• Current Affairs, 4 May 2020

    NO RELIEF FOR THE NOWHERE PEOPLE

    RELEVANT FOR: INDIAN ECONOMY | TOPIC: ISSUES RELATED TO POVERTY, INCLUSION, EMPLOYMENT & SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

    • “The lockdown imposed by the government has exposed the deep fault lines in India’s labour market.” Migrant workers wait to board a special train to return to Agra from Ahmedabad. AP
    • Jamalo Makdam, 12, died on April 18 walking back from the chilli fields of Telangana to her home in Chhattisgarh. She and a group of other workers decided to return home on foot, as many migrant workers did, after losing their jobs, incomes and even accommodation following the announcement of a nationwide lockdown. Her journey ended in death, possibly due to electrolyte imbalance and exhaustion, said health officials.
    • In the past month, migrant workers have died, been lathi-charged, herded into shelters with minimum facilities, sprayed with dangerous chemicals, and denied entry into their home villages by the dominant elite. These reports and images have seared our conscience.
    • Lockdown displaces lakhs of migrants
    • The labourers — men, women and children — are the classic nowhere citizens of India. They have no rights and entitlements in the areas in which they work and to whose prosperity they contribute. Being from the poorest and the socially discriminated groups, they are also denied entitlements in the villages to which they belong. Not surprisingly, they have been invisible in policy discourse. There are no firm estimates of their numbers. Estimates prepared by this author and updated from time to time suggest that short-term and circular migrants in the informal wage economy could number 60-65 million. About 40% of these migrants work in the construction sector and 15% in agriculture. The rest are engaged in manufacturing, transport, and other services. With accompanying family members, their numbers would not be less than 100 million. About half these labourers are inter-State workers. We exclude in this estimate longer-term circular migrants who also work in the informal wage economy and as self-employed workers in the urban economy.
    • Data from the National Sample Survey and the India Human Development Survey (IHDS) show that these migrant labourers are mainly from rural areas in poor regions and States, and belong to the poorest socio-economic classes. Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes are over-represented among them. They form the largest section of child, bonded and trafficked labour. They predominate in activities that are characterised by three Ds — dirty, dangerous, and difficult — and consistently face a fourth D — discrimination. Nearly 70% of migrants work in urban and peri-urban areas in and around growth centres in States in the north, west, and south of the country. Industry and employers are bemoaning, for the first time, the fact that activities in a number of crucial sectors and industries will not see revival without these workers.
    • The lockdown imposed by the government has exposed the deep fault lines in India’s labour market which operates in a sea of growing informal employment relations. We know that nearly 81% of wage workers even in non-agricultural sectors do not have any contract with their employers and enjoy no security of tenure. Many do not even know their final employer. The IHDS tells us that half the migrant labourers are hired through contractors. Their condition shows the dismal state of implementation of labour regulations, particularly with respect to inter-State migrants.
    • Migrant workers, other stranded people to pay ₹50 more to get homeRailway Ministry will donate ₹151 crore to PM-CARES fund
    • With the government’s sudden lockdown decision, wages for jobs already carried out remained unpaid. A large percentage of migrants remained saddled with debt taken as advances from their employers, contractors, or landlords. The government’s announcement of a tepid relief package on March 26 did not address any of the concerns of this section as the frail social security net largely does not cover them. Crucially, the government side-stepped its major responsibility of paying compensatory wages to the informal workers for the lockdown, putting this onus on employers who are already hit hard by the lockdown.
    • As the migrant workers tried to move to their homes, the government responded with a strict State and inter-district lockdown and ordered placing migrant workers in quarantines-cum-shelters, and the detention of workers who remained on the move. In a status report submitted to the Supreme Court on March 31, the government argued that the movement of these workers to rural areas constituted a serious risk of spread of COVID-19, a fact that has remained unsubstantiated.
    • By the end of the first week of April, the government submitted that about 6.3 lakh workers were in shelters run by governments in different parts of the country, while another 4.5 lakh were in shelters run by NGOs and others. Nearly 10 million workers were receiving food assistance through governmental and non-governmental sources. About 5 lakh to 6 lakh workers had reached their source States. As a matter of fact, reports from the ground suggest that a large proportion of intra-State migrants had trudged back home so the total returnees was probably closer to 25 million. At present, with about a million migrant workers in shelters or quarantines, at least 20 million such workers are still stranded at worksites or living in hovels. Most of these, as successive surveys attest, have not been able to avail of any food or cash assistance, and are on the brink of starvation.
    • Despair packs migrant workers from U.P. into a concrete mixer truck
    • On April 19, the Indian government issued a standard operating protocol on movement of stranded labour, permitting the movement and employment of stranded migrant workers in worksites only within the States in which they were involuntarily detained in shelters. On April 29, the Central government issued another notification finally permitting stranded labourers and populations to travel inter-State to their homes only by buses. On May 1, the Railways were permitted to run special trains for migrants with coordination and costs being borne by the States and, in some cases, fares being paid by the hapless migrants. The receiving States, it must be pointed out, are precisely those which have the weakest fiscal capacity. The ensuing confusion and delay has also increased the plight of the migrants. It goes without saying that it must be the responsibility of the Centre to coordinate the movement of the stranded populations by trains, air and buses, and to provide adequate resources, not only for transportation, but also for wages and food requirements of all such workers whose loss of jobs and incomes followed the national lockdown.
    • It’s about food, nutrition and livelihood security
    • The fight against the pandemic can only be built on a vision of a society that is inclusive, equitable, and non-discriminatory. India needs a unified labour market and universal social security system which can ensure security, safety, and dignity to all workers. Pandemics do not recognise artificial walls between living spaces and work spaces, and both have to be able to provide basic amenities and access to health security to all. However, it seems that current policy responses to the crisis and towards the migrants are still embedded in a short-sighted framework that recognises and reinforces the idea of two Indias.
    • Ravi Srivastava, former Professor of Economics at JNU, is now honorary Director of the Centre for Employment Studies, Institute for Human Development, Delhi

     

    PANDEMICS WITHOUT BORDERS, SOUTH ASIA’S EVOLUTION

    RELEVANT FOR: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS | TOPIC: SAARC AND INDIA

    • Even if the COVID-19pandemic spares South Asia the worst impact it has reserved thus far for the northern latitudes, it is certain that this region of nearly a fourth of the global population will be wounded gravely — economically, and as the process unfolds, socio-politically. Holding the largest volume and density of poverty in the world, the countries of South Asia are looking into an abyss of distress and discontent.
    • As the region from the Indian Ocean to the Himalaya is hit by recession, more than half a century’s effort against poverty could be wasted. The coddling of the middle class and neglect of the majority underclass, so starkly seen during the pandemic response, points to all that has gone wrong in our electoral democracies; no country of South Asia is presently a formal dictatorship.
    • Coronavirus| South Asia needs a humanitarian response to the COVID-19 pandemic: Ranil Wickremesinghe
    • Amidst our separate insularities, South Asians should take the pandemic as a wake-up call beyond public health, on ills ranging from plastic pollution to global warming, extinction of species, hijacking of the commons, dirty water, toxic air, a weakening of the welfare state, infrastructural exceptionalism — and the rapid conversion of our demographic diversity into the worldwide sameness of a suburban mall.
    • If we fail to act, the COVID-19 episode will be but an interlude as we wade further into the Anthropocene quicksand. You can see the return to ‘normalcy’ in the aircraft tracking apps that show China’s airways bustling once again, as they were before the coronavirus radiated out from Wuhan.
    • As a dire telegram sent by Earth to Humanity, COVID-19 has laid bare the demagoguery that marks the democracies of South Asia. The response of the regimes has been to entrench themselves further, and they are shifting blame on mal-governance to the pandemic even as they tighten state control through surveillance, repressive laws and radical populism backed by ultra-nationalism.
    • The public’s fear of the virus is allowing Presidents and Prime Ministers to press on with top-down rule, whereas the lockdown should be the time to generate momentum towards federal devolution and Gandhi’s empowering ‘gram swaraj’ — a term that must be revived without a sense of embarrassment.
    • Coronavirus| Preventing food shortages is a high priority for South Asia, says World Bank economist
    • In Sri Lanka, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa takes advantage of COVID-19 to grant pardon to a war criminal. In Pakistan, the Army has Prime Minister Imran Khan against the ropes, and Nepal’s political class uses the pandemic for political adventurism and Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli engages the military to carry out key COVID-19 tasks, from buying protective gear to contact tracing. The virus has solidified the foundation of Sheikh Hasina’s one-party rule in Bangladesh.
    • India’s continent-sized polity craves federalism, but COVID-19 has energised Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s centralising mission. His Hindutva-backed, Pakistan-focused ultra-nationalism creates a web of control that strengthens Mr. Modi but weakens India. After a series of polarising actions from Kashmir to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, we watch unbelievingly as Islamophobia is injected into the pandemic response.
    • The majoritarian attitude exhibited by the state, mass media and social media towards India’s 200 million Muslims will before long transfer to the Dalit, tribal and Adivasi communities, and the underclass as a whole. The anti-poor imperiousness seen in the demonetisation of November 2016 was evident also in the four-hour notice given for lockdown on the night of March 23, in a country of more than 350 million workers, many of whom are internal migrants. Since Mr. Modi shuns unrehearsed encounters, journalists and academics are not able to challenge him about the fabric of India that is tearing.
    • A task for South Asia
    • The reason to talk at length about India within South Asia is that the country comprises much of the region by population and geography. Further, the actions and the omissions of India impact each neighbour. While all the other capitals have adversarial positions vis-à-vis New Delhi, however, it is also true that modern India has been aspirational for neighbouring societies — till now, that is.
    • The trajectory of India, with its galloping centralisation, removes governance from the people’s reach. There was a time, decades ago, when New Delhi’s messaging was limited to promises of ‘rotikapdaaur makaan’, but ever more populist slogans were required to maintain command. Hence, the strident Hindutva-laced nationalism, which can only divert attention of the huddled masses, not spread prosperity nor social justice.
    • In both India and Pakistan, the two large countries of South Asia, ending insensitivity and inefficiency in governance require power and agency to pass to the provinces/States. Self-correction is only possible in smaller, devolved polities. As has been seen during the ongoing crisis, the States of India have risen to the occasion and are seen to be more caring, for the simple reason that they are closer to the ground and more accountable.
    • The COVID-19 paradox in South Asia
    • India has shone in the world because of its soft power, defined by a textured history, empathetic open society, “scientific temper” and Gandhian legacy. India simply cannot succeed as a hard power, which is why under the Bharatiya Janata Party-Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the country is losing the very values that command respect abroad.
    • If India were an internationally confident nation-state, as in decades past, it would have used its clout to lobby and build demand for a sitting of the UN Security Council to discuss the global security threat represented by the COVID-19 pandemic. India is also weakened internally by the New Delhi intelligentsia’s China fixation, which must be overcome. Unknowingly or with deliberation, New Delhi seeks to copy-paste Beijing’s centralism as well as its xenophobia, both of which are bound to backfire in a country whose historicity and circumstances are quite different.
    • The unflinching lack of caring for the citizenry by governments in South Asia can only be reversed through a formula that incorporates the internal and external to the nation-states, a reformatting of relationships. Internally, power must devolve from the capital to the provincial units of the two larger countries (Pakistan and India), as well as empowerment of local governments all over (as done in Nepal under the 2015 Constitution, but not yet fully implemented).
    • Coronavirus| SAARC countries unite to combat COVID-19 infections
    • Externally, the countries of South Asia must bring down the hyper-nationalist mind barriers to allow porous borders, thereby reviving historical synergies in economy, ecology and culture. This is essential for both social justice and economic growth, and cannot happen without a palpable reduction in military expenditures that will come with abandonment of the national security state.
    • South Asian regionalism requires resuming the evolution of the subcontinental polity that was terminated in 1947 with Partition.
    • Regionalism would lead to collaborative battles against pestilence, and for wealth creation through trade, comparative advantage, and economies of scale. Regionalism would help fight plastic pollution in our rivers, battle the air pollution that wafts across our frontiers, promote cooperation in natural and human-made disasters, and boost the economies of the geographical “periphery” of each country.
    • The push for South Asia-wide thinking and planning need not be seen as a malevolent attempt to subvert India. Instead, it is the path for India’s own socio-economic advance, and the way to garner international recognition of its soft power. Internal devolution and cross-border bonding has always been a necessity but impossible for some to contemplate. Hopefully, the shake-up of the COVID-19 pandemic will succeed where past exhortations have failed.
    • The opinion-makers of India — economists, political scientists, philosophers, sociologists, diplomats and others — have tended to be New Delhi-centric, and, as a result, downright reluctant to address issues of both federalisms within and regionalism without. They have thus far been unable to see the jungle for the trees.
    • Kanak Mani Dixit, a writer and journalist based in Kathmandu, is founding Editor of the magazine, Himal Southasian

     

    1-D SIMULATION CODE TO STUDY EARTH’S MAGNETOSPHERE

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

    • Scientists at theIndian Institute of Geomagnetism (IIG) have developed a generalized one-dimensional fluid simulation code capable of studying a wide spectrum of coherent electric field structures in near-earth plasma environments or earth’s
    • The developed simulation code is expected to help in planning of future space missions.

    Important Points

    Formation of Earth’s Magnetosphere:

    • Sun is the major source ofplasma deposition in space around the Earth. Thus, the Sun forces some of its plasma towards the earth in the form of the solar wind.
    • Plasma is the most common state of matter in the universe as a whole.It consists of a gas of ions and free electrons.
    • The speed of solar wind varies between 300 to 1500 km/s, which carries with it a solar magnetic field, called the Interplanetary Magnetic Field (IMF).
    • The interaction of the IMF with the earth’s magnetic fieldcreates the magnetosphere of the earth.
    • The magnetosphere shields our home planet from solar and cosmic particle radiation, as well as erosion of the atmosphere by the solar wind – the constant flow of charged particles streaming off the sun.
    • Regions of the Earth’s Magnetosphere:
    • The schematic diagram of Earth’s magnetosphere shown consists of different regions namely,
      • Bow shock :It occurs when the magnetosphere of an Earth interacts with the nearby flowing ambient plasma such as the solar wind.
      • Magnetosheath:It is the region of space between the magnetopause and the bow shock of a planet’s magnetosphere.
      • Magnetopause :It is the boundary between the planet’s magnetic field and the solar wind.
      • Northern tail lobe :The magnetosphere of the earth contains two lobes, referred to as the northern and southern tail lobes. Magnetic field lines in the northern tail lobe point towards the earth.
      • Southern tail lobe:The magnetic field lines in the southern tail lobes point away from the earth. Usually, the tail lobes are almost empty, with few charged particles opposing the flow of the solar wind.
      • Plasmasphere :The plasmasphere, or inner magnetosphere, is a region of the Earth’s magnetosphere consisting of low energy (cool) plasma.
      • Solar winds:It is a stream of charged particles released from the upper atmosphere of the Sun, called the corona.
    • Significance of Study of Plasma Processes:
      • The plasma processes have the ability to hamper the working of a number of satellites that have been placed in orbit in the magnetospheric region.
        • However, the morphology of these plasma processes changes over space and time. These changes can be ideally deciphered only through computer simulations.
      • The study will help advance the knowledge of plasma waves, instabilities, and coherent effects associated with wave-particle interactions that are useful in planning future space missions.
      • It can also lead to precisely controlled fusion laboratory experiments for ever-expanding energy needs of humanity.

    Indian Institute of Geomagnetism

    • Indian Institute of Geomagnetism (IIG) is an autonomous institution functioning directly under the Department of Science and Technology.
    • It has its main Campus at Panvel, Navi Mumbai (Maharashtra).
    • It conducts basic and applied research in Geomagnetism (study of dynamics of earth’s magnetic field) and allied fields like Solid Earth Geomagnetism/Geophysics, Magnetosphere, Space and Atmospheric Sciences.
    • The Institute also supports a World Data Centre for Geomagnetism (WDC, Mumbai), which is the only International centre for Geomagnetic data in South Asia and caters to the needs of Space and Earth Scientists and researchers from various universities and research institutions.

    DROP IN FPI OUTFLOWS

    RELEVANT FOR :- INDIAN ECONOMY/ TOPICS :- CAPITAL MARKET

    According to recent data from Central Depository Services Limited (CDSL), the Foreign Portfolio Investors (FPIs) have significantly reduced the pace of outflows from the equity and debt market in April, 2020, after a record net outflow of Rs 1,18,203 crore in March 2020.

    Key Points

    • FPIs sold a net of Rs 6,883 crore from the equities marketand net holdings worth Rs 12,551 crore from the debt market in April.
    • In equity market shares are issued and traded,either through exchanges or over-the-counter markets (i.e directly). It is also known as the stock market.
    • The debt marketis the market where debt instruments are traded.
    • Debt instruments are instruments that require a fixed payment to the holder, usually with interest. E.g. bonds(government or corporate) and
    • However, they invested a net of Rs 4,032 crore in debt Voluntary Retention Route (VRR) scheme.
    • VRR scheme allows FPIs to participate inrepo transactions and also invest in exchange traded funds that invest in debt instruments.
    • Outflows have continued due to uncertainty surrounding economic conditionscaused by Covid-19 lockdown and investors are cautious. However, the pessimism also continues to grip the markets.
    • So far, India has been able to contain the Covid-19 pandemic from spreading aggressively. The measures announced by the government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI)periodically to revitalize the sagging economy have also resonated well with investors.
    • With selective relaxation in the lockdown and gradual opening up of economic activity in the country, foreign investors will be closely watching the developments on this front.
    • A success on developing medicine and vaccines will lead to a V-shaped recoveryin the economy and markets.

    Voluntary Retention Route (VRR) scheme

    • The VRR scheme is aimed at attracting long-term and stable FPIinvestments into debt markets.
    • Investments through the route will be free of the regulatory normsapplicable to FPI investments in debt markets, provided investors maintain a minimum share of their investments for a fixed period.
    • VRR Scheme has a minimum retention period of three yearsand investors need to maintain a minimum of 75% of their investments in India.
    • FPIs registered withSecurities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) are eligible to voluntarily invest through the route in government and corporate bonds.

    V-Shaped Recovery

    Foreign Portfolio Investment

    • Foreign portfolio investment (FPI) consists of securities and other financial assets passively held by foreign investors.
    • It does not provide the investor with direct ownership of financial assets and is relatively liquid depending on the volatility of the market.
    • Foreign portfolio investment is part of a country’s capital account and is shown on its Balance of Payments (BOP).
    • The BOP measures the amount of money flowing from one country to other countries over one monetary year.
    • The investor does not actively manage the investments through FPIs, he does not have control over the securities or the business.
    • The investor’s goal is to create a quick return on his money.
    • FPI is more liquid and less risky than Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
    • A Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is an investment made by a firm or individual in one country into business interests located in another country. FDI lets an investor purchase a direct business interest in a foreign country.
    • FPI is often referred to as “hot money” because of its tendency to flee at the first signs of trouble in an economy.
    • FPI and FDI are both important sources of funding for most economies. Foreign capital can be used to develop infrastructure, set up manufacturing facilities and service hubs, and invest in other productive assets such as machinery and equipment, which contributes to economic growth and stimulates employment.

    RBI CANCELS LICENCE OF CKP CO-OP BANK

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

    Recently, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has cancelled the licence of Mumbai-based CKP Co-operative Bank.

    Important Points

    • RBI has cancelled the licence of the bank as the financial position of the bank was highly adverse and unsustainable.
    • The bank is not in a position to pay its present and future depositors.
    • The bank failed to meet the regulatory requirement of maintaining a minimum capital adequacy ratioof 9% and reserves.
    • RBI has asked the Registrar of Co-operative Societies, Maharashtrato start the process of winding up operations of CKP Co-operative bank and appoint a liquidator.
    • On liquidation, every depositor of the bank is entitled to get up to Rs 5 lakh from the Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation.
    • In September last year,RBI had imposed restrictions on Punjab and Maharashtra Co-operative (PMC) Bank not to do any business for six months after it found major irregularities, which included financial irregularities, complete failure of internal control and systems, and wrongdoing and under-reporting of its lending exposure.

    Capital Adequacy Ratio

    • Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) is the ratio of a bank’s capital in relation to its risk weighted assets and current liabilities. It is also known as Capital-to-Risk Weighted Asset Ratio (CRAR).
    • It is decided by central banks to prevent commercial banks from taking excess leverage and becoming insolvent in the process.
    • The Basel III norms stipulated a capital to risk weighted assets of 8%.
    • However, as per RBI norms, Indian scheduled commercial banks are required to maintain a CAR of 9%.

    Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation

    • DICGC came into existence in 1978 after the merger of Deposit Insurance Corporation (DIC) and Credit Guarantee Corporation of India Ltd. (CGCI) under the Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation Act, 1961.
    • It serves as a deposit insurance and credit guaranteefor banks in India.
    • It is a fully owned subsidiary of and is governed by the Reserve Bank of India.
    • DICGC charges 10 paise per ₹100 of deposits held by a bank. The premium paid by the insured banks to the Corporation is paid by the banks and is not to be passed on to depositors.
    • DICGC last revised the deposit insurance cover to ₹5 lakh in Feb, 2020, raising it from ₹ 1 lakh since 1993. The protection cover of deposits in Indian banks through insurance is among the lowest in the world.
    • The Damodaran Committee on ‘Customer Services in Banks’ (2011)had recommended a five-time increase in the cap to ₹5 lakh due to rising income levels and increasing size of individual bank deposits.
    • Banks, including regional rural banks, local area banks, foreign banks with branches in India, and cooperative banks, are mandated to take deposit insurance cover with the DICGC.

    Co-operative Banking

    • A Co-operative bank is a financial entity which belongs to its members, who are at the same time the owners and the customers of their bank. It is distinct from commercial banks.
    • Co-operative banks in India are registered under the States Cooperative Societies Act. The Co-operative banks are regulated by both Registrar of Co-operative Societies and Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and governed by the
    • Banking Regulations Act 1949.
    • Banking Laws (Co-operative Societies) Act, 1955.
    • Features of Cooperative Banks: 
    • Customer Owned Entities: Co-operative bank members are both customer and owner of the bank.
    • Democratic Member Control: Co-operative banks are owned and controlled by the members, who democratically elect a board of directors. Members usually have equal voting rights, according to the cooperative principle of “one person, one vote”.
    • Profit Allocation: A significant part of the yearly profit, benefits or surplus is usually allocated to constitute reserves and a part of this profit can also be distributed to the co-operative members, with legal and statutory limitations.
    • Financial Inclusion: They have played a significant role in the financial inclusion of unbanked rural masses.
    • Co-operative Banks are broadly classified into Urban and Rural co-operative banks based on their region of operation.

    Difference between UCBs and Commercial Banks

    • Regulation: Unlike commercial banks, UCBs are only partly regulated by the RBI. Their banking operations are regulated by the RBI, which lays down their capital adequacy, risk control and lending norms. However, their management and resolution in the case of distress is regulated by the Registrar of Co-operative Societies either under the State or Central government.
    • Borrower can be a Shareholder: In general for a commercial bank, there is a clear distinction between its shareholders and its borrowers whereas in a UCB, borrowers can even double up as shareholders.

    COMBATING BIO TERRORISM

    RELEVANT FOR:- INTERNAL SECURITY/ TOPICS :- HEALTH, REGIONAL GROUPINGS ,EFFECT OF POLICIES & POLITICS OF COUNTRIES ON INDIA’S INTERESTS

    The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of several world powers in the event of use of biological weapons against them by rogue states and terrorist groups.

    • The United States, Britain and the Soviet Unionwere involved in developing complex biological weapons programs after World War II and several nations continue to do so currently as well.

    Important Points

    • Bioterrorism or Biological Attack:
    • It is the intentional release of viruses, bacteria, or other germs that can sicken or kill people, livestock or crops.
    • Biological Weapons:
    • They use microorganisms and natural toxins to produce disease in humans, animals, or plants.
    • Biological weapons can be derived from: bacteria, viruses, rickettsia, biological toxins and
    • These agents can be deployed as biological weaponswhen paired with a delivery system, such as a missile or aerosol
    • Bacillus anthracis,the bacteria that causes anthrax, is one of the most likely agents to be used in a biological attack.
    • The most destructive bioterrorism scenario is the airborne dispersion of pathogensover a major population region.
    • Tropical agricultural pathogens or pestscan be used as anticrop agents to hamper the food security worldwide.
    • It is asubstantial threat because small amounts of biotic agents can be effortlessly hidden, transported and discharged into vulnerable populations.
    • It canimpact and expose military and civilian susceptibilities to biological weapons and to the complexity of offering ample safeguards.
    • Bioweapons experts believe that currently bioterrorists probably lack the biotechnological capabilityto produce-super pathogens or super pests.

    Covid-19: Bioweapon or Not

    • Novel-coronavirus is alleged to have originated in bats.
    • Some intelligence agencies initially proclaimed that coronavirus occurred naturally but later on, they claimed that the pandemic might have begun from the Wuhan lab in China after the researchers were probably able to figure out how bat coronaviruses could mutate to attack humans.
    • However, there is no proof that the pandemic virus was engineered or manipulated, yet.
    • In the Indian context, with the existence of hostile neighbours like Pakistan and China, the threat of biological warfare becomes important and cannot be ruled out entirely.

    Combating Bioterrorism

    • The European Union(EU), Russia and China are finding ways to deter bioterrorism and biowarfare. The aim is to make it harder for terrorists to obtain the resources for designing biological weapons.
    • These efforts should include:
    • Intelligence Sharing & Rapid Detection
    • Global intelligence agencies should operate together and share credible intelligence.
    • Combining human resources, laboratory resources and information supervision in novel, legal and satisfactory ways that allow for timely detection and categorization of hazards.
    • Rapid detection and surveillance are important for an efficient response to a bioterror strike.
    • Pathogen Analysis
    • Speedy, uniform techniques that allow for the discovery of an extensive range of pathogens used as biological weapons in a measurable fashion.
    • Pathogens are a usual part of the environment and can complicate detection attempts.
    • Strengthening the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention
    • TheBiological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) of 1972 prohibits signatory nations to develop, produce, stockpile or otherwise, acquire or retain:
    • Microbial or other biological agentsor toxins whatever their origin or method of production, of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes.
    • Weapons, equipment or means of delivery designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict.
    • However, there is no exact authentication method that can ensure compliance with the BTWC. Therefore, efforts must be made to strengthen the BTWC so that it helps to uncover and successfully prevent biological weapons programs.
    • India ratified and pledged to abide by its obligations in 2015.
    • Biodefense Systems
    • Upgrading and installing biodefense systems in major urban conglomerates to protect against deadly disease outbreaks initiated by bioterrorism.
    • During theCold War, Soviet Union had set up several Biodefense systems across the country.
    • Developing and stockpiling vaccines and antimicrobial medicines that can be used to defend the people against infections triggered by biological weapons.
    • Coaching first responders on how to deal with a biological weapons attack.
    • Refining diagnostic laboratory capability and epidemiological capabilities.

    Way Forward

    • The studies conducted to assess the actual efficiency of counter bioterrorism measures are insufficient which needs to be changed.
    • It becomes important that engaged and methodical efforts in studying the efficiency of counter bioterrorism measures are applied in a meticulous way.
    • It should be taken into account that the implementation of some specific counter bioterrorism practices can possibly have consequences with respect to human rights, institutional liberties, fundamental democratic values and the Rule of Law.

    MSP HIKED FOR MINOR FOREST PRODUCE

    RELEVANT FOR :- INDIAN ECONOMY/ TOPICS :- GOVERNMENT POLICIES & INTERVENTIONS, FOREST RESOURCES

    • Recently, the Central government has revised the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for Minor Forest Produce (MFP).
    • The MSP is the rate at which the government buys produce from farmers and tribals.
    • The idea of MSP is to counter price volatility of commodities due to the factors like variation in their supply, lack of market integration and information asymmetry.

    Important Points

    • The increased Minimum support price (MSP) ranges from 16% to 66%.
    • MSP for MFPs is revised once every three yearsby the Pricing Cell constituted under the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
    • However, the authorities have revised the MSP much earlier than 3 years.
    • This will offer much-needed support to tribal gatherers in view of the “exceptional and very difficult” circumstances prevailing in the country due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
    • The Centre has also asked all the states to speed up procurement operations.
    • The central government has also created an online monitoring dashboard, called the Van Dhan Monit Dashboard,for reporting the procurement activities undertaken at the state level.
    • The dashboard is a part of the “TRIFED E- Sampark Setu”that aims to facilitate exchange of information to and from every Panchayat and Van Dhan Kendra, either through email or mobile phone.
    • States have appointed theVan Dhan Kendras as their primary procurement agents for MFP procurements from haat bazaars.

    Van Dhan Vikas Kendra

    • Van Dhan Vikas Kendras have been set up under the program ‘Van Dhan Yojana’ which was launched in 2018, in Chhattisgarh.
    • The Van Dhan Vikas Kendra caters to ten Self Help Groups of thirty tribal gatherers each.
    • The selection of the tribal beneficiaries and formation of the SHGs has been undertaken by the Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED).
    • The Van Dhan Vikas Kendras boost the economic development of tribals involved in the collection of Minor Forest Produce (MFP) and provide a sustainable MFP-based livelihood in MFP-rich districts.

    Minor Forest Produce (MFP)

    • MFP includes all non-timber forest produce of plant origin and includes bamboo, canes, fodder, leaves, gums, waxes, dyes, resins and many forms of food including nuts, wild fruits, honey, lac, tusser etc.
    • It provides both subsistence and cash income for people who live in or near forests. They form a major portion of their food, fruits, medicines and other consumption items and also provide cash income through sales.

    OPPOSITION TO PERMANENT BRU SETTLEMENT IN TRIPURA

    RELEVANT FOR :- GOVERNANCE/ TOPICS :- SALIENT FEATURES OF INDIAN SOCIETY, GOVERNMENT POLICIES & INTERVENTIONS

    In the middle of the Covid-19 lockdown, two community-specific groups have renewed their opposition to the permanent settlement of Bru refugees from Mizoram in Tripura.

    • The two groups namely, Nagarik Suraksha Mancha (mostly representing Bengali people displaced from erstwhile East Pakistan post-partition in 1947) and the Mizo Convention have submitted a memorandum protesting against the proposed settlement of the displaced Brus in Tripura.

    Background

    • Bru or Reangis a community indigenous to Northeast India, living mostly in Tripura, Mizoram and Assam. In Tripura, they are recognised as a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group.
    • In Mizoram, they have been targeted by groups that do not consider them indigenous to the state. In 1997, following ethnic clashes, nearly 37,000 Brus fled Mamit, Kolasib and Lunglei districts of Mizoram and were accommodated in relief camps in Tripura.
    • Since then, 5,000 have returned to Mizoram in eight phases of repatriation, while 32,000 still live in six relief camps in North Tripura.
    • In June 2018, community leaders from the Bru camps signed an agreement with the Centre and the two state governments, providing for repatriation in Mizoram. But most camp residents rejected the terms of the agreement.
    • The camp residents say that the agreement doesn’t guarantee their safety in Mizoram.
    • The Centre, the governments of Mizoram and Tripura and leaders of Bru organisations signed a quadripartite agreement in January (2020) to let the remaining 35,000 refugees who have stayed back to be resettled in Tripura.
    • The rehabilitation package offered included financial assistance of ₹4 lakh and land for constructing a house for each family.

    Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups

    • In India, tribal population makes up for 8.6% of the total population.
    • Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) are more vulnerable among the tribal groups.
    • In 1973, the Dhebar Commission created Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs) as a separate category, who are less developed among the tribal groups. In 2006, the Government of India renamed the PTGs as PVTGs.
    • PVTGs have some basic characteristics – they are mostly homogenous, with a small population, relatively physically isolated, absence of written language, relatively simple technology and a slower rate of change etc.
    • Among the 75 listed PVTG’s the highest number are found in Odisha.

    AFRICAN SWINE FEVER IN ASSAM

    RELEVANT FOR :- BIODIVERSITY & ENVIRONMENT/ TOPICS :- HEALTH

    The Centre has advised the Assam state government to go for culling of pigs affected by the African Swine Fever (ASF).

    Important Points

    • It has been advised to divide the affected areas into zones and go for culling accordingly.
    • The disease was first reported in November-December, 2019 from the areas of China bordering Arunachal Pradesh.
    • A few organised piggeries in Assam have been affected and the possible carrier could be humans.
    • However, there is no confirmation on humans being the carrierof the virus.
    • Earlier in April, there were reported deaths of pigs due to the Classical Swine Fever(CSF).
    • ASF and CSF are different from Swine Flu (H1N1)and do not affect humans.
    • CSF can be prevented by proper vaccinationbut there is no vaccination for ASF. Culling of the affected pigs is the only option.

    African Swine Fever

    • It is a highly contagious and fatal animal disease that infects and leads to an acute form of hemorrhagic fever in domestic and wild pigs.
    • It was first detected in Africa in the 1920s.
    • The mortality is close to 100% and since the fever has no cure, the only way to stop its spread is by culling the animals.
    • ASF is not a threat to human beings since it only spreads from animals to other animals.
    • ASF is a disease listed in the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Terrestrial Animal Health Code and thus, reported to the OIE.

    World Organisation for Animal Health

    • OIE is an intergovernmental organisation responsible for improving animal health worldwide.
    • In 2018, it had a total of 182 Member Countries. India is one of the member countries.
    • OIE standards are recognised by the World Trade Organization as reference international sanitary rules.
    • It is headquartered in Paris, France.

    SARISKA TIGER RESERVE

    RELEVANT FOR :- BIODIVERSITY & ENVIRONMENT/ TOPICS :- CONSERVATION, GOVERNMENT POLICIES & INTERVENTIONS

    The 13th session of the Ministry of Tourism’s Dekho Apna Desh webinar titled, ‘Destination- Sariska Tiger reserve’ was held recently.

    • The objective of the Ministry of Tourism’s webinar series is to create awareness about and promote various tourism destinations of India – including the lesser known destinations and lesser known facets of popular destinations.

    Important Points

    • Sariska Tiger Reserve is located in Aravali hills and forms a part of the Alwar District of
    • The Reserve is immensely rich in flora and fauna, and is famous for Royal Bengal Tiger.
    • The park has populations of leopards, Nilgai, Sambar, chital etc. It also shelters a large population of Indian peafowl, crested serpent eagles, sand grouse, golden backed woodpeckers, great Indian horned owls, tree pies, vultures,etc.
    • Sariska was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1955 and was declared the tiger reserve later in 1978,making it a part of India’s Project Tiger.
    • The Sanctuary houses ruined temples, forts, pavilions and a palace.
    • Kankarwadi fortis located in the center of the Reserve and it is said that Mughal emperor Aurangzeb had imprisoned his brother Dara Shikoh at this fort in struggle for succession to the throne.
    • The Reserve also houses a famous temple of lord Hanuman at Pandupolerelated to

    Project Tiger

    • Project Tiger is an ongoing Centrally Sponsored Scheme of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change providing central assistance to the tiger States for tiger conservation in designated tiger reserves.
    • The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is a statutory body of the Ministry, with an overarching supervisory/coordination role, performing functions as provided in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
    • The NTCA was launched in 2005, following the recommendations of the Tiger Task Force. It was given statutory status by the 2006 amendment of Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
    • India now has as many as 2,967 tigers in the wild, with more than half of them in Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, according to the latest tiger estimation report for 2018.
    • The population of tigers have increased by 33% since the last census in 2014 when the total estimate was 2,226.
    • Sariska is the first tiger reserve to have successfully relocated Royal Bengal tigers in India and at present there are around 20 tigers in the reserve.

    Dekho Apna Desh

    • Dekho Apna Desh is one of the three components of the Paryatan Parv.The other two are Tourism for All and Tourism & Governance.
    • It intends to encourage Indians to travel their own country.

    IDEA THON ON ‘THE FUTURE OF RIVER MANAGEMENT’

    RELEVANT FOR: – GOVERNANCE/ TOPICS: – CONSERVATION, WATER RESOURCES

    • Recently, the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG)and the National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) organized an IDEAthon on “The Future of River Management’.
    • The event aimed to explore how the Covid-19 crisis can shape river management strategies for the future.

    Important  Points

    • The IDEAthon sought to brainstorm the learnings from Covid-19 pandemic, the following lockdown and its impact on river management.
    • It examined how the social angle of rivers can be leveraged on to address other crises.
    • It sought to create a framework called River Management in a city’s Urban river management plan.
    • It aimed to garner more attention towards river management and also highlight the interconnectivity of cities with the river.
    • Namami Gange(implemented by the NMCG) and NIUA plan to bring out a policy paper based on the deliberations of the IDEAthon for river management.

    ·         National Mission for Clean Ganga

    • It is theimplementation wing of the National Ganga Council.
    • NMCGwas established in the year 2011 as a registered society. It is under the Ministry of Jal Shakti.
    • It has a two-tier management structureand comprises the Governing Council and Executive Committee.
    • Objectives
    • To ensure effective control of pollution and rejuvenation of the river Ganga by adopting a river basin approach to promote inter-sectoral coordination for comprehensive planning and management.
    • To maintain minimum ecological flows in the river Ganga with the aim of ensuring water quality and environmentally sustainable development.

    National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA)

    • NIUA is an institute for research, training and information dissemination in urban development and management.
    • It is located in New Delhi, India.
    • It was established in 1976 as an autonomous body under the Societies Registration Act.
    • The Institute is supported by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs,Government of India, State Governments, urban and regional development authorities and other agencies concerned with urban issue

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