UN report on sanitation
Topic: GS–II: Health
India has made great gains in providing basic sanitation facilities since the start of the millennium, accounting for almost two-thirds of the 650 million people globally who stopped practicing open defecation between 2000 and 2017.
- However, a monitoring report by UN organisations released shows that there has been absolutely no growth in the population with access to piped water facilities over that period, while large inequalities remain between rural and urban areas.
- As for drinking water, the Joint Monitoring Programme report by UNICEF and WHO shows India has increased the percentage of its population with access to a protected drinking water source less than 30 minutes away, from 79% in 2000 to 93% in 2017.
- However, the percentage of households getting piped water has remained stagnant at 44% over the 17-year period.
- In rural India, only 32% of the population have access to piped water, less than half of the 68% who have access in urban India.
- The contours of a new scheme, tentatively called Nal Se Jal, are being drafted this month.
- In sanitation India’s record has been better. The country is responsible for almost single-handedly dragging the world towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal of ending open defecation.
- The South Asian region, including India, accounted for almost three-fourths of the population who stopped defecating in the open between 2000 and 2017, according to the report.
- Of the 2.1 billion people who gained access to basic sanitation services over this time period globally, 486 million live in India.
- India’s Swachh Bharat mission has been an example and inspiration to other countries, especially in Africa, but also east and South Asia. Nigeria sent a delegation to study the programme.
- The millions of new toilets which mark the progress of the Swachh Bharat mission are, however, producing large amounts of solid and liquid waste that India simply does not have the ability to treat and dispose of safely. According to the report, only 30% of the country’s waste water is treated at plants providing at least secondary treatment, in comparison to an 80% global average.
- “The human right to sanitation implies that people not only have a right to a hygienic toilet but also have a right not to be negatively affected by unmanaged faecal waste. This is most relevant to poor and marginalised groups who tend to be disproportionately affected by other people’s unmanaged faecal sludge and sewage,” says the report, highlighting inequalities beyond toilet access.
ENDS, a new challenge
Topic: GS–II: Health
The growing craze for Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), which includes e-cigarettes, heat-not-burn devices, e-nicotine flavoured hookah, vape and e-sheesha among the youth in the Millennium City has come to pose a new challenge to the Haryana Food and Drugs Administration.
More in news:
- Gurugram Drugs Control Officer said the recent seizures is the tip of an iceberg as ENDS are now available in many parts of the city.
- It is a flourishing business with huge profit margins. The ENDS such as vape can be carried in the pocket without being noticed. Also, it does not leave any foul smell and therefore hard to detect.
- The officer stressed the need for strict legal provisions to check the growing use of ENDs. Besides Gurugram, it also rampant in Faridabad and Panchkula in Haryana.
- E-Cigarettes, also called personal vaporizers, vape pens, e-cigars, e-hookah, vaping devices, mod systems or pod systems, are products that produce an aerosolized mixture containing flavored liquids and nicotine that is inhaled by the user.
- E-Cigarettes can resemble traditional tobacco products like cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or common gadgets like flashlights, flash drives, or pens.
- These products have grown rapidly, particularly among youth and young adults. Youth use of e-cigarettes is a significant public health concern.
- ENDS are mostly made in China.
Quick Facts about E-Cigarettes
- E-Cigarettes are the most commonly-used tobacco products among youth, and use is rising at an alarming rate.
- Youth who use e-cigarettes are more likely to use cigarettes or other tobacco products.
- E-Cigarettes contain a liquid solution that is usually flavored. Flavors, which are appealing to children, can include fruit flavors, candy, coffee, piña colada, peppermint, bubble gum, or chocolate.
- E-Cigarette solution has chemicals (ie, anti-freeze, diethylene glycol, and carcinogens like nitrosamines).
- E-Cigarette devices mimic conventional cigarette use and help re-normalize smoking behaviors.
- E-liquid from e-cigarettes and refill packs can contaminate skin, leading to nicotine poisoning. Symptoms of nicotine poisoning include vomiting, sweating, dizziness, increased heart rate, lethargy, seizures, and difficulty breathing.
Centre’s fiat on reality shows
Topic: GS –II: Governance
The Information and Broadcasting Ministry has asked all private satellite TV channels to avoid showing children in an indecent, suggestive and inappropriate manner on dance reality shows or other such programmes.
More in news:
- The Ministry in a statement here said that many dance-based reality TV shows portray young children performing dance moves originally done by adults in movies.
- “These moves are often suggestive and age-inappropriate. Such acts may also have distressing impact on children, impacting them at a young and impressionable age,” an official statement said.
- All private satellite TV channels are expected to abide by the provisions contained in Programme and Advertising Codes prescribed under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 and rules framed, the I&B Ministry advisory to the channels read.
- According to the rules, no programme should be carried on TV which denigrates children, and programmes meant for children should not contain any bad language or explicit scenes of violence.
- The channels have been further advised to exercise maximum restraint, sensitivity and caution while showing such reality shows and programmes, the statement said.
India to be most populous by 2027
Topic: GS–II: Human Resources
United Nations report said that India is set to overtake China as the most populous country by 2027 and will have almost 1.64 billion inhabitants by 2050, adding that South Asia’s opportunity to reap the “demographic dividend” will peak by 2047.
More in report:
- Globally, people aged above 65 are the fastest growing age group, putting pressure on social protection systems as the proportion of the working-age population shrinks.
273 million more
- According to the World Population Prospects 2019 report released on Tuesday, India is expected to add 273 million people by 2050, which will be the largest national increase in the world. China, on the other hand, is expected to become smaller, dropping from its current 1.43 billion people to approximately 1.4 billion by 2050.
- However, while India may have the highest absolute increase in numbers, its rate of growth is slowing. The Central and the Southern Asia region, of which India is a part, is expected to see a 25% increase in population between now and 2050.
- The rate of population growth is the highest in sub-Saharan Africa, where the fertility rate stand at 4.6 births per woman over a lifetime. The region is expected to double its population by mid-century. Nigeria is expected to add 200 million people over the next three decades and overtake the U.S. to become the third most populous nation.
- Moving from geographical areas to age cohorts, India is still among the countries where the working-age population (25-64 years) is growing faster than other groups, creating an opportunity for accelerated economic growth. However, the “demographic dividend” will peak by 2047 in the region, meaning that countries such as India must rush to invest in education and health, especially for young people, the report says.
- Globally, it’s the post-working-age group that is growing the fastest. By 2050, one in six people will be above 65, compared with one in 11 people in 2019. In 2018, for the first time in history, people above 65 outnumbered children under five years of age. By 2050, the number of people over 80 is expected to triple to 426 million.
- This trend has also led to falling proportions of working-age people to support an ageing population.
- By 2050, almost 50 countries are expected to have less than two working-age people to support every person above 65.
Impact of ageing
- “These low values underscore the potential impact of population ageing on the labour market and economic performance as well as the fiscal pressures that many countries will face in the coming decades as they seek to build and maintain public systems of health care, pensions and social protection for older persons,” says the report.
Govt compulsorily retires 15 senior indirect tax officers
Topic: GS –II: Governance
The Government of India compulsorily retired 15 Commissioner-level officials of the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs. According to finance ministry sources, the ousted officials were charged with corruption, collecting and giving bribes, smuggling and even criminal conspiracy.
More in news:
- Of late, the Modi government has intensified its efforts to clean-up the bureaucracy.
- Last week, the government had compulsorily retired 12 senior IRS officials from the Income Tax department over charges of corruption, sexual harassment, disproportionate assets under Rule 56(j) of Central Civil Services (Pension) Rules.
- The Rule 56(j) of Central Civil Services (Pension) Rules, 1972 provides for periodical review of performance of government servants with a view to ascertain whether they should be retained in service or retired from service in public interest.
- As per these instructions, the cases of government servants covered by FR 56(j), 56(1) or Rule 48(1) (b) of CCS (Pension) Rules, 1972 should be reviewed six months before they attain the age of 50-55 years, in cases covered by FR 56(j) and on completion of 30 years of qualifying service under FR 56(1) or Rule 48 of CCS (Pension) Rules, 1972.
Topic: GS –II: Constitution and Polity
Recently Prime Minister Narendra Modi called a meeting to discuss “one nation, one election” proposal.
- The Election Commission is responsible for conducting union elections, whereas the state election commissions are responsible for holding state legislative and Panchayat/Municipal elections under Articles 324 and 243K of the Constitution respectively.
- Provisions for tenure of five years from the date of first sitting of Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies is mentioned under Article 83 (2) and 170 (1) Article 356 comes as an exception in case of dissolution or failure of constitutional machinery of a state.
- This concept is not alien to our country as the first election after enforcement of constitution in 1952 was conducted simultaneously, and later the elections of 1952, 1957 and 1962 were also the same.
- The liquidation of fourth Lok Sabha brought an end to the process. Premature dissolutions and extensions of Lok Sabha and various state assemblies in past 40 years have ended the cycle of simultaneous elections. Within 15 years of the newly-formed democracy and establishment of an electoral system in India, the process automatically dissolved.
- Advantage to national parties: Regional parties gather their state machinery for the state legislative elections, whereas national parties will gain more momentum with their power in every state.
- National issues over regional ones: National issues may overpower the regional ones which are equally important to be looked upon. Submerging of regional stories with national issues may create havoc.
- Federal structure would be disturbed: The party in power at the Centre may exercise such powers which may hamper the working of parties in power at state levels.
- Shortage of staff and security: One election in all levels at a time would require large deployment of forces and resources together for secure and smooth functioning, which would be a big challenge. The ignited election mode would require high security. More than 24 lakh EVMs and VVPAT would be required to conduct elections together.
- Disturbance in system of checks and balances: In a federal structure, the state governments and the central governments, especially when from opposite parties, check each other’s work and evaluate it. This competitive spirit may be curtailed and a lethargic attitude may crawl into working of these governments.
- Saving time and energy: A lot of money and time is being spent on elections. The money could be put to better use. The focus of respective parties is on winning elections in different parts of the country rather than on actual governance. Violence, hate speeches and surcharged atmosphere can disturb the law and order situation.
- Less promotion of individualism over nationalism: Parties, in order to win hearts near the time of elections, declare individualistic policies to lure the voters and not the nationalistic policies. The spirit of policy making gets hampered. Simultaneous elections would stop this.
- Smaller role of corruption, casteism: Party funding would not be required again and again, which would reduce manipulative practices of the parties to raise money. Caste politics won’t be ignited every time elections are round the corner.
- Model code of conduct (MCC): Political parties wouldn’t make unnecessary measures to win elections in the wake of MCC. Frequent imposition of MCC results in standstill of the government machinery, thus hindering development and policy implementation.
- Increase in voting percentage: It has turned out in many researches that voters’ participation is motivated with simultaneous elections. Voting percentage is a serious concern.
- People have clear opinions for choice on different levels of governments. During the general elections in 2014, people of Delhi showed a clear preference for a particular party. However, in the 2015 Delhi legislature elections, the wave was completely different for a state party.
Recommendations of Reports and Committees
- The idea of ‘One Nation, One Election’ was suggested by the Election Commission in 1983.
- Later in 1999, Law Commission in its 170th report headed by BP Jeevan Reddy, suggested that India go back to the concept of simultaneous elections. It stated that this concept couldn’t be adapted overnight in the prevailing circumstances. Suggestion for inserting rule 198A in the Rule of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha for conducting confidence motion in alternative government as well as non-confidence motion in the current government simultaneously was provided.
- The report has highlighted that even after the enforcement of Article 356 of the constitution, separate elections must be an exception and not a rule. Also, political parties at every level would have to co-operate for the same.
- Report of the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC) in 2002 highlighted that amendments with respect to simultaneous elections could be done without disturbing the basic structure of the constitution.
- The 79th report presented by Rajya Sabha in December 2015, after consulting various political parties, organisations, individuals and experts, suggested various reforms and conducts. It held that the term of legislatures could not be extended, except during emergency, but elections of Lok Sabha/State Legislative Assemblies could be conducted six months earlier under Section 14 and 15 of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951. It also suggested conducting of elections in two phases where some state legislative elections are conducted for a shorter term to end their tenure with the tenure of Lok Sabha.
- Recently, the Law Commission headed by B.S. Chouhan called 7 National and 59 regional/state parties for their response on the concept. It, however, failed to get consensus. The most recent draft report of the commission has been issued after hearing the views of various political parties, organisations and experts in favour and criticism of simultaneous elections. Keeping in mind the structure of the constitution, the draft suggests least possible amendments in the constitution and statutes. It has suggested amendment in Article 172 of the constitution and three options to synchronise elections of state assemblies with Lok Sabha.
- The idea of holding simultaneous elections has been highlighted by NITI Ayog as well, which has called frequent elections a ‘fundamental problem’ in the electoral system. It has also discussed both the arguments.
- The current Prime Minister and his party highlighted simultaneous elections in its manifesto. Also, the current and the former President of India have supported the concept.
- Simultaneous elections carry an international perspective as well. This system has been carried forward in several parts of the world with ease under similar scenarios.
- In South Africa, the national assembly, provincial legislatures and municipal council elections are held simultaneously in a cycle of five years. ‘Party list proportional representation’ is followed. In Sweden, parties are given seats according to the proportion of vote they achieved in the elections. County council and municipal council elections are held simultaneously. Belgium witnesses five different kinds of elections where European elections and federal elections are held every five years, coinciding with each other. In Indonesia, the presidential and legislative elections would be held simultaneously from 2019. They have made changes in their constitution, striking down some provisions as unconstitutional. The German constitution doesn’t allow removal of chancellor alone by bringing a no-confidence motion. They also have to agree on some replacement.
- There are many more countries such as Bolivia, Philippines, Brazil, Costa Rica, and Guatemala However, they all have presidential form of government where elections are held simultaneously along with legislative elections.
Need for Discussion
- It would be highly premature if a one-shift model is approached immediately. A complete shift at one time to conduct simultaneous elections may fail due to lack of experience, heavy expenditure at a single time and changing dynamics of politics. The preliminary level requires ground work and slower approach to attain the goal of simultaneous elections. The model for conducting two-phased simultaneous election is also suggested where some state assembly elections would conduct elections with Lok Sabha, while others would conduct elections in the mid-term of Lok Sabha. This suggestion comes along with suggestion of holding elections every 2.5 years till they become synchronised.
- It is true that the idea of simultaneous elections at present tends to create a specter of threat to federalism. However, we must not shy away from considering much needed reforms in our system. The nature of our constitution is flexible for the reason that amendments shall bring good governance and strength to democracy. Major challenges and dynamic changes may have to be adapted to bring required consistency for an empowered federalism. It is not just about elections but good governance because ballots are more powerful than bullets.
Libra is Facebook’s crypto currency
Topic: GS -III: Science and Technology
Facebook is leaping into the world of cryptocurrency with its own digital money, designed to let people save, send or spend money as easily as firing off text messages.
- ‘Libra’ — described as “a new global currency” — was unveiled on Tuesday in a new initiative in payments for the world’s biggest social network with the potential to bring crypto-money out of the shadows and into the mainstream.
- Facebook and some two dozen partners released a prototype of Libra as an open source code to be used by developers interested in weaving it into apps, services or businesses ahead of a rollout as global digital money next year.
- The initiative has the potential to allow more than a billion “unbanked” people around the world access to online commerce and financial services, said Libra Association head of policy and communications Dante Disparte.
- Libra Association debuted with 28 members including Mastercard, Visa, Stripe, Kiva, PayPal, Lyft, Uber and Women’s World Banking.
- Facebook will be just one voice among many in the association, but is separately building a digital wallet called Calibra.
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