Current Affairs (13th May 2021)
- Due to COVID-19 pandemic, public procurement portal Government e-marketplace (GeM) has implemented measures like rapid onboarding of sellers of oxygen cylinders and concentrators to enable easy buying of critical health equipment by government agencies.
- It is National Procurement Portal functions under the Directorate General of Supplies and Disposals (DGS&D), the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
- It provides the tools of e-biding, reverse e-auction, and demand aggregation to facilitate the government users, achieve the best value of their money.
- It facilitates online procurement of common use Goods and Services required by various Government Departments/Organisations/PSUs.
- It is paperless, cashless, and contactless platform giving end to end solution.
Improve in Portal:
- GeM 2.0 was launched as apilot project and GeM 3.0 offers powerful search engine, real time and multisource price comparison, demand aggregation, etc. GeM 4.0 is the latest version.
Features of GeM 4.0
- MSMEs, Artisans, Self-Help Groups, weavers registered in HoonarHaat and TRIFED will get GeM registration.
- The portal is integrated with many banks and ERPs (Enterprise resource planning) to ensure timely payment and delivery acceptance for all vendors.
- Adoption of TReDS (Trade Receivables Discounting Systems) will provide bill discounting and access to working capital for MSMEs.
- Grievance redressal mechanism has been improved.
- Bidding module has been redesigned and now item-wise bidding is permitted.
Plasma Therapy in COVID treatment
- Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), India’s nodal health research body, will meet soon to deliberate the use of convalescent plasma therapy (CPT), widely used in India to treat patients of COVID-19.
- At present, CPT is an investigational therapy permitted “off label“. In other words, they are prescribed for conditions other than those for which they were approved.
- ICMR’s own study, released in September, showed that CPT was not that affective against COVID-19.
- CPT involves transfusion of the blood plasma of a recovered patient into another patient.
- It is based on this concept of passive immunity where the short-term immunity is developed by introduction of antibodies into a person from another person or animal.
- Blood Plasma is the liquid component of blood in which the blood cells float, and it houses antibodies.
- Antibodies are proteins that fight the foreign substances that invade the body.
- Once that is done, some blood cells function as memory cells so that they can identify and defeat the same enemy by quickly producing the same antibodies.
India-Swiss Financial Dialogue
- The Fourth India-Swiss Financial Dialogue recently held virtually through video conferencing.
- Both the countries discussed economic matters as well as coordination on global pandemic situations.
- The Indian delegation included representatives from the Department of Economic Affairs, Department of Revenue, Department of Financial Services and Ministry of External Affairs.
- The Dialogue covered sharing of experiences for collaboration on various aspects including:
- International Financial Services Centre Authority (IFSCA),
- National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF),
- Sustainable finance and
- Cross border financial services.
- Further, matters relating toG20, IMF and tax challenges arising from the digitisation of the economy was discussed along with infrastructure financing.
- Both the countries shared views and perspectives on their respective countries and global economic scenario.
- Both sides emphasised the importance of coordinated bilateral action on a clean and resilient post-COVID world.
- The Dialogue concluded on a positive note for a sustained future collaboration between both countries in the areas of mutual interest.
- Switzerland established diplomatic relations with India soon after Independence.
- A Treaty of Friendship between India and Switzerland was signed at New Delhi on August 14, 1948; one of the first such treaties to be signed by independent India.
- It was an important milestone in Indo-Swiss relations.
- In 2018, India and Switzerland celebrated the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Friendship.
- The Prime Minister of India visited to Switzerland in 2016, 2018 and Swiss President to India in August/September 2017.
- The Joint Statement issued during the visit of the Swiss President in 2017 noted the India-Switzerland relations as ‘A Long-Standing Dynamic Partnership’.
- From 1971 to 1976, during and after Bangladesh’s struggle for Independence, Switzerland represented India’s interests in Pakistan.
- The Indian community in Switzerland comprises approximately 24,567 Indians including over 7,164 persons of Indian origin. Most of them are professionals in Engineering, IT, pharmaceuticals, and paramedical fields. There are about 1000 Indian students studying in Switzerland.
- In 2016, there were about 850 Swiss nationals living in India.
MIS Platform For Domestic Agarbatti Industry
- National Bamboo Mission (NBM) has launched an MIS module for strengthening the domestic Agarbatti industry.
- An MIS (Management Information Systems) based reporting platform for agarbatti stick production has been launched. This platform will help-
- to collate the locations of stick making units,
- for the availability of raw material,
- for the functioning of the units, production capacity, marketing, etc.
- in better synergising the linkages with the industry to enable seamless procurement from production units,
- in plugging the information gaps.
- National Bamboo Mission (NBM), Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME), Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) schemes as well as States, together with industry partners have stepped up to support this platform.
Benefits of Initiative:
- It will enhance the support for ‘Vocal for Local’ and ‘Make for the World’ since Indian agarbatti is much sought after in global markets.
- It will help to bring back livelihoods for the local communities.
- It will give a boost to efforts for modernising the agarbatti sector.
- It will provide focused support to enable India to become AtmaNirbhar in the agarbatti sector.
Fund for vaccination
- As part of the efforts to mobilise financial resources for the COVID-19 vaccination of people in the age group of 18 to 44 years, Rajasthan Chief Minister has approved a proposal to provide ₹3 crore each from the MLA Local Area Development (LAD) Fund.
- For meeting the expenses, the fund for each legislator has been increased from ₹2.25 crore to ₹5 crore a year.
- The 200 MLAs in the State will contribute a total of ₹600 crore to the vaccination fund account under the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund.
- From the remaining ₹2 crore in the MLA-LAD Fund, ₹1 crore will be spent on strengthening the medical infrastructure, purchase of equipment and setting up of model community health centres.
India’s growth projection to 9.3%
- Moody’s Investors Service has sharply scaled down the growth projection for India to 9.3% from its earlier estimate of 13.7%.
- Moody’s cited the negative impact of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic for scaling down the growth projections.
- It has warned that the spread of the coronavirus, as well as the rate of vaccinations, will have a direct impact on economic outcomes.
- It suggested that spending will have to be redirected towards healthcare and virus response relative to what the government had budgeted for the FY-2021-22.
- Most extreme weather conditions, the world over, are attributed to climate change. Climate change in India is also affecting a major renewable source of energy – wind.
- Monsoon brings along with it wind speeds that range between 23-29 kms per hour, fuelling the turbines that harness the wind power to generate electricity.
- Last monsoon, the average wind speed was 20-27 kmph, the slowest on record.
- Wind speeds were below normal, particularly in July and September, resulting in widespread decline in capacity utilisation factor (CUF).
- CUF of wind turbines is a measure of efficiency that indicates the extent to which installed capacity is deployed.
- AT the end of the financial year in March 2021, CUF was 17% compared with 20% in the previous two years.
- Central government set a target of building 175 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy capacity by 2022, including 60 GW of wind power.
- At the end of March 2021, India had capacity to produce 38.78 GW of wind power.
- Capacity addition had already slowed due to the pandemic and procedural red tape, with monsoon winds throwing down another challenge.
- Around 2/3rds of wind energy in India are generated during the 4 months ending September.
Osiris-Rex Mission / Asteroid Bennu
- On May 11, NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft will depart asteroid Bennu and start its two-year long journey back to Earth.
- Bennu is an asteroid located about 200 million miles away from the Earth.
- Bennu is named after an Egyptian deity. The asteroid was discovered by a team from the NASA-funded Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research team in 1999.
- Bennu is a B-type asteroid, implying that it contains significant amounts of carbon and various other minerals.
Significance of bennu
- Bennuis an ancient asteroid that has not gone through a lot of composition-altering change through billions of years, which means that below its surface lie chemicals and rocks from the birth of the solar system.
- Therefore, scientists and researchers are interested in studying this asteroid as it might give them clues about the origins of the solar system, the sun, the Earth, and the other planets.
- OSIRIS-REx is NASA’s first mission to visit a near-Earth asteroid, survey its surface and collect a sample from it.
- The mission is essentially a seven-year-long voyage and will conclude when at least 60 grams of samples are delivered back to the Earth.
- The mission promises to bring the largest amount of extra-terrestrial material back to our planet since the Apollo era.
- The mission was launched in 2016, it reached its target in 2018 and since then, the spacecraft has been trying to match the velocity of the asteroid using small rocket thrusters. It also utilised this time to survey the surface and identify potential sites to take samples.
- The spacecraft contains five instruments meant to explore Bennu including cameras, a spectrometer, and a laser altimeter.