- MoHFW has not suspended the PC&PNDT Act
- Himachal’s pastoral community in the shadow of lockdown
- A double whammy for India-Gulf economic ties
- Inflation may drop to 2.4% in FY21: RBI
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- National Wildlife Board issues final nod for Mumbai-Nagpur highway
Bilateral & International Relations
- Pak seeks to bring issues under SAARC secretariat
Defence & Security Issues
- PM salutes CRPF personnel, on its Valour Day
- New outfit with suspected LeT link comes under scanner
Science & Technology
- Kerala gets nod for trial of plasma therapy
Key Facts for Prelims
- Good Friday
- Operation SHIELD
- Home Quarantine App
- Koundinya Wildlife Sanctuary
- Uranium contamination of groundwater
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MoHFW has not suspended the PC&PNDT Act
MoHFW said that it has not suspended the PC&PNDT (Pre Conception and Pre Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection)) Act 1994 amid coivd-19.
- It only defer/suspend certain provisions pertain to applying for renewal of registration if falling due in this period, submission of reports by diagnostics centres by 5th day of the following month and submission of quarterly progress report (QPR) by the States/UTs.
About PC & PNDT
- The PC-PNDT Act was enacted in September 1994 to prohibit prenatal diagnostic techniques for determination of the sex of the fetus leading to female feticide.
Main Provisions of the act:
- Provides for the prohibition of sex selection, before or after conception.
- Regulates the use of pre-natal diagnostic techniques, like ultrasound by allowing them their use only to detect: genetic abnormalities, metabolic disorders, chromosomal abnormalities, certain congenital malformations and sex linked disorders.
- No person, including the one who is conducting the procedure, will communicate the sex of the foetus to the pregnant woman or her relatives by words, signs or any other method.
- Any person who puts an advertisement for pre-natal and pre-conception sex determination facilities can be imprisoned for up to three years and fined Rs. 10,000.
Amendment in 2003:
- Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994 (PNDT), was amended in 2003 to The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition Of Sex Selection) Act (PCPNDT Act) to improve the regulation of the technology used in sex selection.
- covered bringing the technique of pre conception sex selection within the ambit of the act
- Bringing ultrasound within its ambit
- Empowering the central supervisory board, constitution of state level supervisory board
- Provision for more stringent punishments
- Empowering appropriate authorities with the power of civil court for search, seizure and sealing the machines and equipments of the violators
- Regulating the sale of the ultrasound machines only to registered bodies
Himachal’s pastoral community in the shadow of lockdown
Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh ordered that movement of nomadic Gaddi and Gujjars and their herds should not be restricted and all preventive measures be taken for their safety.
- Pastoral communities migrate from their winter zones in the Shivaliks in the districts to the higher reaches during summer. They move with their sheep, goat and buffaloes.
- Many of nomadic Gaddi and Gujjars said that the annual procedure of dipping of sheep was getting delayed at several places. In dipping, sheep and goat are made to enter a tank of water containing acaricidal chemicals to treat mangy skins and flea infestation.
- Another apprehension is regarding routine visits of veterinary experts organised by animal husbandry department during summers. The status of these camps remained ambiguous amid lockdown.
- The Gaddis are a tribe living mainly in Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.
- The peculiarity of Gaddi Tribe is their Khanabadosh Nature (person who does not have a permanent place to live), they are Gypsies in true nature as they always travel to the pastures along their flocks.
- They speak Gaddi, Takri, Hindi.
- The difference among the people of Gaddi Community is due to the dressing style. The Gaddi Tribal men wear chola, Turban or Safa and Dora. While a Gaddi women wears Launchiri. The most attractive aspect about Gaddi Tribes is their attire.
- Main Festivals: Baishakhi, Sair, Patroru Sagrand, Lohri and Shivratri.
- In India, Gujjar populations are found mainly in Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, western Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, northern Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra.
- The semi-nomadic Gujjar groups are found in the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and north-western Uttar Pradesh.
- The origin of this tribe was during the time of invasion of Hunas when the Gurjara tribes moved into northern India. It is also assumed that the Khazar tribes are the Ancestors of the Gujjar Tribe.
- Under the provisions of the Indian constitution the Gujjar are notified as a Scheduled Tribe (ST) in Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir.
A double whammy for India-Gulf economic ties
The Gulf region has COVID-19 pandemic and oil price meltdown. Although this double jeopardy still has some distance to go before stabilising, the situation’s impact on bilateral economic ties needs to be anticipated and managed.
Falling Oil prices
- The pandemic has put nearly a third of the world’s population under some form of lockdown curbing the consumption of hydrocarbons, the mainstay of Gulf economies.
- A Goldman Sachs report estimated that COVID-19 had lowered the world crude consumption by 28 million bpd.
- The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other crude producers (OPEC+) failed to reach a production-curtailing strategy as Saudi Arabia and Russia, held different views. As a result, OPEC+ unravelled with each producer chasing a higher share in a collapsing market. Consequently, the oil prices fall by 55% during March to an 18-year low on March 30.
Implications of COVID-19 on India’s economic ties with the Gulf states
India’s economic ties with the Gulf states have two dominant verticals: the Economic part and India’s expatriate community.
- India-Gulf trade stood around $162 billion in 2018-19, being nearly a fifth of India’s global trade. It was dominated by import of crude oil and natural gas, meeting nearly 65% of India’s total requirements.
- The number of Indian expatriates in the Gulf states is about 9 million, and they remitted nearly $40 billion back home. Both these intertwined pillars of India-Gulf ties have been affected by covid-19.
- India being the world’s third largest importer of crude, the Gulf’s lower oil revenues decreased bilateral trade and investments as well as expatriates’ remittances, all of them adding to India’s current financial stress.
Impact on expatriates
- Oil is a cyclic commodity and the Gulf producers have long evolved a pattern to handle its periodic lows. The fresh recruitment stops, salaries are either lowered or stalled, taxes raised and localisation drives launched. The net result is that a large number of expatriates return to their homes.
- This time there is an added complication of the pandemic, to which the Asian expatriates living in densely populated camps are particularly vulnerable.
- In case the pandemic worsens in the lower Gulf, wage-deprived Indians may prefer to come back. This would create an exodus of epic proportion. Apart from creating a logistical nightmare of transporting millions of expatriates back, they would need to be resettled and re-employed.
- India needs to make some contingency plans in consultation with the individual countries.
- In the longer run, India need to find new drivers for the India-Gulf synergy. This search could begin with cooperation in healthcare and gradually extend outward towards pharmaceutical research and production, petrochemical complexes, building infrastructure in India.
- In third countries, India need to make strong cooperation in agriculture, education and skilling as well as the economic activities in bilateral free zones created along Arabian Sea coast eventually leading to an India-Gulf Cooperation Council Free Trade Area.
Inflation may drop to 2.4% in FY21: RBI
The consumer price index (CPI)-based inflation is expected to soften during the course of the financial year, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said in its monetary policy report (MPR).
Highlights of the RBI’s recent monetary policy report
- CPI inflation is projected to ease from 4.8% in Q1 of 2020-21 to 4.4% in Q2, 2.7% in Q3 and 2.4% in Q4, with the caveat that aggregate demand may weaken further than currently anticipated and ease core inflation further.
- For 2021-22, assuming a normal monsoon and no major exogenous or policy shocks, structural model estimates indicate that inflation could move in a range of 3.6-3.8%.
- RBI had reduced the repo rate by 75 basis points (bps) to 4.4% in the monetary policy review while cash reserve ratio was reduced by 100 bps to 3%.
- The sharp reduction in international crude oil prices could improve the India’s terms of trade, but the gain from this channel is not expected to offset the drag from the shutdown and loss of external demand.
The Monetary Policy Process
- The amended RBI Act, 1934 provides for an empowered six-member monetary policy committee (MPC) to be constituted by the Central Government.
- The committee constitutes RBI chairman as head of committee, along with Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (ex-officio), one officer of the Reserve Bank of India to be nominated by the Central Board (ex-officio) and other three members.
- The MPC determines the policy interest rate required to achieve the inflation target.
- The Reserve Bank’s Monetary Policy Department (MPD) assists the MPC in formulating the monetary policy.
- The Financial Markets Operations Department (FMOD) operationalises the monetary policy, mainly through day-to-day liquidity management operations.
- The Financial Markets Committee (FMC) meets daily to review the liquidity conditions so as to ensure that the operating target of the weighted average call money rate (WACR).
- Before the constitution of the MPC, a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) on monetary policy with experts from monetary economics, central banking, financial markets and public finance advised the Reserve Bank on the stance of monetary policy. With the formation of MPC, the TAC on Monetary Policy ceased to exist.
Under the amended RBI Act, the monetary policy making is as under:
- The MPC is required to meet at least four times in a year.
- The quorum for the meeting of the MPC is four members.
- Each member of the MPC has one vote, and in the event of an equality of votes, the Governor has a second or casting vote.
- The resolution adopted by the MPC is published after conclusion of every meeting of the MPC in accordance with Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934.
Once in every six months, the Reserve Bank is required to publish a document called the Monetary Policy Report to explain:
- the sources of inflation; and
- the forecast of inflation for 6-18 months ahead.
Instruments of Monetary Policy
There are several direct and indirect instruments that are used for implementing monetary policy.
- Repo Rate: The (fixed) interest rate at which the Reserve Bank provides overnight liquidity to banks against the collateral of government and other approved securities under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF).
- Reverse Repo Rate: The (fixed) interest rate at which the Reserve Bank absorbs liquidity, on an overnight basis, from banks against the collateral of eligible government securities under the LAF.
- Marginal Standing Facility (MSF): A facility under which scheduled commercial banks can borrow additional amount of overnight money from the Reserve Bank by dipping into their Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR) portfolio up to a limit at a penal rate of interest. This provides a safety valve against unanticipated liquidity shocks to the banking system.
- Corridor: The MSF rate and reverse repo rate determine the corridor for the daily movement in the weighted average call money rate.
- Bank Rate: It is the rate at which the Reserve Bank is ready to buy or rediscount bills of exchange or other commercial papers. The Bank Rate is published under Section 49 of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934. This rate has been aligned to the MSF rate and, therefore, changes automatically as and when the MSF rate changes alongside policy repo rate changes.
- Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR): The average daily balance that a bank is required to maintain with the Reserve Bank as a share of such per cent of its Net demand and time liabilities (NDTL) that the Reserve Bank may notify from time to time in the Gazette of India.
- Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR): The share of NDTL that a bank is required to maintain in safe and liquid assets, such as, unencumbered government securities, cash and gold. Changes in SLR often influence the availability of resources in the banking system for lending to the private sector.
- Open Market Operations (OMOs): These include both, outright purchase and sale of government securities, for injection and absorption of durable liquidity, respectively.
- Market Stabilisation Scheme (MSS): This instrument for monetary management was introduced in 2004. Surplus liquidity of a more enduring nature arising from large capital inflows is absorbed through sale of short-dated government securities and treasury bills. The cash so mobilised is held in a separate government account with the Reserve Bank.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
National Wildlife Board issues final nod for Mumbai-Nagpur highway
The National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) issued the final clearance for the ₹55,335-crore Mumbai-Nagpur super communication highway during a meeting.
- The 701-km Hindu Hruday Samrat Balasaheb Thackeray Maharashtra Samruddhi Mahamarg connecting Mumbai and Nagpur will reduce the existing travel time of 15 hours to eight hours.
- The project will require felling of over one lakh trees and passes through the 10-km eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of Katepurna and Karanja Sohal Blackbuck wildlife sanctuaries towards one end of the state while cutting through the ESZ of Tansa lake sanctuary closer to the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.
National Board for Wildlife:
- It is constituted by the Central Government under Section 5 A of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 (WLPA).
Functions and power
- Its role is advisory in nature and advises the Central Government on framing policies and measures for conservation of wildlife in the country.
- Primary function of the Board is to promote the conservation and development of wildlife and forests.
- It has power to review all wildlife-related matters and approve projects in and around national parks and sanctuaries.
- No alternation of boundaries in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries can be done without approval of the NBWL.
- It adjudicates on industrial projects, road diversions or the like that could encroach into Protected Areas or eco-sensitive zones of forests.
- Chaired by the Prime Minister. It has 47 members including the Prime Minister.
- Among these, 19 members are ex-officio members. Other members include three Members of Parliament (two from Lok Sabha and one from Rajya Sabha), five NGOs and 10 eminent ecologists, conservationists and environmentalists.
Bilateral & International Relations
Pak seeks to bring issues under SAARC secretariat
Pakistan has sought to bring all issues under the SAARC secretariat in a bid to block Indian initiatives.
Pakistan’s effort to block India’s initiatives
- Recently, Pakistan had skipped a video conference of senior trade officials of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), saying it chose not to participate since the SAARC secretariat wasn’t involved in organising it.
- Pakistan has been trying to bring all Covid-19-related interactions under the formal SAARC umbrella by involving the SAARC secretariat, which is based in Kathmandu, Nepal.
- By trying to get Covid-19-related interactions under the SAARC umbrella, Pakistan will get a free hand to block all India’s initiatives by using the SAARC Charter provisions and rules of procedure, including application of the principle of consensus for drafting the agenda and the outcome document.
- Under the SAARC Charter, all issues have to be decided by consensus. This has often affected the working of SAARC. Pakistan’s opposition, mainly due to its differences with India, has held up numerous initiatives.
Defence & Security Issues
PM salutes CRPF personnel, on its Valour Day
- The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) is India’s largest Central Armed Police Force.
- It functions under the authority of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
- To enable the government to maintain Rule of Law, Public Order and Internal Security effectively and efficiently,
- To Preserve National Integrity and Promote Social Harmony and Development by upholding supremacy of the Constitution.
Broad gamut of duties performed by the CRPF are
- Crowd control
- Riot control
- Counter Millitancy / Insurgency operations.
- Dealing with Left Wing Extremism
- Overall co-ordination of large scale security arrangement specially with regard to elections in disturbed areas.
- Protection of VIPs and vital installations.
- Checking environmental de-gradation and protection of local Flora and Fauna
- Fighting aggression during War time
- Participating in UN Peace Keeping Mission
- Rescue and Relief operations at the time of Natural Calamities.
- Guarding vital Central Govt. installations such as Airport, Powerhouses, Bridges, Doordarshan Kendras, All India Radio Stations
Role during Elections
- To ensure free and fair elections: be it the Parliamentary or the Assembly Elections around the country.
- Co-ordinates with Ministry of Home Affairs, Election Commission of India and Railway Board.
- Co-ordinates with poll going States by constituting “State Level Co-ordination Group“.
- Planning deployment of troops according to sensitivity of the area.
- Generating/ issuing unique ID to all forces so that the local authorities of poll going states shall comfortably deploy the troops.
- Pre-induction training to the troops deployed for election duties in which the troops are trained according to the security profiling of the state.
- CRPF came into existence as Crown Representative’s Police in July 1939. It became the Central Reserve Police Force on enactment of the CRPF Act in December 1949.
- CRPF was raised as a sequel to the political unrest in the then princely States of India following the Madras Resolution of the All-India Congress Committee in 1936 and the ever-growing desire of the Crown Representative to help the vast majority of the native States to preserve law and order as a part of the imperial policy.
New outfit with suspected LeT link comes under scanner
A newly floated outfit, the Resistance Front, has come under the scanner of enforcement agencies for its suspected links with the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
- The Islamic Iran Resistance Front is an Iranian principlist political group, founded in 2011
- As per India, Resistance Front has been launched to evade the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) scrutiny and avoid further sanctions.
- The financial investigating agencies are trying to unearth the channel of funding to the new outfit, which is also called JK Fighters, to identify all those involved.
- In February, the FATF decided to keep Pakistan on the grey list and gave it another deadline for compliance with its recommendations on terror financing by June.
- Subsequently, attempts are being made to project that Pakistan-based elements are not involved in any terror activity in Kashmir. However, recent encounters have revealed that regular infiltration attempts are being made.
- While over 130 terrorists had entered Indian Territory in 2019, 32 managed to cross over in January and February in 2019.
Science & Technology
Kerala gets nod for trial of plasma therapy
Kerala won Indian Council of Medical Research’s approval for exploring the feasibility of an experimental therapy, convalescent plasma transfusion, which may be administered to severe COVID-19 patients.
- Convalescent plasma therapy is not new and have been used by doctors to treat critically ill patients during H1N1, SARS and Ebola.
- While the ICMR has cleared the clinical trial protocol, the State might at some point need to submit an expanded access protocol to the council, so that severely ill patients can be administered the treatment on compassionate grounds.
- Drugs Controller General’s approval and institutional ethics committee approval would have to be there before the treatment can be administered.
What is convalescent plasma?
- Convalescent plasma therapy involves transfusing certain components from the blood of people who have had the COVID-19 virus and recovered into people who are very sick with the virus or people who are at high risk of getting the virus.
How does it work?
- As people fight the COVID-19 virus, they produce antibodies that attack the virus. Those antibodies, proteins that are secreted by immune cells known as B lymphocytes, are found in plasma (liquid part of blood that helps the blood to clot when needed and supports immunity).
- Once a person has had the virus and recovered, that person has developed antibodies that will stay in their blood waiting to fight the same virus should it return. Those antibodies, when injected into another person with the disease, recognize the virus as something to attack.
- In the case of the coronavirus, antibodies attack the spikes on the outside of the virus, blocking the virus from penetrating human cells.
[Ref: The Hindu]
Prelims Key Facts
- Good Friday is a Christian holiday commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus.
- It is observed during Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, and may coincide with the Jewish observance of Passover.
- Paschal Triduum is a three day period that begins with the worship on the evening of Maundy Thursday and closes with evening prayer on Easter Sunday.
- Maundy Thursday is the Christian holy day falling on the Thursday before Easter. It commemorates the Washing of the Feet (Maundy) and Last Supper (final meal that Jesus shared with his apostles (12 dedicated follower of Jesus) in Jerusalem before his crucifixion).
- The Delhi government will carry out ‘Operation SHIELD’ at 21 locations identified as containment zones in the Delhi.
- Operation SHIELD includes sealing, identifying and quarantining people in containment zones, doorstep delivery of essential items and door-to-door chec-king of people in those areas.
Home Quarantine App
- The Delhi government has also developed the ‘Home Quarantine App’ to monitor the realtime location of quarantined individuals and is in the process of developing the ‘Containment Survey App’ to keep an eye on those residing in over two dozen COVID19hostspots or containment zones across the Capital
Koundinya Wildlife Sanctuary
- It is a wildlife sanctuary and an elephant reserve in Andhra Pradesh.
- It is the only sanctuary in Andhra Pradesh with a population of Asian elephants, which migrated after 200 years from neighbouring regions.
- The sanctuary has dry deciduous forests with thorny scrubs interspersed with trees.
- The vulnearble yellow-throated bulbul is present in the sanctuary. Apart from Indian elephant, some of the animals found in the sanctuary are: sloth bear, panther, cheetal, chowsingha, sambar, porcupine etc.
- Sanitation app ‘Swachhata-MoHUA’ is a highly popular grievance redressal tool for citizens under the ambit of the Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban).
- It has been updated to include features such as reporting of suspected cases of COVID-19 and lockdown violations.
Uranium contamination of groundwater
- A new study has found uranium contaminating the groundwater in 10 districts of Bihar. This is the first time that uranium content has been detected in groundwater.
- Uranium concentrations are elevated mostly in the North West-South East band along and to the east of Gandak river and running south of the Ganga river towards Jharkhand.
- The permissible limit according to the World Health Organization (WHO) for uranium is 30 microgram per litre.