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Daily current affairs for IAS upsc

Gorakhpur deaths not due to lack of oxygen, says panel.

News:

  • The deaths of children and others at the Baba Raghav Das Medical College Hospital in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, were not caused by a shortage of oxygen supply, a three-member Central government committee said on Wednesday.

Beyond news:

  • The Central government panel visited the hospital, amid allegations that a private contractor stopped supplying oxygen, resulting in the death of many children.
  • The team looked at deaths between August 1 and 6 and then between August 7 and 12. The BRD Hospital had previously maintained that of the 34 babies who died at the neo-natal intensive care unit, 12 died of encephalitis.
  • The hospital, in its statement, said there had been a “drop in pressure in the supply of liquid oxygen” , but added that cylinders were procured from other suppliers.

Smartphones under govt. scanner

News:

  • Concerned about instances of Indian mobile phone users’ contact lists, details and text messages being leaked to other countries, including China, the Central government has asked all firms selling smartphone handsets in the country to share details of the processes they follow to ensure there is no possibility of data thefts or leakages from their devices.

Beyond news:

  • The government is concerned not just about the security features of the handsets being sold, but also of the embedded programmes that are a part of the user experience, such as the operating system, browser and pre-loaded applications.
  • The move comes in the wake of a review meeting on cyber security concerns held by Electronics and Information Technology Minister, where specific instructions were given to officials to see to it that data leakages from handsets are prevented.

Union Cabinet approves new metro rail policy

News:

  • The Union Cabinet has approved a new policy for expanding and regulating metro rail services in cities across India.
metro-train india Mumbai
Image credits: Master Builder

Beyond News:

  • This is the first such policy document prepared by the Centre since metro rail operations began in Delhi in 2002.
  • The 14-page document approved on Wednesday has seven key points, of which the most significant is the one on funding pattern.
  • The policy gives a big boost to private players by making private participation mandatory for all the three funding options – be it a public-private partnership (PPP) model with central assistance under the Viability Gap Funding scheme of the Finance Ministry, a grant from the Centre under which 10% of the project cost would be given as a lump sum, or a 50:50 equity sharing model between the Central and State governments.

Where robots work in harmony with humans

News:

  • It would be hard to find a culture that celebrates robots more than Japan, evident in the popularity of companion robots for consumers, sold by the Internet company Soft Bank and Toyota Motor Corp, among others.

Beyond News:

  • Japan, where birth rates have been sinking for decades and have raised fears of a labour shortage, forged a big push toward robotics starting in the 1990s.
  • It leads the world in robots per 10,000 workers in the automobile sector — 1,562, compared with 1,091 in the U.S. and 1,133 in Germany, according to a White House report.
  • Japan was also ahead in sectors outside automobiles at 219 robots per 10,000 workers, compared with 76 for the U.S. and 147 for Germany.
  • One factor in Japan’s different take on automation is the “lifetime employment” system.
  • Major Japanese companies generally retain workers, even if their abilities become outdated, and retrain them for other tasks.

Hizbul Mujahideen labelled a ‘terror group’

News:

  • The U.S. on Wednesday designated militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen as a “foreign terrorist organisation”, nearly two months after declaring the group’s chief Syed Salahuddin as a global terrorist.

Beyond News:

  • The designation, which slaps a series of U.S. sanctions on the outfit, came against the backdrop of an upsurge in terror activities by the militant group in Kashmir in recent months.
  • All of Hizbul Mujahideen’s property and interests subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and people in the U.S. are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with the group.
  • The decision marks a severe blow to Pakistan which has been projecting the militant group as a voice of the Kashmiri people.

Reading Kim Jong-un’s mind

Every discussion around the North Korean nuclear crisis could eventually settle around this basic question.

  1. If he is an irrational, crazy and impulsive leader, it’s difficult to reach a diplomatic settlement with him. A military solution to the North Korean issue is even more difficult and risky as Mr. Kim could use the country’s nuclear arsenal in retaliation. That’s a cul-de-sac.
  2. On the other hand, if there’s a strategy behind Mr. Kim’s perceived madness, it at least opens avenues for further engagement.

Beyond News:

  • Most accounts of the Korean crisis are written from the perspective of Pyongyang’s rivals where an erratic, despotic regime is portrayed as relentlessly pursuing dangerous weapons in defiance of international public opinion and sanctions.
  • But if one looks at the whole issue from a North Korean security point of view, it is not hard to find a method behind the North’s actions.
  • It’s a country that’s been technically at war with its neighbour for almost seven decades. There are also multiple U.S. bases in South Korea, the Philippines, Japan, Guam Island and a naval presence in the East China Sea and the Pacific, in the vicinity of North Korea.
  • In terms of conventional military might, the impoverished North knows that it’s no match for the U.S. This has forced it to make extreme choices to overcome the asymmetry in capabilities.

The health checklist

News:

The frail nature of rural India’s health systems and the extraordinary patient load on a few referral hospitals have become even more evident from the crisis at the Baba Raghav Das Medical College in Gorakhpur.

Beyond News:

  • The institution has come under the spotlight after reports emerged of the death of several children over a short period, although epidemics and a high mortality level are chronic features here.
  • Medical infrastructure in several surrounding districts and even neighbouring States is so weak that a large number of very sick patients are sent to such apex hospitals as a last resort.
  • The dysfunctional aspects of the system are evident from the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report on reproductive and child health under the National Rural Health Mission for the year ended March 2016.

CAG Finding:

  • Even if the audit objections on financial administration were to be ignored, the picture that emerges in several States is one of inability to absorb the funds allocated, shortage of staff at primary health centres (PHCs), community health centres (CHCs) and district hospitals, lack of essential medicines, broken-down equipment and unfilled doctor vacancies.
  • In the case of Uttar Pradesh, the CAG found that about 50% of the PHCs it audited did not have a doctor, while 13 States had significant levels of vacancies.
  • Basic facilities in the form of health sub-centres, PHCs and CHCs met only half the need in Bihar, Jharkhand, Sikkim, Uttarakhand and West Bengal, putting pressure on a handful of referral institutions such as the Gorakhpur hospital.

The private route.

News:

NITI Aayog’s recent proposal for the partial privatisation of district-level government hospitals has been criticised for commercialising health care.

Beyond news:

  • Under the proposal, private hospitals will be allowed to bid for 30-year leases that give them control over portions of government hospitals dedicated to treating non-communicable diseases.
  • Critics argue that private hospitals focussed on profits will do no good to the poor who can’t pay for their services, so the government must step in to provide free health care.
  • Affordability is indeed the major issue preventing poor Indians from getting proper health care.Free health care provided by the government, however, is not the real solution to the problem.
  • Governments often have very little incentive to provide quality health care to many citizens. This is because, in politics, it is the interests of powerful groups that get the most leverage.
  • The poor, for various reasons related to electoral politics, often get left out of the race to influence their governments.
  • In the marketplace, on the other hand, private hospitals have huge monetary incentives to proactively cater to the demands of their customers. Each consumer’s currency note holds equal weight to a private hospital that seeks profit.
  • This makes market-based health care a fundamentally superior way to deliver health services to the poor.

India aims to widen oil import sources

News:

Indian Oil Corporation placed India’s first ever shale oil order two days ago with the U.S., according to company Chairman Sanjiv Singh, who said that the prices from the U.S. were very competitive even when compared with those from Gulf nations.
Beyond news:

  • Regardless of the current tensions between India and China on the border, China was showing keen interest in maintaining business relations between the two countries.
  • The increasing oil imports from new sources such as the U.S. was also putting pressure on OPEC countries to reduce the ‘Asian premium’ on oil prices they charge Asian countries, including India.

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