Government Schemes and Policies
- Pradhan Mantri Svanidhi Scheme
- Schemes to attract electronics makers
Issues related to Health and Education
- Congo declares new Ebola epidemic
- Arsenicum album 30
- 2nd Advance Estimates of 2019-20 of Horticulture Crops
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Ongoing sixth Mass Extinction
Bilateral & International Relations
- China opposes THAAD deployment in South Korea
Science and Technology
- Sun’s coronal heating puzzle
Key Facts for Prelims
- Non-profit organisations allowed to list in stock exchanges
- Second most common coronavirus type in India
- Assam gas well puts biodiversity at risk
- Dibru Saikhowa national Park
- Drug Bank
- SPIC MACAY
- Section 325 and 353 of IPC
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Government Schemes and Policies
Pradhan Mantri Svanidhi Scheme
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs recently launched PM Svanidhi or Pradhan Mantri Street Vendor’s Atma Nirbhar Nidhi scheme.
- To provide affordable loans of up to ₹10,000 to more than 50 lakh street vendors, who had their businesses operational on or before 24 March.
- The special micro-credit facility plan aims to enable street vendors to resume their livelihoods, which have been hit hard due to the national lockdown.
- Under the scheme, vendors can avail working capital loan of up to ₹10,000, which is repayable in monthly instalments within one year.
- On timely/early repayment of the loan, an interest subsidy of 7% per annum will be credited to the bank accounts of beneficiaries through Direct Benefit Transfer on six-months basis.
- The scheme is applicable to vendors, hawkers, thelewalas etc.in different areas/contexts who supply goods and services.
- Street vendors belonging to the surrounding peri-urban/rural areas are also included.
- Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) is the technical partner for implementation of this scheme and will manage the credit guarantee to the lending institutions through Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises.
- The scheme is valid until March 2022.
- These small vendors usually work with a small capital base taken on very high interest rates from informal sources.
- Further, they might have consumed their savings and high cost capital during the lockdown.
- Hence, the scheme provides affordable credit for working capital through formal banking channels to help them resume the business.
Schemes to attract electronics makers
Union Technology Minister recently unveiled the guidelines for electronics manufacturing schemes with an aim to strengthen domestic manufacturing of five global and five Indian mobile phone makers.
- The three Schemes unveiled are: Production-Linked Incentive Scheme (PLI), Scheme for Promotion of Manufacturing of Electronic Components and Semiconductors (SPECS) and Modified Electronics Manufacturing Clusters (EMC 2.0).
- The schemes were notified by the Ministry of Electronics and IT on April 1 with a total outlay of Rs 50,000 crore.
- The vision of National Policy on Electronics 2019 is to position India as a global hub for Electronics System Design and Manufacturing by encouraging and driving capabilities in the country for developing core components, including chipsets, and creating an enabling environment for the industry to compete globally.
Production-Linked Incentive Scheme:
- The PLI Scheme shall extend an incentive of 4% to 6% on incremental sales (over base year) of goods manufactured in India and covered under the target segments, to eligible companies for a period of five years after the base year.
- The scheme envisages to boost local handset production will help meet the targets under NPE 2019.
- This will not only spur manufacturing but will make India an export-led global manufacturing hub for mobile phones.
Scheme for Promotion of Manufacturing of Electronic Components and Semiconductors:
- The SPECS shall provide financial incentive of 25% on capital expenditure for the identified list of electronic goods, i.e., electronic components, semiconductor/ display fabrication units, Assembly, Test, Marking and Packaging (ATMP) units, specialized sub-assemblies and capital goods for manufacture of aforesaid goods.
Modified Electronics Manufacturing Clusters:
- The EMC 2.0 shall provide support for creation of world class infrastructure along with common facilities and amenities, including Ready Built Factory (RBF) sheds / Plug and Play facilities for attracting major global electronics manufacturers, along with their supply chains.
- The schemes are expected to increase production of mobile phones and their parts to around Rs.10,00,000 crore by 2025 and generate around 5 lakh direct and 15 lakh indirect jobs.
Issues related to Health and Education
Congo declares new Ebola epidemic
Democratic Republic of Congo declared a new Ebola epidemic in the western city of Mbandaka, more than 1,000 km away from an ongoing outbreak in the country’s east.
- The new outbreak was confirmed by the World Health Organization.
- Congo has been struggling to put an end to a nearly two-year-old Ebola outbreak near its eastern borders with Rwanda and Uganda.
- The outbreak has killed more than 2,200 people and is the world’s second-deadliest outbreak of the disease.
Ebola virus disease:
- Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever is a severe, often fatal illness in humans.
- Ebola first appeared in 1976 in two simultaneous outbreaks in South Sudan and the other in Yambuku, Congo.
- The average Ebola case fatality rate is around 50%.
- The symptoms of the virus start showing anytime between 2-21 days after contracting the virus.
- It is introduced into the human population through close contact with the organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals such as fruit bats, chimpanzees, gorillas etc.
- It also spreads through human-to-human transmission via direct contact with body fluids of a person who is sick from Ebola.
- There is as yet no proven treatment available for Ebola.
Arsenicum album 30
A homoeopathic drug Arsenicum album 30, has become a subject of debate after several states recommended it for preventive use against Covid-19.
- The Ministry of AYUSH has listed the drug among preventive and prophylactic simple remedies against Covid-19.
- The debate stems from the fact that there is no scientific evidence that the drug works against Covid-19, a fact stressed not only by medical scientists but also by some homoeopathic practitioners themselves.
- Arsenicum album 30 has been recommended by the state governments in Rajasthan, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.
- The civic authorities in various states have been distributing the drug to high-risk populations.
- There have been reports about people flocking to homeopathic clinics to buy Arsenicum album drug, sometimes at triple the cost.
About the drug:
- Arsenicum album is made by heating arsenic with distilled water, a process repeated several times over three days.
- The health hazards of arsenic contamination in water are well known; long-term exposure to the metal can cause skin cancer, pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases.
- The homoeopathic drug has less than 1% arsenic and is considered to correct inflammation in the body. It takes care of diarrhoea, cough and cold.
- Arsenicum album is used commonly by homeopaths to treat anxiety, restlessness, cold, ulcerations, burning pains.
- The director of the Indian Council of Medical Research maintained that they have issued no guidelines regarding the medicine.
- The WHO has no guidelines on using Arsenicum album as a Covid-19 treatment either.
- There is no scientific evidence that it works as prophylactic.
- With no clinical trial or large-scale study having been undertaken anywhere to scientifically validate the use of Arsenicum album 30 as a preventive medication, the massive demand is worrisome.
- The AYUSH Ministry has based its recommendation on existing use of the medicine for respiratory illness and influenza.
2nd Advance Estimates of 2019-20 of Horticulture Crops
The Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare under the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare has released the 2nd Advance Estimates of 2019-20 of Area and Production of various Horticulture Crops.
- Total Horticulture production in 2019-20 (2nd Advance Estimates) is estimated to be 3.13% higher than 2018-19.
- An increase in Vegetables, Fruits, Aromatics and Medicinal Plants and Flowers, while decrease in Plantation Crops and Spices, over previous year is observed.
- The Fruits production is estimated to be 99.07 Million Tonne compared to 97.97 Million Tonne production in 2018-19.
- The production of Vegetables in 2019-20 is estimated to be 191.77 Million Tonne, compared to 183.17 Million Tonne in 2018-19.
- Total Oilseeds production in the country during 2019-20 is estimated at 34.19 million tonnes which is higher by 2.67 million tonnes than the production of 31.52 million tonnes during 2018-19.
- Total Food grain production in the country is estimated at a record 291.95 million tonnes which is higher by 6.74 million tonnes than the production of food grain of 285.21 million tonnes achieved during 2018-19.
- The cumulative rainfall in the country during the monsoon season (June to September 2019) has been 10% higher than the Long Period Average (LPA).
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Ongoing sixth Mass Extinction
According to a new research the ongoing sixth mass extinction may be one of the most serious environmental threats to the persistence of civilisation.
What is the mass extinction of species?
- Mass extinction refers to a substantial increase in the degree of extinction or when the Earth loses more than three-quarters of its species in a geologically short period of time.
- So far, during the entire history of the Earth, there have been five mass extinctions.
- The sixth, which is ongoing, is referred to as the Anthropocene extinction.
- The five mass extinctions that took place in the last 450 million years have led to the destruction of 70-95 per cent of the species of plants, animals and microorganisms that existed earlier.
- These extinctions were caused by catastrophic alterations to the environment, such as massive volcanic eruptions, depletion of oceanic oxygen or collision with an asteroid.
What is the sixth mass extinction?
- The research claims that this extinction is human-caused and is more immediate than climate destruction and the loss of species will be permanent.
- The study analysed 29,400 species of terrestrial vertebrates and determined which of these are on the brink of extinction because they have fewer than 1,000 individuals.
- Out of the studied species, they concluded that over 515 of them are near extinction, and the current loss of species has been occurring since the 1800s.
- Most of these 515 species are from South America (30 percent), followed by Oceania (21 percent), Asia (21 percent) and Africa (16 percent) among others.
- The loss of species has been occurring since human ancestors developed agriculture over 11,000 years ago.
- Since then, the human population has increased from about 1 million to 7.7 billion.
- The study notes that more than 400 vertebrate species went extinct in the last century, extinctions that would have taken over 10,000 years in the normal course of evolution.
What happens when species go extinct?
- When species go extinct, the impact can be tangible such as in the form of a loss in crop pollination and water purification.
- Further, if a species has a specific function in an ecosystem, the loss can lead to consequences for other species by impacting the food chain.
- The study warns that the effects of extinction will worsen in the coming decades as the resulting genetic and cultural variability will change entire ecosystems.
Bilateral & International Relations
China opposes THAAD deployment in South Korea
China has objected to the presence of the US THAAD missile defence system in South Korea, deployed by the United States three years ago.
What is THAAD?
- THAAD is an acronym for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, which is a transportable, ground-based missile defense system.
- THAAD is coupled with space-based and ground-based surveillance stations, which transfer data about the incoming missile and inform the THAAD interceptor missile of the threat type classification.
- This anti-ballistic missile defense system has been designed and manufactured by the US company Lockheed Martin.
- The THAAD missile defense system has been deployed in the UAE, Guam, Israel, Romania and South Korea.
South Korea-China controversy over THAAD:
- In South Korea, the THAAD missile defense system is operated by the US army stationed in the country.
- The US maintains that the deployment of this missile defense system was a countermeasure against potential attacks by North Korea, particularly after the country had engaged in testing ballistic missiles.
- These moves by the US and South Korea, particularly angered China.
- The tensions have increased following reports of an overnight operation to bring in new, replacement interceptor missiles to the US base in South Korea.
Why is China opposing THAAD in South Korea?
- China’s opposition is concerned about the system’s inbuilt advanced radar systems that could track China’s actions.
- The controversy also has much to do with the geo-politics and complex conflicts in East Asia, with the US having a presence in the region particularly through its many military bases in Japan and South Korea.
- China believes the US exerts influence over South Korea and Japan and may interfere with Beijing’s long-term military, diplomatic and economic interests in the region.
Science and Technology
Sun’s coronal heating puzzle
The scientists at the Pune-based National Centre for Radio Astrophysics have recently discovered tiny flashes of radio light emanating from all over the Sun, which could help in explaining the long-pending coronal heating problem.
- These radio lights or signals result from beams of electrons accelerated in the aftermath of a magnetic explosion on the Sun.
- These weak radio flashes are the evidence for the magnetic explosion and hence bring closer to explaining the coronal heating problem.
- These observations were the strongest evidence till date that the tiny magnetic explosions or ‘nanoflares’ can indeed be heating up the corona (the aura of plasma that surrounds the sun and other stars).
- While the phenomenon of coronal heating has been known for the last 70 years, the availability of cutting-edge data from the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) radio telescope proved to be a game-changer.
- The strength of the magnetic fields varies a lot from one place on the surface of the Sun to another, by more than a factor of 1,000. But the corona is hot everywhere.
- So, this heating process works all over the corona, even in regions of weak magnetic fields.
- Until now, the process of how this magnetic energy is deposited in the corona has remained a mystery.
- The current observations can bring scientists closer to solve the mystery.
Key Facts for Prelims
Non-profit organisations allowed to list in stock exchanges
- A working group constituted by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) on social stock exchanges has recommended allowing non-profit organisations to directly list on such platforms while allowing certain tax incentives to encourage participation on the platform.
- The idea of a social stock exchange for listing of social enterprise and voluntary organisations was mooted by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman while presenting the Union Budget 2019-20.
- According to a release issued by SEBI, non-profit organisations can directly list through issuance of bonds while recommending a range of funding avenues, including some of the existing mechanisms such as Social Venture Funds under Alternative Investment Funds.
- There is a great opportunity to unlock funds from donors, philanthropic foundations and CSR spenders, in the form of zero coupon zero principal bonds. These bonds will be listed on the SSE.
Second most common coronavirus type in India
- Scientists at multiple CSIR laboratories have identified a coronavirus type that may be the second most prevalent in India and may comprise 3.5% of the genomes globally.
- The most dominant coronavirus clade in India is the A2a and of 213 genomes analysed by the group, 62% of them were A2a.
- The newly identified, that the scientists have named A3i, comprised 41% of those analysed.
- With the new clade, there are 11 SARS-CoV-2 types identified globally with at least six of them identified in India.
Assam gas well puts biodiversity at risk
- The recent blowout of an Oil India Limited (OIL) gas well in Assam’s Tinsukia district is causing extensive damage to biodiversity and wildlife the region — including the endangered hoolock gibbons and Gangetic dolphins.
- Baghjan, where the gas well blowout occurred is close to the Dibru Saikhowa National Park, the Maguri-Motapung wetlands, and the forest villages of Barekuri which are habitat to the hoolock gibbon.
Dibru Saikhowa National Park
- Dibru-Saikhowa National Park is a national park in Assam located in Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts.
- It was designated a Biosphere Reserve in July 1997 with an area of 765 km2.
- The park is bounded by the Brahmaputra and Lohit Rivers in the North and Dibru river in the South.
- It mainly consists of moist mixed semi-evergreen forests, moist mixed deciduous forests, and grasslands
- It is the largest salix swamp forest in north-eastern India.
- It is a haven for many endangered species and rich in fish diversity.
- The Science and Engineering Research Board has approved support for research at IIT (BHU) Varanasi to identify lead compound(s) from available and approved drugs for fast-track anti-SARS-CoV-2 drug molecule.
- The research group is working on developing new drug candidates against SARS-CoV-2 by exploring DrugBank.
- DrugBank is a database of Food and Drug Administration of USA approved drug compounds.
- This database will be used for searching drug against SARS-CoV-2.
- As massive protests following the death of George Floyd continued to rock the United States, US President has announced that the far-left group Antifa would be designated as a terrorist organisation by his government.
- Short for “anti-fascists,” antifa is not a single organization but rather an umbrella term for far-left-leaning movements that confront or resist neo-Nazis and white supremacists at demonstrations.
- Anti-fascists of the movement tend to be grouped on the leftward fringes of the US political spectrum, many describing themselves as socialists, anarchists, communists or anti-capitalists.
- The origin is traced as far back as Nazi Germany.
- While the movement has had a presence in several European countries and has come into focus in the United States in recent years, Antifa does not have a formal organisational structure. The movement has been known to have a presence in the US in the 1980s.
- Antifa members typically dress in black and often wear a mask at their demonstrations and follow far-left ideologies such as anti-capitalism.
- They take up causes such as LGBTQ and indigenous rights. What makes them stand out is the violence.
- SPIC MACAY stands for Society for the Promotion of Indian Classical Music And Culture Amongst Youth.
- It is a voluntary youth movement which promotes intangible aspects of Indian cultural heritage by promoting Indian classical music, classical dance, folk music, yoga, meditation, crafts and other aspects of Indian culture.
- It was established by Dr. Kiran Seth in 1977 at IIT Delhi.
Section 325 and 353 of IPC
- Section 325 of IPC deals with punishment for voluntarily causing grievous hurt.
- Section 353 provides for punishment for assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty.