Current Affairs Nov 2

Medical Education reform


  • In a significant step towards affordable medical education, the National Medical Commission (NMC) has notified its first major regulation. Titled as “Minimum Requirements For Annual MBBS Admissions Regulations (2020)”.
  • replaces the “Minimum Standard Requirements for Medical Colleges, 1999 (for 50/100/150/200/250 Annual Admissions)” of the erstwhile Medical Council of India (MCI).
  • The new Regulation shall be applicable to all new medical colleges proposing to be established, and to the established medical colleges proposing to increase their annual MBBS intake from the academic year 2021-22.
  • During the transitory period, the established medical colleges will be governed by the relevant regulations existing prior to the current notification.

The key changes:

  • The new Regulation has deleted the quantum of land required for setting up a medical college and its affiliated teaching hospitals (all buildings are expected to conform to existing building bye-laws).
  • Under the new Regulation, a well-equipped “Skills Laboratory” for training students is essential now.
  • It also defines a Medical Education Unit for training medical teachers in educational pedagogy.
  • The space required for Library and the number of books and journals have been rationalized and reduced.
  • Student counselling services has been mandated recognizing the increasing stress observed amongst medical students and residents in recent times.
  • Recognizing that a well-functioning hospital is at the core of medical training, the new regulation now mandates the availability of a fully functional 300 bed multi-speciality hospital for at least 2 years at the time of application for establishing a new medical college (the earlier regulations did not specify the period of functionality).
  • The minimum prescribed faculty, provision for “visiting faculty” has been made to enhance quality of training.
  • Two new teaching departments have now become mandatory in all medical college hospitals for the training of undergraduate medical students.
  • These include the Department of Emergency Medicine (which has replaced the earlier Casualty Department) and will ensure access and prompt, appropriate response to emergencies particularly trauma; and
  • The Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation which shall fill a large gap for those in need of comprehensive rehabilitative care. 
  • The Regulation has also outlined “desirable” and “aspirational” goals beyond the minimum requirements stated in the standards so as to stimulate medical institutions to strive for excellence.
  • These elements will be utilized by the National Medical Commission while rating the medical institutions in the country.





Strategic Policy & Facilitation Bureau (SPFB)


  • Ministry of AYUSH and M/s Invest India will form a collaboration to set up a strategic policy unit called “Strategic Policy & Facilitation Bureau (SPFB)” to facilitate planned and systematic growth of the Ayush Sector.
  • This Bureau will support the Ministry in strategic and policy making initiatives that shall help pave the way to reach the full potential of the Sector and stimulate growth and investment.
  • As a partner in the project, M/S Invest India would collaborate extensively with the Ministry to frame the work plan of the Bureau and define its short-and long-term targets.
  • Invest India would deploy highly trained and expert resources to implement and execute the plans of the Ministry of AYUSH.

The activities to be undertaken by the SPFB would include :

  • Knowledge Creation and Management,
  • Strategic & Policy-Making Support,
  • State Policy Bench marking: Undertaking State Policy bench marking to formulate uniform guidelines/regulations regarding AYUSH sector in India,
  • Investment Facilitation: Follow up and facilitation of investment cases and MoUs, and coordination among different Department, organisations and States.
  • Issue Resolution: Invest India would work with companies and other institutions on issue resolution across States and among various sub-sectors.
  • Some of the Specific Deliverables of Bureau would include project monitoring for Inter-Ministerial Groups, Skill Development Initiatives, setting up Strategic Intelligence Research Unit and initiating an Innovation Program.
  • The Ministry of AYUSH would assist the Bureau in responding to investment proposal, issue and queries and fund Invest India for undertaking activities assigned.
  • The Ministry will also support the Bureau in building links with various stakeholders such as industry associations, affiliate bodies of Ministry and Industry representation.
  • The SPFB is the latest in a series of steps – like
  • Setting up the comprehensive IT backbone called Ayush Grid for the entire Sector,
  • Streamlining of Ayush Education on modern lines, evolving global standards for Ayush systems for diagnostics and terminologies in the ICD framework and
  • Setting up a vertical for Ayush Drugs Control – initiated by the Ministry to enable the Ayush systems to move into the centre-stage of healthcare activities






16 Psyche


  • A recent study has found that asteroid 16 Psyche, which orbits between Mars and Jupiter, could be made entirely of metal and is worth an estimated $10,000 quadrillion — more than the entire economy of Earth.
  • New images from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope offer a closer view of the mysterious asteroid 16 Psyche, whose surface may mostly comprise iron and nickel, similar to the Earth’s core.
  • The exact composition and origins of the asteroid will be uncovered in 2022, when NASA sends an unmanned spacecraft to study it.

What is asteroid 16 Psyche?

  • Asteroid 16 Psyche is one of the most massive objects in the asteroid belt in our solar system.
  • The somewhat potato-shaped asteroid has a diameter of around 140 miles.
  • It was first discovered on March 17, 1853, by the Italian astronomer Annibale de Gasparis and was named after the ancient Greek goddess of the soul, Psyche.
  • Unlike most asteroids that are made up of rocks or ice, scientists believe that Psyche is a dense and largely metallic object thought to be the core of an earlier planet that failed in formation.
  • For the first time iron oxide ultraviolet absorption bands identified on any asteroid.
  • This is an indication that oxidation is happening on the asteroid, which could be a result of the solar wind hitting the surface.
  • The term ‘solar wind’ refers to a stream of charged particles emitted from the sun’s hot outer atmosphere, which is known as its Corona.
  • NASA scientists believe that the asteroid is made up of almost entirely of iron, nickel and several other rare materials like gold, platinum, cobalt, iridium and rhenium.


Nasas Psyche Mission

  • NASA plans to do just that two years from now, when it will launch a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to orbit the asteroid for around 21 months.
  • The unmanned spacecraft will reach the asteroid in January, 2026.
  • The first objective of the mission is to capture a photograph of the metallic asteroid, after which the spacecraft will study and map it from a distance.
  • Another objective of the mission is to determine whether the asteroid is, in fact, the core of an earlier planet or if it is merely made up of unmelted material.
  • Based on the data collected, scientists will also ascertain the age and origins of the mammoth metallic asteroid.
  • The mission was originally slated to take place in 2023, but was later moved up to 2022.




Chandi Padvo festival


  • The Chandi Padvo festival, which falls a day after Sharad Poornima, is widely celebrated by Surtis, or the people native to Surat across the country and abroad, by consuming Ghari (Sweet) and Bhusu (namkeen) sitting in the open to celebrate the full moon.

What is Chandi Padvo?

  • On Chandi Padvo, tradition has it that people of Surat eat only sweetmeats that are white and hence doodh poha, kheer or ghari are made across households.
  • Incidentally, the sweetmeat resembles the full moon.
  • Surat-based historian Sanjay Choksi says,
  • When the Marathas fought with the British in the 18th century, Tatya Tope came to Surat with his army and were tired from the long journey.
  • “To give energy booster to the army, Tatya Tope had shared the recipe of Ghari, a mixture of sugar, ghee, dry fruits, and milk mava, stuffed in dough, and fried topped with a coat of ghee, with the halwai, who made it for his army,” he explains, about how this port city fell in love with the snack.
  • Ghari has become synonymous with Surat over the years.
  • Ghari also emerged as a favourite on Chandni Padvo, when Surtis head to Dumas or Ubhrat beaches in the evening and have it with Bhusu, a namkeen mix found in central and south Gujarat.




Bulk Drug Park


What are bulk drugs or APIs?

  • A bulk drug, also called an active pharmaceutical ingredient (API), is the key ingredient of a drug or medicine, which lends it the desired therapeutic effect or produces the intended pharmacological activity.
  • For example, paracetamol is a bulk drug, which acts against pain.
  • It is mixed with binding agents or solvents to prepare the finished pharmaceutical product, ie a paracetamol tablet, capsule or syrup, which is consumed by the patient.


What are KSMs and DIs?

  • APIs are prepared from multiple reactions involving chemicals and solvents.
  • The primary chemical or the basic raw material which undergoes reactions to form an API is called the key starting material, or KSM.
  • Chemical compounds formed during the intermediate stages during these reactions are called drug intermediates or DIs.

Why is India promoting bulk drug parks?

  • India has one of the largest pharmaceutical industries in the world (third largest by volume) but this industry largely depends on other countries, particularly China, for importing APIs, DIs and KSMs.
  • This year, drug manufacturers in India suffered repeated setbacks due to disruption in imports.
  • In January, factories in China shut down when the country went into a lockdown, and later, international supply chains were affected as the Covid pandemic gripped the entire world.
  • The border conflict between India and China exacerbated the situation. All these factors pushed the Indian government to call for greater self-reliance across all industries. 

What does the scheme offer?

  • The Centre’s scheme will support three selected parks in the country by providing a one-time grant-in-aid for the creation of common infrastructure facilities.
  • The grant-in-aid will be 70 per cent of the cost of the common facilities but in the case of Himachal Pradesh and other hill states, it will be 90 per cent.
  • The Centre will provide a maximum of Rs 1,000 crore per park.




Daylight Saving Time (DST)


  • DST is the practice of resetting clocks ahead by an hour in spring, and behind by an hour in autumn (or fall). During these months, countries that follow this system get an extra hour of daylight in the evening.
  • Because the spring to fall cycle is opposite in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, DST lasts from March to October/November in Europe and the US, and from September/October to April in New Zealand and Australia.
  • Dates for this switch, which happens twice a year (in the spring and autumn) are decided beforehand.
  • By law, the 28 member states of the European Union switch together — moving forward on the last Sunday of March and falling back on the last Sunday in October.
  • In the US, clocks go back on the first Sunday of November.

How many countries use DST?

  • DST is in practice in some 70 countries, including those in the European Union. India does not follow daylight saving time; countries near the Equator do not experience high variations in daytime hours between seasons.


What does this system mean to achieve?

  • The rationale behind setting clocks ahead of standard time, usually by 1 hour during springtime, is to ensure that the clocks show a later sunrise and later sunset — in effect a longer evening daytime.
  • Individuals will wake an hour earlier than usual, complete their daily work routines an hour earlier, and have an extra hour of daylight at the end.
  • The key argument is that DST is meant to save energy.

So, has DST achieved its aims?

  • A century ago, when DST was introduced, more daylight did mean less use of artificial light. But modern society uses so much energy-consuming appliances all day long that the amount of energy saved is negligible.
  • Various studies have been conducted on the benefits and disadvantages of DST.
  • Among the biggest cons is the disruption of the body clock or circadian rhythm.




Ancient Dog DNA


  • A new study says that dogs were likely the first animals domesticated by humans, shedding light on the early history of dog populations and their relationship with humans.

What are the findings of the study?

  • The study found that right after the Ice Age, there existed at least five different species of dogs that had distinct genetic ancestries.
  • Studying ancient genomics involves extracting and analysing DNA from skeletal remains, which helps researchers understand evolutionary changes that happened thousands of years ago.

What does the study tell us?

  • While dogs were thought to have evolved from wolves, it cannot be said for certain how and when this happened.
  • Through their analysis, researchers have found no evidence of multiple origins of dogs from present-day wolf populations.
  • Rather, their investigation reveals that dogs likely evolved from a now-extinct wolf population.
  • Wolves were the first animal with which humans formed a mutualistic relationship, eventually giving rise to dogs.

So, what is the significance of this?

  • The study shows that over the last 10,000 years, the early dog lineages mixed and moved to give rise to the dogs we know today.
  • For instance, early European dogs that were initially diverse appear to originate from two highly distinct populations, one of which is related to Near Eastern dogs and another to Siberian dogs.
  • But, this diversity is not present in European dogs today, implying that at some point it was lost.






D614g Mutation In Coronavirus


  • While novel coronavirus is undergoing many mutations, one particular mutation called D614G, has become the dominant variant in the global COVID-19 pandemic.

What is the D614G mutation?

  • When the virus enters an individual’s body, it aims at creating copies of itself. When it makes an error in this copying process, we get a mutation.
  • In this case, the virus replaced the aspartic acid (D) in the 614th position of the amino acid with glycine (G). Hence the mutation is called the D614G.
  • This mutated form of the virus was first identified in China and then in Europe.
  • Later it spread to other countries like the U.S. and Canada and was eventually reported in India.

How is this mutation different?

  • The D614G mutation is situated in the spike protein of the virus.
  • We can think of the spike protein as a massive ‘trimer’ assembly with three protein chains. Each protein chain has two sub-units (S1 and S2).
  • The sub-unit S1 is the one that attaches to the host cells — Human ACE2 receptor.
  • The S2 sub-unit mediates the fusion of the viral and human membranes.
  • The D614G mutation is present in the sub-unit S1 of the protein and is also close to the S2 sub-unit.
  • Therefore, it has an impact on the human cell’s interactions with both S1 and S2.
  • In simple words, this particular mutation aids the virus in attaching more efficiently with the ACE2 receptor in the human host, thereby making it more successful in entering a human body than its predecessors.





The Mystery Of The Centaurs


  • Chiron was discovered on November 1, 1977, by American astronomer Charles Kowal. Chiron puzzled astronomers right from its discovery and it eventually became the first-identified member of a new class of objects called centaurs.
  • Is it an asteroid? Is it a planet? Is it a comet? If there is a solar system object that neither gives a resounding yes nor a certain no to these questions, then chances are that they belong to a class of celestial objects called centaurs.
  • While estimates for the number of centaurs in the solar system are now placed anywhere above 44,000, they still remain mysterious with secrets to be revealed.
  • Chiron was named after the centaur Chiron in Greek mythology, believed to be the wisest and most just among all centaurs.
  • The names of other centaurs in mythology was to be reserved for other objects that were to fall into this type.
  • The first centaur to be discovered, in fact, was 944 Hidalgo in 1920.
  • It wasn’t until 2060 Chiron was discovered that astronomers realised that these belonged to a distinct group unlike any other in the solar system.
  • Chiron, too, has been identified in images going back to 1895 following its discovery, which enabled us to determine its orbit more accurately.
  • Centaurs are now known to be a little bit of everything – asteroids, planets and comets.
  • Small solar system bodies orbiting the sun between the outer planets, they usually have unstable orbits and are too small to be observed.
  • Most centaurs inhabit the complex, dynamic region between Jupiter and Neptune.
  • Observations of 10199 Chariklo, the largest confirmed centaur so far, have revealed that it has a system of rings, akin to the ones popularly associated with Saturn, and also seen with Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune.
  • There is a possibility that Chiron too has rings like Chariklo.
  • While the rings enable centaurs to draw parallels with planets, their colour and composition gives them a different identity.
  • Most of them are either reddish or blue to blue gray in colour.
  • We now know that the blue and blue gray centaurs are dark objects like comets and ones that are red are more like asteroids, having an organic surface.





Spiral Galaxy Bars May Prevent New Stars


  • Stars are fundamental building blocks of galaxies and the seeds of these stars are clouds of cosmic dust and gas.
  • Stars are scattered all around the galaxies, and the galaxies themselves are of different types: star-forming spiral galaxies and non-star-forming lenticular and elliptical galaxies.
  • In some spiral galaxies, the stars move in elongated orbits near the centre so that, from far, this portion appears like an illuminated bar.
  • Nearly two-thirds of the disc galaxies in the local universe are found to have this bar structure.
  • The Milky Way is a barred spiral galaxy. Since not all spiral galaxies have bars.
  • Some barred galaxies have shown a higher concentration of newly formed stars, suggesting that the bar nurtures star formation.
  • The present work studies four such barred galaxies out of which three, in fact, appear to prevent stars from forming at their central region covered by the length of the bar.
  • What causes a galaxy to be star-forming or not is a puzzle, with the prevailing idea being that star-forming galaxies are converted into non-star-forming galaxies through some mechanism.
  • Using data from multiple telescopes, including the Very Large Array, New Mexico, in the US, the IRAM 30 metre telescope, Sierra Nevada, Spain, Sloan Digital Sky Survey etc, the authors study the gas content and star formation along the bar region of four barred spiral galaxies.
  • In three of the four observed galaxies, they find that the region covered by the length of the bar does not have enough gas (Hydrogen in the atomic form and molecular hydrogen, which is believed to condense and form stars).
  • The researchers do not see the same depletion of gas and stars in the fourth galaxy.
  • The reason, they believe is that this galaxy does not have an old enough bar.
  • They believe it will take a few million years for the bar to evacuate the gas that forms star.
  • The bar is a complex and dynamic structure and the paper adds an interesting angle by suggesting this method in which it prevents star formation.





IISc, IndianOil R&D sign MoU for hydrogen generation tech


  • Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and the Research and Development Centre of Indian Oil Corporation Limited signed an MoU to develop and demonstrate biomass gasification-based hydrogen generation technology for producing fuel cell-grade hydrogen at an affordable price.
  • Under this agreement, IISc and IndianOil will work jointly on the optimisation of both biomass gasification and hydrogen purification processes.
  • Hydrogen generated from plant will be used to power fuel cell buses.
  • Hydrogen is a promising clean and green alternative to conventional fossil fuels.
  • Hydrogen-based fuel cell technology is a sustainable green mobility solution for India. Fuel cell electric vehicles are powered by hydrogen and emit only pure water as tailpipe emissions.
  • Fuel cell technology for an automotive application requires ultrapure hydrogen with impurities less than ppb level.
  • Biomass gasification-based hydrogen production has the potential to produce hydrogen at the most economical price with relatively lower carbon emissions compared to other technologies.




Sustainable Action for Transforming Human Capital in Education (SATH-E) project


  • The Odisha government has issued a notice to 15 districts to complete the merger of 8,000 schools with low enrolment.
  • In March, the state government had initiated a merger of 11,517 schools with low enrolment.
  • These schools included 6,350 primary, upper primary and higher schools which have less than 20 students and 5,177 schools which have less than 40 students.
  • The recent notice, however, directs to expedite the merger for only those schools which have less than 20 students.

What the NITI project entails

  • In 2017, Odisha was among three states, along with Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh, to be selected by NITI Aayog to offer assistance for improving their health and education sectors under SATH-E.
  • The initiative aims to transform elementary and secondary school education through goal driven exercise and create role model states for education.
  • The initiative culminates at the end of the 2020 academic year. Merger of schools is one of the measures undertaken to achieve goals as the process is advocated to help “consolidate” resources such as teachers, libraries, laboratories and play equipment.
  • The merger is being carried out under the NITI Aayog’s Sustainable Action for Transforming Human Capital in Education (SATH-E) project, and has been termed Consolidation and Rationalisation of schools.
  • Students who will have to travel to a distant school will be provided with a daily allowance of Rs 20 and students from schools facing closure will also be provided a one-time facilitation allowance of Rs 3,000.
  • If the distance to school is more than 1 km, students will be provided travel allowance as per Right To Education (RTE) norms.
  • Parents and activists from across the state have opposed the move. Activists have argued that closure or merger of schools is in violation of section 3 and 8 of the RTE Act.





Great Fox spider


  • One of Britain’s most endangered spiders, the Great Fox, has been sighted for the first time in more than a quarter of a century.
  • Conservationists report the sighting of 22 Great Fox spiders in total, including 10 mature males and one mature female, which measures just over two inches (55mm) in diameter including its hairy, spiny legs.
  • The Great Fox (alopecosa fabrilis) is listed as ‘critically endangered’ and was feared extinct in the UK as it hadn’t been spotted since 1993.
  • The species has excellent eyesight, camouflage and speed and is an opportunistic predator that hunts at night.
  • It is named for its fox-like habit of chasing down prey across sandy terrain, gravel and rocks before pouncing and capturing it on the run.
  • Prey, including insects such as beetles, ants and smaller spiders, are immobilised after the Great Fox injects them with venom, which liquefies their internal organs.
  • The Great Fox spider is big and bulky in terms of the size of its body and thickness of legs.
  • ‘It’s about the same size as a giant house spider but this has a smaller body and longer, skinnier legs.’
  • Great Fox spiders have excellent eyesight with wrap-around vision thanks to eight incredible black eyes on their head, or cephalothorax.





Coating For Socks That Kills Bacteria And Neutralises Unpleasant Odours


  • Scientists in Thailand have developed a coating for socks that kills bacteria and cures smelly feet.
  • The coating, made from zinc oxide nanoparticles (ZnO-NPs), can prevent bromodosis, better known as foot odour, and pitted keratolysis, a bacterial infection.
  • Antibacterial properties of ZnO-NPs, which are harmless to human skin, make the coating suitable to be incorporated into textiles, including socks.
  • Zinc oxide nanoparticles (ZnO NPs) are particles of the compound zinc oxide that are less than 100 nanometres in diameter.
  • They are used in an increasing number of industrial products such as rubber, paint, coating, and cosmetics.
  • They’ve also become one of the most popular metal oxide nanoparticles in biological applications due to their biocompatibility and low toxicity.
  • ZnO NPs have emerged a promising potential in biomedicine, especially in the fields of anticancer and antibacterial fields.
  • In addition, zinc is well known to keep the structural integrity of insulin, so, ZnO NPs also have been effectively developed for antidiabetic treatment.
  • ZnO NPs show excellent luminescent properties and have turned them into one of the main candidates for bioimaging.
  • ZnO NPs are also used in sunscreen to prevent rays of sunlight from penetrating the skin.




Volcanic Eruptions


  • The cutting-edge research at Manam volcano in Papua New Guinea is improving scientists’ understanding of how volcanoes contribute to the global carbon cycle, key to sustaining life on Earth.
  • The team’s findings show for the first time how it is possible to combine measurements from the air, earth and space to learn more about the most inaccessible, highly active volcanoes on the planet.
  • They co-created solutions to the challenges of measuring gas emissions from active volcanoes, through using modified long-range drones.
  • By combining in situ aerial measurements with results from satellites and ground-based remote sensors, researchers can gather a much richer data set than previously possible.
  • This enables them to monitor active volcanoes remotely, improving understanding of how much carbon dioxide (CO2) is being released by volcanoes globally and, importantly, where this carbon is coming from.
  • With a diameter of 10km, Manam volcano is located on an island 13km off the northeast coast of the mainland, at 1,800m above sea level.
  • Volcanic CO2 emissions are challenging to measure due to high concentrations in the background atmosphere. Measurements need to be collected very close to active vents.
  • Adding miniaturised gas sensors, spectrometers and sampling devices that are automatically triggered to open and close.
  • Calculating the ratio between sulphur and carbon dioxide levels in a volcano’s emissions is critical to determining how likely an eruption is to take place, as it helps volcanologists establish the location of its magma.
  • ABOVE was part of the Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO), a global community of scientists on a ten-year quest to understand more about carbon in Earth.