Friday, July 26, 2019

Cabinet approves merger / amalgamation of NIMH with ICMR- NIOH:
Context: Cabinet has approved to dissolve National Institute of Miners’ Health (NIMH) and merge / amalgamate with ICMR-National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH), Ahmedabad, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoH&FW). NIMH, ICMR, NIOH, MoM and Impact: The merger / amalgamation of NIMH with NIOH will prove beneficial to both the Institutes in term of enhanced expertise in the field of occupational health besides the efficient management of public money. 
NIMH was set up by Government of India in 1990 and registered as a Society under the Karnataka Societies Registration Act, 1960.
It is an autonomous Institute under Ministry of Mines (MoM).

Colistin banned in animal food industry:
Context: Manufacture, sale and distribution of colistin and its formulations for food-producing animals, poultry, aqua farming and animal feed supplements have been prohibited in an order issued by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
What is colistin and why has it been banned?
Colistin is a valuable, last-resort antibiotic that saves human lives in critical care units.
Indiscriminate use of colistin has led to rise of anti-microbial resistance in the country.
If the use of colistin as a growth factor in animals is cut down and it is limited to therapeutic usage only, the chances of developing resistance to it goes down.

American pocket shark, or Mollisquama mississippiensis:
What is it? It is a new species of pocket-sized pocket shark found recently in the Gulf of Mexico.
It is only the third out of more than 500 known shark species that may squirt luminous liquid.

Dracaena cambodiana:
Context: A group of researchers has discovered Dracaena cambodianaa dragon tree species in the Dongka Sarpo area of West Karbi Anglong, Assam.
This is for the first time that a dragon tree species has been reported from India.
The Dracaena seeds are usually dispersed by birds. But due to the large fruit size, only a few species of birds are able to swallow the fruits, thus limiting the scope of its natural conservation.
Dracaena cambodiana is an important medicinal plant as well as an ornamental tree.
It is a major source of dragon’s blood, a precious traditional medicine in China.

Fair and Remunerative Prices for Sugarcane

The Union Cabinet has cleared a proposal to create an emergency sugar reserve of 4 million tonne and approved the Fair and Remunerative Prices for sugarcane for the year 2019-20.

Sugar Industry

§  Sugar industry is an important agro-based industry that impacts rural livelihood of about 50 million sugarcane farmers and around 5 lakh workers directly employed in sugar mills.
§  India is the world’s second largest sugar producer after Brazil and also the largest consumer.

Price Determination of Sugarcane

§  Sugarcane prices are determined by:

o    Federal Government
o    State Government
§  The Federal/Central Government announces Fair and Remunerative Prices which are determined on the recommendation of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) and are announced by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, which is chaired by Prime Minister.
§  The State Advised Prices (SAP) are announced by key sugarcane producing states which are generally higher than FRP.
Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP)
§  The Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) is an attached office of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India. It came into existence in January 1965.
§  It is an advisory body whose recommendations are not binding on Government.

National Data Quality Forum

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)’s National Institute for Medical Statistics (ICMR-NIMS), in partnership with Population council (International non profit NGO that conducts research in biomedicine and social science) has launched the National Data Quality Forum (NDQF).
§  The National Data Quality Forum (NDQF) is an integrated national-level platform that aims to improve the quality ofhealth and demographic data by generating meaningful dialogue around the improvement of data quality in general, and for health and medical research in particular.
§  NDQF will bring all relevant stakeholders, subject matter experts, industry leaders, decision makers, and data scientists/analysts on a common platform for discussing improvements in the quality of data ecosystem in India.
§  NDQF will integrate learnings from scientific and evidence-based initiatives and guide actions through periodic workshops and conferences.
§  NDQF’s activities will help establish protocols and good practices of data collection, storage, use and dissemination that can be applied to health and demographic data, as well as can be replicated across other industries and sectors also.
National Institute for Medical Statistics
§  NIMS is one of the permanent institutes of Institutes of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), New Delhi.
§  The Institute came into existence in the year 1977 with the mandate to provide technical expertise on research methodology, programme evaluation, mathematical modeling, data analysis etc.
§  It is India’s only institute to coordinate and standardize the collection of medical and health statistics in the country.
Major Achievements of NIMS
§  Establishment of India's first Clinical Trials Registry, in collaboration with the Department of Science and Technology and World Health Organisation (WHO).
§  Integrated Behavioural and Biological Assessment on National Highways (IBBA-NH) among truckers for HIV epidemic in the country.
§  Identified as the National Nodal Agency for the implementation of Integrated Disease Surveillance Project(IDSP)-Non-Communicable Disease ( IDSP- NCD) risk factor survey.

Milky Way's Violent Birth Decoded

Based on the Gaia space observatory data, Scientist has observed that the Milky Way, home to our sun and billions of other stars, merged with another smaller galaxy in a cosmic collision roughly 10 billion years ago.
Gaia Space Observatory
§  Gaia is a mission to chart a three-dimensional map of our Galaxy, the Milky Way, in the process revealing the composition, formation and evolution of the Galaxy.
§  Gaia will provide unprecedented positional and radial velocity measurements with the accuracy needed to produce a census of about one billion stars in our Galaxy.
§  According to scientists, the union of the Milky Way and the so-called dwarf galaxy Gaia-Enceladus increased our galaxy’s mass by about a quarter and triggered a period of accelerated star formation lasting about 2 to 4 billion years.
§  Galaxies of all types, including the Milky Way, began to form relatively soon after the Big Bang explosion that marked the beginning of the universe some 13.8 billion years ago, but were generally smaller than those seen today and were forming stars at a rapid rate. Subsequent galactic mergers were instrumental in configuring galaxies existing now.
§  Certain stars with higher content of elements other than hydrogen or helium arose in the Milky Way and others with lower such content originated in Gaia-Enceladus, owing to its smaller mass.

Blood-oozing Tree

A trio of researchers led by Assam forest officer Jatindra Sarma has discovered Dracaena cambodiana, a dragon tree species in the Dongka Sarpo area of West Karbi Anglong. This is for the first time that a dragon tree species has been reported from India.


§  It is a plant that yields dragon’s blood — a bright red resin (a precious traditional medicine in China) used since ancient times as medicine, body oil, varnish, incense and dye.
§  Several antifungal and antibacterial compounds, antioxidants, flavonoids, etc.have been extracted from various parts of the plant.


§  In India, the Dracaena genus belonging to the family Asparagaceae is represented by nine species and two varieties in the Himalayan region, the northeast and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. But Dracaena cambodiana is the only true dragon tree species, the study said.


§  Recent overexploitation to meet the increasing demand for dragon’s blood has resulted in rapid depletion of the plant. For this reason, the species is already listed in the inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants of China.
§  The population size of the dragon tree species in Assam was estimated to be fewer than 50 mature individuals. The habitat of the plant is severely fragmented due to open excavation of a stone quarry and there is continuing decrease in its area of occupancy and number of mature individuals.
§  The Dracaena seeds are usually dispersed by birds. But due to the large fruit size, only a few species of birds are able to swallow the fruits, thus limiting the scope of its natural conservation.

National Institute of Miners Health

The Union Cabinet has approved the merger of National Institute of Miners Health with Indian Council of Medical Research-National Institute of Occupational Health.


§  Expenditure Management Commission established by the Government of India to review the working and performance of autonomous institutes, recommended the merger of organisations with similar objectives.

Impact of Merger

§  Enhance expertise in the field of occupational health.
§  Efficient management of public resources

National Institute of Miners Health

§  It was set up by the Government of India in 1990 and was registered as a Society under the Karnataka Societies Registration Act, 1960.
§  It is an autonomous Institute under Ministry of Mines and located at Kolar Gold Fields, Karnataka and the Central Laboratory in Nagpur.
§  It conducts applied research in occupational health and hygiene and specializes in providing technical support services to mining and mineral based industry with special reference to metalliferous sector.
§  It has the state-of-art infrastructural facilities and expertise for conducting Airborne Respirable Dust, Heat Stress, Vibrations, Noise Monitoring & Mapping, Illumination, ergonomic, etc. surveys in underground and opencast mines and routine & specialized health surveillance of persons employed in mines.

National Institute of Occupational Health

§  It was established in 1966 as Occupational Health Research Institute (OHRI) at Ahmedabad and later renamed as National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH) in 1970.
§  It works under the administrative control of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
§  Its primary responsibility is to support the national policy makers for adopting an appropriate policy in the field of occupational health which includes occupational medicine and occupational hygiene.
§  It has two regional office at Kolkata and Bangalore.

Cuban Revolution

Aleida Guevara’s (Daughter of Ernesto "Che" Guevara ) visit to India coincides with 60 years of the Cuban revolution that was carried out by Fiedel castro and Ernesto "Che" Guevara.
§  America had been highly influential in Cuba since the early 1900s. Much of Cuba's industry was owned by United States business and its main export, sugar, was controlled by the USA.
§  In the 1950s, Cuba was being led under the corrupt and oppressive military dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. However he supported US interests on the island and hence, Washington supported him.
§  The Batista regime was extremely unpopular with the Cuban people.
§  In 1956, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara gathered a force of guerrilla fighters and started a revolutionary war against government forces.
§  By 1958, the revolution had spread throughout Cuba, culminating in the fall of Havana in early 1959. Batista fled the country in 1959 and Castro formed a liberal nationalist government by liberating Cuba from US influence.

What is lightning, and how does it strike?
It is a very rapid — and massive — discharge of electricity in the atmosphere, some of which is directed towards the Earth’s surface.
These discharges are generated in giant moisture-bearing clouds that are 10-12 km tall.

How does it strike?
  1. The base of these clouds typically lies within 1-2 km of the Earth’s surface, while their top is 12-13 km away. Temperatures towards the top of these clouds are in the range of minus 35 to minus 45 degrees Celsius.
  2. As water vapour moves upward in the cloud, the falling temperature causes it to condenseHeat is generated in the process, which pushes the molecules of water further up.
  3. As they move to temperatures below zero degrees celsius, the water droplets change into small ice crystals. They continue to move up, gathering mass — until they are so heavy that they start to fall to Earth.
  4. This leads to a system in which, simultaneously, smaller ice crystals are moving up and bigger crystals are coming down.
  5. Collisions follow, and trigger the release of electrons — a process that is very similar to the generation of sparks of electricity. As the moving free electrons cause more collisions and more electrons, a chain reaction ensues.
  6. This process results in a situation in which the top layer of the cloud gets positively charged, while the middle layer is negatively charged. The electrical potential difference between the two layers is huge — of the order of a billion to 10 billion volts. In very little time, a massive current, of the order of 100,000 to a million amperes, starts to flow between the layers.
  7. An enormous amount of heat is produced, and this leads to the heating of the air column between the two layers of the cloud. This heat gives the air column a reddish appearance during lightning. As the heated air column expands, it produces shock waves that result in thunder.

How does this current reach the Earth from the cloud?
While the Earth is a good conductor of electricity, it is electrically neutral. However, in comparison to the middle layer of the cloud, it becomes positively charged. As a result, about 15%-20% of the current gets directed towards the Earth as well. It is this flow of current that results in damage to life and property on Earth.
There is a greater probability of lightning striking tall objects such as trees, towers or buildings. Once it is about 80-100 m from the surface, lightning tends to change course towards these taller objects. This happens because air is a poor conductor of electricity, and electrons that are travelling through air seek both a better conductor and the shortest route to the relatively positively charged Earth’s surface.

Global Innovation Index-2019

The Government of India, has launched the Global Innovation Index (GII) in New Delhi.
§  This is the first time that the GII is being launched in an emerging economy.
§  The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) of Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) are co hosting the event.

India’s Performance

§  India’s ranking in the Global Innovation Index is 52 which shows an improvement of 5 points from the last years ranking (57).
§  India’s rankings has been consistently increasing over the last few years and is among the top in the world in innovation drivers such as Information and Communication Technology (ICT), services exports, graduates in science and engineering, the quality of universities, gross capital formation (a measure of economy-wide investments) and creative goods exports.
§  India stands out in the world’s top science and technology clusters, with Bengaluru, Mumbai, and New Delhi featuring among the top 100 global clusters.
§  India continues to be the most innovative economy in central and southern Asia (a distinction held since 2011).

Global Performance

§  Switzerland tops the GII index followed by Sweden, United States of America, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Finland, Denmark, Singapore, Germany and Israel.

Global Innovation Index

§  The theme of GII- 2019 (12th edition) is “Creating Healthy Lives - The Future of Medical Innovation” which aims to explore the role of medical innovation as it shapes the future of healthcare.
§  It is published annually by Cornell University, INSEAD and the UN World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
§  The GII relies on two sub-indices :

o    Innovation Input Sub-Index.
o    Innovation Output Sub-Index.
§  These sub indices are built around several key pillars namely , Input pillar and Output pillar :

o    Input pillars capture elements of the national economy that enable innovative activities

·         Institutions
·         Human capital and research
·         Infrastructure
·         Market sophistication
·         Business sophistication.
o    Output pillars capture actual evidence of innovation outputs: 

·         Knowledge and technology outputs
·         Creative outputs.

R&D Expenditure Ecosystem in India

The report titled “Research and Development (R&D) Expenditure Ecosystem” was also released during the global launch of Global Innovation Index (GII)–2019 by the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM).
§  The objectives of the report are:

o    To address the data gaps in compiling R&D data so that up to date data on R&D is available in order to reflect India’s true rank globally.
o    The second objective is to examine expenditure trends in various sectors and their shortcomings.
o    The final objective is to lay down the road map for achieving the desired target of R&D spend by the year 2022, i.e 2% of the GDP.
Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister
§  Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM) is a non-constitutional, non-statutory, independent body constituted to give advice on economic and related issues to the Government of India, specifically to the Prime Minister.
§  As of July, 2019, the Council consists of: Dr. Bibek Debroy (Chairman), Shri Ratan P. Watal (Member Secretary), Dr. Rathin Roy (Part-Time Member), Dr. Ashima Goyal (Part-Time Member) and Dr. Shamika Ravi (Part-Time Member).
§  The terms of reference of EAC-PM are:

o    Analyzing any issue, economic or otherwise, referred to it by the Prime Minister and advising him thereon,
o    Addressing issues of macroeconomic importance and presenting views thereon to the Prime Minister.

·         These could be either suo-motu or on reference from the Prime Minister or anyone else.
·         It also includes attending to any other task as may be desired by the Prime Minister from time to time.


§  The growth in research and development (R&D) expenditure should be commensurate with the economy’s growth and should be targeted to reach at least 2% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2022.
§  The line ministries at the Centre could be mandated to allocate a certain percentage of their budget for research and innovation for developing and deploying technologies as per the priorities of the respective ministries.
§  To stimulate private sector’s investment in R&D from current 0.35% of GDP, it is suggested that a minimum percentage of turn-over of the company may be invested in R&D by medium and large enterprises registered in India.
§  To help and keep the industry enthused to invest in R&D, the weighted deduction provisions on R&D investment should continue.
§  The states can partner Centre to jointly fund research and innovation programmes through socially designed Central Sponsored Schemes (CSS).
§  The report also pitched for creating 30 dedicated R&D Exports Hub and a corpus of Rs 5,000 crore for funding mega projects with cross cutting themes which are of national interest.


§  Investments in R&D are key inputs in economic growth. The impact of this is proven on productivity, exports, employment and capital formation.
§  India’s investment in R&D has shown a consistent increasing trend over the years.

o    However, as a fraction of GDP, it has remained constant at around 0.6% to 0.7%.
o    This is below the expenditure of countries like the US (2.8), China (2.1), Israel (4.3) and Korea (4.2).
§  Government expenditure, almost entirely the Central Government, is the driving force of R&D in India which is in contrast to the advanced countries where the private sector is the dominant and driving force of R&D spend.

o    There is a need for greater participation of State Governments and the private sector in overall R&D spending in India especially in application oriented research and technology development.
§  Earlier in 2018, the Prime Minister of India had underlined that there should be greater emphasis on collaborative R&D by the Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) with a focus on partnerships with Indian Institute of Technologies and Universities.
o    Consequently, one hundred fifty-four such innovation cells have been set up by CPSEs which will work on market oriented research.
o    From the year 2014-15 to 2017-18, there has been an increase of 116% in R&D spending by CPSEs.
o    CPSEs of the petroleum and power sector are the biggest spenders in R&D. Therefore, the need of the hour is that all CPSEs must come on board for higher spend on R&D.

Molecular Framework for Superbugs

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur and the Lucknow-based Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI) have designed a novel molecular framework that would help drugs latch on to the germs and thus prevent them from multiplying.
§  It’s structure is such that it stops energy production in the bacteria for 20 minutes thus preventing it from multiplying.
§  The new molecule targets gyrase B. 

o    A substance called gyrase is essential for bacteria’s survival and multiplication.
o    In most organisms, there are two types of gyrases — gyrase A and gyrase B.
o    Almost all of antibacterial drugs in use currently work by targeting gyrase A. The bugs modify gyrase A in such a way that the drugs fail to bind to them.
o    Gyrase B is more conserved in organisms and hence difficult to mutate.
§  The new molecule when used in combination with fluoroquinolone drugs, the first line of antibiotic drugs, both gyrase A and gyrase B are attacked, making them more effective. This makes it possible to destroy the bacteria with the same class of drugs to which they have developed resistance.
§  The framework is still in a proof-of-concept stage but the scientists have found it to be effective in lab-grown bacterial cells.
§  Scientists have also found that the bacteria do not develop resistance to the new molecule that easily.
§  This development has come at a time when there is a fear that the multidrug-resistant superbugs may kill as many as 10 million people worldwide by the year 2050.
§  The scientists used staphylococcus aureus bacteria frequently found in the nostrils, upper respiratory tract and on the skin of nearly 30% of people for developing the framework.
§  While this bacteria is innocuous in healthy people, in those with low immunity levels, it causes many infections, some of them lethal. Over the years, it has become resistant to most drugs that are commonly used in clinics.
§  CDRI is a constituent laboratory of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Ministry of Science & Technology.

Context: The government has announced its plans to raise a portion of its gross borrowing from overseas markets. With the help of Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the government will finalise the plans for the overseas issue of sovereign bonds by September.

What exactly are sovereign bonds?
A bond is like an IOU. The issuer of a bond promises to pay back a fixed amount of money every year until the expiry of the term, at which point the issuer returns the principal amount to the buyer. When a government issues such a bond it is called a sovereign bond.

Why is India borrowing in external markets in external currency?
  1. Indian government’s domestic borrowing is crowding out private investment and preventing the interest rates from falling even when inflation has cooled off and the RBI is cutting policy rates.
  2. If the government was to borrow some of its loans from outside India, there will be investable money left for private companies to borrow; not to mention that interest rates could start coming down.
  3. A sovereign bond issue will provide a yield curve — a benchmark — for Indian corporates who wish to raise loans in foreign markets. This will help Indian businesses that have increasingly looked towards foreign economies to borrow money.
  4. Globally, and especially in the advanced economies where the government is likely to go to borrow, the interest rates are low and, thanks to the easy monetary policies of foreign central banks, there are a lot of surplus funds waiting for a product that pays more.
  5. In an ideal scenario, it could be win-win for all: Indian government raises loans at interest rates much cheaper than domestic interest rates, while foreign investors get a much higher return than is available in their own markets.

What is the controversial part?
  • The current controversy relates to India’s sovereign bonds that will be floated in foreign countries and will be denominated in foreign currencies.
  • This would differentiate these proposed bonds from either government securities (or G-secs, wherein the Indian government raises loans within India and in Indian rupee) or Masala bonds (wherein Indian entities — not the government — raise money overseas in rupee terms).
  • The difference between issuing a bond denominated in rupees and issuing it in a foreign currency (say US dollar) is the incidence of exchange rate risk.
  • If the loan is in terms of dollars, and the rupee weakens against the dollar during the bond’s tenure, the government would have to return more rupees to pay back the same amount of dollars. If, however, the initial loan is denominated in rupee terms, then the negative fallout would be on the foreign investor.

Why are so many cautioning against this move?
  1. The volatility in India’s exchange rate is far more than the volatility in the yields of India’s G-secs (the yields are the interest rate that the government pays when it borrows domestically). This means that although the government would be borrowing at “cheaper” rates than domestically, the eventual rates (after incorporating the possible weakening of rupee against the dollar) might make the deal costlier.
  2. Borrowing outside would not necessarily reduce the number of government bonds the domestic market will have to absorb. That’s because if fresh foreign currency comes into the economy, the RBI would have to “neutralise” it by sucking the exact amount out of the money supply. This, in turn, will require selling more bonds. If the RBI doesn’t do it then the excess money supply will create inflation and push up the interest rates, thus disincentivising private investments.
  3. Based on the unpleasant experience of other emerging economies, many argue that a small initial borrowing is the thin end of the wedge. It is quite likely that the government will be tempted to dip into the foreign markets for more loans every time it runs out of money. At some point, especially if India does not take care of its fiscal health, the foreign investors will pull the plug on fresh investments, creating dire consequences for India.

Sources: Indian Express.