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26 April, 2020

66 Min Read

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Paper Topics Subject
GS-II Reverse quarantine Government policies and interventions
IMMIGRATION BAN AND ITS IMPACT
New North American trade deal to come into effect in July-USMCA
GS-III Chemicals and petrochemical industry became top exporting sector Economic Issues
Border Road Organisation
UVC disinfection trolley:
UGC to suggest academic calendar Economic Issues
Herbal Decongest Spray for masks-National Ayush Mission
Coronavirus | Why pathogens travel in search of a host
First merger of two black holes with unequal masses detected
PT Pointer Immunity passport
RBI REPORT ON FOREX RESERVES Economic Issues
Coronavirus plastic waste polluting the environment
DPIIT, CAIT join hands to enable kiranas’ foray into e-comm space Economic Issues
Global Vaccine Action Plan 2011-2020
GS-II : Government policies and interventions
Reverse quarantine

Reverse quarantine

Part of: GS-II- Governance and Health  (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

Reserve quarantine is a practice of detaching the most vulnerable people, aged or people with co-morbidity conditions, from the rest and monitor their health indicators closely to protect them from infection. The government is working on it as part of its mutli pronged strategy against Covid 19.Through this, in case of a community spread, it can isolate its large volume of grey population and check their mortality rate effectively.

According to expert opinion, only reverse quarantine is effective until half of the population recovers from COVID-19 and gains immunity or a vaccine or medicine is developed. Government plans to implement reverse quarantine as soon as more lockdown measures are eased. Officials said the mechanism will be implemented through local bodies and they will be tasked with providing medicine, food, counselling and other assistance.

 

CQAS

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has shared a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) with all telecom service providers regarding the application called COVID-19 Quarantine Alert System (CQAS).

  • CQAS collects phone data, including the device’s location, on a common secured platform and alerts the local agencies in case of a violation by COVID patients under watch or in isolation.

Imp Points

  • Developed By: The DoT and the Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DOT), in coordination with telecom service providers, have developed and tested the application.
  • Working:
    • The CQAS prepares a list of mobile numbers, segregates them on the basis of telecom service providers, and the location data provided by the telecom companies is run on the application to create geo-fencing.
      • Geo-fencing is a location-based service in which an app or other software uses GPS, RFID, Wi-Fi or cellular data to trigger a pre-programmed action when a mobile device or RFID tag enters or exits a virtual boundary set up around a geographical location, known as a geofence.
      • Geo-fencing will only work if the quarantined person has a mobile phone from Airtel, Vodafone-Idea or Reliance Jio, as “BSNL/MTNL” do not support location based services. BSNL and MTNL are government owned.
    • The location information is received periodically over a secure network for the authorised cases with “due protection of the data received”.
    • The System triggers e-mails and SMS alerts to an authorised government agency if a person has jumped quarantine or escaped from isolation, based on the person’s mobile phone’s cell tower location. The “geo-fencing” is accurate by up to 300 m.
  • Use of Powers under the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885
    • The Centre is using powers under the Indian Telegraph Act to “fetch information” from telecom companies every 15 minutes to track COVID-19 cases across the country.
    • The States have been asked to seek the approval of their Home Secretaries under the provisions of Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, for the specified mobile phone numbers to request the DoT to provide information by email or SMS in case of violation of “geo-fencing”.
    • Section 5(2) authorises State or Centre to access information of a user’s phone data in case of “occurrence of any public emergency or in the interest of the public safety.”
  • Protection of Data
    • As per the SOP, the phone number should be deleted from the system after the period for which location monitoring required is over and the data would be deleted four weeks from thereon.
    • The data collected shall be used only for the purpose of Health Management in the context of COVID-19 and is strictly not for any other purposes. Any violation in this regard would attract penal provisions under the relevant laws.

 

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GS-II :
IMMIGRATION BAN AND ITS IMPACT

Context:

United States President Donald Trump announced on Monday, on Twitter, that he would be using an executive order to suspend legal immigration into the U.S. for 60 days. The White House has indicated that the time limit could be extended depending on conditions on the ground.

Why has Mr. Trump taken such a step?

  • Economy has ground to a virtual halt in the face of the pandemic.
  • Proposals to restrict immigration served Mr. Trump’s campaign well during the 2016 presidential election, particularly when they were situated in the context of protecting jobs for U.S. workers. Mr. Trump is seeking re-election in the November 2020 election against the presumptive Democratic nominee, former U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden.

What does it mean for visa applicants?

  • The order is not expected to halt visa processing for many thousands of temporary employees, including a sizeable number of Indian nationals in the H-1B skilled worker category; agricultural workers classified under the H-2A visa; and seasonal workers, who fall into the H-2B category.

Exemptions are given to:

  1. Essential workers, including those in health care and who have a critical role to play in fighting the pandemic.
  2. Who seek to immigrate via their immediate relatives. This includes spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens applying for green cards, or permanent residency.
  3. Members of the armed forces, those who are immigrating for law enforcement reasons and are already in the pipeline, and those on the EB-5 programme, which requires individuals to invest at least $500,000 in U.S. real estate projects, will be considered.

Could there be any impact on skilled workers from India?

  • The U.S. State Department announced in March 2020 that it would be suspending all routine visa processing at its consulates and embassies abroad; this has not only dampened the pace of visa issuance but it has also slowed legal immigration considerably.
  • So far as skilled workers seeking the H-1B visa are concerned, similar conditions apply. U.S. visa issuance in all countries, not only in India, has ground to a halt.
  • This has left many H-1B visa-seekers in the lurch in India, and that could have an economically debilitating impact on the Indian IT and Information Technology Enabled Service (ITeS) sectors.
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GS-II :
New North American trade deal to come into effect in July-USMCA

New North American trade deal to come into effect in July

Part of: GS-II- Interntional trade organisation (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

The new deal is set to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, which US President Donald Trump claimed was unfair. It will come into force on July 1.

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) will come into effect on July 1, replacing the 26-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the US Trade office said in a statement

US President Donald Trump had criticized NAFTA for being unfair towards US business, an assessment in which he was backed by multiple labor unions and economic populists. Even though overall economic output was receiving a boost with new employment opportunities, many believed that some well-paying jobs in the US were being lost.

The new deal has stricter labor laws that could move jobs from Mexico to the US or Canada. It also brings about changes to auto manufacturing, e-commerce, protection of intellectual property and more.

The USMCA was signed in November 2018, after Trump threatened to scrap NAFTA without a new deal in place. After some amendments, Mexico ratified the deal in December 2019, following which Trump signed it into law. The Canadian parliament was the last to adopt it in March this year.

USMCA trade deal

  • The United StatesCanada and Mexico have reached an agreement to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
  • The original 1994 NAFTA deal has also been renamed as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement or USMCA.
  • The goal of NAFTA was to encourage economic activity by eliminating barriers to trade and investment between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
  • USMCA will give workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses a high-standard trade agreement that will result in freer markets, fairer trade and robust economic growth in the region.
  • It will strengthen the middle class, and create good, well-paying jobs and new opportunities for the nearly half billion people of North America.

 

What’s new in the deal, and how big of an impact will it have?

USMCA headlining items from the new agreement:

1. Country of origin rules

Under the new deal, cars or trucks must have 75 percent of their components manufactured in Mexico, the US, or Canada to qualify for zero tariffs.

The goal is to boost auto parts manufacturing in North America by forcing car companies to use parts made here versus cheaper parts from Asia.

2. Labour provisions

The most striking difference from NAFTA involves protections for workers in all three countries.

The new agreement calls for 40 to 45 percent of automobile content to be made by workers who earn at least $16 an hour by 2023. This provision specifically targets Mexico and is meant to bring wages there up to US and Canadian standards.

In addition, Mexico has agreed to pass laws giving workers the right to real union representation, to extend labor protections to migrants workers (who are often from Central America), and to protect women from discrimination.

These are much-needed reforms, and they address a lot of concerns that US labor unions have long had about NAFTA.

3. US farmers get more access to the Canadian dairy market

Canada uses what’s called a supply management system for dairy (and eggs and poultry), which closely regulates how much of each product can be produced and places strict tariffs and quotas on those items when they’re shipped into the country.

The US got Canada to open up its dairy market.

 4. Intellectual property protections and digital trade provisions

This is a win for the United States. The new agreement extends the terms of copyright from 50 years beyond the life of the author to 70 years beyond the life of the author.

 The USMCA aims to fix that by adding new provisions to deal with the digital economy — that is things like e-commerce and data.

These new digital provisions include things like no duties on products purchased electronically, such as music or e-books, and protections for internet companies so they’re not liable for content their users produce.

5. Canada preserves the special trade dispute mechanism and Investors can’t sue governments

In the original NAFTA, a provision known as Chapter 11 gave investors the ability to sue governments over changes to policies that they claim would harm future profits.

It’s been eliminated for the US and Canada and has been restricted in Mexico except for a few sectors, including energy.

 

Trump gets a win on his trade strategy — but what does it all mean?

Some changes are substantial, such as the provisions about automobiles, but the core of NAFTA remains intact.

They have fixed some of the problems with NAFTA, they have brought it up to date, they have expanded the scope of the agreement, but they have in no way fixed what seemed to be the fundamental problems of NAFTA by President Trump.

Because, USMCA has introduced digital trade protections and other updates, but it perhaps didn’t go far enough.

Many of the more forward-looking agreements, such as digital trade protections, were borrowed from the TPP. But, the question is how long this strategy can last, and whether it will work on harder trade deals, for instance with Japan and the European Union.

 

USMCA impact on India:

The biggest impact, according to the US trade officials, is going to be in the auto section that stipulates conditions such as manufacturing of greater portion of vehicles in the three countries and with high-wage labour in the US and Canada.

Announcing the USMCA, Mr Trump signalled he would now extend his ‘all or nothing’ approach to resetting trade ties with the European Union, China, Japan and India.

Terming India “the tariff king”, he said it had sought to start negotiations immediately.

India’s trade negotiators will now have their task cut out if they want to protect exporters’ access to one of the country’s largest markets for its services and merchandise.

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GS-III : Economic Issues
Chemicals and petrochemical industry became top exporting sector

Chemicals and petrochemical industry became top exporting sector

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

Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilizers has congratulated the chemicals and petrochemicals industry on becoming the top exporting sector of the country for the first time

He informed that during April 2019 to January 2020, the export of chemicals grew by 7.43 per cent over previous corresponding period. The total export of chemicals during this period reached 2.68 lakh crore rupees which constitutes 14.35 per cent of the total exports.

Government assured the industry of full support towards making India a leading global hub for manufacturing chemicals and petrochemicals. He said, continuous efforts made by the Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals have enabled the industry to become the topmost exporting segment for the first time.

 

Draft Export Policy of India

The Commerce Ministry has released a product specific draft export policy.

  • Updated draft comprises of all existing policy conditions, all notifications and public notices issued after January 2018 and also includes non-tariff regulations imposed by different government agencies.
    • Draft export policy, aimed at consolidating export norms for each product, has accorded eight digit HS codes to every product.

ITC (HS) codes are better known as Indian Trade Clarification (ITC) and are based on Harmonized System (HS) of Coding.

  • It was adopted in India for import-export operations. Indian custom uses an eight digit ITC (HS) code to suit the national trade requirements.
  • ITC-HS codes are divided into two schedules. Schedule I describe the rules and exim guidelines related to import policies.
  • Export Policy Schedule II describe the rules and regulation related to export policies.
  • This compendium will help an exporter know all the applicable norms pertaining to a particular product, helping them understand policy conditions for that item.

About Export Import Policy of India

  • Exim Policy or Foreign Trade Policy is a set of guidelines and instructions established by the DGFT in matters related to the import and export of goods in India.
  • Foreign trade in India is guided by the EXIM Policy of the Indian Government and is regulated by the Foreign Trade Development and Regulation Act, 1992.

DGFT (Directorate General of Foreign Trade) is the main governing body in matters related to Exim Policy. The main objective of the Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act is to provide the development and regulation of foreign trade by facilitating imports into, and augmenting exports from India. Foreign Trade Act has replaced the earlier law known as the Imports and Exports (Control) Act 1947

Objectives

  • Exim policy or Foreign Trade Policy for the years 2015-20, aims at doubling the overseas sales to $900 billion by 2019-20 and making India global,while integrating the foreign trade with “Make in India” and “Digital India Programme”.

Features

  • MEIS scheme: Five existing schemes to promote merchandize exports have been merged into a single Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS).
    • The incentives are to be provided in the form of duty scrips as % of FOB (free on board) value of exports.
  • Service Exports from India Scheme (SEIS) will be only for India based service providers and will be based on net foreign exchange earned.
    • Both SEIS and MEIS schemes are applicable to SEZ units.
  • Paperless Trade and Online filling of forms will ensure trade facilitation and ease of doing business.
  • E-commerce export is applicable to items of worth upto 25,000.
  • Provision for Export oriented units, Export hardware technology park and software technology park.
  • The Duty free scrips (form of credit)s are provided to the exporters under various export promotion schemes of the government.The scrips may be transferable or nontransferable.

Good Wishes Jai Hindyes

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GS-III :
Border Road Organisation

 

Border Roads Organisation (BRO)

Context:

Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has opened Rohtang Pass (13,500 feet above sea level) today, more than three weeks in advance amid Covid-19 lockdown after clearing snow. It is the arterial road connecting Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh from rest of the country. The pass was opened on May 18, last year.

Himachal Pradesh Government had approached BRO to expedite the snow clearance to facilitate return of farmers for starting cultivation and movement of essential supplies and to bring relief materials to Lahaul Valley in wake of COVID-19.

About BRO:

  • The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) develops and maintains road networks in India’s border areas and friendly neighbouring countries.
  • It is staffed by officers and troops drawn from the Indian Army’s Corps of Engineers, Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Army Service Corps, Military Police and army personnel on extra regimental employment.
  • Officers from the Border Roads Engineering Service and personnel from the General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) form the parent cadre of the Border Roads Organisation.
  • Currently, the organisation maintains operations in twenty-one states, one UT (Andaman and Nicobar Islands), and neighbouring countries such as Afghanistan, Bhutan, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.
  • The BRO operates and maintains over 32,885 kilometres of roads and about 12,200 meters of permanent bridges in the country.
  • The Border Roads Organisation works under the Ministry of Defence.
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GS-III :
UVC disinfection trolley:

Context:

  • UV disinfection trolley can effectively clean up hospital spaces in combating COVID-19. Coronavirus is sensitive to UVC light, as in the case of other viruses and bacteria The present system has been deployed at Employee’s State Insurance Corporation hospital in Hyderabad for field trials

Developed by:

  • International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials (ARCI), an autonomous R&D Centre of Department of Science and Technology (DST), Govt. of India and University of Hyderabad (UoH) together with the help of Mekins Industries Ltd. (MIL),   have developed a UVC based disinfection trolley to fight against COVID-19 by rapid cleaning of hospital environment.

How UV light sterilizes viruses and bacteria:

  • UV light in the range of wavelengths between 200 and 300 nm is capable of inactivating microorganisms, such as bacteria and viruses, thus disinfecting both air and solid surfaces.
  • Often, chemical disinfectants are not enough to remove the bacteria and viruses found in hospitals and other contamination prone environment.
  • Rapid decontamination of the used patient-care beds and hospital rooms before admission of subsequent occupants is a major requirement in hospitals in view of the limited availability of beds.
  • Coronavirus is sensitive to UVC light, as in the case of other viruses and bacteria.
  • The germicidal effects of UVC irradiation with a peak intensity at 254 nm results in cellular damage of the virus, thereby inhibiting cellular replication.
  • Unlike chemical approaches to disinfection, UV light provides rapid, effective inactivation of microorganisms through a physical process.

About the UVC trolley:

  • The UVC disinfection trolley (Height 1.6mx Width 0.6m x Length 0.9m) co-developed by ARCI, UoH, and MIL consists of 6 UVC germicidal tubes, which are arranged in such a way that 3 sides are illuminated with 2 tubes facing each direction.
  • While these lamps take care of disinfection on the walls, bed, and room air, the floor disinfection is done by 2 smaller UV lights located at the bottom facing the floor.
  • The hospital rooms get disinfected when the trolley is moved around in the room by an operator in protective suit and UV resistant goggles.
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GS-III : Economic Issues
UGC to suggest academic calendar

UGC to suggest academic calender

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

Panels set up by the University Grants Commission (UGC) have submitted recommendations on the revised academic calendar and suggestions for holding examinations at a time when the country is under lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Commission’s members are likely to discuss the recommendations via video-conferencing and issue advisory guidelines for institutions of higher education by the middle of next week, according to UGC officials.

Meanwhile, Press Trust of India reported that a panel headed by Central University of Haryana Vice-Chancellor R.C. Kuhad had recommended that the new academic year begin in September instead of July. Another recommendation was that universities conduct their year-end examinations online if they had the resources to do so. If not, they should wait until the lockdown is lifted to set a date for the hand-written examinations.

No semester exams yet

Most colleges and universities have not yet held their semester examinations to close out the current academic year.

Another panel headed by Indira Gandhi National Open University Vice Chancellor Nageshwar Rao also submitted its report on improving online education in the midst of the lockdown.

Guidelines on these matters issued by the Commission would “not be binding, but only advisory in nature”.

University Grants Commission – UGC 

The UGC was established in 1953 and made into a statutory organisation with the UGC Act in 1956.

  • UGC is responsible for coordinating, determining and maintaining standards of higher education.
  • The University Grants Commission provides recognition to universities in India and disburses funds to such recognised universities and colleges.
  • The UGC has its Head Office in New Delhi and six regional offices:
    • Bengaluru
    • Bhopal
    • Guwahati
    • Hyderabad
    • Kolkata
    • Pune
  • In 2018, the Ministry of Human Resource Development announced its plans to repeal the UGC Act, 1956. 
  • The bill also stipulates the formation of a new body, the Higher Education Commission of India (HECI).
  • The attempts to formalise a national educational system in India started during the British Raj. The University Grants Committee was formed in 1945 to oversee the functioning of the three central universities of the time – Aligarh, Delhi and Banaras. Its responsibility was extended in 1947 to cover all Indian universities.
  • The National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) is an organisation that assesses and accredits higher education Institutions (HEIs) in India.
  • It is an autonomous body funded by the University Grants Commission and headquartered in Bangalore.

UGC Mandate

The UGC has the unique distinction of being the only grant-giving agency in the country which has been vested with two responsibilities: that of providing funds and that of coordination, determination and maintenance of standards in institutions of higher education. The UGC’s mandate includes:

  • Promoting and coordinating university education.
  • Determining and maintaining standards of teaching, examination and research in universities.
  • Framing regulations on minimum standards of education.
  • Monitoring developments in the field of collegiate and university education; disbursing grants to the universities and colleges.
  • Serving as a vital link between the Union and State governments and institutions of higher learning.
  • Advising the Central and State governments on the measures necessary for the improvement of university education.

Other news releated to UGC

    1. STRIDE

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has approved a new initiative, Scheme for Trans-Disciplinary Research for India’s Developing Economy (STRIDE), to support socially relevant, local need-based, nationally important and globally significant research projects.

  • The UGC has set up an advisory committee under its Vice Chairman Bhushan Patwardhan, to oversee the entire scheme.

Components of the Scheme

  • Component 1: The Scheme will provide for research capacity building in diverse disciplines by mentoring, nurturing and supporting young talents to innovate pragmatic solutions for local, regional, national and global problems. Grant available is upto Rs. 1 crore.
  • Component 2: It will mainly focus on enhancing problem solving skills with the help of social innovation and action research to improve wellbeing of people and contribute for India’s developing economy. Grant upto Rs. 50 lakh to 1 crore is available for projects under this component.
  • Component-3 will fund high impact research projects in the identified thrust areas in humanities and human sciences through national network of eminent scientists from leading institutions. Grant available under this component is upto Rs. 1 crore for one Higher Educational Institution and upto Rs. 5 crores for a multi institutional network.

Expected Benefits from the Scheme

  • It will help strengthen transdisciplinary research culture in colleges and universities.
    • Trans-disciplinary research is a team effort of investigators from different disciplines to create new conceptual, theoretical, methodological innovations that integrates and transcends beyond discipline-specific approaches to address a common problem.
    • It goes beyond mere production of knowledge and extends to the practical use of the knowledge outside academic endeavour.
  • It will provide opportunity to build multi sectoral linkages between university-government-community-industry for national development and wellbeing of people.
  • It will give major impetus to high impact research in Humanities and Human Sciences.

 

2. Life will soon become easier for students migrating from one college to another or from another university. The University Grants Commission (UGC) has approved a uniform academic calendar for all universities across the country. This would mean that results of all courses will be declared before June and classes for first year students shall commence by the first week of August.

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GS-III :
Herbal Decongest Spray for masks-National Ayush Mission

Context:

  • Health authorities have been strongly advocating the use of face masks to prevent corona infection. At the same time, wearing a mask for a long time is reportedly causing difficulties in breathing and congestion in the respiratory system.
  • To address this issue, scientists at CSIR-National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI), Lucknow, have developed a herbal decongestant spray.

Reasons for suffocation while wearing a mask:

  • The main reasons behind this problem include the accumulation of carbon dioxide and humidity in the inner cavity of the mask.
  • When a person breathes in, this goes back to the lungs again.
  • Repetition of this process over a period of time causes discomfort in breathing and congestion

Herbal Decongest spray:

  • Herbal decongestant spray is a fine blend of four plant-based oils, but the names of these plants cannot be disclosed right now because of issues related to intellectual property. This product is developed based on the principles of Ayurveda and contains ingredients reported in traditional scriptures.
  • This formulation helps in clearing the wind pipe and congestion by removing the mucus or cough leading to ease of breathing. It also reduces stress due to excessive use of mask and decongestion.This spray has been prepared as per guidelines of the Ministry of AYUSH.

CSIR-National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI), Lucknow

  • Lucknow-based NBRI is a constituent laboratory of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), which is mainly known for its botanical research work. The initial results of this NBRI's herbal spray have been extremely impressive. People wearing masks for a long time are getting a lot of relief from this, say researchers.
  • The Institute plans to transfer the technology of this inhaler for commercial production so that it can be produced on a large scale and sent to the frontline worriers fighting against COVID-19 pandemic.

National Ayush Mission

Department of AYUSH, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India has launched National AYUSH Mission (NAM) during 12th Plan for im­plementing through States/UTs. The basic objective of NAM is to promote AYUSH medical systems through cost effective AYUSH services, strengthening of educational systems, facilitate the enforcement of quality control of Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani & Homoeopathy (ASU &H) drugs and sustainable availability of ASU & H raw-materials. It envisages flexibility of implementation of the programmes which will lead to substantial participation of the State Governments/UT. The NAM contemplates establishment of a National Mission as well as corresponding Missions in the State level. NAM is likely to improve significantly the Department’s outreach in terms of planning, supervision and monitoring of the schemes.

Objectives

  • To provide cost effective AYUSH Services, with a universal access through upgrading AYUSH Hospitals and Dispensaries, co-location of AYUSH facilities at Primary Health Centres (PHCs), Community Health Centres (CHCs) and District Hospitals (DHs).
  • To strengthen institutional capacity at the state level through upgrading AYUSH educational institutions, State Govt. ASU&H Pharmacies, Drug Testing Laboratories and ASU & H enforcement mechanism.
  • Support cultivation of medicinal plants by adopting Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) so as to provide sustained supply of quality raw-materials and support certification mechanism for quality standards, Good Agricultural/Collection/Storage Practices.
  • Support setting up of clusters through convergence of cultivation, warehousing, value addition and marketing and development of infrastructure for entrepreneurs.

Components of the Mission

  • AYUSH Services
  • AYUSH Educational Institutions
  • Quality Control of ASU &H Drugs
  • Medicinal Plants

Monitoring and Evaluation:

  • Dedicated MIS monitoring and evaluation cell would be established at Centre/ State level. It is therefore proposed to have a Health Management Information System (HMIS) Cell at National level with three HMIS Managers and one HMIS Manager at State level.
  • The concurrent evaluation of the AYUSH Mission shall be carried out to know the implementation progress and bottlenecks and scope for improvement. Third party evaluation will also carried out after two years of Mission implementation.
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GS-III :
Coronavirus | Why pathogens travel in search of a host

Context:

Claims were made of the virus being manufactured in laboratories and then shipped to nations to let loose on their populations. Conspiracy theories competed with each other like racy Hollywood plots at the box office. In a paper published on March 17, Nature Medicine busted the theory of a lab-cultured SARS-CoV-2. The paper, The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2, by Kristian G. Andersen, Andrew Rambaut, W. Ian Lipkin et al, made it clear that this was a case of zoonoses.

 

Why Nature Medicine claims Sars-Cov-2 is a naturally evolved virus rather than being manufactured in a lab?

  • While agreeing that it was theoretically possible that SARS-CoV-2 acquired mutations in a petri dish, the Nature paper added that “the finding of SARS-CoV-like coronaviruses from pangolins with nearly identical RBDs, however, provides a much stronger and more parsimonious explanation of how SARS-CoV-2 acquired these via recombination or mutation.
  • It also posited the possibility of a “progenitor of SARS-CoV-2 that jumped into humans, acquiring the genomic features through adaptation during undetected human-to-human transmission”.
  • The changes in the genome occurred as a part of the natural evolutionary process.
  • All SARS-CoV-2 genomes sequenced so far have the genomic features described and are thus derived from a common ancestor that had them too.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), 60% of all infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic, and about 75% of all emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic in nature. Emerging pathogens are more likely to be viruses, than any other kind — bacteria, parasites, fungi — and are more likely to have a broad host range.

Why are zoonotic diseases prevalent?

  • The inevitable interaction between humans and livestock with wildlife exposes the human species to the risk of spillover of potential pathogens.
  • For many zoonotic diseases or zoonoses, livestock serve as an epidemiological bridge between wildlife and human infections. Among zoonoses that emerged or re-emerged recently, the UNEP counts Ebola, bird flu, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Rift Valley fever, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), West Nile virus, Zika virus disease, and COVID-19.
  • The UNEP is also very clear that the drivers of zoonotic disease emergence are changes in the environment, usually as a result of human activities ranging from land use change; changes in animals or human hosts; and changes in pathogens, which are programmed to survive, and in the process exploit multiple hosts.
  • For instance, bat-associated viruses emerged due to the loss of habitats, it argues. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa was reportedly the result of forest losses leading to closer contacts between wildlife and human settlements; the emergence of avian influenza was linked to intensive poultry farming; and the Nipah virus was linked to the intensification of pig farming and fruit production in Malaysia.
  • Changes in weather patterns, and extreme weather events affect the distribution areas of disease, pathogens and pests. Also, changes in human behaviour, including travel, conflicts, migration, wildlife trade, urbanisation, and dietary and medical preferences, can result in disease emergence, according to researchers at the UNEP

 

Why to preserve the ecosystem?

  • A presentation by the UNEP argues, “Ecosystem integrity underlines human health and development. Human-induced environmental changes modify wildlife population structure and reduce biodiversity, resulting in new environmental conditions that favour particular hosts, vectors, and/or pathogens.” Consequently, preserving ecosystem integrity can actually help regulate diseases by supporting a diversity of species so that it is more difficult for one pathogen to spill over, amplify or dominate.
  • Never before have so many opportunities existed for pathogens to pass from wild and domestic animals to people. Our continued erosion of wild spaces has brought us uncomfortably close to animals and plants that harbour diseases that can jump to humans.

What about the plant kingdom?

  • It is not just animal-to-human transmission we need to worry about. Peter Beetham writes in the Scientific American that we must be wary of transmission from the plant kingdom as well — “The current COVID-19 pandemic underscores how unprepared we humans are in fighting zoonotic diseases: pathogens that originate in wildlife and jump to humans. Human immune systems are equally unprepared for drug-resistant diseases that jump from plants to humans.

Is ‘One Health’ the solution for this pandemic?

According to the World Health Organisation, ‘One Health’ is an approach to designing and implementing programmes, policies, legislation and research in which multiple sectors communicate and work together to achieve better public health outcomes.

The areas of work in which a ‘One Health’ approach is particularly relevant include food safety, the control of zoonoses, and combating antibiotic resistance (when bacteria change after being exposed to antibiotics and become more difficult to treat).

 The concept helps practitioners understand disease determinants, manage risks and optimise interventions.

Climate scientists argue and epidemiologists agree that ‘One Health’ is a key principle for the control of zoonotic diseases, antimicrobial resistance, food safety and vector-borne diseases.

Way ahead:

The UNEP calls for strong global stewardship of nature and bio-diversity. Additionally, developing sharper, reliable early warning systems (for diseases), and a ‘One Health’ approach may be the guides for the road ahead.

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GS-III :
First merger of two black holes with unequal masses detected

Context:

  • For the first time since it started functioning, the gravitational wave observatories at LIGO scientific collaboration have detected a merger of two unequal-mass black holes. The event, dubbed GW190412, was detected nearly a year ago, and this is almost five years after the first ever detection of gravitational wave signals by these powerful detectors.
  • Violent merger showed that it involved two black holes of unequal masses coalescing, one of which was some 30 times the mass of the Sun and the other which had a mass nearly 8 times the solar mass.
  • The actual merger took place at a distance of 2.5 billion light years away.

What is the uniqueness of the merger of unequal black holes:

  • The detected signal’s waveform has special extra features in it when it corresponds to the merger of two unequal-sized black holes as compared with a merger of equal-sized black holes.
  • These features make it possible to infer many more things about the characters in this celestial drama, namely, a more accurate determination of the distance from the event, the spin or angular momentum of the more massive black hole and the orientation of the whole event with respect to viewers on Earth.
  • While the mass of the black hole bends the space-time close to it, the spin or angular momentum of this inscrutable object drags the nearby space-time, causing it to swirl around, along with it.
  • Hence both these properties are important to estimate.

 

Crucial difference:

  • Dominant emission of gravitational waves happens at twice the orbital frequency of the binary.
  • In this case, we find, for the first time, emission at a frequency that is three times the orbital frequency. This emission is negligible when binaries contain equal masses and when the orbit is face-on.
  • The asymmetry in the masses made the feeble higher harmonic component better ‘heard’, leading to its unambiguous detection.
  • Also, in the case of the merger of unequal black holes, the spin of the more massive black hole can be determined from the extra features in the signal waveform.
  • The spin of the heavier black hole plays a more prominent role in the dynamics of the binary. Hence, it leaves a stronger imprint on the waveform, making it easy to measure.
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GS-II :
Immunity passport

WHO caution against the idea of immunity passport

The World Health Organization is cautioning against the idea of immunity passports. It says there is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected against a second infection.

The concept of immunity passports or risk-free certificates has been floated as a way of allowing people protected against reinfection to return to work.

WHO  argues that people who assume they are immune to reinfection may ignore public health advice, and such certificates could raise the risks of continued virus transmission.

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GS-III : Economic Issues
RBI REPORT ON FOREX RESERVES

RBI REPORT ON FOREX RESERVES

According to the latest data from the Reserve Bank of India, in the reporting week ended April 17, foreign currency assets (FCA), a major component of the overall reserves, rose USD 1.55 billion to USD 441.88 billion.

The RBI data showed that gold reserves increased USD 1.54 billion to USD 32.68 billion in the reporting week. While, special drawing rights with the International Monetary Fund,IMF were up by USD 3 million to USD 1.43 billion. The country's reserve position with the IMF remained stable at USD 3.58 billion during the reporting.

PT SHOT

The Forex Reserves (‘foreign exchange reserves’) of an economy is its ‘foreign currency assets’ added with its gold reserves, SDRs (Special Drawing Rights) and Reserve Tranche in the IMF.

Reserve tranche

  • Reserve tranche is a portion of the required quota of currency each member country must provide to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that can be utilized for its own purposes.

Special Drawing Rights

  • The SDR is an international reserve asset, created by the IMF in 1969 to supplement its member countries’ official reserves
  • The SDR is neither a currency nor a claim on the IMF.
  • Initially SDR was defined as equivalent to 0.888671 grams of fine gold, which at the time, was also equivalent to one U.S. dollar. After the collapse of the Bretton Woods system, the SDR was redefined as a basket of currencies.
    • This basket Includes five currencies—the U.S. dollar, the euro, the Chinese renminbi, the Japanese yen, and the British pound sterling.
  • The collapse of Bretton Woods system in 1973 and the shift of major currencies to floating exchange rate regimes lessened the reliance on the SDR as a global reserve asset.
  • Officially, the RBI targets neither a particular exchange rate nor foreign exchange reserves, but maintains forex reserves to reduce volatility in the forex market.
    • Forex reserves act as an insurance when the rupee tends to be volatile against the dollar,
    • In the process of supporting weakening rupee, RBI needs to buy dollars, ultimately, leading to higher forex buildups..
    • But when RBI purchases dollars, it leads to infusion of rupee into the system which leaves inflationary effect on the economy.
  • Citing the example of China, the Economic Survey 2014–15 held that India could target foreign exchange reserves of US$750 billion to $1 trillion.
  • China has highest forex reserves in the world i.e., $3.2 trillion. India is currently the sixth largest holder of forex reserves
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GS-III :
Coronavirus plastic waste polluting the environment

Coronavirus plastic waste polluting the environment

Gloves, masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) are critical for those fighting the pandemic but are also widely used by the public. Still, because they're not always disposed of properly, environmentalists fear negative consequences for wildlife and the fight against plastic pollution.

As in the rest of Greece, residents of the coastal city are allowed out only in strict circumstances, including for short exercise and grocery shopping, but discarded gloves, wipes and bottles of sanitizer are strewn across parks, sidewalks and roads, as people try to protect themselves and others from infection.
The problem isn't confined to the small Greek city. Similar waste is causing problems in bigger metropolises such as New York and London.

And it has even hit the uninhabited Soko Islands. A few nautical miles from Hong Kong, Gary Stokes from the conservation group OceansAsia, found some 100 masks washed up over the course of three visits to the beach.

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GS-III : Economic Issues
DPIIT, CAIT join hands to enable kiranas’ foray into e-comm space

DPIIT, CAIT join hands to enable kiranas’ foray into e-comm space

The DPIIT has joined hands with CAIT for development of this platform, which, is expected to be launched in a staggered manner starting early next week.

Within days of retail giants Reliance Industries and Amazon India announcing their intent to accelerate their plans of onboarding local retailers and grocers, a group of retail traders has announced a tie-up with the Centre to launch a national e-commerce marketplace, which will help small retailers across the country take orders online.

The DPIIT is facilitating the conception and designing of the portal through its Startup India wing. This vast, and purely Indian, e-commerce portal will make all efforts to onboard about 7 crore traders of the country. Manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, retailers of all verticals of domestic trade and consumers will be an integral part of this e-commerce platform.

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GS-II :
Global Vaccine Action Plan 2011-2020

Global Vaccine Action Plan 2011-2020

The Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) ? endorsed by the 194 Member States of the World Health Assembly in May 2012 ? is a framework to prevent millions of deaths by 2020 through more equitable access to existing vaccines for people in all communities.

GVAP was the product of the DoV Collaboration, an unprecedented effort that brought together development, health and immunization experts and stakeholders. The leadership of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, GAVI Alliance, UNICEF, United States National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases and WHO, along with all partners – governments and elected officials, health professionals, academia, manufacturers, global agencies, development partners, civil society, media and the private sector – are committed to achieving the ambitious goals of the GVAP. Many more are expected to add their support in the future as the plan is translated and implemented at the country and regional levels.

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