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Current Affairs: 18 December 2018

Delhi offers $1.4 bn aid package to Male to tackle financial crisis
  • India on Monday declared a financial package of $1.4 billion for the Maldives. The plan was being prepared over the last month and was formally declared at the press conference attended by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih of the Maldives and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Both sides also agreed to coordinate maritime policing activities in the Indian Ocean region.
  • The package comes as Maldives is facing a debt of $3.2 billion with China. It is expected to boost Male’s global financial standing.
  • A Joint Statement issued during the visit announced that the financial assistance will be in the form of budgetary support, currency swap and concessional lines of credit for development programmes. Mr. Modi conveyed that India will support the Maldives in its human-centric development plans.
Madras HC bans online sale of drugs
  • The Madras High Court on Monday held that drugs and cosmetics could not be sold online until the Centre notified the Drugs and Cosmetics (Amendment) Rules, 2018, intended for permitting sale of drugs through e-pharmacies, in the government gazette.
  • Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayana passed the order seeking a ban on websites that facilitated online sale of drugs until the Centre brought into effect a legal framework for permitting such sale.
  • The judge pointed out that the statutory rules for regulating online sales continued to remain at the draft stage despite the process for framing them having begun in 2011.
Cyclone Phethai crosses the coast near Kakinada in A.P.
  • Severe cyclonic storm Phethai, which kept the Andhra Pradesh government on the tenterhooks in the last couple of days, crossed the coast between Kakinada and Yanam.
  • It triggered a spell of heavy rain in East and West Godavari districts and moderate rain down south.
  • Normal life was badly hit at many places and particularly in Kakinada, where low-lying areas were inundated and knee-deep water threw road traffic out of gear.
  • Barring a death due to a landslip in Vijayawada, not many casualties were reported from the district though it kept raining incessantly at most places between Krishna and Srikakulam districts.
  • Agriculture and horticulture crops on thousands of hectares were destroyed in Prakasam, Guntur, Krishna, East and West Godavari, Visakhapatnam and Vizianagaram districts, according to the Real-Time Governance Society (RTGS).t.
  • Reviewing the impact at the RTG Centre at the Secretariat, Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu said the government could minimise the damage due to precautionary measures.
  • He said the lessons drawn from Hudhud and the Titli cyclones had helped a lot in preparing for the worst and in avoiding a major disaster.
LPG scheme to cover poor people
  • The Union Cabinet approved the expansion of the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, which aims to provide deposit-free LPG connections to all poor households.
  • So far, the scheme targeted the poor and underprivileged so listed in the Socio-Economic and Caste Census, 2011.
  • Following the Cabinet decision, poor people will be able to opt for the scheme even if they so far were not eligible, after furnishing the required identification documents and an affidavit saying that they do not have an existing LPG connection.
HC ban: E-pharmacies mull legal recourse
  • The next step for the online drug industry, in the light of the Madras High Court judgment banning the sale of medicines online, would clearly be legal – an appeal against the verdict.
  • There are compliant players, such as the members of the IIPA, who want to confirm if the order applies to those only in violation of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, he added.
  • Earlier, the Delhi High Court had also banned the sale of drugs online.
  • While Judge Pushpa Sathyanarayana’s final order did allow the ban to be deferred until the companies have had time to appeal the High Court decision (until December 20) the key aspects of the judgment have made anxious online companies that are part of one of the fast-growing segments in the country.
  • Some estimates put the total number of online pharmacies at 250, with at least 50-60 of them termed as ‘large players.’ Mr. Tandon said the industry is currently valued at about “₹1500 crore, and growing.” The country’s overall drugs and medicines retail market, incidentally, is valued at over ₹1.3 lakh crore annually.
  • The attraction of the online pharmacy, for many, is the fancy discounts that are available, up to 60%, besides free home delivery and sometimes, other value-added services.
  • It is the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, that regulates the import, manufacture and distribution of medicines in the country. While it regulates sales of drugs, it was not clear, as the online pharmacy trade emerged, whether the existing rules under the Act would be applicable to the portals selling medicines.
  • It was in order to address this specific issue, that the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare published draft rules in September, seeking to amend the Drugs and Cosmetics rules regarding the distribution or sale, stock, exhibit or offer for sale of drugs through e-pharmacies.
  • While currently no provisions exist for the registration of any of these online pharmacies, the new rules mandate all e-pharmacy holders be registered with the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), and the State drug regulator. Periodic inspection of the premises too will be on the cards.
  • Online portals cannot sell narcotic drugs, tranquillisers and Schedule X drugs, and cannot advertise their services, as under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act. Under the new rules, complete information on the medicines will have to be provided by the e-pharmacy holders, and a 24/7 helpline should be made available.
  • The top-level Drugs Technical Advisory Board also recently approved the draft rules to allow the operation of e-pharmacies.
IAF plane takes to the air on blended bio-fuel
  • For the first time, an An-32 transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) flew with blended bio-jet fuel produced from Jatropha oil, unlocking the possibility of gradually expanding it to the entire service at some point. This has the dual benefit of reducing the carbon footprint as well as usage of fossil fuels.
  • “The maiden IAF flight of December 17, 2018 was flown by highly qualified test pilots from the Aircraft and System Testing Establishment (ASTE), under the supervision of Air Officer Commanding, Chandigarh,” Wg. Cdr. A Shrivastava, Research Fellow at the Centre for Air Power Studies, wrote in an article published on the think tank’s website.
  • He said India had thus joined a league of select nations to have “developed, tested and certified” a single step Hydro-processed Renewable Jet (HRJ) process to convert non-edible oil into biofuel for use on military aircraft.
  • “IAF carried out extensive engine tests on the ground. This is now followed by flight trials using 10% bio-jet blended Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF),” the IAF said in a statement.
  • This bio-jet fuel technology was developed by the Indian Institute of Petroleum (IIP) under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in 2009 and tested between 2011 and 2013.
  • After evaluation, including performance runs on the aero-engine since 2018, the Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC) cleared the trial flight last week.

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