- Updates on COVID-19, MHA Steps and other Innovations
- ‘Bharat Padhe Online’ campaign
- AYUSH Immunity boosting measures: COVID-19
- Action taken by DAC&FW during lockdown
- G20 Extraordinary Energy Ministers Meeting
- EPFO settles 1.37 Lakh EPF withdrawal claims
- Computer based nano materials and future of nano-electronics
UPDATES ON COVID-19, STEPS AND OTHER INNOVATIONS
Focus: GS-III Disaster Management, Science and Technology
Steps taken by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare
Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, held a video conference to review actions and preparedness for COVID-19 management through Video Conference (VC), with Health Ministers, Chief Secretaries/Health Secretaries of all States and UTs.
Suggestions during the Video Conference:
- There is a need to make dedicated COVID-19 hospitals in each district of the country and notify them as soon as possible so that people are informed about them.
- Detailed guidelines for which category of healthworker/professional need to use which category of PPE should be utilised and States need to create awareness about their rational use too.
MoHFW Released guidelines on blood transfusions and voluntary blood donation to ensure adequate stocks of blood & blood components, especially for those patients where blood transfusions is a life saving measure.
Government of India Steps
- Government of India has announced a sanction of Rs 15,000 Cr for ‘India COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health System Preparedness Package’.
- These funds can be used for treatment of COVID-19 patients and strengthen the medical infrastructure of the country with primary focus on COVID-19.
- This will boost the number of COVID-19 testing facilities and can be used to purchase Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Isolation beds, ICU beds, Ventilators and other essential medical equipment and training of medical and paramedical manpower.
Steps taken by Ministry of Home Affairs
- MHA issues 5th Addendum to EXEPMT Operations (such as: feeding and maintenance, harvesting, processing, packaging) of Marine Fishing/Aquaculture Industry and its Workers from lockdown restrictions to fight COVID-19.
- Union Minister for Home Affairs reviewed border guarding arrangements, at India – Pakistan and India – Bangladesh borders, with BSF Command and Sector Headquarters through video-conferencing.
Recommendations in BSF Video Conference:
- Vigil on border may be intensified, especially along the unfenced area, to ensure that no cross border movement is allowed.
- Farmers in the border areas must be educated about COVID-19 and the preventive measures to be taken to prevent its spread in these areas.
- Ensure that the people do not venture across the border fence inadvertently.
Activities of the BSF formations so far:
- Awareness campaigns, as per the guidelines of Ministry of Health
- Sanitization efforts, wherever possible in the villages
- Providing face masks and soaps for hand wash
- Providing ration, potable water and medical facilities to the needy, including remote villages, migratory laborers, daily wage earners and stranded truck drivers in border areas
- MHA directs
all States/UTs to ensure strict compliance of lockdown measures to fight
COVID—19 and not allow any social/religious gathering/procession.
- District authorities and field agencies were informed on the specific prohibitions as mentioned in the Consolidated Guidelines on Lockdown Measures and that they should take all required precautionary / preventive measures for maintenance of law and order, peace and public tranquillity.
- Appropriate vigil on social media should also be maintained against circulation of any objectionable content, the communication adds.
- It adds that for violation of any lockdown measure, action under the relevant penal provisions of the Disaster Management Act 2005 and IPC should be taken by the law enforcing agencies.
Steps and Innovations by various Institutions
- Online training on Pregnancy and Labour Management has been taken up by AIIMS as part of their Webinars.
- SCTIMST scientists develop disinfection gateway & facemask disposal bin to fight COVID-19. Hydrogen Peroxide fumes will decontaminate the body, hands, and clothes of a person and the UV system will decontaminate the chamber.
- DST supported start-up to make natural, alcohol-free sanitizer to combat COVID 19. The bio-surfactant based disinfecting solutions are biodegradable, environmentally friendly, and easy on skin.
Walkway and Road Sanitizer Unit by CSIR-CMERI, Durgapur to fight COVID 19.
- The Disinfection Walkways can be deployed at multiple critical locations such as Isolation/Quarantine facilities, Mass Transit System Entry points, Medical Centres and any other location with a considerable amount of footfall.
- The CSIR-CMERI Road Sanitizer Unit is a tractor-mounted Road Sanitizing System. This Road Sanitization unit can be effectively deployed in long stretches of highways, vicinity of toll plazas etc, where there is a massive volume of traffic and higher chances of infection spreading. It can also be deployed in Housing Complexes, Office Complexes, Sports Arenas, Apartment buildings etc.
AYUSH IMMUNITY BOOSTING MEASURES: COVID-19
Focus: GS-III Science and Technology
Why in news?
Ministry of AYUSH had issued an advisory on various immunity enhancing steps from the time tested approaches of Ayurveda. The advisory is reiterated again in these testing times to support the efforts of all as a measure towards enhancing ones immunity.
What is advised?
Ministry of AYUSH recommends some self-care guidelines for preventive health measures and boosting immunity with special reference to respiratory health. These are supported by Ayurvedic literature and scientific publications.
General Measures for enhancing immunity:
- Drink warm water throughout the day.
- Daily practice of Yogasana, Pranayama and meditation for at least 30 minutes as advised by Ministry of AYUSH
- Spices like Haldi (Turmeric), Jeera (Cumin), Dhaniya (Coriander) and Lahsun (Garlic) are recommended in cooking.
Ayurvedic Immunity Promoting Measures:
- Drink herbal tea / decoction (Kadha) made from Tulsi (Basil), Dalchini (Cinnamon), Kalimirch (Black pepper), Shunthi (Dry Ginger) and Munakka (Raisin) – once or twice a day. Add jaggery (natural sugar) and / or fresh lemon juice to your taste, if needed.
- Golden Milk- Half tea spoon Haldi (turmeric) powder in 150 ml hot milk – once or twice a day.
Simple Ayurvedic Procedures
- Nasal application – Apply sesame oil / coconut oil or Ghee in both the nostrils (PratimarshNasya) in morning and evening.
- Oil pulling therapy- Take 1 table spoon sesame or coconut oil in mouth. Do not drink, Swish in the mouth for 2 to 3 minutes and spit it off followed by warm water rinse. This can be done once or twice a day.
Procedures during dry cough / sore throat
- Steam inhalation with fresh Pudina (Mint) leaves or Ajwain (Caraway seeds) can be practiced once in a day.
- Lavang (Clove) powder mixed with natural sugar / honey can be taken 2-3 times a day in case of cough or throat irritation.
- These measures generally treat normal dry cough and sore throat. However, it is best to consult doctors if these symptoms persist.
Significance of Ayurveda
- Ayurveda, being the science of life, propagates the gifts of nature in maintaining healthy and happy living.
- Ayurveda’s extensive knowledge base on preventive care, derives from the concepts of “Dinacharya” – daily regimes and “Ritucharya” – seasonal regimes to maintain healthy life.
- It is mainly a plant-based science.
- The simplicity of awareness about oneself and the harmony each individual can achieve by uplifting and maintaining his or her immunity is emphasized across Ayurveda’s classical scriptures.
ACTION TAKEN BY DAC&FW DURING LOCKDOWN
Focus: GS-III Agriculture, Disaster Management
Why in news?
In order to facilitate the farmers and farming activities at field level during the lockdown period, the Department of Agriculture Cooperation and Farmers Welfare, Government of India is taking several measures.
- The Department has circulated the SOP related to crop harvesting & threshing during Kharif 2020 to the States to protect health of farmers and farm workers and to contain the spread of Coronavirus.
- Advisory issued to State Governments/ UT to facilitate Direct Marketing, enabling direct purchase from the farmers/ FPOs/ Cooperatives etc. by Bulk Buyers/Big Retailers/Processors by limiting regulation under State APMC Act.
- The Department is closely monitoring the functioning of fruits and vegetable markets and on inter-State movement of agricultural produce.
- Module of uberisation of logistics aggregator has been recently launched on e-NAM Platform. More than 7.76 lakh trucks and 1.92 lakh transporters are already linked to this module.
- Railways introduced 62 routes for running 109 time table parcel trains to supply essential commodities including perishable horticultural produce, seeds, milk and dairy products at fast speed which will facilitate farmers/FPOs/traders and companies for continuity of supply chain across the country.
- India had a good crop of wheat, in surplus of its own demand. On specific demand from countries, NAFED has been asked to export 50,000 MT wheat to Afghanistan and 40,000 MT wheat to Lebanon under G2G (Government to government) arrangement.
- At time of Independence, a moneylenders or trader in villages mainly controls the whole distribution system of agriculture commodities; consequently farmers were trapped into a perpetual debt instead of getting any profit. Hence to overcome this problem, different state enacted their APMC acts to set up Agricultural Markets.
- In India, agriculture is a “state subject”. Thus, the wholesaling of agricultural produce is governed by the Agricultural Produce Marketing Acts of various State governments.
- The specific objective of market regulation is to ensure that farmers are offered fair prices in a transparent manner.
- The APMC Act empowers state governments to notify the commodities, and designate markets and market areas where the regulated trade takes place.
- The Act also provides for the formation of agricultural produce market committees (APMC) that are responsible for the operation of the markets. The entire State is divided and declared as a market area wherein the markets are managed by the Market Committees constituted by the State Governments. Currently there are around 7,500 regulated markets in the country.
Need for a Model APMC Act
Centre had circulated the Model Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act in 2003 and asked them to amend their APMC laws accordingly.
The act provides for the setting up of private markets, direct deals between the growers and end-users of agro-commodities, including out of Mandi transactions, and legalisation of contract farming etc.
While many states have altered their marketing laws on constant prodding from the Centre, most of the amended laws do not conform strictly to the spirit of the Model statute.
Various Issues with the existing APMC acts
- Vested interests in retaining the present Mandi system along with virtual monopoly of the APMCs over the farm produce marketing are too strong to allow the needed legal changes.
- The state level statues have so far unable to address the key issues such as expansion and modernisation of marketing facilities, improvement in marketing information communication and linking small producers with efficient marketing channels.
- Further, task of establishing infrastructure needs massive investment, which the government alone cannot bear. So, Private participation is a must.
- But private investment of this magnitude is unlikely to come about in the absence of a favourable legal framework and policy environment.
- A planning commission working group report said that present model of marketing reforms, which seeks to create space for a new set of modern markets to operate along with the much less transparent APMC regulated markets, is unlikely to attract much private investment in modern marketing infrastructure.
G20 EXTRAORDINARY ENERGY MINISTERS MEETING
Focus: GS-II International Relations
Why in news?
- Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas and Steel, participated in the G20 Extraordinary Energy Ministers’ virtual Meeting on 10th April 2020 called by Saudi Arabia, in its capacity as the G20 Presidency.
- The G20 Energy Ministers’ focused on ways and means to ensure stable energy markets, which are affected due to demand reduction as result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing surplus production -related matters.
- The G20 Energy Ministers’ meeting will be adopting a Joint Statement, which inter alia, proposes to establish a Task Force to advise the G20 Energy Ministers on the next steps, and agreed to remain engaged in the coming days.
- India has always advocated for a stable oil market, which is reasonable for producers and affordable for consumers.
- Collective efforts of OPEC and OPEC-plus countries to balance the supply-side factors which is imperative for long-term sustainability was appreciated.
- It was urged that oil prices should be targeted to affordable levels to allow for a consumption-led demand recovery.
- Prime Minister’s call for G20 taking a human-centric approach for overcoming challenging hardships, especially for the vulnerable was reiterated.
- It was emphasized that India was, and will continue to be, the global energy demand centre.
- Government of India’s efforts to fill in our Strategic Petroleum Reserves, Ujjwala scheme to provide 80.3 million poor families free LPG cylinders was highlighted.
EPFO SETTLES 1.37 LAKH EPF WITHDRAWAL CLAIMS
Focus: GS-III Disaster Management
Why in news?
Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) has processed about 1.37 lakh claims across the country disbursing an amount of Rs. 279.65 crore under a new provision especially formulated by amending the EPF Scheme to help subscribers fight COVID-19.
- The provision for a special withdrawal from the EPF Scheme to fight Covid-19 pandemic is part of the PMGKY scheme announced by the Government.
- Under this provision non-refundable withdrawal to the extent of the basic wages and dearness allowances for three months or up to 75% of the amount standing to member’s credit in the EPF account, whichever is less, is provided.
- Anticipating the huge surge in the demand, EPFO came out with acompletely new software which has been developed from scratch and a receipt module for on-line receipt of the claims was introduced within 24 hours and deployed on 29th March 2020.
- All cases with variation in date of birth up to three years are now being accepted by EPFO.
Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO)
- EPFO is a Statutory Body, formed by the Employees’ Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952.
- EPFO is under Union Ministry of Labour & Employment.
- The EPFO has the dual role of being the enforcement agency to oversee the implementation of the EPF & MP Act and as a service provider for the covered beneficiaries throughout the country.
- EPFO assists the Central Board in administering a compulsory contributory Provident Fund Scheme, a Pension Scheme and an Insurance Scheme for the workforce engaged in the organized sector in India.
- It is also the nodal agency for implementing Bilateral Social Security Agreements with other countries on a reciprocal basis.
- The schemes cover Indian workers as well as International workers (for countries with which bilateral agreements have been signed.
- The EPFO’s apex decision making body is the Central Boad of Trustees (CBT).
COMPUTER BASED NANO MATERIALS AND FUTURE OF NANO-ELECTRONICS
Focus: GS-III Science and Technology
Why in news?
Researchers from Institute of Nano Science and Technology (INST), Mohali have made computer based designs of nano-materials with superhigh piezoelectricity which can be the building blocks of futuristic nano-electronics for applications like ultrathin, next-generation nano-transistors.
- Piezoelectricity is the generation of electricity in certain materials upon application of pressure.
- Its applications have eased our daily lives through the use of lighters, pressure gauge, sensors and so on.
- Piezoelectricity in 2D materials was first predicted theoretically in 2012 and later observed and confirmed experimentally in monolayer in 2014.
- Since then, there has been a surge in research interests in piezoelectricity in graphene-like two-dimensional (2D) materials, thereby leading to the exploration of piezoelectricity in 2D materials or avenues to induce or enhance piezoelectricity in 2D materials.
- However, most of the 2D materials reported till date mainly show in-plane piezoelectricity; however, for device-based applications, out-of-plane piezoelectricity is very much desired and sought after.
Importance of Innovation in this field
- With the continued trend in the miniaturization of electronic devices, there is a growing demand for superfast ultrathin nanodevices and nanotransistors.
- The nanostructures could be an essential ingredient or building block in constructing these kinds of nanodevices.
- The superfast nanoelectronics can be realized from the ultrahigh charge carrier mobility in ultrathin nanostructures.
- The carrier mobility of the designed nano-materials have been found to exceed that for silicon and therefore, the ultrathin nanostructures thereby providing an insight into the building blocks in futuristic nano-electronics.
- The computational materials can motivate experimentalists to fabricate nano devices with the desired functionality.
- Transistors used in the mother board of Computers and Laptops are getting tinier and thinner with the passage of time.
- So, piezoelectric nanomaterials may be utilized in these ultrathin, next-generation nano-transistors through a synergistic coupling between piezoelectricity and electronics.