DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS: 29th MARCH 2020 THE HINDU +PIB

Daily Current Affairs: 29th March 2020: The Hindu+PIB

The following compilation has been made keeping in mind the need of the UPSC IAS exam. Each and every topic which has been included in this compilation is taken from very authentic and relevant source including The HinduThe Indian ExpressBusiness Standard, Press Information Bureau, etc.
As per the evolving pattern of the UPSC IAS prelims and mains exam each and every topic has been handpicked keeping in mind the syllabus of the exam.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

    SWAYAM PORTAL: OVER 50000 USERS AMID COVID-19


    Context: According to a report from Ministry of HRD, access  to the National Online Education Platform SWAYAM and other Digital Initiatives of HRD ministry has tripled in the last one week.


    SWAYAM PORTAL; CURRENT AFFAIRS 29TH MARCH 2020



    The Ministry of HRD through its Online/Digital Education Initiatives is trying to ensure that students can continue their learning sitting at their home, during this lockdown period.

    HOW GOOD IS THE RESPONSE TO THE ONLINE PORTALS?


    About 50,000 people have accessed SWAYAM since 23rd March 2020. This is over and above the 25 lakh students/learners who are already enrolled in the 571 courses of the January 2020 semester of SWAYAM


    SWAYAM has a repository of 1900 courses which are now being accessed by people from over 60 countries


    The  significant majority is from India and the other countries include USA, UAE, Germany, Nepal, Singapore, Canada, United Kingdom and Australia.


    The videos of the SWAYAM Prabha DTH TV channels are viewed by around 50,000 people every day


    The National Digital Library is now being accessed by about 43,000 people daily which is more than twice the usual number of persons accessing it. 


    The Education portals of NCERT like Diksha, e-pathasala, NROER and NIOS and the other ICT initiatives like Robotics education (e-Yantra), Open Source Software for Education (FOSSEE), Virtual experiments (Virtual Labs) and Learning programming (Spoken tutorial) are also experiencing very large access rates.


    ABOUT SWAYAM PORTAL


    SWAYAM (Study Webs of Active–Learning for Young Aspiring Minds) is a programme initiated by Government of India and designed to achieve the three cardinal principles of Education Policy viz., access, equity and quality.


    FORMATION: SWAYAM platform is developed by Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and NPTEL, IIT Madras with the help of Google Inc. and Persistent Systems Ltd


    CAPACITY: It would be ultimately capable of hosting 2000 courses and 80000 hours of learning: covering school, under-graduate, post-graduate, engineering, law and other professional courses.


    OBJECTIVE: The objective of this effort is to take the best teaching learning resources to all, including the most disadvantaged. SWAYAM seeks to bridge the digital divide for students who have hitherto remained untouched by the digital revolution and have not been able to join the mainstream of the knowledge economy. 


    NATIONAL COORDINATORS OF SWAYAM: Following are the key national coordinators of SWAYAM:

    • All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) for Annual Refresher Programme in Teaching for faculty of the Engineering/University/ Institutions
    • National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) for engineering
    • University Grants Commission (UGC) for post-graduation education
    • Consortium for Educational Communication (CEC) for under-graduate education
    • NCERT for school education
    • NIOS for school education
    • IGNOU for out of the school students and
    • IIMB for management studies
    • National Institute of Technical Teachers Training and Research (NITTTR) for teacher training programme.
    COURSES OFFERED IN SWAYAM: There are a number of major courses which are offered by the SWAYAM Portal. These include: 

    • Courses that are taught in classrooms from 9th class till post-graduation.
    • The courses hosted on SWAYAM is in 4 quadrants: (i) video lecture, (ii) specially prepared reading material that can be downloaded/printed, (iii) self-assessment tests through tests and quizzes and (iv) an online discussion forum for clearing the doubts.

    • Categories of courses include – Engineering, Science, Humanities, Management, Language, Mathematics, Arts and Recreation, Commerce, General, Library, Education.

    • Courses delivered through SWAYAM are available free of cost to the learners.

    • Students wanting certifications need to register and shall be offered a certificate on successful completion of the course, with a little fee.

    • At the end of each course, there will be an assessment of the student through proctored examination and the marks/grades secured in this exam could be transferred to the academic record of the students. 

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    NATIONAL TELECONSULTATION CENTRE (CoNTeC)


    Context: National Teleconsultation Centre (CoNTeC) has been launched by Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare, Dr. Harsh Vardhan.


    NATIONAL TELECONSULTATION CENTRE (CoNTeC); CURRENT AFFAIRS 29TH MARCH 2020

    WHAT IS IT?

    The project CoNTeC, an acronym for COVID-19 National Teleconsultation Centre, has been conceptualized by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and has been implemented by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi. It has been made operational at AIIMS with a view to connect the doctors across the country to AIIMS in real time for treatment of the COVID-19 patients


    The CoNTeC is basically a Telemedicine Hub which has been established by AIIMS, New Delhi, wherein expert doctors from various clinical domains will be available 24×7 to answer the multi-faceted questions from specialists from all over the country. It is a multi-modal telecommunications hub through which 2 way audio-video and text communications can be undertaken from any part of the country as well as the world at large. 


    The modes of communication will include simple mobile telephony as well as two way video communications, using WhatsApp, Skype and Google Duo.


    WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF THIS PORTAL?

    India is a vast country and technology can play a pivotal role for the medical assistance to reach the poor. The poor patients in the country should not be deprived of the quality treatment in any circumstances. With the present facility, the poor would be able to get benefit of consultation form the topmost doctors of the country.


    The Telemedicine Guidelines which have also been notified by the Government of India and with the help of digital platform and technology, the public at large will get the benefit not only for COVID- 19 but other diseases also.


    The CoNTeC is also fully integrated with the National Medical College Network (NMCN) to conduct a full fledged Video Conference (VC) between the 50 Medical Colleges connected through the NMCN with its National Resource Centre located at SGPGI, Lucknow.

    HOW TO CONNECT WITH THE PORTAL?


    A single mobile number (+91 9115444155) can be dialled from anywhere in the coutnry/world by COVID-19 treating doctors to reach the CoNTeC which has six lines that can be used simultaneously at present. This number of lines can be increased in future if needed. 


    The incoming calls will be picked up by the CoNTeC Managers, who will then handover the call to the appropriate expert doctors from the clinical domains as desired by the calling specialists managing the COVID-19 cases anywhere in the country.


    The Managers will guide the callers in establishing a two way video call using the WhatsApp, Skype or Google Duo as preferred by the caller. The callers from the NMCN network can connect anytime using the Telemedicine infrastructure at their end.


    The patient management advice offered will be standardized as per the national guidelines supplemented protocols developed by the team at AIIMS, nominated by the Director, AIIMS.



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    PM CARES FUND


    Context: The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi has appealed to generously donate to ‘Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund)’.


    PM CARES FUND; CURRENT AFFAIRS 29TH MARCH 2020





    WHAT DO YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PM CARES?



    ‘Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund’ (PM CARES Fund)’ has been set up as a public charitable fund keeping in mind the need for having a dedicated national fund with the primary objective of dealing with any kind of emergency or distress situation, like posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to provide relief to the affected.


    Prime Minister is the Chairman of this trust and its Members include Defence Minister, Home Minister and Finance Minister.


    Following modes of payments are available on the website pmindia.gov.in –

    • Debit Cards and Credit Cards
    • Internet Banking
    • UPI (BHIM, PhonePe, Amazon Pay, Google Pay, PayTM, Mobikwik, etc.)
    • RTGS/NEFT

    Further, the donations to this fund will be exempted from income tax under section 80(G).


    WHY IS IT BEING ESTABLISHED?


    Distress situations, whether natural or otherwise, demand expeditious and collective action for alleviating the suffering of those affected, mitigation/control of damage to infrastructure and capacities etc. Therefore, building capacities for quick emergency response and effective community resilience has to be done in tandem with infrastructure and institutional capacity reconstruction/enhancement. 


    This fund will enable micro-donations as a result of which a large number of people will be able to contribute with smallest of denominations.


    IMPORTANT: Since we all know that world is going through such a tough phase and in this grim situation we have a moral responsibility to contribute our part in helping our country battle this COVID-19 pandemic. This is completely voluntary and if you wish to donate please go through the following details: 

    • Name of the Account: PM CARES
    • Account Number: 2121PM20202
    • IFSC Code: SBIN0000691        
    • SWIFT Code: SBININBB104
    • Name of Bank & Branch: State Bank of India, New Delhi Main Branch
    • UPI ID: pmcares@sbi



    INDIA’S RESPONSE TO COVID-19 OUTBREAK


    Context: Following the COVID-19 Outbreak all over the world, India has taken strict measures to control the spread of virus.


    INDIA'S RESPONSE TO COVID-19 OUTBREAK; CURRENT AFFAIRS 29TH MARCH 2020


    KEY HIGHLIGHTS OF INDIA’S RESPONSE TO COVID-19 OUTBREAK


    • India’s response to COVID-19 has been pre-emptive, pro-active and graded. India had already put in place a comprehensive response system at its borders much before WHO declared it as a public health emergency of international concern (30th January).
    • Screening of incoming air passengers followed by suspension of visas and and ban on international flights was done much ahead of any other country.
    • Thermal screening of incoming international passengers from China and Hong Kong was started on 18th January, much before the first case of Coronavirus was detected in India on 30th January, 2020.
    • Central Government took a number of proactive measures, such as travel restrictions, adding more countries and airports for screening, suspension of visas and self quarantine measures to effectively contain, prevent and manage the spread of the disease.

    CHRONOLOGY OF THE DECISIONS TAKEN SO FAR: 



    • 17th Jan– Advisory issued to avoid travel to China

    • 18th Jan – Thermal screening of passengers from China and Hong Kong

    • 30th Jan – Strong advisory issued to avoid travel to China.

    • 3rd Feb – E- visa facility suspended for Chinese citizens.

    • 22nd Feb -Advisory issued to avoid travel to Singapore; Universal screening for flights from Kathmandu, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia.

    • 26th Feb – Advisory issued to avoid travel to Iran, Italy and Republic of Korea. Passengers coming from these countries to be screened , and may be quarantined based on screening and risk assessment.

    • 3rd March: Suspension of all visas for Italy, Iran, South Korea, Japan and China; Compulsory health screening for passengers arriving directly or indirectly from China, South Korea, Japan, Iran, Italy, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Nepal, Thailand, Singapore and Taiwan.

    • 4th March: Universal screening of all International Flights. Quarantine or isolation at home or sent to hospital based on screening and risk profile.

    • 5th March: Passengers from Italy or Republic of Korea need to get medical certificate before entry.

    • 10th March, Home isolation: incoming international passengers should self-monitor health and follow govt. Dos and Don’ts: passengers with travel history to China, Hong Kong, Republic of Korea, Japan, Italy, Thailand, Singapore, Iran, Malaysia, France, Spain and Germany to undergo home quarantine for a period of 14 days from the date of their arrival.

    • 11th March: Compulsory Quarantine- Incoming travellers (including Indians) arriving from or having visited China, Italy, Iran, Republic of Korea, France, Spain and Germany after 15th February, 2020 shall be quarantined for a minimum period of 14 days.

    • 16th March: Expanded compulsory quarantine for travellers from or through UAE, Qatar, Oman, and Kuwait for a minimum of 14 days. Travel of passengers from member countries of the European Union, the European Free Trade Association, Turkey and United Kingdom to India totally prohibited.

    • 17th March: Travel of passengers from Afghanistan, Philippines, Malaysia  prohibited.

    • 19th March: All Incoming international flights suspended, with effect from 22nd March.

    • 25th March: extension of suspension of all incoming International Flights to India extended till 14th April 2020. 
    With evolving global spread of disease, not only travel advisories were revised, but airport screening was also expanded to all airports. After being screened by health authorities at the airports, passengers were quarantined or sent to hospitals, based on risk assessment by health authorities. 

    Screening of passengers took place at 30 airports, 12 major and 65 minor pots and at land borders. Over 36 lakh passengers have been screened.




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     ISIL-KHORASAN


    Context: Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) Khorasan Province has claimed responsibility for the recent Kabul gurdwara attack.


    ISIL-KHORASAN; DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS: 29TH MARCH 2020

    WHAT HAS HAPPENED AT KABUL GURDWARA?


    On 25 March 2020, suicide bombers and assailants armed with guns attacked the Gurdwara Har Rai Sahib (Sikh shrine) in Kabul (Afghanistan), in which 25 Sikh worshippers were killed.


    Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) – Khorasan Province has claimed responsibility for the attack and said that the attack was carried out in response to the Indian government’s actions in Kashmir.



    One of the gunman was identified as Abu Khalid al-Hindi, an Indian citizen from Kerala.


    WHAT DO YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ISLAMIC STATE OF IRAQ AND THE LEVANT- KHORASAN PROVINCE?


    The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Khorasan Province (ISIL-KP) is a branch of the militant Islamist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), active in Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to some media sources they are synonymous to the terms ISK, ISISK, IS-KP, or ISIS-K in referring to the group.


    The main activity of the group is in the border region of eastern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. However, its area of operations also includes other parts of South Asia, such as India where individuals have pledged allegiance to it. Khorasan (also transcribed as Khurasan and Khorassan) was a province in north eastern Iran, but historically referred to a much larger area comprising the east and north-east of the Persian Empire.
      

    Context:  Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of RBI has come out with its own set of measures to help deal with economic fall out of COVID-19 pandemicThis was the first time that the MPC met outside its bi-monthly meeting calendar.


    RBI'S COVID-19 ECONOMIC RELIEF PACKAGE; CURRENT AFFAIRS 29TH MARCH 2020


    WHAT ARE THE KEY MEASURES TAKEN BY RBI?

    There are four major steps has been taken by the RBI which includes: 


    (i) An increase in the liquidity in the system.
    (ii) Make sure the lower policy rate is transmitted. Steps one and two are linked.
    (iii) Give a three-month window for a payback on all term loans.
    (iv) Take steps to reduce volatility and provide stability.


    Following are the key measures announced and their possible impact:

    • Cut in repo rate: A big cut in the repo rate by 75 basis points (100 basis points make a per cent, so three-quarters of a percentage point) to 4.4%.
      • A low repo rate has the overall effect of reducing interest rates for the system. A lower rate make it easier for entrepreneurs to take loans for working capital and for households for homes, vehicles and so on.
    • Cut in reverse repo rate: The ratio has been cut by 90 bps to 4%This is the rate at which banks lend to the RBI. 
      • A reduction of the reverse repo to 4% makes it unattractive to banks to park it with the RBI and banks will be nudged to lend.
    • Moratorium on Repayments of Loans: RBI has also allowed banks to defer payment of Equated Monthly Instalments (EMIs) on home, car, personal loans as well as credit card dues for three months till May 31. 
      • The RBI also allowed lending institutions, banks to defer interest on working capital repayments by 3 months — a move aimed at addressing the distress among firms as production is down. 
      • For banks and lending institutions, this will affect their cash flows as they may not be getting repayments for three months. But the RBI has reduced their cash reserve ratio (CRR) requirements, providing them additional liquidity.
    • Cut in Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR): The RBI reduced the Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) by a full percentage point down to 3% for a year. 
      • The CRR is the percentage of demand and time deposits banks have to keep with the RBI. 
      • RBI has reduced the CRR to 3%, freeing up Rs 1.37 trillion for banks to lend. CRR has been chosen rather than SLR because this increases ‘primary liquidity’ with the banks a bit better.
    • Targeted long-term repo operations: RBI will lend money to banks (a total of Rs 1 trillion) that can be invested in bonds and other forms of lending instruments. TLTRO will provide financing to credit institutions.
    • Marginal standing facility (MSF): Rs 1.37 trillion will be made available under the emergency lending window called the Marginal Standing Facility (MSF)
      • Banks will now be able to borrow 3% of their deposits under this window, up from the current 2%. Basically, RBI is willing to lend more than before.





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    SCHEDULE H1 DRUG





    Context: Anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine has been recently notified under Schedule-H1 by the government. This was done in exercise of its powers conferred by Section 26B of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 (23 of 1940).


    SCHEDULE H1 DRUG; DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS 29TH MARCH 2020


    WHAT ARE SCHEDULE-H1 DRUGS?

    The Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945, are the set of rules under The Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, which has provisions for classification of drugs into different schedules and also guidelines for storage, sale and display.

    Schedule H1 has been introduced through Gazette notification GSR 588 (E) dated 30-08-2013 to check the indiscriminate use of antibiotics, anti-TB and some other drugs in the country.

    The schedule contains certain 3rd and 4th generation antibiotics, certain habit forming drugs and anti-TB drugs.

    As per government notification, these drugs are required to be sold in the country with the following conditions:
    • The supply of a drug specified in Schedule H1 shall be recorded in a separate register at the time of the supply giving the name and address of the prescriber, the name of the patient, the name of the drug and the quantity supplied and such records shall be maintained for 3 years and be open for inspection.
    • The drug specified in Schedule H1 shall be labelled with the symbol Rx which shall be in red and conspicuously displayed on the left top corner of the label, and shall also be labelled with the following words in a box with a red border.
    WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE CLASSIFICATION OF MALARIA DRUG AS SCHEDULE-H1?

    It restricts its sale only based on prescription. The sale of the drug from now on should be in accordance with the conditions for sale of drugs as specified in Schedule H1 to the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945.






    This would mean that any preparation containing the said drug will have a warning label of ‘only prescription sale’ and against self-medication. Additionally, chemists would need to maintain records for name and address of the prescriber, the name of the patient, the name of the drug and the quantity supplied and such records shall be maintained for 3 years and be open for inspection.



    CLASSIFICATION OF DRUGS IN INDIA
    Drugs are classified under five categories in India based on their approval status. These classification forms the basis on which document requirement for DCGI BENOC application are being determined.

    Classification of drugs in India based on their approval status:
    • Drugs approved in India for more than 4 years except for modified release dosage form [old drugs*]. (*Drugs that are official in the Indian pharmacopeia are also considered as old drugs with the exception for modified release formulations.)

    • New Drugs approved in India for a period of more than 1 year but less than 4 years.

    • Drug products in modified release form irrespective of their approval status

    • New drugs approved in India within a period of one year.

    • New molecule not approved in India but approved in other countries.

    It should be noted that one cannot perform bio study in India on Indian population for a drug not marketed/approved anywhere in the world.


    COVID-19: WHO’S SOLIDARITY TRIALS


    Context: India is all set to join the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Solidarity Trial which aims at rapid global search for drugs to treat COVID-19.


    WHO'S SOLIDARITY TRIALS; CURRENT AFFAIRS 29TH MARCH 2020


    WHAT IS SOLIDARITY TRIAL?

    SOLIDARITY TRIAL is an initiative by the World Health Organization (WHO) in order to find solution to the recent pandemic COVID-19 which has caused more than 1000 cases in India. This Trial is going to test different drugs or combinations like:

    • Remdesivir.
    • Combination of lopinavir and ritonavir (anti-HIV drugs).
    • Interferon beta with the combination of lopinavir and ritonavir.
    • Chloroquine.

    It will compare their effectiveness to the standard of care, the regular support used by the hospitals treating COVID-19 patients.


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      WHAT ARE THE KEY CHALLENGES IN INDIA?

      Shortage of Medical Devices and Equipment: The Medical Technology Association of India (MTAI), which represents research-based medical technology companies, has highlighted the shortage of medical devices and equipment. 

      • The Centre has exempted manufacturing, warehousing and distribution of the medical devices and equipment from the lockdown but these are being clamped down by the state governments and local level administrators.
      • Transport trucks carrying these vital preparatory materials are stuck at city and state borders.

      Delays in Import: India is importing probes and rapid testing kits from China, Germany and WHO. However, some delays have been reported but it is made sure that the delays do not affect the testings.


      Time Constraints: ICMR is currently looking at re-purposed drug molecules to find treatment for COVID-19 due to time constraints.


      WHAT HAS BEEN THE INDIAN SCIENTISTS’ RESPONSE TO THE COVID-19?


      Indian Scientists’ Response to COVID-19 (ISRC) is a voluntary group of scientists to address the concerns raised by the COVID-19 outbreak and to discuss the rapidly evolving situation with its dire need for science communication. The group consists of nearly 200 scientists from institutions such as the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), the Indian Institute of Technologies (IITs), etc.


      OBJECTIVE: It aims to study existing and available data to bring out analysis that will support the Central, State and local governments in carrying out their tasks.


      WORKING GROUPS: There are several working groups within it:

      • One of them works on hoax busting to address disinformation spreading with respect to the coronavirus.
      • One works on science popularisation to develop material that explains concepts such as home quarantine.
      • Other groups work on resources in Indian languages, mathematical models and apps etc.
      • It is suggested that an app should be developed that can map spaces being used as shelters and share that data with the State governments.

      A platform has also been developed to connect people in need with those who can provide help which works through two channels, phone and WhatsAppIt can connect patients or people with symptoms to doctors. It may also connect elderly people with volunteers from NGOs to assist in chores such as grocery shopping.


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