Issues related to Health & Education
- China factor in increasing price of Heparin
- Special Liquidity Scheme for NBFCs and HFCs
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Urban Forests
- Proposal to turn Shivalik forest into Tiger reserve
- Tillari Conservation Reserve
- Assam snake rediscovered after 129 years
Bilateral & International Relations
- Italian Marines Case
Defence & Security Issues
- Defence deal with Russia
Art & Culture
- Dhamma Chakra Day
Key Facts for Prelims
- Same Language Subtitling project
- Drug Discovery Hackathon 2020
- Article 85(1) of the Indian Constitution
- Tea & Haritaki against COVID-19
- Indian Air Force Senior Air Staff Officers’ Conference
- Hul Divas
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Issues related to Health & Education
China factor in increasing price of Heparin
India’s drug pricing regulator has allowed pharmaceutical companies to increase the ceiling price of essential medicine heparin by 50 % until December 31.
What is heparin?
- Heparin is a blood thinner used in patients vulnerable to blood clots in their legs, lungs, heart or other body parts.
- It is used to reduce their risk of heart attacks, strokes and pulmonary embolism.
- Several patients with critical illnesses, including those requiring kidney dialysis, are given the drug.
- During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare included the drug in its clinical management guidelines for the treatment of Covid-19 patients in the ICU.
Why did companies seek a hike on its ceiling price?
- National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority had capped heparin’s ceiling price in 2018, keeping in mind it is essential to high-risk patients.
- There has been a shortage of this drug during the pandemic because the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API), which forms a considerable amount of the cost of making the drug in India, has increased drastically.
- APIs are crucial elements in drug production as they give medicines their therapeutic effect.
- Since September 2018, the price of this API has shot up 211 per cent.
- With the maximum price that companies can charge for the drug fixed, but the API costs rising, they claimed it had become unviable to continue manufacturing and selling the drug in India.
Powers used to increase the price of heparin:
- NPPA used extraordinary emergency powers provided to it under paragraph 19 of the Drugs (Prices Control) Order, 2013.
- This provision allows the regulator to fix the ceiling or retail prices of any drug (in extra-ordinary circumstances) regardless of whether they were under or eligible for price control under normal circumstances.
- It also allows NPPA to increase or decrease their prices irrespective of the annual wholesale price index of that year.
Role of China:
- The heparin sodium API for the injections made in India majorly comes from China and there are not many alternative manufacturers for the API, in India.
- India heavily relies on China for various APIs used to make crucial antibiotics and vitamins.
- In the last three-six months, prices of APIs from China have gone up 20-35 per cent.
- China consists of around 68 per cent of over $3.5 billion worth of ingredients that Indian drug-makers imported to manufacture several essential medicines in 2018-19.
- The increase in heparin’s API costs has happened over the last two years.
- Even the costs of APIs for other drugs from China have been on the rise since before the clash at Galwan Valley.
Active pharmaceutical ingredient:
- It is the active ingredient which is contained in the medicine. For example, an active ingredient to relieve pain is included in a painkiller.
- All drugs are made up of two core components: Active and Inactive.
- API, the central ingredient od the drug, is an active component while the excipient, the substances other than the drug that helps deliver the medication to the human body, is chemically inactive substances. The excipient can be lactose or mineral oil in the pill.
Special Liquidity Scheme for NBFCs and HFCs
The Reserve Bank of India recently laid down the eligibility criteria for non-bank financiers and mortgage lenders to utilize a special liquidity scheme.
- The RBI rules mandate that to borrow funds, Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) and Housing Finance Companies (HFCs) should not have net non-performing assets of more than 6% as on 31 March 2019.
- The funds raised will have to be solely used to extinguish existing liabilities.
- They should have made a net profit in at least one of the last two preceding financial years of 2017-18 and 2018-19.
- They should not have been reported under the SMA-1 or SMA-2 category by any bank for their borrowings during last one year before 1 August 2018.
- As per the government decision, SBI Capital Markets, a subsidiary of the State Bank of India has set up a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to manage this operation.
- The SPV would issue securities of up to ₹30,000 crores and these would be purchased by RBI.
Special Mention Accounts:
- Banks classify borrowers into special mention accounts based on their delay in repaying loans.
- Special mention account-0 (SMA-0) loans are where the payment overdue is between one and 30 days, SMA-1 between 31 and 60 days and SMA-2 from 61 to 90 days.
- The asset is termed non-performing after being overdue for 90 days.
[Ref: The Wire]
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
The office of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India located at Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg has taken steps to establish an Urban Forest in the Office Park.
- This would be a dense urban forest with multiple tree layers including 12000 saplings of 59 indigenous species in another year or so.
- The Miyawaki method of forest creation is employed which could help in reducing the temperature by as much as 14 degrees & increase the moisture by more than 40%.
- With minimal maintenance, including watering and de-weeding, the urban forest will be self-sustainable by October 2021.
- A dense forest ecosystem will be created in an area that is little over 1 acre in size.
- The multi-layered forest will have shrubs, small to medium-size trees and tall trees carefully arranged as peripheral and core plant communities.
- Urban Forestry concentrates on all tree-dominated as well as other green resources in and around urban areas, such as woodlands, public and private urban parks and gardens, street tree and square plantations, botanical gardens and cemeteries.
- The forest is made up of trees which are native to the area and are three dimensional, multi-layered communities having 30 times the surface area of the greenery of single-layered lawns, and have more than 30 times the ability to protect against natural disasters and to conserve the environment.
- The Urban forests are the lungs of the cities and act as an oxygen bank and Carbon Sink and send out an action-oriented message of bringing back lost environmental protection forests.
- They have an ecosystem which can restore habitat for birds, bees, butterflies and microfauna.
- These are essential for pollination of crops and fruits and to help maintain a balanced ecosystem.
Nagar Van Scheme:
- The Ministry of Environment and Forests has launched the Nagar Van Scheme on the occasion of World Environment Day on 5 June.
- The scheme aims to develop 200 Urban Forests across India in the next five years.
- The forests will be developed with the help of people’s participation and collaboration between the Forest Department, Municipal bodies, NGOs, Corporates and local citizens.
Proposal to turn Shivalik forest into Tiger reserve
The Uttar Pradesh state government has received a proposal to declare the Shivalik forest in the Saharanpur circle into a Tiger reserve.
- The State government is actively considering the proposal and would push it forward to the Central government to take a call.
- If accepted, it would be the fourth tiger reserve in Uttar Pradesh after Amangarh in Bijnor, Pilibhit and Dudhwa in Lakhimpur-Kheri.
- The move would not only reduce the increasing man-animal conflict but also help nurture the rich biodiversity of the region.
- The forest constitutes the northern tip of the State and the 33,220-hectare-long corridor, located at the foothills of the Shivalik range, connects four States — Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. It will facilitate the safe movement of tigers.
- The area is rich in biodiversity and could be turned into a hub for eco-tourism.
- In the past, the fossilised parts of giraffe, hippopotamus and Stegodon were found in the region.
- This suggests that the area was a dense forest with prominent riverine systems.
- Stegodon was the predecessor of the modern-day elephant; slightly smaller than the present-day elephant but its tusks were three to four times longer.
- Siwalik Range or the Outer Himalayas are the sub-Himalayan range of the northern Indian subcontinent.
- The southernmost of the three Himalayan mountain belts.
- It extends west-northwestward for more than 1,600 km from the Tista River in Sikkim state, through Nepal, across northwestern India, and into northern Pakistan.
- It is 10–50 km wide range and has an average elevation of 3,000 to 4,000 feet.
- The poor scrub forests of the range are being removed, subjecting the hills to severe erosion.
Tillari Conservation Reserve
The Maharashtra state forest department recently declared 29.53 sq. km area of Dodamarg forest range in Sindhudurg district as Tillari Conservation Reserve.
- The area is known to serve as a corridor and even as a habitat for the population of tigers and elephants moving between the three states of Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra.
- The 38-km-long Dodamarg wildlife corridor that connects Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary in Maharashtra to Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary in Karnataka frequently witnesses elephant and tiger movement.
- Tillari will be the seventh corridor in the state to be declared as a conservation reserve.
What are Conservation Reserves?
- Conservation reserves denote protected areas of India which typically act as buffer zones to or connectors and migration corridors between established national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserved and protected forests of India.
- Such areas are designated as conservation areas if they are uninhabited and completely owned by the Government of India but used for subsistence by communities and community areas if part of the lands are privately owned.
- These protected area categories were first introduced in the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act of 2002 − the amendment to the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.
- These categories were added because of reduced protection in and around existing or proposed protected areas due to private ownership of land, and land use.
Assam snake rediscovered after 129 years
The Assam Keelback snake species was found 129 years after it was last spotted in 1891.
- Assam Keelback or Herpetoreas pealii, is a snake species endemic to Assam.
- The non-venomous brown snake was found in the Poba Reserve Forest while retracing the steps of the Abor Expedition.
- As no sighting of the snake had been reported since and it was considered a lost species.
- The snake belongs to a unique genus (Herpetoreas) found in Eastern and Western Himalayas, South China and Northeast India.
- IUCN status: Data Deficient
Poba Reserved Forest:
- Poba Reserved Forest is situated in Dhemaji District of Assam.
- The Reserved Forest (RF) was created in the year 1924 and covers an area of 10,221 hectares.
- It is one of the richest rain forests of North-East India and a biodiversity hotspot.
- Poba RF is an important elephant corridor linking the foothills of Arunachal Pradesh and Dibru Saikhowa National Park via the proposed Kobu Chapori Reserve Forest.
- The peripheral area of the RF is inhabited by a few ethnic groups such as Mising, Bodo, Sonowal Kachari and Hajong (Rabha).
- Poba forest is under serious threats from anthropogenic activities and natural calamities particularly erosion by the Siang river.
- Abor Expedition is a military (punitive) expedition against the Abors in Assam on the North-Eastern Frontier of India lasting from October 1911 to April 1912.
- The expedition followed the murder of Mr Noel Williamson (Assistant Political Officer in the districts of Sadiya and Lakhimpur) and his party.
Bilateral & International Relations
Italian Marines Case
An international tribunal has ruled that India is entitled to payment of compensation in connection with a case dating back to 2012 in which two Indian fishermen were killed by two Italian marines.
What is the issue?
- India accused two Italian marine on-board MV Enrica Lexie, an Italian flagged oil tanker, of shooting dead two Indian fishermen at sea, approximately 20.5 nautical miles off Kerala in India’s Exclusive Economic Zone on February 15, 2012.
- Italy claimed that as the Indian vessel—St. Antony— drew close, the marines assessed that it was on a collision course with the MV Enrica Lexie and that this modus operandi was consistent with a pirate attack.
- An Arbitral Tribunal was constituted under Annex VII of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on 26 June 2015.
Ruling of the tribunal:
- The tribunal held that the actions of the Italian military officers breached India’s freedom of navigation under the UNCLOS Article 87(1)(a) & 90.
- It decided that India is entitled to payment of compensation in connection with loss of life, physical harm, material damage to property and moral harm suffered by the captain and other crew members of ‘St. Antony’.
- The Tribunal upheld conduct of Indian authorities w/respect to the incident under the provisions of the UNCLOS.
- UNCLOS refers to the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea or Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea treaty.
- UNCLOS, as a law of the sea, came into operation and became effective from 1994.
- It stipulates a framework for state jurisdiction in maritime spaces and a different legal status to different maritime zones.
- The UN does not have any major functional role in the working of UNCLOS and the prevailing law of the sea is binding completely.
Different Maritime zones:[Ref: Indian Express]
Defence & Security Issues
Defence Deal with Russia
The Defence Acquisition Council chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has approved deals worth ₹38,900 crores with Russia.
- This includes the procurement of 21 MiG-29 fighter jets for the Indian Air Force, upgrade of 59 of them and acquirement of 12 Su-30 MKI aircraft.
Art & Culture
Dhamma Chakra Day
The President of India will inaugurate the Dhamma Chakra Day celebrations from Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi on July 4, 2020.
- The International Buddhist Confederation (IBC) in partnership with Ministry of Culture, Government of India, is celebrating the Asadha Poornima on July 4, as Dharma Chakra Day.
- It will be the annual flagship event of IBC.
- Asadha Poornima falls on the first full moon day of the month of Asadha as per Indian sun calendar.
- It is the second most sacred day for Buddhists after the Buddha Poornima or Vesak.
- The day marks Buddha’s first teaching after attaining Enlightenment to the first five ascetic disciples (panchavargika) on the full-moon day of Asadha at ‘Deer Park’, Risipatana in the Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh.
- This teaching of Dharma chakra Pravartana or the First Turning of Wheels of Dharma comprised of the Four Noble Truths and Noble Eightfold Path.
- The day is also observed as Guru Poornima by both Buddhists and Hindus as a day to mark reverence to their Gurus.
- Vesak (Buddha Purnima) is a Buddhist festival that marks Gautama Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death.
- It falls on the full moon day in May.
- Buddha Purnima in May is even more special because the Buddha’s enlightenment and Mahaparinirvan also happened during the Purnima in May.
- The year 2020 marked the 2564th Buddha Jayanti, the birth anniversary of Buddha.
The Four Noble Truths:
- Dukkha: Life is suffering. Suffering is real and almost universal.
- Samudaya: There is a cause of suffering. Suffering is due to attachment.
- Nirodha: There is an end to suffering. Attachment can be overcome. Suffering ceases with the final liberation of Nirvana.
- Magga: To end suffering, you must follow the Eightfold Path.
The Noble Eightfold Path:
- Right Understanding of the Four Noble Truths.
- Right thinking: Right Aspiration is the true desire to free oneself from attachment, ignorance, and hatefulness.
- Right speech: No lying, criticism, condemning, gossip, harsh language.
- Right conduct or Right Action involves abstaining from hurtful behaviours, such as killing, stealing, and careless sex.
- Right livelihood: Right Livelihood means making your living in such a way as to avoid dishonesty and hurting others, including animals.
- Right Effort: Promote good thoughts; conquer evil thoughts.
- Right Mindfulness: Become aware of your body, mind and feelings.
- Right Concentration: Right Concentration is meditating in such a way as to progressively realize a true understanding of imperfection, impermanence, and non-separateness.
Key Facts for Prelims:
Same Language Subtitling project
Same Language Subtitling implies providing subtitles over video content in the same language as in the audio.
- The Same Language Subtitling (SLS) project at IIM-Ahmedabad has researched and implemented SLS pilots on TV in eight major Indian languages.
- India is globally the first country where the mainstreaming of SLS on TV and streaming content is being advanced for mass reading literacy.
- National implementation of SLS on existing general entertainment content (GEC) on TV and streaming platforms [Over-The-Top (OTT)] would revolutionise reading literacy in India.
- It would provide media access among Deaf and Hard of Hearing people and enable language learning.
- The Accessibility Standards of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB), framed in September 2019 under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, require 50% of all entertainment content on TV to carry captions in the same language, or SLS, by 2025.
- The onus is on Doordarshan to implement its own parent Ministry’s standards before private channels can be obligated to do the same.
- Reading along with SLS on TV at home is known to compliment and improve reading skills picked up in school.
- In the context of school closures and life beyond schooling, SLS can power lifelong reading engagement and progress.
- India is missing out on a simple and affordable intervention can address its low-reading literacy challenge
- India could take the lead by mandating SLS on all Indian language content hosted by OTT platforms.
Drug Discovery Hackathon 2020
- Human Resources and Development Minister and Health Minister jointly launched the Drug Discovery Hackathon 2020 on July 2, 2020.
- The objective of this Hackathon is to identify drug candidates against SARS-CoV-2 by in-silico drug discovery through the hackathon and follow up by chemical synthesis and biological testing.
- It is an online competition and anybody from anywhere in the country or world can participate, to establish the culture of computational drug discovery in the country.
- The hackathon is first of its kind national initiative for supporting drug discovery process.
- To attract international talent, the hackathon will be open to participation from across the globe from professionals, faculty, researchers and students.
- HRD Innovation cell and AICTE will focus on identifying potential drug molecules through the Hackathon while CSIR will take these identified molecules forward for synthesis and laboratory testing.
Article 85(1) of the Indian Constitution
- The COVID-19 pandemic has halted the normal functioning of the Indian Parliament.
- Several political leaders have proposed for the resumption of Parliament.
- Article 85(1): The President shall from time to time summon each House of Parliament to meet at such time and place as he thinks fit, but six months shall not intervene between its last sitting in one session and the date appointed for its first sitting in the next Session.
- It means there should not be more than a six-month gap between the two sessions of parliament. Hence the Parliament must meet at least twice a year.
- The power to summon Parliament is vested in the President, who acts on the advice on the council of ministers, headed by the Prime Minister.
Tea & Haritaki against COVID-19
- As per a new study by the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, the extracts from tea and Haritaki (Harad) have the potential to act as therapeutic options against COVID-19 infection.
- The study also suggested the possibility of Gallotannin (tannic acid) to emerge as a potential therapeutic candidate against SARS-CoV-2 in future.
- However, the authenticity of these plants as a potential drug will be proved after trials.
- The medicinal plants can provide a cost-effective therapeutic option to curb the severity of the viral disease in humans, with minimal toxicity.
Indian Air Force Senior Air Staff Officers’ Conference
- It is a bi-annual conference of Senior Air Staff Officers.
- It hosts discussions towards operational capability enhancements, focused training to tackle contemporary challenges with available assets and automation efforts in the IAF.
- Hul Divas is observed annually on June 30 in memory of tribals — Sidho and Kanhu Murmu — who led the Santhal hul (rebellion) on June 30, 1855, at Bhognadih in Sahebganj district.
- Every year, people from Jharkhand and neighbouring states, gather there in large number to celebrate the first people’s action against the British.
- The day is observed to make the future generations aware of the contributions made by the tribal icons.