Daily Current Affairs for 10th September 2020

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Serum Institute pulled up for not pausing vaccine trial


Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in News?

AstraZeneca has placed global trials on hold after ‘severe adverse reaction’ in a volunteer.

Key details:

  • The Drug Controller of India has demanded that the Serum Institute of India (SII), Pune, which is conducting Phase-3 trials on people in India involving U.K.-based AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate, explain why tests have not been paused in India too until safety has been established.
  • AstraZeneca put global trials on holdafter reports emerged of “severe adverse reaction” in a volunteer being injected with the vaccine, probably in the United Kingdom.
  • The nature of the event was not known.
  • As per Serum Institute of India (SII), there had been “no issues” with its trials so far.

Trials of Vaccine:

  • SII began Phase-2/Phase-3 trials to compare the safety and immunogenicity of its vaccine candidate COVISHIELD (SII-ChAdOx1), with the Oxford vaccine (Oxford/AZ-ChAdOx1).
  • Both vaccines are similar in structure and the early-human-trial data of Oxford/AZ-ChAdOx1 from studies in the United Kingdom was used to approve Phase-2 and Phase-3 trials in India.

Procedure for human trials of vaccine:

  • On India’s clinical trial registry, all human trials of vaccine and drugs must be registered.
  • 1,600 adults would be enrolled in the study.
  • Of these, 400 participants will be part of an immunogenicity cohort and will be randomly assigned either COVISHIELD or Oxford/AZ-ChAdOx1 nCoV-19,
  • The remaining 1,200 participants from the safety cohort will be randomly assigned in a 3:1 ratio to receive either COVISHIELD or a placebo, respectively.
  • Immunogenicity is to test if a vaccine can coax the immune system to launch a protective response that can shield against future infection.

Other potential vaccines:

  • Bharath Biotech, which is based on an inactivated virus from the Indian Council of Medical Research’s National Institute of Virology,
  • Zydus Cadilla, which is testing a DNA-based vaccine.
  • Both are in smaller human trials testing for safety and immunogenicity.

Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI):

  • Drugs Controller General of India(DCGI) is a department of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization of the Government of India responsible for approval of licences of specified categories of drugs such as blood and blood products, IV fluids, vaccines, and sera in India.
  • Drugs Controller General of India, comes under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.
  • DCGI also sets standards for manufacturing, sales, import, and distribution of drugs in India.

Serum Institute of India

  • Serum Institute of Indiais a manufacturer of immunobiological drugs including vaccines in India.
  • It was founded by Cyrus Poonawalla in 1966.
  • The company is the world’s largest vaccine producer by number of doses produced.
  • It is a private limited company and doesn’t comes under any ministry or government department.

Israel in trade talks with India, China.


Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in News?

According to an Israeli official, Israel hopes that tensions between India and China will ease and it is in talks with both countries on trade agreements.

Trade Talks:

  • Israel plans to discuss India-United Arab Emirates (UAE)-Israel cooperation in a number of areas of agriculture, technology and water once the UAE-Israel agreement is formally signed.
  • Israel inaugurated its first “Asia-Pacific Day,” hosting 11 Asian countries, including India, at a special event, with a view to increasing trade and investment with the ‘East’ as a key priority for post COVID-19 economic recovery.
  • China, Hong Kong and India are Israel’s biggest trading partners in Asia.
  • Both China and India established full diplomatic ties with Israel in 1992, China’s trade has increased from $50 million to $15 billion, while India’s trade has grown from $200 million to about $5 billion.

Free Trade Agreement between India & Israel:

  • India and Israel first announced FTA talks in 2007, but the talks have made little progress.
  • One of the main blocks is that Israel refuses to include an agreement on services in trade, which is one of India’s core interests in trade negotiations.
  • India & Israel are “exploring” a Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) at present.

Free Trade Agreement & Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA):

A free trade agreement is a pact between two or more nations to reduce barriers to imports and exports among them.

  • Under a free trade policy, goods and services can be bought and sold across international borders with little or no government tariffs, quotas, subsidies, or prohibitions to inhibit their exchange.
  • The concept of free trade is the opposite of trade protectionism or economic isolationism.

Preferential trade agreement:

  • preferential tradearea (also preferential trade agreement, PTA) is a trading bloc that gives preferential access to certain products from the participating countries.
  • This is done by reducing tariffs but not by abolishing them completely.
  • A PTA can be established through a trade pact.

Various levels of economic Trade Integration

‘One in three high schoolers gets private coaching’


Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in News?

  • In the 75th round of the National Sample Survey, conducted between June 2017 and July 2018, households were surveyed on consumption related to education.
  • The final report, which was published recently, shows that 19.8% of students at all levels — from pre-primary to graduate students — take some form of private coaching.

Key Details:

  • Private coaching fees make up almost 20% of the total cost of education for those in secondary and higher secondary school.
  • In some States, such as West Bengal, students actually spend more on private coaching than on their regular school.
  • Like regular schools, such coaching and tuition classes have also been closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, although many have been conducting online coaching classes instead.

Components of expenditure on education in basic course:

Expenditure on education on the general course and technical/profession course were recorded for the following components of expenditure:

  • course fee including tuition fee, examination fee, development fee and other compulsory payments
  • books, stationery and uniform
  • transport
  • private coaching
  • other expenses

Merger of NSSO with CSO to form NSO

  • The National Sample Survey Office used to work under the Ministry of Statistics of the Indian government until May 2019.
  • On 23rd May 2019, the NSSO merged with the Central Statistics Office (CSO) to form the National Statistical Office (NSO).
  • The Government stated that the NSO will be headed by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI).

Note: For more Details, refer to DNA 9th Sept 2020

4,442 cases pending against legislators across country


Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in News?

A report submitted in the Supreme Court has said there are a total 4,442 cases pending against legislators across the country. Of this, the number of cases against sitting Members of Parliament and members of State legislatures was 2,556. The cases were pending in various special courts exclusively set up to try criminal cases registered against politicians.

Key Details:

  • The cases against the legislators include that of corruption, money laundering, damage to public property, defamation and cheating.
  • A large number of cases were for violation of Section 188 IPC for wilful disobedience and obstruction of orders promulgated by public servants.
  • As per the report, Uttar Pradesh tops the chart.

Criminalisation in Politics:

Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) report:

  • Nearly half of the newly-elected Lok Sabha members (17th Lok Sabha) have criminal charges against them, a 26% increase as compared to 2014.
  • Of the 539 winning candidates analysed by the ADR, as many as 233 MPs or 43% have criminal charges.
  • According to the report, 43% of the newly elected MPs are charged with criminal offenses, while 29% of them are facing serious criminal charges such as murder, rape and kidnapping.
  • According to ADR, a criminal charge is considered serious for the following cases:
  1. Punishments of 5 years or more or if it is non-bailable
  2. Electoral offences (such as bribery)
  • Assault, murder, kidnap or rape
  1. Offences mentioned under the Representation of People’s Act, 1951
  2. Offences of corruption, under the Prevention of Corruption Act

Representation of Peoples (RP) Act:

The Representation of the People Act, 1951 is an act of Parliament of India to provide for the conduct of:

  1. Election of the Houses of Parliament and to the House or Houses of the Legislature of each State,
  2. The qualifications and disqualifications for membership of those Houses,
  3. The corrupt practices and other offences at or in connection with such elections and the decision of doubts
  4. Disputes arising out of or in connection with such elections.
  • It was introduced in Parliament by law minister Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.
  • The Act was enacted by the provisional parliament under Article 327 of Indian Constitution, before the first general election.

Supreme court rulings

  • A February 2020 Supreme Court judgment on criminalisation in politicsmay have far-reaching consequences for Indian democracy.
  • It will first be implemented in the coming Bihar elections in October 2020.
  • The political party and its leadership would for the first time have to publicly own up to criminalisation of politics.

The Court has asked the political parties to state “the reasons for such selection, as also as to why other individuals without criminal antecedents could not be selected as candidates.” If a political party fails to comply, it would be “… in contempt of this Court’s orders/directions.”

Orders state that:

(a) Each candidate shall submit a sworn affidavit giving financial details and criminal cases;

(b) Each candidate shall inform the political party in writing of criminal cases against him or her;

(c) The party shall put up on its website and on social media as well as publish in newspapers the names and details of such candidates.

Defence exports increased 700% in last three years: Gen. Bipin Rawat


Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in News?

In the last three years, the country witnessed a “staggering” 700% growth in defence exports – from ₹1,521 crore in 2016-17 to ₹10,745 crore in 2018-19, which is an all-time high and 19th in the list of defence exporters in 2019, according to Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen. Bipin Rawat.

Key Details:

  • India is the third largest spender on defence around the world.
  • India is the only net importer in the category and account for 9.2% of global arms imports.
  • With the aim to achieve a manufacturing turnover of $25 bn or ₹1,75,000 crore, including exports of $5 bn in aerospace and defence goods and services by 2025, in August, the Defence Ministry issued a draft ‘Defence Production & Export Promotion Policy (DPEPP) 2020’.

Note: For more detailed analysis of ‘Defence Production & Export Promotion Policy (DPEPP) 2020’, follow Aarohan.

Series of measures

Following steps had been taken since 2014 to boost exports:

  • Simplified defence industrial licensing,
  • Relaxation of export control
  • Grant of No Objection Certificates (NOC)
  • The current Indian military fleet “comprises fair share of vintage platforms”, there is a Plan to share some of vintage platforms with domestic industry to assist in their research and development to develop cutting edge military technology.
  • Relaxation in foreign trade policy
  • Specific incentives were introduced under the foreign trade policy.
  • The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has facilitated a Line of Credit for foreign countries to import defence products.
  • Defence Attaches in Indian missions were empowered to promote defence exports which also strengthen defence diplomacy.

Norwegian lawmaker nominates Donald Trump for Nobel Peace Prize


Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in News?

A Norwegian lawmaker has nominated Donald Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize for 2021 for helping broker a deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Nobel Prize 

  • The Nobel Prize is a set of annual international awards bestowed in several categories by Swedish and Norwegian institutions in recognition of academic, cultural, or scientific advances.
  • The will of the Swedish chemist, engineer and industrialist Alfred Nobel established the five Nobel prizes in 1895.
  • The prizes in Chemistry, Literature, Peace, Physics, and Physiology or Medicine were first awarded in 1901.
  • The prizes are widely regarded as the most prestigious awards available in their respective fields.

Nomination and selection of Peace Prize Laureates:

  • For the 2020 prize, the winner of which has yet to be announced, there were 318 candidates.
  • The bar for being nominated for the prize is low, as nominations are accepted from any politician serving at a national level, or from heads of state.
  • Thousands of people are eligible to nominate candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize, including members of parliaments and governments, university professors and past laureates.

Process of nomination and selection

  • The Norwegian Nobel Committee is responsible for selecting the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates.
  • A nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize may be submitted by any persons who are qualified to nominate.

Selection of Nobel Laureates

  • The Norwegian Nobel Committee is responsible for the selection of eligible candidates and the choice of the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates.
  • The Committee is composed of five members appointed by the Storting (Norwegian parliament).
  • The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo, Norway, not in Stockholm, Sweden, where the Nobel Prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and the Economics Prize are awarded.
  • Since 1901, when Nobel Prizes were first given, Peace Prize has been awarded by a committee of five, appointed by the Norwegian Parliament Storting in accordance with Alfred Nobel’s will.

Previous US administration recipients of the prize:

  • The Nobel peace prize was awarded to Barack Obama in 2009for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between people”.
  • Woodrow Wilson in 1920, for his efforts in ending the first world war and part in creating the League of Nations.
  • Jimmy Carterreceived the award in 2002.
  • The former vice-president Al Gore was honoured in 2007, for his efforts to spread knowledge about the climate change.

Since 1970, 68% of the world’s wildlife has been lost: WWF report


Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in News?

According to Living planet report 2020, animal populations have declined by such a staggering amount, that only an overhaul of the world’s economic systems could possibly reverse the damage.

Living planet report 2020:

Every two years, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) releases its landmark report, revealing how far species populations have declined since 1970 — an important marker for the overall health of ecosystems.

Key findings of the report:

  • Global populations of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish have suffered an average two-thirds decline in less than half a century due to environmental destruction which is contributing to the emergence of zoonotic diseases such as Covid-19, according to WWF’s Living Planet Report 2020.
  • Factors believed to increase the planet’s vulnerability to pandemics, including land-use change and the use and trade of wildlife.
  • Humanity’s increasing destruction of nature has catastrophic impacts not only on wildlife populations but also on human health.
  • LPR 2020 also includes pioneering modelling which shows that without further efforts to counteract habitat loss and degradation, global biodiversity will continue to decline.

  • The Living Planet Report 2020 presents a comprehensive overview of the state of our natural world through the Living Planet Index (LPI).
  • The LPI shows that wildlife populations found in freshwater habitats have suffered a decline of 84 per cent – the starkest average population decline in any biome, equivalent to 4 per cent per year since 1970.
  • According to experts, out of 425 species of mammals, 50 mammal species are either critically endangered or endangered.

World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF):

  • The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is an international non-governmental organization founded in 1961 that works in the field of wilderness preservation and the reduction of human impact on the environment.
  • It was formerly named the World Wildlife Fund, which remains its official name in Canada and the United States.
  • WWF is the world’s largest conservation organization with over five million supporters worldwide, working in more than 100 countries.
  • The Living Planet Report has been published every two years by WWF since 1998; it is based on a Living Planet Index and ecological footprint calculation.
  • WWF has launched several notable worldwide campaigns, including Earth Hour and Debt-for-Nature Swap, and its current work is organized around these six areas: food, climate, freshwater, wildlife, forests, and oceans.

Living Planet Index (LPI)

  • The Living Planet Index (LPI) is an indicator of the state of global biological diversity, based on trends in vertebrate populations of species from around the world.
  • The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) manages the index in cooperation with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

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