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Current Affairs Analysis

31st May 2016 Current Affairs Analysis

'Kalpana Chawla Chair'; World Competitiveness Scoreboard; Opioid Drugs; Heliborne Transient Electromagnetic Technique; etc.
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
May 31, 2016

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Ministry asks NGT not to extend diesel vehicle ban to other cities
  • ‘Kalpana Chawla Chair’ on Geospatial Technology for Indian Railways
  • Bad blood: 2,234 get HIV after transfusion

Economy

  • India climbs to 41st slot on competitiveness ranking

Defence & Security Issues

  • Hacking scare leads to norms for smartphones

Science & Technology

  • New anaesthesia to cut painkiller use after surgery
  • Water sensing from the skies in pipeline
  • Fresh method developed to deal with jet lag
  • NASA probe beams best close-up images of Pluto

 

Polity & Governance

Ministry asks NGT not to extend diesel vehicle ban to other cities

The Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises moved the National Green Tribunal (NGT) pleading that the Supreme Court-mandated ban on registration of diesel vehicles beyond 2000 cc in Delhi-NCR be not extended to other cities.

  • It also urged the Tribunal to not in any manner restrict the sale or registration of new vehicles in any city, which are complying with the statutory emission norms irrespective of the fuel used.
  • The Department of Heavy Industry is of the view that the extension of the above ban imposed by the Supreme Court to 11 cities by the NGT would have adverse effect on the momentum of growth of auto industry.
  • The Ministry further said it has taken various measures to balance the requirements of protecting environment and carrying out sustained economic development, which is being guided through the ‘Make in India’ campaign.

Background:

  • The Supreme Court has passed an order on December 16, 2015, banning registration of SUVs and private cars of the capacity of 2000 cc and above using diesel as fuel in the NCR up to March 31, 2016.
  • Subsequently the Supreme Court extended the ban up to April 30, 2016 and on April 30, 2016 the apex court maintained the status quo till the matter is taken up by it post vacation.

India’s automobile industry:

  • The automobile industry is the largest constituent of the manufacturing sector in the country’s economy with over 47 per cent of the manufacturing GDP.
  • It is also the fifth largest sector receiving foreign direct investment (FDI) and the highest employment provider
[Ref: Hindu]

 

‘Kalpana Chawla Chair’ on Geospatial Technology for Indian Railways

For setting up of ‘Kalpana Chawla Chair’ on Geospatial Technology for Indian Railways at PEC University of Technology, Chandigarh, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is signed by Ministry of Railways and PEC University of Technology.

Details:

  • Indian Railways would provide a corpus of Rs 10 Crore to PEC University of Technology, Chandigarh towards setting up and to meet the running expenses of this chair.
  • The objective of this chair is to encourage research activities in Geo-Spatial Technology and to strengthen Indian Railways especially Railway projects where use of remote sensing data, global positioning system (GPS) and Geographical Information System (GIS) is predominant.
  • This will immensely help Indian Railways to develop in house solutions to the problems which are often outsourced to western countries.
  • This unique collaboration between the two organizations which will help in developing applications to remove day to day engineering and technological problems and geospatial solutions to Indian Railways.

Background:

  • The MoU was signed in the backdrop of Railway Minister’s Budget announcement.
  • This academic chair is being instituted in fond memory of Late Kalpana Chawla, an Indo – American Astronaut and Alumnus of PEC during the year 1978-82. She was incidentally the first woman of Indian origin in space.
  • To honour her contributions in Aerospace Engineering Indian Railways decided to institute the academic chair in the area of Geo-Spatial Technology in her alma mater.
[Ref: BS]

 

Bad blood: 2,234 get HIV after transfusion

In the last 17 months alone, 2,234 persons across India have been infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) while getting blood transfusions.

  • The data was revealed by National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) in response to a RTI query.

Key facts:

  • The maximum number of such cases — 361 — was reported from Uttar Pradesh due to unsafe blood transfusion practices in hospitals.
  • Uttar Pradesh is followed by the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Delhi in case of patients getting unsafe blood transfusions.

Who is responsible for provisions of safe blood?

  • In India, NACO has been primarily responsible for ensuring provision of safe blood. According to law, it is mandatory to screen donors/donated blood for transmissible infections of HIV, HBV and hepatitis C, malaria and syphilis.

Concerns:

  • According to the activist, cases like these keep happening over and over again and no action is taken against erring hospitals and blood banks. This is an extremely serious issue, and the government needs to address it urgently.
  • According to the latest annual report, till September 2014, NACO’s total blood collection was around 30 lakh units. Nearly 84 per cent of the donated blood units came from Voluntary Blood Donation, which seem to be the source of the problem.
  • The government has been slackening on raising AIDS awareness due to budget cuts.

NACO’s reply:

  • According to the NACO, these numbers must be looked in the context of the scale of our HIV programme. For example, 20 years ago, nearly 8-10 per cent of total HIV infections were coming to transfusions. Currently, that figure is below 1 per cent.
  • NACO added that it is now legally mandatory for every blood bank to screening the units before giving it to a patient.

Peoples affected with HIV/AIDS in India:

  • According to NACO’s 2015 annual report, the total number of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIVs) in India was estimated at around 20.9 lakh in 2011. Nearly 86 per cent of these patients are in the 15-49 age-group.
  • Children less than 15 years of age accounted for 7 per cent or 1.45 lakh of all infections in 2011 while 39 per cent (8.16 lakh) were among women.
[Ref: Hindu]

 

Economy

India climbs to 41st slot on competitiveness ranking

India has moved up three spots from last year to 41 on the IMD World Competitiveness Scoreboard, 2016.

  • The rankings are based on about 340 criteria grouped under four broad heads – economic performance, government efficiency, business efficiency and infrastructure.

Top 10:

  • Hong Kong replaced the US as the world’s most competitive economy.
  • Switzerland, Singapore, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway and Canada have got slots in the top 10.

IASToppers-31st May 2016

India’s performance:

Positive:

  • India’s improvement is in sharp contrast to the sagging fortunes of other Asian countries.
  • The increase in India’s ranking comes on the back of an improvement in business efficiency, in which India’s ranking improved from 33 to 31 over the past year.
  • The sub-indices show India has improved in its ranking on labour market, management practices, attitudes and values, international investment, and employment.
  • On economic performance, India ranks 16, well above many western European nations.
  • On government efficiency, which measures the extent to which government policies are conducive to competitiveness, India ranks 47. Within this segment, it has seen an improvement in public finance, institutional framework and business legislation.

Negative:

  • India’s ranking had fallen to 44 in 2015, from 35 in 2012. 
  • A part of these gains have been offset by a deterioration in finance and poor performance on prices.
  • It has seen its position slip on fiscal policy. The country has seen a steady decline in its score on infrastructure.

Asian countries on the scorecard:

  • According to the report, Asia’s competitiveness declined since last year’s ranking with Taiwan, Malaysia, Korea Republic, Indonesia and China falling from their 2015 positions.
  • The decline has been caused by a fall in commodity prices, a strong dollar and the deterioration of balance sheets in both the private and public sectors.
[Ref: BS]

 

Defence & Security Issues

Hacking scare leads to norms for smartphones

Amid attempts of hacking and data theft by Pakistan and China, the government has come up with a smartphone policy for officials dealing with sensitive information.

What kind of rules under the policy?

  • The government has put curbs on officials connecting their phones to office computers. They will not be allowed to even to charge the phone battery.
  • Further, every such device will have to be approved by seniors.
  • Use of personal devices must be authorised by competent authority with documented forms maintained to reflect approvals. This documentation should include information such as officer’s name, device approved and type of device.”
  • Under no circumstances these devices should be connected to any computer network or standalone systems in the establishment.”
  • Smart devices should not be allowed during sensitive meetings or briefings.
  • Taking of pictures and videos, which may compromise the security of BSF assets and posting them on social media was strictly prohibited.

To whom these rules would be applied?

  • The rules would apply to armed forces, intelligence officials and personnel of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF).

Need for this policy:

  • Every day, there are multiple attempts to hack government computers and smartphones can unknowingly aid the hacking through miscellaneous applications downloaded on the device.
  • Pakistan Intelligence Agencies were spying on Indian Security Forces by sending malwares in mobile apps such as Top Gun (Game App), mpjunkie (music App), vdjunky (video app), talking frog (entertainment App).
  • The Border Security Force jawans deployed along the Pakistan border are more susceptible to such hacking attempts.
[Ref: Hindu]

 

Science & Technology

New anaesthesia to cut painkiller use after surgery

Researchers have found a new anaesthesia that is free of opioid drugs.

Key facts:

  • Patients undergoing breast cancer surgery need less painkilling medication post-surgery if they have anaesthesia that is free of opioid drugs.
  • The results of the research show that patients in the non-opiate group require less painkillers, but receive adequate pain relief. such patients require less analgesics about 24 hours after a non-opiate anaesthesia than after an opiate anaesthesia.

Side effects of opioid drugs:

  • According to the researchers, while opioid drugs provide an excellent painkilling effect throughout operations, they also have side-effects.
  • Post-operative complications, such as respiratory depression, post-operative nausea and vomiting, itching and bowel obstruction are well-known examples of such side-effects.
[Ref: Hindu]

 

Water sensing from the skies in pipeline

The CSIR-National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI) is working on a plan to map India’s groundwater reserves by a helicopter-based electromagnetic survey.

Key facts:

  • The technique is called heliborne transient electromagnetic technique.
  • It involves sending electromagnetic pulses to the ground — in timed bursts — and analysing the unique pattern that these waves make as they bounce off the freshwater or saline water reserves.
  • The helicopter-based assessment was used for mineral exploration surveys and would require coordination with the Ministry of Water Resources.

Benefits:

  • The technique would allow mapping potential water reserves nationwide.
  • This approach would be less cumbersome than the manual methods now being used to map the groundwater.
  • In Rajasthan, there are excellent water reserves, and such an approach would help in estimating the exact spots.

India’s groundwater resource:

  • According to the estimates from India’s groundwater authority, groundwater irrigation has been expanding at a very rapid pace since 1970s and now accounts for over 60 per cent of the total area irrigated.
  • About 85 per cent of the rural drinking water supply is also met from groundwater sources.
  • The most significant change in the groundwater scenario is that the share of bore-well irrigation went up from 1 % during 1960-61 to 60 % during 2006-07, according to 2008 statistics.
  • The estimated number of wells and bore-wells is around 27 million, with bore-wells accounting for more than 50 per cent.
[Ref: Hindu]

 

Fresh method developed to deal with jet lag

Scientists have designed new molecules that can modify the sleep/wake cycle, paving the way for improved treatments for jet lag and sleep disorders.

  • Now, scientists have synthesised molecules that can shorten the circadian period. These molecules act directly on one of our “clock proteins”, called CRY.
  • According to the scientists, the negative impacts of jet lag and shift work could be significantly reduced if it were possible to reset our 24-hour natural circadian or sleep/wake cycle.

About Biological clock:

  • Most living organisms have a biological clock that resets every 24 hours, regulating functions such as sleep/wake cycles and metabolism. When this cycle is disrupted, like in jet lag, sleep disorders occur.
  • Long-term sleep loss may affect the cardiovascular, endocrine, immune and nervous systems with severe consequences including hypertension, obesity and mental health disorders, among others.
[Ref: Hindu]

 

NASA probe beams best close-up images of Pluto

NASA’s New Horizons space probe has beamed back to Earth the most stunning and close-up images of Pluto’s surface.

  • The mosaic- extending across the hemisphere that faced the New Horizons spacecraft as it flew past Pluto on July 14, last year – includes all of the highest-resolution images taken by the NASA probe.
  • The mosaic affords scientists and the public the best opportunity to examine the fine details of the various types of terrain on Pluto, and determine the processes that formed and shaped them.
[Ref: Hindu]

 

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