Current Affairs Analysis

7th February 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Human Genome Project. Female genital mutilation; Trust for Ram Temple; Uniform Code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices (UCPMP); Features of UCPMP Code; What is the Public Safety Act (PSA)?; Artemis program; Motion of Thanks; Bhutan; Motion of Thanks; National Means-cum-Merit Scholarship Scheme; Mudumalai Tiger Reserve; Bhutan Imposes Sustainable Development Fee; Lucknow Declaration; Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism; Genome India Project;
By IASToppers
February 10, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Centre persists with ‘toothless’ pharma codes
  • Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti booked under Public Safety Act
  • Constitution of a Trust for Ram Temple in Ayodhya
  • Motion of Thanks

Government Schemes & Policies

  • National Means-cum-Merit Scholarship Scheme

Social Issues

  • Female genital mutilation was cut by a health care provider

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Mudumalai Tiger Reserve

Bilateral & International Relations

  • Bhutan Imposes Sustainable Development Fee
  • Lucknow Declaration

Science & Technology

  • Nasa astronaut Christina Koch returns to Earth after record stay on space station
  • Genome India Project

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Polity & Governance

Centre persists with ‘toothless’ pharma codes

Despite several instances of breach of the voluntary UCPMP by pharma companies, and the demand from the Indian Medical Association (IMA) to make it mandatory, the Department of Pharmaceuticals has again requested companies to abide by UCPMP.

About Uniform Code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices (UCPMP):

  • UCPMP Code is a voluntary code issued by the Department of Pharmaceuticals (under the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers) relating to marketing practices for Indian Pharmaceutical Companies and as well medical devices industry.
  • UCMP is the part of Indian Medical Council act 1956.

Applicability:

  • At present, the UCPMP Code is applicable on Pharmaceutical Companies, Medical Representatives, Agents of Pharmaceutical Companies such as Distributors, Wholesalers, Retailers, and Pharmaceutical Manufacturer’s Associations.

Key features of UCPMP Code:

  • Samples: Stops pharma firms from gifting sample products to healthcare professionals. It also states that each sample pack given to a doctor should be limited to the prescribed dosage for three patients.
  • Gifts: No gifts, pecuniary advantages or benefits in kind may be supplied, offered or promised to persons qualified to prescribe or supply drugs, by a pharmaceutical company or any of its agents i.e. distributors, wholesalers, retailers etc.
  • Relationship with healthcare professional:  Companies shall not extend any travel facility inside the country or outside including rail, air, ship etc. to healthcare professionals and their family members for vacation or for attending press conferences.
  • Medical representative: In order to appoint Medical Practitioners as Affiliates there should be written contract, legitimate need for the services must be documented, and criteria for selecting affiliates must be directly related to the identified need. Furthermore, number of affiliates retained must not be greater than the number necessary to achieve the need and that the compensation must be reasonable.
  • Promotional materials: Promotional material such as mailings and journal advertisements must not be designed to disguise their real nature.
  • Claims: Claims for usefulness of a drug must be based on an up-to-date evaluation of all the evidence. The word “new” must not be used for any drug which has been generally available in India for more than 12 months.
  • Comparison of drugs: In presenting a comparison, care must be taken to ensure that it does not mislead by distortion or any other way. Brand name of other companies must not be used on comparison unless the prior consent has been taken.

Demand:

  • Experts have long demanded that in the context of unethical marketing and promotion, the DoP should immediately implement a mandatory mechanism for company disclosures of payments towards doctors and professional bodies, including via third parties.
  • The disclosures, which should be made at intervals and put in the public domain, should include the amount spent, individual or entity to which payment was made, and the reason for payment, including any services rendered.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti booked under Public Safety Act

The Jammu and Kashmir administration slapped PSA against former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah besides two political stalwarts from the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party.

What is the Public Safety Act (PSA)?

  • The Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA),1978 was introduced to prevent the smuggling of timber. It is often referred to as a draconian law.
  • Under the PSA, a person can be detained initially for 12 days. Any detention beyond three months is ratified by the PSA Advisory Board.
  • It allows for detention of any person above the age of 16 for up to two years in the case of persons acting prejudicial to the security of the State and for detention up to one year where any person is acting prejudicial to the maintenance of public order.
  • Detention orders under PSA can be issued by Divisional Commissioners or District Magistrates.
  • Section 22 of the Actprovides protection for any action taken “in good faith” under the Act: “No suit, prosecution or any other legal proceeding shall lie against any person for anything done or intended to be done in good faith in pursuance of the provisions of this Act.”

Misuse of PSA:

  • The law was being misused widely and was repeatedly employed against political opponents by consecutive governments until 1990.
  • In August 2018, the Act was amended to allow individuals to be detained under the PSA outside the state as well.

Criticism:

  • Under the Act, government is empowered to make rules consistent with the provisions of the Act. However, global human rights organisations have noted that no Rules have so far been framed to lay down procedures for the implementation of the provisions of the PSA.
  • Between 2007 and 2016, over 2,400 PSA detention orders were passed of which about 58% were rejected by the courts. Hence, most of these dentations are done arbitrarily.
  • PSA does not provide for a judicial review of detention.
  • PSC has been used against human rights activists and others who are considered as a threat to the law & order. Right to dissent is stifled by these Acts.
  • The terms under which a person is detained under PSA are vague and include a broad range of activities like “acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the State” or for “acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order”.
  • The detaining authority need not disclose any facts about the detention “which it considers to be against the public interest to disclose”.
  • The vagueness provided in the act gives unbridled powers to the authorities. The detainees, therefore, are effectively debarred from contesting the legality of their detention.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Constitution of a Trust for Ram Temple in Ayodhya

PM announced the constitution of an independent 15-member Trust named ‘Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra Trust’ to oversee the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya.

  • There will be a total of 15 members in the trust – 9 permanent and 6 nominated members in Trust.

Rules for handling trust:

 The government has made nine rules which will be the basis of how the trust will work.

1. The permanent office of the Trust will be discussed in the first meeting of Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra.

2. Trust will be completely free to take every decision related to the construction of Ram temple. It will also have to arrange all facilities for devotees such as kitchen, gaushala, museum and sarai.

3. Trustees can legally accept donations, grants, immovable property and assistance from any person, an institution for facilities and temple construction. Apart from this, the trust can also take a loan.

4. The board of trustees will appoint one trustee as president-managing trustee, who will preside over meetings. At the same time, the general secretary and treasurer will also be appointed.

5. The trust will decide on investment for existing funds for the construction of Ram temple.

6. The donations received for the Ram temple will be used only for the work of the trust. This money will not be used for any other work.

7. Trustees will not have the right to sell immovable property associated with Ram Mandir trust.

8. Trust will have to keep account of donations and expenses received for Ram Temple. Balance sheets will be created and trust’s accounts will be audited.

9. There is no provision of salary for the members of the Ram Mandir trust, but the expenses incurred during the journey will be paid by the trust.

Background:

  • In November, Supreme Court allowed the construction of a Ram temple at the site of the demolished Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, and ordered handing over another 5-acre plot to the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Waqf Board for the mosque.
  • One of the five suits before the court in the Babri Masjid case was in the name of Sri Ram Lalla Virajman, and of the birthplace, Asthan Shri Ram Janmabhoomi. This suit was founded on the claim that the law recognises both the idol and the birthplace as juridical entities. The court did not accept the Janmasthan as a juridical entity. Supreme court awarded the title of the land to Ram Lalla, to be held by the Trust.

What did the Supreme Court say about the Trust?

  • Supreme Court directed the Centre to formulate within three months a scheme to set up a Trust with a Board of Trustees or any other appropriate body under The Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya Act, 1993, with powers including the construction of a temple.
  • The court used its powers under Article 142 to direct that appropriate representation may be given in the Trust to the Nirmohi Akhara.
  • The Court also said that the scheme to be framed by the Centre should make “necessary provisions” about the functioning of the Trust, including on matters relating to its management, the powers of the trustees, including the construction of a temple and all other matters.
  • Furthermore, this Trust will get the possession of the inner and outer courtyards along with the rest of the acquired land, which will be managed and developed by the Shri Ram Janmbhoomi Teerth Kshetra.
[Ref: India Today, Indian Express]

Motion of Thanks

The Prime Minister replied to the Motion of Thanks in the Lok Sabha.

About Motion of Thanks:

  • Under Article 87 of the Constitution, the President addresses the joint sitting of both houses of the Parliament at the commencement of the first session after every General Election and the first session of every fiscal year.
  • This address is discussed by Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha on a motion which is called the ‘Motion of Thanks. TheMembers of Parliament vote on the motion of thanks. This motion must be passed in both the houses else amounts to the defeat of the government.

Provisions related to Motion of Thanks:

  • President’s Address and Motion of Thanks are governed by Articles 86 (1) and 87 (1) of the Constitution and Rules 16 to 24 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha respectively.

Other Points:

  • If at the time of commencement of the first session of the year, Lok Sabha is not in existence and has been dissolved, and Rajya Sabha has to meet, Rajya Sabha can have its session without the President’s Address. (Happened in 1977)
  • Article 86(1) of the Constitution provides that the President may address either House of Parliament or both Houses assembled together, and for that purpose require the attendance of members.
  • Article 87 provides for the special address by the President. Clause (1) of that article provides that at the commencement of the first session after each general election to the House of the People and at the commencement of the first session of each year, the President shall address both Houses of Parliament assembled together and inform Parliament of the causes of its summons. No other business is transacted till the President has addressed both Houses of Parliament assembled together.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Government Schemes & Policies

National Means-cum-Merit Scholarship Scheme

About:

  • A Central Sector Scheme
  • Implemented since 2008.
  • Scholarship of Rs 12000/- per annum are awarded to selected students. Prior to April 2017, the rate of scholarship was Rs 6000/- per year.

Objective:

  • To award scholarships to meritorious students of economically weaker sections to arrest their drop out at class VIII and encourage them to continue their study and complete secondary stage.

Key Features:

  • Coverage: The scheme envisages award of one lakh fresh scholarships every year to selected students of class IX and their continuation/renewal in classes X to XII for study in a State Government, Government-aided and Local body schools under the scheme.
  • There is a separate quota of scholarships for each State/UT. 
  • The selection of students for the award of scholarships under the scheme is made through an examination conducted by the States/UTs Governments. 

Eligibility:

  • Students whose parental income from all sources is not more than Rs. 1,50,000/- are eligible to avail the scholarships.
  • The awardees should get minimum of 55% marks in Class IX and XI, and a minimum of 60% in Class X for the continuance of scholarship (relaxable by 5% for SC/ST candidates).
  • The student should be studying as a regular student in a Government, Government-aided and local body schools. Students of Navodaya Schools, Kendriya Vidyalaya Schools and residential schools are not entitled to the scholarships.

Other Facts:

  • The scheme is boarded on the National Scholarship Portal (NSP) since 2015-16.

Outcomes:

The Scheme was evaluated by the National Institute of Planning and Administration (NIEPA).

  • The scheme has helped poor families in sending their meritorious children for secondary and senior secondary education.
  • Students register better performance in Class IX, X, XI and XII
  • Heads of all the institutions that the scheme has reduced the drop-out rate at the secondary and senior secondary classes, particularly from Classes VIII to XII.
  • NIEPA recommended an increase in the scholarship amount to make the scheme more attractive and effective.
[Ref: PIB]

Social Issues

Female genital mutilation was cut by a health care provider

Around 1 in 4 girls and women who have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM), or 52 million FGM survivors worldwide, were cut by health personnel, according to a new analysis by UNICEF.

What is Female genital mutilation?

  • Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
  • It is also known by other names including ‘cutting’, ‘female circumcision’ and ‘initiation’.
  • FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
  • According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), while the exact origins of the practice remain unclear, it seems to have predated Christianity and Islam.

Types of FGM:

Type 1:  Partial or total removal of the clitoral glans.

Type 2:  Partial or total removal of the clitoral glans and the labia minora.

Type 3: Also known as infibulation, this is the narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal.

Type 4: Includes all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes.

Why is FGM practised?

  • Controlling female sexuality: FGM has been closely associated with the control of female sexuality. Some believe the procedure curbs women’s sexual urges, and thereby increases the likelihood of them remaining virgins until they are married.
  • Religion: Sometimes it has started as part of a wider religious or traditional revival movement.
  • Social obligation: Partly because of its association with religion, many societies consider FGM an essential part of raising a girl and preparing her for womanhood and marriage.
  • Economic factors: In many communities, FGM is a prerequisite for marriage. In places where women may be financially dependent on marriage, economics can become a justification for FGM.  
  • Aesthetics: In some communities, the practice is presented as a form of beautification
  • Cultural tradition: In most societies, it is considered a cultural tradition, which is often used as an argument for its continuation.

Dangers of FGM:

Health issues:

  • Endangers the health of women and girls and can lead to long-term physical, psychological and social consequences.
  • Interferes with the natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies. Immediate complications can include severe pain, excessive bleeding and even death.
  • FGM is normally carried out by older members of the community, often women who lack proper medical training.

Financial burden:

  • As per WHO, current costs of treating health complications of FGM of 27 countries totaled 1.4 billion USD during 2018. This amount is expected to rise to 2.3 billion in 30 years (2047) if FGM prevalence remains the same.

Prevalence:

  • FGM is mainly practiced in sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab States, but it is also practised in some countries in Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America.
  • While the prevalence of FGM worldwide is down from three decades ago, at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM in the 31 countries, and 68 million girls are at risk by 2030. In 2020 alone, over 4 million girls around the world are at risk of being cut.

Which countries have banned FGM?

  • FGM has been banned by most African countries and many other European and Western nations.

Key Fact

  • International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation is celebrated on 6th February every year.
[Ref: BBC]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Mudumalai Tiger Reserve

A 48-day rejuvenation camp for captive elephants is being held in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve.

Mudumalai Tiger Reserve:

  • Located in Tamil Nadu. At the tri-junction of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
  • The Tiger reserve is part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve and is also recognised as Important Bird Area.  It shares borders Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (Kerala) on the West, Bandipur Tiger Reserve (Karnataka) on the North and Mukurthi National Park and Silent Valley in the South.
  • The River Moyar flows through the reserve.
  • Vegetation ranging from tropical evergreen forest, moist deciduous forest, moist teak forest, dry teak forest, secondary grasslands and swamps.
  • The fauna found here are Indian Elephants, Bengal Tiger, Leopards among others. The Avifauna includes Hornbills, Black and Orange Flycatchers etc.
  • Threats are deforestation, the spread of invasive species like Lantana Camara, excessive cattle grazing and among others.
  • The Indian Neutrino Observatory falls in the buffer zone of Mudumalai Tiger Reserve.

 [Ref: The Indian Express]

Bilateral & International Relations

Bhutan Imposes Sustainable Development Fee

  • Bhutan will impose a sustainable development fee per day on tourists from India, Bangladesh and the Maldives.
  • It will not be levied on tourists travelling to Eastern Bhutan.

Reasons:

  • Focus more on low volume, high-value tourists.
  • Protect the ecology of the country.
  • Provide better facilities for regional tourists.

About Bhutan:

Bhutan Physical Map
  • Bhutan is a landlocked country.
  • The capital is Thimphu.
  • It has borders with India and China.
  • Drangme Chhu, Mo Chhu, Wang Chhu and Torsa Chhu are the 4 major rivers of Bhutan.
  • It has never been colonized.
  • It follows a Parliamentary Democracy.
  • It is a member of the United Nations, SAARC, BIMSTEC, the Non-Aligned Movement and among others.
  • It pioneered the concept of Gross National Happiness.
[Ref: Indian Express, The Hindu]

Lucknow Declaration

The Lucknow Declaration (6th February 2020) was adopted by India and 50 African Countries coinciding with DefExpo-2020.

Highlights:

  • Strengthen cooperation in defence preparedness (includes peacekeeping initiatives) and production.
  • Increase maritime security through mutual cooperation.
  • Condemn the growing threat of terrorism and acknowledge that it constitutes a major threat to peace and security in the region and urge all countries to take resolute action in rooting out terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
  • Urge the international community for the adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism in the United Nations General Assembly.
  • Enhance cooperation between India and Africa on the evolving concept of Indo-Pacific and welcome the AU vision for peace and security in Africa that coincides with India’s vision of SAGAR (Security and Growth for all in the Region).
  • Both sides support initiatives such as African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), Silence The Guns in Africa and Agenda 2063.

Additional Points:

  • The African Standby Force is an international, continental African, and multidisciplinary peacekeeping force with military, police and civilian contingents that acts under the direction of the African Union.
  • AGENDA 2063 is Africa’s blueprint and master plan for transforming Africa into the global powerhouse of the future.
  • Silencing the Guns is a commitment to achieve the Aspirations of Africa’s Agenda 2063, specifically Aspiration 4, which envisions a peaceful and secure Africa, thereby making peace a reality for African people.
  • “Silence The Guns: Creating conducive conditions for African Development” is the African Union’s theme of the year 2020.

Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT):

  • India in 1996 proposed a draft convention to combat terrorism involving all countries of the world. It was termed as the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.

Objectives:

  • To have a universal definition of terrorism that all 193-members of the UNGA will adopt into their own criminal law.
  • To ban all terror groups and shut down terror camps.
  • To prosecute all terrorists under special laws.
  • To make cross-border terrorism an extraditable offence worldwide.

What is the roadblock?

  • Since 1996 the convention is in still draft stage due to lack of unanimity among members regarding the definition of terrorism.
[Ref: The Hindu, PIB, The Indian Express, Livemint]

Science & Technology

Nasa astronaut Christina Koch returns to Earth after record stay on space station

US astronaut Christina Koch, who led the first all-female spacewalk in 2019, landed in Kazakhstan on after a record stay on the International Space Station (ISS), ending a 328-day mission.

  • Valery Polyakov of Russia has the record of 438 days for the longest continuous stay in space.

Significance of Koch’s mission:

  • Provide researchers the opportunity to observe effects of long-duration spaceflight on a woman as NASA plans to return humans to the Moon under the Artemis program and prepare for human exploration of Mars.
  • Exploring data of how human body adjusts to weightlessness, isolation, radiation and the stress of long-duration spaceflight.
  • One particular research project Koch participated in is the Vertebral Strength investigation, which defines the extent of spaceflight-induced bone and muscle degradation of the spine, and the associated risk for broken vertebrae. This is expected to provide insight into the development of future countermeasures, such as preventative medicine or exercise. These results also could provide recommendations for limiting the amount of force astronauts are subjected to during launch.
  • Other experiments included work on the Microgravity Crystals investigation, which crystallises a membrane protein that is integral to tumour growth and cancer survival.

About Artemis program:

Image result for Artemis program:
  • The Artemis program is an ongoing program carried out predominately by NASA, with the goal of landing “the first woman and the next man” on the Moon, specifically at the lunar south pole region by 2024.
[Ref: India Today, Indian Express]

Genome India Project

  • The Government of India will roll out a gene mapping project under the name of Genome India Project. It would be similar to the Human Genome Project.
  • Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bengaluru and a few IITs will be involved in the project.  IISc will serve as the nodal point of the project while some IITs will help with new methods of computation.
  • In the first stage of the project aims to create a reference genome by looking into samples 10,000 persons from all over the country.

Significance:

  • Help develop personalised medicines.
  • Understand the genetic basis and take pre-emptive steps against various diseases like diabetes, mental health etc.

What is a Genome?

  • A genome is all the DNA in an organism, including its genes. Genes carry information for making all the proteins required by all organisms. These proteins determine attributes of an individual like facial features etc.

Human Genome Project

  • The Human Genome Project was an international research effort to determine the sequence of the human genome and identify the genes that it contains.
  • The US, UK, France, Germany, Japan and China were involved in the project.
  • It began in 1990 and completed in 2003.
  • The Project revealed about 20500 human genes, thus providing a database of detailed information related to structure, organisation and function about the human genes.

Its Goals were:

  • Identify all the approximately 20,000-25,000 genes in human DNA,
  • Determine the sequences of the 3 billion chemical base pairs that make up human DNA,
  • Store this information in databases,
  • Improve tools for data analysis,
  • Transfer related technologies to the private sector, and
  • Address the ethical, legal, and social issues (ELSI) that may arise from the project.
[Ref: Indian Express]
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