Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | Feb 12, 2021

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List of Today’s Factly Articles

  1. Zolgensma Gene therapy for “Spinal Muscular Atrophy disease”
  2. Self-regulatory toolkit by OTTs for implementation of Self Regulation Codes, 2020
  3. Most Public buses are not accessible to PwDs
  4. Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Germany and Russia
  5. 2nd Phase of the “Vigyan Jyoti Programme”
  6. Indian Navy’s combat-readiness exercise “Tropex-21”
  7. India, Afghanistan agreement to build “Shahtoot Dam” in Kabul

Zolgensma Gene therapy for “Spinal Muscular Atrophy disease”

What is the News?

The Government of India has decided to waive off some GST amount against the import of gene therapy — Zolgensma. This therapy is required to treat a child who is suffering from Spinal Muscular Atrophy.

Spinal Muscular Atrophy

  • Spinal muscular atrophy is a rare genetic disease. The person suffering from this disease cannot control the movement of their muscles.
  1. Caused By: It is caused by the loss of nerve cells that carry electrical signals from the brain to the muscles. The protein needed for this signaling is coded by a gene. Everyone has two copies of this gene- one from the mother and the other from the father. A child develops this disorder only if both the copies are faulty.
  2. Vulnerable Group: The disease most often affects babies and children. With time, it progresses and makes it extremely difficult for the babies to carry out basic activities like sitting up, lifting their head, or swallowing milk.

Zolgensma Gene therapy

  • Gene Therapy Treatment: There is also a gene therapy treatment named Zolgensma which replaces the faulty gene. US regulators approved this therapy in May 2019.
  • Zolgensma works by supplying a healthy copy of the faulty gene. It allows nerve cells to then start producing the needed protein. This halts the deterioration of the nerve cells and allows the baby to grow more normally.

Source: The Hindu

Self-regulatory toolkit by OTTs for implementation of Self Regulation Codes, 2020

What is the News?

17 Over-the-Top (OTT) Platforms have adopted a “toolkit” for effective implementation of the self-regulation code of 2020. The toolkit will be effective from February 10, 2021.

What are OTT platforms?

  • It is a streaming media service offered directly to viewers via the Internet. Examples include Netflix, Amazon’s Prime Video, Hotstar, and others. Currently, there is no law or autonomous body governing digital content.

Universal Self Regulation Codes, 2020

  • In 2020, OTT platforms signed a universal ‘self-regulation’ code under the Internet and Mobile Association of India(IAMAI). The key features of the code are:
  1. Regulatory environment: Information Technology Act, 2000 is the primary governing statute for online content.
  2. Age classification: The code includes a framework for age classification and content descriptions for titles as well as access control tools.
  3. Consumer Complaints:: Each OTT platform will have to set up a Consumer Complaints Department. Other than that an advisory panel to deal with complaints, appeals, and escalations will also be set up.

Government’s Response to the Code:

  • The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had refused to support the self-regulatory code. The grounds for rejection were that it lacks independent third-party monitoring, does not have a well-defined Code of Ethics, does not clearly enunciate prohibited content. Moreover, there is an issue of conflict of interest in grievance redressal.

Implementation Toolkit:

  1. Purpose: Toolkit will help in the implementation of the code 2020 of the OTT platforms. It will also address the feedback received from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on the issues of conflict of interest and prohibited content.
  2. Implementation of the Code: It will also frame the code of ethics and guiding principles for the signatory OTTs.
  3. Guidance: Further, The toolkit will guide OTTs on various dimensions like:
    • Grievance redressal mechanism
    • Relevant laws of the land,
    • Awareness programs for consumers
    • Training programs for creative and legal teams
    • Implementation of a detailed audit and compliance mechanism.
  4. Secretariat: A ‘secretariat’ will be set up for monitoring the implementation of the code. It would have representatives from the OTT platforms and IAMAI.

Source: The Hindu

Most Public buses are not accessible to PwDs

What is the News?

According to government data, less than 7% of public buses in the country are fully accessible to PwDs as of December 2020.

Target under Accessible India Campaign for Public Buses:

  • Under the Accessible India Campaign, the deadline for making at least 25% of public buses fully accessible was March 2018. However, the deadline had been pushed forward to June 2022.

How much has been achieved so far?

  • Inter City Buses: 1 lakh intercity buses are operated by states. Only 0.2% are fully wheelchair accessible, 26% are partially accessible and 74% are not accessible.
  • Buses Operating in Urban Areas: Of the 44,000 buses operating in urban areas, only 22% is fully wheelchair accessible, 33% is partially accessible and 44% is not accessible.

Accessible India Campaign(AIC):

  • It is the nationwide flagship campaign. The Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) launched it in 2015.
  • Aim: It is aimed at making a barrier-free and conducive environment for Divyangjans (Persons with Disabilities – PwDs) all over the country.

Components under the campaign:

  1. Build Accessibility Environment: It aims to provide an accessible physical environment for everyone. For that, elimination of obstacles and barriers to indoor and outdoor facilities is required, including in schools, medical facilities, and workplaces.
  2. Transportation System Accessibility: It focuses on providing PwDs an equal rights. Rights include travel and use of public and private transportation infrastructure with dignity and independence.
  3. Information and Communication Eco-System Accessibility: It aims to eliminate all barriers linked to society and infrastructure, in the way of obtaining and utilizing information in daily life.

Key Targets under the Campaign:

  1. 50% of all the government buildings of National Capital and all the State capitals to be fully accessible buildings.
  2. 50% of railway stations in the country to be converted into fully accessible railway stations.
  3. Moreover, 25% of Government-owned public transport carriers in the country to be converted into fully accessible carriers.
  4. Conducting an accessibility audit of all the domestic airports and converting them into fully accessible airports.
  5. Ensure that at least 50% of all public documents issued by the Central Government and the State Governments meet accessibility standards.
  6. Ensuring that 25% of all public television programmes aired by the government are accessible to PwDs.etc.

Source: The Hindu

Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Germany and Russia

What is the News?

In a development that could increase tensions between Russia and the US, Russian energy major Gazprom has said that it has resumed building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

Nord Stream 2 Pipeline:

  • It is a 1,200km-long offshore natural gas pipeline being constructed from Russia to Germany across the Baltic Sea.
  • The pipeline will run along with the already-completed Nord Stream 1 system, and the two together will supply an aggregate of 110 billion cubic metres of gas to Germany per year.

Benefits of the Pipeline:

  • The pipeline is intended to provide Europe with a sustainable gas supply while providing Russia with more direct access to the European gas market.
  • The proposed route for the pipeline uses the territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone(EEZ) of Finland, Sweden and Denmark which would benefit their national governments and local authorities through investments and employment generated due to it.

Why is the pipeline controversial?

  1. Criticism from US: The US has criticised the project as they believe that the project would increase Europe’s dependence on Russia for natural gas.Currently, EU countries already rely on Russia for 40% of their gas needs.
  2. Apprehensions by Ukraine: The pipeline has irked Ukraine as they believe that once the pipeline is completed, Russia could bypass the existing land pipeline between Russia and Europe that runs through Ukraine and deprive the country of lucrative transit fees.
  3. Opposition by some European Countries: France has expressed its opposition to the project as having some others in Eastern Europe countries. However, Germany has solidly stood behind the project insisting that it is a commercial project.

Source: Indian Express

2nd Phase of the “Vigyan Jyoti Programme”

What is the News?
The second phase of Vigyan Jyoti programme commenced on the occasion of International Day of Women and Girls in Science on February 11, 2021.

Vigyan Jyoti Programme:

  1. It was launched by the Department of Science & Technology (DST) in December,2019.
  2. Aim: It aims to create a level-playing field for the meritorious girls in high school. It will encourage them to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics(STEM) in their higher education and make them self-reliant.
  3. Classes Covered: This programme started at school level for meritorious girls of Class IX to Class XII.
  4. Coverage: The programme had been running successfully in 50 Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas(JNV) since 2019. It is now expanded to 50 more JNVs for the year 2021-22.
  5. Activities under the programme: The activities under the programme include student-parent counselling, visit to labs and knowledge centres, partners role model interactions, science camps, academic support classes, resource material distribution and tinkering activities.
    • It also provides online academic support to students. It includes streaming of video classes, study materials, daily practice problems and doubt clearing sessions.
  6. Second Phase: The second phase of the Vigyan Jyoti aims to spread the program to 50 more districts. It will be in addition to the existing 50 districts across the country.

Other Initiatives by DST to Promote Gender Parity in STEM:

  1. Women Scientists Scheme: This initiative primarily aims at providing opportunities to women scientists and technologists who had a break in their career but desired to return to the mainstream. It covers women between the age group of 27-57 years.
  2. Consolidation of University Research for Innovation and Excellence in Women Universities(CURIE) programme: It aims for improving R&D infrastructure and establishing state-of-the-art research facilities in order to create excellence in S&T in women universities.
  3. Artificial Intelligence(AI) Labs: Government has established AI labs in women’s universities with the goal to foster AI innovations. It will prepare skilled manpower for AI-based jobs in the future.
  4. Gender Advancement for Transforming Institutions(GATI): It aims to develop a comprehensive charter and a framework for assessing gender inequality in STEM.
  5. Knowledge Involvement in Research Advancement through Nurturing(KIRAN): It aims to bring gender parity in the Science & Technology sector by inducting more women talent in the research & development domain through various programmes.

Source: PIB

Indian Navy’s combat-readiness exercise “Tropex-21”

What is the News?

TROPEX 21 is currently underway in Indian Ocean Region(IOR). It is the Indian Navy’s largest biennial Theatre Level Operational Readiness Exercise.

Exercise TROPEX:

  • It is an inter-service military exercise. It involves the participation of the Indian Army, Air Force, Navy, and Coast Guard.
  1. Aim:
    • To test the combat readiness of the Navy in a multi-dimensional scenario of the current geostrategic environment.
    • To validate the Navy’s capabilities like offensive-defense capabilities, safeguarding the maritime domain, and promote stability and peace in the Indian Ocean Region.
  2. Conducted by: The exercise is being overseen by Naval Headquarters. Other participants include Eastern, Western and Southern Naval Command of the Indian Navy and Andaman and Nicobar Command (the only Tri-Service theatre command of the Indian Armed Forces located at Port Blair).
  3. Location: The exercise is being conducted in the Indian Ocean Region(IOR) and its adjunct waters.
  4. Theme of the exercise: ‘Combat Ready, Credible and Cohesive force.
  5. Phases under the exercise: Exercise TROPEX is being progressed over distinct phases that will also test the Navy’s transition from peacetime to hostilities.

Source: The Hindu

India, Afghanistan agreement to build “Shahtoot Dam” in Kabul

What is the News?

India and Afghanistan have signed an agreement to build the Shahtoot Dam in the Afghan capital.

Shahtoot Dam:

  • It is a proposed dam in the Kabul river basin. It is one of the five river basins in Afghanistan.
  1. Purpose:
    • The dam will provide drinking, irrigation, and Environmental water for Kabul province.
    • It will also provide water for irrigation to nearby areas, rehabilitate the existing irrigation and drainage network. Moreover, it will help in flood protection and management efforts.
  2. Significance: This is the second major dam being built by India in Afghanistan, after the India – Afghanistan Friendship Dam [Salma Dam] which was inaugurated in 2016.

Source: TOI

9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – February 12, 2021

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