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Current Affairs 30 December 2020 for UPSC Exam


  1. What can India anticipate in 2021: Health and Science Sectors
  2. Zero coupon bonds explained
  3. INCOIS launches ‘Digital Ocean’
  4. India’s Union Health Minister as GAVI Board member



  • Subjects like public health, the mechanism of spread of viral diseases, or the state of country’s scientific research become part of mainstream discussions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The lessons learnt from the COVID-19 crisis are what could be guiding our science and technology policy in the coming years, not just in the realm of health sector, but science in general.


GS-III: Science and Technology (Developments in Science and Technology and Application of Science and Technology in everyday life)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. The Current state of India’s Science and Technology infrastructure
  2. What India can look forward to in 2021 from health and science?

The Current state of India’s Science and Technology infrastructure

  • The ramping up of number of diagnostic tests that were carried out to detect coronavirus infections stands testimony to the fairly robust science and technology infrastructure and network it has built over the years.
  • The efforts of governments to spread awareness to control the spread of the disease, also lead to a large number of people becoming aware of issues like the intricacies of vaccine development, or the difficulties in clinical trials of drugs and vaccines.
  • Another example of the increasingly robust science and technology infrastructure is the way in which the initial problem of lack of adequate testing kits, reagents and chemicals, and medical equipment like PPE suits and even sanitizers, was overcome.
  • One relatively unappreciated fact has been the utilisation of primary healthcare network, and ASHA and anganwadi workers, in contact tracing and awareness efforts.

Vaccine development

  • Vaccines are another area where India’s existing capacities are a big asset, and can be leveraged effectively.
  • Notwithstanding who develops the vaccine, India is going to be an important player in the manufacturing and distribution of these vaccines, because of the production capacities that have been built over the years.

What India can look forward to in 2021 from health and science?

Here are some of the things that we are likely to see happening in the science and technology, and health, sectors in the coming months and years:

Aatmanirbhar Bharat

The Indian Prime Minister announced an economic stimulus package for Rs 20-lakh-crore (estimated at 10% of the GDP), towards building a Aatmanirbhar Bharat, or a self-reliant, resilient India.

Five pillars of Aatmanirbhar Bharat:

  1. Economy – an economy that brings Quantum Jump rather than Incremental change.
  2. Infrastructure – an infrastructure that became the identity of modern India.
  3. System – A system that is driven by technology which can fulfill the dreams of the 21st century; a system not based on the policy of the past century.
  4. Demography – Our Vibrant Demography is our strength in the world’s largest democracy, our source of energy for self-reliant India.
  5. Demand – The cycle of demand and supply chain in our economy, is the strength that needs to be harnessed to its full potential.

Way forwards-

  • The fact that India was not even producing relatively simple things like ventilators had come as a shock to the government authorities at the start of the outbreak.
  • Going forward, there is likely to be greater encouragement for laboratories and industry to support domestic manufacturing of components and instruments.
  • Scientists and industry expect relevant policy changes in the coming year.

Promoting star-up culture

  • This is related to the Aatmanirbhar push. The COVID-19 Pandemic has shown that support to start-up ventures is very important.
  • It was start-ups that filled the supply gaps in medical equipment and instruments, restating their importance.
  • The most reliable information management systems, providing crucial data about the epidemic, were set up and run by young entrepreneurs, students and researchers.
  • During the pandemic itself, the government announced a major push for private participation in the space sector, for example, and a similar push is expected for start-ups in the health sector as well.

Strengthening collaboration

  • Collaboration between government, academia and industry is again a process that was initiated before the pandemic but is likely to gain momentum.
  • The government has been insisting that several scientific facilities could be much more productive if they align their research towards finding technology solutions to the country’s needs.
  • The space for institutionalized collaboration between the government, industry and the scientific community is already being created in several new missions, or technology hubs, that are being set up.
  • In most of these missions, or hubs, it is the industry or the academia that is playing the lead role, while the government tries to facilitate an enabling environment.

Stronger health system

  • A few states are already working on creating, or augmenting, a dedicated surveillance workforce that can detect similar outbreaks in future, and help contain it at an early stage.
  • Greater empowerment of primary healthcare staff is also expected.

Vaccine research

  • Though the existing vaccine manufacturing capacity is coming in handy, India has been found wanting in development of its own vaccine.
  • As of now, there are only two Indian candidates in stage three clinical trials.
  • A country the size, and scientific capability of India, should have been one of the front-runners in vaccine research.
  • But that has traditionally been one of the weak points, which some research institutions now want to address.

New science policy

  • A new Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy is in the final stages of preparation, and is likely to be unveiled in the next three to four months.
  • It is expected to do to the science sector what the National Education Policy, released earlier this year, seeks to do for education.
  • Not unexpectedly, it is likely to be heavily influenced by the lessons learnt during the pandemic.

-Source: Indian Express



The government has used financial innovation to recapitalise Punjab & Sind Bank by issuing the lender Rs 5,500-crore worth of non-interest-bearing bonds valued at par.


GS-II: Indian Economy (Macroeconomics- Financial Markets)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are Zero Coupon Bonds?
  2. What does Bank Recapitalization mean?
  3. What is a Government Security?
  4. Yield of G-Secs

What are Zero Coupon Bonds?

  • Zero Coupon Bond is a type of recapitalization bond which are sold to different banks -and unlike the other interest carrying recapitalization bonds sold in the past, these are “non-interest bearing, non-transferable special GOI securities” sold specifically to a particular institution (Only those banks, whosoever is specified, can invest in them, nobody else).
  • It is not tradable; it is not transferable.
  • It is held at the held-to-maturity (HTM) category of the bank as per the RBI guidelines.
  • Since it is held to maturity, it is accounted at the face value (and) no mark-to-market will be there. So, these are special kind of bonds issued by the government after proper (due diligence).
  • Though zero coupon, these bonds are different from traditional zero-coupon bonds on one account — as they are being issued at par, there is no interest. In previous cases, since they were issued at discount, they technically were interest bearing.

How do they differ from zero coupon bonds issued by private firms?

  • Zero coupon bonds by private companies are normally issued at discount, but since these special bonds are not tradable these can be issued at par.
  • Normally zero-coupon bonds are issued at a discount, which are tradable also.
  • Here, there is no question of trading and these are special types of bonds, which the government issues specifically to a specified person and it’s issued at par.

What does Bank Recapitalization mean?

  • Bank Recapitalisation means infusing more capital in state-run banks so that they meet the Capital Adequacy norms.
  • The government infuses capital in banks by either buying new shares or by issuing bonds – this is because the responsibility of strengthening the capital reserves of the banks lies with the government.
  • Indian public sector banks are emphasized to maintain a Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) [the ratio of a bank’s capital in relation to its risk weighted assets and current liabilities] of 12%.
  • The government, using different instruments, infuses capital into banks facing shortage of capital.

What is a Government Security?

  • A Government Security (G-Sec) is a Government Issued (Central or State) Tradeable Instrument.
  • G-Sec is a debt obligation of the government to fund their fiscal deficit, i.e., it acknowledges the debt obligation of the Government (as to say that the government will pay back on maturity).
  • There are two types of such securities:
  • Short Term – Maturity period is less than one year, and they are usually called Treasury Bills (T-Bills).
  • Long Term – Maturity period is more than one year, and they are usually called Government Bonds or Dated Securities.
  • G-Secs practically do not carry the risk of defaulting; hence, they can be called risk-free gilt-edged instruments.
  • Gilt-edged securities are high-grade investment bonds offered by governments and large corporations as a means of borrowing funds.

Government securities issued by Indian Government

The Indian Central Government issues both Short-term T-Bills and Long terms Government Bonds / dated securities called State Development Loans (SDL). It also issues other instruments which are not fully tradeable, like savings bonds, national saving certificate etc., or special securities like oil bonds, fertilizer bonds, etc.

Yield of G-Secs

The term yield denotes the benefit or interest-rate a G-Sec provides, i.e., the interest rate of the bond.

  • Seeing the increased bond yield, more and more buying of the bonds will ensue leading to increased demand of the bonds and we know that increased demand will command a higher price.
  • So, an increased demand will propel the bond prices up thereby leading to a reduction in bond yield, which will further lead to reduction in demand.

-Source: The Hindu



The Union Minister for Science and Technology launched the ‘Digital Ocean’ platform of Indian National Centre for Oceanic Information Services (INCOIS)


GS-III: Science and Technology, Disaster Management, Internal Security Challenges

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS)?
  2. Important Services of INCOIS

What is Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS)?

  • Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) is an autonomous organization under the Ministry of Earth Sciences.
  • INCOIS is mandated to provide the best possible ocean information and advisory services to society, industry, government agencies and the scientific community through sustained ocean observations and constant improvements through systematic and focussed research.

Important Services of INCOIS

Potential Fishing Zone (PFZ)

  • Potential Fishing Zone (PFZ) is the first advisory service started by INCOIS, wherein it identifies the PFZs for the fishermen community.
  • This service was started by the Ministry of Earth Sciences with the help of the Department of Space and several institutions under the Ministry of Agriculture.
  • These organizations are collaborating with the State Governments of the beneficiary states to offer these services to the end users.
  • Another feature of PFZ service is the generation of species-specific advisory to enable the fishermen folk to distinguish between the exploited and under-exploited species in the potential fishing zones.
  • This service makes use of parameters such as sea surface temperature and chlorophyll content provided by NOAA-AVHRR and Oceancolor satellites

Tsunami Early Warning System (TEWS)

  • INCOIS through Indian Tsunami Early Warning Centre (ITEWC) is the nodal agency to provide tsunami advisories to India.
  • It is coordinating with the Disaster Management Officials (DMOs) for implementation of Tsunami Ready programme in India.
  • It conducts IOWave Tsunami mock exercises biannually to strengthen the readiness to handle the emergency situations with stakeholders.

Ocean State Forecast (OSF)

  • This INCOIS service is called the Indian Ocean Forecasting System (INDOFOS) and it is capable of predicting the surface and sub-surface features of the Indian Ocean in advance.
  • At present, OSF gives forecasts of wave height and direction, sea surface temperature, sea surface currents, mixed layer depth, and depth of 20-degree isotherm.

Ocean Observation Group (OOG)

  • The main activity of the OOG group in INCOIS is to measure and monitor the surface temperature and salinity of the upper 2000 meters of the ocean.
  • For this purpose, there is a global array of 3000 free-drifting, profiling floats that relay the measurement data to agencies, which in turn make available these data publicly within hours of reception.
  • This will help them to continuously monitor the climate state of the ocean.

Navigation with Indian Constellation (NAVIC)

  • INCOIS has partnered with Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and Airports Authority of India (AAI) to develop a satellite-based message broadcasting service through the indigenous navigational satellite communication system ‘NAVIC’.
  • The Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), with an operational name of NavIC (acronym for Navigation with Indian Constellation is an autonomous regional satellite navigation system that provides accurate real-time positioning and timing services.

-Source: Hindustan Times



  • Indian Union minister for health and family welfare was nominated by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) as a board member.
  • The India minister will be representing the South East Area Regional Office (SEARO)/Western Pacific Regional Office (WPRO) constituency on the GAVI Board.


GS-II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI)?

What is Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI)?

  • Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI) is a public–private global health partnership with the goal of increasing access to immunization in poor countries.
  • GAVI was created in 2000 as a successor to the Children’s Vaccine Initiative, which had been launched in 1990.
  • GAVI brings together developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry in both industrialized and developing countries, research and technical agencies, civil society, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private philanthropists.
  • GAVI has observer status at the World Health Assembly.
  • It currently supports the immunization of almost half the world’s children, giving it power to negotiate better prices for the world’s poorest countries and remove the commercial risks that manufacturers faced in serving this market.
  • It also provides funding to strengthen health systems and train health workers across the developing world.
  • GAVI has been criticized for giving private donors more unilateral power to decide on global health goals, prioritizing new, expensive vaccines while putting less money and effort into expanding coverage of old, cheap ones, harming local healthcare systems, spending too much on subsidies to large, profitable pharmaceutical companies without reducing the prices of some vaccines, and its conflicts of interest in having vaccine manufacturers on its governance board.

-Source: Indian Express

July 2024