Daily Current Affairs

Prelims Prominence - October 9, 2017

Health Sector

Self-managing abortions safely

  • Medical abortion (MA) is a method of termination of early pregnancy using a defined combination of drugs.
  • MA was approved by the Drug Controller General of India in 2002 as a Schedule H drug; it is not an over-the-counter medication.
  • However, it is estimated that annually, between 6-8 million women attempt to terminate their pregnancy themselves by sourcing the drugs from chemists without a prescription.
  • For women in India, access to abortion has been marred by extreme stigma, lack of awareness about its legality, unavailability of safe services near the community, and high costs charged by providers
  • Till we can make women-centric comprehensive abortion care services available across the country, we need to accept the inevitability of women choosing to self-use
  • These include expanding the base of legal providers of abortion to enable wider access to safe services; allowing for training of providers only on MA; withdrawing unnecessary restrictions on chemists that lead to unavailability of MA drugs; and training certain cadres of service providers to effectively manage post-abortion complications.

IISc team fabricates nanomaterial to treat Parkinson’s

The material protected cells against neurotoxin-induced cell death by scavenging excess ROS

  • (IISc) Bengaluru has fabricated a metal oxide nanomaterial that is capable of mimicking all three major cellular antioxidant enzymes, thereby controlling the level of reactive oxygen species (ROS) inside cells.
  • Therapeutic applications against oxidative stress-induced neurological disorders, particularly Parkinson’s.
  • Reactive oxygen species, such as superoxide, hydrogen peroxide and hydroxyl radical, which are generated as part of a normal physiological process, are essential for the normal functioning of cells.
  • Excess of ROS generated is usually controlled by the action of three antioxidant enzymes (superoxide dismutase, catalase and glutathione peroxidase)
  • A problem arises when ROS is generated in excess and the enzymes are unable to control the level of ROS. Oxidative stress due to excessive ROS causes damage to DNA, proteins and lipids --> leading to several diseases like diseases such as neurodegeneration, cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
  • Developed a manganese oxide (Mn3O4) nanomaterial which functionally mimics all the three antioxidant enzymes.

IIT-K: Antibodies to treat a few genetic diseases

  • Retinitis pigmentosa is an inherited, degenerative eye disease that leads to progressive loss of vision as one gets older, while genetic nephrogenic diabetes arises from kidney cells’ inability to retain water leading to extreme thirst and dehydration.
  • In both these cases, the cause of disease is a mutation in the G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCR) which causes the receptors to be pulled from the plasma membrane to the inside of the cell just as the receptors reach the cell membrane to start signalling.
  • In the absence of the receptors (rhodopsin GPCR in the case of retinitis pigmentosa and vasopressin GPCR for genetic nephrogenic diabetes) the cells fail to signal and do not function normally
  • The pulling in or trafficking of the GPCR receptors from the membrane surface to inside the cells (which is called endocytosis) happens when a small family of proteins called beta-arrestins bind to GPCR receptors and to another class of proteins called clathrin
  • Designed synthetic antibody fragments which specifically bind to beta-arrestins at the position where clathrin gets bound. So our antibodies prevent the clathrin protein from binding to beta-arrestins thus preventing endocytosis,

Economy

The unintended consequences of GST

It has wreaked havoc on the informal sector. Do we have a plan to deal with this?

  • We have such a low official unemployment rate because, while the organised sector workforce accounts for just a fraction of the jobs, the informal sector ensures that 95% of the population earns a living
  • It is this mass of people in the informal sector who have been flattened by the GST
  • Take the apparel sector. Almost the entire sector — over 2 million units — consists of tiny units, officially ‘employing’ an average of just 1.5 persons each
  • The rest are jobbers and temporary hands who will now have to become registered vendors with GST numbers if these tiny units are to get the benefit of GST.
  • Anecdotal evidence suggests that a huge number of these units may either simply fold up or be forced to lay off their jobbers and tempers — or else officially absorb them as workers, which will definitely make them non-competitive.

The lowdown on GST pitfalls

Contemporary Problems/ Challenges

  • Exporters have to wait an inordinate amount of time before the refunds are processed and paid. As a result, they say a large part of their working capital Is stuck.
  • Another pressing problem is the capacity of the GST Network portal for filing tax returns. Since the rollout, the portal has fared poorly
  • The third issue being faced by the government is that taxpayers are missing the deadlines to file returns and so it cannot accurately estimate how much revenue GST is yielding. problem of the online portal crashing is in large part due to the fact that businesses are waiting till the last moment to file their returns.
  • Experts, however say that due to uncertainties and frequent changes in the tax rate, companies are using all the available time to make sure there are no errors in their returns. The missed deadlines, according to the GST Suvidha Providers, are due to a variety of factors, including poor taxpaying habits, a clashing of deadlines, and the fact that the government has so far been lenient

Governance

End subsidy, says draft Haj policy

  • Abolishing subsidy for Haj pilgrims and allowing women above 45 to travel in a group of at least four without a male member were some of the key highlights of a proposed policy drafted
  • The Haj Policy 2018-22, by the panel headed by former Secretary Afzal Amanullah, also recommended bringing down the number of embarkation points (EPs) from which pilgrims could take flights to Saudi Arabia from 21 to nine.
  • The draft was submitted to Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi

Supreme Court on Haj Subsidy (2001 Supreme Court Order):

  • Every year around 1.5 lakh Indian Muslims go on the Haj pilgrimage.
  • Indian government used to heavily subsidize their expenses for the pilgrimage.
  • The court observed that the Haj subsidies had been rising every year, from Rs. 10.5 crore in 1994 to Rs. 685 crore in 2011, with the increase in air fare and pilgrims.
  • The Court agreed that there was no justification for subsidising even the normal air fares usually charged for a return ticket to Jeddah (Saudi Arabia).
  • The court also ordered an end to the practice of sending a goodwill Haj delegation.
  • The Government sends Hajj Goodwill Delegation every year to oversee Hajj arrangements, to meet the Saudi Hajj authorities and promote goodwill between India and Saudi Arabia.
  • It asked the government to choose a maximum 10 among the Haj pilgrims who were in Saudi Arabia on their own expenses for this purpose.
  • It suggested that the money be used for the uplift of the community in education and other indices of social development.
  • Haj is one of the most complex organizational tasks undertaken by Government of India outside its borders.
  • Although a five day religious congregation, it is virtually a year long managerial exercise.
  • Indian Haj pilgrims who constitute one of the largest national group perform Haj through two streams - (i) the Haj Committee of India (HCOI), and (ii) registered Private Tour Operators (PTOs).
  • HCOI established under the Haj Committee Act 2002 is responsible for making the arrangements for pilgrims performing Haj through them.
  • All arrangements for the HCoI pilgrims in Saudi Arabia are coordinated by the Consulate General of India, Jeddah

National

Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav-2017

  • Dr. Mahesh Sharma to inaugurate ‘Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav-2017’ to be held in Ahmadabad, India’s 1st World Heritage City, From 7th To 9th October, 2017
  • Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav was conceived by the Ministry of Culture in the year 2015 with an intent to showcase the rich cultural heritage of the Country in all its rich and varied dimensions, viz Handicrafts, Cuisine, Painting, Sculpture, Photography, Documentation and Performing Arts-Folk, Tribal, Classical and Contemporary- all in one place. So far, this Ministry has organised 5 RSM’s i.e 2 in Delhi, 1 each in Varanasi, Bengaluru and RSM North East in all NE State capitals.

Dialogue of Civilizations – IV being Organized from 8th – 15th October, 2017

  • ‘4th Dialogue of Civilizations’ is being jointly organized by the Archaeological Survey of India, Ministry of Culture and National Geographic in New Delhi from 8th to 15th October, 2017.
  • It will be inaugurated by the Minister of State (Independent charge) for Culture Dr. Mahesh Sharma on 8th October, 2017 (Sunday). Secretary, Ministry of Culture Smt. Rashmi Verma will preside over the function. The theme of the Conference is “Technology and Civilization”.

Bilateral Relations

India-South Africa Twenty Years of Strategic Partnership

  • India and South Africa are celebrating twenty years of strategic partnership this year.
  • The Union Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, Environment, Forests & Climate Change, Dr. Harsh Vardhan attended the celebrations of the collaboration in science and technology in Durban.
  • The event was co-hosted by the Departments of Science and Technology of S. Africa and India.
  • A book highlighting the two decades of fruitful cooperation in science and technology spanning across the knowledge chain, was released. Inter-governmental agreement on cooperation in the field of Science & Technology was concluded in 1995.
  • A multi-institutional project on HIV Vaccine Research Collaboration has been also initiated this year.
  • This is aimed to develop preventive HIV vaccine and will also lead to the identification of biomarkers and development of novel techniques for diagnosis and management of tuberculosis.
  • Another hallmark of the vibrant collaboration was the launch of a new program on ‘Grass Root Innovation’ aimed towards sharing of open source technologies and IPR protection of traditional knowledge systems.
  • This program is designed for co-development of products through value addition.
  • The novel initiative has been aptly named as ‘Gandhi-Mandela Program on Grass Root Innovation’.
  • National Innovation Foundation, Ahmedabad will implement this program on the Indian side.
  • Earlier, Dr. Harshvardhan visited the SKA site in Karoo desert and was apprised of the progress of the mega-telescope project in which India is a member country.
  • Indian scientists will be contributing in several design work packages of SKA, notably the Telescope Manager and the Central Signal Processing.
  • Telescope Manager System will be the controlling nerve centre behind the functioning of the SKA observatory.
  • The SKA project will address some of the most interesting science goals in astrophysics