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Current Events 8 January 2017

 

NEWS

8 JANUARY 2017


Sr. No.

Topic

News

1.

GS II: POLITY - ELECTIONS

EC seeks govt. response on plea to defer Budget

2.

GS II: POLITY - STATES

Turf tussle sets L-G against CM in Puducherry

3.

GS III: ECONOMY

‘Gujarat will be defence services hub’

4.

GS III:S&T -HEALTH

Indian scientists’ novel approach to diagnose retinal diseases

5.

GS III: S&T - HEALTH

A fully biocompatible cell-level motility engine

6.

GS III: ENVIRONMENT - BIODIVERSITY

Kerala’s avian diversity gets richer

7.

GS II: SOCIL - HEALTH

‘India’s refusal to scale up bedaquiline is really the world’s problem’

8.

GS II: SOCIAL - HEALTH

Sri Lanka’s next big fight

9.

GS II: SOCIAL - HEALTH

Health-care data is ailing

10.

GS II: BILATERAL – INDIA-EUROPE

India, Portugal sign defence agreement

11.

GS II: BILATERAL- INDIA-SOUTH AMERICA

India can emerge a superpower: Suriname

12.

GS II: INTERNATIONAL – ASIA – SRI LANKA

21 injured following protests against Chinese project

13.

GS III: ECONOMY – DIGITAL ECONOMY

ATM, credit cards will become irrelevant by 2020, says Kant

14.

GS III: S&T - SPACE

China setting up highest altitude telescopes close to LAC

15.

GS III: S&T - SPACE

NASA sets sights on asteroid exploration

GS II: POLITY - ELECTIONS

EC seeks govt. response on plea to defer Budget

  • The Election Commission has sought a response from the Centre on petitions for deferring the presentation of the Union Budget in view of the coming Assembly elections in five States.
  • The EC has written to Cabinet Secretary P.K. Sinha, asking for a response by January 10.
  • The government has maintained that the budget presentation need not be postponed; otherwise developmental works in other States would suffer.
  • Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Nasim Zaidi said that a representation for deferment of the budget was being examined, and the EC would take a decision in due course.
  • The budget is to be presented on February 1.
  • The budget session of Parliament was convened to start from January 31. President Pranab Mukherjee has summoned the Rajya Sabha and the Lok Sabha to meet on January 31, according to official notifications.       


GS II: POLITY - STATES

Turf tussle sets L-G against CM in Puducherry

  • The last pretence of cohesive governance may have vanished in Puducherry, with the simmering discord between Lt. Governor Kiran Bedi and Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy turning into a full-blown confrontation.
  • Trouble started after the Lt. Governor suspended a Pondicherry Civil Services cadre official for posting a reportedly lewd video on one of the WhatsApp groups initiated by her to pass on instructions to officials. The official was detained by police and later summoned to Raj Nivas for an explanation.
  • A case was booked under Section 67-A of the IT Act.
  • Closing ranks, the bureaucracy decided to exit the Lt. Governor’s WhatsApp groups after a delegation of officials failed to convince Ms. Bedi to withdraw the suspension.
  • The government came out with a circular dated January 2, 2017, prohibiting officials from using social media for “interaction with seniors bypassing the administrative hierarchy and routine official channel”.
  • Though the circular cited security risks, it was a virtual no-brainer that the move was intended as a rebuff to the Lt. Governor.
  • Interestingly, the challenge to the Lt. Governor’s suspension order would come, not from the government, but from the Election Commission of India. The ECI stayed the Lt. Governor’s suspension order as the official happened to be serving as an Electoral Registration Officer. It categorically stated that the official, in his capacity as an electoral officer, is subject to “control, superintendence and discipline of the Commission under Section 13CC of the Representation of People Act, 1950”, and the Lt. Governor should have taken the Commission into confidence before placing the official under suspension, particularly when the publication of the final electoral rolls was imminent.
  • Apparently unfazed by the setback from the ECI’s directive, the very next day, the Lt. Governor cancelled the government circular prohibiting the use of social media as it “has been issued in contravention of guidelines, rules, and policies, etc., in force”.
  • In a hard-hitting complaint to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, eight Congress MLAs blamed the Lt. Governor for her “rigidly autocratic, unethical, whimsical and dictatorial,” style of running the administration by “overlooking” an elected government.
  • If the ruling Congress stopped short of demanding a recall, the Opposition AIADMK urged the Centre to recall the Lt. Governor for “violating the procedures and set rules by having frequent tussle with the elected government”.

GS III: ECONOMY

‘Gujarat will be defence services hub’

  • Defence equipment manufacturing and international finance services are the focus areas at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit, which will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 10 in Gandhinagar.
  • According to Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, manufacturing is Gujarat’s forte: the State is a leading manufacturing base for petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, textiles and automobiles. Now, defence equipment will join the list.
  • Under the policy, tax incentives like reimbursement of stamp duty and exemption from the Value Added Tax and interest subsidy on borrowings are available to those seeking to set up R&D centres or manufacturing units in the State.
  • International financial services is another area of focus, with the opening of the international stock exchange set up by the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) in Gujarat International Finance Tec City (GIFT City) near Gandhinagar.


GS III:S&T -HEALTH

Indian scientists’ novel approach to diagnose retinal diseases

  • Early diagnosis of certain eye diseases and studying the early progression of the diseases has now become possible, thanks to the work carried out by a team of researchers from three institutes — IISER, Kolkata, L.V. Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad, and BARC, Visakhapatnam.
  • The researchers used the retinal data captured by a well-established imaging method in ophthalmology (optical coherence tomography or OCT) and applied an algorithm based on a statistical biomarker tool for early detection of diabetic macular edema.

GS III: S&T - HEALTH

A fully biocompatible cell-level motility engine

  • A Chennai-based group has come up with a workable design for a system using which nanosized particles can be made to move through a viscous liquid like blood without the application of external energy.
  • Unlike in earlier schemes, the process is entirely biocompatible and does not involve the application of external magnetic fields etc.
  • The concept is that you have the cargo to be delivered inside a small micro-sized colloidal particle, which could also have a small piece of magnetite.
  • This colloidal particle is attached to a string of active particles. These active particles by converting biochemical energy stored in ATP or carbohydrates into mechanical energy, make wavy or spiral movements that propel the colloidal particle through the viscous medium.
  • Using a small magnetic field, of strengths that are safe for the human body, can be used to move this motility engine in the preferred direction.
  • Two among myriad examples of bodies moving inside the body using active transport are sperms and the ciliary layer in the lung.

GS III: ENVIRONMENT - BIODIVERSITY

Kerala’s avian diversity gets richer

  • The avian species diversity of Kerala got a boost in the last days of 2016 with BirdLife International dividing a species in two.
  • BirdLife International, an organisation which assesses the conservation status of birds globally, has split the group of montane laughingthrushes, which are endemic to the Western Ghats, and recognised them as two new species. As a result, Kerala now has four mountain laughingthrushes in place of two.
  • The newly accepted species are Banasura laughingthrush (Trochalopteron jerdoni), which has a very restricted distribution in Wayanad district and Travancore laughingthrush (Trochalopteron merdionale) found in Thiruvananthapuram district. While the conservation status of the Banasura species was assessed as endangered, the Travancore variety was considered vulnerable, considering the risk the species were facing.
  • The two original species of the family were Nilgiri laughingthrush and Palani laughingthrush.
  • The Nilgiri species, assessed as an endangered one, is found in Silent Valley National Park and Siruvani hills of Kerala.
  • The near-threatened Palani laughingthrush is found mainly in Munnar hills and the mountains of Periyar Tiger Reserve apart from Grass Hills and Palani hills in Tamil Nadu, according to ornithologists.
  • The identification of the two new species was carried out by following the internationally accepted scoring system.
  • BirdLife International recognised the findings and reclassified the birds in the latest Red List. Research papers on the genetic characteristics of each species are expected shortly, he said.
  • Laughingthrushes are found only in the peaks of Western Ghats, popularly known as sky islands. These mountain peaks are separated from the others so well that the birds from one sky island find difficult to move to the next sky island. This has resulted in the creation of four closely related species, each of them occupying a series of mountain tops across the entire range of southern Western Ghats, noted the ornithologists in a scientific paper.

BirdLife International

  • Founded in 1922 and formerly known as the International Council for Bird Preservation, it is a global partnership of conservation organisations that strives to conserve birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, working with people towards sustainability in the use of natural resources.
  • It changed its name in 1993 to "BirdLife International"
  • It is the world's largest partnership of conservation organisations, with over 120 partner organisations.
  • It publishes a quarterly magazine, World Birdwatch, which contains recent news and authoritative articles about birds, their habitats, and their conservation around the world.
  • It is the official Red List authority for birds, for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).



GS II: SOCIL - HEALTH

‘India’s refusal to scale up bedaquiline is really the world’s problem’

  • An 18-year-old girl has taken the Indian government to court after being refused access to blockbuster tuberculosis drug bedaquiline.
  • The girl has extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis or XDR TB and her case is emblematic of the desperation of TB patients in India, as the Health Ministry has delayed the roll-out of the life-saving drug beyond six centres in the country.
  • Before we had limited options for MDR TB patients, but now with bedaquiline we do, and all citizens of India (and of the world) have a right to health and life and access to this medication.
  • Second, the delay means that little is being done to stop the ongoing spread of MDR-TB (multidrug-resistant tuberculosis) within India and outside of its borders.
  • The most effective way to stop the spread of MDR-TB is to rapidly identify people with the disease and start them on effective treatment. When they are denied access to effective treatment, they continue to be sick and spread the disease to others.
  • And this also affects the international community given that MDR-TB is an airborne disease that does not respect country boundaries.
  • India is home to more MDR-TB patients than any other country in the world.

Will improving access to bedaquiline result in antibiotic resistance, as the government fears? Is this a fair argument?

  • Resistance develops to any antibiotic when it is used — and this is true of all diseases and all antibiotics. And in fact, there are usually naturally occurring resistant strains that are out there even before a drug is ever used. Bacteria are perfect examples of evolution, where natural mutations provide a survival advantage in some conditions and the “strongest survive”.
  • So the only way to make sure there is no resistance to BDQ is to never use BDQ, and when there is such a severe, deadly, and airborne disease like MDR-TB, then never using the drug is not an option. Some degree of responsible use is necessary.
  • You don’t want BDQ available in all the drug stores or on the open market. But the severe restrictions the Indian government has placed on BDQ — with officials saying it should only be used for the worst, most resistant cases — actually increase the chance of generating BDQ resistance.
  • Data from South Africa show that the sooner a person is offered access to BDQ, the better the outcome for the individual patient and for the community. When the drug is saved as a last resort only for the most resistant patients, those patients are usually very ill with severe lung damage and exposure to multiple drugs, and BDQ is less likely to be helpful and resistance is more likely to develop in those cases. So early access to BDQ for persons who need it is the ideal way to decrease the development of resistance, and patients should be given all the help and support they need to successfully complete treatment.
  • But TB is a funny field, and it is the only disease that I know of where the key treatment principles are based on a fundamental mistrust between persons living with the disease and those who are supposed to be providing service to them. This is seen in DOT (Directly Observed Treatment), mandatory hospitalisation, and the rationing of medications like BDQ. Providers and public health practitioners blame patients for causing drug resistance, when in fact it is often providers and cumbersome health systems that are really to blame.


GS II: SOCIAL - HEALTH

Sri Lanka’s next big fight

  • Unlike in its successful battle against malaria, the country has a peculiar challenge as it tries combating this disease — Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Etiology (CKDu), a specific term used to connote conditions where causal factors remain unknown.
  • In 2016, the World Health Organisation declared Sri Lanka “malaria-free”.
  • While hypertension and diabetes are known to be common causes for kidney ailments, CKDu falls outside that ambit.
  • It is a largely “silent condition”, symptoms are seldom manifested till the final stages. “It is like this — when you drive a car, you won’t feel the petrol running out until the vehicle stops, unless you check periodically.”
  • CKDu was in the news some years ago when farmers working in Central America’s sugar cane farms succumbed to a “mysterious” kidney disease.
  • In both Central America and Sri Lanka, reports of the condition first began emerging sometime in the 1990s, according to Dr. Herath.
  • In 2014, Sri Lanka media widely reported on a “mysterious” kidney disease spreading among farmers.
  • More recently, there are reports of the disease in some parts of Andhra Pradesh, among people from the agricultural community.”

G II: SOCIAL - HEALTH

Health-care data is ailing

  • Data pertaining to health care in India, evidence shows, is significantly compromised in terms of its quality, its periodicity and coverage.
  • In addition, “there is a visible discrepancy between the type of information available and what is required by health planners, medical scientists and researchers,” says a recent paper by the Health Team of the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP), New Delhi.
  • It has been well recognised and acknowledged by the government officials that data collection system in India needs to be completely revamped as different data sources lead to different conclusions.
  • So if you want to know the proportion of births that were delivered by caesarian section in a private health facility of Andhra Pradesh, National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-4 will say it is 57 per cent but the Health Information System of the National Rural Health Mission 2015-16 pegs it at around 42 per cent.
  • In an issue brief published by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), four major data gaps were identified.

1.      First, there is a lack of data at the sub-State or the district level, making it difficult to plan for targeted interventions.

2.      Second, data is collected at irregular intervals, which doesn’t allow for mid-course policy correction. For example, the fourth round of NFHS was conducted after a gap of nine years.

3.      Third, data remains incomplete in many surveys and tools, especially in administrative data at hospitals and nursing centres in smaller towns and districts.

4.      Fourth, which is a problem across the board, is data quality. The issue brief mentions that the lack of an independent quality control body limits the quality of available data, especially given that the information passes through various layers before reaching the stage of evaluation and analysis.


GS II: BILATERAL – INDIA-EUROPE

India, Portugal sign defence agreement

  • In a bid to boost joint production and development of niche weapons systems, India and Portugal entered into a defence agreement — one of the seven sealed during the Delhi visit of Prime Minister of Portugal Antonio Costa.
  • The agreement came following Portugal’s support to India’s multilateral plans in various technology regimes including Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) where India secured membership in 2016.
  • Prime Minister Modi invited Portuguese companies to ‘Make in India’ and set up joint ventures and commercial partnerships based on joint production and technology transfer.


GS II: BILATERAL- INDIA-SOUTH AMERICA

India can emerge a superpower: Suriname

  • Suriname Vice-President Michael Ashwin Adhin has said that India should transfer nature-friendly technology to Suriname to enable it to compete in the global market.
  •  “India should emerge as superpower not only because it has the potential, but also because it has spirituality and values that define a Vishwa Guru — world teacher,” he said.
  • Recalling the arrival of Indians at Suriname as indentured labourers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar between 1873 and 1916, he said currently, Indians accounted for 30 per cent of the country’s population and held key positions in society. “They did not forget their roots. They brought along with them knowledge of medicinal plants, plant seeds and musical instruments,” he said.

 GS II: INTERNATIONAL – ASIA – SRI LANKA

21 injured following protests against Chinese project

  • At least 21 people were injured in violent clashes between Sri Lankan government supporters and villagers marching against what they say is a plan to take over private land for an industrial zone in which China will have a major stake.
  • Police used tear gas and water cannons to try to break up the clashes, which took place as Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was attending an opening ceremony for the industrial zone, located near the port city of Hambantota, about 240 km southeast of the capital Colombo.
  • Sri Lanka’s government has signed a framework agreement for a 99-year lease of the Hambantota port with a company in which China will have 80 per cent ownership.
  • Officials also plan to set up a nearby industrial zone where Chinese companies will be invited to set up factories.
  • The villagers and monks are opposed to it and demand their residential and farmlands be spared.
  • A court had issued a restraining order on the protest, saying it could lead to unrest, but the protesters defied it.
  • Mr. Wickremesinghe inaugurated the industrial zone despite the clashes. Speaking at the ceremony, China’s Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Yi Xianliang, said that his country hopes to invest $5 billion in the region within the next five years, and that the new industries are expected to generate 100,000 jobs.
  • China invested over $1.2 billion in the port in what some analysts call its “string of pearls” strategy in countries surrounding its rival India.

GS III: ECONOMY – DIGITAL ECONOMY

ATM, credit cards will become irrelevant by 2020, says Kant

  • With the adoption of technology and the kind of disruption happening in the digital payments space, ATM cards and POS would become redundant by 2020, said NITI Ayog CEO Amitabh Kant.
  •  “India is in the midst of huge disruption in the world of both financial technology and in terms of social innovation. In my view within the next two-and-half years India will make all its debit cards, credit cards, ATM machines and POS machines totally irrelevant,” Mr. Kant said.
  • Further he said: “The cards will become redundant in India as every Indian will do transaction just by using his thumb and mobile phones. The transaction would be done in just thirty seconds through Aadhar-enabled technology.”

 

GS III: S&T - SPACE

China setting up highest altitude telescopes close to LAC

  • China is setting up the world’s highest altitude gravitational wave telescopes in a Tibet prefecture close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India, with a budget of $18.8 million to detect the faintest of echoes resonating from the universe, which may reveal more about the Big Bang theory.
  • Construction has started for the first telescope, code-named Ngari No. 1.
  • It is expected to be operational by 2021.
  • Ngari, with its high altitude, clear sky and minimal human activity is said to be one of the world’s best spots to detect tiny twists in cosmic light.
  • Gravitational waves were first proposed by Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity 100 years ago, but it wasn’t until 2016 that scientists with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory announced proof of the waves’ existence, spurring fresh research interest among the world’s scientists.
  • In September 2016, China commissioned the world’s largest radio telescope in a mountainous region of southwest China’s Guizhou Province to search for more strange objects space, gain better understand the origin of the universe and to boost the global hunt for extraterrestrial life.
  • The installation of the telescope’s main structure — a 4,450-panel reflector as large as 30 football pitches was built at unique valley in Guizhou Province.

GS III: S&T - SPACE

NASA sets sights on asteroid exploration

  • NASA will send two spacecraft to explore asteroids in the hopes of revealing new information about the solar system’s origins.
  • Psyche will journey to what could be the metallic heart of a failed planet, and Lucy will investigate the Trojan asteroids near Jupiter.
  • The missions, announced on January 4, are part of NASA’s Discovery Program for planetary exploration. They were shortlisted by NASA in September 2015 and have survived a final cut that eliminated two proposed missions to Venus — which has not seen a U.S. planetary mission since Magellan launched in 1989.
  • Psyche is slated to launch in October 2023 and should reach its 210-kilometer-wide target in 2030. It will explore what could be the exposed core of an early, now-vanished planet.
  • Lucy is scheduled to be launched in October 2021 and will arrive at its first major target in 2027.
  • Lucy will explore six of Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids, which are trapped in orbits ahead of and behind the giant planet.


 

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