Current Affairs Analysis

2nd May 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Kashmir saffron gets GI tag; Kisan Sabha Application; WHO raises concern over use of BCG vaccine; Bacillus Calmette Guerin (BCG) vaccine; Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES); Garment and made-up exporters to get ROSL arrears; Rebate of State and Central Taxes and Levies scheme; Karewa uplands; Bannerghatta Biological Park; National S&T Survey 2018; One Nation One Ration Card Scheme; China’s DC/EP; Thikri Pehra; etc.
By IASToppers
May 04, 2020

Contents

Government Schemes and Policies

  • Kisan Sabha Application

Issues related to Health and Education

  • WHO raises concern over use of BCG vaccine
  • Acute Encephalitis Syndrome

Economy

  • Garment and made-up exporters to get ROSL arrears
  • Kashmir saffron gets GI tag

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Bannerghatta Biological Park

Science & Technology

  • National S&T Survey 2018

Key Facts for Prelims

  • One Nation One Ration Card Scheme
  • China’s DC/EP
  • Thikri Pehra

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Government Schemes and Policies

Kisan Sabha Application

The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has launched the Kisan Sabha App recently to connect farmers to the supply chain and freight transportation Management System.

Aim:

  • To provide the most economical and timely logistics support to the farmers and increase their profit margins by minimizing interference of middlemen and directly connecting with the institutional buyers.

Key features:

  • The portal connects the farmers, transporters, Service providers (like pesticides/ fertilizer/ dealers, cold store and warehouse owner), mandi dealers, customers (like big retail outlets, online stores, institutional buyers) and other related entities for timely and effective solution.
  • KisanSabha also works for people in the agriculture services sector such as dealers of fertilizers/ pesticides,who can reach out to more farmers for their services.
  • It would also prove to be useful for those associated with cold stores or godowns.
  • KisanSabha also provides a platform for people who want to buy directly from the farmers.
  • Kisan Sabha has 6 major modules taking care of Farmers/Mandi Dealers/Transporters/Mandi Board Members/ Service Providers/Consumers.

Significance:

  • The App will act as a single stop for every entity related to agriculture, be it a farmer who needs better price for the crops or mandi dealer who wants to connect to more farmers or truckers who invariably go empty from the mandis.
  • It will also help in providing best market rates of crops by comparing nearest mandis, booking of freight vehicles at cheapest cost thereby giving maximum benefit to the farmers.
[Ref: PIB]

Issues related to Health and Education

WHO raises concern over use of BCG vaccine

The director of the World Health Organization has highlighted critical issues over the use of BCG vaccine for COVID-19.

What is the issue?

  • A study posted in march 2020 found an association between countries that have a universal BCG vaccination and reduced coronavirus cases — and even deaths.
  • As per the authors BCG enhances the innate immune response to subsequent infections and might reduce viral load after SARS-COV-2 exposure, with a consequent less severe COVID-19 and more rapid recovery.
  • However, the preprints are yet to be reviewed and published in scientific journals.

Developments after the report:

  • Randomised controlled trials using BCG vaccine are under way in the Netherlands and Australia to find out whether the vaccine can reduce the incidence and severity of COVID-19 among healthcare workers.
  • The authors cite five reasons countries should wait for the results of the BCG vaccine randomised controlled trials.

Reasons to wait for scientific backing:

  • The association of fewer COVID-19 cases in countries that have a universal BCG vaccination programme is based on population rather than individual data.
  • Second, the beneficial effects of the BCG vaccine given at birth are “unlikely” to reduce the severity of COVID-19 decades later as the  beneficial off-target effects of the BCG vaccine might be altered by subsequent administration of a different vaccine.
  • There is a possibility that the BCG vaccine ramps up the immune system leading to exacerbation of COVID-19 in a small population of patients with a severe disease, leading to cytokine storms in some patients which may cause further complications and even death.
  • If not effective against the novel coronavirus, BCG vaccination is likely to give a false sense of security to people, especially during the pandemic.
  • Using the vaccine without evidence of its benefits could further jeopardise vaccine supply, which is already short, to protect children against disseminated TB in high-risk countries.

BCG vaccine:

  • Bacillus Calmette Guerin (BCG) vaccine is a vaccine primarily used against tuberculosis (TB).
  •  In countries where tuberculosis or leprosy is common, one dose is recommended in healthy babies as close to the time of birth as possible.
  • BCG vaccine accentuates a powerful immune response.
  • Several studies have shown that BCG dose has shown a significant degree of protection against leprosy and non-invasive bladder cancers.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Acute Encephalitis Syndrome

Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) has fanned fear among the villagers and health officials in Bihar ahead of scorching summers.

What is the issue?

  • AES or locally known as chamki bukhar has gripped several children in Bihar during March and April 2020.
  • AES is a regular phenomenon in the state and cases see a surge in May-June when the mercury touches 42 degrees Celsius mark.
  • The district administration is focussing to minimise the number of cases through mass awareness campaigns, immunisation and schemes to fight malnutrition among the children.

About Acute Encephalitis Syndrome:

  • It is a neurological disorder which affects the brain and the limbic system when a specific strain of virus or a bacteria attacks the body.
  • It starts with high fever, then hampers neurological functions causing mental disorientation, seizure, confusion, delirium, coma.
  • The disease outbreak is usually reported during monsoons (June-October). But the incidence is also reported during April-June in Bihar.

Causes:

  • Viruses are the main causative agents in AES cases, although other sources such as bacteria, fungus, parasites, spirochetes, chemicals, toxins and non-infectious agents have also been reported over the past few decades.
  • Apart from viral encephalitis, severe forms of leptospirosis and toxoplasmosis can cause AES.
  • There are some assumptions of causes of AES in India.
  • In India, AES outbreaks in north and eastern India have been linked to children eating unripe litchi fruit on empty stomachs.
  • Unripe fruit contain the toxins hypoglycin A and methylenecyclopropylglycine (MCPG), which cause vomiting if ingested in large quantities.
  • These toxins cause sudden high fever and seizures serious enough to require hospitalisation in young, severely malnourished children.
  • However, litchi and deaths due to AES cannot be associated presently due to lack of confirmation by scientists.
  • Some believe that malnutrition, heat, humidity and poor hygiene are the reasons for AES.

Status of AES in India:

  • AES due to JE was clinically diagnosed in India for the first time in 1955 in Tamil Nadu.
  • According to the National Vector Borne Diseases Control Programme (NVBDCP), more than 10,000 AES cases were diagnosed in 2018 with 632 deaths across 17 states.
  • India records fatality rate at 6 per cent in AES, but the fatality rises to 25 per cent amongst children.
  • Bihar, Assam, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Tripura are the worst affected states of AES.

Treatment:

  • Hydration and increasing the glucose levels in the body is the first treatment for the patient having AES.
  • However, there are only a limited number of reliably tested specific antiviral agents that can help such as acyclovir, Corticosteroids (to reduce the brain’s inflammation) and Anticonvulsants (given to patients who have seizures.)
[Ref: Down to Earth]

Economy

Garment and made-up exporters to get ROSL arrears

According to a Department of Revenue communication the garment and made-up exporters who have Rebate of State Levies (ROSL) Scheme will receive arrears in the form of scrips.

Major Highlights:

  • The ROSL Scheme reimburses the State levies that garment and made-up exports incurred and was discontinued in March 2019.
  • The scheme was replaced with the Rebate of State and Central Taxes and Levies scheme.
  • In order to clear pending claims under the ROSL scheme, ₹464.13 crore has been allocated for issue of duty credit scrips by the DGFT to exporters who have pending claims.
  • It is a welcome move as the exporters are in need of funds now and that the scrips would provide relief.

Rebate of State and Central Taxes and Levies scheme:

  • The Union Cabinet approved the Scheme to Rebate State and Central Embedded Taxes to Support the Textile Sector in March 2019.
  • This will enable the Government to take various measures for making exports of apparel and made-ups zero rated.

Details:

  • Prior to the scheme, the apparel and made-ups segments were supported under the Scheme for Rebate of State Levies (RoSL).
  • However, certain States taxes as well as Central Taxes continued to be present in the cost of exports.
  • The present scheme provides to rebate all embedded State and Central Taxes/levies for apparel and made-ups which have a combined share of around 56% in India’s textile export basket.
  • Rebate of taxes/levies has been permitted through an IT-driven scrip system at notified rates.

Benefits:

  • The proposed measures are expected to make the textile sector competitive.
  • Rebate of all Embedded State and Central taxes/levies for apparel and made-ups segments would make exports zero-rated.
  • This will boost India’s competitiveness in export markets and ensure equitable and inclusive growth of the textile and apparel sector.
[Ref: PIB, The Hindu]

Kashmir saffron gets GI tag

Kashmir saffron, which is a spice and health rejuvenator and the pride of Jammu and Kashmir, has been given geographical indication (GI) tag recently.

Kashmir saffron:

  • Kashmir saffron is cultivated and harvested in the Karewa (highlands) of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The unique characteristics of Kashmir saffron are longer and thicker stigmas, natural deep-red colour, high aroma, bitter flavour, chemical-free processing and high quantity of crocin (colouring strength), safranal (flavour) and picrocrocin (bitterness).
  • Besides having high medicinal value, Kashmir saffron has been associated with traditional Kashmiri cuisine and represents the rich cultural heritage of Kashmir.
  • It is the only saffron grown at an altitude of 1600m to 1800m above the mean sea level in the world, which adds to its uniqueness.

History of origin:

  • The cultivation of saffron was introduced by Central Asian immigrants around the first century BC.
  • It was also known as ‘Bahukam’ in ancient Sanskrit literature Amarakosara.
  • According to Chinese records, in 647 AD, the king of Kashmir had presented saffron as a gift to the Chinese emperor.

Karewa uplands:

  • The term Karewa is derived from the Kashmiri dialect which means, “elevated table-land.”
  • This term refers to an unconsolidated to semi-consolidated sand-clay-conglomerate sequence.
  • Karewas are lacustrine deposits (along the shore of lakes) or the Karewa formation is glacio- fluvial-lacustrine and aeolian loess of Plio-Pleistocene age. 

Formation:

  • The sediments kept coming in through rivers and kept on depositing in around the lake, thus resulting in the formation of a lacustrine plain.
  • Over the time the water drained away leaving behind deposits viz. unconsolidated gravel and mud. These deposits are known as Karewa.

Karewa of Kashmir:

  • The Kashmir valley is known for Karewa deposits.
  • The thickness of karewas is about 1400 m.
  • It lies between the Pir Panjal Range and the Great Himalayan Range, in Northwest India.
  • The Karewa deposits are composed of sand, silt, clay, shale, mud, lignite, gravel and loessic sediments.
  • Therefore, it is extremely important for agricultural and horticultural practices in the valley.
  • The world famous variety of saffron is cultivated on these deposits.
  • It also helps in the cultivation of almonds, walnuts, apples and orchards.
[Ref: Times of India]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Bannerghatta Biological Park

Bannerghatta Biological Park (BBP) has come out with an animal adoption programme providing an opportunity to conserve wildlife and adopt animals at the zoo.

About the programme:

  • The park has launched an online animal adoption programme which can be utilised to adopt any animal in the zoo ranging from reptiles to large sized mammals.
  • The animal adoption programme is an opportunity to get involved in supporting feed and veterinary care expenses for zoo animals with provision for Income Tax rebate under 80G.
  • The animal adoption initiative is part of the BBPs outreach programme as people are not able to visit the zoo due to the lockdown.
  • The purpose of the adoption programme is to create awareness and connect with people involved in conservation activities, not just generating revenues.

Bannerghatta National Park:

  • The Bannerghatta National Park is located near Bangalore in Karnataka.
  • The Bannerghatta Biological Park has been an integral part of Bannerghatta National Park and emerged out as an independent establishment during the year 2002.
  • It houses a great biodiversity which includes wildlife such as elephants, gaur, leopard, jackal, fox, wild boar, sloth bear, sambar, chital, spotted deer, barking deer, common langur etc.
  • The Suvarnamukhi river stream runs through the national park.
[Ref: The Hindu Business Line]

Science & Technology

National S&T Survey 2018

The National S&T Survey 2018 brought out by the National Science and Technology Management Information (NSTMIS), Department of Science and Technology (DST) has shown positive trends in S&T.

Key findings of the report:

1. India’s gross expenditure in R&D has tripled between 2008 & 2018:

  • The Gross expenditure on R&D in the country has been consistently increasing over the years and has nearly tripled from 2007- 08 to Rs. 1,13,825.03 crore in 2017-18.
  • India’s per capita R&D expenditure has increased to PPP $ 47.2 in 2017-18 from PPP $ 29.2 in 2007-08.
  • India spent 0.7% of its GDP on R&D in 2017-18, while the same among other developing BRICS countries was Brazil 1.3%, Russian Federation 1.1%, China 2.1% and South Africa 0.8%.

2. Extramural R&D support by central S&T agencies has increased:

  • DST and DBT were the two major players contributing 63% and 14%, respectively, of the total extramural R&D support in the country during 2016-17.
  • Women participation in extramural R&D projects has increased significantly to 24% in 2016-17 due to various initiatives undertaken by the Government in the S & T sector.

3. The number of researchers per mn populations has doubled since 2000.

  • Number of researchers per million population in India has increased to 255 in 2017.
  • India’s R&D expenditure per researcher was ahead of Russian Federation, Israel, Hungary, Spain and the UK.
  • India occupies 3rd rank in terms of number of Phds awarded in Science and Engineering (S&E) after the USA (39,710 in 2016) and China (34,440 in 2015).

4. India is placed 3rd among countries in scientific publication as per NSF database:

  • During 2018, India was ranked at 3rd, 5th and 9th in scientific publication output as per the NSF, SCOPUS and SCI database respectively.

5. India is ranked at 9th position in terms of Resident Patent Filing activity in the world:

  • During 2017-18 a total of 47,854 patents were filed in India. Out of which, 15,550 (32%) patents were filed by Indian residents.
  • Patent applications filed in India are dominated by disciplines like Mechanical, Chemical, Computer/Electronics, and Communication.
  • According to WIPO, India’s Patent Office stands at the 7th position among the top 10 Patent Filing Offices in the world.
[Ref: PIB]

Key Facts for Prelims

One Nation One Ration Card scheme

  • The Ministry of Food and Consumer Affairs has approved the integration of 5 States and Union Territories, – Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu – with the National Cluster under the “One Nation One Ration Card” plan.
  • Twelve States are already onboard the National Cluster, namely – Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Kerala, Karnataka Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Telangana and Tripura.
  • With this, the facility of national/inter-State portability will be available for nearly 60 Crore NFSA (National Food Security Act) beneficiaries of 17 States/UT and they may lift their entitled quota of foodgrains from any Fair Price Shop (FPS) of their choice, anywhere in these 17 States/UT by using their same/existing ration card under ‘One Nation One Ration Card’ plan.

China’s DC/EP

  • China’s central bank has started testing its official digital currency, days after Facebook-backed Libra scaled back its ambitions to become a global currency.
  • The Digital Currency Research Institute of the People’s Bank of China (PBC), China’s central bank, said that the research and development work of China’s official digital currency – Digital Currency Electronic Payment, dubbed as DC/EP, is proceeding steadily, and the internal pilot tests are carried out in four cities.
  • The tests will be conducted in scenarios of the 2022 Winter Olympics Games in Beijing.

Thikri Pehra

  • Thikri pehra is community policing practiced in Punjab and Haryana.
  • The tradition made a comeback after more than two decades — when communities guarded their villages in the aftermath of terrorist movement and rise of local dacoits.
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