Current Affairs for NDA/CDS/AFCAT/Airforce X&Y Groups
News Analysis from THE HINDU (October 14, 2018)
1. ’Statue of Unity’ gets finishing touches
The 182-metre-tall ‘Statue of Unity’ dedicated to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, touted to be the tallest statue in the world, is being given final touches as it is set to be unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 31. The statue is being built at a cost of ₹2,389 crore.
2. Shekhar Mande is CSIR Director-General
The government has appointed Shekhar Mande as Director-General of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). Dr. Mande, a biologist, is the director of the National Centre for Cell Sciences, Pune. He has worked at the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, Hyderabad.
3. Navy gets submarine rescue vehicle
The Navy has inducted its first deep submergence rescue vehicle to rescue downed or disaster-struck submarines on the high seas. India has now joined a select group of countries that have the capability to locate “distressed submarines”. At present, the U.S., China, Russia and a few others have the capability.
4. ‘India committed towards protecting human rights’
A few hours after India was elected to the United Nations’ top human rights body on Friday, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Syed Akbaruddin said that New Delhi would continue its moderate approach towards the protection of human rights across the world. India was elected to the Human Rights Council for a period of three years, beginning January 1.
5. Was debt pile-up overlooked?
Much before the crisis at Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services (IL&FS) came out into the open last month, mutual funds were comfortably holding bonds – commercial paper, debentures, structured obligation – issued by the company amounting to nearly ₹3,500 crore. There was no real cause for concern as IL&FS was just one of the many non-banking finance companies (NBFCs) whose investment grade papers fund houses were sitting on. There was no downgrade, default or any other red flag to make fund managers sit up and evaluate the exposure. To put it in context, IL&FS was a tiny part of the overall debt exposure of mutual funds to NBFCs and other brokerages, which was pegged at ₹11.25 trillion as on September 30. This is a little over 51% of the total assets under management (AUM) — ₹22.04 trillion — of mutual funds in India. But everything changed when two IL&FS group entities were downgraded early in September that directly put around ₹1,000 crore worth of debt papers at risk. Since then, questions have been repeatedly raised about the quality of assets that fund houses are holding and whether they need to act on them.
6. Uday Kotak & team in IL&FS rescue
The new board of Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services (IL&FS) was appointed by the Centre on October 1, after it secured the approval of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) to supersede the previous board accused of ‘mismanagement’ and ‘compromise of corporate governance norms,’ leading to financial issues.
Who comprises the Board?
The stewardship of the new board, entrusted with rescuing IL&FS from its own overreach, has been handed to ace banker Uday Kotak, executive vice-chairman & managing director of Kotak Mahindra Bank. Mr. Kotak will join hands with Vineet Nayyar, who has been named vice-chairman & managing director and who had played a role in the rescue of Satyam Computer Services after its founder Ramalinga Raju admitted to a massive accounting fraud. The board also includes former banking secretary G.C. Chaturvedi and former SEBI chairman G.N. Bajpai, who had also served as chairman of Life Insurance Corporation of India after a life-long career in the insurance monolith, which is also the largest shareholder in IL&FS. Nand Kishore and Dr. Malini Shankar have been roped in as the other directors, while C.S. Rajan’s name was added on October 3 after seeking fresh approval from the NCLT.
Why is a banker at the helm?
Mr. Kotak, 59, Asia’s richest banker, is a credible face and has headed several committees for the government, including a 21-member SEBI committee on corporate governance. Mr. Nayyar is a retired IAS officer credited with handling the Satyam Computers scam in 2009 and overseeing its transition and turning it around when it was bought by the Mahindra Group. He will be involved in running the company and its subsidiaries on a day-to-day basis. The 79-year-old is known for building teams of high performers and running successful businesses.
Who will look after shareholders?
Mr. Bajpai is on the board of several companies and has been appointed as the head of the Shareholders’ Relationship Committee at IL&FS. His responsibility will be to unite the shareholders in the bid for the reconstruction and, more importantly, the recapitalisation of the company. The shareholders include LIC, ORIX Corporation, the Central Bank of India, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, HDFC and the State Bank of India. That the company’s current woes partly arise from the shareholders’ inability to agree on the right valuation for bringing in fresh capital suggests that Mr. Bajpai has an unenviable task on hand. Mr. Chaturvedi, a former IAS officer, will head the nomination and remuneration Committee to look into the wages of employees as the former directors and top officials were accused of drawing high wages even when the company was not doing well.
Dr. Shankar, an IAS officer now posted as Director-General of Shipping, has been appointed as the chairperson of the corporate social responsibility committee of IL&FS. Mr. Kishore, a retired Indian Audit & Accounts Service officer of the 1981 batch, has been appointed as chairman of the audit committee. He will handle a crucial job as he has to untangle the financial knots and asset-liability mismatches that have brought the company to its current fate. He was formerly the deputy Comptroller and Auditor-General of India. Mr. Rajan is a retired IAS officer and had previously served as the Chief Secretary of Rajasthan. He has been made a member of the crucial audit and nomination & remuneration committees.
What is in store?
The seven-member board held its first meeting in Mumbai on October 4 to take stock of the imbroglio, accepting the responsibility as a “national duty.” It will be a challenge to restructure the defaulting company and reassure financial markets, especially lenders and bond-holders rattled by missed payments.
7. ‘Unethical to withhold bedaquiline while waiting for Phase III results’
In a recent Rapid Communication, the World Health Organisation (WHO) made important changes in the regimens to treat patients with multidrug-resistant TB (resistant to isoniazid and rifampicin). Two of the injectables (kanamycin and capreomycin) previously used for treating MDR-TB patients are to be replaced with a fully oral drug regimen. And bedaquiline drug, specifically developed for treating MDR-TB patients, has been included in the fully oral regimen. The injectables have been removed as they cause hearing loss (ototoxicity) and have increased risk of treatment failure and relapse. The changes in the MDR-TB regimen apply to both adults and children, though limited data are available for children. The new WHO guidelines for MDR-TB treatment will be released later this year.
Phase III trials
The new guidelines are not based on data from any Phase III trial of bedaquiline. In fact, no Phase III trial has been completed yet. WHO, therefore, relied on data of 50 studies and trials involving over 12,000 patients from 26 countries, including several countries where bedaquiline was used, to explore the safety and efficacy of the drug.
The Phase IIb trial involving smaller number of MDR-TB patients showed that the drug was cardiotoxic and hepatotoxic (toxic to the liver) and seemed to cause more deaths. In June 2013, WHO published interim guidance for bedaquiline use, recommending its use in MDR-TB patients only when other treatment options were not possible. And in December 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted accelerated approval to the drug for use in “serious or life-threatening conditions”. WHO again reviewed available evidence based on five studies at the end of 2015 and released a report in June 2016. The review showed a reduction in mortality in patients receiving bedaquiline, but there were unexplained serious adverse events of respiratory origin. Hence, the original WHO interim guidance was retained.
Against this background, why did WHO not wait for the Phase III trial results before revising its guidelines? “Part of the WHO core mandate is to ensure that MDR-TB patients have access to life-saving treatment. For bedaquiline, there is much more data available already (than for delamanid drug, for example) that it drastically cuts down on patients dying from disease and improves the chance for cure while not creating any new safety concerns. Given the complexity of MDR-TB treatment, the low cure rate currently reported globally for treatment success and the evidence from postmarketing surveillance, the use of bedaquiline (and other second-line medicines) is warranted in order to provide life-saving treatment to patients. Treatment can, therefore, not ethically be withheld while waiting for the phase III trial to be completed,” said Dr. Weyer.
8. IIT Guwahati fabricates superior scaffold for cartilage repair
Implanting cartilage alone or injecting cells found in healthy cartilage (chondrocytes) at the site of injury to heal the damaged cartilage in patients with osteoarthritis does not produce favourable results. Similarly, implanting two different scaffolds joined together to simultaneously regenerate the cartilage and reconstruct the bone too has many limitations.
The problem arises because the interface between the cartilage and bone scaffolds, which are made of different materials, is not connected but has a distinct boundary. As a result, the interface tends to delaminate and degrade. Now, researchers from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Guwahati have addressed this shortcoming by fabricating a silk scaffold where the junction between the cartilage and bone scaffold is continuous and seamless and hence less prone to damage under load-bearing environment of the joint.
A team led by Biman B. Mandal from the Department of Biosciences and Bioengineering has fabricated the biphasic scaffold where the top portion is highly porous and spongy thus mimicking the cartilage, while the bottom portion is reinforced with silk fibre thus imparting more stiffness and less porous to mimic the bone. Since the entire scaffold is made of silk, the interface merges with one another and is seamless despite having different porosities and stiffness. The results of the study were published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry B.
The researchers made scaffolds using both wild silkworm (Antheraea assamensis) and mulberry silk (Bombyx mori) and found scaffolds made of non-mulberry silk were superior to the one made of mulberry silk in all respects.
9. Glitch puts NASA’s Chandra telescope in ‘safe’ mode
Barely a week after NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope entered safe mode, the Chandra mission has also suffered a glitch possibly due to the failure of the gyroscope, the US space agency said.
The Chandra X-Ray Observatory, observing the universe in high-energy light since 1999, has entered a protective ‘safe mode’, which interrupts scientific observations and puts the spacecraft into a stable configuration.
“At approximately 9:55 a.m. EDT on Oct 10, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory entered safe mode.
“The cause of the safe mode transition (possibly involving a gyroscope) is under investigation,” NASA said in a statement late on Friday.
During the safe mode, the observatory is put into a safe configuration, critical hardware is swapped to back-up units, the spacecraft points so that the solar panels get maximum sunlight, and the mirrors point away from the Sun.
“Analysis of available data indicates the transition to safe mode was normal behaviour for such an event. All systems functioned as expected and the scientific instruments are safe,” it added.
Chandra, launched in 1999, is well beyond the original design lifetime of 5 years. In 2001, NASA extended its lifetime to 10 years. It is now well into its extended mission and is expected to continue carrying out forefront science for many years to come.
Meanwhile, the U.S. space agency said that it continues to work towards resuming science operations of the Hubble Space Telescope.
On October 5, Hubble entered safe mode after one of the three gyroscopes (gyros) being used to point and steady the telescope failed. Gyroscopes help spacecraft maintain proper orientation.
Scientists are currently performing analyses and tests to determine what options are available to recover the gyro to operational performance.
Till then, science operations with Hubble have been suspended.
10. Larger mountain moths
Researchers from three universities have measured more than 19,000 tropical moths from 1,100 species to find out whether their size varies with elevation. “Body size plays a central role in the ecology and evolution of organisms,” explains Dr Gunnar Brehm of the University of Jena. Moths from two extremely species-rich families (Arctiinae (tiger moths) and Geometridae (geometer moths)) increase in size significantly at higher elevations. This matches expectations under the ‘Bergmann rule’. However, this rule was originally laid down only for birds and mammals, and the situation is different for cold-blooded animals such as insects. “We had actually presumed that these animals would become smaller at higher elevations,” adds Brehm.
11. Death of a massive star
Researchers observed the peculiar death of a massive star that exploded in a surprisingly faint and rapidly fading supernova. Indications are that the star has an unseen companion siphoning away the star’s mass to leave behind a stripped star that exploded in a quick supernova.
12. Homegrown retinas
Biologists at Johns Hopkins University grew human retinas from scratch to understand cells that allow people to see colour. This can be the basis to develop therapies for eye diseases such as colour blindness and macular degeneration. It also establishes a model to study cellular level development.
13. The mental-health danger from diabetes
Diabetic patients are more likely to die from alcohol-related factors, accidents or suicide, according to a recent study. The findings suggest that the increased risk of death from these causes may be related to the mental health of patients, which may be adversely affected by the psychological burden of living with and self-treating this debilitating disease, with potentially serious complications. Type-1 and type-2 diabetes are highly prevalent global diseases, causing millions of deaths every year. It is well known that diabetic patients have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease, cancer and kidney disorders, which can lead to earlier death. However, more recently, diabetes has been linked to an increased risk of depression, but how poor mental health may affect patients with diabetes has not been fully investigated. For this study, the researchers assessed the alcohol-related, suicides or accidental causes of death of over 400,000 people with or without diabetes in Finland. The findings have been published in the European Journal of Endocrinology.
14. New approach to treating multiple sclerosis
Researchers have identified an enzyme that triggers autoimmune responses from T cells in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). These immune cells also reacted to a bacterial variant of the enzyme, supporting the idea that molecular “mimics” from members of the microbiome could be a driving factor in MS — an autoimmune condition that affects around 2.5 million people worldwide. MS arises when the immune system attacks the protective coating that sheathes neurons and transmits electrical impulses in the brain and spinal cord, resulting in a wide range of neurological issues. Although the disorder’s origins are masked by a complex array of genetic and environmental risk factors, scientists have theorised that many MS cases could be triggered by molecules from pathogens or bacterial microbiota. The findings appear in Science Translational Medicine.
Book – Gandhi: The Years That Changed the World 1914-1948
Writer – Ramachandra Guha
Description – Through Gandhi’s life, a reminder that we have forgotten the value of religious pluralism and the virtues of non-violence
Book – How India Manages Its National Security
Writer – Arvind Gupta
Description – An insider on our national security system, which is constantly evolving, often through trial, error and innovation
Book – Ten Ideologies: The Great Asymmetry between Agrarianism and Industrialism
Writer – S. Jaipal Reddy
Description – A politician tries to rekindle interest in ideologies
Book – Shahryar: A Life in Poetry
Writer – Rakhshanda Jalil
Description – Why a flag-bearer of modern poetry chose to be moderate
Book – The Case for Reason
Writer – Narendra Dabholkar
Description – Originally published in Marathi as Timiratuni Tejakade, rationalist and activist Narendra Dabholkar’s The Case for Reason is both a vision document for, and a chronicle of, the battle that he and his co-activists waged against obscurantism, superstition, pseudo-sciences and blind faith in the scriptures. This is the first English translation by Suman Oak.Originally published in Marathi as Timiratuni Tejakade, rationalist and activist Narendra Dabholkar’s The Case for Reason is both a vision document for, and a chronicle of, the battle that he and his co-activists waged against obscurantism, superstition, pseudo-sciences and blind faith in the scriptures. This is the first English translation by Suman Oak.
Book – The Radical in Ambedkar: Critical Reflections
Writer – Edited by Suraj Yengde, Anand Teltumbde
Description – While the Dalit movement recognises B.R. Ambedkar as an agent for social change, the intellectual class has celebrated him as the key architect of the Constitution, and the political establishment has sought to limit his concerns to the question of reservations. This volume seeks to unpack the radical in Ambedkar’s legacy by examining his life work from hitherto unexplored perspectives.
Book – No Spin
Writer – Shane Warne
Description – The Australian leg-spinner is one of Wisden’s five cricketers of the 20th century. A sporting idol across the globe, he has also been a magnet for tabloids since his explosive arrival on the Test cricket scene in 1992. In No Spin, co-written by Mark Nicholas, Warne talks about his family, extraordinary cricketing career and the several off-field relationships.
Book – Divided by Partition, United by Resilience
Writer – Mallika Ahluwalia
Description – During Partition in 1947, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was 14 years old and uprooted from Peshawar. Around May-June, the family reached Haldwani in U.P. This volume includes stories of 21 people, deeply affected by Partition, yet going on to achieve greatness in independent India.
Book – My Tryst with Manipur: A Memoir
Writer – Jarnail Singh
Description – A former chief secretary of Manipur writes a memoir of his time spent there as an IAS officer, trying to understand its people, solve their problems and focus on development. He spent 23 years in the State which included a posting at the hill district of Ukhrul, and gives us a view of the insurgency among other things.
16. Silver for Lakshya
Promising Indian shuttler Lakshya Sen bagged the silver medal after he lost the men’s singles summit clash to Li Shifeng of China at the Youth Olympics here on Friday.
Lakshya, the reigning junior Asian champion, lost 21-15, 21-19 in a 42-minute final. He had beaten Shifeng in straight games in the quarterfinals of the Asian Championships in July, but it was the turn of the Chinese to turn the tables on the 17-year-old Indian.
17. Pramod and Tarun add to India’s gold tally
India recorded its best-ever showing in the Asian Para Games by bagging 72 medals, including 15 gold, with the shuttlers adding two golds and three bronzes on the concluding day here on Saturday.
With 15 gold, 24 silver and 33 bronze medals, India was placed ninth in the overall tally.
China finished on top with 172 gold, 88 silver and 59 bronze for a whopping total of 319 medals. South Korea (53, 45, 47) and Iran (51, 42, 43) were second and third respectively.
This was India’s best ever performance, bettering the last edition (2014) tally of 33 medals (3 gold, 14 silver, 16 bronze). All of India’s five medals on Saturday came from badminton.
In men’s SL3 class badminton, Pramod Bhagat defeated Ukun Rukaendi of Indonesia 21-19, 15-21, 21-14 to clinch the gold.
Tarun added another gold beating Yuyang Gao of China 21-16, 21-6 in the men’s SL4 class.
The bronze-winning shuttlers were Manoj Sarkar (men’s SL3), men’s doubles SL3-SL4 pairs of Manoj Sarkar and Pramod Bhagat, and Ananda Kumar Gowda and Nitesh Kumar.
Para-athletics gave India half of the medals (36) with seven gold, 13 silver and 16 bronze. Badminton and chess contributed nine medals each, while para-swimming brought eight medals.
Zonal Transplant Coordination Centre (ZTCC)
Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA)
Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB)
Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)
19. Things to Remember:
CSIR Director-General – Shekhar Mande
Goa Governor Mridula Sinha
20. Improve your Vocabulary:
Meaning – Irritate; annoy.
Example – ‘it irks her to think of the runaround she received’
Synonyms – irritate, annoy, vex, gall, rattle, pique, rub up the wrong way, exasperate, try someone’s patience, put out, displease