India approves two COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use
News: Central Drugs and Standards Committee(CDSCO) has approved the COVID-19 vaccines COVISHIELD and COVAXIN for restricted use in emergency situations. Initially, the 3 crore medical personnel considered at the highest risk for COVID-19, would be given the vaccine for free.
Source: The Hindu
- It is a vaccine developed by the Serum Institute of India based on the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine named ChAdOx1 vaccine (also christened AZD1222) i
- Type of vaccine: It is made from a weakened version of a common cold adenovirus that causes infections in chimpanzees.
- Effectiveness: The overall efficacy of the vaccine was found to be 70.42% — well below vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna but above the 50% threshold set by many regulators.
- Dosage, protection duration and storage: The vaccine has been recommended for the approval of two full doses administered around 4-6 weeks apart. Immune response could last at least a year. The vaccine can be stored at temperatures between 2°C and 8°C.
- It has been indigenously developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research(ICMR).
- Type of vaccine: It is an inactivated vaccine and is made by using particles of the coronavirus that were killed making them unable to infect or replicate. Injecting particular doses of these particles serves to build immunity by helping the body create antibodies against the dead virus.
- Effectiveness: The vaccine is safe and provides a robust immune response. The vaccine is yet to complete late-stage human clinical trials in India and no efficacy rate has yet been made public.
- Dosage, protection duration and storage: The vaccine will be administered in two doses and stored at 2-8° degrees Celsius. The efficacy of the vaccine is to be determined only after 14 days post the second dose.
IIT Hyderabad sets up ‘TiHAN-IIT’ testbed for autonomous navigation systems
News: Union Minister of Education has virtually laid the foundation stone of ‘TiHAN-IIT Hyderabad.
- TiHAN: It is India’s first Technology Innovation Hub for Autonomous Navigation Systems and Data Acquisition Systems setup by IIT Hyderabad.
- Focus: The hub focuses on addressing various challenges hindering the real-time adoption of unmanned autonomous vehicles for both terrestrial and aerial applications.
- Funded by: It was sanctioned and funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) under the National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems (NM-ICPS).
- Sectors: The hub’s focus sectors include Intelligent, Autonomous Transportation and Systems, Agriculture, Surveillance, and Environmental & Infrastructure Monitoring.
- Who can use it? The hub will be available for use by industries, R&D labs, academia conducting research and development in the broad areas of autonomous navigation.
- Cyber Physical Systems(CPS): It is a new class of engineered systems that integrate computation and physical processes in a dynamic environment. It encompasses technology areas of Cybernetics, Mechatronics, Design and Embedded systems, Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI) among others.
- National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems (NM-ICPS): It was launched in 2018 by the Department of Science & Technology for a period of five years.
- Aim: To create a seamless ecosystem for CPS by coordinating and integrating nationwide efforts encompassing knowledge generation, human resource development, research, technology, innovation and commercialization.
- Key Objectives of the Mission: The mission implementation would develop and bring:
- Cyber Physical Systems (CPS) and associated technologies within reach in the country,
- adoption of CPS technologies to address India specific National / Regional issues,
- produce Next Generation skilled manpower in CPS,
- catalyze Translational Research,
- accelerate entrepreneurship and start-up ecosystem development in CPS,
- give impetus to advanced research in CPS, Technology development and higher education in Science, Technology and Engineering disciplines, and
- place India at par with other advanced countries and derive several direct and indirect benefits.
- Features of the mission:
- The mission aims at establishment of 15 numbers of Technology Innovation Hubs(TIH), six numbers of Application Innovation Hubs(AIH) and four numbers of Technology Translation Research Parks(TTRP).
- These Hubs & TTRPs will connect to Academics, Industry, Central Ministries and State Government in developing solutions at reputed academic, R&D and other organizations across the country in a hub and spoke model.
FSSAI slashes limit for trans fat levels in foods
News: Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has capped the amount of trans fatty acids(TFA) levels in Food.
- What are the new limits? It has capped the amount of trans fatty acids (TFA) in oils and fats to 3% for 2021 and 2% by 2022 from the current permissible limit of 5% through an amendment to the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulations.
- Applies to: The revised regulation applies to edible refined oils, vanaspati (partially hydrogenated oils), margarine, bakery shortenings and other mediums of cooking such as vegetable fat spreads and mixed fat spreads.
- What was the need of these regulations? These regulations come at the time of a pandemic where the burden of non-communicable diseases has risen.Cardiovascular diseases along with diabetes, are proving fatal for COVID-19 patients.
- What are Trans fatty acids(TFAs) or Trans fats? These are unsaturated types of fats which have adverse effects on our body. These fats are largely produced artificially but a small amount also occurs naturally.
- Types of Trans fats:
- Naturally-occurring trans fats are produced in the gut of some animals and foods made from these animals (e.g., milk and meat products) may contain small quantities of these fats.
- Artificial trans fats are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid. Since they are easy to use, inexpensive to produce and last a long time, and give foods a desirable taste and texture, they are still widely used despite their harmful effects being well-known.
- Harmful Effects of Trans Fats:
- Trans Fats are associated with an increased risk of heart attacks and death from coronary heart disease.
- Trans fats not only increases bad cholesterol but also decrease the good cholesterol level in our body.
- According to the World Health Organization, approximately 5.4 lakh deaths take place each year globally because of the intake of industrially-produced trans-fatty acids.
- The WHO has also called for the global elimination of trans fats by 2023.
Union Minister inaugurates Virtual Agri-hackathon 2020
News: Union Minister of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare has inaugurated the Virtual Agri-hackathon 2020.
- Agri India Hackathon 2020: It is organized by the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation and Farmers Welfare in association with Pusa Krishi, ICAR – Indian Agricultural Research Institute(IARI).
- Objective: It is the largest virtual gathering to create dialogues, and accelerate innovations in agriculture. The hackathon will accept innovations & ideas on farm mechanization, precision agriculture, supply chain & food technology, waste to wealth, green energy among others.
- Rewards for the winners: 24 best innovations from different focus areas will be awarded a cash prize of INR 1 lakh each. The winning innovations will also get an exclusive preference for incubation support, pre-seed & seed-stage funding of 5 Lakhs & 25 Lakhs respectively along with the opportunity of field trial and access to technology validation.
CSIR develops Banana grit for that good gut feeling
News: Scientists at the CSIR-National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology(NIIST) in Kerala have come up with a new product called banana grit or granules.
- Banana Grit or Granules: It has been developed from raw Nendran bananas. The product resembles ‘rava’ and broken wheat.
- Purpose: The product has been labelled as an ideal ingredient for a healthy diet as it utilises the presence of resistant starch in bananas which is reported to improve gut health. Hence, the dishes prepared with banana grit and its byproduct improves gut health.
- Significance: Developing new uses for Nendran Banana comes as a boon to farmers who have often been struggling against falling prices.
- Nendran Banana or famously known as Chengalikodan is a banana variety originated and cultivated in Chengazhikodu village of Thrissur District in Kerala
- Where is it cultivated? It is now cultivated on the banks of the Bharathapuzha river.It has got the Geographical indication registration from the Geographical Indications Registry, Chennai.
- Uses: Generally consumed ripe, it also finds use in typical Kerala dishes such as avial and thoran.
National Medicinal Plants Board launches consortia of medicinal plants
News: National Medicinal Plants Board (NMPB), Ministry of AYUSH has launched a Consortia of Medicinal Plants.
- Why was the NMPB Consortium launched? The NMPB Consortia aims to address/deliberate on the following issues: Quality planting material, Research & Development, Cultivation and Trade of medicinal plants/market linkage.
- Medicinal Plant Species Covered: In the first phase NMPB consortia is proposed for following medicinal plant species:
- Ashwagandha (Withaniasomnifera)
- Pippali(Piper longum)
- Aonla (Phyllanthus Emblica)
- Guggulu (Commiphorawightii)
- Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus).
- Seed to Shelf Approach: To establish the linkage between the farmers and manufacturers, a ‘Seed to Shelf’ approach is also being introduced. Wherein, aspects related to Quality Planting Materials(QPM), Good Agricultural Practices(GAP’s), Good Post Harvest Practices (GPHP’s) would be addressed.
- National Medicinal Plants Board(NMPB): It was established in 2000 under the Ministry of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha & Homoeopathy).
- Aim: Its main objective is the development of the medicinal plants sector through developing a strong coordination between various ministries/ departments/ organizations for implementation of policies / programs on medicinal plants.
Government ropes in I-T department to crack down on GST fraud
News: Government has roped in the Income Tax Department to tap illicit incomes as part of a crackdown against fraud companies rigging the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime.
- How did fraudsters cheat the Government? They have floated multiple dummy firms, obtained GST registrations, issued fake GST invoices without actual supply of services and passed on ineligible Input Tax Credit(ITC) accrued from the bogus invoices to clients for a commission who subsequently used it to make GST payments causing losses to the government.
- Reason for these frauds:
- Lack of due diligence during the GST registration: The process of registration was made easy and hassle-free by the government so that businesses could be easily on-boarded to the system. However, this meant that a number of dummy companies too obtained the GST registration in the absence of scrutiny or physical verification of the registered address of the companies.
- Lack of data exchange among the enforcement agencies and banks have also led to increase in fraud cases.
- What action has the government taken on this?
- Government has said that any income traceable to the use of fake bills and other GST frauds shall be considered concealed income and will attract severe penalties.
- Government has also tightened the GST registration process and legal measures to deal with the rising cases of fake invoicing.
Read Also:–Current Affairs for upsc