The HINDU Notes – 05th June 2019 - VISION

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Wednesday, June 05, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 05th June 2019

πŸ“° Nipah is confirmed, precautions in place

311 placed under observation across State

•Nearly a year after a Nipah outbreak in Kozhikode and Malappuram, the deadly disease has resurfaced in Kerala with the confirmation of the infection in a 23-year-old college student here.

•“The test results have come from the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, and it is positive for Nipah. The health authorities have made elaborate arrangements and medicines are in stock,” Health Minister K.K. Shylaja said here Tuesday.

•The Minister said 311 people from various districts with whom the student had interacted were under observation.

•Five persons, three who attended to the student initially and one person who studied with him, were suffering from fever and sore throat. They had been shifted to the isolation ward set up at the Ernakulam Medical College Hospital, Kalamassery, for a detailed medical examination. Their health condition was satisfactory, authorities said.

•The student, hailing from North Paravur in Ernakulam district, studies in a college at Thodupuzha in Idukki district. The student, who was suffering from fever, had gone to Thrissur district with a group of students to attend a training programme there.

•Ms. Shylaja said the condition of the student, who is being treated at a private hospital here, was stable was not on any support system such as ventilator. “Good care is being given to the patient. The patient sometimes become restless due to fever.... We expect a good result,” she said.

•The Minister urged the people not to panic and take precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the disease.

•“From now on, there will be a high alert and three samples (blood, urine, and throat) from every person who shows symptoms of Nipah will be taken and send to the NIV, Alappuzha, Pune, and Manipal,” said Health Secretary Rajan Khorbagade. He said that experts from the Indian Council of Medical Research were intouch with the health authorities here.

•The Centre on Tuesday rushed a six-member team to Kerala. Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan spoke to Ms. Shylaja to discuss the situation and assured all support from the Centre.

•The Health Ministry said the team, comprising an epidemiologist, had been sent to the State to conduct contact tracing for early detection of suspects and review of isolation facilities.

•A control room has been set up and the Strategic Health Operations Centre (SHOC) of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has been activated, the phone number for which is 011-23978046, a statement stated.

πŸ“° In relief for Kiran Bedi, SC restrains Puducherry govt.

Bars decisions having financial implications or transfers

•In relief for Puducherry Lieutenant Governor (LG) Kiran Bedi, a Vacation Bench of the Supreme Court on Monday restrained the Congress government in the Union Territory from implementing any decision involving financial implications or transfer of officials.

•The order by a Bench of Justices Indu Malhotra and M.R. Shah was based on an urgent plea by the Union of India and Ms. Bedi’s office for clarity on the issue of control over bureaucrats in the wake of a turf war between the Lieutenant Governor and the Chief Minister.

•The Bench further issued notice to the elected government and allowed the Cabinet to meet on June 7, but said decisions that entailed serious financial implications and those on transfers could not be implemented till the next hearing scheduled for June 21.

•Kapil Sibal, appearing for the elected government, said the direction to temporarily halt Cabinet decisions amounted to a virtual stay on the Madras High Court’s decision, which had curbed the LG’s powers to interfere in the day-to-day administration, especially when an elected government was in place. But the court did not relent.

‘Requires rectification’

•The Central authorities said the High Court’s decision had brought the “administrative machinery of Puducherry to an impasse” and required urgent rectification. Their plea said the Puducherry LG enjoyed “greater discretionary power” than the Delhi LG. The Puducherry LG had a “special responsibility towards the Union Territory of Puducherry and is under the overarching control of the President.”

‘Administrative chaos’

•It said the High Court did not understand the true import of the Government of Union Territory Act of 1963 and Rules of Business of the Government of Puducherry of 1963. Officers were being threatened with contempt action and this was leading to “administrative chaos.”

•Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the LG, had recently told the Supreme Court that governance in the Union Territory had come to a standstill after the High Court decision in April held that ‘incessant’ interference from the LG would amount to running a “parallel government.”

πŸ“° Global growth to slow in 2019, says WB

Forecasts for India through 2021 remain intact; prognosis for impact of U.S.-China trade tensions grim

•The World Bank Group has downgraded global real GDP growth to 2.6% for 2019, down by 0.3 percentage points from its previous forecast in January. Growth is expected to increase marginally to 2.7% in 2020. India’s growth forecasts are projected to be 7.5% per annum in 2019, 2020 and 2021 – not having been downgraded from their January estimates.

•The multilateral development bank’s June 2019 Global Economic Prospects (GEP) report, titled, ‘Heightened Tensions, Subdued Investment’ says the global economy “has continued to soften and momentum remains weak” and investment, sluggish.

•Downside risks to global growth, as per the report, include rising trade barriers, a build-up of government debt and slowdowns that were deeper-than-expected in several major economies. Sluggishness of investment in Emerging Markets Developing Economies is part of a protracted (barring the 2016-2018 recovery) slowdown following the global financial crisis, as per the report.

•“Stronger economic growth is essential to reducing poverty and improving living standards,” said World Bank Group President David Malpass, in a statement. “Current economic momentum remains weak, while heightened debt levels and subdued investment growth in developing economies are holding countries back from achieving their potential. It’s urgent that countries make significant structural reforms that improve the business climate and attract investment. They also need to make debt management and transparency a high priority so that new debt adds to growth and investment.”

Slowdown in U.S.

•Advanced economies, as a group, are expected to slow down in 2019, particularly the Euro area, due to weaker investments and exports.

•U.S. growth is expected to slow to 2.5% this year, down from an estimated 2.9% in 2018, and then down to 1.7% and 1.6% in 2020 and 2021, respectively. In India, where growth was 7.2% in FY2018/2019, investment — both, private and in public infrastructure — offset a slowdown in government consumption.

•Economic activity slowed in the last quarter of 2018, and spilled over into the first quarter of 2019.

•India’s growth at a projected 7.5% is supported by credit growth and an accommodative monetary policy. “Support from delays in planned fiscal consolidation at the central level should partially offset the effects of political uncertainty around elections,” the report says.

•“The continuing weakness in corporate and financial sector balance sheets remain a constraint for growth despite recent improvements in the Ease of Doing Business in India,” Ayhan Kose, Director of the World Bank’s Prospects Group said to The Hindu , in a conference call with reporters to discuss the forecasts.

•The prognosis for the impact of U.S.-China trade tensions is grim. “... adverse effects from weakening growth and rising policy uncertainties involving the world’s two largest economies would have predominantly negative repercussions,” it says. A no-deal Brexit could have ‘severe impact’ on the U.K. and to a lower extent, on its European trading partners in the event of disruptions and delays at the border.

πŸ“° RBI study moots boost to acceptance infra for digital payments

‘Need to cut volume of paper-clearing’

•While there has been robust growth in the volume of retail electronic transactions amid a strong regulatory framework, the country needs to enhance its payments acceptance infrastructure, a study on digital payments by the Reserve Bank of India has observed.

•The findings are from a report on ‘Benchmarking India’s Payment Systems’, which provides a comparison of the payment ecosystem in India with the payment systems and usage trends in other major countries.

•The central bank had undertaken the exercise of benchmarking India’s payment systems vis-Γ -vis payment systems in a mix of advanced economies, Asian economies and the BRICS nations.

Robust value

•“The study found that India has a strong regulatory system and robust large value and retail payment systems, which have contributed to the rapid growth in the volume of transactions in these payment systems,” RBI said.

•“The report, however, notes that India is required to take further efforts to bring down the volume of paper-clearing and increase acceptance infrastructure to enhance digital payments,” the RBI said.

•The data used for the benchmarking were mostly for the years 2012 and 2017.

•While the report acknowledged that the growth in the volume of payment systems transactions had been strong and steady, the relatively high level of cash in circulation offered scope for a higher level of digitisation of payments, it said.

•“There is an increase in Point of Sale (PoS) terminals, including mobile terminals, which, however, may not be enough to cater to the large population,” the report said.

•The report observed low digital payment of utility bills, despite the existence of the Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS), an integrated interoperable bill payment system which started live operations from October 12, 2017.

‘Lag in broadband infra’

•The report also said digital communications infrastructure in the form of a robust mobile network is growing strongly, though broadband infrastructure “lags behind.”

•The report highlighted that the last few years since demonetisation have witnessed a sea change in the payments landscape, with large growth in digital payments.

•In 2018-19, the volume growth of retail electronic transactions was 95%, compared to 51% in the previous year, mainly due to to the steep growth in the use of the Unified Payments Interface (UPI), the report said.

•The report also said that the level of credit card penetration in India was low when compared to advanced countries, where it was a preferred option for making payments.

•“To encourage usage of cards, card infrastructure is required to be robust, strong and secure. Further, the last-mile availability of PoS terminals is relatively lower in India and much needs to be done in this regard,” it added.

πŸ“° ‘India joblessness data not factored into World Bank growth estimates’

Investment figures, manufacturing weaker than expected

•The new macroeconomic data released by the government last Friday, which showed joblessness for 2017/18 at 6.1%, a 45-year high, was not factored into the World Bank Group’s June 2019 Global Economic Prospects (GEP) report, Ayhan Kose, Director of the Bank’s Global Prospects Group told The Hindu , during a briefing call with reporters.

•“This data is rather new. Obviously we have not [taken] it into account … our cut off date for the data as we indicated in the report is May 23 [2019]. Having said that, India’s GDP growth slowed to 5.8% in the first quarter [of 2019] from 6.6% in the previous quarter,” Mr. Kose said. “Manufacturing activity and investment figures were weaker than expected.” This, Mr. Kose said, was attributable to the uncertainty in the run-up to the elections and was “somewhat expected.”

•India’s growth forecasts are projected to be 7.5% per annum in 2019, 2020 and 2021 — not having been downgraded from their January estimates. A growth rate of 7.2% is estimated for 2018. In its 2014-2019 term, the NDA government had faced criticism over its handling of data. For instance, the unemployment data from the National Sample Survey Office, leaked in January, was officially released only last week, post-elections. In January, the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation published revised GDP growth numbers for 2017, showing an increase of 1.1%, with growth pegged at 8.2%.

•In March, 108 economists and social scientists from around the world, wrote an open letter ‘Economic Statistics in Shambles’ to highlight the data credibility problem.

•World Bank representatives did not wish to comment on the data credibility issue during Tuesday’s briefing call.

πŸ“° Patients turn litigants as new rules stall therapy

Licence a must for stem cell treatment

•Several critically ill patients have been forced to line up at the Delhi High Court after they suddenly stopped getting medication following the implementation of the Centre’s New Drugs and Clinical Trials Rule, 2019.

•The March 19 notification, issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, marked “stem cell derived products” under the definition of “new drugs”.

•It also mandated that such formulations be approved by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO). The new rules require clinics engaged in such “new drug” therapy to acquire a marketing licence. But there is no provision for an interim arrangement for patients during the application process.

•A Bench of Justices G.S. Sistani and Jyoti Singh said that as an interim measure and till such time as the clinics’ applications for licences are processed, the patients should continue to receive therapy from their clinics.

πŸ“° Sri Lanka situation ‘extremely worrying’, say OIC envoys

‘The lives and livelihoods of Muslims are threatened’

•Communal violence targeting Muslims in Sri Lanka has regional and global security implications, envoys of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries in Sri Lanka have cautioned, urging the government to take “every measure necessary” to prevent such incidents.

•“The developing situation over the past few days has been extremely worrying with regards to the safety and protection of the Sri Lankan Muslim community, including some foreign Muslim refugees. The lives and livelihoods of Muslims, including their local stores and large business establishments, are threatened by the prevailing conditions with unforeseen, dangerous consequences,” they said in a joint statement on Tuesday.

•Further, they sought “swift and stern judicial” action against perpetrators of communal violence, regardless of their “religious and political influence” in Sri Lankan society.

•Their message comes a day after all nine Muslim Ministers stepped down from their positions, in the wake of a fasting Buddhist monk’s demand that three prominent Muslim politicians — a Minister and two Governors — resign over Easter bombings. Scores of people marched in support of the monk, until he called off his hunger strike on Monday evening. The collective resignation of Ministers has stirred Colombo’s political circles, even as it pointed to the extent of the Buddhist clergy’s influence.

•As many as 14 OIC-member states have missions in Colombo. Select envoys, who attended an Iftar ceremony hosted by President Maithripala Sirisena on Monday, had a discussion with him following the event, on the developments since the April 21 Easter terror attacks. Conveying their concern over the “demonising” of Muslims by sections and the growing instances of hate speech, they requested President Sirisena to take steps to de-escalate tensions, sources present at the meeting said.

•Speaking at the ceremony earlier, President Sirisena had said “the country will be doomed” if conflicts arise due to different ethnicities.

•After the resignation of two Muslim Governors on Monday — following allegations linking them to Easter attacks suspects — President Sirisena appointed former Colombo Mayor A. J. M. Muzammil as Governor of the Western Province on Tuesday.

•Meanwhile, a three-member committee has been appointed at the Police Head Quarters to receive any complaints against former Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, and Governors M.L.A.M. Hizbullah, Azath Salley, who resigned on Monday.

πŸ“° Food safety is everyone’s business: WHO

An estimated 600 million cases of food-borne diseases occur annually around the world

•“Food safety is everyone’s business,’’ says the World Health Organisation (WHO) which has released figures that estimate 600 million cases of food-borne diseases occur annually worldwide. This translates into one in 10 people falling ill after eating contaminated food.

•“Food safety is an increasing threat to human health. Children under 5 years of age carry 40% of the food-borne disease burden with 1,25,000 deaths every year,’’ said WHO.

•A note issued by the organisation said the first-ever World Food Safety Day was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in December 2018 and this year it would be celebrated on June 7 with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) facilitating member-States’ effort to celebrate it.

•“Access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food is key to sustaining life and promoting good health. Food-borne diseases impede socio-economic development by straining health care systems and harming national economies, tourism and trade,’’ it said.

•Food is the starting point for our energy, our health and our well-being. We often take for granted that it is safe, but in an increasingly complex and interconnected world where food value chains are growing longer, standards and regulations are that much more important in keeping us safe.

•“The way in which food is produced, stored, handled and consumed affects the safety of our food. Complying with global food standards, establishing effective regulatory food control systems, including emergency preparedness and response, providing access to clean water, applying good agriculture practices (terrestrial, aquatic, livestock, horticulture), strengthening the use of food safety management systems by food business operators, and building capacities of consumers to make healthy food choices are some ways in which governments, international organisations, scientists, the private sector and civil society can work to ensure food safety,” the health organisation noted.

πŸ“° India at 95 on Gender Index

It is among 43 nations under ‘very poor’ category

•India ranked 95th out of a total 129 countries in the first-ever SDG Gender Index, which measures strides made in achieving gender commitments against internationally set targets.

•The index has been developed by Equal Measures 2030, which is a partnership among global and regional organisations from the civil society and the development and private sectors. It includes The African Women’s Development and Communication Network, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, International Women’s Health Coalition and Plan International.

•The index finds that no country has fully achieved the promise of gender equality and that the global average score of 65.7 out of 100 is “poor”. This means that almost 1.4 billion, or 40%, of the world’s girls and women live in countries failing on gender equality and another 1.4 billion live in countries that barely pass.

•Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Slovenia, Germany, Canada, Ireland, and Australia rank as the top 10 countries in the index, while the bottom 10 comprise Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Yemen, Congo, DR Congo and Chad.

•The SDG Gender Index includes 51 indicators across 14 of the 17 official Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The indicators include those that are gender specific, as well as those that are not but have an effect on girls and women.

•The overall index scores are based on a scale of 0–100. A score of 100 indicates the achievement of gender equality in relation to the underlying indicators. A score of 50 would indicate that a country is about halfway to meeting its goal.

•India’s score of 56.2 means that it is among 43 countries that fall in the ‘very poor’ category.

•India scores the highest in health (79.9), followed by hunger (76.2) and energy ( 71.8). Among the SDGs, on which the country performs poorly are patnerships (18.3), industry, infrastructure and innovation (38.1) and climate (43.4).

πŸ“° ‘Dolphins may have died due to environmental conditions’

•The two dolphins that were found dead near Mukka and Sasihitlu beach here three days ago could have died due to various environmental conditions, according to a team of scientists and researchers from the College of Fisheries, Mangaluru.

•Dolphins are a protected species as per the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972.

•The dolphins could have been stranded along the shore of Mangaluru due to various reasons. Among the reasons could be “extreme tidal fluxes, extreme weather condition, solar storms, human activities, illness or injury or pollution (toxic effects of oil spill),” the team said in a release on Tuesday.

πŸ“° Researchers turn plastic waste into jet fuel

•Scientists have found a novel way to turn daily plastic waste products like water bottles and plastic bags into jet fuel. Researchers at Washington State University in the U.S. melted plastic waste at high temperature with activated carbon, a processed carbon with increased surface area, to produce jet fuel.

πŸ“° ’Cyclone man’ Mrutyunjay Mohapatra appointed IMD chief

Mrutyunjay Mohapatra appointed IMD chief

•Renowned scientist and cyclone warning specialist Mrutyunjay Mohapatra was on Tuesday appointed chief of the India Meteorological Department (IMD), according to a Personnel Ministry order. Mr. Mohapatra and his team at the Cyclone Warning Division earned praise for their accurate forecasts on cyclones. The 54-year-old scientist and Additional Director-General of IMD will assume charge in August.

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