Polity & Governance
- Laws that come into play in lockdown
Issues related to health and education
- DRDO develops equipment for sanitisation of public spaces
- Green impact assessment not needed for bulk drug makers
- Cytokine storms
- India seeks $6 billion loans from AIIB & ADB
- SC quashes I-T case against NDTV
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Agasthyavanam Biological Park
- Rise in domestic violence post lockdown
Key Facts for Prelims
- Hack the Crisis – India
- Operation Sanjeevani
- Prana Vayu
- Immunity passports
- Wet and Dry Markets
- Tropical Butterfly Conservatory Tiruchirappalli
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Polity & Governance
Laws that comeplay into in lockdown
During the lockdown forced due to COVID-19, the following are the laws that are into play.
- Section 188 IPC deals with those disobeying an order passed by a public servant, and provides for imprisonment ranging from one to six months.
- For those violating orders passed under the Epidemic Diseases Act, Section 188 IPC is the provision under which punishment is awarded.
- Section 51 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 provides for punishment for two kinds of offences: obstructing any officer or employee of the government or person authorised by any disaster management authority for discharge of a function; and refusing to comply with any direction given by the authorities under the Act.
- Punishment can extend to one year on conviction, or two years if the refusal leads to loss of lives or any imminent danger.
For spreading fear:
- Section 505 IPC provides for imprisonment of three years or fine, or both, for those who publish or circulate anything which is likely to cause fear or alarm.
- Section 54 of the Disaster Management Act provides for imprisonment, extending to one year, of those who make or circulate a false alarm or warning regarding a disaster or its severity or magnitude.
For false claim to aid:
- Under Section 52, Disaster Management Act, whoever makes a false claim for obtaining “any relief, assistance, repair, reconstruction or other benefits” from any official authority can be sentenced to a maximum of two years imprisonment and a fine will be imposed on the person.
For refusing to do duties:
- In case of refusal or withdrawal of any officer who has been tasked with any duty under the Act, the officer can be sentenced to imprisonment extending to one year.
- However, those who have written permission of the superior or any lawful ground are exempt from such punishment.
- A case cannot be initiated without the explicit sanction from the state or central government.
For refusing to help:
- Any authorised authority under the Act can requisite resources like persons and material resources, premises like land or building, or sheds and vehicles for rescue operations.
- Though there is a provision for compensation under the Act, any person who disobeys such an order can be sentenced to imprisonment up to one year.
- For any offence under the Disaster Management Act, a court will take cognisance only if the complaint is filed by the national or state or district authority, or the central or state government.
- However, there is another provision: if a person has given notice of 30 days or more about an alleged offence, and about his intention to file a complaint, he or she can approach the court which can then take cognisance.
- The Act protects government officers and employees from any legal process for actions they took “in good faith”.
- Under the Epidemic Diseases Act too, no suit or other legal proceedings can lie against any person for anything done or intended to be done under good faith.
Issues related to health and education
DRDO develops equipment for sanitisation of public spaces
In the continuing quest for developing indigenous solutions to combat the Corona Virus Pandemic, Defence research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is ready with technologies for sanitising areas of different sizes. The Centre for Fire Explosive & Environment Safety (CFEES), Delhi has developed two configurations of sanitising equipment.
Portable Backpack Area Sanitisation Equipment:
- The CFEES, Delhi with the help of its industry partner has developed portable sanitisation equipment for spraying decontamination solution consisting of one per cent Hypochlorite (HYPO) solution for sanitisation of suspected area.
- The portable system can be mounted as a backpack and can be carried by the operations personnel.
- This system incorporates low pressure twin fluid (air & disinfectant liquid) technology to generate very fine mist.
- The system is capable of disinfecting upto 300 square metre area.
- The application areas can include hospital reception, doctor chambers, office spaces dealing with general public, corridors, pathways, metro and railway stations, bus stations, etc.
Trolley Mounted Large Area Sanitisation Equipment:
- The Centre with the help of its industry partner has also developed a higher capacity which is carried on a trolley.
- The system incorporates low pressure single fluid (disinfectant liquid) technology generating very fine mist.
- It is capable of disinfecting upto 3,000 square metre area.
- It has a tank capacity of 50 litres and has a lancing (throw) distance of 12-15 metres.
- This is useful for disinfecting hospitals, malls, airports, metro stations, isolation areas, quarantine centres and high risk residential areas.
Green impact assessment not needed for bulk drug makers
To expedite clearances to manufacturers of bulk drugs and intermediates meant for treating COVID-19, the Environment Ministry has exempted such projects from Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) till September 30 as an interim measure.
What is the move?
- All proposals for projects or activities in respect of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API), received up to the 30th September 2020, shall be appraised as Category ‘B2’ projects, provided that any subsequent amendment or expansion or change in product mix, after the 30th September 2020, shall be considered as per the provisions in force at that time.
- Rules notified under the Environment Protection Act (1986) classify projects into three categories.
- Projects under Category A are appraised by the Ministry, and those under category B by states.
- Projects exempted from EIA and public hearings are classified under Category B2.
Environment Impact Assessment
- An EIA is an assessment of the likely human environmental health impact, risk to ecological health, and changes to nature’s services that a project may have.
- The purpose of the assessment is to ensure that decision-makers consider environmental impacts before deciding whether to proceed with new projects.
- Currently, The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEFCC) uses Environmental Impact Assessment Notification 2006 as a major tool for minimizing the adverse impact of rapid industrialization on environment.
Models of EIA in India:
- There are two types of EIA models – statutory model which makes the assessment of impact compulsory under an enacted law.
- Administrative model under which an administration exercises its discretion to find out whether an impact study is necessary.
Stages of the EIA Process:
- Identifying and Defining the Project or Activity: Although this step may seem relatively simple, defining a “project” for the purposes of an EIA can become complex and even controversial if a mining project is large, has several phases, or involves multiple sites.
- Screening: The screening process determines whether a particular project warrants preparation of an EIA.
- Scoping: Scoping is a stage, usually involving the public and other interested parties, that identifies the key environmental issues that should be addressed in an EIA.
- Preparing Terms of Reference: The Terms of Reference serve as a roadmap for EIA preparation and should ideally encompass the issues and impacts that have been identified during the scoping process.
- Preparing Draft EIA: A draft EIA is prepared in accordance with the Terms of Reference and/ or the range of issues identified during the scoping process.
- Public Participation: Best EIA practice involves and engages the public at numerous points throughout the process with a two-way exchange of information and views.
- Preparing Final EIA: This step produces a final impact assessment report that addresses the viewpoints and comments of the parties that reviewed the draft EIA.
- Decision: A decision to approve or reject a mining project is generally based on the final EIA, but in some instances, an environmental clearance may be just one step in the mine permitting process.
- Administrative or Judicial Review: Depending on the jurisdiction, there may be opportunities for a party to seek administrative and/or judicial review of the final decision and the EIA process.
- Project Implementation: Provided all regulatory requirements are met and permits are obtained, mine development will proceed following the project decision and once opportunities for administrative and/or judicial review are exhausted.
- Monitoring: Monitoring is an important part of project implementation.
Benefits of EIA:
- Reduced cost and time of project implementation
- Cost-saving modifications in project design
- Increased project acceptance
- Avoided impacts and violations of laws and regulations
- Improved project performance
- Avoided treatment/clean-up costs
- A healthier local environment
- Improved human health
- Maintenance of biodiversity
- Decreased resource use
- Fewer conflicts over natural resource use.
A subset of the infected patients develop severe COVID-19 because of an overreaction of their immune systems, which triggers what is known as a cytokine storm syndrome (CSS).
What is the cytokine storm?
- The immune systems in our bodies protect us from bacteria, viruses, and parasites by removing them from our systems.
- The immune system gets activated by things that the body does not recognise as its own.
- These things are called antigens, and include bacteria, fungi and viruses.
- An effective immune system response involves inflammation, an important and indispensable part of the process.
- Inflammation has an important protective function.
- The release of inflammatory mediators increases the blood flow to the area, which allows larger numbers of immune system cells to be carried to the injured tissue, thereby aiding the repairing process.
- However, if this inflammatory response is not regulated, very dangerous consequences can follow.
- This is when a ‘cytokine storm’ can be triggered.
- The damage to the surrounding cells can be catastrophic, leading to sepsis and potentially, death.
Role of cytokines in the immune system:
- Cytokines are signalling proteins that are released by cells at local high concentrations — a cytokine storm or CSS is characterised by the overproduction of immune cells and the cytokines themselves because of a deregulation in the process.
- A severe immune reaction, leading to the secretion of too many cytokines in the bloodstream, can be harmful since an excess of immune cells can attack healthy tissue as well.
- A cytokine storm can occur due to an infection, auto-immune condition, or other diseases. Signs and symptoms include high fever, inflammation (redness and swelling), severe fatigue, and nausea.
- Cytokine storms are not exclusive to coronavirus patients.
- It is an immune reaction that can occur during other infectious and non-infectious diseases as well.
How does CSS impact a COVID-19 patient?
- In the case of any flu infection, a cytokine storm is associated with a surge of activated immune cells into the lungs, which, instead of fighting off the antigen, leads to lung inflammation and fluid build-up, and respiratory distress.
- Increased pro-inflammatory cytokine responses against human coronaviruses such as SARS-CoV-1 (which caused SARS), SARS-CoV-2 (which is responsible for the current COVID-19 pandemic), and MERS can result in acute lung injury and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and lead to multiple organ failure.
India seeks $6 billion loans from AIIB & ADB
India is seeking loans worth $6 billion from multilateral institutions including the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and Asian Development Bank to combat COVID-19.
Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB):
- Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), is a multilateral development bank with a mission to improve social and economic outcomes in Asia and beyond.
- The bank was proposed by China in 2013 and the initiative was launched at a ceremony in Beijing in October 2014.
- It became operational in January 2016.
- Its purpose is to provide finance to sustainable infrastructure development and regional connectivity projects in Asia-Pacific region.
- It has 100 approved members from around the world.
- Major economies that are not members include Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, and the United States.
- The authorised capital of bank is of US $100 billion, equivalent to 2⁄3 of the capital of the Asian Development Bank and about half that of the World Bank.
- China is largest shareholder of AIIB with 26.06% voting shares.
- India with 7.5% vote share is second largest shareholder followed by Russia, Germany and South Korea.
- AIIB members collectively account for 78 percent of the world’s population and 63 percent of global GDP.
- It received the highest credit ratings from the three biggest rating agencies in the world and is seen as a potential rival to World Bank and IMF.
- The bank’s governance structure is composed of the Board of Governors as the top-level and highest decision-making body.
- It is composed of 1 governor for each member state of the bank and in principle meets once a year.
- Nine of those members are from within the Asia-Pacific region and three representing members outside the region.
- Headquarters: Beijing.
Asian Development Bank:
- The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is a regional development bank established in 1966.
- It is headquartered in Philippines.
- The bank admits the members of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP, formerly the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East or ECAFE) and non-regional developed countries.
- ADB was modelled closely on the World Bank, and has a similar weighted voting system where votes are distributed in proportion with member’s capital subscriptions.
- ADB is an official United Nations Observer.
- ADB offers both Hard Loans and Soft loans.
- The ADB offers “hard” loans from ordinary capital resources (OCR) on commercial terms, and the Asian Development Fund (ADF) affiliated with the ADB extends “soft” loans from special fund resources with concessional conditions.
- Currently, it has 67 members– of which 48 are from within Asia and the Pacific and 19 outside.
- ADB raises funds through bond issues on the world’s capital markets.
- ADB also rely on its members’ contributions, retained earnings from its lending operations, and the repayment of loans.
- Japan holds the largest proportions of shares at 15.67%.
- The United States holds 15.56%, China holds 6.47%, India holds 6.36%, and Australia holds 5.81%.
Functions of ADB:
- Provides loans and equity investments to its Developing Member Countries (DMCs).
- Provides technical assistance for the planning and execution of development projects and programs and for advisory services.
- Promotes and facilitates investment of public and private capital for development.
- Assists in coordinating development policies and plans of its DMCs.
SC quashes I-T case against NDTV
In a major relief for New Delhi Television Limited (NDTV), the Supreme Court has quashed an income tax re-assessment notice issued by revenue authorities against the premier news broadcasting company accused of “round-tripping” finances.
- Round-tripping is a money laundering and tax evasion technique.
- Round-tripping is a method used to show an increase in volume in a thinly traded stock.
- It is also known as round-trip transactions or ‘Lazy Susans’ and is a characteristic of the New Economy companies.
- It is a market-manipulation practice used to misrepresent the number of transactions occurring on any given day.
- Companies used round-tripping to distort the market by establishing false revenue benchmarks, aiming to meet or beat the numbers.
- Round-trip trading artificially inflates volume and revenues, but in reality, it adds no profit.
- It is a form of barter that involves a company selling an unused asset to another company, while at the same time agreeing to buy back the same or similar assets at about the same price.
- This process is sometimes used as a means of increasing the apparent amount of sales and revenue generated by the seller during a specific financial period.
- While a relatively common process, not everyone in the financial community considers this a proper method of doing business.
- In the context of black money, it leaves the country through various channels such as inflated invoices, payments to shell companies overseas, the hawala route and so on.
- After cooling its heels overseas for a while, this money returns in a freshly laundered form; thus, completing a round-trip.
- Round trip stock trading is one method that companies use to deceptively increase income.
- Most of the time, round trips occur when the person is a day trader.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Agasthyavanam Biological Park
The Forest Department is procuring forest produce collected by the tribal people of the Agasthyavanam Biological Park and the Neyyar and Peppara forest ranges to be sold to commercial establishments and various collectives to deal with the lockdown necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
About Agasthyavanam Biological Park:
- Agasthyavanam Biological Park is a protected area in the Western Ghats, India.
- The Biological Park is a wildlife sanctuary in Kerala and located near Thiruvananthapuram the capital city of Kerala established in 1997.
- It is contiguous to Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary and Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary.
- Its name derives from the famous Agastimalai Agasthyakoodam Peak, which is visible at a distance from the park.
- The Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve incorporates peaks towering 1,868 m above sea level.
- It covers 3,500 sq. km. and encompasses tropical forest ecosystems that fall within the Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari districts of Tamil Nadu and the Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam districts of Kerala.
- Agasthyavanam Biological Park is spread over an area of 23 sq. km., of which 17.5 sq. km. of the park has been dedicated for natural regeneration to develop into a dense forest.
- The rest area of the park is left for systematic conservation programs.
- The Park has endemic medicinal plants and rich biodiversity.
Rise in domestic violence post lockdown
Amid the lockdown due to COVID-19, the National Commission for Women (NCW) has recorded a more than two-fold increase in the gender-based violence cases.
- The total complaints from women rose from 116 in the first week of March (March 2- 8), to 257 in the final week of March (March 23-April 1).
- Complaints of rape or attempted rape have risen sharply from two to 13, while cases of domestic violence have increased from 30 to 69 over the same comparative period.
- Simultaneously, there has been an almost threefold increase in police apathy towards women’s complaints.
National Commission for Women:
- The National Commission for Women (NCW) is a statutory body of the Government of India, generally concerned with advising the government on all policy matters affecting women.
- It was established in January 1992 under the provisions of the Indian Constitution, as defined in the National Commission for Women Act, 1990.
- The commission regularly publishes a monthly newsletter, Rashtra Mahila in both Hindi and English.
- To represent the rights of women in India and to provide a voice for their issues and concerns.
- Review the constitutional and legal safeguards for women
- Recommend remedial legislative measures
- Facilitate redressal of grievances
- Advise the Government on all policy matters affecting women.
Key Facts for Prelims
Hack the Crisis – India
- Minister of State Electronics & Information Technology, Communications and Human Resource Development launched Hack the Crisis – India, an Online Hackathon to find working solutions for overcoming COVID 19 pandemic.
- This hackathon is part of a global initiative and is being organised by ‘Hack A Cause – India’ and ‘Ficci Ladies Organization Pune’ and supported by Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology.
- An Indian Air Force (IAF) C-130J transport aircraft recently delivered 6.2 tonne of essential medicines and hospital consumables to Maldives under Operation Sanjeevani.
- Among other things, these medicines include influenza vaccines, anti-viral drugs such as lopinavir and ritonavir — which have been used to treat patients with COVID-19 in other countries.
- IIT Roorkee has developed a lowcost portable ventilator named Prana Vayu, in association with AIIMS Rishikesh, which can be manufactured for just ₹25,000.
- The closed loop ventilator can deliver the required amount of air to the patient, with an automated process.
- The UK plans to roll out “immunity passports” to Brits who have already contracted the COVID-19 disease in order to allow them to return to normal life.
Wet and Dry Markets
- Australian PM urged the WHO to act against China’s wet markets (Wuhan) as they pose great risks to the health and well-being of the rest of the world.
- A wet market is a marketplace selling fresh meat, fish, produce, and other perishable goods as distinguished from “dry markets” that sell durable goods such as fabric and electronics.
- Wet markets are common throughout the world.
Tropical Butterfly Conservatory Tiruchirappalli
- The Tropical Butterfly Conservatory Tiruchirappalli (TBCT) was developed in Tamil Nadu’s Tiruchirappali in 2015 to create awareness among the public about the importance of the butterfly and its ecology.
- It is considered to be Asia’s largest butterfly park.
- It is located in the Upper Anaicut Reserve Forest, sandwiched between the Cauvery and Kollidam rivers in Tiruchirappalli.
- The park has an outdoor as well as indoor conservatory, a ‘Nakshatra Vanam’ and a ‘Rasi Vanam’ in addition to a breeding lab for non-scheduled species.
- There are about 1,300 bird species and 370 mammal species in the Indian subcontinent, the diversity of Indian butterflies is assessed to be about 1,501.
- The major threats to butterfly diversity are destruction, degradation and fragmentation of their habitats, grazing, fires and application of pesticides and weedicides in agricultural and urban ecosystems.