1. MITOCHONDRIAL DONATION TREATMENT
TAGS: GS 3: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
CONTEXT: Recently, a baby born using three persons’ DNA in the United Kingdom. The baby has three parents, technically, deriving the mitochondria from a donor apart from genetic material (DNA) from biological parents. Pioneering technology was used to facilitate this, in order to prevent the child from inheriting the mother’s mitochondrial disease.
Process of the treatment:
- Three-parent baby, human offspring produced from the genetic material of one man and two women through the use of assisted reproductive technologies, specifically Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy (MRT) and three-person In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).
- Baby carries most of its DNA from its parents, and a minor per cent from the donor, whose mitochondria have been used while fertilising the egg.
- The errant mitochondrial DNA may be removed either before or after In-Vitro Fertilisation.
- In the first case, the nuclear DNA of the donor egg is removed and replaced by that of the egg from the woman whose mitochondrial DNA needs to be replaced. After that, this egg is fertilised as usual and implanted into the womb.
- In the second option, following in-vitro fertilisation, the fertilised nuclear DNA is transferred to a donor egg from which the nuclear DNA has already been removed. This leaves the errant mitochondrial DNA out as the fertilised nuclear DNA now has the donor mitochondrial DNA for company.
What are Mitochondria?
- One of the primary organelles in each cell is the nucleus, which contains our DNA, or genetic information.
- Mitochondria are another type of double-membraned cellular organelle, which are crucial for generating energy. They are commonly known as the powerhouse of the cell and they divide independently of the cell.
- They have a very small genome of their own, which in many ways resemble that of more primitive life forms.
- The mitochondrial DNA controls its functions much like the rest of the DNA of any living form and decides what the organism would look and act like.
How do Mitochondria get affected?
- Mitochondrial DNA makes up less than 0.0005% of our entire DNA, but since the child receives it only from the mother, any aberrations in her mitochondrial DNA that may cause diseases are passed on completely to the child.
- Similar to nuclear DNA, mitochondrial DNA serves an important purpose, namely providing the genetic blueprint for molecular machines called proteins that carry out cellular functions. However, this capacity of mitochondria to carry DNA also makes them a genetic liability of sorts.
- Specifically, just like nuclear DNA, mitochondrial DNA is susceptible to mutations in the DNA code that can cause disease. If these DNA mutations lead to the production of damaged mitochondrial proteins, they can cause a class of diseases termed mitochondrial disorders.
What is the need?
- Certain defects might occur impacting the way the mitochondria produce energy for the cells (especially in the ‘energy-hungry’ tissues of the brain, nerves, muscles, kidneys, heart, liver), and thereby impacting cell function.
- The diseases that arise out of such mitochondrial mutations are called mitochondrial diseases.
- When the mitochondria are impaired and do not produce sufficient energy, that affects how the organs function, leading to a broad assortment of symptoms across the body, including brain damage, organ failure and muscle wastage.
- The procedure is not without risks. Recent research has found that in some cases, the tiny number of abnormal mitochondria that are inevitably carried over from the mother’s egg to the donor egg can multiply when the baby is in the womb. So-called reversion or reversal could lead to a disease in the child.
2. CENTRE FOR PROCESSING ACCELERATED CORPORATE EXIT (C-PACE)
TAGS: PRELIMS PERSPECTIVE
CONTEXT: The Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) has set up the Centre for Processing Accelerated Corporate Exit (C-PACE) to centralise the process of striking off companies from the MCA Register.
Establishment of C-PACE:
- It was announced in the Union Budget 2022-23. C-PACE came into effect on April 1, 2023.
- The establishment of C-PACE is part of the MCA’s efforts towards ease of doing business and ease of exit for companies.
- The C-PACE institution, established under sub-section (1) of section 396, of the Companies Act, 1956 will be operational through the Registrar of Companies (RoC) for the purpose of processing and disposal of applications.
Operation of C-PACE:
- It is located at the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs in Gurgaon.
- It will be in operation through the Registrar of Companies (RoC) for the purposes of exercising functional jurisdiction of processing and disposal of applications
- It will work under the supervision of the Director General of Corporate Affairs.
Objectives of C-PACE:
- It will reduce the burden on the registry and provide stakeholders with hassle-free filing, timely and process-bound striking off of their company’s names from the register.
- It will help keep the registry clean and provide stakeholders with more meaningful data.
- As per new rules issued by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, from May 1, applications for removal of the name of a company under Section 248 of the Companies Act would be made to the registrar, C-PACE.
- It is expected that the process of voluntary winding up of companies would now be completed in six months as against the earlier timeline of two years.
- Section 248 of the Companies Act, 2013 provides for the removal of the name of the company from the RoC if it is not carrying on any business or operation for a period of two immediately preceding financial years and has not made any application within the said period for obtaining the status of a dormant company under Section 455.
Reasons for establishment:
- Setting up of the C-PACE is part of the several measures taken by the MCAin the recent past towards ease of doing business and ease of exit for the companies.
- Earlier, several IT-based systems have been established for accelerated registration of new companies.
- Despite the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC) significantly changing the insolvency scenario in the country, the timelines for admission and resolution of such cases have fallen woefully short of expectations.
- This has led to the need for a detailed statutory mechanism for resolving cross-border insolvency that would aid in the resolution of complex cases that involve cases of groups having multiple jurisdictions and would maximise value for all stakeholders.
- Centre for Processing Accelerated Corporate Exit (C-PACE) with process re-engineering will facilitate and speed up the voluntary winding-up of these companies from the currently required two years to less than six months.
3. SANTINIKETAN FOR INCLUSION IN UNESCO’S WORLD HERITAGE LIST
TAGS: PRELIMS PERSPECTIVE
CONTEXT: Santiniketan, the home of Nobel laureate Rabindra Nath Tagore has been recommended for inclusion in UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The recommendation was made by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), which is the advisory body to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, based on a file moved by the Indian government.
- Santiniketan, if selected would be the second cultural symbol from West Bengal, to make it to the UNESCO list. In 2021, UNESCO included ‘Durga Puja in Kolkata’ in its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
- However, it would be India’s 41st world heritage site and going to be the third site in Bengal; the other two are Darjeeling Himalayan Railways and Sundarbans National Park.
Selection criteria for UNESCO’s World Heritage List:
- To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one out of ten selection criteria mentioned in the UNESCO list.
(i)to represent a masterpiece of human creative genius
(ii)to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design
(iii)to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared
(iv)to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history
(v)to be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change
(vi)to be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (The Committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria)
(vii)to contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance
(viii)to be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features
(ix)to be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals
(x)to contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India:
There are 32 cultural sites, 7 natural sites and 1 mixed as recognised by UNESCO. Here is the list of 40 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India:
- It is the place where the Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore resided and set up the esteemed Visva-Bharati University.
- In the early 20th century, India was under the yoke of colonialism, and Santiniketan heralded a break from colonial revivalist architecture to forge a new modernity, which was not looking to the West but inwards, exploring indigenous materials and techniques, delving into India’s rich past and absorbing influences from the East to create a pan-Asian modernity.
- Santiniketan was a bold attempt to revive indigenous construction techniques to create a contextual, regional modernism”.
International Council on Monuments and Sites
- ICOMOS, a France-based international culture body, comprises professionals, experts, and representatives from local authorities, companies and heritage organizations.
- It is dedicated to the conservation and enhancement of global architectural and landscape heritage.
4. LONDON INTERBANK OFFERED RATE (LIBOR)
TAGS: GS 3: ECONOMY
CONTEXT: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) told banks and other regulated entities to ensure a complete transition away from the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) from July 1, 2023.
What is LIBOR?
- LIBOR is the benchmark interest rate at which major global banks lend to one another.
- It is administered by the Intercontinental Exchange or ICE., which asks major global banks how much they would charge other banks for short-term loans.
- The rate is calculated using the Waterfall Methodology, a standardized, transaction-based, data-driven, layered method.
- It is computed for five currencies with seven different maturities ranging from overnight to a year. The five currencies for which LIBOR is computed are the Swiss franc, euro, pound sterling, Japanese yen and US dollar. ICE benchmark administration consists of 11 to 18 banks that contribute to each currency.
How LIBOR is used?
- It is the global reference rate for unsecured short-term borrowing in the interbank market.
- It acts as a benchmark for short-term interest rates.
- It is used for pricing interest rate swaps, currency rate swaps as well as mortgages.
- It is an indicator of the health of the financial system and provides an idea of the trajectory of impending policy rates of central banks.
- Banks and private companies were using LIBOR as the benchmark rate for raising funds abroad.
- It was a key benchmark for setting the interest rates charged on adjustable-rate loans, mortgages and corporate debt.
What was wrong with LIBOR?
- In 2012, it came to light that many global banks had colluded to manipulate the LIBOR. The LIBOR also had a role to play in escalating the 2008 financial crisis. As a result, many central banks and regulatory authorities decided to move away from the benchmark.
- LIBOR is being replaced by the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) on June 30, 2023, with a phase-out of its use beginning after 2021.
New Guidelines by RBI:
- The RBI has told banks to ensure that no new transaction undertaken by them or their customers relies on or is priced using the USD LIBOR or the Mumbai Interbank Forward Outright Rate (MIFOR).
- In India, the RBI advised banks to stop entering into LIBOR-linked contracts latest by December 31, 2021. Major banks like SBI and ICICI Bank soon announced a transition to new benchmark rates. The latest move is likely to have some transitory impact on banks.
- On May 12, RBI asked banks and RBI-regulated entities to take steps to ensure a complete transition away from the LIBOR from July 01, 2023. Banks and Financial Institutions (FI) were advised to ensure that no new transaction undertaken by them or their customers relies on or is priced using the USD LIBOR or the MIFOR.
What will replace LIBOR?
- The RBI has offered options like the SOFR (Secured Overnight Financing Rate), which is linked to US treasury market transactions, and the Modified Mumbai Interbank Forward Outright Rate (MMIFOR). SOFR is considered a more accurate and more secure pricing benchmark.
What exactly is SOFR?
- SOFR is a broad measure of the cost of borrowing cash overnight, collateralised by (US) treasury securities in the repo market. It is based on the actual market activity and is not dependent on a few firms to set the rates.
What will be the impact of the LIBOR transition on banks and companies?
- Banks use benchmark rates like LIBOR to price international transactions while issuing financial instruments. Banks will have to work on updating their systems and agreements.
- Since LIBOR has been used for a long time, the transition will be a complex exercise for banks. The same is true for large companies that are looking at international borrowings or bond issues.
5. DIGITAL PUBLIC INFRASTRUCTURE (DPI)
TAGS: GS 3: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
CONTEXT: Member countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan have agreed on adopting India’s model of building and deploying Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI).
Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI):
- DPI is a set of interoperable and networked technologies that facilitate information flow with robust governance and inclusive participation of actors in the ecosystem, providing new flows and benefits that are accessible to everyone.
- DPI’s benefits span all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with early evidence indicating that countries with DPI are much more resilient in the face of crises.
- India’s digital public infrastructure, which includes the Aadhar, Unified Payments Interface (UPI) — in other words, digital payments and Digi locker (an online storage platform), collectively come under the ‘India Stack’.
Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) aims:
- The DPI aims to deploy digital technology among member states and ensure digitally inclusive growth. The SCO recognizes the need for interoperability and setting common standards for digital systems.
- It will put in place a common structure that will ensure interoperability between the different technologies they deploy,
- It aims to establish common standards for the interoperability of digital systems within the SCO. In line with its responsibilities as the G20 Presidency, the Indian government is reaching out to multiple countries, offering them its technology stack without any fees.
- DPI furthers peoples’ access to public services and economic opportunities. It accelerates and scales functions that lie at the heart of social and economic activity, such as identification and authentication or making and receiving payments. This initiative is expected to benefit Indian startups and system integrators.
- DPI can address common challenges that the global community is facing, from advancing gender equality to restoring our natural world.
- For many countries, such uses of digital technology hold great potential to expand access to basic resources and services, strengthen healthcare and education systems and raise overall living standards.
- They enable online, paperless, cashless, and privacy-respecting digital access to a variety of public and private services, the paper noted.
- It can support the formalisation of the Indian economy, where a large section of the population works in the informal sector, the paper added.
Unified Payments Interface
- Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is a system that powers multiple bank accounts into a single mobile application (of any participating bank), merging several banking features, seamless fund routing & merchant payments into one hood.
- It also caters to the “Peer to Peer” collection request which can be scheduled and paid as per requirement and convenience.
- DigiLocker is a flagship initiative of the Ministry of Electronics & IT (MeitY) under the Digital India programme.
- DigiLocker aims at the ‘Digital Empowerment’ of citizens by providing access to authentic digital documents to citizens’ digital document wallets.
- DigiLocker is a secure cloud-based platform for the storage, sharing and verification of documents & certificates.