Current Affairs Analysis

18th March 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Permanent commission for women in Navy; Short Service commission for women in Navy; Navy to get 4 more P-8I aircrafts; Research and Development Centres for Ayurveda and Siddha; Central Council for Research in Siddha; Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences; Siddha system of medicine; Rashtriya Kishore Swasthya Karyakram; Starch-based material to stop rapid blood loss; Nourishment increases beachfront area in Vizag; Beach nourishment;CENTRIXS; Four foundational agreements of US; Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020; Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020; Directorate General of Civil Aviation; Diagnostic test for COVID-19; Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test; Reverse Transcription; Danube Oder Elbe Canal; Medical Device Parks; Pharmaceutical industry; Tax information exchange agreements with Brunei; Fisheries Sector
By IASToppers
March 18, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Permanent commission for women in Navy

Government Schemes & Policies

  • Rashtriya Kishore Swasthya Karyakram
  • Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020
  • Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020

Issues related to Health & Education

  • Research and Development Centres for Ayurveda and Siddha
  • Diagnostic test for COVID-19

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Nourishment increases beachfront area in Vizag
  • Danube Oder Elbe Canal

Defence & Security Issues

  • Navy to get 4 more P-8I aircrafts

Science & Technology

  • Starch-based material to stop rapid blood loss

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Medical Device Parks
  • Pharmaceutical industry
  • Tax information exchange agreements with Brunei
  • Fisheries Sector

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Polity & Governance

Permanent commission for women in Navy

The Supreme Court recently upheld the right of serving Short Service Commission (SSC) women officers of the Navy to be granted permanent commission (PC) on a par with their male counterparts.

SC Ruling:

  • The Bench of Justices opined that the excuses like motherhood and physiological limitations belong to a stereotypical mindset and needed to be changed.
  • The battle for gender equality is about confronting the battles of the mind.

Policy letter:

  • The judgment was based on a case filed by 17 women SSC officers who were denied PC and discharged despite completing 14 years of service as SSC officers.
  • They had challenged a February 26, 2008 policy letter of the government granting PCs to SSC officers in all the three branches of the Armed Forces.
  • The court quashed the stipulation in the policy letter of September 26, 2008, making permanent commission for women prospective and restricting its application to specified cadres/branches of the Navy.
  • It directed that SSC women officers found suitable for the grant of PC shall be entitled to all consequential benefits, including arrears of pay, promotions and retirement benefits as and when due.
  • SSC women officers who were denied consideration for the grant of PCs on the ground that they were inducted prior to the issuance of the September 26, 2008 letter and who are not presently in service shall be deemed, as a one-time measure, to have completed substantive pensionable service.

Short Service Commission in Navy:

  • Short Service Commissioned officers are recruited for 10 years.
  • The term can be extended to 14 years.
  • The male officers in the Short Service Commission have the option of taking up permanent commission, while women officers were not extended the benefit until now.

Permanent Commission:

  • Permanent Commission means that the officer has the option of serving the nation until his/ her retirement.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Government Schemes & Policies

Rashtriya Kishore Swasthya Karyakram

Promoting health and prevention of disease and risk factors is an important aspect of the Rashtriya Kishore Swasthya Karyakram under the National Health Mission.

Awareness Drive:

  • Various platforms being used to promote health and well-being of adolescents through Social and Behaviour Change Communication are as follows:
    • Quarterly Adolescent Health Day
    • Peer Educator Programme in the community and schools
  • Besides this, Health promotion messages are also propagated through mass media and mid- media in the form of TV and radio spots, posters, leaflets and other interpersonal communication material.
  • Social Media platforms are used for creating awareness on various schemes of the Ministry including those for the adolescents.
  • Out of a total sanctioned strength of 2040 Adolescent Health Counsellors, there are 1671 Adolescent Health Counsellors in place across the country.

Initiatives:

  • Public health being a State subject, all the administrative and personnel matters, including the recruitment of counsellors in public health facilities lie with the respective State Governments.
  • The shortage of health human resource in public health facilities varies from State to State depending upon their policies and context.
  • However, under National Health Mission (NHM), financial and technical supports are provided to the State/UTs to strengthen their healthcare systems including support for recruitment of health human resource based on the requirements posed by them in their Programme Implementation Plans (PIPs) within their overall resource envelope.

Components:

Rashtriya Kishore Swasthya Karyakram has the following components:

  • The Adolescent Friendly Health Clinics are established across various levels of public health institutions in all the States.
  • Weekly Iron Folic Acid Supplementation (WIFS) Programme is being implemented for school going adolescent boys and girls and out of school adolescent girls across the country.
  • The Peer Educator Programme is being implemented in select 200 districts, based on Composite Health Index and identified as High Priority Districts (HPDs).
  • Under the Menstrual Hygiene Scheme, funds are provided to the States/UTs for procurement of sanitary napkins for Adolescent Girls (aged 10-19 years) as per proposals received from them in their Annual Programme Implementation Plans.
  • Rashtriya Kishore Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK) focuses on reaching out all adolescents include Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ).

Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020,

The Lok Sabha has passed a Bill to extend the upper limit for permitting abortions from 20 weeks to 24 under special circumstances.

The Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act 1971:

  • It is a law that legalized abortion in India up to 20 weeks of pregnancy, based on certain conditions and when provided by a registered medical practitioner at a registered medical facility.

Whose consent is required for termination of pregnancy?

  • As per the provisions of the MTP Act, only the consent of woman whose pregnancy is being terminated is required.
  • In case of below the age of 18 years, or a mentally ill woman, consent of guardian (MTP Act defines guardian as someone who has the care of the minor. This does not imply that only parent/s are required to consent) is required for termination.

Provision of Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Bill, 2020:

  • The draft Bill proposes requirement of opinion of one registered medical practitioner (RMP) for termination of pregnancy up to 20 weeks of gestation.
  • Similarly, it also provides for the requirement of opinion of two RMPs for termination of pregnancy of 20 to 24 weeks.
  • The Bill also seeks to increase the upper gestation limit from 20 to 24 weeks for survivors of rape, victims of incest and other vulnerable women. It will also include minor girls.
  • The Bill seeks to relax the contraceptive-failure condition for “any woman or her partner” from the present provision for “only married woman or her husband”, allowing them to medically terminate the pregnancy.

Significance of Bill:

  • The Bill will provide greater reproductive rights to women as abortion is considered an important aspect of the reproductive health of women.
  • Deaths and injuries from unsafe abortions are largely preventable provided services are performed legally by trained practitioners.
  • This will help in decreasing maternal morbidity and mortality and may also help in preventing wastage of resources invested in a pregnancy.

Special categories of Women:

  • The special categories of women include rape survivors, victims of incest, the differently abled and minors.
https://transformingindia.mygov.in/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/women-cab-eng.jpg
[Ref: The Hindu]

Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020

Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020 aimed to improve India’s aviation safety ratings and provide statutory status to regulatory institutions like the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) got approve from the Lok Sabha recently.

About the Bill:

  • The Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020 provides for statutory backing to the DGCA, Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) and the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB).
  • There was a need to provide statutory backing to regulatory bodies as they were set up under executive order.
  • The Bill also provides for keeping aircraft belonging to the country’s armed forces outside the purview of the Aircraft Act, 1934.
  • The Bill proposes to increase the fine for violations of rules from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 1 crore.
  • The Bill would bring regulation regarding air navigation services under its purview.

Need:

  • While the air fares are needed to remain affordable, it was also necessary that the airline business remains viable.
  • The civil aviation sector has been deregulated and the government does not set air fare.
  • The Airlines are losing considerable amount of money amid COVID-19 outbreak.

Directorate General of Civil Aviation:

  • The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is the regulatory body in the field of Civil Aviation, primarily dealing with safety issues.
  • It is responsible for regulation of air transport services to/from/within India and for enforcement of civil air regulations, air safety, and airworthiness standards.
  • The DGCA also co-ordinates all regulatory functions with the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
  • DGCA has been given statutory status under the Aircraft (Amendment) Bill, 2020.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Issues related to Health & Education

Research and Development Centres for Ayurveda and Siddha

Central Council for Research in Siddha:

  • The Central Council for Research in Siddha (CCRS) is an autonomous body registered under societies act in July 2010 under Dept. of AYUSH, presently Ministry of AYUSH), Government of India, New Delhi.
  • It is an apex body in India for initiating, undertaking, formulating, developing, coordinating and promoting research in Siddha on scientific lines.
  • In September 2010, the Central Council for Research in Siddha (CCRS) was formed by bifurcation of the erstwhile Central Council for Research in Ayurveda and Siddha (CCRAS).

Vision:

  • To endeavor for quality and global governance in the discipline of Siddha by broad research for assuring the safety and cost effective products to restrict /control / heal various disease conditions.

Mission:

  • For developing CCRS into a successful and model research organization to enterprise, coordinate, support and develop research in Siddha medicine.
  • For translating and propagating Siddha concepts and practices into updated versions for global reach for further advancements.
  • For attaining global leadership in research in Siddha treatment modalities to address the emerging non-communicable disorders and other health related issue.

Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences:

  • The Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (CCRAS) is an autonomous body of the Ministry of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy), Government of India.
  • It is an apex body in India for the formulation, coordination, development and promotion of research on scientific lines in Ayurveda and Sowa-Rigpa system of medicine.

Siddha system of medicine:

  • Siddha system of medicine is mainly practiced in the Southern part of India.
  • It is one of the earliest traditional medicine systems in the world which treats not only the body but also the mind and the soul.
  • The word Siddha has its origin in the Tamil word Siddhi which means “an object to be attained” or “perfection” or “heavenly bliss”.
  • Siddhargal or Siddhars mainly hailing from Tamil Nadu were the premier scholars of this system in ancient times.
  • Siddhars were spiritual masters who possessed the ashta (eight) siddhis or unique powers.
  • Agastyar or Agasthya, is believed to be the founding father of Siddha Medicine.
  • Eighteen Siddhars are considered to be pillars of Siddha Medicine.
  • Siddha medicine is claimed to revitalize and rejuvenate dysfunctional organs that cause the disease.
  • Kayakarpam, a special combination of medicine and life style, Varmam therapy, Vaasi (Pranayamam) and Muppu the universal Salt are the specialties of Siddha system of medicine.
  • Thus this system connects both spiritual and physical and treats the person as a whole i.e. it concentrates the physical, psychological, social and spiritual well-being of an individual.
[Ref: CCRAS, Sidha council]

Diagnostic test for COVID-19

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has said designated labs will use the conventional real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, which is conducted on swab collected from the back of the throat. Such tests are commonly used in Influenza A, Influenza B and H1N1 virus detection.

What is the PCR test?

  • It uses a technique that creates copies of a segment of DNA.
  • Polymerase refers to the enzymes that make the copies of DNA.
  • The ‘chain reaction’ is how the DNA fragments are copied, exponentially — one is copied into two, the two are copied into four, and so on.
  • Kary Mullis, the American biochemist who invented the PCR technique, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1993.

Reverse Transcription:

  • However, SARS-COV-2 is a virus made of RNA, which needs to be converted into DNA.
  • For this, the technique includes a process called reverse transcription.
  • A ‘reverse transcriptase’ enzyme converts the RNA into DNA.
  • Copies of the DNA are then made and amplified.
  • A fluorescent DNA binding dye called the “probe” shows the presence of the virus.
  • The test also distinguishes SARS-COV-2 from other viruses.

How is the test being done in India?

  • India currently conducts a two-stage real-time PCR to test for SARS-COV-2.
  • The first stage is designed to detect genetic elements common to human coronaviruses that may exist in the sample.
  • The second stage is designed to test for specific genes present only in the SARS-COV-2 virus.
  • India has the capacity to test 10,000 samples daily, and is currently testing around 600-700. By comparison.

Barriers to scale up testing:

  • Cost is the potential barrier.
  • The cost of a primary test for COVID-19 is Rs 1,500
  • If a second test is to be done to confirm the results of the first test, the total cost is around Rs 5,000.
  • Further, the probes used are imported from Germany, are a “limiting” factor.

 [Ref: Indian Express]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Nourishment increases beachfront area in Vizag

Due to the nourishment of eroded beaches undertaken by the Visakhapatnam Port Trust, the beachfront area has increased significantly.

Beach nourishment:

  • Beach nourishment is the supply of sand to the shore to increase the recreational value and/or to secure the beach against shore erosion by feeding sand on the beach.

Increased beachfront:

  • The phenomenon of increased beachfront is expected to last for some time.
  • The extended beachfront will continue till onset of southwest monsoon or occurrence of a system in the Bay of Bengal.
  • This is mainly because low tidal wave activity leading to less taking away of sand into the sea.

Nourishment project:

  • The VPT has engaged Dredging Corporation of India Ltd (DCIL) for the nourishment project after entering into an agreement with it last year for a three-year contract at a cost of ₹39.96 crore.
  • Beach nourishment is an annual project for the port.
  • It is undertaken in February-March when the climate is very conducive for nourishment.
  • Under the present project, two lakh cubic meters of sand will be extracted from the ‘Sand Trap’ between the Dolphin’s Nose and the South Breakwater.
  • Sand Trap extended over three to four km is created to stock sand for use whenever is required.
  • However, formation of frequent systems in the Bay have led to declining sand deposits and the total accumulation has come down from four lakhs cubic meters by half over last few years.

Factors responsible:

  • A combination of factors like low velocity in wind speed, reduced pace of winds and nourishment of severely eroded beaches near YMCA and Kali Temple have led to increase in beachfront area.
  • Slow wave action leading to receding of sand has led to creation of wide stretch beachfront in the coming months.
  • The proposal for installation of tube wells, underwater dykes and geosynthetic mesh was given up following the recommendation by an experts’ committee after severe beach erosion led to sea surge a few years ago.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Danube Oder Elbe Canal

Environmental organisations from across central and eastern Europe have criticized Danube Oder Elbe Canal project.

About the project:

  • The major project is intending to link three rivers and provide seamless navigation between three of Europe’s peripheral seas, according to a statement.
  • The Danube-Oder-Elbe Canal intends to connect the Danube, Oder and Elbe rivers and thus provide another navigable link from the Black Sea to the North and Baltic Seas.

Opposition:

  • The environmental organisations from Germany, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Austria, wrote a joint letter to the European Union’s Commissioners for Environment calling for the project to be halted.

Concerns:

  • They cited the project, if constructed, would destroy the region’s river landscapes, in violation of EU environmental laws.
  • The acceleration of flood waves resulting from the construction of numerous locks, and canalized and deepened riverbeds is expected to diminish flood protection and increase flood risks further.
  • The canal would also result in a great loss of biodiversity.
  • The areas where the canal is being built, offer a safe haven to Europe’s most valuable and threatened species and habitats, for birds as well as other animal and plant species.

 [Ref: Down to Earth]

Defence & Security Issues

Navy to get 4 more P-8I aircrafts

The Navy will start receiving four more P-8I long-range maritime reconnaissance Anti-Submarine Warfare aircraft from Boeing from May 2020 and the process will be completed by January 2022.

About the aircraft:

  • The Defence Acquisition Council, chaired by Defence Minister approved the procurement of six additional P-8I aircraft in November 2019.
  • The P-8I is a long range maritime surveillance aircraft based on Boeing 737 commercial airliner and India was its first international customer.
  • These aircraft would come fitted with the encrypted systems as and when they are delivered.
  • These aircraft will also be in the same configuration as the earlier eight aircraft.
  • Plans are on to install encrypted communication systems on the earlier ones.
  • These systems are available to India following the conclusion of the foundational agreement Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) with the US.

Aircraft deal:

  • In November 2019, The Navy had procured eight P-8Is in a $2.2 billion deal in 2009.
  • The aircraft are part of the 312A Naval Air Squadron based at Arakkonam in Tamil Nadu.
  • In 2016, the Navy exercised the optional clause for four more P-8Is in a deal worth over $1billion.

CENTRIXS:

  • In March 2019, the Indian and U.S. navies signed a loan agreement and installed two Pacific fleet provided CENTRIXS (Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System) kits at the Indian Navy headquarters and discussions are on for more systems to be installed in a variety of places.
  • These kits enable encrypted communications between the navies, enabling Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA), a key focus area between the two countries.

Four foundational agreements of US:

  • The four foundational defence agreements are used by the US to facilitate defence cooperation with foreign military partners:
  • General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA –signed in 2002, allows sharing of classified information from US Government)
  • Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA – signed in 2016, gives access, to both countries, to designated military facilities on either side for the purpose of refueling and replenishment.)
  • Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA – yet to be signed, facilitates exchange of geospatial information).
  • Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA)– signed in 2018 – allows India to procure specialised equipment for encrypted communications for US origin military platform)
[Ref: The Hindu]

Science & Technology

Starch-based material to stop rapid blood loss

Scientists from the Institute of Nano Science and Technology (INST), an autonomous institute under the Department of Science & Technology, have developed a starch-based ‘hemostat’ material that concentrates the natural clotting factors in blood by physically absorbing excess fluid.

About the product:

  • The biodegradable micro particles that combine to form a gel on a wound offer significant improvements over existing alternatives.
  • The product has increased absorption capacity, improved absorption, inexpensive, biocompatible as well as biodegradable. 

Significance:

  • It is a versatile, potentially life-saving, and inexpensive product that would be a more realistic solution for lower-income economies worldwide.
  • Hemostat materials absorb excel fluid by concentrating the natural clotting factors in the blood that are critical for stopping the blood flow; however, the bleeding can restart when non-biodegradable materials are removed.
  • By chemically modifying natural starch to form micro-particles, researchers have combined the advantages of biocompatibility and biodegradability with a five- to ten-fold increase in fluid absorption and much-improved adhesion.
[Ref: PIB]

Key Facts for Prelims

Medical Device Parks

  • Department of Pharmaceuticals has a sub-scheme named ‘Assistance to Medical Device Industry for Common Facility Center’ under the umbrella scheme for ‘Development of Pharmaceuticals Industry’.
  • Under this sub-scheme, financial assistance to the tune of Rs.25 Crore or 70% of the project cost, whichever is less is provided for creation of common facilities under any upcoming Medical Device Park promoted by State.
  • Four such park will be setup in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

Pharmaceutical industry

  • The Indian Pharmaceutical industry is the 3rd largest in the world in terms of volume and 14th largest in terms of value.
  • Department of Pharmaceuticals has constituted a Committee under the chairmanship of Dr. Eshwara Reddy to address the issue of drug security in the country in the context of novel coronavirus outbreak in China.

Tax information exchange agreements with Brunei

  • The Agreement between the Government of India and the Government of Brunei Darussalam for the exchange of information and assistance in collection with respect of taxes was signed.
  • The Tax information exchange agreements (TIEA) enables exchange of information, including banking and ownership information, between the two countries for tax purposes.
  • It enables sharing of information on request as well as automatic exchange of information. The Agreement also provides for representatives of one country to undertake tax examinations in the other country. Moreover, it provides for assistance in collection of tax claims.

Fisheries Sector

  • India stands 2nd in aquaculture production in the world.
  • The Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) on Blue Revolution: Integrated Development and Management of Fisheries with 3000 crores has been implemented since 2015-16 for development of fisheries in the country.
  • Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Fund (FIDF) has been implemented with a fund size of Rs. 7522 crores for providing access to concessional finance for development of fisheries infrastructure in the country.
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