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Current Affairs 16 December 2020 for UPSC Exam


  1. U.S. imposes CAATSA sanctions on Turkey
  2. Black Fungus or Mucormycosis
  3. Database of migrant workers
  4. Kerala’s ‘pink phenomenon’


Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology

Why in news?

  • The U.S. has imposed sanctions on NATO-ally Turkey for its purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile defence system.
  • The issue of Sanctions under Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) for purchase of Russian arms is of particular interest to New Delhi, which is also in the process of buying the S-400 from Moscow.


  • These SSB sanctions comprise of a ban on granting specific U.S. export licenses and authorisations for any goods or technology, a ban on loans or credits by U.S. financial institutions totaling more than $10 million in any 12-month period, a ban on U.S. Export-Import Bank assistance for exports and mandated U.S. opposition to loans by international financial organisations to SSB.
  • In 2019, the U.S. had removed Turkey from its F-35 jet program over concerns that sensitive information could be accessed by Russia if Turkey used Russian systems along with U.S. jets.
  • The administration has now had to face a $740 million National Defense Authorization Bill (NDAA) 2021 from the U.S. Congress, which mandates sanctions against Turkey within 30 days of the bill’s passage (December 11).

Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, CAATSA

  • The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, CAATSA is a United States federal law that imposed sanctions on Iran, North Korea, and Russia.
  • The Act empowers the US President to impose at least five of the 12 listed sanctions on persons engaged in a “significant transaction” with Russian defence and intelligence sectors.
  • The State Department has notified 39 Russian entities including almost all major Russian defence manufacturing and export companies/entities.

India and CAATSA

  • In 2018, India inked an agreement worth more than 5 billion $ with Russia to procure four S-400 Triumph surface-to-air missile defence system, the most powerful missile defence system in the world ignoring the CAATSA act. The U.S. threatened India with sanctions over India’s decision to buy the S-400 missile defense system from Russia.
  • Two oil companies ordered crude oil from Iran for November ignoring CAATSA. The United States threatened India with sanctions over India’s decision to buy oil from Iran.

Other Irritants in India-US Relationship

  • The US wants India to move away from Russian equipment and platforms, as it feels this may expose its technology and information to Moscow. 
  • India is wary of Pakistan’s deep-rooted ties with Pentagon, and Washington’s dependence on Rawalpindi for access to Afghanistan as well as its exit strategy.
  • Trade ties: Trade ties are also a source of tensions. India has been a huge beneficiary of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program of USA, which has been ended recently by the Trump administration.

-Source: The Hindu


Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology

Why in news?

More than 12 cases of Covid-19 triggered Mucormycosis fungus have been observed by Doctors.


  • Black Fungus or Mucormycosis, previously called zygomycosis, is a serious but rare fungal infection caused by a group of molds called mucormycetes which exist in the environment. ‘
  • The disease is often characterized by hyphae growing in and around blood vessels and can be potentially life-threatening in diabetic or severely immunocompromised individuals.
  • Mucormycosis mainly affects people who have health problems or take medicines that lower the body’s ability to fight germs and sickness.
  • Mucormycosis causes loss of eyesight, removal of the nose and jaw bone, and 50 per cent mortality in cases where it affects the brain — within 15 days.
  • The symptoms in general are face numbness, one-side nose obstructions or swelling of eyes, or pain – affected skin may appear relatively normal during the earliest stages of infection, however, this skin quickly becomes reddened and may be swollen before eventually turning black due to tissue death.
  • Other forms of mucormycosis may involve the lungs, skin, or be widespread throughout the body; symptoms may also include difficulty breathing, and persistent cough.


  • Mucormycetes, the group of fungi that cause mucormycosis, are present throughout the environment, particularly in soil and in association with decaying organic matter, such as leaves, compost piles, and animal dung.
  • Several different types of fungi can cause mucormycosis and belong to the scientific order Mucorales.
  • The most common types that cause mucormycosis are Rhizopus species and Mucor species.
  • They are more common in soil than in air, and in summer and fall than in winter or spring.
  • These fungi are not harmful to most people but for people who have weakened immune systems, breathing in micromycetes spores can cause an infection.

-Source: Indian Express


Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology


  • The Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act, 1979, required all establishments who hired inter-state migrants to be registered, as well as all contractors who recruited these workers to be licensed.
  • Migrant labourers, abandoned by employers and the state, undertaking an arduous journey home, in many cases walking hundreds of kilometres on the highways, became the defining image of the national lockdown during the pandemic.
  • Recognizing the lack of data and issue with implementation of the act, the government has now decided to create a database of migrant workers.

Lack of records

  • Proper implementation of Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act, 1979, would have ensured that information on inter-state migrants would have been readily available to aid the state machinery in its relief efforts.
  • However, no such detailed records were maintained, and information on the number of migrants, and their whereabouts, was unavailable to both central and state governments.

Migrant Workers

  • Migrant workers, who constitute about 50% of the urban population and many of whom are engaged in what are called “3D jobs” (dirty, dangerous and demeaning) are likely to face job and livelihood crisis owing to COVID-19 pandemic, according to findings of a research.
  • Migration is a global phenomenon caused not only by economic factors but many other factors like social, political, cultural, environmental, health, education as well.
  • When migrants flee from the city, they not only lose their livelihood but possibly carry the infections to their native places, noted the study.
  • India is likely to face job crisis because of COVID-19. Migrant workers and workers in the informal sector are likely to be badly hit.
  • A large number of migrant workers and workers in the informal sector just have been surviving on subsistence wages.
  • The Current lockdown may also affect hugely their food and nutritional intake, access to healthcare and education of children.
  • Following lack of their inclusion in urban society, workers were grossly denied access to social security schemes, healthcare and other entitlements.
  • Many schemes meant for the poor do not reach them due to lack of identity and residential proofs.

Plan for the Database

  • The plan aims to get data from existing databases of government schemes such as MGNREGA, and the one nation-one ration card to create a unique registration of migrant workers.
  • Details of those working in unorganised sectors not covered by such schemes, are likely to be added separately.
  • Aadhaar platform would be used to address the problem of duplicity and ghost cards.

Steps taken by the government for Migrant Labours

Atma Nirbhar Skilled Employee Employer Mapping (ASEEM)

  • The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) has launched ‘Atma Nirbhar Skilled Employee Employer Mapping (ASEEM)’ portal to help skilled people find sustainable livelihood opportunities.
  • ‘Atma Nirbhar Skilled Employee Employer Mapping (ASEEM)’ portal is an Artificial Intelligence (AI) based platform to help in recruiting a skilled workforce that spurs business competitiveness and economic growth.
  • ASEEM is developed and managed by National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) in collaboration with the Bangalore based company
  • ASEEM will refer to all the trends, data, and analytics describing the workforce market and map demand of skilled workforce to supply.
  • Through ASEEM, agencies, employers, and job aggregators who are looking for a skilled workforce in the specific sectors will have access to the required details of the availability of skilled workforce and formulate their hiring plans.
  • It will be used as a matchmaking engine to map skilled workers with the jobs available.
  • Database of labour migrants in Indian states and overseas citizens, who returned to India under the Vande Bharat Mission and filled SWADES Skill Card, has been integrated with the ASEEM portal.

National Migrant Information System (NMIS)

  • The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has developed an online dashboard called ‘National Migrant Information System (NMIS)’
  • The online portal (NMIS) would maintain a central repository of migrant workers and help in speedy inter-state communication to facilitate the smooth movement of migrant workers to their native places.
  • The online portal NMIS would maintain a central repository on migrant workers and help in speedy inter-State communication/co-ordinationto facilitate their smooth movement to native places. It has additional advantages like contact tracing, which may be useful in overall COVID-19 response work.
  • The key data pertaining to the persons migrating has been standardized for uploading such as name, age, mobile no., originating and destination district, date of travel etc., which States are already collecting.
  • States will be able to visualize how many people are going out from where and how many are reaching destination States.
  • The mobile numbers of people can be used for contact tracing and movement monitoring during COVID-19.

Atma Nirbhar Uttar Pradesh Rozgar Abhiyan

  • The scheme seeks to promote local entrepreneurship and create partnership with industrial associations to provide employment opportunities to 1.25 crore migrant workers who lost their jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • The Uttar Pradesh state government has already mapped the skill of the workers so that they can be provided employment as per their expertise.
  • The migrant commission announced by the Uttar Pradesh government will map skills of workers who have returned to the state, providing data to employment exchanges.

Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act, 1979

  • The Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979 was an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to regulate the condition of service of inter-state labourers in Indian labour law.
  • The Act’s purpose was to protect workers whose services are requisitioned outside their native states in India.
  • Whenever an employer faces shortage of skills among the locally available workers, the act created provision to employ better skilled workers available outside the state.
  • This Act makes provision for availing with the onsite services of interstate workers by the contractors / establishments to overcome only the temporary shortage of required skilled workers in a state.
  • The purpose of this act is not to encourage interstate migration of workers against the interests of local workers as the principal employers would have to incur more cost in deploying interstate workers.

-Source: Indian Express


Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology

Why in news?

The widespread growth of an aquatic plant has painted the water bodies pink in a village in Kerala.

‘Pink Phenomenon’

The plant behind the ‘pink phenomenon’ is forked fanwort, which comes from the family of Red Cabomba (Cabomba Furcata).


  • Cabomba is a submerged perennial aquatic plant that grows in stagnant to slow-flowing freshwater.
  • It dominantly belongs to Central and South America; it is native to South America and as far north as Cuba and the tip of Florida.
  • It reaches a maximum height between 30 and 80 cm and is up to 8 cm wide. It bears purple flowers.
  • The plant has a high natural dispersal potential due to its ability to readily fragment and spread both actively and passively. – The main pathways of dispersal are humans by intentional aquarium plantings and via inappropriate disposal.
  • Its main habitats include freshwater bodies such as rivers, reservoirs, ponds, irrigation canals and other shallow wetlands.

Issues that the ‘Pink Phenomenon’ can cause

  • The plant could spread in the water bodies across the state, choking them as well as the drainage canals.
  • It requires a huge amount of oxygen to grow and that could badly affect freshwater biodiversity. The water quality could also be affected.

-Source: Down To Earth

March 2024