Essential Facts (Prelims): 10th Feb, 2019


Leprosy

Category: Health

  • The rise in the number of recorded leprosy cases reported a decade and a half after India was declared leprosy-free in 2005, has turned the spotlight on the hotspots for the disease.
  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) has set the goal of zero children with leprosy and deformities by 2020, and less than one patient per million for other newly diagnosed patients.
  • Today, though, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Maharashtra remain the ‘hotspots’ from which maximum prevalence was detected last year.
  • High population density, poor sanitation and inadequate access to nutrition are among the reasons for the number remaining high.

Tropical centipedes

Category: Geography

  • Continental drift (the moving apart of continents) almost 100 million years ago created many species of Ethmostigmus centipedes in the world’s tropics.
  • In the Indian peninsula, these centipedes first originated in the southern and central Western Ghats, and then spread across the ranges here.
  • India is home to six, fairly large Ethmostigmus centipedes: four dwell in the Western Ghats, one in the Eastern Ghats and one in north-east India.
  • Africa, south-east Asia and Australia are also home to other species of Ethmostigmus centipedes.
  • A single ancestor gave rise to all Ethmostigmus centipedes in the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana (continents including Australia, Africa and peninsular India comprised this single landmass then).
  • The subsequent breakup of Gondwana and the drifting away of different landmasses shaped the early evolutionary history of Ethmostigmus.

Orion Source I

Category: Science & technology 

  • Astronomers have detected chemical fingerprints of common salt (sodium chloride) in an unusual place – around a star.
  • Orion Source I is a young star behind the Orion Nebula.
  • The salt may be formed from colliding dust grains in the surrounding disk.

Hydrothermarchaeota

Category: Science & technology 

  • Hydrothermarchaeota, or microbes living in extreme environments may hold clues to the evolution of early life.
  • These microbes use carbon monoxide and sulfate as sources of energy – chemosynthesis.

Sepsis

Category: Science & technology 

  • Sepsis occurs when bacterial infections spiral out of control and cause an inflammatory cascade to propagate through the body.
  • The resulting inflammation then damages blood vessels and deprives organs of oxygen and nutrients, leading to organ failure and death.

Bedin 1

Category: Science & technology 

  • It is a modestly sized, elongated galaxy that measures only around 3,000 light-years at its greatest extent — a fraction of the size of the Milky Way.
  • Not only is it tiny but it is also incredibly faint.
  • These properties have led astronomers to classify it as a ‘dwarf spheroidal galaxy’.
  • Dwarf spheroidal galaxies are defined by their small size, low-luminosity, lack of dust and old stellar populations.
  • Bedin 1 was discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Gist of Editorials: The View From The Outside (The Hindu) | GS – II

Relevance : GS Paper II (Polity and Governance)

[750 words summarized to 100]


Human rights situation in India

  • deteriorating climate in relation to human rights.
  • Extrajudicial killings in Uttar Pradesh.
  • first ever UN report on human rights violations in Kashmir
  • Assam National Register of Citizens process
  • online hate speech
  • the killing of journalist Gauri Lankesh,
  • jailing of human rights defenders,
  • deportation of Rohingya refugees,
  • excessive police response to protests

Way forward

  • record of upholding human rights is abysmal; India must do better.
  • welfare and rights of individuals within the purview of the state.

Conclusion

The respect of the rights of individuals must be non-negotiable.


 

Gist of Editorials: Learning Little (The Hindu) | GS – II

Relevance : GS Paper II (Education)

[430 words summarised to 120]


What ASER Report says

  • Only 44% of students in Class 5 could read a text meant for Class 2.
  • Some states such as Kerala did much better in arithmetics compared to states such as Uttar Pradesh.
  • Students were not even able to recognise letters appropriate for their class.

Way forward

  • The Centre should institute a review mechanism involving all States.
  • A public consultation on learning outcomes, can help.
  • The RTI Act needs a supportive framework to cater to learners from different backgrounds.
  • Innovation in schools and incentivising good outcomes can help. For example, bonus pay to teachers.

Conclusion

The solutions may lie in multiple approaches. However, governments are not doing their duty.


 

Gist of Editorials: Learning to compete (The Hindu) | GS – III

Relevance : GS Paper III (Indian Economy)

[1000 words summarized to 200]


Pillars of skill development

There are five pillars of the skills ecosystem:

  • the secondary schools/polytechnics;
  • industrial training institutes;
  • private training providers offering short-term training;
  • 16 Ministries providing mostly short-term training; and
  • employers offering enterprise-based training.

Efforts towards skill development

  • All training programmes/courses to be NSQF-compliant.
  • National skill competitions, or India Skills
  • Participation in World Skills Competition
  • Abilympics for Persons with Disabilities.
  • Sharda Prasad Expert Group report

 Hurdles

  • industrial training institutes courses are not aligned with the NSQF.
  • NSQF has not been well accepted or adopted across India.
  • no clear definition of the course curriculum within the NSQF
  • no connection of tertiary level vocational courses to prior knowledge
  • no real alignment between HRD Ministry and Ministry of Skill Development

Way forward

  • need for more holistic training
  • need to re-examine the short-term NSQF-based NSDC courses.
  • reduction in complications caused by too many Sector Skill Councils (SSCs) anchoring skill courses
  • provide broader skills in broader occupational groups.
  • Consolidation of sectors with the National Industrial Classification of India.
  • India could learn a lesson from other nations such as Germany
  • Vocational education must be imparted in broadly defined occupational skills

Conclusion

Skill India needs a sharp realignment, if India is to perform well in the World Skills competition later this year.


 

Editorial Simplified: Corporate Taxes Must Be Rationalised| GS – III


Relevance: GS Paper III


Theme of the article

For kick-starting the investment cycle, the Centre has to cut tax rates for large companies.


Introduction

While the government can take pride in having pushed through the landmark indirect tax reform, it has fallen short in its efforts to rationalise corporate tax rate in the country.


Corporate tax issues

  • The corporate tax rates in India are too high when compared to those in other countries and there is widespread tax evasion, with larger companies paying lower taxes than smaller ones.
  • The gov had embarked on a roadmap for bringing down the corporate tax rate in the country from 30 per cent to 25 per cent over the next four years. However, the corporate tax rate was lowered to 25 per cent only for some companies.
  • In the tax-cut exercise, larger companies — with turnover exceeding ₹250 crore — have not seen any change in the tax rate. The tax burden for these companies has in fact moved higher.
  • Withdrawal of some of the corporate tax incentives is also increasing tax incidence for larger companies.
  • Given the inability of GST to reach its full potential in garnering tax revenue yet, the Centre is in no position to slash corporate tax rates as of now. It has instead adopted a calibrated approach to rationalising rates, in a bid to please the largest number of companies.

Global comparison 

  • Countries across the globe are moving towards lower corporate tax rates. The average corporate tax rate globally has declined from 30.19 per cent in 2003 to 20.6 currently.
  • The current peak corporate tax rate in India, at 35 per cent, is the highest among the BRIC as well as the Asia-Pacific countries.

Way forward

  • Tax on income of companies needs to gradually slide lower so that the surplus available to invest in capacity expansion and augmenting business, increases.
  • The Centre has been trying to ward off the impending cut in corporate tax rate for larger companies, it needs to do so soon. Reduction in rates for smaller companies may be beneficial to these entities, but is unlikely to have the impact that similar cuts for larger companies is likely to have in boosting private investments.
  • Corporate taxes account for around one-third of total tax collections. But instead of trying to increase revenue by holding higher rates, it could try to reduce rates, which, in some circumstances, can result in higher compliance.