Polity & Governance
- Indian Medical Association sounds Zika alert
- Real time video monitoring of crowds at railway stations
- All India Trinamool Congress granted national party status
- Mobile access scheme for remote areas soon
Environment & Ecology
- G20 countries score poorly in climate goals report
Bilateral & International Relations
- India grants $500 mn to Vietnam for defence ties
Defence & Security Issues
- Rajnath clears use of chilli-filled PAVA shells as alternative to pellet guns
- Northeast accounts for 42% of sedition cases
Science & Technology
- Indian scientists unlock preterm birth mystery
Key Facts for Prelims
- Biju Kanya Ratna Yojana (BKRY)
- Mother Teresa canonised as Saint
Polity & Governance
Indian Medical Association sounds Zika alert
The Indian Medical Association (IMA), which is the largest association of allopathic doctors, has issued a Zika alert in the country.
- Even though Zika virus was first identified in Africa, and sporadic cases have been reported in both Africa and Asia-Pacific, little is known about whether the Asian strain of the virus (now circulating in the Americas) will affect individuals differently if they have previously been infected with the African strain.
- Recently, local mosquito transmission of Zika virus infection has been reported in Singapore. Local mosquito transmission implies that mosquitoes in the area are infected with the Zika virus and are spreading it to humans.
What the IMA has said?
- The IMA has asked physicians and the people to be aware and vigilant.
- Because the Zika virus is primarily spread through mosquitoes, the IMA recommends that travellers to Singapore protect themselves from mosquito bites.
- Pregnant women should not travel to Singapore. In case it is necessary to do so, talk to your doctor and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites.
- The association also noted that many people infected with the Zika virus may not feel sick. Among those who do develop symptoms, sickness is usually mild and lasts about a week. If a mosquito bites an infected human while the virus is still in that person’s blood, it can spread the virus when it bites another person.
- The IMA has also asked people to be aware about the Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a rare disorder that can cause muscle weakness and paralysis for a few weeks to several months. Though the syndrome is strongly associated with Zika, only a small proportion of people with the infection get GBS. Also, most people recover fully.
A new study:
According to a new study, India, China, Pakistan and Bangladesh are vulnerable to Zika virus.
- These countries receive a combination of high volumes of travellers from Zika-affected areas, have mosquitoes capable of transmitting Zika virus, climate conditions conducive to local spread, and limited health resources.
- According to the study, identifying where and when populations would be most susceptible to local transmission of Zika virus could help inform public health decisions about the use of finite resources.
Real time video monitoring of crowds at railway stations
The Indian Railways, for the first time, has deployed ‘intelligent video analytics’ to assess crowd density at major railway stations and initiate crowd control measures when the number of passengers/visitors exceeds a prescribed limit.
- The facility has been installed in the surveillance system on a trial basis at Chennai Central and Egmore railway stations.
- Zonal railways have also been told to analyse past crowd disasters and focus on crowd management strategies, risk analysis and preparedness, information management and dissemination, safety measures and emergency planning, transportation and traffic management.
Standard Operating Procedures:
- The technology incorporated in the integrated security system will give an automatic alert to the Railway Protection Force (RPF) and Government Railway Police (GRP) personnel to set in motion certain Standard Operating Procedures.
- SOPs include a temporary ban on the issue of platform tickets and closure of parking lots till normalcy is restored.
- Taking cue from the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) guidelines on crowd control, the railway has included crowd management in its revised Disaster Management Plan.
Necessity of the move:
- The inflow of passengers is usually high during long weekends and festive season. Besides, major railway stations are vulnerable to terror attacks in view of the large gathering of people, multiple entry/exit points and stoppage of trains at wayside stations where adequate security arrangements are not in place. Hence, effective crowd management plans should be in place.
Significance of the video monitoring:
- Video analytics would help security agencies get timely alerts when large crowds build up in the station premises and help implement preventive protocols.
- Visuals stored on Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) network system would be of immense help in identifying miscreants and in ensuring effective legal action.
All India Trinamool Congress granted national party status
The Election Commission of India (ECI) has granted national party status to All India Trinamool Congress (TMC) Party led by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
- The party has fulfilled one of the conditions of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.
- The TMC is now the seventh party to be given the status after Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India-Marxist and the Nationalist Congress Party.
- The Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968, states that a political party can be recognised as a national party under two circumstances.
- First, at least six per cent of the valid votes should be polled in four or more states in a general election or in the assembly elections. The party must win at least four seats in the assembly states.
- Second, the party needs to win at least two per cent of the seats or 11 seats in the Lok Sabha. The members elected should be from at least three different states.
Mobile access scheme for remote areas soon
The government is planning to unveil a new scheme to provide mobile phone access to over 55,000 villages, particularly those in border states and in the Himalayan region, to push forward its flagship Digital India programme.
- The scheme will be funded by the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF).
As per the official data,
- About 4,700 villages in Himalayan States (Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand), and 2,138 villages in Border States (Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana) are not yet connected.
- Further, 5,41,939 villages out of total 5,97,608 villages in the country are already covered with mobile services, leaving 55,669 villages, i.e., 9.31%, without coverage.
- Among states, Odisha has the highest number of villages (10,398) which do not have mobile coverage, followed by Jharkhand (5,949) and Madhya Pradesh (5,926), Maharashtra (4,792) and Chhattisgarh. In states such as Kerala and Karnataka all villages have coverage.
About Universal Service Obligation Fund:
USOF, established in 2002, provides effective subsidies to ensure telegraph services are provided to everyone across India, especially in the rural and remote areas.
- It is headed by the USOF Administrator who reports to the Secretary, Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
Objectives of the USOF:
- Economic: Network extension & stimulate uptake of the ICT services
- Social: Mainstreaming the underserved & un-served areas/groups by bridging the Access Gap
- Political: to enable citizens exercise their political rights in an informed way and
- Constitutional: Equitable distribution of the fruits of the telecom/digital revolution and fair allocation of national resource (pooled USO levy) via targeted subsidies
- Funds come from the Universal Service Levy (USL) of 5% charged from all the telecom operators on their Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) which are then deposited into the Consolidated Fund of India, and require prior parliamentary approval to be dispatched.
- As on date, the total available fund in USOF is more than Rs.47,411.56 crore. The total collection since the scheme was started in 2002-03 stands at about Rs.78,587.31 crore, while total amount disbursed for various initiatives to boost rural connectivity is about Rs.31,175.75 crore, according to government data.
How does it work?
- The USOF works through a bidding process, where funds are given to the enterprise quoting the lowest bid. However, the funds for NOFN were made an exception to this process since BBNL was the sole party involved in the implementation having being specifically created for it.
Environment & Ecology
G20 countries score poorly in climate goals report
A report from Climate Transparency, an open global consortium, has shown that Global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of G20 countries are continuing to increase.
- The study analysed key indicators, including carbon intensity and share of coal in total electricity produced, to assess the performance of these countries
According to the study,
- Between 1990 and 2013, the absolute carbon dioxide emissions of G20 countries, which account for three-fourths of global CO2 emissions, went up by 56%.
- The study found that half of G20 countries are inadequate as regards actions taken to curb climate change. This is despite energy intensity and the carbon intensity of the G20 economies decreasing as overall economic activity increased.
- The study also found that the carbon intensity of the energy sector was found increasing, due to the strong and continuing role that coal plays. The G20 countries rely heavily on coal in their primary energy supply.
- G20 countries are planning a large number of new coal-fired power plants, which if realised, would almost double coal capacity, making it virtually impossible to keep the temperature increase to below 2°C, let alone 1.5˚C as mandated by the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
Performance of various countries:
- India received a ‘medium’ rating with good scores for emissions, share of renewables in total primary energy supply (TPES) and climate policy, but poor scores in carbon intensity, share of coal in TPES and electricity emissions.
- The worst overall performers were Australia, Argentina, Japan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.
- Of all the G20 member-states, Australia, Canada, Saudi Arabia and the United States stand out with by far the highest per capita energy-related CO2 emissions.
- Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Japan still show an increase over the five-year period 2008-2013. Argentina and South Africa have declining per capita emissions, as with the EU and its big member-states Germany, France, Italy and the U.K.
- China’s per capita emissions were found to be above the G20 average: at 38%, with China having the highest economic growth rate between 2008 and 2013.
- The coal share of China, India, South Africa and Turkey will remain clearly above the maximum 2˚C benchmark in the time period until 2030.
- According to the study, to be in line with a 2°C-compatible trajectory by 2035, G20 countries face an investment gap of almost $ 340 billion/year in the power sector.
- Though plugging the gap requires an increase in green investments, G20 governments provided, on average, almost $ 70 billion in subsidies for fossil fuel production between 2013 and 2014. This was despite G20 leaders pledging to phase out ‘inefficient’ fossil fuel subsidies in 2009.
- The report also points out that reducing fossil fuel subsidies could theoretically create fiscal space for more international climate finance.
Bilateral & International Relations
India grants $500 mn to Vietnam for defence ties
India has extended a $500-million line of credit to Vietnam to deepen their defence cooperation.
- Both countries have also signed 12 agreements ranging from cooperation in IT and space to double taxation.
- They have also agreed to elevate bilateral relations from Strategic Partnership to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
Agreements were signed in the areas of:
- Exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes, double taxation avoidance, co-operation on UN peacekeeping operation.
- Health, cyber security, advanced IT training, sharing of shipping information between the Navies of the two countries and mutual recognition of standards.
- Vietnam earlier had Comprehensive Strategic Partnership only with Russia and China.
Defence & Security Issues
Rajnath clears use of chilli-filled PAVA shells as alternative to pellet guns
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh approved the use of chilli-based Pelargonic Acid Vanillyl Amide (PAVA) shells for crowd control measures as an alternative to pellet guns.
- However, the government has not completely banned use of Pellet Guns. They will be used in rarest of rare cases to control violent crowd.
What is PAVA shells?
PAVA shells also called Nonivamide are chilli-filled grenades.
- The PAVA shells contain Pelargonic Acid Vanillyl Amide, an organic compound (also known as Nonivamide) found in chilli pepper. It derives its name from the compound.
- It causes severe irritation and paralyses for a short duration.
PAVA shells vs. pellet guns:
- PAVA shells are less lethal compared to pellet guns and immobilises the target temporarily rather than causing physical injury.
- It is considered to be bio-safe and less lethal than pellet guns but equally effective.
The PAVA shells once fired burst out to temporarily stun, immobilise the target (protesters) in a more effective way compared to tear gas shell or pepper sprays.
- The use of PAVA was recommended by a seven-member expert committee, headed by Joint Secretary in the Home Ministry T.V.S.N. Prasad, in its recently submitted report.
- The panel was constituted after scores of protesters were blinded by the use of pellet guns in the Valley.
- The PAVA shells were under trial for over a year at the Indian Institute of Toxicology Research, a Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) laboratory in Lucknow, and its development has come at a time when Kashmir is on the boil.
Northeast accounts for 42% of sedition cases
According to the latest data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NRCB), the seven States of the northeast account for about 42% of the total ‘offences against State’ registered in the country in 2015.
As per the data of the NRCB,
- Across the country, 147 cases were registered in 2015 of which 63 are from the seven northeast States.
- While Assam recorded the highest number of 22 cases under Sections 121, 121A, 122, 123, 124-A of the Indian Penal Code), Meghalaya recorded 20 cases in these sections.
- Over the same year, Nagaland registered eight cases, Mizoram seven, Manipur four, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura one case.
- Among the other States with cases under these sections — classified as ‘offences against the state’ — in the double digits are Bihar with 17 cases, while Jammu and Kashmir has recorded 16.
- When it comes to cases registered under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), tiny Manipur accounts for a huge 60 per cent of UAPA cases. Assam recorded the second highest number, with 103 cases, followed by Jammu and Kashmir where just 59 cases were registered.
Science & Technology
Indian scientists unlock preterm birth mystery
Indian researchers have made a major discovery by understanding the mechanisms by which preterm births (between 28 and 32 weeks of gestation) occur.
- At 35%, India accounts for the highest burden of preterm births in the world.
About the discovery:
The researchers found for the first time that
- Gram-positive Group B Streptococcus (GBS) bacteria produce small balloons called membrane vesicles, which contain toxins that kill both foetal and maternal cells and destroy the collagen that binds the cells together.
- The toxins present in the vesicles fragmented the collagen of the amniotic membrane. Fragmentation of the collagen leads to loss in elasticity and weakening of the amniotic membrane thus making it susceptible to rupture due to pressure from the growing foetus. This leads to preterm birth. The vesicles also degrade the collagen in the womb.
What is GBS Bacteria?
- Group B Streptococcus (GBS) bacteria are normally found in human vagina and their numbers can shoot up in some pregnant women.
- The GBS bacteria have been associated with premature rupture of amniotic membrane and preterm birth.
How the study was carried out?
- The scientists tested hypothesis by injecting vesicles into 15 pregnant mice. All the injected mice gave birth to preterm babies and nearly 40 per cent were born dead (stillborn). The preterm babies were much smaller and unhealthy. In mice, the babies were born two days preterm. This is equivalent to two months in humans as the gestation period in mice is 21 days.
What does “preterm” birth mean?
- Preterm refers to a baby born before 37 weeks of pregnancy have been completed. Normally, a pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks.
How do preterm births occur?
- Most preterm births happen spontaneously, but some are due to early induction of labour or caesarean birth, whether for medical or non-medical reasons.
Why do preterm babies need special care?
- Preterm babies are not fully prepared to live in the world outside their mother’s womb. They get cold more easily and may need more help feeding than full-term babies. Because their bodies are not yet fully developed, they may have problems breathing and can also suffer from other complications including infections.
Key Facts for Prelims
It is a special Onam Programme organized recently in association with the Government of Kerala at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
It is the Water Jet Fast Attack Craft (WJFAC). It is built by Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Limited (GRSE), Kolkata. It was recently handed over to the Indian Navy. Named after an island in the Andaman, “Tihayu” is fitted with three water jet propulsion systems.
Biju Kanya Ratna Yojana (BKRY)
It is the recently launched scheme of Odisha government, for the development of girls in three districts of the state.
The objective of the scheme is to improve Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB) and Child Sex Ratio (CSR) in the three districts.
Mother Teresa canonised as Saint
Mother Teresa, renowned and celebrated nun, who served thousands of diseased and destitute people in Kolkata was proclaimed a Saint by Pope Francis at a grand ceremony in Vatican. She was an Albanian-Indian Roman Catholic nun and missionary. She set up her Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata in 1950 and made it headquarters for nearly half a century.
Teresa was the recipient of numerous honours, including the 1962 Ramon Magsaysay Peace Prize, 1979 Nobel Peace Prize, Padma Shri (1962), Bharat Ratna (1980), etc.