Current Affairs Analysis

25th June 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Fishing Cats; Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954; Article 340; Co-operative banks under RBI; Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund; Annual TB Report 2020; Global Education Monitoring Report 2020; Credit Guarantee Scheme for Sub-Ordinate Debt; Kushinagar Airport; Coccolithophores; Pakistan remains on FATF greylist; National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre; Investment by OVL in Shwe oil & gas project; Innovative Student Projects Award 2020; SkillsBuild Reignite; Kala-azar; Gaia hypothesis; Rufinamide; Monon etc.
By IASToppers
June 26, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954
  • Extension of Commission constituted under Article 340
  • Co-operative banks to be brought under RBI supervision

Government Schemes & Policies

  • Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund

Issues related to Health & Education

  • Annual TB Report 2020
  • Global Education Monitoring Report 2020

Economy

  • Credit Guarantee Scheme for Sub-Ordinate Debt
  • Declaration of Kushinagar Airport as International Airport

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Coccolithophores
  • Project to conserve Bhitarkanika fishing cats

Bilateral & International Relations

  • Pakistan to remain on FATF greylist

Science & Technology

  • National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Investment by OVL in Shwe oil & gas project
  • Innovative Student Projects Award 2020
  • SkillsBuild Reignite
  • Kala-azar
  • Gaia hypothesis
  • Rufinamide
  • Monon

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Polity & Governance

Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954

Union Ayush Ministry will clear its stance on pharmaceutical giant Patanjali’s newly-launched ayurvedic drugs Coronil and Swasari for the novel coronavirus after reviewing the report sent by it.

  • Such advertisements of drugs including Ayurvedic medicines are regulated under Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954.

Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954:

  • It is an Act of the Parliament of India which controls advertising of drugs in India.
  • It prohibits advertisements of drugs and remedies that claim to have magical properties and makes doing so a cognizable offence.
  • The act defines magic remedy as any talisman, mantra, amulet or any other object which is claimed to have miraculous powers to cure, diagnose, prevent or mitigate disease in humans or animal.
  • It includes such devices that are claimed to have the power to influence the structure or function of an organ in humans or animals.
  • The penalty carries a maximum sentence of 6 months imprisonment with or without fine on the first conviction.
  • In case of any subsequent conviction, the term may be up to a year.
  • If the convicted party is a company, all members of the company will be deemed guilty.

Prohibited practices:

The law prohibits advertising of drugs and remedies for:

  • Inducing miscarriage or preventing conception in women.
  • Improving or maintaining the capacity for sexual pleasure.
  • Correction of menstrual disorders.
  • Curing, diagnosing or preventing any disease or condition mentioned in an included schedule.

Criticism and future amendments:

  • The law is rarely enforced and several such products are freely available to the public.
  • The law is considered severely outdated as many of the diseases in the list are now curable, and newer diseases like AIDS are not on the list.
  • Proposed amendments to this law have raised questions regarding the status of traditional medicine systems like Yoga and Ayurveda with respect to modern medicine.
  • It is not having kept pace with the Advertising Standards Council of India, listing dozens of misleading advertisements that violate the 1954 law.

Proposal to amend the law:

  • The Health Ministry in February 2020 has proposed to amend the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954 to incorporate greater penalties.
  • The draft of Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) (Amendment) Bill, 2020, added 24 new diseases and disorders to the schedule, which earlier had 54 diseases.
  • These include drugs or treatment for enhancing sexual performance, the fairness of skin, premature ageing, and improvement in height of kids and adults.
  • The proposed amendments also increased the penalty for the first conviction to 2 years and fine up to Rs 10 lakh.
  • A second conviction would lead to an imprisonment of up to 5 years and a fine up to Rs 50 lakh.

 [Ref: The Print]

Extension of the Commission constituted under Article 340

The Union Cabinet has approved the extension of the term of the Commission to examine the issue of Sub-categorization of Other Backward Classes, by 6 months i.e. up to 31.1.2021.

Background:

  • The Commission was constituted under article 340 of the Constitution with the approval of President on 2nd October 2017.
  • The Commission is headed by Justice (Retd.) Smt. G. Rohini has since interacted with all the States/UTs which have subcategorized OBCs, and the State Backward Classes Commissions.

Benefits:

  • It aims to benefit all persons belonging to the castes/communities which are included in the Central List of SEBCs but have not been able to get any major benefit of the existing scheme of reservation for OBCs in Central Government posts & for admission in Central Government Educational Institutions.
  • The Commission is likely to make recommendations for benefit of such marginalized communities in the Central List of OBCs.
  • The expenditure involved related to the establishment and administration costs of the Commission, will be borne by the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment.

Article 340:

  • The article 340 of the Indian Constitution lays down conditions for the appointment of a Commission to investigate the conditions of backward classes.
  • The President may by order appoint a Commission consisting of such persons as he thinks fit to investigate the conditions of socially and educationally backward classes within the territory of India.

To know more about Sub-categorization of Other Backward Classes (OBCs), refer IASToppers’ Mains Article: https://www.iastoppers.com/sub-categorization-backward-classes-obcs-mains-article/

[Ref: PIB]

Co-operative banks to be brought under RBI supervision

The Union Cabinet has approved an ordinance to bring cooperative banks under the Reserve Bank of India.

Major Highlights:

  • To ensure that depositors are protected, the Centre has decided to bring all urban and multi-State cooperative banks under the direct supervision of RBI.
  • Currently, these banks come under dual regulation of the RBI and the Registrar of Co-operative Societies.

Background:

  • After the Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative (PMC) Banks scam in 2019, the Union Cabinet in February 2020 amended the Banking Regulation Act to strengthen the cooperative banks in the country.
  • In September 2019, the RBI was forced to supersede the PMC Bank’s board and impose strict restrictions.
[Ref: The Hindu]

To know more about these amendments, refer to IASToppers’ Video summary:https://www.iastoppers.com/rstv-the-big-picture-the-banking-regulation-amendment-bill-2020/

Government Schemes & Policies

Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund

The Union Cabinet chaired by PM Modi approved setting up of Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund recently.

Major Highlights:

  • The Cabinet has approved setting up of Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund (AHIDF) amounting to Rs. 15000 crores.
  • The government had earlier approved the Dairy Infrastructure Development Fund worth Rs. 10,000 crores for incentivizing investment by the cooperative sector for the development of dairy infrastructure.
  • The AHIDF would incentive infrastructure investments in dairy, meat processing and animal feed plants.

Benefits:

  • The eligible beneficiaries under the Scheme would be Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs), MSMEs, Section 8 Companies, Private Companies and individual entrepreneur with only 10% margin money contribution by them.
  • The balance 90% would be the loan component to be made available to them by scheduled banks.
  • Government of India will provide 3% interest subvention to eligible beneficiaries.
  • There will be 2 years’ moratorium period for repayment of the loan with 6 years’ repayment period thereafter.
  • GoI would set up a Credit Guarantee Fund of Rs. 750 crores to be managed by NABARD which would provide credit guarantee to the projects which are covered under the MSME defined ceilings.
  • Guarantee Coverage would be up to 25% of the Credit facility of the borrower.

Significance:

  • There is huge potential waiting to be unlocked through private sector investment in the animal husbandry sector.
  • The AHIDF with the interest subvention scheme for private investors will ensure the availability of capital to meet upfront investment required for these projects and also help enhance overall returns/ payback for investors.
  • Such investments in processing and value addition infrastructure by eligible beneficiaries would also promote exports.
  • Since almost 50-60% of the final value of dairy output in India flows back to farmers, the growth in this sector can have a significant direct impact on farmer’s income.
[Ref: PIB]

Issues related to Health & Education

Annual TB Report 2020

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare released the Annual TB Report 2020 recently.

Key achievements:

  • Around 24.04 Lakh TB patients have been notified in 2019, which is a14% increase in TB notification as compared to 2018.
  • Achieving near-complete online notification of TB patients through the NIKSHAY system.
  • Reduction in the number of missing cases to 2.9 lakh cases as against more than 10 lakhs in 2017.
  • Due to easy availability of molecular diagnostics, the proportion of children diagnosed with TB increased to 8% in 2019 compared to 6% in 2018.
  • Provision of HIV testing for all notified TB patients increased from 67% in 2018 to 81% in 2019.
  • Expansion of treatment services has resulted in a 12% improvement in the treatment success rate of notified patients.
  • More than 4.5 lakh DOT Centers provide treatment covering almost every village across the country.

NIKSHAY:

  • NIKSHAY expanded the provision of four Direct Benefit Transfers schemes of the programme –
    • Nikshay Poshan Yojana (NPY) to TB patients
    • The incentive to Treatment Supporters
    • Incentive to Private Providers and
    • Transport incentive to TB patients in the notified tribal areas.
  • NIKSHAY is a web-enabled application, which facilitates monitoring of universal access to TB patients’ data, launched in June 2012.

National Tuberculosis Elimination Program:

  • National Tuberculosis Elimination Program (NTEP) is committed to achieving the SDG goal of eliminating TB in the country by 2025, five years ahead of the Global Target.
  • NTEP has expanded both the laboratory network as well as diagnostic facilities to cover the entire country.

Quarterly ranking on TB elimination:

  • For the first time, Central TB Division introduced a quarterly ranking on TB elimination efforts by all the states and UTs.
  • Larger states category (with more than 50 lakh population): Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh (best performing States).
  • Smaller states (less than 50 lakh population): Tripura and Nagaland.
  • Union Territory: Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and Daman & Diu.

Assessment criteria:

  • Treatment linkage of drug-resistant TB patients
  • HIV testing of TB patients
  • Nutritional assistance to TB patients in the form of NIKSHAY Poshan Yojana (DBT)
  • Universal Drug Susceptibility Testing coverage among notified TB patients
  • TB Preventive Therapy coverage and Financial expenditure.
[Ref: PIB]

Global Education Monitoring Report 2020

The Global Education Monitoring Report is an independent annual publication of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Major Highlights:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequalities in education systems across the world.
  • About 40% of low- and lower-middle-income countries have not supported learners at risk of exclusion during this crisis, such as the poor, linguistic minorities and learners with disabilities.
  • Education systems responded with distance learning solutions, which offered imperfect substitutes for classroom instruction.
  • The digital divide bares the limitations of this approach.
  • Not all students and teachers have access to an adequate internet connection, equipment, skills and working conditions to take advantage of available platforms.

Recommendations:

  • Widen the understanding of inclusive education to include all learners, regardless of identity, background or ability.
  • Target financing to those left behind.
  • Share expertise and resources whichis the only way to sustain a transition to inclusion.
  • Engage in meaningful consultation with communities and parents.
  • Ensure cooperation across government departments, sectors and tiers.
  • Make space for non-government actors to challenge and fill gaps.
  • Apply universal design: Ensure inclusive systems fulfil every learner’s potential.
  • Prepare, empower and motivate the education workforce.
[Ref: UNESCO; The Hindu]

Economy

Credit Guarantee Scheme for Sub-Ordinate Debt

The Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises has launched a funding scheme to help the distressed MSME sector.

Major Highlights:

  • This Scheme seeks to extend support to the promoters of the operational MSMEs which are stressed and have become NPA as on 30th April 2020.
  • A guarantee cover worth Rs. 20,000 crores will be provided to the promoters who can take debt from the banks to further invest in their stressed MSMEs as equity.
  • Promoters of the MSMEs will be given credit equal to 15% of their stake (equity plus debt) or Rs. 75 lakh whichever is lower.
  • Promoters, in turn, will infuse this amount in the MSME unit as equity and thereby enhance the liquidity and maintain the debt-equity ratio.
  • 90% guarantee coverage for this sub-debt will be given under the Scheme and 10% would come from the concerned promoters.
  • The scheme will be operationalised through the Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for MSEs.

Significance:

  • The scheme would provide much-required support to around 2 lakh MSMEs and will help in reviving the economic activity in and through this sector.

 [Ref: PIB]

Declaration of Kushinagar Airport as International Airport

The Kushinagar Airport in Uttar Pradesh has been declared as an International Airport recently.

Aim:

  • To boost tourism & provide impetus to economic development in the region.

Background:

  • Kushinagar is an important Buddhist pilgrimage site, where Gautama Buddha attained Mahaparinirvana.
  • It is regarded as a very sacred Buddhist pilgrimage centre with visits from Buddhists pilgrims from all over the world.
  • Kushinagar is dotted with several other Buddhist sites in the nearby surroundings like Sravasti (238 km), Kapilvastu (190 km) and Lumbini (195 km) that makes it an attraction for both followers and visitors alike.
  • Kushinagar already serves as the presenting site for Buddhist circuit pilgrimage spanning across India and Nepal.

Significance:

  • The Buddhist Circuit is a key pilgrimage destination for 530 million practising Buddhists across the globe.
  • Hence the declaration of Kushinagar Airport as an ‘International Airport’ will offer improved connectivity, a wider choice of services at competitive costs to the air-travellers resulting in boosting of domestic/international tourism and economic development of the region.
  • Direct international connectivity to Kushinagar would substantially increase the number of foreigners and domestic tourists visiting Kushinagar, which will also provide impetus to the economic development of the region.
[Ref: PIB]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Coccolithophores

A recent study by the National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research has found a decrease in the concentration of oceanic calcium carbonate.

Major Highlights:

  • The study of microscopic ancient marine algae (Coccolithophores) led by NCPOR has found that there is a decrease in the concentration of oceanic calcium carbonate (CaCO3) in the southern Indian ocean.
  • This decrease in CaCO3 is attributed to the increase in the concentration of another single-celled alga known as diatoms.
  • This will affect the growth and skeleton structure of coccolithophores, with potential significance for the world ocean ecosystem.

Coccolithophores:

  • Coccolithophores are single-celled algae living in the upper layers of the world’s oceans.
  • They play a key role in marine ecosystems and the global carbon cycle for millions of years.
  • Coccolithophores calcify marine phytoplankton that produces up to 40 % of open ocean calcium carbonate and responsible for 20 % of the global net marine primary productivity.
  • Coccolithophores build exoskeletons from individual CaCO3 plates consisting of chalk and seashells building the tiny plates on their exterior.
  • Coccolithophores help in removing Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and ocean by consuming it during photosynthesis.

 [Ref: DownToEarth]

Project to conserve Bhitarkanika fishing cats

The Odisha forest department has started a two-year conservation project for fishing cats in Bhitarkanika National Park in Kendrapara district.

Major Highlights:

  • A management plan to conserve fishing cats at the national park, including mapping and survey of the cat population has been devised.
  • These measures are expected to protect fishing cats in the park and its nearby areas.
  • No exact ecological data on the population of the fishing cat in the park is available as of now.

Fishing Cats:

  • The fishing cat is a nocturnal species that hunt fish and crustaceans for food and catch prey.
  • IUCN status: Endangered.
  • Included in Appendix II in Article IV of CITES.
  • Classified under the first schedule of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

Threat:

  • A major threat for fishing cats is the destruction of mangrove forests and wetlands, their preferred habitat.
[Ref: DownToEarth]

Bilateral & International Relations

Pakistan to remain on FATF greylist

The Financial Action Task Force has decided to keep Pakistan in the Grey List as it has failed to check the flow of money to terror groups like the LeT and the JeM.

Major Highlights:

  • The FATF plenary decided continuation of Pakistan in ‘Grey List’ till its next meeting to be held in October 2020.
  • The decision has been taken as Pakistan has failed to check the flow of money to terror groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).

What are the blacklist and greylist?

  • The FATF identifies countries with weak measures to combat money laundering and terrorist financing in two FATF public documents, issued three times a year: Greylist and Blacklist.
  • Those that have deficiencies in their Anti-Money Laundering /Countering Financing of Terrorism regimes, but they commit to an action plan to address these loopholes are put in grey list and those that do not end up doing enough are put in the blacklist.
  • Once a country is blacklisted, FATF calls on other countries to apply enhanced counter-measures and increase the cost of doing business with the country.

Why Pakistan is retained in Grey List?

  • Pakistan has failed to check terror funding, it failed to complete its action plan in line with an agreed timeline of February 2020 and then June 2020.
  • Pakistan was only able to address the 27 points in the action plan to check terror financing.
  • Pakistan has been given an ultimatum to control funding to these terror groups responsible for a series of attacks in India.
  • The country will remain in the grey list till next meeting of FATF in October 2020.

Consequences of grey-listing:

  • With Pakistan’s continuation in the ‘Grey List’, it will be difficult for the country to get financial aid from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the European Union.
  • This will further enhance problems for the nation which is in a precarious economic situation, making Prime Minister Imran Khan’s term even more difficult.
  • If Pakistan fails to comply with the FATF directive, there is every possibility that the global body may put the country in the ‘Black List’ along with North Korea and Iran.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Science & Technology

National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre

The Centre has recently created an Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre to provide private players to use Indian space infrastructure.

Major Highlights:

  • The National Space, Promotion & Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe) will help private players through encouraging policies and a guiding regulatory environment in space activities.
  • Indian Space Research Organisation will remain the basic body that decides what missions are to be undertaken but this new body will help fill the gaps.
  • The Public Sector Enterprise New Space India Limited will endeavour to re-orient space activities from a supply-driven model to a demand-driven model, thereby ensuring optimum utilization of our space assets.

Key Benefits:

  • Space sector can play a major catalytic role in the technological advancement and expansion of our Industrial base.
  • The proposed reforms will enhance the socio-economic use of space assets and activities, including through improved access to space assets, data and facilities.
  • IN-SPACe will provide a level playing field for private companies to use Indian space infrastructure.
  • It will also hand-hold, promote and guide the private industries in space activities through encouraging policies and a friendly regulatory environment.
  • It will allow ISRO to focus more on research and development activities, new technologies, exploration missions and human spaceflight programme.
[Ref: PIB; Live Mint]

Key Facts for Prelims:

Investment by OVL in Shwe oil & gas project

  • ONGC Videsh (OVL) has been associated with exploration and development of Shwe gas project in Myanmar since 2002, as part of a consortium of companies from South Korea, India and Myanmar.
  • The first gas from Shwe Project was received in July 2013 and plateau production was reached in December 2014.
  • The Project has been generating positive cash flows since FY 2014-15.
  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs recently approved an additional investment of US$ 121.27 million by ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) towards further development of the project.
  • The participation of Indian PSUs in oil & gas exploration and development projects in neighbouring countries is aligned with India’s Act East Policy, and strengthen India’s energy security needs.

Innovative Student Projects Award 2020

  • Indian National Academy of Engineering, an autonomous institute of the Department of Science & Technology, has invited nominations for the Innovative Student Projects Award 2020.
  • INAE instituted the Innovative Student Projects award in 1998 to identify innovative research projects undertaken by the students at any of the three stages – undergraduate, post-graduate and doctoral levels in engineering institutions.
  • The award particularly encourages joint projects among industry, research laboratories, and academic institutions.

SkillsBuild Reignite

  • Technology giant IBM in partnership with Directorate General of Training, under the Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, introduced the SkillsBuild Reignite and the SkillsBuild Innovation Camp.
  • The SkillsBuild Reignite tends to provide job seekers and entrepreneurs, with access to free online coursework and mentoring support designed to help them reinvent their careers and businesses.
  • Job seekers, individual business owners, entrepreneurs and any individual with learning aspirations can access industry-relevant content on topics including Artificial intelligence, Cloud, Data analytics and security to reskill and upskill themselves, at no cost.
  • Its special feature is the personalized coaching for entrepreneurs, seeking advice to help establish or restart their small businesses as they begin to focus on recovery to emerge out of the COVID 19 pandemic.
  • The SkillsBuild Innovation camp is a 10-week programme which supports 100 hours of structured learning to learners who are interested in gaining hands-on project experience to enhance learning and are intent on building their network and enhance their employability.

Kala-azar

  • Kala-azar is a slow progressing Neglected Tropical Disease caused by a protozoan parasite of genus Leishmania.
  • It is a zoonotic infection transmitted by the sand fly, a blood-sucking pest, found in moist (humid) mud and sand and close to livestock.
  • The parasite primarily infects the reticuloendothelial system and may be found in abundance in bone marrow, spleen and liver.
  • The vector-borne disease is the second-largest parasitic killer in the world after Malaria.
  • The disease mainly affects poor people in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and is associated with malnutrition, population displacement, poor housing, weak immune system and lack of resources.
  • It signs and symptoms include fever, weight loss, fatigue, anaemia, and substantial swelling of liver and spleen.
  • It is treatable and requires a medical diagnosis. If untreated, kala-azar can kill within two years of onset of the ailment.

Gaia hypothesis

  • The Gaia hypothesis is an ecological hypothesis proposing that the biosphere and the physical components of the Earth are closely integrated.
  • They thus form a complex system that maintains the climatic and biogeochemical conditions on Earth.
  • It was originally proposed by James Lovelock as the earth feedback hypothesis, but named Gaia Hypothesis after the Greek supreme goddess of Earth.

Rufinamide

  • Scientists at the Institute of Nano Science & Technology have developed a nanotechnology-based industry-friendly and low-cost method for the production of antiepileptic drug (the main type of treatment for epilepsy, a neurological disorder) Rufinamide.
  • It is developed using a new recyclable copper-oxide catalyst.
  • The new method overcomes many of the current challenges in the synthesis of Rufinamide drug such as high cost, limited choice of starting materials leading, poor yields due to use of organic solvents and overheating of the reagents.

Monon

  • The Assam government has started a mental health support programme called Monon recently.
  • It is for the COVID patients and quarantined persons in the state to provide emotional support, counselling and treatment.
  • This is a unique kind of a programme, where the mental health professionals are calling those who might need help rather than just waiting for them to call them.
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