to some public activity.

Strength and appointments to Information commissions

  • The Central and State Information Commissions have been functioning with less than their prescribed maximum strength of eleven because governments have dragged their feet on appointing commissioners.
  • For instance, the Central Information Commission (CIC), currently having seven members, will have only three by the end of the year if no appointments are made.
  • This leads to delay in disposal of cases, which is compounded by the backlog in the High Courts, where a number of decisions of the commission are challenged.
  • This happens invariably in cases concerning the high and the mighty. For example, the CIC’s decision in 2007 to cover Indraprastha Gas Ltd. under the Act was stayed by the Delhi High Court, and the stay continues to operate.

Clogging of the system

  • The clogging of the RTI system is also because a number of applicants, usually disgruntled employees of public institutions, ask frivolous queries.
  • Their applications have unfortunately continued to exist alongside those of numerous RTI activists who have done commendable work, often risking their life and limb.
  • Further, Section 4 of the RTI Act requires suo motu disclosure of a lot of information by each public authority. However, such disclosures have remained less than satisfactory.
  • The CIC has had to repeatedly direct regulators of the banking sector to disclose information on the wrongdoings of banks, so as to enable the public to make informed choices about their dealings with various banks.
  • In one case, the CIC had to direct the disclosure of the list of private persons who travelled with the Prime Minister, at government expense, during his foreign visits. Such information should have been disclosed suo motu by the government.
  • The RTI Act continues to render yeoman service in providing information to citizens.
  • Though its aim is not to create a grievance redressal mechanism, the notices from Information Commissions often spur the public authorities to redress grievances.

Conclusion

  • Thirteen years of the Act’s functioning have given us enough experience to hold a public debate on making it more effective.
  • The recently proposed amendments to the Act would, instead of strengthening the hands of commissions, weaken them.
  • Instead of holding a public debate on making the Act more effective, the government is seeking to dilute its provisions
  • If the issues listed above are not addressed, this sunshine law will lose its promise, particularly in terms of ensuring transparency at higher levels of governance.

Connecting the dots:

  • How far RTI Act 2005 has been successful? Elucidate. Also comment on lacunae in Act’s implementation in true letter and spirit.

INTERNATIONAL

TOPIC:General studies 3

  • Economics: Growth and development
  • Inclusive growth
  • Infrastructure: Cities and amenities

Castles in the air

Introduction

  • The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences awarded jointly to William D. Nordhaus and Paul M. Romer.
  • Both laureates designed methods for addressing questions related to creating conditions for “long-term sustained and sustainable economic growth”.
  • Mr. Nordhaus is credited for creating a quantitative assessment model that analyses the relationship between economy and climate.
  • Mr. Romer’s case, it is for his pioneering work on “endogenous growth theory” that highlights how knowledge and ideas drive economic growth.

Charter Cities

  • Mr. Romer, who was till recently the chief economist of the World Bank, has gone beyond the realm of theory and become a man of action in attempting to implement some of his economic ideas on the ground.
  • Building on his theoretic work on economic growth, he has been championing the creation of “Charter Cities” — new cities with distinct rules that foster innovation and economic growth.
  • These are characterised as “start-up cities” that experiment with reforms by breaking out of the existing state system.
  • Since the nation-state is too big a unit to try out new rules, Mr. Romer proposes built-from-scratch cities as the ideal site at which new rules and institutions are introduced to attract investors and residents.
  • The presence of foreign governments in administering “Charter Cities” is not just incidental but intrinsic to this grand scheme.

Colonialism 2.0?

  • The idea of “Charter Cities” should be of interest to developing countries such as India grappling with strategies for rapid urbanisation.
  • Mr. Romer has been proselytising leaders from developing nations to create “Charter Cities” by setting apart tracts of uninhabited land for this civic experiment.
  • The host country is required to enact a founding legislation or a charter that lays down the framework of rules that will operate in the new city.
  • A developing country can host the “Charter City” in its territory by “delegating” some of the responsibilities of administration to a developed country.
  • This idea came under immense criticism for promoting what seems to be a thinly disguised version of neo-colonialism.
  • Poorer countries are urged to make a Faustian bargain: relinquish sovereignty over certain territories ostensibly in exchange for economic growth.
  • He justifies his grand plan by arguing that unlike colonialism, which was coercive, “Charter Cities” offer choice: people have the freedom to decide to move into it.
  • Based on their preferences, individuals can “vote with their feet”. However, they do not have the right to vote to decide how the city is run. Hence, “Charter Cities” go against the basic principles of democracy and citizenship.

Some examples and experiments

  • Once, Mr. Romer remarked that British colonial rule in Hong Kong “did more to reduce world poverty than all the aid programs that we’ve undertaken in the last century”.
  • Hong Kong is relevant also because it was Deng Xiaoping’s inspiration for creating a set of special economic zones in China in the 1980s.
  • Mr. Romer’s first attempt to introduce “Charter Cities” in Madagascar in 2008 collapsed when the President who favoured the idea was greeted by violent protests and finally removed in a coup.
  • The next attempt, in the Honduras, also failed as the Supreme Court there, in 2012, declared the creation of “Charter Cities” to be unconstitutional.

Indian experiments

  • Given its neo-colonial trappings and poor track record, “Charter Cities”, as an idea, should have been fundamentally unattractive for a country such as India.
  • But there are some people who want the government to take the idea seriously and drew parallels with the Presidency Towns of British India.
  • Commentators have also suggested that emerging economies (India and China) can create and govern new cities on their own.
  • The model of a built-from-scratch city often cited in this regard is the Songdo International Business District in South Korea.
  • However, this eco-friendly “smart city” with the best of hi-tech amenities is threatening to be an underpopulated, lifeless ghost town.
  • India’s experience in creating new cities with parallel rules and governance systems has also been fraught with conflicts.
  • Lavasa, a city near Pune which was developed by a private company, has been caught up in environmental disputes for many years.
  • The Dholera Special Investment Region and Gujarat International Finance Tec-City have not really taken off.
  • The various investment regions housed within the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor have also made slow progress.
  • The initial idea of creating 100 new cities as “smart cities” has been reformulated as a programme for redeveloping merely a small portion of existing cities.

Conclusion

  • Initiatives such as “Charter Cities” seek to supersede the politico-economic institutions in the global south by building cities on a tabula rasa — a clean slate.
  • The guiding logic is that creating built-from-scratch cities with parallel rules and institutions can drive economic growth.
  • What is most alarming about such thinking is the assumption that it is possible to create sanitised technocratic cities uncontaminated by politics.
  • It ignores the pre-existence of multiple social and political claims over space in these supposed clean slates.
  • Despite the failure of many such new cities and private governance regimes, the allure of creating grand castles in the air refuses to die down.
  • Such initiatives need to be challenged for both their ignorant and implausible premise as well as their iniquitous normative framework.

Connecting the dots:

  • What are “Charter Cities”? Analyse whether idea of “charter cities” is practical or utopian?

(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)

Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)

Note:

  • Featured Comments and comments Up-voted by IASbaba are the “correct answers”.
  • IASbaba App users – Team IASbaba will provide correct answers in comment section. Kindly refer to it and update your answers.

Q.1) Zoonoses are infectious diseases of animals (usually vertebrates) that can naturally be transmitted to humans. Which of the following are zoonoses?

  1. Ebola virus disease
  2. Bird flu
  3. Swine influenza
  4. Zika fever

Select the correct answer using the codes given below.

  1. 1, 2 and 3 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 2, 3 and 4 only
  4. All the above

Q.2) Cobas Zika test is used to detect Zika virus. The test confirms the presence of zika virus by detecting which of the organelle

  1. DNA
  2. RNA
  3. Plastids
  4. Vacuoles

Q.3) Which of the following Central American countries does not have border with both Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea?

  1. Costa Rica
  2. Panama
  3. El Salvador
  4. Guatemala

Q.4) Sahyog-HYEOBLYEOG’ is joint exercise between Indian and

  1. Japan
  2. China
  3. CLMV Countries
  4. South Korea

Q.5) Which of the following is/are correctly matched?

  1. Radcliffe Line – India and Pakistan
  2. Durand Line – Afghanistan and Pakistan
  3. 38th Parallel – North Korea and South Korea

Select the correct code:

  1. 1 and 2
  2. 2 and 3
  3. 1 and 3
  4. All of the above

Q.6) Mehar Baba prize was in news recently. It is associated with –

  1. India’s first competition in defence sector, which intends to select and shepherd participants from ideation to production.
  2. It is a military award of India given to recognize “distinguished service of an exceptional order” to all ranks of the armed forces.
  3. Honoring a living architect or architects whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment.
  4. None of the above.

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