1. Pakistan jails Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed for terror financing

Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper II; IOBR

Conviction of Hafiz Saeed

Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, has been sentenced to jail in Pakistan for five-and-a-half years on terror finance charges. The FIR against Saeed and his associates was registered in July 2019 on charges of terror financing at the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) in Gujranwala.

Saeed, a UN-designated terrorist and head of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), was found earlier guilty of “being part of a banned terrorist outfit” and for “having illegal property” by an anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Lahore. For this crime also, he sentenced for five-and-a-half years.

What is different this time?

This is the first time that Saeed, who has a $10 million bounty on his head by the U.S. government, has been formally convicted of an offence.

Pressure on Pakistan

The sentencing comes days ahead of a crucial meeting of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an intergovernmental organisation combating money laundering and terror financing, that has put Pakistan on its grey list.

Soon after the verdict was announced, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Hammad Azhar tweeted: “Pak. remains committed to the earliest completion of its FATF Action Plan. FATF Plenary is a technical process. Irrespective of and without speculating on any final decision at the plenary, we look forward to acknowledgement of significant progress that Pak. authorities have made.”

The FATF’s next meeting will take place later this week in Paris to decide whether Pakistan stays on the grey list or not.

Image shows the cases charged from time to time on Hafiz sayeed

Source: The Hindu

2. What is Yaravirus?

Relevant for GS Prelims; Science & Technology

In a lake in Brazil, researchers have discovered a virus that they find unusual and intriguing. Called Yaravirus. The Yaravirus infects amoeba and has genes that have not been described before, something that could challenge how DNA viruses are classified.

The researchers found the Yaravirus while looking in the lake for giant viruses that infect amoeba. Because of the Yaravirus’s small size, it was unlike other viruses that infect amoeba and they named it as a tribute to Yara, the “mother of waters” in the mythological stories of the Tupi-Guarani indigenous tribes.

Over 90% of the Yaravirus’s genome has not been observed before, the researchers have reported, after using standard protocols for genetic analysis and being unable to find any “classical viral genes”. In other viruses that affect amoeba, the researchers say that there are some similarities in their characteristics that are missing in the Yaravirus. “The amount of unknown proteins composing the Yaravirus particles reflects the variability existing in the viral world and how much potential of new viral genomes are still to be discovered,” they have written.

The virus does not infect human cells, according to the researchers.

Source: The Hindu

3. Why industrial production has contracted, what it means for the economy

Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper III; Economy

Just a day after Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman quoted the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) data for November 2019 as one of the evidence of the emerging “green shoots” in the economy, the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation released the December data, which, in turn, shows that the IIP contracted by 0.3 per cent.

In November, the IIP had expanded by 1.8% after witnessing three consecutive months — August, September, and October — of contraction. A key reason for positive growth in November was the favourable base effect.

The latest contraction would predictably undermine the FM’s assertion about the economy turning around. On the whole, between April and December 2019, the IIP has now shown a cumulative growth of a meagre 0.5%.

According to the Quick Estimates of IIP released on Wednesday, in terms of industries, 16 out of the 23 industry groups in the manufacturing sector have shown negative growth during the month of December 2019 as compared with the corresponding month of the previous year.

In other words, the contraction continues to be widespread.

What is IIP?

The IIP is an index used to track the performance of the industrial sector in the Indian economy. It does this by mapping the volume of production. But since it is an “index”, it targets a basket of industrial products — ranging from the manufacturing sector to mining to energy — and allocates different weights to them. Then, depending on the production of this basket, it throws up an index value. The index value is then compared with the value of the index in the same month a year ago to arrive at a percentage growth or decline figure.

How is IIP data read?

There are two ways to understand the IIP data. One can either drill down the IIP data and look at the sectoral performance — where the whole industrial sector is divided into three sub-sectors, namely manufacturing, mining and electricity — or look at the use-based classification.

What is the sectoral classification?

In the sectoral classification, manufacturing has the highest weight of 77.6%, mining has 14.4% share and electricity has 8% weight. In December, while production in mining grew by 5.4%, in manufacturing, which is the biggest chunk, production contracted by 1.2%; electricity contracted too, albeit marginally.

What is use-based classification?

Within the use-based classification, data is provided for six categories. These are :-

Primary Goods (consisting of mining, electricity, fuels and fertilisers) — this has a weight of 34%

Capital Goods (e.g. Machinery items) — this has a weight of 8%

Intermediate Goods (e.g. yarns, chemicals, semi-finished steel items, etc) — this has a weight of 17%

Infrastructure Goods (e.g. paints, cement, cables, bricks and tiles, rail materials, etc) — this has a weight of 12%

Consumer Durables (e.g. garments, telephones, passenger vehicles, etc) — this has a weight of 13%

Consumer Non-durables (e.g. food items, medicines, toiletries, etc) — this has a weight of 15%

In December, while production of primary goods and intermediate goods has picked up, that of capital goods has contracted heavily. This shows there is little demand for new machinery, which in turn shows there is little enthusiasm in the economy to make new investments. The other three categories also witnessed contraction.

What about green shoots of the economy?

Observers who have tracked IIP for long argue that the key variable from the point of view of sustained growth or decline is the category of “intermediate goods”. That’s because it tallies with the order books. If intermediate goods are growing at a sustained pace month after month, then the domestic economy cannot continue to flounder for long. Similarly, if this category shows contraction, sustained growth appears far away.

In December, this category has grown by 12.5%; in November it grew by over 17%, in October it grew by over 22% and in September by 7%. As such, there is hope that perhaps the economy has seen its worst.

However, the weakness across most other categories continues to be a matter of worry.

Source: The Indian Express

4. COVID-19— How WHO names a new disease

Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper III; Science & Technology

On Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) gave an official name to the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The disease will be called “COVID-19”; the “CO” stands for coronavirus, “VI” for virus and “D” for disease. The coronavirus itself is called “nCoV-2019”.

The death toll from the virus has now crossed 1,000 and the disease has infected tens of thousands of people, the majority of them in China.

WHO names what

The WHO, in consultation with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), has identified best practices for naming new human diseases. These best practices apply to a new disease:

  • That is an infection, syndrome, or disease of humans;
  • That has never been recognised before in humans;
  • That has potential public health impact; and
  • Where no disease name is yet established in common usage

Names that are assigned by the WHO may or may not be approved by the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) at a later stage. The ICD, which is also managed by the WHO, provides a final standard name for each human disease according to standard guidelines that are aimed at reducing the negative impact from names while balancing science, communication and policy.

Terms to avoid

In a statement on Tuesday, the WHO Director-General said: “Under agreed guidelines… we had to find a name that did not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people, and which is also pronounceable and related to the disease. Having a name matters to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatizing.”

The agreed best practices include advice on what the disease names should not include, such as geographic location (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, Spanish Flu, Japanese encephalitis). Disease names should not include people’s names (Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Chagas disease), the species or class of animal or food (swine flu, monkeypox etc.), cultural or occupational references (miners, butchers, cooks, nurses etc.) and terms that incite “undue fear” such as death, fatal and epidemic.

In a media note issued in May 2015, WHO had said that the use of names such as “swine flu” and “Middle East Respiratory Syndrome” has had “unintended negative impacts” by stigmatising certain communities and economic sectors.

Terms to include

The best practices include using generic descriptive terms such as respiratory diseases, hepatitis, neurologic syndrome, watery diarrhoea. They include using specific descriptive terms that may indicate the age group of the patients and the time course of the disease, such as progressive, juvenile or severe.

If the causative pathogen is known, it should be used as part of the disease name with additional descriptors such as the year when the disease was first reported or detected. For example, novel coronavirus respiratory syndrome. The names should also be short (rabies, malaria, polio) and should be consistent with the guidelines under the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) Content Model Reference Guide.

As per the WHO, “severe” should be used only for those diseases that have a very high initial case fatality rate. “Novel” can be used to indicate a new pathogen of a previously known type. In the case of the novel coronavirus, “recognizing that this term will become obsolete if other new pathogens of that type are identified”, the WHO has now changed its name.

Source: The Indian Express

5. Medical device new rules

Relevant for GS Prelims & Mains Paper III; Science & Technology

Recently, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Tuesday notified changes in the Medical Devices Rules, 2017 to regulate medical devices on the same lines as drugs under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940.

A look at what the changes are, what necessitated them and how they will affect the quality of medical devices in the country.

What are the changes in the rules that were notified?

Called the Medical Devices (Amendment) Rules, 2020, these are applicable to devices “intended for internal or external use in the diagnosis, treatment, mitigation or prevention of disease or disorder in human beings or animals” (as notified by the ministry) and require online registration of these devices “with the Central Licensing Authority through an identified online portal established by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation for this purpose”.

Among the information that the manufacturer has to upload are “name & address of the company or firm or any other entity manufacturing the medical device along with name and address of manufacturing site of medical device (and) certificate of compliance with respect to ISO 13485 standard accredited by National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies or International Accreditation Forum in respect of such medical device”.

This would mean that every medical device, either manufactured in India or imported, will have to have quality assurance before they can be sold anywhere in the country. “After furnishing of the above information on the ‘Online System for Medical Devices’ established by Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation for this purpose by the applicant’s, registration number will be generated. Manufacturer shall mention the registration number on the label of the medical device,” reads the gazette notification.

The notification calls for a voluntary registration within a period of 18 months from April 2020 and obtaining manufacturing/import licence under the Medical Device Rules within 36 months for some devices and 42 months for others.

What are the items covered under the Medical Device Rules?

A large number of commonly used items including hypodermic syringes and needles, cardiac stents, perfusion sets, catheters, orthopaedic implants, bone cements, lenses, sutures, internal prosthetic replacements etc are covered under the new rules and will have to comply starting April.

For some items such as sphygmomanometers (used to monitor blood pressure), glucometers (to check blood sugar), thermometers, CT scan and MRI equipment, dialysis and X-ray machines, implants etc, different deadlines for compliance have been set. For example for the first three, it is January 2021, for the others it is April next year. For ultrasound equipment, it is November 2020.

Is this a sudden move?

No. This has been in the offing for some time now. In October last year, the ministry had circulated copies of the then proposed notification for public comments following recommendations of the Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB), which is the highest technical body for these decisions and has experts among its members. In April last year, the DTAB had recommended that all medical devices should be notified as “drugs” under the drug regulation law to ensure they maintain safety and quality standards. The notification makes it clear that the government has issued it in consultation with the DTAB.

Why was the move required?

For much of the last one year, the health sector has been at the centre of attention following revelations about faulty hip implants marketed by pharma major Johnson & Johnson. This has caused major embarrassment to the government, too, as it exposed the lack of regulatory teeth when it came to medical devices. The matter dragged on, exposing the regulatory loopholes until finally the company agreed in court to pay Rs 25 lakh each to the 67 people who had had to undergo revision surgeries because the implants were defective.

In fact, even after Johnson & Johnson agreed in a Texas court to shell out $1 billion to settle about 6,000 lawsuits filed by patients in the US who used its “defective” pinnacle hip implants for 10 years from 2003 to 2013 before the product was withdrawn, in India it had for a very long time maintained that it had not received any adverse events report in the product.

That is really where the discussion started about regulation of medical devices.

The Indian Express published the ‘Implant Files’, a series of investigative reports highlighting lapses in regulation in India’s medical devices industry and the impact it had on patients. This included Johnson & Johnson’s use of loopholes in United States laws to obtain approval for and marketing hip implants in India, that had to be globally recalled in 2010.

What are the penal provisions under Indian law?

There are various penal provisions under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 for various kinds of offences. Manufacture or sale of substandard items is punishable with imprisonment of at least 10 years, which may extend to imprisonment for life. There is also a provision for fine that will “not be less than Rs 10 lakh rupees or three times value of the confiscated items”.

How has the industry reacted to the government move?

The industry has so far reacted positively, though doubts remain about the ability of the Central Drugs and Standards Control Organisation (CDSCO) to effectively regulate both drugs and medical devices.

Source: The Indian Express

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