6th January 2021

Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog (RKA)

Recently, the Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog (RKA) has come out with a noble initiative of making Study materials about Cow Science available and conduct “Kamdhenu Gau-Vigyan Prachar-Prasar Examination”.

Highlights

  • It is the first-ever exam of this kind which will be held annually.
  • The students of primary, secondary and college levels and general public can take part in the ‘Kamdhenu Gau-Vigyan Prachar-Prasar Examination’ without any fee.
  • The RKA decided to conduct a national exam on cow science for raising mass awareness about the indigenous cows among young students and every other citizen.
  • The exam will infuse the curiosity into all Indians about cows and make them aware of the unexplored potential and business opportunities a cow can offer, even after it stops giving milk.

Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog (RKA)

  • It has been constituted by the Government of India for the conservation, preservation, protection and development of cows and their progenies.
  • It is a high-powered permanent body to formulate policies and to provide directions for the implementation of schemes related to cattle.
  • It comes under the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying.
  • It aims at transmission and application of improved technology and management practices at the farmers’ doorstep through coordination with dairy cooperatives, farmer producer companies and dairy industry.
  • Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog will function as an integral part of Rashtriya Gokul Mission.

 

Advanced Biodigester Mk-II Technology 

Recently, the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) has signed a MoU with MAHA-METRO for implementation of Advanced Biodigester Mk-II Technology in Metro Rail Network.

Advanced Biodigester Mk-II Technology

  • The DRDO’s biodigester is an indigenous, green and cost-effective technology, with a rare distinction of having one of the largest numbers of DRDO-licensees.
  • The customized version of this MK-II Biodigester, suitable for treating human waste generated from houseboats in Dal Lake was successfully demonstrated by the DRDO.
  • Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LWDA) of the J&K Administration has initiated the process to procure 100 units of Mk-II Biodigesters for civil habitatsaround the Dal Lake so as to minimize water pollution.
  • The Biodigester Mk-II Technology is upgraded through improvements in the bio-degradation efficiency, design modification and addition of secondary treatment module.
  • The new reactor is designed to provide more path length with increased biological reaction time, thereby enhancing the bio-degradation efficiency of the system.
  • The technology was primarily developed for the armed forces in high altitude Himalayan regions, including Leh-Ladakh and Siachen glacier.

 

Project to Improve Waterways in West Bengal

Recently, the Government of India, the Government of West Bengal and the World Bankhave signed a $105 million project to improve the inland water transport infrastructure in Kolkata, West Bengal.

  • The West Bengal Inland Water Transport, Logistics and Spatial Development Project willfacilitate passenger and freight movement across the Hooghly River.
  • The project will undertake spatial planning to improve accessibility in the Kolkata Metropolitan Area; enhance the quality of life of its residents; and contribute to the growth of the state’s logistics sector.
  • The Project will help improve the river transport infrastructure in West Bengal and help in the economic development of the state by connecting the hinterland with markets and job centers in Kolkata’s Metropolitan Area.
  • The operation will allow the state to invest in Kolkata’s economic productivity by making its waterways and ferry services part of an efficient and safe urban mobility strategy.
  • The project is also ensuring that the metropolitan area emerges as a transport and logistics hub for the sub-region, leveraging the EDFC and connecting to the north-east and the land-locked countries of Nepal and Bhutan.

Hooghly River

  • The Hooghly weaves through the Indian state of West Bengal from the Ganges, its parent river, to the sea.
  • It is a Ganges River distributary.
  • It separates the Kolkata port from its large consumption centers, which are, its wholesale market and its vast hinterland.
    • In its upper reaches, the river is generally known by the name Bhagirathi, until it reaches Hooghly.
  • It is formed by the junction of the Bhagirathi and Jalangi rivers at Nabadwip.
  • It is a perennial natural water resource for the state of West Bengal.
  • The river’s lower reaches are fed by the Ajay, Damodar, Rupnarayan, and Haldi rivers, which rise to the northwest on the Chota Nagpur plateau area.

 

Six Years of UJALA and SLNP 

Recently, the Government of India’s Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All (UJALA) and Street Lighting National Programme (SLNP) have completed their six years of implementation.

Six Years of UJALA and SLNP

  • Under UJALA, Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) has distributed over 36.69 crore LED bulbs across India.
    • It has resulted in estimated energy savings of 47.65 billion kWh per year with avoided peak demand of 9,540 MW.
    • It estimated Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emission reduction of 38.59 million tonnes CO2 per year.
  • Over 72 lakh LED tube lights and over 23 lakh energy efficient fans have also been distributed at affordable price under this programme.
  • With SLNP, EESL has installed about 1.14 crore LED streetlights across India.
    • It has resulted in an estimated energy savings of 7.67 billion kWh per year with avoided peak demand of 1,280 MW.
    • It has estimated GHG emission reduction of 5.29 million tonnes CO2 per year.
  • The programmes have bagged global awards like the prestigious South Asia Procurement Innovation Award (SAPIA) 2017.
  • The highly successful UJALA and SLNP have also bagged the Global Solid State Lighting (SSL) award of excellence for the transformational contribution to the LED sector.

Significance of UJALA and SLNP

  • Both UJALA and Street Lighting National Programme have been at the heart of large scale socio-economic transformation.
  • They have not only reduced emissions and enabled sustainable development, but have revamped household and public lighting systems, across the country.
  • The switch from inefficient incandescent bulbs to LEDs is helping families reduce their electricity bills while also enabling them to access better brightness in homes.

Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All (UJALA)

  • The Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All was launched in 2015 with a target of replacing 77 cr incandescent lamps with LED bulbs.
  • The scheme was implemented to set up phase wise LED distribution across the nation to provide people with affordable LED bulbs and energy efficient appliances.
  • The objective is to promote efficient lighting, enhance awareness on using efficient equipment that will reduce electricity bills and preserve the environment.

Street Lighting National Programme (SLNP)

  • It was launched in 2015 to replace conventional street lights with smart and energy efficient LED street lights across India.
  • EESL replaces the conventional street lights with LEDs at its own costs and the consequent reduction in energy and maintenance cost of the municipality is used to repay EESL over a period of time.
  • The Energy Efficiency Services Limited, a Public Energy Services Company under the administration of Ministry of Power, Government of India (GoI) is the implementing agency for SLNP.
  • It is the world’s largest streetlight replacement programme.

 

SwasthVayu

Recently, the CSIR-NAL has bagged an order for supply of 1200 SwasthVayu machines to Delhi Government and the execution & installation at various hospitals in Delhi is being implemented.

  • It is a microcontroller-based precise closed-loop adaptive control system with a built-in biocompatible “3D printed manifold & coupler” with HEPA filter (Highly Efficient Particulate Air Filter).
  • It is a ‘Made in India’ non-invasive ventilator being developed by the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), Bengaluru.
  •  It has features like Spontaneous, CPAP, Timed, AUTO BIPAP modes with provision to connect Oxygen concentrator or Enrichment unit externally.
  • The system has been certified for safety and performance by NABL accredited agencies.
  • The system has undergone stringent biomedical tests and beta clinical trials at NAL Health Centre.
  • Its advantage is that it is simple to use without any specialized nursing, cost effective, compact and configured with majority of indigenous components.

 

Toycathon-2021 

Recently, the Ministry of Women & Child Development and Ministry of Education have jointly launched the Toycathon-2021.

Need for Toycathon

  • India imports 80 per cent of toys and the government is working towards promoting the indigenous toy industry for making the country self-reliant in this sector.
  • The collaboration with Ministry of Education paves the way for the participation of students, faculties from all schools, colleges and universities of the country with regards to needs of the MSME industry.
  • Toycathon is being organized to develop India as the global Toy manufacturing hub.
  • The launch of Toycathon is an endeavor by the government to create an ecosystem for the domestic Toy industry and the local manufacturers, tapping the untapped resources and utilizing their potential.

Toycathon-2021

  • Toycathon 2021 is an inter-ministerial initiative organized by Ministry of Education’s Innovation Cell with support from All India Council for Technical Education.
  • The other ministries involved are Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Ministry of MSME, Ministry of Textiles and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
  • The Toycathon is based on nine themes:
    • Indian Culture, History, Knowledge of India and Ethos;
    • Learning, Education and Schooling;
    • Social and human values;
    • Occupations & specific fields;
    • Environment;
    • Divyang; 
    • Fitness and sport;
    • Out of the box, creative and logical thinking and
    • Rediscovering/redesigning traditional Indian toys
  • The Toycathon will have 3 variants of tracks of Junior Level, Senior Level and Startup Level and will allow participation of students and teachers from schools, colleges and universities apart from startups and toy experts.

 

Avian Influenza

Recently, nearly 25,000 birds have died due to different variants of bird flu in states like Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

What is Avian Influenza?

  • It is a highly contagious viral disease caused by Influenza Type A viruses which generally affects poultry birds such as chickens and turkeys.
  • The wild aquatic birds such as ducks and geese are the natural reservoir of Influenza A viruses and the central players in the ecology of these viruses.
  • From water birds, many of whom migrate and travel long distances, the viruses are thus further spread to poultry and terrestrial birds.
  • As per WHO, the people coming in close contact with infected alive or dead birds have contracted the H5N1 bird flu, and it does not usually spread from person to person.
  • The flu viruses are more prone to mutation because they have a segmented genome.

Bird flu in India

  • In India, no case of bird flu in humans has been detected so far, according to the Union health ministry.
  • The department of animal husbandry has reported 25 episodes of H5N1 bird flu in poultry in 15 states from 2006 (when the first outbreak occurred in Maharashtra and Gujarat) till 2015.
  • It has also been detected in crows.

Symptoms and Treatment of Avian Influenza

  • Unlike in birds, where it generally infects the gut, the avian influenza attacks the respiratory tract of humans and may cause severe respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia or Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS).
  • Its early symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, and sometimes abdominal pain and diarrhoea.
  • Antiviral drugs, especially oseltamivir, improve the prospects of survival in humans.
  • The ministry advises people working with poultry to use PPEs and follow hand hygiene.
  • The WHO recommends eradicating the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) at its source to decrease the disease in avian species and further human infections.

 

Covishield and Covaxin

Recently, India has approved two vaccines i.e. Covishield and Covaxin, for emergency use to fight Covid-19 pandemic in the country.

Covishield

  • Covishield has been developed by the Oxford University scientists in collaboration with the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.
  • In India, its trial was undertaken by the Serum Institute of India (SII), which is also manufacturing the Covishield vaccine for the mass vaccination drive.
  • Covishield vaccine has been developed by using the virus ‘adenovirus’ that causes common cold infections among chimpanzees.
    • Its genetic material is same as that of the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
  • Covishield vaccine has been developed by using a weakened version of the adenovirus.
  • The two shots of the Covishield vaccine need to be spaced by six weeks.

Covaxin

  • Covaxin has been developed by the indigenous vaccine developer Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR).
  • Covaxin vaccine has been developed using dead coronavirus called “inactivated” vaccine in medical language.
    • Under inactivated state, the virus is not capable of infecting people or replicating on its own inside the body of a person after being injected.
  • In the case of Covaxin, the interval between the two shots has not been yet prescribed by the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) but the Bharat Biotech had earlier said the second shot would be given after 14 days.

Approval of Vaccines in India

  • In India, clinical trials and approval of new drugs including vaccines are governed by the New Drugs and Clinical Trial Rules.
  • Under normal circumstances, the approval for a vaccine follows the following steps:
    • Identification and development of an appropriate vaccine strain that is potentially safe and immunogenic.
    • Full characterisation of the vaccine strain by in-vitro experiments.
    • Pre-clinical studies in small animals such as mice, rabbits, guinea pigs etc. to determine safety and dose regime.
    • Preclinical studies in large animals to determine safety, protective efficacy and potential dose and formulation.
    • Phase-I human clinical trials on less than 100 individuals to establish the safety of the vaccine.
    • Phase-II human clinical trials on usually less than 1,000 individuals to determine the immunogenicity or immune protection.
    • Phase-III human clinical trials to determine the efficacy. The numbers range in several thousands. After successful completion of phase III studies, regulatory approval is accorded.
    • Phase-IV human clinical trials refer to post marketing surveillance studies, whose data are analysed for long-term decision-making.
  • The key aspect of granting approval to a vaccine or a drug in India is the requirement of clinical trials conducted within the country i.e. from phase-I to phase-III.

Emergency Use Authorisation

  • The term Emergency Use Authorisation is not used in the 2019 vaccine approval rules in India.
  • Indian rules have a window of “accelerated approval” in “special situations” such as COVID-19 pandemic.
    • The 2019 rules says that ‘Accelerated approval may also be granted to a new drug if it is intended for the treatment of a serious, or life-threatening condition, or disease of special relevance to the country, and addresses unmet medical needs’.
  • The 2019 rules states that if the remarkable efficacy is observed with a defined dose in the phase-II clinical trials of the investigational new drug for the unmet medical needs of serious and life-threatening disease in the country, it may be considered for grant of marketing approval by the central licensing authority based on phase-II clinical trial data.

Granting Approval of Vaccines

  • The ultimate authority of granting approval for a vaccine or any other drug rests with the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO).
  • It is headed by the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI).
  • The CDSCO works under the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.

 

Repeal Law allowing seizure of Livestocks

Recently, the Supreme Court has asked the Centre to “delete” its three-year-old lawwhich allowed seizure and subsequent confiscation of livestock from people who depended on these animals for a livelihood, even before they were found guilty of cruelty towards them.

Key Highlights

  • The Chief Justice of India warned the government that it would “stay” the implementation of a 2017 law, which allowed authorities to seize cattle on a mere suspicion.
  • The 2017 law prescribes that the animals who have suffered cruel treatment at the hands of their owners or were being primed for slaughter would then be lodged in gaushalas as “case property”.

Concerns depicted by Supreme Court

  • Under the 2017 law, a farmer, a livestock owner or a cattle trader loses his animalsbefore being found guilty of the charge of cruelty.
  • The rules are plainly contrary to Section 29 of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, under which only a person convicted of cruelty can lose his animal.
  • The top court said the rules will be stayed if not withdrawn or amended by the Centre as the law provides that animals can be confiscated only if a person is convicted under the Act.
  • The Rules have emboldened “anti-social elements” to take matters into their own hands and loot cattle traders and it has become a cause for polarisation of society.

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Care and Maintenance of Case Property Animals) Rules, 2017

  • The Rules allow a magistrate to forfeit the cattle of an owner facing trial under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
  • The animals are then sent to infirmaries, gaushalas, pinjarapole, etc. and the authorities can further give such animals for “adoption”.
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