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Human Rights Issues

U.S. pulls out of United Nations Human Rights CouncilPriority 1


Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Important International institutions, agencies & fora, their structure, mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: United Nations Human Rights Council

Mains level: Impact of ‘America First’ policy on various international institutions and their members


Another US withdrawal

  1. The United States has announced that it was leaving the United Nations Human Rights Council
  2. It was the latest withdrawal by the Trump administration from an international institution
  3. The move extends a broader Trump administration pattern of stepping back from international agreements and forums under the president’s “America First” policy

Reason given for withdrawal

  1. There has been longstanding U.S. complaint that the 47-member council is biased against Israel
  2. The U.S. is Israel’s biggest defender at other U.N. organizations

Special mention of Israel at UNHRC

  1. Israel is the only country in the world whose rights record comes up for discussion at every council session, under “Item 7” on the agenda
  2. Item 7 on “Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories” has been part of the council’s regular business almost as long as it has existed

Other major withdrawals

  1. Since January 2017, U.S. has announced its withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, left the U.N. educational and cultural organization and pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal

Ripple effects on China

  1. At the rights council, the United States has recently been the most unabashed critic of rights abuses in China

Back2Basics

United Nations Human Rights Council

  1. UNHRC is a United Nations body whose mission is to promote and protect human rights around the world
  2. The UNHRC has 47 members elected for staggered three-year terms on a regional group basis
  3. The UNHRC was established by the UN General Assembly on March 15, 2006
  4. The headquarters of UNHRC is in Geneva, Switzerland
  5. The members of the General Assembly elect the members who occupy the UNHRC’s 47 seats. The term of each seat is three years, and no member may occupy a seat for more than two consecutive terms
  6. The General Assembly can suspend the rights and privileges of any Council member that it decides has persistently committed gross and systematic violations of human rights during its term of membership
  7. The UNHRC investigates allegations of breaches of human rights in UN member states, and addresses important thematic human rights issues such as freedom of association and assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of belief and religion, women’s rights, LGBT rights, and the rights of racial and ethnic minorities
Rohingya Conflict

[op-ed snap] The imperative to offer refugeop-ed snapPriority 1


Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Various declarations for protecting refugees mentioned in the newscard

Mains level: The newscard emphasizes the need to codify a bill for Asylum Seekers in the ambit of global Compact on Refugees.


 News

India over the ‘Refuge culture’

  1. India is host to over 200,000 refugees like her who have been forced to flee conflict and persecution in their home countries.
  2. On World Refugee Day (June 20), there is a need to reassess India’s approach to refugee protection, particularly in light of the regional refugee crisis after the mass exodus of the Rohingya from Myanmar.
  3. Traditionally, India has hosted several persecuted groups such as Tibetans and Sri Lankans.
  4. While it is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and has no domestic asylum law, it has reiterated its commitment towards the protection of refugees at various international fora, including the UN General Assembly.
  5. One of the most significant affirmations of this commitment was demonstrated by India becoming a signatory to the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, which was adopted by 193 countries in September 2016.

Indian context

  1. India iterates that protecting refugees and supporting the countries that shelter them are shared international responsibilities that must be borne more equitably.
  2. Although India has hosted refugees of varying nationalities for decades, the country has done little beyond providing asylum. There have been some attempts to introduce a refugee law in the country, the latest being the Asylum Bill 2015, introduced as a private member’s bill by Shashi Tharoor.
  3. Given that most refugees have been unable to return to their countries, leading to protracted refugee situations, there is an urgent need for the government to develop a uniform framework for their management during their stay in India.

The global move to handle Refugees – the GCR

  1. The NY Declaration sets the stage for a new framework for refugee protection — the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR).
  2. The Compact is a coordinated effort to strengthen international response to protracted refugee situations and comprehensively addresses all stages of refugee protection, from reception to long-term solutions.
  3. Two of its key objectives are to ease pressures on host countries and enhance refugee self-reliance.
  4. The GCR recognises that certain refugee situations can last for decades and acknowledges that the burden is borne largely by developing countries, that now host over 80% of the refugee population in the world.
  5. It also seeks to establish forums to enable expertise-sharing to promote economic opportunities, decent work and job creation not just for refugees but also for the host community.

UNHCR to intervene

  1. Since the Declaration was adopted, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been engaging with member states, UN bodies, and non-governmental organizations to develop a plan for its practical implementation.
  2. This will be finalized by the end of 2018.

Problems faced by Refugees

  1. Due to their unclear legal status and lack of uniform documentation, refugees have limited access to essential services and almost no avenues for livelihood.
  2. While some refugees have been able to generate income by working in the informal sector, many of them are at the mercy of touts and traffickers even within their own community.
  3. At best, they are forced to rely on income from odd jobs which is an unsustainable livelihood option that often leaves them exposed to exploitation.

Solutions for Refugees Problem

  1. The solution to this may lie within the GCR, which calls for States to identify gaps and opportunities for employment and income generation for refugees in a bid to enhance their self-reliance.
  2. Moreover, it specifies the need to include the host community in enabling mapping skills, vocational training and capacity-building among refugee populations, thereby fostering understanding and cooperation among the communities and paving the way for a socially cohesive approach.

Way Forward

  1. India’s commitment to refugee protection under the GCR is evident in its active participation in ongoing GCR consultations, where it has emphasized the need for a clear mechanism for the refugee response regime.
  2. Therefore this is an opportune time for India to reassess the need for a national asylum policy which is compliant with the principles laid down in the GCR.
  3. This will not only re-establish India’s place as a democratic regional power committed to core humanitarian principles but will also provide refugees such as Nargis a chance to give back to the country that has adopted her.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology

[op-ed snap] Growth in the machineop-ed snapPriority 1


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Applications of AI

Mains level: This editorial talks about the “still emerging” AI technology which has so unique advantages for India compared to other countries. This raises attention for India to harness AI for boosting growth.


 Context

Getting the ‘Developed’ tag

  1. India has perhaps now only a limited window of a decade to get into the developed country tag or stay perpetually in the emerging group of economies.
  2. To get to the developed country status, this is one factor that has to change dramatically.
  3. This begs the question: How do we get India’s productivity to spike in 10 years?

India is trailing behind US and China in AI

  1. AI — the simulation of human intelligence and learning by machines — has been talked about by many as the productivity booster we have all been waiting for.
  2. While India is expected to be a player, it is far from being among the leading actors in AI.
  3. According to PwC, of the $15.7 trillion increase in global GDP in 2030 attributable to AI, $7 trillion will be in China, $3.7 trillion will be in the US and Canada.
  4. Accenture pegs the number for India to be below 1 trillion in 2035.Without question, the race for AI dominance is between the US and China.

AI-relevant advantages unique to India.

Three are particularly worth noting and give me reason for hope. It is hard to find another country ready with these many deep value-creating AI applications.

(A) Versatile platform:

  • With a billion-plus people populating the unique-ID system, Aadhaar, and the India Stack of digitally enabled offerings built on top of Aadhaar, the country has a platform for growth unlike any other in the world.
  • It can, in principle, catalyse innovative applications, nurture an entrepreneurial ecosystem and generate a massive amount of data that can train algorithms and help develop more intelligence — the “I” in AI.
  • To be sure, there are plenty of challenges to overcome: Getting the right participants, stakeholders and talent base to come together, providing capital and ensuring privacy, security and usability of the data.

(B) Key actors:

  • The good news is that India has an early start here.
  • The global AI majors are active in India and view it as one of the world’s most promising digital growth markets. This puts India in a clear third place behind the US and China and ahead of Europe.
  • Europe’s more stringent data protection rules and regulations and slowing digital momentum will further constrain the interests of innovative companies.
  • With economies of scale working in India’s favour, this could create a virtuous cycle of private sector AI investment and innovation activity.

(C) Abundant applications:

  • The technology can address long-standing societal and human development problems of the kind that abound in India.
  • Think of tackling dengue and Chikungunya, two of the more formidable mosquito-borne public health crises. It is essential to get data on its incidence early and predict its path.
  • Project Premonition, for example, an AI project of Microsoft, uses mosquitoes themselves as data collection devices.
  • AI can be used for myriad other purposes stretching across farming, transport, infrastructure, education and crime prevention — all productivity-boosting and job-creating applications ready and waiting across India.

India moving Forward on AI

  1. The budget for Digital India was doubled; the IT ministry has formed four AI committees; the government’s think tank, the Niti Aayog, is tasked with coordination across AI initiatives.
  2. The Niti Aayog, for its part, has just announced an AI partnership with Google and has released a white paper, National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence.
  3. If done right, it can spike productivity, save lives and produce new livelihoods — jobs that the country’s youth desperately need.

Rajya Sabha fault lines clear for Deputy Chairman pollPriority 1


Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Parliament & State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges & issues arising out of these.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Election process for VC of Rajya Sabha

Mains level: Importance and special powers of Rajya Sabha


Election for VC of Rajya Sabha

  1. Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu has set in motion the process of election of Deputy Chairman of the Upper House

The process of election

  1. Under the procedure prescribed, any member may give notice in writing addressed to the Secretary-General, before noon on the day before the election date, of a motion that another member may be chosen as Deputy Chairman
  2. This notice shall be accompanied by a statement by the member whose name is proposed in the notice that he is willing to serve as Deputy Chairman if elected
  3. The motions which have been moved and duly seconded will be put one by one in the order in which they have been moved and decided if necessary by division
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

India launches its first National Healthcare Facility RegistryPriority 1


Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Registry and other stakeholders involved, National Health Profile

Mains level: Read the attached story


News

National Health Resource Repository (NHRR)

  1. The Union ministry of health and family welfare has launched the first ever registry in the country registry of authentic, standardised and updated geo-spatial data of all public and private healthcare.
  2. Objective: “to create a reliable, unified registry of country’s healthcare resources showing the distribution pattern of health facilities and services between cities and rural areas”
  3. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is the project technology partner for providing data security.
  4. It will now be possible to provide comprehensive data on all private and public health establishments and other resources, including Railways, Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC), defense and petroleum healthcare establishments.
  5. Under the Collection of Statistics Act 2008, more than 20 lakh healthcare establishments such as hospitals, doctors, clinics, diagnostic labs, pharmacies and nursing homes would be enumerated under this census, which will capture data on more than 1,400 variables.
  6. The Central Bureau of Health Intelligence (CBHI) has looped in key stakeholders, including leading associations, allied ministries, and several private healthcare service providers.

What is it going to provide?

  1. This resource repository shall enable advanced research towards ongoing and forthcoming healthcare challenges arising from other determinants of health such as disease and the environment.
  2. Approximately 4,000 trained professionals are working with dedication to approach every healthcare establishment to collect information.
  3. It shall also enhance the coordination between central and state government for optimisation of health resources, making ‘live’ and realistic state project implementation plans (PIPs) and improving accessibility of data at all levels, including state heads of departments, and thus decentralise the decision making at district and state level.
  4. Additionally, it shall generate real-world intelligence to identify gaps in health and service ratios, and ensure judicious health resource allocation and management.
  5. It shall identify key areas of improvement by upgrading existing health facilities or establishing new health facilities keeping in view the population density, geographic nature, health condition, distance,” he said.
  6. The NHRR project aims to strengthen evidence-based decision making and develop a platform for citizens and provider-centric services by creating a robust, standardised and secured Information Technology (IT)-enabled repository of India’s healthcare resources.

National Health Profile (NHP)-2018

  1. The health minister also released the National Health Profile (NHP)-2018, prepared by CBHI.
  2. The National Health Profile covers demographic, socio-economic, health status and health finance indicators, along with comprehensive information on health infrastructure and human resources in health.
Housing for all – PMAY, etc.

How to make affordable housing more attractivePriority 1


Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Urbanization , their problems & remedies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: PMAY, Floor Space Index, PMAY

Mains level: Measures for increasing affordability of Housing for all initiative


News

Carpet (floor) Area has been increased by 33% to qualify for Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) Subsidies

  1. The initiative, ‘Housing for All by 2022’ is the central pivot around which the government’s efforts are concentrated. This, in turn, covers different aspects like rental and affordable housing.
  2. Roping in the private sector under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model is the key solution.

What more is needed to increase affordability?

Among other initiatives, the government needs:

  • to grant infrastructure status to the entire real estate industry making long-term financing easy for the industry
  • fix GST rate for all types of housing at 6%
  • revise carpet area to 60 sq. mt including in metro cities (to qualify for subsidy)
  • make land available at subsidized rates in metros and tier 1 cities so that the projects can be viable
  • reduce premium on additional FSI (floor space index) to encourage affordable housing within metro cities and
  • also reduce time taken and cost of permissions and clearances.

Permitting higher Floor Space Index

  1. Land in metros forms a significant proportion of the project cost and renders such projects unviable for the affordable segment.
  2. Policies should be formulated wherein land can be provided at rates that make the affordable projects viable.
  3. Land can be provided to develop composite projects where one segment, say, LIG (lower income group) is cross-subsidised by the revenues earned from the other segment, say HIG (higher income group).
  4. If such corridors allow for high density development, a higher FSI can be permitted, with an incremental benefit of FSI being applied towards affordable housing.
  5. The government should provide incentives to private players who use technology to deliver quality product.
  6. Such standardisation may further improve efficiency and make construction of homes like a manufacturing set-up.

Rewarding developers for last mile connect

  1. Availability of land in cities at affordable pricing is one of the major challenges.
  2. The government could facilitate the development of affordable housing by making surplus land held by PSUs (Public Sector Undertakings) available for affordable housing projects.
  3. Land is a state subject and that adds another layer of complexity.
  4. The central government should guide the states on programmes to allocate and incentivise the usage of land for affordable housing, while also incentivising state governments to facilitate engagement and implementation.
  5. It is also recommended to incentivise developers for infrastructure and last mile connectivity development in semi-urban centres.

Allotting land parcels at subsidized costs

  1. The recent move to raise the carpet area and the RBI’s revision of housing loan limits for priority sector lending (PSL) eligibility will help bring most of the under-construction dwelling units in urban India under the purview of the CLSS.
  2. This will not only bolster homebuyer sentiments, but also further propel construction activity in the affordable housing sector. However, the next steps for the government should be:
  • Look at the benefits for developers. Elements like reduction in construction inputs should now be a priority.
  • To make optimum use of the initiative from a consumer’s standpoint, the land allotment should be at better locations and subsidized costs.
  • Focus should be on building a holistic environment that incorporates infrastructure and social facilities. Access to holistic livelihood facilities will be key in determining the success of the initiative
New Species of Plants and Animals Discovered

Indian plant seed could bring clean water to millionsPriority 1


plant--agencies

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Moringa oleifera plant, F-sand

Mains level: Innovative methods to deal with water pollution


Plant to purify water

  1. Proteins from the Moringa oleifera plant can help effectively purify water in developing nations at a low cost
  2. The plant – commonly known as the drumstick tree – is cultivated for food and natural oils, and the seeds are already used for a type of rudimentary water purification
  3. The Moringa oleifera plant tree is native to India and grows well in tropical and subtropical climates

F-sand

  1. Sand and plant materials have been to create a cheap and effective water filtration medium, termed “f-sand”
  2. F-sand was created by extracting the seed proteins from the Moringa oleifera plant, and adhering them to the surface of silica particles, the principal component of sand
  3. It kills microorganisms and reduces turbidity, adhering to particulate and organic matter
Urban Floods

Govt. teams up with Google for flood warningPriority 1


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | developments & their applications & effects in everyday life

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Central Water Commission (CWC), India Meteorological Department, Artificial intelligence, machine learning, geospatial mapping,

Mains level: Flood management in India and need of better practices to ensure minimal loss of life and property


News

Better flood warning

  1. Union Water Resources Ministry has teamed up with Google to generate flood warnings
  2. If there are signs of an imminent flood, a Google Maps user will be able to see what regions are likely to see water logging first and if their neighborhood is under threat
  3. Google will provide a visualization via Google Maps and people will be able to see water levels build up in a region

Technology sharing

  1. CWC and Google will share technical expertise in the fields of artificial intelligence, machine learning, geospatial mapping and analysis of hydrological observation data to improve flood prediction systems, provide location-targeted, actionable flood warnings
  2. Google Earth Engine will be used to help visualize and improve flood management and initiate a cultural project to build online exhibitions on the ‘Rivers of India’

Present system of warning

  1. Currently, the Central Water Commission (CWC) warns of floods based on the rising water levels in reservoirs and if these are nearing a dam’s ‘danger marks’
  2. Last year, it began a trial programme to give 3-day flood forecasts
  3. The India Meteorological Department now provides inputs to the CWC on whether heavy rainfall is likely and if this could translate into large amounts of rainwater overflowing from river banks or catchments
Aadhaar Card Issues

Aadhaar virtual IDs becoming a real problem for NBFCsPriority 1


Image result for aadhar virtual id

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies & interventions for development in various sectors & issues arising out of their design & implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Aadhaar Virtual ID, AUA (Authentication User Agencies) Types

Mains level: Issues created due to the implementation of aadhaar


News

Virtual IDs for eKYC

  1. The Unique Identification Authority of India’s (UIDAI’s) plan to make non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) use Aadhaar Virtual IDs to authenticate customers from 1 July has put these firms in a fix.
  2. The government introduced 16-digit virtual IDs in a bid to address privacy concerns around sharing Aadhaar numbers at the time of authentication.
  3. Earlier, the Aadhaar data of all customers were synced with credit bureaus, which allowed NBFCs to do eKYC without the need for physical verification, said a digital strategy officer of a top NBFC.

Lending is difficult due to Virtual IDs

  1. NBFCs pointed out that using virtual IDs will give them access to limited details about the customers, which may make lending more difficult.
  2. Since virtual IDs mask the Aadhaar number, NBFCs believe the cost of customer acquisition will rise as they have to do additional physical checks.
  3. NBFCs also point out that many customers are not fully aware of Aadhaar virtual IDs as UIDAI is yet to publicize this new system.
  4. These firms are concerned that it would be left to them to push customers to register for virtual IDs, increasing the cost of customer acquisition.

Problem with UIDAI’s AUA Classification

  1. UIDAI has recently classified entities as global AUAs (authentication user agencies) and local AUAs, depending on their access to Aadhaar data for customer verification.
  2. Banks and life insurers have been categorized as global AUAs and allowed to use Aadhaar numbers to do an eKYC verification.
  3. On the other hand, NBFCs, home financiers, prepaid instrument issuers and telecom companies have been classified as local AUAs and must use Aadhaar virtual ID to perform a one-time-password-based customer authentication.
Communicable and Non-communicable diseases – HIV, Malaria, Cancer, Mental Health, etc.

In a first, WHO recommends quadrivalent influenza vaccinePriority 1


Image result for influenza

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims Level: Influenza Strain Types,  H#N# Subtypes

Mains level: Read the attached story


News

Quadrivalent vaccine approved

  1. Sanofi Pasteur’s injectable influenza vaccine (FluQuadri) containing two A virus strains — H1N1 and H3N2 — and two B virus strains — Victoria and Yamagata — for active immunisation of adults of age 18 to 64 years was approved in May last year by the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI).
  2. The application for the paediatric indication is under review by the DCGI and final approval is expected by the end of this month.
  3. Sanofi’s quadrivalent influenza vaccine was licensed for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2013; it is licensed in 26 countries.

Why Quadrivalent vaccine?

  1. While a trivalent influenza vaccine contains both A subtype viruses, it has only one of the B subtype virus, the quadrivalent vaccine offers a greater breadth of protection as it includes both B subtype viruses.
  2. It is because of a greater breadth of protection that a few other companies too have shifted from a trivalent to a quadrivalent vaccine.
  3. Since the vast majority of influenza vaccines manufactured were trivalent till recently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) used to recommend two A subtypes and one B subtype, plus an optional fourth strain (the other B virus strain).

Benefits of Quadrivalent Vaccine

  1. The quadrivalent vaccine will contain four influenza virus strains (two A subtypes and two B subtypes — H1N1 and H3N2, and Victoria and Yamagata respectively).
  2. The viruses used in the vaccine are killed and this eliminates the possibility of the virus in the vaccine itself causing infection.
  3. In India, the vaccine will be available as a single dose pre-filled syringe
  4. Eventually, it will be available in a vial for public health use.

Incidences of different Strains

  1. In the case of H1N1, there are two strains — California and Michigan — that cause influenza. In India, the Michigan strain was earlier circulating and has been replaced by the California strain.
  2. For 2018, the WHO has recommended the Michigan strain for the southern hemisphere, including India.
  3. Each year, the vaccine changes to reflect the different strains in circulation.
  4. Year-round, scientists across the globe track, analyze and classify the viral strains causing illness.

 Indian context

  1. Despite the high number of infections and mortality each year, India does not have in place a national policy for influenza immunization.
  2. Pregnant mothers, children aged below five and young people with asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and high blood pressure are at a greater risk of infection and death.
  3. The Ministry of Health issues only H1N1 vaccination guidelines for different vulnerable groups including healthcare workers.
  4. If we want to reduce the influenza burden in adults, then we must target children as they act as reservoirs.

Back2Basics

Influenza

Influenza is a virus that actually has hundreds of different strains. The virus mutates frequently, but the strains are classified into one of three main categories—A, B, or C.

Influenza A is the group that most commonly causes illness in humans.

  1. All influenza A viruses are further broken down into H and N subtypes. So, any influenza virus that is described as “H#N#” (such as H1N1) is an influenza A virus.
  2. There are 16 H subtypes and nine N subtypes, but only three combinations have actually caused highly contagious illness in humans.
  3. Other combinations have been found to infect other species (such as birds and pigs), but they have not caused widespread human infections.
  4. The three combinations that cause almost all outbreaks of the flu in humans are H1N1, H2N2 and H3N2.
  5. Even in these subtypes, the influenza virus can mutate and change each year. For this reason, influenza viruses are also named using:
  • The host of origin (swine, chicken, etc., or no host if it is of human origin)
  • The geographical location of origin (Hong Kong, Alberta, etc.)
  • Strain number
  • Year of discovery (or isolation)

Influenza B

  1. Influenza B is less common but still causes outbreaks of seasonal flu.
  2. One or two strains of influenza B are included in the seasonal flu vaccine every year to protect people from the strain(s) that researchers believe are most likely to cause illness during the upcoming flu season.
  3. The quadrivalent flu vaccine contains two strains of influenza B but the traditional trivalent flu vaccine only contains one.
  4. Influenza B is not broken down into subtypes like influenza A is, but it is broken down into individual strains.
  5. Typically, two strains of influenza A and one strain of influenza B are included in the seasonal flu vaccine. Quadrivalent flu vaccines contain two strains of influenza A and two strains of influenza B.
  6. Influenza B can cause outbreaks of seasonal flu but they occur less frequently than outbreaks of influenza A.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-APEC

[op-ed snap] Countering China in the Indo-Pacificop-ed snapPriority 1


Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Shangri-La Dialogue, Malabar exercises, Rimpac (Rim of the Pacific) exercises, two-plus-two dialogue, Guam, Martabali port, Sonadia port, Trincomalee port, Malacca Straits, Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC)

Mains level: Indo Pacific cooperation and its importance for India


Context

Shangri-La Dialogue

  1. At the recently concluded Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, PM Modi and the defense ministers of Japan, the US and Australia reiterated their shared commitment to the Indo-Pacific region
  2. It was closely followed by Japan-India-US Malabar exercises in Guam
  3. Japan, India, the US and Australia will also join Rimpac (Rim of the Pacific) exercises commencing on 27 June
  4. India and the US are planning to hold the first two-plus-two dialogue (between their foreign and defense ministers) in Washington

Turning cooperation into a “counter China strategy”

There are three possible ways

First, we should focus on the link between Indo-China border area and the East China Sea

  • If India cooperates with Japan and the US, it will not need to deal with all the Chinese fighter jets at once, because China is likely to keep some of its fighter jets to defend its eastern front.
  • Japan and the US are willing to support India’s efforts to modernize its defence in the Indo-China border area

Second, there is a high possibility that in the near future India will be the most influential sea power in the Indian Ocean Region

  • Japan, the US and Australia will then be able to deploy more military force in the East China Sea and the South China Sea to maintain the military balance against China
  • Therefore, these three countries should share the know-how related with anti-submarine capabilities and enhance India’s military preparedness
  • Developing infrastructure in countries of the region is useful, too
  • Bangladesh has already chosen Japan’s Martabali port project instead of China’s Sonadia port project
  • If the Trincomalee port project involving Japanese assistance in Sri Lanka succeeds, then the importance of China’s Hambantota port will decline
  • The Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC), a result of Indo-Japanese cooperation, will also counter China’s growing influence in Africa

Third, Japan, India, the US and Australia can collaborate to support South-East Asian countries in the South China Sea

  • The South-East Asian countries need to beef up their military power
  • The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are strategically important
  • These islands are near the Malacca Straits, providing an excellent location for tracking China’s submarine activities
  • Japanese investment in India’s strategic road project in the latter’s North-East region will help increase India-South-East Asia trade
  • Growing India-South-East Asia trade could reduce China’s influence in South-East Asia

Way Forward

  1. Further security cooperation among Japan, India, the US and Australia is increasingly plausible
  2. The time has come to proactively further this cooperation to ensure prosperity and stability in the whole of Indo-Pacific
Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

[op-ed snap] Parched or polluted: on India’s water crisisop-ed snapPriority 1


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Composite Water Management Index, NITI Aayog

Mains level: Water crisis faced by India and how it can be toned down


Context

India’s impending water crisis

  1. According to the Composite Water Management Index developed by Niti Aayog, 70% of the water resources are identified as polluted
  2. If the water accessible to millions is contaminated, the problem is infinitely worse than that of availability
  3. The trends that the data reflect of high to extreme stress faced by 600 million people call for speedy reforms

Focus Areas

Two areas that need urgent measures are

  1. Augmentation of watersheds that can store more good water, for use in agriculture
  2. Strict pollution control enforcement

Mihir Shah Committee recommendations

  1. The Committee on Restructuring the Central Water Commission and the Central Ground Water Board, chaired by Mihir Shah, has called for a user-centric approach to water management, especially in agriculture
  2. It advocates decentralisation of irrigation commands, offering higher financial flows to well-performing States through a National Irrigation Management Fund

Way forward

  1. Groundwater extraction patterns need to be better understood through robust data collection
  2. Steady urbanization calls for a new management paradigm, augmenting sources of clean drinking water supply and treatment technologies that will encourage reuse
  3. Pollution can be curbed by levying suitable costs
  4. A legal mandate will work better than just competition and cooperation as it would make governments accountable
Indian Ocean Power Competition

India’s proposed Assumption Island deal stands cancelledPriority 1


Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Assumption Island, SAGAR Programme, a Map-based study of Indian Ocean Region (IOR)

Mains level: India’s counter arrangements in IOR against rising Chinese presence


News

India’s plan to build a military base in Seychelles now stands CANCELLED

  1. The deal was to include a 20-year access to the base, as well as permission to station some military personnel on the ground with facilities on the island funded by India, owned by Seychelles and jointly managed by both sides.
  2. The deal to build a military base at Assumption Islands was struck in principle in 2015 during PM Modi’s visit to Seychelles

Another Security setback after the Maldives

  1. The decision by the Seychelles President to drop the deal in the face of protests over a perceived loss of sovereignty is a blow to the government’s “SAGAR” (Security and Growth for All in the Region) programme.
  2. It also comes amid India’s troubles with another IOR country, the Maldives, where the government has demanded that India withdraw two helicopters, pilots and personnel from its atolls that had been sent there to help with maritime patrols.

Attempts futile

  1. In an attempt to engage with the Opposition in the Seychelles that had led protests against the agreement, India had raised the issue with Leader of the Opposition of Seychelles.
  2. Naval officials pointed out that India’s defense maritime cooperation with Seychelles is long-standing and some of the upgrade work on Assumption Island was already underway.
  3. India has resurfaced the old airstrip on the island as part of the infrastructure development project worth over $500 million.
  4. The cancellation of the agreement in a strategically important island could have far-reaching implications.

 Back2Basics

SAGAR Programme (Security and Growth for All in the Region)

  1. SAGAR is a term coined by PM Modi in 2015 during his Mauritius visit with a focus on blue economy.
  2. It is a maritime initiative which gives priority to Indian Ocean region for ensuring peace, stability and prosperity of India in Indian Ocean region.
  3. The goal is to seek a climate of trust and transparency; respect for international maritime rules and norms by all countries; sensitivity to each other`s interests; peaceful resolution of maritime issues; and increase in maritime cooperation.
  4. It is in line with the principles of Indian Ocean Rim Association.

IORA (Indian Ocean Rim Association)

  1. Established in 1997 in Ebene Cyber City, Mauritius
  2. First established as Indian Ocean Rim Initiative in Mauritius on March 1995 and formally launched in 1997 by the conclusion of a multilateral treaty known as the Charter of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation.
  3. It is based on the principles of Open Regionalism for strengthening Economic Cooperation particularly on Trade Facilitation and Investment, Promotion as well as Social Development of the region.
Festivals, Dances, Theatre, Literature, Art in News

The Vaishnav monks of Assam’s Majuli islandPriority 1States in News


Viashnav monks put on their costumes for a village performance on the Majuli island of Assam. Photos: Sankar Sridhar

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Arts & Culture | All syllabus

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Srimanta Sankardev, Sattriya Nritya, Majuli island, Sangeet Natak Akademi

Mains level: Various art forms prevailing in India and threats posed by them


History of Vaishnavism in Assam

  1. Vaishnava saint Srimanta Sankardev came to Majuli island in the 15th century
  2. He along with his disciples, set up 65 sattras—which is said to translate to “unique monasteries”
  3. Sankardev developed an equally unique way of worship through dance and drama, called the Sattriya Nritya
  4. The neo-Vaishnavite movement, held together by Sankardev, saw a division into four sub-sects after his passing

About Sattriya Nritya

  1. It is a dazzling retelling of the Ramayan and Mahabharat—complete with comedy, action, suspense and make-up to match
  2. Until the 20th century, it was the preserve of male monks but has since brought women into the fold
  3. In the year 2000, the Sangeet Natak Akademi recognized this dance form as classical

Majuli Island

  1. It is the world’s biggest river island in the Brahmaputra River, Assam
  2. In 2016 it became the first island to be made a district in India
  3. The island is formed by the Brahmaputra river in the south and the Kherkutia Xuti, an anabranch of the Brahmaputra, joined by the Subansiri River in the north
  4. Hidden chars (temporary islands formed by sedimentary deposits) and sandbars are features of this island

Zero tillage good for cotton cultivationPriority 1


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Agriculture| Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level:  Zero Tillage

Mains level: Benefits of Zero tillage


News

Tillage is Labour intensive

  1. Most farmers do not own bullocks and can’t afford to hire a tractor for tilling to grow cotton
  2. It involves deployment of extra labourers for sowing in place of a bullock drawn plough.
  3. This will be slightly costly but it gets compensated as seed germination percentage is quite high and the crop stays healthy.

Zero Tillage

  1. Farmers in Telangana have dozen-year experience in sowing cotton in the zero tillage method and suggest that it is best suited for the cash crop and yields good results.
  2. Zero tillage involves sowing of seeds along the markers on the string which is held by two male labourers on either end of the land.
  3. The seeds sown in this fashion do not encounter the crust in the soil the way it happens in the tilling method.
  4. Also, the seeds encounter least resistance to take roots unlike the hardened crust.

Benefits

  1. While sowing seeds in furrows made by a plough requires administration of fertilisers at that stage, there is no need for Diammonium Phosphate to be administered to the seeds which are directly sown through zero tillage.
  2. The germination and health of the plant is as good as those seeds which had a fertiliser booster.
  3. The soil retains moisture which is quite beneficial for cotton plant growth.
  4. It retains organic matter and improves soil biological fertility.
Irrigation In India – PMKSY, AIBP, Watershed Management, Neeranchan, etc.

Why is Telangana’s Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project important?Priority 1States in News


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Different types of irrigation and irrigation systems

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project, Rivers involved in it.

Mains level:  Read the attached story


News

What’s the project?

  1. The Kaleshwaram project is an off-shoot of the original Pranahitha-Chevella Lift Irrigation Scheme taken up by the government in 2007 when Andhra Pradesh was not divided.
  2. After conducting a highly advanced Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) survey for a couple of months, the government separated the original component serving the Adilabad area as the Pranahitha project.
  3. The project is designed to irrigate 7,38,851 hectares (over 18.47 lakh acres) uplands in the erstwhile districts of Karimnagar, Nizamabad, Warangal, Medak, Nalgonda and Ranga Reddy.

Why is it Unique?

  1. Claimed to be the costliest irrigation project to be taken up by any State till date with an estimated cost of ₹80,500 crore.
  2. KLIP has many unique features, including the longest tunnel to carry water in Asia, running up to 81 km, between the Yellampally barrage and the Mallannasagar reservoir.
  3. The project would also utilize the highest capacity pumps, up to 139 MW, in the country to lift water.
Wetland Conservation

Blue revolution a bane of KolleruPriority 1


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Geographical Features of Kolleru Lake and its Biodiversity

Mains level: Shrinking size of Kolleru Lake and various other wetlands is a matter of concern


News

Pisciculture at Kolleru Lake is a bane

  1. The blue revolution converted the lake into a centre mainly for pisciculture.
  2. Operation Kolleru was launched to clear the lake of unauthorised fish tanks.
  3. But this would reduce the protected area of the lake from +5 to +3 contours (that is by 538 sq.km) and AP govt even had a resolution to that effect passed in the Assembly and forwarded it to the Centre.
  4. The huge yields with relatively low expenditure made it the primary destination for aquaculture making it the target of the worst kind of encroachment.

Defining the boundary

  1. The lake’s boundary varies depending on the seasonal inflows like in all inland wetlands.
  2. Towards the end of the monsoon, it used to extend right up to +10 feet contour with a water-spread area of 901 sq. km.
  3. According to the Ramsar records the lake, till contour +10 ft, is protected as per the international convention.

Issue over Boundary

  1. In the summer, the area covered by water reduces to 135 sq.km (Con.+3 ft).
  2. The present government’s decision to “denotify” 20,000 acres from the wildlife sanctuary as per the recommendations of the Sukumar Committee will lead to further encroachment of the shrinking lake and make it more vulnerable.

Centre’s stance over the issue

  1. In response to the State resolutions, the Centre appointed two expert committees — the UPA appointed the A. Azeez Committee and the NDA government the Sukumar Committee — to advise them about reducing the size.
  2. While the Azeez committee said there was very little benefit in reducing the size and recommended alternate land be provided to holders of private land.
  3. The Sukumar committee suggested that the private land be removed from the sanctuary.
  4. The present government’s decision to “denotify” 20,000 acres from the wildlife sanctuary as per the recommendations of the Sukumar Committee will lead to further encroachment of the shrinking lake and make it more vulnerable.

Back2Basics

Kolleru Lake

  1. Kolleru Lake is a freshwater lake and is known as Ramsar site no. 1209.
  2. It is located between Krishna and Godavari deltas of Andhra Pradesh
  3. As a haven for a wide variety of water birds, the Forest Department has declared 673 sq.km (Con.+5) as the Kolleru Wildlife Sanctuary.
  4. It is an Important Bird Area on the Central Asian Flyway.
  5. It is important habitat for resident and migratory birds, including the grey or spot-billed pelican (Pelecanus philippensis). Many birds migrate here in winter, such as the Siberian crane, ibis, and painted storks.
Indian Missile Program Updates

DRDO turns Pinaka rocket system into guided missile, developmental trials soonPriority 1


drdo, guided missile, pinaka rocket system, defence research org, drdo latest news, indian express

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | indigenization of technology & developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Pinaka rocket system, DRDO

Mains level: India’s strides in defense technology sector and need for further development


Pinaka upgradation

  1. The indigenous Pinaka rocket system of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is being evolved into a precision-guided missile, with enhanced range and accuracy to hit its targets
  2. It is known for firing a salvo of 12 rockets in just 44 seconds

About Pinaka

  1. The rocket has been developed by the Armament cluster of the DRDO, with a lead from Pune-based Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE)
  2. Along with ARDE, the High Energy Material Research Laboratory in Pune and two DRDO establishments in Hyderabad have contributed to the development
  3. The initial version of the Pinaka rocket was Mark I, with a range of 40 km
  4. It was further developed into Pinaka Mark II, which has an enhanced range of 70 to 80 km
  5. Pinaka Mark I had been used in the 1999 Kargil conflict

Back2Basics

Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)

  1. DRDO is an agency of the government, charged with the military’s research and development
  2. It is under the administrative control of the Ministry of Defence, Government of India
  3. DRDO is a network of more than 50 laboratories which are deeply engaged in developing defense technologies covering various disciplines, like aeronautics, armaments, electronics, combat vehicles, engineering systems, instrumentation, missiles, advanced computing and simulation, special materials, naval systems, life sciences, training, information systems and agriculture
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

20 States on board to implement Ayushman BharatPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ayushman Bharat scheme, Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, Senior Citizen Health Insurance Scheme, SECC

Mains level : Universal health coverage and related issues


Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Ayushman Bharat scheme, Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, Senior Citizen Health Insurance Scheme, SECC

Mains level: Universal health coverage and related issues


News

Status of States Joining the ambitious programme

  1. Twenty States are on board to implement the Ayushman Bharat Scheme by having a MoU with the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW)
  2. States that are likely to go for the insurance model are Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura. Union Territories of Chandigarh, Daman and Diu, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli will also opt for the insurance model.
  3. Those keen on adopting a trust model are Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Lakshwadeep, Manipur, Puducherry, Telangana, Sikkim and Goa.
  4. Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu have expressed an interest to adopt the hybrid model.
  5. For example, for all payments under ₹50,000, Gujarat has proposed to opt for insurance payment and for anything above it has opted for trust-based payment.
  6. West Bengal and Delhi chose to keep away from signing the MoU.
  7. Odisha will most likely not be a part of Ayushman Bharat as it wants to launch its own state-based scheme for health insurance.

Back2Basics

Ayushman BharatNational Health Protection Mission (AB-NHPM)

  • The scheme was announced in the Budget 2018
  • The scheme will provide a cover of ₹5 lakh per family per year
  • There will be no cap on family size and age
  • The benefits cover will include pre and post-hospitalization expenses
  • All pre-existing conditions will be covered from day one of the policy
  • A defined transport allowance per hospitalization will also be paid to the beneficiary
Capital Markets: Challenges and Developments

The rising risks to financing India’s current account deficitPriority 1


Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Indian Economy

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CAD, BoP

Mains level: Impact of rising crude oil prices on CAD and other vulnerabilities.


News

Higher oil prices are raising India’s CAD

  1. The higher current account deficit will put downward pressure on the rupee and it may also raise the cost of Indian borrowing abroad.
  2. The stress on BoP is already visible in Q1FY19 with the INR depreciating 4%; the RBI had to intervene to stem the depreciation.
  3. NRI flows too have proved to be volatile, especially if the rupee depreciates.

Financing CAD is risky

  1. It’s not just that the current account deficit is widening—the means of financing it also became riskier in 2017-18.
  2. On the one hand, higher oil prices are raising the current account deficit and on the other, foreign direct investment—the most stable source of financing the deficit—has come down.
  3. This has led to greater reliance on foreign portfolio inflows, particularly volatile debt inflows and also on short-term credit.

Why such Problem?

  1. This is a problem because the US Federal Reserve has been raising interest rates and has signalled more rate hikes to come.
  2. As per RBI governor the US programme of shrinking its balance sheet, coupled with increased US T-Bill issuance to fund a larger government deficit, has already led to dollar liquidity shrinking in international markets, particularly in the debt markets.
  3. This is behind the outflows from emerging market debt.

Cost of Protectionism

  1. The rapid deterioration in the trade environment as a result of protectionist policies is also likely to affect export growth, while rising investment demand will result in more imports.
  2. The UNCTAD, had in its recent World Investment report pointed to a slowdown in global foreign direct investment flows.

Dependence on FPI is dangerous

  1. Relying on portfolio flows to finance this deficit will expose the country to the vulnerabilities of uncertain international capital flows, making funding difficult particularly during risk-off episodes.
  2. Within portfolio flows, the increased reliance on debt inflows carries more risks, as unlike equity, debt has to be repaid.
  3. Earlier this month, credit rating agency Moody’s Indian affiliate, ICRA Ltd, said high global crude oil prices are likely to widen India’s CAD and pointed to slowing foreign portfolio investments as an area of concern.