IAS प्रिलिम्स ऑनलाइन कोर्स (Pendrive)
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News Analysis

  • 12 Oct 2019
  • 23 min read
Governance

14th Anniversary of Right To Information

An important instrument of participatory democracy-Right To Information (RTI) has marked its 14th anniversary on 12th october 2019.

  • To mark the occasion, the ‘Report Card on the Performance of Information Commissions in India’ has been released by the NGOs, Satark Nagrik Sangathan and the Centre for Equity Studies.

Key Findings

  • Achievements
    • RTI is one of the landmark acts which has led to a significant boost in accountability of the govt towards the people.
      • It has given ordinary citizens the confidence and the right to ask questions to the government authorities.
    • RTI ensured the maintenance and publication of public records.
      • Section 4 of the RTI Act makes it a duty of public authorities to maintain records for easy access
    • It also ensured transparency as well as accountability between citizens and public authorities.
    • RTI emphasizes citizen centric approach.
    • It assured information accessibility at every level of public governance.
    • According to estimates, nearly 60 lakh applications are being filed every year.
  • Challenges
    • Government officials face hardly any punishment for violating the law by denying applicants legitimate information.
      • It destroys the basic framework of incentives and disincentives built into the RTI Act.
    • State and Central Information Commissions, which are the courts of appeal under the RTI Act, failed to impose penalties in about 97% of the cases where violations took place.
      • The State Commissions of Tamil Nadu, Sikkim, Mizoram and Tripura did not impose penalties in any cases at all.
    • The commissions also have the power to recommend disciplinary action against officials for persistent violations of the RTI Act.
      • Only 10 states invoked these powers.
    • Many Information Commissions are non-functional or are functioning at reduced capacity as the posts of commissioners, including that of the chief information commissioner are vacant.
      • The State Information Commission(SIC) of the state of Andhra Pradesh is yet to become functional.
      • The State Information Commission of West Bengal is currently functioning with just two commissioners.
      • The Chief Information Commissioner of Maharashtra retired in April 2017 and the government is yet to appoint a new Chief
    • The central, as well as state commissions, have an increasing workload, which is leading to huge pendency of cases.
      • Any new appeal to the Central Information Commission (CIC) would have to wait more than one-and-a-half years for resolution.

Central Information Commission (CIC)

  • CIC was established in 2005 by the Central Government under the provisions of Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.
  • The Chief Information Commissioner heads the Central Information Commission.
  • It hears appeals from information-seekers who have not been satisfied by the public authority and also addresses major issues concerning the RTI Act.
  • CIC submits an annual report to the Union government on the implementation of the provisions of RTI Act.

State Information Commission

  • The Right to Information Act of 2005 provides for the creation of a State Information Commission at the state level.
  • The State Information Commission is a high powered independent body which inter-alia looks into the complaints made to it and decide the appeals.
  • It entertains complaints and appeals pertaining to offices, financial institutions, public sector undertakings, etc.under the concerned state government.
  • The Commission consists of a State Chief Information Commissioner and not more than ten State Information Commissioners appointed by the Governor.

Source: TH


Governance

World Vision Report

Recently to mark the occasion of World Sight Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) released its first World Vision Report.

  • The report proposed ways to address challenges such as integrating eye care into healthcare systems that can help in drastically reducing the burden of preventable eye diseases.
    • The report found that globally, over 2.2 billion people have some form of vision impairment. Out of these 2.2 billion, 1 billion people are suffering from conditions that are preventable.
  • According to the report, the burden of eye conditions and vision impairment is not borne equally: it is often far greater in people living in rural areas, those with low incomes, women, older people, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities and indigenous populations.
    • Low and middle-income regions of western and eastern sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have rates of blindness that are eight times higher than in high-income countries.
    • The age-specific prevalence of distance vision impairment in an urban population of Delhi (20% prevalence amongst 60-69 years old) was one-third lower than that of a rural population in Northern India (28%).
  • The report warned that the ageing population would lead to a dramatic increase in the number of people with vision impairment and blindness.
    • Presbyopia (a condition in which it is difficult to see nearby objects), affects 1.8 billion people. This condition occurs with advancing age.
    • The common refractive error -myopia (a condition in which it is difficult to see objects at a particular distance) affects 2.6 billion, with 312 million being under the age of 19 years.
    • Trachoma- an eye disease that is caused due to bacterial infection in the eye. Many countries have eliminated it including India.
  • Vision impairment also caused productivity loss and economic burden.
    • The economic burden of uncorrected myopia in the regions of East Asia, South Asia, and South-East Asia were reported to be more than twice that of other regions and equivalent to more than 1% of gross domestic product.
  • The report also highlighted that in India the rate of cataract surgery has increased nine-fold (6,000 per million population) between 1981 and 2012.
    • This has been possible because of the National Programme for Control of Blindness, under which cataract surgeries were performed on 6.5 million people alone in the year 2016-2017.
      • In addition to it, a total of 1.5 million management/ treatment procedures were performed for other eye conditions. As a result of these concerted efforts, there was an overall reduction in the prevalence of blindness that was reported as 1.1% in 2001-02 to 0.45% during the years 2015-18.

National Programme for Control of Blindness and Visual Impairment (NPCB&VI)

  • It was launched in the year 1976 as a 100% centrally sponsored scheme (now 60:40 in all states and 90:10 in NE States) by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.
  • The goal of this programme was to reduce the prevalence of blindness to 0.3% by 2020.
    • NPCB aimed to provide for ‘Eye Health for All’ and prevention of visual impairment, through the provision of comprehensive universal eye-care services and quality service delivery.

Way Forward

  • According to the World Report on Vision, integrated people-centered eye care has the potential to accelerate action and overcome the challenges. To make it a reality, the report recommends the following actions:
    • Make eye care an integral part of universal health coverage.
    • Promote high-quality implementation and health systems research, complementing existing evidence for effective eye care interventions.
    • Monitor trends and evaluate progress towards implementing integrated people-centered eye care.
    • Raise awareness and engage and empower people and communities about eye care needs.

Source: IE


Indian Heritage & Culture

Chalukyan Rulers

Recently, graves of Chalukyan rulers have been unearthed in a village near Pattadakal, Karnataka.

  • The findings are significant since there are no clear details available of the places where Chalukyan rulers lived.
  • Neither they have left behind documents nor evidence of their graves. It is believed that they wanted their death to remain a secret and built their graves in a discreet manner.
  • Chalukyan kings were famous for building gigantic temples with intricate architecture which could be found at places such as Aihole, Badami and Pattadakal.

Historical Background

  • The Chalukyas ruled parts of Southern and Central India between the 6th century and the 12th century.
  • There were three distinct but related Chalukya dynasties.
    • Badami Chalukyas:
      • The earliest Chalukyas with their capital at Badami (Vatapi) in Karnataka.
      • They ruled from mid-6th century and declined after the death of their greatest king, Pulakesin II in 642 AD.
    • Eastern Chalukyas:
      • Emerged after the death of Pulakesin II in Eastern Deccan with capital at Vengi.
      • They ruled till the 11th century.
    • Western Chalukyas:
      • Descendants of the Badami Chalukyas, they emerged in the late 10th century and ruled from Kalyani.
  • The extent of empire:
    • The Chalukya dynasty reached its peak during the reign of Pulakesin II.
    • Pulakesin II subjugated the Kadambas, the Gangas of Mysore, the Mauravas of North Konkan, the Latas of Gujarat, the Malavas and the Gurjars.
      • He also succeeded in getting a submission from the Chola, Chera and Pandya kings.
      • He had also defeated King Harsha of Kannauj and the Pallava king Mahendravarman.
      • He had maintained friendly relations with Khusru II, the king of Persia.
  • Administration and Society:
    • The Chalukyas had great army comprised of infantry, cavalry, elephant unit and a dominant navy.
    • Though the Chalukya kings were Hindus, they were tolerant of Buddhism and Jainism.
    • They contributed to great developments in Kannada and Telugu literature.
    • They imprinted coins were included Nagari and Kannada legends.
      • They minted coins with cryptograms of temples, lion or boar facing right and the lotus.
  • Architecture:
    • They built cave temples depicting both religious and secular themes.
    • The temples also had beautiful mural paintings.
    • The temples under the Chalukyas are a good example of the Vesara style of architecture.
  • Vesara style is a combination of Dravida and Nagara styles.
    • Aihole temples: Lady Khan temple (Surya Temple), Durga temple, Huchimalligudi temple etc.
    • Badami temples
    • Pattadakkal Temples:
      • It is well known for rock-cut temples.
      • It is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
      • There are ten temples here – 4 in Nagar style and 6 in Dravida style. Virupaksha temple and Sangameshwara Temple are in Dravida style.

Source: TH


Governance

IRCTC IPO

The IRCTC held an Initial Public Offering (IPO) on the National Stock Exchange on 30th September 2019.

What is an IPO?

  • An IPO is the first time the owners of a company give up part of their ownership to stockholders. It is a time when a company initially offers its shares of stocks to the public, that is why it is known as Initial Public Offering.
  • The company which is primarily privately-owned goes public for the first time by issuing IPOs, hence it is also called ‘going public’.
  • Benefits:
    • The funds raised by IPO allows the company to invest in new capital equipment and infrastructure.
    • An IPO paves way for listing and trading of the issuer’s securities on the Stock exchange market.
    • The IPO also allows the company to attract top talent because it can offer stock options to its employees. This enables the company to pay its executives fairly low wages initially. And later, in return, the employees as promised can cash out with the IPO.
  • The number of IPOs being issued usually provides a sign of the stock market and the economy's health.
    • During a recession, the IPOs issuance drops. They aren't much worth as during a slowdown the share prices are already depressed.
    • When the number of IPOs increase, it usually means the economy is getting back on its feet again and there is a sign of a bullish stock market.

Why IRCTC IPOs are in Demand?

  • The demand for Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd. (IRCTC) IPO is unprecedented as compared to any other PSU disinvestment.
    • This is because of the demand for good PSU stocks in the backdrop of volatile markets, depressed investor sentiment and expected liquidity constraints in the market.
  • The IRCTC’s fundamental strengths and monopoly position in its business are amongst the other reasons, such as:
    • IRCTC has a monopoly in issuing online tickets for the Railways which accounts for over a third of its profits before tax.
    • IRCTC is also the chosen vehicle for the Railways’ experiment operating private trains. Two of Indian Railways Tejas trains will be operated by IRCTC.
    • IRCTC has almost a monopoly share of on-rail food catering service which it does on over 350 trains & has outlets in over 500 stations apart from food courts.
    • IRCTC is a debt-free company with a high marginal tax rate.

Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation

  • Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd. (IRCTC) is a Mini Ratna Category-I (conferred in 2008) Central Public Sector Enterprise that is wholly-owned by and is under the administrative control of the Ministry of Railways.
  • It is a registered enterprise and its corporate office is situated at New Delhi.
  • IRCTC was incorporated in September 1999 as an extended arm of the Indian Railways to upgrade, professionalize and manage the catering and hospitality services at stations, on trains and other locations.
  • The firm currently operates in 4 business segments namely, Internet ticketing, Catering, Packaging Drinking Water, and Travel and Tourism.
  • It is the only entity that is authorized by Indian Railways to provide catering services to railways, online railway tickets and packaged drinking water at railway stations and trains in the country.
    • This gives it advantages in increasing market share in e-ticketing, packaged drinking water, and in e-catering.

Source: TH


Important Facts For Prelims

Elastocaloric Effect

According to a research published in the Journal Science, the elastocaloric effect, if harnessed, may be able to do away with the need of fluid refrigerants used in fridges and air-conditioners.

Background

  • Refrigeration plays an important role in a wide range of human activity and keeping people and things cool consumes huge amounts of energy.
  • They use fluids such as hydrofluorocarbons which are susceptible to leakages, and can contribute to global warming.
  • An alternative approach involves using “caloric” materials, which release heat when subjected to an external stimulus such as an applied magnetic or electric field or a compressive force. When the stimulus is removed, the material will absorb heat, thus cooling its surroundings.
  • Recently, owing to the strong demand for efficient and environmentally friendly refrigeration technologies, materials with giant caloric effects, including elastocaloric, have been widely investigated.

Elastocaloric Effect

  • When rubber bands are twisted and untwisted, it produces a cooling effect. This is called the “elastocaloric” effect.
  • The elastocaloric effect can be regarded as the entropy change under isothermal condition or temperature change under adiabatic condition when a mechanical stress is used or released in a given material.
    • Energy is the ability to do work. Although all forms of energy are interconvertible, and all can be used to do work, it is not always possible, even in principle, to convert the entire available energy into work.
    • Entropy is a measure of how much energy is not available to do work.
  • Basically, elastocaloric materials are solids capable of stress-induced reversible phase transformations during which latent heat is released or absorbed.

Elastocaloric Effect Replacing Fuel

  • In the elastocaloric effect, the transfer of heat works much the same way as when fluid refrigerants are compressed and expanded.
  • When a rubber band is stretched, it absorbs heat from its environment, and when it is released, it gradually cools down.
  • In order to figure out how the twisting mechanism might be able to enable a fridge, the researchers compared the cooling power of rubber fibres, nylon and polyethylene fishing lines and nickel-titanium wires.
  • Observations:
    • They observed high cooling from twist changes in twisted, coiled and supercoiled fibres.
    • They reported that the level of efficiency of the heat exchange in rubber bands is comparable to that of standard refrigerants.
    • These findings may lead to the development of greener, higher-efficiency and low-cost cooling technology.

Source: IE


Important Facts For Prelims

C40 World Mayors’ Summit

The C40 World Mayors’ Summit is being held from 9th-12th October 2019 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

  • It is a conference where city leaders from around the world share ideas on green urban development, and on ways to get national governments to act on climate issues.
  • Apart from Mayors and Deputy Mayors, the Summit is being attended by climate experts, influencers, business leaders, innovators, changemakers, and citizens.
  • Over the past decade, C40 has convened six Mayors Summits, hosted by London (2005), New York (2007), Seoul (2009), São Paulo (2011), Johannesburg (2014) and Mexico City (2016).
    • Each C40 Mayors Summit has provided unique opportunities for the mayors of the world’s great cities to showcase their climate leadership on the global stage.
  • C40 Summits are known for publishing important research, showcasing innovations by cities, and for forging global partnerships.
  • At the 2019 Summit, the Mayor of Los Angeles has taken over as chair of the group.
  • The cities from India that are part of the C40 are Delhi NCT, Bengaluru, Chennai, and Kolkata.

C40

  • The C40 group was started in 2005 by the then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, and got its name in 2006, since it had 40 members that year.
  • It has 96 members at present, representing over 70 crore people, and one-quarter of the global economy.
  • It connects the world's largest cities to deliver urgent and essential climate action needed to secure a sustainable future for urban citizens worldwide.
  • The group is committed to delivering on climate targets set under the 2016 Paris Agreement, and sets the bar for cities to develop and implement local level plans that comply with those targets.
  • It has its offices in New York, USA and London, UK.

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