Government Schemes & Policies
- Only 10% free pulses under govt scheme distributed to poor so far
Issues related to Health & Education
- India set to get lead role in WHO board
- Protect India’s brave health workers
- Global Report on Food Crises
- Union Agriculture Minister reviews the works of DARE/ICAR
- Govt to suspend insolvency provisions from IBC for up to 1 year
Bilateral & International Relations
- World’s first Syria torture trial opens in Germany
- Why US’s offer of financial aid to Greenland has angered Denmark
Defence & Security Issues
- Raksha Mantri inaugurates Mobile Laboratory to test COVID19 samples
Art & Culture
- Kamakhya temple festival called of
- COVID-19 lockdown hits Patachitra artisans of Odisha crafts village hard
Science & Technology
- Antiviral nano-coatings to be upscaled for making masks & N-95 respirator
Key Facts for Prelims
- SN 2010kd
- Education for Justice
- Team Mask Force
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Government Schemes & Policies
Only 10% free pulses under govt scheme distributed to poor so far
Announced as part of the COVID-19 relief package about a month ago, free pulses — 1 kg per family — to beneficiaries of the National Food Security Act (NFSA) are yet to reach many households in the economically poor strata.
- National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd (NAFED), which comes under administrative control of the Agriculture Ministry, has been tasked with ensuring supply of pulses from the buffer stocks it maintains.
Current situation of PMGKAY
- Out of the total monthly allocation of 1.95 lakh metric ton (LMT) pulses under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana (PMGKAY), barely 19 metric ton have been distributed by the states.
- However, the Food Ministry’s data shows that against a monthly allocation of 1,95,531 MT pulses under PMGKAY to provide pulses free of cost to 19.55 crore families under NFSA, 1,22,312 MT have been issued to states.
Issues related to Health & Education
India set to get lead role in WHO board
India will move into a leadership role at the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters after the annual meeting of the global health body next month.
- India will assume the lead position in May at the executive board’s first meeting. India replaces Japan, which will complete its one-year term in May.
- India’s chairperson’s position was decided last year when the WHO’s South-East Asia group unanimously proposed India to the executive board for a three-year term. It also nominated India for the chairperson’s post held by rotation for one year among regional groups.
- India will also be a member of the programme budget and administration committee, replacing Indonesia.
- As head of the 34-member executive board, India will work closely with Director General of WHO.
- The WHO board is mandated to implement the decisions laid down by the World Health Assembly and is also mandated to interview candidates to decide who will stay in the running and face the election at the health assembly.
- By virtue of being on the executive board for three years, India will also have a say in the shortlisting of the next WHO director general when the incumbent’s five-year tenure ends in May 2021.
Protect India’s brave health workers
Distressing reports of doctors and health workers being attacked on duty kept pouring in. Two issues — the paucity of policemen, and more important, the speed of response — are critical. Hence some further measures are imperative.
Hospitals need to be secured firmly.
- Instead of deploying scarce policemen in hospitals, the government should appoint special police officers (SPOs) for each hospital.
- The provision for appointing SPOs is given in Section 17 of the Police Act, which can be invoked at a time of emergency to make up for the shortage of police personnel.
- Each hospital, however, has several private security guards, who can be appointed as SPOs. Once declared SPOs, they have the powers of the police and can work in the same fashion.
- One liaison officer from the local police station can be designated for each hospital for coordination. This will raise the morale and confidence of the doctors, and bring order to the proceedings in the hospitals.
Security at home and while commuting to work and back for doctors.
- Arrangements must be made for health workers who require temporary accommodation and transport.
- More guest houses and public venues need to be requisitioned to accommodate all those who desire these facilities.
- In addition, a team of police, municipal and revenue officials should caution and rein in these RWA (Resident Welfare Association) officials against any moves to oust the doctors from society premises and, if necessary, take stern action. Such doctors should also be given helplines to contact in case of need.
Demand of the doctors for high-risk allowance during this unprecedented period should be accepted.
- The Delhi government has announced Rs 1 crore compensation for the family of a fallen corona warrior, which includes not only doctors but policemen and others who are battling the pandemic. Such a move should be emulated by other states too.
A clear message needs to go from the state governments against those attacking the lifesavers.
- To tackle the problem of attacks in clusters, where health teams go for check-ups, the National Security Act can also be used.
- The Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh governments have used it in case of attacks on doctors and policemen.
States have to brace for a future scenario when the lockdown is eased.
- Extensive screening will have to be resorted to. Clusters to be covered should be approached by teams of municipal, police and revenue officials to dispel any rumour about the methodology of testing or the state of quarantine centres.
- Each police station has a list of opinion leaders of the areas and they should be used for such exercises.
Global Report on Food Crises
A new edition of the annual Global Report on Food Crises has been released by the Global Network Against Food Crises.
The report reveals scope of food crises as COVID-19 poses new risks to vulnerable countries.
Key highlights of the report:
- At the close of 2019, 135 million people across 55 countries and territories experienced acute food insecurity.
- In 2019, 183 million people were classified in Stressed condition — at the cusp of acute hunger and at risk of slipping into Crisis or worse if faced with a shock or stressor, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
- More than half (73 million) of the 135 million people covered by the report live in Africa; 43 million live in the Middle East and Asia; 18.5 million live in Latin America and the Caribbean.
- The key drivers behind the trends analysed in the report were: conflict, (the key factor that pushed 77 million people into acute food insecurity), weather extremes (34 million people) and economic turbulence (24 million).
What is Acute food insecurity?
- Acute food insecurity is when a person’s inability to consume adequate food puts their lives or livelihoods in immediate danger.
- It is more severe than / not the same as chronic hunger, as reported on each year by the UN’s annual State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report.
- Chronic hunger is when a person is unable to consume enough food over an extended period to maintain a normal, active lifestyle.
About the Global Network against Food Crises:
- It was launched by the European Union, FAO and WFP during the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) to respond to the WHS’s call for new approaches to tackle protracted crises and recurrent disasters, reduce vulnerability, and manage risk, by bridging the divide between development and humanitarian partners.
Union Agriculture Minister reviews the works of DARE/ICAR
The Union Minister for Agriculture took a review meeting of the Department of Agricultural Research & Education (DARE) and Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
About Department of Agricultural Research & Education (DARE)
- It was established in the Ministry of Agriculture in December, 1973.
- It coordinates agricultural research & education in the country.
- It is the nodal agency for International Cooperation in the area of agricultural research and education in India.
It has the following four autonomous bodies under its administrative control:
- Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)
- Central Agricultural University (CAU), Imphal
- Dr Rajendra Prasad Central Agricultural University, Pusa, Bihar
- Rani Laxmi Bai Central Agricultural University, Jhansi, UP
The major functions of DARE
- To look after all aspects of the agricultural research and Education involving coordination between the central and state agencies.
- To attend all matters relating to Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
- To attend all matters concerning the development of new technology in agriculture, horticulture, natural resources management, animal science and marketing and fisheries.
- International co-operation in the field of agricultural research and education
- Fundamental, applied and operational research and higher education including co-ordination of such research.
Krishi Kalyan Abhiyan
- It was launched by the Ministry of Agriculture and farmers’ welfare in June 2018 to assist and advice farmers on how to improve their farming techniques and raise their incomes.
- It is undertaken in 25 Villages with more than 1000 population each in Aspirational Districts identified in consultation with Ministry of Rural Development as per directions of NITI Ayog.
- In districts where number of villages (with more than 1000 population) is less than 25, all villages will be covered.
3 phases of KVKs
- So far two phases of Krishi Kalyan Abhiyan have been completed in which 11.05 lakh farmers were trained by KVKs.
- In the third phase of KKA training of about 17 lakh farmers on diversified farming practices for doubling farmers’ income is planned
Govt to suspend insolvency provisions from IBC for up to 1 year
The government has decided to amend the insolvency law to suspend up to one year provisions that trigger insolvency proceedings against defaulters.
An ordinance would be promulgated to suspend Section 7, 9 and 10 of IBC (Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code) for up to one year.
- Section 7 and 9 pertain to initiation of corporate insolvency proceedings by a financial creditor and an operational creditor, respectively.
- Section 10 relates to filing an application for insolvency resolution by a corporate.
- As per existing norms, if a payment default exceeds 90 days then the lender concerned has to refer the account for resolution under IBC or any other mechanism permitted by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
- Currently, RBI norms prohibit restructuring of loans and resolution has to be done under IBC.
Bilateral & International Relations
World’s first Syria torture trial opens in Germany
Two alleged former Syrian intelligence officers went on trial in Germany accused of crimes against humanity in the first court case worldwide over state-sponsored torture by Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
- One, an alleged former colonel in Syrian state security, is charge with overseeing the murder of 58 people and the torture of 4,000 others at the prison between 2011 and 2012.
- Other is accused of being an accomplice to crimes against humanity, having helped to arrest protesters in the autumn of 2011.
Crimes Against Humanity
- Crimes against humanity have not yet been codified in a dedicated treaty of international law, unlike genocide and war crimes, although there are efforts to do so.
- The notion of crimes against humanity has evolved through the jurisdictions of international courts such as the International Criminal Court, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
- The 1998 Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court (Rome Statute) is the document that reflects the latest consensus among the international community on this matter. It is also the treaty that offers the most extensive list of specific acts that may constitute the crime.
As per Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court
Crimes against Humanity is
- Murder; Extermination; Enslavement; Deportation or forcible transfer of population;
- Imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law;
- Rape, sexual slavery or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity;
- Persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender, or other grounds that are universally recognized as impermissible under international law;
- Enforced disappearance of persons;
- The crime of apartheid;
- Other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.
Why US’s offer of financial aid to Greenland has angered Denmark
The US has caused consternation once again with its offers of financial aid to Greenland that falls within the territory of Denmark.
In August 2019, US put a proposal to purchase Greenland from Denmark. Subsequently, Denmark had dismissed the possibility of the US acquiring Greenland, calling it an absurd discussion.
Why is US offering Greenland financial aid?
- As per US, it proposes to give aid for i) sustainable growth in the autonomous island, ii) due to Russia’s aggressive behavior and increased militarisation in the Arctic and iii) due to China’s predatory economic interests.
Why is US obsessed with Greenland?
- US’s interest in Greenland is an extension of US foreign policy.
- In past, US purchased another country or territory two times: it acquired Louisiana from the French in 1803 and purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867.
Reasons why US wants to acquire Green land
- Secure position of current US president in US history of having been the third president to add land to the country’s territory.
- Greenland is strategically located between the Arctic Sea and the Atlantic Ocean,
- It has some of the largest deposits of rare-earth metals, including iron-ore, uranium, by products of zinc, neodymium, praseodymium etc. These rare-earth metals are used in the production of electric cars, mobile phones and computers.
- China has been the world’s largest supplier of these rare-earth metals. An acquisition of Greenland would make the US less reliant on China for these rare-earth metals.
- Due to climate change, the Arctic ice is melting at an accelerated rate, opening up water routes for military and maritime trade.
- Russia has been steadily expanding its military presence in the Arctic and China has done its bit on the economic front.
Location of Greenland
- Located in the continent of North America, it is world’s largest island.
- Greenland does not share land borders with any countries.
- Greenland is self-governed province under the control of Demark.
Defence & Security Issues
Raksha Mantri inaugurates Mobile Laboratory to test COVID19 samples
Raksha Mantri unveiled via video conference a Mobile Virology Research and Diagnostics Laboratory (MVRDL) developed by DRDO in association with ESIC Hospital, Hyderabad and Private Industry.
- The Mobile Viral Research Lab is the combination of a Bio-Safety Level 2 (BSL 2) and Level 3 to carry out the activities.
- The Mobile Lab will be helpful to carry out diagnosis of COVID-19 and also virus culturing for drug screening, Convalescent plasma derived therapy, comprehensive immune profiling of COVID-19 patients towards vaccine development early clinical trials specific to Indian population.
Art & Culture
Kamakhya temple festival called of
With the lockdown, the annual festival at the Kamakhya temple here has been cancelled for the first time in its recorded history.
About Kamakhya Devi temple
- It is located atop the Nilachal Hills in Guwahati, Assam.
- Kamakhya is one of the 51 shaktipeeths (holy sites) for the followers of the Shakti cult, each representing a body part of Sati, Lord Shiva’s companion.
- It is said that it was built by the demon king Narakasura. Records are available only from 1565 when Koch King Naranarayana had the temple rebuilt.
- Its northern face slopes down to the Brahmaputra River.
- The Ambubachi Mela is an annual Hindu Festival at Kamakhya Devi temple.
- It is a four-day celebration, which often falls in June.
- The temple’s houses the — female genitals — symbolised by a rock. The festival marks the menstruation of the goddess Kamakhya.
- The temple remains shut during these days as it is believed that Mother Earth becomes unclean.
COVID-19 lockdown hits Patachitra artisans of Odisha crafts village hard
Around 160 artisan families practising Patachitra have been hit hard by the ongoing lockdown due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
- It is a cloth- based scroll painting of Odisha.
- The name Pattachitra has evolved from the Sanskrit words patta, meaning canvas, and chitra, meaning picture.
- The paintings show a mix of classical and folk elements, with a bias towards the latter.
- It is known for its intricate detailsas well as mythological narratives and folktales inscribed in it.
- These paintings are inspired by Jagannath and Vaishnava
- The canvas is prepared by coating the clothing with a mixture of chalk and gum made from tamarind seed. Then it is rubbed by taking the help of two different stones and then the cloth is dried.
- The mixture of gum and chalk gives the cloth’s surface a leathery finish on which the artists paint with vegetable, earth and stone colours.
- The painters do not use pencil or charcoal for the preliminary drawings. Rather brush is used to draw the outlines in red or yellow after which the colours are filled.
- The background is decorated with foliage and flowers and the paintings have an intricately worked frame. Once the final lines are drawn, the painting is given a coating of lacquer to give it a glossy finish.
- Pattachitra on palm leaf is known as talapattachitra. The hard dried leaves of palm trees are sewn together as a canvas on which images are drawn using white or black ink.
Science & Technology
Antiviral nano-coatings to be upscaled for making masks & N-95 respirator
As part of Nano Mission programme, the Department of Science and Technology has approved support for upscaling an antiviral nano-coatings for use as appropriate material for producing anti-COVID-19 Triple Layer Medical masks and N-95 respirator in large quantities.
- Silver is known to have strong antimicrobial activity against bacteria, viruses, fungus, and so on.
- Professor Agrawal developed N9 blue nanosilver under the nano mission project.
Mission on Nano Science and Technology (Nano Mission)
- In May 2007, Government of India, approved the launch of a Mission on Nano Science and Technology (Nano Mission) as an umbrella programme for capacity building.
- The Department of Science and Technology was selected as the nodal agency for implementing the Nano Mission.
- Mission was given an allocation of Rs. 1000 crore for 5 years.
- Recognizing the success of Nano Mission, in 2014, the Union Cabinet accorded approval for continuation in its Phase-II during the 12th Plan period with an allocation of Rs. 650 crore.
Objectives of Nano-Mission
- Basic Research Promotion – Funding of basic research by individual scientists and/or groups of scientists and creation of centres of excellence.
- Infrastructure Development for Nano Science & Technology Research – Establishing a chain of shared facilities across the country with sophisticated equipment’s required for Nano research.
- Nano Applications and Technology Development Programmes– To catalyse Applications and Technology Development Programmes leading to products and devices.
- Human Resource Development – Effective education and training to researchers and professionals in diversified fields
- International Collaborations – Apart from exploratory visits of scientists, organization of joint workshops and conferences and joint research projects.
Key Facts for Prelims
- Researchers at the Arayabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES) Nainital found that SN 2010kd, a super-luminous supernova stands out with the amount of mass as well as Nickel ejected during explosion, which is much more than seen in case of normal core-collapse supernovae.
- Supernovae are a kind of energetic explosions where the core of massive stars (a few times to that of mass of Sun) go to a catastrophic phase of explosion liberating huge amounts of energy.
- The SN 2010kd was discovered by Robotic Optical Transient Search Experiment (ROTSE-IIIb) telescope as a part of ROTSE supernova verification project in the USA in 2010.
Education for Justice
- The Education for Justice (E4J) initiative was launched by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes to teach next generation about crime prevention and address problems under law.
- The initiative seeks to prevent crime and promote a culture of lawfulness through education activities designed for primary, secondary and tertiary levels.
- The E4J initiative is under the Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration.
Team Mask Force
- It is a video Created by BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India).
- It promotes the use of masks to fight the infectious disease COVID-19.
- The video featuring India’s most revered cricketers urges fellow countrymen to join the team mask force and help the nation fight against the novel coronavirus.