Current Affairs Analysis

16th April 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

General observations of Craftspeople among COVID-19; Amendment in EIA Notification 2006; SAHYOG app; Where does WHO get its funding from? Public distribution system; Justinian Plague; Black Death; Spanish Flu; Gangetic dolphins; Replacing sodium hypochlorite with hydrogen peroxide
By IASToppers
April 16, 2020

Contents

 

Polity & Governance

  • Lockdowns work better for rich nations: Study

Government Schemes & Policies

  • Integrated geospatial platform to help area-specific strategies in COVID-19 outbreak
  • Outdated census data deprives over 10 crore of PDS: economists

Issues related to Health & Education

  • How pandemics have changed the world

Social Issues

  • Craftspeople now need state support

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • COVID-19 lockdown a blessing for the endangered Gangetic dolphin in Bihar
  • Centre amends green rule for drug production

Bilateral & International Relations

  • Trump halts WHO funding over handling of coronavirus

Prelims Key Facts

  • Replacing sodium hypochlorite with hydrogen peroxide

For IASToppers Current Affairs Analysis Archive, Click Here

Polity & Governance

Lockdowns work better for rich nations: Study

A new study has suggested that policymakers need to keep in mind the human and economic costs of sweeping restrictions in place to stem the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

About the new study:

  • As per study, a hard lockdown may benefit developed countries more than developing and low-income countries.
  • The study, by two social scientists at Yale University found that social distancing and other measures can save a large number of lives in high-income countries because practically any economic cost is worth bearing. But in lower-income countries such as Nigeria, India or Bangladesh, the benefits diminish.
  • The value of benefits estimated for each country translates to a savings of 59% of US GDP, but only 14% of Bangladesh’s GDP, or 19% of India’s.
  • Assuming equally effective social distancing policies, the economic value of moving from a policy stance of no mitigation to social distancing is estimated to be 23.5 times more valuable for the United States compared to India.
  • Lower estimated benefits of restrictions were driven by the fact that large sections of the population in low-income countries are dependent on daily wages and small-scale work.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Government Schemes & Policies

Integrated geospatial platform to help area-specific strategies in COVID-19 outbreak

The Department of Science and Technology has created an Integrated Geospatial Platform out of available geospatial datasets to help decision making during the current COVID-19 outbreak.

About SAHYOG app:

  • The mobile application SAHYOG, as well as the web portal ‘Indiamapsprepared & managed by the Survey of India, has been customized to collect COVID-19 specific geospatial datasets through community engagement.
  • Information parameters required as per the Government of India strategy and containment plan for large outbreaks have been incorporated in the SAHYOG application. 
  • This mobile application will complement the “AAROGYA-SETU” mobile application launched by the Government of India for Contact tracing, Public awareness, and Self-assessment objectives. 
  • State Spatial Data Infrastructure (SSDI) in Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Punjab, and Jammu & Kashmir have been providing collateral standards-based geospatial data services to the State and District Level Authorities in the respective States through State Geoportals for integration with related health data sets towards combating COVID-19 pandemic.

Significance of the new platform

  • The platform is initially expected to strengthen the public health delivery system of the State and Central Governments.
  • It will subsequently provide the necessary geospatial information support to citizens and agencies dealing with the challenges related to health, socio-economic distress, and livelihood challenges.
  • Integration of demographic information with geospatial data is essential for decision making, governance, and development and this effort will be a special digital enabler for the platforms such as AAROGYA-SETU.
[Ref: PIB]

Outdated census data deprives over 10 crore of PDS: economists

Over 10 crore people have been excluded from the Public Distribution System (PDS) because outdated 2011 census data is being used to calculate State-wise National Food Security Act (NFSA) coverage.

  • With the 2021 census process being delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, any proposed revision of PDS coverage using that data could now take several years.

What is PDS?

  • Public distribution system is a government-sponsored chain of shops entrusted with the work of distributing basic food and non-food commodities to the needy sections of the society at very cheap prices.
  • Wheat, rice, kerosene, sugar, etc. are a few major commodities distributed by the public distribution system.

How PDS system functions?

  • The Central and State Governments share responsibilities in order to provide food grains to the identified beneficiaries.
  • The centre procures food grains from farmers at a minimum support price (MSP) and sells it to states at central issue prices. It is responsible for transporting the grains to godowns in each state.
  • States bear the responsibility of transporting food grains from these godowns to each fair price shop (ration shop), where the beneficiary buys the food grains at the lower central issue price. Many states further subsidise the price of food grains before selling it to beneficiaries.


How much population missed the PDS coverage?

  • Under the NFSA, the PDS is supposed to cover 75% of the population in rural areas and 50% of the population in urban areas, which works out to 67% of the total population, using the rural-urban population ratio in 2011.
  • India’s population was about 121 crore in 2011 and so PDS covered approximately 80 crore people. However, applying the 67% ratio to a projected population of 137 crore for 2020, PDS coverage today should be around 92 crore.
  • The biggest gaps are in Uttar Pradesh (2.8 crore) followed by Bihar (1.8 crore) people. State-specific birth and death rates from 2016 were used to calculate the population growth rate and projected population estimates.
  • Many State governments are reluctant to issue new ration cards beyond the numbers that will be provided for by the Central quota, making it difficult to reduce exclusion errors in the PDS.
  • This is because the State government stopped issuing new ration cards several years ago to avoid exceeding the numbers provided for by the Central government.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Issues related to Health & Education

How pandemics have changed the world

From the Justinian Plague of sixth century to the Spanish flu of last century, pandemics have triggered the collapse of empires, created social upheaval and brought down wars.

Justinian Plague

  • One of the deadliest pandemics in recorded history broke out in the sixth century in Egypt and spread fast to Constantinople, which was the capital of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire.
  • The plague was named after the then Byzantine Emperor Justinian.
  • The outbreak, which spread from Constantinople to both the West and East, had killed up to 25 to 100 million people. The plague hit Constantinople when the Byzantine Empire was at the pinnacle of its power under Justinian’s reign.
  • The plague would come back in different waves, finally disappearing in AD 750, after weakening the empire substantially. As the Byzantine Army failed to recruit new soldiers and ensure military supplies to battlegrounds in the wake of the spread of the illness, their provinces came under attack.
  • By the time plague disappeared, the Empire had lost territories in Europe to the Germanic-speaking Franks and Egypt and Syria to the Arabs.

Black Death

  • The Black Death, or pestilence, that hit Europe and Asia in the 14th century was the deadliest pandemic recorded in human history. It killed 75 to 200 million people.
  • In early 1340s, the plague struck China, India, Syria and Egypt. It arrived in Europe in 1347, where up to 50% of the population died of the disease.
  • Black Death led to improved wages for serfs and agricultural labourers. In parts of Europe, wages tripled as labour demand rose. In England, the Crown passed legislation in this regard the tensions created by which would eventually lead to the Peasant Revolt of 1381.
  • The pandemic also led to largescale Jewish persecution in Europe. Jews, blamed for spreading the illness, were burned alive in many parts of the continent.
  • The most significant impact of the Black Death was perhaps the weakening of the Catholic Church. The Church was as helpless as the plague spread like wildfire across the continent, which shook the people’s faith in Church and the clergy.

Spanish Flu

  • Spanish Flu, which broke out during the last phase of First World War, was the deadliest pandemic of the last century that killed up to 50 million people.
  • The flu was first recorded in Europe and then spread fast to America and Asia. India, one of the worst-hit by the pandemic, lost between 17 and 18 million people, roughly 6% of its population.
  • One of the major impacts of the outbreak was on the result of the war. Though the flu hit both sides, the Germans and Austrians were affected so badly that the outbreak derailed their offensives. 
  • Germany launched its Spring Offensive (also known as the Ludendorff Offensive) on the western front in March 1918. By June and July, the disease had weakened the German units. The flu was one of the reasons for Germany’s defeat.
[Ref: Hindustan Times]

Social Issues

Craftspeople now need state support

Unless there is recognition and support for our 50 million skilled artisans and craftspeople through enabling sustainable livelihoods, many can be driven to penury and heritage skills will die.

General observations of Craftspeople among COVID-19

  • Some had raw material for only 15 days at the beginning of the lockdown.
  • Bulk orders have been cancelled.
  • In rural areas only some have enough stocks of rations. Those in towns only buy monthly supplies and have no income now to replenish their shelves and no workers to come for production.
  • Everyone reported that police were alert, strict and present everywhere.
  • No supplies had reached those doing daily wage or job work in crafts.
  • The feeling was if the danger lifted by June or July, they would have access to raw material again and be able to produce enough for the marketing season.
  • They do not expect huge sales in any event since the markets were already sluggish and the prospects are now extremely bleak.
  • Weavers have looms in their homes but no yarn and large numbers of very poor weavers working under them have to be paid immediately, which is a serious problem.
  • E-commerce has not been and is of no help at present. It is too optimistic to imagine this will be a solution soon even if deliveries start because there has been no raw material or collective activity during the lockdown.

Suggestions

  • Artisans desperately need support in the form of interest-free loans of Rs 5,000-Rs 10,000 per month per family for two months backed by the government, since there is no budget allocated for this.
  • Craftspeople largely dependent on tourism, as in Kashmir, they need a composite plan to stimulate demand so they can look forward to the festival season.
  • The corporate sector must step forward by August, with advance payments to order festive season gifts for clients.
  • The textile ministry urgently needs to focus on the specific needs for different areas in the country, avoiding one-size-fits-all schemes.
  • Potters all over India can provide clay and even cow dung lamps this year. This could replace imported tea lights. Millions of agarbattis are routinely lit daily in homes, prayer spaces, shops, and other work establishments along with idols.
  • Today, more than Rs 400 crore worth of roundly cut bamboo sticks are imported from China and Vietnam. The Northeastern states need small appropriate technologies for bulk production of anything from drinking straws to cutlery, cutting boards, floorboards and furniture.
  • Multipurpose handloom gamchhas provided by weavers can serve as masks as the PM suggested.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

COVID-19 lockdown a blessing for the endangered Gangetic dolphin in Bihar

Gangetic dolphins have become more visible in the Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary (VGDS) in Bihar due to the lack of human activity on the Ganga during the ongoing novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown.

About Gangetic dolphins

  • The Gangetic river dolphin is one of the four freshwater dolphin species in the world. The other three are found in the Yangtze river in China (now extinct), the Indus river in Pakistan and the Amazon river in South America.
  • The Gangetic river dolphin is India’s national aquatic animal.
  • The Gangetic river species is found in India, Bangladesh and Nepal.
  • It is blind and finds its way and prey in the river waters through echoes.
  • Gangetic dolphins live in a zone where there is little or no current, helping them save energy. If they sense danger, they can dive into deep waters. The dolphins swim from the no-current zone to the edges to hunt for fish and return.
  • Females are larger than males and give birth once every two to three years to only one calf.

Conservation Status

  • They fall under Schedule I of the Indian Wild Life (Protection) Act 
  • IUCN status: Endangered
  • They are also one among the 21 species identified under the centrally sponsored scheme, “Development of Wildlife Habitat”.
  • They are in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and in Appendix II of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).
[Ref: Down To Earth]

Centre amends green rule for drug production

After its move to grant “out of turn” clearances to bulk drug projects against the backdrop of surging Covid-19 cases, the Centre has gone a step further to ramp up the availability of drugs by making an amendment to Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2006.

Amendment in EIA Notification 2006

  • All projects or activities in respect of bulk drugs and intermediates, manufactured for addressing various ailments, have been re-categorised from the existing Category ‘A’ to ‘B2’ category.

Significance

  • Projects falling under Category B2 are exempted from requirement of collection of Base line data, EIA Studies and public consultation.
  • The re-categorization of such proposals has been done to facilitate decentralization of appraisal to State Level so as to fast track the process.  
[Ref: PIB]

Bilateral & International Relations

Trump halts WHO funding over handling of coronavirus

President of USA has halt funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic while his administration reviews its response to the global crisis.

Where does WHO get its funding from?

  • It is funded by a large number of countries, philanthropic organisations, United Nations organisations etc.
  • Donations include voluntary donations from member states (35.41%), assessed contributions (15.66%), philanthropic organisations (9.33%), UN organisations (8.1%) the rest comes from myriad sources.
  • The US contributes almost 15% of the WHO’s total funding and almost 31% of the member states’ donations, the largest chunk in both cases.
  • India contributes 1% of member states’ donations. Countries decide how much they pay and may also choose not to.

How does WHO prioritise spending?

  • The annual programme of work is passed by WHO’s decision-making body, the World Health Assembly. It is attended by delegates from all member states and focuses on a specific health agenda prepared by the Executive Board.
  • The main functions of the Assembly, held annually in Geneva, are to determine WHO policies, appoint the Director-General, supervise financial policies, and review and approve the proposed programme budget.
  • The decision on which country gets how much depends on the situation in the countries.

How involved is WHO in India?

  • India became a party to the WHO Constitution in 1948. The first session of the WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia was held in 1948 in the office of India’s Health Minister, and inaugurated by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
  • The WHO India Country Cooperation Strategy (CCS) 2019-2023 has been developed jointly by the Health Ministry and the WHO India country office. This CCS expands to address complex challenges-such as the prevention of NCDs, the control of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), the reduction of air pollution, and the prevention and treatment of mental illnesses.
  • On the ground, WHO has been a key partner in the immunisation programme, tackling TB and neglected diseases such as leprosy and kala azar, and nutrition programmes across states.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Prelims Key Fact

Replacing sodium hypochlorite with hydrogen peroxide

  • The East Delhi Municipal Corporation is going to partially replace the use of sodium hypochlorite as a disinfectant spray with hydrogen peroxide.
  • Even though sodium hypochlorite, a liquid bleach agent, is being used worldwide for sanitisation of public places since the Covid-19 outbreak, some of its unsavoury side effects have come to the fore.
  • Recommended only for use on “non-living surfaces,” after sodium hypochlorite began to be used in disinfection tunnels to mist spray on people passing through them, the World Health Organization warned that spraying the solution would not kill a virus that “has already entered your body.

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