- India sees a sharp spike in COVID-19 infections
- Centre defines J&K domicile rules
- DRDO to make five-layer masks and Modify Ventilators
- World could face a food crisis: UN, WTO
- RBI relaxes export rules, allows States and UTs to borrow more
- Petro-prices hiked as BS-VI fuel kicks in
INDIA SEES A SHARP SPIKE IN COVID-19 INFECTIONS
Focus: GS-III Disaster Management
Why in news?
- India reported three deaths and over 370 new cases on April 1 — the highest-ever single-day increase in its COVID-19 tally.
- An official of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said 47,951 tests had been conducted so far, including 861 by private laboratories, and 126 ICMR laboratories were involved in testing.
- Concerns that Tablighi Jamaat congregants might have exacerbated infections as over 200 have tested positive for COVID-19 from among 4,000-odd who had gathered in Delhi’s Markaz Nizamuddin, the headquarters of the Tablighi Jamaat.
- Days after the lockdown began on March 24, several migrant workers, were out on the streets of Delhi and other cities, trying to return home to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal.
How are the concerns being addressed?
- A Home Ministry official addressing Tablighi Jamaat concerns said 2,000 of them had been quarantined in hospitals., and the meeting place was cleared.
- The Health Ministry issued an advisory for proper quarantine and “psycho-social measures” for migrants on 31st March 2020. Under this, trained counsellors and/or community group leaders of all religions would visit them in relief camps and provide support.
- The measure followed a directive from the Supreme Court to deal with the migrants in a “humane manner”.
- The Railways are modifying coaches to accommodate 80,000 isolation beds.
- Twenty-four categories of medical devices would be regulated as “drugs”, according to a decision by the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority. This would prevent suppliers from hiking rates to more than 10% of their prices.
CENTRE DEFINES J&K DOMICILE RULES
Focus: GS-II Governance, Prelims
Why in news?
- The Centre has notified a law under which jobs up to the lowest level of non-gazetted rank have been reserved for Jammu and Kashmir domiciles.
- This comes nearly seven months after the Central government abrogated Jammu and Kashmir’s special position and bifurcated it into two Union Territories — Jammu & Kashmir, and Ladakh.
Job eligibility under Jammu and Kashmir Civil Services (Decentralization and Recruitment) Act
- Section 5A: Under the new law, jobs up to the lowest level of non-gazetted rank have been exclusively reserved for those who have resided in J&K for a period of 15 years, and children of all central government employees who have served for a 10-year period in the UT.
- Under the law: The domiciles have been defined as those who have resided for a period of 15 years in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir or have studied for a period of seven years and appeared in Class 10-12 examination in educational institutions located in J&K.
- The domiciles also include children of those central government officials, all India services officers, officials of public sector undertaking and autonomous body of the central government, public sector banks, officials of statutory bodies, officials of central universities and recognised research institutes of the central government who have served in J&K for a total period of ten years.
- “Subject to the provisions of this Act, no person shall be eligible for appointment to a post carrying a pay scale of not more than Level-4 (25500) unless he is a domicile of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.”
- Level 4 includes posts including Junior Assistant, Constable, which is considered as the lowest category of non-gazetted posts.
- This means domiciles of J&K UT would have an exclusive right on class 4th and non-gazetted posts to be advertised by the services.
- All Indian citizens including J&K domiciles would be eligible for remaining non-gazetted and gazetted posts.
- Recruitment would be done by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).
- The law has empowered Tehsildars within their territorial jurisdiction to issue domicile certificates. The government of J&K UT has also been empowered to notify any other officer to be the competent authority for the issuance of a domicile certificate.
Other Provisions in the Notification
- The 31st March 2020 notification of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) makes changes to the Public Safety Act (PSA) by removing a clause that prohibited J&K residents booked under the Act to be lodged in jails outside.
- The notification scraps all pension benefits such as car, driver, accommodation, phones, electricity, medical facilities and rent-free accommodation to former J&K Chief Ministers.
- Before August 5, all jobs in the erstwhile state of J&K were exclusively reserved for permanent residents of the State.
- On August 6 last, the Centre revoked J&K’s special status under Article 370 and Article 35A of the Constitution and bifurcated it into J&K and Ladakh UTs.
What was the legal and constitutional status of Kashmir prior to the revocation of article 370?
- Article 370 of the Constitution of India is described as a “temporary provision” that grants the state of Jammu and Kashmir a special autonomous status within the Indian union.
- Under article 370(1)(b), the Union Parliament can only make laws for the state, “in consultation with the Government of the State,” on certain matters that were specified in the Instrument of Accession – namely defense, foreign affairs, and communications.
- Other matters in the legislative subject lists can apply to Jammu and Kashmir only with the “concurrence of the Government of the State” through a presidential order.
- Article 370(1)(d) stipulates that other constitutional provisions may be applied to the state from time to time, “subject to such modifications or exceptions” made by the president of India, also through a presidential order, as long as they do not fall within the matters referred to above and except with the concurrence of the state government.
- As a result of this status, the state of Jammu and Kashmir enacted its own Constitution, which was formally adopted by a Constituent Assembly on November 17, 1956, and entered into force on January 26, 1957.
- However, the most important part of article 370 for purposes of recent developments is article 370(3), which gives the president of India the power to amend or repeal article 370 itself through a public notification (declaring that this article “shall cease to be operative or shall be operative only with such exceptions and modifications”), provided that “the recommendation of the Constituent Assembly of the State” is given before the president issues such a notification.
DRDO TO MAKE FIVE-LAYER MASKS AND MODIFY VENTILATORS
Focus: GS-III Disaster Management, Internal Security, Prelims
Why in news?
- The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) develops five layer N99 masks with two layers of nano mesh.
- The DRDO has developed a ventilator and is working with the industry to produce 5,000 of them per month to treat COVID-19 patients.
- The DRDO developed a ventilator along with the Society for Biomedical technology (SBMT), its technology has been transferred to the industry.
- An industry in Mysuru is producing the secondary version of that ventilator now.
- The Defence Ministry said in a statement the DRDO laboratories had manufactured 20,000 litres of sanitiser and supplied to various organisations, including 10,000 litres to the Delhi police.
- The DRDO has also supplied 10,000 masks to Delhi police personnel.
- It is tying up with some private companies to make personal protection equipment such as body suits and also ventilators.
- The N99 5-layer Masks are produced at a capacity of 10,000 masks per day by the vendors
- At present DRDO is ready with four different items ready to be deployed: Hand Sanitizer, Ventilator, N99 Masks, and Body Suits.
- The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is an agency of the Government of India, charged with the military’s research and development.
- It is headquartered in Delhi, India and has its 50+ labs all across the country.
- It was formed in 1958.
- It is under the administrative control of the Ministry of Defence, Government of India.
- With a network of 52 laboratories, which are engaged in developing defence technologies covering various fields, like aeronautics, armaments, electronics, land combat engineering, life sciences, materials, missiles, and naval systems, DRDO is India’s largest and most diverse research organisation.
Objectives of DRDO
- Design, develop and lead to production state-of-the-art sensors, weapon systems, platforms and allied equipment for our Defence Services.
- Provide technological solutions to the Services to optimise combat effectiveness and to promote well-being of the troops.
- Develop infrastructure and committed quality manpower and build strong indigenous technology base.
Important Projects of DRDO
- The DRDO is responsible for the ongoing Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Project.
- The DRDO provided key avionics for the Sukhoi Su-30MKI programme and is also a part of the Indian Air Force’s upgrade programmes alongside HAL.
- The DRDO has also developed two unmanned aerial vehicles – the Nishant tactical UAV and the Lakshya (Target) Pilotless Target Aircraft (PTA).
- DRDO cooperates with the state-owned Ordnance Factories Board for producing its items.
- The INSAS weapon system has become the standard battle rifle for the Indian Army and paramilitary units.
- Pinaka multi barrel rocket launcher system has seen significant success as well.
Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP)
- The IGMDP was launched by the Indian Government to develop the ability to develop and design a missile locally, and manufacture a range of missile systems for the three defence services.
- IGMDP was an Indian Ministry of Defence programme for the research and development of the comprehensive range of missiles.
- The programme was managed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Ordnance Factories Board in partnership with other Indian government political organisations.
- The project started in 1982–83 under the leadership of Dr. A. P. J Abdul Kalam who oversaw its ending in 2008 after these strategic missiles were successfully developed.
- The programme has seen significant success in its two most important constituents – the Agni missiles and the Prithvi missiles, while two other programmes, the Akash SAM and the anti-tank Nag Missile have seen significant orders.
- The Prithvi (Earth) missiles are a range of SRBMs (short-range ballistic missile) produced for the Indian Air Force and Army; a variant for the Navy has also been deployed .
- The Agni (Fire) ballistic missiles are a range of MRBMs (Medium-range ballistic missile), IRBMs (Intermediate-range ballistic missile), ICBMs (Intercontinental ballistic missile) meant for long-range deterrence.
- The Agni-III has range of up to 3,500 km (2,175 mi).
- The Agni-I and Agni-II have been productionised, although exact numbers remain classified.
- The Agni-V missile is an Intercontinental ballistic missile meant for long-range deterrence. The Agni-V is the newest version and has the longest range of up to 5000–6000 km. Agni-V would also carry Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle payloads and will have countermeasures against Anti-ballistic missile systems.
- The Akash (Sky or ether) is a medium-range surface-to-air missile system consisting of the command guidance.
- The Nag anti-tank missile (Cobra) is a guided missile system intended for the Indian Air Force and the Indian Army.
- The Army will deploy the Nag on ground-based launchers and from helicopters, whereas the Air Force will rely on helicopter based units.
- The Nag has an Imaging Infrared (IIR) seeker and has a top and direct attack capability, with a tandem warhead.
- Launched as a joint venture between India’s DRDO and the Russian NPO, the BrahMos programme aims at creating a range of missile systems derived from the Yakhont missile system.
- Named the “BrahMos” after the Brahmaputra and the Moskva rivers, the project has been highly successful.
- The BrahMos (designated PJ-10) is a medium-range supersonic ramjet cruise missile that can be launched from submarine, ships, aircraft, or land.
- BrahMos is the world’s fastest cruise missile.
- BrahMos-NG (Next Generation) is a mini version based on the existing BrahMos and it will have same 290 km range and mach 3.5
- BrahMos-II is a hypersonic cruise missile currently under development and is estimated to have a range of 290 km.
- Like the BrahMos, the range of BrahMos II has also been limited to 290 km to comply with the MTCR.
- With a speed of Mach 7, it will have double the speed of the current BrahMos missile, and it will be the fastest hypersonic missile in the world (also refer: Russian Avangrad missile).
- Nirbhay (Fearless) is a long range, all-weather, subsonic cruise missile powered by solid rocket booster and turbofan or a turbojet engine that can be launched from multiple platforms and is capable of carrying conventional and nuclear warheads.
- The Shaurya (Valor) is a canister-launched hypersonic surface-to-surface tactical missile.
- The K-15 Sagarika is a nuclear-capable submarine-launched ballistic missile belonging to the K Missile family.
- Prahaar is a solid-fueled surface-to-surface guided short-range tactical ballistic missile.
- Astra is an 80 km (50 mi) class, active radar homing air-to-air missile meant for beyond-visual-range missile combat.
WORLD COULD FACE A FOOD CRISIS: UN, WTO
Focus: GS-III Disaster Management, Agriculture
Why in news?
The heads of three global agencies warned on 1st April of the risk of a worldwide “food shortage” if authorities fail to manage the ongoing COVID-19 crisis properly.
Concerns Regarding Food Shortage
- Many governments around the world have put their populations on lockdown causing severe slow-downs in international trade and food supply chains.
- Panic buying by people going into confinement has already demonstrated the fragility of supply chains as supermarket shelves emptied in many countries.
- Uncertainty about food availability can spark a wave of export restrictions, creating a shortage on the global market.
- Disruptions including hampering the movement of agricultural and food industry workers and extending border delays for food containers, result in the spoilage of perishables and increasing food waste.
How to handle concerns of Food Shortage?
- We must ensure that our response to COVID-19 does not unintentionally create unwarranted shortages of essential items and exacerbate hunger and malnutrition.
- In the midst of the COVID-19 lockdowns, every effort must be made to ensure that trade flows as freely as possible, specially to avoid food shortage(s).
- When acting to protect the health and well-being of their citizens, countries should ensure that any trade-related measures do not disrupt the food supply chain.
- Protect employees engaged in food production, processing and distribution, both for their own health and that of others, as well as to maintain food supply chains.
- International cooperation is also essential.
RBI RELAXES EXPORT RULES, ALLOWS STATES AND UTS TO BORROW MORE
Focus: GS-III Indian Economy, Prelims
Why in news?
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has announced more measures to fight economic disruptions caused by COVID-19, including extension of the realisation period of export proceeds and allowing States to borrow more.
Details of the Extension of Export Proceeds realisation period
- In view of the disruption caused by the pandemic, the time period for realisation and repatriation of export proceeds for exports made up to or on July 31, 2020, has been extended to 15 months from the date of export from the 9 months period that existed.
What will this Measure do?
- It will enable exporters to realise their receipts, especially from COVID-19 affected countries within the extended period.
- It will also provide greater flexibility to exporters to negotiate future export contracts with buyers abroad.
RBI on Ways and Means Advances Limit for State Governments
- The central bank has also formed an advisory committee to review the ways and means limit for State governments and union territories.
- Till the panel submits its report, the central bank has increased the ways and means advances limit by 30% for States and union territories.’
- The revised limits will come into force with effect from April 1, 2020 and will be valid till September 30, 2020, the RBI said.
- This limit Increment will enable State governments to tide over the situation arising from the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is Ways and Means Advances?
- The ‘Ways and Means Advances’ is a scheme that helps meet mismatches in receipts and payments of the government.
- Under this scheme, a government can avail itself of immediate cash from the RBI.
- But it has to return the amount within 90 days. Interest is charged at the existing repo rate.
- If the WMA exceeds 90 days, it would be treated as an overdraft (interest rate on overdrafts is 2 percentage points more than the repo rate).
- The limits for Ways and Means Advances are decided by the government and RBI mutually and revised periodically.
- There are two types of Ways and Means Advances — normal and special.
- Special WMA or Special Drawing Facility is provided against the collateral of the government securities held by the state. After the state has exhausted the limit of SDF, it gets normal WMA. The interest rate for SDF is one percentage point less than the repo rate.
- The number of loans under normal WMA is based on a three-year average of actual revenue and capital expenditure of the state.
- The Ways and Means Advances scheme was introduced in 1997.
RBI on CCyB for banks
- The central bank has also deferred the implementation of counter cyclical capital buffer (CCyB) for banks.
- Based on the review and empirical analysis of CCyB indicators, it has been decided that it is NOT necessary to activate CCyB for a period of one year or earlier, as may be necessary.
What is Capital Buffer?
- A capital buffer is mandatory capital that financial institutions are required to hold in addition to other minimum capital requirements.
- Regulations targeting the creation of adequate capital buffers are designed to reduce the procyclical nature of lending by promoting the creation of countercyclical buffers as set forth in the Basel III regulatory reforms created by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision.
What is CCyB?
- The Countercyclical Capital Buffer (CCyB) is part of a set of macroprudential instruments, designed to help counter pro-cyclicality in the financial system.
- That is, Countercyclical capital buffers require banks to hold capital at times when credit is growing rapidly so that the buffer can be reduced if the financial cycle turns down or the economic and financial environment becomes substantially worse.
- Banks can use the capital buffers they have built up during the growth phase of the financial cycle to cover losses that may arise during periods of stress and to continue supplying credit to the real economy.
- The countercyclical capital buffer (CCyB) framework states that foreign institutions should match the CCyB rate of domestic institutions when lending occurs across international borders.
- This allows for a process referred to as recognition or reciprocation in regard to the foreign exposures of domestic institutions.
PETRO-PRICES HIKED AS BS-VI FUEL KICKS IN
Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology, Science and Technology, Prelims
Why in news?
- Even as prices of international crude have dropped to the lowest in the last 18 years since 2002, state-owned oil marketing companies (OMCs) have increased the price of sensitive petroleum products like petrol and diesel in most Indian cities.
- The Central government had announced that from April 1, 2020, all vehicles sold in India should comply with Bharat Stage-VI, or BS-VI emission standards.
- The Supreme Court on 27th March extended the March 31, 2020 deadline for the sale and registration of BS-IV emission norm-compliant vehicles due to the lockdown.
Importance of such norms
- Studies show that vehicles are a major source of pollutants that cause climate change.
- Such norms help in improving emission control, fuel efficiency and engine design.
- Cutting down on vehicular emission will also result in better air quality in cities.
Bharat stage emission standards (BSES)
- Bharat stage emission standards (BSES) are emission standards instituted by the Government of India to regulate the output of air pollutants from compression ignition engines and Spark-ignition engines equipment, including motor vehicles.
- The standards and the timeline for implementation are set by the Central Pollution Control Board under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
- The standards, based on European regulations were first introduced in 2000. Progressively stringent norms have been rolled out since then. All new vehicles manufactured after the implementation of the norms have to be compliant with the regulations.
- While automobile manufacturers are making available vehicles that comply with the new norms, oil companies will have to provide fuel that meet these standards.
- BS-VI standard fuel is said to be the world’s cleanest fuel.
What makes BS-VI fuel better?
- Sulphur content in fuel is a major cause for concern. Sulphur dioxide released by fuel burning is a major pollutant that affects health as well.
- BS-VI fuel’s sulphur content is much lower than BS-IV fuel.
- It is reduced to 10 mg/kg max in BS-VI from 50 mg/kg under BS-IV.
- This reduction makes it possible to equip vehicles with better catalytic converters that capture pollutants.
- However, BS-VI fuel is expected to be costlier that BS-IV fuel.
- Vehicles that are compliant with BS-VI will also be more expensive.