Current Affairs (4th August 2021)
Global food systems
- United Nations flagged in one of its ‘Action Track’ reports ahead of the Food Systems Summit in September 2021 that gender equality and food systems are interlaced. But today’s food systems — heavily afflicted by power imbalances and inequality — do not work for most women.
- Women farmers are disproportionately more affected by climate change and land degradation, according to an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. They face high levels of obesity and are more susceptible to chronic disease.
- Indigenous women play a crucial role in eradicating hunger and malnutrition; there are 185 million indigenous women in the world. But limitations in the recognition and exercise of rights have hampered access to equitable systems of food.
- Migration among youths over the course of urban transition as well as COVID-19 pandemic have had impacts on the gendered nature of economic roles.
- Such migration has entailed a growing gap between the location of food production and food consumption. This may have been followed by a change in lifestyle, including dietary habits.
- The impacts of COVID-19 pandemic have not been gender-neutral: More women have been at the receiving end of increased poverty, food insecurity, malnutrition, and disease prevalence.
- A 2020 UN report had hinted how epidemics can significantly reduce women’s economic and livelihood activities, increasing poverty rates and exacerbating food insecurity.
- Rural women were among the worst affected among the food insecure population of 821 million (as of 2017), according to an Oxfam report published 2019.
- Rural women account for nearly half the agricultural workforce in developing countries, face discrimination. They have very little land rights, face difficulties attaining ownership, do not have access to credit and are engaged in unpaid work.
- This lack of agency reflects in their dietary patterns: They eat least, last and least well. Women farmers who control resources generally have better-quality diets.
- The UN stressed that inequitable systems and structures that enable and exacerbate inequalities for food systems workers and consumers be dismantled and governments, businesses, and organizations be held accountable for ensuring equitable livelihoods.
- It flagged the urgency to protect the livelihoods of women living in times of vulnerability.
- It called for social protection systems that uphold their livelihoods to go beyond poverty-reduction rhetoric to enhance opportunities that helps build assets and create wealth for them.
- Power structures need to be altered for a more inclusive decision-making.
Burning wood can cause blindness
- According to a report published in the journal PLOS Medicine, burning solid fuels such as coal and wood for cooking can pose a damage to the eyes and cause blindness.
- Close to half the world’s population are exposed to household air pollution stemming from cooking fuels. This includes 452 million in China and 846 million in India.
- The very small particles released with the fumes can penetrate the eyes and cause physical interior damage.
- Previous studies have explored the connection between cooking with solid fuels and a risk of cataracts in women but not men.
- Women cooking with biomass fuels were exposed to three times the levels of particulate matter (PM) 10 and PM 2.5 as those using liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).
- These studies, however, could not ascertain whether burning of solid fuels is also behind major eye diseases like conjunctivitis, keratitis and glaucoma.
- The researchers found a clear association between cooking with wood or coal and an increased risk of substantial eye diseases leading to blindness.
Silver coin found at Keeladi
- A punch-marked silver coin was dug out during the seventh phase of excavation at
- Now, archaeologists are further able to collate and establish trading activity of the civilisation believed to have flourished on the banks of Vaigai river more than 2,500 years ago.
- The finding of a single punched-mark silver coin so far is stated to be unique. However, a similar semi-circular silver coin was excavated earlier, at a depth of 162 cm, during the fourth phase of excavation at Keeladi.
- The two coins suggest commercial activities belonging to the middle of the 4th century BCE.
- The latest coin was found at the base of layer three of the YP44/1 quadrant, almost touching the ground and was covered in thick green sediment.
- Coin material is silver with figurines on one side and minor marks on the other.
- The designs on the coin are of the sun, moon, a bull, taurine, and another animal that resembles a dog on one side and a semi-circle with two small geometric L-shaped marks on the obverse.
- It is proof that there was trading with north India, where such coins were in use in the 6th Century BCE. The evidence is opening up the entire working system of the country in those times.
- The coin measuring 1 x 1.7 x 0.1 cm and weighing 2.2 g, was found at a depth of 146 cm. The shape, which is partly oval with rectangular edges on two sides, looks like a magnified drop.
- It indicates the time period of the Mauryan Empire. The chronology of punch-marked coins also vary from region to region.
- Copper coins with markings were found at Kodumanal and Alagankulam during past excavations as well. Each finding and information helps bridge the connection between the north and the south in the Gangetic valley.
- The excavation of beads, copper objects, northern black polished ware, semi-precious stones and punch-mark coins indicate that skilled people were importing raw materials, maybe from Gujarat and Afghanistan, and a flourishing making and cutting industry for jewels and other artefacts existed here. Any trading activity strongly establishes an urban civilization.
OBC Reservation in All-India Quota Medical Seats
- The Union Health Ministry has announced 27% reservation for the OBCs and 10% quota for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in the All-India Quota (AIQ) scheme for UG and PG medical / dental courses from 2021-22 onwards.
All-India Quota (AIQ) scheme:
- It was introduced in 1986 under the directions of the Supreme Court.
- The aim was to provide for domicile-free merit-based opportunities to students from any State to study in a medical college located in another State.
- It comprises 15% of UG seats and 50% of PG seats surrendered by the States for admission through a central pool in government medical colleges.
- Initially, there was no reservation in the AIQ.
- The Supreme Court in 2007 introduced the reservation of 15% for SCs and 7.5% for STs in the scheme.
- Meanwhile, the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act became effective in 2007.
- It provided for uniform 27% reservation to the OBCs in all the Central Educational Institutions.
- However, this reservation was not extended to the AIQ seats of State medical and dental colleges.
How will the new provision benefit?
- The OBC students from across the country shall now be able to take the benefit of the reservation in AIQ to compete for seats in any State.
- Being a Central scheme, the Central List of OBCs shall be used for this purpose.
- The decision would benefit every year nearly 1,500 OBC (Other Backward Classes)students in MBBS and 2,500 such students in postgraduation.
- Among EWS students, around 550 in MBBS and around 1,000 in postgraduation will be benefitted.
- The reservations will apply for undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate (PG) medical / dental courses (MBBS / MD / MS / Diploma / BDS / MDS).
- As AIQ seats originally belonged to the States, the quota policy applicable to the respective States ought to be applied to them.
- There were OBC seats in medical institutions run by the Centre, as well as State-specific quotas in those run by the States.
- But seats given up by the States to help the Centre redistribute medical education opportunities across the country were kept out of the ambit of reservation.
- The Centre’s decision to extend its 27% reservation for OBCs to all seats under the AIQ thus puts an end to this discriminatory policy.
- In order to balance OBC interests with those of the socially advanced sections, the Centre has also decided to provide 10% of the AIQ seats to EWS candidates.
- The decisions are almost entirely the outcome of a Madras High Court verdict.
- The Madras HC, in July 2020, held that there was no legal impediment to OBC reservation.
- But the policy varied from State to State, and so it left it to the Centre to decide the modalities for quotas from the current academic year (2021).
- Credits also go to the efforts of the DMK party in Tamil Nadu that approached the court with the demand.