Daily Current Affairs – 20 May, 2017

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National News:-
GEOGRAPHY, BIODIVERSITY,ENVIRONMENT:-

1) Heat waves in India claim more lives than earthquakes, cyclones:-

  • People living in underdeveloped parts of central India are most vulnerable to the health impacts of heat waves, a Heat Vulnerability Index (HVI) for India has found.

About Heat Vulnerability Index (HVI):-

  • The Index was published in The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, in March 2017.
  • Researchers used data from the 2011 Census of India, the District Level Household Survey-3 and the Indian Space Research Organisation, combining it statistically to create the index.

HVI report says:-

  • The index considered various factors including a person’s age, caste, income and health, as well as the green cover in an area, as having a bearing on people’s heat vulnerability, and its analysis of 640 (of the 707) districts in the country finds ten districts to be “very high risk.”
  • Six of these are in relatively underdeveloped areas in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
    In contrast, the 20 districts in the “very low risk” category are mostly in the relatively developed states of Kerala and Goa and the union territory of Lakshadweep.

India’s largest avoidable natural disaster:-

  • The number of deaths due to heat waves recorded in 2015–more than 2,400–was higher than the number of deaths caused by any other natural disaster, according to the ministry of home affairs.
  • In 1998 the death toll was 3,000 and in 2002, over 2,000, according to data from the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) 2016 action plan for the prevention and management of heat waves.

What is heat wave?

  • A heat wave is a period of abnormally high temperatures (more than the normal maximum temperature) that occurs during the summer season, with the resultant atmospheric conditions causing physiological stress, and sometimes death, among affected populations, according to the NDMA.
  • The Indian Meteorological Department uses several factors to quantify a heat wave:
    a. Hot weather conditions are not considered a heat wave unless the maximum temperature reaches 40°C in plain areas and 30°C in the hills.
    b. If the normal temperature in an area is less than 40°C, an increase of 5-6°C above 40°C constitutes a moderate heat wave while an increase of 7°C or more is a severe heat wave.
    c. When the normal temperature is more than 40°C, an increase of 4-5°C from this normal is considered a moderate heat wave, while an increase of 6°C or more is a severe heat wave.
    d. When the actual maximum temperature remains 45°C or more for two consecutive days, irrespective of normal maximum temperature, it is considered a heat wave.

Health impacts, mortality and preparedness:-

  • In 2016, the NDMA prepared guidelines for state governments to formulate action plans for the prevention and management of heat waves, outlining four key strategies:
    1. Forecasting heat waves and enabling an early warning system;
    2. Building capacity of healthcare professionals to deal with heat wave-related emergencies;
    3. Community outreach through various media;
    4. Inter-agency cooperation as well as engagement with other civil society organizations in the region.

Solutions:-

a. Further research using sub-district level data to provide separate indices for urban and rural areas to enable more targeted geographical interventions.
b. Deeper analysis of urban ward-level data to provide intra-city vulnerability patterns.
c. Provision of public messaging (radio, TV), mobile phone-based text messages, automated phone calls and alerts.
d. Promotion of traditional adaptation practices, such as staying indoors and wearing comfortable clothes.
e. Popularization of simple design features such as shaded windows, underground water storage tanks and insulating housing materials.
f. Provision of drinking water within housing premises and indoor toilets.

PROJECT AND SCHEMES:-

2) Railway minister Suresh Prabhu to launch free wi-fi facility at 28 stations in Konkan Railway:-

  • Railway minister Suresh Prabhu will inaugurate the free wi-fi facility at 28 stations of Konkan Railway.
  • The wi-fi service will be provided at stations located between Kolad and Madure.
  • As part of the government’s ‘Digital India’ campaign, Joister has so far set up total 700 free wi-fi hotspots in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Pune, Thane, Satara and Solapur.
  • “Recently, Maharashtra police department gave its consent to us to set up free wi-fi services in Solapur, Konkan, Pune and Satara police stations, as well as in the offices of senior police officials

About Konkan railway:-

  • The Konkan Railway is a subsidiary zone of the Indian Railways.
  • It is one of the 17 zones of the Indian Railways but without any divisional structure unlike other railways zones in India.
  • It is operated by Konkan Railway Corporation, headquartered at CBD Belapur in Navi Mumbai, Maharashtra.
  • The first passenger train ran on Konkan railway tracks on 20 March 1993 between Udupi and Mangaluru
  • During its initial years of operation in the mountainous Konkan region, a spate of accidents prompted Konkan Railway to investigate new technologies.
  • The anti-collision devices, the Sky Bus and RORO are a few of the innovations from Konkan Railway.
  • It was the missing link between Mumbai, Maharashtra and Mangaluru, Karnataka and further to the south western coastal cities of India. The 741 km (461 mi) line connects Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka states in India.
  • The first train on the completed track was flagged off on January 26, 1998, the Republic Day of India.

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS AND RELATIONS:-

1) China, Japan extract combustible ice from seafloor:-

  • Commercial development of the globe’s huge reserves of a frozen fossil fuel known as “combustible ice” has moved closer to reality.
  • China and Japan has successfully extracted combustible ice, also known as methane hydrate, was successfully mined by a drilling rig operating in the South China Sea.

What is combustible ice?

  • Combustible ice is a frozen mixture of water and concentrated natural gas
    Technically known as methane hydrate, it can be lit on fire in its frozen state
    It is believed to comprise one of the world’s most abundant fossil fuels

Issues that might come up:-

  • Experts suggest large-scale production remains many years away.
  • If extraction is not done properly, it could flood the atmosphere with climate-changing greenhouse gases

Advantages of methane hydrate:-

  • For Japan, methane hydrate offers the chance to reduce its heavy reliance of imported fuels if it can tap into reserves off its coastline
  • In China, it could serve as a cleaner substitute for coal-burning power plants and steel factories
  • These factories have polluted much of the country with lung-damaging smog.

Environmental concerns:-

  • If methane hydrate leaks during the extraction process, it can increase greenhouse gas emissions
  • The fuel also could displace renewables such as solar and wind power.

Economy News:-
Business & Economy:-

1) The Three Year Action Agenda:-

  • The draft “Three Year Action Agenda” of the NITI Aayog has been circulated recently to its governing council. This will be finalised after reflecting on the comments and concerns of state governments.

The three year agenda:-

  • There are two other documents in the pipeline, namely, the seven-year policy strategy and the 15-year long-term vision. The NITI Aayog’s governing council, which is currently reviewing the “Three Year Action Agenda”, comprises all chief ministers, mirroring the erstwhile National Development Council. The “Three Year Action Agenda” seeks to embark on “a path to achieve all-round development of India and its people” through concerted action, outlined in seven parts covering multiple facets of the Indian economy.

The action agenda:-

  • Relying on the proposals forwarded by the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Review Committee, the action agenda estimates a fall in the share of non-development revenue expenditure, both as a proportion of total budget expenditure and GDP.
  • It emphasizes the need for optimal utilisation of resources and regular monitoring of progress. An obscurantist — and ill-advised — distinction between revenue and capital expenditures has spurred a misallocation of resources. A functional classification of public expenditure would indeed prove to be more meaningful.
  • Given the healthy state of the Indian economy, downside risks to achieving growth targets largely emanate from exogenous factors: Unfavourable monsoons, global protectionist trends and spikes in oil prices could impinge our twin deficits.
  • The continued pursuit of an unconventional monetary policy approach by advanced economies could limit the manoeuvrability of our monetary authority.
    The public listing of PSUs will enable improved price discovery. If the expected level of tax buoyancy does not materialise, many other macro variables may need recalibration.

Effective implementation of the action agenda:-

  • The proposed plan needs broader support. It would be advantageous to constitute a separate parliamentary committee on planning, which could meaningfully engage with the NITI Aayog’s policy prescriptions.
  • Delinking planning from finance has distinct advantages as functions of the treasury are neither symmetric, nor co-terminus with broader development issues. Such separations would also be in line with best global practices.
  • It would be desirable to create state-level bodies, to be called Sub-National Institutes for Transforming India (SuNITI), in formulating and expediting state-specific policies; this should enable state assemblies to discuss state-level plans in sync with the “Three Year Action Agenda” articulated by the NITI Aayog.

Advantages:-

  • Given India’s democratic cycle, accountability in a five-year timeline was opaque and diffused. Electoral cycles do not synchronise with five-year plans; quite often, this entailed outcome accountability to rest with a successor government. But a “Three Year Action Agenda” makes the government in office more directly accountable for the implementation of its plans.
  • It gives the government an improved prospect to make corrections and adaptations during its own term in office.
  • Augmenting the “Three Year Action Agenda” with a seven-year implementable policy strategy and a 15-year vision allows adaptation to changing times and exogenous variables — it enables us to look into the future, particularly at evolving technology, demography and ecology, and accordingly align our policies.
  • The 15-year vision is also somewhat coterminous with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations (UN).
  • The new format thus combines domestic aspiration with global aims.

Health & Care:-
1) Zika mosquito may transmit dengue, chikungunya with one bite: Study:-

  • Aedes aegypti, the primary mosquito that carries Zika virus, may also transmit chikungunya and dengue viruses with one bite, a new study has found.
  • The first report of chikungunya and dengue virus co-infection occurred in 1967
    More recently, co-infections of Zika and dengue viruses, Zika and chikungunya, and all three viruses have been reported during various outbreaks, including the recent outbreak of Zika virus in North and South America.

About Zika:-

  • Zika virus (ZIKV) is a member of the virus family Flaviviridae
  • It is spread by daytime-active Aedes mosquitoes, such as A. aegypti and A. albopictus
  • Its name comes from the Zika Forest of Uganda, where the virus was first isolated in 1947
  • Zika virus is related to the dengue, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, and West Nile viruses.
  • Since the 1950s, it has been known to occur within a narrow equatorial belt from Africa to Asia.
  • From 2007 to 2016, the virus spread eastward, across the Pacific Ocean to the Americas, leading to the 2015–16 Zika virus epidemic.
  • The infection, known as Zika fever or Zika virus disease, often causes no or only mild symptoms, similar to a very mild form of dengue fever.

About Dengue:-

  • Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne tropical disease caused by the dengue virus.

Symptoms:-

  • High fever, headache, vomiting, muscle and joint pains, and a characteristic skin rash.
    In a small proportion of cases, the disease develops into the life-threatening dengue hemorrhagic fever, resulting in bleeding, low levels of blood platelets and blood plasma leakage, or into dengue shock syndrome, where dangerously low blood pressure occurs.
  • Dengue has become a global problem since the Second World War and is common in more than 110 countries.
  • It is classified as a neglected tropical disease.

About chikungunya:-

  • Chikungunya is an infection caused by the chikungunya virus (CHIKV)

Symptoms:-

  • Fever and joint pain ,headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, and a rash.
  • The virus is spread between people by two types of mosquitos: Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti.
  • They mainly bite during the day.
  • The virus may circulate within a number of animals including birds and rodents.

2) ICMR to implement UN agency’s standards on clinical trials:-

  • India’s apex medical research body along with other leading groups will adopt UN health agency’s recommendations to register and publicly disclose results of all clinical trials they fund or support.

* The Indian Council of Medical Research and the other leading groups* agreed to develop and implement policies within the next 12 months that require all trials they fund, co-fund, sponsor or support to be registered in a publicly-available registry.

(* The Norwegian Research Council, the UK Medical Research Council, Medecins Sans Frontieres and Epicentre, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, Institut Pasteur, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust)

* All results will be disclosed within specified time frames on the registry or by publication in a scientific journal.

* The agreement will mean the ethical principles described in both statements will now be enforced in thousands of trials every year.

* Most of these trials and their results will be accessible via WHO’s International Clinical Trials Registry Platform, a unique global database of clinical trials that compiles data from 17 registries around the world.

Importance:-

  • India is set to grab clinical trials business valued at approximately US$ 1 billion by 2010, up from US$ 200 million last year, making the subcontinent one of the world’s preferred destinations for clinical trials.
  • The Clinical Trials Registry encourages the registration of all clinical trials conducted in India before the enrolment of the first participant. The registry is meant to bring transparency to clinical trials conducted in India.

Clinical trials:-

  • Clinical trials are experiments or observations done in clinical research. Such prospective biomedical or behavioral research studies on human participants are designed to answer specific questions about biomedical or behavioral interventions, including new treatments (such as novel vaccines, drugs, dietary choices,dietary supplements, and medical devices) and known interventions that warrant further study and comparison.
  • The Declaration of Helsinki (DoH) in Finland is a set of ethical principles regarding human experimentation developed for the medical community by the World Medical Association (WMA). It is widely regarded as the cornerstone document on human research ethics.
  • It is not a legally binding instrument under the international law, but instead draws its authority from the degree to which it has been codified in, or influenced, national or regional legislation and regulations.