24 April Current Affairs
April 24, 2019
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25 April Current Affairs

Melamine

In News:

The government has extended the ban on import of milk and its products, including chocolates, from China till laboratories at ports for testing presence of toxic chemical melamine are upgraded.

Background:

Food regulator FSSAI had recommended extending the ban until all labs at ports are modernised to test the chemical. The ban was first imposed in September 2008 and extended subsequently from time to time.

Key facts:

India is the world’s largest producer and consumer of milk. It produces around 150 million tonne milk annually.

Uttar Pradeshis the leading state in milk production followed by Rajasthan and Gujarat.

Although India does not import milk, milk products from China, it has imposed the ban as a preventive measure.

What is melamine?

Melamine is an organic base chemical most commonly found in the form of white crystals rich in nitrogen.

What is melamine generally used for?

Melamine is widely used in plastics, adhesives, countertops, dishware, whiteboards.

Why is melamine added into milk and powdered infant formula?

In China, where adulteration has occurred, water has been added to raw milk to increase its volume. As a result of this dilution the milk has a lower protein concentration. Companies using the milk for further production (e.g. of powdered infant formula) normally check the protein level through a test measuring nitrogen content. The addition of melamine increases the nitrogen content of the milk and therefore its apparent protein content.

Addition of melamine into food is not approved by the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius (food standard commission), or by any national authorities.

Has melamine been found in other food products?

In 2007, melamine was found in wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate exported from China and used in the manufacture of pet food in the United States. This caused the death of a large number of dogs and cats due to kidney failure.

melamine contamination has also been found in a number of different brands of powdered infant formula, in one brand of a frozen yogurt dessert and in one brand of canned coffee drink. All these products were most probably manufactured using ingredients made from melamine-contaminated milk.

What are the health effects of melamine consumptions in humans?

While there are no direct human studies on the effect of melamine data from animal studies can be used to predict adverse health effects. Melamine alone causes bladder stones in animal tests. When combined with cyanuric acid, which may also be present in melamine powder, melamine can form crystals that can give rise to kidney stones.

Melamine has also been shown to have carcinogenic effects in animals in certain circumstances, but there is insufficient evidence to make a judgment on carcinogenic risk in humans.

Dentists to practice as general physicians

In News:

Niti Aayog, has agreed to a Dental Council of India proposal to allow dentists to practice as general physicians after a bridge course.

Need:

The development comes following a meeting in the Prime Minister’s Office earlier this month in which it was urged that unconventional methods be adopted to address the shortage of doctors in the country, particularly in rural areas.

The proposal:

The DCI has proposed a post Bachelor of Dental Science (BDS) bridge course running for 3 years.

admission would be either through a common entrance exam or through cumulative marks secured in the BDS course, or even a combination.

the syllabus curriculum, scheme of examination, method of evaluation, degrees and registration all these criteria will be the same as recommended for MBBS.

Opposition from IMA:

Country’s largest body of private doctors—Indian Medical Association—which had earlier opposed a similar course for AYUSH practitioners has vehemently protested the proposed move too.

across India MBBS graduates were not being absorbed into post-graduate courses and there was also no creation of new posts, new primary health care centres etc with the government stating that budget was a constraint.

Need of the hour:

The IMA demands that medical graduates be given their due, the health budget be flexed to include job creation for them.

Source: The Hindu

StartupBlink’s Startup Ecosystem Ranking

In News:

StartupBlink’s Startup Ecosystem Ranking has been released.

Significance of the report:

aim of this report is to feature and rank hundreds of startup hubs instead of highlighting a few globally recognized winners.

This report considers not just startups, but also other critical players of the startup ecosystem like coworking spaces, accelerators, investors, leaders, and more.

It used data from startups, accelerators and coworking spaces registered on it platforms as well as data received from global partners such as Crunchbase and SimilarWeb.

The report has taken the startup ecosystems of 1,000 cities and 100 countries into consideration.

Key findings:

India ranked 17 among 100 countries, based on the strength of its startup ecosystem.

The top three spots remained unchanged with the United States, United Kingdom and Canada.

Bangalore, New Delhi and Mumbai were the top cities in the Indian startup ecosystem.

Indian startup ecosystem:

3800 new startups were launched in India during the last year. Overall, Indian startups received $11 Bn of funding through 743 deals in 2018. The sectors which received the most funding were: ecommerce; consumer services (hyperlocal) and fintech.

the major challenge “will be improving the overall quality of startups, and increasing the number of unicorns than currently exist.”

Source: The Hindu

Indian Army opens vacancies for women in military police

In News:

In a first, the Indian Army has begun online registration of women for recruitment as soldiers into the military police.

Details:

The move comes three months after the Government announced that women would be inducted into the force in the “Personnel Below Officer Rank” (PBOR) category in a graded manner to eventually comprise 20 percent of total Corps of Military Police.

Significance:

So far, women were allowed in select areas such as medical, legal, educational, signals and engineering wings of the Army. The appointment of women in Military Police is a huge step towards further empowering women and improving their representation in the Indian armed forces.

Those appointed under Personnel Below Officer Rank (PBOR) are given the responsibilities to investigate offences such as rape, molestation and theft; serve military operations where the Army needs police assistance; assistance in evacuation of villages during cross-border hostilities; and ceremonial as well as policing duties.

Role of Military Police:

The Military Police is responsible for preserving “good order and discipline and to prevent breaches of the same by persons serving in or attached to the regular Army”.

The role of the military police includes policing cantonments and Army establishments, preventing breach of rules and regulations by soldiers, maintaining movement of soldiers as well as logistics during peace and war, handling prisoners of war and extending aid to civil police when required.

Permanent commission of women officers in Indian Army:

Defence Ministry has already announced that women officers recruited into the armed forces under the Short Service Commission will now have the option of taking up Permanent Commission in the Indian Armed Forces.

Source: The Hindu

WHO guidelines for children under 5 years of age

In News:

New WHO guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep for children under 5 years of age have been released .

Background:

The new guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep for children under 5 years of age were developed by a WHO panel of experts. They assessed the effects on young children of inadequate sleep, and time spent sitting watching screens or restrained in chairs and prams. They also reviewed evidence around the benefits of increased activity levels.

Recommendations at a glance:

Infants (less than 1 year) should:

Be physically active several times a day in a variety of ways, particularly through interactive floor-based play; more is better. For those not yet mobile, this includes at least 30 minutes in prone position (tummy time) spread throughout the day while awake.

Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g. prams/strollers, high chairs, or strapped on a caregiver’s back). Screen time is not recommended. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.

Have 14–17h (0–3 months of age) or 12–16h (4–11 months of age) of good quality sleep, including naps.

Children 1-2 years of age should:

Spend at least 180 minutes in a variety of types of physical activities at any intensity, including moderate-to-vigorous-intensity physical activity, spread throughout the day; more is better.

Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g., prams/strollers, high chairs, or strapped on a caregiver’s back) or sit for extended periods of time. For 1-year-olds, sedentary screen time (such as watching TV or videos, playing computer games) is not recommended. For those aged 2 years, sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour; less is better. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.

Have 11-14 hours of good quality sleep, including naps, with regular sleep and wake-up times.

Children 3-4 years of age should:

Spend at least 180 minutes in a variety of types of physical activities at any intensity, of which at least 60 minutes is moderate- to vigorous intensity physical activity, spread throughout the day; more is better.

Not be restrained for more than 1 hour at a time (e.g., prams/strollers) or sit for extended periods of time. Sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour; less is better. When sedentary, engaging in reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged.

Have 10–13h of good quality sleep, which may include a nap, with regular sleep and wake-up times.

Significance:

Improving physical activity, reducing sedentary time and ensuring quality sleep in young children will improve their physical, mental health and wellbeing, and help prevent childhood obesity and associated diseases later in life.

The important interactions between physical activity, sedentary behaviour and adequate sleep time, and their impact on physical and mental health and wellbeing, were recognized by the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity, which called for clear guidance on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep in young children.

Applying the recommendations in these guidelines during the first five years of life will contribute to children’s motor and cognitive development and lifelong health.

Need for guidelines:

Failure to meet current physical activity recommendations is responsible for more than 5 million deaths globally each year across all age groups.  Currently, over 23% of adults and 80% of adolescents are not sufficiently physically active. If healthy physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep habits are established early in life, this helps shape habits through childhood, adolescence and into adulthood.

Way ahead:

Investing in early childhood development is one of the best investments a country can make to boost economic growth, promote peaceful and sustainable societies, and eliminate extreme poverty and inequality. Equally important, it is necessary to uphold the right of every child to survive and thrive.

Source: The Hindu

NASA’s InSight spacecraft

In News:

NASA’s Mars Lander InSight has recorded its first ‘Marsquake.’ It has recorded a quake of 2 or 2.5 magnitude which is hard to predict on Earth’s surface.

About InSight Mission:

InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

It will be the first mission to peer deep beneath the Martian surface, studying the planet’s interior by measuring its heat output and listening for marsquakes, which are seismic events similar to earthquakes on Earth.

It will use the seismic waves generated by marsquakes to develop a map of the planet’s deep interior.

Significance of the mission:

The findings of Mars’ formation will help better understand how other rocky planets, including Earth, were and are created. But InSight is more than a Mars mission – it is a terrestrial planet explorer that would address one of the most fundamental issues of planetary and solar system science – understanding the processes that shaped the rocky planets of the inner solar system (including Earth) more than four billion years ago.

InSight would delve deep beneath the surface of Mars, detecting the fingerprints of the processes of terrestrial planet formation, as well as measuring the planet’s “vital signs”: Its “pulse” (seismology), “temperature” (heat flow probe), and “reflexes” (precision tracking).

Why Mars?

Previous missions to Mars have investigated the surface history of the Red Planet by examining features like canyons, volcanoes, rocks and soil. However, signatures of the planet’s formation can only be found by sensing and studying its “vital signs” far below the surface.

In comparison to the other terrestrial planets, Mars is neither too big nor too small. This means that it preserves the record of its formation and can give us insight into how the terrestrial planets formed. It is the perfect laboratory from which to study the formation and evolution of rocky planets. Scientists know that Mars has low levels of geological activity. But a lander like InSight can also reveal just how active Mars really is.

Source: ToI

EMIRATES MARS MISSION – HOPE PROBE

In News:

UAE has started its preparations for the upcoming Mars Mission named- HOPE.

Background:

In July 2014, the UAE leadership announced the launch of the Emirates Mars Mission project by the President of the UAE. Subsequently, the President issued a decree establishing the UAE Space Agency.

HOPE Probe:

The probe will be built by an Emirati team of engineers and experts and will be sent on a scientific voyage of discovery to the Red Planet.

This will mark the Arab world’s entry into the era of space exploration and place the UAE among the major scientific countries that have begun programmes to explore Mars.

The probe will be sent to explore the Red Planet by 2020. Following a journey of several months, the probe is expected to enter the Red Planet’s orbit in 2021, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the formation of the UAE.

Scientific Objectives of the Probe Voyage:

The Emirates Mars Mission project will answer scientific questions that have long puzzled scientists. These are questions about the Red Planet, which scientists have not been able to explain before because of the lack of data and information.

The project will cover all aspects that have not been previously covered, whether scientific or knowledge-based, and it will work on drawing a clear and comprehensive picture of the Martian climate and the causes of the corrosion of its surface that has made it impossible for water to exist on the planet.

The project will also provide insights about the weather on the Red Planet. It will observe weather phenomena such as dust storms and changes in temperature and how the atmosphere interacts with topography, from the highest volcano peaks to ice sheets to the vast deserts and the deepest canyons.

Source: The Hindu

Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Act, 2001

In News:

A group of farmer organisations and civil society representatives upped the ante against PepsiCo India after the MNC filed lawsuits against four potato growers from Sabarkantha district for allegedly growing a variety of potato — FL 2027, also called FC5 — on which PepsiCo claimed exclusive rights by virtue of a Plant Variety Certificate (PVC) under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Act, 2001.

Details:

PepsiCo India Holdings Pvt Ltd uses the registered variety of potatoes called FL 2027, which is a hybrid of FL 1867 and Wischip varieties, for manufacturing chips for its brand.

The company is the registered breeder of FL 2027 under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act, 2001. This entitles it to an exclusive right over the registered variety. farmers are not authorised to grow this variety. By growing these potatoes without licence, the farmers in Gujarat are violating its statutory rights.

What next?

Nearly 200 civil society representatives and farm leaders have written to the Centre for intervention. Farmers groups are pointing out that the law allows them to grow and sell any variety of crop or even seed as long as they don’t sell branded seed of registered varieties.

The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Act, 2001:

Enacted by India in 2001 adopting sui generis system.

It is in conformity with International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV), 1978.

The legislation recognizes the contributions of both commercial plant breeders and farmers in plant breeding activity and also provides to implement TRIPs in a way that supports the specific socio-economic interests of all the stakeholders including private, public sectors and research institutions, as well as resource-constrained farmers.

Objectives of the PPV & FR Act, 2001:

To establish an effective system for the protection of plant varieties, the rights of farmers and plant breeders and to encourage the development of new varieties of plants.

To recognize and protect the rights of farmers in respect of their contributions made at any time in conserving, improving and making available plant genetic resources for the development of new plant varieties.

To accelerate agricultural development in the country, protect plant breeders’ rights; stimulate investment for research and development both in public & private sector for the development new of plant varieties.

Facilitate the growth of seed industry in the country which will ensure the availability of high quality seeds and planting material to the farmers.

Rights under the Act:

Breeders’ Rights : Breeders will have exclusive rights to produce, sell, market, distribute, import or export the protected variety. Breeder can appoint agent/ licensee and may exercise for civil remedy in case of infringement of rights.

Researchers’ Rights : Researcher can use any of the registered variety under the Act for conducting experiment or research. This includes the use of a variety as an initial source of variety for the purpose of developing another variety but repeated use needs prior permission of the registered breeder.

Farmers’ Rights:

A farmer who has evolved or developed a new variety is entitled for registration and protection in like manner as a breeder of a variety;

Farmers variety can also be registered as an extant variety;

A farmer can save, use, sow, re-sow, exchange, share or sell his farm produce including seed of a variety protected under the PPV&FR Act, 2001 in the same manner as he was entitled before the coming into force of this Act provided farmer shall not be entitled to sell branded seed of a variety protected under the PPV&FR Act, 2001;

Farmers are eligible for recognition and rewards for the conservation of Plant Genetic Resources of land races and wild relatives of economic plants;

There is also a provision for compensation to the farmers for non-performance of variety under Section 39 (2) of the Act, 2001 and

Farmer shall not be liable to pay any fee in any proceeding before the Authority or Registrar or the Tribunal or the High Court under the Act.

Source: The Hindu

World Book Day

World Book Day, also known as World Book and Copyright Day, or International Day of the Book, is an annual event organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization(UNESCO) to promote reading, publishing, and copyright.

World Book Day was first celebrated on 23 April 1995, and continues to be recognized on that day.

The city of Sharjah has been selected as the World Book Capital for the year 2019.

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