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Detailed News Articles: 13 May 2019

1. Post Fani, Odisha should be considered for Special Category

  • Fani has left the Power infrastructure completely destroyed, especially in Puri and parts of Khurda districts where we complete re-electrification is necessary.
  • Lakhs of houses have been destroyed.
  • Serious damage has been caused to tree cover and plantation crops.

Special Category status:

Image result for special category status

  • States which are granted special category status enjoy several benefits. These include
  1. preferential treatment in getting central funds
  2. concession on excise duty to attract industries to the state
  3. a significant 30% of the Centre’s gross budget also goes special category states
  4. These states can avail the benefit of debt-swapping and debt relief schemes
  5. In the case of Centrally Sponsored Schemes and external aid, Special Category States get it in the ratio of 90% as grant, and 10% as loans. Other states, however, get 30% of their funds as grants
  6. Special Category States also get tax breaks to attract investment
  • A Special Category Status catalyses the inflow of private investments and generates employment and additional revenue for the state. Besides, the State can create more welfare-based schemes from the new savings since the Center bears 90% of the expenditure on all Centrally Sponsored Schemes. Further, more grants from the Center helps in building state infrastructure and social-sector projects.
  • The Constitution of India does not include any provision for the categorization of any state as a Special Category Status state.
  • However, in the past, Central Planned Assistance were given to certain states on the ground that they are historically disadvantaged in comparison to others.

Criteria for Special Category Status:

The erstwhile Planning Commission body, the National Development Council (NDC), granted Special Category Status to states based on a number of features, which included:

  1. Hilly and difficult terrain
  2. Low population density
  3. Presence of a sizeable tribal population
  4. Strategic location along international borders
  5. Economic and infrastructural backwardness
  6. Non-viable nature of state finances

Jammu and Kashmir was the first state to get Special Category Status and another 10 states were added over the years, with Uttarakhand being the last in 2010.

Image result for special category status

2. Maharashtra reels under drought as water reserves dry up

  • Rising mercury levels have resulted in the rapid depletion of water stocks in the 22 dams which are part of the Bhima river basin in western Maharashtraand are the potable water lifelines of Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad.
  • At least five of these dams have 0% water stock currently, while the collective stock in seven other dams is less than 10% of their capacity. The remaining 10 have a collective reserve stock of a little over 20% .
  • Authorities said more than 750 tankers were deployed to provide relief to the worst-afflicted districts in the Pune division which include Solapur, Mangalwedha, Satara and Maan.
  • The situation in Solapur is grave as Ujjani dam currently has a water level of -34.98% (dead water stock).
  • The groundwater table has plummeted sharply in several villages in the district as in other parts of rural Marathwada.

Droughts:

  • The term ‘Drought’ in simple words is the absence of water for a long period of time, at a place where it is considered abnormal as compared to its usual conditions.
  • The distribution of water on the earth’s surface is not even. Some places have lots of fresh water e.g. rivers, lakes, lagoons, ponds etc.  and they are continuously replenished by rainfall and water from underground.
  • If a region that has had lots of rainfall, goes for a couple of weeks without rains, and people, animals and plants begin to experience dryness, it can be called a drought.
  • Drought can be defined as a relatively long time where there is not enough water than there usually is, as a result of dry weather, to support human, animal and plant life.
  • Droughts become an issue only when it begins to affect water supply for irrigation, municipal, industrial, energy, and ecosystem function.
  • Severe droughts can have serious consequences.

Image result for drought definition

Types of droughts:

  1. Meteorological drought:

Meteorological drought is the general lack of moisture in the weather such as lack of precipitation, and the play of other weather conditions such as dry winds, high temperatures and so on.

  1. Agricultural drought:

This drought happens when atmospheric moisture is reduced to an extent that soil moisture is affected. This affects crops, animals and also evapotranspiration.

  1. Hydrological drought:

Occurs when there is a deficiency in the surface and groundwater supply in a region, often due to less precipitation, unrestrained reliance on surface water for farming, energy and other needs.

  1. Socioeconomic drought:

This is when the supply of some goods and services like food, drinking water and energy are diminished or threatened by changes in hydrological and meteorological conditions. Sometimes it is even made worse by growing populations and excessive demands of such goods, to the point that it creates stress on the little water available. It takes a very long time for this kind of drought to get into full gear, and a long time to recover from it. 

3. Explained: Efficiency and quota in promotions — what Supreme Court has said

The order by a two-Judge bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and U U Lalit held that a Karnataka statue allowing for reservation in promotions of SCs/STs is valid — the court had, in September 2018, held there was no need to revisit the M Nagaraj case (2006) which spoke of quantifiable data being necessary to decide on reservation.

Background

  • In agitations and annoyance among Dalits and Scheduled Tribes about the “next stage” in the debate over quotas, reservations in promotions have been a big bone of contention.
  • While the Central government has maintained it is now in favour of reservations in promotions, the Supreme Court had, in a series of orders over the years, verged on the conservative.

Latest order

  • The order by a two-Judge bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and U U Lalit upheld a Karnataka statute, allowing for reservations in promotion.
  • The order stated that inclusive development, and not meritocracy, that were key to ensuring meaningful and substantive equality.

2. Article 335 – Article 335 of the Constitution states that the “claims of the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes shall be taken into consideration, consistently with the maintenance of efficiency of administration, in the making of appointments to services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State”.

3. Forming a well-governed society – Since inclusion is inseparable from a well-governed society, there is, in our view, no antithesis between maintaining the efficiency of administration and considering the claims of the SCs and STs to appointments to services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a State.”

4. No reduction in efficiency by reservations – The Constitution does not define what the framers meant by the phrase efficiency of administration. Article 335 cannot be construed on the basis of a stereotypical assumption that roster-point promotees drawn from the SCs and STs are not efficient or that efficiency is reduced by appointing them.”

5. No abstract criteria for measuring efficiency – The benchmark for the efficiency of administration is not some disembodied, abstract ideal measured by the performance of a qualified open category candidate,” the judges said.

6. Definition of efficiency –

  • Efficiency of administration in the affairs of the Union or of a State must be defined in an inclusive sense, where diverse segments of society find representation as a true aspiration of governance by and for the people.
  • If, as we hold, the Constitution mandates realisation of substantive equality in the engagement of the fundamental rights with the directive principles, inclusion together with the recognition of the plurality and diversity of the nation constitutes a valid constitutional basis for defining efficiency.

Conclusion

  • Our benchmarks will define our outcomes.
  • Efficiency not by exclusion – If this benchmark of efficiency is grounded in exclusion, it will produce a pattern of governance which is skewed against the marginalised.
  • Root in equal access – If this benchmark of efficiency is grounded in equal access, our outcomes will reflect the commitment of the Constitution to produce just social order.
  • Otherwise, our past will haunt the inability of our society to move away from being deeply unequal to one which is founded on liberty and fraternity.”

4. Of shells, companies and GDP

About a third of non-government non-financial companies in the services sector are not traceable is the finding of a National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) survey for 2016-17 that has just been released. Since such entities could be shell/fake/bogus companies included in the MCA-21 database of “active” companies used for estimating the gross domestic product (GDP), the new finding could imply that private corporate sector GDP is being currently overestimated, denting the official growth narrative.

The background

  • Change in the base year – In 2015, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) issued a new GDP series with 2011-12 as the base year, replacing the earlier series with the 2004-05 base-year as a routine matter.
  • Usually, the revision leads to a slight expansion of the absolute GDP in the base year, but its growth rate does not change, implying that the underlying pace of economic expansion in the two series has remained the same.
  • Change in growth rate – This time was different, however. The absolute GDP size — the sum of the value of all (unduplicated) goods and services produced in a year — got diminished slightly in the base year, and its growth rates went up subsequently.
  • Application of global template – Faced with public scrutiny and scepticism, the CSO defended the revision by claiming that it had followed the latest global template (the System of National Accounts 2008), applying improved methodologies to a newer and larger data set.
  • Inclusion of MCA-21 financial returns – In a first, the new series estimated private corporate sector (PCS) GDP directly using the Ministry of Corporate Affairs’ (MCA) statutory filing of financial returns, MCA-21.
  • Effect on industries  – Accounting for over a third of GDP, as the non-financial PCS now spans widely, the revision has affected the estimates of many industries and services. Hence the GDP debate has mostly centred on the PCS.

Screening and setback

  • To redress the shortcoming, the CSO is committed to launching an annual survey of services (on the lines of the ASI).
  • As a first step, the NSSO carried out a survey of non-government and non-financial companies/establishments in 2016-17.
  • The NSSO report says, “About 45% of MCA units were found to be out-of-survey/causality
  • The inference could be that such companies are likely to be shell/fake/spurious entities that remain legally registered (but merely on paper), without actually producing goods and services.

Impact of estimation

  • The survey findings could bring down the growth estimates.
  • However, those knowledgeable have dismissed such an apprehension on two counts:
    • One, shell companies add value to the economy, hence their deletion would underestimate GDP.
    • Two, as all active companies are said to submit their audited accounts at least once in three years, the contribution of shell companies is well captured in the MCA database.
  • Both arguments seem questionable.
    • Shell companies, by definition, do not produce goods and services; they help the promoter/owner to hide profits or evade taxes/regulation.
    • The argument that all active companies under the MCA have filed statutory returns at least once during the last three years is a bureaucratic fiction.

 

Case for scrutiny

  • In sum, the NSSO’s survey of active companies in the services sector discovered that 45% of them could not be traced or misclassified; hence they could represent or be shell/fake/bogus companies.
  • The finding throws into sharp relief the poor quality of the MCA-21 data set, which has formed the backbone of the new GDP series.
  • The NSSO survey results have added more questions about the beleaguered GDP series.

Way forward

As a first step towards dispelling the growing distrust in the new GDP series, the government should put up the MCA-21 data for public scrutiny and lift the opacity of the methodology used in estimating corporate sector output.

5. Explained: Human body mapping— how cells, tissues react when in a disease stage

Project MANAV: Human Atlas Initiative:

  • For the first time, Indian scientists will be mapping every single tissue of the human body to have deeper understanding of the roles of tissues and cells linked to various diseases.
  • Department of Biotechnology (DBT) launched MANAV: Human Atlas Initiative towards improving knowledge on human physiology.

MANAV: Human Atlas Initiative

  • It is a project funded by DBT, which aims at creating a database network of all tissues in the human body from the available scientific literature.
  • It is a project that involves scientific skill development for annotation, science outreach along with handling big data.
  • It will involve gaining better biological insights through physiological and molecular mapping, develop disease models through predictive computing and have a holistic analysis and finally drug discovery.
  • The student community, who will be the backbone on assimilating the information, will be trained and imparted with skills to perform annotation and curation of information that will ultimately form the online network.
  • DBT has invested funds shared between two institutions in Pune – National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS) and Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research (IISER), Pune.
  • Besides, Persistent Systems Limited has co-funded the project and is developing the platform.

Who can participate in this project?

  • The project can be signed up by students who are in their final year graduation and above.
  • Students from the fields of biochemistry, biotechnology, microbiology, botany, zoology, bioinformatics, health sciences, systems biologists, pharmacologists and data sciences can associate with this project.
  • Even participants having a science background but not necessarily involved in active scientific research can be part of this network.
  • The MANAV team has encouraged colleges and universities to register as teams and work in this project.
  • Initially, DBT will accommodate colleges that operate the DBT Star College scheme to register for this Human Atlas programme. There is no restriction on the time period set for student participation.

How has the project been designed?

  • Once registered, the student groups will be assigned research papers or literature to be read in a time-bound manner.
  • They will be given training to perform annotation and curation activities using the specialised tools developed for this project.
  • Student groups, led by either by the HoDs or any senior researcher at the colleges, will be evaluated from time to time and their annotations will be reviewed by the trainer scientists, hailing from NCCS, IISER and other senior scientists from the team.
  • Presently, there are workshops organised to impart training to the teacher community who can then lead the student groups for this project.
  • Students will be issued certificates for their contributions based on the levels of expertise attained in annotation and for their acquired skills.
  • Initially, the project will focus on curating information revolving skin tissues.

Utility of the project

  • The aim of the project remains to understand and capture the human physiology in two stages – in a normal stage and while in a disease stage.
  • Such a database on individual tissues, once ready, can come handy in tracing the causes of a disease, understanding specific pathways and ultimately decode the body’s disease stage linked to tissues and cells.
  • The teams will also study any potent elements or molecules that have never been used in the form of drugs, to target the specific cells or tissues.

Importance

  • So far, researchers and students have had little or no expertise in reading scientific literature and develop or build further information on the same.
  • This platform will impart key skills to the student community to read classified scientific literature, in this case, on individual tissue-basis, and perform annotation and curation.
  • Since all the information generated will pass through multiple levels of reviews, it will be an Atlas or a reliable collection on human body tissues.
  • This collated data can be useful for both future researchers and parallelly, to the clinicians and drug developers, who finally handle human bodies in disease conditions.
Q1) Consider the following statements:
  1. Both Ajanta caves and Ellora caves are UNESCO cultural heritage sites.
  2. Ajanta caves are a series of 30 Buddhist caves.
  3. All the caves of Ajanta are Viharas.

Which of the given statement/s is/are incorrect?

a. 1 only
b. 3 only
c. Both 1 and 3
d. 1, 2 and 3

Q2) Consider the following statements with respect to Nandankanan Zoological Park:
  1. It is located in Odisha.
  2. It is the first zoo in India to join World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Which of the given statement/s is/are correct?

a. 1 only
b. 2 only
c. Both 1 and 2
d. Neither 1 nor 2

Q3) Consider the following statements with respect to Suez Canal:
  1. Suez canal connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea.
  2. It is an artificial sea-level waterway.
  3. It provides shortest sea link between Asia and Europe.

Which of the given statement/s is/are correct?

a. 1 only
b. 1 and 2 only
c. 2 and 3 only
d. 1, 2 and 3

Thank you!

 

 

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