5TH NOVEMBER CURRENT AFFAIRS

1. Rice Fortification

News: In a bid to combat chronic anaemia and undernutrition, the government is planning to distribute fortified rice through the Integrated Child Development Services and Mid-Day Meal schemes across the country.

Biofortification:

  • Biofortification is the process by which the nutritional quality of food crops is improved through agronomic practices, conventional plant breeding, or modern biotechnology. It differs from conventional fortification in that Biofortification aims to increase nutrient levels in crops during plant growth rather than through manual means during the processing of the crops.

Why Rice Fortification?

  • Rice is the world’s most important staple food. An estimated 2 billion people eat rice every day, forming the mainstay of diets across large of Asia and Africa.
  • Regular milled rice is low in micronutrients and serves primarily as a source of carbohydrate only. The fortification of rice is a major opportunity to improve nutrition.
  • Fortified rice are contains Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B12, Folic Acid, Iron and Zinc.

What is Fortified Rice?

  • Rice can be fortified by adding a micronutrient powder to the rice that adheres to the grains or spraying of the surface of ordinary rice grains with a vitamin and mineral mix to form a protective coating.
  • Rice can also be extruded and shaped into partially precooked grain-like structures resembling rice grains, which can then be blended with natural polished rice. Rice kernels can be fortified with several micronutrients, such as iron, folic acid and other B-complex vitamins, vitamin A and zinc.
  • These fortified kernels are then mixed with normal rice in a 1:100 ratio, and distributed for consumption.
· In order to fight chronic anaemia and undernutrition, the government is making plans to distribute  fortified rice through the Integrated Child Development Services and Mid Day Meal Schemes across the country from the year 2021, with special focus on Aspirational districts.

Details about the current move:

  • The centrally-sponsored pilot scheme was approved in February 2019, for a three-year period from 2019-20 onwards. Under it, one district each in 15 predominantly rice-eating States was selected.
  • It was found that, out of 15 states only 5 — Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh — have started the distribution of fortified rice in their identified pilot districts.
  • In other words, the scheme has only been implemented in five districts so far, although more than half the project duration is over.
  • The Food Corporation of India has now been mandated to scale up the annual supply of Fortified Rice Kernels (FRK)from the current 15,000 tonnes to at least 1.3 lakh tonnes.
  • To cover PDS, anganwadis and mid-day meals in the 112 aspirational districts, annual supply capacity would need to be increased to about 1.3 lakh tonnes. Further, existing rice mills will be equipped with Blending Machines for mixing FRK with normal rice.

Other Related Initiatives:

  • Milk Fortification Project was launched by the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) in collaboration with the World Bank and Tata Trusts, as a pilot project in 2017. It is intended to address vitamin deficiency in consumers.
  • Recently, the month of September was observed as Poshan Maah i.e. Nutrition month.It includes a month-long activities focussed on antenatal care, optimal breastfeeding, anaemia, growth monitoring, girls education, diet, right age of marriage, hygiene and sanitation and eating healthy (food fortification).

Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS)

  • The ICDS aims to provide food, preschool education, primary healthcare, immunization, health check-up and referral services to children under 6 years of age and their mothers.
  • The scheme was launched in 1975, discontinued in 1978 by the government of Morarji Desai, and then relaunched by the Tenth Five Year Plan. The tenth FYP also linked ICDS to Anganwadi centres established mainly in rural areas and staffed with frontline workers.
  • The ICDS provide for anganwadis or day-care centres which deliver a package of six services including:
  1. Immunization
  2. Supplementary nutrition
  3. Health checkup
  4. Referral services
  5. Pre-school education (Non-Formal)
  6. Nutrition and Health information

Mid-day Meal Scheme

  • It was launched in 1995 as a centrally sponsored scheme. It provides that every child within the age group of six to fourteen years studying in classes I to VIII who enrols and attends the school shall be provided with a hot cooked meal, free of charge every day except on school holidays.
  • The Mid Day Meal Scheme comes under the HRD Ministry’s Department of School Education and Literacy.

 

2. Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana

 

News: Recently, the Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilizers has held a comprehensive review meeting of Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP).

Details:

  • PMBJP has achieved sales of Rs. 358crores worth of pharma products through 6600 Janaushadhi Kendras during the first seven months of the fiscal year 2020-21 (up to 31st October) and is likely to surpass sales of Rs. 600 crore for the entire year. Sales figure has seen a jump from Rs 7.29 crore in 2014-15 to 433 crore in 2019-20.
  • Janaushadhi Kendras have grown from mere 99 stores in 2014-15 to around 6600 stores in 2019-20.
  • The Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India(BPPI) was appraised for ensuring the supply of medicines and other pharma products like masks to people at affordable rates during Covid-19.
  • BPPI is the implementing agency of the PMBJP. It was established in December 2008 under the Department of Pharmaceuticals and has been registered as an independent society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.

Recommendations:

  • BPPI should take measures to reduce out of pocket expenditure of citizens on medicines, especially of marginalised sections of the society by strengthening supply chains and adopting innovative measures.
  • There is a need to work on increasing awareness of people regarding efficacy and quality of Janaushadhi medicines, increasing coverage with a focus on remote and rural areas, and for making sure availability of medicines at each Janaushadhi shop.

About PMBJP:

  • It is a campaign launched by the Department of Pharmaceuticals of the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers. It seeks to provide quality medicines at affordable prices to the masses through special kendra’s known as Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Aushadhi Kendra.
  • Initially launched in 2008, the scheme was rechristened in 2015.

Implementation:

  • Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India (BPPI)is the implementing agency of PMBJP. BPPI (Bureau of Pharma Public Sector Undertakings of India) has been established under the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Govt. of India, with the support of all the CPSUs.

 

3. Pardoning Powers of Governor

 

News: The Supreme Court has recently said that the investigation into the conspiracy behind Ex-PMs assassination in 1991 need not deter the Governor from deciding the plea for pardon of convicts.

What did the court say exactly?

  • The court made it clear that it was reluctant to exercise its jurisdiction when the Governor was already seized of convict’s plea for a pardon under Article 161 of the Constitution.

Pardoning Powers of Governor

  • Article 161 deals with the Pardoning Power of the Governor. The Governor can grant pardons, reprieves, respites and remissions of punishments or suspend, remit and commute the sentence of any person convicted of any offence against any law relating to a matter to which the executive power of the state extends.
  • The Governor can not Pardon a Death Sentence. (The President has the power of Pardon a death Sentence).
  • The Governor can not grant pardon, reprieve, respite, suspension, remission or commutation in respect to punishment or sentence by a court-martial. However, the President can do so.

Key Concepts:

  • Pardon: means completely absolving the person of the crime and letting him go free. The pardoned criminal will be like a normal citizen.
  • Commutation: means changing the type of punishment given to the guilty into a less harsh one, for example, a death penalty commuted to a life sentence.
  • Reprieve: means a delay allowed in the execution of a sentence, usually a death sentence, for a guilty person to allow him some time to apply for Presidential Pardon or some other legal remedy to prove his innocence or successful rehabilitation.
  • Respite: means reducing the quantum or degree of the punishment to a criminal in view of some special circumstances, like pregnancy, mental condition etc.
  • Remission: means changing the quantum of the punishment without changing its nature, for example reducing twenty-year rigorous imprisonment to ten years.

 

4. La Niña

 

News: The La Niña weather phenomenon is back in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean after nearly a decade’s absence, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in its latest Global Seasonal update released October 29, 2020.

What is La Niña?

  • It means the large-scale cooling of ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean, together with changes in the tropical atmospheric circulation, namely winds, pressure and rainfall.
  • It has the opposite impacts on weather and climate as El Niño, which is the warm phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO).

Impact:

  • La Niña will result in sea surface temperatures between two and three degrees Celsius cooler than average.
  • La Niña could last into 2021, affecting temperatures, precipitation and storm patterns in many parts of the world.

Weather changes because of La Nina:

  • The Horn of Africa and central Asia will see below average rainfall due to La Niña. East Africa is forecast to see drier-than-usual conditions, which together with the existing impacts of the desert locust invasion, may add to regional food insecurity. It could also lead to increased rainfall in southern Africa.
  • It could also affect the South West Indian Ocean Tropical Cyclone season, reducing the intensity.
  • Southeast Asia, some Pacific Islands and the northern region of South America are expected to receive above-average rainfall.
  • In India, La Niña means the country will receive more rainfall than normal, leading to floods.