Current affair of 17th August 2019

1. SC clears Chardham project, which will connect 4 holy places in Uttarakhand

The Supreme Court(SC) bench comprising of Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman and Surya Kant has cleared the Chardham highway project, which will connect 4 holy places of Uttarakhand(Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri)through 900 km all-weather roads by modifying an NGT(National Green Tribunal) order to form  a committee to look into environmental concerns.

Key highlights:
  1. Members: The court also ordered Union Environment and Forest Ministry to form the fresh high-powered committee by August 22, 2019 with additional representatives from Physical Research Laboratory, Wildlife Institute of India and Defence Ministry.
  2. Rights: As per the order, the committee shall hold quarterly meetings to ensure compliance and may suggest any further measure after each review meeting & should consider whether revision of the full Chardham project should at all take place with a view to reducing the major impact on the environment.
  3. Time-limit: The committee has given 4 months to submit the report.
  4. Suggestion: It will also suggest the places in which afforestation should be taken and the kind of saplings to be planted. Further plantation should be taken place, in case of non-survival of any sapling, and compensatory afforestation should be 10 times the number of trees cut.
  5. Background: The NGT had constituted a committee headed by Justice UC Dhyani , former Uttarakhand High Court Judge to oversee the project.
2. 2019 ‘Aadi Mahotsav’ -national tribal festival begins at Leh-Ladakh

The 9 day long National tribal festival named “Aadi Mahotsav” commenced at the Polo Ground, Leh-Ladakh. It is a joint initiative of Ministry of tribal affairs and Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED). The theme of this year’s festival is “A celebration of the spirit of Tribal Craft,Culture and Commerce”.

Key highlights:
  1. This 9 day event from August 17-25, is inaugurated by the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) Shri Satya Pal Malik.
  2. Other members present: The other members present in the inauguration were Shri Arjun Munda, Union minister of tribal affairs, Renuka Singh, Minister of State(MoS) for Tribal Affairs and Shri R.C. Meena, chairman of TRIFED. 
  3. The role of TRIFED here is to play a key role as ‘Service provider’ & ‘Market Developer’.
  4. Participants Artisans: Nearly 160 artisans from more than 20 states will be exhibiting their products.
3. 2nd meeting of High powered panel of CM’s headed by Devendra Fadnavis for the transformation of Indian agriculture held in Mumbai

The 2nd meeting of Prime Minister Narendra Modi formed a High Powered Committee (HPC)of chief ministers headed by Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis for transforming Indian agriculture and raising farmers’ income, under NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayogheld in Mumbai, Maharashtra.

Key highlights:
  1. Agricultural pricing: For the benefit of small traders and farmers, the panel decided the imposition of the Essential Commodities Act,1955, only in rare cases (such as scarcity and war)where the commodity prices rise by over 50% of market rates.
  2. GM crops: The panel sought states’ views on whether GM (genetically modified) crops could be used in restricted spaces to boost productivity& export in the agriculture sector.
  3. Discussion: It also discussed the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act, 2003, Contract Farming Act,2018 & unexpected unusual rainfall in south-central India lead to crop loss.
  4. Participants:  Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal, Uttar Pradesh Agriculture Minister Surya Pratap Shahi, Odisha Agriculture Minister Dr. Arun Kumar Sahoo, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar have attended the meeting.
  5. Background: The 1st meet was held on July 18, 2019, where the discussion focussed on the growth of the food processing industry &ways to promote the infusion of new-age technology and attract private investment to modernize agriculture.
4. Rajnath Singh approves a high-level Committee to review Defence Procurement Procedure to strengthen ‘Make in India’ initiative

Defence Minister of India, Shri Rajnath Singh has approved the formation of 12-member high-level committee, headed by the Director-General (Acquisitions) to revise and align the procedure of Defence procurement with the aim of strengthening the ‘Make in India’ initiative.Rajnath Singh approves a high-level Committee to review Defence Procurement Procedure to strengthen ‘Make in India’ initiative

Key highlights:
  1. TOR: Terms of Reference(TOR) of the Committee include,
  2. To revise and align the procedures as given in DPP 2016 and DPM 2009& lay down policies to remove procedural bottlenecks and accelerate defence acquisition.
  3. To simplify policy and procedures to facilitate greater participation of the Indian Industry and develop robust Defence Industrial base in India.
  4. To examine and include new concepts, such as life cycle costing, life cycle support, performance-based logistics, Information Communication Technology (ICT), lease contracting, codification and standardization.
  5. Incorporation of new provisions to boost Indian start-ups and research & development.
  6. Task: The committee has been tasked to review the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) 2006 and the Defence Procurement Manual (DPM) 2009.
  7. Time-limit: The high-level panel has been given 6 months to submit its report of recommendations.
5. Ministry of Corporate Affairs amends provisions related to issue shares with differential voting rights

In a bid to help startups, The Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India(GoI)  has amended the provisions relating to issue of shares with Differential Voting Rights (DVRs) under the Companies Act, 2013.It was done with the objective of enabling promoters of Indian companies to retain control of their companies, even they raise equity capital from global investors.

Key highlights:
  1. Raising equity capital from global investors with DVR shares now making up to 74% of total voting rights instead of existing 26 %.
  2. The requirement of distributable profits for 3 years period has removed for a company to be eligible to issue shares with DVR.
  3. Employee Stock Options (ESOPs) can now be issued by startups (recognized by the Department for Promotion of Industry & Internal Trade (DPIIT) ) to promoters or directors holding more than 10% of equity shares for 10 years(5 years earlier) from the date of their incorporation.
6. Under Swachh Bharat Mission, DEPwD launches San-Sadhan Hackathon for Divyang accessible toilets

Under Swachh Bharat Mission, the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) has launched a nationwide Hackathon called “San-Sadhan” for Divyang/ physically challenged people accessible toilets, which will be held from September 14- 15,2019 in New Delhi.It aimed to enhance sensitivity and develop an ecosystem for creating a barrier-free environment.

Key highlights:
  1. Deadline: The last date to apply for participating in Hackathon is August 28, 2019, in which startups, student innovators, technology enthusiasts, academicians, and industry experts can participate.
  2. Present status: About 2.68 crore people in India are under the category of Persons with Disabilities (PwD) according to census 2011.
  3. PWD Act, 2016: Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 enable PwDs for the accessibility of public-oriented premises and services such as health, transport, educational facilities as well as sanitation.
7. Ceiling price of orthopaedic Knee implants not to increase beyond 10% a year

Government assured that the ceiling price of orthopaedic knee implants will not be increased beyond 10% in a given year and it will monitor the price increase as per Para 20 of Drugs Prices Control Order (DPCO) 2013.

Key highlights:

The knee implant is a non-scheduled medical device/drug for which DPCO, 2013 allows an annual increase up to 10% of the Maximum Retail Price (MRP). But, it was not permitted in 2018.

8. INS Tarkash participates in 14th Edition of KONKAN-19 Bilateral Exercise between Indian Navy and Royal Navy of Britain

The Indian Navy’s stealth frigate, INS Tarkash, participated in the 14th Edition of KONKAN-19 series of annual bilateral exercises between Indian Navy and Royal Navy of Britain off the South Coast of the United Kingdom (UK).

Key highlights:
  1. It exercised with the Royal Navy’s Daring Class Destroyer, HMS Defender with integral helicopter Wildcat.
  2. KONKAN-19 involved Gunnery Shoots, Manoeuvres, Cross Deck Flying, ASW Screening and Air Defence exercise.
  3. The thrust of the KONKAN-19 was on Anti-Air Warfare, Anti-Surface Warfare, Flying Operations and Seamanship Evolutions of varying complexities.
9. India gets its first NEDL finalized by ICMR

India has got its first National Essential Diagnostics List (NEDL) finalized by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). The objective of the list is to bridge the current regulatory system’s gap that does not cover all the medical devices and in-vitro diagnostic device (IVD). With this, India became the first country to compile such a list.

Key highlights:
  1. In India, diagnostics (medical devices and in vitro diagnostics) follow a regulatory framework based on the drug regulations under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Drugs and Cosmetics Rules 1945. 
  2. Diagnostics are regulated under the regulatory provisions of the Medical Device Rules, 2017.
  3. NEDL builds upon the Free Diagnostics Service Initiative and other diagnostics initiatives of the Health Ministry to provide an expanded basket of tests at different levels of the public health system. 
  4. It encompasses tests relevant for new programmes like Health & Wellness Centers (HWCs) under Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY).
  5. It provides guidance to the government for deciding the kind of diagnostic tests that different healthcare facilities in villages and remote areas require.
10. China successfully launched a new rocket for commercial use named Smart Dragon-1

A new rocket for commercial use named Smart Dragon-1 (SD-1) with 3 satellites, developed by the China Rocket Company affiliated to the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALVT) was launched successfully from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest China.

Key highlights:
  1. 3 satellites were developed by 3 separate Beijing-based companies.
  2. SD-1 has a total length of 19.5 metres, a diameter of 1.2 metres and a take-off weight of about 23.1 tonnes.
  3. It is a small-scale solid-propellant carrier rocket capable of sending 200 kg payloads to the solar synchronous orbit at an altitude of 500 km.
  4. It was developed in less than 18 months.
11. FDA of US approves PRETOMANID new drug for drug resistant TB

The United States(US) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave approval to a new drug named Pretomanid, for treating extensively drug resistant Tuberculosis (XDR TB) which is estimated to have a mortality rate of 60%.

Key highlights:
  1. Pretomanid was developed by New York based non profit organisation TB alliance.
  2. It is used as a combination of drugs along with bedaquiline and linezolid collectively called as BPaL regimen.
  3. Previous developed drugs had only efficiency rate of 34% whereas this collective regimen produces efficacy(efficiency) rate of 90%. This was confirmed after it was tested on 109 patients with XDR-TB and Multi-drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) from south Africa between 2015 and 2017.
  4. 95 out of 109 patients were successfully treated. Another great benefit of this drug is that it is required to be given to patients only for 6 months whereas previous drugs were given for a period of more than 18 months.

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