Current Affairs Analysis

20th May 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

ICC bans saliva to shine balls; Article 19; Domicile certificate rules; Indo-US collaboration on COVID-19 vaccine trials; Indo-U.S. Vaccine Action Program (VAP); Moderna vaccine for COVID-19; mRNA-1273; eVidya Programme for digital education; Criteria for ‘medium’ units to be revised; Power sharing deal inked in Afghanistan; Travel bubble; Baltic countries; Star rating of garbage free cities; Astronomers discover Super-Earth; Charan Paduka; Hanko; International Museum Day etc.
By IASToppers
May 20, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • SC: Transfer of probe to CBI not a routine affair

Government Schemes and Policies

  • J&K notifies amended domicile certificate rules

Issues related to Health and Education

  • Indo-US collaboration on COVID-19 vaccine trials
  • Moderna vaccine for COVID-19
  • eVidya Programme for digital education

Economy

  • Criteria for ‘medium’ units to be revised

Bilateral & International Relations

  • Power sharing deal inked in Afghanistan
  • Travel bubble

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Star rating of garbage free cities
  • ICC bans saliva to shine balls
  • Astronomers discover Super-Earth
  • Charan Paduka
  • Hanko
  • International Museum Day 

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Polity & Governance

SC: Transfer of probe to CBI not a routine affair

The Supreme Court recently rejected Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami’s plea for transfer of cases against him to the CBI.

Supreme Court’s verdict:

  • The transfer of an investigation to the CBI is not a matter of routine but an extraordinary power to be used sparingly and in exceptional circumstances.
  • An accused person does not have a choice in regard to the mode or manner in which the investigation should be carried out or in regard to the investigating agency.
  • The probe agency is vested with the discretion in directing the course of investigation, which includes determining the nature of the questions and the manner of interrogation.
  • Although freedom of the Press to speak truth to power ensured free people and nation, journalistic licence was not absolute but subject to certain reasonable restrictions under Article 19(2) of the Constitution.

What is Article 19?

Right to Freedom (Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech, etc)

(1) All citizens shall have the right

(a) to freedom of speech and expression;

(b) to assemble peaceably and without arms;

(c) to form associations or unions;

(d) to move freely throughout the territory of India;

(e) to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India; and

(f) omitted (removed);

(g) to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.

Article 19 (2):

  • The clause (2) states that “Nothing in sub-clause (a) of clause (1) shall affect the operation of any existing law, or prevent the State from making any law, in so far as such law imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.”
[Ref: The New Indian Express, TOI]

Government Schemes and Policies

J&K notifies amended domicile certificate rules

The J&K administration has notified the J&K grant of domicile certificate procedure rules 2020 and set a fast track process in motion to issue the certificates within a stipulated time of 15 days.

Key Features:

  • These rules provide a simple time-bound and transparent procedure for issuance of domicile certificates in such a manner that no category of person is put to any inconvenience.
  • There is a timeline of 15 days for issuance of certificates.
  • Domicile certificates have now been made a basic eligibility condition for appointment to any post under the Union Territory of J&K following the amendments in the previous Act.
  • To make the process transparent and time-bound, any officer not able to issue the certificate would be penalised ₹50,000.
  • A special window is also provided to migrants who have not registered with the Relief and Rehabilitation department.
  • Bonafide migrants can apply with the Relief and Rehabilitation department by providing documents like electoral rolls of 1988, proof of registration as a migrant in any State in the country or any other valid document.

What are the new provisions?

  • A person residing in J&K for at least 15 years will now be eligible to be a domicile of the Union Territory.
  • Those who have studied in J&K for 7 years and appeared in either Class 10 or Class 12 exam will also be eligible for J&K domicile certificates.
  • The domicile rights are also extended to all migrants who have been registered by the Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner.
  • All Permanent Resident Certificate holders and their children living outside J&K can apply for the certificates.
  • Kashmiri migrants living in or outside J&K can get domicile certificates by simply producing their Permanent Residence Certificate (PRC), ration card copy, voter card or any other valid document.
  • Central government officials, All India Service Officers, officials of Public Sector Undertakings, Autonomous bodies of the Central Government, Public Sector Banks, Statutory bodies, Central Universities and recognised research institutes of the Central Government, who have served in the UT for a total period of ten years, are eligible for the certificate.
  • The new process will allow West Pakistan refugees, safai karamcharis and children of women who married non-locals to apply for jobs here.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Issues related to Health and Education

Indo-US collaboration on COVID-19 vaccine trials

India and the U.S. plan to work together on vaccine research and testing for COVID-19.

Major Highlights:

  • U.S. and Indian scientists have been collaborating on key research questions fostering the development and testing of safe, cost-effective vaccines against a range of infectious diseases that could save innumerable lives in India, the United States, and around the world.
  • In the context of the current pandemic, partners under the Vaccine Action Programme (VAP) are planning to collaborate on the development and testing of vaccine candidates and diagnostics for COVID-19.

Indo-U.S. Vaccine Action Program:

  • VAP or the Indo-U.S. Vaccine Action Program, is a 33-year collaboration between the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Indian Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) along with other partners.
  • VAP is a bilateral program, which supports a broad spectrum of activities relating to immunization and vaccine related research and has been under implementation since 1987.
  • The program was designed to encompass laboratory-based research, epidemiological studies, field trials, vaccine quality control, and delivery of vaccines.

Priorities:

  • Priorities under VAP currently include: dengue, enteric diseases, influenza (including avian influenza), malaria, tuberculosis (TB) and human immunology.
  • Additional areas of interest include research on antimicrobial resistance, chikungunya vaccines, infant immunology and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
[Ref: the Hindu]

Moderna vaccine for COVID-19

A COVID-19 vaccine developed by US firm Moderna has shown positive results in the infected patients.

What is mRNA-1273?

  • It is the working name of Moderna’s vaccine, which is currently in Phase 1 clinical trials under the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
  • The mRNA in the name means messenger RNA, which carries the genetic formula for the coding of a specific protein.
  • In this vaccine, the particular mRNA used codes for the most distinguishing feature of the SARS-CoV2 — the spike protein.
  • The vaccine when injected into a person starts to code for the spike protein.
  • So even without the introduction of an attenuated virus into the body, the body learns what the virus looks like and produces the antibodies that are required to act against it.

Achievements:

  • mRNA on entering the body had managed to show a degree of immune response in the first eight patients.
  • The participants received doses of the vaccine and showed enough antibodies to raise hopes of being able to thwart an infection.
  • These data show that mRNA-1273 has the potential to prevent Covid-19 disease.
  • Among the side-effects that were noted were chills and a little redness in the place where the injection had been given.

When will the vaccine be available?

  • While the initial results have raised hope but the actual vaccine is still some time away.
  • There are just concerns about the availability pricing etc of a vaccine that is being developed at such breakneck speed.
  • Then there is also the issue of effectiveness, or how the vaccine performs in real-life conditions against the efficacy — which is performance in ideal conditions.
  • Further there are manufacturing capacity issues to deal with and the vaccine is expected to be rolled out around December 2020.
[Ref: Indian Express]

 

eVidya Programme for digital education

The PM eVidya programme was launched recently in order to promote digital education in the country and make e- learning feasible.

PM eVidya Programme: 

A programme for multimode access to digital/ online education that will consist of:

  • Top 100 universities will be permitted to automatically start online courses by May 30.
  • Online components in conventional Universities and ODL programmes will also be raised from 20% to 40%.

DIKSHA:

  • DIKSHA that will give ‘one nation, one digital platform’ for school education in states and union territories: It will provide e- content and QR coded energised textbooks for all grades. This will benefit nearly 25 crore school going children across the country.
  • DIKSHA has content in 14 languages – Assamese, Bengali, English, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Odia, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Chhattisgarhi.
  • Over the next three month a large number of high-quality e- resources for learning and teaching will be made available on DIKSHA through the recently launched VidyaDaan Program.

VidyaDaan:

  • VidyaDaan is conceptualised as a common national program for individuals & organizations across the country to donate/contribute e-learning resources for school education to ensure continuity of quality learning.

One class one channel programme:

  • One earmarked TV channel for each class from standard 1 to 12 under ‘one class one channel programme’.
  • There will be extensive use of radio, community radio and podcasts among students.
  • The use of 289 Community Radio Stations will be attempted for school education.

Shiksha Vani:

  • Podcast called Shiksha Vani of CBSE disseminates audio content for various subjects of grades 9 to 12, in a timely, educative, lucid and seamless manner.
  • So far Shikshavani contains approximately 400 pieces of content in the form of audio files on topics in accordance with NCERT curriculum.

For the Visually Impaired Learners:

  • Study material has been developed in Digitally Accessible Information System(DAISY), a technical standard for digital audiobooks, periodicals and computerized text.
  • Learners can access all study material of NIOS through DAISY.
  • These lessons are broadcast on Gyanamrit, Channel 30 of Swayam Prabha

For the Hearing impaired learners:

  • Course content (Selected ones) of NIOS has also been recorded in sign language which is placed on NIOS website as well as on YouTube.
  • The recorded content is sent to HI learners on DVD.

SWAYAM PRABHA:

  • In order to support and reach out to those who do not have much access to the internet, MHRD introduced SWAYAM PRABHA DTH channels.
  • SWAYAM PRABHA is a group of 32 channels devoted to telecast high-quality educational programmes.
  • Four of these channels (27- Panini, 28-Sharda, 30- Gyanamrit and 32- Vagda) are already being used by NIOS and one channel (31- Kishore Manch) by NCERT to telecast school education related learning and teaching material.
  • NIOS organises live interactive web-streaming of Personal Contact Programmes (PCPs) on various subjects of Secondary, Senior Secondary and Vocational courses for its enrolled learners through Mukta Vidya Vani (MVV).
  • Radio Vahini also broadcast these PCPs to maximize its reach not only among the learners but to the masses in general.
[Ref: Hindustan Times]

Economy

Criteria for ‘medium’ units to be revised

The Central government has decided to revise the criteria for medium-sized units by enhancing the investment and turnover limits to up to ₹50 crore and ₹200 crore.

Major Highlights:

  • The Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had recently announced a change in the definition of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
  • As per the revised definition, any firm with an investment of up to ₹1 crore and turnover under ₹5 crore will be classified as ‘micro.’
  • A company with an investment of up to ₹10 crore and a turnover of up to ₹50 crore will be classified as ‘small’.
  • A firm with an investment of up to ₹20 crore and a turnover under ₹100 crore will be classified as ‘medium.’
  • The previous criteria for classifying enterprises in the ‘medium’ category was an investment of up to ₹10 crore and a turnover of up to ₹50 crore.
  • The government is further deciding to raise ₹20 crore investment criteria to up to ₹50 crore and turnover limit to up to ₹200 crore for the medium sector.

Significance:

  • The government has planned to raise MSMEs’ contribution to India’s exports to 60% from the 48% at present and boost the sector’s contribution to the country’s GDP from 29% currently to 50%.
  • The government is keen on developing Indian MSMEs of international standards and increasing employment.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Bilateral & International Relations

Power sharing deal inked in Afghanistan

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and political rival Abdullah Abdullah have signed a power-sharing agreement recently.

What is the issue?

  • Afghanistan has been in political disarray since the country’s Election Commission in December announced Mr. Ghani had won the September 28 election with more than 50% of the vote.
  • Mr. Abdullah had received more than 39% of the vote, according to the EC, but he and the Elections Complaint Commission charged widespread voting irregularities.
  • Mr. Ghani and Mr. Abdullah both declared themselves president in parallel inauguration ceremonies in March, 2020.

Political deal:

  • However, A political deal between Mr. Ghani and Mr. Abdullah had been signed now, in which Mr. Ghani would remain President of the war-torn nation.
  • The deal calls for Abdullah to lead the country’s National Reconciliation High Council and some members of Abdullah’s team would be included in Ghani’s Cabinet.
  • The Reconciliation Council has been given the authority to handle and approve all affairs related to Afghanistan’s peace process.

Afghanistan turmoil:

  • A peace agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban signed on February 29, 2020 calls for U.S. and NATO troops to leave Afghanistan.
  • It was seen at the time as Afghanistan’s best chance at peace in decades of war.
  • Since then, the U.S. has been trying to get the Taliban and the Afghan government to begin intra-Afghan negotiations.
  • The negotiations were impeded after the political turmoil and personal acrimony between Mr. Ghani and Mr. Abdullah impeded talks.
  • Despite 18 years and billions of dollars in international aid, Afghanistan remains desperately poor.
  • The poverty level soared from 35% of the population in 2012 to more than 55% last year.
  • Successive Afghan governments, including Ghani’s, have been accused by international watchdogs of widespread corruption.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Travel bubble

The Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania started a ‘travel bubble’ to help put their economies back on track post-COVID-19 lockdowns.

What is a travel bubble?

  • Creating a travel bubble involves reconnecting countries or states that have shown a good level of success in containing the novel coronavirus pandemic domestically.
  • Such a bubble would allow the members of the group to rekindle trade ties with each other, and kickstart sectors such as travel and tourism.
  • Such arrangements are especially being favoured by smaller countries, who are likely to benefit after being able to trade again with larger partners.
  • In the Estonia-Latvia-Lithuania travel bubble, residents would be able to travel freely by rail, air, and sea without quarantine measures.
  • All three are sparsely populated (Lithuania- 28 lakh, Latvia- 19.2 lakh, Estonia- 13.3 lakh people) and have been fairly successful at managing the outbreak.

Baltic countries:

  • The countries that have shorelines along the Baltic Sea: Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, and Sweden are baltic countries.
  • Shorthand Baltic states refer to a group of countries including Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
  • These three countries occupy the largest landform in Europe without mountains.

1. Estonia:

  • Estonia shares land borders with two countries: Latvia, Russia.
  • It is also bordered by the Baltic Sea, Gulf of Riga and Gulf of Finland.

2. Latvia:

  • Located in Europe, it shares land borders with four countries: Belarus, Lithuania, Estonia, Russia.
  • It is bordered by the Gulf of Riga and Baltic sea.

3. Lithuania:

  • Located in Europe, it shares land borders with four countries: Belarus, Latvia, Poland, Russia.
  • It is also bordered by the Baltic sea.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Key Facts for Prelims

Star rating of garbage free cities

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) has announced the results of garbage-free star rating for the cities recently.

Major Highlights:

  • A total of 141 cities have been rated — 6 of them five-star, 65 of three-star and 70 one-star.
  • The government has released a rating of cities based on their garbage management, giving the top ‘five-star garbage-free’ tag to six cities.

Five star cities:

  • Chhattisgarh’s Ambikapur and Madhya Pradesh’s Indore, Gujarat’s Rajkot and Surat, Karnataka’s Mysore and Maharashtra’s Navi Mumbai.

Three star cities:

  • New Delhi, Haryana’s Karnal; Andhra Pradesh’s Tirupati and Vijayawada; Chandigarh; Chhattisgarh’s Bhilai Nagar; Gujarat’s Ahmedabad; MP’s Bhopal; and Jharkhand’s Jamshedpur etc.

One star cities:

  • Delhi Cantonment, Rohtak (Haryana); Gwalior, Maheshwar, Khandwa, Badnawar and Hathod (all five in MP); and Gujarat’s Vadodara, Bhavnagar and Vyara etc.
[Ref: The Hindu]

ICC bans saliva to shine balls

The International Cricket Council’s Cricket Committee has recommended a ban on using saliva and allowed only sweat to shine the ball.

Why this move?

  • The move is a part of ICC’s guidelines to resume the game in the time of COVID-19.
  • The logic is that the use of spit can turn the cricket ball into a ‘fomite’, an object or material which may carry infection, since the virus spreads through saliva, and the ball changes hands between players all the time.
[Ref: Hindustan Times]

 

Astronomers discover Super-Earth

  • Astronomers at the University of Canterbury have found a new “one in a million” Super-Earth planet towards the center of the galaxy Milky Way.
  • The newly discovered planet is among only a handful of extra-solar planets that have been detected with both sizes and orbits close to that of Earth.
  • The host star of the new planet is about 10 percent the mass of our Sun, which in turn makes a ‘year’ on the planet of approximately 617 days.
  • The planet was discovered using the gravitational microlensing technique.

Charan Paduka

  • It is a campaign launched in Madhya Pradesh for the migrant labourers passing through the state.
  • Under this campaign, migrant labourers going barefoot are being provided shoes and slippers to reduce their pain.

Hanko

  • Hanko is a personal stamp used in Japan generally made from wood or plastic.
  • Small-sized and circular or square-shaped, the stamp is wet by an ink pad called ‘shuniku’, and the mark that it leaves on a document is called ‘inkan’.
  • It is used for authorising official documents ranging from contracts, marriage registrations and even delivery slips.

International Museum Day

  • The International Museum Day is celebrated every year on 18 May to raise awareness about the cultural importance of museums. 
  • The Day was instituted in 1977 by the International Council of Museums (ICOM).
  • Theme for 2020: “Museums for Equality: Diversity and Inclusion”.

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