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Question and Answer :: SRIRAM'S IAS

Civil Services Exam Preparation

 Q. 201. Extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB)
Ans. What is XDR-TB?
XDR-TB, an abbreviation for extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB), is a form of TB which is resistant to at least four of the core anti-TB drugs.
Multidrug-resistance (MDR-TB) and XDR-TB both take substantially longer to treat than ordinary (drug-susceptible) TB, and require the use of second-line anti-TB drugs, which are more expensive and have more side-effects than the first-line drugs used for drug-susceptible TB.

How do people get XDR-TB?
People may get XDR-TB in one of two ways.
  • It may develop in a patient who is receiving treatment for active TB, when anti-TB drugs are misused or mismanaged, and is usually a sign of inadequate clinical care or drug management.
  • People can develop XDR-TB by becoming infected from a patient who is already ill with the condition. Patients with TB of the lungs can spread the disease by coughing, sneezing, or simply talking.
How easily is XDR-TB spread?
People in any one place together, and the presence of people with a higher risk of being infected (such as those with HIV/AIDS).

How can a person avoid becoming infected with XDR-TB?
  • While patients with XDR-TB may be as infectious as those with ordinary TB, the chances of a TB infection being XDR-TB is lower due to the rarity of the condition.
  • Close contact with a patient with infectious TB is to be avoided especially in poorly ventilated spaces. The risk of becoming infected with TB is very low outdoors in the open air.
How can a person who already has ordinary TB avoid getting XDR-TB?
No doses should be missed and above all, treatment should be taken right through to the end.

Can XDR-TB be cured or treated?
XDR-TB patients can be cured, but with the current drugs available, the likelihood of success is much smaller than in patients with ordinary TB or even MDR-TB. Cure depends on the extent of the drug resistance, the severity of the disease and whether the patient’s immune system is compromised.

How common is XDR-TB?
XDR-TB is rare; however, 117 countries worldwide had reported at least one case by the end of 2015.

How do countries prevent XDR-TB?
National TB control programmes working with all health services can prevent XDR-TB by ensuring that all practitioners working with people with TB adhere to the International Standards for TB Care.
These emphasize providing proper diagnosis and treatment to all TB patients, including those with drug-resistant TB; assuring regular, timely supplies of all anti-TB drugs; proper management of anti-TB drugs and providing support to patients to maximize adherence to prescribed regimens; caring for MDR/XDR-TB cases in services with proper ventilation, and minimizing contact with other patients, particularly those with HIV, especially in the early stages before treatment has had a chance to reduce the infectiousness.

Can the TB vaccine, known as BCG, prevent XDR-TB?
The BCG vaccine prevents severe forms of TB in children, such as TB meningitis, but is less effective in preventing pulmonary TB in adults. It is expected that the effectiveness of BCG against XDR-TB is similar as for ordinary TB.

What are the symptoms TB or XDR-TB?
Symptoms of XDR-TB are no different from ordinary TB: a cough with thick, cloudy mucus (or sputum), sometimes with blood, for more than 2 weeks; fever, chills, and night sweats; fatigue and muscle weakness; weight loss; and in some cases shortness of breath and chest pain.

What is WHO doing to combat XDR-TB?
  • Firstly, WHO is ensuring that the health authorities responsible for TB care and control receive accurate information about XDR-TB. Latest information on XDR-TB, and related TB issues, are published on the WHO Global TB Programme website.
  • Secondly, WHO advises that good TB prevention, care and control prevents the emergence of drug resistance in the first place, and that the proper treatment of MDR-TB prevents the emergence of XDR-TB.
  • Thirdly, WHO is regularly updating its guidance to Ministries of Health on the management of drug-resistant TB patients and diagnostic policies.
 
 Q. 200. Explain in detail the Coral Reef System. How and why Coral Bleaching occurs? What can be done to mitigate Coral Bleaching?
Ans.
Coral Reef Systems
Reef Properties
1. Reefs are found in circumtropical shallow waters along the shores of islands and continents.
2. Reefs live in nutrient poor waters.
3. Reef substrate is composed of calcium carbonate from living and dead scleractinian corals.
4. These corals have a symbiotic relationship with a single-celled algae known as zooxanthallae.

Zooxanthallae
1. Zooxanthallae live symbiotically within coral polyp tissue.
2. They assist coral in nutrient production through photosynthetic activities.
3. Corals receive coloration from the photosynthetic pigments of zooxanthallae.
4. When stressed, zooxanthallae may be expelled from coral tissue.
5. If all zooxanthallae are lost, the coral will die.

Importance of Reefs
1. Reef ecosystems have been compared to rain forests in terms of biodiversity and density of living organisms.
2. Total area covered by coral reefs is approximately 240,000 square miles.
3. Reefs influence the flow of water around them and have created and protect many islands surrounding them.
4. Coral reefs support a booming tourist economy on the coasts they border.
5. Reefs can provide a number of medicinal compounds.
6. Reefs serve as atmospheric carbon dioxide sinks.
7. Coral reefs act as historical climate recorders.

Bleaching: Coral reef bleaching occurs when corals undergo great stress. The symbiotic algae, zooxanthallae, is expelled or its photosynthetic pigments harmed--thus the coral appears white. The corals may be weakened to the point of death. A number of environmental factors, both natural and anthropogenic, can cause bleaching. Global warming has been theorized to have caused massive global bleaching events over the past two decades. Monitoring and management may help us understand and reduce threats to corals.
1. Results when coral is subjected to stress. 
2. Lack of coloration is apparent because zooxanthallae populations decline or when photosynthetic pigments within the zooxanthallae decline.
3. It is hypothesized that bleaching is an adaptive process in which corals can repopulate with different, possibly more resilient, types of zooxanthallae.

Ecological Causes--One or a combination of stressors may induce coral bleaching.
1. Temperature--Corals live within a relatively narrow temperature margin. a. A small positive anomaly of 1-2 degrees C for 5-10 weeks in the summer season will induce bleaching. A drop in temperature accompanying upwelling episodes (-3 to -5 degrees C from 5-10 days) will induce bleaching.
2. Solar Irradiance--Both photosynthetically active radiation (PAR, 400-700nm) and ultraviolet radiation (UVR, 280-400 nm) have been implicated in bleaching. 
3. Subaerial Exposure- exposure of reef flats to the atmosphere during low tides, El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) related sea level drops, or tectonic uplift can potentially induce bleaching.
4. Sedimentation- Sedimentation due to logging, farming, mining, dredging, and other coastal activities blocks sunlight, reducing the photosynthetic ability of zooxanthallae. Relatively few instances have been linked to sedimentation alone.
5. Fresh Water Dilution--Rapid dilution of reef waters from precipitation and run-off causes coral bleaching events. Such events are generally confined to 
nearshore areas.
6. Inorganic Nutrients-Ammonia and nitrate associated with agricultural run-off over fertilize the zooxanthallae and increase their densities by 2-3 times, known as eutrophication. The secondary effects of eutrophication such as lowering of coral resistance and greater susceptibility to disease may lead to bleaching events.
7. Xenobiotics--High concentrations of chemical contaminants such as copper, oil, and herbicides can cause the loss of zooxanthallae. Since concentrations must be high to cause bleaching, such events are generally localized.
8. Epizootics--These are the pathogens (diseases) that cause coral bleaching.

Global Bleaching Events
Discovery
1. In 1987, severe bleaching of corals in Puerto Rico led researchers to investigate global patterns of bleaching. 
2. The frequency and severity of bleaching events has increased dramatically since the 1970's.
3. Nearly all of the world's major coral reef regions have experienced some degree of bleaching since the 1980's.
4. The coral bleaching events of the 1980's and 90's have occurred over all geographic regions and depths. 

Global Warming Debate
1. Evidence-  Only 2 of the many stressors have possible global factors driving changes and extremes: temperature and solar irradiance.
a. Increase in global temperatures and ENSO events change sea water temperatures. 
b. Ozone depletion increases the amount of UVR reaching the earth's surface.
c. The most severe bleaching events have coincided with high sea water temperatures.
d. Bleaching has been reported during periods of low wind velocity, clear skies, calm seas, and low turbidity when conditions favour localized heating and high UVR penetration. 

Uncertainties
a. Coincidence of high temperatures and bleaching is merely circumstantial.
b. Many unknown forces operate on these ecosystems.
c. No long-term records of seawater temperatures.
d. Mechanism of bleaching not fully understood.

Consequences
1. If a global warming trend increases sea temperatures, extirpation and extinction of coral species could exceed 95% on a regional level.
2. Sea temperature rise would likely be accompanied by sea level rise. Sea level rise may reduce light levels to potentially lethal levels.

How do we deal with coral bleaching?
Long-term Monitoring
1. coral surveys
2. water testing for salinity, pH, depth, and temperature
3. recording climate data 
Regional Management: Management techniques should be designed to protect reefs from the many anthropogenic threats to reefs. Bleaching is only one threat to the health of coral reefs. Policies should manage the logging, mining, farming, dredging, and tourist activities that harm reefs. They should also incorporate educational programs to reduce direct human impacts to reefs.
 
 Q. 199. Gilgit-Baltistan to be declared a Province
Ans.  
  • Pakistan is planning to declare the strategic Gilgit-Baltistan region also known as the Northern Areas as its fifth Province, a move that may raise concerns in India as it borders the disputed Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
  • A committee headed by Advisor of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, Sartaj Aziz had proposed giving the status of a Province to Gilgit-Baltistan.
  • Constitutional amendment would be made to change the status of the region, through which the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passes.
  • India opposes the CPEC precisely because it passes through areas that it considers part of its territory.
  • Jammu and Kashmir has an international border with China in the north and east, and the Line of Control separates it from the Pakistani-administered territories of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan in the west and northwest respectively. The state has special autonomy under Article 370 of the Constitution of India.
  • The entire State of Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India in 1947.  A part of Jammu and Kashmir has been under illegal occupation of Pakistan.
  • At present, Pakistan has four provinces—Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.
  • Gilgit-Baltistan is treated as a separate geographical entity by Pakistan.
  • Gilgit-Baltistan has a regional Assembly and an elected Chief Minister.
  • It is believed that China’s concerns about its unsettled status prompted the move, which could signal a historic shift in the country’s position on the future of the wider Kashmir region. India says Pakistan’s proposal on Gilgit-Baltistan entirely unacceptable.
Such a step will not camouflage the illegality of Pakistan’s occupation of parts of Jammu and Kashmir and the gravely concerning and serious human rights violations there (in the Northern Areas), as well as denial of democracy to the people there.
 
 Q. 198. What is coalbed methane?
Ans.
Coalbed methane is a form of natural gas extracted from coal beds. The term refers to methane adsorbed into the solid matrix of the coal. It is called 'sweet gas' because of its lack of hydrogen sulphide. The presence of this gas is well known from its occurrence in underground coal mining, where it presents a serious safety risk. The methane is usually held in place by water pressure. Methane, CH4, is a naturally occurring gas; it is the major component (95 percent) of natural gas. It can be produced in a variety of ways. For example, methane is produced during the natural coalification process, when organic matter such as trees or vegetation is quickly buried and then heated. Methane can also be produced by farming and ranching activities or as a by-product of industrial processes. Methane is a greenhouse gas that remains in the atmosphere for up to 15 years, and it is also a relatively inexpensive, clean burning fuel.

Where is coalbed methane found?
Coalbed methane is associated with coal deposits, and is found in coal seams. In the past, the gas was the cause of numerous explosions in underground mines. More recently, the gas has been vented to the surface from underground mines. It is only during the last twenty-five years that it was realized that coalbed methane could be used as a resource. Various basins in the Rocky Mountains hold much of this country's coalbed methane resources.

How is coalbed methane extracted from coal?
When water is removed from a coal seam, it lowers the reservoir pressure. Methane that was held in place by water pressure tends to follow the water as it is pumped to the surface, where it is captured and transported through pipelines to storage facilities or shipped. This relatively inexpensive and straightforward procedure has made coalbed methane a useful, easily accessible form of energy.

How does water extraction affect local aquifers?
Local aquifers may or may not be affected, depending on the local geology, but there is usually some drawdown measured. Various agencies now monitor water in the affected areas to learn more about this process.

What is the environmental cost of coalbed methane?
Coalbed methane production results in changes to the land, to surface water, and to ground-water systems. These changes should be monitored and managed in order to reduce their impact. Environmental Impact Statements have been completed, and although they are being challenged, they remain a starting point. With care, it seems that the environmental costs of coalbed methane can be reduced.

What is the environmental benefit of coalbed methane?
Coalbed methane is produced domestically, reducing our need to import energy. Geologists are aware of the depositional environments that can produce coalbed methane, reducing the cost of extensive exploration. And most importantly, methane is a relatively clean-burning source of energy, much cleaner than coal. All of these factors combine to make coalbed methane a locally-produced, affordable source of energy.

What is Underground Coal Gasification (UCG)?
Coal is the major source of energy all over the world including India. However, it is not technically feasible or economically viable to mine all coal resources and this is where UCG (underground coal gasification) finds its usefulness. UCG has been practiced, though off and on, since the last 50 years by almost all major coal producing countries but it could never become the major energy source. Availability of large amount of cheap natural gas, the danger of contamination of underground water, non-availability of suitable drilling technology, and failure to administer proper control over gasification process are some of the reasons. However, with the efforts put in by many countries over the years, the technology of UCG has matured for commercial application. 

In India the experience of UCG is minimal. However, many deeper coal seams and deeper lignite deposits not economical to mine by conventional mining techniques are good candidates for UCG. Large number of abandoned mines and some shallow coal deposits with difficult geo-mining conditions can use UCG gainfully. Cabinet has approved a policy framework for development of Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) in coal and lignite bearing areas in the country.
 
 Q. 197. Explain the concept of Universal Basic Income (UBI). Explain in detail, why UBI should or should not be adopted.
Ans.
The idea of a universal basic income (UBI) has been gaining ground globally. While Switzerland held a referendum on it last year (it was voted down), Finland introduced it earlier this year.

What is UBI?
Universal Basic Income is a radical and compelling paradigm shift in thinking
about both social justice and a productive economy. It could be to the twenty first century what civil and political rights were to the twentieth. It is premised on the idea that a just society needs to guarantee to each individual a minimum income which they can count on, and which provides the necessary material foundation for a life with access to basic goods and a life of dignity. A universal basic income is, like many rights, unconditional and universal: it requires that every person should have a right to a basic income to cover their needs, just by virtue of being citizens.
On the face of it, an unconditional basic income for everyone seems a great idea. In the West, the UBI is being discussed as a solution to two problems:
  • Unemployment due to automation; and
  • Growing social unrest caused by extreme inequality and precarity.
It is expected to solve the unemployment problem by decoupling subsistence from jobs, freeing human beings to realise their true potential, preferably through entrepreneurship. It would address the second by supplying monetary resources to access the necessities of life. This, in a nutshell, is the popular understanding of the UBI. The reality, however, is not so rosy.
The UBI debate in India has been a narrow one — restricted, for the most part, to financial viability. Its advocates argue that it is a more efficient way of delivering welfare, while its opponents hold that the fiscal burden would be too much.
The most eloquent advocates of UBI today are free-market enthusiasts — the same lot branded as neo-liberals for their advocacy of deregulation, privatisation, and cuts in welfare spending. Their guru, Milton Friedman, was an early advocate of basic income. Outside the academic realm, the biggest champion of UBI is the global tech sector. Silicon Valley billionaires such as Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla Motors, and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes have publicly backed the idea. Invariably, they all present the same conclusion: giving cash to the poor is better than traditional welfare.
The biggest myth about the UBI, partly responsible for sections of the Left endorsing it, is that it is a redistributive policy that would reduce inequality. It is indeed possible to have a redistributive UBI. But it would need to fulfil two conditions:
  • It must be funded by taxing the wealthy; and
  • The existing entitlements to the poor must not be taken away.
Such a UBI would actually be a socialist measure that would increase the bargaining power of the working classes by giving them an income cushion. But neither of these conditions is met by any of the UBI designs being promoted today, either globally or in India. The much-touted Finnish experiment is restricted to the unemployed. It does not cover all working individuals. And it only replaces the already existing basic unemployment allowance and labour market subsidy — it is not an add-on benefit.
In India, too, the UBI is not an add-on. On the contrary, it is about giving in a different form (cash), and under one umbrella, what is already being given (in-kind and cash benefits) via different channels.
Its objective remains the same: to eliminate the public distribution system (PDS) and with it, the food, fuel, and fertiliser subsidies. The same old arguments for replacing the PDS with cash transfers are now being trotted out in favour of the UBI. The addition of the word ‘universal’ signals greater ambition but alters neither the substance nor the motive.

Economic Survey perspective
Why Universalize?
  • The first striking fact is the sheer number of schemes and programs run by the government. The Budget for 2016-17 indicates that there are about 950 central sector and centrally sponsored sub-schemes in India accounting for about 5 percent of the GDP by budget allocation.
  • Misallocation: captures the fact that the poorest areas of the country often obtain a lower share of government resources when compared to their richer counterparts.
UBI for a number of reasons
  • Social Justice: UBI is, first and foremost, a test of a just and non-exploitative society. From Tom Paine to John Rawls, nearly every theory of justice has argued that a society that fails to guarantee a decent minimum income to all citizens will fail the test of justice.
  • Poverty and vulnerability reduction: Poverty and vulnerability will be reduced in one fell swoop.
  • Agency: The poor in India have been treated as objects of government policy. UBI liberates citizens from paternalistic and clientelistic relationships with the state.
  • Choice: A UBI treats beneficiaries as agents and entrusts citizens with the responsibility of using welfare spending as they see best; this may not be the case with in-kind transfers.
  • Better targeting of poor as all individuals are targeted, exclusion error (poor being left out) is zero though inclusion error (rich gaining access to the scheme) is 60 percent.
  • Insurance against shocks This income floor will provide a safety net against health, income and other shocks.
  • Improvement in financial inclusion Payment – transfers will encourage greater usage of bank accounts, leading to higher profits for banking correspondents (BC) and an endogenous improvement in financial inclusion. Credit – increased income will release the constraints on access to credit for those with low income levels.
  • Psychological benefits A guaranteed income will reduce the pressures of finding a basic living on a daily basis.
  • Employment: UBI is an acknowledgement that society’s obligation to guarantee a minimum living standard is even more urgent in an era of uncertain employment generation.
  • Administrative Efficiency: In India in particular, the case for UBI has been enhanced because of the weakness of existing welfare schemes which are riddled with misallocation, leakages and exclusion of the poor. When the trinity of Jan-Dhan, Aadhaar and Mobile (popularly referred to as JAM) is fully adopted the time would be ripe for a mode of delivery that is administratively more efficient.
Case against UBI
  • Conspicuous spending Households, especially male members, may spend this additional income on wasteful activities.
  • Moral hazard (reduction in labour supply) A minimum guaranteed income might make people lazy and opt out of the labour market.
  • Gender disparity induced by cash Gender norms may regulate the sharing of UBI within a household – men are likely to exercise control over spending of the UBI. This may not always be the case with other in-kind transfers.
  • Implementation Given the current status of financial access among the poor, a UBI may put too much stress on the banking system.
  • Fiscal cost given political economy of exit Once introduced, it may become difficult for the government to wind up a UBI in case of failure.
  • Political economy of universality – ideas for self-exclusion Opposition may arise from the provision of the transfer to rich individuals as it might seem to trump the idea of equity and state welfare for the poor.
  • Exposure to market risks (cash vs. food) Unlike food subsidies that are not subject to fluctuating market prices, a cash transfer’s purchasing power may severely be curtailed by market fluctuations.
In the final analysis, we need to answer a simple question: is the UBI about reducing inequality and poverty? If the answer is yes, then there are many things the state could do at a fraction of what the UBI would cost. But if a dispensation hostile to these tried and tested anti-poverty measures develops a sudden zeal to eliminate poverty through UBI, a measure of scepticism is in order.
 
 Q. 196. Why 'Car Control' Is Essential to Fight Pollution In Delhi?
Ans. On 24 November, the apex court ordered a ban on the sale (not the use) of firecrackers in Delhi and NCR. The verdict, though, sounded tentative—the Court took more than a year to act on a petition by two toddlers demanding a ban on crackers before the Dussehra and Diwali season in 2015, in contrast to its proactive support for the odd-even policy despite its tenability being doubted.

The Delhi government, for its part, also now seems to acknowledge the relative ineffectiveness of the odd-even car rationing policy, though keeping this option open if pollution threatens to choke the city again.

Also announced were a slew of new measures such as:
  • deploying vacuum cleaners and sprinkling water to remove dust,
  • installing massive air purifiers and mist sprayers at key points,
  • operating chimney smoke-tappers to control emissions crematoriums and
  • introducing controlled burning at garbage dumps.
Meanwhile, the union government is contemplating a "graded-response" system that could:
  • trigger automatic measures including odd-even,
  • closure of schools,
  • hike in parking fee,
  • halt construction, and so on, based on dip in air quality.
Such interim and knee-jerk measures invariably underscore the lack of political will to pursue impactful measures or lasting solutions to the lingering crisis.
  • Further proof of the absence of political resolve is in the reluctance to implement even basic measures recommended by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), including the ban on diesel and petrol vehicles of a particular vintage.
  • Promises of augmenting public transport and last-mile connectivity have fallen flat as no tangible efforts have been made to increase the bus fleet, which operates on brink capacity as much as the Delhi Metro.
Clearly, Delhi's vehicular population has outrun its road capacity and the continuing influx of new vehicles is a certain recipe for aggravating the pollution nightmare. That is apart from the unaccounted social cost on the nation from the cumulative loss in human-hours and fuel. Any comprehensive strategy to tackle pollution, hence, has to start by addressing this disorder through a decisive policy action.

Revamping the Auto-Industrial Policy
Right after Diwali, when the NCR was still shrouded in thick layer of smog, various reports quoted the surging sales that auto companies achieved during that festival season. This is the huge paradox that defines India's anti-pollution drive—the country celebrates its high-growth auto-industry, but has pondered little on the vehicular proliferation taking over its cramped urban spaces. The automobile sector is a huge employment generator but also has a responsible stake in the anti-pollution drive, which has to go beyond upgrading fuel quality norms. A national strategy against pollution entails a recalibrating of the auto-industrial policy by devising initiatives to keep the manufacturing lines active even while ensuring that the plethora of vehicular choices do not turn our cities into automobile jungles.

(a) Defined lifetime and recycling policy
It fundamentally entails the enforcement of a usage norm that restricts operational lifetime of all categories of vehicles to a particular period beyond which the vehicle should mandatorily be de-registered and sent to the junkyard. This policy could be a win-win situation for the auto-industry as well as for urban spaces, with a time-bound jettisoning of older vehicles keeping the manufacturing inventories active even as older and polluting vehicles are taken off the roads on a regular and systematic basis. The success of this policy, however, depends on effective implementation of these guidelines along with a whole lot of incentives for customers (to discard older vehicles) and the industry (reduced taxes to encourage balanced production).

(b) Vehicle health assessment
The shift towards a cleaner automotive environment is not just about upgrading engine- and fuel-quality norms but also about ensuring roadworthiness of vehicles within acceptable emissions standards. The existing fitness and pollution certification process lacks credibility and oversight, with little scope for attrition, while also allowing reuse of older vehicles after structural overhauls. The pivot of a new anti-pollution strategy should, hence, be a periodic vehicle assessment system that makes it mandatory for vehicles to be certified, during their lifetime, for environmental roadworthiness in order to be qualified for usage.

World Practice
Many European countries have ensured "safer and cleaner" roads through this method, prominent examples being the MOT system in United Kingdom and Contrôle Technique in France. These policies have particular relevance to the Indian cities where polluting vehicles need to be routinely taken off the roads, even during their lifetime, especially through constant revision of emission norms depending on changing conditions.

Rationing purchase, not usage
  • The government should explore the feasibility of a rationing system by which families that already own a car should not be permitted to purchase a new four-wheeler.
  • The limited impact of the odd-even policy is proof that rationing of usage, that too for a limited period, may not make any significant difference to the pollution landscape.
  • The higher purchasing power of the city's residents and failure to improve public transport infrastructure could innately render this initiative ineffective.
With dual issues of population and vehicular congestion turning into an insurmountable challenge, Delhi is now left with no option but to restrict the influx of new vehicles into the city. Though this suggestion might, at first glance, seem difficult to implement, the fact that the city's vehicular traffic has outgrown Delhi's public infrastructure necessitates resorting to such extremes so as to mitigate further chaos. Other cities could be forewarned from this condition in the national capital and be encouraged to explore effective pre-emptive actions to restrict the growth of vehicular population along with timely investment in public transport.
 
 Q. 195. Waste-to-energy plants
Ans.
Waste-to-energy plants could sustainably dispose of municipal solid waste, while generating electricity. Management of solid waste or garbage has three elements:
  • Segregation of biodegradable or wet waste from dry waste at source.
  • Once segregation is achieved, municipal governments can use wet waste to produce compost and biogas in biomethanation plants.
  • The dry waste, after removing recyclable elements, should go to waste-to-energy plants: This will reduce the volume of waste that remains to be sent to landfills.
About waste-to-energy plants:
A number of waste-to-energy plants are coming up in urban India using
  • Incineration
  • Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF)-based combustion or conversion technologies such as pyrolysis and gasification.
There is a great deal of confusion about what the different technologies entail, and also apprehension about the potentially damaging impact of waste-to-energy plants on the environment in general, the quality of air in particular, and consequently, on public health. There are also questions about whether these plants are financially viable.
Incineration-based waste-to-energy plants rely on mass burning of municipal solid waste, which involves complete combustion of miscellaneous waste materials into ash. The latter is also true of RDF combustion-based plants. Depending on what is being combusted (and this is a huge challenge to determine with municipal solid waste), the gases generated may contain dioxins and furans, which are toxic and can be lethal. These plants therefore need to put in place emission control filters of a very high standard to check the release of harmful gases into the atmosphere.

Singapore uses incineration with due environmental precautions in managing its municipal solid waste after recycling 60 per cent of its waste (among the highest rates in the world). Japan and a number of European countries also rely on incineration, with due precaution, as they try to minimise the waste that needs to go to landfills. The United States had a long free run with incineration plants, but thanks to the environmental movement, there has been a significant tightening of regulations with respect to emissions since the 1970s. The abundance of land in the US led to greater recourse to landfills. But incineration plants are making a comeback and with these, so is the need for vigilance on emissions.

The innovations in waste-to-energy technologies worldwide have been focusing on pyrolysis, gasification and plasma gasification, which can deliver cleaner emissions but are considerably more expensive. These technologies involve heating of solid waste at very high temperatures in an oxygen-controlled environment, such that the thermal reactions produce synthesis gas (or syngas) which has the advantage that it can be burned directly or transported through pipelines and/or tankers for use in electricity generation, refining, chemical and fertiliser industries. While syngas can be scrubbed and converted into a clean energy source, the technologies are expensive, compromising the commercial viability of plants based on conversion technologies.

Pollution control boards set up by the government of India and state governments were expected to provide technical assistance and keep a check on the emissions/environmental footprints of waste-to-energy plants. Unfortunately, they have not kept pace with the rapidly evolving technology in the field of pollution control and were not able to check routine defaulters. Recognising the need for a more empowered body that could enforce adherence to environmental regulations, the National Green Tribunal was set up in 2010, as an independent judicial body under an act by the Parliament of India. As a judicial body in charge of supervisory jurisdiction over all environmental matters, NGT has, in many cases, prodded the pollution control authorities and catalysed action from State Pollution Control Boards/Municipalities, especially in waste management. It has been setting the rules of the game and putting the weight of legal compensation and enforcement behind its rulings. Hopefully, NGT will receive full support from the Central Pollution Control Board in its quest for scientific evaluations of the environmental impact of waste-to-energy plants.

The level of subsidy required to make waste-to-energy plants financially viable presents another set of problems. These plants involve significant capital investment and the cost of energy produced is higher than from the grid, unless there are government subsidies. Considering their contribution to resource recovery and saving on the energy cost of transportation, which would otherwise be incurred to haul waste to a landfill, there is a good case for subsidising these plants.

It is also important to emphasise that electricity generation from waste is not the most efficient way of generating electricity. It is a way of resource recovery from municipal solid waste and should be considered as a by-product of waste management. Enthusiasts sometimes speak of waste-to-energy as a solution to our energy problem — this is not correct. However, if implemented to global emission standards, it could be a pathway to scientific and sustainable disposal of municipal solid waste, given the scarcity of urban land in the country, while also generating some much needed electricity.
 
 Q. 194. Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojna (PMSBY)
Ans.
In the Union Budget 2015-16, government sponsored micro insurance was launched for the disadvantaged sections of the society.
Eligibility: Available to people in age group 18 to 70 years with bank account.
Premium:  Rs.12 per annum.
Payment Mode: The premium will be directly auto-debited by the bank from the subscribers account. This is the only mode available.
Risk Coverage:  For accidental death and full disability - Rs.2 Lakh and for partial disability – Rs.1 Lakh.
Eligibility: Any person having a bank account and Aadhaar number linked to the bank account can give a simple form to the bank every year before 1st of June in order to join the scheme.  Name of nominee to be given in the form.
Terms of Risk Coverage: A person has to opt for the scheme every year. He can also prefer to give a long-term option of continuing in which case his account will be auto-debited every year by the bank.
Who will implement this Scheme? The scheme will be offered by all Public Sector General Insurance Companies and all other insurers who are willing to join the scheme and tie-up with banks for this purpose.
Government Contribution:
  • Various Ministries can co-contribute premium for various categories of their beneficiaries from their budget or from Public Welfare Fund created in this budget from unclaimed money. This will be decided separately during the year.
  • Common Publicity Expenditure will be borne by the Government.
 
 
 Q. 193. Living Planet Report 2016: India
Ans. Published by: World Wide Fund for Nature
WILDLIFE
Based on a study conducted in 2007, the following percentage of India’s wildlife is threatened
with extinction:
  • Mammals-41%
  • Birds-7%
  • Reptiles-46%
  • Amphibians-57%
  • Freshwater Fish-70%
  • Four of the 386 species of mammals evaluated are already extinct

FORESTS
  • India aims for 33% forest cover but currently has only 21.3% of forest and tree cover.
  • This makes it one of the countries with the lowest per capita availability of forests in the world.
  • 25% of India’s total land is undergoing desertification while 32% is facing degradation.
  • India accounts for 27% of global imports of (non-coniferous) tropical timber-based industrial
    round wood, making it the world’s second largest timber importer after China.
  • India is the largest import market for palm oil in the world, at around 22% of global volumes and the second largest consumer of palm oil after Indonesia.
  • India is estimated to be the largest destination for high risk tropical log (illegal) exports from
    Sarawak (Malaysia) and Myanmar. Other illegal wood imports to India come in the form of plywood, furniture and paper from China; and pulp and paper from Indonesia.
 
WATER
  • India has about 4% of the world’s freshwater resources ranking it among the top ten water rich countries.
  • Despite this, India is designated a ‘water stressed region’
  • 70% of our surface water is polluted and 60% of groundwater sources are expected to be in a
    critical state within the next decade.
  • India has lost 38% of its wetlands from 1991 to 2001.
  • In Asia alone, 5000 sq km of wetland area is lost to agriculture, dam construction and other uses every year.

CLIMATE
  • The all-India annual mean temperatures have shown a significant warming trend with an increase of 0.51ËšC per 100 years.
  • One of the most vulnerable regions to climate change, the Indian coastline has seen (mean) sea levels rise by 1.30mm/year over the past several decades.
  • A sea level rise of 1 meter could permanently submerge around 14,000 square kilometres of
    coastal areas in India.
  • At least 200 people were killed in massive flooding that impacted Kashmir in the first week of
    September 2014.
  • Drought impacted a large portion of the country in 2009. In some areas monsoonal rainfall was the lowest in the four decades.
  • Floods and droughts are likely to increase since there will be a decline in seasonal rainfall, coupled with increase in extreme precipitation during monsoon.
 
FOOD
  • It is estimated that by 2020, food grain requirement will be almost 30-50% more than the
    demand in 2000.
  • India could also see a 10-40% loss in crop production in India by 2080- 2100 due to global
    warming.
  • In March 2004, temperatures were higher in the Indo-Gangetic plains by 3-6° C, which is
    equivalent to almost 1°C per day over the whole crop season.
  • As a result, wheat crop matured earlier by 10-20 days and wheat production dropped by more
    than 4 million tonnes in the country.

ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT
  • According to the Living Planet Report 2016, India ranks fifth in terms of bio-capacity (bio-capacity of an ecosystem is an estimate of its production of certain biological materials such as natural resources, and its absorption and filtering of other materials such as carbon dioxide from the atmosphere).
  • While Indians have a low personal footprint at an individual level, it is a challenge when
    aggregated by population size
  • We are currently using resources at a rate that is 70% above our bio-capacity.
  • This equation will be further affected as wealth grows and consumption patterns change.
  • Approximately 50% of India’s population depends directly on natural resources.
  • If India continues its current development trajectory, its resource demand will have more than
    tripled to a figure equivalent to the combined current consumption of all the OECD countries by 2030.
 
 Q. 192. India Solar and Wind power tariffs fall to record low
Ans. Solar and Wind power tariffs have hit new lows in India. Tariffs for solar power have hitherto ranged from Rs3.9 per kWh to Rs5.9 per kWh. Recently, this has further gone below the sub Rs3/unit mark. Wind power has also followed suit as cost has come down to Rs3.46/unit.

Reasons for cost reduction:
  • Transparent auction mechanism
  • Auction of contracts to develop the world’s largest solar power plant of 750 MW capacity in Rewa, Madhya Pradesh have pushed the solar power tariffs to a record low of Rs2.97 per kWh.
  • India has set a target of generating 60GW of wind power by 2022, up from 28,700.44 MW at the end of December. The government plans to achieve 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022 as part of its commitments to the Paris climate change agreement.
  • The price gap between electricity generated from thermal, solar and wind projects has been narrowing. This is primarily due to costs of solar modules and wind turbine generators falling by 80% and 20%, respectively, over the past five years.
Hindrances for Wind Power:
  • The wind sector has been hit by inordinate delays in signing of power purchase agreements and untimely payments;
  • Distribution firms have shied away from procuring electricity generated by wind projects.
  • With the discovered tariff of Rs3.46, this auction will be disruptive for the wind industry. It will be interesting to see how banks, OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and developers work together to commission these projects—at these tariffs, the projects will need to be delivered at a substantially lower project cost to ensure viability.
  • This tariff should not be considered as a benchmark in lower wind regime states. Overall, this is a positive development as this brings competition and transparency in the sector.
 
 Q. 191. Indo-US naval cooperation
Ans.
In the ever-expanding universe of Indo-US cooperation, perhaps the brightest and most alluring star is the deepening partnership between the Indian and US navies. Consider two recent pronouncements:
  • Admiral Harry Harris, the commander of the Hawaii-based Pacific Command (Pacom), revealed, that both navies are engaged in “sharing...information regarding Chinese maritime movement in the Indian Ocean,” especially submarines.
  • Reliance Defence and Engineering Ltd announced that it had won a contract to service ships of the US Seventh Fleet.
The latter comes in the wake of the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), followed by the master ship repair agreement, between India and the US.
Both these developments underline a degree of mutual trust, confidence and growing cooperation on shore and at sea, which was previously unimaginable.

But is this cooperation likely to sustain?
The answer, according to a new report of the Centre for Naval Analyses (CNA), a Washington research organization, is a guarded “yes.” The report is upbeat about the state of cooperation. It notes the
  • US-India joint strategic vision for the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean,
  • LEMOA,
  • the recognition of India as a “Major defence partner”,
  • the joint working group on aircraft-carrier technology cooperation, and
  • the trilateral Malabar exercise (including Japan as a permanent participant) as evidence that the relationship has “soared to new heights.”
However, it also identifies several strategic and operational factors that could limit or enhance this cooperation.
Among the strategic factors are:
  • the role of China and Pakistan and Washington’s response to them;
  • Indian party politics, particularly the return of coalition politics dependent on left parties;
  • personalities, especially of people at the helm; and
  • black swan events, such as a major terrorist attack on Indian soil.
While none of these directly relate to the navies, they are likely to affect the overall prospects and pace of Indo-US cooperation, including naval cooperation.
Even if the strategic factors are conducive for enhancing cooperation, there are several operational factors that could stymie deeper relations.
  • Top among them is the intransigence of the Indian bureaucracy, which “have historically reined in the military services in terms of… freedom of action”.
  • Similarly, the lack of progress on foundation agreements, such as the Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum Agreement and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for satellite-based intelligence, “will affect the pace of defence engagement.”
  • Freedom of navigation operations (Fonops), which the US is particularly keen to exercise through the South China Sea.
India is uncomfortable with joint Fonops for several reasons.
  • It sees the Indian Ocean as its primary area of interest, not the South China Sea.
  • Such cruises are bound to antagonize China; which India does not consider to be in its national interest.
  • India is also opposed, in principle, to military ships traversing through its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and seeks prior consent for military exercises or manoeuvres in its EEZ. This position is similar to that of China and some other maritime countries. Were India to participate in the US-led Fonops, it would have to rescind on this principle and also accept the possibility of other navies—especially Chinese navy—being present in its EEZ.
Finally, the CNA report is also concerned about the “capacity constraints” on the Indian Navy, particularly the limited budget afforded to it. In particular, it worries that Indian warships “are being decommissioned faster than they are being replaced.”
The report also accurately notes India’s westward focus both overland and by sea to the Gulf region and East Africa and how this is out of the area of responsibility of the primary driver of US-India naval cooperation—Pacom.
Against this backdrop, the report recommends a minimalist, business-as-usual, and maximalist approach to sustaining and building the cooperation.
  • At the very least, the US and Indian navies could carry out “benign naval and maritime activity” during periods of diplomatic strain. These could range from maritime domain awareness and information sharing to maritime peacekeeping operations and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
  • In the business-as-usual scenario the two could incrementally deepen cooperation. Assuming that the strategic and operational factors remain conducive, this scenario is likely to prevail.
Were the strategic and operations factors to improve dramatically, a maximalist scenario could be envisaged. This might include US-India naval exercises and, perhaps, anti-piracy operations, with both US Central Command (responsible for the Gulf region) and the US Africa Command, in addition to Pacom. Which of these scenarios will come to fruition is dependent on the Trump administration. And that remains a black hole that even this report cannot illuminate.
 
 Q. 190. NATIONAL TIGER CONSERVATION AUTHORITY/PROJECT TIGER
Ans.
The Government of India has taken a pioneering initiative for conserving its national animal, the tiger, by launching the ‘Project Tiger’ in 1973.
  • From 9 tiger reserves since its formative years, the Project Tiger coverage has increased to 47 at present, spread out in 18 of our tiger range states. This amounts to around 2.08% of the geographical area of our country.
  • The tiger reserves are constituted on a core/buffer strategy. The core areas have the legal status of a national park or a sanctuary, whereas the buffer or peripheral areas are a mix of forest and non-forest land, managed as a multiple use area. The Project Tiger aims to foster an exclusive tiger agenda in the core areas of tiger reserves, with an inclusive people oriented agenda in the buffer.
  • Project Tiger is an ongoing Centrally Sponsored Scheme of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, providing central assistance to the tiger States for tiger conservation in designated tiger reserves.
  • The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is a statutory body of the Ministry, with an overarching supervisory / coordination role, performing functions as provided in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
Activities include:
  • protection,
  • habitat amelioration,
  • day to day monitoring,
  • eco-development for local people in buffer areas,
  • voluntary relocation of people from core/critical tiger habitats, and
  • addressing human-wildlife conflicts, within the ambit of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and guidelines of Project Tiger / National Tiger Conservation Authority.
  • The NTCA / Project Tiger also conducts the country level assessment of the status of tiger, co-predators, prey and habitat once in four years, using the refined methodology, as approved by the Tiger Task Force.
Special thrust on tiger protection and anti-poaching operations
The illegal demand for body parts and derivatives of tiger outside the country continues to be a serious threat to wild tigers. Therefore, protection is accorded topmost priority in Project Tiger / NTCA. The States are engaged in an ongoing manner through the NTCA Headquarters as well as Regional Offices, while issuing alerts, besides closely working with the CBI, Wildlife Crime Control Bureau and the Police Departments. The following actions are taken in this context:
  • Alerting the States as and when required
  • Transmitting backward / forward linkages of information relating to poachers
  • Advising the States for combing forest floor to check snares / traps
  • Providing assistance to States for ant poaching operations
  • Using information technology for improved surveillance (e-Eye system) using thermal cameras launched in Corbett
  • Launching tiger reserve level monitoring using camera trap to keep a photo ID database of individual tigers
  • Preparing a national database of individual tiger photo captures to establish linkage with body parts seized or dead tigers
  • Assisting States to refine protection oriented monitoring through monitoring system for tiger’s intensive protection and ecological status (M-STrIPES)
  • Providing grant through NTCA for patrolling in tiger rich sensitive forest areas outside tiger reserves
  • Supporting States for raising, arming and deploying the Special Tiger Protection Force
Managing dispersing tigers in human dominated landscapes
In several productive tiger landscapes, tigers move out from the core/critical tiger habitats/source areas. This is an innate behaviour owing to their social dynamics. Since the tiger landscapes have human settlements and varied land uses, there are frequent human-tiger/ wildlife interface issues. The NTCA / Project Tiger is actively engaging with the States to address such issues and a SOP has been put in place in this regard.
Due to concerted efforts under Project Tiger, at present India has the distinction of having the maximum number of tigers in the world (2226) as per 2014 assessment, when compared to the 13 tiger range countries. The 2014 country level tiger assessment has also shown a 30% increase of tigers in the country (from 1706 in 2010 to 2226 in 2014). 70% of the world's tigers exist in India. The tiger corridors for gene flow have been mapped in the GIS domain. The latest estimate has captured 1540 individual tigers which is around 70% of the total population estimate. Robust Spatially explicit capture-recapture (SECR) models have been used to arrive at the current figure.
 
 Q. 189. Getting back home, safely
Ans.
On January 26, 1986, as New Delhi celebrated its Republic Day, South Yemen was being engulfed in a civil war that threatened the lives of thousands of foreigners living there. The 850 Indians in the country were forced to wait for several days until New Delhi finally managed to convince a merchant ship to pick them up. Fast forward almost 30 years, to April 2015, when Yemen was on fire once again. This time, however, the Indian government successfully conducted Operation Raahat to evacuate almost 5,000 Indians and nearly 1,000 citizens from 41 other countries. Besides Air India aircraft, the Indian Navy deployed vessels, and the Indian Air Force C-17 Globemasters for strategic airlift. Such unprecedented efforts and resources reflect New Delhi’s new drive to protect the lives and assets of its citizens abroad in times of crisis.
The increasing size and complexity of the diaspora requires the government to expand capacity and improve procedures. More than 11 million Indians now reside abroad and 20 million travel internationally every year. As political instability rattles the West Asian region, which hosts more than seven million Indians, the government can no longer rely on heroic efforts by individual officials or quick-fix solutions.
First, the government will need to build on its rich experience in conducting more than 30 evacuation operations since the 1950s. By supporting policy-oriented research at universities and think tanks to document the memory of senior officials, the government would also facilitate the transmission of their expertise to younger officials.
Second, inter-ministerial committee should prepare a manual with guidelines that establish a clear chain of command and division of competencies; identify regional support bases, assembly points and routes for evacuation; develop country-specific warden systems to communicate with expatriates; and establish evacuation priority and embarkation criteria.
Third, India’s diplomatic cadre must be given specific training to operate in hostile environments. To achieve this, the government could instruct the police or army to train Indian Foreign Service probationers to operate in war zones; conduct frequent evacuation simulations and emergency drills; and create rapid reaction teams of Indian security personnel to be deployed to protect diplomatic staff and installations abroad.
Fourth, India will have to invest in cooperative frameworks that facilitate coordination among countries that have large expatriate populations in West Asia, in particular Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and among leading powers with evacuation capacity in the Indian Ocean region.
Fifth, the government will have to assign a greater role to its armed forces, in particular by strengthening the Navy and Air Force’s capacity to operate in tandem with civilian authorities.
Sixth, the government must institutionalise a permanent inter-ministerial coordinating mechanism for emergency evacuations, incentivise inter-agency cross-posting of officials dealing with diaspora affairs, and encourage State governments to create regional contingency plans.
Seventh, the government must establish a permanent civil reserve air fleet that pools aircraft from all Indian airlines based on pre-established requisition and reimbursement procedures.
Eighth, the government will have to invest in new technologies to better monitor the diaspora’s profile and mobility. This can be achieved by encouraging more diplomatic missions to provide online consular registration forms, developing an online registration system for overseas travellers, utilising social media, and by making the Aadhaar card compulsory to facilitate biometric identity verification and reduce identity fraud during evacuation.
Finally, the government must expand efforts to manage public opinion and be able to conduct a quiet diplomacy that is crucial to safely extricate Overseas Indians from conflict zones. To reduce domestic pressures, it should embed media representatives more frequently in such missions, reassure the diaspora by ensuring that high-level political representatives are personally engaged, and avoid raising expectations by clearly distinguishing Indian citizens from people of Indian origin.
India has extensive experience in conducting evacuation operations, but to secure the lives and assets of Indians abroad, the government must avoid an ad hoc approach and seek to institutionalise best practices, bolster diplomatic and military capabilities, and improve coordination.
 
 Q. 188. For Indian Forest Service(IFoS) Interview 2017
Ans.  -  http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-37789594
 
 -  Two new critically endangered plant species spotted in Eravikulam National Park
 
 -  Madras HC orders TN Government to enact law to remove Seemai Karuvelam trees
 
 -  CAMPA
 
 
 Q. 187. What is National Hydrology Project?
Ans.
The National Hydrology Project (NHP) is intended for setting up of a system for timely and reliable water resources data acquisition, storage, collation and management. It will also provide tools/systems for informed decision making through Decision Support Systems (DSS) for water resources assessment, flood management, reservoir operations, drought management, etc. NHP also seeks to build capacity of the State and Central sector organisations in water resources management through the use of Information Systems and adoption of State-of-the-art technologies like Remote Sensing.
The MoWR, RD&GR has adopted a paradigm shift in the management of water resources of the country by adopting a river basin approach, in order to efficiently use and manage water resources of the country; adequacy of data, resource assessment, decision support systems, etc. are a prerequisite for allocation and prioritization of this fast depleting resource. 
The NHP will help in gathering Hydro-meteorological data which will be stored and analysed on a real time basis and can be seamlessly accessed by any user at the State/District/village level.  The project envisages to cover the entire country as the earlier hydrology projects covered only 13 States.

The NHP will result in the improvement of:
  • Data storage, exchange, analysis and dissemination through National Water Informatics Centre.
  • Lead time in flood forecast from 1 day to at least 3 days.
  • Mapping of flood inundation areas for use by the disaster management authorities.
  • Assessment of surface and ground water resources in a river basin for better planning & allocation for PMKSY and other schemes of Govt. of India.
  • Reservoir operations through   seasonal yield   forecast, drought management, SCADA systems, etc.
  • Design of SW & GW structures, hydropower units, interlinking of rivers, Smart Cities.
  • Fulfilling the objectives of Digital India.
Elucidation on the impact of the Project:
  • Development of real time flood forecasting and reservoir operations in a manner that does not result in sudden opening of gates which inundates the area down below;
  • It will facilitate integrated water resource management by adopting river basin approach through collation and management of hydro-meteorological data.  This will also help in water resource assessment – as surface as well as ground water, for water resource planning, prioritize its allocations and its consumptive use for irrigation;
  • It will help in providing real time information on a dynamic basis to the farmers about the ground water position for them to accordingly plan their cropping pattern;
  • This will also help in promoting efficient and equitable use of water particularly of ground water at the village level;
  • This will also provide information on quality of water
The programme envisages ultimate aim for water management through scientific data collection, dissemination of information on water availability in all blocks of the country and establishing of National Water Information Centre.  The automated systems for Flood Forecasting is aimed to reduce water disaster ultimately helping vulnerable population.  It is people and farmer centric programme as information on water can help in predicting water availability and help farmers to plan their crops and other farm related activities.  Through this programme India would make a place among nations known for scientific endeavours.
 
 Q. 186. Project Elephant
Ans. Project Elephant was launched by the Government of India in the year 1992 as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme with following objectives:
  • To protect elephants, their habitat & corridors
  • To address issues of man-animal conflict
  • Welfare of captive elephants

Financial and Technical support are being provided to major elephant bearing States in the country. Main activities under the Project are as follows:
  • Ecological restoration of existing natural habitats and migratory routes of elephants;
  • Development of scientific and planned management for conservation of elephant habitats and viable population of Wild Asiatic elephants in India;
  • Promotion of measures for mitigation of man elephant conflict in crucial habitats and moderating pressures of human and domestic stock activities in crucial elephant habitats;
  • Strengthening of measures for protection of Wild elephants from poachers and unnatural causes of death;
  • Research on Elephant management related issues;
  • Public education and awareness programmes;
  • Eco-development
  • Veterinary care
  • Elephant Rehabilitation/Rescue Centres
Estimation of wild elephant population in the year 2007 and 2012.
The all India enumeration of wild population of elephants in the country is carried out at every five-year interval. The comparative figures as below for the states shows that the estimated population of wild elephants in the country has increased to 29391-30711 as compared to 27657-27682 in 2007.
 
Elephent Reserves: Till now 28 Elephant Reserves (ERs) extending over about 61830.08 sq km have been formally notified by various State Governments. Consent for establishment 2 more ERs – Khasi Elephant Reserve in Meghalaya and Dandeli Elephant Reserve in Karnataka has been accorded by MoEF&CC. Inclusion of Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary in Mysore Elephant Reserve has also been approved by the Ministry.  The concerned State Governments are yet to notify these ERs.  

Monitoring of Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) Programme
Mandated by CoP resolution of CITES, MIKE program started in South Asia in the year 2003 with following purpose:
  • To measure levels and trends in the illegal hunting of elephants;
  • To determine changes in these trends over time; and
  • To determine the factors causing or associated with such changes, and to try and assess in particular to what extent observed trends are a result of any decisions taken by the Conference of the Parties to CITES.
 
 Q. 185. What is the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme? Why is it important in the Indian context? Briefly mention the expansion and the results of the scheme.
Ans.
The Census (2011) data showed a significant declining trend in the Child Sex Ratio (CSR), calculated as number of girls for every 1000 boys between age group of 0-6 years, with an all-time low of 918 in 2011 from 976 in 1961. The decline in CSR has been unabated since 1961. This is an alarming indicator for women disempowerment. It reflects both pre-birth discrimination manifested through gender biased sex selection, and post birth discrimination against girls. The decline is widespread across the country and has expanded to rural as well as tribal areas. Alarmed by the sharp decline, the Government of India has introduced Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (BBBP) programme to address the issue of decline in CSR in 100 gender critical districts. Coordinated & convergent efforts are needed to ensure survival, protection and education of the girl child. The Overall Goal of the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao(BBBP) Scheme is to Celebrate the Girl Child & Enable her Education.

The objectives of the Scheme are as under:
  • Prevent gender biased sex selective elimination.
  • Ensure survival & protection of the girl child.
  • Ensure education of the girl child.
The Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) initiative has two major components:
  • Mass Communication Campaign on Beti Bachao Beti Padhao: The campaign aims at ensuring girls are born, nurtured and educated without discrimination to become empowered citizens of this country. The Campaign interlinks National, State and District level interventions with community level action in 100 districts, bringing together different stakeholders for accelerated impact.
  • Multi-Sectoral interventions in 100 Gender Critical Districts covering all States/UTs: Coordinated & convergent efforts are undertaken in close coordination with MoHFW and MoHRD to ensure survival, protection and education of the girl child. The District Collectors/Deputy Commissioners (DCs) lead and coordinate actions of all departments for implementation of BBBP at the District level.
It is a joint initiative of Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Human Resource Development. The Sectoral interventions under the programme include the following:
  • Ministry of WCD: Promote registration of pregnancies in first trimester in Anganwadi Centres (AWCs); Undertake training of stakeholders; Community mobilization & sensitization; Involvement of gender champions; Reward & recognition of institutions & frontline workers.
  •  Ministry of Health & Family Welfare: Monitor implementation of Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCP&DT) Act, 1994; Increased institutional deliveries; Registration of births; Strengthening PNDT Cells; Setting up Monitoring Committees
  • Ministry of Human Resource Development: Universal enrolment of girls; Decreased drop-out rate; Girl Child friendly standards in schools; Strict implementation of Right to Education (RTE); Construction of Functional Toilets for girls.
Expansion ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’: 
Given the criticality of the issue, this initiative has been expanded to 61 additional districts across the 11 States/UTs. Since its inception in January 2015, this programme has resulted in hundreds of local level innovative initiatives to promote the girl child.
  • Installing digital Guddi Gudda Display Boards in offices and public places in Jalgaon district, Maharashtra;
  • a social assistance scheme titled Ladli Beti for new born girl child born on or after 01st April 2015 by Jammu and Kashmir;
  • cash reward of Rs. 1 lakh for whistle blowers informing about illegal sex selection announced by Haryana; 
  • Ambassador of Girl Child (Chief Secretary) launched by Nagaland etc.
Results of BBBP:
  • Increasing trend in Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB) is visible in 58% of the BBBP districts;
  • 69 districts have reported progress in the first trimester registration against the reported ANC registrations during the previous year;
  • status of institutional deliveries has improved in 80 districts against the total reported deliveries in comparison to the previous year.
 
 Q. 184. Senkaku/Diaoyu islands dispute
Ans.
Ties between China and Japan have been strained by a territorial row over a group of islands, known as the Senkaku islands in Japan and the Diaoyu islands in China.
What is the row about?
  • At the heart of the dispute are eight uninhabited islands and rocks in the East China Sea.
  • They have a total area of about 7 sq. km and lie north-east of Taiwan, east of the Chinese mainland and south-west of Japan's southern-most prefecture, Okinawa.
  • The islands are controlled by Japan.
They matter because:
  • They are close to important shipping lanes.
  • They offer rich fishing grounds.
  • They lie near potential oil and gas reserves.
  • They are also in a strategically significant position, amid rising competition between the US and China for military primacy in the Asia-Pacific region.
What is Japan's claim?
Japan says it surveyed the islands for 10 years in the 19th Century and determined that they were uninhabited. In 1895 Japan erected a sovereignty marker and formally incorporated the islands into Japanese territory.
After World War Two, Japan renounced claims to a number of territories and islands including Taiwan in the 1951 Treaty of San Francisco. These islands, however, came under US trusteeship and were returned to Japan in 1971 under the Okinawa reversion deal.
Japan says China raised no objections to the San Francisco deal. And it says that it is only since the 1970s, when the issue of oil resources in the area emerged, that Chinese and Taiwanese authorities began pressing their claims.
 
What is China's claim?
China says that the islands have been part of its territory since ancient times, serving as important fishing grounds administered by the province of Taiwan.
Separately, Taiwan also claims the islands.

Why is the row so prominent now?
The dispute has rumbled relatively quietly for decades. But in 2012, a fresh row ensued after outspoken right-wing Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara said he would use public money to buy the islands from their private Japanese owner. The Japanese government then reached a deal to buy three of the islands from the owner.
This angered China, triggering public and diplomatic protests. Since then, Chinese government ships have regularly sailed in and out of what Japan says are its territorial waters around the islands.
In November 2013, China also announced the creation of a new air-defence identification zone, which would require any aircraft in the zone - which covers the islands - to comply with rules laid down by Beijing.
Japan labelled the move a "unilateral escalation" and said it would ignore it, as did the US.

What is the role of the US?
The US and Japan forged a security alliance in the wake of World War II and formalised it in 1960. Under the deal, the US is given military bases in Japan in return for its promise to defend Japan in the event of an attack.
This means if conflict were to erupt between China and Japan, Japan would expect US military back-up. US President Barack Obama has confirmed that the security pact applies to the islands - but has also warned that escalation of the current row would harm all sides.

What next?
The Senkaku/Diaoyu issue highlights the more robust attitude China has been taking to its territorial claims in both the East China Sea and the South China Sea. It poses worrying questions about regional security as China's military modernises amid the US "pivot" to Asia. In both China and Japan, meanwhile, the dispute ignites nationalist passions on both sides, putting pressure on politicians to appear tough and ultimately making any possible resolution even harder to find.
 
 Q. 183. India Post Payments Bank
Ans.
  • India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) will be set up as a public limited company under the Department of Posts with 100 per cent government equity.
  • The total corpus of the payments bank is of Rs 800 crore, which will have Rs 400-crore equity and Rs 400-crore grant.
  • A total of 650 branches of the postal payments bank would be established in India, which will be linked to rural post offices.
  • India has 154,000 post offices, of which 139,000 are rural post offices. IPPB will obtain banking licence from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) by March 2017 and by September 2017, all 650 branches of the postal payments bank would become operational.
  • IPPB will offer demand deposits such as savings and current accounts upto a balance of Rs 1 Lac, digitally enabled payments and remittance services of all kinds between entities and individuals and also provide access to third party financial services such as insurance, mutual funds, pension, credit products, forex, and more, in partnership with insurance companies, mutual fund houses, pension providers, banks, international money transfer organisations, etc.
The four key features of IPPB are:
FINANCIAL LITERACY: Even a little saving can go a long way if channelized correctly. With trustworthy advice and services designed to include everybody, income can be invested correctly, more can be saved, and people can start moving forward, faster. IPPB aims to make India prosperous by ensuring that everyone has equal access to financial information and services, no matter who they are, what they earn and where they live.

STREAMLINING PAYMENTS: Beneficiaries can access income from government’s DBT programs like MNREGA wages, Social Security Pensions and scholarships, directly from their IPPB bank account with near zero friction. They can also pay their utility bills, fees for educational institutions and many more from the same IPPB account. It ensures that wherever they are, they can make the most of financial opportunities available to them.

FINANCIAL INCLUSION: Millions of Indians don’t have access to banking facilities. They cannot avail of government benefits, loans and insurance, and even interest on savings. IPPB will reach the un-banked and the under-banked across all cross sections of society and geographies. Services offered by IPPB will help them take the first step towards prosperity.

EASE OF ACCESSIBILITY: IPPB is powered by the very postmen who deliver our letters. With over 1.54 lac post offices across the country, India Post enjoys the trust of Indians everywhere. The postal delivery system will make IPPB, India’s most accessible banking network. IPPB will also offer services through internet and mobile banking, and prepaid instruments like mobile wallets, debit cards, ATMs, PoS and MPoS terminals etc.
 
 Q. 182. Jallikattu
Ans.
Now that the dust has settled on Marina beach, where young protesters had camped to demand that the ban on Jallikattu—a traditional sport of bull jostling—be lifted, let’s discuss the larger and more serious issue of culture, tradition and their practice in the modern world. There is no doubt that traditional cultures had empathy with ecology—people had learnt to live with nature, optimise its resources and rationalise its use during scarcity. This “sustainable use” was woven into rituals, practices and beliefs, and became part of cultures. But times change, and so do the approaches and sensibilities of society.

Jallikattu, the Tamils practise this tradition and say it is different from the bull-fighting of Spain. They do not kill the bull, only play with it by removing bundles of gold and money tied to its horns. The skill is tested in how the man—it’s always a man—removes the money and, in the process, tames the raging bull.

Sequence of events:
  • In 2011, the then environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, agreed to include “bull” in the list of animals that were banned for use in training or exhibition under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960.
  • His successor, Prakash Javadekar, wanted to remove “bulls” from the list but the Supreme Court intervened.
  • In May 2014, the court ruled that Jallikattu, bull-racing and other such activities were indeed cruel to animals and upheld the notification banning the “sport”.
But since then, each Pongal—the festival of harvest when Jallikattu is organised—the rumble of dissension has been growing. Proponents say Jallikattu is the only way to preserve the state’s traditional Kangayam species of bull. They say through this sport, the stud bull’s powers are demonstrated and it is selected for conservation. They go as far as saying that if the sport is banned, there will be no “value” in keeping the bull; it will be slaughtered and the ratio of cow to bull will further decline. 
The only reason to seek continuation of the sport has been “culture” or “tradition”, and the plea has been that cruelty is not inherent in the sport and can be regulated. The proponents have never ever articulated the ecological purpose of the sport as this would require substantiation. 

Fact check: Today, indigenous domestic animals across the country stand close to extinction. There is a compelling reason to argue that these species must be conserved, protected and bred. They are local and so, have the ability to cope with adverse ecological conditions. Today, Indian traditional cattle breeds are the basis of economic prosperity in other countries. Africa breeds our Sahiwal; Brazil our Nelore; even the American beef cattle comes from India’s Brahman. But we have taken fancy to foreign breeds like Jersey and Holstein Friesian. The 19th Livestock Census released in 2012 shows this decline. Between 2007 and 2012, there was a 19 per cent reduction in indigenous male cattle (bulls) and a parallel 20 per cent increase in exotic breeds of male and female cattle. When compared to the previous census in 2003, the loss is 65 per cent in indigenous milch cattle. The case is the same in Tamil Nadu. So, it would be fair to say there is absolutely no evidence to show that Jallikattu has aided in the conservation of indigenous breeds, other than saying that the species that could have gone extinct is surviving by the skin of its horns.
Much more needs to be done to protect and ensure the continuation and use of indigenous breeds, which are vital for the country’s livestock economy. This is where the catch lies. This is the horn that matters.
 






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