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Current Affairs Analysis

23rd February 2017 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Trappist-1; Arun 3 hydropower project; Scheme for “Development of Solar Parks and Ultra Mega Solar Power Projects”; National Institute of Biologicals; Homoeopathy; SIPRI; Air Services Agreement; Trade Facilitation Agreement; SKYREV360; 1st Gramin Khel Mahotsav; etc.
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
February 23, 2017

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Health Ministry undertakes largest ever drug survey in the world for determining the quality of drugs
  • World Integrated Medicine Forum on Regulation of Homeopathic Medicine

Economy

  • Cabinet approves doubling of solar power capacity to 40000 MW

Bilateral & International Relations

  • WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement comes into effect
  • Cabinet approves the investment proposal for generation component of Arun-3 Hydro Electric Project
  • Union Cabinet approves agreement between India and Poland for cooperation in agriculture
  • Cabinet approves signing of Air Services Agreement between India and Greece

Defence & Security Issues

  • India is world’s largest arms importer: SIPRI

Science & Technology

  • NASA Finds 7 Earth-Like Habitable Planets

Key Facts for Prelims

  • SKYREV360
  • 1st Gramin Khel Mahotsav

 

Polity & Governance

Health Ministry undertakes largest ever drug survey in the world for determining the quality of drugs

The National Institute of Biologicals (NIB) has submitted its survey report to the Government.

  • This is the largest ever scientifically designed and professionally executed drug survey undertaken in the world for determining the quality of drugs.

Key facts:

  • The statistical design of the Drug Survey included as many as 224 Drug molecules belonging to 15 different therapeutic categories of the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) 2011.
  • As part of this survey, 47,954 drug samples relating to 23 dosage forms were drawn from 654 districts of 36 States and Union Territories from the supply chains including retail outlets, Government sources and from eight airports and sea ports.
  • All the samples were subjected to test / analysis as per pharmacopoeial requirements in the Central and State Drug Testing Laboratories that have been accredited by NABL.
  • Overall, out of the 47,012 samples tested, 13 samples were found to be Spurious and 1,850 samples were found to be ‘Not of Standard Quality’ (NSQ). As such, the percentage of NSQ Drugs in India has been found to be 3.16% and that of Spurious drugs 0.0245%.

Background:

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India had entrusted the work relating to carrying out a Survey of the extent of Problems of ‘Spurious and Not of Standard Quality Drugs’ to the NIB.

About NIB:

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National Institute of Biologicals is an autonomous Institution under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MOHFW)-Government of India.

  • It is a premier Scientific Organization and a Centre of Excellence to ensure quality of biologicals and vaccines in the country.
  • The institute responsibly assures and reviews the quality of number of Biological products available through domestic manufacturers or imports.
  • The operations are carried out in the state of the art Facility of the Institute and in close coordination with Government of India regulatory authorities as Office of Drug Controller of India, Indian Pharmacopeia’s Commission.
  • With this overall objective and to strengthen the regulations of biologicals in India, NIB, which is supported by the authorities constituted of Governing body and General body of the Institute plays a vital role.
[Ref: PIB]

 

World Integrated Medicine Forum on Regulation of Homeopathic Medicine

The World Integrated Medicine Forum on Regulation of Homeopathic Medicinal Products: National and Global strategies is being held in New Delhi.

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  • The event is organised by Ministry of AYUSH and Central Council for Research in Homeopathy (CCRH) and supported by Pharmacopoeia Commission for Indian Medicine & Homoeopathy (PCIMH) & Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO).

Key facts:

  • This is the first-of-its-kind forum considering the increased perception of the international world towards India as a key player in the progress of the homoeopathy drug industry.
  • Drug lawmakers, regulators, manufacturers and pharmacopeial experts from various regulatory authorities, eminent scientific organisations and pharmaceutical industries from 25 countries, are participating in the two days forum.
  • Major points of discussion will include current regulatory status in different countries; practices and possible trade opportunities in key countries worldwide; possible solutions to regulatory challenges; building knowledge and network to deal more efficiently with challenges at national and global level and a strategic perspective on the possibilities.

MoU between HPCUS and CCRH:

  • One of the highlights of the forum will be exchange of Memorandum of Understanding among Homoeopathic Pharmacopoeia Convention of the United States (HPCUS) and Indian bodies – Pharmacopoeia Commission for Indian Medicine & Homoeopathy (PCIM&H) and Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy (CCRH) on cooperation in the field of Homoeopathic Medicine.

About Homoeopathy:

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  • Homoeopathy is one of the most followed medical systems in India and its strength lies in the fact that its medicines are gentle, safe as well as cost-effective.
  • In the era of growing adverse drug reactions and auto-immune and lifestyle-related illnesses, Homeopathy has a crucial role to play in the well-being of mankind.
  • The use of homoeopathy is steadily growing in India and as per an analysis by Ministry of AYUSH, this sector exhibited an annual growth rate of 26.3% in the past year, the highest among the other AYUSH modalities.

Regulation of homeopathic medicines in India:

  • In India, homoeopathic medicines are regulated by Drugs & Cosmetics Act & Rules.
  • All pharmaceutical industries are legally bound to comply with these rules, which, in turn, assures safety and quality of homoeopathic medicines.
  • Further, these industries adhere to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) that further assure accredited production, packaging and distribution. In that sense, India has a relatively well-established regulatory framework for Homoeopathy.
  • However, the implementation of these Acts and Rules are sometimes challenging at the end of the pharmaceutical industries, and despite their best efforts to comply, some practical challenges remain that come in their way.

Global regulation of homeopathic medicines:

  • On the other hand, the international scenario of regulations of homoeopathic medicinal products is also varied and in many countries, the regulatory provisions are either non-existent or minimalist, thereby advocating reforms in policies for wider accessibility of quality homoeopathic products.
[Ref: PIB]

 

Economy

Cabinet approves doubling of solar power capacity to 40000 MW

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved the enhancement of capacity from 20,000 MW to 40,000 MW of the Scheme for Development of Solar Parks and Ultra Mega Solar Power Projects.

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  • The capacity of the solar park scheme was enhanced after considering the demand for additional solar parks from the States.

Implications of the move:

  • The enhanced capacity will ensure setting up of at least 50 solar parks each with a capacity of 500 MW and above in various parts of the country.

Key Facts:

  • All the States/UTs are eligible for benefits under the scheme.
  • Under this scheme, smaller parks will also be considered in Himalayan and other hilly States where contiguous land may be difficult to acquire in view of the difficult terrain.
  • The Solar Parks and Ultra Mega Solar Power Projects will be set up by 2019-20 with Union Government’s financial support of 8100 crore rupees.
  • These plants after becoming operational will generate total 64 billion units of clean electricity per year. It will lead to abatement of around 55 million tonnes of CO2 per year over its life cycle.
  • It will also contribute to long term energy security of the country and promote ecologically sustainable growth by reduction in carbon emissions and carbon footprint.
  • It will also generate large direct and indirect employment opportunities in solar and allied industries like heavy industrial equipment, glass, metals etc.
  • The solar parks will also provide productive use of abundant uncultivable lands which in turn facilitate development of the surrounding areas.
  • Under the scheme, solar parks will be developed in collaboration with States/UTs. The States/UTs are required to select the Solar Power Park Developer (SPPD) for developing and maintaining the solar parks.
  • Solar Energy Corporation India (SECI) will administer the scheme under the direction of Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE).
  • SECI will release the approved grant.

About Solar Energy Corporation India (SECI):

  • Solar Energy Corporation India (SECI) is a not-for-profit company established in 2011 under Section-25 of the Companies Act 1956.
  • It is a facilitation and implementation institution dedicated to Solar Energy sector under the aegis of Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.

About the scheme:

The scheme for “Development of Solar Parks and Ultra Mega Solar Power Projects” has been rolled out by Ministry of New & Renewable Energy in 2014.

  • The Scheme has been conceived on the lines of the “Charanka Solar Park” in Gujarat which is a first-of-its-kind large scale Solar Park in India with contiguous developed land and transmission connectivity.
  • The scheme aims to provide a huge impetus to solar energy generation by acting as a flagship demonstration facility to encourage project developers and investors, prompting additional projects of similar nature, triggering economies of scale for cost-reductions, technical improvements and achieving large scale reductions in GHG emissions.
  • This scheme envisages supporting the States in setting up solar parks at various locations in the country with a view to create required infrastructure for setting up of Solar Power Projects.
  • The solar parks will provide suitable developed land with all clearances, transmission system, water access, road connectivity, communication network, etc.
  • This scheme will facilitate and speed up installation of grid connected solar power projects for electricity generation on a large scale.
  • Under this scheme, it is proposed to set up at least 25 Solar Parks and Ultra Mega Solar Power Projects targeting over 20,000 MW of solar power installed capacity within a span of 5 years starting from 2014-15.

 [Ref: The Hindu]

 

Bilateral & International Relations

WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement comes into effect

The Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in Goods of World Trade Organisation (WTO) came into effect with its ratification by two-thirds members of WTO including India.

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About Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA):

  • The TFA in Goods is the WTO’s first-ever multilateral accord that aims to streamline, simplify, standardise and ease customs procedures and norms for the cross-border movement of goods.
  • The TFA in Goods was adopted by the WTO Members in 2014.
  • It was outcome of WTO’s 9th Bali (Indonesia) ministerial package of 2013.

ias-topper-trade-facilitation-agreement

Provisions under TFA:

The agreement includes provisions for:

  • Lowering import tariffs and agricultural subsidies: It will make it easier for developing countries to trade with the developed world in global markets.
  • Abolish hard import quotas: Developed countries would abolish hard import quotas on agricultural products from the developing world and instead would only be allowed to charge tariffs on amount of agricultural imports exceeding specific limits.
  • Reduction in red tape at international borders: It aims to reduce red-tapism to facilitate trade by reforming customs bureaucracies and formalities.

Significance of the TFA in goods:

  • The implementation of the TFA in Goods has the potential to create US 1 trillion dollars’ worth of global economic activity and trade which may add 21 million new jobs and lower the cost of doing international trade by 10 to 15 per cent.
  • TFA will help India’s ongoing reforms to bring in simplification and enhanced transparency in cross border trade in goods.
  • It will further help India to boost economic growth by reducing trade costs and supporting its integration into the global economy.
[Ref: Times of India]

 

Cabinet approves the investment proposal for generation component of Arun-3 Hydro Electric Project

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved investment for the generation component of 900-MW Arun 3 hydropower project for an estimated Rs. 5723.72 crore ($854.4 million).

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  • The project is located on Arun River in Sankhuwasabha district of eastern Nepal.
  • It is expected to be completed within five years from the date of financial closure, which is planned for September 2017.

About Arun 3 hydropower project:

  • The project is based on Run-of-River scheme that envisages about 70 metre high concrete gravity dam and 74 Km Head Race Tunnel (HRT).
  • It also has underground Power House containing four generating units of 225 MW each on Left Bank.
  • Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN) Limited had bagged the project through International Competitive Bidding.
  • It had signed MoU with Nepal Government for the project in March 2008.
  • The execution of the project will be on Build Own Operate and Transfer (BOOT) basis for a period of 30 years including five years of construction period.
  • The Project Development Agreement (PDA) was signed in November 2014, which provides 21.9% free power to Nepal for the entire concession period of 25 years.
  • The surplus power from the project will be exported to India from Dhalkebar in Nepal to Muzaffarpur in Bihar.
  • It will strengthen power availability in India and also economic linkages with Nepal.
[Ref: PIB]

 

Union Cabinet approves agreement between India and Poland for cooperation in agriculture

The Union Cabinet has given its approval for signing of an Agreement between India and Poland on cooperation in the field of agriculture and allied sectors.

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Key Facts:

  • The agreement covers various activities in the field of agriculture and allied sector including exchange of information on the current situation in agriculture.
  • It also includes exchange of information on the phytosanitary conditions of crops, threats posed by harmful organisms and animal infectious diseases.
  • It also covers participation in fairs, exhibitions, seminars and conferences related to agriculture and agri-food processing.
  • It also includes undertaking and developing joint economic initiatives including the support or agrifood trade between the states of the Contracting Parties.
  • The Agreement provides for constitution of a Joint Working Group (JWG) comprising of representatives of both countries.
  • The JWG will prepare plans of cooperation and also provide solutions to the problems arising during the implementation of the Agreement.
[Ref: Indian Express]

 

Cabinet approves signing of Air Services Agreement between India and Greece

Union Cabinet has approved the signing of Air Services Agreement (ASA) between India and Greece.

ias-toppers-air-services-agreement-between-india-and-greece

  • The agreement is as per latest International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) template keeping in view the latest developments in civil aviation sector and with an objective to improve the air connectivity between the two countries.

Significance:

  • The Agreement has the potential to spur greater trade, investment, tourism and cultural exchange between the two countries bringing it in tune with the developments in the civil aviation sector.
  • It will provide enabling environment for enhanced and seamless connectivity while providing commercial opportunities to the carriers of both the sides ensuring greater safety and security.

The essential features of the ASA are as follows:

  • Both countries shall be entitled to designate one or more airline.
  • The designated airlines of either country shall have the right to establish offices in the territory of the other country for the promotion end sale of air services.
  • The designated airlines of the two countries shall have fair and equal opportunity to operate the agreed services on specified routes.
  • The designated Airline of each party can enter into cooperative marketing arrangements with the designated carriers of same party, other party and third country,
  • As per the Route Schedule, Indian carriers can operate to Athens, HerakIion, Thessaloniki and any 3 points to be specified later in Greece from points in India.
  • Whereas the carriers from Greece can establish direct operation to 6 metros viz. New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Chennai.

Background:

  • At present, there is no ASA between India and Greece.
  • The delegations of two sides met in New Delhi on 6-7th September, 2016 and finalized the text of ASA.
[Ref: PIB]

 

Defence & Security Issues

India is world’s largest arms importer: SIPRI

As per latest report of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India was the world’s largest importer of major arms in the last five years and its overseas procurement was far greater than that of China and Pakistan.

ias-toppers-sipri-arms

Highlights of the report:

As per the report:

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  • India accounted for 13 per cent of the total global arms import between 2012-16 which is highest among all the countries.
  • India increased its arms imports by 43 per cent between 2007-11 and 2012-16 and in the last four years its global procurement was far greater than those of its regional rivals China and Pakistan.
  • China was increasingly able to substitute arms imports with indigenous products, India remained dependent on weapons technology from Russia, the US, Europe, Israel and South Korea.
  • In the last five years, trade of major weapons has increased to its highest volume since the Cold War, triggered mainly by sudden spurt in demand from Middle East and Asia.
  • Saudi Arabia was the second largest arms importer in 2012-16, with an increase of 212 per cent compared with 2007-11. Arms imports by Qatar went up by 245 per cent.

ias-toppers-sipri-arms1

  • Russia accounted for a 23 per cent share of global exports in the period 2012-16 and 70 per cent of its arms exports went to India, Vietnam, China and Algeria.
  • The US was the top arms exporter in 2012-16 with a one- third share of global arms exports and its supplies rose by 21 per cent compared with 2007-11. Almost half of its arms exports went to the Middle East, said the report.
  • China’s share of global arms exports rose from 3.8 to 6.2 per cent between 2007-11 and 2012-16.
  • Top-tier supplier are France and Germany which accounted for 6 per cent and 5.6 per cent respectively.

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[Ref: Indian Express]

 

Science & Technology

NASA Finds 7 Earth-Like Habitable Planets

Astronomers from NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) for the first time have discovered seven new Earth-sized exoplanets that may be able to sustain life.

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  • The planets were detected using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and several ground-based observatories including Trappist robotic telescope at La Silla, Chile.

Key Facts:

  • These exoplanets are orbiting dwarf star named Trappist-1, which at 39 light years away. They could have some liquid water and maybe supporting life.

trappist-1

  • Of the seven planets, three are classified as TRAPPIST-1 e, f and g. These three planets orbit in the habitable (so-called Goldilocks zone) where temperatures are suited to surface oceans of liquid water.
  • The star Trappist-1 is at least 500 million years old and has a temperature of 2550K. It is marginally larger than Jupiter and shines with a feeble light about 2,000 times fainter than Earth’s sun.
  • The 6 inner planets lie in a temperate zone where surface temperatures range from zero to 100C. Their masses range from around 0.4 to 1.4 times the mass of the Earth. They are so close to each other that their gravitational fields interact with each other.
  • However, their atmospheres need more study before determining whether they could support some type of life.

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[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Key Facts for Prelims

SKYREV360

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  • State-run Airports Authority of India, a miniratna PSU, in association with international air transport association (IATA) has unveiled a comprehensive e-billing solution—SKYREV360 to help air navigation service provider (ANSP) and airport operators.
  • The system would help the users to avoid revenue leakages, reduce redundancies, disputes, easy integration and also help in curtailing the debt collection period to the minimum.
  • The system is compatible to any of the radar systems in the world and can be hosted on cloud servers too.

 

1st Gramin Khel Mahotsav

iastoppers-vijay-goel

  • The first Gramin Khel Mahotsav will be held from 25th to 31st March 2017 in New Delhi.
  • The games will be held in five sports disciplines Athletics, Kabaddi, Kho-Kho, Volley Ball and Wrestling.
  • This festival will help participation of rural youth in large numbers in popular sports and encourage them to achieve excellence and adopt healthy life style.
  • These games are intended to act as a catalyst to promote sports in rural areas across the country and will be replicated in other states and union territories as well.

 

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