17, February 2018

  1. Scientists find a potentially powerful new antibiotic in dirt

Source: The Hindu

Researchers have discovered a new class of antibiotics, which they have named malacidins, which can be extracted from soil bacteria that are notoriously difficult to culture in labs and study.

Significance of this discovery:

  • The world is facing an epidemic of infections that no longer respond well to the drugs used to treat them—also known as super bugs. The findings of the research are encouraging. The researchers say that based on their research, malacidins may be able to attack and kill many types of super bugs. The new antibiotics fought off many common infections in lab and mice tests, eliminating some microbes that have become resistant to existing antibiotics.

Superbug

  • A superbug, also called multiresistant, is a bacterium that carries several resistance genes. These are resistant to multiple antibiotics and are able to survive even after exposure to one or more antibiotics.

What causes them to mutate like that?

  • Like any living organism, bacteria can mutate as they multiply. Also like any living organism, bacteria have a strong evolutionary drive to survive. So, over time, a select few will mutate in particular ways that make them resistant to antibiotics. Then, when antibiotics are introduced, only the bacteria that can resist that treatment can survive to multiply further, proliferating the line of drug-resistant bugs.

Why is the medical community worried?

  • Basically, superbugs are becoming more powerful and widespread than ever. Medical experts are afraid that we’re one step away from deadly, untreatable infections. Antibiotic-resistance is passed relatively easily from one bacteria to the next, since it is transmitted by way of loose genetic material that most bacteria have in common. The World Health Organization (WHO) is afraid of a post-antibiotic world, where loads of bacteria are superbugs. Already, infections like tuberculosis, gonorrhea, and pneumonia are becoming harder to treat with typical antibiotics.

Why India is more vulnerable?

  • Bacteria spread easily in India because half of Indians defecate outdoors, and much of the sewage generated by those who do use toilets is untreated. As a result, Indians have among the highest rates of bacterial infections in the world and collectively take more antibiotics, which are sold over the counter here, than any other nationality.
  • A study found that Indian children living in places where people are less likely to use a toilet tend to get diarrhoea and be given antibiotics more often than those in places with more toilet use.
  • All those drugs that create resistance to antibiotics find their way into hospital sewage, which is mostly dumped untreated into rivers, canals and pits in the surrounding community where pregnant women can become infected.
  • Equally worrisome has been the rapid growth of India’s industrialised animal husbandry, where antibiotics are widespread. Most large chicken farms here use feed laced with antibiotics banned for use in animals in the United States.
  • Also, antibiotics are still readily available over the counter, and people still self-medicate. The Indian government has notably failed to institute and implement real regulations to stop chemists from handing out antibiotics like cheap candy.

 Way ahead:

  • The global community needs to urgently address the indiscriminate use of antibiotics in an actionable manner, and fast-track research on the next generation of drugs.

  1. Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS)

Source: The Hindu

Punjab government has launched the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS), a project to keep digitised records of FIRs and information on crimes and criminals. FIRs and General Diaries can now be updated online by police officials on CCTNS ‘Go-Live’. They would be provided Tablets for this purpose.

What is CCTNS project?

  • Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS) is a project initiated in June 2009 which aims at creating a comprehensive and integrated system for enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of policing at the Police Station level. This will be done through adoption of principles of e-Governance, and creation of a nationwide networked infrastructure for evolution of IT-enabled state-of-the-art tracking system around “investigation of crime and detection of criminals”. CCTNS is a Mission Mode Project (MMP) under the National e-Governance Plan of Govt. of India.

What it does?

  • The Project will interconnect about 15000 Police Stations and additional 5000 offices of supervisory police officers across the country and digitize data related to FIR registration, investigation and charge sheets in all Police Stations.
  • It will not only automate Police functions at Police station and higher levels but will also create facilities and mechanism to provide public services like registration of online complaints, ascertaining the status of case registered at the police station, verification of persons etc. In 2015, an additional objective of establishing a basic platform for an Inter-operable Criminal Justice System (ICJS) was added to the Project.

Benefits:

  • The Full implementation of the Project with all the new components would lead to a Central citizen portal having linkages with State level citizen portals that will provide a number of citizen friendly services like Police Verification for various purposes including passport verification, reporting a crime including cyber-crime and online tracking of the case progress etc.
  • The project will enable National level crime analytics to be published at increased frequency, which will help the policy makers as well as lawmakers in taking appropriate and timely action, it will also enable Pan-India criminal/accused name search in the regional language for improved inter-state tracking of criminal movement. This would lead to development of a national database of crimes and criminals.

Need for CCTNS:

  • The police of any state barely “talked” among themselves, or with the police of other states. Each police station was an island, where records were maintained manually. The National Crime Records Bureau and State Crime Records Bureaus were initial steps towards storage, sharing and accessing data, but the process was technologically primitive and cumbersome, Chidambaram felt. A seamless, technology-driven network in which any police station could “talk” to another police station in real time, was needed.

How will citizens benefit from CCTNS?

  • Full implementation of the project will lead to the creation of a central citizen portal with links to state-level citizen portals. This will take several citizen-friendly services online — such as police verification for purposes including passports, reporting a crime, tracking the progress of a case, reporting of grievances against police officials, access to victim compensation fund, and legal services. A list of proclaimed offenders, sex offenders and most wanted criminals will also be published on the citizen portal.
  • Investigating officers across the country will be able to access the crime and criminals database, and the police will get alerts, dashboards and other CCTNS features through mobile applications. National-level crime analytics will be published at an increased frequency, and police station staff will be able to directly search for information in other national databases such as UIDAI, NPR and the Transport database.

Way ahead:

  • The success of this potential game-changer project will depend on data accuracy, and its judicious utilisation, and this is where the government needs to be extremely careful while going ahead on the creation of this national backbone for the justice system.

  1. Botanical Survey of India

Source: PIB

Botanical Survey of India (BSI) and Natural History Museum (NHM), UK have signed a Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation in the field of genetic/taxonomic studies, research and training, conservation in India, including species and habitat conservation assessments.

 

NHM will help BSI in capacity building in areas of systematic botany and long-term conservation of plant genetic resources in India.

About BSI:

  • The Botanical Survey of India (BSI) was established in 1890 with the objectives of exploring the plant resources of the country and identifying plant species with economic virtue. In 1954, the Government reorganised the BSI with the objectives of:
  • Undertaking intensive floristic surveys and collecting accurate and detailed information on the occurrence, distribution, ecology and economic utility of plants in the country.
  • Collecting, identifying and distributing materials that may be of use to educational and research institutions.
  • Acting as the custodian of authentic collections in well planned herbaria and documenting plant resources in the form of local, district, state and national flora.

Way ahead:

  • Open science and collaboration is a core goal of both Botanical Survey of India and Natural History Museum, signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between BSI and NHM is set to develop further to the benefit of both India and the UK. Capacity building and scientific exchange between India and the UK will also be central to future work under the Memorandum of Understanding and will enable learning from each other and work collaboratively to address important scientific questions and deliver benefit to humanity

  1. Cauvery water dispute verdict

Source: The Hindu

The Supreme Court verdict on Cauvery water dispute is out, and it has come as a big relief for Karnataka. Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have been at loggerhead for their ‘due share’ of Cauvery river.

What’s the verdict?

  • The apex court directed the Karnataka government to release 177.25 TMC of water to Tamil Nadu, 14.75 TMC lesser than what was allotted by the tribunal in 2007. Karnataka will now get 284.75 TMC and Tamil Nadu will get 404.25 TMC of Cauvery water.
  • The top court also made it clear that increase in the share of Cauvery water for Karnataka has been done keeping in view the fact that there is an increased demand of drinking water by Bengaluru and also for many industrial activities.

What’s the dispute?

  • The dispute began with Karnataka’s demand of ‘equitable sharing of the waters’ after it expanded farming activities in the Cauvery basin. It claimed that the previous agreements, which happened between erstwhile Madras Presidency and Kingdom of Mysore in 1924, were highly skewed to what is present day Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu used to get about 602 TMC of the total water, leaving only about 138 TMC for Karnataka.

Tribunal order:

  • In 1990, the union government set up a Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal or CWDT to look into inter-state river water disputes. In 2007, the Tribunal came out with its order. The Tribunal found the total water of the river 740 thousand million cubic feet (TMC) which it divided (majorly) in Karnataka (270) and Tamil Nadu (419 TMC). Rest of the water was divided into two other states and several other basins. It gave Kerala: 30 TMC, Kabini sub-basin: 21 TMC, Bhavani sub-basin: 6 TMC, Pambar sub-basin: 3 TMC, the Union Territory of Pondicherry: 7 TMC. The Tribunal also awarded 10 TMC for environmental protection and 4 TMC for inevitable escapages into the sea.

What was the demand by Karnataka?

  • The CWDT had directed Karnataka to release 192 TMC of Cauvery water in normal monsoon year. Karnataka government wasn’t satisfied with the Tribunal’s order. It moved to the Supreme Court claiming for 312 TMC of water.
  • Karnataka had recently moved a review petition in the apex court against its three orders on the issue. It said grave miscarriage of justice was caused to it following the three apex court orders of September 20, 27 and 30, 2016. In all these orders, Karnataka was directed to release Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu.

  1. Central Geological Programming Board

Source: PIB

The 57th Meeting of the Central Geological Programming Board (CGPB) was recently held. Representatives of State Departments, Central Ministries/ organizations, PSUs, academic institutes and private entrepreneurs attended the 57th CGPB meeting.

Apart from discussion on achievements of GSI(Geological Survey of India) during the current year, the proposed Annual Programme for ensuing 2018-19 was presented before all Board members.

CGPB:

 

  • The Central Geological Programming Board (CGPB) is the apex body at the national level to overview the programme of geoscientific activities including mineral exploration in the country. It was established through Government of India Resolution in 1966, and subsequently revamped in 2009 with the constitution of 12 theme based committees. CGPB meetings are held twice in a year.
  • The Secretary (Mines) is the chairman of CGPB. Geological Survey of India is the nodal department (Member Secretary) and the State Geology and Mining departments and Central Government institutions, permanent and special invitees are its participating members.
  • CGPB coordinates activities on geological mapping, mineral prospecting, exploration and exploitation in the country. It is responsible for providing the general strategic direction of geosciences activity; effecting programmatic coordination among agencies; enabling better interaction between central agencies and state level organizations; human resource, and research capability; identifying new areas and new technologies for geoscientific activities; advising on geosciences partnerships between GSI, and State and Central – level agencies; actively promoting use of information technology; and approving five-year detailed sub-sectoral targets on a rolling plan basis.



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