14TH OCTOBER CURRENT AFFAIRS

1. Nobel Prize in Economics

News: The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences, 2020 to Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson (both from the USA) for their work on commercial auctions.

Nobel Prize in Economics:

  • The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciencesin Memory of Alfred Nobel has been awarded 51 times to 84 Laureates between 1969 and 2019. The Nobel prize consists of a gold medal, a diploma and a cheque for 10 million Swedish kronor ($1.1 million, 950,000 euros).

What did the duo contribute?

  • Robert Wilson showed why rational bidders tend to place bids below their own best estimate of the common value: they are worried about the winner’s curse– that is, about paying too much and losing out.
  • Laureate Paul Milgrom formulated a more general theory of auctions that not only allows common values, but also private values that vary from bidder to bidder.

Auction Theory given by the laureates:

  • Auction theory studieshow auctions are designed, what rules govern them, how bidders behave and what outcomes are achieved. The oldest form of auction is the auction of a bankrupt person’s property to pay off his creditors. This simple design of such an auction is the highest open bidder getting the property (or the commodity in question).
  • Over time, the format of auctions has widenedto include other commodities such as spectrum for radio or telecom use, carbon dioxide emission credits, electricity or the right to collect the local garbage etc.
  • Different auction models are needed for depending upon the commodities, purpose of the auction and the entities conducting the auction.
  • For e.g.Maximizing the profit may be the motive of a private auction while making a service affordable can be the purpose of auctioning a service by the government. Wrong auction design can lead to a second-hand market where companies trade among themselves with little revenue accruing to the government or little benefit to the public. How an auction is designed, has a tremendous impact not just on the buyers and the sellers but also on the broader society.
  • Three key variablesneed to be understood while designing an auction.
  1. Rules of Auctione. closed/sealed bids, single bids versus multiple bids.
  2. Commodity or service being put up for auctione. how does each bidder value an item.
  3. Uncertaintyregarding which bidder has what information about the object, or even the value another bidder associates with the object.

2. Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog

News: Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog (RKA) has started a nationwide campaign to celebrate “Kamdhenu Deepawali Abhiyan” this year on the occasion of Deepawali festival.

Impact of this campaign:

  • Apart from generating business opportunities for thousands of cow-based entrepreneurs/farmers, the use of cow-dung products will lead to a cleaner and healthier environment. By providing an environmentally friendly alternative to Chinese made Diyas, the campaign will boost the ‘Make in India’ vision also.

Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog:

Background:

  • Livestock economy sustains nearly 73 million households in rural areas. Even though, the country is the largest producer of milk, the average milk yield in India is only 50% of the world average. The low productivity is largely due to deterioration in genetic stock, poor nutrition and unscientific management.

Details:

  • Constituted in 2019, the Aayog is a high powered permanent apex advisory bodywith the mandate to help the Central Government to develop appropriate programmes for conservation, sustainable development and genetic upgradation of indigenous breeds of cows.
  • It comes under the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying.
  • Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog will function as an integral part of Rashtriya Gokul Mission.

Its functions:

  • Review existing laws, policies as well as suggest measures for optimum economic utilization of cow wealth for enhanced production and productivity, leading to higher farm income and better quality of life for the dairy farmers.
  • Advise and guide the Central Government and State Governments on policy matters concerning conservation, protection, development and welfare of cows and their progeny.
  • Promote schemes to encourage the use of organic manure and recommend suitable measures including incentive schemes for use of dung or urine of cow in organic manure by farmers to minimize the use of chemical fertilizers.
  • Make provisions for solutions to the problems related to abandoned cows in the country by providing technical inputs to Gaushalas, Gosadans and pinjarapoles.
  • Develop pastures or grazing lands and to associate with institutions or other bodies whether private or public, for the purpose of developing pastures and Gauchars.

3. The Human Cost of Disasters 2000-2019

News: In a new report “The Human Cost of Disasters 2000-2019”, the United Nations pointed out that climate change is largely to blame for a near doubling of natural disasters in the past 20 years. The report is published by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR). The report did not touch on biological hazards and disease-related disasters like the coronavirus pandemic. International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction is observed on 13th October every year.

Key highlights of the report:

  • 7,348 major disasterevents had occurred between 2000 and 2019, affecting 4.2 billion people and costing the global economy some USD 2.97 trillion. The figure is far more than the 4,212 major natural disasters recorded between 1980 and 1999. 6,681 climate-linked disasters had been recorded in the period 2000-19, up from 3,656 during the previous 20-year-period.
  • Climate-related disasters include disasters categorized as meteorological, climatological, or hydrological.
  • There had also been an increase in geophysical eventslike earthquakes and tsunamis that are not related to climate but are particularly deadly.
  • Major floodshad more than doubled to 3,254, there had been 2,034 major storms up from 1,457 in 20 years. India is the 2nd most affected country by floods after China.
  • Extreme heat is proving especially deadly. Heatwaves of 2015 in Indiaresulted in 2,248 deaths.
  • The deadliest single disasterin the past 20 years was the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, with 2,26,400 deaths, followed by the Haiti earthquake in 2010, which claimed some 2,22,000 lives.
  • The data showed that Asiahas suffered the highest number of disasters in the past 20 years with 3,068 such events, followed by the Americas with 1,756 and Africa with 1,192.
  • In terms of affected countries, Chinatopped the list with 577 events followed by the United States with 467 and India (321 events).

About UNISDR:

  • The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), created in December 1999,is the successor to the secretariat of the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction.
  • It was established to ensure the implementation of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.

Functions:

  • UNISDR supports the implementation, follow-up and review of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction adopted by the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction on 18 March 2015 in Sendai, Japan.

UNISDR’s vision is anchored on the four priorities for action set out in the Sendai Framework:

  • Understanding disaster risk.
  • Strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk.
  • Investing in disaster risk reduction for resilience.
  • Enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response and to “Build Back Better” in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction.

About Sendai Framework:

  • The “Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030” was adopted during the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held in Sendai, Japan in March, 2015.
  • It is the first major agreement of the post-2015 development agenda, with seven targets and four priorities for action. It was endorsed by the UN General Assembly following the 2015 Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR).
  • The Framework is the successor instrument to the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) 2005-2015:Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters.

How disasters are dealt with in India?

  • The National Disaster Management Authority(NDMA) is the apex statutory body for disaster management in India. The NDMA was formally constituted in 2006, in accordance with the Disaster Management Act, 2005 with the Prime Minister as its Chairperson.
  • National Disaster Management Plan(NDMP) defines the roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders including Central Ministries/ Departments, State Governments, UT Administrations, District Authorities and local self Governments. Primary responsibility of disaster management rests with the  The Central Government conducts regular mock drill, community training and awareness programmes to prepare the civilian populations for disasters.

4. Guidelines for regulation of Gene-Editing

Background:

  • In 1987a group of Japanese researchers observed an unusual homologous DNA sequencebearing direct repeats with spacing in a eubacterial gene. In subsequent years CRISPR was discovered and showed to be a bacterial adaptive immune system and to act on DNA targets.
  • A notable discovery on the use of CRISPR as a gene-editing toolwas by a Lithuanian biochemist, Virginijus Šikšnys, in 2012. Šikšnys showed that Cas9 could cut purified DNA in a test tube, the same discovery for which both Charpentier and Doudna were given the credit.
  • Thus, the exclusion of Siksnys from this year’s Nobel is going to raise discussions.

Concerns:

  • The world was alarmed by such a mission in 2018 when Chinese scientist edited genes in human embryos using the CRISPR-Cas9 system which resulted in the birth of twin girls.
  • The incident became known as the case of the first gene-edited babies of the world.
  • Following the incident, the World Health Organization formed a panel of gene-editing experts.
  • The expert panel suggested a central registry of all human genome editing researchin order to create an open and transparent database of ongoing work.

Guidelines and regulations in India

  • In India, several rules, guidelines, and policies are notified under the Environment Protection Act, 1986 to regulate genetically modified organisms.
  • The above Act and the National Ethical Guidelines for Biomedical and Health Research involving human participants, 2017, by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), and the Biomedical and Health Research Regulation Bill implies regulation of the gene-editing process.
  • This is especially so in the usage of its language “modification, deletion or removal of parts of heritable material”. However, there is no explicit mention of the term gene editing.

Conclusion

  • It is time that India came up with a specific law to ban germline editing and put out guidelines for conducting gene-editing research giving rise to modified organisms.