Current Affairs Analysis

18th April 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

How does India Meteorological Department (IMD) forecasts? Criticism of Prime Minister’s seven-point formula; Automatic Mist Based Sanitiser Dispensing Unit; Centre for Fire, Explosive and Environment Safety; UV Sanitisation Box and Hand-held UV device; Kisan Rath; Indian Army Medical Corps; World heritage day; International Cuouncil on Monments and Sites; Centre for Nano and Soft Matter Sciences; Supercapacitors; Reach and Teach; Siddalingeshwara temple car (chariot) festival; Order books, inventories and capacity utilisation survey (OBICUS)
By IASToppers
April 20, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Statesmanship requires taking people along

Issues related to Health & Education

  • DRDO introduces two new products to enable COVID-19 disinfection process

Economy

  • Kisan Rath Mobile App
  • RBI announces additional liquidity measures to revive stressed sectors

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • A season of change: On IMD forecast system

Defence & Security Issues

  • Armed Forces Medical Services pitches in to combat COVID-19

Art & Culture

  • World heritage day

Science & Technology

  • Centre for Nano and Soft Matter Sciences

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Supercapacitors
  • Reach and Teach
  • Siddalingeshwara temple car (chariot) festival
  • Order books, inventories and capacity utilisation survey (OBICUS)

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Polity & Governance

Statesmanship requires taking people along

As the Prime Minister asked for another 18 days of discipline and sacrifice, there was no mention of the spread of hunger and basic insecurity that the lockdown has unleashed.

Criticism of Prime Minister’s seven-point formula

1. Take special care of the elderly  

  • The social security pension provided by the central government for a third of the country’s elderly is a cruel Rs 200 per month! This amount has remained frozen since 2007. 
  • The Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana has given social security pensioners a one-time additional payment of Rs 1,000 to be disbursed over two months. The elderly, are expected to face this challenge with an additional fund of Rs 5,00 per month, for two months, while a larger number of other senior citizens, will remain completely hungry and destitute unless supported by state funds.

2. Observe the social distancing norms

  • Urban poor have abysmal living conditions and are packed together with no physical space. 
  • In the face of lost jobs and no access to money for meeting basic sustenance, they are demanding passage home where they can at least try and survive with an element of dignity.

3. Follow the protocol issued by the Ayush Ministry

  • AYUSH Ministry protocol, prepared by 16 eminent vaidyas, urges a dinacharya (daily regime) and ritucharya (seasonal regime) to enhance immunity. The 11-point protocol includes the regular use of various herbs and spices, that most of India’s vulnerable would rarely see.

4. Promoting Arogya Setu mobile app 

  • How many of the rural or urban poor have smart phones? How will they understand, how this app will keep them safe from COVID-19? This questions remain unanswered.
  • Besides, there are many privacy and safety questions that have been raised about this app, which reportedly needs approximately 50 per cent of the Indian population to download it, for it to be effective.

5. Compassionate towards those who work with them.

  • While the Ministry of Labour issued a directive to employers not to sack employees and pay full wages during the lockdown, the government as the largest employer through MGNREGA refused to give their workers wages for the period from March 24 till April 20, when MGNREGA was not exempt from the lockdown.

6. Help the poor and the needy as they are the ones who are the most affected

  • The rapid spread of hunger, starvation, pauperisation, and destitution, need urgent and decisive counter measures from the government.
  • The government has godowns overflowing with excess grain, even before procurement is to begin. Yet, for inexplicable reasons, the government is unwilling to universalise the PDS at a time when it is most needed to fight hunger and food insecurity. MGNREGA options are removed when workers’ livelihoods are most threatened.

7. Respect the efforts of corona warriors, including doctors. 

  • Despite sterling efforts being put in by health functionaries at the frontline, major initiatives are needed to assure citizens that there will be equal access to health for all.
  • Health professionals and citizens groups have been clamouring for urgent measures to increase public investment and build capacities of the healthcare establishment.
[Ref: Hindustan Times]

Issues related to Health & Education

DRDO introduces two new products to enable COVID-19 disinfection process

Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) introduced i) Automatic Mist Based Sanitiser Dispensing Unit and ii) UV Sanitisation Box and Hand-held UV device.

About Automatic Mist Based Sanitiser Dispensing Unit

  • Centre for Fire Explosive & Environment Safety (CFEES), Delhi, using its expertise in mist technology for fire suppression, has developed an automatic mist based sanitiser dispensing unit.
  • It is a contactless sanitiser dispenser that sprays alcohol-based hand rub sanitiser solution for sanitisation of hands while entering the buildings/office complexes, etc.
  • It is based on water mist aerator technology, which was developed for water conservation.

About Centre for Fire, Explosive and Environment Safety

  • The Centre for Fire, Explosive and Environment Safety is an Indian defence laboratory of the Defence Research and Development Organisation.
  • Located in Timarpur, Delhi, its main function is the development of technologies and products in the area of explosive, fire and environmental safety.
  • It was established in 1992 by merging three DRDO establishments; DRDO Computer Centre, Delhi, The Directorate of Explosives Safety, DRDO, and the Fire Adviser’s Office, DRDO.

About UV Sanitisation Box and Hand-held UV device

  • Defence Institute of Physiology & Allied Sciences (DIPAS) and Institute of Nuclear Medicine & Allied Sciences (INMAS), DRDO laboratories in Delhi have designed Ultraviolet C Light based sanitisation box and hand held UV-C (ultraviolet light with wavelength 254 nanometres) device.
  • The UV-C consists of a shorter, more energetic wavelength of light. It is particularly good at destroying genetic material in COVID-19.
  • The radiation warps the structure RNA which prevents the viral particles from making more copies of themselves.  Sanitisation of the items by employing UV-C light avoids the harmful effects of the chemicals used for the disinfection.
[Ref: PIB]

Economy

Kisan Rath Mobile App

The Union Minister of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare launched a farmer friendly mobile application – Kisan Rath, to facilitate transportation of foodgrains and perishables during lockdown.

About Kisan Rath

  • It is developed by the National Informatics Centre (NIC).
  • It aims to facilitate farmers & traders in searching transport vehicles for Primary and Secondary transportation for movement of Agriculture & Horticulture produce.
  • Primary transportation would include movement from Farm to Mandis, FPO Collection Centre and Warehouses etc. Secondary Transportation would include movement from Mandis to Intra-state & Inter-state mandis, Processing units, Railway station, Warehouses and Wholesalers etc.

Significance

  • Help farmers and traders for transporting produce from farm gate to mandi and mandi to mandi all over the country.
  • Greatly facilitate farmers and Cooperatives to have the choice to find a suitable transport facility to transfer their agriculture produce from farm gate to markets.
  • This App also facilitates traders in transportation of perishable commodities by Reefer (Refrigerated) vehicles.
[Ref: PIB]

RBI announces additional liquidity measures to revive stressed sectors

Reserve Bank of India announced additional liquidity measures to help revive stressed sectors in the economy such as microfinance companies, NBFCs and housing finance companies. 

Highlights of the new measures

  • RBI will conduct targeted long-term repo operations (TLTRO 2.0) for Rs 50,000 crore, to begin with, in tranches of appropriate sizes.
  • Rs 50,000 crore special finance facility to be provided to financial institutions such as NABARD, SIDBI, NHB.
  • Repo rate remains unchanged while reverse repo rate decreased from 4% to 3.75%.
  • 90-day NPA (Non-performing assests) norm not to apply on moratorium granted on existing loans by banks.
  • Liquidity Coverage Ratio (LCR) requirement of banks brought down to 80% from 100%; to be restored in phases by April next year.
  • Loans given by NBFCs to real estate companies to get similar benefit as given by scheduled commercial banks.

Other key facts from RBI governor’s speech

  • India sharp turnaround, IMF projects Indian GDP at 7.4% in 2021-22. IMF projection of 1.9% GDP growth for India is highest in G20.
  • West Bengal, Telangana, Odisha, Assam, Chhattisgarh leading in sowing despite lockdown.
  • Contraction in exports in March at 34.6% much more severe than global financial crisis of 2008-09.
  • WMA (Ways and means advances) for states increased by 60% over and above the level as on March 30.
[Ref: Hindustan Times]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

A season of change: On IMD forecast system

It is time for the India Meteorological Department to incorporate lessons from the new normal.

How does India Meteorological Department (IMD) forecasts?

  • It follows a two-stage forecast system: indicating in April whether there are chances of drought or any other anomaly and then a second update, in late June, with a more granular look at how the monsoon will likely distribute and whether danger signs are imminent.
  • ‘Normal’ means India will get 100% of its long period average (LPA), with a potential 5% error margin.

Changes brought in IMD

  • It rely on ‘statistical forecast system’ where values of selected meteorological parameters are recorded until March 31 and permutations of these are computed and compared to the IMD’s archive of weather data. 
  • Climate, as well as technological change, allows new weather variables — such as surface temperatures from as remote as the southern Indian Ocean and regular updates from the Pacific Ocean — to be mapped.
  • Powerful computers mathematically simulate the weather based on these variables and extrapolate onto desired time frames. Using these dynamical models is a change the IMD has incorporated and experimented with for years.
  • It made two key changes in 2020: i) reducing the definition of ‘normal’ rainfall by 1 cm, to 88 cm and, ii) officially updating monsoon onset and arrival dates for many States. 
  • This was due to accumulated impact that global warming has been having on monsoon patterns, particularly for cities and States.
  • The monsoon was arriving later in many places, had long weak spells, and lingered longer. This has already heralded thinking, in the agency, on whether India should move to a new monsoon-accounting calendar instead of the century-long tradition of June-September.

Way Forward

  • Just as COVID-19 is forcing introspection on the links that tie people, trade and ecology, it is also time for the IMD to incorporate the lessons from the new normals.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Defence & Security Issues

Armed Forces Medical Services pitches in to combat COVID-19

The Armed Forces Medical Services has stepped up efforts to assist the civil administration in fighting COVID-19.

Indian Army Medical Corps 

  • The Indian Army Medical Corps is a specialist corps in the Indian Army which primarily provides medical services to all Army personnel, serving and veterans, along with their families.
  • It is the first tri-service (Army, Navy and Air Force) organization and one of the largest organized medical services in the country.
  • It came into existence as a homogeneous corps of officers and men on the pattern of the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1943 by the amalgamation of the Indian Medical Service, the Indian Medical Department and the Indian Hospital & Nursing Corps
[Ref: The Hindu]

Art & Culture

World heritage day

Every year, 18th April is celebrated Worldwide as World Heritage Day to create awareness about Heritage among communities.

  • The theme of World Heritage Day 2020 is “Shared Culture’, ‘Shared heritage’ and ‘Shared responsibility”.

Background:

  • In 1982, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) announced, 18 April as the World Heritage Day.
  • It aims to enhance awareness of the importance of the cultural heritage of humankind, and redouble efforts to protect and conserve the human heritage.

What is a World Heritage site?

  • A World Heritage site is classified as a natural or man-made area or a structure that is of international importance, and a space which requires special protection.
  • These sites are officially recognised by the UN and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation, also known as UNESCO. UNESCO believes that the sites classified as World Heritage are important for humanity, and they hold cultural and physical significance.

International Council on Monuments and Sites

  • It is a global non-governmental organization associated with UNESCO.
  • It aims to promote the conservation, protection, use and enhancement of monuments, building complexes and sites.
  • It is an Advisory Body of the World Heritage Committee for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention of UNESCO.
  • It reviews the nominations of cultural world heritage.
  • Its creation in 1965 is the logical outcome of initial conversations between architects, historians and international experts that began in the early twentieth century and that materialized in the adoption of the Venice Charter in 1964.

Key facts:

  • Each World Heritage Site remains part of the legal territory of the state wherein the site is located and UNESCO considers it in the interest of the international community to preserve each site.
  • To be selected, a World Heritage Site must be an already classified landmark, unique in some respect as a geographically and historically identifiable place having special cultural or physical significance.
  • India ranks sixth in the largest number of heritage sites in the world.
  • India has 38 world heritage sites that include 30 Cultural properties, 7 Natural properties and 1 mixed site.
[Ref: PIB, Indian Express]

Science & Technology

Centre for Nano and Soft Matter Sciences

Recently, the Centre for Nano and Soft Matter Sciences (CeNS) has developed a compact solid-state sensor to detect the heavy metal ions in water.

About the new device

  • It is a portable device which can help onsite detection of heavy metal ions like lead ions (Pb2+) down to 0.4 parts per billion (ppb).

How does it works?

  • A sensor film was prepared by forming a composite between manganese doped zinc sulfide quantum dots and reduced graphene oxide on a glass substrate.
  • These particular quantum dots are water-soluble and have high photoluminescence (~30%) quantum yield, making them suitable for luminescence (emission of light by certain materials when they are relatively cool)-based sensing.
  • If a drop of water containing heavy metal ions such as mercury (Hg), lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd), etc. are added to the composite film, the emission of the film extinguishes within seconds.
  • The development of efficient and portable sensors for rapid onsite detection of heavy metal ions becomes important due to the health hazards associated with them.

Centre for Nano and Soft Matter Sciences

  • Located at Jalahalli, Bengaluru, it is an autonomous research institute under the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
  • Centre was established in 1991 by an eminent liquid crystal scientist, Prof. S. Chandrasekhar. After years of expansion and name changes, in 2014, it became the Centre for Nano and Soft Matter Sciences (CeNS).
  • DST provides core support to the Centre in the form of a grant-in-aid for conducting basic and applied research in nano and soft matter sciences.
  • It is being mentored by Nano-Mission of the Government of India.
  • The current activities are focussed on a variety of metal and semiconductor nanostructures, liquid crystals, gels, membranes and hybrid materials.
[Ref: PIB]

Prelims Key Fact

Supercapacitors

  • Scientists at the Institute of Nano Science and Technology (INST), Mohali, an autonomous institute under the Department of Science & Technology, have developed a stable material for pseudocapacitors or supercapacitors which store electrical energy by electron charge transfer. The material can offer a low-cost scalable energy storage solution as an alternative to batteries. 
  • The pseudocapacitive material, an organic-inorganic hybrid xerogel (solid formed from a gel by drying with unhindered shrinkage), shows great promise as a low-cost and scalable energy storage solution for commercial applications.

Reach and Teach

  • The South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) launched an elearning programme — Reach and Teach — for nearly two lakh students in it’s 600 primary schools. 
  • Under the programme, study material, will be sent to parents through WhatApp, voice calls and sms or other forms of communication available at their homes.

Siddalingeshwara temple car (chariot) festival

  • Yediyuru Siddhalingeshwara Temple is a pilgrimage centre situated in Karnataka.
  • Though called as a temple, it contains Samadhi of Tontada Siddalinga, a Great revered Lingayata Saint who flourished during the end of 15th century.
  • The car festival is held on the 7th lunar day of the bright fortnight of Chaitra Masa (March–April).

Order books, inventories and capacity utilisation survey (OBICUS)

  • The Reserve Bank of India has launched latest round of quarterly order books, inventories and capacity utilisation survey (OBICUS) of manufacturing sector. The survey provides valuable input for monetary policy formulation.
  • The RBI has been conducting the OBICUS of the manufacturing sector on a quarterly basis since 2008.
  • The information collected in the survey includes quantitative data on new orders received during the reference quarter, backlog of orders, pending orders, total inventories with a breakup between work-in-progress (WiP) and finished goods (FG) inventories and item-wise production.

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