24TH FEBRUARY CURRENT AFFAIRS

1. Women Representation in Parliament and Legislatures

News: The Vice President called for ending low representation to women in Parliament and legislatures and called upon all political parties to reach a consensus on providing reservation to them.

Background:

  • Vice President in 2020 released a report- Status of Sex Ratio at Birth in India which mentioned that there has not been any change in the sex ratio at birth in India from 2001-2017–the number of girl children born is much less than what is the general or natural norm. He observed that the flagship scheme Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao has created a positive impact but much more needs to be done to change the societal mindset.
  • According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union in 2014women make up only 11.8 percent of the Indian Lok Sabha and 11.4 percent of Rajya Sabha. Among its South Asian neighbors, India ranks fifth in women’s political representation in parliament falling behind Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal.

Global Scenario:

  • According to a list compiled by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Rwanda ranks first with 61% of its lower house representatives being women.
  • As a region, Nordic countries (relating to Scandinavia, Finland, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands) are leaders with an average of about 40%. The UK and the US are relative laggards with 32% and 23%, respectively.
  • The United States’ current tally, though still moderate, is upheld by a very strong showing by women in the recent congressional elections. Even Pakistan with 20% participation from women is ahead of India.

India’s position:

  • India had 65 women out of 545 members of Parliament (MPs)elected to the 16th Lok Sabha in May 2014, for a 12% representation. Only the 15th and 16th Lok Sabha changed a previously stagnant representation of under 9% recorded by Indian women MPs since Independence.
  • Indian system has electoral representation to the Lok Sabha based on population. Thus, Uttar Pradesh with a population of over 200 million people has 80 MPs, Bihar with a population of 100 million has 40 seats and Maharashtra with a population of 114 million has 48.
  • Three north-eastern states—Nagaland, Mizoram, and Sikkim—have only one seat each. Uttar Pradesh shows a better than national average representation of 17.5% (14 MPs) by women, while Maharashtra has the national average of 12.5% (6 seats) and Bihar is much below the national average at 7.9% (3 seats).
  • While the allocation of total seats to states by population, the resultant women’s representation at 12% is far below the actual population of women. The scenario for women Members of Legislative Assemblies (MLAs) across all state assemblies in India is even worse, with the national average being a pitiable 9%.
  • The best among them, Bihar, Rajasthan, and Haryana have 14% representation while the worst states are Pondicherry and Nagaland, which have no women MLAs at all.

Challenges

  • Reservation for one-third of the seats for women in the Lok Sabha has been tabled as a bill several times until as recently as 2008. Each time the bill has lapsed.
  • Illiteracy is one of the main hurdles in making women as politically empowered.
  • Because of a lack of understanding, they do not know about their basic and political rights. Gender disparities in terms of education, ownership of resources and continual biased attitudes still act as barriers for women leaders.
  • Education influences the social mobility of women. Formal education such as provided at educational institutions created opportunities for leadership, and imparted leadership essential skills.
  • Work and family- uneven distribution of household work between men and women also one of the important factors in this regards.
  • Uneven distribution of family care responsibilities means that women spend far more time than men in the home- and child-care. It relates not just to the time, effort, and medical care of pregnancy and childbirth, but to the far greater maternal involvement necessary for breastfeeding, and to the persistent tendency of women to do a larger share of childcare as the child grows.
  • Lack of political networks- The lack of openness in political decision-making and undemocratic internal processes pose a challenge for all newcomers, but particularly for women as they tend to lack insider knowledge or political networks.
  • Private-public divide in terms of domain identification and male preponderance in political institutions. Because of their low proportion in the inner political party structure of India, women fail to gather resources and support for nurturing their political constituencies.
  • Lack of financial support -Women do not get adequate financial support from the political parties to contest the elections.
  • Societal and cultural norms imposed on women bar them from entering politics. They have to accept the dictates imposed on them and bear the burden of society. They also bear their deprivation and undermining status thinking of it as a culture of the society. Public attitudes not only determine how many female candidates win a general election but also directly and indirectly how many are considered and nominated for office.
  • Overall political parties’ environment too is not women-friendly, they have to struggle hard and face multi-dimensional issues to create space for them in the party.

2. National Urban Digital Mission

News: The National Urban Digital Mission (NUDM) has been launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs along with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. Several other digital initiatives of MoHUA vis. India Urban Data Exchange (IUDX), Smart Code, Smart Cities 2.0 website, and Geospatial Management Information System (GMIS) were also launched.

Objective: These initiatives are among the ongoing efforts of both Ministries to realise the Prime Minister’s vision of Digital India and AtmaNirbhar Bharat, by making cities more self-reliant and enabled to meet the needs of and provide services to their citizens.

National Urban Digital Mission (NUDM)

  • The National Urban Digital Mission (NUDM) will create a shared digital infrastructure for urban India, working across the three pillars of people, process, and platform to provide holistic support to cities and towns. It will institutionalise a citizen-centric and ecosystem-driven approach to urban governance and service delivery in 2022 cities by 2022, and across all cities and towns in India by 2024.
  • NUDM will create a shared digital infrastructure that can consolidate and cross-leverage the various digital initiatives of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, enabling cities and towns across India to benefit from holistic and diverse forms of support, in keeping with their needs and local challenges.
  • NUDM is citizen-centric, ecosystem-driven, and principles-based in both design and implementation. NUDM has articulated a set of governing principles, and inherits the technology design principles of the National Urban Innovation Stack (NUIS), whose strategy and approach was released by MoHUA in February, 2019.
  • The principles in turn give rise to standards, specifications, and certifications, across the three pillars of people, process, and platforms.

India Urban Data Exchange (IUDX)

  • The India Urban Data Exchange has been developed in partnership between the Smart Cities Mission and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru. IUDX serves as a seamless interface for data providers and data users, including ULBs, to share, request, and access datasets related to cities, urban governance, and urban service delivery.
  • IUDX is an open-source software platform which facilitates the secure, authenticated, and managed exchange of data amongst various data platforms, 3rdparty authenticated and authorised applications, and other sources.
  • As the number of cities on IUDX expands, this will scale up to uniform and seamless sharing between data producers and data consumers across urban India.  IUDX is designed to address the problem of data silos, both within and across cities. Cities generate large volumes of data, which are recorded by a wide range of entities, both within government and across industry, academia, and civil society.
  • The combination of these datasets can enable rapid innovation, as well as a better understanding of and planning for urban needs and challenges.  IUDX creates a secure and reliable channel for data producers or owners to share their data, with complete control over what is shared and with whom, in order to enable sharing while addressing security and privacy protections by design.

Smart Code Platform:

  • Smart Code is a platform that enables all ecosystem stakeholders to contribute to a repository of open-source code for various solutions and applications for urban governance.
  • It is designed to address the challenges that ULBs face in the development and deployment of digital applications to address urban challenges, by enabling cities to take advantage of existing codes and customising them to suit local needs, rather than having to develop new solutions from scratch.
  • As a repository of open-source software, the source code available on the platform will be free to use without any licensing or subscription fees, thus limiting costs to those involved with customising the code and developing a locally-relevant solution.

New Smart Cities Website ver. 2.0 and GMIS

  • In order to better connect with people on the Smart Cities Missions efforts and achievements, and to make it easier for ULBs and citizens to access resources related to their work, the Smart Cities Mission website has been redesigned to serve as a single stop for all Smart Cities initiatives.
  • The Geospatial Management Information System (GMIS) is integrated with this website.   The website creates a single window hub for Smart Cities Mission.
  • A portal that works as a gateway to all the platforms and initiatives launched under the Mission.
  • The website, through a seamless and a unified interface, aggregates all mission related information/initiatives from the various platforms and show automated mission updates catering to the needs of a public user.
  • The website has been developed to be used as a highly effective communication and outreach tool.

3. New Lead free material

News: Scientists have found a new Lead (Pb) free material which can efficiently convert waste heat to power our small home equipment and automobiles.

Details:

  • Scientists from Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), Bengaluru, an autonomous institution of the Department of Science & Technology (DST have now identified a lead-free material called Cadmium (Cd) doped Silver Antimony Telluride (AgSbTe2) which can efficiently allow recovery of electricity from ‘waste heat’ marking a paradigm shift in the thermoelectric puzzle.
  • They have reported this major breakthrough in the journal Science.
  • Thermoelectric energy conversion allows generation of electrical voltage when one end of a material is heated while keeping the other side cold.
  • Finding an efficient material to realize this scientific principle has been a daunting task for scientists.
  • It entails fitting in three seemingly different properties into a single material– high electrical conductivity of metals, high thermoelectric sensitivity of semiconductors, and low thermal conductivity of glasses.
  • Most efficient thermoelectric materials developed by scientists so far use Lead (Pb) as a major constituent element, restricting their use for mass-market applications.

 

4. Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

 

News: Recently, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has launched the operational guidelines for integration of NAFLD (Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease) with NPCDCS (National Programme for Prevention & Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke). The NPCDCS is being implemented under the National Health Mission (NHM). It was launched in 2010 to prevent and control Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).

Background:

  • NAFLD is emerging as an important cause of liver disease in India.
  • Epidemiological studies suggest the prevalence of NAFLD is around 9% to 32% of the general population in India with a higher prevalence in those with overweight or obesity and those with diabetes or prediabetes.
  • Researchers have found NAFLD in 40% to 80 % of people who have type 2 diabetes and in 30% to 90% of people who are obese. Studies also suggest that people with NAFLD have a greater chance of developing cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of death in NAFLD.

Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

  • NAFLD is the abnormal accumulation of fat in the liver in the absence of secondary causes of fatty liver, such as harmful alcohol use, viral hepatitis, or medications.
  • According to doctors, it is a serious health concern as it encompasses a spectrum of liver abnormalities.
  • It can cause non-alcoholic fatty liver (NAFL, simple fatty liver disease) to more advanced ones like non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), cirrhosis and even liver cancer.

Associated Risks:

  • Over the last two decades, the global burden of NASH has more than doubled. NASH caused 40 lakh prevalent cases of compensated cirrhosis in 1990, which increased to 94 lakh cases in 2017.
  • Epidemiological studies suggest that prevalence of NAFLD is around 9% to 32% of the general population in India with a higher prevalence in those with overweight or obesity and those with diabetes or prediabetes.
  • Once the disease develops, there is no specific cure available, and health promotion and prevention aspects targeting weight reduction, healthy lifestyle, etc. can prevent the mortality and morbidity due to NAFLD.

5. Kerala govt. annuls agreement with U.S firm

News: The Kerala government has invalidated a controversial agreement that the Kerala Shipping and Inland Navigation Corporation (KSINC) had reached with a U.S.-based firm, EMCC International, to build and operate a deep-sea trawling fleet to harvest the marine wealth off the State’s coast.

Background:

  • Opposition called this deal as a bid to sell off the state’s marine wealth, endangering the livelihood of lakhs of fishermen in the state.
  • One of the stated objectives of the deal was deep sea fishing with state-of-the-art technology. The components of the project were building 400 deep sea fishing trawlers as per the design proposed by EMCC. The EMCC would train and deploy 1.60 lakh fishermen in deep sea fishing. Their skills would be upgraded, and the local fishing community would benefit in terms of direct and indirect employment opportunities.

Why it was opposed?

  • The Union Government had in 2017 withdrawn permission given for foreign trawlers for deep sea fishing in the exclusive economic zone of the country. The EEZ of the country extends up to 370 km from the coastline.
  • Illegal fishing by foreign vessels in Indian waters is punishable under provisions of Maritime Zone of India (Regulation of Fishing by Foreign Vessels Act) 1981. Besides, Kerala’s fisheries policy, brought in 2018, opposed allowing foreign and native corporate vessels along the state’s coast
  • The professed policy of the state is to equip the traditional fishermen for deep sea fishing by making them owners of deep sea fishing vessels. Besides, there would be restrictions on the number of vessels. Only traditional fishermen would be given permission to replace their old boats.

Deep Sea Trawling

  • The Deep Sea Trawling can be defined as the Industrial way or method fishing in which large nets with heavy weight are carted across the seafloor to lift out the catch marine animals such as fishes, shrimp, cod etc. It is considered as the most prominent method of fishing which is a practice across the world at large scale.
  • The gears of Deep Sea Trawling creates huge on the life of marine plants and animals as well as the seafloor by disrupting the sediment column structure, overturning boulders, re-suspending sediments and imprinting deep scars on muddy bottoms.