Currents Affairs & GK – Jul 21, 2017
Modern Indian History
Bicentenary Celebration of Paika Rebellion of Odisha
Pre-dating what has been popularly regarded as the fist war of independence in 1857, the Paika Bidroha (Paika Rebellion) of 1817 in Odisha briefly shook the foundations of British rule in the eastern part of India. Paikas were essentially the peasant militias of the Gajapati rulers of Odisha who rendered military service to the king during times of war while taking up cultivation during times of peace. They unfurled the banner of rebellion against the British under the leadership of Baxi Jagandhu Bidyadhara as early as 1817 to throw off the British yoke.
Rulers of Khurda were traditionally the custodians of Jagannath Temple and ruled as the deputy of lord Jagannath on earth. They symbolised the political and cultural freedom of the people of Odisha. The British, having established their sway over Bengal Province and Madras Province to the north and south of Odisha, occupied it in 1803.The Gajapati King of Odisha Mukunda Deva-ll was a minor then and initial resistance by Jai Rajguru, the custodian of Mukunda Deva-II, was put down brutally and Jai Rajguru was torn apart alive. A few years later, it was the Paikas under Baxi Jagabandhu, the hereditary chief of the militia army of the Gajapati King, who rose in rebellion, taking support of tribals and other sections of society. The rebellion started in March 1817 and spread quickly. Though Paikas played a larger role in the rebellion against the British, it was by no means a rebellion by a small group of people belonging to a particular class. The tribals of Ghumusar (part of present day Ganjam and Kandhmal Districts) and other sections of the population actively took part in it. In fact, the Paika Bidroha got the opportune moment to spread when 4OOtribals of Ghumsar entered Khurda protesting against the British rule. The Paikas attacked British symbols of power, setting ablaze police stations, administrative offices and the treasury during their march towards Khurda, from where the British fled. The Paikas were supported by the rajas of Kanika, Kujang, Nayagarh and Ghumusar and zamindars, village heads and ordinary peasants. The rebellion quickly spread to Purl, Pipli Cuttack and other parts of the province. The British were initially taken aback and then tried to regain lost ground but faced stiff resistance from the rebelling Paikas. Many a battle ensued with some victories to the rebels, but the British finally managed to defeat them within three months.
Widespread suppression followed with many killed and imprisoned. Many more were tortured. Some rebels fought a guerilla war till 1819 but were captured and killed. Baxi Jagabandhu was finally arrested in 1825 and died in captivity in 1829. Though the Paika Bidroha enjoys a cult status in Odisha with children growing up with stories of the brave fight against the British, it has unfortunately received less attention at the national level than it should have got.While the reasons can be many for such scant attention to such a significant event of the history in India, it is heartening that the Government of India has decided to give the event its due recognition by commemorating its 200 anniversary in a befitting manner.
Issues relating to Health
Half of HIV-infected get treatment now: UNAIDS
For the first time since the global onset of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the scales have tipped in favour of patients. The latest UNAIDS report reveals that more than half of all People Living with HIV (PLHIV) now have access to HIV treatment.
Further, globally AIDS-related deaths have almost halved since 2005.
The 2015 target of 15 million people on treatment has been met and the 2020 target is to double that number to 30 million. As of last year, 19.5 million of the 36.7 million HIV+ patients had access to treatment. Deaths caused by AIDS have fallen from 1.9 million in 2005 to 1 million in 2016.
The majority of the cases — nearly 95 per cent of the cases in 2016 — were concentrated in just 10 countries, India being one of them. India has 2.1 million people living with HIV, with 80,000 new infections annually, as of 2016. In 2005, the annual incidence was 1,50,000 people.
India is the country where most new HIV infections are occurring in the Asia-Pacific region. While India has made big progress with new infections dropping significantly, the emergence of HIV in some locations that were earlier considered ‘not high-burden’ areas is a cause for concern.
While the world seems to be on track to reach the global target of 30 million people on treatment by 2020, access to medicines remains a major barrier and India plays a special role. The report states that although important progress has been made in improving access to medicines for people living with HIV, insufficient availability and poor affordability of essential medicines in low- and middle-income countries remain major barriers.
Actions focused on the intersections between intellectual property rights, innovation, and public health are vitally important for resolving market failures in medicine development and manufacture, unmet needs for research and development, and pricing.
This is especially true in light of the concentration of the generic pharmaceutical industry in India, and the global AIDS response’s continued reliance on the Indian industry, which supplied nearly 90% of antiretroviral medicines in low- and middle-income countries in 2015.
The report, Ending AIDS: Progress towards the 90–90–90 target, is the annual scorecard for progress.
In 2016, 1.8 million people became infected with HIV. While this is a drastic decline from the peak of the epidemic in 1997 when 3.2 million got infected, experts maintain that since 2010, the decline in new infections has only been 16%.
Going by this trend, the global target of reducing the figure to 500,000 a year by 2020 — adopted as a global target by UNAIDS in 2013 — seems unattainable.
The idea behind the 90-90-90 target is to diagnose 90% of people who are HIV positive; get 90% of the diagnosed HIV+ people on antiretroviral treatment, and 90% of those on antiretrovirals should be virally suppressed. This is attained when an HIV+ patient’s viral load reaches an undetectable level, curbing transmission.
Issues relating to Education/Human Resources
Promotion of Indigenous Sports
Several indigenous sports such as Kabaddi, Kho-Kho, Ball Badminton, Mallakhamb, Atya Patya, Sqay and Kalariyappattu are supported under the Scheme of Assistance to National Sports Federations.
For preservation and promotion of indigenous sports, need based financial assistance is provided under the flagship programme of ‘Khelo India’. This scheme, inter-alia, provides for conducting sports competitions in two age groups of (i) under 14 and (ii) under 17 all over India to encourage mass participation of both boys and girls in sports. This scheme includes a provision that States may decide including regional/indigenous/local popular games as part of competition.
Under the “Indigenous Games and Martial Arts” (IGMA) component of the National Sports Talent Contest (NSTC) Scheme of the Sports Authority of India (SAI), for revival of traditional games popular in the country, SAI has adopted 10 schools having a total strength of 159 trainees (78 boys & 81 girls) and the trainees under the scheme are provided with stipend, sports kit, insurance. Annual grant to the school for purchase of sports equipment and for organizing competition for scouting talent is also given. The sports disciplines covered under the IGMA are Archery, Gatka, kabaddi, kalarippayattu, Mukna, Thang-Ta, Silambam, Khomlainai and Mallakhamb.
Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population
Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana (PMVVY)
PMVVY is a Pension Scheme announced by the Government of India exclusively for the senior citizens aged 60 years and above. The Scheme can be purchased offline as well as online through Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) of India which has been given the sole privilege to operate this Scheme.
Following are the major benefits under the Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana (PMVVY):
Scheme provides an assured return of 8% p.a. payable monthly (equivalent to 8.30% p.a. effective) for 10 years.
Pension is payable at the end of each period, during the policy term of 10 years, as per the frequency of monthly/ quarterly/ half-yearly/ yearly as chosen by the pensioner at the time of purchase.
The scheme is exempted from Service Tax/ GST.
On survival of the pensioner to the end of the policy term of 10 years, Purchase price along with final pension installment shall be payable.
Loan upto 75% of Purchase Price shall be allowed after 3 policy years (to meet the liquidity needs). Loan interest shall be recovered from the pension installments and loan to be recovered from claim proceeds.
The scheme also allows for premature exit for the treatment of any critical/ terminal illness of self or spouse. On such premature exit, 98% of the Purchase Price shall be refunded.
On death of the pensioner during the policy term of 10 years, the Purchase Price shall be paid to the beneficiary.
NCAER State Investment Potential Index (N-SIPI) ranking
The State Investment Potential Index released by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) ranks the competitiveness of Indian States on six pillars: land, labour, infrastructure, economic climate, political stability and governance, and business perceptions; and 51 sub-indicators.
The six pillars are classified under four broad categories: factor-driven (land and labour), efficiency-driven (infrastructure), growth-driven (economic climate and political stability and governance), and perceptions-driven (ranking of business climate built on firm surveys). According to NCAER, the unique feature of the index is the integration of industry perceptions of the investment potential and the business climate of a State along with the fundamentals likely to drive investment decisions in that State.
Gujarat has retained the top position in the list of 21 states and UTs with most investment potential. Gujarat is followed by Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.
While Gujarat topped in economic climate and perceptions, Delhi ranked one in infrastructure. While Tamil Nadu topped the chart in labour issues, Madhya Pradesh ranked one in land pillar.
According to the report, Tamil Nadu has lost its position among the top three States in overall ranking, primarily on account of falling short on the pillar relating to perceptions, in which surveyed firms reported facing constraints on land, labour, infrastructure, economy and governance issues.
The major strength of Tamil Nadu is industrial parks, technically educated workforce and per capita Gross State Domestic Product, the NCAER pointed out.
Awareness in the field of Space
Indian Satellites in Outer Space
At present, there are 42 Indian satellites operational in orbit.
Out of these 42 satellites, 15 satellites are used for communication, 4 for meteorological observations, 14 for earth observations, 7 for navigation and 2 for space science purposes. During FY 2016-17, the total revenue accrued from communication satellites through leasing of INSAT/ GSAT transponders is Rs. 746.68 crore.
With respect to earth observation satellites, the annual income from sale of remote sensing satellite data is Rs. 25.17 crores. The data and value added services derived from earth observation, meteorological, communication & navigation satellites are used to support various applications viz. resource monitoring, weather forecasting, disaster management, location based services, including societal applications.
National Trade Facilitation Action Plan released
The Union Minister of Finance released the National Trade Facilitation Action Plan, which aims to transform cross border clearance ecosystem through efficient, transparent, risk based, co-ordinated, digital, seamless and technology driven procedures which are supported by state-of-the-art sea ports, airports and land borders.
The objectives to be achieved by National Action Plan are improvement in ease of doing business by reduction in cargo release time and cost, move towards paperless regulatory environment, transparent and predictable legal regime and improved investment climate through better infrastructure.
The Action Plan lists out specific activities which would be carried out by all regulatory agencies like Customs, FSSAI, Drug Controller, Plant Quarantine, DGFT etc in time bound manner. The Co-ordination among all the stakeholders is the key to achieve the objective of Trade facilitation.
The Action Plan not only covers the activities coming under the TFA but they go beyond the ambit of TFA per se, which have been defined as TFA Plus category. The Action Plan covers many activities in the areas of infrastructure augmentation, particularly the road and rail infrastructures leading to ports and the infrastructure within ports, airports, ICDs, Land Customs stations that cuts across all stakeholders for which various ministries like Shipping, Civil Aviation, Railways, Road transport and Highways, Home Affairs, Finance, Commerce etc have been assigned specified targets.
All actions covered under the plan have been categorized by prioritizing the activities into short term, midterm and long term. The National Plan would be monitored by the Steering Committee (the operational arm of the NCTF) chaired by the Revenue Secretary and the Commerce Secretary. The plan would be reviewed by the Cabinet Secretary.
Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana
The Ministry of Power, Government of India has launched Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana in 2015 for rural areas having following objectives:
To provide electrification to all villages
Feeder separation to ensure sufficient power to farmers and regular supply to other consumers
Improvement of Sub-transmission and distribution network to improve the quality and reliability of the supply
Metering to reduce the losses
The earlier scheme for rural electrification viz. Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY) has been subsumed in the new scheme as its rural electrification component.
The Ministry of Power has launched a new app, GARV-II app to provide real-time data of all six lakh villages of the country. The app is envisaged to ensure transparency in the implementation of rural electrification programme.
Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All (UJALA) programme
The scheme was initially launched as Domestic Efficient Lighting Program (DELP) in 2015.
The main objective is to promote efficient lighting, enhance awareness on using efficient equipment which reduce electricity bills and help preserve environment. UJALA scheme aims to promote efficient use of energy at the residential level; enhance the awareness of consumers about the efficacy of using energy efficient appliances and aggregating demand to reduce the high initial costs thus facilitating higher uptake of LED lights by residential users.
An ordinary bulb is an extremely energy inefficient form of lighting with just 5% of the electricity input converted to light. Efficient light bulbs like Light-emitting Diode (LEDs) consumes only one-tenth of energy used by ordinary bulb to provide the same or better light output. However, high cost of LEDs has been a barrier in adoption of such efficient lighting systems.
The scheme is implemented by Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL). EESL is promoted by Ministry of Power, Government of India as a Joint Venture company of four Central Power Sector undertakings viz. NTPC Ltd, PFC, REC, and Power Grid.
Energy Efficient Lighting Programme was first launched in Puducherry on February 7, 2014. The project replaced about 6.5 lakhs bulbs and about 40.11 Million units per annum were saved. The programme was rebranded as Domestic Efficient Lighting Programme in 2015.
The scheme urges the people to use LED bulbs in place of incandescent bulbs, tube lights and CFL bulbs as they are more efficient, long lasting and economical in their life cycle duration.
Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY)
The Ministry of Power, Govt. of India launched Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY) during November, 2015.
The scheme envisages:
Reduction of cost of generation of power
Development of Renewable Energy
Energy efficiency & conservation
It allows state governments, which own the distribution companies, to take over 75 percent of their debt as of September 30, 2015, and pay back lenders by selling bonds. Discoms are expected to issue bonds for the remaining 25 percent of their debt.
Infrastructure: Roads and Railways
Setu Bharatam project
Setu Bharatam was launched during March 2016, with an aim to make all national highways free of railway crossings by 2019 to prevent the frequent accidents and loss of lives at level crossings.
Under the project, as many as 208 rail over and under bridges (ROBs/RUBs) would be constructed at unmanned railway crossings on national highways and 1,500 dilapidated British-era bridges would be widened, rehabilitated or replaced in a phased manner.
The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways has also established an Indian Bridge Management System (IBMS) at the Indian Academy for Highway Engineer in Noida, U.P. The aim is to carry out conditions survey and inventorization of all bridges on National Highways in India by using Mobile Inspection Units.