Current Affairs 29th May 2023 for UPSC Prelims Exam
Context: The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) constituted a Project Steering Committee to review the progress of Project Cheetah.
About the Cheetah Project Steering Committee
- The new Cheetah Project Steering Committee will replace the Cheetah Task Force, which was constituted last year to monitor India’s cheetah introduction programme (From Namibia, Africa to Kuno National Park, in Madhya Pradesh).
- The Committee will review the progress of Project Cheetah, monitor the programme, and advise the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department and NTCA whenever required.
- The Committee is dominated by past and present members of the NTCA and Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun. It also has a panel of cheetah experts who are involved in cheetah conservation and introduction in Africa.
- It will open “the cheetah habitat” for eco-tourism and suggest regulations to further this.
- It will also provide suggestions on how to involve the community in the project’s activities.
About Project Cheetah
- Project Cheetah is an ambitious initiative aimed at reintroducing the cheetah, an endangered species, into its native habitat.
- The project involves the relocation of cheetahs from other countries to selected sites in India, with the goal of establishing a self-sustaining population of cheetahs in the long term.
- The project aims to conserve the cheetah and restore its presence in the Indian ecosystem, which it once inhabited. (The cheetah was declared extinct in India in 1952)
- The project is being implemented by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).
- In September 2022, Prime Minister released a coalition of cheetahs into the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh. Eight cheetahs, five of which are female, were flown from Windhoek, Namibia, to Gwalior.
Context: While iron fortification can effectively address iron deficiency, it is important to exercise caution as excessive intake of iron through fortified foods can lead to harmful health effects.
What is Iron Fortification?
- Iron fortification is the process of adding iron to food or other products to increase their iron content.
- Iron is an essential mineral that plays a crucial role in various physiological processes in the body, including the production of red blood cells and the transportation of oxygen.
- Iron deficiency is a common nutritional problem worldwide, leading to a condition called iron deficiency anemia.
- It can result from insufficient dietary intake of iron or poor iron absorption by the body.
- Iron fortification is an effective strategy to address this issue and improve iron status in populations.
The process of Iron Fortification
- Fortification typically involves adding iron compounds, such as ferrous sulfate, ferrous fumarate, or ferrous gluconate, to commonly consumed foods or food staples.
- Some examples include fortifying cereal grains (such as wheat or rice), cooking oils, condiments, and infant formulas with iron.
- The iron compounds used in fortification are carefully selected to ensure bioavailability and minimize undesirable effects on taste, texture, or color.
Harmful health effects of Iron Fortification
- There is a defined level of iron intake beyond which the risk of adverse events begins to increase. This is called the ‘tolerable upper limit’ of intake, and is set at 40 mg/day.
- When fortified foods are consumed in quantities that surpass the body’s iron requirements, it leads to an excessive intake of iron by the body.
- Men are more vulnerable: While women can excrete excess iron from body through menstrual bleeding, men cannot. This makes men particularly vulnerable to excess iron intake.
- Gastrointestinal Issues: High iron levels can cause gastrointestinal problems such as abdominal cramps, constipation, or diarrhea. Iron irritation of the gastrointestinal lining can also result in gastrointestinal bleeding.
- Diabetes: There are some evidences suggesting that high consumption of iron elevates the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
- Type 2 diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder characterized by high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) resulting from insulin resistance and inadequate insulin production by the pancreas.
- Oxidative Stress and Cellular Damage: Excess iron can induce oxidative stress, leading to damage to cells, proteins, and DNA. Prolonged oxidative stress can have long-term consequences.
- Interference with Nutrient Absorption: Excessive iron intake can interfere with the absorption of other essential nutrients like zinc, calcium, and copper, leading to imbalances and potential deficiencies.
- Liver Damage: Very high iron levels can lead to liver fibrosis, where excessive deposition of extracellular matrix in the liver impairs its function and can progress to cirrhosis.
Iron fortified foods in India
- In October 2016, FSSAI operationalized the Food Safety and Standards (Fortification of Foods) Regulations, 2016 for fortifying staples namely Wheat Flour and Rice (with Iron, Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid), Milk and Edible Oil (with Vitamins A and D) and Double Fortified Salt (with Iodine and Iron) to reduce the high burden of micronutrient malnutrition in India.
- The ‘+F’ logo has been notified to identify fortified foods.
National Policy for Rare Diseases, 2021
Context: A five-member panel will be set up by the Delhi High Court to efficiently implement the Centre’s rare diseases policy.
Need for the Panel:
- The number of patients on the Health Ministry’s list has steadily gone up but timely treatment has not been possible due to lack of coordination between the medical community, the providers of therapies for rare diseases and governmental agencies.
- The panel will be responsible for exploring procurement of therapies and drugs, and the creation of associated logistical framework to administer treatment.
What are Rare Diseases?
- Rare disease is a life-threatening condition that affects a small number of people compared with other existing diseases.
- Different countries have different definition. India classifies the disease as rare if the prevalence rate in population is 6% to 8%.
- Status: Currently, there are about 6000 to 8000 rare diseases. However, 80% of all patients are affected by approximately 350 rare diseases.
- About 95% rare diseases do not have approved treatment and less than 1 in 10 patients receive disease-specific treatment.
- About 80% of rare diseases are genetic in origin and hence disproportionately impact children.
- In India, 72 to 96 million people are affected by rare diseases. Most of the patients do not reach adulthood due to the high mortality.
- Effects of Rare Diseases
- Affects younger population: Rare diseases are responsible for 35% of deaths before the age of 1 year, 10% between the ages of 1 and 5 years and 12% between 5 and 15 years.
- Financial cost: The cost of treating rare diseases is very high, having a catastrophic effect on finances of families.
National Policy for Rare Diseases, 2021: Highlights
- Categorizing rare diseases:
- Group 1: Disorders treatable through one-time curative treatment.
- Group 2: Need long term or lifelong treatment.
- Group 3: Definitive treatment is available but challenges occur in form of very high cost and lifelong therapy.
- Individuals suffering from rare diseases listed under Group 1 will be provided financial support of up to Rs. 20 lakh.
- The benefits will be extended to 40% of the population, who are eligible under Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana.
- It also allows voluntary crowd funding treatment by setting up a digital platform.
- Individuals suffering from rare diseases listed under Group 1 will be provided financial support of up to Rs. 20 lakh.
- Registry of rare diseases: A registry of rare diseases will be created to ensure adequate data for those interested in research and development.
- Treatment centres:
- There are plans to set up eight ‘Centres of Excellence’ at designated places for prevention and treatment of rare diseases.
- They will be provided one-time grant of up to Rs. 5 crore for upgradation of diagnostics facilities.
Context: Many Chief Ministers of the opposition-ruled states did not attend the recent meeting of the NITI Aayog.
About NITI Aayog:
- NITI Aayog is a non-constitutional and non-statutory body that acts as public policy think tank of the Government of India.
- It was set up in 2015 to replace the erstwhile planning commission, which worked on top-down approach.
- The Prime Minister is the chairperson of the NITI Aayog. The Vice-chairperson is nominated by the Prime Minister.
- Other members of the council include Chief Ministers of states, along with the Chief Ministers of Delhi and Puducherry and Lieutenant Governors of all UTs.
- Eminent persons are selected from leading universities and research institutions as temporary members.
- Maximum four from Union council of ministers to be nominated by Prime minister as ex-officio members.
- Since the Planning Commission was suitable for command economy structure, it does not cater to the diversified economic model.
- The ‘one size fits all’ approach to economic planning cannot make India competitive in today’s global economy. NITI Aayog will act as a coordinator between centre and states for implementing programmes.
- Key initiatives:
- 15-year road map
- 7-year vision, strategy, and action plan
- Digital India
- Atal Innovation Mission
- Medical Education Reform
- e-AMRIT portal
- Agriculture reforms (Model Land Leasing Law
- Reforms of the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee Act
- Indices Measuring States’ Performance in Health, Education and Water Management
- Transforming India Lecture Series
Context: Recently the Prime Minister of India paid homage to VD Savarkar on his birth anniversary.
About VD Savarkar (1883-1966)
- Birth: Savarkar was born on 28th May 1883, in the village of Bhagur, near Nashik, Maharashtra.
- Personality: He was intensely nationalistic and envisioned India’s independence from British colonialism as a young boy.
- He is known through various titles, ‘Swantraveer,’ ‘Prince amongst the revolutionaries,’ ‘Ideologue of Hindutva,’ proponent of Hindu nationalism, Ideologue of Hindu Right in the Indian political spectrum.
- He is one of the key thinkers who articulated the necessity of a cultural reading of nation and nationhood and presented ideas in the form of ‘Hindu Akhand Bharat’ based on the framework of Hindutva.
- Contribution in Freedom Struggle:
- On 7 October 1905, he burnt all the foreign goods in a bonfire on Dussehra, as he was against foreign goods and propagated the idea of ‘Swadeshi’.
- In 1909, he was arrested on charges of plotting an armed revolt against the Morle-Minto reform (Indian Councils Act 1909).
- In 1911, he was sentenced to Kala Pani, the cellular jail of Andamans, for 50 years. After signing the petition to not participate in politics, he was released in 1924.
- He worked on the abolishment of untouchability in Ratnagiri.
- Hindutva: It was a historical, cultural, civilizational geographical, and martial notion of the self. The conception of Hindutva as an identity in his thinking includedcommon blood, common race, common language, common culture.
- Nationalism: Invoked as combination of two central emotions, patriotism as well as sense of duty towards the nation.
- Savarkar’s explained the concept of Swarajya in self-rule, freedom or liberation from colonialism, and Swadharma as the ultimate duty, in terms of protection of one’s religion.
- Normative Imagination: Based on three major imaginations: Social, cultural and linguistic, Savarkar’s imagination of Modern India was an egalitarian, caste less society with a strong Hindutva Idiom.
- Being a passionate promoter of Hindutva, he never was a cow worshipper. He asked people not to worship cows but to care for them. He was also against consuming cow urine and cow dung.
- Associated Institutions: He was a president of Hindu Mahasabha from 1937 to 1943.
- In Pune, Savarkar founded the “Abhinav Bharat Society”.
- He joined Tilak’s Swaraj Party.
- He established Free India Society in London that primarily worked towards the cause of India’s liberation outside the country.
- He established Mitra Mela, a youth collective which aimed to instill revolutionary nationalist spirit and consciousness.
- Major Writings:
- Mazzini Charitra (translation of Mazzini’s work).
- The 1857 Indian War of Independence
- Essentials of Hindutva