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9 PM Daily NEWS Brief

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – May 19, 2017


Front Page / NATIONAL


[1] India’s first uterine transplant begins

[2] GST Council sets rates for most commodities


 Editorial/OPINION


[1] Ending nuclear dependency

[2] Where the jobs are


 Economy


[1] India aims to boost trade ties with African nations


 Indian Express


[1] Aadhaar, then and now


Live Mint


[1] Big Data’s big governance impact

 


Front Page / NATIONAL


[1] India’s first uterine transplant begins

The Hindu

Context

Team of doctors in Pune conducts procedure on woman from Solapur

What has happened?

The operations are meant to help women who want to conceive but cannot because they were born without a uterus, suffered damage to it or had to have it removed

A team of 12 doctors at the city’s Galaxy Care Laparoscopy Institute (GCLI) began the highly complex and delicate procedure of India’s first uterine transplant on a woman from Solapur district

Another Transplant

The hospital, which has been granted a licence by the State Directorate of Health Services to carry out the uterus transplant, is scheduled to conduct another womb transplant on a 24-year-old woman from Baroda who suffers from Asherman’s Syndrome (scar tissue in the uterus) and who will receive her mother’s womb

Earlier Attempts

Still in its nascent, experimental stage, only a handful of these operations have met with success in other countries, primarily in Sweden

Organ Rejection

The 20-odd uterine transplant operations round the world have often been frustrated by organ rejection (in which the patient’s immune system attacks the organ; an infection of the organ; or problems with the organ’s blood supply.)

Note of concern

Some experts have expressed concern about the operations, terming them an invasive surgical procedure fraught with risks manifested in adverse side effects of the anti-rejection drugs, including cancer and increased risk of opportunistic infection

[2] GST Council sets rates for most commodities

The Hindu

Context

Six categories of items to be taken up today

What has happened?

The Goods and Services (GST) Council agreed on the fitment of almost all commodities in the various tax slabs under the new indirect regime to be rolled out on July 1

Important measure

Stressing that no commodity would witness an increase in taxation, Finance Minister said this was an important step towards rollout of GST from July 1

To be discussed

The six categories to be discussed include bidis/cigarettes, footwear, gold, and agriculture implements. Tax rates on services will also be part of the agenda on Friday

Meet again

In case the Council is unable to complete discussions, it might decide to meet again in the “near future.”

Help tax evasion

Despite the reduction in tax of some commodities, efficiency in administration will help curb evasion and increase tax buoyancy, leading to improved revenue collection.

Over 1,200 items to be considered under GST, 7% have been put under the exempt list

 


Editorial/OPINION


[1] Ending nuclear dependency

The Hindu

Context

The government’s go-ahead to 10 indigenous reactors is a timely step towards nuclear energy self-sufficiency

India now has 22 nuclear power units

The Fukushima accident of 2011 jolted the nuclear industry globally and the first priority was assessment of safety of nuclear plants in operation all over the world under what was termed as ‘Beyond Design Basis’ natural events

Areva of France suffered heavy losses post-Fukushima when the uranium market bottomed. Japan, a big buyer of uranium, went out of the market as most of their reactors were shut down in 2011

Make in India

Anticipating some of these difficulties, the nuclear community in India has been looking at other options to expand the nuclear capacity

PHWR

The fleet of pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWR), of our own design and construction, have performed well

Our Reactors operating well

  • During the last five years, the cumulative capacity factor has been 78%
  • The reactors have operated continuously for periods exceeding 300 days quite regularly and one of our reactors was on line for 765 days, the second-longest run in the world
  • The cost of power has been less than from coal in the same region

IPWR

Our reactor designers at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and NPCIL have completed the design of a 900 MW reactor using enriched uranium as fuel, designated as the Indian Pressurised Water Reactor (IPWR)

Own supply of enriched uranium

  • By about 2025 or so, India may itself supply enriched uranium from its own enrichment facilities
  • The government’s push for 10 IPWRs will secure India a position of nuclear power plant supplier not only for application in India, but also as a potential exporter

Conclusion

While our earlier plans on expanding nuclear power have not materialised, the alternative plan suggested now, which envisages building 28 units with a total capacity of about 25,000 MW in 15 years from now, can still ensure that nuclear power remains an important part of our strategy to minimise carbon emissions in the long run.

[2] Where the jobs are

The Hindu

Context

Public spending and economic policy need to be more attuned to employment creation

The Job creation and rate of unemployment have been low according to labor ministry figures

Focus of the govt is on the National Employment Policy which, would be released later this year and focus on shifting jobs from the informal to the formal sector

NITI Aayog

  • NITI Aayog too has dismissed concerns over jobless growth, saying the real problem is underemployment rather than unemployment
  • The government set up a high-level task force headed by NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Arvind Panagariya to obtain reliable data on employment trends to aid policymaking

Concerns

Higher economic growth alone will not solve the jobs problem

Risk of Stagnation

Jobs can be created when growth comes from the transition of labour from informal sectors like agriculture to the more formal manufacturing and service sectors. Such extensive growth, however, runs the risk of stagnation once the available stock of informal labour is exhausted — as some Southeast Asian countries found out the hard way in the late 1990s

Improvement in productivity

On the other hand, growth can come about without any substantial job-creation in the formal sectors of the economy, but through improvements in productivity

Developed Countries

The growth record of several developed economies even after the modernisation of their labour force explains such intensive growth

What India should do

India should aim at growth that is driven both by improvements in productivity and modernisation of its labour force

  • Labor reforms

Achieving both those objectives will first require labour reforms — ones that can both boost labour mobility within the formal sector and bring down the barriers businesses face in hiring labour

  • Increase in govt. spending

But incremental labour reforms alone won’t work unless these are combined with a step-up in government spending on asset and job-creating areas such as infrastructure, which in turn inspires private investment

Conclusion

Job-creation needs to be an essential axis along which economic and social policies are formulated

 


Economy


[1] India aims to boost trade ties with African nations

The Hindu

Context

African Development Bank meet to be held in Gujarat

What has happened?

India has extended credit totalling $7.6 billion to African nations and aims to use the upcoming annual meeting of the African Development Bank in Gujarat this month to strengthen its trade ties with the continent

Credit

  • As on March 31, 2017, India has extended 152 lines of credit to 44 African nations amounting to $7.6 billion
  • The meeting will take place on May 22-26 in Gandhinagar, Gujarat
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who will inaugurate the meeting, had in the India-Africa Summit committed a $10 billion line of credit to African nations

AFDB

  • The African Development Bank (AfDB) has 81 member countries, 57 of which are from Africa. India is among the other 24 non-regional members.
  • Indian companies have invested $72 billion in African nations as of 2014-15, this made up 20% of the total investment in those countries.

 


Indian Express


[1] Aadhaar, then and now

Indian Express

Context

The UIDAI has gone from being an object of ridicule to an admired project

Aadhaar is central to India’s public service delivery reforms

Recent launch of BHIM using Aadhaar-pay (PM has asked IT Min to get it patented), there have been many applications from DBT in several domains like LPG, eKYC in banking and the mobile world, authentication in PDS and attendance in offices

No Confidence in Aadhar

No country in the world had done such a project and hence, it was sheer foolishness for India to even try to do it

From Exclusion to Inclusion with Micropayments in April 2010

  • UIDAI published a booklet titled From Exclusion to Inclusion with Micropaymentsin April 2010, months before the issue of the first Aadhaar number!
  • It talked about a frugal, yet robust system of financial inclusion and payment which is inter-operable, low-cost and does not require much of an infrastructure
  • It is precisely this architecture which the PM is talking about patenting

The Issue: Political Will

You may have a transformational technology for governance. However, nothing much will happen unless there is strong political support to implement it at a scale

A Rocky Road

  • Issue: In the initial years, people believed that Aadhaar was a public project being implemented by private fellows
    • Reality: it was a government project implemented by the officers of the government of India like any other and it followed all the principles of accountability in its processes. It is subjected to all the Cs in the government: CAG, CBI and CVC!
  • Project was condemned in the meetings with NGOs under the govt. outreach program
  • How could UIDAI start this project without getting clearance from civil society in the country?

Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee]

  • It observed that “The UID scheme has been conceptualised with no clarity of purpose and leaving many things to be sorted out during the course of its implementation; it is being implemented in a directionless way with a lot of confusion”
  • It raised serious doubts on the process and technology and rejected the draft legislation on the subject.

Conclusion

It survived all these onslaughts. We have just scratched the surface insofar as the applications to leverage Aadhaar are concerned

 


Live Mint


[1] Big Data’s big governance impact

Live Mint

Context

From transforming development initiatives to improving transparency, Big Data analytics could have a major impact on the way governments work

“Big Data for Big Impact”

  • The anniversary of the signing of the first International Telegraph Convention and the creation of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) was celebrated on 17 May as World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD)
  • The theme this year is “Big Data for Big Impact”

Big Data importance

The analysis of vast amounts of data collected from the different devices that we use on a day-to-day basis provides an opportunity to discover hidden secrets and enables us to do predictive analysis and informed decision making across individual, organizational, societal, national and international levels

Huge Data, Huge Opportunity

  • Almost 90% of the world’s data today was generated during the past two years, with 2.5 quintillion bytes of data added each day
  • Approximately 90% of it is unstructured

Need of Government regulation and policies

  • It should be ensured that the information is not distorted; not disclosed; not appropriated; not stolen; and not intruded upon within specified rules and guidelines
  • Hence the importance of government regulation and policies on the use of such collected data and associated privacy rights

Decision Making Power: Change in Mindset

  • In the age of Big Data, leaders and managers in private organizations and government have to be data-driven
  • They should have the courage to ignore their intuition and do what data says. This requires a change in mindset and effective training to make data-driven decisions.

Laggard (lagging behind) Governments

  • While businesses have adopted Big Data and analytics in various forms very effectively to personalize offerings, and to improve business efficiency, governments have been laggards
  • The possible benefits of Big Data analytics in government could range from transforming government programmes and empowering citizens to improving transparency and enabling the participation of all stakeholders

Other Countries

  • Several countries, such as the UK, US and European Union (EU) member countries, have started big data government programmes
  • The UN’s 2012 e-government survey gave high marks to several Asian countries, notably South Korea, Singapore and Japan

India’s Initiative

The Open Government Data Platform initiative, similar to the Data.gov initiative of the US government started in 2009, is a welcome start in opening up public data for use by analysts, researchers and practitioners

Data Protection of prime importance

  • While privacy of data is important for both businesses and government, public trust in government is particularly important
  • Hence, any breach of confidentiality regarding data that is collected and processed by the government could have serious ramifications
  • Thus the importance of data protection and privacy regulations and guidelines, as exemplified by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation

Conclusion

Big Data can have a big impact only if used on a massive scale—with safeguards—by governments for the delivery of public goods and services.

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