Current Affairs Analysis

2nd July 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Narcondom Hornbill; Poor reach of Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana; Accelerate Vigyan; Mission SAMOOHAN; ABHYAAS programme; G4 flu virus; Swine flu pandemic 2009; Van Gujjars; Rajaji National Park; Central Zoo Authority; Zoo; State butterfly in India; Hong Kong Security Law; Hong Kong; Robot Nurses for patient care; Sahiyas; Doctor’s Day; Diana Award; J2157; etc.
By IASToppers
July 02, 2020

Contents

Government Schemes & Policies

  • Poor reach of PMGKAY
  • Accelerate Vigyan

Issues related to Health & Education

  • G4 flu virus with pandemic potential

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Van Gujjars at conflict with forest officials
  • Central Zoo Authority
  • New species in India’s list of butterflies

Bilateral & International Relations

  • Hong Kong Security Law

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Robot Nurses for patient care
  • Sahiyas
  • Doctor’s Day
  • Diana Award
  • J2157
  • Narcondom Hornbill

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Government Schemes & Policies

Poor reach of PMGKAY

According to the data provided by the Food Ministry, the scheme to provide free rations to eight crore migrants under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana reached less than 15% of its target beneficiaries.

Major Highlights:

  • Only 13 per cent of 8 lakh metric tonnes of free food grains allocated for returning migrant workers under the Atmanirbhar Bharat package have reached migrants during May and June.
  • Against the Centre’s announcement of distributing free 5-kg foodgrain per month for two months to about 8 crore migrant workers who do not have ration cards, only 2.13 crore beneficiaries it in May (1.21 crore) and June (92.44 lakh).
  • All 36 states and Union Territories lifted 6.38 lakh metric tonnes or 80 per cent of 8 lakh metric tonnes of food grains allocated under Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan for May and June.
  • But they have distributed only 1.07 lakh metric tonnes (or 13% of allocated quantity) of free foodgrain to the intended beneficiaries until June 30, it shows.
  • Rajasthan lifted almost 100 per cent of its allocated quota of 44,662 metric tonnes and distributed over 95 per cent to 42.47 lakh beneficiaries in May and June each.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Accelerate Vigyan

The Science and Engineering Research Board has launched a new inter-ministerial scheme called Accelerate Vigyan to provide a single platform for research internships, capacity building programs, and workshops across the country.

Objective:

  • To give more thrust on encouraging high-end scientific research and preparing scientific manpower, which can lead to research careers and knowledge-based economy.

Vision:

To expand the research base, with three broad goals:

  • Consolidation/aggregation of all scientific programs,
  • Initiating high-end orientation workshops, and
  • Creating opportunities for research internships for those who do not have access to such resources/facilities.

Major Highlights:

  • Accelerate Vigyan (AV) will initiate and strengthen mechanisms of identifying research potential, mentoring, training and hands-on workshop on a national scale.
  • There is a plan to organize about 1000 high-end workshops to provide opportunities to about 25,000 postgraduate and doctoral students in the next five years, in collaboration with premier scientific institutions and laboratories.

Mission SAMOOHAN:

  • Mission Samoohan marks the beginning of Accelerate Vigyan.
  • It aims to encourage, aggregate and consolidate all scientific interactions in the country under one common roof.
  • This mission caters to a varied audience – R&D Departments, Institutes in Science & Technology as well as Stakeholders – mentors, coordinators, participants and students.
  • It has been sub-divided into SAYONJIKA and SANGOSHTI.
  • SAYONJIKA is an open-ended program to catalogue the capacity building activities in science and technology supported by all government funding agencies.
  • SANGOSHTI is aimed to facilitate the scientific community to establish an interaction with other individuals and research groups to enhance knowledge exchange.

ABHYAAS programme:

  • ABHYAAS programme is an attempt to boost research and development by enabling and grooming potential PG/PhD students through developing their research skills in selected areas across different disciplines or fields.
  • It has two components: High-End Workshops (KARYASHALA) and Research Internships (VRITIKA).
  • This is important for those researchers who have limited opportunities to access such learning capacities/facilities/infrastructure.

 [Ref: PIB]

Issues related to Health & Education

G4 flu virus with pandemic potential

The scientists from China have identified a recently emerged strain of influenza virus that is infecting Chinese pigs and has the potential of triggering a pandemic.

Major Highlights:

  • The viral swine flu strain is named G4 and has genes similar to those in the virus that caused the 2009 swine flu pandemic.
  • The G4 strain has the capability of binding to human-type receptors (like, the SARS-CoV-2 virus binds to ACE2 receptors in humans).
  • It was able to copy itself in human airway epithelial cells, and it showed effective infectivity and aerosol transmission in ferrets (a small mammal).
  • The new strain (G4) has descended from the H1N1 strain that was responsible for the 2009 flu pandemic.
  • Pigs are intermediate hosts for the generation of pandemic influenza virus, and China has the largest population of pig worldwide.
  • It cannot be said if this new strain, if transmitted from pigs to humans, can transmit from one human to another.

The 2009 swine flu pandemic:

  • WHO declared the outbreak of type A H1N1 influenza virus a pandemic in 2009 when there were around 30,000 cases globally.
  • Swine flu is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses that regularly cause outbreaks of influenza in pigs.
  • The 2009 pandemic was caused by a strain of the swine flu called the H1N1 virus, which was transmitted from human to human.
  • The symptoms of swine flu include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headaches, chills and fatigue.
  • The pandemic lasted for about 19 months, from January 2009 to August 2010, and was the second of two pandemics involving H1N1 influenza virus (the first being the 1918–1920 Spanish flu pandemic).
  • The H1N1 flu pandemic is estimated to have caused about 284,000 (range from 150,000 to 575,000) deaths worldwide.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Van Gujjars at conflict with forest officials

People belonging to the Van Gujjar community in Uttrakhand’s Rajaji National Park area have alleged at officials from the state forest department tried to demolished their deras (makeshift huts).

Van Gujjar Community:

  • Van Gujjars are nomadic buffalo-herders inhabiting the foothills of Himalayan states like Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
  • They are deep dependent on wild habitats in India and for them, transhumance (the practice of moving livestock from one grazing ground to another in a seasonal cycle) has been a way of life for centuries.
  • The idea of home for Van Gujjars has been made precariously tentative because they are repeatedly displaced off their lands and livelihoods.

The plight of the community:

  • The forests that fall in the boundaries and buffers of the Corbett and Rajaji Tiger Reserves have been the winter grazing grounds for the buffalo-rearing Gujjars for a hundred years.
  • But once the parks were notified and the area under the tiger reserves kept being enlarged, the spaces for the pastoralists have been shrinking.
  • The Van Gujjars in both parks have faced tremendous repression and harassment at the hands of the forest department.
  • 1,000 Van Gujjar families have had no choice but to accept relocation from the Rajaji Reserve.
  • In March 2017, the National Tiger Conservation Authority issued an order disallowing recognition of rights under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA) in Tiger Reserves.

Rajaji National Park:

  • Rajaji National Park is an Indian national park and tiger reserve that encompasses the Shivaliks, near the foothills of the Himalayas.
  • The park is spread over 820 km2 and three districts of Uttarakhand: Haridwar, Dehradun and Pauri Garhwal.
  • In 1983, three wildlife sanctuaries in the area were merged into one to constitute the park.
  • The park has been named after C. Rajagopalachari (Rajaji), a prominent leader of the Freedom Struggle, the second and last Governor-General of independent India and one of the first recipients of India’s highest civilian award Bharat Ratna (in 1954).
  • Rajaji was declared as a tiger reserve in 15 April 2015.
[Ref: DownToEarth]

Central Zoo Authority

The Environment Ministry has reconstituted the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) to include an expert from the School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi, and a molecular biologist.

About Central Zoo Authority:

  • The CZA is a statutory body chaired by the Environment Minister and tasked with regulating zoos across the country.
  • The authority lays down guidelines and prescribes rules under which animals may be transferred among zoos nationally and internationally.
  • Apart from the chairman, it consists of 10 members and a member-secretary.
  • Almost all of them are officials in the Environment Ministry and non-government experts are those who are wildlife conservationists or retired forest officers.

What is a zoo?

  • As per Section 2 (39) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, Zoo means an establishment, whether stationary or mobile, where captive animals are kept for exhibition to the public and include a circus and rescue centres but do not include an establishment of a licensed dealer in captive animals.

Purpose for the creation of the Central Zoo Authority:

  • The Zoos in India are managed as per the provisions of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 and guided by the National Zoo Policy, 1998.
  • The Government of India established the Central Zoo authority in the year 1992 to oversee the functioning of Zoos in the country and to control mushrooming of ill-planned and ill-conceived Zoos.
  • Only such zoos are to be allowed to operate that are recognised and maintain animals following the norms and standards prescribed by the Zoo Authority keeping into consideration the welfare of the animals.
[Ref: The Hindu]

New species in India’s list of butterflies

Lepidopterists in Arunachal Pradesh have added two species to India’s expanding list of butterflies.

Major Highlights:

  • The first species is the Striped Hairstreak, first recorded by Japanese entomologists in Hainan province of China.
  • The other is Elusive Prince, which has a Vietnamese connection.
  • India now has 1,327 species of butterflies, up from 1,318 in 2015.
  • Recently, Assam Keelback, a non-venomous snake from the Gelling area of Arunachal Pradesh was rediscovered after 129 years.
  • The findings from Arunachal Pradesh indicate the rich biodiversity of the State.
  • The government needs to focus on helping volunteers or citizen scientists by providing the support needed to boost eco-tourism apart from regular scientific researches.

Key Facts:

  • Lepidopterology (a branch of zoology studying butterflies and moth).

5 state butterfly in India:

  • Maharashtra – Blue Mormon
  • Uttarakhand – Common peacock
  • Karnataka – Southern bird wings
  • Kerala – Malabar banded peacock
  • Tamil Nadu – Tamil Yeoman butterfly.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Bilateral & International Relations

Hong Kong Security Law

The Chinese parliament has unanimously passed ‘The Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’ on 30th June 2020.

What is the issue?

  • Under Article 23 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong was supposed to enact the national security law on its own.
  • When the Hongkong city government first tried to enact the law in 2003, the issue caused massive protests that year.
  • The other way of implementing the law was by its inclusion in Annex III of the Basic Law– a list of legislations that are confined to those relating to defence and foreign affairs as well as other matters outside the limits of the autonomy of the Region.
  • Adding law to this list causes it to be enforced in the city by way of promulgation– meaning automatically being put into effect.
  • The Chinese parliament chose the second route, andthe new legislation has been made the part of Hong Kong’s Basic Law.

What is this law all about?

The law criminalises any act of:

  • Secession – breaking away from the country.
  • Subversion – undermining the power or authority of the central government.
  • Terrorism – using violence or intimidation against people.
  • Collusion with foreign or external forces.

What will it mean in Hong Kong?

  • It gives China powers to shape life in Hong Kong, which critics say will curtail protest and freedom of speech.

The new law’s key provisions include that:

  • Crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces are punishable by a maximum sentence of life in prison.
  • Damaging public transport facilities can be considered terrorism.
  • Those found guilty will not be allowed to stand for public office.
  • Companies can be fined if convicted under the law.
  • Beijing will establish a new security office in Hong Kong, with its own law enforcement personnel.
  • This office can send some cases to be tried in mainland China – but Beijing has said it will only have that power over a tiny number of cases.
  • Hong Kong will have to establish its own national security commission to enforce the laws, with a Beijing-appointed adviser.
  • Beijing will have power over how the law should be interpreted, not any Hong Kong judicial or policy body.
  • The law will also apply to non-permanent residents and people from outside [Hong Kong] who are not permanent residents of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong:

  • A former British colony, Hong Kong was handed over to mainland China in 1997, becoming one of its Special Administrative Regions.
  • It is governed by a mini-constitution called the Basic Law — which affirms the principle of one country, two systems.
  • The constitutional document is a product of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration– under which China promised to honour Hong Kong’s liberal policies, system of governance, independent judiciary, and individual freedoms for 50 years from 1997.
  • Since the handover, Hong Kong residents have time and again taken to the streets to protect their Basic Law freedoms.
  • The first major pro-democracy protest took place in 2003.
  • In 2014, over one lakh city residents took part in the ‘Umbrella Revolution’ to protest against China’s denial of democratic reforms.
  • The largest protests took place in 2019 against a proposed extradition law and continued with pro-democracy marches even after the legislation was withdrawn.

 [Ref: BBC, Indian Express]

Key Facts for Prelims

Robot Nurses for patient care

  • Two robot nurses named Asha have been successfully deployed at a COVID-19 First-line Treatment Centre at the Thottackad Medical Centre at Eraviperoor, Kerala.
  • An ASHA [Accredited Social Health Activist] worker in the district testing positive for COVID-19 prompted the panchayat to explore new ways to ensure adequate protection to health-care workers at the hospital.
  • The robots will take medicines, bedsheets, food, etc., weighing up to 8 kg, to each hospital room.
  • The robots will also facilitate real-time interaction with patients for their family members even from a distance of 15 km.

Sahiyas

  • The ASHAs (Accredited Social Health Activist) in Jharkhand, known as Sahiyas, have been supporting delivery of health care services to the last mile, especially in the tribal areas.
  • Jharkhand launched the week-long Intensive Public Health Survey (IPHS) to identify the high-risk population for COVID-19 in June.
  • Since the launch of the programme, the Sahiyas have been widely acknowledged in enabling access to health care, even in the hard to reach and remote tribal areas.

Doctor’s Day

  • Doctor’s Day in India was established by the Government of India in 1991 to be celebrated every year on 1st of July, to honour the Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy, the second Chief Minister of West Bengal and a legendary physician.
  • The theme of 2020 is ‘Lessen the mortality of COVID-19’, dedicated to the hard work of doctors amid the pandemic.

Diana Award

  • Freya Thakral, a 13-year-old student of New Delhi, has been named among the recipients of the 2020 Diana Award, which recognises young changemakers across the world.
  • She has been chosen for her Recycler App, a web-based mobile application to connect users with waste-handlers.
  • The door-to-door pick-up service helps in easy disposal of recyclable waste for those who may not have the means or time to travel to drop their waste.
  • The award is given out by a charity established in memory of the deceased Princess of Wales, princess Diana.
  • The award is considered to be the highest accolade a young person can achieve for social action or humanitarian efforts.

J2157

  • J2157 is the fastest-growing black hole andthe brightest black hole known in the universe.
  • The black hole is 34 billion times the mass of our Sun and it eats the mass equivalent of one sun every day.
  • The supermassive black hole is only one step short of the largest black hole in the universeAbell 85 — which has a mass of 40 billion suns.
  • The black hole is 1.2 billion light-years away from Earth and 8,000 times bigger than the black hole Sagittarius A*, which is at the centre of the Milky Way.
  • If this black hole was at the centre of the Milky Way, it would appear in Earth’s skies 10 times brighter than a full moon.

Narcondom Hornbill

  • The Narcondam hornbill is endemic to the Indian island of Narcondam in the Andamans.
  • The Narcondam hornbill has the smallest home range out of all the species of Asian hornbills.
  • It is suspected that a very small population, which is restricted to the tiny island, consists of fewer than 250 mature individuals.
  • IUCN status: Endangered.
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