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Current Affairs 30 April 2017

 

NEWS

30 April 2017

Sr. No.

Topic

News

1.        

GS II: INTERNATIONAL UNHRC

Rohatgi braces to defend India at UNHRC

2.        

GS II: GOVERNANCE - WATER CONSERVATION

Water to the power of four

3.        

GS II: GOVERNANCE  - WATER CONSERVATION

Fortified by coir geotextiles

4.        

GS III: ENVIRONMENT POLLUTION

Where in Bengaluru, are steps taken to save a poisoned lake?

5.        

GS III: S&T HEALTH

IGIB uses novel drug discovery approach to identify drug targets in TB bacteria

6.        

GS III: ECONOMY - INDICATORS

What's powering the rupee?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GS II: INTERNATIONAL UNHRC

Rohatgi braces to defend India at UNHRC

  • India will highlight its "impartial" justice system when it sends its top law officer, Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi, to the Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
  • Mr. Rohatgi will defend India's case against allegations of violations in Jammu and Kashmir, torture, minority rights and recent strictures against NGOs.
  • In the run-up to the hearings at the HRC, held once in five years for every country, reports from governmental and non-governmental agencies from other countries in the 47 member council, including from the U.S. Congress and civil society groups, and international agencies like Human Rights Watch and the Indian National Human Rights Commission have been sought.
  • Making a special mention of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, the Human Rights Council's own report by its Special Rapporteur has also asked for India to repeal or at least radically amend the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and the Jammu and Kashmir Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act" while "removing all legal barriers for the criminal prosecution of members of the armed forces."
  • The Special Rapporteur's report has also focussed on incidences of caste and gender-based violence, including a special mention of criticism of the National Commission of Women over what it called the "2002 Gujarat massacre".
  • According to the Human Right's Council submissions so far, countries including the U.K., Switzerland, Netherlands and Norway have registered questions on the treatment of religious minorities in India, asking specifically about recent incidents of communal violence, while Sweden and Spain have questioned India's failure to ratify the Convention on Torture yet, despite agreeing to it in 1997.
  • Sweden and Spain have asked for the government to explain its stand on homosexuality rights and the repeal of Article 377 that criminalises same-sex relationships.
  • The HRC has received dozens of submissions, including from advocacy groups like Centre for Justice & Peace (CJP), India, and Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) who have spoken of hate speech against minorities, and cases of "cow vigilantism" and violence in the name of inter-community marriages called "love jihad".
  • "The UPR is a peer-review process," explained IAMC Advocacy Director Ajit Sahi, adding, "India itself sits in judgement on other countries at the Human Rights Council, so cannot object to the process itself."
  • The Attorney General, who will respond to the questions during a four-hour session in Geneva, saidhe would speak about constitutionally-mandated protections to minorities in India. "The law applies equally to all and provides equal protection to all, heedless of religion, caste or language," he added.
  • Mr. Rohatgi said he would convey that the treatment of 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Kasab and 1993 Mumbai blasts convict Yaqub Memon proves the Indian legal system's "impartial" standards.
  • "These are two people who committed crimes against the State. They orchestrated and were directly involved in the massacre of hundreds of innocents, both Indian and foreign, in the heart of our financial capital. Yet, both were tried impartially by a court of law, provided legal aid, were given every opportunity to appeal till the last stage even as their petitions for clemency were entertained at the highest level," Mr. Rohatgi said.

 

GS II: GOVERNANCE - WATER CONSERVATION

Water to the power of four

  • By innovating in integrated water conservation methods, Telangana has developed a replicable model of groundwater recharge, which has improved its water table significantly.
  • Four Waters, a technique to improve groundwater level and raise three crops a year, is the brainchild of the late T. Hanumantha Rao, an engineer who implemented it in Gottigarpally village, Andhra Pradesh between 2001 and 2004 under the Drought Prone Area Development Programme.
  • What made the programme distinct was its use of earthen material, and no cement, to build 163 mini percolation tanks, 500 hectares of continuous contour trenches and staggered trenches around the hilly areas of the village.
  • In the Four Waters concept, the central focus is on using:

1.       rain water

2.      surface water

3.      groundwater

4.      maintenance of soil moisture

  • It provides crops with protection from extreme heat and lack of irrigation.
  • Four Waters concept has been implemented in all districts of Rajasthan, as well.

 

GS II: GOVERNANCE  - WATER CONSERVATION

Fortified by coir geotextiles 

  • The Kerala government has put in place a plan of action to use coir geo-textiles to protect and conserve streams and ponds, particularly in the Kuttanad region of south Kerala, which has large water bodies.
  • Coir geo-textiles refer to loosely woven coir mats that can be used to strengthen the walls of rainwater harvesting pits and banks of ponds and streams.
  • The government's plan is to use coir geo-textiles on a large scale as part of its green mission, titled 'Haritha Keralam' (Green Kerala).
  • Ponds have already been rejuvenated at several places by strengthening the banks with concrete walls. Replacing the concrete and rubble with geo-textiles would facilitate growth of grass on the banks, resulting in a natural strengthening process, which would be environment friendly, providing a long-lasting solution to the problem of soil erosion.

 

GS III: ENVIRONMENT POLLUTION

Where in Bengaluru, are steps taken to save a poisoned lake?

  • On April 19, two years after accumulating froth inexplicably caught fire at the Bellandur lake, the largest in the city, the National Green Tribunal - in perhaps its strictest order yet - pulled up Bengaluru's governing bodies.
  • It ordered the shutdown of industries nearby, while setting a strict deadline - a month - to de-weed and de-silt and to ensure the stoppage of nearly 500 million litres of sewage that flow daily into the 700-acre lake.
  • Plans that were on paper for several years have suddenly galvanised into action: 13 of 97 industries in the vicinity have been closed, 159 apartments are under the scanner.
  • The severely-polluted lake, where froth at its outlets often overflows into neighbouring roads, had spurred local NGOs to approach the green tribunal against what they termed "government inaction" to stem the decline of the lake.
  • The green tribunal's order is the latest in a series of strictures handed down over the years to protect the city's lakes.
  • In 2015, it fined two builders Rs. 150 crore for constructing on the wetlands of the Bellandur lake.
  • In 2016, it ruled that the buffer zone around all lakes should be 75 metres from the 30 metres currently.
  • Similarly, a no-build zone of 50 metres was set around storm water drains to protect the flow of rainwater into tanks.
  • Though the Bellandur lake has been seen frothing, due to the churning of detergents in flowing sewage, sporadically for over two decades, it was in May 2015 that Bellandur and the 400-acre Varthur lake downstream were catapulted to national and international media attention. On one Saturday morning, white froth that had accumulated at its weir burst into flames.
  • The lakes had once supplied water to Bengaluru's outskirts, but rapid expansion of Bengaluru saw drastic replacement of water with sewage.

GS III: S&T HEALTH

IGIB uses novel drug discovery approach to identify drug targets in TB bacteria

  • In a completely different approach to drug discovery, a team led by Dr. Samir K. Brahmachari, a J.C Bose National Fellow, at Delhi's CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB) has used a combination of approaches to predict potential drug targets inMycobacterium tuberculosis,the TB-causing bacteria.
  • The novel method not only helps in speeding up drug discovery by finding potential, non-toxic drug targets but will also cost far less by reducing the chances of failure.
  • Conventionally, drug discovery was never looked at from a systems biology point of view.
  • Evolutionary conservation is based on the premise that genes that are very critical for the bacteria do not undergo any mutation.
  • Based on a previous study that used the Systems Biology Spindle Map (SBSM) approach, the team was able to identify 890 novel, non-toxic gene drug targets. Using computational approaches, the potential drug targets were reduced to 116 essential genes; these 116 genes are so vital that any inhibition would kill the bacteria.
  • In order to identify drug targets with the least likelihood of side effects, the 116 essential genes were compared with the human genome and human microbiome at the sequence level to identify genes that did not have any similarity (homology) with human genome sequences.
  • Of the 116 genes, 104 were found to have no similarity with the human genome sequences, meaning any drug developed targeting these 104 genes will only target the TB bacteria and not cause any harm to human cells.
  • The potential drug targets were further shortlisted to 33 genes. The 33 genes play an essential role in bacteria metabolism and have not undergone any mutation in any of the 1,623 TB strains, including the 1,084 multidrug-resistant TB strains isolated from people with TB.
  • The presence or absence of mutations in any of the 33 genes was evaluated using the Genome-wideMycobacterium tuberculosisVariation (GMTV) database. The genes which are essential for bacteria never undergo any mutations as that would be lethal for their survival.
  • The crystal structure, which is essential for carrying out drug discovery process, was available for 15 of the 33 targets. "For the 15 genes which have a crystal structure, work has already begun in finding out novel lead compounds for the targets," says Dr. Mukta Sharma, who is presently involved in the study.
  • In order to understand the drug resistance seen in many TB drugs, the researchers evaluated the gene targets of known drugs - isoniazid, pyrazinamide, ethambutol for any mutations. "The current drug targets show a high degree of mutations," says the paper. While isoniazid showed relatively lower variation compared with other drugs, the target of bedaquiline (for MDR-TB) drug showed no mutation.
  • According to the paper, this "supports the hypothesis of the importance of completely invariant genes as potential targets for the successful development of novel antibiotics".

 

GS III: ECONOMY - INDICATORS

What's powering the rupee?

  • The rupee is going from strength to strength, with the dollar-rupee rate breaking past the 66-level.
  • Towards the beginning of this year, no one expected the rupee to break out of the tight range between 66 and 68.85 that had shackled the currency for most part of 2016.
  • But the rupee not only strengthened above the 66 level against the dollar but also went on to mark a 20-month high of 63.93 last week.
  • The British currency took a beating immediately after the Brexit referendum. The pound declined 20 per cent against the dollar, from 1.50 in June 2016 to 1.20 in October 2016.
  • Another event that marked a significant shift in the global economic order was the victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential elections.
  • But the rupee was not unduly hassled by these events.
  • So, what's changed now to make the rupee suddenly spurt higher?

Two factors that aided the rupee appreciation:

1.         Strong foreign flows

  • BJP's resounding victory in the State Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh triggered a strong surge in Foreign Portfolio Investors'(FPIs) interest towards the Indian market.
  • FPIs, who had bought just $646 million in Indian debt until then, went on a buying spree after the election results.

2.      Weak dollar

  • The US Federal Reserve's stance on the rate hike front had pushed the dollar index below 100 over the last couple of months.
  • Also, the new US President, Donald Trump's remark that the dollar is extremely strong put further pressure on the greenback.

Factors that may make rupee fall:

1.      Trade and deficit

  • After falling continuously on a year-on-year basis from December 2014, India's exports are showing signs of recovery since September last year. But imports are also rising.
  • Strong outlook for gold and oil prices, can increase the import bills.
  • Given that there is low possibility of the trade deficit to improve in the coming months, there is a danger of the CAD widening further. This is negative for the rupee.

2.      External debt

  • India's external debt is also reflecting a mixed picture. While the long-term debt has come down sharply by 6 per cent, from around $398 billion in December 2015 to $372 billion in December 2016, short-term debt has not eased reasonably.
  • However, strong forex reserves can help tackle the debt situation.

RBI and forex reserves

  • The RBI has been building up its forex reserves consistently. The reserves have risen 7 per cent, from around $344 billion in April 2015 to $369 billion now.
  • Since the rupee has appreciated sharply in a very short span of time, there is also expectation that the RBI will intervene to arrest further strength in the currency. This can involve selling the rupee and buying dollars, which can bolster the reserves further.

Rupee overvalued

  • The rupee appears overvalued when the Real Effective Exchange Rate (REER) is taken into consideration.
  • A currency is considered overvalued if its REER is greater than 100 and it is undervalued if the REER is below 100.
  • REER is a measure of valuing a currency against the currencies of its trade partners, adjusted for inflation.
  • The six-currency trade weighted REER (with new base year of 2015-16) for rupee is at 106 as of March 2017 and the 36-currency trade-weighted REER is at 117, suggesting that the rupee is overvalued compared to its trading partners.
  • Further strength can erode the competitiveness of the rupee in the international market.
  • This is one of the factors that the RBI will take into account when deciding on its currency management policy.

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