Army builds extreme weather habitats for troops in Ladakh
Why in News?
As India and China continue deliberations on a proposed disengagement and de-escalation plan to end the stand-off in eastern Ladakh, the Army has completed building extreme weather habitats for thousands of additional troops to remain deployed through the harsh winter.
- In order to ensure the operational efficiency of the troops deployed in winters, the Army has completed the establishment of habitat facilities for all the troops deployed in the sector.
- Apart from the smart camps with integrated facilities, which have been built over the years, additional state of the art habitats with integrated arrangements for electricity, water, heating facilities, health and hygiene have been recently created.
- The troops on the front line were accommodated in heated tents as per tactical considerations of their deployment.
- Adequate civil infrastructure has also been identified to cater to any emergency requirements.
- The altitude in Ladakh where troops are deployed ranges from 14,000 feet to 18,000 feet and the area experiences up to 40 feet of snowfall from December onwards.
- Coupled with the wind chill factor, the temperature dips to minus 40 degrees Celsius, disrupting road access to the area for some time.
- The Army has deployed thousands of additional troops and equipment in eastern Ladakh and along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) since the stand-off began in early May.
- The Army recently procured 15,000 extreme weather clothing for the additional troops in Ladakh.
- The equipment normally catered to a certain number of troops at any point of time. They “had to go in for certain emergency procurements” for the additional troops.
Questionnaire of NPR being finalised: RGI
Why in News?
The office of the Registrar-General of India (RGI) has said the schedule, or the questionnaire, of the National Population Register (NPR) is “being finalised” and the information about the expected date of the first phase of Census 2021 is “not available”.
- The response came in reply to a question filed under the Right to Information Act seeking information on the expected date of the first phase of the Census — House listing & Housing census — and an update of the NPR that was earlier scheduled to begin on April 1.
- The two were to be conducted simultaneously from April to September, but were postponed indefinitely on March 25 due to the pandemic.
- Though the twin exercise was to be rolled out first in Meghalaya, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep and the New Delhi Municipal Council area in April, the RGI said in its reply on November 17 that “the schedule of NPR is being finalised”.
- As many as 13 States and Union Territories have opposed the update of the NPR due to its link to the proposed National Register of Citizens and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
- According to the Citizenship Rules framed in 2003, the NPR is the first step towards compilation of the National Register of Indian Citizens (NRIC), or the NRC.
- The NPR was first collected in 2010 and then updated in 2015. Some States such as West Bengal and Rajasthan have objected to additional questions to be asked in the fresh NPR such as “date and place of birth of father and mother, last place of residence and mother tongue”.
- The CAA, passed by Parliament on December 11, 2019, allows citizenship on basis of religion to six undocumented communities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who entered India on or before December 31, 2014.
- There are apprehensions that the CAA, followed by a country-wide NRC, will benefit non-Muslims excluded from the proposed citizens’ register, while excluded Muslims will have to prove their citizenship.
- The government has denied that the CAA and the NRC are linked.
- The process pertaining to the Census 2021 was evolving in nature and the disclosure may create confusion in the field and hamper the census work of national importance. “Hence these are not being provided under Section 8 (1) of the RTI Act, 2005,”.
- Section 8 (1) of the Act bars providing any information the “disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence”.
- In 2019, the “pretest”, or the trial NPR form, collected details from 30 lakh respondents on 21 parameters, seeking specific details on “place of birth of father and mother, last place of residence” along with other information such as Aadhaar (optional), voter ID card, mobile phone and driver’s licence numbers. In 2010 and 2015, the NPR collected details on 14 parameters.
- The Ministry of Home Affairs informed a parliamentary panel earlier this year that there was a need to update the NPR to “incorporate the changes due to birth, death and migration” and “Aadhaar is individual data whereas NPR contains family-wise data”.
Census of India
- The Indian Census is the largest single source of a variety of statistical information on different characteristics of the people of India.
- To scholars and researchers in demography, economics, anthropology, sociology, statistics and many other disciplines, the Indian Census has been a fascinating source of data.
- The rich diversity of the people of India is truly brought out by the decennial census which has become one of the tools to understand and study India.
- The responsibility of conducting the decennial Census rests with the Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India under Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.
- The Census Act was enacted in 1948 to provide for the scheme of conducting population census with duties and responsibilities of census officers.
- The Government of India decided in May 1949 to initiate steps for developing systematic collection of statistics on the size of population, its growth, etc., and established an organisation in the Ministry of Home Affairs under Registrar General and ex-Officio Census Commissioner, India.
- This organisation was made responsible for generating data on population statistics including Vital Statistics and Census.
- Later, this office was also entrusted with the responsibility of implementation of Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969 in the country.
Vaccine trial showed 95% success: Pfizer
Why in News?
Pfizer Inc will seek emergency U.S. approval for its COVID-19 vaccine within days after final trial results showed its shot had a 95% success rate and no serious side effects, the drug maker.
- The success rate of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech is the highest of any candidate in late-stage clinical trials so far, and experts said it was a significant achievement in the race to end the pandemic.
- A first in the history of mankind: less than a year from the sequence of the virus to the large-scale clinical trial of a vaccine, moreover based on a whole new technique.
- The final analysis comes a week after initial results from the trial showed the vaccine was more than 90% effective.
- The better-than-expected results from the two vaccines, both developed with new messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, have raised hopes for an end to a pandemic that has killed more than 1.3 million people and wreaked havoc upon economies and daily life.
- It was found to have 94% efficacy in people over 65 years.
- Distribution is complicated by the need to store it at ultra-cold temperatures of -70 degrees Celsius.
- It can, however, be kept in a normal fridge for up to five days, or up to 15 days in a thermal shipping box.
Finance panel for PPPs on health infra
Why in News?
The 15th Finance Commission has mooted a greater role for public private partnerships to ramp up health infrastructure and scale up public spending on health from 0.95% of the GDP to 2.5% by 2024.
- While public outlays should focus on primary health care at the panchayat and municipality levels, private players should be relied on for specialty healthcare.
- It hinting that the commission has recommended steps to fix the skewed availability of healthcare across India as poorer States have the worst facilities.
- Substantial improvements in the working conditions for doctors in government hospitals, many of whom are hired on a contract basis by the States, and the creation of an Indian Medical Service cadre as envisaged in the Civil Services Act, 1951.
- The Finance Commission recommendations will turn out to be a shining example of public private partnerships.
- We address the multiple challenges and hopefully, there would be momentum in giving the health sector the priority that it certainly deserves.
- The total spending of around 0.95% of GDP is not adequate both in relation to our peer groups, and in relation to the commitments under the National Health Policy of 2017.
- There is no doubt that public spending, both by the Centre and the States, need to go up very significantly.
- The endeavour must be to raise public spending from 0.95% of GDP to 2.5% of GDP by 2024.
- While India does not have adequate health infrastructure, the picture is “exceedingly skewed” among the States with the poorest of them having the worst health infrastructure.
- Seeking greater attention on the role of paramedics and frontline health workers in countering the pandemic.
- The commission was amazed to learn that doctors in many States were engaged on a contract basis, and underlined the need to improve their working conditions.
- On the proposal to constitute an All India Medical Service, he said it was “quite amazing” that no action had been taken on the issue till date.
- To achieve better healthcare parameters, public private partnerships must be considered “in a holistic way” instead of the current situation where the government only turned to the private sector in times of emergency.
- For that, a working relationship is needed and this relationship can be built only if, first and foremost, the trust deficit that exists [between industry and government] now is bridged. Private sector investment in health has an exceedingly important role to play.
- It is duty-bound to address the issue of health deficiency at the level of municipal corporations and village panchayats.
- The primary health centres must be the central focus of public outlay, I think the private sector participation can be at other levels of speciality and at levels where they are better placed due to their innovative skills.
ICMR against indiscriminate use of plasma therapy
Why in News?
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has warned against indiscriminate use of convalescent plasma therapy (CPT) for treating COVID-19.
- It released reports of an open-label phase 2 multi-centre randomised controlled trial (PLACID trial) conducted across 39 public and private hospitals on the use of the CPT in management of cases with moderate infection.
- The report concluded that the therapy “did not lead to a reduction in progression to severe COVID or all-cause mortality in the group that received CPT as compared to the group that did not receive CPT”.
- Benefits of CPT in improving the clinical outcomes, reducing severity of disease, duration of hospitalisation and mortality in patients were dependent on the concentration of specific antibodies in convalescent plasma that could neutralise the effects of SARS-CoV-2.
- It stated that the CPT could be used with specific criteria, including that potential donors could give plasma after 14 days of symptom resolution (testing negative is not necessary).
- A potential recipient should be in the early stage of COVID-19 (three to seven days from the onset of symptoms, but not later than 10 days) and should have no IgG antibody against COVID-19 by appropriate test.
- PLACID is the world’s largest pragmatic trial on CPT conducted in 464 moderately ill, confirmed affected adults in a real-world setting, wherein no benefit of use of CPT could be established.
- A release issued by the council noted that similar studies conducted in China and the Netherlands have also documented no significant benefit of CPT in improving the clinical outcomes of hospitalised patients.
GS-3 Govt Policy
Getting MGNREGS wages harder than the labour
Why in News?
For most rural workers dependent on the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), their labour does not end at the work site. According to a study by LibTech India released, many of them are forced to make multiple trips to the bank, adding travel costs and income losses, and face repeated rejections of payment, biometric errors and wrong information, just to get their hands on their wages.
- The study found that almost 40% of the workers must make multiple trips to the bank branch to withdraw their money.
- Even in regular times, these last mile challenges make it hard for workers to access their own wages in a timely manner.
- During the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation is exacerbated as transport becomes harder, and there is no question of physical distancing at a rural bank.
- The study, based on a 2018-19 survey of almost 2,000 workers in Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan, was sponsored by a research grant from Azim Premji University.
- In the two years since we did the survey, there has been little change in the number of bank branches per capita in rural areas, so most of these challenges remain.
- There is only one branch per 20-gram panchayats.
- The study found that only one in 10 workers get an SMS message that their wages have been credited.
- A third of workers must visit the bank branch just to find out whether their wages have been credited.
- Another quarter of respondents said despite being informed that their wages had been credited, they found that the money was not in the accounts.
IMF foresees legacy scars from COVID-19 crisis
Why in News?
Despite the hopes of a COVID-19 vaccine emerging soon, the global economy remained on tenterhooks as new cases were surging worldwide.
- Observing that the world economy hadn’t returned to pre-pandemic levels yet despite a rebound in recent months.
- The crisis triggered by the virus was likely to scar future economic activity as companies, governments, students and the worst-hit sections of the workforce would have to cope with the pandemic’s ‘legacies’.
Lives and livelihoods
- The pandemic has had a tremendous cost in terms of lives and livelihoods lost.
- While the world economy has rebounded from the depth of its collapse in the first half of this year, we are still far from returning back to the pre-pandemic levels in almost all parts of the world.
- We are right now still living through an increased spread of the virus with record number of cases in the world, and that is going to impact economic activity.
- We also have to keep in mind there will be many legacies from this crisis that will weigh on economic activity in the future.
Stressed balance sheets
- There will be corporates with stressed balance sheets, there will be governments with large amounts of debt.
- We have a generation of students impacted by loss of schooling, the job market is recovering in some places strongly, but if you look at low-income workers, women and young workers, they are very hard hit.
- While there were concerns about a jobless recovery, the IMF economist urged countries to push for green investments as part of the recovery process as they were more job-intensive.
- This has the benefit of increasing jobs, output and enabling a transition towards a growth path where you don’t have to worry about climate risks.
- The International Monetary Fund, or IMF, promotes international financial stability and monetary cooperation.
- It also facilitates international trade, promotes employment and sustainable economic growth, and helps to reduce global poverty.
- The IMF is governed by and accountable to its 190 member countries.
- In order to maintain stability and prevent crises in the international monetary system, the IMF monitors member country policies as well as national, regional, and global economic and financial developments through a formal system known as surveillance .
- The IMF provides advice to member countries and promotes policies designed to foster economic stability, reduce vulnerability to economic and financial crises, and raise living standards.
- It also provides periodic assessments of global prospects in its World Economic Outlook , of financial markets in its Global Financial Stability Report , of public finance developments in its Fiscal Monitor , and of external positions of the largest economies in its External Sector Report , in addition to a series of regional economic outlooks.
Liquidity is sufficient, says LVB’s administrator
Why in News?
The RBI-appointed administrator of Lakshmi Vilas Bank Ltd. (LVB) stressed that the bank, which was placed under a 30-day moratorium, had adequate funds to meet depositors’ requirements and would emerge stronger once the Indian unit of Singapore’s DBS Bank completed its takeover of the private lender.
- There is sufficient liquidity in the bank and the needs of depositors will be taken care of.
- Assuring customers that LVB’s operations would return to normal.
- The bank had got into trouble after it shifted focus from retail to corporate lending and found many of the corporate loan accounts turning into non-performing assets.
- Earlier in the day, commotion prevailed at some branches of LVB in the city with depositors, including several senior citizens, unable to withdraw even the ₹25,000 allowed under the moratorium as the bank took its IT system offline to update it.
‘Acquisition of LVB to boost DBS India business’
Why in News?
The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) draft scheme to amalgamate the troubled Lakshmi Vilas Bank into DBS Bank India will strengthen the business position of the wholly owned unit of Singapore’s DBS Bank Ltd. in India by adding new retail and small- and medium-sized customers, Moody’s Investors Service said in a statement.
- We estimate that DBS India’s customer deposits and net loans will increase by about 50%-70%… LVB will also add around 500 branches to DBS India’s 27 branches.
- It said the acquisition would be positive for depositors and senior creditors of LVB as the bank would benefit from parental support from DBS, “a very strong bank.”
- LVB’s rescue process flagged deficiencies in the bank resolution mechanism as the moratorium restricts full and timely payments, thus leading to a temporary default, Moody’s added.