Current Affairs Analysis

26th March 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

G20 virtual summit; G20; Quantum chemistry based software for radiation therapy; Quantum Chemistry; Glaciers in Sikkim melting at faster pace; Biofortified high protein variety of Wheat; MACS 4028; Kuposhan Mukt Bharat; Recapitalisation of RRBs; Capital to Risk Weighted Assets Ratio; Regional Rural Banks; ECHS allows veterans to stock medicines; Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme; Hanta Virus; COVID-19: Anosmia and Ageusia; Census 2021; #StayHomeIndiaWithBooks.
By IASToppers
March 26, 2020

Contents

Issues related to health and education

  • ECHS allows veterans to stock medicines
  • COVID-19: Anosmia and Ageusia
  • Hanta Virus

Bilateral & International Relations

  • G20 virtual summit

Economy

  • Recapitalisation of RRBs

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Glaciers in Sikkim melting at faster pace

Science and Technology

  • Quantum chemistry based software for radiation therapy
  • Biofortified high protein variety of Wheat

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Census 2021
  • #StayHomeIndiaWithBooks

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Issues related to health and education

ECHS allows veterans to stock medicines

In view to contain the spread of COVID-19, including social distancing, the Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) has allowed veterans with lifestyle diseases on long treatment to purchase the required medicines for the month of April at once.

Initiative:

  • One time sanction is hereby accorded to reimburse the above expenditure under individual reimbursement of medical claims.
  • The bills for reimbursement to be submitted by veterans after May 15, 2020.

Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS):

  • ECHS is a flagship Scheme of the Ministry of Defence, Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare launched in April 2003.
  • The aim of Scheme is to provide quality healthcare of Ex-servicemen pensioners and their dependents.
  • The Scheme aims to provide allopathic and AYUSH medicare to Ex-servicemen pensioner and their dependents through a network of ECHS Polyclinics, Service medical facilities and civil empanelled/Government hospitals/specified Govt. AYUSH hospitals spread across the country.
[Ref: The Hindu]

COVID-19: Anosmia and Ageusia

Ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialists in Britain, the U.S. and France have noted a growing number of patients in recent weeks with Anosmia and Ageusia and have said this could be a sign of COVID-19 in people who otherwise appear well.

Anosmia:

  • Total loss of smell called anosmia, can be caused by many viruses, including various strains of both coronaviruses and rhinoviruses, both of which can cause the common cold.
  • Partial loss of smell is called hyposmia.
  • Either can be accompanied by a loss of taste, called dysgeusia.

Ageusia:

  • Ageusia is the loss of taste functions of the tongue, particularly the inability to detect sweetness, sourness, bitterness, saltiness, and umami
[Ref: Elemental, The Hindu]

Hanta Virus

The Hantavirus comes from a family of viruses that spreads mainly from rodents and can cause a range of diseases.

About:

  • Hanta virus is a single-stranded RNA virus associated with respiratory diseases in humans.
  • The virus is not airborne and has symptoms similar to Corona virus.
  • The disease was officially reported in May 1993.

Transmission:

  • The virus can emerge from the rodent’s faeces, urine or saliva and can travel through air.
  • Humans can become infected if they are bitten by an infected animal.

Symptoms:

  • The symptoms of the infection are fatigue, muscle ache and fever.
  • The muscle ache appears particularly in thighs, hips, back and also in shoulders.
  • The affected person can also experience stomach pain, diarrhoea, vomiting and headache.
  • In more serious cases, it can lead to kidney failure and lung disease.

Treatment:

  • The mortality rate from a Hantavirus infection is between 5-15%, according to the Robert Koch institute (RKI).
  • There is no known treatment or vaccine for the virus.
  • The best way to remain protected from an infection is to avoid contact with infected animals, since it cannot be transmitted between humans.

Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR):

  • The ICMR is the apex body in India for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research, and is one of the oldest and largest medical research bodies in the world.
  • The ICMR is funded by the Government of India through the Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
[Ref: Down to Earth]

Bilateral & International Relations

 G20 virtual summit

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman will chair an emergency virtual summit of G20 leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 26, 2020 to advance the coordinated response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Addressing COVID-19 emergency:

  • Saudi Arabia, which currently holds the G20 presidency, last week called for the “virtual summit” following criticism that the powerful group of major economies had been slow to address the global crisis that has claimed nearly 19,000 lives and suspended businesses across the globe.
  • Leaders of over 40 nations including US and international organisations like WHO, are expected to participate in the meeting.

G20:

  • The G-20 is a group of 20 nations of the world comprising of the G-7 NationsCanada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States plus 11 emerging market and smaller industrialized countries—Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, and Turkey.
  • The European Union is also a member of the G-20.
  • The G-20’s members represent two-thirds of the world’s people and 85% of its economy.
  • The G-20’s primary mandate is to prevent future international financial crises and shape the global economic agenda.
  • The finance ministers and central bank governors of the G-20 countries meet twice a year and at the same time as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
  • Group of Twenty (G20) summit is expected to held on 21–22 November 2020 in the Saudi Arabia’s capital city of Riyadh.
[Ref: The week]

Economy

Recapitalisation of RRBs

The Centre has approved a ₹1,340-crore recapitalisation plan for Regional Rural Banks to improve their capital-to-risk weighted assets ratio (CRAR), strengthening these institutions that are critical to the provision of credit in rural areas.

Significance:

  • This would provide minimum regulatory capital for one more year viz. up to 2020-21 for those RRBs that are unable to maintain the minimum CRAR of 9%.
  • This has been an on-going scheme since 2011.

Capital to Risk Weighted Assets Ratio:

  • Capital to Risk (Weighted) Assets Ratio (CRAR) is also known as Capital adequacy Ratio, the ratio of a bank’s capital to its risk.
  • The CRAR is the capital needed for a bank measured in terms of the assets (mostly loans) disbursed by the banks.
  • Higher the assets, higher should be the capital by the bank.
  • As per RBI guidelines, banks are required to maintain a minimum CRAR of 9% on an on-going basis.

Regional Rural Banks:

  • RRBs were set up as government-sponsored, regional based rural lending institutions under Regional Rural Banks Act, 1976.
  • They are scheduled commercial banks (Government banks) and are configured as hybrid micro banking institutions, combining local orientation and small scale lending culture of cooperatives and business culture of commercial banks.
  • RRBs are jointly owned by Central Government, concerned State Government and Sponsor Banks with the issued capital shared in the proportion of 50%, 15% and 35% respectively.

Functions:

  • RRBs provide:
  • Banking facilities to rural and semi-urban areas,
  • Carry out government operations like disbursement of wages of MGNREGA workers,
  • Distribution of pensions etc.,
  • Para-Banking facilities like locker facilities, debit and credit cards,
  • Function as Small financial banks.
  • The RRBs are required to provide 75% of their total credit as priority sector lending with primary focus on agricultural credit, including small and marginal farmers, as well as micro entrepreneurs and rural artisans.

Vision:

  • They have been created with a view to serve primarily rural areas of India with basic banking and financial services.
  • They fulfill credit needs of relatively unserved sections in rural areas, small and marginal farmers, agricultural labourers and socio-economically weaker sections and small entrepreneurs in rural areas for development of agriculture, trade, commerce, industry and other productive activities.
  • RRBs can also set branches set up for urban operations and their area of operation may include semi urban or urban areas too.
[Ref: The Hindu]

 

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Glaciers in Sikkim melting at faster pace

Scientists from Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehradun an autonomous research institute for the study of Geology of the Himalaya under the Department of Science and Technology, have found that glaciers in Sikkim are melting at a higher magnitude as compared to other Himalayan regions.

Outcomes of the study:

  • The study assessed the response of 23 glaciers of Sikkim to climate change for the period of 1991-2015.
  • The study revealed that the glaciers in Sikkim have retreated and deglaciated significantly from 1991 to 2015.
  • Compared to other Himalayan regions, the magnitude of dimensional changes and debris growth are higher in the Sikkim.
  • A major shift in glacier behaviour has occurred around 2000.
  • Contrary to the western and central Himalaya, where glaciers are reported to have slowed down in recent decades, the Sikkim glaciers have shown negligible deceleration after 2000.
  • Summer temperature rise has been prime driver of glacier changes.

Significance:

  • Accurate knowledge of magnitude as well as the direction of glacier changes can lead to awareness among common people regarding water supplies and possible glacier hazards.
  • The study can provide ample baseline data on glacier changes and systematically explore the causal relationship between glacier parameters and various influencing factors.
  • A clear understanding of glacier state will help orienting future studies as well as taking necessary measures.  
[Ref: PIB]

Science and Technology

Quantum chemistry based software for radiation therapy

Indian researcher from IIT Bombay along with his research group is working to develop new methods for quantum chemistry and implement them in efficient and free software to study electron attachment to aqueous DNA which has big implications in radiation therapy-based treatment of cancer.

About the project:

  • The research group is a collaboration of chemists, computer scientists, and engineers who are united towards a common goal of development of efficient quantum chemistry methods and free software, which can be routinely used by scientists all over the globe to solve their chemistry problems.
  • The efficiency of these newly developed quantum chemistry methods allows the research group to solve the Schrodinger equation for the attachment of electrons to DNA in the presence of the bulk aqueous environment.
  • The deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA is the carrier of genetic information in human body, and electron attachment to DNA is one of the crucial steps in radiation damage to human cells.
  • His team has shown that the electron attachment to DNA solvated in bulk water happens through a doorway mechanism, and the presence of the aqueous environment allows this electron attachment to take place at an ultrafast time scale.

Significance:

  • This newly proposed mechanism of electron attachment to aqueous DNA has big implications in radiation therapy-based treatment of cancer.
  • This study can help in the development of a new class of radio-sensitizers, which makes tumor cells more sensitive to radiation therapy and thereby protects the normal cells.
  • Computational modeling can greatly reduce the development cost of new radio-sensitizers, both in terms of money and time.

Quantum Chemistry:

  • Quantum chemistry is one of the new branches of chemistry which tries to understand the chemical properties of atoms and molecules without performing a lab experiment.
  •  Instead, in quantum chemistry, the Scientists try to solve the Schrödinger equation for the molecules, and it gives every measurable quantity about that particular molecule, without actually doing the measurement.
  • However, the mathematical equations resulting from the application of the Schrodinger equation are very complicated and can only be solved using computers.
  • Therefore, one needs to develop new theories and write efficient computer programs to solve these equations.
[Ref: PIB]

Biofortified high protein variety of Wheat

Scientists from Agharkar Research Institute, Pune, an autonomous institute under the Department of Science & Technology, Government of India, have developed a biofortified durum wheat variety MACS 4028, which shows high protein content.

MACS 4028:

  • The wheat variety developed by the ARI scientists group on Wheat improvement has high protein content of about 14.7%, better nutritional quality having zinc and iron content of 40.3ppm and 46.1ppm respectively, good milling quality and overall acceptability.
  • MACS 4028 is a semi-dwarf variety, which matures in 102 days and has shown the superior and stable yielding ability of 19.3 quintals per hectare.
  • It is resistant to stem rust, leaf rust, foliar aphids, root aphids, and brown wheat mite.

Significance:

  • The MACS 4028 variety is also included by the Krishi Vigyan Kendra programme for United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to alleviate malnutrition in a sustainable way and can boost the Vision 2022 “Kuposhan Mukt Bharat”, the National Nutrition Strategy.
  • The wheat variety MACS 4028 has been notified by the Central Sub-Committee on Crop Standards, Notification and Release of Varieties for Agricultural Crops (CVRC) for timely sown, rainfed condition of Peninsular Zone, comprising Maharashtra and Karnataka.

Wheat:

  • Wheat is the second most important cereal crop after rice in India.
  • Staple food for North India and North West India.
  • Provides balanced diet compared to rice as it is rich in protein, vitamins and carbohydrates.
  • Wheat is rabi crop, shown in the beginning of winter and harvested in the beginning of summer.
  • Wheat crop in India is grown under six diverse agroclimatic zones.
  • In the peninsular zone of India (Maharashtra and Karnataka states), wheat cultivation is majorly done under rainfed and limited irrigation conditions.
  • Under such conditions, the crop experiences moisture stress.
  • Hence, there is a high demand for drought-tolerant varieties.

Kuposhan Mukt Bharat:

  • NITI Aayog launched the National Nutrition Strategy aimed at Kuposhan Mukt Bharat.
  • The strategy intends at bringing nutrition to the center-stage of the National Development Agenda and eradicate it in a phased manner.

Vision:

  • It calls for convergence between four proximate determinants of nutrition– uptake of health services, food, drinking water & sanitation and income & livelihoods.
  • It envisages Kuposhan Mukt Bharat – linked to Swachh Bharat and Swasth Bharat.
  • It also gives prominence to demand and community mobilisation as key determinant to address India’s nutritional needs to bring behavioural change efforts to generate demand for nutrition services.
[Ref: PIB]

Key Facts for Prelims

Census 2021

  • Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, first phase of Census 2021 and updation of National population register (NPR) postponed.
  • The Census 2021 was scheduled to be conducted in two phases, viz., (a) Phase I i.e. House listing & Housing Census during April-September, 2020 and (b) Phase II  i.e. Population Enumeration during February, 2021
  • The updation of NPR was also proposed to be done along with the Phase I of Census 2021 in all the States/UTs, except Assam.

#StayHomeIndiaWithBooks

  • In the wake of Preventive Measures of the Government of India to contain the spread of Covid-19, the National Book Trust of Ministry of Human Resource and Development, to encourage people to read books while at home, is providing its select books for free as part of its initiative of #StayHomeIndiaWithBooks!
  • National Book Trust (NBT) is an Indian publishing house, founded in 1957 as an autonomous body under the Ministry of Education of the Government of India.
  • NBT now functions under aegis of Ministry of Human Resource Development.
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