• Current Affairs, 21 March 2020


    1. COVID-19 cases rise to 236 in India


    • COVID-19 cases rose to 236 in India after 63 fresh cases were reported in a day, as per the ICMR  on Friday while the Union health ministry figure stood at 223, as the governments in the national capital and Maharashtra announced shutdown of public places to contain the spread of coronavirus that has claimed more than 10,000 lives globally.
    • ICMR said, a total of 15,404 samples from 14,514 individuals have been tested for SARS-CoV2 as on 20th March 2020 6 PM. A total of 236 individuals have been confirmed positive among suspected cases and contacts of known positive cases.
    • A day after he addressed the nation on coronavirus during which he asked people to remain indoors and only come out if it was extremely necessary, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a video call with chief ministers and discussed ways to check and prevent the spread of the virus.
    • A spike in numbers prompted the states and UTs to reinforce its efforts to contain the spread. While the Maharashtra Chief Minister said all workplaces in major cities, including in country’s commercial hub Mumbai and Pune, will remain closed till March 31, the Delhi Chief Minister announced shutting down of all malls in the national capital, but exempted grocery stores and pharmacies in them.
    • Despite appeals by leaders not to panic and not to hoard items, long lines were seen at grocery stores, pharmacies and outlets selling other essential stuff, throwing the caution of ‘social distancing’ to the wind.
    • Many in public dealing, including traders, responded to Modi’s call for a ‘Janata Curfew’ on Sunday, saying they will shut their establishments while a number of people opted for self-isolation as a precaution.
    • According to sources, no passenger trains will ply from 00:00 hours till 10 pm on Sunday while all suburban train services to be reduced to a bare minimum during ‘Janata Curfew’.


    1. Govt has fixed prices for face masks & sanitizers in light of COVID – 19 outbreak: Ram Vilas Paswan
    • Government is keeping a close watch on the prices of  every essential commodity. Union Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan tweeted that government has fixed the prices for face masks and sanitizers in light of the COVID – 19 outbreak.
    • Paswan said that under the essential commodities act no extra charges can be levied on the fabric used for manufacturing of face masks.
    • He informed that the two and three layered mask would cost 8 and 10 rupees respectively while a two hundred milli-litre bottle of hand sanitiser is priced at 100 rupees. Mr. Paswan asserted that the prices would remain same till 30th June this year.
    1. Services rendered by Parliamentarians, doctors, and para-medics fall under Essential Services category: Piyush Goyal

    • Functioning of Parliament after invoking Epidemics Act and notification restricting the movement of people above sixty five years in the wake of Corona virus does not violate any provision of the law.
    • This was stated by Union Minister Piyush Goyal in Rajya Sabha today.
    • His remarks came in the wake of query raised by Anand Sharma of the Congress who said, most of the Parliamentarians above the age of sixty five fall under the ambit of the notification. He questioned as to how the government could circumvent the provisions of the notification.
    • Responding to this, the Minister said, that the people discharging the essential duties are exempted from the purview of the notification.
    • He clarified that the services rendered by Parliamentarians, doctors, and para-medics fall under the Essential Services category.
    • Mr Goyal said that Parliament is in the process of debating the budgetary demands.
    1. PM reviews COVID-19 strategy with all states; calls for citizens participation to combat challenge

    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has emphasized the need for the  Centre and all States working together as the threat of the Corona virus pandemic is common for all states. Interacting with Chief Ministers of all the states through video conferencing to discuss measures to combat Novel Corona virus, Mr Modi said, no stone should be left unturned in the common endeavors to fight COVID-19.
    • He asked Chief Ministers to ensure that all necessary steps are taken and all advisories are followed to ensure safety of citizens in the country at large. He said that while participation of citizens is necessary to combat the challenge, but panic needs to be avoided.
    • Mr Modi said, the next three to four weeks are crucial in efforts to contain spread of the virus and the most important measure for containment is social distancing. He requested Chief Ministers to ensure its effective implementation.
    • The Prime Minister also appreciated the steps taken by the states and thanked them for sharing their experiences and giving suggestions.  He hailed the efforts of  people from various walks of life that have come together to support the initiative of Janata Curfew this Sunday to contain the spread of corona virus Covid-19.
    • Prime Minister has said that every Indian should be vigilant in view of COVID-19 outbreak. In his address to the nation, Mr Modi gave nine calls urging everyone to avoid stepping out of homes until it is absolutely essential. He said, those over the age of sixty should remain inside their homes for the coming few weeks.
    • The Prime Minister urged citizens to follow  ‘Janta Curfew’ on 22nd March,  from 7 A.M. to 9 P.M., wherein no one apart from those involved with essential services is supposed to venture out of home. He said that the success of such a people’s movement and the experiences gained from it will prepare us for the challenges ahead. He added that the efforts of the people on Sunday, would be a symbol of their restraint and determination to perform duty in the national interest.
    • Prime Minister Modi said, on that day at 5 P.M. from homes, everybody should express gratitude to those working round the clock to keep the nation healthy by standing in the balconies and at the doors of their houses and clap or ring bells for five minutes as a show of appreciation. Highlighting the stress on the hospitals, the Prime Minister urged everyone to avoid routine check ups during this time and to extend the date of surgeries scheduled, wherever feasible. He also asked everyone to be compassionate and not to cut the wages of those working in  homes, support staff, drivers and gardeners. Urging people not to indulge in panic buying, Mr Modi stressed that the country has enough food and ration supplies.
    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has hailed the efforts of  people from various walks of life that have come together to support the initiative of Janata Curfew this Sunday to contain the spread of corona virus Covid 19. Influencers and achievers from various fields and several organisations have come out in support of the Janata Curfew  and have urged the nation to come together to make it effective. They include actors Shahrukh Khan, Shahid Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit and actor-politician Kamal Haasan, cricketer Kevin Pietersen and TDP Chief Chandrababu Naidu.
    • Celebrities such as Amitabh Bachchan, Karan Johar, Akshay Kumar and Hrithik Roshan also took to social media to applaud Prime Minister”s statement on Janta curfew.
    • Meanwhile, in Himachal Pradesh, plying of all kinds of buses will be suspended on Sunday to make the Janta Curfew a success. Announcing this in Shimla yesterday, the State Chief Minister, Jai Ram Thakur said that keeping in view of the Janta Curfew all the Inter-State Contract Carriage would be suspended from the midnight of 21st March 2020 till further orders.
    1. Parliamentary Standing Committee on Chemicals and Fertilizers says, hardly any checks and balances adopted to verify whether genuine farmers are getting subsidized fertilizers

    • A Parliamentary Standing Committee on Chemicals and Fertilizers under the chairmanship of Lok Sabha Member Kanimozhi Karunanidhi of DMK said that hardly any checks and balances were adopted to verify whether genuine farmers are getting subsidized fertilizers. It has complained that a person who may not be a farmer but his Aadhaar card might be used for collecting fertilizer.
    • The committee, in its report on the Demands for Grants for the financial year 2020-21 that was tabled in both the houses today, said that a total of 1182.04 Lakh Metric Tonnes of fertilizers have been sold through Point of Sale devices under Direct Benefit Transfer scheme till December, 2019 and the farmer or buyer’s identity is authenticated through biometric, Aadhaar-based Unique Identification Number or Voter ID card or Kisan Credit Card.
    • The committee also said, there is scope for misuse by retailers by collecting Aadhaar cards and asking those persons to put thumb impressions for an amount given to them and showing false sale and later on selling the fertilizers in black market. The committee recommended that a foolproof monitoring system should be developed at ground level by deploying inspectors at district level to prevent all possible misuses by retailers and to ensure only farmers get subsidized fertilizers according to their requirements.
    • The committee observed that the Department has made a lot of efforts to bring together all stakeholders and tried to develop a solution for reaching the ideal situation of payment of fertilizer subsidy directly to the farmers.
    1. MoS Health informs Lok Sabha, govt extended financial and technical support to States/UTs for proper storage of vaccines



    • The Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Ashwini Kumar Choubey informed the Lok Sabha that government has extended financial and technical support to the States/UTs for proper storage of vaccines in the country including rural areas.
    • In a written reply to a question, the Minister also said that Under the programme States/UTs are provided with Ice-lined Refrigerators (ILRs), Deep Freezers (DFs), Walk-in-coolers (WIC), Walk-in Freezers (WIF), Solar refrigerators, cold box, vaccine carrier and ice packs for proper storage and distribution of vaccines.
    • The Minister also said that Ice-lined Refrigerators (ILRs) storing vaccines are able to maintain the vaccine storage temperature for 24 hours with as little as eight hours of intermittent power supplies.
    • Mr Choubey said that government has already provided 388 solar powered refrigerators and vaccine coolers to States/UTs to store vaccines.
    1. Rajnath says global economic situation will affect all nations, but ruled out any impact on country’s defence procurement



    • Defence Minister Rajnath Singh today said that the global economic situation would affect all nations, but ruled out any impact on the country’s defence procurement.
    • Speaking at the launch of the draft Defence Procurement Procedure, 2020, Mr Singh said, the global economy could improve in the next two to five months.
    1. Government bans export of surgical, disposable masks


    • Union Government has banned export of surgical and disposable masks and the material used in their manufacturing in view of COVID – 19 outbreak in the country.
    • The Textiles Ministry has amended the Export Policy with immediate effect prohibiting the export of 2/3 ply masks. The decision has been taken following the constraints in the manufacturing and supply of masks.


    1. Train services across the country to remain suspended from midnight tonight to 10 p.m. tomorrow

    • Indian Railways has taken a slew of measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 virus. The measures are being implemented across all the zones . Indian Railways has taken steps to discourage citizens from undertaking non essential journeys by temporarily removing special incentives for many categories including suspension of passenger and some long distance trains.
    • keeping in view Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to observe Janta Curfew tomorrow and the steep decline in the number of passengers, Indian Railways has reduced the number of trains which would be plying. In wake of the same, Passenger trains originating from midnight till 10 in the night tomorrow stands cancelled.
    • Around thirteen hundred long distance mail and express trains have also been suspended which were supposed to commence journey between 4 in the morning till 10 in the night tomorrow.  Barring few essential runs, suburban train services in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Secunderabad will also be reduced.
    • All trains which are already on the run during these hours will however, continue their services. Railways has urged people to ensure the running status of trains before reaching stations as occupancy is being closely monitored and modifications are done to meet the actual requirement.


    1. PM Modi thanks Bhutan & Nepal for contributing to COVID-19 emergency fund



    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday thanked Bhutan and Nepal for contributing to the COVID-19 emergency fund to tackle the spread of the deadly virus in the SAARC countries.
    • PM Modi took to Twitter to thank leaders of the two countries for their contribution.
    • Addressing the SAARC leaders and representatives on March 15 via video, Modi had proposed the emergency fund with an initial offer of USD 10 million from India for the purpose.
    • Modi said it is wonderful to see SAARC leaders taking initiatives that are adding strength to the collective fight against coronavirus.
    1. China reports no new domestic cases of COVID – 19 for 2nd successive day


    • China reported no new domestic cases of COVID – 19 for the second successive day yestersday. The Chineses National Health Commission said that it has registered 41 new imported cases of COVID-19 and no cases of internal transmission. The nation also recorded seven new fatalities.
    • No new cases of the coronavirus have been registered in Wuhan, where the outbreak is believed to have originated.


    1. North Korea fires two ‘ballistic missiles’ towards Sea of Japan


    • North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles towards the Sea of Japan. Citing South Korea’s military, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported that the launch originated from North Pyongang province.
    • North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency, KCNA, reported that the country would convey the development to its parliament on April 10th. Pyongyang is under multiple sets of international sanctions over its weapons programmes.


    1. UAE condemns killing of two ERC employees in Yemen



    • The United Arab Emirates has strongly condemned the killing of two Emirates Red Crescent (ERC) humanitarian aid employees operating in the city of Aden in Yemen.
    • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation underscored the UAE’s utter condemnation of such criminal acts.  The statement said that the UAE categorically rejected all forms of violence and terrorism aimed at undermining security and stability in contravention of all human and religious values and principles.
    • The Ministry also expressed its sincere condolences to the families of the victims and to the Emirates Red Crescent. It reiterated that targeting humanitarian aid staff is a flagrant violation of all international treaties.


    1. Olympic flame reaches Japan

    • The Olympic flame arrived in Japan to a scaled-down welcoming ceremony today. The flame, enclosed in a special lantern, landed on a charter flight at Matsushima airbase.
    • Amidst speculation that the COVID 19 pandemic would lead to postponement of games, the chairman of the International Olympics Committee, Thomas Bach said different scenarios were under consideration and the games were four and a half months away.
    • He added that postponement would not be responsible and it would be premature to speculate or make a decision at this stage.
    1. Indian football Legend P K Banerjee passes away at 83

    • Legendary Indian footballer P K Banerjee died today in Kolkata after battling prolonged illness.
    • He was 83. The 1962 Asian Games gold-medallist was conferred with  Arjun award and Padmshree. Born on 23rd June 1936 in Moynaguri on the outskirts of Jalpaiguri in West Bengal, Banerjee’s family relocated to his uncle’s place in Jamshedpur before partition.
    • He scored 65 international goals in 84 appearances for the national team. Besides winning the gold medal at the Jakarta Asian Games in 1992, Banerjee led India in the 1960 Rome Olympics, where he scored the equalizer against a formidable French team in a 1-1 draw.
    • Before that, Banerjee represented India in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and played a key role in their 4-2 win over Australia in the quarterfinals.
    • Banerjee’s contribution to Indian football was duly recognised by the world governing body FIFA that awarded him the Centennial Order of Merit in 2004.
    • The West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and hundreds of sports lovers have condoled the death of legendary footballer and coach P. K. Banerjee.
    • He died in Kolkata this afternoon after brief illness at the age of 83 years. He was also known as P K in the football ground.
    • Banerjee got Arjuna, FIFA awards and also received Gold Medal in Asian Games besides other prestigious awards.
    • The West Bengal government conferred him ‘Bangabibhushan Samman’ for his outstanding contributions in the field of sports. He will be cremated with full state honour in Kolkata tonight.




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