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Current Affairs Analysis

16th May 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

11th Panchen Lama; Project Arth Ganga; Third tranche of Economic Package; Defence Testing Infrastructure Scheme; West Bengal Major Irrigation and Flood Management Project; Damodar river; When does a disease become endemic?; Injectable Silk Fibroin-based hydrogel; $1 Billion loan from World Bank; International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD); International Development Association (IDA); Tibetan Buddhism; International Press Institute; BPDS and POMID; INLCU L57; EventBot; Quinine Nongladew; ICGS Sachet etc.
By IASToppers
May 18, 2020

Contents

Government Schemes and Policies

  • Project Arth Ganga
  • Third tranche of Economic Package
  • Defence Testing Infrastructure Scheme
  • West Bengal Major Irrigation and Flood Management Project

Issues related to Health and Education

  • When does a disease become endemic?
  • Injectable Silk Fibroin-based hydrogel

Economy

  • $1 Billion loan from World Bank

Bilateral & International Relations

  • US urges China to release 11th Panchen Lama

Key Facts for Prelims

  • International Press Institute
  • BPDS and POMID
  • INLCU L57
  • EventBot
  • Quinine Nongladew
  • ICGS Sachet

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Government Schemes and Policies

Project Arth Ganga

The Prime Minister recently reviewed the plans being envisaged for implementing “Project Arth Ganga”.

About Project Arth Ganga:

  • The Arth-Ganga project is a sustainable development model with a focus on economic activities related to River Ganga.
  • It was envisaged during the first meeting of the National Ganga Council in Kanpur on December 14, 2019.
  • The Jal Marg Vikas Project aimed to develop river Ganges as a safe mode of navigation and is being implemented with the technical and financial assistance of the World Bank.
  • ‘Project Arth Ganga’ envisages to re-engineer the JMVP by involving the local community to energise the economic activity along the Ganga river bank.

Plan of Action:

  • With the call to ‘Reform, Perform and Transform’,  Cargo volume on Ganga will be increased by 4 times with special focus on developing inland waterways.
  • The Arth-Ganga project will boost economic development and inclusive growth for farmers, small traders and villagers.
  • Farmers should be encouraged to engage in sustainable agriculture practices, including zero budget farming, planting of fruit trees and building plant nurseries on the banks of Ganga.
  • Priority would be given to women Self Help Groups and ex-servicemen organizations for these programs.
  • Creation of infrastructure for water sports and development of campsites, cycling and walking tracks etc. to tap the ‘hybrid’ tourism potential of the river basin area- for religious purposes as well as adventure tourism.

Initiatives taken:

  • The Ministry of Shipping has taken several initiatives in the last few years which has resulted in substantial growth in-terms of increasing Inland Cruises from 3 to 9, Cargo from 30,00,000 MT to 70,00,000 MT, and Vessels in-flow from 300 to 700.
  • Development of small jetties have been carried out for the benefit of small communities especially for farmers, traders and general public in the 1400 km stretch of National Waterway-1 from Banaras to Haldia.
  • National Waterway- 1 will act as a main conduit of connection with Nepal in a trilateral manner, i.e. from Varanasi to Nautanwa (280km), Kaughatto Raxaul (204km) and Sahibganj to Biratnagar (233km).
  • Earlier Nepal was connected by Kolkata and Visakhapatnam Ports for transporting cargo. Now, Inland Waterways, particularly NW-1 will be allowed under the Treaty for Transit of Cargo between Government of India and Government of Nepal.
  • It will save logistic cost and decongest Kolkata Port as well.
[Ref: PIB]

Third tranche of Economic Package

The third tranche of the Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan economic stimulus package has been announced by the Finance Minister recently.

Special Focus:

  • Making long-pending agricultural marketing reforms and plans to enact a central law to permit barrier-free inter-State trade of farm commodities and ensure a legal framework to facilitate contract farming.

Measures for improving agricultural infrastructure:

1. Agri Infrastructure Fund:

  • Financing facility of Rs. 1,00,000 crore will be provided for funding Agriculture Infrastructure Projects at farm-gate & aggregation points.
  • Impetus for development of farm-gate & aggregation point, affordable and financially viable Post Harvest Management infrastructure.

2. Rs 10,000 crore scheme for Formalisation of Micro Food Enterprises:

  • A Scheme promoting ‘Vocal for Local with Global outreach’ will be launched to help 2 lakh MFEs who need technical upgradation to attain FSSAI food standards, build brands and marketing.
  • Existing micro food enterprises, Farmer Producer Organisations, Self Help Groups and Cooperatives to be supported.
  • The focus will be on women and SC/ST owned units and those in Aspirational districts and a Cluster based approach.

3. Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana:

  • The Government will launch the PMMSY for integrated, sustainable, inclusive development of marine and inland fisheries.
  • Rs 11,000 crore for activities in Marine, Inland fisheries and Aquaculture and Rs. 9000 crore for Infrastructure – Fishing Harbours, Cold chain, Markets etc shall be provided.

4. National Animal Disease Control Programme:

  • The Disease Control Programme for Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and Brucellosis launched with a total outlay of Rs. 13,343 crore to ensure 100% vaccination of cattle, buffalo, sheep, goat and pig population.

5. Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund:

  • An Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund of Rs. 15,000 crore will be set up.
  • It aims to support private investment in Dairy Processing, value addition and cattle feed infrastructure. Incentives will be given for establishing plants for export of niche products.

6. Promotion of Herbal Cultivation:

  • The National Medicinal Plants Board (NMPB) has supported 2.25 lakh hectare area under cultivation of medicinal plants.
  • 10,00,000 hectare will be covered under Herbal cultivation in next two years with an outlay of Rs. 4,000 crore.
  • This will lead to Rs. 5,000 crore income generation for farmers and there will be a network of regional Mandis for Medicinal Plants.
  • NMPB will bring 800-hectare area by developing a corridor of medicinal plants along the banks of Ganga.

7. Beekeeping initiatives:

Rs 500 crores are earmarked for:

  • Infrastructure development related to Integrated Beekeeping Development Centres, Collection, Marketing and Storage Centres, Post Harvest & value Addition facilities etc;
  • Capacity building with thrust on women;
  • Development of quality nucleus stock and bee breeders.

8. From ‘TOP’ to TOTAL:

  • The Operation Greens run by the Ministry of Food Processing Industries will be extended from tomatoes, onion and potatoes to ALL fruit and vegetables with an earmarked sum of Rs 500 crore.
  • The Scheme would provide 50% subsidy on transportation from surplus to deficit markets, 50% subsidy on storage, including cold storages and will be launched as pilot for the next 6 months.

Administrative Reforms for Agriculture Sector:

1. Amendments to Essential Commodities Act:

  • The Government will amend Essential Commodities Act to enable better price realisation for farmers.
  • Agriculture food stuffs including cereals, edible oils, oilseeds, pulses, onions and potato shall be deregulated.
  • Stock limits will be imposed under very exceptional circumstances like national calamities, famine with surge in prices.

2. Agriculture Marketing Reforms:

A Central law will be formulated to provide:

  • Adequate choices to the farmer to sell their produce at remunerative price;
  • Barrier free Inter-State Trade;
  • A framework for e-trading of agriculture produce.

3. Agriculture Produce Pricing and Quality Assurance:

  • The Government will finalise a facilitative legal framework to enable farmers to engage with processors, aggregators, large retailers, exporters etc. in a fair and transparent manner.
  • Risk mitigation for farmers, assured returns and quality standardisation shall form an integral part of the framework.
[Ref: PIB, The Hindu]

Defence Testing Infrastructure Scheme

Raksha Mantri has recently approved the launch of Defence Testing Infrastructure Scheme with an outlay of Rs 400 crores.

Aim:

  • To give a boost to domestic defence and aerospace manufacturing in India.
  • To create state of the art testing infrastructure for the sector.

Major Highlights:

  • The Scheme would run for the duration of five years and envisages to set up six to eight new test facilities in partnership with private industry.
  • This will facilitate indigenous defence production, consequently reduce imports of military equipment and help make the country self-reliant.
  • The projects under the Scheme will be provided with up to 75 percent government funding in the form of ‘Grant-in-Aid’.
  • The remaining 25 percent 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.
  • The SPVs under the Scheme will be registered under Companies Act 2013 and shall also operate and maintain all assets under the Scheme, in a self-sustainable manner by collecting user charges.
  • The equipment/systems tested will be certified as per appropriate accreditation.
[Ref: PIB]

West Bengal Major Irrigation and Flood Management Project

The Government of India, West Bengal and the World Bank signed a loan agreement for a $145 million project to improve irrigation services and flood management in the Damodar Valley Command Area in West Bengal.

Major Highlights:

  • The project aims to improve the management of the Damodar Valley Command Area (DVCA) irrigation scheme to delivery, performance monitoring and irrigation efficiency.
  • The loan granted will be invested in the modernization of irrigation infrastructure at main, branch, distributary and minor canal levels.
  • The project contains measures to reduce flooding in the Damodar Valley Command Area in West Bengal.
  • It will also include the implementation of the Dam Safety.
  • The other initiatives include capacity for project management, including financial management, monitoring and evaluation, and environmental and social safeguards management and communication.

Significance:

  • The Project will benefit about 2.7 million farmers from five districts of West Bengal across 393,964 ha area with better irrigation services.
  • It will improve protection against annual flooding in the region.

Damodar River:

  • The Damodar river rises in the Palamu hills of the Chotanagpur plateau in Jharkhand.
  • The total length of the river is 541 km and has a number of tributaries and sub-tributaries, such as Barakar (most significant), Konar, Bokaro, Haharo, etc.
  • The river flows through two states: Jharkhand and West Bengal.
  • The river used to cause devastating floods earning the name ‘Sorrow of Bengal’.
  • Now the river is tamed by constructing numerous dams for the generation of hydroelectric power.
  • The valley is called “the Ruhr of India”.
  • The Damodar river valley is rich in mineral resources and home to large-scale mining and industrial activity.
[Ref: PIB]

Issues related to Health and Education

When does a disease become endemic?

A top official of the World Health Organization has warned that like HIV, COVID-19 could become endemic and may never go away.

What is an endemic disease?

  • According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a disease is endemic when its presence or usual prevalence in the population is constant.
  • When the cases begin to rise, it is classified as an epidemic.
  • If this epidemic has been recorded in several countries and areas, it is called a pandemic.
  • Examples of endemics: Chicken pox and Malaria.

Definition:

  • A 1948 definition of endemic cholera cited in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism defines it as: “An endemic area is one in which over a number of years, there is a practically continuous presence of clinical cholera with annual seasonal exacerbation of incidence.”
  • The dictionary of epidemiology defines an endemic disease as, “the constant presence of a disease or infectious agent within a given geographic area or population group; may also refer to the usual prevalence of a given disease within such an area or group.”

What happens when a disease becomes endemic?

  • When epidemics become endemic, they become “increasingly tolerated” and the responsibility of protecting against it shifts from the government to the individual.
  • This means, rather than government agencies actively engaging in tracking and identifying cases, the individuals themselves will be responsible for managing risk from the disease and seeking care.
  • Further, the socio-political response to the disease may also change, with investment in the disease becoming institutionalised along with the disease-inducing behavioural changes in people.
  • Once people become aware of the risks of infection, they will alter their behaviour and mitigate the consequences.

When does a disease become endemic?

  • As per mathematical modelling, if R0, which is the rate at which the virus is transmitted is equal to 1, then the disease is endemic.
  • When R0>1, it implies that the cases are increasing, and that the disease will eventually become an epidemic.
  • If R0<1, it implies the number of cases of the disease are decreasing.
  • Here, R0 refers to the number of people infected by a person who has the disease.
  • Epidemic diseases typically have higher mortality and morbidity than endemic diseases.

Difference between Endemic, Epidemic and Pandemic:

Endemic: a disease that exists permanently in a particular region or population. Malaria is a constant worry in parts of Africa.

Epidemic: An outbreak of disease that attacks many peoples at about the same time and may spread through one or several communities.

Pandemic: When an epidemic spread throughout the world.

[Ref: Indian Express]

Injectable Silk Fibroin-based hydrogel

Scientists at JNCASR have recently developed an injectable Silk fibroin-based hydrogel for sustained insulin delivery in diabetic patients.

Major Highlights:

  • The Research team from Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research have developed the silk fibroin (SF) formulation using biocompatible additives and prepared an injectable SF hydrogel (iSFH) that can ease insulin delivery in diabetic patients.
  • The iSFH has demonstrated successful delivery of active insulin in rats, and the results have been published in the journal ACS Applied Bio Materials.
  • The scientists have shown that subcutaneous injection of insulin with-iSFH in diabetic rats formed active depot under the skin from which insulin trickled out slowly and restored the physiological glucose homeostasis for a prolonged period of 4 days with no risks of low blood sugar through sudden burst of high concentration of insulin into the blood.
  • The microstructures provide mechanical strength (to support injectability), and porous morphology of iSFH allowed the encapsulation of human recombinant insulin in its active form in diabetic rats.

Significance:

  • Diabetes affects more than 70 million people in India, the second-highest in the world.
  • It results from inadequate production of insulin due to loss of beta cells or insulin resistance within the body, which imbalances the glucose homeostasis leading to an abrupt increase of blood glucose level.
  • The conventional and last resort of treatment involves repeated subcutaneous insulin injections to maintain the physiological glucose homeostasis.
  • The multiple subcutaneous insulin injections are associated with pain, local tissue necrosis, infection, nerve damage, and locally concentrated insulin amyloidosis responsible for inability to achieve physiological glucose homeostasis.
  • This problem can be overcome with controlled and sustained insulin delivery through the hydrogel.
[Ref: PIB]

Economy

$1 Billion loan from World Bank

The Government of India is getting another $1 billion loan from the World Bank to support its COVID-19 relief measures.

Key Features:

  • The Government of India and the World Bank signed a $750 million of $1 billion proposed for Accelerating India’s COVID-19 Social Protection Response Programme.
  • Of the $1 billion commitment, an immediate allocation of $750 million for 2020 of which $550 million will be financed by a credit from the International Development Association (IDA).
  • The remaining $200 million will be a loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD).

International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD):

  • The IBRD is an international financial institution that offers loans to middle-income developing countries.
  • The IBRD is the first of five member institutions that compose the World Bank Group and is headquartered in Washington D.C., United States.
  • It was established in 1944 with the mission of financing the reconstruction of European nations devastated by World War II.
  • The IBRD and its concessional lending arm, the International Development Association, are collectively known as the World Bank as they share the same leadership and staff.
  • The IBRD provides commercial-grade or concessional financing to sovereign states to fund projects that seek to improve transportation and infrastructure, education, domestic policy, environmental consciousness, energy investments, healthcare, access to food and potable water, and access to improved sanitation.

International Development Association:

  • The International Development Association (IDA) is the part of the World Bank that helps the world’s poorest countries.
  • IDA aims to reduce poverty by providing loans and grants for programs that boost economic growth, reduce inequalities, and improve people’s living conditions.
  • IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa, and is the single largest source of donor funds for basic social services in these countries.
  • IDA’s work covers primary education, basic health services, cleans water and sanitation, agriculture, business climate improvements, infrastructure, and institutional reforms.
  • IDA credits have a zero or very low interest charge and repayments are stretched over 25 to 40 years, including a 5- to 10-year grace period.
[Ref: PIB]

Bilateral & International Relations

US urges China to release 11th Panchen Lama

The United States has urged China to release Tibetan Buddhism’s 11th Panchen Lama, who was taken into captivity at the age of six by Chinese authorities.

Panchen Lama:

  • In 1995, a young Tibetan boy Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was recognised as the 11th Panchen Lama.
  • The Panchen Lama is the second highest spiritual authority in Tibetan Buddhism after the Dalai Lama.
  • Nyima was the world’s youngest political prisoner who was taken into captivity at the age of six by Chinese authorities.
  • There are no whereabouts about Nyima till date.

Why was he abducted?

  • The Panchen Lama plays a significant role in choosing the Dalai Lama who is the highest spiritual authority in Tibetan Buddhism.
  • The current Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso is  highly vocal and critical of Chinese illegal occupation of Tibet.
  • Hence, China captured the Panchen Lama to interfere in the Tibetan right to appoint the next Dalai Lama.
  • China plans to appoint the next Dalai Lama who would be a puppet or mouthpiece of China, suppressing the demand for an autonomous Tibet.

Tibetan Buddhism:

  • Tibetan Buddhism is the form of Buddhism practiced in Tibet where it is the dominant religion.
  • It is also found in the regions surrounding the Himalayas (such as Bhutan, Ladakh, and Sikkim), much of Central Asia and the Southern Siberian regions such as Tuva and Mongolia.
  • Tibetan Buddhism is a form of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism stemming from the latest stages of Indian Buddhism.
  • It thus preserves the Tantric status quo of eighth-century India inclusive of native Tibetan developments and practices.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Key Facts for Prelims

International Press Institute

  • International Press Institute (IPI) is a global organisation dedicated to the promotion and protection of press freedom and the improvement of journalism practices.
  • It was founded in October 1950 and has members in over 120 countries.

BPDS and POMID

  • Scientists at CSIR-Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (CMERI) have developed two mobile indoor Disinfection Sprayer units: BPDS and POMID.
  • 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, sinks, cardboards etc.
  • Intermittent usage of these disinfecting units can help minimize the risk of transmitting coronavirus.

INLCU L57

  • INLCU L57 has been recently commissioned into the Indian Navy.
  • INLCU L57 is the seventh Landing Craft Utility (LCU) MK-IV class to be inducted into the Indian Navy.
  • The ship has been indigenously designed and built by M/s Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE), Kolkata.

EventBot

  • The Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) of India has issued a warning against a new malware called EventBot.
  • The malware steals personal financial information from phone users.
  • The EventBot is a Trojan, a type of malware which misleads users of its true intent.
  •  It cheats victims secretly attacking computers or phone operating systems.
  • It targets money-transfer services, financial applications.

Quinine Nongladew

  • It is a village in Meghalaya.
  • It is named after the alkaloid quinine extracted from the bark of cinchona.
  • The place was called Quinine because of the plantation.
  • Quinine is a medication used to treat malaria and babesiosis.

ICGS Sachet

  • Raksha Mantri commissioned Indian Coast Guard Ship (ICGS) Sachet and two interceptor boats (IBs) C-450 and C-45.
  • The ICGS Sachet is the first in the series of five offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) which has been designed & built indigenously by Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL) and is fitted with state-of-the-art navigation and communication equipment.
  • The ship is capable of carrying limited pollution response equipment to undertake oil spill pollution response at sea.
  • It is for the first time in Indian maritime history that a ship was commissioned through a digital medium amid Covid-19 pandemic.
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