Today’s important articles/news in various newspapers (18th August)

Dear aspirants, following are the links of various articles taken from various newspapers. Click the link to read further. To get notification, follow the blog. Thank you

1. SC favours lower storage at Mullaperiyar

  • It is a masonry gravity dam on the Periyar River in Idukki District of Kerala
  • The dam situated at the confluence of the Mullayar and Periyar rivers
  • The Periyar National Park in Thekkady is located around the dam’s reservoir.
  • The dam was built in the late 1800s in the princely state of Travancore (present-day Kerala) and given to British-ruled Madras Presidency on a 999-year lease in 1886.
  • The dam is located in Kerala on the river Periyar, but is operated and maintained by Tamil Nadu state.
  • The agreement was renewed in 1970.
    • Tamil Nadu was given rights to the land and the water from the dam as well as the authority to develop hydro-power projects at the site, and Kerala would receive rent in return.

Purpose of the dam

  • The Periyar river which flows westward of kerala Arabian sea was diverted eastwards to flow towards the Bay of Bengal to provide water to the arid rain shadow region of Madurai in Madras Presidency which was in dire need of a greater supply of water than the small Vaigai River could provide
  • For Tamil Nadu, the Mullaperiyar dam and the diverted Periyar waters act as a lifeline for Theni, Madurai, Sivaganga and Ramnad districts, providing water for irrigation and drinking, and also for generation of power in Lower Periyar Power Station.

Kerala Government

  • It states that it does not object to giving water to Tamil Nadu, their main cause of objection being the dam’s safety as it is 116 years old.
    • Mullaperiyar dam has leaks and cracks in the structure. Increasing the level would add more pressure to be handled by the already leaking dam
  • Idukki district, where the dam is located, is earthquake-prone and has experienced multiple low-intensity quakes. So, the dam is situated in a seismically active zone.
    • A 2009 report by IIT Roorkee stated that the dam “was likely to face damage if an earthquake of the magnitude of 6.5 on the Richter scale struck its vicinity when the water level is at 136 feet”
  • It poses danger to life and property to people living downstream.
    • Three million people living in the vicinity of the reservoir.

Tamil Nadu

  • On the orders of the CWC, the Tamil Nadu government lowered the storage level from 152 feet to 142.2 feet then to 136 feet, conducted safety repairs and strengthened the dam
  • It becomes difficult to sustain agriculture if water level is not increased.
    • One estimate states that “the crop losses to Tamil Nadu, because of the reduction in the height of the dam, between 1980 and 2005 is a whopping ₹ 40,000 crores.
  • The dam has been strengthened and there will be no threat to people and the tremors that felt in neighborhood was minor

Why controversy?

  • 2006: SC allowed Tamilnadu to raise water height to 142 feetafter strengthening the dam. (Total height of the dam is 176 feet) while permissible is 152 feet.
  • But Kerala passed a law the Kerala Irrigation and Water Conservation (Amendment) Act, 2006, to prevent the neighboring State (TN) from raising the water level beyond 136 feet.
  • Tamil Nadu challenged Kerala’s dam height law in Supreme Court.

 May 2014: Supreme Court order

  • Kerala dam Law of 2006 is unconstitutional and void. Because Mullaperiyar is a dispute between two states. In such disputes, one state legislature cannot unilaterally enact law in its own favor.
  • Besides, in 2006 SC allowed Tamilnadu to raise water height. By enacting this law, Kerala is interfering with our judicial function.
  • Permanent Supervisory Committee
    • The Committee shall inspect the dam periodically, more particularly, immediately before the monsoon and after the monsoon and keep close watch on its safety and recommend measures which are necessary.
    • The Committee shall be free to take appropriate steps and issue necessary directions to the two States Tamil Nadu and Kerala or any of them if so required for the safety of the Mullaperiyar dam in an emergent situation. Such direction shall be obeyed by all concerned.

2. How WHO’s Essential Diagnostics List Can Spur Innovation, Quality Assurance

  1. Lack of access to diagnostic services, incorrect diagnosis and late diagnosis often leading to wrong treatment, serious health complications, higher health cost and risk of spread of infectious diseases has prompted World Health Organisation to come out with a significant first ever Essential Diagnostics List (EDL) on May 15 this year
  2. EDL, developed by 19 experts with global representation, aims to serve as a reference for countries to either develop or update their list of essential diagnostics
  3. The EDL is aimed at bringing some parity in a world where half the population does not have access to essential health care services, where the Sustainable Development Goals have the tall task of achieving universal health coverage by 2030

Concern areas in diagnostics

There are broadly three areas of concern in diagnostics – access, quality and implementation

  1. Access issues include lack of laboratories, personnel, distance to the laboratory, high cost, lack of appropriate diagnostic test etc
  2. Quality issues which hinder implementation of many diagnostic tools in LMIC include poor quality of tests, trying environmental conditions like extreme temperatures, high humidity and maintenance of equipment (instruments) among others
  • Lopsided research and development is another issue in diagnostics
  1. For example, research in diagnostics continues to languish way behind than that in drugs and vaccines
  2. Diagnostics development is targeted mainly at high-income countries and there is a dire need to boost R&D in diagnostics in countries like India

Positive externalities of diagnostics

A sound diagnostics regime has many positive externalities

  • Checking rampant antibiotic use, accreditation to ensure quality
  • Establishing a sound supply chain
  • Creating laboratory infrastructure
  • Ushering technological advancement
  • Making more and exorbitant tests affordable
  • Building necessary human resources
  • Addressing existing information asymmetry

How can EDL help?

  1. There are a few innovations in diagnostics such as portable laboratories, smartphone-enabled microscopes, AI-led breast cancer screening tool which have shown promise in low cost, easy access diagnostics
  2. The EDL can now help channel such innovations to diagnostics
  3. Low and middle-income countries (LMIC), facing the double burden of communicable and non-communicable disease which limits their economic and human development could find EDL handy in moving away from the largely prevalent syndromic treatment by ushering innovation and better quality control practices

Way Forward

  1. It is in India’s interest to align itself with the WHO EDL to create the necessary innovative ecosystem and build capacity to fill the numerous gaps that currently exist in the country’s diagnostics

3. Proxy job data being cited doesn’t provide an accurate picture: Kaushik Basu

  • The biggest concern for the country right now is the lack of jobs and employment data.
  • Unemployment and underemployment are growing. The small producers and the informal sector have done poorly over the last two years, and both agricultural and manufacturing have been performing poorly.
  • But more long run damage is likely from India’s global image taking a hit due to a spate of incidents of hatred towards minorities.
  • The increasing divisiveness and incidents of hatred directed at minorities, which are being covered by the international media are giving India a bad image and can hurt tourism and also foreign investment.
  • Overall, India’s investment to GDP ratio has been going down.

Employment data

  • The government has suspended quarterly labour force surveys by the Labour Bureau, and we also don’t have the NSSO’s employment-scenario surveys anymore.
  • It is using proxies like EPF or New Pension Scheme data which are not representative enough for a large nation like ours.
  • In India, the trouble is a huge amount of employment is in sectors that are not formally registered. So unless you directly go to households, like the National Sample Survey does, and check what’s happening there, you do not get an accurate picture.
  • However, the good news is that the government is planning to release annual data on employment, starting quite soon.

Human resource

  • A growing expertise deficit hurts policy making because there are some parts of economic policy, such as exchange rate management and fiscal policy that have lots of subtle needs, which a politician or career bureaucrat is likely to miss out on.
  • The absence of expertise also hurts the global image and that can have a negative fallout on the economy in the long run.
  • Mistakes in economic policy can happen with any government. But there will be fewer of those if we have talented professionals at the helm.

Trade skirmishes could escalate to currency wars

  • This is a risk and deserves to be heeded. India seems stable enough to be able to weather the fallout of a currency war.

Taper tantrum

  • Taper tantrum is the term used for the 2013 surge in U.S.
  • Treasury yields, which resulted from the Federal Reserve’s use of tapering to gradually reduce the amount of money it was feeding into the economy.

International Economic Association

  • It is a Non-Governmental Organization that was founded in 1950.
  • Its aim from the beginning has been to promote personal contacts and mutual understanding among economists in different parts of the world through the organization of scientific meetings, through common research programs and by means of publications of an international character on problems of current importance.

4. The human factor

  1. The prime minister, in his Independence Day address, set a deadline to a project conceived over a decade ago, to put an Indian astronaut into orbit
  2. It is an ambitious target establishing India’s living presence in the firmament
  3. Fortunately, some of the key technology elements are already in place

Capabilities developed

  1. The problem of weight is the fundamental challenge since a crewed module weights two or three times more than the comsat and remote sensing payloads that ISRO usually launches
  2. The GSLV Mk-III or LVM-3 launch vehicle is capable of propelling a crewed module into orbit
  3. Future launches will be used to fine-tune the cryogenic engines
  4. Re-entry, a delicate operation that ISRO has limited experience in, since its payloads typically remain in space, was tested in a GSLV Mk-III flight in 2014
  5. On July 5, a simulated crew escape system for launch failures was also successfully tested
  6. India has an Institute of Aerospace Medicine in Bengaluru

Further efforts required

  1. The only hardware which remains untested is the crew capsule, suitable for keeping two or three astronauts in good health for over a week
  2. Elements include systems to maintain the environment, provide food and process waste, and deal with emergencies
  3. The most important element remains neglected: The human factor
  4. An astronaut training centre was scheduled to be set up by 2012 in Bengaluru, but it appears that the first batch of astronauts will have to be trained overseas
  5. It would take years to accustom them to life in zero gravity, which has impacts on myriad behaviour, from moving around to even eating and drinking

Gains from the human mission in space

  1. Human spaceflight no longer signals national prestige, as it did during the Cold War
  2. The project would bump up the entire space industry, forcing it to meet challenges beyond the low-cost launch of payloads
  3. Certain missions are better performed by humans than by robots
  4. These remain far in the future, but the development of human capabilities in space would prime the industry well in advance
  5. The technical knowledge generated in the process would be of use much later, in ways that may not be obvious today

5. No child left behind

  1. 25% of India’s children less than 5 years old are still malnourished
  2. NFHS-4 in 2015-16 (the latest available information), to the Global Nutrition Report 2016 and the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2017, which ranks India at 100 out of 119 countries all confirm low nutrition among children in India
  3. Among children less than 5 years, wasting (low weight for height), continues to be 21% in the 2017 index — it was 20% in 1992
  4. 190.7 million people in India sleep hungry every night, and over half of adolescent girls and women are anaemic

Proposed measures

  1. The recently announced flagship program of the Ministry of Women and Child Development will be anchored through the National Nutrition Mission (NNM), or Poshan Abhiyaan
  2. NITI Aayog has worked on a National Nutrition Strategy (NNS), isolated the 100 most backward districts for stunting and prioritised those for interventions
  3. The National Nutrition Strategy (NNS) has set very ambitious targets for 2022 and the Poshan Abhiyaan has also specified three-year targets to reduce stunting, under-nutrition and low birth weight by 2% each year, and to reduce anaemia by 3% each year

What is required to curb malnutrition

  1. Altering the fundamentals of poor nutrition requires multiple and sustained interventions over a period of time — increased availability and accessibility of nutritious food, potable water, hygiene and sanitation, primary health care, etc
  2. The challenge for India is to simultaneously address insufficient and poor diets, inadequate hygiene and sanitation and better management of disease and infections

Approach that can be followed

  • Adequately re-engineer the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), mid-day meals (MDM) and Public Distribution System (PDS) for greater effectiveness
  1. This is an ideal initiative for public-private partnerships as the strength of good private sector companies is in creating and designing frameworks, structures, processes and metrics for action, implementation and tracking
  2. Involving the best nutritionists to work with local communities on calorie and nutrition dense supplementary foods, using easily available local ingredients that are within the ICDS and MDM budget guidelines
  3. Products produced by self-help groups could easily be anchored by the relevant private sector and development agencies, working with State governments, and considered a corporate social responsibility initiative
  4. The key advantages of this disaggregated supply model are that it engages local communities, generates employment and ensures minimal leakage as it works with and inside the community
  5. This will also ensure that space and other constraints of lack of hygiene at Anganwadi Centres do not become impediments in the supply of nutritious food
  • To mandate and scale staple food fortification comprising edible oil, wheat, rice and dairy products, in addition to salt
  1. There is persuasive evidence from several countries of the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of large-scale staple food fortification to address “hidden hunger” or micro-nutrient deficiencies
  2. The success of micro-nutrient fortified food is that it does not entail a change in behaviour
  3. A case in point is the mandate of July and August 2017 to use fortified oil, salt and wheat flour in the ICDS and MDM by the Ministries of Women and Child Development and Human Resource Development, respectively
  • Multiple campaigns designed to inform, communicate and educate on nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive behaviours
  1. These behaviours include breastfeeding, diet diversity, hand-washing, de-worming, safe drinking water, hygiene and sanitation
  2. Nutrition has to be “marketed” and made interesting, engaging, simple and personally relevant
  3. Nutrition is complex, and therefore its delivery must be simplified through greater awareness and actions

Way Forward

  1. Unless economic growth improves social and human development, it cannot be sustained
  2. Equally, economic growth itself is impeded by low levels of productivity in an under-nourished and malnourished population
  3. Exploring new models to address the structural and systemic issues on a priority basis, learning from what has worked or not, and single-minded focus on implementation will be critical to delivering better nutritional outcomes and meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, to which India is a signatory

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