Insights Daily Current Affairs, 01 August, 2016
Paper – 3: Awareness in biotechnology
Move over chemo, now harness the immune system to fight cancer
- Harnessing the immune system to fight cancer, long a medical dream, is becoming a reality
- Use of immunotherapy instead of traditional chemotherapy – Rather than attacking the cancer directly, as chemo does, immunotherapy tries to rally the patient’s own immune system to fight the disease. This is a fundamental change in the way that we think about cancer therapy
- The immune system — a network of cells, tissues and biochemicals they secrete — defends the body against viruses, bacteria and other invaders. But cancer often finds ways to hide from the immune system or block its ability to fight.
- Immunotherapy tries to help the immune system recognise cancer as a threat, and attack it.
What is immunotherapy?
- A widely used type of immunotherapy involves drugs that free immune cells to fight cancer by blocking a mechanism — called a checkpoint — that cancer uses to shut down the immune system.
- These drugs, called checkpoint inhibitors, have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat advanced melanoma
- Patients are clamouring for checkpoint drugs, including one, Keytruda, known to many as “that Jimmy Carter drug” which, combined with surgery and radiation, has left the former president with no sign of recurrence even though melanoma had spread to his liver and brain.
See the Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9NBUeU3PG0
Paper – 2: Governance and accountability; Paper-4: Corporate governance
NSEL settlement scandal is back in spotlight
The Enforcement Directorate on July 12, arrested prime accused in the Rs.5600 crore National Spot Exchange Limited (NSEL) scam and founder of Financial Technologies (India), Jignesh Shah under Section 19 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). Shah is the founder of FTIL, which owns 99.99 per cent in the now defunct NSEL
- The NSEL (National spot Exchange Ltd) scam or NSEL fraud is a systematic and premeditated fraud perpetrated in the commodity market on Jignesh Shah owned National Spot Exchange (NSEL) which is based in Mumbai, India.
- The NSEL is a company promoted by Financial Technologies India Ltd and the NAFED (only 100 shares given for misusing the NAFED brand who was touted as a co-promoter).
- The NSEL scam was a Ponzi scheme and is estimated to be a Rs. 5600 crore (around US$0.95 billion) fraud that came out to light after the National Spot Exchange failed to pay its investors in commodity pair contracts after 31 July 2013.
- 13000 investors from India lost about Indian Rupees 5600 Crores when the fraud was discovered and it was found that NSEL had neither the money nor the stocks to pay them back.
- The abrupt suspension in trading activities was triggered by a government directive after it was found that the spot exchange was offering so-called paired contracts.
- In the days to come it emerged that the exchange was in the midst of a huge settlement scam with hardly any commodity to settle the contracts.
What’s at the core of the problem?
- A product that wasn’t approved by the government.
- A spot exchange is not supposed to offer forward contracts, but NSEL, it is now widely believed, offered 20-25 day (and some say 40-day) forward contracts.
- Worse, there have been reports that some of these contracts are so-called “naked” contracts—which means there is no underlying commodity.
What’s the fear?
That there is no underlying commodity is the fear. NSEL says it will sell the commodity and meet its payment obligations, but what if there are no commodities.
Surely, there are warehouse receipts?
Yes, but these have been issued by a group company and there’s no clarity on the presence of commodities.
How were forward trades allowed in a spot market?
- Spot exchanges were allowed to conduct forward trading in one-day contracts (where an individual can keep the contract open for two days), through a special Government notification in early 2008.
- NSEL used this exemption to launch one-day forward contracts with a settlement cycle of 20-30 days.
- But this exemption on forward trades came with the condition that the respective exchanges should not allow short selling.
Two Legal Battles
- Stakeholders – FTIL, NSEL, investor associations, defaulters, brokerages along with the government and its probe agencies.
- The Mumbai Police EOW has also attached assets worth around Rs.5,000 crore of the defaulting trading members.EOW sent a notice to FTIL for freezing all its assets. FTIL has challenged the notice in the Mumbai high court but is yet to get a stay against it.
- Investor associations have focused their action around two legal battles aimed primarily at FTIL.
Solution 1 – NSEL-FTIL merger
- The investor associations are well aware that recovering the money from the defaulters by way of court decrees and injunctions will be a long-drawn affair and so have smartly lobbied for the merger of the defunct exchange with its cash-rich parent entity FTIL.
- The merger would force FTIL to assume all the liabilities of the Mumbai-based spot exchange. The merger would also make FTIL a party to the ongoing litigations involving NSEL.
- Investor groups tasted success in October 2014 when the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) issued a draft order proposing to merge NSEL with FTIL. The final order was issued in February this year.
Solution 2 – Supersede FTIL
- The other case, which the investor associations are strongly pursuing, is about superseding the board of FTIL so that the government can appoint their own nominees to manage the company’s operations.
- The case is being heard at the Company Law Board (CLB) in New Delhi.
- The merger is easily said than done. FTIL has challenged the forced merger order at the Mumbai High Court, questioning the rationale of “public interest” put forth by the government while invoking Section 396 of the Companies Act, 1956.
- FTIL has been arguing that attempt to supersede the board is a clear sign that the government does not want any kind of opposition to FTIL-NSEL merger.
Paper-3: Disaster management; Developments in S&T; Environmental pollution
Kudankulam plant safest in the world, says Russian official
The Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) is the first in the world to have post-Fukushima safety enhancement requirements implemented and operated successfully
While Unit 1 at Kudankulam is functional and producing electricity after initial hiccups, Unit 2 had attained criticality on July 10 and is planned to be connected to the grid in August.
- There are a number of advanced active and passive safety systems which ensure unprecedented design-level nuclear and ecological safety of the plant
- Double localising and protective containment, passive heat removal system from reactor plant automatically, core catcher, and closed industrial water intake are some of the safety features incorporated.
- The reactor is protected from the impact of any earthquake, tsunami, tornado and hurricane.
- Sea Water
- Given that a large amount of seawater is drawn in to cool the reactors, measures have been taken to preserve the biological diversity of the Mannar Bay adjacent to Kudankulam.
- Seawater is supplied from the so-called “bucket” constructed in the sea into the special facilities and systems which ensure that fish and plankton return to sea.
India and Russian Nuclear Cooperation
- As part of India-Russia nuclear cooperation, the Rosatom state nuclear corporation is scheduled to construct six units of VVER-1000 light-water reactors at Kudankulam.
- In December 2014, both sides announced a decision for the construction of at least 12 more units in India.
- On India’s request, additional safety measures are being enforced in Units 3 and 4 to withstand even higher seismic, climatic and technical impact
- On Units 5 and 6, in November 2015, Russia submitted the technical-commercial offer and their design had been agreed upon.
- In February, a road map for construction of Units 5 and 6 prior to the General Framework Agreement (GFA) has been signed. The GFA is expected to be signed in autumn this year
- Russia is awaiting India’s decision on another site for setting up additional reactors.
Paper – 3: Disaster management
NDRF rescues 10,000 people
Over 10,000 people have been rescued from the flood-hit parts of the country, including Assam and Bihar
● Forty-four self-contained rescue teams have been pre-positioned to assist the State governments in rescue and relief. Twelve flood rescue teams are engaged in relief and rescue in Assam
● So far, over 10,000 people had been evacuated nationwide this monsoon.
- In addition to the rescue work, NDRF teams established medical camps in Assam and Bihar and provided medical care to 1,233 persons.
What is National Disaster Response Force(NDRF) ?
- Two national calamities in quick succession in the form of Orissa Super Cyclone (1999) and Gujarat Earthquake (2001) brought about the realization of the need of having a specialist response mechanism at National Level to effectively respond to disasters.
- This realization led to the enactment of the DM Act on 26 Dec 2005. The NDMA was constituted to lay down the policies, plans and guidelines for disaster management.
- The DM Act has made the statutory provisions for constitution of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) for the purpose of specialized response to natural and man-made disasters. Accordingly, in 2006 NDRF was constituted with 08 Bns (02 Bn each from BSF, CRPF, ITBP and CISF). As on date NDRF is having strength of 10 Bns
Role and Mandate of NDRF
- Specialized response during disasters
- Proactive deployment during impending disaster situations
- Acquire and continually upgrade its own training and skills
- Liaison, Reconnaissance, Rehearsals and Mock Drills
- Impart basic and operational level training to State Response Forces (Police, Civil Defence and Home Guards)
- Vis-à-vis Community- All NDRF Bns are actively engaged in various:
- Community Capacity Building Programme
- Public Awareness Campaign
- Exhibitions : Posters, Pamphlets, literatures
Uniqueness of NDRF
- The only dedicated disaster response force of the world.
- The only agency with comprehensive response capabilities having multi-disciplinary and multi-skilled, high-tech, stand alone nature.
- Experienced paramilitary personnel specially trained and equipped for disaster response.
- Capabilities for undertaking disaster response, prevention, mitigation and capacity building.
Paper-1: Art and culture
Buddhist remains unearthed in A.P.
- Buddhist remains on a mound called ‘Ernamma Pallu Dibba’ behind the Zilla Parishad High School at Ghantasala in Krishna district were unearthed on Sunday.
- limestone pillars carved with half-lotus medallions, two limestone panels and a fragment of a Buddha image were visible
- These remains, basing on the style of art and architecture are datable to the 3rd Century AD — i.e., Ikshwaku times
- Emergence of Buddhism and Jainism helped in the development of early architectural style.
- Buddha’s burial mounds and places of major events in his life became important landmarks of the significant architectural buildings in the country. These became important sites for Buddha’s order of monks and nuns – the sangha.
- Monasteries (viharas), and centres of preaching, teaching and learning came up at such places. Congregational halls (chaitya) for teaching and interaction between the common people and the monks were also built up.
- From now on religion began to influence architecture. While Buddhists and Jains began to build stupas, Viharas and Chaityas, the first temple building activity started during the Gupta rule.
Salient features of Buddhist Stupa
The Buddhist Stupas were built at places where Buddha’s remains were preserved and at the major sites where important events in Buddha’s life took place. Stupas were built of huge mounds of mud, enclosed in carefully burnt small standard bricks.
- The Buddhist Stupa is a form of architecture, comprising a hemispherical dome, a solid structure into which one cannot enter.
- The stupa is a glorified, beautified, enlarged funerary mound: what was once the resting place of the bones and ashes of a holy man.
- Tradition has it that after the great demise of Lord Buddha, Emperor Ashoka decided to construct a large number of stupas throughout his dominion in memory of the Master and enshrine in them relics such as pieces of bones, teeth, hair etc., over which the Stupas were constructed.
- Originally the stupa was made of bricks and surrounded by a wooden railing.
- The existing stupa at Sanchi encloses the original stupa and has been enlarged and enclosed within the stone railing or balustrade, when stone was adopted in the place of wood.
- To the stupa which consisted of a domical structure, a base, sometimes circular, sometimes square, was added in the 1st century B.C., a circumambulatory path as well as the stone railing with four elegantly carved gateways in the four cardinal directions.
- In place of the original wooden umbrella, which was put up to signify the stupa represented and was built over the ashes of the Lord or his immediate disciples, a sign of royalty and dignity, developed in the course of time an interesting composition on top of the dome, the Harmika; a square Buddhist railing from which rises the shaft that holds the imperial umbrella, sometimes single and later on multiplied to three or even more, diminishing in size as they go upwards.
- The Sanchi Stupa has a diameter of 120′ and a height of 54′. About these gateways one thing stands that most of early Indian architecture was of wood and timber and that these are true imitations in stone of early wooden construction.
- One was built at his birthplace Lumbini; the second at Gaya where he attained enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree, the third at Sarnath where he gave his first sermon and the fourth at Kushinagar where he passed away attaining Mahaparinirvana at the age of eighty.
Architectural elements of excavated caves
- The excavated cave is the magnificent prayer hall or Chaitya is found at Karle in the Poona
- This has been excavated from the living rock and is unparalleled for its lofty and elevated impression. The size is truly stupendous.
- With well proportioned great and bulky pillars, carrying capitals of great originality holding up a vaulted roof that has real rafters of timber inserted into it, a ribbing inherited and copied from wooden structure.
- The columns are strong and bulky, surmounted by sculptured capitals. In the far distance there is a stupa with a wooden umbrella on top and astonishingly the original wood has survived unharmed to this date
Railings and Gateways
- The railing and gateways at Bharhut, Sanchi and Bodh Gaya are the most famous in the north and at Amravati and Nagarjunakonda in the South.
- Upright pillars and cross bars, based on wooden construction, were made and provided the occasion for dome of the finest low relief carvings to be found anywhere in Indian art.
- On these surfaces are carved the favourite symbols of Buddhism, the lotus, elephant, bull, lion and horse and some of the Jataka stories of the previous births of Buddha, depicted in low relief with such exuberant details that they are considered a land-mark in the story of Indian art.