Current Affairs | National | International | SSC | UPSC 25th March 2024


National News 

1.Bharat Biotech commences clinical trials of Spanish tuberculosis vaccine in India 

  • Clinical trials of the Spanish tuberculosis (TB) vaccine MTBVAC have begun in India. 
  • Vaccine maker Bharat Biotech is conducting the trials in partnership with Spanish biopharmaceutical company Biofabri which is responsible for clinical and industrial development of the vaccine "developed in the laboratory of the University of Zaragoza, with Dr. Brigitte Gicquel of the Pasteur Institute, Paris". 
  • MTBVAC is the only vaccine against tuberculosis undergoing clinical trials based on a genetically modified form of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the pathogen that causes the disease. Unlike the BCG vaccine, the new vaccine contains all "the antigens present in strains that infect humans". While trials to evaluate safety and immunogenicity of MTBVAC in India have begun, a pivotal safety, immunogenicity and efficacy trial is planned in 2025, Bharat Biotech said in an announcement coinciding with World Tuberculosis Day. 
  • Bharat Biotech will be conducting a Phase 3 trial as Biofabri has completed the Phase 1 and 2 trials in other countries, a spokesperson said. "The MTBVAC vaccine has passed several milestones before entering clinical trials in India," executive chairman Krishna Ella said in a release. 
  • Studying the safety, immunogenicity and efficacy of the vaccine in the most populated country and the one with the highest num- ber of cases of the infec- tious disease is key to con- tinue advancing this vaccine. 
  • MTBVAC has been developed to be a more effective and potentially longer lasting vaccine than BCG for newborns and for prevention of TB in adults and adolescents, for whom there is currently no effective vaccine, the Hyderabad-based company said. "It is a giant step to test in adults and adolescents in the country where 28% of the world's TB cases accumulate," Biofabri CEO Esteban Rodriguez said. 
  • BCG is an attenuated variant of the bovine TB pathogen and more than a hundred years old with a limited effect on pulmonary tuberculosis that is responsible for the transmission of the disease, he said. 

2. To curb illegal trade, Health Ministry tells States to plug gaps in compiling data of organ donors 

  • The Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry has expressed concern over some States not compiling Is data of living and deceased donors which are essential to monitor the implementation of the organ transplantation programme EG and prevent commercial dealings in organs. In an advisory to all States recently, the Health Ministry noted that the National Organ and Tissue id. Transplant Organisation (NOTTO), established un In der the Transplantation of of Human Organs and Tissues Act (THOTA), 1994, CEO was an apex organization to provide for an efficient ted and organized system of TB organ procurement and distribution in the country and maintain a national registry of donors and recipients of organs and tission sues, sources in the Transplant Authority of Tamil Nadu said. To fulfill the mandate, the hospitals carrying out organ and tissue transplantation, retrieval, or tissue banking were required to link with the NOTTO and provide both living and deceased organ and tissue donation and transplantation data for the National Registry. 
  • However, it was observed that data were either incomplete or not provided by the States. Also, some States did not have a system for collecting living donor data.
  • Every transplanting hospital needed to register patients requiring transplants in the 'subject demography format' as available on the NOTTO web portal and update their status. 
  • The Ministry said a robust National Registry was "absolutely essential for better programme implementation and monitoring with the objective to prevent possible commercial dealings in organs and also to promote deceased organ donation," the sources quoted the advisory as saying. It was also desirable that every transplant hospital, whether public or private, promoted deceased organ donation and made efforts to achieve a minimum number of donations annually for which they would be required to establish a system for brain stem death certification and its monitoring, and facility for deceased organ donor maintenance. 
  • The advisory comes after the NOTTO issued a series of instructions to curb allegations of organs harvested from brain dead patients being transplanted on foreign nationals, overlooking deserving Indian patients on the waitlist. 
  • The advisory said that it was essential that the data were updated online on a regular basis and monthly offline reports related to deceased as well as living donors were required to be compiled, verified and provided to the NOTTO. 
  • Health Secretaries to instruct all licensed or registered transplant hospitals (Organ Transplant, Non Transplant Retrieval Centres, and Tissue Banks) to get linked up with the NOTTO web portal. 
  • The State Appropriate Authority, which had the powers of a civil court under the Act, was told to ensure compliance with the provision of data by the hospitals for the National Registry. Non-compliance to the instructions should be dealt with by the authorities under the provisions of the THOTA, 1994. 

Robust registry 

  • Going by data, 16,041 organs were transplanted in 2022, most of which were kidneys and livers, harvested from live and cadaver donors. Delhi topped the list with 3,818 organ transplants, the sources added. 

International News 

3. Pakistan to mull revival of trade ties with India 

  • Pakistan will "she actually examine" whether to restart trade with India, sald its newly appointed Foreign Minister Mohammad Ishaq Dar. Responding to questions during a press meet In London, Mr. Dar said he had been approached last year by Pakistani business persons over the issue, and sald any decision would follow a full discussion with all stakeholders. 
  • Meanwhile, visiting Singapore, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar hit out at Pakistan for Its "industry-level" support to terro rism, stressing that any talks with Pakistan would need to "face up to the problem". 
  • In 2019, both India and Pakistan had taken trade measures against each other after the Pulwama bombing in February, India had withdrawn the Most Favored Nation (MPN) status to Pakistan and raised tariffs on all trade multifold, after India's Article 370 moves in Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019, Pakistan had suspended direct trade ties with India amidst a number of other diplomatic measures. 
  • The closure of trade had mostly affected business men and transporters engaged at the Attari-Wagah land border. On Sunday, the Amritsar-based chamber of commerce expressed hope that a reth ink would follow after the Pakistani Foreign Minis ter's comments, calling on New Delhi to reciprocate, 
  • "What India did in 2019, the steps they took to amend the constitution and law, that was very painful," said Mr. Dar, speaking in London on Saturday, where he referred to UN resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir. 
  • What India did In 2019, the steps they took to end the constitution amendment and law (abrogation of Article 3701, that was very painful But I think the business community of Pakistan is very keen to restart trade). When I presented the budget as Finance Minister last year, businessmen pointed out that the imports (from Indian are coming in even today-they come via Du bal a Singapore and in or via higher freight, transshipment and other transportation costs," he added. 
  • The Ministry of External Affairs declined to comment on Mr. Dar's remarks. Speaking at the National University in Singapore at an event about his book, Why Bharat Matters, Mr. Jaishankar said that in In dia, the "mood is not to overlook" terrorism. 
  • "It's not a one-off happening...but very sustained, almost at an industry level, an assembly line of people whose job it is to do bad things (terror]," Mr. Jaishankar had said on Saturday, responding to a question about bilateral ties with Pakistan, "India will not skirt this problem anymore. We are not going to say... (terrorism) happened, [but] let's continue our dialogue because that's very important... We must be honest enough to face up to that problem, however difficult it is," 
  • Speaking to The Hindu, the Amritsar-based Director of the Confederation of International Chamber of Commerce and Industry "welcomed" Mr. Dar's initiatives for discussions on restarting trade and said the suspension had left the Integrated CheckPoint at Attari built at considerable investment "idle". 
  • "We strongly urge the Indian government to react with positive intent as normal economic activity would be mutually beneficial to both the nations," businessman Ashok Sethi said. 

4. India, Russia have always had positive, says Jaishankar 

  • Russia is a country with which India has always had a positive relationship and both countries have taken extra care to look after each other's interests, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said on Sunday, as he dismissed the notion that Moscow was drifting towards China. 
  • Interacting with the Indian community in Singapore, Mr. Jaishankar said India should look at its relationship with Russia or any other country from its perspective. 
  • "So, tell me, has Russia helped us or harmed us? f Has Russia at crucial moments contributed or obstructed? Going ahead, are there gains to be made from Russia or is it only damage which will come out?" he asked.
  • "So, if I do my calculations from my perspective and my experiences, I will o get the answer. And the answer in this case is that Russia is a country with which we have always had a positive relationship," he said. 
  • "Both India and Russia have taken that extra care to look after each other's interests. So, I think we should have that confidence as we go forward," he said while answering a question. 
  • The ties between India and Russia remained strong notwithstanding Moscow's Invasion of Ukraine. India has not yet condemned the Russian in- vasion of Ukraine, and it has been maintaining that the crisis must be resolved through diplomacy and dialogue. 
  • On a question on the U.S. presidential election in November and. India's equation with the country after that, Mr. Jaishankar said, "I prefer to be patient." He said that he was confident that India could get along with whoever was President of the U.S. 
  • Mr. Jaishankar is in Singapore on a three-day visit from Sunday. 

Defence News 

5. Anti-piracy Act has been a great enabler, says Navy chief 

  • The Maritime Anti-Piracy Act, enacted in 2022, has been a "great enabler", said Indian Navy chief Admiral R. Hari Kumar as the Navy completed 100 days of Operation Sankalp in the Gulf of Aden. 
  • "This [the Act) has empowered us to visit, board, search and seize. Any suspicious vessel, craft, or fishing boat or show that we suspect, we board, in spect, and if we find piracy triggers like skiffs, weapons, or ammunition, then we take action to ensure that they don't proceed with their mission," Admiral Kumar said in response to a question from The Hindu during a press conference on Saturday. 
  • There are very few countries which have an Act like this, he stated. 
  • In the past 100 days, as part of Operation Sankalp, the Navy has carried out over 1,000 boardings.
  • Admiral Kumar said that earlier they never had any law and it was quite nebulous. 
  • "In our earlier operations, whenever we captured [pirates], there was hardly any place where you could take them for handing over," he noted, and only the Yellow Gate police station in Mumbai (Mazgaon) was nominated for handling them. But now all coastal police stations have been empowered.l 
  • "We have this anti-piracy Act which has been a great enabler for the security forces, particularly for the Navy, since we are involved in anti-piracy operations," Admiral Kumar said.
  • Talking about salient features of the Act, mari-time expert Pooja Bhatt said the Maritime Anti-Piracy Act empowers the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard to board, seize, and arrest pirates operating on the high seas, in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and beyond, and Indian courts can prosecute the perpetrators with life imprisonment, fine, or both. 
  • "However, the Act also considers the offense as extraditable, where India has signed such treaties with those countries. India has an agreement with Somalia where Somalian pirates have been extradited since 2017," Dr. Bhatt added. 
  • According to the Act, it was enacted "to give effect to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) relating to the repression of piracy on the high seas and for matters connected therewith". India ratified UNCLOS in 1995. 

'Addressing threats' 

  • Since mid-December, as part of Phase 2 of Operation Sankalp, the Indian Navy saw the deployment of over 5,000 personnel at sea, over 450 ship days (with over 21 ships deployed), and 900 hours of flying by the maritime surveillance aircraft to address threats in the maritime domain. "As of yesterday (Friday), we had il submarines operating simultaneously in the sea, with more than 35 ships and over five aircraft deployed in different parts of the Indian Ocean Region, Admiral Kumar said adding, "So we are making sure that our assets are deployed in an optimal manner to ensure that it covers the area of interest and gives us the best information so that the maritime domain awareness and the requisite degree of transparency is alte achieved.” 

Science & Technology News 

6. It's official: 'Statio Shiv Shakti' approved as name of Chandrayaan-3 landing site 

  • The International Astronomical Union (IAU) working group for Planetary si-System Nomenclature has approved the name "Statio Shiv Shakti" for the landing site of Chandrayaan-3's Vikram lander. The approval was given on March 19. 
  • Planetary nomenclature, like terrestrial nomenclature, is used to uniquely identify a feature on the surface of a planet or satellite so that it can be easily located, described, and discussed. 
  • The Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature "contains detailed information about all names of topographic and albedo features on planets and satellites [and some planetary ring and ring-gap systems] that the IAU has named and approved from its founding in 1919 through the present time". 
  • The IAU is the internationally recognised authority for assigning names to planetary surface features. It follows some rules and conventions to do so. 
  • The IAU's Rule 9 states: "No names having political, military or religious significance may be used, except for names of political figures prior to the 19th century." The citation in the gazetteer for the name of the landing site of the Vikram lander reads: "Compound word from Indian mythology that depicts the masculine ["Shiva"] and feminine ["Shakti"] duality nature 
  • On August 26, 2023, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the point where the moon lander of Chandrayaan-3 touched down would be called "Shiv Shakti". 
  • "In Shiv, there is a resolution for the welfare of humanity and Shakti gives us the strength to fulfill those resolutions," Mr. Modi had said while announcing the name.

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