IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains
Focus)- 18th October 2018
(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)
A.P. hamlets shine in rural survey
Part of: Prelims and Mains GS II & III – Social empowerment, local governance, infrastructure
- Kuligod in Karnataka’s Belagavi district is the country’s best developed village, but more than a third of the gram panchayats ranked in the top 10 are in Andhra Pradesh, according to the ﬁndings of an ongoing Rural Development Ministry survey.
- With multiple panchayats assigned the same score – and thus tied at the same ranking – there are 97 panchayats in the top 10 ranks.
- Of these, 37 panchayats are in Andhra Pradesh while 24 are in Tamil Nadu.
- Villages from other States are represented only in single digits.
- Of the States going to the polls next month, Telengana and Madhya Pradesh have ﬁve and four panchayats in the top 10 ranks respectively.
- The Rural Development Ministry has done a gap analysis of more than 3.5 lakh villages, in more than 1.6 lakh panchayats under the Mission Antyodaya convergence scheme.
- A team of oﬃcials surveyed and scored village level facilities and amenities using parameters related to infrastructure, economic development and livelihood, irrigation facilities, health, nutrition and sanitation, women’s empowerment, and ﬁnancial inclusion.
- Survey for every village in the country allows for greater public accountability, it also allows for more evidence based planning at the panchayat level.
India, China set to resume drill
Part of: Prelims and mains GS II – International relations
- India and China will resume the annual joint Army exercise ‘HandinHand’ in December in China’s Chengdu region.
- The drill was cancelled last year due to tense relations in the aftermath of the Doklam standoﬀ.
- Following the Wuhan summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in April, the two countries have initiated several measures to normalise relations.
- The scope of the exercise is to understand transnational terrorism and evolve joint drills for the conduct of counter terrorism operations, in addition to Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief operations.
- The exercise will be held in three phases — familiarisation, basic training and the joint exercise.
- Separately, the Army has for the ﬁrst time organised a forward area tour to Leh on October 16 and 17 for interested foreign service attaches posted in India.
Canada legalises marijuana
Part of: Prelims and mains GS II – Governance, organised crime control
- Canada became the ﬁrst industrialised nation to legalise recreational cannabis.
- The day was historic for the country as adult Canadians will be able to legally smoke recreational marijuana after nearly a century long ban.
- Despite the dearth of stores in Canada’s biggest cities, consumers can buy legal marijuana online, from provincial governments or licensed retailers, although delivery will take a few days.
- The move is a political win for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who vowed to legalise cannabis in his 2015 election campaign.
- That pledge was aimed at taking proﬁts away from organised crime and regulating the production, distribution and consumption of a product that millions of Canadians had been consuming illegally.
Part of: Prelims and mains GS II – Health
What is Zika?
- Zika, a ﬂavivirus spread mainly by mosquitoes, belongs to the same genus as dengue and chikungunya.
- Some evidence that Zika has been in India for long comes from a 1954 survey, which found several Indians with Zika antibodies.
- However, this evidence wasn’t conclusive, because other ﬂaviviruses, like dengue, can also trigger Zikaneutralising antibodies.
- The ﬁrst conﬁrmed Indian case occurred in 2016 in Gujarat.
- Later, three more cases were detected, before the 2018 Rajasthan outbreak.
- Despite its long presence in Asia, Zika outbreaks in this region have been benign.
- This changed with a large French Polynesian outbreak in 2013 and a larger Brazilian one in 2015.
What are the symptoms?
- In Rajasthan, Zika is causing fever, rash, muscle and joint pain.
- But the French Polynesian and Brazilian outbreaks were linked to deadlier conditions such as microcephaly, in which the child of a Zikainfected mother is born with an abnormally small head.
- In rare cases, patients also developed GuillainBarre syndrome, which causes potentially fatal muscle weakness.
- Indian oﬃcials are watching out for these complications, since the Rajasthan strain is closely related to the Brazilian strain.
If Zika has been in India since 2016, why is there a large outbreak only now?
- First, Rajasthan’s residents may not have been exposed to Zika before, and thus lack immunity.
- American studies show that if 5060% of a population is exposed to the virus, herd immunity develops and transmission stops.
- Another possibility is that mutations in the Rajasthan strain are helping it spread. More research is needed to identify such mutations.
- The third explanation is that even though Zika has been around, it is being detected only now because we are looking.
- Until 2016, when Zika was declared a WHO global health emergency, India wasn’t testing for Zika.
How worried should you be?
- Not much, unless you are pregnant. Zika is usually shortlived. Pregnant women should be tested and should avoid travel to outbreak areas.
- Infection can be prevented through mosquito fogging and not allowing water to stagnate.
- There is no vaccine yet, but many vaccines are in trials, including one from Bharat Biotech.
3 Indian students in finals of global science contest
Part of: Prelims and mains GS II & III– Human resource development, Science and tech
- Three Indian students have made it to the finals of the prestigious annual Breakthrough Junior Challenge, a global science competition for teenagers to share their passion for mathematics and science.
- The three Indian students are among 15 finalists, chosen from 12,000 students who had submitted engaging and imaginative videos to demonstrate difficult scientific concepts.
- Samay Godika, 16; Nikhiya Shamsher, 16, and Kavya Negi, 18, will be competing with the finalists for a $250,000 scholarship.
- The science teacher who inspired the winning student will get $50,000.
- The winner’s school will receive a stateoftheart science lab worth $100,000.
War drills on the school syllabus in parts of Ukraine
Part of: Prelims and mains GS III – Defence and security, Disaster management
- Huddled in a basement, dozens of children cover their heads with their hands, practising what to do if their school comes under attack in eastern Ukraine’s war.
- In a conflict that has claimed more than 10,000 lives since 2014, war drills and bomb shelters have become part of daily life for hundreds of schools near the frontline.
- At School Number Eight in Sartana village, only 10 km from the fighting, an alarm signals children to make their way calmly underground following blue arrows to a bunker.
- The children go through the drill once a month. Each class has its own underground room equipped with emergency supplies. Truce agreements have reduced fighting in Ukraine’s war, which started in 2014 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
- Kiev and its Western allies accuse Russia of funnelling troops and arms across the border.
- Moscow has denied the claims, despite substantial evidence of its involvement.
- Clashes still erupt. Rockets and shelling remain threats for towns like Sartana, which is in a Kievcontrolled area but close to regions run by Moscowbacked separatists.
- The Donetskregion town has been repeatedly bombed. But school principal Lyudmyla Korona described the school basement as “the safest place in Sartana”.
- In October 2014, Grad rockets fell on a funeral procession killing seven people and injuring another 13.
- The small town has not been bombed for the past two years thanks to the truce deals, but life here is still far from normal.
- According to the UN children’s agency UNICEF, nearly 750 schools were damaged or destroyed in eastern Ukraine over the more than four years of the conflict.
TOPIC:General studies 3
- Environment: Water Pollution and its mitigation
Unclogging our oceans
- In March 2018, ﬁshermen hauled 400 kg of ﬁshing nets out of the sea in a few locations oﬀ Kerala’s south coast.
- There are many such reports of divers regularly making underwater trips just to extract nets that have sunk to the ocean ﬂoor oﬀ India’s coasts, ranging from Tamil Nadu to Maharashtra.
- The problem of ghost gear (any ﬁshing equipment that has been lost, discarded or abandoned in water bodies) has grown from ﬁshing fallout that people had not heard of to one that is now diﬃcult to ignore.
- Between 2011 and 2018 alone, the Olive Ridley Project, a U.K. registered charity that removes ghost nets and protects sea turtles, recorded 601 sea turtles being entangled in ghost gear near the Maldives, of which 528 were Olive Ridleys.
- Olive Ridleys are the same species that come in thousands to Odisha’s coasts to nest. Other casualties worldwide include whales, dolphins, sharks and even pelagic birds.
- In 2016, when a team of marine biologists reviewed 76 publications and other sources of literature on ghost gear from across the world, they found that over 5,400 marine animals belonging to 40 diﬀerent species were recorded as entangled in ghost gear, or associated with it.
- This analysis also showed a huge gap in data from the Indian, Southern and Arctic Oceans, prompting the team to recommend that future studies focus on these areas.
- Yet, two years later, there are still no data pertaining to the extent of prevalence of ghost gear oﬀ India’s coast.
- And data is crucial here, for the detrimental eﬀects of these nets also spillover into other countries and oceans.
Consequences of marine debris
- The eﬀects of ghost nets are evident and tug at heartstrings.
- Images of turtles tangled in nylon and of beautiful blue oceans blemished by a mistlike white net ﬂoating about highlight the plight of marine life and prompt immediate action.
- But the consequences of overﬁshing, using nets of the smallest mesh size, and illegal ﬁshing are far less visible, though more worrying.
- Entire ﬁshing communities are aﬀected by these actions, especially in developing countries like India where the demand for ﬁsh keeps rising.
- Ghost nets are often ‘ghost ﬁshers’. Ocean currents carry them for thousands of km across the ocean ﬂoor, ensnaring, injuring and drowning marine life and damaging live corals along the way.
- Discarded Indian and Thai ﬁshing nets, for instance, have been ﬁshed out of Maldivian coasts, reports a study that examined 74 separate ghost net collections between 2013 and 2014.
What is being done to control the situation?
- Scientists at Kochi’s Indian Council of Agricultural ResearchCentral Institute of Fisheries Technology studied ghost nets in Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
- According to the scientists, the government is also currently preparing a national ghost net management policy.
- While that would be an extremely welcome and timely move to tackle the growing ghost gear phenomenon, a larger question remains.
- When bigger violations, such as large vessels ﬁshing where they are not supposed to, are not checked, there is less possibility that a policy on the management of ghost nets would be implemented.
Transforming used nets
- To address the problem of ghost gear there are numerous innovative solutions to tackle it, if we can learn from projects across the world.
- In countries like Canada and Thailand, ﬁshermen retain their used nets; these are recycled into yarn to craft socks and even carpet tiles.
- For the ﬁrst time in a developing country, a gearmarking programme is being tested in Indonesia so that the trajectory of gear, if it drifts away, can be studied better.
- Outreach and education among ﬁshing communities would be crucial along with policy level changes.
- In one instance in India, ghost nets hauled from Kerala’s Kollam have been used to pave roads.
- India can emulate innovative solutions from across the world to tackle the problem of ghost gear.
- More eﬀorts to make the process more organised across the over 7,500 km of India’s coasts, as well as inland water bodies, are the need of the hour.
Connecting the dots:
- Due to a long coast line and a large population dependent on fishing, ocean debris is one of the most challenging problems for India. Analyse.
TOPIC:General studies 3
- Infrastructure: Energy security
- indian economy: Inflation, growth and development
Slippery slope: India must diversify its energy basket more proactively
- At a gathering of prominent oil ministers in New Delhi on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged oilproducing countries to reduce the cost of energy in order to aid the global economy in its path towards recovery.
- Modi also called for a review of payment terms, demanding the partial use of the rupee instead of the U.S. dollar to pay for oil, in order to ease the burden on oilimporting countries in the wake of the strengthening of the dollar.
- Speaking at the same event, Saudi Arabian Energy Minister refused to openly commit to lower oil prices, opting instead to say that the price of oil could have been much higher but for the eﬀorts taken by his country to boost supply.
Challenges before India
- With well over 80% of its oil demand being met through imports, India clearly has a lot at stake as oil prices have risen by as much as 70% in rupee terms in the last one year.
- There is absence of signiﬁcant rival suppliers in the global oil market willing to help out India.
- India’s policymakers now face the diﬃcult task of safely steering the economy in the midst of multiple external headwinds.
- For one, the current account deﬁcit widened to 2.4% of gross domestic product in the ﬁrst quarter of 201819 and is expected to reach 3% for the full year.
- The rupee, which is down about 16% since the beginning of the year, doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of recovery either.
- Further, the growth in the sales of petrol and diesel has already been aﬀected adversely as their prices have shot through the roof.
- All this will likely weigh negatively on the prospects of the Indian economy, the world’s fastestgrowing, in the coming quarters.
- In this scenario, the decision to marginally cut taxes imposed on domestic fuels is unlikely to be of any signiﬁcant help to consumers.
- There is a need of steep cut in Central and State taxes for the beneﬁt to carry through to the consumers, which, of course, is unlikely given the government’s ﬁscal needs.
- Another longterm solution to the oil problem will be to increasingly tap into domestic sources of energy supply while simultaneously encouraging consumers to switch to green alternatives.
- This will require a stronger policy framework and implementation.
- In the short term, the government could look to diversifying its international supplier base to manage shocks better.
- But such a choice carries geopolitical risks, such as in the case of Iran.
- Since it will take a length of time to wean the economy oﬀ oil imports, policymakers should also be willing to think beyond just the next election if India’s overreliance on oil is to come to an end for good.
Connecting the dots:
- India’s economic fortunes continue to be tied to the sharply ﬂuctuating price of oil. Analyse the statement, also give some suggestions to strengthen India’s energy security.
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)
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Q.1) Consider the below statements and choose the correct one/s from the code given below:
- The subject of ‘Local Government’ is mentioned in the State List under the Eleventh and Twelfth Schedule of the Constitution.
- State has to take steps to organize Panchayats and endow them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self government.
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
Q.2) Consider the following statements in accordance to Duration of panchayats:
- Every panchayat shall continue for 5 yrs from the date of its 1st meeting.
- It can be dissolved earlier in accordance with the procedure prescribed by the Constitution.
- In case, it is dissolved earlier, elections must take place within 6 month of its dissolution.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
- 1 only
- 1 and 3 only
- 2 and 3 only
- 1, 2 and 3
Q.3) Consider the following pairs:
Joint Military Exercises :: Countries
- Hand-in-Hand : India- China
- Indra : India – Russia
- Indradhanush: India- UK
- LAMITYA: India- Seychelles
Which of the above pairs is/are correctly matched?
- 2, 3 and 4
- 1 and 2 only
- 1, 2 and 4
- All of the above
Q.4) As per IUCN List, Olive Ridley turtle are
- Critically Endangered
- Near Threatened
- Least Concern
Q.5) Consider the following statements
- Olive ridley and Kemp ridley are the only two species of marine turtles that display a unique mass nesting behaviour ‘arribada’.
- They are endemic to the Pacific coasts of Mexico, Central America, and India.
Select the correct statements
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2
- Neither 1 nor 2
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