3, February 2017

1.Is Litchi Poisonous?

Source: The Hindu

The level of hypoglycin A and MCPG was twice in unripe compared with ripe fruits.

This juicy, lovely fruit is a favourite for many but some disturbing news about poisonous litchis has turned many fans away. The incident dates back to 2014 when a number of children died after consuming litchis.

Three years later, scientists and experts may have an explanation to why this happened?

  • It maybe a popular summer fruit, but litchis are not that simple in nature. Bihar, the largest producer of litchis in India. It became almost a mystery that why a humble fruit like litchi suddenly turned fatal(bringing death).
  • Health experts tried to come up with some explanations – it was a deadly virus, while others advised not to consume unripe litchis – but nothing was concrete.

Study says:

  • The study also found that litchis, particularly unripe fruits, contain an amino acid that affects blood glucose levels severely.
  • The amino acid, which is found in the fruit of many of the Soapberry family, which also includes the litchis, rambutan, longan and ackee.
  • Scientists from the U.S. and India have found that consumption of litchi fruit and skipping evening meal can result in very low blood glucose level (less than 70 mg/dL) and acute encephalopathy that provokes seizures and coma, and causes death in many cases.
  • Hypoglycin A and methylenecyclopropylglycine (MCPG), which are naturally present in litchi fruit, make the condition worse.
    • The toxins block enzymes involved in normal glucose metabolism and this results in an inability to synthesis glucose leading to acutely low level of blood sugar. The build-up of other metabolic by-products could also have an adverse effect (encephalopathy) on the child.
    • Over 62% sick children had blood glucose level less than 70 mg/dL. The median was 48 mg/dL and it was as low as 8 mg/dL.
  • To prevent illness and reduce mortality in the region, recommended minimising litchi consumption, ensuring receipt of an evening meal and implementing rapid glucose correction for suspected illness.
  • The Bihar government introduced interventions such as telling parents to try and restrict litchi consumption and ensure that children ate an evening meal. Hospitalisation injected dextrose into children when they reached the hospital with symptoms, leading to a reduction in deaths

Scientist says international journal violated ethics on Bihar’s ‘litchi disease’

The controversy

  • A scientist who worked on the disease before has said that the article has raised ethical questions on whether the authors have properly cited the influence of his work on theirs.
  • “Not giving due credit for work done by others is not acceptable in science,” a virologist who was earlier told.
  • They quote our study but don’t honestly say what we have found. If they did that then they can’t claim originality. They have done a large case-control study but borrowed all important information connected with the illness from us.
  • The journalCurrent Science in 2014 that laid out the similarities between the ackee fruit and litchis, also showing similarities between the illness outbreak caused by the ackee and what was observed. The fact that skipping an evening meal could intensify the problem was also highlighted in his paper.

The authors have refuted this claim, saying that they cited virologist papers and added new information to what was already found.

There are a few key findings in our study that have not been, to our knowledge, reported previously.

  1. First: the evidence of the metabolites of hypoglycin A and MCPG in the specimens of affected children, and the demonstrated metabolic abnormalities that resulted due to the effects of these toxins. And,
  2. Second, a statistically significant epidemiological association between illness and litchi consumption, as well as the modifying effect of the absence of an evening meal.

2.Andhra Pradesh working on system to DNA-tag convicts

Source: The Hindu

  • The Andhra Pradesh government plans to bring in legislation that will allow the State police and investigating agencies to collect and store DNA samples in a centralised database.
  • The move has come in for close scrutiny, as the Centre first prepared a draft bill on the issue in 2012, but the legislation ran into severe opposition from activists on the ground that it violated privacy. It has since been on hold.

Highlights:

  • Almost everyone is familiar with the double-helix structure of DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid.
  • The two strands of small molecules twisted around each other carry biological information that is unique to every individual.
  • Even a small part of this information can be used to uniquely identify a human being, except in the case of identical twins who have almost the same DNA sequence.
  • DNA, in that sense, is similar to fingerprints or iris scans, but far more reliable and accurate. Also, it can be extracted from any part of the body, blood, bones or even a strand of hair, or clothing.

Human DNA Profiling Bill, 2015

The reasoning is that a centralised DNA database on convicts would help track repeat offenders in sexual assault and rape.

  • It suggests that a National DNA Profiling Board and a National DNA Bank be set up in Hyderabad, with every state having a regional DNA data bank. The DNA Data Bank would maintain records of samples found at crime scenes, or from suspects, offenders, missing persons, volunteers, etc.
  • The bill also makes it clear that no DNA Laboratory shall undertake DNA profiling without the prior approval of the DNA Board.

3.World Wetlands Day being celebrated at Bhoj Wetlands, Bhopal

Source: PIB

Theme of World Wetlands Day for 2017 – ‘Wetlands for disaster risk reduction’

1.World Wetlands Day is celebrated on February 2 each year to mark the Day the Convention on Wetlands was adopted in the Iranian City of Ramsar in 1971.

  • India is a party to the Convention since 1982 and committed to the Ramsar approach of wise use of wetlands. Also, all the State Governments have been requested to celebrate the World Wetland Day in their respective States in a befitting manner.

2.Continued functioning of wetlands has acquired a new meaning in the age of increasing water and food security.

  • Wetlands are the life support for a range of plant and animal life and as wetlands degrade, the existence of these life forms would be under stress. At the same time, it is for the security of human well-being, that wetland conservation acquires prominence.

The theme of World Wetlands Day for 2017 is ‘Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction’. This theme has been selected to raise awareness on the vital roles of healthy wetlands in reducing the impacts of extreme events on communities and in helping to build resilience.

Key facts:

  • This year World Wetland Day is being celebrated in collaboration with the Government of Madhya Pradesh at Bhoj Wetlands, Bhopal, which is one of the 26 Ramsar sites that India has designated under the Ramsar Convention. All the State Governments have been requested to celebrate the World Wetland Day in their respective States in a befitting manner.
  • The National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), Chennai, under the Ministry, has planned two events to spread public awareness about conservation of Wetlands . NBA their role in disaster management, and ways and means to protect them.
  • The Ministry accords high priority to wetlands conservation, and has a dedicated scheme of ‘National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Ecosystems’ (NPCA) to support State Governments in integrated management of these ecosystems.
  • Till date, over 170 wetlands have been covered under the programme. The Ministry has also introduced Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010 as the regulatory framework for conserving wetlands of the country.

Impacts of wetland:

  • Wetlands are our natural buffers against increasing risk of floods, droughts and tropical cyclones. Wetlands can act as sponges, storing peak rainfall and releasing water gradually during lean season.
  • The floods in Kashmir Valley in September, 2014 and Chennai city in December, 2015 are reminders of the ways wetland destruction can make lives vulnerable.
  • Evidences from Super Cyclone Kalinga of 1999, Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004 and Phailin of 2013 underline the role coastal wetlands as estuaries and mangroves can play in buffering communities from impacts of these cyclones and wave surges.
  • Wetlands conservation and restoration should be included within the suite of actions proposed for reducing disaster risk, particularly those related to water, food and climate security. States should constitute Wetland Authorities as nodal agencies for integrated policy, planning and regulation of wetlands. Representation of Disaster Management Authorities should be ensured within the State Wetland Authorities.

Wetland:  wetlands receive flows of water and waste from upstream sources.

  • They help stabilize water supplies, cleanse polluted waters, protect shorelines and recharge groundwater aquifers.
  • The extensive food chain and biological diversity in wetlands make them ‘biological supermarkets’.
  • Wetlands have special attributes as cultural heritage of humanity, and have deep connections with our beliefs and practices. They are an important part of our natural wealth and “liquid assets”. Despite their tremendous value, wetlands are also one of the most rapidly degrading ecosystems.

Ramsar convention:

The Ramsar Convention is an international treaty for the conservation and wise use of wetlands. It is named after the Iranian city of Ramsar, on the Caspian Sea, where the treaty was signed on 2 February 1971. Known officially as ‘the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat’ (or, more recently, just ‘the Convention on Wetlands’), it came into force in 1975.

Montreux Record:

  • Montreux Record under the Convention is a register of wetland sites on the List of Wetlands of International Importance where changes in ecological character have occurred, are occurring, or are likely to occur as a result of technological developments, pollution or other human interference.
  • It is maintained as part of the Ramsar List. The Montreux Record was established by Recommendation of the Conference of the Contracting Parties (1990). Sites may be added to and removed from the Record only with the approval of the Contracting Parties in which they lie.

4.India Innovation Index

Source: PIB

To make India an innovation-driven economy, the government has launched a mega initiative “India Innovation Index”.

The index will rank states on Innovations through country’s first online innovation index portal that will capture data on innovation from all Indian states on innovation and regularly update it in real time.

Key facts:

  • The index was launched by NITI Aayog, Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
  • The India Innovation Index Framework will be structured based on the best practices followed in Global Innovation Index (GII) indicators and additionally by adding India-centric parameters those truly reflect the Indian innovation ecosystem.
  • This initiative will be the point of reference for all international agencies to collect India’s up to date data points for global indices and analytic.

 GII

  • The Global Innovation Index (GII) aims to capture the multi-dimensional facets of innovation and provide the tools that can assist in tailoring policies to promote long-term output growth, improved productivity, and job growth. The GII helps to create an environment in which innovation factors are continually evaluated.
  • The Global Innovation Index (GII), co-published by World-Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Cornell University and INSEAD with CII as a Knowledge Partner since inception, has been ranking world economies including India since 2007 according to their innovation capabilities and outcomes using 82 indicators among a host of other important parameters.
  • It has established itself as both a leading reference on innovation and a ‘tool for action’ for policy makers.
  • India currently ranks 66th out of 128 countries on the Global innovation Index (GII) 2016.

5.NCR Transport Corporation gets a Logo and Tagline – Ministry of Urban Development

Source: PIB

National Capital Region Transport Corporation, mandated with the responsibility of executing the Regional Rapid Transit System (RRTS) in National Capital Region has got a Logo and Tagline highlighting the vision of ‘Gati Se Pragati’ (Progress with Speed). 

  • The Logo has a fresh and new age look communicating vision and objective of sustainable urban development through rapid mass transport.
  • NCRTC is responsible for development, implementation and operation of RRTS which is based on suburban public transport system. RRTS will significantly reduce the travel time between important NCR towns. On completion, RRTS will emerge as the fastest, comfortable and safe mode of transport in NCR.
  • RRTS consists of three corridors viz., Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut, Delhi-Gurgaon-Alwar and Delhi-Panipat sections with a total length of 380 kms.
  • Detailed Project Report of 92 km Delhi-Meerut corridor has already been approved by the NCRTC Board with an estimated cost of Rs.21,902 cr and is to come into operation by January,2023. DPRs of other two corridors are under finalization.

6.PRAGATI Exercise

Source: PIB

PRAGATI aims at Pro-Active Governance and Timely implementation.

  • The meeting provides a robust platform for clear understanding of the bottlenecks and issues involved in such projects/programme and for evolving measures for taking them ahead. Through such review meetings, various projects, public grievances, and programmes and schemes are discussed in detail and measures for fast tracking the same are evolved and implemented.
  • The monitoring is project and programme specific, not state specific.
  • This was stated by the Minister of State in the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions for monitoring pendency of grievances including grievances received in Centralized Public Grievance Redress and Monitoring System (CPGRAMS) through Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

7.Digital Technology ensures level playing field providing equal opportunities for all

Source: PIB

BES EXPO 2017 Program

  • Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, that Digital Technology Platform acted as a equalizer ensuring level playing field and providing equal opportunities for all irrespective of age, region and economic background.
  • Digital Technology apart from providing better services also ensured transparency that enabled plugging of leakages at every levels so that the intended benefits trickle down to every citizen.
  • The inaugural ceremony of the 23rdInternational Conference & Exhibition on Terrestrial and Satellite Broadcasting with the theme Hybrid Technologies in Broadcasting- BES EXPO 2017.

Broadcast Engineering Society (India) was established in 1987

The  main objectives of the BES(I) are:

  • To promote the advancement and dissemination of knowledge & practices of broadcasting in the field of Radio, Television and other media.
  • To enhance the knowledge of broadcast engineering professionals.
  • To meet these objectives, the Society conducts conferences, seminars, tutorials and exhibitions regularly. The signature event of the society, BES Expo, an International conference and exhibition, is conducted every year in New Delhi

8.Signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between MHRD and Focus States for TEQIP-III

Source: PIB

The Union HRD Ministry has signed MoU for Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme (Phase- III) with 18 States and 1 UT.

  • The occasion as the programme is implemented in assistance with World Bank in a sustainable way to improve over all standard and quality of technical institutes.
  • The Union Minister emphasised that innovation and research can happen only when physical infrastructure and trained manpower is available, and therefore this programme is vital for much needed technical up-gradation in education institutes.

Key facts

MoU  was signed between MHRD and Focus States in the presence of Hon’ble HRM

  • The Focus States are 7 Low Income States (Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh),
  • 3 Hill States (Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Uttarakhand),
  • 8 North-Eastern States (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura) and
  • Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The project will be implemented as Central Sector Scheme with the facility of Direct Funds Transfer to the accounts of beneficiary institutes. The project will be initiated in April 2017 and will be coterminous (being of equal extent) with Fourteenth Finance Commission (FFC) i.e. 2019-20.

TEQUIP I and II and TQUEP III

  • TEQUIP I and TEQUIP II had a positive impact on the infrastructure and educational standards in the technical institutions where they were taken up.
  • Institutions in the central, eastern and north-eastern region and hill States are at present in need of similar and specific interventions. The initiation and implementation of the project TEQIP-III arises from the need to bridge this gap.

Background:

The Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme (TEQIP) commenced in 2003 with World Bank assistance as a long term programme to be implemented in 3 phases.

  • The first phase of Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme (TEQIP) commenced in 2003 and ended on March 31st, 2009.
  • TEQIP-II commenced in August 2010 and is scheduled to conclude in March 2017.
  • The project will cover all Government / Government aided engineering institutes, affiliating technical universities (ATUs) and CFTIs from Focus States/UT.

The major impacts/ outcomes of the project are:

  • Better academic standards, through accreditation, filling up faculty positions, training faculty in better teaching methods, improved research outputs in institution in Focus States/UTs
  • Better administration of the institutions with improved financial/academic autonomy,
  • Better systems for assessment of Student Learning, higher transition rates
  • Transparent and expeditious release of funds to institutes by way of Direct Funds Transfer (DFT) System.

9.New Benefits announced for NPS Subscribers in Union Budget 2017-18

Source: PIB

In a bid to provide further impetus to the National Pension System (NPS), the following provisions have been introduced in the Finance Bill 2017.

Tax-exemption to partial withdrawal from National Pension System (NPS)

The existing provision of section 10(12A)of the Income Tax Act, 1961  provides that payment from National Pension System (NPS)  to a subscriber  on closure  of his account or opting out shall be exempt up to 40% of total corpus  at the time of withdrawal.

The amount utilized for purchase of annuity is also tax exempt. At the time of normal exit, 40% of the total corpus is mandatorily required to be purchased for annuity. The subscriber has the option to use higher amount for purchase of annuity.

New  tax exempt

  1. In order to provide further relief to the subscriber of NPS, it has been proposed to insert a new clause (12B) in the section 10 of Income Tax Act, 1961 to provide exemption on partial withdrawal not exceeding 25% of the contribution made by an employee in accordance with the terms and conditions specified under Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Act, 2013 and regulations made there under.
  • This benefit will be effective on partial withdrawal made by the subscriber after 1st April 2017.

2.Further, Contribution up to 20% of the Gross Income of the Self-employed individual (Individual other than salaried class) will be deductible from the taxable income under Section 80CCD (1) of the Income Tax Act, 1961, as against 10% earlier.

  • This is with a view to provide parity between a salaried employee and a self-employed.
  • This benefit will be available on contribution made by the self employed persons on or after 1st April 2017.

This increased limit for tax benefit will help the self-employed individuals, to save taxes on higher contribution in NPS and thereby properly plan for their old age income security.

Additional tax deduction on investment upto Rs. 50000/- under Section 80CCD (1B) will continue to remain the same for all NPS subscribers whether salaried or self-employed.

10.Health Ministry Notifies Medical Devices Rules, 2017

Source: PIB

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has notified Medical Devices Rules, 2017. The new Rules have been framed in conformity with Global Harmonisation Task Force (GHTF) framework and conform to best international practices.

  • The new Rules seek to remove regulatory bottlenecks to make in India, facilitate ease of doing business while ensuring availability of better medical devices for patient care and safety.
  • Only 15 categories of medical devices are, at present, regulated as drugs and to that extent, the current regulatory practices in India were not fully geared to meet the requirements of medical devices sector in the country.

Medical Devices Rules, 2017

  • Medical devices will, under the new Rules, be classified as per GHTF practice, based on associated risks, into Class A (low risk), Class B (low moderate risk), Class C (moderate high risk) and Class D (high risk).
  • The manufacturers of medical devices will be required to meet risk proportionate regulatory requirements that have been specified in the Rules and are based on best international practices.
  • With a view to bring in the highest degree of professionalism in regulation of medical devices, a system of ‘Third Party Conformity Assessment and Certification’ through Notified Bodies is envisaged. The Notified Bodies will be accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies (NABCB).
  • These Bodies will undertake verification and assessment of Quality Management System of Medical Device Manufacturers of Class A and Class B category and may, on as required basis, be called upon to render assistance for regulation of Class C and D medical devices also.
  • The Rules also seek to evolve a culture of self-compliance by manufacturers of medical devices and, accordingly, the manufacturing licences for Class A medical devices will be granted without prior audit of manufacturing site. However, post approval audit of manufacturing site will be carried out by the Notified Bodies to check conformance with Quality Management System.
  • Manufacture of Class A and Class B medical devices will be licenced by State Licensing Authorities concerned after Quality Management System audit by an accredited Notified Body.
  • Manufacture of Class C and Class D medical devices will be regulated by the Central Licensing Authority and, where required, assistance of experts or notified bodies will be taken(NABCB).
  • Import of all medical devices will continue to be regulated by CDSCO(Central Drugs Standard Control Organization)
  • Separate provisions for regulation of Clinical Investigation (clinical trials) of investigational medical devices (i.e. new devices) have also been made at par with international practices and, like clinical trials, these will be regulated by CDSCO.
  • Conduct of clinical investigations will, while following the international practices, be conducted in a manner that ensures realization of the twin objectives of patient safety and welfare and discovery of new medical devices.

Medical management and compensation will be provided to the subjects of clinical investigation in accordance with the predefined and objective criteria laid down by the Government.

SIGNIFICANCE

  • The new rules have many other unique features. It will be for the first time that there will be no requirement of periodic renewal of licences. Accordingly, manufacturing and import licences will remain valid till these are suspended or cancelled or surrendered.
  • The issuance of licences for Class A medical devices on the basis of self-certification coupled with a system of checks and balances for ensuring compliance is a departure from the inspection based regulatory regime.
  • Risk based audit of manufacturing units will be carried out to assess conformance with standards and quality parameters.
  • These Rules envisage creation of a robust eco-system for all stakeholders including innovators, manufacturers, providers, consumers, buyers and regulators.

The Rules will provide a conducive environment for fostering India specific innovation and improving accessibility and affordability of medical devices across the globe by leveraging comparative cost advantage of manufacturing in India.

The objective,

  • Transparent and predictable regulatory framework will boost the confidence of investors and
  • The quality and range of products and services will improve and business burdens will be reduced.
  • The new Rules will help in developing a quality standardization framework in India at par with international standards. The implementation of these Rules will provide the assurance of the best quality, safety and performance of medical devices.
  • All this will support entrepreneurship, market entry and economic growth that, in turn, would produce high-paying, high-quality jobs.



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