26 Apr 2020: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

26 April 2020 CNA:- Download PDF Here

 
TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS 1 Related
B. GS 2 Related
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. For BRICS, challenges and opportunities
C. GS 3 Related
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
1. First merger of two black holes with unequal masses detected
ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY
1. Stop villainising bats, say scientists, conservationists
ECONOMY
1. Quick nod likely for China investments
D. GS 4 Related
E. Editorials
HEALTH
1. Why pathogens travel in search of a host
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. What are the concerns around the AarogyaSetu app?
F. Prelims Facts
1. Witnessing the future through the lockdown
2. Rohtang Pass opened 3 weeks in advance
3. Govt. to study lessons learnt from Spanish Flu
G. Tidbits
1. Robot to help hospitals in breaking the chain
2. Financiers, intermediaries line up funds for MSMEs
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

Category: ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY

1. Stop villainising bats, say scientists, conservationists

Context:

  • Speculations over the animal origin of n-CoV19.

Background:

  • Unverified news and social media posts linking bats to the COVID-19 outbreak have led to widespread antipathy and increasing incidents of the public destroying bat roosts and smoking them out.

Details:

Origin of n-CoV-19:

  • The exact origin of SARS-CoV-2 is still unknown.
  • The recent Indian Council of Medical Research study has conclusively affirmed that the bat coronaviruses (BtCoV) found in two species of Indian bats are not the same as SARS-CoV-2 and cannot cause COVID-19.

Concerns:

Human activities:

  • All wild animals harbour viruses.
  • Humans encroaching upon wildlife habitats put humans at risk of encountering new viruses. The destruction of wildlife habitats and the subsequent movement of animals out of their habitats lead to the spread of viruses from animals to humans.
  • The ongoing ecological destruction, increasing intensification of livestock farming and wildlife trade can all contribute to such pandemics.

Targeting bats:

  • Bats are believed to host a number of viruses.
  • Killing bats and destroying their habitats can be more harmful as this can lead to bats spreading out their habitat and spreading the viruses.

Significance of bats:

  • Bats perform vital ecosystem services such as pollination, pest control, and hence provide intangible economic benefits.

Way forward:

Conservation efforts:

  • Conservationists have been urging the governments to strengthen the legal framework to protect bats. The government needs to reconsider and reinforce the laws governing bat conservation.
    • India is home to 128 bat species and only 2 of these are protected by law in India.

Recognizing human factor:

  • There is a need to emphasise the role of human activities in disease outbreaks. There is a need to modify human practices to prevent the emergence of new pathogens.

Additional information:

  • Chiropterologists are people involved in the scientific study of bats.

Category: ECONOMY

1. Quick nod likely for China investments

Context:

  • Revision of FDI policy in the face of COVID-19 crisis.

Background:

  • To avoid opportunistic takeovers during the coronavirus outbreak, India revised its FDI policy, mandating all foreign direct investment from countries sharing a land border to take prior government clearance, ending the automatic route.

Check CNA dated 19th April, 2020

  • The Chinese Embassy in New Delhi had called the new screening policy discriminatory and there were concerns that the process could delay deals and investment timelines.
    • China has major existing and planned investments in India estimated at $26 billion.

Check CNA dated 21st April, 2020

Details:

  • In the light of concerns with respect to the new screening rules and financial stress in the economy, the Centre plans to fast-track the review of some investment proposals from neigbouring countries.
  • A senior Indian government source has stated that the government will try to approve any investment proposal in a non-sensitive sector within 15 days when the stake being bought is not significant.
    • Sectors such as telecom, financial services and insurance were likely to be deemed more sensitive than others such as automobiles and renewable energy.
    • Sectors which are already under severe financial distress and do not concern national security could also receive faster approvals.
  • The government sources have clarified that the revised FDI policies will also apply to greenfield investments, as well as investments from Hong Kong.

For more information on this issue refer to:

CNA dated 19th April, 2020

E. Editorials

Category: HEALTH

1. Why pathogens travel in search of a host

Context:

Details:

  • Scientific research has claimed that the SARS-CoV-2 is zoonotic in nature.
    • Zoonosis is an infectious disease that can be transmitted from animals to people or, more specifically, a disease that normally exists in animals but that can spread to humans and cause illness.
  • The first possible source heard of in relation to the COVID-19 epidemic was the wet market in Wuhan, China.
    • Given the similarity of SARS-CoV-2 to bat SARS-CoV-like coronaviruses, it is likely that bats serve as reservoir hosts for many viruses.
    • The Malayan pangolins illegally imported into China also contain coronaviruses similar to SARS-CoV-2.
  • The SARS-CoV-2 seems to have undergone recombination or mutation. The changes in the genome occurred as a part of the natural evolutionary process.

Concerns:

Increasing incidence:

  • According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), 60% of all infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic, and about 75% of all emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic in nature.
    • Ebola, bird flu, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Rift Valley fever, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), West Nile virus, Zika virus disease, and COVID-19 are among the zoonoses that have emerged or re-emerged recently.
  • Growing evidence suggests that outbreaks or epidemic diseases may become more frequent.

Also read: Pandemic – RSTV In Depth

Virus as the main pathogens:

  • Emerging pathogens are more likely to be viruses, than any other kind — bacteria, parasites, fungi — and are more likely to have a broad host range. Viruses are comparatively difficult to treat.

Extensive mutation:

  • In pristine ecosystems, all biological systems including human bodies have an inherent capacity for both resilience and adaptation to new hosts. But the current pace of change may be too fast for systems to adapt and achieve resilience.
  • The pathogens, which are programmed to survive, undergo extensive mutation and recombination and in the process exploit multiple hosts.

Increasing antibiotic resistance of pathogens:

  • The increasing antibiotic resistance is a major concern in the fight against these pathogens.
  • Human immune systems are equally unprepared for drug-resistant diseases.

Risk of plant transmission:

  • Apart from the animal-to-human transmission, there is also the threat of transmission of diseases from the plant kingdom as well.
  • Human immune systems are equally unprepared for drug-resistant diseases that jump from plants to humans.
  • Apart from affecting human health, it could also disrupt food supply.

Causes:

Habitat destruction:

  • The major drivers for zoonotic disease emergence seem to be changes in the environment, usually as a result of human activities ranging from land use change, increasing wildlife trade and destruction of wildlife habitats.
    • Bat-associated viruses’ emergence could be due to the loss of habitats of bats. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa was reportedly the result of forest losses leading to closer contacts between wildlife and human settlements.
    • Forest fragmentation in North America led to increased risk of Lyme disease in humans.
  • Human-induced environmental changes modify wildlife population structure and reduce biodiversity, resulting in new environmental conditions that favour particular hosts, vectors, and/or pathogens.

Livestock farming:

  • Recent times have witnessed the intensification of livestock farming.
  • The inevitable interaction between humans and livestock with wildlife exposes the human species to the risk of spillover of potential pathogens. For many zoonotic diseases or zoonoses, livestock serve as an epidemiological bridge between wildlife and human infections.
    • The emergence of avian influenza was linked to intensive poultry farming.
    • Japanese encephalitis was linked to irrigated rice production and pig farming in South East Asia.
    • The Nipah virus was linked to the intensification of pig farming and fruit production in Malaysia.

Climate change:

  • Changes in weather patterns and extreme weather events affect the distribution areas of disease, pathogens and pests.
  • Increased temperature will lead to increased incidence of diseases.

Changes in human behaviour:

  • Changes in human behaviour, including increased travel, migration, urbanisation, and dietary and medical preferences, can also result in disease emergence and increased transmission.

Way forward:

Ecosystem integrity:

  • Ecosystem integrity underlines human health and development.
  • Preserving ecosystem integrity can help regulate diseases by supporting a diversity of species so that it is more difficult for one pathogen to spill over, amplify or dominate.
  • There is a need for a strong global stewardship of nature and biodiversity.

‘One Health’ policy:

  • According to the World Health Organization, ‘One Health’ is an approach to designing and implementing programmes, policies, legislation and research in which multiple sectors communicate and work together to achieve better public health outcomes.
  • This principle would be critical in controlling zoonoses and vector-borne diseases, combating antibiotic resistance. The concept would help manage risks and optimize interventions.

Preparing for future epidemics:

  • The current COVID-19 pandemic underscores how unprepared humans are in fighting zoonotic diseases.
  • There is a need to develop sharper, reliable early warning systems for diseases and increase Research and Development in the health sector which could ensure better diagnosis and treatment techniques.

Category: POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

1. What are the concerns around the AarogyaSetu app?

Context:

  • The launch of AarogyaSetu app.

Background:

  • The AarogyaSetu app, developed by the National Informatics Centre, under the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology, is the main contact tracing technology being endorsed by the Central Government.
  • It has become one of the most downloaded apps globally, and has crossed the 75 million mark.

Details:

Working of the app:

  • The app is designed to keep track of other AarogyaSetu users that a person came in contact with, and alerts him or her if any of the contacts tests positive for COVID-19.
  • The app uses the phone’s Bluetooth and GPS capabilities. The app will keep a record of all other AarogyaSetu users that it detected nearby using Bluetooth, and also a GPS log of all the places that the device had been at 15-minute intervals.
  • While registering, the app collects a set of personal information such as name, sex, age, phone number, current location and travel history that is uploaded to government servers, which then generates a unique digital identity for that user.
  • When the Bluetooths of two AarogyaSetu users identify each other out, this unique digital identity is exchanged along with the time and location of the meeting.
  • When an app user tests positive, all unique digital identities in his or her records get an alert on the risk they face and instructions on self-isolation and next steps.

Challenges:

  • The success of the AarogyaSetu app is people dependent. It needs widespread usage and self-reporting to be effective.
  • The total number of users of the app is bound to be only a small subset of smartphone owners in India, and there are bound to be variations in the levels of self-reporting.
  • Digital divide is a major concern in India.

Privacy concerns:

Lack of a privacy law in India:

  • Currently, there is no legislation that spells out in detail how the online privacy of Indians is to be protected. AarogyaSetu app users accept the privacy policy provided by the government without any legal protection.

Vague privacy policy:

  • The privacy policy of the app in vaguely worded.
  • As per the policy, “persons carrying out medical and administrative interventions necessary in relation to COVID-19” will have access to the data.
  • There seems to be no clear cut regulation on use of the data which could lead to inter-departmental exchanges of people’s personal information.

Breach of confidentiality:

  • The unique digital identity in AarogyaSetu is a static number, which increases the probability of identity breaches. A better approach would be the usage of constantly-changing digital identification keys.

Excess data being collected:

  • AarogyaSetu uses both Bluetooth and GPS reference points. Other apps such as TraceTogether use only Bluetooth. The abundance of data collected may be potentially problematic.

Way forward:

  • The best practices could be adopted from other similar apps in use worldwide like Google and Apple’s joint contact tracing technology and TraceTogether app of Singapore.

For more information on this issue, refer to:

CNA dated 21st April, 2020

F. Prelims Facts

1. Witnessing the future through the lockdown

National Clean Air Program (NCAP):

  • The National Clean Air Program (NCAP) is a time-bound, national strategy to bring down levels of deadly particle air pollution (PM2.5 and PM10) by 20-30% by 2024 (compared to 2017 levels).
  • The overall objective of the NCAP is to have comprehensive mitigation actions for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution besides augmenting the air quality monitoring network across the country and strengthening the awareness and capacity building activities.
  • The initial phase of NCAP will focus on the 102 non-attainment cities.
    • Cities are considered as non-attainment cities if they were consistently showing poorer air quality than the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

Read more on the National Clean Air Program.

Flue gas desulphurisation:

  • Flue-gas desulfurisation/desulphurisation (FGD) is a set of technologies used to remove sulphur dioxide from exhaust flue gases of fossil-fuel power plants, and from the emissions of other sulphur dioxide emitting processes such as waste incineration.
  • Commonly employed methods:
    • Wet scrubbing, uses a slurry of alkaline sorbent, usually limestone or lime, or seawater to scrub the predominantly acidic gases.
    • Wet sulphuric acid process recovers sulphur in the form of sulphuric acid.
    • Dry sorbent injection systems introduce powdered hydrated lime or other sorbent material.

2. Rohtang Pass opened 3 weeks in advance

  • Rohtang Pass connects the Kullu Valley with the Lahaul and Spiti Valleys of Himachal Pradesh, India.
  • The pass is on the eastern Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas.
  • The pass remains snow-bound for almost six months, from mid-November to mid-May, isolating Lahaul and Spiti districts from the rest of the country.
  • The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has opened the Rohtang Pass three weeks in advance, for transporting essential supplies and relief materials to the Lahaul and Spiti districts of Himachal Pradesh amid the lockdown.

3. Govt. to study lessons learnt from Spanish Flu

  • The Spanish flu, also known as the 1918 flu pandemic, was the most severe pandemic in recent history. Lasting almost 36 months from January 1918 to December 1920, it infected 500 million people – about a third of the world’s population at the time.
  • It was caused by an H1N1 virus.
  • The Spanish flu was the first of two pandemics caused by the H1N1 influenza virus; the second was the swine flu in 2009.

G. Tidbits

1. Robot to help hospitals in breaking the chain

  • ASIMOV Robotics, a start-up based in Kerala, has developed KARMI-Bot robot.
  • KARMI-Bot robot could be deployed at the isolation ward for COVID-19 patients.
    • Deployed at the hospital isolation ward, the robot performs a slew of activities from dispensing food and medicines and collection of trash left behind by patients to initiating a video call between doctors and patients. Besides, it can perform ultraviolet-based disinfection and also spray detergents at targets.
  • Its main goal is to limit the interaction between patients and health workers.
    • This would help minimize the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) kits and also help reduce the risk of disease transmission.

2. Financiers, intermediaries line up funds for MSMEs

  • Despite India’s 60 million MSMEs making enormous contribution to India’s employment and its gross domestic product (GDP), most of these are operating way below their potential because of a gap in loans and funding.
  • In the light of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) being starved of funds to continue their operations, a host of financiers and intermediaries have come forward to meet the demand by capitalising on digital technology.
  • Arvog, which offers debt, equity and funding, has announced digital micro loans amounting to 250 crore rupees to MSMEs.
  • Meanwhile, London-based CreditEnable, an AI-driven SME credit business, has ramped up its activities in India to help improve access to finance for SMEs during COVID-19.

H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions

Q1. Which of the following statement/s is/are correct?
  1. Asia is the most affected region due to malaria.
  2. India has set 2030 as the target year for eliminating malaria.

Options:

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2
See
Answer
Q2. Which of the following statements with respect to National Agricultural Cooperative 
Marketing Federation of India Limited (NAFED) is/are correct?
  1. It functions under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution.
  2. It is the nodal agency to implement price stabilization measures under “Operation Greens”.

Options:

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2
See
Answer
Q3. The Rohtang Pass is located in which of the following state/UT?
  1. Himachal Pradesh
  2. Jammu and Kashmir
  3. Ladakh
  4. Uttarakhand
See
Answer
Q4. Which of the following is widely used in the process of desulphurisation 
of flue gases?
  1. Acidic substances
  2. Alkaline substances
  3. Neutral substances
  4. Both a and c
See
Answer

 

I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

  1. Discuss the increasing risk posed by zoonotic diseases to the world. Analyze the causes for the increased frequency and intensity of these zoonotic diseases and suggest necessary actions to mitigate such risks. (15 marks, 250 words)
  2. BRICS can and should emerge as an important global governance institution, in the light of the crisis in global governance unfolding during the COVID pandemic. Comment. (10 marks, 150 words)

Read the previous CNA here.

26 April 2020 CNA:- Download PDF Here

 

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