National Infra Pipeline: FM reviews progress of projects worth ₹3.6L cr
Mains: G.S. III Indian Economy
Why in news?
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman held a meeting to review the progress of 34 projects in health and water resources sectors involving investments of Rs 3.6 lakh crore under the National Infrastructure Pipeline.
- This was the second review meeting by Sitharaman with various ministries and departments to monitor and accelerate the NIP project implementation.
- With the economy battered by the pandemic, a government task force had firmed up a roadmap for capital investments of Rs 111 lakh crore in infrastructure under the NIP over six years through FY25.
- NIP pledges 71% of the expenditure for energy, roads, urban development and railways, and envisaging a key role for private sectors.
- The emphasis would be on ease of living: safe drinking water, access to clean and affordable energy, healthcare for all, modern railway stations, airports, bus terminals and world-class educational institutes.
- It will improve project preparation, attract investments (both domestic & foreign) into infrastructure, and will be crucial for attaining the target of becoming a $5 trillion economy by FY 2025.
Horizontal and vertical reservations
Mains: G.S. II Polity and Governance, Social Justice
Why in news?
The Supreme Court clarified the position of law on the interplay of vertical and horizontal reservations.
- The decision by a Saurav Yadav vs State of UP dealt with issues arising from the way different classes of reservation were to be applied in the selection process to fill various posts in the state.
- Reservation for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Backward Classes is referred to as vertical reservation. It applies separately for each of the groups specified under the law.
- Horizontal reservation refers to the equal opportunity provided to other categories of beneficiaries such as women, veterans, the transgender community, and individuals with disabilities, cutting through the vertical categories.
- The horizontal quota is applied separately to each vertical category, and not across the board.
- The court ruled against the Uttar Pradesh government, holding that if a person belonging to an intersection of vertical-horizontal reserved category had secured scores high enough to qualify without the vertical reservation, the person would be counted as qualifying without the vertical reservation, and cannot be excluded from the horizontal quota in the general category.
- A similar question had arisen in the case of vertical reservations in the past, and the law had been settled similarly: If a person in the SC category secures a higher score than the cut-off for the general category, the person would be counted as having qualified under the general category instead of the SC quota.
- The ruling strikes at the heart of the debate on “merit versus reservation”, where reservation is sometimes projected as being anti-merit.
Meeting India air quality targets across South Asia may prevent 7% of pregnancy losses: Study
Mains: G.S. II & III Social Justice and Issues related to environment and economy
Why in news?
According to a modelling study published in the Lancet Planetary Health journal, Poor Air quality is associated with a considerable proportion of pregnancy loss in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
- Modelling study suggests that pregnant women in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, who are exposed to poor air quality, may be at higher risk of stillbirths and miscarriages.
- An estimated 349,681 pregnancy losses per year in south Asia were associated with exposure to PM2.5 concentrations that exceeded India’s air quality standard (more than 40 μg/m³), accounting for 7% of annual pregnancy loss in the region from 2000-2016.
- First study to estimate the effect of air pollution on pregnancy loss across the region indicates that air pollution could be a major contributor to pregnancy loss in south Asia, so controlling air pollution is vital for improving maternal health.
- However, limitations in the survey data mean the study was unable to distinguish between natural pregnancy loss and abortions, which may have led to an underestimation of the effect of air pollution on natural pregnancy loss.
- Previous studies have suggested a link between air pollution and pregnancy loss in other regions, but this is the first study to quantify the burden in south Asia, which is the most populous region in the world and has the highest rate of pregnancy loss.
- Gestational exposure to PM2.5 was associated with an increased likelihood of pregnancy loss, and this remained significant after adjusting for other factors. Each increase in 10 μg/m³ was estimated to increase a mother’s risk of pregnancy loss by 3%.
China denies entry to WHO experts
Mains: G.S. II Polity and Governance, International Relations
Why in news?
The WHO has said that it was very disappointed that China had not allowed a team of international experts to go ahead with a visit to study the origins of COVID-19.
- A World Health Organization (WHO) team due to investigate the origins of Covid-19 in the city of Wuhan has been denied entry to China.
- The long-awaited probe was agreed upon by Beijing after many months of negotiations with the WHO.
- The virus was first detected in Wuhan in late 2019, with the initial outbreak linked to a market.
- WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was “very disappointed” that China had not yet finalised the permissions for the team’s arrivals “given that two members had already begun their journeys and others were not able to travel at the last minute”.
- Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told the BBC “there might be some misunderstanding” and “there’s no need to read too much into it”.
- “Chinese authorities are in close co-operation with WHO but there has been some minor outbreaks in multiple places around the world and many countries and regions are busy in their work preventing the virus and we are also working on this,” she said.
- The WHO has been working to send a 10-person team of international experts to China for months with the aim of probing the animal origin of the pandemic and exactly how the virus first crossed over to humans.