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      Question and Answer

       Q. 306. World Economic Forum travel and tourism competitiveness index: India wasted tourism potential
      Ans.
      The recent World Economic Forum’s (WEF’s) travel and tourism competitiveness index, showed that India had moved up 12 places and now ranks 40th among 136 nations globally.
      • The report also noted that this was the largest leap made by any country in the top 50, thereby making India, with its rich and diverse cultural heritage and natural beauty, a prime candidate to lead the so-called Asian century in travel and tourism.
      • The numbers tell a complex story.
      • On the one hand, foreign tourist arrivals have been on an upward trajectory at least since the turn of the century.
      • According to the ministry of tourism, India hosted 8.89 million tourists last year compared to only 2.65 million tourists in 2000.
      But when compared with other countries, India’s performance leaves much to be desired.

      Across the World
      • While India hit an all-time high last year, it was still nowhere close to France, which topped the list of foreign tourist arrivals with 84.5 million visitors.
      • The US (77.5 million) was second, followed by Spain (68.2 million), China (56.9 million) and Italy (50.7 million).
      • Europe’s dominant position on the list can be explained through the Schengen agreement, which allows citizens of member states to travel freely across international borders.
      • The US too has a visa-waiver agreement with most European Union countries as well as a handful of others for easy access.
      • Non-Schengen states like China—or, for that matter, Turkey (39.4 million tourists in 2015), Mexico (32.1 million) and Russia (31.3 million), all of which have significantly higher tourist numbers than India.
      India Vs Others
      • India’s foreign exchange earnings from tourism has followed a similar pattern.
      • In 2015, for example, India earned more than $23 billion in revenue from international tourism, a significant hike from the $3.5 billion it made in 2000.
      • However, the US earned $204.5 billion from international tourists and China $114.1 billion, in 2015—making India’s $23 billion seem like chump change.
      • However, parsing the numbers more carefully shows that while overall revenue from tourists in India is low because of fewer visitors, the average revenue per tourist is actually quite high.
      • For example, while the average tourist spends about $2,639 in the US, she spends about a comparable $2,610 in India and about $2,005 in China.
      • In France (and this is generally true for other European countries as well), the number drops to $543 per tourist.
      • This is because a large chunk of the tourists visiting France are other Europeans with Schengen privileges on short trips from across the borders. But while such tourists add to the numbers, they don’t always spend a lot of money.
      Indian question
      • In contrast, when a French or German tourist takes a long-haul flight to India for what is ostensibly a well-planned holiday, they tend to stay longer and spend more money.
      • For India, this is not as much a success story as much as it is an indication of a missed opportunity: When they are here, tourists are clearly willing to spend; but they are simply not coming here in adequate numbers in the first place.
      • Is this because of India’s many problems, such as cumbersome visa regulations, bad travel infrastructure, poor sanitation, collapsing law enforcement systems and concerns about women’s safety?
      • On each of these counts, India ranks poorly on the WEF index.
      • Five-star luxury—given the high revenue per tourist—may shield visitors somewhat from these issues but it cannot get rid of them entirely.
      • Yet another factor at play here is the large number of business tourists (who expectedly are high-spenders) that India gets vis-a-vis leisure tourists, which somewhat skews the narrative.
      • It is worth asking then: Is India getting its fair share of budget travellers especially since it is otherwise one of the most affordable travel destinations? Are middle-class tourists, who want a certain degree of comfort and hassle-free travel but cannot afford to go the five-star route, staying away?
      • If true, that is another challenge for India as it will have to prepare for the changing profile of the international tourist.
      As the WEF report notes, foreign travel is no longer a luxury enjoyed only by wealthy Westerners. The lowering of trade barriers and the rise of the middle class in many emerging economies mean that North America and Europe, which have dominated the travel markets till now, may give way to international travel from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

      Currently, India receives the maximum number of tourists from the US, followed by Bangladesh, while regionally, Western Europe and North America make up for a large chunk of the country’s foreign tourists—at 23.42% and 18.62% in 2015, respectively.

      South Asia tops the list with 24.25% but that is to be expected given that it is India’s neighbourhood. What is of concern though is that other regions that are expected to send out tomorrow’s tourists don’t seem to have India on their radar.

      The silver lining here is that all these regions, except Eastern Europe, have been sending more tourists to India than before and the government is also cognizant of the fact that a lot more needs to be done on the home front. It has started with liberalizing the visa regime which is expected to improve the numbers quickly. But that’s only the first step. Making it easier to visit India won’t do much when being a tourist in India is replete with problems.
       
       Q. 305. The government of India has sought to effectively prohibit cattle slaughter across the country through rules made under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. Can this be considered a constitutional misadventure? What are the legal aspects associated with such a move?
      Ans. The government of India has sought to effectively prohibit cattle slaughter across the country through rules made under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. Though the rules do not explicitly ban slaughter, they ban the sale and purchase of cattle for slaughter at agricultural markets and therefore, in effect, are attempting to put an end to all kinds of cattle slaughter across the country.
      It is a constitutional misadventure on multiple grounds involving fundamental rights, separation of powers and federalism.
      Laws
      • It was the Indian Parliament that enacted The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (the Act) and that legislation empowers the Government of India (as the executive) to make rules to implement the Act. The executive’s power to make rules under a legislation cannot be exercised in a manner that is contrary to parent legislation — and the latest set of rules does exactly that.
      • The Act through section 11 criminalises cruel treatment of animals by listing a wide range of activities and then, in sub-clause (3)(e) of that very provision, declares that killing an animal for food will not be an offence unless it is “accompanied by the infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering”. It is explicit and clear as day that the Act does not contemplate a prohibition on the slaughter of animals for food.
      Killing of animals permitted under other existing
      Further, in sub-clause (3)(c) of the Act, it is clearly stated that killing of animals permitted under other existing laws cannot be made an offence. There exist multiple state legislations that permit the slaughter of cattle and the Government of India (GoI) cannot then use this Act to render such slaughter illegal. In issuing this latest set of rules, the GoI has exercised power it does not have under The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
      Glaring anomaly
      Another glaring anomaly in the new rules is that the government seems interested in preventing cruelty only to cattle (defined as bovine animals including the cow, bull, bullock, buffaloes, steers, heifers, calves and camels). There cannot be any constitutionally acceptable reason for leaving out chickens, pigs, sheep, goats, fish, rabbits, etc.
      Different state legislations
      • Cow slaughter is regulated/prohibited across the country in different ways by various state legislations. Different state legislations have variations on the kind of cattle that can be slaughtered and when they can be slaughtered.
      • That is the reason for getting only buffalo meat in Delhi, the meat of bulls and bullocks in Kerala and a complete prohibition on slaughter of cows, bulls, bullocks and buffaloes in Madhya Pradesh. Such prohibitions/regulations are achieved through separate state legislations because the power to make such laws is given exclusively to the states under the constitution.
      Cow slaughter in the Directive Principles of State Policy
      • And there is very good constitutional logic for that. There is no religious protection for the cow or any other cattle under the constitution and the issue of cow slaughter in the Directive Principles of State Policy is tied to agriculture and the interests of animal husbandry.
      • That approach flows into the constitutional logic of leaving the power of determining cow slaughter regulations exclusively to the states because issues relating to livestock are invariably tied to local conditions of agriculture, availability of fodder, customs, dietary preferences, etc.
      • An all-India anti-cow slaughter legislation by Parliament is unviable because the constitution does not give Parliament the power to make such a law.
      Indian Courts
      • The Bombay High Court in a constitutionally mature decision upheld the constitutional liberty to determine individual dietary preferences and struck down the prohibition contained in the Maharashtra legislation.
      • The Supreme Court is yet to look at anti-cow slaughter legislations from this angle and neither has it ever before looked at the impact of anti-cow slaughter legislations on the dietary habits of social groups and on those working in the leather industry.
       
       Q. 304. Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY)
      Ans.
      PKVY is an elaborated component of Soil Health Management (SHM) of major project National Mission of Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA). Under PKVY Organic farming is promoted through adoption of organic village by cluster approach and PGS certification.

      The Scheme envisages:
      • Promotion of commercial organic production through certified organic farming.
      • The produce will be pesticide residue free and will contribute to improve the health of consumer.
      • It will raise farmer's income and create potential market for traders.
      • It will motivate the farmers for natural resource mobilization for input production.
      Programme implementation
      • Groups of farmers would be motivated to take up organic farming under Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY).
      • Fifty or more farmers will form a cluster having 50-acre land to take up the organic farming under the scheme. In this way during three years 10,000 clusters will be formed covering 5.0 lakh acre area under organic farming.
      • There will be no liability on the farmers for expenditure on certification.
      • Every farmer will be provided Rs. 20,000 per acre in three years for seed to harvesting of crops and to transport produce to the market.
      • Organic farming will be promoted by using traditional resources and the organic products will be linked with the market.
      • It will increase domestic production and certification of organic produce by involving farmers
       
       
       Q. 303. Annual Report: Marine fish catch
      Ans.
      • Gujarat has retained the first position in marine fish landing in the country.
      • Among the fish varieties, Mackerel, the national fish, topped the catch list but sardine declined considerably.
      • The county’s marine fish catch registered a slight increase of 6.6% in 2016 compared to the previous year as reported by the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) in Kochi.
      • The total marine fish landings for 2016 was 3.63 million tonnes, with Gujarat remaining at the top for the fourth consecutive year followed by Tamil Nadu. Kerala, with its vast coastline, for the first time dropped out of the top three and ranked fourth behind Karnataka.
      • Marine scientists say fisheries sector is experiencing more pressure and there is an urgent need to implement control measures to maintain the harvest at sustainable level.
       
       Q. 302. Lucky Grahak Yojana and the Digi-Dhan Vyapar Yojana
      Ans.
      NITI Aayog announced the launch of the schemes Lucky Grahak Yojana and the Digi-धन Vyapar Yojana to give cash awards to consumers and merchants who utilize digital payment instruments for personal consumption expenditures. The scheme specially focuses on bringing the poor, lower middle class and small businesses into the digital payment fold. It has been decided that National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) shall be the implementing agency for this scheme. It would be useful to reiterate that NPCI is a not for profit company which is charged with a responsibility of guiding India towards being a cashless society.

      The primary aim of these schemes is to incentivize digital transactions so that electronic payments are adopted by all sections of the society, especially the poor and the middle class. It has been designed keeping in mind all sections of the society and their usage patterns. For instance, the poorest of poor will be eligible for rewards by using USSD. People in village and rural areas can participate in this scheme through AEPS. The scheme  became operational with the first draw on 25th December, 2016 (as a Christmas gift to the nation) leading up to a Mega Draw on Babasaheb Ambedkar Jayanti on 14th April 2017. It  comprises of two major components, one for the Consumers and the other for the Merchants:

      a)    Lucky Grahak Yojana [Consumers]:
                                  i.            Daily reward of Rs 1000 to be given to 15,000 lucky Consumers for a period of 100 days;
                                 ii.            Weekly prizes worth Rs 1 lakh, Rs 10,000 and Rs. 5000 for Consumers who use the alternate modes of digital Payments
      This will include all forms of transactions viz. UPI, USSD, AEPS and RuPay Cards but will for the time being exclude transactions through Private Credit Cards and Digital Wallets.

      b)    Digi-धन Vyapar Yojana[ Merchants]:
                             i.            Prizes for Merchants for all digital transactions conducted at Merchant establishments
                           ii.            Weekly prizes worth Rs. 50,000, Rs 5,000 and Rs. 2,500
       
      To ensure that the focus of the scheme is on small transactions (entered into by common people), incentives shall be restricted to transactions within the range of Rs 50 and Rs 3000. All transactions between consumers and merchants; consumers and government agencies and all AEPS transactions will be considered for the incentive scheme.
       
      The winners are identified through a random draw of the eligible Transaction IDs [which are generated automatically as soon as the transaction is completed] by software to be especially developed by NPCI for this purpose. NPCI has been directed to ensure a technical and security audit of the same to ensure that the technical integrity of the process is maintained.
       
      The estimated expenditure on the first phase of the scheme (up to 14th April 2017) is likely to be 340 Crores . The Government will simultaneously carry out a review for further implementation. India is transitioning at a rapid rate from a cash-user society to a cashless society. This is a historic moment in our nation’s history when our nation is shedding old habits and rapidly adopting new means which shall propel us into a truly modern age.
       
       Q. 301. BRAHMOS
      Ans.
      History
      The Brahmos missile is developed by a joint-venture between Russia’s Mashinostroyenia and India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). The name Brahmos is a portmanteau of the Brahmaputra and the Moskva rivers.

      About
      BRAHMOS is a two-stage missile with a solid propellant booster engine as its first stage which brings it to supersonic speed and then gets separated. The liquid ramjet or the second stage then takes the missile closer to 3 Mach speed in cruise phase. Stealth technology and guidance system with advanced embedded software provides the missile with special features.
      The missile has flight range of up to 290-km with supersonic speed all through the flight, leading to shorter flight time, consequently ensuring lower dispersion of targets, quicker engagement time and non-interception by any known weapon system in the world.
      • It operates on 'Fire and Forget Principle', adopting varieties of flights on its way to the target.
      • Its destructive power is enhanced due to large kinetic energy on impact.
      • Its cruising altitude could be up to 15 km and terminal altitude is as low as 10 meters.
      • It carries a conventional warhead weighing 200 to 300 kgs.
      Compared to existing state-of-the-art subsonic cruise missiles.BRAHMOS has:
      • 3 times more velocity
      • 2.5 to 3 times more flight range
      • 3 to 4 times more seeker range
      • 9 times more kinetic energy
      The missile has identical configuration for land. sea and sub-sea platforms and uses a Transport Launch Canister (TLC) for transportation, storage and launch.

      Special Features
      • Universal for multiple platforms
      • Fire and Forget principle of operation
      • High supersonic speed all through the flight
      • Long flight range with varieties of flight trajectories
      • Low radar signature
      • Shorter flight times leading to lower target dispersion and quicker engagement
      • Pin point accuracy with high lethal power aided by large kinetic energy on impact
      Status
      BRAHMOS is the first supersonic cruise missile known to be in service. Induction of the first version of BRAHMOS Weapon Complex in the Indian Navy commenced from 2005 with INS Rajput as the first ship. All future ships being built and ships coming for mid-life upgradation will be fitted with the missile.
      The Indian Army has also inducted three regiments of BRAHMOS supersonic cruise missile.
      In Service
      • Ship based Weapon Complex (Inclined 8 Vertical Configuration)
      • Land based Weapon Complex (Vertical Launch Configuration from Mobile Autonomous Launcher)
      In Progress
      Air launch version
      The cannisterised missile is capable of being launched vertically from underwater and had been successfully flight tested from a submerged platform. Deployment depends on the requirement of the Indian Navy or navies of friendly countries.
      The air launched version has been developed and has lesser weight and additional rear fins for aerodynamic stability during separation from the aircraft during launch. The missile has gone through complete cycle of ground trials. The required modifications in SU-30 MKI for interface with the missile launcher and integration with the weapon control of the aircraft are being carried out together with Indian Air Force and Sukhoi Design Bureau. Flight trials from Su-30MKI are planned during 2017.
       
       Q. 300. Odisha will be Indias first state for implementation of green climate project
      Ans.
       
      • Odisha has become the first state for implementation of green climate project.
      • Green Climate Fund has sanctioned first ever proposal of India submitted by NABARD.
      The project
      • “Ground water recharge and Solar Micro Irrigation to ensure food security and enhance resilience in vulnerable tribal areas of Odisha” aims to respond to climate change challenges resulting in drought and floods affecting the food security of agriculture dependent vulnerable communities.
      • The primary objective of the project is to enhance groundwater recharge in the community ponds through structural adaptation measures and use of solar pumps for micro irrigation to ensure water security and food security in the vulnerable areas of Odisha State.
      • Project is expected to improve water table and water quality for health and well-being of about 5.2 million vulnerable communities in 15 districts of Odisha.
      NABARD’s Role
      • NABARD has been accredited as Direct Access Entity (DAE) of Green Climate Fund for channelizing resources under this fund.
      • NABARD aims to use the GCF resources for projects and programmes related to climate resilient development and low emission pathways in India.
      • NABARD has also been accredited as National Implementing Entity (NIE) for Adaptation Fund of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as well designated as NIE for National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change.
      • NABARD through its various programmes has been supporting climate resilient development in agriculture and rural livelihood sectors.
      • The project was prepared and submitted to NABARD and will be implemented by Department of Water Resources, Government of Odisha.
      About Green Climate Fund
      The Green Climate Fund has been designated as an operating entity of the financial mechanism of the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change(UNFCCC) and aims to support developing countries to limit or reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
       
       Q. 299. What is Geotagging?
      Ans.
       
      • It is the process of adding geographical identification like latitude and longitude to various media such as a photo or video. 
      • Geotagging can help users find a wide variety of location-specific information from a device.
      • It provides users the location of the content of a given picture.
      • Geomapping is a visual representation of the geographical location of geotagged assets layered on top of map or satellite imagery
      Why is Geotagging important?
      • Several assets are created in the states under various schemes of the Ministry of Agriculture.  Under RKVY also, states have been utilising substantial amount of funds for creation of infrastructure/assets in agriculture and allied sectors such as soil testing labs, pesticide testing labs, bio fertiliser setting units, custom hiring centres, vaccine production units, veterinary diagnosis labs., dispensaries, milk collection centres, fish production units, godowns, cold storage, shade nets, pandals for vegetable cultivation   etc. Monitoring of such wide spread activities is of paramount importance to states and Government of India to understand flow of funds, inventorising the assets, bringing in transparency, planning of assets for future, and finally informing the farmers about the facilities available.
      • Geotagging for monitoring of assets has already started in Ministry of Rural Development for MGNREGA and Department of Land Resources for monitoring of watershed activities in the states. Postal department has also geotagged the post offices using NRSC Bhuvan Platform.
      Which agency does it?
      National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA), ISRO at Hyderabad.This centre of ISRO has a software platform, Bhuvan that allows users to explore a 2D/3D representation of the surface of the Earth. It also acts as a platform for hosting government data.
      Application
      The assets created under RKVY could be monitored by Geotagging them using BHUVAN. In future, the location of the infrastructure created and distances from each other could also be utilised for arriving at distribution of assets and optimum number of that particular asset required in a district or state.  The process involves development of a mobile app for mapping the assets through photographs and Geo-tagging (providing geo co-ordinates) before hosting on to DAC –RKVY platform that would be specially created for RKVY monitoring.
       
       Q. 298. Why the ease of doing business matters?
      Ans.
      In the World Bank’s (WB) 2017 Doing Business ranking, India stands at the 130th place in a list of 190 nations—just a spot higher than in the 2016 rankings. A curious case is being made that higher rankings do not really imply good economic outcomes such as higher foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows or higher gross domestic product (GDP) growth.
      Ease of Doing Business Concept
      • The ease of doing business rank is a stock concept: It represents the reforms that a country has undertaken on various issues like infrastructure, legal systems, etc., over a couple of decades or even more. Hence, this rank ought to be more intricately associated with corresponding macroeconomic stock variables like the level of per capita GDP.
      • In the long run, a country can’t become rich in the per capita sense unless it has a high ease of doing business index rank.
      • Only oil-rich countries like Kuwait, Qatar, Libya, Venezuela and Angola managed to get sufficiently rich even with a relatively low ease of doing business score.
      • On the other hand, if you have a sufficiently high ease of doing business score, then you are almost guaranteed to become a rich country.
      Index GDP relation
      Once we know that a high ease of doing business index is almost equivalent to being a rich country, it is foolhardy to expect that a high index will also imply higher GDP growth. The convergence hypothesis proposed by the neo-classical growth theory, says that poorer countries tend to grow faster in per capita terms. Estimates from the recent work at Harvard suggest that for every per-unit increase in the log of per capita income, the long-run growth rate drops by almost 1.22% per annum.
      Evidence
      • The real per capita income level for countries with a score below 50 is around $1,500 and for countries with a score of more than 70, it is around $38,000—that’s a huge difference.
      • Once adjusted for the convergence factor, countries with a better score outperform by a decent rate of 0.35% per annum.
      • Hence, the higher index not only shows better living standard in the long run but also indicates faster growth and catching-up for poorer countries.
      • A higher ease of doing business ranking predicts lower inflation for both rich as well as lower-income countries.
      • No country with a score greater than 70 registered an inflation greater than 5%.
      • Brazil, Turkey, Russia and Argentina stand out as relatively higher-inflation countries precisely because they have a lower ease of doing business ranking, which indicates higher corruption, a poor legal structure, lack of infrastructure—all of which point to supply constraints.
      • The higher ease of doing business rank for China shows up in a lower inflation compared to India, which lies above the line of best fit. This indicates how important it is for a country to target the reforms that the index reflects upon.
      Similar analysis shows that a better ease of doing business score is associated with a lower level of structural unemployment.
      Foreign Direct Investment
      • On inward FDI stock expressed as a percentage of GDP to the ease of doing business rank. FDI stock represents the total FDI that a country has received in the long run. Data shows a clear positive link between the two.
      • But there are some interesting outliers. Japan, with a high rank, attracts less FDI due to country-specific problems like customer liking for domestic known products and the connected nature of Japanese firms.
      • On the other hand, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Belgium, all ranked lower than Japan, attract very high FDI owing to their tax-haven strategies.
      • So, country-specific factors are important for FDI success but in general, few countries with a relatively low ease of doing business scores have been able to attract FDI in the long run, except for a few tax havens.
      In summary, a country can’t progress without undertaking the reforms that lead to better business conditions. These reforms are critical to achieve better living standards, moderate inflation, low-inflation uncertainty and high-growth rate. In short, India’s efforts to improve its ease of doing business ranking is not an unnecessary obsession.
       
       Q. 297. Country's Biggest Solar Park in Rajasthan
      Ans.
      Bhadla village on the fringes of the Thar Desert about 200 km from Rajasthan's famed Jodhpur city is the heart of India's clean energy push, home to the Bhadla Solar Park.
      • A recent auction of solar power to be generated at a new 250 megawatt plant was recently auctioned for just about Rs. 2.62 for every unit, or kilowatt-hour. This would be among India's cheapest sources of power, certainly a lot cheaper than the average tariff of Rs. 3.2 per unit for coal-fired thermal units.
      • Once the solar park is fully operational it will generate 2,255 megawatts of power. That is a little more than one-third of the peak daily demand in the national capital of 6,000 MW, or for that matter, Rajasthan total demand for power.
      • Finnish company Fortum and South Africa's Phelan energy and Cleanteach are already investors in Bhadla.
      • But the park has done a lot more than breathe life in this part of the state. It is also creating opportunities for local businesses and employment for the youth that could bring about a huge turn around in the economy of this backward desert region.
       
       Q. 296. Wastewater
      Ans.
      Each year a specific aspect of water is highlighted while observing International World Water Day (March 22); this year’s theme was “wastewater”, which is defined as any water that has been adversely affected in quality by anthropogenic influences and as a result of domestic, industrial, commercial and agricultural activities.
      In recent decades, population growth, accelerated urbanisation and economic development have resulted in an increase in the quantity of wastewater and the overall pollution load being generated. Most of our freshwater sources are under threat. When public awareness of pollution is limited, the cost of pollution to our health and the ecosystem is huge. The victims are generally the poor or socially vulnerable communities, and the end result is a high financial burden on the community and government.

      Water facts
      • Globally, over 80% of the wastewater generated goes back to the ecosystem without being treated or reused.
      • 1.8 billion people use drinking water contaminated with faeces which increases their risk of contracting cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio.
      • 663 million people still lack access to improved drinking water sources.
      • In India, about 29,000 million l/day (mld) of waste water is generated from Class-I cities and class-II towns, out of which about 45% (about 13,000 mld) is generated from metro cities alone. A collection system exists for only about 30% of the wastewater through sewer lines, while treatment capacity exists for about 7,000 mld.
      • By 2030, the global demand for water is expected to grow by 50%. Most of this demand will be in cities. In low-income areas of cities/towns within developing countries, a large proportion of wastewater is discharged directly into the surface water drain, without or with limited treatment. Traditional wastewater treatment plants may not remove certain pollutants.
      • Industrial water consumption accounts for 22% of the global water used. The industrial sector in India discharges around 30,730 million cubic metres of effluents, without proper treatment, into waterbodies. Unfortunately, most common effluent treatment plants are not performing satisfactorily due to improper operations and maintenance.
      • Run-off from agriculture fields is another major source of pollution.
      • India, with 17% of the world’s population, 4% of water resources and 2.4% of land area, extracts water significantly for various developmental purposes. Hence, the water flow or storage capacity of water bodies has declined substantially, adversely affecting their waste assimilation/sink functions.
      Management strategies
      • There is sufficient evidence to suggest that the problem, though complex, is solvable. While it is not realistic to aim for zero water pollution, a level of socially acceptable pollution, respecting the integrity of ecosystems and service provision, can be reached.
      • At the national and regional levels, water pollution prevention policies should be integrated into non-water policies that have implications on water quality such as agriculture and land use management, trade, industry, energy, and urban development.
      • Water pollution should be made a punishable offence.
      • The effectiveness and power of the “polluter pay principle” should be considered.
      • At the local level, capacity building enables the community to make decisions and disseminate them to the appropriate authorities, thus influencing political processes.
      • Market-based strategies such as environmental taxes, pollution levies and tradable permit systems should be implemented, and can be used to fight against or abate water pollution. Incentive mechanisms such as subsidies, soft loans, tax relaxation should be included in installing pollution management devices.
      • In industrial pollution management, technological attempts should be made through cleaner production-technology. Sophisticated pollution management technology developed overseas should be introduced in India. The application of eco-friendly inputs such as bio fertilizers and pesticides in agriculture and the use of natural dyes in textile industries can reduce the pollution load considerably.
      Since fresh water is increasingly getting scarce, wastewater generated in urban areas can be used for sub-urban agriculture, industry, and even sanitation and certain domestic applications after treatment. Wastewater need not be a burden any longer but an asset instead.
       
       Q. 295. Designer babies and the future
      Ans.
      The IVF question
      • Harsha Chawda, India’s first test-tube baby was born in 1986. In vitro fertilization (IVF), the technique used then, has since gone on to prove a blessing for several infertile couples.
      • However, at the time of inception, this technique faced much criticism. The objections ranged from the ethical—disrupting natural life processes—to concerns about the fate of unwanted or unused embryos generated during the process, and possible social stratification due to the then excessive financial costs of the procedure.
      • Yet, time has broadly validated the technique, reduced costs, and made it safer and more reliable.
      In Vitro Gametogenesis (IVG)
      • In vitro gametogenesis (IVG), a newer form of assisted reproductive technology, is now poised for the same hot seat that IVF occupied for several years.
      • Still in an experimental phase, the technology promises genetically linked offspring to not only infertile couples but post-menopausal women, gay couples, single people and even groups of more than two individuals (whether male, female, or a mix of the two) to have their own children.
      • As the name suggests, this technology involves the artificial construction of gametes, i.e. the male/female reproductive cells. Any well-differentiated adult cell (e.g. skin cells, hair cells, etc.) of the human body can be used to do this, surpassing the need for gamete donation, leading to an endless supply. The production of gametes, along with their fusion, occurs in the laboratory, leading to the creation of embryos, thereby providing an alternative to the hassle of assembling embryos within human bodies.
      • This can lead to an inexhaustible supply of embryos, thereby offering parents the chance to select an “ideal” future child.
      • But in addition to its ability to create new embryos from any normal cell, a contribution quite path-breaking by itself, IVG attains full potential when combined with other technological advances that are simultaneously evolving.
      CRISPR/Cas9 system
      • Genetically modified human creation can be turned into reality much faster by combining IVG and targeted gene-editing technologies.
      • Such designer babies will no longer be a hypothetical concern, once the Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR)/Cas9 system, a targeted gene-editing technology, starts finding full expression.
      • This will not only help parents select the best embryo but also facilitate alteration of a certain set of genes, thus creating their version of a “perfect child” with “vanity” traits such as height, enhanced muscular strength, fair skin tone or eye colour and even increased intelligence.
      Challenges
      The jury is still out on the merits or otherwise of having “such designer babies” in the midst of normal human beings.
      1.Such interventions raise some serious concerns such as off-target mutations and mosaicism. In the former situation, CRISPR could miss the target gene and attach to another similar sequence, thereby creating properties far different from the intended outcomes.
      • The latter scenario arises when the attaching is spot on but the edited gene fails to alter the DNA sequence of all cells. This leaves the embryo vulnerable to genetic diseases, leaving future generations to suffer from the error.
       
      2.Another challenge is that it requires policy deliberation with respect to unauthorized IVG, which involves making babies out of human cellular debris without the explicit consent of the donor.
      • Courts that have till now dealt with non-consensual parenthood, rising from stolen sperm or forced pregnancies, will face new challenges with respect to unauthorized IVG.
      • This will pose worrying legal questions regarding the definition of parenthood and penalties for unauthorized cell access.
      • Such cases can get more complicated when a single embryo has more than two genetic parents. Will the law support multiplex parenting or give more rights to—or saddle with more responsibilities—the larger contributor of genetic material?
      Indian scenario
      • In a society like India where prenatal sex determination is banned because of strong cultural preferences for the male child, this era of IVG and designer babies could lead to a further deterioration of the sex ratio.
      • Instead of having to determine gender once the embryo is conceived, parents could choose to engineer the same prior to conception and evade the law. While these solutions may only work with further advancements and exponential cost-reduction, it is good to weigh their impact early on.
       
      IVG’s promises, therefore, come with huge responsibilities in terms of developing rigorous, internationally accepted scientific protocols as well as clear ethical norms and practices. There is a strong need for global conversations around this issue, with India and her stakeholders—ranging across government, the scientific establishment, and the LGBT community—being active participants. Though technology has advanced considerably in the last four decades or so, developments such as IVG compel us to ask roughly similar ethical queries. Who knows how far is far enough—except in hindsight.
       
       Q. 294. Great Asian One-Horned Rhino
      Ans. Status: Vulnerable (IUCN)
       
      Habitat and Distribution
      • The preferred habitat of an Indian Rhinoceros is alluvial flood plains and areas containing tall grasslands along the foothills of the Himalayas.
      • Formerly, extensively distributed in the Gangetic plains, today the species is restricted to small habitats in Indo- Nepal terai and North Bengal, and Assam.
      • In India rhinos are found in Kaziranga, Orang, Pobitara, Jaldapara, Dudhwa.
      Conservation Challenges
      • For years, rhinos have been widely slaughtered for their horn, a prized ingredient in traditional Asian medicines.
      • Destruction of their habitat over the years, has brought the rhinos to the brink of extinction. These animals are among the worlds' most endangered species.
      • The great one-horned rhino could once be found from Pakistan all the way through India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Myanmar.
      • Once found across the entire northern part of the Indian sub-continent, rhino populations were severely depleted as they were hunted for sport and killed as agricultural pests. This pushed the species very close to extinction in the early 20th century and by 1975 there were only 600 individuals surviving in the wild.
      • By the turn of the century, this species had vanished from much of its range.
      • Thanks to rigorous conservation efforts, their numbers have increased dramatically since 1975. By 2016, conservation efforts saw the population grow to 3,555 in the Terai Arc Landscape of India and Nepal, and the grasslands of Assam and north Bengal in northeast India.
      • Throughout their range, their habitat continues to dwindle fast due to conversion of grassland habitats into agricultural fields and other human pressures. The threat of poaching continues to be ever-present.
      WWF-India's Involvement
      • Conserving the rhinos and their habitat is imperative. WWF has been working on rhino conservation for over four decades.
      • The big programme initiated by WWF is the Indian Rhino Vision 2020 (IRV 2020). The vision of the programme is to increase the total rhino population in Assam to about 3000 by the year 2020 and just as significantly ensure that these rhinos are distributed over at least seven protected areas to provide long-term viability of an Assam metapopulation of the species. This will be achieved by translocating the rhinos from two-source populations (Kaziranga and Pobitara) into 3 or 4 target Protected Areas (Manas, Laokhowa, Burachapori, Kochpora, Dibrusaikhowa and, possibly, Orang).
      Other Challenges
      • The Forest Department faces a major challenge as lack of equipment, finance, political will and shortage of staff makes it difficult to implement conservation work at the grassroot level.
      • Two serious on the ground problems include, containing poaching and loss of habitat to encroachments.
       
       Q. 293. Indo-Russian venture for 200 copters
      Ans.
      • The long-pending joint venture between India and Russia to manufacture 200 Kamov-226T light-utility helicopters for around $1 billion (over Rs 6,500 crore) is now finally set to kick off.
      • The JV is between defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics and Russian companies.
      • Overall, the armed forces urgently need 484 light choppers to replace their obsolete single-engine Cheetah Chetak fleets.
      • Under the agreement, the first 60 choppers will come from Russia, while the rest will be manufactured in India over nine years.
      • The twin-engine Kamov-226Ts are multi-role helicopters.
      • It can undertake reconnaissance, patrol and disaster relief operations as well as transport eight combat-ready soldiers with a maximum range of 600-km.
       
       Q. 292. The deadly diseases being released as ice thaws
      Ans. Climate change is melting permafrost soils that have been solid for thousands of years, and as the soils melt they have the potential to release ancient viruses and bacteria that may be capable of springing back to life.
      The most recent discovery of an ancient virus came when French and Russian scientists investigated a 30,000-year-old piece of Siberian permafrost.

      Pithovirus
      • In a paper published in 2014 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists had discovered a new “giant virus” that they named Pithovirus sibericum.
      • Giant viruses are so-called because they are much larger than traditional viruses.
      • Pithovirus is the biggest ever found and measures 1,500 nanometres (billionths of a metre) across. That’s more than 10 times larger than the HIV virus.
      • After thawing the Pithovirus from its frozen state was still infectious.
      • Fortunately, the virus’ targets are amoebae, and Pithovirus poses no danger to humans.
      • However, giant viruses can sometimes be harmful to people.
      Revival of such an ancestral amoeba-infecting virus suggests that the thawing of permafrost either from global warming or industrial exploitation of circumpolar regions might not be exempt from future threats to human or animal health.

      Warming viruses
      • While global warming has yet to expose any ancient viruses harmful to humans, it has begun re-exposing more familiar diseases that modern society thought it had eradicated.
      • In August 2016, a 12-year-old boy in northern Russia was killed after being infected by Anthrax. The Anthrax outbreak, which saw up to 20 people hospitalised, was blamed on unusually warm weather in the arctic circle.
      • Scientists have also discovered DNA fragments of smallpox in the Siberian permafrost.
      Bigger threats
      • While the risk of infectious diseases being released by thawing permafrost is real, scientists are at pains to point out that the chances of any future pandemic are incredibly low.
      • The idea that melting ice would release harmful viruses, and that those viruses would circulate extensively enough to affect human health, stretches scientific rationality to the breaking point.
      • And rather than diseases being released by melting ice, some argue that as Earth warms northern countries will become more susceptible to outbreaks of "southern" diseases like malaria, cholera and dengue fever, as these pathogens thrive at warmer temperatures.
      • In warmer countries climate change is already having a devastating effect on people’s health. In central America incidences of chronic kidney disease are on the rise, and are being blamed on increased dehydration as hotter days become more frequent.
       
       Q. 291. Electric Vehicles and Solar Energy
      Ans.
      The Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) has successfully tested lithium-ion batteries developed by the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre for use in two- and three-wheelers, a development that is expected to provide a fillip to India’s electric vehicles (EV) push.

      Electric Vehicles (EV) programme
      • The government is now planning to transfer the technology to companies for commercial production of these batteries, and will also set up a central agency to lead the country’s EV programme.
      • India’s initiatives on solar energy and electric vehicles are closely linked. The country plans to generate 175 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy capacity by 2022. Of this, 100GW is to come from solar power projects.
      • With storage being the next frontier for India’s clean energy push, the batteries in EVs offer a potential solution.
      • India’s EV programme would help with grid balancing, besides complementing the government’s push for solar power, which is generated during the day and can be stored in EV batteries.
      Development rush
      • The technology should be transferred to companies in the private or public sector or joint ventures for commercial production of batteries.
      • BHEL is exploring the feasibility of manufacturing cells and batteries with technology developed by the Indian Space Research Organization (Isro) for application in electric vehicles.
      • While BHEL, India’s largest power generation equipment maker, wants to manufacture electric vehicles such as buses, cars, two-wheelers and boats, PGCIL, the power transmission utility responsible for establishing green energy transmission corridors, is considering setting up charging stations for EVs.
      • Also, Vedanta Resources Plc is firming up its clean energy plans for India, encouraged by the opportunities offered by the country’s growing green economy. As part of the strategy, the firm is looking at developing battery storage solutions.
      Way forward
      • EV on a clean fuel source is a better option for India. It is very important to have an enabling provision and one agency to spearhead the programme.
      • There should also be continuous innovation to bring the cost of battery down and enabling support for infrastructure such as charging stations.
      • It should be available across the country within a definitive time frame in order for EVs to take off as a mass product.
      Experts say solar power and EVs are a great combination. Any shift to electric vehicles will help reduce pollution and fuel imports. India’s energy import bill is expected to double from around $150 billion to $300 billion by 2030. The government has been trying to push sales of electric vehicles and has set an ambitious target of selling six million by 2020.