TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. GS1 Related B. GS2 Related C. GS3 Related ENVIRONMENT 1. Ban on oxytocin likely to be lifted 2. Population of endangered blackbuck rises SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY 1. Is terraforming possible? D. GS4 Related E. Editorials ECONOMY 1. Regulation of E-Commerce in India F. Tidbits 1. Adultery law violates the dignity of woman, says SC 2. Revamp district courts, directs SC 3. NRC update: New SOPs for those left out 4. Private sector investment may see rise G. Prelims Fact 1. Advanced Air Defence (AAD) H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
A. GS1 Related
Nothing here for today!!!
B. GS2 Related
Nothing here for today!!!
C. GS3 Related
The Drug Technical Advisory Board (DTAB) has recommended to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare that the ban on the retail sale of the life-saving drug, oxytocin, may be lifted.
The DTAB recommendation has brought immense relief to gynaecologists and obstetricians, who had said that the ban on retail sale of the drug could affect its availability in hospitals and clinics in rural areas, where more women were likely to bleed to death post-partum in labour rooms. Currently, the manufacture of Oxytocin formulations for domestic use has been restricted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to public sector only. Import of Oxytocin and its formulations has also been banned.
Ban due to Controversial usage:
- Oxytocin is a hormone known to trigger a wide variety of physical and psychological effects and is commonly used to facilitate childbirth.
- The ban had been imposed citing the serious misuse of oxytocin in the dairy sector.
- The drug was used by diary owners and farmers to boost milk production and make vegetables look bigger and fresher.
What is the issue?
- Ministry has decided (vide notification dated June 27) that only a single PSU — Karnataka Antibiotics and Pharmaceuticals Ltd. — could manufacture and supply the drug across the country.
- The fact that a single PSU, KAPL, which has never manufactured oxytocin, continues to hold the monopoly in the manufacture, distribution and sale of an essential drug like this, raises important questions.
- Concers are regarding the pricing of oxytocin by KAPL — at Rs17.78 (including GST) per five IU vial — when several private pharma firms were earlier supplying it for as low as Rs. 4.82.
- The lower priced and time-tested oxytocin brands of private pharma companies would be replaced with the costly brand of KAPL, in the name of misuse of oxytocin.
What is Oxytocin?
- Oxytocin is a hormone secreted by the pituitary glands. It is made in the brain, in the Hypothalamus.
- It plays a role in reproduction and child birth and lactation, apart from social interaction.
- It is used in both humans and animals to accelerate normal labour. It is supposed to act directly on the uterus to induce rhythmic contractions.
- In farm animals, it is used to achieve ‘milk let down’
- It is believed to stimulate the mammary glands and induce milk production in farm animals.
- Population of the endangered blackbuck in Odisha’s Ganjam district has increased by 276 in the last three years.
- It is locally called Krushnasara murga or bali harina.
- Blackbucks, which were sighted in Balukhand-Konark wildlife sanctuary in Puri district till 2012-13, have vanished from that area. The animals migrated to some new places like Digapahandi and Berhampur.
- It is believed that the improvement of habitats and protection given by local people and forest staff are the reasons for the increase in population.
The blackbucks of Balipadara-Bhetanai area in the district have been protected religiously by the local people for several generations. The people of the area believe that the sighting of the blackbucks in paddy fields is the harbinger of bumper harvest. The villagers do not kill the animals even if they stray into fields and eat their crops.
- The IUCN conservation status for Black Buck is “Least Concerned”.
- In India, hunting of blackbuck is prohibited under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972
- Found in — India, Nepal and Pakistan (extinct in Bangladesh).
- It is the state animal of Andra Pradesh, Haryana & Punjab
- The blackbuck is a diurnal antelope (active mainly during the day)
- It inhabits grassy plains and slightly forested areas. Due to its regular need of water, it prefers areas where water is perennially available.
- It is found in Central- Western India (MP, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra and Odisha) and Southern India (Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu).
- Bishnoi community of Rajasthan is known worldwide for their conservation efforts towards blackbucks.
Context: The scientists say that with current technologies, it is not possible to do Mars terraforming.
What is terraforming?
Terraforming is creating a habitable environment on Mars, that would allow humans to explore it without life support.
Proponents of terraforming Mars propose releasing greenhouse gases (for their ability to trap heat and warm the climate) from a variety of sources on the Mars to thicken the atmosphere and increase the temperature to the point where liquid water is stable on the surface.
These gases are called “greenhouse gases”.
Why is it not possible?
- All the tinkering might thicken up the atmosphere and provide greater radioactive shielding, but Mars will continue to face atmosphere loss due to double solar radiation waves. As Mars desperately lacks an electromagnetic field.
- According to scientists, Mars does not retain enough carbon dioxide that could practically be put back into the atmosphere to warm the planet.
- Although the current Martian atmosphere itself consists mostly of carbon dioxide, it is far too thin and cold to support liquid water, an essential ingredient for life.
- Carbon dioxide (CO2) and water vapour (H2O) are the only greenhouse gases that are likely to be present on Mars in sufficient abundance to provide any significant greenhouse warming.
- Although Mars has significant quantities of water ice that could be used to create water vapour, previous analyses show that water cannot provide significant warming by itself. Temperatures do not allow enough water to persist as vapour without first having significant warming by CO2.
- Even if Polar Ice caps were melted using thermo nuclear explosions, the amount of CO2 released would only help in bringing Mars’s atmospheric pressure to 1.2% of that of Earth. Any liquid water on the surface would very quickly evaporate or freeze.
D. GS4 Related
Nothing here for today!!!
- The process of putting together a regulatory framework for electronic commerce in the country is finally speeding up.
- A task force of the Commerce Ministry has submitted its recommendations on a draft national e-commerce policy.
- The suggestions, if accepted by the government, could impact consumers’ online shopping experience in multiple ways, including how discounts are given, the availability of newer products, and the redressal of complaints.
- India’s e-tail business, estimated to be worth around $25 billion, is still a fraction of the overall retail sector in the country, but it has been witness to some frenetic activity of late, including the merger between Flipkart and global giant Walmart.
- India’s e-commerce sector, currently estimated to be worth around $25 billion, is expected to grow to $200 billion over the next 10 years.
- Much of the growth in the sector is on account of cheaper smartphones and data tariffs, along with enhanced connectivity.
- Having covered the metros and large cities, the bigger e-commerce firms expect their next phase of growth to come from tier-II and tier-III towns, where the expansion of 3G and 4G networks have put consumers online.
- This is seen as resulting in job creation, productivity improvement, and increased consumer presence on online platforms.
- The task force has said that for India to fully benefit from these opportunities, it is important for policymakers to be cognizant also of the underlying challenges — which makes it imperative to have clearly laid-down rules for electronic commerce in the country.
- Many of these rules currently exist in some or the other form, and are enforced by a multiplicity of government departments and regulators.
- A national e-commerce policy will be an attempt at creating a one-stop shop for the norms and regulations under which online retailers will be covered.
- A 70-member “think tank” was set up in April this year, headed by Minister for Commerce and Industry Suresh Prabhu, and comprising the secretaries of ministries including Commerce, Information Technology, Communications, Consumer Affairs, etc., and various industry representatives.
- The think tank set up a task force under Commerce Secretary Rita Teaotia to suggest a framework for the national policy on e-commerce.
- Now that the task force has submitted its recommendations, the think tank will work on creating a draft policy, which will be taken up by the government.
- The government does not currently allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in e-commerce companies that hold their own inventories.
- Online retailers with foreign investments can only operate as marketplaces — letting sellers list their products on the platform.
- However, given that the lion’s share of investments in e-commerce firms came from abroad, the e-tailers found a way around the government’s norm by setting up seller entities that sold their products on the platforms.
- Later, in 2016, the government mandated that no platform should have more than 25% of its sales coming from a single seller.
- Due to the restrictions on the inventory-based model, e-commerce companies have not been able to offer their in-house brands extensively.
- The task force has recommended that FDI may be allowed in inventory-based e-commerce companies up to 49%, with the condition that the e-tailer sells 100% Made-in- India products.
- This will allow e-commerce firms to offer their own brands — as long as they are made in India.
- On the other hand, for online marketplaces, the task force has suggested imposing restrictions on group companies of such platforms to prevent them from directly or indirectly influencing the prices of goods and services.
- The marketplaces will not be able to offer deep discounts through their in-house companies listed as sellers.
- There have been several incidents across the country of customers expressing dissatisfaction with products they purchased online. In some cases, bricks and soaps have been delivered instead of mobile phones.
- This is an inherent flaw of the marketplace model, where platforms do not have full control over the supply chain.
- Customers have also complained of prices being artificially jacked up higher than the maximum retail price (MRP), and of problems with the delivery of purchased products.
- The Consumer Affairs Ministry’s National Consumer Helpline is currently the only redressal mechanism available for such grievances.
- Between April and November last year, the National Consumer Helpline received 54,114 complaints related to the e-commerce sector.
- To provide a forum for consumers, the task force has suggested the setting up of a Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA), which, besides helping consumers, will also act as the nodal agency for intra-government coordination, and provide a platform for e-commerce operators regarding complaints of fraudulent activities.
- If the task force’s recommendations finally go through and become policy, e-commerce platforms will have to mandatorily provide the government’s RuPay payment option.
- The task force has also suggested that foreign e-commerce websites should be brought on a level playing field with their Indian counterparts by making them follow the same rules for payment systems such as two-factor authentication.
- With the aim to make online payments safer, the task force has also suggested creating a fraud intelligence mechanism, using artificial intelligence-based authentication systems, for early detection of frauds.
- Currently, a large chunk of payments for online purchases is made through the cash-on-delivery option.
- Over the coming decade, the e-commerce pie is expected to swell to $200 billion, fuelled by smartphones, cheaper data access and growing spends.
- The draft policy proposes the creation of a single national regulator to oversee the entire industry, although operationalising its different features would require action from multiple Ministries and regulators.
- This would also need amendments to existing legislation and rulebooks. Consumer protection norms to guard online shoppers from possible frauds too are overdue.
- As per data available for the first eight months of 2017-18, over 50,000 e-commerce grievances were made to the Consumer Affairs Ministry helpline.
- Traditional retailers too have voiced concerns about large e-tail players with deep pockets pricing them out of the market, and have been seeking a level playing field.
- Among the ideas in the draft policy are a sunset clause on discounts that can be offered by e-commerce firms and restrictions on sellers backed by marketplace operators.
- The aim may be to prevent large players from pricing out the competition though unfair practices, but taken too far such licensing and price controls can depress the sector.
- To give the government a say on who can offer how much discount and for how long, instead of letting consumers exercise informed choices, would be a regressive step for the economy.
- Foreign direct investment restrictions on players who can hold their own inventory are sought to be lifted, but there must be a majority Indian partner and all products have to be made in India.
- E-tailer costs are also likely to rise on account of proposed norms on storing and processing data locally, while consumers and firms could both question the plan to stipulate payments via Rupay cards.
- The proposed e-commerce policy could drive away those planning online retail forays — and the opportunity to create jobs and benefit consumers would be lost.
1. Adultery law violates the dignity of woman, says SC
A 5 judge constitution bench is constituted to examine if adultery as an offence should be retained in the penal code to uphold family ties. The petition filed wants Section 497 to be dropped as a criminal offence from the penal code.
- Section 497 mandates that if a man has sexual intercourse with another’s wife without the husband’s “consent or connivance,” he is guilty of the offence of adultery and shall be punished.
- The provision does not confer any right on the wife to prosecute her husband for adultery.
- It is not an offence if the sexual intercourse is with the “consent or connivance” of the husband of the woman.
Arguments of SC:
- The time has changed since it was commonly accepted that it is the man who is the seducer and not the woman.
- When a woman is treated as chattel, her right to dignity is affected.
- Adultery is a sign of marital breakdown as marriage as an institution has two pillars where both parties have to be equally responsible.
- Adultery remains a ground for divorce in all personal laws.
- Penalising adultery and jailing citizens for engaging in consensual sex is a different thing altogether. There is no compelling state interest or even a valid rationale for the state to do so
- The bench is seeking to strike down the provisions as unconstitutional and looking to make it provisions gender neutral.
- Decriminalising adultery was not “a licence for people to go indulge in it”.
- Most countries have done away with adultery as a criminal offence, including Bhutan, Sri Lanka, China, South Korea.
2. Revamp district courts, directs SC
Supreme Court wants district courts across the country to make some improvements like
- Separate washrooms for transgenders, ‘court managers’ with an MBA degree,
- Braille and colour-coded signage
- Crowd management arrangements
- Crèche facility and even
- A front desk for litigants to find their way
The order came on a petition filed way back in 1989 by the All India Judges Association for better facilities to help do their job. The court observed that “without a robust infrastructure, the judiciary would not be able to function at its optimum level.”
- The court ordered the State Chief Secretaries to constitute a committee of which the Secretary of the Department of Law should be a member to formulate the development plan for courts.
3. NRC update: New SOPs for those left out
On July 31, a Supreme Court Bench had ordered the government to frame, in consultation with State NRC Coordinator Prateek Hajela, a “fair” SoP to deal with the claims and objections of those who did not find their names in the draft NRC.
- Applicants left out of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) may be given a personal hearing under a fresh Standard Operating Procedure (SoP) being devised by the Home Ministry.
- The Registrar-General of India (RGI) and the Home Ministry are exploring several options to provide adequate opportunity to 40 lakh of the 3.9 crore applicants whose names were not included in the final NRC draft published on July 30.
- The SoP would ensure that filing claims and objections was a fair and credible process.
- The circle officers or block development officers would be asked to give personal hearings to applicants even after they had exhausted the option of filing “claims and objections”.
- The SoP will also go into the aspects of disposal of claims and objections.
4. Private sector investment may see rise
Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) states that the value of new project announcements by private sector increases for first time in 2 years.
- Of the share of announcement made by the Private sector, a bulk was made by the foreign companies.
- Private sector new project announcements in the June 2018 quarter grew 43% over what was announced in the same quarter of the previous year. The share of Indian private sector accounted for 30.4% of all announcements made by the private sector.
- In contrast, the government announced saw a contraction of 77.6% over the June 2017 quarter marking the fifth consecutive quarter of contraction.
- As a result, private sector announcements made up 88% of all new project announcements in the quarter, the highest proportion the sector has achieved since September 2003.
- Demonetisation and the GST impact are considered to be two major issues due to which the private sector got a jolt. Now that the impact of these two massive changes have subsided, the revival of the private sector, and specifically MSMEs, needs to take place
- The government needs to take more steps towards the revival of MSMEs. As a lot of these investments are by medium-sized entrepreneurs.
G. Prelims Fact
- Advanced Air Defence (AAD)
- Advanced Air Defence (AAD) is an anti-ballistic missile designed to intercept incoming ballistic missiles in the endo-atmosphere at an altitude of 30 km.
- It is a single-stage, solid-fuelled missile.
- It is equipped with a navigation system, a hi-tech computer, inertial navigation system and an electro-mechanical activator.
- It has its own mobile launcher, secure data link for interception, independent tracking and homing capabilities and sophisticated radars.
H. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam
Question 1. Which of the following countries is not a SAARC member?
Question 2. Consider the following statements:
- Oxytocin becomes more effective when exposed to heat.
- Carbetocin is a safe and effective alternative to oxytocin.
Which of the above statement/s is/are incorrect?
- 1 only
- Both 1 and 2
- 2 only
- Neither 1 nor 2
Question 3. Consider the following statements:
- The IUCN conservation status of Black Buck is “Endangered”.
- Velavadar Blackbuck Sanctuary is in Andhra Pradesh.
- Black Buck is the state animal of Andhra Pradesh.
Which of the above statement/s is/are correct?
- 1 only
- 1 and 2 only
- 2 only
- 3 only
Question 4. Terraforming is
- A type of farming that consists of different “steps” or terraces.
- Creating a habitable environment on Mars, that would allow humans to explore it without life support.
- Making of clay-like earthenware ceramic that can be either glazed or unglazed.
- A method that involves the cutting and burning of plants in a forest or woodland to create a field
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
Write a note on the regulation of E-Commerce in India. Elaborate on the challenges associated with it.
The Union Cabinet’s decision to amend the provisions of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act appears both reasonable and unavoidable. Critically Examine.
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