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Press Information Bureau (PIB) IAS UPSC – 29th March to 5th April – 2020

  • IASbaba
  • April 6, 2020
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IASbaba's Press Information Bureau, UPSC Articles
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Press Information Bureau (PIB) IAS UPSC – 29th March to 5th April, 2020

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COVID-19

A. Cargo Air Flights will be used exclusively for transporting medical equipment and emergency goods to North Eastern State

B. Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Package: Insurance Scheme for Health Workers Fighting COVID-19

  • It will provide an insurance cover of Rs. 50 lakh for ninety (90) days to a total of around 22.12 lakh public healthcare providers, including community health workers, who may have to be in direct contact and care of COVID-19 patients and who may be at risk of being impacted by this. It will also include accidental loss of life on account of contracting COVID-19;
  • On account of the unprecedented situation, private hospital staff/ retired/volunteer/ local urban bodies/contract/daily wage/ ad-hoc/outsourced staff requisitioned by States/ Central hospitals/autonomous hospitals of Central/States/UTs, AIIMS & INIs/ hospitals of Central Ministries can also be drafted for COVID-19 related responsibilities. These cases will also be covered subject to numbers indicated by Ministry of Health & Family Welfare;
  • The insurance provided under this scheme would be over and above any other insurance cover being availed of by the beneficiary.

C. Launch of ‘Corona Studies Series’ 

  • Realising the extraordinary psychological, social, economic and cultural significance of Corona Pandemic for the human society in times to come, National Book Trust, India, the national body for book publishing and book promotion under the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, is launching a publishing series titled ‘Corona Studies Series’ to document and to provide relevant reading materials for all age-groups for the post-Corona readership needs.
  • The ‘Corona Studies Series’seeks to be a long-term contribution to prepare and engage readers with the various aspects of the Corona times by bringing out affordable books in various Indian languages in the identified subject areas. It will also provide suitable platform to authors and researchers willing to contribute in this genre

D. Center directs States to ensure no movement of People across cities

There has been movement of migrant workers in some parts of the country. Directions were issued that district and state borders should be effectively sealed. 

States have been directed to-

  • Ensure there is no movement of people across cities or on highways. Only movement of goods should be allowed. 
  • DMs and SPs should be made personally responsible for implementation of these directions which have been issued under the DM Act.
  • Adequate arrangements for food and shelter of poor and needy people including migrant laborers be made at the place of their work. Centre issued orders for use of SDRF funds for this purpose. Sufficient funds are available with States in this head.
  • Ensure timely payment of wages to labourers at their place of work during the period of lockdown without any cut. House Rent should not be demanded from the labourers for this period. Action should be taken against those who are asking labourers or students to vacate the premises.
  • Those who have violated the lockdown and traveled during the period of lockdown will be subject to minimum 14 days of quarantine in government quarantine facilities. Detailed instructions on monitoring of such persons during quarantine have been issued to States.

E. Union Labour Ministry notifies amendment in EPF Scheme: The notification permits withdrawal of up to the amount of basic wages and dearness allowance for three months or up to 75% of the amount standing to member’s credit in the EPF account, whichever is less, in the event of outbreak of epidemic or pandemic.

F. Indian Railways to run Special Parcel Trains for carriage of essential items in small parcel sizes during the complete lockdown in fight against COVID-19

  • Ministry of Home Affairs has already removed the restrictions on movement of  goods and commodities in the country during the lock down period. 
  • Provision of Parcel trains and  rapid transportation of goods will further bolster the efficiency of supply chains. The decision to run Special Parcel Trains will help in movement of small quantities as well of essential items viz. Dairy Products, Medical Equipments and Medicines, Groceries, Edible oil and other necessary items etc.

G. Govt. gives benefits to farmers on crop loan repayments:

  • Due to restrictions imposed on movement of people, many farmers are not able to travel to bank branches for payment of their short term crop loan dues. Moreover, due to restrictions on movement of people and difficulty in timely sale and receipt of payment of their produce, farmers may be facing difficulties in repayment of their short term crop loans falling due during this period.
  • Extends benefit of 2% Interest Subvention (IS) to Banks and 3% Prompt Repayment Incentive (PRI) to all farmers upto 31st May, 2020 for all crop loans upto Rs.3 lakh given by banks due between 1st March and 31st May
  • Government is providing concessional crop loans to farmers through banks with 2% p.a. interest subvention to banks and 3% additional benefit on timely repayment to farmers thus providing loans upto Rs.3 lakh at 4% p.a. interest on timely repayment.

H. Technology by Pune based Startup incubatee of Scitech Park to disinfect Maharashtra hospitals in Covid 19 fight

  • The negative ion generator titled Scitech Airon helps to control the virus, bacteria, and fungal infections in a closed environment
  • It can clean up the air and disinfect areas exposed to the infection through Covid 19 positive cases and suspects
  • It could ensure wellbeing of the staff, doctors, and nurses working in the quarantine facilities by enhancing their disease resistance power and ability to fight the virus
  • DST has released Rs 1 crore to manufacture and scale up the product; 1,000 of them will soon be ready for installation in various hospitals in Maharashtra

I. Ayurveda’s immunity boosting measures for self-care during COVID 19 crisis

Ayurveda, being the science of life, propagates the gifts of nature in maintaining healthy and happy living. Ayurveda’s extensive knowledge base on preventive care derives from the concepts of “Dinacharya” – daily regimes and “Ritucharya” – seasonal regimes to maintain healthy life. It is a plant-based science. The simplicity of awareness about oneself and the harmony each individual can achieve by uplifting and maintaining his or her immunity is emphasized across Ayurveda’s classical scriptures.

Ministry of AYUSH recommends the following self-care guidelines for preventive health measures and boosting immunity with special reference to respiratory health. These are supported by Ayurvedic literature and scientific publications.

 General Measures

  1. Drink warm water throughout the day.
  2. Daily practice of Yogasana, Pranayama and meditation for at least 30 minutes as advised by Ministry of AYUSH (#YOGAatHome #StayHome #StaySafe)
  3. Spices like Haldi (Turmeric), Jeera (Cumin), Dhaniya (Coriander) and Lahsun (Garlic) are recommended in cooking.

 Ayurvedic Immunity Promoting Measures

  1. Take Chyavanprash 10gm (1tsf) in the morning. Diabetics should take sugar free Chyavanprash.
  2. Drink herbal tea / decoction (Kadha) made from Tulsi (Basil), Dalchini (Cinnamon), Kalimirch (Black pepper), Shunthi (Dry Ginger) and Munakka (Raisin) – once or twice a day. Add jaggery (natural sugar) and / or fresh lemon juice to your taste, if needed.
  3. Golden Milk- Half tea spoon Haldi (turmeric) powder in 150 ml hot milk – once or twice a day.

 Simple Ayurvedic Procedures

  1. Nasal application – Apply sesame oil / coconut oil or Ghee in both the nostrils (PratimarshNasya) in morning and evening.
  2. Oil pulling therapy- Take 1 table spoon sesame or coconut oil in mouth. Do not drink, Swish in the mouth for 2 to 3 minutes and spit it off followed by warm water rinse. This can be done once or twice a day.

  During dry cough / sore throat

  1. Steam inhalation with fresh Pudina (Mint) leaves or Ajwain (Caraway seeds) can be practiced once in a day.
  2. Lavang (Clove) powder mixed with natural sugar / honey can be taken 2-3 times a day in case of cough or throat irritation.
  3. These measures generally treat normal dry cough and sore throat. However, it is best to consult doctors if these symptoms persist.

J. The Invest India Business Immunity Platform

  • Hosted on the website of Invest India, India’s National Investment Promotion & Facilitation Agency, under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry is working 24X7 as a comprehensive resource to help businesses and investors get real-time updates on India’s active response to COVID-19 (Coronavirus).
  • The Business Immunity Platform (BIP) is the active platform for business issue redressal, with a team of dedicated sector experts who respond to queries at the earliest. Invest India has also announced a partnership with SIDBI (Small Industries Development Bank of India) for responding and resolving queries for MSMEs.
  • This dynamic and constantly updating platform keeps a regular track on developments with respect to the virus, provides latest information on various central and state government initiatives, gives access to special provisions, and answers and resolves queries through emails and on WhatsApp. So far, it has received 845 business support queries, out of which 614 have already been resolved. The queries were mostly on Logistics, notifications, Customs issues, plant shutdowns and clarifications.

K. Foreign Trade Policy 2015-2020 extended for one year: The present Policy which came into force on 1st April, 2015, is for 5 years and has validity upto 31st March, 2020. In view of the unprecedented current situation arising out of the pandemic Novel COVID-19, the Govt. has decided to continue relief under various export promotion schemes by granting extension of the existing Foreign Trade Policy by another one year i.e. up to 31st March, 2021.

L. Government committed to identify, isolate and quarantine COVID-19 positive Tabligh Jamaat (TJ) workers in India post their congregation in Nizamuddin, Delhi

  • COVID-19 positive cases among these workers have surfaced in Telangana.
  • The swift action was taken with a view to identify, isolate and quarantine TJ workers who might be COVID-19 positive. Instructions were also issued by MHA to Chief Secretaries and DGsP of all States as well as CP, Delhi. The advisories were reiterated by the DIB to all State DGsP on March 28 and 29.
  • Meanwhile, TJ workers staying in the Markaz in Nizamuddin, Delhi, were also persuaded for medical screening by State authorities and Police. By March 29, nearly 162 TJ workers were medically screened and shifted to quarantine facilities

Background

Tabligh Jamaat Headquarter (Markaz) is located in Nizamuddin, Delhi. Devout Muslims from across the country and also from foreign countries visit the Markaz for religious purpose. Some also move out in groups to different parts of the country for Tabligh activities. This is a continuous process throughout the year.

On March 21 , approximately 824 foreign Tabligh Jamaat workers were in different parts of the country for missionary work. Besides, around 216 foreign national were staying in the Markaz. In addition, over 1500 Indian TJ workers were also staying in the Markaz while around 2100 Indian TJ workers were touring different parts of the country for missionary work. Since March 23, lockdown has been strictly imposed by State authorities/PoIice across Delhi including in and around Nizamuddin and Tabligh work came to a halt.

M. Govt hikes MG-NREGS wages in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, average increase of Rs.20: The average national increase is Rs 20. Focus of Mahatma Gandhi NREGS may be on individual beneficiary-oriented works which directly benefit SC, ST and women headed households as well as small & marginal farmers and other poor households. However, close consultation and guidance of the State as well as district authorities would be necessary to ensure that lock down conditions are not violated and norms of social distancing are scrupulously followed.

N. Ministry of Tourism launches ‘Stranded in India’ portal to help foreign tourists stuck in various parts of India

  1. Comprehensive information around COVID-19 helpline numbers or call-centres that the foreign tourists can reach out to for help.
  2. A variety of information around Ministry of External Affairs control centers along with their contact information.
  3. Information around state-based/regional tourism support infrastructure.
  4. Help Support section to extend help to the ones in need of further information and connect foreign tourists to concerned authorities.

O. J&K sets up Price Monitoring & Resource Unit (PMRU) by National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA)

  • PMRUs have already been set up by NPPA in 11 States, including, Kerala, Odisha, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Nagaland, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Mizoram.
  • The PMRU, a registered society, shall function under the direct control and supervision of State Drug Controller of Jammu & Kashmir.  The unit shall be funded by NPPA for its recurring and non-recurring expenses. The PMRU shall help NPPA and State Drug Controller in ensuring availability and accessibility of medicines at affordable prices. It is also expected to organise seminars, training programs and other information, education and communication (IEC) activities in the areas of availability and affordability of medicines for all.  
  • PMRU will also collect samples of medicines, collect and analyse data and make reports with respect to availability and over-pricing of medicines for taking action under the provisions of Drug Price Control Order (DPCO). This assumes added significance as PMRU, J&K will assist NPPA and Governments in checking overpricing and identifying causes & addressing local issues of shortages/hoarding in the current situation when country is fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

P. CBSE directs its affiliated schools to promote all students of classes I-VIII to the next class/grade: Board students studying in classes IX & XI will be promoted to next class/grade based on the school-based assessments including projects, periodic tests, term exams, etc. conducted so far.

Q. Coating developed by Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR) may prevent transmission of infection

  • Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), an autonomous institution under the Department of Science and Technology, has developed a one-step curable anti-microbial coating which, when coated on different surfaces such as textile, plastic and so on could kill a range of virus types including COVID 19.
  • This covalent coating, the research paper about which has been accepted in the journal Applied Material and Interfaces, has been found to completely kill influenza virus as well as resistant pathogenic bacteria and fungi, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and fluconazole-resistant C. albicans spp.
  • The recent outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 has created an unprecedented stir in the global public health. Corona virus, like influenza, is also an enveloped virus. Therefore it is anticipated that the coating may inactivate SARS-CoV-2 upon contact and can help prevent contamination if coated on various surfaces.
  • Considering the current corona virus outbreak, if shown to be active, the molecule can be synthesized in large scale through a CRO (Contract Research Organization) and can be coated on various personal protective tools such as masks, gloves, gowns, etc. in collaboration with the private organizations. The molecules can also be coated on other medical devices and tools to avoid hospital-acquired or nosocomial infections.

R. RBI Allowed Banks to Declare Moratorium on Term Loans

Reserve Bank of India has allowed Banks to declare a three-month moratorium on all term loans outstanding as on March 1, 2020, as well as on working capital facilities.

  • Objective: To mitigate the burden of debt servicing brought about by disruptions on account of COVID-19 pandemic and to ensure the continuity of viable businesses. It was felt that there may be a temporary disruption in the cash flows, and in some cases loss of income, for the businesses/ individuals and the present measures work to bring relief to those businesses / individuals.
  • Rescheduling of principal can be done for a period of three months falling due between March 1, 2020 and May 31, 2020. For example, where the last installment of a term loan falls due for payment of on say 1st March 2020, it will become payable on 1st June 2020.
  • For EMI based term loans, it will be three EMIs falling due between 1st March 2020 and May 31st, 2020 and the tenor will be extended by three months and have to be repaid during the extended period, as per the example under (2) above.
  • For other term loans, it will be all the installments and Interest falling due during the same period, irrespective of the tenor of payment i.e. monthly, quarterly, half yearly, annually, bullet payment etc. For term loans, where the repayment has not commenced, the interest portion for three months alone needs to be reckoned.
  • The recovery of Interest applied to cash credit/overdraft on 31st March, 30th April and 31st May 2020 is being ‘deferred’. However, the entire interest must be recovered along with the interest being applied on 30th June 2020 and in cases, where monthly interest is not being applied, along with the next interest date.
  • The calculation: You may take the benefits under this package if there is a disruption in your cash flows or there is loss of income. However, you must take into account that the interest on the loans, though not mandatorily payable immediately and gets postponed by 3 months, continues to accrue on your account and results in higher cost.
    • To give you a perspective, suppose your loan outstanding is Rs 100,000 and you are charged 12 percent rate of interest on your loans, then every month you are liable to pay Rs. 1,000 as interest. In case you opt not to service the interest every month, you are liable to pay interest at 12 percent p.a. and accordingly you will pay Rs. 3,030.10 at the end of 3rd month.
    • Similarly, in case the interest rate is 10 percent, you are required to pay Rs. 833 p.m. or Rs. 2,521 after three months.
  • Credit card payments: The relief is available for credit card payments also.

S. Launch of “Negotiable Warehouse Receipt (e-NWRs) module in National Agriculture Market (e-NAM) software

  1. Warehouse (Registered with WDRA) trading module with payment feature is launched today to enable small & marginal famers to directly trade their stored produce from selected WDRA registered warehouses which are declared deemed market by the State.
  2. Farmers will be able to place their produce in WDRA accredited warehouses.
  3. Already States of Telangana (14 warehouses) & Andhra Pradesh (23 warehouses) declared designated warehouses in the State as deemed market.

Benefits of eNWRs integration with e-NAM

  1. Depositor can save the Logistics expenses and will have better income.
  2. Farmers can sell the produce across the Nation  to get better Price and at the same time  can save himself from hassle of mandi
  3. Farmers will be able to place their produce in WDRA accredited warehouses avail the benefit of pledge loan if required.
  4.  Price stabilization by matching supply and demand through time and place utility.

Launch of Logistic Module: Presently, e-NAM provides a database of individual transporters to the traders. However, as a quantum response to logistic need by traders, provision has been made for linking large logistic aggregator platforms, which will provide choices to users. Traders would be able to use the link to navigate to the logistics provider’s website and select appropriate services. With these additions, more than 3,75,000/- number of trucks from large logistic providers would be added for logistic purpose.

  1. This will help in seamless transportation of agri produce.
  2. This will promote inter-State trade under e-NAM by providing online transport facilities for distant buyers.

T. DRDO develops bio suit with seam sealing glue to keep health professionals fighting COVID-19 safe

  • The suit has been prepared with the help of the industry and subjected to rigorous testing for textile parameters as well as protection against synthetic blood. The protection against synthetic blood exceeds the criteria defined for body suits by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW).
  • The industry is geared up for production of the suit in large quantities.
  • The DRDO has prepared a special sealant as an alternative to seam sealing tape based on the sealant used in submarine applications. Presently, bio suits prepared using this glue for seam sealing by an industry partner has cleared test at Southern India Textile Research Association (SITRA) Coimbatore. This can be a game changer for the textile industry. The DRDO can mass produce this glue through industry to support the seam sealing activity by suit manufacturers.

U. COVID-19 Fact Check Unit Comes into Operation: It has been decided to constitute a COVID-19 Fact Check Unit (FCU) in the Press Information Bureau (PIB) under the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting. The unit has become operational from today. It will receive messages by email at pibfactcheck@gmail.com to send response in a defined time-frame. The official version of any news on COVID-19 can be obtained from the Unit.

V. Steps being taken by the Department of Agriculture Cooperation and Farmers’ Welfare for smooth harvesting of Rabi Crop and sowing of summer crop

  • Video conference was conducted with all States and Insurance companies to review the payment of claims, status of Conduct of CCEs for Rabi 2019-20 crops, crop loss survey and implementation of Smart Sampling Technique.
  • For facilitating farm insurance, letters issued to all States to issue passes to representatives of concerned Insurance companies for co-witnessing Crop Cutting Experiments and to relax the norms for conducting field level survey for intimation received for Post-Harvest crop losses due to unseasonal rainfall and hailstorm.
  • Phytosanitary certification for export consignments and Import releases of plant and plant products are continuing. From the date of lockdown i. e. 24.03.2020 to 02.04.2020, a total of 3776 PSCs have been issued for export consignments and 1074 import consignments have been released.
  • For providing support to horticulture crops necessary coordination is being done with growers, aggregators, wholesalers, mandi associations, State Horticulture Missions, for smooth transport of the commodities and to sort out all difficulties.
  • In lockdown period, Kisan Call Centres at all 21 locations are being operated by diverting calls to individual mobile numbers of Farm Tele Advisors, who are now operating from homes. All 454 KCC seats are being operated daily between 6 AM to 10 PM. Call flow is about 15,000 to 20,000 per day.
  • Shops of Agricultural machinery, its spare parts (including its supply chain) & repairs and shops for truck repairs on highways, preferably at fuel pumps, can remain open in order to facilitate transportation of farm produce. 
  • Besides, tea industry, including plantations can function with maximum of 50% workers.

W. DRDO develops equipment for effective sanitisation of public spaces

Portable Backpack Area Sanitisation Equipment

The CFEES, Delhi with the help of its industry partner has developed portable sanitisation equipment for spraying decontamination solution consisting of one per cent Hypochlorite (HYPO) solution for sanitisation of suspected area.

The portable system can be mounted as a backpack and can be carried by the operations personnel. This system incorporates low pressure twin fluid (air & disinfectant liquid) technology to generate very fine mist. The system is capable of disinfecting upto 300 square metre area. The application areas can include hospital reception, doctor chambers, office spaces dealing with general public, corridors, pathways, metro and railway stations, bus stations, etc.

Trolley Mounted Large Area Sanitisation Equipment

The Centre with the help of its industry partner has also developed a higher capacity which is carried on a trolley. The system incorporates low pressure single fluid (disinfectant liquid) technology generating very fine mist. It is capable of disinfecting upto 3,000 square metre area.

It has a tank capacity of 50 litres and has a lancing (throw) distance of 12-15 metres. This is useful for disinfecting hospitals, malls, airports, metro stations, isolation areas, quarantine centres and high risk residential areas. 

Two of these systems are being provided to Delhi Police for immediate use. These can be made available to other agencies with the help of industry partners.

X. Southern Naval Command Designs Training Capsule for Non-Medical Personnel

  • The COVID core working group of Southern Naval Command has prepared a Training Capsule for Battle Field Nursing Assistant (BFNA) to train non-medical personnel who will work as force multipliers in times of emergencies.
  • Basic concepts of Hand Hygiene, donning and doffing of PPE, concept of Biomedical waste management and carriage of casualty have been covered simply for the non-medical personnel.

Y. AarogyaSetu: A multi-dimensional bridge

The Government of India today launched a mobile app developed in public-private partnership to bring the people of India together in a resolute fight against COVID-19.
The App, called ‘AarogyaSetu’ joins Digital India for the health and well-being of every Indian. 

  • It will enable people to assess themselves the risk for their catching the Corona Virus infection. 
  • It will calculate this based on their interaction with others, using cutting edge Bluetooth technology, algorithms and artificial intelligence.
  • Once installed in a smart phone through an easy and user-friendly process, the app detects other devices with AarogyaSetu installed that come in the proximity of that phone. The app can then calculate the risk of infection based on sophisticated parameters if any of these contacts is testedpositive.
  • The App will help the Government take necessary timely steps for assessing risk of spread of COVID-19 infection, and ensuring isolation where required.
  • The App’s design ensures privacy-first. The personal data collected by the App is encrypted using state-of-the-art technology and stays secure on the phone till it is needed for facilitating medical intervention.
  • Available in 11 languages, the App is ready for pan-India use from day-1 and has highly scalable architecture.

Z. Manual on Homemade Protective Cover for Face and Mouth: Read here

What do we know and what do we need to know about Novel Coronavirus?

Infection: The virus infects the epithelial cells in the throat and lungs. SARS-CoV-2 binds to the ACE2 receptors on human cells, which are often found mostly in throats and lungs. Virus on your skin, lacking ACE2 expression, will be harmless. The virus enters through the by nasal passage, eyes and mouth. Our hands are the main instruments that take the virus to reach our mouth, nose and eyes. Washing hands with soap water for 20 seconds as often as possible helps prevent the infection.

Infectious dosage: A dose of 700000 PFU was needed to infect a Macaque.  PFU (Plaque forming unit) is a unit of measurement of sample infectivity. Although the animal did not show any clinical symptoms, the droplets from the nose and the saliva had a viral load. Humans will need a higher dosage than 700000 PFU to get infected. An animal study on the genetically modified mice with ACE2 receptors showed that it could be infected with SARS with just 240 PFU. In comparison, it required 70,000 PFU of novel coronavirus to get infected.

Infectious period: Length of time an individual can transmit the infection to others is not known precisely, but possibly up to 10-14 days. Artificially reducing the contagious period is a crucial method of reducing overall transmission. Hospitalisation, isolation, lockdown and quarantine are all effective methods.

Who can infect: Anyone infected with the virus can infect even before the symptoms appear. Most carriers do not even show signs. Covering our mouth and nose when we cough or sneeze will help reduce the infection. The virus is present in the saliva, sputum and faeces of the infected person for the whole infectious period.

How we infect: Transmission is mostly via droplets. This requires relatively close contact, less than 6 feet. This is why it is recommended that we stay 1.5 metres away from each other in public places such as the vegetable market or supermarket. A study done in Hong Kong shows that social distancing can reduce the spread by 44%.  Inanimate vector of disease, in particular phones, doorknobs, surfaces are a potential source for transmission, but not much is known about it. It is safe sanitise out hands after touching doorknobs, lift call buttons and counters in public places.

How many we infect:  The average number of new infections caused by a typical infectious person, that is human transmissibility range (R0) is between 2.2 to 3.1. In simple word, one infected individual on the average infects about 2.2 to 3.1 persons.  By physical distancing, we can artificially reduce the actual transmissibility, thus slow the rate of infection.

Where did the virus come from: It is not from eating bat soup. Once you boil, the virus is decimated. Initially, it was speculated that the SARS-CoV-2 virus jumped from bat to humans. But recent genomes study show first it must have leapt from bat to an intermediary species before it latched on to humans. Another study indicates that a lineage of SARS-CoV-2 virus was circulating in humans before the disease outbreak.

How it evolved: SARS-CoV-2 has emerged either by natural selection of virulent strain in a non-human animal host before zoonotic transfer to humans or natural selection of virulent strain in humans following a zoonotic transmission. Only more studies will show which of the two is right. We still are not clear what are the mutations in SARS-CoV-2 that allowed human infection and transmission.

When did  SARS-CoV2 emerge:  While here have been no documented cases of SARS-CoV2 before December 2019. However, preliminary genomic analyses suggest that the first human cases of SARS-CoV-2 appeared between mid-October and mid-December 2019. This means there was a period of unrecognised transmission in humans between the primary zoonotic event and the outbreak.

Can it infect animals: The molecular modelling suggests that SARS-CoV-2 can affect besides human, bat, civet, monkey and swine cells. Does not infect domestic animals or livestock. Consuming eggs or poultry will not result in SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Can one be infected twice: Once we get measles, most of us acquire life long immunity. We hardly get measles again. Experimentally infected macaques were not capable of being reinfected. Likewise, there is no evidence of reinfection with SARS-CoV-2 after recovery in humans. However, how long the immunity will last is unknown.

How severe is the illness: COVID-19 is not a death sentence. The majority of COVID-19 cases are mild (81%), About 15% need hospitalisation and 5% require critical care. That is the vast majority of the infected will not even need hospitalisation.

Who are the most vulnerable: Healthcare workers are most susceptible. About 20% of healthcare workers in Lombardy, Italy becoming infected while providing medical care to patients. Among the general public, aged, in particular above 60 years of age and people with prior cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, and respiratory conditions have a higher risk.

What is the cause of the death: Most of the deaths is caused by respiratory failure or respiratory failure combined with heart damage. Leakage of fluid into the lungs, which inhibits respiration and leads to morbidity, is the primary clinical condition. At present, the treatment for COVID-19 is primarily supportive care, including ventilation if necessary. Several therapeutic trials are ongoing, and the results are awaited.

Are the virus transmitted by milk sachets, or newspapers: SARS-CoV-2 can persist on plastic and stainless steel surfaces for up to 3 days. When the viral load was 10000 PFU, it lasted on newspaper and cotton cloth only for 5 minutes. Washing the milk sachets is adequate to remove the virus.

Will it spread through the air: In the air, the virus can survive only up to 2.7 hours. Therefore being in open spaces such as a balcony, the terrace is no harm.

Is there a less virulent strain: While many strains are being identified, studies so far have not indicated any mutations that are linked to any changes in transmission or disease severity

Will, the onset of summer or rainy season, gives respite: No strong evidence exists showing a reduction in transmission with the seasonal increase in temperature and humidity.  

Mahavir Jayanti

The festival is considered to be the most important one for Jains and marks the birth anniversary of Lord Mahavir.

Lord Mahavir was one of the most charismatic and influential spiritual leaders to have walked the earth. His messages of nonviolence, truth, honesty, selflessness and sacrifice are timeless and full of universal compassion. He preached the gospel of universal love and emphasized that all living beings, including plants and animals, are equal and deserved to be treated with love and respect.

We must draw inspiration from Lord Mahavir’s life, his practice of austerity, his stress on the need to adopt a positive attitude towards life and his messages of love, tolerance and peace, especially now, when humanity is facing a formidable health crisis of the spread of COVID-19.

  • Lord Mahavira was born at Kundagrama, Vaishali in present day Bihar. Siddartha and Trishala are parents of Mahavira
  • Mahavira was associated with Makari Gosala Putta for 6 years, but later departed due to serious philosophical differences. 
  • Then Mahavira joined Nigrantha sect, while Makari Gosala Putta started Ajivika religion.
  • After Mahavira, Jainism came under the control of 11 disciples of Mahavira, namely Ganadharas
  • Associated symbol: Lion

The three principles of Jainism, also known as Triratnas (threegems), are:

  • Right faith
  • Right knowledge
  • Right conduct

The Four Noble Truths of Buddha are:

  1. The world is full of suffering.
  2. The cause of suffering is desire.
  3. If desires are get rid off, suffering can be removed.
  4. This can be done by following the Eightfold Path –
    1. right view
    2. right resolve
    3. right speech
    4. right conduct
    5. right livelihood
    6. right effort
    7. right mindfulness
    8. right concentration

Note:

  • According to Mahavira, a person is born in a high or in a lower varna in consequence of the sins or the virtues acquired by him in the previous birth.
  • The Hathigumpha Inscription proves that Jainism entered Orissa and probably became the state religion within 100 years of death of Mahavira.
  • The teachings of the Parshvanatha are collectively known as Chaturyama. It is the the “four-fold teaching” of the Parshvanath.

Additionally –  What is Tirtha?

  • A Tirtha is a religious pilgrim place. 
  • Most tirths in India of any religion are based upon the banks of Rivers.
  • The idea of a Tirtha is to cross the river of human miseries.
  • A Tirthankara is a founder of a Tirtha. He achieves the enlightenment and then shows the path to others. 
  • A Tirthankara achieves Moksha or liberation at the end of his human life.

Qn: Mahamastakabhisheka, a great religious event, is associated with and done for whom of the following?

  1. Mahavira
  2. Buddha
  3. Nataraja
  4. Bahubali

The Mahamastakabhisheka, refers to the abhiṣheka of the Jain images when held on a large scale. The most famous of such consecrations is the anointment of the Bahubali Gommateshwara Statue located at Shravanabelagola in Karnataka, India. It is an important Jain festival held once in every 12 years.

Qn: Consider the following statements:

  1. Jainism predates Buddhism, while Buddha was older than Mahavira.
  2. Right faith, Right knowledge and Right Conduct are the ‘Triratnas’ (three gems) of Jainism.
  3. To remove all sufferings Mahavira gave an eight fold path to be followed.

Which of the above statements are correct?

a) 2 only

b) 1 and 2

c) 2 and 3

d) All of the above

Ans: b – Mahavir is considered to be 24th and the last Tirthankar.

Qn: Consider the following statements with regarding to the spread of Jainism: 

  1. Mahavira spread his teaching through Sagha that consisted of women and Men. 
  2. First Jain Council was convened at Patliputra presided by Bhadrabahu who was the leader of Digambar 
  3. Second Jain Council was held at Valabhi under the chairmainship of Devardhi. 

Which of the above given statements are correct? 

a) 1 and 2 Only 

b) 2 and 3 Only 

c) 1 and 3 Only 

d) All of the above 

Solution (c)Spread of Jainism

  • Through Sangha, Mahavira spread his teaching that consists of women & Men in the organized sangha. 
  • Under the patronage of Chandragupta Maurya, Kharaveli of Kalinga and the royal dynasties of south India such as the Gangas, the Kadambas, the Chalukyas and the Rashtrkutas.
  • There are two sect of Jainism- Svetambar (White Clad) and Digambar (Sky clad or Naked).
  • First Jain Council was convened at Patliputra presided by Sthaulabhadra who was the leader of Shwetambar during 3rd century BC. It resulted in the compilation of 12 Angas replacing the lost 14 Purvas.
  • Second Council – Second Jain Council was held at Vallabhi under the chairmainship of Devardhi in 521 A.D.

Connecting the dots: 

  1. Critically analyze the contributions of Mahavira to the religion and philosophy of India. 
  2. Buddha and Mahavira were dissenters first and philosophers next.

Babu Jagjivan Ram

Babu Jagjivan Ram, who was affectionately known as Babuji, was born on the 5th of April, 1908. He was much more than a politician where he dedicated his life fighting for the freedom of the country and bringing the voices of the oppressed communities of the country. 

Crusader of Social Justice

  • Being a Dalit leader himself, his contributions as a social reformer were immense apart from his other influences. 
  • He was a member of the First Cabinet of Jawaharlal Nehru’s interim Government where he was the youngest Minister and a member of the Constituent Assembly of India. 
  • Babu Jagivan Ram was among the few who gave a very strong emphasis on the importance of the principles of social justice that was cherished in the Indian Constitution. 
  • Babu Jagjivan Ram as a crusader of social justice was instrumental in the establishment of the All Indian Depressed Classes League in the year 1935. This organization primarily sought to provide welfare and equality for the untouchables in the caste ridden societies. 

He is also well known for the mass organization of movements that were dedicated for the welfare of the rural labour after he became a member of the Legislative Assembly of Bihar in the year 1937. 

Babu Jagjivan Ram went on to be a prominent member of the Indian National Congress where he worked whole heartedly for the party for over forty years in a wide range of port folios after which he also became the Deputy Prime Minister of India from 1977 to 1979.

He was the Defence Minister of India during the Indo-Pak war of 1971, which resulted in the creation of Bangladesh

His contribution to the Green Revolution in India and modernising Indian agriculture, during his two tenures as Union Agriculture Minister are still remembered, especially during 1974 drought when he was asked to hold the additional portfolio to tide over the food crisis.

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