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In news:

Tamil Nadu government declared eight Cauvery delta districts of Tamil Nadu as a special Protected Agricultural Zone and assured that permission will not be given for hydrocarbon projects.

In brief:

  • The protected zone will include Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Nagapattinam districts and delta regions of Trichy, Ariyalur, Cuddalore and Pudukkottai.
  • The farmers, however, want this move to be legalised and are urging the chief minister to make it a law in the upcoming budget session of the Tamil Nadu assembly.

Four Fold Jump In Li-Ion Battery Imports Since 2016

In news:

As per the Science Ministry’s admission in the LokSabha, India has quadrupled its imports of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries and more than tripled its import bill on the Li-ion batteries between 2016 and 2018.

In brief:

  • India is among the largest importers of Li-ion batteries in the world. The major sources of these batteries for India are China, Japan, and South Korea. China dominates the Li-ion battery market.
  • The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) manufactures Li-ion batteries but the volumes currently being manufactured are limited, and their usage is restricted to only space applications.


  • The weight of li-ion batteries is less compared to lead-acid batteries. So they can be used in mobile phones and other portable electronic devices.
  • It can live upto 5000 charging-discharging cycles. But lead-acid batteries can have only upto 400 cycles.
  • Li-ion battery can be charged and discharged 100% unlike lead-acid batteries.
  • Environmental damage is very much less in li-ion batteries comparatively
  • The cost of li-ion battery is much more than lead – acid batteries.

Decriminalize Laws, Change Criminal Penalties To Civil Penalties

In News:

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has recommended 12 alternate ways to work towards decriminalisation of laws and amend legislations to change criminal penalties to civil penalties.

In Brief:

  • CII has identified 12 alternative ways and listed them in the apex industry chamber’s compilation Decriminalisation of Business and Economic Legislation that was shared with Prime Minister and Finance Minister recently.
  • The 12 alternative ways are: provide for many summons cases concerning relatively minor offences to be compoundable; revisit/prescribe limitation period for assuming Jurisdiction; transparent mechanism for no-guilt admission & settlement of technical offences with penalties and not prosecution; introduce dispute settlement mechanism; introduce deferred prosecution agreements with exceptions; introduce one-time settlement schemes; consider making summons cases compoundable by expanding the scope of Section 320 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.
  • The remaining are: award costs where courts have observed that there is frivolous litigation or dilatory tactics; expeditious filling up of vacancies so as to ensure that Benches act in full strength; create a process for a without- admission of guilt settlement of tax and economic offences with exceptions to reduce the pipeline of future matters and take some pending matters out; increase the role of technology in courts with e-filings and the like and allow plea bargaining/settlement mechanism.
  • The CII also said that, globally, countries have been following a similar trend to mitigate litigation and provide confidence to industry.

J & K Administration Offer Investor Interrupted Internet

In News:

The Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) government is highlighting good quality air and low crime rate in the newly created Union Territory to attract investors.

In Brief:

  • As per the policy J&K Information Technology (IT) Policy 2020, the administration is offering an incentive to IT companies to operate in three- shifts and to facilitate women working during the night by provided transportation and security.
  • At least 15% of “plug and play” premises in designated IT parks will be reserved for women entrepreneurs.
  • The policy document says J&K contributes only 0.1% of the total cognisable crimes under the Indian Penal Code
  • The policy document shared with investors says that two IT parks with an area of five lakh square feet are being developed in Jammu and Srinagar which will have “dedicated and uninterrupted broad band connectivity and wi-fi access.

Only 82 Trafficking Survivors Awarded Relief In Last 8 Years

In Brief:

  • Highlighting the poor status of compensation awarded to survivors of human trafficking in the country, response obtained through RTI queries from 25 States and seven Union Territories reveal that between March 2011 and April 2019 only 82 such victims were awarded compensation.
  • However, between 2011 and 2018, the total number of cases of human trafficking recorded in the country, according to NCRB reports, was 35,983. This means, only 0.2% of all survivors of human trafficking received the compensation announced by the government in the last eight years.
  • The details of compensation awarded to survivors of trafficking have been ascertained on the basis of RTI applications filed by five lawyers across the country and the outcome of the response compiled in the form of report titled “UNCOMPENSATE VICTIMS”, which was released in Kolkata recently by Sanjog, a technical resource organisation that works to combat trafficking and gender-based violence.
  • Among the 82 survivors who were awarded compensation, only 77 received the relief amount. The State-wise details of the compensation awarded to the survivors show that 47 persons were awarded relief in Delhi, followed by 17 in Jharkhand, eight in Assam, three in West Bengal, two each in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Meghalaya. In Haryana, one survivor of trafficking was awarded compensation between 2011 and 2019
  • The Section 357-A of Code of Criminal Procedure has provisions to compensate victims who suffered because of a crime. In 2012, following the national outrage over the Nirbhaya gang-rape and murder case, the government announced Rs. 1,000 crore fund to be used to combat sexual violence against persons children or adults.
  • The part of the Nirbhaya fund is being used in the Victim Compensation Scheme a national scheme to compensate survivors of rape, acid burns and trafficking among other forms of violence for the last few years.
  • The amount of compensation to victims of trafficking varies from State to State, she said, adding that in 2018, the Supreme Court directed NALSA (National Legal Services Authority ) to frame a standardized victim compensation scheme.
  • The study also reflects the number of trafficking survivors who applied for the victim compensation scheme to their respective legal services authority. While 107 individuals applied under the scheme, in 102 cases between 2011 and 2019, courts directed the authorities to release compensation.
  • Twenty-eight persons applied for compensation in West Bengal, followed by 26 in Karnataka and Jharkhand. Fourteen persons in Assam applied for compensation while seven did the same in Delhi-NCR.
  • The study also suggests grave inconsistencies on the part of legal services authorities, which have provided the data.
  • The data on Delhi is discrepant, with more survivors receiving compensation than those awarded compensation. Manipur’s 2019 victim compensation scheme does not even have an entry in the schedule corresponding to human trafficking.

Lack of awareness:

  • The study also suggests that there remains a lack of information provided to survivors on victim compensation, lack of initiative on the part of legal services authority, low investment on part of legal aid that results in very few survivors having access to compensation.
  • In their study the researchers tracked the details of at least three case studies where the trafficking survivors had received compensation.
  • Survivors were able to apply only when they were informed and a private lawyer was involved in assisting them in filing application for victim compensation,” the study said, highlighting that from their rescue till rehabilitation, the survivors are in touch with multiple agencies but none of them take any steps to help them get compensation.
  • Researchers also pointed out that the “DLSA and SLSA’s response to the claims has been slow, and they hold the survivors’ claims with suspicion – often putting the burden of proof on the survivors themselves”.

India-Bangladesh Rail Link To Be Ready By 2021

In News:

The landmark rail line between Agartala and Akhaura connect the northeastern region with Bangladesh will be ready by the end of 2021.

In Brief:

  • The line between Agartala in Tripura and Akhaura in Bangladesh would pave the way for
    the first train to run from the northeastern region to Bangladesh on the eve of the 75th anniversary of India’s independence in 2022.
  • The link will connect Gangasagar in Bangladesh to Nischintapur in India and from there to Agartala.

Climate Colloborative Is About Breaking Silos, Sharing Responsibilities On Climate Change

In News:

The India Climate Collaborative is the first-ever collective response by industry leaders towards shared responsibilities for action and climate goals along with more than 10 top philanthropies.

About News:

  •  It includes Ratan N Tata, Anand Mahindra, RohiniNilekani, Nadir Godrej, Aditi and RishadPremji, Vidya Shah and Hemendra Kothari, among others.
  • It will amplify local solutions through a collaborative platform for diverse voices and collective investments.
  • More than 40 organisations are already a part of the ICC, including the principal scientific advisor to the Government of India, TERI, ATREE (Bangalore), Center for Science and Environment (CSE), the Indian School of Business, Godrej Industries, HUL Foundation, Mahindra Rise, Wipro and others.
  • Initiatives:
    • The Mahindras have declared they want to be carbon neutral.
    • The Godrejs are implementing work on water supply within their own companies.
    • 75 per cent of the workforce in any large company will comprise millennials

National Policy On Rare Diseases

In news:

A draft National Policy for Rare Diseases has been finalized and placed on the website of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare with a view to elicit comments / views of the stakeholders, including the States/UTs and the general public by 15-02-2020.

About News:

  • The draft policy provides for lowering the incidence of rare diseases based on an integrated preventive strategy and screening programmes.
  • List of identified rare diseases covered for treatment under the Umbrella Scheme of Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi

Group 1: Disorders amenable to one time curative treatment:

  • Disorders amenable to treatment with Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation (HSCT) –

    a. Such Lysosomal Storage Disorders (LSDs) for which Enzyme replacement Therapy (ERT) is presently not available and severe form of Mucopolysaccharoidosis (MPS) type I within first 2 years of age.
    b. Adrenoleukodystrophy (early stages), before the onset of hard neurological signs.
    c. Immune deficiency disorders like Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID), Chronic Granulomatous disease, Wiskot Aldrich Syndrome,etc
    d. Osteopetrosis
    e. FanconiAnemia
    f. Others if any to be decided on case to case basis by a technical committee

  • Disorders amenable to organ transplantation

    Liver Transplantation -Metabolic Liver diseases:

    a. Tyrosinemia,
    b. Glycogen storage disorders (GSD) I, III and IV due to poor metabolic control, multiple liver adenomas, or high risk for Hepatocellualr carcinoma or evidence of substantial cirrhosis or liver dysfunction or progressive liver failure,
    c. MSUD (Maple Syrup Urine Disease),
    d. Urea cycle disorders,
    e. Organic acidemias

    Renal Transplantation-

    a. Fabry’s disease
    b. Autosomal recessive Polycystic Kidney Disease (ARPKD),
    c. Autosomal dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease (ADPKD) etc

  • Patients requiring combined liver and kidney transplants can also be considered if the same ceiling of funds is maintained. ( Rarely Methyl Malonicaciduria may require combined liver & Kidney transplant) etc

Group 2: Diseases requiring long term / lifelong treatment having relatively lower cost of treatment and benefit has been documented in literature and annual or more frequent surveillance is required:

  • Disorders managed with special dietary formulae or Food for special medical purposes (FSMP)
    • Phenylketonuria (PKU)
    • Non-PKU hyperphenylalaninemia conditions
    • Maple Syrup Urine Disease (MSUD)
    • Tyrosinemia type 1 and 2
    • Homocystinuria
    • Urea Cycle Enzyme defects
    • GlutaricAciduria type 1 and 2
    • Methyl MalonicAcidemia
    • Propionic Acidemia
    • IsovalericAcidemia
    • Leucine sensitive hypoglycemia
    • Galactosemia
    • Glucose galactosemalabsorbtion
    • Severe Food protein allergy
  • Disorders that are amenable to other forms of therapy (hormone/ specific drugs)
    • NTBC for Tyrosinemia Type 1
    • OsteogenesisImperfecta – Bisphosphonates therapy
    • Growth Hormone therapy for proven GH deficiency , PraderWilli Syndrome and Turner syndrome, others (to be decided on case to case basis by technical committee)
    • Cystic Fibrosis- Pancreatic enzyme supplement
    • Primary Immune deficiency disorders -Intravenous immunoglobulin therapy (IVIG) replacement eg. X-linked agammablobulinemia etc.
    • Sodium Benzoate, arginine, ,citrulline ,phenylacetate (Urea Cycle disorders), carbaglu, Megavitamin therapy (Organic acidemias, mitochondrial disorders)
    • Others – Hemin (Panhematin) for Acute intermittent Porphyria, High dose Hydroxocobalamin injections (30mg/ml formulation – not available in India and hence expensive if imported)
    • Others (if any) to be decided on case-to-case basis, by a technical committee.

Group 3: Diseases for which definitive treatment is available but challenges are to make optimal patient selection for benefit, very high cost and lifelong therapy.

3a) Based on the literature sufficient evidence for good long-term outcomes exists for the following disorders

  1. Gaucher Disease (Type I & III {without significant neurological impairment})
  2. Hurler Syndrome [Mucopolysaccharisosis (MPS) Type I] (attenuated forms)
  3. Hunter syndrome (MPS II) (attenuated form)
  4. Pompe Disease diagnosed early (Both infantile & late onset)
  5. Fabry Disease diagnosed before significant end organ damage.
  6. Spinal Muscular Atrophy
  7. MPS IVA
  8. MPS VI

3b) For the following disorders for which the cost of treatment is very high and either long term follow up literature is awaited or has been done on small number of patients:

  1. Wolman Disease
  2. Hypophosphatasia
  3. Neuronal ceroidlipofuscinosis
  4. Cystic Fibrosis
  5. Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

India Moves To Include Elephant, Bustard In Global Conservation List

In News:

The COP is scheduled to be organised from February 17 to 22 in Gandhinagar, Gujarat. India will be moving to include the Asian Elephant and the Great Indian Bustard in the list of species that merit heightened conservation measures.

About News:

  • The list will be debated at the 13th Conference of Parties (COP) of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), an environment treaty under the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
  • The Union Government has announced the Great Indian Bustard (GIB) as the mascot
  • The mascot for the event, Great Indian Bustard has been fondly named as ‘Gibi’

About CMS:

  • Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) is an international treaty under the aegis of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
  • It is also known as the Bonn Convention.
  • CMS aims to conserve terrestrial, marine and avian migratory species throughout their range.
  • CMS is only global and UN-based intergovernmental organization established exclusively for conservation and management of terrestrial, aquatic and avian migratory species throughout their range.
  • There are 130 parties to the convention and India has been a member since 1983.