Daily Current Affairs : 19/3/2019

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Dry eyes Disease Epidemic
  2. Anti Profiteering Body
  3. Lokpal
  4. Ice Stupa

1 . Dry eyes Disease Epidemic

Context : For the first time, a large-scale, hospital-based study in India involving over 14.5 lakh patients had found the incidence (number of new cases occurring each year) of dry eye disease to be 21,000 (1.46%)

About the disease

  • Dry eye disease is caused by a chronic lack of sufficient lubrication and moisture on the surface of the eye. Consequences of dry eyes range from subtle but constant eye irritation to significant inflammation and even scarring of the front surface of the eye.
  • Disease tends to be progressive with age, once corneal damage becomes irreversible it can lead to visual impairment and even blindness. Early diagnosis and treatment is therefore important. The disease is hugely underdiagnosed in India.
  • Testing the tear volume is mandatory for patients with the disease. Only this test will tell if the disease is evaporative [tear film instability], aqueous deficient or mixed

About the Study

  • The study found the onset of dry eye disease is early in men than in women. In men, the age of disease onset is early 20s and 30s compared with 50s and 60s in women. Hormonal imbalance could be a likely reason for higher cases in women in their 50s and 60s. “This is first study that has shown an age-based gender risk for the disease
  • Age, urban residence, occupation and socio-economic affluence were found to be high risk-factors for developing the disease.

2 . Anti Profiteering Body

Context : Consumer complaints are not the only trigger for the National Anti-Profiteering Authority (NAA) to act, said its chairman B.N. Sharma. Mock purchases can be made by NAA offices to check a trader’s invoice for profiteering.

About National Anti Profiteering Authority

Background

  • Any reduction in rate of tax on any supply of goods or services or the benefit of input tax credit should have been passed on to the recipient by way of commensurate reduction in prices.
  • However it has been the experience of many countries that when GST was introduced there has been a marked increase in inflation and the prices of the commodities. This happened in spite of the availability of the tax credit right from the production stage to the final consumption stage which should have actually reduced the final prices.
  • This was obviously happening because the supplier was not passing on the benefit to the consumer and thereby indulging in illegal profiteering.

Vision and Mission of NAA

  • The National Anti-profiteering Authority (NAA) is the institutional mechanism under GST law to check the unfair profit-making activities by the trading community.
  • The Authority’s core function is to ensure that the benefits of the reduction is GST rates on goods and services made by GST Council and proportional change in the Input tax credit passed on to the ultimate consumers and recipient respectively by way of reduction in the prices by the suppliers.
  • The Authority’s main function is to ensure that traders are not realizing unfair profit by charging high price from consumers in the name of GST. The responsibility of NAA is to examine and check such profiteering activities and recommend punitive actions including cancellation of Registration. 

3 . Lokpal

Context : Selection panel finalised the name of former Supreme Court judge Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose as the first head of the Lokpal, a national anti-corruption ombudsman.

Who appoints the Lokpal?

  • A five-member panel comprising the Prime Minister, the Lok Sabha Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition, the Chief Justice of India and an eminent jurist nominated by the President, selects the Lokpal.

Composition of Lokpal

  • Under the 2013 Act, the Lokpal should consist of a chairperson and such number of members, not exceeding eight, of whom 50% should be judicial members. The selection procedure for these posts is the same as that for the chairperson. A search committee will prepare a panel of candidates, a selection committee will recommend names from among this panel, and the President will appoint these as members.
  • The Act states that not less than 50% of the members of the Lokpal should be from among persons belonging to the SCs, the STs, OBCs, minorities and women. The same rules apply members of the search committee. Salaries, allowances and service conditions of the Lokpal chairperson will be the same as those for the Chief Justice of India; those for other members will be the same as those for a judge of the Supreme Court.

What are the powers of Lokpal?

  • The Lokpal will have the power of superintendence and direction over any investigation agency including CBI for cases referred to them by the ombudsman.
  • As per the Act, the Lokpal can summon or question any public servant if there exists a prima facie case against the person, even before an investigation agency (such as vigilance or CBI) has begun the probe. Any officer of the CBI investigating a case referred to it by the Lokpal, shall not be transferred without the approval of the Lokpal.
  • An investigation must be completed within six months. However, the Lokpal or Lokayukta may allow extensions of six months at a time provided the reasons for the need of such extensions are given in writing.
  • Special courts will be instituted to conduct trials on cases referred by Lokpal.
  • The Lokpal can award fine up to Rs. 2 lakh for “false, frivolous or vexatious” complaints.

Various wings under Lokpal

  • It will have an “Inquiry Wing, headed by the Director of Inquiry, for the purpose of conducting preliminary inquiry into any offence alleged to have been committed by a public servant punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988”. It will also have a “Prosecution Wing, headed by the Director of Prosecution, for the purpose of prosecution of public servants in relation to any complaint by the Lokpal under this Act

What kind of public servants will come under the purview of these wings?

  • A wide range of public servants — from the Prime Minister, ministers and MPs, to groups A, B, C and D employees of the central government — various rules are in place.
  • If a complaint is filed against the Prime Minister, the Act says, “Lokpal shall inquire or cause an inquiry to be conducted into any matter involved in, or arising from, or connected with, any allegation of corruption made in a complaint”. However, certain conditions will apply.
  • The Act does not allow a Lokpal inquiry if the allegation against the Prime Minister relates to international relations, external and internal security, public order, atomic energy and space.
  • Also, complaints against the Prime Minister are not to be probed unless the full Lokpal bench considers the initiation of an inquiry and at least two-thirds of the members approve it. Such an inquiry against the Prime Minister (if conducted) is to be held in camera and if the Lokpal comes to the conclusion that the complaint deserves to be dismissed, the records of the inquiry are not to be published or made available to anyone.

How is an inquiry to proceed?

  • The Lokpal may, after receiving a complaint against any public servant, order a preliminary inquiry (to be completed with in 90 days) or investigation by any agency.
  • After receiving the report of the preliminary inquiry, the Lokpal may order an investigation by any agency or departmental proceedings or any other appropriate action against the concerned public servants by the competent authority, or it can order closure of the proceedings.

What are the Lokayuktas mentioned in the Act?

  • Every State shall establish a body to be known as the Lokayukta for the State, if not so established, constituted or appointed, by a law made by the State Legislature, to deal with complaints relating to corruption against certain public functionaries, within a period of one year from the date of commencement of this Act,” states Section 63 of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act.
  • This means establishment of the institution of the Lokayukta including any appointment therein falls within the domain of the states.

4 . Ice Stupa

Context : Special Stamp on Ice Stupa released

About Ice Stupa

  • Ice Stupa is a form of Artificial Glacier
  • The idea behind artificial glaciers is to freeze and hold the water that keeps flowing and wasting away down the streams and into the rivers throughout the winter. Instead, this ice will melt in the springtime, just when the fields need watering
  • This is achieved by freezing the stream water vertically in the form of huge ice towers or cones of 30 to 50m height that look very similar to the local sacred mud structures called Stupa or Chorten.
  • These ice mountains can be built right next to the village itself where the water is needed. Very little effort or investment would be needed except for laying one underground pipeline from a higher point on the stream to the outskirts of the village. Normally the head difference is easily 100m over a distance of roughly one to three kilometers.

How it Works

  • Water maintains its level hence system doesn’t require pumps or power.
  • Therefore water piped from 60m upstream would easily rise close to 60m up from ground when it reaches the village.
  • For simplicity we can imagine that the pipe is mounted on a mobile-phone tower of that height, and then it is made to fall from that height in cold Ladakhi winter nights when it is -30 to -50°C outside (with wind chill factor).
  • The water would freeze by the time it reaches the ground and slowly form a huge cone or Ice Stupa roughly 30 to 50m high.
  • In reality we won’t even need a tower structure since we can let the piped water first freeze at the ground level and then mount higher meter by meter as the thickness of the ice grows, finally reaching close to the height of the source.
  • The idea is also to conserve this tower of ice as long into the summer as possible so that as it melts, it feeds the fields until the real glacial melt waters start flowing in June.
  • Since these ice cones extend vertically upwards towards the sun, they receive fewer of the sun’s rays per the volume of water stored; hence, they will take much longer to melt compared to an artificial glacier of the same volume formed horizontally on a flat surface.

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