- Over 9 lakh children are suffering from severe malnutrition
- The General Insurance Business (Nationalisation) Amendment Bill, 2021
- Revamped Distribution Sector Scheme: A Reforms based and Results linked Scheme
- Biotech-PRIDE Guidelines
- Faceoff at Jaipur fort over tribal deities, saffron flag
- BRICS Counter Terrorism Working Group
1.Over 9 lakh children are suffering from severe malnutrition
#GS2 #Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections of the population
#Issues related to Health and Children
Context: Union Minister for Women and Child Development Smriti Irani recently told the Rajya Sabha that there are over 9 lakh children with ‘severe acute malnutrition’ in the country as of November 30 2020.
- As per the Integrated Child Development Services- Rapid Reporting System (ICDS-RRS) portal, as on November 30, 2020, there are 9,27,606 severely acute malnourished (SAM) children that have been identified by the ministry.
- These children range between the ages of 6 months to 6 years.
- Around 4 lakh children (40%) suffering from SAM in Uttar Pradesh alone followed by Bihar with 2,79,427 children.
- States with No Severely Malnourished Children: Ladakh, Lakshadweep, Nagaland, Manipur and Madhya Pradesh reported no severely malnourished children.
- As reported under NFHS-5, nutritional status has improved in many states despite the short interval of four years between the survey rounds.
National Family Health Survey-5 Findings:
- NFHS-5 suggests that malnutrition increased among children in 2019-20 from 2015-16 in 22 states and UTs.
- Stunting: Around 13 states and UTs out of the 22 surveyed recorded a rise in percentage of children under five years who are stunted in comparison to 2015-16.
- Stunting is the impaired growth and development that children experience from poor nutrition, repeated infection, and inadequate psychosocial stimulation.
- Children are defined as stunted if their height-for-age is more than two standard deviations below the WHO Child Growth Standards median.
- Wasted: 12 states and UTs recorded a rise in the percentage of children under five years who are wasted.
- Wasting is defined as low weight-for-height.
- It often indicates recent and severe weight loss, although it can also persist for a long time. It usually occurs when a person has not had food of adequate quality and quantity and/or they have had frequent or prolonged illnesses.
- Anaemia has also declined, but still remains widespread. More than half of children are anaemic in ten of the 15 States/Union Territories.
About Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM):
- Severe acute malnutrition is defined by very low weight-for-height/length (Z- score below -3 SD of the median WHO child growth standards), or a mid-upper arm circumference < 115 mm, or by the presence of nutritional oedema.
- Severe Acute Malnutrition is both a medical and social disorder.
- Reasons for SAM:
- Lack of exclusive breast feeding, late introduction of complementary feeds, feeding diluted feeds containing less amount of nutrients, repeated enteric and respiratory tract infections, ignorance, and poverty are some of the factors responsible.
- SAM significantly increases the risk of death in children under five years of age.
- Median case fatality rate in children with SAM is approximately 23.5%, which may reach 50% in oedematous malnutrition.
- Nutritional oedema: Abnormal fluid retention in the tissues (oedema) resulting especially from lack of protein in states of starvation or malnutrition.
- Oedema can, however, occur in starvation even if the blood levels of albumin are not lowered.
Impact of Covid-19:
- Lockdowns have led to disruption in service delivery of feeding programmes.
- Disruption in health services for children.
- Reduction in food security
- The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World Report 2020 shows that India continues to have the largest population of food insecure people accounting for 22 per cent of the global burden of food insecurity.
- Reduction in dietary quality
- Financial constraints due to the pandemic will impact the dietary intake of poor households as they shift towards cheaper and less nutritious food.
- Early detection and treatment of children with wasting and other life-threatening forms of malnutrition are critical to save their lives and put them on the path to healthy growth and development.
- In most cases, children with wasting can be treated with ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF), allowing them to recover in their own homes and communities rather than in a health facility.
- Treatment services should be resourced by governments and managed primarily by the national health system rather than humanitarian workers.
- And make RUTF more affordable and sustainable.
- Strengthening health worker capacities.
- Integrating nutrition supplies within national health systems.
- Role of Anganwadi Centres: The identification of SAM children was done by over 10 lakh Anganwadi centres from across the country.
- The anganwadis have to become much more functional and if the possibility of children reaching anganwadis is going to become hard because of lockdowns, then the anganwadis need to reach the children.
2.The General Insurance Business (Nationalisation) Amendment Bill, 2021
#GS2 #Government policies and Interventions #GS3 #Role of State and Planned Approach #Effects of Liberalization on the Economy
Context: The General Insurance Business (Nationalisation) Amendment Bill 2021 was introduced in Lok Sabha by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
- While presenting the 2021-22 budget, the finance minister proposed to take up the privatization of two public sector banks and one general insurance company in the year FY22.
- The bill, however, was not introduced in the budget session held in February.
- The insurance amendment bill is part of a larger divestment programme of the government, which plans to sell stakes in five state-run corporations and speed up its privatization agenda to draw in foreign investment in a covid-hit economy.
- The government hopes to achieve its planned divestment target of ?1.75 trillion for FY22
About the amendment:
- The Bill will amend the General Insurance Business (Nationalisation) Act, 1972. The Bill proposes three amendments.
- The amendments would pave the way for the government to divest its stake in general insurance firms.
- Opposition members have however strongly objected to it and called for its withdrawal.
Key Provisions of the bill:
- It proposes amending the original act to omit the Section 10B so as the requirement for the Centre to hold at least 51 percent of equity in an insurer.
- The first aims to omit the proviso to Section 10B of the Act so as to remove the requirement that the Central government holds not less than 51 per cent of the equity capital in a specified insurer.
- Another provision ensures that the 1972 Act stops applying to insurers on and from the date the Centre ceases to have control over them.
- And, the third amendment is also to insert a new Section 31A, making a director, who is not a whole-time director, liable only for acts of omission or commission committed with his knowledge and connivance by the insurer.
Rationale behind these changes:
- While India’s insurance sector has been growing dynamically in recent years, its share in the global insurance market remains abysmally low.
- It provides for greater private participation in the public sector insurance companies and enhances insurance penetration and social protection and better secure the interests of policy holders and contribute to faster growth of the economy.
- Private participation will help generate required resources from the Indian markets so that public sector general insurers can design innovative products.
Why do we need to raise the resources from the market?
- Our market can give the money from the retail participants who are Indian citizens. Through that, we can have greater money, bring in better technology infusion and also enable faster growth of such general insurance companies.
- General insurance companies in the private sector have greater penetration, they raise more money from the market and therefore give a better premium for insuring the public and also have innovative packages.
- Several opposition members had opposed the introduction of the bill, saying it will bring in foreign investors and entail total privatisation of PSU general insurance companies.
- With this, the government will also lose money by way of dividend in the proportion of shares being offered.
Challenges in the Insurance sector:
- Low penetration and density rates.
- The insurance penetration (ratio of total premium to GDP (gross domestic product)) and density (ratio of total premium to population) stood at 3.69% and US$ 73, respectively for FY18 (fiscal year 2017-18), which is low in comparison with global levels.
- Inadequate investment in insurance products.
- The dominant position and deteriorating financial health of public-sector players.
- Rural participation of insurers remains deficient, and life insurers, especially private ones, gravitate towards the urban population.
Important changes witnessed by the insurance sector over the years include:
- Nationalisation of life (LIC Act 1956) and non-life sectors (GIC Act 1972).
- Constitution of the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) in 1999.
- Opening up of the sector to both private and foreign players in 2000.
- Increase in the foreign investment caps.
- The recent notification of 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) for insurance intermediaries (announced in the Union Budget of 2019-20) has further liberalised the sector.
- Revamped Distribution Sector Scheme: A Reforms based and Results linked Scheme
#GS2 #Government policies and Interventions
#GS3 #Infrastructure # Changes In Industrial Policy & their Effects on Industrial Growth
Context: This Union cabinet has recently approved a Reforms-based and Results-linked, Revamped Distribution Sector Scheme.
- The Scheme seeks to improve the operational efficiencies and financial sustainability of all DISCOMs/ Power Departments excluding Private Sector DISCOMs by providing conditional financial assistance to DISCOMs for strengthening of supply infrastructure.
- Reduction of AT&C losses to pan-India levels of 12-15% by 2024-25.
- Reduction of ACS-ARR gap to zero by 2024-25.
- Developing Institutional Capabilities for Modern DISCOMs
- Improvement in the quality, reliability, and affordability of power supply to consumers through a financially sustainable and operationally efficient Distribution Sector.
- The Scheme provides for annual appraisal of the DISCOM performance against predefined and agreed upon performance trajectories including AT&C losses, ACS-ARR gaps, infrastructure upgrade performance, consumer services, hours of supply, corporate governance, etc.
- DISCOMs have to score a minimum of 60% of marks and clear a minimum bar in respect to certain parameters to be able to be eligible for funding against the Scheme in that year.
- Solarization of Agricultural Feeders: The Scheme has a major focus on improving electricity supply for the farmers and for providing daytime electricity to them through solarization of agricultural feeders.
- Under the scheme, works of separation of 10,000 agriculture feeders would be taken up which would be highly beneficial to the farmers who would get access to dedicated agriculture feeders providing them reliable and quality power.
- This Scheme converges with the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha Evem Utthan Mahabhiyan (PM-KUSUM) Scheme, which aims to solarize all feeders, and provide avenues for additional income to farmers.
- A key feature of the Scheme is to enable consumer empowerment by way of prepaid Smart metering to be implemented in Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) mode.
- Smart meters would allow consumers to monitor their electricity consumption on a routine basis instead of monthly basis, which can help them in usage of electricity as per their own needs and in terms of the resources available.
- It is proposed to install approximately 10 crore prepaid Smart Meters by December, 2023 in the first phase.
- Artificial Intelligence would be leveraged to analyse data generated through IT/OT devices every month to enable DISCOMs to take informed decisions on loss reduction, demand forecasting, Time of Day (ToD) tariff, Renewable Energy (RE) Integration and for other predictive analysis.
- This would contribute a great deal towards enhancing operational efficiency and financial sustainability of the DISCOMs.
- Funds under the scheme would also be used for development of applications related to the use of Artificial Intelligence in the Distribution sector. This would promote the development of Startups in the Distribution Sector across the country.
- It is proposed that the currently ongoing approved projects under the following Schemes would be subsumed:
- Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS)
- Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY)
- Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY)
- Prime Minister’s Development Package (PMDP) 2015 for the Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) and Ladakh.
- Each state would have its own action plan for implementation of the scheme rather than a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.
- Nodal agencies for the scheme’s implementation are Rural Electrification Corporation (REC) Limited and Power Finance Corporation (PFC).
- The scheme requires that DISCOMs (Power Distribution Companies) submit detailed project reports (DPRs) on how they plan to reduce their operational losses to avail of funding.
- Initially, the preliminary timeline given to discoms was 31st October 2021. It is now extended to 31st December 2021.
- Biotech-PRIDE Guidelines
#GS3 # Bio-technology and issues relating to Intellectual Property Rights # Conservation
Context: Recently, Union government has released the “Biotech-PRIDE (Promotion of Research and Innovation through Data Exchange) Guidelines” developed by the Ministry of Science and Technology, Department of Biotechnology (DBT).
- This guideline is to enable information exchange and promote research and innovation in many research groups nationwide.
- Further, a website of Indian Biological Data Centre (IBDC) was also launched.
- The launch of Biotech-PRIDE is the first of its kind in DBT; India ranks fourth among the top 20 countries which is contributing to biological databases.
- These guidelines envisage to bridge other existing biological datasets/data centres with the IBDC, which will be called Bio-Grid.
- This Bio-Grid will be a National Repository for biological knowledge, information and biological data.
- Also, Bio-Grid will be responsible for enabling its exchange, developing measures for safety, standards and quality for datasets and establishing detailed modalities for accessing data.
- The Indian Biological Data Center (IBDC) will initially implement these guidelines.
Significance of the guidelines:
The PRIDE guidelines will help coordinate, collaborate, and foster data sharing for research and analysis in the country, and will promote scientific work and advance progress based on previous work. These guidelines will also help avoid duplication and waste of research resources.
Need for Bio-Grid and its Advantages:
- The local database will have a huge support mechanism that will allow young scientists and researchers to share and use data for the benefit of Indian citizens.
- Sharing a broad spectrum of data on a large scale promotes understanding of the biological and molecular processes in animal husbandry, agriculture, and other basic research that contribute to human health, thus spreading to social benefits.
- Advances in DNA sequencing and other high-throughput technologies, as well as the dramatic drop in the cost of DNA sequencing, have enabled government agencies to fund research to generate large amounts of biological data in various fields of biological sciences.
5.Faceoff at Jaipur fort over tribal deities, saffron flag
#GS1 # Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India # Communalism, Regionalism & Secularism
Context: Amagarh Fort of Jaipur, Rajasthan is at the centre of a conflict between the tribal Meena community and local Hindu groups.
About the Issue:
- Leaders of the Meena community have accused local Hindu outfits of allegedly trying to tamper with tribal culture and appropriate tribal symbols and of changing the name of Amba Mata to Ambika Bhawani at Amagarh fort.
- They say the Amagarh Fort was built by a Meena ruler predating Rajput rule in Jaipur, and has been their holy site for centuries.
- The Hindu outfits, meanwhile, have hit out at the Meenas for allegedly taking down a saffron flag from the fort and issued calls on social media for followers to reach the fort on August 1 to hoist another flag.
- The fort was earlier also at the centre of complaints of idols being vandalised.
History of the Fort:
- The present form of the Amagarh Fort was given in the 18th century by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, founder of Jaipur.
- It has always been believed that there was some construction at the place before Jai Singh II built the fort.
- It also served as a prison for slaves during the rule of Raja Raghuji Bhonsle, then ruler of Nagpur.
- Prior to Rajput rule by the Kachhwaha dynasty, Jaipur and its nearby regions were ruled by Meenas, who had political control.
- And as claimed by the Meena’s the fort was built by a Meena Sardar from the Nadla gotra, now known as Badgoti Meenas.
- Sardars from the Meena community ruled large parts of Rajasthan till around 1100 AD.
- Surrounded by lush green forests, the Fort is a major tourist destination situated at an altitude of 300 feet above sea level.
- The fort has an attraction for climbers, who can explore the area around the fort.
- A large pond is situated just outside the fort complex, which is still used to supply water to the surrounding villages.
Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II (1693-1744):
- He was the ruler of the Kingdom of Amber, who later founded the fortified city of Jaipur and made it his capital.
- He was born at Amber, the capital of the Kachwahas.
- He was the 29th Kachhwaha ruler. He became ruler of Amber at the age of 11.
- He was a great warrior and astronomer.
- Initially, Jai Singh served as a vassal of the Mughal Empire. He was given title of Sawai by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in the year 1699.
- “Sawai” means one and a quarter times superior to his contemporaries.
- Jai Singh had a great interest in mathematics, architecture and astronomy.
- He built Astronomy Observatories at Delhi, Jaipur, Varanasi, Ujjain and Mathura known as the Jantar Mantar.
- He had Euclid’s “Elements of Geometry” translated into Sanskrit
- Jaipur gets its name from him. Recently it has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- It was designed by Vidyadhar Bhattacharya who was educated in the ancient Sanskrit manuals (silpa-sutras) on city-planning and architecture.
- The Meenas, also known as the Meos, or Mewati, are a tribe and caste inhabiting parts of western and northern India.
- According to Meena tradition, the Meenas ruled most of what is now eastern Rajasthan, an area they referred to as “mind-esh” (country of the Meenas). They subsequently were replaced by Rajput clans, the most recent being the Kachhwaha Rajputs who founded the state of Amber, later known as Jaipur.
- The community has substantial clout in Rajasthan. Of the 25 Assembly seats (out of 200) reserved for Scheduled Tribes (ST), most are represented by Meena MLAs.
- The community is also well represented in the bureaucracy. According to Census 2011, STs constitute 13.48% of the state’s population.
- Due to a scattered population across the state, the community can influence election outcomes in unreserved seats, too.
6.BRICS Counter Terrorism Working Group
#GS2 # Important International Institutions, agencies and fora – their Structure, Mandate #GS3 # Threats from Non-State Actors # Linkages of Organized Crime with Terrorism
Context: The 6th meeting of the BRICS Counter Terrorism Working Group was held virtually on 28th and 29th of July under the Chairmanship of India.
- The main outcome of the Working Group meeting was the finalisation of the BRICS Counter Terrorism Action Plan containing specific measures to implement the BRICS Counter Terrorism Strategy adopted by BRICS Leaders in 2020.
- The Action Plan is aimed at further strengthening result-oriented cooperation between BRICS countries in areas such as preventing and combating terrorism, radicalisation, financing of terrorism, misuse of internet by terrorists, and curbing travel of terrorists, border control, protection of soft targets, information sharing, capacity building, international and regional cooperation etc.
- The BRICS Counter Terrorism Action Plan is one of the key deliverables during India’s Chairmanship of BRICS and will be adopted at the meeting of BRICS National Security Advisors scheduled next month.
- The BRICS countries also exchanged views on terrorism threat assessment at national, regional and global level and resolved to further enhance counter terrorism cooperation in line with the Action Plan.
BRICS Nations affected by Terrorism
- Russia: The major focus of Russia is the terrorism emanating from the Chechnya region because this region contributes to the maximum amount of foreign fighter of Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group.
- Russia is also worried about the terrorism problem emanating from the Taliban in neighbouring Central Asian countries.
- China: Xinjiang Autonomous region is plagued with the terrorism problem. The local Muslim minority Uyghur/Uighur population demands territorial independence.
- Therefore, for preventing militant activities, the Chinese government is taking extreme measures by putting local Uyghur/Uighur population in the internment camps and changing the whole demography of the region.
- India: Among the BRICS nation, India is the worst sufferer of terrorism. The state-sponsored cross-border terrorism is the biggest threat to India. Now, ISIS is the new emerging threat because several cases of radicalisation and youngster joining ISIS modules have been seen in Southern India.