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18 May, 2020

60 Min Read

Paper Topics Subject
GS-II Getting India back to the Afghan high table International Relations
The new Indian road to Lipu Lekh-Nepal’s protests International Relations
GS-III Lockdown 4.0 guidelines
Non-functional FASTag to be charged double toll Fee
5th tranche of Atma Nirbhar Bharat package- Structural Reforms Economic Issues
Defence Testing Infrastructure Scheme Economic Issues
Sovereign gold bond (SGB)-FAQ Economic Issues
PT Pointer Biodegradable metal implants
BPDS and POMID disinfectant sprays
Severe Cyclonic Storm ‘AMPHAN’  Human Geography
MicroRNA- Why old age make it more difficult to fight COVID-19
GS-II : International Relations
Getting India back to the Afghan high table

Getting India back to the Afghan high table

By, Vivek Katju is a former Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan

Introduction

India’s foreign and security policy planners must seek to establish open connections with all its political groups, including with those perceived to be in Pakistan’s pocket.

Instead, they continued to rigidly cling to Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani even as his equities diminished with each passing month.

Cut to the quick

It took the Election commission 5 months to declare Mr. Ghani as President-elect, a result that was rejected by Mr. Ghani’s main rival, Abdullah Abdullah.

It led to two simultaneous swearing-ins; both Mr. Ghani and Mr. Abdullah took oath as President. It is true that the international community ultimately supported Mr. Ghani but qualified it with an insistence that he enters into a real power-sharing agreement with Mr. Abdullah.

That agreement has just been reached. It will inevitably further weaken Mr. Ghani.

How has Mr. Ghani reciprocated India’s such unqualified backing?

His clear and public response came last month in a manner. It could only have been disappointing to Indian decision makers. The United Nations Secretariat organised a meeting on Afghanistan where it invited the six current physical neighbours of Afghanistan—China, Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

In addition, invitations were extended to the United States, Russia and the Ghani government. Obviously, Mr. Ghani did not  invite India.

He should have done so if only for the constructive role New Delhi has played in Afghanistan’s reconstruction since the Taliban were ousted from the country in 2001-2002 after 9/11. Also, for consistently supporting him.

Indeed, if all his fine words of India’s importance to Afghanistan were actually true, he would have lobbied and ensured India’s participation.

Point man’s blunt talk

So much for Mr. Ghani. What truly cut India more to the quick was the U.S. going along with India’s absence. So much for the personal chemistry of the leaders of the two countries.

The day after the meeting, Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. point man on Afghanistan and the architect of the Taliban deal, spoke to India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar to assuage hurt sentiments.

But the balm of good words cannot obscure the basic fact that the U.S. acts to promote its interests in Afghanistan. It obviously expects that if in doing so Indian interests are exposed, India will protect them as best as it can.

Zalmay Khalilzad said “‘India should talk directly to Taliban, discuss terror concerns directly’,”. He noted that despite India’s contributions to Afghanistan’s economic development — and these are undeniably significant covering large parts of the country, and are popular — as well as its long history of contacts with that country, it does not have a place in international diplomacy on Afghanistan.

He patronisingly added that the U.S. wants India to have a more active role in the peace process.

Clearly, as the most significant power in the region, India should have ensured that it had a place on the table and should have devised ways to achieve that end. This is especially so because Afghanistan impacts on India’s interests, especially its security concerns.

The Taliban and Pakistan

Khalilzad believes that dialogue between India and the Taliban are important, and it would be important that issues of concerns like this [terrorism] .Taking Mr. Khalilzad’s views in their entirety, it is clear that he feels that by avoiding open contacts with the Taliban, India has reduced its role in international diplomatic efforts.

That the U.S. is currently crucially dependent on Pakistan for the successful implementation of its Taliban deal aimed at securing as orderly a withdrawal as possible from what is a major strategic reverse for the world’s pre-eminent power is not in doubt.

In such a situation, it was essential for India to have maintained its strong links with the Afghan government, built and supported its traditional Afghan allies — perhaps this was discreetly resumed — but also establish open lines of communication with the Taliban.

Echo from the past

It is sad that despite all that India has done in Afghanistan over the past 18 years since the Taliban were ousted from Kabul in 2001, it finds itself on the margins of international diplomacy on Afghanistan.

 It is reminiscent of the time in the 1990s when, at Pakistan’s insistence, India was considered a problem and kept out of crucial global forums on Afghanistan.

It did not matter then because along with Iran and Russia, it kept the resistance to the Taliban going through Ahmed Shah Masood.

Mr. Ghani is no Masood and there are no countries on the horizon which are really opposed to the Taliban acquiring a major place in the Afghanistan’s formal power structures.

Way Ahead

India needs to take corrective diplomatic action even at this late stage, and even in the time of COVID-19. It must begin openly talking to the Taliban and with all political groups in the country. It must realise that its Afghan policy needs changes.

 

Source: TH

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GS-II : International Relations
The new Indian road to Lipu Lekh-Nepal’s protests

The new Indian road to Lipu Lekh-Nepal’s protests

Part of: GS-II- International issues (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

(Indian express Explained)

Army Chief General M M Naravane said that Nepal’s protest against a newly built Indian road in Uttarakhand, up to Lipu Lekh pass on the China border, was at “someone else's behest”. His statement has been widely taken to mean that Nepal was acting as a proxy for China, at a time when tensions have spiked sharply on the LAC between the Chinese PLA and and the Indian Army at Ladakh.

Importance

It is on the route of the annual Kailash Masarovar Yatra, which goes through Uttarakhand’s Pithoragath district. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who inaugurated it on May 8, said the road, built by the Border Roads Organisation, was important for “strategic, religious and trade” reasons. The 80 km road goes right up to the Lipu Lekh pass on the LAC, through which Kailash Mansarovar pilgrims exit India into China to reach the mountain and lake revered as the abode of Siva. The last section of 4 km of the road up to the pass still remains to be completed.

The government has underlined that through this improved route, yatris do not need the alternative routes now available for the pilgrimage, one through the Nathu La border in Sikkim and the other via Nepal, which entailed “20 per cent land journeys on Indian roads and 80 per cent land journeys in China. The ratio has been reversed. Now pilgrims to Mansarovar will traverse 84 per cent land journeys on Indian roads and only 16 per cent in China.”

 

Importance of the road

The new road is also expected to provide better connectivity to Indian traders for the India-China border trade at the Lipu Lekh pass between June and September every summer. The country, being surrounded by some difficult neighbours, with a view to keeping pace, construction of roads and development of adequate infrastructure along the borders is a vital necessity

 

Is Nepal's objection new or sudden?

On the day the road was inaugurated, there was an outcry in Nepal. The next day the Nepal Foreign Ministry issued a statement expressing disappointment over New Delhi's “unilateral” act, against the spirit of the bilateral “understanding. Kathmandu has pointed out that it has brought up its concerns on the border issue several times, including in November 2019, when Delhi put out its new political map of India to show the bifurcation of Jammu & Kashmir.

Nepal's objection then was the inclusion of Kalapani in the map, in which it is shown as part of Uttarakhand. The area falls in the trijunction between India, China and Nepal. The publication of the map brought protesters out on the streets. The Nepal government described India’s decision as “unilateral” and claimed that it would “defend its international border”, while the Ministry of External Affairs then said that map “accurately reflects the sovereign territory of India”.

 

Historical pact

  • Nepal is right in pointing out that the border issue is not new, and has come up now and again in the bilateral relationship since the 1960s.
  • In the 1980s, the two sides set up the Joint Technical Level Boundary Working Group to delineate the boundary, which demarcated everything except Kalapani and the other problem area in Susta.
  • When it was discussed at the prime ministerial level in 2000, between Atal Bihari Vajpayee and B P Koirala during the latter’s visit to Delhi, both sides agreed to demarcate the outstanding areas by 2002. That has not happened.
  • The Nepal-India border was delineated by the Sugauli Treaty of 1816, under which it renounced all territory to the west of the river Kali, also known as the Mahakali or the Sarada river. The river effectively became the boundary.
  • The terms were reiterated by a second treaty between Nepal and Briitsh India in 1923. The rival territorial claims centre on the source of the Kali.
  • Nepal's case is that the river originates from a stream at Limpiyadhura, north-west of Lipu Lekh. Thus Kalapani, and Limpiyadhura, and Lipu Lekh, fall to the east of the river and are part of Nepal’s Far West province in the district of Dharchula.
  • New Delhi's position is that the Kali originates in springs well below the pass, and that while the Treaty does not demarcate the area north of these springs, administrative and revenue records going back to the nineteenth century show that Kalapani was on the Indian side, and counted as part of Pithoragarh district, now in Uttarakhand. Both sides have their own British-era maps as proof of their positions.

 

India-China-Nepal
Since the 1962 war with China, India has deployed the ITBP at Kalapani, which is advantageously located at a height of over 20,000 ft and serves as an observation post for that area. Nepal calls it an encroachment by the Indian security forces. Nepal has also been unhappy about the China-India trading post at Lipu Lekh, the earliest to be established between the two countries. Shipkila in Himachal followed two years later, and Nathu La only in 2006.

Nepali youth protested in Kalapani, and there were protests in Nepal's Parliament too when India and China agreed to increase border trade through Lipu Lekh during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Beijing in 2016. Though China has said nothing about the road construction to Lipu Lekh, it has protested similar road building activity at other places on the Indian side close to the LAC, including Ladakh.

In view of all this, Kalapani and the approach to Lipu Lekh has only grown in strategic importance for India, especially as relations between the two countries have remained uneven over the last few years, and China has upped its game for influence in India’a neighbourhood.

India's tacit support to a blockade of the landlocked country during protests over the new Constitution in Nepal by the Madhesi community was an inflection point in the relationship. Despite the open border with India and the people to people contact through the hundreds of thousands of Nepali people who live and work in this country, the levels of distrust in Nepal about India have only increased.

For its part, India perceives Nepal to be tilting towards China under the leadership of Prime Minister K P Oli and his Nepal Communist Party. Responding to Nepal’s protests, India has said it is ready to discuss the matter at foreign secretary level talks between the two countries.

Source: IE

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GS-III :
Lockdown 4.0 guidelines

Lockdown 4.0 guidelines

Lockdown measures in place since March 24, 2020 have helped considerably in containing the spread of COVID-19.  It has therefore been decided to further extend the lockdown till May 31, 2020.  Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India (GoI) issued an order, today, under the Disaster Management (DM) Act, 2005, in this regard.

Salient features of the new guidelines are as follows:

States to decide various Zones

  • Under the new guidelines, States and Union Territories (UTs) will  now delineate Red, Green and Orange zones taking into consideration the parameters shared by the Health Ministry. The zones can be a district, or a municipal corporation/ municipality or even smaller administrative units such as sub-divisions, etc, as decided by States and UTs.
  • Within the red and orange zones, containment and buffer zones will be demarcated by the local authorities, after taking into consideration the Health Ministry guidelines.
  • Buffer zones are areas adjoining each containment zone, where new cases are more likely to appear.  In the buffer zones, more caution needs to be exercised.

Activities Prohibited throughout the Country

A limited number of activities will continue to remain prohibited throughout the country.  These include

  • all domestic and international air travel of passengers, except for domestic medical services, domestic air ambulance and for security purposes or purposes as permitted by MHA;
  • metro rail services;
  • running of schools, colleges, educational and training/coaching institutions;
  • hotels, restaurants and other hospitality services, except for the running of canteens in bus depots, railway stations and airports;
  • places of large public gatherings such as cinemas, shopping malls, gymnasiums entertainment parks, etc.;
  • social, political, cultural and similar gatherings and other large congregations; and, access to religious places/places of worship for public. 

 However, online/ distance learning shall be permitted and encouraged; and, restaurants will be allowed to operate kitchens for home delivery of food items.

Opening up of Sports Activities

  • Sports complexes and stadia will be permitted to open only for sports activities.  However, spectators will not be allowed in these complexes.

Activities permitted with restrictions

  • In order to facilitate the movement of persons, various modes of transport have already been opened up. 
  • Further, evacuation of foreign nationals from India, return of stranded Indian nationals from abroad, sign-on and sign-off of Indian seafarers, and intra-State and inter-State movement of stranded persons by bus and train, will continue to be allowed.
  • Inter-State movement of vehicles and buses has also been allowed with mutual consent of the concerned States/ UTs.  Intra-State movement of vehicles and buses can be decided by the States and UTs.
  • National Directives for COVID-19 management
  • The guidelines specify the National Directives for COVID-19 management, which shall apply to public places and work places.
  • Under these guidelines, wearing of face covers is compulsory; spitting will be punishable with fine as may be prescribed in accordance with its laws, rules or regulations by the State/ UT local authority; and social distancing is to be followed by all persons in public places and in transport. 
  • Marriage related gathering shall not have more than 50 guests
  • For funerals/ last rites, the maximum number of persons allowed has been kept at 20.
  • The National Directives also stipulate additional requirements for work places.  The practice of work from home (WfH) should be followed to the extent possible; and staggering of work hours should be adopted in respect of all offices and other establishments. 
  • There should be provision for thermal scanning, hand wash and sanitizers at all entry and exit points and common areas; and all work places and other sensitive locations are to be sanitized regularly
  • In work places, social distancing would also need to be ensured through adequate distance between workers, adequate gaps between shifts, staggering the lunch break of staff and so on.

Stipulations regarding Shops and Markets

  • Local authorities should ensure that shops and markets open with staggered timings, so as to ensure social distancing.   All shops shall also have to ensure six feet distance (2 gaz ki doori) among customers and also not allow more than 5 persons at one time.

Night Curfew

  • Night Curfew shall continue to remain in force on the movement of individuals, for all non-essential activities, between 7 pm and 7 am.

Protection for Vulnerable Persons

  • Vulnerable persons, i.e., persons above 65 years of age, persons with co-morbidities, pregnant women, and children below the age of 10 years, shall stay at home, except for meeting essential requirements and for health purposes.
  • All activities to be Permitted other than the limited number of those that are prohibited or restricted
  • All other activities will be permitted except those which are specifically prohibited under these guidelines. However, in containment zones, only essential activities shall be allowed, as mentioned earlier.

States to decide on activities within various Zones

  • States/ UTs, based on their assessment of the situation, may prohibit certain other activities in the various zones, or impose such restrictions as deemed necessary.

Use of Aarogya Setu

  • The Aarogya Setu mobile application is a powerful tool built by Government of India to facilitate quick identification of persons infected by COVID-19, or at risk of being infected, thus acting as a shield for individuals and the community. 
  • With a view to ensure safety in offices and work places, employers on best effort basis should ensure that the application is installed by all employees having compatible mobile phones.
  • District authorities have been asked to advise individuals to install the Aarogya Setu application on compatible mobile phones and regularly update their health status on the app. 

State/ UT Governments shall continue to strictly enforce the lockdown guidelines and they shall not dilute these guidelines issued under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, in any manner.

Source: PIB

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GS-III :
Non-functional FASTag to be charged double toll Fee

Vehicles with invalid or non-functional FASTag to be charged double toll Fee applicable to their category

The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has issued notification for  amendment in the  National Highways Fee (Determination of Rates and Collection) Rules, 2008 which provide  that if a vehicle which is not fitted with FASTag or the vehicle  is without a valid or functional FASTag, enters into “FASTag lane” of the Fee plazas, then they  shall pay a fee equivalent to two times of the fee applicable to that category of vehicles.

What is FASTag?

  • FASTag is a simple to use, reloadable tag which enables automatic deduction of toll charges and lets you pass through the toll plaza without stopping for the cash transaction.
  • FASTag is linked to a prepaid account from which the applicable toll amount is deducted. The tag employs Radio-frequency Identification (RFID) technology and is affixed on the vehicle's windscreen after the tag account is active.
  • The tag is valid for five years and comes in seven different colours — violet, orange, yellow, green, pink, blue, black. Each colour is assigned to a particular category of vehicles.
  • It was rolled out in April 2016,  and the Government made it mandatory from December 1, 2017 for all new cars and trucks to be fitted with a FASTag before they were sold.
  • To encourage the use of FASTags, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) refunds 5% of the total monthly transactions.
  • Indian Highways Management Company Limited (IHMCL) (a company incorporated by National Highways Authority of India) and National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) are implementing this program.
  • FASTag is presently operational at both, national and state highways.

Source: PIB

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GS-III : Economic Issues
5th tranche of Atma Nirbhar Bharat package- Structural Reforms

5th tranche of Atma Nirbhar Bharat package- Structural Reforms

Part of: GS-III- Economy- Economic reforms (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

Finance Minister in her announcement of the fifth tranche of measures to address the economic situation in the country amid COVID-19, outlined structural reforms with focus on seven areas of  MNREGA, Health and Education, Business during COVID, Decriminalisation of Company Act, Ease of doing business, Policy related to Public Sector Units, State government and resources related to it.

Imp Announcements

  • MNREGA: MGNREGA scheme, an additional Rs 40 thousand crore will be allocated for employment generation in the rural parts of the country. She said this will help to generate nearly 300 crore person days to provide relief to the migrant workers.
  • Policy aimed at allowing private players in all sectors was the need of the hour and the government will chalk out a coherent policy for the same. She asserted that at least one Public Sector Enterprise (PSEs) would continue to remain in every strategic sector even after allowing private companies.  Finance Minister added that the maximum number of enterprises in strategic sectors will be limited to four. She informed, the government will soon notify the list of strategic sectors requiring the presence of PSEs.
  • On the support extended to the State Government more than Rs 46 thousand crore have been devolved in April and revenue deficit grants of more than 12 thousand crore in April and May have also been given to the states despite centre's stressful resources. 
  • Government's decision to increase the net borrowing ceiling for the states from 3 per cent to 5 per cent of the Gross State Domestic Product (PT) which would result in increased resources of Rs 4 lakh 28 thousand crore for them.
  • She said, more than Rs 11 thousand crore have been released to the states as advance from State disaster relief fund in the first week of April and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare released another Rs 4 thousand 113 crores for direct anti-COVID activities.
  • On the Health reforms and initiatives taken to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, she said, public expenditure will be increased and Health and Wellness Centres in rural and urban areas will be ramped up.
  • She said, infectious diseases hospital blocks and integrated public health labs will be set up in all districts to handle such pandemic like situation in the country. National Digital Health blueprint will be implemented under the National Digital Health Mission.
  • In a major relief to the MSMEs, Finance Minister announced a substantial hike in the minimum threshold to initiate insolvency proceedings. The threshold which was earlier Rs one lakh has now been increased to Rs one crore which will insulate a large number of MSMEs in the country from insolvency proceedings against them. 
  • She also announced special insolvency resolution framework for MSMEs which will be notified soon. No fresh insolvency proceedings will be initiated upto the next one year and COVID-19 related debts will not be considered as default payments for proceedings under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code.
    PM-e-Vidya programme for multi mode access to digital online education will be launched shortly which will consist of e-content and QR coded textbooks for all grades.
  • She said, one TV channel per class from 1 to 12 will be operated and extensive use of Radio and Community Radio will be encouraged.
  • Top 100 universities will be permitted to automatically start online courses by 30th of this month. She also announced, an initiative by the name of 'Manodarpan' which will be launched for psychological support of students, teachers and their family for mental health and emotional well-being.
  • Speaking over, decriminalization of companies act, violation involving minor technical and procedural default will not be accounted which in turn will help to de-clog the criminal courts and NCLT. 

Finance Minister highlighted that, the improvement in rankings in starting a business and in terms of insolvency resolutions have together contributed to an overall improvement in India’s ranking in Ease of Doing Business. She added that the further reforms will include Indian public companies being able to directly list securities in permissible foreign jurisdictions.

Under the Prime Minister Garib Kalyan package, free food grains were provided to 80 crore people and under the PM Kisan Yojana more than Rs 16 thousand crore have been given to the 8.19 crore people through direct benefit transfer

She said, more than Rs 10 thousand crore were released to 20 crore Jan Dhan accounts of women and construction workers got Rs 3 thousand 950 crore.  She said 6.81 crore beneficiaries got the cylinder under the Ujjawala scheme and 12 lakh EPFO holders have withdrawn the advance amount. She said, Shramik Special trains were operated for the migrant workers and 85 per cent of the cost was borne by the Central Government.

The Finance Minister announced a slew of measures to help the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, MSMEs sector that employs an estimated 11 crore people. The announcements ranged from Non-Banking Finance Companies (NBFCs), real estate, power distribution sector, to relaxations on contribution to Employees’ Provident Fund (EPFO).  In her second announcement the focus was on migrant workers, street vendors, small traders, the self-employed and small farmers.  Third announcement saw major relief packages for agriculture and allied activities, while yesterday key sectoral reforms were announced in the sectors of coal, minerals, defence production, civil aviation, power distribution companies, space sector and atomic energy.

 

For more reading: Refer 15 to 17th May DNA www.aspireias.com

Source: TH

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GS-III : Economic Issues
Defence Testing Infrastructure Scheme

Defence Testing Infrastructure Scheme

Part of: GS-III- CULTURE (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

Recently, the government has approved the launch of ‘Defence Testing Infrastructure Scheme (DTIS)’ in order to give a boost to domestic defence and aerospace manufacturing.

The Government has accorded high priority to development of the manufacturing base of Defence and Aerospace sectors in the country under “Make in India” initiative to reduce dependence on imports.

  • In the above context, the government has already announced establishment of Defence Industrial Corridors (DICs) in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
  • But, still one of the main impediments for domestic defence production is lack of easily accessible state-of-the-art testing infrastructure.
  • Defence Testing Infrastructure is capital intensive requiring continuous upgradation and it is not economically viable for individual defence industrial units to set up in-house testing facilities.

Objectives

  • The Scheme aims to promote indigenous defence production, with special focus on participation of MSMEs and Start Ups by bridging gaps in defence testing infrastructure in the country.
  • It will also help to provide easy access and to meet the testing needs of the domestic defence industry.
  • It will facilitate indigenous defence production, consequently reduce imports of military equipment and help make the country self-reliant.

Finance and Cooperation:

  • The Scheme has an outlay of Rs 400 crore for creating state of the art testing infrastructure over the duration of five years. It envisages to set up test facilities in partnership with private industry.
  • The projects under the Scheme will be provided with up to 75% government funding in the form of ‘Grant-in-Aid’.
  • The remaining 25% of the project cost will have to be borne by the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) whose constituents will be Indian private entities and State Governments.
    Only private entities registered in India and State Government agencies will qualify for forming the implementation agency for the Scheme.
  • The SPVs under the Scheme will be registered under Companies Act 2013.

Location of DTISs

The Scheme aims at setting up Greenfield Defence Testing Infrastructure mainly in DICs but is not limited to setting up Test Facilities in the DICs only.

Source: PIB

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GS-III : Economic Issues
Sovereign gold bond (SGB)-FAQ

Sovereign gold bond (SGB)-FAQ

What is a sovereign gold bond (SGB)?

Sovereign gold bond is a substitute for holding physical gold. The bonds are issued by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on behalf of the government and is a bond denominated in gold. The government issues such bonds in tranches at a fixed price that investors can buy through banks, post offices and also in the secondary markets through the stock exchange platform.

What are the benefits of buying SGB?

hese bonds are backed by a sovereign guarantee and can also be held in demat form. Further, they are priced as per the underlying spot gold prices. Hence, investors who want to invest in gold can buy the bonds without worrying about safekeeping of physical gold along with locker charges, making charges or purity issues. Plus, these bonds offer an interest at the rate of 2.5% per annum on the principal investment amount. While the interest on the bonds are taxable, the capital gains at the time of redemption are exempt from tax. These bonds can also be used as collateral for availing loans from banks and NBFCs.

How are the bonds structured?

SGB has a fixed tenure of eight years, though early redemption is allowed after the fifth year from issuance. Since the bonds are listed on the exchange, these can be transferred to other investors as well. The bonds are priced in rupees based on the simple average of closing price of gold of 999 purity, published by the India Bullion and Jewellers Association for the last three business days of the week preceding the subscription period. At the time of redemption, cash equivalent to the number of units multiplied by the then prevailing price would be credited to the bank account of the investor.

How was the latest tranche priced?

The latest tranche, which closed for subscription last week, was priced at ?4,590 per gram. Those who apply online were eligible for a discount of ?50 per gram. Reports suggest that RBI will again issue such bonds in June, July, August and September.

Are there any risks in investing in SGB?

Capital loss is a risk since the bond prices would reflect any change in gold prices. If gold prices fall, the principal investment would fall proportionately.

Source: TH

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GS-III :
Biodegradable metal implants

Biodegradable metal implants

Scientists at the International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials (ARCI) and Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute of Medical Sciences, Thiruvananthapuram both autonomous institutes under the Department of Science & Technology (DST) have jointly developed new generation Iron-Manganese based alloys for biodegradable metal implants for use in humans.

Benefits of biodegradable implants

  • Biodegradable materials (Fe, Mg, Zn, and polymer), which can participate in the healing process and then degrade gradually by maintaining the mechanical integrity without leaving any implant residues in the human body are better alternatives to currently used metallic implants which remain permanently in the human body and can cause long-term side effects like systemic toxicity, chronic inflammation, and thrombosis.
  • The ARCI team employed both conventional melting and powder metallurgy techniques in manufacturing of the new Fe-Mn based biodegradable alloys and stent having dimensions as Diameter: 2 mm, Length: 12 mm and Wall thickness: 175 µm.
  • Iron-Manganese based alloy Fe-Mn (having Mn composition of more than 29% by weight) is a promising biodegradable metallic implant which exhibits single austenitic phase (non-magnetic form of iron) with MRI compatibility.
  • The Fe-Mn alloy produced at ARCI exhibited 99% density with impressive mechanical properties and behaved as a nonmagnetic material even under a strong magnetic field of 20 Tesla.
  • These properties are comparable to presently used permanent Titanium (Ti) and stainless-steel metallic implants. The alloy also showed a degradation rate in the range of 0.14-0.026 mm per year in the simulated body fluid, which means that the Fe-Mn alloy exhibits mechanical integrity for 3-6 months and completely disappears from the body in 12-24 months.
  • During the degradation process, calcium phosphate deposits on the implant due to local alkalization and saturation of calcium and phosphate, allow cells to adhere onto the surface to form tissues.
  • Fe-Mn based alloys are suitable for biodegradable stent and orthopedic implant applications.

Source: PIB

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GS-III :
BPDS and POMID disinfectant sprays

BPDS and POMID disinfectant sprays

Scientists at CSIR-Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (CMERI), Durgapur, have developed two mobile indoor Disinfection Sprayer units. These units can be used for cleaning and disinfecting pathogenic micro-organism effectively, especially in hospitals.

Called Battery Powered Disinfectant Sprayer (BPDS) and Pneumatically Operated Mobile Indoor Disinfection (POMID), these units can be used to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, sinks, and cardboards. Intermittent usage of these disinfecting units can help minimize the risk of transmitting coronavirus to people who inadvertently come in contact with those surfaces.

Advantages of BPDS and POMID

  • The sprayer systems in both BPDS and POMID are designed with two-stage spraying units and separate storage tanks to clean and disinfect the indoor areas by the numbers of fixed and flexible nozzles set in the lower and upper tiers.
  • There is also an industrial variant of the Disinfectant Sprayer for heavy usage and to cover a larger area.
  • POMID mobile indoor disinfectant unit is made by steel frames mounted on four wheels. This system comprises compressors, piping and fittings and spray nozzles.
  • The hand-held flexible spray arm can be used in any direction as per requirement.
  • POMID unit has two storage tanks each with a capacity of 10 litres. BPDS unit is a cordless machine with a two-nozzle spray system and an extended arm spray unit. It has a storage capacity of 20 litres and a battery back-up time of 4 hours in a single charge.
  • The gross weight of the system is (empty tank) 25 kg.
  • CSIR-CMERI developed indoor sprayer systems consists of dual-chamber storage for disinfectants and cleaning and have better nozzle design, better arrangement of nozzles and lesser droplet sizes. The sprayed disinfectant can thus cover a greater surface area for the specified volume of liquid.
  • The particle size and the number of particles of disinfectant are two important parameters in determining the effectiveness of the sprayed disinfectant.
  • This technology will have relevance even beyond the current COVID-19 crisis, since viruses have been existent throughout and a substantial number of cases of such influenza has been spreading throughout the globe every year.

Source: PIB

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GS-I : Human Geography
Severe Cyclonic Storm ‘AMPHAN’ 

Severe Cyclonic Storm ‘AMPHAN’ 

The depression over southeast Bay of Bengal (BoB) intensified into a deep depression in the same afternoon, into cyclonic storm ‘AMPHAN’ (pronounced as UM-PUN)’in the same evening over the central parts of south BoB.

It further intensified into a severe cyclonic storm about 990 km south of Paradip (Odisha), 1140 km south-southwest of Digha (West Bengal) and 1260 km south-southwest of Khepupara (Bangladesh).

 

 

Source: PIB

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GS-III :
MicroRNA- Why old age make it more difficult to fight COVID-19

MicroRNA- Why old age make it more difficult to fight COVID-19

  • A group of tiny RNA — that is supposed to attack the SARS-CoV-2 when it infects human bodies — diminishes with age and in people with chronic health problems, which may explain why older individuals and those with pre-existing health conditions are more vulnerable to Covid-19.
  • MicroRNAs play a big role in controlling gene expression, and are a frontline defence when viruses invade.
  • According to a study published in Aging and Disease, the microRNA numbers dwindle with age and under chronic medical conditions, which reduces a person’s ability to respond to viruses.
  • The team from Augusta University had looked at the RNA sequence of two coronaviruses — SARS, which surfaced in 2002, and SARS-CoV-2.
  • They also looked at the sequence of microRNAs that appeared to be attacking these viruses, then used computer simulation to figure out the results.
  • They found 873 microRNAs that target the SARS-CoV-2 genome. These microRNAs were associated with more than 72 biological processes — from the production of molecules to immune response.

 

Source: IE

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