Paper 4-GS-III, Topic: environmental pollution and degradation

Clean-up act – The Supreme Court has signalled there can be no compromise over air quality

Brief:

  • The Supreme court asked transport authorities to stop registering vehicles that do not meet Bharat Stage-IV emission standards from April 1.
  • Some automobile companies have suffered a blow as they must now deal with unsold inventories of the obsolete models.
  • The 2017 deadline for a nationwide shift to BS-IV had been emphasized in various forums. Not only manufacture but also sales of BS-III was to be stopped on 1st April ’17.

BS-II to BS-III:

  • 7 years back when BS-II was upgraded to BS-III, central government give relaxation in deadlines.
  • This makes the manufacturers made a costly miscalculation when they hoped for a repeat of the experience they had seven years ago.

The recent upgrade, BS-IV:

  • The Centre must share some of the blame, because it assured industry of a business-as-usual approach on a sensitive issue such as automotive emissions.
  • Producers were already equipped and meeting the higher norms [BS-IV] in the bigger cities.
  • The court’s order means that 8 lakh BS-III vehicles will have to be either upgraded or sold abroad. Total 19 crore vehicles of BS-III standard are running in India.
  • Now the Centre has to ensure that the objective of the Supreme Court’s order is met, and the ‘one fuel, one country’ goal for BS-IV is fulfilled.

What was need of up-gradation:

  • The court’s uncompromising approach will have a significant impact on reducing air pollution.
  • Research reported that 30% to 50% of total on-road emissions came from vehicles older than 10 years.
  • The fuel companies, must prepare for the next big deadline: an upgrade to the BS-VI standard by April 1, 2020, leapfrogging BS-V.
  • The imperative is to shift to a clean fuel pathway.

Source: The Hindu

‘’Paper 3-GS-II, Topic: Government policies and interventions for development

Is Aadhaar a breach of privacy

What is Aadhaar?

  • Aadhaar is an individual identification number issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) on behalf of the Government of India to individuals for the purpose of establishing the unique identity of every single person.
  • The objective of the project is to collect biometric (photograph, iris-scan, fingerprints) and demographic data of residents (residence address information), store them in a centralised database, and issue a 12-digit unique identity number called Aadhaar to each resident.

Problems associated to Aadhaar:

  • There is no data privacy and data protection law in India.
  • In January 2011, the Centre for Internet and Society presented their review about “National Identification Authority of India Bill 2010”. [ Now known as Aadhaar]
  • According to review, government should stop using biometrics and instead use an open smart card standard.
  • Why smart card? Because even unconscious and dead citizens can be identified using biometrics. Smart cards which require pins on the other hand require the citizens’ conscious cooperation during the identification process.
  • If the UIDAI adopts smart cards, we can destroy the centralized database of biometrics just like the UK government did in 2010 under Theresa May’s tenure as Home Secretary.
  • Smart cards based on open standards allow for decentralized authentication by multiple entities and therefore eliminates the need for a centralized transaction database.
  • Know Your Customer [KYC] should not be used everywhere like even for issuing a SIM card.
  • Using a token issued by UIDAI instead of the Aadhaar number would make it harder for unauthorized parties to combine databases. But would enable law enforcement agencies to combine database using the authorizations and infrastructure like NATGRID.

To conclude, even as a surveillance project — Aadhaar is very poorly designed. The technology needs fixing today, the law can wait for tomorrow.

Source: The Hindu

‘’Paper 4-GS-III, Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life

How a new Indian-made vaccine could slow rotavirus death march

What you need to know:

  • Serum Institute of India’s BRV-PV vaccine has shown 66.7% efficacy against severe rotavirus gastroenteritis among infants in Niger in West Africa.
  • Serum Institute of India is the world’s largest vaccine-maker, producing and selling more than 1.3 billion doses globally every year.
  • The low-cost oral vaccine can be a gamechanger in the global war against the deadly virus.
  • According to World Health Organisation (WHO), Rota virus kills about 600 children a day — a staggering 22% of them in India.
  • Each year, rotavirus gastroenteritis is responsible for about 37% of deaths from diarrhoea among children younger than 5 years of age worldwide.

Important advancement in Oral Vaccine:

  • Rotavac, a rotavirus vaccine produced by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech, became part of India’s Universal ImmunisationProgramme (UIP) when it was introduced in 4 states in April 2016, and was subsequently extended to 5 more states last month.
  • After Rotavac, Rotasiil is next in this series.
  • The key step forward in the manufacture of Rotasiil vaccine is that it does not require refrigeration, and is easier to store in low-income countries where rotavirus poses the greatest threat to children.

Trial outcomes:

  • At Serum Institute of India, scientists had been working on a rota vaccine for 8 years.
  • BRV-PV has completed Phase III trials in Niger, and shown good efficacy in heat-challenge conditions.
  • The trial included 3,508 infants (1,780 in the vaccine group and 1,728 in the placebo group), and was conducted from August 2014 to November 2015.
  • At 28 days after the third dose of vaccine or placebo, severe rotavirus gastroenteritis had been reported in 31 infants in the vaccine group and 87 in the placebo group — a vaccine efficacy of 66.7%.
  • The trial was conducted by storing the vaccine at 25 degrees Celsius, not in a refrigerated condition. In a previous trial the efficacy of the RotaTeq vaccine was found to be 39.4 and of Rotarix was found to be 61.2%.

When will the vaccine be sold in India, and at what cost?

  • The vaccine is already licensed in India, and is under the WHO pre-qualification process.
  • Institute plans to produce 60 million doses and hopes to roll out the vaccine in August- September 2017. The cost is likely to be between Rs 100 and Rs 120 — per dose.

Source: The Hindu