Polity & Governance
- New Chairman of National Commission for Safai Karamcharis
- National Health Policy 2017
- Ban lawmakers from practising other professions: plea in SC
- ‘India’s ranking in women’s political empowerment moderate’: Women in Politics Map 2017
- Start-up firms may soon find it easy to wind up
Bilateral & International Relations
- Gilgit-Baltistan to be declared a Province
Science & Technology
- First blood test for autism developed
- U.K. grants doctors first licence to create 3-parent babies
Key Facts for Prelims
- Indian origin student wins Junior Nobel
- India hosts world’s oldest algae fossil
- International Buddhist conference
Polity & Governance
New Chairman of National Commission for Safai Karamcharis
Former BJP legislator from Gujarat Manhar Valjibhai Zala has assumed charge as Chairperson of the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK).
- National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK) was established in 1994 to deal with the grievances of persons engaged in manual scavenging.
- It has a sanctioned strength of four members and a chairperson.
- It is statutory body established under National Commission for Safai Karamcharis Act, 1993.
- It aims to promote and safeguard the interests and rights of Safai Karamcharis.
- Its mandate is to study, evaluate and monitor the implementation of various schemes for Safai Karamcharis as an autonomous organisation.
National Health Policy 2017
The Union Union Cabinet approved the National Health Policy 2017. It will replace the previous policy which was framed 15 years ago in 2002.
- It aims at providing healthcare in an “assured manner” to all by addressing current and emerging challenges arising from the ever changing socio-economic, epidemiological and technological scenarios.
Highlights of National Health Policy, 2017:
- It aims to raise public healthcare expenditure to 2.5% of GDP from current 1.4%, with more than two-thirds of those resources going towards primary healthcare.
- It envisages providing a larger package of assured comprehensive primary healthcare through the ‘Health and Wellness Centers’.
- It is a comprehensive package that will include care for major non-communicable diseases (NCDs), geriatric healthcare, mental health, palliative care and rehabilitative care services.
- It proposes free diagnostics, free drugs and free emergency and essential healthcare services in all public hospitals in order to provide healthcare access and financial protection.
- It seeks to establish regular tracking of disability adjusted life years (DALY) Index as a measure of burden of disease and its major categories trends by 2022.
- It aims to improve and strengthen the regulatory environment by putting in place systems for setting standards and ensuring quality of healthcare.
- It also looks at reforms in the existing regulatory systems both for easing drugs and devices manufacturing to promote Make in India and also reforming medical education.
- It advocates development of mid-level service providers, public health cadre, nurse practitioners to improve availability of appropriate health human resource.
- It highlights AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy) as a tool for effective prevention and therapy that is safe and cost-effective. It proposes introducing Yoga in more schools and offices to promote good health.
- It aims to ensure availability of 2 beds per 1000 population to enable access within golden hour.
- It proposes to increase life expectancy from 67.5 to 70 years by 2025.
- It aims to reduce total fertility rate (TFR) to 2.1 at sub-national and national level by 2025.
- It also aims to reduce mortality rate (MR) of children under 5 years of age to 23 per 1000 by 2025 and maternal mortality rate (MMR) to 100 by 2020.
- It also aims to reduce infant mortality rate to 28 by 2019 and reduce neo-natal mortality to 16 and still birth rate to ‘single digit’ by 2025.
Ban lawmakers from practising other professions: plea in SC
A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking to ban legislators from practising other professions, including as advocates.
Why should it be banned?
As per the petition,
- Many legislators who double up as advocates are even retainers of big corporate bodies entities, thus giving rise to a situation of conflict of interest between their constitutional duties as a legislator and a lawyer meant to vouchsafe the private interests of their client.
- Currently, Public servants and members of the Judiciary are not permitted to practice other professions including to practice as an Advocate before the Court of Law but the People Representatives are allowed, which is against the spirit of Article 14 and 15 of the Constitution.
- A Legislator enjoys better salary, allowance and post-retirement benefits than the public servants and members of Judiciary. Legislators are expected to put service to public and their constituents ahead of their personal interests.
- Corruption cannot be curbed without having a uniform policy relating to conflict of interest and restricting legislators to practice other professions.
‘India’s ranking in women’s political empowerment moderate’: Women in Politics Map 2017
In recently released 2017 Women in Politics Map report, India was ranked low at 148th position in representation of women in executive government.
- The report was released by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and UN Women.
- It was launched on sidelines of 61st Commission on Status of Women, the largest inter-governmental forum on women’s rights and gender equality. For 2017, the theme is on women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work.
Highlights of the report:
- Top 10 countries with highest women in parliament include Rwanda, Bolivia, Cuba, Iceland, Nicaragua, Sweden, Senegal, Mexico, Finland and South Africa.
- The number of women in executive government and in the parliaments worldwide has stagnated, with only marginal improvements since 2015.
- In Europe, the total percentage stood at 22.5%. In Nordic countries the number of female ministers fell by more than six per cent to 43.5%.
- Women’s representation in the Americas made the most significant gains. Women’s participation in parliaments rose to 25% from 22.4% in 2015. But the region saw a drop in Heads of State.
- In Africa, female ministers saw a decline in numbers, after years of steady growth. About 19.7% of the region’s ministerial posts are held by women.
- In Asia, women hold 11% of ministerial posts. Indonesia tops in the region with 25.7% women representatives in the government.
- Among the Arab States, 9.7% of senior executive posts are held by women. Tunisia and United Arab Emirates top in region with 23.1% and 26.7%, respectively.
- The world ranking of the number of women parliamentarians placed India at number 148.
- As per the report, women made up 11.8% of the Lok Sabha where 64 were elected to the 542-member house and 11% of the Rajya Sabha with 27 of the 245 members.
- In terms of women ministers, India ranks 88 with only five ministers (18.5 per cent) in the cabinet.
Start-up firms may soon find it easy to wind up
To enable faster exit for start-ups and to bring the winding up process in line with global best practices, the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) has written to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) to notify start-ups as ‘Fast Track firms.’
How will it be possible?
- Fast Track firms will be start-ups with simple debt structures or those meeting certain criteria that will be specified.
- Once this is notified, start-ups shall be able to wind up their business within a period of 90 days from making an application for the same.
‘Bharat Navodaya: Start-Up India Reform Report’:
This reform was part of recommendations made by the ‘Bharat Navodaya: Start-Up India Reform Report’.
The Report was prepared by the Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy-chaired Alternative Investment Policy Advisory Committee (AIPAC) following a request from capital markets regulator SEBI.
- The DIPP is the nodal Central government body for the Start-up India initiative, while the MCA is the concerned authority for notifications on winding up of companies.
Winding up procedures: Global scenario:
- Winding up in the U.K. can be initiated by downloading a simple form and calling for a shareholders meeting.
- In Singapore, a simple online application is needed to be made by a director or Company Secretary following which, the process is quite straightforward.
- Most economic zones in UAE allow for winding down of the business in two to three days.
Winding up procedures in India:
- The procedure for winding is complex in India.
- Several parties including start-ups and venture capital investors have expressed concerns that the process of winding up a company is extremely long and cumbersome, adding to the risk of starting up and operating an enterprise as well as wastage of invaluable human capital.
- Also, the long process, paper work and costs involved in the closure are the main reasons why several companies remain dormant.
- In some instances, entrepreneurs may continue to run companies on paper, filing tax returns and preparing annual reports every year, even if it is no longer operational.
Bilateral & International Relations
Gilgit-Baltistan to be declared a Province
Pakistan is planning to declare the strategic Gilgit-Baltistan region as its fifth Province, a move that may raise concerns in India as it borders the disputed Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Why is India concerned?
The Gilgit-Baltistan area is Pakistan’s northernmost administrative territory that borders the disputed Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Gilgit-Baltistan is treated as a separate geographical entity by Pakistan. It has a regional assembly and an elected Chief Minister.
The move may raise concerns in India as the disputed region borders Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
The USD 46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passes through this region, and reports said Pakistan was mulling to elevate the constitutional status of the region in a bid to provide legal cover to the CPEC.
India considers it as part of the undivided Jammu and Kashmir, while Pakistan sees it as a separate from PoK.
Reports also said China’s concerns about the unsettled status of Gilgit-Baltistan prompted Pakistan to change its status.
Location of Gilgit-Baltistan:
- Gilgit-Baltistan is the northernmost administrative territory of Pakistan.
- It borders Azad Kashmir to the south, the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the west, the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan to the north, the Xinjiang region of China, to the east and northeast, and the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir to the southeast.
- Gilgit-Baltistan is home to five of the “eight-thousanders” and to more than fifty peaks above 7,000 metres (23,000 ft).
- The region is home to some of the world’s highest mountain ranges. The main ranges are the Karakoram and the western Himalayas.
- The Pamir Mountains are to the north, and the Hindu Kush lies to the west. Amongst the highest mountains are K2 (Mount Godwin-Austen) and Nanga Parbat, the latter being one of the most feared mountains in the world.
- Three of the world’s longest glaciers outside the polar regions are found in Gilgit-Baltistan: the Biafo Glacier, the Baltoro Glacier, and the Batura Glacier.
Science & Technology
First blood test for autism developed
Scientists from US have discovered a way to accurately predict whether a child has autism or not by just analysing his or her blood sample.
- The test is the first physiological test for autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
- The discovery opens the door to earlier diagnosis and potential future development of therapeutics.
How was this discovery made possible?
- To develop this test, scientists had investigated patterns of several metabolites and found significant differences between metabolites of children with ASD and those that are neurotypical.
- These differences allowed them to categorise whether an individual is on the autism spectrum.
- This algorithm by measuring 24 metabolites from a blood sample can tell whether or not an individual has Autism spectrum and even to some degree where on the spectrum they land.
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is characterised as a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain.
- Although ASD affects about 1.5 percent of all children, its exact cause remains unknown, but genetic and environmental factors are both believed to play a role.
- People with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people.
- Early intervention can improve development, but currently diagnosis depends on clinical observation of behaviour, that is considered as an obstacle to early diagnosis and treatment.
What is autism?
Autism is a neuro-developmental disorder spanning entire life.
- It impairs the ability to communicate and interact.
Effects of Autism:
- Autism spectrum disorder impacts the nervous system and affects the overall cognitive, emotional, social and physical health of the affected individual.
- The range and severity of symptoms can vary widely. Common symptoms include difficulty with communication, difficulty with social interactions, obsessive interests and repetitive behaviours.
- There is no definitive cure.
- However, early recognition, as well as behavioural, educational and family therapies may reduce symptoms and support development and learning.
Steps taken by Indian government:
- Though the Government had notified Autism as a disability in 2001, it had not been issuing certificates.
- The Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, under MSJE has notified guidelines in April 2016 to pave the way for constitution of boards and issuing of disability certificates for Autism.
U.K. grants doctors first licence to create 3-parent babies
Britain’s fertility regulator has granted doctors the first U.K. licence to create babies using a three-parent IVF technique designed to prevent inherited genetic diseases.
- The licence means the first child created in Britain using the mitochondrial pronuclear transfer technique could be born before the end of this year.
Britain’s Parliament voted last year to change the law to allow the treatments if and when they were ready for licensing.
But the regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), still had to approve each clinic and each patient on an individual basis before the treatment can be carried out.
The world’s first and so-far only known mitochondrial transfer baby was born in 2016 after U.S. doctors working at a clinic in Mexico helped a Jordanian couple conceive using the treatment.
About the 3-parent baby technique:
The treatment is known as “three-parent” IVF because the babies, born from genetically modified embryos, would have DNA from a mother, a father and from a woman donor.
- The 3-parent baby technique involves in vitro fertilization of both the mother’s egg and a donor’s egg with the father’s sperm.
- Before these two fertilised eggs begin dividing into an embryo, the unhealthy mother’s egg nucleus is replaced with the egg’s nucleus of a healthy donor.
- This gives the doctors with a fertilised egg with a healthy donor mitochondria and the mother’s DNA in the nucleus.
- This fertilised egg with the donor’s healthy mitochondria will be implanted in the mother’s uterus.
Significance of 3-parent technique:
- Mitochondria are structures in cells that generate vital energy and contain their own set of genes called mDNA.
- Mitochondrial diseases are passed through the mother to baby. These diseases cause symptoms ranging from poor vision to diabetes and muscle wasting.
- After years of research, the 3-parent baby technique proved to be the only viable option to treat patients with rare genetic mutations to have healthy babies.
Controversies over the 3-parent technique:
- The technique has attracted criticism due to the ethical dimensions involved in the process.
- The pro-life believers claim that the technique involves the destruction of life. They maintain that the technique is not foolproof as it is sure that majority of the fertilised eggs are unhealthy.
- Majority of the scientific community argue that the technique may open the doors for the creation of designer babies.
- A designer baby is a genetically engineered baby with specially selected traits such as gender, appearance, intelligence, etc.
- Though the designer baby technology is aimed at developing a healthy human being, it is vulnerable to misuse with far-reaching social, economic and political consequences.
Key Facts for Prelims
Indian origin student wins Junior Nobel
- Indrani Das, an Indian-American high school student, won the 2017 Regeneron Science Talent Search bagging the top award of USD 250000.
- Das won the prestigious high school science and mathematics competition for her new approach to neurological damage.
- Regeneron Science Talent Search competition is the oldest science competition in US for students.
- It is nicknamed as the “Junior Nobel Prize”. Twelve of the contest alumni have won Nobel Prizes.
- It is organised by the Society for Science and the Public in association with medical firm Regeneron.
India hosts world’s oldest algae fossil
- A group of scientists in India unearthed a pair of 1.6 billion-year-old fossils that appear to contain red algae. It is estimated that it may be the oldest plant-like life discovered on Earth.
- Until now, the oldest known red algae was 1.2 billion years old.
- The preserved fossils came from phosphorite deposits at Jankikund, Chitrakoot, Uttar Pradesh.
- The researchers looked inside the algae with the help of synchrotron-based X-ray tomographic microscopy.
International Buddhist conference
- Three day International Buddhist conference was held at Nava Nalanda Mahavihara, Rajgir in Nalanda district of Bihar.
- Over one thousand delegates from 35 countries including Sri Lanka, Nepal, Singapore and Indonesia participated in it.
- The main topic of the conference is Buddhism in the 21st century.
- The conference is an annual event. Last year, it was held in Kathmandu, Nepal.