Current Affairs
April 23, 2024

Safeguard Measures under World Trade Organization (WTO)
India and some other nations have criticized the EU for deciding against terminating its safeguard measure on imports of certain steel products after carrying out a review.
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About Safeguard Measures:

  • Safeguard measures are measures introduced by a country that qualify as “emergency” actions under the WTO Agreement on Safeguards.
  • A WTO member may take a “safeguard” action (i.e., restrict imports of a product temporarily) under the WTO Agreement on Safeguards to protect a specific domestic industry from an increase in imports of any product which is causing, or which is threatening to cause, serious injury to the domestic industry.
  • Such measures, which in broad terms take the form of suspension of concessions or obligations, can consist of quantitative import restrictions or duty increases to higher than bound rates.
  • They are one of three types of contingent trade protection measures, along with anti-dumping and countervailing measures, available to WTO members.
  • The guiding principles of the agreement with respect to safeguard measures are that such measures
    • must be temporary;
    • that they may be imposed only when imports are found to cause or threaten serious injury to a competing domestic industry;
    • that they (generally) be applied on a non-selective (i.e., most-favoured-nation, or “MFN”) basis;
    • that they be progressively liberalized while in effect;
    • and that the member imposing them (generally) must pay compensation to the members whose trade is affected.
  • Thus, safeguard measures, unlike anti-dumping and countervailing measures, do not require a finding of an “unfair” practice.
  • The agreement defines “serious injury” as a significant overall impairment in the position of a domestic industry.
    • In determining whether serious injury is present, investigating authorities are to evaluate all relevant factors having a bearing on the condition of the industry.

Current Affairs
April 23, 2024

What are Biomarkers?
Screening for blood biomarkers has been proposed as a potential way to diagnose cancer at earlier stages of the disease.
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About Biomarkers:

  • Biomarkers, short for ‘Biological Markers’ are a physical, chemical or biological characteristic that is present in the human body and measurable too.
  • The WHO defines a biomarker as “any measurement reflecting an interaction between a biological system and a potential hazard, which may be chemical, physical or biological. The measured response may be functional and physiological, biochemical at the cellular level or a molecular interaction”.
  • Experts also call them molecular markers and signature molecules. They are indispensable in diagnosing disease, prescribing the right medication, right dosage, and even while designing new drugs.
    • Biomarkers include biomolecules like carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, genes, DNA, RNA, platelets, enzymes, hormones, etc.
  • Classification of Biomarkers:
    • Based on their source or location:
      • Molecular– have biophysical properties, which allow their measurements in biological samples such as blood plasma, serum, cerebrospinal fluid, bronchoalveolar lavage, biopsy, urinalysis, and faecal analysis
      • Radiographic– obtained from imaging studies, for example, bone mineral density
      • Histologic– reflect biochemical or molecular alteration in cells, tissues, or fluids; for example, the staging and grading of cancers
      • Physiologic– measures of body processes, for example, blood pressure, pulse rate, and heart rate
    • Based on roles/functions:
      • Susceptibility/Risk Biomarkers: Indicate the person’s likelihood of developing a particular disease or condition in the near or distant future. 
      • Diagnostic Biomarkers: These are used to detect or confirm a particular disease or condition.
      • Prognostic Biomarkers: In people who already are confirmed to have a disease, prognostic biomarkers can predict the likelihood of disease progression or relapse.
      • Monitoring Biomarkers: These biomarkers are used for one or all of these reasons: to assess the stage or condition of the disease, to measure the exposure to a particular drug and to measure exposure to an environmental agent. 
      • Predictive Biomarkers: These are used to identify individuals who have a higher likelihood of experiencing a strong outcome when exposed to a particular drug. This will help decide the treatment options.
      • Pharmacodynamic/Response Biomarkers: These reveal that a biological response has happened in patients exposed to a particular drug or environmental agent.
Science & Tech

Current Affairs
April 23, 2024

Candidates Chess Tournament 2024
India’s 17-year-old Grandmaster D Gukesh recently made history by winning the Candidates Chess Tournament in Toronto to become the youngest ever challenger to the world title.
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About Candidates Chess Tournament:

  • It is the final event in the World Championship cycle before the World Championship match itself. The International Chess Federation (FIDE) has organized the World Championship cycle since 1948 and the Candidates Tournament since 1950.
  • Since 2013, the Candidates Tournament has occurred every two years. The number of players in the tournament varied over the years, between eight and fifteen players. Currently, it is an eight-player, double round-robin event (that is all-play-all with both colours).
  • Why is the Candidates Tournament Important?
    • It is the second most important tournament in the World Championship cycle, as the winner of the Candidates Tournament plays the reigning world champion in the championship match. 
    • Multiple tournaments are part of the World Championship cycle, but the real point of all of them is to qualify for the Candidates Tournament. 
  • How to qualify for the Candidates Tournament? The methods used to qualify each of the players for the Candidates Tournament most recently were:
    • The runner-up in the previous World Championship match,
    • the top three finishers of the FIDE World Cup,
    • the top two finishers of the FIDE Grand Swiss tournament,
    • the winner of the FIDE Circuit, which tracks tournament results from January to December of the year before the Candidates Tournament,
    • and the player with the highest FIDE rating on January of the year of the Candidates Tournament.

Current Affairs
April 23, 2024

What is Survey of India (SoI)?
The Tamil Nadu State Government raised objections to the Survey of India (SoI) report filed in connection with the construction of a mega car park project by Kerala in the Mullaperiyar catchment area.
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About Survey of India (SoI):

  • It is the National Survey and Mapping Organization of the country, under the Department of Science and Technology. It is the oldest scientific department of the Government of India and was set up in 1767.
  • In its assigned role as the nation's principal mapping agency, SoI bears a special responsibility to ensure that the country's domain is explored and mapped suitably to provide base maps for expeditious and integrated development.
  • Organized into only 5 Directorates in 1950, mainly to look after the mapping needs of Defence Forces in the North West and North East, the Department has now grown into 18 Directorates spread in all parts of the country to provide the basic map coverage required for the development of the country. 
  • Its expert advice is being utilized by various ministries and undertakings of the Govt. of India in many sensitive areas, including the settlement of international borders, state boundaries and in assisting planned development of hitherto under developed areas.
  • It is also assisting in many scientific programmes of the nation related to the field of geo-physics, remote sensing, and digital data transfers.
    • It acts as an adviser to the Government of India on all survey matters, viz Geodesy, Photogrammetry, Mapping and Map Reproduction.
  • However, the main duties and responsibilities of the SoI are enumerated below:
    • All Geodetic Control, and Geodetic and Geophysical surveys.
    • All Topographical Control, Surveys, and Mapping within India.
    • Mapping and Production of Geographical Maps and Aeronautical Charts.
    • Surveys for developmental projects.
    • Survey of forests, cantonments, large scale city surveys, guide maps, cadastral surveys, etc.
    • Survey and Mapping of special maps.
    • Demarcation of the External Boundaries of India, their depiction on maps published in the country, and also advice on the demarcation of inter-state boundaries.
    • Research and Development in Cartography, Printing, Geodesy, Photogrammetry, Topographical Surveys, and Indigenisation.
    • Prediction of tides at 44 ports, including 14 foreign ports and publication of Tide Tables one year in advance to support navigational activities.
    • Scrutiny and certification of the external boundaries of India and the coastline on maps published by other agencies including private publishers.
Polity & Governance

Current Affairs
April 23, 2024

Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (RPwD Act)
The Supreme Court recently lamented that the implementation of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (RPWD Act) remains dismal across India.
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About Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (RPwD Act):

  • It replaced the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights, and Full Participation) Act, 1995.
  • Its objective is to ensure that all persons with disabilities can lead their lives with dignity, without discrimination and with equal opportunities.
  • It incorporates the rights of persons with disabilities covered under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), to which India is a signatory.
  • Under the Act, disability has been defined as an evolving and dynamic concept. The types of disabilities have been increased from existing 7 to 21, and the Central Government will have the power to add more types of disabilities.
    • The types of disabilities include Leprosy Cured Person, Cerebral Palsy, Acid Attack Victims, Blindness, Deaf, Specific Learning Disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Parkinson’s Disease, Haemophilia, etc.
  • Persons with "benchmark disabilities" are defined as those certified to have at least 40 percent of the disabilities specified. 
  • Rights and entitlements:
    • Responsibility has been cast upon the appropriate governments to take effective measures to ensure that persons with disabilities (PwDs) enjoy their rights equally with others.
    • Additional benefits have been provided for persons with benchmark disabilities and those with high support needs.
    • Every child with a benchmark disability between the age group of 6 and 18 years shall have the right to free education.
    • 5% reservation in seats in Government and Government aided higher educational institutions for persons with benchmark disabilities.
    • Stress has been given to ensure accessibility in public buildings (both Government and private) in a prescribed time-frame.
    • 4% reservation in Government jobs for certain persons or class of persons with benchmark disability.
    • Guardianship: The Act provides for the grant of guardianship by the District Court or any authority designated by the State Government under which there will be joint decision–making between the guardian and the PwDs.
    • Broad-based Central and State Advisory Boards on Disability to be set up as policy-making bodies.
    • It provides for the strengthening of the Office of Chief Commissioner of Persons with Disabilities and the State Commissioners of Disabilities, which will act as regulatory bodies and Grievance Redressal agencies and also monitor the implementation of the Act.
      • These Offices will be assisted by an Advisory Committee comprising of experts in various disabilities.
    • Creation of National and State Fund to provide financial support to the PwDs.
  • Penalties for offences:
    • It provides for penalties for offences committed against PwDs and also for violations of the provisions of the new law.
    • Any person who violates provisions of the Act, or any rule or regulation made under it, shall be punishable with imprisonment up to six months and/ or a fine of Rs 10,000, or both.
    • For any subsequent violation, imprisonment of up to two years and/or a fine of Rs 50,000 to Rs five lakh can be awarded.
    • Whoever intentionally insults or intimidates a PwD or sexually exploits a woman or child with a disability, shall be punishable with imprisonment between six months to five years and fine.
    • Special Courts will be designated in each district to handle cases concerning violations of the rights of PwDs.
Polity & Governance

Current Affairs
April 23, 2024

Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi scheme
Recently, the Delhi High Court said that the threshold income to claim benefit under the Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi (RAN) scheme was prima facie “extremely low”.
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About Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi scheme:

  • It was set up in 1997 and it is a central sector scheme. It provides one-time financial assistance to poor patients living below State/UT wise threshold poverty line and suffering from life threatening diseases relating to heart, kidney, liver, cancer, etc. for treatment at any of Super Specialty Government hospitals/institutes.
  • The Umbrella Scheme of RAN has three components as under:
    • Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi (RAN) - Financial assistance for treatment of life-threatening diseases relating to heart, kidney, liver, etc. at Government hospitals/institutes having Super Specialty facilities; (Maximum financial assistance is 15 lakhs)
    • Health Minister’s Cancer Patient Fund (HMCPF) - Financial assistance for treatment of cancer at Regional Cancer Centres (RCCs)/ Tertiary Care Cancer Centres (TCCCs) and State Cancer Institutes (SCIs); (Maximum financial assistance is Rs. 15 lakhs)
    • Financial assistance for poor patients suffering from rare diseases - for specified rare diseases for treatment at Government hospitals/institutes having Super Specialty facilities; (Maximum financial assistance is Rs. 20 lakhs)

Current Affairs
April 23, 2024

National Service Scheme
Trained National Service Scheme (NSS) volunteers from 153 NSS units will offer their services to differently abled people and senior citizens in Kozhikode district on the day of polls.
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About National Service Scheme:

  • It was launched during 1969, the birth centenary year of Mahatma Gandhi. It is a Central Sector Scheme of the Government of India.
  • It provides an opportunity to the student youth of the 11th & 12th Class of schools at +2 Board level and student youth of Technical Institution, Graduate & Post Graduate at colleges and University level of India to take part in various Government led community service activities & programmes.
  • The NSS symbol:
    • It is based on the "Rath" wheel of the Konark Sun Temple situated in Odisha.
    • The navy blue colour indicates the cosmos of which the NSS is a tiny part, ready to contribute its share for the welfare of the mankind.
    • The Red colour in the badge indicates that the NSS volunteers are full of blood i.e. lively, active, energetic and full of high spirit.
    • The giant wheels of the Sun Temple portray the cycle of creation, preservation and release and signify the movement in life across time and space.
  • Activities undertaken by NSS: National Integration Camp, Shramdaan. Blood donation, Immunisation, Plantation, Disaster Management and Adventure programs etc.
  • Motto: The motto of National Service Scheme is NOT ME BUT YOU
  • Nodal Ministry: Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports.
Polity & Governance

Current Affairs
April 23, 2024

Tundra Ecosystem
A study has warned the warming planet may alter the characteristics of tundra environments and could transform them from carbon sinks to carbon sources.
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About Tundra Ecosystem:

  • They are treeless regions found in the Arctic and on the tops of mountains, where the climate is cold and windy and rainfall is scant. 
  • Characteristics of Tundra Regions
    • Low temperatures: The average temperature is -34 to -6 degrees Celsius (-30 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit) in tundra region.
    • Short growing seasons: The summer growing season is just 50 to 60 days, when the sun shines up to 24 hours a day.
    • Permafrost: A layer of permanently frozen soil lies beneath the surface, which can be a few inches to several feet thick.
    • Minimal precipitation: Despite often being compared to deserts in terms of moisture, the tundra receives low levels of precipitation, often as snow.
    • Limited biodiversity: The harsh conditions of the tundra result in fewer plant and animal species compared to other biomes.
    • Carbon sink: The tundra acts as a significant carbon storage area due to slow decomposition rates in the cold environment.
  • The world has three types of tundra:
    • Arctic Tundra which occurs north of the taiga belt in the far Northern Hemisphere (It encompasses the land between the North Pole and the boreal forest, including parts of Canada, Russia, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland.)
    • Alpine tundra which prevails above the tree line in mountains worldwide (in various mountain ranges such as the Rockies, the Andes, the Himalayas and the Alps).
    • Antarctic tundra which includes several sub-Antarctic islands and parts of the continent of Antarctica
  • Flora:  Mosses, lichens, sedges, cotton grass, birches etc.
  • Fauna: Arctic foxes, snow geese, polar bears etc.

Current Affairs
April 23, 2024

Star Campaigners
Political parties are appointing ‘star campaigners’ for their campaign in the ongoing general elections.
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About Star Campaigners in election:

  • A star campaigner is a famous person with a huge fan following chosen by a political party to contest or campaign during elections.
  • What are the legal provisions?
    • The Representation of the People Act, 1951 (RP Act) provides for law relating to expenditure incurred by ‘leaders of a political party’.
    • These ‘leaders of a political party’ are popularly known as ‘star campaigners’. These are usually the top leaders of the party but can include other celebrities as well.
    • The RP Act provides that a recognised political party (National or State) can appoint a maximum of 40 star campaigners while a registered unrecognised political party can appoint up to 20.
    • These names are to be communicated to the Election Commission (EC) and Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of the States as applicable within seven days from the date of notification of such election.
    • In case of a multi-phase election, a political party can submit separate list of star campaigners for different phases.
    • If in any rally/meeting organised, the star campaigner seeks votes in the name of contesting candidate(s) or shares the dais with them, then the rally/meeting expense shall be apportioned to the election expenditure of such candidate(s).
    • If the star campaigner incurs boarding/lodging expenses while campaigning for any candidate(s), it shall be included in the expenditure account of such candidate(s) irrespective of whether it is paid for by the candidate(s).
    • Further, if any candidate(s) travel with the star campaigner, then 50% of the travel expenditure of the star campaigner shall also be apportioned to such candidate(s).
    • When a Prime Minister or a former Prime Minister is a star campaigner, the expenditure on security including on bullet-proof vehicles will be borne by the government.
    • But if the Prime Minister is accompanied by another star campaigner, the candidate has to bear 50 per cent of expenditure on the security arrangements.
Polity & Governance

Current Affairs
April 23, 2024

Schengen visa
Recently, the European Union has announced that Indian nationals can now be issued long-term multi-entry Schengen visas valid for two years.
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About Schengen visa:

  • It is an official document mandatory for some non-Europeans to travel to all the 27 countries which are part of the Schengen area.
  • Once granted, this visa allows the traveller to cross the borders of the other member-states without going through identity checks at the border.
  • It allows a visitor to travel freely in the Schengen area for short stays of a maximum of 90 days in any 180-day period. The visas do not give the right to work. 

What is the Schengen area?

  • It is a group of 27 European nations that have abolished their internal borders, for the free and unrestricted movement of people.
  • Members of this area include: 23 of the 27 EU member states (except for Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland and Romania) and all members of the European Free Trade Association (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland).
  • Switzerland, Iceland, and Norway are not in the EU but are inside of the Schengen Area.
  • Being part of this area means that countries:
    • do not carry out checks at their internal borders, except in cases of specific threats;
    • carry out harmonized controls at their external borders, based on clearly defined criteria.
International Relations
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