Polity & Governance
- Set up centres under all High Courts for vulnerable victims: SC
- India emerging as a leader among milk producing nations
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- India to host UN wildlife summit CMS COP13 in 2020
- Four Asian vulture species now on highest protection list
Bilateral & International Relations
- India ships wheat to Afghanistan via Chabahar
- Indo-US 11th Trade Policy Forum Meeting
Defence & Security Issues
- Home Ministry set to take over Bureau of Civil Aviation Security
- Army finalises plan to modernise weapons
Science & Technology
- New RNA editing tool can eradicate genetic diseases
- Faster, cheaper urinary tract infection (UTI) test
Key Facts for Prelims
- Butterfly IQ
- Valve annuloplasty
- 14th SAARCLAW Conference held in Colombo, Sri Lanka
- Novel vaccine that may protect against HIV developed
- OPV Vikram
- 150th Birth Anniversary Celebrations of Sister Nivedita
For IASToppers Current Affairs Analysis Archive, Click Here
Polity & Governance
Set up centres under all High Courts for vulnerable victims: SC
In a landmark order the Supreme Court has directed the High Courts to set up special centres for examination of vulnerable witnesses in criminal cases, often minor survivors of rape or victims of sex abuse.
- The SC has ordered the setting up of at least two vulnerable witnesses deposition centres in the jurisdiction of every High Court across the country within the next three months.
- This case pertained to the rape of a deaf, dumb and mentally challenged minor girl.
- To crate conducive environment in court so as to encourage a vulnerable victim to make a statement.
Significance of the move:
- The order upholds the right of vulnerable witnesses to be protected while testifying in court and is in consonance with international norms in these matters.
- Vulnerable witnesses are often treated like any other witness of the State in a criminal trial. Victims often end up being ill-treated by the very system they had approached in the hope of justice.
- Delay and intimidating questions during trial in a hostile environment lead to fewer convictions.
- The Supreme Court referred to the Delhi High Court’s initiative to set up vulnerable witnesses deposition centres and issuance of guidelines.
India emerging as a leader among milk producing nations
Union Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister said India is emerging as a leader among milk producing nations.
- India produces 163.7 million tonne milk in 2016-17 worth over Rs.4 lakh crore.
- There are 19 crore cattle in the country, which amounts to 14% of the total cattle population of the world.
- India has 30 crore bovines, which is 18% of the total bovine population of the world.
- Bachaur is the indigenous cattle breed of Bihar.
- Indigenous animals are more suitable for our country, particularly suitable for climate and environment of their reproductive areas. Mainly so, Indigenous breeds are least affected due to climate change.
- They are endowed with qualities of heat tolerance, resistance to diseases and the ability to thrive under extreme climatic stress and less than optimal nutrition.
- There is a huge possibility of increasing productivity of Indigenous breeds in the country through commercial farm management and balanced nutrition.
About Rashtriya Gokul Mission:
- Rashtriya Gokul Mission, 2014 is a focussed project under National Programme for Bovine Breeding and Dairy Development.
- Its objective is to conserve and propagate indigenous breeds in an organized and scientific manner.
- Under this programme, 1250 MAITRI centres are being set up to facilitate artificial insemination for cattle on the doorstep. This will also give a new direction to the conservation of the indigenous breeds.
- Along with other components, setting up of Gokul Gram is also included under Rashtriya Gokul Mission. One Gokul Gram will have 500 animals with high genetic quality, out of which 300 will be reproductive animals. The Gokul Grams will rear Lal Sindhi, Sahiwal and Gir breeds along with Bachaur.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
India to host UN wildlife summit CMS COP13 in 2020
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has announced that India will host next Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) Conference of Parties 13 (CMS COP13) in year 2020.
- CMS COP is also known as a Global Wildlife Conference.
- The announcement was made during 12th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties 12 (COP12) to CMS held in Manila, Philippines in October 2017.
About Convention of Migratory Species (CMS):
The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals – more commonly abbreviated to just the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) or the Bonn Convention-aims to conserve terrestrial, marine and avian migratory species throughout their range.
- It is an intergovernmental treaty, concluded under the aegis of the United Nations Environment Programme, concerned with the conservation of wildlife and habitats on a global scale.
- Since the Convention’s entry into force, its membership has grown steadily to include over 100 Parties from Africa, Central and South America, Asia, Europe and Oceania.
- The Convention was signed in 1979 in Bad Godesberg, a suburb of Bonn (hence the name) in Germany, and entered into force in 1983.
- The CMS is the only global and UN-based intergovernmental organization established exclusively for the conservation and management of terrestrial, aquatic and avian migratory species throughout their range.
- Indiahad become a party to the CMS since 1st November 1983.
Four Asian vulture species now on highest protection list
A multi-species action plan to conserve 15 vulture species, including four that are critically endangered in India, was adopted at 12th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species, or CMS COP12, a UN global wildlife conference in the Philippines.
Species awarded highest protection:
- The Asian vultures that are set to get collaborative international protection are the red-headed vulture, white-rumped vulture, Indian vulture and slender-billed vulture. They are faced with threats such as poisoning, hunting, collision with electricity cables and habitat degradation.
- Likewise, the whale shark, a victim of over-fishing also in India, got global protection too.
- However, the proposal to extend additional protection to the chinkara or Indian gazelle was withdrawn.
- Proposals for conservation of the blue shark and common guitarfish have also been accepted.
- A resolution to develop and manage protected area networks within the ASEAN region has been adopted.
- The Caspian seal has also been identified for conservation. It is the only marine mammal found in the world’s largest inland sea, where its migration is prompted by ice formation and foraging.
- Lions, chimpanzees, giraffes and leopards were marked out as species that needed additional protection.
- The Convention is the only international treaty devoted exclusively to migratory animal species.
- More than 120 states are party to the Convention, but this does not include China and many other Asian countries.
- India is among 121 nations whose waters are home to sharks threatended with near extinction. The major threats are bycatch in nets and vessel strikes.
Bilateral & International Relations
India ships wheat to Afghanistan via Chabahar
India has flagged off shipment of wheat for Afghanistan through Iran’s Chabahar port.
- The first consignment transfer was part of India’s commitment to send 1.1 million tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan on grant basis.
- It is first shipment going to Afghanistan through Chabahar port after trilateral agreement on Establishment of International Transport and Transit Corridor was signed between India, Afghanistan and Iran during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Iran in May 2016.
Significance of the move:
- The shipment of wheat is considered as landmark moment as it paves way for operationalisation of Chabahar port as an alternate, reliable and robust connectivity for landlocked Afghanistan, bypassing Pakistan.
About International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC)
- INSTC is an ambitious multimodal transport system established in 2000 by Iran, Russia and India to promote transportation cooperation.
- It is planned to connect the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea through Iran and then onwards to St. Petersburg and northern Europe through Russia.
Where is Chabahar port located?
The port of Chabahar is located on the Makran coast of Sistan and Baluchistan Province, next to the Gulf of Oman and at the mouth of Strait of Hormuz.
- It is the only Iranian port with direct access to the Indian Ocean.
- Being close to Afghanistan and the Central Asian countries of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan etc., it has been termed the “Golden Gate” to these land-locked countries.
- The Chabahar port was partially developed by India in the 1990s.
Why Chabahar Port is crucial for India?
- The first and foremost significance of the Chabahar port is the fact that India can bypass Pakistan in transporting goods to Afghanistan.
- Chabahar port will boost India’s access to Iran, the key gateway to the International North-South Transport Corridor that has sea, rail and road routes between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia.
- Chabahar port will be beneficial to India in countering Chinese presence in the Arabian Sea which China is trying to ensure by helping Pakistan develop the Gwadar port. Gwadar port is less than 400 km from Chabahar by road and 100 km by sea.
- With Chabahar port being developed and operated by India, Iran also becomes a military ally to India. Chabahar could be used in case China decides to flex its navy muscles by stationing ships in Gwadar port to reckon its upper hand in the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Middle East.
- With Chabahar port becoming functional, there will be a significant boost in the import of iron ore, sugar and rice to India. The import cost of oil to India will also see a considerable decline. India has already increased its crude purchase from Iran since the West imposed ban on Iran was lifted.
- Chabahar port will ensure in the establishment of a politically sustainable connectivity between India and Afghanistan. This is will, in turn, lead to better economic ties between the two countries.
- The use of Chabahar port is seen as a major boost to India’s efforts to connect with Central Asia and Russia, and it could facilitate Indian imports of iron ore, sugar and rice as well as crude oil from Iran.
- From a diplomatic perspective, Chabahar port could be used as a point from where humanitarian operations could be coordinated.
- The Zaranj-Delaram road constructed by India in 2009 can give access to Afghanistan’s Garland Highway, setting up road access to four major cities in Afghanistan – Herat, Kandahar, Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif.
Indo-US 11th Trade Policy Forum Meeting
Indo-US 11th Trade Policy Forum (TPF) Meeting was held in Washington D.C.
- During the meeting, discussions were held on issues related to bilateral trade, areas of mutual cooperation, market access in agriculture, non-agricultural goods and services and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR).
- However, both the nations have failed to bring out a joint statement under the TPF dialogue due to unresolved differences.
What are the unresolved differences?
US side concerns:
- Trade deficit with India
- On market access, issues like ground handling operations, import regulations relating to poultry, export of pork to India.
- On price controls on medical devices
India side concerns:
- Problems being faced by Indian services companies in obtaining H-1B and L-1 visas.
- India seeks easing of procedure for export of Indian mangoes and pomegranates and market access for table grapes from India.
- Issue of mismatch between U.S. visa and U.S. social security regimes, wherein Indian professionals making social security contributions do not receive their due benefits upon their return to India.
- India desires to address the concerns of providing affordable healthcare to its citizens and balancing it with the need to introduce high end technology.
Bilateral trade and investment:
- Indo-Us bilateral trade increased to USD 64.51 billion in 2016-17, from USD 62.11 billion in the previous fiscal.
- However, foreign direct investment from the US into India dipped to USD 2.37 billion in 2016-17 from USD 4.19 billion in 2015-16.
Defence & Security Issues
Home Ministry set to take over Bureau of Civil Aviation Security
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is set to move a proposal before the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for taking over the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), currently under the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA).
- The move, initially opposed by MoCA, was proposed on the ground that security at airports is provided by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which reports to the MHA.
- The decision is based on a security audit conducted by a team of experts from the MHA, IB, CISF and BCAS, which had recommended the change.
- Another reason is the issue of security clearances for airlines and airports, granted by the MHA. In the past, there have been inordinate delays in granting clearances due to differences between the MHA and MoCA on the grounds that airlines and airports have not complied with the norms despite guidelines.
Implications of the move:
- Once the Cabinet gives its approval, the CISF will assume a larger role in airport security.
- The new set-up will help in better coordination and monitoring, since the CISF, IB and state intelligence all report to MHA
- The move may result in an increase in passenger security fee since the CISF will be deployed at all the 98 airports across the country.
- In 2012, the then UPA government moved a proposal to set up an exclusive Aviation Security Force (ASF), under the control of BCAS, to replace CISF at airports, following the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s recommendation. However, the proposal was rejected by the NDA government, which decided to strengthen the CISF instead.
About Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS)
- The BCAS is an attached office of the Ministry of Civil Aviation of India.
- After the hijacking of an Indian Airlines flight in September 1976, the Pande Committee recommended establishing an aviation security department.
- In January 1978 the BCAS was established as a department of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation.
- As a result of the 1985 bombing of Air India Flight 182, on 1 April 1987 the BCAS became an independent agency of the Ministry of Civil Aviation.
- It is currently headed by a commissioner of security.
Functions of BCAS:
- The main responsibility of BCAS are lay down standards and measures in respect of security of civil flights at International and domestic airports in India.
- BCAS is responsible for laying down standards, policies and measures with regard to security of all commercial flights.
- Multiple agencies working at airports, including the Intelligence Bureau, immigration officials, security personnel, local police, are bound by regulations passed by BCAS.
Army finalises plan to modernise weapons
The Army has finalised one of its biggest procurement plans for infantry modernisation.
What are the procurement plans?
- Under the procurement plans, a large number of light machine guns (LMGs), battle carbines and assault rifles are being purchased at a cost of nearly ₹40,000 crore to replace its ageing and obsolete weapons.
- The broad process to acquire around 7 lakh rifles, 44,000 LMGs and nearly 44,600 carbines has been finalised.
Reasons for the procurement plans:
- India has the world’s second largest standing Army which has been pressing for fast-tracking the procurement of various weapons systems considering the evolving security threats.
- Modernisation of the Army must be in tune with the evolving security threat facing the country.
- In a recent incident, fault lines were found in the entire range of small arms except the AK-47.
- Casualties in counter-terror operations can be reduced by half if soldiers are provided better assault rifles.
- The infantry modernisation plan is a major initiative of the Army and it will significantly bolster the overall capability of the foot soldier.
- The procurement plan will soon be placed before the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), the defence ministry’s highest decision making body on procurement, for approval.
What is carbine?
- A carbine is a long arm firearm but with a shorter barrel than a rifle or musket. Many carbines are shortened versions of full-length rifles, shooting the same ammunition, while others fire lower-powered ammunition, including types designed for pistols.
Science & Technology
New RNA editing tool can eradicate genetic diseases
US Scientists have developed RNA Editing for Programmable A to I Replacement (REPAIR), a new gene editing tool therapies that can reverse disease-causing mutations in humans.
- REPAIR gene editing tool can tweak an individual RNA ‘letters’ in human cells without making changes to entire genome and can have profound potential as a tool for both research and disease treatment.
- REPAIR is based on the gene editing tool CRISPR that can be used to modify DNA in cells.
- It can change single RNA nucleosides in mammalian cells in a programmable and precise fashion.
- REPAIR has the ability to target individual RNA letters, or nucleosides, switching adenosines to inosines. These letters are involved in single-base changes known to regularly cause disease in humans.
Significance of REPAIR:
- This new ability to edit RNA opens up more potential opportunities to recover that function and treat many diseases, in almost any kind of cell.
- REPAIR has the ability to reverse disease-causing mutations at the RNA level, as well as other potential therapeutic and basic science applications.
- In human disease, a mutation from G to A is extremely common; these alterations have been implicated in, for example, cases of focal epilepsy, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and Parkinson’s disease. REPAIR has the ability to reverse the impact of any pathogenic G-to-A mutation regardless of its surrounding nucleotide sequence, with the potential to operate in any cell type.
- Unlike the permanent changes to the genome required for DNA editing using CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology, RNA editing offers a safer, more flexible way to make corrections in the cell.
Faster, cheaper urinary tract infection (UTI) test
Researchers have developed a new urine test that can provide results in just 4 hours and also indicate which medicine should be prescribed for the infection.
What is Urinary Tract Infection?
- UTI or urinary tract infection is defined as the infection which involves the various organs of the urinary system. This includes the kidneys, urinary bladder, ureters and the urethra.
Problems associated with the present testing method:
- Under the present testing method, the 48-hour wait for urine test report delays treatment, and inappropriate use of antibiotics make the problem even worse by giving rise to multidrug-resistant pathogens.
Advantages of the new test:
- The test does not require any other specialised equipment, dedicated space/lab or trained personnel.
- As the strip already has the panel of antibiotics, it is easier, faster and cheaper.
- The new test strip contains 15 common antibiotics and helps in identifying the antibiotic sensitivity of the bacteria and deciding the most appropriate medicine to be used for the patient. Thus, it can minimise the irrational use of antibiotics.
- Urinary tract infection (UTI) is the second most common infectious disease that affects millions of people globally each year.
- The main agents of UTI [E. coli and K. pneumoniae] have developed antimicrobial resistance. These resistant bacteria not only cause long lasting infection but also reduce effectiveness of the available antibiotics.
Key Facts for Prelims
- It is a novel smartphone based portable ultrasound machine that can help detect cancer easily at home.
- It is a pocket-sized ultrasound device which is the size and shape of an electric razor.
- It works by shooting sound waves into the body and capturing the echoes.
- Usually, the sound waves are generated by a vibrating crystal. However, this machine uses 9,000 tiny drums etched onto a semiconductor chip.
- Scientists have developed a new heart implant called valve annuloplasty that is expandable and stretches out as the child grows.
- This will stop children requiring more surgeries to repair or replace heart valves as they grow up.
14th SAARCLAW Conference held in Colombo, Sri Lanka
- The 14th South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation in Law (SAARCLAW) Conference was held in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
- Established in Sri Lanka in 1991, the SAARCLAW Conference provided platform for legal professionals to meet and discuss issues of mutual interests and emerging legal trends in the South Asian countries.
Novel vaccine that may protect against HIV developed
- Scientists have developed a novel vaccine candidate that may prevent HIV infection by stimulating an immune response against sugars that form a protective shield around the virus.
- An obstacle to creating an effective HIV vaccine is the difficulty of getting the immune system to generate antibodies against the sugar shield of multiple HIV strains. A sugar shield covers the gp120 envelope, bolstering HIV’s defenses. Researchers have tried to create an HIV vaccine targeting gp120.
- Vikram, the first of a series of seven Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs), was recently launched.
- It was built by Larsen and Toubro (L&T).
- The ship will have Integral Twin Engine Helicopter which will enhance its operational, surveillance, search and rescue capabilities.
- ‘Vikram’ is likely to be inducted into the Indian Coast Guard in April 2018.
What are OPVs?
- OPVs are long-range surface ships capable of coastal and offshore patrolling, policing maritime zones, control & surveillance, anti-smuggling & anti-piracy operations with limited wartime roles.
150th Birth Anniversary Celebrations of Sister Nivedita
The 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Sister Nivedita, organised by the Ramakrishna Mission was held in New Delhi.
About Sister Nivedita:
- Sister or Bhagini Nivedita was a renowned disciple of Swami Vivekananda, who sacrificed her life for women education, India’s freedom and Indian culture and tradition.
- She was a social worker, teacher and author.
- She played a pivotal role during the plague epidemic in Calcutta.
- She is known for her unwavering support for Indian scientist, Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose and his work. She helped him in carrying on his work and provided the necessary financial aide.