16 December Current Affairs
December 16, 2019
18 December Current Affairs
December 18, 2019
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17 December Current Affairs

Delhi Protest over Citizenship Amendment Bill

In News:

Violence erupted in the area surrounding Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi on December 15 afternoon as protesters opposing the amended Citizenship Act clashed with police.

Scores were injured as the police resorted to lathi-charge and firing of teargas shells.

Background:

Thousands of protesters from the area surrounding the university attempted to march towards Jantar Mantar but were stopped by police barricades.

The protesters took a detour through the parallel Mata Mandir Road but were once again stopped by police. Following an altercation, police lathi charged the gathering crowd and shot multiple rounds of tear gas shells.

Running from the police, some protesters threw stones at parked vehicles and public buses on Mata Mandir road. Two buses there were set on fire and two more buses were damaged elsewhere in the area.

Task Force on Gene Therapy

In News:

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) will set up a task force on gene therapy in order to encourage research in the field. The purpose of setting up the task force is to explore gene editing based therapeutic approaches that will treat illness.

Highlights:

The task force will work on genetic diseases affecting brain, eye disorders, muscles, heart, retina, cornea and blood disorders. The blood disorders include Thalassemia, Haemophilia and Sickle cell disease.

The task force will also work on diseases such as diabetes, cancer and lung diseases.

The work of the force will be completely abided to the guidelines on gene therapy released by ICMR.

Need:

ICMR believes that many inherited disorders are not treated by existing drugs and therapies.

While the western world has stridden far ahead in the field in the last 30 years, India is lagging in the field. Around 70 million Indians suffer from rare diseases whose cure can be achieved through gene therapy.

Even with advancements, the countries leading in the field are still in the stage of clinical trials and have not yet proved the success of the therapies.

To mention a few, ICMR states that drugs like Luxuturna used to treat Retinitis Pigmentosa (illness that affects retinal cells of human eye) and Yescarta used to in cell therapy to treat cancer are still in clinical trial phase.

Therefore, it is important to build a strong task force that will work exclusively on gene therapy.

International Tea Day

In News:

International Tea Day is observed every year on 16 December since 2005. The day is celebrated in tea producing nations such as India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Vietnam, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi and Malaysia.

About International Tea Day:

Objective:

To draw global attention of governments and citizens to impact of global tea trade on workers and growers as well as requests for price supports and fair trade.

Background:

International Tea Day celebrations and related Global Tea Conferences are jointly organized by trade union movements. The first International Tea Day was celebrated in New Delhi in 2005.

May 21: Now International Tea Day

In October 2015, Indian government moved a proposal at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Intergovernmental Group (IGG) on Tea expanding the observance of International Tea Day through UN FAO.

Thereby, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has now accepted India’s proposal and designated May 21 as International Tea Day.

The month of May was selected as it’s the quality tea manufacturing season in most tea producing countries.

India expands Indo-Pacific Policy

In News:

At the end of the joint Indian Ocean Dialogue held in New Delhi, External Affairs Minister officially announced that India is planning to expand its Indo-Pacific policy.

So far, the Indo-Pacific covered Indian Ocean and the Arabian sea. With the expansion, the region will now include Gulf states and Africa.

Indo Pacific:

Indo-Pacific is a US construct that includes regions between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.

According to the US, it ranges from the eastern shores of the African continent to the western shores of the US.

The move of US was perceived to contain China’s military expansion in the region. In June 2018, PM Modi outlined India’s vision on the Indo-Pacific region while addressing the Shangri-La Dialogue.

Significance:

The expansion will help India in its Act East Policy. It also clearly sets out message that India’s focus is more on the Indian Ocean element of the Indo-Pacific rather than Pacific Ocean element.

This is because with the expansion of the Indo-Pacific, ASEAN becomes the geographical centre of a greater perimeter and becomes heart of Indo-Pacific.

This will also help India in moving beyond cultural, historical and economic linkages.

Atal Bhujal Yojana

In News:

The Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABHY) is a centrally sponsored scheme worth Rs.6,000 crore for sustainable management of groundwater with community participation.

Details:

It envisages people’s participation through the formation of ‘Water User Associations’, water budgeting, preparation & implementation of Gram-panchayat-wise water security plans, etc.

Background:

It is being implemented by the Ministry of Jal Shakti (earlier known as Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation).

The scheme is being funded by the Government of India and the World Bank on 50:50 basis.

Highlights:

The identified over-exploited and water-stressed areas for the implementation of the scheme are Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh.

The States have been selected according to the degree of groundwater exploitation and degradation, established legal and regulatory instruments, institutional readiness, and experience in implementing initiatives related to groundwater management.

Ease of Doing Business

In News:

In pursuance to objective of providing greater “Ease of Doing Business”, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) has taken several landmark initiatives / decisions during last one year ( January-November, 2019).

These are:

Simplified Proforma for Incorporating Company Electronically (SPICe) introduced which extends 8 services (CIN, PAN, TIN, DIN, Name, EPFO, ESIC and GSTN) from three Ministries through a single form.

De-criminalization of technical & procedural violations under Companies Act and reducing the burden on criminal courts & NCLT by shifting 16 offences sections to monetary penalty regime vide Companies (Amendment )Bill , 2019 notified on 31st July ,2019.

Government Process Re-Engineering by Introducing “RUN – Reserve Unique Name” web service for name reservation for companies & LLP and Re-engineering the Process of allotment of Director Identification Number (DIN).

Provisions relating to issue of shares with Differential Voting Rights (DVRs) modified with the objective of enabling promoters of Indian companies to retain control of their companies, even as they raise equity capital from global investors.

Enabling provisions with regard to Mediation and Conciliation under the Companies Act, 2013 enforced.

Provisions relating to creation of Debenture Redemption Reserve (DRR) revised with the objective of deepening the bond market & reducing the cost of capital.

Independent Director’s Databank launched to provide an easy to access & navigate platform for the registration of existing Independent Directors as well as individuals aspiring to become independent directors.

Setting up Central Registration Centre for name reservation and incorporation of companies & LLPs within 1-2 days as opposed to an average of at least 15 days earlier.

First National CSR Awards distributed.

Drug prices control order

In News:

National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has allowed an increase in the maximum retail prices of 21 drugs currently under price control by as much as 50%.

Significance:

The decision has been taken to ensure that the life saving essential drugs must remain available to the general public at all times. This is to avoid a situation where these drugs become unavailable in the market and the public is forced to switch to costly alternatives. This is the first time the NPPA — which is known to slash prices of essential and life-saving medicines — is increasing prices in public interest.

What is the “Drugs (Prices Control) Order (DPCO)”?

The Drugs Prices Control Order is an order issued by the Government of India under Sec. 3 of Essential Commodities Act, 1955 to regulate the prices of drugs.

The Order interalia provides the list of price controlled drugs, procedures for fixation of prices of drugs, method of implementation of prices fixed by Govt., penalties for contravention of provisions etc.

For the purpose of implementing provisions of DPCO, powers of Govt. have been vested in NPPA.

Are all the drugs marketed in the country under price control?

No. The National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) 2011 is adopted as the primary basis for determining essentiality, which constitutes the list of scheduled medicines for the purpose of price control. The DPCO 2013 contains more than 600 scheduled drug formulations spread across 27 therapeutic groups. However, the prices of other drugs can be regulated, if warranted in public interest.

What is NPPA and its role?

National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA), was established on 29th August 1997 as an independent body of experts as per the decision taken by the Cabinet committee in September 1994 while reviewing Drug Policy.

Functions: The Authority, interalia, has been entrusted with the task of fixation/revision of prices of pharmaceutical products (bulk drugs and formulations), enforcement of provisions of the Drugs (Prices Control) Order and monitoring of the prices of controlled and decontrolled drugs in the country.

New definition of kilogram

In News:

The prototype of one kilogram (NPK-57) is now available in India and placed at the National Physical Laboratory, New Delhi.

Background:

Scientists, last year, have changed the way the kilogram is defined. The decision was made at the General Conference on Weights and Measures. The new definitions came into force on 20 May 2019.

How does the new system work?

Electromagnets generate a force. Scrap-yards use them on cranes to lift and move large metal objects, such as old cars. The pull of the electromagnet, the force it exerts, is directly related to the amount of electrical current going through its coils. There is, therefore, a direct relationship between electricity and weight.

So, in principle, scientists can define a kilogram, or any other weight, in terms of the amount of electricity needed to counteract the weight (gravitational force acting on a mass).

What is Planck’s constant?

There is a quantity that relates weight to electrical current, called Planck’s constant – named after the German physicist Max Planck and denoted by the symbol h.

But h is an incredibly small number and to measure it, the research scientist Dr Bryan Kibble built a super-accurate set of scales. The Kibble balance, as it has become known, has an electromagnet that pulls down on one side of the scales and a weight – say, a kilogram – on the other. The electrical current going through the electromagnet is increased until the two sides are perfectly balanced.

By measuring the current running through the electromagnet to incredible precision, the researchers are able to calculate h to an accuracy of 0.000001%. This breakthrough has paved the way for Le Grand K to be deposed by “die kleine h”.

 

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