• Current Affairs, 29 April 2020

    RESET AND REFORM

    RELEVANT FOR: INDIAN ECONOMY | TOPIC: ISSUES RELATED TO POVERTY, INCLUSION, EMPLOYMENT & SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

    • In his interaction with state chief ministers on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modispoke about the need for ushering in reforms that touch the lives of citizens. While details of the specific reforms the government intends to pursue, or the possible roadmap, are still to be spelt out, the ongoing crisis provides an opportunity for a conversation on re-evaluating the state’s priorities. Two areas in particular deserve attention: First, the glaring inadequacies of the healthcare system in India. And second, the absence of safety nets for large sections of the labour force, including migrant labour. They need to be addressed urgently.
    • Public spending on healthcare in India continues to languish, falling well below levels in other countries which are at similar levels of income. Yet, over the years, there has been a tendency to favour an insurance-based model, moving away from significantly expanding the public provision of healthcare facilities. This crisis is exposing the inadequacies and limits of that model. In the Union Budgetof 2020-21, central government spending on health was pegged at Rs 67,484 crore, or 2.1 per cent of its total budgetary outlay. Government spending on health, at all levels, needs to be significantly increased. Yet, merely ramping up spending is unlikely to lead to the desired outcomes as preferences for private alternatives may dominate. Thus, spending plans will have to be reconfigured to ensure a commensurate rise in the quality of public healthcare facilities, in addition to ensuring accountability for the services being offered. The focus has to shift to primary healthcare, neglect of which leads to a rise in overall healthcare costs down the line, as well as lowering health outcomes. The centralised model of healthcare spending also needs to be reexamined. As this crisis has shown, states have varying levels of institutional capacity, and going ahead, this needs to be factored in.
    • The pandemichas also exposed the precarious living condition of casual wage labourers, including the large migrant population, and their difficulties in accessing basic services. Dependent largely on daily wages, this section of the labour force does not have safety nets, and a drop in their incomes can push them into poverty. To address this, a social security architecture that is geared towards ensuring access to healthcare services, providing short-term relief for loss of income, and compensation for occupational hazard, needs to be urgently considered. There is need to ensure portability of benefits, such as the provision of food through the public distribution system. The long-term strategy should be to bring greater numbers into the formal workforce, which will provide them with some form of social security. The government could incentivise this shift by funding part of the social security contributions, as it has done through the Pradhan Mantri Rojgar Protsahan Yojana (PMRPY) where it pays the full employers’ contribution towards their provident fund.

     

    VIVIDLY IMAGINING THE LIFE OF MIGRANT WORKERS

    RELEVANT FOR: INDIAN ECONOMY | TOPIC: ISSUES RELATED TO POVERTY, INCLUSION, EMPLOYMENT & SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

    • The current pandemic has forced us to think about the plight of workers in our country. While the virushas demonstrated the enormous value of health workers, it has also enhanced public awareness of the pivotal role of migrant workers in our economy. We have been compelled to realise that between 100 million to 125 million people leave their villages, families and homes to find work far away wherever they can find it; their invisible hands harvest the crops and feed us, clean streets, run factories, build roads, and construct our houses.
    • Living away from home is never easy. A home is not made of brick and mortar, certainly not tin or planks of wood. It is where one finds comfort, nurtures relationships, and raises a family. It gives sanctuary from daily struggles. An extension of one’s identity, it provides us a sense of belonging. A place of tranquillity and serenity, it is where one longs to be when not there. This can only be where one’s family, friends and community reside, not an inhospitable, overcrowded room with strangers. Not surprisingly, hungry migrant workers were determined to trudge hundreds of kilometres to reach “home” in their village. I believe many would have preferred to do so even if they were fed by their employers or the State, which clearly they were not. Surely, they were entirely justified in asking why Indians stranded abroad were flown back in special planes or middle-class students brought back to their hometowns from coaching centres in Kota, Rajasthan, but no such arrangements were made for them? Why this differential treatment? Are they not citizens of the same country? Are they any less Indian?
    • Lockdown displaces lakhs of migrants
    • The current plight of migrant workers during the lockdown should become an occasion to reflect on their abysmal condition in “normal” times. Many “contractual labourers” rarely see a written contract. A minimum, regular wage per month is legally required but seldom paid. Many do not receive wages for months, and at the end of the season when they are finally paid it is often less than what was agreed. There is a lack of transparency in accounting — excessive, arbitrary and unexpected deductions from final payments are common.
    • Lack of regular wages means that workers either borrow from employers or from local moneylenders. This renders them even more financially vulnerable because of indebtedness. Quite often they work long hours, between 10 and 13 hours a day, live in tents or makeshift shanties without access to potable water, toilets, and electricity. I doubt if they are ever fully protected from the elements. Many of them do not have a kitchen and are forced to eat from local street vendors who live in similar conditions. Under such dire working and living circumstances, is it a surprise that under an unexpected lockdown they all wish to return to their original homes?
    • The Prime Minister recently spoke of the need for empathy and compassion during pandemics. These are admirable moral virtues, always necessary, not just in emergencies. But ultimately, individual virtues are insufficient to deal with social malaise. For it is not feelings of individuals but enduring collective sentiment crystallised around a stable course of action by public agencies that really matter. Effective public policies are indispensable. Gurudwaras and non-governmental organisations may complement its efforts to feed the hungry, but it remains the prime duty of the state to do so.
    • Coronavirus lockdown | Migrant workers and their long march to uncertainty
    • In short, a regime of social policy, pivotal for a minimal welfare state must be installed to address the basic needs of all Indian citizens, not only during pandemics but for all times, to meet any contingency. Socioeconomic rights, including the right to work, have long been part of our Directive Principles of State Policy. By enacting the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act law in 2005, the Indian Parliament had set in motion a process that makes a specific and significant welfare provision constitutive of the very idea of citizenship. To be a citizen of a polity is to be entitled to an opportunity to work. Now, manual work in extremely hot conditions on parched terrain is an energy-draining, back-breaking chore, not quite a source of self-realisation central to the emancipatory vision of Gandhi, Hegel or Marx. And yet, even such paid manual labour is a far cry from receiving charity. Under democratic norms of equality, living on charity is demeaning and lowers self-esteem. There is a sense in which any voluntary work, no matter how arduous, quietly uplifts and enhances dignity and basic self-respect — a point gracefully underscored by a group of painters (migrant labour) in Palsana, Sikar in Rajasthan, when they chose to give a fresh coat of paint to an entire school building in return for the shelter provided to them during lockdown.
    • Coronavirus | Opeds and editorials
    • Work is one among many sources of satisfaction and self-respect. Our Directive Principles focus on others — proper housing, for instance. It is time the state took these seriously. While no state can build a home — which needs personal care and must be our own handiwork — the right to housing can certainly be guaranteed for it is implicit in the article enjoining the state to provide a decent standard of living.
    • Coronavirus lockdown| Migrant workers not welcome back home in Bihar
    • However, such social policies will not be forthcoming unless we, who make these policies, stopped viewing the poor as sub-human. This is a controversial statement and requires some explanation. I believe the best of us carry the image of the poor as labouring creatures with basic material needs who beget children. They suffer when deprived of these material needs. Our humanity lies in empathetically acknowledging this suffering. This, however, is not an image that we have of ourselves. We have more complex social, cultural, political and even spiritual needs. We need quality time with our children, and leisure for ourselves; companionship and friendship, a flourishing social life; music, literature, art, poetry; time to fulfil our obligations in the public domain. And of course, we need our privacy, hours of solitude, space for self-reflection. Our suffering too is different: we have anxieties and phobias, inner turmoil, loss of a sense of self.
    • Assuming these profound differences between them and us, it does not cross our minds that the poor have multiple deprivations — not only material but social, cultural, familial, spiritual. When did a policymaker ever worry about the quality of family or spiritual life among the poor? Or whether they have time for their children or for leisure? Or how impoverished they might be because of their inability to adequately self-reflect.
    • Coronavirus lockdown| Migrants’ return home will lead to fourth lockdown: Bihar BJP chief
    • I do not wish to make the absurd demand that our state policies be designed to care for all these non-material needs. My point is that unless policymakers have the same conception of the poor as they have of themselves — persons with rich, varied and complex needs — they will not realise the grave consequences of the material deprivations endured by the poor or show the urgency to remove them. In short, policymakers need to realise that they deal with complete human beings. Unless they are able to vividly imagine the poor as fully human they will never design proper policies to address even their material needs. Alas, this will not happen unless policymakers feel their pain — literature and cinema can help here — and there is real, continuing contact between the two.

     

    STRENGTHENING THE LOCAL

    RELEVANT FOR: INDIAN ECONOMY | TOPIC: EFFECTS OF LIBERALIZATION ON THE ECONOMY, CHANGES IN INDUSTRIAL POLICY AND THEIR EFFECTS ON INDUSTRIAL GROWTH INCL. ECONOMIC REFORMS

    • The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman’s paean to globalisation, begins with a golf game in Bengaluru with the CEO of a global Indian IT firm. When he saw billboards of European and Japanese MNCs around the golf-course, Friedman had a “eureka” moment. He called his wife in the US on his cellphone, and said, “The world is flat”. When Friedman launched his book in New Delhi in 2005, India’s Minister for Panchayati Raj, Mani Shankar Aiyar, disagreed with his view. Jetsetters may be connected with the rest of the world, he said. However, they don’t know what is happening in villages just 50km from where they live.
    • The sub-title of Friedman’s book was, A Brief History of the 21st Century. The history of the globalisation he was celebrating has turned out to be very brief. In 2020, the global COVID-19pandemic has forced millions of Indians to return to their villages. Jetsetters have been locked in their gated communities. Global supply chains have been broken apart. People are scrambling for essentials from local suppliers. The ideology of globalisation has hit realities on the ground.
    • Recovery from COVID-19 is an opportunity to create economies that are more resilient and fair. Three architectural principles must apply.
    • The first principle is, economies of “scale” should be replaced by economies of “scope”. A complex global economy in which local producers obtain scale (and lower costs) by supplying products for global markets is vulnerable to shutdowns anywhere. Local economies that have a variety of capabilities within them, albeit on smaller scales, are more resilient. Therefore, local economic webs must be strengthened, in preference to global supply-chains.
    • COVID-19 has settled, for now, the debate between free-trade evangelists and advocates of industrial policy. “Make in India,” which was dismissed by free traders as a reversion to pre-1991 economic policies, has become a necessity — to maintain supplies of essentials and to create employment for the hundreds of millions of Indians with fragile incomes who have been badly shaken by the lock-down of the Indian economy.
    • The second principle is; local systems solutions are essential for global systemic problems. Garrett Hardin had coined the expression, “The Tragedy of the Commons”, in 1968, for the proposition that a resource that belongs to everybody will not be cared for by anybody. This supported policies to privatise public property, ostensibly for the benefit of everybody and became the dominant school of economics from the 1970s onwards. “Capitalists” often cite Hardin in their quarrel with “socialists”.
    • Elinor Ostrom, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for economics in 2008 (the first woman economics laureate, after 62 men), offered a different explanation for the tragedy of the commons. She argued that common resources are well-managed when those who benefit from such resources the most are in close proximity to them. For her, the tragedy occurred when external groups exerted their power (politically, economically or socially) to gain a personal advantage. She was greatly supportive of the “bottom-up” approach to issues: Government intervention could not be effective unless supported by individuals and communities, she asserted.
    • The world is facing challenges of ecological sustainability and persistent inequalities, which seem to get worse with the prevailing paradigm of economic growth. These challenges are described in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They cut across national boundaries. They also span several domains of expertise and institutional mandates. The final, 17th goal states the principle by which all the goals will be achieved — “partnerships”.
    • Effective action to address multiple challenges together requires “systems thinking” — that is, a systemic vision spanning across the problems. In contrast, the prevalent action theory, used by governments, businesses and philanthropic organisations to solve complex problems, focuses on breaking complex problems into components and then tackling the components in separate silos. Indeed, this widely prevalent theory of action has contributed greatly to causing the systemic, interconnected problems the SDGs now aim to address.
    • Systems thinking is essential, amongst experts at the top and amongst partners on the ground. Several organisations are promoting collaborative action with systems thinking on the ground in India. Kudumbashree in Kerala has proven the power of community action. The Foundation for Ecological Security, guided by Elinor Ostrom’s ideas, is working in many Indian states. Dainik Bhaskar is promoting “SDG chaupals” in Indian villages.
    • The third principle for the new economy is, empower the people, the fundamental requirement for genuine democracy. Countering Friedman’s celebration of globalisation, Aiyar mentioned India’s constitutional requirements for self-governance in India’s towns and villages. These are not being implemented by governments and policy experts who do not want to give up power to the people.
    • India lives in its villages, Mahatma Gandhihad said. Most of India still does. And many, who had migrated to cities looking for jobs, are returning, shaken by the pandemic. Gandhi was a systems thinker. He also had a vision for a just world. For Gandhi, the global village was an abstract concept. This cannot be realised until local villages and towns become harmonious communities, where people live in harmony with each other and with nature around them.
    • COVID-19 marks the end of the economics’ paradigm of the Washington Consensus. New models of economies, and new rules of global governance, must be bottom-up, not top-down. That’s how the whole world can move from relief, to recovery, and into resilience.

     

    JAL SHAKTI ABHIYAN GEARS UP FOR MONSOON

    RELEVANT FOR: GEOGRAPHY | TOPIC: DISTRIBUTION OF KEY NATURAL RESOURCES – WATER RESOURCES INCL. RIVERS & RELATED ISSUES IN WORLD & INDIA, MINISTRY OF JAL SHAKTI

    Jal Shakti Abhiyan gears up for monsoon

     

    • ‘Jal Shakti Abhiyan’—is all set to combat the present health crisis and give a boost to the rural economy through its various components. This year owing to the COVID-19 emergency, and availability of large labour force in rural areas, the Abhiyan has started gearing up for the impending monsoon.
    • In a first of its case a Joint Advisory has been issued from the Department of Rural Development, Dept. of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation, Dept. of Land Resources & Dept of Drinking Water & Sanitation to all the Chief Secretaries of all States/ UTs, in context with the impending monsoon this year and the preparations to be done for water conservation and recharge which is of utmost importance for our country.
    • Last year Jal Shakti Abhiyan was launched and it covered 256 water stressed districts across the country. This ‘Abhiyan’ is a mass movement to bring all the stakeholders under one ambit of water conservation drive, and last year it had a nationwide impact. Under this Abhiyan more than six and a half crore people became part comprising of State Govts, Central Govt, Civil Society Organisations, Panchayati Raj Institutions and Communities.  More than seventy- five lakh traditional and other water bodies and tanks were renovated and around a crore water conservation & rainwater harvesting structures were created.
    • Encouraged by the response, a wider and more intensive strategy was planned for this year. But owing to the current health emergency, Central Govt officials will not be deployed in Abhiyan this summer. In view of it, it will be ensured that all available resources be optimally deployed to catch the rain during the monsoon this year and preparatory activities are also well placed.
    • Ministry of Home Affairs have allowed to take up MNGREGS works/ drinking water & sanitation works during lockdown with priority to be given to irrigation and water conservation works. Central and State sector schemes in irrigation and water conservation sectors have also been allowed to be implemented with suitable dovetailing with MNREGS works. It will be further ensured that all works are undertaken with strict implementation of social distancing, use of face covers/ masks and other necessary precautions. Rejuvenation of traditional water bodies, removal of encroachments in the water bodies, desilting of lakes & ponds, construction/ strengthening of inlets/outlets, catchment area treatment can be taken up on priority. Similarly, rejuvenation of small rivers through community driven River Basin Management practices may also be initiated. Such activities would ensure water source sustainability in rural areas and would strengthen the ongoing Jal Jeevan Mission being implemented by Ministry of Jal Shakti.  In addition to it the Village Action Plan (VAP) prepared by local community for Jal Jeevan Mission will provide a solid framework to the rural activities.

     

    XI PETERSBERG CLIMATE DIALOGUE

    RELEVANT FOR:- BIODIVERSITY & ENVIRONMENT/ TOPICS :-  GOVERNMENT POLICIES & INTERVENTIONS, GROUPINGS & AGREEMENTS INVOLVING INDIA AND/OR AFFECTING INDIA’S INTERESTS, IMPORTANT INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS, INTERNATIONAL TREATIES & AGREEMENTS, CONSERVATION, ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION & DEGRADATION, ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT (EIA)

    • Recently, theUnion Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change attended the 11th Petersberg Climate Dialogue.
    • The dialogue was held virtually for the first time in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

    Important Points

    Petersberg Climate Dialogue

    • It has been hosted by Germany since 2010to provide a forum for informal high-level political discussions, focusing both on international climate negotiations and the advancement of climate action.
    • The virtual XI Petersberg Climate Dialogue was co-chaired by Germany and the United Kingdom (UK)and was attended by about 30 countries including India.
    • The UK is the incoming Presidency of the 26thConference of Parties (COP 26) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
    • COP 25was held at Madrid, Spain in December 2019.
    • This year’s dialogue was crucial because of the efforts to contain coronavirusas well as countries preparing to move into the implementation phase of the Paris Agreement 2015 in the post-2020 period.

    India’s Contributions in the Dialogue:

      • India expressed solidarity with the world as it combats the Covid-19 pandemic and emphasised on adopting more sustainable consumption patterns in line with the requirement of sustainable lifestyles.
      • India suggested having climate technology as an open source available to all countries at affordable prices.
      • India stressed on climate finance and urged to plan for 1 trillion USD in grants to the developing world immediately.
      • India highlighted its Nationally Determined Contributions spanning a ten-year time frame and in compliance with the temperature goal of the Paris Agreement.
      • India focused on the opportunity to accelerate renewable energy deployment and create new green jobs in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sector.

    Paris Agreement 2015

    • Parties to UNFCCC agreed to strive to limit the rise in global warming to well under 2 degrees Celsius, over pre-industrial levels, by 2100, under Paris Agreement 2015.
    • Nationally determined contributions (NDCs) were conceived at the Paris summit which require each Party to prepare, communicate and maintain successive NDCs that it intends to achieve.
    • Parties shall pursue domestic mitigation measures, with the aim of achieving the objectives of such contributions.
    • Paris Agreement replaced earlier agreement to deal with climate change, Kyoto Protocol.

    Kyoto Protocol

    • It was an international agreement linked to the UNFCCC, which committed its parties by setting internationally binding emission reduction targets.
    • It was adopted in Kyoto, Japan in 1997 and entered into force in 2005.
    • It recognized that developed countries are principally responsible for the current high levels of greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions in the atmosphere as a result of more than 150 years of industrial activity.
    • The detailed rules for the implementation of the Protocol were adopted at COP-7 in Marrakesh, in 2001 and are referred to as the Marrakesh Accords.
    • Kyoto Protocol Phase-1 (2005-12) gave the target of cutting down emissions by 5%.
    • Phase-2 (2013-20) gave the target of reducing emissions by at least 18% by the industrialized countries.

    USCIRF ANNUAL REPORT-2020

    RELEVANT FOR: – INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS / TOPICS: – IMPORTANT INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS

    • Recently, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)has downgraded India to the lowest ranking of “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPC) in its 2020 report on religious freedom.
    • USCIRF has placed India alongside China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. India was categorised as a “Tier 2 country” in last year’s listing.
    • This is the first time since 2004 that India has been placed in the CPC category.

    Important Points

    • Designation of the CPC is the top tier recommendation by the USCIRF when it comes to violation of international religious freedom.It is followed by Special Watch List Countries for severe violations.
    • Reasons:
    • India took a sharp downward turn in 2019,which included specific concerns about the Citizenship Amendment Act, the proposed National Register for Citizens, anti-conversion laws and the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.
    • Indian government used its parliamentary majority to institute national-level policies violating religious freedom of minorities,especially for Muslims.
    • Earlier, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) had criticised the Indian governmentfor “growing Islamophobia” in the country.
    • Steps suggested to U.S:
    • The U.S. government should take stringent action against India under the “International Religious Freedom Act” (IRFA).
    • The International Religious Freedom Act of 1998was passed to promote religious freedom as a foreign policy of the United States.
    • It aims to promote greater religious freedomin countries which engage in or tolerate violations of religious freedom, and to advocate on the behalf of individuals persecuted for their religious beliefs and activities in foreign countries.
    • To imposetargeted sanctions on Indian government agencies and officials responsible for severe violations of religious freedom.
    • India’s stand:The Indian government has rejected the USCIRF report and termed it “biased and tendentious”.

    U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)

    • USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission, dedicated to defending the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad.
    • The USCIRF is also an advisory body to the US Congress.
    • USCIRF reviews the facts and circumstances of religious freedom violations and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress.
    • It is Headquartered at Washington DC.

    HUMAN CHALLENGE TRIALS

    RELEVANT FOR:- SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY/ TOPICS :-HEALTH, SCIENTIFIC INNOVATIONS & DISCOVERIES

    • In the race to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus,many people have volunteered to take part in the Human Challenge Trials (HCTs).
    • It involves intentionally infecting volunteers with the novel coronavirus, in order to speed up the vaccination development.

    Important Points

    Vaccine Development

    • In most of the regulatory regimes, vaccines take several years to developand their development typically proceeds through three phases of clinical trials.
    • Phase 1:Small groups of people receive the trial vaccine.
    • Phase 2:Clinical study is expanded and the vaccine is given to people who have characteristics (such as age and physical health) similar to those for whom the new vaccine is intended.
    • Phase 3:Vaccine is given to several thousand people and tested for efficacy and safety. During this phase, participants either receive the vaccine or a placebo.
    • Placebois anything which looks like real treatment but it is actually not. For example- sugar pills and saline injections.
    • The vaccine’s efficacy is determined by comparing the prevalence of infectionin the group that was administered the vaccine with the one which received a placebo.
    • Thehypothesis that those in the vaccine group will be infected significantly less is thus tested.

    Human Challenge Trials

    • Under HCTs, participants of both the vaccine group and placebo group are deliberately exposed to the infectionafter their consent and thus are challenged by the disease organism.
    • HCTs are not newand they are usually carried out in developing medications for diseases which are considered less lethal and have been better understood by scientists over the years like malaria.
    • Few scientists have suggested replacing the conventional Phase 3 testingof vaccines by controlled HCTs of Covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2) vaccine which can accelerate the testing and potential rollout of efficacious vaccines.
      • Such trials may reduce many months from the licensure process,making efficacious vaccines available more quickly and will also require significantly less number of people than regular Phase 3 trials.

    Ethical Concerns

      • HCTs for Covid-19 have been questioned by critics because it is a potentially deadly disease for even those who are less at risk, and has not been studied fully yet.
      • In 2016, the World Health Organisation (WHO) emphasised on the ethical framework of the challenge studies and also highlighted the importance of informed consent.
      • Human challenge studies should be conducted with abundant forethought, caution, and oversight. The value of the information to be gained should clearly justify the risks to human subjects.

    NO IMPROVEMENT IN GANGA WATER QUALITY

    RELEVANT FOR :- BIODIVERSITY & ENVIRONMENT/ TOPICS:- CONSERVATION

    • According to a report published by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB),the pollution in Ganga has not reduced significantly during lockdown.
    • The CPCB assessed pollution a week before lockdown and weeks after at 36 locations in Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

    Important Points

    • The Dissolved Oxygen (DO) concentration improved marginally.
    • There is a gradual increase in Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) levels towards downstream stretches of the river, with the maximum values in West Bengal.
    • There is marginal reduction in Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) levels which is attributed due to the stoppage of industrial activities.
    • The pollution in Ganga is highest in Uttar Pradesh.
    • Causes of Pollution: Domestic wastewater from 97 towns situated near river Ganga, and industrial effluents, are the main sources of water pollution in the river.
    • There was notable improvement in water quality in the Yamuna.

    Dissolved Oxygen

    • Dissolved Oxygen is a measure of the amount of free oxygen available in river systems.
    • Presence of organic and inorganic wastes in water decreases the dissolved oxygen content of the water.
    • A number of factors like surface turbulence, photosynthetic activity, O2 consumption by organisms and decomposition of organic matter are the factors which determine the amount of DO present in water.
    • The quality of water increases with an increase in DO levels.

    Biochemical Oxygen Demand

    • Water pollution by organic wastes is measured in terms of Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD).
    • BOD is the amount of dissolved oxygen needed by bacteria in decomposing the organic wastes present in water. It is expressed in milligrams of oxygen per litre of water.
    • The higher value of BOD indicates low DO content of water.
    • Since BOD is limited to biodegradable materials, it is not a reliable method of measuring water pollution.

    Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD)

    • COD measures the amount of oxygen in parts per million required to oxidise organic (biodegradable and non-biodegradable) and oxidizable inorganic compounds in the water sample.

    The Ganga River System

    • The headwaters of the Ganga called the ‘Bhagirathi’ is fed by the Gangotri Glacier and joined by the Alaknanda at Devprayag in Uttarakhand.
    • At Haridwar, Ganga emerges from the mountains to the plains.
    • The Ganga is joined by many tributaries from the Himalayas, a few of them being major rivers such as the Yamuna, the Ghaghara, the Gandak and the Kosi.
    • The Ganga bifurcates at Farakka Barrage; the Bhagirathi-Hooghly (a distributary) flows southwards through the deltaic plains to the Bay of Bengal. The mainstream flows southwards into Bangladesh and is joined by the Brahmaputra leading to the Sunderbans Delta.

    Central Pollution Control Board

    • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) of India is a statutory organisation under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
    • It was established in 1974 under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.
    • The CPCB is also entrusted with the powers and functions under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.

    NITI AAYOG QUESTIONS GTI

    RELEVANT FOR: – INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS/ TOPICS :-INDIA AND ITS NEIGHBOURHOOD, GROUPINGS & AGREEMENTS INVOLVING INDIA AND/OR AFFECTING INDIA’S INTERESTS, EFFECT OF POLICIES & POLITICS OF COUNTRIES ON INDIA’S INTERESTS, IMPORTANT INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS, LINKAGES OF ORGANIZED CRIME WITH TERRORISM, TERRORISM IN HINTERLAND & BORDER AREAS

    • A report compiled byNITI Aayog has questioned the methodology adopted by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), to rank India as the seventh worst terrorism affected country.
    • IEP is an Australian based institutewhich releases the annual Global Terrorism Index (GTI).
    • It is based on four parameters:
    • Number of terrorist incidents per year.
    • Number of fatalities caused by terrorists per year.
    • Number of injuries caused by terrorists per year.
    • Total property damage caused by terrorism per year.

    Important Points

    • In GTI 2019,India has moved to the seventh position from the previous year’s eighth
    • Countries Ahead:Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Syria, Pakistan and Somalia. (top 6).
    • Countries Behind:Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Sudan, Burkina Faso, Palestine and Lebanon. (at different ranks)
    • NITI Aayog was being asked totrack various global indices. The purpose was to see:
    • How they can help drive reforms and growth.
    • Which of these require some amount of engagement with the publishing agencyto make the indices more relevant.
    • In 2017, India challenged at the International Labour Organisation(ILO), the country’s ranking in a Global Slavery Report published by the Walk Free Foundation, Australia.
    • Use of GTI scores in other rankings:
    • Direct Use:In Global Peace Index, the Global Slavery Report
    • Indirect Use:In the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness and Global Competitiveness Indices and compilation of Safe Cities Index by the Economist Intelligence Unit.
    • The position in the global indices impact investments and other global opportunities.

    Highlights of the Report

    • The NITI Aayog questioned the rankingsas well as the funding of the IEP.
    • The funding source and the list of donorshas not been revealed.
    • Findings:
    • The GTD is based solely on unclassified media articles,with more than 100 structured variables such as each attack’s location, tactics and weapons, perpetrators, casualties and consequences etc.
    • The organisation has only 12 full-time staff, 12 full-time equivalent staff and 6 volunteers.
    • It is something to focus on how the organization is able to annually collect, meaningfully analyse and disseminate data about 163 countries in the Global Terrorism and Peace Indices and provide country wise national peace reports with such minimal resources.
    • Criticism of the Methodology:
    • The GTD lacks mechanisms to engage with Governmentsor to further classify and verify open source media reports through Government databases in any of the 163 countries it covers.
    • The lack of a universally accepted definition of terrorismleads to
    • The Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism(CCIT) is pending in the United Nations General Assembly since 2014.
    • The definition of mass shootingsused in the GTI is limited to indiscriminate rampages in public places resulting in four or more victims killed by the attacker.
    • It leaves out lone wolf attackswhich may have lesser fatalities and more injuries, and attacks foiled by security and intelligence agencies.
    • The NITI Aayog report concluded that the GTI has low direct value for policymakers due to theabsence of a robust data collection and analysis methodology and any engagement with Governments facing the scourge of terrorism.
    • Given the reasons, it cannot be used as an aid to understand and alleviate challengesto countries from domestic and cross border terrorism.

    BRICS FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET

    RELEVANT FOR :- INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS/ TOPICS :- GROUPINGS & AGREEMENTS INVOLVING INDIA AND/OR AFFECTING INDIA’S INTERESTS

    • Recently, the External Affairs Minister of India attended the BRICS Foreign Ministers meetthrough video conferencing.
    • This meeting was convened by Russia to discuss the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

    Important Points

    • BRICS nations have set up a “special loan instrument”of $15 billion fund for member nations to revive the economy amid Covid-19 pandemic
    • BRICS nations exchanged views onpossible joint measures to be taken by the member states to counter Covid-19 and overcome the financial, trade, economic and social consequences of the pandemic.
    • Indiashowcased its pharmaceutical support to around 85 countries to deal with the viral infection. It also highlighted the need for reforms in the multilateral bodies like the United Nations.
    • The UN Security Councilmembers are currently discussing draft resolutions on the Covid-19 pandemic.

    BRICS

    • BRICSis an acronym for the grouping of the world’s leading emerging economies, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.
      • In2001, the British Economist Jim O’Neill coined the term BRIC to describe the four emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, and China.
      • The grouping was formalisedduring the first meeting of BRIC Foreign Ministers in
      • South Africa was invited to join BRIC in December 2010, after which the group adopted the acronym BRICS.
    • It comprises 42% of the world’s population, has23% of the global GDP and around 17% of the world trade.
    • Thechairmanship of the forum is rotated annually among the members, in accordance with the acronym B-R-I-C-S.
    • The BRICS Leaders’ Summitis convened
    • During the Sixth BRICS Summit in Fortaleza (2014) the leaders signed the Agreement establishing the New Development Bank (NDB).They also signed the BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement.

    $1.5 BILLION ADB LOAN TO INDIA

    RELEVANT FOR:- INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS/ TOPICS :- IMPORTANT INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS, REGIONAL GROUPINGS

    • Recently, the Asian Development Bank (ADB)has provided a $1.5 billion loan to India to fund India’s immediate response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
    • Earlier, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) had assured Indian government of $2.2 billion (about Rs 16,500 crore) support to fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

    Important Points

    • The loan will help the Central government to focus on immediate priorities such as:
    • Covid-19 containment and prevention.
    • Social protection for the poor and economically vulnerable sections of the society.
    • The loan has been provided under ADB’s Covid-19 Active Response and Expenditure Support (CARES) Program. The CARES Program
    • support the government’s stimulus packagegeared to expand existing social assistance programs,
    • boost resources for Covid-19 prevention and control,
    • safeguard productive sectors and workers from the economic downturn.
    • The CARES Program is funded through the Covid-19 Pandemic Response Option (CPRO)under ADB’s Countercyclical Support Facility.
    • CPRO was introduced as part of a $20 billion package approved by ADB on 13thApril, 2020 to assist its developing member countries in their fight against Covid-19.
    • The CARES Program will beimplemented through a country engagement framework focused on policy dialogue and monitoring of the government’s countercyclical strategy and measures.

    Asian Development Bank

    • ADB is a regional development bank established on 19th December 1966.
    • ADB now has 68 members, 49 from within Asia.
    • Japan holds the largest proportion of shares in ADB followed by the USA.
    • It aims to promote social and economic development in Asia.
    • ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty.
    • ADB is headquartered in Manila, Philippines.

    ANTI-CORRUPTION LAW COVERS DEEMED UNIVERSITIES

    RELEVANT FOR :- INDIAN POLITY/ TOPICS :- TRANSPARENCY & ACCOUNTABILITY, JUDICIARY

    • TheSupreme Court has held that bribery and corruption in a deemed university can be tried under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
    • It has said that individuals, authorities connected to a deemed university come under the definition of ‘public servant’ and can be tried and punished under the anti-corruption law.

    Important Points

    • The Supreme Court observed that the officials of a deemed university do not perform any less of a public dutythan their counterparts in other universities.
    • Deemed universities come within the ambit of theterm ‘university’ in Section 2(c)(xi) of the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act, 1988.
    • A deemed institution under the University Grants Commission (UGC) Act of 1956 has the same common public duty like a university to confer academic degrees,which are recognised in the society.
    • The object of the PC Act was not only to prevent the social evil of bribery and corruption, but also to make the same applicable to individuals who might conventionally not be considered public servants.

    Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act, 1988

    • Section 2(c)(xi) of the Prevention of Corruption Act states that a “public servant” includes “any person who is a vice­-chancellor or member of any governing body, professor, reader, lecturer or any other teacher or employee, by whatever designation called, of any university.

    Deemed University

    • The status of deemed-to-be-university is awarded in accordance with the Section 3 of the University Grants Commission (UGC) Act, 1956.
    • An Institution of Higher Education, other than universities, working at a very high standard in a specific area of study, can be declared by the Central Government on the advice of the UGC as an Institution ‘deemed-to-be-university’.
    • Institutions that are ‘deemed-to-be-university’ enjoy academic status and privileges of a university.

     

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