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8 May 2024 : Daily Current Affairs

1. Kerala on alert as man dies of West Nile fever

 (Source – The Hindu, Section – States, Page – 3)

Topic: GS2 – Social Justice – Health
Context:
●  Kerala issues alert as West Nile fever claims one life and infects eight in Kozhikode, Malappuram, and Thrissur.

●  Health authorities reassure the public, citing ongoing infection reports since 2011.

●  Symptoms include fever, headache, and neurological issues; no human-to-human transmission reported.

 Analysis of the news:

  • The Kerala government issued an alert against West Nile fever after detecting 1 death and 8 cases in Kozhikode, Malappuram, and Thrissur districts.
West Nile Fever
Virus Origin: First identified in the West Nile region of Uganda in 1937.

Transmission: Primarily transmitted through the bite of infected mosquitoes, particularly Culex species, with no documented human-to-human transmission.

Geographical Spread: Found in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, North America, and parts of Asia.

Symptoms: Most cases are asymptomatic, but common symptoms include fever, headache, body aches, and fatigue. Severe cases can lead to neurological complications such as encephalitis or meningitis.

Risk Factors: Individuals with weakened immune systems or older adults are at higher risk of developing severe illness.

Diagnosis: Usually confirmed through blood tests to detect antibodies or viral genetic material.

Treatment: No specific antiviral treatment exists; management focuses on relieving symptoms and providing supportive care.

Prevention: Mosquito control measures such as insecticide spraying and removing standing water breeding sites are essential. Personal protective measures like wearing long sleeves and using insect repellents are also recommended.

Vaccine: No vaccine currently available for humans.

  • A 79-year-old man from Thrissur succumbed to the infection on May 3.
  • Kozhikode reported 5 cases, Malappuram has 2 suspected cases, and Thrissur had 1 death.
  • District Medical Officers are instructed to intensify pre-monsoon cleaning drives.
  • Diagnosis of the infection was confirmed through lab tests, with samples sent to the National Institute of Virology, Pune, for official confirmation.
  • Treatment mainly involves supportive care, including hospitalisation, intravenous fluids, and respiratory support, with no vaccine currently available for humans.
Consider the following statements: (2017)

1.     In tropical regions, Zika virus disease is transmitted by the same mosquito that transmits dengue.

2.     Sexual transmission of Zika virus disease is possible.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Ans: (c)

Practice Question:  Analyse the West Nile fever outbreak in Kerala, focusing on its impact, government actions, diagnostic challenges, and preventive strategies. (150 Words /10 marks)

2. The unseen effects of climate change on mental health

(Source – The Hindu, Section – Science, Page – 7)

Topic: GS1 – Geography – Climate Change, GS3 – Environment – Environmental pollution and degradation, GS2 – Social Justice – Health
Context
●  The article discusses the compounding impact of climate change on mental health, focusing on a study from British Columbia highlighting the vulnerability of individuals with schizophrenia to extreme heat events.
●  It underscores the broader issue of climate change’s nonlinear effects, affecting various aspects of human life, and emphasises the importance of awareness and intervention to mitigate its adverse consequences on mental well-being.

 Introduction:

  • Climate change’s compounding effects rapidly affect various aspects of human life.
  • Recent research highlights its influence on mental health, especially in vulnerable communities.

Climate Change’s Disproportionate Impact:

  • Climate change disproportionately affects vulnerable groups like the elderly, poor, and socially marginalised.
  • It contributes to psychological conditions such as eco-anxiety, eco-paralysis, and solastalgia, affecting communities’ well-being and future concerns.

Impact on Existing Mental Health Conditions:

  • A study in British Columbia revealed that extreme heat events disproportionately affect individuals with schizophrenia.
  • During a heatwave in 2021, people with schizophrenia faced higher risks of heat-related distress and mortality compared to those with kidney and heart diseases.
Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia is a chronic mental disorder affecting how a person thinks, feels, and behaves.
Symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, disorganised thinking, and lack of motivation.
● Onset typically occurs in late teens to early 30s.
● Genetic and environmental factors play a role in its development.
● Treatment often involves antipsychotic medications and therapy.
● Therapy may include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), family therapy, and social skills training.
● Early intervention and support from family, friends, and mental health professionals is crucial.
● Recovery varies for each individual, with some able to manage symptoms effectively

Findings of the Study:

  • The study analyzed 1,614 deaths during the heatwave, revealing a significant increase in fatalities among individuals with schizophrenia.
  • Dysfunction of the hypothalamus, exacerbated by certain antipsychotic medications, contributed to increased vulnerability to heat stress.

Challenges for Individuals with Schizophrenia:

  • Individuals with schizophrenia may experience psychotic symptoms, memory loss, and anosognosia, hindering their ability to seek help during heatwaves.
  • Social isolation, economic status, and loneliness further increase vulnerability to heat-related illnesses.

Mitigating Measures:

  • Scientists emphasise the importance of continuing antipsychotic medications despite their potential to interfere with heat regulation.
  • Interventions like counselling and community support can address risk factors associated with schizophrenia and heat-related illnesses.

Call for Awareness and Action:

  • Stakeholders, including families and caregivers, must be aware of the increased risk of heat-related illnesses among individuals with schizophrenia.
  • Education on recognizing symptoms and implementing emergency cooling measures is crucial during heatwaves to ensure everyone’s safety.

Conclusion:

  • Climate change’s nonlinear effects compound rapidly, impacting various aspects of human life, including mental health.
  • The study underscores the urgent need for awareness, intervention, and support systems to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change on vulnerable communities, particularly those with pre-existing mental health conditions like schizophrenia.
PYQ:
Q.1 Discuss global warming and mention its effects on the global climate. Explain the control measures to bring down the level of greenhouse gases which cause global warming, in the light of the Kyoto Protocol, 1997.(250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2022)
Q.2 ‘Climate Change’ is a global problem. How will India be affected by climate change? How Himalayan and coastal states of India be affected by climate change? (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2017)
Practice Question:  How does climate change exacerbate the vulnerability of individuals with mental health conditions? Discuss the implications and recommended interventions. (250 Words /15 marks)

 

3. India opens up investment options for Russia to channel rupee balance

(Source – The Hindu, Section – Business, Page – 12)

Topic: GS2 – International Relations – Bilateral Relations
Context:
●  Amidst strained global relations, India resolves Russia’s payment hurdles by allowing investment options for Russian entities, easing the repatriation of accumulated rupee balances.

●  RBI amendments enable investments beyond government securities, supporting diverse avenues including equity and loans.

● This move strengthens economic ties between the nations and enhances India’s autonomy in international trade.

 Analysis of the news:

  • Russia’s payment issues with India are being resolved with RBI’s allowances for Russian entities to invest their accumulating rupee balance.
  • RBI amendments under FEMA regulations now allow investment options beyond government securities to include equity and loans.
  • The rupee payment system was established between India and Russia to bypass Western sanctions post-Ukraine conflict.
  • Russian banks opened vostro accounts in Indian banks to facilitate rupee trade.
What is Vostro Accounts?
Vostro accounts are used in international banking to facilitate foreign currency transactions.

They are held by a domestic bank on behalf of a foreign bank.

●  Vostro accounts help in simplifying international trade and payment settlements.

●  They are used for various purposes including facilitating cross-border transactions, trade finance, and foreign exchange operations.

● The domestic bank maintains records of transactions and provides necessary services to the foreign bank.

●     Vostro accounts are subject to regulations and agreements between the domestic and foreign banks.

  • Unused rupee balances were a concern for Russia, now being invested in India.
  • RBI amendments permit investments in government securities, derivatives, equity, and debt.
  • Details of investments are undisclosed due to concerns of private companies doing business in the West.
  • West’s sanctions unlikely to impact Russia’s investments in India.
  • Russia is India’s second-largest import source, mainly oil, defense equipment, fertilizers, and precious stones.
  • With investment avenues, India can pay for more Russian imports in rupees, reducing reliance on other currencies.
Significance of this move by RBI
Enhanced Payment Mechanism: Resolution of payment issues with Russia strengthens bilateral trade ties.

Diversification of Investment Options: RBI’s amendments under FEMA regulations broaden investment avenues beyond government securities, fostering economic growth.

Strategic Response to Sanctions: Establishment of rupee payment system with Russia showcases India’s strategic autonomy, bypassing Western sanctions post-Ukraine conflict.

Boost to Economic Cooperation: Facilitation of investment opportunities encourages deeper economic cooperation between India and Russia.

Reduced Reliance on Foreign Currency: Ability to pay for Russian imports in rupees reduces dependency on other currencies, enhancing India’s economic sovereignty.

Support for Indian Businesses: Undisclosed details protect private companies doing business in the West, safeguarding their interests.

Strengthened Import Relationship: Russia’s status as India’s second-largest import source, particularly in vital sectors like oil, defence, and fertilisers, underscores the significance of seamless payment mechanisms.

Long-Term Partnership: This move signifies a commitment to nurturing a long-term strategic partnership between India and Russia, fostering stability and mutual growth.

PYQ: What is the significance of Indo-US defence deals over Indo-Russian defence deals? Discuss with reference to stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
(250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2020)
Practice Question:  Discuss the significance of recent RBI amendments in resolving Russia’s payment woes with India, and its impact on bilateral economic relations. Analyse the implications of allowing Russian entities to diversify investments beyond government securities, and assess the potential benefits for both countries in terms of trade and economic cooperation. (250 Words /15 marks)

4. Election Commission Directs Telangana Government to Defer Rythu Bharosa Scheme Disbursement Amid MCC Violation Concerns

(Source: Indian Express; Section: Govt and Politics; Page: 8)

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Government policies – Interventions for development in various sectors

GS2 – Polity – Constitutional Bodies

Context:
  • The Election Commission (EC) has intervened in the disbursement of the balance installment under Telangana’s Rythu Bharosa scheme for the Rabi 2023 season due to concerns over violations of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC).
  • Chief Minister Revanth Reddy’s announcement regarding the disbursement date, set for May 9, raised eyebrows and prompted the EC’s response.
Analysis of the News:

About Rythu Bharosa Scheme:

  • The Rythu Bharosa scheme, also known as the Farmer’s Investment Support Scheme (FISS), is a welfare programme for farmers started by the Telangana government in 2018.

     The objective of this scheme is two-fold:

  • to provide a timely cash grant for the initial investment needs of farmers
  • to ensure that farmers do not fall into the debt trap.
  • Under the scheme, financial assistance of Rs 5,000 per acre per farmer each season is directly transferred to each farmer’s account.
  • This financial support was distributed biannually, allocated for both the kharif and rabi harvests.
  • The assistance can be used for the purchase of inputs like seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, labour, and other investments in the field operations of Farmer’s choice for the crop season.

Eligibility:

  • The scheme is open to all resident farmers in the state who own land.
  • Farmers cultivating the land in the forest, a majority of them from Scheduled Tribe communities and having a Record of Forest Rights (ROFR) document, are also eligible to receive benefits under the scheme.

It is the country’s first direct farmer investment support scheme where cash is paid directly to the beneficiary.

Violation of Model Code of Conduct:

  • The EC highlighted that the announcement by Chief Minister Revanth Reddy regarding the disbursement date violated the MCC.
  • The scheme’s disbursement, usually completed between October and January in the past five years, lacks a fixed date for May 2024.
  • The EC stressed that the CM’s public declaration about the disbursement breached the MCC’s conditions.

What is ECI’s Model Code of Conduct (MCC)?

  • The MCC, is a set of guidelines issued by the ECI, that regulates parties and candidates before elections, aligning with Article 324 of the Constitution.
  • It empowers the EC to oversee and ensure fair elections to Parliament and State Legislatures.
  • It is active from election schedule announcement to result declaration.

EC’s Response and Instructions:

  • Upon receiving complaints and a report from the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), the EC directed the Telangana government to defer the disbursement until after the Lok Sabha elections scheduled for May 13.
  • The EC emphasized the need for compliance and instructed the government to submit a compliance report by 5 pm on Tuesday.

Conclusion:

  • The EC’s intervention underscores its commitment to upholding the MCC and ensuring fairness and impartiality during elections.
  • By instructing the deferment of disbursements, the EC aims to prevent potential electoral manipulation or bias.
  • The incident highlights the critical role of regulatory bodies in safeguarding the integrity of democratic processes and maintaining public trust in electoral procedures.
PYQ: Discuss the role of the Election Commission of India in the light of the evolution of the Model Code of Conduct. (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2022)
Practice Question:  What recent directive did the Election Commission issue to the Telangana government regarding the Rythu Bharosa scheme, and why was it significant in the context of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in the state? (250 words/15 m)

5. Australian Parliamentary Committee Raises Concerns Over Child Labour in India Amidst Trade Negotiations

(Source: Indian Express; Section: Economy; Page: 13)

Topic: GS2 – International Relations – Bilateral Relations
GS2 – Social Justice – Vulnerable sections
Context:
  • At a critical juncture in the trade negotiations between India and Australia, an Australian parliamentary committee has voiced apprehensions regarding child labour practices in India.
  • The report submitted to lawmakers highlights potential contradictions between the India-Australia trade deal and Canberra’s policy objectives.
Analysis of the News:

Background of Trade Negotiations:

  • India and Australia are currently engaged in discussions to expand a mini trade deal into a more comprehensive pact under the leadership of Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
  • The Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) signed previously saw significant benefits for Indian exports to Australia, particularly in labor-intensive sectors.

What is Ind-Aus ECTA?
It is the first Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that India has signed with a major developed country in over a decade.
The Agreement encompasses cooperation across the entire gamut of bilateral economic and commercial relations between the two friendly countries, and covers areas like:

  • Trade in Goods, Rules of Origin
  • Trade in Services
  • Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT)
  • Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures
  • Dispute Settlement, Movement of Natural Persons
  • Telecom, Customs Procedures
  • Pharmaceutical products, and Cooperation in other Areas

ECTA provides for an institutional mechanism to encourage and improve trade between the two countries.
The ECTA between India and Australia covers almost all the tariff lines dealt in by India and Australia respectively.
Concerns Raised by the Parliamentary Committee:

  • The report emphasizes that the trade agreement lacks acknowledgment of international labour rights, urging the Australian government to avoid trade agreements with countries violating such standards.
  • It specifically calls for labor chapters in deals aligning with commitments made to the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Trade Economists’ Perspective:

  • Some trade economists argue that embedding international labour standards in trade agreements may serve as a guise for protectionism.
  • They suggest that immediate imposition of such standards could hinder economic welfare, especially in developing nations.

Impact on Economic Growth and Efficiency:

  • While strengthening core labour standards can foster economic growth and innovation, there’s no conclusive evidence suggesting that countries with low labour standards enjoy better export performance.
  • This perspective is supported by an OECD study on trade-labor linkages.

Child Labour Situation in India:

  • India hosts a significant number of working children, with states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra employing over half of the nation’s child laborers.
  • Despite a decline in child labor between 2001 and 2011, challenges persist, particularly exacerbated by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is Child Labour?

  • According to the ILO, child labour includes any work that deprives children of their childhood, potential and dignity, physical or mental development.
  • It perpetuates the vicious cycle of poverty (due to poor education-health, less economic opportunities), denying children their fundamental rights and a better future.

Constitutional provision in India

  • Article 24 of the Constitution of India prohibits employment of children below the age of 14 years in any factory or mine or in any hazardous employment.

Prevalence of child labour in India:

  • According to the International Labour Organization, India has the highest number of child labourers in the 5-17 age range in South Asia.
  • In rural areas, 13.9% of children are involved in child labor, compared to 4.7% in urban areas.
  • 70% of child laborers are in agriculture, 20% in services, and 10% in industry.
  • As per census 2011, 10.1 million children, or 3.9% of the total child population, are “main workers” or “marginal workers”.

Australia’s Stance on Labour Rights in Trade Deals:

  • The report also questions the absence of labor or human rights provisions in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal, where Australia is a member.
  • It advocates for the inclusion of enforceable labor rights to ensure a level playing field and prevent the exploitation of workers.

Conclusion:

  • The Australian parliamentary report underscores the importance of addressing labor rights concerns in trade negotiations to uphold ethical standards, protect vulnerable workers, and foster fair competition globally.
  • It signals the need for a balanced approach to trade agreements that prioritize economic growth while respecting fundamental human rights.
What are the steps taken by India to eliminate child labour?
The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 and its 2016 amendment

  • The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, prevents children from partaking in certain employments and regulates the conditions of work for children in other fields.
  • In 2016, an amendment completely banned the employment of children below 14 years.
  • It also prohibits employment of adolescents (14-18 years) in hazardous occupations and processes.

Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Amendment Rules, 2017

  • Government has framed the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Amendment Rules, 2017.
  • This rule specifies the duties and responsibilities of State Governments and District Authorities.

PENCIL (Platform for Effective Enforcement for No Child Labour) platform

  • To ensure effective enforcement of the provisions of the Child Labour Act and smooth implementation of the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) Scheme a separate online portal PENCIL has been developed.
  • Government had initiated the NCLP Scheme in 1988 to rehabilitate working children in 12 child labour endemic districts of the country.
  • Under this Scheme, the children in the age group of 9-14 years are withdrawn from work and put into NCLP Special Training Centres.
  •  Here they are provided with bridge education, vocational training, mid-day meal, stipend, health care etc. before being mainstreamed into formal education system.
  • The Portal connects Central Government to State Government(s), District(s) and all District Project Societies.

The Factories Act of 1948

  • This act prohibits the employment of children under 14 years old in factories.

Right to Education

  • The Right to Education Act was passed in 2009 to ensure that all children get an education in place of working.
  • There are several schools set up that impart free education to such children and also offer faculties such as textbooks, uniforms, and others for free.

Ratification of two core conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO) on child labour

  • In 2017, India ratified two core conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO) on child labour:
  • Convention 138: On the minimum age of employment
  • Convention 182: On the worst forms of child labour

 

PYQ: International Labour Organization’s Conventions 138 and 182 are related to: (2018)
(a) Child Labour
(b) Adaptation of agricultural practices to global climate change
(c) Regulation of food prices and food security
(d) Gender parity at the workplace
Ans: (a)
Practice Question:  What are the concerns raised by an Australian parliamentary committee regarding child labor in India, and how might these concerns affect trade relations between India and Australia? (250 words/15 m)

 

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