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26 April Current Affairs

World Immunization Week 2019

In News:

World Immunization Week is celebrated in the last week of April month.

Details:

The week aims to promote the use of vaccines to protect people against various diseases. Immunization is recognised as the most successful and cost-effective health invention, which saves millions of lives every year.

The theme for this year’s immunization week is – Protected Together: Vaccines Work! The week will also be celebrating Vaccine Heroes from around the world. Vaccine heroes are the people from parents, community members to innovators and health workers who help ensure that everyone is protected from diseases by getting vaccinated.

How does vaccination work?

Our immune system is composed of various types of cells. These cells defend us against invaders and remove the harmful pathogens. However, for that our immune system needs to recognise that an invader is dangerous. Vaccination works by teaching our immune system how to recognise new diseases. Vaccines stimulate our bodies to make antibodies against antigens of pathogens. It also teaches the immune system to remember the antigens that cause infection, which leads to a faster response to the same disease in the future.

In simple terms, vaccines work by exposing you to a safer version of a disease. While the body responds to the vaccine, it builds an adaptive immune system, which helps the body to fight off the actual infection in the future.

A vaccine has two parts:

A vaccine usually consists of two parts and is usually given through an injection. The first part is the antigen, which is a piece of disease one’s body must learn to recognise. The second part is the adjuvant, which sends a danger signal to the body and helps your immune system to respond strongly against the antigen. All this helps in developing your immunity.

National Housing Bank

In News:

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has sold its entire stakes in the National Bank for Agriculture & Rural Development (NABARD) and National Housing Bank. The decision to divest its entire stake was taken based on the recommendations of the second Narasimham Committee.

Details:

The government now holds a 100 per cent stake in both NHB and NABARD.

About NHB:

NHB is an All India Financial Institution (AIFl), set up in 1988, under the National Housing Bank Act, 1987.

It is an apex agency established to operate as a principal agency to promote housing finance institutions both at local and regional levels and to provide financial and other support incidental to such institutions and for matters connected therewith.

NABARD:

It is an apex development and specialized bank established on 12 July 1982 by an act by the parliament of India.

Its main focus is to uplift rural India by increasing the credit flow for elevation of agriculture & rural non farm sector.

It was established based on the recommendations of the Committee set up by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) under the chairmanship of Shri B. shivaraman.

It replaced the Agricultural Credit Department (ACD) and Rural Planning and Credit Cell (RPCC) of Reserve Bank of India, and Agricultural Refinance and Development Corporation (ARDC).

It has been accredited with “matters concerning policy, planning and operations in the field of credit for agriculture and other economic activities in rural areas in India”.

Global Talent Competitiveness Index

In News:

Global Talent Competitive Index (GTCI) for 2019 has been released.

Background:

GTCI, launched in 2013, is an annual benchmarking report that measures the ability of countries to compete for talent.

It is released by INSEAD business school in partnership with Tata Communications and Adecco Group.

The report measures levels of Global Talent Competitiveness by looking at 68 variables such as ease of hiring, gender earnings gap, and prevalence of training in firms.

Uniqueness of this year’s report:

This year’s report has a special focus on entrepreneurial talent – how it is being encouraged, nurtured and developed throughout the world and how this affects the relative competitiveness of different economies.

The report also reveals that cities rather than countries are developing stronger roles as talent hubs and will be crucial to reshaping the global talent scene.

India’s performance:

India remains the laggard in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) region and was ranked 80.

It performs better than its lower-income peers when it comes to growing (48th) talent, primarily by virtue of the possibilities for Lifelong Learning (38th) and Access to Growth Opportunities (41st).

An above-average Business and Labour Landscape (38th) and Employability (34th) raise the scores of the pillars related to Enable (70th) and Vocational and Technical Skills (72nd) that are otherwise hampered by the remaining sub-pillars.

Notwithstanding the scope for improvement across the board, India’s biggest challenge is to improve its ability to Attract (95th) and Retain (96th) talent.

Above all, there is a need to address its poor level of Internal Openness (116th)—in particular with respect to weak gender equality and low tolerances towards minorities and immigrants—and its disappointing showing in Lifestyle indicators.

Global findings:

In this sixth edition, Switzerland continues to lead the 2019 Global Talent Competitiveness index, while Singapore and the United States come in second and third respectively.

Yemen has finished at the bottom of this year’s index at 125th, just below Congo (124th) and Burundi (123rd).

Source: The Hindu

DBT funds research to ‘cultivate’ meat in lab

In News:

The Department of Biotechnology has decided to fund the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) and the National Research Centre on Meat for research on cell-based meat.

Details:

Cell-based meat, also called clean meat or cultured meat, is nutritionally equivalent to conventional meat, and tastes, smells, looks and feels exactly the same. The only difference is in the way it is produced.

Rather than raising livestock and slaughtering them for meat, cell-based meat is produced through ‘cellular agriculture’, with animal cells being cultivated into meat.

Why It’s the Future?

Lab-grown meats beat the old-fashioned kind in two areas: They’re better for body and they’re better for the environment. Clean meats are grown in a sterile environment, meaning that you’ll avoid bacteria found in traditional meats. The environmental benefits might outweigh your personal benefit, though: As the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization notes, animals raised for food make up 14.5 percent of total carbon emissions across the globe.

According to one study, replacing livestock with lab-grown meats will cut down on the land needed by 99 percent, and the water needed by 90 percent. Granted, those savings are off-set by the energy needed to power the lab itself, but it’s still a net benefit. By shifting to lab-grown, you’ll save resources that will be increasingly in demand as the world’s population continues ticking upwards — by some estimates, demand for meat and seafood will double by 2050, reaching 1.2 trillion pounds.

Source: The Hindu

Illegal cultivation of Bt brinjal suspected in Haryana

In News:

Farmer groups have alleged that Bt brinjal, a genetically modified variety, is being cultivated illegally in Haryana.

Background:

India banned Bt brinjal in 2010. The debate around BT brinjal started in 2000 when Mahyco (Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co) came up with a GM brinjal. Seeds were exported to Bangladesh and Philippines in 2006, as the civil society resisted field trials in India.

In 2013, the cultivation of Br brinjal was taken up by the Bangladesh government with initially successful results. A few years down the line, however, the crops lost their resistance to pests.

Need of the hour- the GEAC should:

  • Visit the farms and conduct tests
  • Identify the source of seeds
  • Destroy GM crops
  • Compensate losses incurred by farmers
  • Penalise distributing companies
  • Form a mechanism to avoid such incidents in the future

What is a GM crop?

A GM or transgenic crop is a plant that has a novel combination of genetic material obtained through the use of modern biotechnology.

For example, a GM crop can contain a gene(s) that has been artificially inserted instead of the plant acquiring it through pollination. The resulting plant is said to be “genetically modified” although in reality all crops have been “genetically modified” from their original wild state by domestication, selection, and controlled breeding over long periods of time.

Do we need GM crops?

Yes and why?

  • Higher crop yields.
  • Reduced farm costs.
  • Increased farm profit.
  • Improvement in health and the environment.

No and why?

Lack of clarity: It is clear that the technology of genetic engineering is an evolving one and there is much, especially on its impact on human health and environment that is yet to be understood properly. The scientific community itself seems uncertain about this.

While there are many in this community who feel that the benefits outweigh the risks, others point to the irreversibility of this technology and uncontrollability of the Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) once introduced in the ecosystem. Hence, they advocate a precautionary approach towards any open release of GMOs.

Threat to domestic crops: One of the concerns raised strongly by those opposing GM crops in India is that many important crops like rice, brinjal, and mustard, among others, originated here, and introducing genetically modified versions of these crops could be a major threat to the vast number of domestic and wild varieties of these crops.

In fact, globally, there is a clear view that GM crops must not be introduced in centres of origin and diversity. India also has mega biodiversity hotspots like the Eastern Himalayas and the Western Ghats which are rich in biodiversity yet ecologically very sensitive. Hence it will only be prudent for us to be careful before we jump on to the bandwagon of any technology.

There is also a potential for pests to evolve resistance to the toxins produced by GM crops and the risk of these toxins affecting nontarget organisms. There is also the danger of unintentionally introducing allergens and other anti-nutrition factors in foods.

Source: Down to Earth

Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize

In News:

The Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize 2019 was awarded to author Rana Dasgupta for his 2010 novel “Solo”.

Details:

Solo is a tale of estrangement and the ultimate failure of material existence.

About the prize:

aims to revive poetry and books that can change lives.

An amount of $10,000, a Tagore statue and a certificate for contribution to literature will be given to the awardee.

Eligibility: Indian Poets, novelists and Playwrights writing in officially recognized languages or dialects of the Indian subcontinent, including English.

Investor Education and Protection Fund (IEPF)

In News:

The Investor Education and Protection Fund (IEPF) Authority has recovered deposits worth Rs 1,514 crore from Kolkata-based Peerless General Finance and Investment Company.

About Investor Education and Protection Fund Authority:

established by the central government under Section 125 of Companies Act 2013.

a statutory body under the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.

The Secretary in the Ministry of Corporate Affairs is the Chairperson of IEPF.

The authority aims to administer the Investor Education and Protection Fund with the objective of promoting Investor’s Education, Awareness and Protection.

It is empowered to undertake various initiatives to fulfil its objectives through Investor Awareness Programmes and various other mediums like print, Electronic, Social Media and Community Radio.

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