UPSC CURRENT AFFAIRS| PRELIMS & MAINS | 17th May 2020

Daily UPSC Current Affairs | 17th May 2020

Dear Aspirants
IASbhai Daily Current Affairs for UPSC PRELIMS & MAINS 2020 is an initiative to dilute major articles from leading Newspapers in India which are most relevant to UPSC preparation –‘THE HINDU, LIVEMINT , INDIAN EXPRESS’ and help millions of readers who find difficulty in answer writing and making notes everyday. Hence we choose articles on daily basis and analyse them with respect to UPSC PRELIMS 2020.

Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny. – C.S. Lewis

HIGHLIGHT INFO:

ORANGE COLOUR: Important for Prelims.

RED COLOUR: Important for Mains.

BLACK COLOUR: Must Read !

BLUE COLOUR : Important Links/Survey.

PINK COLOUR: Reports/Themes/Summits.

Reforms and agriculture

      HEADLINES:

Reforms and agriculture

      WHY IN NEWS:

What are the measures announced by the government to deal with the farm crisis across the country?

SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 3:Agriculture

      ISSUE: 

 

WHAT ARE THE REFORMS ANNOUNCED IN THE FARM SECTOR?

  • The third tranche announced on Friday focused on long-term issues in the agricultural sector, by promising financing to strengthen infrastructure, build better logistics and ramp up storage capacities, as well as proposing three major governance and administrative reforms that have been in the pipeline for many years.
  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s rationale for the third tranche was that improving farmers’ income needed such long-term investments and changes, rather than a focus on short-term crop loans.
  • However, a number of farmers and activists said that in the light of the COVID-19 crisis, immediate support and relief in the form of cash transfers, loan waivers, and compensation for unsold produce should have come before long-term reforms.

HOW WILL THEY CHANGE THE AGRICULTURE SECTOR?

  • Essential Commodities Act, 1955 came into being at a time of food scarcity and famine; last year’s Economic Survey called it an “anachronistic (belonging to a period other than that being portrayed) legislation”.
  • It allows the government to control price rise and inflation by imposing stock limits and movement restrictions on commodities, giving States the power to regulate dealer licensing, confiscate stock and even jail traders who fail to comply with restrictions.
  • Traders have long complained of harassment under the Act on the suspicion of hoarding, black marketing and speculation, while food processors and exporters have also pointed out that they may need to stock commodities for longer periods of time.
  • The Act has disincentivised construction of storage capacity and hindered farm exports.
  • On Friday, the Finance Minister announced that the Act would be amended to deregulate six categories of agricultural foodstuffs: cereals, pulses, edible oils, oilseeds, potato and onion.
  • Stock limits on these commodities will not be imposed except in times of a national calamity or a famine, and will not be imposed at all on food processors or value chain participants, which/who will be allowed to store as much as allowed by their installed capacity.
  • Exporters will also be exempted.
  • It is hoped that the amendment will bring more private investment into warehouses and post-harvest agricultural infrastructure, including processors, mills and cold chain storage.
  • It could help farmers sell their produce at more competitive rates if there is no fear of government intervention to artificially suppress market prices, and is likely to give a boost to farm exports.

WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER PLANNED REFORMS?

  • The Centre plans to bring in a new federal law to break the monopoly of the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis.
  • It has already tried the route of trying to coax State governments into adopting its Model APMC Amendment Act which aims at developing unified State-level markets by offering a State-wide licence and single point levy of market fees while also allowing private markets, direct marketing, ad hoc wholesale buying and e-trading.
  • Centre proposes to bypass States altogether by bringing in a federal law to abolish inter-State trade barriers.
  • These reforms will bring in more options for the farmer, offering more competitive prices if there is a wider choice of buyers.
  • The plan to bring in a legal framework for contract farming also aims to provide more certainty and choice for farmers, although some experts caution that recent drafts of contract farming law promote the interests of the large corporate player at the expense of safeguarding the small farmer.

HOW ARE INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENTS EXPECTED TO HELP?

  • Reforming governance structures is of no use unless there is infrastructure on the ground to enable farmers to take advantage of the wider choices with which they are being provided.
  • A ₹1-lakh crore agriculture infrastructure fund run by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development will help create affordable and financially viable post-harvest management infrastructure at the farm gate and aggregation points.
  • She also offered support to lakhs of small informal food processors, mostly women, who need technical upgradation and marketing support in order to compete in a changing marketplace.

      IASbhai WINDUP: 

The Finance Minister emphasises that her announcements would also bring better infrastructure and logistics support to fish workers, dairy and other livestock farmers, beekeepers and vegetable and medicinal plant growers.

     SOURCES:THE HINDU & PIB/DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS for UPSC CSE Prelims & Mains

WHO backs COVID-19 vaccine trials

      HEADLINES:

WHO backs COVID-19 vaccine trials that deliberately infect participants

      WHY IN NEWS:

The guidelines say it would be ‘substantially faster’ as far fewer participants need to be exposed to candidate vaccines

SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 3:Health:Diseases

      ISSUE: 

Long history: Such studies have helped accelerate the development of vaccines against typhoid and cholera
  • In human challenge studies, healthy participants are first administered the candidate vaccine and then deliberately exposed to novel coronavirus.
  • In conventional clinical trials, healthy participants are administered the candidate vaccine, and the safety and efficacy of the vaccine is assessed through natural infection.

COMPARE AND SELECT

  • The guidelines say that it would be “substantially faster” to carry out vaccine field trials through human challenge studies as far fewer participants need to be exposed to candidate vaccines to “provide (preliminary) estimates of efficacy and safety”.
  • It says this approach will make it possible to compare the efficacy of multiple vaccine candidates and select the most promising vaccines for larger studies.
  • In addition to accelerating vaccine development, human challenge studies can help validate tests for immunity to the virus, identify correlates of immune protection, and investigate the risks of transmission by infected individuals, it says.
  • COVID-19 can kill millions (over 3,00,000 people have already died) and strain the healthcare system worldwide.
  • While physical distancing can help to reduce virus spread, it can disproportionately affect the underprivileged groups.

SUCCESSES AND RISKS

  • While human challenge studies are ethically controversial, such studies have been performed safely in tens of thousands of people in the last 50 years and helped accelerate the development of vaccines against typhoid and cholera.
  • According to the guidelines, challenge studies would be least risky for young healthy adults aged 18-30 years, as the hospitalisation rates in this age group is about 1% and fatal infection rates around 0.03%.
  • But a March 27 study in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found that 20.8% of patients aged 20–44 had severe disease which required hospitalisation, and 4.2% of patients developed critical disease.

  Human challenge studies are to be carried out only in specialised centres where close monitoring and ready access to early supportive treatment for participants, including critical care if required is available.

  • Potential benefits and risks should be assessed, quantified and compared with other feasible study designs.

      IASbhai WINDUP: 

ETHICAL FRAMEWORK

  • “Recognizing the uncertainties, risks from SARS-CoV-2 human challenge studies appear comparable to the risks from some other research and activities similar to research,” .
  • “Given the extraordinary nature of the pandemic, our framework and analysis support laying the groundwork for coronavirus challenge studies.” .
  • Nearly 20,500 people from 102 countries have already volunteered to participate in such studies.
     SOURCES:THE HINDU & PIB/DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS for UPSC CSE Prelims & Mains

Antimicrobial composite material

      HEADLINES:

IISc develops antimicrobial composite material and testing protocols for PPEs

      WHY IN NEWS:

It stops particles over 0.3 micrometres in size with about 95% efficiency

SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 3:Health:Diseases

      ISSUE: 

Three -layered: The middle layer is deposited with anti-viral and anti-bacterial agents.

A team from Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru (IISc) has developed a three-layered antimicrobial composite material of low-cost for making masks.

  • And another team, including members from IISc, is involved in testing masks and developing a way of recycling them.
  • The mask material consists of three layers.
  • The outermost layer is made of polyester fabric with polymeric nanofibre deposited on it to make it water-repellent.
  • The middle layer is also a polyester fabric on both sides of which polymeric nanofibres containing antiviral and antibacterial agents are deposited.
  • This layer inactivates both bacteria and virus when it comes into contact with it.
  • The innermost layer is a comfort layer consisting of cotton fabric.

TESTING ANTI-VIRUS ACTION

  • “The middle layer also has positively charged polymer (polycations) which inactivate the microbes that come in contact with this layer’.
  • Titers of bacteriophage (a virus that kills bacteria) were made, and the mask material was soaked in it for 30-120 minutes.
  • The liquid was then eluted and poured on a bacterial colony where it was incubated for 24 hours.
  • If the virus remained, they would have seen plaques.
  • Instead they observed a flourishing lawn of bacteria.
  • This indicated that the samples did not contain virus.
  • The material is designed to cut off particles of the size of 0.3 micrometres to about 95% efficiency.
  • Testing masks normally looks for the following parameters: particle filtration efficiency, virus and bacterial filtration efficiency, blood penetration, breathing resistance (difficulty in breathing), and how good a fit to the face the mask is.

      IASbhai WINDUP: 

However, they are clear that masks, especially the N95, are meant to be used just once, and reusing them after decontamination is really the last option.

     SOURCES:THE HINDU & PIB/DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS for UPSC CSE Prelims & Mains

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