SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
- Union Minister for Science & Technology, Earth Sciences and Health & Family Welfare has announced the details of the IndiGen Genome project, which was conducted by Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR).
- Union Minister also unveiled the IndiGenome card and accompanying IndiGen mobile application that enables participants and clinicians to access clinically actionable information in their genomes.
Genomics for Public Health in India (IndiGen) programme
- The programme aims to undertake whole genome sequencing of thousands of individuals representing diverse ethnic groups from India.
- The objective is to enable genetic epidemiology and develop public health technologies applications using population genome data.
- The IndiGen initiative was undertaken by CSIR in April 2019, which was implemented by the CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), Delhi and CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad.
- The IndiGenome card and app ensures privacy and data security, which is vital for personal genomics to be implemented at scale.
- The CSIR exercise ties into a larger programme coordinated by the Department of Biotechnology, which plans to scan nearly 20,000 Indian genomes over the next five years, in a two-phase exercise, and develop diagnostic tests that can be used to test for cancer.
- To test if it’s possible to rapidly and reliably scan several genomes and advise people on health risks that are manifested in their gene
- Understand the variation and frequency of certain genes that are known to be linked to disease.
Whole Genome Sequencing
- It is a laboratory process that is used to determine nearly all of the approximately 3 billion nucleotides of an individual’s complete DNA sequence, including non-coding sequence.
- A genetic test, which is commercially available at several outlets in the country, usually involves analysing only a portion of the genome that’s known to contain aberrant genes linked to disease.
- Whole genome sequencing is more involved and expensive. It costs about ₹100,000 and a single person’s scan takes a whole day.
- It is generally attempted only for research purposes.
Why Genome Sequencing is needed?
- Human genome was first sequenced in 2003 and it opened a fresh perspective on the link between disease and the unique genetic make-up of each individual.
- Nearly 10,000 diseases — including cystic fibrosis, thalassemia — are known to be the result of a single gene malfunctioning.
- While genes may render some insensitive to certain drugs, genome sequencing has shown that cancer too can be understood from the viewpoint of genetics, rather than being seen as a disease of certain organs.
Significance & Benefits
- The whole genome data will be important for building the knowhow, baseline data and indigenous capacity in the emerging area of Precision Medicine.
- The outcomes of the IndiGen will have applications in a number of areas including predictive and preventive medicine with faster and efficient diagnosis of rare genetic diseases.
- The outcomes of the IndiGen will be utilized towards understanding the genetic diversity on a population scale, make available genetic variant frequencies for clinical applications and enable genetic epidemiology of diseases.
- It is expected to enable evidence and aid in the development of technologies for clinical and biomedical applications in India.
- Benefits of this initiative include epidemiology of genetic diseases to enable cost effective genetic tests, carrier screening applications for expectant couples, enabling efficient diagnosis of heritable cancers and pharmacogenetic tests to prevent adverse drug reactions.
- IndiGen initiative has enabled benchmarking the scalability of genome sequencing and computational analysis at population scale in a defined timeline.
DEFENCE & SECURITY
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has approved issuance of two Open General Export Licences (OGELs) for export of certain parts &components and intra-company transfer of technology to select countries, in a bid to achieve India’s target of reaching $26 billion in defence exports.
What is OGEL?
- It is a one-time export licence to be granted to a company for a specific period (two years initially).
- The application for grant of OGEL will be considered by Department of Defence Production (DPP) on a case-to-case basis.
- For acquiring the licences, the applicant is mandatory to have Import-Export certificate.
- The quarterly & end of the year reports on all the transactions done under OGELs should be submitted to DPP for examination and post-export verification.
Countries allowed under the OGELs
The countries allowed are: Belgium, France, Germany, Japan, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, UK, USA, Canada, Italy, Poland and Mexico.
- The items permitted under OGEL include components of ammunition & fuse setting device without energetic and explosive material; firing control & related alerting and warning equipment and related system; and body protective items.
- Complete aircraft or complete unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and any components specially designed or modified for UAVs are excluded under this licence.
Transfer of Technology
The transfer of technology to the countries is subject to the condition that the export is an intra-company transfer from an Indian subsidiary (applicant exporter) to its foreign parent company and/or to subsidiaries of the foreign parent company.[Source: PIB]
- The Supreme Court of India mandated the use of green crackers for Deepavali, prescribing specific norms for the manufacture in a landmark judgment in October 2018.
- This year, ‘green crackers’ have been made available in markets for the first time, though the reach has been limited.
- The Supreme Court had banned the use of barium nitrate, a key pollutant in crackers.
- The National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), a part of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), was asked to facilitate the development of green crackers.
Supreme Court Ban
- Traditionally, firecrackers have been made with barium nitrate, antimony and a range of metals that, over the years, have been linked to respiratory diseases and even cancer.
- These were the factors that guided the Supreme Court when it decided to ban fireworks on the basis of a petition filed in 2015, by a few infants through their parents.
- The petitioners argued that air pollution caused by various factors, especially firecrackers, made Delhi a gas chamber.
What are green crackers?
- In a bid to resolve the crisis of air pollution, Union Minister for Science and Technology and Earth Sciences has recently launched green crackers.
- It is a set of new crackers that promises to help reduce particulate emissions by 30 per cent while producing the same level of light and sound effects of traditional fireworks.
- The new firework covers popularly used sound-emitting crackers, flowerpots, pencils, chakkar and sparklers.
- The green crackers were made based on formulations developed by a consortium of eight laboratories under the CSIR led by Nagpur-based National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI).
- Green crackers use 32% potassium nitrate, 40% aluminium powder, 11% aluminium chips, and 17% “proprietary additives” to reduce particulate matter PM10 and PM2.5 to 30%.
- CSIR-NEERI along with Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO), Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MoEFCC) have also evolved a clear definition of green crackers with a view to educate the regulators and the public on ways and means to demarcate green crackers from conventional crackers.
- A Green logo as well as a Quick Response (QR) coding system was also developed for differentiation of green crackers from conventional crackers.
They are known as ‘green’ firecrackers because they have a chemical formulation that produces water molecules, which substantially reduces emission levels and absorbs dust.
Two pronged Approach
- One stream of activity was focussed on improving the traditional crackers through reduction in the level of Barium Nitrate, which is the key pollutant.
- The second pathway aimed at replacing Barium Nitrate with less polluting Potassium Nitrate.
- Due to the ban that had been imposed as per the orders of Supreme Court of India, there was a threat of imminent closure of the entire fireworks industry.
- Green crackers will not only address the environmental concerns arising from use of existing fireworks but also protect the livelihoods of millions of people engaged in manufacture and sale of fireworks across the country.
FACTS OF THE DAY
AYODHYA DEEPOTSAV 2019
- As a part of the Uttar Pradesh state government’s Deepotsav celebrations on the eve of Diwali, a record six lakh earthen lamps were lit on the banks of Saryu river in Ayodhya.
- This year’s count of the earthen lamps lit on the river bank far surpassed the three lakh-plus number of ‘diyas’ lit last year.
- According to the certificate issued by by Guinness World Records, the largest display of oil lamps was achieved by the Department of Tourism, Government of Uttar Pradesh and Ram Manohar Lohiya Awadh University during Deepotsav 2019 in Ayodhya.
- The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has declared the formation of tropical cyclone ‘Kyarr’ over the East-Central Arabian Sea.
- The names of cyclones in the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea are decided by eight countries.
- The countries that get to name the cyclones are India, Pakistan, Oman, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
- Each of them lists out eight names which are approved by weathermen of these countries.
- Each time the list has 64 names and the countries take turns to name the cyclones.
- Cyclone Kyarr has been named by Myanmar. The first cyclone Myanmar named was Pyarr, in 2005.
- The first cyclone named by India was Agni, in 2004, and the last one was Vayu in 2019.
- The cyclone before Kyarr was called Hikaa and was named by Maldives.
- The next cyclone Maha is named by Oman and Bulbul by Pakistan.
INDIAN OCEAN RIM ASSOCIATION
- 19th IORA Council of Ministers (COM) meeting will be held on November 7, 2019 in Abu Dhabi.
- The theme of the COM meeting is “Promoting a Shared Destiny and Path to Prosperity in the Indian Ocean”.
- The meeting is important as two of India’s important partners, the United Arab Emirates and Bangladesh, will take charge as the new chair and vice-chair of one of the largest regional maritime organisations for the duration of 2019-21.
- This is especially significant for Bangladesh as the ministerial will pave the way for Dhaka to play a leading role in IOR for four years from 2019 to 2023 as the country is expected to succeed UAE and become the next chair.
- The Indian Ocean Rim Association was set up with the objective of strengthening regional cooperation and sustainable development within the Indian Ocean Region.
- It is a regional forum, tripartite in nature, bringing together representatives of Government, Business and Academia, for promoting co-operation and closer interaction among them.