Polity & Governance
- Commission approves modern animal-free testing for drugs
- TRIFED goes digital for Inventory Management and Sales
- Madhya Pradesh gets India’s 1st Smart Cities Control Centre
Government Schemes & Policies
- Panel for time-bound release of MPLADS funds
- TRAI issues draft to tweak interconnect regulations
- MSEs biz sentiment improves in Jan-Mar: CriSidEx Survey
- NextGen Airports for Bharat to boost airport capacity
Bilateral & International Relations
- Third edition of UNPCAP inaugurated in New Delhi
- India, Guatemala join hands aiming to strengthens diplomatic cooperation
- India ranks 4th in Asia-Pacific on power index, pegged as ‘giant of the future’
Art & Culture
- Tholu Bommalata on the verge of extinction
- Nathu La opened for Kailash yatra
Science & Technology
- Scientists comes up with new sheep insemination technique
Key Facts for Prelims
- India slips to 7th position in business optimism ranking
For IASToppers Current Affairs Analysis Archive, Click Here
Polity & Governance
Commission approves modern animal-free testing for drugs
In a step that would spare animals from suffering due to drug experiments, the Indian Pharmacopoeia Commission has approved modern, animal-free tests for drug manufacturers.
- In its latest guidelines on tests for drugs manufactured and marketed in India, the IPC has replaced the pyrogen test carried out on rabbits and the abnormal toxicity test carried out on guinea pigs and mice with tests that can be done in test tubes.
- With the Indian Pharmacopoeia Commission’s new mandate, the pyrogen test will be replaced by a bacterial endotoxin test or a monocyte activation test which can be carried out in test tubes.
- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India has been pushing for doing away with the cruel methods of testing on animals for the past several years.
What is pyrogen test?
- The pyrogen test is carried out to check impurity or substance that can cause adverse side-effects. For the test, the drug is injected into a rabbit and the animal is closely observed for feverish symptoms.
What is abnormal toxicity test?
- The abnormal toxicity test is carried out to check potential hazardous biological contamination in vaccine formulations. This batch test is done before the product is approved for marketing. In this, mice or guinea pigs are injected with the vaccine.
About Indian Pharmacopoeia Commission (IPC):
- The Indian Pharmacopoeia Commission (IPC) is an autonomous institution of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
- IPC was established by executive orders in 1945 according to Indian Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940. It is headquartered in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh.
- IPC is created to set standards of drugs in the country.
- Its basic function is to update regularly the standards of drugs commonly required for treatment of diseases prevailing in this region.
- It publishes official documents for improving Quality of Medicines by way of adding new and updating existing monographs in the form of Indian Pharmacopoeia (IP).
- It further promotes rational use of generic medicines by publishing National Formulary of India.
TRIFED goes digital for Inventory Management and Sales
Tribal Co-operative Marketing Development Federation (TRIFED) of Ministry of Tribal Affairs has operationalised Retail Inventory Software (RIS) in all its Tribes India Outlets, Regional Offices and Head Office for inventory control.
- The electronic mode of system has been made available at all Regional Offices and Outlets, streamlining the entire retail operations from purchases upto sales by automating the transaction process and tracking important purchase, stocks and sales data.
- Implementation of RIS software will bring greater transparency and control over various transactions under Retail sale.
- Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India Limited (TRIFED) is an apex organisation at National Level and functioning under the administrative control of Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
What TRIFED is doing?
- TRIFED is serving the interests of Tribals, who are engaged in collection of NTFP and making of Tribal Art & Handicraft Products for their livelihood so as to ensure better remunerative price for their products as well as for the socio-economic betterment through Self Help Groups, Empanelled NGOs, State level Tribal Development Corporations, Forest Development Corporations for undertaking marketing development of the tribal products.
- TRIFED is playing and lead role in protecting, promoting and multiplication of Honey Bees by Scientific, Non-destructive collection practices, thereby increasing the livelihood of tribal people living in various forest areas of the country, contributing to the growth of Honey Bees population and reducing the mortality rate of Honey Bees drastically.
Madhya Pradesh gets India’s 1st Smart Cities Control Centre
Bhopal Smart City Development Corporation Ltd. (BSCDCL) has launched India’s first cloud-based Common Integrated Data Centre, Disaster Recovery Centre and Integrated Control and Command Centre (ICCC).
- It is powered by Hewlett Packard (HP) Enterprise’s Universal Internet of Things (IoT) Platform.
- ICCC will enable Madhya Pradesh State administration to monitor and administer multiple city civic utilities and citizen services across seven smart cities in state through central cloud. These seven cities include Bhopal, Gwalior, Jabalpur, Indore, Ujjain, Satna, and Sagar.
- It will also enable state-wide monitoring of these cities from central command view and result in significant cost savings as compared to deploying full-fledged data and disaster recovery centre along with command control centres in each of these seven cities.
About the ICCC:
- ICCC is a cloud-based Universal Internet of Things (UIoT) platform developed by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). It can run multiple city command centre operations through its multi-efficiency capabilities.
- ICCC would integrate a multitude of citizens’ services applications and sensors running across selected cities of Madhya Pradesh. It would enable the authorities to monitor the status of various smart civic amenities in real-time through the sensors connected to it.
- The GPS sensors installed in public transport buses, dial 100 vehicles, 108 ambulance services, smart poles, smart lights, traffic management cameras, public bike sharing, solid waste management, meteorological department updates, smart maps etc. would be linked to this centre, enabling the authorities to monitor the status of the civic amenities in real-time.
About Smart City Mission:
The Smart City Mission is flagship scheme of Union Government that will cover 100 cities and its duration is five years (2015-16 to 2019-20).
- The focus of mission is on sustainable and inclusive development and set examples which can be replicated in other parts of the city and other cities of the country.
- Bottom-up approach has been the key planning principle under Smart City Mission.
- Under the scheme, each city will get Rs.500 crore (Rs. 100 crore per year) from the Centre for implementing various projects.
- Centre is going to spent Rs. 48,000 crore over five years. States will contribute matching fund of Rs. 48,000 crore from their internal resources or through market borrowing and through private sector.
- The implementation of the Mission at the City level will be done by a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) created for the purpose.
- The SPV will plan, appraise, approve, release funds, implement, manage, operate, monitor and evaluate the Smart City development projects.
- Each smart city will have a SPV which will be headed by a full time CEO and have nominees of Central Government, State Government and ULB on its Board.
- The selection of the cities was based on scores of cities for carrying out urban reforms in areas including sanitation and governance.
- Cities that score highest were picked for the project, to be implemented over a 10-year period.
- There are 10 core infrastructure elements to be undertaken under Smart City Mission viz. adequate water supply; assured electricity supply; efficient urban mobility and public transport; sanitation, including solid waste management; affordable housing, especially for the poor; robust IT connectivity and digitalization; good governance, especially e-Governance and citizen participation; sustainable environment; safety and security of citizens, particularly women, children and the elderly; and health and education.
Government Schemes & Policies
Panel for time-bound release of MPLADS funds
The parliamentary panel on Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) funds has recommended that amounts donated by lawmakers for rehabilitation work after natural disasters be disbursed within two weeks.
What’s the issue?
- Funds are to be released by the nodal district of the lawmaker concerned to the district authority of the affected district.
- However, funds allocated for the purpose by the parliamentarians often reach the affected people too late to help. Currently, the actual transfer takes anything from six months to over a year due to red tape.
About MPLAD Scheme:
The MPLAD Scheme is Central Sector Scheme launched in 1993-94.
- To provide a mechanism for the Members of Parliament to recommend works of developmental nature for creation of durable community assets and for provision of basic facilities including community infrastructure, based on locally felt needs.
What kind of works can be recommended?
- Works, developmental in nature, based on locally felt needs and always available for the use of the public at large, are eligible under the scheme.
- Preference under the scheme is given to works relating to national priorities, such as provision of drinking water, public health, education, sanitation, roads, etc.
Role of MPs:
- Role of MPs for the projects is only recommendatory i.e. they can only recommend their choice of works to concerned district authorities who implement these works by following the established procedures of the concerned state government.
Recommending powers of MPs
- The Lok Sabha Members can recommend works in their respective constituencies.
- The Rajya Sabha Members of Parliament can recommend works in one or more districts in the State from where he/she has been elected.
- The Nominated Members of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha may select any District in the Country for implementation of their choice of work under the scheme.
- The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MSPI) is nodal ministry to coordinate work under scheme.
- The scheme is governed by set of guidelines (last revised in June, 2016).
Execution of works:
- The MPs recommend their choice of works to the concerned district authorities who implement these works by following the established procedures of the concerned state government.
- The district authority is empowered to examine the eligibility of works sanction funds and select the implementing agencies, prioritise works, supervise overall execution, and monitor the scheme at the ground level.
- Under this scheme, the funds are released in the form of grants in-aid directly to the district authorities on receipt of requisite documents and as per these guidelines.
- The funds released under the scheme are non-lapsable i.e. if the fund for particular work is not spent in that year, it will be carried forward to the subsequent years, subject to eligibility.
- The annual entitlement under the scheme per MP at present is Rs 5 crore.
Analysis of the scheme:
- Since its inception of the scheme, a total number of 18,82,180 works for Rs. 44,929.17 crore have been sanctioned till August, 2017 from MPLADS fund.
- It has resulted into creation of various durable community assets which have impacted the social, cultural and economic life of the local communities in one way or the other.
TRAI issues draft to tweak interconnect regulations
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) issued draft Telecommunication Interconnection (Amendment) Regulations 2018 to amend interconnect regulations, proposing certain changes in terms and conditions for operators to seek fresh call connect ports from other telecom operators.
Key features of draft rules:
- Service provider can ask another operator for additional ports or Point of Interconection (POI), in case projected utilisation of capacity is likely to exceed 85% over 60 day period.
- The time frame for provisioning of ports for initial interconnection and augmentation is proposed to be increased to maximum 42 working days.
- Telecom operator will have to give forecast of outgoing call traffic of busy hours for each interconnect point once every six months (April 1 and October 1) to interconnecting service provider. The first such forecast has to be given within two months from commencement of these amended regulations.
MSEs biz sentiment improves in Jan-Mar: CriSidEx Survey
According to the CriSidEx survey, business sentiment among micro and small enterprises (MSE) improved in the January-March quarter as the sentiment index rose by 14 points in the quarter.
- The CriSidEx sentiment index rose to 121 in the survey quarter (SQ) of January-March from 107 in the previous quarter.
- CRISIL-SIDBI MSE Sentiment Index (or CriSidEx) has been developed jointly by CRISIL and SIDBI.
- It is a composite index based on diffusion index of 8 parameters.
- It measures MSE business sentiment on a scale of 0 (extremely negative) to 200 (extremely positive).
- The parametric feedback for the index will be captured through a survey of 1100 MSEs.
- CriSidEx will have 2 indices, one for ‘survey quarter’ and another for ‘next quarter’. Once trend emerges after few rounds of survey, it will provide independent time series data.
Significance of index
The index will help to
- Indicate the current state and expected outlook on the MSME sector every quarter.
- Provide crucial insights into employment, business environment and foreign trade in MSME sector.
- Allow policy makers to take timely proactive steps, including those based on early warnings thrown up by survey of index.
- Provide intelligence and insights for regulators, trade bodies, lenders as well as economic and financial analysts.
- Help in forecasting business environment by capturing sentiment on various business parameters such as business situation, capacity utilisation, order book and margins.
- Flag potential headwinds and changes in production cycles in MSME sector and thus help in improving market efficiencies.
Significance of MSME:
- MSME sector is backbone of the economy.
- It is one of the largest employer in the country and with the vast population where employment either in government or in the large industry itself has limited potential.
- This is one sector where people not only exhibit their entrepreneurial skills, become part of large value chains but also become job creators in the process. And that is the reason why a bulk of the jobs in manufacturing, trading have been created in this particular sector.
NextGen Airports for Bharat to boost airport capacity
The government is augmenting the airport capacity of various airports as part of NABH (NextGen Airports for BHarat) Nirman initiative.
About NABH Nirman initiative:
- The government in February announced a new initiative — NABH Nirman— under which it proposes to expand airport capacity in the country by more than five times to handle a billion trips a year.
The three key aspects of NABH Nirman are:
- Fair and equitable land acquisition,
- Long-term master plan for airport and regional development and
- Balanced economics for all stakeholders.
Significance of the initiative:
- In the last three years, domestic air passenger traffic grew at 18% a year and the airline companies placed orders for more than 900 aircraft.
- NABH Nirman could take the number of airports in India to 700 from about 125 airports today.
Bilateral & International Relations
Third edition of UNPCAP inaugurated in New Delhi
The third edition of the United Nations Peacekeeping Course for African Partners (UNPCAP) is being held in New Delhi.
- The UNPCAP is aimed to build and enhance the capacity of the African Troop Contributing Countries to the UN and to further train the trainers from these countries.
- The course is conducted by the Centre for United Nations Peacekeeping in India (CUNPK) in partnership with the US, the Indian Army said in a statement.
- The first and second editions of the course were held in New Delhi in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
- The training incorporates topics on operational and logistical matters, humanitarian issues, thematic topics, Blackboard and table Top exercises and mission briefs. The course is also targeted to assist the student officers to further train officers in their respective countries on the nuances of peacekeeping.
India and UN Peacekeeping:
- India is the largest cumulative troop contributor to UN Peacekeeping Missions mandated to maintain stability and negotiate peace settlement in turbulent regions across the world.
- So far India has provided almost 200,000 troops in nearly 50 of 71 UN peacekeeping missions over past six decades, including 13 of current 16 missions.
India, Guatemala join hands aiming to strengthens diplomatic cooperation
India and Guatemala have signed pact for strengthening diplomatic cooperation through Respective Foreign Service Institutes in educational field.
- Both countries agreed to support each other’s candidature for Non-Permanent Membership in United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
- Guatemala will support India’s candidature for UNSC membership for 2021-22 while New Delhi will do so for 2031-32 for Guatemala.
- Indian side also agreed to Guatemala’s request for supplying solar panels to its airports. They also signed MoU for training of diplomats and Letter of Intent (LoI) for training Guatemalan English Teachers in India.
Location of Guatemala:
- It is the most populated state in Central America.
- Guatemala is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to north and west, Pacific Ocean to southwest, Belize to northeast, Caribbean to east, Honduras to east and El Salvador to southeast.
India ranks 4th in Asia-Pacific on power index, pegged as ‘giant of the future’
India was ranked fourth out of 25 nations in Asia-Pacific region in the inaugural Asia Power Index released by Australian think tank Lowy Institute.
About the Asia Power Index:
- It measures overall power of countries and territories in Asia-Pacific region.
- A country’s overall power is its weighted average across eight measures of power – economic resources, military capability, diplomatic influence, economic relationships, resilience, future trends, defence networks and cultural influence.
Highlights of the report:
- Three of the world’s four largest economies are in Asia and United States is Pacific power.
- By 2025, two-thirds of world’s population will live in Asia, compared to just over a tenth in the West.
- US remained to be pre-eminent power in Asia, while China, an emerging superpower is rapidly closing in on United States.
- It ranked Russia, South Korea, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, New Zealand, Vietnam, Taiwan, Pakistan, Philippines and North Korea as middle powers, while Bangladesh, Myanmar, Brunei, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Mongolia, Laos and Nepal as “minor powers.”
- The index held that Japan and India are countries sharing major power status. It labelled Japan as smart power and called India giant of future.
India related facts:
- India was ranked fourth on parameters of economic resources, military capability and diplomatic influence. It was ranked fifth on resilience.
- However, on the parameters of cultural influence and future trends, India scored well by ranking third in both.
- India also scored low on measure of economic relationships and defence networks, ranking seventh and seventh respectively.
Art & Culture
Tholu Bommalata on the verge of extinction
Tholu Bommalata, the traditional puppetry art form of Andhra Pradesh, has lost its sheen. Now, there are only a few artisans to carry forward the art.
About Tholu Bommalata:
- Tholu Bommalata is the shadow puppet theatre tradition of the state of Andhra Pradesh. Tholu Bommalata literally means “the dance of leather puppets”.
- The puppeteers make up some of the various entertainers who perform all night and usually reenact various stories from Hindu epics such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
- Its performers the part of a group of wandering entertainers and peddlers who pass through villages during the course of a year and offer to sing ballads, tell fortunes, sell amulets, perform acrobatics, charm snakes, weave fishnets, tattoo local people and mend pots.
- Years ago, the art was active in the four districts of Rayalaseema, especially in the border villages of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
- However currently, there are only 6-8 troops left in all those areas that are still taking up the leather puppetry as the prime livelihood.
Nathu La opened for Kailash yatra
Nathu La pass has been reopened for the annual Kailash Mansarovar Yatra.
China had shut down the Nathu La pass in Sikkim and denied entry to the Kailash Mansoravar (located in Tibet) pilgrims last year due to the standoff in Doklam between troops of India and China at the border on account of security reasons.
About Kailash Manasarovar Yatra:
- Kailash Mansarovar Yatra (KMY) is known for its religious importance, cultural significance and arduous nature. The annual pilgrimage holds religious importance for Hindus, Jains and Buddhists.
- The Yatra is organized by the government of India in close cooperation with the Government of the People’s Republic of China.
- State Governments of Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Delhi, and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam Limited (KMVN) are other major Indian partners of the Ministry in organizing the Yatra.
About Mansarovar Lake:
- Mansarovar Lake is located at an altitude of 14,950 ft (4,558 m) is said to be the highest freshwater lake in the world.
- It is located in the Tibet Autonomous Region, China, 940 kilometres from Lhasa.
- To the west of it is Lake Rakshastal and to the north is Mount Kailash.
About Nathu La pass:
- Nathu La is a mountain pass in the Himalayas.
- It connects the Indian state of Sikkim with China’s Tibet Autonomous Region.
- The pass forms a part of an offshoot of the ancient Silk Road.
- On the Indian side, the pass is 54 km east of Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. Only citizens of India can visit the pass, and then only after obtaining a permit in Gangtok.
- Nathu La is one of the three open trading border posts between China and India; the others are Shipkila in Himachal Pradesh and Lipulekh (or Lipulech) at the trisection point of Uttarakhand–India, Nepal and China.
- Sealed by India after the 1962 Sino-Indian War, Nathu La was re-opened in 2006 following numerous bilateral trade agreements.
- The opening of the pass shortens the travel distance to important Hindu and Buddhist pilgrimage sites in the region and was expected to bolster the economy of the region by playing a key role in the growing Sino-Indian trade. However, trade is limited to specific types of goods and to specific days of the week.
- It is also one of the four officially agreed BPM (Border Personnel Meeting) points between the Indian Army and People’s Liberation Army of China for regular consultations and interactions between the two armies, which helps in defusing stand-offs.
The five BPM are:
- Chushul in Ladakh,
- Nathu La in Sikkim,
- Bum La and Kibithu Pass in Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh, and
- Lipulekh Pass in Uttarakhand.
Science & Technology
Scientists comes up with new sheep insemination technique
Scientists at Central Sheep and Wool Research Institute (CSWRI), Avikanagar, Rajasthan have come up with new laparascope-assisted insemination technique for sheep breeding.
About the new technique:
- It is minor invasive laparascopic technique involves passing rigid fibre-optic laparoscope into abdomen through small incision.
- Using it, reproductive tract of sheep is located through camera and frozen semen is deposited into uterus.
Significance of new technique
- The new technique has resolved difficulties involved in freezing of semen and inability to transit tortuous reproductive tract of sheep kept as livestock. Earlier, success with frozen semen in sheep was very low because of its poor freezability.
- The new technique will also help achieve up to 60% survival in birth of lambs. Moreover, it will have immense potential for rapid multiplication of elite germplasm. Using this technique, as many as 40 females can be inseminated from a single ejaculate.
- It will also be of great help in the breed improvement programmes.
Key Facts for Prelims
India slips to 7th position in business optimism ranking
- India was ranked 6th on Global Optimism Index released as part of Grant Thornton’s International Business Report (IBR) in the first quarter of 2018.
- The report was prepared based on the results of a survey of 2,500 businesses in 37 economies.
- The top five nations are Austria, Finland, Indonesia, the Netherlands and US. India with a score of 89 was ranked at the sixth place in the index.
- India had topped the chart for four years, but business optimism in India deteriorated while entering the last year of the current Government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.