Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | 19 May, 2021

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WHO-ILO Study on the Impact of Long Working Hours

What is the News?

The World Health Organization(WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) has published a study on the Impact of Long Working Hours.

About the study:
  • The study covered global, regional, and national level data from more than 2,300 surveys collected in 154 countries from 1970-2018.
  • It covered 37 studies on ischemic heart disease covering more than 768 000 participants and 22 studies on stroke covering more than 839 000 participants.
Key Findings of the study:
  • Deaths due to Long Working Hours: Long working hours have led to 745,000 deaths from stroke and ischemic heart disease in 2016. This is a 29% increase since 2000.
  • Gender and Region-wise: The work-related disease burden is more in men (72% of deaths occurred among males). Whereas people living in the Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions, and middle-aged or older workers faced the majority of deaths.
  • Age Wise: 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.
  • The number of people working long hours is increasing and currently stands at 9% of the total population globally. This trend puts even more people at risk of work-related disability and early death.
  • The study concludes that working 55 or more hours per week is dangerous. It 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.

Suggestions: Governments, employers, and workers can take the following actions to protect workers’ health:

  • Government can introduce, implement and enforce laws, regulations, and policies that ban mandatory overtime and ensure maximum limits on working time;
  • Collective bargaining agreements between employers and workers’ associations can arrange a working time to be more flexible. While at the same time, they can agree on a maximum number of working hours.
  • Employees could share working hours to ensure that the number of hours worked does not climb above 55 or more per week.

Source: Indian Express

New Naming System for Virus Variants

What is the News?

The World Health Organization(WHO) has announced that it would unveil a new naming system for virus variants. The system would be similar to the way tropical storms are named.

What is the current method of naming Virus Strains?

  • Currently, WHO and other agencies across the world refer to viruses and their variants by formal lineage names. It is a combination of letters and names that point to the relationships between different variants.
    • Example: Variants such as B.1.1.7 and B.1.617 are named after mutations in common and as well clues to their evolutionary history.
  • Geographical tag: The virus names and their associated diseases have also been frequently named after geographical places where outbreaks were first reported or samples first isolated.
    • Example: West Nile virus, Ebola, U.K Strain(B.1.1.7) and South African Strain(B.1.351).

What is the problem with this method of naming strains?

  • The current method is stigmatizing and disincentivizing countries from making their sequencing results public as the virus strains are associated with the geographical tag.
  • Moreover, the current naming of virus variants is also difficult to remember for the public due to complicated lineage numbers.

What will the new method be like?

  • The new method of naming virus strains would be similar to the way tropical storms are named.
  • For the naming of tropical storms, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) leaves it to countries that surround a particular ocean basin to come up with names.

Source: The Hindu

What is “Diplomatic Immunity”?

What is the News?

The wife of Belgium’s ambassador to South Korea allegedly hit two staff members at a boutique in Seoul last month. Recently the embassy has invoked diplomatic immunity to avoid criminal charges.

What is diplomatic immunity?

  • It is a privilege provided to diplomats in the country in which they got posted. Generally, these privileges will be in the form of exemption from certain laws and taxes.
  • This is formed as a custom so that the diplomats can function without fear, threat or intimidation from the host country.


  • Diplomatic immunity is granted on the basis of two conventions popularly called the:
    • Vienna Conventions — the Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961 and
    • Convention on Consular Relations,1963.
  • These conventions have been ratified by 187 countries including South Korea. This means, Diplomatic immunity is a law under South Korea’s legal framework and cannot be violated.

What is the extent of Diplomatic immunity?

  • According to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961, the immunity enjoyed by a diplomat posted in the embassy is “inviolable”.
  • The diplomat cannot be arrested or detained. The diplomat’s house will also have the same inviolability and protection as the embassy.
  • Further, the members of diplomats living in foreign countries also enjoy similar immunity from arrest in most of the cases.
  • However, it is possible for the diplomat’s home country to waive immunity. But this can happen only when the individual has committed a ‘serious crime’, anything unconnected to their diplomatic role or has witnessed such a crime. Alternatively, the home country may prosecute the individual.


The use of diplomatic immunity has come under scrutiny in other countries especially after the case involving the UK and the USA.

  • The wife of an American ambassador has alleged for her involvement in a fatal road accident that killed a British teenager. But she flew away from the UK using diplomatic immunity.
  • The parents of the teenager launched a court case. In that, they argued that Britain’s Foreign Office wrongly decided that the wife of an American ambassador had diplomatic immunity. However, the parents eventually lost the case in 2020.

Source: Indian Express

IIT-M team develops “Blocktrack app” for healthcare information system

What is the News?

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras have developed a mobile app named “Blocktrack”.

About Blocktrack App:

  • Blocktrack is a blockchain-based secure medical data and information exchange system for mobile phone applications.
  • Purpose: The App aims to digitise healthcare information systems. At the same time the app will protect sensitive personal information and medical records by decentralising control and ownership of patient data using a blockchain-based innovation.

Features of the Blocktrack App:

  • Firstly, Blocktrack is developed to integrate primary healthcare, medical prescription, pharmacy, distribution and insurance network.
  • Secondly, the app has two separate versions — one for patients and another for doctors.
  • Thirdly, the app algorithm generates identification codes for users. This ensures uniqueness across boundaries with very little chance for duplication.
  • Fourthly, the app allows for the interoperability of systems for multiple hospitals, institutes and healthcare organisations.
  • Lastly, the patients can choose to visit any medical facility on BlockTrack’s blockchain network without worrying about duplicate records or re-registration.

Source: Financial Express

“SAMVEDNA Helpline”- Tele Counselling of Children Impacted by Covid-19

What is the News?

Children impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic are being provided telecounseling through SAMVEDNA.


  • SAMVEDNA stands for Sensitizing Action on Mental Health Vulnerability through Emotional Development and Necessary Acceptance.
  • Purpose: It is a toll-free helpline number that aims to provide psychological first-aid and emotional support to the COVID-19 affected children
  • Provided by: The tele-counselling is provided by the National Commission of Child Rights(NCPCR).
  • Number: This tele-counselling service is available on a toll-free number 1800-121-2830. It is exclusive for children who are willing to talk and are in need of counselling.
  • Categories: Tele-counselling is provided to children under three categories:
    • children who are in quarantine/isolation/COVID care centres,
    • children who have COVID positive parents or family members and
    • Lastly, children who have lost their parents due to the pandemic.

About National Commission for Protection of Child Rights(NCPCR)

  • NCPCR is a statutory body established in 2007 under the Protection of Child Rights Act (CPCR), 2005.
  • Ministry: It is under the administrative control of the Ministry of Women & Child Development.
  • Mandate: It aims to ensure that all laws, policies, programmes and administrative mechanisms are in accordance with the child rights perspective as put forward in the Constitution of India and also the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Source: PIB

Sri Lanka’s “Colombo Port City Project” clears all hurdles

What is the News?

The Sri Lankan Supreme Court has cleared the “Colombo Port City Project” with minor modifications.

About Colombo Port City Project:

  • Colombo Port City Project is a large-scale integrated city being developed near Colombo, Sri Lanka.
  • Purpose: The city is being developed as a Special Economic Zone(SEZ). It aims to attract billions of dollars for trade, banking and offshore services similar to what is available in Dubai and Singapore,
  • Developed by: China Communication Construction is developing the project through its subsidiary China Harbor Engineering Construction (CHEC).
  • Administered by: The Port City will be administered by a commission with unprecedented powers to fast track investment approvals.
  • Benefits: The transactions within Port City will be denominated in foreign currency. Further, all salaries earned by any worker of the Port City will be tax-exempt.
  • Significance of the Project: It is the single biggest private sector development in Sri Lanka. It is also expected to transform Colombo into a commerce, tourism and cultural hub.

Criticism of the Project: The port city has been criticised for several reasons:

  • Environmentalists claim the port city contains many environmental hazards. They believe that the adverse environmental impact of the project would be far greater than the economic benefits.
  • Maritime sector veterans pointed out the dangers Sri Lanka may face due to giving outright ownership of land to China. That too especially in a high-security zone. This may impact Sri Lanka’s sovereignty.

Source: The Hindu

RTI reveals details of “Electoral bonds” sale during the recent elections

What is the News?

State Bank of India(SBI) has provided information on the sale of electoral bonds during the recent assembly elections. This was provided after a Right to Information(RTI) application was filed.

Key Highlights from the Sale of Electoral Bonds:

  • During the Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, West Bengal, Assam and Kerala polls, electoral bonds worth ₹695 crore were sold from April 1 to 10, 2021
  • This is the highest ever amount sold for any Assembly elections since the scheme started in 2018.
  • The sale of electoral bonds was also more than 16 times the sale of electoral bonds during the previous sales in early January 2021.
  • The highest amounts were sold at the Kolkata branch. This is followed by the New Delhi and Chennai branch of SBI.
  • However, the SBI has declined to name the political parties that have withdrawn the bonds. It said that this was third party personal information. So, it is exempted under the RTI Act.
  • Moreover, the bank has also declined to share the details of how much commission it had earned from the sale of bonds since the scheme started in 2018. It said that this information was of commercial confidence in nature. The bank also stated that the disclosure would harm the competitive position of the bank.

What are Electoral Bonds?

  • The Electoral Bonds are the non-interest-bearing financial instruments. These bonds allow eligible donors to pay eligible political parties using banks as an intermediary. The Electoral Bonds aim to ensure transparency in the funding of political parties.
  • They were introduced by the Government of India by the Finance Bill, 2017.
  • The State Bank of India (SBI) issues electoral bonds in the months of January, April, July, and October.
  • The electoral bonds are available in denominations of ₹1,000, ₹10,000, ₹1 lakh, ₹10 lakh and ₹1 crore.
  • The donors can buy electoral bonds and transfer them into the accounts of the political parties as a donation. The name of the donor is kept confidential.
  • Political parties will create a specific account. This account will be verified by the ECI. The political parties will encash the electoral bonds only in this verified account.
  • The bonds will remain valid for 15 days. Within that time, the political parties have to encash the electoral bond in the designated accounts.
  • No payment shall be made to the Political Party if the Electoral Bond is deposited after the expiry of the validity period.
  • Eligibility: Only the registered Political Parties are eligible. Further, they also have to secure at least 1% of the votes polled in the last Lok Sabha elections or the State Legislative Assembly to receive the funds.

Click Here to Read more about Electoral Bonds and its challenges

 Source: The Hindu


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