GTB Nagar Branch has shifted to Delhi University North Campus Plot No. 115, Block-A, Kamla Nagar, Near Shakti Nagar Chowk, Delhi-110007

      Question and Answer

       Q. 370. Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine: 2017
      Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine: 2017
      Three Americans have won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine on Monday for their discoveries about the body's daily rhythms.  Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young won the 9-million-kronor ($1.1 million) prize for isolating a gene that controls the body’s normal daily biological rhythm.

      The discovery has opened up new fields of research and raised awareness about the importance of getting proper sleep. Circadian rhythms adapt the workings of the body to different phases of the day, influencing sleep, behaviour, hormone levels, body temperature and metabolism. Circadian dysfunction has been linked to sleep disorders, as well as depression, bipolar disorder, cognitive function, memory formation and some neurological diseases.

      During their research they were able to peek inside the biological clock and elucidate its inner workings. The discovery has raised awareness of the importance of a proper sleep hygiene. During his previous research, Mr. Young had isolated the “period gene” in fruit flies. Mr. Hall and Mr. Rosbash found that a protein encoded by the gene accumulated during the night and degraded during daytime. A decade later, Mr. Young discovered another "clock gene." The paradigm-shifting discoveries established key mechanisms for the biological clock.

      Significance of the discovery
      Our wellbeing is affected when there is a temporary mismatch between our external environment and this internal biological clock, for example when we travel across several time zones and experience 'jet lag,'. There are also indications that chronic misalignment between our lifestyle and the rhythm dictated by our inner time keeper is associated with increased risk for various diseases. The misalignment may be associated with diseases, including cancer and degenerative neurological conditions.
       Q. 369. Project leopard
      Rajasthan forest department is going to launch India’s first ever Project leopard. The department has identified three wildlife sanctuaries for the pilot project to protect leopard and its habitats.  The project will start at the three sanctuaries at a cost of Rs 21 crore on an experimental basis. The pilot project will be implemented at Jaisamand Sanctuary (Udaipur), Kumbhalgarh Sanctuary-Raoli Todgarh Sanctuary (stretch of Aravalli Hills extended from Ajmer to Udaipur), and Jhalana Aamagarh Conservation Reserve (Jaipur).

      The project is aimed at conserving the endangered animal by improving its prey base and mitigating conflicts with humans and controlling poaching. According to wildlife census of 2015, in Rajasthan there are only 434 leopards. Leopard is an endangered species under schedule one of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The project borrows its basic features from the Project Tiger launched by the Centre in 1973.
       Q. 368. Conjoined twins
      A pair of conjoined twins from Odisha have been successfully separated by doctors. The feat was achieved in a marathon surgery at the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS).

      The surgery presented a peculiar challenge because babies were attached at the skull. This condition is called carniopagus conjoining. The twin shared brain tissue, nerves and major blood vessels. The operation lasted 16 hours and involved 40 surgeons and specialists. It is the first case of craniopagus twins being separated in the country. The chances of their survival were 10-15%, which is the same as the global average.

      Fifty-nine such craniopagus surgeries have been performed worldwide. Separation surgeries for two other sets of craniopagus twins – one from Hyderabad and another from Patna were planned in India in the past, but abandoned because the risks were too high.

      Conjoined twins are identical twins joined in utero. An extremely rare phenomenon, the occurrence is estimated to range from 1 in 49,000 births to 1 in 189,000 births, with a somewhat higher incidence in Southeast Asia and Africa. Approximately half are stillborn, and an additional one-third die within 24 hours. Most live births are female, with a ratio of 3:1.

      Two contradicting theories exist to explain the origins of conjoined twins. The more generally accepted theory is fission, in which the fertilized egg splits partially. The other theory, no longer believed to be the basis of conjoined twinning, is fusion, in which a fertilized egg completely separates, but stem cells (which search for similar cells) find like-stem cells on the other twin and fuse the twins together. Conjoined twins share a single common chorion, placenta, and amniotic sac, although these characteristics are not exclusive to conjoined twins as there are some monozygotic but non-conjoined twins who also share these structures in utero. Craniopagus twins are conjoined twins that are fused at the cranium. Additionally, conjoined twins are genetically identical and always share the same sex. 
       Q. 367. Polymetallic Nodules
      What are Polymetallic nodules?
      • Polymetallic nodules are potato shaped containing multiple metals like copper, nickel, cobalt, manganese, iron, lead, zinc, aluminium, etc. Of these, cobalt, copper and nickel are of much importance and in great demand. These three metals of strategic needs are fast depleting from the face of the earth. Hence a world-wide search is on for the potato-shaped nodules.
      Exploration contract
      • Government of India had signed a 15 year contract with International Seabed Authority (ISA) for exploration of polymetallic nodules from Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) in 2002.  This right to explore polymetallic nodules from seabed has been extended by five years. These rights are over 75000 sq. km of area in international waters.
      • The area has been allocated by International Seabed Authority for developmental activities for polymetallic nodules.
      • The estimated polymetallic nodule resource potential of the area is 380 million tonnes, containing 4.7 million tonnes of nickel, 4.29 million tonnes of copper and 0.55 million tonnes of cobalt and 92.59 million tonnes of manganese.
      • India is the first country to have received the status of a pioneer investor.  It was allocated an exclusive area in Central Indian Ocean Basin by United Nations (UN) for exploration and utilization of nodules.
      • India is one among the top  eight countries/ contractors implementing a long–term programme on exploration and utilization of Polymetallic Nodules. The project is being carried out under the oversight of Ministry of Earth Sciences.
      • The project includes survey and exploration, environmental studies, technology development in mining and extractive metallurgy.
      • Environmental studies for mining of deep-sea polymetallic nodules have been carried out to evaluate the possible impacts of mining on deep-sea environment.
      • A remotely operable in-situ soil testing equipment has been deployed for obtaining detailed geotechnical properties of the mining area.
      International Seabed Authority (ISA)
      International Seabed Authority (ISA) is a UN body set up to regulate the exploration and exploitation of marine non-living resources of oceans in international waters. In 2016 India was re-elected as a member of Council of ISA.
       Q. 366. Should India have more than one-time zone? What are the advantages of using Daylight Saving Time?
      India is geographically the second-largest country not to have multiple time-zones- the People’s Republic of China being the other. Adopting two time zones for India is something that the Government ought to consider and look to implement. Far too many people in India operate in a time zone that is not an appropriate diurnal cycle for them.

      Physical Expanse logic
      India stretches from 97.4 East in Arunachal to 68 East in Gujarat — almost 30 degrees of longitude which is more than enough to have two time-zones. There is no doubt that there will be some initial chaos, particularly to time-tables but globally several nations, particularly the United States, maintain multiple time-zones. It may not be a bad idea for the country to explore the possibility of two time zones which could well lead to greater efficiencies among the workforce and on energy consumption.

      History of time in India
      • Indian Standard Time, which is five and a half hours ahead of the Greenwich Mean Time (+5.30 GMT), is an anachronism like many systems that were inherited from the British. In fact, India did not have any single time zone until as late as 1906.
      • A cursory history of time in India reveals that the cities of Bombay, Calcutta and Madras (the three Presidencies, as the British called them) had their own time zones, and these were determined almost precisely by their geographical longitude.
      • Calcutta Time, adjusted for the eastern-most city, was set at +5.54 GMT; 24 minutes ahead of the current IST.
      • Madras Time was just nine minutes behind the current IST and was the closest precursor in terms of actual time to IST.
      • Bombay Time, on the other hand, was +4.51 GMT.
      • So in colonial times, there was a one-hour-nine-minutes time difference between Kolkata and Mumbai. Yet, today these cities, which are 1,650km apart, share the same time.
      • Only in the tea estates of Assam, where the concept of ‘bagaan time’ (estate time) exists, is there a provision for a separate time zone inside India. Bagaan time is one hour ahead of IST. Leave the tea estates though, and everything reverts to normal.
      • In fact, while Kolkata fell in line with IST in 1948, Mumbai retained its own individual time zone till 1955 as a result of the Bombay Municipal Corporation (as it was known then) delaying the introduction of IST in 1906. This was due to popular resentment stemming from the trial of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, which was taking place at that time.
      Single time zone argument and disadvantages
      • Proponents of a single time zone argue that India is not as wide as China, which continues to have a single time zone (the country actually spreads across five time zones).
      • In addition, if India were to implement two time zones, there would be utter chaos, not the least to long-distance railway schedules but also in the way business is conducted in India.
      • The much talked-about chaos that will ensue if India adopts two time zones, is also a bit disingenuous. Several northern countries in Europe and most of the US adopt Daylight Saving Times. People there put their watches back and forward twice a year. There are some missed flights and a bit of confusion, but nothing as bad as the disaster theorists have predicted.
      • But there is another aspect, common to the Chinese and Indian desires to maintain single time zones over vast nations — the ‘unity’ theory. A single time, a single shared experience, no matter where you are in India, unifies the nation. That is definitely a strong ideal, but also slightly flawed because it does not take advantage of the light.
      Two-time zones argument
      • Changing time zones when we travel internationally can seriously disturb physical cycles. If the sun rises too early and sets too early, or vice versa, as per the local time, it can also disturb body cycles.
      • But being in the same time zone where the sun is high in the sky in Kolkata and barely rising in Mumbai, is strange. After all, these two cities are an hour apart by their natural time zones.
      • There are also economic benefits to having two different time zones; people will be able to work better and plan better, according to natural cycles rather than the one imposed by the state.
      • Higher energy consumption: A conservative estimate shows that starting the day an hour earlier would result in a saving of about 550 MW of power in northeast India alone.
      • Social stigma with night / darkness: Every city has an apparent safe time limit for strolling in the night. This would be earlier for eastern states by at least a couple of hours. This in turn might cause lesser customers at the night life (restaurants, pubs) venues, and hurting the economy a bit. Moreover, safety of citizens puts additional burden on our already overburdened police force.
      Daylight Saving Time (DST)
      Daylight Saving Time (DST) is the practice of setting the clocks forward 1 hour from standard time during the summer months, and back again in the fall, in order to make better use of natural daylight.
      • US inventor and politician Benjamin Franklin first proposed the concept of DST in 1784, but modern Daylight Saving Time was first suggested in 1895.
      • Less than 40% of the countries in the world use DST.
      • Some countries use it to make better use of the natural daylight in the evenings. The difference in light is most noticeable in the areas at a certain distance from Earth's equator.
      • Some studies show that DST could lead to fewer road accidents and injuries by supplying more daylight during the hours more people use the roads. Other studies claim that people's health might suffer due to DST changes.
      DST is also used to reduce the amount of energy needed for artificial lighting during the evening hours. However, many studies disagree about DST's energy savings, and while some studies show a positive outcome, others do not.
       Q. 365. Exercise INDRA - 2017: Indo-Russia Joint Exercise
      Indian armed forces is conducting first ever International Tri Service Exercise wit Russian armed forces. It will give a major boost to the Indo-Russian defence cooperation.  Exercise INDRA-2017 is being conducted in the Eastern Military District of Russia from 19 to 29 Oct 2017. Exercise INDRA in its previous nine versions has been conducted as a single service exercise alternately between the two countries. The year 2017 marks a major milestone as this Exercise has been upgraded to involve all the three Services of the Armed Forces (Army, Navy & Air Force), which further accentuates the importance of Joint Services in the present world environment.

      Exercise INDRA-2017 is being conducted in the Sea of Japan near Vladivostok. The Indian contingent will comprise of 350 personnel from Army, 80 from Air Force, two IL 76 aircraft and one Frigate and Corvette each from the Navy. The Russian Federation Armed Forces will be represented by approximately 1000 troops, Marines and Ships of Pacific Fleet and aircraft from Eastern Military District.

      The Exercise will provide an opportunity to the armed forces of both countries to train in counter terrorism operations in a multinational scenario in a joint tri service environment. The scope of the Exercise includes professional interactions, establishment of joint command and control structures between the Indian & Russian forces and elimination of terrorist threat in a multinational environment under the UN mandate.

      Exercise INDRA-2017 will strengthen mutual confidence, inter-operability and enable sharing of best practices between both the armed forces. It will be a landmark event in the history of Indo-Russian defence cooperation.
       Q. 364. Intensified Mission Indradhanush (IMI)
      Through the Intensified Mission Indradhanush (IMI), the Government aims to reach each and every child under two years of age and all those pregnant women who have been left uncovered under the routine immunisation programme. The special drive will focus on improving immunization coverage in select districts and cities to ensure full immunization to more than 90% by December 2018.
      Intensified Mission Indradhanush will have inter-ministerial and inter-departmental coordination, action-based review mechanism and intensified monitoring and accountability framework for effective implementation of targeted rapid interventions to improve the routine immunization coverage. IMI is supported by 11 other ministries and departments, such as Ministry of Women and Child Development, Panchayati Raj, Ministry of Urban Development, Ministry of Youth Affairs among others. The convergence of ground level workers of various departments like ASHA, ANMs, Anganwadi workers, Zila preraks under National Urban Livelihood Mission (NULM), self-help groups will be ensured for better coordination and effective implementation of the programme.
      Intensified Mission Indradhanush will cover low performing areas in the selected districts and urban areas. Special attention will be given to unserved/low coverage pockets in sub-centre and urban slums with migratory population. The focus is also on the urban settlements and cities identified under National Urban Health Mission (NUHM).
      This Intensified Mission is driven based on the information received from gap assessment, supervision through government, concurrent monitoring by partners, and end-line surveys. Under IMI, special strategies are devised for rigorous monitoring of the programme. States and districts have developed coverage improvement plans based on gap self-assessment. 
       Q. 363. What is Artificial Intelligence? Discuss briefly the state of AI in India.
      Artificial intelligence 
      Artificial intelligence is intelligent behaviour by machines, rather than the natural intelligence (NI) of humans and other animals. In computer science AI is defined as the study of "intelligent agents": any device that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of success at some goal. Colloquially, the term "artificial intelligence" is applied when a machine mimics "cognitive" functions that humans associate with other human minds, such as "learning" and "problem solving".

      Artificial intelligence was founded as an academic discipline in 1956, and in the years since has experienced several waves of optimism, followed by loss of funding (known as an "AI winter"),followed by new approaches, success and renewed funding. For most of its history, AI research has been divided into subfields that often fail to communicate with each other.

      The traditional problems (or goals) of AI research include reasoning, knowledge, planning, learning, natural language processing, perception and the ability to move and manipulate objects. General intelligence is among the field's long-term goals. Approaches include statistical methods, computational intelligence, and traditional symbolic AI. Many tools are used in AI, including versions of search and mathematical optimization, neural networks and methods based on statistics, probability and economics. The AI field draws upon computer science, mathematics, psychology, linguistics, philosophy, neuroscience, artificial psychology and many others.

      In the twenty-first century, AI techniques have experienced a resurgence following concurrent advances in computer power, large amounts of data, and theoretical understanding; and AI techniques have become an essential part of the technology industry, helping to solve many challenging problems in computer science.

      India and AI
      The Union ministry of electronics and information technology has set up an internal committee to advise the government on a policy on artificial intelligence (AI). The expert committee will advise the IT ministry on the most apt technologies for India. The government’s main focus is to reduce cyber attacks with AI.

      AI is also widely seen as a major challenge in generation of employment as many companies are likely to depend more on it to cut down on human resources. The artificial intelligence market is estimated to touch $153 billion in 2020 and expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 45.4% from 2016 to 2022.

      The government has recently drawn up a seven-point strategy that would form the framework for India’s strategic plan to use AI. The strategy includes: developing methods for human machine interactions; ensuring safety and security of AI systems; creating a competent workforce in line with AI and R&D needs, understanding and addressing the ethical, legal and societal implications of AI, measuring and evaluating AI technologies through standards and benchmarks, among others.
       Q. 362. Paryatan Parv and Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat
      The Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, in collaboration with other Central Ministries and State Governments will organize a “Paryatan Parv” across the country from the 5th to 25th October 2017. The objective of the programme is to draw focus on the benefits of tourism, showcase the cultural diversity of the country and reinforce the principle of “Tourism for All”. The event envisages large scale participation by the public as well as industry stakeholders.
      • ParyatanParv reinforces the idea of Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat with the following objectives:
      1. To CELEBRATE the Unity in Diversity of our Nation and to maintain and strengthen the fabric of traditionally existing emotional bonds between the people of our Country;  
      2. To PROMOTE the spirit of national integration through a deep and structured engagement between all Indian States and Union Territories through a year-long planned engagement between States;
      3. To SHOWCASE the rich heritage and culture, customs and traditions of either State for enabling people to understand and appreciate the diversity that is India, thus fostering a sense of common identity;
      4. To ESTABLISH long-term engagements and 
      5. To CREATE an environment which promotes learning between States by sharing best practices and experiences.
      • The ‘Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat’ programme, an initiative of Ministry of Culture, aims to actively enhance interaction between people of diverse cultures living in different States and UTs in India, with the objective of promoting greater mutual understanding amongst them.
      • As per the programme, each year, every State/UT would be paired with another State/UT in India for reciprocal interaction between the people.
      • It is envisaged through this exchange, that the knowledge of the language, culture, traditions and practices of different states will lead to an enhanced understanding and bonding between one another, thereby strengthening the unity and integrity of India.
      • The States and UTs are to embark on a mission to enhance their cultural, academic and economic ties by entering into a wide range of mutual engagements with the paired States/UTs covering the spheres of music, drama, cuisine, language, history, tourism and other forms of exchange between the people.
      • An indicative list of activities has been drawn up and circulated to the State Governments / UT Administrations and to the key Central Ministries. The States/ UTs may choose, evolve and develop their interaction pattern based on the suggested list as per operational suitability in the course of their interactions.
      • The paired States/ UTs are to enter into MoUs with each other to carry out common activities under Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat.
       Q. 361. National Health Policy 2017
      The National Health Policy, 2017 (NHP, 2017) seeks to reach everyone in a comprehensive integrated way to move towards wellness.  It aims at achieving universal health coverage and delivering quality health care services to all at affordable cost.

      The policy envisages as its goal the attainment of the highest possible level of health and well-being for all at all ages, through a preventive and promotive health care orientation in all developmental policies, and universal access to good quality health care services without anyone having to face financial hardship as a consequence. This would be achieved through increasing access, improving quality and lowering the cost of healthcare delivery.

      Specific Quantitative Goals and Objectives
      Health Status and Programme Impact
      1. Life Expectancy and healthy life
      • Increase Life Expectancy at birth from 67.5 to 70 by 2025.
      • Reduction of TFR to 2.1 at national and sub-national level by 2025.
      1. Mortality by Age and/ or cause
      • Reduce Under Five Mortality to 23 by 2025 and MMR from current levels to 100 by 2020.
      • Reduce infant mortality rate to 28 by 2019.
      1. Reduction of disease prevalence/ incidence
      • Achieve global target of 2020 which is also termed as target of 90:90:90, for HIV/AIDS i.e, - 90% of all people living with HIV know their HIV status, - 90% of all people diagnosed with HIV infection receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.
      • Achieve and maintain elimination status of Leprosy by 2018, Kala-Azar by 2017 and Lymphatic Filariasis in endemic pockets by 2017.
      • To reduce premature mortality from cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes or chronic respiratory diseases by 25% by 2025.
      Health Systems strengthening
      1. Health finance
      • Increase health expenditure by Government as a percentage of GDP from the existing 1.1 5 % to 2.5 % by 2025.
      • Increase State sector health spending to > 8% of their budget by 2020.
      1. Health Infrastructure and Human Resource
      • Ensure availability of paramedics and doctors as per Indian Public Health Standard (IPHS) norm in high priority districts by 2020.
      • Increase community health volunteers to population ratio as per IPHS norm, in high priority districts by 2025.
      • Establish primary and secondary care facility as per norm s in high priority districts (population as well as time to reach norms) by 2025.
      1. Health Management Information
      • Strengthen the health surveillance system and establish registries for diseases of public health importance by 2020.
      • Establish federated integrated health information architecture, Health Information Exchanges and National Health Information Network by 2025.
       Q. 360. Harit Diwali, Swasth Diwali Campaign
      • Ministry for Environment, Forest and Climate Change has launched the “Harit Diwali, Swasth Diwali” campaign.
      • As a part of the campaign, the Environment Ministry will undertake various activities to create awareness among various stakeholders and encourage people to participate in combating air pollution.
      • In recent times, the pattern of celebration has changed somewhat and has got associated with excessive bursting of crackers. It contributes significantly to air and noise pollution.  As a result, there has been a significant impact on the environment and health of the people.
      • As has been the experience in the past few years, airborne pollution has been rising above safe limits during winter in many cities.  The excessive burning of crackers during Diwali aggravates the problem.  The pollution levels in Delhi last year, especially post Diwali, reached such levels that the government had to declare an emergency situation, which had socio-economic consequences like closing down of schools, construction sites and power stations.
      • In October this year, India will be hosting FIFA U-17 World Cup. It is an important occasion and a matter for pride for India.  It is important to ensure that there is no inconvenience caused in the conduct of the event and our national image is protected and enhanced.
      • Some of the activities to promote Green Diwali among school children include stickers/logo distribution, poster competition, advertisement on public transport systems, public appeal using Radio/FM, involving industry associations and other stakeholders.  As a part of the social media campaign, an online competition will be conducted, where any individual/organisation can make a video/audio clip on the theme ‘Pollution Free Diwali’. 
       Q. 359. Swiss Challenge
      Ans. What?
      • A ‘Swiss Challenge’ is a way to award a project to a private player on an unsolicited proposal. Such projects may not be in the bouquet of projects planned by the state or a state-owned agency, but are considered given the gaps in physical or social infrastructure that they propose to fill, and the innovation and enterprise that private players bring.
      • The government may enter into direct negotiations with a private player who submits a proposal and, if they cannot agree on the terms of the project, consider calling for bids from other interested players.
      Is this idea new to India?
      • No. At least half-a-dozen states have used the Swiss Challenge to award projects in sectors including IT, ports, power and health.
      • Gujarat included it in the Gujarat Infrastructure Development Act, 1999, and in 2006, amended the Act to provide for direct negotiation.
      • It was subsequently made part of the Andhra Pradesh Infrastructure Development Enabling Act and Punjab Infrastructure (Development & Regulation) Act.
      • Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have included it in their guidelines for infra projects.
      • At the central level, the Draft Public Private Partnership Rules, 2011, allow the Swiss Challenge only in exceptional circumstances — that too in projects that provide facilities to predominantly rural areas or to BPL populations.
      Why is it being discussed now?
      Recently, cabinet cleared a proposal to redevelop about 400 railway stations through ‘open invitation’ from interested parties. The parties will present designs and business ideas for commercial exploitation of Railways real estate — land and air space. Stations are redeveloped by Indian Stations Development Corporation Ltd, a special purpose vehicle set up as a joint venture between IRCON (51%) and Rail Land Development Authority (49%). But given its inability to develop all stations, the SPV proposes to accept business ideas from private players.

      What are the advantages?
      • Globally, there aren’t too many good examples of Swiss Challenge projects. South Africa, Chile, Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines and Taiwan have seriously considered, awarded and implemented unsolicited projects.
      • The obvious advantages are that it cuts red tape and shortens timelines, and promotes enterprise by rewarding the private sector for its ideas.
      • The private sector brings innovation, technology and uniqueness to a project, and an element of competition can be introduced by modifying the Challenge.
      What are the problems?
      • The biggest concerns are the lack of transparency and competition while dealing with unsolicited proposals.
      • Governments need to have a strong legal and regulatory framework to award projects under the Swiss Challenge method. It can potentially foster crony capitalism, and allow companies space to employ dubious means to bag projects.
      • Given that governments sometimes lack an understanding of risks involved in a project, direct negotiations with private players can be fraught with downsides. In general, competitive bidding is the best method to get the most value on public-private partnership projects.
      • The government might also end up granting significant concessions in the nature of viability gap funding, commercial exploitation of real estate, etc., without necessarily deriving durable and long-term social or economic benefits.
      Is the Swiss Challenge suited to India?
      • There have been several controversies around largescale PPP projects.
      • Construction costs jumped significantly in the case of the Mumbai Metro.
      • There were serious issues related to the international airport and the Airport Metro line in Delhi.
      • The government has now brought PPP projects under the ambit of the CAG, so there is some scrutiny of projects where significant concessions including land at subsidised rates, real estate space, viability gap funding, etc. are granted by the government.
      • But there is still no strong legal framework at the national level, and such projects may be challenged in case of a lack of transparency or poor disclosures.
      • Bureaucrats, who ultimately sign off on such projects, continue to be afraid to take calls that might face an investigation later.
      • In the absence of transparency, and a strong element of competition, such projects may be prone to legal challenges. Smaller projects are better off in this respect.
       Q. 358. Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan (PMGDISHA)
      Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan (PMGDISHA)
      PMGDISHA is expected to be one of the largest digital literacy programmes in the world. Under the scheme, 25 lakh candidates was to be trained in the FY 2016-17; 275 lakh in the FY 2017-18; and 300 lakh in the FY 2018-19. To ensure equitable geographical reach, each of the 250,000 Gram Panchayats would be expected to register an average of 200-300 candidates.

      Eligibility: The Scheme is applicable only for rural areas of the country.

      Eligible Household: A household is defined as a unit comprising of Head of family, spouse, children and parents. All such households where none of the family member is digitally literate will be considered as eligible household under the Scheme.
      • The beneficiary should be Digitally Illiterate
      • Only one person per eligible household would be considered for training
      • Age Group: 14 - 60 years
      • Priority would be given to: Non-smartphone users, Antyodaya households, college drop-outs, Participants of the adult literacy mission
      • Digitally illiterate school students from class 9th to 12th, provided facility of Computer/ICT Training is not available in their schools.
      • Preference would be given to SC, ST, BPL, women, differently-abled persons and minorities.
      • The identification of the beneficiaries would be carried out by Common Services Centers-SPV in active collaboration with DeGS, Gram Panchayats, and Block Development Officers.
      • The implementation of the Scheme would be carried out under the overall supervision of Ministry of Electronics and IT in active collaboration with States/UTs through their designated State Implementing Agencies, District e-Governance Society (DeGS), etc.
      Training process: The duration of the training program is for 20 hours which has to be completed in a minimum of 10 days and maximum of 30 days.

      Learning Outcomes of the scheme will be:
      • Understand the basics (terminology, navigation and functionality) of digital devices.
      • Use digital devices for accessing, creating, managing and sharing information
      • Use the Internet to browse in an effective and responsible manner
      • Use technology to communicate effectively
      • Appreciate the role of digital technology in everyday life, in social life and at work
      • Carry out cashless transactions using digital financial tools (USSD/ UPI/ eWallet/ AEPS/ Card/ PoS)
      • Use Digital Locker Use online citizen centric services
       Q. 357. Cyprus problem and India
      Cyprus's modern history has been dominated by enmity between its Greek and Turkish inhabitants. Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkey invaded the north in response to a military coup on the island which was backed by the Athens government. Turkey  overran parts of it and has since stationed troops in the north. The invasion came after more than a decade of sporadic inter-communal violence between the islands Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots The island was effectively partitioned with the northern third inhabited by Turkish Cypriots and the southern two-thirds by Greek Cypriots. United Nations troops patrol the "Green Line" dividing the two parts. Reunification talks have proceeded slowly.

      India hopes that a just and lasting solution will be found to the Cyprus problem in accordance with the UNSC resolutions and  supports a peaceful dialogue between the concerned parties.
       Q. 356. Phyto-Pharma Plant Mission
      Phyto-Pharma Plant Mission is aimed at conservation and cultivation of endangered and threatened endemic medicinal plants.  The mission also aims to discover new botanical drugs for unmet medical needs using the rich traditional ethno-botanical knowledge and biodiversity of these states. The mission at the same time also aims to improve availability of authentic and quality botanical raw material on sustainable basis for a boom in the phyto-pharmaceutical industry. Through this Mission, the government expects to enable farmers from NE states and phyto-pharmaceutical industry to become global leaders in production and export of some quality botanical drugs for unmet medical needs.   For this Mission, Department of Biotechnology (DBT) under the Ministry of Science & Technology will be the nodal coordinating and implementing department. It will work closely with Ministry of DONER and other identified institutions.
       Q. 355. Decline in Infant Mortality Rate (IMR)
      India has registered a significant decline in Infant Mortality Rate (IMR). IMR of India has declined by three points (8% decline), from 37 per 1000 live births in 2015 to 34 per 1000 live births in 2016, compared to two points decline last year.  Infant mortality rate (IMR) is the number of deaths per 1,000 live births of children under one year of age. The rate for a given region is the number of children dying under one year of age, divided by the number of live births during the year, multiplied by 1,000. India has also recorded a major drop in birth cohort, which has for the first time come down to below 25 million. India has registered 90000 fewer infant deaths in 2016 as compared to 2015. The total number of estimated infant deaths have come down from 930000 (9.3 Lakhs) in 2015 to 840000 (8.4 lakhs) in 2016. The gender gap in India for child survival is reducing steadily. The gender difference between female and male IMR has now reduced to <10%, giving a major boost to the ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ scheme of the Government.

      The results signify that the strategic approach of the Ministry has started yielding dividends and the efforts of focusing on low performing States is paying off. Among the EAG States (In India, the eight socioeconomically backward states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh, referred to as the Empowered Action Group (EAG) states) and Assam, all States except Uttarakhand have reported decline in IMR in comparison to 2015. The decline is reported as 4 points in Bihar, 3 points in Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand and two points decline in Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Rajasthan. These achievements are the result of a countrywide efforts to increase the health service coverage through various initiatives of the Government that includes strengthening of service delivery; quality assurance; RMNCH+A; human resources, community processes; information and knowledge; drugs and diagnostics, and supply chain management, etc.


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