• Current Affairs, 21 May 2020

    THE INVISIBLE FACE OF THE FALLOUT

    RELEVANT FOR: INDIAN SOCIETY | TOPIC: ROLE OF WOMEN AND WOMEN’S ORGANIZATION

    • The world has suddenly woken up to the reality of a virus ravaging it.
    • While catastrophes affect people at large, the economical, sociological and psychological impact that each catastrophe has on women is profound. Data indicate the need to address this during and after these catastrophic episodes.
    • In the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the coastlines of countries in the region, including India, were affected and more than 2,00,000 people were killed or listed missing; a fourth of them were women. The traditional ‘care giver’ role that women play has much to do in explaining this. Women stay around looking for their loved ones in order to see them safe. Besides this, women lack many life skills such as swimming and climbing.
    • During tsunami recovery phases, aid organisations and governments house the homeless in camps where women face many difficulties including abuse by men. Gender-skewed tsunami deaths resulted in a disproportionate gender ratio where men largely outnumbered women. Women also faced hygiene challenges in these camps due to inadequate sanitation facilities.
    • In the United States, which has a high incidence of tornadoes, families headed by women are affected the most. Women often are engaged in sector-specific employment which when impacted result in unemployment. Women are also engaged in post-calamity care, missing job opportunities. An economic slowdown also leaves women with additional wage cuts, on a paradigm where pay disparity between genders is a norm.
    • In Kerala, after the floods in 2018-19, thousands were housed in relief camps. Experts observe that relief measures focus on livelihood and assets, compelling aid agencies to focus on restoring livelihoods. Flood-destroyed kitchens forced women to cook in the open air with whatever they were left with. There was considerable added domestic work by women, which went unnoticed.
    • Coming to the current COVID-19 pandemic, its impact on both genders is beyond the mere death statistics. According to World Health Organization data, around 70% of the world’s health workers are women, 79% of nurses are women. Health workers in general are highly vulnerable and not ensuring their safety is a high risk that can severely impact the health system. India has a million-plus accredited social health activist (ASHA) workers who are an integral part of its health system. ASHAs, who work at the ground level, are reporting incidents of attacks while on COVID-19 duty. Stringent action against their tormentors is needed to ensure their professional safety.
    • In many households where both partners work, the work from home (WFH) concept is now common. The entire family is now together within the limited space of their dwellings. As traditional roleplay is still prevalent in most sections of Indian society, the equal division of household responsibilities among couples is still distant. Women from all strata face substantial additional household work. Alongside this is the fear of job loss and reduced income which can create mental pressure on women, in turn affecting their physical well-being.
    • The lower income groups are already facing job losses and anxiety is leading to domestic tensions and violence against women. A large number of daily wageworkers resort to alcohol consumption. The ban on alcohol sales, as a part of the national lockdown, is contributing to domestic tensions, leading to women abuse.
    • Hormone-induced depression among women is another key point that needs to be understood and acknowledged. Women are twice as likely to face depression when compared to men. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) among re-productive age groups, pregnancy-related depressive conditions, postpartum depression (PPDs) among new mothers as well as premenopausal and menopausal symptoms are common, interfering in every day life and relationships. The lockdown is adding more intensity to these conditions. These are not discussed as women are trained to follow the ‘culture of silence’. Awareness among men about these conditions women experience is low.

     

    TAKEOVER FEARS: NUANCED APPROACH ON CHINESE INVESTMENTS

    RELEVANT FOR: INDIAN ECONOMY | TOPIC: ISSUES RELATING TO GROWTH & DEVELOPMENT – FOREIGN CAPITAL, FOREIGN TRADE & BOP

    • The government’s decision to ban foreign direct investments (FDI)through the automatic route from neighbouring countries that share a land border with India has raised eyebrows. This is mainly because the move is seen as aimed at Chinese investors who could exploit cheap valuations in the depressed economic conditions post-lockdown to pick up equity interest in select companies. India is not alone in this fear of “opportunistic takeovers”, as Press Note 3(2020 Series) of the Commerce Ministry described it. Italy, Spain, France and Australia have already taken similar action to protect their businesses from foreign (read Chinese) investors fishing for distressed entities in need of cash in the post-COVID-19 scenario. China’s investment in India has been on a sharp upcurve in the last five years. According to a Brookings India study, the total current and planned investment by Chinese entities is over $26 billion. Chinese capital is invested not just in brick-and-mortar industries but in technology and fintech start-ups where Alibaba and Tencent have funded a host of Indian names such as Paytm, Swiggy, Ola, Zomato and BigBasket. It is quite possible that a move to curb or control Chinese investment in Indian companies was always on the cards and that COVID-19 was a good excuse to pull the trigger. There has always been unease over the fact that there is a thin line that divides the state sector from private enterprise in China and several companies there trace linkages back to the security apparatus of that country.
    • So, while the decision to introduce a layer of government approval is probably valid in the current circumstances, the government could have adopted a more nuanced approach. Greenfield investments should have been kept out of the purview as they do not pose a threat of takeover of existing business; to the contrary, they create new capacities and businesses in the country. A distinction should also have been made based on the class of investors: venture capital funds are financial investors who may not necessarily be interested in taking over and running a business. While the FDI route has been plugged, it is not clear what happens to investments that come through the market route. SEBI has already sent out missives to custodians asking for details of Chinese holdings in listed entities. How will this be regulated? And again, what happens to FDI that comes in through entities registered in countries that do not share a land border with India but which may trace their beneficial ownership to China? And, now that the wall has been raised, approvals should be quick for investment proposals in the technology start-up space, where cash burn is high and existing investors are often tapped for a top-up investment.

     

    UNION HRD MINISTER CHAIRS THE REVIEW MEETING ON SWAYAM AND SWAYAM PRABHA IN NEW DELHI

    RELEVANT FOR: DEVELOPMENTAL ISSUES | TOPIC: EDUCATION AND RELATED ISSUES

    Union HRD Minister chairs the review meeting on SWAYAM and SWAYAM Prabha in New Delhi

    • Union Minister for Human Resource Development, Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ held a detailed review of the National online education platform SWAYAM and the 32 DTH Television Education Channels SWAYAM PRABHA in New Delhi today.  Secretary, MHRD Shri Amit Khare, Chairman, UGC, Shri D.P Singh, Chairman AICTE, Shri Anil Sahasrabudhe, Chairman NCERT, Shri Hrushikesh Senpaty, Chairman NIOS, senior official of the ministry, National Coordinators and Professors from IIT Madras, IIT Delhi, IIM Bangalore and IIIT Hyderabad participted in the meeting.
    • A brief presentation of the progress of these schemes was made. In the lockdown condition there has been a tremendous increase in demand and the usage of SWAYAM Courses and SWAYAM PRABHA videos.

     

    • SWAYAM
    • 1902 courses are available currently in SWAYAM, which have been offered to 1.56 cr. students since launch. Currently, over 26 lakh students are taking 574 courses on offer. In all, 1509 courses are available for self-learning. SWAYAM 2.0 also supports launch of Online degree programmes. Mapping of SWAYAM courses to AICTE model curriculum has been done, gaps identified. A similar exercise for non-technical courses is underway by a committee of UGC.
    • It was decided that all the 1900 SWAYAM Courses and 60000 SWAYAM PRABHA videos would be translated into ten regional languages and made available to the students so that more benefit can be derived from the same. The more popular content, and for engineering courses taught in first year shall, however, be prioritized for translation.  It was decided to decentralize the task of translation to the National Coordinators, who may be allowed to use all possible services like students, government or private agencies, available technology to undertake translation of content.
    • The whole project will be started immediately and completed in a time bound manner.  The popular courses and videos would be done first.  In order to complete this exercise  in the shortest possible time a number of educational institutions across the country would be asked to contribute.   Each NC shall submit an action plan to MHRD (E-mail: NMEICT@nmeict.ac.in) by 23rd
    • An advisory shall be issued to all Directors of IITs to provide all help to the NCs in the task of translation of content, creation of new content in gap areas, and acceptance of credit transfer.
      • It was also decided that UGC and AICTE will follow up with Universities and institutions to accept SWAYAM credits. This will enable students to do part of their course though MOOC and part in various colleges.
      • Also, to encourage faculty to provide more courses under SWAYAM, appropriate incentives for their career will be provided.
      • Further, UGC has been asked to prepare guidelines regarding online and Distance learning guidelines to increase Gross Enrolment Ratio.

     

    • SWAYAM Prabha
    • The SWAYAM PRABHA is a group of 32 DTH channels devoted to telecasting of high-quality educational programmes on 24X7 basis using the GSAT-15 satellite. Every day, there will be new content for at least (4) hours which would be repeated 5 more times in a day, allowing the students to choose the time of their convenience.
    • The following decisions were taken:
    • Possibility of redistribution of channels to match available content, and viewership shall be explored.
    • It was also decided to enrich the content in SWAYAM PRABHA by collecting content from who so ever willing to contribute the same under Vidya Daan Programme.  Subject expert committees shall be formed by each NC to approve the content received, before getting it uploaded on SWAYAM Prabha
    • The broadcast over DTH will be popularized through all available channels, including radio, social media.
    • The video content on SWAYAM Prabha shall be mapped to curriculum, and the academic calendar
    • For the translation of content of four IIT-PAL channels, CBSE, NIOS shall provide all assistance to IIT-Delhi. This matter shall be followed up by JS(IEC) in MHRD.

     

    SOCIAL VACCINE

    RELATED FOR :- GOVERNANCE/ TOPICS:- HEALTH, HUMAN RESOURCE

    • The Union Health Minister has recently asserted that lockdowns and social distancing are the most effective “social vaccines” available to fight the pandemic (Covid-19).

    Important Points

    Social Vaccine

    • It is a metaphor for a series of social and behavioural measures that governments can use to raise public consciousness about unhealthy situations.
    • This is made possible through social mobilisation.
    • Social mobilisationis a process whereby people are organized in order to enable them to collectively think and act upon their development.
    • It can empower populationsto resist unhealthy practices, increase resilience, and foster advocacy for change. This can ultimately drive political will to take action in the interests of society.
    • A social vaccineaddresses barriers and facilitators of behaviour change (attitudinal, social, cultural, or economic) and supplements Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) with targeted Social and Behaviour Change Communication (SBCC)
    • SBCCis the strategic use of communication approaches to promote changes in knowledge, attitudes, norms, beliefs and behaviors.
    • Effectiveness of a social vaccine during Pandemic
    • When applied to pandemics, the effectiveness of a social vaccine isdetermined by the extent of dissemination and uptake of accurate information about personal infection risk and methods to reduce the risk.
    • Uganda and Thailand used SBCC strategies effectively during the HIV/AIDS pandemicto bring down the incidence of HIV infection, before Highly Active Antiretroviral Treatment (HAART) was introduced in 1995.
    • These countries demonstrated how an effective social vaccine helped “flatten the curve”till effective treatments were discovered that dramatically reduced mortality, viral loads and infection transmission.
    • Social Vaccine amidst Covid-19
    • The skills and experiences from controlling HIV/AIDS pandemic can be innovatively adapted for the current pandemic.
    • Use of IEC and SBCC strategies:
    • Maintaining physical distancing in social situations and wearing cloth masks or facial coverings in public by 100% of people is key to preventing infection along with regular disinfection of oneself and one’s surroundings.
    • People are more likely to practise these behaviours if all leaders (without exception) promote thempublicly and consistently, the whole community believes in their importance, and if proper information, support, and materials are available and accessible.
    • Building trustis key if government-imposed mitigation strategies are to be embraced by the population.
    • Practising Social Mobilisation
    • This will make people to hold leaders accountable to invest in: rapidly scaling-up testing; meeting the basic needs of vulnerable sections; not communalising or politicising the pandemic; providing adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to front-line workers in health, etc. and not compromising the privacy and dignity of infected individuals.

    Role of Social Vaccine in Controlling HIV/AIDS Pandemic

    • Outbreak of the Disease: The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) that causes the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is believed to have made the zoonotic jump through chimpanzees on humans in Africa as early as the 1920s, but the HIV/AIDS epidemic was detected in 1981 and was a pandemic by 1985.
    • Panic Situation: The cause was unknown (till 1984) and diagnostic tests were unavailable (till 1985). Since there was no treatment, a diagnosis of HIV infection was a death sentence.

    Impact

    • Widespread fears of infection rendered many infected people homeless and unemployed. Many were denied access to care.
    • Stigma, discrimination and violence towards infected individuals, their families, social groups (sex-workers, gay men, drug users, truck drivers, migrants), and even health workers, were common.
    • Conspiracy theories, misinformation and unproven remedies were widely propagated.
    • The unpreparedness of health systems, societal prejudices and socio-economic inequities were starkly exposed.

    Use of Social Vaccine

    • Reducing HIV transmission centred on acknowledging that everybody was potentially infected — even those apparently healthy — and that infection occurred predominantly through sexual transmission and intravenous drug use.
    • The core preventive messages involved being faithful to one sexual partner or having safe sex, etc.These measures conflicted with prevailing cultural, social, religious, behavioural and legal norms.
    • However, IEC and SBCC activities targeted (and partnered) individuals, families, community leaders, and social and health systems to change attitudes and behaviours. Religious and community leaders were key change agents.
    • Thailand used humour to defuse social taboos about publicly discussing sex.
    • Coercive or punitive methods acted counter-productive in controlling HIV/AIDS.
    • These strategies and advocacy against stigma and discrimination were also successfully adapted in India.

    Way Forward

    • There is still no biomedical vaccine for HIV/AIDS. Considering the limited efficacy and uptake of influenza vaccines, vaccines for SARS-CoV-2/Covid-19 may not provide a panacea.
    • Effective treatments to reduce deaths with Covid-19 may emerge, but till then, and even afterwards, a social vaccine is needed.
    • A social vaccine can build societal immunityto the devastating effects of future pandemics by the lessons learned about addressing the root causes, and our responses to the current one.

    CURRENCY EXCHANGE RATE INDEX

    RELATED FOR: – INDIAN ECONOMY/ TOPICS: – GROWTH & DEVELOPMENT

    • The rupee has been losing value (or depreciating or weakening) against the dollarover the past few months.
    • The exchange rate of rupee is one of the markers to compare Indian economy’s competitiveness vis-a-vis other economies (also amid Covid-19 outbreak).
    • Another measure for comparison is looking at the growth rates of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Gross Value Added (GVA).
    • High-frequency data like sales of automobiles etc. can also be used as a proxy to compare economies.

    Important Points

    Exchange Rate

    • The price of one currency in terms of the otheris known as the exchange rate.
    • A currency’s exchange rate vis-a-vis another currency reflects the relative demand among the holders of the two currencies.
    • For e.g.If the US dollar is stronger than the rupee (implying value of dollar is higher with respect to rupee), then it shows that the demand for dollars (by those holding rupee) is more than the demand for rupees (by those holding dollars).
    • This demand in turn depends on the relative demand for the goods and servicesof the two countries.

    Index for Exchange Rate

    • Since a country interacts with many countries, it wants to see the movement of the domestic currency relative to all other currencies in a single numberrather than by looking at bilateral rates.
    • That is, it would want an index for the exchange rate against other currencies, just as it uses a price index (CPI or WPI)to show how the prices of goods in general have changed.
    • The Reserve Bank of India tabulates the rupee’s Nominal Effective Exchange Rate (NEER)in relation to the currencies of 36 trading partner countries.
    • This is aweighted index — that is, countries with which India trades more are given a greater weight in the index.
    • decreasein this index denotes depreciation in rupee’s value whereas an increase reflects appreciation.
    • There is one more measure that is even better at capturing the actual change. This is called the Real Effective Exchange Rate (REER)and is essentially an improvement over the NEER because it also takes into account the domestic inflation in the various economies.
    • The REER is the weighted average of NEER adjusted by the ratio of domestic prices to foreign price.

    Impact of Inflation on Exchange Rate

    • Many factors affect the exchange ratebetween any two currencies ranging from the interest rates to political stability (less of either results in a weaker currency). Inflation is one of the most important factors.
    • Illustration: Imagine that the Rupee-Dollar exchange rate was exactly 1 in the first year. This means that with Rs 100, one could buy something that was priced at $100 in the US. But suppose the Indian inflation is 20% and the US inflation is zero. Then, in the second year, an Indian would need Rs 120 to buy the same item priced at $100, and the rupee’s exchange rate would depreciate (reduce in value) to 1.20.

    Comparison between NEER and REER

    • As the chart shows, in NEER terms, the rupee has depreciated to its lowest level since November 2018. The rupee has been steadily losing value — showing the Indian economy’s reducing competitiveness— since July 2019.
    • In REER terms also, the rupee has depreciated in March and fallen to its lowest level since September 2019.
    • The difference between trends of NEER and REER was due to India’s domestic retail inflation being lower relative to the other 36 countries. As domestic inflation started rising, the REER, too, started depreciating like the NEER.

    INDIA’S NEW FDI NORMS VIOLATE WTO: CHINA

    RELATED FOR: – INDIAN ECONOMY/ TOPICS: – INVESTMENT MODELS, IMPORTANT INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS

    • Recently, China has accused India of violating the World Trade Organization WTO’s“principle of non-discrimination” after the India tweaked its Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy to make its approval mandatory for firms in neighbouring countries to invest in Indian companies.
    • India tweaked its FDI policy, 2017 days after China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC), raised its shareholding in Housing Development Finance Corporation (HDFC) to over 1% during the recent stock market slump.

    Important Points

    • China’s Stand:The additional barriers for investors from neighbouring countries violate WTO’s principle of non-discrimination, and go against the general trend of liberalization and facilitation of trade and investment.
    • India’s decision do not conform to the consensus of G20leaders and trade ministers to realize a free, fair, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable, and stable trade and investment environment, and to keep markets open.
    • The principle of non-discriminationstipulates that a member shall not discriminate between products from different trading partners (giving them equally “most favoured-nation” or MFN status); and between its own and foreign products.
    • India’s Stand: The amendments are not prohibiting investments,It has just changed the approval route for these investments. There are many sectors in India that are already subject to this approval route.
    • India said countries like Germany, Australia and Spainhave also tightened their foreign investment policies to prevent hostile takeovers by overseas investors.
    • India’s move is seen as checking “opportunistic takeovers”of Indian firms hit by the ongoing Covid outbreak and lockdown.

    Issues Involved

    • India’s new amendments to foreign investment do not apply to all countriesbut just those which share borders with India.
    • There will be different sets of procedures for the same set of investmentsbased on which country the company is investing from.

    Foreign direct investment (FDI)

    • It is an investment from a party in one country into a business or corporation in another country with the intention of establishing a lasting interest.
    • Lasting interest differentiates FDI from foreign portfolio investments, where investors passively hold securities from a foreign country.
    • Foreign direct investment can be made by expanding one’s business into a foreign country or by becoming the owner of a company in another country.

    China’s FDI in India

    • China’s FDI has grown five-fold since 2014 and, as of December 2019, its cumulative investment in India has exceeded $8 billion.
    • A Brookings India paper pegs the total current and planned Chinese investment in India as being over $26 billion.

    World Trade Organization

    • The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations.
    • The Uruguay Round of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), conducted from 1987 to 1994 culminated in the Marrakesh agreement, which established the WTO.
    • The WTO has 164 members (including European Union) and 23 observer governments (like Iran, Iraq, Bhutan, Libya etc).
    • The WTO’s global system lowers trade barriers through negotiation and operates under the principle of non-discrimination.

    5TH ANNUAL MEETING OF NDB

    RELATED FOR:- INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS/TOPICS:- GOVERNMENT POLICIES & INTERVENTIONS, HEALTH, IMPORTANT INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS, GROUPINGS & AGREEMENTS INVOLVING INDIA AND/OR AFFECTING INDIA’S INTERESTS, REGIONAL GROUPINGS,  BANKING SECTOR & NBFCS

    • Recently, the Union Minister of Financeattended the 5th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of New Development Bank (NDB) through video-conference in New Delhi.

    Important Highlights of the Meeting

    • India appreciated NDB’s effortsin establishing itself as a credible Global Financial Institution, delivering its mandate successfully by taking a more sustainable and inclusive approach.
    • NDBfast-tracked financial assistance of about $5 billion to BRICS countries including Emergency Assistance of $1 billion to India to combat Covid-19
    • The assistance under this facility was suggestedto be enhanced to $10 billion.
    • Brazilthanked India for sending critical drugs for timely management of novel coronavirus in Brazil.
    • NDB was encouraged to take appropriate actions to join the G-20forum along with other Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) and International Financial Institutions (IFIs) like the World BankAsian Development Bank (ADB), Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), etc.
    • India urged NDB to follow novel practices in supporting the BRICS nationsfor achieving their Sustainable Development
    • Measures taken by Indiato respond to the health crisis and to mitigate its impact were highlighted. Few of them are:
    • India Covid-19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness Package:Allocation of $2 Billion (₹15,000 crore) by the Government of India for strengthening the healthcare
    • Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana: Announcement of a scheme of social support measures amounting to $23 Billion (₹1.70 lakh crore)to alleviate the hardship of the poor and the vulnerable.
    • Insurance cover of $67,000 (₹50 lakh) per personto over 2.2 million frontline health workers and others provision of relief to firms in statutory and regulatory compliance matters
    • Easing of monetary policyby the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and three-month moratorium on loan instalments.
    • Creation of a Covid-19 Emergency Fundfor SAARC
    • India’s efforts in supplying critical medicine to the countries in need (e.g. Operation Sanjeevani), to tackle the Covid-19.

    New Development Bank

    • It is amultilateral development bank jointly founded by the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) at the 6th BRICS Summit in Fortaleza, Brazil in 2014.
    • It was formed to supportinfrastructure and sustainable development efforts in BRICS and other underserved, emerging economies for faster development through innovation and cutting-edge technology.
    • It is headquarteredat Shanghai, China.
    • In 2018,the NDB received observer status in the United Nations General Assembly, establishing a firm basis for active and fruitful cooperation with the UN.

    Objectives:

    • Fostering development of member countries.
    • Supporting economic growth.
    • Promoting competitiveness and facilitating job creation.
    • Building a knowledge sharing platform among developing countries.
    • To fulfill its purpose, the Bank supports public or private projectsthrough loans, guarantees, equity participation and other financial instruments.
    • NDB has so far approved 14 projects in Indiafor an amount of $4,183 million.

    WATER QUALITY IMPROVES IN YAMUNA

    RELATED FOR :- BIODIVERSITY & ENVIRONMENT / TOPICS :- ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION & DEGRADATION, CONSERVATION

    • According to a report by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee(DPCC), the quality of water in the river Yamuna has improved along the Delhi stretch, compared to April 2019.
    • DPCC, along with the Central Pollution Control Board(CPCB) carried out the study after being asked by a National Green Tribunal (NGT) appointed monitoring committee.
    • Earlier, less air pollution and improved air qualitywere also noticed in various cities.

    Important Points

    Data Analysis:

    • DPCC collected water samples from nine locationsalong the Yamuna and twenty locations of drains and compared the different parameters with values from April 2019.
    • According to the report, the pollution has reduced between 18% to 21%at various places.
    • Five locations have shown 18%-33% reductionin Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) levels. The rest of the locations have shown slight to considerable increase in BOD levels.
    • Four of the nine locations where dissolved oxygen (DO)was nil in 2019 showed DO levels of 2.3-4.8 mg/l in 2020.
    • However, the Yamuna has still not metthe “water quality criteria”.
    • Reasons:
    • Lockdown:Earlier, a Delhi Jal Board (DJB) report had also highlighted the improved quality of water due to the lockdown (to curb the Covid-19).
    • Increased Flow: Haryana has increased the discharge of waterwhich has also contributed to less pollution due to dilution of fresh water.

    Biochemical Oxygen Demand

    • It is the amount of dissolved oxygen needed by microorganisms to decompose organic matter(waste or pollutants) under aerobic reaction (in the presence of oxygen).
    • The more organic matterthere is (e.g., in sewage and polluted bodies of water), the greater is the BOD; and the greater the BOD, the lower the amount of dissolved oxygen available for higher animals such as fishes.
    • higher BOD level means that more oxygen is neededto decompose a large quantity of organic matter present in the water.
    • So, a higher valueof BOD means that the water is more polluted.
    • The BOD is therefore a reliable gauge of the organic pollutionof a water body.
    • One of the main reasons for treating wastewater prior to its discharge into a water resourceis to lower its BODe. to reduce its need of oxygen and thereby lessen its demand from the streams, lakes, rivers, or estuaries into which it is released.

    Dissolved Oxygen:

    • It is the amount of dissolved oxygen present in the waterwhich is needed for aquatic life to survive. The quality of water increases with an increase in DO levels.
    • A DO level of 5 mg/l or aboveis the recommended level for bathing in a river.

     

    BLOOD SHORTAGE DUE TO LOCKDOWN

    RELATED FOR: – GOVERNANCE / TOPICS: –  HEALTH

    • Due to Covid-19 lockdown hospitals across India are facing acute shortage of blood and have started contacting individual blood donors to meet the demand.

    Important Points

    • Hospitals are calling listed donors and those with rare blood groups to come in and donate.
    • The Indian Red Cross Society Blood Bank has also noted that there is a drop in blood collection. The crisis is such that there is a shortage of the most commonly seen B-positive blood group.
    • According to the World Health Organization(WHO) recommendation, blood requirement of 1% of a country’s population be used as an estimate of its blood needs.
    • By this measure, India was short of 1.9 million units of blood as per data presented to the Lok Sabha in 2018.

    Worst Hit Due to Blood Shortage:

    • Patients requiring dialysis, having blood disorders, and pregnant women are the worst hit due to blood shortage.
    • Patients from small cities and villages are also the worst hit.
    • Thalassemics Fearful
    • Thalassemia patients need repeated blood transfusions to survive. Many thalassemics take blood for their transfusions from the Indian Red Cross Society Blood Bank, whose camps are being cancelled.
    • According to the National Blood Transfusion Council,there are 2,023 blood banks in India, which receive 78% of their blood supply from voluntary donors.

    Issues Involved

    • Due to lockdown blood banks collection camps are cancelled.
    • Donors are hesitant to travelto hospitals to donate blood amid strict lockdown.
    • Also, donor passes had not been madeby some hospitals, which is adding to the problem.
    • Transportation almost closed due to lockdown.

    Government Initiative

    • The Health Ministry has asked hospitals to start working on ensuring sufficient stock of blood for transfusion by promoting voluntary blood donors and utilising various services like mobile blood collection vans with the help of the Indian Red Cross Society.
    • It has asked the Indian Red Cross Society to send mobile blood collection vans to the premises of regular blood donors to facilitate them for blood donation.

    Thalassemia

    • It is a blood disorder passed down through families (inherited) in which the body makes an abnormal form or inadequate amount of hemoglobin.
    • Thalassemia is caused by mutations in the gene that make hemoglobin.
    • The disorder results in large numbers of red blood cells being destroyed, which leads to anemia.
    • Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen.

    Indian Red Cross Society

    • Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) was established in 1920 under the Indian Red Cross Society Act.
    • The President of India is the President and the Union Health Minister is the Chairman of the Society.
    • The Indian Red Cross is a voluntary humanitarian organization providing relief in times of disasters/emergencies and promotes health & care of the vulnerable people and communities.
    • The Mission of the Indian Red Cross is to inspire, encourage and initiate at all times all forms of humanitarian activities so that human suffering can be minimized and even prevented and thus contribute to creating more congenial climate for peace.
    • It is a leading member of the largest independent humanitarian organization in the world, the International Red Cross & Red Crescent Movement.
    • The movement has three main components,
    • International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC),
    • 192 National Societies and International Federation of Red Cross
    • Red Crescent Societies.

    National Blood Transfusion Council

    • The National Blood Transfusion Council (NBTC) was constituted in 1996 under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
    • Objective: To promote voluntary blood donation, ensure safe blood transfusion, provide infrastructure to blood centres, develop human resources and formulate and implement the Blood Policy.
    • NBTC is the apex body in relation to all matters pertaining to operation of blood centres.
    • The NBTC is the central body that coordinates the State Blood Transfusion Councils (SBTCs) and also ensures involvement of other Ministries and other health programmes for various activities related to Blood Transfusion Services (BTS).

    SWAYAM AND SWAYAM PRABHA

    RELATED FOR :- GOVERNANCE/ TOPIC’S:- EDUCATION

    • Recently, the Union Minister for Human Resource Development held a detailed reviewof the National online education platform SWAYAM and the 32 Direct-to-Home (DTH) Television Education Channels SWAYAM Prabha.

    Impotant Points

    • Translation to Regional Language:All the SWAYAM Courses and SWAYAM Prabha videos to be translated to ten regional languages in a time-bound manner.
    • Acceptance of SWAYAM Credits:It has also been decided that University Grants Commission (UGC) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) will follow up with Universities and institutions to accept SWAYAM credits.
    • This will enable students to do part of their course through Massive open online courses (MOOC) and part in various colleges.
    • Incentives to Faculties:To encourage faculty to provide more courses under SWAYAM, it has been decided to provide appropriate incentives for their career.

    SWAYAM

    • Study Webs of Active Learning for Young Aspiring Minds (SWAYAM),was launched on July 9, 2017 by the Ministry of Human Resource Development to provide one integrated platform and portal for online courses.
    • This covers all higher education subjects and skill sector courses.
    • The objective is to ensure that every student in the country has access to the best quality higher education at the affordable cost.
    • Academicians from hundreds of institutions throughout the country are involved in developing & delivering Massive open online courses (MOOCs)through SWAYAM in almost all disciplines from senior schooling to Post Graduation.

    SWAYAM Prabha

    • It is an initiative of the Ministry of Human Resources Development to provide 32 High Quality Educational Channels through DTH across the length and breadth of the country on 24X7 basis.
    • It has curriculum-based course content covering diverse disciplines.
    • This is primarily aimed at making quality learning resources accessible to remote areas where internet availability is still a challenge.
    • The DTH channels are using the GSAT-15 satellite for programme telecasts.

    University Grants Commission

    • It came into existence on 28th December, 1953 and became a statutory body by an Act of Parliament in 1956, for the coordination, determination and maintenance of standards of teaching, examination and research in university education.
    • The head office of the UGC is located in New Delhi.

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