Download the compilation of all summaries of all the new article here


GS-2


Ukraine seeks Indian peacekeepers:

Context

  • Ukraine is urging India to take up greater global security role to help contain the conflict with Russia in the eastern part of the country.
  • Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin made a statement asking India to play a role in the peacekeeping mission which is to come up at the discussion at the UN Security Council (UNSC).

India and the United Nations peacekeeping operations

  • India is the largest growing troop contributor, having provided almost 200,000 troops in nearly 50 of the 71 UN peacekeeping missions over the past six decades, including 13 of the current 16 missions.
  • India has developed a well-rounded policy, created the necessary infrastructure, and developed clear policies for participation in UN peacekeeping operations.
  • In recent decades, along with Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal, these states have collectively contributed some 40% of all UN peacekeepers.
  • India also takes a lead in setting training standards and contributing to establishing norms. It has a well-established training center and facilities under the Center for UN Peacekeeping located in Delhi.

What is peacekeeping?

  • Peacekeeping as a non-coercive and a politically impartial instrument that has always been based on a harmony of principles.
  • It projects consent of parties to the conflict, impartiality of the peacekeepers, and the use of force by lightly armed peacekeepers only in self-defence.

What is the purpose of UN peacekeeping?

  • The UN peacekeeping operations was established in 1948.
  • The motive is to maintain peace in conflict ridden areas.
  • Although peacekeepers were not deployed in many instances during the cold war, the scenario post 1989 changed in that there was a spurt in peace-keeping operations.
  • Quantitative change apart, there has been a change in the nature of conflicts; Intra-state conflicts are requiring more and more peacekeepers as compared to inter-state conflicts.

Who are the UN Peacekeeping Forces?

  • The United Nations Peacekeeping Forces are employed by the World Organization to maintain or re-establish peace in an area of armed conflict.
  • The UN may engage in conflicts between states as well as in struggles within states.
  • The UN acts as an impartial third party in order to prepare the ground for a settlement of the issues that have provoked armed conflict.
  • If it proves impossible to achieve a peaceful settlement, the presence of UN forces may contribute to reducing the level of conflict.

History of India’s contribution at Peace – keeping

  • India has been actively contributing to the UN peacekeeping missions since independence in different forms beginning with a medical mission in Korea.
  • India participated militarily with a medical unit and later provided a Custodian Force for the Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission.
  • India also contributed significantly to the Indo-China Supervisory Commission deployed in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam from 1954 to 1970.
  • Ever since military personnel began to be deployed for peacekeeping, India has been a key contributor beginning with 1956 Arab – Israeli war.
  • The success of UNEF-1 led the Security Council to readily accept a request by the Congo in 1960 for intervention on attaining independence from Belgium. India’s contribution towards ensuring peace in Congo proved vital to the country’s stability after decolonization.
  • India’s contribution is not only reflective of the objectives set out in the UN charter, but also has generated goodwill in different parts of the world especially in the developing world.

What are the challenges in front of India?

  • Sovereignty is being challenged by norms such as Responsibility to Protect (R2P).
  • India has a role to play regionally as well as globally. India should get its political, diplomatic and military acts together, and must continue to be proactive in terms of demanding greater participation in decision making.
  • There would be situations where even bilateral participation might be called for. Behavioural changes including change in style of leadership will then become necessary.
  • There is a compelling need for a sizeable Rapid Reaction Force for the purpose of intervention, stabilization, deterrence and disaster response among others.

What should India do?

  • India should continue to strengthen existing cooperative mechanisms with regional and global players.
  • Joint working groups comprising diplomats and military personnel should be set-up to interact with multilateral forums, and exchange knowledge and perspectives.
  • As the mandate of peace-keeping expands, India should share its expertise and experience, and play its part in realizing the core objective of the UN Charter – maintenance of international peace and security.

GS-3


The lowdown on GST pitfalls:  and The unintended consequences of GST: (The Hindu, Editorial)

Context

  • The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is experiencing a number of teething issues resulting into governments taking measures to correct it.

Problem of availing of input tax credits by exporters.

  • The problem is that exporters have to wait an inordinate amount of time before the refunds are processed and paid.
  • This results into a large part of their working capital, estimated at about 65,000 crore getting stuck rendering their businesses shaky.
  • The procedure is that a company pays the tax on both inputs and output and then applies for a refund for the tax paid on the inputs.
  • The refund process, according to exporters, takes many months and so results in a large part of the working capital being locked up.

Problem of GST Network portal

  • Another pressing problem is the capacity of the GST Network portal for filing tax returns.
  • Post rollout, the portal has fared poorly in the face of peak traffic. The government is facing issue that taxpayers are missing the deadlines to file returns and thus the government can’t accurately estimate how much revenue GST is yielding.
  • The problem of the online portal crashing is in large part due to the fact that businesses are waiting till the last moment to file their returns.
  • The missed deadlines are due to a variety of factors, including poor taxpaying habits, a clashing of deadlines, and the fact that the government has so far been lenient about missed deadlines.

As per 22nd GST Council meeting what were the measures taken?

Lesser burden of compliance for small businesses

  • The government has recognised hardship faced by small businesses with turnover of within Rs 1.5cr, by delaying their return filing compliance to once a quarter from once a month. Taxes will be paid quarterly.
  • Small businesses will also have to file monthly returns for three months – July, August, and September – and the switchover to quarterly filing will happen from the cycle starting October 1.

Relief for Service Providers

  • Exemption from Registration for a service provider if the aggregate turnover is less than Rs. 20Lacs (10 Lacs in special category state except for J&K) even if they are making inter-state supplies of services.
  • Services provided by a GTA to an Unregistered person shall be exempted from GST.
  • TDS/TCS provisions shall be postponed till 31.03.2018.
  • Small businesses will also have to file monthly returns for three months – July, August, and September – and the switchover to quarterly filing will happen from the cycle starting October 1.

Relief for Exporters

  • Refund cheques for July exports will be processed by Oct 10 and refund cheques for August exports will be processed by Oct 18.
  • Every exporter will now get an e-wallet. In the e-wallet, there would be a notional amount for credit. The refund they will eventually get will be offset from that amount. The e-wallet will be introduced from April next year.
  • Merchant exporters will pay a nominal 0.1% GST applicable on exports to enable their suppliers to claim ITC.

Composition Scheme changes

  • Person otherwise eligible for availing the composition scheme and are providing any exempt services shall now be eligible for the composition scheme.
  • Eligibility of composition scheme raised to Rs 1 crore.
  • Traders will pay 1%, manufacturers 2% and restaurants 5% under the composition scheme.

No GST on advance receipts for businesses with turnover under Rs 1.5cr

  • Taxpayers having annual turnover upto 1.5 Crore shall not be required to pay GST at the time of receipt of advances on account of supply of goods.

Significant rate changes

  • GST on unbranded Ayurvedic medicines has been reduced from 12% to 5%.
  • Tax rate for man-made yarn has been reduced to 12% from 18%. The decision will have an effect on textiles.
  • GST rate on many job work items reduced from 12% to 5%. GST rate on some stationery items, diesel engine parts also reduced to 18% from the earlier 28%.
  • GST on khakra and unbranded namkeen has been reduced from 12% to 5%. Tax on zari work has been reduced from  12% to 5%.
  • 35% abatement on old leasing contract of vehicle
  • Printing Job work rate revised from 12% to 5%

Others

  • E-way bill has been deferred to 1st April 2018
  • Relief for jewellers as no need to furnish PAN card on jewellery purchase of more than Rs 50,000. The amount of jewellery purchase for which KYC will be required will be determined later.
  • 35% abatement on old leasing contract of vehicle

What will be the consequences of accelerating the input tax credit payouts?

  • It will create a havoc on the entire informal sector of the economy, which actually accounts for the livelihood of a bulk of the population.
  • Anecdotal evidence suggests that a huge number of these units may either simply fold up or be forced to lay off their jobbers and tempers or else officially absorb them as workers, which will definitely make them non-competitive.

IISc team fabricates nanomaterial to treat Parkinson’s:

Context

  • The Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bengaluru researchers have fabricated a metal oxide nanomaterial (Mn3O4) capable of mimicking all three major cellular antioxidant enzymes.
  • It will help in controlling the level of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) inside cells.

What purpose will it serve?

  • The nanomaterial appears a promising candidate for therapeutic applications against oxidative stress-induced neurological disorders, particularly Parkinson’s.

How is excess of ROS problematic?

  • ROS such as superoxide, hydrogen peroxide and hydroxyl radical are essential for the normal functioning of cells.
  • Excess of ROS generated is usually controlled by the action of three antioxidant enzymes (superoxide dismutase, catalase and glutathione peroxidase).
  • When ROS gets generated in excess, it causes problems and the enzymes are unable to control the level of ROS.
  • Oxidative stress due to excessive ROS causes damage to DNA, proteins and lipids; oxidative stress is implicated in several diseases such as neurodegeneration, cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

How does it function?

  • The researchers tried numerous morphologies and found the flower-like morphology that had the best activity of all three enzymes.
  • Pores present on the nanomaterial play an important role as enzyme-active sites and help in scavenging excess ROS.
  • The larger pore diameter and pore volume capable of accommodating all the three ROS were found to be critical in determining the enzyme activity of the nanomaterial.
  • It was established that the nanomaterial caused no cellular toxicity when internalised by the cells and hence safe.
  • The nanomaterial was found to protect against neurotoxin-induced cell death by scavenging the excess ROS that was artificially generated inside the cells.
  • Inside the cells, the nanomaterial will substitute the cellular enzymes effectively when the enzymes are inhibited. Due to high pore size and volume, it was able to achieve better activity.

What will be the optimum effects?

  • The manganese oxide nanomaterial was able to control the level of ROS inside the cells.
  • It just scavenges ROS and brings it to optimum level so normal functions of the cell are not affected.
  • The superoxide dismutase enzyme has two forms and one functions in the cytosol and the other inside the mitochondria. Some amount of nanomaterial gets inside the mitochondria as well and controls the ROS produced there.
  • The nanozymes have therapeutic potential particularly for Parkinson’s disease.

Antibodies to treat a few genetic diseases:

Context

  • A team of researchers led by Prof. Arun Shukla from the Department of Biological Sciences and Bioengineering at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, seems to have found a way to treat the Inherited genetic diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa and nephrogenic diabetes.

What is Retinitis pigmentosa?

  • Retinitis pigmentosa is an inherited, degenerative eye disease that leads to progressive loss of vision as one gets older.

What is genetic nephrogenic diabetes?

  • Genetic nephrogenic diabetes arises from kidney cells’ inability to retain water leading to extreme thirst and dehydration.

What are the causes behind it?

  • The cause of disease is a mutation in the G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCR) which causes the receptors to be pulled from the plasma membrane to the inside of the cell just as the receptors reach the cell membrane to start signalling.
  • In the absence of the receptors (rhodopsin GPCR in the case of retinitis pigmentosa and vasopressin GPCR for genetic nephrogenic diabetes) the cells fail to signal and do not function normally.

How does it function?

  • They have designed synthetic antibody fragments which specifically bind to beta-arrestins at the position where clathrin gets bound.
  • The antibodies therefore, prevent the clathrin protein from binding to beta-arrestins. It further prevents endocytosis.
  • The pulling in or trafficking of the G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCR) receptors from the membrane surface to inside the cells (which is called endocytosis) happens when a small family of proteins called beta-arrestins bind to GPCR receptors and to another class of proteins called clathrin.
  • Trying to prevent the trafficking of the GPCR receptors from the membrane surface to inside the cells is like turning the clock back.
  • Rhodopsin and Vasopressin receptors would stay intact on the cell membrane and will start signalling and thus enabling the otherwise mutant cells to function normally.
  • The designer proteins created by the research team will provide unexplored territory for therapeutic applications for inherited diseases.

What next?

  • Since the mechanism of the two diseases is the same, the antibodies can work equally well immaterial of the cell type involved.
  • The next step will be to develop new strategies to deliver the antibodies into human live cells and animal models.
  • The big advantage of using antibodies is that they selectively block receptor endocytosis but not signalling. This provides a unique handle, currently not available anywhere in the world, for targeting a specific GPCR function.

In a first, gene therapy halts a fatal brain disease:

Context:

  • A new study indicates that gene therapy can hold off Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), a rare disorder, without side effects, but only if it is begun when the only signs of deterioration are changes in brain scans.
  • The key to making the therapy work is human Immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Was the study successful?

  • The study involved 17 boys aged 4 to 13. All got gene therapy. Two years later, 15 were functioning normally without obvious symptoms.
  • The study opened up new avenues for using gene therapy to treat brain diseases.

What is ALD?

  • A mutated gene causes a rare disorder, adrenoleukodystrophy, or ALD.
  • Nerve cells in the brain die, and in a few short years, children lose the ability to walk or talk.
  • They become unable to eat without a feeding tube, to see, hear or think. They usually die within five years of diagnosis.
  • The disease strikes about one in 20,000 boys; symptoms first occur at an average age of 7

Is there any cure of the disorder?

  • The only treatment is a bone-marrow transplant, if a compatible donor can be found or a transplant with cord blood, if it was saved at birth.
  • These transplants are difficult and dangerous therapy, with a mortality rate as high as 20%. Some who survive are left with lifelong disabilities.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Did you like what you read?

Enter your email address below to get all our updates in your inbox the moment it is published. Once you enter your email address, you will be subscribed immediately.


We do not spam you, so you can easily unsubscribe anytime, by clicking on unsubscribe link in the email.