Polity & Governance
- India reports first ciguatera poisoning outbreak
- Centre constitutes Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board
- Govt launches Indian Bridge Management System
- Centre accepts pay panel recommendation on promotion
Environment & Ecology
- Delhi tops most polluted megacity list
Science & Technology
- Nobel Prize in Medicine awarded to Yoshinori Ohsumi
Key Facts for Prelims
- Direct Benefit Transfer in Kerosene
- SBI becomes first domestic bank to open branch in Yangon
- Centralized Public Grievance Redress and Monitoring System (CPGRAMS)
- Regional Anti-Dumping Workshop for Asian Investigating Authorities
Polity & Governance
India reports first ciguatera poisoning outbreak
For the first time on the Indian subcontinent, an outbreak of ciguatera was reported in Mangaluru, where more than 100 people were sickened after consuming fish heads.
Factors responsible for its spread:
The risk of new outbreaks stems from a number of factors such as climate change, ocean acidification resulting in coral reef deterioration, nutrient run-off resulting in toxic algal blooms.
What is Ciguatera?
- It is a foodborne illness (food poisoning) caused by eating fish that is contaminated by ciguatera toxin.
What is Ciguatera toxin?
- Ciguatera toxin is a heat-stable lipid soluble compound, concentrated in fish organs that can cause nausea, pain, cardiac, and neurological symptoms in humans when ingested.
Where it occurs?
- The coral reef fish, marine and estuarine fish (red snapper, grouper, perches) or molluscan shellfish (clams, oysters, mussels), are generally found in areas around the Caribbean, Hawaii and coastal Central America and thus these areas have been of concern.
- With movement of fish, several other countries have been reporting ciguatera fish poisoning.
- The illness is characterized by gastrointestinal, cardiac, neurological and neuropsychiatric symptoms.
- The toxin from the Indian Ocean region is very potent and results in severe illness such as vomiting, diarrhea, numbness near the mouth and in the limbs together with many complications such as myalgia, vertigo, dizziness, psychological disorder such as memory loss.
What to avoid?
- The heat stable toxin and lipid soluble compound is concentrated in fish organs and regions such as head, liver, viscera, gonads (sex organs) in large quantities. Large predator fish generally carry more toxin and therefore fishes larger than 1.5 kg should be avoided.
- Detection of ciguatoxin is done using specialized analytical methods and in particular using mouse bioassay.
- New rapid test is still being evaluated. The ciguatoxin are of three types depending on whether they are isolated from the Pacific, the Caribbean or the Indian Ocean.
- There is no single effective antidote or treatment for ciguatera poisoning.
- It is important the patient presenting the symptoms and the fish consumed be carefully recorded.
- Consumers must be cautious with new species found in the markets and must obtain information on location from where the fish is caught species involved and seasonal variation.
- Targeted information about period of the year when the problem is most likely to occur is required to inform target populations about the risks.
Centre constitutes Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board
The Centre has constituted a four-member Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) under the Chairmanship of MS Sahoo.
- Sahoo, who was till recently Competition Commission of India (CCI) Member, assumed charge as Chairman of IBBI.
- Sahoo was last month appointed as IBBI Chairman for a period of five years.
- The oath of office was administered by Finance and Corporate Affairs Minister Arun Jaitley.
About the Board:
- The Board is being set up under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 – approved by Parliament as well as notified by the government in May.
- The Board will have 10 members, including representatives from the central government and Reserve Bank of India.
- The main activity of IBBI would be to regulate the functioning of insolvency professionals, insolvency professional agencies and information utilities under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code 2016.
While the Centre has for now set up the IBBI with four members, going forward this will be expanded to 10 (including the Chairman).[Ref: Business Line]
Govt launches Indian Bridge Management System
The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways formally launched the Indian Bridge Management System (IBMS).
Indian Bridge Management System (IBMS) is being developed to create an inventory of all bridges in the country and rate their structural condition so that timely repair and rehabilitation work can be carried out based on the criticality of the structure.
- Based on this inventory IBMS will analyse data and identify bridges that need attention.
- Further inspection will be carried out wherever required to improve the operational availability of the structure, enhance its life and prioritize repair and rehabilitation work.
- The data will help to decide which bridge needs critical attention, or which needs to be rebuilt.
- IBMS is the largest platform in the world owned by a single owner, with database that could exceed 1,50,000 bridge structures.
- So far 1,15,000 bridges have been inventorized, of which 85,000 are culverts and the rest are bridges.
How does this inventory be created?
- During inventory creation each bridge is assigned a unique identification number or National Identity Number based on the state, RTO zone and whether it is situated on a National Highway, State Highway or is a district road.
- Then the precise location of the bridge in terms of latitude-longitude is collected through GPS and based on this, the bridge is assigned a Bridge Location Number.
- Thereafter, engineering characteristics like the design, materials, type of bridge, its age, loading, traffic lane, length, width of carriage way etc. are collected and are used to assign a Bridge Classification Number to the structure.
- These are then used to do a structural rating of the structure on a scale of 0 to 9, and each bridge is assigned a Structural Rating Number.
- In addition to the structural rating, the bridges are also being assigned Socio-Economic Bridge Rating Number which will decide the importance of the structure in relation to its contribution to daily socio-economic activity of the area in its vicinity.
Centre accepts pay panel recommendation on promotion
The Union government has accepted the recommendation of the 7th Central Pay Commission (CPC) on Modified Assured Career Progression (MACP) for Central employees.
- There shall be three financial upgradations under the assured promotion scheme counted from the direct entry grade on completion of 10, 20 and 30 years services respectively or 10 years of continuous service in the same level in Pay Matrix, whichever is earlier. This would ensure one minimum promotion for every 10 years till 30 years of service.
- In the new Pay matrix, the employees will move to the immediate next level in the hierarchy.
- Fixation of pay will follow the same principle as that for a regular promotion in the pay matrix.
- Thus in certain cases where regular promotion is not between two successive levels in the Pay Matrix, it will be different than what is available at the time of regular promotion. In such cases, the higher level in the Pay Matrix attached to the next promotion post in the hierarchy of the concerned cadre/organisation will be given only at the time of regular promotion.
- The CPC in its November 2015 report had said that despite demands for increasing the frequency of time-bound promotion, it had decided to retain the existing scheme, known as Modified Assured Career Progression Scheme (MACPS).
- The Modified Assured Career Progression Scheme was originally introduced in 2008 following the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission.
Environment & Ecology
Delhi tops most polluted megacity list
The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed recently that Delhi’s air is the worst among world megacities.
Key facts of the data:
- Delhi recorded a PM10 level of 229 µg/m³, followed by Cairo with 179 µg/m³ and Dhaka with 158 µg/m³ – the top three megacities with the most polluted air globally.
- Beijing and Shanghai were sixth and seventh on that list.
- Delhi was the only megacity to record a PM10 level above 200 µg/m³, exceeding the WHO air quality standard of 20 µg/m³ by more than 900%.
- Beijing and Shanghai reported ambient air pollution levels of 108 and 84 µg/m³ respectively.
- In 2012, with one million deaths, China reported the highest toll from PM2.5 and PM10 pollution. At the time, India followed, reporting 621,138 deaths, nearly 10% of the global toll (6.5 million deaths) associated with outdoor and indoor air pollution.
- However, between 2011 and 2015, in a comparison of megacities with population above 14 million, Delhi’s ambient air-pollution levels were worse than Beijing and Shanghai.
Delhi’s air pollution:
- The data show that fine-particulate-matter (PM2.5) levels were almost four times above daily safe levels, on average, for the seven-day period from September 22 to 28, 2016. For long-term exposure, these 24-hour levels are nearly 11 times above the WHO health standards.
- Over the monsoons, Delhi’s air was relatively cleaner because the rain and wind diminished the impact of pollutants. But with the season changing, air-quality also diminished, meaning prolonged exposure affects healthy people and “seriously impacts” those with existing disease.
Permissible level of PM:
According to WHO guidelines, the annual mean levels should be:
- 20 µg/m³ (for PM10)
- 10 µg/m³ (for PM2.5)
For 24 hours, the levels should not exceed 50 µg/m³ (for PM10) and 25 µg/m³ (for PM2.5).
What is PM, and how does it get into the air?
PM stands for particulate matter (also called particle pollution): the term for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air.
Some particles, such as dust, dirt, soot, or smoke, are large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye. Others are so small they can only be detected using an electron microscope.
Particle pollution includes:
PM10: inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 10 micrometers and smaller; and
PM2.5: fine inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 2.5 micrometers and smaller.
Sources of PM:
- These particles come in many sizes and shapes and can be made up of hundreds of different chemicals.
- Some are emitted directly from a source, such as construction sites, unpaved roads, fields, smokestacks or fires.
- Most particles form in the atmosphere as a result of complex reactions of chemicals such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which are pollutants emitted from power plants, industries and automobiles.
What are the Harmful Effects of PM?
- Particulate matter contains microscopic solids or liquid droplets that are so small that they can be inhaled and cause serious health problems. Particles less than 10 micrometers in diameter pose the greatest problems, because they can get deep into your lungs, and some may even get into your bloodstream.
- Fine particles (PM2.5) are the main cause of reduced visibility (haze) in parts of the United States, including many of our treasured national parks and wilderness areas.
- Most air-pollution deaths are caused by fine, invisible particles, called PM2.5, about 30 times finer than a human hair. These pollutants, if inhaled deep into the lungs, can cause heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer and respiratory diseases, and are known to pose the greatest risk to human beings. PM10, or coarse particulate matter with diameter between 2.5 and 10 micrometers, are primarily made up of dirt and dust from farming, factories and roads, and caused due to the crushing of rocks and soil.
Science & Technology
Nobel Prize in Medicine awarded to Yoshinori Ohsumi
Yoshinori Ohsumi of Japan has won the 2016 Nobel Prize for physiology or Medicine for his pioneering work on autophagy.
- With this he becomes the 23rd Japanese national to win a Nobel prize and overall the sixth Japanese medicine Nobel laureate.
- Currently, he is a professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology (TIT).
Yoshinori Ohsumi’s contribution:
- Ohsumi’s discoveries in Autophagy have led to a new paradigm in the understanding of how the cell recycles its content.
- In his research, he had used baker’s yeast to identify genes essential for autophagy.
- He explained the mechanisms for autophagy in yeast and showed that similar sophisticated machinery is used in human cells.
Significance of the research:
- Ohsumi’s research had located the genes that regulate this self-eating process and also related that errors in these genes can cause disease.
- His findings have opened new path to understand importance of autophagy in many physiological processes, such as how body adapts to starvation or responds to infection.
- It has helped to establish links to Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes and other disorders that appear in the elderly.
What is Autophagy?
- Autophagy is a process whereby cells “eat themselves”. Christian de Duve had coined the term “autophagy”, which comes from the Greek meaning self-eating
- It is a fundamental process in cell physiology dealing with how the body breaks down and recycles cellular components.
- It is essential for the orderly recycling of damaged cell parts and its better understanding has major implications for health and disease, including cancer.
- It was first observed by Belgian scientist Christian de Duve who had won Nobel Medicine Prize in 1974 for it.
Key Facts for Prelims
Direct Benefit Transfer in Kerosene
- Jharkhand became India’s first state to implement Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) in Kerosene in four identified districts namely, Chatra, Hazaribagh, Khunti and Jantara.
- Under the DBT Scheme, PDS kerosene is being sold at non-subsidised price and the subsidy is being transferred to consumers directly into their bank accounts.
- This initiative is aimed at rationalising subsidy and plugging the leakages.
- The scheme aims at eliminating subsidised Kerosene from the supply chain for targeting the beneficiaries and end pilferage and black-marketing.
- It also aims at cutting down adulteration of cheap cooking and lighting fuel with diesel.
SBI becomes first domestic bank to open branch in Yangon
- The State Bank of India (SBI) became the first domestic bank of India to open a branch in the capital city of Yangon, Myanmar.
- The Yangon branch is the 54th foreign branch of the SBI, nation’s largest lender.
- This branch extends the global presence of SBI in 37 countries through 198 offices.
Centralized Public Grievance Redress and Monitoring System (CPGRAMS)
Recently, various Ministries/Departments have been awarded the Certificates of Appreciation based on their performance in the Centralized Public Grievance Redress and Monitoring System (CPGRAMS).
The CPGRAMS is an online web enabled application to facilitate speedy redress of public grievances as it allows for online lodging and status tracking of grievances by the citizens.
Regional Anti-Dumping Workshop for Asian Investigating Authorities
- Regional Anti-Dumping Workshop for Asian Investigating Authorities was recently held in Delhi.
- The Workshop organised by the World Trade Organisation and the Centre for WTO Studies.
- Indian Institute of Foreign Trade brings together 37 senior officials from 18 investigating authority systems.
- Senior experts from developing countries in the Asian region, along with select developed countries like Australia, Canada, the EU, Japan and the United States participated in the workshop.
- The Workshop aims to assist Asian developing WTO Members’ investigating authorities to further enhance their technical capacity to conduct anti-dumping investigations in a fair and efficient manner, in conformity with WTO rules.