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Question and Answer
Q. 354. Non Communicable Diseases: Indian states
A recent study done to assess the diet and nutritional status of urban population has pointed out that there is an increase in incidence of Non Communicable Diseases. The increase has be attributed to change in food habits, sedentary behaviour and unhealthy lifestyles, among other risk factors. The study is titled ‘Diet and Nutritional Status of Urban Population in India and Prevalence of Obesity, Hypertension, Diabetes and Hyperlipidaemia in Urban Men and Women’. It has brought to light the prevalence rates for non-communicable diseases as well as stunting, under-nutrition and obesity in children under 5 years in the 16 States surveyed.
The report has Revealed that Kerala has the highest prevalence of hypertension as well as high cholesterol in urban men and women. The study has also pointed out that Puducherry is at the top when it comes to prevalence of diabetes. The survey was carried out by National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau by researchers from the National Institute of Nutrition.
The highest prevalence of hypertension in Kerala was 31.4% for women and 38.6% for men and lowest in Bihar, 22.2% for men and 15.7% women.
Puducherry had the highest number of diabetic men and women (42%), followed by Delhi (36%), Karnataka and Kerala (33% each).
Diabetics were the highest in the age group of 60-70 and lowest in the age group of 18-30.
The Southern States were among the 10 with the highest prevalence of obesity among urban adults. Puducherry topped with almost 60% women and 42% men being overweight. Tamil Nadu was close behind with 54% men and 38% women recorded as obese. Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh recorded high levels of obesity among its urban men and women.
Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala were among the top six States which had the most tobacco smokers among urban men.
U.P. had the highest (43.6%) proportion of underweight children followed by Madhya Pradesh (32.3%), Puducherry had the lowest (14.2%).
Q. 353. New Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules 2017
New Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules 2017
The union environment ministry has notified the new Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules 2017. The new rule prohibits a range of activities in wetlands like setting up and expansion of industries, waste dumping and discharge of effluents. The new rules will replace the 2010 version of the rules.
Wetlands can be defined as lands transitional between terrestrial and aquatic eco-systems where the water table is usually at or near the surface or the land is covered by shallow water. They support rich biodiversity and provide wide range of ecosystem services such as water storage, water purification, flood mitigation, erosion control, aquifer recharge and others.
But they are threatened by reclamation and degradation due to activities like drainage and landfill, pollution, hydrological alteration (water withdrawal and changes in inflow and outflow), over-exploitation resulting in loss of biodiversity and disruption in ecosystem services provided by them.
There are almost 115 wetlands that are officially identified by the central government and of those 26 are identified as wetlands of international importance under Ramsar Convention which is an international intergovernmental treaty for conservation of wetlands. India is a party to the treaty.
The new rules stipulate setting up of a State Wetlands Authority in each State and union territories. These authorities will be headed by the State’s environment minister. They will also include one expert each in the fields of wetland ecology, hydrology, fisheries, landscape planning and socioeconomics to be nominated by the state government.
These authorities will need to develop a comprehensive list of activities to be regulated and permitted within the notified wetlands and their zone of influence, recommend additional prohibited activities for specific wetlands, define strategies for conservation and wise use of wetlands, and undertake measures for enhancing awareness within stakeholders and local communities on values and functions of wetlands.
The State authorities will also need to prepare a list of all wetlands of the State or union territory within three months, a list of wetlands to be notified within six months, a comprehensive digital inventory of all wetlands within one year which will be updated every ten years.
The rules prohibit activities like conversion of wetland for non-wetland uses including encroachment of any kind, setting up of any industry and expansion of existing industries, manufacture or handling or storage or disposal of hazardous substances and construction and demolition waste, solid waste dumping, discharge of untreated wastes and effluents from industries, cities, towns, villages and other human settlements.
Under the new rules, the powers have been given to the State governments so that protection and conservation work can be done at the local level. Central government has mainly retained powers regarding monitoring. To oversee the work carried out by States, the rules stipulates for setting up of National Wetlands Committee, which will be headed by the MoEFCC Secretary, to monitor implementation of these rules.
The Committee will also advise the Central Government on appropriate policies and action programmes for conservation and wise use of wetlands, recommend designation of wetlands of international importance under Ramsar Convention, advise on collaboration with international agencies on issues related to wetlands etc.
Q. 352. Referendum held in Catalonia
Catalonia is an autonomous community of Spain located on the eastern extremity of the Iberian Peninsula. It is designated as a nationality by its Statute of Autonomy. Catalonia consists of four provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. Catalonia had existed for more than 250 years before it joined Spain during the country's formation in the 16th Century. As such, identity plays a large role in the debate surrounding independence. Under the military government of Francisco Franco, from 1939-1975, Catalan culture was suppressed. Symbols of Catalan identity such as the castells, or human towers, were prohibited and parents were forced to choose Spanish names for their children.
Because of the ongoing strife between the secessionist and the Spanish Central government, a referendum was held in Catalonia recently. However, the referendum has been declared illegal by Spain’s central government as it was marred by wide scale violence. The referendum has thrown the country into its worst constitutional crisis in decades. It has also deepened a century old rift between Madrid and Barcelona. More than 2.2 million people were reported to have voted, out of 5.3 million registered voters. Just under 90% of those who voted backed independence. The region has a population of 7.5 million people. It has an economy larger than that of Portugal.
Q. 351. National Assessment and Accreditation Council
National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) has launched revised accreditation framework. The NAAC is an autonomous body established by the University Grants Commission to assess and accredit institutions of higher education.
The framework used for this process takes into consideration the following aspects:
The revised framework incorporates qualitative and quantitative methods for assessment and accreditation.
Key features of the framework are as follows:
Simplification of process and ICT: The revised framework will be more Information and Communications Technology (ICT) intensive.
Additions to the current grading pattern: A system of applying minimum qualifiers for achieving a grade will be implemented.
Further, the assessment process envisages enhanced participation by the students and alumni.
Q. 350. India's first private missile production facility
INDIA'S FIRST PRIVATE MISSILE PRODUCTION FACILITY
India’s has unveiled its first private sector missile sub-systems manufacturing facility. It is a joint venture between the Kalyani Group and Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Ltd. The facility is located near Hyderabad. The move is in line with ‘Make in India’ initiative of the Centre. The facility is also the manifestation and the policy to encourage private sector participation in defence production.
The Kalyani Rafael Advanced Systems (KRAS) plant will make anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) Spike and the production will begin very soon. Besides supplying to the Indian Army, the product will also be exported to South East Asian countries also.
The plant will also produce electro-optics, remote weapon systems, precision guided munitions and system engineering for system integration. The plant would employ more than 300 engineers and provide indirect employment to 1,000 people.
KRAS aims to be a one-stop solution provider to locally re-design, develop, re-engineer and manufacture various land and airborne products and systems in India. It also has plans for expansion. The phase-II will be undertaken at another industrial location in Hyderabad.
Q. 349. Navika Sagar Parikrama
Navika Sagar Parikrama is a project wherein a team of women officers of the Indian Navy would circumnavigate the globe. The circumnavigation will be on an Indian-built sail boat INSV Tarini. This is the first ever Indian circumnavigation of the globe by an all-women crew.
The project is considered essential towards promoting Ocean Sailing activities in the Navy while depicting Government of India’s thrust on women power.
The expedition has been aptly titled ‘Navika Sagar Parikrama’. It is aimed at promoting women empowerment in the country and ocean sailing by the Indian Navy. The expedition would inspire the youth of our nation to develop an understanding of the sea and instil a spirit of adventure and camaraderie.
The voyage of Navika Sagar Parikrama will begin from Goa in September 2017. The journey will finish around March 2018. The entire distance will be covered in five legs and it will have stop overs at four ports for replenishment of ration and repairs. The ports are: Fremantle (Australia), Lyttelton (New Zealand), Port Stanley (Falklands) and Cape Town (South Africa).
Additional aims of the Expedition are as follows:-
Nari Shakti: In consonance with the National policy to empower women to attain their full potential, the expedition aims to showcase ‘Nari Shakti’ on the world platform. This would also help to discard the societal attitudes and mind-set towards women in India by raising visibility of participation by women in challenging environment.
Environment and Climate Change: The expedition aims at harnessing the use of environment friendly non-conventional renewable energy resources which affects the life of women.
Make in India: The voyage also aims to show case the ‘Make in India’ initiative by sailing onboard the indigenously built INSV Tarini.
Meteorological/ Ocean/ Wave Data Observation: The crew would also collate and update Meteorological/ Ocean/ Wave data on a daily basis for subsequent analysis by research and development organisations.
Marine Pollution: The crew would monitor and report marine pollution on the high seas.
Interaction with Local PIOs: Since the expedition aims to promote Ocean Sailing and the spirit of adventure, the crew would interact extensively with the local PIOs at the various port halts.
Q. 348. Government to launch new scheme to boost agriculture start-ups
The government will launch a new AGRI-UDAAN programme that will mentor startups and help them connect with potential investors. It is an attempt to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in agriculture.
Under the programme, start-ups will get incubation space to run their businesses and have access to research laboratories and libraries. AGRI UDAAN will also help the selected start-ups with regulatory services like company registration and environmental compliances.
AGRI-UDAAN will be managed by India’s premier farm research body, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). An intensive training of six months will be provided to entrepreneurs after which the new start-ups will be connected to investors for funding.
AGRI-UDAAN will reach out to agri-start-ups in several cities like Chandigarh, Ahmedabad, Pune, Bangalore, Kolkata and Hyderabad. The programme will shortlist 40 start-ups in the first round who will pitch their ideas to a panel of evaluators. Out of these, between 8 to 12 start-ups will be selected for the final capacity building workshop.
The food and agri-business accelerator programme will also help convert innovative ideas from India’s rural youth into viable businesses.
The idea behind the scheme is to attract the youth from rural India and elsewhere, and train them so they can add value to the farmers’ produce.
The initiative will bring a start-up revolution in agriculture which so far has been limited to the services sector.
Q. 347. Human Organs and Tissues Transplantation Act, 1994
The Act regulates the removal, storage, and transplantation of human organs for therapeutic purposes. It also seeks to prevent commercial dealing of organs. Under the Act, only near relatives can donate their organs (before their death) to the concerned recipients in need of such organs.
The proposed amendment seeks to expand the definition of ‘near relative’.
Under the 1994 Act, ‘near relative’ was defined as ‘spouse, son, daughter, father, mother, brother or sister’. This definition was expanded in 2011 to include ‘grandfather, grandmother, grandson, and granddaughter’.
The expanding of the definition has not led to an increase in the availability of living donors. This is because:
grandparents are not able to donate due to age or some adverse medical condition, and
grand children are too young to donate organs.
Therefore the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has sought to include the following in the definition of ‘near relative’:
step father, step mother,
step brother, step sister, step son, step daughter and their spouses,
spouses of sons and daughters of recipient,
brothers and sisters of recipient's spouse and their spouses,
brothers and sisters of recipient's parents and their spouses, and
first cousins (having common grandparents) of the recipient and their spouses.
Q. 346. Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016
The Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare has submitted its report on the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016.
Key observations and recommendations of the Committee are:
Commercial vs. altruistic surrogacy: Surrogacy is the practice where one woman carries the child for another with the intention of handing over the child after birth. The Bill prohibits commercial surrogacy and allows altruistic surrogacy. Altruistic surrogacy involves no compensation to the surrogate mother other than the medical and insurance expenses related to the pregnancy. The Committee has recommended for surrogacy model based on compensation rather than altruistic surrogacy. The compensation must take care of several things including the wages lost during the pregnancy, psychological counselling, and post-delivery care.
Surrogate being a ‘close relative’: Under the Bill, the surrogate can only be a ‘close relative’ of the intending couple. Such an arrangement within the family may have:
detrimental psychological and emotional impact on the surrogate child
parentage and custody issues
inheritance and property disputes.
The Committee has recommended that the criteria of being a ‘close relative’ should be removed to allow both related and unrelated women to become surrogates. The committee has also recommended that the Bill must unambiguously state that the surrogate mother will not donate her own eggs for the purpose of the surrogacy.
Q. 345. Code on Wages, 2017
The Code on Wages, 2017 was recently introduced in Lok Sabha. The Code consolidates and modifies four Acts.
These Acts are:
Payment of Wages Act, 1936
Minimum Wages Act, 1949
Payment of Bonus Act, 1965
Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.
The Code will apply to establishments where any industry, trade, business, manufacturing or occupation is carried out. This will also include government establishments.
Key features of the Code are:
National minimum wage: The central government may notify a national minimum wage for the country. It may fix different national minimum wage for different states or geographical areas. The minimum wages decided by the central or state governments will not be lower than the national minimum wage.
Minimum wage: The Code requires employers to pay at least the minimum wages to employees. These wages will be notified by the central or state governments. The wages will be determined based on time, or number of pieces produced, among others.
Payment of wages: Wages will be paid in coins, currency notes, by cheque, or through digital or electronic mode.
Bonus: The employer will pay employees an annual bonus of at least: (i) 8.33% of their wages, or (ii) Rs 100, whichever is higher.
Q. 344. Quantum Computing
Quantum computing studies theoretical computation systems that make direct use of quantum-mechanical phenomena to perform operations on data. Quantum computers are different from binary digital electronic computers based on transistors. Common digital computing requires that the data be encoded into binary digits (bits), each of which is always in one of two definite states (0 or 1). A quantum computer employs the principles of quantum mechanics to store information in ‘qubits’ instead of the typical ‘bits’ of 1 and 0. Qubits work faster because of the way such circuits are designed. They can perform intensive number-crunching tasks much more efficiently than the fastest comparable computers.
The Department of Science and Technology (DST) is also planning to fund a project to develop quantum computers. Physics departments at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and the Harish Chandra Research Institute, Allahabad, have forayed into the theoretical aspects of quantum computing.
Q. 343. Methanol from methane
Scientists have discovered a new way to produce methanol from methane using oxygen from the air. Methanol got its name 'wood alcohol' because it is produced chiefly as a byproduct of the destructive distillation of wood. It has become an important chemical often used as fuel in vehicles. Using Methanol as fuel has major implications for cleaner, greener industrial processes worldwide, using the freely available air, inexpensive chemicals and an energy efficient methanol production process.
Currently, methanol is made with the help of an inexpensive and energy-intensive processes known as steam reforming and methanol syntheses. Natural gas is broken down at high temperatures into hydrogen gas (H2) and carbon monoxide (CO) before reassembling them to procure methanol.
The new method will help scientists produce methanol from methane through simple catalysis. Catalysis is simply an addition of substance called catalyst which speeds up a chemical reaction. It enables methanol production at low temperatures using oxygen and hydrogen peroxide. The relative abundance of methane on Earth makes it an attractive fuel. The new process can help to reduce dependence on fossil fuels but the commercialisation of methane may take longer. It seeks to use waste gas flared into the atmosphere during natural gas production, thus reducing carbon dioxide emissions and helping out nature.
At present global natural gas production is about 2.4 billion tonnes per annum and 4% of this is flared into the atmosphere - roughly 100 million tonnes. The new approach of using natural gas could use this waste gas saving, cutting on carbon dioxide emissions.
Q. 342. Rules to tackle on-board disruptive and unruly behaviour by passengers
Rules to tackle on-board disruptive and unruly behaviour by passengers
The Ministry of Civil Aviation has unveiled rules to tackle on-board disruptive and unruly behaviour by passengers. This promulgation of the No - Fly List in India is unique and first-of-its-kind in the world. The concept of the No-Fly List is based on the concern for safety of passengers, crew and the aircraft, and not just on security threat.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has revised the relevant sections of the Civil Aviation Requirement to bring in a deterrent for passengers who engage in unruly behaviour on board aircrafts. The revision has been done in accordance with the provisions of Tokyo Convention 1963 (Convention on Offences and Certain Other Acts Committed on Board Aircraft).
The new rules:
Unruly behaviour of passengers at airport premises will be dealt with by relevant security agencies under applicable penal provisions.
The revised CAR will be applicable for all Indian operators engaged in scheduled and non-scheduled air transport services, both domestic and international carriage of passengers.
The CAR would also be applicable to foreign carriers subject to compliance of Tokyo Convention 1963.
The complaint of unruly behaviour would need to be filed by the pilot-in-command. These complaints will be probed by an internal committee to be set up by the airline.
The airlines will be required to share the No-Fly list, and the same will be available on DGCA website. The other airlines will not be bound by the No-Fly list of an airline.
The revised CAR also contains appeal provisions against the ban. Aggrieved persons (other than those identified as security threat by MHA) may appeal within 60 days from the date of issue of order.
The revised CAR defines three categories of unruly behaviour:
i. Level 1 refers to behaviour that is verbally unruly, and calls for debarment upto 3 months;
ii. Level 2 indicates physical unruliness and can lead to the passenger being debarred from flying for upto 6 months and
iii. Level 3 indicates life-threatening behaviour where the debarment would be for a minimum of 2 years.
The focus of the new rules is on ensuring on board safety while maintaining an element of balance and safeguarding the interest of passengers, cabin crew and the airlines.
Q. 341. The Representation of The People Act (Amendment) Bill, 2017
The Representation of The People Act (Amendment) Bill, 2017
The Representation of The People Act (Amendment) Bill, 2017, will be presented in the Winter Session of Parliament this year. According to the bill, Parliamentarians must declare their assets at the end of their tenure to ensure accountability and transparency. This provision will be inserted as sub section 75B(1) in the 'Representation of People Act, 1951'. It is a new private member's bill.
The proposed amendment in the Representation of People Act will help in maintaining transparency and accountability of people's representatives at the apex level. It will also help in creating a positive atmosphere of corruption-free status of MPs. At present, elected candidate of the two Houses of Parliament have to declare their assets and liabilities within ninety days from the date on which they take their seat. However, there are no such provisions for declaration of assets and liabilities after the expiry of the term.
The bill comes in the wake of Supreme Court observations on the issue, after it was irked over the non-disclosure of action on meteorical rise in politicians' assets. The Supreme Court took strong exception to non-disclosure of information on action taken by it against politicians. Some of these politicians assets’ had seen a massive jump of up to 500 per cent between two elections. Also, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) told the Supreme Court that there has been a substantial hike in the assets of seven Lok Sabha MPs and 98 MLAs across the country and "discrepancies" had been found.
Q. 340. North East Venture Fund (NEVF)
North Eastern Development Finance Corporation Limited (NEDFi) in association with Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (M-DoNER) has launched the first dedicated venture capital fund for the North Eastern Region Namely “North East Venture Fund”.
The primary objective of North East Venture Fund (NEVF) would be to invest in enterprises focused on and not limited to Food Processing, Healthcare, Tourism, Aggregation of Services located in the NER and to provide resources for entrepreneurs from the region to expand throughout the country.
The investment focus of the NEVF will be early and growth stage investment mostly in enterprises involved in the fields of, Food processing, Healthcare, Tourism, Aggregation of Services and IT & ITES.
NEVF would inter alia invest in areas such as development of new products and services, technological up gradation, expansion or diversification, process improvement and quality improvement with the purpose of creating value for all stakeholders.
Investments will typically be in startups, early stage and growth stage companies with new products and technologies or innovative business models which have the potential to bring superior value proposition to the customers and clients and high growth in earnings and profitability and also in companies undertaking expansions which already have sound financial performance. Investment Manager will select businesses for investments which have high scalability and can reap dividend by quickly and cost effectively reaching to their target customers. The Fund will also cover organizations which are in partnership / proprietorship form with the aim to convert them into company form of organization, so that the Fund is able to invest in them.
The overall objective of the Fund is to contribute to the entrepreneurship development of the NER and achieve attractive risk-adjusted returns through long term capital appreciation by way of investments in privately negotiated equity/ equity related investments.
Q. 339. Bullet train
India and Japan have laid the foundation stone for India’s first bullet train project in Ahmedabad. The rail project will transform railways and ‘create new India’.
The Ahmedabad-Mumbai high-speed bullet train project will cost an estimated Rs 1.08 lakh crore or USD 17 billion. The project is expected to be completed by 2022.
The bullet trains would have two categories of seats, executive and economy, and the ticket fares will be comparable to that of AC-2 tier fare for Rajdhani Express.
The bullet train will run at an average speed of 320 km per hour which can go up to 350 km per hour. The bullet train will cover the distance between Mumbai and Ahmedabad in 2 hours and 58 minutes if it halts at 10 stations. The travelling time, however, will come down to barely two hours if the train halts at only two stations. A 21-km-long tunnel will be dug between Boisar and Bandra Kurla Compex (BKC) in Mumbai, with seven km of the stretch under sea.
Roughly 1.6 crore people are expected to travel by the high-speed bullet train annually.
The Railways will operate 35 bullet trains but the number will increase to 105 by 2053.
The bullet train in India will be based on Japan's famed Shinkansen network which is known for its punctuality and cutting-edge technology.
The Shinkansen uses 1,435 mm standard gauge tracks in contrast to the 1,067 mm narrow gauge. The Shinkansen uses an automatic train control system, thereby, doing away with the need for trackside signals. Trains running on Shinkansen network are extremely punctual and have an impeccable safety record.
Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Railway Ministry have inked a Memorandum of Understanding for the 508-km bullet train corridor. Japan will partially fund the bullet train project.
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