1)Consider the following statements regarding coral bleaching
- It occurs when coral polyps expel zooxanthellae that live inside their tissues.
- Increase in sea surface temperature is the only cause for coral bleaching.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
a. 1 only
b. 2 only
c. Both 1 and 2
d. Neither 1 nor 2
Answer : a
2)Biplab Kumar Sarma Committee sometimes seen in the news recently is associated with which of the following?
a. Assam Accord
b. Naga Peace Process
c. Instrument of Accession
d. Naxal insurgency
Answer : a
The Government has notified a high-level committee that is expected to look into the implementation of a clause of Assam Accord that seeks to provide safeguards to preserve and promote social, cultural and linguistic identity of Assamese people.
The committee, headed by retired Gauhati High Court judge Biplab Kumar Sarma, will also make recommendations on reservation for Assamese people in the Assembly, and other local bodies.
3)The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2019 report was published recently by which of the following organisations?
a. International Food Policy Research Institute
b. UN Food and Agriculture Organization
c. World Health Organisation
d. None of the above
Answer : b
The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2019 report, released by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), estimated that 820 million people worldwide did not have enough to eat in 2018, up from 811 million in the previous year.
At the same time, the number of overweight individuals and obesity continue to increase in all regions.
1)2 Indian High Commission staff abducted, released by Pakistan:-
The daily harassment had become serious, and India had sent a note verbale last Friday to ensure its officials are treated according to the
Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961, and the Code of Conduct of 1992 that ensures safety of Indian and Pakistani diplomats during hostile exchanges.
News:- ‘India, China nuclear arsenals grow’
All nations that have nuclear weapons continue to modernise their nuclear arsenals, while India and China increased their nuclear warheads in the last one year, according to a latest report by Swedish think tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
ABOUT SIPRI :- Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) is an international institute based in Sweden, dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament. Established in 1966, SIPRI provides data, analysis and recommendations, based on open sources, to policymakers, researchers, media and the interested public. SIPRI is based in Stockholm.
Further Issues:- “The deadlock over the New START and the collapse
of the 1987 Soviet–U.S. Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate Range
and Shorter Range Missiles (INF Treaty) in 2019 suggest that the era of bilateral nuclear arms control agreements between Russia and the U.S.
might be coming to an end,”
The New START Treaty is a treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on measures for the further reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms.
It entered into force on 5th February, 2011.
It is a successor to the START framework of 1991 (at the end of the Cold War) that limited both sides to 1,600 strategic delivery vehicles and 6,000 warheads.
It continues the bipartisan process of verifiably reducing U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals by limiting both sides to 700 strategic launchers and 1,550 operational warheads. It will lapse in February 2021 unless extended for a five-year period.
Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty:- INF Treaty is another treaty that was signed during the Cold War.
It was a nuclear arms-control accord reached by the United States and the Soviet Union in 1987 in which the two nations agreed to eliminate their stocks of intermediate-range and shorter-range (or “medium-range”) land-based missiles (which could carry nuclear warheads).
The United States withdrew from the Treaty on 2nd August 2019.
News: China has accorded the pangolin the highest level of protection and removed the scales of the Pangolin from its list of approved traditional medicines.
- Pangolin: They are scaly anteater mammals of the order Pholidota.They have large, protective keratin scales covering their skin and they are the only known mammals with this feature.
- Habitat: Out of the eight species of pangolin, the Indian Pangolin and the Chinese Pangolin are found in India:
- Indian Pangolin: It is widely distributed in India, except the arid region, high Himalayas and the North-East.The species is also found in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
- Chinese Pangolin: It is found in Himalayan foothills in Eastern Nepal, Bhutan, Northern India, North-East Bangladesh, through Southern China and Taiwan.
- IUCN Conservation Status:
- Indian pangolin – Endangered
- Chinese pangolin – Critically Endangered
- Threats: a) Huntedfor its meat across the northeastern States and in central India.and b) Smuggled for scales especially in China as it is believed that scales possess magic or charms and have medicinal properties.
News:- ICMR recommends use of faster COVID-19 testing kit
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has recommended the use of Standard Q COVID19 Ag antigen detection test in containment zones and healthcare settings in combination with the RT-PCR test.
“A positive test in antigen, result of which is available in 30 minutes, should be considered as a true positive one and does not need reconfirmation by RT-PCR test.
The kit, validated by the ICMR and the All India Institute of Medical AIIMS),
was different from the Rapid Antibody Test kit.
“Sample is nasopharyngeal swabs in this test, while blood is collected in the antibody test. The kits will allow faster diagnosis.
The Standard Q COVID19 Ag detection kit is a rapid chromatographic immunoassay for qualitative detection of specific antigens to SARSCoV2.
News:- ‘Why suspend sex test rules?’:-The Supreme Court on Monday
asked the government to explain its decision to suspend crucial rules of a parliamentary law against prenatal sex determination and sex selection till June end, amid the COVID19 national lockdown.
Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994 is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to stop female foeticides and arrest the declining sex ratio in India. The act banned prenatal sex determination.
Every genetic counselling centre, genetic laboratory or genetic clinic engaged in counselling or conducting pre-natal diagnostics techniques, like in vitro fertilisation (IVF) with the potential of sex selection (Preimplantation genetic diagnosis) before and after conception comes under preview of the PCPNDT Act and are banned.
By suspending the Rules, the government has diluted the PCPNDT Act, the petition said. “This will result in misuse of technology by unscrupulous
individuals who will no longer be deterred by the monitoring mechanism provided in the Rules,”.
News:- IAEA begins meet over Iran’s n-programme:-The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is an international organization that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons. The IAEA was established as an autonomous organisation on 29 July 1957. Though established independently of the United Nations through its own international treaty, the IAEA Statute, the IAEA reports to both the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council.
The IAEA is generally described as having three main missions:
Peaceful uses: Promoting the peaceful uses of nuclear energy by its member states,
Safeguards: Implementing safeguards to verify that nuclear energy is not used for military purposes, and
Nuclear safety: Promoting high standards for nuclear safety.
News:- Trade Deficit: Export – Import ( When Import > Export )
News:- Hima Das nominated for Khel Ratna:- India’s top sprinter Hima
Das, who had a stellar 2018, has been nominated for the prestigious Rajiv
Gandhi Khel Ratna by the Assam government.
Hima is the first track athlete to win a global title, at the U-20 World
Championship in Finland in 2018.
EDITORIALS OF THE DAY :-
Need to build trust: India-Pakistan relations
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS 2-India and its neighbourhood- relations
Context: There has been increased shelling and retaliation along the Line of Control.
Worsening relations between India and Pakistan:
- Increased ceasefire violation: Ceasefire with Pakistan along the Line of Control is not working.
- Three soldiers have died due to shelling in the Poonch sector in the recent past.
- In May,therewere small arms firing across the Pir Panjal range (which fronts the Kashmir Valley)
- Problems regarding staff posted in missions:
- Both are unable to adhere to reciprocal protocols regarding staff: The two personnel from the Indian mission are missing from Islamabad.
- India expelled two Pakistan High Commission officials on charges of espionage.
These disruption along with the dilution of Article 370 and the COVID-19 lockdown should be addressed with urgency.
Need of the hour by India:
- Safety of civilians: The government needs to build bomb shelters for civilians until normalcy returns.
- Ensuring safety of diplomatic personnel: India must take steps to ensure its diplomatic personnel are spared from such harassment.
- Serious engagement with Pakistan: To ensure safety of staffs, working in Pakistan.
- Temporarily maintaining essential missions: India need to reduce its number of personnel in such missions as there are travel curbs and less face to face requirement.
India needs to re-engage with Pakistan and end the ceasefire violations along the border.
Significance of West Asia for India
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS 2-Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
Context: Analysing the importance of the West Asia/Gulf region for India and its foreign policy.
Importance of West Asia:
- Indian Diaspora: An estimated figure of close to nine million Indians work in West Asia.
- It sendback more than 56% of India’s annual infusion of $80 billion in remittances.
- The UAE alone is responsible for $19 billion in remittances, being the third largest trade partner of India after the United States and China.
- Energy Security:
- India gets around 60% of its hydrocarbon from West Asia.
- On an annualisedbasis, India saves up to $1.35 billion for each $1 drop in oil prices.
- The softening oil prices have helped cushion the impact of the national lockdown on the balance of payments.
- India has also taken advantage of the low prices to build up its strategic reserves.
The COVID-19 has caused stress to all economies of the world including West Asia and India.
Effect of COVID-19 on India-West Asia:
- Repatriation of Indians:India had repatriated a large number of its citizens under Vande Bharat Mission, a majority of whom are expected to be from the West Asia region.
- Crash of Oil prices:
- It was triggered by expectations of oversupply following a dispute on output caps between Saudi Arabia and Russia.
- It was further worsened by the crash in demand due to COVID-19 which will carry massive costs to the West Asian economies and to foreign workers employed there.
- According to a 2019 U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council report, the UAE’s hospitality sector itself contributes 4.6% of the country’s GDP, making nearly 600,000 jobs that are mostly fulfilled by foreign workers. Some reports suggest that up to 30% of these jobs could be lost.
- Reverse migration of Indian blue-collar workers:
- Reason: The infrastructure development projects in oil-rich States are stalled due to COVID-19.
- India will share the brunt in terms of loss of trade revenue and remittances.
- The return of semi-skilled and skilled workers into an economy may become a point of worry as India is already suffering from huge unemployment.
- Shrunk in investments of West Asia:
- The major sovereign wealth funds and other financial institutions in West Asia have been hit hard by COVID-19.
- Example of Saudi Arabia: The COVID-19 has affected its major projects such as the $500 billion mega-city of Neom planned on the coast of the Red Sea.
India has taken some steps to reduce effects of such problems.
Steps by India to improve economy:
- Positive message to West Asian investors: India is well-placed to attract a significant amount of capital from West Asia such as reports of investment by UAE’s Mubadala and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).
- Mitigating Reverse migration:The government has launched the Skilled Workers Arrival Database for Employment Support (SWADES) to capture the skills profile of returning workers and house them in a central portal that can be accessed by Indian and foreign companies.
- Attracting long term capital: The government has set up an empowered group headed by Cabinet Secretary to take necessary steps to attract FDI into India.
- Example: The $50 billion mega-refinery project in Maharashtra. Saudi Aramco and the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company have committed to investing $25 billion in the project. There is a need for Fast-track resolution of endless litigation that has been bothering the sale of a major stake of Mumbai airport by GVK to a consortium that includes the UAE sovereign fund and Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA).
A strong and positive message by New Delhi is crucial to the region’s investors for addressing the distress caused by the COVID-19.
India –China relations – Non-Alignment is the key
Source – The Hindu
Syllabus – GS 2 – Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
Context – Recently Chinese soldiers have moved into Indian territory across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) which demands analysis of this situation from all perspectives.
India-China border is divided into three sectors– The middle sector is the least disputed sector, while the western sector witnesses the highest transgressions between the two sides.
Line of Actual control
- LAC is only a concept– The border is not fully demarcated, and the LAC is neither clarified nor confirmed by the two countries. This has led to different perceptions of the LAC for the two sides, and soldiers from either side try to patrol the area up to their perception of the LAC.
- Chinese assertiveness– A higher number of transgressions in Ladakh and Sikkim in May,2020 indicates that the Chinese soldiers are coming to the Indian side more often now, and their movements are being observed and recorded by the Indian soldiers which is escalating the situation on border.
Reasons for large scale movement by China in Ladakh and Naku la of Sikkim :
- Infrastructure building by India– China is responding to India’s efforts to bolster border infrastructure in Ladakh after the completion of the Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie (DSDBO) road (near the confluence of Shyok and Galwan rivers).
- Pre-emptive step– Chinese army is physically changing the ground position and preventing our troops from undertaking regular patrolling in the area.
- Diverting attention from Internal dynamics– The political pressure from all the countries regarding China’s effort to contain COVID has led to disturbance in internal politics as well. The Hong Kong protests have also questioned the central authority.
- Discouraging Investment in India– Due to disruption in supply-chain amid the COVID pandemic and the flight of MNC’s from China has increased possibility of these companies to settle in India. Such border disruptions usually discourage the investors as there will be lack of stability and peace in country.
- India’s alignment with USA – A few instances could be highlighted to confirm the perception that India tends to side with the U.S. and against China whenever there is a conflict of interest between the two.
- India is today a member of the Quad (the U.S., Japan, Australia and India) which has a definite anti-China connotation.
- S. President Donald Trump’s latest step of redesigning the G-7, including countries such as India (India has conveyed its acceptance), but excluding China, provides China yet another instance of India and China being in opposite camps.
- India- China relationship– Following instances prove that relations between the two countries have been steadily deteriorating.
- India is against China’s Belt Road Initiative (BRI). India also loses no opportunity to declaim against the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). China further views India’s assertions regarding Gilgit-Baltistan, as an implicit attack on the CPEC, China’s flagship programme.
- Amid COVID crises, India was one of the earliest countries to put curbs and restrictions on the Chinese foreign direct investment.
Implications of the transgressions
- Updationin the Standard Operating Procedure – The established SOPs and drills have not worked this time and new drills will be required as the situation on the ground has changed.
- Unreasonable concessions by India– Due to increased Chinese pressure, India might resolve the border issue by going soft on China in international institutions like World Health Assembly.
- Wider confrontation or possibility of war– Faced with the disaster of the Great Leap Forward in 1960’s, and increasing isolation globally, Mao in 1962 chose to strike at India rather than confront Russia or the West. History can repeat itself in 2020 also.
Way Forward –India has consistently followed a different policy in the past, and it is advisable that it remains truly non-aligned and not become part of any coalition that would not be in India’s long-term interest.
On ICMR antibody test study
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS-3- Science and Technology
Context: The results of a serological test conducted across 69 districts by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) have indicated that the confirmed numbers of COVID-19 infections reported from the RT-PCR tests are likely an undercount. 0.73% of the population, examined for antibodies produced specifically for SARS-CoV-2 via an ELISA test, had evidence of past exposure to the virus.
Different types of Tests used for Covid-19 diagnosis
There are mainly two types of tests being used for Covid-19 diagnosis
- Genetic test/Molecular Test:This test is done using the conventional real-time Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. It is a method of testing by taking a nasal/throat swab from a patient. It involves extracting ribonucleic acid or RNA, which is the genetic material of the virus. If it shares the same genetic sequence as SARS-CoV-2 virus, then it is deemed positive.
- Serological Test/Antibody Testing:It is a blood/serum/plasma test to detect the presence of antibodies against a microorganism. In the case of Covid-19 these antibodies are usually IgM (the first antibody that the body makes) and IgG antibodies. These antibodies when detected in the strip give a colored response. The symptomatic individual then can be confirmed using the molecular test.
ELISA Test: ELISA stands for enzyme-linked immunoassay. It is a commonly used laboratory test to detect antibodies in the blood.
It is a procedure where individual specimens (e.g., urine or blood) are combined into a common pool.
- If the pooled test turns out to be positive, individual samples are tested. If there’s no positive result, all individual samples in the pool are regarded as negative.
- This type of testing helps to reduce the cost of screening many individuals for infectious diseases and can help in tracing asymptomatic cases of the disease, thereby tracking community transmission.
Comparison between Serological Test and Genetic Test:
- Serological tests help detect and trace past infections while genetic tests can only identify infections that are active.
- Serological tests are relatively cheaper than genetic tests and are portable, administered on-site and provides quick answers.
- Serological or antibody tests are not as accurate as the PCR tests.
India’s Response to Covid-19 Pandemic
Testing strategy: India has been testing
- All symptomatic contacts of laboratory-confirmed cases.
- All asymptomatic individuals who have undertaken international travel in the last 14 days.
- All hospitalized patients with Severe Acute Respiratory Illness
Issues with testing strategy: Testing has been uneven across the states. Some States such as Maharashtra and Gujarat have tested at a higher rate (tests per million population) than many others but have not increased the overall testing to account for the relative rise in the size of the outbreak. In some states like Telangana and West Bengal, testing has been low.
Lockdown: Starting from 24th March, a series of 4 lockdowns were announced (till June) to restrict the movement and prevent the gathering of people. The announced lockdowns, and suspension of public transport, closure of public places and offices were aimed at reducing the growth rate of the virus, and help ‘flatten the (transmission) curve’.
Issues with lockdown: In the short-term, the lockdown strategy slowed down the rise in Covid cases. However, it had a detrimental effect on the economy. Further, its uneven implementation in urban areas where physical distancing is a difficult, made it unsuitable for continuation.
Conclusion: The ICMR antibody test study has highlighted the need for more testing, and better contact tracing. More testing will give a clearer the picture is on who is infected and thus who needs to be isolated, and thus help contain the Covid-19 outbreak.