07&08, May 2017

1.What you need to know about the proposed National No-Fly List

Source: The Hindu

The Ministry of Civil Aviation has proposed amendments to the Civil Aviation Requirements to establish a National No-Fly List and quantify punishment for unruly passengers.

What is the National No-Fly list?

  • It will be a central database of unruly or disruptive passengers. If an airline decides to ban a passenger for unruly or disruptive behaviour, it will have to inform the DGCA and other airlines and the passenger will become a part of the National No-Fly List.
  • The passenger will not face a blanket ban by all airlines. But the Centre has empowered all airlines to follow the National No-Fly List to ban the passenger.

Who is an unruly passenger?

Passengers with disruptive behaviour such as physical gestures; abusive behaviour such as pushing, kicking and sexual harassment; and life threatening behaviour like creating damage to aircraft systems.

What about repeat offenders?

  • For every subsequent offence, the unruly passenger may be banned for twice the period of the previous ban.
  • Individuals defined by the Ministry of Home Affairs as national security threats will also form part of the National No-Fly List and cannot be issued a ticket until they are cleared.

Who will decide on the ban?

  • The airline can ban the passenger after the incident for the duration it takes for its panel to decide.
  • The panel — consisting of a retired District and Sessions Judge, representative of a different airline and a representative of passengers’ association or a consumer forum member — will then need to decide on the ban and its level within 10 days of receiving the complaint.

Passengers appeal against the ban?

  • Passengers can appeal to the government, which in turn will set up an appellate Committee of a retired judge of a High Court, a representative of passenger association or consumer forum and a high-level airline executive. The appeal process should be over within 10 days of the ban. But those who are considered ‘national security threats’ cannot appeal.

Background:

The Aircraft Rules of 1937 have outlined a course of actions to be taken after disruptive behaviour, they are difficult to enforce when the perpetrators take the cover of their positions of power. The application of a “no-fly list” is already adopted in many countries. This practice will deter outrageous actions by anyone, irrespective of whether person is in a position of power or not.

Any differing views on the issue?

Few industry experts are sceptical on the rules constituting the offensive gestures and on the duration of the ban. They also want the government to specify the compensation a passenger should get if allegations against him are proved wrong.

2.Possible to meet general government debt-to-GDP target by 2023

Source: The Hindu

The Centre is confident that the 2023 goal of a debt-to-GDP ratio of 60% for the Union and State governments combined can be achieved thus meeting a key recommendation of the N.K. Singh-headed fiscal discipline panel, according to Economic Affairs Secretary.

So far, the government has been mainly targeting to reduce fiscal deficit and revenue deficit under the existing fiscal responsibility and budget management (FRBM) Act.

How it is possible?

  • Even with the 3.2% [fiscal deficit target] spelt out in budget of current year and 3 per cent in next two years, it should be possible for the government to achieve a debt-to-GDP of 60 per cent for general government by 2023.
  • The Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Review Committee chaired by Mr. Singh has recommended that the Centre should target a fiscal deficit of 2.5 per cent of GDP by 2023, with the Union government simultaneously narrowing its debt-to-GDP ratio to 40 per cent from 49.4 per cent in 2016/17.
  • The panel, which had allowed for a pause along the path of fiscal consolidation, recommended that the debt-to-GDP target for the government as a whole (Centre plus States) be pegged at 60 per cent by fiscal 2023.
  • GST is a reflection of the kind of cooperation that exists between the Centre and States, when asked how the Centre would ensure fiscal discipline on the part of the States to meet the overall general government debt-to-GDP goal.
  • Even under the existing FRBM Act, most States have maintained their fiscal targets and they have improved their fiscal performances significantly.

Investment Grade:

India’s sovereign rating at “BBB-” — the lowest investment grade — with a “stable” outlook citing weak public finances as a key constraint to a possible upgrade.

In the last 3 years it is only in India that these kind of changes, With India remaining still a 7% plus GDP growth country, with the ease of doing business improving considerably, if the rating agencies do not give an upgrade to India, if they do not give any weightage to it, they are probably far detached from the ground realities.

Debt to GDP ratio:

  • For debt stock to grow or fall two things are important: the difference between nominal GDP growth and interest rate; and primary deficit, which is government borrowing excluding interest payments. A higher difference of nominal GDP and interest rate increases the ability of the government to serve debt, thus reducing debt stock and debt to GDP ratio.
  • On the other hand, a lower primary deficit or primary surplus also helps bring down debt to GDP ratio.
  • The Economic Survey for 2016-17 said India will have a favourable debt dynamics for the next decade as it’s nominal GDP growth is expected to be in the range of 11-14 and interest rate of 7-7.5% with a differential of around 4-6.5%.
  • However, a primary deficit remains a vulnerability for India. Put simply, it signifies India’s state and Central governments are not collecting enough revenue to cover their running costs, let alone the interest on its debt obligations.

As a result of running a primary deficit, the government is dependent on growth and favourable interest rates to contain the debt ratio. In fact, in the aftermath of the GFC as growth slowed and disinflation occurred, debt levels started to rise again,” the Economic Survey.

General government debt

  • General government debt-to-GDP ratio is the amount of a country’s total gross government debt as a percentage of its GDP. It is an indicator of an economy’s health and a key factor for the sustainability of government finance.
  • “Debt” is commonly defined as a specific subset of liabilities identified according to the types of financial instruments included or excluded. Debt is thus obtained as the sum of the following liability categories (as applicable): currency and deposits; securities other than shares, except financial derivatives; loans; insurance technical reserves; and other accounts payable.
  • Changes in government debt over time reflect the impact of government deficits. This indicator is measured as a percentage of GDP

Debt to GDP Ratio: In economics, the debt-to-GDP ratio is the ratio between a country’s government debt (a cumulative amount) and its gross domestic product (GDP) (measured in years). A low debt-to-GDP ratio indicates an economy that produces and sells goods and services sufficient to pay back debts without incurring further debt.

3.Japan pitches for Chabahar port

Source: The Hindu

Japan is keen on collaborating with India on projects in Asia and Africa as a counter to China’s Belt and Road initiative (B&RI), indicating Japan’s nod for Australia’s bid to join a quadrilateral for military exercises with India and the U.S..

  • That the Japanese government was in talks with Tehran and New Delhi for a role in the Chabahar port project along with India.
  • The Chabahar Port jointly developed by India and Iran, is being viewed as a counter to Gwadar Port, developed by China in Pakistan
  • The relations between India and Iran are not against everyone, they are for everyone. Chabahar will no doubt help Afghanistan, Central Asia, Iran and India and Pakistan and China using Chabahar, it is better that they use it benefit of Balochistan and Pakistan.

What is Chabahar Port?

Chabahar port is located on the Gulf of Oman, near Iran’s border with Pakistan. It is less than 100km from Pakistan’s Chinese-constructed port of Gwadar, part of a project to open up an energy and trade corridor from the Gulf to western China.

Chabahar port is of strategic importance for the following reasons:

  • The Chabahar port will allow India access to landlocked Afghanistan and energy-rich Central Asia through Jawaharlal Nehru and Kandla ports on India’s west coast.
  • India has also built a 218km-road link connecting Delaram with Zaranj in Afghanistan, which is adjacent to Iran’s border. Also, the port will promote Indian strategic interests in the Gulf and Strait of Hormuz.
  • The first person quoted above added that the loan disbursement is not possible until the application is completed by the state-owned Port and Maritime Organization.
  • According to the terms of agreement, India has to make $150 million credit available for the development of phase one of Chabahar port within four months of receiving the application. India also has to equip the cargo and container terminals with $85 million worth of equipment within one-and-a-half years of funding.

Delay in operationalization:

“India did make a strategic move to turn the Iranian port into a transit hub bypassing Pakistan…However, at this point, the ground operationalization looks far from reality.

  • A delay in operationalization of the credit has implications for India in terms of connectivity and heart of Asia policy, with Afghanistan at the centre. Also, as a pressure point for Pakistan, given the volume of trade through Chabahar, would impact trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
  • The delay comes in the backdrop of India nearly finalizing the equipment purchase tender for Chabahar port, located in Sistan-Balochistan province on Iran’s south-eastern coast.

India and Iran

4.‘Quality of water has improved’

Source: The Hindu

The standard of drinking water in India has improved in the last five years but a lot of work still remains to be done, head of the World Water Council said.

  • The World Water Council recently carried out a major survey on water awareness in major parts of the world, including India.
  • The survey was done ahead of the 8th World Water Forum that is scheduled to take place in the Brazilian capital Brasilia in March 2018.

Highlights:

  • As per the survey, more than one-third of Indians think that not enough is being done to achieve the UN’s sustainable development goals to make water and sanitation for all a reality by 2030.
  • According to the survey, 31% of Indians said they had been in a situation where it was unsafe to drink water but they had no other choice and suffered from diseases like diarrhoea and gastroenteritis.
  • A majority (71%) of Indians said that safe drinking water had improved over the last five years.
  • The survey stated that 62% of the Indians said they believed that the government was doing enough to support access to safe drinking water.
  • The council praised the Swachh Bharat Campaign.

World water council:

  • The World Water Council is a network: a network of wide-ranging competencies distributed the world over. Working towards the future of water does not boil down to being a substitute for the capacities of this network. On the contrary, it seeks to amplify its actions and make the most of them to create new synergies and propose innovative solutions.
  • Founders and constituent members of the World Water Council include the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature(IUCN), the International Water Association (IWA), Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux, the United Nations agencies UNDP and UNESCO, and the World Bank.
  • The World Water Council is an international multi-stakeholder platform. It was established in 1996 on the initiative of renowned water specialists and international organisations, in response to an increasing concern about world water issues from the global community.
  • The World Water Council’s mission is to promote awareness, build political commitment and trigger action on critical water issues at all levels, including the highest decision-making level, to facilitate the efficient conservation, protection, development, planning, management and use of water in all its dimensions on an environmentally sustainable basis for the benefit of all life on earth.
  • By providing a platform to encourage debates and exchanges of experience, the Council aims to reach a common strategic vision on water resources and water services management amongst all stakeholders in the water community. In the process, the Council also catalyses initiatives and activities, whose results converge toward its flagship product, the World Water Forum.

5.A century of looking at our closest star, the sun

Source: The Hind

Data from the Kodaikanal Solar Observatory in Tamil Nadu, spanning a hundred years and more, has now been digitised by astrophysicists from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bengaluru, and opened up to the public.

  • Apart from use in academic studies of long-term behaviour of the sun, the data can be used to better understand sunspot activity which impacts climate and affects telecommunication systems.
  • It also throws light on major events that had an impact on the earth’s magnetic field.

Significance of this data:

  • The 100-year data is unique also for its three sets of images, taken using different filters – White light, H-alpha and Calcium-K. It is known that the sun has a layered structure, and each of the data sets exposes a different layer.
  • Under white light filtering, the sun’s photosphere and the sunspots are visible, while the Calcium-K light can show layers some 2,000 km above this, in the chromosphere.
  • The H-alpha images show up layers a little above the Calcium-K images. Features called “filaments” which are related to large expulsions of material from the sun’s surface can be viewed in the Calcium-K sets.

6.How body fights harmful bacteria

Source: The Hindu

Researchers have cracked the mystery of how our body quickly prevents an infection from spreading uncontrollably during wound healing, an advance that may lead to new ways to counteract harmful bacteria.

A new study found that fragments of thrombin — a common blood protein found in wounds — can aggregate both bacteria and their toxins, something that was not see in normal blood plasma. The aggregation takes place quickly and causes bacteria and toxins not only to gather but also to be “eaten” by the body’s inflammatory cells.

Basic mechanism

This way, the body avoids the spread of the infection. This to be a fundamental mechanism for taking care of both bacteria and their toxins during wound healing.

 



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