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18 July Current Affairs

Bill to revamp medical education cleared

In News:

In a move to bring sweeping changes to the medical education sector, the Centre plans to introduce the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill in this session of Parliament and repeal the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956.

Details:

About MCI:

The Medical Council of India was first established in 1934 under the Indian Medical Council Act, 1933. This Act was repealed and replaced with a new Act in 1956. Under the 1956 Act, the objectives of MCI include:

  • Maintenance of standards in medical education through curriculum guidelines, inspections and permissions to start colleges, courses or increasing number of seats.
  • Recognition of medical qualifications.
  • Registration of doctors and maintenance of the All India Medical Register.
  • Regulation of the medical profession by prescribing a code of conduct and taking action against erring doctors.

Why reform the MCI?

Like a license-raj permit controller, MCI has for long focused too much on licensing of medical colleges and stipulating impractical conditions, while ignoring its other mandate of maintaining ethical conduct in the profession. It has failed to stop the sale of medical seats in private colleges for capitation fees going up to Rs.50 lakh.

Over the years, it has emerged as a single, all-powerful agency heavily influenced by corporate hospitals to provide accreditation to institutions and assess their quality, ignoring blatant conflicts of interest.

National Medical Commission Bill, 2017:

Highlights of the Bill:

The Bill sets up the National Medical Commission (NMC). The NMC will regulate medical education and practice.  It will determine fees for up to 40% seats in private medical institutions and deemed universities.

The NMC will consist of 25 members. A Search Committee will recommend names to the central government for the post of Chairperson, and the part time members.

Four autonomous Boards have been set up under the supervision of the NMC. These Boards will focus on undergraduate and postgraduate medical education, assessment and rating, and ethical conduct.

There will be a National Licentiate Examination for doctors to obtain a licence to practice after graduation. This examination will also be the basis for admission to post-graduate medical courses.

State Medical Councils will receive complaints relating to professional or ethical misconduct against a doctor. If the doctor is aggrieved of a decision of the State Medical Council, he may appeal to successively higher levels of authority.

State’s MMR sees sharp six-point drop

In News:

Tamil Nadu’s Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) is down six points. It has dipped from 66 to 60 per one lakh live births, according to the 2018 State Health Management Information System data.

Details:

The MMR was 66 per one lakh live births as per the 2014-2016 Sample Registration System data. It was 90 per one lakh live births in 2010-2012, according to the Health and Family Welfare Department.

350 dengue cases this month

In News:

With the number of people infected with dengue crossing the 350-mark in Dakshina Kannada this month and with two suspected dengue deaths, the district administration has intensified vector control measures.

About Dengue disease:

Dengue (pronounced DENgee) fever is a painful, debilitating mosquito-borne disease caused by any one of four closely related dengue viruses. These viruses are related to the viruses that cause West Nile infection and yellow fever.

Symptoms:

Sometimes, symptoms are mild and can be mistaken for those of the flu or another viral infection. Younger children and people who have never had the infection before tend to have milder cases than older children and adults. However, serious problems can develop. These include dengue hemorrhagic fever, a rare complication characterized by high fever, damage to lymph and blood vessels, bleeding from the nose and gums, enlargement of the liver, and failure of the circulatory system. The symptoms may progress to massive bleeding, shock, and death. This is called dengue shock syndrome (DSS).

People with weakened immune systems as well as those with a second or subsequent dengue infection are believed to be at greater risk for developing dengue hemorrhagic fever.

State to introduce Rotavirus vaccine in UIP

In News:

Targeting universal immunisation, the Health Department is all set to introduce Rotavirus vaccine as part of the Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) from the third week of August. With this, the vaccine that costs around Rs. 600 a dose in private healthcare will be given for free to infants.

Details:

About Rotavirus:

Rotavirus is a leading cause of severe diarrhoea and death among children less than five years of age. It is responsible for around 10% of total child mortality every year. In 2014, nearly 80,000 children died due to to rotavirus, whereas about 9 lakh were hospitalised due to episodes of severe diarrhoea.

Rotavirus-Signs and Symptoms:

Kids with a rotavirus infection have fever, nausea, and vomiting, often followed by abdominal cramps and frequent, watery diarrhea.

Kids may also have a cough and runny nose.

Sometimes the diarrhea that accompanies a rotavirus infection is so severe that it can quickly lead to dehydration.

As with all viruses, though, some rotavirus infections cause few or no symptoms, especially in adults.

Transmission:

Rotavirus is transmitted by the faecal-oral route, via contact with contaminated hands, surfaces and objects, and possibly by the respiratory route. Viral diarrhea is highly contagious.

Dam Safety Bill gets nod from CCEA

In News:

The Centre is set to introduce the Dam Safety Bill, 2019 in Parliament after it was cleared by the Union Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA).

Details:

A version of the Bill was first introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2018 (and which subsequently lapsed). It aims to put in place a systematic procedure to ensure that India’s 5,600 dams are made and maintained safely.

Highlights of Dam Safety Bill, 2018: (Previous Bill)

The Bill provides for proper surveillance, inspection, operation and maintenance of all specified dams in the country to ensure their safe functioning.

The Bill provides for constitution of a National Committee on Dam Safety which shall evolve dam safety policies and recommend necessary regulations as may be required for the purpose.

The Bill provides for establishment of National Dam Safety Authority as a regulatory body which shall discharge functions to implement the policy, guidelines and standards for dam safety in the country.

The Bill provides for constitution of a State Committee on Dam Safety by State Government.

Significance:

The Dam Safety Bill, 2018 will help all the States and Union Territories of India to adopt uniform dam safety procedures which shall ensure safety of dams and safeguard benefits from such dams. This shall also help in safeguarding human life, livestock and property.

It addresses all issues concerning dam safety including regular inspection of dams, Emergency Action Plan, comprehensive dam safety review, adequate repair and maintenance funds for dam safety, Instrumentation and Safety Manuals. It lays onus of dam safety on the dam owner and provides for penal provisions for commission and omission of certain acts.

Need:

Over the last fifty years, India has invested substantially in dams and related infrastructures, and ranks third after USA and China in the number of large dams. 5254 large dams are in operation in the country currently and another 447 are under construction. In addition to this, there are thousands of medium and small dams.

While dams have played a key role in fostering rapid and sustained agricultural growth and development in India, there has been a long felt need for a uniform law and administrative structure for ensuring dam safety.

The Central Water Commission, through the National Committee on Dam Safety (NCDS), Central Dam Safety Organization (CDSO) and State Dam Safety Organizations (SDSO) has been making constant endeavours in this direction, but these organizations do not have any statutory powers and are only advisory in nature.

This can be a matter of concern, especially since about 75 percent of the large dams in India are more than 25 years old and about 164 dams are more than 100 years old. A badly maintained, unsafe dam can be a hazard to human life, flora and fauna, public and private assets and the environment.

India has had 36 dam failures in the past.

LS clears Appropriation Bill

In News:

The Lok Sabha passed the Appropriation (No.2) Bill-2019 allowing the Union government to withdraw Rs. 98.18 lakh crore from the Consolidated Fund of India to meet its expenditure during 2019-20.

Details:

The Bill, moved by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, was passed by a voice vote after the House approved demands for grants for several Ministries which were collectively put to vote and passed by applying guillotine.

About Appropriation Bill:

An appropriation bill, also known as supply bill or spending bill, is a proposed law that authorizes the expenditure of government funds. It is a bill that sets money aside for specific spending. In most democracies, approval of the legislature is necessary for the government to spend money.

Post the discussions on Budget proposals and the Voting on Demand for Grants, the government introduces the Appropriation Bill in the Lok Sabha. It is intended to give authority to the government to withdraw from the Consolidated Fund, the amounts so voted for meeting the expenditure during the financial year.

Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)

In News:

Promising to create a new breed of “smart farmers by introducing smart farming”, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar told the Lok Sabha that the government was open to improving its welfare schemes, including the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) for crop insurance.

Background:

Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), the flagship programme launched with much fanfare in 2016, has run into rough weather. With both the area covered and the number of enrolled farmers declining, the country’s premium crop insurance scheme is certainly in need of an overhaul.

Challenges at present:

Insufficient reach and the issue of penetration.

Data constraints: With just around 45% of the claims made by farmers over the last three crop seasons data for the last rabi season is not available paid by the insurance companies.

Low payout of claims: The reason for the very low payout of claims is that only few state governments are paying their share of the premiums on time and till they do, the central government doesn’t pay its share either. Till they get the premium, insurance companies simply sit on the claims.

Gaps in assessment of crop loss: There is hardly any use of modern technology in assessing crop damages. There is lack of trained outsourced agencies, scope of corruption during implementation and the non-utilisation of technologies like smart phones and drones to improve reliability of such sampling

Less number of notified crops than can avail insurance, Inadequate and delayed claim payment.

High actuarial premium rates: Insurance companies charged high actuarial premium rates.

If states delay notifications, or payment of premiums, or crop cutting data, companies cannot pay compensation to the farmers in time.

Poor capacity to deliver: There has been no concerted effort by the state government and insurance companies to build awareness of farmers on PMFBY. Insurance companies have failed to set-up infrastructure for proper Implementation of PMFBY.

PMBY is not beneficial for farmers in vulnerable regions as factors like low indemnity levels, low threshold yields, low sum insured and default on loans make it a poor scheme to safeguard against extreme weather events.

About PMFBY:

In April, 2016, the government of India had launched Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) after rolling back the earlier insurance schemes viz. National Agriculture Insurance Scheme (NAIS), Weather-based Crop Insurance scheme and Modified National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (MNAIS).

Premium: It envisages a uniform premium of only 2% to be paid by farmers for Kharif crops, and 1.5% for Rabi crops. The premium for annual commercial and horticultural crops will be 5%.

The scheme is mandatory for farmers who have taken institutional loans from banks. It’s optional for farmers who have not taken institutional credit.

Objectives:

  • Providing financial support to farmers suffering crop loss/damage arising out of unforeseen events.
  • Stabilizing the income of farmers to ensure their continuance in farming.
  • Encouraging farmers to adopt innovative and modern agricultural practices.
  • Ensuring flow of credit to the agriculture sector which contributes to food security, crop diversification and enhancing growth and competitiveness of agriculture sector besides protecting farmers from production risks.

What’s changing in NIA: Wider jurisdiction, more offences, faster trial

In News:

Amid opposition protests, Lok Sabha has recently passed the National Investigation Agency (Amendment) Bill 2019.

The bill will now have to be passed in the Rajya Sabha.

What is NIA?

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is a central agency, which was formed in 2009 in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack of 2008.

The agency functions as the Central Counter-Terrorism Law Enforcement Agency in India.

The NIA can, however, only investigate cases which are listed in the Act’s schedule, which largely deal with the security and integrity of the country.

Under the current Act, the NIA can investigate offences under the Atomic Energy Act, 1962 and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967 (UAPA).

This means the NIA cannot probe murder and rape cases, which come under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

About the NIA Act, 2008:

The NIA Act, 2008, provides for a national-level agency (NIA) to investigate and prosecute offences listed in a schedule (scheduled offences).

Further, the Act allows for creation of Special Courts for the trial of scheduled offences.

The Act makes NIA the only truly federal agency in the country, along the lines of the FBI in the United States, and more powerful than the CBI.

NIA truly federal and more powerful than CBI:

The CBI has to seek the permission of a state government before investigating a case against a central government employee in that state. If a crime is committed in a state, it has to wait for that state government or a court to call it in to investigate.

On the other hand, the NIA act gives the NIA powers to take suo motu cognisance of terrorist activity in any part of India and to register a case, to enter any state without needing permission from its government, and to investigate and arrest people.

Need of the Amendment:

So far, National Investigation Agency has limited powers and jurisdiction. The bill seeks to broaden the NIA’s powers and can be seen as part of policy of zero tolerance against terrorism.

Changes introduced by the Bill in the existing Act

There are three major amendments to the original NIA Act of 2008.

Change in the types of offences that can be investigated by NIA: Through this amendment, in addition to offences related to the Atomic Energy Act, 1962 and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967 (UAPA), NIA will be able to investigate offences related to:

  • human trafficking
  • counterfeit currency or bank notes
  • manufacture or sale of prohibited arms
  • cyber-terrorism, and
  • offences under the Explosive Substances Act, 1908

Note:

Till now, the NIA can apply these sections to an accused only if the principal offence is part of its Schedule. Now, it can prosecute people in standalone cases under these Acts.

For example, a person being prosecuted under UAPA could be slapped with Arms Act sections, but the NIA so far could not prosecute him under the Arms Act alone.

Expansion of NIA’s jurisdiction:

Officers of the agency now have the power to investigate scheduled offences committed outside India.

The Bill allows the agency to register a case when Indians living abroad or India’s assets based in a foreign country come under attack from terrorists.

The new provision will allow the NIA to register cases if an Indian embassy comes under attack abroad, or if Indian underwater cables of communication in international waters are sabotaged.

Note: The IPC does have provisions of extra-territorial jurisdiction, but it is limited to Indians committing crime abroad.

Powers to the government to designate sessions courts as special courts for trial of NIA cases.:

While the existing Act allows the Centre to constitute special courts for NIA trials, the amendment enables the Centre to designate sessions courts as special courts for the trial of scheduled offences.

Earlier, setting up special courts in any state was a time taking procedure that would take six to nine months atleast . With existing sessions courts allowed to function as special courts, trial can start immediately.

FIFTEENTH FINANCE COMMISSION

In News:

The Union Cabinet has approved the extension of the term of Fifteenth Finance Commission up to 30th November, 2019.

Timeline: 

The Fifteenth Finance Commission has been constituted under the chairmanship of N. K. Singh by the President in 2017 in pursuance of clause (1) of article 280 of the Constitution and Finance Commission (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1951.

The Commission has to submit its recommendations by 30th November, 2019 for the period 2020-2025 commencing 1st April, 2020.

RAMANUJAN MACHINE

In News:

Scientists from Technion — Israel Institute of Technology have developed a concept they have named the Ramanujan Machine, after the Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan.

About: 

Developed by: Scientists from Technion — Israel Institute of Technology.

What is it? 

The Ramanujan machine is more of a concept than an actual machine—it exists as a network of computers running algorithms dedicated to finding conjectures about fundamental constants in the form of continued fractions.

The purpose of the machine is to come up with conjectures (in the form of mathematical formulas) that humans can analyze, and hopefully prove to be true mathematically.

Significance: 

Conjectures are a major step in the process of making new discoveries in any branch of science, particularly mathematics.

New conjectures in mathematics, however, have been scarce and sporadic. The idea is to enhance and accelerate the process of discovery.

DIBANG MULTIPURPOSE PROJECT

In News:

Union Cabinet has approved the expenditure and various clearances for Dibang Multipurpose Project (MPP) in Arunachal Pradesh.

About: 

Location: The Project is located on river Dibang, in Lower Dibang Valley District of Arunachal Pradesh.

Power Generation: The project shall generate 2880MW (12x240MW) power to produce 11223MU of energy in a 90% dependable year. This is the largest ever Hydro Electric Project to be constructed in India.

Height: The dam is 278 metres high and will be the highest dam in India once completed.

Project Duration: The estimated completion period for the project shall be nine years from receipt of Government sanction.

Type of dam: The project envisages construction of a 278 m high Concrete Gravity Dam.

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