CURRENT AFFAIRS QUESTIONS ANSWERS For Civil Services Competitors by Jitendra Kumar Sharm
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The Prime Minister and His Robot Wife
By Jitendra Kumar Sharma
Q.1. “Google doodle celebrates humanity’s first message to aliens.” Consider and dwell on this recent news headline and jot down your comments and explain what you understand by “ humanities first message”.
Ans.1. Google from time to time uploads doodles to celebrate important events or personalities. On Nov 16, 1974, that is 44 years ago a group of scientists came together at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico and sent the most powerful broadcast that was ever beamed into space. This was called the Arecibo Message. On Nov 16, 2018 humankind’s first attempt to communicate with intelligent life beyond our own planet Google commemorated with an animated doodle became a sort of talk of the town.
The scientists at Arecibo Observatory had radioed a three-minute message into space which was aimed at a cluster of stars in the constellation Hercules 25,000 light years away from Earth. explained Google in a statement.”This historic transmission was intended to demonstrate the capabilities of Arecibo’s recently upgraded radio telescope, whose 1000-foot-diameter dish made it the largest and most powerful in the world at the time”.
“It was strictly a symbolic event, to show that we could do it,” according to Professor Donald Campbell of Cornell University in the de[artment of astronomy. Campbell was a research associate at the Arecibo Observatory at the time and took part in the event on Nov 16, 1974.
“The subject of today’s doodle lends itself to so many possibilities. Earlier concepts experimented with depicting the recipients of the Arecibo Message and their reactions,” according to Gerben Steenks, the doodler at Google who created the uploaded doodle.
The original message was devised by a team of researchers from Cornell University led by Frank Drake.”What could we do that would be spectacular? We could send a message!” Drake said.
The message was composed with the assistance of Carl Sagan and arranged to form a pictograph representing some fundamental facts of mathematics, human DNA, planet Earth’s place in the solar system, and a picture of a human-like figure and an image of the telescope itself.
The Arecibo Message is estimated to travel around 25,000 years to reach the intended target, a group of 300,000 stars known as M13. “Humankind will have to wait a long time for an answer” quipped Google.
During the last 44 years since it was first transmitted, the message has traveled only 259 trillion miles, a tiny fraction of the distance to its final destination, according to the statement Google issued along with its much-touted doodle.
Q. 2.Was Crop insurance introduced for farmer’s benefit or big business’ big profits? Discuss with reference to recent media report/s and editorials on this issue.
A. 2. Crop insurance started by a government initiative predictably is under a cloud. Insurance firms, both in the public and private domains, have reportedly made unfair gains by selling crop insurance to farmers in about two dozen states. The Tribune, Chandigarh reported abnormal gains by a dozen insurance firms through the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna (PMFBY). According to the newspaper, Insurers received a gross premium of Rs 22,362 crore under the scheme in 2016-17 and saved huge sums even after they settled 3.01 crore claims worth Rs 15,902 crore. This margin hopped to “Rs 9,335 crore in the successive period, apparently due to a sharp decline in the number of claims to 1.26 crore.” Insurance is a high-risk business and it is normal for firms to have huge margins in an event-free year. But, that is not the reason for the insurers’ ill-gotten gains. The unprecedented margins have resulted from non-payment of legitimate claims. And the foul play calls for an investigation. The government must act right away.
Private insurers rushed to grab the PMFBY because of the government’s invitation and they responded eagerly to grab this no holds barred profit-making opportunity. Making money is a legitimate practice but profiteering from a social scheme is a heinous crime. A thorough audit must be ordered immediately by the authorities.
The scheme is well intended as it promises to protect Indian farmers the vagaries of nature. It is the state governments’ responsibility devise administrative measures to ensure quick disbursal of insured sums to aggrieved farmers. Private insurers are in business to make money and if the doors are kept open for the loot, they shall not hesitate. Risk assessment is the states’ task and responsibility. To cite the example of Punjab officials did not care to cover risks of major failure of paddy and wheat crops in the scheme on the pretext of saving public money on unnecessary premium. The scheme involves huge public money and, therefore, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India needs to conduct a performance audit to rationalize the premium amount. The premium burden on the farmer needs to be reduced and there have to be prohibitive restrictions on profiteering from a public scheme and bureaucratic corruption as a necessary adjunct to excessively enormous pelf made by openly indulging in unethical business practices.
Q. 3. Where are India’s bright young minds going? Discuss and comment on this phenomenon called brain drain.
A.3. India’s bright young minds are fleeing to foreign shores, most of them to the USA. Rich western countries are taking away our brightest students and also our money, rued an editorial in an English Daily.
The number of Indian students enrolled in the US has been rising despite the anti-immigration stance of the US government. According to the latest statistics available, Indians were the largest group among all foreign students enrolled in the USA. Interestingly, the number of students from other countries has been declining but from India, students’ number has been rising, the total number of international students in the US has fallen this year. The estimated 2.5 lakh students were counted in last year’s report.
The US, Canada, Australia, the UK, non-English speaking European countries are increasingly attracting Indian students. Brain drain is now a misnomer and the concept of brain drain itself is outdated but why do parents spend Rs 2 crore for getting their children graduated abroad? Perhaps, mainly for two reasons: [i]Lack of international quality educational institutions for bright Indian students [ii] Denial of admission to such students as do not attain an optimum required percentage of marks for admission to courses of study in Indian educational institutions and universities. Another most nagging factor for preference for exorbitantly costly foreign education is parents’ anxiety about their children’s future in India. Will they be able to get jobs with Indian diplomas and degrees?
Reduced possibility of work after education in richer countries appears to offer no discouragement or impediment to the West-bound young students or their parents. The westward ho! trend shows no signs of wearing off. In fact, as the government claims greater prosperity in India, higher is the urge to leave the country on one pretext or the other among all strata of Indian society and those who have the money and means make it good to leave in the hope landing in greener pastures.
Policy makers and educators in India seems to be talking more and doing less for better infrastructure for higher education and students are being forced to seek expensive and increasingly unrewarding foreign education who are more interested in educating them than in pocketing their money.
China has solved this problem by allowing foreign universities to open campuses in its various province. Singapore too has taken initiatives in bringing foreign education home. International exposure for our students is academically healthy but such high costs are not justified and defeat the very purpose of education. Even before the young minds are ready to enter the world, they become commercially rather than culturally oriented. In their formative years, they get ridden with the enormous emotional and financial burden.
The rising trends of Indian student enrolments in foreign countries lands is a sad reflection on our dispensation and its failure to fulfill a basic need for all students, that is, quality education with adequate employment opportunities. PM Narendra Modi is agog with India’s demographic dividend but is paying no heed that the dividend is going to enrich other countries and not India.
A.4.‘Toxic’ declared Oxford Word of the Year. Write a brief note on this news headline.
A.4. How a word can become so important as to compel attention by the media? No wonder. Because, words tell us a lot about us, about our society and culture at large. Oxford Dictionary has declared the adjective ‘toxic’ as the Word of the Year for what it says “reflects the ethos, mood, or preoccupations in 2018”.The Oxford Word of the Year is a word or expression that is judged to have lasting potential as a term of cultural significance, according to a statement issued to the Press by the Oxford English Dictionary team.
The word toxic was selected from a shortlist other competing words that included ‘gaslighting,’ ‘incel’ and ‘techlash’. The data shows that, after ‘chemical’, ‘masculinity’ is the most-used word in conjunction with toxic this year.
“With the #MeToo movement putting a spotlight on toxic masculinity, and watershed political events like the Brett Kavanaugh Senate judiciary committee hearing sparking international debate, the term toxic masculinity has well and truly taken root in the public consciousness and got people talking in 2018,” the statement said.
By toxic which is an adjective, is meant ‘poisonous’. Toxic first appeared in English in the mid-seventeenth century from the medieval Latin toxicus, meaning ‘poisoned’ or ‘imbued with poison’.In 2018, toxic became a descriptor for the year’s most talked about topics. Oxford university’s extensive and exhaustive research found that scope of application was amazingly wide truly outstanding; and, that made toxic the stand-out choice for the Word of the Year title.
The data shows that along with a 45 percent rise in the number of times it has been looked up on oxforddictionaries.com, over the last year the word toxic has been used in an array of contexts, both in its literal and more metaphorical senses”.
Words like ‘environment’, ‘relationship’ and ‘culture’ were wontedly used alongside toxic.
Certain events of the year also played a role in the selection of Toxic as the word of the year. The toxic chemical, for example, figured prominently in the nerve agent poisoning of a former Russian intelligence officer and his daughter in Britain and that had sent shockwaves around the globe. This event lends a particular significance to ‘toxic’.
Ongoing international attention to the case, including rising concern over who has access to the world’s toxic chemical stockpiles, ensured that ‘chemical’ topped the list of words most frequently seen alongside toxic in 2018.
Likewise, toxic substance, toxic gas, and toxic waste were in the news, reports, and messages and became a focal point as the US combated the spread of toxic waste in the wake of hurricanes. This burning of toxic waste, resulting in the release of toxic gases, has been identified as one of a number of causes of toxic air. In India, burning crop stubs on farmlands of Punjab and Haryana were blame for enhancing air pollution levels in the Capital Delhi and National Capital Region.
Air pollution has rapidly become a prime public health issue throughout the world and reached a high in October 2018 when the World Health Organization published its report into the quality of air breathed by children worldwide. The report described this pollution as toxic air, signifying its poisonous nature, and international media coverage served to highlight to associate toxicity to poor air quality.
The term toxic environment has been in use for decades in reference to harmful workplace conditions and the toll this takes on the workforce’s mental health.
From overly demanding workloads to outrageous sexual harassment, many companies have been exposed as crucibles for such toxic culture this year occasioning mass walkouts at Google, the fashion mogul Philip Green disgracing and the Speaker of the House of Commons accused of misusing his official powers to cover up allegations of bullying in Westminster.
In India, “Toxic Masculinity” of powerful politicians, journalists and professionals hit the media headlines in the year 2018.
Q.5. Has the I.A.S. lived up to the expectations with which it was instituted 70 years back?.
A.5.The Indian Administrative Service, popularly known by its abbreviated sobriquet, IAS, has completed its 70 years of existence in 2018. It is a successor to the so-called Iron-clad, Heaven-born Indian Civil Service of the British colonial era. The IAS was very differently conceived than the ICS and was expected to perform an altogether different role than the ICS. It was said about the ICS that there was neither Indian nor civil nor an iota of service about it. The IAS was supposed to have everything Indian and was devised to be the Servant of the Indian People. The IAS was to be imbued with the idea and culture of India. Today, it is an elite class, zealously guarding its patchy mold of its British predecessor and worn-out mask of the colonial ICS. It is the most privileged, self-perpetuating class or clan of a self-serving, power-grabbing in-grown ruling group that dominates all other branches of government. It dominates the politicians and people alike.
The I.A.S. was to be the instrument of governance that would assist the political executive to create, build and develop Indian democracy as a peoples’ republic‘. The IAS was expected to help build and strengthen democratic institution such as gram sabhas, panchayats, Zila parishads that serve as the base for Vidhan Sabhas and the Lok Sabha. All these political institutions were to democratize administration, development process, and governance of India as a country and finally, from these foundations, was to emerge a vibrant, participatory democracy eventually to mature into a peoples’ republic. The IAS conceived as a permanent system of people’s servants that would lend unity and continuity to democratic India’s Administration and Development and serve the nation with a sense of Indian-ness in their style of functioning. The forefathers of the Indian constitution had high expectations from the IAS and wanted it to play a leading role in building India as a republic of self-governing, self-sufficient, agro-industrial, urbo-rural local communities, politico-economic institutions that would control and regulate the deployment of natural resources for the Indian nation for Indian people’s welfare and betterment.
India, because of its culture and diversity, is very different from most countries of the world. The IAS, contrary to the nation’s expectations has taken an altogether divergent course. As a permanent and continuous instrument of government, it has, instead of discovering and rediscovering its culture and diversity, set up a superficial and fake model of western imitation for the succeeding generations of Independent India. The aura of IAS dominates the educated people of India and for the rural masses, it has become callous officialdom which is perpetuating inefficiency and corruption. India was not imagined by freedom fighters and leaders as a jungle of concrete urbanization. India was to be agro-based economy motivated not by individual, self-oriented westernized society but comity of communities rooted and rising from its village culture of bhaichara or fraternity and its other timeless verities. The pattern of its economic growth too was foreseen as need-based, environment-friendly, nature- conserving and providing livelihood to its poor people on a priority basis rather than a statistics-driven inflationary economy creating an inequitable consumer society serving the greed of industrialists, traders, and hoarders as is the case today. India’s development in our forefathers’ scheme had to be democratic and decentralized focused on the constant and continuous amelioration of the poorest of the poor of our society.
The IAS too was launched to realize the ‘Idea of India’, a governance framework that will act as a bulwark against any encroachments on the ‘Idea of India’. These conditions and protocol for the IAS were clearly laid out in the Constitution of India. The IAS was, therefore, granted constitutional protections, which is not the case in other democratic countries. The prestige and protection of the IAS were certainly not meant to create a special, privileged, class who would develop nexus with Big Business and Politicians to fleece the nation and its people of their basic rights as a ruthless ruling elite. The guarantees that the Indian constitution provided to the IAS was meant to create a cadre of public servants who would ensure fair, fearless, just administration for managing the country’s affairs efficiently and devotedly.
The IAS as a class, in cohorts with the subsequent political masters, abandoned the ‘Idea of India’, and forgot the purpose for which the IAS was created. The Constitution provided all the protection and privilege to the IAS but failed to give the same power and protection to the panchayat raj institutions that was to be the foundation of Indian Democracy. Instead, there emerged a disorderly and disarrayed pattern of ‘mixed-economy’ run by a command-and-control system.
As a result, India’s Administration remains stubbornly entrenched in the same colonial-hierarchical framework. The democratic-participatory process is being obstructed rather than being promoted by the IAS. Consequently, misshapen urban-rural monstrous cities, villages and towns have appeared that are at the mercy of lawless lumpen hoards, hoodlums, criminals, and looters. Politically, economically and administratively India is a scary place to live for a law-abiding citizen.
The past President KR Narayanan, himself a member of the SC and also a privileged member of the IAS/IFS as late as 2005 said: “Decades into the free life of our nation, we find that justice — social, economic and political — remains an unrealized dream for millions of our fellow citizens. The benefits of our economic growth are yet to reach them. Tragically, the growth in our economy has not been uniform. Many a social upheaval can be traced to the neglect of the lowest of society, whose discontent moves towards the path of violence”.
The IAS, according to The Constituent Assembly of India, had to be “the best material available in the country transgressing political boundaries.” Today, the common perception, according to a 2010 survey, is the IAS is an outfit that is an administrative wreck “sub-serving lowest political interests” and outrageously drenched in corruption.
The IAS almost totally destroyed itself during the Emergency 1975-77. Instead of protecting the constitution and rising up against a lawless regime, the IAS prostrated itself before it and defiled the Constitution; it assaulted and raped the Indian democracy. It drafted and implemented draconian rules and ordinances and enjoyed the benefits of autocracy and extra-constitutionalism instead of rescuing Indian democracy and defending the rights of its people. When shall the country recover from the cowardice IAS injected in the body-politic of India is a question that starkly stares in the face of India’s dilapidated democratic institutions.
Liberalization, globalization, and privatization have further widened the scope for the predatory bureaucratic-capitalist-politician nexus to sharpen and satiate its instincts for land-grabbing, money-guzzling, environment – plundering in the name of ‘development’. Basic duties of maintaining harmony, law, and order; delivering timely justice; efficient and corruption-free services; protecting the environment and natural resources, leading the way to decentralization of the development process for equitable and inclusive distribution of wealth of the nation nowhere figure in the self-serving pursuits of power and privilege of the IAS. Far from fulfilling the mandate of the Constitution, the IAS as a service has failed the nation and people of India.
Q. 6. Wrong combinations: Will Government drug ban help patients? Comment briefly on this issue.
A.8. The health of the nation has primacy over the interests of manufacturers and the drugs merchants that have been reaping profits with impunity and without regulation. In fact, the market was flooded with all kinds of drugs, irrespective of their side effects. Only an iota of cases of patients suffering from drug reactions get reported. Drug regulation and a bar on their misuse use were thus overdue. These facts are enough to justify the ban on fixed-dose combination (FDC) drugs, that is, drugs that have two or more active pharmaceutical ingredients in a single dose. Even Saridon, commonly thought as a harmless reliever of pain, has been banned, though the Apex court has removed it from the banned drugs list at the instance of petitioning pharmaceuticals.
According to The Drug Technical Advisory Board’s committee, these FDCs are formulated without much care and get consumed in toxic dosages. The Indian Drug Manufacturers’ Association’s statement of support to the ban is only a pretense because they are flooding the courts with their petitions opposing the ban. Not patients but manufacturers were making gains from FDCs because these FDCs permitted product differentiation that was not subject to price control. Even if all FDCs are not entirely harmful and even the government’s own report is ambiguous about this issue. It points out that some such drugs are prescribed for ‘the treatment of infectious diseases like HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis were giving multiple antimicrobial agents is the norm’. They are available in other countries but on a small scale and combinations face tougher regulations in western countries. In India, the number of FDCs is four times that of the USA.
The government has been flexible and left room for further action for certain other kinds of FDCs. Patients will only gain by governments’ tighter drug regulation and manufacturers will get restrained in their profit-making spree by freely selling harmful drugs. Low-income patients will be safer in the absence of unregulated drugs. They deserve a healthcare system which makes available the best pharmaceutical products at the most reasonable rates. Better monitoring of the drugs will help patients in improving the health of the nation.
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