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11 March Current Affairs

Commercial Cord Blood Banking

In News:

Recently there has been growing concern regarding the aggressively promoted concept of cord blood banking.

Key Points:

Over the past decade, stem cell banking has been aggressively marketed even as its use is still in experimental stages.

The stem cell banking companies get access to data of to-be parents and start approaching their prospective customers much before the delivery and offer competitive packages.

Companies convince parents to bank the cells for several years promising future therapeutic use.

Enormous fees are charged from parents to preserve cells merely by emotional marketing.

However, according to Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), there is no scientific basis for preservation of cord blood for future self use and this practice therefore raises ethical and social concerns.

The ICMR does not recommend commercial stem cell banking.

Private storage of the cord blood is advisable when there is an elder child in the family with a condition treatable with these cells and the mother is expecting the next baby.

In other situations, parents should be educated about the limitations of banking at this point of time.

Cord Blood Banking:

Cord blood is the blood from the baby that is left in the umbilical cord and placenta after birth. Cord blood banking involves taking the umbilical cord blood, which is a rich source of stem cells, and preserving it for future use.

It contains special cells called hematopoietic stem cells that can be used to treat some types of diseases.

Hematopoietic stem cells can mature into different types of blood cells in the body.

Globally, cord blood banking is recommended as a source of hematopoietic stem cell (derived from bone marrow, peripheral blood, or umbilical cord blood) transplantation for haematological cancers and disorders where its use is recommended.

Competition Commission of India

In News:

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) organised the Fifth National Conference on Economics of Competition Law at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi.

Competition Commission of India:

Competition Commission of India is a statutory body responsible for enforcing the objectives of the Competition Act, 2002.

CCI has been established by the Central Government with effect from 14th October 2003.

Composition: A Chairperson and 6 Members appointed by the Central Government.

Duty of the Commission:

1) To eliminate practices having adverse effects on competition.

2) Promote and sustain competition.

3) Protect the interests of consumers.

4) 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.

Depopulation in Border Areas of Arunachal Pradesh

In News:

The Arunachal Pradesh government has sought pilot development projects to stop people living along its international borders, specifically with China, from migrating to faraway urban centres in the State.

Arunachal Pradesh shares a 1,080 km border with China, 440 km with Myanmar and 160 km with Bhutan.

Key Points:

The several instances of intrusion by people from Tibet across the McMahon Line into districts of Arunachal Pradesh bordering China have been reported.

McMahon Line is the boundary between India and China.

Following the intrusion, the depopulation in border villages of Arunachal Pradesh have been observed. It is considered as a security threat, as it is easier for foreign armies to occupy vacant villages.

Though possible facilities are being provided to border villagers under the Border Area Development Programme the state government of Arunachal Pradesh has advocated selection of 10 census towns along the India-China border as pilot projects for infrastructure development.

The State government has also proposed a special package of ₹4.60 crores to the Union Home Ministry for development of infrastructure in the border areas.

The above development is expected to dissuade people from migrating for livelihood.

Kyasanur Forest Disease

In News:

There is a proposal to set up a research centre on Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD) in Sagar, Karnataka.

The State government has already allocated ₹15 crore for establishing the centre, which will take up study and research on tackling KFD.

Key Points:

It is caused by Kyasanur Forest disease Virus (KFDV), a member of the virus family Flaviviridae.

It was first identified in 1957 in a sick monkey from the Kyasanur Forest in Karnataka. Since then, between 400-500 human cases per year have been reported.

KFD is endemic to the Indian state of Karnataka. It is also referred to as monkey fever by locals.

Rodents, shrews, and monkeys are common hosts for KFDV after being bitten by infected Hard ticks (Haemaphysalis Spinigera). KFDV can cause epizootics (outbreak of disease in animals) with high fatality in primates.

Transmission: To humans, it may occur after a tick bite or contact with an infected animal (a sick or recently dead monkey).

Signs and Symptoms: After an incubation period of 3-8 days, the symptoms like chills, fever, headache, severe muscle pain, vomiting, gastrointestinal symptoms and bleeding may occur. Patients may experience abnormally low blood pressure, and low platelet, red blood cell, and white blood cell counts.

Diagnosis: It can be diagnosed in the early stage of illness by molecular detection by Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) or virus isolation from blood. Later, serologic testing using enzyme-linked immunosorbent serologic assay (ELISA) can be performed.

Treatment and Prevention: There is no specific treatment for KFD although vaccine is available.

KIRAN Scheme

In News:

The Knowledge Involvement in Research Advancement through Nurturing (KIRAN) Scheme is one of the several pioneering initiatives started by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) for promoting women in science.

Key Points:

The Department of Science and Technology (DST) is implementing ‘Knowledge Involvement in Research Advancement through Nurturing (KIRAN)’ Scheme to provide various career opportunities to women scientists and technologists.

It is primarily aimed to bring gender parity in the Science & Technology sector by inducting more women talent in the research & development domain through various programmes.

It also provides fellowship support ranging from Rs 25000 to 55000 to women ranging in the age group 27 to 57 years for continuing higher education in Science and Technology after a break in career.

Quota within quota for SCs in Haryana

In News:

The Haryana cabinet has recently approved the draft bill ‘The Haryana Scheduled Castes (Reservation in Admission in Educational Institutions) bill, 2020.’

This bill provides quota within quota for SCs in the state.

Key provisions and highlights of the Bill:

The bill provides reservation of 50% seats to the deprived scheduled castes, out of the total 20% reserved for SC in the graduation and postgraduation courses.

This will cover all educational institutions maintained by the government or receiving aid out of the state funds.It also includes government and government-aided technical and professional institutions.

Here, deprived SC includes all 36 castes which were part of Block A including Valmiki, Bazigar, Sansi, Deha, Dhanak, and Sapera.

Why this was necessary?

As per employees data collected, the total number of the SC employees in the state is nearly 22% of the total strength. However, in respect of representation in various services, the erstwhile Block A scheduled castes representation in Group-A, Group-B and Group-C services is only 4.7 per cent, 4.14 per cent and 6.27 per cent respectively, though their population is about 11% of the total state population.

The Block A scheduled castes or the deprived scheduled castes were not so educationally qualified as the data from SECC 2011 indicates. Only 2.13% population of the deprived SCs is graduate, 3.78% of them are senior secondary and 6.74% are matriculate. Besides, 33.63% of them are illiterate. This makes them a distinct class of citizens who are deprived of their constitutional right of equality due to lack of education. Thus, it was decided to provide such reservation in admission to candidates belonging to deprived SCs.

Are states empowered to make such decisions?

Article 15(5) of the Constitution authorises the State to make special provisions for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for SCs/STs for admission to educational institutions.

Criticisms:

This move is being criticised on the ground that it creates division within a class. Instead of this, critics say, the government should have offered special package or scholarship to Block A to upgrade their educational status.

What has the Supreme Court said in such matters?

The Supreme Court of India in the case of E.V. Chinnaiah Vs. State of Andhra Pradesh (2004(9) SCALE) has held that the castes etc. specified as Scheduled Castes under Article 341 of the Constitution is a homogeneous group for the purpose of the Constitution.

The court said that the benefits of reservation are available to members of all such castes which have been specified as Scheduled Caste in relation to a State/Union Territory.

This case deals with the issue that whether the schedule caste can further be sub-divided so that the benefit of reservation can reach to the outreach.

The main part of the judgement of the Court is heavily relied upon the argument that when the groups are been notified by the President in the list under Article 341 of the Constitution, the same take the shape of a homogenous class and thus there cannot be any further classification of the class.

Basmati GI tag

In News:

Madhya Pradesh government’s struggle to join the elite ‘basmati’ league has failed once again as the Madras high court has dismissed the state’s plea seeking geographical indication (GI) tag for basmati rice grown in areas falling under the state.

What has the Court said?

Two GI certificates of registration for a same produce cannot be issued.

The petitioners have an alternative and efficacious remedy available by filing an application to the registrar of trademark seeking to cancel or vary the GI certificate issued to APEDA.

What’s the issue?

In May 2010, GI status was given to basmati grown only in Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Uttrakhand and parts of western Uttar Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir.

But, Madhya Pradesh demanded that its 13 districts be recognised as traditional Basmati growing regions.

However, GI registry had rejected Madhya Pradesh’s claim as being the original and unique basmati growing region. It had observed that the documents and evidence filed by Madhya Pradesh show the importance, special characters of rice cultivated in Madhya Pradesh but not the basmati cultivation in the traditional growing area.

What’s the concern now?

Madhya Pradesh says non-inclusion of the state in the basmati growing areas would have an adverse effect on the lives of farmers who mainly depend upon basmati cultivation and it will also affect the export potential, which will indirectly reduce the country’s turnover from the export of basmati.

About GI tag:

What is it?

A GI is primarily an agricultural, natural or a manufactured product (handicrafts and industrial goods) originating from a definite geographical territory.

Significance of a GI tag:

Typically, such a name conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness, which is essentially attributable to the place of its origin.

Security:

Once the GI protection is granted, no other producer can misuse the name to market similar products. It also provides comfort to customers about the authenticity of that product.

Who is a registered proprietor of a geographical indication?

Any association of persons, producers,organisation or authority established by or under the law can be a registered proprietor.

Their name should be entered in the Register of Geographical Indication as registered proprietor for the Geographical Indication applied for.

How long the registration of Geographical Indication is valid?

The registration of a geographical indication is valid for a period of 10 years.

It can be renewed from time to time for further period of 10 years each.

What is the difference between a geographical indication and a trademark?

A trademark is a sign used by an enterprise to distinguish its goods and services from those of other enterprises. It gives its owner the right to exclude others from using the trademark.

A geographical indication tells consumers that a product is produced in a certain place and has certain characteristics that are due to that place of production. It may be used by all producers who make their products in the place designated by a geographical indication and whose products share typical qualities.

Who accords and regulates Geographical Indications?

At the International level: Geographical Indications are covered as a component of intellectual property rights (IPRs) under the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. GI is also governed by the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO’s) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).

In India, Geographical Indications registration is administered by the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 which came into force with effect from September 2003. The first product in India to be accorded with GI tag was Darjeeling tea in the year 2004-05.

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