Supreme Court to study plea for food for all
Topic : GS Paper II POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
The Supreme Court has asked the Centre to file its reply to the petition seeking setting up of community kitchens pan-India, to eradicate hunger, malnutrition and starvation deaths prevalent in the country.
- The petitioners relied on various census and statistical reports to assert that malnutrition and hunger were soaring at an alarming rate in the country, threatening the ‘Right to Food’ and inadvertently, the ‘Right to Life’, enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution.
- The UN World Food Programme, UN WHO: Global Database on Child Growth and Malnutrition, 2006, UN Food and Agriculture Organization: SOFI 2006 Report, it has been reported that 7000 persons (including children) die of hunger every day and over 25 Lakh persons (including children) die of hunger, annually.
- Food and Agriculture Report, 2018 stated that India houses 195.9 million of the 821 million undernourished people in the world, accounting for approximately 24% of the world’s hungry.
- Prevalence of undernourishment in India is 14.8%, higher than both the global and Asian average.
- The most alarming figure revealed is that approximately 4500 children die every day under the age of five years in our country resulting from hunger and malnutrition, amounting to over three lakh deaths every year owing to hunger, of children alone.
- The figures for availability of food in India clearly point towards widespread hunger of people and animals in India. And every available statistical indicator confirms the prevalence of hunger.
- Various schemes run by government to address the problem of hunger are futile in as much as there are eligible persons who have not been issued cards requisite to avail subsidies and benefits and then there is a segment of persons who are homeless and outside the grid of these schemes for the mere reasons that they do not possess a roof on their head.
- PDS system in India which accounts for distribution of wheat and rice, only, does not account for proteins and other components of a well-balanced diet, in turn leads to malnutrition.
What are Community Kitchens?
- Community kitchens are institutions that provide cheap or free nutritious food as a service to the general public usually run by religious institutions or by the state.
- These are viewed as a complement to the existing schemes of the Government for combating hunger and malnutrition in India.
- A Bench led by Justice N.V. Ramana issued notice to the government on the petition filed jointly by activists Anun Dhawan, Ishann Dhawan and Kunjana Singh.
- The plea seeks to establish state-funded or Public Private Partnership (PPP) community kitchens pan-India, to eradicate hunger, malnutrition and starvation deaths prevalent in the country.
- It urged the court to direct the Chief Secretaries across the country to formulate schemes for the implementation of community kitchens.
- It called for the creation of a national food grid by the Centre that would be beyond the scope of the Public Distribution Scheme (PDS).
- It has sought Direct the National Legal Services Authority to formulate a scheme to further the provisions of Article 51A of the Constitution of India in order to mitigate deaths resulting from hunger, malnutrition and starvation.
- It has also been suggested by the Petitioners that these establishments could be set up in the form of Public Private Partnership (PPP) to effectively utilize funds under Corporate Social Responsibility as per Section 135 of the Companies Act, 2013.
- The Petitioners also clarified that they did not seek replacement of any of the existing government schemes and rather anticipated these establishments as an added mechanism for provision of nutritious food.
Four more States join ration card portability
Topic : GS Paper II POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan has announced that beginning from October 2019, Ration card holders in Kerala and Karnataka, Rajasthan and Haryana, will be able to buy subsidised food from ration shops in the neighbouring State.
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- With effect from October 1, 2019, these two new clusters will join the existing State pairs of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, as well as Maharashtra and Gujarat as pioneers in inter-State portability of ration cards.
- Paswan was laying out the roadmap for the One Nation One Ration Card system of complete nationwide portability, which the Centre hopes to implement by June 2020.
- By January 1, 2020, the Centre hopes the eight States in these initial experimental clusters, as well as Jharkhand, Punjab and Tripura, can be clubbed into a single grid.
- The migrants from these 11 States can access their rations guaranteed under the National Food Security Act in any of the other State within the grid.
- These 11 States have already achieved the first step of implementing intra-State portability, where NFSA beneficiaries can use their ration cards in any ration shop within their own State, not just the shop where the card is registered.
- By March 2020, intra-State portability will be implemented in another 13 States and Union Territories: Tamil Nadu, Goa, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Sikkim, Jammu and Kashmir, Daman and Diu, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli.
- These are mostly States where almost all ration shops have electronic point of sale machines.
Benefits of One Nation- One Ration card:
- One Nation One Ration Card (RC) which will ensure all beneficiaries especially migrants can access PDS across the nation from any PDS shop of their own choice.
- The biggest beneficiary of this would be migrant labourers who move to other States to seek better job opportunities.
- This will provide freedom to the beneficiaries as they will not be tied to any one PDS shop and reduce their dependence on shop owners and curtail instances of corruption.
- The objective is to ensure that this is implemented nationally in a time-bound manner.
- The process also aims to do away with manual recordings of transactions, thereby ensuring clarity of record keeping.
- 10 States are lagging behind and the focus must be on these states.
- There is only 70% coverage of ePOS in West Bengal, 33% in Uttarakhand and 15% in Bihar.
- In the north-east, in Meghalaya, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram and Assam, [as well as in Delhi], there is no coverage at all.
- Apart from ePOS coverage, Aadhaar authentication and online supply depot management are also critical for the implementation of the system.
- Measures must be taken to prevent misuse of the portability system.
- Allowing partial lifting of rations, where a maximum of 50% of the ration can be picked up at one time will prevent one member of a household lifting the entire ration at one location, depriving other members of the family who use the same ration card in a different location is a measure to prevent the misuse of the system.
India faces higher mortality from cardiovascular diseases
Topic : GS Paper II HEALTH
A research paper shows that in low income countries, including India, death from cardiac disease was three times that of cancer.
- The PURE study, found that the mortality was highest in the Low Income Countries (LIC) despite lower risk factors, and lowest in the High Income Countries (HIC).
- The study also presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress, tracked over 1,62,000 individuals, aged 35-70 years, living in 21 countries across five continents, over about 9.5 years.
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- Cardiovascular disease (CVD) continues to be the leading cause of death across the world, but there are significant variations between rich and poor nations.
- While in high income countries, death from cancer is twice that of CVD, in low income countries, death from cardiac disease was three times that of cancer.
- Additionally, indoor or household air pollution has been identified as a key cause of CVD.
- The HIC in the study were Canada, Saudi Arabia, Sweden and United Arab Emirates. The middle-income countries (MIC) were Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Columbia, Iran, Malaysia, Palestine, Philippines, Poland, Turkey and South Africa. The LIC were Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
- The study establishes that though risk factors are lower in low income countries, factors such as access to quality health care and lack of insurance have a play, leading to the mortality.
- It is believed that the high mortality in poorer countries is not due to a higher burden of risk factors, but likely other factors including lower quality and less health care.
- With better insurance and improving hospital standards, it is possible for LIC to head towards better outcomes.
- Researchers have established indoor air pollution as an emerging source of risk for cardiovascular disease in LIC and MIC. Concrete measures must be taken to modify this particular risk factor.
India, Japan to hold 2+2 dialogue on Indo-Pacific cooperation
Topic : GS Paper II INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
India and Japan have decided to hold their first Foreign and Defence Ministerial Dialogue (2+2) ahead of the Japan-India annual summit this year
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- The Prime Ministers of Japan and India, in their vision statement in October 2018, had reiterated their commitment to working together towards a free and open Indo-Pacific.
- The dialogue is planned for “advancing cooperation towards peace and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region”.
- Accord on the meeting was reached by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his Japanese counterpart Takeshi Iwaya at the India-Japan annual defence ministerial dialogue.
- They had an exchange of views on the current security situation in the Indo-Pacific region, including developments on the Korean Peninsula and in the South China Sea.
- The Ministers recognised that peace and stability of the Indian and Pacific Oceans are crucial for ensuring prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region and the entire world.
- The Ministers shared their views on exploring cooperation with countries in the Indo-Pacific region through various initiatives that would further the shared vision of peace and stability.
- The second Japan-India-U.S. trilateral mine-countermeasures exercise (MINEX) was held in July 2019.
- The Japan-India-U.S. trilateral maritime exercise ‘Malabar 2019’, would be held from late September to early October 2019.
- The Ministers welcomed both the exercises and expressed their resolve to continue the trilateral exercise in the same framework.
- The two countries have made steady progress in Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) based on implementing the arrangement for deeper cooperation between the two Navies, signed last year.
- The Armies and Air Forces of India and Japan held their first bilateral exercises, ‘Dharma Guardian’ and ‘Shinyuu Maitri’, in 2018.
- In 2018, Japan also joined the India-US Air Force exercise ‘Cope India’ as an observer for the first time.
- The Ministers also noted the progress on the ongoing negotiations for the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA), which commenced after the summit meeting in October 2018.
- Acquisition and cross-servicing agreement (ACSA), will allow the Indian military and the Japan Self Defense Force (JSDF) to use each other’s bases for logistical support.
- It will enhance the strategic depth of bilateral security and defense cooperation.
- The ACSA would permit the Indian Navy (IN) access to a Japanese base in Djibouti, while the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) would be permitted to use India’s military installations on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands located in the Indian Ocean, which lie near the Malacca Straits, next to other naval facilities.
IAF inducts eight U.S.-made Apache attack helicopters
Topic : GS Paper II SECURITY
The Indian Air Force (IAF) has formally inducted eight AH-64E Apache attack helicopters into service at the Pathankot Air Force Station.
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- Apache attack helicopters are being purchased to replace the Mi-35 fleet.
- India is 16th nation to select the Apache and the AH-64E is the most advanced variant.
- India contracted 22 Apache helicopters from the U.S. government and Boeing in September 2015 and the entire fleet will be in service with the IAF by 2020.
- The government has also cleared the acquisition of six additional Apaches for the Indian Army which has been formally approved by the U.S.
AH-64E Apache attack helicopters:
- Apache is the most advanced multi-role heavy attack helicopter in the world.
- Alongside the capability to shoot fire and forget anti-tank guided missiles, air-to-air missiles, rockets and other ammunitions, it also has modern Electronic Warfare (EW) capabilities to provide versatility to helicopters in a network-centric aerial warfare.
- The helicopter is capable of delivering a variety of weapons which include air-to-ground Hellfire missiles, 70 mm Hydra rockets and air-to-air Stinger missiles.
- Apache also carries one 30 mm chain gun with 1,200 rounds as part of area weapon sub-system and it carries fire control radar, which has a 360 degree coverage and nose mounted sensor suite for target acquisition and night vision systems.
These helicopters are day/night, all-weather capable and have high agility and survivability against battle damage. This procurement will enhance the capability of IAF in providing integrated combat aviation cover to the army strike corps.
Task force recommends online loan sale platform
Topic : GS Paper III ECONOMY
A task force set up by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has submitted its report on the development of a secondary market for corporate loans.
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- The task force was headed by Canara Bank chairman T.N. Manoharan
- It recommended setting up of a self-regulatory body (SRB), which will oversee the proposed secondary market.
- The SRB may be set up as an association by scheduled commercial banks, public financial institutions and other related entities, and may be incorporated as a Section 8 company under the Companies Act, 2013.
- It must be set up within three months from the date of acceptance of the recommendations it said.
- The SRB’s role will be to standardize loan documentation and covenants, periodically review the documentation, ensure standardization of practices, and promote growth, liquidity, efficiency and transparency of the proposed secondary market.
- It will also be responsible for setting up a central loan contract registry, which will finalize the detailed design structure, infrastructure, technological aspects and nature of incorporation, to ensure legal sanctity of its operations and for executing agreements with other agencies.
- It said the SRB may stipulate minimum 5-10% of the loan outstanding as the threshold limit for the loan size eligible for sale.
- The Task Force also recommended setting up of an online loan sales platform to conduct auctions of secondary market loans.
- It said term loans have to be prioritized for the auction and, subsequently with experience, other categories of loans, such as revolving credit facilities (cash credit, credit card receivables, etc.), assets with bullet repayment and non-fund based facilities, could be introduced.
- Other recommendations of the Task Force include linking the pricing of all loans to an external benchmark as the current Marginal Cost of Funds Based Lending Rate (MCLR) may not be comparable across banks.
- Amendment of the regulations with respect to securitisation and assignment of loans, asset reconstruction, foreign portfolio investment and external commercial borrowings were also recommended.
- The committee also said that amendments in regulations issued by SEBI, IRDA and PFRDA were needed to enable participation of non-banking entities such as mutual funds, insurance companies and pension funds.
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