IASCLUB Daily Current Affairs : 28 June 2019

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Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab

Topic: GS-I:  History

A statue of Ranjit Singh, who ruled Punjab for almost four decades (1801-39), was inaugurated in Lahore. June 27 is his death anniversary. His legacy endures for Punjabis around the world.

Life and times

  • Ranjit Singh was born on November 13, 1780 in Gujranwala, now in Pakistan.
  • At that time, Punjab was ruled by powerful chieftains who had divided the territory into Misls. Ranjit Singh overthrew the warring Misls and established a unified Sikh empire after he conquered Lahore in 1799.
  • He was given the title Lion of Punjab (Sher-e-Punjab) because he stemmed the tide of Afghan invaders in Lahore, which remained his capital until his death. His general Hari Singh Nalwa built the Fort of Jamrud at the mouth of the Khyber Pass, the route the foreign rulers took to invade India.
  • At the time of his death, he was the only sovereign leader left in India, all others having come under the control of the East India Company in some way or the other.

Wide, powerful reign

  • He combined the strong points of the traditional Khalsa army with western advances in warfare to raise Asia’s most powerful indigenous army of that time. He also employed a large number of European officers, especially French, to train his troops. He appointed French General Jean Franquis Allard to modernise his army.
  • Ranjit Singh’s trans-regional empire spread over several states. His empire included the former Mughal provinces of Lahore and Multan besides part of Kabul and the entire Peshawar. The boundaries of his state went up to Ladakh — Zorawar Singh, a general from Jammu, had conquered Ladakh in Ranjit Singh’s name — in the northeast, Khyber pass in the northwest, and up to Panjnad in the south where the five rivers of Punjab fell into the Indus. During his regime, Punjab was a land of six rivers, the sixth being the Indus.

His legacy

  • The maharaja was known for his just and secular rule; both Hindus and Muslims were given powerful positions in his darbar. The Sikhs take pride in him for he turned Harimandir Sahib at Amritsar into the Golden Temple by covering it with gold. Right at the doorstep of the sanctum sanctorum of the temple is a plaque that details how in 1830 AD, the maharaja did sewa over 10 years.
  • He is also credited with funding Hazoor Sahib gurudwara at the final resting place of Guru Gobind Singh in Nanded, Maharashtra.

Today, his throne is displayed prominently at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Exhibitions on his rule are frequent in western countries home to the Punjabi diaspora. Last year, London hosted an exhibition that focused on the history of the Sikh Empire and the international relations forged by the maharaja.

Marathas quota demand

Topic: GS –II: Constitution and Polity

The Bombay High Court upheld the constitutional validity of reservation for the Maratha community in education and government jobs in Maharashtra, but directed that it be slashed from the present 16 per cent to 12 per cent and 13 per cent respectively.

Marathas

  • They are a Marathi-speaking, politically dominant community in Maharashtra. They make up about one-third of the population of the state. Historically, they have been identified as a “warrior” caste with large land-holdings. Since the formation of Maharashtra state in 1960, of its 18 chief ministers, 11 have been from the Maratha community. While division of land and agrarian problems over the years have led to a decline of prosperity among middle class and lower middle class Marathas, the community still plays an important role in the rural economy.

History of Maratha Quota

  • The demand for Maratha reservation was first mooted in the 1980s. In 1992, the Maratha Mahasangh had made a representation to the state government to provide reservation to the community. The NCP was the first party that had promised to provide reservation to the community in its 2009 election manifesto. In July 2014, the Congress-NCP government had brought in an ordinance for 16 per cent Maratha quota, but it failed the legal test. The subsequent BJP government in December 2014 came out with an Act to provide reservation for the community but the proposal also did not stand the scrutiny of the court.
  • After largescale protests by the Marathas in November 2018, the state legislature again passed an Act proposing 16 per cent reservation in education and government jobs for the community, declared as socially and educationally backward class by the government. The Maharashtra State Reservations (of seats for admissions in educational institutions in the state and for appointments in the public service and posts under the state) for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) Act 2018 was then challenged in the Bombay High Court, terming it as violative of the Supreme Court order that reservations in any state cannot exceed 50 per cent.

Existing quantum of reservation in Maharashtra

  • A nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court had ruled that total reservation for backward classes could not go beyond the 50 per cent mark. Maharashtra is one of the few states which is an exception to the rule. Following the 2001 State Reservation Act, the the total reservation in the state is 52 per cent, out of which, the larger quotas are for SC (13%), ST (7%) and OBC (19%), with the rest going to Special Backward Class (2%) Vimukti Jati (3%), Nomadic Tribe (B) (2.5%), Nomadic Tribe (C) (Dhangar) (3.5%) and Nomadic Tribe (D) (Vanjari) (2%). The quotas given to the various Nomadic Tribes and Special Backward Classes, in fact, have been carved out of the total OBC quota. The addition of the 12-13 per cent Maratha quota will take the total reservation in the state to 64-65 per cent.

What did the court say?

  • The court relied on the findings of the Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission (MSBCC) .The committee, had said that the Maratha community is socially, economically and educationally backward. The MSBCC surveyed 45,000 families from two villages from each of the 355 talukas with more than 50 per cent Maratha population. It found 37.28 per cent of Marathas living below the poverty line.

The bench of Justice Ranjit More and Justice Bharati H Dangre said that it was aware of SC’s 50 per cent cap, however, in exceptional circumstances, the ceiling can be exceeded. It added that in this case, it agreed with the commission’s findings that there are extraordinary and exceptional circumstances, based on quantifiable data. The court has, however, said that 16 per cent reservation is not justifiable and reservation should not exceed 13 per cent in employment and 12 per cent in education.

 

Diphtheria is a concern: long-time vaccine, yet rising recent numbers

Topic: GS–II: Health

The diphtheria vaccine is among the oldest vaccines in India’s Universal Immunisation Programme, yet cases in the country have been going up over the last few years after showing a remarkable reduction in 2015. That is why the season’s first death due to diphtheria in Delhi has caused an alarm, with doctors assessing their preparedness.

Diphtheria:

  • Diphtheria is an infectious disease caused by Corynebacterium diphtheria, a bacterium. The primary infection is in the throat and upper airways.
  • According to the National Health Portal, one type of diphtheria affects the throat and sometimes the tonsils. Another type causes ulcers on the skin; these are more common in the tropics (places where all 12 months have mean temperatures of at least 18 °C). Diphtheria particularly affects children aged 1 to 5 years. In temperate climates diphtheria tends to occur during the colder months.
  • Diphtheria is fatal in only 5-10% cases.

The vaccine

  • In 1978, India launched the Expanded Programme on Immunisation. The first three vaccines in the programme were BCG (against TB). DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus) and cholera. In 1985, the programme was converted to the Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP). DPT continues to be a part of UIP, which now includes 12 vaccines. It is now incorporated as a pentavalent vaccine, (containing vaccine against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus [DPT], Hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type B). UIP aims at giving all children born in India all these 12 vaccines free. As per data from the National Family Health Survey 4, the coverage of diphtheria vaccine is 78.4%.
  • The government, after the last outbreak in Delhi, decided to commission a study on vaccine hesitancy and ways to deal with it. The study is being done by the Immunisation Technical Support Unit under the ministry of health and family welfare will conduct the study in association with GAVI — an international organisation supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation working on ensuring vaccine access.
  • Vaccine hesitancy is a growing problem the world over. The US too has been grappling with it as cases of a polio like illness some time back created panic. States like Minnesota have seen rising vaccine hesitancy, especially among immigrant populations, after Andrew Wakefield, a British doctor who was stripped of his licence to practice and became one of the leading voices against vaccines, personally paid a visit to the state.

The rising trend

  • Cases have been going up in the last few years. In 2015, as per World Health Organization data, India reported 2,365 cases. This was a steep drop from the 6,094 cases reported the previous year. However, in 2016, 2017 and 2018, the numbers rose successively to 3,380, 5,293 and 8,788.
  • As per data from the Central Bureau of Health Intelligence, during 2005-2014, India reported 41,672 cases of diphtheria (average 4,167 per year) with 897 deaths (case fatality ratio 2.2%). Ten of the states (Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Nagaland, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and West Bengal) accounted for 84% of the cases reported across the country.

Modi and Abe discuss economy, bullet train

 Topic: GS -III: Economic Development

 Prime Minister Narendra Modi held wide-ranging talks with his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, on the global economy, fugitive economic offenders and disaster management, and announced that President Ram Nath Kovind would participate in the coronation ceremony of Emperor Naruhito in October.

More in news:

  • It was the first meeting between the two leaders since the start of Japan’s Reiwa era and Mr. Modi’s re-election.
  • Modi thanked Mr. Abe for the warm welcome for him and the delegation visiting Japan for the G-20 Summit. He appreciated Japan’s leadership as the G-20 chairman.
  • The two leaders also had a brief discussion on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail Corridor and on a convention centre being built in Varanasi.
  • They agreed on the delivery of both the projects on time.

National mission on natural language translation soon

Topic: GS -III: Science and Technology

The Ministry of Electronics and IT will soon place before the Union Cabinet a ₹450 crore proposal for Natural Language Translation — one of the key missions identified by the Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC).

More in news:

  • The proposal is part of the 100-day action plan charted out by MeitY, following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s instructions.
  • The national mission on natural language translation aims to make science and technology accessible to all by facilitating access to teaching and researching material bilingually — in English and in one’s native Indian language.
  • To achieve this, the government plans to leverage a combination of machine translation and human translation.
  • Translation activities can also help generate employment for educated unemployed, he pointed out, adding that the mission would help not just students who find it difficult to access knowledge because of language barrier, but also teachers, authors, publishers, translation software developers and general readers.
  • The IT ministry is the lead agency for implentation of the mission along with Ministry of Human Resource Development and Department of Science and Technology.
  • The PM- STIAC is an overarching body that identifies challenges in certain areas of science and technology.

Government revamps WPI revision team

 Topic: GS -III: Economic Development

The government has reconstituted the working group tasked with revising the current wholesale price index (WPI).

  • The terms of reference (ToR) of the working group include selecting the most appropriate base year for the preparation of a new official series of index numbers of wholesale price (WPI) and producer price index (PPI) in India.
  • The working group will also have to review the commodity basket of the current WPI series and suggest additions or deletions of commodities in the light of structural changes that occurred in the economy since 2011-12.
  • The ToRs also include a review of the existing system of price collection and suggesting improvements, along with coming up with a computational methodology to be adopted for the monthly WPI and PPI.
  • The current series of wholesale price index with 2011-12 as base year was introduced in May 2017.Since 2011-12, significant structural changes have taken place in the economy. Therefore, it has become necessary to examine the coverage of commodities, weighting diagram and related issues pertaining to the existing series of index numbers of wholesale price index.
  • The working group will be chaired by NITI Aayog Member Ramesh Chand and will have members from the Central Statistical Office, the Ministries of Finance, Petroleum and Natural Gas among others.

L 98-59b: new planet

Topic: GS -III: Science and Technology

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has discovered a new planet, the tiniest of its finds so far. It is between the sizes of Mars and Earth and orbits a bright, cool, nearby star. It has been named L 98-59b.

  • Apart from L 98-59b, two other worlds orbit the same star. While all three planets’ sizes are known, further study with other telescopes will be needed to determine if they have atmospheres and, if so, which gases are present.
  • L 98-59b is around 80% Earth’s size. The two other worlds in the system, L 98-59c and L 98-59d, are respectively around 1.4 and 1.6 times Earth’s size.
  • Their host star, L 98-59, is about one-third the mass of the Sun and lies about 35 light-years away. While L 98-59b is a record for TESS, even smaller planets have been discovered in data collected by NASA’s Kepler satellite, including Kepler-37b, which is only 20% larger than the Moon.

Editorial section

 A democratic requirement – The Hindu

At the high table– The Hindu

A policy to regulate coaching centres– The Hindu

Prudent prescription– The Hindu

BIMSTEC, a viable option– The Hindu

 

 

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