Polity & Governance
- India Innovation Index launched
- Health Ministry Notifies Medical Devices Rules, 2017
- MoU between MHRD and Focus States for TEQIP-III
- Government introduces alternative funding mechanism of electoral bonds: Budget
- NCR Transport Corporation gets a Logo and Tagline
Environment & Ecology
- World Wetlands Day being celebrated today at Bhoj Wetlands, Bhopal
Bilateral & International Relations
- India and Italy Sign an MOU for Technical Cooperation in Rail Sector Especially on Safety Related Subjects
Science & Technology
- Scientists confirm ‘lost continent’ beneath Mauritius
- NASA’s Juno spacecraft completes fourth flyby of Jupiter
- Andhra Pradesh working on system to DNA-tag convicts
Key Facts for Prelims
- Five special zones to boost tourism, travel in country
- DF-5C missile
Polity & Governance
India Innovation Index launched
To make India an innovation-driven economy, the government has launched a mega initiative “India Innovation Index”.
Key facts about the index:
- The index will rank states on Innovations through country’s first online innovation index portal that will capture data on innovation from all Indian states on innovation and regularly update it in real time.
- The index was launched by NITI Aayog, Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
- The India Innovation Index Framework will be structured based on the best practices followed in Global Innovation Index (GII) indicators and additionally by adding India-centric parameters those truly reflect the Indian innovation ecosystem.
- This initiative will be the point of reference for all international agencies to collect India’s up to date data points for global indices and analytic.
- The pillars of index include the capacity of human capital and research, strength of institutions, supporting infrastructure and the level of business sophistication, among others.
About the Global Innovation Index:
- It is the annual index, released by World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Cornell University, and the multi-nation business graduate school INSEAD.
- It has been ranking world economies since 2007 according to their innovation capabilities using more than 80 indicators, including education, R&D, patent filings, knowledge and technology inputs and institutions.
- India climbed 15 spots, from 81 in 2015, to 66 in the Global Innovation Index (GII) 2016.
Health Ministry Notifies Medical Devices Rules, 2017
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has notified Medical Devices Rules, 2017.
- The new Rules have been framed in conformity with Global Harmonisation Task Force (GHTF) framework and conform to best international practices.
- The new Rules seek to remove regulatory bottlenecks to make in India, facilitate ease of doing business while ensuring availability of better medical devices for patient care and safety.
- Only 15 categories of medical devices are, at present, regulated as drugs and to that extent, the current regulatory practices in India were not fully geared to meet the requirements of medical devices sector in the country.
Key Features of New Rules:
- The new rules have been framed in conformity with Global Harmonisation Task Force (GHTF) framework and conform to best international practices.
- Under it, medical devices are classified as per GHTF practice, based on associated risks, into:
- Class A (low risk),
- Class B (low moderate risk),
- Class C (moderate high risk) and
- Class D (high risk)
- The new rules seek to remove regulatory bottlenecks to make in India, facilitate ease of doing business and also ensure availability of better medical devices for patients’ care and safety.
- It also seeks to evolve a culture of self-compliance by medical devices manufacturers. Under it, manufacturing licences for Class A medical devices will be granted without prior audit of manufacturing site.
- There will be no requirement of periodic renewal of licences and manufacturing and import licences will remain valid till these are suspended, cancelled or surrendered.
- The entire process, starting from submission of application to grant of licence will be processed online. Besides, timelines also have been defined for most activities at the regulators end.
- The manufacturers of medical devices will be required to meet risk proportionate regulatory requirements specified in the rules.
- System of ‘Third Party Conformity Assessment and Certification’ through Notified Bodies is envisaged to bring in the highest degree of professionalism in regulation of medical devices.
- These bodies will undertake verification and assessment of Quality Management System of Medical Device Manufacturers of Class A and Class B category and also Class C and D medical devices.
Significance of the new rules:
- The Rules will provide a conducive environment for fostering India specific innovation and improving accessibility and affordability of medical devices across the globe by leveraging comparative cost advantage of manufacturing in India.
- The objective, transparent and predictable regulatory framework will boost the confidence of investors and, as a consequence, the quality and range of products and services will improve and business burdens will be reduced.
- The new Rules will help in developing a quality standardization framework in India at par with international standards.
- The implementation of these Rules will provide the assurance of the best quality, safety and performance of medical devices.
- These Rules coupled with other measures, taken by the Government in the recent past, are expected to sharpen the competitive edge and provide incentives to firms to become more efficient, innovative, and competitive.
- All this will support entrepreneurship, market entry and economic growth that, in turn, would produce high-paying, high-quality jobs.
About Global Harmonization Task Force:
- The Global Harmonization Task Force (GHTF) was “a voluntary group of representatives from national medical device regulatory authorities and the members of the medical device industry”.
- Its goal was to standardize the medical device regulation across the world.
- In late 2012, the GHTF disbanded.
- Its mission has been taken over by the International Medical Device Regulators Forum (IMDRF), a successor organization composed of officials from regulatory agencies— not industry — around the world.
MoU between MHRD and Focus States for TEQIP-III
The Union HRD Ministry has signed MoU for Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme (Phase- III) with 18 States and 1 Union Territory.
Focus States under the MoU are:
- 7 Low Income States (Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh),
- 3 Hill States (Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Uttarakhand),
- 8 North-Eastern States (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura) and
- Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
- The project will be implemented as Central Sector Scheme with the facility of Direct Funds Transfer to the accounts of beneficiary institutes.
- The project will be initiated in April 2017 and will be coterminous with Fourteenth Finance Commission (FFC) i.e. 2019-20.
- The programme is implemented in assistance with World Bank in a sustainable way to improve over all standard and quality of technical institutes.
- TEQUIP I and TEQUIP II had a positive impact on the infrastructure and educational standards in the technical institutions where they were taken up.
- Institutions in the central, eastern and north-eastern region and hill States are at present in need of similar and specific interventions. The initiation and implementation of the project TEQIP-III arises from the need to bridge this gap.
About the Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme (TEQIP):
The Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme (TEQIP) commenced in 2003 with World Bank assistance as a long term programme to be implemented in three phases.
- The first phase of TEQIP commenced in 2003 and ended on March 31st, 2009. It had covered 127 institutes across 13 States including 18 Centrally Funded Technical Institutions (CFTIs).
- The second phase of TEQIP (TEQIP-II) commenced in August 2010. It had covered 23 States/Union Territories (UTs) and 191 Institutes (including 26 CFTIs). TEQIP-II is scheduled to conclude in October, 2016.
The major outcomes of TEQIP:
- Better academic standards, through filling up faculty positions, training faculty in better teaching methods, accreditation, improved research outputs in institution in Focus States/UTs.
- Better administration of the institutions with improved financial and academic autonomy.
- Better systems for assessment of higher transition rates and student learning.
- Expeditious and transparent release of funds to institutes by way of Direct Funds Transfer (DFT) System.
Government introduces alternative funding mechanism of electoral bonds: Budget
To bring in greater transparency in funding of political parties, the Union Government has announced two measures in the Budget 2017-18.
- It will take effect from 1 April, 2018.
Two measures include:
- Capping cash funding by a single anonymous donor to Rs. 2000 (one tenth of the current limit of Rs 20,000) and
- Introduction of the electoral bonds.
Capping cash funding:
- The finance bill lays out the way ahead for capping cash funding and sale of electoral bonds by proposing amendments in the section 13A of the Income-Tax Act, 1961 and to Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934.
- The amendment to I-T Act will provide political party exemption if the donation not exceeding Rs. 2,000 is received through instruments such as cheque, draft, electronic clearing system or electoral bond.
Introduction of electoral bonds:
- The amendment of RBI Act will facilitate introduction of electoral bonds.
- These bonds will be instrument to donate money to political parties and the RBI will acts as the intermediary.
- Donors can purchase bonds only through cheque or digital mode, helping to track record of the source of the purchase.
- These bonds shall be redeemable only in the designated account of a registered political party and within the prescribed time limit from issuance of bond.
- The bond bearer’s identity will be unlikely revealed in the books of the political party and the recipient party will also remain unknown.
NCR Transport Corporation gets a Logo and Tagline
National Capital Region Transport Corporation has got a Logo and Tagline highlighting the vision of ‘Gati Se Pragati’ (Progress with Speed).
- National Capital Region Transport Corporation is mandated with the responsibility of executing the Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS) which is based on suburban public transport system in National Capital Region.
- The Logo has a fresh and new age look communicating vision and objective of sustainable urban development through rapid mass transport.
- The Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS) is semi-high speed rail system proposed by the National Capital Region Planning Board (NCRPB) to connect Delhi with its distant suburbs via 8 corridors with trains running at a max speed of 160 km/hr.
- The objective of this system is to reduce dependence of commuters on road based transportation and enhance regional connectivity within the National Capital Region.
Significance of the RRTS:
- RRTS will significantly reduce the travel time between important NCR towns.
- On completion, RRTS will emerge as the fastest, comfortable and safe mode of transport in NCR.
Environment & Ecology
World Wetlands Day being celebrated today at Bhoj Wetlands, Bhopal
This year World Wetland Day is being celebrated by centre in collaboration with the Government of Madhya Pradesh at Bhoj Wetlands, Bhopal.
- Bhoj Wetlands is one of the 26 Ramsar sites that India has designated under the Ramsar Convention.
- Also, all the State Governments have been requested to celebrate the World Wetland Day in their respective States in a befitting manner.
Theme of World Wetlands Day for 2017:
- The theme of World Wetlands Day for 2017 is ‘Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction’.
- This theme has been selected to raise awareness on the vital roles of healthy wetlands in reducing the impacts of extreme events on communities and in helping to build resilience.
About World Wetlands Day:
- World Wetlands Day is celebrated on February 2 each year to mark the Day the Convention on Wetlands was adopted in the Iranian City of Ramsar in 1971.
- India is a party to the Convention since 1982 and committed to the Ramsar approach of wise use of wetlands.
What is Ramsar Convention?
The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, called the Ramsar Convention, is the intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
- The Convention was adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971 and came into force in 1975.
- Since then, almost 90% of UN member states, from all the world’s geographic regions, have acceded to become “Contracting Parties”.
- Every three years, representatives of the Contracting Parties meet as the Conference of the Contracting Parties (COP), the policy-making organ of the Convention.
Bilateral & International Relations
India and Italy Sign an MOU for Technical Cooperation in Rail Sector Especially on Safety Related Subjects
Ministry of Railways and Ferrovie Dello Stato Italiane Group (FS Group), a Government Company of Italy managing the Italian railway sector, have signed an MoU for technical cooperation in rail sector especially in the areas safety in train operations.
The cooperation areas identified in this MoU includes:
- Safety audit of Indian Railways and measures required for enhancing safety in train operation,
- Assessment and certification of advanced technology based safety products and systems to Safety Integrity Level (SIL4),
- Training and competency development with focus of safety,
- Modern trends in Maintenance and diagnostic etc.
- The MoU comes in the backdrop of emphasis given by Shri Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu Minister of Railways, Govt. of India on safety in railway operation. He has directed Railway Board to collaborate with the international experts on this subject and identify the best practices in this field.
About FS Group:
Ferrovie Dello Stato Italiane Group (FS Group) is a fully owned company of the Italian Government working in the Railway Sector and is under Ministry of Treasure, Itlay.
- The Group, with its technical and managerial railway expertise, widely recognized at international level, is one of the most advanced worldwide player in many field, such as design and realization of High Speed and Conventional Lines, Safety Systems, Certification, Training and Operation and Maintenance.
- The whole group currently employs about 69,000 persons and operates more than 7,000 trains per day, carrying over 600 million/year of passengers and 50 million tons of freight on a railway network of more than 16,700 km.
- FS Italiane Group, through its controlled companies, has been working in 5 continents, in more than 60 countries.
Science & Technology
Scientists confirm ‘lost continent’ beneath Mauritius
Scientists have confirmed the existence of a “lost continent” under the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius.
- The discovery was based on study of Zircon, a mineral found in rocks spewed up by lava during volcanic eruptions which is too old to belong to Mauritius.
- The lost continent is left over by the break-up of the super-continent Gondwana, which started about 200 million years ago.
- It is just a small piece of island that probably broke of when Africa, India, Australia and Antarctica split up and formed the Indian Ocean.
About the discovery:
- The scientists found zircons on the island of Mauritius that are three billion years old.
- These remnants are too old to belong to Mauritius as it has no rock older than nine million years old.
- The piece of crust of lost continent was subsequently covered by young lava during volcanic eruptions.
- There are many pieces of various sizes of undiscovered continent which are collectively called as Mauritius.
What are Zircons?
Zircons are minerals that occur mainly in granite from the continents.
- They contain trace amounts of uranium, thorium and lead.
- They can survive geological processes.
- They contain a rich record and can be dated extremely accurately.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft completes fourth flyby of Jupiter
NASA’s Juno spacecraft recently made its fourth flyby over Jupiter’s mysterious cloud tops.
- During its closest approach, it was roughly 4,300 km above Jupiter’s cloud tops and travelled at a speed of about 208,000 kmph.
- It is expected to perform three dozen flybys over the next one and a half years.
- During its flybys, Juno probes beneath the cloud cover of Jupiter and studies Jupiter’s auroras to learn more about its origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.
About Juno spacecraft:
Juno is the unmanned spacecraft, which has been named after the Roman goddess Juno, the wife of Jupiter who is considered as the god of the sky in ancient Greco-Roman mythology.
- Juno is the first mission designed by NASA to see beneath Jupiter’s clouds.
- It has travelled 2.7 billion kilometres since its launch to reach Jupiter.
- It will orbit Jupiter from pole to pole, 5,000 kilometres above planet’s cloud tops.
- It will sample Jupiter’s charged particles and magnetic fields for the first time to study its composition beneath the sky.
- Juno has nine instruments on board to study atmosphere, gravity, magnetic field and possible existence of solid core in Jupiter.
- Juno will map Jupiter’s gravity and magnetic fields and also track how much water is present in the atmosphere.
- In its mission life, the spacecraft will circle the Jupiter 37 times before finally making a death plunge in 2018 in order to avoid accidentally crashing onto one of the planet’s moons.
- It is important to note that Juno is not the first spacecraft to orbit Jupiter. It is second spacecraft to orbit Jupiter, after Galileo probe which had orbited the planet from 1995–2003. Galileo probe in its mission had found evidence of subsurface saltwater on Jupiter’s moons Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.
Andhra Pradesh working on system to DNA-tag convicts
The Andhra Pradesh government plans to bring in legislation that will allow the State police and investigating agencies to collect and store DNA samples in a centralised database.
- The move has come in for close scrutiny, as the Centre first prepared a draft bill on the issue in 2012, but the legislation ran into severe opposition from activists on the ground that it violated privacy. It has since been on hold.
- The Centre’s Human DNA Profiling Bill, 2015, was prepared by the Department of Biotechnology and the Hyderabad-based Centre for DNA-Fingerprinting and Diagnostics but is yet to be cleared by the Union Cabinet. Several organisations and individuals, however, raised concerns that the bill gave sweeping powers to government to mine the database and use it for purposes beyond just solving crime.
Highlights of the Human DNA Profiling Bill:
- The bill proposes to allow collection of samples from private parts of human body for DNA profiling and data preservation with the approval of a regulatory body.
- It suggests that a National DNA Profiling Board and a National DNA Bank be set up in Hyderabad, with every state having a regional DNA data bank. The DNA Data Bank would maintain records of samples found at crime scenes, or from suspects, offenders, missing persons, volunteers, etc.
- The bill also makes it clear that no DNA Laboratory shall undertake DNA profiling without the prior approval of the DNA Board.
- If a foreign country requests DNA profiling, the DNA Bank will coordinate through CBI or a concerned department.
- The bill mandates that the DNA profiles or samples be kept confidential, and they should be used only for establishing identity of a person and nothing else.
- Government investigation agencies and judiciary, among others, can seek information from Data Banks. For unauthorized use of data, a stringent punishment is provided.
- Bill legalizes collection and analysis of the DNA samples for Repeat offenders, suspects, missing persons, unknown deceased persons, volunteers for forensic purposes.
- CrPC had been amended in 2005 to allow collection of such data- DNA profiling.
Key Facts for Prelims
Five special zones to boost tourism, travel in country
- The Union Budget 2017-18 has announced that Government will set up five Special Tourism Zones in partnership with States.
- These five special zones will be anchored as Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) that will be set up in partnership with the States.
- In this budget, government has allocated Rs. 1,840.77 crore to the Tourism Ministry, Rs. 250 crore more in the 2017-18 fiscal.
- Recently in January 2017, China has successfully tested a new version of a DF-5C missile.
- The Dongfeng 5 (DF-5) is a three stage Chinese intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
- A new version of a DF-5C missile can carry up to 10 nuclear warheads.
- It has an estimated range of 12,000 to 15,000 kilometers.
- It is primarily designed for nuclear weapons delivery.
- This missile’s development is considered as response to development of US’s ballistic missile defence system.