Current Affairs (26th April 2021)
WAYS AND MEANS ADVANCES SCHEME
- The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) decided to continue with the existing interim Ways and Means Advances (WMA) scheme limit of ₹51,560 crore for all States/ UTs up to 30 September 2021 due to COVID-19.
- Special Drawing Facility shall continue to be linked to the quantum of their investments in marketable securities issued by the Government of India, including the Auction Treasury Bills.
What is WMA?
- It is a mechanism used by RBI under its credit policy to provide to States, banking with it, to help them tide over temporary mismatches in the cash flow of their receipts and payments. This is guided under Section 17(5) of RBI Act, 1934.
- A government can avail itself of immediate cash from the RBI.
- The increased limit for WMAs will help the states plan their market borrowing programmes better while ensuring greater containment and mitigation efforts by the states.
- The government makes an interest payment to the central bank when it borrows money.
- The rate of interest is the same as the repo rate, while the tenure is three months.
- The limits for WMA are mutually decided by the RBI and the Government of India.
- Based on the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on WMA to State Governments, 2021 (chaired by Sudhir Shrivastava), the RBI had revised the WMA Scheme of States/UTs.
- The WMA limit arrived at by the Committee based on total expenditure of States/ UTs, works out to ₹47,010 crore.
- The RBI said it would review the WMA limit, thereafter, depending on the course of the pandemic and its impact on the economy.
Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY)
- The Union government announced that free of cost 5 kg of food grains per month would be provided to 80 crore beneficiaries under the PMGKAY.
- It would be on the same pattern as the earlier PM-GKAY.
- Food security welfare scheme announced in March 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Operated by the Department of Food and Public Distribution under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution.
- Aims to feed the poorest citizens of India by providing grain through the Public Distribution System, to all the priority households (ration cardholders and those identified by the Antyodaya Anna Yojana scheme).
- Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) gave a restricted emergency use approval to the Zydus Cadila’s ‘Virafin’ for treating the patients showing moderate COVID-19 symptoms.
- The drug’s safety profile is already well known as it is used in treating people with chronic hepatitis B and C.
- Virafin is a pegylated interferon alpha-2b(PegIFN), which when subcutaneously injected to the patient in the early stages of infection, resulted in their faster recovery.
- For the development of Virafin, Zydus appreciated the support provided by DBT-BIRAC COVID 19 Research Consoritum through NBM, for conducting the Phase II human clinical trial studies.
- The studies confirmed the safety, tolerability, and efficacy of Virafin. The studies also reported that Virafin reduces viral load and aid in managing the disease in a better way, such as reduction in the need for supplemental oxygen, thereby reducing the respiratory tension caused due to low oxygen levels.
- Zydus Cadila or Cadila Healthcare Limited is an Indian multinational pharmaceutical company headquartered in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.
Breakthrough infection and variants of concern
- Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has reported that around two to four of 10,000 people who have been given two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have tested positive for the disease.
- Other than this, the proportion of the U.K. variant (B.1.1.7) in genome samples sequenced from COVID-19 cases in Delhi has risen from 28% in the second week of March to 50% last week.
- It occurs in people who have been vaccinated. Such cases are not out of the ordinary as the vaccines that have been approved so far, the world over are made to protect against disease and not the transmission of the virus.
- Phase 3 clinical trials conducted before vaccines were approved showed a fairly constant proportion of infections among those vaccinated.
- In the Astra Zeneca trial, for instance, 30 out of 5,807 vaccinated — about 0.5% — were symptomatic and tested positive 14 days after the second shot.
Rising prevalence of U.K. strain in Delhi
- K. variant has a mutation N501Y that is reported to increase the transmission of the virus, leading to more numbers and a knock-on consequence of increasing disease severity and mortality.
- A mutation just means a difference, a letter changes in the genome.
- Mutations in viruses are a natural part of evolution.
- The pressure on the virus to evolve is increased by the fact that so many millions of people have now been infected.
Leaders’ Summit on Climate 2021
- US President Joe Biden hosted a virtual meeting of world leaders titled ‘Leaders’ Summit on Climate’ on Earth Day (22nd April).
- It was a two-day conference and is touted by some as a precursor to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) that will take place later this year in Glasglow (Scotland).
- 40 world leaders, including the Prime Minister of India, were invited to the event to underscore the urgency of stronger climate action.
- The summit is supposed to “galvanise efforts by the major economies to tackle the climate crisis” and “underscore the urgency – and the economic benefits – of stronger climate action.”
Stand of countries:
- There is an urgent need for every country, city, business, and financial institution to adopt concrete plans for transitioning to net-zero.
- Even more urgent is for governments to match this long-term ambition with concrete actions now.
|Double its annual financing commitments to developing countries by 2024, including a tripling of its adaptation finance by 2024.
Submitted a new Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) target that aims to reduce its GHG emissions by 50-52% below 2005 levels.
|Carbon emissions will peak before 2030 and the country will achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.
Emphasised on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.
|Emphasised its encouragement of global initiatives such as the International Solar Alliance and the Coalition for Disaster Resilience Infrastructure.
Doing its part and that the country’s per capita carbon emissions are 60% lower than the global average.
Taken many bold steps on clean energy, energy efficiency, afforestation, and biodiversity. India is among few countries whose NDCs are 2°C compatible.
Ambitious renewable energy target of 450 GW by 2030.
ASEAN initiative on Myanmar crisis
- Recently, emergency leaders’ summit between the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) grouping and the Myanmar coup leader Min Aung Hlaing, in the Indonesian capital city of Jakarta has been held.
- Southeast Asian leaders expressed deep concerns over the violence in Myanmar and demanded an immediate end to killings and the release of political detainees in Myanmar.
- They also called for a dialogue between contending parties in Myanmar, with the aid of the bloc’s envoys.
- ASEAN has urged the pursuance of dialogue, reconciliation, and the return to normalcy in accordance with the will and interests of the people of Myanmar.
- The messages conveyed by the group was unusually blunt and could be seen as a breach of the ASEAN’s bedrock principle of non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs.
- The grouping is known to adopt a non-confrontational approach to any issue and employs consensus-based decision making.
Violence in Myanmar
- Daily shootings by police and soldiers since the February 1 coup have killed more than 700 mostly peaceful protesters and bystanders.
- Aung San Suu Kyi and many other political leaders have been detained.
- Amnesty International has urged ASEAN states to investigate Min Aung Hlaing over “credible allegations of responsibility for crimes against humanity in Myanmar.”
- Groundwater depletion may reduce winter cropping intensity by 20% in India.
- With severe groundwater depletion, the cropping intensity or the amount of land planted in the winter season may decrease by up to 20% by 2025.
- The international team studied India’s three main irrigation types on winter cropped areas: dug wells, tube wells, canals.
- It analysed the groundwater data from the Central Ground Water Board. They found that 13% of the villages in which farmers plant a winter crop are in critically water-depleted regions.
- These villages may lose 68% of their cropped area in future if access to all groundwater irrigation is lost. These losses will largely occur in northwest and central India.
Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE)
- NASA has extracted oxygen from the carbon dioxide in the thin Martian atmosphere.
- The unprecedented extraction of oxygen on Mars was achieved by a device called MOXIE aboard Perseverance, a six-wheeled science rover.
- It produced about 5 grams of oxygen, equivalent to roughly 10 minutes’ worth of breathing for an astronaut.
- NASA is planning that future human missions would take scaled-up versions of Moxie with them to the Red Planet rather than try to carry all the oxygen needed to sustain them.
- Mars’ atmosphere is dominated by carbon dioxide (CO₂) at a concentration of 96 per cent. The expectation is that it can produce up to 10 grams of O₂ per hour.
- This is the first extraction of a natural resource from the environment of another planet.
- It is the second successful technology demonstration on the mission, which flew a mini helicopter recently.