Current Affairs Analysis

17th April 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Google Journalism Emergency Relief Fund; International Monetary and Financial Committee; Indian diaspora in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC); Anastomosis; K wires; How can voice tell the presence of COVID-19; Civil Defence volunteers; Colour coding to help manage COVID-19 pandemic; Currency depreciation; National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj; Pusa Decontamination and Sanitizing Tunnel; Cheeta Helicopter; Software Technology Parks of India; Chitra GeneLAMP-N;
By IASToppers
April 17, 2020

Contents

Government Schemes & Policies

  • Civil Defence volunteers
  • Colour coding to help manage COVID-19 pandemic

Issues related to Health & Education

  • When a severed hand can be restored, and how

Social Issues

  • NIRDPR, UNICEF train 2.8 mln community leaders online

Economy

  • FM attends the plenary meeting of the IMFC
  • Rupee hits record low against the US dollar

Bilateral & International Relations

  • Across the gulf: On stranded Indian workers

Science & Technology

  • Your voice may be able to tell if you have Covid

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Government Schemes & Policies

Civil Defence volunteers

More than 50,000 Civil Defence volunteers are working at the grassroots level in various roles and capacities to assist the local administration in implementing the measures to contain the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Efforts of Civil Defence personnel amid COVID-19

  • The Civil Defence personnel are supplementing the local administration in conducting surveillance of suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases. They have been working as rapid response teams.
  • They have been deployed in all the States and most Union Territories, barring Ladakh, Daman & Diu, and Puducherry.
  • Rajasthan, Karnataka, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Uttarakhand and Assam have taken the lead in using their services.
  • The volunteers have been deployed under the command of District Magistrates to assist the local administration in implementing the COVID-19 guidelines.

How civil defence personnel can be employed?

  • Civil Defence operates under the Civil Defence Act and associated rules and regulations.
  • The Act was amended in 2009 and a notification was issued in 2010 to include disaster management as an additional role.
  • Civil Defence is primarily organised on voluntary basis except for a small nucleus of paid staff and establishment which is augmented during emergencies.

Administration:

  • Although it is a Central law, Section 4 of the Civil Defence Act empowers State governments to raise corps at the local administration level as per their requirement.
  • The District Magistrate, District Collector or Deputy Commissioner is designated as Controller of the Civil Defence.

Eligibility for becoming a Civil Defence Volunteer:

  • Shall be a citizen of India, or a subject or Sikkim or of Bhutan or of Nepal.
  • Shall have completed the age of 18 years provided that this age limit may be relaxed at the discretion of the competent authority up to a maximum of 3 years for any branch or category of the Corps.
  • Shall have passed at least the primary standard, that is to say, the fourth class, and this condition may be relaxed by the Controller at this discretion.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Colour coding to help manage COVID-19 pandemic

The government has decided to divide all districts across the country into hotspots, non-hotspots and green zones.

Division of such districts

  • The health ministry used two criteria to classify the districts as hotspots — the absolute number of cases and the speed of growth in cases.
  • The technical definition followed to classify the districts is any district reporting more than six cases would be classified as hotspot district or red zone.
  • Any hotspot district with more than 15 cases would be treated as a district witnessing outbreak.

Demarcation of epicentre and containment zones:

  • A house with positive cases or a cluster with positive cases is marked as the epicentre of the containment zone. A radius of 0.5 km is taken and the area around it is cordoned off with only essential services available.
  • Also, a buffer zone is marked where people with severe and acute respiratory illnesses (SARI) are checked and monitored.
  • Containment zones are created to map the local transmission of the disease and prevent the contagion from spreading.

Need for color classification

  • To manage the Covid-19 pandemic as well as partial opening up of economic activities during the extended period of the nationwide lockdown. This would help in management of hotspots and spread of pandemic.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Issues related to Health & Education

When a severed hand can be restored, and how

In recent attack on Punjab policemen who had stopped a group of Nihang sect members in Patiala over a curfew pass, the hand of an assistant sub-inspector was chopped off.  Surgeons have since re-implanted the severed hand.

In which cases is re-implantation possible?

  • When a surgeon makes that decision, the factors that he or she considers include how much time has elapsed since the injury, the condition of the severed organ, and the nature of the injury— an organ severed with a clean cut is a better candidate than one severed by a crush type of injury.

How is such a surgery performed?

  • It involves conjoining various parts of the arm and the hand — bones, muscles, tendons, arteries, veins as well as nerves. The process is called anastomosis.
  • The bones is attached using “K wires”, which will be removed once the bones conjoin organically.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Social Issues

NIRDPR, UNICEF train 2.8 mln community leaders online

Nearly 2.8 million community leaders participated in online workshops to practice social behaviours necessary to curb the spread of COVID-19 in rural areas.

  • The initiative was carried out by National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj (NIRDPR) in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Field Office in Hyderabad.

National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj

  • Established in 1958, NIRDPR is an autonomous organisation under the Union Ministry of Rural Development.
  • It is recognized internationally as one of the UN-ESCA (United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific) Centres of Excellence.
  • It builds capacities of rural development functionaries, elected representatives of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs), bankers, NGOs through training, research and consultancy.
  • It is located in Hyderabad in Telangana state. It has also North-Eastern Regional Centre at Guwahati, Assam to meet the NE-regional needs.

Objectives

  • Undertake research on its own or collaborate with State, national and international development agencies;
  • Offer solutions to problems encountered in planning and implementation of the programmes for rural development, decentralised governance, panchayati raj and related programmes;
  • Study the functioning of the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) and rural development programmes across the States.
[Ref: Down To Earth]

Economy

FM attends the Plenary Meeting of the IMFC through video-conference

Union Minister of Finance & Corporate Affairs attended through video-conference the Plenary Meeting of the International Monetary and Financial Committee, the Ministerial-level committee of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

About International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC)

  • The IMFC meets twice a year, once during the Fund-Bank Annual Meetings in October, and again during the Spring Meetings in April.
  • The Committee discusses matters of common concern affecting the global economy and advises the IMF on the direction of its work. 
  • It also considers proposals by the Executive Board to amend the Articles of Agreement and advises on any other matters that may be referred to it by the Board of Governors.
  • The IMFC has 24 members who are central bank governors, ministers, or others of comparable rank and who are usually drawn from the governors of the Fund’s 189 member countries. 
  • The IMFC operates by consensus, including on the selection of its chairman.
  • While there are no formal rules on term limits, since 2007 IMFC chairmen have been appointed for a term of three years.
[Ref: PIB]

Rupee hits record low against the US dollar

The rupee hit a fresh record low of 74.48 against the US dollar following sharp sell-off in domestic equities and strength in the greenback against its major crosses.

About Currency depreciation

  • Currency appreciation is an increase in the value of one currency in relation to another currency.
  • Currencies appreciate against each other for a variety of reasons, including government policy, interest rates, trade balances and business cycles.

Reasons for a Currency Depreciation:

  • There is a fall in the world price of a country’s major export. This leads to a decline in export revenues and a fall in overseas demand for the exporting nation’s currency.
  • There is a surge in the volume and value of imported goods and services coming into a country leading to a trade deficit. A deficit on the current account of the balance of payments leads to a net outflow of currency, causing exchange rate weakness.
  • A country’s central bank reduce monetary policy interest rates, leading to a net outflow of hot money – this is short term financial capital that searches for the economy that offers the best risk-adjusted rate of return.
  • Depreciation might be caused by intervention from the Central Bank e.g. it goes into the foreign exchange market to sell their own currency and buy gold and foreign currencies. This would happen under a managed exchange rate system.
  • Demand for a currency might fall if currency traders / speculators expect the exchange rate to depreciate causing them to sell on the market.
[Ref: The Hindu, Economic Times]

Bilateral & International Relations

Across the gulf: On stranded Indian workers

India must do all it can to help the migrant workers stranded in West Asia.

Indian diaspora in GCC Countries

  • 8 million people in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries constitute a unique cohort among Indian diaspora communities around the world.
  • Around 50% of them are unskilled and another 30% are semi-skilled. Only a small minority of 20% of them are skilled and lucratively employed, but all these migrant workers together form the backbone of India’s ties with the region.
  • Their contribution of nearly 40% of the total foreign exchange remittances to India is critical to its economy.
  • Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Punjab have a significant number of people in the Gulf.

Current situation of Migrants in GCC

  • The vast majority of them who are on subsistence wages are facing a tough situation in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Living and working conditions make it extremely difficult for them to practise social distancing or get treatment if infected. Many of them suffer from preexisting medical conditions and are used to procuring medicines from India, which is now impossible.
  • Vast sectors of the economy are shut, rendering many of them jobless. Thousands are without documentation. Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha being important transits for international travel, thousands of Indian travellers are also stuck in the region.

Way Forward

  • Ongoing crisis is testing the endurance of India’s ties with some of the GCC countries. India must work closely with governments of the region to bring them succour.
  • The UAE government has said it might revise current partnerships concerning labour relations with nations refusing to cooperate with measures to repatriate private sector expatriates who wish to return home.
  • Kerala, which is home to more than two million Indian immigrants in the Gulf, Chief Minister has said the State is prepared to receive returnees and provide them care.
  • The Centre must take the initiative to bring together State governments, and work out arrangements with national governments in the region in a manner acceptable to all.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Science & Technology

Your voice may be able to tell if you have Covid

The rush to understand, predict and head off the Covid-19 outbreak has prompted technology researchers to deploy artificial intelligence to create tools that can determine whether people are infected by analysing the sound of their cough, the way they speak or even breathe.

How can voice tell the presence of COVID-19?

  • Since the voice production mechanism is so complex and dependent on cognitive abilities, any factor that affects body will reflect voice. The changes can be in fractions of seconds (micro signatures), that are not audible to the untrained listener, but nevertheless present.
  • Any condition affecting the lungs or the respiratory system has a palpable effect on voice. Moreover, the cough of a Covid patient is also distinct from a healthy person’s.
  • One of the most common things doctors have noticed about patients with the virus is the way they catch their breath when they’re speaking, as well as a dry cough, and the intervals of their breathing patterns

Other efforts for detecting COVID-19

  • Software giants such as Apple and Google are working on a mobile phone-based contact tracing tool, a technology that several nations – including India with the Aarogya Setu app – have already deployed on their own.
  • A company called Kinsa comes up with heat maps of fever prevalence. Such tools can be useful in identifying large outbreaks that health authorities can respond to and direct testing and containment resources if need be.
[Ref: Hindustan Times]

Prelims Key Facts

Pusa Decontamination and Sanitizing Tunnel

  • Pusa Decontamination and Sanitizing Tunnel, developed by Division of Agricultural Engineering, ICAR- Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, was inaugurated by the Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Framers’ Welfare.
  • The sanitization protocol includes hand washing with foot-operated soap and water dispenser and fogging in a sanitizing tunnel for 20 seconds. In this tunnel, Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (QAC) are used at concentration of 0.045%, which is recommended by the Health Department.

Cheeta Helicopter

  • The Cheetah Helicopter (identical to LAMA SA 315B Helicopter of Eurocopter, France) is a single-engine high performance helicopter designed for operation over a very wide range of weight, centre of gravity and altitude conditions.
  • It holds the world record in high altitude flying among all categories of Helicopters.

Software Technology Parks of India

  • Software Technology Parks of India, is an Autonomous Society set up by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology in 1991 for encouraging, promoting and boosting the Software Exports from India.
  • Software Technology Parks of India maintains internal engineering resources to provide consulting, training and implementation services. Services cover Network Design, System Integration, Installation, Operations and maintenance of application networks and facilities in varied areas.
  • STPI has established a joint venture to set up an ‘Electropreneur Park’ with the India Electronics and Semiconductor Association (IESA).This is aimed at supporting 50 startups working on electronics product designing and development over the next five years. 

Chitra GeneLAMP-N

  • Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology, Trivandrum, an Institute of National Importance, of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), has developed a diagnostic test kit that can confirm COVID19 in 2 hours at low cost.
  • It detects the N Gene of SARS- COV2 using reverse transcriptase loop-mediated amplification of viral nucleic acid (RT-LAMP), can detect two regions of the gene, which will ensure that the test does not fail even if one region of the viral gene undergoes mutation during its current spread.

Google Journalism Emergency Relief Fund

  • Google is planning to launch this emergency fund to help local news outlets struggling to maintain operations in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Under this, Google would offer grants ranging from the “low thousands of dollars” for the smallest operations to low tens of thousands for larger newsrooms.

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