- Govt. nod mandatory for FDI from neighbouring countries
- Most online content on child sexual abuse from India
- RT-PCR only confirmatory test, says government
- Hydroxychloroquine does not reduce viral load
- The COVID-19 virus and its polyproteins
- CII seeks amends to govt. norms
GOVT. NOD MANDATORY FOR FDI FROM NEIGHBOURING COUNTRIES
Focus: GS-III Indian Economy, GS-II International Relations
Why in news?
- In a move that will restrict Chinese investments, the Centre has made prior government approval mandatory for foreign direct investments from countries which share a land border with India. Previously, only investments from Pakistan and Bangladesh faced such restrictions.
- The revised FDI policy is aimed at “curbing opportunistic takeovers/acquisitions of Indian companies due to the current COVID-19 pandemic,” said a press release from the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade on 18th April 2020.
What does New Policy say?
- A non-resident entity can invest in India, subject to the FDI Policy except in those sectors/activities which are prohibited.
- However, an entity of a country, which shares land border with India or where the beneficial owner of an investment into India is situated in or is a citizen of any such country, can invest only under the Government route.
- Pakistani investors face further restrictions in requiring government approval for FDI in defence, space and atomic energy sectors as well.
- Investors from countries not covered by the new policy only have to inform the RBI after a transaction rather than asking for prior permission from the relevant government department.
- The official statement added that a transfer of ownership of any existing or future FDI in an Indian entity to those in the restricted countries would also need government approval.
- The decisions will become effective from the date of the Foreign Exchange Management Act notification.
Why was this necessary?
- India shares land borders with Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
- With many Indian businesses coming to a halt due to the lockdown imposed to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and valuations plummeting, a number of domestic firms may be vulnerable to “opportunistic takeovers or acquisitions” from foreign players.
- In the third week of April 2020, housing finance company HDFC informed the stock exchanges that the People’s Bank of China now holds a 1.01% stake in the company. This was an instance of portfolio investment through the stock market and not FDI.
- Given the macro situation, it is a measure to protect vulnerable companies, with possibly low valuations, from unwelcome takeovers.
Focus on China
- China’s footprint in the Indian business space has been expanding rapidly, especially since 2014.
- The total current and planned Chinese investment in India has now crossed $26 billion, according to estimates in the March 2020. However, major Chinese investments in India span a range of sectors.
- This blurred separation between state-owned enterprise and private enterprise raises the question of whether the Chinese private sector can indeed be considered as an entirely distinct entity from the state.
- This question becomes even more relevant with Chinese and other foreign firms acquiring controlling stakes in Indian companies, particularly in the technology sector where definitions of security or strategic implications are rapidly evolving
Criticism of the move: Unintended Problems
- The move is in reference to the possibility of Chinese investors purchasing undervalued shares of Indian-listed companies as on April 12, news of an incremental purchase of shares in HDFC made by the People’s Bank of China made the headlines.
- However, the notification does not restrict its application to such cases.
- A plain reading of the amended policy makes every type of investment by Chinese investors subject to government approval.
- It neither distinguishes between greenfield and brownfield investments nor listed and unlisted companies.
- It also does not distinguish between the different types of investors, such as industry players, financial institutions, or venture capital funds.
- Such a blanket application could create unintended problems.
- For instance, it is likely that unlisted or private companies might find themselves under financial stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- For instance, it is likely that unlisted or private companies might find themselves under financial stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The absence of a white knight may cause bankruptcy and job losses.
- Greenfield investments are another category where the new rules may pose obstacles. These are investments where Chinese investors bring fresh capital to establish new factories and generate employment in India.
- Moreover, the most visible ‘Chinese investors’ in India, most in the Internet space, may not even come under the definitions of the new rules.
- It will prove to be extremely difficult to attribute nationality to venture capital funds or fix the ultimate beneficial ownership of listed companies down to founders of a certain nationality.
- By abolishing the Foreign Investment Promotion Board in 2017, India took the decision of dismantling the last vestige of an FDI regime that sought to block sensitive foreign investments.
MOST ONLINE CONTENT ON CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE FROM INDIA
Focus: GS-II Social Justice
Why in news?
In a global compilation of reports of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) found online, India stands right on top of the list, with 11.7% of the total reports or at 19.87 lakh reports, followed by Pakistan, which contributes 6.8% of all reports (11.5 lakh reports) and Bangladesh comes in fourth with 5.5 lakh reports and a share of 3.3%.
Gravity of the Situation
- In 2019, the Centre received a total of 1.68 crore reports. The material thus reported by the members of the public and electronic service providers, principally comprises still pictures and videos depicting children in a clear sexual angle.
- Three of the top four countries were in South Asia, raising concerns among child rights activists about the online safety of children in the region.
- The National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) adds that the reports include geographic indicators related to the upload location of the child sexual abuse material, but country specific numbers may be impacted by proxies and anonymisers.
- There is also concern that the lockdowns across the world will lead to an exacerbation of the situation.
- The NCMEC urges people to report CSAM found online across the world annually, on their online platform CyberTipline.
National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC)
- The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) is a private, non-profit organization established in 1984 by the United States Congress.
- NCMEC handles cases of missing or exploited children from infancy to young adults through age 20.
- The NCMEC operates the CyberTipline which was established by Congress to process reports of child sexual exploitation (including child pornography, online enticement, and contact offenses).
- The NCMEC reviews these reports and shares them with the appropriate law enforcement agency or Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force
Child Abuse in India
- While we have successfully brought in children-specific legislations such as the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012 (POCSO) and the amended Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015, our performance in creating robust and reliable preventive response systems has been markedly poor.
- The spate of brutal crimes against children demonstrates that our collective approach to child safety in schools remains ad hoc, laissez-faire and poorly monitored, highlighting the lack of both soft and hard preventive infrastructure.
- Every six minutes, a child goes missing. More than 4.5 lakh children have been victims of trafficking, bought, sold for commercial and sexual exploitation. Over 50% children in India were subjected to one or another form of physical abuse. In 94.8 percent of cases, children were raped by someone known to them, according to data collected by the National Crime Records Bureau.
Convention on Rights of Child, 1989
- According to the convention, any child below the age of 18 is called a child. Around 140 countries have signed the convention.
- India is also a signatory. The convention sets out social, political, economic, civil and cultural rights of every child.
- The rights include right to education, right to protection against physical abuse, right to rest and leisure.
Why do the perpetrators choose children as targets?
Many child abuse cases go unreported because the victim is traumatised and therefore reluctant to confide in anyone.
In a majority of the cases, the family of the victim may not want to confront the abuser if he or she is an influential family member or an influential person in society, for the fear of backlash or shame.
RT-PCR ONLY CONFIRMATORY TEST, SAYS GOVERNMENT
Focus: GS-III Science and Technology
Why in news?
- The Union Health Ministry has said that the Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) is the gold standard frontline test for coronavirus (COVID-19) and that rapid antibody test cannot replace it.
- The statement comes after the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)’s national taskforce issued guidelines on testing strategy to all States, following a review of the worldwide testing methodology.
What is the use of Rapid Antibody Test?
- The Rapid Antibody Test gives us an idea about prevalence of disease in a particular area and thus is used for epidemiological studies and surveillance purpose in hotspots.
- It can also be used in districts which are not hotspots to study emerging trends.
- Data generated by surveillance through rapid testing can be used for contact tracing if any positive case arise in an area.
When to conduct RT-PCR and Rapid Antibody Test?
- Presently the government is using the RT-PCR tests to detect novel coronavirus from samples of throat or nasal swabs of people with symptoms or high-risk individuals who might have come in contact with positive patients.
- Testing Strategy has been spelt out for when RT-PCR or Rapid Antibody Tests are to be done.
- In hotspot areas, for persons having had fever, cough or cold for less than 7 days, RT-PCR test is to be done and then on basis of result, positive cases are to be given treatment and negative cases are to be taken as susceptible.
- In case of having had symptoms for more than seven days, Rapid Antibody Test is to be done and then if result is positive, person is to be kept in quarantine and contact tracing is to be done, and for negative results, persons are to be monitored for 14 days and if there is any clinical suspicion, then the case is to be monitored at clinical level and PCR test can be done if required.
What is RT-PCR?
- Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) is a laboratory technique combining reverse transcription of RNA into DNA (in this context called complementary DNA or cDNA) and amplification of specific DNA targets using polymerase chain reaction (PCR).
- It is primarily used to measure the amount of a specific RNA. This is achieved by monitoring the amplification reaction using fluorescence, a technique called real-time PCR or quantitative PCR (qPCR).
- Combined RT-PCR and qPCR are routinely used for analysis of gene expression and quantification of viral RNA in research and clinical settings.
HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE DOES NOT REDUCE VIRAL LOAD
Focus: GS-III Science and Technology
Why in news?
Results of a randomised, control trial using hydroxychloroquine drug in 150 COVID-19 patients show that the drug does not reduce the viral load even on day 28.
Details of the trial and its findings
- This is the first trail using hydroxychloroquine where patients have been randomised to receive either the drug or just standard of care.
- However, patients who got the drug did show quicker alleviation of clinical symptoms, possibly through anti-inflammatory properties and improvement in white blood cell count.
- The drug did not cause any serious adverse effects in patients. But some patients did experience adverse effects.
- The most common adverse event in patients who got the drug was diarrhoea (10%).
How significant are the results?
These encouraging results suggest clinical benefits of adding hydroxychloroquine into the current standard management to limit inflammatory response, which is the key to prevent systemic inflammation and subsequent multiple organ failure and death.
The shorter time to alleviate the symptoms might be useful for preventing disease progression.
What is hydroxychloroquine?
- Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) is an anti-malarial drug similar to chloroquine, one of the oldest and best-known anti-malarial drugs, but with lesser side-effects.
- It can be bought over the counter and is fairly inexpensive.
- The Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) has cleared HCQ to be used as a prophylaxis, or preventive medication, by doctors, nurses and other health staff who are involved in treatment and containment of COVID-19.
THE COVID-19 VIRUS AND ITS POLYPROTEINS
Focus: GS-III Science and Technology
What is the difference between a virus and a bacterium?
- Bacteria are alive. Each bacterial cell has its own machinery to reproduce itself.
- Take a bacterial cell, and put it in a solution containing nutrients, it grows itself and multiplies in millions. The genes in the cells (genome, made up of DNA molecules, the information contained in which is transcribed as a message to the messenger molecules called RNA), and the message therein is translated into action molecules called proteins, which are the foot-soldiers that help the growth and multiplication of the bacterium.
- Coronaviruses do not have DNA as their genome, but RNA; in other words, they can only translate and not transcribe.
- Thus, they are ‘dead’, unable to renew and grow themselves; they need help. This they achieve by infecting ‘host cells’ which they bind to, and multiply by the millions.
- With no host cell to help, a virus is simply a dead storage box.
The polyprotein strategy
- Upon infection, the entire RNA with its 33,000 bases is translated in one shot as a long tape of amino acid sequences. Since this long chain contains several proteins within it, it is called a “polyprotein” sequence.
- One needs to analyse this long chain, find the relevant proteins, isolate and study what each of them does in helping infection.
- This strategy allows the viral genome to be compact, and express the protein when the need arises.
How do drugs work and where India stands on developing a drug?
- We thus have a large set of proteins in the virus, against which a number of potential molecules and drugs can be tried to interfere and stop the production of these viral proteins.
- India is well versed with expertise in the area of organic and medicinal chemistry since the last 90 years and in manufacturing quality drug molecules, and exporting them for use at home and across the world since the 1970 patents act of India.
- Our expertise today, in both the public and private sector, includes not just synthesizing made-to-order molecules, but has added new methods involving computer modelling of target proteins from bacteria and viruses, homology modelling, drug design, repurposing of drugs, and other methods.
- The Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) has taken upon itself the express task of coming out with molecules and methods to counter the dreaded virus.
CII SEEKS AMENDS TO GOVT. NORMS
Focus: GS-III Industry and Infrastructure, Disaster Management
Why in news?
The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has called for certain modifications in the guidelines issued by the government on resumption of economic activities from April 20, to avoid disruptions in the supply chain.
- CII has suggested continued stringent lockdown in specified containment zones with the rest of the identified hotspot districts to be open to economic activities with adequate safety measures.
- The industry body has suggested that red zone districts and containment zones need to be clearly identified and demarcated and industrial activities be permitted in non-containment zones of red zone districts, if found safe.
- A list of red districts and containment zones may be published on a real-time basis for information of industry.
- Automotive value chain, including OEMs, components, retail and service workshops, must also be included in the list of permitted industries.
- Agricultural inputs of fertilizers, pesticides and seeds have been opened up, and there is a need to also relax rules for production of necessary equipment.
- Similarly, equipment and services for generation, transmission and distribution of power, including renewable energy such as gear boxes and generators may be allowed to function.