Current Affairs Analysis

9th July 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

What are Marmots? Agriculture Infrastructure Fund Scheme; Open skies agreement; Equalization Levy; Affordable rental housing Complexes; ARHC; Hot Springs sector; Patrol Points; Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme; ECHS; Postal ballots; Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot Papers (ETPB); Service Voters; Special Voters; Classified Service Voter; WHO South-East Asia Region; Measles; Rubella; German measles; Measles & Rubella Initiative; Measles-Rubella (MR) vaccination campaign; Location of Sri Lanka & Maldives; Bubonic plague; Yersinia pestis; What is Plague? World Zoonoses Day; Zoonosis; One Health, Ecohealth & Planetary Health
By IASToppers
July 11, 2020


Polity & Governance

  • Postal ballots

Issues related to Health & Education

  • WHO declares Sri Lanka, Maldives Measles-free
  • Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme


  • Agriculture Infrastructure Fund Scheme
  • Open skies agreement
  • No extension of Equalisation Levy
  • Affordable Rental Housing Complexes for urban migrants

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • After bats, do not make marmots into villains: Expert
  • UNEP’s Zoonotic Report 2020

Defence & Security Issues

  • Hot Springs sector

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Polity & Governance

Postal ballots

The Election Commission has announced that it will allow those above the age of 65 as well as those under home or institutional quarantine to vote using postal ballots during the Bihar elections. However, opposition parties are unhappy with the move and termed it unconstitutional.

  • Reason for opposition: Allowing those aged 65 and above to vote by postal ballot violates secrecy in voting as a large segment of the population is uneducated and they might seek assistance from others at numerous stages, ending up disclosing their preferred candidate. This also exposes them to ruling party.

What is Postal Voting?

  • Postal voting is voting in an election where ballot papers are distributed to electors (and returned) by post, in contrast to electors voting in person at a polling station.
  • Postal voting in India is done only through the “Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot Papers (ETPB)” system of Election Commission of India.
  • ETPB Enables one to cast vote from anywhere outside their constituency.
  • However, postal voting refers only to the means by which the ballots are submitted, not to the method by which the votes are counted.
  • When the counting of votes commences, these postal votes are counted first before the counting of all other voters.
  • Significance: Give easy option to electors as the time constraint for dispatch of postal ballot has been addressed using this system.

Who can vote through postal ballots?

  • Service Voters & the wife of a Service Voter who ordinarily resides with him (husbands of female service voters are not eligible)
  • Special Voters
  • Voters on election duty
  • Voters under preventive detention

According to the provisions of Section 20 of Representation of People Act, 1950, service qualification means

(a)    Being a member of the armed forces of the Union (Indian Army, Indian Navy, Indian Air Force); or

(b)    Being a member of a force to which provisions of the Army Act, 1950 have been made applicable whether with or without modification (BSF, CRPF, ITBP, SSB, Assam Rifles, NSG, CISF)

(c)    Being a member of an Armed Police Force of a State, and serving outside that state; or

(d)    Being a person who is employed under the Government of India, in a post outside India (Indian Foreign Service Personnel,

Examples: The members of Indian Army/Navy/Air Force, Border Security Force, Indo Tibetan Border Police, Central Reserve Police Force etc.

What are special voters?

List of 13 Offices whose holder qualifies as Special Voters as notified by President in 1960 Notification:

(1) The President of India

(2) The Vice-President of India

(3) Governors of States

(4) Cabinet Ministers of the Union or of any State

(5) The Deputy Chairman and Members of the Planning Commission

(6) The Ministers of State of the Union or of any State

(7) Deputy Ministers of the Union or of any State

(8) The Speaker of the House of the People or of any State Legislative Assembly

(9) The Chairman of any State Legislative Council

(10) Lieutenant Governors of Union territories

(11) The Deputy Speaker of the House of the People or of any State Legislative Assembly

(12) The Deputy Chairman of the Council of States or of any State Legislative Council

(13) Parliamentary Secretaries of the Union or of any State.

Exception of classified voters

  • Service voters belonging to Armed Forces or forces to which provisions of Army Act, 1950 (option A and B of service voters) are applicable, have the option of either voting through postal ballot or through a proxy voter duly appointed by him. A service voter who opts for voting through a proxy is called Classified Service Voter (CSV).

How are votes recorded by post?

  • The Returning Officer is supposed to print ballot papers within 24 hours of the last date of nomination withdrawal and dispatch them within a day.
  • For members of the armed police force posted outside India, the ballot paper can be sent through post or electronically. For remaining categories ballot papers can be delivered personally or through post.
  • After receiving it, the voter can mark her preference with a tick mark or cross mark against the candidate’s name. They also have to fill up a duly attested declaration to the effect that they have marked the ballot paper.
  • The ballot paper and the declaration are then placed in a sealed cover and sent back to the Returning Officer before the time fixed for the commencement of counting of votes.

Key Facts:

  • The Lok Sabha passed “Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, 2017” that proposes to enable overseas electors to appoint proxies to cast their votes in elections to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies which is currently pending in the Rajya Sabha.

 [Ref: Indian Express]

Issues related to Health & Education

WHO declares Sri Lanka, Maldives measles-Free

Maldives and Sri Lanka became the first two countries in WHO South-East Asia Region to achieve measles and rubella elimination ahead of the 2023 target.


  • The announcement was made after a meeting of the South-East Asia Regional Verification Commission for Measles and Rubella Elimination.
    • The Commission comprises of 11 independent international experts in the fields of epidemiology, virology and public health.
  • Bhutan, North Korea and East Timor were also declared to be measles-free.
  • Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste have controlled Rubella.


  • Member countries of WHO South-East Asia Region had in September 2019 set 2023 as target for elimination of measles and rubella.

When a country can be declared measles and rubella free?

  • A country is verified as having eliminated measles and rubella when there is no evidence of endemic transmission of the measles and rubella viruses for over three years in the presence of a well performing surveillance system.


  • It is a highly contagious viral disease, which affects mostly children.
  • Also known as rubeola or morbill.
  • Caused by a Toga virus (RNA virus) that specifically infects the respiratory system.
  • Transmission:  Via droplets from the nose, mouth or throat of infected persons.
    • It is a human disease and is not known to occur in animals.
  • Initial symptoms: Symptom appear 10–12 days after infection, include high fever, runny nose, bloodshot eye etc. Several days later, a rash develops, starting on the face and upper neck and gradually spreading downwards.
    • Can cause serious complications (in 30% measle cases) such as severe diarrhoea, pneumonia, ear infection etc. in malnourished children (due to weak immune system).
  • Treatment: There is no specific treatment for measles.

Measles Data

  • Before the introduction of measles vaccine in 1963, measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year.
  • Global measles deaths have decreased by 73% from 536,000 in 2000 to 142,000 in 2018.
  • Still, more than 140 000 people died from measles in 2018 – mostly children under the age of 5 years, despite the availability of a safe and effective vaccine.


  • It is a contagious viral infection. However, it is less contagious than measles.
  • Also known as “German Measles”.
  • Caused by a virus that invades the lymph nodes, eyes and skin.
  • Occurs most often in pregnant women and their children. Rubella is the leading cause of birth defects. When a woman is infected with the rubella virus early in pregnancy, she has a 90% chance of passing the virus on to her fetus.
    • If infected with rubella in the first trimester women (1-12 week since pregnancy) have a very high risk of giving birth to a child with Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS).
  • Transmission: By airborne droplets when infected people sneeze or cough. Humans are the only known host.
  • Symptoms: After infected, the virus spreads in body in 5-7 days. Symptoms appear 14 to 21 days after exposure. Causes a mild fever and rash in children and adults.
  • Treatment: No specific treatment but can be preventable by vaccination: Rubella vaccine alone, or combined with measles vaccine (MR) or with measles and mumps vaccines (MMR).

Measles & Rubella Initiative

  • In 2012, the Measles & Rubella Initiative was launched, covering the period 2012-2020. The Plan includes a series of global goals for 2020.
  • It is led by the American Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the World Health Organization.
  • The initiative includes a series of global goals for 2020 such as to achieve measles and rubella elimination in at least 5 WHO regions.

Indian government’s efforts

  • Measles-Rubella (MR) vaccination campaign was started by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in 2017.
  • It aimed to eliminate measles by 2020 by giving free MR vaccination in the age group of 9 months to less than 15 years to 41 crore children.

Location of Sri Lanka & Maldives

Sri Lanka

  • Sri Lanka is an island country lying in the Indian Ocean and separated from peninsular India by the Palk Strait.
  • Ancient Greek geographers called it Taprobane. Arabs referred to it as Serendib. Later European mapmakers called it Ceylon, a name still used occasionally for trade purposes. It officially became Sri Lanka in 1972.


  • Maldives lies south-west of the Indian sub-continent.
  • It is made up of a chain of nearly 1,200 islands, most of them uninhabited.
  • None of the coral islands stand more than 1.8 metres above sea level, making the country vulnerable to any rise in sea levels associated with global warming.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme

The Government has now decided to treat unmarried permanently disabled and financially dependent sons of ECHS beneficiaries who have become disabled after attaining the age of 25 years as dependent and hence eligible for availing benefits under Ex-servicemen Contributory Health Scheme.

About the scheme:

  • Ex-servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) is a flagship Scheme of the Department of Ex-Servicemen Welfare, Ministry of Defence and was launched with effect from 01 April 2003.
  • The aim of Scheme is to provide quality healthcare of Ex-servicemen pensioners and their dependents.
  • It provides allopathic and AYUSH medicare through a network of ECHS Polyclinics, Service medical facilities and civil empanelled/Govt hospitals/specified Govt. AYUSH hospitals spread across the country.
  • ECHS provides cashless transactions, as far as possible, for the patients and is financed by the Government of India.
  • Policy framework for the Scheme is laid down by the Govt and executive control is exercised by the Department of Ex-servicemen Welfare.

Eligibility Criteria

  • To be eligible for membership of ECHS, a person must meet the following twin conditions: –
    • Should have ESM status.
    • Should be drawing normal Service /Disability/ Family Pension.
[Ref: PIB]


Agriculture Infrastructure Fund Scheme

Recently, the Cabinet approved the Agriculture Infrastructure Fund. It will be a Central Sector Scheme.


  • It shall provide a medium – long term debt financing facility for investment in viable projects for post-harvest management Infrastructure and community farming assets through interest subvention and financial support.
  • The duration of the Scheme shall be from FY2020 to FY2029 (10 years).
  • Rs. One Lakh Crore will be provided by banks and financial institutions as loans to Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS), Marketing Cooperative Societies, Farmer Producers Organizations (FPOs), Self Help Group (SHG), Farmers, Joint Liability Groups (JLG), Multipurpose Cooperative Societies, Agri-entrepreneurs, Startups, Aggregation Infrastructure Providers and Central/State agency or Local Body sponsored Public-Private Partnership Project.
  • Loans will be disbursed in four years starting with the sanction of Rs. 10,000 crores in the current year and Rs. 30,000 crore each in the next three financial years.
  • All loans under this financing facility will have interest subvention of 3% per annum up to a limit of Rs. 2 crores. This subvention will be available for a maximum period of seven years.
  • A moratorium for repayment may vary subject to a minimum of 6 months and maximum of 2 years.
  • Credit guarantee coverage will be available for eligible borrowers from this financing facility under the Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE) scheme for a loan up to Rs. 2 crores. The fee for this coverage will be paid by the Government.  For FPOs the credit guarantee may be availed from the facility created under FPO promotion scheme of Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare (DACFW).
  • It will be managed and monitored through an online Management Information System (MIS) platform. National, State and District level Monitoring Committees will be set up to ensure real-time monitoring and effective feedback.

Expected Benefits:

  • Facilitate formal credit to farm and farm processing-based activities.
  • Create job opportunities in rural areas.
  • The online platform will provide benefits such as transparency of interest rates, scheme details, minimum documentation, faster approval process etc.
[Ref: PIB]

Open skies agreement

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is interested to have an open sky agreement with India.

What is Open Sky Policy?

An Open Skies policy enables ease of access and use of one`s national airports for foreign airlines. It helps in the development of an air hub and increases tourist flow.

India’s Open Sky Policy:

  • As per the National Civil Aviation Policy 2016, India has an open skies policy with SAARC countries and those beyond the 5,000-km radius.
  • Implying nations within this distance need to enter into a bilateral agreement and mutually determine the number of flights that their airlines can operate between thetwo countries. India has bilateral agreements with more than 100 countries.
  • India has open sky agreements with the US. Meaning there is no restriction on the number of flights, seats, or destinations to/from the United States.  While with the United Kingdom and ASEAN countries, India has an open sky agreement with restrictions.

Location of United Arab Emirates:

  • The United Arab Emirates is located atthe northeast end of the Arabian Peninsula on the Persian Gulf.
  • It borders Oman to the east and Saudi Arabia to the south and west.
  • It shares maritime borders with Qatar to the west and Iran to the north.
  • UAE is sovereign constitutional monarchy and is a federation of seven emirates consisting of Abu Dhabi (which serves as the capital), Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain.
  • Each emirate is governed by a ruler.
[Ref: The Hindu]

No extension of Equalization Levy

The Government is not considering extending the deadline for payment of Equalization Levy by non-resident e-commerce players.

What is Equalization Levy?

  • Equalization Levy was first introduced by Finance Act, 2016, at the rate of 6 per cent on payments for digital advertisement services received by non-resident companies without a permanent establishment in India, if these exceeded Rs 1 lakhs a year.
  • The levy is seen aimed at taxing foreign companies which have a significant local client base in India but were billing them through their offshore units, effectively escaping the country’s tax system.
  • The Budget 2020-21 has expanded its scope to include consideration received by non-resident e-commerce operators from e-commerce supply or services. The rate applicable has been set at 2 per cent.
  • Late-payment will attract interest at the rate of 1 per cent per month or part of the month.
  • Non-payment can result in a penalty equal to the amount of Equalization Levy, along with interest.


  • Confusion and lack of clarity on the applicability of the Equalization levy.
  • Very wide coverage (even non e-commerce companies could be covered).
  • Administrative challenges like Indian Embassies not functioning, difficulties in opening bank accounts in India etc.
[Ref: Business Standard, The Hindu]

Affordable Rental Housing Complexes for urban migrants

The Union Cabinet approved developing of Affordable rental housing Complexes (AHRC) for urban migrants / poor as a sub-scheme under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana – Urban (PMAY – U). It will be launched by the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs.

  • The creation of affordable rental housing complexes was announced by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on May 14 as a part of the government’s economic package to address the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Technology Innovation Grant of around Rs 600 Crore will be released for projects using identified innovative technologies for construction.

It would be implemented using two models:

  • Model-1:
    • Using Existing Housing Stock (JnNURM/RAY) as ARHCs. i.e. utilizing 1.03 lakh vacant government-funded housing complexes across key cities as AHRCs.
    • State and civic bodies will select concessionaire through bidding. It will be offered to concessionaires for 25 years.
    • The agreement with concessionaires will include undertaking repair, retrofits, maintenance of rooms, and fixing water, sewer, and sanitation problems.
  • Model-2:
    • Incentivizing Private/ Public Agencies for construction of ARHCs.
    • Special incentives to private and public entities to develop such housing complexes on their own available vacant land for 25 years under the scheme will be launched.
    • Incentives like use permission, 50% additional floor space index (FSI), concessional loans at priority sector lending rate and among others.

Expected Benefits:

  • It is estimated to benefit more than 350,000 people. The target groups for this initiative could be Migrants, Urban poor in the Industrial sector, Service Industry, Manufacturing sectors, Institutions, Associations etc.
  • Result in optimum use of government-funded vacant houses.
  • Enable new investment opportunities and promote entrepreneurship in the rental housing sector.
  • Provide access to dignified and planned housing close to their workplace in the industrial sector and in the non-formal urban economy.
  • Cut down unnecessary travel, congestion, and pollution.

Note: For more information on Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana – Urban, Refer:

[Ref: PIB, The Hindu, Economic Times]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

After bats, do not make marmots into villains: Expert

Recently, after reports emerged of an outbreak of bubonic plague from Tarbagan Marmot in Mongolia, China and the Russian Far East, experts have said that there is no need to fear from marmots.

What are Marmots?

  • Marmots belong to the squirrel family (Sciuridae) within the order Rodentia.
  • They have 15 different species.
  • They are well suited for life in cold environments and have small fur-covered ears, short, stocky legs, and strong claws for digging.
  • They are active during the day (diurnal) and are almost entirely vegetarian. They are not seen during the winter when they hibernate underground.


  • They are found north of Mexico and in Eurasia from the European Alps through north-central Asia, the Himalayas, and northeastern Siberia to the Kamchatka Peninsula.
    • They inhabit open country in mountains and plains, preferring montane meadows, steppes, tundra, and forest edges.
  • South Asia is home to the Himalayan Marmot as well as the Long-tailed Marmot.
  • Tarbagan Marmot are found in the Mongolia, China and the Russian Far East.

Ecological importance:

  • Marmots play a very important role in Himalayan ecology. Every time they dig burrows, they increase aeration in the soil that also increases nutrient circulation and helps different plants to propagate.
  • They are prey species for predators including the snow leopard, red fox, hawks, kestrels and eagles.

Threats: Hunted for meat (in China & Mongolia) and fur.

About Bubonic plague

  • Bubonic plague, caused by bacterium Yersinia pestis, is the most common form of plague globally.
  • It is caused by the bite of an infected flea.
  • It infects a person’s lymphatic system (part of immune system). Plague bacteria travels through the lymphatic system to the nearest lymph node where it replicates itself. The lymph node then becomes inflamed and painful, and is called a ‘bubo’.
  • It can advance and spread to the lungs, becoming a more severe type called pneumonic plague.
  • Human to human transmission of bubonic plague is rare.
  • Its symptoms include fever, chills, weakness and headaches.

What is Plague?

  • The plague is a disease caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis, which is found in animals, particularly rodents.
  • In the Middle Ages (5th-15th century), plague was also known as the ‘Black Death’ as it was responsible for the deaths of millions of people in Europe.
  • Currently, the three most plague endemic countries are the Congo, Madagascar, and Peru.
  • There is a risk of human plague wherever the presence of plague natural foci (the bacteria, an animal reservoir and a vector) and human population co-exist.


  • It is transmitted between animals through fleas.
  • It is transmitted in humans through the bite of infected vector fleas, unprotected contact with infectious bodily fluids or inhalation of respiratory droplets from plague patient.

Treatment: The plague, though life-threatening, can be treated with antibiotics.

Types of plague

  • Bubonic plague: {discussed above}
  • Pneumonic plague (or lung-based plague): It is the ‘most virulent form of plague’ and can be fatal within 24 to 72 hours. It occurs when the bacteria infect the lungs. It is the only type of plague that can be transmitted from human to human. It is highly contagious and transmissible merely by coughing.
  • Septicemic plague: It occurs when the bacteria enter the bloodstream and multiplies there. If left untreated, pneumonic and bubonic plague can lead to septicemic plague. A person infected by septicemic plague may also notice their skin turning black.
[Ref: Down To Earth]

UNEP’s Zoonotic Report 2020

Ther report “Preventing the Next Pandemic: Zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission” was recently published the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

  • World Zoonoses Day is celebrated on 6th July across the world.

What is Zoonosis?

  • Zoonosis or zoonotic disease is a disease that has passed into the human population from an animal source.
  • Zoonotic infections can be bacterial, viral, or parasitic in nature.
  • Examples: HIV-AIDS, Ebola, rabies, West Nile fever, COVID-19 etc.

Types of Zoonosis

Key Highlights

  • 60% of known infectious diseases in humans and 75% of all emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic.
  • Emphasised on the importance of a ‘One-Health’ approach to manage and prevent zoonotic disease outbreaks.

It identified 7 anthropogenic driving factors leading to the emergence of zoonotic diseases

  • Increased demand for animal protein: The growing demand for animal-derived food has encouraged the intensification of animal production, wherein a large number of genetically similar animals are bred in for higher productivity.
  • Rise in intense and unsustainable farming: Intensive farm settings cause them to be raised in close proximity to each other, in less ideal conditions characterised by poor use of antimicrobials as substitute for these conditions. This makes them more vulnerable to infections, which can further lead to emergence of zoonotic diseases.
    • High use of antimicrobials in such farm settings is also contributing to the burden of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
  • Increased use and exploitation of wildlife: The increased use and exploitation of wildlife can bring humans in closer contact with wild animals, thus increasing the risk of zoonotic disease emergence.
  • Unsustainable utilisation of natural resources: Utilisation of natural resources owing to urbanisation, changes in land-use pattern and growing industrialisation can also cause destruction and fragmentation of wildlife habitats and increase contact between humans and wildlife.
  • Travel and transportation: The increasing amounts of human travel and trade, including the increasing handling, transport and (legal and illegal) trade of animals and animal products, increases the risk of zoonotic diseases emerging and spreading.
  • Changes in food supply chains: Food supply chains are diversifying. This trend—driven by increased demand for animal source food and poorly regulated agricultural intensification—is creating additional opportunities for disease transmission.
  • Climate change crisis: Many zoonoses are climate sensitive and a number of them will thrive in a warmer, wetter atmosphere.

The report made several recommendations based on the One Health approach:

  • Investing in interdisciplinary approaches, including One Health;
  • Expanding scientific enquiry into zoonotic diseases;
  • Improving cost-benefit analyses of interventions to include full-cost accounting of societal impacts of disease;
  • Strengthening monitoring and regulation practices associated with zoonotic diseases, including food systems;
  • Incentivising sustainable land management practices that do not rely on the destruction of habitats
  • Improving biosecurity, identifying key drivers of emerging diseases in animal husbandry
  • Supporting the sustainable management of landscapes and seascapes that enhance sustainable co-existence of agriculture and wildlife;

About One Health, Ecohealth & Planetary Health:

  • One Health is a collaborative approach that recognises that the health of human being is connected to health of animals and environment.

Though both One Health and EcoHealth approaches sit at the nexus of human, animal and environmental interactions, they have subtle differences:

  • One Health: emphasizes biomedical animal and human health, while
  • EcoHealth: pays more attention to the broader relations between health and ecosystems, focusing on the environment and related socio-economic systems.
  • Planetary Health: focuses on human health in relation to global sustainability
[Ref: Down to Earth]

Defence & Security Issues

Hot Springs sector

The Indian Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army are gradually withdrawing from the Hot Spring Area and others.

  • The disengagement is based on an understanding reached by top Indian and Chinese military commanders and the Special Representatives of the two countries on a phased de-escalation of the ongoing border conflict in the Ladakh.

Location of Hot Springs:

  • Hot Springs is located along the Chang Chenmo River valley in the Union Territory of Ladakh.
  • The Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) patrols this area.
  • Kongka Pass and the Line of Actual Control is in the vicinity.

What are Patrolling Points?

  • Patrolling Points (PPs) are identified and marked on the Line of Actual Control and are patrolled with a stipulated frequency by the security forces.
  • They serve as a guide and indicator to the location of the LAC for the soldiers. By regularly patrolling up to these PPs, the Indian side is able to establish and assert its physical claim about the LAC.
  • PPs 10 to 13 in Depsang sector, PP14 in Galwan, PP15 in Hot Spring, and PP17 and PP17A in Gogra are currently being disputed by both sides, where the standoffs have taken place.
[Ref: The Hindustan Times, Indian Express]
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