Current Affairs Analysis

3rd April 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Lifeline Udan; New features of e-NAM platform; National Agricultural Market (e-NAM); Aarogya Setu; Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY); COVID-19 Quarantine Alert System; Indian Telegraph Act, 1885; RBI deferred CCCB; Counter Cyclical capital Buffer (CCCB); E-way bills; Doctors wary of BCG vaccine study; BCG Vaccine; Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of State Laws) Order, 2020; Bio suite; Snapana Thirumanjanam; Athletics Integrity Unit; Patriot air defence missiles; Global maps of soil moisture and groundwater wetness conditions
By IASToppers
April 03, 2020

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Polity & Governance

Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of State Laws) Order, 2020:

The Central government has redefined domicile for government jobs in the newly-created Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir through the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of State Laws) Order, 2020.

What are the new provisions?

  • A person residing in J&K for at least 15 years will now be eligible to be a domicile of the Union Territory.
  • Those who have studied in J&K for 7 years and appeared in either Class 10 or Class 12 exam will also be eligible for J&K domicile certificates.
  • The domicile rights are also extended to all migrants who have been registered by the Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner.
  • The Act authorises the Tehsildar as a competent authority for issuing domicile certificate, as opposed to Deputy Commissioner.
  • The Centre has repealed the J&K Civil Services (Special Provisions ) Act.

Jobs reserved for J & K domiciles:

  • The law provides employment on the basis of domicile and not on the basis of residence, as it used to be earlier.
  • According to the new law, jobs up to lowest level of non-gazetted rank are reserved for Jammu and Kashmir domiciles.
  • The level 4 includes posts like Junior Assistant, Constable, which is considered as the lowest category of non-gazetted posts.
  • This indicates domiciles of J&K UT would have exclusive right on class-4th and non-gazetted posts to be advertised by the Services Selection Board from now on wards.
  • All Indian citizens, including J&K domiciles, would be eligible for remaining non-gazetted and gazetted posts.
  • The reservation to people of J&K is only with respect to class 4th jobs.
  • The non-gazetted as well as gazetted posts are available to all Indian citizens.
  • Prior to August 5, 2019, all jobs in erstwhile state of J&K were exclusively reserved for permanent residents of the State.
  • It opens gateway to outsiders (non-permanent residents) to apply for jobs in J&K.
  • J&K Civil cadre already being done away with, and 50% cap for local recruits further reduced to 33%, it opens gateway to IAS officers across India to work in J&K.
[Ref: Kashmir Observer]

Issues related to health and education

Aarogya Setu

National Informatics Center (NIC) under Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has developed an application “Arogya Sethu”.

Features:

  • The multi-lingual application aims to connect Indian citizens with essential health services in the wake of the on-going coronavirus crisis.
  • The app uses a person’s phone’s Bluetooth and GPS systems to alert him whenever he comes within six feet of a COVID-19 infected person.
  • The alerts are generated by scanning through government-owned, location-specific patient databases.
  • Available in 11 languages, the App is ready for pan-India use from day-1 and has highly scalable architecture.
  • While the app searches for information about COVID-19 patient, it does not violates the privacy of the patient.
  • The personal data collected by the App is encrypted using state-of-the-art technology and stays secure on the phone till it is needed for facilitating medical intervention.

Significance:

  • This app is a unique example of pooling resources and efforts to respond to a global crisis
  • It is at once a bridge between public and private sectors, digital technology and health services delivery and the potential of young India with a disease-free and healthy future of the nation.

Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology:

  • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) is an executive agency of the Union Government of the Republic of India.
  • It was carved out of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology on 19 July 2016 as a standalone ministerial agency responsible for IT policy, strategy and development of the electronics industry.

Vision:

  • e-Development of India as the engine for transition into a developed nation and an empowered society.

Mission:

  • To promote e-Governance for empowering citizens, promoting the inclusive and sustainable growth of the Electronics, IT & ITeS industries, enhancing India’s role in Internet Governance, adopting a multipronged approach that includes development of human resources, promoting R&D and innovation, enhancing efficiency through digital services and ensuring a secure cyber space.

Objectives:

  • e-Government: Providing e-infrastructure for delivery of e-services
  • e-Industry: Promotion of electronics hardware manufacturing and IT-ITeS industry
  • e-Innovation / R&D: Implementation of R&D Framework – Enabling creation of Innovation/ R&D Infrastructure in emerging areas of ICT&E/Establishment of mechanism for R&D translation
  • e-Learning: Providing support for development of e-Skills and Knowledge network
  • e-Security: Securing India’s cyber space
  • e-Inclusion: Promoting the use of ICT for more inclusive growth
  • Internet Governance: Enhancing India’s role in Global Platforms of Internet Governance.
[Ref: PIB, MeitY]

COVID-19 Quarantine Alert System

The Centre is using powers under the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 to “fetch information” from telecom companies every 15 minutes to track COVID-19 cases across the country.

What is the issue?

  • The government has tested an application that triggers e-mails and SMS alerts to an authorised government agency if a person has jumped quarantine or escaped from isolation, based on the person’s mobile phone’s cell tower location.
  • The “geo-fencing” is accurate by up to 300 m.
  • The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) shared a standard operating procedure (SOP) with all telecom service providers regarding the application called COVID-19 Quarantine Alert System (CQAS).
  • The system will collate phone data, including the device’s location, on a common secured platform and alert the local agencies in case of a violation by COVID patients under watch or in isolation.

Legal provisions:

  • The States have been asked to seek the approval of their Home Secretaries under the provisions of Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, for the specified mobile phone numbers to request the DoT to provide information by email or SMS in case of violation of “geo-fencing”.
  • The provisions of Section 5(2) under the Act, authorises State or Centre to access information of a user’s phone data in case of “occurrence of any public emergency or in the interest of the public safety.”

Indian Telegraph Act, 1885:

  • The main objective of the Telegraph Act was to give power to the Government to install telegraph lines on private as well as public property.

Important clauses:

  • Section 4 of the Act deals with exclusive privilege of the government to establish, maintain and use telegraphs.
  • Section 5 of the Telegraph Act gives power to the government to take possession of any licensed telegraphs in case of a public emergency or in the interest of public safety. It can also order interception of communication in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state etc.
  • An order for law interception can only be made by the Home Secretary to the Government of India and home secretaries of state governments.
  • Section 7 of the Telegraph Act vests with the government the power to make rules for the conduct of telegraphs. Central Government may impose fine if there is any breach of rules made by it under the Telegraph Act.
[Ref: The Hindu, DoT]

Doctors wary of BCG vaccine study

Doctors and scientists in India have expressed caution on a study, which argues that countries that have deployed the BCG-tuberculosis vaccine in their immunisation programmes have seen fewer deaths from coronavirus (COVID-19).

Highlights of the study:

  • The study argues that 55 middle and high-income countries chosen for the analysis, that have a current universal BCG policy had 0.78 deaths per million people, whereas middle and high income countries that never had a universal BCG policy (5 countries) had a larger mortality rate, with 16.39 deaths per million people.
  • India, while having a universal BCG policy in place and relatively fewer deaths as a proportion of confirmed coronavirus infections.
  • Italy where the COVID-19 mortality is very high, never implemented universal BCG vaccination.
  • On the other hand, Japan (and which has a BCG policy since 1947) had one of the early cases of COVID-19 but it has maintained a low mortality rate despite not implementing the most strict forms of social isolation.
  • Spain, France, the United States, Italy and the Netherlands don’t have universal BCG policies and have seen many deaths from COVID-19.
  • However, the study is not backed yet.

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.
  • Several studies have shown that the BCG vaccine, because it accentuates a powerful immune response, has conferred a significant degree of protection against leprosy and non-invasive bladder cancers.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Economy

New features of e-NAM platform

Union Agricultural Minister has launched new features of e-NAM Platform. The new features will reduce farmers’ need to come to wholesale mandis for selling their harvested produce and decongest mandis amidst COVID-19.

What are the features?

1. Launch of Negotiable Warehouse Receipt (e-NWRs) module in National Agriculture Market (e-NAM) software:

  • To enable small & marginal famers to directly trade their stored produce from selected WDRA registered warehouses which are declared deemed market by the State.
  • Farmers will be able to place their produce in WDRA accredited warehouses.

Benefits of e-NWRs integration with e-NAM:

  • Depositor can save the Logistics expenses and decongest Mandis.
  • Farmers will be able to place their produce in WDRA accredited warehouses avail the benefit of pledge loan if required.
  • Price stabilization by matching supply and demand through time and place utility.

2. FPO trading module:

  • Facility provided to Farmer Producer Organization (FPO) to upload assaying report / photo of their produce from their premise to enable traders to visualise the produce before bidding.

3. Launch of Logistic Module:

  • Enhanced version of logistic module to facilitate inter-mandi and inter-state trade.

National Agricultural Market (NAM):

  • National Agriculture Market (e-NAM), an initiative of Ministry of Agriculture was launched in 2016.
  • It is a pan-India electronic trade portal to facilitate farmers, traders and buyers with online trading in agricultural commodities.
  • It networks the existing APMC mandis all over India in order to create a unified national market for agricultural commodities.
  • The market facilitates farmers, traders and buyers with online trading in commodities.
  • It is helping in better price discovery and provides facilities for smooth marketing of their produce.
  • Over 90 commodities including staple food grains, vegetables and fruits are currently listed in its list of commodities available for trade.

Implementation:

  • Small Farmers Agribusiness Consortium (SFAC) is the lead agency for implementing e-NAM under the aegis of Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Government of India.

Vision of NAM:

  • To promote uniformity in agriculture marketing by streamlining of procedures across the integrated markets.
  • Removing information asymmetry between buyers and sellers.
  • Promoting real time price discovery based on actual demand and supply
[Ref: PIB]

RBI deferred CCCB

Recently, RBI has deferred the implementation of CCCB (Counter Cyclical capital Buffer) for banks.

Counter Cyclical capital Buffer (CCCB):

  • Countercyclical capital buffers require banks to hold capital at times when credit is growing rapidly so that the buffer can be reduced if the financial cycle turns down or the economic and financial environment becomes substantially worse.
  • Banks can use the capital buffers they have built up during the growth phase of the financial cycle to cover losses that may arise during periods of stress and to continue supplying credit to the real economy.
  • Counter Cyclical Capital buffer is the capital to be kept by a bank to meet business cycle related risks.

Significance:

  • It is aimed to protect the banking sector against losses from changes in economic conditions.
  • Banks may face difficulties in phases like recession when the loan amount doesn’t return.
  • To meet such situations, banks should have own additional capital.
  • This is an important theme of the Basel III norms.

Key fact:

  • The discretion for operating the release phase of CCCB shall be with RBI.
  • The entire CCCB accumulated may be released at a single point in time but the use of the same by banks will not be unfettered and will need to be decided only after discussion with the RBI.
[Ref: The Hindu, Indian Economy]

E-way bills

Having been stuck for the last two weeks amid lockdown in the country, truckers raise concerns over  e-way bills for goods in transit or in godowns, which were getting expired and could not be renewed on due dates.

About E-way bills:

  • E-Way Bill is the short form of Electronic Way Bill.
  • It is a unique document/bill which is electronically generated for the specific consignment/movement of goods from one place to another, either inter-state or intra-state and of value more than INR 50,000, required under the current Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime.
  • It offers the technological framework to track intra-state as well as inter-state movements of goods of value exceeding Rs 50,000, for sales beyond 10 km in the GST regime.
  • The e-Way Bill has been made compulsory from 1st April 2018.
  • When e-Way Bill is generated, a unique e-Way Bill Number (EBN) is made available to the supplier, recipient and the transporter.

Who should generate an e-Way Bill?

GST Registered Person:

  • When a registered person causes the movement of goods/ consignment, either in the capacity of a consignee (i.e., buyer) or consignor (i.e., seller) in his/her vehicle or hired vehicle or railways or by air or by ship, then either the registered person or the recipient should generate the e-Way Bill.

Unregistered Person:

  • When an unregistered person causes the movement of goods, through his/her conveyance or hired conveyance or using the services of a transporter, then the e-Way Bill needs to be generated either by the unregistered person or by the transporter.

When Should E-Way Bill Be Issued?

  • Ideally, e-Way Bill should be generated before the commencement of movement of goods above the value of INR 50,000 (either individual invoice or consolidated invoice of multiple consignments).
  • The movement of goods will be either about a supply/ reasons other than supply (like return)/ inward supply from an unregistered person.
  • For purposes of an e-Way Bill, supply is considered either a payment in the course of business/ a payment which may not be in the course of business/ no consideration of payment (in the case of barter/ exchange).
[Ref: Profit Books, Indian Express]

Key Facts for Prelims

Bio suite

  • Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed a bio suit to keep the medical, paramedical and other personnel engaged in combating COVID-19 safe from the deadly virus. 
  • The DRDO has prepared a special sealant as an alternative to seam sealing tape based on the sealant used in submarine applications.
  • Presently, bio suits prepared using this glue for seam sealing by an industry partner has cleared test at Southern India Textile Research Association (SITRA) Coimbatore.
  • This can be a game changer for the textile industry. 

Snapana Thirumanjanam

  • Special rituals were performed for Ramanavami inside the temple of Lord Venkateswara recently.
  • After the completion of the daily rituals, the priests ceremoniously carried out ‘Snapana Thirumanjanam (Holy bathing if idols)’ to the presiding deities.

Athletics Integrity Unit

  • The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) has acknowledged that its antidoping programme will be “severely disrupted” because of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The Athletics Integrity Unit was founded by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in April 2017 to combat doping in the sport of athletics.
  • The unit functions fully independently from the IAAF.

Patriot air defence missiles

  • US recently deployed Patriot air defence missiles to Iraq.
  • Patriot (MIM-104) is a long-range, all-altitude, air defence system to counter tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and advanced aircraft.
  • It is equipped with a track-via-missile (TVM) guidance system.
  • Range: 70km and a maximum altitude > 24km.
  • The minimum flight time is less than nine seconds and the maximum is three and a half minutes.

Lifeline Udan

  • The Ministry of Civil Aviation has launched Lifeline Udan flights for domestic and overseas movement of essential cargo.
  • The objective is to ensure unhindered supply of medical products across the country.

Global maps of soil moisture and groundwater wetness conditions

  • NASA researchers have developed new satellite-based, weekly global maps of soil moisture and groundwater wetness conditions.
  • While maps of current dry/wet conditions for US have been available since 2012, this is the first time they have been available globally.
  • Both the global maps and the U.S. forecasts use data from NASA and German Research Center for Geosciences’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow On (GRACE-FO) satellites, a pair of spacecraft that detect the movement of water on Earth based on variations of Earth’s gravity field.
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