CURRENT AFFAIRS – APRIL 2020

 

CONTENT

 

  1. COVID-19: RIGHT TO DISCUSS FREELY ABOUT COVID-19
  2. COVID-19: HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE (HCQ)
  3. COVID-19: RT-PCR
  4. COVID-19: TRUENAT BETA COV TEST 
  5. COVID-19: SERO-SURVEILLANCE
  6. COVID-19: POOLED TESTING
  7. COVID-19: AAROGYA SETU
  8. COVID-19: OPERATION SANJEEVANI AND INDIA MALDIVES RELATIONS
  9. COVID-19: PRANA-VAYU
  10. COVID-19: REPORT ON MIGRANT WORKERS DURING COVID-19
  11. COVID-19: ISSUES IN INDIA’S HEALTH SECTOR AMIDST COVID-19
  12. COVID-19: GOVERNMENT SUSPENDS MPLADS SCHEME
  13. COVID-19: EVALUATION OF INDIA’S RESPONSE TO THE PANDEMIC
  14. COVID-19: IMPORTANCE OF HUMAN RIGHTS DURING THE LOCKDOWN
  15. COVID-19: THE ROLE OF HUMANS IN THE SPREAD OF PANDEMICS
  16. COVID-19: LI WENLIANG
  17. PULMONOLOGY
  18. DRUGS CONTROLLER GENERAL OF INDIA (DCGI)
  19. ONE HEALTH
  20. BJP’S 40TH FOUNDATION DAY
  21. DISHA APP
  22. WORLD BACKUP DAY
  23. CEO’S OF TOP DIGITAL COMPANIES ENABLING WORK FROM HOME (WFH) DURING COVID-19
  24. ANTARCTICA: HOME TO RAINFORESTS 90 MILLION YEARS AGO
  25. UNITED NATION’S COP-26 ON CLIMATE CHANGE POSTPONED AMIDST COVID-19
  26. UNITED NATIONS – WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION (UN-WHO)
  27. INTERNATIONAL AGENCY ON RESEARCH ON CANCER (IARC)
  28. UNITED NATIONS – FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION (UN-FAO)
  29. WET MARKETS
  30. ZOOMBOMBING
  31. HARVEST FESTIVALS OF INDIA
  32. GLOBAL ORGANISATION OF PEOPLE OF INDIAN ORIGIN (GOPIO)
  33. UNITED NATIONS WORLD TOURISM ORGANIZATION (UNWTO)
  34. WAYS AND MEANS ADVANCE (WMA)
  35. SEVERE BALANCE OF PAYMENT (BOP) CRISIS IN PAKISTAN
  36. KISAN RATH
  37. CHAKMA AND HAJONG COMMUNITIES
  38. SIPRI
  39. JUDICIAL REFORMS IN THE TIME OF LOCKDOWN
  40. STEEP FALL IN THE INTERNATIONAL CRUDE OIL PRICES OWING TO COVID-19 LOCKDOWNS
  41. IMPORTANCE OF MIDDLE EAST FOR INDIA
  42. GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL (GCC)
  43. GREATER ARAB FREE TRADE AREA (GAFTA)
  44. ARAB LEAGUE
  45. ARAB MONETARY FUND (AMF)
  46. SOUTH KOREA SUCCESSFULLY CONDUCTS NATIONAL ELECTIONS AMIDST COVID-19
  47. OFFICE BEARERS OF IMPORTANT INSTITUTIONS IN INDIA
  48. CENTRAL VISTA PROJECT
  49. TIANWEN-1
  50. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE BASED VOICE TOOLS TO DETECT COVID-19
  51. EARTH DAY
  52. WORLD WIDE HELP (WWH)
  53. INDIAN INITIATIVE ON EARTH BIO-GENOME SEQUENCING (IIEBS)
  54. CONFEDERATION OF INDIAN INDUSTRIES (CII)
  55. LEATHERBACK SEA TURTLE
  56. GI TAG TO MANIPURI BLACK RICE AND GORAKHPUR TERRACOTTA
  57. TRIPS AGREEMENT
  58. FEDERATION OF ASSOCIATION OF INDIAN TOURISM AND HOSPITALITY (FAITH)
  59. DAPORIJO BRIDGE
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Right to discuss freely about COVID-19

  1. The Supreme Court has upheld the right to free discussion about COVID-19, even as it directed the media to refer to and publish the official version of the developments in order to avoid inaccuracies and large-scale panic.
  2. The Right to Free Discussion about COVID-19 would fall under Article 21 – Right to Life, which is a Fundamental Right guaranteed by the Constitution for India. As such, it would be a Fundamental Right for anyone to discuss freely about COVID-19, subject to reasonable restrictions in the greater public interest, in order to make oneself aware about the disease and take steps to prevent its spread.
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Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ)

  1. It is an anti-malarial drug similar to chloroquine, one of the oldest and best-known anti-malarial drugs, but with lesser side-effects. It can be bought over the counter and is fairly inexpensive.
  2. HCQ is an interferon blocker, and works by diminishing the immune system’s response to a viral infection. A hyperactive response by the immune system is said to be primarily responsible for pneumonia, which otherwise gets developed after getting contracted with COVID-19. (1.5 million). The virus contains antigens which are identified by the body’s immune system as foreign substances to fight with. Antigens trigger another class of chemicals – cytokines and chemokines, which alert the immune system to send an array of different kinds of cells that specialise in destroying viral particles. However, these cytokines and chemokines trigger inflammation in the cells. Massive levels of cytokines can cause extensive lung damage and a condition called Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. The unsustainable cytokine storm can cause organ damage far beyond the lungs and spread to the kidneys as well as the heart. If the infection is acute, it can also lead to a depletion of the frontline white blood corpuscles tasked with fighting the infection and making the body vulnerable to other secondary infections, which may lead to death.
  3. Its dosage can also lead to cardiac arrhythmia and liver damage in some cases. Though its now prescribed only for restricted groups, its ability to tune down the body’s immune response may actually handicap people’s ability to fight the infection, and may lead to other unknown complications. As such, it needs to be used only as a last resort in treating COVID-19, and not as a frontline drug.
  4. The Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) has cleared HCQ to be used as a prophylaxis, or preventive medication, by doctors, nurses and other health staff. Union Health Ministry, has recently moved it to Schedule H1, which means that it can now be sold on prescription only. 
  5. India produces 70 percent of the world’s supply of HCQ, according to Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA). India gets the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) that is used to manufacture HCQ from China.
  6. Ipca Laboratories, Cadila and Wallace Pharmaceuticals are top pharmaceutical companies manufacturing HCQ in India.
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RT-PCR

  1. It refers to Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) kits used for COVID-19 diagnosis.
  2. RT-PCR is the gold standard laboratory based testing method for SARS- CoV-2 diagnosis and is in place in all the laboratories for diagnosing the disease.
  3. It uses a swab from the throat or nose to diagnose the presence of a virus.
  4. HOW IT WORKSThe SARS-CoV-2 virus exists as a mere strand of RNA and it requires a host to replicate. The sample taken from the throat or nasal swab of a person is treated with several chemical solutions that remove substances, such as proteins and fats, and help extract only the RNA present in the sample. This extracted RNA is a mix of a person’s own genetic material and, if present, the coronavirus’ RNA. The extracted RNA is reverse transcribed into DNA (which means the RNA is converted into the corresponding DNA). The scientists then add additional short fragments of DNA that are complementary to specific parts of the transcribed viral DNA. These fragments attach themselves to target sections of the viral DNA if the virus is present in a sample and release a fluorescent dye. The mixture is then placed in a RT-PCR machine. The machine goes through cycles that heat and cool the mixture to trigger specific chemical reactions that create new, identical copies of the viral DNA. The cycle repeats over and over to continue copying the target sections of viral DNA. Each cycle doubles the previous amount i.e. two copies become four, four copies become eight, and therefore at the end of the nth cycle we have 2n copies of the viral DNA. A standard 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 viral DNA are created from each strand of the virus present in the sample. These copies of viral DNA 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. The real time RT-PCR technique is highly sensitive and specific and can deliver a reliable diagnosis as fast as three hours, though usually laboratories take on average between 6 to 8 hours. 
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Truenat Beta CoV Test 

  1. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has also recommended the use of the Truenat beta CoV test on Truelab workstation as a screening test for COVID-19.
  2. It enables same day testing, and reporting.
  3. The testing kits uses Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technology, which uses a swab from the throat to diagnose diseases.
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Sero-surveillance

  1. Sero-surveillance refers to monitoring of the presence or absence of specific substances in the blood serum of a population.
  2. The rapid testing kits used to test COVID-19 can at best be used for sero-surveillance as their accuracy of detecting COVID-19 infections has been disputed. In rapid testing, the blood sample is collected and checked for antibodies produced in the body for COVID-19 infection. However, the test would fail if an inflected person’s body is unable to produce antibodies against the virus.
  3. RT-PCR method, which is a laboratory based method to detect COVID-19 infection by analysing throat as well as nasal swab, is a more reliable method, and should be used for clinical purpose.  
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Pooled Testing for COVID-19

  1. To speed up COVID-19 testing with limited resources, India may start pooled testing of up to five COVID-19 samples, as per a recent advisory from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). 
  2. How this works: Say, there are 20 flats in an apartment complex, each with five members in a family. If each of them were to be tested for COVID-19, 100 individual tests would be required. But, if samples from the five members of each family were pooled, only 20 samples would have to be tested initially. If any of these pooled sample is found to have COVID-19 infection, the members who had contributed to that pooled sample would be tested individually.
  3. These tests will be conducted using the RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) technology as it is the most reliable test for COVID-19 so far.
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Aarogya Setu

  1. It is a mobile app to help people assess themselves of the risk of getting infected with coronavirus (COVID-19) and alert authorities if they have come in close contact with a person infected with the deadly virus.
  2. The mobile numbers of the infected peoples are periodically updated on the Aarogya Setu app.
  3. Once you install the app, it will trace your GPS location history and compare it with GPS location history of other people with Aarogya Setu app installed on their phones, to see if you ever came across any current COVID-19 infected patient. The app will send out alerts to only those who have been nearby such infected persons.
  4. The personal data collected by the app is encrypted and will stay secure on the phone till it is needed for facilitating medical intervention.
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Operation Sanjeevani and India Maldives Relations

  1. Operation Sanjeevani is an operation by the Indian Air Force to deliver 6.2 tonne of essential medicines and hospital consumables to Maldives. These medicines and consumables were procured from eight suppliers in India but couldn’t be transported through any other means due to the 21-day lockdown imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19. Air India has also received China’s clearance to operate cargo flights to Shanghai and Hong Kong to help Indian pharmaceutical companies import personal protective equipment for frontline health workers.
  2. India was among the first to recognise Maldives after its independence in 1965. India established its consulate at Male in 1972.
  3. India is Maldives’ 4th largest trade partner after UAE, China and Singapore.
  4. India provides the largest number of training opportunities for Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF), meeting around 70 percent of their defence training requirements.
  5. India conducts joint military exercise, named ‘Ekuverin’, with Maldives on annual basis. The 14 days Joint Exercise is held alternatively in India and Maldives. The 2019 edition was held in Pune, in India.
  6. India’s previous assistances to Maldives –
    1. 1988: Under Operation Cactus, India helped the government of Maldives prevent a political coup.
    2. 2004: India helped Maldives after the Indian Ocean Tsunami.
    3. 2014: Under ‘Operation Neer’, India supplied drinking water to Maldives to help it deal with the drinking water crisis.
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Prana-Vayu

  1. It is a low cost ventilator developed by IIT Roorkee.
  2. Amid the growing demand for hospital ventilators due to the COVID-19 pandemic, IIT-Roorkee has developed a low-cost portable ventilator in association with AIIMS-Rishikesh, which can be manufactured for just INR 25,000.
  3. Unlike traditional air ventilators, it does not require compressed air for functioning and thus can be useful in cases when hospital wards or open areas are converted into ICUs.
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Report on migrant workers during COVID-19

  1. With more than 15000 active shelter and relief camps, Kerala government has been operating over 65 percent of the total number of active shelters and relief camps (approximately 22,567 in number), run by various states governments, for stranded migrant workers, in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic. Maharastra and Tamil Nadu stand distant second and third.
  2. The report also shows that 15 lakh stranded migrant workers were given shelter and food by their own employers following the COVID-19 lockdown.
  3. While the governments (both Union as well as the state) fed more than 54 lakh migrants, the NGOs fed about 30 lakh migrants during COVID-19 lockdown.
  4. The number of active relief camps and shelters of the government is 22,567 and of the NGOs is 3900.
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Issues in India’s Health Sector amidst COVID-19

  1. India has been spending just about 1.3 percent of its GDP on its health sector which is way less than the global average of about 10 percent.
  2. Since Independence, the policy makers not only failed to give a push to healthcare infrastructure on a scale that was needed but also failed to generate enough human capital which could have been done by building enough medical colleges and research capabilities to meet India’s ever growing health needs.
  3. Unlike National Disaster Management plans for natural calamities, there seems to be no preparedness for a pandemic of such a scale and size as COVID-19. As per Indian Council of Medical Research, there were more than 30000 ventilators lying unserviced in various hospitals across the nation at a time when doctors need them the most.
  4. Most of the government policies have been directed towards containing non-communicable diseases but completely ignore prevention of communicable diseases. More than 65 percent of the budget of Ayushmann Bharat is directed towards prevention and cure of communicable diseases only.
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Government suspends MPLADS scheme

  1. The suspension of the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) for two years to boost the funding available for the COVID-19 fight has been hailed as a step in the right direction. It would free about INR 7900 crore over a two-year period, and the same can be now directed towards boosting the health infrastructure needed to combat the pandemic. 
  2. MPLADS is a scheme of Government of India since 1993 that enables the members of parliaments (MP) to recommend developmental work in their constituencies with an emphasis on creating durable community assets based on locally felt needs.
  3. Initially, this scheme was administered by Ministry of Rural Development. However, since 1994, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI) has been looking into its working. 
  4. Elected Members of Rajya Sabha representing the whole of the state as they do, may select works for implementation in one or more district(s) of the state as they may choose. Nominated Members of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha may also select works for implementation in one or more districts, anywhere in the country. MPs can also recommend work of upto INR 25 lakhs per year outside their constituency or state of election to promote national unity, harmony and fraternity. MPs can recommend work of upto INR 25 lakh for Natural Calamity in the state and upto INR 1 crore in the country in case of Calamity of Severe Nature.  MPs need to recommend work worth at least 15 percent and 7.5 percent of their funds to create assets in areas inhabited by Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) respectively. 
  5. Each MP is allocated INR 5 crore per year since 2011-12. Funds are non lapsable in nature i.e. in case of non-release of fund in a particular year it is carried forward to the next year. 
  6. Among states, Telangana has recorded the highest utilisation to allocation ratio. It is closely followed by Sikkim, Chhattisgarh and Kerala. Among UTs, Lakshadweep has recorded the highest utilisation to allocation ratio. It is closely followed by Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and Delhi.
  7. Majority spending of MPLADS funds has so far been happening in construction of railways, roads, pathways and bridges.
  8. However, there have been persistent criticism about the scheme’s very nature. Jurists have pointed out that the Constitution does not confer the power to spend public money on an individual legislator. The power to spend public money has been vested in the Executive, through legal sanction of the concerned Legislature. Also, it has been found that MPLADS gives scope for MPs to utilise the funds as a source of patronage that they can dispense at will. The CAG has flagged instances of financial mismanagement and inflation of amounts spent. The Second Administrative Reforms Commission recommended its abrogation (abolition) altogether, highlighting the problems of the legislator stepping into the shoes of the executive. 
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Evaluation of India’s response to COVID-19

  1. Indian government announced fiscal stimulus worth USD 22 billion (INR 1.7 lakh) to provide subsistence food and wages to the vulnerable segments of the population, and enable MSME sector to not layoff their staff due to shutdown. This might look significant. However, on per capita basis it comes out to be spending just USD 17 (INR 1275) per person in India, which is very less. Even the per capita fiscal stimulus provided by Pakistan and Bangladesh has been almost four times that of India. The per capita fiscal stimulus provided by developed nations are more than 100 times that of India.
  2. India’s healthcare spending as a percentage of its GDP has been one of the lowest in the world at about 1.26 percent, whereas the same in developed nations is about 10 percent. As a result, even after 75 years of independence, we still are juggling with basic healthcare infrastructure and quality of medical facilities available to the public. The doctors have been struggling with lack of protective kits and prolonged working shifts during the current pandemic. India’s doctor to population ratio is one of the lowest in the world, and as a result all the hospitals, including the private ones, are stretched to their limits. Moreover, the shortage of ventilators and ICU beds would make it really threatening situation, in case the number cases start rising.
  3. There have also been several reports of mismanagement of COVID-19 response. In a few places, it has been found that the administration itself is not following social distancing norms, and creating situations for crowding. Lack of proper facilities and empathy from administration has led people in such quarantine centres to revolt and demand for going back home. In some places, it was found that administration had been throwing food and water from a distance towards quarantined people on the other side of the locked gates of the quarantine centres, thereby creating crowd and ruckus among such people. Going forward it is very important that such people involved in management of pandemic response must be trained and sensitised properly. 
  4. There has happened a lot of mismanagement in handling of the migrant workers, who being employed in the unorganised sector and in the absence of any livelihood due to lockdown, started flocking in huge numbers to move back to their native places. It could have been better if the government could have announced a week earlier of its plans to impose such a lockdown, and allowed such workers to relocate. Nevertheless, the government could have issued guidelines regarding social distancing and mandatory wearing of face mask during this phase itself. However, it is all easy said than done. Perhaps, at that stage people would not have understood the gravity of the situation, which could have been worsened more. The good thing is that finally the state governments have started to coordinate among themselves to enable the smooth movement of such migrant workers to their native places.
  5. One area where the efforts of the government have been really commendable is the way it has ensured the smooth movement and home delivery of essential goods during this phase. 
  6. The government has also done a commendable job in identifying the hotspots across the nation, and in its approach to strategically ease down restrictions based upon COVID-19 threats in a region. That ways it can start opening up the economy where possible while ensuring that the spread of the deadly virus is contained effectively. In areas where the threat is less, the shops might be allowed to open in odd-even manner, and passes be issued to people in restricted manner to meet their needs. The government may leverage the startup ecosystem of the country to come up with technology based efficient solutions to these problems. 
  7. The only reasonable goal of the prolonged lockdown could have been buying time for the government to scale up the limited resources. Most states are, however, treating the lockdown itself as the solution to the pandemic. The Centre needs to demonstrate leadership in ensuring that states scale up their capacities and communicate this to the public. The government also needs to particularly reassure health-care professionals that everything possible is being done to protect them. There needs to be a campaign to erase the stigma against patients, and to mitigate the fear of the pandemic itself. The difference between caution and paranoia needs to be emphasised. 
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Importance of human rights during COVID-19 induced lockdowns

  1. The countries must ensure universal access to food, shelter and healthcare to everyone. There are indications that the pandemic is disproportionately affecting certain communities, highlighting underlying structural inequalities and pervasive discrimination that need to be addressed in the response and aftermath of this crisis. If the virus persists even in any one community, it shall remain a threat to all communities. As such, discriminatory practices place us all at risk. In India, the government has already released a fiscal package worth INR 1.7 lakh crore to directly help poorer communities affected by the coronavirus lockdown.
  2. The restrictions on personal freedom must be consistent with the requirements of containing the pandemic. In no case, the state should become more authoritarian than the need of the hour. The sudden imposition of lockdown without giving time to migrant workers to plan and return back home could have been avoided. There have been numerous reports from different regions that police and other security forces have been using excessive, and at times lethal, force to make people abide by lockdowns and curfews, and this is a clear violation of basic human rights. Even if punishment has to be given for the sake of inducing fear to make people abide by laws, it has to be done in moderation, and not in an extreme manner.
  3. The governments need to ensure that COVID-19 patients are not stigmatised in the society. In India, the notion of social distancing has only added to the disease stigma. There have been many cases of stigmatisation of patients and their families, and despicable (deserving hatred) incivility towards even the bodies of unfortunate victims. There is a need to sensitise people towards such infected persons by running awareness campaigns on various digital platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp.
  4. The healthcare professionals need to be provided with good quality protective gear as well as security from attacks. There have surfaced many incidents of attacks on healthcare professionals and there targeting in the society. In one case, the residents of an area did not allow the burial of a martyred medical professional in their locality, and attacked the ambulance carrying the body. In other cases, landlords have been demanding medical professionals to vacate their houses. Such law violating people must be seriously dealt by the administration. The Indian government has been quick enough to react and pass an ordinance that makes changes to the Epidemics Disease Act, 1897 providing for stricter punishment to such law violators. It makes attack on medical professionals a non cognizable offence and also provides provision for punishment upto 7 years.
  5. Also, the countries must not restrict the freedom of speech and expression, except in cases where somebody is deliberately trying to spread misinformation. Any exceptional measures or emergencies introduced in the name of fighting COVID-19 should be subject to proper parliamentary, judicial and public oversight to avoid abuses.
  6. At the same time, it is very important for the citizens to understand the seriousness of the problem, and to cooperate the government in containing the pandemic. By threatening the human rights of others, one cannot expect the government to respect his or her own human rights.
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The role of humans in the spread of pandemics

  1. The coronavirus is zoonotic i.e. it can be transmitted from animals to humans. Our continued erosion of wild spaces has brought us uncomfortably close to animals and plants that harbour diseases that can jump to humans. According to United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the emergence of zoonotic diseases is often associated with anthropogenic (human induced) environmental or ecological changes, such as agricultural intensification and human settlement, or encroachments into forests and other habitats, or trade in wildlife species. On the top of that, human induced global warming may have been pushing disease-carrying animals into newer territories. The widespread use of antibiotics in the livestock industry has also led to bacterial pathogens (disease causing organisms such as bacteria or virus) getting resistant to front-line drugs, and mutating to even more dangerous forms.
  2. The process that leads a microbe, such as a virus, from a population of vertebrates such as bats to humans is complex, but driven by people. People, through their actions, create opportunities for the microbes to come closer to human populations. The novel coronavirus is believed to have emerged in a wet market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year. Scientists think it originated in bats and could have been passed on via another mammal like a pangolin, an endangered species whose meat and scales are highly prized in parts of Asia. But researchers have yet to come up with a definitive answer on how it migrated to people.
  3. The current coronavirus outbreak may just be the tip of the iceberg. With ever increasing human induced changes in environment, ecosystem, and climate, such pandemics are bound to increase in the future.  What we need for a long term solution is the transformative change in the way we interact with natural ecosystems and the services they provide. 
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Li Wenliang

  1. He was a physician at Wuhan Central Hospital, who was the first person to raise an alarm about a possible outbreak of an illness that resembled severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), later acknowledged as COVID-19.
  2. His initial warning was considered as a hoax by the Chinese government and he was summoned by the police. He later contracted the disease from one of a patient getting treated at Wuhan Central Hospital, although for glaucoma (disease of eyes).
  3. Dr. Li has been officially honoured by the Chinese government as a martyr, which is the highest honour the government can bestow on a citizen killed working to serve China. He was honoured together with 13 other front line workers who sacrificed their lives to fight COVID-19 as the first batch of martyrs.
  4. China observed a national day of mourning on 4th April 2020 for COVID-19 martyrs, including the whistleblower doctor Li Wenliang, who sacrificed their lives in the fight against the outbreak. China held its last national day of mourning in May 2008 for the victims of the Wenchuan Earthquake in Southwest China’s Sichuan Province, which killed more than 69,000 people.
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Pulmonology

  1. It is a medical specialty that deals with diseases involving the respiratory tract. As such, they look into diseases such as pneumonia, asthma, tuberculosis, emphysema (damaged air sacks in lungs), and complicated chest infections. It is also known as chest medicine in some countries.
  2. Their role is confined only to medications. The surgeries of the respiratory tract are generally performed by specialist surgeons.
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Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI)

  1. It is a regulatory department of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare in India.
  2. It sets standards for manufacturing, import, sales, and distribution of drugs in India.
  3. It is headquartered in New Delhi, and has four zonal offices at Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, and Ghaziabad.
  4. VG Somani is the current Drug Controller General of India (DCGI).
  5. Glenmark is the first pharmaceutical company in India to be given an approval by the regulator to start the trial on COVID-19 patients.
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One Health

  1. It is an approach to designing and implementing programmes, policies, legislation and research, in which multiple sectors communicate and work together to achieve better public health outcomes.
  2. The areas of work in which this approach is particularly relevant include food safety, the control of zoonotic diseases, and combating antibiotic resistance.
  3. World Health Organisation (WHO) works closely with the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (UN-FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) to promote multi-sectoral responses to food safety hazards, zoonotic diseases, and other public health threats at the human-animal-ecosystem interface and provide guidance on how to reduce these risks.
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BJP’s 40th Foundation Day

  1. As of 2019, BJP is the country’s largest political party in terms of representation in the national parliament and state assemblies and is the world’s largest party in terms of primary membership.
  2. The BJP’s origin lies in the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, formed in 1951 by Syama Prasad Mukherjee. After the 1977 Emergency, the Jana Sangh merged with several other parties to form the Janata Party, which defeated the incumbent Congress party in the 1977 general elections. After three years in power, the Janata party dissolved in 1980, and the members of the erstwhile Jana Sangh reconvening to form the BJP.  Hence, BJP came into existence in 1980.
  3. BJP contested elections for the first time in the 1984 general election, but could win only two seats.
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Disha App

  1. Disha App has been hailed as National Digital Infrastructure for Teachers. Through this portal, all teachers across nation will be equipped with advanced digital technology. It will help them in improving quality of education with use of latest technologies in education sector. With this app, teachers can create training content, and also connect or collaborate with fellow teaching community. 
  2. The portal will also help teachers boost their teaching skills and create their own separate profile with their skills and knowledge. The portal will record complete work and accomplishment of teachers in educational institutes from start to end point till their retirement.
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World BackUp Day

  1. World backup day is celebrated on March 31st.
  2. This annual event is meant to remind people to backup their data before they lose it by accident or malice.
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CEOs of top digital companies enabling Work From Home (WFH) during COVID-19

Company CEO
Zoom Eric Yuan
Facebook Mark Zuckerburg
Pinterest Ben Silbermann
Google Sunder Pichai
Microsoft Satya Nadella
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Antarctica: Home to rainforests 90 million years ago

  1. The scientists have concluded that about 90 million years ago the Antarctic continent may have been covered with dense vegetation, with no ice in the region. The evidence for the Antarctic forest is based on a core of sediment drilled in west Antarctica. The sediments here have been found to contain a dense network of fossil roots which date back to about 90 million years ago.
  2. This makes scientists to conclude that the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere was far higher than previously assumed for the Cretaceous period.
  3. The Cretaceous period is a geological period that lasted from about 145 to 66 million years ago. It is the third and final period of the Mesozoic Era.  The Mesozoic era is also called the Age of Reptiles and the Age of Conifers and has been subdivided into three major periods :
    1. Triassic – The Dinosaurs first appeared during this phase.
    2. Jurassic – The Dinosaurs were most active during this phase.
    3. Cretaceous – This was the a period with a relatively warm climate, resulting in high sea levels that created numerous shallow inland seas. This period marked the end of Dinosaurs. This phase culminated in sudden mass extinction of three-quarters of the plant and animal species on Earth.
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United Nation’s COP-26 on Climate Change postponed due to COVID-19

  1. United Nations’s Conference of Parties (COP-26) on Climate Change to be held in Glasgow, in Scotland, for the year 2020 has been postponed indefinitely owing to COVID-19 lockdowns across the world.
  2. The 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP25, was held in Madrid, Spain.
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United Nations – World Health Organisation (UN-WHO)

  1. The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialised agency of the United Nations responsible for international public health. 
  2. Its headquarter is based out of Geneva, in Switzerland. It has six semi-autonomous regional offices and 150 field offices worldwide. 
  3. Region WHO Regional Office
    Africa Brazzaville (Democratic Republic of Congo)
    Europe Copenhagen (Denmark)
    South-East Asia New Delhi (India)
    Eastern Mediterranean Cairo (Egypt)
    Western Pacific Manila (Philippines)
    Americas Washington DC (USA)
  4. It was established in 7th April 1948, which is commemorated as World Health Day. 
  5. WHO celebrates World Immunisation Week every year on last week of April.
  6. WHO has 194 member states. It has all the all of the member states of the United Nations except for Liechtenstein, plus the Cook Islands and Niue. A state becomes a full member of WHO by ratifying the treaty known as the Constitution of the World Health Organization. As of 2020, it also had two associate members, Puerto Rico and Tokelau.  Palestine is an observer as a ‘national liberation movement’ recognised by the League of Arab States. 
  7. The World Health Assembly (WHA) is the decision making body of World Health Organization (WHO).  It is the world’s highest health policy setting body and is composed of health ministers from member states of WHO. The members of the WHA generally meet every year in May in Geneva at the Palace of Nations, the location of WHO Headquarters. It appoints the Director-General every five years. The Director-General is the head of World Health Organisation.
  8. The Executive Board of the World Health Assembly comprises 34 individuals, technically qualified in the field of health, and each one designated by a member-state elected to do so by the World Health Assembly. Member States are elected for three-year terms, and the chairman position is rotated among members every one year. The main functions of the executive board are to give effect to the decisions and policies of the Health Assembly, to advise it and to facilitate its work. The Board meets at least twice a year, mostly in January and then in May. India is set to take over the chairmanship of the Executive Board. 
  9. At annual contributions of over USD 500 million, the USA is WHO’s biggest contributor.
  10. The organisation’s first biggest success was the elimination of small pox by 1980. Its work on malaria, as well as other neglected tropical diseases is also recognised. It was as a result of the criticism that it failed to pick up rampaging Ebola in the 1990s, and delayed picking up HIV/AIDS early enough, that the WHO rolled out the Global Public Health Intelligence Network in 1997, to predict potential epidemics using information on the Internet, and function as an early warning alert. With the growing use of the Internet, such a system gains better traction, and in 2000, it was supplemented with the Global Outbreak Alert Response Network (GOARN).
  11. Current Director General of WHO is Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus from Ethiopia.
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International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)

  1. It is an intergovernmental agency forming part of the World Health Organization of the United Nations.
  2. Its role is to conduct and coordinate research into the causes of cancer.
  3. It was established in 1965 and is based out of Lyon, in France.
  4. Currently, it has 26 member countries. Germany, France, Italy, UK and USA are its founding members.
  5. India became its member in 2006, and is the only country among SAARC nations to be its member. Among big nations, China is not part of it.
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United Nations – Food and Agriculture Organization (UN-FAO)

  1. It is a specialised agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger and improve nutrition and food security. It helps governments and development agencies coordinate their activities to improve and develop agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and land and water resources. 
  2. Founded in October 1945.
  3. The FAO is headquartered in Rome, Italy and maintains regional and field offices around the world, operating in over 130 countries. India does not have any of the regional offices of FAO, and falls within the jurisdiction of regional office for Asia and the Pacific, having its headquarter in Bangkok, in Thailand.
  4. It has 197 member countries. 
  5. The agency is governed by a biennial conference of member nations, which meets every two years to review the work carried out by the organization, and to work and budget for the next two-year period. The conference elects a council of 49 member states (each of whom serves a three year rotating term) that acts as an interim governing body, and the Director-General, who heads the agency. From India, Binay Ranjan Sen, is the only person to have served as the Director General of FAO in 1956-67. 
  6. FAO published following flagship reports –
    1. The State of Food and Agriculture Report.
    2. The State of World’s Forest Report.
    3. The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture.
    4. The State of World Soil Resources.
  7. The current Director General of FAO is Qu Dongyu from China.
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Wet Markets

  1. A wet market (also called a public market) is a marketplace selling fresh meat, fish, produce, and other perishable goods as distinguished from “dry markets” that sell durable goods such as fabric and electronics.
  2. Not all wet markets sell live animals, but the term wet market is sometimes used to signify a live animal market in which vendors slaughter animals upon customer purchase. Wet markets are common in many parts of the world, notably in China and Southeast Asia.
  3. Most wet markets do not trade in wild or exotic animals, but those that do have been linked to outbreaks of zoonotic diseases. This is because the commercially reared animals are kept free of any diseases through periodic health checkup and medications. Only in wild or exotic animals, chances of such dangerous viruses exist.
  4. However, a complete ban on the trade, farming and consumption of wild species or a clamp-down of wet markets, does not, altogether eliminate the risk of future zoonotic spillovers, since there is always a possibility for such diseases to emerge under some other conditions too, and it could be equally fatal. The need for the hour is to properly regulate the wet markets and bring in innovative technological solutions to minimise the human risk due to their operation.
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Zoombombing

  1. The term ‘Zoombombing’ comes from the Zoom App, which is a video conferencing application used by people worldwide during the coronavirus pandemic. Zoombombing refers to the hacking of Zoom by the hackers or uninvited participants, who take up control of the screen presentation and fill it with unwanted content.
  2. While a Zoom session is in progress, unfamiliar users would show up and hijack the session by saying or showing things that are lewd, obscene, racist, or antisemitic in nature. The compromised Zoom session is then usually forced to shut down.
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Harvest Festivals of India

Harvest Festival State
Baisakhi  Punjab
Bihu (Bahag Bihu or Rongali Bihu or Xaat Bihu) Assam and parts of North Eastern states
Vishu Kerala and Karnataka
Puthandu Tamil Nadu
Poila Boishakh West bengal
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Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO)

  1. It is the largest network of the Indian diaspora, which was founded in 1989 and is headquartered in New York, in USA.
  2. Though the initial focus of the organisation was on human rights violations against the people of Indian origin, over the past three decades, it has been actively involved in the social, economic, cultural and educational issues of the People of Indian Origin (PIO) and NRIs around the globe.
  3. According to a World Bank report, India is the top recipient of remittances in the world. In 2018, the Indian diaspora sent a whopping USD 79 billion back home, a rise of 14 percent from the previous year.
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United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)

  1. It is the United Nations specialised agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism.
  2. It was established in 1974, and is headquartered in Madrid, in Spain. 
  3. Its membership includes 158 countries and more than 500 affiliate members representing the private sector, educational institutions, tourism associations and local tourism authorities. India is one of the member of UNWTO. However, it is to be noted that following important economies are not part of UNWTO – USA, Canada, UK, Ireland, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Singapore, and New Zealand.
  4. It encourages the implementation of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism.
  5. The General Assembly is the principal gathering of the World Tourism Organization. It meets every two years to approve the budget and programme of work and to debate topics of vital importance to the tourism sector. The World Committee on Tourism Ethics is a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly.
  6. The Secretary-General of the General Assembly is elected by its members for a term of four years. 
  7. UNWTO’s Executive Council is responsible for ensuring that the organization carries out its work and adheres to its budget. It meets at least twice a year and is composed of members elected by the General Assembly in a ratio of one for every five full members. As host country of UNWTO’s headquarters, Spain has a permanent seat on the Executive Council. 
  8. The current Secretary-General of UNWTO is Zurab Pololikashvili, of Georgia.
  9. The official languages of UNWTO are Arabic, English, French, Russian and Spanish.
  10. According to it, millions of jobs in the global tourism industry could be lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Ways and Means Advance (WMA)

  1. It is a temporary arrangement by the Central Bank (RBI) to help the Centre as well the states to meet their cash demands, and they are supposed to return back this money to the Central Bank within three months of the issue.
  2. The Central Bank (RBI) charges Repo Rate on Ways and Means Advances to the Centre as well as the states.
  3. The governments are, however, allowed to draw amounts in excess of their WMA limits. The interest on such overdraft is 2 percentage points above the repo rate.
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Severe Balance of Payment (BoP) Crisis in Pakistan

  1. The outbreak of COVID-19 is having a significant impact on the Pakistani economy. The domestic containment measures coupled with the downturn in global trade has hit the Pakistani economy hard, as Pakistan is finding it hard to earn enough foreign exchange through its exports to pay for its ever increasing imports, thus causing a severe Balance of Payment Crisis. 
  2. To pull Pakistan out of this crisis, the IMF has approved financial assistance worth USD 7.5 billion to Pakistan.
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Kisan Rath

  1. In a bid to ease the disruption of agricultural supply chains, especially for perishable produce, due to COVID-19 lockdown, the Agriculture Ministry has launched a Kisan Rath mobile application, which would connect farmers and traders to a network of more than 5 lakh trucks and 20,000 tractors.
  2. The application, developed by the National Informatics Centre, is meant to help farmers and traders who are searching for vehicles to move their produce from farm to customers. This includes primary transport from the farm to the local mandis (local warehouses or collection centres of farmer producer organisations), as well as the secondary transport from the local mandis to intra-and inter-State mandis, processing units, railway stations, warehouses or wholesalers.
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Chakma and Hajong Communities

  1. Both the tribal communities belong to North East India.
  2. The Chakma people, are a native group from the eastern-most regions of the Indian subcontinent.  Their ethnicity is closely linked with the peoples of East Asia, and they are considered to be the original inhabitants of Chittagong area of Bangladesh.However, the Chakma language is part of the Indo-Aryan language family of the Indian subcontinent. They were displaced in 1960s due to construction of the artificial Kaptai Dam in Bangladesh, which submerged many of their settlements. As a result, they migrated to India and Myanmar. In India, they are found mainly in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, and other North Eastern states. They are primarily the followers of Buddhism. 
  3. The Hajong people are a tribal group native to the Indian subcontinent, notably in the North Eastern Indian states and Bangladesh. The Hajong belong to the Indo-Tibetan group. There are different opinions on the origin of the tribe, its name, and migration to India. According to some scholars, they had come from the Tibetan Plateau and settled across North East India and Bangladesh along the Brahmaputra and Tista rivers and their tributaries. However, the Hajongs claim that their ancestral home was in Assam. They are primarily the followers of Hinduism and claim that they belong to the Suryavanshi clan of Kshatriyas. Hajongs are predominantly rice farmers.
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SIPRI

  1. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) is an international institute based in Sweden, dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament.
  2. It was stablished in 1966, and is based out of Stockholm in Sweden.
  3. According to it, in 2019, the global defence expenditure rose to USD 1917 billion and represented 2.2 percent of the global GDP.
  4. The leading defence spenders across the globe were –
    1. USA (USD 732 billion)
    2. China (USD 261 billion)
    3. India (USD 71 billion)
    4. Russia (USD 65 billion)
    5. Saudi Arabia (USD 62 billion)
  5. India’s tensions and rivalry with both Pakistan and China are among the major drivers for its increased military spending.
  6. In 2019, India’s defence expenditure increased by 6.8 percent as compared to the previous year.
  7. Over a decade (2010-2019), India’s defence expenditure increased by 37 percent. However, during the same period, its military burden fell from 2.7 percent of GDP to 2.4 percent of GDP in 2019. 
  8. India’s defence allocation (excluding defence pensions) in the latest budget (FY2020-21) was INR 3.37 lakh crore, and accounted for about 1.5 percent of the country’s GDP.
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Judicial reforms in the time of lockdown

  1. Amidst the national lockdown, the Supreme Court and several other courts have been holding virtual proceedings. It is a move away from the idea of open courts towards technology-based administration of justice without the physical presence of lawyers and litigants. The virtual courts serve two main purpose during the current COVID-19 induced lockdown –
    1. to keep the courts open even during a national lockdown so that access to justice is not denied to anyone.
    2. to help maintain physical distancing.
  2. The Chief Justice of India has emphasised that virtual courts are actually an extension of the open courts, as the proceedings could be seen live by the public.
  3. As the use of technology is stepped up, courts should consider other steps as well that would help speed up the judicial process and reduce courtroom crowding. Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence can help judges in taking better decisions, and disposing similar cases quickly.
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Steep fall in the international crude oil prices owing to COVID-19 lockdowns

  1. Five decades after the oil shock of 1973, when an Arab ban on the supply of oil to some western powers including the United States sent the price of crude skyrocketing, the global economy faces a fresh shock from a free fall in oil prices. 
  2. In April 2020, the value of US Crude Oil fell below zero dollar per barrel. Weak demand, unbridled production by warring producers, and an exhaustion of storage capacity drove West Texas Intermediate crude to a negative price for the first time in history. A negative price implies that a seller would have to pay the buyer to hold the oil to be supplied. 
  3. The demand for fuel has been almost non existent due to COVID imposed lockdowns across the globe. On the top of that, the price war between oil producing nations of Saudi Arabia and Russia, which did not cut their production despite global fall in global demand, led to an influx of supply. As a result storage for crude oil, on land as well as in offshore supertankers, has been nearing capacity or becoming prohibitively expensive, and therefore neither the producers of the crude oil nor the buyers of the crude oil want to hold the oil stock, which has resulted in the steep fall in oil prices.
  4. While the sliding oil prices would help India reduce its import bill, a protracted (longer) demand drought would end up hurting the government’s tax revenues severely. Moreover, falling oil prices risk damaging the economies of producer countries where much of Indian diaspora works and therefore could also hurt inward remittances from these countries. Hence, India has not been slashing its retail fuel rates to build up its financial reserves during these times, and once the lockdown phase is over, it can use these reserves to cut retail fuel prices sharply by waiving off some excise revenue for a while in order to bring back momentum into the wider economy.
  5. Moreover, earlier we used to be worried about OPEC, which controlled only 40 percent of the world’s production, but used oil as an economic weapon. Now with Russia and US permanently joining OPEC Plus or Super OPEC, it might create institutional monopoly in global oil supplies. They are already in talks to significantly cut global oil production in coming days which might lead to steep hike in prices when the lockdown subsides. Therefore, to ensure fool-proof energy security, India must build special ties with the Middle East, as well as Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) based Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
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Importance of Middle East for India

  1. Firstly, a stable and prosperous Middle East, would serve as one of most attractive market for Indian workforce, products and projects. On the other hand, India provides major market to big oil supplier nations such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, and provides them cushion against volatility in demand from the west.
  2. Secondly, the Middle East can be a very important link between India and Africa. If India builds its way to Africa via Middle East, that is a win-win, because then we are going to establish linkages that are going to be very robust and sustainable.
  3. It is therefore very important that India maintains good ties with Iran and Saudi Arabia, and wherever possible, try to be a bridge between the two. Saudi Arabia’s oil company Aramco is already investing about USD 100 billion in India, and others must follow too so that India and the Middle East can establish a stable equation of strategic inter-dependence at the earliest.
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Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)

  1. It is a political and economic union of six Arab countries – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. All current member states are monarchies, including three constitutional monarchies (Qatar, Kuwait, and Bahrain), two absolute monarchies (Saudi Arabia and Oman), and one federal monarchy (the United Arab Emirates.
  2. It was established in 1981 and is headquartered in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia).
  3. The Supreme Council is composed of the heads of the member states. It is the highest decision-making entity of the GCC, setting its vision and goals. 
  4. The Ministerial Council is composed of the Foreign Ministers of all the member states. It convenes every three months. It primarily formulates policies and makes recommendations to promote cooperation and achieve coordination among the member states when implementing ongoing projects.
  5. The Secretariat is the executive arm of the Gulf Cooperation Council. It takes decisions within its authority and implements decisions approved by the Supreme or Ministerial Council. 
  6. The Peninsula Shield Force is the military arm of the GCC formed in 1984.
  7. The GCC Games, a quadrennial multi-sport event held once in four years, was established by the union in 2011.
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Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GATFA)

  1. It is a pan-Arab free trade zone that came into existence in 1997.
  2. It has 18 member states. All the members of GCC are also the members of GAFTA besides its other Arab members. It is to be noted that Iran is not an Arab nation but a west Asian country, and hence not part of GAFTA.
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Arab League

    1. It is a regional organization in the Arab world with its main goal to draw closer relations between member states and to safeguard their independence and sovereignty.
    2. It was established in 1945.
    3. The Arab Parliament is the legislative body of the Arab League, and is headquartered in Cairo, in Egypt.
    4. Arab League has 22 member states. Libya and Syria have been suspended from the league since 2011.
    5. India is one of the five observer states in the Arab League.
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Arab Monetary Fund (AMF)

  1. Arab Monetary Fund (AMF) is a working sub-organization of the Arab League. It was founded 1976, and has been operational since 1977.
  2. The AMF’s headquarters is in the city of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
  3. It has all 22 member states of the Arab League.
  4. The Arab Monetary Fund’s main objectives are to
    1. correct and balance the payment of its member states
    2. remove payment restrictions between members
    3. improve Arab monetary cooperation
    4. encourage the development of Arab financial markets (paving the way for a unified Arab currency)
    5. facilitate and promote trade between member states.
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South Korea successfully conducts national elections amidst COVID-19

  1. South Korea has set an example for how democratic elections can be handled during a pandemic. South Korean election and health officials had prepared safeguards to reduce the risk of the virus being spread. Masks were worn by voters and poll workers. A meter (3 feet) of social distancing space was marked from nearby streets all the way to the ballot booths. Voters who passed a fever screening were given sanitising gel and disposable plastic gloves before entering booths. Anyone with a fever was whisked to a separate area to vote. People formally quarantined in their homes were escorted or monitored through tracking apps while they cast their ballots later than other voters. Those hospitalised or in isolation or quarantine could vote by mail. 
  2. Before the spread of COVID-19, the support for current government was faltering over a decaying job market, corruption scandals and troubled ties with North Korea.
  3. However, not only the voters voted the current government back into power, they also came out in huge numbers to vote despite the pandemic. One of the main reason for this has been the effectiveness with which the current regime handled the pandemic, and restricted its spread. Clearly, the priority of the voters seemed to have changed from economic issues to current healthcare issues, and they voted for the current regime to provide it the stability to handle the pandemic even more efficiently.
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Office bearers of important institutions in India

Chief Election Commissioner  Sunil Arora
Chief Information Commissioner  Bimal Julka
Governor, Reserve Bank of India Shaktikanta Das
CEO, NITI Aayog Amitabh Kant
Chief Economic Advisor to the Government of India Krishnamurthy Subramanian
National Security Advisor Ajit Doval
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Central Vista Project

  1. Delhi was established as the capital of the Indian empire in 1911, when the colonial British rulers moved the capital from the eastern city of Calcutta, now called Kolkata. Architects Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker planned the central administrative area of the city, retaining a third of the area for open spaces, including wide lawns that draw crowds of residents, tourists and vendors all year round. Central Vista is a 3.2 km stretch in Delhi featuring some of India’s most iconic landmarks such as Parliament House, North and South Blocks, India Gate, which were built by the British between 1911 and 1931. Post-1947, the government of independent India added many other office buildings near the area. The Rajpath connects the iconic India Gate to Rashtrapati Bhavan and is the site of the annual Republic Day celebrations.
  2. The Central Vista project, estimated to cost INR 20,000 crore and due to be completed by 2024, envisages modern buildings for government use, thereby replacing recreational and green areas in the Central Vista stretch. 
  3. The Central Public Works Department, which is overseeing the project, said in its redevelopment proposal that the area currently suffers from inadequate space and infrastructure. The area lacks basic facilities, amenities and parking, which leads to congestion and gives a poor public perception, and hence the need for upgradation.
  4. Almost 70 percent of the world’s population will be living in urban areas by 2050, according to estimates by the United Nations, and governments everywhere are struggling to find space to accommodate booming numbers of city dwellers. Land is a scarce resource, but heritage is also valuable since it cannot be reclaimed or rebuilt. Hence, the debate between land utility and heritage has been surrounding the project.
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Tianwen-1

  1. Tianwen-1 is the name given to China’s first ever Mars exploration mission scheduled later this year.
  2. ‘Tianwen’ literally means Heavenly Questions or Questions to Heaven.
  3. China’s Mars mission plans to complete orbiting, landing and roving in one mission. How to safely land on Mars is one of the biggest challenges facing the mission. It must be noted that Mars has one third the gravity of earth.
  4. The mission will be led by China National Space Administration (CNSA), which announced that going forward all of China’s future planetary exploration missions will be named as part of Tianwen series, signifying China’s perseverance in pursuing truth and science, and exploring nature and universe.  
  5. Yinghuo-1 was a Chinese Mars-exploration space probe, intended to be the first Chinese spacecraft to orbit Mars. However, the mission had failed.
  6. So far, only India, USA, Russia and the European Union have been able to successfully launch mission to Mars. If Tianwen-1 goes successful, China will become the 5th country to make its satellite enter the Mars.
  7. India became the first Asian country to have successfully launched its Mars orbiter mission, Mangalyaan which entered the orbit of the red planet in 2014. India also became the first country to have entered the Martian orbit in its first attempt.
  8. China successfully launched its first satellite Dong Fang Hong-1 on April 24th, 1970, marking the beginning of the nation’s exploration of the universe and outer space. In 2020, China celebrated 50 years of its first successful satellite launch. Since 2016, China has been celebrating April 24th as the country’s Space Day.
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Artificial Intelligence (AI) based voice tool to detect COVID-19

  1. Each human voice has 6300 parameters but only a few parameters (less than a dozen) specifically characterise an individual’s voice. The human ear is not able to distinguish all these parameters, but artificial intelligence can. Each one of our internal organs is sort of a resonator. As such, if we have a problem with our lungs or our heart, this is reflected in our voice. The same person has one voice when he/she is healthy, and another if he/she has a pathology (disease). Since coronavirus compromises lungs and airwaves, the voice is definitely affected.
  2. As such, the audio based disease diagnosis tool can help detect COVID-19 infection from the timbre (quality) of the voice of a person. As someone speaks to the microphone on the app, the tool breaks down the voice in multiple parameters such as frequency and noise distortion. These values are compared to the normal person’s values and with the inbuilt AI based program can determine if the patient is positive or not.
  3. Potential benefits of this tool –
    1. This voice-based diagnosis costs nothing to the patient and diagnosis of COVID-19 positive patients can be completed in minutes by using only a mobile app. Medical advice on the next steps can be sought through a video or audio call to the listed doctors.
    2. Since it is a mobile app based solution, it is possibly the best way to reach out to patients in the remotest parts of a country, without the risk of exposure, both to the patients as well as the lab personnels. 
    3. It can be helpful in doing the first level of screening to identify positives and only those who tested positive can go for the lab tests. It can therefore help reducing current bottlenecks in the medical infrastructure and help the government identify hotspot regions in advance through location tracking integration.
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Earth Day

  1. Every year, April 22 is celebrated as Earth Day to raise public awareness about the environment and inspire people to save and protect it. The event is coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network. 
  2. It was on Earth Day 2016, that the historic Paris Climate Accord was signed by nations.
  3. The year 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the Earth Day, which has been celebrated every year since 1970.
  4. Earth Challenge 2020, is a mobile phone app that allows users to take photos and upload them to provide local data on key environmental issues, from air quality to plastic pollution. Amidst COVID-19 imposed lockdowns, the app enables people to take and share pictures of their surroundings while sitting at home and help create up-to-date assessments on the state of the environment around the world.
  5. An interesting fact is that an Earth Anthem penned by Indian diplomat Abhay Kumar, which has been translated into 50 languages, is used by many schools and organisations across the world to celebrate Earth Day.
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World Wide Help (WWH)

  1. World Wide Help is a platform created by IIT Mumbai to provide a low-cost solution for delivering information over phone calls to people who lack access to smartphones. The basic premise of WWH is that unlike those who have access to Internet and its services for getting information, many others might not have the resources or digital literacy for the same.
  2.  The platform relies on a network of professionals to provide information and help as required by the users. The users just needs to dial a phone number and press a button dedicated for their needs. For e.g. pressing 1 would direct the user to health helper, or in case all the helpers are busy, would create a task for the same which a helper could later open and call back to the respective user. Such helpers may either themselves provide information to the users or may redirect them to their seniors with higher level of expertise.
  3. The platform has seen a few deployments in the last few years for providing agricultural advice, nutrition advice, career counselling advice and so on. 
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Indian Initiative on Earth BioGenome Sequencing (IIEBS)

  1. It is a project for genome sequencing of 1000 species of plants and animals to be completed over a period of five years at an estimated cost of INR 440 crore.
  2. It is part of the Earth BioGenome Project (EBP), an international initiative to catalogue life on the planet. EBP aims to sequence the genetic codes of all of earth’s biodiversity over a period of 10 years. The digital repository of genome sequences would provide critical infrastructure for
    1. better understanding of ecosystems and conservation of biodiversity.
    2. development of new treatments for infectious and inherited diseases.
    3. development of new agricultural products, biomaterials and biological fuels.
  3. The National Institute of Plant Genome Research, New Delhi is the coordinating centre for the nationwide project involving a total of 24 institutes.
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Confederation of Indian Industries (CII)

  1. CII is an industry association in India. 
  2. CII was founded in 1895, and has over 9000 members, from the private as well as public sectors, and an indirect membership of over 3 lakh enterprises from various national and regional industry bodies.
  3. CII is headquartered in New Delhi, and has various offices across the country as well as abroad.
  4. CII works with the Government on policy issues. CII has been a catalyst of change in India’s economic policy reforms. CII played a very important role during economic liberalisation in 1991 which knocked down the high walls of protection between Indian industry and the rest of the world.
  5. Amidst the COVID-19 lockdowns, CII has pegged India’s growth rate for the current financial year between -0.9 percent to +1.5 percent.
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Leatherback sea turtle

  1. Also known as the Lute turtle, the Leatherback sea turtle is the largest of all living turtles and is the fourth-heaviest modern reptile behind three crocodilians. It can easily be differentiated from other modern sea turtles by its lack of a bony shell. These sea turtles have a wide geographic distribution and can be found in oceans across the world. Their average life span is 30-70 years.
  2. It is listed in CITES Appendix I, which makes export/import of this species (including parts) illegal.
  3. It is also listed in the It is listed in CITES Appendix I
  4. In India, they could be seen in the coasts of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, where they travel from far off lands to lay their eggs.
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GI Tag to Manipur Black Rice, Gorakhpur Terracotta

  1. Chak-Hao, the black rice of Manipur and the Gorakhpur terracotta have bagged the Geographical Indication (GI) tag.
  2. Chak-Hao, is a scented glutinous (i.e. having texture like a glue) rice which has been in cultivation in Manipur over centuries, and is characterised by its special aroma. It is normally eaten during community feasts and is served as Chak-Hao kheer. Chak-Hao has also been used by traditional medical practitioners as part of traditional medicine. According to the GI application filed, this rice takes the longest cooking time of 40-45 minutes due to the presence of higher crude fibre content.
  3. The terracotta work of Gorakhpur, in Uttar Pradesh, is a centuries old traditional art form, where the potters make various animal figures like, horses, elephants, camel, goat, ox, etc. with bare hands.
  4. Khola Chilli from Goa and Palani Panchamirtham (religious offering) from Tamil Nadu also got GI tag recently.
  5. Karnataka has the highest number of GI-tagged products. However, on the basis of number of GI tags per unit geographical area, Kerala has the highest.
  6. GI tags in India are granted by the Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), under the ministry of Trade and Commerce.
  7. Geographical Indications protection is granted through the TRIPS (Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Agreement of World Trade Organisation (WTO).
  8. France is the first country to have granted GI tags.
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TRIPS Agreement

  1. The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) is an international legal agreement between all the member nations of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
  2. It sets down minimum standards for the regulation by national governments of many forms of intellectual properties (IP). The TRIPS agreement introduced intellectual property law into the multilateral trading system for the first time and remains the most comprehensive multilateral agreement on intellectual property to date.
  3. TRIPS was negotiated at the end of the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and is administered by the WTO. It came into force in 1995.
  4. TRIPS requires member states to provide strong protection for intellectual property rights. For example, under TRIPS:
    1. Copyright terms must extend at least 50 years, unless based on the life of the author.
    2. Copyright must be granted automatically, and not based upon any formalities, such as registrations, as specified in the Berne Convention.
    3. Computer programs must be regarded as literary works under copyright law and receive the same terms of protection.
    4. Patents must be granted for inventions in all fields of technology.
    5. Intellectual property laws may not offer any benefits to local citizens which are not available to citizens of other TRIPS signatories.
  5. Since TRIPS came into force, it has been subject to criticism from developing countries, academics, and non-governmental organisations. TRIPS’s wealth concentration effects (moving money from people in developing countries to copyright and patent owners in developed countries) and its imposition of artificial scarcity on the citizens of countries that would otherwise have had weaker intellectual property laws, are common bases for such criticisms. Other criticism has focused on the failure of TRIPS to accelerate investment and technology flows to low-income countries.
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Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism and Hospitality (FAITH)

  1. It is a federation of 10 national associations representing the tourism, travel and hospitality industry in India.
  2. The Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism and Hospitality (FAITH), has appealed to all Chief Ministers to come up with state-specific packages for the survival of the tourism and hospitality sectors reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Daporijo Bridge

  1. It is a bridge on Daporijo river in Arunachal Pradesh, and serves as a strategic link towards the Line of Actual Control (LCA) between India and China. 
  2. Border Roads Organisation (BRO) completed its construction in a record time of 27 days amidst COVID-19 imposed national lockdown.
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