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Daily Current Affairs IAS | UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 4th MAY 2020

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  • May 4, 2020
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IAS UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam – 4th May 2020

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(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)


India’s Foreign Exchange (Forex) reserves decline 

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Economy 

In News:

  • According to the recent data from the RBI, India’s Foreign Exchange (Forex) reserves have declined by $113 million to $479.45 billion in the week due to a fall in foreign currency assets.
  • The main reason for the decline is attributed to fall in Foreign Currency Assets(FCAs).

Important value additions:

Foreign Exchange Reserves

  • These are assets held on reserve by a central bank in foreign currencies, which can include bonds, treasury bills and other government securities.
  • Most foreign exchange reserves are held in U.S. dollars.
  • These assets are held to ensure that the central bank has backup funds if the national currency rapidly devalues or becomes altogether insolvent.

India’s Forex Reserve 

  • It includes 
    • Foreign Currency Assets(FCA) 
    • Gold reserves
    • Special Drawing Rights
    • Reserve position with the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
  • FCAs: 
    • Assets that are valued based on a currency other than the country’s own currency. 
    • It is the largest component of the forex reserve. 
    • It is expressed in dollar terms.
  • Special drawing rights (SDR)
    • It is an international reserve asset, created by the IMF in 1969 to supplement its member countries’ official reserves.
    • It is neither a currency nor a claim on the IMF. 
    • The value of the SDR is calculated from a weighted basket of major currencies, including the U.S. Dollar, the Euro, Japanese Yen, Chinese Yuan, and British Pound.
  • Reserve position with the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
    • It implies a portion of the required quota of currency each member country must provide to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that can be utilized for its own purposes.
    • It is basically an emergency account that IMF members can access at any time without agreeing to conditions or paying a service fee.

Confederation of Indian Industry argues for calibrated exit from the lockdown

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Economy 

In News:

  • The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has highlighted the following in its strategy paper recently:
    • The country’s high performing economic districts should be allowed to function by different rules in the 3rd phase of the lockdown.
    • 100-150 districts with the highest economic value should be allowed to restart industrial activity by implementing strict rules. 
    • These districts are to be identified either through GDP contribution or density of industrial clusters. 
    • Cost of 100% testing and aggressive health protocols is lower than continued shutdown in these areas.
    • Calculated exit from the lockdown in the most crucial economic regions
    • Within these districts, small restricted areas where COVID-19 cases have been identified should be treated as containment zones
    • An area of about 500 metres radius around these areas should be treated as orange zones. 
    • The remaining area of the district should be classified as green zones. 
    • Workers would have to be housed on the premises or within walking distance. 

Important value additions:

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) 

  • It is a non-government, not-for-profit, industry-led and industry-managed organization in India.
  • It works to create and sustain an environment conducive to the development of India, partnering industry, Government, and civil society, through advisory and consultative processes.

World Health Organization (WHO) cautious of using BCG vaccine for COVID-19

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II – Health  

In News:

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) highlighted a few critical issues over the use of BCG vaccine for COVID-19 recently.
  • They emphasized the importance of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of the vaccine to understand its safety and efficacy before using it on healthcare workers.

Key takeaways:

  • Randomised controlled trials using BCG vaccine are under way in the Netherlands and Australia to find out whether the vaccine can reduce the incidence and severity of COVID-19 among healthcare workers.
  • The reasons as to why countries should wait for the results of the BCG vaccine RCTs are:
    • The association of fewer COVID-19 cases in countries that have a universal BCG vaccination programme is based on population rather than individual data. 
    • The beneficial effects of the BCG vaccine given at birth are “unlikely” to reduce the severity of COVID-19 decades later. 
    • It is already known that the virus induces cytokine storm in some patients, leading to further complications — and even death.
    • BCG vaccination is likely to give a false sense of security to people, especially during the pandemic, especially if it is not effective against the novel coronavirus. 
    • Using the vaccine without evidence of its benefits could further decrease vaccine supply to protect children against TB in high-risk countries.

Important value additions:

Randomised controlled trials

  • These are quantitative, comparative, controlled experiments in which investigators study two or more interventions in a series of individuals who receive them in random order
  • The RCT is one of the simplest and most powerful tools in clinical research.

BCG vaccine

  • Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccine is used against tuberculosis (TB).
  • In countries where tuberculosis or leprosy is common, one dose is recommended in healthy babies at the time of birth

Cytokine storm syndrome (CSS) 

  • It is a form of systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) that can be triggered by a variety of factors such as infections and certain drugs.
  • It occurs when large numbers of white blood cells are activated and release inflammatory cytokines, which in turn activate yet more white blood cells. 

Non-Aligned Movement (NAM): Indian PM to attend the Virtual Summit

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II – International Groupings 

In News:

  • Indian Prime Minister will participate in the Virtual Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit through Video Conferencing on May 4, 2020. 
  • The summit will discuss the enhanced coordination of the member states in their fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Important value additions:

The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) 

  • It is a forum of 120 developing nations of the world that are not formally aligned with or against any power bloc.
  • NAM represents the biggest grouping of countries outside the United Nations comprising countries from Asia, Africa and Latin America.
  • Drawing on the principles agreed at the Bandung Conference in 1955, the NAM was established in 1961 in Belgrade, SR Serbia, through an initiative of the Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser and the Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito.

Miscellaneous 

The World Press Freedom Index 2020

  • In the latest survey of Reporters Without Borders, India dropped two places on the global press freedom index ranking to 142nd place in the list of 180 countries.
  • India’s neighbours — Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka — are ranked higher in the list.
  • Norway is ranked first in the Index for the fourth time consecutively. 
  • China at 177, is just three places above North Korea, which is at 180.

eCovSens

  • A portable biosensor that can be used to detect the presence of novel coronavirus antigens in human saliva within 30 seconds using just 20 microlitres of the sample. 
  • It is developed by Researchers from the National Institute of Animal Biotechnology (NIAB), Hyderabad. 

The Bay of Bengal Boundary Layer Experiment (BoBBLE)

  • A team from Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru and UK based University of East Anglia have created a blueprint for accurate prediction of monsoon, tropical cyclones and other weather related forecasts.

(MAINS FOCUS)


GOVERNANCE/ HEALTH 

Topic: General Studies 2 & 3:

  • Government policies and interventions for development in Health sectors 
  • Indian Economy and challenges with regard to resource mobilization

India’s disease surveillance system needs a reboot

Context: COVID-19 data in India show the following trends:

  • 75.3% of deaths have been concentrated in the age group of 60 years and above
  • In 83% of deaths, the deceased were battling pre-existing identified health conditions.

What does the above data indicate?

  • India appears to have the advantage of a relatively young population when compared to western countries. However, this is negated by the poor health infrastructure
  • It also indicates that Corona disease is lethal for those with compromised immunity brought on by age, existing respiratory infections, or essentially, malnutrition
  • In technical medical terms, it is a situation of comorbidity, whereby it is difficult to differentiate between dying of COVID-19, or, dying with COVID-19.
  • Therefore, it becomes imperative that we do not ignore the existing diseases & illness.

How has COVID-19 impacting the healthcare of existing illness?

  • The poor who are battling various diseases now have little access to major public hospitals in the wake of the lockdown.
  • Various hospital departments that cater to elderly sick patients are turning away many in the bid to streamline “critical” cases.
  • This leads to aggravations of poor health conditions already affecting large sections of people

Critical Analysis of India’s disease surveillance system

Many of the adverse medical conditions prevalent among the vast majority of our country are not even identified due to the lax disease surveillance system

Some of the reasons for the failure of disease surveillance are:

  • Accessibility: Significant number of the infected (poor and marginalised people) do not have access to health-care facilities and so fail to report their condition to certified medical practitioners
  • Inadequate Testing: Even when an infected person has access to such facilities, their clinical case does not always culminate in the required testing (blood/serum, throat swab, sputum, stool, urine).
  • Pervasive non-identification of a definitive Cause: Even if there is a testing, there is a tendency for laboratories to categorise diseases on the basis of the pre-existing classificatory system, which results in failure to identify the definitive cause for an illness
  • Undifferentiated Illness leading to undeclared silent epidemics
    • Due to poor laboratory analysis, many ailments are simply clubbed together and referred to by generic names such as Respiratory Tract Infection (RTI), Urinary Tract Infection, Acute Undifferentiated Fever, Fever of Unknown Origin (FUO) etc.
    • These are known to affect lakhs of people every year worldwide. For Ex: RTI kills over 900 people in India every day
  • Inadequate R&D
    • Even if the definitive cause of an illness is identified, it does not necessarily gain the focused attention of scientific research.
    • The mainstream scientific research has a biased approach that is driven by the profits of private pharmaceutical companies and is a fallout of lack of governmental support to general healthcare
  • Inadequate Implementation/Political Will
    • Even when the identity of a contagious disease and its treatment are well known it does not mean that the disease’s prevalence will generate the necessary reaction. TB is a suitable example
    • One person in every 10 seconds contracts TB, and up to 1,400 people in India die every day of the disease.

Way Ahead

  • It becomes imperative to identify the comparative fatality rates of many of the silent epidemics, which in their own right require urgent attention.
  • Public health infrastructure needs be improved and missions targeting ordinary diseases like TB needs to be implemented with full vigour.

Connecting the dots:

  • India’s Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP)
  • India’s Revised National TB Control Program (RNTCP)

INTERNATIONAL/ GOVERNANCE

Topic: General Studies 2:

  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India
  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors 
  • Indian Economy and challenges with regard to resource mobilization

India can take the lead in reshaping global order

Context: At a time when the UNSC, G20, G7 and the EU were not active, India stood out with its initiatives to develop a joint response Ex. SAARC fund to tackle COVID-19

The rapid spread of coronavirus around the world has created fresh opportunities for creating a new global compact. India can offer its leadership in this endeavour.

How can India reshape the world?

  1. Indian can help build Multilateral Cooperation
    • India enjoys good relations with multiple powers and is well-regarded across the world. 
    • India can share ideas and resources to develop an international mechanism for monitoring, verification, early warning and cooperation among countries, including in vaccine development
  2. Indian can make efforts to strengthen the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
    • In light of COVID-19, there is a need for greater scrutiny of wet(animal) markets in China, south-east Asia, and many other countries around the world.
    • There is also a need to eradicate animal farms that breed and trade exotic species.
    • Such wet markets and breeding centres increases the potential for zoonotic transmission of unknown, deadly viruses and hence a need for greater monitoring.
    • Efforts need to be made to pass and enforce legislation to control the domestic consumption of wild animals, which also contributes to environmental conservation
  3. Promotion of Yoga
    • The ancient Indian practice of yoga is known to boost immunity levels through the cultivation of a healthy mind and body.
    • This is the time to further reinforce the worldwide practice of yoga
  4. Potential to emerge as pharmacy to the world
    • India’s readiness to ship the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine to fight COVID-19 is in consonance with the ethos of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam
    • India’s strength in generic medicines can be leveraged to establish it as Pharmacy of the world
    • This provides an opportunity to promote ayurveda, which complements yoga.
  5. India can strengthen Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) of 1975
    • It is a disarmament treaty that does not prohibit the retention and use of biological agents, including coronaviruses, for preventive purposes which encompass medical research for diagnosis and immunisation
    • It has no verification protocol to deal with any suspected use of biological agents. 
    • Indeed, the UNSC can investigate complaints in this regard, but the veto power enjoyed by the permanent members, including China, renders it powerless
    • In the BWC Conference in 2021, India could engage in consultations with other middle powers to evolve a regime that can provide better oversight.
  6. India must push for multi-stakeholder model of internet governance
    • Post COVID-19, there will be even greater reliance on artificial intelligence (AI), surveillance technologies, online platforms and big data. 
    • Hence, there is a need for better governance models

Conclusion

Despite hardships, India can, and must, take the lead in bringing the world together to practice a new multilateralism that places the common interests of humanity above narrow national interests.

Connecting the dots:

  • Impact on COVID-19 on G-7 and G-20
  • Will there be a change in India’s foreign policy in post-COVID world?

(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)


Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)

Note: 

  • Correct answers of today’s questions will be provided in next day’s DNA section. Kindly refer to it and update your answers. 
  • Comments Up-voted by IASbaba are also the “correct answers”.

Q.1 BCG vaccine is used against which of the following disease? 

  1. Tuberculosis
  2. Typhoid 
  3. Malaria 
  4. Smallpox

Q.2 Consider the following statements regarding The World Press Freedom Index 2020 report:

  1. Norway is ranked first in the global press freedom.
  2. India has dropped down to 142nd place.

Which of the above is/are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Q.3 The value of the SDR is not calculated from a weighted basket of which of the following currency?

  1. U.S. Dollar 
  2. Euro 
  3. Yen
  4. None of the above 

Q.4 Which of the following is one of the founding members of Non Aligned Movement?

  1. India
  2. USA
  3. Russia
  4. Japan

ANSWERS FOR 2nd May 2020 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)

1 A
2 D
3 A
4 D
5 C
6 A

Must Read

About impact of pandemic in South Asia:

The Hindu

About migrant workers’ crisis:

The Hindu

About Capitalism in post- COVID world:

The Indian Express

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