Insights Daily Current Events, 10 May 2016
Paper 3 Topic: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
Annual core sector growth at decade low
According to latest government statistics, India’s annual core sector growth has slowed to a decade low of 2.7% in 2015-16, slower than the 4.5% pace in the previous financial year.
- The previous lowest growth rate registered by core sectors (under the present data series that uses 2004-05 as a base year) was in 2008-09 when output rose 2.8% amidst the global financial crisis.
- However, the eight core industries account for 38% of India’s industrial output.
Main factors behind the slowdown:
- The growth was pulled down mainly by steel and crude oil, both of which saw output contracting by 1.4% and natural gas that dropped 4.2%.
- While oil and gas output has been shrinking for about four years now, it is the decline in steel output in the backdrop of plunging global prices that has hurt the most as it had been growing at an average of 7% in the past four years.
Steel is a mother industry and could be in a comatose position despite import price and anti-dumping curbs to restrict the influx of cheaper Chinese steel. Several plants can go under sooner rather than later so they need a lifeline.
- Steel has been hit by the low global prices and competition from China. The steel industry employs six million people directly and generates associated employment for more than 2.5 million.
- This should serve as a wake-up call for the government to move away from incremental reforms to relieve the distress in the steel sector and push construction and real estate sectors.
The eight core sector industries are— coal, crude oil, natural gas, refinery products, fertilizer, steel, cement and electricity.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology.
Baby born in U.K. through new DNA method
The UK’s first baby resulting from an embryo that was screened using next-generation DNA sequencing has been born in Oxford. This method uses a revolutionary IVF technique.
The parents of the child were enrolled in an ongoing clinical study to evaluate next-generation sequencing as a tool to help specialists better select which embryos to transfer during IVF treatment. The technique was first used successfully in the USA in 2013.
- Next-generation sequencing (NGS) is widely expected to replace other techniques used in preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) of embryos, with the goal being to select more reliably which embryos are most likely to implant and produce healthy babies.
- To screen an embryo, doctors remove a few cells at the five-day-old stage. The cells are taken from the tissue around the embryo that will turn into the placenta that attaches it to the mother’s womb. Unlike traditional screening methods, NGS can spot embryos that have more subtle DNA faults, and embryos that have only some cells with chromosomal defects.
- More than half of embryos created through IVF do not have the right number of chromosomes, and the faults underlie nearly three-quarters of miscarriages. The NGS procedure should reduce the chances of couples having faulty embryos transferred and give them more confidence in the health of embryos they have frozen after screening.
- Next-generation sequencing is touted as being more reliable and sensitive than current PGS techniques at detecting aneuploidy. It should also be able to help spot embryos that have other DNA faults and identify mosaic aneuploid embryos.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
UN launches trust fund for C’bean Zika virus response
The United Nations has established a Zika Response Multi-Partner Trust Fund (MPTF) to finance critical unfunded priorities in the response to the outbreak of the mosquito borne virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
- The Fund aims to provide a rapid, flexible and accountable platform to support a coordinated response from the UN system and partners.
- It will directly support the Zika Strategic Response Framework, developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) in consultation with UN agencies, partners and international epidemiological experts.
- Donors will contribute to a central point, and an Advisory Committee will direct funds to the highest-priority activities in the affected countries.
Since January 2015, 61 countries and territories in Latin America and the Caribbean have reported local transmission of Zika, which is caused by a virus transmitted primarily by Aedes mosquitoes. The recent rise in the spread of the virus in some countries has been accompanied by an unprecedented rise in the number of children being born with unusually small heads – identified as microcephaly.
Sources: the hindu.
Facts for Prelims:
- Scientists claim to have developed the world’s first holographic flexible smartphone that lets users interact with 3D videos and images without any headgear or glasses. The device, dubbed HoloFlex, is capable of rendering 3D images with motion parallax and stereoscopy to multiple simultaneous users without head tracking or glasses. The device features a Flexible Organic Light Emitting Diode (FOLED) touchscreen display.
- The Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trademark has granted American pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences the patent for the blockbuster Hepatitis C drug Sofosbuvir (brand name Sovaldi) in India. An application for the same patent was first rejected in January 2015 as lacking inventiveness and novelty. The Indian Patent Office is administered by the Office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs & Trade Marks (CGPDTM) and the CGPDTM reports to the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion(DIPP) under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. It administers the Indian law of Patents, Designs and Trademarks.
- Scientists have unveiled the gene in carrots that gives rise to carotenoids, a critical source of Vitamin A and the pigment that turns some fruits and vegetables bright orange or red. The gene is named as DCAR_032551. With this, carrot now joins a select club of about a dozen veggies — including the potato, cucumber, tomato and pepper — whose complete genomes have been sequenced. Carrots are loaded with beta-carotene, a natural chemical that the body can transform into Vitamin A. The deeper the orange colour, the more beta-carotene. Vitamin A is essential for normal growth and development, the proper functioning of the immune system, and vision. Carotenoids are also antioxidants, which are thought to protect against heart disease and some forms of cancer by neutralising so-called “free radicals“, single oxygen atoms that can damage cells.
- India is ranked at ninth position in crony-capitalism with crony sector wealth accounting for 3.4% of the gross domestic product (GDP), according to a new study by The Economist. In 2014 ranking also, India stood at the ninth place. Germany is cleanest, where just a sliver of the country’s billionaires derives their wealth from crony sectors. The index ranked Russia as the worst crony-capitalist country, followed by Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Ukraine, Mexico, Indonesia and Turkey above India. Taiwan and China are ranked 10th and 11th after India.