• Current Affairs, 15 May 2020



    • The Centre made the use of ration cards portable, allowing migrants to use them at any fair price shop in the country
    • Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday offered free foodgrains and affordable housing to migrant workers who have been stranded in cities without jobs or money to sustain themselves during the lockdown.
    • The measures, part of the ₹20 trillion package to revive the Indian economy, include providing free rice, wheat and gram or chickpea for the next two months; allowing nationwide usage of public distribution system (PDS) ration cards, and an affordable rental housing scheme under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana.
    • The government has faced criticism for overlooking the plight of migrants who have been worst hit by the lockdown. Thousands of migrants have tried to flee cities on foot, trying to make way to their villages, hundreds of miles away.
    • On Thursday, the government addressed some of their problems. It made the use of ration cards portable, allowing migrants to use them at any fair price shop in the country. About 630 million beneficiaries in 23 states will be covered under the scheme by August while full portability will be achieved by March next year.
    • “Those who are not card holders, that is, who are not covered under the National Food Security Act or are holders of any state government card, they shall be given 5kg per person of wheat or rice and 1kg of chana (chickpea) per family,” Sitharaman said in her second press conference to unveil details of the stimulus package.
    • This is expected to benefit 80 million migrant workers and will cost the Centre ₹3,500 crore. The measure aims to ensure affordable food is available to people who migrate to cities for work but can’t access fair-price shops as they do not have public distribution system cards in places where they work. The government had already announced additional allocation of rice and wheat under PDS.
    • Also a ₹5,000 crore special credit facility for street vendors will be implemented . The government will also convert state-funded housing into affordable rental housing complexes under a public-private partnership. This may encourage poor migrants to stay in the cities.
    • The covid-19 pandemic has hit India’s poor the hardest as locked factories and other workplaces rendered them jobless and penniless.
    • Sitharaman said 146.2 million person-days of work has been generated till 13 May under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) for returning migrants and a drive is being undertaken to enrol them.




    • Karur MP S. Jothimani recently conducted a telephonic survey of 30 lakh people in Tamil Nadu on the re-opening of liquor shops in the State during lockdown 3.0. An overwhelming 89% were opposed to the move.
    • Maharashtra allows home delivery of liquor
    • The Maharashtra government too decided to permit liquor shops to open but was quickly forced to reverse its decision in some parts of the State following protests. Similar protests against the sale of alcohol were seen in various States. This may be largely due to fears of crowding and the consequent spread of COVID-19 rather than about alcoholism and its potentially deleterious societal impact. Whatever may be the reason, it is clear that permitting the sale of alcohol during the lockdown is an unpopular move among the majority. Why then have popularly elected governments in nearly every State resorted to this move? The answer lies in what happened ‘at the stroke of midnight hour’ on July 1, 2017.
    • It is apparent that financially broke State governments are forced to adopt desperate and reviled measures such as opening liquor shops to mobilise money for their fight against COVID-19. The question is, even if they are strapped for resources, surely there must be other means to raise funds in this struggle to save lives than to prey on people’s alcohol addiction? Therein lies the rub.
    • All the States have come together like “pearls on a string” in the “spirit of cooperative federalism” for the economic integration of India, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the stroke of midnight hour on July 1, 2017 when he launched the Goods and Services Tax (GST). What was not mentioned was that the States on that “pearl string” were now stuck to the Centre’s neck forever. GST forced the States to surrender their powers to raise resources independently through local State taxes and place them entirely at the mercy of the Centre for most of their financial needs.
    • Most States raise resources through a combination of their own taxes and a share in the Centre’s taxes. For richer States such as Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Delhi, Karnataka, Punjab, Haryana and Kerala, 70% or more of their revenue comes from taxes generated within their State boundaries. Nearly half of these were from the sale of goods and services within the State and the remaining half, from a combination of excise duties on petrol, electricity, alcohol, land registration fees, etc. Before GST, States were free to charge sales taxes as legislated by their State legislatures. If a State had a natural disaster, they could raise additional resources for rehabilitation by raising sales tax rates on goods and services.
    • For the sake of GST, States sacrificed their fiscal powers in the promise of ‘economic efficiency’ and ‘tax buoyancy’, which never materialised. Under GST, States are legally entitled to their share of tax revenues collected in their State. But they are now reliant on the Centre to release these funds to them periodically. When the GST was enacted, States were also guaranteed a minimum tax revenue every year for a period of five years. In the midst of the current pandemic, the Centre has reneged on both these promises.
    • This is a triple blow for the States — not being paid what they are owed, not being helped with additional resources, and bearing the brunt of the pandemic’s impact. Not only are they not paid what is rightfully due to them, they have also lost the powers to raise their own sales tax revenues. So, how are they supposed to fight this health calamity with no money?
    • The other available options for States to raise funds are through taxes on sale of petroleum products, alcohol, lottery tickets, electricity, land or vehicle registration. During this extreme lockdown, demand for petroleum products, electricity, land and vehicles has dwindled substantially. So, the only option left for most States is to raise funds through the sale of alcohol. For the large, richer States, alcohol sales account for more than one-third of their State tax revenues. One could argue that alcohol consumption could even potentially increase during the lockdown and hence States have been tempted and coerced to resorting to raising monies from people’s alcohol habits. Ironically, the States are being forced to rely on alcohol for resolving a health crisis.
    • Supreme Court asks States to consider online sale of liquor
    • Can’t the States borrow money to tide over this crisis? In order to do that, they need the Centre’s approval to raise their borrowing limit or to stand as guarantors. Since States do not have clear revenue visibility, the rates at which they can borrow are very high and their ability to borrow is severely undermined. They are once again dependent on the Centre to borrow funds from the market and then release them to the States.
    • How would the States have handled this crisis in the pre-GST era? One, they would have had the funds raised through sales taxes to themselves and not be at the Centre’s mercy to release funds. Two, they would have raised taxes on select essential goods sold in their States (say, mangoes or coconut oil) in accordance with their norms. Just as it is clear that COVID-19 has to be fought in a decentralised manner at the local level and not through a Delhi diktat, the resources needed to fight this disease should also be raised locally and not be dependent on Delhi’s whimsical magnanimity.
    • The Centre has defaulted on its financial obligations to the States at a critical juncture. Former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s catchphrase “cooperative federalism” has proved to be neither cooperative nor federalist in times of this crisis. The idea of ‘one nation, one tax’ is deeply flawed in an economically and politically divergent India, as I have argued since 2015. Ruling parties and alliances in States can change every five years. The efficient functioning of a GST regime cannot be beholden to political party affiliations at the Centre and the States. Democratically elected State governments cannot be expected to govern with no fiscal powers. Five States account for half of all GST collections in the country. It is time these bigger States challenge the very idea of GST.
    • Praveen Chakravarty is a political economist and a senior office-bearer of the Congress party




    • Hon’ble Prime Minister announced a Special economic and comprehensive package of Rs 20 lakh Crore – equivalent to 10% of India’s GDP on 12th May 2020. He gave a clarion call for आत्मनिर्भरभारत अभियान or Self-Reliant India Movement. He also outlined five pillars of Aatmanirbhar Bharat – Economy, Infrastructure, System, Vibrant Demography and Demand.
    • Announcing the 2nd Tranche of measures to ameliorate the hardships faced specifically by migrant labours, street vendors, migrant urban poor, small traders self-employed people, small farmers and housing, Union Finance & Corporate Affairs Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman today in her press conference detailed the short term and long-term measures for supporting the poor, including migrants, farmers, tiny businesses and street vendors.
    • Sitharaman stated that Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi is always concerned about the difficulties faced by poor, including migrant workers and farmers. Farmers and workers are the backbone of this nation. They serve all of us with their sweat and toil. Migrant workers need affordable and convenient rental housing in urban areas in addition to social security. There is also a need to create employment opportunities for the poor, including migrant and unorganised workers. Farmers need timely and adequate credit support.
    • Sitharaman said that the Government is attentive to the needs to all the segments of economy and society.She also mentioned that small business set ups, especially those run by street vendors, support dignified livelihoods through Shishu MUDRA loans. They also need our patronage by way of business as well as caring attention in the form of social security and enhanced credit.
    • Following short term and long-term measures for supporting the poor, including migrants, farmers, tiny businesses and street vendors were announced today:-
    • For the migrant labour, additional food grain to all the States/UTs at the rate of 5 kg per migrant labourer and 1 kg Chana per family per month for two months i.e. May and June, 2020 free of cost shall be allocated. Migrant labourers not covered under National Food Security Act or without a ration card in the State/UT in which they are stranded at present will be eligible. States/UTs shall be advised to put a mechanism for targeted distribution as envisaged in the scheme. 8 Lakh MT of food-grain and 50,000 MT of Chana shall be allocated. The entire outlay of Rs. 3500 crore will be borne by Government of India.



    • Pilot scheme for portability of ration cards will be extended to 23 states. By that, 67 crore beneficiaries covering 83% of PDS population will be covered by National portability of Ration cards by August, 2020. 100% National portability will be achieved by March, 2021. This is part of PM’s Technology Driven System Reforms This scheme will enable a migrant worker and their family members to access PDS benefits from any Fair Price Shop in the country. This will ensure that the people in transit, especially migrant workers can also get the benefit of PDS benefit across the country.



    • Central Government will launch a scheme for migrant workers and urban poor to provide ease of living at affordable rent. Affordable Rental Housing Complexeswill provide social security and quality life to migrant labour, urban poor, and students etc.This will be done through converting government funded houses in the cities into Affordable Rental Housing Complexes (ARHC) under PPP mode through concessionaire; manufacturing units, industries, institutions, associations to develop Affordable Rental Housing Complexes (ARHC) on their private land and operate; and Incentivizing  State Govt agencies/Central Government Organizations on similar lines to develop Affordable Rental Housing Complexes (ARHC) and operate. The exact details of the scheme will be released by the Ministry/Department.




    • Government of India will provide Interest subvention of 2% for prompt payees for a period of 12 monthsto MUDRA Shishu loanees, who have loans below Rs 50,000.The current portfolio of MUDRA Shishu loans is around Rs 1.62 Lakh crore. This will provide relief of about Rs 1,500 crore to Shishu MUDRA loanee.



    • special scheme will belaunched within a month to facilitate easy access to credit to Street vendors, who  are amongst the most adversely impacted by the present situation for enabling them to restart their businesses. Under this scheme, bank credit facility for initial working capital up to Rs. 10,000 for each enterprise will be extended. This scheme will cover urban as well as rural vendors doing business in the adjoining urban areas. Use of digital payments and timely repayments will be incentivized through monetary rewards. It is expected that 50 lakh street vendors will be benefitted under this scheme and credit of Rs. 5,000 crore would flow to them.



    • The Credit Linked Subsidy Scheme for Middle Income Group (annual Income between Rs 6 and 18 lakhs) will be extended up to March 2021. This will benefit 2.5 lakhs middle income families during 2020-21 and will lead to investment of over Rs 70,000 crorein housing sector. This will create significant number of jobs by giving boost to Housing sector and will stimulate demand for steel, cement, transport and other construction materials.


    • Approximately Rs 6,000 crore of funds under Compensatory Afforestation Management & Planning Authority (CAMPA) will be used for Afforestation and Plantation works, including in urban areas, Artificial regeneration, assisted natural regeneration, Forest management, soil & moisture conservation works, Forest protection, forest and wildlife related infrastructure development, wildlife protection and management etc. Government of India will grant immediate approval to these plans amounting to Rs 6000 crore. This will create job opportunities in urban, semi-urban and rural areas and also for Tribals (Adivashis).



    • NABARD will extend additional re-finance support of Rs 30,000 crorefor meeting crop loan requirement of Rural Cooperative Banks and RRBs. This refinance will be front-loaded and available on tap. This is over and above Rs 90,000 crore that will be provided by NABARD to this sector in the normal course. This will benefit around 3 crore farmers, mostly small and marginal and it will meet their post-harvest Rabi and current Kharif requirements.



    • A special drive to provide concessional credit to PM-KISAN beneficiaries through Kisan Credit Cards. Fisherman and Animal Husbandy Farmers will also be included in this drive. This will inject additional liquidity of  Rs 2 lakh crore in the farm sector. 2.5 crore farmers will be covered.




    • Recently, the Union Finance Minister announced the short term and long-term measures for supporting the poor, including migrants, farmers, tiny businesses and street vendors as part of the second tranche of Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan.
    • The announced measures also form a part of the ₹20 lakh crore economic stimulus package to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.
    • Earlier, the Economic Stimulus-I was announced which includes both liquidity financing measures and credit guarantees.

    Important Points

    • Free Food Grains Supply
    • Allocation of additional food grainto all the States/UTs (5 kg per migrant labourer and 1 kg chana per family per month) for two months (May and June, 2020) free of cost.
    • This move is an extension of the Pradhan Mantri Gharib Kalyan Yojana.
    • Eligibility:Migrant labourers not covered under National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013 or without a ration card in the State/UT in which they are stranded at present.
    • There are an estimated 8 crore migrant workers, housed in government and privately run relief camps across the country since the lockdown.
    • The entireoutlay of ₹3500 crore will be borne by the Government of India.
    • One Nation One Ration Card
    • 67 crore beneficiaries covering 83% of Public Distribution System(PDS) population will be covered by National portability of Ration cards by August, 2020 and 100% National portability will be achieved by March, 2021.
    • One Nation One Ration Cardis part of Technology Driven System Reforms and will enable migrant workers and their family members to access PDS benefits from any Fair Price Shop in the country.
    • This will ensure that the people in transit, especially migrant workers can also get the PDS benefit across the country.
    • Scheme for Affordable Rental Housing Complexes for Migrant Workers and Urban Poor
    • This scheme will be launched soon and under this, the Central Government will provide ease of living at affordable rent.
    • Under this:
    • Government funded houses in the cities will be converted intoAffordable Rental Housing Complexes (ARHC) under PPP mode (Public Private Partnerships) through concessionaires.
    • Interest Subvention for Shishu MUDRA loanees
    • Government of India will provide Interest subvention of 2%for prompt payees for a period of 12 months to MUDRA Shishu loanees, who have loans below ₹50,000.
    • The current portfolio of MUDRA Shishu loans is around ₹1.62 Lakh crore. This will provide relief of about ₹1,500 crore to Shishu MUDRA loanees.
    • Credit Facility for Street Vendors
    • A scheme will be launched tofacilitate easy access to credit to Street vendors and enable them to restart their businesses.
    • It is expected that 50 lakh street vendors will be benefitedunder this scheme and credit of ₹5,000 crore would be provided.
    • Bank credit facilities for initial working capital up to ₹10,000 for each enterprise will be extended.
    • Extension of Credit Linked Subsidy Scheme
    • The Credit Linked Subsidy Schemefor Middle Income Group (MIG, annual income between ₹6 and ₹18 lakhs) will be extended up to March 2021.
    • This subsidy scheme comes under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban).
    • This will benefit 2.5 lakhs middle income familiesduring 2020-21 and will lead to investment of over ₹70,000 crore in housing sector.
    • This will create a significant number of jobs by giving a boost to the Housing sector and will stimulate demand for steel, cement, transport and other construction materials.
    • Creating Employment using CAMPA Funds
    • Approximately ₹6,000 crore of fundsunder Compensatory Afforestation Management & Planning Authority (CAMPA) will be used.
    • The funds will be utilised inafforestation and plantation works, artificial regeneration, forest management, soil & moisture conservation works, forest protection, forest and wildlife related infrastructure development, wildlife protection and management etc.
    • Government will grant immediate approvalto these plans which will create job opportunities in urban, semi-urban and rural areas and also for Tribals.
    • Additional Emergency Working Capital through NABARD
    • National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development(NABARD) will extend additional re-finance support of ₹30,000 crore for meeting crop loan requirements of Rural Cooperative Banks (RCBs) and Regional Rural Banks (RRBs).
    • Thisrefinance will be front-loaded (uneven distribution with a greater proportion at one time and smaller ones at other time) and available immediately.
    • This isover and above ₹90,000 crore that will be provided by NABARD to this sector in the normal course.
    • This will benefit around 3 crore farmers,mostly small and marginal and will meet their post-harvest Rabi and current Kharif requirements.
    • Credit Boost to Kisan Credit Card Scheme
    • It is a special drive to provide concessional credit to Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi(PM-KISAN) beneficiaries through Kisan Credit Cards.
    • It will inject additional liquidity of ₹2 lakh crorein the farm sector.
    • 5 crore farmers will be coveredand fisherman and animal husbandry farmers will also be included in this drive.

    ·         Criticism

    • Economists say that this intervention was too little, too late,and that the free foodgrain provision should have been universalised to deal with widespread distress.
    • There are 50 crore people in the country without ration cards, of which 10 crore are legally entitled to PDS grain under NFSA. Of the rest, there are many people who were managing in normal times, vegetable vendors, gig economy workers, autorickshaw drivers, who are in dire straits now.PDS needed to be extended to all these people at this time.
    • Economists have asked the government for a one-time cash transfer to vulnerable sectionslike migrant labourers.
    • There were no steps taken to extend Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act(MGNREGA) employment guarantee to at least 200 days.
    • Currently,MGNREGA aims to provide at least 100 days of wage employment.



    • According to the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020 (FRA 2020) report,the rate of forest loss has declined in the period of 1990-2020.
    • The FRA is released by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
    • The FRA 2020 is based on the assessment of more than 60 forest-related variables in 236 countries and territories in the period of 1990–2020.

    Important Points

    • Total forest area:The world’s total forest area is 4.06 billion hectares (bha), which is 31% of the total land area. This area is equivalent to 0.52 hectares per person.
    • Top countries in forest cover —the Russian Federation, Brazil, Canada, the United States of America and China constituted more than 54% of the world’s forests.
    • Forest loss:According to the report, the world has lost 178 million hectares (mha) of forest since 1990, an area the size of Libya.
    • Decline in rate of forest loss:The rate of net forest loss decreased substantially during the period of 1990–2020.
    • It was 7.8 mha per year in the decade 1990–2000, 5.2 mha per year in 2000–2010 and 4.7 mha per year in 2010–2020.
    • This is due to a reduction in deforestation in some countries,plus increases in forest area in others through afforestation and the natural expansion of forests.
    • Areas that witnessed forest loss: Africahad the largest annual rate of net forest loss in 2010–2020, at 3.9 mha, followed by South America, at 2.6 mha.
    • Areas that witnessed forest gain: Asiahad the highest net gain of forest area in 2010–2020, followed by Oceania and Europe.
    • However, Oceania experienced net losses of forest area in the decades 1990–2000 and 2000–2010.
    • Types of forest loss:The largest proportion of the world’s forests are tropical (45%), followed by boreal, temperate and subtropical.
    • Naturally regenerating forest areasworldwide decreased since 1990, but the area of planted forests has
    • Plantation forestcover is 131 mha, about 3% of the global forest area.
    • The highest percentof plantation forests are in South America while the lowest are in Europe.
    • Protected forest areasworldwide estimate around 726 mha.
    • South Americahas the highest share of forests in protected areas, at 31%.
    • The protected forest areas increased by 191 mha since 1990.

    Global Forest Resources Assessment

    • The FRA presents a comprehensive view of the world’s forests and the ways in which the resource is changing.
    • It supports the development of sound policies, practices and investments affecting forests and forestry.
    • Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
    • The Food and Agriculture Organization is an agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger.
    • FAO is also a source of knowledge and information and helps developing countries and countries in transition to modernize and improve agriculture, forestry and fisheries practices and ensure good nutrition and food security for all.
    • Formation: 16th October 1945
    • Headquarters: Rome, Italy



    Recently, scientists from IIT (Indian School of Mines) Dhanbad and CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Biology (Kolkata) have developed the Z-scan method to monitor the origin as well as the progression of Parkinson’s disease in human beings.

    Parkinson’s Disease

    • Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, degenerative neurological disorder that affects the central nervous system.
    • It damages nerve cells in the brain dropping the levels of dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical that sends behavioural signals from the brain to the body.
    • The disease causes a variety of “motor” symptoms (symptoms related to movement of the muscles), including rigidity, delayed movement, poor balance, and tremors.
    • Medication can help control the symptoms of the disease but it can’t be cured.
    • It affects the age group from 6 to 60 years. Worldwide, about 10 million people have been affected by this disease.

    Important Points

    • Aggregation of ASyn:
    • An aggregation of a protein calledAlpha-synuclein (ASyn) plays a crucial role in the development of Parkinson’s disease.
    • Protein aggregation is a biological phenomenon in which destabilized proteins aggregate (i.e., accumulate and clump together) leading to many diseases.
    • Alpha-synuclein is a protein found in the human brain, while smaller amounts are found in the heart, muscle and other tissues.
    • In the brain, alpha-synuclein is found mainly at the tips of neurons in specialized structures called presynaptic terminals.
    • Presynaptic terminals release chemical messengers, called neurotransmitters.
    • The release of neurotransmitters relays signals between neurons and is critical for normal brain function.
    • Use of Z-scan Method:
    • The discovered Z-scan method is expected to help in monitoring both the early as well as late stages of the aggregation of ASyn and death of neuronal cells.
    • Until now, worldwide studies could not establish any strong relation between ASyn aggregations and subsequent death of neuronal cells observed in Parkinson’s disease.

    CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Biology

    • Indian Institute of Chemical Biology (IICB) was established in 1935 as the first non official centre in India for biomedical research and was included within the aegis of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in 1956.
    • It is located in Kolkata (West Bengal).
    • CSIR-IICB is engaged in research on diseases of national importance and biological problems of global interest and also helps to maintain momentum in life science research.
    • It conducts research in a variety of areas including chemistry, biochemistry, cell biology, molecular biology, neurobiology and immunology which promotes productive interdisciplinary interaction.



    • Recently Government of Uttar Pradesh has released Gharials(Gavialis gangeticus) in the Ghaghara river for the conservation and protection in natural habitat.

    Important Points

    • Natural Habitat: Fresh watersof the northern part of India.
    • Gharials, sometimes called gavials, are a type of Asian crocodilian distinguished by their long, thin snouts which resembles a pot (gharain Hindi).
    • Significance:Population of Gharials are a good indicator of clean river water.
    • Gharialsare a type of Crocodilians that also includes crocodiles, alligators, caimans, etc. India has three species of Crocodilians namely:
    • Gharial(Gavialis gangeticus): International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)- Critically Endangered.
    • Mugger crocodile(Crocodylus palustris): IUCN- Vulnerable
    • Saltwater crocodile(Crocodylus porosus): IUCN- Least Concern
    • In comparison to Crocodiles, Gharials are very shy and unharmful species.
    • Primary Habitat: Chambal river
    • The chambal originates at the Singar Chouri peakin the northern slopes of the Vindhya mountains (Indore, Madhya Pradesh).
    • It joins the Yamuna River in Etawah District of UP.
    • Tributaries:Banas, Kali Sindh, Parbati.
    • The National Chambal Sanctuaryis located along river Chambal on the tri-junction of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. It is known for critically endangered gharials, the red-crowned roof turtle, and the endangered Ganges river dolphin.
    • Secondary Habitat:Ghaghra and Gandak river, Girwa river (Katarniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh), the Ramganga river in Jim Corbett National Park and the Sone river.
    • Status: Gharials are critically endangeredin the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Species.
    • Listed under Schedule Iof the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.
    • Listed on Appendix Iof Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
    • Conservation Efforts:Breeding Centres of Kukrail Gharial Rehabilitation Centre in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, National Chambal Sanctuary (Gharial Eco Park, Madhya Pradesh).
    • Threats:
    • Gharials prefer sandbanksas suitable habitats. Wild animals as well as humans often destroy their eggs.
    • Increased river pollution, dam construction, massive-scale fishing operations and floods.
    • Illegal sand mining and poaching.

    Ghaghara River

    • It acts as an important aquatic corridor for gharials in Uttar Pradesh.
    • Its source is near Gurla Mandhata peak, south of Mansarovar in Tibet.
    • It is known as the Karnaili in Western Nepal.
    • It’s important tributaries are the Sarda, the Sarju (Ayodhya is located on its bank) and the Rapti.
    • The Ghaghara joins the Ganga a few kilometres downstream of Chhapra in Bihar.
    • After reaching the plain area, its stream gets divided into many branches of which, Koriyab and Garwa are important.
    • The river bed is sandy and sudden bends start occurring in the stream.



    • Recently, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has approved the first batch of antibody testingkits called “Covid KAVACH ELISA” manufactured by Zydus-Cadila to be used in sero-survey.

    Important Points

    • Covid KAVACH ELISA has been developed at the National Institute of Virology, Pune,by isolating the virus from patients in India.
    • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA)is a test that detects and measures antibodies in blood.
    • The test can be used to determineantibodies related to certain infectious conditions.
    • It can be used to diagnose HIV, which causes AIDS, Zika virus
    • The ELISA kits will be used in the new nationwide “sero-survey” of the Ministry of Health.
    • Sero-survey is meant to detect the prevalence of antibodiesthat appear after a patient has recovered.
    • The ICMR will lead the testing of 24,000 individuals in 69 districts at household level as part of this sero-survey.
    • According to the ICMR,real-time Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) is still the frontline test for clinical diagnosis of Covid-19, but the antibody tests are critical for surveillance to understand the proportion of population exposed to infection.
    • The antibody test forCovid-19 acts as a screening process that gives quick results in a few hours.
    • The antibody test detects the body’s response to the virus. It gives an indication that a person has been exposed to the virus.
    • If the test is positive, the swab is collected and an Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) test is done using the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) kit.
    • ELISA antibody tests are different from the rapid antibody testspreviously used by Indian authorities.
    • ELISA kits are more reliable and cheaperthan rapid antibody testing kits.
    • The ELISA kit has a sensitivityof 98.7% and a specificity of 100%.
    • Sensitivity signifies accurate positive test results, whereas specificity signifies accurate negative test results.
    • According to the World Health Organisation (WHO)the kits are suitable for “for testing large numbers of samples per day, as well as in blood banks or for surveillance studies”.
    • ELISA has minimal biosafety and biosecurity requirementsas compared to the real-time RT-PCR
    • Moreover, ELISA-based testing is easily possible even at the district levelas the test kit has inactivated virus.


    • Antibody, also called immunoglobulin is a protective protein produced by the immune system in response to the presence of a foreign substance, called an antigen.
    • A wide range of substances are regarded by the body as antigens, including disease-causing organisms and toxic materials.
    • Antibodies recognize and attack onto antigens in order to remove them from the body.

    PCR Test

    • Kary Mullis, the American biochemist invented the PCR technique. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1993.
    • Under this, copies of a segment of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) are created using an enzyme called Polymerase.
    • The ‘chain reaction’ signifies how the DNA fragments are copied, exponentially — one is copied into two, the two are copied into four, and so on.
    • A fluorescent DNA binding dye called the “probe” is added to DNA, which shows the presence of the virus on a fluorimeter.
    • However, coronavirus is made of RNA (ribonucleic acid).
    • Therefore to detect coronavirus, RNA is converted into DNA using a technique called reverse transcription.
    • A ‘reverse transcriptase’ enzyme converts the RNA into DNA.
    • Copies of the DNA are then made and amplified.
    • Generally, the entire process of PCR test takes 24 hours to deliver the result.
    • Indian Council of Medical Research
    • Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is the apex body in India for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research.
    • Its mandate is to conduct, coordinate and implement medical research for the benefit of the Society; translating medical innovations into products/processes and introducing them into the public health system.
    • It is funded by the Government of India through the Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.



    • The Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD)has developed an e-governance platform ‘SAMARTH Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)’ under the National Mission of Education in Information and Communication Technology Scheme (NMEICT).

    Important Points

    • SAMARTH ERP is anopen source, open standard enabled robust, secure, scalable, and evolutionary process automation engine for Universities and Higher Educational Institutions.
    • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)refers to a type of software used to manage day-to-day business activities such as accounting, procurement, project management, risk management and compliance, and supply chain operations.
    • ERP in a University can improve management and administration.
    • The platform has been implemented at theNational Institute of Technology (NIT), Kurukshetra, a participating unit under the World Bank-supported Technical Education Quality Improvement Program (TEQIP).
    • It would automate the processes of the enhancement of productivity through better information managementin the institute by seamless access to information and proper utilization of information.
    • It caters to faculty, students and staff at a University/Higher Educational Institutions.

    National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology

    • The Mission, launched in 2009,is a landmark initiative of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), with the objective of seamlessly providing quality educational content to all the eligible and willing learners in India.
    • It has been envisaged to leverage the potential of ICT, in the teaching and learning process for the benefit of all the learners in Higher Education Institutions.
    • Initiatives under the Program
    • SWAYAM:The Study Webs of Active Learning for Young Aspiring Minds’ (SWAYAM) is an integrated platform for offering online courses, covering school (9th to 12th) to Postgraduate Level. The online courses are being used not only by the students but also by the teachers and non-student learners, in the form of lifelong learning.
    • SWAYAM Prabha:It is an initiative to provide 32 High Quality Educational Channels through DTH (Direct to Home) across the length and breadth of the country on a 24X7 basis.
    • National Digital Library of India (NDL):It is a project to develop a framework of virtual repository of learning resources with a single-window search facility. Presently, there are more than 3 crore digital resources available through the NDL.
    • Spoken Tutorial:They are 10-minute long, audio-video tutorials, on open source software, to improve employment potential of students. It is created for self learning, audio dubbed into 22 languages and with the availability of an online version.
    • Free and Open Source Software for Education (FOSSEE):It is a project promoting the use of open source software in educational institutions. It does that through instructional material, such as spoken tutorials, documentation, such as textbook companions, awareness programmes, such as conferences, training workshops, and internships.
    • Virtual Lab:This is a project to develop a fully interactive simulation environment to perform experiments, collect data, and answer questions to assess the understanding of the knowledge acquired.
    • E-Yantra:It is a project for enabling effective education across engineering colleges in India on embedded systems and robotics.

    Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme

    • It was started in 2002 by the Ministry of Human Resources and Development with the assistance of the World Bank and is being implemented in a phased manner .
    • It aims to upscale the quality of technical education and enhance capacities of institutions.
    • The Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme III (TEQIP-III) was started in 2017 and will be completed by 2021.
    • It aims to develop technical education as a key component for improving the quality of Engineering Education.
    • The Objective is to improve quality and equity in engineering institutions in focus states such as in low income states.


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