Daily Current Affairs : 12th January 2022

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Xenotransplantation
  2. Henley Passport Index
  3. Expulsion / Suspension of Member of legislative Assembly / Parliament
  4. Inter – State Water Dispute Constitutional Provisions
  5. AGR issue
  6. Facts for Prelims

1 . Xenotransplantation


Context : U.S. surgeons have successfully implanted a heart from a genetically modified pig in a 57-year-old man, a medical first that could one day help solve the chronic shortage of organ donations.

About the News

  • Surgeons in the US have transplanted a pig’s heart inside a human patient in a bold endeavour that represents a remarkable first in the world of medical science, one whose success could potentially end the years-long backlog of people waiting to receive a healthy organ and open up a brave new world of possibilities.
  • Reports say the surgeons went ahead with the transplant that constituted a last-ditch attempt at keeping him alive on January 7 after receiving the go-ahead under compassionate grounds from US health authorities. Such authorisation is required where an experimental medical product is the only option available for a patient faced with a serious or life-threatening medical condition.
  • A human transplant had been ruled out with reports saying that such a decision is usually based on poor underlying health condition of the patient.
  • This organ transplant demonstrated for the first time that a genetically-modified animal heart can function like a human heart without immediate rejection by the body

Procedure

  • The transplanted heart was harvested from a pig that had undergone genetic editing that saw scientists remove three genes “that would have led to rejection of pig organs by humans” along with one that would have led to excessive growth of pig heart tissue.
  • Further, six human genes that would have facilitated the organ’s acceptance by the human body were inserted into the pig genome, meaning that a total of 10 unique gene edits were carried out in the pig by the US biotech firm Revivicor.
  • Reports said that on the day of the surgery, the team at UMM removed the pig’s heart and placed it in a perfusion device designed to keep it in readiness for the surgery. Apart from the genetic changes effected in the donor pig, Bennett himself received an experimental anti-rejection drug made by another US-based firm, Kiniksa Pharmaceuticals.

About Xenotransplantation

  • Xenotransplantation is any procedure that involves transplanting cells, tissues or organs from one species to another.
  • Xenotransplants were largely abandoned after the 1984 case involving Stephanie Fae Beauclair, better known as Baby Fae, in California. Born with a fatal heart condition, the infant had received a baboon heart transplant but died within a month of the procedure due to the immune system’s rejection of the foreign heart

Benefits

  • Xenotransplantation could potentially provide an unlimited supply of cells, tissues, and organs for humans. Any disease that is treated by human-to-human transplantation could potentially be treated by xenotransplantation.
  • Organ xenotransplants could include whole hearts, lungs, livers, kidneys or pancreases. Tissue xenotransplants could include skin grafts for burn patients, corneal transplants for the visually impaired, or bone transplants for limb reconstruction.
  • Cellular xenotransplants may provide treatment for people with diabetes, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s diseases.

Risks

  • The most serious risk of xenotransplantation appears to be cross-species transmission of undetected or unidentified animal infectious agents to patients that could, in turn, be transmitted to the general public. The worst-case scenario would be a major new epidemic.
  • The potential risk of cross-species infection is largely compounded by the practices of patient immunosuppression for transplantation.
  • Some of the other scientific concerns surrounding xenotransplantation include immune rejection, uncertain efficacy/viability (whether it will work), and whether high levels of immunosuppression will leave the patient vulnerable to more frequent infectious diseases or cancer.

2 . Henley Passport Index


Context : India’s passport power has improved this quarter compared to 2021.

What is the Henley Passport Index?

  • Prepared by Henley and Partners, a London-based global citizenship and residence advisory firm, the Henley Passport Index claims to be the “original ranking of all the world’s passports”.
  • The index gathers data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) that manages inter-airline cooperation globally. This data is supplemented by accounting for real-time changes in visa policies using publicly available sources to prepare a visa list, which is a list of destinations that a passport can access visa-free, through a visa on arrival, e-visa or with a traditional visa.
  • The Henley Passport Index is updated in real time according to countries’ visa policy changes. It covers 227 destinations and 199 passports.

Current Ranking

  • India now ranks at 83rd position in the Henley Passport Index, climbing seven places from 90th rank last year. However, in 2020, its rank stood at 84 while in 2016, India was ranked 85th along with Mali and Uzbekistan. Japan and Singapore top the index.
  • The current rankings are for first quarter of 2022 and India shares the position with Sao Tome and Principe in Central Africa, behind Rwanda and Uganda.
  • India now has visa-free access to 60 destinations worldwide with Oman and Armenia being the latest additions. India has added 35 more destinations since 2006.
  • A statement by Henley and Partners said that in 2006 an individual could, on average, visit 57 countries visa-free. “Today, that number has risen to 107, but this overall increase marks a growing disparity between countries in the global north and those in the global south,” the statement said.

How are passport ranks and scores interpreted?

  • Each passport is attributed with a score and a rank. For instance for 2019, India’s score is 58 and it ranks 86 in the list. Japan and Singapore, on the other hand, are ranked 1 and have a score of 189.
  • The score is the sum of the number of countries accessible by that passport holder without requiring pre-departure government approval for visa-types including a visitor’s permit, visa on arrival or an electronic travel authority (ETA).
  • For every territory/country that a passport holder of a particular country/territory is able to access through these visa-types (without pre-departure government approval), a value of 1 is attributed to it.
  • A value of 0 is attributed to a score when a passport holder has to seek pre-departure government approval for visa-types including e-visa (visas applied for online and received) and visa on arrival.
  • Therefore, the total score becomes the sum total for all the values of 1. For instance, a passport holder from Singapore and Japan can travel to 189 countries/territories without requiring pre-departure government approval.

Importance of the Index for Indian passport holders?

  • India has a score of 60 That is the number of destinations an Indian passport holder can travel to today, without pre-departure government approval. That is the same as a citizen of any country, on an average, could travel to 13 years ago. “In 2006, a citizen, on an average, could travel to 58 destinations without needing a visa from the host nation; by 2018, this number had nearly doubled to 107,” Henley and Partners noted in the Global Mobility Report, released in 2019.
  • Passport rankings point towards the strength of diplomatic relations between countries. In the past decade travel freedom has expanded vastly as a result of the rising number of bilateral visa-waiver programmes signed between different countries and unilateral decisions implemented by governments of some countries.

Arton Passport Index?

  • The Henley Passport Index is not the only index available on passport rankings. Others include the Arton Passport Index, which ranks United Arab Emirates’s passport at rank 1 as per its most recent rankings.
  • This index uses a three-tier approach to rank passports, attributing scores and using the United Nations Development Programme Human Development Index 2018 in its methodology. It is powered by Arton Capital, a global financial advisory.

3 . Suspension / Expulsion of Member of Parliament


Context : The Supreme Court said on Tuesday that suspension from the Legislative Assembly for a year is “worse” than expulsion, as it affects the right of a constituency to remain represented in the House.

About the News

  • A Bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, which was hearing the pleas filed by 12 BJP MLAs who have challenged their one-year suspension from the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly for allegedly misbehaving with the presiding officer, observed that there was a statutory obligation to fill a seat within six months.
  • “You cannot create a constitutional void, a hiatus situation for the constituency. Each constituency has equal amount of right to be represented in the House,” the court observed. It said the House cannot suspend a member beyond 59 days. Suspension of the MLAs would amount to punishing the constituencies as a whole.
  • The Bench referred to Article 190 (4) of the Constitution which says that if for a period of 60 days, a member of a House, without its permission, is absent, the Ho- use may declare his or her seat vacant.

Article 190 – Vacation of Seats

  • Article 190 (1) states that no person shall be a member of both Houses of the legislature of a State and provision shall be made by the Legislature of the State by law for the vacation by a person who is chosen a member of both Houses of his seat in one House or the other
  • Article 190 (2) states that no person shall be a member of the legislatures of two or more States specified in the First Schedule and if a person is chosen a member of the Legislatures of two or more such States, then, at the expiration of such period as may be specified in rules made by the President, that persons seat in the Legislatures of all such States shall become vacant, unless he has previously resigned his seat in the Legislatures of all but one of the States
  • Article 190 (3) states that If a member of a House of the Legislature of a State
    • Becomes subject to any of the disqualifications mentioned in clause ( 1 ) or clause ( 2 ) of Article 191; or
    • Resigns his seat by writing under his hand addressed to the Speaker or the Chairman, as the case may be, and his resignation is accepted by the Speaker or the Chairman, as the case may be, his seat shall thereupon becomes vacant: Provided that in the case of any resignation referred to in sub clause (b), if from information received or otherwise and after making such inquiry as he thinks fit, the Speaker or the Chairman, as the case may be, is satisfied that such resignation is not voluntary or genuine, he shall not accept such resignation
  • Article 190 (4) states that if for a period of sixty days a member of a House of the Legislature of a State is without permission of the House absent from all meetings thereof, the House may declare his seat vacant: Provided that in computing the said period of sixty days no account shall be taken of any period during which the House is prorogued or is adjourned for more than four consecutive days

Expulsion of Member

  • In India, legislatures’ power to punish a member by suspending or expelling him or her from the legislative is derived from Article 194 (3) in the case of State legislatures and Article 105 (3) in case of Parliament.

4 . Inter – State Water Dispute Constitutional Provisions


Context : The Supreme Court on Tuesday told Tamil Nadu and Kerala that it was not there to “administer the dam” when a supervisory committee was already in place to examine the issue of safety of the Mullaperiyar Dam and the management of its water level.

Inter-state water dispute 

  • Disputes arising among the states for sharing the water resources (Rivers) are called Interstate water disputes.
  • According to Section 2(c) of the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, 1956, “Water Dispute” means any dispute or difference between two or more State Governments with respect to-
    • The use, distribution or control of the waters of, or in, any inter-state river or river valley; or
    • The interpretation of the terms of any agreement relating to the use, distribution or control of such waters or the implementation of such agreement; or
    • The levy of any water rate in contravention of the prohibition contained in 

Constitutional provisions 

  • A specific provision of Article 262 is provided by the Constitution to deal with the disputes relating to water. It states that Parliament may by law provide for the adjudication of any dispute or complaint with respect to the use, distribution or control of the water of or in any inter-state river or river valley. Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, Parliament may by law provide that neither the Supreme Court nor any other court shall exercise jurisdiction in respect of any such dispute or complaint.
  • States are empowered to enact legislation relating to water because it is a state subject as per Entry 17 which deals with matters relating to water like water supply, irrigation, water power, water storage, canal, drainage, embankments.
  • Secondly, Entry 56 of the Union List provides power to the Centre for the regulation and development of inter-state river and river valleys to the extent declared by parliament to be expedient in the public interest.
  • There are other possible ways of extending the centre’s control over the use of water resources. For example, the provisions of Entry 20 in the Concurrent list about economic and social planning requires state clearance from the centre for any project of water resource development (including the projects for irrigation, hydropower, flood control). These provisions allow the Center to be responsible for water resource development and also provide powers to regulate and control them.

Statutory provisions

Parliament has enacted two laws under Article 262 to meet the needs of an hour.  They are as follows;

  • River Board Act, 1956 : The purpose of this Act was to enable the Union Government to create Boards for Interstate Rivers and river valleys in consultation with State Governments. The objective of Boards is to advise on the inter-state basin to prepare development schemes and to prevent the emergence of conflicts. Though till now there have been no river boards constructed for the said reason.
  • Inter-State Water Dispute Act, 1956 According to the Act, if a particular state(s) approaches the Union Government for the constitution of the tribunal, the Central Government should try to resolve the matter by consultation among the aggrieved states. If it does not work, then it may constitute the tribunal. It is to be noted that the Supreme Court shall not question the Award or formula given by the tribunal but it can question the working of the tribunal. The River Water Tribunal is constituted of the Chief Justice of India and the sitting judge of the Supreme Court and the other two judges who can be from the Supreme Court or High Court. In India, the present mechanism to resolve such disputes is by tribunal and whose decision is final

5 Adjusted Gross Revenue


Context : The Board of Directors of Vodafone Idea Ltd. late on Monday approved the conversion of interest — related to spectrum auction instalments and on adjusted gross revenue dues to the Centre — into equity.

Background

  • The decline in the fortunes of telcos is a consequence of both policy action and inaction. Its beginnings can be traced to the tariff wars beginning in 2016, which were compounded by the verdict in the adjusted gross revenue (AGR) case.
  • In order to address the consequent financial stress among telcos, last year, the government had announced a series of measures
  • One of the major decisions in the telecom relief package was to offer telcos a moratorium of up to four years in annual payment of dues arising out of the Supreme Court’s judgment on AGR as well as on dues payments for spectrum previously purchased.
  • The Government also gave telcos a one-time opportunity to exercise the option of paying interest for the four years on deferred spectrum instalments and AGR dues by way of conversion into equity of the NPV of such interest amount.

About the News

  • After conversion, the government would own 35.8% of the telecom carrier.
  • This is as per a scheme offered by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for settlement of dues.
  • As per Vodafone Idea estimates, the Net Present Value (NPV) of the interest is expected to be about ₹16,000 crore. The equity shares will be issued to the Government at par value of ₹10 per share. Both are subject to confirmation by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
  • Following the conversion, the Government will likely hold 35.8% in the company. This will result in dilution to all existing shareholders of the telco, including promoters. Vodafone Group holding will go down to 28.5% from 44.4% and for the Birla Group, to 17.8% from 27.7%.

What is AGR?

  • Telecom operators are required to pay licence fee and spectrum charges in the form of ‘revenue share’ to the Centre. The revenue amount used to calculate this revenue share is termed as the AGR.
  • According to the DoT, the calculations should incorporate all revenues earned by a telecom company – including from non-telecom sources such as deposit interests and sale of assets.
  • The companies, however, have been of the view that AGR should comprise the revenues generated from telecom services only and non-telecom revenues should be kept out of it.
  • The definition dispute went to the Supreme Court and the verdict effectively upheld the definition of AGR calculation as stipulated by the DoT.
  • The Supreme Court in its 2019 judgement had asked the telcos to make the repayments of the AGR in three months.
  • The government had proposed in court a 20-year “formula” for telcos to make staggered payments of the dues. The formula was devised after taking into account the financial dent the dues would cause the telecom sector.
  • The Supreme Courts took into consideration the financial stress and the involvement of the banking sector and decided that the period of 20 years fixed for payment is excessive and a period of 10 years has been given to the telcos to pay their adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues to the government in “equal yearly instalments”.

Importance

  • It will stop a scenario of very few players in the market. Such a potential lack of competition could lead to higher prices and poor services. Enough competition in the market safeguards the interests of the common man.
  • “With the conversion of liabilities into equity/preference shares, the sector has got back the ability to invest and provide better services. Companies also retain the ability to invest so that telecom services can reach far-flung areas

6 . Facts for Prelims


Sagar Island

  • Sagar Island is an island in the Ganges delta, lying on the Continental Shelf of Bay of Bengal about 100 km (54 nautical miles) south of Kolkata.
  • This island is a place of Hindu pilgrimage. Every year on the day of Makar Sankranti (14 January), hundreds of thousands of Hindus gather to take a holy dip at the confluence of river Ganges and Bay of Bengal and offer prayers (puja) in the Kapil Muni Temple.

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