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Current Affairs - 13 October 2018

NATION

India wins election to UNHRC
  • India was elected to the ’ top human rights body for a period of three years beginning January 1, 2019, getting 188 votes in the Asia-Pacific category, the highest number of votes among all candidates.
  • The 193-member UN General Assembly held elections here for new members to the UN Human Rights Council. The 18 new members were elected by absolute majority through a secret ballot. Countries needed a minimum of 97 votes to get elected to the Council.
  • India had previously been elected to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council for the 2011-2014 and 2014-2017 terms.
Mission to sequence genes of a ‘large group’ of Indians
  • India is planning a major mission to sequence the genes of a “large” group of Indians — akin to projects in the U.K., China, Japan and Australia — and use this to improve the health of the population.
  • This was among the key decisions taken by the Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (STIAC) at its first meeting.
  • The Health and Family Welfare Ministry and the Biotechnology Department will be closely associated with the project.
  • Ever since the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research in 2009 announced that it had sequenced the genome of an Indian, then making India one of six countries to achieve such a feat, several research labs have analysed genes from Indians for disease susceptibility. However, no compendium of genes that differentiate Indian populations from, say, Caucasian or African genomes exist.
  • A group of Indian scientists and companies are involved with a 100k GenomeAsia project, led by the National Technological University (NTU), Singapore, to sequence the whole genomes of 100,000 Asians, including 50,000 Indians.
  • K. Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser and Chair of the council, said the genome initiative would have to move at two different levels.
  • The Council acts as a coordinator between several Ministries to work on projects and missions and is scheduled to meet once a month, he said. 
  • Key programmes, such as a deep ocean mission, to facilitate ocean science and technologies to help with India’s strategic interests and an Artificial Intelligence and quantum computing mission were also discussed.
PM to pay ‘working visit’ to Japan
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Japan on October 28 and 29 to attend the annual bilateral summit with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
  • The visit is being billed as “a working visit”, and the two sides are expected to discuss several agreements on enhancing defence and trade cooperation and hold talks on the “Indo-Pacific” region.
  • Ahead of the visit, Japan’s National Security Advisor Shotaro Yachi visited India and met National Security Adviser Ajit Doval. Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale and Japan’s Ambassador Kenji Hiramatsu met last week to discuss Japanese investments in developing the northeastern States.
  • During the visit, the Prime Ministers are expected to focus on the early completion of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train railway line using Japanese ‘Shikansen’ technology, and funded by loans from Japan.
Dassault on track, says CEO
  • Dassault Aviation is on track to deliver Rafale aircraft to India, the head of the French military giant said.
  • Eric Trappier, CEO of the company, said in an interview that the offset agreement was in “full compliance” with the defence rules of India.
  • Mr. Trappier told the French news agency AFP that the company expected to complete the production of infrastructure in India by 2019.
  • The head of Dassault Aviation said the offset contract was an “obligation” under the Indian defence procurement rules. “In full compliance with this regulation, Dassault Aviation therefore decided to set up the DRAL joint venture with Reliance and build a plant in Nagpur which should enable us to meet about 10% of these offset obligations.”
  • Mr. Trappier said his company was also in negotiations with about a hundred Indian companies and agreements had been signed with about 30 of them.
  • The statement from the top official came just hours before Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman landed in France on a tour that will include a survey of the current India-specific work at Dassault.
  • In Paris, Ms. Sitharaman highlighted the government’s “Make in India” policy for the defence sector.
Supreme Court must set example on backlog, says R.M. Lodha
  • Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi’s advice that the Chief Justices of the High Courts should ensure that fellow judges do not take leave on working days and remain in court during working hours to clear the backlog of cases, drew a counter-suggestion from one of his predecessors. 
  • Former Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha said the Supreme Court ought to be the first to “set an example” in the matter.
  • “The Supreme Court should first set the example, not just the CJI but the entire court of 24 judges,” said Justice Lodha, who had during his term as CJI mooted a 365-day work calendar for the Supreme Court and the High Courts.
  • “Charity begins at home. Such initiatives should be objectively implemented by the Supreme Court, then it will percolate to the High Courts,” Justice Lodha told.
  • Justice Lodha said the successive short tenures of CJIs also impeded implementation of their plans. Changes for the better should be institutionalised.
Overhaul GDP norms: MPs

  • The current manner in which the GDP is measured needs an overhaul as it provides an incomplete estimation of economic activity, a report by the Estimates Committee of Parliament said in a draft report 
  •  The current GDP and Gross Value Added measures have also been questioned by Opposition leaders and economists alike. 
  • The committee noted that the GDP calculation did not measure the depletion of natural resources, a point several economists, including former Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian, have pointed out.
  • The report said the current measure of GDP did not incorporate the economic contributions of women in running households and maintaining accounts; nor did it have any measure of whether an increase in GDP resulted in an increase in happiness.
  • The committee noted that while NITI Aayog had acknowledged that efforts must be made to ensure that GDP growth is combined with sustainability, it had so far not suggested any ways to achieve this.
  • “The Committee, therefore, strongly recommends to evolve indicators/parameters to gauge the environmental resource decay and replenishment efforts made to compensate the loss and also to capture these aspects in measuring GDP and other economic parameters,” the report said.
  • It highlighted that the current GDP measure, while accounting for increases in production, did not take into account other factors of economic activity such as the change in quality of the output due to improvements in technology, or how advances like artificial intelligence will impact employment.
C-section use doubled in India between 2005 and 2015: Lancet
  • The number of babies born in India through caesarean section increased from 9% in 2005-6 to 18.5% in 2015-16, according to a series of three papers published in The Lancet journal, which also found that C-section use almost doubled worldwide between 2000 and 2015.
  • While the surgery is still unavailable for many women and children in low-income countries and regions, the procedure is overused in many middle-and high-income settings, said researchers.
  • In the 10 countries with the highest number of births in 2010-2015 period, there were large differences in caesarean section or C-section use between regions. For instance, differences between provinces in China ranged from 4% to 62%, and inter-state differences in India ranged from 7% to 49%.
  • Globally, C-section use has increased by 3.7% each year between 2000-2015 — rising from 12% of live births (16 million of 131.9 million) in 2000, to 21% of live births (29.7 million of 140.6 million) in 2015.
  • C-section is a life-saving intervention for women and newborns when complications occur, such as bleeding, foetal distress, hypertensive disease, and babies in abnormal position.
  • However, the surgery is not without risk for mother and child, and is associated with complications in future births, researchers said. It is estimated that 10-15% of births medically require a C-section due to complications, suggesting that average C-section use should lie between these levels.
  • The South Asia region has seen the most rapid increase in use (6.1% per year), with C-section being underused in 2000 but being overused by 2015 (increasing from 7.2% of births via C-section to 18.1%).

WORLD

Conde wins alternative Nobel
    • Guadeloupean author Maryse Conde on Friday won an alternative award formed in protest to the Nobel Literature Prize, postponed this year over a rape scandal that came to light as part of the #MeToo movement.
    • The New Academy Prize in Literature was formed in protest to denounce what its founders called the “bias, arrogance and sexism” of the venerable Swedish Academy, which selects Nobel laureates. 

    ECONOMY

    Factory growth slows to 10-month low
    • Industrial production slowed to a 10-month low of 4.3% in August, due in large part to a drastic deceleration in the manufacturing, mining, and consumer durables sectors, according to official data released.
    • The Index of Industrial Production (IIP) slowed in August from its growth rate of 6.61% in July. Within the index, the manufacturing sector slowed to 4.6% in August from 6.96% in July, while the mining sector contracted by 0.4% in August, down from a growth of 3.68% in July.
    • The starkest slowdown, however, was in the consumer durables sector, which saw growth come down to 5.2% in August from 14.36% in the previous month.
    • The consumer non-durables sector in the IIP witnessed an acceleration in growth to 6.3% in August from 5.61% in the previous month.
    • Consumer price inflation, as measured by the consumer price index (CPI), accelerated marginally in September to 3.77% from 3.69% in August. 

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