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♦ Sudhir Bhargava is new CIC chief
- The government has appointed Sudhir Bhargava as the new Chief Information Commissioner. He will take charge on January 1. Four new members have also been appointed to the Central Information Commission (CIC), taking its total strength to seven. Four vacancies still remain.
- The CIC is the highest appeal body under the Right to Information Act. It has been functioning with just three members since the former chief and several members completed their tenure last month.
- Mr. Bhargava, a former Secretary to the Ministry of Social Justice, will be sworn in by President Ram Nath Kovind on Tuesday. He has been a Commissioner since June 2015, and will take over as the ninth chief of the CIC. Like all of his predecessors, he is a retired bureaucrat. The previous chiefs have all been from Central service — IAS, IPS and IIS — backgrounds.
- All four of the new Commissioners are also retired senior bureaucrats. Yashwardhan Kumar Sinha was High Commissioner of India to the United Kingdom, while Vanaja N. Sarna was chief of the Central Board of Excise and Customs. Suresh Chandra retired as Union Law secretary earlier this year, while Neeraj Kumar Gupta was Secretary in the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management.
♦ ₹1.28 lakh cr. spent on rural, urban infrastructure: CM Chandrababu Naidu
- Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu on Sunday said the State government had spent about ₹1.28 lakh crore on rural and urban infrastructure in the last four-and-a-half years with due emphasis on drinking water supply, road connectivity and sanitation.
- The Panchayat Raj Department implemented projects worth ₹35,000 crore and had more of them with an outlay of ₹20,000 crore in the pipeline. Releasing a White Paper on the infrastructure here, Mr. Naidu said CC roads measuring 23,553 km were laid at approximately ₹5,695 crore using the NREGS and the Finance Commission funds. He said the laying of another 8,000 km of CC roads was under progress.
- The Chief Minister said 2,071 panchayat buildings were constructed at ₹204 crore after 2014 and 5,565 anganwadi centres at ₹171 crore. Construction of 4,214 anganwadi centres was under progress.
- The A.P. Drinking Water Corporation was set up to supply 70 Litres Per Capita per Day. Protected water was being supplied in 325 fluoride-affected villages. Waste-to-energy plants were targeted to be established in 9,000 villages in a phased manner.
- Mr. Naidu said priority was given to improving greenery in urban areas. A total of 368 Anna canteens were set up including 216 in urban areas and 152 in rural areas.
♦ Over 60,000 treated under health scheme
- As many as 67,977 patients have been treated free of cost in the State from June till December 27 under Arogya Karnataka (from June to October 30) and the co-branded Ayushman Bharat – Arogya Karnataka health schemes from October 30 onwards.
♦ Ashwani Lohani retires, V K Yadav new railway board chairman
- Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani retired on Monday, despite strong indications that the Narendra Modi government could grant him an extension, according to an official order.
- General Manager, South Central Railway, V K Yadav has been appointed the national transporter’s senior-most bureaucrat by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet. Yadav belongs to the 1980 batch of the Indian Railway Service of Electrical Engineers. He started his career as an assistant electrical engineer in February, 1982.
- Lohani was appointed chairman of the Railway Board after A K Mital resigned in August last year following the derailment of the Kaifiyat Express near Auriya in Uttar Pradesh.
♦ Lok Sabha passes Indian Medical Council (amendment) bill
- Lok Sabha Monday passed the Indian Medical Council (Amendment) bill to allow a panel of eminent professionals to run the scam-tainted Medical Council of India (MCI), so that medical education can be regulated in the best manner. The bill passed by the lower house seeks to replace an ordinance issued in this regard in September this year.
- Piloting the bill, Health Minister Jagat Prakash Nadda said this bill supersedes MCI and the powers of the council have been vested in a Board of Governors (BoG). The BoG have all eminent personalities and include directors of AIIMS and PGI, Chandigarh. This board will continue to perform till a Council is constituted, Nadda said.
- A separate bill to replace MCI with National Medical Commission is pending in Parliament. “This bill has been issued so that medical education can be regulated in best manner, as MCI turned out to be massive failure,” he said.
- The Minister, while speaking on the bill, said the parliamentary panel on Health in its report also cautioned that any attempt to overhaul the medical regulatory system in the country will face huge challenges. He suggested that government was forced to come up with this bill as the oversight committee formed by the government on suggestion of the Supreme Court resigned and the MCI could not function. Thereafter the government came with an ordinance.
♦ Indian Badminton in 2018: PV Sindhu’s World Tour Final gold caps year of heavy scheduling woes
- A day before the start of the Premier Badminton League in India last week, three of the world best shuttlers – Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu and Carolina Marin – directed their guns towards the Badminton World Federation. All three had a similar complaint – regarding the heavy scheduling of tournaments in a calendar year. “By reducing the number of tournaments, there is little chance of players getting injured. Why have 20 tournaments a year? They can just do four, five Grand Slams with more money in,” Nehwal, who returned from a career-threatening knee injury last year said. “At this rate, we definitely can’t give our best or be at the highest level all the time. I would say that we should have limited tournaments and prepare well,” Sindhu added.
- Olympic gold medallist Marin went a step further and said that the tournament scheduling is not “professional”. “If you want to be professional, they cannot do this to the players. Right now they are forcing players to play so many tournaments and we are getting injured,” she said.
- The heavy jam-packed scheduling of badminton became a major focus from the start of 2018 and remained so till the end of the year.
- The BWF, at the end of 2017 season, had announced a new badminton tournament structure that required players to participate in more events for higher prize money. The new tour series – featuring six levels kicked off this year, with at least a million dollars price up for grabs in the top four events, which will run till 2021.
♦ ICC Test ranking: Virat Kohli, Kagiso Rabada end 2018 in top spots
- It turned out to be a glorious 2018 for India captain Virat Kohli and South Africa fast bowler Kagiso Rabada as both maintained their respective pole positions in the year-end ICC Test Player Rankings.
- Kohli dropped three points despite a first innings score of 82 in the third Test against Australia in Melbourne, but still enjoys a 34-point lead over nearest rival Kane Williamson of New Zealand.
- Kohli, who attained a career-high 937 points during the year, which is the highest ever by an India batsman, scored 1322 runs in all. He overtook Steven Smith in August and has now held the top position for 135 days.
- Rabada, who split the top ranking with England’s seasoned fast bowler James Anderson during the year, is just six points ahead of his adversary.
- Rabada, who became the youngest to take top position among bowlers during the year and held the spot for 178 days during the year, grabbed six wickets in the opening match at Centurion that South Africa won by six wickets to finish with 52 wickets in 10 Tests in 2018.
♠Vocabulary (The Hindu)♣
- GOB (NOUN): (भीड़)Multitude
Synonyms: abundance, fullness
Antonyms: individual, one
Example: All bakery products are found in gob at this outlet.
- REVEL (NOUN): (उत्सव)Carousal
Synonyms: gaiety, gala
Antonyms: gloom, despair
Example: They all had a huge nocturnal revel out there.
- HARVEST (VERB): (संग्रह करना)Accumulate
Synonyms: amass, collect
Antonyms: approval, sanction
Example: This year she had been afraid to harvest because of the dogs.
- BOUNTIFUL (ADJECTIVE): (प्रचुर/ बहुल)Abundant
Synonyms: ample, lavish
Antonyms: meagre, scarce
Example: This building has bountiful rooms.
- COY (ADJECTIVE): (संकोची) very modest
Synonyms: bashful, evasive
Antonyms: immodest, unshy
Example : She gave her brother’s friend a coy smile.
- CRAMP (NOUN): (ऐंठन) stiffness
Synonyms: pain, ache
Antonyms: comfort, ease
Example: She started getting stomach cramps this morning.
- CRASS (ADJECTIVE): (बेवकूफ) not intelligent; irresponsible
Synonyms: stupid, gross
Antonyms: sharp, smart
Example: They have behaved with crass insensitivity.
- ROBUST (ADJECTIVE):(मजबूत) hearty
Synonyms: healthy, sturdy
Antonyms: fragile, incapable
Example: He is an intelligent and a robust child.
HIV reality check
A 23-year-old pregnant woman in Tamil Nadu tested positive for HIV after receiving a unit of blood at a government hospital blood bank, indicating glaring lapses in screening procedures. The blood was donated on November 30 and transfused to the pregnant woman on December 3. Testing all donated blood units for a number of transfusion-transmissible infections, including HIV, is mandatory in India. The ELISA test used in all blood banks to screen for HIV has very high levels of sensitivity to diagnose samples positive for the virus. It can be said with certainty that the blood bank had failed to screen the blood for HIV. The question of testing the donated blood for HIV during the window period (the time between potential exposure to HIV and when the test reveals for sure if the person has HIV) does not arise as the donor’s HIV-positive status became known in 2016 when he donated blood at the same blood bank. Since 2004, prior to donation, all blood banks are required to obtain from donors written consent as to whether they wish to be informed about a positive test result. In case a donor tests positive for HIV, blood banks are required to refer the donors to designated voluntary counselling and testing centres (VCTCs) for disclosure and counselling. That the blood bank tried but failed to contact the donor in 2016 indicates that the donor had consented to be informed of a positive result. In a further tragic twist, he found out elsewhere that he was HIV-positive, and dutifully contacted the hospital on December 10, but his blood had already been transfused by then. On Sunday he passed away after consuming poison.
Studies show that blood banks in India have a success rate of less than 50% in contacting donors who have tested positive for transfusion-transmissible infections. Under the 2004 National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) Action Plan, VCTCs are required to inform the blood bank of a donor’s HIV-positive status to stop the person from donating blood in the future only when the confirmatory test done at the VCTC too is positive. Since only half of the consented donors are contactable and even fewer visit a VCTC, it is imperative that NACO finds a viable alternative without compromising the donor’s identity. The focus should also be on creating awareness among donors to visit a VCTC to confirm their HIV status when alerted by blood banks. After all, timely confirmation helps donors start on early treatment to keep the virus under check and take precautionary measures to reduce the risk of infecting their partners and others through sexual and other kinds of contact and through blood donation. After winning a protracted battle to keep away professional donors from donating blood by encouraging voluntary donation, it is time blood banks and NACO worked to make safe blood availability a reality at all times.
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