IASToppers 3rd August 2016
Current Affairs Analysis

3rd August 2016 Current Affairs Analysis

Project CHAMAN; “Giftmilk"; CRISPR-Cas9; “Twitter Sewa”; Anti-Ragging Regulations; NDDB; etc.
By IT's Current Affairs Analysis Team
August 03, 2016

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Foreign funds: NGOs get over Rs. 22,000 cr
  • UGC amends anti-ragging regulations
  • Four-member panel to interact with Lodha committee
  • MoC launches Twitter Sewa to address the complaints of common man
  • Delhi HC bans 73 ‘rogue’ sites for streaming cricket matches
  • AYUSH drugs to get trial guidelines

Social Issues

  • NDDB to Implement Giftmilk” Scheme to Improve Child Nutrition

Economy

  • Horticulture Production Assessment under the Project CHAMAN
  • Steel industry seeks extension of MIP

Science & Technology

  • First human genetic editing trial in China
  • IBM’s technology may help detect cancer early

 

Polity & Governance

Foreign funds: NGOs get over Rs. 22,000 cr

According to government data presented in response to a question in Parliament, a total of 3,068 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) received foreign funding above Rs. 22,000 crore in 2014-15.

Foreign Funding

  • These are NGOs who reported receiving more than Rs. 1 crore from foreign donors.

Key facts:

  • 80% of this funding went to NGOs based in seven States — Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and West Bengal.
  • As of July 2016, 33,091 NGOs were registered under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, which regulates foreign funding to these bodies.
  • Delhi has always been the top recipient as many international charities are registered in the capital and funds are then passed on to other States.
  • Similarly, Maharashtra figures high on the list as many organisations register in Bombay.
  • Faith-based charities tend to attract more foreign funding.
  • Southern States get more foreign money due to the presence of Christian organisations.
  • U.S., U.K. and Germany were among the top donor countries in 2011-12.
  • According to the annual FCRA report of 2011-12, the highest amount of foreign donor money was utilised for rural development, followed by the welfare of children, construction and maintenance of schools and colleges and research.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

UGC amends anti-ragging regulations

The University Grants Commission has amended its anti-ragging regulations to include physical or mental abuse on grounds of ethnicity, caste, religion, colour, regional background, linguistic identity, nationality and sexual orientation.

Anti Ragging

  • The changes are incorporated in the Curbing the Menace of Ragging in Higher Educational Institutions (third amendment), Regulations, 2016, which have come into force.

Previous definition:

  • Earlier, ragging was defined as teasing and physical or psychological harm of different kinds.

Wider definition of ragging:

  • Now ragging means not just physical or mental hurt caused to a fresher. It covers “any other student” too, meaning a senior student inflicting harm on another senior student is also ragging.
  • The rules kick in if the harm is caused anywhere on a campus or even in a campus transport facility.

Suggested actions:

  • The anti-ragging committee of the institution can debar violators from classes, fellowships and examinations, withhold results and order suspension from hostel, rusticate and even order expulsion from the institution, depending on the severity of the offence.

Background:

  • There are plenty of complaints of harassment to a student from the north-east on the basis of ethnicity or a Bihari student on the basis of regional background.
  • To publicise this, the Human Resource Development released Rs. 5-crore to the UGC in the last financial year. The publicity material includes an FM Radio message on calling a student “rustic” (ganwaar) to a film featuring cricketer Virat Kohli. Posters and messages have also been dispatched to universities and colleges to spread awareness.

About UGC:

The University Grants Commission (UGC) of India is a statutory body set up by the Indian Union government in accordance to the UGC Act 1956 under Ministry of Human Resource Development.

UGC_India_Logo

  • It is charged with coordination, determination and maintenance of standards of higher education.
  • It provides recognition to universities in India, and disburses funds to such recognised universities and colleges.
  • The UGC’s mandate also includes overseeing disbursal of fellowships to students.
  • Its headquarters is in New Delhi, and six regional centres in Pune, Bhopal, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Guwahati and Bangalore.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Four-member panel to interact with Lodha committee

Markandey Katju
Markandey Katju

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) today appointed former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju as the head of a four-member legal panel to help the board understand the implications of the Justice Lodha Committee reforms.

Background:

  • The Supreme Court has made it mandatory for the BCCI to implement the Lodha Committee recommendations in the next six months.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

MoC launches Twitter Sewa to address the complaints of common man

Ministry of Communication (MoC) has launched “Twitter Sewa” for addressing the complaints and concerns of common man and other stake-holders in the telecom and postal sectors.

  • The telecom ministry and Department of Post will henceforth compile a list of complaints from this Twitter Sewa and categorize them into immediate, mid-term and long-term complaints.

What is Twitter Seva?

  • Twitter Seva helps process a large volume of tweets and assigns them to the relevant authority for real-time resolution.
  • With the help of the Twitter dashboard, queries and complaints can be easily monitored and quick actions can be taken.

Twitter Seva

Exclusive for India:

  • Twitter Seva is an India-only product right now. It is currently being used by Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Railways, besides the Bengaluru Police.
  • The product had been designed and developed in the country, and the processes that Twitter had built into it are ‘absolutely’ India exclusive.
  • Twitter India is also exploring the roll-out of the product with more ministries and state governments.
  • Through the service, the Railway Ministry processes about 5,500 tweets per day, responding to any citizen query related to catering, cleanliness, or even urgent medical support on board a train.
  • Similarly, Ministry of External Affairs processes over 6,000 tweets in a month, while the number is over 40,000 per month for Commerce Ministry and over 3,000 in a month for Bengaluru Police.
  • Further, 95 per cent of ministers in the ruling government are active on Twitter.
[Ref: PIB; The Hindu]

 

Delhi HC bans 73 ‘rogue’ sites for streaming cricket matches

The Delhi high court has asked the government to block access to entire website of 73 “rogue sites” for illegally streaming videos of cricket matches saying that banning of specific uniform resource locators (URLs) was not always an adequate measure to stop piracy.

  • The verdict is significant due to its departure from the usual practice of blocking only URLs and not the entire website.

 

AYUSH drugs to get trial guidelines

To bring research on Ayurvedic drugs and formulations closer to practices in Western medicine, the Indian Council of Medical Research has released a set of guidelines concerning standards that must be adhered to in testing medicines from AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy) schools.

  • The ICMR guidelines are not a precursor to a law though adherence to them is required by India’s drug regulator to grant permission for trials.

Highlights of the draft guidelines:

Ethical principles:

  • Research on traditional and folk medicines and patented and proprietary varieties of traditional medicines involving human participants must be done using the same ethical principles under which drug trials are conducted.
  • That means the adverse effects of such drugs and a system whereby the potency and safety of the investigational drug can be measured ought to be in place. Compensation should be provided to the affected persons.

Supervision of trials:

  • If a mix of medicinal systems are involved, then there ought to be experts from each of those fields supervising trials and
  • If a product deriving from traditional knowledge were to be commercialised, the “legitimate rights/share of the tribe or community from which the knowledge was gathered should be taken care of appropriately while applying for Intellectual Property Rights and patents for the product”.

Emerging fields of research

  • The guidelines deal with emerging fields of research such as synthetic biology and ethical rules governing medical diagnostics, and specify that all participants be made aware of the risks and not be offered undue inducements to participate in the trial of a new drug.

Clinical trials:

  • India has several sets of guidelines governing the conduct of clinical trials and stem cell research that are updated from time to time. However, there has been little clarity on how Ayurvedic formulations and other traditional medicines ought to be tested.
  • This is a positive step and is important for traditional Indian formulations to be able to access international markets.

Background:

  • India has frequently seen controversies over the improper conduct of clinical trials and there is a proposed amendment to the Drug and Cosmetics Act that seeks to impose stricter penalties for those found violating clinical trial guidelines.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Social Issues

NDDB to Implement Giftmilk” Scheme to Improve Child Nutrition 

Government has approved a proposal for setting up an Institution for promotion of nutrition through milk/milk products (especially for children) utilizing Corporate Social Responsibility funds of NDDBs subsidiaries and other voluntary donation.

Giftmilk initiative

  • Subsequently, NDDB registered a trust/ society known as NDDB Foundation for Nutrition (NFN) to implement this initiative known as “Giftmilk” to improve child nutrition through consumption of milk & milk products by providing milk free of cost.
  • The supply of milk / milk product would be facilitated through dairy cooperatives only.
  • NFN is currently implementing the “Giftmilk” initiative in 3 schools -2 in Delhi & 1 in Telangana.
  • The “Giftmilk” is presently supported by NDDBs subsidiaries who have contributed for their CSR commitment.

About National Dairy Development Board:

The National Dairy Development Board is an institution of national importance set up by an Act of Parliament of India.

  • It was founded by Dr. Verghese Kurien.
  • The National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) was created in 1965, fulfilling the desire of the then prime minister of India — the late Lal Bahadur Shastri to extend the success of the Kaira Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union (Amul) to other parts of India.
  • The main office is in Anand, Gujarat with regional offices throughout the country.
  • NDDB’s subsidiaries include IDMC Limited-Anand, Mother Dairy, Delhi, NDDB Dairy Services, Delhi and Indian Immunologicals Ltd, Hyderabad.

Functions of NDDB:

  • NDDB is extending financial and technical support to dairy cooperatives.
  • NDDB is implementing National Dairy Plan phase-1 (NDP-1), a central sector scheme of Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India to increase milk production in the country.
[Ref: PIB; Wiki]

 

Economy

Horticulture Production Assessment under the Project CHAMAN 

Under the Mission of Integrated Horticulture Development (MIDH), the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare has initiated the project CHAMAN (Coordinated Horticulture Assessment and Management using geoiNfromatics) for assessment and development of Horticulture through Remote Sensing & geo-informatics.

Details:

This programme envisages use of satellite remote sensing data for area and production estimation of 7 horticultural crops (Potato, Onion, Tomato, Chili, Mango, Banana and Citrus) in 12 major states in 180 districts.

  • The programme also uses GIS (Geographical Information System) tools along with remote sensing data for generating action plans for horticultural development.
  • Another component of CHAMAN is to carry out research activities on horticultural crop condition studies, diseases assessment and precision farming.
  • The project is being implemented by Mahalanobis National Crop Forecast Centre (MNCFC) in collaboration with ISRO Centres (SAC & NRSC) and 12 state horticulture departments, NHRDF, IMD, ICAR Centre and State Remote Sensing Centres.
[Ref: PIB]

 

Steel industry seeks extension of MIP

 The Steel Ministry has requested to the Centre for an extension of the Minimum Import Price (MIP) on 173 categories of steel.

Why the Steel Ministry demands an extension?

  • India is the world’s third-largest steel producer with a total installed capacity of 110 million tonnes. But the industry says its margins have been squeezed due to cheap imports from China, as well as Russia, Japan and South Korea.

So the steel ministry is urging the Centre to continue the minimum import price (MIP) protection scheme to guard against increased imports.

About the MIP scheme?

  • The MIP scheme was introduced in February, 2016 for six months.
  • Post-MIP, the industry has been able to marginally improve its viability after a prolonged period of subdued prices and eroded profit margins.
  • While MIP cannot possibly be an all-encompassing framework for a complete turnaround of the Indian steel industry, it has provided a cushion against surging imports.
  • The Indian steel industry does not see MIP as a perpetual protectionist step, but as a necessary temporary measure that will allow time for recovery.
  • The Indian steel industry’s outstanding loan is estimated at Rs.3,00,000 crore, of which 35 per cent may be stressed.
  • MIP was imposed on February 5, 2016 on 173 steel items covering both flat and long products.
  • Accelerating imports at predatory prices from three steel-surplus Asian countries has been a major concern for the domestic industry since September 2014.

Steel imports, which had peaked in July 2015 registering a 114.6 per cent increase year-on-year, started to decline around November 2015 (when a provisional safeguard duty was imposed). Post-MIP it has dropped in range of 24.6 per cent and 43.1 per cent in the first quarter of the current fiscal.

India is expected to impose an anti-dumping duty:

  • The Directorate General of Anti-Dumping and Allied Duties (DGAD), under the Commerce Ministry, has found that hot-rolled flat products of alloy or non-alloy steel have been exported to India from China, Japan, Korea, Russia, Brazil and Indonesia at “below-normal value”.
  • So, India is expected to impose an anti-dumping duty of up to $ 557 per tonne on imports of certain steel products from six countries.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Science & Technology

First human genetic editing trial in China

Chinese scientists will perform the world’s first genetic editing trial on humans in August 2016, in an attempt to find a cure for lung cancer.

  • A group of oncologist will inject patients with cells that have been modified using the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technique.

About CRISPR-Cas9:

CRISPR-Cas9 is a unique technology that enables geneticists and medical researchers to edit parts of the genome by cutting out, replacing or adding parts to the DNA sequence.

Gene-Editing-for-Therapy

  • The word ‘CRISPR’ stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic R
  • It was named “2015 Breakthrough of the Year” by the U.S. journal Science.
  • It allows scientists to selectively edit genome parts and replace them with new DNA stretches.
  • Cas9 is an enzyme that can edit DNA, allowing the alteration of genetic patterns by genome modification.
  • CRISPR is a collection of DNA sequences that direct Cas9 where to cut and paste.
  • This process will hopefully kick-start the T cells to launch an attack on the tumour cells. It is like building a cancer-fighting army outside the patient body.
  • However, the T cells might also attack normal tissue, this first phase of the trial aims to determine whether the approach is safe.

Significance of the technology:

  • CRISPR-Cas9 technology has the potential to revolutionise the treatment of blood diseases, tumours and other genetic diseases.
  • It is faster, cheaper and more accurate than previous techniques of editing DNA.

The scientists chose cancer patients for the initial trial. Why?

  • The mortality rate of lung cancer patients is high. This is why the scientists chose cancer patients for the initial trial.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

IBM’s technology may help detect cancer early

Scientists at IBM have developed a new lab-on-a-chip technology that can, for the first time, separate biological particles at the nanoscale and could help detect diseases such as cancer before symptoms appear.

lab-on-a-chip technology

  • The chip is capable of separating bioparticles down to 20 nanometres (nm) in diameter, a scale that gives access to important particles such as DNA, viruses and exosomes (small fluid-filled sacs containing material originating from cells).
  • Once separated, these particles can be analysed by physicians to reveal signs of disease even before patients experience any physical symptoms in order to provide the best possible outcome.
  • Until now, the smallest bioparticle that could be separated by size with on-chip technologies was about 50 times larger, for example, separation of circulating tumour cells from other biological components.

What is exosomes?

  • Exosomes are increasingly being viewed as biomarkers for the diagnosis and prognosis of malignant tumours.
  • They are released in easily accessible bodily fluids such as saliva, urine or blood.
  • They represent a precious biomedical tool as they can be used in the context of less invasive liquid biopsies to unveil the origin and nature of a cancer.

What are the existing challenges?

  • Researchers targeted exosomes with their lab-on-chip technology as existing scientific techniques face challenges for separating and purifying exosomes in liquid biopsies.
  • Exosomes range in size from 20-140nm and contain information about the health of the originating cell that they are shed from.
  • A determination of the size, surface proteins and nucleic acid cargo carried by exosomes can give essential information about the presence and state of developing cancer and other diseases.
  • Researchers showed they could separate and detect particles as small as 20 nm from smaller particles, that exosomes of size 100 nm and larger could be separated from smaller ones, and separation can take place in spite of diffusion, a hallmark of particle dynamics at these small scales.

Significance of Lab-on-a-chip technologies:

  • Lab-on-a-chip technologies have become an incredibly helpful tool for physicians as they can be significantly faster, portable, easy to use and require less sample volume to help detect diseases.

The goal is to shrink down to a single silicon chip all of the processes necessary to analyze a disease that would normally be carried out in a full-scale biochemistry lab.

What is nano-DLD?

  • The nanoscale, on-chip technology, called nanoscale deterministic lateral displacement or nano-DLD, has been developed by scientists at IBM.
  • It works by allowing a liquid sample to be passed, in continuous flow, through a silicon chip containing an asymmetric pillar array.
  • This array allows the system to sort a microscopic waterfall of nanoparticles, separating particles by size down to tens of nanometers resolution.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

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