COVID-19: Great apes may be vulnerable, say experts 

#GS3 #Environment  

Great apes — the closest cousins of humans on the evolutionary tree — are vulnerable to infection from the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), according to experts. 

  • Gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans, all of whom come under the family of great apes, share 96-99 per cent of their DNA with humans, according to Ian Redmond, the United Nations Environment Program’s Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals' ambassador for terrestrial species. 
  • Gabon lost over 90 per cent of its gorilla population to an Ebola outbreak in 1995. 
  • Ebola, which affects both humans and great apes — led to mortality rates of up to 95 per cent in gorillas. 
  • The Great Ape Health Consortium urged governments to take steps to prevent the spread of infection to apes. 

Green Good Deeds Campaign:  

#GS3 #Environment #Conservation 

  • The Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has launched Green Deeds campaign.   
  • It was launched by Environment Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan in New Delhi, in January 2018.   
  • The purpose of the people-oriented campaign is to sensitise people and students, in particular about climate.  

Key Facts  

  • Environment Minister has asked teaching community to join a campaign to sensitise all about climate change and global warming, which he termed was matter of concern for the world.   
  • He also underlined need for ‘Green Good Deeds’ campaign and take it to the grassroots level.   
  • The campaign aims to broad its base with involvement of teachers, students and other voluntary organisations.  

10 green good deeds which if adopted in daily life can go a long way in curbing environmental degradation. 

  • Pollution Under Control (PUC) certificate of vehicles need to be kept up-to-date to reduce carbon footprints.   
  • Ensure vehicles are properly maintained and the service is done regularly on-time.   
  • Avoid using private vehicles and try to find more eco-friendly alternatives.   
  • Add air-purifying indoor plants in the house and plant terrace garden.   
  • Vow to eliminate single-use plastic from your life.   
  • Do not litter and try not to generate garbage.  
  • Plant more trees, more in like occasions such as birthdays, marriage anniversaries.  
  • Avoid using paper   
  • Save water.  
  • Save energy.   

Sonia pledges MPLAD funds for COVID-19 

#GS2 #GS3 #Schemes #Governance  

Funds allotted to her under the Members of Parliament Local Area Development (MPLAD) Scheme to the Rae Bareli district administration for combating the novel coronavirus.  

Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) has issued a circular granting one-time dispensation for utilizing funds under the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) to address the challenges in the fight against COVID-19.  


  • The Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) was launched in 1993  
  • Initially, Ministry of Rural Development was the Nodal Ministry for this scheme. In October, 1995 this scheme was transferred to the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.  
  • The Scheme is fully funded by the Government of India under which funds are released in the form of grants-in-aid directly to the district authorities.  
  • The funds released under the Scheme are non-lapsable, i.e., the entitlement of funds not released in a particular year is carried forward to the subsequent years, subject to eligibility.  
  • At present, the annual entitlement per MP/constituency is ₹ 5 crore.  
  • Under it, the role of the Members of Parliament is limited to recommend works. Thereafter, it is the responsibility of the district authority to sanction, execute and complete the works recommended within the stipulated time period.  
  • The elected Lok Sabha Members can recommend works in their respective constituencies.  
  • The elected members of the Rajya Sabha can recommend works anywhere in the state from which they are elected.  
  • Nominated Members of the Parliament can recommend works for implementation, anywhere in the country.  
  • MPLADS works can be implemented in areas affected by natural calamities like floods, cyclone, hailstorm, avalanche, cloudburst, pest attack, landslides, tornado, earthquake, drought, tsunami, fire and biological, chemical, radiological hazards, etc.  
  • In order to accord special attention to the development of areas inhabited by Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs), 15 per cent of MPLADS funds are to be utilized for areas inhabited by SC population and 7.5 per cent for areas inhabited by ST population.  

Pradhan Mantri Yuva Udyamita Vikas Abhiyaan (PM YUVA) Yojana. 

#GS3 #Economy #Schemes 

  • PM YUVA is a centrally sponsored scheme launched in 2016. It aims to create an enabling ecosystem by 2021 for entrepreneurship development through entrepreneurship education & training, advocacy, and easy access to entrepreneurship network.  
  • It will provide entrepreneurship education and training to over 7 lakh students in 5 years (2016-17 to 2020-21) through 3050 Institutes.  
  • It will also include easy access to information and mentor network, credit, incubator and accelerator and advocacy to create a pathway for the youth.  

Specific objectives and deliverables 

  1. Educate and equip potential and early stage entrepreneurs 
  • Develop and deliver entrepreneurship education to all citizens free of charge through Massive Open On - line Courses (MOOCs) and other on - line programmes accessible through a Learning Management System (LMS).  
  • Design an assessment and certification mechanism.  
  • Equip a total of 3,050 institutions to deliver world class entrepreneurship education programmes: 2,200 Institutes of Higher Learning (Universities, Colleges, Premier Institutions and AICTE Institutions including Polytechnics); 300 schools (10+2); 500 Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) and 50 Entrepreneurship Development Centres (EDCs).  
  • Focus on the promotion of social entrepreneurship.  
  1. Connect entrepreneurs in enabling networks of peers, mentors, funds and business services 
  • Create an "on - line market place" - a web based platform connecting entrepreneurs to each other for peer - to - peer networking and investors, financial institutions and business services such as legal, accounting, technology and HR services.  
  • Set up a national mentor network for young entrepreneurs.  
  • Establish a national network of incubators, accelerators and credit agencies.  
  • Establish a national network of business service providers.  
  • Leverage schemes/initiatives of Central Ministries and State/UT Governments.  
  1. Support entrepreneurs through Entrepreneurship Hubs (E - Hubs) 
  • Establish a National Entrepreneurship Resource and Coordination Hub to coordinate and support entrepreneurship development programmes.  
  • Establish Regional, Nodal, and Entrepreneurship Hubs to coordinate and support entrepreneurship programmes at all levels.  
  • Develop a cloud based Management Information System that tracks entrepreneurs, training institutes (Project Institutes), faculty, students and outcomes.  
  • Factory on Wheels.  
  1. Catalyze a culture shift to encourage entrepreneurship 
  • Create a culture of dynamic entrepreneurship through events, branding and media.  
  • Drive entrepreneurship research & advocacy.  
  • Social Entrepreneurship Awareness Programmes for SC/ST and minority beneficiaries.  
  • Supervision of progress of the beneficiaries.  

Tribals take the traditional route to safety 

#GS1 #Culture 

They wear masks made of forest produce with medicinal value to ward off virus  

  • While people in cities and towns are in a panic due to shortage of masks and gloves, tribal people residing in the Agency areas are making masks with medicinal leaves and following traditional ways to prevent the spread of the dreaded novel coronavirus.   
  • Tribal people are seen wearing masks made with the forest produce on the Andhra Pradesh-Telangana, Odisha, and Chhattisgarh borders. “If our ‘gudem’ (hamlet) head gives instructions, we will abide by them at any cost.   
  • All women, elders, and children are wearing masks made of leaves. Gotti Koya, Konda Dora, Koya, Kondareddy, Gond and other tribes staying on the borders have been strictly following lockdown and taking preventive measures on their own.   
  • Tribal people are preparing masks with medicinal leaves and taking herbal medicines available in the forests.   
  • “Nature is our God; We depend on ‘Adavi talli’ and believe on ‘Vana devatalu’ (Forest goddesses), who protect us in crisis.  

Govt. to add 40,000 ventilators by June to battle virus 

#GS2 #Governance # 

Death toll rises to 17 even as 75 fresh cases are added in the last 24 hours, including a 10-month-old infant from Karnataka  

  • The Union Health Ministry announced that it was scaling up measures to combat the virus by bringing in 40,000 more ventilators in the next three months.  
  • According to data released by the Ministry, a total of 724 individuals have tested positive.  
  • Joint Secretary in the Health Ministry Luv Agarwal said India is working on the guidelines prescribed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to isolate, test, track and treat.  
  • 1.4 lakh companies have allowed employees to work from home and 22 lakh health workers will benefit from the ₹50 lakh insurance.  
  • PUBLIC SECTOR UNDERTAKINGS(PSU) to make 10,000 ventilators and another 30,000 will come from Bharat Electricals, a PSU under the Defence Ministry.  

Cargo movement 

  • Centre has asked States ensure cargo movement and directed them to pay attention to the unauthorized movement of migrant labourers.   
  • All migrant workers are being allowed to stay safe where they are and provided with food, water, shelter and standard hygiene facilities.   
  • This is vital to help break the COVID-19 chain of transmission.  

Kerala man was among Kabul gurdwara attackers 

#GS3 #Terrorism  

Mohsin from Kasaragod left for UAE two years ago 

  • A man from Kasaragod in Kerala is said to be one of the three terrorists who stormed a gurdwara in Kabul on March 25 and killed around 25 Sikh worshippers.   
  • Three terrorists of the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP) had attacked the gurdwara.  
  • All were killed by Afghan security forces. One of the attacker was identified as Abu Khalid Al-Hindi by Al Naba, the ISKP’s propaganda wing; the other aliases used for him were Abdul Khayoom and Abdul Khalid.   
  • The officials said the person was identified as Mohsin from Thrikaripur in Kasaragod.   
  • He was 29 years old and a school drop-out. His family has moved to Kannur. He left for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) more than two years ago.   
  • The officials said the attacker’s movement to Afghanistan was not clear yet. He was not part of the group of 21 men and women from Kerala that had left India in 2016 in batches to join the ISKP.   
  • Mainly comprising defectors from the Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP), the ISKP came into existence in 2015.  

RBI cuts rates, allows loan moratorium 

#GS3 #Economy #DisasterManagement  

To ease impact of lockdown, repo and reverse repo rates reduced; EMIs deferred for three months 

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has opened up the liquidity floodgates for banks even as it reduced the key interest rate sharply by 75 bps and allowed equated monthly instalments (EMIs) to be deferred by three months in a move to fight the economic impact of the countrywide lockdown to check the spread of novel coronavirus.  
  • The repo rate was reduced to by 75 bps 4.4% while the reverse repo rate was cut by 90 bps point to 4%.   
  • The higher reduction in the reverse repo rate was aimed at prompting banks to lend more rather than keeping their excess liquidity with the RBI.  
  • Besides the steps to increase liquidity, including by cutting the cash reserve ratio, the RBI said banks could allow a three-month moratorium on EMI repayments of all term loans standing out on March 1.  

Unprecedented crisis 

  • Apart from cutting the repo rate, RBI has also reduced the cash reserve ratio of banks which released ₹1.37 lakh crore liquidity.   
  • RBI has also allowed banks to defer payment of EMIs on home, car, personal loans as well as credit card dues for three months till May 31.   
  • Since non-payment will not lead to non-performing asset classification by banks, there will be no impact on credit score of the borrowers.  
  • State Bank of India, the country’s largest lender, promptly responded to the RBI’s action and reduced the lending rates linked to a external benchmark and the repo rate by 75 bps. Interest rate on external benchmark linked loans was cut from 7.8% to 7.05% and those are linked to repo rate were cut to 6.65%.  

The relaxation is also applicable on consumer loans such as auto loans, home loans and personal loans, as well as credit card outstanding dues. A consumer may now choose not to pay the monthly equated instalments on their loans for the next three months. However, it is not clear yet as to whether the customer has to apply for the moratorium on instalments or it would happen automatically. EMIs paid through the electronic clearing service are automatically debited to the customer’s account.  

Markets give thumbs down to RBI rate cut 

#GS3 #Economy 

Sensex yo-yoes to settle in the red  

  • After three successive sessions of gains, the benchmark Sensex ended in the red even as the Reserve Bank of India announced a slew of measures to boost the economy, including significant cuts in key rates.   
  • The Sensex, that surged by more than 1,100 points during the morning session, pared all its gains and closed at 29,815.59, down 131.18 points or 0.44%.   
  • The broader Nifty settled at 8,660.25, up by a marginal 18.80 points or 0.22%.   
  • Market participants were of the view that investors were disappointed since the central bank refrained from making any projections related to growth or inflation thereby raising more concerns on the potential hit to the economy due to COVID-19.   
  • The fall in the benchmark came even as most of the leading Asian equity indices rose.   

India to set up electronic platform to fight virus 

#GS2 #InternationalRelations #Bilateral  

  • India will set up an electronic platform to help member-countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) fight the COVID-19 pandemic.  

About SAARC: 

  • SAARC is the regional intergovernmental organization and geopolitical union of states in South Asia.   
  • Its member states are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.   
  • SAARC comprises 3% of the world’s area, 21% of the world’s population and 4.21%(US$3.67 trillion) of the global economy, as of 2019.   
  • SAARC was founded in Dhaka on 8 December 1985; Its secretariat is based in Kathmandu, Nepal.   
  • The organization promotes development of economic and regional integration. It launched the South Asian Free Trade Area in 2006.   
  • SAARC maintains permanent diplomatic relations at the United Nations as an observer and has developed links with multilateral entities, including the European Union.  

India to join WHO drug trial 

#GS2 #Health 

India is all set to join World Health Organisation (WHO)’s “Solidarity Trial” aimed at rapid global search for drugs to treat COVID-19 infection.   

  • The Solidarity Trial will test four different drugs or combinations - remdesivir, a combination of two drugs, lopinavir and ritonavir, the two drugs plus interferon beta, and chloroquine - and will compare their effectiveness to what is called standard of care, the regular support hospitals treating COVID-19 patients use now.   
  • Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is currently looking at re-purposed drug molecules to find treatment for COVID-19.  
  • The vaccine development wasn’t a priority for ICMR currently.   
  • There are 30 vaccine groups that are operational worldwide right now looking at COVID-19, with five having gone into animal-toxicity study. India will express its interest to participate in the trial for the Indian population when the time is right. 
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