Current Affairs Analysis

22nd April 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

World Earth Day; Bastar; Favourable conditions of India amid COVID-19; COVID India Seva; Sepsivac; Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council; How does OMC decide oil prices in India? Import Parity Price ; Export Parity Price; Trade Parity Price; Saiyam; Feluda; World Wide Help; Matterhorn; Milk tea alliance
By IASToppers
April 22, 2020

Contents

 

Polity & Governance

  • India can come out ahead

Government Schemes & Policies

  • COVID India Seva

Issues related to Health & Education

  • Drug for sepsis to be tested for COVID-19

Social Issues

  • A change in migrant policy
  • India is poised for deep structural health reforms

Economy

  • TIFAC explores best methods to revive Indian economy post COVID-19
  • US oil hits freak negative, but Indian fuel prices may not fall

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • World Earth Day

Art & Culture

  • Bastar tribes keep COVID-19 at bay

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Saiyam
  • Feluda
  • World Wide Help (WWH)
  • Matterhorn
  • Milk tea alliance

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Polity & Governance

India can come out ahead

Super-power rivalries exacerbated by coronavirus pandemic offer India an opportunity. Government must act at three levels — health, geopolitics and economics.

Indian government’s efforts

  • The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has done well to stem the spread of the infection. It has deployed the country’s modest healthcare resources efficiently to deal with the pandemic.
  • It has sensitised the public, introduced the concept of social distancing and isolation in the most challenging situations.

Favourable conditions of India amid COVID-19

  • The current International Monetary Fund (IMF) projections suggest that India will have the highest growth rate in the world this year. 
  • Oil prices have collapsed, really helping India’s balance of payments.
  • India’s food stocks are plentiful, the rabi crop has been good, and the prognosis for the monsoon is positive. This, together with the fact that aggregate demand is down, will dampen inflationary impulses.
  • The RBI has taken prompt actions to reduce rates, increase liquidity, adjust prudential norms, allow moratoriums, and protect financial entities.
  • The weakened rupee will help Indian exports.
  • With a debt to GDP ratio of about 73 %, along with better growth prospects, India is relatively better placed than several other countries.

Suggestions

The government needs to implement the following four steps to spur the economy.

  1. Government should “print money” given the moderated inflation impulses.
  2. It needs to provide additional direct benefit transfers of Rs 2,000 every month for three months to Jan Dhan accounts, together with foodgrains release from the FCI, to the tune of around Rs 65,000 crore.
  3. It needs to protect MSMEs directly by providing them working capital and, like in the UK, provide 80 % of the salary to employees of the GST-paying MSMEs for six months.
  4. It needs to launch a massive public works programme outside the Budget as suggested by the chairman of CII’s National Committee of Infrastructure and PPP, Vinayak Chatterjee. This fund should be earmarked for infrastructure and a quarter of its budget should be set aside for upgrading primary health centres. The allocation should not be less than Rs 200,000 crore.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Government Schemes & Policies

COVID India Seva

Union Minister of Health launched the COVID India Seva, which provided an interactive platform to establish a direct channel of communication with millions of Indians amid the pandemic.

About COVID India Seva

  • This initiative is aimed at enabling transparent e-governance delivery in real-time and answering citizen queries swiftly, at scale, especially in crisis situations like the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Through this, people can pose queries by tweeting to @CovidIndiaSeva and get them responded to in almost real time.
  • Anyone can ask questions on: Latest updates on measures taken by the Government, learning about access to healthcare services or seeking guidance for someone who perhaps has symptoms but is unsure about where to turn to for help.
  • This does not require the public to share personal contact details or health record details.
[Ref: PIB]

Issues related to Health & Education

Drug for sepsis to be tested for COVID-19

Sepsivac will be tested in 50 COVID-19 patients at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi and Bhopal, and Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh.

  • Given the similarities in the immune-system response in critically ill COVID-19 patients, it is theorised, the therapy could stimulate a benign response.

About Sepsivac

  • Sepsivac is a drug jointly developed by the Ahmedabad-based Cadilla Pharmaceuticals and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
  • Sepsivac was originally developed for treating sepsis by a class of pathogens called gram negative bacteria, that are known to cause life-threatening infections.

How it works?

  • A large quantity of cytokines (chemicals signalling the presence of an infection) are produced in the early stages of the body’s response against an infection to stimulate the production of antibodies.
  • However, cytokines also cause inflammation of organs and can be counter-productive in protecting the body.
  • Keeping them in check is the goal of so called immuno-modulators, or medicines like Sepsivac.
  • It uses the Mycobacterium w (formally known as mycobacterium indicus pranii) as it produces a different immune-system response.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Social Issues

A change in migrant policy

The COVID-19 crisis has, for the first time, brought migration to the centre stage of public health and disaster response in India.

Migrants have drawn sharp attention in debates over public health and political economy for five reasons:

First: the numbers involved are very high.

  • An estimate based on NSSO 64th Round and Census 2011 data suggest that there are approximately 2 million daily wage workers.
  • The months of February and March are a lean season for rural-to-rural migration, yet the current figure of inter-State seasonal migrants stands at about 1.4 million.
  • Further, in Delhi , where, 20% of Bihari migrants are working (0.28 to 0.3 million seasonal migrants) and even if half of them try to return home during a crisis, facilitating their journey can be a logistical improbability.

Second: India’s economy depends on the services of migrant workers.

  • Sectors such as construction, garment manufacturing, mining, and agriculture would come to a standstill without them.
  • One of the biggest challenges after the lockdown is lifted will be to bring back the migrants to kickstart these sectors.

Third: return migrants have no compensatory sources of livelihood.

  • The poor States may find it difficult to sustain themselves without the remittances.
  • This will not only cause demand side setbacks but also impact nutrition, health, education and the well-being of the older population.

Fourth, in the case of epidemics, the exodus of seasonal migrants creates apprehensions about the spread of the disease.

  • Working from home or getting paid leave is largely a middle-class luxury. Daily-wage earners do not have the capacity to stay at a destination without work.
  • Their families back home depend on their daily savings. A considerable number of workers live within the manufacturing units or at work sites. Any lockdown results in loss of their accommodation too.

Fifth, the pathetic working/living conditions of migrants defy the very idea of decent work and general security.

  • Slums and slum-like colonies are breeding grounds of ailments and communicable diseases.
  • People living in these areas simply cannot practise social distancing. Lack of sanitation, hygiene, safe drinking water, health services, social security measures, and affordable housing have resulted in a low quality of life.
[Ref: Indian Express]

India is poised for deep structural health reforms

Despite a history of a weak health system, India was near an inflection point on health care reforms even before the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

Four building blocks

India is seeing the emergence of a set of building blocks that were critical to initiate, accelerate and sustain large-scale reforms across 21 countries. There are four building blocks.

Presence of change triggers

  • First, the presence of change triggers, which are macroeconomic or political changes that provide an opportunity for large-scale reforms. These include economic shocks (as seen in Ghana, United Kingdom, and Rwanda); the emergence of a charismatic leader (Thailand and China); or a transition between political regimes (Colombia, Philippines and others).
  • For India, the Covid-19 crisis is a once-in-a-century change trigger, and will make health care an important topic for voters.

Emergence of technocratic capability

  • Strong pro-reform technocracy enabled change in Thailand, Indonesia, China, Mexico and Chile.
  • India had increasingly strong technocratic capabilities, with experience from several experiments that include schemes in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
  • Kerala’s robust handling of both the Nipah and Covid-19 outbreaks demonstrate how stronger technocratic capabilities can drive outcomes.

Large-scale reforms begin with a set of “lock-ins”.

  • These are early initiatives that cannot be reversed without severe consequences much like universal insurance schemes such as the Jaminan Kesehatan Nasional in Indonesia or National Health Insurance in Taiwan.
  • Over time, these become too big to fail and too popular to be dismantled.
  • In India, visible reforms like Ayushman Bharat are effective “lock-ins” that are hard to roll back and provide a platform to build on.

Strong stewardship

  • In most countries, the government has played a pivotal role.
  • In India too, the roles of Niti Aayog, the National Health Authority and state health agencies are evolving, which will likely add pressure on the system for efficiency and better outcomes.
[Ref: The Hindustan Times]

Economy

TIFAC explores best methods to revive Indian economy post COVID-19

The Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC) is preparing a white paper to strategize revival of post-COVID 19 Indian economy.

About Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC)

  • TIFAC is an autonomous organization set up in 1988 under the Department of Science & Technology.
  • As per the recommendation of Technology Policy Implementation Committee (TPIC) in 1985, Cabinet approved the formation of TIFAC in 1986.
  • It is mandated to assess the state-of-art of technology and set directions for future technological development in India in important socio-economic sectors.
  • President of India conferred Rani Lakshmibai Award (Nari Shakti Puraskar 2015) upon TIFAC for its scheme KIRAN-IPR that is empowering women in R&D through training on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR).

Mandate of TIFAC

  • To obtain from appropriate sources and project the estimates of the nature and quantum of the likely demands of goods and services in various sectors of the economy against 10 and 25 years’ time-frames on the basis of a) ‘normative’, and (b) ‘exploratory’ approaches.
  • To prepare Technology Impact Statements, to uncover the likely implications and consequences, of the existing as well as newly emerging technologies.
  • Ensuring timely availability of requisite technologies relevant to the needs of the country on futuristic basis and
  • Establishing a purposeful linkage between technology development and technology import policies, to identify priority areas of research in relation to the socio-economic, environmental and security needs of the country;
  • In order to fulfill the above objectives, to devise and set up suitable Information Collection, Analysis and Programming groups.
[Ref: The Hindu]

US oil hits freak negative, but Indian fuel prices may not fall

THE WTI (West Texas Intermediate) oil price crash might not translate into a sharp lowering of prices at retail pumps for consumers in India given that the cost of the Indian basket of crude — the average of Oman, Dubai and Brent crude — was at around $24.44 a barrel.

How does OMC decide oil prices in India?

  • While determining petrol and diesel retail prices, Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) in India consider trade parity pricing, which is determined on prevailing prices of these products in the international market.
  • The pricing formula incorporates 80 % of the import price and 20 % export price of the fuel. After that, other inputs such as dealer commission, excise and state levies are added to the trade parity price.

Why global oil price crash will not decrease oil price in India?

  • The Indian basket comprises Sour grade (Oman and Dubai average) and Sweet grade (Brent dated) crude oil in a 76:24 ratio.
  • High tax component in India and the government’s tendency to hike levies when input prices drop.
  • Rising shipping costs, which account for nearly one third of the landed cost of crude oil in India, are another factor that increases the landed cost in India.

Parity pricing of petroleum products in India

  • Refining of crude oil involves conversion of a single input to multiple finished products with different market value and chemical properties, thereby making it difficult to determine the cost of production of each individual product and hence its pricing.
  • Under the current pricing mechanism in India, the Refinery Gate price (RGP) is the price at which product is transferred/sold from refinery to marketing division of Oil Maketing Companies (OMCs).
  • The RGP of Diesel is currently based on Trade Parity Price (TPP) consisting 80% of Import Parity Price (IPP) and 20% of Export Parity Price (EPP).
  • The RGP of Domestic LPG and that of kerosene sold in the public distribution system is based on IPP as provided in the Kerosene and Domestic LPG Subsidy Scheme, 2002’.


Import Parity Price (IPP) – represents the price that importers would pay in case of actual import of product at the respective Indian ports and includes the elements of Free on Board (FOB) price + Ocean Freight + Insurance + Custom Duties + Port Dues, etc.
Export Parity Price (EPP) – represents the price which oil companies would realize on export of petroleum products.
Trade Parity Price (TPP) – consists of 80% of Import Parity Price and 20% of Export Parity Price.

[Ref: The Hindu]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

World Earth Day

  • Earth Day is an annual event celebrated on April 22 to demonstrate support for environmental protection.
  • First celebrated in 1970, it now includes events coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network in more than 193 countries.
  • On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets to protest environmental ignorance. The first Earth Day is credited with launching the modern environmental movement, and is now recognized as the planet’s largest civic event.
  • The theme for Earth Day 2020 is climate action.
[Ref: Down To Earth]

Art & Culture

Bastar tribes keep COVID-19 at bay

In Chhattisgarh, partly dominated by the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist), the locals have set up makeshift check posts and are arranging to quarantine the outsiders (local residents who went out to work) in the periphery of the village.

About Bastar

  • Bastar is the tribal region of Chhattisgarh.
  • The main tribes of the Bastar region are the Gonds, Marias, Bhatras, Murias, Halbas and Dhurvas.
  • Bastar tribes have developed a distinct culture (costumes, dialects, cookery, etc.) and are known for their tribal art throughout the world. The tribes of the Bastar were among the first in India to work metal and figurines in terracotta.
  • Dhokra (art based on a lost wax bronze casting), Lohshilp (wrought iron work) and terracotta pottery are the most typical crafts of the Bastar area.
  • In Bastar district, Dusshera is celebrated for 75 days and the effigy of Ravana is not burnt.
  • They have custom of Ghotul. Ghotul is an institution where unmarried boys (called Chellik) and girls (Motiari) spend nights together in an wooden hut at the outskirt of the village.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Key Facts for Prelims

Saiyam

  • In order to effectively track the home-quarantines citizens and ensure they are actually staying in the home, a mobile application named Saiyam has been developed by the Pune Municipal Corporation under Smart Cities Mission (SCM).
  • All the Home Quarantined citizens are given the mandate to download the app and install it.

Feluda

  • Scientists at the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research — Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB) have developed a low-cost, paper-strip test which can detect the new coronavirus within an hour. 
  • The test, named Feluda after a fictional detective character created by Satyajit Ray, is expected to cost around Rs 500 against the RT-PCR test that costs Rs 4,500 in private labs.
  • The test is based on a bacterial immune system protein called Cas9. It uses cutting-edge gene-editing tool Crispr-Cas9 system.

World Wide Help (WWH)

  • IIT Bombay has developed a platform named World Wide Help (WWH) which can be used to connect people seeking medical help with helpers, such as doctors.
  • The platform can be used with an app or a phone. The user simply calls a dedicated number and can input basic data such as the age of the person in need of help and whom they wish to solicit help from. They can supply the phone number, too.
  • This is registered as a task in the app and assigned to a primary helper who is a junior doctor or medicare professional. Further, the task may be re-designated by the primary helper to a senior doctor, who is the second level of helper.

Matterhorn

  • Matterhorn is a mountain of the Alps.
  • It is situated in the Pennine Alps on the border between Switzerland and Italy.
  • Its summit is 4,478 metres high, making it one of the highest summits in the Alps and Europe.
  • It is mainly composed of gneisses from the Dent Blanche nappe, lying over ophiolites and sedimentary rocks of the Penninic nappes.
  • Sometimes referred to as the Mountain of Mountains, the Matterhorn has become an iconic emblem of the Alps in general.

 Milk tea alliance

  • It is a pro-democratic front formed by thousands of internet users from Thailand, Taiwan and Hong Kong in social networks against the authoritarianism of the Chinese Government and its supporters.
  • The informal movement began by defending itself against the insults of pro- Chinese twitter users against Thailand. It has now ended up forming a social network group to combat Chinese propaganda.

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