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Current Affairs 17 January 2023

CONTENTS

  1. Global Risks Report 2023
  2. Agnipath Scheme
  3. Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022
  4. Cancer in India
  5. National Clean Air Campaign
  6. Richest 1% Indians own more than 40% of country’s wealth: Oxfam Report

Global Risks Report 2023


Context:

Recently, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has released the 18th Edition of Global Risks Report 2023 which seeks that the world be prepared for ‘Natural disasters and extreme weather events’ in the next two years.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Findings of the Report
  2. What is ‘Global risk’?
  3. About World Economic Forum (WEF)

Findings of the Report

Most Severe Risks
  • Failure to Mitigate Climate Change
  • Failure of Climate Change Adaptation
  • Natural Disasters and Extreme Weather Events
  • Biodiversity Loss and Ecosystem Collapse
  • Over the next 10 years or by 2033, the interconnections between biodiversity loss, pollution, natural resource consumption, climate change and socioeconomic drivers will make for a dangerous mix.
Climate Action and Biodiversity Loss
  • Despite 30 years of global climate advocacy and diplomacy, the world has struggled to make the required progress on climate change
  • Failure on climate action to address climate change has continued to figure among the top risks in the report since 2011.
  • Biodiversity within and between ecosystems is already declining faster than at any other point during human history.
  • Unlike other climate-related risks, Biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse has not been perceived to be of concern over the short term.
  • It has been ranked as the 4th most severe risk in the long term or over the next ten years (by 2033).
Reversal of Climate Mitigation Progress:
  • The ongoing global pandemic and geopolitical tensions are causing a reduction in resources for climate change mitigation efforts over the next two years.
  • This has led to some countries reversing progress on mitigation, such as the European Union spending billions on new fossil-fuel infrastructure and some countries restarting coal power stations.
  • In the long term, the combination of biodiversity loss, pollution, natural resource consumption, climate change and socio-economic factors will pose a significant threat.
  • Many respondents in a WEF report stated that current measures to address climate change have been ineffective.
India:
  • India experienced extreme weather events on 291 out of 334 days between January and November 2022, representing 87% of the time.
  • These events are linked to the climate crisis caused by human-induced greenhouse gas emissions.
  • These emissions have resulted in an increase in the frequency and severity of certain weather patterns since pre-industrial times.

What is ‘Global risk’?

  • The Global Risks Report series monitors the perceptions of global risks among experts and leaders in business, government, and civil society.
  • These risks are defined as events or conditions that have the potential to negatively impact a significant portion of global GDP, population, or natural resources.
  • It examines risks across five categories:
    • Economic
    • Environmental
    • Geopolitical
    • Societal
    • Technological. 

About World Economic Forum (WEF)

  • The World Economic Forum is the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.
  • It was established in 1971 as a not-for-profit foundation and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. It is independent, impartial and not tied to any special interests.
  • The Forum strives in all its efforts to demonstrate entrepreneurship in the global public interest while upholding the highest standards of governance.
  • Major reports published by WEF:
    • Energy Transition Index.
    • Global Competitiveness Report.
    • Global IT Report (WEF along with INSEAD, and Cornell University)
    • Global Gender Gap Report.
    • Global Risk Report.
    • Global Travel and Tourism Report.

-Source: Down to Earth


Agnipath Scheme


Context:

Terming the Agnipath scheme for recruitment a “transformative policy” which will be a “game changer” in strengthening the armed forces, Prime Minister said the Agniveers would make the forces more youthful and tech-savvy.

Relevance:

GS II- Government policies and Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the Agnipath scheme?
  2. What is the eligibility criteria?
  3. What happens after selection?
  4. When will the recruitment actually begin?
  5. How will the scheme benefit the armed forces and the recruits?

What is the Agnipath scheme?

  • Under the new scheme, around 45,000 to 50,000 soldiers will be recruited annually, and most will leave the service in just four years.
  • Of the total annual recruits, only 25 per cent will be allowed to continue for another 15 years under permanent commission.
  • The move will make the permanent force levels much leaner for the over 13-lakh strong armed forces in the country.
  • This will, in turn, considerably reduce the defence pension bill, which has been a major concern for governments for many years.

What is the eligibility criteria?

  • The new system is only for personnel below officer ranks (those who do not join the forces as commissioned officers).
  • Under the Agnipath scheme, aspirants between the ages of 17.5 years and 23 years will be eligible to apply.
  • The recruitment standards will remain the same, and recruitment will be done twice a year through rallies.

What happens after selection?

  • Once selected, the aspirants will go through training for six months and then will be deployed for three and a half years.
  • During this period, they will get a starting salary of Rs 30,000, along with additional benefits which will go up to Rs 40,000 by the end of the four-year service.
  • Importantly, during this period, 30 per cent of their salary will be set aside under a Seva Nidhi programme, and the government will contribute an equal amount every month, and it will also accrue interest.
  • At the end of the four-year period, each soldier will get Rs 11.71 lakh as a lump sum amount, which will be tax-free.
  • They will also get a Rs 48 lakh life insurance cover for the four years.
  • In case of death, the payout will be over Rs 1 crore, including pay for the unserved tenure.
  • However, after four years, only 25 per cent of the batch will be recruited back into their respective services, for a period of 15 years.
  • For those who are re-selected, the initial four-year period will not be considered for retirement benefits.

When will the recruitment actually begin?

  • Recruitment will begin within 90 days under the scheme which will bring “all India, all class” recruitment to the services.
  • This is especially significant for the Army, where the regiment system has region and caste bases, and with time that will be eliminated to allow anybody from any caste, region, class or religious background to become part of existing regiments.

How will the scheme benefit the armed forces and the recruits?

  • The average age in the forces is 32 years today, which will go down to 26 in six to seven years, the scheme envisions.
  • It will create “future-ready” soldiers.
  •  A youthful armed forces will allow them to be easily trained for new technologies.
  • It will increase employment opportunities and because of the skills and experience acquired during the four-year service such soldiers will get employment in various fields.
  • This will also lead to availability of a higher-skilled workforce to the economy which will be helpful in productivity gain and overall GDP growth.
  • The government will help rehabilitate soldiers who leave the services after four years. They will be provided with skill certificates and bridge courses. The impetus will be to create entrepreneurs.

-Source: The Hindu


Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2022


Context:

Recently, The gazette notification on the Electricity (Amendment) Rules, 2022, came out. Kerala had fiercely objected to Rule 14.

Relevance:

GS II- Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Rule 14 of Electricity (Amendment) Rules, 2022
  2. What has been Kerala’s stand?
  3. What does the amendment Bill propose?
  4. What are the Protestor’s Arguments Against the Bill?

Rule 14 of Electricity (Amendment) Rules, 2022:

  • Rule 14 of the Rules requires the State electricity regulatory commission to specify a price adjustment formula for automatically passing on the costs through the consumer tariff on a monthly basis.
    • “Fuel and power purchase adjustment surcharges shall be calculated and billed to consumers, automatically, without going through the regulatory approval process, on a monthly basis, according to the formula, prescribed by the respective State Commission,’’.
What has been Kerala’s stand?
  • The State government has argued that giving Discoms the freedom to automatically pass on the aforementioned costs through the electricity bill endangers consumer interests.
  • The amendment spawns an “unstable pricing situation’’ in the power sector, akin to that of petrol and diesel prices.
  • Consumers would be subjected, quite unfairly, to frequent price fluctuations.
  • It further observed that the crucial role played by the State Electricity Commission in fixing the surcharge would get diluted.

What does the amendment Bill propose?

The Bill seeks to amend Electricity Act 2003:

  • For consumers, the Bill, has proposed to amend Sections 42 and 14 of the Electricity Act, thus, enabling competition in retail distribution of power by offering the customers the option to choose electricity suppliers, just like they can choose telephone or internet service providers.
  • The amended Section 14, the Bill says, will “facilitate the use of distribution networks by all licensees under provisions of non-discriminatory open access”, while Section 42 will be ameded to “facilitate non-discriminatory open access to the distribution network of a distribution licensee”.
  • The Bill, with the amendment of Section 62 of the Act, makes provision for “mandatory” fixing of minimum as well as maximum tariff ceilings by the “appropriate commission” to avoid predatory pricing by power distribution companies and to protect consumers.
  • Also, the amendment Bill has several provisions to ensure graded and timely tariff revisions that will help provide state power utilities enough cash to be able to make timely payments to power producers.
    • This move is aimed at addressing the recurrent problem of default by distribution companies in payment to generation companies.
  • The bill through amendments in Section 166 of the Act also seeks to strengthen payment security mechanisms and give more powers to regulators.

What are the Protestor’s Arguments Against the Bill?

  • The Constitution lists ‘Electricity’ as Item 38 of List III (Concurrent) of the Seventh Schedule, so both the Central and state governments have the power to make laws on this subject.
    • With the proposed amendments, the federal structure of Indian polity, a part of the ‘basic structure’ of the Constitution of India, is being violated.
  • Free power for farmers and Below Poverty Line population will go away eventually.
  • Only government discoms or distribution companies will have universal power supply obligations.
    • Therefore, it is likely that private licensees will prefer to supply the electricity in profit-making areas – to industrial and commercial consumers.
    • Once this happens, profit-making areas will be snatched from government discoms and they will become loss-making companies.

-Source: The Hindu


Cancer in India


Context:

A new report says cancer deaths in the US have declined by a third over the past three decades. This trend is yet to be reflected in India. Even with improvements in treatment, both the incidence of cancer and mortality continue to rise in the country.

Relevance:

GS II: Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Cancer
  2. What is the incidence of cancer and mortality in India currently?
  3. Why are some cancers on the decline and others continue to rise?
  4. Improvement in Cancer treatment

About Cancer

  • Cancer is a widely feared disease that leads to many deaths globally, including in India where more than a million people suffer from it annually.
  • The mechanisms behind the development, treatment and control of cancer have been extensively studied in the field of biology and medicine.
  • In healthy individuals, cell growth and differentiation are tightly controlled, but in cancer, these regulatory mechanisms break down.
  • Normal cells have a property called contact inhibition, which prevents them from growing uncontrollably when in contact with other cells.
  • However, cancer cells appear to lose this property, leading to the uncontrolled growth and division of cells, resulting in tumors.
Types of Tumors
  • Tumors are of two types:
    • Benign 
    • Malignant
  • Benign tumors normally remain confined to their original location and do not spread to other parts of the body and cause little damage.
  • The malignant tumors, on the other hand are a mass of proliferating cells called neoplastic or tumor cells. These cells grow very rapidly, invading and damaging the surrounding normal tissues.
Causes of Cancer
  • Cancer is caused by the transformation of normal cells into cancerous neoplastic cells. This transformation can be triggered by physical, chemical or biological agents called carcinogens.
  • These agents include ionizing radiations such as X-rays and gamma rays, non-ionizing radiations such as UV rays, and chemical carcinogens found in tobacco smoke.
  • Cancer-causing viruses, known as oncogenic viruses, also have genes called viral oncogenes that can contribute to the development of cancer.
  • Additionally, certain genes called cellular oncogenes or proto oncogenes in normal cells can be activated under certain conditions, resulting in the oncogenic transformation of cells.

What is the incidence of cancer and mortality in India currently?

  • An estimated 14.6 lakh new cancer cases were detected in 2022, up from 14.2 lakh in 2021 and 13.9 lakh in 2020, as per data from the National Cancer Registry of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) presented in Parliament.
  • Deaths due to cancer increased to an estimated 8.08 lakh in 2022 from 7.9 lakh in 2021 and 7.7 lakh in 2020. The incidence of all cancers is estimated to increase to 15.7 lakh by 2025, according to the data.
  • One in nine Indians will develop cancer during their lifetime, according to an ICMR study using data from population-based cancer registries.
  • One in 68 men will develop lung cancer and one in 29 women will develop breast cancer, according to the study.
  • The incidence of cancer is higher among women — 103.6 per 100,000 in 2020 compared to 94.1 among men. Among men, the most common cancers were of the lung, mouth, prostate, tongue, and stomach; for women, they were breast, cervix, ovary, uterus, lung.

Why are some cancers on the decline and others continue to rise?

  • The incidence of cervical cancer in India has decreased in the last 50 years from 45 to 10 per 100,000 population, while the incidence of breast cancer has risen, particularly in urban areas.
  • This can be attributed to factors such as later marriages, having fewer children, better hygiene and vaccination for cervical cancer, and later age of marriage, having the first child at a later age, not breastfeeding, and a high protein diet for breast cancer.
  • Unlike cervical cancer, which can be prevented with HPV vaccination, there is currently no specific intervention for breast cancer other than screening.
  • Additionally, the incidence of tobacco-related cancers such as oral and oesophageal cancer is decreasing due to laws that have reduced smoking in public places.
  • However, lung cancer remains a concern and is caused not only by smoking but also factors such as indoor fires and air pollution. The survival rate for lung cancer is low and it is often diagnosed in late stages.

Improvement in Cancer treatment

  • The success rate for treating various types of cancer is increasing.
  • For example, the cure rate for pancreatic cancer has doubled from 3% 50 years ago to 6%. Similarly, the cure rate for prostate cancer has gone from 60% to 100% and for breast cancer it has improved from 50% to 90% with newer treatments.
  • However, to further reduce mortality, early diagnosis and prompt treatment are crucial.

-Source: Indian Express


National Clean Air Campaign


Context

Under the National Clean Air Campaign (NCAP), analysts found that progress has been slow, and pollution has only incrementally reduced in most cities.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)
  2. Target Levels
  3. Challenges

National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)

  • Launched by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) in January 2019.
  • It is the first-ever national framework for air quality management with a time-bound reduction target.
Objectives of NCAP
  • The program aims to cut the concentration of coarse (PM10) and fine particles (PM2.5) by at least 20% in the next five years, with 2017 as the base year for comparison.
Coverage
  • The program covers 132 non-attainment cities which were identified by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
  • Non-attainment cities are those that have fallen short of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for over five years.
National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)
  • NAAQs are the standards for ambient air quality with reference to various identified pollutant notified by the CPCB under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
  • List of pollutants under NAAQS: PM10, PM2.5, SO2, NO2, CO, NH3, Ozone, Lead, Benzene, Benzo-Pyrene, Arsenic and Nickel.

Target Levels

Current Scenario:
  • The annual average prescribed limits for PM2.5 and PM10 in the country are 40 micrograms/per cubic metre (ug/m3) and 60 micrograms/per cubic metre respectively.
New Targets:
  • The NCAP initially set a target of reducing key air pollutants PM10 and PM2.5 by 20-30% by 2024, using 2017 pollution levels as the base year.
  • In September 2022, the Centre revised the target and set a new goal of a 40% reduction in particulate matter concentration by 2026.
Assessing Improvements:
  • Cities are required to measure improvements starting from 2020-21, which requires a 15% or more reduction in the annual average PM10 concentration and a concurrent increase in the number of clean air days to at least 200.
  • Cities that fail to reach these targets will have their funding reduced.

Challenges

  • NCAP lacks a strong fiscal and funding strategy.
  • The pollution reduction targets in the cities are not legally binding on the states.
  • There is inadequate monitoring of PM2.5 levels.
  • The targets under the action plan are less ambitious and a reduction of 20-30% from the 2017 level by 2024 will not be sufficient to achieve desired air quality.

-Source: The Hindu


Richest 1% Indians own more than 40% of country’s wealth: Oxfam Report


Context:

The report was released by rights group Oxfam International on the first day of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting.

Relevance:

Facts for Prelims

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Wealth Inequality
  2. Impact of Taxing the Rich
  3. Gender and Social Inequality
  4. Wealth Increase of Billionaires During the Pandemic
  5. Recommendations

Wealth Inequality

  • A new study shows that the richest 1% in India now own more than 40% of the country’s total wealth, while the bottom half of the population shares just 3% of wealth.
Impact of Taxing the Rich
  • Taxing India’s ten richest at 5% could raise enough money to bring children back to school.
  • A one-off tax on unrealized gains from 2017-2021 on just one billionaire, Gautam Adani, could have raised ₹1.79 lakh crore, enough to employ more than five million Indian primary school teachers for a year.
  • Taxing India’s billionaires once at 2% on their entire wealth could support the requirement of ₹40,423 crore for the nutrition of malnourished in the country for the next three years.
Gender and Social Inequality
  • Female workers earned only 63 paise for every 1 rupee a male worker earned.
  • Scheduled Castes and rural workers earned 55% and 50% respectively of what the advantaged social groups earned between 2018 and 2019.

Wealth Increase of Billionaires During the Pandemic

  • Since the pandemic began, billionaires in India have seen their wealth surge by 121% or ₹3,608 crore per day in real terms, according to Oxfam.
  • The total number of billionaires in India increased from 102 in 2020 to 166 in 2022.
  • The combined wealth of India’s 100 richest has touched USD 660 billion ( ₹54.12 lakh crore) – an amount that could fund the entire Union Budget for more than 18 months.
Recommendations
  • Oxfam recommends introducing one-off solidarity wealth taxes and windfall taxes to end crisis profite

-Source: Live mint


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