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30th November Current Affairs

National Education Day

In News:

Since 2008, we celebrate National Education Day on November 11, the birth anniversary of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad to honor his contributions to education in India.

About Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and his key contributions:

He served as the first Minister of Education of independent India.

An Indian scholar and independence activist, he was one of the senior leaders of the Indian National Congress.

He organized a national education system during his tenure as education minister.

His focus was on free primary education to all.

Azad was awarded Bharat Ratna in 1992 for his contributions towards the field of education.

He was also a pioneer for the establishing of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) and the foundation of the University Grants Commission (UGC).

Role in the Indian National Movement:

In 1912, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad started a weekly journal in Urdu called Al-Hilal which played an important role in forging Hindu-Muslim unity after the bad blood created between the two communities in the aftermath of Morley-Minto reforms. The government regarded Al- Hilal as propagator of secessionist views and banned it in 1914.

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad supported the Non-Cooperation Movement started by Gandhiji and entered Indian National Congress in 1920.

In 1923, he was elected as the president of Indian National Congress. He again became the president of Congress in 1940.

Contribution to strengthening secularism:

Secularism for Azad rested on the principle of wahadat-e-din on the one hand and disregarding the intermediaries the priestly class and institutionalization of religion.

He captured the true essence of secularism and placed the highest stakes in education and development of the human mind and man’s consciousness about himself.

As the education minister Azad desired that religious education be imparted along with secular education as the serious business of religious education cannot be left to the respective religious leadership of the communities as they tend to take supremacist and communal stand.

Azad desired that common values of all the religions should be taught to the students so that they do not develop prejudices against each other.

Secularism, according to Azad was not in confining religion to observances of certain rituals within home, but in religion inspiring followers to live righteous path and seeking guidance of almighty in understanding what that right path is. Therefore every human being has to struggle to become a better follower of their respective religions.

Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) trade privilege

In News:

India is likely to press Biden Administration for early restoration of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) trade privilege for India.

When was it withdrawn?

The privilege was withdrawn by outgoing President Donald Trump’s administration in Washington DC in June 2019 and India has been prodding the United States to restore it.

What is the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP)?

It is a U.S. trade program designed to promote economic growth in the developing world by providing preferential duty-free entry for up to 4,800 products from 129 designated beneficiary countries and territories.

GSP was instituted on January 1, 1976, by the Trade Act of 1974.

GSP has been given on non-reciprocal basis. Yet the US has linked it with market access and tariff reduction which is against the basic tenets of GSP.

What is the objective of GSP?

The objective of GSP was to give development support to poor countries by promoting exports from them into the developed countries.

GSP promotes sustainable development in beneficiary countries by helping these countries to increase and diversify their trade with the United States.

Benefits of GSP:

Indian exporters benefit indirectly – through the benefit that accrues to the importer by way of reduced tariff or duty free entry of eligible Indian products

Reduction or removal of import duty on an Indian product makes it more competitive to the importer – other things (e.g. quality) being equal.

This tariff preference helps new exporters to penetrate a market and established exporters to increase their market share and to improve upon the profit margins, in the donor country.

Armenia, Azerbaijan agree on peace deal

In News:

Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed on a deal with Russia to end fierce clashes over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Background:

Three earlier cease-fire agreements, brokered by Russia, the France and the United States, quickly broke down. The latest Russian effort is distinct for sending peacekeeping troops and for the sweeping concessions Armenia accepted to avoid battlefield losses.

What was the conflict all about?

A simmering, decades-long conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh erupted in late September into the worst fighting the area had seen since a vicious ethnic war in the 1990s.

Skirmishes have been common for years along the front lines of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is internationally recognized as a part of Azerbaijan but is home to ethnic Armenians.

Why this conflict flared again recently?

The region is an ethnic tinderbox.

A local fight drew in regional powers.

Warning signs went ignored.

The story of Nagorno-Karabakh:

Nagorno-Karabakh is part of Azerbaijan, but its population is majority Armenian. As the Soviet Union saw increasing tensions in its constituent republics in the 1980s, Nagorno-Karabakh voted to become part of Armenia – sparking a war which stopped with a ceasefire in 1994.

Since then, Nagorno-Karabakh has remained part of Azerbaijan but is controlled by separatist ethnic Armenians backed by the Armenian government. Until recently, negotiations mediated by international powers had failed to deliver a peace agreement.

Armenia is majority Christian while Azerbaijan is majority Muslim. Turkey has close ties to Azerbaijan, while Russia is allied with Armenia – although it also has good relations with Azerbaijan.

Things you need to know about mRNA vaccines

In News:

The novel m-RNA vaccine candidate of the Pune-based Gennova Biopharmaceuticals was approved for funding as early as July by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT).

Details:

Being a biological product that requires genetic manipulation, it needs to be cleared by the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM), a DBT body, before it can approach the Drug Controller General of India for human trials.

It is now being said that this vaccine may be ready in March.

First of all, how do vaccines work?

Vaccines work by training the body to recognise and respond to the proteins produced by disease-causing organisms, such as a virus or bacteria.

Traditional vaccines are made up of small or inactivated doses of the whole disease-causing organism, or the proteins that it produces, which are introduced into the body to provoke the immune system into mounting a response.

What are mRNA vaccines?

mRNA vaccines trick the body into producing some of the viral proteins itself.

They work by using mRNA, or messenger RNA, which is the molecule that essentially puts DNA instructions into action.

Inside a cell, mRNA is used as a template to build a protein.

How it works?

To produce an mRNA vaccine, scientists produce a synthetic version of the mRNA that a virus uses to build its infectious proteins.

This mRNA is delivered into the human body, whose cells read it as instructions to build that viral protein, and therefore create some of the virus’s molecules themselves.

These proteins are solitary, so they do not assemble to form a virus.

The immune system then detects these viral proteins and starts to produce a defensive response to them.

Significance of mRNA vaccines:

There are two parts to our immune system: innate (the defences we’re born with) and acquired (which we develop as we come into contact with pathogens).

Classical vaccine molecules usually only work with the acquired immune system and the innate immune system is activated by another ingredient, called an adjuvant.

Interestingly, mRNA in vaccines could also trigger the innate immune system, providing an extra layer of defence without the need to add adjuvants.