Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | 8 June, 2021

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“State of Environment Report” says “Farmer protests” increased fivefold since 2017

What is the news?

The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has released the State of Environment Report, 2021 in February recently. This article focuses upon the data related to farmer protests as mentioned in the report.

Report on Farmers Protests:

  • Farmers Protests in India have registered an almost five-fold increase since 2017.
    • In 2017, there were 34 major protests across 15 States. The number has now increased to 165 protests in 2020.
    • Among these, 12 are pan-India protests, including 11 against the three farm reform laws.
  • Reasons for Farm Protests:
    • Contentious Central farm laws
    • Procurement and agricultural market price-related failures
    • Protests against inadequate Budget allocations for the agricultural sector.
    • Battles against the acquisition of farmland for development projects
    • Loan Waivers or poor insurance coverage among others.
  • States: Numerous farmer protests have taken place in the States of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

Other key Findings of State of Environment Report:

Farm Labourers:

India has more farm labourers than landowning farmers and cultivators.

  • This has been found in 52% of the country’s districts.
  • Among States, Bihar, Kerala and Puducherry have more farm labourers than farmers in all their districts.

Farmer’s Suicides:

  • Every day, over 28 farm labourers and cultivators commit suicide in our country.
  • In 2019, there were 5,957 farmer suicides along with an additional 4,324 farm labourers who died by suicide.

Suggestions from State of Environment Report:

  • The report has called for better maintenance of agricultural data. It said that 14 States had witnessed a deterioration in the quality of their land records.

Source: The Hindu

What is “Indemnity” and why vaccine manufacturers are demanding that?

What is the News?

The Union government is in talks with foreign manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines on their demand for Indemnity from liability as a condition for selling their vaccines to the country.

However, this has already given rise to a similar demand from domestic vaccine-maker Serum Institute of India(SII). As they believe, all players should be treated the same way.

What is Indemnity?

  • In simple terms, indemnity means security against a loss or other financial stress. This is commonly used in insurance contracts.
  • In legal terms, It protects the manufacturers from any potential civil-legal liability or immunity from being sued by people for any unforeseen complications arising from their COVID-19 vaccine.

Is Indemnity defined under the law on Drugs?

  • The law on drugs in India does not have a provision for indemnity related to the grant of approval for any new drug or vaccine in the country.

Where is Indemnity defined then?

  • Section 124 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872 defines a contract of indemnity. It is defined as a contract by which one party promises to save the other from any loss caused to the latter.
  • If the government gives an indemnity to vaccine manufacturers, then the government, and not the vaccine maker, would be liable to compensate any citizen who claims to have side effects/death due to taking the vaccine.
  • In the event of a court ordering payment, the company will be in a position to recover the amount from the government.

Is the demand for indemnity a standard practice?

  • Indemnity is essentially a contractual matter between the supplier and recipient.
  • For example, Pfizer is believed to have obtained indemnity from several countries including the United Kingdom. However, it has declined to discuss the issue in public.

What have the overseas vaccines companies got so far?

  • Firstly, the Drugs Controller-General of India has fast-tracked the import of vaccines by dispensing with the need for local trials.
  • Secondly, foreign-produced vaccines that had been granted emergency approval for restricted use by certain regulators will also be granted Emergency Use Authorisation in India. These regulators include regulators in the US, UK, European Union and Japan or vaccines included in the WHO’s Emergency Use Listing.
  • Thirdly, the New Drugs and Clinical Trial Rules, 2019 has set down stringent regulations for grant of approval as well as for trials.
    • The Rules provide for payment of compensation by the sponsor of the trial or its representative to any participant who dies or suffers disability as a result of such trials.
    • However, exemption from these trials has reduced the risk to overseas manufacturers.

Source: The Hindu

NTPC joins “UN’s CEO Water Mandate” to work on water conservation

What is the News?

India’s largest power utility, NTPC Ltd has become a signatory of UN’s CEO Water Mandate.

About UN’s CEO Water Mandate:

  • UN’s CEO Water Mandate is a UN Global Compact initiative to demonstrate the commitment and efforts of companies towards better water and sanitation agendas as part of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • Purpose: The mandate is designed to assist companies in the development, implementation, and disclosure of comprehensive water strategies and policies.
  • It also provides a platform for companies to partner with like-minded businesses, UN agencies, public authorities, civil society organizations and other key stakeholders.
  • Companies: The mandate is now endorsed by over 180 companies from a range of industry sectors and regions around the world.

About United Nations Global Compact Initiative:

  • United Nations Global Compact is a non-binding United Nations Initiative.
  • Purpose: It aims to encourage companies worldwide to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies. For that, the UN categorised 10 principles range from human rights, anti-corruption, environment, labour, etc.
  • Launched in: The initiative was announced by the then UN Secretary-General in 1999. It was officially launched at UN Headquarters in New York City in 2000.

Source: DDNews

“One Nation One Standard Mission” and “Research Designs & Standards Organization”

What is the News?

Indian Railways Research Design & Standards Organization(RDSO) has become the nation’s first institution to be declared as Standard Developing Organization(SDO) under the “One Nation One Standard” mission.

About One Nation One Standard Mission:

  • One Nation One Standard was first conceived in 2019 by the Bureau of Indian Standards(BIS).
  • The mission is on the line of one nation, one ration card scheme in order to ensure quality products in the country.

Objectives of the One Nation One Standard Mission:

  • To aggregate and integrate the existing capabilities in standardisation. Further, it will also provide dedicated domain-specific expertise available with various organizations in the country.
    • This will enable one template of standard for one given product instead of having multiple agencies set it.
  • To enable the convergence of all standard development activities in the country, resulting in One National Standard for One Subject. This will help in establishing a Brand India identity in the long run.

SDO Certification:

  • To attain the One Nation One Standard vision, BIS launched the Standard Developing Organization(SDO) recognition scheme.
  • The recognition is valid for 3 years and will require renewal after completion of the validity period.

About Research Designs & Standards Organization(RDSO)

  • RDSO is the sole R&D Wing of the Ministry of Railways. It was founded by integrating the Central Standards Office (CSO) and the Railway Testing and Research Centre(RTRC) into a single unit in 1957.
  • Purpose: It is one of India’s leading Standard formulating bodies undertaking standardization work for the railway sector.
  • Location: It is situated in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.

Benefits of SDO Recognition for RDSO:

  • RDSO will be recognized on international standards-making bodies and there will be integration with global supply chain/global trade
  • The competitiveness amongst the industry will increase
  • There will be a reduction in cost and quantum improvement in the quality of product and services
  • There will be smooth induction of the latest evolving & emerging technologies on Indian Railways
  • Dependence on imports will reduce and “Make-in-India” will get a boost
  • Improved ease-of-doing-business.

Source: Financial Express

“Revised Vaccine Procurement Policy” allows central procurement of vaccines

What is the News?

The government of India has announced a revised Vaccine Procurement Policy and also several relief measures to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.

About Revised Vaccine Procurement Policy:

  • The Central Government will go back to a system of centralised procurement of vaccines against COVID-19.
  • Under this, the central government will now buy 75% of the total production of the vaccine producers and provide it to the states free of cost.
  • However, the system of 25% vaccines being procured directly by the private hospitals will continue.
    • State governments will monitor that only ₹150 service charge is levied by the private hospitals over the decided price of the vaccines.

Free for All Vaccine:

  • Until now, the Central Government used to provide free vaccines to everyone aged 45 and above.
  • However, from now on, the Centre will give free vaccines to all in the 18-44 age group starting June 21.

Extension of Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana:

  • The government of India has announced the extension of the free ration distribution scheme for 80 crore beneficiaries under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana till November 2021.

Reasons for announcing revised Vaccine Procurement Policy

  • These new announcements came after the Supreme Court had asked the Centre to file an affidavit on how the sum of ₹35,000 crores allocated in the Union Budget for vaccines has been spent so far.
  • The apex court also asked why these funds cannot be used for giving free vaccination for those in the age group of 18 to 44 years.
  • Moreover, the court observed that the Centre’s policy of not providing free vaccines to this particular age group was prima facie arbitrary and irrational.

Source: The Hindu

SC releases draft model rules for live-streaming and Recording of court proceedings

What is the news?

The Supreme Court e-Committee headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud has released the “Draft Model Rules for Live-Streaming and Recording of Court Proceedings”.

Note: Right to access live court proceedings is a part of the right of access to justice guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Draft Rules for Live-Streaming and Recording of Court Proceedings:

  • Prepared by: The Model Rules were framed by a sub-committee consisting of judges of the Bombay, Delhi, Madras and Karnataka High Courts.
  • Part of: The rules are part of the National Policy and Action Plan for implementation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the judiciary.
  • Coverage: The rules would cover live-streaming and recording of proceedings in High Courts, lower courts and tribunals.
  • Significance: The draft rules are a step towards implementing Swapnil Tripathi and Indira Jaising 2018 judgement of the Supreme Court.
    • In this judgement, SC held that telecast of important cases to an audience outside the courtroom would usher in greater transparency and aid accountability.

Key Features of the Draft Rules:

  • Prior information of live-stream: The Court has to duly inform the parties before the commencement of proceedings that the proceedings are being live-streamed. If any objections are there, they should be mentioned before the concerned bench. However, the final decision lies with the bench.
  • Delay of 10 minutes: There shall be a delay of 10 minutes in live-streaming, which may be changed as per directions of the Court.
  • No reveal of personal information: Personal information such as date of birth, home address, identity card number, bank account information and the personal information of related parties will be deleted or muted.
  • The judge can pause or stop the live stream: A remote-control device shall be provided to the presiding judge on the bench to pause or stop the live streaming at any time.
  • Unauthorized usage of Livestream will be punishable: The unauthorized usage of the live stream will be punishable as an offence under the Indian Copyright Act, Information Technology Act and other provisions of law, including the law of contempt.

Exemption of Cases: The following cases will be excluded from live-streaming:

  • Matrimonial matters and cases concerning sexual offences and gender-based violence against women.
  • Matters registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO) and Juvenile Justice Act,2015.
  • Cases that may provoke enmity amongst communities, likely to result in a breach of law and order.
  • Recording of evidence, including cross-examination.
  • Any other matter in which a specific direction is issued by the Bench or the Chief Justice.

Source: The Hindu

Global studies on “vulnerability of animals to Covid-19”

What is the news?

A lion at Chennai’s Vandalur Zoo has died of suspected coronavirus infection. Similarly, a tiger died at Jharkhand’s Bhagwan Birsa Biological Park after suffering from fever. This sparked the debate regarding the study of the vulnerability of animals to Covid-19.

Mechanism of Coronavirus Infection:

  • The coronavirus initiates infection using the spike protein on its surface. On the surface of the human cell are proteins called ACE2 receptors. The spike protein binds with the ACE2 receptor, then invades the cell and goes on to replicate.
  • Different species express ACE2 to different extents and this plays a key role in determining how much a species is susceptible to coronavirus infection.

Global studies on vulnerability of animals to Covid-19:

A study by PLOS Computational Biology regarding vulnerability of animals to Covid-19:

  • Research: In December 2020, researchers looked at the ACE2 receptors of 10 different species and compared their affinity for binding with the virus spike protein.
  • Method: The researchers used computer modelling to test this. They compared the “codon adaptation index” which is a measure of how efficiently the virus replicates after entering the cell.
  • Findings: The most vulnerable species to coronavirus infection next to humans are ferrets followed by cats and civets.

A study by PNAS, a research journal of US:

Researchers studied a detailed genomic analysis of the relative coronavirus risks faced by 410 species.

  • Method: In humans, 25 amino acids of ACE2 are important for the virus to bind with the cell. The researchers used modelling to evaluate how many of these 25 are found in the ACE2 of other species. The more the matches with the human ACE2, the lower the risk of infection.
  • Findings:
    • At very high risk are primates such as chimpanzee, rhesus macaque.
    • At high risk are species such as blue-eyed black lemur.
    • Cats were found to have medium risk, while dogs had a low risk.

A study by the University of Bologna regarding vulnerability of animals to Covid-19:

  • Researchers at the University of Bologna collected tissues from six cats and a tiger. They found wide expression of ACE2 in their gastrointestinal tracts. This was more prominent in the cats than in the tiger.

Source: Indian Express

China hosts “ASEAN foreign ministers meeting”

What is the news?

China is hosting ASEAN foreign ministers meeting this year. This year (2021) also marks the 30th anniversary of the dialogue relations between China and the 10-member ASEAN countries. Association of Southeast Asian Nations

Key Focus of the ASEAN foreign ministers meeting:

The meeting will focus on

  • Combating COVID-19
  • Promoting economic recovery
  • Discussing the proposal of vaccine passport connecting China and ASEAN countries

Significance of this ASEAN foreign ministers meeting:

  • This meeting comes in the backdrop of China criticizing the Quad (India, Australia, Japan and the United States grouping) during recent visits to Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
  • China’s Defence Minister has called on both countries to reject “military alliances” — a term that China is using to describe the Quad but a label that the Quad group rejects.

China and ASEAN Cooperation:

  • China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations(ASEAN) countries established a strategic partnership in 2005.
  • China-ASEAN free trade zone was formally established in the year 2010.
  • China and ASEAN countries are a part of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal.
  • China has been ASEAN’s largest trade partner for 12 consecutive years. On the other hand, ASEAN became China’s largest trade partner in 2020.
  • China has pledged to deliver 100 million doses of the Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine to ASEAN nations. Apart from that, China will also provide other pandemic-fighting materials and technical help to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic in ASEAN Countries.

About ASEAN:

  • ASEAN is a regional grouping that was established in 1967 with the signing of the Bangkok Declaration.
  • Members: Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, The Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, Brunei, and Laos.
  • Headquarters: Jakarta, Indonesia.

Source: The Hindu


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