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    Daily current affairs free for IAS PCS 10012018

    Daily Current Affairs, 10 January 2018

     

     

    Paper 1:

    Topic: Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

     

    Madhubani paintings

    Context: The folk painting of Madhubani will soon be seen decorating the walls of various government buildings in Bihar, the eastern Indian state where the art hails from. The idea behind painting the town in Madhubani is to give visitors a firsthand experience of how the paintings are blended with the region’s culture.

     

    About Madhubani paintings:

    Madhubani, which means ‘forest of honey’, is a style of folk painting old enough to find mention in some of the ancient Indian texts like the holy Ramayana. It is also known as Mithila, for its origin is said to be the Mithila region in Bihar.

    §  Traditionally, the Madhubani paintings are created using fingers and twigs, and items like matchsticks have come to be used in their creation in recent times.

    §  Their various styles include Bharni, Katchni, Tantrik, Godna, and Kohbar, which would historically be painted only by women from the upper strata in the caste system, who would make them on mud walls on special occasions.

    §  The norms have now changed and the paintings can be enjoyed by anyone and in various forms. Madhubani is now found on apparel, paper, canvas, and other products, which boast of designs inspired by Hindu deities such as Krishna, Rama, Lakshmi, Shiva, Durga, Saraswati, all of whom have been painted in Madhubani since ancient times. Other subjects of Madhubani paintings include peacocks, fish and human connection with nature.

     

    Sources: toi.


    Topic: Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues.

     

    Haryana becomes first state to launch High Risk Pregnancy portal

     

    Haryana has achieved the distinction of becoming the first state in the country to launch High Risk Pregnancy (HRP) Portal. The Union ministry of health and family welfare and Niti Ayog have acknowledged the portal as a good practice to be implemented.

     

    About the HRP portal:

    What is it? This innovative web application has been designed to track every high risk pregnant woman till 42 days after delivery, so that she receives adequate treatment during the ante-natal period for healthy outcome of pregnancy. This portal not only helps in early identification of high-risk pregnant cases up to the grass-roots level but also ensures their timely referral to the civil hospitals for further management and delivery by specialists.

    Background: The High Risk Pregnancy Policy has been implemented across the state since November, 2017, for identifying 100 per cent name-based high-risk pregnancy cases, and ensuring their delivery by specialists at civil hospitals. This initiative is aimed at increasing the pace of decline in Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR), Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and Still Birth Incidence as morbidity and mortality is quite high in high risk pregnant cases.

     

    Facts for Prelims:

    Birth companion strategy: Haryana is also implementing birth companion strategy under which one female attendant would be allowed during delivery in the labour room. The presence of a female birth companion during delivery is a step towards improving the quality of care in labour rooms for improving the maternal and neo-natal outcome and for respectful maternity care.

     

    Sources: toi.

     


     

    Paper 2:

    Topic: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.

     

    The Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals (CPCSEA)

    Context: A one-day National Conference on Welfare of Laboratory Animals was recently organised by CPCSEA, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, with the theme of “Implementation of 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement) while using animals in academic research and regulatory testing in India.

    The conference laid emphasis on the issue of ethical use of animals in academics and regulatory testing in India. The discussions were focussed on evaluating the possibilities of exemption of animal experiments in academics and regulatory testing.

     

    About CPCSEA:

    What is it? The Committee for the Purpose of Control and Supervision of Experiments on Animals(CPCSEA) is a statutory Committee, which is established under Section 15(1) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960. All establishments engaged in research and education involving animals, are required to comply with the various guidelines, norms and stipulations set out by CPCSEA.

    Background: India is one of the pioneering countries to institute Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act in 1960 whereas such Act was instituted in France in 1963 and in USA in 1966. The detailed rules for experimentation on animals were first enacted by the Ministry of Agriculture in 1968 and were implemented by CPCSEA.

     

    The main functions of CPCSEA are:

    §  Registration of establishments conducting animal experimentation or breeding of animals for this purpose.

    §  Selection and appointment of nominees in the Institutional Animal Ethics Committees of registered establishments.

    §  Approval of Animal House Facilities on the basis of reports of inspections conducted by CPCSEA.

    §  Permission for conducting experiments involving use of animals.

    §  Recommendation for import of animals for use in experiments.

    §  Action against establishments in case of violation of any legal norm/stipulation.

     

    Sources: pib.


    Topic: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.

     

    No viable alternative to hanging, Centre tells court

    Context: Considering the “dynamic progress” made in modern science to adopt painless methods of causing death, the court had asked the government to explore viable methods other than hanging to execute condemned prisoners.

     

    Centre’s response:

    The centre has said that there is no viable method at present other than hanging to execute condemned prisoners.

     

    Need for review:

    The court has favoured a re-look at the practice of hanging to death as “the Constitution of India is an organic and compassionate document which recognises the sanctity of flexibility of law as situations change with the flux of time”. The court notes that a condemned convict should die in peace and not in pain. A human being is entitled to dignity even in death.

    Also, execution was not only “barbaric, inhuman and cruel”, but also against the resolutions adopted by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

     

    Background:

    The court is hearing a writ petition which has sought the court’s intervention to reduce the suffering of condemned prisoners at the time of death. The petitioner notes that a convict should not be compelled to suffer at the time of termination of his or her life. When a man is hanged to death, his dignity is destroyed, the petition says.

    The petitioner has also referred to Article 21 (Right to Life) of the Constitution and said it also included the right of a condemned prisoner to have a dignified mode of execution so that death becomes less painful.

     

    Constitutionality of death penalty:

    Constitutionality of death penalty has been well-settled by the apex court, including in Deena versus Union of India and earlier in the Bachan Singh case reported in 1980. Section 354 (5), which mandates death by hanging, of the Code of Criminal Procedure has already been upheld.

     

    Law commission’s observations:

    The Law Commission in its 187th Report had noted that there was a significant increase in the number of countries where hanging has been abolished and substituted by electrocution, shooting or lethal injection as the method of execution. It had categorically opined that hanging is undoubtedly accompanied by intense physical torture and pain.

     

    Alternatives:

    The present procedure can be replaced with intravenous lethal injection, shooting, electrocution or gas chamber in which death is just a matter of minutes. While in hanging, the entire execution process takes over 40 minutes to declare prisoner to be dead, the shooting process involves not more than few minutes. In case of intravenous lethal injection, it is all over in 5 minutes.

     

    Sources: the hindu.

     


     

    Paper 3:

    Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

     

    Microbeads ban takes effect

    Context: A UK-wide ban on the manufacture of products containing microbeads has come into force on 9 January. Manufacturers can no longer add tiny pieces of plastic to wash-off cosmetic and personal care products (such as exfoliating scrubs, shower gels and toothpaste).

    Exemption: However, this isn’t a complete ban – ‘leave-on’ products (such as sunscreen and makeup) will still be allowed to contain microbeads following the cosmetic industry’s resistance.

     

    What are microbeads?

    In a nutshell, microbeads are tiny pieces of plastic found in many beauty products, such as exfoliating scrubs, toothpastes and more.

     

    Why are microbeads bad for the environment?

    Evidence has shown that microbeads can find their way from your bathroom to the sea. Trillions of tiny pieces of plastic are accumulating in the world’s oceans, lakes and estuaries, harming marine life and entering the food chain.

     

    Where else are they banned?

    The United States passed the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, which required companies to stop using microbeads in beauty and health products by July 2017, and Canada’s ban on manufacturing the pellets took effect at the beginning of this year. New Zealand’s ban on microbeads is to take effect in June. Several countries in the European Union have campaigned for a similar ban.

     

    Sources: the hindu.


    Topic: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space.

     

    What happens to the human body in space?

    Context: Space is a dangerous and unforgiving place, and spending time away from gravity takes its toll on the human body, as many astronauts have found out after returning to Earth.

    Recently, Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai announced that he had stretched a staggering 9cm (3.5in) in just three weeks onboard the International Space Station (ISS). However, he later admitted he had miscalculated the figure and it was actually just 2cm (0.9in), but significant height changes are actually normal for astronauts spending time in space.

     

    Why do they stretch?

    The effect happens as the astronauts’ spines stretch out, because of the reduced gravity on board the floating lab. Because the vertebrae aren’t being pushed together as much as they are on Earth, they are able to float apart and lead to the strange stretching phenomenon. They shrink back down to their usual size once back on Earth and affected by its gravity.

     

    Health issues for astronauts to overcome:

    §  The rapid change of gravity in space can cause a loss of bone density of up to 1% a month. This could lead to osteoporosis-related fractures and long-term health problems.

    §  Lack of gravity can also cause body fluids to shift upwards, which may cause swelling, high-blood pressure and vision and organ problems. Nutrition and exercise become very important, and special measures like medications and body cuffs aim to reduce the risk of long-term medical problems associated with muscle and bone wastage.

    §  Living in isolation and confinement can cause behavioural and psychological issues. Without a natural body clock, depression and sleep disorders can develop. The space station uses LED technology to imitate light on Earth to improve body rhythms.

    §  A closed environment also means microbes in the body can transfer more easily. The environment can weaken the immune system, so urine, saliva and blood samples are carefully monitored to make sure dormant viruses have not been reactivated.

    §  Radiation exposure is far higher in space than it is on Earth. Without the shielding of Earth, you could be more at risk of cancer and damage to the nervous system. Space radiation can also cause sickness and fatigue. The ISS sits just within the protective field on Earth to reduce risks, but missions further afield will need to overcome this.

     

    Sources: et.

     


     

    Facts for Prelims:

     

    Ancient Rock Art in India Is Oldest Depiction of Supernova:

    Scientists in India have discovered rock art that appears to depict a supernova and the surrounding stars, buried inside the wall of an ancient dwelling place. Thought to date from 3,600 BC, the carving would be the oldest-known depiction of such a cosmic event.

    Where was it found? The carving was found in the Burzahama region in Kashmir, India.

     

    Editorial: The problem of land hoarding


     

    Context:

    As per the details from to the Government Land Information System (GLIS), the government owns at least 13,505 square km.

    The government owns more land than it admits, large swathes of which are unused or underutilised.

    Government Land Information System (GLIS)

    In 2012, a committee headed by former finance secretary Vijay Kelkar had recommended monetising the government’s unutilised and under-utilised land to finance infrastructure projects in urban areas. 

    §  It is a first-of-its-kind centralised database created by the ministry of electronics and information and monitored by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

    §  The GLIS portal records total area, geo-positioning maps, and details such as ownership rights.

    §  According to the portal, the railways is the biggest landowner among Union ministries. The defence ministry, which owns a large share of the government’s land holding, has given only partial details citing security concerns.

    Though the track record of the railways, as well as other government agencies, on land asset management is incomplete, the move to make an inventory is a step towards better utilisation of government land.

    The problem of unused land

    What is worse is that a large proportion of government land lies unused. According to reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), the 13 major port trusts have 14,728 hectares of land lying idle.

    These numbers are staggering and incomplete. They exclude several departments of the Centre and, more importantly, don’t take into account excess land holding by the States.

    1.       Generates artificial scarcity of Land

    Due to excessive holdings, a precious but scarce economic resource remains unutilised. This generates an artificial scarcity of land for developmental purposes, and increases project costs and is one of the main drivers of skyrocketing urban real estate prices.

     

    Moreover, the allocation of unused land is rife with corruption. At the State level too, instances abound of public land being resold to private entities in dubious deals.

     

    2.       Inadequate ownership records

    The CAG reports that none of the government agencies maintains adequate ownership records. For instance, the 13 major ports have failed to produce title deeds for as much as 45% of their land holdings. This makes squatters difficult to evict, and so they gravitate to these areas.

    The need of the hour

    1.       Increase Floor Space Index

    Land is a crucial and often constraining input for production, not only in agriculture but also in secondary and tertiary sectors. The problem of land scarcity has been aggravated by grossly wasteful land use by government agencies.

     

    While stock of land is fixed, its supply as an input in production is not — it crucially depends on land use patterns. A useful measure of this is the floor space index (FSI), which is the total floor area built per square metre of land.

     

    The demand for land increases with both population density and economic growth. Therefore, to maintain efficiency, the FSI should also increase. By this token, the FSI should be the highest in major city centres, where the demand for space is highest, and it should taper off gradually towards the periphery. Apart from supplying space for economic activities, such an arrangement would also help maximise the gains from transport infrastructure.

     

    2.       Increase investment per square metre

    The investment per square metre gradient of Indian cities is very low and haphazard. Increasing investment per square metre could solve the problem of wastage, generate employment and pull masses out of poverty, thereby aiding the economy to grow fast.

     

    3.       Furnish details about usage of acquired land

    People have the right to know the size and use of land holding by government agencies which have been acquired by way of compensation.

    One of the solutions is that all the departments should identify their surplus land. Unfortunately, agencies seem to be loath to cooperate.

     

    4.       Comprehensive inventory of land resources

    A comprehensive inventory of land resources and usage patterns for all government branches is the need of the hour.  It should include information on the location of each property, its dimensions, the legal title, current and planned use, and any applicable land use restrictions.

    This will enable effective identification of suboptimal land use, as well as of the land that is surplus.

     

    5.       Use of surplus land

    Surplus land should be utilised to meet the ever-growing demands for services, such as water and waste disposal, as well for government-sponsored housing and transportation projects.

    Monetising land for infrastructure is not only a noble goal but also necessary to optimise the use of resources for development.

    Land intended for future use can be rented out till such time it is needed, through a transparent auctioning process. This will not only buoy the public exchequer but prevent plots of land lying waste for years.

    Way Forward

    Given the importance of land for the country, we need to be creative in finding solutions. A public-government partnership seems to be the way out.

    We could take a cue from Britain. There, the government has pledged to provide details of ownership, location, and intended use for all properties. Citizens are invited to contest official land use and suggest alternatives under a ‘right to contest’.

    The Indian government should also agree to disclose its land use and release of excess land, the use of which it cannot justify.