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INSIGHTS DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS + PIB SUMMARY- 1 July 2020

InstaLinks help you think beyond the issue but relevant to the issue from UPSC prelims and Mains exam point of view. These linkages provided in this ‘hint’ format help you frame possible questions in your mind that might arise(or an examiner might imagine) from each current event. InstaLinks also connect every issue to their static or theoretical background. This helps you study a topic holistically and add new dimensions to every current event to help you think analytically.

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

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 2:

1. Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Anna Yojana.

2. PCR testing is a double-edged sword.

3. Reviving SAARC to deal with China.

 

GS Paper 3:

1. SATAT Initiative.

2. Clean Energy Can Support India’s Economic Recovery post-Covid-19.

3. Control, not delete: On China apps ban.

 

Facts for Prelims:

1. CogX.

2. Globba andersonii.

3. Biosafety levels.

 


GS Paper  : 2


 

Topics Covered: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes.

Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Anna Yojana

Context:

In his sixth address to the nation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has extended the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Anna Yojana till November-end and said the Central government will spend Rs 90,000 crore more on providing free food to the poor.

What is Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana?

  1. Considered as world’s largest food security scheme, the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana aims at ensuring sufficient food for the poor and needy during the coronavirus crisis.
  2. It was announced as part of the first relief package during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  3. Part of the scheme, the food needs to be provided to all the beneficiaries under public distribution system (TPDS) for Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) and priority household (PHH) ration cardholders.
  4. As per updates, the eligible beneficiaries will receive 5kg of foodgrains and 1 kg Gram per month.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Key features of the scheme.
  2. Eligibility 
  3. About AAY,
  4. About TPDS.

Mains Link:

Discuss the significance and features of PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana.

Sources: pib.

 

Topics Covered: Issues related to health.

PCR testing is a double-edged sword

How RT-PCR is used for detecting Covid-19? 

The causative agent for Covid19 is the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It is an RNA virus, that means it infiltrates a healthy cell to multiply and survive.

Thus, the RT-PCR test is for the identification of SARS-CoV-2 RNA. In this, the RNA is converted to DNA through a process called ‘reverse transcription’ for detecting viruses.

How it is carried out?

The SARS-CoV-2 RNA is generally detectable in respiratory specimens during the acute phase of infection.

  1. For that upper and lower respiratory specimens (such as nasal, nasopharyngeal) are collected.
  2. This sample is treated with several chemical solutions that remove substances, such as proteins and fats, and extracts only the RNA present in the sample. 
  3. Real-time RT-PCR setup usually goes through 35 cycles, which means that by the end of the process, around 35 billion new copies of the sections of viral DNA are created from each strand of the virus present in the sample.
  4. As new copies of the viral DNA sections are built, the marker labels attach to the DNA strands and then release a fluorescent dye, which is measured by the machine’s computer and presented in real-time on the screen. The computer tracks the amount of fluorescence in the sample after each cycle. When the amount goes over a certain level of fluorescence, this confirms that the virus is present. 

RNA

Why it is compared to a double- edged sword?

The boon and bane of PCR testing are in its capacity to amplify even one viral gene segment in the sample to generate a detectable signal — a positive test.

  1. It is a boon because it accurately detects the presence of virus.
  2. It is a bane because it is prone to false negative and false positive results.

How it generates false reports?

During sample preparation for testing, if even one gene segment falls into the tube from the laboratory environment, it will be amplified and the test will be positive — but, false positive.

A false negative PCR means that a person with infection was missed by the test, but that is in the very nature of PCR. The viral load is lower in the throat than in the nasopharynx.

  • Hence throat swabs are falsely negative in 60% of tests and nasopharyngeal swabs in 30%, according to published studies.

An incorrectly taken nasal swab may miss the virus altogether and lead to a false negative test.

Concerns:

The relatively high frequency of false negative results leads to gross underestimation of the epidemic’s magnitude. Moreover, traced contacts with false negative tests will not be quarantined but allowed to spread the virus, augmenting the epidemic.

Need of the hour:

When a laboratory handles several samples, cross-contamination must be avoided.

For reliability, only laboratories under quality assurance should do testing.

  • In January there was one laboratory (National Institute of Virology, Pune) but today there are 1,000.

When a false positive result is suspected, the doctor should alert the authorities, who in turn should get the subject re-tested in an accredited laboratory.

  • In case of discrepancy, the laboratory concerned must be closed and checked for compliance with protocols and record-keeping.

In order to avoid blind reliance on the PCR test result, clinical diagnosis by specific criteria, which is the only way to diagnose COVID, (D for disease), should be popularised among doctors.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Difference between RNA and DNA.
  2. Differences between RT PCR and antibody tests.
  3. What is a RNA virus? How it survives?
  4. What are antibodies?

Mains Link:

Discuss the significance of RT- PCR test.

Sources: the Hindu.

 

Topics Covered: India and its neighbourhood- relations.

Reviving SAARC to deal with China

Context:

Amid India- China border tensions, as part of its global expansionism, China is chipping away at India’s interests in South Asia.

  1. China’s proximity to Pakistan is well known.
  2. Nepal is moving closer to China for ideational and material reasons.
  3. China is wooing Bangladesh by offering tariff exemption to 97% of Bangladeshi products.
  4. It has also intensified its ties with Sri Lanka through massive investments.

So, most South Asian nations are now largely dependent on China for imports despite geographical proximity to India.

This should be a major cause for concern for New Delhi.

Why SAARC is relevant now?

Several foreign policy experts argue that India’s strategic dealing with China has to begin with South Asia.

In this regard, it is important to reinvigorate SAARC, which has been in the doldrums since 2014.

  • In the last few years, due to increasing animosity with Pakistan, India’s political interest in SAARC dipped significantly.

India started investing in other regional instruments, such as BIMSTEC, as an alternative to SAARC.

  • However, BIMSTEC cannot replace SAARC for reasons such as lack of a common identity and history among all BIMSTEC members. Moreover, BIMSTEC’s focus is on the Bay of Bengal region, thus making it an inappropriate forum to engage all South Asian nations.

saarc

What needs to be done now?

To revive the process of South Asian economic integration.

South Asia is one of the least integrated regions in the world with intra-regional trade teetering at barely 5% of total South Asian trade, compared to 25% of intra-regional trade in the ASEAN region.

  • While South Asian countries have signed trade treaties, the lack of political will and trust deficit has prevented any meaningful movement.
  • According to the World Bank, trade in South Asia stands at $23 billion of an estimated value of $67 billion.

India should take the lead and work with its neighbours to slash the tariff and non-tariff barriers.

There’s a need to resuscitate the negotiations on a SAARC investment treaty, pending since 2007.

Challenges ahead:

There has been anti-Pakistan rhetoric and Islamophobia on the Indian soil. There’s also a recurrent use of the ‘Bangladeshi migrant’ rhetoric.

  • Such majoritarian politics influences foreign policy in undesirable ways. It dents India’s soft power of being a liberal and secular democracy, which gives moral legitimacy to India’s leadership in the region.

Next, economic vision of the government remains convoluted. It’s unclear what the slogans of atma nirbharta (self-reliance) and ‘vocal for local’ mean.

  • Many are stating that India needs to cut down its dependence on imports, thus signalling a return to the obsolete economic philosophy of import substitution.
  • If this marks sliding back to protectionism, one is unsure if India will be interested in deepening South Asian economic integration.

Conclusion:

Deeper regional economic integration will create greater interdependence with India acquiring the central role, which, in turn, would serve India’s strategic interests too.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. SAARC vs BIMSTEC.
  2. BBIN
  3. Motor Vehicle Agreement.
  4. What is CPEC?
  5. Belt and Road initiative.

Mains Link:

Discuss how SAARC revival helps India deal with China.

Sources: the Hindu.

 


GS Paper  : 3


 

Topics Covered: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.

SATAT Initiative

Context:

Indian Oil, NTPC and SDMC have signed an MoU to develop a waste-to-energy facility at Delhi’s Okhla landfill site using gasification technology.

  • This plant will process 17,500 tons per annum of Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) produced from combustible components of municipal waste to generate syngas which shall in turn be used to generate electricity.

The venture would succeed as there is an existing model of providing offtake guarantee, under the SATAT scheme for compressed biogas production plants.

About SATAT initiative:

The initiative is aimed at providing a Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT) as a developmental effort that would benefit both vehicle-users as well as farmers and entrepreneurs.

Compressed Bio-Gas plants are proposed to be set up mainly through independent entrepreneurs.

How it works?

  1. CBG produced at these plants will be transported through cascades of cylinders to the fuel station networks of OMCs for marketing as a green transport fuel alternative.
  2. The entrepreneurs would be able to separately market the other by-products from these plants, including bio-manure, carbon-dioxide, etc., to enhance returns on investment.
  3. This initiative is expected to generate direct employment for 75,000 people and produce 50 million tonnes of bio-manure for crops.

There are multiple benefits from converting municipal solid waste into CBG on a commercial scale:

  1. Responsible waste management, reduction in carbon emissions and pollution.
  2. Additional revenue source for farmers.
  3. Boost to entrepreneurship, rural economy and employment.
  4. Support to national commitments in achieving climate change goals.
  5. Reduction in import of natural gas and crude oil.
  6. Buffer against crude oil/gas price fluctuations.

What is Bio- Gas?

Bio-gas is produced naturally through a process of anaerobic decomposition from waste / bio-mass sources like agriculture residue, cattle dung, sugarcane press mud, municipal solid waste, sewage treatment plant waste, etc. After purification, it is compressed and called CBG, which has pure methane content of over 95%.

What is CBG?

Compressed Bio-Gas is exactly similar to the commercially available natural gas in its composition and energy potential. With calorific value (~52,000 KJ/kg) and other properties similar to CNG, Compressed Bio-Gas can be used as an alternative, renewable automotive fuel.

waste_process

Way ahead:

The potential for Compressed Bio-Gas production from various sources in India is estimated at about 62 million tonnes per annum.

Going forward, Compressed Bio-Gas networks can be integrated with city gas distribution (CGD) networks to boost supplies to domestic and retail users in existing and upcoming markets.

Besides retailing from OMC fuel stations, Compressed Bio-Gas can at a later date be injected into CGD pipelines too for efficient distribution and optimised access of a cleaner and more affordable fuel.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What is Bio Gas?
  2. What is CBG?
  3. Methane content is Biogas.
  4. Natural gas vs Biogas.
  5. Key features of SATAT initiative.

Mains Link:

Discuss the significance of SATAT initiative.

Sources: pib.

 

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

Clean Energy Can Support India’s Economic Recovery post-Covid-19

Context:

NITI Aayog and Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) have released Towards a Clean Energy Economy: Post-Covid-19 Opportunities for India’s Energy and Mobility Sectors report.

What is the report all about?

The report advocates for stimulus and recovery efforts that work towards building a clean, resilient, and least-cost energy future for India.

These efforts include electric vehicle, energy storage, and renewable energy programs.

Challenges posed by COVID- 19:

Covid-19 has presented significant demand- and supply-side challenges for India’s transport and power sectors, from liquidity constraints and supply shortages to shifts in consumer demand and preferences.

The report lays out four principles as a framework for policymakers and other key decision-makers considering programmes to support India’s clean energy future:

1) Invest in least-cost-energy solutions.

2) Support resilient and secure energy systems.

3) Prioritize efficiency and competitiveness.

4) Promote social and environmental equity.

What needs to be done now?

India needs to identify strategic opportunities for economic recovery in the short, medium, and long terms that can translate challenges posed by the pandemic into clean energy transition opportunities.

  • Opportunities in the transport sector include making public transport safe, enhancing and expanding non-motorized transport infrastructure, reducing vehicle kilometres travelled through work-from-home where possible, supporting national strategies to adopt electric vehicles in the freight and passenger segments, and making India an automotive export hub.
  • In the power sector, opportunities include improving the electricity distribution business and its operations, enabling renewables and distributed energy resources, and promoting energy resilience and local manufacturing of renewable energy and energy storage technologies.

Potential:

The report states that India’s transport sector can save 1.7 gigatonnes of cumulative carbon dioxide emissions.

It can also avoid about 600 million tonnes of oil equivalent in fuel demand by 2030.

clean_energy

Sources: pib.

 

Topics Covered: Internal security related issues.

Control, not delete: On China apps ban

Context:

Citing concerns to both data security and national sovereignty, the Indian government on June 29 announced it would block 59 widely used apps, most linked to Chinese companies.

How government defends its move?

Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology cited “the emergent nature of threats” posed by the apps and “information available” that they are engaged in activities “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order”. 

  • The apps, according to the Ministry, had been reported for “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India”, which “impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India”.

Data localisation:

The government said the move protects the digital data of Indian users from the Chinese government and addresses data localisation concerns.

What does Data Localization mean?

Data localization is the act of storing data on any device that is physically present within the borders of a specific country where the data was generated.

Why data localization is necessary for India?

  1. For securing citizen’s data, data privacy, data sovereignty, national security, and economic development of the country.
  2. Recommendations by the RBI, the committee of experts led by Justice BN Srikrishna, the draft ecommerce policy and the draft report of the cloud policy panelshow signs of data localisation.
  3. The extensive data collection by technology companies, has allowed them to process and monetize Indian users’ data outside the country. Therefore, to curtail the perils of unregulated and arbitrary use of personal data, data localization is necessary.
  4. Digital technologies like machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) can generate tremendous value out of various data. It can turn disastrous if not contained within certain boundaries.
  5. With the advent of cloud computing, Indian users’ data is outside the country’s boundaries,leading to a conflict of jurisdiction in case of any dispute.

Data localization is an opportunity for Indian technology companies to evolve an outlook from services to products.

Recommendations:

The Srikrishna Committee wants to localise data for law enforcement to have easy access to data, to prevent foreign surveillance, to build an artificial intelligence ecosystem in India, and because undersea cables through which data transfers take place are vulnerable to attacks.

Reserve Bank of India has also imposed a hard data localisation mandate on payment systems providers to store payment systems data only in India.

The government has also been working on a draft data protection policy since 2018, which is currently under discussion in a joint parliamentary committee.

data

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. Srikrishna Committee is associated with?
  2. What is IoT?
  3. Section 66A of IT Act.
  4. What is data localisation?

Mains Link:

Write a note on data localisation.

Sources: the Hindu.

 


Facts for Prelims


CogX:

CogX is one of the world’s largest events on AI, held annually in London with over 15,000 participants in attendance from the highest levels of business, government, industry, and research.

The Cogx Awards are given out to the best-of-the-best in AI and emerging technologies across the world.

Why in News?

AI enabled MyGov Corona Helpdesk bagged two awards under categories (1) “Best Innovation for Covid-19 – Society” and (2) “People’s Choice Covid-19 Overall Winner”,at the recently held CogX 2020.

Globba andersonii:

  • It is a rare and critically endangered plant species.
  • It is commonly as ‘dancing ladies’ or ‘swan flowers’.
  • They are characterised by white flowers, non-appendaged anthers (the part of a stamen that contains the pollen) and a “yellowish lip”. 
  • The species is restricted mainly to Teesta River Valley region which includes the Sikkim Himalays and Darjeeling hill ranges.
  • The plant usually grows in a dense colony as a lithophyte (plant growing on a bare rock or stone).

Why in News?

Researchers have “rediscovered” this plant species from the Sikkim Himalayas near the Teesta river valley region after a gap of nearly 136 years.

It was thought to have been extinct until its “re-collection”, for the first time since 1875.

reesta_river

Biosafety levels:

Often mentioned in news.

biosafety_level

International Asteroid Day:

Celebrated on 30th June.

  • It is observed each year to mark the anniversary of the Tunguska impact over Siberia, Russian Federation, on 30 June 1908, and to raise public awareness about the asteroid impact hazard.
  • The Tunguska asteroid event in Siberia, Russian Federation, on 30 June 1908, was the Earth’s largest asteroid impact in recorded history. 

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