Daily Current Affairs

Prelims Prominence - December 2, 2017

Foreign Relations

India donates 500 tonnes of rice to Lesotho

  • India has donated 500 metric tonnes of rice to the Kingdom of Lesotho, in Southern Africa, which is facing acute food shortage due to famine.
  • Lesotho is an enclaved, landlocked country in southern Africa completely surrounded by South Africa. Resources are scarce – a consequence of the harsh environment of the highland plateau and limited agricultural space in the lowlands

Education

HEFA approves projects for 6 higher education institutions to improve the research infrastructure

The UNEP’s report titled ‘Solid approach to waste: how 5 cities are beating pollution –

  • The Higher Education Funding Agency (HEFA) has approved projects worth over Rs. 2,066 crore for six higher educational institutions to improve the research infrastructure and further their standing at global level.
  • These six institutes are IITs Bombay, Delhi, Madras, Kharagpur, Kanpur and NIT Suratkal.
  • Decision in this regard was taken at 2nd HEFA Board meeting chaired by Chairmanship of Secretary Higher Education.
  • The approved funds will be in addition to grants being given to these institutions by the government.

Enlighten about Higher Education Funding Agency (HEFA)

  • HEFA was set in September 2016 after it received Cabinet approval to provide financial assistance to institutes of higher education in addition to grants given by Union Ministry of Human Resources Development.
  • It has authorised capital of Rs. 2000 crore. Government equity in it is Rs.1000 crore.
  • It is not-for-profit organisation that will leverage funds from market and supplement them with donations and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds.
  • These funds will be used to finance improvement in infrastructure in top institutions and will be serviced through internal accruals.

Modalities of operation of HEFA

  • HEFA is novel method for funding premier institutions by using instrument of securitising future flows.
  • Under it, each institution agrees to escrow specific amount from their internally earned resources and not through government grants.
  • This forms basis for credit line which can be used by institution for creating required capital and research assets.
  • The Principal portion is repaid from escrowed amount and interest is met by Government. For institution, this is interest-free amount and gives facility to institution to build the required research infrastructure of world class.

Operationalisation of HEFA

  • HEFA was registered as Section – 8 Company under Companies Act in May 2017.
  • Canara Bank was identified as partner for setting up Company. RBI also has granted license under RBI Act for HEFA to operate as Non-Banking Financial Company (NBFC) in November 2017 and to leverage equity to mobilise money from market as per requirements of the institutions.

UNEP Report

Towards Pollution free planet

  • India had the highest share of welfare costs (or a loss of income from labour), of about $220 billion (about ₹1.4 trillion), in South and South-East Asia of a combined total of $380 billion from mortality due to air pollution, according to a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
  • The report, ‘Towards a pollution-free planet’, was launched during the first Conference of Parties for the Minamata Convention, which addresses mercury issues, and ahead of the annual U.N. Environment Assembly, to be held in early December.

Enlighten about the report -

  • The global mortality costs from outdoor air pollution are projected to rise to about $25 trillion by 2060 in the absence of more stringent measures.
  • At regional and national scale, China’s welfare costs from mortality were the highest at nearly $1 trillion followed by the Organisation for Economic Corporation and Development (OECD) countries with a combined total of $730 billion, the report added quoting a 2016 projection by the OECD.
  • Although certain forms of pollution have been reduced as technologies and management strategies have advanced, approximately 19 million premature deaths are estimated to occur annually as a result of the way societies use natural resources and impact the environment to support production and consumption.
  • If consumption and production patterns continue as they are, the linear economic model of ‘take-make-dispose’ will seriously burden an already polluted planet, affecting current and future generations.
  • To curb pollution in various forms, the UNEP called for strong high-level political commitment and engagement of the local government, civil society and other stakeholders.
  • To achieve high level political commitment in key economic sectors, there is a need to go beyond the environmental ministries and include other relevant ministries such as finance, agriculture, industry, urban, transport, energy and health.
  • Reporting on the progress that comes from acting on pollution whether through voluntary measures or formal laws is a crucial step in this transition.

Enlighten about Minamata Convention

  • It is an international treaty designed to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds.
  • The Convention was in 2013.
  • The Convention is named after the Japanese city, Minimata.
  • This naming is of symbolic importance as the city went through devastating incident of mercury poisoning.
  • The convention has prohibited a myriad of products containing mercury, and their production and trade will be altogether prohibited by 2020.
  • These products include batteries, compact fluorescent lamps, switches and relays, soaps and cosmetics, thermometers, and blood pressure devices.
  • Furthermore, it has gone as far as prohibiting vaccines containing mercury, as well as dental fillings which use mercury amalgam.
  • The biggest mercury release comes from coal-fired power stations and usage of mercury to separate gold from ore-bearing rock. Mercury from the factories is released into a river system.
  • The Convention requires countries to come up with plans to reduce the amount of mercury used by gold miners.
  • The treaty also organizes and support financially mercury awareness campaigns by which it gives support for mercury-free alternatives.

Enlighten about UNEP

  • The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was founded as a result of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in June 1972 and has its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.
  • UNEP also has six regional offices and various country offices.
  • The activities of UNEP cover a wide range of issues regarding the atmosphere, marine and terrestrial ecosystems, environmental governance and green economy.
  • It has also been active in funding and implementing environment related development projects.

Social Laws

Australian state allows voluntary euthanasia in 2019

  • An Australian state parliament has legalised voluntary euthanasia 20 years after the country repealed the world’s first mercy-killing law for the terminally ill.
  • The final vote in the Victorian parliament on Wednesday means that doctor-assisted suicide will be allowed in Australia’s second-most populous state from mid-2019.
  • First Jurisdiction in the world to legalise doctor-assisted suicide
  • Australia’s sparsely populated Northern Territory in 1995 became the first jurisdiction in the world to legalise doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients.
  • But the Australian Parliament overturned that law in 1997 after four people had been helped to die.

Enlighten about Euthanasia

  • Generally, the word euthanasia is defined as the, act or practice of painlessly putting to death or withdrawing treatment from a person suffering an incurable disease.
  • Euthanasia is intentionally killing another person to relieve his or her suffering.
  • There are 2 types of euthanasia: Passive euthanasia and Active euthanasia.
  • Active euthanasia is defined as taking an immediate action such as using lethal injection to painlessly put a terminally-ill patient to death.
  • Passive euthanasia is withdrawing treatment while the life of the patient is still dependent on it and when it is believed that treatment is more burdensome than beneficial.
  • Passive euthanasia allows the patient to die naturally and is often considered more acceptable.

Economy

Govt may delay implementation of N.K. Singh’s FRBM report

Delay in implementing the new fiscal consolidation roadmap

  • The finance ministry may have pushed back implementing the new fiscal consolidation roadmap recommended by the N.K. Singh committee by two years
  • It asked the 15th Finance Commission to dwell on the same matter
  • This could mean putting off meeting the fiscal deficit target of 3% of GDP for 2018-19 by a year or two

New timeline

  • The N.K. Singh committee recommendations on fiscal discipline were supposed to come into force in the next fiscal starting April 2018
  • The 15th Finance Commission recommendations will be implemented starting April 2020

Recommendations of FRBM Committee

  • The fiscal responsibility and budget management (FRBM) review committee had recommended a fundamental shift in fiscal consolidation by targeting overall government (states+centre) debt, which the rating agencies track rather than the current practice of focusing on the centre’s fiscal deficit
  • The FRBM review committee had recommended a debt-to-GDP ratio of 38.7% for the central government, 20% for the state governments together and a fiscal deficit of 2.5% of GDP, by financial year 2022-23
  • The FRBM review panel had also recommended enacting a new Debt and Fiscal Responsibility Act after repealing the existing Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act
  • And creating a fiscal council that would monitor the government’s fiscal announcements for any year, provide its own forecasts and analysis, and advise the ministry on when to trigger the escape clause provision

Agriculture

22nd Small Farmers’ Agri-Business Consortium

  • Held in New Delhi December 1, 2017
  • The 22nd meeting of Board of Management (BOM) of Small Farmers’ Agri-Business Consortium (SFAC) was held in New Delhi.
  • It was chaired by Union Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister Radha Mohan Singh.
  • Various activities of SFAC were reviewed during meeting.

Small Farmers Agribusiness Consortium

  • SFAC is an autonomous society promoted by Union Ministry of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers’ Welfare.
  • It was established in 1994 and is registered under Societies Registration Act 1860.
  • It is also registered as Non-Banking Financial Institution (NBFC) by Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
  • Its fundamental objective is to link small farmers to agricultural value chain, which includes investments, technology and markets in association with private, corporate or cooperative sector.
  • It also provides capital support in form of Venture Capital Assistance (VCA) and Project Development Facility (PDF) for economic inclusion of small and marginal farmers in agribusiness activities.
  • It also promotes farmer producer organisations (FPOs) and their integration in agriculture value chain.
  • Recently it was entrusted with task of implementation of critically important Delhi KisanMandi and National Agriculture Market Scheme (NAM) on e-platform to progressively free agricultural trade and offer price discovery to farmers.

December 1: World AIDS Day

  • The World AIDS Day is celebrated every year all over the world on December 1 to raise the public awareness about Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
  • It also seeks to remember those who have died of the disease by mourning.
  • The theme selected by World Health Organization (WHO) for year 2017 is ‘Right to health‘. Under it, WHO will highlight need for 36.7 million people living with HIV and those who are vulnerable and affected by the epidemic, to reach the goal of universal health coverage.
  • Besides, WHO under slogan “Everybody counts” will advocate for access to safe, effective, quality and affordable medicines, including diagnostics and other health commodities. It will also ensure health care services for all people in need and that they are protected against financial risk
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) had designated 1st December as World AIDS Day in 1987. Since then it is observed annually. It is one of the eight official global public health campaigns marked by the WHO.