IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains
Focus)- 20th October 2018
(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)
New skin gel protects Farmers from some pesticides
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II and III – Health issue; Role of Science and Technology; Farmers welfare
- Indian researchers have developed a gel which, when applied on the skin, can prevent some pesticides from getting absorbed into the body, thus averting serious adverse effects and even death.
Do you know?
- Organophosphate-based pesticides, which are commonly used by farmers in India, are toxic to the nervous system and heart, and can cause cognitive dysfunction.
- Majority of organophosphate-based pesticides are absorbed through the skin.
- Esters, which are present in organophosphate-based pesticides, when enters the body can cause neurological disorders, suffocation, paralysis, and even death.
- A team led by Dr. Praveen Kumar Vemula from the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine (inStem), Bengaluru, an autonomous institute under the Department of Biotechnology, used a chemical reaction to convert the ester into acid by using a catalyst to make the pesticide inactive.
- Tests conducted successfully on rats; human trials soon
Kandahar attack: Afghanistan Issue
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II – International Relations
- The recent attack on a high-level meeting inside the Governor’s compound in southern Kandahar, killing top security officials, is yet another reminder of the sharply deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan.
- In recent years, the Taliban has shown its capability to infiltrate official meetings and attack any government building, notwithstanding claims by the authorities of heightened security.
- From the day the election dates were announced, the Taliban had warned those participating in the process.
- Over the past couple of months, the Taliban has repeatedly targeted election offices and gatherings, killing at least 10 candidates and dozens of their supporters.
Do you know?
- The attack is a setback for the U.S. plan for direct talks with the Taliban as a way out of the 17-year-long conflict.
- Both the U.S. and Afghan forces appear to be clueless about how to stop the Taliban’s advances.
Fines fail to deter stubble burning
Part of: GS Mains III – Environment concerns; Pollution
- Between September 27 and October 14, the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) imposed ₹8,92,500 as fines — or “environmental compensation cess” as it is officially called — on farmers burning paddy stubble. However, they collected only ₹3,05,000, according to figures from the organisation.
Do you know?
- The Centre and the States — Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh — have declared a “zero tolerance” policy on the burning of stubble for farmers.
- Stubble burning contributes anywhere from 17% to 78% to the particulate matter-emission load in the city during winter.
- Government has disbursed ₹591 crore to the above States to sell subsidised farm implements that can do away with stubble without having to burn them.
- Study shows that – fines fail to deter stubble burning.
- Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has opposed the move to have an independent Payments Regulatory Board (PRB) as envisaged by the draft proposal for amendments to the Payment & Settlement Systems Act, 2007.
- RBI has opposed the move stating that – There is no case of having a regulator for payment systems outside the RBI.
- The Watal Committee had recommended the establishment of the PRB within the overall structure of the RBI.
TOPIC: General studies 1 and 2
- Governance and administration
Lost in time: Should India have two time zones?
- Indian Standard Time (IST) disregards longitudinal reality from east to west, there is actually a two-hour difference which results in a significant loss of daylight hours in the eastern parts of the country.
- Scientists at the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research’s National Physical Laboratory (CSIR-NPL) have now argued that IST should be done away with at the Chicken’s Neck.
How time is maintained?
- If lines of longitude are drawn exactly a degree apart, they will divide the Earth into 360 zones.
- Because the Earth spins 360° in 24 hours, a longitudinal distance of 15° represents a time separation of 1 hour, and 1° represents 4 minutes.
- Theoretically, the time zone followed by any place should relate to its longitudinal distance from any other place.
- Political boundaries, however, mean that time zones are often demarcated by bent lines rather than straight lines of longitude. This is ‘legal time’, as defined by a country’s law.
- The geographic ‘zero line’ runs through Greenwich, London. It identifies GMT, now known as Universal Coordinated Time (UTC), which is maintained by the Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in France.
- Indian Standard Time, maintained by CSIR-NPL, is based on a line of longitude that runs through Mirzapur in UP.
- At 82°33″E, the line is 82.5° east of Greenwich, or 5.5 hours (5 hours 30 minutes) ahead of UCT. While India follows one IST, the United States follows several time zones across its breadth.
The India debate
- India extends from 68°7″E to 97°25″E, with the spread of 29° representing almost two hours from the geographic perspective.
- This has led to the argument that early sunrise in the easternmost parts, causes the loss of many daylight hours by the time offices or educational institutions open, and that early sunset, for its part, leads to higher consumption of electricity.
- The government said it has not taken any decision on separate time zones. A committee set up in 2002 did not recommend two time zones because of the complexities involved.
- It had cited the same committee’s findings in the Gauhati High Court, which last year dismissed a public interest litigation seeking a direction to the Centre to have a separate time zone for the Northeast.
Concerns related to two time zones
- First, a long-standing argument against doing away with IST has been it would confuse the railway infrastructure.
- Second, in a country with so many diversities to amalgamate into a proverbial unity, asking the people of the Northeast to wake up an hour earlier might lead to yet another point of difference.
The new findings
- It identifies where the two time zones be demarcated from each other at the chicken neck that connects the Northeast to the rest of India, an area that is spatially narrow and reduces the possibility of railway accidents.
- The research paper proposes to call the two time zones IST-I (UTC + 5.30 h) and IST-II (UTC + 6.30 h).
- The proposed line of demarcation is at 89°52E, the narrow border between Assam and West Bengal.
- States west of the line would continue to follow IST (to be called IST-I).
- States east of the line – Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Arunanchal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Andaman & Nicobar Islands – would follow IST-II.
- As the railway signals have not yet been fully automated in the country, the border between the two time zones should have a very narrow spatial-width with minimum number of train stations so that the train timings while crossing the border can be managed manually without any untoward incidents.
- The researchers estimated energy savings at 20 million kWh a year based on a formula explained in the article. They also analysed the importance of synchronising office hours, as well as biological activities, to sunrise and sunset timings.
- Biomedical research has consistently pointed to the physical and psychological benefits of aligning circadian (sleep) rhythms to the sun’s rising and setting.
- Northeast India would move an hour ahead, increasing the region’s productive, daylight hours and the country’s potential energy savings could amount to a whopping 20 million kwh a year.
- Offices could open sooner after sunrise, and perhaps workers could even savour the last dregs of dusk as they trudge towards home or their desired form of recreation.
Connecting the dots:
- What is “Chaibagaan Time”? Do you think there is a need of two time zones in India?
TOPIC:General studies 2
- Special category states
- Inclusive growth and developments
Change still to come: North eastern region of India
- The north-eastern region (NER) has been placed on a pedestal for the purposes of central assistance, subsidies and exemptions.
- The epithet of special category states allows a more liberal resource transfer dispensation for the eight states on account of their historical backwardness, geographical remoteness, sparse population, difficult terrain and strategic location.
Exemptions and privileges
- Income Tax Act exemptions are provided for Scheduled Tribe (ST) residents of Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Tripura, the hill districts of North Cachar, Mikir, Khasi, Garo areas.
- The constitutional principles of affirmative action have afforded greater access to higher education and government jobs to the ST population.
- The cumulative impact of these interventions has brought about substantial change, though several challenges remain.
Positive outcomes of special status
- The literacy rate of all the states of NER was more than the national average in 2011 census, the highest being Mizoram at 91.3 per cent.
- In 1961, all the states were below the national average, barring Assam, Manipur and Mizoram.
- The sex ratio of the states of the NER was more than the national average in 2011, except Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
- In 1961, only Manipur and Mizoram had a sex ratio higher than the national average.
- The infant mortality in 2016 was well below national average, with Manipur being the lowest at 11 deaths per 1,000 live births.
- The poverty ratio in NER in 1993-94 was above the national average for six of the eight states.
- In 2011-12, all the states of the NER had poverty ratio (as per Tendulkar Committee estimates) less than the national average, except Arunachal Pradesh and Assam.
- These indicators suggest a significant transformation. However, a deeper analysis reveals a different story.
Quality of education facilities and drop outs
- As per U-DISE 2016-17, the dropout rate from primary schools is the highest in NER, the worst in Arunachal Pradesh at 23.6 per cent.
- Drop-out rates at the upper-primary level are equally bad amongst these states, barring Assam.
- The NER has the highest percentage of poor quality rural classrooms in the country.
- The All India Survey of Higher Education report 2017-18 points out that the gross enrollment ratio in higher education for five out of the eight NER states is below the national average of 25.8 per cent.
- In the health sector, NFHS-4 data points out that the percentage of institutional deliveries is the lowest in this region except in Sikkim, Mizoram and Tripura, which are doing fairly well.
- Manipur has the highest adult prevalence of HIV in the country, followed by Mizoram and Nagaland.
- High tobacco consumption, poor hygiene and dietary habits are the primary cause of cancer the incidence rates being double of national average making the Northeast the cancer capital of India.
- The absence of adequate diagnostic and treatment facilities make matters worse, especially for the poor.
Infrastructure and connectivity
- Connectivity has been the proverbial Achilles Heel for the Northeast.
- On this front, there are visible signs of change, with the rapid construction of national highways, bridges, rail and air linkages.
- The iconic Bhupen Hazarika bridge and the nearly complete Bogibeel rail-road bridge are emblematic of hope.
- The recently-commissioned airports at Pakyong in Sikkim and Pasighat in Arunachal Pradesh have given wings to economic possibilities.
- Rural infrastructure and connectivity have seen a significant improvement under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana and Border Area Development Programme, though the quality of road infrastructure, especially state highways and rural roads remains quite pathetic.
- Torrential monsoon rains and mudslides make the task of road maintenance even more challenging.
- On the employment front, the work participation rate in the NER is higher than the national average of 39.79 per cent, except Assam, which is marginally lower.
- The female work participation rate of most of the NER is far above the national average.
- However, there is an excessive dependence on government jobs.
- The tribal societies of the Northeast tend to be closely knit along lines of kinship and ethnicity.
- As a result, the educated youth are do not prefer relocating for jobs.
- Experiences of racial prejudice and discrimination in other parts of India have made matters worse.
- The bigger challenge lies in harnessing private investment and catalysing home-grown entrepreneurship.
- The credit-deposit ratio of scheduled commercial banks in the NER is the lowest in the country.
- This is partly attributable to the complex land laws of the region, which are an overlay of customary rights (of clans and communities) over modern laws (conferring individual rights).
- As a result, a land titling exercise is yet to be undertaken in most states. In the absence of a clear land title as collateral, banks hesitate to lend and credible investors remain wary.
- Liberalisation of the regulatory framework around land holdings would help monetise the biggest resource of this region.
- Inner line regulations, based on a British-era law applicable in some hill states, also need to be simplified to make access easier for tourists and investors.
- Winds of change are sweeping the Northeast, yet it will be a while before the states can shed their special tag.
- A competition-based resource allocation framework may help incentivise improvements in outcomes.
Connecting the dots:
- Development is remaking the Northeast. But tough challenges remain. Elucidate.
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)
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Q.1) Kandahar is often in news. The city is located in –
Q.2) Agriculture is one of the largest Green house gas contributors on earth. Which of the following statements are correct regarding this?
- Cattle rearing is responsible for release of a large amount of Methane in atmosphere.
- Use of manure in soil leads to production of Methane and Nitrogen oxides.
- Burning of crop stubble release a large amount of CO2 and soot in air
- Clearing space for agriculture leads to deforestation and hence global warming.
Select the code from following:
- 1,2 and 3
- 2,3 and 4
- 1,3 and 4
- All of the above
Q.3) Which among the following is/are not true about Pesticides in India?
- Agriculture ministry regulates the manufacture, sale, distribution and use of pesticides
- Health and family welfare ministry defines permissible residual limits of pesticides in food commodities
- The right of banning pesticide vests with state government
- The Factories Act, 1948 under the Ministry of Labour deals with the safety aspects of pesticide production
Choose the appropriate option:
- 1 only
- 1 and 3 only
- 4 only
The petroglyphs of Ratnagiri
Keep the peace: on Sabarimala
Saying MeToo Differently
The inevitability of MeToo
Migrant and nation