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Current Affairs : 4- 5 November 2018


‘Bid to revive insurgency in Punjab’
  • Attempts are being made through “external linkages” to “revive insurgency” in Punjab, and if early action is not taken, it may be too late, Army chief Gen. Bipin Rawat said on Saturday.
  • Speaking at a seminar on ‘Changing Contours of Internal Security in India: Trends and Responses,’ he said: “Punjab has been peaceful, but because of these external linkages, attempts are being made to revive insurgency.”
  • Punjab witnessed one of the worst phases of insurgencies in the 1980s during the pro-Khalistan movement, which was quelled by the government.
  • At a panel discussion, former Uttar Pradesh DGP Prakash Singh highlighted the issue and said “attempts were being made to revive insurgency” in Punjab. He referred to a pro-Khalistan rally held recently in London for ‘Referendum 2020.’
  • “Internal security is one of the biggest problems in the country, but the question is why we have not been able to find a solution, because it has external linkages,” Gen. Rawat said.
MBBS curriculum revised after 21 years
  • From August 2019, students graduating from medical colleges in the country will be trained not just to be good clinicians but also good communicators. After a gap of 21 years, the Medical Council of India (MCI)  finalised the new undergraduate curriculum that acknowledges the importance of ethics, responsiveness to needs of patients and their families, and communication skills.
  • The MCI’s Board of Governors approved the document, which revisits the 1997 syllabus in context of emerging diseases and scientific advances.
  • “The new undergraduate curriculum regulations are more learner-centric, patient-centric, gender-sensitive, outcome-oriented, and environment appropriate. The result is an outcome-driven curriculum, which conforms to global trends,” says the three-volume curriculum document.
  • Called ‘Competency-based UG Curriculum for the Indian Medical Graduate’, the new syllabus marks a radical shift from old times when rote and classroom learning was the norm in MBBS training.
  • V.K. Paul, Chairperson of the MCI Board of Governors, told that a course called Attitude, Ethics and Communication (AETCOM), which will run across all the years of MBBS, is a new addition to the syllabus.
  • “In a first, the new curriculum provides clinical exposure to students in the very first year instead of the second. A month-long foundation course has been introduced to help students from diverse backgrounds transition better.,” Dr. Paul said.
  • Another new element is the introduction of elective subjects. Now, students can pick subjects of their choice.
  • The new curriculum also encourages the use of medical mannequins and models for clinical learning even though the use of human cadavers for anatomy training will continue.
  • There will be more emphasis on mental health and public health.
IEDs, Myanmar-based insurgents pose threat along Manipur border
  • While the intensity of Manipur’s decades-old insurgency has been contained, with security forces ensuring there are no insurgent camps left in the State, militants continue to take advantage of the hilly terrain and porous border with Myanmar to carry out attacks with IEDs and sophisticated weapons, army officials said.
  • Major General V.K. Mishra, General Officer Commanding of the Leimakhong based 57 Mountain Division, told,“We have been able to control them. However, the effort by insurgent groups to disrupt the peace continues, which is evident by the recoveries of weapons, IEDs and apprehension of cadres. This pressure needs to be maintained,” he added.
  • With the forces conducting intelligence based operations that have limited the militants’ operational ability, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and ambushes have become the insurgents’ mainstay and pose the biggest challenges for the Army and the Assam Rifles.
  • There have been 17 IED blasts so far this year, compared with 44 explosions in 2017. At the same time, 30 IEDs and 112 weapons were recovered this year, compared with 29 IEDs and 98 weapons in 2017.
  • Maj. Gen. Mishra said the terrain posed challenges, as it is mostly hilly and thickly forested and added.
  • Army Chief Gen. Bipin Rawat had said, “Nagas and Manipuri insurgents were given advanced weapons by outside powers. They have AK-47s, rocket launchers and missiles.”
  • Gen. Rawat observed that as part of the government’s Act East policy Manipur assumed greater significance. It becomes a key centre as the “Asian Highway 1 will link India to the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) through Moreh,” he added.
  • This adds to the responsibility of the armed forces to ensure security along the highway to enable free movement. 
  • In addition, Manipur and Myanmar have a 16-km Free Movement Regime along the border which allows local residents to move freely.
  • The insurgents have moved their camps, across the border in Myanmar, deeper into the neighbouring country’s territory after retaliatory strikes by the Army in the wake of a 2015 ambush of an Army convoy in Chandel district using IEDs, which killed 18 soldiers.
  • Another officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “there are an estimated 200-250 active insurgents in the State outside the camps monitored as part of the Suspension of Operations (SoO).”
  • The 2008 SoO was signed between the Centre, State and two Kuki insurgent groupings, the Kuki National Organisations (KNO) and United Peoples’ Front (UPF).
  • Under this, more than 1,800 insurgents are housed in monitored camps and their weapons are locked.
GSAT-11 returns to Guiana for December launch
  • GSAT-11, the heaviest Indian communication satellite built to date, for faster Internet connectivity, is back once again at the Guiana Space Centre for an early December launch.
  • K. Sivan, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Secretary, Department of Space, confirmed that the 5,700 kg spacecraft was shipped out of Bengaluru last week and has reached the European launch port.
  • “GSAT-11 is already in Kourou. We are targeting December 4 for its launch,” Dr. Sivan said.
  • Arianespace, ISRO’s long-time European launch services contractor, has paired GSAT-11 with South Korea’s weather satellite GEO-Kompsat 2A. The two are slated to go to space on the same Ariane 5 launch vehicle, numbered VA246.
  • GSAT-11 is built to provide superior communication and 12 GBPS connectivity with its multiple spot beams in Ka and Ku bands.
Sabarimala curbs are not discriminatory: historian
  • Denial of entry for women of child-bearing age to the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple has been a centuries-old practice strictly adhering to the tantric concept of purity and pollution.
  • It has nothing to do with any sort of sexual discrimination, said S. Jayashanker, renowned historian and former Deputy Director of Census Operations.
  • Mr. Jayashanker said the Hindu concept of “purity and pollution” was very broad and complex. It was an integral part of India’s rich cultural heritage and had substantial variance between regions and sects.
  • The 84-year-old historian has to his credit 13 volumes on ‘Temples in Kerala’ published by the Census Department attached to the Government of India.
  • According to him, a notification issued by the Kerala government on November 27, 1956, states: “In accordance with the fundamental principles underlying the ‘pratishtha’ (installation) of the venerable holy and ancient temple of Sabarimala, Ayyappans (devotees) who had not observed the usual vows as well as women who had attained maturity were not in the habit of entering the temple for darshan (worship) by climbing the Pathinettampadi [18 steps].’’
  • Women employees of the temple, during their menstrual period, were compulsorily given special leave during the period to avoid “pollution” and any kind of expiatory rite on that account. The Travancore Devaswom Board still follows this practice.
  • According to him, the deity too enjoys certain fundamental rights.
  • The trespasses, if any, to his abode by non-allowable women would affect the fundamental right of the deity and hence his right has to be fully protected, he said.
Greater flamingoes at Hope Island after 25 years
  • After a long a gap, a flock of five greater flamingoes has been spotted along the coast of Hope Island, a part of the Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary in Andhra Pradesh.
  • The long-legged and long-necked birds were last seen in a group about two and a half decades ago, while a lone flamingo was recorded in the 2016 Asian Water Bird Census at Sirra Yanam village in the East Godavari district.
  • “We spotted the group during our visit to the Hope Island, where we are conducting a routine survey of mangrove plantations,” says Shanti Priya Pandey, Chief Conservator of Forests and CEO of the East Godavari River Estuarine Ecosystem (EGREE) Foundation.
  • Spread over 235 sq. km., the sanctuary is an abode for about 35 species of mangrove plants and another 120 species of rare birds.
  • In addition, 236 species of migratory birds are spotted in and around the sanctuary with over 60,000 water birds visiting the sanctuary every year. A group of greater flamingoes, however, was last seen here in 1993.
  • “Greater flamingoes are filter feeders and get their characteristic pink colour from their diet of brine shrimps and algae available in coastal wetlands. We feel the flamingoes are indicators of a healthy coastal environment,” says Ms. Shanti Priya.
Water ATMs may help in bridging safe water gap
  • For thousands of communities across India, the process of getting drinking water is now the same as the process of getting cash: they head to an ATM.
  • With 82 crore people who still do not have access to piped water and 70% of water in the country contaminated by pollutants, the government is increasingly starting to accept small water enterprises — such as water ATMs and community purification plants — as an alternative solution to the safe drinking water challenge.
  • A new report by Safe Water Network (SWN) says the government needs to spend ₹44,000 crore on 2.2 lakh small water enterprises to provide safe drinking water to about 37 crore people, mostly in urban slums where piped water infrastructure is difficult to build, and in rural areas with contaminated water sources. While such enterprises cost only a fraction of piped water infrastructure, policy changes and at least a doubling of tariffs are needed to help them bridge the safe water gap, says the report released this week.
  • A recent report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) pointed out that only 18% of the rural population has access to potable piped water, failing to meet the 2017 target of 50%.
  • India is ranked at 120 out of 122 countries on the Water Quality Index, said Niti Aayog, adding that 70% of the country’s water supply is contaminated.
  • Community water purification plants have grown from less than 12,000 in 2014 to almost 50,000 in 2018, according to the SWN, as they have been incorporated into government planning. To reach the government’s Har Ghar Jal target of 100% piped water by 2030, almost ₹5 lakh crore of infrastructure investment will be required, says government data. SWN estimates that if the government is willing to spend less than 10% of that amount on small water enterprises, it could provide safe drinking water at a fraction of the cost.
China has ignored Wuhan spirit: experts
  • China has not shown respect to the ‘Wuhan spirit’, by praising Pakistan for its role in South Asia, veteran commentators have said, after the China-Pakistan joint statement issued urged Beijing to play a greater role in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
  • “China would have frozen all fresh initiatives with Pakistan if it had any respect for the Wuhan spirit that took off after Prime Minister Narendra Modi met President Xi Jinping earlier this year. By appreciating Pakistan for its role in the relationship with India, China is clearly interfering with India’s affairs in South Asia,” said former Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal.
  • Appreciation of Pakistan’s conduct is in contrast with India’s recent criticism of a new bus service through the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) that is expected to start this week.
  • Some said the statement reflected China’s eagerness for a multilateral foothold in South Asia.
S. Korean First Lady arrives in New Delhi
  • Political symbolism and shared history drive the four-day visit of South Korea’s First Lady Kim Jung-sook, said Seoul’s envoy to India.
  • Ms. Kim has been invited to attend the groundbreaking ceremony of a park in Ayodhya dedicated to Indian-born Korean Queen Heo Hwang-ok.
  • Queen Heo, originally named Princess Suriratna, is believed to have travelled to the Korean city of Gimhae from Ayodhya in AD 42 as a 16 year old.
  • The park with a monument was first built in 2000, but is being enlarged with the help of a grant of land from the Uttar Pradesh government.
  • “The fact that [President Moon Jae-in] is sending the First Lady in her own capacity, which is a first for any foreign country, means that the President puts a lot of emphasis on strengthening relations with India,” he added.
  • The First Lady will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, before travelling to Uttar Pradesh, where she will visit the existing park, and the site for the new park, as well as attend Deepavali celebrations along the banks of the Saryu river.
  • The link with Ayodhya is considered important in South Korea as more than 10% of its population belongs to the influential Kim-Heo clan that Queen Heo and King Kim founded, and many Koreans come as tourists to India each year to visit the park.


‘India must grow trade with LatAm, Caribbean’
  • Export-Import Bank of India (Exim Bank) has stressed on the need to grow trade and investment between India and Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region, said Debasish Mallick, deputy MD.
  • India and the LAC region have recognised the mutual benefits that could be derived from partnering with each other. In the last decade, India’s total trade with LAC has more than doubled to reach $36 billion in 2017, he added.
  • An Exim bank study has showed that in the last ten years, India’s total trade with the LAC region had increased from $17.5 billion in 2008 to $36 billion in 2017.


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