• Current Affairs, 17 April 2020

    SOBERING PORTENT

    RELEVANT FOR: INDIAN ECONOMY | TOPIC: ISSUES RELATING TO PLANNING & ECONOMIC REFORMS

    • India’s merchandise exports plunged by a staggering 34.6 per cent in March as the dislocation of economic activities due to the coronavirusspread across the world. This sharper than expected fall was due to a combination of factors — the disruption of supply chains in China, which, coupled with weak global demand and lockdowns in large parts of the world, resulted in cancellation of export orders, as well as the imposition of the lockdown in India which restricted economic activity beginning in the last week of March. The situation is likely to have worsened in April on account of the extension of the lockdown in not just India, but in large parts of Europe and the US, which are among India’s major trading partners.
    • At the aggregate level, data from the commerce ministry shows that India’s merchandise exports in March stood at $21.4 billion, down from $32.7 billion in the same month last year. The decline in exports was broad-based, with all sectors barring iron ore registering a contraction: Engineering goods fell by 42.3 per cent, gems and jewellery by 41 per cent, leather products by 36.8 per cent, and readymade garments by 34.9 per cent. This stunning collapse in trade is in line with the World Trade Organisation’s estimates which had projected merchandise trade to fall by 13-32 per cent in 2020 — North America and Asia are likely to be the hardest hit, and nearly all regions are expected to witness double digit falls in trade volumes as global demand collapses. Equally worrying, the trade data also showed that non-oil non-gold imports declined sharply by 30.5 per cent in March, signalling depressed domestic demand — the decline was broad-based, across both capital and consumer goods segments.
    • At this juncture it is difficult to gauge to what extent easing the restrictions on select economic activities after April 20, and the likely lifting of other lockdown curbs post May 3, are able to ease export growth in the near term. It is quite likely that it will take some time for exports to return to normal, in part, due to raw material and labour shortages, logistical challenges and the fall in global demand. Given this situation, it is difficult to see net exports as being a driver of growth in the near-term. And with both private consumption and investment activity likely to remain depressed, the economy will be heavily reliant on government spending. In such a scenario, the central government must clearly lay out its strategy on how it plans to support the economy during this difficult period.

     

    A BLUEPRINT TO REVIVE THE ECONOMY

    RELEVANT FOR: INDIAN ECONOMY | TOPIC: ISSUES RELATING TO PLANNING & ECONOMIC REFORMS

    “We have no food, no home, no income. My children are starving,” cried Prachi to a TV anchor on April 14. Prachi, a migrant worker from Bihar, is one of the roughly 400 million workers in India who are dependent on daily wages for their survival. She has lost her source of livelihood because we are under a lockdown and economic activity has stopped. A lockdown is necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But we need not make a choice between saving lives and protecting livelihoods. We can achieve both through a ‘smart’ lockdown and careful economic management.

    The phrase ‘Greater Depression’, which has entered the vocabulary of economists, highlights the gravity of the humanitarian and economic crisis confronting us today. Every sector of the economy in every nation has come to a screeching halt. We extend our sympathies and wishes to all the leaders of the world, including our Prime Minister, for the enormous responsibility of steering their respective nations through this pandemic. In the spirit of non-partisanship, here is a carefully crafted economic proposal for consideration of the Indian government to help our fellow citizens.

    Lockdown displaces lakhs of migrants

    First, it is important to diagnose the scale of the economic crisis accurately. Prachi has lost her job because her employer has been forced to stop commercial activity. It is important for the government to feed Prachi and help her employer to restart activities so that he can re-employ her soon. The economic crisis needs a demand side and a supply side response. It is morally imperative that we immediately address the miseries of the poor and vulnerable by providing money as well as food. The bottom half of all households (13 crore out of 26 crore families) must be given ₹5,000 per family in their bank account within a week. The list of households and the bank details (largely Aadhaar-seeded) are available in the government’s various schemes such as PMJAY and MGNREGA. Besides, the States have their ‘below poverty line’ lists. This will cost a maximum of ₹65,000 crore. Further, depending on the need, for the month of May, these families can be given ₹3,000 each. This will cost an additional ₹39,000 crore.

    More than cash, scholars like Jean Dreze have observed that it is food that people need most urgently. India has far in excess of the buffer stock requirement. The Central government has already announced distribution of free food, but reports suggest that there is either lack of food supplies at the local ration shop or identity requirements of ration cards are proving to be a roadblock. The government must universalise food distribution immediately, to remove identity requirements, and work with State governments to rush supplies to every ration shop so that every family gets free grain.

    Next, the April 15 guidelines allow MGNREGA work, which was stopped due to the lockdown, to be restarted while observing social distancing norms. District collectors should be given the freedom to start and expand works under MGNREGA. If work cannot be given for some reason, 10 days’ wages every month should be paid to the registered MGNREGA workers in the panchayat/block until the scheme is resumed. This will ensure some livelihood support. Economists Amartya Sen, Raghuram Rajan and Abhijit Banerjee have also called for urgent implementation of these measures.

     

    VIRTUAL REALITY: THE HINDU EDITORIAL ON TELEMEDICINE

    RELEVANT FOR: DEVELOPMENTAL ISSUES | TOPIC: HEALTH & SANITATION AND RELATED ISSUES

    • The world has very few devices left to fight COVID-19with, but technology remains one of them. Whether it is the employ of state-of-the-art technology in the discovery of cures or vaccines, or traditional technology services to enhance health care and consultations, or even tools that keep people at home occupied/productive, it is clear that technology will serve humanity at one of its darkest moments. The pandemic has contributed, in no small measure, to the understanding of the myriad ways in which available technologies have not been put to better use, and presented people with multiple opportunities to harness these devices, techniques and methods to get on with life in the time of lockdown. Among the primary uses is telemedicine, rendered inexorable now, by the temporary paralysis brought on by a freeze on movement.
    • The Centre’s recent guidelines allowing for widespread use of telemedicine services came as a shot in the arm for telehealth crusaders in the country, among them the Telemedicine Society of India that has long been battling to use the technology in its complete arc to reach remote areas in India. This move finds consonance with the rest of the world where several nations, also deeply impacted by the pandemic, have deployed telemedicine to reach people who have been unable to come to hospital, to reduce footfalls in hospitals, and to even provide medical and mental health counselling to countless people. It was way back in 2000 that telemedicine was first employed in India, but the progress has been excruciatingly slow, until the pandemic. However, it does seem as if the medical community was only held back by the lack of legislation to enable tele consultations. For no sooner was the policy announced, then hospitals and clinicians hurried to jump onto the bandwagon, advertising contact information for patients. The advantages are peculiar in the current context, when putting distance between people is paramount, as tele consultations are not barred even when health care professionals and patients may have to be quarantined. The advancement of telecommunication capabilities over the years has made the transmission of images and sound files (heart and lung sounds, coughs) faster and simpler. Pilot telemedicine experiments in ophthalmology and psychiatry have proven to be of immense benefit to the communities. Telemedicine’s time is here, finally. While unleashing the full potential of telemedicine to help people, experts and government agencies must be mindful of the possible inadequacies of the medium, and securing sensitive medical information; such cognisance should guide the use of the technology.

     

     

    NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON KHARIF CROPS 2020

    RELEVANT FOR:- AGRICULTURE/ TOPICS :-   FOOD SECURITY, HEALTH, GOVERNMENT POLICIES & INTERVENTIONS ,WELFARE SCHEMES, CROPPING PATTERNS, AGRICULTURAL MARKETING, E-TECHNOLOGY IN THE AID OF FARMERS, AGRICULTURAL PRICING, DIRECT & INDIRECT FARM SUBSIDIES, PUBLIC DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM (PDS), BUFFER STOCKS & FOOD SECURITY

    Recently, the Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare addressed the National Conference on Kharif Crops 2020 through a video conference.

    Highlights of the Conference

    Aims:

    • To discuss various issues and list out stepsin consultation with the States about preparedness for Kharif cultivation in view of the lockdown
    • To take up doubling of farmers’ incomein mission mode.
    • To urge states to explain the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojanaand Soil Health Card Scheme to each farmer.
    • To implement the Home Ministry exemptions and relaxationsfor the Agricultural sector while ensuring social distancing and social responsibility norms.
    • To start using the e-NAM(National Agriculture Market) extensively.
    • Target of foodgrains production for the Financial Year 2020-21 has been fixed at 298.0 million tonnes.
    • During the FY 2019-20, against the foodgrain production target of 291.10 million tonnes, higher production of about 292 million tonnes is anticipated due to enhancement of area coverage andproductivity of various crops.
    • This was possible due to the various technological advancementsincluding varietal improvement as well as dedicated and coordinated efforts of Central and State Governments in spite of the present situation of climate change along with change in rainfall patterns.
    • The cultivable/agriculture land has reduced by about 2.74 million hectareduring the last two decades.
    • However, during the same period the Gross Cropped Area (GCA) has increased from 182.28 million hectare to 196.50 million hectare,with net area sown remaining largely unchanged at 140 million hectare.
    • Gross Cropped Area:It represents the total area sown once as well as more than once in a particular year. When the crop is sown on a piece of land for twice, the area is counted twice in GCA.
    • Net Area Sown:It represents the total area sown with crops. The area sown more than once in the same year is counted only once.
    • The production of food grains has increased from 169.92 million tonnes to 284.96 million tonnes in the corresponding period due to various technological and policy interventions.
    • It was highlighted that the agriculture and horticulture sector in the country have become a key driving element for economic development in many States.
    • India is the second largest producer of vegetables, after China.
    • Although India has become food surplus, it still needs to accelerate the production and productivity of agriculture and horticulture sectors for ensuring food and nutritional security in the rural areas.
    • The major new initiatives for increasing production of crops and income of the farmers were
    • “Per Drop More Crop”under flagship Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY).
    • Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana(PKVY).
    • Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana(PMFBY).
    • e-NAM initiative.
    • Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi(PM-KISAN) Yojana.
    • Pradhan Mantri Kisan Pension Yojana(PM-KPY).
    • Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay Sanrakshan Abhiyan(PM-AASHA).
    • It was informed that All India Agri Transport Call Centrehas been started to ensure that agriculture is not affected.
    • The call centre will facilitate inter-state movement of perishablesin the current situation of lockdown due to the Covid-19 threat.
    • ForRabi crops, all States will ensure procurement at Village/Block levels as farmers are not allowed to move out.
    • In addition, steps are taken for Direct Marketing/purchasing of crop producefrom farmers.
    • Relaxation has been given for movement of trucks/ vehicles loaded with seeds and fertilizersto ensure timely availability of such inputs at Village/Block levels across the country.
    • The format of State Action Plan(SAP) for advance planning and implementation of the National Food & Nutritional Security Mission (NF&NSM) has been simplified.
    • NF&NSM is mainly a mandate for production of foodgrains and is implemented on projectised mode through State Agriculture Departments across the country.
    • Project Monitoring Teams at Central and State levels are guiding in formulation of SAPs and also monitoring through field visit and farmers’ interaction.
    • Geo-tagging of various interventions are also undertaken to ensure transparency in the programme implementation.

     

    SOVEREIGN GOLD BONDS

    RELEVANT FOR: – INDIAN ECONOMY/ TOPICS :- BANKING SECTOR & NBFCS, INVESTMENT MODELS

    • The Government of India (GoI), in consultation with theReserve Bank of India (RBI), has decided to issue Sovereign Gold Bonds (SGBs) in six installments, from April 2020 to September 2020.
    • This series of government-run gold bonds – the Sovereign Gold Bond 2020-21 scheme – comes at a time when the rapid spread of the deadly coronavirus (Covid-19) has disturbed the financial markets around the globe, but increased the appeal of the yellow metal (gold) as a safe-haven.

    Important Points

    Sovereign gold bonds

    • Sovereign gold bonds are issued by the RBI on behalf of the government. They are government securities denominated in grams of gold. They are substitutes for holding physical gold.
    • The sovereign gold bond scheme was launched in November 2015. Its objective is to reduce the demand for physical gold and shift a part of the domestic savings (used for the purchase of gold) into financial savings.
    • Buy and Sale:Investors have to pay the issue price in cash and the bonds will be redeemed (bought back by the issuer) in cash on maturity.
    • Issue price is the price at which bonds are offered for sale when they first become available to the public.
    • Apart from having a chance to gain from the rise in gold prices at the time of redemption (capital gain), the investor gets a fixed rate of interest on the investment amount throughout the tenure of the fund.
    • The government will pay an interest at the rate of 5% per annum. The interest is payable semi-annually.
    • Tenure: Sovereign gold bonds have a tenure of eight years, with exit options are available from the fifth year.
    • Eligibility :The Bonds will be restricted for sale to resident individuals, Hindu Undivided Families (HUFs), Trusts, Universities and Charitable Institutions.
    • The minimum permissible investment unit is 1 gram of gold.

    Channels to buy bonds:

    • Investors can buy these bonds through designated scheduled commercial banks (except Small Finance Banks and Payment Banks), Stock Holding Corporation of India Limited, and designated post offices.
    • One can also buy these bonds through National Stock Exchange of India Limited and Bombay Stock Exchange(BSE) Limited.

    Advantages of investing in gold bond:

      • For investors it is advisable to invest in gold for portfolio diversification.
      • Sovereign gold bonds are considered one of the better ways of investing in gold as along with capital appreciation an investor gets a fixed rate of interest.
      • Apart from this, it is tax efficient as no capital gains is charged in case of redemption on maturity.
      • Sovereign gold bonds are a good way to ensure an investment that does not need physical storage of gold.

    Disadvantages of sovereign gold bonds

      • This is a long term investment unlike physical gold which can be sold immediately.
      • Sovereign gold bonds are listed on exchange but the trading volumes are not high, therefore it will be difficult to exit before maturity.

    PORTABLE SENSOR FOR HEAVY METAL DETECTION IN WATER

    RELEVANT FOR :- SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY/ TOPICS :- HEALTH, SCIENTIFIC INNOVATIONS & DISCOVERIES

    • Recently, the Centre for Nano and Soft Matter Sciences (CeNS)has developed a compact solid-state sensor to detect the heavy metal ions in water.
    • It is a portable device which can help onsite detection in remote areas.

    Important Points

    • The compact solid-state sensor can detect the heavy metal ions like lead ions (Pb2+) down to 0.4 parts per billion (ppb).

    Mechanism:

    • A sensor film was prepared by forming a composite between manganese doped zinc sulfide quantum dots and reduced graphene oxide on a glass substrate.
    • These particular quantum dots are water-soluble and have high photolumine scence (~30%) quantum yield, making them suitable for luminescence-based sensing.
    • Luminescence is emission of light by certain materials when they are relatively cool. It may be seen in neon and fluorescent lamps.
    • These quantum dots can be excited with handheld UV (ultra-violet) light of 254 nm, thus making them portable even to remote areas.
    • Excitation, in physics, refers to the addition of a discrete amount of energy (called excitation energy) to a system—such as an atom, or a molecule—that results in its alteration, ordinarily from the condition of lowest energy (ground state) to one of higher energy (excited state).
    • If a drop of water containing heavy metal ionssuch as mercury (Hg), lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd), are added to the composite film, the emission of the film extinguishes within seconds.
    • The development of efficient and portable sensors for rapid onsite detection of heavy metal ions becomes important due to the health hazards associated with them.
    • Heavy metal ions pose severe potential threats to living beings (kidney damage, bone fractures, etc.).
    • They can be accumulated in the body easily and cannot be detoxified by any chemical or biological processes.
    • This study demonstrates the easy detection of heavy metal ions in water. However, strategies are being developed to improve the selectivity of the detection.

    Centre for Nano and Soft Matter Sciences

    • It is an autonomous research institute under the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India.
    • DST provides core support to the Centre in the form of a grant-in-aid for conducting basic and applied research in nano and soft matter sciences.
    • CeNS is located at Jalahalli, Bengaluru.
    • It is being mentored by Nano-Mission of the Government of India.
    • It is engaged in materials research at all relevant length scales.
    • The current activities are focussed on a variety of metal and semiconductor nanostructures, liquid crystals, gels, membranes and hybrid materials.
    • The Centre was established in 1991 by an eminent liquid crystal scientist, Prof. S. Chandrasekhar, FRS. After years of expansion and name changes, in 2014, it became the Centre for Nano and Soft Matter Sciences (CeNS).

    Nano Mission

    • It was launched in 2007 as an umbrella capacity-building programme by the Government of India.
    • It is being implemented by the Department of Science and Technology.

    Objectives:

    • Basic research promotion.
    • Infrastructure development.
    • Nano applications and technology development.
    • Human Resource development.
    • International collaborations.
    • The Nano Mission has established national dialogues to promote R&D in the development of standards for nanotechnology and for laying down a National Regulatory Framework Road-Map for Nanotechnology (NRFR-Nanotech).

    SEISMIC NOISE

    RELEVANT FOR: – GEOGRAPHY/ TOPICS: – EARTHQUAKES, PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY

    • Scientists at the British Geological Survey (BGS) have reported a change in the Earth’s seismic noise and vibrations amid the coronavirus lockdown.
    • These findings have come two weeks after seismologists at the Royal Observatory in Belgium observed a 30-50% fall in levels of seismic noise since schools and businesses were closed in mid-March.

    Important Points

    Seismic noise

    • In geology (study of rocks), seismic noise refers to the relatively persistent vibration of the grounddue to a multitude of causes.
    • This noise includes vibrations caused due to human activity,such as transport and manufacturing.
    • Scientists first observed this seismic noise — everything recorded on seismograms that cannot be attributed to earthquakes — at the end of the 19th
    • It is the unwanted component of signals recorded by a seismometer and makes it difficult for scientists to study seismic data that is more valuable.
    • Apart from geology, seismic noise is also studied in other fields such as oil exploration, hydrology, and earthquake engineering.

    Benefits of reduction in seismic noise

    • Usually, to measure seismic activity accurately and reduce the effect of seismic noise, geologists place their detectors 100 metres below the Earth’s surface.
    • Because, the seismic noise vibrations caused by human activity are of high frequency(between 1-100 Hz), and travel through the Earth’s surface layers.
    • However, since the lockdown,researchers have said that they were able to study natural vibrations even from surface readings, owing to lesser seismic noise.
    • Due to lower noise levels, scientists are now hoping thatthey would be able to detect smaller earthquakes and tremors that had slipped past their instruments so far.

    Seismometer

    • Seismometer is the scientific instrument that records ground motions, such as those caused by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and explosions.
    • These are incredibly sensitive so they also pick up other sources of vibration too, including human activity, such as road traffic, machinery and even people walking past.

     

    INACTIVATED VIRUS VACCINE IN FOCUS FOR COVID-19

    RELEVANT FOR :- SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY/ TOPICS :- ACHIEVEMENTS OF INDIANS IN SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

    Recently, researchers from the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) have started developing an inactivated virus vaccine for the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2).

    Important Points

    • Vaccination is thought to be the most effective and sure way to arrest the progress and deadly effect of the virus.
    • Inactivated vaccines are known for their safety and easy production.

    Inactivated Vaccines

    • Active pathogens are grown in large numbers and then killed either by a chemical or heat. Although the pathogen is killed, or made to lose its reproduction capacity, various parts of the pathogen are intact.g The antigen (the chemical structure) that is recognised by the immune system is left unimpaired.
    • When this dead microbe is introduced in the body, the immune system is tricked to respond by producing antibodies against specific antigens still left intact, without knowing that the pathogen is defective.
    • As the pathogen is dead, it cannot reproduce nor cause even a mild disease. Thus, it is safe to administer to even people with lesser immunity, like the old and those who have comorbidity.
    • Inactivated polio vaccine and the rabies vaccine are made this way.
    • Benefit:If a large amount of coronavirus is grown and inactivated, that will be material for candidate vaccines to be injected.
    • Challenges:The important technological challenge is growing the coronavirus outside of the human host.
    • As the novel coronavirus has evolved to life on human cells, locating the right source of the cell line to grow the virus outside of the human body is key to this technology.
    • CCMB is using the epithelial cell line from African green monkeys to artificially grow and harvest the deadly virus.
    • The cells will be observed and if the cells show changes, including dying of cells and release of the virus, then the culture is positive.
    • Finding a right cell growing technology for the novel coronavirus will also help in drug development.

    Other Types of Vaccine

    Live-attenuated vaccines

    • Live vaccines use a weakened (or attenuated) form of the germ that causes a disease.
    • Because these vaccines are so similar to the natural infection that they help prevent, they create a strong and long-lasting immune response.
    • Just one or two doses of most live vaccines can give you a lifetime of protection against a germ and the disease it causes.
    • The limitation of this approach is that these vaccines usually cannot be given to people with weakened immune systems
    • Live vaccines are used against: Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR combined vaccine), Rotavirus, Smallpox among others.
    • Subunit, recombinant, polysaccharide, and conjugate vaccines
    • They use specific pieces of the germ — like its protein, sugar, or capsid (a casing around the germ). They give a very strong immune response.
    • They can also be used on people with weakened immune systems and long-term health problems.
    • These vaccines are used to protect against: Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b) disease, Hepatitis B, HPV (Human papillomavirus), Pneumococcal disease among others.
    • Toxoid vaccines
    • Toxoid vaccines use a toxin made by the germ that causes a disease. Toxoid vaccines are used to protect against: Diphtheria, Tetanus

    CHITRA GENE LAMP-N FOR COVID-19 TEST

    RELEVANT FOR:- SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY/ TOPICS :- ACHIEVEMENTS OF INDIANS IN SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY, SCIENTIFIC INNOVATIONS & DISCOVERIES

    • Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST),Trivandrum (Kerala), has developed a diagnostic test kit that can confirm Covid-19 in 2 hours at low cost.
    • SCTIMST is an Institute of National Importance under the Department of Science and Technology (DST).

    Important Points

    • The test kit, funded by the DST called Chitra Gene LAMP-N,is highly specific for SARS-CoV-2 Ngene and can detect two regions of the gene.
    • This would ensure that the test does not fail even if one region of the viral gene undergoes mutation during its current spread.
    • It is a confirmatory diagnostic test, which detects the N Gene of SARS- COV2 using reverse transcriptase loop-mediated amplification of viral nucleic acid (RT-LAMP).
    • The results can be read from the machine from the change in fluorescence.
    • Fluorescence is theemission of light by a substance that has absorbed light or other electromagnetic radiation.
    • The tests performed at National Institute of Virology (NIV), Alappuzha (Kerala) (authorized by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR))show that Chitra GeneLAMP- N has 100% accuracy and match with test results using Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR).
    • This has been intimated to Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the authority to approve it, for Covid-19 testing in India, following which License needs to be obtained from Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO)for manufacture.

    Advantages

    • A total of 30 samples can be tested in a single batch in a single machine allowing alarge number of samples to be tested each day.
    • Current Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)kits in India enable detection of E gene for screening and RdRp gene for confirmation. Chitra GeneLAMP-N gene testing will allow confirmation in one test without the need for a screening test and at much lower costs (less than Rs. 1000/test).
    • Chitra GeneLAMP-N makes confirmatory tests results of Covid-19 possible in 2 hours.
    • The detection time is 10 minutes, and the sample to result time (from RNA extraction in swab to RT-LAMP detection time) will be less than 2 hours.
    • The testing facility can be easily set upeven in the laboratories of district hospitals with limited facilities and trained laboratory technicians.

    Gene

    • Gene, unit of hereditary information.
    • Genes achieve their effects by directing the synthesis of proteins.
    • Genes are composed of Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), except in some viruses, which have genes consisting of a closely related compound called Ribonucleic acid (RNA).

    Reverse Transcription-based Loop Mediated Isothermal Amplification (RT-LAMP)

    • It is a simple quantitative detection method.
    • In this method, a DNA copy of the viral RNA is generated by reverse transcriptase, and then isothermal amplification is carried out to increase the amount of total DNA.
    • A reverse transcriptase (RT) is an enzyme used to generate complementary DNA (DNA) from an RNA template, a process termed reverse transcription.
    • Isothermal amplification enables rapid and specific amplification of DNA at constant temperature (60-65 °C).

    ZOOM- NOT A SAFE PLATFORM: MHA

    RELEVANT FOR: – GOVERNANCE/ TOPICS: – HEALTH, GOVERNMENT POLICIES & INTERVENTIONS, IT & COMPUTERS, CYBER SECURITY

    • Recently, theMinistry of Home Affairs (MHA) has issued an advisory that Zoom video conference is not a safe platform.
    • The Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C) of the MHA issued a set of guidelines for the safe usage of Zoom by private individuals.

    Important Points

    • Zoom has seen an exponential rise in usage in Indiaas office-goers remain at home due to the lockdown, imposed to curb the Covid-19
    • Over 90,000 schools across 20 countries have started using it regularly.
    • Themaximum number of daily meeting participants of approximately 10 million at the end of December 2019 grew to more than 200 million daily meeting participants in March.
    • It has been used extensively by everyone including the central and state ministersfor official purposes and conducting meetings.
    • Zoom is a US-based video communication and videoconferencing platform.
    • ThisSilicon Valley-based company appears to own three companies in China through which at least 700 employees were paid to develop Zoom’s software.
    • This arrangement is apparently an effort at labor arbitragein which Zoom can avoid paying US wages while selling to US customers, thus increasing their profit margin.
    • However, this arrangement may make Zoom responsive to pressure from Chinese authorities.
    • Reportedly,few calls made through the app are routed through servers in China.
    • Earlier, the Computer Emergency Response Team, India(CERT-In) had also issued advisories cautioning on the use of Zoom for office meetings.
    • It warned that the insecure usage of the platformmay allow cyber criminals to access sensitive information such as meeting details and conversations giving rise to cyber frauds.
    • It also highlighted multiple vulnerabilities which could allow an attacker to gain elevated privileges or obtain sensitive information.
    • Citizen Lab,based at the University of Toronto, found significant weakness in Zoom’s encryption that protects meetings.
    • It identified the transmission of meeting encryption keys through China.
    • The lab has raised two primary concerns- geo-fencing and meeting encryption.
    • Zoom Founder and CEO Eric S Yuan has apologised and assured the people that the privacy and security expectations would be taken care
    • Zoom has added additional features such as placing a new security icon in the meeting controls, changing Zoom’s default settings and enhancing meeting password complexity, among others.
    • It has also added that soon,account admins will have the ability to choose whether or not their data is routed through specific data center regions.

    Suggestions by the Ministry

    • The users are suggested to set strong passwords and enable “waiting room” features so that call managers could have better control over the participants.
    • Users should also avoid using personal meeting IDto host events and instead use randomly generated meeting IDs for each event.
    • People using the app should not share meeting links on public platforms.

    Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre

    • The scheme to set up I4C was approved in October 2018, to deal with all types of cybercrimes in a comprehensive and coordinated manner.

    It has seven components:

    • National Cyber Crime Threat Analytics Unit
    • National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal
    • National Cyber Crime Training Centre
    • Cyber Crime Ecosystem Management Unit
    • National Cyber Crime Research and Innovation Centre
    • National Cyber Crime Forensic Laboratory Ecosystem
    • Platform for Joint Cyber Crime Investigation Team.
    • Various States and Union Territories (UTs) have consented to set up Regional Cyber Crime Coordination Centres.
    • This state-of-the-art Centre is located in New Delhi.
    • Computer Emergency Response Team-India
    • It is an organisation of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India, with the objective of securing Indian cyberspace.
    • It is the nodal agency which deals with cyber security threats like hacking and phishing.
    • It collects, analyses and disseminates information on cyber incidents, and also issues alerts on cybersecurity incidents.
    • CERT-IN provides Incident Prevention and Response Services as well as Security Quality Management Services.

    RBI’S QUARTERLY SURVEY ON MANUFACTURING SECTOR

    RELEVANT FOR: – INDIAN ECONOMY/ TOPICS:- BANKING SECTOR & NBFCS, MONETARY POLICY, INDUSTRIAL GROWTH

    • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI)has launched the 49th round of quarterly Order Books, Inventories and Capacity Utilisation Survey (OBICUS) of the manufacturing sector.
    • The latest round has a reference period as January-March 2020.

    Important Points

    • The RBI has been conducting the OBICUS of the manufacturing sectoron a quarterly basis since 2008.
    • The survey represents the movements in actual data on order books, inventory levels of raw materials and finished goods and capacity utilization.
    • Inventory is the amount of goods held by a company.
    • Capacity utilization refers to the manufacturing and production capabilities that are being utilized by a nation or enterprise.
    • The survey also gives out theratio of total inventories to sales and ratio of raw material (RM) and finished goods (FG) inventories to sales in percentages.
    • These are considered as important indicators tomeasure economic activity, inflationary pressures and the overall business cycle.
    • Trend analysisis calculated for the survey based on quantitative data received from companies regarding new orders, backlog orders at the beginning of the quarter, pending orders at the end of the quarter.
    • The survey provides valuable input for monetary policy
    • The company level data collected during the survey are treated as confidential and never disclosed.
    • In the 48thround of the OBICUS for the quarter October-December 2019 as many as 704 manufacturing companies were covered. As per the survey:
    • Capacity Utilisation (CU) had declined to 68.6% in the third quarter of 2019-20 from 69.1% in the previous second quarter.
    • Also, orders received in the third quarter(Q3:2019-20) were lower compared with the previous second quarter as well as with the level of 2018-19.

     

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