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Current Affairs: 17 January 2019


Justices Maheshwari and Khanna made SC judges
  • The government notified the appointment of Karnataka High Court Chief Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Delhi High Court judge Sanjiv Khanna, as Supreme Court judges.
  • Their swearing-in ceremony is likely to take place by the end of this week, even as controversy swirled around the Supreme Court Collegium’s recommendation of Justice Khanna on January 10, 2019.
  • The Collegium, led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, unanimously recommended Justice Khanna’s name along with Justice Maheshwari’s on January 10, despite objections raised by sitting SC judge, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul.
  • Justice Kaul had complained about how Justice Khanna’s elevation would be at the cost of overlooking the seniority of other High Court Chief Justices and judges. Justice Khanna was ranked 33 in the High Court judges’ seniority list.
Panel to meet on Jan. 24 to pick new CBI chief
  • The Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led selection panel to appoint a new CBI director is likely to meet on January 24, said a source familiar with the development.
  • The move comes a day after Congress leader in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, wrote to the Prime Minister calling the appointment of interim CBI Director M. Nageshwar Rao “illegal.”
  • The Prime Minister heads the high-power Selection Committee. The other two members are the Chief Justice of India and the Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge.
  • The former CBI chief, Alok Verma, who was transferred out by the government by a 2:1 decision of the Selection Panel last week, would have completed his two-year tenure as CBI chief on January 31.
  • The Congress had asked the Modi government to extend Mr. Verma’s tenure by 77 days — the period when he was on forced leave — as the Supreme Court had restored his post and noted that the government’s decision to send him on leave was ‘procedurally wrong.’
10% reservation in all admissions for 2019-20
  • The 10% reservation for the economically weaker sections in the general category will be implemented in all colleges and universities, including private institutions, from 2019-20, Human Resources Development Minister Prakash Javadekar said. “The UGC and AICTE will be given the operational mandate within a week to implement it.”
  • This quota will be over and above the existing quotas for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Castes, which will also be implemented in private institutions, the Minister said.
  • The income criteria for the EWS quota would be set at a gross annual household income of ₹8 lakh, said a senior Ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
  • While the 93rd constitutional amendment enabled the provision of 27% reservation for OBCs in both public and private educational institutions, the Central Educational Institutes Amendment Act, 2006, only mandated the implementation of the OBC quota in centrally-funded institutions. Private players in many States don’t implement the OBC quota.
  • By saying that the quota would be implemented “across 40,000 colleges and 900 universities in the country”, Mr. Javadekar made it clear that private institutions would also come within its ambit. The SC, ST and OBC quotas will also be mandated in private institutions across the country through this measure, he asserted.
‘Slump in numeracy skills of rural Class VIII students’

  • While there has been some improvement in the reading and arithmetic skills of lower primary students in rural India over the last decade, the skills of Class VIII students have actually seen a decline.
  • The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2018, the results of a yearly survey that NGO Pratham has been carrying out since 2006, shows that more than half of Class VIII students cannot correctly solve a numerical division problem and more than a quarter of them cannot read a primary level text.
  • Those figures are worse than they were a decade ago. In 2008, 84.8% of Class VIII students could read a text meant for Class II; by 2014, only 74.6% could do so, and by 2018, that percentage had fallen further to 72.8%.
  • Four years ago, 44.1% of students in Class VIII could correctly divide a three digit number by a single digit number; in 2018, that figure had fallen slightly to 43.9%.
  • The picture is slightly more encouraging at the Class III level, where there has been gradual improvement since 2014. However, even in 2018, less than 30% of students in Class III are actually at their grade level.
  • These overall percentages also camouflage wide differences in skill level between States, or even between students in a single classroom.
  • For example, Pratham found that almost half of Class III students in government schools in Himachal Pradesh can read a Class II level text, while another quarter can read a Class I level text. This allows the teacher to use grade level textbooks for most of the class, although the rest will need ongoing support for basic skills.
  • In government schools in Uttar Pradesh, however, a quarter of students cannot recognise letters yet, while another 37% can recognise letters, but not read words.
  • The ASER survey covered almost 5.5 lakh children between the ages of 3 and 16 in 596 rural districts across the country. In an encouraging trend, it found that enrolment is increasing and the percentage of children under 14 who are out of school is less than 4%.
  • The gender gap is also shrinking, even within the older cohort of 15-and-16-year-olds. Only 13.6% of girls of that age are out of school, the first time that the figure has dropped below the 15% mark.
Tobacco companies are targeting children: study
  • A report said that tobacco companies in India are systematically targeting children as young as eight by selling tobacco products and placing tobacco advertisements near schools.
  • These tactics, happening all over the country, clearly violate the Section 5 and 6 of Cigarettes & Other Tobacco Products Act, it said.
  • To gather evidence regarding tobacco products being sold around educational institutions in violation of the law, two groups working in the area of tobacco control -- Consumer Voice and Voluntary Health Association of India -- undertook a study in 20 cities across six states in India.
  • Titled ‘Tiny Targets’, the study was conducted to determine the extent of tobacco products being marketed and sold around schools in India. A sample of 243 schools and 487 points of sale were closely surveyed during this study.
  • “Despite the prohibition on sales of tobacco products near educational institutions, numerous shops/vendors/points of sale sell and advertise tobacco products around schools,” the study said.
  • “The tobacco industry must be held accountable for their aggressive advertising efforts around schools,” said Bhavna B. Mukhopadhyay, Voluntary Health Association of India.
States cannot pick police chiefs on their own: SC
  • The Supreme Court rejected the pleas made by five States to implement their own local laws for selection and appointment of their State police chiefs.
  • A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi dismissed the applications filed by Punjab, Kerala, West Bengal, Haryana and Bihar for modification in the Supreme Court orders in the procedure to be followed for appointment of Director Generals of Police (DGP).
  • The court said its directions were issued in larger public interest and to protect the police officials from political interference.
  • On December 12 last year, the Supreme Court extended till January 31 the tenures of the present DGPs of Punjab and Haryana and agreed to hear the States’ pleas seeking to implement their local laws for the appointment of the police chief.
  • In July 2018, the Supreme Court restrained State governments from appointing DGPs without first consulting the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).
  • The State government concerned has to send UPSC the names of the probables three months before the incumbent DGP is to retire.
  • The UPSC will prepare a panel of three officers fit to be DGP and send it back.
  • The UPSC shall, as far as practicable, choose the people within the zone of consideration who have got a clear two years of service and must give due weightage to merit and seniority.
  • The State shall “immediately” appoint one of the persons shortlisted by the UPSC.

Cut red meat, sugar by 50%: Lancet’s diet plan for the world
  • With the ideal diet, your life would be less sweet but your lifespan would be longer. Cut consumption of sugar and red meat by 50%, and increase the intake of fruits, vegetables, and nuts — that is the top recommendation of a worldwide diet plan according to a special report released on Thursday by the journal Lancet. Such a diet would not only be healthier but also more environment-friendly.
  • The EAT-Lancet Commission was tasked with developing global scientific targets for a healthy diet and sustainable food production.
  • The experts on this panel from India included Srinath Reddy of the Public Health Foundation of India and Sunita Narain of the Centre for Science and Environment.
  • The Commission recommended that the average adult, whose daily requirement is about 2,500 calories, must strive to source around 800 calories from whole grain (rice, wheat or corn), 204 calories from fruits and vegetables, and not more than 30 calories from red meat (beef, lamb or pork). It also suggested that the ideal diet should have no “added sugar” or “added fat”. 
  • Unhealthy diets are the leading cause of ill-health worldwide, and following this healthy diet could avoid approximately 11 million premature deaths a year, the report said.
  • “These global targets define a safe operating space for food systems that allow us to assess which diets and food production practices will help ensure that the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement [on Climate Change] are achieved,” said a press statement accompanying the report.
  • People in North American countries eat almost 6.5 times the recommended amount of red meat, while those in South Asia eat only half the recommended amount. All countries are eating more starchy vegetables (potatoes and cassava) than recommended, with intakes ranging from between 1.5 times above the recommendation in South Asia to 7.5 times the optimum level in sub-Saharan Africa.
NREGA gets additional ₹6,084 cr.
  • After exhausting 99% of its annual allocation three months ahead of time, the National Rural Employment Guarantee (NREGA) scheme has been given an additional allocation of ₹6,084 crore to tide over the next three months.
  • This lifts the total allocation to MGNREGA for 2018-19 to ₹61,084 crore, which is the highest ever allocation, according to a statement from the Ministry of Rural Development.
  • However, the fine print of the balance sheet paints a less buoyant picture.
  • As on January 16, the scheme’s financial statement shows that 15 States have a total negative net balance of ₹4,064 crore, which includes payments due for unskilled wages for work that has already been done.
  • “If this additional allocation is used to pay off these pending payments, there will be much less money left for fresh employment generation over the next three months,” said Rakshita Swamy, a member of the People’s Action for Employment Guarantee, a network advocating for better implementation and accountability of MGNREGA.
  • “If this money is not used to pay off these committed liabilities, it will delay wage payments beyond the stipulated 15-day period, and further disincentivise people from seeking employment under the scheme,” she added.
  • The funds crunch being faced by States has serious consequences for employment provision, researchers say. gistered demand for work is not being met.”
  • Dr. Narayanan’s study analysing government data in 3,500 panchayats found that the employment provided during 2017-18 was 32% lower than the work demanded in that year.

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