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Showing posts from March 9, 2017

Current Affairs MCQ for UPSC Exams – 09 March 2017

Q.1- With reference to the use of nano-technology in health sector, which of the following statements is/are correct?

1. Targeted drug delivery is made possible by nanotechnology.
2. Nanotechnology can largely contribute to gene therapy.
Select the correct answer using the code given below.
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Q.2- Which of the following is correct regarding Electoral bonds?

1. Electoral bonds can be purchased at any bank via any mode of payment
2. Bonds can be given only to parties registered with EC
A. 1 only
B. 2 only
C. Both
D. None

Q.3- The total number of members states in United Nations are?

A. 192
B. 193
C. 194
D. 197.

Answer 1-C,2-B,3-B

Current Affairs MCQ for UPSC Exams – 08 March 2017

Q.1- In India, other than ensuring that public funds are used efficiently and for intended purpose, what is the importance of the office of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG)?

1.CAG exercises exchequer control on behalf of the Parliament when the President of India declares national emergency/financial emergency.
2.CAG reports on the execution of projects or programmes by the ministries are discussed by the Public Accounts Committee.
3.Information from CAG reports can be used by investigating agencies to press charges against those who have violated the law while managing public finances.
4.While dealing with the audit and accounting of government companies, CAG has certain judicial powers for prosecuting those who violate the law.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a)1, 3 and 4 only
(b)2 only
(c)2 and 3 only
(d)1, 2, 3 and 4

Q.2- Consider the following statements and mark the correct option.

1. EPF and PPF both are instruments offered by government of India

Solar system with seven Earth-sized exoplanets ()downtoearth, )

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced on February 23 the discovery of a solar system with seven Earth-sized exoplanets about 39 light years away from our sun. The discovery is being seen as very significant as the planets found orbiting dwarf star TRAPPIST-1 could potentially harbour life.

NASA has called the newly discovered solar system a ‘sister solar system’ to our own. The dwarf star TRAPPIST-1 is a low-mass, dim, ultracool star (with an effective temperature under 2,430 degrees Celsius) in the Aquarius constellation. All seven planets, apparently, have earth-like masses and could potentially host liquid water- considered a critical factor for the existence of life. While the presence of water largely depends on other properties of the planets, six of the inner planets are thought to be made up of rock and having surface temperatures ranging from 0-100 degrees Celsius, deemed conducive for life.

The TRAPPIST-1 solar system is a compact system in whic…

Women aren't failing at science — science is failing women (downtoearth)

Female research scientists are more productive than their male colleagues, though they are widely perceived as being less so. Women are also rewarded less for their scientific achievements. The Conversation

That’s according to my team’s recent study for United Nations University - Merit on gender inequality in scientific research in Mexico, published as a working paper in December 2016.

The study, part of the project “Science, Technology and Innovation Gender Gaps and their Economic Costs in Latin America and the Caribbean”, was financed by the Gender and Diversity Fund of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

The ‘productivity puzzle’

The study, which looked at women’s status in 42 public universities and 18 public research centres, some managed by Mexico’s National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT), focused on a question that has been widely investigated: why are women in science less productive than men, in almost all academic disciplines and regardless of the produ…

Pet coke conundrum (downtoearth, )

In Hinduism the god of destruction is more powerful than the god of creation. There is an environmental lesson here. Today we are creating stuff—and lots of it—which is not possible to destroy in our lifetime. Think of plastic or carbon dioxide emissions. Or think of pet coke, a petroleum industry by-product. It is extremely polluting because of its high sulphur content as well as emissions of heavy metals and mercury. In fact, it’s the pollution that has been transferred from one product to another.

Over the years we have progressively improved the quality of fuel for automobiles. To do this, the sulphur content in petrol and diesel has been reduced from 10,000 ppm in the mid-1990s to 50 ppm today. To meet BS VI vehicle emission standards refineries will further bring down sulphur to 10 ppm or lower. Only then can the after-treatment devices installed in vehicles work. We thought once this is done, the problem of air pollution will go away. Wrong.

The fact is that the same sulphur, …

Policy Backfires (downtoearth, )

Policy is perverse. Really unthinkably so. I said this before. I want to repeat and expand my reasons why. Earlier, I wrote this in the context of how policy ended up promoting the use of dirty and extremely polluting fuels in the region surrounding Delhi, even as we all shouted and howled to get rid of deadly air pollution. But this is not the full extent of the perversity of policy. There is more.

But first a quick recap. Last few months, concerned about growing air pollution in our cities, I was looking at possible sources of emissions in the air. Our investigations revealed that extremely high-sulphur fuel—both furnace oil and pet coke—was being widely used in the National Capital Region (NCR). Why? Because it was cheaper than the available alternatives, natural gas and electricity. Policy ensured this happened. While natural gas was taxed, furnace oil was not. Pet coke, which has over 70,000 ppm of sulphur as against 50 ppm in diesel, is absolutely free of any control on its qua…

Dirty air and water increase cradle deaths in India ()downtoearth,

If this does not wake us up what will? The World Health Organization (WHO) has pressed the alarm exposing that children below five years are at the highest risk from filthy air and dirty water across the world. Environmental risks, including indoor and outdoor air pollution, second-hand smoke, unsafe water, lack of sanitation and inadequate hygiene, have taken lives of 1.7 million children under the age of five, globally. Polluted air kills the highest number of children (570,000)—who die from respiratory infections like pneumonia—dirty water kills another 361,000 children who die of diarrhea and 200,000 die due to malaria. More than quarter of these deaths is immediately avoidable if we do the clean up job well.

Further analysis of the new data from the WHO shows that India’s scorecard is particularly dismal among the five rapidly growing BRICS countries: India, China, Brazil, Russian Federation and South Africa. In this group, India fares the worst not only in terms of number of de…

We will seek audit of the fiscal impact of demonetisation, says CAG Shashi Kant Sharma (Hindu)

The CAG talks about his office’s expanding role, from cricket to the UN, over and above its primary mandate of monitoring government expenditure

At a time when audits are getting complex, governments richer and forms of corruption and maladministration extremely difficult to detect, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India has suddenly landed in the midst of unprecedented opportunity and challenge: besides the historic task of keeping a close watch on the Central and State governments, it is now auditing several public-private partnerships (PPP), the UN Headquarters, and is poised to become part of the new cricket dispensation. While holding forth on a variety of subjects, CAG Shashi Kant Sharma stresses the need for federal auditors to play a key role in Goods and Services Tax (GST) reforms. He also reveals that the CAG would soon begin auditing demonetisation and its fallout. Excerpts:

With its landmark 2014 judgment, the Supreme Court permitted the CAG to audit private t…

No time for complacency (Hindu.)

The India’s economy is defying the pessimists, and the time is ripe to deepen structural reforms

The Indian economy continues to outperform the prognosis of its critics. This is clearly true of the GDP growth estimates in the third quarter; quite at variance with what the critics of the demonetisation exercise had assumed. No doubt there could be correction in the fourth quarter, primarily to factor the impact of the informal sector. It has never been easy to capture real time data on economic activity in the informal sector. It is recognised that apart from leads and lags, the conclusions are derivative using surrogates which detract both from their timeliness and accuracy. This is not a new problem and past estimates of GDP numbers have also suffered from multiple ex-post corrections as and when data becomes unavailable.

Digitisation dividend

Hopefully, moving towards greater digitisation and reducing dependence on cash transactions will accelerate the pace of financial inclusion a…

Demonetisation and the GDP: knock-out punch or mild tap? (Hindu)

The CSO has been consistent with its methods, allowing little room for suspicion of window dressing.

Did demonetisation deal a knock-out punch to the Indian economy? Or was it just a mild tap from which it is already recovering?

This debate should have been settled with the latest second advance estimates from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) which peg FY17 GDP growth at 7.1%. But commentators who believe that the economy has suffered a debilitating blow from the note ban are not willing to rest their case here. They have flagged a long list of issues with these GDP numbers, apart from hinting that the numbers are fudged.

However, this is taking the criticism a little too far. A closer analysis of the CSO’s estimates suggests that, contrary to perception, they do factor in the impact of the note ban. And while India’s GDP estimation method could certainly do with improvements, the CSO has been both transparent and consistent with its methods, allowing little room for suspicions of…

Leaving the Continent (Hindu)

The contested road map of the U.K.’s Brexit Bill

What is the Article 50 Bill?

The Withdrawal from the European Union (Article 50) Bill or "Brexit Bill” is legislation that is currently being considered by the U.K. Parliament to authorise the British government to invoke Article 50 — notification of the country’s exit from the European Union (EU).

Where does the Bill currently stand?

The Brexit Bill was passed without amendment by the elected House of Commons. In separate votes, each with a large majority, the House of Lords backed two amendments to the Bill. The first amendment required the U.K. to unilaterally preserve the existing rights of EU citizens already resident in the country, and the second gives Parliament a veto on the final terms of the Brexit deal.

What are the arguments for and against the EU citizens’ rights amendment?

Those who support preserving the EU-derived rights of some 3.2 million EU citizens resident in the U.K. argue that there is a strong moral case f…

Serendipity and zemblanity (Hindu.)

There are reports on official figures and explanations regarding growth, but there is a gap in critiquing big data

William Boyd in his 1998 novel, Armadillo, created an antonym for serendipity. He called it zemblanity. If serendipity implies pleasant discoveries by chance, zemblanity is “the faculty of making unhappy, unlucky and expected discoveries by design.” The novel revolves around these twin poles of serendipity and zemblanity, bringing out our daily life that oscillates between utopian dreams and a dystopian reality.

06THPanneerselvan col
Last week, I was torn between serendipity and zemblanity. I was asked to review a book for Frontline magazine, Weapons of Math Destruction, by Cathy O’Neil. Dr. O’Neil started the Lede Program in Data Journalism at Columbia. Her earlier book, in collaboration with Rachel Schutt, Doing Data Science, remains one of the finest textbooks in big number-crunching. However, her latest book explains the inherent problems in big data. She establishes…

Saving the Ghats (Hindu.)

There is a need to urgently determine how much of the Western Ghats is ecologically sensitive

The hesitation shown by the Central government in deciding upon full legal protection for one of its most prized natural assets, the Western Ghats in their totality, is a major disappointment. The idea that whatever is left of these fragile mountainous forests should be protected from unsustainable exploitation in the interests of present and future generations, while presenting sustainable ways of living to the communities that inhabit these landscapes, is being lost sight of. Quite unscientifically, the issue is being framed as one of development-versus-conservation. Given the weak effort at forging a consensus, there is little purpose in the Centre returning to the drawing board with another draft notification to identify ecologically sensitive areas. What it needs is a framework under which scientific evidence and public concerns are debated democratically and the baseline for ESAs arriv…

Indiscriminate discrimination (Hindu.)

The tools of prejudice, once unleashed, do not differentiate one community from another

U.S. President Donald Trump, in his address to Congress, may have denounced the killing of Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla in Kansas, but it is hard to ignore that his own polarising presidential campaign has directly led to the current intolerant climate in the U.S.

On the surface, this killing may seem like a case of mistaken identity. In a misguided stab at self-preservation, some NGOs have recommended to the Hindu community in the U.S. that they should appear more “assimilated” or highlight their identity. But doing so would be to ignore a crucial lesson from this tragedy: the tools of prejudice, once unleashed, can be indiscriminating in choosing their targets.

Historical persecution

The first Indian migrants to reach the U.S. understood this lesson well. Arriving in the beginning of the 20th century, they faced severe persecution and bigotry. For decades before their arrival, American s…

Staying cool (Hindu.)

It’s time for energy-efficient temperature limits for air-conditioning units in public facilities

India has launched the second phase of the programme to eliminate the use of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC) as part of its commitment under the Montreal Protocol, which requires the complete removal of chemicals that result in ozone depletion and aid global warming. These are used mainly in the air-conditioning, refrigeration, polyurethane foam manufacturing and cold chain sectors, and must be replaced with better alternatives. All these sectors are in high growth mode as emerging economies witness greater urbanisation and higher agricultural productivity. The data for refrigerant consumption during 2015 compiled by the European Union show that in the developing world, split air-conditioning units, car ACs and commercial refrigeration record the highest use of these chemicals. It is imperative the Central government ensures that its efforts to upgrade industries using the $44.1 million …