April 30, 2020

Current Affairs
April 30, 2020

SPECIAL 301 REPORT
India continues to be on the ‘Priority Watch List’ of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) for lack of adequate intellectual property (IP) rights protection and enforcement, the USTR said in its Annual Special 301 Report.

Key highlights of the report:

  • India remained one of the most challenging economies for IP enforcement and protection. While India made “meaningful progress” to enhance IP protection and enforcement in some areas over the past year, it did not resolve recent and long-standing challenges, and created new ones.

  • These long-standing concerns were about
    • innovators being able to receive, maintain and enforce patents particularly in the pharmaceutical sector;

    • concerns over copyright laws not incentivising the creation and commercialisation of content; and

    • an outdated trade secrets framework.



  • The report also mentioned high customs duties on medical devices and Information and Communications Technology. 

Important Info :

Special 301 Report?

  • The Special 301 Report is prepared annually by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) that identifies trade barriers to United States companies and products due to the intellectual property laws, such as copyright, patents and trademarks, in other countries.
  • The Special 301 Report is published pursuant to Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 as amended by Section 1303 of the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988.
  • The Special 301 Report was first published in 1989. 
Source : The Hindu
International

Current Affairs
April 30, 2020

NEET APPLIES TO MINORITY COLLEGES: SC
The Supreme Court held that the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) is mandatory for admission to medical colleges run by religious and linguistic minority communities.

Key highlights of the judgement:

  • Admissions solely through NEET for graduate and postgraduate medical/dental courses does not violate any fundamental and religious rights of minorities. NEET would apply for both aided and unaided medical colleges run by minorities.

  • The rights available under Article 30 [right of minorities to administer their institutions] are not violated by provisions carved out in Section 10D of the MCI Act and the Dentists Act and Regulations framed by MCI/DCI.

  • The rights of trade, business and occupation or religious rights “do not come in the way of securing transparency and recognition of merits in admissions”.

  • The right to freedom of trade or business is not absolute. It is subject to “reasonable restriction in the interest of the students’ community to promote merit, recognition of excellence, and to curb the malpractices.

  • Regulating academics and imposing reasonable restrictions to ensure educational standards are in national and public interest.

  • NEET is intended to check several maladies which crept into medical education, to prevent capitation fee by admitting students which are lower in merit and to prevent exploitation, profiteering, and commercialisation of education.

  • A uniform entrance test qualifies the test of proportionality and is reasonable. 

Important Info :

Background:

  • The judgment was based on a challenge by the colleges to several notifications issued by the Medical Council of India (MCI) and the Dental Council of India (DCI) under Sections 10D of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, and the Dentists Act, 1948, for uniform entrance examinations. 
Source : The Hindu
Education

Current Affairs
April 30, 2020

NATIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE PIPELINE (NIP)
The Task Force on National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) submitted its Final Report on NIP for FY 2019-25 to the Union Minister for Finance.

About:

  • The Final Report of NIP Task Force is projecting total infrastructure investment of Rs 111 lakh crore during the period FY 2020-25. Out of Rs. 111 lakh crore,
    • projects worth Rs 44 lakh crore (40% of NIP) are under implementation,

    • projects worth Rs 33 lakh crore (30%) are at conceptual stage,

    • projects worth Rs 22 lakh crore (20%) are under development.

    • Information regarding project stage are unavailable for projects worth Rs 11 lakh crore (10%).



  • Sectors such as energy (24%), roads (18%), urban (17%) and railways (12%) amount to around 71% of the projected infrastructure investments in India.

  • The Centre (39%) and States (40%) are expected to have almost equal share in implementing the NIP in India, followed by the private sector (21%).

  • The Task Force has recommended that three Committees be setup:
    • a Committee to monitor NIP progress and eliminate delays;

    • a Steering Committee in each Infrastructure ministry level for following up implementation; and

    • a Steering Committee in DEA for raising financial resources for the NIP.



  • The NIP project database would be hosted on India Investment Grid (IIG) shortly to provide visibility to the NIP and help in its financing with prospective investors; domestic and foreign, able to access updated project level information. 

Important Info :

Background: Union Finance Minister in her Budget speech 2019-20 announced that Rs. 100 lakh crore would be invested on infrastructure over the next five years. 

Source : PIB
Health

Current Affairs
April 30, 2020

SEX HORMONES
Men have appeared likelier than women to die of COVID-19. Trials by researchers in US will seek to find out whether the answer lies in two sex hormones in women — estrogen and progesterone.

About:

  • Estrogen and progesterone are the two main sex hormones that characterise a woman.

  • Estrogen helps her develop female physical features and also maintains her reproductive system.

  • Progesterone is secreted by a temporary endocrine gland that the body produces during the second half of the menstrual cycle, and helps prepare the body for possible pregnancy after ovulation.

  • The male body too has estrogen and produces progesterone, both in smaller amounts.

  • Now, two teams in the US are testing the theory that these hormones help women fight COVID-19 better. 

Source : Indian Express
Science & Tech

Current Affairs
April 30, 2020

OZONE HOLE
The European Union’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) announced that a hole in the Arctic ozone layer, believed to be the biggest reported, has closed. The ozone hole’s closing was because of a phenomenon called the polar vortex, and not because of reduced pollution levels due to Covid-19 lockdowns around the world, reports said.

About:

  • Ozone (chemically, a molecule of three oxygen atoms) is found mainly in the upper atmosphere, an area called the stratosphere, between 10 and 50 km from the earth’s surface.

  • Though it is talked of as a layer, ozone is present in the atmosphere in rather low concentrations. Even at places where this layer is thickest, there are not more than a few molecules of ozone for every million air molecules.

  • But they perform a very important function. By absorbing the harmful ultraviolet radiations from the sun, the ozone molecules eliminate a big threat to life forms on earth. UV rays can cause skin cancer and other diseases and deformities in plants and animals. 

Important Info :

Ozone holes

  • The ‘ozone hole’ is not really a hole — it refers to a region in the stratosphere where the concentration of ozone becomes extremely low in certain months.
  • The ‘ozone holes’ most commonly talked about are the depletions over Antarctica, forming each year in the months of September, October and November, due to a set of special meteorological and chemical conditions that arise at the South Pole, and can reach sizes of around 20 to 25 million sq km.
  • Such holes are also spotted over the North Pole, but owing to warmer temperatures than the South Pole, the depletions here are much smaller in size. Before this year, the last sizable Arctic ozone hole was reported in 2011.
Source : Indian Express
Environment

Current Affairs
April 30, 2020

HOSPITAL CARE ASSISTIVE ROBOTIC DEVICE (HCARD)
Durgapur-based CSIR lab, Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute has developed Hospital Care Assistive Robotic Device (HCARD) which can help frontline health care workers in maintaining physical distance from those infected by corona virus.

About:

  • HCARD could be effective for frontline health care officials dealing with COVID-19 patients in delivering services while maintaining mandatory physical distancing.

  • This robot can be controlled and monitored by a nursing booth with a Control Station having such features as navigation, drawer activation for providing medicines and food to patients, sample collection and audio-visual communication.

  • The cost of this device is less than five lakh rupees and the weight is less than 80 kilograms. 

Source : All India Radio
Health

Current Affairs
April 30, 2020

MULTI-SYSTEM INFLAMMATORY STATE
UK's Paediatric Intensive Care Society (PICS) said it had observed an "apparent rise" in the number of children, of all ages, with a "multi-system inflammatory state requiring intensive care", and doctors believe it could be coronavirus-related.

About:

  • Multi-system inflammatory state is a rare illness that causes inflammation of the blood vessels, which leads to low blood pressure.

  • It affects the entire body as it causes a build-up of fluid in the lungs and other organs. This condition is similar to Kawasaki disease. Patients suffering from it require intensive care to support the lungs, heart and other organs. 

Important Info :

According to PICS, there were also overlapping symptoms of toxic shock syndrome and atypical Kawasaki disease.

  • Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a rare life-threatening condition caused when certain bacteria enter the body and release harmful toxins. If not treated in time, the condition could be fatal.
  • Kawasaki disease is an acute inflammatory disease of the blood vessels and usually occurs in children below the age of five. The inflammation caused by the disease affects many parts of the body but has a more serious effect on the heart. 
Source : Indian Express
Health

Current Affairs
April 30, 2020

IRRFAN KHAN
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief on the demise of actor Irrfan Khan.

About:

  • Irrfan Khan was an Indian actor who worked in Hindi cinema as well as British and American films.

  • Khan's career spanned over 30 years and earned him numerous accolades, including a National Film Award, an Asian Film Award, and four Filmfare Awards. In 2011, he was awarded the Padma Shri, India's fourth highest civilian honour.

  • In March 2018, Khan was diagnosed with a neuroendocrine tumor. 

Important Info :

Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs)?

  • Neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) are neoplasms that arise from cells of the endocrine (hormonal) and nervous systems.
  • They most commonly occur in the intestine, where they are often called carcinoid tumors, but they are also found in the pancreas, lung and the rest of the body. 
Source : All India Radio
Person in News

Current Affairs
April 30, 2020

INTERNATIONAL JAZZ DAY 2020
International Jazz Day 2020 is being celebrated on April 30.

About:

  • International Jazz Day is an International Day declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 2011 "to highlight jazz and its diplomatic role of uniting people in all corners of the globe."

  • It is celebrated annually on April 30.

  • The idea came from jazz pianist and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock. Jazz Day is chaired by Hancock and the UNESCO Director-General.

  • The celebration is recognized on the calendars of both UNESCO and the United Nations.

Important Info :
  • Jazz is a music genre that originated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the African-American communities of New Orleans, United States. Jazz is seen by many as "America's classical music" and is hailed as "one of America's original art forms". 
Source : United Nations
Culture

Current Affairs
April 30, 2020

Ber-D
Scientists from Jawaharlal Nehru Centre For Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR) have modified the structure of Berberine into Ber-D to use as a Alzheimer’s inhibitor.

About:

  • Alzheimer’s disease is the most prevalent neurodegenerative disorder and accounts for more than 70% of all dementia. The multifactorial nature of the disease attributed to multifaceted toxicity has made it difficult for researchers to develop effective medication.

  • Berberine is poorly soluble and toxic to cells. So they modified berberine to Ber-D, which is a soluble (aqueous), antioxidant. They found it to be a multifunctional inhibitor of multifaceted amyloid toxicity of Alzheimer’s disease.

  • The structural attributes of Ber-D are such that they prevent the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and rescue biomacromolecules from oxidative damage. 

Source : PIB
Science & Tech

April 29, 2020

Current Affairs
April 29, 2020

USCIRF ANNUAL REPORT-2020
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has downgraded India to the lowest ranking, “countries of particular concern” (CPC) in its 2020 report.

About:

  • The report, released in Washington by the federal government commission that functions as an advisory body, placed India alongside countries, including China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. India was categorised as a “Tier 2 country” in last year’s listing.

  • This is the first time since 2004 that India has been placed in this category.

  • According to the report, India took a sharp downward turn in 2019, which included specific concerns about the Citizenship Amendment Act, the proposed National Register for Citizens, anti-conversion laws and the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

  • Government of India reacted sharply to the USCIRF report on Tuesday, terming it “biased and tendentious” and rejected its observations. 

Source : The Hindu
Social Issues

Current Affairs
April 29, 2020

GLOBAL TERRORISM INDEX (GTI) 2019
NITI Aayog has questioned the methodology adopted by Global Terrorism Index (GTI) 2019 to rank India as the seventh worst terrorism affected country ahead of conflict-ridden countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Sudan, Burkina Faso, Palestine and Lebanon.

About:

  • The Global Terrorism Index (GTI) is a report published annually by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), a global think tank headquartered in Sydney, Australia.

  • The index provides a comprehensive summary of the key global trends and patterns in terrorism since 2000. It produces a composite score in order to provide an ordinal ranking of countries on the impact of terrorism.

  • The GTI is based on data from the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) which is collected and collated by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland. 

Important Info :

2019 index

  • Deaths from terrorism fell for the fourth consecutive year, after peaking in 2014. Afghanistan has replaced Iraq as the country most affected by terrorism.
  • India has moved to the seventh position from the previous year’s eighth in the annual Global Terrorism Index (GTI) 2019. The countries ahead of it are Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Syria, Pakistan and Somalia. 
Source : The Hindu
Defence & Security

Current Affairs
April 29, 2020

MID-DAY MEAL SCHEME
Government has announced around 11 % increase in annual central allocation of cooking cost under Mid-day meal scheme to 8,100 crore rupees in view of situation arising out of COVID-19.

About:

  • With a view to enhancing enrolment, retention and attendance and simultaneously improving nutritional levels among children, the National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education (NP-NSPE) was launched as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme in 1995. In 2001 MDMS became a cooked Mid Day Meal Scheme.

  • The Mid-Day Meal Scheme covers children of classes I-VIII studying in government, government-aided schools, special training centres (STC) and madarsas/ maqtabs supported under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). It is the largest school feeding programme in the world.

  • The Midday Meal Scheme is covered by the National Food Security Act, 2013. 

Source : All India Radio
Education

Current Affairs
April 29, 2020

ADB’s COVID-19 ACTIVE RESPONSE AND EXPENDITURE SUPPORT PROGRAMME (CARES PROGRAMME)
The Government of India and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) signed a $1.5 billion loan to support India’s COVID-19 immediate response.

About:

  • They signed the loan agreement for the ADB’s COVID-19 Active Response and Expenditure Support Programme (CARES Programme).

  • It will be used to implement (i) COVID-19 containment plan to rapidly ramp up test-track-treatment capacity, and (ii) social protection for the poor, vulnerable, women, and disadvantaged groups to protect more than 800 million people over the next three months.

 

Important Info :
  • Established in 1966, Asian Development Bank (ADB) is owned by 68 members—49 from the Asia and the Pacific region. It is Headquartered in Manila, Philippines. 

 

Source : PIB
International

Current Affairs
April 29, 2020

NEW LIST OF NAMES OF TROPICAL CYCLONES OVER NORTH INDIAN OCEAN
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) released a new list of names of tropical cyclones over north Indian Ocean including Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea, comprising of 169 names including 13 from India such as Gati, Tej, Aag, Neer, Vyom, Jhar and Jaladhi among others.

About:

  • The current list has, in fact, 13 names each from all 13 member countries of the Regional specialised meteorological centres (RSMCs) including Bangladesh, Iran, Maldives, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

  • The IMD being one of the six RSMCs in the world to provide tropical cyclone and storm surge advisories finalised the new list of 169 names.

  • Significance: Naming of Tropical Cyclones helps the scientific community, disaster managers, media and general masses to
    • identify each individual cyclone.

    • create awareness of its development.

    • remove confusion in case of simultaneous occurrence of TCs over a region

    • remember a TC easily

    • rapidly and effectively disseminate warnings to much wider audience



  • Once the last name (Amphan) of the previous list is used, the TCs thereafter will be known one-by-one as Nisarga (shared by Bangladesh), Gati (India), Nivar (Iran) in that order from the list of 169 names.

  • The other names from India in the new list include Murasu, Probaho, Prabhanjan, Ghumi, Ambud and Vega. The names of TCs over the north Indian Ocean are not repeated. Once used, it will cease to be used again. 

Source : Times of India
Geography

Current Affairs
April 29, 2020

PETERSBERG CLIMATE DIALOGUE XI
Union Minister for Environment, Prakash Javadekar represented India in the first virtual Petersberg Climate Dialogue.

About:

  • The first virtual Climate Dialogue, was the eleventh session of Petersberg Climate Dialogue.

  • It has been hosted by Germany since 2010 to provide a forum for informal high-level political discussions, focusing both on international climate negotiations and the advancement of climate action.

  • The dialogue saw participation from Ministers and representatives of about 30 countries. 

Source : All India Radio
Environment

Current Affairs
April 29, 2020

TRENDS IN WORLD MILITARY EXPENDITURE, 2019
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a Swedish think tank, released its annual report titled ‘Trends in World Military Expenditure, 2019.’

About:

  • The global military expenditure rose to $1917 billion in 2019, an increase of 3.6% from 2018.

  • In 2019, the top five largest spenders — U.S. ($732 bn), China ($261 billion), India ($71.1 billion), Russia ($65.1 bn) and Saudi Arabia ($61.9 bn) — accounted for 62% of the global expenditure.

  • India and China emerged among the top three spenders. India was at the fourth position in 2018 with Saudi Arabia at the third.

  • The $71.1 billion spent by India on defence in 2019 was 2.4% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). India’s expenditure in 2019 was 6.8% more than that in 2018.

  • India’s military expenditure grew 259% over a 30-year period between 1990 and 2019 and by 37% over the decade of 2010–19. However, its military burden fell from 2.7% of GDP in 2010 to 2.4% in 2019.” 

Source : Times of India
Defence & Security

Current Affairs
April 29, 2020

RAJA RAVI VARMA
April 29 is the birth anniversary of the famed Indian painter Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906), remembered for giving Indians their western, classical representations of Hindu gods and goddesses.

About:

  • Raja Ravi Varma (1848 – 1906) is considered among the greatest painters in the history of Indian art. Varma was patronised by Ayilyam Thirunal, the next Maharaja of Travancore and began formal training thereafter.

  • A prolific artist, Varma is believed to have made around 7,000 paintings before his death at the age of 58. His most famous works include Damayanti Talking to a Swan, Shakuntala Looking for Dushyanta, Nair Lady Adorning Her Hair, and Shantanu and Matsyagandha. 

Key highlights of his work

  • His works are held to be among the best examples of the fusion of European techniques with a purely Indian sensibility.

  • Through his printing press, Varma’s humanised depiction of Hindu pantheon travelled beyond the surfaces of costly canvases, and into the prayer and living rooms of working-class homes.

  • He was notable for making affordable lithographs of his paintings available to the public, which greatly enhanced his reach and influence as a painter and public figure.

  • His depictions of Hindu deities and episodes from the epics and Puranas have received profound acceptance from the public and are found, often as objects of worship, across the length and breadth of India.

Important Info :

Honours

  • In 1904, Viceroy Lord Curzon, on behalf of the British King Emperor, bestowed upon Varma the Kaisar-i-Hind Gold Medal.
  • In 2013, the crater Varma on Mercury was named in his honor.
  • Government of Kerala has instituted an award called Raja Ravi Varma Puraskaram, which is awarded every year to people who show excellence in the field of art and culture. 
Source : Indian Express
Culture

Current Affairs
April 29, 2020

SVAMITVA SCHEME
Union Minister of Rural Development & Panchayati Raj issued guidelines regarding the SVAMITVA scheme, a new initiative of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj.

About:

  • SVAMITVA scheme is a collaborative effort of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, State Panchayati Raj Departments, State Revenue Departments and Survey of India.

  • The program is currently being implemented in six states - Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

  • It aims to provide an integrated property validation solution for rural India, engaging the latest Drone Surveying technology, for demarcating the inhabitant land in rural areas. Under this, mapping of rural housing land can be done using the latest survey methods and drones.

  • This scheme will help in streamlining planning and revenue collection in rural areas and ensuring clarity on property rights. This will also help in resolving property related disputes. The scheme will enable creation of better-quality Gram Panchayat Development Plans (GPDPs), leveraging the maps created under this programme. 

Source : PIB
Polity & Governance

Current Affairs
April 29, 2020

HOMEMADE FACE MASKS
A study on face masks has identified a combination of two fabrics as possibly the best: either cotton plus natural silk, or cotton plus chiffon. If the fit is good, such homemade masks can effectively keep out aerosol particles.

About:

  • An aerosol is a suspension of particles or droplets in the air. The virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly through respiratory droplets, particularly when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) defines two size ranges for droplets through which respiratory infections can be transmitted — 5-10 microns in diameter (respiratory droplets) and less than 5 microns in diameter (droplet nuclei). One micron is a millionth part of a metre.

  • It is respiratory droplets (the larger size range) that are thought to be the primary route of COVID-19 infection. Airborne transmission, which is through droplet nuclei (the smaller size range), was not reported in a large study in China, the WHO notes. 

Source : Indian Express
Health

April 28, 2020

Current Affairs
April 28, 2020

SPECIAL LIQUIDITY FACILITY FOR MUTUAL FUNDS (SLF-MF)
RBI has been decided to open a special liquidity facility for mutual funds of ₹ 50,000 crore to bail out Mutual Funds (MFs) hit by the turmoil in the debt fund segment that led to the closure of six credit risk funds by Franklin Templeton Mutual Fund.

About:

  • Under the SLF-MF, the RBI shall conduct repo operations of 90 days tenor at the fixed repo rate.

  • The SLF-MF is on-tap and open-ended, and banks can submit their bids to avail funding on any day from Monday to Friday (excluding holidays).

  • The scheme is available from April 27, 2020 till May 11, 2020 or up to utilization of the allocated amount, whichever is earlier.

  • Funds availed under the SLF-MF shall be used by banks exclusively for meeting the liquidity requirements of MFs by
    • extending loans, and

    • undertaking outright purchase of and/or repos against the collateral of investment grade corporate bonds, commercial papers (CPs), debentures and certificates of Deposit (CDs) held by MFs.



  • Liquidity support availed under the SLF-MF would be eligible to be classified as held to maturity (HTM) even in excess of 25 % of total investment permitted to be included in the HTM portfolio.

  • Exposures under this facility will not be reckoned under the Large Exposure Framework (LEF). 

Source : Indian Express
Economy

Current Affairs
April 28, 2020

IMMUNITY PASSPORTS
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned against issuing “immunity certificate” or “immunity passport” to people who have recovered from Covid-19, as there is no evidence that they will be protected from a second infection.

About:

  • Under increasing pressure to reopen their economies, parts of Europe and the US have been considering issuing immunity certificates to people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have its antibodies– thus presumed to be immune to the disease.

  • People who are issued these certificates would be allowed to go back to work and move about freely. 

Important Info :

Arguments against:

  • Much remains to be understood about the spread of the virus, as well as immunity to it. There have been reports, including from China and South Korea, of patients who appeared to have recovered from the disease testing positive again.
  • There are also logistical problems, as not enough test kits are still available around the world to be able to issue such certificates on a large scale.
  • Issuing such certificates would create resentment among members of the community, and raise the possibility of stigmatisation.
  • As younger populations are known to be more resilient to the virus, they would be more favoured to get immunity certificates, as opposed to older people, leading to divisions. 
Source : Indian Express
Health

Current Affairs
April 28, 2020

IMMIGRATION BAN (U.S.)
United States President Donald Trump announced that he would be using an executive order to suspend legal immigration into the U.S. for 60 days. The time limit could be extended depending on conditions on the ground.

Reason behind it:

  • The immediate context of his proposal is the teetering U.S. economy, which has ground to a virtual halt in the face of the pandemic.

  • The deeper context to the announcement is the fact that Mr. Trump is seeking re-election in the November 2020 election. Proposals to restrict immigration served Mr. Trump’s campaign well during the 2016 presidential election. 

Important Info :

Implications for visa applicants:

  1. The order is not expected to halt visa processing for many thousands of temporary employees, including a sizeable number of Indian nationals in the H-1B skilled worker category; agricultural workers classified under the H-2A visa; and seasonal workers, who fall into the H-2B category.
  2. The policy will also likely carve out exemptions for certain categories of essential workers, including those in health care.
  3. Exemptions are also being made for those who seek to immigrate via their immediate relatives. This includes spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens applying for green cards, or permanent residency.
  4. Those who have already been granted permanent residence will not be impacted by this executive order.
  5. Those on the EB-5 programme, which requires individuals to invest at least $500,000 in U.S. real estate projects, will be considered.
Source : The Hindu
International

Current Affairs
April 28, 2020

WORLD DAY FOR SAFETY AND HEALTH AT WORK
This year, the World Day for Safety and Health at Work will focus on addressing the outbreak of infectious diseases at work, in particular, on the COVID-19 pandemic.

About:

  • What is it? It is an annual international campaign to promote safe, healthy and decent work.

  • What is safe, healthy and decent work? to ILO, a national occupational safety and health culture is one where –
    • the right to a safe and healthy working environment is respected at all levels,

    • governments, employers and workers actively participate in securing a safe and healthy working environment through a system of defined rights, responsibilities and duties, and

    • where the highest priority is accorded to the principle of prevention.



  • Observed on: 28 April (every year). 28 April is also the International Commemoration Day for Dead and Injured Workers organized worldwide by the trade union movement since 1996.

  • Observed by: The International Labour Organization (ILO). This celebration is an integral part of the Global Strategy on Occupational Safety and Health of the ILO, as documented in the Conclusions of the International Labour Conference in 2003.

  • Observed since: 2003. 

Source : United Nations
Health

Current Affairs
April 28, 2020

USING AIR CONDITIONERS DURING CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK
Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) issued the advisory to its officials to address concerns associated with the spread of the disease via air conditioners and ventilation systems.

About:

  • The guidelines state “Set air conditioners room temperature between 24 degrees Celsius and 30 degrees Celsius and maintain relative humidity between 40 per cent and 70 per cent.

  • The guidelines were formulated by the Indian Society of Heating Refrigerating and Air Conditioner Engineers (ISHRAE) .

  • It quotes a study that found the transmission of Covid-19 in 100 cities in China lower in high temperature and high humidity. It also quotes a study which has shown that the SARS-CoV-2 can live for 14 days on a surface at 4 degrees Celsius, one day at 37 degrees Celsius and will die in 30 minutes at 56 degrees Celsius.

  • Humidity can affect the infectivity — the ease with which infections can take place — of the virus through respiration. In a dry environment, or when there is low humidity, it is easier for foreign particles to invade the body. 

Source : Indian Express
Health

Current Affairs
April 28, 2020

SOUTH CHINA SEA DISPUTE
Recently, China unilaterally renamed 80 islands, reefs and other geographical features around the Spratly and Paracel Islands (in South China Sea) with Chinese names, drawing criticism from neighbouring countries who have also laid claim to the same territory.

Spratly Islands dispute:

  • There has been an ongoing territorial dispute between China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia concerning the ownership of the Spratly Islands archipelago and nearby geographical features like corals reefs, cays etc. in the South China Sea.

  • Although the Spratly Islands are largely uninhabited, there is a possibility that they may have large reserves of untapped natural resources including Oil.

Paracel Islands dispute:

  • The Paracel Islands archipelago is a collection of 130 islands and coral reefs and is located in the South China Sea, almost equidistant from China and Vietnam.

  • Since 2012, China, Taiwan and Vietnam have attempted to reinforce their claims on the territory by engaging in construction of government administrative buildings, tourism, land reclamation initiatives and by establishing and expanding military presence on the archipelago. 

Source : Indian Express
International

Current Affairs
April 28, 2020

EXERCISE ‘PITCH BLACK’
Australia has informed India that its premier multilateral air combat training exercise — Pitch Black 2020— scheduled from July 27 to August 14 has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 situation.

About:

  • The next edition of Pitch Black is scheduled for 2022. In the last edition of Pitch Black in 2018, the Indian Air Force (IAF) for the first time deployed fighter aircraft.

  • The defence and strategic engagement between India and Australia has steadily gone up in recent years especially on the bilateral front with naval cooperation at the forefront.

  • The bilateral naval exercise AUSINDEX early last year saw participation of the largest Australian contingent ever to India with over 1,000 personnel. 

Source : The Hindu
International

Current Affairs
April 28, 2020

DOODH DURONTO SPECIAL TRAINS
The South Central Railways has started ‘Doodh Duronto Special’ trains (milk tankers) for supplying milk from Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh to Delhi.

About:

  • Scheduled to run between Renigunta and Hazrat Nizamuddin to meet the requirements of Delhi, this is the first of the proposed two ‘Doodh Duronto Special’ trains (milk tankers) started.

  • This is in tune with the nod given to the Railways to operate both freight and parcel trains on a continuous basis to ensure transportation of essential items.

  • These trains are run even though passenger train services have been suspended. 

Source : The Hindu
Economy

Current Affairs
April 28, 2020

BASAVESHWARA
Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted the people on the occasion of Basava Jayanthi, the Birth anniversary of Lord Basaveshwara.

About:

  • Basaveshwara, also known as Bhaktibhandari, Basavanna or Basaveswara, was a 12th century philosopher, Kannada poet and a social reformer during the reign of the Kalachuri-dynasty king Bijjala I in Karnataka.

  • He spread social awareness through his poetry, popularly known as Vachanaas. He rejected gender or social discrimination, superstitions and rituals.

  • He introduced new public institutions such as the ‘Anubhava Mantapa’(or, the "hall of spiritual experience"), which welcomed men and women from all socio-economic backgrounds to discuss spiritual and mundane questions of life, in open.

  • He was founder of the Lingayats sect. 

Important Info :

Key works related to him:

  • Basava purana: It is a 13th-century epic poem written by Palkuriki Somanatha in Telugu language. It is a sacred text of Lingayat. The epic poem narrates the life story of philosopher and social reformer Basava.
  • Vachana Sahitya: Basava literary works include the Vachana Sahitya. It was written in Kannada language. 
Source : The Hindu
Culture

Current Affairs
April 28, 2020

ZARINA HASHMI
Artist Zarina Hashmi passed away at the age of 83.

About:

  • Zarina Hashmi (1937 – 2020) was an Indian artist living and working in the USA.

  • Her work spanned drawing, printmaking, and sculpture.

  • Associated with the Minimalist movement, her work utilized abstract and geometric forms in order to invoke a spiritual reaction from the viewer.

  • She is best known for her series of etchings and woodblock prints that express the estrangement of migration, geographical dislocation and exile, captured in works such as Travels with Rani 2008, a dotted diagram of all the towns and train stations she and her family had passed through, forming a mind map of an undivided subcontinent.

  • She made an indelible mark in the international art world as one of South Asia’s leading artists. 

Source : Indian Express
Culture

April 27, 2020

Current Affairs
April 27, 2020

INGESTING/INJECTING DISINFECTANTS
US President Donald Trump backtracked from his remarks about injecting disinfectants into people to protect themselves from the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 and maintained that he made those comments “sarcastically”.

Subsequent developments:

  • Following Trump’s comments, health authorities in New York City reported an unusually high number of New Yorkers who had ingested bleach or other household cleaning agents.

  • Reckitt Benckiser, the British manufacturer of Dettol and Lysol issued a press release “under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route)”. 

How harmful can disinfectants be to the human body?

  • Ingesting or injecting disinfectants and other kinds of household cleaning agents is harmful since these agents can be potentially poisonous and can even lead to death.

  • The label for disinfectant and surface cleaner “Lizol”, for instance, which claims to kill 99.9 per cent germs cautions that the product is meant for “external use only”.

  • 80% of Lizol is made up of benzalkonium chloride solution, which is a chemical with antimicrobial properties acting against pathogens such as bacteria, fungi and viruses.

  • This chemical is primarily a skin irritant and can also behave as a skin allergen. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPC) classifies benzalkonium chlorides (BACs) in toxicity category II by oral and inhalation routes and category III via the dermal route.

Source : Indian Express
Health

Current Affairs
April 27, 2020

ACCESS TO COVID-19 TOOLS (ACT) ACCELERATOR
Led by the World Health Organization, a long list of countries, industry groups, and nongovernmental organizations committed to joining a project called Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator.

About:

  • “Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator” is a Global Collaboration to Accelerate the Development, Production and Equitable Access to New COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.

  • A key goal is to level the global playing field so that any products will be available to rich and poor populations alike.

  • The project, however, is still in the early stages. On May 4, countries and organizations are encouraged to start pledging contributions with an eye toward commitments worth about $8 billion in initial funding. 

Source : Economic Times
Health

Current Affairs
April 27, 2020

CIM-PAUSHAK
Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP), Lucknow, has developed scientifically proven two herbal products, which may boost immunity of the persons to avoid symptom generally associated with the coronavirus infection.

About:

  • CIMAP has decided to transfer the technology of its herbal products ‘CIM-Paushak’ and ‘Herbal Cough Syrup’ to the entrepreneurs and start-up companies.

  • These two products were found to be effective in boosting the immunity of a person.

  • Twelve valuable herbs including Puranva, Ashwagandha, Mulethi, Harad, Baheda and Sataver compounds have been used in both these products. 

Important Info :

• Central Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP), Lucknow is a constituent laboratory of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

Source : The Hindu
Health

Current Affairs
April 27, 2020

RUHDAAR
A Team of engineering students led by a IIT Bombay student have developed a low-cost mechanical ventilator named Ruhdaar using locally available materials.

About:

  • The team will now go for medical testing of the prototype. Once it is approved, it will be taken for mass production. The effort is to make it amenable for production by small scale industry.

  • Ventilators are an important component of the medical infrastructure required for treating coronavirus-infected patients, providing critical breathing support to those falling critically ill.

Source : PIB
Science & Tech

Current Affairs
April 27, 2020

HYDROGEN FUEL BUS AND CAR PROJECT
NTPC Ltd, India's largest power producer and a central PSU under Ministry of Power, has invited Global Expression of Interest (EoI) to provide 10 Hydrogen Fuel Cell (FC) based electric buses and an equal number of Hydrogen Fuel Cell based electric cars in Leh and Delhi.

About:

  • The EoI has been issued by NTPC's wholly owned subsidiary, NTPC Vidyut Vyapar Nigam (NVVN) Limited.

  • The move to procure Hydrogen Fuel Cell based vehicles is first of its kind project in the country, wherein a complete solution from green energy to the fuel cell vehicle would be developed.

  • The initiative, which has been undertaken with support of Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, will also harness renewable energy for generation of hydrogen and develop it's storage and dispensation facilities as part of pilot projects at Leh and Delhi.

  • The move to launch hydrogen powered vehicles aims at decarbonizing mobility segment.

Source : The Hindu
Environment

Current Affairs
April 27, 2020

FLOGGING
Saudi Arabia has abolished flogging as a punishment for crime.

About:

  • This reform was made in order to “bring the kingdom into line with international human rights norms against corporal punishment”.

  • Previously, the courts could order the flogging of convicts found guilty of offences ranging from extramarital sex and breach of the peace to murder.

  • Now, judges will have to choose between fines and/or jail sentences, or non-custodial alternatives like community service. 

Important Info :

Raif Badawi case:

  • The most high-profile instance of flogging in recent years was the case of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi who was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes in 2014 for “insulting” Islam and for setting up a liberal media forum.
  • He was awarded the European parliament’s Sakharov human rights prize the following year. 
Source : Indian Express
International

Current Affairs
April 27, 2020

CENTRAL VIGILANCE COMMISSIONER
Retired bureaucrat Sanjay Kothari was sworn in as the next Central Vigilance Commissioner by President Ram Nath Kovind at an official oath-taking ceremony.

About Central Vigilance Commission (CVC):

  • Background: The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) was set up by the Government in 1964 on the recommendations of the Committee on Prevention of Corruption, headed by K. Santhanam.

  • Status: It is a statutory body governed by the Central Vigilance Commission Act 2003.

  • Mandate: To inquire into offences alleged to have been committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 by certain categories of public servants of the Central Government, corporations established by or under any Central Act, Government Companies, societies and local authorities owned or controlled by Central Government.

  • Composition: The Commission shall consist of a Central Vigilance Commissioner (Chairperson); and not more than two Vigilance Commissioners (Members).

  • Appointment: They are appointed by the President on recommendation of a Committee consisting of the Prime Minister (Chairperson), the Minister of home affairs and the Leader of the Opposition in the House of the People. 

Source : The Hindu
Polity & Governance

Current Affairs
April 27, 2020

ROHTANG PASS
The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) opened the Rohtang Pass, three weeks in advance, for transporting essential supplies and relief materials to the Lahaul and Spiti districts of Himachal Pradesh amid the lockdown.

About:

  • Rohtang Pass is a high mountain pass (at 13,058 feet) on the eastern Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas.

  • It connects the Kullu Valley with the Lahaul and Spiti Valleys of Himachal Pradesh.

  • The pass lies on the watershed between the Chenab and Beas basins. On the southern side of this pass, the Beas River emerges from underground and flows southward and on its northern side, the Chandra River, a source stream of the river Chenab, flows westward.

  • The operation to clear snow is carried out every year as the pass remains snow-bound for almost six months, from mid-November to mid-May. 

Source : The Hindu
Geography

Current Affairs
April 27, 2020

GW190412
For the first time since it started functioning, the gravitational wave observatories at LIGO scientific collaboration have detected a merger of two unequal-mass black holes.

About:

  • The event, dubbed GW190412, was detected nearly a year ago, and this is almost five years after the first ever detection of gravitational wave signals by these powerful detectors.

  • The event involved two black holes of unequal masses coalescing, one of which was some 30 times the mass of the Sun and the other which had a mass nearly 8 times the solar mass.

  • The actual merger took place at a distance of 2.5 billion light years away.

Source : The Hindu
Science & Tech

Current Affairs
April 27, 2020

RAJYA SABHA FUNCTIONING
An analysis by the Rajya Sabha Secretariat has revealed that the Rajya Sabha spends 24% of its time in deliberating and passing laws. Most of its functional time is spent on deliberating issues of public importance.

About:

  • Data from 1978 onwards was analysed. During 1978-2018, the Rajya Sabha held 3,022 sittings and transacted business for 13,946 hours as against the available 18,132 hours. This comes to 76.91% productivity while 23.09% of the available time was lost due to disruptions.

  • Around 40 % of time is spent in deliberating issues of national importance followed by 32 % in asking questions and holding the government accountable.

  • Only 24 % of its functional time is spent on making laws. And an additional 3.5 % is spent on Private members Bills, which have rarely translated into laws though.

  • The time spent on the Government Bills ranged from 10.87% of the time in 2015 to 40.09% in 2002. It has touched a record high of 45.90% during the historic 250th session last year.

  • Deliberative functions like debating electoral reforms or recent discussion on law and order in parts of Delhi take up the largest chunk of time.

  • The oversight function — which is to hold the government accountable by way of asking questions — calling attention motions and so on takes about 32.22% of time with portion of time reserved for the daily question hour.

Source : The Hindu
Polity & Governance
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