UPSC Exam: Comprehensive News Analysis - January 11

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS1 Related
B. GS2 Related
POLITY
1. UIDAI introduces 2-tier security to shield Aadhaar data
2. BCI mulls ban on practice by lawmakers
3. SC questions mandatory prayer in Kendriya Vidyalayas
4. PM sets targets for 115 backward districts
5. How can homeless get Aadhaar, asks Supreme Court
GOVERNANCE
1. Discussion on National Medical Commission Bill
INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS/BILATERAL RELATIONS
1. India, ASEAN to focus on maritime security during summit
2. China to fund base in Afghanistan
HEALTH ISSUES
1. India misses Kala Azar elimination deadline
C. GS3 Related
ECONOMY
1. Cabinet eases norms to allow foreign investment up to 49% in Air India
2. Infrastructure in Rural India
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
1. Har Gobind Khorana : The Nobel laureate
D. GS4 Related
E. Prelims Fact
F. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
G. UPSC Mains Practice Questions 

 

A. GS1 Related

 Nothing here for today!!!

 

B. GS2 Related

 Category: POLITY

1. UIDAI introduces 2-tier security to shield Aadhaar data

 In news:

  • The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has introduced ‘Virtual ID’ (VID) to safeguard Aadhaar cardholders’ data
  • VID will be a 16-digit, randomly-generated number which can be used for authentication instead of the original Aadhaar number, according to UIDAI

Modus operandi:

  • VID will be a temporary, revocable 16-digit random number mapped with the Aadhaar number
  • VID can be generated only by the Aadhaar number holder
  • It will not be possible to derive Aadhaar number from VID
  • Last digit of the VID is the checksum using ‘Verhoeff’ algorithm as in Aadhaar number. There will be only one active and valid VID for an Aadhaar number at any given time
  • UIDAI will provide various options to Aadhaar number holders to generate their VID, retrieve their VID in case they forget, and replace their VID with a new number

2. BCI mulls ban on practice by lawmakers

 In news:

  • An expert committee of the Bar Council of India is considering a plea to ban lawmakers — Members of Parliament and Members of the Assemblies — from doubling up as practicing advocates
  • BCI opinion: they are salaried public servants and cannot ride two horses at the same time.

Petition:

  • The petition was filed by Supreme Court advocate Ashwini Upadhyay
  • Petitioner contended that MPs and MLAs draw their salaries from the Consolidated Fund of India, hence, are “employees of the state”.
  • While an advocate should be fully dedicated to his profession, legislators are also expected “to dedicate their fulltime to public and their constituents ahead of their personal and financial interests

Various rules and laws:

  • BCI rule 49: It restricts a salaried employee from practicing as an advocate.
  • Under Section 21 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 2(c) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, MLAs and MPs are public servants. Hence, allowing them to practice, as an advocate and restricting other public servants is arbitrary, irrational and violation of Articles 14-15 of the Constitution.

Defending lawbreakers’

  • Professional misconduct: MLAs and MPs, who get salary and other benefits from the public fund, appear against the government.
  • Some of these lawmakers even hold corporate retainer-ships.
  • They appear against the State to defend their lawbreaker clients in the Court of Law, which is the matter of conflict of interest.

3. SC questions mandatory prayer in Kendriya Vidyalayas

 In news:

  • The Supreme Court questioned a revised education code followed by the Central government-run and Kendriya Vidyalayas
  • The revised code makes students to recite Sanskrit and Hindi verses with folded palms and closed eyes during morning assemblies or face public humiliation in front of the entire school.

Petition contention:

  • A secular State, which is supposed to have no religion, is compelling students drawn from diverse faiths, beliefs, minority communities and many who may be coming from agnostic, scepticist and rationalist family backgrounds to recite a prayer which is “based on Hindu religion”, under threat of punishment.
  • The revised education code of the Kendriya Vidyalayas violates Articles 19 (right to freedom of speech and expression) and Article 28 (1), which prohibits the State from providing any religious instruction in an educational institution run on public funds.
  • It is constitutionally impermissible to impose the prayer on students of other faiths and beliefs.
  • Students have a fundamental right to pray according to the practices of their religion or not pray at all.
  • The practice is an obstacle to fostering a scientific temperament among the students as the whole idea of God and religious faith is given immense priority and the same is instilled as a thought process among the students.
  • The practice would encourage students to take refuge in supernatural rather than developing a practical resolve to overcome the hurdles of everyday life, the petition said.

4. PM sets targets for 115 backward districts

 Minutes of Cabinet meeting:

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi told all ministries to report on the initiatives taken by them for 115 backward districts and also to come up with an action plan for these districts.
  • Among the 115 districts, 35 are affected by Left Wing violence.
  • The districts were identified on the basis of indicators of education, health, nutrition, basic infrastructure, rural household electrification, and access to potable water and individual toilets.
  • Jharkhand tops the list, with 19 backward districts, followed by Bihar with 13 districts; Chhattisgarh is at the third spot with 10 districts.
  • Niti Ayog is developing a real-time monitoring mechanism of key performance indicators and will rank the districts on a continuous basis.
  • While selecting the districts, maximum weightage was given to data of landless households dependent on manual labour. The other criteria were nutritional level of children below five years and their drop-out rate from schools.

5. How can homeless get Aadhaar, asks Supreme Court

 In news:

  • Supreme Court pulled up the Centre on its insistence on Aadhaar card from homeless persons across the country seeking asylum in night shelter homes during the current winter.
  • SC Questions:
  • How the Centre intends to issue the Aadhaar card for lakhs of homeless persons in the country in the absence of a residential identity.
  • How such persons could be given any national identity at all when they do not have any individual proof of residence.

Maintenance of night shelters:

  • The court later directed that all states and UTs in the country shall have three member coordination committees each headed by the principal secretary, urban development to monitor the construction and maintenance of the night shelters.

Category: GOVERNANCE

1. Discussion on National Medical Commission Bill

The National Medical Commission Bill was referred by the Lok Sabha to a Parliamentary Standing Committee for a re-look after countrywide protests by the Indian Medical Association, the Bill.

The issues with Medical education

  • Can India produce enough competent doctors to meet its evolving health-care challenges?
  • Can India minimise opportunities for rent-seeking in medical education and practice?

The problems of MCI

  • The Medical Council of India (MCI) was mired in allegations of bribery and going soft on unethical doctors.
  • Under its stewardship, the medical curriculum grew obsolete, resulting in a cadre of MBBS doctors who frequently couldn’t perform basic procedures.
  • This led to a rush among MBBS doctors to specialise, competing for a small number of post-graduation seats. Today, India neither has enough basic doctors, nor specialists.

How different is National Medical Commission from MCI ?

  • National Medical Commission (NMC), intended by policymakers to be a dynamic regulator responsive to India’s needs.
  • In contrast with the MCI, which does everything from advising universities on curriculum to disciplining errant doctors, the NMC distributes powers among four autonomous boards — those for undergraduate education, postgraduate education, medical assessment and rating, and ethics and registration.
  • Also, unlike the MCI, the commission includes non-doctors like patient-rights advocates and ethicists, in line with the medical regulators of the U.K., Australia and Canada. These are all steps in the right direction.

What are the issues with new body?

  • The problem with NMC bill is in how it chooses the members of the new regulator.
  • The authors of the NMC bill, a committee headed by ex-vice chairman of Niti Aayog, Arvind Panagariya, argued that the electoral process through which MCI members were picked was fundamentally flawed, because conscientious doctors tended to avoid such elections.
  • Because there was no bar on re-elections, this had created a revolving door through which the same group of members controlled the MCI for years.

Bad precedents

  • Sometime around 2008, Gujarati urologist Ketan Desai was elected MCI president, even though he had been prosecuted in the Delhi High Court for abusing power as president in 2001. Further, corruption charges against Dr. Desai and his team led to the MCI being disbanded in 2010.
  • The NMC Bill’s solution to the pitfalls of the electoral process is for the central government to select most of the commission’s members. But this would tip the scales towards bureaucracy, say experts.
  • Such political hold on the commission is especially problematic given the close ties that private medical colleges in southern India have with politicians.

Independence of the body

  • Another option to keep the NMC free from political influence is for an independent body like the Union Public Service Commission to select its members.
  • Such a model is followed in the U.K., where the Professional Standards Authority oversees the selection of members to the General Medical Council.
  • Whatever route the NMC takes, it is critical that its members are professionals of high integrity, something that isn’t ensured in the current Bill.

Does NMC Bill address rural health care needs?

  • The NMC Bill misses an opportunity to plan for India’s rural health- care needs in the coming decades. It eases regulations to set up private medical colleges; a move that will hopefully produce more doctors.
  • As of today, India has one doctor for 1,700 people, compared to the WHO norm of 1:1,000. Most of these doctors are in urban regions, while close to 70% of Indians live in rural provinces.
  • A 2015 Parliamentary Standing Committee report mentioned that even if India were to add 100 medical colleges per year for five years, it would take till 2029 to achieve the WHO prescribed ratio.
  • Even in States like Tamil Nadu, which has successfully attracted doctors to rural primary health centres (PHCs), tribal regions like Sittilingi are underserved and rely heavily on informal health-care providers.
  • India must think of quicker fixes to the doctor shortage instead of waiting for MBBS doctors to fill the gap.

Is training of non-doctors a good idea?

  • Several sub-Saharan countries have successfully addressed this problem by training non-doctors in basic medicine and even surgery. Such non-doctors include nurses, or even informal health-care providers, often referred to as quacks.
  • A 2016 study published in Science magazine showed that nine months of training led to a marked improvement in the ability of informal providers in West Bengal to correctly manage chest-pain, respiratory distress and childhood diarrhoea.
  • International organisations like Médecins Sans Frontières and Red Cross have endorsed training programmes for non-doctors to carry out critical surgical procedures like caesarians and intestinal resections.
  • Evidence from countries like Mozambique and Thailand shows that such training can be a safe, effective and cheap way to provide life-saving health care when no doctors are available.
  • Chhattisgarh attempted to create a cadre of rural doctors in 2001, through a three-year programme. Even though the Indian Medical Association has strongly opposed such ideas, they cannot be off the table, given the evidence backing them.
  • It is time to recognise that MBBS doctors may not be the best means of health-care delivery in isolated parts of rural India.

Category: INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS/BILATERAL RELATIONS

1. India, ASEAN to focus on maritime security during summit

 The ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit:

  • Key focus area: Serious discussions on maritime security, including freedom of navigation, piracy, keeping sea trading lanes clear.
  • Key point: all the ten heads of states of the ASEAN countries will be hosted as Guests of Honour for the Republic Day parade.

2. China to fund base in Afghanistan

 In news:

  • China will fund construction of an Afghan counterterrorism base in Badakshan province to block cross-border infiltration of the ethnic Uyghur militants. The precise location of base, in northern Afghanistan, is yet to the determined
  • The Chinese side would cover all material and technical expenses for this base — weaponry, uniforms for soldiers, military equipment and everything else necessary for its functioning

China’s increase presence in Afghanistan

  • The largest group of Uyghur militants already resides in Badakhshan, from where they can rapidly shift to China
  • Chinese official stated that counter-terrorism focus would not only be confined to Badakshan but should be extended to Afghanistan’s entire northern region
  • China was willing to strengthen pragmatic cooperation in areas of military exchange and anti-terrorism

India’s worry:

  • China has already been increasing presence in Indian Ocean region
  • With CPEC and now military base in Afghanistan, it will also circumvent India on northern side land border

Category: HEALTH ISSUES

1. India misses Kala Azar elimination deadline

 In news:

  • India has missed the 2017 deadline.
  • Finance Minister had announced for elimination of Kala-Azar (black fever) in his Budget speech last year
  • Endemic blocks have increased from 61 to 68 in 17 districts of Bihar and Jharkhand
  • Kala-Azar is a slow progressing indigenous disease caused by a single-celled parasite of the Leishmania family

Elimination criteria

  • Elimination is defined as reducing the annual incidence of Kala-Azar (KA) to less than 1 case per 10,000 people at the sub-district level

Reasons for the increase in case:

  • Kala-Azar vector needs to be eliminated to eliminate Kala Azar
  • As the endemic blocks have majority of houses made from wood, it is very difficult to eliminate the vector as it dwells in the wooden structure and escapes various measures to kill it
  • Further, a little-known skin condition called Post Kala Azar Dermal Leishmaniasis (PKDL) — a red flag for transmission of Kala-Azar — has been growing steadily over the past few years

Measures need to be adopted:

  • To stop the infection transmission, pucca houses need to be built
  • Even after treatment of Kala-Azar patients, it is the PKDL cases which become a source for future Kala-Azar cases

C. GS3 Related

 Category: ECONOMY

1. Cabinet eases norms to allow foreign investment up to 49% in Air India

 Relaxation of FDI norms:

  • The government relaxed FDI norms in various sectors such as single brand retail and allowed foreign airlines to invest up to 49% in Air India through approval route ahead of its proposed privatisation.
  • Substantial ownership and effective control of Air India shall continue to be vested in Indian nationals.
  • Existing rules allow foreign airlines to own as much as 49% in an Indian airline, with the exception of Air India.
  • The Cabinet also approved 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) in single-brand retail through automatic route.
  • Local sourcing norm: mandatory 30% local sourcing norm incrementally within a period of five years of opening their first store in India.

2. Infrastructure in Rural India

Deprivation indicators in Rural India

The Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) informed us that ‘landlessness and dependence on manual casual labour for a livelihood are key deprivations facing rural families’, which make them far more vulnerable to impoverishment.

The rural census, or SECC, mapped deprivation using seven indicators:

  1. Households with a kuchha house;
  2. Households without an adult member in working age;
  3. Households headed by a woman and without an adult male in working age;
  4. Households with a disabled member and without able-bodied adult;
  5. Households of Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST);
  6. Households without literate adults over 25 years;
  7. The landless engaged in manual labour.

The more the number of parameters on which a household is deprived, the worse its extent of poverty. Nearly 30% have two deprivations, 13% have three. Only 0.01% suffer from all seven handicaps.

Landlessness is a common indicator

  • While 48.5% of all rural households suffer from at least one deprivation indicator, “landless households engaged in manual labour” are more vulnerable.
  • Nearly 54 million households are in the landless-labourer category; assuming that each such household has five members, that makes 250 million of the nearly 850-900 million rural population.
  • This number is almost certainly an underestimate, since 84% of all those who even hold agricultural land are small and marginal farmers.The intersection of any of the six other handicaps with “landless labour” makes it more acute.
  • The SECC also said that ‘59% of households with kuchha houses are landless labourers; similarly, 55% of those with no literate adult above 25 years and 54% each of SC/ST households and female-headed households without adult male members are also landless households.
  • At the same time, 47% households without an adult member of working age are landless labourers as are 45% of those with disabled members and no able-bodied adult members’.
  • Along with landless families, small and marginal farmers are getting pauperised and more engaged in manual labour. The overall farm size, which has been dropping since the early 1970s, and down from the 2.25 hectares (ha) average to a 1.25 ha average in 2010, will continue to become even smaller.

Shift from Agriculture to Non-agricultural incomes

  • For these farmers, agricultural incomes are also likely to fall, hastening the exodus from agriculture. In fact, farmer distress has been growing, with the past year witnessing farmers protesting on the streets in several States.
  • National Sample Survey (NSS) data show that there are two demographic groups which did reasonably well in labour market outcomes both in terms of job growth as well as wage growth between 2004-5 and 2011-12; these were the young who were getting educated at hitherto unheard of rates, and the older, poorly educated cohort of landless labour in agriculture, who saw construction work rise sharply.
  • The young have been entering and remaining in education in unprecedented numbers for the last two decades. Hence, as a result, while the young joining the labour force has been just 2 million per annum between 2004-5 and 2015-16, from this point onwards, the numbers of the young will indeed grow significantly.
  • However, the numbers of landless and small and marginal farmers looking for non-agricultural work is an immediate and top priority. Between 2004-5 and 2011-12, the number of cultivators in rural areas fell from 160 million to 141 million and the number of landless labour from 85 million to 69 million, both because they found non-agricultural work.

Rise of Construction sector

Construction is the main activity absorbing poorly educated rural labour in the rural and urban areas. These workers are characterised by very low levels of education.

  • From 1993-94 to 2004-05 and 2004-05 to 2011-12, the growth rate in the construction sector output accelerated to 7.92% and 11.5%, respectively.
  • Consequently, the share of the construction sector in rural output increased from 3.5% in 1970-71 to 10.5% in 2011-12.
  • Employment in the construction sector increased 13 times during the past four decades, which led to its share in rural employment rising from 1.4% in 1972-73 to 10.7% in 2011-12.
  • This sector absorbed 74% of the new jobs created in non-farm sectors in rural areas between 2004-05 and 2011-12. These trends indicate that rural areas witnessed a construction boom after 2004-05.
  • Further, growth in employment in the construction sector was higher than output growth during both periods under consideration. One reason for the much higher growth in the number of rural workers in construction over the manufacturing or services sectors is that there are fewer skill and educational requirements in construction.
  • Construction employment grew at a remarkable rate from 1999-2000 onwards. While it employed only 17 million in that year, the number jumped to 26 million by 2004-5.It grew to 51 million by 2011-12, which is a doubling in seven years or a tripling in 12 years from the turn of the millennium.
  • This was possible because of the sustained growth in investment in infrastructure, especially over the 11th Five Year Plan period (2007-12) of $100 billion per annum, two-thirds of which was public, and the remainder private.
  • In addition, there was a real boom in real estate, residential and commercial, throughout the country. However, private investment is now much lower than earlier.
  • It is estimated from NSS and Labour Bureau data that the absolute number of those in construction who were illiterate was 11 million in 2004-5, but which rose to 19 million in 2011-12.

Declining trend in Construction sector

  • Construction jobs were growing so fast between 2004-5 and 2011-2 that the share of construction in total jobs for 15 to 29 year olds in the workforce doubled from 7.5% to 14%.
  • Since then construction job growth has slowed, such that the share of construction in total youth employment fell to 13.3%. Construction jobs are growing more slowly since 2011-12, as public investment has fallen. And with the rising non-performing assets of banks, private investment has fallen as well.
  • The result: fewer workers have been leaving agriculture since 2011-12. From the 5 million leaving agriculture per annum between 2004-5 to 2011-12, the number is down to just over 1 million per annum between 2011-12 to 2015-16.

What is the impact of slowdown in construction sector?

  • This is hurting landless labour and small and marginal farmers the most, since their households had benefited the most from the tightening of the labour market that had ensued in rural and urban areas because of rising construction jobs.
  • Rural demand in particular has risen, raising consumer demand for simple manufactured goods, especially in the unorganised manufacturing sector, raising employment in those sectors especially in rural areas.

Steps taken by the Government

  • The Union government has sustained rural development expenditure for the last two years, especially for rural roads, under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana and rural housing under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban).
  • The Surface Transport Ministry has also attempted to sustain public investment in infrastructure to generate construction jobs for growing surplus rural labour.
  • The Budget for 2018-19 should sustain this public investment effort. The announcement that the government plans to borrow an additional Rs. 50,000 crore in this financial year, is welcome.

Category: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

1. Har Gobind Khorana : The Nobel laureate

Who was Har Gobind Khorana?

  • Nobel Laureate Har Gobind Khorana’s contributions to biology are of contemporary relevance for some of the most exciting areas such as synthetic biology and gene editing.
  • A Google Doodle to mark the 96th birth anniversary of the Indian-origin American scientist this week stoked much interest in his work.

What were his contributions to biology?

  • After James Watson and Francis Crick found that DNA (De-oxy ribonucleic acid) had a double-helix structure, Khorana was among those who significantly built on that knowledge and explained how this sequence of nucleic acids (better known as the genetic code) goes about making proteins, which is critical to the functioning of cells.
  • The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for 1968 was awarded jointly to Robert W. Holley, Har Gobind Khorana and Marshall W. Nirenberg “for their interpretation of the genetic code and its function in protein synthesis.” Khorana was able to create nucleic acids in the lab and did so by figuring out the order in which nucleotides needed to be to make a suite of amino acids, which are the basic units of proteins.
  • Khorana is credited with making the first synthetic genes by cutting and pasting different bits of DNA together. This is considered a forerunner to the method called Polymerase Chain Reaction that is among the methods used to commercially read the unique genetic structures of organisms today. He further placed the lab-made gene in a living bacterium and was, in that sense, a founding father of biotechnology.
  • The CRISPR/Cas9 system, which is the glitziest new toy in genetics and is used alter the functioning of certain genes, references the work of Khorana as a key influence.

What was his connection with India?

Khorana was born in 1922 in Raipur, a village in Punjab now part of Pakistan. He lived in India until 1945, when the award of a Government of India Fellowship made it possible for him to go to England for a PhD at the University of Liverpool. Khorana became a naturalised U.S. citizen in 1966.

Background

  • Genome editing (also called gene editing) is a group of technologies that give scientists the ability to change an organism’s DNA.
  • These technologies allow genetic material to be added, removed, or altered at particular locations in the genome. Several approaches to genome editing have been developed.
  • A recent one is known as CRISPR-Cas9, which is short for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats and CRISPR-associated protein 9.
  • The CRISPR-Cas9 system has generated a lot of excitement in the scientific community because it is faster, cheaper, more accurate, and more efficient than other existing genome editing methods.
  • CRISPR-Cas9 was adapted from a naturally occurring genome editing system in bacteria. The bacteria capture snippets of DNA from invading viruses and use them to create DNA segments known as CRISPR arrays.
  • The CRISPR arrays allow the bacteria to “remember” the viruses (or closely related ones). If the viruses attack again, the bacteria produce RNA segments from the CRISPR arrays to target the viruses’ DNA. The bacteria then use Cas9 or a similar enzyme to cut the DNA apart, which disables the virus.

D. GS4 Related

Nothing here for Today!!!

E. Prelims Fact

Nothing here for Today!!!

 

F. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam

Question 1. Consider the following statement/s with reference to Kala-Azar:
  1. It is a slow progressing indigenous disease
  2. It is caused by Protozoan parasite.
  3. In India, Leishmania donovani is the only parasite causing the disease.
  4. The parasite primarily infects reticuloendothelial system.

Choose the correct statement/s from the options given below

  1. 1 and 4
  2. 1 and 3
  3. 1, 2 and 3
  4. All are correct

See

Answer

 

Question 2. Consider the following statements:
  1. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has introduced ‘Virtual ID’ (VID) to safeguard Aadhaar cardholders’ data
  2. VID will be a 16-digit, randomly-generated number which can be used for authentication instead of the original Aadhaar number
  3. VID can be generated only by the Aadhaar number holder

Choose the correct statement/s from the options given below

  1. 1 and 2
  2. 2 and 3
  3. 1 and 3
  4. All are correct

See

Answer

 

Question 3. Which among the following are the symptoms of Kala-Azar?
  1. Recurrent fever
  2. Loss of appetite
  3. Spleen enlargement and anaemia
  4. All of the above

See

Answer

 

Question 4. Which article in the Indian Constitution prohibits the State from providing any 
religious instruction in an educational institution run on public funds?
  1. Article 28
  2. Article 29
  3. Article 19
  4. Article 25

See

Answer

 

Question 5. As per IUCN’s RED DATA book Celebes crested macaque is
  1. Critically endangered species
  2. Vulnerable species
  3. Least concerned species
  4. None of the above

See

Answer

 

G. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

GS Paper II
  1. What is the objective behind idea of paying a salary to legislators in India? Should we bar MLAs and MPs from practicing as an advocate?
GS Paper III
  1. What is a Kala-Azar disease? According to you what measures needs to be taken to eliminate the same?

 

Also, check previous Daily News Analysis

 

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