Polity & Governance
- Online search engines should check sex determination ads, says Supreme Court
- One-third of total maternal deaths in 2015 happened in India: Report
- Only one college gets an A++ in NAAC test
- India slips 10 notches in World Economic Freedom Index 2016
- HAL gets membership of APAQG with voting rights
Environment & Ecology
- Centre sends BS-V auto emission norms for a ‘six’
Science & Technology
- India successfully test fires long range surface-to-air missile
- HRD Ministry launched PARAM-ISHAN supercomputer at IIT, Guwahati
Key Facts for Prelims
- Australia returns stolen sculptures to India
- International Society for Blood Transfusion (ISBT)
Polity & Governance
Online search engines should check sex determination ads, says Supreme Court
Noting that online search engines Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are under an “obligation” to check pre-natal sex determination advertisements, the Supreme Court has directed them to develop in-house methods to prohibit such content.
Search engines are under obligation to see that the ‘doctrine of auto block’ is applied within a reasonable period of time. Also, it has to be an in-house procedure/method to be introduced by the companies.
- PCPNDT law prohibits pre-natal sex determination. The PCPNDT Act was brought in to stop female foeticide and arrest the declining sex ratio in India. Under this Act, gender selection is prohibited.
About PCPNDT Act, 1994:
Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994 is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to stop female foeticides and arrest the declining sex ratio in India. The act banned prenatal sex determination.
- The main purpose of enacting the act is to ban the use of sex selection techniques before or after conception and prevent the misuse of prenatal diagnostic technique for sex selective abortion.
- Offences under this act include conducting or helping in the conduct of prenatal diagnostic technique in the unregistered units, sex selection on a man or woman, conducting PND test for any purpose other than the one mentioned in the act, sale, distribution, supply, renting etc. of any ultra sound machine or any other equipment capable of detecting sex of the foetus.
Main provisions in the act are:
- The Act provides for the prohibition of sex selection, before or after conception.
- It regulates the use of pre-natal diagnostic techniques, like ultrasound and amniocentesis by allowing them their use only to detect:
- Genetic abnormalities
- Metabolic disorders
- Chromosomal abnormalities
- Certain congenital malformations
- Sex linked disorders.
- No laboratory or centre or clinic will conduct any test including ultrasonography for the purpose of determining the sex of the foetus.
- No person, including the one who is conducting the procedure as per the law, will communicate the sex of the foetus to the pregnant woman or her relatives by words, signs or any other method.
- Any person who puts an advertisement for pre-natal and pre-conception sex determination facilities in the form of a notice, circular, label, wrapper or any document, or advertises through interior or other media in electronic or print form or engages in any visible representation made by means of hoarding, wall painting, signal, light, sound, smoke or gas, can be imprisoned for up to three years and fined Rs. 10,000.
- The Act mandates compulsory registration of all diagnostic laboratories, all genetic counselling centres, genetic laboratories, genetic clinics and ultrasound clinics.
Act amended in 2003:
Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994 (PNDT), was amended in 2003 to The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition Of Sex Selection) Act (PCPNDT Act) to improve the regulation of the technology used in sex selection.
Implications of the amendment are
- Amendment of the act mainly covered bringing the technique of pre conception sex selection within the ambit of the act
- Bringing ultrasound within its ambit
- Empowering the central supervisory board, constitution of state level supervisory board
- Provision for more stringent punishments
- Empowering appropriate authorities with the power of civil court for search, seizure and sealing the machines and equipments of the violators
- Regulating the sale of the ultrasound machines only to registered bodies.
One-third of total maternal deaths in 2015 happened in India: Report
Ahead of the U.N. General Assembly, The Lancet has published a new series of papers on maternal health which reveal that while progress has been made in reducing maternal mortality globally, differences remain at international and national levels.
Global status on maternal health:
As per the report,
- Nearly 25 per cent of babies worldwide are delivered in the absence of a skilled birth attendant.
- Nigeria shared the maximum burden with about 58,000 maternal deaths.
- In sub-Saharan Africa, the risk for a woman dying during pregnancy or childbirth is 1 in 36 as compared with 1 in 4,900 in high-income countries.
- Although maternal mortality rates are decreasing in high-income countries, there is still wide variation at national and international level. For instance, the maternal mortality ratio in the US is 14 per 100,000 live births. In Sweden, the ratio is 4: 100,000.
- In 2015, 216 women died of maternal causes per 100,000 live births, which is a 44 per cent drop from 385 per 100 000 in 1990. However, the global target for 2030 is 70 per 100,000.
- Three-quarters of women now deliver with assistance from a skilled birth attendant and two-thirds receive at least four antenatal care visits.
- Nearly 53 million women, mostly belonging to the poorest countries, receive no skilled assistance at birth.
- While high-income countries have 51 high quality evidence-based guidelines available for maternity care services, low-income countries don’t have such guidelines.
- In the US, average cost for vaginal births was more than seven times higher than in Norway. For caesarean sections, average cost is more than four times higher.
India’s status on maternal health:
- One-third of the total maternal deaths in 2015 happened in India, where at least 45,000 mothers died during pregnancy or childbirth
Reasons for poor maternal health care:
According to the report, there are two broad scenarios that describe the landscape of poor maternal health care —
- The absence of timely access to quality care (defined as ‘too little, too late’) and
- The over-medicalisation of normal and postnatal care (defined as ‘too much, too soon’).
- The problem of over-medicalisation has historically been associated with high-income countries, but it is rapidly becoming more common in low and middle-income countries, increasing health costs and the risk of harm. For instance, 40.5% of all births are now by caesarean section in Latin America and the Caribbean.
- In all countries, the burden of maternal mortality falls disproportionately on the most vulnerable groups of women. This reality presents a challenge to the rapid catch-up required to achieve the underlying aim of the Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs] — to leave no one behind.
Only one college gets an A++ in NAAC test
Only one college among a total of 328 educational institutions in the country has bagged the prestigious A++ grade awarded by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) under the new grading pattern.
- Joseph’s College, Devagiri, Kozhikode in Kerala, has bagged a Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) of 3.76 to get an A++ grade in the third cycle.
- Seven educational institutes have got the A plus rating, while 81 have got A rating, 55 have got B++, 64 have got B +, 87 have got B and 33 have got the C grade.
About the new grading pattern:
- NAAC introduced the new grading pattern in July 2016, where it began grading institutions based on seven grades from the earlier four grades.
- This method was introduced to encourage healthy competition among institutions so that they would strive for excellence.
- The council uses seven criteria to assess institutes ranging from teaching-learning and evaluation, curricular aspects, research, consultancy and extension, infrastructure and learning resources.
India slips 10 notches in World Economic Freedom Index 2016
The Economic Freedom of the World: 2016 Annual Report has been released worldwide by the Centre for Civil Society, a public policy think tank, along with Canada’s Fraser Institute.
Highlights of the report:
- Hong Kong topped the index, followed by Singapore and New Zealand among 159 countries.
- The 10 lowest-ranked countries are Iran, Algeria, Chad, Guinea, Angola, Central African Republic, Argentina, Republic of Congo, Libya and lastly Venezuela.
- Other notable countries include the United States (16), Germany (30), Japan (40), France (57) and Russia (102).
- In the top quartile, the average income of the poorest 10% was $11,283, compared with $1,080 in the bottom quartile in 2014. Interestingly, the average income of the poorest 10% in the most economically free nations was twice the average per capita income in the least free nations.
- Life expectancy was 80.4 years in the top quartile compared with 64 years in the bottom quartile, while political and civil liberties were also considerably higher in economically free nations.
- India has been ranked 112th. India has slipped 10 positions and ranks behind Bhutan (78), Nepal (108) and Sri Lanka (111) but stood higher than China (113), Bangladesh (121) and Pakistan (133).
- As per the report, India has fared badly in all categories i.e. legal system and property rights (86), sound money (130), freedom to trade internationally (144) and regulation (132) except the size of the government (8).
About the report:
The report measures the degree of economic freedom in countries in five broad areas based on 2014 data –
- Size of government: expenditure, taxes and enterprises;
- Legal structure and security of property rights;
- Access to sound money;
- Freedom to trade internationally and
- Regulation of credit, labour, and business.
Significance of the index:
- The economic freedom index of a country is directly proportional to the freedom and opportunities available to its citizens. People living in countries with high levels of economic freedom enjoy greater prosperity, more political and civil liberties, and longer lives. On the contrary, countries at the lower levels of freedom index tend to suppress its citizens’ freedom and rights.
HAL gets membership of APAQG with voting rights
Government owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has granted prestigious membership of Asia-Pacific Aerospace Quality Group (APAQG) under category ‘Full Member with voting rights’.
- With this India becomes seventh nation to join the APAQG under the International Aerospace Quality Group (IAQG).
- Other nations of APAQG are South Korea, China, Indonesia, Singapore, Taiwan and Japan.
- With this HAL is now a part of Global Quality team dedicated to bring improvements in the Aerospace Quality.
- The membership allows HAL to participate in international forums and contribute to the development and revision of current and new quality Standards.
- It also enables HAL to have access to various Quality System Standards and other guidelines developed by IAQG.
- For becoming part of IAQG, HAL has to be a member of APAQG and then graduate to IAQG as a voting member by virtue of being an OEM in India.
- The International Aerospace Quality Group (IAQG) is an international non-profit cooperative global organisation that brings aviation, defence and space companies together to deliver more value at all levels of supply chain.
- It establishes and maintains Quality Management System standards (9100 series) and controls the certification system.
- The IAQG comprises Europe (EAQG), Americas (AAQG) and Asia-Pacific (APAQG) sectors.
Environment & Ecology
Centre sends BS-V auto emission norms for a ‘six’
The Centre has notified the Bharat Stage (BS)-VI emission standards for two-wheelers and four-wheelers from April 2020 across the country.
- With this, the government has decided to skip the BS-V emission standards and move directly to BS-VI from the BS-IV norms currently being followed in various cities.
- The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has given the Union Petroleum Ministry four years to make BS-VI fuels available to auto companies.
- Oil companies will be investing more than Rs. 60,000 crore towards BS-VI fuels. BS-VI is the Indian equivalent of the Euro-VI norms. At present, BS-IV norms are being followed in over 30 cities while the rest of the country follows-III norms.
- In a bid to curb vehicular pollution, the government, in January 2016 decided to implement stricter emission norms of Bharat Stage (BS) VI from April 1, 2020 by skipping BS-V altogether.
About Bharat norms:
Introduced in the year 2000, the Bharat norms are emission control standards put in place by the government to keep a check on air pollution.
- Based on the European regulations (Euro norms), these standards set specifications/limits for the release of air pollutants from equipment using internal combustion engines, including vehicles. Typically, the higher the stage, the more stringent the norms.
- The BS IV norms were introduced in 13 cities apart from the National Capital Region from April 2010.
- Currently, BS IV fuel is being made available across the country in stages, with the entire nation expected to be covered by April1 2017.
BS-V vis a vis BS-VI Norms:
- The particulate matter emission in BS-V and BS-VI is same for diesel cars though it is 80% less than BS IV.
- The nitrogen oxide (NOx) level is, however, 55% less in BS-VI over BS-V which in itself is 28% lower than BS IV.
- The sulphur content in fuel norms for diesel and petrol under both BS-V and -VI standards does not change at 10 ppm, though it is substantially less than 50 mandated for both the fuels under BS-IV.
Science & Technology
India successfully test fires long range surface-to-air missile
India and Israel jointly developed most advanced long range surface-to-air missile (LR-SAM) Barak-8 was successfully test fired off the Odisha coast.
About Barak-8 missile:
- Barak-8 (Lightning 8 in Hebrew) is long-range nuclear capable ballistic missile, developed jointly by Israel and India.
- It has been designed and developed by DRDO, Israel Aerospace Industries and Israel’s Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure.
- It is 4.5-meter long and weighs around 3 tonnes can carry a payload of 70 kilograms. It has a speed of Mach 2.
- It has the capacity to identify and neutralize various forms of aerial threats such as rockets, UAVs, planes, helicopters in a single flight.
- Barak-8 missile’s most technologically advanced aspect is its ability to intercept missiles aimed at sea-bound vessels.
- The LRSAM programme consists of Missiles, MFSTAR (Radar), Weapon Control System, Vertical Launcher unit and Two- way data link.
HRD Ministry launched PARAM-ISHAN supercomputer at IIT, Guwahati
The Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry has inaugurated the super computer PARAM ISHAN at IIT Guwahati campus.
- PARAM ISHAN is the fastest and most powerful computer in North East, Eastern and Southern region of India outside Bengaluru (Karnataka).
- PARAM ISHAN has been jointly developed by IIT Guwahati and C -DAC (Centre for Development of Advanced Computing).
- It has a peak computing power of 250 Teraflops and three hundred tera bites capacity.
Significance of PARAM ISHAN:
- It will help to augment the research initiatives and also in creating an ecosystem for attracting right talents to the field of research.
- It can be used research initiatives such as computational chemistry, computational electromagnetic, computational fluid dynamics, civil engineering structures, nana-block self-assemble, optimization etc.
- It can be also used for Weather, climate modeling and seismic data processing.
Key Facts for Prelims
Australia returns stolen sculptures to India
Australia’s prestigious art gallery has returned to India three sculptures.
The returned sculptures include – a 900-year-old stone statue of Goddess Pratyangira, a third century rock carving of worshippers of the Buddha and the sculpture of ‘Seated Buddha’.
International Society for Blood Transfusion (ISBT)
- An Indian-origin South African Ravi Reddy has been appointed as the Head of International Society for Blood Transfusion (ISBT).
- Reddy became the first person from the African continent and first person of Indian origin to head ISBT.
- ISBT is a global organisation of medicine professionals working for the safety of blood transfusion worldwide.
- It has now with 100 member countries.
- Its headquarters is in Amsterdam, Netherlands.