Current Affairs Jun 19

Certification of Medical Devices (ICMED) Plus Scheme

Why in News?

  • The Quality Council of India (QCI), and the Association of Indian Manufacturers of Medical Devices (AiMeD) have added further features to the ICMED the Scheme that had been launched for Certification of Medical Devices in 2016.
  • The ICMED 13485 PLUS, as the new scheme has been christened, will undertake verification of the quality, safety and efficacy of medical devices.
  • ICMED 13485 Plus has been designed to integrate the Quality Management System components and product related quality validation processes through witness testing of products with reference to the defined product standards and specifications.


  • This is the first scheme around the world in which quality management systems along with product certification standards are integrated with regulatory requirements. This scheme will be an end to end quality assurance scheme for the medical devices sector in India.


  • This scheme provides the much-needed institutional mechanism for assuring the product quality and safety.
  • It will go a long way in assisting the procurement agencies to tackle the challenges relating to the menace of counterfeit products and fake certification.
  • This will also help in eliminating the circulation and use of sub-standard medical products or devices of doubtful origin that could prove to be serious health hazards.




European Union Naval Force (EUNAVFOR) Exercise

Why in News?

  • Indian Naval Ship Trikand, mission deployed for Anti-Piracy Operations, is participating in the maiden IN – EUNAVFOR Joint Naval Exercise in the Gulf of Aden.
  • A total of five warships from four navies are participating in the exercise.
  • Other warships include Italian Navy Ship ITS Carabinere, Spanish Navy Ship ESPS Navarra, and two French Navy Ship FS Tonnerre and FS Surcouf.
  • The two day exercise will see high tempo-naval operations at sea, including advanced air defence and anti-submarine exercises, cross deck helicopter operations, tactical manoeuvres, boarding operations, underway replenishment, Search & Rescue, Man Overboard drills, and other maritime security operations.
  • Concurrently, a virtual “Information sharing Exercise” is also being conducted between the Indian Navy Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region and Maritime Security Centre-Horn of Africa.


  • EUNAVFOR and the Indian Navy converge on multiple issues including counter piracy operations and protection of vessels deployed under the charter of World Food Programme (UN WFP).
  • Indian Navy and EUNAVFOR also have regular interaction through SHADE (Shared Awareness and De-confliction) meetings held annually at Bahrain. This engagement showcases increased levels of synergy, coordination and inter-operability between IN and EUNAVFOR.
  • It also underscores the shared values as partner navies, in ensuring freedom of seas and commitment to an open, inclusive and a rules-based international order.




Cooperation in the areas of Environment

Why in News?

  • India and Bhutan inked an MoU for developing cooperation between two countries in the area of environment.
  • The MoU is a platform to further enhance Indian and Bhutanese partnership and support, exchange best practices in areas like prevention of Air Pollution, Waste Management, Chemical Management, Climate Change, etc.
  • It also provides the possibility to have joint projects in areas of mutual interest.
  • The MoU will also strengthen technological, scientific and management capabilities and expand the areas of cooperation in the field of environment to promote a mutually beneficial partnership between the two countries.




Climate change to increase sea level in Lakshadweep Islands

Why in News?

  • Sea-level will rise around the Lakshadweep Islands in the range between 0.4 mm/year to 0.9 mm/year, says a study conducted projecting different greenhouse gas scenarios.
  • The study highlights that the worst possible inundation scenarios projected for Lakshadweep Islands are almost similar under different emission scenarios projected and all the islands in the archipelago would be vulnerable to impact from sea-level rise.
  • One of the major threats in the coming years is rising sea level and its significant impact on small islands and this is for the first time, that climate model projections were used to assess the potential areas of inundation over the archipelago of Lakshadweep Islands in the Arabian Sea.
  • Smaller islands Chetlat and Amini are expected to have major land-loss.
  • Projection mapping indicated that about 60%-70% of existing shoreline would experience land-loss in Amini and about 70%-80% in Chetlat.
  • Larger islands Minicoy and the capital Kavaratti are also vulnerable to sea-level rise, and expected to experience land-loss along 60% of the existing shoreline.
  • Sea-level rise effects are seen to have the least impact on Androth Island under all emission scenarios.
  • The research showed that the coastal inundation could have wide socio-economic impact.
  • According to the team, projected inundation due to sea-level rise can impact the islanders as residential areas are quite close to the present coastline.
  • Also, the only airport in the archipelago is located at the southern tip of Agatti Island, and has a high likelihood of damage due to inundation from sea-level rise.
  • This study also opens up a new outlook and dimension on future research to assess the directional nature of wave energy, impact of storminess in the Arabian Sea region, islands that are exposed and sheltered and amenities such as potable water, sanitation and so on.




World Sickle Cell Day

  • World Sickle Cell Day, observed every year on June 19, aims to raise awareness of sickle cell disorders. Sickle cell anemia is a genetic red blood cell disorder.
  • People with sickle cell disorders don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body.
  • The United Nations General Assembly, on December 22, 2008, adopted a resolution recognizing sickle cell disease as a public health problem. Sickle cell disease makes normal life difficult and patients need regular blood transfusions.

India’s Scenario

  • Sickle cell disease (SCD), which is the most prevalent inherited blood disorder, is widespread amongst many tribal population groups in India, posing a considerable health burden in several states.
  • While there are several cost-effective interventions, which have dramatically reduced morbidity and mortality from SCD in India, the access to care for SCD in the tribal regions of India is limited.
  • The disease in India is prevalent predominantly in Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, western Odisha, eastern Gujarat and in pockets of the Nilgiri Hills in north Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Symptoms of sickle cell disoder

  • Signs and symptoms of sickle cell anemia usually appear around five months of age and they vary from person to person and may change over time.
  • Patients with sickle cell disorder suffer from anemia as their red blood cells die easily leading to shortage of healthy cells.
  • The body does not get enough oxygen without adequate red blood cells and this causes fatigue.
  • Episodes of pain are a major symptom of sickle cell anemia but it varies from person to person. It can last for a few hours to a few weeks.
  • Swelling of hands and feet and frequent infections are common.
  • Shortage of healthy red blood cells can lead to slower growth in children.




HTBt cotton

Why in News?

  • The illegal cultivation of herbicide tolerant (HT) Bt cotton has seen a huge jump this year, with seed manufacturers claiming that the sale of illegal seed packets has more than doubled from 30 lakh last year to 75 lakh this year.


  • Bt cotton is the only transgenic crop that has been approved by the Centre for commercial cultivation in India.
  • It has been genetically modified to produce an insecticide to combat the cotton bollworm, a common pest.
  • The HTBt cotton variant adds another layer of modification, making the plant resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, but has not been approved by regulators.
  • Fears include glyphosate having a carcinogenic effect, as well as the unchecked spread of herbicide resistance to nearby plants through pollination, creating a variety of superweeds.




Human DNA-inspired storage system

Why in News

  • A team of researchers at MIT are working on a storage system that can hold massive amount of data, without taking much space. The system under development is inspired by the human DNA, a building block of the genome.
  • The research team estimate that there are about 10 trillion gigabytes of digital data on Earth right now, and every day, humans are adding another 2.5 million gigabytes of data.
  • This data consumes a lot of space as they are stored in enormous facilities known as exabyte data centers which can be the size of several football fields and cost around $1 billion to build and maintain.
  • A property of the human DNA that makes it a desirable storage format is that it doesn’t consume any energy. One can write the DNA and then store it forever.
  • Extreme stability, ease of synthesis and sequencing are other factors that favours DNA-based storage.


  • However, researchers reckon that the cost of DNA synthesis and pulling out the required file from the massive data repository are the major challenges in using DNA to store data.


  • The MIT team has developed a new retrieval technique to pull out the required data. It involves encapsulating each DNA file into a small silica particle.
  • Each capsule is labeled with single-stranded DNA “barcodes” that correspond to the contents of the file.
  • This enables them to pull out the desired file while leaving the rest of the DNA intact to be put back into storage.




Why in News?

  • Researchers have successfully used graphene to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus in laboratory experiments.
  • In experiments, researchers combined sheets of graphene, which are more than 1,000 times thinner than a postage stamp, with an antibody designed to target the spike protein on the coronavirus.
  • They then measured the atomic-level vibrations of these graphene sheets when exposed to Covid-positive and Covid-negative samples in artificial saliva.
  • These sheets were also tested in the presence of other coronaviruses, like MERS-CoV.
  • The researchers found that the vibrations of the antibody-coupled graphene sheet changed when treated with a Covid-positive sample, but not when treated with a Covid-negative sample or with other coronaviruses.
  • Vibrational changes, measured with a device called a Raman spectrometer, were evident in under five minutes.

About Graphene

  • Graphene is an allotrope of carbon consisting of a single layer of atoms arranged in a two-dimensional honeycomb lattice.
  • The name is a portmanteau of “graphite” and the suffix -ene, reflecting the fact that the graphite allotrope of carbon consists of stacked graphene layers.




Affordable Care Act

Why in News?

  • Recently, the US Supreme Court dismissed a challenge to the Obama-era Affordable Care Act (ACA) that was enacted in March 2010 and provides healthcare coverage to millions of Americans.

What is the ACA and why was it challenged?

  • ACA or the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010 and required most Americans to get a minimum health insurance coverage.
  • It imposed a penalty on those who failed to get the essential minimum health coverage.
  • However, some changes were made to this act in 2017 that nullified this penalty to $0.
  • This change prompted Texas and some Republican-led states to file a suit against federal officials on the basis that without the penalty the minimum essential healthcare coverage would become unconstitutional rendering the act invalid.
  • The three central goals of the act are to make health insurance affordable to more people, to expand the Medicaid program to cover all adults below 138 per cent of the federal poverty line and to support innovative medical care delivery methods that are designed to lower the cost of healthcare generally.




Ageing process is unstoppable

  • Immortality and everlasting youth are the stuff of myths, according to new research which may finally end the eternal debate about whether we can live for ever.
  • An unprecedented study has now confirmed that we probably cannot slow the rate at which we get older because of biological constraints.
  • The statistics confirmed, individuals live longer as health and living conditions improve which leads to increasing longevity across an entire population. Nevertheless, a steep rise in death rates, as years advance into old age, is clear to see in all species.
  • The UK government has even prioritised the separate sectors of AI and longevity by including both of them in the four industrial strategy grand challenges, which aim to put Britain at the forefront of the industries of the future.
  • But what has been missing from the debate is research comparing lifespans of multiple animal populations with humans, to work out what is driving mortality.




Energy demand

Why in News?

  • Electricity demand can be lowered significantly if households use efficient electrical appliances or make voluntary changes to their behaviour in using such appliances.
  • The Domestic Efficiency Lighting Programme (DELP) under the UJALA programme, which offers LED bulbs at 20-40 per cent of the market price and provides a monthly payment plan for low-income households is one good example to follow.
  • A programme similar to DELP could be replicated for fans, enabling ease of exchange and installation of efficient fans, with an option of staggered payment to make it attractive to low income households.
  • The draft India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP) has a section dedicated to tackling residential demand from cooling.
  • However, for fans, the draft only proposes standardising efficiency labelling and improving minimum efficiency standards.
  • The ICAP was launched in 2019 by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. It provides a 20-year roadmap (2017-18 to 2037-38) and recommendations, to address the cooling requirements across sectors and ways and means to provide access to sustainable cooling.

About UJALA programme

  • The scheme is being named “UJALA” – an acronym for Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All.
  • Under the scheme, 20W LED tube lights and BEE 5-star rated energy efficient fans are also distributed to the consumers. The 20W LED tube lights are 50% more energy efficient than conventional 40W tube lights
  • The energy efficient fans under the UJALA scheme come with a BEE 5 Star rating. These ceiling fans are rated 30% more energy efficient than conventional fans.



  • The main objective is to promote efficient lighting, enhance awareness on using efficient equipment which reduce electricity bills and help preserve environment.

About New draft India Cooling Action Plan (ICAP)

  • The ICAPprovides a 20-year perspective (2017-18 to 2037-38) to address the cooling requirements across sectors and ways and means to provide access to sustainable cooling for all.
  • While the ICAP aims to provide sustainable cooling and thermal comfort for all, its actual intent is myopically focused on only the market for personal air conditioners, ignoring the fact that demand for cooling is driven by people and not by sale of air conditioners.

Rainfall variation resulted in long periods of droughts, floods in southern Ethiopia

  • Southern Ethiopia underwent extended bouts of floods and droughts in the last two decades. Now, researchers have blamed them on significant variations in rainfall.
  • The African country experienced a dip in rainfall of about 60.86 millimetre per year from 1995-2016. This posed a serious threat to agriculture, livestock and food security. As much as 80 per cent of the country’s population are farmers dependent on rain-fed agriculture.
  • The country saw a decline of 2-9 per cent in economic performance between 1991 and 2010 due to the impacts of climate-related extremes.
  • The main rainy season (Kiremt) rainfall extends from mid-June to September-end whereas the short rainy season (Belg) extends from February-end to May-end; the dry season extends from October to the beginning of February.
  • The farmers in the study area practice mixed crop livestock farming where cereals, legumes, root crops, and perennial crops like enset are among the main crops grown.
  • The region witnessed considerable rainfall variability and change that resulted in extended periods of drought and flood events. Previous studies have also shown that southern Ethiopia experienced extreme rainfall events.
  • The study showed a decreasing trend in Belg rainfall, which may have been caused by atmospheric-oceanic processes that influence rainfall in the region.
  • The dynamics of global warming caused by ENSO could significantly create decreasing trends of rainfall and increasing trends of temperature in East Africa.
  • Most drought years were associated with the El Nino events, whereas wet years coincided with La Nina years.

What is ENSO?

  • “ENSO” refers to the El Niño/Southern Oscillation, the interaction between the atmosphere and ocean in the tropical Pacific that results in a somewhat periodic variation between between below-normal and above-normal sea surface temperatures and dry and wet conditions over the course of a few years.
  • While the tropical ocean affects the atmosphere above it, so too does the atmosphere influence the ocean below it. One layer of the Pacific Ocean that is influenced by ENSO is the thermocline.
  • The thermocline marks the transition between the warm upper water and the cold deep water in the Pacific Ocean.
  • The interaction of the atmosphere and ocean is an essential part of El Niño and La Niña events (the term coupled system is often used to describe the mutual interaction between the ocean and atmosphere).
  • During an El Niño, sea level pressure tends to be lower in the eastern Pacific and higher in the western Pacific while the opposite tends to occur during a La Niña.
  • This see-saw in atmospheric pressure between the eastern and western tropical Pacific is called the Southern Oscillation, often abbreviated as simply the SO.
  • Since El Niño and the Southern Oscillation are related, the two terms are often combined into a single phrase, the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, or ENSO.
  • Often the term ENSO Warm Phase is used to describe El Niño and ENSO Cold Phase to describe La Niña.




Barrier to cyclone storms

  • The Odisha government has proposed to raise mangrove and casuarinas plantation in around 109 and 4,000 hectares of land, respectively, in the coastal belt. The state has around 480-kilometres-long coastal belt.
  • The mangrove forests will be raised under the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project (ICZMP) Phase-II; the casuarinas will be planted by the state resources. The coastal belt plantation aims to erect a strong, natural barrier against the strong winds during cyclones.
  • Odisha is one the most cyclone-prone states in the country.
  • According to the plan, mangroves would be planted in Balasore (50 hectares), Bhadrak (30 ha), Kendrapara (25 ha) and Puri (4 ha).
  • Currently, the state has 219 square kilometres of mangrove forests in three districts.
  • The mangroves served as a natural barrier to cyclonic winds in Bhitarkanika National Park during Cyclone Yaas, which hit the state recently.
  • Odisha is vulnerable to various natural disasters like cyclone, flood, hailstorm, drought due to its unique geo-climatic condition.