17 May, 2020
88 Min Read
|GS-II||Sikkim’s Statehood Day-Formation of Sikkim|
|Draft Space Activities Bill, 2017|
|GS-III||Model Contract Farming Act, 2018||Economic Issues|
|Aviation sector measures on expected lines|
|Coronavirus package | Government throws open defence production||Economic Issues|
|How will the COVID-19 relief for MSMEs help?||Economic Issues|
|Coal, mineral reforms to help reduce imports||Economic Issues|
|Human Challenge Studies|
|Street vendor loans an uncharted turf for big banks- Analysis|
|Herd Immunity-Dangerous assumption|
|Antimicrobial masks manufactured by IISC|
|PT Pointer||Make masks at home with cotton and silk|
|National Migrant Information System (NMIS)|
|New Ginger Species|
|Ant Species in Andaman|
Sikkim’s Statehood Day.
The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi has greeted the people of Sikkim on their Statehood Day on April,16th.
Greetings on Sikkim’s Statehood Day. Home to talented and compassionate people, Sikkim has enriched national progress in many sectors. Sikkim’s progress in areas like organic farming have been admired all over.
Formation of Sikkim
On 16 May, 1975, the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim became the 22nd state of India, ending the monarchy there.
Draft Space Activities Bill, 2017
There is an urgent need for a legal environment for orderly performance and growth of space sector not only because of the interest shown by private sector but also because space activities need participation from private sector agencies as well.
To promote and regulate the space activities of India by encouraging the participation of non-governmental/private sector agencies under the guidance and authorisation of the government through the Department of Space.
The lack of independent private participation in space is because of absence of a framework to provide transparency, timelines on licensing, issuance of authorisation and continuous supervision mechanism (in accordance with the Outer Space Treaty), among others.
These issues need to be addressed today to provide a stronger thrust for ‘Make in India’ as well as FDI in space.
Model Contract Farming Act, 2018
With a view to integrate farmers with bulk purchasers including exporters, agro- industries etc. for better price realization through mitigation of market and price risks to the farmers and ensuring smooth agro raw material supply to the agro industries, a “Model Contract Farming Act” has been prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare for circulation to the States for its adoption.
Farmer’s producer organizations (FPO’s) have a major role in promoting Contract Farming and Services Contract. On behalf of farmers they can enter into agreement with the sponsor.
Salient features of Model Contract Farming Act, 2018
It is a promotional and facilitative Act and not regulatory in its structure.
Aviation sector measures on expected lines
Part of: GS-III- Economy Aviation (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
MRO hub plan will help save forex and enable local overhauling of planes
The three key announcements of Union Finance Minister concerning the civil aviation sector have been viewed as those on expected lines, while the announcement on MRO (maintenance, repair and operations) needed more clarity on the tax incentives, industry experts said.
“Post COVID-19, it seems that the state governments in both of these cities are unlikely to allow private parties to take control of these assets. Therefore, if there are no viable cities for which privatisation might be viable, the Government of India’s decision may be difficult to implement,”
“We need to see more details on the tax simplification, which will help in making India an MRO hub. More relief measures for the civil aviation sector to keep it alive post-COVID-19.” “Better infrastructure should make air travel more accessible and there is a huge opportunity in this sector.”
Coronavirus package | Government throws open defence production
Part of: GS-III- Economy (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
Fourth tranche of stimulus focuses on reforms across industry, aviation and space.
Steps to indigenise defence production by banning the import of some weapons and platforms while hiking foreign direct investment into the sector were among the highlights of the fourth tranche of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan package, which seemed to focus more on industry reforms than any sort of economic stimulus.
Union Finance Minister also announced measures to introduce commercial mining in the coal sector, liberalise the mineral sector, ease airspace restrictions and encourage private involvement in space and atomic energy projects.
Boost for growth
How will the COVID-19 relief for MSMEs help?
Part of: GS-III- Economy (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a ?20-lakh crore economic relief package titled Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan. The relief package is being unveiled in tranches from May 13 by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. The first tranche, aimed at micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) and at some individuals was announced by her on Wednesday.
What are the proposals aimed at offering relief to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs)?
How will this benefit MSMEs?
Are these the only proposals for MSMEs?
No. A partial credit guarantee scheme has been extended to enable promoters of these units to increase their equity.
Was not a change in the definition of MSMEs also announced?
Yes, henceforth MSMEs will be defined not based on their investment alone but also on their turnover. The definition has been tweaked and the existing distinction between manufacturing and services units has been eliminated. (PT)
It has been a long-standing demand from industry to hike the investment limits, as with inflation, units often cross the threshold that will bring them benefits. To prevent this, they either run their operations at a reduced level or incorporate multiple units so that turnover is distributed in a way that they remain within the threshold that will give them the benefits. The decision to add turnover criteria to investment is seen as a good decision as there are units that leverage a small capital to post large revenues.
What are the proposals for non-banking financial companies (NBFCs)?
NBFCs, housing finance companies and micro finance institutions are finding it difficult to raise debt capital due to a confidence crisis in the debt markets. The government has, therefore, announced a special liquidity scheme of ?30,000 crore to pick up investment grade debt paper from both primary and secondary markets. Such paper will be fully guaranteed by the government. This is expected to break the low confidence cycle in the market for lending to the above category of borrowers.
In addition, to help low rated finance companies to raise debt, the existing partial credit guarantee scheme has been extended to cover primary market debt paper wherein the first 20% loss will be borne by the government.
A total of ?45,000 crore has been set aside for this Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme 2.0 that will offer liquidity to paper rated AA and below and even unrated paper.
Do electricity distribution companies (discoms) also feature in the first tranche announced?
What are the measures for the common man?
Coal, mineral reforms to help reduce imports
Part of: GS-III- CULTURE (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
Coal sector will get a boost as private parties can now bid for 50 blocks: CARE Ratings
Finance Minister structural reform measures in the coal and mining sector are expected to give a boost to private investments in the sector and reduce India’s reliance on imports.
“Removal of distinction between a captive and non-captive mines would mean that transfer of non-captive mines will be permitted subject to compliance with prescribed conditions. This is a huge relaxation and will lead to increased M&A in the mining sector. This will create new opportunities.”
The govt. announced some good reform measures in the mining sector today. Single licensing policy, removal of captive non-captive distinction, revenue sharing model and stamp duty rationalisation have been the demand of the industry for a long time. Similarly, the aluminium industry has been asking for bauxite and coal combined licence, which has been cleared now.”
Human Challenge Studies
In new guidelines issued on May 6, the World Health Organization has said that well-designed human challenge studies could not only accelerate coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine development but also make it more likely that the vaccines ultimately deployed will be far more effective.
In human challenge studies, healthy participants are first administered the candidate vaccine and then deliberately exposed to novel coronavirus.
In conventional clinical trials, healthy participants are administered the candidate vaccine, and the safety and efficacy of the vaccine is assessed through natural infection.
Compare and select
Successes and risks
While human challenge studies are ethically controversial, such studies have been performed safely in tens of thousands of people in the last 50 years and helped accelerate the development of vaccines against typhoid and cholera. Such a study for Zika virus was also conducted.
Guidelines for human challenge studies
1. According to the guidelines, challenge studies would be least risky for young healthy adults aged 18-30 years, as the hospitalisation rates in this age group is about 1% and fatal infection rates around 0.03%.
2. Human challenge studies are to be carried out only in specialised centres where close monitoring and ready access to early supportive treatment for participants, including critical care if required is available.
3. Potential benefits and risks should be assessed, quantified and compared with other feasible study designs, and the expected benefits should be maximised and the risks minimised.
Meanwhile, the U.S. National Institutes of Health is also preparing the ground for human challenge trials for COVID-19 vaccines.
Prof Andrew Pollard, who is leading the trial of the vaccine developed by the team at the University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute told The Guardian that there is “huge interest” in the possibility of challenge trials among those working on coronavirus vaccines. “At the moment, because we don’t have a rescue therapy, we have to approach challenge studies extremely cautiously,” Pollard said.
1. But a March 27 study in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found that 20.8% of patients aged 20–44 had severe disease which required hospitalisation, and 4.2% of patients developed critical disease, which required admission to an ICU.
2. But what makes such studies for COVID-19 particularly risky and challenging is the fact that pathogenesis(manner of development of disease) of the disease is poorly understood and there is no approved treatment available in case participants develop the disease.
Recognizing the uncertainties, risks from SARS-CoV-2 human challenge studies appear comparable to the risks from some other research and activities similar to research.
Meanwhile, NBC News reports that that the multinational testing company SGS and London-based hVIVO are planning human challenge studies. Nearly 20,500 people from 102 countries have already volunteered to participate in such studies.
Street vendor loans an uncharted turf for big banks- Analysis
Part of: GS-III- Economy (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
Commercial banks have no experience extending such loans; small finance banks, MFIs with speedy disbursal could help
The recent announcement by the government to offer loans to street vendors has caught commercial banks of the country off guard. The reason is simple: hardly any such loans were extended by these banks in the past.
Issues and Imp points
“It should be a one-page document. The purpose of this loan is speed and the convenience at which it is delivered. If you make the borrower run around for a week, he will lose interest. Customer delight is key for the scheme to be a success”.
The other issue is with the credit guarantee part. Loans under this scheme are likely to be under the Mudra scheme. Mudra loans are guaranteed by Credit Guarantee Trust for Micro And Small Enterprises (CGTMSE). According to bankers, it is not easy to get claims for CGTMSE in case there is a default. “So many questions are asked for settling claims. They want to see the loan appraisal report. Everyone is wiser in hindsight…it is easy to say the appraisal was not proper once a loan turns non-performing,”
“Rather than leaving it to be rear ended, CGTMSE should clearly state the claim settlement criteria upfront. They should not dig it up during the time of claim. They should also specify a deadline within which a claim should be paid and if not, then interest should accrue,”
The finance ministry is expected to detail the contours of the scheme in a month.
Aiming to achieve herd immunity naturally is ‘dangerous’, WHO warns
The World Health Organization has condemned the “dangerous” concept of herd immunity for managing the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies programme said it was wrong to think that countries can “magically” make their populations immune to novel coronavirus.
The concept of herd immunity is generally used for calculating how many people will need to be vaccinated in a population in order to protect those who are not vaccinated.
Natural infections in humans because it can lead to a very brutal arithmetic which does not put people, life and suffering at the centre of that equation.
It was mistakenly assumed that as this disease spreads across the world, only the severe cases become apparent while most people would indeed be infected as reflected in sero epidemiology results.
Greater proportion of people getting infected would mean that the pandemic will be over soon and people can go back to normal business.
The WHO director also warned about the dangerous assumption by countries that have had “lax measures and haven’t done anything [that they] will all of a sudden magically reach some herd immunity” by losing a few old people along the way. “This is a really dangerous calculation.
Durability of response
According to them, only well-designed longitudinal studies involving those who have recovered from COVID-19 for recurrent illness can help provide the much-needed information about reinfection and the duration of protection by the antibodies.
IISc develops antimicrobial composite material and testing protocols for PPEs
A team from Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru (IISc) has developed a three-layered antimicrobial composite material of low-cost for making masks.
And another team, including members from IISc, is involved in testing masks and developing a way of recycling them.
The mask material consists of three layers.
1. The outermost layer is made of polyester fabric Awith polymeric nanofibre deposited on it to make it water-repellent.
2. The middle layer is also a polyester fabric on both sides of which polymeric nanofibres containing antiviral and antibacterial agents are deposited. This layer inactivates both bacteria and virus when it comes into contact with it.
3. The innermost layer is a comfort layer consisting of cotton fabric.
The middle layer also has positively charged polymer (polycations) which inactivate the microbes that come in contact with this layer.
The material is designed to cut off particles of the size of 0.3 micrometres to about 95% efficiency.
Titers of bacteriophage (a virus that kills bacteria) were made, and the mask material was soaked in it for 30-120 minutes. The liquid was then eluted and poured on a bacterial colony where it was incubated for 24 hours.
If the virus remained, they would have seen plaques. Instead they observed a flourishing lawn of bacteria. This indicated that the samples did not contain virus.
Testing masks normally looks for the following parameters
1.particle filtration efficiency,
2.virus and bacterial filtration efficiency,
4.breathing resistance (difficulty in breathing), and
5.how good a fit to the face the mask is.
According to Akshay Naik of Centre for Nanoscience and Engineering, IISc, right now, their team tests masks for two factors: efficiency of particle filtration and breathing resistance.
For instance, N95 masks are supposed to filter out 95% of particles of size 0.3 micrometre and above.
Can it be re-used
The team is also working on ways to decontaminate the masks and the number of times it can be recycled. However, they are clear that masks, especially the N95, are meant to be used just once, and reusing them after decontamination is really the last option.
SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, is the largest airborne observatory in the world. It consists of an extensively modified Boeing aircraft carrying a reflecting telescope with an effective diameter of 2.5 meters. The observatory is based at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in Palmdale, California.
Thus SOFIA observes universe in infrared wavelengths to get the expanded views. It is preparing for its campaign for observing Saturn’s giant moon Titan.
Make masks at home with cotton and silk
Across the world, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has forced governments into mandating the use of face masks. The general public has been advised to use cloth masks and not hoard N95 and surgical masks which are reserved for the healthcare workers.
Cotton and Chiffon
National Migrant Information System (NMIS)
Light-fidelity (LiFi) is a technology used for free-space communication using visible and near-visible light. It is similar to Wireless Fidelity (WiFi), a technology for wireless local area network communication using microwaves. Microwaves can pass through walls while transmitting signals whereas visible and near-visible light cannot pass through walls. Thus it makes LiFi signal network more secure.
Scientists have recently added a new layer of security to LiFi. Light bounces off from walls and falls on the receiver. So wall boundaries can be used effectively for reflecting signals so that communication is maintained even without line-of-sight communication between the signal source and receiver. Receiving detectors can receive both direct and reflected signals.
Walls painted with fluorescent and phosphorescent paints absorb and then emit light with marginal loss. The paints continue to emit light even several hours after the original source of light has been switched off. This makes the communication signal more effective and secure.
New Ginger Species
Scientists have discovered two new species of Ginger in Manipur and Nagaland. They were found in easternmost districts bordering Myanmar. Both the plants are from the family of Zingiberaceae, to which the commonly found Ginger (Zingiberofficinale) belongs. The species discovered in Nagaland, is an epiphytic plant and grows on tall trees. The species from Manipur was found growing in rock crevices, boulders and humus rich soil in the Shirui Hills.
Frogs belongs to the genus Nyctibatrachus are commonly known as night frogs. They are found only in the Western Ghats mountain range. Scientists have recently discovered new night frog “Mewasinghi”, belonging to Nyctibatrachus from Malabar Wildlife Sanctuary, Kozhikode. It is found in a small stream running along the Peruvannamuzhi dam.
It is closely relative to Athirappilly night frog (found south of the Palakkad Gap in Thrissur and Idukki) and the Kempholey night frog (found in the northern Western Ghats of Kerala and Karnataka).
Ant Species in Andaman
Scientists have discovered the new species Tetramoriumkrishnani and Tetramoriumjarawa in Havelock Island, a part of the Andaman archipelago.
The ant species are endemic to the Andaman Islands. They dwell in leaf litter in the evergreen forests of the Island.
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