Current Affairs December 2018

  • Since 1967, the court started to refuse to trust elected representatives and became suspicious of various amendments.
  • Some important cases of this era were Golaknath case, Keshavanand Bharti case 1973 when the concept of basic structure emerged. Phase II: 1980s
  • In the 1980s, there was a rapid expansion of judicial power as the judiciary began procedural checks upon its power.
  • In this phase, important steps were taken to save the common people from the excess of the executive such as allowing “public interest” cases to be filed on behalf of those who were unable to access the courts.
    Phase III: 1990s and 2000s
  • By the 1990s and the 2000s, under the garb of judicial activism, the court was beginning to engage in a host of administrative activities, from managing welfare schemes to beautifying cities to overseeing anti-corruption initiatives.
  • The constitutional court started to become a Supreme ‘Administrative’ Court.
  • Judiciary has been viewed as an infallible solution to all social problems.
  • It was considered to be flawless. Judgments which show the lack of legal culture in the judiciary:
  • Recent Meghalaya High Court Judge’s ill-advised and ill-judged remarks on citizenship amendment bill.
  • Judgment compelling all cinema halls in the nation to play the national anthem.
  • Tamil Nadu high court’s judgment that every student in Tamil Nadu must study the Tirukkural.
  • Judiciary taking over the entire process of preparing a National Register of Citizens (NRC).
    TOPIC: GS III, AGRICULTURE 7. Farmer Distress
    Source: The Hindu
    Why in news?

    Farmer protests with violent clashes have recently erupted all over the country.

    Issues related to farm distress:
  • According to the National Crime Records Bureau statistics, more than 3 lakh farmers have killed themselves in the last two decades.
  • Prime reason for farmers suicide is indebtedness was. Maharashtra, with the highest number of farmers suicides, has 57% of its farm families in debt.
  • NSSO data show more than half of all farmers are in debt, with each household owing an average of Rs. 47,000.In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, indebtedness is as high as 90%, with average debt of around1 lakh per household.
  • Around 70% of agricultural households spend more than they earn and a quarter of all the farmers in India are living below the poverty line.
  • According to the census data for 2011, landless agricultural workers have exceeded the number of agricultural cultivators who own the land for the first time and many of them earn less than Rs. 150 a day working in the fields. Failure to generate jobs in other parts of the economy gives them few options.
    Causes of farm distress:
    Long-term causes:
    A. Increasing fragmentation of land. According to NSSO data, nearly 70% of the agricultural households in India owned land less than 1 hectare. B. Lack of post-production infrastructure, marketing mechanisms and supply chains. Recent causes: C. Massive crop production and resultant glut leading to crash in prices. At the same time, input costs have spiked, with diesel prices surging 26% this year and fertilizer costs shooting up more than 15%. D. Demonetisation affected farmers’ ability to buy seeds and fertilizers, pay off loans and hire farm labour. Loopholes in governments approach to tackle farm distress:
  • Although the government endorsed the M.S. Swaminathan Commission recommendation of providing MSP of 1.5 times times the cost of production, however, the government’s calculation of the cost of production only includes actual paid-out costs and the imputed cost of family labour, while the Commission’s formula also included the imputed cost of capital and the rent on the land.
  • Government only procures wheat, a limited amount of pulses and oilseeds at MSP rates, benefiting only a fraction of farmers.
  • Although, loan waivers are a popular poll promise and have been implemented in some states, small and marginal farmers without access to institutional credit are mostly left out from this benefit.
Recent steps taken by the government to eliminate structural issues:
  • Recent report of the government on solving the farm distress is expected to focus on ways to ensure sustainability of production, monetisation of farmers’ produce, re-strengthening of extension services and recognising agriculture as an enterprise and enabling it to operate as such by addressing structural weaknesses.
  • Recently, cabinet approved an agriculture export policy, lifting restrictions on organic and processed food, which it hopes will double farm exports by 2022 and widen the market for domestic produce.
  • Agriculture Export Policy, 2018: A. Government, through this policy aims to double farmers’ income by 2022. B. Vision: “Harness export potential of Indian agriculture, through suitable policy instruments, to make India global power in agriculture and raise farmers’ income.” C. Objectives: (i). To double agricultural exports from present ~US$ 30+ Billion to ~US$ 60+ Billion by 2022 and reach US$ 100 Billion in the next few years thereafter, with a stable trade policy regime. (ii). To diversify export basket, destinations and boost high value and value added agricultural exports including focus on perishables. (iii). To promote novel, indigenous, organic, ethnic, traditional and non-traditional Agri products exports. (iv). To provide an institutional mechanism for pursuing market access, tackling barriers and deal with sanitary and phyto-sanitary issues. (v). To strive to double India’s share in world agri exports by integrating with global value chain at the earliest. (vi). Enable farmers to get benefit of export opportunities in overseas market
    8. Universal Health Coverage
    Source: The Hindu
    Why in news:
  • Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Day has been celebrated on 12th December with the theme "Unite for Universal Health Coverage: Now is the Time for Collective Action."
  • International Universal Health Coverage Day aims to raise awareness of the need for strong and resilient health systems and universal health coverage with multi-stakeholder partners.
  • According to the World Health Organisation, UHC means “ensuring that everyone, everywhere can access essential quality health services without facing financial hardship”. Healthcare in India:
  • Infrastructure for healthcare in India, particularly in villages is in a dilapidated state.
  • Government hospitals often fail to provide necessary health services to the poor, with private hospitals being out of the reach of most people.
  • According to the 2011 census, India’s population is over 1.2 Billion, make it the second most populous nation in the world after, China. This has exacerbated the situation.
  • According to the Global Burden of Disease study, India has performed poor in healthcare index with a rank of 154 out of 194 countries. Despite this, the budget allotment on healthcare services is as low as less than 2% of her GDP on public healthcare. Towards achieving Universal health coverage:
  • In 2005, the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), was launched which promised to re-imagine primary healthcare and address the under-served needs of rural areas. The main focus of the mission was to establish a fully functional, community owned, decentralised health delivery system.
  • The National Health Protection Mission or Ayushman Bharat Yojana is considered to be the first major step towards improving the healthcare mechanism in India. It aims to provide insurance of upto 5 lakh rupees to each family identified on the basis of socio economic castes census covering secondary and tertiary healthcare services for around 50 crores Indians.
  • It will subsume the current centrally sponsored schemes: Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana and the Senior Citizen Health Insurance Scheme.
  • There are two flagship initiatives under Ayushman Bharat: A. The first is to create a network of health and wellness centres that will bring the healthcare system closer to the people by providing comprehensive healthcare and free essential drugs and diagnostic services. It was launched on the 14th of April 2018, in Bijapur, Chattisgarh. It aims to setup 5 lakh wellness centers across the country by 2022 which will be equipped to treat a host of diseases, including blood pressure, diabetes, cancer etc. B. The second flagship programme under ‘Ayushman Bharat’ is the National Health Protection Scheme covering over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families.
    Recommendations of High Level Expert Group (HLEG) on Universal health coverage:
    1. Government should increase public expenditure on health from 1.2 per cent of GDP to at least 2.5 per cent by the end of the Twelfth Plan, and to at least 3 per cent of GDP by 2022. 2. Inclusion of Private healthcare providers under the National Health Package (NHP) and their regulation and monitoring to ensure that services are delivered with equity and quality. 3. Essential Drugs List should be revised and expanded. Public sector should be strengthened to protect the capacity of domestic drug and vaccines industry to meet national needs. Various safeguards provided by Indian patents law and the TRIPS Agreement such as compulsory licensing etc. should be used to produce essential drugs at lower cost. 4. Increasing the numbers of Human resource for health upto 23 per 10000 of population which is the norm set up by WHO. 5. Development of a National Health Package to offer, as part of the entitlement of every citizen, essential health services at different levels of the healthcare delivery system. 6. Introduction of all India and state level public health service cadres and a specialized state level health systems management cadre to give greater attention to public health and also to strengthen the management of the UHC system. 7. Establishment of a National Health Regulatory and Development Authority a, National Drug Regulatory and Development Authority and National Health Promotion and Protection Trust. 8. Improving access to health services for women, girls and other vulnerable genders. Challenges in achieving UHC:
  • Poor financial resource (Less than 2% of GDP for health care services.)
  • According to NSSO data, private sector accounts for more than 75% of total health spending India.
  • Social health insurance is absent from a large number of workforce as majority of them are engaged in unorganized sector.
  • Infrastructure of both public and private sectors taken together is inadequate. As per WHO statistics, India has ranked very low in global scenario with only 0.9 beds per 1000 population while global average is about 2.9 beds per 1000 population
  • India has largest number of population for out of pocket expenditure for healthcare services and since majority of them cannot afford that. This is the prime reason for pushing many below poverty lines every year.
  • Doctor patient ration of India is only 1:1700 while WHO standard is 1: 1000.
  • Huge inter-state gap in medical and health care facilities.
  • Lack of affordable medicines, effective preventive care, awareness and citizen participation.
    9. Online Portal “ENSURE”
    Source: PIB
    Why in news:

    Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare launched a portal ENSURE – National Livestock Mission-EDEG developed by NABARD and operated under the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries.

  • Under the National Livestock Mission’s component EDEG, subsidy payment for activities related to poultry, small ruminants, pigs etc., through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) goes directly to the beneficiary’s account.
  • To make it better, simpler and transparent, the NABARD has developed an online portal “ENSURE” so that the information related to beneficiary and processing of application can be made readily available. Significance of the portal:
  • The flow of information/funds will be quicker and more accountable.
  • The burden of extra interest due to delay in the disbursal of the subsidy would now be reduced.
  • Accessing the portal will be on real-time basis and list of beneficiaries can be easily prepared.
    10. PCS 1x System
    Source: PIB
    Why in news:

    Indian Ports Association (IPA) under the guidance of Ministry of Shipping launched the Port Community System ‘PCS1x’. About PCS 1x: ‘PCS 1x’ is a cloud based new generation technology, with user-friendly interface.

  • This system seamlessly integrates stakeholders from the maritime trade on a single platform.
  • The platform offers value added services such as notification engine, workflow, mobile application, track and trace, better user interface, better security features, improved inclusion by offering dashboard for those with no IT capability.
  • A unique feature of ‘PCS1x’ is that it can latch on to third party software which provides services to the maritime industry thereby enabling the stakeholders to access wide network of services. The system enables single sign on facility to provide one stop interface to all the functionalities across all stakeholders.
  • Another major feature is the deployment of a world class state of the art payment aggregator solution which removes dependency on bank specific payment eco system.
  • It is an initiative that supports green initiatives by reducing dependency on paper.
  • It has been developed indigenously and is a part of the ‘Make in India’ and ‘Digital India’ Significance:
  • The platform has the potential to revolutionize maritime trade in India and bring it at par with global best practices and pave the way to improve the Ease of Doing Business world ranking and Logistics Performance Index (LPI) ranks. Indian Ports Association (IPA):
  • IPA was constituted in 1966 under Societies Registration Act, with the idea of fostering growth and development of all Major Ports which are under the supervisory control of Ministry of Shipping.
    11. Regulatory Indicators for Sustainable Energy (RISE) 2018
    Source: Economic Times
    Why in news:

    World Bank has released its report — Regulatory Indicators for Sustainable Energy (RISE) 2018, charting global progress on sustainable energy policies.
  • The report was released on the sidelines of the 24th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24). Highlights of the report:
  • Many of the world’s largest energy-consuming countries significantly improved their renewable energy regulations since 2010.
  • Progress was even more marked in energy efficiency, with the percentage of countries establishing advanced policy frameworks growing more than 10-fold between 2010 and 2017.
  • Among countries with large populations living without electricity, 75 per cent had by 2017 put in place the policies and regulations needed to expand energy access. But there were still significant barriers to global progress on sustainable energy.
  • While countries continue to be focused on clean energy policies for electricity, policies to decarbonize heating and transportation, which account for 80 per cent of global energy use, continued to be overlooked.
  • This momentum was particularly marked in renewable energy. Among the countries covered by RISE, only 37 per cent had a national renewable energy target in 2010. By 2017, that had grown to 93 per cent.
  • By last year, 84 per cent of countries had a legal framework in place to support renewable energy deployment, while 95 per cent allowed the private sector to own and operate renewable energy projects.
  • Among the four SDG7 target areas — renewable energy, energy efficiency, electricity access and access to clean cooking — the last one continued to be the most overlooked and underfunded by policymakers.
  • There has been little progress on standard-setting for cookstoves or on consumer and producer incentives to stimulate adoption of clean technologies.
  • The report contained a warning that without accelerated adoption of good policies and strong enforcement, the world's climate goals and Sustainable Development Goal 7 were at risk. Indian Scenario:
  • The World Bank has praised India's success in renewable energy auctions that delivered record-setting low prices for solar power. However, the country needs to take urgent actions to address critical gaps, such as failing utilities, clean cooking, and the slow progress on decarbonizing heating and transport. TOPIC: GS II, STATUTORY, REGULATORY AND VARIOUS QUASI-JUDICIAL BODIES 12. National Medical Devices Promotion Council Source: PIB Why in new: The government will set up a National Medical Devices Promotion Council (NMDPC) under the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) in the Ministry of Commerce & Industry to promote the medical devices sector.
  • The announcement was made on the occasion of 4th WHO Global Forum on Medical Devices at Andhra Pradesh Medtech Zone in Vishakhapatnam. Proposed Structure:
  • The Council will be headed by Secretary, DIPP.
  • Apart from the concerned departments of Government of India, it will also have representatives from health care industry and quality control institutions.
  • Andhra Pradesh MedTech Zone, Visakhapatnam, will provide technical support to the Council. Objectives and Activities: The key objectives and activities of the National Medical Devices Promotion Council will be as follows:
  • To work as a facilitating and developmental body for Indian Medical Devices Industry.
  • To conduct seminars, workshop and other promotional and networking activities to promote the sector.
  • To identify redundant processes and provide technical assistance to simplify the approval processes involved in medical devices industry.
  • To work towards making a export driven market in the field.
  • To support dissemination and documentation of international norms and standards for medical devices’ and promote global best practices.
  • To drive a robust and dynamic Preferential Market Access (PMA) policy, by identifying the strengths of the Indian manufacturers and discouraging unfair trade practices in imports; while ensuring pro-active monitoring of public procurement notices across India to ensure compliance with PMA guidelines of DIPP and DoP.
  • Help validation of Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs) and other such entities within MDI sector.
  • To recommend government various measures to promote the MDI sector. Medical Devices Industry (MDI):
  • The Medical Devices Industry (MDI) plays a critical role in the healthcare ecosystem and is crucial to achieve the goal of health for all citizens of the country. The manufacturing and trade in MDI is growing steadily in double digits. However, it is largely import-driven with imports accounting for over 65 percent of the domestic market.
  • The setting-up of the Council will spur domestic manufacturing in this sector as Indian companies and startups have stated moving towards creating innovative products.
    13. Bioplastics not an eco-friendly alternative to plastic- Study
    Source: The Hindu
    Why in news:

    A study was conducted by the University of Bonn in Germany on the use of bioplastics and its effects on the environment.
  • According to the study, bioplastics — often promoted as a climate-friendly alternative to petroleum-based plastics — may lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Also, the belief that bioplastics will reduce the amount of waste in the oceans may not even come true. How are bioplastics harmful? Bioplastics are in principle climate-neutral since they are based on renewable raw materials such as maize, wheat or sugar cane. These plants get Next Page
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