Polity & Governance
- Cabinet gives ex-post facto approval for Varishtha Pension Bima Yojana
- Almost every household has a bank account: Labour Bureau
Environment & Ecology
- Fine particulates causing chronic illnesses: WHO Study
Bilateral & International Relations
- Cabinet approves India – Singapore MoU
Science & Technology
- World’s first baby born from new procedure using DNA of three people
- A new handheld device to detect melamine in milk
- Telangana inks MoU with ISRO to promote education
Polity & Governance
Cabinet gives ex-post facto approval for Varishtha Pension Bima Yojana
The Union Cabinet has given its ex-post facto approval for the Varishtha Pension Bima Yojana (VPBY) 2003 and Varistha Pension Bima Yojana (VPBY) 2014.
- Approval has also been granted for the expenditure incurred on subsidy amount released to Life Insurance Corporation during the period 2003-04 to 2014-15 for VPBY 2003.
- The Cabinet has also given approval to incur expenditure on VPBY 2003 and 2014 from the financial year 2015-16 onwards.
About VPBY 2003 and VPBY 2014:
- While VPBY was launched on July 14, 2003, the VPBY 2014 was launched on August 14.
- Both are pension schemes intended to give an assured minimum pension to the Senior Citizens based on an assured minimum return on the subscription amount.
- The Schemes are implemented through Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) of India.
- Under the scheme, the difference between the actual yield earned by LIC on the funds invested under the Scheme and the assured return committed by the Government is paid as subsidy to LIC.
- The pension is envisaged until death from the date of subscription, with payback of the subscription amount on death of the subscriber to the nominee.
Both the schemes VPBY – 2003 and VPBY – 2014 are closed for future subscriptions. However, policies sold during the currency of policy are being serviced as per the commitment of guaranteed 9% return assured by the Government under the schemes.[Ref: PIB]
Almost every household has a bank account: Labour Bureau
According to the latest Labour Bureau data, almost every household in the country is a part of the banking system, mainly due to government’s financial inclusion plans.
- According to the data, Government of India’s recent initiatives to enhance the financial inclusion and accessibility of financial institutions such as PMJDY and Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana may have translated into entering of more population in the ambit of formal financial activities.
- Around 94.4% households had saving bank accounts in 2015-16. The figure was much higher than the official figure (58.7%) of households with saving bank accounts in India, as per Census 2011.
- While 93.4% households in rural areas had a bank account, 96.8% houses had a savings bank account in the urban parts.
- In Daman and Diu and Lakshwadeep, all the households surveyed had saving bank accounts. Chandigarh had 99% households with saving bank accounts whereas households in Nagaland had the least, 79.2%, access to the banking system.
- Banking penetration was particularly low in north-eastern states – Manipur (82.8%), Meghalaya (85.1%) and Arunachal Pradesh (88.9%). This was followed by a comparatively low coverage in West Bengal (90.4%), Karnataka (91.6%) and Mizoram (91.7%).
Environment & Ecology
Fine particulates causing chronic illnesses: WHO Study
As per the study conducted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) air pollution caused by fine particulate matter (PM) is causing long-lasting disease chronic illnesses.
Key findings of the study:
- About a fifth of the 3 million people died worldwide because of exposure to fine PM2.5 which may have aggravated or been directly responsible for cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer.
- Air pollution caused by fine particulate matter is the world’s biggest environmental risk to health and it must be addressed on a priority basis as it continues to rise.
- It could have killed at least 600,000 Indians in 2012 just behind China which witnessed an estimated 800,000 deaths due to air pollution.
Impact of fine PM2.5:
- The impact of fine PM2.5 is felt through a broad spectrum of acute and chronic illnesses that cause premature death. These include lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cardiovascular diseases.
- PM pollution is an environmental health problem that affects people worldwide, but low- and middle-income countries disproportionately experience the burden.
- While all regions of the world are affected by the PM air pollution but the populations in low-income cities are the most impacted.
- Overall, 98% of cities in low- and middle income countries with more than 100,000 inhabitants do not meet 10µg/m3 WHO air quality standard of PM2.5. However, in high-income countries, this percentage decreases to 56%.
How WHO study was conducted?
- The findings were based on data derived from satellite measurements, ground station monitors for more than 3000 locations, both rural and urban and air transport models.
- The study did not tool actual impact of air pollution as it does not include the separate impacts on health from other air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) or ozone (O3).
Bilateral & International Relations
Cabinet approves India – Singapore MoU
The Union Cabinet has given its approval to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in the field of Industrial Property Cooperation between Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion under the Ministry of Commerce & Industry and the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS), Ministry of Law, Government of Singapore.
- The MoU will be signed at the upcoming visit of Singapore’s Prime Minister to India in October, 2016.
- It is intended to give a boost to innovation, creativity and technological advancement in both regions.
The Priority initiatives under the MoU would be:
- Exchange of best practices, experiences and knowledge on Intellectual Property awareness among the public, businesses and educational institutions of both countries.
- Exchange of experts specialized in the field of intellectual property.
- Exchange and dissemination of best practices, experiences and knowledge on IP with the industry, universities, R & D organizations and Small and Medium Enterprises.
- Cooperation in the development of automation and implementation of modernization projects.
- Partnership in IP-related training for local IP and business communities.
Significance of this MoU:
- The MoU will enhance bilateral cooperation activities in the arena of Industrial Property Rights of Patents, Trademarks and Industrial Designs.
- The MoU will enable India to exchange experiences in the innovation and IP ecosystems that will substantially benefit entrepreneurs, investor and businesses on both sides.
- The exchange of best practices between the two countries will lead to improved protection and awareness about India’s range of Intellectual creations which are as diverse as its people.
- It will be a landmark step forward in India’s journey towards becoming a major player in global innovation and will further the objectives of the National IPR Policy, 2016.
Science & Technology
World’s first baby born from new procedure using DNA of three people
The world’s first baby was born from a new procedure that combines the DNA of three people. The baby was born in Mexico.
- The baby was born using the new and controversial technology, called mitochondrial donation, which incorporates DNA from three persons.
- The five-month-old boy has the usual DNA from his parents, and a small amount of genetic code from a donor.
How did this possible?
- The baby’s mother carried genes for the fatal Leigh Syndrome, which harms the developing nervous system.
- The faults affect the DNA in mitochondria, the tiny battery-like structures that provide cells with energy, and are passed down from mother to child.
- A team of doctors, led by John Zhang, decided to attempt the controversial procedure of mitochondrial transfer in the hope that it would give the couple a healthy child.
- The doctors took the nucleus from one of the woman’s eggs and inserted it into a healthy donor’s egg that had had its own nucleus removed. Then, the egg was fertilised with the husband’s sperm.
- The team created five embryos but only one developed normally. This was implanted into the mother and the baby was born nine months later.
What is Mitochondrial Donation?
Mitochondrial donation is a special form of in vitro fertilization in which the future baby’s mitochondrial DNA comes from a third party.
- The two most common techniques in mitochondrial donation are
- Pronuclear transfer and
- Maternal spindle transfer.
- Due to the uncharted nature of producing a child with 3 sources of DNA, this subject is currently quite contentious in the field of bioethics, as is the case with many other gene therapies.
- The treatment was legalised in the UK in 2015 but so far no other country has introduced laws to permit the technique.
- In February 2016, a report was issued by the U.S. Food and Drug administration declaring that further research into mitochondrial donation is ethically permissible.
A new handheld device to detect melamine in milk
Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore have developed a handheld melamine detector. With this detecting melamine in milk is expected to become easy, quick and inexpensive.
Technique of its detection:
In this method, leaf extract of a commonly seen weed parthenium along with silver nitrate is used for detecting the presence of melamine in milk.
- Prior to melamine detection, the milk is processed to remove fat and proteins as they tend to interfere with detection.
- With this technique, the presence of melamine in milk can be detected at room temperature within a few seconds through a change in colour.
- The change in colour depends on the amount of melamine present and, therefore, the extent of its interference with the synthesis of silver nanoparticles. The colour change can be directly observed by the naked eye and also recorded by spectral change.
- The silver nanoparticles are reddish yellow in the absence of melamine, while it becomes nearly colourless when melamine is present. Light absorption at 414 nm wavelength is a signature of silver nanopartciles. But when melamine is present the absorption of light is reduced as nanoparticle formation decreases.
What is melamine?
- Melamine is an organic base chemical most commonly found in the form of white crystals rich in nitrogen.
Usage of melamine:
Melamine is widely used in plastics, adhesives, countertops, dishware, whiteboards.
Why is melamine added into milk?
- The addition of melamine increases the nitrogen content of the milk and therefore its apparent protein content.
Minimum permissible level of Melamine content:
- Melamine content of more than 1 ppm in infant formula and more than 2.5 ppm in other foods should be viewed with suspicion of adulteration.
Is an addition of melamine into food approved?
- Addition of melamine into food is not approved by the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius (food standard commission), or by any national authorities.
Health effects of melamine consumptions in humans:
While there are no direct human studies on the effect of melamine data from animal studies can be used to predict adverse health effects.
- Melamine alone causes bladder stones in animal tests. When combined with cyanuric acid, which may also be present in melamine powder, melamine can form crystals that can give rise to kidney stones.
- These small crystals can also block the small tubes in the kidney potentially stopping the production of urine, causing kidney failure and, in some cases, death.
- Melamine has also been shown to have carcinogenic effects in animals in certain circumstances, but there is insufficient evidence to make a judgment on carcinogenic risk in humans.
China’s scandal of Melamine:
[Ref: The Hindu]
Telangana inks MoU with ISRO to promote education
Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and Telangana government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to provide digital classes across the state through its state channel Mana TV.
- As per the MoU, the ISRO’s Development & Educational Communication Unit (DECU) will work with the state government to disseminate educational content using satellite technology.
- The channel will telecast a four-hour programme daily.
- Besides, about 6000 schools of the state will launch digital classes.
- The digital classes will provide a platform for lakhs of students and job aspirants to get quality education.
- Earlier, the state’s Irrigation Department signed MoU with ISRO’s National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) to use space technology for real-time monitoring of all water resources in the state.
- The state in 2006, entered into a similar agreement with ISRO.
About Mana TV:
- Mana TV was an initiative started by the undivided Andhra Pradesh to provide programmes on distance education, telemedicine and agriculture extension under different channels.