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INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 13 April 2020

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 1:

1. What is earth’s seismic noise?

 

GS Paper 2:

1. What is contact tracing?

2. Who are the developing countries in the WTO?

 

GS Paper 3:

1. MSP for MFP.

2. Novel blood plasma therapy for COVID-19.

3. Fly ash.

 

Facts for Prelims:

1. World Homoeopathy Day.

2. Technology Development Board (TDB).

3. Central Administrative Tribunal.

4. YUKTI portal.

5. What are Primordial Black Holes (PBH)?

6. What is a virosome?

7. What is wormivet?

 


GS Paper  : 1


 

Topics Covered: Important Geophysical phenomena such as earthquakes, Tsunami, Volcanic activity, cyclone etc., geographical features and their location- changes in critical geographical features (including water-bodies and ice-caps) and in flora and fauna and the effects of such changes.

What is earth’s seismic noise?

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Seismic noise- meaning, source, features and effects.

Context: Scientists at the British Geological Survey (BGS) have reported a change in the Earth’s seismic noise and vibrations amid the coronavirus lockdown.

  • They have observed a 30-50 per cent fall in levels of ambient seismic noise since schools and businesses were closed in mid-March.
  • Seismologists around the world have now begun a collaborative effort to study the fall in seismic noise levels.

What is seismic noise?

In geology, seismic noise refers to the relatively persistent vibration of the ground due to a multitude of causes.

It is the unwanted component of signals recorded by a seismometer– the scientific instrument that records ground motions, such as those caused by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and explosions.

Causes:

This noise includes vibrations caused due to human activity, such as transport and manufacturing, and makes it difficult for scientists to study seismic data that is more valuable. Apart from geology, seismic noise is also studied in other fields such as oil exploration, hydrology, and earthquake engineering.

How do the reduced noise levels help scientists?

The seismic noise vibrations caused by human activity are of high frequency (between 1-100 Hz), and travel through the Earth’s surface layers.

  • Usually, to measure seismic activity accurately and reduce the effect of seismic noise, geologists place their detectors 100 metres below the Earth’s surface.
  • However, since the lockdown, researchers have said that they were able to study natural vibrations even from surface readings, owing to lesser seismic noise.
  • Due to lower noise levels, scientists are now hoping that they would be able to detect smaller earthquakes and tremors that had slipped past their instruments so far.

Insta Link:

Prelims Link:

  1. What are seismic waves?
  2. Difference between seismic waves and noise?
  3. Difference between body waves and surface waves?
  4. What is magnitude scale and intensity scale? How are they measured?
  5. Most destructive seismic waves.

Mains Link:

What are seismic noises? How lockdown has brought down these noise levels? Discuss.

Sources: Indian Express.

 


GS Paper  : 2


 

Topics Covered: Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.

What is contact tracing?

What to study?

For Prelims: Definition by WHO.

For Mains: Significance and its need amid COVID 19 spread, previous instances of its application.

Context: Global technology giants Apple and Google have announced that they are partnering on developing contact tracing technology to help governments and health authorities tackle the novel coronavirus pandemic.

They are planning to build a comprehensive solution that includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology to assist in enabling contact tracing.

Need for:

  • Contact tracing is considered essential for bringing epidemics under control, and is expected to help governments in relaxing lockdown orders.
  • Identifying people at the onset of symptoms and promptly isolating them reduces exposure to other persons.
  • Via contact tracing, people who have come into contact with a person carrying a disease are alerted and identified.
  • Additionally, prompt isolation and admission of the symptomatic person to a treatment facility decreases the delay to supportive treatment, which improves the likelihood of survival.

What is Contact tracing?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines contact tracing as the process of identifying, assessing, and managing people who have been exposed to a disease to prevent onward transmission.

How will the coronavirus new technology by Google and Apple work?

  1. Phone-based matching via official apps will help alert people if they have come in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19.
  2. For this to work, COVID-19 patients would have to declare their status to the respective apps voluntarily.
  3. Following this, all people whose Android/iOS smartphones were detected nearby such patients, would get notified.
  4. This means, you will be notified even if you were around a stranger who has tested positive for the disease.
  5. Next, Bluetooth-based contact tracing will be built into the Android and iOS platforms, and users would be able to use the feature without downloading an app.

google_apple

Sources: Indian Express.

 

Topics Covered: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

Who are the developing countries in the WTO?

What to study?

For Prelims: Categories of countries in WTO.

For Mains: Need for, implicating, significance and concerns.

Context: US president has asked for changing the WTO rules for changing the developing country status of China.

Trump has accused China of taking advantage of the US through the World Trade Organisation (WTO), saying that if Beijing is considered a ‘developing country’, the US should be called one too.

Should China still be classified as a developing nation? What are the implications?

China became a WTO member in 2001. By 2011, China became the second-largest economy in GDP terms, the first largest merchandise exporter, the fourth largest commercial services exporter and the first destination for inward FDI among developing countries.

So if China is forced to take on the duties of a developed country and forego the benefits of a developing country, the West could soon ask other developing countries that are ahead of China (at least in per capita terms) to do the same.

Who are the developing countries in the WTO?

There are no WTO definitions of “developed” and “developing” countries.

  • Members announce for themselves whether they are “developed” or “developing” countries.
  • However, other members can challenge the decision of a member to make use of provisions available to developing countries.

What are the advantages of “developing country” status? 

Developing country status in the WTO brings certain rights. Developing country status ensures special and differential treatment (S&DT) or provisions which allow them more time to implement agreements and commitments, include measures to increase trading opportunities, safeguard their trade interests, and support to build capacity to handle disputes and implement technical standards.

WTO norms for recognition of Developed, Developing and LDCs:

  • Under the WTO system, generally, countries are designated as developed, developing, and least developed countries (LDCs).
  • The uneven level of development between developed and developing countries in the WTO is a well-recognised fact.
  • Article XVIII of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)recognises that attaining the objectives of this agreement would require facilitating the progressive development of those countries that can only support low levels of development and are at the early stages of development.
  • Accordingly, countries self-designate themselves as ‘developing country’ to take advantage of provisions like Article XVIII of GATT and other special and differential treatment (S&DT) provisions in the WTO agreements.
  • These provisions are aimed at increasing trade opportunities for developing countries, ensuring longer transitional periods to comply with WTO obligations, and affording technical assistance to countries, among other things.

What are “special and differential treatment” provisions?

  1. Longer time periods for implementing Agreements and commitments,
  2. Measures to increase trading opportunities for developing countries,
  3. Provisions requiring all WTO members to safeguard the trade interests of developing countries,
  4. Support to help developing countries build the capacity to carry out WTO work, handle disputes, and implement technical standards, and
  5. Provisions related to least-developed country (LDC) Members.
  6. The concept of non-reciprocal preferential treatment for developing countries that when developed countries grant trade concessions to developing countries, they should not expect the developing countries to make matching offers in return.

Demands by developed countries:

For sometime now, developed countries, mainly the US, have been asking the WTO to end the benefits being given to developing countries.

Nearly two-thirds of the members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) have been able to avail themselves of special treatment and to take on weaker commitments under the WTO framework by designating themselves as developing countries.

matter_choice

Insta Links:

Prelims Link:

  1. Definition by WTO in this regard?
  2. What is non-reciprocal preferential treatment?
  3. What is special and differential treatment (S&DT)?
  4. WTO- membership and composition?

Mains Link:

Have India, China taken ‘tremendous advantage’ of their developing country status in the global economy? Discuss.

Sources: down to earth.

 


GS Paper  : 3


 

Topics Covered: Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices.

MSP for MFP

What to study?

For Prelims: What is MSP? MFP? Scheme related?

For Mains: Significance of the scheme and MFP for tribals.

 Context: TRIFED asks State Nodal Departments & Implementing Agencies to initiate procurement from available funds under ‘MSP for MFP scheme’.

Significance:

Such measures are necessary for mitigating the impact of lockdown on tribal communities.

This will provide much required livelihood support to the tribal gatherers and obviate the movement of middlemen from urban areas to tribal habitations, thus checking any eventuality of spread of corona virus among tribal communities.

What is this scheme all about?

The Union Cabinet, in 2013, approved a Centrally Sponsored Scheme for marketing of non-nationalized / non monopolized Minor Forest Produce (MFP) and development of a value chain for MFP through Minimum Support Price (MSP).

  • This was a measure towards social safety for MFP gatherers, who are primarily members of the Scheduled Tribes (STs) most of them in Left Wing Extremism (LWE) areas.
  • The scheme had Rs. 967.28 crore as Central Government share and Rs. 249.50 crore as the States share for the current Plan period.

Key features of the scheme:
Ensure that the tribal population gets a remunerative price for the produce they collect from the forest and provide alternative employment avenues to them.

  • Establish a system to ensure fair monetary returns for forest dweller’s efforts in collection, primary processing, storage, packaging, transportation etc, while ensuring sustainability of the resource base.
  • Get them a share of revenue from the sales proceeds with costs deducted.

Coverage:

Earlier, the scheme was extended only to Scheduled Areas in eight states and fixed MSPs for 12 MFPs. Later expanded to all states and UTs. Total number of MFPs covered under the list include more than 40 items.

Implementation:
The responsibility of purchasing MFP on MSP will be with State designated agencies.

  1. To ascertain market price, services of market correspondents would be availed by the designated agencies particularly for major markets trading in MFP.
  2. The scheme supports primary value addition as well as provides for supply chain infrastructure like cold storage, warehouses etc.
  3. The Ministry of Tribal Affairs will be the nodal Ministry for implementation and monitoring of the scheme. The Minimum Support Price would be determined by the Ministry with technical help of TRIFED.

Significance of the scheme:

The Minor Forest Produce (MFP), also known as Non-Timber Forest Produce (NTFP), is a major source of livelihood and provides essential food, nutrition, medicinal needs and cash income to a large number of STs who live in and around forests. An estimated 100 million forest dwellers depend on the Minor Forest Produce for food, shelter, medicines, cash income, etc.

However, MFP production is highly dispersed spatially because of the poor accessibility of these areas and competitive market not having evolved. Consequently, MFP gatherers who are mostly poor are unable to bargain for fair prices. This package of intervention can help in organizing unstructured MFP markets.

Insta Link:

Prelims Link:

  1. Who decides about Products to be covered under MFP?
  2. How many products are currently covered under MFP?
  3. Permission for collection of MFPs inside National Parks and other protected areas?
  4. Centrally sponsored vs Central Sector schemes.
  5. Who decides on MSP?

Mains Link:

Recognition of tribal rights over non-timber forest products (NTFPs) would accelerate empowerment of the poor and marginalised. Comment.

Sources: pib.

 

Topics Covered: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

Novel blood plasma therapy for COVID-19

What to study?

For Prelims: About the test, how is it carried out?

For Mains: Need for, significance and challenges involved.

Context: India has taken a bold step to provide innovative treatment to patients suffering from COVID-19 disease- plasma therapy.

Technically called “convalescent-plasma therapy”, the treatment aims at using the immune power gained by a recovered person to treat a sick person.

But, before understanding more about the therapy, let’s see how our immune system works?

When a pathogen like novel coronavirus infects, our immune systems produce antibodies.

Like the police dogs, the antibodies span out to identify and mark the invading virus.

White blood cells attach the identified intruders, and the body gets rid of the infection.

But, what are antibodies?

Antibodies are one of the front-line immune response to an infection by a microbe. They are a particular type of proteins secreted by immune cells called B lymphocytes when they encounter an invader, such as a novel coronavirus.

The immune system designs antibodies that are highly specific to each invading pathogen. A particular antibody and its partner virus are made for each other.

How plasma therapy works?

  1. Blood is drawn from a person who has recovered from COVID-19 sickness.
  2. The serum is separated and screened for virus-neutralizing antibodies.
  3. Convalescent serum, that is the blood serum obtained from one who has recovered from an infectious disease and especially rich in antibodies for that pathogen, is then administered to a COVID-19 patient.
  4. The sick acquires passive immunisation. 

When was it previously used? How effective has it been?

We have effective antibiotics against bacterial infection. However, we do not have effective antivirals. Whenever a new viral outbreak takes places, there are no drugs to treat it. Hence, the convalescent serum has been used during past viral epidemics. 

  • 2009–2010 H1N1 influenza virus pandemic.
  • The Ebola outbreak in 2018.

How long the antibodies will remain in the recipient?

After the antibody serum is given, it will stay on the recipient for at least three to four days. During this period, the sick person will recover. Various studies have confirmed this.

Difference between this therapy and vaccination?

This therapy is akin to passive immunization. When a vaccine is administrated, the immune system produces the antibodies.

Here, the effect lasts only up to the time the antibodies injected remain the bloodstream. The protection given is temporary.

Whereas, Vaccination provides lifelong immunity.

For example, the mother transfers antibodies through breast milk to an infant before the child could build her own immunity.

Related fact:

In 1890, Emil von Behring, a German physiologist, discovered that the serum obtained from a rabbit infected with diphtheria was effective in preventing the diphtheria infection. Behring was awarded the first-ever Nobel prize for medicine in 1901.

 Insta Links:

Prelims Link:

  1. Differences between vaccination and plasma therapy?
  2. What is passive immunisation?
  3. What are antibodies and antigens?
  4. First Nobel prize in medicine?

Mains Link:

Discuss the significance of convalescent plasma therapy.

Sources: pib.

 

Topics Covered: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

Fly ash

What to study?

For prelims: What is fly ash, how is it produced and where it can be used?

For mains: Concerns associated with its contamination, what needs to be done and legislative measures necessary.

Context: While 20 districts of Madhya Pradesh battle hard against the killer onslaught of the novel Coronavirus, the Singrauli district of the central Indian state has been hit by a tragedy caused by the Reliance Power plant’s fly ash dyke collapse.

Background:

The Reliance Power’s Ultra Mega Power Project’s (UMPP) in Sasan area of Singrauli fly ash dyke collapsed recently. The flood of the toxic ash slurry from the collapsed dyke located in adjoining Harhawa village washed away six persons, including three kids, a woman and two men living in the adjoining villages.

What is Fly Ash?

Popularly known as Flue ash or pulverised fuel ash, it is a coal combustion product.

Composition:

  • Composed of the particulates that are driven out of coal-fired boilers together with the flue gases.
  • Depending upon the source and composition of the coal being burned, the components of fly ash vary considerably, but all fly ash includes substantial amounts of silicon dioxide (SiO2), aluminium oxide (Al2O3) and calcium oxide (CaO), the main mineral compounds in coal-bearing rock strata.
  • Minor constituents include: arsenic, beryllium, boron, cadmium, chromium, hexavalent chromium, cobalt, lead, manganese, mercury, molybdenum, selenium, strontium, thallium, and vanadium, along with very small concentrations of dioxins and PAH compounds. It also has unburnt carbon.

Health and environmental hazards:

Toxic heavy metals present: All the heavy metals found in fly ash nickel, cadmium, arsenic, chromium, lead, etc—are toxic in nature. They are minute, poisonous particles accumulate in the respiratory tract, and cause gradual poisoning.

Radiation: For an equal amount of electricity generated, fly ash contains a hundred times more radiation than nuclear waste secured via dry cask or water storage.

Water pollution: The breaching of ash dykes and consequent ash spills occur frequently in India, polluting a large number of water bodies.

Effects on environment: The destruction of mangroves, drastic reduction in crop yields, and the pollution of groundwater in the Rann of Kutch from the ash sludge of adjoining Coal power plants has been well documented.

However, fly ash can be used in the following ways:

  • Concrete production, as a substitute material for Portland cement, sand.
  • Fly-ash pellets which can replace normal aggregate in concrete mixture.
  • Embankments and other structural fills.
  • Cement clinker production – (as a substitute material for clay).
  • Stabilization of soft soils.
  • Road subbase construction.
  • As aggregate substitute material (e.g. for brick production).
  • Agricultural uses: soil amendment, fertilizer, cattle feeders, soil stabilization in stock feed yards, and agricultural stakes.
  • Loose application on rivers to melt ice.
  • Loose application on roads and parking lots for ice control.

The issues which impede its full-scale utilization in India:

  1. Indian fly ash is primarily of the calcareous or class C variety,implying that it possesses not only pozzolanic, but also hydraulic (self-cementing) properties. In contrast, European fly ash is of a silicious or class F variety, implying an absence of hydraulic properties.
  2. The pricing of fly ash is increasingly becoming a contentious issue that is hampering its gainful utilisation.
  3. Imperfections typical of quasi-markets,such as information asymmetry and high transaction costs, vested interests, technical and technological limitations, and the lack of regulatory oversight and political will, have impeded the flow of fly ash to its most value-adding use.

Sources: down to earth.

 


Facts for Prelims


World Homoeopathy Day:

  • Observed on 10th April 2020.
  • It commemorates the 265th birth anniversary of Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of Homoeopathy. 
  • The theme of 2020 is “Enhancing the scope of Homoeopathy in Public Health”.
    What is Homeopathy? The way to heal by the doctrine of ‘similia similibus curantur’ i.e likes are cured by likes.
  • The homeopathic medical system is a recognized medical system in India under the Homoeopathy Central Council Act, 1973. It is also recognized as one of the national systems of medicines.

Technology Development Board (TDB):

It is a statutory body of the Department of Science and Technology (DST).

Established under Technology Development Board Act, 1995

It provides financial support to Indian companies for commercialization of indigenous technology or adaptation of imported technology.

About CAT:

The Central Administrative Tribunal was established by an Act of Parliament namely Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985 as sequel to the 42nd amendment of the Constitution of India inserting Article 323 A.

Functions: The tribunal adjudicates disputes and complaints with respect to Recruitment and Conditions of Service of the persons appointed to the Public Services and Posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or any State or of any other Local Authorities within the territory of India or under the control of the Government of India.

Composition: The Tribunal is headed by the Chairman and 65 Members, 33 from Judicial (including Chairman) and 33 from the Administrative stream. The Chairman is normally a retired Chief Justice of a High Court.

YUKTI portal:

YUKTI stands for Young India Combating COVID with Knowledge, Technology and Innovation.

The portal aims to monitor and record the efforts and initiatives of MHRD which have been taken in the wake of COVID-19.

What are Primordial Black Holes (PBH)?

  • Primordial Black Holes (PBH) were formed during the Hot Big Bang phase.
  • It is believed that they are formed as a result of collapsing radiations as opposed to the collapse of massive stars, which is the case of any other black holes.
  • PBH can be massively large as 3000kms or be extremely tiny like nucleus of an atom.

What is a virosome?

Virosomes are enveloped virus like particles.

  • They are lipid-based carriers (envelopes) containing the functional fusion viral proteins and natural membrane proteins of the natural virus.
  • These lipid-based viral envelopes can be combined with additional rationally designed antigens and adjuvants for each specifics vaccine or immunotherapies.
  • Virosomes based vaccines are designed to maintain the immunogenicity of a live-attenuated virus but with the safety of a killed virus.
  • The virosomes are devoid of the nucleocapsid and without the genetic material of the source virus, they are unable to replicate, cause an infection or a disease.

What is wormivet?

It is an indigenous herbal medication (dewormer).

It was recently brought out by National Innovation Foundation India (NIF) in form of commercial product for livestock owners as an alternate to chemical method of treatment of worm.

 


Insights Current Affairs Analysis (ICAN) by IAS Topper