- Zika virus kills cells that form key brain tissue: report
- Prime Minister Launches Setu Bharatam Programme
- Special cell set up to gather data on subsidies of other nations
- Government announces third round of Gold Bond Scheme
Art & Culture
- Chapchar Kut celebrated across Mizoram
Zika virus kills cells that form key brain tissue: report
The researchers in the United States have found that Zika virus severely damages a type of neural stem cell that gives rise to the brain’s cerebral cortex.
- The team of researchers saw the virus’ destruction, on neuronal cells derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells.
- Several other questions however remain. For instance, why are the symptoms in adults so mild? How is the virus entering the nervous system of the developing foetus?
Significance of the findings:
- It may be the first lab evidence of the potency of the Zika virus.
- The findings are significant given that the World Health Organisation (WHO) is set to decide, within the next few months, whether the Zika virus — historically known to be relatively benign — is indeed wholly responsible for the outbreak of microcephaly, or deformed skulls, in newborns in Brazil and other parts of South America.
Prime Minister Launches Setu Bharatam Programme
Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi launched the Setu Bharatam programme for building bridges for safe and seamless travel on National Highways.
About the programme:
The Setu Bharatam programme aims to make all National Highways free of railway level crossings by 2019. This is being done to prevent the frequent accidents and loss of lives at level crossings.
- The Minister informed that 208 Railway Over Bridges (ROB)/Railway Under Bridges (RUB) will be built at the level crossings at a cost of Rs. 20,800 crore as part of the programme.
- In addition to this, about 1500 old and worn down bridges will also be improved by replacement/widening/strengthening in a phased manner at a cost of about Rs. 30,000 crore.
- The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways has already invited bids for appointing consultancy for preparing Detailed Project Report for this. The target is to award the consultancy work by March, 2016.
Indian Bridge Management System (IBMS):
- The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways has also established an Indian Bridge Management System (IBMS) at the Indian Academy for Highway Engineer in Noida, U.P.
- The aim is to carry out conditions survey and inventorization of all bridges on National Highways in India by using Mobile Inspection Units.
- Till now inventorization of 50,000 bridges has been done.
This data base will be the largest of its kind and will also help in smoothening the movement of Over-Dimension and Over-Weight consignments on National Highways.
Special cell set up to gather data on subsidies of other nations
The Union government has set up a special cell to compile information on subsidies given by other countries to their industry.
- The constitution of the special cell — as well as proposed measures including changes in laws such as Customs Act —is also aimed at indirectly helping India Inc file applications before the government seeking imposition of anti-subsidy duties on subsidised imports of items, such as steel, harming local industries.
Importance of the move:
- The development comes in the backdrop of slowdown in global trade and measures taken (including against merchandise exports from India) by several countries such as the U.S. to protect their domestic industries from unfairly low-priced imports.
- The move to create a special cell — with representatives from several ministries including commerce and finance — also comes at a time when the government is keen to boost local manufacturing through initiatives such as Make In India, Start-up India and Digital India.
What are subsidies according to WTO norms?
- Under the WTO norms, subsidies refer to financial contribution (loan, loan guarantee, grant, import duty exemption, equity infusion, fiscal incentives and purchase of goods) by the government or state agencies resulting in advantages to those players availing it.
Action against subsidies is meant to level the playing field.
Government announces third round of Gold Bond Scheme
The Government of India, in consultation with the Reserve Bank of India, has decided to issue third tranche of Sovereign Gold Bond (SGB) scheme.
- The application window for the third tranche of the Sovereign Gold Bond (SGB) scheme will be March 8-14 and the bonds issued on March 29.
- The first and second tranche of the scheme, unveiled respectively in November 2015 and January 2016, met with greater success.
- Now the government announced that the application window for the third tranche of the Sovereign Gold Bond (SGB) scheme will be March 8-14 and the bonds issued on March 29.
Currently, jewellers across the country are on strike against Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s Budget proposal to impose 1 per cent excise duty on jewellery.
Government’s response to the controversy:
- The government has now clarified that the excise duty would be applicable only on jewellers having a turnover exceeding Rs.12 crore a year.
- Even for this nominal 1 per cent excise duty, manufacturers are allowed to take credit of input services, which can be utilised for payment of duty on jewellery.
About Sovereign Gold Bond (SGB) scheme:
- Under the scheme, gold bonds are issued in denominations of 5 grams, 10 grams, 50 grams and 100 grams for a term of 5-7 years with a rate of interest to be calculated on the value of the metal at the time of investment.
- The maximum amount which can be subscribed is 500 grams per person per financial year and the interest rate on the bonds are set at 2.75 per cent per annum, payable on a half-yearly basis.
- The government’s plan behind the SGB scheme is to encourage those who use gold as a store of value to instead invest in the gold bonds as opposed to the physical yellow metal itself. The idea, among others, is to reduce India’s substantial gold imports.
- The bonds, issued by the Reserve Bank of India on behalf of the government, have a tenor of eight years with an exit option from the fifth year onwards.
- The Bonds will be sold through banks, Stock Holding Corporation of India Ltd. (SHCIL) and designated Post Offices.
Art & Culture
Chapchar Kut celebrated across Mizoram
Chapchar Kut, the most important traditional festival of the Mizos, was celebrated across Mizoram and also in the Mizo-inhabited areas in the neighbouring states.
- The Chapchar Kut was organised jointly by the state art and culture department and the Young Mizo Association.
About the Chapchar Kut festival:
The Chapchar Kut Festival is a spring festival of Mizoram, India.
- It is celebrated during March after completion of their most arduous task of Jhum operatione., jungle-clearing (clearing of the remnants of burning). This is a time when the trees and bamboos felled for jhum are left to dry and the shifting cultivators have time to relax and enjoy.
- Chapchar Kut is one of three annual festivals of the Mizos celebrated to mark three different stages of the agricultural cycle. The other two are Mim Kut and Pawl Kut.
- Chapchar Kut used to be celebrated to thank the gods for saving the people from harm during the clearing of forest on hill slopes for jhum cultivation at the beginning of a year.
[Ref: BS, Wiki]