Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | 11 June, 2021

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Mixing Covid-19 vaccines: Benefits and Concerns

What is the news?

India plans to conduct research on Mixing Covid-19 vaccines. This is to investigate if it can immunize people using a “mix and match” of different Covid-19 vaccines.

What does mixing of vaccines mean?

  • Mixing of vaccines means following up one dose of a particular vaccine with a second dose of a different vaccine. In scientific terms, this is called “heterologous” immunization.

Have vaccines been mixed before Covid-19?

  • Mixing and matching of vaccines have been tested for decades, especially for viruses like Ebola. However, most combinations had initially been restricted to vaccines that use the same technology.
  • In India, combinations of rotavirus vaccines have also been used and tested out.

Reasons for mixing Covid-19 vaccines:

  • Better Immune Response: Several scientists believe that using a different vaccine for the second dose could potentially boost the immune response against the virus.
    • Example: Viral vector vaccines like Covishield use a modified and weakened chimpanzee ‘adenovirus’ (common cold virus). But using the same adenovirus could make the vaccine less effective the second or third time around. That is why Sputnik V uses two different adenoviruses to deliver the spike protein’s code to our bodies.
  • Protection against mutations and variants: Mixing and matching vaccines of different technologies such as a viral vector vaccine followed up with an mRNA vaccine-like Pfizer’s might encourage our immune system to build a wider response.
    • Such combinations could also potentially provide wider protection against certain mutations or variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
  • Can cover up the shortages of Vaccines: Current Covid-19 vaccine production cannot sufficiently cater to the existing demand, resulting in stock-outs. Hence, in the short term, mixing solves the shortage of vaccines problem.
  • Safety Concerns: Countries like Germany, UK have halted the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in younger age groups due to concerns of rare blood clots. Here, mixing and matching will allow the completion of immunization while ensuring safety.

Also Read: India needs an effective vaccine policy

Concerns:

  • Many unknowns: The Covid-19 vaccines in use have received restricted emergency use permissions. Hence, questions about how safe it is to mix and match and whether the approach can prompt a better immune response are still being answered.
  • Untested Combinations: Some vaccines like Covaxin have not even been administered in a mix and match scenario. Hence, more research needs to be conducted.
  • Differences in Vaccines: There are complexities in mixing vaccines which includes
    • differences in the shelf life of these vaccines
    • shipment and storage conditions
    • Some vaccines may have more side effects or may not work.
  • Side effects: Studies such as the Com-COV trials have shown that some combinations like AstraZeneca with Pfizer vaccines could lead to an increase in side effects.

Source: Indian Express


“Child Labour: Global estimates 2020” report released by ILO

What is the news?

“Child Labour: Global estimates 2020, trends and the road forward” report has been released by International Labour Organization and UNICEF.

What is Child labour?

As per ILO,

Child labour is defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to their physical and mental development.

It refers to work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children. Or the work schedule that interferes with their ability to attend regular school or work that affects in any manner their ability to focus during school or experience healthy childhood.

What is not Child labour?

Children or adolescents who participate in work that does not affect their health and personal development or interfere with their schooling is not child labour. Such work includes activities such as helping their parents at home, assisting family or earning pocket money outside school hours and on holidays.

Key Findings of the Child Labour: Global estimates 2020 report

Overall gist: The report warns that progress to end child labour has stalled for the first time in 20 years. It has reversed the previous downward trend that saw it fall by 94 million between 2000 and 2016.

  • The number of children in child labour has risen to 160 million worldwide – an increase of 8.4 million children in the last four years.
  • Covid-19 Impact: Globally, 9 million additional children are at risk of being pushed into child labour by the end of 2022 as a result of the pandemic.
  • Sectors: The agriculture sector accounts for 70% of children in child labour (112 million) followed by 20% in services (31.4 million) and 10% in industry (16.5 million).
  • Age Group: Nearly 28% of children aged 5 to 11 years and 35% of children aged 12 to 14 years in child labour are out of school.
  • Gender: Child labour is more prevalent among boys than girls at every age. But the gap narrows when household chores performed for at least 21 hours per week are taken into account.
  • Rural vs Urban: The prevalence of child labour in rural areas (14%) is close to three times higher than in urban areas (5%).

Also read: World day against Child labour

Recommendations of Child Labour: Global estimates 2020 report

  • Adequate social protection for all, including universal child benefits.
  • Increased spending on quality education and getting all children back into school – including children who were out of school before COVID-19.
  • Promotion of decent work for adults, so families don’t have to resort to children helping to generate family income.
  • An end to harmful gender norms and discrimination that influence child labour.
  • Investment in child protection systems, agricultural development, rural public services, infrastructure and livelihoods.

Child labour in India

  • As per Census 2011, the total child population in India in the age group 5-14 years is 259.6 million.
  • Among them, over 10 million (4% of total child population) are working either as ‘main worker’ or ‘marginal worker’.
  • The Census data indicates the decreased incidence of child labour in India by 2.6 million between 2001 and 2011.
  • Moreover, there is a greater decline in rural than in urban areas. This is because an increase in rural-to-urban migration is driving demand for child workers in urban areas.

Source: India Today


31st edition of “Indo-Thai CORPAT” commenced

What is the News?

India and Thailand have commenced the 31st edition of Indo-Thai CORPAT Exercise.

About Indo-Thai CORPAT:

  • India and Thailand have been carrying out the Coordinated Patrol (CORPAT) exercises along their International Maritime Boundary Line twice a year since 2005.
  • Aim:
  • Participation: Indian Naval Ship(INS) Saryu, an indigenously built Naval Offshore Patrol Vessel will be participating in the exercise from the Indian Side.

Significance of this exercise:

  • As part of the Government of India’s vision of ‘Sagar’ (Security And Growth for All in the Region), the Indian Navy has been engaging with the countries in the Indian Ocean Region towards enhancing regional maritime security. This has been done through
    • Bilateral and multilateral exercises
    • Coordinated Patrols(CORPAT)
    • Joint EEZ Surveillance
    • Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations.

Other Exercises between India and Thailand:

  • Exercise Maitree- It is a bilateral military exercise between India and Thailand.
  • SIAM BHARAT: It is a joint Air Force exercise between India and Thailand.
  • Exercise SITMEX: It is a trilateral exercise involving the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN), Royal Thailand Navy(RTN) and Indian Navy(IN).

Source: India Today


Maharashtra govt clears an amendment to protect “heritage trees”

What is the News?

The Maharashtra Government has cleared an amendment to the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act,1975.

What are the key features of the amended act? The key features are:

  • Concept of Heritage Tree: A tree with an estimated age of 50 years or more shall be defined as a heritage tree. It may belong to specific species which will be notified from time to time.
  • Method to determine the age of the tree: The environment department in consultation with the forest department will issue guidelines to determine the age of the tree.
  • Compensatory Plantation:
    • Compensatory plantation will include planting the number of trees equivalent to the age of trees to be cut.
    • The saplings need to be six to eight feet in height while planting, and they will undergo geo-tagging with seven years of caring period.
    • The option of monetary compensation has also been given, instead of the compensatory plantation.
  • Formation of Maharashtra Tree Authority:
    • The Tree Authority will have responsibility related to the protection and conservation of trees, including heritage trees.
    • The chairman of the tree authority in the case of a municipal council shall be the chief officer of the council. Experts will also be part of the authority.
    • The authority will hear applications seeking permission to cut 200 or more trees that are five or more years old.
    • The local tree authorities will come under this body. These bodies will ensure that the tree census is conducted after every five years.
    • They will also be in charge of
      • Counting heritage trees,
      • Ensuring the preservation of trees,
      • Keeping tabs on tree plantation,
      • Pruning and caring for trees and
      • Ensuring that 33% of government land is used for tree plantation.
  • Tree Cess: The State authority will issue directions for the use of tree cess. The fine amount cannot be more than ₹1 lakh per tree in case of violations.

Source: The Hindu


NITI Aayog releases “Fast Tracking Freight in India” Report

What is the News?

NITI Aayog and Rocky Mountain Institute(RMI) has released a report titled “Fast Tracking Freight in India: A Roadmap for Clean and Cost-Effective Goods Transport”.

Objectives of the Fast Tracking Freight in India Report:

  • Establish a coherent vision for a cost-effective, clean, and optimised freight transport system in India.
  • Quantify the economic, environmental, and public health benefits of the freight system.
  • Describe techno-economically feasible solutions that would collectively deliver those benefits.

India’s Logistics Sector:

  • Currently, India’s logistics sector represents 5% of India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The sector employs around 2.2 crore people.
  • India handles 6 billion tonnes of goods each year, amounting to a total annual cost of INR 9.5 lakh crore.
  • These goods represent a variety of domestic industries and products:
    • 22% are agricultural goods,
    • 39% are mining products and
    • 39% are manufacturing-related commodities.
  • Trucks and other vehicles handle most of the movement of these goods. Railways, coastal and inland waterways, pipelines, and airways account for the rest.

Measures need to accommodate more urban citizens:

  • India’s freight activity will grow five-fold by 2050 and about 400 million citizens move to cities. So, a whole system transformation can help uplift the freight sector.
  • This transformation will be defined by tapping into opportunities such as:
    • Increasing share of rail-based transport
    • Optimisation of logistics and supply chains.
    • Shift to electric and other clean-fuel vehicles.
  • These solutions can help India save Rs. 311 lakh crore cumulatively over the next three decades

Other measures recommended by the Fast Tracking Freight in India Report:

The Logistic sector can reduce its rising CO2 emissions and high logistic costs by following measures:

  • Increasing the rail network’s capacity
  • Promoting intermodal transport
  • Improving warehousing and trucking practices
  • Policy measures and pilot projects for clean technology adoption and
  • Stricter fuel economy standards.

Benefits of these measures: These measures will lead to the following benefits:

  • Reduces the logistics cost by 4% of GDP
  • Achieves 10 gigatonnes of cumulative CO2 emissions savings between 2020 and 2050
  • Reduces nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) emissions by 35% and 28%, respectively until 2050.

Source: PIB


“CHIME telescope” detects numerous “Fast Radio Bursts”

What is the news?

Scientists from the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) have detected 535 Fast Radio Bursts (FRB). It is the largest collection of FRB till date.

CHIME telescope (Source: Wiki)
  • They have detected this in collaboration with various institutions. These include India’s Tata Institute for Fundamental Research (TIFR) and the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics(NCRA).

What are Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs)?

  • FRBs are bright bursts of radio waves (radio waves can be produced by astronomical objects with changing magnetic fields) that blaze for a few milliseconds before vanishing without a trace.
  • They are spotted in various and distant parts of the universe as well as in our own galaxy. However, their origins are still unknown, and their appearance is highly unpredictable.
  • The first FRB was spotted in 2007. Since then, scientists had only caught sight of around 140 bursts in their telescopes.
  • Source: Magnetars could be the source of some fast radio bursts(FRBs).

What is a Magnetar?

  • Magnetar: It is a type of neutron star. The magnetic field of such a star is very powerful. It can be over a thousand times stronger than a typical neutron star’s magnetic field.
  • Neutron: The formation of a neutron star occurs when the core of a massive star undergoes gravitational collapse at the end of its life.

Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME)

  • CHIME is a radio telescope designed to answer major questions in astrophysics and cosmology.
  • The telescope is a partnership between the University of British Columbia, McGill University, the University of Toronto and the Canadian National Research Council’s Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory.
  • Working of CHIME Telescope:
    • The CHIME telescope functions a bit differently from others used for radio astronomy. Most radio astronomy is done by rotating a large dish to focus light from different parts of the sky.
    • On the other hand, the CHIME telescope comprises four massive parabolic radio antennas. It has no moving parts, and it receives radio signals each day from half of the sky as the Earth rotates.
    • The telescope has a powerful digital signalling processor that works at about seven terabits per second – equivalent to a few percent of the world’s internet traffic.
    • This digital signal processor reconstructs and looks in thousands of directions simultaneously. That’s what helps us to detect FRBs a thousand times more often than a traditional telescope.
  • Location: The telescope is located at Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in British Columbia, Canada.

Also read: India’s Thirty Meter telescope

Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) discovered by CHIME Telescope

  • The CHIME telescope has detected 535 new fast radio bursts in its first year of operation between 2018 and 2019.
  • Location of FRBs: When the scientists mapped their locations, they found the FRBs were evenly distributed in space, seeming to arise from any and all parts of the sky.
  • Types: The newly discovered FRBs appear to fall into two distinct classes: those that repeat and those that don’t repeat.
    • The repeaters FRBs looked different, with each burst lasting slightly longer and emitting more focused radio frequencies than bursts from non-repeating FRBs.
    • These differences strongly suggest that emission from repeaters and non-repeaters is generated either by different physical mechanisms or in different astrophysical environments.
  • Significance: Scientists hope that the CHIME telescope will soon help them discover more properties of fast radio bursts and know more about the possible sources they are coming from.

Source: The Hindu


US President and UK PM to sign “New Atlantic Charter”

What is the news?

US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson met for the first time. They inspected documents related to the New Atlantic Charter to be signed.

What was the original Atlantic Charter?

The Atlantic Charter was signed by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in August 1941. The charter set out the common goals for the world after the Second World War. Those goals included:

  • No Territorial aggrandizement(elevation)
  • No territorial changes made against the wishes of the people (self-determination)
  • Restoration of self-government to those deprived of it
  • Reduction of trade restrictions
  • Global cooperation to secure better economic and social conditions
  • Freedom from fear and want
  • Freedom of the seas
  • Abandonment of the use of force and disarmament of aggressor nations.
Significance of the Atlantic charter
  • The Atlantic Charter was subsequently incorporated as a reference in the Declaration of the United Nations.
  • It inspired several other international agreements and events that followed the end of the war such as the dismantling of the British Empire, formation of NATO among others.

What is the New Atlantic Charter?

 The New Atlantic Charter was written again by U.S. President Joe Biden and the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in their first meeting in the UK.

Key goals of the New Atlantic Charter:

  • Defend the principles, values and institutions of democracy and open societies.
  • To strengthen the institutions, laws and norms that sustain international cooperation to adapt them to meet the new challenges of the 21st century.
  • To remain united behind the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and the peaceful resolution of disputes.
  • Harness and protect our innovative edge in science and technology.
  • To affirm our shared responsibility for maintaining collective security, international stability and resilience against the full scale of modern threats including cyber threats.
  • Continue building an inclusive, fair, climate-friendly, sustainable, rules-based global economy for the 21st century.
  • Act urgently and ambitiously to tackle the climate crisis, protect biodiversity, and sustain nature.
  • To recognize the catastrophic impact of health crises and the global good in strengthening collective defences against health threats.

Source: The Hindu


What is Maharashtra’s “Beed model” of crop insurance?

What is the news?

Maharashtra Chief Minister has asked the Prime Minister for state-wide implementation of the ‘Beed model’ of the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY).

About Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)

  • The scheme was launched in 2016 by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.
  • Aim: To provide comprehensive insurance cover against failure of the crop thus helping in stabilising the income of the farmers.
  • Coverage of crops: It covers
    • food crops
    • oilseed crops
    • annual commercial/horticultural crops
  • Premium: The prescribed premium is
    • 2% for Kharif crops
    • 1.5% for Rabi crops
    • 5% for commercial and horticultural crops.
  • Completely voluntary: The enrollment under the scheme is 100% voluntary for all farmers.
    • Earlier, the scheme was compulsory for loanee farmers.

Problems with the Scheme

  • Delay in claim settlement
  • Failure to recognize localized weather events
  • Stringent conditions for claims
  • Alleged profiteering by insurance companies

Why was the Beed Model of Crop Insurance launched?

  • Beed is a drought-prone district in Maharashtra. Farmers here have repeatedly lost crops either to failure of rains or too heavy rains.
  • Due to this, insurance companies have sustained losses given high payouts. Moreover, the state government also had a difficult time getting bids for tenders to implement the scheme in Beed.
  • Hence, the Maharashtra Government decided to modify the crop insurance guidelines for the district.

Also read: Flash Droughts in India

What is the Beed Model of Crop Insurance?

  • Under this model, the insurance company provides a cover of 110% of the premium collected.
  • In case the compensation amount exceeds the 110% mark, the state government would pay the bridge amount.
  • But if the compensation was less than the premium collected, the insurance company would keep 20% of the amount as handling charges and reimburse the rest to the state government.

Benefits of Beed Model for Government

  • In a normal season where farmers report minimal losses, the state government is expected to get back money that can form a corpus to fund the scheme for the following year.
  • However, the state government would have to bear the financial liability in case of losses due to extreme weather events.
  • Hence, in the model, the profit of the company is expected to reduce, and the state government would have access to another source of funds.

Source: Indian Express


 

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