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January 8, 2019
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07 January Current Affairs

Polar vortex

In News:

Weather experts are predicting an extremely cold January and February for the northeastern United States, much of northern Europe and parts of Asia. The reason being given is the polar vortex.

Details:

In this decade, the polar vortex has also been blamed on extremely cold weather in the United States in 2014 and the infamous ‘Beast from the East’, the blast of cold weather that blew from Siberia towards western Europe and the UK in February and March of 2018.

It is described as a whirling cone of low pressure over the poles that is strongest in the winter months due to the increased temperature contrast between the polar regions and the mid-latitudes, such as the US and Europe.

The polar vortex spins in the stratosphere, a layer of the atmosphere 10-48 km above the ground and above the troposphere, where most familiar weather patterns develop.

Usually, when the vortex is strongest, cold air is less-likely to plunge deep into North America or Europe. In other words, it forms a wall that protects the mid-latitudes from cold Arctic air.

But occasionally, the polar vortex is disrupted and weakens, due to wave energy propagating upward from the lower atmosphere. When this happens, the stratosphere warms sharply in an event known as sudden stratospheric warming, in just a few days, miles above the Earth’s surface.

The warming weakens the polar vortex, shifting its location somewhat south of the pole or, in some instances, ‘splitting’ the vortex up into ‘sister vortices’.

Effects:

The split higher up in the atmosphere can give rise to both, sudden and delayed effects, much of which involves declining temperatures and extreme winter weather in the eastern US along with northern and western Europe.

A sudden stratospheric warming also leads to a warm Arctic not only in the stratosphere but also in the troposphere as well. A warmer Arctic, in turn, favours more severe winter weather in the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes including the eastern US.

Source: The Hindu

Legal status for SSC

In News:

A Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) has recommended that the Centre accord statutory status to the Staff Selection Commission (SSC), one of the largest recruitment agencies in the country.

Background:

The SSC was created to ease the burden of the UPSC by taking over the recruitment for posts below the Group ‘A’ level. The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) and all State Public Service Commissions either have constitutional or legal status. The SSC is the only such organisation that performs similar functions on a much larger scale, but does not enjoy statutory status.

At present, the SSC has a sanctioned staff strength of 481 officers but is functioning with 75% of its sanctioned strength.

Need for a statutory status:

There has been a phenomenal increase in the workload of the SSC, from 9.94 lakh candidates in 2008-09 to over 2 crore in 2016-17.

While the workload and responsibilities of the SSC have increased exponentially over the years, it has remained an “attached body” under the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), and has to depend entirely on the government for all its needs, with no autonomy.

According statutory status to the SSC would contribute to greater functional autonomy, faster decision-making and efficiency in the overall performance and delivery of results by the SSC in the recruitment process.

Source: The Hindu

Govt declares ‘one-time financial assistance’ for Rare diseases

In News:

Government has announced a ‘one-time financial assistance’ for Rare diseases. The standing finance committee has approved a proposal for adding a sub-component under the umbrella scheme of Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi (RAN) for provision of one-time financial assistance to those below threshold poverty line for specified rare diseases which require one-time treatment.

Details:

A rare disease, also referred to as an orphan disease, is any disease that affects a small percentage of the population.

Most rare diseases are genetic, and are present throughout a person’s entire life, even if symptoms do not immediately appear. In Europe a disease or disorder is defined as rare when it affects less than 1 in 2000 citizens.

Rare diseases are characterised by a wide diversity of symptoms and signs that vary not only from disease to disease but also from patient to patient suffering from the same disease. Relatively common symptoms can hide underlying rare diseases, leading to misdiagnosis.

The most common rare diseases recorded in India are Haemophilia, Thalassemia, sickle-cell anaemia and primary immuno deficiency in children, auto-immune diseases, Lysosomal storage disorders such as Pompe disease, Hirschsprung disease, Gaucher’s disease, Cystic Fibrosis, Hemangiomas and certain forms of muscular dystrophies.

Need of nationwide policy:

State has responsibility for providing affordable, accessible and reliable health-care services to every citizen. In fact constitution also mentions importance of health-care services under articles like 21, 38 and 47 and thus state cannot evade this responsibility under the pretext of non-justifiability of articles.

Given the low volumes at which the drugs needed to treat such diseases would be consumed, pharmaceutical companies have little commercial incentive to produce them. Thus, a nationwide policy on orphan drugs could incentivize these players.

Even if pharmaceutical companies are incentivized to develop drugs to treat rare diseases, pharmaceutical companies remain beholden to the laws of economics and, given the low demand for orphan drugs, price these drugs as high as they choose to. Hence there has to be regulation of the government in restricting the exorbitant prices of the drugs.

Although proportion of rare diseases is much less than the other diseases, it does not reduce the importance of the life of person affected by rare diseases. Thus national policy would remove this adverse distinction and would make government committed equally to all people.

Source: The Hindu

Fugitive Economic Offender

In News:

Vijay Mallya has become the first person to be declared a fugitive offender under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act. The order was passed under Section 2F of FEOA against Mallya by the PMLA court.

Details:

The investigative agency can now confiscate properties of Mallya which are not directly related to the cases against him.

Background:

The decision comes against an application by the Enforcement Directorate before the special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court to classify Mallya as a fugitive economic offender.

Definition- Fugitive Economic Offender:

The fugitive economic offenders’ law came into force in August last year. A person can be named an offender under this law if there is an arrest warrant against him or her for involvement in economic offences involving at least Rs. 100 crore or more and has fled from India to escape legal action.

The procedure:

The investigating agencies have to file an application in a Special Court under the Prevention of Money-Laundering Act, 2002 containing details of the properties to be confiscated, and any information about the person’s whereabouts.

The Special Court will issue a notice for the person to appear at a specified place and date at least six weeks from the issue of notice.

Proceedings will be terminated if the person appears. If not the person would be declared as a Fugitive Economic Offender based on the evidence filed by the investigating agencies.

The person who is declared as a Fugitive Economic Offender can challenge the proclamation in the High Court within 30 days of such declaration according to the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018.

Source: The Hindu

The New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill, 2018

In News:

The Lok Sabha has passed the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill to set up a revamped International Arbitration Centre at New Delhi with an aim to make India the hub of arbitration.

Key features of the Bill include:

New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (NDIAC): The Bill seeks to provide for the establishment of the NDIAC to conduct arbitration, mediation, and conciliation proceedings.  The Bill declares the NDIAC as an institution of national importance.

International Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ICADR): The ICADR is a registered society to promote the resolution of disputes through alternative dispute resolution methods (such as arbitration and mediation). The Bill seeks to transfer the existing ICADR to the central government.

Composition: Under the Bill, the NDIAC will consist of seven members including: (i) a Chairperson who may be a Judge of the Supreme Court or a High Court, or an eminent person with special knowledge and experience in the conduct or administration of arbitration; (ii) two eminent persons having substantial knowledge and experience in institutional arbitration; (iii) three ex-officio members, including a nominee from the Ministry of Finance and a Chief Executive Officer (responsible for the day-to-day administration of the NDIAC); and (iv) a representative from a recognised body of commerce and industry, appointed as a part-time member, on a rotational basis.

Term and superannuation: The members of NDIAC will hold office for three years and will be eligible for re-appointment.  The retirement age for the Chairperson is 70 years and other members is 67 years.

Objectives and functions of the NDIAC: The key objectives of the NDIAC include (i) promoting research, providing training and organising conferences and seminars in alternative dispute resolution matters; (ii) providing facilities and administrative assistance for the conduct of arbitration, mediation and conciliation proceedings; (iii) maintaining a panel of accredited professionals to conduct arbitration, mediation and conciliation proceedings.  Key functions of the NDIAC will include: (i) facilitating conduct of arbitration and conciliation in a professional, timely and cost-effective manner; and (ii) promoting studies in the field of alternative dispute resolution.

Finance and audit: The NDIAC will be required to maintain a fund which will be credited with grants received from the central government, fees collected for its activities, and other sources.  The accounts of the NDIAC will be audited and certified by the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India.

Institutional support: The Bill specifies that the NDIAC will establish a Chamber of Arbitration which will maintain a permanent panel of arbitrators.  Further, the NDIAC may also establish an Arbitration Academy for training arbitrators and conducting research in the area of alternative dispute resolution.  The NDIAC may also constitute other committees to administer its functions.

Arbitration:

Arbitration is a settlement of dispute between two parties to a contract by a neutral third party i.e. the arbitrator without resorting to court action. The process can be tailored to suit parties’ particular needs.

Arbitrators can be chosen for their expertise. It is confidential and can be speedier and cheaper than court. There are limited grounds of appeal. Arbitral awards are binding and enforceable through courts.

Significance of ADR:

It is felt that a reliable and responsive alternative dispute resolution system is essential for rapidly developing countries like India. While business disputes need speedy resolution, litigation is the least favoured method for that. The Indian judicial system is marred by delays because of which businesses suffer as disputes are not resolved in a reasonable time period. Therefore, need for alternative dispute resolution processes like negotiation, mediation conciliation and arbitration is felt from time to time.

Source: The Hindu

Polavaram project

In News:

The Andhra Pradesh government has bagged the Central Board of Irrigation and Power (CBIP) award for speedy execution of Polavaram multipurpose project on the Godavari river.

Details:

Andhra Pradesh received the award in the category of “Best Implementation of Water Resources Project” for better planning, implementation and monitoring.

About the Polavaram project:

Polavaram Project is a multi-purpose irrigation project. The dam across the Godavari River is under construction located in West Godavari District and East Godavari District in Andhra Pradesh state and its reservoir spreads in parts of Chhattisgarh and Orissa States also.

The project is multipurpose major terminal reservoir project on river Godavari for development of Irrigation, Hydropower and drinking water facilities to East Godavari, Vishakhapatnam, West Godavari and Krishna districts of Andhra Pradesh.

The Polavaram project was accorded national status in 2014 in the Andhra Pradesh Bifurcation Act and its design was changed.

About CBIP:

The Central Board of Irrigation and Power (CBIP), is a Premier Institution set up by the Government of India in the 1927.

CBIP has been rendering dedicated services to the professional organizations, engineers and individuals in the country related to Power, Water Resources and Renewable Energy Sectors for more than eight decades.

Objectives:

Dissemination of technical knowledge and information through various modes, e.g., publication of journals, manuals, technical reports, guidelines, organizing seminars and conferences and recognisation of technical excellence through bestowing awards.

  • To provide training to the engineers/professionals.
  • To provide consultancy services.
  • To provide research and professional excellence.
  • To provide linkages to Indian Engineers, Managers and Scientists with their counterparts in other countries and with international organizations.
  • To establish a Technical database, technological developments and to provide information services to the professionals.
  • Introduction of Latest Technologies.

Source: The Hindu

Cyclone Pabuk

In News:

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has sounded a yellow alert for the cyclone Pabuk. Cyclone Pabuk originated over the Gulf of Thailand and neighbourhood.

Four Stage Warning:

The cyclone warnings are issued to state government officials in four stages.

The First Stage warning known as “PRE CYCLONE WATCH” issued 72 hours in advance contains early warning about the development of a cyclonic disturbance in the north Indian Ocean, its likely intensification into a tropical cyclone and the coastal belt likely to experience adverse weather. This early warning bulletin is issued by the Director General of Meteorology himself and is addressed to the Cabinet Secretary and other senior officers of the Government of India including the Chief Secretaries of concerned maritime states.

The Second Stage warning known as “CYCLONE ALERT” is issued at least 48 hrs. in advance of the expected commencement of adverse weather over the coastal areas. It contains information on the location and intensity of the storm likely direction of its movement, intensification, coastal districts likely to experience adverse weather and advice to fishermen, general public, media and disaster managers. This is issued by the concerned ACWCs/CWCs and CWD at HQ.

The Third Stage warning known as “CYCLONE WARNING” issued at least 24 hours in advance of the expected commencement of adverse weather over the coastal areas. Landfall point is forecast at this stage. These warnings are issued by ACWCs/CWCs/and CWD at HQ at 3 hourly interval giving the latest position of cyclone and its intensity, likely point and time of landfall, associated heavy rainfall, strong wind and storm surge along with their impact and advice to general public, media, fishermen and disaster managers.

The Fourth Stage of warning known as “POST LANDFALL OUTLOOK” is issued by the concerned ACWCs/CWCs/and CWD at HQ at least 12 hours in advance of expected time of landfall. It gives likely direction of movement of the cyclone after its landfall and adverse weather likely to be experienced in the interior areas.

Different colour codes as mentioned below are being used since post monsoon season of 2006 the different stages of the cyclone warning bulletins as desired by the National Disaster Management.

  • Cyclone Alert- Yellow.
  • Cyclone Warning- Orange.
  • Post landfall outlook- Red.

Source: The Hindu

Asia Competitiveness Institute’s (ACI) EDB index

In News:

Asia Competitiveness Institute’s (ACI) has released its Ease of Doing Business Index on Attractiveness to Investors, Business Friendliness and Competitive Policies (EDB Index ABC).

Details:

Performance of Indian states: Andhra Pradesh has topped the list. It is followed by Maharashtra and Delhi.

Asia Competitiveness Institute at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore was established as a research centre in 2006 with an aim to build intellectual leadership and network for understanding and developing competitiveness in the Asia region.

World Braille Day- January 4th

In News:

The United Nations observed the first official World Braille Day on 4th January to create awareness about the importance of Braille.

Details:

World Braille Day is celebrated on the January 4th to honour Louis Braille, who is credited for inventing the Braille script. Louis Braille was born in France on 4 January 1809.

What is Braille?

Braille is a tactile writing system used by people who are visually impaired. It is traditionally written with embossed paper.

Braille invention allows visually impaired individuals to lead an independent life through learning and understanding of the Braille codes. Initially, the code was devised in 1821 by Louis Braille, for the provision of accessibility in learning skills, gaining equal opportunities, achieving goals, managing security and creating various opportunities for intellectual thinkers.

Mandal Dam project

In News:

Mandal Dam is being built on the North Koel River.

About the Mandal Dam Project:

The Mandal Dam project will help around one lakh eleven thousand hectares of agricultural land in Jharkhand and Bihar to get irrigation facilities.

Funding: 60% of the project cost would be financed by the central government as a grant from Long-Term Irrigation Fund (LTIF) under Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY). Remaining 40% will be borne by the States through loan financed by NABARD.

North Koel River: North Koel River originates on Ranchi plateau in Jharkhand and joins the Sone River, a few miles north-west of Haidarnagar in Jharkhand. The river meanders through the northern part of Betla National Park. The principal tributaries of the North Koel River are Auranga and the Amanat.

 

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