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June 8, 2019
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07 June Current Affairs

Competition Commission of India (CCI)

In News:

CCI imposes penalty on pharma companies, trade associations for violating the provisions of the Competition Act, 2002.

Competition Commission of India:

It is a statutory body of the Government of India, responsible for enforcing the Competition Act, 2002 throughout India and to prevent activities that have an adverse effect on competition.

Objectives of the Commission:

  • To prevent practices having adverse effect on competition.
  • To promote and sustain competition in markets.
  • To protect the interests of consumers.
  • To ensure freedom of trade.

Functions of the commission:

It is the duty of the Commission to eliminate practices having adverse effect on competition, promote and sustain competition, protect the interests of consumers and ensure freedom of trade in the markets of India.

The Commission is also required to give opinion on competition issues on a reference received from a statutory authority established under any law and to undertake competition advocacy, create public awareness and impart training on competition issues.

The Competition Act:

The Competition Act, 2002, as amended by the Competition (Amendment) Act, 2007, prohibits anti-competitive agreements, abuse of dominant position by enterprises and regulates combinations (acquisition, acquiring of control and M&A), which causes or likely to cause an appreciable adverse effect on competition within India.

Source: The Hindu

Cabinet Committees

In News:

The Union government has released the composition of eight Cabinet Committees, including two new ones — one on Investment, the other on Employment and Skill Development.

Details:

Government of India Transaction of Business Rules, 1961 emerging out of Article 77(3) of the Constitution states: “The President shall make rules for the more convenient transaction of the business of the Government of India, and for the allocation among Ministers of the said business.”

The Rules mandate the minister-in-charge of a department (ministry) to dispose of “all business allotted to a department under” him or her. However, “when the subject of a case concerns more than one department”, no decision can be taken “until all such departments have concurred, or, failing such concurrence, a decision thereon has been taken by or under the authority of the Cabinet”.

Who constitutes and assigns functions to these committees?

The Prime Minister constitutes Standing Committees of the Cabinet and sets out the specific functions assigned to them. He can add or reduce the number of committees.

Ad hoc committees of ministers, including Groups of Ministers, may be appointed by the Cabinet or by the Prime Minister for specific matters.

Overview of the committees:

Cabinet Committee on Appointments- This panel makes appointments to posts of the three service chiefs, Director General of Military Operations, chiefs of all Air and Army Commands, Director General of Defence Intelligence Agency, Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister, Director General of Armed Forces Medical Services, Director General of Ordnance Factories, Director General of Defence Estates, Controller General of Defence Accounts, Director of Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, Solicitor-General, Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Chairman and Members of the Railway Board, Chief Vigilance Officers in Public Sector Undertakings and Secretariat posts of and above the rank of Joint Secretary in the Central Government. This Committee decides on all important empanelments and shift of officers serving on Central deputation.

Accommodation: The Cabinet Committee on Accommodation determines the guidelines or rules with regard to the allotment of government accommodation. It also takes a call on the allotment of government accommodation to non-eligible persons and organisations as also the rent to be charged from them. It can consider the allotment of accommodation from the General Pool to Members of Parliament. It can consider proposals for shifting existing Central Government Offices to locations outside the capital.

Economic Affairs: The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs is supposed to review economic trends, problems and prospects “for evolving a consistent and integrated economic policy”, coordinate all activities requiring policy decisions at the highest level, deal with fixation of prices of agricultural produce and prices of essential commodities. It considers proposals for investment of more than Rs 1,000 crore, deal with industrial licensing policies and review rural development and the Public Distribution System.

Parliamentary Affairs: The Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs draws the schedule for Parliament sessions and monitors the progress of government business in Parliament. It scrutinises non-government business and decides which official Bills and resolutions are to be presented.

Political Affairs: The Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs addresses problems related to Centre-state relations. It also examines economic and political issues that require a wider perspective but have no internal or external security implications.

Security: The Cabinet Committee on Security deals with issues relating to law and order, internal security and policy matters concerning foreign affairs with internal or external security implications. It also goes into economic and political issues related to national security. It considers all cases involving capital defence expenditure more than Rs 1,000 crore. It considers issues related to the Department of Defence Production and the Department of Defence Research and Development, Services Capital Acquisition plans and schemes for procurement of security-related equipment.

The new panels:

Investment: The Cabinet Committee on Investment will “identify key projects required to be implemented on a time-bound basis”, involving investments of Rs 1,000 crore or more, or any other critical projects, as may be specified by it, with regard to infrastructure and manufacturing. It will prescribe time limits for giving requisite approvals and clearances by the ministries concerned in identified sectors. It will also monitor the progress of such projects.

Employment: The Cabinet Committee on Employment and Skill Development is supposed to provide “direction to all policies, programmes, schemes and initiatives for skill development aimed at increasing the employability of the workforce for effectively meeting the emerging requirements of the rapidly growing economy and mapping the benefits of demographic dividend”. It is required to enhance workforce participation, foster employment growth and identification, and work towards removal of gaps between requirement and availability of skills in various sectors. The panel will set targets for expeditious implementation of all skill development initiatives by the ministries and to periodically review the progress in this regard.

Source: Indian Express

Bus and Metro travel free for women in Delhi

In News:

Few experts have criticised the Delhi government’s proposal to make buses and the Metro free for women.

Details:

Under the proposal announced by the Delhi government, women will have the option to not pay for rides. The move, which is at the stage of feedback and planning, has drawn reactions ranging from enthusiastic approval to vehement rejection.

Rationale behind this move:

To tackle congestion on the roads.

To make it easier for women to move from informal and more unsafe modes of transport such as shared autos and cabs to more formal and safer modes such as the Metro.

To help more women enter the workforce.

Past experiences elsewhere:

Studies on fully free public transport systems have underlined both positives and challenges.

Hasselt, Belgium, made public transport free in 1996, and also expanded its transport fleet. A decade later, a study reported a tenfold increase in ridership. however, rising operational costs forced Hasselt to do away with the scheme in 2014.

German town of Templin made public transport free in 1997, and continues with the policy even today. Within three years, ridership increased 1,200%, with children and the youth making up the vast majority of the increased numbers. This, however, led to increased vandalism. Also, “the vast majority of the substitution effects were due to shift from soft modes — 30-40% from biking and 35-50% from walking. Only 10-20% of the substitution effects were associated with previous car trips.”

In 1991, the Netherlands introduced a seasonal free-fare travel card for higher education students, which led to the share of trips made by students rising from 11% to 21%. Fifty-two per cent of cyclists, and 34% of car users moved.

How different is Delhi’s scheme when compared to similar schemes in the West?

The West has done it to battle road congestion and pollution. However, the reasons given by the Delhi government are different- safety and security.

Challenges ahead:

Funding: The challenge for the Delhi government is to find the funds for the project — which it says it has. According to the Delhi government, the cost of subsidising women’s travel will be around Rs 1,200 crore annually. However, studies show that operational costs frequently rise in the long run, and schemes become increasingly less viable.

Challenges of implementation: Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) is looking at special passes for women. But the Metro has automated fare collection (AFC) gates that require tokens or Metro cards — the Metro will have to either isolate entry and exit points for women where AFC gates can be done away with, or come up with special cards or tokens for women.

Last mile connectivity: For women, walking to and from the nearest bus stop or Metro station, especially during the early mornings and late evenings, remains unsafe in many places in the city.

Source: Indian Express

Why US wants social media details of most visa applicants?

In News:

The United States government has updated visa application forms to require nearly all applicants to provide their social media usernames, email addresses, and phone numbers for the past five years. The requirement to provide the additional information is in line with the Donald Trump administration’s decision to ensure more stringent screening of potential immigrants and visitors to the United States.

Impact:

The new policy will affect roughly 15 million US visa applicants around the world every year. More than a million non-immigrant and immigrant US visas are given to Indians every year. Government officials and diplomats are exempt from providing the additional information.

Critics say the sweeping surveillance potential of the new regulations could discourage a wide range of visa applicants.

Why the change?

To improve screening processes to protect US citizens, while supporting legitimate travel to the United States.

Collecting this additional information from visa applicants will strengthen the process for vetting applicants and confirming their identity.

Why some are concerned?

Social media is an intricate map of its users’ contacts, associations, habits and preferences. Full information on accounts will give the US government access to a visa applicant’s pictures, locations, birthdays, anniversaries, friendships, relationships, and a whole trove of personal data that is commonly shared on social media, but which many may not like to share with agencies of state.

Research shows that this kind of monitoring has chilling effects, meaning that people are less likely to speak freely and connect with each other in online communities that are now essential to modern life.

Elsewhere in the world:

In 2015, Indians faced further scrutiny in Schengen visas, after it was made mandatory to provide biometric data through fingerprints and a digital photo. That requirement was already in place in the US and Britain. Currently, the UK and Canada — popular destinations for Indian visitors and immigrants — do not have any policy of collecting social media information form visa applicants.

Source: The Hindu

Fixed Dose Combinations (FDCs)

In News:

A drug advisory body sub-committee has asked pharmaceutical companies to prove that 324 combination medicines are safe and effective for patients to consume in order to decide whether these drugs should continue to be sold in India.

Details:

Fixed dose combinations (FDCs) were declared “irrational” by a Health Ministry expert committee set up in 2014.

To give an opportunity to drug makers to defend the 324 FDCs, the sub-committee has given the companies until June 30 to submit and present “precise data”.

Concerns:

As of April, the CDSCO had approved 1,288 FDCs. This is disproportionately high compared with the availability in a tightly regulated market like USFDA, which has only a few hundred approved FDCs.

The problem of unapproved FDCs mainly affects those who get treated in the private sector. In the absence of a strong pharmacovigilance mechanism in India, there is no data on adverse events of these unapproved FDCs.

What’s ailing the system?

There are multiple deficiencies in the CDSCO’s approval process for FDCs. Main amongst them are institutional problems such as understaffing, lack of skills, and inadequate infrastructure. However, the most significant issue is the issuance of manufacturing licenses by the State Licensing Authority without the prior clearance of the Drug Controller General of India DCG(I), the head of CDSCO.

What are FDCs?

An FDC is a cocktail of two or more active drug ingredients in a fixed ratio of doses. According to US healthcare provider IMS Health, almost half the drugs sold in India in 2014 were FDC, making it a world leader in combination drugs.

Why are they popular in India?

FDCs’ popularity in India is due to advantages such as increased efficacy, better compliance, reduced cost and simpler logistics of distribution. FDCs have shown to be particularly useful in the treatment of infectious diseases like HIV, malaria and tuberculosis, where giving multiple antimicrobial agents is the norm. FDCs are also useful for chronic conditions especially, when multiple disorders co-exist.

Source: Down to Earth

New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty)

In News:

Russia has warned that it was prepared to drop New START treaty with the U.S. and warned of “global catastrophe” if Washington keeps dismantling a global arms control regime.

Details:

It alleged that Washington showed no genuine interest in conducting talks on extending the New START treaty, which caps the number of nuclear warheads well below Cold War limits.

About New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty):

It is a nuclear arms reduction treaty between the United States and the Russian Federation with the formal name of Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms.

It was signed on 8 April 2010 in Prague, and, after ratification entered into force on 5 February 2011.

New START replaced the Treaty of Moscow (SORT), which was due to expire in December 2012. Its name is a follow-up to the START I treaty, which expired in December 2009, the proposed START II treaty, which never entered into force, and the START III treaty, for which negotiations were never concluded.

Under terms of the treaty:

The number of strategic nuclear missile launchers will be reduced by half.

A new inspection and verification regime will be established, replacing the SORT mechanism.

The number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads is limited to 1,550, which is down nearly two-thirds from the original START treaty, as well as 10% lower than the deployed strategic warhead limit of the 2002 Moscow Treaty.

It will also limit the number of deployed and non-deployed inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) launchers, submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launchers, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments to 800. The number of deployed ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments is limited to 700.

Timeline to meet these Targets:

These obligations must be met within seven years from the date the treaty enters into force. The treaty will last ten years, with an option to renew it for up to five years upon agreement of both parties.

Source: The Hindu

Haryana government withdraws EBPG quota

The Haryana government has withdrawn its quotas of posts kept reserved under the Economically Backward Persons in General Category (EBPG) and Backward Class (Block-C) in government jobs and state-run educational institutions. The government has also asked all the departments of the state government to release reserved posts from the quota into the General/ unreserved category.

Ancient North Siberians

Scientists have identified a previously unknown group of ancient people who lived in north eastern Siberia during the last Ice Age that lasted from about 126,000 to 11,700 years ago.

The team named the group ‘Ancient North Siberians’ and described their existence as the ‘missing link’ in the Native American ancestry.

Ancient North Siberians endured extreme conditions during the late Pleistocene (often referred to as the Ice Age) and survived by hunting woolly mammoths, woolly rhinoceroses, and bison.

They were ancestors both to the first humans who inhabited the Americas (the first Peoples) and to a subsequent Siberian group (the Ancient Palaeo-Siberians).

They also possessed the mosaic genetic make-up of modern-day people inhabiting across northern Eurasia and the Americas: These ancient Palaeo-Siberians got 75 per cent their DNA from East Asians, while for the first people inthe Americas it was 63 per cent.

World Food Safety Day

June 7 is set to be celebrated as the first World Food Safety Day. This was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2018.

This year’s theme is ‘Food Safety, everyone’s business’.

The United Nations has designated two of its agencies — the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) — to lead efforts in promoting food safety around the world.

Plant Discoveries 2018 and Animal Discoveries 2018

596 new species of flora and fauna were discovered from India in the year 2018. The details of the discoveries were made public by the Botanical Survey of India (BSI) and the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) in the publications Plant Discoveries 2018 and Animal Discoveries 2018 .

Key findings:

Of the 596 species, 372 come under fauna (311 invertebrates and 61 vertebrates).

The newly identified 224 plant species include seed plants, pteridophytes, bryophytes, fungi and lichen.

About 31% of the plant species were discovered in the Himayalas.

In the case of animals, the Western Ghats remained a biological hotspot from where about 50% of the species were found.

Of the 61 species of vertebrates discovered this year, reptiles dominate (30 species).

Kerala recorded the highest number of discoveries with 59 species. West Bengal, a state with both Himalayan and coastal ecosystems, recorded 38 and Tamil Nadu recorded 26.

With these new discoveries, the updated list of animal species in India has risen to 1,01,681 which is about 6.49% of all the species in the world.

The number of plant species in the country has been updated to 49,441 which is 5% of all flora in the world.

About African Union (AU)

The African Union (AU) is a continental union consisting of 55 countries of the continent of Africa, with exception of various territories of European possessions located in Africa.

The bloc was founded on 26 May 2001 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and launched on 9 July 2002 in South Africa.

The intention of the AU is to replace the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), established on 25 May 1963 in Addis Ababa by 32 signatory governments.

The most important decisions of the AU are made by the Assembly of the African Union, a semi-annual meeting of the heads of state and government of its member states.

The AU’s secretariat, the African Union Commission, is based in Addis Ababa.

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