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17 April, 2020

79 Min Read

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Paper Topics Subject
GS-II COVID-19 - G20 VIRTUAL SUBMIT
GS-III Chitra Gene Lamp- N makes confirmatory test results-COVID-19
UNORGANISED SECTOR - Unorganised Worker Social Security Act,2007
Analysis of Depreciating Rupee Economic Issues
Scientist’s unravelled biggest star explosion
Black hole
PT Pointer Plasma enrichment technique
Australia Company to begin 1st human trial of COVID -19 vaccin
India to supply hydroxychloroquine
MHA CAUTION AGAINST THE USE OF ZOOM MEETING PLATFORMS-CERTin
COVID-19 and IMF
Musk’s SPACE X wins NASA award for planned lunar space station
Important GS Topics COVID19-Virtual Reality
Aviation Reforms-Air Transport
GS-II :
COVID-19 - G20 VIRTUAL SUBMIT

India unravels monetary policy measures-G-20 virtual meeting

Part of: GS-II- International organisation –G20 (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

India stressed the role of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors of G20 countries in safeguarding the lives and livelihood of people while maintaining macroeconomic stability in a sustainable manner in the backdrop of Covid-19 pandemic.

In her intervention at the virtual session of the Second G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting, Finance Minister shared the measures taken by Government of India to provide the vulnerable sections with swift, timely and targeted assistance.

In a couple of weeks, India has disbursed financial assistance amounting to 3.9 billion dollars to more than 320 million people so far.

The disbursal is being done with a special focus on direct benefit transfer through digital technology so that the exposure of beneficiaries to public places is minimised.

The monetary policy measures undertaken by Government of India, Reserve Bank of India and other regulators have helped de-freeze the market and catalyse credit flows. These measures include liquidity support of 50 billion dollars, regulatory and supervisory measures for credit easing, relief on debt servicing through moratoriums on instalments of term-loans, eased working capital financing and deferred interest payments on such financing.

 

G-20 action plan to compact Covid 19

The new G20 Plan to combat Covid19 will guide individual and collective actions of the G20 members in responding to the pandemic in short and medium term. The Action Plan aims to protect lives, safeguard people’s jobs and incomes, restore confidence, preserve financial stability, revive growth and recover strongly. This plan also provides for helping countries needing assistance, coordinating in public health and financial measures and minimising disruption to global supply chain.

 

The G20 is committed to do whatever it takes to overcome the pandemic, along with the World Health Organization (WHO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank Group (WBG), United Nations (UN), and other international organizations, working within their existing mandates. We are determined to spare no effort, both individually and collectively, to:

? Protect lives.

? Safeguard people’s jobs and incomes.

? Restore confidence, preserve financial stability, revive growth and recover stronger.

? Minimize disruptions to trade and global supply chains.

? Provide help to all countries in need of assistance.

? Coordinate on public health and financial measures.

 

India PM view:

PM thanked the King of Saudi Arabia for convening this extraordinary session of G20. In his remarks, PM noted the alarming social and economic cost of the pandemic, He added that 90% of the COVID-19 cases and 88% of deaths were in G20 countries even as they share 80% of world GDP and 60% of world population. He called on the G20 to come out with a concrete action plan to fight the global pandemic.
PM underscored the need to put human beings at the centre of our vision of global prosperity and cooperation, freely and openly share the benefits of medical research and development, develop adaptive, responsive and humane health care systems, promote new crisis management protocols and procedures for an interconnected global village, strengthen and reform intergovernmental organisations like WHO and work together to reduce economic hardships resulting from COVID-19 particularly for the economically weak.
PM called on the Leaders to help usher in a
new globalization, for the collective well-being of humankind and have multilateral fora focus on promoting the shared interests of humanity.

 

PT-PICKUPS

G20 meeting held in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia).

  • It was presided by Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is the first Arab nation to hold the G20 presidency.
  • The 2020 G20 Presidency will focus discussions, forums, working groups and Ministerial Meetings under the theme of “Realizing Opportunities of the 21st Century for All”.

About

The G20 is an informal group of 19 countries and the European Union, with representatives of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

The G20 membership comprises a mix of the world’s largest advanced and emerging economies, representing about two-thirds of the world’s population, 85% of global gross domestic product, 80% of global investment and over 75% of global trade.

Headquarter: The G20 operates as a forum and not as an organisation. Therefore, it does not have any permanent secretariat or management and administrative structure.

Origin
1997-1999 Asian Financial Crisis: This was a ministerial-level forum which emerged after G7 invited both developed and developing economies. The finance ministers and central bank governors began meeting in 1999.

Amid 2008 Financial Crisis the world saw the need for a new consensus-building at the highest political level. It was decided that the G20 leaders would begin meeting once annually.

Members
The members of the G20 are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union.

One nation holds the Chair every year, known as 'G20 Presidency'. Argentina chaired the G20 summit of 2018 and Japan for 2019.

V-Shaped Recovery

  • A V-shaped recovery is characterized by a sharp economic decline followed by a quick and sustained recovery.
  • The recession of 1953 is an example of a V-shaped recovery.
  • A V-shaped recovery is different from an L-shaped recovery, in which the economy stays in a slump for a prolonged period of time.

yesJai Hind Jai Bharat

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GS-III :
Chitra Gene Lamp- N makes confirmatory test results-COVID-19

Chitra Gene Lamp- N makes confirmatory test results-COVID-19

Part of: GS-III- S&T (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

The confirmatory diagnostic test which detects the N Gene of SARS- COV2 using reverse transcriptase loop-mediated amplification of viral nucleic acid (RT-LAMP) will be one of world’s first few if not the first of its kinds in the world.

The test kit, funded by the DST called Chitra GeneLAMP-N is highly specific for SARS-CoV-2 N-gene and can detect two regions of the gene which will ensure that the test does not fail even if one region of the viral gene undergoes mutation during its current spread.

The tests performed at NIV Alappuzha (authorized by ICMR) show that Chitra GeneLAMP- N has 100% accuracy and match with test results using RT-PCR. This has been intimated to ICMR, the authority to approve it, for COVID-19 testing in India, following which License need to be obtained from CDSCO for manufacture.

Current PCR kits in India enable detection of E gene for screening and RdRp gene for confirmation. Chitra GeneLAMP-N gene testing will allow confirmation in one test without the need for a screening test and at much lower costs.

The detection time is 10 minutes and the sample to result time (from RNA extraction in swab to RT LAMP detection time) will be less than 2 hours. A total of 30 samples can be tested in a single batch in a single machine allowing large number of samples to be tested each day.

 

Indian Council of Medical Research

  • Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is the apex body in India for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research.
  • Its mandate is to conduct, coordinate and implement medical research for the benefit of the Society; translating medical innovations into products/processes and introducing them into the public health system.
  • It is funded by the Government of India through the Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.
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GS-III :
UNORGANISED SECTOR - Unorganised Worker Social Security Act,2007

UNORGANISED SECTOR - Unorganised Worker Social Security Act,2007

Part of: GS-II- Labour reforms (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

The Ministry of Labour, Government of India, has categorised the unorganised labour force under four groups depending on occupation, nature of employment, specially distressed categories and service categories. They are:

Under Terms of Occupation:

Small and marginal farmers, landless agricultural labourers, share croppers, fishermen, those engaged in animal husbandry, beedi rolling, labelling and packing, building and construction workers, leather workers, weavers, artisans, salt workers, workers in brick kilns and stone quarries, workers in saw mills, oil mills, etc. come under this category.

Under Terms of Nature of Employment:

Attached agricultural labourers, bonded labourers, migrant workers, contract and casual labourers come under this category.

Under Terms of Specially Distressed Category:

Toddy tappers, scavengers, carriers of head loads, drivers of animal driven vehicles, loaders and unloaders come under this category.

Under Terms of Service Category:

Midwives, domestic workers, fishermen and women, barbers, vegetable and fruit vendors, newspaper vendors, etc., belong to this category.

 

Unorganised Worker Social Security Act,2007:

An Act to provide for the social security and welfare of unorganised workers. It extends to the whole of India.

The State Government may formulate and notify, from time to time, suitable welfare schemes for unorganised workers, including schemes relating to provident fund; employment injury benefit;  housing; educational schemes for children; skill upgradation of workers;  funeral assistance; and old age homes.

National Social Security Board:

  • The Central Government shall, by notification, constitute a National Board to be known as the National Social Security Board to exercise the powers conferred on, and to perform the functions assigned to, it under this Act. The Union Minister for Labour and Employment is the Chairperson.
  • The Chairperson and other members of the Board shall be from amongst persons of eminence in the fields of labour welfare, management, finance, law and administration.
  • The term of the National Board shall be three years.

Functions of National Board:

The National Board shall perform the following functions, namely:—

(a) recommend to the Central Government suitable schemes for different sections of unorganised workers;

(b) advise the Central Government on such matters arising out of the administration of this Act as may be referred to it;

(c) monitor such social welfare schemes for unorganised workers as are administered by the Central Government;

(d) review the progress of registration and issue of identity cards to the unorganised workers;

(e) review the record keeping functions performed at the State level;

(f) review the expenditure from the funds under various schemes; and

 (g) undertake such other functions as are assigned to it by the Central Government from time to time.

State level:

Even State Social Security Boards will be formed at the State level headed by the State Ministry of Labour.

District level:

The record keeping functions for the purpose of this Act shall be performed by the District Administration:

Provided that the State Government may direct that the record keeping function shall be performed by—

(a) the District Panchayat in rural areas; and

(b) the Urban Local Bodies in urban areas.

 

Workers facilitation centres:

The State Government may set up such Workers' facilitation centres as may be considered necessary from time to time to perform the following functions, namely:—

(a) disseminate information on available social security schemes for the unorganised workers;

(b) facilitate the filling, processing and forwarding of application forms for registration of unorganised workers;

(c) assist unorganised worker to obtain registration from the District Administration;

(d) facilitate the enrollment of the registered unorganised workers in social security schemes.

 

Eligibility for registration and social security benefits.

(1) Every unorganised worker shall be eligible for registration subject to the fulfilment of the following conditions, namely:—

(a) he or she shall have completed 14 years of age; and

(b) a self-declaration by him or her confirming that he or she is an unorganised worker.

(2) Every eligible unorganised worker shall make an application in the prescribed form to the District Administration for registration.

(3) Every unorganised worker shall be registered and issued an identity card by the District Administration which shall be a smart card carrying a unique identification number and shall be portable.

(4) If a scheme requires a registered unorganised worker to make a contribution, he or she shall be eligible for social security benefits under the scheme only upon payment of such contribution.

(5) Where a scheme requires the Central or State Government to make a contribution, the Central or State Government, as the case may be, shall make the contribution regularly in terms of the scheme.

 

Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana:

Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana  (PMMVY) is a Maternity Benefit Programme that is implemented in all the districts of the country in accordance with the provision of the National Food Security Act, 2013.

Objectives:

Providing partial compensation for the wage loss in terms of cash incentive s so that the woman can take adequate res t before and after delivery of the first living child.

The cash incentive provided would lead to improved health seeking behaviour amongst the Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers (PW& LM).

Target beneficiaries:

1.All Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers, excluding PW&LM who are in regular employment with the Central Government or the State Governments or PSUs or those who are in receipt of similar benefits under any law for the time being in force.

2.All eligible Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers who have their pregnancy on or after 01.01.2017 for first child in family.

3.The date and stage of pregnancy for a beneficiary would be counted with respect to her LMP date as mentioned in the MCP card.

4. Case of Miscarriage/Still Birth :

  • A beneficiary is eligible to receive benefits under the scheme only once.
  • In case of miscarriage/still birth, the beneficiary would be eligible to claim the remaining instalment(s) in event of any future pregnancy.
  • Thus, after receiving the 1st instalment, if the beneficiary has a miscarriage, she would only be eligible for receiving 2nd and 3rd instalment in event of future pregnancy subject to fulfilment of eligibility criterion and conditionalities of the scheme. Similarly, if the beneficiary has a miscarriage or still birth after receiving 1 st and 2nd instalments, she would only be eligible for receiving 3rd instalment in event of future pregnancy subject to fulfilment of eligibility criterion and conditionalities of the scheme.

5. Case of Infant Mortality: A beneficiary is eligible to receive benefits under the scheme only once. That is, in case of infant mortality, she will not be eligible for claiming benefits under the scheme, if she has already received all the instalments of the maternity benefit under PMMVY earlier.

6. Pregnant and Lactating AWWs/ AWHs/ ASHA may also avail the benefits under the PMMVY subject to fulfilment of scheme conditionalities.

Benefits under PMMVY:

  • Cash incentive of Rs 5000 in three instalments i.e. first instalment of Rs 1000/ - on early registration of pregnancy at the Anganwadi Centre (AWC) / approved Health facility as may be identified by the respective administering State / UT, second instalment of Rs 2000/ - after six months of pregnancy on receiving at least one ante-natal check-up (ANC) and third instalment of Rs 2000/ - after child birth is registered and the child has received the first cycle of BCG, OPV, DPT and Hepatitis - B, or its equivalent/ substitute.
  • The eligible beneficiaries would receive the incentive given under the Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) for Institutional delivery and the incentive received under JSY would be accounted towards maternity benefits so that on an average a woman gets Rs 6000 / -

 

Draft Policy on Domestic Workers:

Features

  • Inclusion of domestic workers in the existing legislations
  • Domestic workers will have the right to register as workers with the State Labour Department. Such registration will facilitate their access to rights & benefits accruing to them as workers.
  • Right to form their own associations, trade unions
  • Right to have minimum wages, access to social security, protection from abuse, harassment, violence
  • Right to enhance their professional skills
  • Protection of domestic workers from abuse and exploitation who are recruited to work abroad
  • Domestic Workers to have access to courts, tribunals, etc.
  • Establishment of a mechanism for regulation of placement agencies.

yesJai Hind Jai Bharat

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GS-III : Economic Issues
Analysis of Depreciating Rupee

Analysis of Depreciating Rupee

Part of: GS-II- Labour reforms (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

The value of the Indian rupee against dollar has significantly declined to the level of Rs 76 further impacted by COVID-19. Fall in the rupee has become a matter of concern as it can slow down the economic growth, corporate earnings, and can lead to market volatility. Currency depreciation for any developing economy could be a major stumbling block in its growth. It calls for measures to encourage exports and strengthen the manufacturing sector to reduce import overdependence.

Government has announced several steps including steps to curb the import of non-essential goods and encourage the export of domestic goods, which will help in addressing the country’s burgeoning current account deficit. Other steps such as removing restrictions on foreign portfolio investments and encouraging Indian borrowers to issue rupee-denominated ‘masala bonds’ have also been announced to facilitate the inflow of dollars and to de-risk the economy from fluctuations in the exchange rate.

Devaluation of currencies around the world: the dollar has appreciated sharply against most of the other currencies in the world. For instance, it has moved up against both the euro and the pound. Developing countries have suffered the loss of portfolio investment because of their relatively unstable political and economic conditions. Historically, devaluation was used as a tool to curb the balance of payments deficit. The currency was devalued to decrease the price of exports by making them more competitive. Also, the imports in the country became more expensive and its volume got reduced in the economy.

Causes for the Decline

  • Shift in the global capital: After the massive decrease announced in corporate tax rates and the rising interest rates, U.S. economy has become a more attractive option for the investors of the global capital. Investors attracted by higher yields in the United States have been pulling their capital out of India at an increasing pace over the last few months.
  • Trade war: The trade war between the US and China and the spat between Turkey and America is another cause of concern. It has weighed on not just the rupee, but most emerging market economy (EME) currencies. Any adverse economic/geopolitical development, in Iran or Turkey, triggers capital outflows from EMEs and investors seeking refuge in “safe haven” currencies such as the dollar and the Swiss franc.
  • The rise in international crude oil prices is one of the reasons behind the rupee’s decline as importers have had to shell out more dollars to fund their purchases. India imports about 80% of its petroleum needs. The country has been unsuccessful in finding sustainable domestic sources of energy to address the over-reliance on oil imports. This has meant that the rise in the price of oil has traditionally exerted tremendous stress on the current account deficit and the currency, as is happening now.

Valuation of Rupee

Any currency, say the rupee, can be overvalued or undervalued. Overvaluation of the currency means that its price in terms of foreign currencies is too high, compared to what it would be with a more appropriate exchange rate. This makes the exports expensive in foreign markets and the imports cheap in the home market. Undervaluation of the currency means the opposite. Its price in terms of foreign currencies is too low so that it discriminates against imports and in favour of exports.

How does the depreciating rupee impact the economy?

  • A depreciating rupee could put inflationary pressure on the domestic economy. The rising landed cost price of crude oil has resulted in the rise in prices of petroleum and diesel which in turn has increased the cost of transportation of goods that also include many food items.
  • The devaluation will also increase the prices of imported inputs, particularly those for which there are no alternative domestic sources of supply. These import dependent sectors can face a rise in the cost of production which can affect output expansion. Many domestic companies that have taken dollar loans will also face significantly higher servicing costs.

NOTE (PT SHOT):

Landed cost is the total cost of a commodity or a product when it lands at the ports of the country importing the commodity/product from another country. It includes the manufacturing cost of the product, all transportation costs, customs, duties, taxes, currency conversion, crating, handling charges and payments etc.

Corrective Actions

  • Lowering the duties: Both the Central and State governments earn huge revenues from excise duties and value-added tax (VAT) on petrol and diesel. Now that the rupee cost of crude has increased, the Centre should lower duties. Rates of VAT should also be lowered by State governments. A small reduction in VAT may even be revenue neutral since VAT is levied as a percentage of the price paid by the dealer.
  • Boosting exports: The government needs to think of a long-term plan to boost exports, preferably through steps that remove policy barriers that are impeding the growth of export-oriented sectors, in order to find a sustainable solution to the problem of the weakening rupee. Deep structural changes from infrastructure to trade policy are needed to boost export competitiveness while addressing problems related to the goods and services tax particularly faced by the exporters.
  • Encouraging FPI: Portfolio investment flows have a significant impact on the exchange rate. These capital inflows drive prices up in stock markets and add to foreign exchange reserves. Large inflows lead to an appreciation of the rupee and large outflows lead to a depreciation of the rupee. The appreciating overvalued rupee erodes the price competitiveness of exports and enhances the price competitiveness of imports, which hurts the profitability of domestic firms and is bound to enlarge the trade deficit. At a macro level, this also leads to a contraction in aggregate domestic demand so that economic growth is slower than it would have been in the absence of an appreciating rupee.

A Brief History of Rupee

  • The word ‘rupee’ has been derived from the Sanskrit word rupyakam, meaning a silver coin. It owes its origin to rupiya, issued by Sher Shah Suri in 1540-45. Today, the Reserve Bank of India issues currency under the RBI Act 1934.
  • The Paper Currency Bill was enacted in 1861 which gave the British government the sole right to issue notes.
  • Britain (and France) declared war on Germany in 1939. In preparation, India’s economy was geared up by the colonial government towards the war effort through the imposition of controls. The first was the exchange control. Completely convertible into any currency until then, the rupee was made inconvertible. Transferring money outside the sterling area required permission under rules that were laid down in London.
  • Dollars for the war were also raised by selling silver bullion from India’s reserves to governments outside the sterling area.
  • Dollars could be spent on imports of essential consumables, not capital goods. What was essential was defined by the war requirements until 1946, when civilian requirements were included. The restrictions on capital goods imports continued because the BoE had blocked what was called India’s sterling balances. By the end of World War II, India had accumulated a sizeable sterling balance of £1,300 million — India’s earnings in foreign currency on its exports for the war, deposited in the Bank of England in the form of sterling to the credit of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) account. The balance had grown with import controls limiting forex outflows. The corresponding increase in rupee circulation stoked war inflation in India.
  • After the war ended, the transfer of the sterling balances was negotiated between India and Britain.
  • The sterling was floated against the major international currencies in the early 1970s, the rupee as late as 1993-1994. The two currencies were delinked in 1975.

Conclusion

  • The government can borrow from non-resident Indians (NRIs) by floating special NRI bonds that have to be purchased with foreign exchange, and with maturity periods of at least three years.
  • Interest rates should be kept attractive, and investors must be protected from exchange rate fluctuations. Since this has been tried before (in 2013), it offers more certainty to the steps that can work.
  • In the near future, the rupee is unlikely to return to anything below 70 to the dollar. This should not be cause for much concern because the economy will adjust to the lower value of the rupee. Much will depend on whether the economy can continue to grow at a reasonably high rate, for this will steady the nerves of portfolio investors and prevent them from pulling out of the Indian stock market.

yesJai Hind Jai Bharat

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GS-III :
Scientist’s unravelled biggest star explosion

Scientist’s unravelled biggest star explosion ever seen

Part of: GS-III- S&T - Space (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

The supernova, releasing twice as much energy as any other stellar explosion observed to date, occurred about 4.6 billion light years from Earth in a relatively small galaxy. A light year is the distance light travels in a year, 5.9 trillion miles (9.5 trillion km) PT SHOT.

Believed to be a type of supernova that until now has only been theorized. Astrophysicist said two very massive stars - each about 50 times the sun’s mass - may have merged to make one extremely massive star roughly 1,000 years before the explosion. They had been part of what is called a binary system with two stars gravitationally bound to each other.

The merged star exploded in a supernova, formally named SN2016aps, inside a very dense and hydrogen-rich envelope.

Stars die in various different ways depending on their size and other properties. When a massive star - more than eight times the mass of our sun - uses up its fuel, it cools off and its core collapses, triggering shock waves that cause its outer layer to explode so violently that it can outshine entire galaxies.

“Pulsational pair-instability is when very massive stars undergo pulsations which eject material away from the star

“This discovery shows that there are many exciting and new phenomena left to be uncovered in the universe.

 

Gravitational waves

  • Gravitational waves are ‘ripples’ in the fabric of space-time caused by some of the most violent and energetic processes in the Universe.
  • When an object accelerates, it creates ripples in space-time, just like a boat causes ripples in a pond.
  • These space-time ripples are gravitational waves. They are extremely weak so are very difficult to detect.
  • Two objects orbiting each other in a planar orbit such as a planet orbiting the Sun or a binary star system or the merging of two black holes will radiate Gravitational waves.
  • Albert Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves in 1916 in his general theory of relativity.
  • Einstein’s mathematics showed that massive accelerating objects (such as neutron stars or black holes orbiting each other) would disrupt space-time in such a way that ‘waves’ of distorted space would radiate from the source.
  • Furthermore, these ripples would travel at the speed of light through the Universe.
  • G- Waves can pass through any intervening matter without being scattered significantly.
  • While light from distant stars may be blocked out by interstellar dust, gravitational waves will pass through essentially unimpeded. This feature allows G-Waves to carry information about astronomical phenomena never before observed by humans.
  • Colliding black holes send ripples through spacetime that can be detected on Earth. The Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or Advanced LIGO, which has detectors in Louisiana and Washington,  has directly observed these gravitational waves.
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GS-III :
Black hole

Astronomers spot “missing link” black hole

Part of: GS-III- S&T - Space (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

Using data from the Hubble Space Telescope and two X-ray observatories, the researchers determined that this black hole is more than 50,000 times the mass of our sun and located 740 million light years from Earth in a dwarf galaxy, one containing far fewer stars than our Milky Way.

 

Black holes are extraordinarily dense objects possessing gravitational pulls so powerful that not even light can escape.

This is one of the few “intermediate-mass” (PT SHOT) black holes ever identified, being far smaller than the supermassive black holes that reside at the center of large galaxies but far larger than so-called stellar-mass black holes formed by the collapse of massive individual stars. An object that was discovered originally back in 2010 is indeed an intermediate-mass black hole that ripped apart and swallowed a passing star

The star was probably roughly a third the mass of the sun. Scientists have searched for intermediate-mass black holes for four decades and fewer than 10 good examples are known, though large numbers may exist.

“So finding a new one is very significant. Also, a black hole swallowing a star happens on average only once every 10,000 years or so in any particular galaxy so these are rare occurrences,”

The supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way is 4 million times the mass of the sun and located 26,000 light years from Earth. The closest stellar-mass black star is about 6,000 light years from Earth. A light year is the distance light travels in a year, 5.9 trillion miles (9.5 trillion km).

Scientists called intermediate-mass black holes the “missing link” in understanding the range of black holes

 

Additional notes

What is a black hole?

  1. A black hole is an object in space that is so dense and has such strong gravity that no matter or light can escape its pull. Because no light can escape, it is black and invisible.
  2. There’s a boundary at the edge of a black hole called the event horizon, which is the point of no return — any light or matter that crosses that boundary is sucked into the black hole. It would need to travel faster than the speed of light to escape, which is impossible.
  3. Anything that crosses the event horizon is destined to fall to the very centre of the black hole and be squished into a single point with infinite density, called the singularity.

 

If black holes are invisible, how can we detect or photograph them?

  1. By looking for the effects of their extreme gravity, which pulls stars and gases toward them.
  2. Also, while anything past the event horizon is invisible, outside that boundary there is sometimes a spiral disk of gas that the black hole has pulled toward — but not yet into — itself.
  3. The gases in that accretion disk are heated up as they accelerate toward the black hole, causing them to glow extremely brightly. The colours they glow are invisible to us, but are detectable with an X-ray telescope.
  4. Scientists have also detected the gravitational waves generated when two black holes collide. light surrounding the black hole right to the edge of the event horizon, which is the goal of the Event Horizon Telescope.

 

How big are black holes?

Small black holes are called stellar-mass black holes. They have masses similar to those of larger stars — about five to 20 times the mass of the sun. The other kind is supermassive black holes, which are millions to billions of times more massive than the sun. That’s the kind the Event Horizon Telescope has been trying to photograph, as bigger objects ought to be easier to see. There is some evidence that black holes between these two sizes exist, but that has yet to be confirmed.

While black holes are very massive, that doesn’t mean they take up a lot of space. Because they’re so dense, they’re actually quite small.  According to NASA, a black hole 20 times the mass of the sun could fit inside a ball 16 kilometres wide — the width of the Island of Montreal at its widest point.

 

Where are black holes found?

Supermassive black holes are found at the centre of most galaxies, including our own Milky Way. The one in our galaxy is called 

Sagittarius A* and is one of those the Event Horizon Telescope has been attempting to photograph.

Sagittarius A* isn’t the only black hole in our galaxy, though. Earlier this year, astronomers discovered another 12 within three light-years of it, suggesting there could be upwards of 10,000 black holes around the galactic centre.

 

Where do black holes come from?

Supermassive black holes are believed to form at the same time as the galaxy that surrounds them, but astronomers aren’t sure exactly how.

Stellar mass black holes form when a star with a mass greater than three times that of our sun runs out of fuel. It explodes into a supernova and collapses into an extremely dense core that we know as a black hole — something predicted by Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

Einstein’s theory also predicts the size and shape of the black holes that the Event Horizon Telescope is trying to photograph.

The scientists at Event Horizon Telescope Project have released the first-ever image of a Black Hole (more precisely, of its shadow).

  • The black hole is located in the center of galaxy Messier 87, in the constellation Virgo. It is located about 53 million light -years away from earth.
  • The black hole has a mass of 6.5 billion Suns.
  • The image was made possible by the Event horizon telescope (EHT).
  • The EHT picks up the radiation emitted by particles in the galaxy heated to billion degrees as they revolve around the black hole close to the speed of light.

Event Horizon

  • There is a region of space beyond the black hole called the event horizon. This is a "point of no return", beyond which it is impossible to escape the gravitational effects of the black hole.

Event Horizon Telescope Project

  • EHT is a group of 8 radio telescopes (used to detect radio waves from space) located in different parts of the world.
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GS-III :
Plasma enrichment technique

Plasma enrichment technique

The plasma enrichment techniques, antibodies from the blood of patients who have recovered from Covid-19 are used to treat severely infected patients. It is aimed at assessing the efficacy of convalescent plasma to limit complications in Covid-patients.

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GS-III :
Australia Company to begin 1st human trial of COVID -19 vaccin

Australia Company to begin 1st human trial of COVID -19 vaccin

Clinical research company Nucleus Network revealed that, it would test the effectiveness and safety of a Recombinant Spike Protein Nanoparticle vaccine, NVX-CoV2373, developed by US based Biotechnology Company.

A small group of healthy volunteers would be recruited for the trial to test the effectiveness of this vaccine. The human trial procedures would involve four phases, following strict protocols to make sure it was safe and effective before being released to the public.

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GS-III :
India to supply hydroxychloroquine

India to supply hydroxychloroquine to 55 countries

India has decided to supply anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine to 55 countries. Government sources said, out of these, 21 countries will get the drug on a commercial basis and other countries will receive it on a grant in very small quantities. 

India will soon get COVID19 testing kits from South Korea. Indian missions have also taken quotations for testing kits from vendors in the UK, Malaysia, France, Germany, Japan and the US.  They are coordinating with major agencies for PPE kits and country will soon get a huge consignment of PPE kits.

 

About Hydroxychloroquine

  • Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), sold under the brand name Plaquenil among others, is a medication used to prevent and treat malaria in areas where malaria remains sensitive to chloroquine. Other uses include treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and porphyria cutanea tarda
  • Hydroxychloroquine was approved for medical use in the United States in 1955. It is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines, the safest and most effective medicines needed in a health system.
  • Common side effects include vomiting, headache, changes in vision, and muscle weakness. Severe side effects may include allergic reactions.

Hydroxychloroquine Issue

  • In a study last month in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents (IJAA), French scientists reported: “Twenty cases were treated… and showed a significant reduction of the viral carriage compared to controls, and much lower average carrying duration than reported of untreated patients in the literature. Azithromycin (an antibiotic) added to hydroxychloroquine was significantly more efficient for virus elimination.”
  • The study was flagged as being too small to draw a definitive conclusion. On April 3, the International Society of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, which owns the IJAA, said the study did “not meet the society’s expected standard, especially relating to the lack of better explanations of the inclusion criteria and the triage of patients to ensure patient safety”.
  • However, by March 21, Trump had begun to call the drug a “game changer”, and has since been pushing it.
  • At the end of last month, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) issued an advisory recommending the use of hydroxychloroquine in asymptomatic healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patients, and also allowed doctors to prescribe it for household contacts of confirmed COVID-19 patients.
  • However, the government has stressed that the drug can only be used in COVID-19 treatment on prescription, and that it should not instill a sense of “false security”.
  • The US has been looking to procure the drug for emergency use. On March 21, Ipca told stock exchanges here that the US Food and Drug Administration had “made exception” to its import alert against the company so that it could get stocks.
  • India decided to ban exports of the drug on April 4. On Tuesday, the government decided to ease the ban.
  • On April 7, US President Donald Trump tweeted about “retaliation” if India did not heed his request for the drug.
  • Later, India said it would supply to countries that needed it the most, and to neighbours who were “dependent on India’s capabilities”.
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GS-III :
MHA CAUTION AGAINST THE USE OF ZOOM MEETING PLATFORMS-CERTin

MHA CAUTION AGAINST THE USE OF ZOOM MEETING PLATFORMS-CERTin

Home Ministry has directed that Zoom meeting platform should not be used by government officials and offices for any purpose. In an advisory Ministry of Home Affairs has cautioned against the use of this platform. It further stated that even private users should ensure that Cert-in advisory regarding the use of this platform should be followed. The Cert-in advisory is mainly focused towards prevention of unauthorised entry in the conferences and it also prevents participants to carry out any malicious activity  on the terminal of other participants. Private users have been advised to refer to the Cert-in advisory on its website to restrict users through access passwords. Zoom platform has been used for holding video conferences in light of the lockdown imposed in many countries. Many leading private companies have already restricted usage of this platform amid growing concerns over its security.

 

CERT-In

CERT-In (the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team) is a government-mandated information technology (IT) security organization. The purpose of CERT-In is to respond to computer security incidents, report on vulnerabilities and promote effective IT security practices throughout the country. CERT-In was created by the Indian Department of Information Technology in 2004 and operates under the auspices of that department. According to the provisions of the Information Technology Amendment Act 2008, CERT-In is responsible for overseeing administration of the Act. In the recent Information Technology Amendment Act 2008, CERT-In has been designated to serve as the national agency to perform the following functions in the area of cyber security:

• Collection, analysis and dissemination of information on cyber incidents.

• Forecast and alerts of cyber security incidents

• Emergency measures for handling cyber security incidents

• Coordination of cyber incident response activities.

• Issue guidelines, advisories, vulnerability notes and whitepapers relating to information security practices, procedures, prevention, response and reporting of cyber incidents.

• Such other functions relating to cyber security as may be prescribed.

The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) has signed cooperation pacts with its counterparts in Malaysia, Singapore and Japan for cyber security. The Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) will promote closer cooperation for exchange of knowledge and experience in detection, resolution and prevention of security-related incidents between India and the three countries.

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GS-II :
COVID-19 and IMF

COVID-19 and IMF

IMF proposes to deploy 1 Trillion US dollar lending capacity to battle corona pandemic

International Monetary Fund (IMF) has proposed to deploy its full 1 trillion US Dollar lending capacity to support countries battling COVID-19 outbreak. Describing the COVID-19 pandemic as a crisis like no other, International Monetary Fund head Kristalina Georgieva, world is now in the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Asia expected to witness zero percent growth in 2020 - IMF

Asia is expected to witness zero percent growth in 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic, its worst growth performance in almost 60 years, the International Monetary Fund IMF) has said.

The IMF in a blog titled 'COVID-19 Pandemic and the Asia-Pacific Region: Lowest Growth Since the 1960s' further said the impact of the coronavirus on the region will be "severe and unprecedented".

The blog said, "This is the worst growth performance in almost 60 years, including during the Global Financial Crisis, when the growth stood at 4.7 percent; and the Asian Financial Crisis when it stood at 1.3 percent."

It further noted that "Asia still looks to fare better than other regions in terms of activity".

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GS-III :
Musk’s SPACE X wins NASA award for planned lunar space station

Musk’s SPACE X wins NASA award for planned lunar space station

SpaceX will get a portion of a $7 billion NASA contract to use its biggest rocket, Falcon Heavy, to send a new “Dragon XL” spacecraft to the Lunar Gateway, an outpost NASA plans to build that will orbit the moon sometime within the next decade.

The Dragon XL spacecraft, the latest variant in Musk’s lineup of so-called Dragon cargo and astronaut capsules, will carry research supplies that will help future astronauts on the surface of the moon collect lunar samples, a NASA announcement said. 

The Dragon variant, which would be docked at the orbital station for six to 12 months per mission, is “optimized to carry more than 5 metric tons of cargo to Gateway in lunar orbit,”

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GS-III :
COVID19-Virtual Reality

Telemedicine

The World Health Organization (WHO) refers to telemedicine as “healing from a distance“. It is the use of telecommunications technology and information technologies to provide remote clinical services to patients. Physicians use telemedicine for the transmission of digital imaging, video consultations, and remote medical diagnosis.

Telehealth as “the utilization of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support and promote long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health education, public health and health administration.”

While this definition sounds a lot like telemedicine, there is one distinct difference. Unlike telemedicine, telehealth also covers non-clinical events like administrative meetings, continuing medical education (CME), and physician training. Telehealth is not a specific service, but a collection of methods to improve patient care and education delivery.

The recent activities under Telemedicine Programme involved migration and operationalisation of the nodes which were affected due to non-availability of EDUSAT (GSAT-3).

Most of 190 nodes operating on EDUSAT were migrated to operational GSAT-12 satellite. Around 139 nodes are now operational on INSAT-3A and the remaining nodes on INSAT-3C and INSAT-4A satellites. ISRO is in the process of bringing in annual maintenance support for the Telemedicine systems to ensure continuity of service.

A Telemedicine monitoring node is established in DECU, Ahmedabad which is used for testing and supporting users for minor troubleshooting, etc.

Telemedicine is simply defined as, “the remote delivery of healthcare services“. There are 3 common types of telemedicine, which include but not limited to:

  1. Interactive Medicine – which allows patients and physicians to communicate in real-time .
  2. Store and Forward – which permits providers to share patient information with a practitioner in another location.
  3. Remote Patient Monitoring – which allows remote caregivers to monitor patients that reside at home by using mobile medical devices to collect data (e.g. blood sugar or blood pressure)

 

Opportunities for telemedicine

  • Telemedicine is helpful for people living in rural areas. This is very crucial for India, since 70% of the population lives in rural areas.
  • Telemedicine helps overcome the shortage of health professionals. India currently has only 0.7 physicians per 1000 people while China and Russia have 5 and 1.5 respectively.
  • Telemedicine is a better option while dealing with particularly infectious diseases like swine flu.

Developments in Telemedicine

  • The Indian government has launched the SEHAT initiative to connect 60,000 common service centres nationwide and provide health care services to citizens. This will dovetail with the Digital India Initiative.
  • In 2009, KIDROP programme was launched in Karnataka to screen infants for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a leading cause of childhood blindness. Its success has led to it being replicated in two more States.

Disadvantages of telemedicine

  • Lack of technical Training and Equipment
  • Restructuring IT staff responsibilities and purchasing equipment takes time and
  • Reduced Care Continuity
  • Fewer In-Person Consultations
  • Tricky Policies and Reimbursement Rules

 

Augmented Reality Vs Virtual Reality

One of the biggest confusions in the world of augmented reality is the difference between augmented reality and virtual reality.

Virtual reality (VR) is an artificial, computer-generated simulation or recreation of a real life environment or situation. It immerses the user by making them feel like they are experiencing the simulated reality first hand, primarily by stimulating their vision and hearing.

VR is typically achieved by wearing a headset like Facebook’s Oculus equipped with the technology, and is used prominently in two different ways:

  1. To create and enhance an imaginary reality for gaming, entertainment, and play (Such as video and computer games, or 3D movies, head mounted display).
  2. To enhance training for real life environments by creating a simulation of reality where people can practice beforehand (Such as flight simulators for pilots).

Virtual reality is possible through a coding language known as VRML (Virtual Reality Modeling Language) which can be used to create a series of images, and specify what types of interactions are possible for them.

Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that layers computer-generated enhancements atop an existing reality in order to make it more meaningful through the ability to interact with it. AR is developed into apps and used on mobile devices to blend digital components into the real world in such a way that they enhance one another, but can also be told apart easily.

AR technology is quickly coming into the mainstream. It is used to display score overlays on telecasted sports games and pop out 3D emails, photos or text messages on mobile devices. Leaders of the tech industry are also using AR to do amazing and revolutionary things with holograms and motion activated commands.

 

Augmented Reality vs. Virtual Reality

Augmented reality and virtual reality are inverse reflections of one in another with what each technology seeks to accomplish and deliver for the user. Virtual reality offers a digital recreation of a real life setting, while augmented reality delivers virtual elements as an overlay to the real world.

Differences between Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality:

Purpose

Augmented reality enhances experiences by adding virtual components such as digital images, graphics, or sensations as a new layer of interaction with the real world. Contrastingly, virtual reality creates its own reality that is completely computer generated and driven.

Delivery Method:

Virtual Reality is usually delivered to the user through a head-mounted, or hand-held controller. This equipment connects people to the virtual reality, and allows them to control and navigate their actions in an environment meant to simulate the real world.

Augmented reality is being used more and more in mobile devices such as laptops, smart phones, and tablets to change how the real world and digital images, graphics intersect and interact.

Similarities between Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality:

Technology

Augmented and virtual realities both leverage some of the same types of technology, and they each exist to serve the user with an enhanced or enriched experience.

Entertainment

Both technologies enable experiences that are becoming more commonly expected and sought after for entertainment purposes. While in the past they seemed merely a figment of a science fiction imagination, new artificial worlds come to life under the user’s control, and deeper layers of interaction with the real world are also achievable. Leading tech moguls are investing and developing new adaptations, improvements, and releasing more and more products and apps that support these technologies for the increasingly savvy users.

Science and Medicine

Additionally, both virtual and augmented realities have great potential in changing the landscape of the medical field by making things such as remote surgeries a real possibility. These technologies been already been used to treat and heal psychological conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

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GS-III :
Aviation Reforms-Air Transport

Indian Aviation

  • Total passenger traffic to, from and within India, during Apr-Nov 2018 grew by around 15% year on year as compared to around 6% globally.
  • India is now the seventh largest aviation market with 187 million passengers in FY 2017-18 and it is expected to become the third largest by 2022.
  • There is also possibility lot of Cargo Traffic in future.
  • Indian Aviation is witnessing great switchover from Railways, by the kind of population in India which is just breaking into the financial acceptable limits of flying.
  • Manufacturing in Europe and America is high due to high labour cost. India has a good potential to be an East-West and a West-East Hub due to its cheap labor.

Challenges

Infrastructure related problems:

  • India builds airports after the demand arises, which delays the growth of Aviation Industry.
  • Not only the lower capabilities of airports is an issue, but inefficient working of other things like Air navigation management, Air traffic control, Airline Slots waiting etc. is also an issue.
  • Shortage of Pilots: As per a report, in the last three years, the average number of foreign pilots is over 300 in India and Airlines are paying huge sum to them.
  • Inefficient functioning of UDAN Scheme: 134 routes which were awarded under the scheme have not become functional yet. Hinterland of the country is not yet completely connected to the Aviation Sector.

Poor Financial Health of Indian Airlines:

  • The Airlines have tried to make a capital expenditure on acquisition of new aircrafts which was probably much larger than they could afford. That was based on the expectancy of steady future growth. It is around 10% now as compared to 20%, early last year. This affected their liquidity as well as their ability to service the debts.
  • High Fuel Prices and depreciation of Rupee is also a reason.
  • Heavy Taxation over Aviation Sector as compared to other transport systems like Railways, Buses etc.
  • Once the Airline Ticket prices go up, People tend to switch back to Railways and other modes of transportation.
  • Global Aviation Sector, currently, not doing well, is another reason.

Air Safety and Security is another challenge.

  • Absence of Maintenance and Repair Organizations (MRO) in India. Indian Airlines enter in contract with foreign organizations for the maintenance of their fleet, which raises the maintenance cost.
  • Not much improvement in Cargo Traffic, despite the fact that India declared ‘Unilateral Open Sky’ 20-25 years back.

Solutions:

Infrastructure:

  • More than one Airport in cities will help in easing traffic. Eg: London
  • Airports need to build on the anticipation of demand, the way Ireland built the airport in Hong Kong.
  • Use of Latest Technology is required for the efficient working of Air Traffic Control and Navigation system and also for the safety and security in Aircrafts.
  • Regional Connectivity Scheme needs alternate requisite support.
  • The capping of Airport Slots is a good interim solution to meet the infrastructure deficit. The Airline which is not doing well should not enjoy the privilege of reserved slots. The slots should be given to good performing airlines.
  • We need not to keep Air India under Government fold. Its Pilots can get employed in other airlines.

Financial Health:

  • All petroleum products including Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) should be brought under GST.
  • Using fuel-efficient technology for navigation system. Looking out for the use of biofuel and Solar Power.
  • A Rational Approach to Aviation Taxation should be adopted.

Maintenance and Repairing Organizations (MRO) should be started in India.

Carrying Cargo is a solution for poor performing Airlines. The Civil Aviation Minister also recently said that Government is thinking on ‘Cargo Policy’.

Tie-Ups with other departments are required to improve Cargo Traffic.

India Outbound is growing very well. This is needed to be linked with India’s Foreign Policy to ensure that growth takes all over.

 

Vision 2040 Document

The Ministry of Civil Aviation on January 15,2019 unveiled the Vision 2040 document, which highlights the growth potential in different sub-sectors of Indian aviation and the key action steps are required to be taken to achieve the desired objective.

• As per the document the total passenger traffic (to, from and within India) in India is expected to rise nearly six-fold from 187 million in FY 2018 to around 1124 million in FY 2040.

• This includes around 821 million domestic passengers and around 303 million international passengers (to and from India).

Details about the vision document

• The overall CAGR works out to around 9% in domestic and 7% in international traffic during FY 2018-2040, it said adding that since aviation is a longterm plan, aircraft procurement, airport development, air navigation system changes and skill development should be done in a cohesive manner.

• Rather than having five-year plans, the document talks about India having a robust 20-year plan that lays out the targets and the path to get there along with time lines and clear accountability.

• The technology developments like artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, biometrics, composites, super-alloys, biofuels etc. are changing the face of aviation and it is humanly impossible to predict the oil price or the exchange rate a month down the line, much less the impact of technology 10 years hence.

• The vision document said with the right policies and a relentless focus on execution, India can surprise the world by not just meeting but exceeding the Vision 2040 targets.

• “India is the seventh-largest country by area and the second-most populous with over 1.35 billion people. It’s one of the fastest growing economies of the world and likely to become the fifth largest in 2019.

• The Indian aviation market is on a high growth path. Total passenger traffic to, from and within India, during Apr-Nov 2018 grew by around 15% year on year as compared to around 6% globally.

• India is now the seventh largest aviation market with 187 million passengers (to, from and within India) in FY2017-18,” it added. It is expected to be third largest by 2022, it said.

• As per the document initiatives like Nabh Nirman (for airport capacity augmentation), Digi Yatra (for paperless travel) and AirSewa (for online passenger grievance redressal) are bringing in radical changes.

• The tax structure for Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF), Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) and aircraft leasing may be gradually aligned with leading global jurisdictions.

• It said that the government may consider establishing a Nabh Nirman Fund (NNF) with a starting corpus of around $2 billion to support low traffic airports in their initial phases.

• The concept of land pooling may be used to keep land acquisition costs low and to provide landowners with high value developed plots in the vicinity of the airport.

• It also said DGCA may be converted into a fully-independent Civil Aviation Authority, with its own sources of funding and freedom to recruit professionals at market-linked salaries.

• Most transactions with DGCA will be automated with minimal human interface.

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