• Current Affairs, 22 April 2020

    BEIJING NAMES DISPUTED ISLANDS

    RELEVANT FOR: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS | TOPIC: EFFECT OF POLICIES AND POLITICS OF DEVELOPED & DEVELOPING COUNTRIES ON INDIA’S INTERESTS

    • China on Tuesday defended its naming of 80 islands and other geographical features in the South China Sea in a move likely to anger neighbours as the country asserts its territorial claims.
    • A joint announcement of the names on Sunday from the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of Civil Affairs came a day after China established new administrative districts for the contested Spratly and Parcel island chains.
    • The notice listed the Chinese names and coordinates of 80 islands, reefs, seamounts, shoals and ridges, 55 of them submerged in water.
    • Vietnam claimed the move “seriously violated” its territorial sovereignty.

     

    ILL-EQUIPPED TO DEAL WITH A CRISIS

    RELEVANT FOR: ENVIRONMENT | TOPIC: DISASTER AND DISASTER MANAGEMENT

    • S. President Donald Trump listens as Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, speaks in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House on April 20, 2020.
    • In the U.S., despite egregious failures and missteps, science and informatics have been able to guide COVID-19policy to some degree. It is time to think about the underpowered investments in science in India and about the stark social inequities that COVID-19 will lay bare, shorn of the protections afforded by science and data-driven policies, and effective decentralised governance.
    • India has invested very little in the type of science that is needed to meet contemporary environmental challenges. COVID-19 may be its most severe environmental challenge so far, but India faces devastating challenges such as assaults on biodiversity, floods and unmitigated pollution every year. Every disaster underlines national vulnerabilities, accentuated by inadequate science and research infrastructures.
    • Unusually inept: Editorial on U.S. surpassing China in coronavirus cases
    • Amidst the worst pandemic of modern times, India’s medical research institutions and epidemiologists have a prominent role to play. In the daily White House press briefings, the two most prominent figures are noted epidemiologists Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci. Every day they provide new data to direct policy. India is a global superpower in information technology, yet it has few scientists or institutes systematically deploying ‘big data’ and informatics to understand large-scale environmental challenges, including infectious diseases. India is a hotspot for emerging diseases — but to respond adequately, it urgently needs an expanded group of world-class specialists in this area.
    • The successful mitigation of COVID-19 in India will require rigorous testing, monitoring, and modelling to inform policy and action. In a country where access to data is limited, we will need good data on demographic changes, on how disasters push people into poverty, and the local interventions that pull people out of poverty and build resilience to these cyclic events.
    • Complex socio-environmental problems can only be addressed by integrating natural and social sciences to generate multidimensional knowledge. Only such knowledge can guide adequate policy responses and action to confront a crisis. In India, very few research centres are capable of doing such work.
    • But there are some hopeful signs. The Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, one of India’s most accomplished scientists, is playing a critical role in policy responses. Directed by the Principal Scientific Adviser’s Office, and with the Prime Minister’s support, there are nine large national science missions in various stages of implementation. These include a mission in quantum computing and another in biodiversity and human well-being, with an important component on emergent infectious diseases.
    • India needs substantial investments in a science directed towards the well-being of all social sectors; a science for realising the UN SDGs; a science to build resilience against environmental disasters; and a science for healing humanity’s relationship with Nature to ward off biodiversity loss and mitigate climate change — the “epidemic” that has been around us for some time.
    • A recent editorial in this newspaper rightly pointed out that by saving biodiversity alone can we ensure a sustainable future for ourselves. Yet there are also reports about policy decisions to kill nature — for instance, the Karnataka government’s decision to continue with the proposal for the Hubballi-Ankola railway line through the last remaining forests of the Western Ghats. The scientific and environmental considerations underlying these decisions remain unclear.
    • India aspires to be a $5 trillion economy. Such aspirations must envision a society that cherishes science and knowledge, enshrines equity, justice and decentralised governance, and respects our natural heritage. We must ensure healthcare as an individual basic right — and Earth-care as a collective right.

     

    FUTURES SHOCK: THE HINDU EDITORIAL ON OIL PRICE FALL BELOW $0

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

    • Five decades after the oil shock of 1973, when an Arab embargo on the supply of oil to some western powers including the United States sent the price of crude skyrocketing fourfold to $12 a barrel, the global economy faces a fresh shock from a free-fall in oil prices. On Monday, May futures for the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) S. crude plunged below zero to touch a historic lowof -$40.32 a barrel. A negative price implies that a seller would have to pay the buyer to hold the oil to be supplied. While the unprecedented plunge in the particular futures contract could be partly explained away as a technical anomaly given that the May contract was set to expire on Tuesday, beyond which buyers would need to be ready to take physical delivery, the reality is that oil prices are desperately in search of a bottom. A perfect storm of a supply glut exacerbated in March by a price war that saw key producers Saudi Arabia and Russia ramp up output even as demand continued to contract on account of the COVID-19 outbreak sent prices into a steeper slide. Brent crude futures have tumbled more than 67% in 2020 to about $21 a barrel as of Tuesday afternoon in London trading, while the WTI futures have plunged about 110% to -$5.78. The International Energy Agency observed this month, that the confinement measures instituted worldwide have resulted in a dramatic decline in transportation activity which will erase at least a decade of demand growth.

    THE FRAGILE CEASEFIRE IN SYRIA’S IDLIB WAR

    RELEVANT FOR: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS | TOPIC: EFFECT OF POLICIES AND POLITICS OF DEVELOPED & DEVELOPING COUNTRIES ON INDIA’S INTERESTS

    • United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has called for warring parties the world over to cease fire in order to support the bigger battle against COVID-19. One such conflict is in Syria’s Idlib province involving President Bashar al-Assad’s military forces with support from Russia, and where Turkey’s armed intervention and backing of anti-Assad militants, including Islamist terrorists, had been halted even before Mr. Guterres’s appeal by a fragile agreement on March 5 between Russia and Turkey which no observer believes can endure long. In this imbroglio, described by many as the world’s greatest humanitarian tragedy, it is necessary to disentangle the priorities of the several contestants.
    • To first summarise the ground situation, Idlib bordering Turkey is the last stronghold of jihadists funded by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a terrorist unit designated by the United Nations, and assorted Syrian anti-government elements evacuated from areas liberated by Damascus. The region was spared a Syrian offensive in 2018 on Turkey’s plea that it could not suffer any further influx of refugees besides hosting some three-and-a-half million already. There are about 200,000 displaced persons on the Syria-Turkey border and 85,000 in refugee camps, in addition to nearly 400,000 people displaced by the Turkish offensive against Syrian Kurds.
    • Pause international conflicts for 30 days, France tells UNSC members
    • A Turkey-Russia agreement of 2018established a demilitarised zone (DMZ) with terrorists, including the HTS, leaving this zone, while so-called moderate rebels had to withdraw heavy weaponry. A chain of Turkish observation posts was established, and militants rejecting the plan were to be legitimately targeted by Mr. Assad’s military. But Syria and Turkey accused each other of violations, with Russia increasingly agitated due to drone attacks against its airbase in Latakia from Idlib-based jihadists. With the rebels making territorial gains, Syria resumed its offensive in April 2019, retaking territory and targeting Saraqib that strides the M5 highway connecting Aleppo with Damascus.
    • The Syrian advances brought Turkey and Syria into direct clashes, with accusations by Damascus and Moscow that the Turks were supplying jihadists with weapons and shielding them by intermingling Turkish forces among them. The Turks denied this, objecting to their observation posts being encircled or bypassed by the Syrian army. Over 5,000 Turkish forces, with artillery and combat drones, have intervened and suffered 50 or more casualties, whereas Mr. Assad’s losses in men and material have been much higher, despite being assisted by Russia controlling the airspace and denying the Turks the use of aircraft other than drones. Moscow has also used direct air power in support of Syria, though this is denied. The conflict seriously strained Turkey’s relations with Russia to their lowest level since the 2015 crisis and the downing of a Russian warplane by Turkey.
    • The latest Russo-Turkish agreement reaffirms their ‘dedication to combat and eliminate all terrorist groups in Syria’. Given the fact that the majority of the anti-Assad forces are HTS cadres that have been weaponised by Ankara, implementation appears highly improbable. The agreement provides for safe passage along the M4 and M5 highways linking Aleppo with Latakia and Damascus. The Syrian Army had gained control of M5 and was about to take M4 when the Moscow agreement was concluded. Both highways are important for Syria for commercial and strategic reasons. The new DMZ will bestride the M4 highway with a 12-kilometre strip jointly patrolled by Turkey and Russia.
    • Israel fired missile on areas near historic Palmyra: Syria
    • The Moscow agreement is destined to fail because the priorities of the countries concerned cannot be reconciled. Mr. Assad, recognised by the United Nations but not by the West, and openly supported by few of the nations that recognise him, now controls some 70% of his country and wishes to secure the remainder, but his forces remain dependent on Russia in the air and Iran and Hezbollah on the ground. He is in haste because his troops are exhausted by nine years of continuous fighting and he cannot count on Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah support much longer. Iran is in domestic turmoil apart from suffering U.S. sanctions and COVID-19, while the Hezbollah is deeply involved in Lebanon’s complex domestic politics.
    • Turkey under President Erdoğan, nominally a member of the western alliance against Russia, wishes to play a lead role in the Arab world, and has deliberately extended its reach in Syria and Libya to have a say in the futures of those nations. Upset with NATO for lack of support both during the failed coup of 2016 and his campaign against Syrian Kurds whom he regards as anti-Turkish terrorists, Mr. Erdoğan has leveraged the refugee problem to extract €4.5 billion from the European Union and uses the refugees continuously as a bargaining counter. He also needs manageable ties with both Russia and the U.S. to play each off against the other. The confrontation with Moscow four years ago led to severe economic difficulties for Turkey after Russian curbs on trade and tourism, which Mr. Erdoğan would not wish to have repeated. Both countries also have a vested interest in the TurkStream pipeline conveying Russian gas to southern Europe. Criticism of Mr. Erdoğan has lately emerged domestically but his position is solid provided he retains his army’s support by avoiding more casualties in Idlib.
    • Russia is now the country of first resort in Syria and its influence in the entire West Asian region has expanded remarkably in recent years. In principle it backs Mr. Assad exercising sway over the whole of Syria and has saved him from being toppled, but it now wishes to bring the Syrian conflict to an end with a negotiated settlement, avoid losses and more expenditure, while consolidating its naval and air bases in that country.
    • The Americans are content to be bystanders in the belief that they will be the gainers whatever the Idlib outcome. The Europeans have neither the will nor the means to affect developments, and the United Nations is continuing the thus-far futile enterprise of persuading the Syrian multi-party talks in Geneva to arrive at a new constitution to be followed by free elections.
    • Krishnan Srinivasan is a former Foreign Secretary

     

    OIL PRICES BELOW ZERO

    RELATED FOR :- ECONOMY/ TOPICS:- MOBILIZATION OF RESOURCES, GROWTH & DEVELOPMENT, EFFECT OF POLICIES & POLITICS OF COUNTRIES ON INDIA’S INTERESTS

    • Recently, the prices ofWest Texas Intermediate (WTI), the best quality of crude oil in the world, fell to minus $40.32 a barrel in interlay trade in New York (the USA).
    • It means that the seller of crude oil would be paying the buyer $40 for each barrel that is bought.
    • It is the lowest crude oil price ever recorded below the zero mark while the previous lowest was recorded immediately after World War II (WWII).

    Oil Pricing

    • Generally the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries(OPEC) used to work as a cartel and fix prices in a favourable band.
    • OPEC is led by Saudi Arabia,which is the largest exporter of crude oil in the world (single-handedly exporting 10% of the global demand).
    • It could bring down prices by increasing oil production and raise prices by cutting production.
    • The global oil pricing mainly depends upon the partnership between the global oil exportersinstead of well-functioning competition.
    • Cutting oil productionor completely shutting down an oil well is a difficult decision, because restarting it is immensely costly and complicated.
    • Moreover, if a country cuts production, it risks losing market shareif other countries do not follow the suit.
    • Recently, OPEC has been working with Russia, asOPEC+ to fix the global prices and supply.

    Reasons for Price Fall

    • Crude oil prices were already fallingbefore the global lockdown due to the higher supply and lower demand.
    • They were close to $60 a barrel at the start of 2020 and, by March-end, they were closer to $20 a barrel.
    • Problems arose when Saudi Arabia and Russia disagreed over the production cuts,required to keep prices stable.
    • Consequently, Saudi Arabia led oil-exporting countries started undercutting each other on pricewhile producing the same quantities of oil.
    • This strategy wasunsustainable on its own and the global spread of Covid-19 made it even worse as it sharply reduced the economic activity and the oil-demand.
    • Oil-exporting countries decided to cut production by 10 million barrels a day(the highest production cuts) and yet the demand for oil was reducing even further.
    • Thissupply demand mismatch resulted in exhausted storage capacities.
    • It is important to highlight that the USbecame the largest producer of crude oil in 2018 and the current US President has been pushing for higher oil prices instead of making efforts for lower prices like the previous US Presidents.
    • The oil prices started falling steeply because the May contracts for WTI were due to expire on 21stApril, 2020 which posed huge challenges for both the oil producers and the consumers (contractors/buyers).
    • Producers:They started selling the oil at unbelievably low prices because shutting production would have been costlier to restart when compared to the marginal loss on May sales.
    • Consumers:They were facing the problem of storage. There is no space to store the oil even if they decided to buy and take the delivery.
    • Accepting the oil delivery, paying for the transportation and storage would have been costlier than the hit on contract price.
    • In the short term, for both the holders of the delivery contract and the oil producers, it was less costly to pay $40 a barrel and get rid of the oil instead of storing it (consumers/buyers) or stopping production (producers). So this led to the negative WTI oil contract prices.

    Future of Oil Prices

    • It was the WTI price for May in the US marketsthat went so low. Crude oil prices at other places fell but not too much.
    • Prices for June and the coming monthsare pegged between $20 and $35 a barrel.
    • Investment budgets of exploration and production companiesare expected to drop because of the low shale oil prices.
    • Normally, this should force oil exporting countries to cut back production and negate the excess supply, restoring balancein the oil markets but the possibility of recent events from happening again cannot be ruled out.
    • Eventually, it would be the demand-supply mismatch(adjusted for how much can be stored away) that will decide the fate of oil prices.

    Impact on India

    • There isno direct impact on India because Indian crude oil basket does not comprise WTI and it only has Brent and oil from some of the Gulf countries.
    • However, the weakness in WTI reflects on the falling pricesof Indian basket as well because oil is traded globally and has indirect impacts.
    • The lower price can be beneficial for India in two ways:
    • For Individuals:If the government passes on the lower prices to consumers, then individual consumption will be boosted whenever the economic recovery starts in India.
    • For Governments:If both, central and the state, governments decide to levy higher taxes on oil, it can boost government revenues.

    Difference between Brent and WTI

    • Brent crude oil originates from oil fields in the North Sea between the Shetland Islands and Norway, while West Texas Intermediate (WTI) is sourced from US oil fields, primarily in Texas, Louisiana, and North Dakota.
    • WTI with a lower sulphur content (0.24%) than Brent (0.37%), is considered “sweeter”.
    • Both oils are relatively light, but Brent has a slightly higher API gravity, making WTI the lighter of the two.
    • American Petroleum Institute (API) gravity is an indicator of the density of crude oil or refined products.
    • Brent crude price is the international benchmark price used by the OPEC while WTI crude price is a benchmark for US oil prices.
    • Since India imports primarily from OPEC countries, Brent is the benchmark for oil prices in India.
    • Cost of shipping for Brent crude is typically lower, since it is produced near the sea and it can be put on ships immediately. Shipping of WTI is priced higher since it is produced in landlocked areas like Cushing, Oklahoma where the storage facilities are limited.

    HUMAN ACTIVITIES RESPONSIBLE FOR ZOONOSES

    RELATED FOR:- BIODIVERSITY & ENVIRONMENT/ TOPIC:- HEALTH, CONSERVATION

    According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), 60% of human infectious diseases originate from animals.

    Important Points

    Zoonoses

    • It is the name given to diseases transmitted from animals to humans.
    • It is based on the Greek wordsfor “animal” and “sickness”.
    • Examples: Rabies(rabid dogs), Ebola (fruit bats), West Nile virus (infected mosquitoes), the Zika virus (infected Aedes species mosquito) ­–and the most recent – the novel coronavirus Covid-19 (bat/pangolin).

    Data Related to Zoonoses

    • On an average,one new infectious disease emerges in humans every four months.
    • A study by American researchers that was completed before the new coronavirus outbreak identifies rodents, primates and bats as hosts of three-quarters of viruses transmitted to humans.
    • Domestic animalsalso carry about 50% of the zoonoses
    • In 2016, the UNEP pointed out that 75% of all emerging infectious diseases(such as Ebola, HIV, avian flu, Zika, or SARS) in humans are zoonotic (pertaining to zoonoses).
    • According to it, these zoonotic diseases areclosely interlinked with the health of ecosystems.
    • Deaths due to Zoonoses:Beyond the current outbreak of coronavirus, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) estimates that zoonoses kill some 700,000 people a year.

    Changed Ecosystems

      • Zoonoses are opportunistic and thrive where there are changes in the environment, changes in animal or human populations that serve as hosts for certain pathogens, or changes in the pathogen (disease causing microorganisms), itself.
      • In the last century, a combination of population growth and reduction in ecosystems and biodiversity has culminated in unprecedented opportunities for pathogens to pass between animals and people.

    Humans-led Changes in the Environment

      • By altering land use–for settlement, agriculture, logging, extractive or other industries and their associated infrastructure–humans fragment and encroach into animal habitats.
      • Destruction of natural buffer zones that would normally separate humans from animals, thus creating opportunities for pathogens to spill over from wild animals to people.
      • Climate change­­– primarily the result of greenhouse gas emissions–exacerbates the situation. Changes in temperature, humidity and seasonality directly affect the survival of microbes in the environment.
      • Proximity to different species through wet markets (live animal market) or consumption of wild animals can also facilitate animal to human transmission.
      • Resistance to Drugs: One example of this is the emerging resistance of pathogens to antimicrobial drugs–such as antibiotics, antifungals, antiretrovirals and antimalarials–often resulting from the misuse of the drugs, either by people or in veterinary medicine.
      • Domesticated animals are often a “bridge” between pathogens from the wild and humans.

    Global Action

    • UNEP, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and hundreds of partners across the planet have launched a 10-year effort to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide.
    • Known as the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030,this globally-coordinated response to the loss and degradation of habitats will focus on building political will and capacity to restore humankind’s relation with nature.

    Suggestions

    • Addressingzoonotic disease emergence requires addressing its root cause–primarily, the impact of human activities on ecosystems.
    • Ecosystems are inherently resilient and adaptable and, by supporting diverse species, they help to regulate diseases. The more biodiverse an ecosystemis, the more difficult it is for one pathogen to spread rapidly or dominate.
    • There is a need to recognise the close relationships between human, animal and environmental health. It calls for collaborative, multisectoral, transdisciplinary and international efforts, as encapsulated by the One Health approach. At last, a strong willis necessary.

    Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

    • IPBES is an independent intergovernmental body established to strengthen the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, long-term human well-being and sustainable development.
    • It was established in Panama City (US), in April 2012.
    • It is not a United Nations body.

     

    FOOD CRISIS AMID COVID-19

    RELATED FOR: – SOCIAL JUSTICE/ TOPICS: – FOOD SECURITY, HEALTH

    • According to the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP),the number of people facing acute food insecurity could nearly double to 265 million in 2020 due to the economic fallout of Covid-19.
    • Acute food insecurity is any manifestation of food insecurity at a specific point in time of a severity that threatens lives, livelihoods or both, regardless of the causes, context or duration.

    Important Points

    • Global Report on Food Crisis 2020
    • This report was highlighted to show links between conflict and rising levels of acute food insecurity.
    • 135 million peoplein 55 countries experienced acute food insecurity in 2019 nearly 60% of whom lived in conflict or instability.
    • Yemenwill see the world’s worst food and malnutrition crisis in 2020 as the number of acutely food-insecure people there is “expected to exceed 17 million”.
    • The report is produced by the Global Network against Food Crises,an international alliance working to address the root causes of extreme hunger.

    Covid-19 Effect

    • An additional 130 millionare on the edge of starvation prompted by Coronavirus. Added with 135 million, the number rises to 265 million in 2020.
    • Reasons:The impact of lost tourism revenues, falling remittances, unemployment, under-employment, shutdown of many factories and travel and other restrictions linked to the coronavirus pandemic.

    Suggestions

      • Swift and unimpeded humanitarian access to vulnerable communities.
      • To set up a network of logistics hubs to keep worldwide humanitarian supply chains moving.
      • Strengthening food security systems.

    UN World Food Programme

    • World Food Programme (WFP) is the leading humanitarian organization saving lives and changing lives, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience.
    • The WFP was established in 1963 by the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) and the United Nations General Assembly.

    India’s Step in Ensuring Food Security

    • The Union Agriculture Minister participated in an Extraordinary virtual meeting of G-20Agriculture Ministers to address the issue of Covid-19 impacts on food security, safety and nutrition.
    • The G-20 Agriculture Ministers virtual meeting wasorganized through video conferencing by the Saudi Presidency.
    • The G-20 nations resolved to have international cooperationin the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, to avoid food wastages and losses, maintain the continuity of the food supply value chain across borders.
    • They also resolved to work together for food security and nutrition, share best practices and lessons learnt, promote research, responsible investments, innovations and reforms that will improve the sustainability and resilience of agriculture and food systems.
    • Agreedto develop science based international guidelines on stricter safety and hygienic measures for zoonosis control.
    • The Government of India has exempted all agriculture operations during the lockdown periodand ensured continued availability of essential agriculture produce and supply, while adhering to protocol of social distancing, health and hygiene.

    WOES OF MIGRANTS AMID COVID-19

    RELATED FOR: – SOCIAL JUSTICE/ TOPICS: – POPULATION AND ASSOCIATED ISSUES, EMPLOYMENT, GOVERNMENT POLICIES & INTERVENTIONS, WELFARE SCHEMES

    The Covid-19 pandemic and the imposition of lockdown in order to curb it has brought the perils of migrant workers into the light.

    Challenges

    • Most of the migrant workers are not routed through licensed contractorsso a huge number is excluded from getting any benefit out of the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (ISMW) Act, 1979.
    • According to ISMW Act, aninter-State migrant worker is any person who is recruited by or through a licensed contractor.
    • The ISMW Act was drawn up after repealing the Orissa Dadan Labour Act, 1975.
    • The Act is only applicableto any establishment which has five or more inter-State migrant workers as employees which again leaves a significant number of workers.
    • In reality, asmall proportion of migrant workmen are placed under such establishments.
    • Migrants from establishments with less than five migrant employees also cease to be migrants, legally.
    • The ISMW Act is alsonot legally enforceable.
    • Coronaviruscrisis has exposed the inadequacy of the ISMW Act highlighting needs for legal safeguards and welfare measures for migrants.

    Suggestions

    • Repealing of the ISMW Act, 1979 and replacingit with a new Act, or by enlarging the scope of Unorganised Workers’ Social Security (UWSS) Act, 2008 to include legal entitlements, to define the migrant workman as a subset, to provide for contingencies of livelihood loss and to make the Act legally enforceable.
    • Universalisation of registrationand issuance of Aadhaar-based Unique Worker’s Identification Number (UWIN).
    • Schemes like MGNREGAPublic Distribution Scheme(PDS) and Ujjwala need to be made portable and extensive.
    • Geofencingof different benefits enabling a migrant worker to choose location-wise benefits.
    • Preparing acomprehensive database of the migrant workers’ source and destination, demography, employment patterns and skill sets.
    • It will help in skill development, providing social security benefits, planning for mass transit of migrant labour and preparing for any contingency plan in emergency situations.
    • Empowering the Inter-State Council, set up underArticle 263 of the Constitution to effectively and comprehensively deal with larger issues related to migrant workers.
    • Migrant worker issues have complex Centre-State and inter-State dimensions.

    Steps Taken by Government

    • The UWSS Act, 2008:It provides for social security and welfare of unorganised workers.
    • The UWSS Act defines unorganised workers as home-based worker, self-employed worker or wage worker in the unorganised sector.
    • It has two features:
    • Registration of unorganised workers.
    • Portable smart I-card with a
    • Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan-dhan Yojana:To ensure old age protection for unorganised workers.
    • Atal Pension Yojana:It is a social security scheme launched under the National Pension System (NPS) and aims at providing a steady stream of income after the age of 60 to all citizens of India including the migrants and labourers.
    • Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojanaand Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (under the Gram Swaraj Abhiyan): Both of the schemes provide for life insurance and accident insurance respectively to the migrants and labourers.
    • Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana(Ayushman Bharat): It aims at providing health cover to protect the migrants among others against the financial risk arising out of catastrophic health episodes.

    MITIGATE RISKS IN WASTE DISPOSAL: NGT

    RELATED FOR: –  GOVERNANCE/ TOPICS: – HEALTH

    Recently, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed all States and Union Territories to take adequate steps to mitigate risks in disposal of bio-medical waste in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.

    Important Points

    • Unauthorised Healthcare Facilities:The NGT raised concerns regarding unscientific disposal of bio-medical waste by unauthorised healthcare facilities. Only 1.1 lakh out of 7 lakh healthcare facilities are authorised under the Bio-medical Waste Management Rules, 2016 so far.
    • The NGT asked the State Pollution Control Boards and pollution control committees to make efforts to bridge this gap to mitigate the risk in terms of unscientific disposal of bio-medical waste.
    • Earlier, the Karnataka High Court has also directed the Karnataka Governmentto take special measures to protect sanitation workers while they collect waste from houses where persons subjected to home quarantine
    • The court directed that:
    • Waste from households under quarantine should be put in yellow non-chlorinated plastic bags,and be treated as biomedical waste.
    • Waste should be picked up from quarantine homes in a separate vehicle.
    • Sanitation workers and vehicle drivers should be provided with the necessary safety gear, such as gloves, goggles and gowns.
    • Once collected, these waste must be disposed of, as per theBiomedical Waste Management Rules, 2016.
    • The Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change notified the Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules in 2016.
    • The new set of Rules replaced the Bio-Medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998.

    Highlights of Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules, 2016

    • Definition:Biomedical waste was defined as human and animal anatomical waste, treatment apparatus like needles, syringes and other materials used in health care facilities in the process of treatment and research.
    • This waste is generated during diagnosis, treatment or immunisation in hospitals, nursing homes, pathological laboratories, blood bank, etc.
    • Objective:The objective of the rules is to properly manage the per day bio-medical waste from healthcare facilities (HCFs) across the country.
    • Ambit:The ambit of the rules has been expanded to include vaccination camps, blood donation camps, surgical camps or any other healthcare activity.
    • Phase out:Use of chlorinated plastic bags, gloves and blood bags to be phased out within two years from March 2016.
    • Pre-treatment:Pre-treatment of the laboratory waste, microbiological waste, blood samples and blood bags through disinfection or sterilisation on-site in the manner prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO) or by the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO).
    • Training:All health care workers to be provided training and immunization regularly.
    • Bar-code:A Bar-Code System for bags or containers containing bio-medical waste for disposal will be established.
    • Categorisation:Bio-medical waste has been classified into 4 categories instead of the earlier 10 categories to improve the segregation of waste at source.
    • Stringent standards for pollutants:The rules prescribe more stringent standards for incinerators to reduce the emission of pollutants in the environment.
    • Land:The State Government provides the land for setting up common bio-medical waste treatment and disposal facilities.
    • No establishment of on-site treatment and disposal facility, if a service of `common bio-medical waste treatment facility is available at a distance of seventy-five kilometer.
    • Operators of a common bio-medical waste treatment and disposal facility have to ensure the timely collection of bio-medical waste from the HCFs and assist the HCFs in conduct of training.

    National Green Tribunal

    • NGT was established in the year 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010.
    • It was established for
    • Effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources.
    • Enforcement of any legal right relating to the environment.
    • Giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
    • It is a specialized body equipped with the necessary expertise to handle environmental disputes involving multi-disciplinary issues.
    • The Tribunal is guided by principles of natural justice.

    SEPSIVAC TO BE TESTED FOR COVID-19

    RELATED FOR: – SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY/ TOPICS: – HEALTH, SCIENTIFIC INNOVATIONS & DISCOVERIES

    • The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)has decided to test its new drug against Sepsis, named Sepsivac to treat critical patients of Covid-19.
    • The drug will be tested in 50 Covid-19 patients at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi and Bhopal, and Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh.

    Important Points

    New Drug Against Sepsis

    • The new drug has recently been approved for marketingin India and would be available commercially as Sepsivac® from Ahmedabad-based Cadila Pharmaceuticals Limited.
    • The pharmaceutical company was supported by CSIR laboratories led by Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (IIIM),Jammu in development of this drug, which has also been found effective for leprosy patients.

    Gram Negative Sepsis and Covid-19

    • Sepsisis a serious life-threatening condition caused when the body’s response to any kind of infection goes out of balance, triggering changes that can lead to multi-organ failure.
    • Gram negative bacteremia(presence of bacteria in the bloodstream) in the critically ill patient is synonymous with gram negative sepsis.
    • Gram-negative bacteriahave built-in abilities to find new ways to be resistant and can pass along genetic materials that allow other bacteria to become drug-resistant as well.
    • According to scientists, there are some clinical similarities between patients suffering from gram-negative Sepsis and Covid-19.
    • A Covid-19 infectionleads to a cytokine storm, quite similar to the one seen in Sepsis, when there is a heightened immune response and over production of immune cells because of which the body starts attacking its own cells. There is inflammation and it reduces the lung’s capacity to absorb oxygen.

    Effectiveness of Sepsivac

    • Previous randomised trials in sepsis patients showed 11% absolute reduction and 55.5% relative reduction in mortality.Sepsivac reduces the days on ventilator, in ICU and hospital and incidence of secondary infection.
    • The drug uses the Mycobacterium w(formally known as mycobacterium indicus pranii) as it produces a different immune-system response.
    • The United States and Australia are also going to start testing the efficacy of the BCG, or tuberculosis vaccine, that also employs a different strain of mycobacterium, in health care workers at the frontline of treating Covid-19 patients.

    CSIR’s Plan for Mycobacterium w

    • CSIR has also planned to evaluate Mw for faster recovery of hospitalised Covid-19 infected patientsand minimise the spread of disease through them as well for providing preventive treatment (prophylaxis) to persons coming in contact with Covid-19 infected patients like family members and health care workers.

    EARTH DAY

    RELATED FOR: –  BIODIVERSITY & ENVIRONMENT/ TOPICS: – ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION & DEGRADATION

    • Every year, April 22is celebrated as Earth Day to raise public awareness about the environment and inspire people to save and protect it.
    • The year 2020 marks 50 years since the start of this modern environmental movement in 1970.
    • The theme of Earth Day 2020 is“Climate Action”.

    Important Points

    • It was first celebrated in 1970, and is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Networkand celebrated in more than 193 countries each year.
    • The idea of commemorating such a day was propounded byGaylord Nelson, an American environmentalist and politician.
    • The Earth Day also recognizes a collective responsibility,as called for in the 1992 Rio Declaration (Earth Summit), to promote harmony with nature and the Earth to achieve a just balance among the economic, social and environmental needs of present and future generations of humanity.
    • The Paris Agreementwas also opened for signature on 22 April 2016 – Earth Day – at UN Headquarters in New York.
    • World Earth Day encourages people to take more steps for the protection of nature and to thank mother earth for the rich environment.

    World Earth day 2020: Digital Celebration

    • Google marked the 50th anniversary of the Earth Day with a special interactive doodle dedicated to one of the smallest and most critical organisms – the bees.
    • As people have to stay inside their homes amid Covid-19 lockdown, World Earth Day 2020 is all set to be celebrated digitally. People who plan on participating can join ’24 hours of action’.
    • One can also take 22 challenges that include measuring your carbon footprint, doing a plastic audit, skype a scientist, work for the earth, zero waste for one day and consume 1 meal per day this week on a plant-based diet.

    Earth Day Network

    • Earth Day Network is a non-profit organization whose mission is to diversify, educate and activate the environmental movement worldwide.
    • EDN main office is located in Washington DC, USA.

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