IASCLUB Daily Current Affairs : 05 June 2019

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Kerala confirms one case of Nipah

Topic: GS–II: Health

A youth from Ernakulam district in Kerala has tested positive for the Nipah virus infection, a year after a similar outbreak in the state had claimed 17 lives. The infected patient this year has survived for more than 10 days now, and health authorities are hopeful that this latest outbreak would be contained soon. The infected patient has been isolated, and everyone he had potential contact with in the last few days is being screened.

The virus

  • Nipah virus causes a so far incurable infection in human beings, which can sometimes be fatal. The infection is generally transmitted from animals to human beings, mainly from bats and pigs. Human-to-human transmission is also possible, and so is transmission from contaminated food.
  • The natural host of the virus are fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family and Pteropous genus, widely found in South and South East Asia.
  • However, the actual source of the current infection is not yet known.
  • First identified in 1999 in Malaysia, Nipah virus infections have been detected quite frequently in Bangladesh. There have been a few incidents of infection in India earlier, apart from last year’s outbreak in Kerala.
  • Patients either show no symptoms of the infection, thereby making it difficult to detect, or develop acute respiratory problems, or encephalitis that often becomes fatal.
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) says the infection has been found to be fatal in 40% to 75% of the infected patients. There is no treatment available as of now, either for humans or animals, nor any vaccine.

The previous outbreak

  • Last year’s outbreak was confined to two districts, Kozhikode and Malappuram. Studies by NIV have revealed that a particular kind of fruit bat, Pteropus spp, was most likely the source of human infection in 2018.

Not just in Kerala

  • Nipah virus has been found in other parts of India
  • The first outbreak was in 2001 in Siliguri, where more than 30 people were hospitalized with suspected infection. Another outbreak happened in 2007 in Nadia of West Bengal. Again, over 30 cases of fever with acute respiratory distress and/or neurological symptoms were reported, five of which turned out to be fatal. Last year, after the outbreak in Kerala, doctors tested samples from suspected cases in Karnataka, Telangana and Maharashtra. All of them tested negative.

Can it spread?

  • As of now, scientists feel the current outbreak is likely localized, like last year’s. So far only one suspected sample has tested positive. More people showing symptoms are being screened and so are people in physical contact with them.
  • People who have had close contact with a patient are considered to be at potential risk. These include people who have slept in the same household, have had direct physical contact either with the patient or a deceased who had an infection, or have touched the blood or other body fluids (saliva, urine, sputum) of the patient during illness.

Global growth to slow in 2019, says WB

Topic: GS -III: Economic Development

The World Bank Group has downgraded global real GDP growth to 2.6% for 2019, down by 0.3 percentage points from its previous forecast in January.

More in report:

  • Growth is expected to increase marginally to 2.7% in 2020. India’s growth forecasts are projected to be 7.5% per annum in 2019, 2020 and 2021 – not having been downgraded from their January estimates.
  • The multilateral development bank’s June 2019 Global Economic Prospects (GEP) report, titled, ‘Heightened Tensions, Subdued Investment’ says the global economy “has continued to soften and momentum remains weak” and investment, sluggish.
  • Downside risks to global growth, as per the report, include rising trade barriers, a build-up of government debt and slowdowns that were deeper-than-expected in several major economies. Sluggishness of investment in Emerging Markets Developing Economies is part of a protracted (barring the 2016-2018 recovery) slowdown following the global financial crisis, as per the report.
  • “Stronger economic growth is essential to reducing poverty and improving living standards,” said World Bank Group President David Malpass, in a statement. “Current economic momentum remains weak, while heightened debt levels and subdued investment growth in developing economies are holding countries back from achieving their potential. It’s urgent that countries make significant structural reforms that improve the business climate and attract investment. They also need to make debt management and transparency a high priority so that new debt adds to growth and investment.”

Slowdown in U.S.

  • Advanced economies, as a group, are expected to slow down in 2019, particularly the Euro area, due to weaker investments and exports.
  • S. growth is expected to slow to 2.5% this year, down from an estimated 2.9% in 2018, and then down to 1.7% and 1.6% in 2020 and 2021, respectively. In India, where growth was 7.2% in FY2018/2019, investment — both, private and in public infrastructure — offset a slowdown in government consumption.
  • Economic activity slowed in the last quarter of 2018, and spilled over into the first quarter of 2019.

India’s growth

  • India’s growth at a projected 7.5% is supported by credit growth and an accommodative monetary policy. “Support from delays in planned fiscal consolidation at the central level should partially offset the effects of political uncertainty around elections,” the report says.

RBI study moots boost to acceptance infra for digital payments

Topic: GS -III: Economic Development

While there has been robust growth in the volume of retail electronic transactions amid a strong regulatory framework, the country needs to enhance its payments acceptance infrastructure, a study on digital payments by the Reserve Bank of India has observed.

  • The findings are from a report on ‘Benchmarking India’s Payment Systems’, which provides a comparison of the payment ecosystem in India with the payment systems and usage trends in other major countries.
  • The central bank had undertaken the exercise of benchmarking India’s payment systems vis-à-vis payment systems in a mix of advanced economies, Asian economies and the BRICS nations.

Findings of the study:

  • The study found that India has a strong regulatory system and robust large value and retail payment systems, which have contributed to the rapid growth in the volume of transactions in these payment systems.
  • The report, however, notes that India is required to take further efforts to bring down the volume of paper-clearing and increase acceptance infrastructure to enhance digital payments.
  • The data used for the benchmarking were mostly for the years 2012 and 2017.
  • While the report acknowledged that the growth in the volume of payment systems transactions had been strong and steady, the relatively high level of cash in circulation offered scope for a higher level of digitisation of payments.
  • There is an increase in Point of Sale (PoS) terminals, including mobile terminals, which, however, may not be enough to cater to the large population.
  • The report observed low digital payment of utility bills, despite the existence of the Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS), an integrated interoperable bill payment system which started live operations from October 12, 2017.

‘Lag in broadband infra’

  • The report also said digital communications infrastructure in the form of a robust mobile network is growing strongly, though broadband infrastructure “lags behind.”
  • The report highlighted that the last few years since demonetisation have witnessed a sea change in the payments landscape, with large growth in digital payments.
  • In 2018-19, the volume growth of retail electronic transactions was 95%, compared to 51% in the previous year, mainly due to to the steep growth in the use of the Unified Payments Interface (UPI).
  • The report also said that the level of credit card penetration in India was low when compared to advanced countries, where it was a preferred option for making payments.
  • To encourage usage of cards, card infrastructure is required to be robust, strong and secure. Further, the last-mile availability of PoS terminals is relatively lower in India and much needs to be done in this regard.

SDG Gender Index

Topic: GS–II: Social Justice  

A new index to measure global gender equality, launched on Monday, ranks India at 95th among 129 countries. The SDG Gender Index comes close on the heels of the gender gap index of the World Economic Forum where India was ranked 108th.

How the ranking works

  • The SDG Gender Index has been developed by Equal Measures 2030, a joint effort of regional and global organisations including African Women’s Development and Communication Network, Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and International Women’s Health Coalition.
  • It accounts for 14 out of 17 SDGs (sustainable development goals) that cover aspects such as poverty, health, education, literacy, political representation and equality at the workplace.
  • A score of 100 reflects the achievement of gender equality in relation to the targets set for each indicator. It means, for example, that 100% of girls complete secondary education, or that there is around 50-50 parity for women and men in Parliament. A score of 50 signifies that a country is about halfway to meeting a goal.

The big picture

  • The ranking found that the world is far from achieving gender equality with 1.4 billion girls and women living in countries that get a “very poor” grade. The global average score of the 129 countries — which represent 95% of the world’s girls and women — is 65.7 out of 100 (“poor” in the index).
  • Altogether, 2.8 billion girls and women live in countries that get either a “very poor” (59 and below) or “poor” score (60-69) on gender equality. Just 8% of the world’s population of girls and women live in countries that received a “good” gender equality score (80-89) and no country achieved an “excellent” overall score of 90 or above.

Key findings for India

  • India’s highest goal scores are on health (79.9), hunger & nutrition (76.2), and energy (71.8). Its lowest goal scores are on partnerships (18.3, in the bottom 10 countries worldwide), industry, infrastructure and innovation (38.1), and climate (43.4).
  • On indicators that define such goals, India scored 95.3 on the percentage of female students enrolled in primary education who are overage. Some of India’s lowest scores on indicators include the proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments (score 23.6; women made up 11.8% of Parliament in 2018). On seats held by women in the Supreme Court (4%), India has a score of 18.2.
  • On gender-based violence, indicators include proportion of women aged 20-24 years who were married or in a union before age 18 (27.3%), women who agreed that a husband/partner is justified in beating his wife/partner under certain circumstances (47.0%), and women aged 15+ who reported that they “feel safe walking alone at night in the city or area where she lives” (69.1%).

Elected on more than one seat: what the law and Constitution say

 Topic: GS –II: Constitution and Polity

Under the Constitution, an individual cannot simultaneously be a member of both Houses of Parliament (or a state legislature), or both Parliament and a state legislature, or represent more than one seat in a House.

  • The first session of the 17th Lok Sabha will commence on June 17, and Rajya Sabha is scheduled to meet on June 20.
  • Some of those who won in the elections were elected from more than one constituency; some were already members of either Rajya Sabha or the legislature of a state. These MPs must vacate one of their seats — because under the Constitution, an individual cannot simultaneously be a member of both Houses of Parliament (or a state legislature), or both Parliament and a state legislature, or represent more than one seat in a House.

What are the procedures and timelines for effecting this?

Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha

  • If a person is elected simultaneously to both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, and if he has not yet taken his seat in either House, he can choose, within 10 days from the later of the dates on which he is chosen to those Houses, the House of which he would like to be a member. [Article 101(1) of the Constitution read with Section 68(1) of The Representation of the People Act, 1951].
  • The member must intimate his choice in writing to the Secretary to the Election Commission of India (ECI) within the 10-day window, failing which his seat in Rajya Sabha will fall vacant at the end of this period. [Sec 68(2), RPA 1951]. The choice, once intimated, is final. [Sec 68(3), RPA, 1951].
  • No such option is, however, available to a person who is already a member of one House and has contested the election for membership of the other House. So, if a sitting Rajya Sabha member contests and wins a Lok Sabha election, his seat in the Upper House becomes automatically vacant on the date he is declared elected to Lok Sabha.
  • The same applies to a Lok Sabha member who contests an election to Rajya Sabha. [Sec 69 read with Sec 67A, RPA 1951].

Example:

  • At least five winners of the Lok Sabha elections — Amit Shah (BJP, Gandhinagar), Ravi Shankar Prasad (BJP, Patna Sahib), Smriti Irani (BJP, Amethi), Kanimozhi (DMK, Thoothukkudi), and Anubhav Mohanty (BJD, Kendrapara) — ceased automatically to be members of Rajya Sabha on May 23, the date on which they were declared elected.
  • Legally or technically speaking, however, they became members of the Lower House only on May 25 — when the ECI issued the ‘Due Constitution’ notification for the new Lok Sabha under Sec 73 of the RPA 1951.
  • These MPs were, therefore, not members of any House for a day — May 24.

Elected on two Lok Sabha seats

  • There is no one in this category in the new Lok Sabha. Under Sec 33(7) of RPA, 1951, an individual can contest from two parliamentary constituencies but, if elected from both, he has to resign one seat within 14 days of the declaration of the result, failing which both his seats shall fall vacant. [Sec 70, RPA, 1951 read with Rule 91 of the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961]

State Assembly and Lok Sabha

  • Under Article 101(2) of the Constitution (read with Rule 2 of the Prohibition of Simultaneous Membership Rules, 1950, made by the President under this Article) members of state legislatures who have been elected to Lok Sabha must resign their seats within 14 days “from the date of publication in the Gazette of India or in the Official Gazette of the State, whichever is later, of the declaration that he has been so chosen”, failing which their seats in Lok Sabha shall automatically fall vacant.
  • There is some confusion about the “date of publication… of the declaration” in the gazette.
  • Sec 67 of the RPA, 1951, says that “the returning officer shall report the (election) result to the appropriate authority and the Election Commission,… and the appropriate authority shall cause to be published in the Official Gazette the declarations containing the names of the elected candidates”.
  • However, Sec 73 of the Act provides that the ECI shall publish in the gazette the names of all elected members in a notification, called ‘Due Constitution’ notification, whereafter Lok Sabha shall be deemed to be duly constituted.
  • The ECI issued the ‘Due Constitution’ notification on May 25; therefore, members of state legislatures who have been elected to Lok Sabha must resign their seats within 14 days of that date, i.e., on or before June 8.
  • The late Gurcharan Singh Tohra chose to retain his seat in the Punjab legislative Assembly despite having been elected to Lok Sabha in 1999, whereupon his seat in Lok Sabha was declared vacant.

OIC’s reference to J&K, and India’s response to it

Topic: GS –II: International relations

India has “categorically rejected” the “unacceptable reference” to Jammu and Kashmir by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) at its Summit meeting last week, saying the body “has no locus standi in matters relating to… an integral part of India”, and reiterated that OIC “should refrain from making such unwarranted references”.

What the OIC said

  • The Final Communique of the 14th Islamic Summit Conference in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, “reaffirmed its principled support for the people of Jammu and Kashmir for the realization of their legitimate right to self-determination, in accordance with relevant UN resolutions”. The Conference “condemned the recent outbreaks of violence in the region and invited India to implement the relevant Security Council resolutions to settle its protracted conflict with its neighbour”. It also called for “the expedited establishment of a UN commission of inquiry to investigate into the grave human rights violations in Kashmir, and called on India to allow this proposed commission and international human rights organizations to access Indian-occupied Kashmir”.
  • The Conference approved the appointment of Saudi Arabia’s Yousef Aldobeay as its Special Envoy for Jammu and Kashmir.

Why the OIC matters

  • OIC — formerly Organisation of the Islamic Conference — is the second largest inter-governmental organisation in the world after the United Nations, with a membership of 57 states in four continents.
  • The OIC describes itself as “the collective voice of the Muslim world”, and its stated objective is “to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony among various people of the world”.
  • The OIC has reserved its membership for Muslim-majority countries. Russia, Thailand, and a couple of other small countries have Observer status.
  • At the 45th session of the Foreign Ministers’ Summit in May 2018, Bangladesh, the host country, had suggested that India, where more than 10% of the world’s Muslims live, should be given Observer status, but Pakistan had opposed the proposal.
  • However, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had addressed the Inaugural Plenary of the 46th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the OIC in Abu Dhabi on March 1 this year, after having been invited by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as the Guest of Honour. The Ministry of External Affairs had said that the invitation was a “welcome recognition of the presence of 185 million Muslims in India and of their contribution to its pluralistic ethos, and of India’s contribution to the Islamic world”.

OIC on Kashmir

  • The Final Communique issued in Mecca is not new or unusual — the OIC has been generally supportive of Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir, and has repeatedly issued statements criticising the alleged Indian “atrocities” in the state.

India’s response

  • Just as criticism of India’s actions in Jammu and Kashmir has been part of the standard template for all OIC statements over the last several decades, India has consistently and emphatically underlined that Jammu and Kashmir is an “integral part of India and is a matter strictly internal to India”.

The Italian clash with EU over fiscal policy

Topic: GS –II: International relations

The European Commission is likely to begin disciplinary procedures against Italy on Wednesday over the country’s failure to reduce public debt as required by EU law.

Why is the Commission turning on Italy?

Debt

  • European Union rules say that governments must reduce public debt every year, calculated on average over three years, by 1/20 of the difference between its current level and the EU ceiling of 60 percent of gross domestic product. Italy’s debt has been rising: it went up to 132.2% of GDP in 2018 from 131.4% in 2017 and will rise to 133.7% this year and to 135.2% in 2020, according to Commission forecasts.

Structural Deficit

  • EU rules also say that governments must cut the structural deficit, a measure excluding one-off revenue and spending and the effects of the business cycle, every year until it is near balance or surplus. The structural deficit is an artificial indicator, calculated on the basis of a complex formula and notorious for being revised. But it is key for EU disciplinary action.
  • EU finance ministers have asked Italy to cut its structural deficit by 0.6% of GDP a year until it’s in balance or surplus. Instead, the gap has been rising every year since 2015 and is forecast to go up to 2.4% of GDP this year and 3.6% in 2020 unless policies change.

Why now?

  • After an unprecedented clash with Rome over the 2019 budget, the Commission decided not to start disciplinary steps against Italy last December, on the condition that Italian debt would ease this year and the structural deficit would stay unchanged at 2018 levels. But data showed that debt and the structural deficit rose again in 2018. Commission forecasts show both will rise again this year and next. And senior Italian government officials have said taxes would be cut next year.

Why bother?

  • Italy is the euro zone’s third-biggest economy and has the second-highest debt as share of GDP in Europe after Greece. Rome’s plans for more borrowing and spending that failed to translate into faster economic growth worry investors, and costs for borrowing for Italy have risen.
  • Euro zone officials are concerned that if the trend continues, Italy might eventually lose access to markets, which would mean another sovereign debt crisis — on a much bigger scale than the one Greece triggered in 2010.

Can the Commission force a change in Italy’s fiscal plans?

  • Disciplinary steps are a complex legal process that could end in a fine of 0.2 percent of Italian GDP, which would be equal to around 3.5 billion euros. No EU country has ever been fined.
  • A fine for Italy is unlikely for political reasons. The commissioner for economic affairs, Pierre Moscovici, and Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker see sanctions as a failure of the process and have not used that option in clear-cut cases of France, Spain and Portugal in the past.
  • Ultimately, effective pressure on Italy to change policy will only come from markets, which often see the Commission’s disciplinary procedure as a trigger for demanding a higher price for lending to Rome.

News in brief:

   Navy chief issues guidelines on austerity and equality

Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh, who took charge last week, has issued a series of 26 measures to the rank and file of the force on social and ceremonial practices towards “optimal utilisation” of manpower and resources.

More in news:

  • These include cutting down on unnecessary deployment of personnel for events, restricted usage of decorations after name, promoting equality among the ranks and asking juniors not to be “subservient”.
  • In an effort to promote equality among all ranks, the guidelines call for “same standard of drinks/eats/menu/cutlery/crockery for all ranks attending the same function”. It also stated, “Juniors are encouraged to be disciplined and respectful but not subservient.”
  • The guidelines also state that ladies and children be “not lined up to receive and see off dignitaries”.

Editorial section:

 The immediate neighbourhood –The Hindu

Decolonising the Chagos archipelago –The Hindu

Low tactics–The Hindu

Fine-tuning the education policy–The Hindu

For more inclusive private schools–The Hindu

Making science accessible–The Hindu

 

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