Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | 3 May, 2021

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What are “Variants of Concern” (VoC)?

What is the News?

The Variants of concern(VOC) together with widespread relaxation of COVID-19 appropriate behavior resulted in the 2nd wave of Covid-19 in India.

 What is a Variant of Concern?

  • The term variant of concern(VOC) is a category assigned to a newly emerged variant of a virus with an increased ability of transmission.

Properties of VOC: The VOC is characterized by three sinister properties:

  1. Increased Transmission Efficiency: In many countries, including India the VOC, by virtue of increased transmissibility, has started off a new wave(s) of epidemic transmission.
  2. Virulence: It is the ability to cause severe/life-threatening disease. The UK variant has the worse virulence. The South Africa and Brazil variants do not seem to have higher virulence.
  3. Immune to antibodies generated by previous vaccination or infection: Most vaccines were made using antigens made from D614G variant. However, these vaccines show low efficacy on the South African, Brazil and UK variants. Hence, reinfection can occur in spite of immunity provided by earlier D614G infection or vaccination.

How does a new variant emerge?

  • If a manuscript is copied by hand repeatedly, there are high chances of spelling errors.
  • Similarly, when ‘genetic scripts’ encoded in DNA or RNA are copied repeatedly in virus replication, errors do occur.
  • RNA viruses are more error-prone than DNA viruses.SARS-CoV-2 genome is single-stranded RNA and mutations or different variants of a virus occur frequently.

Who detects these variants?

  • The ability to detect and track new variants is on the laboratory capacity in whole genome sequencing of viruses.
  • In India, the Indian SARS CoV-2 Genomic Consortium (INSACOG), a network of ten competent public-sector laboratories for genomic surveillance was established to detect and track variants.

Nomenclature of SARS-CoV-2 Variants:

  • There are three different schemes of nomenclature of SARS-CoV-2 variants.
  • The widely used one is the ‘Phylogenetic Assignment of Global Outbreak Lineages’(PANGOLIN) that uses a hierarchical system based on genetic relatedness – an invaluable tool for genomic surveillance.
  • It uses alphabets (A, B, C, P) and numerals starting with 1. Variant lineages are at the emerging edge of the pandemic in different geographies. Lineage B is the most prolific.

SARS Cov-2 Variants:

  • The three most frequent Variant of Concern(VOC) are named by their geography of origin:
    • ‘U.K. variant’ for B.1.1.7;
    • ‘South Africa variant’ for B.1.351;
    • and ‘Brazil variant’ for P.1.

Note: The original pandemic virus (founder variant) was Wu.Hu.1 (Wuhan virus). In a few months, variant D614G emerged and became globally dominant.

Source: The Hindu


RBI Joins “Network for Greening the Financial System”

What is the News?

Reserve Bank of India(RBI) has joined the Network for Greening the Financial System (NGFS) as a Member.

About Network for Greening the Financial System(NGFS):

  • NGFS was launched at the Paris One Planet Summit in December 2017.
  • Purpose: It is a group of Central banks and financial supervisors. The NGFS aims to accelerate the scaling up of green finance and develop recommendations for central banks’ role in climate change.
  • Headquarters: It is located at the Bank of France headquartered in Paris.
  • Members: As of April 2021, the NGFS consists of 90 members and 13 observers.
  • Significance for RBI: As Green Finance has assumed significance in the context of climate change. So the RBI expects to benefit from the membership of NGFS by learning and contributing to global efforts on Green Finance.

Source: Hindu Businessline


“Global Electric Vehicles Outlook 2021” released by IEA

What is the News?

International Energy Agency(IEA) has released a report titled “Global Electric Vehicle Outlook Report,2021”.

The Global EV Outlook(GEVO) is an annual report published by IEA. The report looks at the latest EV trends. Apart from that, it also looks at the drivers for road transport sector electrification around the world.

Key Findings of Global Electric Vehicles Outlook 2021 related to India:

  • More than 30% of the new vehicle sales in India will be electric by 2030.
  • Electric Vehicles(EV) deployment in India will mainly be achieved through the electrification of two/three-wheelers. The report mentions that electric two/three-wheeler sales will reach a sales share of almost 50% by 2030.
  • However, the lack of government spending under the FAME II Scheme has delayed EV deployment in India.
  • Further, EV deployment was also delayed due to pressure on domestic automakers to focus on BS-VI innovation instead of EVs.

International findings of Global Electric Vehicles Outlook 2021:

  • Three million new electric cars were registered in 2020. This was 41% higher than those registered in 2019.
  • The rise in electric car sales in 2020 came even as the worldwide automobile market contracted by 16% due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Apart from that, the number of electric cars, buses, vans and heavy trucks on roads is expected to hit 145 million by 2030.
  • Moreover, if the governments improve their efforts to meet international climate goals, then the number of global electric vehicles will increase to 230 million by 2030.

About International Energy Agency(IEA):

  • It was established in 1974 as an autonomous intergovernmental organization under the OECD framework.
  • Objective: To ensure reliable, affordable, and clean energy for its member countries and beyond.
  • Members: It has 30 member countries and eight association countries. India became an associate member in 2017.
  • Secretariat: Paris, France.

Source: IEA


“Project Pyrasol” – A 2+2 project of Indo-German Science & Technology Centre

What is the News?

CSIR-Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI), Chennai has inaugurated the Integrated Solar Dryer and Pyrolysis pilot project. These projects focuses on urban waste management. The project is also the part of Indo-German project ‘Pyrasol.

About Project Pyrasol:

  • Project Pyrasol is a part of the Indo-German Science & Technology Centre (IGSTC) flagship programme 2+2 Project.
  • Aim: To transform urban organic waste into biochar(charcoal produced by pyrolysis) and energy in smart cities.
  • Awarded to: The project was awarded to CSIR-CLRI by the Indo-German Science & Technology Centre.
  • Significance: The project will lead to technology development for the joint processing of Fibrous Organic Waste(FOW) and Sewage Sludge (SS) of Indian smart cities. These FOW and SS will get converted into hygienic and highly valuable biochar. Apart from that, the joint processing will also perform associated energy recovery, carbon sequestration and environmental improvement.

About Indo-German Science & Technology Centre (IGSTC):

  • The Government of India (DST) and Government of Germany(BMBF) jointly established the Indo-German Science & Technology Centre.
  • Aim To facilitate bilateral science and technology networking. Further, the IGSTC also play a proactive role in catalysing institute – industry cross-border partnerships through joint R&D efforts.

What is the 2+2 Project?

  • The 2+2 project is the flagship programme of the Indo-German Science & Technology Centre(IGSTC).
  • Aim: To catalyse innovation-centric R&D projects. This is achieved by synergizing the strength of research/academic institutions and public/private industry from India and Germany.
  • Under the scheme, R&D projects will be supported through “2+2 Mode of Partnership” i.e. involvement of at least one research/academic institute and one public/private industry from both India and Germany.

About Pyrolysis:

  • Pyrolysis is a process of chemically decomposing organic materials at elevated temperatures in the absence of oxygen.
  • The process typically occurs at temperatures above 430 °C (800 °F) and under pressure.
  • It simultaneously involves the change of physical phase and chemical composition of organic material. Pyrolysis is an irreversible process.

Source: PIB


“Operation Samudra Setu-II” launched by Indian Navy

What is the News? The Indian Navy has launched Operation Samudra Setu-II.

About Operation Samudra Setu-II:

  • The Indian Navy launched this operation with the aim to bring oxygen-filled cryogenic containers to India from abroad.
    • This is because the country is facing a severe shortage of medical oxygen in the wake of a massive spike in new Covid-19 cases.
  • As part of the mission, Seven Indian Naval ships, namely Kolkata, Kochi, Talwar, Tabar, Trikand, Jalashwa, and Airavat, are participating. These ships will carry shipments of liquid medical oxygen-filled cryogenic containers and associated medical equipment from various countries to India.

Operation Samudra Setu:

  • The Indian Navy launched this operation in May 2020 as a part of Vande Bharat Mission. It aimed to bring back around two thousand Indians in two ships during the first phase of evacuation.
  • INS Jalashwa and INS Magar were operated as part of efforts to repatriate Indian nationals from foreign shores.

Source: India Today


“Foreign Aid to India” – Centre faces Questions Over its Use

What is the News?

Indian Government is at present accepting gifts, donations, and aid from foreign nations. It is because India is facing a massive shortage of oxygen, drugs and related equipment amid a surge in Covid cases.

Foreign Aid to India:

  • India is accepting foreign aid for the first time in 16 years. State Governments are also free to procure life-saving devices and medicines from foreign agencies.
  • Earlier, India accepted aid from foreign governments several times. It includes Uttarkashi earthquake (1991), Latur earthquake (1993), Gujarat earthquake (2001), Bengal cyclone (2002) and Bihar floods (July 2004).
  • However, this policy was changed 16 years ago. India refused to accept foreign aid after the Kashmir earthquake in 2005, Uttarakhand floods in 2013, Kashmir floods in 2014 and Kerala Floods in 2018.

Process:

  • The Indian government is asking all foreign governments and agencies to donate through the Indian Red Cross Society to the Ministry of Health.
  • It is then being coordinated by an Empowered Group of Ministers and officials who then send it to the states based upon the requests.

What is the issue?

  • Countries have raised questions over the lack of a website or transparent system on the Central Government’s use of the foreign aid.
  • They are asking the Government of India to provide information about the deployment and use of these materials after their transfer.

Source: The Hindu


New SEBI circular for “fund manager compensation”

What is the News?

Securities and Exchange Board of India(SEBI) has issued a new circular on regulating fund manager and key personnel compensation.

About the Circular:

  • The circular says that a minimum of 20% of the salary of mutual fund managers and other key personnel in an asset management company (AMC) should be in the form of units of the mutual fund schemes they manage.
  • Key personnel here refers to the chief executive officer, chief investment officer, research head and their direct reportees.

Why this move?

  • The idea behind the move is that some mutual fund companies take excessive risks while going after returns. Thus, possibly endangering the prospects of schemes managed.
  • Hence, the SEBI wants to make sure that the interests of the fund managers are aligned to those of the unit holders of the mutual fund schemes.

Significance of this move: This move by SEBI is expected to:

  • Boost the transparency of fund manager compensation and help build accountability
  • There are instances where the fund houses will not link the pay of fund managers to the performance of funds. This SEBI move will ensure the fund houses will actually link the pay of fund managers to their performance.
  • It could also encourage whistleblowing if any wrongdoing is happening with the fund houses.
  • It will also give a lot of psychological comfort to investors as the fund manager also has an investment in the schemes they manage.

Source: Indian Express


Supreme Court observations on “seeking medical help for COVID-19”.

What is the News?

The Supreme Court has said that there should not be any coercive action against any citizen. Especially for putting out an emergency call on social media for seeking medical help for COVID-19.

Background:

  • Uttar Pradesh government had recently ordered strict civil and criminal action against citizens. This is for making false appeals on social media for seeking help for COVID-19
  • But against the UP government order, the Supreme Court recently issued the following observations.

Key observations on seeking medical help for COVID-19:

  • The Supreme Court has warned the State governments and the police against taking any action on the spread of information from the citizens affected by Covid-19.
  • Further, the court also warned the government and police for taking actions on the request of help through social media from citizens affected by COVID-19.
  • The court has said that any move to punish citizens actions on social media to seek help for oxygen cylinders, COVID-19 drugs, beds and hospitals would attract contempt of court action.
  • Further, the court has also referred that the free flow of information during the 1970 famine enabled the government to tackle problems effectively. But the restriction of information during the 1918 pandemic created troubles for the government.
  • Lastly, the court has also told the States that this was a time of great crisis. Hence, empathy and action should be the rule of the day.

Source: The Hindu


 

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