The HINDU Notes – 16th September 2018 - VISION

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Sunday, September 16, 2018

The HINDU Notes – 16th September 2018

📰 Why does U.S. want India to import more?

What happened?

•President Donald Trump came to power partly on the promise that he will create more jobs and that other countries would not thrive at the expense of the U.S. In his dealings with the rest of the world, he has made it amply clear that if the U.S. buys more from another country than what that country buys from the U.S., America loses; something he does not want. That spirit has spurred his move to impose higher duties on imports to spur local manufacture and increase jobs in the U.S. The same spirit is also behind the move to pressure India to import at least $10 billion a year more from the U.S. over the next three years.

How much do we buy?

•According to the U.S. Census Bureau, India imported $25.7 billion from the U.S. in 2017 while it exported $48.6 billion to the largest economy in the world. The U.S.’s latest demand means it wants India to cut its trade deficit with the American nation by close to half, through increased purchases of civilian aircraft and natural gas. Between 2014 and 2017, India’s trade deficit with the U.S. has hovered over $23-24 billion annually. In 2017, it dropped by $1.5 billion compared with 2016, due to higher imports from the U.S. Till July this year, India’s deficit ran to $13.2 billion, not significantly different from the $13.6 billion for the same period a year earlier.

Where does China stand?

•Juxtapose those figures against China’s trade deficit with the U.S. — it was $375.6 billion for 2017. Mr. Trump is targeting imports from China (which, in his opinion, are taking jobs away from Americans) and has imposed duties on $50 billion worth of Chinese exports to the U.S. China has reacted with similar duties on imports from the U.S. With duties impending on another $200 billion worth of trade, he has most recently said his administration has lined up action on a third lot of $267 billion worth of Chinese imports into the U.S. This has roiled markets globally as trade wars benefit none. In the U.S.’s own case, for example, duties on solar panels, being sourced from China, have led to the sector forecasting a slower growth and flagging a loss of 23,000 jobs — the exact opposite of what Mr. Trump wanted.

Is it helping the U.S.?

•The tough stance of the U.S. is significant. Reports suggest that the administration has wrought a miracle of sorts. The U.S. economy has returned to life: the GDP is growing at a 3%-plus rate; unemployment rate is near a 50-year low; the stock market has jumped 27% amid a surge in corporate profits. Many critics, including some from his Republican Party, have said this is not sustainable and that government spending, which is driving a part of the revival, will peter out in 2019. Some predict that the U.S. could even see a recession in 2020.

How does it affect India?

•If this happens, it could be disastrous for India — not only will India’s exports to the U.S. suffer, but it would have wasted precious dollar resources in signing up for imports under pressure. Even if the U.S. continued to grow, an increase in imports by India, merely to address the trade gap, would have a telling effect on the exchange rate. Indian government officials have estimated an extra $26 billion expenditure due to rising oil prices. Oil importers buy dollars to pay for their imports. That has contributed significantly to the falling rupee, which has lost as much as 14% this year, making it the worst performing currency in Asia. Spending an extra $10 billion a year on imports from the U.S. would mean further pressure on the rupee.

•A falling rupee makes life difficult for other Indian importers. This would have a domino effect on the rest of the economy. Rising prices could dampen consumer demand, resulting in poorer profit margins for industry.

📰 Call for policy, action in diabetes prevention, management

Call for policy, action in diabetes prevention, management
Will take heavy toll on India’s healthcare system if left uncontrolled: Global Burden of Disease Study

•The recently-released Global Burden of Disease Study 2016 has shown that the prevalence of diabetes has increased more rapidly in the less-developed States of the country. The report has also highlighted the need for policy and health system action commensurate with the disease burden in each State to ensure more effective prevention and management of diabetes.

•The study, authored by Nikhil Tandon et al, goes on to warn: “If uncontrolled, diabetes and its complications are likely to take a heavy toll on India’s healthcare system in the coming decades.” The total number of people with diabetes grew from 26 million in 1990 to 65 million in 2016. The prevalence of diabetes in India was 5.5 % in 1990, but it has increased to 7.7 % in 2016.

‘Potentially explosive’

•Terming the increase “a potentially-explosive public health situation”, it calls for effective policy implementation. When combined with appropriate allocation of financial and human resources, and a robust disease monitoring system, this would help in prevention, treatment and reduction of diabetes deaths and, in turn, curb the growing disease burden.

•The highest prevalence is in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, followed by Delhi, Punjab, Goa, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Tripura.

•The increase in loss of health from diabetes since 1990 is the highest among all major non communicable diseases, says V. Mohan, one of the collaborators for the report. “This is enough to compel us to take immediate action in terms of awareness and prevention,” he adds.

•Diabetes contributed to 3% of all deaths in India, with an increase in death rates due to diabetes from 1990 to 2016. This highlights the low likelihood of meeting national and global targets for reducing deaths due to diabetes by 2025 and 2030, respectively, the report states.

•Among the risk factors contributing to diabetes in India in 2016, high BMI had the highest impact, while the other factors were dietary risks, tobacco use, occupational exposure to secondhand smoke, low physical activity, and alcohol use.

•The prevalence of being overweight in persons aged 20 years or older had increased from 9% in 1990 to 20.4% in 2016. Interventions to prevent obesity, providing public facilities to increase physical activity, and taxing ‘sin foods’, would go a long way in reducing the numbers, epidemiologists say. “The way forward would be providing awareness about diabetes,” says R.M. Anjana, another contributor to the report. “Once the community decides to do something, then it just takes off. If there is one thing everyone can do, and start from childhood, it is to make sure physical activity is a component of our life, so we can keep diabetes at bay.”

📰 The lowdown on kharif sowing

What is it?Why does it matter?What does it mean?What next ?

•With the summer (kharif) sowing picking up across the country on account of improved distribution of monsoon rain during the last fortnight of August, another bumper harvest is expected this season, if weather conditions continue to be conducive. While the increase in crop acreage has eased the fear of a fall in grain production, the bright harvest outlook also throws a challenge to the government to deal with a situation of abundance of produce. A good kharif harvest means an increase in supply, which could result in a drop in crop prices, hitting farm income.

•Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Secretary S.K. Pattanayak, anticipating a good harvest, recently pointed out that the challenge with a “situation of abundance” before the government is that of maintaining food prices at levels that ensure farmers get their due profits, while not depriving consumers of the gains of a bumper harvest.

•This year, summer crops have been sown on nearly 1,053 lakh hectares against 1,046 lakh hectares during the corresponding period in 2017-18, as per data released by the Agriculture Ministry on September 14. Though the cumulative monsoon rain across the country has been 8% lower than the normal as of September 14, the higher acreage is being attributed to better distribution of rainfall. The National Collateral Management Services, a private post-harvest management company, last week released its second advanced estimates for the 2018-19 kharif crop. It has pegged the total grain production at 136.75 million tonnes. The estimate is just 3% less than previous year’s record harvest of 140.73 million tonnes.

•A bumper harvest will help the government fill its granaries for the Public Distribution System and reduce hunger and malnutrition. However, with the increased supply of crops (cereals and pulses) other than the foodgrain, which are procured by the government, the fall in prices can never be ruled out, which is associated with the economics of demand and supply. A bumper crop is expected to benefit the consumer. For farmers, it is a different story. The key issue is that a very small proportion of the produce is procured by government agencies. The bulk of the output is purchased by private players. The system of selling the produce is such that the intermediary gains more and the producer and the consumer both suffer. While the primary producer (farmer) gets low prices, consumers often have to pay high rates.

•After harvesting, the crop goes out of the hand of the primary producer (farmer) and is largely usurped by the intermediary. When the primary producer’s share of the pie is declining, the sustainability of farmers come under threat. This is the trend with bumper crop prices, especially those of pulses, vegetables and fruits, crashing at the time of harvest and sky-rocketing in the lean period. Marketing institutions are very weak across the country, and innovative reforms are lacking in this area.

•Farmers’ organisations have come together to demand a better deal for primary producers, as their survival is at stake. Lakhwinder Singh, an agriculture expert and professor of economics at Punjabi University, Patiala, points out that a large number of small and marginal farmers are becoming highly distressed owing to the system of market institutions squeezing them both on the input and output side. “The interlinked transactions, such as the informal credit market, further make them victims of a debt trap. Largescale suicides of farmers across India is testimony to this. To make farming a healthy business, the government needs to invest in the agriculture sector to improve input and output chains, where the value addition should be reaped by the primary producer [farmer],” he says. Increased investment is urgently required to revamp a dying agriculture sector and make it inclusive and sustainable in the long run.

📰 7 out of 10 seats sold on flights to smaller cities under UDAN scheme

5.24 lakh seats taken under UDAN scheme since April 2017

•For every 10 seats available under the government’s low-cost flying scheme, as many as seven were grabbed by passengers since its launch last year, according to data accessed under the RTI (Right to Information) Act.

•Seat occupancy, also known as passenger load factor, is an indicator of demand on a particular route.

•Extrapolation of data sought by The Hindu through a RTI application shows that as many 7.5 lakh seats were made available for sale by eight airline operators, of which 5.24 lakh seats were sold. These figures are for a period of 16 months between the first flight under the scheme in April last year and until August 1, 2018.

8 airlines, 96 routes

•So far, two rounds of bidding have taken place for routes under the regional connectivity scheme (RCS) or UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik), which aims to take flying to the masses and enhance air connectivity to Tier-1 and Tier-2 cities. A total of 428 routes were awarded to 17 airline and helicopter operators. Of these, eight airlines have started flights on 96 routes, while helicopter services are yet to commence.

•Airlines have to set aside 50% of the total aircraft capacity for cheaper fares to be offered at the rate of ₹2,500 per hour of flight, in return for which airlines are given a subsidy by the Centre and the State government concerned.

•The government data show that the three airlines with the highest seat occupancy rate are low-cost carrier (81.4%), regional airline TrueJet (70.7%) and Air India’s regional arm Alliance Air (64.9%).

•Among the major domestic carriers that participated in the scheme in the second round are Jet Airways and IndiGo, with seats sold at 59.2% and 45.6%, respectively.

•The two carriers launched operations in the second half of this year.

•Zoom Air sold 56.4% of its total seats and Air Deccan sold 53.4 %. At the bottom of the stack is Air Odisha, with a mere 24% seats sold.

•The five most successful routes under the scheme in terms of the passenger load factor are Mumbai-Porbandar (93%), Delhi-Kanpur- Delhi (91.5%), Mumbai-Kandla-Mumbai (91%), Delhi-Shimla-Delhi (89.5%), Delhi-Adampur-Delhi (86%). Four of these routes are operated by SpiceJet.

•The routes that have flopped so far are Shillong-Dimapur-Shillong (1%), Ahmedabad-Bhavnagar-Ahmedabad (11%), Ahmedabad-Jamnagar-Ahmedabad (14%), Ahmedabad-Diu-Ahmedabad (19%) and Gwalior-Indore-Gwalior (35%). Air Odisha serves four of these worst routes.

📰 Govt. links Pravasi Divas with Kumbh

Conference rescheduled to coincide with Kumbh, Republic Day; to be held in Varanasi.

•Fifteen years after then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee launched the ‘Pravasi Bharatiya Divas’ (PBD, or Non-resident Indian Day) conference to mark the day Mahatma Gandhi returned to India from South Africa, the government has decided to move the date to facilitate NRI Kumbh Mela visitors, and “maximise their experience” during their visit to India.

•The 15th edition of the event will be held in January 2019 in Varanasi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency, and close to the site of the 'Ardh Kumbh' in Allahabad. The participants will be taken by bus from Varanasi to Allahabad, after which they will travel by train to Delhi to witness the Republic Day parade.

•“I want to appeal to Indians living abroad to attend the conference with full enthusiasm, as dates have been changed at your request, and for which we have two new attractions,” External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said at a press conference, addressing the NRI community.

•While the PBD conference has been scheduled for January 7-9 since its inception in 2003, the 15th PBD conference in 2019 will be held on January 21-23rd instead.

•According to the MEA’s website, “January 9 was chosen to celebrate this occasion since it was on this day in 1915 that Mahatma Gandhi, the greatest Pravasi, returned to India from South Africa, led India’s freedom struggle and changed the lives of Indians forever.”

•Explaining the shift after 14 years, MEA sources said the Ministry had received feedback that the event, which drew about 1,800 delegates from 72 countries in 2017, was increasingly being seen as a “talk-shop, without concrete results”.

•Some members of the diaspora had reportedly asked Ms. Swaraj to consider shifting the date closer to the Kumbh Mela, to begin on January 14, 2019. PBD delegates will also have a special passes to the Republic Day Parade, and arrangements for their travel and stay will begin once the registration period ends on November 15, officials said.

•The move came in for criticism from opposition members, who said it was motivated by political concerns. “Shifting the Pravasi Bharatiya meet shows the RSS-controlled BJP government is aggressively pushing the Hindutva agenda for 2019 polls,” said CPI member D.Raja.

•MEA sources denied any other motive for the shift except to ensure PBD delegates “maximise their experience, and include more into their agenda. “There is no change in tradition,” an official told The Hindu, explaining that the shift was not expected to be permanent.

📰 PM launches cleanliness campaign

Says sanitation coverage in India has increased from 40% to over 90% in four years of ‘Swachh Bharat’

•Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the “Swachhata Hi Seva” (“cleanliness is service”) campaign on Saturday, and took up a broom to clean a school named after Dalit icon B.R. Ambedkar. Union Ministers and BJP leaders and workers participated in similar exercises across the country.

•In a nearly two-hour video interaction with people from across the country, including religious leaders, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and noted personalities such as Amitabh Bachchan and Ratan Tata, Mr. Modi said the sanitation coverage in India had increased from 40% to over 90% in the four years of the “Swachh Bharat” (Clean India) project.

•He said few would have thought that nine crore toilets would be built and 4.5 lakh villages declared free of open defecation in four years.

•He launched the “cleanliness is service” exercise to push for greater public participation in one of his government’s centrepiece programmes launched on October 2, 2015. It will continue till Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary next month.

•All sections of society and every part of the country had joined the cleanliness drive, he said, exhorting people to rededicate themselves to fulfilling Gandhiji’s dream of a clean India.

•“Had anybody imagined that more than 450 districts would be open-defecation-free (ODF) in four years or that 20 States and Union Territories would be open-defecation-free in four years,” he said.

•Mr. Adityanath said Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populous and among the most poor States, would be ODF by October 2.

Pat for Adityanath

•He said his government was working to ensure that every family had a toilet by October 2019. His government’s emphasis on cleanliness had led to a drastic fall in vector-borne diseases, Mr. Adityanath said. Mr. Modi lauded Mr. Adityanath for his government’s efforts.

•The Prime Minister spoke to people in States such as Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Haryana. He also interacted with the Indo-Tibetan Border Police personnel involved in cleaning the Pangong Lake and its surroundings in Leh, besides religious and spiritual figures, including Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Mata Amritanandamayi.

📰 PSLV to launch 2 U.K. satellites tonight

ISRO’s first fully commercial trip this year

•A PSLV launch on Sunday night will put two earth observation satellites from the U.K. to space.

•There is no Indian satellite on this flight. PSLV-C42 will be the first fully commercial trip of the year, breaking a five-month-long lull for the Indian Space Research Organisation.

•ISRO did not make any launch post-April 12, after it put replacement navigation satellite, IRNSS-1I to space on the PSLV-C41 rocket.

•A few days after that, it recalled its GSAT-11 from the South American launch port of Kourou and weeks before it was due for a launch ISRO Chairman K. Sivan said the interval was not connected with the satellite recall but for the sake of readiness of the two customer satellites.

•The countdown to the launch began at 1.08 p.m. on Saturday. The PSLV is being flown in its core-alone format, minus the external boosters. The two satellites together weigh nearly 889 kg; this is the optimum payload that a core-alone PSLV can launch, Dr. Sivan said.

•PSLV-C42 is scheduled for launch at 10.08 p.m. from the first launch pad of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota. It will lift NovaSAR and S1-4 to a sun-synchronous ('pole-to-pole') orbit 583 km from Earth. The entire flight up to the release of the satellites is designed to happen within 17.5 minutes.

•The satellites are owned by Surrey Satellite Technologies Ltd., which signed a commercial launch contract with Antrix Corporation, an ISRO release said.

📰 Researchers dive in to restore coral ecosystems

The group has successfully transplanted corals in the Lakshadweep region.

•Coral reefs are among the most diverse ecosystems on earth, and their role in maintaining marine biodiversity is of no small measure. However, it is well documented that coral systems around the world are bleaching and dying due to climate and chemical changes in the sea water. A team from National Centre for Coastal Research, Chennai, plans to work on coral monitoring and restoration in the Gulf of Mannar region. “We assess the location and coverage of corals through remote sensing, then study how the sediment affects the coral reef,” says T Shunmugaraj, who leads this project along with M V Ramanamurthy, Director, NCCR. The team will also set up an acquatech park which will help local persons rear marine ornamental fish towards a sustainable livelihood.

•The group has prior experience in studying corals across the country. They have successfully transplanted and nurtured corals in the Lakshadweep region. Now they are set to work in the Gulf of Mannar.

Coral bleaching

•Corals have a symbiotic relationship with the unicellular algae dinoflagellates. An increase in sea surface temperatures leads to coral bleaching and the breaking of this relationship.

•Not all corals are equally sensitive. The most susceptible are the branching corals, for example, Acropora species, and the least susceptible are the massive ones, for example Favia species.

•Coral reefs in India are only seen in some localities around the Gulf of Mannar, Gulf of Kutch, Lakshadweep islands and Andaman and Nicobar islands. In many of these places, bleaching of corals and related cnideria species such as giant clam and tentacle sea anemone have been observed by the team.

•However, constructive interventions exist for this problem. The methods include reducing harvest of herbivorous fish and minimising anthropogenic causes of bleaching.

•The National Centre for Coastal Research, which comes under the Ministry of Earth Sciences, conducted a mapping of corals for Gulf of Kutch, Gulf of Mannar, Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar islands over a period of five years, from 2000 to 2005. Their results were startling, as they found less than 40% of the coral reefs in India were still alive.

•From 2005 to present, the team, with support from Department of Science and Technology, has surveyed the area around Agatti and Kavaratti islands in the Lakshadweep, and in an area approximately one acre, transplanted branching corals, massive corals and foliac corals. “We take a small polyp, tie it to an iron frame and take it underwater. The iron frame is needed because if you place it directly, sediments will fall on them,” explains Dr. Shunmugaraj.

Restoration efforts

•Over the last decade, this region has seen restoration of live corals in these areas. The team found that the branching coral Acropora could grow 25 cm in 3 years. Another genera, Pocillopora , grew 15 cm in 3 years.

•The researchers plan to replicate the model in the Gulf of Mannar region, and towards this end, they have set up a centre in a 25-acre piece of land near the Rameshwaram coast. Partnering with Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park Authority, they will first monitor the 21 islands in this region and identify degraded areas.

•In January, after the monsoons, they plan to start transplantation work with branching coral species.

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