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INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 27 May 2020

current affairs, current events, current gk, insights ias current affairs, upsc ias current affairs

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 2:

1. Ensure transport, food for migrants, SC tells Centre, States.

2. ILO urges PM not to dilute labour laws.

3. No WHO bar on India testing HCQ as preventive.

4. China’s security law for Hong Kong.

5. Both Koreas violated armistice agreement.

 

GS Paper 3:

1. RT-LAMP based test for Coronavirus.

 

Facts for Prelims:

1. Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC).

2. What is FAITH trials?

3. Chardham tunnel.

4. Bug bounty programme.

5. Bev Q.

6. Spectrin

7. Hydro-electric projects & Multipurpose projects in Madhya Pradesh.

 


GS Paper  : 2


 

Topics Covered: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Ensure transport, food for migrants, SC tells Centre, States

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Supreme Court’s verdict, concerns expressed and ways to address the challenges being faced by migrant labourers.

Context: Supreme court has ordered the Centre and the States to immediately provide transport, food and shelter free of cost to the stranded migrant workers.

The Court took suo motu cognisance of media reports and representations from senior lawyers to step in to protect the fundamental rights of the migrant workers.

What has the Court said?

  • There have been “inadequacies and certain lapses” on the part of the Central and State governments in dealing with the migrant workers’ crisis during the COVID-19 lockdown.
  • The crisis is even continuing today with large sections of migrant labourers still stranded on roads, highways, railway stations and State borders. Effective concentrated efforts were required to redeem the situation.

What’s the issue?

Soon after the lockdown was imposed, migrants by the thousands, who had lost their jobs, started walking back home because no public transport was available. Many were stopped at state borders and sent to shelters. Others continued to walk along train tracks or on highways.

  • In late April, the government announced guidelines for transporting them back home by bus. On May 1, it launched special trains for them, but many continued to walk back home because they did not want to wait for the trains or did not have the documentation required to board them.
  • On May 9, 16 workers walking back home to Madhya Pradesh from Maharashtra, and who had stopped to rest on railway tracks (and fallen asleep) were run over by a goods train.

Significance and implications of the verdict:

  1. The court in its order seemed to have accepted that the problems of migrant labourers are far from over.
  2. The crises of migrant labourers are even continuing today with large sections still stranded on roads, highways, railway stations and State borders.
  3. In the present situation, migrant labourers need “succor and help” and a concentrated effort will be required to redeem the situation.

InstaThink:

Prelims Link:

  1. Rights under Right to Freedom.
  2. What is a PIL?
  3. Powers of Courts to take cases suo motu.
  4. Original and exclusive powers of Supreme Court.
  5. Powers of SC vs HCs.

Mains Link:

Discuss how lockdown has impacted the lives of migrant labourers and what is being done to address their concerns?

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

ILO urges PM not to dilute labour laws

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: States which have relaxed labour laws, impact and implications and ways to address them.

Context: The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has expressed concern and urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to “send a clear message” to the Central and State governments to uphold international labour laws after the recent dilution of laws by some States.

 What’s the issue?

A group of 10 Central trade unions wrote to the ILO in Geneva on May 14, seeking its intervention to protect workers’ rights and international labour standards.

Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and some other States either have suspended a large number of labour laws for two-three years or diluted them in an attempt to woo industry in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What are Indian labour laws?

Labour falls in the Concurrent List.

Estimates vary but there are over 200 state laws and close to 50 central laws. And yet there is no set definition of “labour laws” in the country. Broadly speaking, they can be divided into four categories.

labours_law

Why are labour laws often criticised?

Indian labour laws are often characterised as “inflexible”. It has been argued that thanks to the onerous legal requirements, firms (those employing more than 100 workers) dither from hiring new workers because firing them requires government approvals. This, in turn, the argument goes, has constrained the growth of firms on the one hand and provided a raw deal to workers on the other.

Besides, there are too many laws, often unnecessarily complicated, and not effectively implemented. This has laid the foundation for corruption and rent-seeking.

Why states are giving relaxations?

  • These changes are being brought about to incentivise economic activity in the respective states.
  • Migrants coming home need jobs; and therefore, industries have to be offered a flexible hire-and-fire regime to restart operations.
  • At a holistic level, it is being argued that Indian labour laws are cumbersome and drive away investors. So, changes have been made to attract units to India.

Few notable changes made by states:

The Uttar Pradesh government has approved an Ordinance exempting businesses from the purview of all the labour laws except few for the next three years.

Madhya Pradesh government has also suspended many labour laws for the next 1000 days.

What are the concerns associated?

The suspension of basic labour laws and the free hand given to industries may lead to a wave of easy closures and retrenchments, which will only worsen the unemployment situation in the country. Denying the rights of workers is a violation of human and fundamental rights. It may create insecurity among the workers. The changes may lead to desperate conditions for workers.

Way ahead:

It is true labour laws need to be streamlined. But this is not the right time. Millions of migrants, out of jobs, are heading back to their home state. By diluting labour laws that guarantee some measure of protection against exploitation, we could be adding to their misery.

InstaThink:

Prelims Link:

  1. Labour under 75 schedule of Indian constitution.
  2. ILO- composition, objectives and members.
  3. Which states have diluted labour laws.
  4. Differences between formal and informal sector.
  5. Types of labour laws in India.

Mains Link:

Discuss the rationale behind dilution of labour laws by some states. Comment on the impacts of such relaxation’s.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: Issues related to health.

No WHO bar on India testing HCQ as preventive

What to study?

For Prelims: What is HCQ? What is it used for?

For Mains: Its efficacy in treating COVID 19, concerns associated and way ahead.

Context: World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recently announced moratorium on testing hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), the controversial anti-malarial drug, for treating COVID-19.

However, it has now clarified that the moratorium doesn’t imply that India should pause testing the drug as a preventive.

What you should know?

HCQ was one of four drug-combinations being tested in a global clinical trial, called Solidarity Trial, coordinated by the WHO.

Under this, four hundred hospitals in 35 countries would be comparing the benefits to COVID patients from taking either Remdesivir; Lopinavir/Ritonavir; Lopinavir/Ritonavir with Interferon beta-1a; and hydroxychloroquine.

They are all drugs for other diseases but have shown varying degrees of promise in blunting COVID-19 infection.

How are these tested?

To objectively assess the benefit of these drugs over standard-of-care treatments, clinicians would be assessing these drugs in Randomised Clinical Trial (RCT) — the most medically legitimate approach — whereby some groups of patients, unknown to the administering doctors and recipient patients — would get the drug and some wouldn’t.

Why has hydroxychloroquine been considered as a possible treatment for the coronavirus?

  1. A promising laboratory study, with cultured cells, found that chloroquine could block the coronavirus from invading cells, which it must do to replicate and cause illness. However, drugs that conquer viruses in test tubes or petri dishes do not always work in the human body, and studies of hydroxychloroquine have found that it failed to prevent or treat influenza and other viral illnesses.
  2. Reports from doctors in China and France have said that hydroxychloroquine, sometimes combined with the antibiotic azithromycin, seemed to help patients. But those studies were small and did not use proper control groups — patients carefully selected to match those in the experimental group but who are not given the drug being tested.
  3. Another reason the drug has been considered for coronavirus patients is that it can rein in an overactive immune system, which is why it is used to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. In some severe cases of Covid-19, the immune system seems to go into overdrive and cause inflammation that can damage the lungs and other organs.

Is HCQ really effective in treating COVID 19?

Some studies have shown that HCQ shows no benefit — in fact, it puts patients at greater harm.

  1. The latest such study published in the medical journal Lancet found that in 96,000 hospitalised SARS-CoV-2 patients across six continents, there was no benefit — even additional harm of cardiac arrhythmia — in those being treated with HCQ.

India’s arguments:

  1. India recommends the drug as a preventive for groups that were at high risk of contracting the infection. It is based on internal studies and laboratory experiments that showed the drug had anti-viral properties.

Which countries authorised their use?

USA, Brazil, France and several Middle Eastern countries.

InstaThink:

Prelims Link:

  1. What is Chloroquine?
  2. Which countries have approved the use of HCQ?
  3. Types of coronaviruses which affect humans?
  4. Name of the virus that causes COVID 19.
  5. What is Kawasaki disease?

Mains Link:

Several countries have recommended the use of HCQ in treating the COVID 19 disease. How effective is this in the absence of a vaccine? Discuss.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

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

China’s security law for Hong Kong

What to study?

For Prelims: Overview of the new law, how is Hong Kong administered?

For Mains: International concerns expressed over this law, implications and ways to address these concerns.

Context: Seventeen years after half a million street protesters in Hong Kong forced the government to shelve a proposed national security bill, Beijing this week introduced an even stronger proposal.

What’s the main concern now?

This time, the Chinese government will not need a nod from local citizens or lawmakers, as mainland Chinese authorities are running out of patience after months long anti-government protests, which have greatly tarnished Beijing’s carefully managed international image.

What exactly is in the national security bill?

The draft legislation would pave the way for Beijing to set up national security institutions in Hong Kong. It is largely seen as a replacement of the controversial national security law, Article 23, which was suspended after the massive protest in 2003.

But unlike Article 23, which requires local legislation, the new national security law proposal would bypass Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, the equivalent of the city’s parliament. Instead, it will be included as an annex to the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.

The new proposal targets activities such as “splitting the country, subverting state power,” as well as terrorism and foreign interference in Hong Kong. Anti-government demonstrators in Hong Kong have been referred to as terrorists by some mainland officials.

Why is the law being proposed now?

Beijing’s timing has raised questions among many in Hong Kong.

Some say it was chosen to minimize global attention as the world — in particular the U.S. and Britain, the primary supporters of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement — is preoccupied with containing the coronavirus pandemic.

Another factor in the decision may be that Hong Kong is unlikely to see a return of large-scale protests while social-distancing rules remain in place, although flare-ups of unrest are possible.

Analysts say the move shows Beijing has lost confidence in the ability of pro-establishment Hong Kong lawmakers to push through controversial legislation since that side suffered a major setback during last November’s district council elections. Pro-Beijing parties also are not expected to claim a big win in the upcoming vote for the Legislative Council in September.

What is Washington’s position on the issue?

China has frequently condemned what it describes as foreign interference in its domestic matters. In particular, Beijing has singled out Washington as a driving force behind street protests in Hong Kong.

Two members of the U.S. Congress quickly responded to the latest developments by proposing a bipartisan bill that would essentially sanction any Chinese officials who enforce the proposed national security law. The measure would impose sanctions on people or entities that violate China’s legal obligations to Hong Kong under the Basic Law, as well as on banks that do “significant transactions” with them.

Last year, amid some of the most violent demonstrations in Hong Kong, Congress overwhelming passed — and President Donald Trump signed into law — the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019. The law calls for mandatory sanctions on Chinese officials found responsible for human rights violations, and requires the State Department to annually review Hong Kong’s special status, which awards it preferential trade treatment.

honk_kong

What happens next?

  • The law, potentially allowing Beijing to arrest anyone whom it deems as a threat to national security, could lead to restrictions on free speech and prompt media as well as individuals to adopt self-censorship. In an extreme scenario, opposition broadcasters and newspapers could face closure, while pro-democracy politicians and activists could be imprisoned.
  • Such moves would take a toll on the city’s status as a rule-of-law international financial hub — the free flow of information is vital to Hong Kong’s economic success.
  • If foreign investors’ confidence dwindles, hundreds of multinational corporations headquartered in Hong Kong could consider relocating elsewhere in Asia, posing a risk to the city’s long-term prosperity. Social instability could also push expatriates and local professionals to seek job opportunities elsewhere, leading to brain drain.

So can China just push this through?

The Basic Law says Chinese laws can’t be applied in Hong Kong unless they are listed in a section called Annex III – there are already a few listed there, mostly uncontroversial and around foreign policy.

These laws can be introduced by decree – which means they bypass the city’s parliament and Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam has already said she will co-operate.

Critics say this amounts to a breach of that “one country, two systems” principle, which is so important to Hong Kong.

InstaThink:

Prelims Link:

  1. Geographical location of Hong Kong.
  2. What is one country two systems rule?
  3. Relationship of Macau with China.
  4. What is UNCLOS.
  5. Difference between ICC and ICJ.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

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

Both Koreas violated armistice agreement

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Particulars and participants in the agreement, What is Korean War and implications of this agreement.

Context: Both Koreas have breached their armistice agreement when they exchanged gunfire at the border on May 3, the United National Command said recently.

It also said it could not “definitely” determine whether North Korea opened fire on a South Korean guard post intentionally or by mistake.

The UNC said it will engage in discussion with both Koreas and encourage them to prevent any recurrence.

Background:

The UN Command, which administers the demilitarized zone separating both Koreas and enforces the armistice that halted the 1950-53 Korean War, came to that conclusion after a weeklong investigation by its multinational team.

However, Seoul expressed regret over the conclusion, saying its troops had retaliated in accordance with the contingency manual.

What happened?

On May 3, North Korea fired four shots from small firearms toward a South Korean guard post inside the DMZ. The South’s troops returned fire with two shots.
The Defense Ministry concluded the incident was highly likely to be accidental.

The gunfire exchange highlighted the latest confrontation between the two Koreas amid frosty inter-Korean relations, with some military experts disputing South Korea’s conclusion that the North mistakenly fired the shots.

What is Korean Armistice Agreement?

It is the armistice that brought about a complete cessation of hostilities of the Korean War.

  • It was signed by representatives of the United Nations Command (UNC), Korean People’s Army (KPA), and the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army (PVA).
  • The armistice was signed on 27 July 1953, and was designed to “ensure a complete cessation of hostilities and of all acts of armed force in Korea until a final peaceful settlement is achieved.”
  • The signed armistice established the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the de facto new border between the two nations, put into force a cease-fire, and finalized repatriation of prisoners of war.
  • The DMZ runs close to the 38th parallel and has separated North and South Korea since the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed in 1953.

Implications:

  • South Korea never signed the Armistice Agreement, due to President Syngman Rhee’s refusal to accept having failed to unify Korea by force.
  • China normalized relations and signed a peace treaty with South Korea in 1992.
  • In 1994, China withdrew from the Military Armistice Commission, essentially leaving North Korea and the UN Command as the only participants in the armistice agreement.

What is UNC?

It is the unified command for the multinational military forces, established in 1950, supporting South Korea (the Republic of Korea or ROK) during and after the Korean War.

Sources: the Hindu.

 


GS Paper  : 3


RT-LAMP based test for Coronavirus

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: RT- LAMP- key features and significance of the RT- LAMP based tests.

Context: CSIR-IIIM & Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) to develop RT-LAMP based test for Coronavirus.

What is Reverse Transcriptase-Loop Mediated Isothermal Amplification (RT-LAMP) test?

COVID-19 RT-LAMP test is a nucleic acid based test carried out from nasal/throat swab sample from patients.

 Benefits:

  • It is rapid (45-60 min), cost effective and accurate test.
  • The advantage of this test is that the RT-LAMP based COVID-19 kit components are easily available and these can be completely manufactured in India.

rapid_test

Difference between RT- PCR and RT- LAMP:

While the current COVID-19 testing is done by real-time PCR their components are mostly imported. Further these tests are expensive; require highly trained manpower, costly instruments and a relatively high-end lab and cannot be deployed at remote locations in quarantine centers, airports and railway stations, etc.

On the other hand, the RT-LAMP test can be done in a single tube with minimal expertise in a very basic lab setup like mobile units / kiosks for testing at Airports, Railway Stations, Bus Stands and other public places.

Significance:

With the formal launch of the RT-LAMP based diagnostic test, the COVID-19 testing will not only be more rapid, cheap, easy and accessible but also would go a long way quickly isolating the infected individuals and mitigating the spread of virus.

Sources: pib.

 


Facts for Prelims


Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC):

Constituted in December, 2010. It is not a statutory body.

It replaced the High-Level Coordination Committee on Financial Markets (HLCCFM).

Set up to strengthen and institutionalise the mechanism for maintaining financial stability, enhancing inter-regulatory coordination and promoting financial sector development.

 Composition:

The Council is chaired by the Union Finance Minister and its members are Governor, Reserve Bank of India; Finance Secretary and/or Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs; Secretary, Department of Financial Services; Chief Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance; Chairman, Securities and Exchange Board of India etc.

Recently, the government through a gazette notification, had included ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) secretary in the FSDC in view of the increased focus of the government on digital economy.

 Functions:

The Council deals, inter-alia, with issues relating to financial stability, financial sector development, inter–regulatory coordination, financial literacy, financial inclusion and macro prudential supervision of the economy including the functioning of large financial conglomerates. No funds are separately allocated to the Council for undertaking its activities.

development_council

What is FAITH trials?

It is a new combination clinical trial called FAITH – (FA vipiravir plus Um I fenovir (efficacy and safety) Trial in Indian Hospital setting).

Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Ltd. Will be conducting this study.

It involves a new randomised, open-label study to test the combined efficacy of two antiviral drugs — Favipiravir and Umifenovir — as a potential COVID-19 treatment strategy.

The two antiviral drugs have different mechanisms of action, and their combination may demonstrate improved treatment efficacy by effectively tackling high viral loads in patients during early stages of the disease.

Chardham tunnel:

It is a 440-m tunnel constructed by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) below the densely populated Chamba town on the Rishikesh-Dharasuroad National Highway in Uttarakhand.

The tunnel is part of the efforts to boost the annual Chardham yatra to connect Gangotri, Kedarnath, Yamunotri and Badrinath.

char_dham

Bug bounty programme:

The government has launched the bug bounty programme that will be hosted by the MyGov team.

The programme will enable security researchers to avail rewards for finding security vulnerabilities within the aarogya setu app.

The programme will be open to Indian and foreign nationals, but only Indians will be eligible for rewards offered under the scheme. Anyone who points out a security vulnerability in the app source code will be eligible for a reward of up to ₹3 lakh, and up to ₹1 lakh for pointing out a suggestion or improvement in the source code.

Bev Q:

Google Play Store has approved the BevQ app which will be used to distribute liquor in Kerala.

The newly-developed mobile app will introduce virtual queue system for the sale of liquor in the state. This will reduce the overcrowding at the liquor shops and the practice of social distancing will not be hampered as well.

It will be used by Kerala’s Beverages Corporation (BEVCO) to distribute the liquor in the state.

The app has been developed by a Kochi-based startup called Faircode Technologies Private Limited.

Spectrin and Axons:

Spectrin are flexible rod-shaped molecules present in axons.

Axons are long tubular extensions of nerve cells that transmit electrical signals across long distances and can be up to a meter long in the case of humans. At such lengths, they are subjected to large stretch deformations during limb or other bodily movements.

Why in News?

Researchers have found that spectrin can act as ‘shock absorbers’ to protect axons from stretch-induced damage.

The study can help in understanding and treatment of concussion from head injuries as well as stretch-induced nerve injuries.

Hydro-electric projects & Multipurpose projects in Madhya Pradesh:

Power Finance Corporation (PFC), the central PSU under Ministry of Power and India’s leading NBFC, has entered into an agreement with Narmada Basin Projects Company Ltd. (NBPCL), a wholly-owned company of Govt. of Madhya Pradesh, to fund projects worth Rs.22,000 crore for 225 MW hydro-electric projects & multipurpose projects in the State of Madhya Pradesh.

Some of the major multipurpose projects that will be financed under the MoU are Basaniya Multipurpose Project Dindori, Chinki Boras Multipurpose Project Narsinghpur Raisen Hoshangabad, Sakkar Pench Link Narsinghpur Chhindwara, Dudhi Project Chhindwara Hoshangabad, etc.

Articles that have been covered previously:

LAC standoff.

Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY).

 


Insights Current Affairs Analysis (ICAN) by IAS Topper