Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 19-05-2021


Useful compilation of Civil Services oriented - Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 19-05-2021


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  1. Governance and Institutions - Children helpline SAMVEDNA - The 'Sensitizing Action on Mental Health Vulnerability through Emotional Development and Necessary Acceptance (SAMVEDNA)' is a Toll-Free Helpline for Indian children. It was launched by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) to provide psycho-social first-aid and mental support for Children affected during COVID 19 Pandemic. It is provided on a toll-free No: 1800-121-2830 from Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. in various regional languages. Tele counselling is provided to the children under three categories: (a) Children who are in Quarantine/ isolation/ COVID Care centers, (b) Children who have COVID positive parents or family members and near ones, and (c) Children who have lost their parents due to Covid-19 Pandemic. The pandemic is extracting a big price from the young ones, as their normal life routiens are completely thrown out of gear, in an age when they should be most gregarious.
  2. Healthcare and Medicine - Plasma Therapy dropped from COVID-19 treatment in India - New clinical guidelines on the management of mild, moderate, and severe covid cases, which was released by the COVID National Task have not mentioned Plasma Therapy. The decision was taken on the recommendations of ICMR, AIIMS, and other Health bodies. Plasma Therapy was largely used as a medium to treat Coronavirus. Plasma is the liquid part of human, blood and "Convalescent plasma" extracted from the blood of patients recovering from an infection, is a source of antibodies against the infection. So plasma therapy involves using their plasma to help others recover. For Covid-19, this has been a key treatment option in India, but the donor would have to be a documented case of Covid-19 and healthy for 28 days since the last symptoms. Conclusive proof that plasma therapy actually helps in treating Covid-19 is lacking and research has shown that it has no impact in reducing the duration or severity of the disease. The ICMR-Placid trial was conducted in India across 39 private and public hospitals and involved 464 adults. It held that convalescent plasma was “not associated with a reduction in progression to severe Covid-19" or death. The findings were echoed by RECOVERY, the biggest trial of the efficacy of convalescent plasma that was held in the UK.
  3. People and Personalities - Former IMA President Dr KK Aggarwal passes away - The former President of Indian Medical Association and Padma Shree Awardee Dr KK Aggarwal passed away due to COVID-19 at the age of 62. He was a cardiologist and was a familiar face on social media. Dr KK Aggarwal made various videos educating people about COVID-19, and kept consuting patients till his very end, earning lot of praises. He was a strong proponent of vaccination also, and urged Indians to get vaccinated at the earliest. However, in March-April 2020, his controversial statements were considered unscientific. He had then said in a video that "if all Indians together join in taali thali, then the Coronavirus will not be able to stick to the ACE-2 receptors on human cells". Later that video was removed by him.
  4. World Economy - Retrospective tax tangle - British oil company Cairn Energy Plc is suing Air India in New York to seize its assets to enforce the $1.2 billion arbitration award it won against the Indian government in a retrospective tax dispute. The term retrospective means to look back on something that has occurred in the past. So, "retrospective tax" is the tax for goods and services purchased in the past or income earned in the past. This may happen due to laws being amended or new rules of taxation being introduced in an economy. A retrospective tax is usually caveated with a validation clause. It helps validate the demand for a retrospective tax payment made by one party and the decision or order passed by the country's concerned tax authority. For example, the Supreme Court of India clearly states that you cannot add a new tax liability in retrospect. That is why it is accompanied by the validation clause that serves to verify the demand and pass a judgment. India retrospectively amended its taxation laws through the Finance Act of 2012, permitting tax authorities to reopen and/or investigate transactions from 2006 for evasion of capital gains tax. Government of India is legally battling the Cairn challenge.
  5. Healthcare and Medicine - Work related disease burden - Long working hours led to 7.45 lakh deaths from stroke and ischemic heart disease in 2016, a 29% increase since 2000, according to estimates by World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) published in Environment International. In a first global analysis of the loss of life and health associated with working long hours, WHO and ILO estimate that in 2016, 3.98 lakh people died from stroke and 3.47 lakh from heart disease as a result of having worked at least 55 hours a week. Between 2000 and 2016, the number of deaths from heart disease due to working long hours increased by 42%, and from stroke by 19%. This work-related disease burden is particularly significant in men (72% of deaths occurred among males), people living in the Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions, and middle-aged or older workers. Most of the deaths recorded were among people dying aged 60-79 years, who had worked for 55 hours or more per week between the ages of 45 and 74 years. With working long hours now known to be responsible for about one-third of the total estimated work-related burden of disease, it is established as the risk factor with the largest occupational disease burden. The study concludes that working 55 or more hours per week is associated with an estimated 35% higher risk of a stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease, compared to working 35-40 hours a week.
  6. World Politics - Colombo Port City - A Chinese-funded tax-free enclave touted as Sri Lanka’s answer to Dubai and Singapore cleared the final legal hurdle as the Supreme Court in Colombo ruled it could go ahead with only minor tweaks. The largest single foreign investment in Sri Lanka is one of several massive Asian infrastructure projects funded by China as Beijing increases its regional footprint. Sri Lanka’s top court rejected 19 petitions challenging the “Colombo Port City Economic Commission” Bill and approved the $1.4-billion project subject to minor amendments which the government immediately said it accepted. Project officials have said they hope the brand new “Port City”, an area of reclaimed land, will attract billions of dollars for trade, banking and offshore services similar to what is available in Dubai and Singapore, two of its potential competitors. Named the “Colombo Port City” because of its proximity to Colombo’s main harbour, the sea reclamation — carried out with considerable Chinese labour — completed in 2019 has doubled the size of Colombo’s financial district by adding 269 hectares. The Port City will be administered by a commission with unprecedented powers to fast track investment approvals. All transactions within the Port City will be denominated in foreign currency and all salaries earned by any worker will be tax-exempt.
  7. Indian Economy - Customs rule change to benefit MSMEs with no mfg. facility - The Government has changed the existing Customs (Import of Goods at Concessional Rate of Duty) Rules, IGCR 2017 to boost trade facilitation. The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs has introduced changes through the Customs (Import of Goods at Concessional Rate of Duty) Amendment Rules, 2021. The IGCR, 2017 lay down the procedures and manner in which an importer can avail the benefit of a concessional Customs duty on import of goods required for domestic production of goods or providing services. One major change that accommodates the needs of trade and industry is that the imported goods have been permitted to be sent out for job work. The absence of this facility had earlier cons trained the industry especially those in the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises sector which did not have the complete manufacturing capability in-house. Importers who do not have any manufacturing facility can now avail the IGCR, 2017 to import goods at concessional Customs duty and get the final goods manufactured entirely on job work basis. However, some sectors such as gold, jewellery, precious stones and metals have been excluded. Another major incentive now provided is to allow those who import capital goods at a concessional Customs duty to clear them in the domestic market on payment of duty and interest, at a depreciated value. This was not allowed earlier and manufacturers were stuck with the imported capital goods after having used them as they could not be easily re-exported.
  8. Arts and Culture - Indian language learning App - MyGov, the citizen engagement platform of the Government of India, in partnership with Department of Higher Education has launched an Innovation Challenge for creating an Indian Language Learning App. The objective of this challenge is to create an app that will promote regional language literacy, thereby creating greater cultural understanding within the country. The Innovation Challenge is open to Indian individuals, startups and companies. The Innovation Challenge closes on 27 May 2021. Upon evaluation of submission of prototypes, the top 10 teams will be invited to make presentations and top 3 will be selected by a jury. The top 3 will receive funding of INR 20, 10 and 5 lakhs to make the apps better.
  9. World Politics - Covid Update - There's debate in America that it should ignore inflation and focus on jobs. The US consumer price index soared 4.2% in April 2021 (from a year before), its biggest jump in more than a decade. Economists argue the increase is driven by transitory factors: a lingering semiconductor shortage, plus short-term spikes in activity (like driving) as pandemic restrictions ease. Too much focus on containing prices could damage the job market, they warn, and tightening interest rates too soon could worsen wage inequality. Pfizer reported $3.5 billion in revenue from its vaccine in the first quarter of 2021, while Moderna’s vax sales hit $1.7 billion (giving the company its first profit). Vaccines aren’t typically known for their ROI, the once-in-a-century Covid crisis opened a door. Investors are betting on the future of vaccines. In Kenya, a billion-dollar contract with a Canadian company to build mobile Covid clinics and upgrade hospitals has attracted ire, and the attention of US regulators. To date, Taiwan has reported fewer than 1,500 Covid-19 cases, and just 12 deaths. But the island of 23 million is now facing its worst outbreak yet, and increasing restrictions. South Africa is broadening its vaccine program in the face of a potential third wave. Most cases in the country are now caused by a variant known as B.1.351, which first emerged there in December and has since spread to at least 68 nations. NUMBERS - INDIA - Total cases: 164,887,203; New cases: 616,945; Total deaths: 3,418,218; New deaths: 13,966; Total recovered: 145,036,006; Active cases: 16,432,979.
  10. Indian Politics - Covid Update - India recorded the world’s highest-ever daily coronavirus death toll as 4,529 died on 19th May. India recorded 2,67,334 new coronavirus cases, taking the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 2,54,96,330. The peak of the second wave may have been reached, in infection terms. Meanwhile, the job crisis in India deepened following the second wave of COVID-19 as rural unemployment shot up to 14.34% from 7.29% by May 9. The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) data showed that the unemployment level in rural areas has surged to its highest in one year. The national unemployment rate also soared to 14.45% from 8.67%. The government struck off plasma therapy from Covid treatments list, as researchers said that current research evidence unanimously indicated that there was no benefit offered by convalescent plasma for treatment of Covid-19. But it had continued to be prescribed rampantly in hospitals across India. As Covid-19 wreaked havoc in India, thousands of patients and caregivers were searching for plasma donors, despite increasing evidence that unchecked plasma use could be contributing to more virulent mutations. Government has now warned Indians about poor ventilation and virus in the aerosols. The "Stop the Transmission, Crush the Pandemic - Masks, distance, sanitation and ventilation to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2 virus" advisory highlights the important role well-ventilated spaces play in diluting the viral load of infected air in poorly ventilated houses, offices and closes spaces. NUMBERS - INDIA - Total
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    • 1. ECONOMY (Prelims, GS Paper 3, Essay paper)
India's Covid choices - Waiver in TRIPS Waiver versus Compulsory Licencing
  • The story: India and South Africa brought a proposal to request waiver on key provisions of the TRIPS agreement on Covid-19 vaccines, drugs, therapeutics, and related technologies. This proposal was later backed by the U.S also, in a major shift of stance.
  • What would waiver do: The TRIPS waiver proposal would give immunity to member countries from a legal challenge at the WTO if their domestic Intellectual Property Regulation (IPR) laws suspend or do not enforce IP protection. The idea is that the IPR should not become barriers in scaling up production of medical products essential to combat Covid-19. But experts feel this TRIPS waiver alone may not help India. Instead of obtaining an IP waiver, the Indian government must enable vaccine manufacturers expand production through compulsory licensing & reduce inefficiencies in procurement & distribution.
  • TRIPS Agreement & Indian Law: The TRIPS agreement was negotiated in 1995 at the WTO, and requires all its signatory countries to enact domestic patents law in consonance with it. It thereby guarantees minimum standards of IP protection. The idea is that such legal consistency enables innovators to monetise their intellectual property in multiple countries.
  1. From Doha to 2021 - In 2001, the WTO signed the Doha Declaration, which clarified that in a public health emergency, governments could compel companies to license their patents to manufacturers, even if they did not think the offered price was acceptable.
  2. This provision is “compulsory licensing”, was already built into the TRIPS Agreement and the Doha declaration only clarified its usage.
  3. Under Section 92 of the 1970 Indian Patents Act, the central government has the power to allow compulsory licenses to be issued at any time in case of a national emergency or circumstances of extreme urgency.
  • Why wavier not a panacea: The process of vaccine development and manufacturing has several steps, and involves a complex intellectual property mechanism. Different types of IP rights apply to different steps and there is no one kind of IP that could unlock the secret to manufacturing a vaccine. The expertise to manufacture it may be protected as a trade secret, and the data from clinical trials to test vaccine safety and efficacy may be protected by copyright. Then, manufacturing vaccines will need to design the process for manufacturing the vaccines, source necessary raw materials, build production facilities, and conduct clinical trials to get regulatory approvals. The manufacturing process itself has different steps, some of which may be subcontracted to other parties. So a patent waiver alone does not empower manufacturers to start vaccine production immediately.
  • Go for 'Compulsory Licensing': The richest countries have cornered about 80 percent of vaccine supplies so far! While India needs to supplement its output to ensure that a population of over 900 million which is above 18 years of age gets about 1.8 billion doses at the earliest. So compulsory licensing can be used to augment the supply of drugs and other therapeutics. An assertive posture on compulsory licences would also have the advantage of forcing several pharmaceutical companies to offer licences voluntarily. Licensing Covaxin widely would enable India to live up to its reputation of being the ‘pharmacy of the world’ and also put pressure on developed countries to transfer their vaccine technology to developing countries. By unlocking its vaccine technical know-how to the world, India would demonstrate its resolve to walk the talk on the TRIPS waiver.
  • Summary: India has played a key role in mainstreaming TRIPS flexibilities like the compulsory licence at the WTO. In this global emergency, the government should urgently make use of compulsory licences. Otherwise, shortages may linger long enough to kill thousands more Indians.
  • Knowledge centre:
  1. Indian Patents Act 1970 - The Patents Act 1970, along with the Patent Rules 1972, came into force on 20 April 1972, during the Indira Gandhi regime, replacing the Indian Patent and Design Act 1911. The Patent Act is based on the recommendations of the report Justice Iyengar Committee headed by Rajagopala Iyengar. One of the recommendations was the allowance of process patents in relation to inventions related to drugs, drugs, food and chemicals. Again The Patents Act, 1970 was amended by the Patents (Amendment) Act, 2005 regarding extending product patents in all areas of technology including food, medicine, chemicals and microorganisms. Following the amendment, provisions relating to exclusive marketing rights (EMR) have been repealed, and a provision has been introduced to enable the grant of compulsory licenses. Provisions related to pre-grant and anti-post protests have also been introduced.
  2. Product and process patents - A product patent protects a particular product, so no one can copy it. It offers high protection to the original inventor to reduce the competition for the same product. A process patent protects the process through which one manufactures the product and not the product. It reduces the element of monopoly in the market, because reverse engineering is possible.
IBC becomes active again

  • The story: The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) in India was suspended in March 2020, in wake of the Covid crisis. That suspension was lifted on 25 March, 2021, and India has not witnessed a surge in fresh bankruptcy filings. That came as a relief.
  • A breather: The trend is also a breather for businesses grappling with the devastating second wave of covid-19 infections, despite the uncertainties surrounding India’s economic recovery.
  1. What led to fewer cases for resolution - The government’s move to increase the threshold on payment defaults from Rs.1 lakh to Rs.1 crore in March 2020 for initiating bankruptcy proceedings against companies, and the special resolution scheme for small businesses were key factors to curb the number of bankruptcy cases.
  2. The special scheme allowed small businesses and creditors to informally put in place a corporate rescue plan before moving bankruptcy tribunals.
  3. Further, the sentiments surrounding distressed assets, too, discourages creditors from dragging debtors to tribunals. So the pace of filing cases under IBC is now same as was earlier. The creditors are cautious that going through the IBC route may not give them much benefit than exploring other options.
  4. Even lenders, who are facing manpower challenges due to the pandemic, are not in a hurry to initiate legal proceedings.
  • Actual dynamics: Expectations of a surge in fresh bankruptcy filings once the IBC suspension was lifted were high. But no sharp increase in filings is taking place. One reason is that people prefer out of court settlement in such matters to avoid going through the rigors of insolvency proceedings. Another reason could be the low turnout of personnel at banks and non-banking financial companies owing to the on-off nature of lockdowns. Hence policy decisions are delayed. And there is an element of empathy as in debtor-creditor relations, as creditors understand the genuine hardships faced by businesses during a pandemic.
  • Tremendous stress: The problem is that beyond a point, the tremendous stress in the economy will begin showing.
  • RBI in action: With local restrictions on mobility across states disrupting economic activities, and increasing the uncertainties for businesses, on 5 May, the Reserve Bank of India allowed lenders to offer a limited window to small borrowers for restructuring loans while classifying the same as ‘standard’.
  • Summary: The surge in coronavirus infections could delay economic recovery and add to the risk for financial institutions. RBI’s measures will offer some relief to financial institutions for the next few months, but at the expense of deferring the recognition and resolution of underlying asset-quality problems.
  • Knowledge centre:
  1. IBC law - The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC) is the biggest insolvency reform of India. It's a central Act enacted for reorganization and insolvency resolution of corporate persons, partnership firms, and individuals in a time-bound manner for maximization of the value of assets of such persons. It was enacted and came into force w.e.f. 28th  May 2016, however. Some of the parts were notified much later. The era before IBC had scattered laws causing delays. For example - (i) SARFAESI – (Securitization and reconstruction of financial assets and enforcement of security interest) Act for security enforcement, (ii) RDDBFI (Recovery of debt due to banks and financial institutions) for debt recovery by banks and financial institutions, (iii) Companies Act for liquidation and winding up of the company, etc.
  2. Insolvency and bankruptcy - Bankruptcy (process) is a legal process for liquidating what property and assets a debtor owns to pay off their debts. Insolvency is a financial state in which a person's (or company's) debts exceed their assets. Someone who's bankrupt is insolvent, but someone who's insolvent isn't necessarily bankrupt.

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    • 2. ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY (Prelims, GS Paper 3, Essay paper
India's net-zero emissions will clash with huge infrastructure targets

  • The story: As a developing country, India has large infrastructure building goals. Those may make it difficult for it to achieve a net-zero emissions scenario. These are concerns raised by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in May 2021. The IEA is an intergovernmental organisation that works with countries to shape sustainable energy policies. The report was titled "Net Zero by 2050: A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector".
  • Developing economies like India tend to build up stocks of goods and infrastructure to account for the rising demand. This is especially true of three heavy industries – steel, cement, and chemicals.
  1. Some countries such as India see (will see) higher growth in steel and cement production, while production in China declined considerably following its industrial boom period after the turn of the millennium.
  2. The zero net emissions roadmap will lead to a surge in clean energy investments, creating millions of jobs and lifting global economic growth. But moving the world onto that pathway requires strong and credible policy actions from governments, underpinned by much greater international cooperation.
  3. As of now, India has not set any target to achieve a carbon-neutral future, in which all new emissions would be offset by green measures such as reforestation and a higher usage of renewable sources in the country's overall energy mix.
  • Self action: However, despite the lack of policy directives, some large corporates operating in steel and cement sectors have taken it upon themselves to reduce their carbon emissions.
  1. An example is that of JSW Steel, which has set a target to reduce its carbon emissions by 41% from its 2005 levels by 2030. The conglomerate is also looking at hydrogen usage in steelmaking, which would eventually lead to replacement of coking coal. The group has also adopted a shadow internal carbon price for its steel, energy, and cement businesses that helps in the decision-making process for project approvals.
  2. Tata Steel is adopting a new technology developed in its plants in the Netherlands that would reduce additional energy inputs in their systems by capturing CO2 from its blast furnaces and reusing it. The byproduct gas produced through this route has higher concentration of CO2, making it more amenable for carbon capture and use of the CO2 emissions.
  • US and India: US climate envoy John Kerry, during his New Delhi visit in April 2021, had urged India to lay down a net-zero plan to offset carbon emissions. Meanwhile, India was well on track to exceed its Paris Agreement commitment to reduce carbon emissions per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) by 33-35% from 2005 levels by 2030.
  • Climate justice: Indian PM Modi and Environment minister Javadekar have previously spoken about “climate justice”, and how any such environmental target needs to be taken in a historical context – developed countries have already used natural resources in excess for their own benefit, contributing the most to climate change crisis, but they are now pressurising developing countries to reduce their emissions.
  • Knowledge centre:
  1. Climate justice - As a form of environmental justice, climate justice is the fair treatment of all people and the freedom from discrimination in the creation of policies and projects that address climate change as well as the systems that create climate change and perpetuate discrimination. Climate Justice links human rights and development to achieve a human-centred approach, safeguarding the rights of the most vulnerable and sharing the burdens and benefits of climate change and its resolution equitably and fairly.
  2. Cabon sequestration - It is the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide. It is one method of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere with the goal of reducing global climate change. Reservoirs that retain carbon and keep it from entering Earth's atmosphere are known as carbon sinks. For example, deforestation is a source of carbon emission into the atmosphere, but forest regrowth is a form of carbon sequestration, with the forests themselves serving as carbon sinks.

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    • 3. FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Prelims, GS Paper 3, Essay paper)

Taxing multinationals across the world

    • The story: It has been many years that governments have complained as multinational companies shifted profits out of tax collectors’ grasp and into low-tax havens like Ireland. The OECD, a club of rich countries, estimated in 2015 that avoidance robs public coffers of $100bn-240bn, or 4-10% of global corporation-tax revenues a year.
    • Covid arrives: The fiscal fallout from Covid-19 is adding urgency to governments’ efforts to get some of this lost money back, most notably in America, where President Joe Biden plans to raise taxes on corporate profits, including foreign income.
    • President in top gear: Mr Biden’s proposals will grind their way through Congress. Finance ministers from the G7 group of countries were set to discuss global tax reform in London on June 4th-5th. Later in the summer 139 countries were to discuss changing the system for taxing multinational companies. The confluence of a political shift in America and a global push to raise more tax revenue to pay for the pandemic means a degree of optimism is in the air.
    • Where it all began: The foundations of the global corporate-tax system were laid a century ago.
    1. It recognises that overlapping taxes on the same slice of profits can curb trade and growth. As a result, taxing rights are allocated first to wherever profits are produced (the “source”) and then to wherever the parent company is headquartered (or “resident”).
    2. A multinational based in America but with an affiliate in Ireland, for example, typically pays taxes in both places. Where the company makes its sales is irrelevant. Payments between an individual firm’s various legal affiliates are recorded using the “arm’s-length” principle, supposedly on terms equivalent to those found on the open market.
    3. These principles are part of thousands of bilateral tax treaties, but they have had two unintended consequences. First, they have encouraged governments to compete for investment and revenue by offering tantalisingly low tax rates. In 1985 the global average statutory corporation-tax rate was 49%; in 2018 it was 24%. Ireland boasts a statutory rate of just 12.5%; Bermuda, 0%. And second, tax competition has encouraged companies to shuffle their reported profits to low-tax places. In 2016 around $ 1 trn of global profits were booked in so-called “investment hubs”. These include the Cayman Islands, Ireland and Singapore, which apply an average effective tax rate of 5% on the profits of non-resident companies.
    • Activity were taxation: So now there is a huge mismatch between where tax is paid and where real activity takes place. OECD suggests that multinationals report 25% of their profits in investment hubs, although only 11% of their tangible assets and less than 5% of their workers are based there.
    1. Parents can allocate paper profits to affiliates in tax havens by having them hold intellectual property that is then licensed to other affiliates in high-tax places.
    2. The problem seems to have worsened over time, perhaps because more firms make money from intangible services, from software to streaming videos.
    3. The share of American multinationals’ foreign profits booked in tax havens has risen from 30% two decades ago to about 60% today. Most investors and bosses view firms’ tax bills as a black box that only a few lawyers and tax experts truly understand.
    • Just one common tax rate: Imagine that there were a single common tax rate. A huge $ 670 bn in paper profits, unconnected to things like factories, would have moved in 2016, almost 40% of multinationals’ foreign earnings. Big Western countries are losers from the current system: profits in America and France, for instance, are depressed by around a fifth. By comparison, havens collect more revenue, as a share of GDP, despite their rock-bottom effective rates. Hong Kong collects a third of its corporate-tax receipts by attracting profits from high-tax countries; Ireland, over half.
    • Silicon valley's push: The rise of Silicon Valley has added fuel to the fire. Some governments gripe at giant firms serving customers without any physical presence in their country and while paying no tax. The problems posed by the tech firms are not in fact new: pharmaceutical companies have long held mobile and hard-to-value intellectual property; exporters do not incur tax liabilities where they sell. Still, digital services have become a target. More than 40 governments, from France to India, are either levying or planning to levy digital-services taxes on the revenue of firms such as Amazon, Google and Facebook. The growing sense of anarchy over how to tax Silicon Valley, the global desire to raise more tax revenues and a more conciliatory White House all mean the scene is set for a global deal.
    • What lies ahead: An idea is to reallocate taxing rights so that a slice of profits could be levied according to, say, the location of a company’s sales. That right could be incurred even if the company had no physical presence in the country. Mr Biden’s negotiators have proposed a reallocation that would apply to the 100 biggest and most profitable companies worldwide; in return, the Biden administration wants all the digital-services taxes to be dropped. So India would suffer. The second element would apply a minimum rate of corporation tax, putting a floor on the race to the bottom. The Biden administration wants a global minimum tax rate on foreign earnings of 21%, applied to profits within each jurisdiction separately.
    • Summary: Problem lies with assessing the location of sales made by one business to another, if it then goes on to make sales in a different country. The European Union wants to go ahead with a digital levy regardless of the outcome at the OECD. Many tax havens may resist higher minimum tax rates that eliminate the advantage for companies of booking profits there. Any deal will involve compromises. What if countries cannot agree? America will forge ahead with reforms to its domestic taxes, including provisions that could unilaterally increase the tax load of American subsidiaries of foreign companies that pay low tax bills globally. Digital-services taxes could spread like wildfire, incurring American tariffs in retaliation. But taxes are bound to rise.

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      • 4. GOVERNMENT SCHEMES (Prelims, GS Paper 2, Essay paper)

    Vaccinating everyone means two years from now - Adar Poonawalla

    • The story: The Serum Institute of India said that owing to India's large population, the Covid-19 vaccination drive cannot be completed within 2-3 months. It will take at least two to three years for the entire population of the world to get vaccinated.
    • SII Pune: The Pune-based firm is one of the world's largest vaccine manufacturing companies. It also said that it would continue to scale up its production of its locally produced AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine candidate "Covishield" and start exporting to other countries by the end of the year.
    1. It clarified that it had never exported vaccines at the cost of the people of India and remained committed to do everything we can in the support of the vaccination drive in the country.
    2. The Covid 19 crisis has been difficult on people across the globe, including India. In the past few days. there has been intense discussion on the decision of our Government and Indian vaccine manufacturers Including SII to export vaccines.
    • Clarification from SII: Here are excerpts from their statement -
    1. Firstly, in January 2021 we had a large stockpile of vaccine doses. Our vaccination drive had started successfully and the number of daily cases being recorded were at an all-time low. At that stage, most people including health experts believed that India was fuming the tide on the pandemic.
    2. Around the same time, many other countries in the world were facing an acute crisis and were in desperate need of help. Our Government extended support wherever possible during this period. It is this spirit that had initially led to corporation between countries when the virus first emerged in the beginning of 2020. The corporation between countries also forms the basis for us getting access to technology and aid for healthcare. Today, it is this reciprocity, where India has helped other countries with the supply of HCO and vaccine exports, that has in tum led to support from other countries.
    3. We must also understand that this pandemic is not limited by geographic or political boundaries. We will not be safe till everyone one globally is able to defeat this virus at a global scale. Further. as part of our global alliances, we also had commitments to COVAX, so that they could distribute the vaccines globally to end the pandemic.
    4. Another important factor that people do not tend to realise is that we are amongst the two most populous countries in the world, a vaccination drive for such a large population cannot be completed within 2-3 months, as there are several factors and challenges involved. That said it would take 2-3 years for the entire world population to get fully vaccinated.
    5. SII has delivered more than 200mn doses, even though we received EUA two months after the US pharma companies. If we look at total doses produced and delivered, we rank amongst the top three in the world. We continue to scale up manufacturing and prioritise India. We also hope to start delivering to COVAX and other countries by end of this year.
    • What WHO says: The WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that once the devastating COVID-19 outbreak in India recedes, the Serum Institute of India will need to “get back on track and catch up" on its delivery commitments to COVAX, the global initiative to supply coronavirus vaccines to nations around the world. He said the surge in COVID-19 cases around the world has compromised the global vaccine supply and there is already a shortfall of 190 million doses to COVAX by the end of June. COVAX, “the global COVID vaccine equity scheme", has so far delivered 65 million doses to 124 countries and economies but it is dependent on countries and manufacturers honouring their commitments.
    • Summary: Lack of proper planning from April-May 2020 has led to a very sticky situation for the government and the vaccine firms. It will get resolved only with time.

     Vulnerable Tribal Groups - Covid spreading


    • The story: Many members of eight different Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) got infected in the second wave of Covid-19 in Odisha. The infected PVTGs include the Bonda tribe of Malkangiri hills and Dongaria Kondh tribe of Niyamgiri hills.
    • Points to note: According to the 2011 Census, Odisha’s share of the country’s total tribal population was 9%, with tribals constituting 22.85% of the State's population. In terms of numbers of its tribal population, Odisha occupies the third position in India. Of the 62 tribal groups residing in Odisha, 13 are recognised as PVTGs.
    1. The 13 PVTGs in Odisha are: Bonda, Birhor, Chuktia Bhunjia, Didayi, Dungaria Kandha, Hill Kharia, Juang, Kutia Kondh, Lanjia Saora, Lodha, Mankirdia, Paudi Bhuyan and Saora.
    2. Tribal populations are found in the entire seven districts of Kandhamal, Mayurbhanj, Sundargarh, Nabarangpur, Koraput, Malkangiri and Rayagada, and in parts of 6 other districts.
    • Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs): In 1973, the Dhebar Commission created Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs) as a separate category, which are less developed among the tribal groups. In 2006, the Government of India renamed the PTGs as PVTGs. In 1975, the Government of India initiated to identify the most vulnerable tribal groups as a separate category called PVTGs and declared 52 such groups. In 1993 an additional 23 groups were added to the category, making it a total of 75 PVTGs out of 705 Scheduled Tribes. Among the 75 listed PVTG’s the highest number are found in Odisha.
    • Characteristics of PVTGs: The Government classifies PVTGs on their - (i) Relative physical isolation, (ii) Stagnant or declining population, (iii) Low levels of literacy, (iv) Absence of written language, and (v) Pre-agricultural stage of economy, such as hunting, food gathering, shifting cultivation and terrace cultivation.
    • Schemes for PVTGs: These are more vulnerable among the tribal groups. Due to this factor, more developed and assertive tribal groups take a major chunk of the tribal development funds because of which PVTGs need more funds directed for their development. The Ministry of Tribal Affairs has implemented the scheme of “Development of PVTGs” which covers 75 Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) for their comprehensive socio-economic development. Under the scheme, State Governments submit Conservation-cum-Development (CCD) plans on the basis of their requirement. 100% grants-in-aid are made available to States as per the provisions of the scheme.

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      • 5. POLITY AND CONSTITUTION (Prelims, GS Paper 2, GS Paper 3)
    West Bengal Governor in action mode - Constitutional or not

    • The story: The West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar has been in news steadily for some years now, as he takes potshots at the Mamata Banerjee government's acts of commission and omission. In May 2021, he made a visit to areas allegedly hit by post-poll violence in Cooch Behar. Questions were raised if this would constitute a transgression of the bounds of constitutional propriety.
    • Disagreements on his behaviour: Governor Dhankhar has been a habitual critic of the Mamata Banerjee (Chief Minister) regime in West Bengal, and many say he has ignored the principle that constitutional heads should not air their differences with the elected regimes in public. As recently as December 2020, CM Banerjee had appealed to the President to recall the Governor. Why? Due to political statements that she believed were being made by him at the behest of the BJP-led Union government.
    • The constitutional issue: The norms of representative government ought to be a natural restraint on the Governor’s gubernatorial tendency to breach limitis. A former West Bengal Governor, Gopalkrishna Gandhi, came in for some criticism for setting aside the restraints of constitutional office, when he was criticised for expressing “cold horror” at the police firing that left 14 protesters dead at Nandigram in 2007. The gubernatorial office ought not to be an impediment to the Governor yielding to the moral urge to condemn incidents of rare enormity. The larger principle that the Governor should not offer public comment on situations best handled by the representative regime has to be upheld. In Dhankhar's case, his persistent criticism of the TMC regime is seen as being congruent with the interests of the BJP.
    • How to do it then: The post-poll 'celebrations' in West Bengal degenerated into triumphalism and attacks on the losing side. That is abhorrent and must not happen at all. The onus surely was/ is on Ms. Mamata Banerjee to restore order and end the violence. This should be the case even if she believed that the extent of the violence was being exaggerated by the Opposition. Regardless of one’s view of a regime’s inaction, there should be no departure from constitutional prescriptions of governor’s powers. Any advice or warning the Governor wants to give to the elected government ought to be in private and in confidence, and not in public.
    • Summary: Over the years, starting largely from Indira Gandhi's times, the office of the governor has been used (misused) for the political ends of the central government. This is avoidable.
    Corruption in West Bengal
    • The story: In May 2021, in a sudden turn of events, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested four ministers, Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee, TMC MLA Madan Mitra and former Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chattopadhyay in the Narada bribery case.
    • The case details: The "Narada sting operation" was conducted by Narada news founder Mathew Samuel for over two years in West Bengal. It was conducted in 2014 for the news magazine Tehelka. Samuel is the former managing editor of Tehelka.
    1. It was published on a private news website Narada News months before the 2016 West Bengal Assembly elections. As part of the operation, Samuel formed a fictitious company named Impex Consultancy Solutions, and approached several TMC ministers, MPs and leaders, asking them for favours in return for money. It was a 52-hour footage photographed by Samuel and his colleague Angel Abraham.
    2. In it, then TMC (Trinamool Congress) MPs and state ministers were seen accepting alleged bribes in the form of wads of cash. This was allegedly in exchange for extending unofficial favours for Impex Consultancy Solutions, which was floated by Samuel himself. Samuel claimed that K. D. Singh, TMC Rajya Sabha MP and majority owner of Tehelka, knew and funded the entire operation. Singh, however, refuted his involvement with any aspect of the sting.
    • Names of the involved: The MPs include Mukul Roy, Sougata Roy, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, Prasun Bannerjee, Suvendu Adhikari, Aparupa Poddar and Sultan Ahmad (he died in 2017). The state ministers were Madan Mitra, Subrata Mukherjee, Firhad Hakim and Iqbal Ahmed. IPS HMS Mirza (now suspended) was also seen taking cash from Samuel. TMC leader Shanku Deb Panda was also seen asking for shares. Of the above, Mukul Roy, Suvendu Adhikari, Sovan Chatterjee and Panda are with the BJP now, as part of the high-powered 2021 campaign to grab power in West Bengal.
    • State response: The state government initiated its own probe, and booked Samuel under multiple sections of the IPC 469 (forgery to harm reputation), 500 (defamation), 120(B) (criminal conspiracy) etc. That was a ridiculous way to go about ending corruption! In August 2016, the Calcutta High Court stayed the state probe for ad infinitum, and observed that the police cannot run a concurrent investigation along with a court-monitored probe. In March 2017, the Calcutta High Court ordered that a preliminary probe will be conducted by the CBI. The court directed the CBI to register an FIR against those who were involved in the case, if required. Soon, the state initiated disciplinary proceedings against HMS Mirza.
    • Proceedings underway: In April 2017, the CBI filed a First Information Report against 12 Trinamool leaders for “criminal conspiracy”, and subsequently summoned all of the leaders involved to assist in the investigation. All of them were booked under Section 120 B of IPC (criminal conspiracy), Section 13 (2), 13 (1D) and Section 7 of Prevention of Corruption Act. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is also running a parallel investigation, and has lodged a case about misappropriation of public funds under Anti-Corruption-Act. It has also issued multiple summons to the accused and Samuel, himself. Since the sting operation involved Members of Parliament, a Lok Sabha ethics committee was also set up. This was to initiate a probe to determine if the persons committed a breach of privilege of the house concerned. The committee sat only once after the incident.
    • May 2021: The West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, on a request by the CBI, sanctioned the prosecution of Subrata Mukherjee, Firhad Hakim, Madan Mitra and Sovan Chatterjee. The Governor is the competent authority to accord sanction in terms of law as he happens to be the appointing authority for such ministers in terms of Article 164 of the Constitution.

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      • 6. SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY (Prelims, Various GS Papers)
    China's Mars rover is a new chapter

    • The story: Encased in a lander, the rover touched down shortly after 7 a.m. Beijing time on 15th May, 2021, 10 months after China’s Tianwen-1 mission left Earth. Until the touchdown, the potential landing zone — in a vast impact crater called Utopia Planitia — was thousands of kilometres across, meaning that scientists could only loosely finger sites of possible interest.
    • After safe landing: The world came to know the general landing location of China’s Zhurong Mars rover, and scientists rushed to analyse satellite images and geological maps to pinpoint intriguing features. Of significance was a possible mud volcano — a type of landform that no Mars rover has visited before.
    1. Images from the rover were not released immediately, and they might not come for weeks, according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA). But radio signals sent after the rover unfurled its solar panels suggested that it arrived at the western edge of Utopia Planitia, about 1,800 kilometres northeast of NASA’s Perseverance rover, which landed in February 21.
    2. The lander has probably settled on a fairly smooth, sandy plain dotted with small craters, add researchers. They are now studying existing images of the region taken by spacecraft such as NASA’s Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).
    3. The site is close to the boundary between Mars’s northern lowlands and southern highlands. NASA’s Curiosity and Perseverance rovers also landed close to this region, which might have been the shoreline for an ancient ocean that once covered the planet’s north.
    • The sediments: The priority for scientists is to study the composition of sediments for evidence they have been altered by interaction with water, which would suggest that the area had once been immersed. Some argue that more recent geological processes in the area are likely to have obscured evidence of this ancient water body. Of great interest to scientists is a pitted, cone-shaped feature seen in aerial images, which is about three kilometres northwest of Zhurong’s position: this could be a volcano formed from lava or slurries of mud.
    1. On Earth, mud volcanoes are associated with the production of methane by bacteria. Their presence on Mars might help to explain puzzlingly large quantities of methane that had been previously detected in the Martian atmosphere.
    2. To find out what the feature is, scientists would like to see the use of a laser-based system tied to Zhurong’s spectrometer, to zap the rocks and analyse their composition, as well as ground-penetrating radar to study structures below the surface.
    3. The cone could be beyond Zhurong’s reach. The mission’s goal is to cover a distance of several hundred metres over the next three months, she says — although the rover could stay active for longer.
    • Sand dunes and subsurface ice: The area where Zhurong has landed also features large sand dunes that reveal that winds flowed in a southeasterly or northwesterly direction. The site is also likely to contain rocks that were ejected from nearby impact craters, so there will be a few different rock types to explore. Researchers hope to find ice below the surface. The shallow cliffs and troughs that appear in the aerial images are reminiscent of features seen in permafrost-layered regions of Canada and Siberia suggesting that features on Mars might also have been formed by ice-driven processes.
    • Moving about: To explore all these features on Mars’s surface, Zhurong can move at speeds of 200 metres per hour. But it is likely that the 240-kilogram rover will move much more slowly. The key challenge will be navigating the complex, rocky landscape autonomously. Even Perseverance — an SUV-sized rover weighing more than a tonne — will probably cover only 100 metres in a day, making it much faster than any other rover before it.
    • Equipments carried: The rover carries six science payloads to study the topography, geology, soil structure, minerals and rock types and atmosphere in the area.
    1. NaTeCam: A pair of 2048 × 2048 pixel navigation and terrain cameras mounted on the mast of the rover to provide 3D panoramic imaging, assist navigation and study Mars topography and geology.
    2. MSCam: A multispectral camera installed on the mast between the NaTeCams to provide information on surface materials and their distribution across nine spectral bands. It covers eight spectral bands as well as visible light.
    3. MarSCoDe: The Mars Surface Composition Detector includes a laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) spectrometer, which vaporizes rocks to analyze their composition.
    4. RoPeR: A penetrating radar picking up echo data to study the soil and potential water ice below the surface. Two frequency channels will probe subsurface layers down to 10 meters with centimeter-level vertical resolution and to 100m with 1m resolution, respectively.
    5. RoMAG: A mast-mounted magnetometer for measuring the magnetic field. It will work together with another magnetometer aboard the orbiter.
    6. MCS: The Mars Climate Station combines a number of sensors to collect data on temperature, pressure, wind speed and direction.
    • Knowledge centre:
    1. Utopia Planitia - It means the "Nowhere Land Plain". It is a large plain within Utopia, the largest recognized impact basin on Mars (and also in the Solar System) with an estimated diameter of 3300 km. The Viking 2 lander touched down here, in Sept 1976. The Chinese Zhurong rover touched down on 14 May, 2021, as a part of the Tianwen-1 mission. Its antipode is the Argyre Planitia, a basin possibly formed by a giant impact during the Late Heavy Bombardment of the early Solar System, approximately 3.9 billion years ago.
    2. Mars lack of magnetic field - Earth's magnetism comes from within, but Mars' does not. Earth's magnetism comes from its core, where molten, electrically conducting iron flows beneath the crust. Its magnetic field is global, meaning it surrounds the entire planet. Billions of years ago, Mars used to have a global magnetic field, but it shut down for reasons that are still unknown, about 4 billion years ago, leaving the atmosphere unshielded to radiation and causing it to bleed over time into space.

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      • 7. SOCIAL ISSUES (Prelims, GS Paper 2)
    Covid hits Indians' wealth hard, spending habits change
    • Scared for life: Indian consumers, urban and rural, are trying to not spend but store cash for any emergency medical needs. So all big-ticket discretionary expenses are being postponed now, through a second covid wave that is killing people at a frightening pace.
    • What experts say: Companies and financial experts feel that prospective customers are diverting funds that could have gone into the purchase of discretionary items toward unforeseen emergency and health-related expenses. That is because of a fear for life dear. Through the first wave in 2020, several consumer appliances moved from the ‘discretionary’ bucket to the ‘essentials’ category.
    1. But in 2021, the mindset is to conserve cash. As covid cases go down and things become normal, spending on this category will see an upward trend.
    2. Currency with the public rose 16% to an all-time high of Rs 4 lakh crore, while bank deposits surged by more than Rs 20 lakh crore between March 2020 and April 2021, double that of previous year.
    3. Rural demand, which saved the scene for Indian policymakers in 2020, may again save the day for the companies concerned as purchases revive when the covid wave retreats. Better monsoons and higher farm-gate prices should underpin rural demand.
    • Cash storage: The risk perception is significantly higher and, if people would have six months’ cash at hand, they have enhanced it. Discretionary spending is expected to be slow during the lockdown, although the pace could pick up after the mobility curbs are eased. Pent-up demand and the enhanced emphasis on personal mobility, in the immediate aftermath of the second wave, should drive demand for cars. But that would be at the cost of shared mobility and public transport.
    • Sales: The pace of deposit accumulation at banks and financial institutions has been relatively slow in the face of mounting healthcare costs – and the need for emergency cash. The sentiment in the rural consumer currently is to conserve cash, as uncertainty looms large. Hopes were that post-August, with the upcoming festivals, rural spending will look up.” Rural focused firms say that during the H2, saled may rise as vehicles and tractors will start becoming available especially on the back of a good monsoon and an improved agri-cash flow. The increase in overall deposits can also be attributed to outflows seen in equity mutual funds, suggesting risk aversion by a section of investors.
    • Banks: Banks got to keep a larger part of these deposits as the CRR was lowered this year from 4% to 3%. The liquidity surplus can be primarily attributed to deposit growth outpacing credit growth persistently. The pace of demand recovery hinges on the vaccination drive – and India’s ability to avoid subsequent waves of the disease. Throughout the pandemic, consumer focus on health and wellness has been a priority.
    • Summary: Indian firms are seeing two types of consumers in the markets - the first has less financial resources and reduces discretionary spends in such situations and buys only what is necessary, while the other has surplus resources but has stopped making discretionary purchases due to the negative sentiment. For the first value-conscious category, car buying may be a necessary purchase and no longer discretionary due to the accent on personal mobility. For the second category, sentiments will quickly change, leading to discretionary purchases of SUVs or bigger cars.
    Second wave hits jobs market

    • The story: Local and regional lockdowns forced by the second wave of coronavirus have come at an inopportune time for the job market. Hiring activity was recovering from the first wave of a year ago, and showing significant momentum in February. But March and April have seen a pullback not as severe as the freeze of March 2020, but with its impact being felt across sectors, job roles and geographies.
    • Story of 2020: India’s first hard lockdown spanned from 25 March to 31 May, 2020. In April 2020, which bore the brunt, the monthly all-India unemployment rate hit a high of 23.5%, according to CMIE. After improving to 6.5% in March 2021, this unemployment rate slipped to 8% in April 2021—its highest levels this calendar. The intensity of lockdowns does matter. During the second wave, northern and western states led in imposing lockdowns. Mumbai has been in a graded lockdown since 5 April, Delhi in a full lockdown since 19 April. Among the five metros, Mumbai and Delhi NCR registered the highest month-on-month decline in hiring activity this April, according to jobs portal Naukri.com, which tracks this data across 14 Indian cities. Among tier-II cities, Jaipur and Chandigarh faced the biggest declines in April. In general, tier-II cities have been impacted more than the main metros. As recently as February, all these 14 cities had registered monthly growth in hiring activity, with growth exceeding 10% in 11 of them. Even in March, 12 cities grew, but at a slower pace. April, though, has been a carnage.
    • Across sectors: Of the 41 sectors tracked by job portal Naukri.com, 38 saw a month-on-month drop in hiring activity in April. In March, this number was 21. In February, it was just 4. As in the first wave, sectors that entail people-to-people contact were the worst affected.
    • Across profiles: Some job profiles are more hit than others. Of the 28 profiles tracked by Naukri.com, 24 showed a month-on-month drop in hiring in April. This was 15 in March and zero in February. In addition to hospitality-related jobs, those related to teaching, front desk and trade saw a significant decline in April.
    • Numbers: Against the 114 million jobs lost in April 2020, this number was 7.35 million in April 2021, according to CMIE. The number of unemployed, though, is increasing: those who were unemployed and actively looking for work increased from 27.7 million in March to 33.9 million in April. In April, the all-India unemployment rate was around pre-pandemic levels. But with lockdowns expanding, and intensifying, these numbers could worsen. Delhi, which locked down on 19 April, is an example of how this might unravel. In April, Delhi registered an unemployment rate of 27%, against 9.4% in March 2021 and 6.6% in November 2020. Even Haryana and Rajasthan saw their unemployment rate exceed 20% in April as they battled the second wave.
    • Summary: A drop in hiring can impact some groups more than others, worsening existing inequalities. For example, unemployment in the country is higher among females than males. Similarly, unemployment is higher among graduates than those with school-level education. The pick-up in hiring in late-2020 and early-2021 had reduced some of these gender, education and age gaps. For example, unemployment among females dropped from 15.1% in the quarter to December to 13.3% in the 4-month period to April. As a result, the differential in unemployment rates between females and males had dropped from 9 percentage points to 7 percentage points. If lockdowns persist, and exact a toll on economic and hiring activity, such gains could be lost.

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        • 8. MISCELLANEOUS (Prelims, GS Paper 1, GS Paper 2)

      Snow Leopard an unexplored wonder

      • The story: The World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) has claimed that more than 70% of snow Leopard habitats are unexplored. It recently released its report “A spatially explicit review of the state of knowledge in the snow leopard range”.
      • Learnings: Most of the snow leopard researches have been conducted by Nepal, India and China followed by Mongolia and Pakistan. There could be only four thousand snow leopards left in the world. They are facing continuous threats due to increased habitat loss and degradation, conflict with communities and poaching.
      • Why exploration tough: As snow leopards live in rugged terrain, it is tough to conduct researches on snow leopard and their habitat. That is why, till date their entire habitat remains unexplored.
      • First Snow Leopard survey: On the International Snow Leopard Day (October 24), India launched the Snow Leopard Population Assessment in 2019. However, the survey is yet to be launched. Several state governments have launched local surveys such as Uttarkhand.
      • Snow Leopard conservation:
      1. IUCN: Vulnerable
      2. Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule I
      3. CITES: Appendix I
      • GSLEP: The GSLEP is "Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Programme". It was launched by twelve snow leopard range countries such as India, Nepal, China, Bhutan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and Russia. In India, snow leopards are found in Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir. These regions contribute to 5% of global snow leopard range. Government is running Project Snow Leopard since 2009.

      SPOT (Scalable and Portable Testing)

      • The story: Scientists in the US have invented a new COVID-19 Saliva Testing method called SPOT. SPOT is Scalable and Portable Testing.
      • SPOT details: It was invented by a research team from the Carle Illinois College of Medicine. The SPOT gives COVID-19 test results in thirty minutes. The cost of the device is 78 USD. Apart from these the reagents and other testing devices are estimated to cost 6 to 7 USD. The device can be operated by anyone with minimal training.
      • RT-PCR: The test is very much similar to that of the RT-PCR, but uses Reverse Transcriptase Loop Mediated Isothermal Amplification (RT-LAMP). However, it does not need complex machinery or expertise. It can be completed quickly and is more accurate.
      • RT-Loop Mediated Isothermal Amplification: The RT-LAMP is a one step nucleic acid amplification method. It is used to multiply specific sequences of RNA. This technology is considered as an alternate to RT-PCR as it is much cheaper and easier. RT-LAMP test first makes DNA from the RNA samples. This conversion is made by reverse transcriptase enzyme. This DNA is called cDNA. Now this cDNA will be amplified for virus detection. The only difference between RT-PCR and RT-LAMP is that RT-LAMP uses four LAMP Primers. Primers are short fragments of nucleic acids. The researchers tested 104 clinical samples using SPOT. Of these it accurately identified twenty eight of thirty COVID-19 positive samples and 73 out of 74 COVID-19 negative samples. Every day ten to fifteen new COVID-19 tests are launched in the market. These tests claim to be quick. However, none of these quick antigen tests are reliable as that of RT-PCR.

      Biological E to make J&J Vaccine in India

      • The story: The firm Biological E is to produce Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine along with its own vaccine. This is to boost the overall vaccine production of the country, which has suffered badly due to wrong planning and unnecessary exports.
      • Details: A new Vaccine partnership was unveiled at the first Quad Summit. The four Quad countries namely India, Australia, US and Japan decided to pool their resources. They also decided to roll out 1 billion COVID-19 vaccines by 2022.  According to the plan, the United States International Development Finance Corporation is to assist the Biological E.
      1. The Biological E of India is to produce 600 million Johnson and Johnson Vaccine doses annually. It is to produce the Johnson and Johnson Vaccine along with its own vaccine. However, the manufacturing units of the vaccines will be different. Also, the Johnson and Johnson vaccine production is to be funded by the US.
      2. Biological E has plans to produce 75 million to 80 million doses of its own vaccine in Hyderabad. The drug was developed by Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
      • Johnson and Johnson vaccine: It has been approved by United States Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organisation. In India, Johnson and Johnson has sought for permission to conduct clinical trials. It is an adeno virus vector based COVID-19 vaccine. It is a single dose vaccine. The other adeno virus based vaccines such as Moderna and Pfizer are two dose vaccines.
      • Indian case: According to COVAX, India is unlikely to resume its major exports of COVID-19 vaccines till October, 2021. This is because it is diverting its shots for domestic use.

      Antarctica sliding towards climate catastrophe


      • The story: A new study states that Antarctica ices sheets are headed towards Climate Tipping Points by 2060. That would be catastrophic.
      • Climate Tipping in Antarctica: There are several ice shelves in Antarctica. As these ice shelves break up, the towering ice cliffs may not be able to stand on their own. The study found that these ice shelves are breaking at a faster rate. How? The ice sheets and shelves of Antarctica are grounded on the bed rocks that slope inwards towards the centre of the continent. The warming of ocean waters is melting their lower edges. This might destabilize them creating open fractures. Open fractures speed up the melting process as more ice areas are exposed to warmer temperatures. Thus, it is concluded that Antarctica is moving towards irreversible climate changes, that is, it is moving toward its Climate Tipping Points.
      • Climate Tipping Point: This is the threshold that leads to large changes in the state of the system. The fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) defined Climate Tipping Point as the irreversible change in the climate system. It is often referred to as runaway Climate Change. However, it is not same as that of the Runaway Greenhouse Effect.
      • Runaway Greenhouse Effect: It occurs when the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere of the planet prevents the planet from cooling. It is an extreme Green House Effect. It creates irreversible climate state. The Runway Greenhouse effect is so extreme that the oceans boil away and renders the planet uninhabitable. It is an irreversible climate state. This happened in Venus, making it the hell of the solar system.

      9.1 Today's best editorials to read
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        • SECTION 3 - MCQs (Multiple Choice Questions)

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Inventions,1,Eastern religions,2,Economic & Social Development,2,Economic Bodies,1,Economic treaties,5,Ecosystems,3,Education,119,Education and employment,5,Educational institutions,3,Elections,37,Elections in India,16,Energy,134,Energy laws,3,English Comprehension,3,Entertainment Games and Sport,1,Entertainment Games and Sports,33,Entertainment Games and Sports – Athletes and sportspersons,1,Entrepreneurship and startups,1,Entrepreneurships and startups,1,Enviroment and Ecology,2,Environment and Ecology,228,Environment destruction,1,Environment Ecology and Climage Change,1,Environment Ecology and Climate Change,458,Environment Ecology Climate Change,5,Environment protection,12,Environmental protection,1,Essay paper,643,Ethics and Values,26,EU,27,Europe,1,Europeans in India and important personalities,6,Evolution,4,Facts and Charts,4,Facts and numbers,1,Features of Indian economy,31,February 2020,25,February 2021,23,Federalism,2,Flora and fauna,6,Foreign affairs,507,Foreign exchange,9,Formal and informal economy,13,Fossil fuels,14,Fundamentals of the Indian Economy,10,Games SportsEntertainment,1,GDP GNP PPP etc,12,GDP-GNP PPP etc,1,GDP-GNP-PPP etc,20,Gender inequality,9,Geography,10,Geography and Geology,2,Global trade,22,Global treaties,2,Global warming,146,Goverment decisions,4,Governance and Institution,2,Governance and Institutions,773,Governance and Schemes,221,Governane and Institutions,1,Government decisions,226,Government Finances,2,Government Politics,1,Government schemes,358,GS I,93,GS II,66,GS III,38,GS IV,23,GST,8,Habitat destruction,5,Headlines,22,Health and medicine,1,Health and medicine,56,Healtha and Medicine,1,Healthcare,1,Healthcare and Medicine,98,Higher education,12,Hindu individual editorials,54,Hinduism,9,History,216,Honours and Awards,1,Human rights,249,IMF-WB-WTO-WHO-UNSC etc,2,Immigration,6,Immigration and citizenship,1,Important Concepts,68,Important Concepts.UPSC Mains GS III,3,Important Dates,1,Important Days,35,Important exam concepts,11,Inda,1,India,29,India Agriculture and related issues,1,India Economy,1,India's Constitution,14,India's independence struggle,19,India's international relations,4,India’s international relations,7,Indian Agriculture and related issues,9,Indian and world media,5,Indian Economy,1248,Indian Economy – Banking credit finance,1,Indian Economy – Corporates,1,Indian Economy.GDP-GNP-PPP etc,1,Indian Geography,1,Indian history,33,Indian judiciary,119,Indian Politcs,1,Indian Politics,637,Indian Politics – Post-independence India,1,Indian Polity,1,Indian Polity and Governance,2,Indian Society,1,Indias,1,Indias international affairs,1,Indias international relations,30,Indices and Statistics,98,Indices and Statstics,1,Industries and services,32,Industry and services,1,Inequalities,2,Inequality,103,Inflation,33,Infra projects and financing,6,Infrastructure,252,Infrastruture,1,Institutions,1,Institutions and bodies,267,Institutions and bodies Panchayati Raj,1,Institutionsandbodies,1,Instiutions and Bodies,1,Intelligence and security,1,International Institutions,10,international relations,2,Internet,11,Inventions and discoveries,10,Irrigation Agriculture Crops,1,Issues on Environmental Ecology,3,IT and Computers,23,Italy,1,January 2020,26,January 2021,25,July 2020,5,July 2021,207,June,1,June 2020,45,June 2021,369,June-2021,1,Juridprudence,2,Jurisprudence,91,Jurisprudence Governance and Institutions,1,Land reforms and productivity,15,Latest Current Affairs,1136,Law and order,45,Legislature,1,Logical Reasoning,9,Major events in World History,16,March 2020,24,March 2021,23,Markets,182,Maths Theory Booklet,14,May 2020,24,May 2021,25,Meetings and Summits,27,Mercantilism,1,Military and defence alliances,5,Military technology,8,Miscellaneous,454,Modern History,15,Modern historym,1,Modern technologies,42,Monetary and financial policies,20,monsoon and climate change,1,Myanmar,1,Nanotechnology,2,Nationalism and protectionism,17,Natural disasters,13,New Laws and amendments,57,News media,3,November 2020,22,Nuclear technology,11,Nuclear techology,1,Nuclear weapons,10,October 2020,24,Oil economies,1,Organisations and treaties,1,Organizations and treaties,2,Pakistan,2,Panchayati Raj,1,Pandemic,137,Parks reserves sanctuaries,1,Parliament and Assemblies,18,People and Persoalities,1,People and Persoanalities,2,People and Personalites,1,People and Personalities,189,Personalities,46,Persons and achievements,1,Pillars of science,1,Planning and management,1,Political bodies,2,Political parties and leaders,26,Political philosophies,23,Political treaties,3,Polity,485,Pollution,62,Post independence India,21,Post-Governance in India,17,post-Independence India,46,Post-independent India,1,Poverty,46,Poverty and hunger,1,Prelims,2054,Prelims CSAT,30,Prelims GS I,7,Prelims Paper I,189,Primary and middle education,10,Private bodies,1,Products and innovations,7,Professional sports,1,Protectionism and Nationalism,26,Racism,1,Rainfall,1,Rainfall and Monsoon,5,RBI,73,Reformers,3,Regional conflicts,1,Regional Conflicts,79,Regional Economy,16,Regional leaders,43,Regional leaders.UPSC Mains GS II,1,Regional Politics,149,Regional Politics – Regional leaders,1,Regionalism and nationalism,1,Regulator bodies,1,Regulatory bodies,63,Religion,44,Religion – Hinduism,1,Renewable energy,4,Reports,102,Reports and Rankings,119,Reservations and affirmative,1,Reservations and affirmative action,42,Revolutionaries,1,Rights and duties,12,Roads and Railways,5,Russia,3,schemes,1,Science and Techmology,1,Science and Technlogy,1,Science and Technology,819,Science and Tehcnology,1,Sciene and Technology,1,Scientists and thinkers,1,Separatism and insurgencies,2,September 2020,26,September 2021,444,SociaI Issues,1,Social Issue,2,Social issues,1308,Social media,3,South Asia,10,Space technology,70,Startups and entrepreneurship,1,Statistics,7,Study material,280,Super powers,7,Super-powers,24,TAP 2020-21 Sessions,3,Taxation,39,Taxation and revenues,23,Technology and environmental issues in India,16,Telecom,3,Terroris,1,Terrorism,103,Terrorist organisations and leaders,1,Terrorist acts,10,Terrorist acts and leaders,1,Terrorist organisations and leaders,14,Terrorist organizations and leaders,1,The Hindu editorials analysis,58,Tournaments,1,Tournaments and competitions,5,Trade barriers,3,Trade blocs,2,Treaties and Alliances,1,Treaties and Protocols,43,Trivia and Miscalleneous,1,Trivia and miscellaneous,43,UK,1,UN,114,Union budget,20,United Nations,6,UPSC Mains GS I,584,UPSC Mains GS II,3969,UPSC Mains GS III,3071,UPSC Mains GS IV,191,US,63,USA,3,Warfare,20,World and Indian Geography,24,World Economy,404,World figures,39,World Geography,23,World History,21,World Poilitics,1,World Politics,612,World Politics.UPSC Mains GS II,1,WTO,1,WTO and regional pacts,4,अंतर्राष्ट्रीय संस्थाएं,10,गणित सिद्धान्त पुस्तिका,13,तार्किक कौशल,10,निर्णय क्षमता,2,नैतिकता और मौलिकता,24,प्रौद्योगिकी पर्यावरण मुद्दे,15,बोधगम्यता के मूल तत्व,2,भारत का प्राचीन एवं मध्यकालीन इतिहास,47,भारत का स्वतंत्रता संघर्ष,19,भारत में कला वास्तुकला एवं साहित्य,11,भारत में शासन,18,भारतीय कृषि एवं संबंधित मुद्दें,10,भारतीय संविधान,14,महत्वपूर्ण हस्तियां,6,यूपीएससी मुख्य परीक्षा,91,यूपीएससी मुख्य परीक्षा जीएस,117,यूरोपीय,6,विश्व इतिहास की मुख्य घटनाएं,16,विश्व एवं भारतीय भूगोल,24,स्टडी मटेरियल,266,स्वतंत्रता-पश्चात् भारत,15,
      PT's IAS Academy: Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 19-05-2021
      Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 19-05-2021
      Useful compilation of Civil Services oriented - Daily Current Affairs - Civil Services - 19-05-2021
      PT's IAS Academy
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