EPF scheme members handed COVID-19 lifeline 

#GS2 #Schemes 

The Union Labour and Employment Ministry stated that it had notified an amendment to the Employees’ Provident Scheme (EPF) allowing members to withdraw non-refundable advance amounts in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

  • The notification permits withdrawal not exceeding the basic wages and dearness allowance for three months or up to 75% of the amount standing to member’s credit in the EPF account.  
  • The Union Labour and Employment Ministry said on Sunday that it had notified an amendment to the Employees’ Provident Scheme (EPF) allowing members to withdraw non-refundable advance amounts in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.   
  • The Employees' Provident Fund Organisation (abbreviated to EPFO), is an organization tasked to assist the Central Board of Trustees, Employees' Provident Fund a statutory body formed by the Employees' Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 and is under the administrative control of the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India.  
  • EPFO assists the Central Board in administering a compulsory contributory Provident Fund Scheme, a Pension Scheme and an Insurance Scheme for the workforce engaged in the organized sector in India.   
  • It is also the nodal agency for implementing Bilateral Social Security Agreements with other countries on a reciprocal basis.   
  • The schemes cover Indian workers as well as International workers (for countries with which bilateral agreements have been signed.  

Urban shelters to provide 3 meals a day 

#GS2 #Schemes 

Shelters for the urban homeless would provide three meals a day to those living in and around the premises to help people cope with the lockdown imposed owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry officials said.  

  • Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana (DAY) with an aim to uplift the urban poor folks by enhancing sustainable livelihood opportunities through skill development.   
  • Keeping in view the objective of Make in India, Skill Development is essential for socio economic betterment.   
  • Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana was launched under theMinistry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation(HUPA). Government of India has provisionedRs.500 crore for the scheme.  
  • The scheme is integration of the National Urban Livelihoods Mission(NULM) and National Rural Livelihoods Mission(NRLM).  
  • National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM) is renamed as Deen Dayal Antyodaya Yojana-(DAY-NULM) and in Hindi as - Rashtriya Shahri Aajeevika Mission.   
  • Under the scheme urban areas extends the coverage to all the 4041 statutory cities and towns, there by covering almost the entire urban population.   
  • Currently, all the urban poverty alleviating programmes covered only 790 towns and cities.  


  • Employment through Skill Training and Placement- An expenditure ofRs.15, 000 per person is allowed on training of urban poor which isRs.18, 000 in North-East and J&K. Moreover, Training urban poor to meet the enormous demand from urban citizens by imparting market-oriented skills through City Livelihood Centers.  
  • Social Mobilization and Institution Development- It will be done through formation of Self-Help Groups (SHG) for training members and hand holding, an initial support of 10, 000 is given for each group. Assistance ofRs.50, 000 is provided to Registered Area Level Federations.  
  • Subsidy to urban poor- An interest subsidy of 5% - 7% for setting up individual micro-enterprises with a loan of up to 2 lakh and for group enterprises with a loan limit of up toRs.10 lakhs.  
  • Shelters for urban homeless- Cost of construction of shelters for urban homeless is fully funded under the Scheme.  
  • Other means- Development of vendor markets and also the promotion of skills for the vendors through setting up infrastructure and special projects for the rag picker and differently abled etc.  

Looking beyond just diagnosis and quarantine 

#GS3 #Science #Health  

There is need in India for a rapid response research and development team to handle viral onslaughts. 

  • A pandemic is upon the world and coronavirus is not the last word. Ebola, Zika, Nipah, SARS, MERS, H1N1 and now COVID-19 - the viral onslaughts will continue.   
  • Mutations of known viruses will periodically cause havoc, whatever be the reasons. While the Zika virus is spread by Aedes mosquitoes, the main reason for these viral infections seems to be the proximity and contact with animals including wild animals, either as exotic food menu or the use of animal parts as aphrodisiacs.   
  • Bats seem to be another constant source of new viruses. Seafood has also been stated to be a cause for the Wuhan outbreak. Some of the viruses listed above do not have a vaccine or drugs available as yet.   
  • In India the options are always limited to diagnosis as per World Health Organization protocols and seem to be the exclusive domain of the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune and its designated centres.  

On sequencing, what can be done?  

The first requirement is to sequence the genome of all the isolates from infected patients in India.   

  • COVID-19, for example, is an RNA virus; This would require conversion to DNA and then the sequence of the alphabets (ATGC) worked out.   
  • COVID-19 is less than 30kb (30,000) alphabets in size and can be sequenced in 24 hours in India. COVID-19, for example, is an RNA virus. This would require conversion to DNA and then the sequence of the alphabets (ATGC) worked out.   
  • COVID-19 is less than 30kb (30,000) alphabets in size and can be sequenced in 24 hours in India.   
  • It is important to sequence the virus isolates in at least three different institutions in India to ensure that sequencing errors are eliminated.   
  • A knowledge of genome sequence is essential to design drugs and vaccines.  

Himalayan Ibex a distinct species 

#GS3 #BioDiversity #Environment  

They are divergent from Siberian Ibex, reveals a genetic study 

  • A recent study by scientists of the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) has proved that Himalayan Ibex, distributed in the trans-Himalayan ranges of Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh, is a distinct species from the Siberian Ibex.   
  • The paper, ‘Genetic evidence for allopatric speciation of the Siberian Ibex (Capra sibirica) in India,’ has recently been published in Endangered Species Research. Siberian Ibex is a species of wild goat and is distributed in diverse habitats, ranging from cold deserts, rocky outcrops, steep terrain, high-land flats and mountain ridges to low mountains and foothills.  
  • From Mongolia, its distribution extends towards Altai, Hangai, Gobi-Altai, the Hurukh mountain ranges as well as Sayan Mountains near Russia and scattered populations in the small mountains of Trans-Altai Gobi.  
  • In Asia, Ibex is distributed in the Montane habitats, ranging in elevations from 500 m to 6,700 m in countries like India, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Southern Siberia and China.   
  • In India, the Ibex is distributed mainly in the trans-Himalayan ranges of the Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh up to the river Sutlej.  
  • The genetic analysis conducted with the inclusion of the sequences available from all across the distribution ranges in Central Asia, Tajikistan, Altai Mountains, Mongolia and Russia provided first evidence to claim that Himalayan Ibex is genetically different from all other ranges of Siberian Ibex.   
  • The samples collected from India clustered with the sequences from Tajikistan in a phylogenetic analysis, which were adequately different from the other two clades: KZ clade of Tajikistan (which broadly represents one of the clusters in the phylogeny) and AMR clade of Altai Mountains, Mongolia and Russia.  

What are Sections 269 & 270 IPC, invoked against those  accused of spreading disease? 

#GS2 #Governance #GS3 #Defence #Security 

There have been instances across the country where Sections 269 and 270 have been used to book persons defying quarantine orders for containing the spread of the pandemic. 

What are Sections 269 and 270 of the IPC? 

  • Sections 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) and 270 (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) come under Chapter XIV of the Indian Penal Code– ‘Of Offences Affecting The Public Health, Safety, Convenience, Decency and Morals’. 
  • While Section 269 provides for a jail term of six months and/or fine, Section 270 provides for a jail term of two years and/or fine. In Section 270, the word ‘malignantly’ indicates a deliberate intention on the part of the accused. 

Earlier instances of invocation 

  • Both Sections have been used for over a century to punish those disobeying orders issued for containing epidemics. 
  • In an 1886 case at the Madras High Court, a person was held guilty under Section 269 for travelling by train despite suffering from cholera.  
  • Another person who bought the train ticket was held guilty for abetment of the offence of the former. 
  • The Sections were similarly enforced by colonial authorities during outbreaks of diseases such as smallpox and bubonic plague. 
  • Recent instances of invocation include one on March 2018, when the Health Ministry said that failure by clinical establishments to notify a tuberculosis patient to the nodal officer and local public health staff can be punished under Section 269 and 270.  
  • While tuberculosis was made a notifiable disease in India in 2012, there was no provision for penal action. 
  • In June 2015, a district court in Muzaffarpur directed police to register an FIR against two Nestle officials and film stars Amitabh Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit and Preity Zinta, who had featured in the Maggi advertisements and arrest them if required. The case was filed under IPC sections 270, 273, and 420. 

BRO to undertake Snow Clearance Operations 

#GS3 #Defence #Security #GS1 Geography 

Border Roads Organsation (BRO) personnel are working relentlessly to completely replace Daporijo bridge (430 feet Multi Span Bailey Brigde), the only lifeline of Upper Subansiri district, Arunachal Pradesh to restore Lines of Communication for all 451 villages and Security Forces located along the China border. 

Project Arunank 

  • Project Arunank is responsible for the construction and maintenance of approximately 1113 Kms of roads in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. 
  • It is being implemented by the Border Roads Organisation, an important arm of the Ministry of Defence. 
  • Project Arunank is named after the state of Arunachal Pradesh. 

Operations in Manali - Leh 

  • BRO is presently engaged in Snow clearance operations on Manali - Leh axis, day and night despite inclement weather and COVID 19 threat to provide relief to Lahaul valley and Ladakh in an earlier time frame.  
  • Presently Rohtang Pass and Baralachala Pass is being addressed by four snow clearance teams.  
  • This is the first time, BRO personnel were inducted by air to Sarchu to carry out snow clearance of mighty Baralachala Pass from Sarchu side. 

About Bara - Lacha la 

  • Bara-lacha la, also known as Bara-lacha Pass is a high mountain pass in Zanskar range, connecting Lahaul district in Himachal Pradesh to Leh district in Ladakh, situated along the Leh–Manali Highway. 
  • The Bhaga river, a tributary of the Chenab river, originates from Surya taal lake, which is situated a few of kilometers from the pass towards Manali. The pass also acts as a water-divide between the Bhaga river and the Yunam river.  

About BRO 

  • The Border Roads Organisation, an important arm of the Ministry of Defence,plays pivotal role in constructing and maintaining operational road infrastructure in inhospitable and far flung border areas to support the armed forces meet their strategic needs. 

Biological Weapons Convention 

#GS3 #Defence #Security 

News : United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said that the very idea of using a disease as a weapon is viewed with repugnance.  

  • He, however, urged the the international community to remain vigilant as scientific advances are reducing technical barriers that earlier limited the potential of biological weapons. 
  • The UN chief, in his message on the 45th anniversary of the Biological Weapons Convention. 
  • March 26 marked the 45th anniversary of the entry into force of the Biological Weapons Convention, the first multilateral disarmament treaty to ban an entire category of weapons of mass destruction.  

About BWC

  • The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) is a legally binding treaty that outlaws biological arms. 
  • The BWC is the first multilateral disarmament treaty to ban an entire category of weapons of mass destruction. 
  • The BWC opened for signature in 1972, and entered into force in 1975. 
  • It currently has 183 states-parties, including Palestine, and four signatories. Ten states have neither signed nor ratified the BWC. 
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