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12th December Current Affairs

Eluru mystery disease: AIIMS finds traces of lead in blood samples of affected

In News:

At least 550 people fell sick in Eluru town in Andhra Pradesh since Saturday evening due to an undiagnosed illness.

Following this, the AIIMS team conducted the blood tests.

What caused this?

The results indicate lead and nickel content in drinking water or/and milk as the possible reason behind people falling ill.

What symptoms did the patients show?

Some of these people complained of seizures, anxiety, vomiting, and headache. So far, the illness has not spread from one to another person.

Concern:

The presence of the chemicals in the blood samples was very less as the patients were recovering fast. If the quantity of the toxins was high, or spread through air, it would affect the neurological system.

General factors contributing to lead poisoning:

Informal and substandard recycling of lead-acid batteries.

Increase in vehicle ownership, combined with the lack of vehicle battery recycling regulation and infrastructure.

Workers in dangerous and often illegal recycling operations break open battery cases, spill acid and lead dust in the soil.

They also smelt the recovered lead in crude, open-air furnaces that emit toxic fumes poisoning the surrounding community.

Pakistan, China violate religious freedom: U.S

In News:

The US State Department has placed various countries in different lists pursuant to the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).

Key Points:

Pakistan and China among eight other countries that are of particular concern (CPC) for violation of religious freedom. Others include- Myanmar, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

Comoros, Cuba, Nicaragua and Russia on a Special Watch List (SWL) for governments that have engaged in or tolerated severe violations of religious freedom.

Al-Shabaab, al-Qaida, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS, ISIS-Greater Sahara, ISIS-West Africa, Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin and the Taliban are ‘Entities of Particular Concern’.

Notably, the State Department did not accept the USCIRF recommendation that India, Russia, Syria and Vietnam be also designated as CPCs.

WHAT IS THE U. S. COMMISSION ON INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM (USCIRF)?

USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan, U.S. federal government commission created by the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) that monitors the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad.

USCIRF uses international standards to monitor religious freedom violations globally, and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress.

What Is The Difference Between USCIRF And The State Department’s Office Of International Religious Freedom?

USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity, while the Office of International Religious Freedom (IRF) — also established under IRFA—is part of the U.S. State Department.

Both USCIRF and the State Department release annual reports on international religious freedom, but each has different purposes.

The State Department’s report documents religious freedom violations in every country in the world.

USCIRF’s Annual Report, by statute, recommends countries to be designated as “countries of particular concern” which the Executive Branch must consider.

Background:

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest this religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

Supply of life-saving medicines affected by ‘Make in India’ policy

In News:

The Ministry of Railways has written to the Department for Promotion of Industry & Internal Trade (DPIIT) seeking exemption for procuring certain medical items manufactured outside India, particularly medicines used in the treatment of COVID-19 and cancer.

What’s the issue?

In the existing ‘Make in India’ policy, there is no window available to procure such items from the suppliers who may not meet the Local Content Criteria required for Class-I and Class-II Local Supplier category.

Class-I is a local supplier or service provider whose goods, services or works offered for procurement have local content equal to or more than 50%.

Class-II is a supplier or service provider whose goods, services or works offered for procurement have local content of more than 20% but less than 50%.

Only these two categories of suppliers shall be eligible to bid in the procurement of all goods, services or works and with estimated value of purchases of less than ₹200 crore.

How is this affecting?

Certain drugs used in cancer treatment were manufactured outside India but available in the Indian market through agents or dealers. Without meeting the prescribed requirements, items cannot be procured from such agents.

Conclusion:

The uninterrupted supply chain of these medicines and medical items are essential in the human life saving category and providing satisfactory health care to all railway employees and their family members.

About ‘Make in India’ Policy:

On September 25, 2014, the Indian government announced the ‘Make in India’ initiative to encourage manufacturing in India and galvanize the economy with dedicated investments in manufacturing and services.

Targets:

To increase the manufacturing sector’s growth rate to 12-14% per annum in order to increase the sector’s share in the economy.

To create 100 million additional manufacturing jobs in the economy by 2022.

To ensure that the manufacturing sector’s contribution to GDP is increased to 25% by 2022 (revised to 2025) from the current 15-16%.

Outcomes so far:

Foreign direct investment (FDI) has increased from $16 billion in 2013-14 to $36 billion in 2015-16 but it has not increased further and is not contributing to Indian industrialisation.

FDIs in the manufacturing sector are becoming weaker than before. It has come down to $7 billion in 2017-18 as compared to $9.6 billion in 2014-15.

FDIs in the service sector is $23.5 billion, more than three times that of the manufacturing sector which shows Indian economy’s traditional strong points of having remarkably developed computer services.

India’s share in the global exports of manufactured products remains around 2% which is far less than 18% share of China.

How Maharashtra Police will use software to crack down on child porn?

In News:

The cyber wing of the Maharashtra Police recently acquired software from Interpol that would help them track down child pornography uploaded online.

Details:

The Interpol has software that uses various mechanisms like detecting nudity in images, recognising age of the person through facial structures, among other filters.

It has in-built algorithms to look for keywords around child pornography that would for example help law enforcement agencies track forums that indulge in these crimes.

Based on these filters, the software ‘crawler’ scans the net looking for such images, videos and text. If they find any such media, it is added to the database after which officers identify cases that could fall under child pornography.

What is the TRACE team set up by Maharashtra Cyber to counter child pornography?

12 officers from state went for training to the South Asian wing of Interpol. They form the core of Tactical Response against Cyber Child Exploitation (TRACE) Unit.

The TRACE unit was primarily set up to act against child pornography in Maharashtra that is part of a larger campaign against Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) across the country since 2019.

Why has there been a boost in action against CSAM in India since 2019?

India’s fight against Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) received a boost in 2019 when National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), a US-based non-profit that works to prevent child exploitation, started sharing tip-offs about child pornography in India with Indian agencies.

These tip offs were received by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) which then passed it on to the states where the child pornography related incident had taken place.

What is ‘Operation Blackface’ carried out in Maharashtra?

‘Operation Blackface’ is part of the larger action taken against CSAM across the country. Acting on the tip off provided by NCRB, Maharashtra Cyber cops forward complaints to the districts where FIR’s were registered against accused persons.