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INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 15 January 2020

INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 15 January 2020

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 1:

1. Classical language.

2. Bharati Script.

 

GS Paper 2:

1. Rare diseases.

 

GS Paper 3:

1. Centre eases CRZ rules for ‘Blue Flag’ beaches.

2. Juice jacking.

3. ‘Virtual human’ NEONs.

 

Facts for Prelims:

1. Taal volcano.

 


GS Paper  : 1


 

Topics Covered: Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

Classical language

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Classical language- recognition, benefits and significance.

Context: At the recently concluded 93rd edition of the Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan, a resolution was passed demanding the declaration of Marathi as a ‘Classical’ language.

What are ‘Classical’ languages in India?

Currently, six languages enjoy the ‘Classical’ status: Tamil (declared in 2004), Sanskrit (2005), Kannada (2008), Telugu (2008), Malayalam (2013), and Odia (2014).

How are they classified?

Guidelines for declaring a language as ‘Classical’ are:

  1. High antiquity of its early texts/recorded history over a period of 1500-2000 years.
  2. A body of ancient literature/texts, which is considered a valuable heritage by generations of speakers.
  3. The literary tradition be original and not borrowed from another speech community.
  4. The classical language and literature being distinct from modern, there may also be a discontinuity between the classical language and its later forms or its offshoots.

How are the Classical languages promoted? Various benefits:

  1. Two major annual international awards for scholars of eminence in classical Indian languages.
  2. A Centre of Excellence for studies in Classical Languages is set up.
  3. The University Grants Commission is requested to create, to start with at least in the Central Universities, a certain number of Professional Chairs for the Classical Languages so declared.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

Bharati Script

What to study?

For Prelims: About the script, similar scripts world over.

For Mains: Need for common script, significance and the challenges involved.

Context: Researchers from IIT Madras have already developed a unified script for nine Indian languages, named the Bharati Script.

Now, going a step further, developed a method for reading documents in Bharati script using a multi-lingual optical character recognition (OCR) scheme.

 What is Optical Character Recognition (OCR) scheme?

  1. It involves first separating (or segmenting) the document into text and non-text.
  2. The text is then segmented into paragraphs, sentences words and letters.
  3. Each letter has to be recognised as a character in some recognisable format such as ASCII or Unicode.
  4. The letter has various components such as the basic consonant, consonant modifiers, vowels etc.

What is Bharati Script?

It is an alternative script for the languages of India developed by a team at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Madras lead by Dr. Srinivasa Chakravarthy.

The scripts that have been integrated include Devnagari, Bengali, Gurmukhi, Gujarati, Oriya, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Tamil.

Format:

The Bharati characters are made up of three tiers stacked vertically. The consonant at the root of the letter is placed in the centre and the modifiers are in the top and bottom tiers.

Bharati has, in general, 17 vowels and 22 consonants.

Need for unified script?

A common script for the entire country is hoped to bring down many communication barriers in India.

Alpha

Sources: the Hindu.

 


GS Paper  : 2


 

Topics Covered: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

Rare diseases

What to study?

For Prelims: What are rare diseases? Overview of Government’s policy on rare diseases.

For Mains: Need for awareness, international cooperation in this regard, need for a policy on this.

Context: The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has published a national policy for the treatment of 450 ‘rare diseases’.

The Centre first prepared such a policy in 2017 and appointed a committee in 2018 to review it.

 Overview of the policy:

  • Among other measures, the policy intends to kickstart a registry of rare diseases, which will be maintained by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
  • According to the policy, rare diseases include genetic diseases, rare cancers, infectious tropical diseases, and degenerative diseases.
  • Under the policy, there are three categories of rare diseases — requiring one-time curative treatment, diseases that require long-term treatment but where the cost is low, and those needing long-term treatments with high cost. Some of the diseases in the first category include osteopetrosis and immune deficiency disorders, among others.
  • As per the policy, the assistance of Rs 15 lakh will be provided to patients suffering from rare diseases that require a one-time curative treatment under the Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi scheme. The treatment will be limited to the beneficiaries of Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana.

Background:

The policy was created on the direction of the Delhi High Court to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. This was in response to writ petitions for free treatment of such diseases, due to their “prohibitively” high cost of treatment. Hence, a policy was deemed necessary to devise a “multipronged” and “multisectoral” approach to build India’s capacity for tackling such ailments, including by gathering epidemiological data, arriving at a definition and estimating the cost of such diseases.

What is a rare disease?

A rare disease, also referred to as an orphan disease, is any disease that affects a small percentage of the population.

  • Most rare diseases are genetic, and are present throughout a person’s entire life, even if symptoms do not immediately appear.

Characteristics:

  • Rare diseases are characterised by a wide diversity of symptoms and signs that vary not only from disease to disease but also from patient to patient suffering from the same disease. Relatively common symptoms can hide underlying rare diseases, leading to misdiagnosis.
  • The most common rare diseases recorded in India are Haemophilia, Thalassemia, sickle-cell anaemia and primary immuno deficiency in children, auto-immune diseases, Lysosomal storage disorders such as Pompe disease, Hirschsprung disease, Gaucher’s disease, Cystic Fibrosis, Hemangiomas and certain forms of muscular dystrophies.

Definition:

While there is no universally accepted definition of rare diseases, countries typically arrive at their own descriptions, taking into consideration disease prevalence, its severity and the existence of alternative therapeutic options.

In the US, for instance, a rare disease is defined as a condition that affects fewer than 200,000 people.

The same definition is used by the National Organisation for Rare Disorders (NORD).

Concerns and challenges:

  • Rare diseases pose a significant challenge to health care systems because of the difficulty in collecting epidemiological data, which in turn impedes the process of arriving at a disease burden, calculating cost estimations and making correct and timely diagnoses, among other problems.
  • Many cases of rare diseases may be serious, chronic and life-threatening. In some cases, the affected individuals, mostly children, may also suffer from some form of a handicap.
  • As per the 2017 report, over 50 per cent of new cases are reported in children and these diseases are responsible for 35 per cent of deaths in those below the age of one, 10 per cent of deaths between the ages of one and five, and 12 per cent between five and 15.

Need of nationwide policy:

  1. State has responsibility for providing affordable, accessible and reliable health-care services to every citizen. In fact constitution also mentions importance of health-care services under articles like 21, 38 and 47 and thus state cannot evade this responsibility under the pretext of non-justifiability of articles.
  2. Given the low volumes at which the drugs needed to treat such diseases would be consumed, pharmaceutical companies have little commercial incentive to produce them. Thus, a nationwide policy on orphan drugs could incentivize these players.
  3. Even if pharmaceutical companies are incentivized to develop drugs to treat rare diseases, pharmaceutical companies remain beholden to the laws of economics and, given the low demand for orphan drugs, price these drugs as high as they choose to. Hence there has to be regulation of the government in restricting the exorbitant prices of the drugs.
  4. Although proportion of rare diseases is much less than the other diseases, it does not reduce the importance of the life of person affected by rare diseases. Thus national policy would remove this adverse distinction and would make government committed equally to all people.

Sources: Indian Express.

 


GS Paper  : 3


 

Topics Covered: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Centre eases CRZ rules for ‘Blue Flag’ beaches

What to study?

For Prelims and mains: Key features, eligibility criteria and significance of the scheme.

Context: Centre eases CRZ rules for ‘Blue Flag’ beaches.

This is to help States construct infrastructure and enable them to receive ‘Blue Flag’ certification.

Need:

The Blue Flag certification requires beaches to create certain infrastructure — portable toilet blocks, grey water treatment plants, a solar power plant, seating facilities, CCTV surveillance and the like. However, India’s CRZ laws don’t allow the construction of such infrastructure on beaches and islands.

Blue flag programme:

The Blue Flag Programme for beaches and marinas is run by the international, non-governmental, non-profit organisation FEE (the Foundation for Environmental Education).

It started in France in 1985 and has been implemented in Europe since 1987, and in areas outside Europe since 2001, when South Africa joined.

Definition:

The ‘Blue Flag’ beach is an ‘eco-tourism model’ and marks out beaches as providing tourists and beachgoers clean and hygienic bathing water, facilities/amenities, a safe and healthy environment, and sustainable development of the area.

Key facts:

  • Japan and South Korea are the only countries in South and southeastern Asia to have Blue Flag beaches.
  • Spain tops the list with 566 such beaches; Greece and France follow with 515 and 395, respectively.

Criteria:

There are nearly 33 criteria that must be met to qualify for a Blue Flag certification, such as the water meeting certain quality standards, having waste disposal facilities, being disabled- friendly, have first aid equipment, and no access to pets in the main areas of the beach. Some criteria are voluntary and some compulsory.

Beaches identified in India:

  • 13 pilot beaches have been identified for the certification.
  • These include Ghoghala Beach (Diu), Shivrajpur beach (Gujarat), Bhogave (Maharashtra), Padubidri and Kasarkod (Karnagaka), Kappad beach (Kerala) etc.
  • Chandrabhaga beachof Odisha’s Konark coast was the first to complete the tag certification process will be the first in Asia to get the Blue Flag certification.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Cyber security related issues.

Juice jacking

What to study?

For Prelims: Meaning and how it works?

For Mains: Ways to prevent such malware attacks, potential threats.

Context: SBI has publicly issued a warning of ‘Juice Jacking’ through its twitter handle.

The bank has advised its customers and general public to “think twice before plugging-in their phone at (pubic) charging stations, as hackers can maliciously infect their smartphone with a malware.”

What is Juice Jacking?

It is an attack carried out by hackers through a USB charging cable.

 How it works?

When a user plugs in the charging cable in his mobile’s charging port, and connects it to any of the rigged charging stations installed at public spaces such as airports, train stations, hotels, cafes etc – it gives a back-door entry to hackers into the compromised device.

The charging port which is also used for data transfer over the USB, is pointed as the main cause of concern over here.

Threats:

Installing malware, cleaning user data, asking ransom in exchange for access to personal data on the phone, personal and financial account hijacking are just some of the many nefarious things that a hacker can do with this unrestricted access.

Steps to Mitigate the Risks

In order to guard your phone against Juice Jacking, take these precautionary measures:

  1. Avoid using public charging stations. These are soft targets for hackers as they are often kept unguarded and without any surveillance.
  2. Always use your own AC charging adapter and cable for charging the device. And be sure to plug it into the AC wall socket, and not the USB socket on the wall.
  3. Stay guarded against a stranger’s device and laptop. Do not connect with an unknown person’s laptop or PC for charging your electronic devices and vice-versa.
  4. For emergency situations, buy and carry a certified power bank with enough capacity to take care of your device’s emergency power backup needs.
  5. Try to use a cable that can be used only as a charging cable and not a data cable.
  6. Frequent travelers should use a USB blocker.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

Virtual human’ NEONs

What to study?

For Prelims: NEONs, how do they work? Technologies behind.

For Mains: Significance and potential.

Context: The first project of Samsung’s Star Labs, NEONs are being called the world’s first artificial humans.

 What are they?

  • NEONs are computationally created virtual humans — the word derives from NEO (new) + humaN.
  • For now the virtual humans can show emotions when manually controlled by their creators.
  • But the idea is for NEONs to become intelligent enough to be fully autonomous, showing emotions, learning skills, creating memories, and being intelligent on their own.

 How do they work?

There are two core technologies behind his virtual humans.

  1. First, there is the proprietary CORE R3 technology that drives the “reality, real time and responsiveness” behind NEONs.
  2. The next stage will be SPECTRA, which will complement CORE R3 with the “spectrum of intelligence, learning, emotions and memory”.

How could NEONs be used?

NEONs might be the interface for technologies and services.

  • They will answer your queries at a bank, welcome you at a restaurant, or read out the breaking news on television at an unearthly hour.
  • This form of virtual assistance would be more effective, for example, while teaching languages, as NEONs will be capable of understanding and sympathising.

How are NEONs different from Virtual Assistants?

Virtual Assistants now learn from all the data they are plugged into. NEONs will be limited to what they know and learn. Their leaning could potentially be limited to the person they are catering to, and maybe her friends — but not the entire Internet. They will not be an interface for you to request a song, rather they will be a friend to speak to and share experiences with, says Star Labs.

Sources: Indian Express.

 


Facts for Prelims:


 

Taal volcano:

  • It is a volcano on the island of Luzon in Philippines.
  • It erupted recently.
  • It is classified as a “complex” volcano. A complex volcano, also called a compound volcano, is defined as one that consists of a complex of two or more vents, or a volcano that has an associated volcanic dome, either in its crater or on its flanks.